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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)vidiconFR1595738,6431501333353,35828 May 119 Mar 14No

NOTE: This chapter is rated FR21 which is above your chosen filter level. You can set your preferred maximum rating using the drop-down list in the top right corner of every page.

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Silver linings

Author’s Note:

Thanks very much to my Betas Letomo and EllandrahSylver.

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 aussiemel, Daeth, Philister and TroyGuffey   Know that I appreciate every one of you giving me those rare accolades.

Thank you all for reviewing, and please continue to do so, reviews are like the carrot, something I crave.

Rated for situations involving violence and implied rape.

59 Silver Linings

Willow came in through the kitchen door and looked at Joyce who was stuffing a chicken with bits of apple and onion. “Hello Willow, how went the search?”

Willow blanched, her eyes going wide like a frightened deer, and she almost stumbled as she clasped her laptop bag to her chest. “Fine, fine. I’m gonna go upstairs and do my homework.” The redhead almost ran out of the door.

Buffy, who was sitting at the island, grinned at her retreating back and then at Xander and Amata and Amy, who’d ostensibly come over to help Buffy with homework, but really to get invited to a chicken dinner. “I’ll bet a week of chores Dave got to second base this afternoon.”

Xander winced, not really wanting to speculate about his little sister’s - and former best friend’s - sex life. “Buffy!”

Amy smirked. “Second base? Considering the way she looked, I’d wager third.”

Joyce cleared her throat, and said repressively, “That is quite enough from the two of you. There will be no bets and the speculation will be kept strictly within your own minds, is that completely clear?” 

Her glare at the two girls was sufficient to wipe the smirks of their faces and put the fear of the brush in Buffy’s eyes.

“S-sorry, mom,” she stammered out.

“Sorry, Aunt Joyce,” Amy managed, meekly.

No one remarked on the easy way in which Amy called Joyce ‘aunt’, without even seeming to notice it, though Joyce gave her a hug and topped off her soda.

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The corpse was desiccated and not very pleasant to look at. Simon had seen worse and expected to be blasé about it, but Jessica Harris seemed even less affected than he.

“That’s him,” she confirmed, tonelessly. “I recognize the mole on his neck.”

“Very well. His dental records confirm it as well.” The ME drew the sheet back and covered Tony’s body.

Simon stepped towards the woman as she left the morgue. “Mrs. Harris? Do you want to talk to Xander about your husband’s death?”

Matt Duncan, observing quietly from the doorway with Paige Matthews, was shocked by her reply.

“He’s been a disappointment to me since the day he was born. You can have him, if you want. I certainly have no use for him, just like I have- had- no use for Tony.” Jessica’s voice was harsh and rough with alcohol and cigarettes even at this early hour.   

Simon’s face hardened. “Very well.”

“Do you need anything else?” Jessica asked the ME, as she reached for her cigarettes and lighter.

“No, Ma’am. You may go,” the ME replied.

Jessica left and the sound of her lighter was heard as soon as she had left the area where supervision might tell her to douse it.

“Mr. Duncan…” Simon shrugged. “Do I need to say anything?”

“No. No, I’ll endorse your application.” He looked at the closed door. “I doubt Mrs. Harris will object.”

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“The Slayer is beyond our immediate ability to harm. We need to replenish our numbers first. We cannot let the fledglings rise from the grave, it makes them easy targets,” the Master said, as he idly sipped from the cup of wine in his hand. He glanced occasionally at a large tome that rested on a stand in the shape of a kneeling winged angel, the dark patina on the bronze showing the age of the piece of statuary.  A young looking vampire, seemingly fourteen or fifteen years old, stood nearby, bearing a tray with a decanter of wine and another of brandy.

A larger, rougher looking chair, comfortably padded with pillows, held the great blue green form of the Shaszat demon, Rochus. “Yes, she does seem to go through them quite fast. Instructing your followers to carry their fledglings down here might be a good start.”

“We’ll probably need between a hundred fifty and two hundred vampires to take down the Slayer and her support. I assume you can arrange for a few other demons?”

“But of course. So, how do we begin our campaign?”

“My spies tell me that the Slayer has a houseguest, a young girl unaware of our existence.”

Rochus’ tentacles moved in amusement. “Oh, dear. Will you turn her?”

The Master smiled, caressing his goblet, the long nailed fingers of his other running down the page of the book. “Yes, I think that might be just what is needed to begin unbalancing the Slayer.”

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Simon came into the room, his face thoughtful. “Jessica Harris has identified him; Tony Harris is dead, with the same general appearance of the corpse as Roger Pritchett.”

Joyce shivered. “Poor Xander. Did you meet Jessica Harris?”

Simon nodded; anger visible in his face. “Jessica Harris has agreed to relinquish her parental responsibility. She’s not… she… we have to keep Xander away from her.”

Joyce nodded. “When do we tell him?”

“Once I have the official report, I’ll talk to him.”

You will talk to him?” Joyce asked with slight irritation in her voice.

“Yes. I will talk to him. Joyce, he’ll want to talk to you later, I’m sure. But I know I would have loved to have someone who had been there to be there for me when my father died,” Simon explained, his voice half plea, half apology.

