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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)vidiconFR1598780,0851591498403,52428 May 115 Jul 14No

Conflicting Rituals

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.#

I’m grateful to my latest recommenders, Shatterstar and TexanFicWriter

Reviews are appreciated; they are not just there to strike the ego of the author, but to leave feedback that helps me develop my story telling and plotlines.

I hope the current chapter contains sufficient action and drives the story onward. Also please remember, this is not the ‘magical Halloween!’ Sorry!

56 Conflicting Rituals

Tuesday morning

Jenny was making toast, wearing Rupert’s shirt, after a night in Rupert’s guest room. Not Rupert’s room. Not all her hints about not wanting to be alone had resulted in a night in his arms. She was rather annoyed about that, but on another level, rather pleased at his gentlemanlike behaviour. It was quite confusing. *Maybe he’ll take the hint when he notices I’m wearing his shirt?* She wondered as she heard Rupert taking a shower. There wouldn’t be time for anything but a kiss, but at least then she’d be able to make clear that she trusted him to be a gentleman when she was in bed with him. *And maybe if he holds me the nightmares won’t come…*

Giles walked into the kitchenette, wearing sweatpants, still toweling his hair.

“Good morning, Rupert. Tea?” Jenny leaned forward, the top buttons of the shirt undone, artfully flashing some of her cleavage.

Giles dropped his towel. “J-Jenny! You’re up early.”

“I had a nightmare. I-I mean….” Jenny looked aghast at her admission.

Giles stepped closer and gently fondled her face. “I’m sorry. What was it about?”

“A man…a terrible man with the rage of centuries behind him, walking the world like a great beast, slaughtering the guilty and the innocent alike.” Jenny shivered. “My powers are coming back.” She added in a tiny voice.

“Oh. Err.”

“Yes. Oh. Err. You are causing me to get my powers back! The least you could do is to comfort me at night, you know.” Jenny said, half teasing, half serious.

“Jenny…I-I couldn’t. What if…if Eyghon found me as we slept? You would be a great prize for him, love. I couldn’t bear anything happening to you.”

Jenny pushed him against the bar and kissed him. Hard. And long. And rubbed herself enticingly along Giles’ body, the shirt rifling up to reveal her shapely thighs and her hard nipples straining against the white cloth. When she finally let him up for air she smiled a sultry little smile. “Who said you’d have gotten any sleep?” She whispered, before sashaying away to the guest room to get dressed.

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“Our technological and mechanical security has been breached.” The Director stated calmly to the blond man seated before his desk. “I want to know how our magical wards and defences are holding up.”

The blond man shrugged and smiled. “None of the local witches are a match for my power, skill, or training.” He spoke in a rather affected British accent. He had curly blond hair and very white teeth, with prominent blue eyes.

“Are you certain?”

“Quite. But I can go and reinforce the wards if you want.”

“See that you do, Mr. Lockhart. We did not offer you asylum and protect you to lounge about.”

Gilderoy Lockhart sniffed petulantly. “You won’t even allow me my little peccadilloes. It’s not as if you haven’t got enough girls.”

“We are aware of your proclivities, Mr. Lockhart, and of your freelance work. But our organization does not approve of abuse of our employees after recruitment, unless necessary for the training program.”

Lockhart pouted. “You could give me a more active part in the recruitment process. I’m sure some of my freelance employers would give you glowing recommendations.”

The Director smiled, thinly. “No doubt. Kindly go and check our wards, Mr. Lockhart.”

Lockhart left, still pouting. The director fingered the green gem on his watch chain, noting the raging light that seemed to throw itself around inside the crystal, the green colour shifting from dark to pale green. He smiled to himself and held the gem up to let the sunlight play over it, a cold smile on his face. “Well now, Trueheart, it seems the shoe is on another foot now, hmmm?”

The Director leaned back in his chair and filled his pipe with tobacco with exquisite care and then lit it and drew in the smoke. He smiled a trifle less happily. *Just doesn’t taste the same as when I was alive…*  

He puffed his pipe for a few minutes. Measures would need to be taken to ensure the Operation continued, despite interference by the Concordat. This time, they were prepared for the self-serving, arrogant bastards. Very well prepared. He smirked at the crystal again and tapped it with a fingernail. The light inside threw itself at his finger in desperation and hate and the Director smiled once more. He put his pipe down with a certain amount of regret and called the first of his assistant directors.

“Margaret Walsh.” A woman’s stern, cold voice came on the phone.

