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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)vidiconFR1598780,0851591501417,33328 May 115 Jul 14No

Seers, Hunters and Shamans

Author’s Note:

Thanks very much to my Beta’s, Letomo and EllandrahSylver. Letomo especially is very good about pointing out where I can tighten up and improve the story line and Sylver has sworn to ‘kill off my saids’. Thanks guys!

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’d like to thank Drago and Salric for recommending me. All my other recommenders know that I appreciate every one of you, and for sticking with me.

Last time I spoke about the importance of reviews and feedback. More about that in the end note.

This is going up late as I had a family get together yesterday. To make up for it, an update to a story I had thought finished.

62 Seers, Hunters and Shamans

Sunday afternoon, November 5th

Penelope sat on the couch, Danielle next to her, watching the four girls there talk animatedly. She exchanged looks with the redheaded woman, who just shrugged and then beckoned her to follow her into the kitchen.

“Well? What did you see?” Penelope demanded as she poured a mug of coffee.

“I’m not very good with auras. You need Cecilia for that; she’s much better, or Mary Beckforth. She mentioned that she thought that young Tara has full Aura Sight.” Danielle smiled at the older woman’s immense joy in her new found granddaughter and her deep sense of loss at the grandson she would never see.

“I’ve asked Cecilia. Mary and Tara are on their way to the East Coast. Now I want your opinion,” Penelope insisted. 

Danielle sighed. “Very well. If I didn’t know better I’d say they were sundered twins. But they can’t be, since Prue is years older.”  

Penelope sighed and filled a mug with coffee. “That’s what Cece said, and what I see. She’s a Warren, we both sense that. But how?”

“Daedalus,” The voice came from the doorway to the basement and Simon came up the stairs, carrying a slim folder marked Sunnydale General Hospital. “Operation Daedalus. A subsidiary of Marigold dedicated to the breeding of superior magical Americans.”

“What?” Penelope asked, stunned.

“Marigold needed witches, wanted magic to defend the American way of life. And to get witches without alienating the acknowledged witching families, they needed to breed their own,” Simon replied calmly, but with a slight quaver of anger in his voice. “And to get good breeding mares and stallions they used whatever means at their disposal. And to get hold of the offspring, they did the same. You should be able to reason it out from there. The spell will be gone now.”

“Evy,” Cecelia whispered. “They made Arlene give up Evy.”

“Yes. From what we’ve been able to piece together since Willow realized what is happening, they’ve been breeding more magically inclined people since the inception of he program, and have been doing so in carefully selected sites, where larger than average numbers of them are gathered. Such as the active mystical convergences, the Nexus, the New York and Cleveland Hellmouths, and Sunnydale.”

“All the multiple births…” Danielle’s voice was shocked.

“Yes. Which…” Simon ran a hand through his hair, a weary and almost defeated look on his face. “Danielle, I don’t know how else to tell you this. Willow wanted to look at her medical file, to see if anything in it showed abuse at a young age,” Simon opened the folder and handed it to Danielle. Her face paled as she read and she had to grasp the edge of the island to prevent her falling off her stool.

“Rosenberg, Willow Danielle, born March 21st 1981. Rosenberg, Rowan Davida, March 21st 1981, stillborn. Rosenberg, Hazel Dannah, March 21st 1981, stillborn,” Here green eyes were very wide as she read the words in a near whisper. “Sheila never told me…”

“She may no longer remember. Willow, well you can feel Willow’s power yourself.” Simon tapped the folder, his face grave. “She is of the generation of the Charmed Ones. The three of them together would have been immensely powerful. They might have been the Charmed Ones, for all we know.”

Penelope swallowed a mouthful of hot coffee. “What do we do now?” She asked, shocked. “If those children are still alive and under Marigold’s control...” She shuddered.

Simon frowned before shaking his head. “I don’t think they are alive, there are no references to them in the Marigold files we have seen so far. Joyce was going to tell Willow. She wasn’t looking forward to it.”

“Is there a note about burial?” Danielle asked in a tear-laden voice.

“No, but I have people looking into that,” Simon replied gently. “If they can be found, they will be found.”

Penelope glared at the countertop. “So what about Brenda?”

“Well, if she is a twin to Prue, she must be a clone of sorts. Possibly a mix of magical and scientific. Considering she’s Phoebe’s age she cannot be a real twin. Was Prue in any hospital around a year or so before that time?”

Penelope gasped. “When Patty went to the Hospital to have Piper, Prue wandered off, and when we found her again she kept going on about the room with the people in white coats who hurt her,” Penelope closed her eyes. “Do you think the Goddess is going to be very angry if I kill a few people?”

“I think we should let the Concordat decided who kills who. Penelope, do you want me to ask Brenda to donate some DNA? And Prue as well?”

“Will she want to know?” Penelope had buried her face in her hands.

“We may need to tell her, to find out how it happened,” Simon pointed out gently. “And if her children are born with magic…”

“She’s latent herself, but she still might break through,” Danielle tapped the counter in thought. “Though the likeliest time for that would have been when Winters assaulted her.”

Penelope winced. “Oh, how am I ever going to apologize for that? No wonder the girl is traumatized,” Penelope shuddered. “Russell Winters. She’s lucky to be alive.”

Simon nodded. “I think it is time to request the Grand Magister that she allow the High Magister of California to move against him, and his lawyers, with the full force of the Californian Circles and whatever aid she deems necessary.” He stated firmly.

Danielle’s smile was feral. “Ooh, yes. Let us by all means have a few words with Wolfram and Hart.”

Penelope groaned. “Well, I suppose I’d better go inform Brenda of our suspicions.”

Danielle sighed. “I think I’ll go find Joyce and Willow.”

“They’re in our bedroom,” Simon provided absently, his eyes on the medical file.

Danielle grinned at him. “You need a bigger house, Simon; you need studies and libraries to have that sort of conversation in. Not to mention that the children all have their rooms picked out at the Manor. Did you hear Dawn and Kit planning Kit’s room?”

