See end for an update.Word Count:
Coffee mug in hand, Joyce watched the large pot of water start to boil. She'd quickly learned after moving to Sunnydale to make large quantities of food whenever Buffy invited her friends over for movie night. She could hear Dawn behind her humming the theme to her current favorite cartoon.
"Dawn, go somewhere that's else," she heard Buffy say. Turning around, she noticed that her eldest daughter was unexpectedly wearing one of her hats.
"Why? I'm helping make dinner," Dawn grumbled.
"It's private," Buffy said. "So, go away."
"Go. You can go wait for Xander out on the porch," she told her, making shooing motions.
"Xander's coming over?" Dawn said, a large grin appearing on her face.
"You knew that!" Buffy said. "You were snooping when I asked last night."
"I wasn't snooping," Dawn said. "And how would you know? You were at Willow's house."
"The next time you listen to someone using the upstairs phone," Buffy said, "make sure you turn off your music first."
"Dawn?" Joyce said, frowning at her. "You know better."
"Mom..." Dawn whinged. "I never get to hear the good stuff."
Shaking her head, Joyce pointed to the door. "Porch, living room, or bedroom," she said. An eleven year old did better with choices. Something she'd learned several years before when Buffy'd gone through the same phase.
"Yes, Mom," Dawn mumbled before sulkily leaving the room.
Leaning against the sink, Joyce sipped her coffee, watching her eldest daughter stomp around the kitchen muttering unintelligibly to herself.
"Why didn't you tell me?" she asked, finally coming to a stop.
"Tell you what?"
"That I'm adopted," Buffy said, pausing for a second to go to the door to yell into the other room "You better not be listening!"
"Buffy!" Joyce said, warningly. Even though Dawn's response hadn't reached her ears, they both winced when the sound of the front screen door slamming shut echoed back to them.
"Mom!" Buffy whinged, "It's none of her business."
"You're not adopted," Joyce said. "What gave you that idea? As your mother, it's something I would know."
"Are you sure?" Buffy asked, tugging at the edges of the hat she was wearing. "Maybe you imagined it?"
Joyce frowned at her, "Eighteen hours of labor, in the middle of a hurricane, is not something one imagines."
"You're getting old," Buffy said. "It's possible you forgot."
"No, I remember every second of it," Joyce said, throwing in a glare for good measure at the age comment.
"Then how do you explain this?" Buffy said, dramatically pulling off her hat. "Unless you had an affair with a Keebler elf!"
"Buffy!" Joyce said indignantly, hoping her surprise wasn't showing.
"Well, where else would these come from?" she asked, tugging at an ear lobe. "And why am I shorter than you or Dad? I bet Dawn is going to be taller than me too, with her big elephant feet."
"Oh dear," Joyce murmured, ignoring the Dawn comment. "Those aren't the costume ears from Halloween?" she asked hopefully.
"Nope," Buffy said bluntly, sitting down.
"It doesn't mean you're adopted," Joyce told her.
Joyce stared at Buffy for minute, trying to decide what to tell her. She'd hoped it would never come to this. Hoped that her daughters would be free from the family curse. Not that her great aunt had considered it a curse.
"There's a perfectly good explanation," Joyce said, putting down her cup and taking the water off the burner. "Don't go anywhere."
"As if," Buffy grumbled, just barely loud enough for Joyce to hear. "And risk getting mobbed by a wandering band of geeks with a Spock fetish?"
Joyce shook her head, pausing only for a moment at the bottom of the stairs to check on her youngest daughter, sitting out on the front porch, headphones on and her newest manga in front of her. Satisfied that Dawn would be occupied for a while, she continued up the stairs.
Entering her bedroom, she lifted the painting of her Great Aunt Elizabeth from the wall and removed the thick envelope taped to its back. Nosy daughters sometimes meant cliched hiding places, she thought with some embarrassment. She'd been planning to put it with the rest of her important papers in the bank for months but it looked like she would need its contents after all.