“Assistant Director Walsh, our operation has been compromised. Nevertheless you will initiate Operation Lilac, use location three and move to one after it is finished. We may suffer some delay through lack of funds, but we should manage to get it running in two or three years, once we have convinced a new group of lawmakers.”

“Very well, sir.”

“The records of Marigold show no connection to those of Lilac, so you can proceed without undue interference.”

“Your own cover is still intact and Operation Lilac will be completely independent until I contact you again. The records of the Lilac and Marigold will continue to be separately kept.”

“Very well, sir.”

“Good luck, Director Walsh.”

“Good luck, Director Dulles.”

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Lilith Sternin was not in a good mood. The enemy she wanted to crush was protected by the souls of witches, innocent, baby witches. She gritted her teeth and gazed at the door to Frederick’s room. Her only child. At least she knew that no Marigold scumbag had taken one of her children’s souls. She reined in her anger when she saw that the weather outside was worsening. She let out a breath, calming herself.

She really, really wondered some days why Simon hadn’t jumped off a building if this was life as the Grand Magister. And she really, really wished that Frasier hadn’t been so married to science she’d feared telling him about her magic.

She glanced at the sheets of notes she’d made during her phone conversation with Simon and took a deep breath. And then she unleashed her magic at the defences of Marigold and winced at the pain she was causing the innocent souls.

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Joyce had called Marianne and told her to take over at the Gallery. Kit was lying, feverish and flushed, on the bed prepared for her at the Clinic. In the room next to her, a mass-murdering witch who had nearly given her life to save her daughter lay in a coma. Joyce ran a gentle finger down Kit’s face. The girl’s lashes fluttered, but she did not otherwise react. Joyce sighed and took Kit’s hand.

The door opened a crack. Jenny Calendar stuck her head around the door.

“H-hello? Err, Rupert told me why Buffy wasn’t patrolling last night, so I thought I’d come by.” Jenny’s voice trailed off, uncertain of her welcome.

“That’s very nice of you. I’m afraid that Kit can’t appreciate it at the moment, but I do. Do come in.”

Jenny came in, a small package in her hand, and closed the door behind her. She rather hesitantly walked up to the bed. “I wasn’t sure what sort of thing she liked.” She handed the package to Joyce.

“We’ll let her open it herself after the ritual.” Joyce replied. “Thank you, I’m sure she’ll appreciate it.”

“Well, I haven’t shopped for a girl her age before, so it was pretty much guesswork.” Jenny admitted.

“So. Something tells me you are not here just to see Kit.” Joyce put the gift on the bedside table.

Jenny shrugged. “I don’t have a Family Practitioner here yet, so I’m here to get a prescription for, err…”

“The Pill. I see.” She put a hand on Jenny’s shoulder. “Simon didn’t explain very much, but I imagine the last few years can’t have been very easy for you. If I may give a bit of advice, don’t jump in. Let things develop a bit more.”

Jenny nodded. “Yeah, I know. But, well, I’d like to be prepared, just in case.” She blushed slightly. “I was all over him this morning.”

Joyce laughed. “At least you don’t get interrupted by a lot of ‘eeewwwing’ teenagers.”

“No, we get that at school.” Jenny replied dryly.

There was another knock and the door opened to reveal Mrs. Beckforth, her almost white hair drawn back from her face in a severe bun, wearing a staid dress and stout, sensible shoes. She carried a white garment over her arm.

“Am I interrupting something?” She asked politely.

Jenny shook her head. “No, I was just leaving.” She left the room and Mary approached the bed.

“So that is one of your little waifs? The one we will be performing the ritual on tonight?” Mary asked.

Joyce smiled at Mary as the older woman took the chair on the other side of the bed. “More of a stray.”

“Hmm.”

“That does not sound encouraging.”

“Oh, just marveling at the power of a Warren witch with the Mother power. Your natural mothering instinct is probably quite well developed as well.”

Joyce blinked. “You mean you can be a Mother without one?”

“Oh yes. Yes indeed. Pulchritudia Black’s primary power was Mother, for instance, she used it to control and manipulate her followers, to make them love and even worship her.” 

Joyce swallowed. “Y-you think I manipulated the children…”

“Oh, hardly, no more than any mother manipulates her children. And I doubt that it would need much in the way of mothering to bring those poor things running to you. Danni, Penny and Pip- Cecelia told me some hair-raising stories.”

Joyce’s free hand tightened on Kit’s bedclothes while the other gently held the girl’s fevered hand. “Are you certain?”