Simon waved a hand, smiling. “I know, but not yet.” He rose. “Xander may be ready to talk. I’ll go find him.” He looked at the two older witches. “And Joyce and I have invited Jenny and Rupert over for dinner. Xander will want to know about his Romany heritage.”

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Joyce sat looking at her image in the mirror of her vanity, playing with various jars, bottles and brushes, gathering her courage to go and tell Willow about her sisters, when there was a timid knock, more a scratch, on the door. She called out. “Come in!”

Willow slunk in, her face a mix of fear and grief. The girl sat down on the bed and looked at Joyce for a fleeting moment before turning her gaze to her own tightly clasped hands.

Joyce sighed. “Willow, what did you do?”

“I left a tracer worm in Sheila’s medical file. It ran an automated scan on psychological problems. I got a message. I read it.” Willow said in a tiny voice.

Joyce closed her eyes. “What did you find out, Willow? What did the message say?”

“The-the doctors were very afraid that Sheila was badly affected by the loss of… of my triplet sisters,” Willow let out a near sob. “I was supposed to have two sisters!” Willow asked in a very quiet, almost inaudible voice. “Why didn’t I know that? Why wasn’t I told? Why didn’t they tell me? Did they even have names?” She fell onto the bed and curled into a ball. Joyce rose, sitting beside her, hugging her fiercely.

“I don’t know, sweetie. But we are going to find out,” Joyce soothed as best as she could. “Your father found them, too. And yes, they had names. You are the oldest, then came Rowan, Rowan Davida Rosenberg and then Hazel, Hazel Dannah.”

“Rowan. H-Hazel… I wouldn’t have been so alone. We could have had fun.” Willow’s voice was breaking and tearful.

“You mean the three of you could have driven Xander and Jesse insane?” Joyce teased, hoping to distract her daughter.

“And Jesse’s gone, too…” Willow sobbed. “I miss Jesse.”

“Yes love, he is. And I know you do. And I know that you would have loved to have sisters. But there are some things we just have to accept, and death is one of them.” Joyce silently cursed herself. *Wonderful distraction Joyce, talk about Jesse to distract her from the more abstract loss, make her cry for her lost friend she knew for years and forget about the sisters you never knew. Some mother you are.*

“No it isn’t! We’re witches, we can bring them back!” Willow sat up, her face fierce and determined.

Joyce sighed. “No, Willow we can’t. Remember that list of laws your father told you? No bringing back people from the dead. And zombies are the least of our worries if you do. From what Simon told me, people who are brought back are never the same.”

“But Gran and Aunt Penny keep saying we are all the souls of the Warrens, reincarnating over and over again!” Willow objected.

“Which is rather different from dragging someone from wherever it is that souls go and stapling them back all askew into their body, which apparently is what resurrection is comparable to.” She pushed Willow to arm’s length so she could look the girl in the eyes and glared at her. “And if you even contemplate doing something like that you will not like the consequences. As a matter of fact, I want a promise, right now, that you will never try and bring back the dead.”

Willow looked into the now icy cold blue eyes of her mother and swallowed heavily her anger and grief forgotten. “Y-Yes, Mom. I promise and solemnly swear I will never attempt to resurrect the dead.”

Joyce let out a sigh of relief and hugged Willow. “Thank you. I really did not want to have to think about seeing you executed.”

Willow blinked. “Oh. I forgot. That’s the punishment for that.” She suddenly looked very sheepish. “Err. Mom? C-could you ask Dad to, well, talk to Dawn and Kit about the Laws as well?”

Joyce sighed and then smiled. “Oh dear. Have they been planning things?”

“Mostly to do with getting more chocolate cake, and also the uses of err… persuasion in Trick-or-treating. I overheard them, I wasn’t snooping,” Willow assured immediately.

Joyce shook her head in mock despair. “Lord help us, we’re all doomed. They are conspiring together.”

Willow giggled and then looked up at a knock on the door. Danielle came in after a moment and by the look on her face Willow knew her grandmother hadn’t known about her triplets either. Willow smiled tremulously as the woman came in and sighed in sad contentment as she was enveloped in the double hug of her mother and grandmother.       

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“May I come up, Xander?” Simon called up to the Treehouse. There was a moment of silence and then the trapdoor opened and Xander’s face became visible.

“Sure, Dad, come right up.”

Simon climbed the ladder and sat on the low couch that Xander had built for his sister, the old mattress comfortable enough and took in the odd collection of Barbie’s, chess books, history books and ballet paraphernalia that was uniquely his youngest daughter.

“A comforting place.”

“Yeah, I asked Dawn if I could borrow it.” Xander sat back against the wall, his hands thoughtlessly playing with the stuffed monkey he’d put on his lap.

“Buttons?”

Xander grinned lopsidedly. “Dawn thought I needed something to hug. Kit left Rupert.” He lifted Rupert the Bear from the couch carefully and placed him beside Buttons and shrugged. “It’s strangely comforting, actually.”

“To have them here or to know how deeply Kit and Dawn care?”

Xander smiled. “Both.” The smile faded away. “I miss her, Dad. I barely knew her and I miss her...”

“She was a very wonderful girl. And there was something more between you than friendship.” Simon leaned back against the wall as well.

“I told her I loved, and I think it was more than just lust, more than an infatuation. I could make her laugh, even at the very end. And she kept saying things that made me think.” He closed his eyes and smiled. “I’ll never take milk for granted again, or cheese, or cocoa or coffee. And yet, I only knew her for such a short time, I just don’t know if it was real, or just me wishing for something to be there. And then I think, it was like we were made for each other. She felt totally right when I held her and when I kissed her.” Xander flushed.

“I’m hardly going to blame you for kissing her, Xander. But you apparently do blame yourself. You kissed her, and then?”

“It was nice, I suppose,” Xander smiled again, in a self deprecating way. “Not that I am any great expert.”  He shrugged. “I can’t explain it. She was the first girl I really kissed, but…”

“It felt so good? And she enjoyed it as well? And the conversations were fun and you really seemed to match? You aren’t sure that the next girl you kiss will measure up to her memory?”

