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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)vidiconFR1598780,1331581491396,57728 May 115 Jul 14No

Delinquent Fathers

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.#

 

Many thanks to AllenPitt, CaptainMal and julieqt for recommending this story, it means a great deal to me.

 

As you may notice, I answer all reviews. Not all of them as fully as you might like, I do prefer keeping revelations for my stories rather than reviews (sorry! ;-)) I do appreciate them greatly and take heed of what is written in them. So please post them and let me know what you think.

 

 

Chapter 54: Delinquent Fathers

 

Tony Harris woke up with a headache. This was not unusual. The fact that it was a hangover headache only made it more familiar to him. The fact he was on an unfamiliar, rather narrow bed, in a concrete room barred at one end was not all that common, but he recognized the cell from the two dozen times or so he’d been picked up for being drunk and disorderly. He groaned and sat up. He gritted his teeth and closed his eyes against the light that poured in from the barred window. *And I still didn’t find the bitch.*

 

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“Cordy? Are you alright?” Harmony stood in the doorway of the guest bedroom Cordy had been staying in since Eliza Kendall had dragged her out of Chase Manor after the Talent Show.

 

“My parents are coming home this afternoon. Fa-Dad wants to see me, know what I’ve been doing the past few days.” Cordelia said in a toneless voice, her mobile phone clutched in her hand.

 

“I thought they were going to be gone for another week?” Harmony looked confused.

 

“There’s a big hearing at the Elementary school on Monday, to do with that Holburn kid and the bullying and stuff. He needs to be there, because of his place on the School Board, and the next day there’s a hearing to see if the kid who set up the vigilante group is gonna get expelled or not.”

 

“Oh. So what does he think is gonna happen?”

 

“He didn’t say. Just told me to be home when they get there.”

 

Harmony took a tentative step forward. “Cordy? Will you be alright?”

 

Cordelia’s face twisted in fear for just a second before she got her emotions back under control and once more showed the perfect marble visage of Cordelia, Queen of Sunnydale. “Sure Harm. I’ll be fine. Whatever could be wrong with going home to Mom and D-Dad?”

 

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Joyce was reading her part of the Marigold papers when the phone rang.

 

“Joyce Summers, good afternoon.”

 

“Hello Joyce.”

 

“Hank, hello. Calling for Buffy and Dawn? I’ll call them.”

 

“No time, I’m sorry. Look Joyce, next weekend I’ve got an important appointment, a big client. Please tell the girls I won’t be able to have them over for, or to pick them up.”

 

“Hank! You can not just dump that on me! They’ve been looking forward to it, and…”

 

“Joyce, I’m sorry, I can’t. I’ve got to go. Give my love to the girls.”

 

“Hank. HANK! Asshole.” She blinked in anger at the phone in her hand and slammed it down. “Bastard. Ratfink scum! I can’t believe I loved you enough to marry you!”

 

She took a deep breath. *Got to tell Buffy and Dawn. Be neutral. Let them draw their own conclusions.* She got up and walked to the door. *Bastard.*

 

“Buffy! Dawn! Could you come here for a minute?” She called down.

 

“’Kay Mom!” Came the dual reply from below. Then the thunder that was Dawn’s ascent and the slightly lighter tread of Buffy.

 

“Come in here please.”

 

Dawn skipped in happily, Buffy entered warily. “Ummm, hi Mom…”

 

Joyce eyed her eldest daughter, who smiled tentatively. Joyce smiled back. “Not punishment, honey.”

 

Buffy let out a sigh of relief. Joyce raised an eyebrow. “Yet.”

 

Buffy winced. “Okay. Not quite what I wanted to hear. So, umm, why did you call us?”

 

“Your Father just called.”

 

Dawn hopped in glee. “Cool! So when does he come to pick us up?”

 

Joyce took a deep breath. “He asked me to tell you that he was very busy and couldn’t come and get you and that he didn’t have time next weekend to have you over. I’m sorry. He told me to tell you he loves you.” *I hope that was neutral enough.* 

 

Buffy ran from the room. Dawn started to cry and did the same. Joyce swore and grabbed her phone. “Simon? Can you come up here and comfort Dawn? Hank has no time next weekend. I need to go to Buffy.” Two doors slammed. “They’re both up here.”

