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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)vidiconFR1598780,1331571477385,97828 May 115 Jul 14No

Many Fingered Aurora

Reviews are Welcome

Chapter 3: Many-fingered Aurora

Dawn Summers snuck into her mother’s bedroom guiltily. She stealthily moved to her mother’s bedside table and opened the drawer, removing a small business card of thick, high quality paper. A bold hand had written a telephone number under the printed name and the words, underlined twice, ‘Call me.’ If her Mom was not going to do it, she would. She closed the door. Buffy’s friend Willow was downstairs, making her own homework; Dawn was supposed to be in the bathroom. She took a deep breath, picked up the extension by her mother’s bed and dialed a number.

“Office of Dr. Meier. Patricia Eglemore speaking.” The voice was severe but warm, with no trace of regional accent.

“H-hello. This is Dawn Summers. Can I speak with Sim… Dr Mayer, please?” Dawn’s voice squeaked. She closed her eyes. Oh this was going just wonderful. She had not expected to get a secretary!

“Did you say Dawn Summers?” An ever so gentle tone of amusement seemed to be present in the lady’s voice. It stressed her first name ever so slightly.

“Yes.” Dawn said it as firmly as she could, trying to make her voice sound older.

“The young lady of the capital cities of Europe?” The voice was not only amused but interested.

Dawn blinked. “Errr. Yes. Uh, I shouldn’t have called…”

“No please, hold. I’ll see if he’s available.”

Dawn nodded numbly; a reflex reaction even if she knew the woman at the other end could not see her. “Okay. Thank you.”

Simon Meier was reading through a report on the effects of El Niño on the fishing fleets of Pacific Fishing Co. when his phone rang. He picked up and heard Pat speaking. “Simon, there’s a young lady for you on the phone.” There was amusement in her voice.

Simon sighed. “How did she get this number? Damn that Crawford woman. She’s tenacious, I’ll give her that.”

Pat laughed softly. “She probably got it from her mother. This is your homework partner.”

“Dawn?” She could hear the delighted amazement in his voice. “Put her through. Oh and Pat, reverse the charges, I don’t want to get her in trouble with her mother.”

“And you think she won’t be when her mother finds out she’s calling you?” Her tone was amused.

Simon laughed. “Put her through Pat.”

Pat broke her connection with Simon and got back Dawn. “Miss Summers? I’ll put you through to Dr. Meier now.”

Dawn swallowed convulsively. This plan had seemed way better before it actually had a chance of succeeding. She heard a click on the line and a warm male baritone spoke to her. “Dawn? Are you there?”

“Yes. Umm. Sorry for calling you, but Mom wasn’t going to.”

“And how did you know she wasn’t waiting for me to call her as well?” He sounded honestly curious.

“I heard you talk about dating when I was upstairs getting my homework.”

He laughed. “Eavesdropping Dawnie?”

“No! I just heard. Honest.”

“I see. And may I ask why you are calling me?”

Dawn cleared her throat. “I was thinking if you came by to help me with my homework, you would see Mom and it wouldn’t be a date?” Her voice was hopeful.

She heard a sigh. “I’d love to Dawn. But I’m in New York.”

“Oh. OH! Mom is going to kill me! I’m not supposed to call out of the County.” She sounded genuinely upset.

“Don’t worry Dawn; I’ve had Ms. Eglemore reverse the cost.”

“But that means you will have to pay for it. That isn’t fair.” She fretted. Simon chuckled.

“A small price to pay for brightening up my day.”

There was a short silence. “Did you really tell Ms. Eglemore about helping me with my homework?”

“Yes I did. I had to give her and Ms. Vance and Ms. Devereaux an extensive description of all I did that afternoon.” He sounded amused. “I think they made notes about everything and everyone I met and spoke to.”

“Oh. Umm.. Will you be by again some day?”

“I will do my best to come by as soon as possible Dawn.”

“Good. Thank you. I have to hang up now; otherwise Willow will want to know why I’m taking so long in the bathroom.”

“Then by all means go. Thank you for calling.”

“Thanks Simon. Hope to see you soon.” She hung up and Simon carefully placed the old fashioned handset back in its cradle. He swiveled his chair around to take in the view over central park. After a few minutes the office door opened and Patricia entered.

She stood next to him, slim and ramrod straight, her iron grey hair pulled away from her strong boned aging face, her shoulders back and her piercing grey eyes looking of into the same distance as Simon was. Her skirt was dark blue, a white blouse with a pearl necklace and a blue jacket completed her outfit for the day. “Wrong Summers lady to call?” She looked at him questioningly.

Simon smiled up at her wryly. “I don’t think that there is a wrong Summers lady.”

“So what are you going to do?”

He swiveled the chair. Looked up at her, amusement twinkling in his dark eyes. “Well Operation Sassafras is still several weeks from completion…”

Patricia Eglemore closed her eyes. Counted to ten. Opened her eyes. “How did you know about that?”

Simon snorted. “Despite what you, Cynthia and Honor may think, I am not quite helpless or stupid. I called up the property list for Sunnydale and saw the orders given for renovation. And I did notice that some of the administration of the business was being moved to LA.”   

“Ah. “ Pat had the grace to look a bit embarrassed. “I take it you approve?”

Simon rolled his eyes. “Not the choice of domicile. But the place does need a renovation.”  He stood up. “You’ve been clearing my social calendar for three weeks. I’ll be leaving for LA tomorrow.”

Pat sighed. “The house isn’t finished yet Simon. And you will be out of the loop for at least two more weeks until we can move operations from New York to LA.”

 “I’ve arranged for an apartment. Phone and internet have been installed. And when was the last time I had anything like a holiday?”

Pat’s mouth fell open. “ A vacation? Simon, are you serious?”

“Yes.”

“My god. I want to meet this woman.”

“No doubt you will. I’ll want the LA mansion checked as well, that was last done in ’83, yes?”

“You looked that up as well? “ Pat seemed impressed.

“Yes, I thought I might as well be thorough. I’ve left an Instruction for the directors on the general policy on decisions.” He shrugged. “Nothing unexpected. Same one as when I go on a long business trip.”

“So you are just going to show up at her door and ask to be let into her life?”

