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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)vidiconFR1595738,6431501333352,97528 May 119 Mar 14No

NOTE: This chapter is rated FR18

Witches, Mummies and mommies

 

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 recommender yrfgd . Know that I appreciate every one of you.

Reviews are appreciated; it may not be immediately noticeable, lets face it sometimes this tale moves slower than a snail, but your comments and reviews do make me think and they do have an influence. And some of you get uncomfortably close to my future plots.

Once again, please don’t kill me for not making this the Hallowethan episode. You will have to have patience for that.

58 Witches, mummies and mommies

Thursday 2nd of November Los Angeles Offices of Meier Investment Company

Lilith Sternin was looking over the lists in a comfortable office chair while Mary Beckforth was knitting on the white leather couch, her granddaughter was trying to knit and her daughters were bickering. “That’s my wool!” Janet began.

Eileen rolled her eyes. “No, it isn’t. This is mine, you had the aquamarine.”

“But I need the blue!”

Lilith cleared her throat and her dark, stormy eyes fell on the two women, who swallowed audibly as the temperature in the room dropped by several degrees.

Mary looked up at Lilith. “Do please go on dear; I think they can use the rain.” And continued knitting, placidly.

Lilith’s mouth quirked. “Have they always been like this?”

Mary smiled at her now horribly embarrassed daughters. “Yes, I fear so. Still want to try for a sibling for Frederick?”

Lilith’s eyes widened. “How, how do you know that?!”

Mary lifted an eyebrow. “Would you care to use that marvelous brain of yours, think about that question and come back to me later?”

Lilith rubbed her eyes with her thumb and forefinger. “Aura sight?”

“Yes.” There was a knock. “That will be the others.” Mary rose and opened the door, admitting Penelope, Danielle, Cecilia and James. The women curtsied and James bowed, Lilith inclined her head, a smile around her lips.

“Are you lot quite done?” She inquired archly.

“Yes, O mighty Concordat.” Penelope said with a grin. “Now we can start reminiscing about how we changed your diapers, or at least Danni and I can.”

Lilith raised an eyebrow. *Danni? Indeed.* She turned to Eileen, Tara and Janet and smiled apologetically. “I’m afraid I must ask you to leave.”

Eileen rose. “Of course. We aren’t Magisters.”

“Hello Mary, Janet, Eileen, Tara. Wait a minute, I have something for you, Janet.” Danielle reached into her purse and handed a creditcard to Janet. “Simon’s compliments and go and buy your sister and niece some clothes and get some for yourself as well.”

Janet stiffened. “As a United States Air Force Officer-.”

“Just take the card and buy clothes. It’s maxed out at twenty-five hundred dollars, which is not even a drop in the ocean to Simon. And as a Major-General in the US Army and for various other reasons, his clearance is pretty high and he’s not interested in a Mistress, pretty though you are.” Danielle said dryly.

Janet blushed and took the card.

“Drat, and here I was hoping for a rich man for my daughter.” Mary said deadpan.

“Mother!” Janet growled. Tara let out a giggle. Janet glared at her niece. “Et tu, Tara?”

Lilith cleared her throat. A few sheets of paper rustled as if a wind had sprung up. Tara paled and Janet flinched. Eileen took Tara’s hand and led her out of the room, curtseying before leaving, gesturing for her sister and daughter to do the same.

Lilith looked at the closed door, her lips firmly pressed together.

James walked up to the desk and looked the woman in the eye. Lilith tried to avert hers, but James grabbed her chin, forcing her eyes up to meet his. Lilith’s eyes widened in shock.

“Lilith, they aren’t afraid of you. They are afraid of what the Concordat may have to do”

Lilith blinked. “I wasn’t even angry. I was amused.” She said sadly.

James smiled in reply. “I’m going to call my teacher to come and help you.”

Lilith returned James’ smile with a bitter one of her own. “No one alive knows how to control this, how to teach me to control this and still be able to be human, show emotion. But I appreciate the thought.” She rose from her chair. “Now, what do we have?”