Joyce gave him a thoughtful look. “Simon, remember when you asked me if I thought you’d ever be any good at this parenting thing?”

Simon winced. “Joyce…”

Joyce leaned in and kissed him. “You’re excellent at it already.”

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“GILES!!” Buffy yelled, as she dragged the dark haired girl behind her into the library. Willow, Dave and Xander followed. “This is Amata, she’s staying over with us and she knows stuffy stuff about Peruvian stuff.”

Giles came out of his office about half a minute later, closing the door carefully behind him. His tie was slightly askew and his glasses on the tip of his nose. “She knows stuff about stuff? How singularly eloquent and helpful Buffy.”

Buffy grinned. “And sarcasm won’t hide the fact that Miss Calendar is hiding in your office and you still have lipstick on your cheek.”

Giles put his hand up to his face and sighed as he realized he’d fallen for her ruse. “I don’t have lipstick on my face.”

“No, but Miss Calendar is hiding in your office,” Buffy replied.

Jenny opened the door from the office and grinned at Buffy. “I’m not hiding. I’m tucking. Rupert gets quite affectionate when surrounded by books.”

Giles groaned. “Jenny!”

Buffy groaned as well. “You know what, too much information. Way too much information. Simon distracting Mom and Dawn telling me about it levels of too much information.”

“Oohh… That sounds interesting, do tell,” Jenny asked teasingly as she did up the top two buttons of her shirt.

Giles glared at her. *I never unbuttoned those! Why is she…* He looked at Buffy and noticed her supreme discomfort. He suppressed a grin. *Ah. Countermeasures.*  

Buffy groaned again. “No! I’m not telling you that! I’m suppressing that! I’m totally suppressing that!” She glared at the smirking Jenny and pointed at the office door “And that too!”

Amata in the meanwhile had been looking on confused. She tugged Xander’s shoulder and whispered something in his ear. Xander flushed. “Err, let’s just say Mom and Dad get enthusiastic.

“Almost as enthusiastic as Willow and Dave,” Jenny winked.

Willow blushed furiously, Dave’s ears reddened. “Miss Calendar!” Willow managed to strangle out, hiding her face in her hands in terrible embarrassment.

Amata let out a soft ‘ah’ of comprehension, having seen Willow and Dave’s enthusiastic greeting earlier that morning. She smiled at Giles and Jenny, rather shyly and Jenny noted she did not remove her hand from Xander’s arm.

“So Miss Juarez, apparently you know stuff about stuff, do you perhaps know the meaning of this pictogram?” Giles asked, extending the broken replica seal to her.

Amata accepted the ceramic and studied it. “I fear Buffy overestimates my skill. All I can say is it looks like guard, guarding something, bodyguard?”

Giles smiled. “I assure you my dear, that it is more than Buffy could do.”

Buffy glared and huffed.

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Sunnydale High Library, later that day

The man in the three piece suit entered the High school library with a swagger and a smile on his lips. His skin was golden olive and his well cut dark hair, beard and moustache gave him a classy, debonair air. “Dr. Rupert Giles? My name is Juan Diego Francisco Manco Pizarro Yupanqui de Almagro Cortez de Arequipa y Sabancaya, I understand you are working on a new translation of the Sabancaya Mummy dedicatory salver?”

Giles blinked up at the man in front of him. “Y-yes? How did you find out?” *Good Lord, talk about a line of descent.*

“The museum curator was kind enough to give me your name. I must admit I was somewhat surprised to find a man of your talent and education serving as a High School Librarian. I was sent by the Museum at Arequipa to aid in the investigation of her disappearance. But since the local police seem to be more interested in donuts…” He shrugged elegantly. “I thought I’d offer my aid until some new clue surfaces.” He placed the attaché case he was carrying on the Library desk and opened the clasps.

Giles perked up. “That is most kind of you, Don Juan. I must admit my knowledge of Inca and Moche pictograms is regretfully lacking.”

“I find that occasionally asking someone with less knowledge of a certain subject can be very refreshing and illuminating.” He took off his coat. “And please call me Juan. It was bad enough at school.”   

Rupert nodded understandingly. “Rupert, then. Now, I’ve got most of the basic text books but I fear that the UCS library really does not like lending out it’s collection of reference books.”

“If you have Carnahan’s Primer we can work from there.”

Giles got out his battered volume and placed it on the table. Juan opened his briefcase and took out his own. “Let’s get to work then, shall we?”

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Xander laughed as he sat with Amata on the back porch, teaching her how to eat Twinkies the ‘good way’. Joyce felt her heart contract at the knowledge that the boy’s biological father was dead and lying in the morgue, murdered by something supernatural.

Simon very slowly walked up to them. “Xander, can I have a word with you?”

Xander looked up, at the serious tone and demeanor. “I-is something wrong?”

“Yes. But nothing you did. Please come with me, son.”

Xander got up and joined Simon, who led him to the Volvo and drove off. The boy was pale and kept glancing over. “Are you taking me to LA?”

“No, my office. I need to talk to you somewhere without half a dozen relatives around.” Simon replied as he neatly drew into his parking space and led Xander inside and up to his office. He gestured at the couch and came to sit next Xander, who had placed his hands between his legs to stop their trembling.