Re-entering the kitchen, she held up a hand to stop Buffy's rant about Spock fetishists in mid-sentence. Putting the envelope down on the table, she grabbed a glass and filled it with ice. Taking out the bottle of Scotch she kept in the cupboard above the stove, she splashed a generous amount in the glass. "You didn't see where this came from," she told Buffy firmly, before returning the bottle to its hiding place.
Taking a large gulp from the glass, she sat down in front of her wide-eyed daughter. Opening the envelope, she carefully poured its contents out onto her side of the table.
"I can't say I'm completely surprised," she said, arranging the slim, leather bound book, a silver ring, an earring, and several photos in front of her. "But I was really hoping you'd be spared this." Picking up the top photo and looking at it, she wondered briefly where the years had gone. "Buffy, this is a family secret. You can't tell anyone," Joyce said, before handing it to Buffy.
"Who's this with you?" Buffy asked in a shocked voice. "She has my ears."
"That's my Great Aunt Elizabeth. It was taken on my sixteenth birthday."
"Why can't I tell anyone?" she asked, putting the photo down. "They're my ears."
Joyce raised an eye brow at her daughter's comment. "What do you think would happen?"
"Permanent Star Trek geek tent cities on the front lawn?" Buffy said.
"I was thinking more like forced relocation to Area 51," Joyce told her.
"A secret government base where they supposedly study aliens?" Joyce said. Seeing no comprehension in Buffy's eyes, she added. "It's out in the middle of a desert, with no mall. Not that you'd be able to go outside anyway."
"Paranoid much?" Buffy grumbled.
"Better safe than sorry," Joyce said. "Looked what happened to the people who lived here before the Spanish arrived."
"I get the point," Buffy said. "Being different is okay. Attracting attention from the people in the shiny black helicopters? Not so much."
"Keep that in mind," Joyce said.
"What about Willow?" Buffy asked.
"She noticed the ears were real before I did," Buffy said.
"Do you trust her to keep this a secret?" Joyce asked, wondering why Buffy was blushing.
"Okay, but no one else," Joyce said. Buffy nodded.
"She doesn't have these ears in her painting in your room," she said, peering down at the picture.
"No," Joyce agreed. She then passed the other photo to her before taking another sip. Scotch had really been Hank's drink of choice, but it would serve its purpose.
Buffy looked at the photo, over at her mother, and back at the photo several times. "You had them too," Buffy mumbled. "How'd you get rid of them?"
"I didn't," Joyce admitted.
"Huh?" Buffy stared at her ears like she was trying to see through them. "Your ears look normal. How'd you do it?"
Joyce sighed. "It's not so much getting rid of them as hiding them," she said, gulping down the rest of the Scotch and once more holding up a hand to signal quiet. The strong alcohol made things much easier, but she'd never particularly enjoyed the process.
Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and concentrated. It took a minute to achieve the necessary state of mind. Somewhere behind her eyes was an invisible point she needed to focus on. Once she was ready, she mentally reached for that focal point, pushing the outside world away and visualizing herself as she looked with the ears and lightly shorter and thinner body.
After several minutes of concentrating, and ignoring Buffy's impatience that she could sense across the table, there was a sharp, agonizing shift in her head, and her hearing was suddenly much sharper. If she tried, she knew she could hear Dawn's breathing out on the porch and traffic in the street. Hearing Buffy's surprised gasp, she took a deep breath and opened her eyes, squinting against the sudden increase in light.
"How?" Buffy asked. "Is it magic?"
"I don't know how it works," Joyce said, wondering at Buffy's tone, as if magic were an everyday thing in her life. "Magic isn't real," she added.
"Then how?" Buffy asked again.
"I'm sure there's a term for it," Joyce said, reflexively shielding her eyes against the bright kitchen lights, "but I was never that good with science."
"Yes," Joyce said. "Your great uncle was fascinated by the whole thing, even though he couldn't do it himself. He spent years looking into it."
"Why not?" Buffy asked.
"It runs in the family, but only the eldest daughter can control the change if it happens. Your Aunt Arleen can only change with help."
