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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)vidiconFR1598780,1331571485392,60028 May 115 Jul 14No

Communication errors

Author’s Note:

 

Thanks very much to my Beta, Letomo.

 

The following ways of notation may be found in this story. This is excluding whatever I need to represent chatting, texting and stuff like that. And you can thank Twilightwanderer for the Abbott and Costello.

 

Speech: “Who’s on first.”

 

Thought: *What’s on second.*

 

Vision: #I-don’t-know’s on third.#

 

Thanks to the latest to recommend me: Christy, sunrisereader, traceyw, wolfman

 

Reviews are much appreciated, they inspire me. Point out my flubs, let me know your ideas a and thoughts. Also I’m wondering what happened to some early reviewers, (some very perceptive) I hope they haven’t abandoned reading?

 

I own none of the used properties; The Mummy was created by Stephen Sommers and most likely the property of United Artists.

 

StarGate was created by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin and Stargate SG-1 by Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner. I do not own, not claim ownership, to either.

 

 If I owned Buffy, season 8 and 9 would be way different. (And the rest of the series too…)

 

NCIS, Timothy McGee and Abigail Sciuto are the property of Donald P. Bellisario and Don McGill. Criminal Minds and Penelope Garcia are the creations of Jeff Davis.

 

WarGames, a United Artists movie was written by Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes and directed by John Badham. David Lightman and Stephen Falken are characters from that movie.

 

Nerdanel is the wife to Fëanor and mother to his seven sons and appears in the Silmarilion. She comes of a family of artists who are the only known red headed elves in Tolkien’s legendarium. The legendarius is protery of the Tolkien Estate.

 

Chapter 49: Communication errors

 

 

Jonathan Carnahan swore vociferously in seven different dead languages as he drove his specially adapted car through the sleeting rain towards Cheyenne Mountain. “Stupid Americans and their stupid notions.” He pressed hard on the accelerator, skidding past a military vehicle and back into his lane. He approached the gates of the NORAD complex at a considerably lower speed than he had driven up the road. He stopped at the signal of the ridiculously young service man at the gate.

 

“Sorry sir, further travel is prohibited…” The young man fell silent as Jon held out an old military ID.

 

“Call Colonel O’Neill. Tell him it’s an emergency. Now jump to it!”

 

“Sir, Colonel O’Neill is…”

   

“Going to be very annoyed with you if you don’t call him right now. Now move. Lives are at stake!”

 

The young man handed the ID to a colleague who started the process of getting hold of Jack. Jon reached for and opened the attaché case on the seat next to him and took out a magazine called Museum Science International. He opened it to the spread on the special travelling exhibition on Peru, notably the Inca, that would start in Sunnydale, California and swore as he looked at the picture of the mummy girl. “Mummies.” He muttered. “Why does it always have to be mummies.”

 

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Walter Harriman knocked at the door of Colonel O’Neill’s office. “Come in!” The colonel sounded annoyed and that made Harriman wary. “Sir? Err…there’s a guest for you at the gate…A Doctor Carnahan?”

 

There was a noise of a chair being pushed back violently. The door was torn open. “WHAT!?” Jack O’Neill thundered right into Walter’s face. Walter flinched back.

 

“I can tell the guards to arrest him, sir.”

 

“Are you insane? He’d kill them. Come on.” Jack led the sergeant to the general’s office.

 

“Did he say anything about why he was here?”

 

“No sir, just that it was an emergency.”

 

“Crap.” Jack knocked on the General’s door.

 

Hammond’s voice sounded annoyed. “Come in!”

 

Jack entered and saluted. “Sir, sergeant Harriman just told me Dr. Carnahan is upstairs, apparently because of some emergency.” He said crisply.

 

Hammond sighed. “I see. Walter, have the guards issue Dr. Carnahan a badge and tell them to let him in. Full clearance.” Walter saluted and left.

 

“Sir, if this is an emergency he needs my help for…it will have to do with Hearts of Fire.” Jack said in an unusually hesitant voice. “I may have to ask leave to help him deal with it.”

 

Hammond frowned. “Help him? Why?”

 

“It’s a family thing, sir…”

 

“Family thing?”