“I was thinking more along the lines of a little wooing and then a formal courtship, but maybe I should just go ‘Grunt want woman’, bash her over the head with a club and drag her away by her hair?”  He raised an eyebrow at her.

She chuckled. “Go with the wooing and the courtship. The caveman thing is old even for you.”

“Damn, and here I thought I’d take her clubbing.”

She smiled at him broadly. “Bad punning, Simon? You must be in love. Well good for you. I’ll coordinate with the others. You do realize the directors are going to have a fit?”

“I can live with their collective discomfort and conniptions untroubled and to a great age.”

Pat sighed, wistfully. “I am kind of sorry I won’t be seeing this courtship first hand.”

“No doubt the Yellow page press will descend on us the first time I take her anywhere and will keep you informed in great detail.” Simon looked decidedly uncomfortable at the thought.

She smirked. “Or I might take a vacation myself. It has been a while for me as well.”

He gave her a dark look. “Well don’t expect to stay with me. An addition to the household might crimp my style.”

“So you won’t be taking Miller?”

“No, I won’t.”

“He’ll not like that.”

“He’ll learn to live with it.”

She shook her head in amusement. “I’ll go arrange your flight. You will introduce me to these redoubtable Summers women before you get married?”

“I shall endeavour to convince them to meet you.”

“Thank you, most gracious of you. Director Tenson will be here in ten minutes. I assume you will tell him of your holiday yourself?”

“It will be my very great pleasure to do so. Thank you Pat.”

“You’re welcome Simon.” She left his office, closing both doors softly.

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The Women’s clinic was quiet. Joyce and Buffy were shown into a large office, comfortably furnished. A meeting table and a desk and the accompanying chairs filled most of the space and a large picture window looked out over the garden.

A willowy red head, well over six feet tall, with slight touches of grey in her hair moved gracefully forward to meet them. She wore a light blue pants suit and a white doctor’s coat hung over the back of one of the chairs. “Joyce and Buffy Summers? I’m Margaret Lawson.”

Joyce shook the proffered hand. “Pleased to meet you.” Buffy shook hands as well. Margaret picked up her coat and hung it over the back of the desk chair, taking one of the three chairs before the desk, gesturing towards the other two.

“Do you want something to drink?”

Joyce shook her head. Buffy did likewise. Margaret turned to Buffy. “I assume you want to do this alone? Or do you want your mother to be present?”

Buffy blushed a little and looked at her mother with a little trepidation, hoping she’d understand. Joyce rose and smiled. “Don’t worry honey; I’ll be right outside if you do need me.”

Buffy smiled in relief. “Thanks Mom.”

Joyce left and Margaret closed the door behind her, sitting down beside Buffy. Buffy studied her carefully, wondering at the odd combination of the birdlike Marcel and the tall, collected redhead. “You’re different from what I expected.”

Margaret gave her a whimsical smile. “Marcel likes tall women.”

Buffy blushed furiously. “I didn’t mean…”

“Don’t worry about it dear. We’ve long ago gotten used to the fact I am taller than Marcel. He has no problems with it. Now, let’s get the physical bit over with and then I’ll have to ask you some questions.”

Buffy nodded. Margaret led her to an examination room where she changed into a surgical gown. A quick examination was all it took. Buffy was surprised it wasn’t more uncomfortable. The instruments had been warm and Margaret very deft. She dressed again and entered the office just as Margaret got of the phone.

“That was Marcel.” She gave Buffy a wide eyed look of sheer awe and admiration. “You’re the Slayer.”

Buffy blinked and sat down. “Yes. Man, this is weird.”

“What is dear?” Buffy noted the endearment. It seemed to come naturally from the graceful redhead and she decided to take no offence.

“I was expecting to be fighting for my future and my freedom and instead I get this…this fanclub!” She waved her arms around.

Margaret laughed. “Just you wait until you meet the Loudun support group. When they hear you burned and killed a vampire master and his minions…”

“Support group?” Buffy looked stunned.

“Loudun sufferers support group. Mostly people exchanging demon stories with people who believe them. It’s very cathartic.”

“Umm. Do I have to go there?”

“Marcel might recommend it. But not unless you want to. You are sort of a special case.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Yeah, sorta. So now what?”

“Physically I can see that you are untouched.” Buffy blushed despite herself and Margaret grinned reassuringly. “But vampires are known to be… suggestive.”

Buffy shuddered, her voice shivered. “He was a pervert. He whispered things to me. Things he wanted to do to me.”

“I imagine he did. Did he lay hands on you?”

Buffy closed her eyes. “He… yes.” She shuddered in revulsion remembering those cold and knowledgeable touches.

Margaret nodded sympathetically. “Marcel will go into that. My report will be very succinct for now. I will be available for later counseling if you want. Now is there anything I can do for you?”

“No, thank you. Thanks for seeing me on such short notice.”

“No problem, it just means Marcel has cooking duties tonight.” She winked. “I’ll let you out”

She rose and led Buffy back to the waiting room. Joyce was standing by the window, her face strained, her hands twined together. Buffy quickly walked towards her, giving her a hug. “I’m all right Mom.”

Margaret nodded. “Marcel can take care of the psychological side of things, there are no physical after effects.” Buffy stiffened and Joyce rubbed her back. “It will be alright love, it will be alright.”

Margaret cleared her throat, looking uncomfortable. “This is going to be dreadfully unprofessional of me…”

Buffy grinned, suddenly realizing where this conversation was going. “I am certain that we can handle it.”

Joyce looked at her daughter wondering what she knew. Margaret plunged in. “So… you are the Joyce Simon has been talking about?”

Joyce gasped and her face went beet red, then she glared at Buffy who was almost bent double with laughter.

Margaret shrugged apologetically, raising her hands, blushing herself. “Ah, sorry. I shouldn’t interfere, I know. Shouldn’t have asked.”

Joyce stopped glaring at her daughter and tried to get her blush back under control

She took a deep breath. “Yes, I probably am. Unless he is very free with his affections.”

“Simon? He hasn’t dated in twenty-five years.” Margaret slapped a mortified hand in front of her mouth. “You didn’t get that from me! Oh god, Simon is going to kill me!”