"So Dawn isn't going to suddenly get ears like mine?"
"No. You're the only one." Joyce said, not letting her relief show. Even though there was a remote chance Dawn would inherit the ability to shift, it wouldn't make a sudden appearance like it had for her eldest daughter.
"Can you teach me how to go back to normal?" Buffy asked.
"Yes, but it can take a while to learn. It took me months the first time," Joyce said. She winced at the expression on Buffy's face.
"So I'm stuck like this until I can figure it out?"
"No, fortunately," Joyce said. Picking up the ring, she held it up. "Watch." Sliding the ring onto her left ring finger, Joyce concentrated again, picturing herself with normal ears until she felt herself shift back. She'd forgotten how much easier it was with the ring.
"Are you sure it isn't magic?" Buffy asked, her eyes large in her face. "Why didn't you do that the first time?"
"There's no such thing as magic," Joyce said again, wondering who had been filling her daughter's head with such nonsense. "The ring only works twice and then needs to recharge. And that can take days."
"Oh," Buffy said. "So you did it without the ring the first time..."
"So you can use it," Joyce said. "Yes." Sliding off the ring, she handed it to Buffy. "You'll need to wear it until you can control the change yourself. It'll also prevent any accidental changes."
"Okay," Buffy said, slipping on the ring. "How does it work?"
"You need to concentrate," Joyce told her. "Picture yourself the way you want to look."
"So I can use it to look like anyone?" Buffy asked, grinning at some secret thought. "Or change a few things?"
"No," Joyce told her. "That isn't how it works."
"You tried it didn't you," Buffy said, smirking at her mother.
"No. Maybe," Joyce said, feeling herself blush. "It's hard to describe. You're still you but it's like your body has different forms. Once you've changed into one of those forms, with practice you can repeat it."
"So, there's an elf me, and a human me? Can we change into anything else?"
"Aunt Elizabeth always claimed there was a third form but never said what it was. But we're not elves," Joyce said firmly. "We just aren't from around here."
"What does that mean?" Buffy asked. "Not from around here?"
"Not from this planet," Joyce told her, sipping her coffee to get rid of the taste of the Scotch.
"How do you know?"
Joyce held up the book. "According to Aunt Elizabeth, it's explained in here," she said, sliding it across to her. "It's a journal written by one of your distant ancestors."
Buffy opened it and looked at a page. It looked familiar, like something Arwen-her would have known, she thought, but the words she ended up with made no sense. "I can't read it. What's it written in?"
"Aunt Elizabeth was't able to read most of it either," Joyce said, taking it back. "Just a few words here and there. It's in a language she called Furling."
"So, we have a book that no one can really read, but we think it says we're aliens? We also have the ability to sort of shape change, and a ring that helps. What does this do?" Buffy gingerly took the earring and looked at it.
"It doesn't get lost," Joyce said. "No one really knows, but it and the ring are always together. Whomever has the ring always has the earring nearby."
"And you're sure this isn't magic?"
"It's technology," Joyce insisted, feeling slightly frustrated that Buffy kept bringing up magic. "If you looked at them with a very powerful microscope, the ring and the earring also have writing on them like the book."
"Huh. So how do I work it?" Buffy asked, playing with the ring on her finger.
"You need to concentrate on what you want to look like," Joyce said. "Which form you want to take." She watched Buffy close her eyes and take several deep breaths before falling into what looked like a deep meditative state. It wasn't instantaneous but Buffy shifted faster than she expected, remembering her own first time.
"Not the most pleasant feeling," Buffy said, opening her eyes. "Like something cold and metallic sliding under my skin. Does it get better?"
"Buffy! Willow's here!" Dawn's shout from the porch interrupted them before she could get an answer.
"Hey Dawn. Is Buffy home?" Willow asked, stopping at the bottom of the steps.
"Is Xander coming?" Dawn countered.
"In a little bit," Willow said. "Where's Buffy?" she asked.
"In the kitchen with Mom. They're having a private conversation," Dawn said, looking up from her book.
