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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)vidiconFR1598780,0851591501409,70328 May 115 Jul 14No

Old People Cuddling

Reviews are welcome

Chapter 4: Old people cuddling

Buffy was sitting on the couch with Willow and Dawn. The red head had gone by her parents’ house to water the plants and feed her fish but was going to stay over, Joyce had insisted upon it once she heard Willow’s parents were away not one but two nights. And now the two teens were waiting, with Dawn ensconced against her older sister’s side, sleeping in pair of PJ’s, bunny slippers and her robe. She had lasted half way through the movie and had fallen asleep at about half past ten. Buffy and Willow had finished one movie and were onto the next. Buffy was definitely getting edgy. She did not think her mother’s turquoise off the shoulder dress and jacket combination actually quite covered enough of her. She hadn’t even known her mother owned a dress like that… Willow occasionally glanced sideways at her friend, noting the quiet nibbling at her lower lip.

“I’m sure they’re fine Buffy. They said they would be home by twelve and it isn’t twelve yet, not even eleven thirty.”  

“Yeah I know, it’s just…”

A car pulled up before the house and Buffy carefully slipped away from Dawn and stealthily moved over to the windows next to the door, Willow following.

They could see Joyce and Simon by the car. To Buffy’s intense amazement and eternal embarrassment it was her mother who had captured her date against the old blue Volvo, leaning up against him, both her hands on his chest. She looked up at his face and her hair glinted in the light of the streetlamps and her face was in shadows.

Her mother’s face moved towards the man’s who was in shadows and her lips ever so gently touched his, pressing herself into his body as she did so, raising herself on tiptoes to reach his lips and dragging his face down with her hands. Buffy glared at them, muttering. “They had damn well better leave it at just a kiss! No second base tonight, no sirree!” Willow giggled.

“What is she doing? She’s all over him! Eeew! Old people cuddling!” Buffy sounded a touch disgusted at her mother’s behaviour.

Willow was paying careful attention as Simon very gently placed his hands on Joyce’s back, never allowing them to stray below her upper back. The kiss moved beyond gentle touching to something rather more intense. After a minute and a half or so Joyce came up for air and Simon said something which made her laugh, shaking her head. Then she gently kissed his lips again and turned, walking up the path to the door, opening it, entering the hallway and then the sitting room and smiling at the two girls innocently sitting on the couch watching the TV. They heard the car drive off outside.

“Hi Mom! Have a nice night?” Buffy was just a touch to breathless.

“Very nice,” Joyce smiled a little and added dryly. “Simon would like to point out that even the light from the television in the next room provides sufficient backlighting to show people standing behind the windows next to the door.”

Buffy gaped and then started to blush. Willow skipped the gaping part and just blushed. “Ummm. Sorry Mom.”

Joyce laughed, “Oh Buffy, we don’t mind.” Then she winked. “And I can imagine you’d want to observe kissing so that you can do it properly.”

Both teens blushed even more furiously, but where Willow glanced down in embarrassment, Buffy managed a glare.

She sat down next to Dawn and lifted her head tenderly into her lap. “I should have asked Simon in to carry her up. Now I’ll have to wake her.”

“Sorry Mom. But she really didn’t want to go to bed… She can be so stubborn!”

Joyce chuckled. “I once knew another little girl like that.”

Buffy stuck her tongue out. “Wonder where we get it from.” She looked at her mother slyly.

“Sooooo…..”

“Yes.”

“What yes?”

“Yes, he’s a good kisser.”

“MOM!!!!” Buffy groaned. “I just wanted to know what you did!”

“But Buffy, you saw what we did.” Joyce’s voice was wicked and Buffy groaned loudly.

Dawn stirred. “Mommy?” Her voice was sleepy.

“Yes Lovey?”

“Was it nice?”

“Very nice dear.”

“Did he kiss you?”

Joyce looked her amusement at her elder daughter who glared daggers at her sibling.

“No. I kissed him. He was quite surprised. Now it is time for you to be in bed young lady! Simon will be back tomorrow at ten and he’s promised to take us to the park and get ice-cream.

“Hmmokay.”

She smiled and gently guided her youngest to bed. She looked over her shoulder to the other two girls. “You two had better be ready for bed by the time Dawn’s tucked in. I may check and tuck you in!”

