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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)vidiconFR1598780,1331571484390,78428 May 115 Jul 14No

Maternal revelations and mystical mishaps

Author’s note:

A question: the poem for Willow in the previous chapter, is that something that would make a teenage girl’s heart beat faster?

Another question: Are people enjoying the Jenny/Giles developments?

A third question: Is there a place I can poll my readers who should end up with who?

Chapter 28:  Maternal revelations and mystical mishaps

Joyce heard the noise of a car engine and swallowed nervously as it stopped. There was the sound of doors being opened and closed and then the footsteps walking up to the porch and the doorbell rang. Dawn’s light running feet, the door thrown open…the happy childish voice. “Gran! Grandad! You’re here!”

Her father’s voice. “Hello Kibbles.” Joyce grinned at the expected reaction.

Granddad! Don’t call me that!” Dawn squealed, mortified.

She heard Xander’s voice just as she walked into the foyer. “Kibbles?”

“’Cause she used to lap her milk like a kitten. We got footage…” Buffy grinned evilly.

Her eldest daughter walked up to her grandparents and hugged and kissed them. James Ellis smiled a grandfatherly smile. “Hello Porky.”

“GRANDDAD!!!” Buffy whined loudly and flushed.

Willow and Xander nearly choked with laughter. “Porky?”

Joyce went over to greet her parents. “It was her first word, the day Dad bought her Mr. Gordo.”

She hugged her father. “Dad, good to see you.”

Her mother got a shorter hug. “Mother.”

Xander noticed the pained look on the older woman’s face, watching mother and daughter closely while Willow was watching wide eyed while James Ellis was being swamped by his granddaughters.

James looked round. “So…you would be Willow and you Alexander…who prefers Xander?”

“Yes sir.” Xander nodded. Willow managed a nod and an ‘eep’.   

James Ellis was a tall man for his age, about five foot eleven, with a thin, spare face with prominent cheek bones, an aquiline nose and sharp, piercing brown green-eyes. His hair had been dark but was now almost completely grey. He was clean shaven and had a firm chin and mouth. 

Cecilia was five foot six or so, straight backed and proud, her long blonde hair twisted into an elaborate French braid. Her mouth was a straight line and her piercing sapphire eyes flanked her strong straight nose. Her chin could have been used to break rocks and her long, dark lashes covered the flashes of emotion that hovered in her eyes.

“I’m James Ellis…” He looked between the two teens who stood uncertainly before him. “We’ll work up from sir to granddad soon I hope.” He nodded encouragingly at Willow.

He turned to the unknown redhead who had risen with the children. “You have the look of Willow,” he inquired.

“I’m Danielle Moritz, Willow’s grandmother.” She glanced repressively at Willow who was about to blurt out her relationship with Cecilia.

Instead Willow moved forward and shook hands with Cecilia. “Willow Rosenberg, I’m very pleased to meet you. Buffy says you make the best cornbread and that it tastes great with your pasta and I was wondering if you’d bake it tomorrow because we’re making it for Prue, Piper and Phoebe, the pasta I mean, not the bread ‘cause we don’t know how to make that properly…”

Joyce stepped up and gently hugged the nearly breathless Willow. “Easy WIllow, take a breath.”

Willow blushed. “Sorry, Mom.”

James and Cecilia both started slightly at the natural way the redhead called their daughter ‘mom’.

“Just nerves dear, it will be fine,” Joyce turned an eye toward her mother. “Won’t it?”

James nodded, putting an arm around his wife. “Yes, it will.” He looked at Joyce and grinned. “So where’s this not so young man of yours whose family chased ours of our land?”

Joyce sighed, rolling her eyes. “Upstairs, shaving… again.”

The elder couple shared a look. “He’s nervous?” James asked, obviously amused.

Joyce rolled her eyes. “Oh, yes.”

Willow giggled. “Mom had to tie his tie for him; he was shaking so bad.”

Joyce squeezed Willow’s shoulder affectionately. “I took it off him; I’m not having him uncomfortable merely because of his ridiculous New York Society rules.” She looked up at a slight noise from the top of the stairs. Simon stood there looking more nervous than she’d ever seen him. He wore a pair of slacks, a dress shirt and… she sighed, walked up the stairs and took off his tie, pushed him back into the bedroom and very firmly said. “No jacket! No tie!”

