Cheaper by the dozen
Author’s note: Disclaimers at the end of the chapter. Thanks to all those who’ve recommended me, Addlcove; bigman; Blackett; catnthecradle; dogbrother; etienneofthewestwind; Garmorn; grd; hpssslashfan; Panaka; PATM; smee; war; wozwashi and Zaz. The chapter is fairly long to accommodate a lot of angst and family drama and yet it is only Saturday night. Last chapter I tried interspersing the happy bits with the more serious bits. I hope that worked. I was wondering, does anybody feel I should adjust the rating of the story? It references a great many adult situations but never actually shows them and the amount of violence, so far, is pretty mild. Suggestions? Thanks in advance. I will admit Simon’s father was a piece of work. One of my nastier creations. A pity he’s dead really…he would make a nice adversary… I mean, the line could have been strengthened even more by inbreeding after all… Chapter 31: Cheaper by the dozen
Simon’s phone went and testily reached into his pocket, intending to chew out whoever was calling until he saw the number. He stepped into the Dining room and closed the door.
“Michaela? Is it bad?”
“Simon, I can only tell you something if there’s a direct relative near. She’s in our system.” Michaela told him firmly.
“Her mother is here, right now,” Simon argued.
“Simon…the foundling is quite famous. We need more than that…”
“Do you have the text of the note?” Simon asked.
“Yes, I do.”
Simon took out the piece of paper with his notes. “Clarice, love of my heart, I can not care for her, please keep her safe. Clarice I will love you always, your Mommy. That it?”
“Yes…Simon, if you know this woman who says she’s her mother…”
Simon barked a harsh laugh. “Trust me Micheala…This woman would have nothing to do with me if she could help it.”
Michaela sighed. “I’ll call her. And let her know. And then I’ll get back. Can I give her a place to call? A place to go?”
“This number. 1630 Revello Drive Sunnydale California.Or her mother’s place in Imperial.” He gave her the address.
“Your own phone?” Michaela asked, surprised.
“Yes. Micheala…when you speak with her, her mother, two of her three half sisters and her half brother are here, this weekend, as well as her nieces, nephew and a few cousins…” Simon’s voice was hopeful.
Micheala sighed. “I’ll tell her, I’ll tell her. I’ll call you later.” She hung up and Simon leaned against the closed door, looking absently at his phone.
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Michaela Tyler was a dedicated woman and she was good executive. She was also loyal and knew very well that Simon Meier would never call her in a weekend unless it was absolutely vital. Considering her rank within the Meier Foundation, that meant never.
She also knew that 1630 Revello Drive was for all intents and purposes, Simon’s home address, which meant this probably was very personal.
She picked up her desk phone and dialled the mobile number listed for contact. It had been quite recently changed, she noted.
The phone was picked up on the second ring by a slightly annoyed voice. “Clarice Starling.”
“Miss Starling? This is Micheala Tyler, from the Meier Foundation.”
“Meier Foundation?” Michaela noted just a slight Virginia twang in the woman’s warm, gorgeous voice.
“Yes…you left your information with us in case we ever came across information regarding your natural parents.”
There was a thud as if someone had just sat down heavily. “What?! I tried for years! I never found anything!”
“Foundlings’ parents are often very difficult to find, we tend to say that we can usually only help when they come forward. Of course in your case many did who were not related.”
“Yeah. I left a DNA test for that…” Clarice noted dryly.
“Yes, we haven’t matched that yet. But this is the first time someone has given the text of the note and the blanket and the fact the box was bare and bore no printing and, considering the source, I think it may be the best lead ever.”
“Oh god.” The woman on the other end sobbed. “What can you tell me? Names? Anything?”
“Apparently there’s some sort of family gathering going on… two half sisters, a half brother and your mother, or at least the woman who claims to be. And a large number of cousins. But otherwise… No.” Michaela admitted.
“Where? Where are they? Oh never mind, I could never get there on time…” The amount of sheer desperate loneliness in the woman’s voice hammered at Michaela’s heart.
“That of course depends where you are. I take it you want to meet them…her?”
“YES! I do…I’ve wanted to for years… why didn’t she come forward sooner?” There were tears in Clarice’s voice now and Michaela guessed it was a rare occurrence.
“Well, where are you?”
“I’m in LA on a case,” Clarice replied “Just finished it. I work in San Diego.”
Michaela smiled. “Sunnydale. Do you know where that is?”
“Sunnydale…” the woman breathed. “That’s less than two hours with luck…”
“Yes…1630 Revello Drive.”
“Thank you. I’ll go pack.” The woman hung up and Michaela blinked at her phone.
“Well, at least she’s decisive.”
She dialled Simon’s number and noticed he answered immediately. “Simon, apparently she was in LA. She’s on her way now and I hope to God your woman is her mother or you may have a depressed federal agent on your hands.”
