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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)vidiconFR1598780,1331571479386,35328 May 115 Jul 14No

Catholic schoolgirls and motherly feelings

Author’s note:

I hope I made it sufficiently clear that Simon only got to Buffy because she was overconfident and he had experience sparring with a previous Slayer. This is one Reason (note upper case R) Simon is from New York. Simon is not supernaturally fast, or strong, or even exceptionally good at martial arts. He does have years of experience, he is older after all, but age is slowing him down. He’s as good as years of training and a modicum of talent can make him, (but he is not championship material.

Buffy should have wiped the floor with him, and that is exactly what scares him.

Chapter 18: Catholic schoolgirls and motherly feelings.

Xander was sweeping up the last bits of iron filings into the dustpan, emptying it into the metal waste bin; Mr. Danvers was a good mechanic of the old school and he knew the value of all metal. Xander was learning a lot about car and motor cycle maintenance. And the proper way to sweep floors. With his job, his schoolwork, getting his ass dragged across town on training runs and saving the world his days were full. But they were good days. He heard the sound of an engine and went outside to see if he could help the customer. Simon got out of the Volvo, nodding at him and Mr. Danvers. The old mechanic looked at the car, then at Simon.

“So what did you do now?’

Simon smiled. “Nothing…I’m here to talk to Xander.” The he scratched his nose in the mannerism that Xander associated with his foster father being slightly annoyed and embarrassed.  And I think one of the lovely Sunnydale roads struck a hole in my radiator.”

Danvers grunted. “None of them Wilkinses was ever any good at road maintenance. And all them stupid tunnels… cost us a heap o’ money. And nothing ever came of that personal transport railroad they was gabbing about.” He lay down on a wheeled plank and rolled under the car. “You can see the hole. Xander, bring my welding kit, then you can go talk with your dad. And no smart mouth either!”

“Yes sir.” Xander ran into the shop and came back with the small welding kit and the appropriate rods. Danvers grinned at him and rolled back from under the car, mixed his gasses, set the torch alight and rolled back under the car.

Simon took his son’s shoulder and led him away.

“You’re angry.”

“What?”

“About Angel. That he’s a vampire. That Buffy has feelings for him. That I knew of him before.”

Xander was silent for a minute, looking at the flicker of the torch. “Yeah. Yeah I suppose I am.”

Simon nodded. “I quite understand. Xander… You did not kill Jesse. Vampires killed Jesse. You killed a vampire.”

Xander shrugged, irritated. “I know that here…” He pointed at his head “But not here…” And pointed at his heart.

“Yes. It’s the hardest when you know them. I’ve always been very glad that the vampire who killed Nikki did not turn her. But he was always rather strange; he said he wouldn’t do it to her child…”

“How many friends have you killed?”

“I only have four friends Xander. Only ever had the same four and thank something they’re still alive. But plenty of my acquaintances have been killed by fighting at my side. I’ve slain the possessed bodies of nine.”

“Ah. Do you ever get used to it?”

“No. But it helps to realize that what they were was gone before I staked them. Xander, no one in the world is harder on Liam O’Connell than Liam O’Connell. He’s a depressed, near suicidal guilt ridden wreck. Only the notion that he can help Buffy has dragged him from life as a homeless hunter of rats.” He thought for a minute. “You needn’t tell your sister that last bit.”

Xander grinned. “So, she’s his redemption?”

“No, possibly a step on the way to it. A way to achieve a more positive outlook on life.”

“You’re not happy about it either.” Xander noted.

“Him being a vampire complicates matters a great deal. Him being a guilt ridden wreck with a history of alcoholism older than the United States and fits of decade long depression, that’s what worries me. He’ll need to pull himself up by his bootstraps to be good enough for Buffy. He used to have the willpower, but everything he’s done for the past eighty odd years has resulted in failure. He’ll need encouragement and a firm hand.”

“And you think Buffy can give him that?”

Simon grinned. “Well partially…if he’s serious and treats Buffy well…Your mother is more likely to take a part in his re education.”

Xander grinned. “It’ll make for interesting dinners…Ugh…blood at the table.” He grimaced.

Simon shrugged. “Vampires can eat and even digest solid food, they need the blood for nourishment however. Many vampires enjoy the flavour and texture of human food. Most of them enjoy fine wine and such.”

