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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)vidiconFR1598780,1331581492397,23828 May 115 Jul 14No

Secret Projects and secret sons

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: Carikate and EllandrahSylver, I appreciate everybody’s recommendations greatly.

 

Reviews help me clarify my thoughts and hopefully produce better stories, so I love them as well.

 

Chapter 53 Secret projects and Secret sons

 

 

“Varo.”

 

“Rochus. You were unsuccessful then?”

 

“The girl lives. Most of Phelps’ minions are dust. But I have much information.” The Shaszat shrugged shoulders and tentacles in supreme unconcern.

 

“I have never known you to fail.”

 

“Varo, your plans and mine coincide. Ultimately we both want to open this Hellmouth. But I am the one on the outside, and neither you, nor your Little Chosen, have the means to deal with this Slayer and her allies. And they are formidable allies.”

 

“Really? Do tell?”

 

“I saw Los Angeles and San Francisco as well as the Witch of Imperial. The girl also is a latent herself. And she called the Witch of Imperial Gran.”

 

“Interesting. No doubt her blood would be very rich, richer even than a normal Slayer’s”

 

“Hmmm. Not to mention her energy. We may want to keep her alive for a while.”

 

“Why Rochus, what an excellent idea. But how will we catch her?”

 

“That my dear Varo, is obvious. She loves, therefore she has weaknesses. And weaknesses we can exploit.”

 

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Janet started awake as the car drew up by the private clinic where Eileen would spend the night, monitored by the MIC doctor. She’d moved to sit by her mother when the backward travelling started to make her feel queasy. No amount of gentle prodding had managed to make Tara occupy less space, so to her chagrin, Janet had been forced to sit next to Mary.

 

And now she found that in her sleep she’d nestled deep within her mother’s embrace. Just like she always had when she was a child. She carefully moved out from under her mother’s arm and opened the door to help settle Eileen. The car would be back for her later, to take her to a near by hotel. She looked at her Mother and Tara, sleeping, Tara, trusting and frightened, basked in Mary’s love. Janet felt the flash of jealousy again, and ruthlessly suppressed it. She had burned her bridges. She could not cross back over the river. There was nothing left for her on the other side. She herself had seen to that.

 

Janet squared her shoulders and followed her sister’s stretcher into the clinic.

 

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Willow woke up, feeling warm and cosy. One side of her was less warm, which meant that Dad had gotten up, but Mom was still there. She breathed in and out, letting the peace flood over her. The smell of Dad’s aftershave wafting in from the little en suite bathroom. The smell of Mom’s talcum powder. The smell of safety. She opened her eyes and smiled, brilliantly.

 

“Good morning, Mom. I was sorta expecting you’d both be in the kitchen?” She said chirpily.

 

Joyce snorted. “With all the early risers here? We decided to sleep in. And how are you this morning?”

 

Willow stretched like a cat, arching her back. “Mmm. Much better, thanks Mom.”

 

“Good. Then let’s get dressed and downstairs, I’m hungry enough to eat a horse.”

 

Willow grinned. “Well, you looked well exercised last night. Did you guys even eat?”

 

“Willow!” Joyce said repressively, a blush on her face. Then she grinned back, wickedly. “And yes I did…”

 

MOM!!!”Willow wailed, dragging up a pillow and slamming it over her face.

 

Joyce tutted. “Really Willow, you brought that down on yourself.” She rose to dress, ignoring the whimpering from the bed.

 

The door opened and Buffy looked in, hair tousled. She looked at the whimpering Willow and winced in sympathy. “Do I want to know?”

 

Joyce grinned. “I don’t think so, dear.”

 

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Joyce had finished dressing long before Willow had managed to emerge. She had to send Dawn and Phoebe up to wake her again, which was done with loud squeals and much tickling, apparently. Patrick and Amy had arrived, perfectly safe, a fact that Clarice verified by very long hugs for both of them and a three minute kiss with Patrick on the back porch, the latter much to Amy’s embarrassment. And now the family was finally eating breakfast.

 

Joyce had just cut a bagel to spread it with jam when she heard the gasp. “M-Mom? That ring?” Buffy sat looking at her, butter laden knife still in the air, toast in the other, and the kitchen, which had been filled with noise and laughter, was suddenly eerily quiet.

 

“Yes?” Joyce teased.

 

“A-are you gonna get…?“ Willow squeaked from beside Joyce. The room seemed to hang on Joyce’s answer.

 

“Hmmm?” Joyce spread her jam.

 

“Joyce Marie! Is that an engagement ring or not!” Cecilia glared at her daughter, but with nothing more than amusement and hope in her eyes.

 

“Yes.”

