Charlotte stood in the alley and looked straight forward. The monster loomed near her and she took a deep breath. The cool air stung her lungs and she coughed a little before she reached behind her. She didn't know why but she knew a piece of wood would kill the monster in front of her. It was the only thing that seemed to work and she didn't understand why.At one time Charlotte had been a normal little girl. She lived in Devon with her parents, which she loved more than anything. Then, one day, she was playing with a neighborhood boy and when he'd taking her favorite toy away, Charlotte had gotten angry. When she hit him, the punch ended breaking his jaw.Her parents had took her to their doctors, but there was nothing wrong with her. Yet, strange occurrences continued to happen around Charlotte, including vivid nightmares about monsters only found in Charlotte's storybooks. And, no matter how many doctors they went to, none of them could find out what was wrong with the little girl.It was a few months after Charlotte's change when her parents were killed. Without any other family around, she was sent to a home for children. They promised someone would take her home, but after hurting another boy, Charlotte earned the reputation as being a 'troubled child', and no one wanted to bother with her. The knowledge of not being wanted had pushed her to the edge and she spent every night, on the streets, killing the monsters that used to scare her."You should just leave me alone," Charlie said as she swung the piece of wood around. The monster smirked and moved closer. Using her strength, she broke the board into jagged pieces and picked one of the pieces up. "I mean it!""You don't frighten me, little girl," the monster hissed.Charlie furrowed her brow and kicked out, her foot connecting with the monster's knee. It roar out in pain and she used the distraction to drive the wood into its heart. There was a poof of dust and it was gone. Taking a deep breath, she dropped the piece of wood and looked around the alley. It was getting late and she knew Sister Mary, the nun that ran the children's home, would be checking bed soon.Running out of the alley, her trainers pounding against the wet pavement, Charlie ran back to the home and when she got there, she climbed up a drain pipe and to her bedroom. Climbing through the window, she quickly put her pajamas on and slipped into her bed. Moments later, Sister Mary came in and did her bed check, then left."You're going to get caught someday, freak," one of Charlie's roommates said.Charlie just ignored her and leaned over the side of her bed. She pulled out a small torch and the book, A Little Princess and crawled under her blankets. She then turned on the torch and started to read the worn out book. It was missing pages but it was one of the few things she still had from her home. And, it was better than nothing.
Fred watched Rupert pack some weapons, praying that they wouldn't need them. They were going to help a little girl for heaven's sakes. It also pained her to know what the Council had turned into that they might be willing to actually fight and force a little girl who probably didn't know what was happening to her to go somewhere she didn't want to go.She looked up at her husband as he stepped over to her, thanking her for doing this before kissing her deeply. She closed her eyes for a moment, leaning against him until they parted. "Of course I'm going to go with you," she said softly. "That little girl needs our help, and I'd never let you go by yourself. I love you too much."Taking his hand, they headed out to the car, and soon they were on their way to Devon. The drive took several hours, so by the time they arrived, it was after dark, after Rupert had figured. Another reason for having the weapons on hand.They made their way to the orphanage, parking out front and heading to the door. Fred knocked and looked over at Rupert, taking a deep breath. She hoped that they had gotten here in time.After a few moments, a nun answered the door, looking out through a small crack. "Yes? May I help you?""Hi. We're Rupert and Winifred Giles. Peter Greystone was supposed to call and let you know we were coming. We're here about Charlotte York?""Oh, yes," the nun said with a nod. "Mister Greystone did call. Won't you come in, please."They stepped inside, and the nun closed the door behind them before taking them into a room off the entrance hall."Mister Greystone said you would be able to help Charlie, and I hope to God that he's right. The poor pet, she's...well, since she came to us, I knew there was something not quite right about her. Of course, she lost her parents, and that would have a horrific effect on anyone her age, but there's something... Well, perhaps I should let you talk to her. If you'll wait her, I'll go fetch her."Fred nodded, and while the nun left the room, she turned to Rupert. "Buffy mentioned a few months ago that when she first became the Slayer, she had no idea what was happening to her, and she was fifteen. I can't imagine what a ten-year-old must be thinking."
