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Lonely Souls

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This story is No. 2 in the series "Waifs and strays". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: The second (much longer) installment in the Waifs and Strays AU. Covers season 1. Please READ THE SERIES INTRODUCTION!

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > Joyce-Centered(Current Donor)vidiconFR1595738,6431501333353,18728 May 119 Mar 14No

Pack mentality and worried parents

Author’s note:

An update. I’ve been unable to get to a computer with the story, so It’s a bit delayed. Having considered this likely, I left a double update last time.

And so we continue…Before you read please consider the following questions and take time to answer them, through reviews or other means.

In a review war mentioned that he thought Buffy and Owen should have had a conversation about the downside of the ‘nightlife’. I skipped this for the simple reason that Owen gets short shrift in the episode too. But I can certainly see war’s point. If this feels incomplete to people, I can add one. (A conversation with Owen that is.)

                   Did the relationship between Joyce and Simon develop too quickly? Should I have delayed the consummation?

If there are other points you feel need to be addressed do not hesitate to drop a (private) review in my shell like ear. For instance: Should I clarify what was found in the Manor’s basement?

Chapter 13: Pack mentality and worried parents

“Joyce…”

Joyce had learned to dread that voice. The last time she heard it she’d been wearing a De Givenchy dress a few days later. It meant Simon wanted to spend money on her and wasn’t certain if she’d accept it.

“Yes?”

“Can I give the children mobile phones?”

Joyce blinked. This was not what she expected. “Why?”

“So they can call if they are late.”

Joyce smiled. She’d felt him fidget during the three quarters of an hour that Buffy and Willow had been late after the Owen Thurman disaster. “You’ve obviously not had experience at this Simon; three quarters of an hour late would have most parents of teenagers dancing in happiness.”

“Joyce…” He sighed. “Joyce, I’m rich. Really, really rich. “Kidnap and cash in’ rich.”

Her eyes widened. “Oh. Do you have bodyguards?”

“Not usually. I’m not high profile. But there were some discreet men around at the ballet.”

Joyce looked at him in shock. “What? I never saw any.”

“Yes, that was the general intent. As well as the meaning of ‘discreet’.” Simon smirked slightly as he pointed that out.

She poked him and glared and he whuffed out a breath. “Well anyway, they were there. Joyce, I’d feel better if they and you had a company phone.”

“Very well. And I want to meet your security detail, the one that’s watching us now.”

He looked dumbstruck. “What?”

“I’m not stupid Simon. I can figure out the obvious once it has been pointed out to me. Those six rather large men who moved in across the street as roommates are home rather often and are rather old to be the college students they claim to be.” She gave him a withering look. “Don’t insult my intelligence by denying it.”

He gave her a radiant smile. “God I love you when you’re snarky and clever.”

“Don’t dodge the issue. Tomorrow.”

“Agreed.” He grasped her hand and squeezed softly.

“And you owe me a darn good lunch.”

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Simon walked into the High school library, cane over his shoulder, a leather attaché case in his hand. The afternoon was slowly becoming evening and he had enough of waiting for the kids to come home.

“You do realize that dinner is going to be cold unless you lot get a move on?”

The group looked up from around the library table, where they were studying various books. Giles looked at the clock.

“Quite right Dr. Meier. My apologies for keeping the Homework club for so long.” He smirked.

“For a homework club it leaves a lot of work to be done at night.” Simon smirked back.

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Can we just go eat?”

“Not quite.”

Simon opened the case, pulling out several mobiles. “Phones. One for each of you. You will contact me when you are running late. No exceptions, for whatever reason.” He pointed at Giles. “You get one for emergencies.” Giles nodded, understanding.

“Some numbers have been preprogrammed, the first is Joyce, the second my mobile, the third is a direct connection to one of my main offices, the fourth is the hospital.” He smiled. “You can add the rest. I’ll pay for reasonable,” he stressed the word. “use. I’ll also spring for cases, or wallets, or whatever you want to keep them in, should you choose to do so. Everybody understand?”

They nodded; Willow already entranced by the phone and it possibilities.

Simon took a credit card out of his bill fold and handed it to Giles. “I understood from Buffy there is no clothing or other allowance given to the Slayer, so this can be used to replace clothing damaged or destroyed in the line of duty.” He smiled at Buffy whose eyes were very wide. “And now it’s time to pack up and go eat.”

The teens packed their book bags and Simon picked up a page of notes. “Ah, the Order of Aurelius. Nasty.”

Giles gave him a look. “How’d you know about that?”

Simon shrugged. “They were driven from New York in the late 1600’s by the New York coven, led by one of my ancestors. There was a slayer involved I think, Julia Pedicott, I recall her name was.”

Giles sighed. “Can you let us have what you know?”

“Certainly. But not tonight.” He gave Giles a questioning look. “When was the last time you had a decent meal?” 

Buffy stifled a giggle. “He’s on to you Giles. Better watch it or he’ll have you over for dinner every night.”

Giles gave her a reproving look. “I’m well able to look after myself, thank you Dr. Meier. If you don’t mind, I need to continue looking…”

Simon winked at Buffy. “All I need to do is get Joyce in here and he doesn’t stand a chance.”

The teens sniggered and Giles blushed. The group left and climbed into the old Volvo, the three playing with their new phones.

