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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)vidiconFR1595738,6431501333353,00928 May 119 Mar 14No

Parental pillow talk and family secrets

Author’s note:

Once more a lot of dialogue from the episode ‘Angel’, I hope the original work makes up for it.

Please keep score on the Simon front; I did not get into this business to write a Gary Stu.

Chapter 17: Parental pillow talk and embarrassing Family secrets 

Joyce was sitting in bed reading when Simon came in. He looked worried. She’d called Susan and been assured that Dawn and Janice were both fine, even if they seemingly had wanted to eat their weight in brownies. She’d tucked in Willow and Buffy and checked in on Xander and had heard soft voices in the room next to her foster son’s and now she wanted answers.

“He’s still here.” Simon winced. She’d not even given him the chance to greet her and her voice was cold. And she was not wearing her glasses. *Oh shit.*

“He says name is Liam O’Connel, born in Ireland, twenty two years old, reads history at UC Sunnydale. I’ll let Buffy tell you how he got in here. And why I let him stay. I’ll only say he’s wounded and she might not be here if not for him.”

Joyce glared. “Simon…”

He raised a hand. “It’s her tale to tell. Sorry Joyce.” She was about to get up and he put a hand on her shoulders. “And you’re far too upset and tired, and so is she. Tomorrow. You’d say things you’d regret. And she’s probably asleep…”

She glared some more and turned her back to him, book firmly in front of her eyes.

“And we had a bit of a historical discussion regarding the age of consent.”

The book dropped, slightly. “Did he get the point of the discussion?”

The mattress moved as Simon got in beside her. “I think he got the general gist of the argumentation.”

Joyce dropped the book. “He’s much too old for her.”

Simon tentatively extended an arm and after a short hesitation she moved in and settled against his chest.

“Many young girls feel attraction for older men, teachers and such.”

Joyce huffed. “It’s not the same thing. At all, and you know it, and she’s not even sixteen.”

“Oh, I agree.” He scowled blackly. “One wrong move from that boy and you’ll get to see first hand why I always carry my cane.”

Joyce smiled into his shoulder. “Is that also why you’re willing to let him sleep here? “

“I could handle him. And Willow is sleeping in Buffy’s room. I’ve no idea what she was planning to do with him.”

Joyce snorted. “Considering the fact she looks at him as a dog looks at a bone… I can guess.”

“Do you really think they’ve advanced that far? I’d say it was more puppy love than anything else, at least on her part.”

“I suppose you’re right. And Buffy is smart enough, and heaven knows skilled enough, to keep herself safe. She’s had far too much experience at fighting,” She said the last regretfully. “I do wish she wouldn’t go for the bad boys each time.”

Simon snorted. “He may surprise you and be less James Dean than you think. And we will do our best to keep her safe when she can’t.”

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Buffy faced her mother the next morning in the dining room, Angel beside her. Simon had carefully prepared them breakfast and laid the table and firmly closed the door behind him, to supervise the breakfast of the other three teens.

Buffy looked at the towel covered basket with toast and bagels and swallowed heavily.

Joyce gave her a look. “You were fighting.”

Buffy winced and spoke apologetically. “They jumped me?”

“Did you know they were there?” Did you call for help? Simon? The police? Me?”

“There wasn’t time…”

“Not even when you got here, to call Willow, Xander, or me to say they might be in danger?” This time Joyce’s glare was obvious and Buffy blinked her eyes widening in sudden fearful realisation. *Oh crap. This isn’t just about me. This is a feed-Dawn-larvae Moment.*

Realisation of what could have happened to Xander and Willow, on their way home past the Three hit her. “They could have been…” Buffy whispered before her mother gave her a dark look and interrupted her.

“Yes. They could have been. I will see you after school, young lady.” She looked at her watch. “I have to go; I’ve got an important meeting with a dealer. I will speak with you later Mr. O’Connell. But I do want to thank you for saving my daughter.” Angel nodded.

“It was a great pleasure. And I’d like to thank you for your hospitality.”

“Just make sure you eat something Mr. O’Connell. You’re far too pale.” Angel nodded again, looking put upon.

She gave Buffy a level gaze. “Don’t forget this afternoon, Buffy.” She rose, kissed her daughter’s hair and left, anger visible in her stride.

Buffy winced. Angel looked at her questioningly, but she shook her head. “Maybe later.”

“Buffy… there’s something I need to tell…”

Buffy sighed. *And here comes the let’s be friends speech…I can so do without that.*

“I really have to go; I’ll talk to you this afternoon.” She winced again. “See ya later!”

Angel blinked at the empty breadbasket. Buffy had managed to empty it even during the few minutes the conversation had lasted. He shook his head. He’d talk to Buffy in the afternoon.

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'Library CLOSED for filing. Please come back tomorrow.' The sign said. Not that any of the students who passed it cared; it was miracle that any of them could find the place, at least that’s what Jenny thought. It was one thing she agreed with Rupert on. The younger generation did not read enough. Even on the internet. But it was annoying that the place was closed. She wanted to borrow the book on German witches she’d seen. It was quite rare and she’d been amazed a small library like the Highschool had it. And of course she could just see Rupert’s disdainful expression as she took it out. His rational mind could never understand the truth behind it. *A good thing he doesn’t know about the romance novel I’ve got in my bag.* Jenny flushed, shook herself and passed by the library. She’d come by again tomorrow.

Buffy grabbed the crossbow with eager hands. ”Cool! Crossbow!” She hefted it easily, taking not of the bolts.  “Huh. Check out these babies.  Hmm. Goodbye stakes, hello flying fatality. What can I shoot?” She ran the bolt she had picked up through her fingers and twirled it.

Giles sighed looking at the packing crates in the room and the linen clad figure of Simon who was standing by them, checking the various labels. Xander was using a crowbar to lift some lids and Willow was sitting on one of the crates, kicking her feet and looking at the Watcher and his Slayer.  “Um, nothing. The crossbow comes later.” Simon smirked.
Giles took the crossbow from her and put it back. Buffy pouted in disappointment.

