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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)vidiconFR1598780,1331571484390,77828 May 115 Jul 14No

Catfights and confessions

Author’s note:

Kindly read and review: Are the characters in character? And is the action acceptable? My apologies for the large amount of material taken from the episode.

For reasons I hope to make clear at a later time I felt it necessary to use so much of it. I hope you enjoy reading it nonetheless.

Chapter 19: Catfights and confessions

The Bronze was dark and silent as Buffy stood contemplating it, crossbow at the ready. A hole in the fence gave her entry and moves towards the closed metal door. The sound of glass breaking got her attention and she snorted at the obvious trap. But an obvious trap might be used to turn the tables. She had noted the ladder, the fire escape, on previous outings. Shrugging she climbed the rusted and creaking steps one handed, still hefting her crossbow.

Buffy looked at the darkness.  “I know you're there. And I know what you are.”

Angel winced. ”Do you?”

She faced his voice. Lifting an eyebrow ever so slightly…and winking?

Angel wondered at that, but the fear was still there. “I’m just an animal, right?”


Buffy grimaced. “You're not an animal. Animals I like.” She mouthed at him. “Work with me.” And suddenly he understood: she knew. She knew he was a vampire and she was willing to listen to him. And she was going to kill Darla. Not that he could blame her really.

Buffy kept looking around cautiously and Angel realised she knew Darla was here as well, just like he could feel his Sire, Buffy could feel the dark power wafting of the older vampire. He growled and stalked out of the shadows to face her. She trained the crossbow on him.

Angel growled. “Let’s get it done!”

He ran, letting the demon come to the fore, jumping onto a pool table, feeling the crossbow as it tracked him; saw the slight waver as she made sure to miss him. A fierce grin and jump onto the catwalk above. He knew she was not practiced enough with her Slayer abilities to see into the shadows here. He smirked. *Well I do have to make this look good for Darla…*

Swinging down he kicked her in the back, forcing her into the pool table, but she was fast and probably expecting something like this because she kicked him in the chest, a neatly executed standing back kick and he flew into the wall with a thud.

Her position and move did give him a very nice view however. He shook himself and rose, as she ran around the table to pick up the crossbow his kick had made her drop, rolling down towards and grabbing a bolt while drawing back the string in one fluid motion. She was holding it when he closed in on her, growling at the discomfort in his back and chest, but noting, with a twinge of anxiety, she favoured her own back.

It was still dark in the Bronze. Angel stood towering over her prone slim form in game face, Buffy was lying on her back with her crossbow trained on him. Angel morphed back into his human form.

Angel smiled. ”C'mon! Don't go soft on me now! This is a beautiful Mexican stand off.”

Buffy launched the bolt. It flew just past his ear to strike the wall next to him.

Angel did not even blink. “Little wide. You need to practice with that… if you get the time.”

Buffy winced inwardly, that remark had hit a little too close to home. ”Why?”

She rolled to her feet, fast enough he could not take advantage of the situation. “Why didn't you just attack me when you had the chance? Was it a joke? To make me feel for you and then... I've killed a lot of vampires. I've never hated one before.” The way she said hated made it clear to him that hate might not be what she was feeling.

Angel tried to hide the hope in his voice. “Feels good, doesn't it? Feels simple.”

Buffy rolled her eyes, happy in the knowledge that no one could see enough in the darkness to see that, not even a vampire. *Simple…yeah right.* “I invited you into my home and then you attacked my family!”

Angel eyed, wondering how he should reply. *How much did she know about him? He’d realised a few hours ago exactly who he’d faced in that basement room the night he stayed over, so she probably knew everything. He almost cringed in embarrassment again at the memory. And lying about it might warn Darla…The truth…however painful, had to be told.*

“Why not? I killed mine. I killed their friends... and their friend's children... For a hundred years I offered ugly death to everyone I met, and I did it with a song in my heart.”

Buffy almost sniggered at the last part of that sentence, though she could feel histerrible guilt and anguish at his words.  “What changed?”

Angel gave her a thoughtful look. “Fed on a girl about your age... beautiful... dumb as a post... but a favorite among her clan.”

Buffy tried to keep her irritation in check. *Beautiful but dumb as a post…we’ll have words later mister! Male chauvinist pig! HEY! Did he mean me?*  “Her clan?”

Angel nodded. ”Romany. Gypsies. The elders conjured the perfect punishment for me. They restored my soul.”

“What, they were all out of boils and blinding torment?”

“When you become a vampire the demon takes your body, but it doesn't get your soul. That's gone! No conscience, no remorse... It's an easy way to live. You have no idea what it's like to have done the things I've done... and to care. I haven't fed on a living human being since that day.” *Do not mention that you went back and slaughtered her clan even with your soul…won’t go down well even if it might be put down under extenuating circumstances of being insane.*

Buffy gave a ladylike snort. “So you started with my Mom? And then you were going to have my baby sister for desert?”

Angel smiled. He felt Darla quite clearly now and was certain Buffy did the same. ”I didn't bite her. Nor so-not-a baby sister.”

Buffy smiled back despite the seriousness of the situation and the crawling feeling of an old vampire at her back. “Then why didn't you say something?”

Angel noted Darla moving closer and sighed. More truth clad in half truths. ”But I wanted to. I can walk like a man, but I'm not one. I wanted to kill you tonight.”*Part or me. The part that wants to have you forever; the demon. To give you the Vampire’s kiss. The man...the man will settle for the kiss. Hell, I’ll settle for a hug.*

Buffy looked at her bow and back at Angel. She put the bow down on the floor and walked towards him, hips swaying slightly more than when she normally walked. She tilted her head with the slightest of smiles, exposing her slender neck, moving away a stray wisp of hair that clung to it.

“Go ahead. Have a nibble.”