Downstairs everybody laughed. Even Cecilia. Dawn hugged and kissed her grandmother and Xander shook hands while they could hear Joyce’s soft scolding tones coming from upstairs.

“This is California, not New York. I don’t care how they do it there, here we do casual. What are those things? Sock suspenders?  This is not an official function Simon; I don’t think they’re going to disapprove of you because your socks are drooping. Take them off.”

She dragged him down the stairs after she’d gotten him to take off the excess clothing.

“Mother, Dad, this is Simon…casually dressed.” James grinned widely at Simon’s obvious discomfort.

To Joyce’s surprise it was her mother who made the first move, stepping up to Simon and looking deep into his eyes.

“You look like your father. I hope you’re a better man. It shouldn’t be very hard.”

Simon swallowed and Joyce gasped. James cleared his throat. “Well…I do hope there’s some food left Joy, your mother insisted we drive on through lunch and dinner…”

“Of course, Dad, this way.” James followed her into the kitchen.

The door to the dining room opened and Penelope stepped through. “Pip…Cecilia.” She gave her sister a raking look.

“Penny…You look very well.” The look was returned with interest by Cecilia. She gestured at James. “My husband, James.”

The two shook hands and James looked between the two women. “Yes…I can see the family resemblance…” Both women gave him a look and he shut up, though he grinned.

Penelope gestured politely at the dining room and Cecilia entered. The door closed. Cecilia Ellis turned to face her older sister’s wrath. And was enveloped in a hug. “Dammit Pippa…we were so worried…I missed you so much…”

Cecilia returned the hug. “I-I had to…he came and looked me over…like a brood mare Pen, like…like…he offered mom and dad money…and he...”

“Meier.” Penelope grated out the name. “He threatened them? Us? You?”

“Yes. He wanted to…”

“Breed a better son…I know… Why not me?” Penelope

“He wanted someone younger, more malleable, pliable… Better able to take training…” Cecilia’s voice still trembled at the memory.

Penelope shuddered with her. “You should’ve told me. I’d have helped you run. Or killed the son of a bitch for you.”

“Oh Pen…I-I didn’t want any of you to get hurt too.”

Penelope stiffened. “He got you…the bastard got you…”

“Penny…I was so scared… afterwards…he told me…the other things he wanted to do to me…How he’d tame me… educate me to be a proper wife for him…” Cecilia nearly sobbed.

Penelope felt the terrible rage rising within her. “What about freezing him?”

“He walked right through it, waved his hand. He-he laughed! He found it amusing!He called me a feisty little thing…”

“Bastard…” Penelope’s eyes widened. “Oh…and then Joyce started dating Simon…”

“I thought he was after her for the same reason…” Cecilia shivered.

“He isn’t like his father,” Penelope assured her. “He’s a much warmer man.”

“I know, I saw the bond…Penelope? What happened to yours?”

“My what?” Penelope froze.

“Your Soul Bond, Penny. It isn’t just broken, it’s frayed and bleeding, like an old festering wound…”

“Oh. Allen, my wonderful Allen…” Penelope whispered, before she started to cry.

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“So… Ordinarily I’d ask about your prospects and intentions. But that seems a bit redundant.” James Ellis looked at the more than a little nervous man next to him at the kitchen island with amusement. “You haven’t done anything like this before have you?”

“Talk to the parents of the woman I’m living with? No, that is an entirely novel situation for me,” Simon took a deep breath. “As to your first question… I intend to marry Joyce. If and when she’ll have me. My prospects for that…you’d have to ask Joyce,” He glanced blandly at the older man but James could see the nervous fidgeting of his right hand’s fingers with the large signet ring on his left hand.

“Have you asked her yet?”

Simon opened his mouth and then closed it, looking thoughtful. “Actually, no. I’ve merely strongly implied I want to marry her…”

“Then get to it. Make it nice and romantic. Woo her. More than a little. Go down on one knee. No matter what a woman says, they all want romance…even my Cecilia.” James chuckled wryly. He looked around the kitchen with keen interest. “I noticed you’ve been doing some work around here…”

“Yes, the house was a bit too small for the increasing size of the family.”

“Care to show me around?”