 

“Yes, sir. Apparently we’ve been fighting the things that go bump in the night for a while now.”

 

“I see…well the President has told me to give Dr. Carnahan a full briefing and all necessary cooperation and asked me to keep him away from Washington until, and I quote, ‘He no longer threatens to take apart people with his teeth and finger nails. Again’.”

 

Jack grinned. “Ah, Granddad knew that would make an impression.”

 

“Are you telling me he actually did that?” Hammond asked aghast.

 

Jack shrugged. “Only once. It can hardly be called a habit if you do it only once.”

 

Hammond sighed. “Thank you colonel. Please go and ask SG-1 to join us in the briefing room once your Grandfather has been processed.”

 

Jack nodded. “Yes, sir.” He saluted and made to leave.

 

Hammond reached into his drawer and took out a file. “Colonel…I’d like to speak to him first.” He sighed and took a file from a drawer.

 

“Now I have to get back to Airman Weterings. I can’t understand so many things go wrong with her file.” *Not to mention her life.*

 

O’Neill slewed round. “Things go wrong? Sir…do you mind if I have a look at that file?”

 

Hammond gave his second in command a look. Then he handed the file over. “Something wrong, colonel?”

 

“I don’t know, sir.” Jack took the file and started flipping through it. His yes fell on an old high school transcript. “Fer cryin’ out loud…”

 

Hammond had become accustomed to his second in command’s gentle curses. “Colonel? Something wrong?” He asked sharply.

 

Jack decided to trust the man. No one involved with Marigold would have withheldfrom nuking Abydos. He handed the file back and pointed to the three barely visible letters at the top of the transcript. “This is wrong, sir.”

 

“MfM? What does that mean?”

 

“Sir… Have you ever heard about Project Marigold?”

 

“Can’t say I have. What is it?”

 

“Filth.” Jack’s face was a mask of anger. “It’s a secret program. They find young people, children, with promising talents, special abilities, high intelligence, beauty, physical excellence, things like that. And then they isolate them, destroy their lives, their hope, their future. Take away everything and everyone they can…all the support. And then they move in. And train the kids to be what they want them to be. Show them appreciation, Brain wash them. To serve the nation.” Jack’s mouth twisted bitterly.

 

Hammond looked at him with horror in his eyes. “T-that’s…disgusting! Disgraceful!” His eyes flicked to the letters again. “What do these mean?”

 

“Acronym, Sir. Marked for Marigold.”

 

“Any other evidence?”

 

“Besides her ruined life? Well, sir, since you and I started taking notice of her, last Saturday Airman Weterings was attacked and nearly kidnapped. The kidnappers were released and the incident hushed up. A call was logged to the Mountain, to Major Samuels, and then another from this room, to the Police Station…”

 

Hammond gave O’Neill a sharp look. “You thought I was involved?”

 

Jack shrugged apologetically. “Well, sir…You did threaten to nuke Abydos.”

 

Hammond’s eyes were cold. “I see. I’ll call the President and ask if he knows anything about this program.”

 

“Sir…be careful whom you talk to…The last man I talked to about this…he was murdered in Paris in 1989.”

 

Hammond blinked. “Very well. I’ll be careful.”

 

“What do we do about Weterings, sir?”

 

“We keep an eye on her, take down these bastards and send her to the Academy.”

 

Jack grinned. “Yes, sir! She’ll be an asset to the Air Force!”

 

Hammond leaned back. “I agree. I’ve already decided to sponsor her to the Academy.”

 

Jack’s face fell. “Oh. I see.”

 

“Sorry, Colonel. You can be her secondary sponsor if you want…”

 

Jack smiled. “Well, sir…can’t have too much of a good thing now…”

 

Hammond snorted. “Well, as long as I’m there to balance your influence.” He held a hand for the file. “I need to get that in order so we can make certain that she gets what she deserves once we’ve got the bastards. And I need to finish the sponsorship letter.”

 

Jack nodded and handed the file over. He saluted again, a respectful salute, and went to his office to plan his campaign.

 

George Hammond sat back and mused about how he best could trap the traitor to his country’s freedom that lurked in his command.

 

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Joyce sat in the car beside Simon. He’d been finished long before the children and her sisters and had come to pick her up. He’d picked up on her mood and hadn’t said much.