Buffy had by now collapsed on a chair with laughter. Joyce and Margaret looked at each other in shared mortification. Then Joyce’s lips twitched. Margaret’s twitched. Then both of them started grinning. “I’d say we are now sisters in embarrassment?”

“Well at least you now know he is chary,” she stressed the old fashioned British word and Joyce realized it must be a Simon word by the twinkle in Margaret’s eye,  “of giving out his affections.” Margaret rubbed her still flaming cheek.

Joyce nodded thoughtfully. “That is a good to know.” She glanced at her hysterically giggling daughter and sighed. “Buffy, remind me to get into fits of giggles about your love life when you are a little older and less sensitive about it.”

Buffy snorted, raising a challenging eyebrow. “What makes you think I have no love life now?”

Joyce shrugged. “I’d know. Pike doesn’t count. The gentleman in black does not count until he is properly introduced, no matter how handsome he may be.” She gave her daughter a pointed look.

Buffy gawped and blushed.  “How the hell do you know about all that?!”

Joyce shook hands with a smiling Margaret. “Language Buffy! I’m a mother. It comes with the territory. Thank you, Margaret.” She paused. “I think we will be seeing each other again in the future.”

Margaret beamed. “Oh, excellent! I hope to see you both soon under more cheerful circumstances.” She walked over to Buffy and shook the girl’s hand as well. She led both women out of the building and waved as they got into the car and drove away.

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Upon arriving back in Sunnydale in the early evening Joyce Summers cooked a simple dinner of beef, potatoes and vegetables for her daughters and the so-not-a- baby sitter. Willow’s parents were away for the night and she had refused to let the girl go home to eat a microwave meal alone. Willow had attempted to down play her situation but Joyce had firmly taken control and even driven by her home to pick up an overnight bag: Willow would have a sleepover with Buffy and had gotten a good meal. Willow was now doing homework with Buffy, so both could go out later.

Dawn was unexpectedly silent and walked around the house looking ready to burst into tears. Joyce knew that Dawn would come to her when she was ready to talk and nothing she could do or say would make her before hand. Now it was time to take her big step. She took a deep breath, opened the drawer of her bedside table and removed the business card.

As she was about to sit down she saw a small indentation on the bedcovers. She smirked. Well, at least she would have one thing to ask Simon. She dialed the number. The phone rang and was picked up on the first ring. “Dr. Meier’s office, Cynthia Vance speaking.”

“Miss Vance? Umm. My name is…”

“Ms Summers! I recognize your voice. How may I help you?”

Joyce blinked. “Err, well Sim… Dr Mayer…Meier asked me to call this number to ummm…”

“Set a date for a date?” Joyce could hear the grin in Cynthia’s voice. “Indeed he did.”

Joyce blushed. “So, err can you tell me when would be convenient?”

“Well he’s on vacation for the next two weeks.”

“Ah. How nice for him” Joyce tried to suppress the disappointment in her voice. She knew she’d failed.

“His first one in seven years.”

“Really? He must have needed one then,” Despite her frustration she felt sorry for him, married to his work apparently. “So, where is he? Somewhere in Europe? And can we set a date for when he returns?”

“Sunnydale, California. 12, Calvary Hill Apartments, 65 Gold Rush Avenue. I think you can set a date together…”

Joyce could hear the smothered laughter on the other end of the line as she spoke in total astonishment. “He’s taking his first vacation in seven years in Sunnydale?”

The voice on the other end became serious. “I’d say he’s taking his first vacation in seven years with Joyce Summers. Her daughters too, but primarily with Joyce Summers. I think he’d have booked an igloo in Canada if that meant he would be near you.”

Joyce blushed, very glad the woman could not see her. “So what was he going to do? Just show up? Camp out on my doorstep?”

Cynthia giggled. “Well Pat Eglemore said he was going to woo you with flowers and perfume. He despises camping, so he wouldn’t have camped out on your doorstep at any rate…”  

Joyce sighed. Wooing with flowers and perfume sounded rather nice. “So when will he be here?”

“He’s coming into LAX tonight. He’ll be in Sunnydale tomorrow. Well late tonight really, but he won’t be good for much but sleep.”

“Will he call in when he lands?”

“He always does.”

“Tell him to present himself for breakfast at ten in the morning. My place. Think he’ll be able to manage that?”

There was a snort. “He’s done with less sleep for less pleasurable encounters. He’ll be there.”

Joyce smiled. “I’ll see him tomorrow then. Do you have a phone number for him?”

Cynthia gave a gurgling laugh. “Oh yes indeed.” She gave the number, as well as the apartment address, repeating both for good measure.

“Thank you Ms Vance.”

“You are most welcome Ms Summers.” Joyce rang off. She looked at the address and phone number, a smile tugging at her mouth. She rose, opened the door and saw Dawn’s door close and thinking she heard a sob she quickly walked over to her younger daughter’s bedroom and knocked. Dawn did not answer. “Dawnie, are you in there?”

“Go away!” A sob could definitely be heard at the end of the sentence. Dawn was usually ready to talk when her tears broke. Joyce opened the door resolutely. “I think not.” She strode over to the bed and sat beside her sobbing daughter. Dawn was laying face down, head buried in her pillows, narrow shoulders shivering with her grief. Joyce ran a hand down Dawn’s hair and then laid it on her back.

“What’s wrong Dawn? Tell me what is wrong?”

Dawn struggled to sit upright, turning into her mother. There were tears running down her cheeks and sobs wracked her body.

“I called Simon. This afternoon.” Dawn didn’t look at her mother, expecting to be reprimanded.

Joyce nodded. “I thought you might have.”

Dawn looked up. She could see no anger on Joyce’s face, just amusement and a touch of exasperation.

“He had a secretary lady, Ms. Eglemore. She was very nice. He’d told her about the homework, he was in New York and working and he talked to me and said he would do his best to come see me soon. And he had Ms Eglemore reverse the charges too.”

Joyce smiled. “Did he now?”

Dawn sobbed louder. “And then I called daddy and he said he was busy and to make an appointment with his secretary. And his secretary said…“ The sobbing got worse. ” She said she wasn’t aware Mr. Summers had a daughter!” The last came out as a wail.