 

“EEEE!! OH MY GOD!! YOU’RE GETTING MARRIEIEEEDDD!!!  That’s so wonderful!” Willow had her arms around her mother and was hugging fiercely. Then she moved to Simon, who was looking rather sheepish as James grinned at him, and then back to Joyce, all in the space of seconds.

 

Joyce lightly moved a finger in her ear, which had been very near to Willow’s mouth when the girl let out her squeals. “Yes…Thank you Willow.” She kissed the girl’s forehead as Willow stepped away to let the next person in line congratulate her mother.

 

Cecilia gave her daughter a quick hug and did the same to Simon, though she glared at him too.

 

Buffy had jumped her Mom as soon as Cecilia had stopped hugging. “Why didn’t you tell me!”

 

Dawn grabbed her mother as well. “Yeah, no fair!”

 

“You totally should have asked us!” Buffy scowled.

 

“Did I? I seem to recall I did already?” Joyce said with a smirk.

 

“Yeah, but that was like, weeks ago. We might have changed our minds!” Dawn pointed out.

 

“Oh? Well, I’m sorry, but I decided that one consultation was enough.” 

 

Buffy grinned. “It’s all right. We’ll forgive you for not asking again. Eventually…”  She pouted at Simon. “A Porsche will make my forgiveness just go ever so much faster…”

 

“No.” Simon said dryly. “I’ve seen you drive. The way you act in traffic, you should be happy we got you the bicycle.”

 

“Hey! That’s not true; I’m perfectly safe in traffic!” Buffy protested.

   

Xander snorted. “Sis, I love you, but I’m never ever getting in a car you drive…or in one when you are driving in the same town. No, make that County” Then he moved in to hug Joyce as well.

 

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Breakfast was finished and the family was sitting in the living room, on scattered cushions and dragged in chairs. Jenny was hunched in on herself and tried to avoid everyone’s gaze, almost hiding in Giles’ chest.

 

“Okay.”  Buffy said. “Can someone tell me why everyone was so freaked out last night?”

 

“You mean besides the fact you left your phone here?” Clarice said dryly, as she drew it from a pocket and threw it at Joyce, who reflexively caught it. Buffy cringed as her mother’s eyes turned on her, shock, anger and fear mingled in their depths. She was a little surprised to see the same expression in Simon’s eyes.

 

“Buffy! You didn’t!” Joyce voice half scolded, half pleaded. 

 

“Sorry, Mom.” Buffy replied guiltily.

 

“We’ll be talking about that later, young lady!” Joyce threw the phone to Buffy, who snatched it one handed from the air.

 

Simon began. “We currently are facing several dangers. One is the Master, but he is confined, though his forces are not. The second is a government organization that tried to kidnap Evy…and recruit Clarice.

 

“What?” Clarice looked stunned. “I would know, wouldn’t I?”

 

“Their recruitment methods…lets just say they try and isolate their potential recruits, destroy their lives, remove what they call unwanted interference.” Simon looked at Cecilia who put a protective arm around Clarice.

 

“Like friends, respectful colleagues…family…adoptive or not.” Simon concluded.

 

Clarice looked at him, her eyes wide. And then she began to cry. Cecilia and James both tried to comfort her, but Clarice kept sobbing. Evy was looking scared and had crawled onto Arlene’s lap.

 

“Anyone else on their watch list?” Xander asked flippantly.

 

“Kit. Dawn. Willow. Amy. Half your class.” Simon said quietly. “They were warned off from Willow, we don’t know why. You were under observation yourself until you were six, Xander.”

 

Xander gaped. “W-what? Why?”

 

“Another thing we need to find out. Something they call Project Danaë, but we haven’t managed to get that far in.”  Joyce put a hand on Simon’s knee. “But this operation Marigold is being dealt with as we speak.”

 

“Yes. The most pressing danger at the moment seems to be the Shaszat.” Giles said thoughtfully.

 

Willow’s phone rang and she took it out, blushed at the caller ID and hastened into the kitchen, mouthing ‘Sorry’ at everybody.

 

The rest of the family shared amused glances and took the opportunity to take a refill. Angel rather apprehensively eyed the mug of coffee he’d been handed, but sipped with good grace, if a slight look of distaste on his face.

 

“Don’t like coffee?” James asked.

 

“Never developed a taste. Clan Aurelius does not really go into human foodstuffs except alcohol. I got stuck in the mindset even after I got my soul. I only had coffee once when I was alive. It was still slightly expensive. Booze was a lot cheaper.”  

 

James blinked. “You seem remarkably calm about it all.”

 

“I spent a few weeks talking to a man in Seattle, got my head straightened out a bit.” He looked at Jenny with some distrust. “There are some things I still get annoyed about, however.”