“Xander, Anthony Harris is dead.”

Xander looked up. “Anthony Harris. Tony Harris is dead?” He asked incredulously.

“Yes, Lewis found him; he was mummified much like Roger Pritchett.”

“That son of a bitch is dead?” Xander whispered.

“Yes, he is.”

Xander started to tremble. “He’s dead? He’s really dead?”

“Yes son, he’s dead.” Simon put a gentle arm around Xander’s shoulder and drew him in, cradling the boy’s head against his shoulder.

Xander started to sob, hauling in great breaths of air in between. He cried for a while before he shook himself. “Why? Why am I crying? I hated his guts even before I even got to know you and Mom. Why?”

“Because for fifteen years he was about all you had, for fifteen years he talked you down and beat you and told you how worthless you were. And you’ll never have the chance anymore to prove to the son of a bitch that he was wrong, to tell him to his face how very wrong he was.”

Xander drew in another breath and started crying again. Simon held his son close and gave what comfort he could. 

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Amata had put on her running clothes, or at least the clothes the real Amata exercised in. She would have to be careful leaving the house, there were people watching. Xander had told her about the bodyguards, but she had heard them, felt their heart beats, and seen their life forces in front of her closed eyes as well. She carefully left the house and started to run, knowing that the bodyguards would follow. She was a houseguest and therefore the responsibility of those people, their responsibility to keep safe.

She smiled as she passed the bikes in the driveway, remembering the cycling lesson with Xander, his hand on the small of her back, the awkward journey to the ice cream stand, with Amata slowly learning how to stay balanced and make speed, and the pride in Xander’s eyes as she succeeded, and the joyful time in the park, sitting on the bench, licking ice cream and laughing, and the journey back, more certain, more secure, laughing, smiling.

*I want to live, I want to see him smile, laugh with him!* Amata thought fiercely. *I want to know what it is like to be kissed by a boy and love and be loved for decades and decades.*  

She sped up, running to where she felt the dark, unpleasant auras. *Demons. Maybe if I feed on them I won’t need to kill.* She ran towards the alley behind the butcher’s shop, roofed over by rusty corrugated iron, and prepared for battle.

There were five vampires in the dark alley, surrounding a girl of about ten or eleven, a pretty girl with brown hair and brown eyes, already rolling up in her head with the shock of lost blood. Amata raised her hands as if she was warding off the sight and one of the vampires smiled and stepped forward, its demonic face leering and hungry.

“Hello pretty girly. We’ll have some fun with you before you become lunch.” He grabbed Amata and forced his lips on hers, his tongue into her mouth. Amata grimaced, placed her hands on his temples and began. The vampire’s eyes widened and then it tried to get away, wrinkles began to appear on its skin and ash to flow from its clothes until there was nothing but a pile of ash and clothes lying in front of Amata.   

Amata smiled at the four vampires who were staring at her openmouthed and took a step forward. Two of the vampires made a dash for the alley exit, and the safety of the sewer drain behind Amata, one trying to pass on each side of Amata and she pirouetted and kicked both of them down, hard into the back wall of the dead end alley. Another kick flung the third very hard into a garbage container and then she had the fourth, a trembling boy looking no more than sixteen or seventeen firmly in her grasp and kissed him.

A few minutes later Amata emerged from the alley, stumbling under the weight of the girl, her face panicked and her running clothes bloodied. The bodyguards were by her side quickly. One of them spoke into his throat mic. “Mayday, Mayday. Twitter is down, repeat, Twitter is down.”

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The Free Clinic was closer than General and that was where they had taken Janice. Apparently she was a friend of Dawn’s, on her way to Dawn even. Amata looked at her face in the mirror and noticed the tautness of her skin and the way her eyes seemed more sunken. “This is not good.” Her shoulders slumped. *I cannot get my sustenance from vampires.*  She turned on the faucet and started to wash her hands, soaping them up, getting them clean, working Janice’s blood, mixed with vampire dust, from under her nails.

Amata washed her face with the water that flowed from the faucet and into the basin. The clear, wonderful water. *I cannot keep killing people. Yet I must, if I want to live. And I want to live. I want to live.*

There was a noise behind her and she turned, a man stood there, carrying a knife in his hand and an expression of stern resolve on his face. His dark hair made a startling contrast to his white shirt. 

Amata put a hand to her mouth and her eyes widened. “I beg you... do not kill me.” The man’s expression did not change. “You are already dead, for a thousand years or more.” Amata snarled. “Death? That was not death! My soul bound to my body, hearing everything, feeling the cold and the heat, the hurtful hands of the demon on my soul and my body? That was not death, that was hell!” The man did not react, stoically looking down at her. “It was necessary for the good of the many.”  Amata’s face was as cold as the man’s, but unlike him there was fear underneath the cold. “Necessary? Maybe. But it was not fair. I was innocent.” The man snorted. “The people you kill now so that you may live, they are innocent.” “Innocent? One was faithless cheater, rapist and a thief and the other was an abusive drunken wife beater, rapist and blackmailer!” “It is of no matter, for the good of the many, you must return to your fate.” Amata whimpered. “Please! I am in love!” The man drew his knife from its sheath at his belt, the obsidian and jade in the hilt gleaming with sinister purpose. “You are the Chosen One. You must die. You have no choice.” He declared flatly, before swinging the knife at her fast and at the height of her neck. Amata reached up and grabbed the knife arm by the wrist, twisting it harshly, breaking the bones with her grip. The knife dropped and Amata dragged the now pale and struggling man closer, into her, and in for a kiss. “Yes, I do. My choice is that you die.”  BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS BtVSBtVS