“Yes, Mom. Yes, Ms Summers.” Buffy said it with a mock salute, Willow with a wistfulness that showed Joyce the girl had not been tucked in often enough. If ever.

She knocked on the door fifteen minutes later and waited for permission to enter. It came in her elder daughter’s surprised voice. “Come in?”

Joyce walked in to see her daughter, clad in boxers and a large t-shirt and willow in a pair of purply button pajamas totally unsuitable for someone of her colouration. * I really need to talk to that girl about clothes.* She leaned against the doorjamb. “Anyone for tucking in?”

Buffy rolled her eyes but Willow raised an enthusiastic hand. “Oh me! Me! Tuck me!”

Buffy looked at her friend, and then her mother and again that thoughtful look passed over her face. “Yeah, me too.”

She lay down on her bed and covered herself with the blankets and Willow lay down on the camp bed. Joyce knelt next to Willow first, tucking the blankets around her and kissing her forehead. Willow blushed a little at that, but her smile lit up the room

Joyce moved to Buffy’s bed, tucked her blankets in too and kissed Buffy as well. Buffy did not protest, merely nodded, and whispered. “Thanks Mom.”

Joyce left the room, turning off the lights. “Sleep well dears.” She closed the door on the chorused good nights.

“You have a great Mom, you know that Buffy?” Willow sounded sleepy already.

Buffy smiled at the ceiling. “Yeah. Yeah I’d say she’s pretty darn good.” She yawned widely and loudly and snuggled a little deeper into her tucked in sheets, still feeling her mother’s kiss on her forehead.   *She’d allowed that just so Willow could get tucked in. Of course she was waaayy beyond the age were she wanted to be tucked in herself. Yup.*  

Buffy was tired and she and Willow had talked a lot already downstairs so she was falling asleep when she heard the soft, teary whisper that only her Slayer senses allowed her to pick up. “I wish your Mom was my Mom too.”

Buffy was up earlier than Willow, the clock said 09.15. Her friend told her she never slept late and never more than six hours or so at the most, but when Buffy woke Willow was still sleeping under her tucked in blankets, a contented smile on her face. Buffy rose quietly, moving down the stairs and heard her mother humming in the kitchen, an old song she didn’t know. She was dressed in a white linen dress with a starched skirt and comfortable looking white sandals. A thin gold necklace hung about her neck. She sat down and Joyce looked up at the sound of the moving chair. “Mom…”

“Good morning to you too dear.”

Buffy muttered an apology. “Sorry. Good morning. Mom, Willow’s parents are gone an awful lot…”

“She can stay here whenever they’re gone dear. I’ll speak to her about it later.”

Buffy blinked. She had expected at least some resistance, some argument. Some discussion. Not this proactive reaction. “Oh. Okay.” She rose. She walked around the table and put her arms around her mother in fierce hug. “Thanks, Mom. You’re the best.”

Joyce chuckled. “I have to keep up appearances dear, my date supports a good many foster homes country wide and he’s hardly going to be impressed if I let my daughter’s best friend wallow in pain and misery now, hmmm?”

Buffy just intensified her hug. “Uhm…Buffy, even the best Moms have to breathe…”

“Oh, sorry Mom!” Buffy gave her mother a brilliant smile. “I’ll go upstairs and get dressed so I don’t shock Simon.”

Joyce snorted. “Simon seems to be singularly unshockable. Not even the Daughters of the Revolution or the Mayflower Association can shake his poise.”

“Bet ya they could if they showed up in PJ’s!”

“Oh you! Go get dressed. Would you mind waking Dawnie?”

“No problem Mom. Can I have scone for breakfast as well?”

“If you three didn’t finish them off last night?”

Buffy snorted. “S’yeah right, Simon bought like four dozen, even with Xander and the mutant cookie monster upstairs it would take a while.”

“I shall warm a few up then. Is Xander coming by today?”

“Yeah, but not until way after breakfast, not an early riser.”

“Oh and Buffy. You will not call Dawn mutant cookie monster.” She gave her eldest a mock stern glance.

“How about Oscar the Grouch?”

“Buffy!”

“I mean honestly, Mom, have you seen her room?”

“Go wake your sister, Miss Piggy.”

