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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)vidiconFR1598780,1331581492397,38728 May 115 Jul 14No

And Alexander wept

And we return to Xander. I hope the following, and the preceding, is believable. The first obvious hints at crossover are entering the story.

Chapter 15: And Alexander Wept

The boy in the chair kept it balanced on its two rear legs, both his feet on the desk. It was an insolent pose yet Matthew Duncan, seeing the high cheek boned face and large sensitive eyes, the thin bony hands plucking at the smooth jeans, realized it was just that, a pose. The boy had arrived late the evening before and his case had been assigned to Matt this morning. Matt glanced at the file again. Alexander Lavelle Harris, age just sixteen, born in Sunnydale, placed in the custody of Child Protection services by court order due to physical and emotional abuse perpetrated by the father and inactivity to protect and psychological abuse by the mother. Physical abuse included beating with fists and the flat of the hand, kicking, hitting with a leather belt. All injuries on the chest and abdomen, upper arms and thighs, out of sight of casual observers.

Matt sighed. A not a-typical situation regrettably. He opened the door and the young man looked up. Matt walked towards him. “Matt Duncan. I’m your counselor.”

The young man rose, moving stiffly and looking tired, extending his hand. “Xander Harris.”

“Is there anything you’d like to know before we begin?”

“Beyond what happens now?”

“For instance.”

“Not really. I looked up the regs on fosterage and child abuse before.”

Matt blinked, showing surprise despite himself. “Really? Why?”

The young man shrank in on himself. “Doesn’t matter. Just some people who told me that I should aspire to better things. Can’t aspire to some things.”

“And what was it you wanted to aspire to?”

Xander gave him a dark look. “It won’t work, ok? They’re not married yet and haven’t been together long enough and even if they had been they’d still not want me. They’re just good kind people. No reason to bother them with me. So just tell me in which home I’ll get to settle and I’ll go like a good little boy.” He looked down. “Not like I have much choice.”

Matt nodded. “Well ordinarily you would be placed in the LA centre, the fear being that your father might see you and abuse you.”

“Well, hey, he only ever hits me when I get in his way. Should be easy enough to avoid if I no longer live at home, right?”

“Xander, strange as this may sound, we do want the best for you.”

“Yeah. You know I’ve got friends in Sunnydale? Good friends, people I think I matter to.”

He opened his wallet, pulling out a set of pictures of himself with a red headed girl, a blond and an older man with glasses, standing in a group. Another of himself with a lovely blond woman, a dark haired man, with the blonde, the red head, and a younger brunette girl. The teens all sat on the ground and the adults knelt behind them, their spread arms around all four. For some reason there were Christmas lights in the picture and a table with the remnants of a meal was visible.

Matt took the pictures and looked them over carefully. He could see no other pictures in Xander’s wallet, except one of a much younger Xander, another boy and the little redhead. None of his parents or uncles and aunts. The pictures, that Matt termed the family and friends groups showed a rather more relaxed Xander than the one before him now.

“If I live in LA, all I’ve got is you and the lock on my door. I’d rather be beaten up than lose what I’ve got. And I don’t mean going back home. I’d rather sleep in a tent than do that. But I want to be near them, you know. Near people to whom I matter.” Xander spoke impassionedly.

“You’re quite eloquent about it.” Matt noted.

“You’d be too if all that kept you from life among strangers were your own words.” Xander looked at his feet.

“I see. So your preference is to remain as close to Sunnydale and your friends as possible. These impossible foster parents, do they have a name?” Matt sat ready with his pen and clipboard.

“Joyce Summers and Simon Meier.” He took the picture of the couple kneeling behind him and the girls. “This is them, that’s Buffy and Dawn, their daughters, and Willow, Willow Rosenberg, my best friend, she lives with them when her parents are away.”

“Why them?”

“I started visiting them when I became friends with Buffy, couple a months ago. Well, Joyce, Joyce met Simon when they’d just moved to Sunnydale. They… They take care of people. When I’m feeling down or afraid or want to talk without getting yelled at or ridiculed I’ll go to them and they, you know, listen. Be nice. Give me a hug. Help me with my homework instead of calling me stupid. Feed us home cooked meals. You know, stuff parents do.” Xander added bitterly.