 

Jenny apparently heard him and turned her face into Giles’ chest.

 

Willow was back within a minute, phone still at her ear. “It’s Dave…he and his parents want to come by…with his elder brother. He says it’s really important.”

 

“Very well. They might be in danger too. Shaszat feed on magic, after all, even the innate magic of demons if they can get no other. ” Simon replied after gauging the temper in the room.

 

Willow nodded. “You can come over now. See you. Bye. Love you. Love you.” She hung up and suddenly blushed as she felt the amused glances upon her. Even Clarice sported a watery smile.

 

Simon cleared his throat while Willow scurried, still blushing, to sit beside Joyce. “Well then, back to the dangers.”

 

Angel had been sitting looking at Jenny with anger in his eyes. “Before we go on, I’d like to ask what exactly Miss Calendar knows about my Curse.”

 

Giles hugged the trembling young woman to him. “Very little. She was disgraced and they did not trust her fully. All she knows is that she has to report whenever you show the slightest signs of happiness. She cast a minor charm on you and barely knows what you look like.”

 

“Disgraced? Why?” Willow asked, worried for her favourite teacher.

 

“She’s a Seer. A Gypsy Seer. The Romany people believe such women are blessed. That they have great power to look into the future of their race, a power which grows and diminishes with their love.” Giles answered.

 

Penelope went over to the trembling Jenny and gently put a hand on her forehead. “And it can be taken, stolen, by certain rituals once a Seer has opened herself up. Given her heart.” She said sadly. “And poor Jennifer…”

 

Danielle looked thoughtful. “We’ll need his name.”

 

“Will we?” Penelope said repressively.

 

“Oh my, yes, and possibly some hair? I mean, Cece was showing me this lovely little spell. It involves boils.”

 

Penelope blinked and then grinned. “Slept well, Danni?”

 

Danielle made a face. “Yes. But this Hellmouth is seriously bad for my judgement and temper. I do apologize for my words and temper last night, Miss Calendar.”

 

Jenny nodded tremulously. “Thank you.”

 

“Well, once Jennifer has spoken with her Clan, and the Grand Magister has had a word with them as well, I think we can expect a considerable amount of information to be forthcoming about Mr. O’Connell’s curse.” Cecilia said with a certain amount of satisfaction.

 

“Is that enough for now, Liam?” Penelope asked pointedly.

 

Angel nodded. “Yes. My apologies, Miss Calendar. I spoke before I thought.”

 

Jenny nodded her acceptance and settled back against Giles who rather protectively put his arm around her.

 

“Then let us get back to the Shaszat.” Simon began. He stopped when a car, a white van, drew up before the house and backed into the driveway. The words Kirby Flower Arrangements were painted in blue and silver letters on the side. The van backed almost up to the doors of the garage and then the side door opened. A large, huddled mass came out, hidden under a blanket, followed by Dave, who led it to the porch and into the kitchen. A couple in their late thirties or early forties came out of the cab and walked to the front door.

 

Dave opened the door from the kitchen do the Foyer and looked in, a bit sheepish. “Err…My parents are outside. This is Mike, my older brother.”  He put a hand into the kitchen and there was a short struggle until a nine foot creature entered the living room, his wings rising a further foot or two above his head, hunched forward to be able to fit into the house.

 

He was not pure white, it was creamy with tiny flecks of gold scattered through. His eyes were larger proportionally than those of a human, great golden orb with tiny silvery pupils that seemed to contract even further as he stepped into the room. He had a sharp, beak like nose over a strong, broad mouth and chin. His brows were very heavy and a large crest, somewhat reminiscent of a Mohawk, but of stiff golden feathers, ran from the crown of his forehead to the back of his neck. The wings were of white feathers, a brighter white than his skin, and it seemed every vane was edged with gold. He wore a toga like garment that left his wings free, as well as his arms and covered his legs to just above the knee.

 

He would have been very imposing if not for the palpable nerves that made him shake and the frightened flickering of his huge eyes. The doorbell rang and the demon flinched. Joyce rose to open the door. “Mr. and Mrs Kirby? So nice to meet you. Do please come in.”

 

Dawn had been edging towards the strange being that had suddenly appeared in her home and Willow walked towards Dave, a calculating look in her eyes.

 

“Dave…” She looked at her boyfriend askance. “Is that what you are going to look like when you change?”

 

Dave flinched as if he was it. “Yes. Probably.”

 

Willow threw herself at him and kissed him, very briefly, before devolving into babble. “Thatisjustsocool!Thosewings!Andthatcomborisitacrest?Isthathair?Andhowfarcanyouflyandisthatskinreallyassoftasitlooks?Andwhydidn’tyoutellmebeforethatyouwouldbeabletoflythatisjustnotfair!Willyoube abletocarrymelikeMikedidwithBuffy?Mmmmffmmffmmm.” 