“So you’re not freaked out merely ‘cause he’s a vampire?”

“Vampires can be intensely loyal lovers, if a bit possessive. And Buffy is strong willed and well able to stand up for herself. But as I said my primary objections against Liam lie in his personality.”

Xander smiled. “Ah well…I suppose we can hardly dictate who Buffy falls for.”

Simon barked a short laugh. “You’re right. I never realized some of the frustrations of fatherhood.”

Danvers rolled out from under the car. “It’s done…but you’d better get it to a dealer, that radiator’s been patched often enough to be replaced.” He rose, taking his cylinders into the garage to store them properly.

Simon rose. “Need a ride home?”

Xander pointed at his bicycle. “I promised to go by the school. Wills and Buff are there and were going home together. I’ll go see if Mr. Danvers needs anything.”

Simon nodded. “I need to go past the office first anyway.”

“Still haven’t found that girl in Boston?”

Simon ran a hand over his face. “Yeah, we think she was attacked, or taken. She was very excited about getting fostered, loved living with her foster parents and now the house was attacked, her foster mother killed, as well as a young woman and several gang members, the police and fire departments saw nothing unsual, the formal investigation was closed down. The foster father is incommunicado, but apparently believes both his wife and Foster daughter to be dead. We don’t know what happened, but it can’t have been good. Poor girl.”

“She’s from the Boston House, right?”

“There’s two there, but yes.”

Xander sighed. “Are you going back there? Maybe use magic?”

“There are people far more capable of finding her than me, with or without magic…” His eyes widened. He grinned at Xander. “You, my son, are a genius.” He clapped the boy on the shoulder and drove off.

Xander walked into the building and looked at Danvers. “Shouldn’t he have paid you?”

“Nah. I know where you live.”

Xander grinned. “Yeah, I suppose you do.”

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The kitchen of the Summers’ house was sealed against the weather by several garishly coloured tarpaulins. The soft rustling noise as they flapped in the light breeze had lured Joyce from her seat in the dining room. And it was closer to the coffee maker. Simon had an important business meeting about one of his charities. She hoped he wasn’t still upset about Duncan Macleod being so handsome and urbane. She liked the expat Scott well enough and had to admit that she’d been tempted in the separation phase of her marriage to Hank. And Duncan was gorgeous, but he was with Tessa, and she liked them both far too much to inflict on them what Hank had on her.

But Simon was handsome and made her feel safe. And beautiful and loved. And she really shouldn’t have teased Simon. She’d make it up to him tonight. She smirked to herself and sipped her coffee. She glanced at her taxes. Simon had offered to have his accountants take care of them, but she’d been adamant to do them herself. Now she was having second thoughts. She ran a hand through her hair and sighed again.

The porch creaked and Joyce got up. None of her older children was home, Xander was off doing an after school job and Willow and Buffy were studying at the Library. Simon had gone to the office to be briefed about the search for the missing girl. Dawn was upstairs, supposedly doing homework but in actuality reading an Astrid Lindgren book from Willow’s collection.  A look out of the door window showed her nothing. Opening the door revealed nothing either. Closing it she decided to try the front door. There was a knock as she approached and Joyce smiled to herself. So there had been someone there.

A quick look through the window showed a young blonde girl in an old fashioned school uniform, carrying at least one large text book. She opened the door. *I’m not going to buy anything. No matter how cute she looks. And what school sends it pupils out at night to sell cookies? Be strong Joyce!?*

 Joyce took a breath. “Hello? How can I help you?”

The blonde flashed a smile, much like Willow’s. Joyce took in the uniform, the tightly clenched books, the slightly anxious expression and the sensible Mary Janes, one foot trying to stop from twisting in shy embarrassment. *Oh dear…another waif…Why do they send a child like this out alone?*

When the girl spoke she was perky and upbeat, but a little something under her the happy tones told Joyce a different story. “Hi! I'm Darla? A f-friend of Buffy's?” She gave Joyce an uncertain look. “D-did she mention me? We met at the Espresso Pump, I go to different school but she’s really nice and so’s Willow…”

Joyce smiled and let out the breath she’d taken earlier. “Nice to meet you, Darla. Now breathe.”