 

“Do you know anything about wanted hackers?” She asked.

 

Simon nodded. “Not really, just a few general things. Most of them try to get into the central systems of MIC and stopped cold. And then traced.” He pulled up in front of the house. “They’ve been warning each other off, but many still try.” He smiled. “It seems to be an issue of pride by now.”

 

“What do you know about Nerdanel?”

 

Simon looked at his hands, as they tightened on the steering wheel. “I hoped she would tell you, us, herself…”

 

Joyce sighed and looked at him. “Simon…remember that bit about the whole being parents and sharing information thing?”

 

“Yes.” He didn’t meet her eyes.

 

Joyce growled. “Well internalize it! If our kids mess up, you do not shield for them. Understood?”

 

“Yes, dear.”

 

“Dammit. That girl is more trouble than she’s worth.” She glared at Simon “Tonight had better be very good, Simon!” She got out of the car and slammed the door.

 

Simon looked after her, apprehension and worry on his face.

 

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James Ellis heard his daughter coming in. He knew that stomping footstep well. He’d long ago learned to differentiate between his wife and all his daughters in a bad mood. This was Joyce and she was very angry. He looked at the slumbering Kit in concern and rose from his chair by her bedside, took several steps and eyed his fuming daughter reprovingly. “Kindly remember you have a sick daughter, Joy.”

 

Joyce whirled on him, saw Kit, and deflated. “Sorry Dad. I just…I had some bad news. Simon knew, and he kept it from me.”

 

James nodded solemnly. “Ah. This would be about Willow’s hacking life?”

 

Joyce blinked. “You knew as well?”

 

“Yes. He told me. He wanted my advice.”

 

“You…You told him to keep quiet?” Joyce spluttered.

 

“A father’s prerogative. At least father who is attached to a Johnson woman.”

 

“Oh, really? I can’t remember anytime you shielded me from Mom’s wrath!” Joyce eyed him indignantly.

 

James gave her a slight smile. “Imperial Public Library. A certain night in August of 1974…when you came home much, much later than your wont…from a tutoring session…”

 

Joyce blushed. “Dad!” She whined. Then her eyes widened. “Y-you knew about that?”

 

“Oh, yes…I had a little word with Mr. Petersen after that evening…About tutoring…and after you finally talked with your mother…she had a word with Mr. Petersen’s mother…”

 

Joyce groaned and buried her flaming face in her hands. “Great. Just great.”

 

“Just be glad your mother never found out about the time you led the Girl Scout group…”

 

“Dad!” Joyce came out from behind her hands, her eyes wide in shock. “How do you know about that?” She whispered fiercely, her eyes upon the sleeping Kit, hoping her exclamation had not wakened the girl.

 

“A little bird told me. Now…Simon wanted Willow to tell you herself, just like I wanted you to tell your mother yourself…don’t be too hard on him. Especially not tonight.” James leaned forward to kiss her forehead and then wandered back to his chair by Kit, who had not woken up.

 

Joyce looked at him questioningly, but he did not look up from his book. Joyce snorted. Dr. Seuss was not that riveting, even if it was The Cat in the Hat. She sighed. She loved her father, she really did. But very rarely, he could be more annoying than her mother, especially when he went all Heyoka on her. She went into the kitchen to help with dinner before getting ready for her date.

 

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The cars pulled up in front of 1630 Revello Drive and noisy teenagers emerged, followed by frazzled adults. Cecilia stood grinning on the porch. “Well…you sound like you were successful.” She winked at her daughters, who gave her angry glares in return.

 

“This reminds me of that party you gave for your fifteenth birthday, Arlene…” She teased. Clarice suddenly looked sad and Cecilia stepped up to her, hugging her quickly and contritely. “I’m sorry, honey…” Clarice after all, hadn’t had a birthday party after her ninth.

 

The children passed by the adults, talking excitedly. Cecilia coughed. “Willow, your parents want to talk to you, they’re in the dining room…”

 

Willow winced, but nodded. She took a small binder out of her bag, kissed Dave on the cheek and squared her shoulders, marching into the dining room as if to face a firing squad.