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Simon was hanging drywall in the basement with Xander. He’d called in a plumber to install three sinks and no less than two showers. He’d drawn the line at the bubble bath Dawn had suggested.

An electrician had put in several new sockets and a superfast internet connection was being contemplated. Willow had had geeky hysterics.

The basement was taking on definite shape as a three bedroom; two shower, apartment. And there was even a boxroom left around the stairs as well as a utility room and a small study. She’d drawn the line at getting a new water heater, but she knew she’d cave eventually, the current one was good enough for three, but with two extra teens and a live in boyfriend….

And then he was going to work on the garage, he figured the loft was going to make a fine guestroom. He’d mentioned getting the roof level raised… And there were boxes and old furnishings of the previous owners in there as well. She shook her head, amazed at the enjoyment he took in working with his hands. 

She’d have to have the house revalued after all the improvements; it had to be worth more already. The budget was going to be stretched though… the roof raising was going too far she decided, and the heater would have to wait a year or two. The occasional cool shower was hardly going to kill them in California.

Xander was making some sort of quip and Simon laughed. Willow and Dawn were playing chess again and Buffy was reading her biology homework, a sad expression on her face. The new science teacher was competent, but he wasn’t Dr. Gregory. Joyce thought of her now rather extended family and smiled to herself. They’d put in an order for Xander’s bed, he’d been smiling broadly ever since. The room wasn’t quite finished, but they’d put the finishing touches on it while Xander was staying there. The bed would go in the minute after the floor went in. That boy was never going to get abused again, not if Joyce had anything to do with it.

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A horrifying scream ran through the Summers’ house. Mother and eldest daughter looked at each other and grinned.

Buffy sighed into her juice and Joyce gave her a look. “It’s a trip to the zoo. Not a death sentence.”

“I’ve been to zoos. We went every year at Hemery.”

“I know; I chaperoned on one occasion.”

“Oh God, don’t remind me.”

“Language Buffy.”

Buffy groaned and tried to drown her sorrows in orange juice.

“I’m sure you’ll have fun. Don’t inhale your juice.” Willow came in looking pleased with herself.

“Good morning. Dawn’s up.”

“We heard. What did you use?” Buffy sounded interested.

“Nothin’. I just have cold hands in the morning.” Her expression was now really smug.

Joyce smiled. “You do realize this means she’ll try and get even?”

Willow blinked. “Ermm…”

Buffy nodded sagely. “I fear so. And Dawn can be frightfully inventive.”

Willow’s lip started to quiver and Buffy lightly punched her arm. “It’s a problem you get with younger sisters.” Willow’s quivering lip stopped and her eyes widened, her mouth widening into one of her irrepressible happy smiles.

“Yeah. Okay.” Buffy looked at her friend confusedly, but kept her silence when Joyce shook her head.

Xander slouched in, yawning. “Did I hear Dawn crowing in the morning? And a good morning to you all.” He grabbed a slice of bread and popped it in the toaster. Joyce made a mental note she either needed a bigger toaster or an extra one.

Willow nodded in reply to his question. “Yup. The magical Rosenberg morning hands did the trick.”

Xander grimaced. “Not the Rosenberg morning hands! They have been banned by treaty and are considered cruel and unusual punishment.”

Joyce gave them a look. “And how does Xander know about Rosenberg morning hands?”

Willow looked a bit sad. “Jesse always had me wake Xander after sleepovers when we were kids.”

Joyce nodded in understanding. She’d heard Jesse had been killed by a gang, which still worried her. She hoped Buffy would not go vigilante again. She rose, putting a comforting hand on Xander and Willow’s shoulder, and then had to intervene in a friendly quarrel when Buffy snagged Xander’s toast. She needed to get that extra toaster soon.

The teens left for school and their trip before Dawn managed to show up, muttering dire vengeance about evil cold hands. “Hurry up dear, everybody else is gone already and you only have a few minutes to eat.”

*And you have a new big sister, even if neither you nor her quite realize it yet.*

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Xander rubbed his ribs where his father had struck him the night before. Tonight was the night he’d get even. He’d told Ms. Summers after dinner even his parents would notice if he was absent every night. She’d believed him, even if Willow had looked a touch suspicious. The green glow in his eyes grew brighter as he strode through the front door of home and he saw the drunk on the couch.

“So. Mr. know-nuthin’ is finally home. Seen anythin’ good in the zoo? All the little animals play? Think ya can getta job there. Shovelin’ dung behind the elephants?”

“Still a better job than any you ever managed to hold down.”

“Wha’? You talkin’ back to me boy? You think you can take on your Ol’ man?”

“Old, I’ll go with old. Man… I doubt you’ve managed to prove that since nine months before I was born.”

Anthony Harris rose; roaring and swinging his fist at his son, only to have his punch blocked. Xander knocked the arm aside and pushed his father back on the couch. “You’ll never hit me again. You’ll never touch me again. You’ll never lay a hand on me again. Do you understand me you piece of crap?”

Tony Harris glared. “Tha’s no way to talk to your father!”

“I might not if you were a better one.” Xander stalked up the stairs to his bedroom.