 

“Of course. I’ll be right there.”

 

Joyce hung up and went down the hall to Buffy’s room. She knew her daughter, Buffy would not have wanted to brave the family and friends downstairs in her current mood. She knocked quietly. There was no answer, but she went in anyway. Buffy was sobbing into her pillow, trying to keep the noise down.

 

“Oh, honey.”

 

“Go AWAY!”

 

“No.” Joyce sat by Buffy’s side, putting a hand on her shoulder. “Your Father does love you…” *He’s just an asshole who doesn’t know how to show it and more interested in promotion.*  “Very much, but sometimes he has to work, even when he rather wouldn’t…”

 

“Don’t lie for him! He doesn’t love me! He thinks I’m a freak and a nut case! I heard him say it to you himself!”

 

“Buffy, he didn’t mean that, he was angry.” (Damn! Slayer hearing. She must have heard everything he said. Oh dear…what did I say

 

“Oh? OH!? Then why hasn’t he told me he loves me? Why didn’t he tell us himself? He’s hurting Dawnie because he hates me!” Buffy gripped her pillow and tore it in two, the feathers flying around the room. She threw the halves away and thumped her mattress, hard, with one small fist. The bed shuddered and creaked under the violent onslaught.

 

Joyce sighed and gently pulled Buffy up and into her arms, cradling her. “I don’t know Buffy. But he does love you.”

 

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Simon knocked on the door to Dawn’s room, but got no reply. He carefully opened it and looked in. “Aurora? May I come in?”

 

“GO AWAY!!”

 

“I’m afraid I can’t do that, Dawn. I’m under orders from your Mother.” Simon came in and sat on the bed.

 

“Why isn’t Mom here?”

 

“Because Buffy needs her more right now.” Simon said gently, rubbing a hand between her shoulder blades. “Your Father said some things about her once and, well with all this, Buffy doesn’t think your Dad loves her anymore.”

 

“Oh.” Dawn sobbed. “B-But if he loves us, why doesn’t he want us to be there?”

 

“I don’t know, Dawnie, but I’m sure he has a good reason.”

 

Dawn nodded, tearfully into her pillow and allowed herself to be pulled into Simon’s embrace. “I want my Daddy…”

 

“I know, Dawn. I know.” *And if that asshole does not have a good reason, he’ll wish he was dead.* He thought very quietly to himself.

 

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Hank Summers ran a finger over the picture on the table by the couch, of him, Buffy and Dawn on the beach, Dawn had been five and Buffy ten. It had sat next to the next to the phone for as long as he had it, now slightly discoloured by sun and age.. He took a sip of the Bourbon he’d poured. He looked at the enlarged photograph of Dawn dancing with Baryshnikov hanging on the wall and rose. He went into his study and sat down, opened his case file and sighed. It was time to get back to work. If he wanted to compete in any way with Simon Meier for his daughters’ affection, he needed to work hard, and be lucky. He needed wealth and plenty of it.

 

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Janet looked at her niece, who was reading a leather bound journal with great concentration. Then she looked at Mary, who was knitting, a magazine open on her lap.

 

“Didn’t bring anything to read, dear?”

 

“I forgot.” Janet rather ruefully admitted.

 

Mary reached into her bag and then shook her head and handed the whole thing over. “See if there’s anything in there for you.”

 

Janet accepted the hefty tote bag and went through it. She came upon a collection of Stephenson’s short stories and settled down to read.

 

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“M-Mom?”

 

“Yes dear? Manage to pull yourself away from Dave and Mike?”

 

Joyce smiled up at Willow standing in the doorway to the Bedroom. The papers Joyce was plowing through were scattered on the bed, floor and desk, liberally marked with highlighter and scribbled notes. Willow was fidgeting uncomfortably and blushing.

 

“Willow, what’s wrong?”

 

“I kissed DAVE!!” Willow wailed.