"I'll come back later," Willow said, disappointed.
"I'm sure Buffy will let you listen," Dawn grumbled. "It's not like you're family," she added, getting up.
Willow just shrugged guiltily. She'd noticed that Buffy tended to keep secrets from her little sister.
"Buffy! Willow's here!" Dawn yelled through the screen door. "Go ahead," Dawn said, listening intently for a minute. "I'll stay out here where it's safe from rampaging sisters."
Willow nodded and entered the house. She suspected the only reason Dawn wasn't going in was the promised appearance of Xander. Otherwise she would have found a way to listen to Buffy and her mother talking. Willow didn't have the heart to tell her that Xander might not show up. Stopping in the kitchen door she waved at Buffy and her mother.
"Hey Willow," Buffy said, waving her into the kitchen. "Have a seat."
"Are you sure Buffy?" her Mom asked, looking intently at Willow as she sat down next to Buffy, causing her to blush. "This isn't just your life."
"Yes," Buffy said. "I trust her."
"Buffy?" Willow said, wondering what was going on. Looking at her best friend, she suddenly realized something. "What happened to your ears?" she asked. Unable to resist, she reached out and ran a finger along one of Buffy's now normal looking ears.
"Focus, Willow!" Buffy said, grabbing her hand.
"Sorry," Willow said, blushing even redder.
"Ear fetish?" Buffy's Mom asked, clearly amused.
"Apparently," Buffy said, still holding Willow's hand. "Fortunately, they aren't sensitive like earlier."
"I'd rather not discuss that right now," Buffy said, blushing. "Please?"
"Later," Buffy's Mom said, giving both of them a look that Willow couldn't interpret.
"So, your ears?" Willow asked.
"Fixed," Buffy said. "For now anyway," she added when her mother shook her head in disagreement.
Noticing the photographs on the table, Willow picked one up. "Who's this?" she asked excitedly. The girl in the photo looked vaguely familiar but it was her ears that Willow really noticed.
"That... would be my Mom," Buffy said, pointing across the table.
Willow was sure that the only reason her shock didn't show was from experiencing life with Xander, the king of shocking and often outright crazy statements. It was too bad that reflex didn't work with blushes, she thought. "Your Mom? You?" Willow looked at her for confirmation.
"Yes," she said.
"Who's this?" Willow asked, once she'd had a chance to digest the idea.The other photo contained a young Ms. Summers standing next to an older woman, also with pointy ears.
"My Great Aunt Elizabeth," Buffy's Mom said.
"So it's a family thing?" Willow asked, wondering how they'd managed to hide it for so long.
"Yup," Buffy said cheerfully. "I'm not adopted after all."
"Dawn will be so disappointed," Willow said with a nervous giggle.
"So, how'd you turn your ears back?" Willow asked. "You obviously don't look like that all the time. I wonder if your aunt knew Gene Roddenberry? Spock's ears came from somewhere."
"Before we go any further, I need a promise," Buffy told her. "You can't tell Xander, or anyone else about this."
"Not anyone? At all?" Willow wondered how they were going to explain things to Giles.
"Nope," Buffy said. "Black helicopters."
"Black helicopters?" Willow frowned at the non sequitur.
"Buffy," her Mom said with a groan.
"You brought it up first," Buffy protested.
"If you were Xander," Willow said, "and you obviously aren't..."
"I'm way cuter," Buffy said with a wink.
"If you were Xander," she repeated, glaring at the interruption, "I would suspect you had watched 'The Men In Black' one too many times and had aliens on the brain again."
"That would make life easier," Buffy's Mom said. "But I'm more concerned about real government entanglements."
"Oh," Willow thought for a moment. "So this is just between us? Do I need to sign an oath in blood?"
"Blood?" Buffy's Mom frowned at her.
"I take that as a no," Willow murmured. "So, how'd you fix your ears?"
"Some of us have alien shape shifter genes," Buffy told her.
"You're kidding," Willow said.
"Nope," Buffy said.