Xander groaned. “Do you have to be so insightful into my immature teenage psyche? It’s embarrassing.”

Simon reached out and fondled Rupert’s ear. “There’s nothing unnatural about any of your feelings, except maybe that the relationship, such as it was, developed very fast. But I’ve seen it happen before with Holiday romances, and your reaction as well, when one of the partners suddenly died.”

Xander grimaced. “Well, that puts me neatly in my place.”

“No, it doesn’t. The fact you are not the only one does not make what you are feeling less real, the emotions less valid,” Simon said firmly. “You loved her, for a very short time. But you did love her.”

Xander nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I think I did. Dad? Did you ever have a holiday romance?” He asked hesitantly.

“Not really. I was too cynical. I had lots of girls, but no romance. I had to wait for that until last August.”

Xander winced. “Yeah, well I hope you don’t mind that I’ll try and achieve it a little earlier. I mean, I admire you and I love you, but fifty-one?”

“Not at all,” Simon smiled. “I’d have preferred it sooner as well.”

Xander played with the buttoned jacket that had given Dawn’s stuffed monkey his name. “So, what about those guys who wanted to grab her? The ones the FBI took away?”

“They’ve been charged with quite a few things, and they’ve implicated Sabancaya. Several Peruvian and governmental organizations, primarily the tax office, have started investigating, and the man himself is in a minimum security penitentiary. Apparently bail was refused, since he acquired his diplomatic passport under false pretences. And it seems that some of the companies he owns have been charged with numerous offences, including environmental, safety and financial ‘lapses that will soon be rectified’, at least if you believe the Sabancayas spokesman.”

Xander grinned viciously. “Karma’s a bitch, ain’t she?”

“Language, Xander,” Simon reproved, but with a slight smile.

Xander smiled back, and then very slowly moved sideways, until he leaned against his father. Simon put his arms around the boy and felt his shoulders shake as the tears began and sobs shook his bony frame.

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Brenda looked at the woman who came to sit beside her with suspicion. Penelope looked back and then sighed. “I’ve come to apologize again.”

Brenda looked at the Halliwell sisters, all of whom merely shrugged. “I suppose I can understand the reaction, but it did hurt.” Her voice quavered.

“And I can understand yours,” Penelope leaned back against the couch cushions. “If I had been quicker, the son of a bitch would have been dead long before he got to you. I’m sorry.”

“Grams?” Piper asked in a strangled voice.

“Yes, Piper? I did tell you I fought demons. I am the High Magister of California. I got several of Winters’ offspring, but he escaped.” Penelope said off-handedly.

Piper waved a hand. “Not that! You-you used language!” She blurted out in sheer disbelief.

Penelope grinned. “Yes, dear, and I’ve had sex too. As much as possible even, it’s fun, you should try it sometime.”

Piper flushed a furious red and both Prue and Phoebe looked acutely embarrassed.

Then Penelope winced and turned towards Brenda apologetically. “I do apologize, that was thoughtless of me.”

Brenda grinned at the discomfited sisters. “Don’t be. Sex is, should be fun. Right, Piper?”

Piper growled. “I may like you better now, Brenda Walsh, but I would like to see how you would react if your grandmother talked about her embarrassing sex life.” *The embarrassing thing being she still sees more action than I do. Dammit.*

Brenda giggled. “I find it hard to believe Granma Walsh had enough sex to have my dad, even.”

“My sex life is also not embarrassing, at least not to me.” Penelope said with a smirk. “But I daresay it is more interesting than yours, Piper dear.”

“GRAMS!” Piper buried her face in her hands and groaned. *I swear she can read my mind sometimes.*

Penelope turned serious. “But that does bring me to a different subject,” she took a deep breath. “Simon is going to ask the both of you, Prue and Brenda, to give some DNA, for testing.”

Brenda blinked. “What? Why?”

“We think you may be… twins” Penelope hedged.

Brenda’s lips quirked. “Twins? She’s years older than me!” Seeing Prue’s expression she hastily added. “No offence Prue, but twins with Phoebe, yes, with you, no. I mean, not unless I am a clone made by some evil scientists in a secret lab or something,” she laughed. “Sounds like a bad Star Trek plot.”

Prue went very white and suddenly slid of the couch in a dead faint. Her sisters were at her side in seconds, as was her grandmother.

Brenda looked frantic. “What did I do? Was it something I said?”

“Brenda, calm down!” Penelope ordered. “Get some water!”

“Is this something to do with magic? Did someone put a Time Stop spell on me or something? I was born with Prue and woke up years later?” Brenda demanded, while she went into the kitchen to get a wet towel and a glass of water, returning with them in record time.

“No,” Penelope sighed while she accepted the towel and wiped it over Prue’s face. “When Piper was born, Prue… Let’s just say she was missing for an hour or two in the hospital and after that she told a story that was unbelievable. But I now think it is true.”

Prue’s eyes flickered open and Brenda handed the glass to Phoebe to let Prue sip.

“Oh. Ah. So you do think I’m a clone…” Brenda said thoughtfully. Then very slowly, Brenda collapsed and fainted as well.

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Dinner was strange. No one felt like cooking, so Chinese was ordered, as well as pizza and a goodly amount of baked goods. Brenda and Prue kept staring at each other, sitting side by side. Xander was flanked by Dawn and Kit, one of whom shadowed him wherever he went. Joyce was observing all three of them, as was Simon.

Willow kept moving between her parents and grandmother. Buffy had retreated to James’ grandfatherly embrace and Amy kept moving to sit or stand between Patrick and Clarice, acting like a subconscious chaperone.

Phoebe and Piper barely moved from Penelope’s side and Evy had latched onto Arlene with a frightened and uncertain expression on her face. Cecelia had taken to touching the girl comfortingly whenever she could, which, together with Arlene’s easy acceptance of the fact her daughter had reverted to her extreme clingy behaviour, seemed to calm Evy somewhat.