“According to Drake there are well over two hundred souls that were taken since 1972.” Mary said quietly. “Including five daughters of House Warren, the children of Charlotte and Harry Penkowski, Cecelia’s youngest daughter. Two of House McGonagall, taken while Pulchritudia Black occupied the body of Catherine McGonagall, and at least four members of House Kendall, though some of those might have been in Britain. There is mention of some of them being bartered by Voldemort.” She took a deep breath. “And one Beckforth, my Janet’s little girl.”

Lilith closed her eyes at the pain in the older woman’s voice. She heard the startled gasps from the other senior witches.     

“They apparently tried to get some of Eileen’s children, but her power blocked them. They died, but their souls were kept safe.” Mary’s voice was cold and brittle with anger and grief. “They have also been taking older children’s souls, such as Kit’s, but those are mostly for sale to the Lower Hells.”

Lilith nodded. “I’ve set the Secretariat to search for possible ways to retrieve those. There are some notes by Worthing that seem to show that he has knowledge of something called the Ritual of Exchange. The notes are rather sparse however, so we need to ask him himself.”  

Cecelia fingered the gem hanging around her neck, the glow, that had been shooting around the gem as if frightened or angry, settled down. “Does Janet know? About her baby?”

Mary shook her head “No. They were having the child to try and save their marriage. It wouldn’t have worked anyway; Manny… he was so opposed to her going into the Air Force. He didn’t even want her to work as a doctor, the troglodyte.”

Lilith sighed. “Two hundred. My tests show that I can’t get through to the Marigold people, the souls protect them. We need a way to deal with them, all of them, in a decisive and final manner, preferably all of them at once.”

Penelope nodded. “Agreed. Now, I’ve been thinking about this and I was wondering what you all thought…”

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The Sunnydale Cookhouse, November 2nd 1995, Four PM.

“Hello ladies.” The man bowed with old fashioned courtesy, his friendly face and close cut hair clean and crisp. He was wearing an apron with the words ‘The cook is in’ on it. “I’m Ted, Ted Buchanan. Is this is your first cookery course?”  

Eliza and Joyce exchanged looks. “Well the first in years, for me.” Joyce replied. “I take it you do this more often?”

“I try and learn how to cook a new cuisine every year.” Ted said with a smile. “Now, is there anything I can help you lovely ladies with?”

The women exchanged another look. “No, thank you, Ted, we’re fine.” Eliza said.

Ted nodded and went back to his own counter. Eliza grinned. “I don’t think he saw your big rock, lovely lady.” She nodded at Joyce’s engagement ring.

“Or your wedding band, Hot Momma.” Joyce replied dryly.

Eliza flushed a little but also preened. “So, a handsome boy thinks I’m hot while wearing white leather. I can live with that.”

Joyce raised a sardonic eyebrow. “I’ll be happy if Marcus doesn’t decide to beat up poor Xander.”

“Oh, it made him jealous. And jealousy, in Marcus, inspires…attention.”

Joyce sniggered. “I wondered why you were so relaxed.”

Neither woman noticed Ted watching them, studying them, while all three diced the vegetables and started the marinade.

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“Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid!” Xander berated himself. Buffy, next to him on the back seat, looked a bit more cheerful. Evy looked mostly confused.

Arlene, who was driving, seemed quite amused. “Oh come on, Xander. You knew you aren’t allowed to drive around minors, so no matter how much you might want to show of your new driving skills, as soon as Buffy came along and seeing as Amata isn’t eighteen yet, an adult would have to come along.”

Xander sighed and sank down into the back seat even further. “Yeah, yeah, rub it in.”

“Well, at least you’ve passed the exam. Buffy is still hitting pylons and Willow freezes up every time a bug hits the windscreen.” Arlene pointed out.

“Hey! I haven’t hit a pylon in days!” Buffy bristled.

“Yeah, but you had your last lesson on Monday, so that is days ago.” Xander pointed out. “And yeah, I knew.” He grumbled. “I just didn’t think Mom and Dad would make an issue of it.”

Buffy snorted in amusement. “Oh yeah, I can see that happening. Mom and Simon letting any of us doing anything in the least bit illegal. If the cops caught you, it would be a one way trip to an LA foster home, Xand. Not gonna happen.”