 

Dave’s parents looked mortified when Dave kissed Willow into silence.

 

Joyce gave them an apologetic grin. “I’m sorry about that, Willow gets rather babbly when she’s excited. Dave’s method of making her stop is actually very effective. Dawn, don’t touch Michael unless he’s given permission!”

 

Dawn, who had been reaching for a wingtip, snatched her hand back guiltily.

 

Penelope rose and approached the couple. “Penelope Johnson, California.”

 

Jenny’s eyes opened very wide and she let out a strangled moan. The Kirby’s looked a bit shocked.

 

“Anna Kirby. This is my husband, Brian.” Both Kirby’s shook hands. Danielle grinned. “Danielle Moritz, former LA and California. I’m Willow’s grandmother.”

 

This time the Kirby’s looked at David. “Did you know this?”

 

“Yes. You would not let me tell Willow all our secrets. I saw no reason to tell you all of hers.” David answered calmly, standing up straight with Willow in his arms.

 

Anna and Brian exchanged a look and then nodded. “True. Any other surprises?”

 

David smiled. “Well, Dr. Meier is former New York and Concordat.”

 

Anna Kirby eyed Simon with sudden coldness. “You stopped our vengeance.”

 

“Yes. The Slayer was lied to. Her Watcher was poisoned. I dealt with those responsible.”

 

“And your justice is supposed to be better than ours?” Mrs. Kirby asked sharply. “It wasn’t your people who were slaughtered!”

 

“No. It was I who found your people, I who judged their murderers and found them guilty and who punished them. For I am Death’s first servant, and through me his Justice moves.” Simon replied softly, his voice taking on a rote quality.

 

Anna took a step back, hissing. “First Servant of Death? Impossible. The Vicars of Death became extinct in the 17th century!”

 

Joyce elbowed Simon. “Don’t say it!” She warned. She rolled her eyes at Anna. “He will always pull out that stupid line about rumours of their Death being vastly exaggerated.”

 

Brian smothered a laugh as did Giles. Jenny had her eyes closed, was very pale and seemed to be praying.

 

Brian coughed, recovering himself.  “I see. But my wife asked a valid question, why is your justice better than ours?”

 

“You submitted to the laws of the Concordat. That means you are protected by them and those who perpetrate crimes against you are subject to them as well.” Penelope said gently. “And our laws are often more stringent than yours.”

 

Giles nodded grimly. ”Seventeen Watchers involved…disappeared; twenty-nine others we are certain are dead. All Watchers then known to be in the United States were put under surveillance by the Concordat. And three members of the Council of Thirteen disappeared as well.”

 

Anna Kirby nodded. “I will want details of their punishment later.”

 

Simon lifted an eyebrow. “If you insist.”

 

“I do. As is my right.” Anna replied.

 

“Very we…”

 

“Dawn! Don’t touch Michael unless he gives his permission! This is your last warning” Joyce repeated her earlier warning. Dawn, who had been circling the ever more uncomfortable looking teenage demon, pulled back hastily from yet another attempt to touch his wing.

 

Michael sighed. “Dawn, is it? Look, I’ll let you touch me, but only where I want you to, okay?”

 

Dawn nodded, wide eyed. Kit, lying on the truckle bed, made a whimpering noise of suppressed awe and yearning. Michael turned towards her. “Same goes for everyone here, okay?” He moved to stand by the bed and extended a hand to Kit, and his other to Dawn, who both took one, their expressions rather wide eyed.

 

Joyce sighed. “Sorry about that, Michael.”

 

“It’s alright Ms. Summers; it’s a much better reaction than I ever hoped.” Michael smiled.

 

Willow looked beseechingly at Dave, who grinned. “Oh, brother mine, would you accommodate Willow as well?”

 

Mike looked around and saw the eager puppy look on Willow’s face. “Aha! This must be the oft discussed face of Willowosity!”

 

Xander laughed. Willow looked confused? “W-Willowosity?”

 

Dave looked a bit embarrassed. “Err…It’s well…it’s a word I invented. To, you know, when you get really curious and excited about something, it’s just more than curiousity.”

 

Willow’s green eyes were riveted upon Dave’s face. “You invented a word to describe me?”

 

“When he was twelve.” Mike smirked, his broad mouth and thin lips oddly expressive.

 

“Mike!” Dave called out warningly.

 

Willow put a finger to his lips, stepped closer again and kissed him. “No one ever invented a word for me…” She put her arms around Dave and deepened the kiss.