Joyce felt an over powering urge to drive to LA and kick Hank in a place he valued more than his daughters. And to beat up on his bimbo secretary as well. Instead she hugged her shattered little girl tightly to her and whispered love and affection at her until, finally, exhausted by her emotions, Dawn fell asleep. Joyce covered her with a blanket and left the room, closing the door very softly behind her.

Buffy and Willow were looking at her solemnly as he came into the living room. She had expected the older girls to be gone already, off to the Bronze, or whatever they called it. Buffy looked quite upset.

“Is Dawnie alright? We heard her crying.”

 

Joyce sat down with a sigh. “Not really.” She buried her face in her hands, rubbing it fiercely, and then looked up at the two. “No reason for you two to stay here though, I can take care of Dawn.”

“She called dad. Willow told me. What did he say?”

Joyce took a deep breath. “Let’s just say he acted like your father has been acting for a while.”

Buffy muttered a few choice swearwords and insults under her breath but swallowed the others at her mother’s reproving glance. “Sorry, Mom. Will you be alright?”

“I’ll be fine in the morning dear. You two just run off and have fun.”

“Are you sure Mom? I don’t mind staying…”

“Buffy, just go out and have fun, you’re only young once. Enjoy it.”

Buffy leaned over and hugged Joyce, tightly. “I love you Mom.” Joyce kissed the side of Buffy’s head. “Love you too dear.” She gave a mock glare. “But you will be home on time!” She also noted the wistful expression on Willow’s face.

Buffy rolled her eyes in mock exasperation. “Yes, Mom, promise.”

Joyce rose and practically pushed her daughter to the door.

Just as Willow was about to leave she gave the girl a quick hug and a kiss on the forehead. “Thanks for watching Dawn, Willow.” A quick glare. “And you be home on time as well! I’ll be waiting for the two of you!”

Willow blushed fiercely, her eyes wide in surprise. Buffy eyed her mother thoughtfully “Yes, Ms. Summers. Good night.”

She heard a fierce whisper as she closed the door. “Why did she do that?” Willow did not sound at all displeased.

Buffy’s answer was as thoughtful as her look had been. “She probably just thought you could use a hug, Will.”

The closed door stopped Joyce from hearing the rest of the conversation. But she felt better for all that.

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The girls had come home giggly and talking about tall handsome strangers, blushed when they realized that Joyce had heard them discuss the merits of leather trousers versus tight jeans for the purposes of studying boys. Joyce had reined in her smile at remembering similar conversations with Lolly when she had been their age. She had merely given them a motherly look, kissed them both goodnight, shocking Willow into stammers and blushes, told them not to stay up too late, knowing full well that it was an idle remonstrance and had turned in herself.

She had checked in on Dawn several times during the evening and found her sleeping but she was not surprised when her door opened in the night and a small figure made its way to her bed. She lifted the blanket and Dawn’s shivering body moved in beside her, teary faced and shuddering with repressed sobs. Joyce held her again until her grief-stricken daughter fell asleep once more. She realized the only thing she still valued about Hank was the daughters he’d given her.

When Joyce woke the next morning Dawn was curled into her, cheeks and eyes still bearing the remnants of her sorrow. She carefully moved away from the girl, desperately trying not to wake her. She put on a robe over the large t-shirt she had worn to bed, stuck in her contacts and walked down the stairs, entering the kitchen and yawned. She began making coffee for herself, knowing she’d need it after her disturbed night. Simon was going to get a good dose of real Joyce, bags under her eyes and all. She chuckled. At least he wouldn’t walk into a relationship not knowing what he was getting. She yawned again and stretched.

There was a knock at the kitchen door and she opened it without thinking. He was wearing a light grey linen suit this time, but his eyes were still brown-green and laughing. He carried a huge net of oranges in his left hand and a huge box from the British bakery and a bag of fresh bread on his right arm. His cane hung in the bend of the left. The box and bag covered the lower part of his face, but she could imagine from the way his eyes crinkled that this mouth was smiling. And here she was, dressed… in a robe hanging open and an ancient overlarge t-shirt that went barely to mid thigh and precariously wanted to crawl down her left shoulder. She gulped.

“Simon. You’re early” She quickly tied the robe shut and avoided his eyes.

When she looked up again he looked contrite. “I know, I’m sorry. I saw movement in the kitchen and thought… I just wanted to see you.”

She smiled despite herself, amused at the situation. “Got a good look?”

“Oh yes indeed.” She was honestly surprised at the warm tone, almost reverence. She felt herself getting warm. It had been a long time since a man had looked at her with that sort of desire. She stepped back, beckoning him in.

“I was just making coffee; then going to shower. Care to join me?”

He grinned and she realized how what she said might be interpreted. She rolled her eyes and blushed despite herself. *She was a grown, adult woman with two children! Why the heck was she blushing?*

“Please…” His voice was velvet. She gave him a quelling glare, knowing full well that her blush ruined it.

“Put the food on the table, I’ll get you some coffee.” She poured him a cup and he accepted it gravely, sitting down after putting down the food removing his jacket and tie. He was wearing golden cufflinks she noted, set with lapis lazuli of purest blue in art deco styling. Tiffany work, she was sure. 

“So how have you been?”

“Well. Very well. Buffy saw Dr Ovrion. He has tentatively diagnosed her and I think he will help her greatly and keep her out of the hands of Child Welfare.”

Simon nodded, obviously pleased. “Good.”

“I also met Margaret, who told me you had been talking about me.” She waited to see his reaction but he met her gaze calmly.

“I was supposed to stay with them that night and eat with them that evening. I did have to explain why I did not.”

Joyce sipped again. “Is that why you told your secretary about Dawn and her homework?”

He gave her an amused look. “Dawn confessed?” He saw the distraught look passing over her face. “Joyce? I’m sorry, did I do anything wrong? I remember how awful it was when I tried to talk to my father and he was too busy and I was shunted down to a secretary who did not even know who I was. I just told them who you all were, to treat you with utmost courtesy...”

Joyce took a great gulp of hot coffee. “No, no nothing you did.” She was silent for a while. “Let’s say Hank acts similarly to your father.”

Simon winced. “Ah. Poor Dawnie.” He reached across the table and touched Joyce’s hand. “Why don’t you go take a shower, I’ll prepare breakfast.”