Xander sighed. “Yeah, I know. I just had this image of myself driving a nice car, you know. Or at least one with character.”

“Character?” Arlene asked. “Character as in expensive?”

“Character as in quirky.” Xander replied. “And with good mileage; Dad told me that all gas money comes from my pocket. The Volvo gets good mileage.”

“It’s seriously uncool though.” Evy said. 

All eyes in the car, even Arlene’s turned to her. Arlene took a deep breath and looked back at the road. “Well from what I understand, it is the fact you’d have a car at all that might be the interest factor.”

Buffy grinned. “So, what sort of character are we looking for? Chevy? Oldsmobile?”

Xander shrugged. “I don’t know. Dad likes European cars, but he also talks like Giles.”

“Miss Calendar really likes the way Giles’ car turned out.” Buffy pointed out, shuddering. “A bit too much, maybe.”

The shudder communicated itself to the other teens in the car. Arlene merely grinned.

“Well, here’s the bus stop.” They got out, Buffy going first, trying to sense if there were any vamps near by. She felt none, as usual, just the pulsing darkness of the Hellmouth. *Giles will be disappointed again.* A pile of luggage was sitting next to the shelter and Buffy moved towards it. A slender, gorgeous girl with huge dark eyes and shoulder length brown-black hair rose from behind it, dressed in jeans, sneakers and a shirt knotted in front of her tanned, muscled stomach. She looked tired and travel worn and wiped her tearstained cheeks. She smiled a bit tentatively. “Miss Halliwell?”

Buffy grinned. “Nah, I’m Buffy, her cousin. Prue is off with the curator to talk about the exhibits and sends her apologies.” Buffy replied, rote-wise. “This is another cousin, Evy and my Aunt Arlene and exhibit Number Gape here is my brother Xander.” She lightly swatted Xander’s stomach. “Close your mouth Xan, you’re causing a draft. Anyway, Prue asked us to come and pick you up, at least, if you are Amata Maria Juarez, of Lima Peru?”

The girl smiled. “Well, it’s on my luggage…but a man just ran up to me and stole my purse, so I can’t prove it.” Her voice was cultured and refined, with just the hint of an exotic accent. There was also just the slightest tremor as she spoke.

“Stole your purse?” Buff said amazed. “It didn’t get…err…fresh?”

“No, he just took my purse muttering about booze money and the evil bitch and the idiot boy.” Amata looked confused and then shrugged. “It seemed safer just to give him my purse, even if it wasn’t very wise to hand him my passport.”

Arlene let out a sigh and stepped up to the girl wrapping her arms around her. “Really, Buffy, wait with the third degree until we’ve got her home. She’s obviously in shock.”

Buffy flushed. “Yeah, sorry. I’ll just have a quick look around to see if the mugger dropped the bag anywhere.”

Arlene shook her head. “Have Hurst tell someone to do it tomorrow, when it’s light.”

“But…”

 “Car, Buffy, get in it.” Arlene said, pointing. Buffy pouted. Arlene raised an eyebrow. “There will be no beating up on muggers tonight, is that clear, young lady?”

Buffy let out a sigh. “Yes, Aunt Arlene.”

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Amata looked around the house with amazement on her face. Two young girls were curled on couch, a chessboard between them. A redhead was reading a battered paperback book in a large chair, feet tucked under her. A tall, dark haired man looked around the kitchen door and smiled.

Buffy waved a hand. “Everyone, this is Amata, Amata, this is Simon, Willow, Kit and Dawn. Mom is at a Chinese cookery course. Prue, Piper and Phoebe are at the University with the Curator.”

Amata smiled hesitantly. “H-hello.”

Arlene gave the girl a quick shoulder hug. “Well, let’s get you showered and settled and then Joyce will be home and you can meet her. The P’s will be later.”

Willow smirked. “Very late, Piper told me the curator was handsome. And she called him Eddy…”

Buffy grinned. “Oooh, Kitty has a toy.”

Simon sighed. “Behave, girls. Arlene, would you show Amata her room? Unless you want coffee or tea first?”

“N-no I’d like to shower, I feel dirty.” Amata answered.