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Dinner was… awkward. Xander glowered at everyone indiscriminately, even literally growling at Joyce and Simon. Willow sat looking at him with hurt in her eyes. Buffy was confused. Joyce had firmly changed the subject several times when Xander’s baiting and sarcasm had became nasty, and given him worried glances as he studied her with a terrible intensity.

“You seem out of sorts. You practically drove Dawn to tears and all she wanted was to play a game.” Simon sat down by the young man who was swinging on the porch seat.

“What’s it to you?”

“We’ve had this conversation Xander. Because I care.”

“Do you? Do you care enough to go to my dad and beat the shit out of him if he hits me again?” Xander glared at him.

“I’d prefer to send in lawyers. It’s less messy. And nastier.”

“Can’t take him in a fight can you? Too much pencil pushing.”

“Xander…”

“Know what? I don’t need this. I don’t need you on my case. I can take care of myself. I don’t need you or your bitch ho!” Xander rose and made to leave when his arm was taken in a firm grip.

“Alexander, you will sit down and you will apologize for what you said! Then you will go inside and apologize to the others.”

“Ha! You think you can take me? Give it your best…. Ow.” Xander found himself lying uncomfortably on his front, a knee in his back, his arm at almost a ninety degree angle to his body, his legs firmly pinioned by the older man’s body.

“Now Xander, I don’t know what you think you are doing, but this isn’t like you.” Xander growled and shifted, but the pain in his arm, back and shoulder intensified. Two brown eyes tinged with green lowered until they could look into his own. They were hard, and cold and full of intelligence and command.

The boy swallowed.

“Xander. I don’t know what’s gotten into you, but I for one don’t like it. You’ve hurt Willow, Dawn and now you’ve insulted Joyce. I will not stand for it. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’m going to let you up now. Don’t mistake that for weakness. You couldn’t take me no matter how hard you tried. Until you are ready to apologize and behave I think it might be wise if you stayed away.”

He let go and rose in one swift movement, gazing down at Xander. The boy got up, more easily than he expected, gave him a look and ran off into the darkness. Pondering the possibilities, Simon went inside. There were three sad and frightened girls in there; that needed to be comforted, and a worried mother.

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Joyce Summers-Ellis very rarely swore. But upon seeing the damage the rainstorm had done to her house she not only swore, but cried. There was subsidence along the back wall and the roof had buckled so it was leaking in Dawn’s room. It was likely that the foundations needed to be fixed and she had no money for extensive repairs. She leaned her forehead against the back wall and swore softly, the tears running down her face. “Dammit. Why do these things always happen to me? Why the fuck can’t they happen to some Hollywood bimbo with a sugar daddy.”

“Talking to yourself, dear? That’s the sign of an imbalanced mind.” She felt Simon’s warm arms around her waist and his breath on her neck just before he kissed it. “What seems to be the problem?”

“See there? The corner of the house is lower than it was. I saw it in the kitchen this morning.”

“I saw. It will need work.”

“Dammit Simon! I can’t afford this. I spent every cent I had to buy this house and the Gallery and pay off that bloody gym…” She turned into him, tears flowing. “And I’d just thought that it would be worth more with the new basement apartment.”

“Joyce… Love…Where have I been living for the past months?”

“Sunnydale?”

Simon rolled his eyes. “In this house Joyce, with you. This, if you will excuse me saying so, is my home. I like living here. I don’t mind at all spending money to keep it habitable.”

“Simon, I can’t. That sort of money… I just can’t”

“Why not?”

“Because…I’d feel the need to repay you and I couldn’t; afford repaying with money and there’s nothing else you want except to marry me and I don’t want to marry you just to keep my house…”

He kissed her mouth, stopping her tearful stream of words. “Home. Your home. Joyce… I’ve never in my life lived in the same house with people like I’m doing now. With family.” He kissed her again. “I’ve been happier these past few months than I have in my entire life. It’d break my heart to have to leave. And it breaks my heart to see you this sad.”

“Simon… What if it doesn’t work… if we don’t work?” She looked at him with large, glistening eyes, the touches of blue and green, sapphire and emerald that were so uniquely hers mesmerizing him.

“I have solicitors. They can draw up a contract if you want.”

She sighed. “I’m still not marrying you yet, you manipulative bastard.”

“Hmmm.” His eyes flashed and she gave him a suspicious look.

“What do you have in mind Simon? Get me drunk and drag me off to Vegas to get married by Elvis?”

He smiled into her neck. “An appealing notion. But no. Just the ‘yet’. I can live with the ‘yet’ very well for now.”

“Twit.”

“Yes dear.”

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The teachers’ lounge at Sunnydale High was full. The teachers were disinterested. Flutie had a nasty habit of calling faculty meetings for the most ridiculous things, like the presentation of that stupid pig.

Jenny Calendar sighed and sat back. From under her lashes she studied Rupert Giles as the librarian sat slouching in a seat as far away from the place where Flutie tended to stand as possible. To her shock Martin Hedgeworth, one of the English teachers was wondering what student had gotten him or herself killed. The consensus among the four teachers talking was that the likeliest candidate was Harmony Kendall. They were convinced that she’d one day just wander into a forest and manage to catch a blunt stick in her eye. She saw Rupert wince as he heard the remarks. She didn’t feel too comfortable with them herself.