 

Joyce and Simon sat side by side at one of the broad ends of the table. A single chair stood facing them, almost as if it were an old fashioned court martial.

 

Willow swallowed and sat in front of her parents, opened the binder and extracted a stack of perforated paper. She’d spent some of her time in the car drawing up a list which she now handed over, with a shaking hand. Her lip trembled and she didn’t look at them. “This is everything I’ve ever hacked into, I think…I never damaged anything, never copied anything. Well, not for a very long time. I just looked, I swear.”

 

Joyce took the list. Here eyes widened and her nostrils flared as she flipped through it. Simon read over her shoulder and his eyebrows lifted.

 

Willow closed her eyes to prevent her from seeing their further reactions. “I-I…If you could find me another foster home…I don’t want to go back to the Rosenbergs…I’d be very grateful. I understand if you don’t want to keep me here, want to get rid of me, I-I did bad, stupid things.” Willow babbled.

 

She quieted when she felt Joyce’s arm around her shoulder and tried to move away, but the arm firmly prevented her from doing so. “Willow Danielle! If you think for one second I’m going to let you wriggle out of your just punishment you have another thing coming!”

 

Joyce’s voice was firm and Willow opened her eyes to peek. “You aren’t kicking me out?”

 

“No. I think I may have to divide your punishment into several sessions considering that list, but you are very much a part of this family and not going anywhere. Someone has to keep you out of trouble, after all.” Joyce added dryly.

 

“Sorry…” Willow tried snuggling into her mother’s shoulder and was relieved that she wasn’t stopped.

 

“Yes, well…You and I will discuss your punishment later…” Willow winced but Joyce continued ignoring her daughter’s pleading look. “But for now we need to ask you to use the skills you’ve got to help Evy.”

 

“Help Evy? How” Willow looked confused and intrigued.

 

“Yesterday afternoon someone tried to kidnap her.” Simon said.

 

“KIDNAP!!!” Willow was outraged. “Why? Who? Who would dare to do such a thing!?”

 

“That is what we need to find out.” Simon said quietly, his eyes still on he handwritten list of companies and agencies Willow had hacked.

 

Joyce nodded. “Simon has brought together a team to hack their laptops and trace them. You apparently made the list.” Joyce scowled. “And I have no doubt Tolkien is spinning in his grave right now…Nerdanel.”

 

Willow’s face drained of all colour. “H-How, you weren’t supposed to know about that yet! No one knows about that!” She groaned at Joyce’s look. “I should keep my mouth shut.”

 

“Young lady, you just keep heaping more and more trouble upon yourself.”

 

“On my butt, you mean.” Willow muttered and then flushed.

 

“I won’t deny that you might have some trouble sitting comfortably for a while after your punishment, yes.” Joyce said, exasperated. “But for heaven’s sake, Willow! You are on the FBI’s ten most wanted hacker’s list!”

 

Simon coughed. “She’s been in the top five of it for the past three years, actually.”

 

“Dad!! You’re not helping!” Willow wailed.

 

“Yes, I am. At this time about the only thing between you and juvenile detention are apparently me and my lawyers. In some cases, ‘just looking’ can get you fifteen to thirty in Leavenworth, even if you are only fifteen years old.” Simon answered reprovingly. “That last little foray into the Pentagon to get at my files set off a lot of alarms. And you were sloppy; some bright light over there tracked you down.”

 

Willow, who’d just begun to regain some colour paled again and started to hyperventilate and cry. Joyce gave Simon a dark look.

 

“You really aren’t helping. Go out and…play in traffic or something.”

 

Simon withdrew to the kitchen and returned within half a minute with a paper bag which he handed to Willow. “There’s no traffic. “  He said apologetically, “But I can go and run at the wall a few times…”

 

Willow’s breathing took on chortling consistency within the paper bag. Joyce rolled her eyes. “Get out of here.” Simon left quickly.

 

After a few minutes Willow’s breathing returned to normal and she let the bag drop down. Joyce dried her tears with a tissue and Willow gave her a shamefaced look. “I’m an idiot.”

 

“Yes.”