“Joyce, the girl’s mother locked her in a cupboard for days and the boy was beaten. You gave them a real home, of course they love you. They were starved for affection. An insane monomaniac with delusions of grandeur who showed them half the interest you did might have become their mother figure.”

“So I didn’t force them?”

“No Joyce, you didn’t. Your Talent isn’t that developed yet. Very strong, but not fully developed.”

Joyce blinked. “What do you mean, not fully developed?”

“We grow into our powers with age and usage. Or they grow into us, but that is a discussion for another time. At any rate, you are a very powerful Mother, just as Penny is a much more powerful Telekinetic than most witches, who are not of a Great Spirit Line, but you’ve barely begun to use it and you’re not near to my age and experience.”

“So you can do things I can’t and that makes you sure that I’m not manipulating the children?” Joyce asked skeptically.

“Yes. Not even the most powerful recorded Mother, Pulchritudia Black again, was able to influence people the way you fear you’ve done with your children without conscious volition on your part.”

“How can you be so sure?”

Mary chuckled. “The Mother power is one of the strongest and most insidious of the Witchly powers. We can control people through love. Are your children terribly polite? Never naughty, always well behaved? Do they obey your every order; jump at your every whim?”

 Joyce snorted. “Hardly.”

“Did you want Kit to run away?” Mary asked, eyeing the feverish girl.

“No! Oh, God, no.” Joyce replied, aghast.

“Well then, they’re with you completely by choice and love you for whom you are.”

Joyce bit her lip. “How can you be so sure?”

Mary rolled her eyes. “The young lady who just left, is she aware of magic?”

“Jenny? Yes, why do you ask?”

“I need to demonstrate and it’s easier to not to have to explain too much afterwards.” Mary rose and went to the door. “What’s her name? Jenny?”

“Jenny Calendar. Will it hurt her?” Joyce asked worriedly.

“I doubt it, she seems quite strong minded and independent. Miss Calendar, would you mind coming in here for a minute?”

Jenny came back in. “Yes?”

“Miss Calendar, you are aware of magic, I believe?”

Jenny grinned. “You could say that, yes.”

“Would you mind if I demonstrated my magic using you as a subject? It has to do with influencing the mind.”

Jenny snorted, obviously amused. “Well…Give me a second to raise my shields? I should warn you, they’re about the best of my powers.” *And they’ve gotten stronger lately.* She thought smugly.

“By all means.” Mary replied placidly.

Jenny closed her eyes. After a second or two she opened them again. “Ready.”

Mary smiled and faced the young doctor. “Jenny, my name is Mary Beckforth. Please write down your social security number, your bank account data, and your credit card details and give me your car keys and write a note giving me all your other money and possessions.”

Jenny’s eyes brightened as they turned to the other woman’s and then she nodded and sat down to write.

Mary looked at the shocked Joyce before asking. “Jenny, would you please tell me why are you doing this?”

“Because I love you, Ma’am.” Jenny answered with a beaming smile. “I love doing things for you.”

Mary smiled. “Then you will kindly disregard my previous request.”

Jenny blinked. “What? How? Wow…what just happened…” She looked in confusion at Mary. “I remember loving you…”   

“Yes. I do apologize. There should be no lasting effect. I needed to show Ms. Summers here what our power can do.”

Jenny swallowed, tearing up. “Err. Yes. Please don’t do it again?”

Mary rose and hugged the young woman. “I’m very sorry, dear. I needed someone to demonstrate our power on.”

Jenny sobbed. “Why did you do that! I’ve always wanted a mother!” The young woman struggled to get loose, but Mary held on to her, tightly, her face marked by grief. “And that, my dear, is what our power can do.”

Joyce glared at Mary. “Couldn’t you have told her what you were planning? You said it wouldn’t hurt her!”

Mary sighed. “I wasn’t quite expecting this, dear.” She gently rubbed Jenny’s shoulders.  ”Shhh. I’m so sorry Jenny, I didn’t know. Shhh…”

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The staffroom at Sunnydale Elementary was not very exciting. Two of the members of the School board were meeting there, preliminary to the hearing into the behaviour of several of its pupils.

Victor Chase hefted the thick pile of paper and glared. “The lawyers who’re acting on behalf of the Summers girl’s parents are very good. We won’t have a chance to ignore this one, or shuffle it under the table.”

Deputy Mayor Finch, present ex officio, pulled his lip in a nervous gesture. “There has to be some way. The Summers girl is a disruptive element.”

“No doubt, but as we saw yesterday, most of the parents think otherwise. The best we can manage is a two or three day suspension, and even then we’ll have to call it a general warning to the student body to approach the teachers with problems.” Chase replied.