 

“Yes dear, you’ve been doing it for a while now, it’s very cute.” Joyce replied calmly.

 

“In front of everybody! His parents, you, Mike, Dawnie!!” Willow was as red as a beet. “A really big kiss!”

 

“Yes dear, couples who love each other do that.” Joyce soothed.

 

“B-but everybody knows!”

 

Joyce rose from the chair by the roll-up desk, sat on the bed and patted it. Willow rather hesitantly sat beside her. “We sort of guessed already during the talent show. I think you’re overreacting.”

 

“No, they know that I like Dave’s other form.” Willow’s blush, which had receded slightly, returned in full force at the whispered confession.

 

Joyce tried very hard not to laugh. She failed. Willow’s face became closed and hurt at the reaction and Joyce hugged her. “Oh, Willow. In case you hadn’t noticed, Buffy, Celia, Evy, Amy, Dawn, Kit, Prue, Piper and Phoebe all rather like Mike’s form too.”

 

Willow nodded. “Yeah, but none of them went all gooey and touchy and err…”

 

Joyce raised and eyebrow as Willow’s voice stammered to a halt, her face flaming. *Dear me. I thought I’d seen the limit of Willow’s blushes.*

 

“Excited?” Joyce supplied dryly, hugging her daughter close.

 

Willow groaned.

 

“It wasn’t that obvious dear. I think most of them thought you were happy about going flying.”

 

You didn’t!” Willow managed to say through her embarrassment.

 

“I’m your mother. Now why don’t you go back down and talk to Mike and Dave. No one minds you kiss him.”

 

Willow pouted. “I still don’t see why we can’t help with the research. We totally can help!”

 

Joyce shook her head. “No. Not until you’re older.”

 

“Well, why not?”

 

Joyce closed her eyes. “Willow, you’re Jewish. Have you ever seen pictures, read accounts of the Holocaust?”

 

“Yes, of course. Well, not the really bad ones, Ira said I was too young…Oh. Oh.” Willow fell silent. “That bad?”

 

“That bad. Please?”

 

“I-I won’t even peek, Mom. Promise.”

 

“Thank you.” Joyce said, relieved. *I wish I could keep it from you forever, but one day you, will want, will need to know…*

 

“Will we be safe? They won’t get Evy? Or Buffy, Dawnie? Me?”

 

“Some of the most powerful witches and adepts in the world are making certain that these people are stopped, Willow. You’ll all be safe. Now, I need to get back to this.”

 

Willow shuddered and snuggled into her Mother’s embrace. Joyce looked down at the now pale and frightened face and held the girl close. “But it can wait a bit.”

 

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“And why aren’t we allowed to read this stuff?” Phoebe demanded hotly.

 

In answer her grandmother handed her a picture. Phoebe glared at it. “What the hell is this? It looks like a flayed baby?!”

 

“It is. That’s one of the less disturbing pictures. They were testing her healing factor.” Penelope said with a catch in her voice.

 

Prue and Piper had looked over their younger sister’s shoulder as soon as Phoebe got it. Piper gasped. “You mean she was alive?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Phoebe barely made it to the sink to vomit. Piper collapsed on one of the kitchen stools, her face green, gulping heavily, trying to keep from vomiting herself.

 

Prue gritted her teeth, pale and angry. “Do demons do stuff like this?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I see. I need to talk to Buffy. Excuse me.”

 

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Danielle sat down next to Anna Kirby, handing the other woman a cup of tea.

 

“It must have been difficult raising a Frang in this day and age.”

 

“Phrang.” Anna gently corrected the older woman’s pronunciation. “Yes, it’s why we moved to Sunnydale. We needed a place where Mike could fly. Otherwise we would never have come to the Hellmouth.” Anna’ sipped her tea.

 

“So how much longer do you think it will be before he can make his first Change?”

 

“A year at most. It’s difficult to tell, it has to do with the physical maturity of the Cheila part. I think Mike is about fully grown.”

 

Danielle snorted. “I’d hope so; he’s the biggest I’ve ever seen.”

 

Anna smiled. “Not to mention he eats like a horse.”

