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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)vidiconFR1598780,1331571479387,46228 May 115 Jul 14No

Talents and cousins

Author’s note:

I fear I will be cutting down the number of updates each week. I wrote most of the above in the Christmas holidays, with a few exceptions and the side stories and The Autumn leaves are turning took some time as well, as does the actual novel…so one or two updates a week from now on I think.

I’m glad so many people seem to be enjoying this. I hope it will continue to entertain.

Edited to correct a continuity error. Thanks for pointing it out asqwerth.

Reviews are much appreciated!

Chapter 26: Talents and Cousins

All staff had been called to the Teacher’s lounge to meet the new Principal. The man had locked himself in his office to familiarize himself with the files of the teachers and the students. Giles had positioned himself strategically behind Miss Campdown, the lunch lady. Her ample size ought to hide him from the attention of both the new principal and the irate Jenny Calendar. His ill considered remarks at her, despite the whole mess not being her fault, was the Americans said it, coming back to bite him on the arse.

There was commotion by the door and Giles craned his neck around Mount Campdown. A tiny bald man with a coppery blonde fringe around his bald pate entered. He wore a neat suit and tie and an expression of near terminal disgruntlement.

“My Name Is SNYDER! R. SNYDER! I’m the new principal and I must say you’re saddled with some of the worst bunch of juvenile delinquents and barely peripatetic morons it’s ever been my misfortune to give leadership and discipline to!” He rifled through a folder of notes.

“And the situation is not helped by the singular lack of enthusiasm displayed by some of the members of staff towards the feeling of unity and fellowship…”  He spoke the words with a sneer, “that must be central to any school.”

He glared at the gathering, which, rather taken aback, was sitting stunned and silent around the lounge. “So I’m taking steps to remedy it!”

The staff cowered; Snyder gave them a feral grin. “The first thing that’s come to my attention is the unwillingness of staff members to see to the continuation of one of the grand traditions of this school… the Talent Show.”

A shudder ran through the assembled teachers. Those nearest the little man edged away from him, attempting to avoid his attention.

“I’ve selected the producer-director for this year’s show from attendance records to meetings and teacher participation in school events and clubs.”

Some of the teachers let out sighs of relief. Snyder glared at them. They froze like deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck.

“Rupert Giles…You’re in charge. Congratulations. Where are you?” There was a snigger.

A dulcet, oh so familiar feminine voice spoke. “He’s sitting by Miss Campdown.” Jenny Calendar smiled innocuously as Giles glared at her. “A very wise choice, Principal Snyder. I’m sure Mr. Giles had plenty of experience at Drama while he was at Oxford…didn’t you participate in the Footlights?”

“That’s Cambridge. An utterly second rate institution. I was in the Oxford University Dramatic society.”

He blinked. *Infernal woman! She got me with the oldest trick in the book!*

Snyder gave him a vile grin. “Excellent! Experience at Drama. I’m certain there will be plenty of that.”

He handed a sheet of paper to the stunned librarian. “Sign up and auditions start Monday next…rehearsals the next two weeks. A total of three weeks before you go live…just before Halloween! It should be plenty to train this school’s talent.”

“B-but I’m a librarian! I-If I’d wanted contact with students I’d have become a teacher!” The room tittered nervously at Giles’ reply.

The little principal leaned in, pinning the taller, more powerfully built man in the chair with his gaze. “You’re a high school librarian…and if you’d wanted to avoid this, you should have picked up more students to guide besides the malcontented miscreants in the Homework group. Your contract very clearly stipulates numbers of students and hours spent with them…Mr. Giles…unless you want to start looking for a new job?”

Giles opened his mouth to answer, but shut it again. He needed to be here to help guide Buffy…Without a job…his green card would become void…He swallowed his retort.

“I-it will be a pleasure to lead the school Talent show…”

“Excellent! And as you’ve got experience, I’ll put you down as producer and director for the School play and the liaison to the elementary school for the Christmas pageant as well.” Giles closed his eyes in defeat.