“Of course, sir. Why don’t we start with the basement.” He walked to the door and called out. “Love? I’m going to show your father the alterations to the house!”

There was laughter and some muttered grumbling. “Willow, Dawn, Buffy, Mom…I think I won this bet…” Xander’s voice was sly. “Now what was it again we bet? Oh yes, this week’s chores from the three of you…”

James joined Simon at the kitchen door and whispered a question, “This happen often?”

“All the time. I wonder what he bet Joyce?” Simon whispered back.

“I’m not letting you paint your bedroom black Xander, it’s far too depressing…but I will discuss the possibility of you buying a car with your earnings.” Joyce smiled indulgently.

Xander whooped and hugged her fiercely “Thanks, Mom!”

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Joyce looked on with quiet amusement as her lover and her father bonded over the alterations to her house. James had been especially impressed by the raising of the garage roof and the creation of Willow’s bedroom as well as the passage Arch, though the basement renovation and Dawn’s treehouse carried his seal of approval as well. She listened to their conversation on the porch as she idly prepared a tray of finger foods. James had put away a large cold meat sandwich while looking at the changes. Cecilia had eaten a smaller one while speaking with Penelope. Danielle was minding the children in the living room. Which primarily meant being the first line of defence for the cheese cloche and the pastry bin.

She saw Simon and her father talking underneath the Tree house and hoped fervently things were going to go well. She could hear them speak through the open window and shamelessly listened in.

“You seem to have settled in,” James remarked to Simon.

“Yes, sir,” Simon replied.

“And yet I know for a fact you own a large amount of property in New York,” James noted.

“Nothing holds as much interest to me as this house and its inhabitants,” Simon answered coolly.

“Not even Hell Gate?”

Simon froze. “It’s contained,” He finally said.

“My people spent dozens of generations protecting it,” James pointed out, indignantly. “Hundreds died! And you say it is contained?”

“Siwanoy?” Simon named the Native American tribe that had once lived on the shores of the dangerous waterway.

“Yes,” James confirmed.

Simon looked at the older man. “My family spent two centuries finding a way to close it permanently. We finally managed it three years ago, a combined casting of five Covens.”

This time it was James’ turn to stiffen. “Five covens…how did you manage that? And the blasting? The one that covered it Your family planned that?”

“It took some doing to get the wardings in, I believe. Sea rituals are never easy. The blasting was a temporary measure. It’s difficult to open a Hellmouth if it’s buried under tons of rock. It being underwater helped too,” Simon pointed out.

“I don’t know if I should be insulted, impressed or worried…” James smiled.

Joyce had frozen when her father had mentioned Hell gates. She stepped outside and looked at him with wide eyes and a disbelieving stare. “You knew…about magic…all this time…”

James looked at her aghast. “You mean you didn’t?” He strode through the kitchen into the foyer and knocked on the dining room door.

The soft voices inside stopped. Penelope called out. “Yes?”

James opened the door and looked in. “Penelope? Would you excuse us for a moment? I need to talk to Cecilia, rather urgently.” Penelope nodded, rose and left. James entered, closing the door.

 “You never told Joyce about magic. About her heritage.” His voice was calm and collected his stance careful and relaxed, but his eyes flashed in anger.

Cecilia’s eyes widened and she swallowed fearfully.

Yes. I-I wanted to protect her…after that Shaszat demon came after Arlene…I wanted her to stay clear of it.”

“What if her children had magic? Her grand children? What if Buffy or Dawn had not been latent? What would you’ve done then?” James demanded.

He was calm and reasonable and Cecilia was watching him with something akin to fear in her eyes.”

“Jim…” Cecilia gave him a pleading look.

“You will talk to Joyce. Now. You will apologize, explain your reasoning, by all means, but you will apologize,” James ordered.

“Y-yes James.” Cecilia nodded meekly.

“And I also suggest you have a good long listen,” James added.

“W-what do you mean?” Cecilia stammered.

“Just what I said. You listen, you let her talk, and for the Great Spirit’s sake Cecilia, unless you want to lose her forever, don’t judge her,” James told his wife sternly.

“Lose? Judge? I never…” *He invoked the Great Spirit? Oh goddess…he only does that when he’s really worried.*

“You don’t even notice...” James looked at her with sad eyes. “You’ve been judging her since the day she was born. She was never good enough and now, she’s only a step away from telling you to get out of her life…” he let his voice trail off sadly.