Buffy stuck out her tongue and went back upstairs, scratching her side under her t-shirt. She opened Dawn’s door carefully. Her little sister was curled up in a ball under her blankets. Despite her earlier remarks the room was quite clean and tidy. A smile seemed to lurk at the corners of her mouth. Buffy carefully sat down beside her and ran a hand over the browny-blond locks. “Yo Dawn.”

Dawn lifted a hand and tried to swat Buffy’s away, muttering something about flies. Buffy, well used to her sister’s inability to wake up in the morning snickered and prodded her gently. “Come on sis. Wakey-wakey.”

“G’way.”

More prodding. “Nope. I’m on a mission from Mom. You have to be up in time for breakfast at eleven. And we have strict instructions that we be decently dressed. We must not shock Simon’s sensibilities.”

“G’way, Buff.”

Buffy’s voice took on a mock severe accent. “I see… You do not wish to arise my lady? Then I fear I have no alternative but… The Tickle alarm!” She flung off Dawn’s blankets and reached for the sensitive spots in her sister’s sides. Dawn shot up giggling, glaring at her sister in outrage. “BUFFY!!”

“Oh, good you’re up. Simon’s going to be here in half an hour or so and all three of us have to be in the bathroom, so we need to hurry. I’ll go first.”

Dawn yawned and stretched. “Mom ready?”

“And singing.” Buffy grinned.

“I’ll use her shower, just need to get my stuff from the big one.”

Buffy smiled. “Thanks Dawnie, gives me and Willow a bit more time.”

“S’okay, let me get up.” Dawn put her feet into a pair of worn slippers and quickly got her toiletries while Buffy went to wake her guest. Willow was still snuggled down and Buffy pushed her nose. “Toot.”

Willow woke up, her eyes crossing as she looked at the finger on her nose. “Morning Wills. It’s almost 10.30 and we need to get dressed up for Mom’s boytoy.”

Willow giggled, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. “Buffy! Really, I don’t think your Mom sees Simon as a boy, I mean he’s quite young looking but he’s older than she is and well, can be quite a lot more serious than boys are. And he’s certainly not a toy, I mean he may look like an older Ken, but I don’t think he’s the sort of guy you can dress up for disco, or as a policeman, I mean, I think he’d look good in uniform…” Willow blushed a little. “Erm…”

Buffy rolled her eyes, ignoring her friend’s little slip. He had looked good in that tight white t-shirt. For an old guy. “Yeah ok, her sugar daddy.”

Willow giggled more loudly and blushed even worse. “Buffy!”

“Anyways, I’m going into the shower first unless you hurry. And then you’d have to take a cold shower…” *Not that that would necessarily be a bad thing…Like, crushing much Wills?*

Willow rose and grabbed her bag of toiletries, walking to the bathroom. “Hurrying, see I’m hurrying!”

Minutes later Buffy could hear the sound of the shower and a hesitant little tune. She stood scowling before her closet before shrugging and going for a check skirt and white shirt combo with canvas sneakers. Just as she was done Willow scampered in, wearing a large towel. “No robe! Eep!”

Buffy sniggered. “No men either. At least for now.”

Willow blushed. “Yeah, I suppose. Want me to wait here?”

“Nah, go downstairs, Mom’s warming the scones and pouring the juice.” Willow started dressing as Buffy walked towards the shower. Willow was not one for an elaborate toilet and walked down a few minutes later. Joyce was squeezing oranges and the smell of warming scones filled the kitchen.

“Good morning, Ms. Summers.”

“Good morning Willow, have a seat. Juice? Milk? Tea? Coffee?”

“I’m not allowed caffeine, I get all hyper and talky and babbly and stuff.”

“Really?” Joyce gave her an amused look. “All babbly and hyper?”

Willow blushed. “Well more babbly.”

“So juice? Any favourites? I’ve got fresh orange juice, bottled pressed apple and some rather good tomato, but that’s from concentrate.”

“Apple please.” Willow glowed at being asked, Joyce noted, and her heart shook with rage at how bleak the girl’s life had to be if such a simple question would make her so happy. “Apple is your favourite?”

Willow nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, I like it better than orange, less sour. Tomato is too salty.” 

Joyce poured her juice from the glass bottle of Farm Apple juice she retrieved from the fridge and sat down facing Willow.

“How long are your parents going to be away for Willow?”

Willow looked down. “I’m quite used to take care of myself, it’s no problem.”