Xander moved to stand by Simon and whispered something. Simon blinked. “I’ll call the police and tell them about your purse, and we’ll go to the station tomorrow. I’ll have some cookies for you once you get out of the shower.”

Amata nodded gratefully and Arlene led her off, followed by Evy.

Buffy looked at the dark sky outside. “I’m gonna go patrol.”

Simon nodded. “Yes, but please be careful, you know what we agreed upon.”

Buffy nodded. “Be very careful, don’t go into dark alleys, don’t face groups, keep moving and my mobile at hand and the mic open.”

“And…”

“Keep looking up and in visual contact with Mike and Angel and the BG’s.” Buffy said airily.

Simon’s mouth quirked. “You do realize that remark has just earned you another Saturday full of training?”

“What, you gonna tattle on me?” Buffy glared.

“No, I’m just pointing out that your mic is open now.” Simon pointed at the little green light on the small box on Buffy’s belt.

Buffy winced. “Oh, sh-.”

“Buffy, language!” Simon interrupted.

“Can’t you order them to let me off?” Buffy pleaded with a pout. “I had plans for Saturday…”

Simon sighed and smiled indulgently. “Very well, I’ll ask Hurst. Just this once.” Simon stepped in hugged Buffy and gave her a kiss on her cheek. “Be careful and have fun.”

“Have fun?” Buffy said quizzically and a little guilty.

“Hunting vampires and demons can be fun and exciting. Just don’t forget that hunting is always dangerous. Don’t get carried away by the excitement and the adrenaline.” Simon said.

“’Kay. Thanks Simon, later, sibs!” Buffy grabbed her hunting bag from under the mirror and set off into the night. Simon sighed and shook his head as he closed the door behind her.

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Joyce walked back into her home with a wide smile on her face. She noted her two youngest daughters on the couch.

“So you can castle your rook and king, that’s the only time the king can move more than one square.” Dawn patiently explained. Kit nodded her understanding.

“Well, good evening. Has our guest arrived safely?”

“Hey Mom. She was mugged at the bus station and lost her purse, but Aunt Arlene and Evy are with her. Buffy went patrolling, Xander is in his room and Willow, Amy and Simon are doing some sort of breathing exercise in the dining room.” Dawn replied. “I wanted to join but he told me I was too young. What’s menarche?” She asked, indignantly. “He told me to wait until that was stable.”

Joyce grinned. “Your period dear, an expensive name for it. And he’s right, it has to do with magic and magic and the onset of menstruation sometimes go badly together. It might be a lot worse on a Hellmouth, and Simon does not want to risk it.”

“You talked about it?” Dawn looked stunned. “Me learning magic?”

“Yes, Simon wants to wait, and your Gran and Aunt Penelope and Nana Morry all agree.”

“But I will learn magic?” Dawn insisted, almost ecstatic.

Joyce ruffled her hair. “You will be taught, but that’s no guarantee you’ll break through your latency. And it will most likely be your Gran or Aunt Penny doing most of the teaching.”

Kit bit her lip. “C-can I learn magic?”

“I don’t know dear, we’ll have to check. But you’d be allowed to learn, yes.”

Kit smiled. “Cool.”

“Now I’ll go and meet Amata.” Joyce descended the basement stairs and knocked on the guestroom door. There was a hesitant “Yes?”

Joyce opened the door.

A girl of at most sixteen was standing in the room, wearing only a towel, another smaller one, very wet, was hanging from her hand. Her hair was still quite wet and rumpled.  “Oh, you’re not Xander.”

Joyce lifted an eyebrow. “No, I’m his mother, Joyce Summers, nice to meet you. You were expecting Xander?”

Amata flushed. “No, I mean yes, he was bringing me another towel for my hair.”

“I see.” Joyce smiled. “I heard you were attacked?”

“Y-yes.” Amata nodded. “H-he took my purse…”

Joyce stepped closer and put a hand on the girl’s bare shoulder. “Well, if you want to talk about –.” Joyce stopped speaking as a trembling, crying girl had just latched onto her. “Shhh, Amata, shhh. Don’t worry, it will be alright.”

Xander, coming in with two extra towels, took in the scene, smiled at Joyce and put the towels on the chair.