Cecilia gasped. “Y-you think she meant that?”

“About doing without your grandchildren for a year? Yes. Or longer, possibly forever,” James affirmed.

Cecilia sat in silence, looking at the table. When she finally spoke it was in a very small voice. “Jim…what if I mess this up?”

“You’d better not,that’s all I can say.” He left the room and gently pushed Joyce inside. “Sit. Talk, explain,” He glanced at his wife. “You listen. After you apologize.” Cecilia nodded. James closed the door. Joyce sat down opposite her mother.

Cecilia took a deep breath. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before, about magic. I so desperately wanted you to have a normal life, one without the fear of the supernatural, without warlocks and demons coming by and trying to kill you… I-I was so happy when you were born latent… I just wanted you to be normal, like I never could be.”

“Arlene and Charlotte? Dad? Why didn’t they ever mention it?” Joyce asked, her voice cold.

“I-I told them you didn’t want to talk about it… that you felt left out, not good enough…Uncomfortable about it…” Cecilia stumbled over her words.

“All those outings with Charlotte and Arlene? Just the three of you? Every time you closed me out, made me feel like I was not part of the family?” Joyce demanded to know.

“I was explaining about magic and witchcraft…Teaching them to b-brew few potions…” Cecilia defended herself.

“I see…You should have told me,” Joyce’s whole demeanour was icy.

“Yes. I’m sorry you felt left out…” Cecilia pleaded.

Joyce rose and stepped around the table, bending over, bringing her face close to her mother’s. “I don’t fucking care about being left out! I care that because you didn’t tell me my daughter is terrified she’ll be sent back to Overton! Because I didn’t believe her when she told me about vampires being real! Or being the Slayer! That, that, I’ll never ever forgive you for. I sent my little girl to an institution…because you wanted to live a normal life through me,” she spat.

Cecilia opened her mouth to retort and closed it, her eyes going wide. “B-Buffy’s the S-Slayer?”

“Yes, she killed a very powerful vampire master called Lothos and his minions, among other ways by burning down Hemery High school gym. And thanks to you instead of my support, she got sent to an institution!” The rage on Joyce’s face drove Cecilia back in her chair.

“I’m s-sorry…” Cecilia began.

“Well isn’t that just great? You’re sorry…” Joyce’s sarcasm was nearly tangible. “And I suppose you’re sorry as well that you never told me you loved me until I told you I was dating Simon? Or that you never ever told me I did anything right? Or when I came to you after I was nearly raped and you told me that I was a wanton whorish slut? Are you sorry for that as well? Or when you called me to tell me you’d told the University that my major had been changed from Art history to Physics, because I was wasting my time and talent with such a ridiculous choice? Are you sorry for that too?” Joyce’s voice rose ever higher in her anger. “Are you sorry for every time you messed with my life? Tried to force me to do, to be, whatever you wanted? That nothing I ever did was good enough?” Her chest heaved. “Are you sorry for all that?”

Cecilia was crying in jagged sobs. Joyce nodded to herself. “I thought not.” She rose from her bowed position but was stopped by her mother’s hand clasping her

own.

“Y-yes…I am…b-but…” Cecilia stammered.

“But what mother?” Joyce interrupted, scathingly.

“I-I never realized…And now it’s too late…you’ll never f-forgive me…All the horrible things I did…I’ve lost you…all I wanted was for you to be happy and all I’ve done is drive you away…” Cecilia sobbed.

Joyce looked at the hand holding hers tightly as if her mother was afraid that this was the last time she’d ever get to touch her. She looked up. Cecilia’s eyes were still filled with tears and the older woman looked down.

“Please…Don’t blame your father…he tried to make me see before…I never wanted to…never did,” Cecilia pleaded.

“I don’t…I think he just got tired for apologizing for you,” Joyce told her mother harshly.

“Joyce…I am sorry…so very, very sorry…” Cecilia offered.

“You’ll apologize to Buffy,” Joyce demanded, coldly.

“Yes. I will.” Cecilia took a deep breath. “I-I can still see them? The children” She sounded hopeful.

“Yes… If they want to,” Joyce grudgingly allowed.