 

Anna looked at Joyce. “Dear me…”

 

Joyce shrugged. “Well, you did see them at the Talent Show.”

 

Brian grinned. “Yeah, they really should have gotten a prize for that. Pity my camera broke down.” His glance at Dave showed he did not think it a coincidence.

 

“Oh, that’s no problem. We have it all recorded, from several angles even.” Joyce replied. “I’ll ask Hurst to get you a copy.”

 

Brian looked at the young couple kissing. “I was expecting a reaction…”

 

Buffy snorted. “From them? While they’re kissing? Not gonna happen.” She smiled at the older man and then stepped up to Mike, extending her hand. “Hey Michael, I’m Buffy. Thanks for saving my life from that ass-hat demon thingy.” *Ooohh…wrong choice of words, Buffy…Mom is gonna flip her wig!* Buffy winced in anticipation of her mother’s words.

 

“Buffy! Language!” Joyce said sternly. 

 

Mike gave Buffy a sympathetic look and took her hand. “You’re welcome. Call me Mike.” He took the Slayer’s hand, took a half step back with one leg and performed an intricate and courtly bow. “It is my pleasure to meet you, Lady Protector.”

 

He gently touched her knuckles with his lips and Buffy felt a slight blush rise up her cheeks. She noted that Ang...Liam in his corner seat away from the window, glared.

 

“L-lady Protector?”

 


“A translation of your name in Cheila into English.”

 

“So English is not your first language?”

 

“I was born right her in Sunnydale. English is as much my mother tongue as Cheila.” Mike said as he looked down at the petite Slayer.

 

Buffy nodded. “Of course, sorry.” She very softly ran a hand over the soft skin of his forearm. Joyce coughed, and Buffy, realising what she was doing, snatched her hand away, throwing an apologetic look at Mike.

 

“Let’s get back to this Shaszat. I’ve been reading about Marigold, so can someone tell exactly what has got you all so worried?” Joyce asked, while pouring coffee for her guests.

 

James spoke, softly. “I’ve faced two Shaszat in my life. The first was in Korea. Killing it took the firepower of a Champion of the Light, three great Mudangs, and a Slayer, as well as a battalion of Marines. Her name was Baba Yaga.” *And cost the lives of half the battalion, all three Mudangs and the Slayer too.*

 

“What? You never told me that! James Caldecott Four Bears Ellis you and I are going to have words!” Cecilia ground out, her body seemingly vibrating with anger..

 

James put a hand over Cecilia’s mouth. “Are you quite done? I told you I helped defeat a Shaszat, its name was unimportant at that time. And when we do have words, they won’t be flowing just one way.” He said sternly.

 

All four of Cecilia’s daughters looked on in astonishment as their mother flushed and nodded, meekly.

 

James removed his hand and lightly kissed his wife. “The second one was after Arlene, just after she was born. Your mother and I killed it; it was one of Yaga’s offspring, much less powerful than his mother.”

 

A strangled noise came from Penelope. “You-you two did that? How?”

 

“A lot of ordnance. And I mean a lot.” James said dryly. “Thankfully I know how to drive a tank. And had friends willing to help. And the car compressor was useful as well.”

 

Xander held up a hand. “Okay…so they’re scary. I remember Baba Yaga from a bed time story, but what do these things really do?”

 

“They feed on pain and magic. They move from Chakra point to Chakra point, draining a being of its magic while causing tremendous pain. I don’t know if they actually need the pain, really, but they certainly enjoy it.” Angel replied. “They are also very powerful and as Mr. Ellis said, very hard to kill.” He looked respectfully at the man. “I didn’t realize you were Omega.”

 

“And imagine my surprise when I found out Agent Archangel was just a little bit interested in one of my granddaughters.” James replied dryly.

 

Angel flushed. “Err…”

 

“Quite. Now, you implied you might know this particular Shaszat?” James said mildly.

 

“Despite the large numbers of magical beings here, it’s unlikely that a Shaszat would come to a Hellmouth. The energy makes it difficult for them to locate their prey. That means that someone must have asked him to come here. I know the Master is friendly with a Shaszat called Rochus. That’s all I know, but the coincidence would be too great, I think, for this to be different one.”

 

The older witches exchanged glances. “Agreed.” Penelope said quietly. “Which still leaves us facing the thing.”

 

From the truckle bed came a giggle. Eyes turned to Kit and Dawn, who were being tickled by Mike, who was using his wing tips, a look of deep concentration on his face.

 

Amy started to laugh, soon followed by all the others, as Mike rather sheepishly grinned.

 

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“Roger! ROGER!!” Brenda Walsh shrieked. “Have you seen my black pumps?”