Snyder looked back at his papers. “However, my much lamented predecessor wrote that the previous incumbent, the late Mr.Talbott, refused to act in the capacity again without an assistant…so…who of you is Miss Calendar?”

Jenny, who’d rather nonchalantly been studying her nails while sipping a cup of coffee and studiously ignoring Rupert Giles spewed her mouthful of coffee on her lap. “W-what?”

Snyder almost seemed to lick his lips in delight at her reaction. “I’m sure the two of you will do splendidly.” Jenny looked a trifle nauseous. She looked around for support but received none, the only one to meet her eyes was Giles and his glare was dark and promised little good. She took another drink from her cup, lifting it with a trembling hand.

Snyder looked between them. “I’ll be talking to each of you individually in the coming days, to get a better handle on the troublemakers in this school…of which there are many. And to discuss your duties.”

He glanced at Rupert and Jenny  “…Oh by the way…to encourage the students to sign up, I’ll expect the two of you to participate in the contest as well…” 

Jenny started coughing as her coffee went down the wrong way; a horrified expression on her face, Giles had gone as pale as a sheet.

“What?” They chorused.

“Together of course…unity among the staff must be seen.”

On that horrible bombshell Snyder of no known first name exited the teacher’s lounge, leaving behind him a room full of defeated enemies.

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Joyce had told Marianne to lock up and arrived at the house first. Penelope’s car was absent and neither of the old witches was present. Since none of the snacks had been raided and the cheese was untouched the children hadn’t been home either. She was washing her hands in preparation for making dinner when Simon came in.

“Joyce…love we need to talk…”

Joyce paled. “Danielle?”

“Is fine, better than fine. Penelope is fine too, they’ve gone shopping.” Simon looked very serious, despite the slight smile as he mentioned the two older women.

Joyce felt her heart falter. “You…you’re ending it…us…aren’t you…”

He looked at her in blank astonishment. “What?! No! Joyce, sit down.” He took her hand and sat her on a stool at the Island, taking her hands.

“Joyce, we talked this afternoon, Danielle, Penelope and me… “ He took a deep breath. “We think we’ve figured out what kind of witch you are. I’ve had Dr. Worthing do some research. And I’ll be calling someone later…”

“Witch? I’ve got magic?” Joyce asked in astonishment.

“Apparently your mother is a very powerful witch even in the Johnson line…Which is the most powerful of all the Spirit channelers in the US…”

“B-but I can’t do anything! I’ve never moved things, or seen things, or done anything remotely magical!” Joyce protested.

“You’re a Mother.”

She glared at him. “Giving birth makes me a witch? Is this some stupid male joke Simon?”

Simon grinned in spite of the seriousness of the situation. “No love. It’s a power, a very rare, beautiful and magnificent power.”

“Power?”

“Blood power. Spirit witches of certain lines, next to the ability to cast ritual spells and brew magical potions have inherent powers. Penelope’s main one is Telekinesis. Yours is Mother.”

“Mother.” Joyce’s voice was cold.

“Yes.”

“My aunt can move things with her mind and I’m ‘Mother’?!” Now there was more than a little irritation.

“Yes. And its probably one of the reasons Buffy’s still alive.”

Joyce gulped, her ire forgotten in her surprise. “What?”

“It’s a passive power, which means you’ve got no conscious control over it, but it extends to all the beings that you love and nurture. It grants them luck, quicker healing, resilience, safety…things like that. It keeps them safe and helps buffer them from psychological and physical ailments.” 

“Oh…” Joyce’s eyes were very wide.

“Joyce it doesn’t make people love you, but you may be influencing them, making them do thing a little better, helping them,” Simon shrugged to show he didn’t understand exactly either. “We know too little about it…Penelope has been mourning for her sister for decades and her grief has been festering…Nanny…” His face quirked into a smile…”Nanny had a one night stand with a gentleman called Gordon Johnson -your uncle- which resulted in a child, Sheila. And she’s been feeling guilty about that for years. She finally confessed to Willow yesterday and me and Penelope this afternoon…”

Joyce mouth dropped open. “Wait, wait…Willow is my cousin as well?”