“Did you ever sleep at their house?”

“Yeah, they got a nice place, even fixed me a room. Better than the one I have... had at home.”

“Did you stay there often?”

“As often as I could get a way with it. Two-three nights a week. More if my parents were too drunk to notice.”

“And they never complained?”

“Simon told me to go to child services, or the cops, first time he saw bruises. Second time, is why I’m here. He was hell angry. Never seen him angry before.”

“Was he angry at you?” 

“No. Not even that I did not report the first time he noticed… He just checked me over, rubbed stuff on me and checked me for permanent damage. Broken ribs and stuff. Found a couple. Bandaged me up. He’s a Doctor, got his own x-ray machine, an office and everything.”

“Ah, some of these might be his then.” Matt glanced at the x-rays in the file, noticing the fact that several ribs had been broken or cracked and healed again.

“Yeah, possibly.”

“So ideally you’d like to move in with them? These the children, Buffy and Dawn?” He pointed at the blonde and the little brunette.

“Yeah, I go to school with Buffy, Dawn is nine. They’re Joyce’s, with a guy named Hank, he’s the very absent father type. Simon loves them to bits.”

“And they him?”

“Buffy complains he won’t get her a Porsche,” Xander smiled. “But I think she actually prefers getting help with her homework and him listening to what she says. He used to travel a lot for his work, but he cut it way back when he fell in love with Joyce, and the girls too.”

“And they wouldn’t mind you moving in with them? Sharing their parents?”

“Don’t think so. Buffy asked Joyce if Willow could live with them when her parents are away. Dawn offered to let me sleep on her floor when she found out my Dad beat me.”

Matt smiled. “Well that sounds like they don’t mind.”

“Yeah. Well Of course Dawn wants to use me as a partner for ballet practice, but hey, can’t have everything.” Xander grinned slightly as his finger touched the image of the vivacious nine year old.

Matt grinned back, picking up the picture of the three teens and the man in glasses. “And this? Who is this?”

“That’s Giles. He’s the school librarian. He’s a good guy, helps us with school too. Homework club. He’s from Britain. I think he feels a bit lonely here in the US. Not too many kids use the library, so he connected with us, ‘cause we go there.”

“I see. No family you’d want to stay with?”

“Not unless I wanted to learn everything about plumbing or drinking. Or both.” He said it offhandedly but Matt could feel the pain in the young man’s voice.

“I see. Well you’re preference is to live in Sunnydale. Want to finish school there?”

“Yeah. Are there places in Sunnydale I can stay?”

“I don’t know yet. I can check. We do need to look out for your safety first Xander.”

“Yeah. Sure.” Xander’s voice was resigned.

“Is there anything you need?”

“Not really. Don’t think you can get me what I want anyway.”

Matt shrugged. “Want to go to the common room?”

“Naah, I’ll go to my own and malinger there.”

Matt smiled. “Very well. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Unless you want me to look in on you tonight?”

“I’ll be fine.” Xander’s voice sounded confident, but Matt knew that underneath there was a great deal of fear and anger.

“Very well. I’ll talk to you later Xander.” The young man rose and slouched out of the door. Matt rubbed a hand across his eyes. *Crap. Kid’s got a substitute family all lined up in his mind. And he’s right. Never gonna happen. Poor schmuck.*

The phone rang. He picked it up on the second ring. “Matt.”

“Matt, this is Jennings. Can you step into my office?”

“I’ve got to write a placement report Jake.”

“The Harris kid?”

“Yeah.”

“Need to see you in here first. Stat.”

Matt sighed and rose, walking to the supervisor’s office. “Jake, I’ve got to call Dulcia at the Meier House and see if I can get Xander in there. He’s a good kid, no harm in him. He does not need a room with a lock to keep him in.”

Jake Jennings rubbed his own tired face with two hands. “Matt, has the kid expressed a preference?”

“Yeah, he wants to live with a couple, unmarried, been together less than a year. Got two daughters, eldest is a friend of his.”

“Joyce Summers and Simon Meier?”

“Err, yes?”

“Matt, I just got called by Governor Wilson. In person. He’s willing to push a by-law through the Capitol to get the kid with these people. A fucking by-law.”

Matt sank into one of the chairs by the desk. “Holy shit.”