 

Willow leaned back slightly. “Can I bring Dave? He knows a lot about computers…”

 

“According to Simon, White_knight’s presence has been requested as well.” Joyce said. “Which I assume means he’s a hacker too.” She said resignedly. “At least he’s a normal demon hacker boy, not a demon out for the overlordship of earth or something.”

 

Willow giggled. Then her brain completely caught up with her. “Wait…White_knight? Dave is White_knight?”

 

Joyce nodded. Willow rather shakily rose and moved to the living room. Dave sat on the couch, looking at the dining room door, his hands between his knees. When Willow walked up to him and looked down he gazed past her at Joyce, pleadingly meeting her eyes.

 

Joyce rolled her eyes. “We’re not kicking her out, David. Stop worrying.”

 

Willow blinked at Dave. “You’re White_knight…” She breathed.

 

Dave flinched. “Yeah. Fritz was Dark_daemon…”

 

“I’m Nerdanel.” Willow’s face was as red as a beet.

 

Dave sank back into the pillows of the couch. “Oh…errr…oh.” He blushed hotly.

 

 Joyce groaned. “Willow…you and I are going to have some very long conversations about what you’ve been getting up to on the internet. Now, both of you, get into the car, Simon is going to take you to CRD.”

 

Both teens, still blushing furiously, nodded and quickly left the house. Joyce shook her head, muttering about teenage hormones and went into the kitchen where she could hear the voices of the rest of the family

 

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Progress through security at the former CRD building went very fast. One five and one six gold star ID, one of which was carried by the boss and one by his daughter tended to do that. They reached the basement in record time. The sound of typing, loud music, bickering and teenage voices filled the hallway when the large metal door was opened. Two teenagers were doing the bickering, a boy with a serious expression and a girl with a serious Goth obsession. A third, slightly older teen was busy with a laptop, a strange black box and a soldering iron. An old, bald man with a sickly look and a thirty something man in a white lab coat and T-shirt that read Defcon Five is a good place to be completed the selection.

 

The man in the lab coat looked up and nodded and returned to the dismantled laptop in front of him, the older man carefully walked around the table and it was obvious that he was in poor health. Simon eyed him irritably.

 

“Stephen! What the hell are you doing here, you should be in hospital.”

 

“Yes, well, according to official records I should be dead. So this is a vast improvement.” The man replied blandly. “David told me he was bringing in his entire cadre, and I wanted to meet them. See the next generation if you will.” He shook Willow’s and then Dave’s hands. “Stephen Falken.”

 

Willow’s eyes widened in shock. “OhmygodYou’reStephenFalken?You’rethemanthatcreatedWHOPR!Youhelped buildtheCraysupercomputers!Thisissoawesomedadwhydidn’tyoutellmethatyouknewDr.Falken!”

 

Dave stopped the waterfall of babble using his favourite method. Willow melted into his kiss after a few more murmurs and then there was a moment of silence. Simon looked pensively at the kissing couple and Dr. Falken smirked.

 

“Should I have one of the techs get you a bucket of water, Simon?”

 

“No, thank you, Stephen. They know that if they take it too far they have to face Willow’s mother. She is far scarier than I ever could be. And actually it is the most effective way to stop her babbling. A hand on her mouth works quite well, but only her mother is ever as effective.” Simon replied with aplomb.

 

Willow disengaged from the kiss and blushed. “Sorry, Dr. Falken…It’s just a bit of a surprise. A bit of a big surprise.”

 

The man at the table snorted. “He likes the whole coming back from the dead thing. I think it’s some perverted pleasure of his.”

 

Willow looked at the man. Dave looked at the shirt. David looked at Willow. Both their fingers went up at the same time, their eyes wide and their mouths open in astonishment. “You’re David Lightman!” They chorused.

 

Dr. Falken rolled his eyes. “You know, he’s just the guy who almost destroyed the world by hacking NORAD. Hardly an achievement.”

 

David sniffed. “Oh, yeah, wonderful security you put up around it. A three year old with a My First Sony Walkie Talkie could have cracked it.”

 

“Now David…I designed the hardware and the software for the system. Not the security systems. I only started looking into that part of things after you showed up. And even then it wasn’t that bad. You’d have needed the Walkman as well. The older man smiled at the younger with obvious affection. “Now, time for more introductions. This is Penelope Garcia, known as Belladonna.”