“Federal agent? Clarice? Coming here?” Simon asked in confusion.
“Special Agent in Charge Clarice Starling of the San Diego FBI Field Office.”
“Clarice…” Michaela wondered at the emotion choked voice of her employer. “Thank you Michaela…thank you.”
“You’re welcome Simon…and…good luck.”
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Simon went into the kitchen and gestured at Joyce with his head. James noticing it looked at him and he nodded. James rose as well, kissing Cecilia as he went past her. They met up in the dining room.
Joyce gave him an anxious look. “Is she dead? That’s why you knew so fast isn’t it?”
Simon gave her a radiant smile and suddenly James saw the similarity between Simon and Willow.
“No, she’s on her way here. She lives and works in San Diego. Special Agent in Charge of the FBI field office there.”
James let out a sigh of amazement. “Dear god…she lives closer than any of the other girls…What’s her name?“
“They let her keep the name… Cecilia will be so happy.” James grinned broadly.
“So do we tell her?”
Joyce and her father nodded. “Yes. Cecilia does not do surprises very well…” James smiled.
“Ummm…” Simon gave the older man a hesitant look. “Do you want to tell her, or…”
“You do it. It was your people that found her.”
Simon smiled and went to the kitchen where Cecilia was showing Piper the best way to keep the air in the dough when making her corn bread.
“Cecilia? Do you have a moment?”
Cecilia froze and looked at him with haunted eyes. She nodded. “Keep kneading with your fingers Piper, you too Willow. Buffy…” She sighed and her oldest grand daughter looked contrite at the misshapen lump of dough and then the light fluffy piles that Willow and Piper were handling. “Never mind dear, the Hammer is in the car, why don’t you deal with the chicken in the way you like.” She winked and Buffy nodded happily, running off after cleaning her hands.
Simon gave her a look. “Hammer?”
Cecilia chuckled. “Tenderizing hammer.”
Simon winced. “I just hope we have a work top left after…”
Cecilia gave him a look. “Oh come now Simon, she’s just a girl…Oh…Slayer… you’re right… Willow dear, tell your sister to hold back a little.”
Willow looked at the older woman and then her face blossomed in a huge beaming smile. “Okay Gra…Mrs. Ellis.”
Cecilia was drying her hands and turned to the young girl. “Gran or Grandmother will do fine dear. But one Grams out of you and I’ll borrow your mother’s ultimate punishment.” She eyed the three Halliwells who innocently met her gaze. “And no more coaching Dawn to say it Phoebe! I’m not so old yet that I can’t fit you over my knee…drunk or otherwise.” She grinned.
Phoebe gulped. “AUNT CECILIA!!”
Prue was snorting with laughter and Piper had to turn away from her dough to prevent her from spluttering over it. Willow manfully tried to contain her own laughter and kept bursting out in slight giggles. Phoebe groaned.
“Well…that settles that. Come on Simon,” Cecilia stated decisively.
He led her into the dining room, pulled out a chair and sat her down. James and Joyce were in the corner and Charlotte was sitting at the head of the table, looking a bit ill.
“It’s bad isn’t it?”
“Well, I’d prefer she were in a less dangerous line of work, and we need an extra place setting at dinner…” Simon smiled broadly.
Cecilia gave him a look. “E-extra setting?”
“She’s the Special Agent in Charge of the San Diego FBI. She was in LA and she’s on her way now,” Simon explained.
“”My baby…” Clarice whispered.
“Her name is Clarice Starling.”
Cecilia hugged herself. “They let her keep the name… Simon, how did you do this so fast?”
Simon shrugged. “The Meier institute has a service to help children find their natural parents. She’s registered and I don’t know exactly why she’s hot footing it here…”
There was a thunderous noise and then a crack and then a loud ‘Sorry!’ Joyce looked around and then at her mother. “Mother…did you bring the Hammer?”
Cecilia flushed. “I told Willow to tell Buffy to be careful!”
Joyce sighed and left for the kitchen. “I just got that work surface too! I liked it!” She groused as she went out the door. Cecilia looked a trifle guilty.
“You heard me tell Willow…”
Simon smiled. “Buffy may not have given Willow a chance to tell her. She can be a bit enthusiastic at times…”
James laughed. “Oh lord; yes…I remember the time she and Celia decided to help with the woodcutting.”
Cecilia rose. “I’ll go see how bad the damage is.”
The girls in the kitchen were silent. The old tenderizing hammer laid split in two on a badly dented cutting board, a chicken fillet, very thin indeed, lining the dent.
“Oh dear...where’s Buffy?” Cecilia asked.
Willow wiped away a tear. “She ran outside…Mom’s with her…I’m sorry…”
“Whatever for dear? Buffy’s always been exuberant.”
Cecilia blinked. “Why ever would she be upset about that? I’ve broken several in my time. I’ll just have James make a new one, like always.”