Joyce raised an amused eyebrow. “Can you even bake eggs?”

He rolled his eyes. “Yes, I can as a matter of fact. I can cook quite well.” He looked at the table. “My father did not approve.”

“Which is why you learned it of course.” She nodded understandingly.

He smiled, an honest smile if a trifle naughty. “Go and get dressed before Buffy comes down and thinks I struck a home run last night.”

Joyce giggled about that remark all the way into her bathroom.

Dawn woke to the sound of the running shower and her mother’s soft humming. She yawned and stretched, crawling out of her mother’s bed and walking barefoot downstairs, her Winnie the Pooh sleep shirt hanging down almost over knees. There was a noise from the kitchen. The oven was on and there was a smell of warm bread and orange juice. She stepped into the doorway and saw a grey trousered, white shirted figure busily squeezing oranges, an apron she knew had “Kiss the cook” on it around his waist. He turned round as she gasped.

“Hello Dawn. Seems like I got to come by quicker than I thought.”

She stepped into the kitchen and he glanced at her bare feet. “You might want to put on some slippers. Or get dressed.”

She took another step, suddenly accelerating, throwing her arms around him. “Thank you.”

He put his arms around her and gave her a hug. “No thank you, for calling me Dawn. I still would have been sitting in New York, getting more and more annoyed if you hadn’t.”

“Does Mom know you are here?”

“Yes, she asked me over. But I was already on my way.”

“How long are you here for?” Her voice sounded muffled, not surprising since she had not removed her face from his midriff yet.

“I took a two week holiday.”

“We don’t have one.”

“I know; I can catch up on my reading. Take a few walks. Stuff like that.”

“Ok. My teacher wants to meet you.”

Simon smirked. “Really? Why?”

“She’s from Scotland and you put Edinburgh down as a capital.”

Simon laughed. “Indeed. Well if you insist. You need to let go now Dawn, there are oranges to squeeze.”

Dawn let go and sat down on a kitchen stool, one leg tucked under the other, swinging her leg. Simon turned back and poured the orange juice into a glass pitcher.

“Soooo…what are you going to do today? 

“I have no solid plans, but I do want to take your mother out to dinner.”

“No movie?”

“We can watch a movie right here on the couch, if we have time.”

“Where are you taking her?”

“A place called Di Firenze, an Italian restaurant.”

Dawn nodded approvingly, swinging her leg faster. “She likes Italian.”

“So I’ve been told.”

“So what about this afternoon?”

Simon looked at her gravely. “Arrangements yet have to be made.”

Dawn giggled. “You could take a walk, there’s forests and stuff. But I suppose she does have to go to the gallery too.”

“An excellent proposal. How’s ballet going for you?”

“I’m in a really nice group.” She suddenly looked sad. “But there’s a really big ballet production in LA in a weeks time, and dad promised he’d take me there, but I haven’t heard anything yet.”

“What ballet?”

“Swan lake, by the Kirov ballet.”

“At the Dorothy Chandler?”

“Yeah.”

The conversation was interrupted by the arrival of Joyce, her hair still trifle wet from her shower and curling softly around her face. She was wearing a soft pastel blue sundress and matching sandals, with a silver coloured necklace. She sighed at Dawn, who had drawn one knee inside her nightshirt and was still dangling the other. “Dawnie, go get dressed.”

She threw her hair back over her shoulder. “Why? He’s seen me in my underwear already.”

Simon stifled a laugh. Joyce had to keep her mouth firm to prevent her own from escaping. “That was as a Doctor. Now shoo.”

Dawn sighed. “Oh phooey!”

She flounced out. Simon poured another orange worth of juice as Joyce sat down.

“So is Buffy liable to come in here dressed in Eyore?”

Joyce shook her head. “I took mercy upon my elder daughter and her friend and told them to dress properly.”

“And how did they react? “

“Well, they groaned a lot at the hideously early hour. But I tend to impose dress code at the breakfast table anyway. So Buffy’s liable to be surprised.” She smiled wickedly.

“Is Hank likely to take Dawn to the Ballet?”

Joyce shook her head, sadly this time. “Another one of the promises to her he is not going to keep. I called his office and he’s got a date with his new girlfriend and his boss that evening. No room for a nine year old daughter. Nor the decency to tell her in person.”

“So that was part of the disappointment?”

“Yes. She was really looking forward to it, but it was sold out weeks ago. Hank would not have remembered until three hours before anyway.”

He nodded, sliding onto the stool opposite again. “A pity. Would she have had a dress fitting for the occasion?”

Joyce shrugged. “I made her one a few months ago. It kept my mind off things.”

“She suggested I take you for a walk.”

Joyce smiled. “Most of the greenery around here is graveyard. And I do have to work at the Gallery.”

“I don’t mind seeing some art.”

“And miss the magnificent funerary monuments of the Sunnydale elite?”

“Well I do believe a great-grand uncle of mine lies buried here. He founded a bank during the gold rush. Died in Sunnydale while setting up the local branch.”

“Ah, so that is the origin of the distant relatives?”

Simon grinned. “No Uncle Gabriel died, as they say it, without issue. The distant relatives are the result of a liaison with an ‘unsuitable lady’ by an elder son, sometime early in the previous century.”

Joyce lifted an eyebrow. “Unsuitable? And that long ago and you recognize them as family?”

“I think she was an official mistress, he would have married her, but she was Jewish. He handed her off to a nice Jewish boy, including suitable dowry, once he’d gotten her in the family way, and they moved west. I don’t think they are even aware of the connection.”

She lifted an eyebrow. “Then why the visit?”

He rose and grinned at her. “Checking them out. I need someone to leave the money to; I might as well give some of it to family. They’re about all that is left, beside me.”

“You could still marry and beget Simon Hendrick Coenraad Meier XVI.” She said it jokingly.

“I think the Meier line will die out with me. We’ve been going for a long time. Probably too long.”

Joyce moved behind him, placing her hands on his shoulders, then moving them down to encircle his waist. “Don’t be so fatalistic.” There was a noise of descending teenager and Buffy and Willow came into the kitchen, both yawning, but dressed and washed.

“Mom? Can I have two eggs and bacon?”