There was a slight fumbling noise from the drawer in the Sunnydale city morgue. It was a large morgue, much larger than a town of Sunnydale’s size ought to have. It had clearly marked sections such as Gangs on PCP, Wild Dogs, and Barbeque Fork Incidents. The set of drawers marked Miscellaneous was smaller than the others, but still quite large. Each door was held closed by a simple latch handle. It was probably the only morgue in the country with handles on the inside of the drawers as well.  One of the doors swung open and a drawer came out, propelled forward by the hand that came from within the cold compartment.

Roger Pritchett sat up, the sheet covering him falling off. For a second his eyes glowed orange and then he stretched and smiled darkly. “What the hammer, what the chain…” He murmured as he watched his fingers flex. He draped the sheet that had covered his mummified corpse around himself and went looking for some clothes. *Clothes first, vengeance later.*

A few minutes later a second drawer opened and Tony Harris fell out gracelessly, his oversized beer belly flopping harshly against the tiled floor. “Fuck it!” He growled, before staggering upright, dragging the sheet around him and looking around. “I’m gonna kill that little bitch,” He grinned ferociously and moved towards the door. “And I’m gonna take my time doing it so as I can really enjoy it, too.”

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Xander sat on his bed, looking at his knees, which were drawn up to his chin. Joyce knocked on the doorjamb and he looked up. “May I come in, Xander?”

“Door’s open,” Xander said softly.

“I can see that.” Joyce sat down at his side. “I assume you’re not too well?”

Xander grimaced slightly. “Not really, no.” He looked at her. “So, what happens now?”

“Well, that depends on you. Your father is dead and your mother-.”

“Both my parents are alive and well.” Xander stated firmly but softly. “I cried this afternoon. Tony would have beaten the shit out of me for that. Dad was Dad.”

Joyce hugged Xander. “Language, Xander. And thank you. But that brings me to the options. Come on.” She drew Xander up from his bed and he followed, looking a bit surprised.

“Umm? Mom, where are we going?”

“Dining room.” Joyce led him into the dining room where Simon was sitting - reading what looked like a legal document, part of a small stack of them.

Simon looked up and smiled. “Hello, love. Xander.” He held out the paper he was reading.

Xander took it. “What’s this?”

“It’s a legal document, or at least the summary of one.”

Xander sank into a chair, his face pale and his eyes wide. “A-adoption?”

“As soon as we are married, yes.” Joyce put a hand on Xander’s shoulder. “At least if you want-.”

Joyce’s sentence was cut off by the enormous hug that engulfed her. Xander was trembling. “YES!!!”

Joyce smiled at Simon as she held Xander, whose trembling was changing into sobs. Simon rose and put his arms around Joyce and Xander, both of his parents giving comfort to the crying boy.

After a good ten minutes Xander had quieted down enough to talk again. “You’re really, really serious? What about Willow? And Kit?”

Joyce smiled indulgently. “Well Xander, what do you think?”

Xander smiled broadly and hugged Joyce again, until she patted his back. “Mothers need to breathe too, dear.”

Xander’s grin nearly split his face in two as he slightly lessened his hug. “I love you, Mom, you too Dad.”

“Hmm, that’s nice to hear,” Joyce murmured, trying to get some oxygen into her lungs.

Xander was bouncing on his feet, almost vibrating with excitement.

Simon smiled indulgently. “Xander, why don’t you go for a run or a ride, I think you need to get rid of some excess energy.”

Xander nodded. “Sure, I’ll take Amata for a ride.”

“No, you will not.” Joyce shook her head decisively. “I need to talk with her and the poor girl only got on a bike for the first time yesterday, she is not up for getting dragged halfway to Oxnard.”

Xander’s grin became rueful. “Yeah, you’re right, thanks Mom. I’ll just go off and cycle.”

He ran out of the dining room, yelled. “I’m gonna be adopted!” at the top of his voice and ran out of the house at high speed. Upstairs, in her bedroom, Willow looked up from her tear-wet pillow and groaned abysmally. *I’ve ruined everything.*

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There was a slight tap at the bedroom door and Joyce looked up from her reading. She’d retreated after putting the chickens in the oven, the living room being just a bit too full of anxious teen for a quiet read. “Yes?”

Willow slunk in, looking incredibly guilty. She’d avoided Joyce’s eyes as she’d come into the house that afternoon. *And here it comes.* Joyce thought. *The confession. I do hope she didn’t do anything she regrets with Dave. I’m way too young to be a grandmother.* 

Willow straightened her shoulders and tried to meet Joyce’s gaze, but faltered and looked down her shoulders slumping again. “Ms… Ms. Summers.”

“Mom,” Joyce said firmly. “Now, what did you do?”

Willow squeaked. “H-how?” She looked scared. “Is it a Mother thing?”