Darla took a breath, looking flustered and a little sad. “She didn't mention anything about me coming over for a study date, did she?”

Joyce gave the girl and encouraging smile. “No, I thought she was studying with Willow at the library.”

Darla nodded. “She is. I’m not allowed on campus, I’m not a student there… Willow's the Civil War expert, but then I was supposed to help her with the War of Independence. My family kinda goes back to those days.”

Joyce gave the girl a piercing look. She looked uncomfortable to Joyce’s experienced maternal eye. “Do you have permission to be here Darla?”

Darla blushed. “Sorta…There has to be a responsible adult…”

Joyce sighed. “And let me guess you’re not supposed to walk through town alone at night?”

Darla looked at her shoes, her foot now really twisting in that little girl way Dawn still sometimes had and she sometimes caught Willow doing. “No, Ms. Summers.”

It was the tiny scared, lonely voice that made Joyce sigh. *Yes…another waif.*

“Well, I, I know she's supposed to be home soon. Would you like to come in and wait?”

Darla perked up a little. “Yes, thank you. It's very nice of you to invite me into your home.” She gave Joyce a tentative hopeful smile, a smile that made the older woman’s heart ache. She’d have to find a way to get young Darla invited over more often, she seemed just as starved of affection as Willow.

Joyce shrugged, making light of the situation. No need for the girl to know she’d seen right through her. “You're welcome. I've been wrestling with the IRS all night. Would you like something to eat? Or maybe something to drink?” She led her guest to the kitchen. She turned round and gave the girl a look. “are you allowed coffee? Willow gets…”

Darla flushed. “Hyper when she drinks coffee or coke. Yeah. Me too. Ummm…”

“Tea or a soda and something to eat then?”

Darla nodded, looking at Joyce’s graceful neck. “That would be lovely.”

Joyce started rummaging through the fridge, taking and absentminded look into the bakery box Simon had added to the kitchen. The man’s penchant for fresh baked goods was going to make her fat, she knew. She noted the cheese Cloche had rather less under it than it should. Willow’s penchant for Cheddar and Gouda led to interesting campaigns in which the girl did her utmost to gain her favourite snack.  “Let's see what we have. Do you feel like something little or something big?”

Darla grinned at the back of the oblivious woman, her face changing as her demonic form took over.

“Something big!”

The ensouled vampire looked with trepidation at the front of the house he had left so precipitously the day before. He could see the lights were on; its warmth was leaking from the windows and from around the tarpaulins hung over the back and sides of the house. He really ought to talk to Buffy…and her parents, or whatever function the man filled in her life. He was about to knock; then withdrew his hand. What would his reception be? How would they treat him? He’d jumped out of the window after kissing the eldest daughter of the house… In his own youth either her brother or father would have called him out. Or merely have had him beaten up severely.

He stood, wondering and wavering and finally sighed, not that it helped, but it was odd how such human habits remained, and made to knock again. It was then that he heard the scream. That was Joyce…and the scream came from the kitchen. Running round the porch, he ripped open the kitchen door and came face to face with Darla, her bloody fangs making a sucking noise as they withdrew from the elegant white neck of Buffy’s mother.

Angel’s anger flared. This was a woman who thought he was going to molest her daughter and yet had told him to eat more, let him sleep in her house, had lent him her books and even recommended some. Angel realized quite suddenly he liked Joyce Summers, and respected her for the love and devotion to her daughters and yes, for the protectiveness she showed towards all her children. He could not let her be killed, not even by his sire. He snarled at the platinum blonde. “Let her go!”

Darla smiled at him, her blood-stained teeth setting him on edge as much as Joyce’s fluttering lashes as unconsciousness took her.  “I just had a little, there's plenty more. And it’s lovely, full of life, tingling, much better than that cold swill that you heat” The blonde licked obscenely at the neck before her, swallowing the blood that ran from Joyce’s neck.  “Aren't you hungry for something warm after all this time? Come on, Angel. Just say 'Yes'!”

She shoved Joyce into Angel's arms, the smell of her blood mixed with her vanilla perfume soared into his nostrils and he could see the blood coming from the puncture wounds in her throat, pumped out by the working of her own heart. He tired to look away, swallowing heavily, looked away from Darla. *I-I can’t, oh god…* The demon took over. He looked at Darla his demon face snarling at her. She smiled at him.