 

 “Pegasus.” Danielle said with a twinkle in her eye. “I noticed you did not mention that all winged Cheila are considered nobles?”

 

Anna took another sip. “It’s an outdated concept. Other Cheila are equally capable of defending our people.”

 

Danielle smiled. “Thoroughly Americanized?”

 

“Brian’s family has lived here for five generations, mine for three. And I noticed nobody remarked on Miss Calendar’s possible prospects either.”

 

“Your people won’t protest a relationship between Dave and Willow?”

 

“The foster daughter of the Vicar of Death? Hardly. It would be considered a highly suitable match, if we still thought that way.”

 

You might not. But every race has its idiots.”

 

“True.” Anna looked distastefully at the papers strewn around her. “Humanity certainly seems well supplied with them.”

 

“Rather.” Danielle sighed. “Has David told you the truth about my daughter?”

 

“That she abused Willow? Some of it. Certainly enough that I’m glad we have high ceilings and large rooms.” Anna’s expression was thunderous.

 

“She…Sheila is the Red Death.”

 

“Oh that. I’ve known that for years.” Anna said calmly. “But Willow always seemed a wonderful girl, so I thought Sheila had changed her ways.”

 

Danielle let out a sigh of relief. “Good. Thank you. I felt you should know, but…”

 

“Quite right.” Anna picked up the papers she was reading and smiled, darkly. “I should get back to this. If someone wants to kill me, I’d like to know the reason. And who.”

 

“Me, too.” Danielle replied. They settled back in to read.

 

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“Hey. I hear your Dad canceled on you.” Prue said as she sat next to Buffy.

 

“Bad news travels fast, huh?” Buffy wiped away a tear that escaped at the reminder.

 

“I’d like to say it gets easier. It doesn’t.” Prue said quietly. “I miss my Dad, and I hate his guts for not being there. Grams told us he used to fight with her and Mom about whether or not we ought to be raised as witches, or know about magic.”

 

Buffy sniffed. “My Dad thinks I’m certifiable. He’s said that he’s ashamed of being my Dad.”

 

“Would it help if I told you I’m incredibly proud of you, of being your cousin?”

 

“Y-You are?”

 

“Yeah.” Prue took a deep breath. “The three of us, we’re wondering if we should let Grams remove the spell blocking us.”

 

“And you want to know what I think?”

 

“Yeah. Buffy, you got no choice. I hate that thought. And, well, I want to help you. I really do. But…I want a life too; I want babies, and a husband, and a house and a dog. Well, maybe not a dog, but, you understand what I mean?”

 

“You’ve seen what this life does for me, and you want something better?”

 

“I’ve seen you kill vampires to save us. It’s not all negative.” Prue smiled. “But basically I want to ask your opinion, yeah.”

 

“My opinion? Your sixteen year old cousin’s opinion?”

 

“Fifteen for two more months.” Prue teased. “And yes. Your opinion.”

 

“I’m not a witch, but well, it doesn’t seem to have hurt Mom very much. Gran is fifty-seven and Aunt Penny is sixty-five. Aunt Charlotte seems to be bearing up quite well, and she’s an active hunter. Aunt Arlene, well I think she might have remained a witch if that bastard hadn’t abandoned her and Evy.”  Buffy scowled. “If I ever get my hands on that guy, he’ll never need to worry about condoms again!”

 

Prue winced. “Graphic. Thanks for that image, Buffy.” She looked thoughtfully at her feet. “What about being Chosen?”

 

“The whole Charmed Ones thing?” Buffy sighed. “Well, at the very least you get the best support system in the world. There’s no way Simon is going to let you walk around without help.” She waved around her. “Maybe not like us, but training, money, whatever.”

 

“You think?”

 

Buffy smiled. “A little sister, who shall remain unnamed, told me that all of you have been put on the Meier corporate Health Insurance.”

 

“Really?” Prue sat back, digesting that. “That means Piper can look for a job she likes.”

 

“Among other things, yeah. Your father hasn’t been in touch for how long, Prue?” Buffy changed the subject.