“And what about the teachers?” Finch asked.

“They’ll all be reprimanded, except for the Mellowes woman, who filed a number of warnings both with the school administration and the State board of Education. Who are not pleased, by the way, not pleased at all.”

“So Farmingham is out?”

“No way to keep him, we may shunt him off to one of the other schools in a year or two.”

“I see. Well. If that is the case, then the Mayor prefers that Miss Summers and her cohorts receive only a slap on the wrist, say a one day suspension for those involved in the actual attack and a week’s detention, possibly cleaning in the park; and for the other vigilantes, including the Summers girl, only the detention.”

Chase nodded. “That sounds about what the parents would be willing to accept, yes.”

“Do you think the parents of the Summers girl will contest?” Finch’s lip was red from his pulling by now.

“No, I think they’ll agree. They weren’t very pleased with the youngster themselves.”

“Good. Good. That means we can keep this meeting short. I have much to do.”

The men left the staff room, met the other members of the Board outside it and took their seats at the tables pushed together in the auditorium, the parents of the children facing them.

“This meeting of the Board of the Sunnydale Elementary School is called to order.” Victor Chase said, radiating affability. “Now, the first case is that of Miss Dawn Summers…”

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Joyce checked in on Kit’s once she got back from meeting the School board and a short visit home. Dawn would serve a week’s detention and a mention would be made in her permanent record at the Elementary School. There was no change in Kit’s condition and Joyce went into the sick room next to Kit’s to check on Eileen Beckforth. There was a girl there, about Buffy’s age, or maybe a little older. Joyce stood in the doorway and looked at the pale faced young blonde with the huge rings around her eyes. Beautiful blue eyes, she noted. “Hello Tara, I’m Joyce Summers. Can I talk to you for a bit?”

Tara’s head shot up and her shoulders hunched in sudden fright. “T-talk t-to me? Why?”

“I’ll be helping with the ritual tonight, assisting your grandmother. If I’m to be effective, I need to know about you and your mother, how much she loves you, you love her, things she’s told you and taught you. I need to understand and know more about her than just the bare fact she was a member of a group that wanted to conquer and control all witches and almost killed herself saving you.”

Tara winced and nodded. “I u-understand.”  She looked hopefully at Joyce who put an apologetic hand on the girl’s shoulder. “C-can you get G-grandma t-to let m-me join?”

Joyce chuckled. “Honey, I don’t think anyone on earth can sway your grandmother once her mind is made up, and she’s right too. You’ll spend the time until the ritual is finished at our house. Remind me to call and tell them to get a costume for you.”

“I d-don’t want to p-play d-dress-up!” Tara answered with anger in her eyes and voice.

“Tara, trust me, anything that helps distract you will be good. I’d send you out with the children to mind a group of kids, but you don’t know the town. Now, tell me about your Mom.”

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“You think you will be successful?” The tall, dark haired man asked, sweeping his hair into a ponytail.

“Of course I will, Rackham. Haven’t I always?” The blond haired man replied, putting on a black jacket and eyeing the dark robe on the table in front of him

“I still think it would have been wiser to leave the Holburn girl alone. She may be a prize, but she is well protected now.”

“No doubt, but that merely will show her value to the Lords Below.” The blond folded the robe and placed it in a designer leather overnight bag, then piled on bags of herbs, a set of knives and a cage with three live black rats.

“I hope you realize that I won’t come to your rescue if you get caught?”

“I won’t get caught. They’re fools, who have no idea who they are dealing with. We’ve been stealing the souls of their children for decades and they never noticed. I hardly think they’ll realize that I’m killing their ‘little Kit’ and selling her soul to the demon dimensions.”

“They didn’t know because we were shielded. Now, they are aware of us. I’m telling you Lucien, this is a mistake.”

Lucien shrugged. “She’s the last one, after this we will have to breed our own. But have you got any idea about the power we’ve been offered for this girl? The Lords Below think she’s something special.”

“The Lords Below think with their dicks. All they see is a pure, stubborn soul for them to break.”

“We need the power boost, Rackham, you know it as well as I do.”

“True. But don’t forget whose soul you are carrying.” Rackham pointed at the glowing white stone hanging from a silver chain around Lucien’s neck. “If they find you with that, the Lords Below will be getting a different soul entirely.”

“Stop being an old woman, Rackham! They’re weak and blind. They’ll not sully themselves with anything that reeks of black magic. And all killing me will do is to send my soul to the prepared vessel.” Lucien smirked. “So you see, no matter what happens, I’ll always win.”