Angel looked at her, stock still and frozen. Only a hundred years of experience kept his mouth from hanging open like a boy seeing his first real naked woman. He’d have to explain to her… one day, very carefully, just how much a Slayer, the girl… woman… he had feelings for,  offering him her neck excited him even if he was not going to drink from her… it was one of the most erotic things he had ever experienced. He kept silent, not trusting his voice to work.

Buffy smiled at him almost coquettishly. “Not as easy as it looks, hmmm?”

And then she was there, blonde, tiny and svelte. “Sure it is!” Darla stepped out of the shadows “Do you know what the saddest thing in the world is?”

Buffy looked critically at the older vamp. “Bad hair on top of that outfit? Oh, oops, you got that one down.”

Darla scowled. “To love someone who used to love you.”

Buffy looked a bit sick. ”You guys were involved? Eeeew… I thought she was like your mom!”

Darla blinked, surprised. “For several generations. How do you know I’m Angelus’ Sire?”

Buffy looked at her fingernails, buffing them and looked at the vampire. “Well, you been around since Columbus, you are bound to pile up a few ex's. You're a lot older than him, right? Just between us girls, you are looking a little worn around the edges. And as for how I know, that’s for me to know and you to guess.”

Darla smiled gently at Angel. “There was a time when we shared everything, wasn't there Angelus? You had a chance to come home, to rule with me in the Master's court for a thousand years, but you threw that away because of her. You love someone who hates us. You're sick. And you'll always be sick. And you'll always remember what it was like to watch her die.” She turned her smile to Buffy and now it was feral. “You don't think I came alone, do you?”

Buffy grinned back, almost as feral as Darla. “I know I didn't.” Kicking the bow into her hands she immediately brought it to bear on Darla.

Darla looked unimpressed. “Hmm, scary.”

With a swift movement of both hands she brought forth two pistols from behind her back, almost like it was a magician’s trick. She grinned wickedly at Buffy. “Scarier!”

Her hand moved slightly and her finger curled lovingly around the trigger. A bullet struck Angel, driving him staggering back onto a post.

Darla smirked at Buffy’s reaction. “Oh, don't worry. Bullets can't kill vampires. Can hurt them like hell, but... “She giggled. “You know after I kill you I think I’ll ask the Master if I can turn your Mom. I’m starting to think she’d make a great vampire…Can you imagine? All that empathy turned to evil?”

Buffy retreated, her face a mask of shock. Darla’s guns fired and Buffy sought cover by doing a shoulder roll over one of the pool tables.

Giles cursed as he heard the shots. He reached into his overcoat and came up with the .45 Magnum that had been in the amazingly well prepared Number one bag. Six wooden stakes, three litres of holy water, a quantity of powdered iron and three crucifixes of different size as well as a hand gun with several types of ammunition including silver, blessed and normal. It was a kit that made him grin and wonder exactly what those bodyguards were supposed to guard against. He shook himself and carefully but quickly went looking for a way into the darkened building.

Darla moved in on Buffy’s position. “So many body parts, so few bullets. Let's begin with the kneecaps. No fun dancing without them.”

She fired off a few more rounds, and the pool table showed the effects. From his position near the wall Angel noted she was a lousy shot. Darla had never needed guns before.

It must take considerable will power to do so, most vampires felt an incredible urge to get up close and personal with their enemies getting into melee with them as soon as possible. He smiled as Buffy rose up from behind the table and fired her crossbow. The bolt missed Darla’s heart, heavily striking her abdomen, forcing Darla to bend double at the shock of the impact. Buffy watched, reloading her crossbow as Darla straightened up.

Darla grinned viciously. “Close, but no heart. You know, for that, I’m going to take all your little family to meet the Master. I’m sure he’ll just love Little Dawnie, he has a particular fondness for children. He likes to play with them for ever and ever…” Grabbing the bolt with some difficulty while holding her gun she drew it out and tossed it aside. She noted Buffy’s whitened grip on her crossbow, saw the strain on the girl’s face.

“And then there’s Willow… Master will love Willow, he likes them clever. And she’s ever so pretty too. I’m sure she’ll squeal nicely.” Her maddeningly cheerful voice was apparently getting to Buffy.

“And I’m sure Xander‘ll need hardly any training at all before he’ll be all submissive…”

Buffy growled.

Giles crawled along the floor, bottle in hand and took up position on one knee, taking careful aim. He let fly. A sudden move from Darla made the small vial strike the vampire’s arm, not her head. Darla screamed and smoke rose from her as the blessed water burned her undead flesh.

Darla turned towards him and let loose a hail of bullets. Giles managed to duck behind another pool table but noted that he really did not care for the feeling of getting shot at. Darla turned away from him, jumped onto the pool table, once more going after Buffy.

Giles cursed. The thin glass vials had broken in his coat pockets during his dive behind the table and he had no safe way left to engage the vamp. The vampire started firing, Buffy reacted immediately, jumping up and pulling the table towards her, unbalancing the demon and knocking her on her back. Immediately pushing the table away again brought Darla down again, allowing Buffy to leap up high and over a glass cabinet in a dive roll, the glass shattering as she landed and Darla fired from her recumbent position. She rose immediately as the table stopped moving heading towards the bar where Buffy had sought refuge.

Angel carefully removed the bolt Buffy had fired at him from the wall, making certain the wooden shaft remained whole. Eying the fighting women he awaited his chance.

Giles had carefully moved to the light system and had managed to understand enough of it from his misspent youth that he turned on the strobes. Darla stopped her shooting and looked at him. Giles scurried back to the questionable security of the pool table. Buffy took the chance to take up a safer position behind the bar. Darla, spotting the move, fired another volley.

Darla sneered. “C'mon, Buffy. Take it like a man!”

Buffy shouted from behind the bar. “Sorry, I think that’s more your thing.”