 

“Years. Phoebe has this hare brained scheme of running to New York and locating him.”

 

“I know exactly where my Dad is, it doesn’t seem to help.”

 

“I’m sorry, Buffy.” Prue put her arm around her cousin and Buffy leaned in, sniffling a bit.

 

“So am I.”

 

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“So he picked this for you to wear?” Piper looked at the costume on Willow’s bed, eyebrows raised.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Of everything in the shop, and you told me that there were Playboy Bunny costumes there, he picked this.”

 

“Yeah.”  Willow repeated.

 

“Willow, you’re a wonderful girl…but you are also insane. He wants you to wear this, and it’s gorgeous. It will look great on you.” Piper lightly scolded her cousin.

 

“You don’t think it is demeaning for a guy to pick a dress like this for his girlfriend?” Willow asked anxiously.

 

Piper snorted. “I’ve seen the De Givenchy Joyce got from Simon. And the answer is no. He picked this for you, Willow. And like I said, you will look gorgeous in it.”

 

“So, what are you gonna wear?” Willow asked as he bagged the costume again and hung it up.

 

“Me?” Piper asked, startled.

 

“Yes, you. You’re going to be here over Halloween, so what are you wearing?”

 

“I-I haven’t dressed up in years. There really isn’t a reason to…” Piper was cut off as Willow dragged her to the master bedroom.

 

“Mom! Piper won’t dress up for Halloween!”

 

Joyce gave Piper a mock glare. “She won’t? Dear me…we can’t have that. The local shops aren’t quite as well provided as the ones in LA, but I’m sure you can find something, Phoebe and Prue too. And Aunt Penny.”

 

Piper snorted. “I don’t hear your parents in that list.”

 

“That’s because they already have costumes. Admittedly they almost always wear the same, but still.” Joyce smiled.

 

Piper sighed. “If I don’t say yes, you’ll sic Willow and Dawn on me to make Big Cry Eyes right?”

 

Joyce laughed. “Xander term?”

 

“Yeah. Him and Dave seem to have a competition going.”

 

Both women looked at Willow, who blushed. “So, what are you gonna dress up as?” The redhead asked to divert attention from herself.

 

Piper smiled. “Tell you what, as soon as I know, I’ll tell you.” She turned to Joyce. “I still think we should help you with the Marigold research.”

 

“I think you should take your sisters and cousins and take them all to Hooghwater and have them show you the place.” Joyce said smiling.

 

Willow’s eyes narrowed. “This is some underhanded scheme to put pressure on Dad to get him to move to Hooghwater, right? All of us squealing how wonderful it is, and gushing and stuff?”

 

Joyce ran a hand over her eyes. “Yes. I mean, it’s nice him wanting to keep expanding this place, but it just won’t work very well.”

 

Willow nodded enthusiastically. “I’m all for it. More room, my own bathroom, big garden, and hey, ballroom, swimming pool and gym! And it would be sorta cool to poke Cordelia’s eye out with living in a bigger house than her.”

 

“Willow Danielle! That is a terrible thing to say.”

 

“Sorry, Mom.” Willow frowned. “I don’t know what it is, I try and think about her fairly, I mean it works with Harmony, but something about Cordelia just makes my blood boil.”

 

“Yes, well. Let’s hope you work through it. Piper?”

 

Piper snorted. “Phoebe and Prue have been raring to go see it since they heard about it. What do you think?”

 

“Oh, you mean you haven’t? Well you can do the cooking then.” Joyce teased.

 

Piper opened her mouth to protest, then closed it. “How do you do that?”

 

“Practice. Lots of children. You’ll learn.” Joyce winked and Piper smiled wanly.

 

“If I only had a man...”

 

“Oh, you will dear, I have no doubt about it. Now shoo, I need to work.”

 

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“This is Simon’s? Wow…” Phoebe stood looking at the huge entry hall, the grand staircase rising at the back.

 

Prue was running her hand over her an elaborately carved baluster. Piper had her head in the cloakroom. “You know this thing is bigger than my bedroom? What the heck did they use it for?”