“S-several?” Willow asked, astonished.
“We do have this temper dear,” Cecilia pointed out. “Sometimes the cutting board is the best thing to hit.” She looked at the pads of dough. “Why don’t you set those in bowls to rise and make some more. There will be one more guest for dinner. I’ll tell you later, first I’ll go talk to Buffy.”
She walked outside to see her daughter looking up at the treehouse. “Buffy! Come down!”
Cecilia grinned to herself. “That’s a bit useless you know, none of you three ever did that merely when called…”
“Mother…” Joyce gave her an exasperated look.
“I need to talk to Buffy. Joyce, go supervise the girls before they blow up the kitchen.”
“It was my hammer, Joyce and I still need to apologize. And Willow could use a hug; she seems to think this was her fault.” Cecilia went to the bottom of the ladder and started to climb.
“Mom! Be careful!” Joyce called out, suddenly worried.
Cecilia looked down. “Really Joyce, it’s no worse than the ladder to the attic at home.” Her face became thoughtful. “Remind me to talk to you about that later…” She climbed through the hole in the floor and hoisted herself up.
“Gran…” The girl had obviously been crying but was now eyeing her grandmother with a look part fear part disbelief.
Cecilia looked around and then happily sank down on a cushion next to Buffy.
“You’re not pregnant are you dear?”
“Huh! What?! GRAN!!” Buffy whined and blushed.
“I’ll take that as a no then. I broke three when I was pregnant with your aunt Arlene. Hammers that is. Your grandfather has always been fond of steak.”
“So you’re not mad?“ Buffy asked diffidently.
“Heavens no dear, even if you’re grandfather didn’t enjoy making them they’re only a couple of dollars.”
“B-But…” Buffy looked uncertain and bit her lip. Then she looked away.
“Buffy… sometimes things that are cheap are dearer to the heart than things that are expensive… but this isn’t one of those times.” Cecelia lifted her granddaughter’s chin with a finger.
Buffy nodded. “Gran…why were you so upset when I-I used that…”
“It’s not a rag Buffy…” Cecilia looked into the distance. “It was my father’s handkerchief…I took it with me when I ran away…It’s the last tangible thing I have… had to remember them by.”
“H-had?” Buffy’s eyes filled with tears. “I thought I just…”
Cecilia hauled her into a hug. “You just got it dirty, yes… But now I can visit my family home again, take all of you to see it. Show you the park where I played as a little girl, all of San Francisco. I haven’t been there in decades…”
“So you’re really not mad?” Buffy asked again.
“No dear, but you may want to watch your strength. Your mother’s cutting board will never be the same again…”
Buffy started to sniff. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh heavens dear, its not your fault…It takes time to get used to Slayer strength, as well as magic…it took me years to properly master my magic,” Cecilia soothed.
“It’s just…I remembered what you told me the first time…” Buffy hiccoughed.
Cecilia started to laugh. “Oh Buffy…you were five…hit it as hard as you can…even now that you’re fifteen.”
“Almost sixteen!” Buffy bristled.
“Almost sixteen…” Cecilia good naturedly allowed. “You’d still macerate the chicken into a pulp even when normal. It’s a miracle you didn’t hit straight through the table…”
“Yeah…Wills called out to hold back…” Buffy blushed.
“It’ll be fine dear; your grandfather can make a new cutting board too,” Cecilia grinned.
“I’ll go and help Mom.” Buffy made to rise but Cecilia held her back.
“First we need to talk… as in I need to apologize.”
“Gran?” Buffy asked, confused.
Cecilia sighed and suddenly looked old and sad. She put a hand to Buffy’s face. “If I’d told your mother… about magic… you would never have been committed to Overton.”
Buffy looked thoughtful. “If Mom had told you what I told her, what would you’ve done?”
“Gone to LA and frozen the bastards before they could take you away and have sworn a blue streak…and…” She sighed. “Confessed to Joyce…”
“And you didn’t tell us because we didn’t need to know…” Buffy smiled at the irony.
“Well, I wanted you to have a normal life. You and Dawnie were, are both latent. Very powerful, but latent. So was Joyce. I saw no need to bother you with things that should never have come your way, vampires are rare enough that most people don’t encounter them. Slayers draw them, as does the Hellmouth…” Cecilia glared at the ceiling. “And settling you here is definitely something the Powers that Be will be hearing about…”
Buffy grinned. She could just see her grandmother taking the Powers to task for not taking care of her girl.
“So…if Mom had told you everything you would’ve…” Buffy made a few hand movements.
“Yes, but the initial fault is still mine. I kept this from your mother, and you, for entirely selfish reasons. ” Cecilia sighed. “Just be glad your mother was so much better at being a mother than me before she became a Mother.”