Jason Carlyle, the Vice Principal appeared, looking pale and rather disconcerted. In a school that had a bloody obituary column in its school newspaper that was a worrying sign. Carlyle cleared his throat.

It took a bit but finally the room fell silent. Carlyle spoke. “There’s been an… incident… apparently one of the local packs of wild dogs got into the school, they’ve eaten Herbert the Pig… and they broke into the Principal’s office…and ate him as well.”

Jenny felt her stomach turn. Several of the other teachers looked fairly green as well. Death might be a weekly occurrence at the school but the devouring of the principal… that was new. She swallowed but still felt her gorge rise. Suddenly Rupert was there, holding a metal waste paper basket in front of her. She grabbed it from him, putting it between her legs and vomited violently. She noted that several of the longer serving teachers were holding out baskets as well. And here she’d wondered why so many of the things were around…

Rupert held her hair back from her face and murmured soothing words. Once she’d emptied her stomach he rubbed her back. He went to the small kitchen and wet his handkerchief, letting her use it to wipe her face.

“Feeling a bit better?”

Jenny smiled wanly. “Wild dogs are running through the school eating people, how do you think I feel?”

“Bloody awful probably, but I always feel a bit better after I’ve stopped vomiting. I hope the same goes for you?”

“A bit. Now what do we do?”

“Well, so far the school hasn’t closed down for anything, including the decapitation of a teacher. So I’d imagine we get sent back to our classes and continue with or jobs, after informing such pupils as have not been, or are currently being eaten by packs of wild dogs of course.”

Jenny grimaced. “You’re probably right.” She sighed. “The man was…”

“An idiot, but he did care for the children…and he tried, no matter how inept he could be.”

Jenny had to admit it was a fair assessment. She nodded. “I wonder who they’ll find to replace him.”

“I’ve got no idea. But I can’t imagine anyone being less suited to the role than poor Flutie.”

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Buffy looked at the brass plate with the discreet lettering and the paneled door, then at her friend. Willow took a deep breath and pulled the cord. The speaker next to it reacted immediately.

“MIC, Neave Cameron, how may I help you?”

“Miss Cameron? This is Buffy Summers, I don’t know if you remember…” The door swung open and the same security guard from before smiled at them. Neave waved from behind her desk, on the phone. “Please come in, Miss Summers, Miss Rosenberg.”

The girls walked through the doorway and the door was closed behind them. The security guard smiled at them even more widely as Neave spoke to the person on the other end of the line.

“Miss Summers and Miss Rosenberg are here to see Dr. Meier, Mrs. Yancey.” She listened for a Moment and then smiled at the two girls and nodded. “I’ll send them right up.’ She hung up the phone and waved towards the office door, pressing a button to open it.

“I believe you prefer the stairs, Miss Rosenberg?”

Willow nodded and looked at Buffy, who waved her onwards. The girls walked through the office and the remaining staff smiled and nodded. They took the stairs quickly and the security guard on the third landing opened the door for them, let them into Geraldine Yancey’s office and closed it behind them again.

She smiled at them, looking over her screen. “Dr. Meier is expecting you, you can go right in.”

Both girls nodded their thanks and rather distractedly entered, leaving Gerry wondering what might be the matter.

Simon took one look at the girls and rose quickly, leading them to a leather couch and coffee table in the corner, seating them next to each other on the couch and getting them a coke and apple juice from a small fridge hidden behind another bookcase.

He settled himself with a cup of strong smelling tea. Buffy wrinkled her nose at it. Simon shrugged.

“Lapsong Souchong, a smoked tea.” He winked at them. “Your mother won’t let me drink it in her vicinity either. Now tell me what has the two of you so upset you show up at my office just after school and before dinner?”

Buffy looked at her soda and at Willow’s juice. Her eyebrows rose. “Really getting the parental vibe here, Simon.”

Simon gave his trademark shrug. “Your mother rubbing off on me. But I doubt my paternal behaviour is why you’re here?”

Buffy grinned a little sheepishly. “Err… actually it kinda is.” 

Simon blinked, pleased surprise showing on his face. “Oh. Umm. Do tell?”

Willow took a deep breath. “It’s about Xander. He was acting all weird and it turns out that he was possessed by this Hyena thingy and he was like all Grrr mean and threw a ball at me real hard in dodge ball and… and he ate a pig and the rest of the pack ate principal Flutie and then he was all protect-y once this weird zoo doctor was going to kill me.”

 Willow started making small sniffling noises and her eyes became moist as she babbled. Simon rose and settled between them, putting an arm around Willow, drawing her in close and kissing her temple. “Easy there Willow. Deep breaths. Now what can I help you with?”

Buffy groaned. “It’s all complicated and emotion thingies and stuff.”

Willow sniffled. “I-is my face pasty?”

Simon smiled. “No. It’s a very pretty face. And if you’re a bit pale, considering you’re a red head using a high factor sun block that’s no more than can be expected and keeping out of the sun is quite wise.”

“S-seriously?”

“My grandfather had very pale skin and much more red in his hair than I do. He spent most of his time in his office or library. I remember we went to Coney Island once when I was young and he got a bad sunburn. My grandmother scolded him terribly. You’re very much like him.”

Willow smiled wanly. “I-it’s just… I thought he liked me…”

“Ah. So that’s why you’re here.” He looked at Buffy. “Are you here just for moral support? Or do you have questions of your own?” He looked worried.