 

“Clothing. There was a guy permanently stationed there while Uncle Gabriel lived here. He also had a gun, and a basketful of weapons and fifty gallons of Holy water.” Amy replied. All eyed turned to her and she shrugged defensively. “What? I asked Clarice and she took me to see Miller and he told me.”

 

Phoebe grinned, threw out her arms and ran through the hall. “WHEEEEEE!!! Come on you guys, I want to see everything!”

 

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Joyce was alerted to the fact something was wrong by the sound of vomiting from the basement. She’d gone downstairs to get herself a new thermos of tea and heard the noises. Joyce went down the new cellar stairs and saw the door to the toilet standing open. She walked to it and saw Simon hanging over the bowl.

 

“Simon? Are you ill?”

 

“Yes. And angry. Very, very angry.” Simon wiped his mouth and rose. “I read something.”

 

“That bad?”

 

Simon shuddered. “Horrible. Come with me.” He took her hand and led her up to the dining room

 

Danielle and Anna Kirby looked up as they passed, but Simon ignored them, dragging Joyce into the room and closing the door behind them, firmly. James, Cecilia and Arlene sat at the table

 

“We need to talk.”

 

“What about?” Cecilia looked at Simon over her reading glasses.

 

Simon put an arm around Joyce’s shoulders before he answered. “They call it Operation Dewdrop. They harvest the souls of new born witches to use in spells.”

 

“Oh Goddess…” Cecilia whispered, face pale with shock.

 

“Yes. They started the program in the late sixties, to help them create a defense against the Concordat.”

 

Arlene had gone very still. “So chances are they have a lot of souls?”

 

“From what I can see it takes an innate magical ability to use them, but yes. They started with something called Harvest Darkness in 1967 and that became Dewdrop in 1972.”

 

“We need to eradicate these people, Simon. They’re worse than the worst of the Dark Lords.” Cecilia said, her voice shaking with anger and revulsion.

 

“Agreed. I can see no reason to extend mercy to any of these people.” Simon replied.

 

“Do they give names?” Cecilia asked with a terrible hope in her voice.

 

“Only codenames. There’s probably a key somewhere.”

 

James put an arm around Cecilia. “I can’t believe that humans are doing this. Haven’t we learned anything?”

 

Simon hugged Joyce, who was trembling badly. “Apparently not. I need to call Lilith. She’ll need to know that any spell she uses is liable to hurt those souls.”

 

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The afternoon had worn into evening and supper had been served to the family and their guests, but it was getting late and Monday morning would be sooner than people liked to think.

 

“Willow will be over next Friday for dinner, and Mike and Dave are quite welcome here whenever they want.” Joyce smiled at Dave. “Though at night only in the Guest room.”

 

Willow eeped and blushed. “Mom!

 

Anna smiled at Willow. “Well, that is good to know. Thank you for dinner and sharing your information with us.”

 

The Kirby’s left, as did Angel. Giles was taking Jenny home, or at least claimed he would. There were some quiet bets the comp sci teacher would not be spending the night at home.

 

Buffy was about to get ready for her patrol when Penelope coughed.

 

“I’d like to call a meeting of the Warren witches. If you would please gather in the dining room?”

 

Amy looked rather surprised when she was taken by the hand by Clarice and led into the dining room. She looked at Penelope, who smiled and watched as Clarice settled the girl next to her. The room filled up with witches, and Penelope reached out to grab Danielle.

 

James snorted in amusement. “You might just have called a girl’s meeting, Penelope. Simon, Patrick, Harry, Xander, lets go and do something manly.”

 

Penelope rolled her eyes. “Oh, very well, you lot can stay too.” The men came into the room, taking up positions by the walls and behind chairs. Buffy watched in amusement as Xander sat on the side board, only to be driven off it by a look from Joyce. Simon stood behind Joyce, hands on her shoulder and she reached up to hold them, her engagement ring flashing. Patrick moved to stand behind and between Clarice and Amy. Harry stood behind Charlotte, but he had a hand on Celia’s shoulder as well.

 

“So. What is this about?” Cecilia asked.