“That was not the answer to my question young lady. You may be able to take care of yourself but that does not mean you should or that you are completely self sufficient. Or should be left alone for such periods of time at your age, no matter how responsible you are. So, how long are they going to be gone still?” Joyce gave the girl a stern but maternal look.   

“T-wo weeks.” Willow’s eyes had gone very wide, startled by Joyce’s tone and gaze.

“Willow I don’t want to criticize your parents but I don’t think that is a good idea. If you don’t mind and if you would like to, I’d like you to stay here. And I expect you to tell me every time your parents are gone.”

Willow looked down at the table. “I don’t want to impose.”

“Not an imposition, Willow. I’m not the one who’s going to be sharing her room. You should thank Buffy.”

“My-y parents left money for groceries…”

“We can add it to the household kitty of you want. But it isn’t necessary.”

“I’d like to. I-I…”

Joyce reached across the table, grasping one small white hand and squeezing gently. “Not a problem Willow. We’ll go buy groceries together. I must admit I’m not really up on kosher shopping.”

Willow nodded enthusiastically. “I’m totally up on kosher shopping. I can teach you all about kosher shopping, yes indeed-y!” She blushed and looked down at the table.

Joyce squeezed her hand again. “It will be fun. Want a scone?”

“That would be great.”

Dawn entered dressed in a large blue t-shirt, white skirt with pleats and dark blue ballet flats. She twirled, her twin braids flapping. “Will this do Mom?”

“It will be fine honey.”

Buffy arrived in her chosen outfit and sat down. “Hmm, warm scones and juice.”

Joyce laughed and plated up a scone for Dawn and Buffy each. “Here you go dears. Eat up.”

There was a knock at the kitchen door. Dawn ran to open it. Simon was wearing a light blue dress shirt and white linen trousers over boat shoes and a dark blue blazer. He was leaning on his cane and carried a British Bakery box. “Morning Aurora. Bagel? I admit I tried one, not as good as New York bagels, but still pretty good.”

Dawn looked torn, gazing at her mother over her shoulder. “Can I have a bagel and a scone Mom?”

Joyce laughed. “Yes dear, this once.” She mock glared at the bearer of the pastries. “You will have us all fat and addicted pretty soon Simon. Should we worry about being eaten?”

Simon’s mouth quirked. “I fear Miss Gretel, you have seen through my little subterfuge. I bow to your superior instincts.”

Joyce hmphed. “So are you going to enter the Candy house?”

“It will be my pleasure. I am sure it will be very… sweet.”

Buffy snickered. “I’m amazed you got through that conversation without more innuendo.”

Joyce placed her hands over Dawn’s ears. “Little ears.”  

Dawn pouted. “I am not little!”

“Of course not dear. Just an expression.” Joyce said soothingly.

“So what are we going to do today?” Dawn gave Simon a challenging look.

“Well I was going to take your mother for a walk in the park, have lunch somewhere, get an ice-cream and come back here for dinner. Would you like to come along?” He winked at Joyce.

Dawn looked at her mother. “Can I?”

Joyce smiled. “Yes dear. Anyplace in specific you want to go by?”

“Uh, there’s the playground, some of the girls from ballet class are going to be there…” She looked hopefully from Simon to Joyce.

“No doubt there are benches nearby where adults can sit?” Simon smiled at her.

“Or canoodle.” Buffy remarked dryly.

“And canoodle Buffy. I much prefer to do my canoodling sitting down.” Joyce remarked calmly. Buffy flushed slightly.

“What’s canoodling?” Dawn looked deeply interested.

“Kissing and cuddling dear.” Joyce said it with a smile.

“Oh. Okay.”

Buffy sniggered. Dawn looked at her questioningly. “What?” Buffy sniggered again. “Buffy, what?”

Joyce sighed, once again wondering at the so called joys of parenthood. “Buffy eat your breakfast and stop teasing your sister.” She gave Buffy a reproving glance, but not without a humorous twinkle. Buffy made no remark but merely glanced at her mother with a far too large a grin.

Simon was eating a bagel with tea and looked at Dawn. “So, what’s homework like this weekend?”

“Calculate distances between state capitals and write a bit about the railways.” Dawn made a face.

“Not European capitals this time?”

“Naah, we did Europe for two weeks, now we’re back to the USA.” She looked at him hopefully. “So you willing to help?”