Buffy giggled. “That was a whole load of Mothers…”
Cecilia gave her oldest granddaughter a quelling look. “I’m not entirely up to date dear, but that was a bad word even when I was young, if I hear you refer to it again in that way, Slayer strength or no…”
Buffy swallowed and rubbed her butt. “Gran? Err…about that…you know I’ve got this special healing thing?”
“Yes dear, I never met a Slayer, but I understand you heal faster, recover faster and are far more resistant to damage than normal mortals or even most witches.”
“Errr, yeah… Gran…why does it hurt when Mom spanks? And why does it take, well, longer to heal? Longer than it should?” Buffy blushed as she asked the question and Cecilia’s mouth quirked.
“Oh dear. That sounded like a plural. What have you been up to young lady?”
Buffy sighed. “Gran? It’s all Slayer related, I’ve not been drinking or stuff, or smoking, I’d get grounded for a that anyway, I think. But I broke Rule One and Two…”
“I see. Well, in your line of work some danger is to be expected…I’ll talk with Joyce, spanking you for saving someone hardly seems reasonable. If James had done that to me every time I did it-”
“Y-You saved people?” Buffy asked, wonderingly.
Cecilia smiled. “Yes…now as to your question. A mother cares and nurtures, but she also disciplines. I’d imagine that it has something to do with that. I’m not an expert on the Mother power, but I used to be quite friendly with a witch who is one…” She looked thoughtful. “And it’s about time I got back into contact with some old friends… Maybe Simon can get me into contact with her.”
Buffy sighed. “So, whenever I do something, you know….”
“That deserves punishment? You will get punished…and you will feel it,” Cecilia explained.
“Ouch,” Buffy winced.
“Better not get caught then…errr.” Buffy flushed.
“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.” Cecelia winked. “But Buffy, I was quite the wild child myself, as was your aunt Arlene. Your mother always was the most mature. Please remember that she tends to look at the world a little like a…a …”
“Nerd?” Buffy smiled.
“Not the word I was looking for, but I suppose it is true…” Cecilia smiled.
“I love Mom, she’s the best, and she’s got a good taste in clothes, but I really can’t get into all those French books she reads,” Buffy complained.
Cecilia grinned. “To tell you the truth dear, neither can I… But I love her very much and I’m very proud of her.”
“I love her too -and you- I’m sorry about the Hammer…”
“Stop worrying about the Hammer dear, like I said, a new one is easily gotten. Now you can help your old grandmother down these steps,” Cecilia rose from the hard floor and wondered is she might have a few old pillows that would make the place more comfortable.
“You’re very welcome dear.”
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Dawn looked at her grandmother as the woman sat on the front porch, looking worriedly at her watch.
“I’m sure the bread will be fine Gran.”
Cecilia smiled. “The bread is not what I’m worried about dear…”
“Gran? What’s wrong?”
“I-I…” Cecilia looked around. Most of the family was inside, except for herself and Dawn “A lady will be visiting. You know I ran away from home?”
“Yeah…Gran? Is she a new aunt?”
Cecilia stiffened and then laughed. “Dawn Florence, you’re an amazing girl…”
Dawn smiled smugly. “Yeah. I know…What’s she like?”
“I don’t know dear… I-I haven’t seen her since the day I had to leave her behind…”
“Oh…so that’s why you’re nervous… You don’t know if she’ll like you…and you’ve got a house full of people she’s never met either…maybe Mom’s power will help…” Dawn reassured her grandmother.
“It’ll be alright Gran…” Dawn put her arms around her grandmother and hugged.
Cecilia smiled at the girl hugging her back. “When did you get so wise?”
“I talk to granddad a lot…” Dawn teased.
Cecilia chuckled. “Yes, that would help. C’mon Dawnie, lets go in and have dinner. I fear you’re new aunt will be late.”
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Clarice Starling cursed her luck. Three accidents and a series of road works had delayed her by more than four hours. It was dark by the time she turned into Revello Drive and slowly let the car bleed speed as she read the numbers and names on the mailboxes. 1630… Summers… Summers…The name seemed familiar. The Driveway was full and she pulled up a ways beyond the house and parked there, staring blankly into the night. *Family… I haven’t had family since Uncle John died…and he only wanted to see me after I took down Lecter… I wonder what they are like…If they know who I am… remember… know about…*
She shook herself and got out of the car, went to the boot and got out her overnight bag. She took a deep breath, she’d faced, and defeated some of the world’s worst monsters…these were ordinary people. She’d have to try and get through at least one night without freaking them out.
Clarice froze. A girl, blonde, maybe fifteen or sixteen was watching her and two vampires were stalking the teen.
“Hey, I’m Buffy, Buffy Summers. I guess you must be my aunt Clarice?”
“Buffy, get behind me!” Clarice absently noted how her voice fell back into her childhood accent in the Moment of stress. Like hell was she going to lose a niece she only just met!