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It was busy at the breakfast table and Prue was looking grumpy. “I can’t believe it! I mean, he knew that Amata was sixteen and now he comes up with the spurious, ridiculous, stupid notion that she first has to be tested for her English. She wrote the essay that got her sent here in English.” She was about to continue her diatribe when Joyce cleared her throat at exactly the same time as Simon. Prue blushed.

“Sorry. It’s just not fair on Amata.”

Joyce shrugged. “He has to explain things to the authorities if something goes wrong. Do you mind Amata?”

Amata was talking to Xander, both their voices soft, as he was showing her to spread cream cheese on a bagel.

“I beg you pardon Ms. Summers, I was talking to Xander and not paying attention to you like I should.” Amata said contritely.

 Joyce grinned at her children. “Are all of you paying attention? You all heard that?”

Buffy grinned back. “We always listen Mom. We just don’t always do as you say.”

Joyce let out a mock sigh before addressing Amata. “As you can see Amata, there is nothing to be sorry for. I was just wondering if you mind having to go to school?”

“Oh, no, I think it will be great, how do you say it, fun! I will get to meet more, other people.” Amata looked an apology at Prue. “Forgive me, Miss Halliwell, but…”

Prue waved her hand in dismissal. “No problem Amata. I can imagine plenty of reasons why you might want to go to school and meet kids your own age.”

Amata smiled shyly. “Thank you.”

Joyce smiled. “Kit, you will be staying here, some people will be over later to help homeschool you and Evy.”

Kit pouted. “Do I have to?”

“Yes.” Joyce looked at Buffy, Willow and Dawn in turn. All three squirmed. “And when you taught her to pout, you should have told her about the timing of pouts.”

Buffy nodded. “Yes, Mom.”

Joyce looked at the kitchen clock. “Well, it’s almost time to leave, everyone got lunch?”

Joyce stood at the kitchen door to wish her children a good day. Willow hung back and hugged her before stepping back and taking a deep breath. “M-mom? Can I look for Lebannen this afternoon, with Dave, at his place?”

Joyce raised an amused eyebrow. “Will Mrs. Kirby be there?”

Willow blushed. “Mom! No, but Mr. Kirby will. And Mike.”

Joyce smiled. “Yes, dear you can go to Dave’s house.”

Willow blinked and hugged Joyce again. “Thanks, Mom.” She whispered and fled, rubbing her eyes with the back of her hand.

Joyce shook her head. “I’m going to kill Sheila Rosenberg.” She said softly, so Kit couldn’t hear her.

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Ms. Haversham was a new teacher. She wore a prim tweed skirt and a severe blouse and jacket and sensible shoes. She droned on about the role of women in history until it was almost time for the next period. Just before the bell she gave a sheaf of papers to Willow to hand out.  “Special homework assignment! You will each research your mothers’ lineages. You will ask suitable members of your mothers’ families and will trace your mothers’ families back through at least four generations, mother to mother.” She held up a hand as Xander started to protest. “I want to hear none of your chauvinist blathering, Mr. Harris. Your mother’s lineage. The assignment is due in two weeks, class dismissed.”

They filed out, grumbling. Amata rather shyly put a hand on Xander’s shoulder. “Why are you so angry? Your mother is a nice woman?”

“My mother is a drunk. My foster mother is a marvel.” He replied, putting his own hand on hers. “I wouldn’t mind at all digging into her family history.” He shook his head. “I never even met my mother’s parents. She never spoke about her family. I don’t even know if they’re alive.”

“Oh. I see. I do not know if I should do this assignment. I am only here for a few days and I do not know if my mother would want me to ask her about these things.” Amata said in a subdued tone.

“And your father?”

“My father thinks that I should make a marriage that is advantageous.”

“Advant…he wants you to marry for money?” Xander asked aghast.

“And influence. Things that are good for the family. The family, the heir, that is what is important to my father.” Amata replied quietly. She withdrew her hand from his. “I should not be telling you this.”

“B-but why are you here? If all you are supposed to do is marry, why speak the language? Why does he let you learn things?” Xander asked.