“Yeah, my response. Anyway, he wants to know if he needs to. He’s got his judicial staff working on it, so has Chief Justice George.” Jake supplied.

“Holy shit.” Matt repeated.

“Yeah.”

“What the hell is happening here? Who are these people?” Matt demanded.

“Matt, who were you going to call?”

“Dulcia Jackson.”

“Who is?”

“Oh, come off it Jake, you know Dulcia. She’s been supervisor at the Meier House for twenty years…” A look of enlightenment passed over Matt’s face. “Meier? The same Meier?”

“Apparently. Made a call to the governor’s office. Governor probably sees it as a chance to profile himself on childcare and get a favour from Meier.”

“Holy shit.” Matt looked up, suddenly a lot more cheerful. “Can I tell him?”

“No, governor wants it under wraps if he can’t pull it off without the by-law.”

“Damn. Kid needs the reassurance.”

“I can imagine.”

“Jake…”

“Yeah Matt?”

“Something Xander said. He’s got a friend, a Willow Rosenberg. I want to look into the case, sounds like her parents are absent a lot.”

“If you want. I’ll keep you posted on the developments on the Harris kid. You go and write the report.” Jake decided.

“Thanks. I’ll make some calls about this Rosenberg girl…”

“You do that. I’ll get back to you.” Jake smiled as Matt left the room with rather more spring in his step than he had left with. *Rosenberg? Hmmm. Sheila Rosenberg’s daughter? Poor kid., I’d not want that cold-hearted bitch for a mother.*

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The clerk rose, clearing his throat. “The honourable Judge William T. Menson.”

Jacob Jennings and Matt Duncan rose. They were the only one in the cramped and stiflingly hot courtroom. Menson entered. He wore his grey hair much longer than most men in his profession and it moved around his shoulders in a thick, grey curtain. His short silver beard was neat and his moustache trimmed. His compact frame stretched the shoulders of his robes. His face was unreadable as he took in the near empty court room. He sat down.

Judge William T. Menson studied the case file in front of him and the faces of Jacob Jennings and Matthew Duncan.

“Might I inquire where the young man in question is? And the other parties involved? He should be here since we are discussing his future.”

Matt winced, handing over a letter which the judge scanned. “Mr. Harris believes that since the proceedings will not take his wishes into account anyway, he might as well try and get some sleep.”

Judge Menson marginally raised his eyebrows. The letter was short and to the point, saying what Matt was saying, if more politely worded. Eloquent even. “Indeed? And why does he believe that?”

“He has given a clear preference as to where he wants to be placed and we’ve had to tell him it’s highly unlikely that it will happen. Therefore he’s told us to do as we see fit, since his opinion and wishes are no good anyway.” The obvious quote made the judge lift his eyebrows again those few significant millimeters. He glanced back at the casefile.

“But still you want to know if you can get this young man placed with this unmarried couple who have been together for less than three months? Who have the wherewithal to support him? And where are they by the way? And the parents?”

“The mother is incapacitated with drink. The father is in jail, got into a fight last night and has disavowed any desire to see his son.”

“And the prospective parents?”

“Ms. Summers did not want to leave the other children alone… We don’t know why Dr. Meier isn’t here…”

The door opened and a tall man walked in. His face was spare, almost ascetic. His high cheekbones framed a Greek nose. His hair was a warm chocolaty brown with touches of auburn, crisply cut and shot through with touches of silver, a few more strands at the temples than elsewhere.

His eyes were large and so dark a brown as to be almost black, but with a ring of green flecks around the pupil, the lashes long and thick and the lids quite heavy. His face was set in a serious expression and he was dressed in an expensive and well cut suit. Two men with briefcases and similar suits entered behind him, their very demeanor shouting lawyer.

Menson leaned back. The man bowed his head in greeting. “My apologies for my tardiness your Honour, I was detained by an unexpected call.”

Menson inclined his head in turn. “I see. Well that is sort of disappointing…If a case of this importance it would be nice if the prospective parents were willing to put everything aside.”

“I informed the caller I would not be available… his superiors did not take no for an answer.”

Menson raised an eyebrow. “Indeed… Will this be a common occurrence?”

One of his lawyers cleared his throat but was waved down by his employer.