“Welcome home!”

The older vampire rose smoothly, walking around him, trailing her fingers through his hair and over his shoulder. She left the kitchen through the porch door and threw him a mocking salute.  “Be seein’ ya!”

Angel continued to struggle against the demon within him. He’d lived too long on the edge and his control was bad, his demon just beneath the surface, barely chained by his conscience and his soul.

He heard a door open and close and the sound of footsteps coming towards the kitchen. Buffy was calling out to her mother as she crossed the dining room towards the kitchen.

“Mom! I'm home. Xand’s bike broke down and he was wondering if you could pick him and Wills up while they’re walking…”

Buffy froze as she took in the scene before her, the vampire holding her fallen mother who looked far too pale. The growling vampire whose long, wicked fangs were bared.

Angel shied away from Joyce’s body just as Buffy foot connected with his chin, her body twisting over him in a long jump to get between him and the kitchen door, denying him a swift exit. He slipped by her, under her rising leg, back towards the kitchen door that led into the hall and he backed off as she punched him in the stomach and then in the face as he doubled over at the sheer force of the blow, then was struck back as she hit his chin, flying through the open door into the dining room and kicked again, staggering further inwards, taking in the fury on her face and felt her massive strength lifting him of the ground as another kick slammed into his already aching ribs. He felt the glass and wood breaking and flew out through the dining room window.

He staggered upwards, looking over his shoulder, seeing the enraged face of Buffy and the astonished one of Dawn.

“You're not welcome here. You come near us and I'll kill you.”

Angel looked at the girls in silence before slipping away into the darkness.

Buffy ran back to the kitchen, followed by Dawn. Grabbing the phone on her way Buffy knelt by her mother, dialling 911.

Dawn was staring in wide eyed horror at her mother as Buffy placed gentle fingers on her mother’s neck to feel her pulse. “Mom! Mom, can you hear me?!” Dawn could see Buffy relax just a tiny fraction when her sister realized there was a pulse and then Buffy almost shouted into the phone as the operator answered. “Yes, I need an ambulance, 1630 Revello Drive! My mother cut herself; she lost a lot of blood! Please, please hurry!” She dropped the phone; her hand going to her mother’s and held onto it for dear life while Dawn stood stock still and pale, silent tears of terrible fear running down her face. “Mom!”

There were voices coming from the porch. “You know Xand, I could really do with a bit of cheddar.”

An indulgent chuckle. “You can always do with a bit of Cheddar Wills…”

Xander’s voice came through the kitchen door. “Hey, Buffy!”

Buffy looked up to see Xander and Willow enter through the door. She noted absentmindedly that Xander’s hands were covered in black grime, the result of his failed attempt to fix his bike.

Xander’s eyes widened and his face paled. Willow stumbled around him wide eyed and in shock, falling down on her knees beside Joyce, facing Buffy. Xander was the first to speak. “Oh my God!”

Willow reached out a trembling hand to the pale face of the woman on the floor. “M-Mom? Buffy?  What happened?!”

Buffy snarled in anger and frustration. ”Angel!”

Willow shook herself. “Dawnie? I need the kitchen towel! And the first aid kit. Xander, Dad’s emergency bag is in the living room. Get it!” Xander took of stumbling in his haste and Dawn grabbed the dishtowel from its place beside the fridge, threw it at Willow and ran to the first aid kit, getting there before Buffy had a chance to get up. She set it down next to Joyce and then fell down on her knees, biting her fist. “Mommy? Mommy? Please? Wake up?” Buffy put her arm around her youngest sister and pulled her close, both of them watching as Willow staunched the last of the bleeding and tied a rough bandage around Joyce’s throat.

Xander ran back into the kitchen, carrying a black leather case in his one hand and his phone at his ear. “Dad? Angel attacked Mom, were going to take her to the hospital. I’ll put Willow on, she did the first aid.”

Buffy shook herself. “I called 911. They should be here pretty soon.”

He handed Willow the phone and the redhead spoke in a clear, if slightly tremulous voice as on the other side of the line Simon calmly questioned her.