Amidst all the roiling emotions Rupert Giles and Jenny Calendar sat, obviously uncomfortable.

Once dinner was finished Xander, who with Pat and Phoebe had been the last person eating, turned to Jenny. “So, I’d very much like to hear what you have to tell. About my mother, Jessica, I mean.”

Jenny nodded. “Yes. Jessica Harris was born Jassina Kalderash or Jessica Calder to use her anglicized name. She was a minor seer, nothing earth shaking. Usually things to do with lost items and pets,” Jenny took a deep breath. “That’s different from a Seer of the People.”

“Which you are,” Xander stated. “I’d like that explained someday, but Jessica first.”

“You need to know, it has to do with you, so bear with me,” Jenny began. “Seers of the People are always female and are born with a great Gift, or Curse, to be able to see the different paths in time that their clan can take, or will be forced to take. One of them is always Matriarch of the Clan, the Elder Woman. Most clans of the Romany have only one or two Seers of the People at one time. Seers of the People are special; they are tied to the clan and are expected to always choose the path that is best for the clan.” Jenny looked around to see if anything needed explaining and then continued.

“The powers of Seers increase with the growth of their direct family, their immediate Clan if you will, so they are expected to marry and have children and such, but always with the right man, since that will increase her power. The wrong man, well suffice it to say that would not please the clan and the power of the Seer may diminish,” Jenny took a deep breath and continued. “Seers also convey part of their power to their chosen ‘mate’. The way that power manifests differs for each husband, each different Seer.”

Giles looked slightly surprised but the older witches and Simon all nodded knowingly. Penelope smirked slightly at the Watcher as well.

“Jassina had a vision that told her she would bear ‘The One Who Sees’ when she met Tony Harris. So she married him, expecting to bear a Seer, and that would be the end of the marriage and you would be taken in by the Clan,” Jenny said softly.

Xander blinked. “What? That makes no sense at all!”

“Yeah, I mean, why would Xander being born lead to him being taken into this clan of yours?” Buffy demanded.

“Because the mother of a Seer always dies in childbirth. It is the sacrifice the Clan makes to receive a Seer. And Tony had stated often he wanted no daughters,” Jenny was looking at the floor.

Joyce gasped. “Oh, oh my,” Her face hardened. “Next time I see Mary Beckforth she and I are going to have words!” Joyce moved to Jenny and gave the younger woman a warm hug. “You poor thing.”

Penelope exchanged looks with Cecelia. Cecelia cleared her throat. “Joyce?”

“Mary demonstrated the active aspect of Mother on poor Jenny,” Joyce answered the unspoken question.

Jenny in the meantime had sunk into Joyce’s embrace, her face relaxed, eyes closed.

Cecelia cleared her throat in amusement. “Ah, that explains that.”

“What, mother?” Joyce asked defensively.

Cecelia grinned. “Well, she asked if you would mind being a Teen mom. I didn’t understand what she meant until now.” The older witches chuckled.

Joyce flushed and glared at her mother. “MOM!”

Jenny was blushing as well, but when she tried to extract herself from Joyce’s arms, the older woman would not let go.

Joyce shook her head in irritation. “Barely a teenager. Twelve is far too young to be a mother. But since the older generation is into drunken one night stands, wanton hippie love fests and carrying on with Greasers…” her eyes went from Danielle to Penelope to Cecelia, all of whom had the grace to look embarrassed, “I want you to know you’re always welcome here, Jenny.”

Jenny looked from Joyce to Xander. “Because I’m Xander’s cousin?”

“No, because you’re Jenny,” Joyce corrected her gently. “And obviously in need of mothering.”

Jenny blushed again.

Xander had been looking at the floor, thinking about things. “How do you know all this?” He demanded to know. “She can’t have told you.”

“Jessica kept a diary every year. There was a very minor blood ward attached to them, which might have been dangerous so I took them. I’ve been reading ever since...” Jenny swallowed. “Ever since we found her. If you want I’ll give them to you,” Jenny explained.

Xander looked torn, and then shook his head. “Not yet. And there are things a son really shouldn’t know about his mother.” He took a deep breath. “But I’d appreciate if you told me some of the highlights. Or lowlights.”

“She did love you. Very much. But by the time she had dragged herself from her depression finding herself alive and married to Tony Harris, you had grown up, and distant.”

Xander groaned and scrubbed his face with his hands. “Couldn’t she just have divorced him?”

Jenny shrugged apologetically. “It would have been the best solution, but she was expecting a girl, and to die, not to be married to an abusive alcoholic. She’d burned all her bridges; the clan had already performed the Parting ceremony. I’m not saying she was right, Xander. But she was eighteen years old and everything she knew or had expected turned out to be different. And I doubt she would have been received with open arms by the clan if she showed up alive with you. She was supposed to be dead and the mother of a Seer.”

“Wonderful. Why didn’t the Seers of the People help her then? Tell her she was wrong? Don’t do it, Jessica, he’s an ass-”

“Xander, language!” Joyce interrupted.

Xander smiled at her. “Sorry, Mom,” he looked at Jenny.  

“I don’t know, I was too young to sit in on the deliberations,” Jenny sighed. “And the Seers work best on the whole clan, the whole people, not single individuals, unless they are of supreme importance.”   

Xander groaned. “Next someone is going to come in and tell me my father was a war hero who was dreadfully misunderstood.”

Simon snorted. “Well, I don’t think he had a military record. I had difficulty understanding him, but that might have been the booze.”

Joyce sighed. “Simon, not helping.”

Xander grinned. “Well, he cheered me up.”

Joyce glared between the two of them. “I don’t know which of you is having the worse influence on the other.”

Jenny looked anxiously at Xander. “That’s about all I know right now, Xander. I realize it is a lot to accept, to take in…”

Xander nodded thoughtfully. “Yeah, I’ll need to think about it, a lot. It does help me understand her a little bit more. I never could figure out why she married Tony, let alone stuck with him.”