Clarice dropped her bag drew her gun and aimed all in one smooth movement, firing three clustered shots into the first vampire’s spine at the juncture of head and neck. It fell, but she knew she’d have to deal with it later. She turned to the next one but Buffy was in her way…with a stake? The vamp threw a punch and Buffy blocked
it? Her arm should be broken and she should be whimpering on the ground!
And then… she kicked the vamp in the groin and as the thing blinked, grasping at its manhood, she slammed her foot into its chin, throwing it off balance and leaving it wide open… and there it went in a small patter of ashes. Buffy knelt by the fallen vamp and staked that as well. Then she rose, quite calmly until Clarice saw Buffy’s face. It was… incredulous.
“You know about vampires?” Her voice was light and airy and utterly astonished as well.
Clarice felt her mouth quirk.*Well...that is one thing I can talk about…with Buffy at least.*
“Yes. Some of the serial killers I tracked were vampires…”
Buffy’s eyes widened. “Holy…You’re Darlin’ Starlin’! The Killer Catcher!”
Clarice winced. “Buffy…if you ever call me any of those names again…”
Buffy blushed. “Sorry! Sorry! I…we just didn’t make the connection.”
“No…ummm. Do you like pasta? Only there’s some left or otherwise Gran will make new, but you really should get inside, Gran is getting really frightened something happened to you.”
“Oh yeah…c’mon, this way.”
Clarice rather dazedly followed her niece. She saw the lights come on in some houses and the porch light of number 1630 revealed a group of people who’d come out at the sound of the gunfire. A small, upright woman with dark blond, greying hair stood in front. To Clarice she didn’t look all that old, not even sixty. It fit in with the description of the teen girl who had fled Bridgeport the night she was left…young…so very young.
The woman stepped forward and looked at her and Clarice looked back. There was fear in those eyes, and a longing that Clarice herself felt too.
“Ummm…I don’t know your name…I just ran out of the door...”
“Impulsive…I bet you’ve got a temper too…” The woman smiled. “I’m Phillipa Cecilia Ellis…I was born Johnson…”
“Ah…ah’m Clarice Starling…” She winced as she fell into her accent again. Damn stupid nerves!
“My Clarice…my beautiful little Clarice…” The woman took a hesitant step forward and Clarice dropped her bag. “Mom?”
Clarice Starling did something she hadn’t done in over a decade. She broke down and cried. She vaguely felt the warm, comforting arms around her, felt herself being led inside and hugged, put on a couch and given water, yet never did the arms around her let go. She buried her face in her mother’s shoulder and neck and bawled.
When she came to herself she was sitting on the couch with her mother and a box of tissues. And lots of used ones.
“Oh honey…there’s nothing to be sorry for, or ashamed about.”
Clarice sniffled. “I haven’t cried in years…”
“Then you probably needed it. I also bet you’ve been holding in your temper…we need to fly of the handle on occasion…it keeps us on an even keel…”
“Keeps us going mad? Yeah…I could use that…”
“If you mean vampires dear…we all know about them. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that an FBI profiler would as well…”Cecilia mused thoughtfully.
Clarice gasped. “You all…”
“Yes dear, we all know, which brings up the next problem…” Cecilia looked uncomfortable. Then she picked up a tissue and gestured at it. It fell apart in a burst of flames.
Clarice gaped. “M-magic? You can do magic?” She gave her new found mother a look. “Does that mean…”
“Yes dear, you can too. A lot of magic. I can feel it buried inside you.”
“I-I had to bind your powers, to keep your father from finding you…your biological father.”
Clarice nodded. “How old were you?”
“I was fourteen…I love you, always know that, I loved you the minute I knew you were growing inside me…”
“He raped you. To make me.” It was not a question but a statement.
“Yes. I had to keep you safe. I fled to Britain, I met my husband and then I couldn’t find you…” A tear ran down the older woman’s face. “My poor, lonely baby…”
Clarice felt her own tears starting again. “Oh Mom…what happens now?”
Cecilia gave her a mustering look. “When did you last eat?”
Clarice blinked and then chuckled as the stomach rumbled. “Errr…”
“Then first you get something to eat…I’m sure there are plenty of people who want another bit of pasta and cornbread… Come on.”
She rose and helped Clarice of the couch, leading her into the kitchen. A small, cute red head was just lifting a glass cloche that covered a selection of cheeses and dropped it back guiltily upon the wooden base.
Cecelia sighed and smiled. “Willow…”
“I know Gran…no Cheese…” She pouted, and then brightened. “Hello Aunt Clarice!” She left through the kitchen door.
“Ummm…she seemed quite…errr…Laid back?”
“Yes well, her mother has sort of told all of them to give us some time alone, most of them are in the garden, except for Dawn, who’s in bed.”