Joyce rolled her eyes, rose from her chair and sat down on the bed, tapping the mattress beside her. “Sit. And Willow, love, you look and act so guilty that it took an actual command to stop Buffy and Amy from betting on what you did and with whom.”

“MOM!!! I-I didn’t… w-we didn’t…. ” Willow face was as red as a beet as she flopped next to Joyce onto the bed. “IhackedSunnydaleGeneraltolookatSheila’sandmyfiles.”

“Ah. Hacking.” Joyce pursed her lips.

Willow closed her eyes. “I-I’m sorry. D-Dave told me I shouldn’t and I was all huffy and then I got home.” She swallowed. “And I saw you and I b-broke my promise and I’m sorry.”

“You saw me? Why did that change your mind, Willow?” This time it was Joyce who sounded anxious.

Willow gave a wan smile. “Sheila and Ira never kept their promises to me. You never broke one. And I saw you and it just… I felt so bad…”

Joyce let out a relieved sigh. “Oh, thank God. And how do you feel about the hacking now?”

Willow flushed. “Totally stupid.”

Joyce put an arm around the redhead. “And why do you feel that?”

“Because you and Dad could have asked to see my files, probably have access to them already.”

“Yes, we do actually. Why did you do it?” 

“I wanted to know if… if she’d taken me there. I wanted to know if her files said anything about me, about why… why she treated me the way she did.” Willow answered with a quaver in her voice.

“Those are perfectly valid reasons. And your father would have been delighted to use proper channels to find out, and as a matter of fact I’ll ask him to find out.” Joyce replied.

Willow nodded. “I know. It’s just; I’ve always had to…” Willow waved her hands to try and show what she meant.

“It takes getting used to, being taken care of?” Joyce concluded with a wry smile.

The girl nodded. “And being loved,” Willow whispered. She looked as if she wanted to move closer but did not dare and Joyce put her other arm around her as well and shoulder and pulled her in for a hug.

“Well, we do. And we will take care of you.” *And I admit part of me being so understanding is an incredible relief at not becoming a grandmother yet.*

“I’m still gonna get punished, am I?”

“Yes, you are.” Joyce stated a lot more firmly than she felt.

“I-I… could you wait until the P’s are gone?” Willow asked in a tiny voice.

“With the punishment?”

“Yes.” Joyce had to strain her hearing to understand the nearly whispered word.

“Embarrassed?”

Willow nodded.

Joyce let out a sigh. “Very well then Willow, I think that after the P’s are gone you and I will have that little ‘discussion’ we postponed earlier.”

Willow shivered. “I’m sorry. I’m an idiot.”

Joyce snorted. “In certain highly selective fields, yes.” She hugged the trembling girl again and kissed her temple. “But we love you very much anyway.”

Willow smiled wanly. “I suppose this means I’m not going to be adopted, like Xan-.” Willow ‘meeped’ as the hug changed grip and she found herself face down over Joyce’s knee and a single very firm slap landed on her skirt-clad behind.

“Willow Danielle Meier, I’m not putting up with that! We love you and so help me whatever might be looking out for us, we will adopt you as soon as we can. Now, you are coming down with me, you will stop this moping and help me make the salad. Understood, young lady?”

Willow looked at her mother’s unyielding face, rubbed her bottom and nodded. “Yes, Ma’am, I mean Mom. Sorry, Mom.” She hastened downstairs, her face beaming, if thoughtful.

Buffy gave her a look when she passed. “Willow? What’s going on?”

“They want to adopt me! Just like Xander! She called me Willow Danielle Meier!” Then her face fell slightly. “And Mom slapped my bottom for moping. Yee-ouch.”

Buffy nodded sagely. “Yeah, well, wait until you’ve had the full treatment.” Then she blinked and her face broke into a grin. “Also, wow.”

Willow’s beaming smile broke through again. “Totally wow.”   

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“HEY!!! I NEED TO GO TO THE BATHROOM!!” Prue yelled.

A prison guard slouched in, closing the door behind him with his foot, his uniform askew and his handcuff jangling at his belt. “So? Use it.” He pointed at the toilet in the corner.

Prue rolled her eyes. “Yes, well, I would except for the great big notice that says don’t use the toilet.” She pointed at the sign. “See, Toilet in cell 6, out of order.”

The man scratched his belly where his shirt was insufficient to cover it, the dark hairs on it peeking through and the fat flesh bulging, pressing the buttons on the stained dress shirt outwards and straining to be free. He looked at the notice and sighed. “Yeah, okay.” He jangled the keys and opened the cell. “Hold out your hands.”

Prue rolled her eyes but did as she was told and was handcuffed. The scratching man led her away.

The door to the cells opened again and the second guard came in, a near identical copy of the previous one except this one exuded an even worse smell of rank sweat and , squinting at his clipboard and then at the number above her cell door. “C’mon Halliwell, someone has posted bail on your guilty ass.”

Brenda blinked. “Err…”

“Or perhaps you want to spend the night? Hamfist Hannah was just picked up for beating up her girlfriend again.” The man leered. “That ought to be fun to watch. Make you confess right quick.”

Brenda’s eyes widened. “Yeah, sure, I’ll come along.”