“You must first become proficient with the basic tools of combat. Beginning” Giles enthusiastically picked up two quarterstaffs, ignoring Buffy’s obvious boredom.”...with the quarterstaff. Which, incidentally, will, uh, require countless hours of vigorous training.  I speak from
experience.

Buffy glared at the quarterstaff in her hand. “Giles, 20th Century? I'm not gonna be fighting Friar Tuck.”

“You never know with whom or what you'll be fighting.” Giles put on his head pads. “And these traditions have been handed down through the ages.  The Watcher picked up his own staff. “Now, you show me good, steady progress with the quarterstaff, and in due course we'll discuss the crossbow. Put on your pads.”

Buffy laughed. “I'm not gonna need pads to fight you.”

Giles gave her a tolerant if complacent look.  “Well, we'll see about that. En garde!”

Giles thrust several times at various parts of Buffy’s anatomy. She parried them all. She took the offensive, smiling slightly, pushing his staff to the floor and punching him in the face.
She twirled around hum, the edge of the staff along his arm, then striking his back and again to knock his legs out from under him. The watcher fell quite heavily onto his back. Buffy stood over him, smiling slightly.

Giles groaned, slightly stunned. “Good. Let's move on to the crossbow.”

“Dr Giles…with your permission I’d like to spar with Buffy.” Simon had picked up his cane and gave Buffy a flinty look. The girl blinked, as did her Watcher. Xander and Willow looked equally as surprised.

“I have no objection? Buffy?”

“Do I still get to shoot the crossbow?” Buffy asked.

“Of course.”

“No problemo then. C’mon Simon, I get to kick your butt.” She grinned at him.

Simon held his cane lightly, the silver head away from him, the weapon a lot shorter than Buffy’s staff. He held it with quiet competence. Buffy slashed at him and he parried with the head of the cane, giving an odd twist and pulled down,  dragging the quarterstaff with him, Buffy automatically resisted with her superior strength and he released the cane, her own force making her stumble back, forcing Buffy off balance. He stepped after her immediately and she felt a slight pain in her chest, over her heart and there was a tiny bit of ink on her shirt. Simon was holding a pen in his other hand, his face cold and hard. Buffy swallowed. If that had been even a small knife…

“You’re a Slayer. You’re faster, stronger, more naturally inclined to combat, instinctively skilled with most weapons. I’m a fifty two year old man, admittedly in good shape and trained in martial arts… but you should’ve wiped the floor with me! And yet I got to you with the simplest trick in the book. Do you know why?” His voice was angry.

Giles opened his mouth but Simon waved him down. “Shut up, I’m talking to my daughter.” Giles shut his mouth, eyes wide. Buffy, Willow and Xander blinked. This was the first time the man had staked this claim and only Buffy saw the look of wilted disappointment on Willow’s face. *’k…Simon going all paternal…but I have a dad already.*

Buffy raised her chin defiantly, opened her mouth, closed it, nodded to herself and finally spoke. “I was over confident. I’d defeated Giles. I assumed I could do the same to you. I assumed I had the reach on you because my weapon was longer. I assumed you would use your cane like I did my staff. I assumed you wouldn’t know how to handle my strength and speed.” Her brow crinkled. “How did you know?”

Simon’s face became even bleaker. “I used to spar with a young woman called Nikki Wood. She did wipe the floor with me… You can read about her in Bernard Crowley’s Watcher Diaries.” Buffy blanched and he dropped the pen, stepping up to her, dragging her into a hug, his hand giving her hair a fatherly caress. “Please…” He whispered the words painfully and Buffy wondered just how many friends, colleagues he had lost since he had joined the fight. He had been fifteen too, she remembered. “Please be careful.”

Buffy nodded into his shoulder. “Yeah. I will be.”

Simon stood back, his hands on her shoulders. “Here endeth the lesson.” He glanced at Giles who stood looking at the two of them strangely. “Dr. Giles, most of these cases apparently are a delivery from the Watchers’ Council, but the one at the end contains copies of Journals written by my forebears as well as a brief on the Order prepared by my Chief Archivist, Dr. Worthing.”

Giles smiled in acceptance. “Ah, excellent. It will be good to compare the notes to what the Council knows. Dr. Worthing is fully briefed on the supernatural?”

Simon snorted. “Earnest Worthing? I would think so.” He looked at the three teens. “I’ll see you this afternoon. I need to get back to work.” He scowled blackly. “After I swing by Giselle’s.” All the teens grinned at that.

Joyce was having lunch at the French inspired lunchroom with her buyer, a rather debonair handsome man called Duncan Macleod, who’d picked her up from the house, leaving Willow and Buffy practically drooling at his physical assets and Simon was showing signs of considerable jealousy. “Don’t forget your mother wants to see you Buffy.”

Buffy winced. Willow looked at her questioningly and Buffy mouthed ‘later’. The Slayer picked up the crossbow and started looking for a target.

Buffy and Willow were standing by the latter’s locker, getting ready to head for home when Willow gave her almost older sister a look. “So spill.”

Buffy winced again. “Mom is… upset.”

Willow rolled her eyes. “Well duh. We all know that. And we all know that Angel spent the night in one of the spare rooms. But I’ve seen her scold you before, so what is all this about?”

Buffy sighed, shrinking in on herself. “She’s angry because I didn’t let you and Xand know about the Three. Not that she knows they are the Three… but they’re a gang and they were chasing me and they were in front of the house, and I should have called her or Simon to pick you up immediately.”

“So? Apologize.” Willow pointed to the usual route to redemption in the Summers household.

Buffy winced. “Ahh…endangering siblings? That’s spankworthy Wills.”

Willow blinked. “M-Mom spanks?”

“Oh yeah. I’ve been on the receiving end of her hand three times.” She winced again. “This afternoon will make four.”

Willow swallowed. “Ummm…aren’t you a little old?”

“I think Mom would spank me if I were forty if I did something like this again.” Buffy said morosely.

“Can’t you do some chores? Grounded?”  Willow was getting quite agitated Buffy noted.