“What can I say? I’m kinky that way.” Darla made a dive roll to the open end of the bar, rising fluidly, catching Buffy just as she was trying to tear a wooden rail to create a stake. She shot a bullet into the floor and Buffy dodged, barely, splinters striking her. The slayer lay on her back, eyes wide and breath shallow with fear. Darla aimed both her guns at Buffy and smiled again. “I’m really going to enjoy your family. I like your Mom already.”

Buffy twisted as Angel came up behind Darla, roaring, plunging the bolt into her back. The older vampire staggered and cried out in pain, turning to look back at her attacker, her eyes widening as she recognized him. “Angel?”

Falling to her knees, hands moving to the bolt Buffy saw tears coming from her eyes and to her shock a single word formed soundlessly on the old vampire’s lips. “Mommy.” With a quiet whisper she fell into dust, leaving Buffy to stare into the cold, hard face of Angel. She rose unsteadily, knees wobbling, seeing the vampire study the ashes before him and then look up at her for a few Moments, before turning away and walking out. Buffy, speechless, watched him go.

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Joyce was still sleeping when Buffy came back to the hospital, driven there by Giles in his ancient, creaking Citroën. She smiled as she came into the room. Simon was sitting like a statue, watching her mother and Willow who had curled up next to Joyce on the bed, fluffiest held against her. Xander was sleeping a touch fitfully on a chair next to Dawn. Dawn was holding his hand and Buttons the monkey.

Simon rose, stiffly, walking towards her on his socks, enveloping her in a hug. She hadn’t realised how much she missed being hugged by an adult male, by a father until the first time he had done that.

“Is it done?”

“Angel did it. It was Darla.”

Simon stiffened. “Good lord.”

Buffy smiled into his shirt. “You channelling Giles?”

“I will have you know I was Good Lording when Giles was still in diapers.”

Giles coughed from the doorway. “You’re not that old.”

“I was born old. Buffy…what are your feelings towards him?”

“Wha?” Buffy stiffened in his arms.

Simon gently pushed her away a bit so he could look her in the eye, but she tried to avoid his and he had to use a finger to get her to look up. “Buffy… he killed his Sire for you. That…that is an incredible sacrifice for a Vampire. Almost more than a human can understand. It is as if he killed his father and mother and entire family and erased his history. The bond between Childe and Sire is… Intense.”

“Well he slept with her.” Buffy said it with a jealous undertone.

“Angelus did, not Angel, not Liam, at least not as he is now. If he was willing to do that to save you Buffy…that is proof of deep affection to say the least.”

Buffy swallowed. “Oh…so what do I do?”

“Well, we wait until your mother is awake and home…then we tell her…and then we try to explain the fact the Slayer may have a thing for a Master Vampire with a Soul. And he for her.”

Buffy looked up at him. “Y- you’ll support me?”

Simon gave a rueful grin. “Buffy… there’s a note in my grandmother’s diary about him changing my diaper, feeding and burping me. I think that somewhere there is a picture of him playing with a nest of kittens.” Then his smile grew malicious. “And of course there’s the fact how he single-handedly kept down Chicago’s rat population…”

Buffy looked confused. “Rat population? What?” Her face scrunched up as she realized what he meant. “Ohhh…..Eeeeeeew! Ewweewww. I kissed him!”

“I’m sure he brushed his teeth after eating.” Simon teased.

Buffy punched his shoulder. “Nasty man.”

“Hmm. The doctor says Joyce can be taken home tomorrow morning, but she has to take it easy for a day or two. I suggest we tell her after that.”

Buffy sighed, leaning back into him. “Yeah. Thanks.”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be there to help you…I haven’t really been in battle against vampires for a very long time…and it is dangerous for an unprepared magic user to cast on the Hellmouth.”

“You ever going to explain about magic to Wills? She’s bursting at the seams with curiosity. The whole Questor thing has her scared, but she really wants to know…”

Simon smiled. “It will be done. But again. Preparations need to be made…I can tell her more, I hope it will satisfy her curiosity.”

Buffy sighed and he felt her shiver with weariness. “There’s room next to Dawn. There’s a nightshirt in your mother’s bag.”

“But…”

“Bed young lady, but shower first.”

Buffy rolled her eyes, amused. “Yes ‘daddy’.

She got the nightshirt and took a quick shower in the tiny cubicle, washing her hair with the shampoo Willow had brought, not caring it would be a rats’ nest the next morning and then crawled into bed next to Dawn, yawning. Dawn immediately turned towards her and clung to her, taking a deep breath and seeming to calm even in her sleep.

Buffy smiled. “Hello lil’ leech.” She hugged her sleeping sister lightly and yawned again.

Simon had turned his back while she got into bed, but now he went to the bedside and tucked the blankets around the both of them, kissing their foreheads. He settled into the chair again, watching over Joyce and their children.

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The lights were on in the Bronze. Buffy noted the patches on the pool tables and the bar and the walls where the bullets had struck and repairs had been made. She was certain they were not extensive repairs. She wondered how the police had filed this. Attack by wild dogs carrying firearms? Giles had taken the guns and refused to tell her what he’d done with them. She sighed morosely as she stared at the teenagers and college students moving on the dance floor.

Xander extended his arms extravagantly. “Ah, the post-fumigation party.”

Buffy smiled, realising he was fishing for a straight line. “Okay, so what's the difference between this and the pre-fumigation party?”

Xander winked at her. “Much hardier cockroaches.” He put his foot down and there was a crunch. “And no more free drinks.” Buffy made moue of disgust.

Willow grinned at the by play and then sobered. “So, no word from Angel?”

Buffy sighed, playing with the funky funny straw in the alcohol free cocktail in front of her. “Nah. It's weird, though. In his way I feel like he's still watching me.”

Willow smiled. “Well, in a way he sort of is. In the way of that he's right over there.”

Buffy followed Willow’s gaze and Willow saw her fingers tremble as the little blonde saw the vampire watching them. Buffy looked at Willow and Willow nodded near imperceptibly. Buffy rose. Xander gently took her hand and gave her a nod. “You better tell him that bodice ripping is out…” He winked. “Gotta look out for my little sisters.”