Charlie continued to flip through the book as she held the torch up. She knew if she were caught, she'd get into a lot of trouble. The last time she'd been caught, she had spent most of the day in the laundry room, folding towels and flannels. Charlie didn't want to do that again, so when the door suddenly opened, she quickly turned the torch off and pretended to sleep."Charlotte? Get out of bed and put your clothes back on. Once you've done that, gather your things. There's a couple here that's going to take you home," the nun said.Charlie stiffened a little but did as she was asked. Once she was dressed in her street clothes again, she packed the few belongings she still had, and followed the nun out the door. They went downstairs to the office area and Charlie could see a couple sitting there. She didn't know what was going on. Who came to an orphanage in the middle of the night to adopt a child?"This is Charlie," the nun said as she ushered her into the office. "I was informed not to leave a paper trail so when you're ready to take Charlie, you may. I'll allow the three of you some time."Charlie chewed on her bottom lip and watched the nun walk out of the room. She then turned toward the couple again. They looked nice enough. "Hi," she quietly said as she tugged at the bottom of her shirt.
Giles watched the nun walk out of the office and turned toward Fred. "Plus, there's the Slayer dreams, which can be rather disturbing, especially for a young child," he comment.Reaching over, he took Fred's hand and held it until the nun returned with the young girl. Giles looked down at Charlie, noting how innocent and young she looked. The fact the Council wanted to hurt her, angered him more than anything. His former employer never did have much respect for human life."Hello, Charlie," he said with a warm smile. He crouched down so he was eye level with her. "My name is Rupert Giles and this is my wife Fred. We're here to take you home with us." Charlie just stared at him and he sighed. "I know things are rather hard on you right now, but I promise we'll take care of you. I've worked for a place that works with girls with special abilities like you. I'll be able to help you."Charlie continued to stare at him, her eyes wide. She then looked at Fred and frowned.
Fred turned when the nun came back into the office, a little girl in tow. Immediately, she felt herself wanting to reach out and hug Charlie, to let her know that everything would be all right, especially when she quietly greeted them while toying with her blouse almost nervously. Before she could say anything, though, Rupert was saying hello and introducing himself before promising to help her.She knew her husband meant well, but at the same time, she could see how overwhelmed Charlie was. Putting her hand on his shoulder, she sat forward, not daring to try to kneel on the floor in her current condition."Charlie. I like your name. It's kind of like mine - a name usually for a boy, but just right for girls like us. I've been called Fred since I was your age. And we're planning on naming our daughter Andi when she's born." She leaned forward, dropping her voice a bit. "Charlie, strange things have been happening to you, haven't they? Weird nightmares, and you can do things you've never done before, haven't you? Seen creatures you thought didn't exist?"Reaching out, she brushed a lock of hair back from her forehead and gave her a soft smile. "I've had strange things happen to me too. I found out that those creatures in my books really did exist, and I didn't know what to do for a long time, but then I found people who did, and they helped me. It's not quiet the same with you, but we want to help you. You can come live with us at our house, and we promise to keep you safe."She held her hand out to Charlie. "Would you like to come with us? Rupert and I promise to take good care of you."
Charlie didn't know what to say as Giles continue to speak to her. Was she in trouble for seeing the monsters? What if they were there to take her to wherever they took little girls that they thought were naughty? She didn't want to go there and almost started to cry but when Fred started to speak to her, Charlie started to relax."My mum always called me Charlie," she quietly told Fred. "I like the name Andi. It's pretty." She looked down at Fred's stomach and sighed. "My mummy was supposed to have a baby once but it went to heaven before it was born." She frowned at that and looked down at the floor as she remembered how sad her mother had been.When Fred reached out to brush a strand of hair from her forehead, Charlie's eyes welled up with tears and she nodded her head. "There's monsters out there and I can kill them with pieces of wood," she quietly said. "I'm not in trouble, am I?""Not at all," Giles said as he stood up straight.Charlie let out the breath she was holding and saw Fred's hand. She took it and stepped forward before wrapping her arms around her. "I'll go with you if you're going to help because I'm scared and the nightmares are scary too," she whispered against Fred's shoulder."We'll do everything in our power to protect you, sweetheart," Giles said as he picked up the lone suitcase Charlie had brought with her. "Is this all of your things?" When she nodded, Giles decided they needed to buy her a few things when he went out to replace the rocking chair. "Shall we go? You can sleep in the backseat if you like. And, if it makes you feel better, Fred can sit back there with you.""All right," Charlie quietly said as she pulled away from Fred.