“Wills… It will be over after this, no grudges, no anger, just a swift, if painful encounter between my butt and her hand.” She sighed. “And the problem is… Mom only picks things to spank me for that I feel I deserve spanking for.”

“Wha?”  Willow was singularly articulate.

 

“I feel guilty. I should have thought of you and Xand immediately. Angel was not that badly wounded. You two, Mom and Simon were in danger. I was self indulgent. After his afternoon… It will all be…”

“Behind you?”  Willow said with a smirk.

Buffy scowled. “Ha ha. Very funny.  But yeah, it’s like a penance. No recriminations afterwards.”

Willow nodded thoughtfully. “It’s not as if she does it often… Does she?”  She was worried again.

“Four times in fifteen years? Don’t think child services are going to make anything of that.”

“Last time was?”

“The burned down gym. There were people inside. Not just Vamps. Mom never bought the mice and electrical wires thing.”

“Ah…sort of spankworthy. And the others?”

Buffy groaned. “Wills! Is there a particular reason you want to discuss my bare butt mambos?”

Willow gave her a wide eyed look. “N-no reason. I-I’ll just...” She swallowed again. “No recriminations?”

Buffy grimaced. “Well…there may have been some problems about the gym burning-downy and resultant arrest thingies that were not quite resolved by the spanking… but yeah, Mom believes in crisp punishment and swift forgiveness.”

The redhead’s face was thoughtful as they walked outside to the bus. “No recriminations. I can live with that, yeah.” Buffy gave her near-sister a very thoughtful look.

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When Dawn came into the kitchen in the afternoon her mother was there, looking unusually grim, with the strange man she’d barely seen in the morning. The man was pale and wore dark jeans and one of Simon’s shirts. He was looking at her Mom as if she was about to flay him alive, like that judge in the painting her Mom had tried to keep her from seeing in the museum. He definitely looked…hunted. The only people who got that look when facing her Mom were the older boys Buffy had sometimes brought home back in LA. Dawn felt more cheerful already. He looked rather cool and the evening was now bound to be interesting.

“Hello! I’m Dawn. Who’re you?”

“Hello, I’m ummm” Remembering the pointed look Buffy’s mother had given him Angel decided to go with a different option. “Liam. Liam O’Connell. Most people call me Angel. You’re Buffy’s baby sister?”

“Nope.” Dawn glared.

“You’re not?” Joyce swung round glaring at her daughter. She was in no mood for Dawn’s games.

“Nope, I’m, lots of people’s little sister. Buffy’s the eldest, then there’s Willow and then there’s me. Buffy says that still makes me the so-not-a-baby sister. Xander is older than all of us, but he acts real young. And Amy’s been around a lot too, she misses having a Mom.” Angel noted the stunned and then happy and proud expression on Joyce’s face as her daughter said that.

“I see.”

“Are you Buffy’s boyfriend? The one who she writes about in her diary? The A-Hunk?”

“Dawn Florence Summers!” Joyce’s voice rang like steel and Angel was very glad he was not on the receiving end of that at this time. “What did I tell you about reading your sister’s diary?”

Dawn wriggled on her stool, looking anxious. “Ummm… not to read it ever again? ‘cause it’s a private thing?”

“Yes. You’ll apologize to your sister. And you’re grounded for a week. And no donuts. And you get to do Buffy’s chores while you’re grounded.”

“MOM! That’s not fair!”

“You’re right. Two weeks.”

Dawn opened her mouth but suddenly felt a large finger on her mouth. Liam shook his head at her. “Do na say it lass. Ya’ll only get into more trouble.” Angel blinked into the large mournful blue eyes. *God, she’s like Kathy.*

Dawn nodded sadly. Joyce looked between the two of them and sighed. Obviously there was more to Mr O’Connell than just an interest in Buffy. The way he’d interceded on Dawn’s behalf showed considerable experience at dealing with younger sisters, or siblings. Joyce pretended not to notice he slipped Dawn his donut to eat with her hot chocolate. Maybe Buffy hadn’t been that wrong… 

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Buffy walked into her mother’s room gingerly. Joyce was sitting on the stool in front of the roll up desk that served as depository for papers and knick knacks. She was looking decidedly grim.

“Well?” Joyce asked.

Buffy shifted from foot to foot, looking at the floor. “I am sorry. And I have no excuse.” She did not look up.

Joyce nodded, thoughtfully. “I rather hoped I’d never have to do this again.”

Buffy snorted. “You’ve got a more angelic image of Dawn than I do then.”

Joyce smiled. “True.” She patted her lap and Buffy winced in trepidation.

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“Mom?” Buffy sounded uncertain and a bit teary. She’d managed to stifle the worst of the yelps but her mother had a good strong right arm. *Gotta ask Giles if Slayer strength is hereditary. I wonder if Mom was a potential? Also ouch-y to the max.*

Joyce sighed hugging her. “I love you honey. But I did warn you.”

“It’s ok Mom… I sorta deserved, even if it is rather embarrassing. *Not to mention painful.* It’s just… Wills called you Mom today. Straight out. A-and she asked if you really spanked.” She gave Joyce a teary grin while rubbing her bottom. *Man, I have to remember never ever to endanger any of the others again. She didn’t even spank that hard for the Gym.*

Joyce groaned. “Buffy…”

“I told her yes. And she was okay with it.” Buffy spoke hastily. “As long as it ended there…no recriminations.” She looked a bit anxiously at her mother. “That’s right isn’t it Mom?”

“Are you sorry? And I don’t just mean about the spanking.” Joyce said half seriously, half joking.

“I feel stupid. I completely forgot that Wills and Xand might be in danger. Or you and Simon.” She winced a little as she moved. “And I can assure you that is not likely to happen again. And yeah I’m real sorry.” She gulped. “If anything had happened…”

“Then you have completely understood. And no recriminations.”

“I get the feeling Wills parents never let things drop. Mom?”

“Yes dear?”

“What you did for Xander…”

Joyce smiled, kissing her eldest daughter’s temple. “We’re already on it dear.”