Clarice looked out of the window and saw the gathering beneath the tree, lit by a few garden torches and several strings of Christmas lights.
“I should…” He stomach rumbled.
“Eat first. Sit.” Cecilia pulled out a stool and then pushed Clarice on to it. She put a plate into a microwave and turned it on, put basket of bread by her daughter’s side and a knob of butter, as well as a small jar of fresh pesto.
“Are we Italian?”
“Not really, we just like pasta.”
Clarice grinned. “So…what are we?”
“Hmmph, I’ll have Simon tell you the history of magic. But we did not
come over in the Mayflower, those people would have burned us at the stake. We’ve been here a pretty long time however… We’ve got Irish and French and, yes a little bit of Italian blood; your sisters are one quarter Native American…”
“Yes…I met James while he was stationed in the UK…I came back with him again. We’ve got three girls. Arlene, Joyce and Charlotte, the last two are twins.”
“He’ll accept you dear…He was very impressed by Buffy’s description of your shooting skills.”
“Buffy…Buffy Summers! Of course! She took down Lothos…No wonder that vamp outside had no chance!”
Cecilia blinked. The microwave beeped and she rose and fetched the plate. Clarice felt her mouth water and her nose wrinkled. She fell to as soon as the plate stood before her.
“No…not married…no children…no boyfriend…married to the job…” *And the job wants a divorce…*
she thought bitterly.
Cecilia gave her a sharp glance. “I see… Clarice…From what my granddaughters and nieces tell me, you’re a famous profiler, one of the best. Why are you out here, leading a field office in San Diego? I may not know a lot about the FBI…but that does not seem like a promotion to glory to me.”
Clarice snorted. “You don’t beat about the bush do you Mom?” She ate a few bites and then spoke in a dull, flat voice.
“I told them about vampires. The upper levels were not amused, going public would have been instant suicide. They gave me San Diego for services rendered, with the strong implication I’d better find something else to do in the next few years. I’ll get a medal and a nice speech…bye bye Clarice…”
Suddenly the tears came. “Its all I ever wanted to do Mom, catch the criminals, the worst bastards, the killers…all I ever wanted to do and they’re taking it away from me…”
“Oh honey…” Cecilia rose and hugged her oldest daughter, wiping away her tears after she’d cried herself out. Then her face grew thoughtful. “Maybe your brother can help there…”
Clarice stiffened. “Yeah…you only have girls…so how?”
“Your father’s son…your elder brother…”
“He wants to marry Joyce…and oddly enough he’s a good man…Even if he looks too much like his father for my peace of mind…”
“But what can he do?”
“Ah…probably more than you can imagine…”
Clarice looked down at her squeaky clean plate. “Errr…Mom? Can I have seconds?”
Cecilia laughed. “It seems you like pasta too…”
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Joyce Summers looked at her daughters, son and cousins. “There will be no badgering Clarice for cool stories about crime. There will be no questions about Hannibal Lecter… there will be no
remarks about bespoke suits… And no one…” She glared at them all, which was backed up by Penelope and Danielle. “Will refer to her as Darlin’ Starlin’, The Killer Catcher, Cannibal Catcher Clarice or any of the other things she got called in the press. Understood? I will personally put any of you who make her feel uncomfortable over my knee!”
Prue made a squawk of protest but was silenced by two well aimed elbows in her sides. She glared at her sisters but Piper just moved her head to point at their grandmother, who was looking equally fierce. “Don’t Prue…It won’t even happen if we let Clarice set the pace.”
Buffy looked worried. Piper grinned. Knowing her cousin’s tendency to blurt things out, she probably feared retroactive retribution.
After finishing her second plate slightly slower than her first Clarice let herself be guided outside. The collection of people quietly chatting there fell silent. Clarice froze.
The blonde she’d seen outside bounced up before anyone could stop her, hugging her fiercely, but also whispering in her ear. “Aunt Clarice? I’m really, really sorry! Please don’t tell Mom what I called you?” Her lower lip trembled slightly and Clarice grinned. Apparently Joyce had laid down the law. She tenderly stroked the girl’s hair and then looked around. Two of her three sisters… Charlotte and Joyce…Charlotte’s husband Harry… Joyce’s boyfriend Simon…her half brother who looked just like…
“Holy motherfucking Hannibal on stick!” Clarice swore, before slapping hand before her mouth, looking mortified.
Cecilia gave her a deceptively mild look. “We’ll be talking about that potty mouth of yours later dear…I take it you recognized Simon?”
“Yes Ma’am! I mean, Mom. Sorry Mom.” She looked at Simon with awe. “We met…”
“At a fundraiser…for orphans…I remember…” Simon grinned.
“We were both bored as he..ck…” Clarice grinned back.
Joyce gave Simon a suspicious look. “Simon…what did you do?”