“I have to be able to run the household of an important man. That includes entertaining his guests.” Amata finally said. “Please, let’s talk no more of this.”

“Yeah. Sure. If you want. So, how about those Dodgers, eh?”

Amata lifted an eyebrow. “Dodgers? What about them?”

Xander shrugged. “Don’t ask me, I don’t know anything about sports.”

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Prue was humming as she ticked off items on her list. The pictures next to the printed descriptions really made it easier to identify if she had the right artifact.

Piper smiled. “You sound happy.”

“No Roger; and Phoebe is in the next room flirting so hard with José that she won’t notice me, and Grams isn’t around to bug me to find a nice boy.”

“Ah, you want another complete bastard, then?” Piper said with a grin.

Prue sniffed. “Like you’ve been lucky in love of late.”

“Nice alliteration. And I admit being a bank employee does not let me meet the most exciting of men.” Piper said ruefully.

“You had fun on Halloween.” Prue pointed out.

“Fun, yes. But I’m not going to sleep with some Frat boy I barely know.” Piper replied. “And neither will you.”

“I notice you failed to mention Phoebe there.” Prue said dryly.

“Did you? I wonder why.” Piper grinned.

The subject of the conversation came in, looking pale and worried. “Guys? C-can you come in here?”

Prue and Piper exchanged looks. “We’re cataloguing, can’t it wait?”

“I-I don’t think so.” Phoebe said uncertainly. “Please?”

The older Halliwells followed their younger sister and Phoebe led them to the wooden crate that held the mummy, the centerpiece of the exhibition.

“L-look.” Phoebe gestured at the mummy and then closed her eyes and wrung her hands.

Prue bent over the crate and looked. “Okay, it’s a mummy…” She gulped. “With glasses in his pocket and a fountain pen and a really hideous tie…”

Piper gasped. “Oh God… its…Roger?” She glared at Phoebe. “If this is some practical joke…”

“Oh, yeah, I really had time to find a fake Roger and dump him in here! I really don’t think this is a normal thing!” Phoebe ran a hand through her hair.
“And the worst thing is that José saw it too and is calling the police…”

“Oh. That…is not good.” Piper said.

Prue was still staring at the corpse. “Who could have done this? What could have?”

Piper sighed. “At a guess? The real Mummy. Come on, we need to get to the High School and talk to Buffy.” She scowled. “What a wonderful time for Grams to be in LA.”

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Joyce spread her arms and Dawn ran into them, sweaty and covered in earth and grass stains. Felicity and Harmony flew at Eliza.

Dawn sighed contentedly. “You came.”

“Of course I did honey, you may have detention but that doesn’t mean I won’t pick you up.” Joyce looked around the park and blinked. “Heavens, I never noticed before. How many people in your school are twins, Dawn?”

Dawn didn’t emerge from the hug. “Lots. There’s Blaisdells, and the Brody’s, and the Chalmers and the Kendalls and the Liptons, lots.” She scowled. “And the Rosses, of course. Why?”

Joyce shrugged. “Just curious, honey. Just curious.”

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Willow was typing, sitting cross-legged on the bed while surreptitiously looking at Dave from under her eyelashes. She took a breath, stuck her chest forward and threw back her hair.  “You got anything yet?”

“Nope.” Dave looked up, his gaze pausing ever so slightly at the height of Willow’s bust, before moving upwards to her eyes. “You got anything yet?”

“No.” She sighed. “We may as well get on with our history assignment.”

“Yes.” Dave smiled. “I’ll go ask Dad if I can have the Book of deeds.”

“The what?” Willow asked, intrigued.

“Book of deeds. It holds the acts of my Mother’s family.”

“C-can I see it?”

Dave shook his head apologetically. “Not yet, I’m sorry.”

Willow pouted. “Oh. Can I at least get a kiss then?”

“That I can do.” Dave smiled as he leaned forward to kiss her. Willow grabbed his shoulders and drew him onto the bed with him.

It was ten minutes before Dave went down to get the Book of deeds.