 

He pointed at an attractively plump girl with large round glasses who looked to be in her late teens. The girl nodded in greeting and returned to her soldering. Falken continued. “This is Timothy McGee, known as Elflord. And this is Abigail Sciuto, known as Dark_wrecker.” He grinned wickedly at Simon.

 

“And this is Dr. Simon Meier, who can barely turn on a computer, and Willow Rosenberg, known as Nerdanel and Dave Kirby, known as White_knight.”

 

The three hackers silently eyed the three new comers, the younger members especially. Then Abby squeed and clapped her hands. “So you are a couple! Witchqueen was right! That’s soooo cool!!! You’ll have all hacking babies and stuff!”

 

Willow and Dave blushed.

 

Simon groaned. “I hope not, their grandmother would have a fit every time they’d turn on a computer. Now, since I actually have very little to add to this conversation, and know nothing about computers, if you will forgive me, I have a date to plan. Oh, Stephen, I’d invite you and the others to dinner but I assume that you’d prefer pizza, Chinese, Caf-Pows and Mountain Dew? Willow, David, Hurst will drive you home and back here, if necessary.”

 

Willow nodded at the others conspiratorially. “And he won’t be there; he’s got a hot date with mom.”

 

Simon merely lifted an eyebrow and left. Willow and Dave quickly found terminals, hooked up to the network and started to trade ideas with the others.

 

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Danielle hummed as she prepared the pie for the oven. Joyce and Simon were going out to dinner together and she and Cecilia were going to cook together for the children and whatever parts of the extended clan showed up in time. She grinned as she heard James, in the living room; make accurate noises as he told Kit some tales of his people, Kit’s infectious giggle occasionally punctuated his impersonations of a bellowing bull bison or the warbling, strange call of a loon. Xander laughed.

 

The phone rang and she picked it up. “You have reached the Summers’ residence. Danielle Moritz speaking.”

 

“Danielle? This is Mary Beckforth.”

 

“Mary, hello! How are you?”

 

“Eileen is stable…Would it be possible to perform the ritual on Halloween? If we leave quickly, we can drive to Sunnydale in time…” Mary asked anxiously.

 

Danielle blinked. “Well…I can ask Simon…I would assume so. But you have to understand he can’t guarantee anything.”

 

“I know…but we have to try, even if only for Tara.”

 

“I understand. Mary, come here as fast as you can. Simon will do his best, even if there may be a reason not to do it on Halloween. I’ve never done anything like it, so we’ll leave it to Simon. We’ll make sure there’s a room in the hospital and a place for you to stay.”

 

“We’ll be there…thank you, Danielle.”

 

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George Hammond sighed as he eyed Janet Fraiser. “Dr. Fraiser…you realize that this is most irregular…”

 

“Yes. Sir. But she is my sister.” Janet offered apologetically.

 

“I understand. Where did you say this specialist lived?”

 

“Sunnydale, sir. Sunnydale, California.”

 

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Joyce grinned at Simon as she walked down the stairs in her sea-blue satin dress. He was wearing tails and white tie and offered her his arm, leading her out of the house. She ignored the sniggers of the children as the stood in the kitchen door and the living room. Xander’s and Dave’s sniggers faded as a large silvery shadow drove up from the corner to stand in front of the house and Denton, Simon’s private chauffeur, got out and opened the door for them.

 

“Is that a Duesenberg?” James whispered.

 

“Yeah, that’s one of Simon’s cars. And that’s Denton his driver, he was there for the ballet night too.” Dawn supplied smugly.

 

“You drove in that? You never said you drove in a Duesenberg!” Xander wailed.

 

Dawn gave him a superior little smile. “This is the West Coast Duesenberg. Simon prefers the East Coast ones, if he has to use them, or the Rolls Silver Shadow.”

 

“Guh…”Xander managed.

 

Buffy scowled and crossed her arms. “If he already has so many cars I really don’t see why he can’t get me a Porsche!”