Buffy hugged her mother again and then gave her a thoughtful look. “Umm…Hypothetically…if I ever manage to endanger Xand, Wills or Dawn…”

“Hypothetically? You’d be grounded for a month or twelve. And you’d need pillows for a week. At least.”

Buffy gulped. “Better not do that then.”

“Very wise dear. Now there is a gentleman who’s been recovering from a wound in your room.”

“In my room?” Buffy squeaked.

“Yes dear… I’ll be downstairs, keeping Willow out of the cheese…”

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Buffy walked into her room into her room. She closed the door and looked around.

“Angel?”

“Hey.”

“Why are you sitting in the dark?” She turned on her desk lamp. “Mom told me to tell you you’re expected at dinner. No excuses.”

Angel nodded a touch nervously. “She gave me the same message when she came home. Ummm. Are you alright…I heard noises and Willow mentioned something about the bare butt mambo...’’

Buffy winced, flushing. “Errr… not really something I want to talk about, except Mom has a very firm right arm. I will definitely never forget to warn others of possible danger.” She winced again, and then perked up.

“So! What'd you do all day?”

“Uh, I read a little. Your Mom and Dr. Meier have some interesting books.”

Buffy looked over to the dresser where her diary was. *Was. Not. Lying. In. Its. Usual. Place. Oh. Crap.*

“And just thought about a lot of things. Buffy, I...”

“My diary? You read my diary?” Buffy scuttled over to the dresser and put the felt covered book in a drawer, locking it. “That is not okay! A diary is like a person's most private place!” Buffy walked back to Angel, glaring at him. “I... You don't even know what I was writing about! 'Hunk' can mean a lot of things, bad things. And, and when it says that your eyes are 'penetrating', I meant to write 'bulging'.”

Angel smiled, just ever so slightly.  “Buffy...”

Buffy ploughed on regardless.  “And 'A' doesn't even stand for 'Angel' for that matter, it stands for... 'Achmed', a charming foreign exchange student, so that whole fantasy part has nothing to even do with you at all...”

“I believe your mother straightened up in here, she may have moved your diary then. I spent all day on the couch downstairs or in the guest room, reading. I didn't read it, I swear.” *And I’m not going to say that your sister did…She can do that herself.*

Buffy gave him a look he’d last seen when he’d swerved to miss a deer in his headlights. He gave her an encouraging smile.

“Oh! *Babble mouth Buffy…He’s definitely not impressed. Not interested either…*  “Oh.” She looked at her feet.

Angel decided he needed to clarify his position. “I did a lot of thinking today. I really can't be around you. He took a deep breath and used a finger to lift her chin so he could look her in the eyes. “Because when I am...”

Buffy shook of his finger and looked down again. “Hey, no big. Water... over the bridge, under the bridge...” She swallowed a little heavily.

“When I am all I can ever think about is how badly I want to kiss you.” He smiled a little. “And what your parents would do to me if they caught me doing that.”

Buffy wasn’t listening and he thought seeing her so despondent and uncomfortable was both the cutest and the saddest thing he’d ever seen.”...over the dam...  Kiss me?” Her sudden take eyes wide and hopeful made Angel’s lip twitch, his heart soar and his stomach flip.

“I'm older than you, and this can't ever... I better go. I shouldn’t have stayed here last night and today…”

Buffy held him back as he walked to the door. “H-how much older? I mean, Simon’s like fourteen years older than Mom…”

Angel tried to pass by her again. ”I should...”

Buffy stepped closer to him, getting deep into his personal space. He could smell the Slayer, her intoxicating blood, but mostly he could smell the wonderful smell of Buffy. “...go... You said...”

Buffy reached up and grabbed his face, kissing him. He kissed her back. They kissed again. They kissed passionately. She put her arms around him.  The kiss went on…and on and then on some more and Buffy ran her hands over the fine fabric of Simon’s dress shirt and started to realise why her mother kept running her hands over him whenever he wore them. If his muscles felt anywhere near as good as Angel’s… Angel suddenly pulled back and looked away, breathing heavily.

Buffy was anxious, afraid she’d done something wrong, she’d never ever kissed anyone like that before. “What? What is it? What's wrong?”

He turned to face her and growls. His face was twisted and she gasped as the vampire looked her his demonic face clearly not that of a fledgling but of an older, more powerful vamp. Buffy screamed. It almost seemed to her that his eyes were full of anguish, pain, sorrow. His last look at her could have lasted no more than a few seconds but it seemed to carry on forever. Then he was out of the window, sliding down the roof and onto the pile of lumber by the house, into the dusk of the early evening.

Buffy rushed to the window, watching the disappearing figure. Joyce ran into the room, almost skidding in the doorway in her haste to come in.

“Buffy, what happened?”

Buffy backed away from the window. Her Mom took her by the shoulders. Buffy looked at Joyce, shaking her head. Joyce took in the flushed face and kiss bruised lips and met her daughter’s eyes with a fearful gaze.

“Did he…?”

“No… No he left… He…”

“Oh dear…” Joyce looked guilty and relieved at the same time. She took a deep breath. “Well…let’s go have dinner.”

They both looked out the window before going down. Joyce was just in time to save half a pound of cheddar from Willow.

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The next morning was the first time the Slayerettes could speak in peace. Joyce had been hovering to see how Buffy was handling the situation and worry had been clear in her eyes and actions. It wasn’t every day a potential boyfriend fled out the window after kissing you… she was worried and wondered what was wrong with the boy.

Willow was looking awestruck as they walked up the steps to the school. “Angel’s a vampire?”

Buffy almost whined. “I can't believe this is happening. One minute we were kissing, and the next minute... “She turned to Giles.  “Can a vampire ever be a good person? Couldn't it happen?”

Giles gave her a look. “A vampire isn't a person at all.” He cleared his throat didactically. “It may have the movements, the, the memories, even the personality of the person that it took over, but i-it's still a demon at the core, there is no halfway.”

Willow nodded thoughtfully.  “So that'd be a no, huh?”