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An ancient Citroen pulled up next to a black jeep in the parking lot, an old Volvo next to the jeep and a black BMW with tinted windows. Two men in jeans and t shirts stood beside it, their sports jackets not quite covering the holstered hand guns. Giles blinked at them in confusion before running into the hospital, striding quickly inside, consulting the hastily scribbled note in his hand and running, stumblingly through the depressing green corridors. He found the elevators and took the one that was opening and rushed out on the second floor and to the room number, hearing the voices.

There were two more men, dangerous looking men, with hand guns standing in front of the door. They stepped forward to block his passage. A third man, one he had not noticed, suddenly stood too close behind him. “This room is open only to the family.” The voice was British, Northern.

Giles swallowed slightly when he recognized the tattoo of the winged sword of the S.A.S. on the wrist of the man behind him. The Watcher did not doubt that the bearer had earned it.

“I’m Rupert Giles…”

The man stepped back and the two by the door stepped aside, all in one smooth, oiled motion. “Our apologies, Dr. Giles. You are expected.” His voice was still polite, but possibly even colder than before. Not reassuring at all. One of the younger men opened the door and Giles entered, a backwards glance showing him a spare, ascetic face on the trim body of a man in his early forties, a body like a well honed sword, smiling at him politely. He shuddered and entered the room.

He heard Buffy talking as he came in.

“Do you remember anything, Mom?”

It was a strange scene inside the room. It was a private apartment, large and airy and a single large bed was set against the wall. A couch and another bed were set nearer to the window. Joyce was lying against a pillow set against Simon’s chest, a white bandage around her neck and a hospital gown on. Buffy was holding her left hand and Dawn was lying, sleeping on the bed, her head on her mother’s breast, Simon’s hand stroking the youngest Summers’ girl’s hair softly. Xander and Willow were on her other side, Willow holding on to the injured woman’s hand as if her life depended on it.

Joyce looked a little vague. “Just, um, your friend came over... I was gonna make a snack...”

Buffy took a deep breath. “My friend?”

Giles stood at the door, hesitating. Xander reached out his hand and touched Joyce’s arm. He spoke, his voice gentle, with an apologetic look at Buffy. “Angel?”

Joyce’s face showed a little sadness, “No, the shy little blonde… the one who was going to help you with history?” She looked at Buffy with a pensive expression. “Is she an Angel type friend? I didn’t think you’d be into the catholic schoolgirl thing… Not that there’s anything wrong with the Catholic schoolgirl thing, I think…”

Before Joyce could continue Simon put a hand over her mouth. “I think the sedatives are still working.” He smiled at the blushing Buffy while Willow and Xander grinned.

Simon took a breath. “Not Angel.”

Buffy looked confused, Xander looked thoughtful. Willow and Dawn were both ignoring the conversation, Dawn since she was asleep and Willow because she was focused completely on Joyce’s face. Joyce’s eyes were closed and she seemed to be dozing.

Suddenly her eyes opened and she spoke in a wavery voice. “I guess I slipped and cut my neck on... The doctor said it looked like a barbecue fork.” She gave Simon a look. “You bought a barbeque didn’t you? You’re going to go all primal?  I like it when you go all primal.”

She gave Buffy a look. Talking around the hand that had been clamped over her mouth by her flushed boyfriend she continued in a dreamy voice. All three teens were torn between groaning and grinning and Giles had opted for the latter. “We never used t’own a barbeque. So we didn't have a barbecue fork.” She gave Giles a look.“Are you another doctor?”

Buffy turned around and saw Giles. Shaking herself and wondering exactly what they had her mother on, she turned back to Joyce. “Oh! Um... No, Mom, this is Mr. Giles.”

Joyce smiled. “Oh, the librarian from your school!” She looked coyly at Simon. “He has a book about your family you know. I got another one too… You have some very naughty ancestors.” She fluttered her lashes at him seductively, making him blush and Buffy and the others groaned again. The noise drew Joyce’s attention back to her, frowning a bit. “So what's he doing here? I understand older men are fascinating, but aren’t there rules against that sort of thing?”

Giles could feel himself turn red from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. *There may have been certain…instances in the past of Watcher-Slayer relationships…but good grief, what do they have her on?*   “Uh, I-I just came to pay my respects, wish you a speedy recovery.”