Fred felt her heart ache for Charlie when she mentioned her mother, especially when she mentioned that her sibling had been either miscarried or stillborn. Putting her hand over her abdomen, she hoped that wouldn't happen to her and Rupert. To them, Andi was already so important to them and a part of their lives.When Charlie then asked if she was in trouble, Fred bit her lip. This was why she hated that fact that all those Slayers were in the hands of those jerks who were running the Council now. Girls who didn't know what was happening to them and thought that they had somehow been bad and were being punished were going to be met by these men who had no clue just how scary being pulled into this world unawares could be.She was so glad that her husband was so unlike them.When Charlie wrapped her arms around her, Fred held her tight, cupping the back of her head. She nodded at Rupert's suggestion that she ride in back with Charlie on the return to London. It was obvious that this girl had been without support for a long time, and she was going to need all the assurances they could give her."Come on, sweetie," she said, taking Charlie's hand in hers.The nun was waiting outside the door when they opened it, and she let them out the front door. Keeping their eyes peeled for any Council members or even vampires, they hurried to the car. Fred opened the back door for Charlie once Rupert had unlocked the car and slid in next to her once she was in."If you want to lie down and put your head on my lap...or what I have left of it now, you can," she told her. "We have a guest room at our house for you. It's not much right now, but it has a nice bed, and we can get you some more things later."
Giles was rather glad Fred had came along to the orphanage. He had dealt with girls before, but sometimes what they needed most was an older female for them to take care of them. And, watching Fred with Charlie did his heart good. He knew she was going to be a wonderful mother - it was something he'd always known and seeing her with Charlie solidified what he knew.He took them out to his auto and once they were situated, he placed the suitcase in the boot and got behind the wheel, knowing they had a long drive ahead of them. They were barely outside of Devon when he noticed Charlie had fallen asleep, her head on Fred's lap. He smiled at the sight and decided to remain silent. He didn't want to say something that might upset Charlie in case she woke up.Several hours later, they were finally back in London and Charlie started to stir. "Where are we?" she tiredly asked."London," Giles answered as he pulled up beside the house. "And this is where we live."Charlie peeked out the car window and smiled. Giles then helped the both of them out of the car before grabbing his bag of weapons and Charlie's suitcase. He then led the two to the front door, making sure no one was hanging about, and unlocked it. Molly came running and looked at Charlie before jumping up on her."What's your puppy's name?" Charlie said as she started to giggle and pet Molly."Molly," Giles answered."Hi, Molly," Charlie said as she scratched the dog behind the ears.
During the drive back to London, Fred ran her fingers through Charlie's hair comforting while the girl slept. Going through what she had gone through when she had been twenty had been bad enough. Being introduced to this world so young had to be even worse. She glanced up at her husband, thinking that it must have been similar for him since he had been told so early that he would become a Watcher and would deal with monsters on an almost daily basis.Fred found herself dozing a bit after a while but didn't completely fall asleep, just in case Charlie woke up. She didn't, however, until they had reached the house. Once they were parked, Fred let Rupert help her out then got out herself, stretching and groaning softly. Her back was aching from the long spell of sitting down and down moving. Pressing her hand to the small of her back, she followed Rupert and Charlie into the house, smiling when Molly came bounding up to greet them."I think she likes you already," Fred said with a laugh as Molly pressed up against the little girl while she pet her. She glanced at the time, seeing how late it really was. "Are you hungry or thirsty? Perhaps Rupert could get you something while I go upstairs and make sure the bed in your room is ready. Then maybe we can discuss more in the morning 'cause I don't know about you two, but I'm bushed."