 

Roger looked in Brenda’s well filled shoe cupboard and removed a pair of black shoes. “These, my love?”

 

“No, Roger, the satin ones.” Brenda scowled. “I have to look my best for the Trustees Tea, if you really want to continue to work at that, that museum you really ought to do a little bit more of socializing with the right people so that you at least will be its youngest director ever.”

 

Roger nodded. “Yes dear. Let me fasten that for you.” He deftly closed the necklace she had been fumbling with and kissed her neck. “You will make me rise above myself.”

*I doubt I will ever be able to convince Brenda and Prue to share a bed with me at the same time…such a pity, that Prue is such a prude.*

 

“For instance, I’ve heard that Simon Meier is actually staying in California, in Sunnydale, you know, where you’re going, for that Inca exhibition? I’m sure we can convince him to support you for any number of important posts…”

 

“Oh Brenda, I do love the way your mind works…” Roger Pritchett kissed his girlfriend’s neck and smiled.

 

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Simon walked into the bedroom where Joyce was sitting at the roll top desk, reading her part of the Marigold files. He put a stack of paper in front of her, looking slightly embarrassed.

 

“Simon, I’m not going to do your reading as well.” She said teasingly.

 

“This isn’t Marigold. This is the prenuptial agreement.” He looked at the floor as he said it.

 

“Pre…Simon! Do you think so little of me?” Joyce said aggrieved.

 

“No. But it will take a long time for my testament to be fully updated. I need you and the children provided for if something happens to me.” He put a hand on the stack. “This will do that, among other things.”

 

“I see. And I suppose I just sign it and that’s that?” Joyce said while eyeing the six inch stack with distaste.

 

“No. Part of the agreement provides you with fifty thousand dollars to hire an attorney to read that and talk you through it. I can provide more if you want it.”

 

Joyce sighed. “Oh very well. Now get back to your reading.” He took a step closer and she glared at him. “No, Simon! You know as well as I do that one kiss will lead to more. Out!” She pointed at the door and Simon left, grinning slightly. Joyce shook herself. “That man is turning me into a nymphomaniac.” She muttered to herself while returning to her reading.

 

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“Cecilia, can I ask you a hypothetical question?”

 

Cecilia eyed her sister with interest. “Hypothetical?”

 

“For now. Say that a woman often fought with her husband and fell in love with a man who she worked with on a daily basis, and she had a child with him, should that child be aware of her true parents? And her half siblings of her existence?”

 

Cecilia put a hand to her eyes. “Hypothetically? I really wish we had nice normal family. And I think it depends on how happy the girl is now. Or if she is in danger. I think you need to find that out. Hypothetically.”

 

“You’re right. Hypothetically.”

 

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“So soft…” Buffy said with awe in her voice as she ran a hand up Mike’s arm. The nine foot demon was swamped in teen and pre teen girls. Buffy, Celia, Amy, Willow, Kit, Dawn and even Evy had touched his wings, ran hands up his chamois soft skin, looked into his eyes and even gingerly touched his feathery crest. By now Mike was starting to think he would have a permanent pink tinge under his hide. 

 

“Alright girls, I think that is enough.” Charlotte, who had been assigned as the minder, said firmly. “Come on Mike, let’s get you some food.”

 

Mike rather gratefully followed her to the kitchen, ducking his head deeply and hunching his wings.

 

The three older cousins were sitting at the island, papers strewn before them, concentrating on their work, occasionally muttering to themselves as they made notes on yellow legal pads.

 

Then Phoebe saw who had come in and smiled eagerly. “Oh, hello Mike! I was wondering…I’ve never seen a demon, other than he vampires that were going to eat us when we first got her the first time, but I was wondering, if you know, I could, like, get to know you and err, talk to you a bit?”

 

Mike nodded. “Sure.” He felt a gossamer touch to his wing and saw that Piper had her hand extended her face almost reverential. “Like an angel…”

 

Mike sighed. *Its gonna be long day, Mikey-boy.* He shivered slightly as another attractive girl, no young woman, laid a gentle hand on his arm. *A very long day.*

 

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“Arlene? Can we have word?” Prue, Piper and Phoebe stood at the door to Arlene and Evy’s room and watched as Arlene gently brushed Evy’s hair.

 

“Evy? Run up and find someone you feel comfortable with, love.” Arlene said lovingly.

 

Evy froze, her face nearly panicking. “But…”

 

“I know love, but they’re in the living room or the kitchen. Evy, I know you can do it.”

 

Evy nodded, squared her shoulder and hurried past her cousins with a shy smile, running up the basement stairs to find an aunt or grandparent to feel safe with.

 

“So. What did you want to talk to me about?” Arlene asked, waving her cousins inside and onto the bed and the small cushion-topped stool.