Joyce gave him a look. “Boy, the teachers really do care in this town.” She gave Giles and Buffy and then Willow a pointed glare. Willow’s blush was the fiercest and Joyce blinked. “Oh, different daughter.” She squeezed Buffy’s hand. “Sorry.” She glared at Giles, or at least tried to. “You keep your hands to yourself mister; she’s much too young and innocent for the likes of you, Walks-with-darkness.” 

 

Buffy and Xander blinked and gawped between the redhead and the watcher and Willow and Giles were both blushing and stammering. Joyce yawned. “Boy I’m tired.”

Buffy nodded, torn between amusement and mortification. “Get some rest now.”

Buffy kissed her mother and Xander and Willow did the same, Joyce smiling at them with half hooded eyes. Xander lifted the exhaustedly sleeping Dawn and laid her carefully on the bed. Willow had turned back the sheets and he slipped her between them with great care after Willow had taken off Dawn’s sneakers. Dawn whimpered her hand searching for something as Willow covered her gently.

“She needs Buttons or Mom to sleep.” Buffy said it absentmindedly.

Willow nodded, still red and deeply embarrassed; reaching into a bag she carried that held some clothing for Joyce. “I brought Buttons… I thought Dawnie might want to stay here.” She left unspoken that it was unlikely she would be leaving either. The presence of Fluffles the bear in the bag made that pretty clear. She fished out the disreputable stuffed monkey that Dawn curled up with every night and placed it gently in her arms.

Joyce smiled. “You’re a good sister.” She smiled brilliantly at Xander. “And you’re a good brother.” Then she mock scowled at him and growled.

“But no more Twinkie eating tricks.”  She then snuggled into Simon with a happy little noise and began to snore lightly.

Willow looked at the sleeping woman, and let out a breath.“Good God…what do they have her on?”

Simon snorted. “Mild anaesthesia combined with a concussion and blood loss. Remind me never to allow that ever again by the way.”

He muttered some words which only Buffy heard. *Stoned als een garnaal? What the hell is a garnaal?*  Buffy wondered.

There was a chorus of fervent ‘yeses’ and Giles got out his glasses and polishing cloth, looking at the two teen girls with acute embarrassment.

Buffy swallowed, looking at her mother. Willow sat down on the bed by Dawn, running a hand over her head and giving her a light kiss. Xander leaned forward and did the same.

Simon very carefully slipped out from under Joyce and moved her down to lie on the pillow. She sighed and her hands searched for something, her face finally settling into a little frown. “Sime? Wan’ cuddles.” Simon leaned forward and kissed her lips, “Later Joy, I’ve to go work.’

“’Kay.” Joyce snuggled into her pillow, sighed again and fell into a deeper sleep.

Giles cleared his throat. “And the prognosis?”

Buffy nodded at Giles. “She's gonna be okay. Mild concussion. They, they gave her some iron... Her, uh, blood count was a, a little...”

Giles took in the family scene and smiled, hiding the fact by putting his glasses back on.  “...a little low. It presents itself like mild anaemia. Uh, you, you were, uh, lucky you got to her as soon as you did.”

Buffy snorted. “Lucky? Stupid.”

Xander spoke up. “Buff, it's not your fault.”

Buffy laughed bitterly. “Yes it is. It’s all my fault, if I wasn’t the Slayer.”

Willow was suddenly hugging Buffy fiercely.

“No, never. Mom wouldn’t want you to think that. It’s not your fault.”

“I should leave…Giles and me…we should leave…”

Now Simon and Xander were holding her as well. Xander hugging her and Willow, Simon all three of them. 

“I don’t want you to die as well…”

Simon sighed. “Buffy… do you really think your mother would feel better if you left? Do you really think, that even with all that is going on, she would not rather know, and have you close and offer what support she can? And if a time comes…she would not want to know how, where and when?”

Buffy started to tremble and then cry, whispering softly, over and over to herself. “I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die.”

Simon groaned and drew her close. “Buffy…I’m so sorry.”

“No...No it’s alright.”

“No it isn’t, it’s the greatest wrong on earth. And I spoke without thinking.”

Buffy’s eyes were ringed with black circles as her mascara ran and streams of make up wet and sticky marred her fair skin. “You’re not going to talk about my destiny? Responsibility? The Chosen One?”