"I'm not hungry or thirsty," Charlie said as she continued to pet Molly. She then nodded and looked up at them. "I'm tired too."Giles nodded and took Charlie's hand. He led her upstairs and to the guestroom. It wasn't much - just a bed, but he knew they would get some more things for her. They put Charlie to bed and he smiled when Molly jumped on the bed and snuggled next to Charlie. He knew Molly would alert them if anything happened during the night.Once Charlie was asleep, Giles took his wife's hand and led her out of the room. "Why don't you head to bed, love. I need to do the protection spell. I'll be up in a bit." He deeply kissed her and stepped back before going down the steps. When he got to his library, he searched through his books until he found the one he needed.An hour later, the spell was complete and Giles was drained. He locked up the house and trudged upstairs. He changed into his pajamas, cleaned up and crawled into bed. He spooned against Fred and rested his hands against her swollen stomach before falling asleep.
After helping Rupert to get Charlie settled in her room, Fred returned his kiss and headed into the bedroom. It had been a long night, so she changed into her nightgown and crawled into the bed, intending to stay awake until her husband came back upstairs. To keep herself awake, she started making a mental list of things they needed to get Charlie the next day.However, the next thing she knew, she was waking up with Rupert's arms around her and sunlight peaking through the curtains. She heard Molly in the other room and wondered if Charlie was awake yet, so sitting up, she turned and kissed Rupert gently on the lips."I'm going to go see if Charlie's awake and get her some breakfast," she told him softly. "I would imagine she's hungry by now."After giving him another kiss, she slipped out of his arms and pulled on a robe before leaving the bedroom and going to the guest room door. She stood there for a moment, not sure what etiquette would be in this situation. Should she knock? Or would be okay to peak in and see how she was doing?Finally, she decided to knock and then cracked open the door just enough so Molly could wriggle her way out. She knew she probably needed to go outside."Charlie, sweetie, are you awake? I was going to go downstairs and let Molly out and make some breakfast. Would you like to come with me? Are you hungry?"
Out of habit, Charlie woke up just as the sun was starting to rise. She didn't know what was expected of her so she stayed in bed, the covers tight around her. Even when Molly started to make noise, she stayed completely still. At the orphanage, they weren't to leave their room until the nuns came to get them. At least she could make the bed.Slipping out, she carefully made it, making sure to get the corners tight. When there was a knock on the door, Charlie stood by the bed, her hands behind her back. She felt foolish because she still had her nightgown on. None of her other clothes were clean and she didn't think Fred or Rupert would want her to walk around their clean house with dirty clothes."I'm hungry," she said, nodding her head. She ran her fingers through her long hair and then looked down at her nightgown. Charlie really hoped Fred wouldn't get mad at her for not being out of her night clothes yet. "All my other clothes are dirty. Today was laundry day at the orphanage. If you show me to your washer and dryer, I'll clean all my clothes and then help you with breakfast and any other chore you might have for me."
When Fred saw Charlie standing practically at attention next to the bed, which had been made so precisely it didn't seem possible, she almost wanted to cry. This little girl was a child, not an automaton."Charlie," she started to say before stopping, not sure what to say to her for a minute. It was almost as though she had stepped out of the Annie musical had watched when she was a child. Walking over to the bed, she sat down and reached out to take Charlie's hands, drawing her over to her. "I know we're going to have some rules and such, because everyone needs rules, but...this isn't the orphanage. You don't have to feel like you have to serve or do anything like that. Rupert and I...we want you to feel at home here."She gave her a gentle smile and ran her hand over Charlie's temple before brushing a strand of hair back. "If you hadn't noticed, I'm still in my nightclothes too, so don't worry about your clothes not being clean. We'll take them downstairs and dump them in the washer after I let Molly out, and then we'll find something to eat. Rupert and I have never been very formal about breakfast. And after breakfast, you can take a bath, and then we'll get dressed and go shopping to get you some new things since it doesn't look like you have a lot."If the rest of her clothes were as worn as her nightgown, Charlie was definitely going to need the new clothes. Standing up, she took her hand and reached for the small suitcase Charlie had brought with her, leading her out of the guest bedroom. "And since I'm pregnant and having cravings, maybe we can convince Rupert to stop and get us some ice cream on the way home. There's a really good cafe down the road with the best ice cream."