“We’re keeping your clothes, evidence.”

Brenda bit her lips. “Okay. Errr… How much was the bail?”

“Twenty-five thousand for you, a hundred-and-fifty thousand for the Walsh bitch, cash bonds. I think you did it together, but the Judge thought differently.” The guard shrugged at the stupidity of the judicial system.

Brenda’s eyes widened. *A hundred-and-fifty thousand! Mom and Dad would have to take out another mortgage to pay that!*

She followed the disgusting guard, noting that his smell was compounded of stale beer and sweat. And then he farted. Brenda made every possible effort to stop breathing through her nose and thanked heaven that she wasn’t a snake and didn’t smell with her tongue. She swallowed as she was let into the reception area, still in her orange coveralls.

The guard extended a clipboard. “Sign here. And we’ll need a fifty dollar deposit for the coveralls, underwear and the shoes.”

Brenda gritted her teeth. “Do I look like I have money?”

“Give me that.” She heard a voice say. A dark haired woman signed the paper on the clipboard, handed over two twenties and a ten, and demanded a receipt from the guard.

*Piper. Her name is Piper. She’s my younger sister.* Brenda shivered and another girl was next to her, hugging her. A tall dark-haired man with green flecks in his dark brown eyes gave her a shoulder hug after that.

“C’mon Prue. Let’s get you to Joyce’s. Thanks, Mr. Ludwisky.” Piper said. She then turned to hug the tall dark man. “Thanks, Simon.”

“My pleasure, Piper. Thank you, Hiram.” He nodded at the other man, obviously a lawyer.

The tall man in the very expensive three piece suit who had been unobtrusively watching the scene nodded and made a note on his legal pad, the yellow paper incongruous next to the rich leather folder that contained it. “Not a problem at all, Miss Halliwell, Simon. Now if you will excuse me, I do want to get out of Sunnydale before nightfall.”

Piper grinned. “Wise decision. C’mon Prue, Joyce is making roast chicken with salad, applesauce and mashed potatoes, with fries for Kit.”

Brenda smiled tremulously. “I never expected to be arrested.”

Piper hustled her into the car, a large black BMW. “Yeah, well as Joyce pointed out, the police around here can’t find their ass with a roadmap and both hands. It really isn’t all that strange they’d arrest both you and the Walsh girl. Was she in your cell?”

Brenda bit her lip. “Yeah, yeah she was.”

“So what was she like? I mean, she was a total bitch to José and the others.”

*José? Others, oh the museum workers. The truth  will have to do.*  Brenda snorted. “Yeah, well, ever heard of Stanislavksy?”

“Stanislavksy? The actor?” Phoebe asked, startled.

“Yeah. She was here to audition, a part as some rich stuck up bitch and was getting in character. She really needed the job.” Brenda smiled ruefully. “Apparently it’s hard getting into the acting business.”

“Oh. I see. So why was she in jail?” Phoebe inquired.

Brenda scratched her head. “I think I got lice.” She muttered. “Well, same thing as me, conspiring to murder one Roger asshole Pritchett. She dumped him because he was going to break in to the museum and implicate Pr…Me.”

“Damn, but that guy was a bastard. What did you see in him, Prue?” Phoebe asked.

“I have no idea. It might have been the accent.” Brenda ruefully replied.

Piper sniggered. “Accent, eh? You’d better keep away from Simon or Joyce will change you into a duck.”

“Hah!” Brenda snorted. *Okay, that’s the second time this Joyce has come up. And what the hell is with the changing into a duck?* 

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Amata stood by the living room window, looking out at the road and smiled as she saw Xander approach, on his bike, and an even wider smile appeared when she saw him smile when he saw her. She waved and he waved back.

“Are you in love with Xander?” A voice behind her spoke inquisitively.

Amata blushed and turned round hesitantly to look into the dark blue eyes of Xander’s so-not-a-baby-sister, Dawn. “I-I don’t know.”

“He’s very nice. I think I might have been in love with him before he became my brother.” Dawn glared at Amata. “You’re not some Preying Mantis woman just out to eat him are you?”

Amata swallowed. “No. I-I do not deny that my parents would consider him a very good match.” She looked out of the window and her face softened as the dark haired boy sailed onto the driveway on his blue and black bike. “But I know I would like him even if he had nothing.”

Dawn looked up at the girl, tilting her head. “Maybe you should ask him to take you to The Bronze tonight or tomorrow.”

“The Bronze?” Amata asked, confused.

“Yeah, it’s a nightclub in an old warehouse on Dock Street, all dark and mysterious and its really cool and-.” Dawn began enthusiastically.

“Is something you are much too young to know about, Pumpkin.”

Dawn turned round and glared at her mother. “Why am I too young to know about nightclubs? They’re on TV!” She demanded to know.

“Nightclubs are. The Bronze isn’t. Would you care to tell me how exactly you know that The Bronze is really cool? And located on Dock Street?” Joyce asked in a deceptively mild tone of voice.

Dawn opened her mouth, her eyes widening, then closed her mouth again. She swallowed. “Oh. Err… Ummm…” She suddenly swung around, hugged Amata and smiled up at the girl. “Thanks for saving Janice, Amata!” and ran around her mother towards the back door.