Simon ran a hand through his hair. “Permission to approach the bench your honour?”

Menson nodded. “By all means.” Simon walked over, looking a touch embarrassed. He handed over a piece of paper. “If you would call that number your honour.”

“What’s this Dr. Meier? A note from teacher?” Menson asked in a slightly sarcastic tone of voice.

“No your honour… I mentioned this hearing to my caller…I’d feel more comfortable if you made this call in your office.”

Menson sighed and rose. “I’ll be right back.” He was out of the room before his clerk could call out his leaving. He fell into his desk chair, muttering to himself. He dialed the number. He noted it was Washington area. He’d worked there long enough to be glad he was no longer in the running for anything Federal.

“White House switchboard, how may I help you?”

Menson froze, but only for a second. “Ah, yes, my name is William Menson, judge Menson. I was supposed to call this number and say ‘Rodger dodger.’” His voice was composed. The girl on the other side was silent for a second.

“Putting you through now sir.”

“Judge Menson? Bill?”

The judge nodded his head in satisfaction. There could not be a whole lot of people for whom a man like Dr. Meier would be late to a hearing regarding a boy he wanted to foster. The White House switchboard had given the final clue. “Indeed Mr. President. I must admit that it is a surprise to speak with you sir.”

“It’s good to hear your voice again Bill.” President Owen Lassiter said in a warm voice. “I was surprised when Dr. Meier said that you were on this case. I thought you’d retired?”

“I was asked. After Yuki died… I had to fill my time somehow. This…I can do good here sir.”

“Bill, I had to talk to Dr. Meier, about the Philippines. That’s why he was late. Cut him some slack on it, he’s a good man.” Lassiter said firmly.

The judge chuckled. “Hell yes. Mr. President. Half the kids going through this room would not be off half as good without Meier or the Meier Houses. I’d have given him more than the benefit of the doubt. He looked horribly embarrassed giving me this number.”

“I don’t suppose you got a picture? He’s got to be the only man I know to be embarrassed about being delayed by talking to the President of the USA. What’s the kid like by the way?” Owen’s voice was curious.

“Intelligent. Abused. Underachiever. Frightened and angry. He won’t see me because he thinks I won’t listen.”

“I see… Bill? I’m going to get the old unit together for Veterans’ Day… Care to borrow the Lincoln bedroom?”<br> <br>

“Sir?” Menson asked, surprise in his voice.

“You heard me the first time. It’ll do me good to talk to someone who knows what I’m talking about.”

“Feeling old, sir?” Menson teased.

“Like you wouldn’t believe… So?”

“Anyone else you’re personally inviting?”

“All of them! Hell Bill, you’re my friends! You and I, we fought through two wars together. I’m not going to foist you off on some secretary.”

“Agreed… but… We do it again after you get off. In California. Washington in November is not my idea of a good place and time.”

Owen Lassiter laughed. “You make it sound like a sentence, except here you get time off for bad behaviour. You’ve got a deal, Bill. Damn, it’s good talking to you. Ah crap… My deputy chief of staff is here to point at the clock, yes, yes. The Governor of Kentucky, I know. See you in November Bill, take care.”

“You too, Mr. President. And give my regards to Libby.”

“Can do. Yes, Walter, I’m coming.”  There was a sound of a phone being put down and Bill Menson chuckled and rose.

He entered the courtroom, pinning the prospective foster father with a glare. The man actually squirmed in embarrassment. 

“Umm... Sorry about that Your Honor, but he… insisted.”

“Yes… Well let’s get on with this case.” He sat down again and took up where he had left off, addressing the care workers.

 “Yes, your honor.”

“No contest from the parents?”

“As we said your Honor, Father is looking at jail time for severe abuse. The mother is too incoherent at the moment to complain.” Jake replied.

The judge nodded, his graying mane shifting and glinting in the light of the neon lamps and ran a hand over his short grey beard. “And the lad wants it? Stay in High school? And he’s sixteen?”

“Yes, your honor.”

“Approved. I’ll have my clerks prepare the paperwork. No further hearing needed.”

Jake and Matt exchanged glances. “Y-your honor?”