Charlie looked at Fred and chewed on her bottom lip. She was rather sure this was just another orphanage and there were rules she had to follow. She didn’t want to get in trouble, or have Rupert or Fred upset with her because she didn’t want to get in trouble.But, suddenly Fred was saying it wasn’t an orphanage and a blush crept over Charlie’s face. “Oh. I didn’t know,” she whispered as Fred came into the room. She looked up at her and smiled, especially when she mentioned shopping and ice cream. “My mum and I used to go shopping and have ice cream afterwards,” she commented as she walked out of the room with Fred.“G’morning you two,” Rupert said as he walked out of the bedroom, yawning and stretching. “Oh, let me take that for you, Fred.”Charlie watched as Rupert took the suitcase from Fred’s hand before giving her a kiss. She smiled because they reminded her a lot of her parents. “Fred’s going to take me shopping today,” she said as they went down the staircase. “Are you coming with?”“I am. I have to get a new rocking chair,” he said before holding the kitchen door open for the both of them. “I rather broke the last one.”“You break things?” Charlie asked in amazement before she sat down at the kitchen table.Rupert laughed a little as he set the tea kettle out before taking down two glasses so he could get Charlie and his wife some juice. “Not all the time but, yes, sometimes I do,” he said before getting the orange juice out of the icebox.
"Your mom sounds like she was a wonderful person," Fred told Charlie. She felt so bad for this little girl, having lost so much only to have the weight of the world put on her shoulders too. It made her want to protect her even though Charlie was supposed to be protecting people from the monsters.Well, if she could help it, she would, Fred decided. Charlie deserved it.In the hallway, she smiled at her husband, handing him the suitcase before giving him a kiss. "Thanks, sweetie." As they headed downstairs, she couldn't help but laugh a little at Rupert mentioning that they needed a new rocking chair. Looking back on it, she supposed that yesterday had been rather funny more than anything else. After all, they had plenty of time still to get ready for the baby, and Rupert was right - they'd work everything out.While Rupert got the juice out, Fred let Molly out into the yard before opening Charlie's suitcase and sorting through her clothes. There wasn't much there, only enough to make two small loads really - light and dark. Fred shook her head, definitely glad they were taking her shopping. Once she had it sorted, she started the washer and tossed the first group of clothes in before walking over to the small table in the kitchen and going over to the cabinet."Your first load of clothes are in the wash, Charlie. Now, is there anything in particular you like to eat? We have toast...and eggs, I think...and fruit..." She looked over at Rupert. "Do we have any cereal or do we still need to pick that up? I think we might have to go grocery shopping too while we're out."
Giles looked at Fred ad shrugged at her question. He really wasn’t a fan of cold cereal and the last time he’d seen a box of it in the house was after Willow and Charlotte had watched the house for them. “I’m not sure if we have any cereal,” he said as he looked through the cabinets. “We have oatmeal.”“I don’t like oatmeal. Can I just have some toast and jam?” Charlie said.“I think I can handle that.”Giles turned on the oven and pulled out a sheet. He placed some bread on it and waited for the oven to warm up. While he was waiting, he went over to Molly’s bowls and washed them out so he could fill them up with food and water.“May I help?” Charlie suddenly asked.Giles nodded and watched her come over to him. He pulled out the plastic container they used to keep Molly’s dry food fresh. “Put two scoops in the red bowl. Only two because if you give her more, she’ll laze about all day, groaning,” he said.“Dogs don’t groan,” Charlie said as she laughed and put the food in the bowl.“I think they do,” Giles said. He gave Charlie a wink before going over to the oven to put the bread in.
Smiling, Fred watched Rupert and Charlie together as he showed her what to do to feed Molly. She rubbed her stomach, thinking that he was going to be such a good father. He was used to dealing with girls because of his job, and he cared so much."Molly would eat all day if we let her," Fred said as she walked over to the door and let said topic of conversation. Molly ran in and over to where Charlie was putting down the bowls, licking her face and hand before diving into her food. "I swear, sometimes she acts like we never feed her."Walking over to the fridge, she pulled out the butter and jam and took them over to the table to set them down. She then took a sip of her orange juice before going to the cabinet and taking down three plates."Charlie, would you mind setting these on the table for me while I get out some knives and spoons?" she asked. "And then we should probably make some tea for Rupert since he's making our toast. What do you say?"