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Brenda Walsh was packing her luggage. The audition at the Sunnydale Theatre had been a total bust and she didn’t like the feel of the town. The only other opening for an actor was as a consultant on the High School Christmas pageant and she wasn’t that desperate. She’d only gone for the Theatre job as Roger was going to have to be here anyway. There was a knock at the door and she went to open it, ready to kick Roger’s ass if he had the gall to show up.     

A tall African-American woman was standing in the doorway, a disgruntled looking man in a suit behind her. “Miss Walsh? I’m Detective Winslow, this is Detective Pullman. I understand you are the girlfriend of Roger Pritchett?”

“Ex-girlfriend. I dumped him yesterday when he asked me to help him burglarize the Museum.”

Winslow looked a bit surprised. “And yet you didn’t call the police?”

“What, and say that a highly respected curator was going to rob another museum? Besides, I thought it would be a much better lesson if he actually got caught. So, how did he get caught?”

“We don’t know. All we know is his corpse was found in the museum by workers this morning.” Pullman said bluntly.

Brenda paled. “Corpse? Corpse? He’s dead?”

Winslow coughed and glared at her colleague. “Yes. Miss Walsh, we fear that Mr. Pritchett may have suffered an accident. We need you to come and identify him.”

Brenda swallowed. “O-of course. I-I just need to get my purse.” She grabbed it and allowed the detectives to lead her away.

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 “Willow? What are you doing?” Dave asked.

“Err…Nothing?” Willow made to close her laptop but Dave stopped her.

“Willow, these are medical records. Your Mother’s medical records.” Dave said softly.

“Not my mother. Sheila Rosenberg’s medical records.” Willow sniffed. “Joyce Summers is my Mom.”

Dave sighed. “Willow, your Mom…what do you think she will do when she finds out that you’re hacking medical files? This has nothing to do with Lebannen.”

“Yeah, it has to do with the assignment.”

“Willow, you can ask Nana Morry for information, or your Dad, he knows about your mother’s family too, you told me.”

“Yeah, but-.”

“Willow! If your Mom finds out you were hacking, after she told you not to…”

“So, you gonna tell her?” Willow asked defiantly.

Dave scowled. He closed the laptop. “Not this time, but you promised your Mom, Willow. If you continue this here, I will tell her.”

“But I’m your girlfriend!” Willow asked in a pleading voice.

“Yes, you are, and I love you, and if a vampire jumps out at you, I’ll fight it for you, die for you. But I won’t lie for you. Certainly not after you promised.”

Willow sighed. “Oh, very well.” She took out a pen and started sketching out a family tree. Dave watched her for a while, bit his lip in worry and then turned to his own work.

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Xander stood with the combination wrench in his hand, looking at the saddle and wondering if he’d adjusted it enough.

“Xander, what is this?” Amata asked confusion in her voice.

“This is a bicycle, to wit, my Mom’s bicycle, but as she took the car today, we can use it for you to learn how to ride.”

“Ride a bicycle?” Amata said dubiously.

“Yes.”

“You want me to learn to ride a bicycle?” Amata said again.

“Yes, I think you would enjoy it. I lowered the saddle so you’ll fit. Try it?”

“B-but I’ve never ridden a bicycle before!”

“Hence the learning.” Xander smiled. “Don’t worry, Dad’s a doctor and we’ve got a very large first aid box, so it won’t be a problem if you fall.”

Amata glared at the boy. “I do not want to fall. I do not want to learn to ride a bicycle.”

“Ah, but if you do, we can cycle to the park and get ice cream.” Xander smiled. “My treat.”

Amata bit her lip. “Ice cream?”

“Yup, Ice cream. All you have to do is get on the bike and learn how to ride and off we’ll go.”

Amata sighed. “The ice cream had better be just as good as your mother’s.”

Xander smiled. “After cycling, it will be perfect. Come on.”

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Prue Halliwell looked at the orange suit she was wearing with a great deal of disgust. “I can’t believe this! I’m in jail for murdering Roger!”

Brenda glared at her from the other cell, in an identical orange jumpsuit. “I don’t believe these cops. Did you hear that police chief?” She made air quotes. “They obviously killed him in some weird-ass sex game, with the two of them looking so much alike. They stuffed him in the kiln and dried him out and tried to pass him off as a mummy, but forgot to change his clothes. Typical female stupidity.”