Willow elbowed him. “Dork.”

“I prefer over-protective male chauvinist pig. OPMCP, that’s me!”

Willow and Xander followed Buffy with their eyes as she made her way to Angel, both with slightly worried expressions. Willow noted that the music playing was ‘I’ll remember you’. *I wonder if other people had appropriate sound tracks to their love life or if that’s only Buffy.* Willow sighed. *If I got a soundtrack it would be Looney Tunes. Or Reading Rainbow.*

Angel moved towards Buffy and they met by a pillar.

Angel looked her in the eye, his gaze thoughtful. ” I just wanted to see if you were okay. How’s your mother. Dawnie?”

Buffy noted his voice had a tinge of Irish, she wondered if that happened when he got upset or emotional. “We're all good. Wills and Xander too. Simon is hovering like crazy. You?”

Angel smiled wryly. “If I can go a little while without getting shot or stabbed I'll be alright. Look, this can't...”

Buffy gave him a sad little smile. “...ever be anything. I know. For one thing, you're, like, two hundred and fifty-four years older than I am.”

Angel ran a gentle finger down her cheek and she shivered. “I just gotta... I gotta walk away from this.”

Buffy nodded slowly. “I know. Me, too.”  Her head dropped a little and then whispered at him. “One of us has to go here.”

Angel whispered back, lifting her face with his finger. “I know.”

They looked at each other a Moment longer and then closed in to kiss. After a few Moments it became rather more passionate. Buffy’s hands trailed from his chest to his neck and lodged there in his hair, rubbing her thumbs across the base of his skull.

Willow smiled broadly and Xander sighed.

Xander looked around. “I think its bucket of cold water time myself.”

Willow gave him a reproving glare. “Xander! They’re just kissing!”

Xander snorted. “That’s not just kissing. That’s to kissing what a pit dug on the beech is to deep core mining. For tonsils.”

Willow rolled her eyes, but giggled in spite of herself. “Oh, you, you  OPMCP.”

Xander looked at his watch. “Bet you a drink they’ll not come up for air for two minutes.”

“Deal.”

Buffy felt like she was in heaven. Angel wasn’t cold, he felt as warm to her as a living man. She didn’t know how that could be. She did not feel a heartbeat and that was strange… but God, could he kiss. She started feeling lightheaded and Angel drew away. She gave him a dazed look out of glazed eyes. He seemed to be saying something.

“Hmmm?”

Angel smiled. “I asked if you enjoyed that.”

Buffy nodded dreamily. “Hmmm. You okay?”

Angel sighed, his hands moving down her shoulders to the small of her back, halting suddenly above the curve of her buttocks. “It was wonderful… thank you…  It's just...”

Buffy laid her head against his chest and whispered.  “...painful. I know. See you around?”

“I hope so…”

Buffy sighed, letting him go, her fingers trailing his as they parted and walked away, straightening her back as she went. Xander noted that he looked after her while Willow was concentrating on Buffy’s dreamy expression, dreamy yet with tears in her eyes. Xander nodded once to Angel, touching the base of his throat. Angel nodded back, doing up his shirt where the silver cross he had given Buffy had left a raw burn. Xander grinned at Willow who grumbled and went to get the drinks.

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Joyce Summers-Ellis was grouching. Ever since the ridiculous incident with the barbeque fork her family had been treating her as if she was made from spun glass. Right now Xander was bringing her tea. And they were all quite nervous around her.

“Buffy? Are you ever going to invite that poor girl back over? Darla?” Buffy sighed looking at Simon, who shrugged.

“Sorry Mom, she’s otherwise engaged.” Joyce sighed, sipping her tea and giving Buffy a look that clearly meant the subject would be revisited.

Simon looked at the clock and then rather pointedly at the teens around the table. There was no reaction. Joyce smiled and leaned forward. “That doesn’t work for you dear. Kids, bed.”

Buffy looked up as if to protest. “Bed, young lady.” Buffy pouted and Joyce gave her a stern look. “Save the ammo for a fight you can win and not for one without tactical or strategic importance.”

Buffy giggled. “You sound like Aunt Arlene.”

“Well she is my sister. Now, bed.” Buffy sighed and finished her tea, Willow her herbal tisane. Willow held back for a minute as the others went up.

“My parents are going to be home in a few days, they’ll be staying a week or two…” The redhead took a deep breath. “I think I –I need to spend some time with them, see how I feel… talk with them… about… you know.”

Joyce exchanged a look with Simon and reached up to touch the girl’s face. “We understand. You’re welcome here whenever you want dear.” Willow looked like she was going to say something then turned, lips trembling and left with a quavery goodnight at Simon. The adults looked at each other. Joyce sighed.

“You look a bit grouchy.”

“I feel grouchy. I’ve been cooped up for two days and whenever I move someone jumps up to ask if I need anything.”

“Want to go for a walk after you’ve tucked in the kids?”

Joyce raised an eyebrow. “Alone in the dark? You and me?”

“I can call Hurst if you wish.”

Joyce pulled her lip worriedly. “I’ve heard more stories about gangs…”

“I’ll call him.” Joyce looked at him as he called the head of his bodyguards and sighed. She’d give the girls a few minutes to get ready. Buffy had been very anxious to get tucked in last night. The fear in her daughter’s eyes had driven an even greater fear into Joyce’s heart. And she still hadn’t found the barbeque fork. She went upstairs first, checking in on Dawn who had Buttons tightly in one hand. Willow and Buffy were lying in bed and talking softly. Joyce sat down next to Willow first, tucking her and her disreputable bear in tightly, she kissed her forehead and smiled. “Only another week or two and you’ll have your own room.”

Buffy grinned. “Yeah, I’ll finally be able to sleep again, no more snoring Will.”

“I do so not snore!”