“Sheila’s your first cousin/ Willow a first cousin once removed, you’re more closely related to her than I am.” His mouth quirked again.

“Simon, had you guessed this?” Joyce asked suspiciously.

“Hell no. I’ve been busy all afternoon looking up information on this. Well, have Earnest do it.”

“Oh…So you’re not leaving me?”

Simon sighed in exasperation. “No.”

“You sure?” Joyce looked down at her tightly inter twined white hands.

Simon firmly took the mug from her hands, dragged her off her stool and pinned her against the fridge, kissing her fiercely. When he stopped her hair was mussed, her lips were swollen and her chest heaving and her clothes in disarray.

“Very sure.” He whispered hoarsely.

He was about to reinitiate the kiss when there was a cough. Danielle and Penelope, both in jeans and colourful tops were standing in the kitchen door, grinning. Danielle was looking at her watch. “You know, I didn’t believe Willow when she told me they did this for five minutes without noticing anyone…”

Joyce groaned in angry frustration. “Simon, lets go for a walk.” She turned to Danielle and Penelope. “You two…Buffy likes coke, Dawn likes Fanta Orange, Willow still likes apple juice and Xander still likes Sprite. If Janice comes by, she likes Fanta Lemon, as does Amy, but Amy prefers Bitter Lemon, but I’m afraid we’re out, there was a delivery problem at the store. The ingredients for dinner are in the fridge and the larder. We’re having boiled rice with sauce and veal with salad and green beans. And as you know I’m teaching the children how to bake pancakes for desert.”

Penelope raised a hand…”Ummm…”

“And you two can keep the kids occupied; tell them we’ve gone for a walk… Or have fun making up excuses that won’t freak them out too much. Oh, and keep Xander, Dawn and Janice out of the Twinkies, Willow out of the cheese and Buffy and Amy out of the jelly donuts.”

“Joyce!” Danielle gave her a shocked look. “It’s been years…”

Joyce took Simon’s hand and dragged him off. “You two’ve been having fun at the expense of our sex lives since you got here, well, I’ve had enough. I’m taking

Simon out and I’m gonna, in his parlance, snogg his brains out. And you two can think back and try and remember what it was like!”

Penelope looked at Danielle. They both looked at the now empty kitchen. They heard giggles coming from the porch and a delighted-shocked “Simon!” from Joyce.

“We’ve just been railroaded into granny duty…” Danielle grinned at Penelope. “She’s got the Johnson temper down pat…”

Penelope groaned. “Does she ever…And then we’ll have Pippa and Arlene and Charlotte…and Buffy and Dawn. And me and my girls…And Willow. And Celia.” She tactfully forbore to mention Sheila.

“Family reunions will be fun.” Danielle tied on an apron.

Penelope snorted at the apron. “Kiss the cook? Wishful thinking Danni?”

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Susan Penshaw dropped of Dawn, who skipped into the kitchen and dropped her bag. “Heya great aunt Penny! Afternoon Nana! Where’s Mom and Simon and…what did you do to your hair?”

The women exchanged looks. Penelope spoke. “Simon did something…or the Spirit of the place…we don’t exactly know…but we both feel rather younger and better. Great Aunt Penny?” She ended inquisitively.

Danielle echoed her friend. “Nana?”

“Ummm…well you are my great aunt…and great aunt Halliwell sounds weird, and Great Aunt Penelope makes you sound like a…a …. Ummm. And umm…Xander and Willow call you Nana and they’re sort of my brother and sister, and you’re sort of Simon’s Mom, who’s sort of my Dad…which sort of makes my sort of Nana?”

Penelope gave her a look. “Like a what dear?”

“Sort of Nana?” Danielle inquired pointedly.

Dawn whimpered, caught in the gazes of the two formidable ladies.

Dawn swallowed. “Something good? G-great Aunt Penelope? Mrs. Halliwell? Mrs. Moritz?”