 

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Rupert Giles arrived at the door of Jenny Calendar’s run down apartment building in his restored Citroën. There was actually money left over from the translation job. Even if Simon had sort of forced him to get his car fixed…he loved this car. He’d loved the model since his youth and he’d not been able to resist buying it when he stumbled upon it at the dealer, bad though its condition was, when he had arrived in the United States.

 

Now the engine had been completely revised, as had the suspension and the other mechanical parts, the panel work had been beaten back into shape, scraped back to bare metal and then repainted, in a silvery grey. Smooth dark blue leather upholstery and finely stained wooden panelling finished the interior. It was a completely different car than before. Giles grinned. Jenny had made fun of his car, comparing it to a dying rhinoceros, except less graceful.

 

He wondered what she would think now. He leaned forward and removed the small corsage he had bought for her from the dashboard. He’d had his best results with Jenny by acting Victorian and Edwardian, so he’d decided to keep that up. Mrs. Kirby at the florist shop had immediately known who the corsage was for, which had been embarrassing, but it had saved him a detailed explanation who he was buying for. He opened the door, carrying the corsage and went into the unlocked hall. It smelled of bleach. If he was to believe Jenny, and he had no reason to doubt her, this was a vast improvement over the usual smell.

 

He mounted the stairs, took a deep breath and knocked on the door. There was a slight noise and then a curse. The door opened to show Jenny, looking annoyed and dishevelled. In one hand she held a strappy low heeled sandal with a broken strap. She was dressed in a peasant blouse and a deep red skirt that swirled around her bare calves, accentuating the black sandal still on her other foot.

 

“Hello Rupert. Sorry, can you come in and wait? I need to get a new pair of shoes.”

 

“Of course.” He followed her into her small apartment, noting that she only had one bedroom and her kitchen was rather worse than his. And the way her body swayed with the unequal motion of her shod and unshod legs, and her hair flitted from side to side above her shoulders. He swallowed as she went into her bedroom and he sat on her couch, it was new and looked to be IKEA.

 

A top of the line computer stood in the corner, surrounded by various ancillary machines. He only recognized a printer and he wondered why she had several more computers attached to the first. He smiled as he heard a frantic scramble come from the bedroom and several mild thuds, obviously a shoe search was underway.

 

Jenny Calendar was very carefully not cursing. She needed shoes. Black ones. Her favourite pair of pumps had to be somewhere! And Rupert was sitting on her couch, looking at her badly painted walls and her meagre furnishings. The place just wasn’t home to her, so she hadn’t bothered to make it one, only the barest necessities to make it liveable.

 

Like all the places she’d lived since Jake had used and left her, she’d lacked the energy, the need to make it not just a place to sleep but a place to live. More than a place to put her computer and tap into the net. She found her pumps kicked under the bed and dug them out, then walked into the sitting room barefoot and put them on while leaning against the wall.

 

“Ready. Sorry for keeping you waiting.” She smiled at him as he rose.

 

“Not quite ready.” He picked up the small white florist’s box and handed it to her with a small, elegant bow.

 

She opened it and extracted the corsage, a delicate, dark brown orchid, so dark it was almost black, with a number of dark orange, almost red sprigs of blossom around it. She sniffed the fragrance and carefully pinned it to her chest. Rupert had moved beside her and extended his arm. She took it and he led her out of her apartment and down the stairs. She stopped once they got out of the front door of the building.

 

“Is that…”

 

 “My car, yes…I had it restored. Shall we?” He gallantly held the door open for her and she got in, her eyes wide in amazement and she ran a hand over the soft leather of the upholstery. They chatted quietly about school things until they got to the Mexican restaurant.

 

BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS

 

Joyce looked at Simon in surprise as the classic car turned through the open gates of Hooghwater, drove past the gate keeper’s cottage, past the Home Farm, still undergoing renovation and restoration,  over the newly smoothed gravel driveway, under the great spreading oak trees that lined it.

 

“Not a restaurant?”

 

“No. I thought you might prefer a more private place tonight, considering…I had to change plans rather quickly.” Simon seemed rather subdued and Joyce realized that he was feeling guilty about not telling her about Willow’s hacking career.

 

Joyce sighed and leaned forward to close the small window between the chauffeur and them. She leaned into Simon. “Why did you do it? Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

“I wasn’t intending to for very long. Willow…Willow is very insecure, fears more than anything that we will no longer accept her…Did you hear her dream last night?”