Simon glared at Giles who flinched. “No. Old men in offices in London can speak about that to salve their conscience. All I can think of is that I would love to rock and sing your children to sleep as you grow old beside someone you love.”

Buffy’s tears and sobs were no longer soft and restrained but a full bore passionate storm of grief and fear and she felt herself drawn into the immaculate linen depths of Simon’s chest, Willow and Xander backing away slightly, hands anxiously touching her shoulders as she felt Simon’s hands on her, one rubbing her back, the other petting her hair as he whispered such words of comfort at her as he could offer. She sobbed into his chest hard.

“It’s not fair! It’s not fair! It’s not fair!”

“No. Children should be born healthy and live long and wonderful lives, safe and away from danger, grow into adults, have children of their own if they want them, and die old and fulfilled.”

His voice was sad but steady. Willow looked at the two with anguish. Never had the mortality of the Slayer and the abject fear Buffy held in her heart been so clear to her.

“Mom…”

“Buffy…nothing that happened tonight is your fault…if Angel had not been close your mother would be dead. Whatever vampire gained entry would have killed her if he had not interrupted.”

Buffy sobbed again. “What do I do?”

We tell her, and show her.”

Buffy stiffened in his arms. “Nononononono! Please, no, she’ll send me away…”

Simon put a finger to her lips, shutting of her frantic words and then tilting her head to make her eyes meet his. “Will not happen. We show her a vampire, you stake it. Heaven knows this place has enough of them. You have a fledgling watch every other night or so. I show her my magic. We tell her everything.”

Buffy buried her face in his jacket and shivered, before asking in a tiny voice. “And what if she kicks us both out?”

Simon took a deep breath. “Then we will be together. If she abandons you…and I doubt that she will…I will not.”

Buffy sighed, shaking herself, taking control. “First I need to find whoever did this. Suggestions?”

Giles cleared his throat. “The description will match many vampires, so I w-would suggest you start with asking Angel. He however, has the umm nasty habit of only showing up and being uh difficult to find.”

 Buffy nodded. “The Three found me near the Bronze and so did he. He lives nearby… I’ll have a bit of a wander and a feel.”

Simon smirked. “Do you really think now is the best time?”

Buffy groaned, thumping her forehead into his chest. “Parents are not supposed to say things like that!” Willow giggled and Xander groaned.

Simon shrugged. “I’m new at it. It’s a good plan, if my opinion is worth anything.” Buffy grinned up at him and withdrew from his arms. Willow took a towel from a cabinet and Buffy washed her face at the small sink in the little bathroom, accepting the towel with a smile.

Willow gave her an apologetic look. “W-we wouldn’t be much use, would we?”

Buffy nodded. “You’d most likely get in the way…I’m not really happy to have you along when Mom…” She looked at the sleeping form of her mother.

Willow nodded and stepped towards the bed, biting her lip. “D-Do you mind if we stay? Xander and me I mean.”

Buffy smiled. “I think Mom would be very disappointed if you didn’t.” She winced. “I’d hate to explain to her where I went once she woke up…”

Xander put a hand on her shoulder. “We will, if we have to…Just be careful, ok little sister?”

Buffy nodded at him and he drew her into his arms for a Moment or two before she went towards the door.

Giles stepped up to her as she was leaving; he’d been standing near the door thinking.  “There was no dust?”

Buffy thought about what he meant and then shook her head. “No, nothing.”

“That means she lives, if you get my meaning. And that means Angel could not, or would not destroy her.” He paused, and then sighed. “The journals provided by Dr. Meier and those of the Watchers describe Angelus’ sire Darla as a very pretty young blonde… She would be about four hundred years old now. The oldest of the Master’s living Childer… Almost as old and as powerful as the one you slew during the Harvest, who was apparently called Luke. But a lot more clever. I think this is gonna take more than a simple stake.”

Buffy nodded slowly in agreement. “So do I. Time to break out the crossbow.”

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Darla was in his quarters when Angel returned from his vigil outside the hospital. Joyce was recovering and Buffy would be coming for him. This…situation would be difficult to explain. The blonde vampire rose gracefully from his couch. “She's out hunting you right now. She wants to kill you. Can’t imagine why…”

Angel glared at her, face rigid with anger and hate and the indefinable emotions that made up the bond between Sire and Childe. “Leave me alone.”