Penelope laughed. “Great Aunt Penny will be fine dear. Or Aunt Penny, it makes me feel not quite so old.”

Danielle ruffled Dawn’s hair. “And Nana will be fine as well Dawn. It’ll be nice to have another granddaughter. Or two.”

The door flung open and Willow stormed in followed closely by Xander, both looking anxious.

Willow halted in front of her grandmother, almost stumbling in her haste, and looked at her with wide, disbelieving eyes. “Nana…you’re…young!”

Danielle laughed. “Younger dear…but I feel a lot better.”

Willow threw her arms around her grandmother. “You look awesome! Wonderful! Where’s your cane? Shouldn’t you be sitting down?”

“In the car, and no, I’ve been on my feet all afternoon and I feel great. And we’re cooking. And you’ve just been drafted, because Penelope and I know how to cook, but not where everything is in this kitchen.” Nana released Willow and hugged Xander. “And you can go and paint the garage or something.”

“Hey! I know where stuff is in the kitchen!” Xander was indignant.

“Yes dear…especially the twinkies…Dawn! Dinner’s in an hour!” The last stopped the guilty looking girl from sneaking one of the golden snacks out of the cookie box.

“Willow! No cheese.” Willow pouted, closing the cloche where Joyce had put the Gouda, Parmesan and cheddar to reach room temperature.

Penelope spotted Amy and Buffy edging into the kitchen to the bread bin on top of the fridge that was used for storing the bounty of the British Bakery. She gave them a glare and the two girls stopped guiltily.

“But…” Buffy whined.

“No! Dinner’s in an hour…Surely you can hold out that long? Willow! No cheese!”

Willow guiltily withdrew her hand from its second, stealthier approach to the glass cover. The girl pouted again. “Oh very well…where are Mom and Dad?”

“They went for a walk. Among other things.”

Buffy groaned, as did Willow and Xander. Amy looked half amused half nauseated. Dawn happily bounced onto a stool. “Cool.”

The older teens blinked in surprise. “What?”

Dawn gave them an arch look. “Its simple. As long as they’re all touchy and lovey-dovey we’ll know they love each other and they’ll stay together and I want them to stay together and therefore them going out for a walk and smooches is good.”

The other children exchanged glances. “Annoying nine year olds and their annoying ways of stating the obvious.” Buffy looked at her sister.

“Annoying nine year old who wants to rub in her so called superiority…” Willow thoughtfully looked at Dawn, who started to move sideways of her stool.

“Annoying nine year old who deserves… DEATH BY TICKLE!!!” Xander pounced.

The older siblings attacked and Dawn fled squealing into the kitchen. Penelope and Danielle tried to restrain them. Amy followed sedately. After a number of discreet stops.

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When Joyce and Simon arrived ten minutes before the dinner hour Penelope and Danielle were in the kitchen and the children in the living room.

“Oh thank the God, you’re back!” Danielle almost whimpered.

Joyce smiled impishly. “Oh? You had problems?”

“They tickled Dawn and Amy sneaked donuts, Twinkies and what must have been half a pound of cheddar out of the kitchen while we tried to help Dawn.”

“Help Dawn? Why ever would you want to do that?” Joyce looked at them in amazement.

“What?”

“They don’t mean it. And I think Dawn would be highly disappointed if she didn’t receive one death by tickle a week.”

The older witches exchanged looks. “They tricked us…” Danielle began.

“The little sneaks…” Penelope continued.

Simon and Joyce exchanged looks. Joyce started to giggle. “You two are out of practice. I’ll make sure you get plenty of it.”

“Joyce!” Danielle glared at her.

Penelope shook her head. “This was like herding cats! I thought I was used to dealing with kids, but phew!”

Joyce laughed this time. “I was just wondering if you were available to watch them tonight, or next weekend…”

Penelope and Danielle winced.

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Dinner had been highly successful, even if the children had somewhat spoiled their appetites. Janice had not appeared, but Amy had stayed. Her father had gone to the hospital with one of his workmen, who’d staple gunned himself to a beam.