“Can I try and teach them to bake proper cornbread? None of you three ever managed…” Cecilia tried for levity, but her eyes were filled with pain and regret.

Joyce’s mouth quirked in spite of herself. “I wish you luck. And I fear that the only one who shows skill at cooking is Amy…who’s not actually a foster daughter…but the sort of daughter of Catherine McGonagall and Pulchritudia Black…”

Cecilia rose up like a wrathful storm, eyes blazing. “Black! Did she go near the children? I’ll kill her!”

Joyce looked amused, though her mother’s fierceness in defence of her grandchildren was gratifying to her as well. “Well…Buffy, Amy and Buffy’s watcher took care of her. As did the original Catherine Madison… who made Pulchritudia want to become a champion cheerleader…” she finished drolly.

Cecilia gawped, her mouth open like fish. And then she started to giggle. “Sounds like there are some stories to tell…”

Joyce smiled a bit sadly. “Why didn’t you react like that…when I…”

“Because I was stupid and afraid, and I should have known better. I know what it feels like after all… Joyce…it may take me a while before I can…look at Simon fairly…” Cecilia looked at her daughter pleadingly and Joyce sat down, shocked.

“That’s why you ran away…Mother…Mom…did he…”

Cecilia looked down at the table and nodded slightly. “He was…he wanted…a son.”

“Simon was always a disappointment to him…” Joyce shivered and then impulsively hugged her mother. Cecilia returned it gratefully.

“I’m sorry Joyce…I promise I’ll do my best.” Cecilia smiled grimly. “But…the men who hurt you…there are a few advantages to having a witch for a mother…I’m sorry I couldn’t- didn’t- tell you before…”

“What did you do?” Joyce leaned forward eagerly.

“Boils…in certain places,” Cecilia smirked.

“Wow…when did they stop?” Joyce asked curiously.

Cecilia raised an eyebrow. “Stop? They get them every year, for a week after the date of the attack.”

Joyce gasped. “We can do that?”

“Well I can. I don’t know if your power will allow it…” She looked thoughtful. “The Mother power seems to be primarily aimed at helping people, making them become closer, more loving. More protective, less punitive. So it might block you from using spells like the Curse of Boils.”  

Joyce nodded. “I see…well I can’t say I’m entirely sorry…”

Cecilia smiled wanly. “Believe me honey…So am I.”

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Dawn had been sleeping on the couch for more than three hours, her head pillowed in Willow’s lap as the older girl napped, the book she had been reading earlier lying closed on the end table. Buffy had crawled up on the opposite couch and was sleeping as well, her head on Joyce’s shoulder. Joyce on her part had crawled and huddled into her father whose other shoulder was being used by Xander. Cecilia, Penelope and Danielle were sitting in the armchairs and watching the scene with amused and tender faces. Simon was making tea.

The sound of a car pulling up in front of the house and then the three thumps of doors being opened and then closed. Buffy stirred at the noise but the others all slept on peacefully.

Penelope looked at the clock and grinned. “Right on time…”

Danielle gave her a look. “It’s one thirty. They said eleven…”

“Ah…but I know my granddaughters…with the exception of Piper, when she’s not getting ready for a date, they’re unable to ever be on time. Prue and Phoebe together…” She gestured at the futility of trying to get them to leave on time.

Danielle sighed. “Well I hope they’ll understand we won’t make it much later.”

Penelope rose and grinned. “They’d better. Now I’ve got beauty again I intend to keep it. I need my sleep!”

Penelope looked at the sleepers, then went to open the door. She grinned even more widely as she saw her three granddaughters unloading a car. And then she saw the door of the house opposite open and three men emerge, with guns and stakes and saw the vampires circling towards three young women. She gasped and gestured sharply, drawing the attention of the two other witches, who rose immediately, joining her at the door.

Penelope’s curt gesture had sent three vampires flying but three more still approached. Buffy suddenly started awake and sprang into action, hastening to the door, stumbling over legs and feet, reaching up to the hat shelf and grabbing the two stakes artfully stashed there. She was out of the door while her cousins were still gasping in bewilderment at the fanged things that attacked them.

Buffy thundered into the vampires’ ranks, staking one with ease as the demon unexpectedly faced a predator instead of prey. Cecilia stepped forward and raised her hands, freezing the entire vampire group. Buffy very slowly turned round, as did the dark haired girls by the car. Four pairs of eyes were very wide.