  Simon picked up an egg. “Certainly. Over easy? Or Sunny side up?”

Buffy’s eyes widened and she froze mid yawn. She very slowly took in the man at the stove, her mother’s position right behind him. “Wow Mom, you certainly don’t waste time.” Her mouth flickered into a smile. “So are you going to?”

Joyce looked at her. “Going to what?”

“Kiss the cook?”

Joyce groaned. Simon grinned at Buffy and Willow, who was blushing for no reason he could divine. “The cook will be taking orders, but will require payment in kind.” He winked at Willow. “Red heads pay extra.”

Willow blushed even more wildly but gave a timid smile and sat next to Joyce, Buffy opposite her. Simon, using two pans, had the eggs prepared in a more than credible fashion within a very short time. He served himself and Dawn last. Talk concentrated on plans for the day, Buffy and Willow going to hang out, a suitably vague term, Dawn wanting to go to visit a nearby friend from ballet class, Joyce needing to go to the gallery and Simon to wander at will through ‘beautiful vibrant Sunnydale.’

Once breakfast was over Joyce kept Dawn to help her clear the table. The others walked out onto the porch and sat on the swing.

“I’d like to thank you for sending me to Marcel.” She started, unsure how to begin.

“It was my pleasure.” He inclined his head towards her. “It will be good for you to talk to him. About everything.”

She gave him a penetrating glare. “How did you know?”

He gave his familiar shrug. “It’s a bit too public here for that discussion. Later?”

Buffy nodded. “Yeah, I suppose. A pity you can’t come to the high school library.”

 Willow nodded, before Buffy could continue. “Why not, I mean he met Giles before? He could like, come by and inquire after his health?”

Simon gave her a look, then his face became pensive. Finally he diffidently ventured a name. “Rupert Giles?”

“Errr…yes.” Buffy nodded. “He said you met at the Museum?”

“Indeed. Now why would Rupert Giles become a librarian in Sunnydale…” He gave Buffy a wink.

“So you can come by? We’re supposed to have a study meet…”

“Yes, I think that might be wise. I imagine you want answers. Knowing Dr Giles he’s probably at work still.”

“Dr. Giles? What sort of doctor?” Willow was immediately interested.

“Classical and pre classical antiquity, I think. I was just introduced to him. But he was the Curator of Ancient near eastern civilizations at the BM. It would have to be something related to that.”

“Oh.” Willow’s expression was astonished. “So he really was at the British Museum.”

Simon seemed amused. “Indeed he was.” He rose. “I’ll just go see if Joyce is ready to go to the gallery…”

Buffy grinned as he made his way back into the kitchen. She could hear Dawn complain inside about the unfairness of child labour.  She placed her hands behind her head and stretched her legs in front of her in satisfaction. “Well. I may get a Porsche out of this after all.”

Willow sniggered.

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Dawn was off playing with her friend Janice and Joyce was at the gallery, having told Simon to show up later to share a late lunch.

Which left a small and incongruous group to visit Sunnydale high on a Saturday afternoon. Travelling in the ancient Volvo Buffy, Willow and Simon arrived at the school to find Giles waiting for them at the gate.. Simon locked his car and sauntered up to the Watcher, cane over his right shoulder, box of pastry on his left arm.

“Dr. Giles. It is good to see you again.” He bowed slightly.

“Dr. Meier. A most fortuitous meeting.” Giles bowed in return, waving for his guest to enter. “I am working in my office in the Library. Please follow me.”

Simon followed Giles and the party arrived at the Library soon. Xander was lounging in his usual seat, but his feet were on the table. “Xander. Feet on the ground.” Giles said it almost absentmindedly, as if this was a usual occurrence. From the look on Buffy and Willow’s faces it probably was.

Giles sat at one end of the table and Simon sat at his right, looking around with interest. “Procopius? Rather heavy reading for a High School library.” He had noted the large volume in the middle of a stack of books Giles had yet to put away.

“I believe in a wide diversity of reading. It trains the mind.”

“Not to mention that if it is the full edition of the Secret History it contains all those tantalizing facts about witchcraft and demon hunting.”

Giles blinked. “That is hardly common knowledge.”

“I come from an ancient and very wealthy family.”

“I see. Is that the same way you know about the Slayer?”

“And the Watchers. And the supernatural has long interested me.”

“I assume you have never fought a demon?”

“I try to avoid it. They tend to be so very dangerous.” Simon smiled whimsically.

Giles smiled back. “Quite understandable. Well that clears the matter up.” He hesitated “Ah, will you or any of those who know perhaps be interested in a position as a Watcher?”

Simon shook his head decisively. “No. From what I’ve seen I would not be happy with the Watchers and Marcel and Margaret would definitely not be. And most of the poor victims they treat, definitely not. So please leave them alone.”

Giles nodded. “Quite. But it is good to know that Buffy will have people for support outside ourselves.” He gestured at Xander, Willow and himself.

Simon inclined his head at Buffy. “I will certainly try and assist as best I may.”

Buffy snorted. “If you’re not too busy doing other things…”

Simon raised an eyebrow. “Do you have any suggestion Buffy? Visited any romantic graveyards lately? Suitable for…necking?”

Buffy looked uncomfortable. “Err…”

“Kiss her passionately behind the family monument…” He looked at her musingly

The blush on Buffy’s face deepened. Giles looked at her with quiet interest. “Go to second base on a quiet bench under a spreading oak tree that overshadows the burial of young lovers…”

Buffy groaned, raising her hands in defeat. “Mercy. Too much information! Please mercy!”

Simon chuckled. “I’ll be there whenever you want to play Buffy. Except when I am busy with your mother of course…”

She buried her face in her hands, ears still burning. “Oh god, I so did not need to think about that…”

Simon rose and sketched a small bow. “Well I assume you are all here to discuss demon slaying and such matters of importance. I however am on holiday and intend to enjoy myself. You may find me at the Summers Gallery.” He left, allowing the Slayer and her friends to discuss the supernatural situation in peace. And hopefully goof of in the afternoon.