"So you can change into anyone you want?" Willow asked excitedly. "Like Mystique?"
"Who's Mystique?" Buffy asked.
"A comic book character," Willow said. "She can turn into anyone. Does Dawn know?" Willow asked. "About any of it?"
"No," Buffy said. "Mom doesn't want her to know yet."
"The shifting ability is only carried through the female line," her mother said. "Buffy gets it from me; her eldest daughter would get it from her. Younger daughters don't usually inherit it."
"Sound very selective," Willow said. "Wait, if that's your Great Aunt, how did you inherit this?"
"She was one of the exceptions to the rule," she said.
"Oh," Willow said. "So, why do you think it's an alien thing and not something else."
"What else could it be?"
"There are legends of beings who could change their appearance," Willow said. "Or maybe it's a mutant ability like Mystique?"
"No," Buffy's Mom said. "This isn't a comic book."
"But we do have that book in an unknown language," Buffy said. "And the ring." She held up her hand.
"Book?" Willow asked. Taking the book from Buffy, she eagerly leafed through it. "It sort of looks like Sindarin?"
"Almost," Buffy agreed. "But if you pronounced it like Sindarin you'd get nonsense. Or a headache."
"Sindarin?" Buffy's mother gave them both a puzzled look. "It's in Furling."
"Elvish from 'Lord of the Rings'," Willow explained. "Must be a coincidence. That was an artificial language. Can you read it?"
"No one in the family has been able to read more than a word or two of it for several centuries."
"How about this?" Buffy waved her hand. "The ring is like a switch. It flips the genes that control the change."
"So you can change back?" Willow asked, grabbing Buffy's hand to look at the ring.
"Sort of," Buffy said reluctantly.
"She needs to wear the ring until she can control the change on her own," Buffy's Mom said.
"Huh." Willow frowned. "Can anyone else use it to change?"
"Not outside the family," she said.
"Why?" Buffy asked Willow.
"I was wondering what it felt like to be an elf," Willow said.
"It's like all of your senses are turned up to eleven," Buffy's Mom said.
"Was that another pop culture reference?" Buffy asked Willow. "I think this shape shifting stuff affects the brain cells. Because that? Is not something my mother should know."
"When is Xander coming over?" Buffy's mom asked in what Willow thought was an excellent example of redirection.
"A half hour or so," Willow said.
"And he's going to be here late?"
"Yes," Buffy said.
"Okay. Now scoot while I finish making dinner so he doesn't starve," she said. "I'll give you girls a call when I want you to set the table."
"Yes, Mom," Buffy said, jumping up. "Come on Willow, before she suddenly discovers some alien mind control power she didn't know she had."
Giggling, Willow followed Buffy out of the kitchen and up the stairs to her room.
"You can't go in yet," Dawn said, sitting at the top of the porch steps.
"Buffy isn't home?" Xander asked. Willow had insisted that he come over. Her tone had been the one no one ignored, if they were smart.
"She is but they're having the 'adoption' conversation," Dawn said in a loud whisper.
"Buffy's adopted?" Xander asked, wondering if this was why Willow had insisted on his appearance for the evening.
"Yes, isn't it obvious?" Dawn asked. "She doesn't look anything like Mom and me and she's too short to be related to Dad."
"So you're just guessing?"
"Maybe?" Dawn said. "But I'm sure it's true. I heard Buffy say it herself a couple minutes ago."
"Okay." Xander sat down on a lower step. "So, how'd your Halloween turn out?"
"Janice broke her arm so her parents wouldn't let her go out. So we handed out candy instead," Dawn said.
"Smart," Xander said.
"So something strange did happen?" Dawn asked eagerly. "Everybody's already forgotten."
"That sounds like Sunnydale," Xander said. "Some people turned into their costumes for a little while. You didn't get yours at that new costume shop, Ethan's, did you?"
"Nope," Dawn said. "I got mine in LA this summer. So, did Buffy turn into an elf? She hasn't said anything about it."
"Yup," Xander said. "I was somebody else at the time, but I don't think she really changed so much as thought she was an elf."