“Why are you wasting my time Jennings? This kid is almost old enough to go for emancipated minor status. If he wants to live with these people, let him. If they can’t handle him, or he can’t handle him, we’ll hear. Because you will check up.”  He grinned at Simon, who looked a touch stunned. He looked down at his desk closing the Harris case file after making a quick notation in it, picking up a new folder.

“Are you still here?” There was amusement in the old man’s eyes and his lips quirked. The child service men grinned widely and rose, extending their hands. The judge rose as well and shook them. He looked at the still stunned man and sighed. “You can get up now Dr. Meier. You’re case was not prejudiced. He mostly wanted to invite me over for Veterans Day, and yaw a bit about old times. We served in the same unit.”

Simon nodded, rising and shook the judge’s hand. “Thank you, your honor.”

Matt gave the judge a grateful smile. “Thanks, your honor.”

“Common sense, Mr. Duncan. Common sense.” He smiled. “Bring me more cases like these and I might actually get a round of golf in on occasion.”

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Alexander Lavelle Harris. Alexander Harris. Ward of the State of California. Xander Harris. Son of two drunks who amounted to nothing and who amounted to nothing himself. Yeah that was him. Summed him up quite well.

Xander sighed and leaned back in the chair in his small room in the Los Angeles Foster Care Centre. He glanced at the clock, noting another half hour had to pass before the people who would become his foster parents would walk in. He closed his eyes, wondering what they were like. He’d signed the papers, agreeing to the arrangement, without so much as reading the name of his foster parents, initialing the separate pages, then going straight for the signature page at the back of the five page document. The lawyer had tried to protest but had shut up when Xander said that these people at least wanted to have a child, even if it was not their own. That was all he needed to know. He should count himself lucky to get foster parents so quickly at his age and with his background.

He wasn’t going back to his parents. He snorted. Not that it would be the same with his father in jail.  He would not spend another night in the Centre, locked in at night to prevent him running away. He’d never run away from home, why would he run away from a place where at least he was not actively abused? His father did not hit often, but he hit hard. And the last time had been pretty bad. His ribs ached every time he moved.

But the words, the words were what hurt the most. He didn’t know where he was going to live either. Chances were he’d never see Willow of Buffy again. Or Dawn. Or Joyce and Simon. Or Giles. He took out his wallet and looked at the pictures again. Tears ran down his face and he desperately tried to contain them. He failed. The little bit of real family he did have would be lost to him.

He had no idea how to greet the people who had volunteered to take him in. There was a knock at the door and he took a deep breath, then another. Probably Matt. “Come in.”

He hoped his voice sounded firmer than the squeak he felt he managed to produce. The door opened and he saw two of the people he least wanted to see. Least wanted to be reminded about. The closest thing he’d had to real parents. Here to see him off. If things had been different… He shook himself. It would never have happened, wouldn’t happen now. They were just the loving parents of one of his best friends and he’d never see them again. If he let on what he’d hoped he’d just be hurting them.

Joyce and Simon came in quietly, Joyce sitting on the bed and looking at him. “Are you ready to leave Xander?”

Xander gestured at the half-filled rucksack. “Yeah. Haven’t got much. Just waiting for the new ‘rents to arrive.”  He sounded disdainful.   

Joyce reached for his him a sad and worried look in her expressive blue eyes, took both of his cold bony hands in both of her warm ones. “You don’t sound particularly pleased with them.”

He shrugged. “Can’t have the ones I want. No reason why they’d want me.”

Joyce winced and seemed distraught by his remark. Simon put a hand on her arm, eyes wide in surprise. Then his eyebrow quirked. He reached into the pocket of his blue linen suit and removed a folded set of papers. “Xander, did you actually read the document you just signed?”

Xander looked at the papers the older man was unfolding. His eyes grew wide, large pools of brown in his thin, haggard face as he recognized a copy of the ones he’d signed in the morning.

“But you’re not married! You don’t meet the criteria! I looked them up!” He blurted it out before he could stop himself and suddenly felt the warm motherly embrace Joyce had held him in whenever she thought he’d needed it and would allow it. She drew back after a bit when the stunned stillness that had come over him faded.

His face lit up in a huge smile as he looked at Joyce and saw the look of relief on her face. He had hurt her, them, with his remarks and he’d make up for it, later, but first he had to know.