 

“Magic. And if we should ask Grams to remove the spell on us.” Prue said quietly.

 

“Ah. I see. What has Aunt Penny told you?”

 

“That it is our choice. She can also strip our powers completely with a potion. She does think we are the Charmed Ones and that many beings and things will want to kill or harm us, but that they still might do that anyway.” Piper said in a strained voice.

 

“Yes. Even while I took the suppression potion I still got attacked by rather more of the supernatural than normal people. And I’m not a Charmed One.” Arlene agreed. She gazed thoughtfully at Prue and Piper. “You both used magic as children, right?”
 

“From what Grams told us, yeah. We can’t remember. Why?” Prue asked.

 

“Well, blocking or suppressing an adult or teenager is liable to cause a lot of changes, mostly in personality. My sisters would tell you that around the time I started taking Suppression potions I became…rather less nice.”

 

“Suppressed evil stuck up bitch I believe is how Charlotte put it.”  Phoebe supplied maliciously.

 

“Yeah okay, that.” Arlene winced. “But since you were blocked much younger, it has less effect on you. But all three or you are more powerful than me, so that means that it keeps pressing against you, trying to get you to acknowledge it.” 

 

“What sort of thing are you talking about?” Prue asked, anxiously.

 

 “Restlessness, a feeling of being incomplete. Tiredness and worry, despite there being no cause.” Arlene  replied.

 

“What if one of us did not want to do this?” Piper asked.

 

Arlene looked at Prue with commiserating eyes. “You’d practically be condemning the sisters who were active to death. The Chosen Ones will draw enemies out of the woodwork from all over the world; your coming has been prophesied for a thousand years. You are supposed to help restore the balance of the world. With only two of the Chosen three…”

 

“How do you know all this? Why didn’t Grams tell us?” Prue asked, broken voiced.

 

Arlene shrugged. “I’m a Seer, I have visions. I have, despite my dislike of my power a considerable library of mystical and divinatory books. The Chosen Ones have been part of prophecy for at least fifteen hundred years, I think. As for why Aunt Penny didn’t tell you, she’s already lost her daughter, your mother, to the forces of Darkness. Do you honestly think she wants for you three to take up demon hunting for real and put yourselves in the line of danger on a daily basis? Didn’t you see the way she acted when she found out about the Shaszat? She lost her husband and her daughter already, and whatever choice you make, she will do her utmost to keep you safe, you can be sure of that.”

 

Phoebe groaned. “And if we do make the choice? Like you did?”

 

“She no doubt will give you what training she can.” Arlene assured them. “As will everyone here.” 

 

“We need to talk to Grams.” Piper said.

 

“Yeah. We do. But first we got to go and hug Evy. Will she be alright?” Phoebe asked Arlene worry on her face.

 

Arlene sighed. “It’s going to take a lot of time to get Evy anywhere near alright. And the Hellmouth is not helping her regain her balance, but I really don’t know if I can take her away from Kit.” Arlene shrugged helplessly. “I hate not being able to help her more.”

 

“Arlene…everyone can see you’re doing the best you can, probably the best anyone can do.” Piper hugged the older woman. “It’s not your fault the Rosses messed up as badly as they did. All you knew was that they were kind, loving parents.”

 

“But I didn’t protect my baby. I should have. I should have.” Arlene hugged Piper back, seeking strength from the younger woman.

 

“You did your best, to the best of your knowledge.” A soft voice came from the door and Penelope was standing there. “No mother can do more.” She smiled wanly. “Evy came running to James babbling about you three being here. It didn’t take me long to think about what. You probably want to talk to me, girls?” She looked at her granddaughters with sad eyes.

 

Prue looked at her sisters and took a deep breath. “Grams, we need you to lift the blocking spell on us.”

 

Penelope closed her eyes and nodded. “Very well. But not here. Let’s go upstairs and I can explain things to you.”

 

“There is more to explain?” Prue asked with irritation in her voice.

 

“About the ritual, yes, and about other things to do with the family heritage as well.”

 

“What other things?” Piper asked suspiciously.

 

“Some things that concerns all the members of House Warren, so we’ll take this upstairs and then I only need to tell it once.” Penelope said sharply and gestured for her granddaughters to precede her, which they did, Prue muttering dire imprecations, while Phoebe was suppressing laughter.

 

Arlene touched her aunt’s arm, a smile tugging at her lips. “Why do I get the impression that Phoebe might have done a bit of research and found out that both the blocking and unblocking ritual have to be performed sky clad if the original caster is alive?”