“Lucien, these are not amateurs. They’re witches of a Great Spirit Line and the boy may not be scratch on his father, but he has got the most amazing luck, witness the fact he’s still alive and none of his opponents are.”

“They’ll be far too busy dealing with the Healing ritual of the Beckforth bitch to notice me, and once they’ve set that in motion they will be far too exhausted to finish the ritual for the Holburn girl and I’ll take her soul as easy as one, two, three.” Lucien said with a smirk. “Well, I’m off to steal a soul. Wish me luck.”

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“Why can’t I come?” Willow demanded to know, her face set in as strong a version of her resolve face as she had ever dared use on Joyce.

“Because it might be dangerous.” Joyce pointed out gently.

“You’re going, so’s Dad! What are we supposed to do if anything happens to you?” Willow demanded. Amy nodded vigorously to make it clear she fully supported the redhead in this.

“Because we’re forming a circle and neither of you has the stability to be part of it. Simon is going to perform delicate spells and they can be harmful. Your magic could flare and you Amy could be drawn in deeper, endangering all of you. That’s also the reason why Buffy can’t be there and Liam will be only patrolling outside the walls.” Danielle said dryly. “As we’ve explained before, and, for the fourth time, stability of talent, not stability of personality or temper. And you wouldn’t qualify on the last one at the moment either.”

Cecelia and Penelope, sitting on the couch out of Willow’s sight, grinned at each other.

Willow looked between her mother and Grandmother and deflated. “It’s not fair!”

“Possibly, but I think one of my children on death’s doorstep is quite enough, thank you.” Joyce replied.

“But…” Willow tried again.

“No, Willow.” Joyce said firmly.

Willow huffed, rose and ran up the stairs. Joyce thought she might have stopped at the top of the stairs and stuck out her tongue, even. Amy looked as if she wanted to follow and the only thing stopping her was the fact she had no room to run to.

Clarice grinned at Joyce and then put an arm around Amy. “Want to slam a few doors?”

Amy crossed her arms, pouting. “What good is being a witch if we’re not allowed to do magic?”

“I don’t know, I’m still wondering if I should get unblocked or not. Which is why I’m not a stable talent and will not be anywhere near that Mana Point my brother gets so excited about.”

Amy opened her mouth and then closed it, thoughtfully. After few seconds she came to a conclusion. “You’re the designated sitter. Shi-.”

“Language, Amy.” Clarice said sternly.

“Yes, Mom.” Amy rolled her eyes.

Clarice froze and then turned away, swiftly walking into the kitchen, the door slamming seconds later.

Danielle gave Amy an angry look. “Was that necessary, Amy? Clarice feels insecure enough about getting between you and your father as it is.”

Amy looked confused. ”What did I do?”

“You called her ‘Mom’.” Joyce pointed out, sternly.

“I-I did?” Amy looked rather surprised. “Oh.”

Danielle smiled, relieved that the teen hadn’t set out to intentionally hurt Clarice. “You didn’t realize?”

“No.” Amy admitted sheepishly. “It’s just, well; Buffy and the others all say it when all of you say it…”

“So you wouldn’t mind Clarice and Patrick trying?” Joyce asked anxiously. “A relationship, I mean?”

“Do I have to watch all the kissing, like you and Un….Dr. Meier do?” Amy asked with a hint of humour. “And no, I wouldn’t. Dad is really happy and, well Clarice is nice. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go tell her that. Again.”  Amy rolled her eyes and hurried after Clarice.

Danielle and Joyce sat down. Cecelia looked thoughtful. “Is it just me, or did Amy almost say Uncle Simon?”

“Not just you. I’d say young Miss Madison would not be averse to actually being a part of this family. I think she feels a bit ambiguous about her place here.” Joyce sighed. “I doubt if Clarice is quite ready to be a Mom.”

Cecilia grinned. “No more than you are ready to wear that robe Mary brought?”

“You can see everything through it.” Joyce pointed out. “We might as well be naked.”

Penelope laughed. “We usually wear something underneath, dear. Even if only for warmth.”

Joyce groaned. “You set me up!”

Cecelia smiled at Penelope and Danielle. “Considering you declared that all your guests and family have to dress up for Halloween, making you dress in the ritual robes and telling Simon you now own them is only the barest of equalizers.”

Joyce let out an angry squeak. “Dammit Mom! I wanted to surprise him! I mean…err…”

The older witches laughed. “Ah, youth. I remember the look on Allen’s face…” Penelope reminisced.