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He went for a quick visit to the hospital, introducing himself and requesting a visiting physician’s identity card, leaving his information. He did a little window shopping and bought a few minor items of furniture. He became a member of the public library and borrowed and bought a good three dozen books. He bought a sketchbook and some pencils and pens as well. He took the books to his apartment in the car, went back into the center of town and drank a cappuccino at a quaint little café that called itself the Espresso Pump and sketched as he drank the beverage. It was better than he expected. He wondered if he should get a bike. A bit of restful exercise would do him good.

When Simon walked into the Sunnydale Fine arts Gallery it was about noon. The gallery was the new attraction in town. One that wasn’t a cemetery at any rate. This meant that there was actually quite a crowd of people inside and business seemed quite brisk. The front rooms currently housed an exhibition of African idols and he glanced in amusement at a fertility idol placed in the corner beyond the sight of casual passers by.

Joyce kept a fair selection of unique pieces, mostly African and Indian art, a few good if minor nineteenth and twentieth century American and British masters, she had told him she wanted to go for an upper middle class and higher clientele. He hoped business would remain this good. But the art trade was fickle, it was one reason he had never been much interested in it. Joyce was circulating. He noticed that where the customers had glasses of sparkling white wine she had a glass of mineral water.

She gave him the same warm smile she had that first time he had seen her, when the carefully built wall around his heart had fallen as hard and fast as the walls of Jericho. But this time there was a little more in there than the kindness to a stranger, even a little more than there had been in the smile she had given him after that strange, almost perfect afternoon had ended. He smiled back at her and settled on a wooden bench, a fair distance from her and just looked. 

She had put a light blue grey jacket on over the sun dress and had applied some careful colourless varnish to her nails. She stood in the light of the early afternoon sun and he thought her the most beautiful thing he had seen in decades. He could imagine her, with that serene look, walking through the streets of Paris in the autumn, as the rain fell on a shared umbrella. In Venice, during the Carnival the masks would not be able to hide her sheer beauty, and the passion he knew lay beneath that face, in New York she would grace any society party he would have to attend.

Yet here and now in this time and place, talking to a man and woman who wanted to buy art and did not know what it was, here she was real. And all the places he wanted to take her would have to wait, wait until she was willing to go there with him. Tonight he would take her to a good but not too expensive Italian restaurant, and afterwards pass by the Italian Ice cream parlour.

He sat on the bench, studying the works in the gallery he could see from that position, but mostly looking at Joyce, how she moved, talked, gestured. He was certain he could watch her for decades and still see new things in her every time he looked.

He was approached after a few minutes by a young woman in a white dress and burgundy red jacket and sandals, her shoulder length black hair and blue eyes a marvelous contrast. She smiled at him, a salesman’s smile. “Hello, my name is Marianne; can I help you in some way? Show you some of what we have on offer?”

He saw Joyce give him an amused look. He rose, extending his hand. “Simon Mayer, I was admiring one particular work of art, but I am certain you can show me something else. I fear if I sit here looking at it all day I will give the wrong impression.”

Marianne looked behind her, seeing Joyce stand beside a sketch of a Native American encampment by Frederic Remington. “Ah yes, the Remington, one of the best pieces in the gallery.”

Simon gave her a slow smile and his eyes moved ever so slightly away from the sketch. He equally slowly moved his eyes up and down Joyce’s form. “If you say so.”

Marianne noticed the direction of his admiring gaze and also the slight blush that crept up her employer’s face. She stifled a giggle. “I see. Is there anything art related in the gallery I might show you? If the Remington doesn’t attract you?”

“Do you have any portraits, mid nineteenth century?”

“A few, is there a particular artist you are looking for?”

Simon smiled. “Nothing in particular, I just like the style of the period.” She nodded, leading him to another part of the gallery. He looked at one or two African pieces but he spent most of his time carefully studying the portraits. Portraits of strangers were the worst selling pictures, he knew, unless the artist was very famous. He left after twenty minutes, taking a mint from the large bowl on the counter.  He took out a pad and pencil, sat down outside a small café opposing the gallery and started to sketch.

After an hour or so he was joined by Joyce, who looked over his shoulder and asked the question with her eyes. The sketches were well executed, well ordered and composed in the classical style. “Edinburgh insisted its graduates should be able draw anatomical details, my mother thought it would be good for me to have some classical training. I spent a year at the Glasgow School of Art and Slade’s. I never would have got in without a generous donation from the family.” There was a bitter twist to his lips after he finished talking, sketching in the tree in front of the Gallery.

Joyce held out a hand and after a little hesitation he handed over the sketchbook. It was new and only the first few pages had been filled, the earlier sketches stilted and crossed out. She gave it back.

“They are quite good. I take it you hadn’t drawn in a while?”

He smiled, deprecatingly. “Far too many years. I suddenly was struck by inspiration.” His look at her was direct and calculating. “I don’t suppose you’d care to pose?”

She lifted an amused eyebrow. “Not for the sort of anatomical drawings they demand from medical students, no. I like my gallbladder where it is, thank you very much!”

He smiled slyly. “How about a Coldstream?”

Joyce blinked; her mind working overtime as she thought what he might mean. It would have to do with art. Her mind threw up a card. An old memory of an appraisal came to her mind. Coldstream, William Coldstream, he had been a teacher at Slade, famous British painter. Known for his comprehensive realism, taking ages and many sittings to finish a single painting, famous for his portraits, landscapes and… female nudes. Her eyes widened and she blushed.

“And I suppose the Coldstream method too?” She tried to say it in a collected and cool voice, but knew that it quavered a bit with embarrassment and amusement. Damn the man for being so good at embarrassing her!

He glanced at her appraisingly. “I could paint you for all eternity. And maybe, one day, you will let me draw you. But for now…” He hesitated, reaching for the sketchbook, opening it roughly in the middle, thumbing through the white pages until he came to a single used page, containing a sketch of Joyce, standing in the sun in the front room of the gallery, her necklace glowing and her face animated and yet in odd repose. He handed her the book, the sketch showing, as if offering her his heart. She leafed through the following pages, showing quick studies from memory of her face, hands, eyes, lips. A whole page with just her lips.

She closed the sketchbook and put it down on the table, gesturing for the waitress and ordering a coffee, trying to get her mind to function above the *Oh God, Oh God*  level.