 

“Some of you may be aware of the fact that beside Hellmouths, which are mystical convergences due to gateways to hell dimensions there are also mystical convergences that are basically neutral and may be manipulated by adepts both good and evil, may exude white or dark magic.” Penelope began.

 

“One such convergence, a Nexus, lies below our home in San Francisco.”

 

James smiled. “Yes, and a powerful one it is.”

 

“W-What? How do you know about it?” Penelope spluttered.

 

James sighed. “Really, Penelope. Its not as if it sprang newly formed from the Earth when the Warren Line set foot on the San Francisco shore, you know. Others have protected it too. And we have long memories.”

 

Penelope flushed. “Oh. Of course. Sorry, a Heyoka would know about such a thing.”

 

James smiled sadly. “A thousand years ago my people held this continent in balance, after we’d made many mistakes. We made many more in the centuries that followed. But it seems to me that Western man has made more of those mistakes then we ever did.”

 

“We lent your ancestors the money to buy the land and build the first house.” Simon said.

 

Penelope looked wryly at the gathering. “Ah. So that means that more non-Warrens knew about it than Warrens did. How…Ironic.” She shook herself. “Anyway, the Nexus can strengthen witchly powers and be used to cast spells beyond the capabilities of any single witch. And it is a lot safer than Leylines, and as long as those aligned with good live in the house, a very pure, good source of power.”

 

Cecilia smiled. “So that was why I always felt stronger coming home.” She sighed. “I always thought it was family, love.”

 

“Partly, but that is increased by the Nexus as well.”

 

Patrick rubbed his chin. “Right. So we are sitting on a great big sump of Dark power here, and in San Fran there’s a well or fountain of pure, light and airy.”

 

Penelope chuckled. “Yes, I suppose.”

 

“And the Hellmouth makes all you witches edgy and irritable, because the darkness seeps in, especially when you do big magic.”

 

“Yes?”

 

“So if all of you went to San Francisco and did some major white spell, wouldn’t that clear out your magical pathways and cleanse them, purify them? And if I made the Abluaria there, it wouldn’t take as long, or be as difficult, since I wouldn’t have to keep out the darkness.” Patrick finished blithely.

 

“In the old days it was used for purification rituals.” James supplied; his eyes thoughtful and turned upon Patrick.

 

“And of course it is a far safer place to break through latency than a Hellmouth.” Penelope said, her eyes turned on the big builder as well.

 

Patrick rubbed his chin. “Right. Well, we need to go there and do some magic as soon as possible then.” He suddenly seemed to notice the eyes on him.

 

“What?” He blinked.

 

Cecilia chuckled. “What a wonderfully practical man you are, Patrick.”

 

Patrick glanced at Clarice who leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Don’t tease him, Mom.”

 

“I’m not teasing. Just stating a fact. Patrick is right, if the Nexus has a similar effect on us that the Hellmouth has, we can use it to clear out a lot of the detritus the Hellmouth left behind. It will be most important for Evy, Patrick, Willow, Amy and Xander to go there. Penny?”

 

Penelope pulled her lip and nodded. “It should work. I must point out that we’ll have to double up a lot there as well.”

 

“I can tell Miller to open up Baaiwater if we need the space.” Simon said absently, making notes on a pad.

 

“Open up what?”

 

“Baaiwater, Bay water, it’s the San Francisco estate, haven’t been there in donkey’s years. We used to own the land on Prescott as well, but we sold that to provide the Nexus with guardians who actually owned the place and were there.” He flashed a grin at Penelope. “Had to lend you the money for that, as I said.”

 

Then he sobered. “There was always the hope we might expand the family a bit, but somehow there seldom was more than one child.” Simon had kept making notes, the pad bending in his hand under the force of his scribbling as he stood behind Joyce.

 

Cecilia and Penelope let out strangled noises. “WHAT?!”

 

Prue seemed to be hyperventilating and Phoebe and Piper were beyond words.

 

“T-that’s yours? But it’s enormous! I thought it was a city property!”  Penelope managed.