"I bet Willow had fun being Pippi," Dawn said, standing up to play with a fancy Yo-yo that Xander thought looked very familiar.
"Were'd you get the yo-yo from?" he asked carefuly.
"Janice gave it to me," Dawn said. "It went with my costume."
"Were'd she get it?"
"I don't remember," Dawn said nervously.
Xander frowned. If she'd spent the evening with her friend handing out candy, there wasn't much trouble she could have gotten into, if he remembered her costume correctly. He'd just have to talk with Buffy and Willow about it after she went to bed.
"Dawn," Buffy said loudly from the door, "Go get washed up. Dinner's ready."
"Come on Xander," Dawn said grabbing his arm and pulling him to his feet.
"Nu-uh," Buffy said, stepping outside and prying her hand loose.
"But he needs to wash up," Dawn protested.
"He'll be along in a minute," Buffy told her. "Now scoot!"
"Uh, yes," Buffy said firmly, pointing inside. Glaring at her, Dawn stomped into the house.
"What's up?" Xander asked.
"Just a second," she told him, pointing at the door. She listened for a moment before sitting down on the steps. "Have a seat," she said, patting the step below her.
Nodding, he sat down and waved at her to go ahead.
"So, who exactly did you go as for Halloween?" Buffy asked. "I know it was some comic book soldier guy but Willow didn't know who he was."
"Does it matter?" Xander asked, leaning back, his elbows on Buffy's step. He'd had a couple days to get used to the memories.
"When our best male friend becomes a hermit for a couple days because of something he remembers? Of course it matters."
"No big," Xander said, shrugging.
"Yes, big, Mister!" Willow said, joining them on the steps. "You may not have ended up with not so fake ears like Buffy, but something happened."
"Ears?" Xander sat up and stared at Buffy. "They look normal to me."
"We can talk about that later," Buffy told him. "It's all under control."
"Why not now?" Xander asked.
"Because it's your turn first," Buffy told him.
"So... what was so special about this guy?" Willow asked.
"Sgt. Fury?" Xander asked. "Back in World War II he was a commando. He fought a lot of the big-time Nazi super-villains. He sort of becomes immortal at the end of the war and ends up in charge of his own super-spy gang."
"So you remember all that?" Willow asked. "The spy stuff?"
"Nah, just the stuff when he was a commando in the army," Xander said.
"And that had you hiding out in your bedroom?" Buffy asked.
"He was in a comic book," Willow reminded her. "So he spent the whole war fighting?" she asked him.
"Yup," Xander said, grimacing at the thought. "And seeing his men die. And his fiance got killed in a bombing raid on London when he was off fighting."
"Ouch." Buffy stared at him for a moment. The changes weren't blatantly obvious but they were there. "So... a couple years of fighting and friends dying and it hit you all at once?"
"Oh yeah," Xander said. "Not a lot of hugs and puppies for ol' Sgt. Fury."
"Oh, Xander," Willow said, leaning over to hug him.
"Don't worry about it," Xander told her. "We have a wonderful meal with the Ladies Summers ahead of us," he said, winking at Buffy. "And then an evening of movie watching."
"So, what'd you bring?" Buff asked.
"Something for everyone," he said. "A chick-flic; an action movie; a Disney movie; and a couple alternates."
"Let me see," Willow said, reaching for the bag.
"Hey," Xander said, grabbing the bag. "You'll have to wait until after dinner like everyone else." Standing up, he stepped over them and ran into the house, Willow on his heals.
Laughing at their antics, Buffy followed them in.
Furling, as a race belong to Stargate. They never actually appear physically in the series (Yes, I'm aware of Stargate Episode 200 where they are depicted as Ewoks but that was for a Wormhole Extreme movie. It isn't canon.). They look sort of like elves in this AU.
Buffy's Furling heritage won't play a huge part for a while in this series but it won't be forgotten. However, I don't really consider this a crossover yet. A story with Joyce, however, does go full-bore crossover, with some extra.