 

Penelope grinned. “Phoebe always had hidden depths. And she was always a bit of an exhibitionist too…”

 

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“Patrick? Can I have a word?” Simon asked politely. Patrick looked up from his reading material, looked at Clarice sitting next to him on the couch, her legs tucked under her, a delicate and to him immensely appealing little furrow on her forehead. “Err. Yeah, sure.”

 

Simon led the other man to the garage. “Two things. How much money do you need to hire a foreman to do your work, so that you can concentrate on making Abluaria?”

 

Patrick pulled his lip. “Depends on the person. I don’t know. But look, I’m only just getting back on my feet. I nearly went bankrupt, Simon. I can’t afford to lose business by not showing up myself. Taking that lapidary course took up a lot of time too.”

 

“I know. But the Hellmouth is starting to have an effect on all the witches. Eventually all of them will start to react to it; you weren’t here last night, but…”

 

“Okay. I’ll get back to you once I’ve found someone. I’ll try and do it fast. No, I’ll do it fast. What about the second?”

 

“Clarice. She’s been very badly hurt, Patrick. Don’t get me wrong I like you; I wouldn’t mind you as a brother in law. But you hurt her intentionally, and I’ll call my Chief Archivist and have him do things to you do not want to think about. Understood?” Simon eyed the big man with all the fierce protectiveness of an older brother for his sister.

 

Patrick nodded. “You err…know about Friday?”

 

Simon rolled his eyes. “Everybody knows about Friday. And despite the fact that Amy will be staying over, that does not mean I don’t expect Clarice home at a reasonable hour.”

 

Patrick nodded. “She will be. No matter what she thinks, she isn’t ready yet for more than dancing and dating. Especially not after what she heard today.”

 

Simon put a hand on the big man’s shoulder. “You’re a good man, Patrick Madison.”

 

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Clarice looked up from her part of the dinner preparations, snorted and waved her sisters over to the window. Charlotte, the first to arrive, let out a shocked giggle. Arlene groaned. Joyce sighed. Out under Dawn’s tree, Cecilia had straddled James’ lap as he sat on a lawn chair.

 

Clarice grinned at her sisters. “Shall we go out there and interrupt before we get another sister? Were they always like this?”

 

Charlotte and Arlene looked at Joyce, who blushed. Then Arlene grinned. “Well, I think they were, they just hid it better until now. Joyce’s influence is making them go all teenage hormones on each other. It’s the Soul bond, once that is acknowledged; it seems to demand a lot of physical contact.”

 

“Unlike with Joy and Simon, who are just horny.” Charlotte added teasingly.

 

“Says the woman who tumbled her husband in a public pool not too many weeks ago…” Joyce replied.

 

Charlotte blushed. “We did not! I mean, we were in the pool, but we did not tumble!”

 

“Hm hmm.  Of course.” Clarice grinned at the youngest Ellis as the blush mounted to Charlotte’s forehead and lowered down to her collar. She walked out of the door and the other three laughed and followed. Even if Charlotte’s laugh was rather sheepish.

 

They stood by the lawn chair for several seconds and there seemed to be no reaction from either parent. “You know, it’s not fair.” Clarice said conversationally. “When we said we’d go out Hunting unprepared Dad was all ready to spank us. All Mom gets is kisses.”

 

James finally unlocked his lips from Cecilia’s. “The offer to spank can be extended to include disturbing Mommy and Daddy during Happy time.” He answered dryly.

 

“Oh, now that is not fair, Daddy!” Charlotte pouted. “I bet Mom doesn’t get spanked for interrupting Happy Time.”

 

“Not for interrupting, no. During, yes.” James answered blandly. “And who says she didn’t get spanked for last night’s little escapade?”

 

Four pairs of eyes widened as they looked at their tongue-tied, wide eyed and blushing mother. Four pairs of eyes closed. Four mouths spoke in near unison. “DAD! EEEWWWW!!!!”

 

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“Granddad?”

 

“Yes Jack?”

 

“This is not the shortest rout to Sunnydale.”

 

“I know.”

 

“So where are we going?”

 

“To check and see if all those annoying outlaws are still dead and buried. I will not have a repeat of ‘Billy the Kid rides again’ again, thank you very much.”

 

“Err…that was a joke right? Granddad, you’re serious? Oh fer crying out loud…”

 

End Note:

 

Brenda Walsh is part of the Beverly Hills 90210 series/program, created by Darren Star,  Aaron Spelling, E. Duke Vincent for Spelling studios.

 

More explanations, but I hope sufficient interest to keep people reading. A warning! This Halloween is not the magical Halloween. I’m opening a thread on the forum Waifs and Strays forum to discuss the pros and cons of particular pairings. Once I figure out how to do it.

 

Thanks for reading, Vidicon. 
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