 

Joyce shook her head. “No…the last I heard was that ‘Daddy m’re c’fable’ murmur before she nestled into you.” She sighed. “I hope she’ll feel up to sleeping on her own again soon. That’s my spot!” She gave him a half humourous, half serious smile.

 

“She wasn’t very coherent and not very noisy after I held her…but most of it was fear of abandonment. Fear of being alone.”

 

Joyce winced. “I’m going to kill Sheila Rosenberg.”

 

“Joyce...I’m sorry, but I asked your father…Love, you don’t carry a grudge like I do, but you…when you get angry you say things you don’t mean, without thinking. This afternoon…you said ’That girl is more trouble than she’s worth.’ Willow… ”

 

Joyce gasped her eyes wide in horror at her own words. “Oh…Oh lord…Willow really didn’t need to hear me saying something like that.”

 

“Yes. Joyce, when you’re angry or worried, you tend to say things you regret. Your mother apparently does the same…”

 

“Yes, but she never apologizes.” Joyce pointed out, trying to defend herself. “Or never did, anyway.”

 

“Joyce, words once spoken can never be unsaid. Not all the apologies in the world could undo what it might have done to Willow if she’d heard you say that.” Simon said quietly, obviously speaking from experience.

 

“My poor girl…She doesn’t deserve to feel unwanted. I’ll need to watch very carefully what I say to her.” Joyce ran a hand up his chest. “And I may have been a touch too rough on you as well.” She smiled sadly at him, and then at the moonlit pillared building before her, sparsely lit from within. “I’m sorry…”

 

“It’s beautiful…” She said wistfully.

 

“If you want…”

 

“No…Simon, I know this sort of building makes you uncomfortable…It was your family, love, not the buildings…but not until you feel better about it. We’ll make new memories then, even in Vlughwater.”

 

Simon shuddered. “Joy…I don’t think…”

 

“Yes. We will. I don’t want there to be any place in the world you are frightened to go to, Simon!” She said adamantly. She nodded at Denton, who opened the door he’d been patiently standing beside.

 

Simon got out of the car and helped Joyce out, leading her up the steps to the front door. A man unknown to Joyce opened it for them.

 

“Evans, this is Ms. Summers. Joyce, this is Evans, my valet and butler.” Simon said before the man could greet them.

 

“Dr. Meier, Ms. Summers.” Evans bowed neatly. He was a man of about Simon’s age, short and with a bulldog-like look to him, muscled and compact, with a short, pugnacious nose and jaw. He was not the sort of man Joyce thought of when she thought of a butler, even if his voice and manner seemed perfectly cultured.

 

“Evans, good to meet you.”

 

The man bowed again. “Dinner will be served in the family dining room. If you would follow me?” He led them into the house and they followed, let them into a large room with great bay windows facing south framed by great dove grey curtains. The large table was cleared and shone in the soft lamplight and a table for two was set in the corner.

 

“I fear I had to err…order a preset meal...” Simon said apologetically.

 

Joyce managed to hide a wince. *Willow’s not the only one who still fears to be alone and cast out…too much pride to let it happen in public, my poor love. Dammit Joyce…You need to learn to control yourself…*

 

“My temper ruined your plans. I’m sorry for that too. Why don’t we sit and eat what I’m sure will be an excellent meal…and we can talk about if getting Xander a car would be a good idea.” She waited for him to seat her and then himself, and took a deep breath starting an innocuous conversation, hoping that she’d be able to put to rest the fears of loneliness of the little boy in the man before her.

 

End Note:

 

Heyoka are a strange mix of jester and shaman in some Native American cultures. They approach situations differently, from the other side, twist things around. If there is a draught, they will complain about the flooding, if it is cold they will run around in their loincloths and keep talking about how to avoid heat stroke. They were the balancers of culture and nature.

 

A quick reminder: Hooghwater is the house built in Sunnydale by Gabriel Meier in the 1840’s. Vlughwater is the old family seat in New York, constructed in the early 1800’s and expanded during the Gilded Age. Simon’s dislike of Vlughwater was hinted at, but never made as clear as in this conversation.  
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