Charlie let out a small giggle when Molly came over to her and licked her face and hand. She carefully put the bowl on the floor and watched Molly eat her food for a moment before Fred spoke to her. She nodded her head and went to the tap. She washed her hands and then took the plates from Fred.“I’ve helped my mum a lot with making tea. We used to have real tea parties,” she explained as she carefully sat the plates on the kitchen table. “We would go to the bakery and get scones and then come back to the house and have tea ready for my father when he returned from work.”She went over to the counter and carefully unscrewed the top of the tea canister. Charlie knew the water should be done by Fred since she was never allowed to touch the kettle at her old home. “How many scoops?” she asked, looking over at Rupert.“Two will be fine,” he said as he pulled the toast out of the oven.Charlie carefully measured out two scoops of loose tea and waited for Fred to pour the hot water in.
Pulling out the silverware, Fred looked over at Charlie, smiling softly as she explained the tea parties she and her mother would have read for her father. She then glanced over at Rupert. There was just something about this little girl that made her wish she could make her life better."I used to have tea parties when I was younger but never with real tea," Fred told her as she set the tea cannister on the counter, then filled the electric kettle to heat the water. "Of course, most Americans only use tea bags anyway. My friend Wesley used to complain about that all the time. Said it wasn't proper tea if it wasn't loose tea."Charlie seemed to know quite well what she was doing, asking Rupert how many scoops he wanted and measuring them out. Fred took the silverware over to the table to set with the plates. After she unscrewed the lids on the jam, she walked back over to the kettle which was finishing boiling. Picking it up, she poured the water into the pot, letting it steep while she got down Rupert's teacup."Go sit down, Charlie. We can take care of the rest of this," she told her. She gave Rupert a plate for the toast, then carried the tea over to the table and set it down. "Oh, I hope you like strawberry or black currant jam. I didn't think to ask, and this is all we have at the moment. If there's something else you like, we can pick it up later."
Once the tea was ready and the toast on the table, Giles sat down and placed a couple slices of toast on Charlie’s plate. He then handed her a knife and when she said she liked strawberry jam, he slid the jar over to her. He watched her for a moment, and when he was sure she could handle speading the jam on, he turned his attention to his own toast.“What grade are you in, Charlie?” He asked as he placed some milk in his tea.“Grade three. My primary school is in Devon, though,” she commented.“That’s all right. There’s plenty of schools here in London.” Giles knew they would probably have to send her to a private one or tutor her themselves.After he finished his tea and toast, Giles stood from the table. “I’m going to take a shower and you ladies can have the bathroom for whatever you need it for,” he said before leaning down and softly kissing Fred on the forehead. “Leave the dishes, love. I’ll clean up after my shower.”
School. That was something they were going to have take care of for Charlie, Fred realized as she nibbled at her toast and drank some more of her juice. But if they put her in a normal state-run school, she knew that was liable to bring problems, especially if the Council learned that they were sheltering her. Plus, there was the fact that Charlie would still need to learn to deal with her new powers - Fred didn't want her freaking out if something happened because she wasn't aware how strong she was now.They'd figure it out, though. For right now, they needed to let Charlie get settled and then start helping her with her Slayer powers.After they'd finished eating, Fred nodded when Rupert said he'd deal with the dishes after he showered. She gave him a kiss then smiled, watching him leave."Okay. Since we've been instructed to leave the dishes, I'm going to check on your clothes. Should be ready to put the first load into the dryer and start the next one." She stood up, groaning a bit. "Oof. Still getting used to having a baby on board."She went to the small room off the kitchen and moved the first load of clothes to the dryer before starting the second. Charlie would at least have something to wear when they went shopping. Once she did that, she returned to Charlie."Is there anything in particular you'd like to look for while we're out?" Fred asked her, holding out her hand so they could go upstairs. "Any place you liked to go shopping, like Marks and Spencers or H&M?"
Charlie quietly ate her toast and when she was finished, she looked up at Fred. She knew what she wanted but she wasn’t sure if they would get it for her. They might think it was silly to spend money on something she didn’t even really need. She didn’t want them to get upset with her and make her go back to the orphanage. Charlie rather liked living with them.When Fred held out her hand, Charlie took it and went upstairs with her. Rupert was just coming out of the bathroom and smiled at the two of them before slipping into the bedroom he shared with Fred. Charlie then walked into the guest bedroom and picked up her book bag.“I don’t remember where my mum and I went shopping,” she quietly said as she sat down and looked up at Fred. “And there is something I want but you might think it’s stupid.”She unzipped her book bag and pulled out her tattered copy of A Little Princess. “I used to have a whole stack full of books but I couldn’t bring them with me,” she explained as she careful put the book on the bed. “This is my favorite book of all time and I was wondering if I could have another copy. It doesn’t even have to be new. But if you think I shouldn’t get one, that’s all right too.”