“I might be persuaded. We’ll talk about it in the park, as we walk.”

Dawn nodded. “Cool, thanks.”

Buffy pouted. “It’s not fair! I’m not getting help with my French homework.”

“C’est vraiment un manqué d’équité.”

Buffy glared at him. “What?”

Willow giggled. “He said it was a grave injustice.”

“Actually I said it was truly a lack of equality, but the meaning is the same.” He nodded at Willow in approval.

Buffy looked thoughtful. “So you speak French?”

Simon smirked, putting on a look of haughty Gallic indifference. “Oui. Et alors?”

Willow desperately tried to keep her sniggers under control.

Buffy looked a bit nervous. “So would you help me too? We need to write a letter to some tourist agency for next Thursday…”

“It would be my pleasure to assist you.” Simon stressed the assist.

Buffy nodded a bit glumly. “Yeah, I know, gotta learn how to do it myself.”

Willow raised a hand. “Umm, can I join too? I mean if it is not an imposition and you don’t mind helping two teenage girls, one who is not even the daughter of the lady you are trying to… shutting up now.” She blushed furiously.

Simon smiled at her gently. “I’m quite willing. Does Xander take French as well?”

“Yeah. But he also has to learn verbs. He failed a test.” Buffy made a face. Learning verbs was not her favourite either.

Simon shrugged. “Learning by rote certain parts of a language it is not the only way to acquire a new language but the most feasible in this situation.”

Buffy gave him an annoyed look. “Which means in English?”

“You’re stuck with learning verbs.” Joyce said dryly and Willow sniggered at her friend’s indignation. More scones and bagels were eaten, as well as a fruit and yoghurt. Willow drank three glasses of apple juice with her single bagel and discussed chess with Dawn, who ate two bagels and two scones with two glasses of orange juice.

Buffy tried her French on her mother’s beau. Her mother occasionally grinned at her but Simon merely kept gently correcting her, making her repeat herself several times until she got it right. She managed to scarf down three bagels, two scones, two glasses of juice and yoghurt and fruit herself while painfully reciting the subjunctive of être. 

Joyce loaded a bakery box with bagels and scones and pointedly put it on the table to “feed Xander, he’s a growing boy.” Willow giggled and Buffy rolled her eyes in exasperation at her mother’s feed-the-world attitude.

After the late breakfast Simon and Joyce left with Dawn, each holding one of her hands as they walked to the Volvo to drive to the park in the elderly car.

Willow looked after them and sighed. “Well, we’d better get to the library.” She pouted a little. “I’d like a walk in the park too…”

“And get pushed by Simon on the swings?”

Willow bristled. “And why not? He’s a very nice gentleman. I’m sure he would make a good father for Dawn. And I wouldn’t mind going on a swing. Swings are fun. A-and merry go rounds and see-saws! So there!”

Buffy laughed. “When you put it like that, I wouldn’t mind going there too…” She sighed. “Duty calls. Let’s go Wills. But at any rate I’m not going to spend all day researching or training.”

Xander and Giles were in the library, both with a book before them. Giles studied his with interest. Xander seemed to be unsure what way up the book should be. “Giles, can I point out that I don’t know Latin? Also: Yay bagels.”

“Then now is an excellent time to learn.” The Watcher said it absentmindedly. He looked up at Buffy and Willow. “How did patrolling go last night Buffy?” He looked wistfully at the box. “Are there any scones in there?”

“I made it an early one, had to babysit Dawn. Nothing much, couple of fledgling vamps. And yeah, scones and bagels both.” 

“Lovely.” Giles looked outside. “Why don’t we keep this meeting short, I’m certain that there are lots of other things that you three want to be doing on such a beautiful day.”

Willow nodded. “Yeah, but I need to work on my assignment for Computer Science. Can I do that now? Miss Calendar likes it when you hand stuff in early.”

Giles face twisted in mild distaste. “Oh, let’s by all means please Miss Calendar. It would not do for her to show up here to vent her displeasure at my withholding her students the library’s facilities.”

Buffy smirked at Willow and mouthed “I told you so”. The teens had talked about the rather obvious differences between the two faculty members and to the clashes that they might lead to. Buffy rather hoped that she would be there sometime when the twain would meet.

They settled in some mild general research and homework making and left early to go hang out.

BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS

Dawn was puffing, red faced. So far she had played loads of games of tag through the playground, using slings, a huge fake castle, see saws, merry go rounds and the extensive grounds to avoid capture by various others. On numerous occasions the actual identity of who was ‘it’ was utterly unclear, leading to chases around the playground to enact retribution. Now she was licking a soft-swirl ice-cream cone and looking at her mother who was idly playing with Simon’s long fingers while licking her own normal ice-cream. Simon occasionally glanced at her as she licked and she gave him sly glances. Simon swallowed heavily once or twice. Dawn filed this under ‘Strange things adults do I have to get Buffy to tell me about’ and waited for her play-heated face to cool down.

They had been at the play ground for three hours now and Simon showed no sign of wanting to leave. He’d read The Washington Post and a couple of chapters from a book, parts of it out loud to her mother, who’d leaned against him and even lain with her head in his lap while Simon played with her hair. That bit was filed under ‘things Mom and Simon do I think Buffy will really want to know.’

Now Joyce gently elbowed Simon who smiled at her and turned to Dawn. “Dawn, you remember that Ballet you wanted to go to?”

Dawn nodded sadly. “Yeah. Swan Lake. Not going to happen. There was a bit in the paper that the whole thing was sold out.”

“Actually there are always a number of seats that are only sold of at the last Moment, they’re right at the front, the Founders’ circle.”

Dawn looked at her Mom and Simon, disbelievingly. “You got tickets for the ballet?” Joyce smiled at Simon.

“Well no, Simon merely told the people at the Chandler Centre he wanted to use his own seats. He can do that because his father paid for part of it.”

“Simon is taking me to the Ballet?” Dawn looked torn between utter delight and guilt. Her mother identified the reason for the guilt unerringly.

“No, Simon is taking us to the ballet.” She smiled wickedly at Simon. “We need chaperone anyway, to keep his family’s reputation safe.”

Simon very carefully licked the ice-cream from the two wafers he had the vendor place it between, eying her mother, who suddenly got a little wide eyed and flustered. “I am certain my reputation can handle it.” His tongue was agilely chasing down a particular bit of ice-cream and Dawn saw her mother watch the flickering tip of it with a slight flush on her face.

That one went under the ‘Things adults do I will probably figure out in a few years’ as well as the ‘Must tell Buffy to make her groan.’ heading.

Then he looked at Dawn. “So, want to go to the ballet?” He winked at her, showing her he knew she’d been watching him closely.

Dawn squealed. “Yes!” She threw her arms around Simon. “Thank you for taking us!” She carefully kept her cone away from his shirt. Simon took the cone from her and Dawn moved to hug her mother with more vigour. “And thank you for letting me go.”

Joyce gave her daughter a cold lipped kiss on the forehead. “It is my pleasure dear. Now finish your ice-cream before it melts.”

“Okay.” Dawn started licking enthusiastically. “So have you been to a ballet before?”

Simon smiled. “Yes indeed I have. I have even seen Swan Lake performed before.”

“Cool! Where, New York?”

“St Petersburg, the Marinskii Theatre.”

Dawn’s eyes grew very wide. “No way...” She whispered the words in awe.

Simon shrugged. “It’s one advantage of having to travel for my job.”

“Wow. So what are you going to wear?” She looked at her mother.

“I’ve sent for appropriate evening wear.” Simon said deadpan.

Dawn glared at Simon. “Not you silly! Mom!”

Joyce gave her daughter a stern look. “Dawn Summers! You will not call Simon silly.”

Dawn gave the man next to her a glance and sniffed. “I will when he acts like it. Someone has to do it.”

Joyce chuckled and Simon sighed, making a sitting bow to Dawn. “I concede, my lady. Please have mercy upon me.”   

Dawn started eating her cone and the ice-cream caught within it, glancing sideways at him. “Oh, ok. You help me with my homework after all.” She swung her legs as she finished her cone, got up, looked at the playground longingly and then with puppy eyes at the adults. Joyce laughed. “Go play dear. We’ll get you when we need to leave.”

Dawn nodded happily and ran off.

Joyce finished her own ice-cream and waited for Simon to finish his before laying her head on his lap once more. She sighed contentedly as he picked up the book again, starting to read in a warm soothing voice about the machinations at the Roman Imperial court in the days of Claudius as he stroked her hair.
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