“Oh? Who else you been sleeping with who can tell you that?” Buffy winked. Joyce sighed in exasperation. “Me. A few days ago, remember?”

Buffy shut up, but was still grinning, she snaked a hand out from beneath the blankets. “I’ll miss you in here Wills.” Willow reached her own hand out and touched Buffy’s hand. “Miss you too.” Joyce sighed again and put Willow’s hand firmly under the blankets.

“Sleep!” She rose and tucked in Buffy. “You as well. Simon and I are going for a walk, don’t worry, we’ll take Hurst.” The latter remark made Buffy close the mouth she had opened.

“Okay.” Buffy winked. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

“Like passionately kissing an older man in public?” Joyce raised an amused eyebrow.

Buffy glared at Willow. “Wills!”

Joyce grinned. “Willow was discretion itself. I heard some girls at your school talking about the total eye candy salty goodness that you’d gotten ‘lippy’ with at the Bronze.” She put a finger on Buffy’s nose. “The rule still stands young lady, he gets properly introduced and he comes to dinner.”

Buffy nodded, cursing her luck. “’kay Mom.”

“Sleep well loves.”

As soon as Joyce had closed the door Buffy went and got dressed again, ready for patrol. She and Giles had, much to the Watcher’s dismay and reluctance, selected a likely grave from which a fledgling was probable to rise. Simon was going to lead her there. Giles would be present as well. She sighed.

“What’s wrong Buff?”

“I’ve got the terrible feeling my behind is going to host a party for a bare butt mambo pretty darn soon.”

Willow giggled. “Oh come on Buffy…at least you’ve got da…Simon on your side.”

“Wills...just call them ‘Mom and dad’ and be done with it, ‘kay ? And talk with them and your birth parents? ‘cause this whole mo-Ms. Summers and da-Simon thing is getting old.”

Willow blushed but grinned. “Okay.”

“If you do it soon enough Xander owes me munchies. I’ll share…”

Willow giggled. “Go you; you have a fledgling to slay.”

“Yeah well…if that was all…I wouldn’t be this nervous.”

Willow lifted herself up on one elbow. “Come here.” She hugged the blonde tightly. “Good luck.”

Buffy sighed again and climbed out of the window, following the couple walking down the street. Hurst nodded at her politely and she once again wondered at the man’s background, especially when he threw her a stake and then a small vial of holy water. She shrugged and moved ahead, sharing a look with Hurst as her mother drew Simon into the shade of a large tree. Apparently being cooped up all day made her mother crave smoochies.

She was sitting on a grave stone when the vampire rose. She swore. Now she’d have to keep it alive until her mother showed up. She hit it several times and the Fledge seemed amazed after a few minutes that it was still alive.

“Giles! Can we like tie wrap this guy? I’ll need to shower again after this.”

Giles spoke dryly from the shadows. “Won’t work I’m afraid. May I point out again this might not be the best idea?”

“I’d rather tell her than have her find out some other way Giles. And at least this way I’ll have back up.”

She saw movement out of the corner of her eye. *Well finally. The woman has no right to talk about passionate kisses with older men. Eeeewww.*

She moved the fledge around with a number of hard kicks so Joyce could see its forehead and then taking her stake, pounded it into the creature hard. The fledge broke apart in seconds. She blinked. *Why did it take Darla so long to fall apart? Do older vampires hold together better? Gotta ask Giles.*

Joyce shrank back against Simon as she saw what was happening, her little girl using fighting techniques she associated with Kung fu films on a guy… she hoped that was a mask… and then she… Joyce gagged and vomited when the vampire fell apart into dust. Simon held her hair as she knelt, trembling, by the side of a grave, the contents of her stomach coming forth until nothing was left but bile. Her eyes were wide and unfocussed on her daughter, who stood panting lightly in front of her; stake in hand, a fearful expression on her face.

“Mom?” It was the tiny frightened voice that did it. It was then that she realized this was demonstration, evidence. Everything her daughter had told her was true. The vampire slayer. Demons. She took a deep shuddering breath.

“That was a vampire?”

Buffy nodded. Simon whispered in her ear. “Yes, a newly risen one.”

She glared at him. “You knew.” She turned around and slapped him, hard, across the face. “YOU FUCKING WELL KNEW!! You let my little girl go out here at night and fight those…those things! You asshole! You…Coward!”

Simon flinched under her verbal attack more than under the physical one and Buffy gulped. He’d drawn her initial ire; she knew from experience that once she’d worked through that she would be more rational and reasonable. And feel terribly guilty. She was the same way…it was the Johnson temper.  She held her stake in both hands and called out.

“Mom…”  She snapped the stake without effort. Then she took a standing jump and landed next to her mother fifteen feet away, only bending her knees slightly.

“Vamps are much stronger than normal people…” She reached out to touch her mother’s arm imploringly.

“How did you do that?” Joyce flinched away from her daughter’s touch and Buffy’s face crumpled.

Giles stepped out of the bushes. “I can explain that Ms. Summers. In every generation a girl is born…”

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They sat at the dining room table and Joyce sipped tea, looking at the others with anger in her eyes. Rupert Giles winced as he felt his shin and thigh were he had received very hefty kicks. Simon still nursed the red mark on his cheek. Buffy had not been touched but was barely holding back her tears.

“So…a young girl is the chosen sacrifice of a bunch of old men in London to fight the forces of Darkness?” She said it sarcastically, looking at Giles.

The Watcher sat well out of reach of the woman, having developed a healthy respect for her strength and aim. Only the timely intervention of Buffy had saved him from having an ice bag in his groin rather than on his thigh.

“The Watchers’ Council does not choose the Slayer; w-we uh do not know how the uh succession of the power works.”

“No…you merely guide her to her death. How long does the usual Slayer live again?” She reached out a hand as Buffy’s lip started to tremble, grabbed her daughter’s hand firmly and pulled, drawing Buffy into her arms and onto her lap. The startled girl allowed it and snuggled happily into her mother’s shoulder.