Buffy worried her lower lip with her teeth. “Ummm… He went all sort of… grabby… with me.”

“Oh dear. I assume that you managed to fend him off?” Simon asked worriedly.

“Knocked him out cold.” Buffy said half apologetically, half pleased.

“Good for you. Might I ask by the way why you are talking to me instead of Dr Giles?”

Willow smiled into his shoulder, not answering. Buffy rolled her eyes a bit and answered. “‘Cause Giles is nice and knows a lot about mystical stuff. But you know about that, and you’re well fatherly. And there are some things I don’t want Giles to know.” She played with the buttons on her leather jacket.

“I see. What do you wish to know?”

“H-how much of what happened was…”

“Was Xander? Probably very little.” He tightened his hold on Willow and put his other arm over the back of the couch and settled a bit. Buffy bit her lip again and looked at him from under her lashes. He smiled and lowered the arm, drawing her in to his embrace as well.

“Possession is just that, something else taking over. From what I know about the subject, and most of it comes from a big game hunter my grandfather studied who had been possessed by a lion spirit, the actual individual gets subsumed, submerged. The knowledge of the person whose body is possessed usually remains, but the person itself…Is gone. If possession lasts too long, the host may be driven insane by the actions of the possessing spirit or entity. So the Hyena took Xander’s memories, emotions and knowledge and used them to things in a way Xander would never do… act in ways that Xander never would, hurt you both in ways Xander never would.”

“A-and when he went all grabby with Buffy, and sniffed her and… and…” The unspoken ‘why not with me’ could clearly be heard by Buffy and Simon. Simon let out a sigh.

“Willow… I fear that Xander sees you, really and truly as a sister. Hyenas that are related closely will do their utmost to prevent mating with each other. Buffy, being his next closest female acquaintance…” He swallowed, his eyes going wide.

Buffy looked at him worriedly. “Simon? What’s wrong? He’s not going to be chasing me anymore is he? Cause the whole getting sniffy in my personal space… not fun.”

“No… No once the possession is gone the personality reversal is instantaneous.”

“So what’s wrong?”

“Hyena’s are led by an alpha male and female, a family group…Young males try to win the favours of the alpha female by fighting with or defeating the alpha male…”

“Yah. And? There’s no alpha male in the Slayerettes, except maybe Giles…” Her eyes widened. “Mom? He was growling at both of you at dinner… But, that doesn’t fit, I mean he didn’t go after Mom…”

“Apparently he thinks of Joyce as the Alpha female and of me as the Alpha male. He attempted to fight me.”

Buffy raised an eyebrow. “Attempted?”

“After dinner… I had to use quite a painful hold to subdue him. And probably his Hyena strength wasn’t fully developed yet.”

“But, seriously, Mom? Xander and MOM?!” Buffy asked incredulously.

Willow giggled through her sniffs. “Seems like you weren’t his first choice Buff.”

“Willow…” Simon said it reprovingly. “This is no joking matter. I wouldn’t have had a chance if Xander had been in his full Hyena strength… Joyce wouldn’t have had a chance.” He gulped and looked at the red head. “Neither would you’ve had. So all in all we can be very thankful for the way this played out.”

Willow’s eyes went very wide. “Oh. Yes. Very.” She shuddered and Simon drew her close into his chest. “Easy little one.”

Buffy played with the buttons on her jacket some more. “Soooo… he first wanted to go after Mom… and then he went after me… and he tried to drive away Willow ‘cause she’s his sister… and he fought you for top dog position… why did he snarl at Dawn?”

“Same reason as Willow: sister, but inferior.”

Buffy sighed. “So I’m not of the sister-y material?”

“You might be. You’re also the senior female after your mother, which makes you attractive. Even if he does think of you as a sister, he might still in extremis have wanted to form, or lead, a new pack with you.” 

“Still very much of the eewww.”

“Considering my relationship with your mother, I’m in complete agreement on the eewww.”

Buffy sniggered before her eyes went wide and her mouth opened in an ‘O’. “Oh lord… You’ve… With Mom… EEEEWWWW! Old people sex!”

Simon laughed. “Thank you Buffy, for that lovely image.” 

Buffy screwed her eyes shut and grimaced, trying to lose the visual. “Yah. So, he doesn’t think me prettier than Willow?”

Simon’s mouth quirked. “I couldn’t tell you that. What I can tell you is that he probably thinks of Willow as a sister, no matter how pretty she is. I personally think you are both very pretty girls.”

Willow smiled, if a tad sadly. “Nice save.”

“Not a save Willow. The honest truth. You are a very pretty girl and one day you will have to beat suitors off with a stick.”

Willow giggled, absently rubbing her cheek on his tweed lapel. Buffy took her hand and squeezed gently. “He’s right Will; they will be beating down the door to get at you.”

Simon scowled. “Actually… I think I’ll lock both of you in your rooms for the next twenty odd years. And stand behind the door. With a big stick. And then I will beat them up with the stick.”

Buffy and Willow looked at each other and started laughing. Simon flushed. “Okay… so maybe I’m overdoing the paternal stuff a bit.”

Buffy reined in her laughter, but Willow still had fits of giggles. “So how did you do that to Owen? He barely dared touch me for half an hour after we left.”