Buffy rose. “Okay. Anyone got anything more?” She looked at her mother. “Can I go out and patrol?”

Joyce sighed and looked at Simon, who nodded. “Just keep the mic open and don’t be afraid to call for back up. And don’t be home too late, tomorrow is a school day. Did you finish your homework?”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Yes, to all of the above.”

Simon exchanged a look with Joyce who shrugged helplessly. Joyce spoke. “Good hunting, dear. Please be careful.”

Buffy nodded, bounced on the balls of her feet and ran upstairs to change in something slightly more robust for slaying.

Joyce sighed and hugged Jenny absently. “I do hate that Slayer energy, and the urge it gives her to hunt.”

Giles took off his classes and started to polish them, obviously uncomfortable. “I-I could go with her, if you prefer?”

“No, she has the bodyguards, Liam is hanging about somewhere and Mike is probably flying about with his mother.” Joyce sighed and shook her head. “When did my life get so weird that I consider all that normal?”

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Buffy hummed as she wandered the streets of Sunnydale on her bike, making a short stop at the Bronze before heading to the cemeteries indicated by Giles and Willow. Fledglings rose every night in Sunnydale, revelations of incredible magnitude or no. She easily dispatched a fledgling in the Bronze and another outside the Free Clinic. Unlike General, the Free took delivery of its blood supply during the day, but some vamps never learned. This one certainly wouldn’t.  

She did notice that the assigned bodyguards were extra vigilant. Amata’s warning was taken very seriously by her parents and security detail, and although they expected the number of attacks to taper off until The Master had gathered his forces, they were not about to sit back and relax. The Master might, after all, know that they knew.   

Buffy had been varying her patrol schedule and route ever since Simon’s military trained bodyguards had taken over the physical side of her training. This meant that some nights she patrolled early, some late, some, very rare nights, both.

Pleasant Meadows was on for tonight, three teenagers had been buried there that morning, and Giles thought it likely all of them would rise.

That meant hanging about in the grave yard and hanging about in the graveyard meant the eventual arrival of Angel. Buffy smiled when the dark haired vampire stepped out from behind a tree and approached her. “Hello Angel,” she tried calling out cheerfully, but found her voice would not rise above an embarrassing squeak.

“Hello, Buffy. Did you catch a cold?” Angel asked, concerned.

“No, no I’m fine. Just waiting for the dead to rise up. Err.” Buffy blushed hotly and thanked her lucky stars they weren’t out that night. *Rein it in, girl. Sheesh. Okay, so he is totally gorgeous and dreamy and, oh those eyes…* Buffy found herself looking up into the ensouled vampire’s brown eyes and wondered why it was so hard to remember that he was older than the country she had been born in, as well as dead, just because she was near enough to breathe in his cologne.

She took a last sneaky little sniff and stepped back. “Three to rise tonight, that is. Got their names and everything, too!” She said perkily.

“Need help?”

Buffy shrugged. “I could do with some company. The bodyguards tend to keep their distance and sit in the car.”

“Probably wise.”

“Probably, but boring. At least Xander and Wills came right with me, sometimes. I feel a bit lonely out here some nights,” Buffy pouted, as she juggled two stakes and led the way to the first fresh grave.

“Your mom put her foot down?” Angel asked sympathetically.

“Not really, they just have to pass certain tests, fitness and hand to hand combat primarily, before they’re allowed out of the cars,” Buffy grinned. “Willow’s taken to whimpering at the sight of a jump rope.” Then she sobered. “But both of them had some major shocks, so for tonight, yeah, total foot-down.”

Angel nodded. “I see. Anything I should know about?”

Buffy tilted her head at the still quiet grave and then shrugged. “Well. I might as well tell you while we wait. So you know about Amata being a Mummy, and Xander falling for her, but…”

There was a rustle of feathers and Angel looked up in exasperation, expecting to see the white wings of Mike Kirby interfering with his alone time with Buffy. Instead three mallards descended upon him, snapping at him with their teethed beaks, their sharp talons clawing at his jacket and up-thrown hands.

“What the?” Buffy began, before several more ducks appeared from the night and attacked her, their eyes glowing bright red in the dark, their quacks twisted by bloodlust.

Buffy grabbed one of the ducks from the air and with a movement of her shoulders ripped its head of its body. Sticky green blood streamed from the creature and the clawed flippers flapped for a few seconds longer than Buffy was comfortable with before finally changing into putrid smelling green goo.

“EEEEWWW!!!” Buffy called out as the slime dripped over her hands onto her shoes and clothes.

More wings were heard. At least dozen of the ducks were now circling the pair. Angel was bleeding from several shallow gashes and nips on his hands and was looking decidedly annoyed. What looked like a nip from a beak was visible high on his left cheekbone. Buffy jumped at one and punched one, smashing its ribcage. It melted into slime around her fist.

“GROSS!!” She glared at the flying demon ducks and growled. “Okay Slimer Wannabes! You’re goin’ down!”

There was a chuckle and then a large, muscular vampire stepped forward from the shadows, flanked by three more on either side of him. “Well looky here, boys. Lil’ Miss Slayer is out tonight. An’ she be gettin’ beat up by ducks! Don’t look so tough to me! HAW! HAW! HAW!!” The minion vampires let out equally braying laughs.  

Buffy snatched a duck from the sky and ripped it in half, ignoring the mess it made. “Great. Just wonderful. Not only is there now proof that there’s enough radiation in the Ozarks to make breeding between donkeys and men possible, but stupid vampires have to go and turn the proof.”

“Huh?” The big vamp sounded confused.

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Wonderful, another one too dumb to find Arkansas on a map.” She grabbed a demon duck from the sky and threw it at the lead vampire’s face.

The beast quacked and bit the vamp on the nose. The vampire roared and jumped forward, smashing his fist hard into Angel’s stomach as the ensouled vamp sprang between Buffy and her assailant. The other six stood confused for a second before splitting up to attack Buffy and Angel.