"Well, that doesn't matter," Fred assured Charlie, letting go of her hand when they reached the guest bedroom. "We'll find a place that sells things that you'll love, I'm sure."She furrowed her brow, however, when Charlie said there was something she wanted that they might think stupid, wondering what in the world that could be. Weren't children supposed to want grand and great things? Even if they couldn't possibly get it for her, Fred was sure she wasn't going to think it was stupid. After all, she had wanted a dragon as a pet as a child. Until her parents had explained that even if dragons had been real, it would have burned the crops with its fire breath and caused problems for the cows.Then Charlie took out a worn and obviously many times read copy of A Little Princess. Fred looked down at it in amazement before looking over at her, a small lump coming to her throat. "This...this is your favorite book ever?" she asked softly before giving her a smile. "It's mine too. My parents got it for me for the first time when I was about your age, and I read it so many times, it fell apart."She looked down at the book again, a thought coming to her. "Hold on just a moment," she told her before leaving the room and going into the small library they had set up for all their books. She looked through until she found what she was searching for, pulling her hardback copy of the book of the shelf and taking it back to Charlie."Here," she said, placing the book in her hands. "I want you to have this one. Maybe...maybe we could read it together? If you'd like, that is. It's been a while since I've had a chance to read it."
Charlie was glad Fred didn’t think she was stupid. She loved her books more than anything and didn’t understand why she couldn’t take all of them with her, along with her toys and clothes. She sometimes wondered if the things were still there but the nun said the house had been sold to someone else. Most likely they had thrown all of her things away.Her brow furrowed when Fred walked out of the room. When she returned, Charlie’s eyes opened wide as she looked down at the book. It was much nice than the one she had when it was brand new. “Thank you!” she excitedly said as she stood up and gave Fred a tight hug.“What’s going on?” Rupert asked, stepping into the room. Charlie held up her book and grinned. “Fred gave it to me,” she proudly said.“Not was nice of her,” Rupert said as he gave Fred a grin. “Why don’t the two of you get cleaned up and get ready to leave. They sooner we finish with the shopping, the sooner I can come home.”“Don’t you like shopping for girl stuff?” Charlie asked, hopping off the bed.“Not particularly,” Rupert said, making a small face.Charlie giggled and took Fred’s hand.
Fred smiled and leaned over Charlie, wrapping her arms around her head in a hug since she was too short for her to hug properly. She felt a connection to the little girl, not just because of the book. There was something about her that Fred just felt a kinship with.When Rupert came in, Fred looked up at her husband, laughing softly at his comments about shopping for girls. She shook her head and winked at him as she took Charlie's hand. "And the really funny thing is there's going to be yet another girl in the house besides us soon too." She gave him a kiss as they headed out of the room. "Can you check on the laundry and start the second load in the dryer when it's done?"In the bathroom, Fred leaned over and turned on the faucet before plugging up the tub so Charlie could take a bath. She looked over at her, not sure whether or not she should stay or whether Charlie would want privacy while she bathed."Do you--would you like me to stay? If not, I can let you have some privacy while you get cleaned up. You can just call for me when you need me," she said as she got a clean set of towels out.
“I think I can handle the laundry,” Rupert said as he softly kissed his wife. He reached out and softy touched Charlie’s cheek before walking out of the room.Charlie went into the bathroom and started to take off her gown as Fred filled the tub with water. “You can stay if you want,” she said. Once she saw the tub was filled, Charlie carefully got in and sat down.“I think you’re going to have to help me wash my hair,” she said, giving Fred a small smile. “It’s really long and I have trouble getting all the shampoo out. The nuns at the orphanage always hated washing it and tried to cut it once. I ran away so they wouldn’t.”She shrugged a little and picked up the wash cloth and started to wash her body.