Simon gave her a dark look. “Touch you?”

Buffy groaned, cheeks flushing. “Not like that! Get your mind out of the gutter. We were going dancing and he kept me at arm’s distance every time I wanted to get even a little closer.”

“I’ll tell you if you tell me what happened that night.”

Buffy sighed. “I suppose…”

“And Buffy, Willow… I might have been able to help more with Xander if I had known earlier. Please let me know about these little things.” Simon pleaded.

Willow bristled. “Why should we? I mean you promised to help! And where have you been? You told Giles you had stuff on the Order of Aurelius and you’ve not told us yet! O-or anything. And you were going to teach me magic. And you’ve not even shown me a single spell!”

Simon grinned at her and lifted an eyebrow. “Haven’t I? Maybe you’ve just not been paying attention. As for the information about the Order of Aurelius, I’ve sent to New York for such items in my library as might be useful. It takes time to collate the information and ship such books safely. They can hardly be Fed-exed.”

Willow’s eyes widened. “You’ve done magic? In front of me? And you didn’t tell me? That’s so not fair!”

“Actually its lesson one. To see if you can feel the magic as it is cast and as you live in close proximity with it.”

“C-close proximity?”

“Lesson two, since lesson one has failed: use common sense to think what I might have done, and where.”

Willow pouted. “You’re no fun.”

“I’m your teacher. I want you to learn every thing about magic, not just the fun parts. Every action in magic has a reaction, and unlike in physics it is not always equal and opposite.”

“Oh? How so?”

“That is a lesson for a later time.”

“Oh, poop!”

Buffy, who’d been following the conversation from her own position on a lapel smirked. “Don’t press too hard Will, if you annoy this teacher he may get out the switch.” Willow blushed a fiery red and glared at her friend. She opened her mouth to retort but Simon intervened.

“Hush, Willow. If you can’t, I’ll help you. Just ask, but after thinking about it and trying. Oh, by the way, I need to meet with that witch in your class, Amy Madison? She should not be left untutored.”

“Amy’s a witch?” Willow blinked in confusion.

“Of course she is. Magic is both a physical and mental ability. Her mother would not have been able to cast spells in her body if Amy had not been able to cast them herself. And regrettably her mother used some pretty dark magics to get into her body and while she was in it, so I need to know if, and how, these effected her.”

Buffy blinked. “Wow. Never thought of that.”

“Which is why I’m glad I’m here. If her power is anywhere near that of her mother, you don’t want to see what she can do is she remains untrained.”

Willow’s eyes grew wide. “B-but she’s our friend! She wouldn’t…”

“She might not want to…But the lure of the dark side of magic is very strong.”

“The power of the dark side…” Willow giggled. “Yes oh Obi-wan.”

“And where do you think Lucas got his ideas from, hmm Willow?” Simon retorted.

Buffy sniggered. “Yeah, right.”  

“The knowledge is not all that difficult to find Buffy. Mythology is full of it. References to dark sides and anger fill the world’s psychological libraries as well.”

Buffy nodded thoughtfully. “S’pose. Anyway, can you take us back home? It’s getting time for you to help with the cooking. I want Gran’s pasta.”

Simon rolled his eyes. “You always want your Gran’s pasta.”

“It’s a great pasta.”

Willow nodded. “And you and Mo...-Ms Summers make it wonderfully, the peppers all lovely and crisp and the sauce all creamy and the pasta all lovely all dente and the salad, with all the little nuts….”

Simon laughed. “Lucky for you two we bought the ingredients for it then, hmmm?”

Buffy slapped his shoulder. “You just wanted to hear Willow babble about how well you cook.”

“It is always entertaining.” He rose, letting go of the reluctant Willow. Buffy was a little quicker to relinquish her hold, but seemed unfazed by the close proximity she’d been in with her mother’s boyfriend. They took the stairs down after Willow had packed away the laptop, got into the car and picked up Dawn at school. Xander was not there for dinner. There were a lot of leftovers.

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Xander stood outside his parents’ house. He had a headache and his chest hurt and he could not go to the Summers’ house. He could not face Buffy, Willow, Dawn and Joyce. He was afraid. Nothing he could say would make up for what he did; for what he had done; had wanted to do. Tears ran down his face and he slowly opened the door. The fist in his side took him by surprise, exactly the same place where he’d been hit before. He grunted as the next blow shook him and he coughed in pain. The blows to his torso shook him and he did not fight back. He deserved this. He deserved whatever the man who had fathered him did. He had nothing else left, after what he had done. 

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Joyce had tucked in Willow and Buffy and now Buffy was preparing to Patrol, getting dressed again. Willow was eying her with weary eyes, yawning on occasion.

Buffy pulled on Angel’s jacket, too large for her though it was. “You were going to say ‘Mom’.” She said it softly, and it was clearly not a question.

Willow’s sleepy eyes flew open and to her friend, wide, frightened and shocked. “I didn’t mean to! I mean, I know she’s your Mom, not mine, and she couldn’t and you wouldn’t…” Tears were running down the redhead’s face. “A girl can dream, can’t she? I’m sorry Buffy, I’m sorry. I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to steal your Mom.”