Angel was down and being kicked by the big vampire, who was joined by two others, while four concentrated on Buffy.

“Billy Jim! Keep that bitch alive, I want to have fun with her!” The big vamp, Buffy absolutely refused to think of him as a Master, called to his minion.

“Billy Jim? Can you guys get any more cliché? Are you all cousins, and married to each other’s butt ugly sisters?”

“Don’t you dare insult Rita Mae!” The one addressed as Billy Jim shouted and swung wildly at Buffy, who deftly dodged the blow and struck back, then kicked out and caught another vamp that had tried to sneak up on her in the chest, drew a spare stake from her bandolier and threw it into the heart of a lanky vampire with a cowlick. The vampire fell into dust with a surprised expression on his face.

“Bobby Joe! Bobby Joe! The bitch killed Jethro!” Billy Jim cried out.

“Well, knock her out then, Billy Jim! Amos! Help him!”

Buffy groaned. “Sheesh, I feel like I got dragged into the Beverly Hillbillies!” She ducked under a haymaker, flipped another stake into her hand and rammed it into Amos, just missing the heart, as a demon duck threw off her aim by flying at her face.

“Bobby Joe! She done gone near killed me!” Amos cried out, while stupidly looking down at the stake sticking out from his chest.

“AAARGH!!” Buffy cried out and punched him hard in the face, grabbed the stake again and slammed it in slightly more to the right, withdrew it and looked on with some satisfaction as Amos fell apart into dust.

Buffy moved to help Angel, who had not been able to rise and had received a great many kicks when suddenly a buxom blonde tackled her. “YOU KILLED MY AMOS! YOU COW!!”

“Nancy Jo! What’re you doin’ here!” Bobby Joe demanded as he drove his steel capped boot hard into Angel’s face.

“She killed my Amos, Bobby Joe! I’m gonna kill her!”

“Not afore I’ve had me a piece o’ her ya don’t! I’m yer brother Nancy Jo Blackenstien, and you will listen to me!”

Buffy punched the vampiress in the side of the head with her balled fist, but the blond crawled upwards relentlessly, her eyes manic, ready to sink her fangs into Buffy’s neck.

“Nancy Jo! I told you to fight them people in them fancy cars! Stop killin’ my plaything!”

Bobby Joe was apparently annoyed enough with his sister to stop kicking Angel and come drag her from Buffy.

Buffy grinned up at him. “Thanks. I like ballgames myself.” She kicked upwards into Bobby Joe’s crotch as hard as she could while lying on the ground. Bobby Joe, unable to dodge with his sister in his arms, received the full power of the blow and let out a most unmanly whimper, dropped Nancy Jo, grabbed his assaulted male pride, and fell to the ground in a trembling ball. Buffy rose to her feet like the wrath of the gods, screamed a battle cry and slammed into Nancy Jo. At least, that was her plan, which was cruelly fouled by the interposing of a waterfowl.

“I hate these ducks!” Buffy screamed as she spat out some greasy feathers where she had accidentally bitten down on the thing.

“Baylee-Ann, Mary Jean, Betty Sue! Come help me kick this Slayer trollop’s bee-hind!” Nancy Jo called out.

Buffy almost let out an oath. The only thing that stopped her was the fact her mother sometimes listened to the recordings afterwards. “I swear you people are doing this just to annoy me!”

Three more buxom vampiresses came out of the dark night, their fangs gleaming. One wore only a pair of dungarees; the other a pair of very tight cut-off jeans and a lumber jack shirt tied to a knot in front of her stomach, the third wore a flower print dress, with daisies and sandals.

Buffy stamped her foot in rage. “Are you guys trying to kill me by cliché?” She grabbed a stake in each hand and then blinked. A great white shape dove down and suddenly the vamp in the dungarees was headless, and then dust. Mike swerved and regained height, using the two slim blades tied to his arms to slash several ducks from the air as he went, the ducks falling to the ground in green goo. Buffy let out a cheer. “Go Mike!”

Then she jumped at the remaining new arrivals, concentrating on the one in the cut-offs, blocked the vamp’s rather half-hearted blow and slammed her stake home with gusto.

The three male vamps which had been beating up on Angel now joined the battle against Buffy, leaving Angel rather the worse for wear. Mike swooped again, impaling a duck with one arm blade and beheading one of the male vamps with the other, before steeply rising to gain height once more.

“Bodeen! No!” Nancy Jo called out.

Buffy gritted her teeth. “Bodeen? You know, you people were probably a menace long before you were turned.”

She twirled round to avoid a blow by one of the vampires, dodged a wide kick from Nancy Jo and -to her eternal embarrassment- got hit by a blow from the vamp in the flower print dress, slipped on a puddle of duck goo and fell heavily on her rear, into another puddle composed of duck goo and vamp ash. The vampires jumped at her and kicked her hard in the ribs, back and stomach, driving the air from her lungs. Buffy could feel her ribs crack and winced in pain. Unlike Nancy Jo the two males wore heavy boots.

Bobby Joe had risen shakily to his feet and rejoined the fray. “You like ball games? I’ll give you ball games, city girl!” He swung a bicycle chain in his right hand, menacingly, and a heavy linked chain with barbed wire woven through it in the other.

Mike made another pass, but this time the vamps were ready for him. Bobby Joe jumped aside, whirled his heavy chain and struck the young Cheila on the left wing as Mike banked. Mike cried out in pain and blood spurted from his wing and left side as he came own heavily and crashed. Bobby Joe leaned over Buffy, who was staring up, shocked. “Not so mouthy now, are you city girl?” he sneered.

Then he blinked down at the wooden point that emerged from his chest and fell into dust.

Buffy coughed, rolled through the opening that Bobby Joe’s demise had caused and got to her feet, stake at the ready. Angel had gained his feet as well, battered and beaten, blood running down his bruised face from his broken nose and split lips. Mike came limping up, one wing held awkwardly and a determined and angry look on his face.

