We decided against telling Ben that his daughter was a rodent, at least for the moment. Our first objective was to recover said rodent - then we could give her father a nervous breakdown.
That evening we returned to the house, plan in hand. The plan was basically that we would talk our way back inside, grab the rat, and run like hell. It wasn't the best of plans, but we were working under pressure.
We really didn't count on the rat-niece not being in residence. But the moment we arrived at the house, our little Demon-Dog knew that something was wrong. After a solid ten minutes of sniffing around the perimeter, however, he picked up the scent. We piled back into the car, and he sat on Connie's lap giving us directions. Fortunately enough, Amy had apparently been transported by car, so we didn't find ourselves having to go off-road or tear through someone's petunia patch. After about five minutes, we parked in front of Sunnydale High School.
This is where things get a little weird.
For some reason, the front doors of the school were unlocked. Since it was almost nine at night, that struck all of us as a little weird. Most *churches* will lock their doors when not in service, and I don't know a single school that will leave its doors open after class. But we walked in, following our terrier, who was close on the scent. After sneaking through the empty halls, we came to a stop in front of the library. Voices were coming from inside, so the demon terrier snuck in alone.
We waited for three tense minutes. Then a loud yell came from inside the library. The demon-terrier came racing out as fast as his little legs could carry him, and held securely in his mouth was Amy the rat. Behind him ran the blonde we had met in the woods along with Rupert the librarian, plus the redhead, plus the two boys that Jess had talked to on the street, plus two brunette girls and a youngish-guy in a suit.
It was definitely a small town.
Jess scooped up the dog, and he spat Amy into my purse. That's when we all started running. We got to the doors, but that's when we realized why the doors had been open. Through some bizarre beurocratic error, the doors opened fine from the outside, but were locked from the inside. Because of school budget cuts, the principal had left them the way they were.
While Connie tried to force the doors, Jess and I turned to face the horde of enraged teenagers and British men.
"How dare you rat-nap Amy!" yelled the redhead.
"How dare you turn my niece into a rodent!" I yelled back.
There was a long minute while this soaked into everyone.
"Oops," said both the dark-haired teenage boy and Jess at the same time.
Once introductions were done, I realized that no parent in California believed in traditional baby names. In addition to Buffy and Rupert, the redhead turned out to be named Willow. The dark-haired boy was Xander, the redheaded boy was Oz, and the dark-haired girls were Faith and Cordelia. The second British guy was named Wesley. Interesting, to say the least.
They told me that they were the school chess team. Now, I'd just like to say that that was obviously a complete load of bull. However, they could be Columbian drug lords for all I cared as long as I got my niece back.
Amy was returned to the little habitrail that had been her home for the past few months, and our demon terrier was returned to the bowels of Hell.
When it came to the task of restoring my little niece to human form, however, a slight problem came up. Looking over the restoration spell that Willow had been attempting with little success, I quickly rejected it. It was a direct appeal to Hecate, which was tricky to say the least. The girl was lucky that she hadn't joined Amy in rodent form. Fortunately enough, it turned out that Rupert was the resident king of cross-referencing. He managed to pull up another restoration spell that looked a trifle more stable. On the downside, it was one of those old-fashioned spells that relied on the power of three. A certain three, it turned out. We need a maiden, a mother, and a crone.
Connie was a shoe-in for the mother part. Guess who got nominated for the role of the crone? Yep. You guessed it. I might be a far way from cashing any social security checks, but the spell was put together in the middle ages. Back then, you were an old maid at twenty and dead by thirty. Thirty-five was firmly into hag-zone. This trip was not doing wonders for my self-esteem.
The big problem came with finding ourselves a maiden. We were in California, which means that if someone is still chaste after the age of fifteen, then they're definitely breaking some statistic.
Our group was no exception. Rupert, Connie, and I were right out. Jess was co-habitating with her girlfriend, and now was not the time to really start testing the definition of 'virgin'. Buffy blushed and shook her head, putting her out of the running. Willow and Oz glanced at each other, which made their involvement fairly obvious. Xander coughed and absolutely refused to look at Faith, who smirked. Two more down. Cordelia admitted to some fairly R-rated make-out sessions, while looking at Xander. By this time, my head was fairly spinning from the meanings of all these telling glances between such a small group of friends.
It was a brave, brave man who finally stepped forward and took upon himself the mantle of virgin.
Yes, Wesley, all of twenty-seven, was our virgin. Though from the look of utter mortification on his part, his chastity was not for lack of trying.
Long story a little shorter, we returned my niece to human form. She was returned to her father, who was delighted enough that he didn't comment on the fact that she now had a strange craving for cheese. Connie, Jess, and I returned home.
An interesting trip, but I'm happy to be at home where there are neither rodent nieces nor demon terriers. With my aunt-ly duties fulfilled, I feel ready to crash on the couch for about a week.
I hate vacations.