“I notice you paid special attention to my lips.” *Oh lord, I did not just say that.*

“They are worthy of years of intense study.” * Oh lord, he did not just say that.*

“I would think they would get boring after a while.” *Quell him Joyce. You can do this.*

“I do not think so. But then again I have heard that variety is the spice of life and I have no doubt that there are many other, interesting things about you worth studying…” *Oh Lord… He did just say THAT!*

Joyce blushed furiously and the waitress gave her an encouraging smile as she put a cup of coffee on the table, adding a small platter of cookies and two menus. Joyce took a quick sip of her coffee and nodded her thanks to the waitress who left quickly.

He sat gazing at her as if she was a great work of art, or the most beautiful woman in the world. “You don’t think you are beautiful.” He said it as if in answer to her thoughts and she startled, almost causing her coffee to slosh over the edge of the cup.

“There are many more beautiful women in the world. You must have met some.” Joyce made the statement dryly and matter of-factly. He looked at her for a minute and then shook his head.

“They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And I have beheld a lot of beautiful things. And maybe from a purely aesthetic point of view, you are right. But to me you are quite the most beautiful thing I have seen in decades.”

“Simon…”

He looked straight in her eyes and smiled. “You’re an Art history major. Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of ‘There’s no accounting for taste.’”

“And how did you know that I’m an Art history major?” She crossed her arms at him, giving him an irritated glare.

“It’s on your college diploma, which hangs in your office in the Gallery. I could see it when Marianne went in to get me the Exclusive catalogue.”

Joyce sighed. “You’re not going to buy anything just because...”

He interrupted her. “I might buy the Remington. Since I own the finished work, I might as well go for a full sweep and get the sketch.”

Joyce gulped a too large mouthful of coffee down. “That’s in the Smithsonian!”

He nodded, picking up a glazed cookie. “Yes, my father lent it to them for a special exhibition of Native American culture in the late sixties and he put something else up which he liked better and I’ve left the Remington there on loan on condition they would keep it safe and maintained.”

Joyce blinked. “So what did he put in its place?”

Simon looked uncomfortable. “A rather large historic painting.”   

“Simon….” Joyce’s aggravation coloured her tone.

The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis by Rembrandt. One of the Dutch line bought it before he could cut the canvas up.”

Joyce sat stock still. “You own a Rembrandt. You have an actual Rembrandt on your actual wall.” She said in disbelief. Simon looked down at the table and winced.

“I own several. Most are on loan to museums.”

“Several… Simon, exactly how ‘independently wealthy’ are we talking about here?” She crossed her arms, an angry look on her face.

“Joyce, would you accept ‘multiple billions’ and let it go at that?” He looked at her beseechingly.

“Are we talking multiple as in two, more than two or more than ten?” She was not going to let this go.

“Uhmmm. Multiples of ten?” His hands were clasped around his cup as if it was a lifeline.

“Multiples of ten…” She looked at him accusingly. “And if you hadn’t let that bit about the Remington slip, when would I have found this out?”

He took a deep breath, closing his eyes. “Tonight.”

She blinked in surprise. “Oh. Why tonight?”

“Two reasons. Not telling you would not be fair, not a good basis for the type of relationship I want with you. And secondly I needed to make clear to you that what I did is not costing me enough to notice. And that you need to take next Friday afternoon and Saturday of from the Gallery.” He looked decidedly guilty.

“Simon…what did you do?” *Not a good basis for the type of relationship I want with you…Now that sounds definitely promising.*

“I called Peter Hemmings and asked him what the ‘Eternal seats’ in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion actually meant.”

“Who’s Peter Hemmings?”

“The director of music and performance at the LA music centre.”

“And what did the eternal seats mean? And how did you get them?”

“My father got them. He donated a substantive amount to the Pavilion’s construction and upkeep. All major donors receive a number of eternal seats that they can make use off. They’re sold only on the night itself. I reserved mine.”

“The ballet? Dawn’s ballet?”

“Yes. They’re quite good seats too. In the Founders’ Circle of course.”

Joyce could not stop blinking at him. “Oh, of course.”

“Joyce, let me do this for her. I know exactly how she feels.”

Joyce opened her mouth, then closed it again, then grudgingly answered. “Very well. But I’m still not letting you get past first base tonight, buster!” She had the satisfaction of seeing him blush furiously.

“I did not mean…Intend…” He looked desperately embarrassed and mortified and Joyce reached out a hand to touch his.

“I know Simon, I’m sorry. And thank you. But…”

“But what?”

“But it’s not easy to accept it. If this… if it does not work out between us, I don’t want Dawn to expect…”

“Things she cannot have? Things you cannot give her?”

“Yes. Exactly that.”

“I see… If her father had booked when he promised he could have gotten a seat. If he had spent another thought he could have gotten these seats, the last evening, reserved them. They are hardly beyond his means Joyce, certainly not for once in a while. The only difference is that when I called the Music centre I was put through to its director instead of to the box office to be told there was no room until the last night.”

Joyce sighed putting a hand over her eyes. “I’m not going to win this argument, am I?”

“Not when it will make Dawnie so happy, no. You know it is just your pride talking Joyce. You wouldn’t have protested if Hank had done this, you’d have cheered.”

“Simon…Why?”

“Because I know what it feels like. I know what it feels like to have your parents leave you at home, break promises, because you are just a child, and not an interesting one at that, not as clever, not as accomplished, not as wonderful, not as august as you should be,” He gave her a fierce glare. “If I can give Dawn even a minute’s reprieve from that, so help me God, Joyce I will even defy you.”

She looked at him, as waves of fierce determination seemed to run off him. Her mouth quirked. “Are you telling met that you are choosing my nine year old daughter over me? Are your affections really that fickle?”

Simon’s mouth opened. A strangled noise came from his throat. He groaned and buried his face in his hands. “Dear lord, how do you do this to me? I’ve made Presidents of the Daughters of the Mayflower society blush and stumble. No woman has ever reduced me to this…”

“Level of astounding incoherence?” She smirked at him.

He glared at her, eyes alight with amusement. “Does Dawn get her ballet?” 

“Yes, yes she will. And maybe somewhere a little boy will forget what it is like to be alone and forgotten.”

He reached a hand across the table and took hers, squeezing gently, smiling in gratitude for two children, one in the present, and one in the past.
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