After dinner they settled in the living room, with coffee, tea or hot chocolate as preferred. Willow and Xander sat by Nana, Dawn between Joyce and Simon, Buffy at Joyce’s other side and Amy had been hauled onto the couch by Penelope. The girl looked stunned at the fact and sat silently sipping her chocolate.

When everybody had been served and seated Danielle sighed. “Well, there are some things that must be told. Willow, would you come with me? There are some things about the family you should know.”

Willow looked around the room. “No, I don’t think I’d keep it a secret from anybody here anyway. Or if it’s, well, it should be kept secret, tell me at a later time when everybody doesn’t know I’ve got a secret and will start badgering me for it, or maybe we can sorta do it in batches? You know, a secret a day?”

Joyce smiled and silenced her daughter’s babbling with a gentle look. Willow blushed. “Sorry Mom.”

“No apology needed dear. Nana?” Danielle suppressed a smile at the mode of address Joyce had picked up from her children.

“Well…it’s a bit embarrassing, but I suppose it does directly concern most of you…” Danielle sighed in embarrassment. “But anyway, in July 1956 I had a one night stand with a man called Gordon Johnson, who fathered Willow’s mother, and was Penelope’s younger brother.” The teens looked at each other with slightly stunned expressions on their faces.

Penelope nodded. “And as you already know, Joyce’s mother is my younger sister, which makes you my great nieces and nephew.” She looked kindly at Amy. And you’re included in that as well dear.”

Amy gulped and nodded gratefully. Penelope gave her a comforting hug into which Amy seemed to melt with an incredulous look on her face.

Buffy’s face was calculating. “So…Wills is my cousin?”

“Yes. First cousins once removed.”

“Cool.” She grinned.

Willow sighed. “So…that was the grand revelation? You knew this, Dad? This was why you didn’t tell me I was your cousin?”

“No. I was unaware of who your grandfather was. My secret is of a different nature.” He took a deep breath. “In 1977, shortly after the death of Nikki Wood, a situation came to a head that had been building up for several years. A group of witches had decided that the way things were run by the Concordat was old fashioned, patriarchical autocratic and a waste of resources. They felt that magic users should rule over those without magic, ignoring the rather fatal lessons about that in our past. And they wanted to increase the power of the magic users by breeding like to like…the most powerful magic users, the most eminent families, to produce the strongest possible offspring.”

He took a sip of tea. “The actual engagement in what is now called the War of the Five was fairly short they were intelligent women but no match for the resources available to the Grand Magister…me. They were magically highly secretive, but failed to use code in speech, phone calls or letters. They were all known to the Concordat long before they made their final move.”

Danielle sighed and took up the story. “And the Concordat struck back hard when they did…We lost a great many witches that day. They lost fifty seven, we eighty three…some of the most powerful, gifted witches in the USA. The Concordat…won. If anyone wins in a civil war.”

Simon took up the tale again. “The surviving plotters were put on trial. The less powerful ones, the less deeply involved, were fined or flogged or incarcerated for a short period of time. Of the five ringleaders Three went on trial. Their leader was a very powerful witch called Marilyn McGonagall, who fought until death.”

Amy started. Penelope gave her a soothing hug. “Yes dear, your mother’s maiden name. She was your grandmother.”

“But…” Amy began, in a rather hopeless tone of voice.

“It’s a very old and distinguished line dear and regrettably apparently the victim of Pulchritudia Black. Don’t worry about it.” Penelope reassured her.

Simon continued. “The other four were Eileen Beckforth, Hester Perkins, Juanita Alvarez and Sheila Moritz…”

Willow gulped; her eyes very wide.

“Sheila was the most powerful of them, the most powerful witch in the world at that time. She covered the retreat of the other three and was captured. Hester Perkins and Juanita Alvarez were caught later that month. Eileen Beckforth disappeared and is presumed dead. The Grand Council did not want to lose the potential of their lines and they decided almost unanimously, to burn out their magic, regardless of the psychological effects that might cause or the danger they might still pose.”