Darla let out a gentle laugh, so incongruous to someone who knew the evils she had done.” What did you think? Did you think she would understand? That she would look at your face... your true face... and give you a kiss?” She grinned at the sadness on his face. He was her Childe. Others might think his face a marble statue; she knew every one of his moods, even now, with his… soul.

Darla continued, her voice soft and seductive and yet scathing. “For a hundred years you've not had a Moment's peace because you will no accept who you are. That's all you have to do. Accept it. Don't let her hunt you down. Don't whimper and mewl like a mangy human. Kill! Feed! Live!”

Angel snarled at her, pushed to the limit. Jumping up quickly he forced her back against the wall, her arms pinioned above her head. He noted that there was a tinge of arousal in her scent and another of fear. He smirked inwardly, she was not that sure of herself and…sadness? Why would Darla feel sadness? He ignored the mystery.

“Alright!”

Darla pouted at him and breathily spoke. “How forcefully masculine. What do you want?”

“I want it finished!”

“That's good. You're hurting me.” She smiled. “That's good, too. It’s been a while…”

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Giles looked around the room, taking in the scene and wondering what he was still doing here. His duty was to his slayer and she was outside, hunting. Neither of her young assistants was in any shape to help her. He momentarily wondered at the speed with which they had bonded with Buffy’s mother, and to a lesser degree, Joyce’s lover. But their emotional states made them more a liability than an asset at the Moment. Not to mention the fact they were both sleeping. The only other person really awake was seated on an uncomfortable hospital chair, elbows on his knees, both hands folded in front of his mouth and was gazing thoughtfully at the bed that held Joyce Summers.

Giles rose from his own seat and walked to the older man, knowing that for understandable reasons that man did not trust the Watcher’s Council. And that he needed to convince him he was no threat to the girl he apparently wanted to make his stepdaughter at the earliest opportunity. “Do you trust me to go help her?”

Simon gave him a measuring look, finally removing his hands. “I think you’ve realised that Buffy is a Chosen Champion, to be supported, not used…Not a weapon. A force for good, who can achieve much if she gets the help she needs. But she is still only a girl, alone and afraid and anxious.”

He shook his head. “I’m far too emotional right now for my magic to be of use to her, and I’m too old to get into fist fights with vamps.” He gave Giles smirking smile. “So that leaves it to the slightly younger generation.” His gaze rested on Dawn, asleep on the spare bed, Xander in a chair beside her, dozing. Willow was sitting next to Joyce, her head resting on the mattress next to the woman she had adopted as a mother. Joyce’s hand had somehow moved in her sleep and was resting on Willow’s head.

“The youngest generation will stay here. They’d be of little use in their present condition.” He gave Giles a weary look, which the younger man understood perfectly.

“Too emotional.” Suddenly curiosity overcame the Watcher. “H-has that ever?”

“Happened to me before? No…I’ve never allowed myself to get this emotionally invested…If I saw Buffy…in danger, after Joyce, and trying to cast on a Hellmouth…I’ve no desire to be Sunnydale’s Darth Vader.” He took a deep breath. “But she’ll need back up.”

Giles nodded. “Even if only a distraction. I’ll go.”

“Giles…my guards outside, by the car. Ask them for a number one bag.”

Giles nodded and swiftly left.

I was wondering if I got the children’s reaction down well. What do you think? Chapter cuts off just before the action… I know, I’m awful.

Below is the Silly version of the Author’s note…I don’t know who I was channelling, but I think it has to do with a private review from Roth which has me all happy.

I hope I made it sufficiently clear that Simon only got to Buffy because she was overconfident and he had experience sparring with a previous Slayer. This is one Reason (note upper case R) Simon is from New York. Simon is not supernaturally fast, or strong, or even exceptionally good at martial arts. (Marital arts however… ehem. Focus)  He does have years of experience, (Indeed he does…argh, focus) he is older after all, but age is slowing him down. ( I hadn’t noticed…) He’s as good as years of training and a modicum of talent can make him, (More than a modicum…) but he is not championship material. (Only because there are no championships for that…) 

 

 
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