“How…?” Xander whispered in a tone filled with so many emotions it would take years to discern them all, but the total amazement and incredible joy in them were the most recognizable.

Simon shrugged. “From what I understand it had to do with your age and maturity. They could have made you an emancipated minor, but since you asked to be fostered by us, the judge took the view that if you were old enough to live unsupervised for the most part, you’d damn well be able to pick the people you wanted to live with.” Joyce punched him lightly on the arm.

“Simon, language.”

Xander rose, almost pulled to his feet by Joyce. He managed a step before he drew her into a hug, buried his face in her shoulder and started to cry, soft sobs shaking him. Joyce ran her hands over his head and held him close, murmuring assurances and love, allowing him the luxury of his relief from anguish and fear. Simon dropped the bag and put his arms about both of them.

It took Xander fifteen minutes before he felt composed enough to leave. He wore a broad grin as he walked into the lobby, an arm around Joyce while Simon followed and smiled. Matt, was just coming in with a new kid and grinned broadly, shaking his hand and then Joyce’s and Simon’s. He slapped Xander’s shoulder and told him to be well; he’d be in touch for the mandatory check ups.

The old Volvo was parked on the centre’s parking lot, not out of place between the cars of the employees and volunteers. He settled happily in the back as Joyce and Simon sat up front. The huge black BMW with the two bodyguards that pulled out behind them did draw a lot of stares.

“We’re going to need a bigger car.” Joyce said it smilingly.

“A station wagon should work.” Simon mused.

“Not a Hummer?” She said with a sly smile.

Simon gave her an affronted look. “Over my dead body.”

“Not even to prove your manhood?”

“I have different ways of proving my manhood.” He raised an eyebrow. “I haven’t heard you complain so far.”

Joyce blushed. Xander groaned. “Yo guys! New son back here! Too much information. Man, now I really know how Buffy felt all those times. Gah! Visuals!”

Joyce turned around and grinned at him. “Welcome to the family.”

Xander laughed. He listened to the golden oldies on the radio and the banter that passed between his new foster parents and the weariness and sleeplessness from fear and anguish of the previous three days caught up with him as the laughing voices lulled him to sleep. He woke when the car turned into Revello Drive.

He leaned back as the car stopped on the driveway. Buffy and Dawn were standing beside the house, Willow slightly in front of them.

When he got out of the car she launched herself at him. He could see she had been crying before she flung her arms around him and he was pressed back, barely managing to stay upright and swinging her in circles to prevent them both falling. He held her tightly and hugged her and stroked her flaming red hair and whispered words of comfort that they had exchanged since the age of five. She cried quietly into his shoulder, the tears that meant that she had been frightened out of her wits, the tears of loss she had cried over Jesse. He felt his own tears fall down his cheeks but felt no shame, no need to stop them, this was his family, and they understood.

Joyce and Simon had gotten out of the car and Buffy and Dawn came closer, hesitantly. Willow’s crying became intermittent sniffles and she drew back. She gave him a whimsical smile.

“Let’s go inside and cry in peace, eh?”

“Are you turning Canadian on me, Will?”

“Yeah. Totally. I’m into ice hockey now. Beer, eh?”

Buffy rolled her eyes at the non sequiturs. “Yup, they’re back. C’mon.”

Dinner was more than lively. They ordered pizza this time, since it was too late to cook and they were all hungry. They sat at the dining table and talked. They would go to the Harris house the next day and get Xander’s stuff, let him say goodbye to his mother, if she was sober enough to understand.

Xander started nodding off soon after dinner and was led down to his bedroom. He managed to undress and get in bed and then Joyce was there, tucking him in and kissing his forehead and that was good and he knew he could live with that and that if any guy in school laughed at him ‘cause his foster mother tucked him in on the night she became his foster mother and his life changed, he would beat the shit out of them on the high he was on now. For the first time in thirteen years Xander Harris fell asleep knowing that tomorrow would hold no curses, abuse or pain.

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Jenny Calendar was listening to the staff lounge gossip and smiling. All the gossip circled around the fact that Alexander Harris had been fostered with the mother and new boyfriend of Buffy Summers. The boy’s new foster father had had a very intense conversation with the vice principal, about his kids. Jason Carlyle had been pale and wide eyed and holding onto his desk like grim death when the secretary went in to ask him what was wrong.