Simon was trailing behind; carrying a science project Willow had been working on and looking decidedly aggravated. “That is just the sort of nonsense I’d expect from a representative of the body that exploded the Treaty of Alexandros. And I suggest...” He stressed the word sarcastically. “That we continue this conversation inside?”

Buffy blinked at him. Opening her mouth to speak but Giles nodded in terse, almost frightened agreement. The three teens sulked until they reached the Library. Giles kept throwing odd glances at the older man. Simon stepped into the Science classroom with Willow to drop of the project, hastening out as soon as they could. They entered the library to find Buffy expounding at Giles.

 “Well, then what was he doing? Why was he good to me? Was it all some part of the Master's plan? It doesn't make sense!”

Willow sat down opposite Buffy at the library table.

Xander looked thoughtful. “Alright, uh...” He sat down, reaching for a chair, slowly lowering himself on the seat “...you have a problem, and it's not a small one. Let's take a breath and look at this calmly and
objectively. Angel's a vampire. You're a Slayer. I think it's obvious what you have to do. “

Buffy didn't react. Xander looked up to Giles for support.

Giles hunkered down upon himself. ”Uh, it is a Slayer's duty...”

Simon snorted from where he was standing by the crate sent from his library.

“Bollocks. The Council has never been able to think in shades of grey.” He took three steps and glared down at Giles. “These are the same people who had the slayer Nikki Wood, kill, slaughter is a better word, three hundred and fifteen Cheila Demons. Three hundred and fifteen men, women and children including three babes in arms. How do you think Nikki felt when Bernard and I told her Cheila are vegetarians? And that they’d been living in New York for three hundred years? And never had killed a single person? And they were all condemned to death because a single Cheila got too much like humanity and decided to rape a teenage girl? That’s a bit like killing all the Brits for what they did in India, wouldn’t you say… Watcher?”

The last word was spoken with such venom that Giles recoiled. The teens were looking at the two men with wide eyes and Willow had crawled into Buffy’s embrace. Buffy was holding onto her for dear life, eyes flicking from her Watcher to her mother’s boyfriend.

Giles cowered back, his face pale. “T-that was a t-terrible mistake…”

Simon leaned forward, anger in his eyes and his words hissing from between his teeth. “That neither the Cheila community nor Nikki ever recovered from. She no longer wanted to live after that, did you know? She lost the will to fight. That is what the Council is: as cold, evil and as nasty as anything they make the Slayer face, while they cower in their luxurious manors in old Blighty.”  He stepped back to the crate and lifted a number of books out, until he found the one he was looking for.

Giles took of his glasses with trembling hands, polishing them with a handkerchief. “T-this is neither here nor there, it has little or no bearing on the p-present case…” Simon cut him off with a look.

“These are digests from my father’s and Grandfather’s journals for the later years of the Second World War and shortly after. In it they describe meeting Angelus, now Angel, once Liam O’Connell. The vampire with a soul. He’s been atoning, not very well, but he’s been doing his best, since he got it.”

He glared at Giles. “You’d do a lot better at fighting your ‘enemies’ if you understood that most of them are very much like us: love, hope, family, wealth drive a lot of them. Their morals tend to be different, but sometimes not all that different. And they can learn and they can change.”

He knelt by Buffy, handing her the book. “Liam was very brave during the war, and after. He’s saved countless of lives since he got his soul back, even if has on more than one occasion slipped into depression.” He sighed. “We know a lot about vampires through Liam. He was very fond of my grandmother and she talked with him a lot. Vampires can… change involuntarily while under the grip of strong emotions. I would say that… what you two were doing unleashed such emotions and Liam… felt he needed to get away to get it under control.” He sighed. “I have to go now. There’s a report on a missing girl from one of the Houses I want and need to hear.”

Buffy nodded at him, holding the book to her chest as if it were a life line. Then she leaned forward and gave him a quick hug. “Thank you.”  

Simon rose, clasping a comforting hand on Xander’s shoulder and kissing Willow’s forehead. He shot Giles a warning look. Then he suddenly flushed. “Ummm… The third page in… there’s a photograph that might interest you.” He left with a hurried stride.

Xander looked after his foster father, and then looked at Buffy and Giles “I-I know you have feelings for this guy, but it's not like you're in love with him, right? And Giles? You wouldn’t make Buffy do stuff like that would you?”

Buffy looked away from him, her fingers playing with the edges of the leather bound journal.

Giles takes his glasses off. “Nikki Wood was misled by a Watcher, not her own Watcher, not a Field Watcher, but a member of a splinter faction that believed… believes that all demons and extra dimensional beings ought to be destroyed. After the New York Cheila Massacre they were purged from the ranks… but the repercussions can still be felt. Seven watchers were evicted from the East coast last year alone, for actions that violated the Laws of the Concordat.” He sighed. “I had not realized Dr. Meier was… involved with Miss Wood to such an extent.” He shook his head. “He is right… The Council does tend to lose sight of the diversity of demons and demonic goals in the struggle.”

Xander frowned. “Right…we’ll talk about that later. Buff? Look at me?” Buffy looked up, her eyes filled with tears.” You're in love with a vampire? I’d say you were outa your mind… but Dad…Simon says he’s a good guy, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. But really Buff? A vampire? That’s cold.” Xander shuddered, winking at her.

Buffy grinned at him wanly. Willow gave him a glare. “I think it’s really romantic, like a nineteenth century novel, all unattainable love and pretty dresses and courtship and Heathclifff-y. So you’d better behave Xander! And no more bad jokes!”

Xander scowled. “Well, all I’m going to say is, that if he turns it into a bodice ripper I’m going to go all big brother on him. Vamp or not.”

Willow looked at Buffy and both started to giggle. Xander shrugged helplessly while Giles, his face still set in an uncomfortable and apologetic mask, started looking through the Meier family note books, starting with the oldest, which detailed the arrival in Jamestown of one Lucius Sculpius Varo, called The Master and the siring of Anne, calling herself McGregor, a noted prostitute of that town later known as Darla.