 

“”Hmm, we lent it to the municipality, they can use it and even rent it out, except for the private apartments, and we keep a close eye on the way they treat it. They have to do the maintenance too.”

 

Piper scowled. “Oh, come on! That’s just not economical. You own huge estates and never use them, you ought to sell or develop them. It makes no sense!”

 

“That would be true if the property was bought as an economic investment. The entire area was bought to preserve a certain amount of equilibrium in the mystical sense of the word. There are seven Leylines that run through the area, some of them feeding the Nexus, not to mention the Elemental nodes. The Meiers buy land for different reasons than mere economic gain. And of course the property has increased in value so much we can buy other properties using it as collateral. Not to mention that the sort of thing we do in our homes tends to draw attention if you do them in a hotel. Running starkers through the main lobby while shouting in Sumerian tends to do that.” Simon scowled at the notebook and flipped a page writing furiously.

 

Xander let out a short laugh. “Points for him.”

 

Simon gave Piper a pointed stare when the young woman opened her mouth again. “If you want to know more, talk to Miller and apply for a job. Now, Nanny, Penelope, Cecilia, could you check my figures? I think if we did a Ritual of Protection around the Halliwell Mansion we ought to be able to use enough magic to clear our sinuses, so to speak.”

 

“A Ritual of Protection? You need a physical focus for that, not to mention a large number of powerful witches.” Cecilia said, before looking around at those gathered around the table. “Oh, yes, I forget. We do have a lot of powerful witches.”

 

Danielle smirked. “Rather. But we need a way to let the latent and passive and untrained bear a full load in the merge, to make sure they all get a lot of the energy and cleanse them”

 

“A pity there isn’t a wizard’s node point near there.” Penelope lamented.

 

James grinned. “There is. On Alcatraz.”

 

Piper smirked at Simon. “Didn’t buy that one, did ya?”

 

“We did, it was seized under eminent domain to build the prison. It’s buried under fourteen feet of reinforced concrete.” Simon tapped the pad that lay between Danielle and Penelope. “I’ve never been near the Nexus, but is there a well or fountain on the property? We might as well tap into Allen’s heritage while we are at it.”

 

“Allen? What about Allen?” Penelope demanded.

 

“Halliwell, Holy Well. Old water based magic using family from Wales, with a branch in the Fenlands.” Simon replied. “I had Worthing look into it once it became clear that your granddaughters might be the Charmed Ones. From Water and Spirit the Mother of the Charmed be born.”

 

“Oh. I never knew, I just thought it was the name.” Penelope mused. “It does explain the depth of our bond…” She nodded. “There’s actually a small pool in the back garden fed by a natural spring that Allen found.” Her eyes widened. “Or called forth.”

 

“You may want to check that. Penelope, you know the house the best, can you craft the ritual?” Danielle asked

 

“My pleasure. It will take some juggling, with so many powerful adepts in the merge.”

 

“Make certain to put Pat in, we need his Metal and Wood bonds to help channel the Water.” James supplied.

 

“A pity we don’t have any Fire, Water, Air, and Earth witches. That would round us out nicely.” Penelope smiled at the big man, who smiled back rather uncertainly, surprised that reaction his simple plan had brought forth.

 

Buffy sighed. “Look, this is all very interesting, but I don’t understand any of it and I need to go patrol, okay?”

 

Joyce nodded. “Very well. Do you have everything?”

 

Buffy flushed and held up her phone. “Yeah, Mom, see?”

 

Cecilia rose to accompany Buffy but James grabbed her wrist. “Not tonight.”

 

“But the Shaszat…”

 

“You are in no shape to face one. Buffy will be accompanied by three guards on motorcycles, they can outrun a Shaszat.”

 

“But James…” Cecilia pleaded.

 

“No. Cecilia, you’d be drawing on pure Hellmouth energy after expending so much yesterday and the day before. You’re not going out there.”

 

“But…”

 

“Liam will be there as well.”

 

“But…”

 

”Cecilia!” James said repressively. Cecilia sighed and nodded, leaning into him.

 

“Bloody Stubborn Johnson women.” James murmured.

 

 
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