Jenny had seen the man come in, dressed in tweed, like Rup… Giles and amiable and then, change… as if something took control of him. His step became measured and his voice clipped. Walter Symes, the janitor, had been a soldier and he knew an officer when he saw one. And a ranking one. He moved like a greased snake, according to Scofield, the Math teacher. Not a man to be trifled with, according to Miss Mueller, who made Jenny feel like a three year old about to be punished and ran her German class like an old fashioned tyrant. Worse even, when Jenny did not feel like a three year old the German teacher made her feel guilty about doing things three years olds did not do… and now she was babbling in her mind and she felt like Willow Rosenberg. Who had been both ecstatically happy and deeply sad at the same time, her ‘othersenses’ told her. It was strange but it seemed as if they were getting stronger again.

Rupe… Giles was wearing a smile broad enough to split his face and the idiot who ran child services had been fired and a new man had taken over and already three cases, pupils, children that the school had worried about were being dealt with. Whoever this foster father was, he’d pulled the State into Sunnydale and he walked around in her Othersenses as if he owned it, as if he owned the very ground he walked upon.

All that was very nice. But right now Jenny Calendar spent all her time looking at the big boyish grin on Rupert’s face.

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Xander walked into the library and sat down opposing Buffy and Willow. He looked them straight in the eyes, then one after the other and they put, with different agrees of enthusiasm, their books down.

“I lied to you.”

Willow blinked. “What do you mean Xander?”

“I remember everything I did while I was a Hyena.” He looked down at his clasped hands on the table. “Everything.” He looked up and Willow and Buffy could see the anguish and fear in his eyes. He took a deep breath. “And I have no excuse. For what I did. Or for lying.”

“’Course you do. You were afraid of losing us. Not going to happen.” Willow picked up her book again.

Xander blinked. “Wills?”

“Xander… I’ve known you since we were five… I can tell when you’re lying like that, ok? Like that time when you did not kidnap Barbie? And the time ‘You did not put Mr. Robinson’s dog in Miss Parsington’s car’, and the…. ”

Xander grinned. “Willow…I get it. You know me too well.” He looked at the two girls. “But…”

“Xander, would you ever, ever in your life hurt people that way? Force yourself on me? Say what you did to Willow?” Buffy asked gently.

“No, never.” Xander stated immediately.

“So there’s no but. What happened, that wasn’t you.” Buffy pointed out.

“Yeah. That’s what Simon said.” Simon murmured

“Thought so. Xander…” Buffy’s voice trailed off into uncertainty.

 

“Yeah?” Came the hesitant reply.

“Mom?” Buffy managed to look amazed and disgusted and amused.

Xander’s head dropped on the table. He thunked his forehead on it several times. “Don’t remind me… That… now… so wrong.”

Buffy chuckled. “And me?”

Xander looked up, forehead red with his self beating. “I think of you as my little sister.” He deadpanned.

Willow giggled and Buffy rolled her eyes, throwing a balled up piece of paper at him.

“Careful bro.”

Giles came on those words and sighed. “You two take far too much satisfaction out of this whole new sibling rivalry.” He noted out of the corner of his eye that Willow looked sadly between her two friends, now brother and sister, before hiding behind a happy grin.

BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS

Matt Duncan stood in front of the neat two story brick house in the LA suburb and looked at the address on the file papers. The name on the mailbox matched the one on the file, which meant there was a good chance he’d get to speak to someone who knew something. He opened the neat white gate in the neat white picket fence, overgrown with climbing roses, walked down the carefully crazy paved path, mounted the three steps to the porch, noting the weathered ramp for a wheelchair and the railing. At least one of the inhabitant had, or had in the past, had trouble with climbing the porch steps and he knocked on the screen door considering the significance of that fact.

He waited patiently, hearing the sound of someone walking to the door with the aid of a cane. The door was opened by a woman with page boy cut white hair, streaked with red. She wore a light blue dress, not the sort of dress he expected on a woman her age, but it suited her. Her large eyes behind horn rimmed glasses were a deep emerald green. The left side of her face sagged slightly and her left eyelid drooped, he thought as the result of a stroke. She leaned on her cane, of polished white bamboo, and looked at him questioningly.