A heavy whirling sound was heard and then a harsh voice called out. “Kids! Get down!”  Buffy ducked, as did Mike, Angel a second later and a blur shot through the air, decapitating two vamps and then wrapping around a third, causing heavy, bleeding gashes. A second later a wooden bolt struck Nancy Jo and a tall, rangy woman stepped forward, flanked by Lewis, Bchenka and Hurst, all firing crossbows, Bchenka his air-powered one. The vamps that were not immediately dusted were stunned by the sudden ferocity of the attack and then destroyed by Buffy, Angel and Mike in close combat. Mike ripped the bola off the immobilized vampire with evident satisfaction and then proceeded to remove its head by pulling. Buffy and Angel satisfied themselves by merely staking a few.

The rangy woman strode up to the three and looked around the dust and goo covered clearing, lazily aimed her crossbow at a Demon duck on a strafing run and shot it out of the air with a practiced ease that made Buffy blink.

“Well, until I saw the three of you in action, I was gonna chew you out for being stupid enough to have a tryst in a Sunnydale cemetery. Now, I’m not sure what to do.” She turned to the men behind her. “And you lot seemed quite capable, at least until the vamps got in close enough to land blows. So, wanna explain this?”

Buffy looked at the three bodyguards, noting for the first time that their normally neat appearance was marred by developing bruises, torn clothing and in the case of Lewis, a limp.

Hurst winced. “We were jumped by Hillbillies. Dr. Meier is going to laugh his arse off.”   

“Yeah, the Blackenstien Clan. Good distraction, I’ve been trying to bag Bobby Joe for two decades.”

“That idiot? How is it possible he lasted that long?” Buffy blurted out.

“Well, some where near here there will be a souped up, customized Mercury Monarch that idiot drove. Before that he drove an orange Dodge Charger, with the Confederate Naval flag on the roof. He was an idiot, but he could drive.”

Mike, who had been carefully flexing his wings, snorted. “He drove the General Lee? That must have made it easy to find him.”

“He eventually noticed that, yes. I did manage to sell the car four a very good price though,” the rangy woman stated with satisfaction. “Now, what are a bunch of semi military guys, a blonde cheerleader in camouflage, a noble Cheila and a reject from the Village People if they’d needed an Emo, doing in this cemetery?”

Buffy narrowed her eyes at the woman. “Are you a Rogue Demon Hunter named Hannah Harris?”

Hannah blinked. “Yeah, I am? Why?”

“You kissed my cousin in jail and felt her up. Aunt Penny wants a word or two with you.”

There was a clatter as the suddenly pale Hannah dropped her crossbow. “Oh, fuck! You’re another Halliwell?”

Buffy grinned. “Not really, no. Hurst, can you take Mike and Ang… Liam to Simon and have them fixed up a bit? I’ll grab my bike and Lewis can follow in the car with the RDH here.”

Hurst coughed. “I fear that won’t be possible, Miss Buffy.”

“And why not?” Buffy bristled.

“Because we passed your bike on the way here, it certainly cannot be ridden now and I doubt it is reparable.”

“My bike? Those bastards destroyed my bike?” Buffy asked astounded.

“Yes, Miss Buffy,” Hurst replied sympathetically.

“But I liked that bike!” Buffy kicked at the heap of ashes that had been Bobby Joe and then stomped off.

Hurst sighed and looked at the Demon Hunter. “Miss Buffy is right, however. Ms. Halliwell will want to speak to you, and no doubt Miss Prue has some choice words as well.”

Hannah groaned. “Yeah, okay. Can’t I just follow on my bike? As in motorcycle. I’ll look for the Mercury tomorrow.”

“Certainly. Please, come with us, Mister O’Connell, Mr. Kirby. Miss Buffy’s suggestion is a good one.”

Angel glared at Mike and Mike glared back. Hannah noted the look and saw the slight amused crinkle that almost immediately disappeared off Hurst’s face.

Mike sighed. “Yeah, sure. Thanks, Mr. Hurst.”

Angel just shrugged and moved after Buffy.

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Joyce looked up from her book when she heard the sound of the motorcycle, then the solid thunks she’d come to associate with the doors of the black BMW’s falling shut. The rapid footsteps that ran up the steps told her that Buffy was upset about something.

The door opened and Buffy slunk in. Her eyes went to the couch and then turned away. Joyce looked at her over her glasses, sighed and lifted herself from Simon’s embrace. “Shower first.” Then she wrinkled her nose. “No, I’m wrong, garden hose first.”

“MOM!” Buffy yelled, outraged. “I’m not a dog!”

“No, but you almost smell worse than with the Hrackesh. Simon, a little help?”

Simon rose and came closer, sniffing the air. He looked at Penelope and Danielle who were reading in the corner. “Any ideas?”

“Burn the clothes. Scrape off what you can and then the hose. Use white spirits and then a nice long warm bath with natural soap,” Danielle replied.

Buffy sighed. “Dammit.” She looked guiltily at her mother. “Sorry, Mom.”

“It’s alright Buffy. Let’s get you clean. Simon, could you have someone put up the screens?”

Hurst coughed from the doorway. “I called ahead, Ms. Summers. Corey, Marshfield and Kent have set up in the back garden; Coe, Bottley and Utzfeldt have set up a similar installation across the street for the gentlemen.”

“Thank you, Hurst,” Joyce said warmly. “I assume we are talking about Messrs. Kirby and O’Connell?” 

“Yes, Ms. Summers.” The head bodyguard affirmed.

“Very well. Thank you, Hurst.”

Hurst coughed again. “We will be swinging past the Clinic later on, but Miss Buffy, Mr. Kirby and Mr. O’Connell require medical attention.” He looked at Simon while he spoke.

Simon nodded and went over to the dining room cupboard to get his bag. “I’ll look at them as soon as they are clean enough for me to see what I am doing.”

Hurst nodded and left, looking pointedly at Buffy. Buffy sighed. “Oh, yeah, we brought a guest.” She reached around the door and dragged in a large, bony woman in motor cycle leathers who looked oddly sheepish.