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Angel walked down the stairs to the dreary subterranean hallway to his apartment. Opening his apartment after unlocking it he went inside, looking around, bending over to light a standing lamp. He could feel her presence in the room, had smelled her in the hallway. She thoughts she would surprise him, but his senses had always been keener than hers. He gently stroked the old books that lined the walls. He needed a cupboard for them; the damp would get to them otherwise. It was time to put on a show.

“Who's here?”

A soft voice, one he had known for centuries. He had been right then; his senses had not deceived him. “A friend.”

He quickly turned to face the voice. Darla sashayed out of the shadows wearing a Catholic schoolgirl uniform.

“Hi. It's been a while.”

Angel gave her a cold look. “A lifetime.” *Not long enough.*

“Or two, but who's counting?”

“What's with the Catholic schoolgirl look? Last time I saw you it was kimonos.”

“And last time I saw you it wasn't high school girls. Gotta keep up with the competition.” She flared the skirt. “Don't cha like?” She walked up to Angel, moving her hand up his shirt clad chest finger by finger. “Want to help me get in trouble?” She winked salaciously. “Remember Budapest? Turn of the
century? You were such a bad boy during that earthquake.”

“Regrettably I do. You did some damage yourself.”

“Is there anything better than a natural disaster? Except a hard man of course. She turned away from him, wiggling her hips seductively. “The panic. The people lost in the streets. It's like picking fruit off the vine.” She reached the bed, falling on it on her back, raising one leg into the air, running her hands up and down it, showing him a flash of underwear no Catholic schoolgirl would wear. “Nice! You're trying too live above ground, like one of them. You and your new friend are attacking us, like one of them.” She slowly got on her knees, running her hands over the front of her maidenly white shirt, tightening it over her hardened nipples before getting up and sauntering to the wall.

“But guess what, precious? You're not one of them.”

With a wicked laugh she drew the blinds, letting in a stream of sunlight. Angel had subconsciously followed her, gotten closer while she displayed herself for him and was blinded by the sunlight, almost falling in his hast to get out of the direct beams of sunlight that fell onto his floor.

Darla smirked, pleased with having thrown him off balance. “Are you?”

Angel straightened. “No. But I'm not exactly one of you either.”

Darla walked to the fridge. “Is that what you tell yourself these days?”

She opened the refrigerator and on seeing the bags and bottles of human blood, turned towards him again, a nasty smile playing around her full lips.

“You're not exactly living off quiche. Not quite toddlers… But I suppose a few have died ‘cause you took the blood meant for them.” She carefully closed the fridge, dusting the top with a finger and wrinkling her nose at it. “You and I both know what you hunger for.” She slinked towards him again, all seductive and seeming innocence, youth and beauty perverted forever. “What you need. Hey, it's nothing to be ashamed of. It's who we are. It's what makes eternal life worth living.”  She smiled up at him, touching his chest, fingering the fine material of the shirt again. “Mm. You can only suppress your real nature for so long. You can feel it brewing inside of you. I hope I'm around when it explodes.”

 “Maybe you don't wanna be.” Angel riposted, but half-heartedly.

“I'm not afraid of you. I bet she is, though.” Darla moved towards the door. “Or maybe I'm underestimating her. Talk to her. Tell her about the curse. Maybe she'll come around. And if she still doesn't trust you, you know where I'll be.”

Darla walked out of the apartment, leaving Angel behind, looking thoughtful.

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The library was silent. Giles was reading the neatly written journals of the Meier family. The fold out sheets at the end showed the family tree of the Order of Aurelius, with some annotation on where in the Journals information on some individuals might be found. The occasional ‘Good lord’ and the scratching of his fountain pen filled the air.

Willow and Buffy were bent over the Journal that Simon had placed in her hands, the one that contained notes on Angel. Willow was nibbling a piece of Gouda she’d sneaked out from under the cloche that morning. Buffy had a jelly donut. They were currently gazing at the third page again, a copy of a photograph. An old man in wheelchair, white haired and face scarred but still with the Meier nose clearly recognizable sat next to Angel, while the vampire was holding a child, a young child, with a gentle expression on his face. A feminine hand had written below it: Simon, Liam and Littlest Simon, 23-12-1945.

Buffy was subdued, running her hand over the copied picture.

“Buff?” Willow asked in a worried tone, hoping the other girl would react.

“Why didn’t he tell me before?”

“Who?”

“Simon! He knew.”

Willow gave the blonde a look. “Duh. This is da…Simon. He’d no more tell you then he’d tell you how to write a science essay. He’d just tell Angel to tell you, and be there for you if Angel messed up. Like he did.”

Buffy smiled a little at Willow’s slip. It happened quite often now, that she would call Joyce and Simon Mom and dad. Pretty soon she would be doing it with them present. She’d bet ten dollars to Xander that Simon would preen like a peacock the first time it happened, and another ten that her mother…their mother would get a little teary eyed. “Yah. I suppose you’re right.“ She scowled again. “That must have been what he was trying to tell me… This morning. And before… When I kissed him.”

Willow giggled. “And it musta been so embarrassing when you thought he had read your diary, but then it turned out he hadn't, but then he felt the same way...”

Xander growled. Willow shut up, still grinning.

Giles muttered something about the reason for Angel’s name, ‘He of the angelic face.’

Buffy smiled a bit dreamily. “Yeah, they got that right.”

Xander growled even louder until Willow kicked him and glared. The young man put a hand on his chest and puffed it out. “I'm not saying anything, I have nothing to say.” His innocent act made the girls roll their eyes.

But Buffy bit her lip when she saw how honestly worried his eyes were. Xander’s crush on her had taken a hit after his near rape of her and had quietly faded into nothingness since he moved in. It was strange, but he seemed happy with it, and all she got of him now was the big brother vibe, and she could live with that. She could live very well with a big brother.

Giles looked up. “Does this ah Angel have, um, a tattoo behind his right shoulder?”

Buffy nodded, remembering the tattoo from her impromptu first aid session, she moved slightly on the second cushion on the library chair. She’d expected the spanking to have long since faded, but somehow her Mom’s punishment was still quite noticeable. She’d ask Giles, but that would just be too embarrassing. Simon might know…and asking him would not be embarrassing at all…yeah right.  “Yeah, it's a, it's a bird or something.”