Joyce shook her head. “By the time she comes back she will have concocted a semi-believable tale for her to have knowledge of the place. And I will have to disabuse her of the notion that she can get away with it.” She looked at Amata. “But she is right, thank you very much for saving Janice.”     

Amata blushed. “It was my pleasure, really.”

Joyce smiled and put an arm around the girl’s shoulders. “Well, I don’t know if your parents would approve of Xander, but I approve of you. And if Xander wants to take you to The Bronze, and you want to go too, by all means you may go.”

Amata’s eyes widened. “Without a chaperone?”

Joyce smiled. “Well, I think Buffy, Willow and Dave will be there, and probably Amy.” Joyce leaned forward and whispered into Amata’s ear. “But I’ve been told there are many nooks and crannies in which a canny and enterprising young woman can draw the boy of her choice and kiss him senseless.” She winked.

Amata blushed furiously. Xander came in through the kitchen door and smiled at them both, then gave his mother a look. “Dawn practically ran up the tree and is sitting in the tree house and she was muttering about the history of Pacific shipping?”

“Dawn is trying to think up a valid reason for her to have personal knowledge of The Bronze,” Joyce answered Xander’s unspoken question.

“Ah. Think she will try and get little Asian martial arts masters in it again?” Xander winked at Amata.

“I doubt it. Last time she tried that your father had her wax the Volvo,” Joyce replied dryly.

“Wax on, wax off,” Xander grinned. “You know, I never figured Dad would have any knowledge of anything pop cultural.”  

“He is a man with amazing depths,” Joyce said drily, and then looked at Amata. “Why don’t you show Amata The Bronze tonight, Xander? She deserves some fun after today.”

Xander nodded and took a step forward, then bowed. “Lady Amata, do you wish to accompany me to the Friday night ball at The Bronze tonight?”

Joyce smiled at Amata’s blush and went into the kitchen to check on the chicken. She had seen Simon go in a minute before, and she was wearing her steel rimmed glasses.

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Brenda looked at the house in some confusion. The huge BMW, the expensive lawyer and the ease with which her, no Prue Halliwell’s, bail had been paid, had made her assume that she’d be taken to a huge manor, or at least a considerable villa, not a typical house in a quiet area. Phoebe dragged her out of the car, nodding at the driver. “Thanks, Bchenka.”

The huge man grinned and pulled away from the curb as soon as the three women and Simon had gotten out of the car. “Come on; let’s get you out of that horrible orange thing,” Piper said to Brenda, hurrying her inside. “I can’t believe the incompetence of those people. If they had just told us they were keeping your clothes, we could’ve brought some for you.”

The door was opened and a girl with bright blonde hair and hazel-green eyes grabbed Brenda in a bone crushing hug.

“I was totally worried Prue! They didn’t hurt you did they?” The girl exclaimed.

Brenda shook her head as she rather tentatively returned the hug. “No, well, a bit. Can we not talk about it?” She shivered.

The girl’s face twisted in dismay. “Oh, Prue, I’m so sorry. MOM!!”

The blonde hauled Brenda inside with irresistible force and a taller, older blonde smiled warmly at the two of them, then opened her arms to Brenda.

Brenda guessed this was the Joyce her sisters had mentioned and allowed herself to be hugged again. The hug was warm and comforting and Brenda sank into it, eyes closed. After a minute or so she opened her eyes and the woman let her go. Then she looked around the room. She saw two young girls standing near by, looking hesitant, the blonde one more hesitant than the other, a sweet looking redhead and brown haired boy, both about fifteen or sixteen, another blonde, more gamine looking and taller than the first, of the same age and a pretty brunette girl who kept looking at the boy.

Before she could say anything, the youngest brunette had flown to her and was hugging her and then the redhead and the boy were doing the same. Brenda closed her eyes and let it happen, desperately trying to suppress her tears.

“Alright, that’s enough. Piper, get Prue some clothes. Prue, come on, you need a shower,” Joyce said, rescuing Brenda from the huddle.

Brenda nodded and allowed herself to be led away, after hugging the small brunette tightly again. Joyce took her to an upstairs bathroom, handed her a towel and left her to her own devices. Brenda stood under the hot spray and cried.

*Oh God, what have I done, I can’t, I mustn’t, I have to tell them.*

She heard the door open and then there was Piper’s voice. “Hey Prue, I got your shower gel and stuff, I’ll put it over here. Need anything else?”

“N-no I’ll be fine,” Brenda managed, through her sobs.

“You sure, Prue?” Piper asked anxiously.

“Yeah, thanks Piper.”

“Okay, I’ll see you downstairs.” Piper left.

Brenda showered for ten minutes or so before she dried off and, clad in the bathrobe provide, left the bathroom, only to face a pensive Joyce.

“I don’t pretend to know Prue very well. I’ve only known her for a few weeks after all. But I do know you aren’t her.”

Brenda dropped her towel, her hands fisting in the long sleeves of the luxurious bathrobe, closed her eyes tightly and nodded. “We have to get her out of there. I’m so very sorry, I was so scared.”

“Miss Walsh, I assume?” Joyce said severely.