Cecilia raised an eyebrow. “Do kindly stake them Buffy, this is harder than it looks. ”

Buffy grinned and swiftly moved from vamp to vamp, killing the remaining five without trouble. The three girls by the car huddled, faces fearful and shocked.

The bodyguards checked the perimeter and returned to their base. The other sleepers had been awakened by the noise or Buffy’s sudden movement had and joined those on the porch. Penelope went outside and gathered in her frightened granddaughters.

Prue was the first to find her voice. “W-what happened?”

“Vampires attacked you dears. And I used my magic and your great aunt Cecilia hers, to stop them. And Buffy was kind enough to actually stake them, which I greatly appreciate, the things always make me sneeze and their dust is terribly difficult to get out of clothes.”

“Vampires?!” Phoebe managed to squeak the word just as Joyce gently dragged her inside.

“Yes dear…vampires. Don’t worry, we’ll tell you how to deal with them,” Penelope soothed.

Prue looked around, more than a little wide eyed. “B-but where did they come from?”

“Vampires?!” Phoebe squeaked again.

Piper gave her grandmother a look. “And since when can you do magic? And if Aunt Cecilia has it too…do we have it?”

“Vampires?!” Phoebe whispered.

Joyce gently put an arm around the youngest Halliwell. “Yes dear…Vampires.”

Penelope grimaced. “Ah…can we go sit down while we talk about that?”

Prue and Piper exchanged glances. “That might be wise.”

Dawn yawned and then went and hugged Phoebe who was still standing looking shocked and uncertain. “Hi. I’m Dawn. I know you’re a cousin…but which one?”

Phoebe blinked down at the little girl who was hugging her so trustingly. “Phoebe, Phoebe Halliwell.”

“’S cool, that means you get to bunk with me. The house is a bit full, what with you three and Gran and Granddad and Nana and Aunt Penny…” Dawn summed up.

There were snorts of laughter from all three new arrivals. “Aunt Penny?”

“Yeah, ‘cause great aunt Penelope makes her feel old.” Dawn said wisely, before yawning again.

Penelope moved to stand behind Dawn, putting her hands on the girl’s shoulders. “It does indeed.”

Phoebe gasped as she saw her grandmother clearly. “Grams! You’re…young!”

Penelope and Danielle started to giggle and Willow blushed before stammering. “T-they prefer younger…”

Joyce smiled and looked at her youngest who moved on to hug Prue and Piper. Both returned the gesture with wide smiles. Then she stepped in. “Dawn, time for bed,” she told her youngest firmly.

Dawn was about to protest when she yawned enormously again. Phoebe yawned as well, then stammered. “Oh, I’m sorry…”

Joyce gave her a comforting smile. “Don’t worry about it dear…we’ll just bed you down as well.”

“B-but…” Dawn and Phoebe yawned in unison and then glared in unison at Joyce. “We want to stay up!” The two family youngest looked at each other, then at Joyce and then flushed bright red.

Piper grinned. “Well Phoebe, looks like all the sleeping you did on the back seat didn’t help…”

Prue yawned. Then Willow. Then Piper herself. Buffy was manfully trying to keep her eyes open.

Danielle grinned at Penelope and Cecilia. “Get to bed you lot, none of us are awake enough for serious discussion. It’s been a long day.”

The teens looked at Joyce who lifted an eyebrow and looked at her watch. “Well it looks like its long past your bedtime…”

Sighing they said goodnight and left upstairs. Joyce looked at the swaying Phoebe. “Did you manage to sleep at all while your grandmother was away dear?”

Phoebe shot her a startled look before shaking her head. “No ma’am.”

“Joyce. My name is Joyce. To bed with you young lady.” She gave Penelope a stern look and the older witch looked contrite.

“Oh, Phoebe…C’mon, I’ll take you to Dawn’s room,” Penelope ushered her youngest granddaughter up the stairs.

Danielle took the hand of a startled Piper. “You’re in with Willow, I’ll take you there.”

Penelope looked at Prue who hesitated and then yawned. She shrugged and picked up her bag. “That means I’m with Buffy?”

“Yes it does. Just follow Joyce.”