Cecelia grinned wickedly. “And because of your language dear, I will tell you that your father really loves me in that…”

Joyce groaned. “Thanks. Now all I need to do is tell that to the children and they’ll never cuss again, they’ll be too mortified to speak.”

Penelope looked at the suddenly silent Danielle and wondered who the redhead was thinking about when her eyes went far away and long ago.

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Joyce shivered a little in the white robe she wore, even with the white clothes underneath and she noted Danielle, Cecilia and Penelope did the same. Only Mary Beckforth seemed unaffected, but she was used to colder climes. It was the first time she wore the official robes of a recognized, adult witch. She noted that they did look quite good on her, and that Simon, in his own white, silver embroidered, robes looked quite impressive.

Eileen was lying on a stretcher constructed by Patrick and Kit was on another, both being tended by Janet Fraiser. None of the children had been allowed to join them, Penelope feared that the energies released by the rituals might harm them and the other older witches had agreed. With her Dad, Clarice and Arlene all minding the children with The P’s as back up, there shouldn’t be too many problems. She hoped.

The combination of Buffy’s latent power and the Slayer essence had finally been deemed to be too disruptive and she’d been told to stay home. Liam and the bodyguards were patrolling the perimeters of the park around the Manor, though Liam was not allowed in the park until the ritual was over.

Anna Kirby had agreed to patrol the air, with her husband and eldest son, leaving Dave rather pouty. No doubt he and Willow would comfort each other. Joyce smiled and remembered the look of surprise on Mike’s face upon being invited to the Halloween party. Joyce just hoped there would a celebration and not a wake.

Simon was sitting cross-legged in front of the carved monolith, his eyes closed. The older witches watched him with a mixture of awe and mistrust.

Joyce stepped up beside her mother. “You don’t trust him even now?”

“Him, yes. The fact that he’s going to be channeling the purified power of a Hellmouth through an ancient device crafted by an order of mystics who’ve been extinct for seven hundred years or more? That makes me mistrust this entire ritual.” Cecelia answered in a whisper. “The only thing that could make this worse is if your father was here.”

Joyce blinked. “Err…What do you mean?“

Cecelia sighed. “I know you took a class in Ancient Cultures and Native American art and symbology, so look at that Monolith and tell me what you see.”

Joyce scowled at her mother and then looked at the monolith. “Well, there’s the Raven and Coyote and…?” She looked at her mother. “Tricksters? This monolith is tied to Tricksters?”

“Yes. We think it has to do with Balance. Tricksters are mostly neither good nor evil. Transforming the ambient power of a Hellmouth and allowing it to be purified; that gets the attention of the so called Powers That Be. And to prevent either good or evil interfering, the Wizards dedicated this one to Chaos, or Trickery.”

Joyce’s mouth quirked. “So if Dad were here…”

“Weird stuff would happen.” Cecelia replied with a grin.

Simon rose a foot or two off the ground and then slowly unfolded from his lotus position to stand upright. He opened his eyes and they glowed completely white. Penelope beckoned and the older witches took their positions, as Janet and Joyce picked up the stretcher bearing Eileen and placed her in the middle of the circle of witches. Janet moved out of the circle, walking to a flat, white rock several hundred feet away and turned around to look at the ritual.

*For Tara’s sake I hope this works.* 

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They were dressing and laughing, but it was halfhearted. They didn’t know if the ritual for Kit would be successful and the tension was getting to them. Added to that was the fact that the young blonde downstairs was waiting to hear if the ritual for her mother to restore the woman’s mind had been successful and the mood in the house was not very upbeat.

Willow stood in front of the mirror in her room, glaring at Buffy. “The hair looks awful.”

“The hair looks great and the hair stays.” Buffy replied around a mouthful of hairpins, weaving a ribbon in to her sister’s hair with less skill than her mother but far more than Willow had to do her own hair. “It took us ages to get the curls in too.”

Willow closed her eyes. “I know. I’m sorry. It’s just…I really don’t feel like dressing up very much.”

“I don’t either, but well, Mom’s got a costume for Kit in her room, and Dave really, really wants to see you in this, and so does Mom and so do I.”

Willow groaned. “Why does everybody want to see me in this? Why does everybody think it makes me look good?” Willow grimaced as Buffy twisted her hair, none to gently; wrestling it into the style she wanted.

“Because it does.” Piper’s dry voice came from the door. “It looks stunning. I, on the other hand, let myself get talked into this.” She gestured down at herself. “And no doubt I will be the object of lust for a dozen teenage boys.”