“Yes. B-Brenda Walsh,” Brenda stammered.

“Well, Miss Walsh, you’d better hope no harm has come to my cousin, for if it has, you might have wished that you’d stayed in jail.” Joyce’s voice was stern and cold and Brenda shivered. Joyce pointed at a door. “Get in there and get dressed and stay there. If you value your life, don’t show yourself to anyone in this house. Piper and Phoebe are liable to kill you and I can’t vouch for my children either.”

Brenda nodded again, her eyes wide and fearful and fled into the bedroom, trembling. Joyce shook her head and sighed. “I hope Simon has enough in the petty cash.”

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Prue Halliwell sat in her cell, brooding. “Come on people! I know I can be a bit bitchy at times, but that is no reason not to come talk to me at least! Get me out of here already!” She muttered to herself.

The door to the cell block opened and a guard led in a large, raw-boned woman in a leather biker jacket, with short grizzled hair and a large number of tattoos and piercings. The woman grinned at Prue with large, broken and uneven teeth and put her hands around the bars of Prue’s cell.

“Hey, Smitty, put me in with the cute one.” The woman said in a rough voice.

Prue’s eyes widened. She looked at the guard, begging him with her eyes to put the woman in another cell.

The prison guard looked at Prue and grinned evilly. “Sure, Hannah. Just wait until the evening meal and you have butter this time, okay?”

Prue’s eyes widened even further as she eyed the enormous woman and tried to remember the self defense she’d been taught during Phys. Ed.

The door to her cell was opened and Hannah came in, grinning. She cracked her knuckles as the door closed behind her and leered at Prue, licking her lips.

Prue scooted back on her bunk, her eyes on the guard whose leer was possibly even worse, and who pointed at the camera. “I’ll be watching.”

The huge woman sat down on the bunk next to Prue and roughly grabbed hold of her.

“Hello Honey, I’m home!” She whispered in Prue’s ear as her hands harshly fondled Prue through her orange overalls. “I love these things; they’re so easy to get off.”

Prue slammed her flat hand against the woman’s ear, or at least tried to, but Hannah turned her head and the blow landed on her skull, not even distracting the woman enough to keep her hands from stopping their groping.

Prue opened her mouth to scream, but one of Hannah’s big callused hands slammed over it. The big woman reached into a pocket and dragged out a dirty looking red bandana or handkerchief. “I like it when they scream, but I can’t let you. Someone who actually cares about it might hear.” She balled up the red cloth and Prue shut her mouth. Hannah slipped her hand in between the Velcro of Prue’s suit and the strips parted, allowing Hannah to put her hand onto Prue’s breast. The big woman smiled evilly. “Very nice. This will be even more fun than I thought.”    

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Tony Harris swaggered down the street in his badly decayed clothes, his face sneering and his hands on his leather belt. It was dark, and normally Tony would have been at home or in a bar or at least watching were he was going, but Tony knew that he owned the night. A skinny young man came out of an alley and waved at him.

“Sir! Please! Sir! It’s my girlfriend, she’s hurt!” He called out in a panic.

Tony walked to the alley. “Don’t worry kid; I’ll take care of it. Where is she?” He said reassuringly.

The boy pointed at a petite brunette sitting against the wall of the alley. “Over there sir, she just, she just…”

Tony walked up to the girl and gazed down into her brown eyes and sweet face. Then her face shifted and a vampire looked up at him. “Surprise!” she called out. The girl jumped up at him and he backhanded her across the alley. The boy jumped on his back, his own face distorted by his demon. Tony reached back over his shoulder and grabbed the skinny vampire, dragging him off his back and slamming him against the wall. The vamp looked at him in stunned surprise, until Tony slammed his beefy hand into his face.

The girl had gotten up again and shrieked at Tony. “Billy! Let go of Billy, you bastard!”

Tony twisted the boy’s neck until it cracked and he fell to the ground bonelessly, screaming. Then he turned to the girl and slapped her hard enough to throw her down. He stood over the cowering vampire and grinned. “I’ve been wanting to do that for years. I think it’s time to take back the night, bitch. And I think it’s time to take some other things as well.” Tony leaned forward and ripped the girl’s shirt open. Tony leered at the girl’s frightened, still vamped out face.

“What are you?” She whispered as he reached for his belt buckle.

“I don’t know. But it sure is fun,” Tony replied.

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Roger strode into the museum without a care in the world, the chain he’d ripped off the backdoor dangling in his hand, his mask firmly in place. A security guard, obviously recently hired, moved to intercept him with his nightstick at the ready. Roger struck out with his chain and unstoppable force.

The chain wrapped around the nightstick and Roger pulled it out of the guard’s hands, before smashing his fist into the man’s throat, shattering bone and gristle with a sickening crunch. Then Roger walked on, oblivious to the sounds of the guard drowning in his own blood.

The second guard stood by the empty crate that once held the mummy. Roger lashed out with his chain and it wrapped around the man’s neck, allowing Roger to pull him closer. An inexplicable compulsion made Roger press his lips to the struggling guard’s mouth. Les than a minute later he looked down at the desiccated corpse and then he smiled. “Did he who made the Lamb, make thee?” He whispered, before he went into the office to find the address where Prue was staying.
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