"I'll stay," Fred said, turning off the faucet while Charlie got into the tub. She stood for a moment, not sure what to do, but finally decided to sit on the tub's edge so she could help Charlie."I think I can manage that," Fred said, thinking for a moment about how her mother had helped her wash her hair when she was younger. She got up and looked in the linen closet, finding a small jar. "I wouldn't have wanted them to cut it either. I like having long hair because you do so much with it, and your hair is very pretty."Sitting back down, she filled the jar with water, and once Charlie was done washing herself off, she had her lean back a little bit so she could wet her hair done. She then set to work washing her hair, amazed at how thick it was. They'd have to get her some barrettes and hair bands while they were out."Okay, one more rinse," Fred said, using the jar again to rinse the shampoo out of her hair. "There we are. Done."She reached for one of the towels and opened it up. "Whenever you're ready to get out of there. I know that sometimes I want to just sit in the water and forget everything else. 'Specially when you have bubble bath."
Charlie closed her eyes when Fred poured the water over her head. The water and shampoo was a lot nicer than what was at the orphanage. And when Fred started to lather her hair, Charlie closed her eyes, liking the feel of it.Once her hair was washed, Charlie blinked her eyes open and looked at Fred. “I think--.”She didn’t get the chance to finish her sentence before there was a knock on the door, followed by Rupert sticking his head in.“I’ve some clothes if you’re almost finished,” he said.“I’m finished,” Charlie announced as she stood from the bathtub and took a towel from Fred.“If you want to start getting ready, love, I can help Charlie. I know how to brush and braid hair so I think we’ll be all right.”“You can braid hair?” Charlie asked, her eyes wide.“My mum taught me when I helped take care of our horses,” Rupert explained as he handed the clothes to Charlie.“You have horses?”“Yes,” he said with a nod. “When it gets warm again, we’ll take you out to see them.”
Fred looked up at Rupert, grinning at the thought that he knew how to braid hair. She never would have thought about him knowing how to do something like that. Her husband definitely had lots of hidden talents she was constantly discovering.And he was most certainly going to be a wonderful father."You'll like the house in Bath, Charlie. Lots of open space and hills," Fred told her. She was glad that the ghosts that had tried to derail their wedding were gone, though. She wasn't sure she would want Charlie to have to deal with those in a safe space like a home when there was so much she was going to have to deal with as it was.While Charlie and Rupert disappeared out of the bathroom, Fred drained the tub and stood up. Once she got undressed, she took her shower, washing her own hair and standing with the hot water hitting her back for a bit to help the slightly sore muscles there. She had never been more glad for the electric shower - otherwise, they might have been out of hot water by then.When she finished washing herself, she stepped out and grabbed a towel, looking at herself in the mirror. She was definitely getting bigger - she was glad because it meant that Andi was growing and likely healthy. "Don't get too much bigger," she said, rubbing her hand over her abdomen. "I might not be able to walk if you do."Putting on her robe, she hurried into the bedroom and got dressed, pulling her hair back. Once she was ready, she walked back out to the guest bedroom. "Hey," she said, sticking her head in and smiling at the two of them. "You ready in here?"
“How many horses do you have?” Charlie asked as Giles carefully brushed her hair out so he could braid it.“Four,” he comment before he started to braid her hair. “Most are quite tame. There’s one colt that doesn’t let anyone touch him unless it’s my keeper. He usually keeps to himself.”Charlie nodded her head and swung her feet over the edge of the bed. “Have you always helped girls who kill monsters?” she suddenly asked.Giles frowned a little and nodded his head. “I’ve been helping them for over twenty years now. Once we get you settled, I’ll take you to meet other girls like you. Mind you, they’re a bit older than you but they’re rather friendly,” he explained. “There. All finished.”She turned around and gave him a tight hug. Giles grinned and wrapped his arms around her just as Fred peeked in at them.“We’re ready,” he said. He released Charlie and helped her on with her jacket. And, once he had his own on, they headed toward the front door.When all of them were outside, Giles quietly said a spell to protect the house and led Fred and Charlie to his car. Once Charlie was securely in the back seat, he jogged around and helped Fred into the passenger side.“Where to first? The baby shop to get a new rocking chair or to the clothing store?” he asked as he started the car and slowly backed away from the garage.