Phoebe was rather surprised when her grandmother, Dawn’s grandmother, Mrs. Moritz and Joyce all came to bid Dawn goodnight and tuck her in. And she was even more surprised when she got the same attention. And that it did not feel at all unnatural or strange or childish. She slept like a baby.

Prue was amazed that Buffy allowed her mother to tuck her in. But when Grams came in and sat on Prue’s camp bed and kissed her forehead and tucked the blankets around her, it didn’t feel childish. It felt safe and comfortable and warm. The dangers and revelations should have had her wide awake for hours despite her tiredness, yet she fell asleep almost immediately and did not wake until morning. 

Piper looked with amazement as a procession of older women came to tuck in Willow, and felt slightly embarrassed at Grams doing the same to her. And yet envious that the other ladies didn’t…and she felt silly about that. She was still pondering it when she fell into a deep restful sleep.

James Ellis was waiting for his wife in the largest of the basement guestrooms, dressed in PJ’s and ready for bed. Cecilia changed into her long nightshirt and then sat on the bed while he brushed her hair.

“Well?”

“I listened…I’ve been an idiot,” Cecilia admitted, tearfully.

James considered his answer. “Yes. Being proud of your daughter is one thing…showing pride in the proper way…that is rather more difficult.” 

“I never told her I loved her?” Cecilia pleaded with her husband, hoping she would tell him it wasn’t true.

“You did. But not after she was fourteen or so…and that is the age when you really should have,” James told her disapprovingly.

“I messed up pretty badly, didn’t I?” Cecilia sighed.

He considered again. “Yes…luckily you had a brave courageous husband to pick up the pieces.” He waggled his eyebrows.

Cecilia snorted in sad amusement. “Great…my daughters hate me and my husband thinks its funny…”

“They don’t hate you…and don’t forget that you were always the one who punished and set rules…I was the one who played and rewarded, then again, you could’ve rewarded too…” James pointed out gently.

“What do I do now?” Cecilia sounded anxious.

“Since they no longer need your punishment or rules…just love them,” James gently pulled the brush through her hair.

“What if they won’t let me?” Cecilia’s recently suppressed tears started again.

“I’m not saying it will be easy love…but you can begin by telling them the whole truth,” James soothed.

“The whole truth? Hello dears, I’m your mother, I was raped by Joyce’s boyfriend’s father when I was fourteen. I’m really screwed up? Please forgive me and let me try and be a mother to you?” She glared at him. “That will go over well!”

“You were a good mother love…strict, yes…and you could’ve shown a bit more how much you loved them…but did you or did you not bring the Books to show Penelope?” James smiled.

Cecilia grinned. “Yes…we haven’t gotten round to them yet.”

“Once they see you glowing with pride and love, then they’ll understand…just let them see the real you…the one only I get to see…just…be yourself love,” James pleaded softly.

“I’m scared, James. I’m so scared,” Cecilia turned around and put her head on her husband’s shouder.

“Yes dear…but the truth will help…and make it the whole truth,” James told her sternly as she caressed her back and head.

Cecilia who’d relaxed into her husband’s ministrations, stiffened. “W-what more is there to tell?”

James pulled her into his chest and sighed. “The reason why you always cry on the third of March?”

Cecilia started and tried to get away. James kissed her hair soothingly. “Cecilia…Cece…I’ve know for years. I don’t love you less, I know you’ve looked. Let Simon help you, he has people experienced in that sort of thing. Just…tell the girls,” James pleaded.

Cecilia started sobbing. “Oh…and what do I tell them? I’m sorry dears…you’ve got an older sister…remember that nice man who raped me? He wanted children by me! And he was successful in his plans, you’ve got an older sister, and I left her on the steps of a police station…and I don’t know what happened to her and that has screwed me up even worse than getting raped?”

“Yes, something like that. They’re amazingly understanding women. Just tell them and they’ll help you through it,” James comforted his wife.

“And then what? Find her? Play happy families? Imagine the past forty-two years did not happen?”

“I’d let Simon handle that end. He does have a vested interest as well. She is his sister after all,” James smiled.

Cecilia turned in James’ arms, her eyes wide with shock. “Oh dear lord…I never even considered that…”

James smiled sadly. “You should love…I’m sure he’ll be very interested to learn of the fact.”
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