Xander’s fingers rapped on the table. “Now I'm sayin' something. You saw him naked?”

Willow giggled. Giles sighed. “According to these different sources, he was born in Ireland in 1727.”

Willow blinked at Buffy. “Wow. So, Angel's been around for a while.”

Giles took of his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Not long for a vampire. Uh, two hundred and forty years or so as a Vampire. They are immortal after all, even if the older ones are targeted for hunts by Slayers.”

Buffy scrunched up her face at the last remark. “Huh! Two hundred and forty. Well, he said he was older.”

Giles leafed through several of the journals, marshalling his thoughts. “Angelus leaves Ireland, uh, wreaks havoc in, in Europe for, uh, several decades, and then, um, about eighty years ago, the most curious thing happens. He, he comes to, uh, to America, um, shuns other vampires, and, and lives alone. There's, there's no, no record of him hunting here.”

Willow looked at the journal in front of her. It was the only one in the pile written by a woman, apparently the Meier’s were not much for the emancipation. “Born in Galway in 1727, Liam son of Sean and Katherine, younger sister Katherine as well. He talked about them a lot apparently. Sired in 1753 by the vampire known to him as Darla. She was sired in Jamestown in 1609…she was then known as Anne McGregor, and a prostitute.”

Giles sighed. “He would have…if he gained a soul, a moral compass…Most vampires kill their former families. To have that on his mind, his conscience…”

Xander winced. “Ouch. In any normal family that would be fairly awful, yeah.” Willow gave him a sad look. He said it flippantly and he might not love his biological parents very much, but still. She moved over from where she sat beside Buffy to give him a quick hug, and then sat back down.

Willow looked thoughtful. “I saw him this afternoon with Dawn, before you came home Buff… He seemed very happy talking with her. Mom was really angry with her for reading your diary though.”

Buffy very slowly turned to Willow. Xander ducked behind the large book he had been reading. Giles found something interesting to investigate in one of the crates from the Council. Willow paled. “Oops?”

“She READ my DIARY?”

“Yes. Mom grounded her totally for two w-weeks and she gets no donuts and ummm, I think she has to do your chores?” Willow gulped.

“SHE read MY diary?” Buffy’s voice was hitting whole new registers of sound.

Xander started to chuckle. “No doubt it was a bodice ripper and she couldn’t put it down.” Buffy threw a ball of paper at him, before she stared to pout angrily.

“She’s soooo in trouble.”

Xander picked at his lip. “Yeah. Let’s get back on subject, Angel. Before he gained his soul?”

Giles took of his glasses, polishing them as he looked at Buffy. “Uh, like all of them. Uh, a vicious, violent animal.”

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The dark pool smelled of blood and brine and the minerals leeched by rain from ancient stone and rock. The ancient gnarled and twisted face of the Master took in the twisted beauty of his Childe. Age had made her more powerful, more vicious. He was proud of her and fond of her. She was a true scion of the Line of Aurelius. She hummed a little to herself, a little ditty from her days as an innocent young girl in England, in the days of Queen Elizabeth. Before the ten year old she had been had been taken for the debts of her parents and her new madam sold her virginity to the highest bidder. He smiled at the thought. Humans were so much like vampires in some things. The veneer of civilization was exceedingly thin.

Darla spoke up. “Don't think I'm not grateful, you letting me kill the Three.”

“How can my children learn if I do everything for them?”

Darla nodded, still pleased. ”But you've gotta let me take care of the Slayer.”

The Master grinned. She had a plan. Darla loved plans and only Angelus and Spike among all his line were a match for her. If Spike could be bothered to plan instead of running off half-cocked of course.

“Oh! You're giving me orders now!” The Master said in a stern voice.

Darla walked away, her face pouty. ”Okay, then, we'll just do nothing while she takes us out one by one.”

The Master grinned, he had been right. ”Do I sense a plan, Darla?”  Darla turned round, her face eager now that she knew she had her Sire’s attention. “Share...”

Darla walked back to him, moving like warm blood, her eyes eagerly taking in the hard lines of his body under his black leather clothes. *If I play this right…* “Angel kills her and comes back to the fold.”

The old vampire nodded reminiscently. “Angel! He was the most vicious creature I ever met. I miss him.”

Darla looked a touch despondent, her full strawberry lips pouting. “So do I.”

The Head of the Line of Aurelius sat in his chair. He looked at his oldest surviving Childe thoughtfully.  “Why would he kill her if he feels for her?”

Darla smirked. “To keep her from killing him.”

The old vamp sat back and smiled, looking at Collin, the Chosen one of his Line. “You see how we all work together for the common good? That's how a family is supposed to function!” He grinned lecherously at his Childe and waved her over. “A good plan deserves a reward.”

Darla smiled, undoing her shirt as she walked towards him. She would be even more in his favour if her plan worked.

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The kitchen door slammed open and then shut. Dawn’s eyes widened as she stood in the kitchen, a can of soda in her hand and Buffy stalked in like a tigress. Joyce saw the frightened startled doe eyes of her youngest and then heard the growl in her eldest daughter’s throat. Dawn swallowed. The can dropped from her fingers, she started backing away, faster and faster ands then turned and ran. Buffy was after her like a shot. Willow came in looking guilty, carrying both her and Buffy’s bookbags.

Joyce saw the guilty face and laughed. “Oh Willow… good afternoon. I take it you dropped a bomb?”

Willow nodded, shamefaced. “I’m sorry…”

Joyce shrugged, turning back to her cooking. “This has been a normal occurrence in this household since Dawn learned to read and be sneaky, around age four. So it’s not your fault. Stop feeling guilty and help me peel some potatoes. It will be a while before Dawn is back to do her chores.” She gave her fosterling a humorous look. “Hence the reason why I always wait with telling Buffy until Dawn has a good stopping point in her chores.”

Willow blinked. “Dawnie could read at age four?” Willow dropped the bookbags and moved toward the cheese cloche. She started lifting it and Joyce cleared her throat.