Buffy giggled as she took in what Piper was wearing. “Meow! That looks awesome on you.”

Piper gave Buffy a half amused glare. “Go get your gun; I’ll finish Willow’s hair without ripping it out, roots and all.”

“I am not ripping it out!” Buffy said indignantly. Then she saw Willow’s expression and wailed. “Wills! I told you to tell me when it hurt!”

“It only hurt a little…” Willow replied apologetically.

Piper pointed at the door. “Out. Prue is waiting to do your hair, Clarice is finishing Amy’s make up, Phoebe is with Dawn and Janice will be here in half an hour. GO!”

Buffy went.

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Eileen Beckforth was floating a good three feet above the ground; Mary was standing near her head and Joyce at her feet, with Penelope and Danielle standing at her sides. Simon was standing in front of the Monolith, arms outstretched, his face screwed up in concentration and murmuring words and phrases. Power was running over and through Simon to Eileen, and something dark and vile smelling was running from her nostrils as white tendrils lay like a net over her head.

From the look Mary and the others were giving it, she had no doubt it was not something medical. After ten minutes she felt and saw the energies diminish. Eileen was lowered gently to the simple linen and wood stretcher and Janet hurried over at a wave from Mary once the lines of power faded out. Janet and Joyce carried the woman out of the circle and then carried Kit into it.

Suddenly Joyce growled; a feral, savage noise. “Someone is hurting Kit!” She ran, in the direction from which she felt the threat, followed closely by Cecelia. Simon rose off the ground; the power of the merging Leylines spiraling around him, arms raised high, eyes and hair completely white. There was a flash behind her, but Joyce ignored it. 

There was a screech from above and three white, winged beings plummeted to a nearby clearing. The sound of running feet in the distance could be heard, and then a powerful female voice. “STOP! Face me and kneel, child.”

Joyce caught up with the voice. A young looking, well built blond man in a black robe over black clothes was kneeling at the edge of a clearing. A ritual circle had been drawn in the middle, with a triangle touching it in three places and three dead, gutted rats lay where each point of the triangle touched the circle.

Mary Beckforth, her eyes wide and breathing heavy, stood next to the young man, who was gazing up at her adoringly. In her hand she held a white gem, pulsing with light. Her face was set in a mask of implacable anger. The smallest Cheila circled above them, while the larger two had veered off to explore. The circling would bring some of the guards running soon.

Cecelia walked up to Mary. “How did you get here?”

Mary took a deep breath. “Let’s just say that Simon in the grip of paternal anger and directing a leyline or two knows a few tricks I didn’t think were possible.”

Cecelia looked shocked. “He teleported you? Goddess!” Then she turned to the man, who was still gazing up adoringly at Mary. “And what did you do to him?”

“Mother power, the active side. It almost didn’t work. Because of this.” Mary handed the gem to Cecilia, who took it. Then her face paled in anger and she struck the man hard across the face.

“You evil, sick, son of a bitch!” She clutched the gem to her breast. “You…you monster!”

Mary looked at the man with the utmost distaste. “What were you planning to do?”

“I was going to sabotage your ritual and send Kit’s soul to hell, as had been my intention from the moment I first heard about her. I was also going to try and cause a backlash in the ritual and send your souls there as well.” The man said easily, his eyes on Mary, his face filled with worshipful love.

“I see. Very well.” Hurst arrived in the clearing, running flat out, and Bottley arrived from the other side. “Hurst, please knock this man out and keep him unconscious until we return.” Joyce asked.

Hurst nodded and thumped the man in the temple, knocking him unconscious. He fell in a heap.

Mary spat on him and turned. “Let’s go and see to Kit. Then we need to ask Lilith what to do with him.”

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Tara looked up at the noise from the stairs and her eyes widened at the sight she saw. Gorgeous redheads were not that common in the Ozarks and the freedom to look at them was recent enough that she took her opportunities whenever she could. Then she looked down, guiltily, remembering her mother’s condition, and that she was the cause of it.

The girl’s dress rustled as she sat down an she smiled at Tara. ”Hey, you must be Tara. I’m Willow.”

“H-hey. Nice costume.”

“Thanks. My boyfriend picked it.” Willow managed to beam and look disgruntled at the same time.

Tara felt her heart contract just a little in disappointment. “Oh. T-that’s nice.”

“Don’t worry, Dad has healed people before, he’s really good at it. He even made Nana Morry and Aunt Penny younger, can you imagine?” Willow said excitedly.

“Y-younger?” Tara asked in wonder and alarm. “How much younger?”