Buffy grasped her friend’s shoulders and gave the girl a shake. “Willow! Wills! Stop crying, it’s alright.” She drew Willow into a hug. “I don’t mind. I don’t mind at all. It’s alright lil’ Sis. It’s alright.”

Willow drew in a deep breath. “W-what did you say?”

“It’s alright?”

“Lil’ sis? You called me lil’ sis?”

“Well you are younger. Even if you are bigger than me. Though not that much.” Buffy said it teasingly, but with a serious look in her eyes.

Willow bristled through her broad smile and remaining tears. “I’m much more mature than you.”

“Still older.”

“D’you mean it?” Willow looked at the blonde her large, green eyes uncertain and tearing up again.

“Yeppers. Definite.”

“Thanks Buff.”   

“You’re welcome Lil’ sis. Sleep well.”

“Be careful… Big sis.” Willow lay down and tried to settle, but the churning of her emotions kept her awake until Buffy returned several hours later.

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Joyce trailed her fingers over Simon’s naked chest and wondered at the muscles and the smoothness of his skin. He had scars, at least one of which she thought was from a bullet. She’d have to get the story behind all of them.

“You seem pensive.”

“Something Willow said.”

“Oh? And what did my favourite foster daughter have to say?”

“We were discussing your mother’s pasta. And how ‘Mom’ and I made it so well.”

Joyce smiled. “And this bothers you?”

“Only that it has taken a bare three months of you to make her call you Mom. I’d say I couldn’t imagine what her life must have been like before she met you to make it happen that quickly, but I fear I’ve a pretty good notion.”

“Hmmm. We can do our best for her.” She laid her head on his chest. “I’m just glad that I can afford to help her now…”

He smirked. “Advantage of being a Hollywood Bimbo with a Sugar daddy?”

“Shush!” She playfully slapped his chest.

“I love you.”

“Love you too.” She hesitated. “Ummm… Do you want to go to sleep?”

He grinned and his voice dropped an octave as it went into the smooth velvet rumble that sent shivers down her spine.  “Depends what you have in mind…”

“You.”

“He drew her up and kissed her. “Sleep is overrated.”

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“Animal possession does not cause memory loss.” The words were dryly spoken and the boy who heard them cringed. His shoulders drooped and his bookbag slid down his shoulder, only to be caught by the dark haired man beside him. “Buffy and Willow told me…everything. We missed you at dinner yesterday and tonight. Joyce was worried. So were the girls. And I’ve been standing here for the past two hours and that wasn’t comfortable either.”

“I can’t…I lied…Can’t lose them…Willow…” The words were halted and disjointed and Xander winced at the arm that was put around him and his breath hissed. Simon removed his arm and lightly dropped the bag.

“Bruised?”

“Yeah. Nothing I didn’t deserve.”

“Buffy didn’t mention you were that badly injured, certainly not when you saved Willow…”

Xander looked down and Simon gently put his hand to the boy’s face and lifted his chin, looking him in the eye. “Your father?” Xander swallowed. He’d thought the older man had been frightening when he’d been so easily taken him down when the Hyena possessed him, but here, there was ice cold rage.

“Come with me.” Xander thought to resist, but was led to the old Volvo, parked half a block away so he wouldn’t see it. His book bag was put on the back seat and the car drove off, to the office of MIC. Simon swiped a keycard through a slot at the back of the building and led Xander down a short hallway into a well appointed surgery, where he flicked on the lights.

“Have you eaten?”

“No.”

Simon picked up a phone and dialed. “Joyce? Simon. I’ve got him. We’re in the infirmary at work. He needs food. Is his bed made up?” He smiled at whatever she answered. “Yes, I’m sure he can eat the leftovers. I’ll bring him home. I’ll call before we leave, but… Joyce, I may take him to the ER first, to get documentation. Later love.” He put down the receiver and turned towards the boy.

“Please take of your shirt, Xander.”

“I…Ok.” With fumbling hands Xander undid the buttons of his shirt, revealing the black and blue bruising on most of his torso. Simon’s eyes tightened. He ran a careful hand down the boy’s sides, noting where the worst pain was located, pressing lightly.

“Anywhere else?”

“Thighs.” Xander looked at the floor.

“Please take of your jeans.”

Nodding, the boy complied. The shape of his father’s boot prints could be seen clearly and Simon drew in a sharp, angry breath.

“This has gone far enough Xander. You’re not staying a day longer in that house. I don’t care what you think; I’m calling the police and child services.”

“And then what? Go to a foster home? One of my drunken relatives? Camp in the park?”

“Of course not. I’m sure that Joyce wouldn’t mind having you around, nor would Dawn and Buffy. Nor I.”

“Three days ago, maybe.”

“Xander, Buffy and Willow and I understand what really happened. Showing Joyce and Dawn even half of these.” He gestured at the bruises. “Would make them believe they understood quite well. Now I’m going to take pictures and then some x-rays and then we’ll go past the hospital and then take you home and I’ll call the police and child services in the morning.”

“Well maybe they don’t mind but I do! I can’t be trusted around them! The things I did…”

“Xander… Buffy and Willow needed to talk about what happened. And what happened, what you did, that wasn’t you.”

“If it walks like a duck…” Xander started bitterly.