Willow gave her a pleading look. “But… Gouda…”

“No Willow, dinner’s in less than an hour. And since you drove of my assistant…” She looked pointedly at the peeler and Willow poutingly picked up a potato and peeler.

“So Dawn could read at four?” She prompted again.

Joyce smiled reminiscently “No. She learned to be sneaky then. Buffy could read at four, Dawn at three.”

There was a squeal from outside as Buffy evidently caught Dawn. Both ignored it.

Willow looked thoughtful. “Oh… but ummm Buffy?”

“Acts like an airhead? Most of that is a pose to ensnare boys. Jocks don’t really go for nerds.” She shrugged hopelessly. “She’s such a good actress; she sorta forgot who she is…what she can do.”

Willow nodded. “I see.”

There was another loud scream from above and then tense and hysterical laughter and begging.

They exchanged amused looks. Dawn Summers was suffering the torture of a thousand tickles. It would be a while before she opened a diary again.

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It was dark outside and Willow and Buffy sat in the School library working on History. They’d told Joyce that they needed the back up of the research books, but in fact it was a fairly standard test they were studying for.

Willow stifled a sigh. Buffy’s mind was not on studying, and though she understood she was tired and, well she missed Mo… Ms Summers’ hot chocolate and comforting presence. And the chance to sneak some cheese… Studying late at school or at her parents’ home was never as nice as with Mom and dad… she’d done it again. She had to stop thinking it. Buffy might be alright with it, but Ms. Summers and Dr. Meier were less likely to accept her. It was not as if her parents beat her, like Xander’s had. She shook herself out of her maudlin thoughts. “Okay, so let's review. Reconstruction began when?” She looked up to see Buffy’s far away look. Apparently she was not the only one who had been woolgathering. ”Buffy?”

Buffy startled landing forcefully back in reality. “Huh?” She gave Willow a slightly shamefaced, blushing look. “Oh! Um, reconstruction... Uh, reconstruction began after the... construction, which was... shoddy, so they had to reconstruct.”

Willow tried to refrain from rolling her eyes. She understood Buffy was upset and uncertain. “After the destruction of the Civil War.”

Buffy gave a little sigh, looking down at the table. “Right. Civil War. During which Angel was already, like, a hundred and change...”

Willow gave her an understanding if exasperated look. “Are we gonna talk about boys, or are we gonna help you pass history?”

Buffy looked up at Willow and the sheer fear, anguish and uncertainty in her eyes were all the answer Willow needed. She closed the book.

Willow leaned forward conspiratorially. “Sometimes I have this fantasy that Xander's just gonna grab me and kiss me right on the lips.” She flashed a huge smile.

Buffy smiled back. ”You want Xander, you've gotta speak up, girl!”

Willow swallowed heavily. “No, no, no, no. No speaking up. That way leads to madness and sweaty palms.”

Darla, standing among the stacks shook her head at the inanity of the conversation.

Buffy sighed. “Wills…You have to. Once people find out he’s not just a pretty face but that Simon’s got money, the vultures will start moving in.”

Willow shrank in on herself. When she finally spoke it was in the tiniest voice Buffy had ever heard her use. “I know. I know ‘k?  It’s just…” Buffy was around table and holding the little red head before the tears could start. “He’s so happy now… and… and he’s got a new Mom and Dad and I have no…” Buffy silenced her with a finger to her lips.

“Wills…don’t tell Mom I told you…They’re working on getting you too, ok? But only if you want it.”

Willow’s smile was so radiant that it nearly blinded the blonde. “Really?”

“Really. I asked Mom after…” Buffy winced, shifting slightly. Her damn Slayer healing still hadn’t removed the feeling of stiffness and soreness. And it should have. She really had to talk to Simon about that. At least he knew what had happened and she really did not want to tell that to Giles… “my ummm appointment with Mom.”

Willow flushed. “Yeah. Ok. Ummm.” She looked at the older girl still with that incredible smile. ”Okay, so here's something I gotta know. When Angel kissed you... I mean before he turned into... how was it?”

Buffy’s smile was almost as incandescent as Willow’s. “Unbelievable!”

Darla almost growled at the fact that her Childe had… sucked face with the kine before her, without killing her afterwards. He’d never kissed his victims before he left them, except to bite their lips off. She held back and listened.

Willow smiled enthusiastically. “Wow! And it is kinda novel how he'll stay young and handsome forever, although you'll still get wrinkly and die, and... Oh, and what about the children?”  Buffy looked at her, her face stiff and pained and Willow quickly tightened her hold on her. “I'll be quiet now.”

Buffy sighed. “No, it's okay. I need to hear this. I need to get over him so I can...”

Willow released her and put her hands on her hips, an interesting feat while sitting down. “So you can…” She made a staking motion with her hands. “Is that what you want? Maybe you need to talk to him first? He hasn’t hunted for decades. I mean he may be v-vegetarian!”

Buffy started to giggle in spite of her self.  “A vegetarian? I doubt it.” Her face fell.  Like Xander said, I'm the Slayer, and he's a... vampire. God, I can't! He's never done anything to hurt me...” The slayer shook herself. “Okay, no, I need to stop thinking about this. Okay, let's give revision another half an hour and maybe something will sink in. And then I'm going home for some major moping.”

Willow shook her head. “Naah, we will go home and ask Mom for some of the Ice cream she very pointedly put in the freezer so I could see it.”

Willow gave Buffy a round the shoulder squeeze and Buffy grinned. “Thanks Lil Sis. I feel better already.”

“And she told Simon to get some real chocolate…” Willow gave Buffy a look. “Halvesies?”

Buffy chuckled. “Sure, but the little diary sneak gets nothing!”

Willow grinned. “You say that now, but you cannot resist those baby blues…”

Darla smiled and backed away. *The Slayer’s mother and sister…Perfect targets…Angel was the only vampire who had access to the Slayer’s house. Angel would be driven in to their arms and the Slayer would be vulnerable. Perfect, indeed.*

Willow opened the textbook again. “Okay. The era of the congressional reconstruction, usually called radical...”
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