“Well…the two of us may have led a group of orphans in a spirited rendition of the Star Spangled banner
during the key note speakers very long-”
“And boring, don’t forget boring…” Clarice added with a grin.
“Speech.” Simon grinned too.
Joyce sighed and stepped forward. “Well, I’m Joyce. I used to be the middle sister. Charlotte…come up here and greet your sister.” She grinned at her twin. Charlotte rose and rolled her eyes.
“Domineering older sisters. Feh.” Charlotte sniffed.
“Now, now Charlotte…you just gained a new domineering elder sister…”
“And you will stop teasing our baby sister right now Joyce!” Clarice’s voice was joking but had a slight edge.
Joyce involuntarily let out a very Willow like ‘eeep’.
Charlotte laughed. “Well, that’s novel…”
“Yeah. New for me too.” Clarice stepped forward and hugged both her younger sisters. Both were taller than she was. Then she stepped away and Simon very slowly approached. She studied him and he her.
He saw a petite but strong and fit woman. He knew her age was forty-two but she still looked several years younger. Her hair was a deep glossy auburn brown and her large eyes were deep grey green. Her heavily lidded eyes were much like his own but her nose was far less pronounced, luckily for her. She had heavy eyebrows and a pale skin, like her mother. Her face was delicate oval and her chin firm and with a tiny cleft. He reached out a hand to shake hers and then she was hugging him and he was hugging her back.
He didn’t know when he started to cry. She couldn’t remember when she started either.
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They sat in the garden under the tree, two people who’d been alone for most of their lives.
“You know…I’ve always wanted a big brother…One who could chase away all the bad boys…solve my problems…it was a nice thing to dream of when I was eleven and in the orphanage. I know you can’t make all my problems go away…”
“Well, we won’t know that until you tell me all your problems…” He said teasingly.
“Yeah…can you stop the Director of the FBI from sacking me if I refuse to resign?”
“Why is he sacking you?”
“Aha…Well, we could do it under Secret Executive General Order Number One…” Simon mused.
“It was signed by Samuel Huntington and has been ratified by all Presidents since then…it grants the Covens of the Concordat the right to fight demonic and magical threats to the country and tell US officials to comply with their orders...”
“Holy-” Clarice began
“You don’t want to finish that…if your mother hears there’ll be soap in your future…” he grinned as did she.
“She wouldn’t really do that, would she?” Clarice looked worried.
“I don’t know…I do know from Joyce that she wields a mean slipper…”
“Well, I’m certainly too old for that!” Clarice huffed.
Simon snorted. “I wouldn’t bet on it, not with your
Clarice grinned. “Ah…Think we’re ready to rejoin civilization?”
“Do you mean can I last without crying? Yes.”
“You don’t seem terribly upset to have cried in front of people…” Clarice looked thoughtful.
“Clarice…The stupid notion that men don’t cry is responsible for a lot of very unhappy men. Crying is a natural release of emotion. I see no shame in it.”
“How did you get so wise?” Clarice teased.
“I lived. It wasn’t always pleasant…Come on, you need to speak with all your nieces and nephews before they get sent to bed.”
Clarice grinned. “Yeah…as if.”
“Just wait until you see Joyce in action.” Simon responded dryly.
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Clarice sat leaning against her mother. It was not something she ever expected to do…nor was her mother anything like what she expected. Her adoptive mother had died when she was sixteen months old, and her adoptive father when she was ten… being raised in an orphanage she’d thought her real mother, the girl her father had told her about as he lay dying, held no feelings for her…until she’d found that note in the old box, with the blue baby blanket. She’d have to ask her mother about the blanket. Later. Now she snuggled into her mother’s warmth and yawned like a baby.
She saw the amused glances from her sisters and tried to struggle upwards, but Joyce gestured. “Easy Clarice…it looks like something you’ve wanted to do for a while.”
The FBI agent shrugged and went back to snuggling. “Yeah…a long time.” She felt her mother’s arm tighten around her and realized that it would take a while for Cecelia’s guilt to be assuaged. To know that her mother had felt so terrible about leaving her behind made her feel oddly better.
“Mom? What powers do you have? As a Witch I mean?”
Clarice noticed her younger sisters sitting up at that, as well as her aunt.
Cecelia smiled. “Well…I can brew potions…”
Charlotte made a face. “Mom!”
“Oh very well…My first power was molecular immobilization as it’s called these days.” She sniffed. “I still like freezing better…It developed into molecular combustion…I can also use molecular deceleration and acceleration.”
Penelope nodded. “Nice…and you Charlotte?”
“I seem to have a double whammy of telekinesis…I can affect a lot of stuff. Big, Small, you name it… And I think I may be getting levitation…”
Penelope grinned. “Me too…a very useful power, much more versatile than people think.
“Arlene has visions, but she takes suppression potions. If she has another power, she never told me…” Cecelia continued.