“Good evening.” The woman muttered uncomfortably.

Penelope stood up. “White Doe? What are you doing here?”

The woman sighed. “Well, I heard that my cousin’s son was placed into Foster Care, and having been there, I came to pick him up. And then I got sort of roped into Smitty’s plan and I felt up Prue, and then I got out and wanted to get drunk because something killed Smitty and I saw this girl cycle into a cemetery and saw her escorting motorcade and then the vamps attacked. It sort of got better from there.”

Joyce’s eyes had grown flinty. “Wait, Prue said the woman who assaulted her was called Hannah Harris. Are you here for Xander Harris?”

“Yeah, why?” Hannah looked puzzled.

Joyce took a step forward and growled. “Over my dead body!”

Hannah backed up and reached for something at the small of her back. “Whoa! Easy lady!”

“Joyce! White doe! Restrain yourselves.” An authoritative voice called out from the kitchen door.

Joyce turned round and glared at her father. “She’s here for Xander! And she bloody well can’t have him!”

James lifted an eyebrow at Simon. “It appears to me that you are affecting my daughter’s speech patterns.”

Simon looked faintly amused. “More than I thought, yes.”

“Daughter? You are Chief Four Bears’ daughter?” Hannah’s hand dropped from whatever she had been reaching for and both James and Simon relaxed slightly. Penelope lowered the hand she had raised.

Hannah seemed oblivious to the byplay and looked between Joyce and James. “And you’re willing to take Xander in?”

“Yes!” Joyce replies shortly. “We are.”

Hannah nodded thoughtfully. “That’s good. I wouldn’t be much of a mother for him. I’d like to see him if I may?” She asked tentatively.

Joyce gave the woman a look. “And why exactly are you willing to trust me with Xander all of a sudden?”

Hannah snorted. “One, you are Chief Four Bears’ daughter. Two, your daughter called Magistra Halliwell Aunt Penny. Those two things combined? I may not be very smart, but if you are willing to take Xander in and care for him, odds are you will do a much better job at keeping him safe than I ever could.” She looked curiously at Joyce. “Are you a Halliwell?”

“No, she’s a Warren, as I am.” Penelope looked pensively at the big woman. “You thought Prue was a demon?”

“Yes, I swear!” Hannah paled and started to sweat.

Penelope grinned. “Well, we’ll just have to have you over for dinner. I insist on meeting all my granddaughter’s dates. You’re a bit old for her, possibly, but you’ll do.”

Hannah blushed a deep red, which only intensified when James chuckled wickedly and called up the stairs. “Prudence! Your girlfriend is here!”

“Her WHAT?” Came Piper’s, Phoebe’s and Brenda’s voices from above, shortly followed by a stampede as all the younger generation came to see what was going on.

Willow came to a sudden halt as soon as she saw Hannah. “Oh… it is you. Are-are you gonna take Xander away?” she asked fearfully.

“No, Catkin,” Hannah assured her. Then she blinked. “And what are you doing here?”

Joyce moved closer to Willow and hugged her. “The same as Xander.”

Hannah nodded approvingly. “Good for you, Catkin. Now where is my cousin?”

“In his room. It’s in the basement. I’ll take you,” Joyce offered.

Hannah had given her a sharp look at the mention of the basement but followed, after winking broadly at Prue. “Heya, beautiful. Miss me? Don’t worry, I’ll be back for a snuggle later.”

This time it was Prue’s turn to blush.

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“I still don’t see why someone in Personnel can’t do this,” Jack sulked.

“General Hammond feels that it needs a more senior officer. Sir.” The sir was ground out. Captain Sam Carter was really getting rather annoyed with her superior officer. That her superior officer’s grandfather and her other teammate were busy talking in a language Sam did not know about a language Sam did not know was not doing wonders for her temper either.

“And where did she get a kid all of a sudden? I happen to know that Arlene Ellis has no children!”

“If you say so, sir, I mean, you’ve only been reiterating the point for, oh, seven or so times.” Carter wondered if sarcasm was a court martial offence.

Jack groaned. “I’m going for a walk.”

Jon looked up and rose. “I’ll go with you.” Jack looked back and sighed before kicking the floor and then moving to stand outside the door of the hotel suite his grandfather had rented.

Jon leaned forward and whispered at Sam. “Don’t wait up. This might take a while.”

Jon closed the door behind him and joined Jack. They walked into the LA night and looked at the bright lights.

“Well?” Jon asked.

“Arlene… I treated her badly. Very badly. I was asked to go on a mission. I did not expect to return. I-I thought I’d set her free,” Jack shrugged. “She didn’t see it that way.”

Jon sighed. “Jack, do you know the fairy tale about the caged bird?”

“Umm… you read it to me, I think… Yeah, they opened her cage and she wouldn’t fly out… Oh.”

“Yes. Jack, to put it bluntly, I think she would have preferred being a widow to being dumped. Women are odd that way.”

“I was young and stupid,” Jack admitted.

“Well, one of those at least has changed. Tell me about Arlene. Get it off your chest. You’re going to be facing her tomorrow and you might as well have some peace of mind before you do.”

Jack sighed. “Think it will help?”

“Do you?”

“She’s gonna kick my butt six ways from Sunday.” Jack winced in anticipation.

“Good.”

“Hey! You’re supposed to be on my side!” Jack objected.

“Not when you’ve been a brainless idiot,” Jon replied dryly.

“Oh fer cryin’ out loud…”

End note:

Hannah Harris absolutely refused not to be related to Xander. Originally Brenda was supposed to be a throwaway character, to be the first one drained by Amata. Letomo pointed out she was not really a bitch, just a teenager, and others (You know who you are) asked questions about her likeness to Prue, and her last name… And this is what you get when you put all of that together. And I’m not even done yet…

I apologize for the stereo typing of the Hillbilly Blackenstiens. Just showing there are still plenty of dumb vamps out there…
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