Giles winced. “Six months…on average.”

“I see…and the longest serving?”

“Most recently… A girl named Nikki Wood. In New York in the nineteen seventies. About seven years.”

“Seven years.” Joyce’s voice was hollow.

“Demons are drawn to the Slayer…she is a magnet for them if you will, drawing them away from the general population.”

“Bait and trap in one.” Joyce’s voice was icy. “How do we stop it?”

Giles shook his head. “We can’t. Buffy is the Chosen One. She can’t not do it, the essence of the Slayer will make her seek out demons and vampires, and it craves the hunt. And they will seek her out, so not training will not help, more likely hinder, her continued survival.”

Joyce ran a hand down Buffy’s hair. “There must be something…”

Giles looked genuinely regretful. “I’m afraid not Ms. Summers.”

Joyce looked at the blonde curls she was playing with. “Can you give a reason why Nikki lived so long?”

Giles sighed. “She had a lover who helped and understood…a child to defend…a watcher who was more active than most…and allies.”

“And Buffy? What are you offering Buffy?”

“She has allies. Willow’s skills with computers…Xander’s courage. Dr. Meier’s magic and the knowledge gathered by his family. My guidance and the knowledge of the Watcher’s Council.”

Joyce looked at Simon. “Magic?”

“My family has been practitioning for generations. I’m not very powerful.”

“Can you show me?”

Simon took out a match from the box beside the candles on the table and put it down. He closed his eyes drew in a breath. Very slowly the match rose into the air. He opened his eyes and Buffy expected to see the all white glow and was frightened to see they were slightly tinged with grey. She gasped. “Simon! Stop!”

With a shudder Simon released the power and the match fell. He stumbled from the table and vomited into the waste bin. Joyce looked in astonishment. “What? Does that always happen?”

Simon wiped his mouth on his handkerchief and drew a deep breath. “No… I was not… there’s a Hellmouth located under and in Sunnydale, it perverts and corrupts the ambient magic. To those not used to it…the feeling is vile.”

Joyce tentatively reached out a hand and touched his face. “White magic. So...you’re a wizard?”

Simon shot Giles a dark look. “I wouldn’t want to call myself that. Why don’t you ask Dr. Giles here someday what happened to the Wizards.”

Giles winced. Joyce gave Simon a thoughtful look. “Can it be removed? The thing that makes Buffy a Slayer?”

Simon rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. “Not that I know.” He held up a hand. “But the only Slayer I’ve had the opportunity to study was Nikki.” He smiled reminiscently. “And she was almost as difficult to keep sitting still as Buffy.” Joyce grinned as her daughter stirred on her lap and she silenced her with a hand to her lips. Buffy grumbled but stilled.

Simon took the byplay in with a smile. “The notes from previous generations offer some insight, but not much. It might be possible, but you’d need a magic user with rather more strength than I can manage.”

Joyce hugged Buffy and looked beseechingly at Simon. “Will you try?”

Simon looked at Buffy. “If she wants me to.”

Joyce bristled. Simon held up a hand. “It is her decision. If I did it without her permission…”

Buffy grinned from her position on her mother’s lap, head lying on her shoulder. “Hello Darth Vader?”

Giles snorted at the fact that Buffy had used exactly the same words to describe a fall into dark magic as Simon had earlier. Joyce gave him a look, and then sighed. “You’re right.” She hugged Buffy again, tightly. “I’m so sorry for not believing you dear.” Buffy was the only one in the room who heard the soft whisper. She hugged her mother, being very careful not to use her Slayer strength.

 Joyce sighed again, and then gave Simon a piercing look. “Allies…you helped this Nikki?”

“Yes.”

“You’ll help Buffy?” She was pleading now. “Even with the dark magic here?”

He gave her a crooked smile. “We had this conversation about Dawn some time back.”

Buffy felt her mother stiffen and her heart beat speed. Then she whispered. “Thank you.”

Simon reached out and she took his hand. “I’m much better at magic than I was when then. And there are ways, and I’m working on them, to protect from the lures and dangers of the dark.”

Buffy felt Joyce’s giggle start before she heard it. She deadpanned at her boyfriend. “Much anger in you I sense.”

Simon groaned. “I never should have helped fund those bloody movies.”

Giles had been sipping his tea and did a spit take. Joyce’s eyes widened and Buffy gulped. Then Joyce squeaked. “You…”

“It seemed a good idea at the time. Redemption. Hope. Love.” He looked wistful.

Joyce took a deep breath, turning back to the subject in hand. “I can’t stop this can I?” Buffy took her hand and shook her head.

“I wish you could Mom.”

“So…we’ll just have to make the best of it. Keep you as safe as we can, give you what help we can.” Suddenly she stiffened again. “Buffy…these patrols of yours…when exactly do you do those?”

Buffy gulped. “Ummm…when I should be in bed?” She squirmed in her mother’s grasp, which suddenly felt like iron.

“I see. We’ll talk about that later young lady.” Buffy winced. “Mom…I don’t let anyone else come along…and yes Willow has asked. So has Xander.”

Joyce hmphed. “I see. Well I’ll expect instruction in how to deal with these creatures. Buffy…that little blonde girl…Darla…”

“She was a vampire.”

“Oh.” Buffy could feel her mother’s sadness. “She seemed so sad, so lonely, and so happy when I… never mind.”

“All that empathy…” Buffy whispered, her voice filled with fearful reminiscence.

“What was that dear?”

“Darla wanted to turn you. She said she could hardly wait to see you would be like.”

Joyce paled. “A lesson in Vampire 101 is definitely needed.”

Buffy hugged her mother. “I love you Mom. I wouldn’t know what to do without you.”

Joyce hugged her back. “I love you too dear. Now it’s time for bed. And tomorrow we work out some ground rules.”

“Ground rules?”