Joyce chuckled. “She’s going to be in for a rude shock or two!”
Charlotte sniffed. “Serves her right for moving to Chicago! Too far east for my taste…”
“I was born in West Virginia you know…” Clarice entered the bantering conversation.
“Really? Couldn’t tell…” Charlotte winked.
Cecilia felt Clarice stiffen. “Oh yes…and your valley girl accent is hardly noticeable at all Charlotte.” She admonished her youngest daughter sharply while hugging her eldest.
Charlotte looked contrite. “I’m sorry ‘Ris.”
“Ris?” Clarice inquired.
“Yeah…I’m Lolly…still better than Charlotte…Joyce is Joy, Arlene is ‘Lene…so you’re Ris.” She declared haughtily. “Duh.”
“Ah…of course… baby talk.” Clarice concluded offhandedly.
Joyce started laughing at her twin’s outraged expression. “Give it up Lolly… she’s easily a match for your blunted wit… I told you Harry was too nice for you too sharpen your tongue on…”
Lolly stuck out the appendage in question. “Says you!”
“If that is the level you’ve dropped to Lolly, I don’t need to say anything at all…”
Clarice turned to look at her mother and raised a shapely eyebrow.
“Yes dear…they’re always like that…I’ve been told it’s a twin thing…” Cecelia told her.
Clarice grinned. “Cool. Err…I mean…”
“You can use cool dear… Even I used it, which probably reduced the coolness factor considerably…”
“Well…you did wear that one boy’s leather jacket…and all those letters too…And those really short skirts…” Penelope thoughtfully tapped her chin. “I’m sure we have pictures somewhere…”
Cecelia groaned. “Penny…I’m a mother!”
“Yes Cece…and once upon a time you were a teen terror who chewed gum and went into cars with boys…”
Cecilia felt the eyes of all her daughters upon her, their eyes both amused and amazed. “Penny…”
“What are you gonna do? Freeze me?”
“Don’t tempt me!” Cece snapped.
Clarice grinned again. “I think it may just be a sister thing…”
The older women laughed. “You may just be right dear… I know my girls do it too…” Penny looked fondly at the heap of sleeping Halliwells, cuddling together on the couch.
“Where are Dad and Simon?” Charlotte looked around the room.
“I think they’re setting up yet another bed…” Joyce winked.
“I can sleep on the couch…” Clarice began.
“No…you can’t. We didn’t double the girls up just so you’d sleep on the couch.”
“I don’t mind doubling up either…” Clarice gave her sister a look.
Joyce returned it. “We’ll put you with Dawn and Phoebe… they need watching…”
Charlotte grinned. “Only could be worse if we added Celia…but she would never be separated from Buffy…”
Joyce yawned. “Well…I’m going to bed…”
Charlotte snorted. “Well at least you’re honest enough not to say sleep…I mean I didn’t believe Buffy when she told me, but you guys really must be like bunnies…”
Joyce turned a baleful eye on her sister. “Buffy told you what?”
“Errr…time for bed…Harry should be done in the bathroom now…” She waved goodnight and fled.
Clarice yawned and settled down. Her breathing slowed. Cecilia and Joyce shared a look.
“She’s a bit like Simon…I don’t think many hugs have come her way the last few years…” Joyce whispered.
“I hate to wake her…but she needs to be in a bed…and it might not be wise to put her with Dawn…I don’t know what she’d do with Dawnie clinging to her…”
Joyce looked at her newly minted oldest sister. “For some reason I don’t think she’d mind…”
Cecelia looked at Penelope, who nodded. “I agree with Joyce…it seems to me she’s led a very lonely life.”
“My poor baby…”
“Cece…you did everything you could. Now wake her up and tuck her in.”
Clarice yawned awake when she was gently shaken. “Time to go to bed dear…”
“Yes Clarice. Mommy.” There was a catch in Cecelia’s voice. “But you’re not sleeping on the couch…you’re in with Dawn and Phoebe remember?”
“Yeah…Ok…” Clarice rose and stretched, but not too much, and stumbled up the stairs, half asleep. She got into her nightshirt, feeling someone help her and crawled into bed with a little girl, who immediately turned and clung to her. Then both of them got tucked in and she felt a soft kiss on her forehead.
“Sleep well my beautiful baby…” End note: As several of you (djhardim, war, PATM) noted Clarice is indeed Clarice Starling. We’ll go into her AU background a little later. Suffice it to say she’s been very lonely. I’m using the movie Clarice, and only the first movie and even that not completely. (It is AU after all…) To me Jodie Foster always will be Clarice Starling. I hope I managed to portray an older, slightly desperate and lonely Clarice with some accuracy. Without the more than a little icky relationship with Lecter… Clarice and the Red Dragon Universe belong to Thomas Harris. I own nothing about her. I also do not own Charmed, Buffy or Angel.