Danielle snorted and her mouth twitched in distaste. “We got an offer from various places to be allowed to use the survivors for breeding purposes, to strengthen bloodlines, or to use in rituals. All were of course refused.”

Simon sighed. “I never knew Sheila very well…she was always interested in magical power and mine was only political and financial, back then she underestimated them.”

“You voted against.” Willow said it in a very calm voice.

“Yes. Magic was central to each of their personalities…Juanita she lived, if you can call it that, in an institution in New York for two years before she died by her own hand. Hester committed suicide three years after she was burned out.”

“But you did it. Executed the sentence.” Willow gave him a look of mixed fear and loathing.

Simon inclined his head. “As the Grand Magister it was my duty…I did my best to minimize the damage but the psychological damage alone…” His face looked pained.

Danielle petted her granddaughter’s hair. “Sheila reinvented herself, threw herself into her career, ignoring all things magical, she married Ira, moved here …had you.”

Willow gave Simon a long thoughtful look. “So that’s it. You think you destroyed my mother’s mind…you feel guilty because you think it was your fault that I was raised the way I was…”

Simon’s fingers were clenched around his tea cup and saucer. “Yes.”

“Nana? Was Sheila…different…before she…before Simon…”

Danielle looked thoughtful. *Sheila…not mother…not Mom.*  “Yes and no…she was equally focused, but on magic, not her career. She planned on having children…but only because it was the party line. She wanted to foster them out. She wanted all the advantages and none of the disadvantages of motherhood.”

“So…if she’d kept her powers…” Willow continued.

“I fear she still would have ignored you for her work and other interests dear. And I doubt she’d have married Ira.” She gave Simon a kind look. “Simon…just blames himself for not fighting harder…and now he’s even worse because you’re here because he lost the argument in Council.”

Willow blinked and looked at her foster father. “What?”

“I proposed a death penalty…I thought it… kinder.”

Willow looked at him as if he was insane. “Death kinder?”

“Yes…Willow…Living without magic…after having used it, lived with it…is difficult.”

Penelope nodded. “For some people, yes…and in hindsight…I agree with Simon.”

“You…you were…” Willow stammered.

“I was delegated to vote instead of your Nana, even a High Magister would be hard put to fairly adjudge a case involving a daughter. We all voted in favour of Burning out, except Simon, who voted for death. The only good thing to come out of that is you. Two young women killed themselves, in rather gruesome ways…” Her face grew bleak. “And considering what was going on in Britain at the time…I fear the worst for the fate of Eileen Beckforth.”

“I fear Sheila only survived because of her focus on her work, Willow…” Danielle’s voice was regretful.

Willow nodded, thoughtfully. She turned her emerald eyes upon Simon who met her gaze unflinchingly. “So…you feel guilty because you wanted my mother, who from what I hear is even less a nice woman than I already knew she was, to be executed instead of being driven insane or used as a broodmare…And most of the guilt is because I’m her daughter and wouldn’t have lived if you’d succeeded…”

She looked at Joyce and Danielle worriedly. “Is wallowing in guilt this much hereditary? I know I feel guilty sometimes, but I don’t think it’s this bad…Is it a family thing? Or just him? ‘Cause if it’s a family thing, I don’t think I can ever bake enough cookies…” 

There was some laughter. Joyce gave Simon an indulgent look. “I don’t think Simon’s level of guilt is a family thing. And he’s a functional wallower dear...But…” She gave Simon a look. He shrugged.

“Simon has done things in his life…had to do…that he’s told me about…that give me nightmares.”

Willow paled and looked at her grandmother who was gazing tearfully at her former ward. “Oh Simon…”

Penelope swallowed heavily. “I’m suddenly very grateful I never ran against you…”

“Penelope, with your heart problems you’d never have been elected, even in ‘92.” Simon shrugged.

Penelope gasped. “You knew?!”

Simon rolled his eyes. “Dominique Frère saw it in your aura; it was the talk of the Coven that year.”

Danielle smiled wickedly. “You should go visit her Penny, soon.”