“The old rules one and two still remain in force dear…we may just have to adapt them a little to the situation.”

Buffy winced. “Ouch. Well…ummm I’m off to bed.” She got up and looked at her mother hopefully.

Joyce laughed. “Fifteen minutes?”

“I can totally do fifteen minutes.” Buffy lightly jumped up the stairs.

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Buffy ran into the room, a miniature whirlwind, throwing off her clothes. Willow lay looking at her. “Well?”

“She slapped Simon. She kicked Giles, twice, once in the shin, once almost in the nuts…would’ve gotten him too if I hadn’t stopped her.”

“And you? How was she about...”

“She’s very upset…but…she told Simon to research ways to get me out of it…She held me and hugged me Will, and told me she was so sorry she didn’t believe me the first time…And…She held me and  hugged me and told me she loved me…” Buffy seemed stunned by the realization.

Willow smiled a bit uncertainly. “So everything is alright? With you and Mom?”

Buffy ran to the bathroom in her robe. “Sorry, she’s gonna be here in ten, I need a quick shower.”

Willow sighed, looking at her teddy bear. “Well Fluffles…that’s one hurdle taken. At least Mom’s not going to send Buffy away.” *I won’t be so lucky…And poor Xander…Just when…*

The door opened and Joyce came in. Willow closed her eyes and pretended to sleep. Joyce looked at the haphazardly strewn clothes and sighed, starting to pick them up. She looked at the redhead and spoke in a calm, cool voice.

“That never worked for Buffy and Dawn, it’s not going to work for you Willow. I know you’re awake.”

Willow opened her eyes cautiously, her chin trembling, trying to control her tears. “Ummm…”

Joyce sat on Buffy’s bed and folded her daughter’s clothing. She turned sad eyes on Willow and asked a question in a gentle voice. “Willow…What happened to Jesse?”

Willow gulped. She’d expected…no feared to be told to pack her things and be out the door, at the very best being driven home. To be asked in a concerned voice after the friend of her childhood who she missed so much. She started to cry. Joyce was beside her in seconds, hugging her tight, whispering words of comfort.

“T-They t-turned him…B-Buffy tried to save him…A-And then… Xander had to s-stake him…”

“Oh…you poor things…I’ll need to talk to Xander later. I hope he’s getting some sleep.” She put a hand to the redhead’s face. “As you should soon…did you sleep at all so far Willow?”

“N-no…”

“Well, do try and get some sleep tonight, you’ve got a full day at school tomorrow and we don’t want you falling asleep in class.”

“Y-You’re not kicking me out?”

Joyce started in surprise. “Of course not! Why would I do that?”

“B-because I didn’t tell you a-bout B-Buffy…”

“Oh Willow…” Joyce pressed the girl’s head into her shoulder and ran her hand down the back of Willow’s head and hair. “Why didn’t you tell me? Can you tell me that?”

“B-because Buffy was afraid you’d send her back to Overton…she was so scared…s-she cries in her sleep and she’s had nightmares…” Willow felt Joyce stiffen and heard her stifle a sob.

“And because that is the reason you did not tell me…that is why I’ll never kick you out. You look after Buffy. You watch her back. Like a sister.” Willow sighed and dug her way deeper into Joyce’s arms.

“I always will! I promise! And Dawn and Xander too!”

Joyce chuckled. “Well then…all that remains is for my tardy daughter to come back from showering and I’ll tuck both of you in again.” Willow nodded her assent and yawned.

Buffy entered in her robe, her hair wrapped in a towel and saw the scene. She grinned, but she wiped it off her face quickly when Joyce raised her head at her. A slight smile played around her mother’s lips. “Fifteen minutes, hmm?”

Buffy fidgeted with the belt of her robe and looked down. “Sorry…it just felt good…”

“Nice and warm and relaxing? Get all the tension out?”

Buffy nodded, fidgeting again. Joyce looked at her. “Is there a problem Buffy?”

“I…ummm…still have to change…”

“Yes? Buffy…I gave birth to you…trust me…I’ve seen you naked. And I can turn my back with the best of them, as you’ve found out.” The last was said with self deprecating irony.

Buffy rolled her eyes. Joyce looked away with a grin and Willow had her eyes closed. Buffy took off the robe, changed quickly and got into bed. Joyce gave Willow a last hug and tucked her in. She then rose and did the same for Buffy, but she trailed a finger along a thin white line on her daughter’s arm.

“We’ll talk about the scars later dear.”

Buffy gulped. *She knew! She knew why I didn’t want to change in front of her…*

Joyce gave her a gentle kiss. “Sleep my little Buffy, and don’t worry. I’ll always want you.” She left the room before she started crying.

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Simon had ushered Giles out, telling him to keep the icepacks and give them to Buffy in the morning, closed the door and went up the stairs. He was lying on the bed when Joyce came back from tucking in Buffy. “Joyce…if you want me to I can …” She got into bed next to him and put a finger to his lips.

“You stay right here.” She gave him a hard look. “How long have you known?”

He gazed at her calmly. “Since the day you and I met.”

“And you kept it from me. Why?”

“Because Buffy was afraid to tell you.”

Joyce swallowed. *Two persons telling you the same thing…Overton really messed with your little girl Joyce…* “Oh…I thought that might be it…” She turned away from him and tears started from her eyes. He grabbed her and turned her to face him again.

“Joyce. You already cried for what you did… Just be glad she didn’t run away after you were attacked, that was her first reaction.”

Joyce stiffened. “Run away? Why?”

“To keep you, Dawn, all of us safe. She was all set to kill the vampire that attacked you and leave town with Giles.”

“L-leave? Never!”

Simon smiled. “Well I do think she’ll want to move out eventually. But I know what you mean. Joyce, when we talked about showing you the truth while you were sedated she was so scared you wouldn’t believe her, that you’d send her back to Overton, send her away.”

Joyce laid her head on his chest and he hugged her tight.