“Young enough that Mom told me that was another reason I couldn’t go.” Willow pouted.

*She has wonderful lips.* “I-it would b-be v-very d-dangerous, our t-talents aren’t st-stable yet. W-who k-knows what might h-happen. I-I d-don’t w-want to b-be a b-baby again!” Tara replied.

Willow nodded, and then looked thoughtful. “Actually…I don’t know. I think my life as a baby with Mom and Dad might be a lot more fun than it was with Sheila and Ira.” She shrugged. “But Mom said that if I even come within a mile of the place she’d spank me so hard I’d be able to read by the glow, so….”

Tara giggled. “Grandma t-told me t-the same t-thing. And she t-threatened Aunt J-Janet t-too, if she got off the r-rock d-during t-the ritual.”

“Rock?”

“T-there’s some sort of rock you c-can stand on during the ritual, but i-it’s p-pretty small.”

Willow pouted. “Still it’s not fair. We were allowed to watch when Unc…Amy’s Dad got cured.”

Tara tilted her head. “T-tell me about t-that? P-please?”

Willow nodded. “Sure. You see, Amy’s mother had stolen her body…”

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Kit woke with a headache and looked up into the stern, angry, relieved, happy face of Joyce Summers. “Oh shit. I’m in trouble.” She winced at the laughter that her words elicited from the listeners.

Even Joyce’s lips quirked. “Yes, you are. Language, Katherine!” Then she reached out and hugged Kit, hard and close, for the first time.

Kit let herself melt into the warm embrace, the sort of embrace she hadn’t expected to get for weeks, until her wounds healed, or ever, after she decided to run away, or when she thought she was going to die. Then she blinked. “H-How long was I out?”

“About a day. More than long enough. And I’m warning you, young lady, the next time you do anything like this I’ll, I’ll… Actually I don’t know what I’d do, but I doubt you’d like it.”

“Yes, Ms. Summers. I’m sorry, Ms. Summers.” Kit said meekly.

“Good. Now, let me make one thing perfectly clear: you are not a burden. You are no more trouble than any of the other children.” Joyce looked at her newest daughter sternly. 

Cecilia coughed in the background and Kit thought she heard the word. “Hacking.” She noted with interest that Danielle thumped Cecelia on her back, rather hard and with a fierce expression on her face.

“I’m sorry.” Kit whispered as she buried her face in Joyce’s shoulder.

Joyce rose, lifting Kit up and putting her on her feet. A short, auburn haired woman was tending to another woman who was looking rather stunned and sitting against a tree. “We’ll go by the clinic and have you and Ms. Beckforth checked out and then go the house. I have a costume for you and then you can go trick or treating if you want. We can have the casts and the bandages off as well.”

Kit’s face went calculating. “Do I have to? I mean, I could totally clean up on candy with the cast still on.”

Behind Joyce, Cecelia, Penelope and Danielle did not even bother to hide their laughter. Simon sniggered. “May the world beware when she and Dawn start working together.”

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End Note:

Lucien Drake is mentioned in passing in Angel, as a warlock who, with his thousand odd followers, sells the souls of their children to Hell in exchange for power. Wesley and Gunn discuss him as someone to take down.

Allen Welsh Dulles April 7, 1893 to January 29, 1969 was an OSS (precursor of the CIA) operative and the first civilian director of the CIA, from February 26, 1953 until November 29, 1961 when he was fired by John F. Kennedy for general obstruction and the Bay of Pigs operation. His record is highly ambiguous, primarily because he and his successors had tens of thousands of pages of files and materials destroyed. Ambiguity exists on his aid to Nazi war criminals (he did make extensive use of Operation Gehlen and seems to have been instrumental in recruiting Reinhard Gehlen, Hitler’s spy master, who rather liked mass executions of Russian prisoners of war to make others talk. He may or may not have authorized, again ambiguity due to destroyed files, experiments on humans, including: use of torture to extract information, administering LSD to, primarily African-American, servicemen, administering of radioactive isotopes to again, primarily African American, prisoners and servicemen, extraction of Nazi war criminals who might be considered useful in the fight against communism. His actions in this fight included coups to replace governments of nation with those more likely to support the USA. He was later a member of the Warren Commission investigating the assassination of President Kennedy, despite their mutual dislike and distrust.  I have not made a personal study of this man, but considering his hands on approach, and his general attitude towards human rights, I greatly doubt he was unaware of the operations started during his directorship. If anyone feels insulted by his use in this story in this manner, I’m willing to discuss the pros and cons on the W&S forums.

 
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