Prue giggled in spite of the situation. “Well, at least once our lawyers get here, we’ll get out quickly. That has to be the dumbest way to kill anyone I’ve ever heard of.”

“Yeah. The lawyers will have a field day with that one.” *If only I could afford one, or Mom and Dad were willing to spring for one, or if Brendan was actually somewhere I could get a hold of him…* Brenda sighed and leaned back on her bunk. 

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“They arrested Prue?” Xander asked, looking stunned.

“For killing her ex-boyfriend?” Willow said, equally stunned

“And they arrested his new ex-girlfriend too?” Buffy said in confusion.

“Yeah, apparently they killed him with the kiln in the Museum workshop.” Dawn said with a grin. “Serves the bastard right.”

“DAWN! Language! And behave, he may not have been a very nice man, but he was a human being, and deserves a modicum of respect.” Joyce said repressively.

Phoebe and Piper exchanged looks. “A very small modicum.” Piper said.

“Less than a micron, I’d say.” Phoebe supplied.

Joyce glared at both sisters. “You two do not seem particularly worried.”

Phoebe snorted. “Duh! Your fiancé is already on the way with his lawyers. Sunnydale PD won’t know what hit them.

“I see. And I suppose if bail must be posted you will manage to cough that up?” Joyce lifted an eyebrow.

Piper flushed. “Oh. Right. Err. It’s just we assumed…” She rather helplessly lifted her hands. Phoebe suddenly looked rather anxious.

“Oh you assumed right. The problem is that these are the same geniuses who allowed Xander and Willow to be abused for years.” As she spoke Joyce drew Xander and Willow into a hug. “So forgive me if I’m not quite as sanguine as you two.”

Amata, in the corner, sipping hot cocoa, suddenly looked very, guilty, frightened and alone.

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“I still don’t understand why you didn’t simply ask your Whitelighter to heal Eileen, Mary.” Penelope said as she sipped her tea in Danielle’s unkempt garden.

“Because I no longer have a Whitelighter, Penny.” Mary replied calmly. “I kicked the sanctimonious son of a bitch out of my life after he refused to heal Vera.”

“Vera?”

“My daughter-in-law. She was pregnant with twins and part of the Merge. That asshole had the nerve to tell me that since her taking part in the Merge was her own choice, he would not interfere with her destiny. So I told him to go away and never return. I haven’t been active as a Hunter since then.”

“He wouldn’t heal her? After she helped defeat the Five?” Penny was aghast.

“Free will, apparently. Her choice, her choice to die.”

“Oh. Cece?”

“I told Bertram to get lost after he told me that my being raped was punishment for my sinful behaviour and that it might be best to marry my child’s father. And that it was my destiny to do so.” Cecelia said tonelessly. “I spent half a year creating a method to kill Whitelighters while I was pregnant with Arlene. The first one showed up before I was ready, so I used a shovel. I think they got the message right about then.”

“Bertram…Bertram said that?” Penelope was pale and furious.

“Don’t tell me that bastard is still your Whitelighter?”

Penelope’s eyes were hard. “He won’t be much longer, I can assure you.”

“Danielle?” Penelope pleaded, hoping against hope for at least one decent, good-hearted Whitelighter.

“I told mine to shove off when they kept healing Simon so his father could beat him up without getting arrested because he was too important to their Great Plan.” She chuckled dryly. “Of course they failed to reckon with the fact that Simon now hates their guts and does know a way to kill them.”

“He didn’t!” Penelope was shocked, despite the earlier revelations.

“No, but he did hurt several of them very badly when they came to remonstrate with him for not listening to his assigned Whitelighter.” She winced. “Simon wasn’t at his most stable when we voted him into the Grand Magistracy. Before that he was even worse.”

Penelope sighed. “Well, that does explain why he always needed so long to heal.” She closed her eyes. “Can’t say I blame him. Cecelia? Would you mind if I asked Bertram to come here?”

“Yes. I’ll kill him if you do. I perfected the Ritual.” Cecelia said bluntly. 

Penelope nodded. “Well, I’ll just have that conversation with him once I’m home then.”

 

 
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