“Marcel?”

“He’s my psychiatrist, he’s known for decades. Joyce… Everything you heard in that office was true, the crimes were just not done by humans but by vampires.”

“Why didn’t he tell me?”

“Would you honestly have believed him? Nobody I know has wanted to believe just because I told them, because of evidence they read about…It’s not an easy thing to believe Joyce.”

“How long have you known?”

“I was trained in magic since the age of two…I was a great disappointment to my father in that as well.”

“Two…And you’ve been fighting these things for how long?”

“Officially…since I was eighteen…unofficially…fifteen.”

“And the gang I spanked Buffy for?”

“Vampires too. And don’t feel guilty about that…you were perfectly correct. Buffy knew Xander and Willow and we, for that matter, were out there. None of us would’ve stood a chance if she had to run from them. I bought those mobile phones for exactly such an occasion.”

Joyce sighed. “What do I do now?”

Simon lay still for a bit, thinking. “Rail at the universe for its unfairness, curse any and all gods you care to think of, impugn the powers that be for their uncaring heartless natures, take out your anger on Giles, or me…. but realize that Buffy…is a victim in this, not a perpetrator.”

She sighed again. “I must remember that she can’t help herself now…she has to hunt…to protect…she used to play super heroine with Celia when they were younger….Buffy was always the rescuer…never the rescued.”

Simon chuckled. “Celia must have got heartily sick of that after a while…”

Joyce smiled. ‘There may have been one or two…confrontations.”

“Joyce…I don’t know how the Powers that be choose their Champions. I wish I did…some of their choices seem…moronic to me…but…”

Joyce lifted her head, her eyes flashing in anger and her voice hissing. “Moronic?! You think Buffy can’t be their Champion? You think she isn’t good enough?”

“Joyce…there’s usually more than one…”

Joyce blinked. “You?”

“I don’t know…If I am it is another moronic choice…but my father certainly.”

“YOUR FATHER?! The womanizing child beating drunk?”

“Yes. But what I was trying to say was that I think that Buffy, despite what we may think about it personally, will be a great Champion.”

“And how do you figure that?”

“She already defeated a very powerful master vampire and several rather unusual opponents, including a very powerful witch.”

“Oh…you really think so?”

“I know so…and we will be there every step of the way to help her, the best we can.”

Joyce leaned on her elbow, looking at him, taking in the seriousness of his expression. She traced the redness of his cheek where she had slapped him. “I’m so very sorry for that. All you did was look out for me, look out for Buffy…and you’ll keep doing that.”

He nodded.

Joyce drew his head to her breast “Willow and Xander? Dawn?”

“Yes. All of you”

She smiled a trifle sadly. “You’ve been alone too long love, to fall so hard so quickly.”

She felt his smile against the silk of her nightgown. “You cannot imagine.”

“What about Xander and Willow…they knew…they go out there and fight…”

“They’re mostly moral support and research strength. Willow’s erm…abilities with computers…come in useful.”

“You mean she’s a hacker…I really have to have a word or two with that young lady.”

“She’s also a witch, or at least, must be trained as one, as should a classmate of theirs, Amy Madison, I promised to train them.”

Joyce sighed. “Great. Does this mean Sheila Rosenberg will show up and try and turn me into a frog for stealing her daughter’s affections?”

“Sheila Rosenberg will never use magic again.” Simon’s voice was sad.

Joyce blinked at the tone. “Oh…does this have anything to do with you not telling Willow she’s your cousin?”

“Yes…there’s…history between Sheila and me…a lot of history.”

Joyce groaned. “Don’t tell me Willow’s your daughter….”

Simon laughed. “No. I swear. I’d love to be able to claim her…but no. I’ll tell you…but I’d prefer to do it in the light of day.”

“Are you sure you’ve got no kids? I mean, with your track record…”

Simon looked thoughtful, and then shrugged. “Its possible I suppose, but unlikely. The conception would have to have been before 1966.  One of them would have shown up by now, claiming a birthright..”

“True…so no skeletons in the closet?”

“No children that I know of…Joyce?”

“Yes?”

“If I’m wrong…”

“They’d be welcome here.”

“Thank you. Ummm…I need to ask a favour…”

“What?”

“There’s a tradition in my family, in teaching magic, when the apprentice disobeys or casts magic when not allowed…there’s physical punishment…”

“You want my permission to spank Willow? And this Amy girl?” Joyce looked amused.

Simon flushed. “Errr…no.”

Joyce looked at his embarrassed face and grinned. “Oh…you want me to do it…Afraid of two teenage girls?”

“What, you want me to do it?”

Joyce shook her head. “No…it will be better if I do it…I don’t think it will be necessary, but I doubt they’d like baring themselves to you…” She grinned wickedly.

Simon flushed even deeper. “Errr…”

Joyce sniggered. “Oh dear…Amy’s crushing?”

Simon nodded. “I think she might be a little…”

“You poor thing…Well we’ll just have to disappoint her….gently.”

“Thank you.”

“Oh, it’s a good trade, you keep our children safe, I spank your naughty apprentices…” She drew a pattern on his chest with a finger. “One of whom likes her master a bit too much maybe…” 

Simon gave her a look. “Jealous?”

“Very…” She lightly kissed his lips by bending her head forward, then she drew his face upwards and looked into his eyes. “This doesn’t mean I’m not still angry. Or upset. I am. But I want you to tell me everything.”

He nodded. “I will. But it will take a long time, so you’ll have to bear with me.”

She drew him in for a kiss and then settled into his warmth. “We’ll start tomorrow. Tonight…we need to get some sleep.”

Author’s note:

The episode transcripts used can be found on:

http://www.buffy-vs-angel.com/guide.shtml But I still don’t know who made them…

Simon helping to fund Star Wars comes from the scramble that Lucas made for money to produce the first movie.  I hope I may be forgiven for the blasphemy of claiming he had something to do with it…
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