“If you are selling something, I’m not interested.” Her voice was dryly humorous, her tone polite if dismissive.

Matt smiled and took out his ID. “Matthew Duncan, California State Child Services. Are you Mrs. Danielle Moritz?”

The woman paled and leaned against the doorjamb, suddenly bereft of all strength. “I-it’s Willow isn’t it? She ran away? Or did Sheila and Ira…” 

Matt held up a calming hand. “Mrs. Moritz, I don’t know what Miss Rosenberg’s current status is, but a week or so ago we placed a young man named Alexander Lavelle Harris with foster parents and he made certain remarks regarding Miss Rosenberg which piqued my curiosity. When I looked her up I found an old file…”

Mrs. Moritz sighed, looked at the bright sun behind him and stepped back. Matt wondered at the fact the lady spoke no invitation, but stepped in. “Can I get you anything? Tea? Coffee? I’m afraid I don’t have any soda.”

“Tea if it’s not too much trouble.”

Mrs. Moritz went to the kitchen and waved him along. “Do you mind? The higher stools are easier for me to sit on.” Matt nodded and followed her into the kitchen, looking around.

It was a strange blend of old fashioned and new, a wood stove and oven set in a niche, a number of copper kettles of varying sizes, bunches of herbs onions and garlic, dried and drying hanging around the place, an island with high stools around it set in the middle and a top of the line cooker set in the counter.

He sat down on one of the varnished wooden stools at the island. Two yellowed drawings hung on the refrigerator, one showing a small stick figure with long red hair, another with short brown hair and a taller one with short red hair, with the words ‘Willow’, ‘Xander’ and ‘Nana Morry’ written neatly beneath them in childish hand. A house with a picket fence was behind the figures. The other showed what Matt decided had to be a young child representation of two children sitting on an adult’s lap. The lettering below them was considerably less neat and occasionally mirrored.  Mrs. Moritz followed his gaze and her shoulders stiffened, then slumped, ever so slightly. “Willow and Xander drew those when they were six. She and Xander were visiting for the summer holidays.”

Duncan nodded. “Mrs. Moritz…Seven years ago you went to child services to get Willow, your granddaughter and Alexander Harris placed with you, due to physical abuse and emotional and physical neglect. Several months later you dropped your request.”

“Yes.”

“Did the children’s’ situation change?” Matt inquired.

“No. My own. I suffered a stroke. Willow and Xander would not have gotten a nurturing parent, they’d have become caregivers. Once I stepped back, Sunnydale Child services dropped the case. They stated that the abuse was not proven and negligible and no foster parents were available in any case.” Her voice was bitter. “I haven’t seen either of the children since then; Sheila and Ira have forbidden all contact… Xander’s parents…” She gave him a sad look. “I imagine they weren’t happy… and his life probably got worse.”

“I see. So you don’t know anything about her current life?”

“No. I’m not allowed to drive any more and my mobility was severely impaired for several years.”

“Well, as I told you Xander was brought to State attention and is now fostered with the parents of a school friend. Apparently Willow spends most of her time there as well, when her parents are absent…”

Mrs. Moritz snorted. “Which is at least three quarters of the year. Since she was six.”

“I see.” The kettle whistled and Mrs. Moritz filled a tea pot, dropping in a tea egg filled with green tea, carried it over to the kitchen island and took two mugs from hooks hanging overhead.

“So what happens now?” The old lady; and he could see her age now more clearly as the grief settled on her, spoke the words softly.

“I go to Sunnydale, talk to Willow, Xander and Xander’s foster parents. If they are willing to take her in…”

“Anything has to be better than staying with my daughter and her husband.”

“You would be willing to testify as to the abuse inflicted? We have nothing but the bare bones, the files were destroyed when the case was dropped, except for the fact that it was filed.”

“I can. I most certainly can.” In a voice leeched of emotion she told the tale of the loss of her grandchild’s childhood. 

End Note:

Some issues are resolved, I hope. Joyce still isn’t told about vampires ( Sorry! I hope everybody will eventually agree I did it in the right place and time. Please note it still not Halloween yet and Buffy’s still fifteen…much to her annoyance.

Owen Lassiter is the creation of Aaron Sorkin and part of the West Wing universe.

 
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