Penelope chuckled. “I might at that…”

Xander cleared his throat. “So…we all through with the heavy discussions? All secrets revealed?”

The adults looked at each other. Joyce sighed. “No…I’ve got something to tell you…”

She sat back, hugging Dawn and Buffy. “I’m a witch…”

There was a snort from Xander. “Well, we sort of figured what with your mother being one and your aunt and all, that such might be the case…”

Joyce gave him a sad, uncertain look. “The problem is the type of witch I am…the Power I have…” She took a deep breath. “I’m a Mother…I don’t know exactly what that means. Simon can tell you that…”

Penelope sighed. “What Joyce is afraid of is that her Power is making all of you…love her…that she’s unconsciously manipulating you all to leave your family and, well…join hers.”

Xander and Willow exchanged an incredulous look.

Amy frowned and spoke. “So…you think Xander and Willow are nuts?”

Joyce blinked. “Nuts?

“Yeah…you seem to think they have to be under your thrall for them to want to live here instead of with their parents.”

Xander nodded. “Yeah, I mean my parents we’re only abusive and nasty and drunk, hardly enough for me to want to leave them and move into a place where I actually get warm food and hugs and love…Yeah I can totally see the evil magical influence there…What about you Wills? You miss the lovely, warm, empty home you spent at least nine months of the year alone in while your parents communicated with you through their lawyers? ”

In answer Willow moved over to Joyce and hugged her. “Mom…you’re being silly. Stop it.”

“T-That’s just it Willow…it took you only a few m-months to start calling me ‘Mom’ and I love it, and you, both of you, that’s not it, but…”

“Nana...Do you think it strange? Aunt Penny?” Willow turned to them for help.

The two older witches changed glances. Danielle answered. “No, I can’t say that I really do. We don’t know very much about the Mother power…only what Simon’s archivist found…who wrote that anyway Simon? But…Joyce…I saw how Sheila and Ira and a few times how Tony and Jessica treated Willow and Xander…And I saw them watch soaps and comedies and hear them talk about what it would be like to have a Mom like that…A Mom like Jesse had…And then I see them with you…And hear you say you love them…I’m not at all surprised they love you back….”

Joyce blinked, tears in her eyes. Willow grinned at her, her own green eyes filled with tears. “See…all perfectly normal. Nothing supernatural about it…”

Joyce sniffled. “Well…I needed you to know…”

“No secrets.” Buffy nodded. “Agreed.”

Willow grinned widely. “I’d have moved in here anyway, you’ve got cheese.”

Joyce grinned back and put her forehead to Willow’s. “Oh my silly little Mouse…”

Danielle smiled at the scene. “Well…then it just remains for me to tell that Penelope and I will be leaving tomorrow morning after breakfast. We both have some thinking to do, doctors to visit and I need to get my driver’s license again.”

Willow stiffened and Danielle noticed. “Which will allow me to visit more often.”

“Almost, but not quite…I’ve got absolutely no idea what all that magic might have done to you…So you’re staying the weekend…and on Monday I’m sending Bchenka along to drive.” Simon sipped his tea calmly after his bald statement.

Danielle and Penelope both gave him a look. It was Penelope who spoke. “And how do I explain that to the neighbours? Or my granddaughters?”

Simon shrugged. “I don’t care…but you are staying and he is driving.” He gave them a commanding glare. “No arguments. From either of you.”

Danielle smiled. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”

Penelope grinned. “I need to make a call…”

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“YOU LET GRAMS DRIVE TO LA?! PHOEBE!! ARE YOU INSANE?!” Prue was in good voice Piper noted, and Phoebe was burrowed deep into the cushions of the couch, feet drawn up, hugging a pillow.

“I DIDN’T KNOW!!! SHE LEFT A NOTE!!!” Phoebe shouted back.

Piper winced. “Prue…Phoebe didn’t know or she would have stopped Grams…Or at least tried…we all know how stubborn she gets…”

Prue stood breathing heavily, arms crossed. “You should’ve called! As soon as you found out!”