“It didn’t. Nor did it quack like a duck. That wasn’t you Xander, it was the beast, a beast that had your memories, your knowledge and that used its instincts instead of its rational mind.”

“Hah. I tried to rape Buffy! I wanted to rape her! And the way I hurt Willow! And…”

“What you wanted to do to Joyce?” Simon said it dryly, while readying the x-ray machine. Xander gaped at him.

“H-how?”

“Hyena mentality. You sought out the alpha female of what you considered your pack and challenged the alpha male for the right to mate.” The words were spoken without anger or the least rancour. Xander’s face blanched.

“I-I’m sorry.”

“It wasn’t you Xander. As I said, it had your body, and your memories, and it saw the world through your eyes, but it wasn’t you, and eventually it would have destroyed who you are and the very body that now sits on this examining table.”

He reached out a gentle hand and touched the scared face before him. “And the beast took on your father, am I right? And the beast won. But Xander… Xander felt the need to be punished for what the beast did.”

Tears started running down the boy’s face and Simon gathered him in close.

“N-no.”

“It’s alright to cry Xander. There’s no shame in tears.”

“I a-attacked you, I wanted…”

You wanted nothing Xander. The beast wanted. You are no more guilty of what happened than the mortal who became a vampire is responsible for the vampire’s actions.”

He held the boy as he sobbed in his arms. After a few minutes the sobbing diminished and then he held out his handkerchief. “Ready for the x-rays?”

“Yeah. Sorry about… “

“Xander… When I served in Vietnam I saw green berets and Navy Seals cry for their comrades in arms and sometimes for the people they killed. Those are among the toughest men in the US services… It’s alright to cry.”

Xander gave him a weak grin.  

“Shall we take some pictures?” He picked up a camera and looked at the young man.

Xander nodded. “Ok. Ummm.”

“I don’t need pictures of your face.”

“I know… They’ve done this before at the hospital.”

Simon stiffened. “And they never did anything?”

“I asked them not to. Where would I go? Stay with Willow? My drunk uncles?”

“Well, that changes tonight.”

Simon took a number of pictures and then three x rays to ascertain what damage had been done. He helped Xander put his shirt back on and then drove them to the hospital. He winced inwardly at the familiarity with which the emergency room nurses greeted the boy. His own presence was noted and an ER doctor drew him aside as Xander joked far too familiarly with a middle aged nurse as he was lightly taped in.

“Dr Mayer.”

“Dr. Chaudry. I will need Mr. Harris’ files for the report I will file with the State child services.”

Dr Chaudry blinked. “Errr… The usual route is through county…”

“Hasn’t that been done before?” Simon interrupted the younger doctor impatiently.

Chaudry rolled his shoulders. “Seven times.”

“Then I’m taking this to State.”

“Dr Mayer, you are greatly respected as a pediatrician, but bypassing the normal channels…”

Simon snorted. “If the channels are full of crud, I’ll clean them out.” He glared at the younger man who took a nervous step back. “There will be consequences for the idiots in County who let this get out of hand, Dr Chaudry. There is a limit to the level of incompetence I’m willing to allow.”

 Chaudry grinned. “You’ll get no argument from me. I’ll get the files.” He sighed, rubbing his neck. “They are… extensive.”

“I’m not surprised. Thank you Dr Chaudry.”

“No Dr Mayer…Thank you.”

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Joyce was standing by the door when Simon brought Xander home. She gave him a short glance before gathering him into the hug he’d been wanting since he woke up from his nightmare. She felt him stiffen as she touched him yet could also feel his glad surrender. She looked into his haunted eyes and wordlessly led him down into the basement, to the room as yet unfinished and with water stains from the rainstorm on the drywall. She put towels on the bed, and went to fetch one of Simon’s silk pajamas. She gasped as she walked in, to see Simon carefully helping Xander remove his shirt, saw the bruises that marred his smooth skin and dropped the nightclothes, backing into the wall with her hand in front of her mouth, eyes wide and tears running down her face.

“Oh, Xander…”

Xander winced. “Ms. Summers…”

“Joyce… I think Xander would prefer…” He did not finish but Joyce understood, nodding. She left without looking back.

When Simon came to bed, he looked haunted and cried himself to sleep on her breast. She did not want to think what Xander was doing.

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The State Child services had been waiting for Xander after school; with a half full bag of clothes his mother had packed and the message his father had been arrested. The people from the State had been shocked at the negligence of the local police and child services and the Mayor had already promised action.

Dinner at the Summers’ table was quiet. Dawn was upset because she’d not been able to say goodbye to him. Joyce was upset for the same reason and that she’d not been able to reassure him he would be welcome. Simon had not helped with dinner preparations but been on the phone until it was time to eat. Buffy had a terrible fear that Willow would collapse any moment, with both her best friends since early childhood now taken from her, one by death the other by circumstances.

Then she saw Joyce move Willow to the couch, and Dawn sit next to her. Dawn fell asleep with her head on Willow’s shoulder as the redhead read her one of her Astrid Lindgren books and Willow followed soon after, snuggled in her mother’s arms. Simon carried both of them upstairs. Buffy knew; that whatever would happen, Willow would be safe.

End Note:

I found writing nasty Hyena Xander surprisingly difficult. If people feel the chapter needs fleshing out I will try and do so…

 
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