“And then what? Have both of you over here as well, worrying? Dammit Prue! She knows she shouldn’t drive so far alone! If I’d known I’d have driven her! And you both needed to work. You don’t need the distractions!”

Prue blinked at the remark and then her fury flared up again. “Taking care of Grams is not a distraction! Tell us these little things…you…you irresponsible twit!” It was obvious to Piper and probably Phoebe as well that Prue had a different term ending in –it in mind.

Piper sighed. *I do wish these two would get along just a little bit better…God I’ve got a headache…*

The phone rang and Phoebe picked it up. “Phoebe Halliwell…GRAMS!”

At Phoebe’s excited shout the other two chimed in worriedly. Prue hit the speaker button.

“Are you alright? Where are you? Are you in hospital? Do we need to come over?”

At the other end of the line Penelope Halliwell held the receiver some distance away from her ear.

Joyce gave her an amused look. “Seems like they were worried about you…”

Penelope sniffed. “I’m a grown woman…”

“With a serious heart condition.” Simon added dryly.

Penelope nodded. “True. Phoebe…stop shouting. I’m perfectly safe. I’m in Sunnydale.”

“Sunnydale? Where the Fucking Hell’s that?”

“A few hours above LA Prudence…and kindly temper your language, there’s children listening.” Prue gulped audibly at Penelope’s sharp tone

“Children?” This was Piper.

Penelope decided to jump in feet first. “Yes, children. Your cousins. Quite a lot of cousins. Huge numbers of cousins. Cousins in sheer unbelievable numbers. Arkansaw Hillbilly numbers.” The entire Summers household glared at her. She grinned.

“Grams…Aunt Cheryl doesn’t have children, thank God…” Prue interrupted her.

“I know dear…but you great aunt does…and so apparently did your great uncle Gordon.”

“What, who?” Phoebe asked in confusion.

“Great uncle Gordon, Phoebe? Pay attention once in while, wait what great Aunt? Since when do we have a great aunt?” Prue blurted out.

“Since the day she was born dear…she ran away from home when she was fifteen.”

“And why did it take you so long to tell us? What if she’d come by one day, like some bag lady? And we’d have thrown her out?” Phoebe spoke before her sisters could react.

“Phoebe! That is not the point; the point is we’ve got cousins. Ummm… How many?” Piper sounded quite excited by the notion.

Joyce grinned and spoke over Penelope’s shoulder. “Lots, why don’t you just come by and meet us all?”

There was a sputtering noise. “Who’re you?” Prue was the one who got in first.

“Your cousin Joyce. You’re quite welcome to come by.”

“I-I have to work this weekend…the Bealls collection…I need to meet a representative…”

“Travis and Consuela Bealls? How is she? Last time I saw her she was quite ill. I heard the chemo was effective but…well things were dicey,” There was honest concern in Joyce’s voice.

There was a momentary silence. “Ummm… You know them?”

“Oh yes…are they going to exhibit? Do get them to put the Korean ware on if they do…”

“Oh…ummmm… Do you think you could…?”

“I think I may swing an introduction, yes.” Joyce replied, amused. “And you are?”

“Oh…err...Prudence…Prue…”

“Well Prudence, I’ll call Travis later and tell them you’ve got a family emergency.”

“B-but…”

“Your grandmother with a heart condition drove several hundred miles…”

“I’ll be there!” Phoebe’s voice. There was short tussle. “We’ll be there!” Piper had apparently grabbed the phone. “Where are we supposed to be?”

“1630 Revello Drive, Sunnydale.”

“Check, got it. Thanks.   We’ll leave tomorrow after work, we can be there at eleven or so, if that’s ok with you? Oh, do you have a last name…of course you do…erm…”

“Summers. Joyce Summers. And we’ll wait up for you.”

“Joyce Summers, 1630 Revello Drive…right…got it. See you tomorrow night! Take care of Grams for us?”

“We will dear…I mean Piper.”

There was an anguished shout in the background. “Wait, wait Joyce SUMMERS?” Prue wailed.

The phone beeped as Piper rang off.
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