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Lonely Souls

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This story is No. 2 in the series "Waifs and strays". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: The second (much longer) installment in the Waifs and Strays AU. Covers season 1. Please READ THE SERIES INTRODUCTION!

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > Joyce-Centered(Current Donor)vidiconFR1598780,0851591496402,05828 May 115 Jul 14No

Honorary grandfathers

Author’s Note:

Thanks very much to my Beta’s, Letomo and EllandrahSylver. This chapter was indeed a bear. ;-)

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.#

Well now, two more recommenders Glenisland and Shadowman. I am grateful to both of you and all my other recommenders.

If you hadn’t noticed, I’m also grateful to all my reviewers, I’ll be answering them tonight. I’ve been noticing some site problems, or connectivity problems, so if you haven’t gotten a reply to one of your earlier reviews, let me now.

Chapter 64 Honorary Grandfathers

Charles Winchester stood in the foyer and looked at the nervous woman in the living room. He smiled and stepped towards the little girls who had greeted him first. “How about a hug for Grandpa Charles then?”

Dawn hesitated a moment, but Kit squealed and jumped forward, hugging Charles tightly around the middle. Charles hugged her back, a strangely intent look on his face. “Simon, could you ask Hurst to bring in the rest of my luggage? The presents are in there.”

“Presents?” Kit looked up from her hug, and Dawn grinned. “What sort of presents?”

“Ah, that is a surprise,” Charles winked. “I understand you like My Little Pony though…”

Kit opened her eyes to protest and then, seeing the glimmer of humour in his, whirled around and glared at Joyce, ending up with Charles’ hands on her shoulders. “You have been… OOOOOHHH!!!”

“The nightshirts do look cute on you. And it did break you out of that horrible ‘everything you get me will be fine, I am just so grateful to be here’ mindset,” Joyce admitted mildly. “Now are you ready to go and pick some clothes you like? You don’t have to wear the uniform all the time you know.”

Kit blinked, looked back up at Charles, and then ran at Joyce, giving her a fierce hug. “Thank you.”

Dawn looked awed. “You planned all that? Wow.”

There was a snigger from the doorway. “Now we know where you got it from, Dawnmeister!” Xander came in from the kitchen, followed by Willow and Buffy.

Willow looked a bit thoughtful and then glanced at Charles, who was studying Joyce.

“So. You are the brave knight who overcame the Walls of Ice.” He took a step towards Joyce, and Kit untangled herself from her foster mother and glared.

“Grandpa Charles! Be nice!”

Charles smiled. “I fully intend to be.” He took a step forward and smiled before extending his hand. “Charles Emerson Winchester. Thank you.”

Joyce blinked at the tall, old man, noting from the corner of her eyes that Willow and Xander had moved to stand beside Simon, his arms around their shoulders. She smiled. “You are very welcome,” She took his hand, leaned in and kissed Charles’ cheek. “Very welcome indeed.” 

Charles smiled. “So, who wants a present? I hope I got something appropriate for each of you…”

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Charles sat in the chair, a pile of wrapped boxes and a large empty trunk beside him and grinned. “Shall we take this in reverse order of age?”

Xander sighed. “Shi- shoot,” he muttered, earning a raised eyebrow from Joyce.

Charles smiled at the boy and picked up a rather small box. “This was my mother’s. She collected them.” He handed the box to Dawn who took a knife from her mother and carefully cut the tape, allowing her to remove the waterproof paper, showing a cardboard box. Opening the box, again well sealed, revealed a large amount of bubble wrap which she again carefully removed, showing an ivory inlaid wooden lid. The bubble wrap was pounced on by Willow and Buffy, who started popping, their eyes moving from the pile of presents to the one Dawn was unwrapping.

Dawn carefully lifted the little chest and then opened it. Three beautiful ballerinas sprang up, a delicate song started playing and Dawn gasped. The silver and ivory figurines moved separately, circling and whirling. The girls all leaned close and looked as the elaborate music box played out. Dawn looked up, her eyes wide. “It’s beautiful!” she gushed. “Thank you!”

Charles smiled. “You’re welcome.”

He gave Kit her present, a box similar in size to the one Dawn had received and Kit followed Dawn’s lead, carefully unwrapping it. Her hands trembled as she lifted a jewellery box from the wrapping and opened it. Inside was a bracelet hung with small baubles. Simon gasped. “Charles!”

Kit looked confused. Charles smiled. “It was my niece’s. I think she would have been very happy to know that you have it,” he touched a small exquisitely made golden bangle in the shape of a coiled dragon. “I bought that in Korea, before she was even born.” He touched another one, a tiny silver rosebud. “And that I had made when I heard Simon talk about your life and ah… exploits,” he explained, as he looked up. “I thought you might like something that made you feel that you belonged.”

Kit very gently lifted the bracelet out of the box, rose and carried it over to Charles. With trembling fingers the old gentleman fastened it around her right wrist. Kit threw her arms around his neck. “Thank you,” she whispered, kissed his cheek and sniffled.

Charles smiled and rubbed her back. “You are most welcome, Kit.”

Kit glanced around and then, defiantly, sat in Charles’s lap. There was no reaction other than smiles, though a lot of eyes were suspiciously moist.

Charles smiled and reached next to his chair, coming up with a very thin package he handed to Willow. “I thought you might enjoy this.”

Buffy saw the flash of disappointment on Willow’s face when she opened the package and an acid free envelope emerged. The Rosenbergs had the habit of giving her money for her birthdays and holidays, a fact that had always hurt Willow. Willow opened the large envelope, and looked rather surprised to find, not the bank notes she was dreading, but a smaller, old and yellowed envelope with Charles’ name and address in spiky handwriting. She turned it over and noted the return address was Oxford. Slipping the densely written pieces of paper from the envelope, she read the first lines of the sender’s address. And let out the loudest noise anyone, including Xander, had ever heard her produce, a sound that was mix between a howling coyote, a train whistle and Beeker from the Muppets.

Xander was shocked. “Wow! That has to be the loudest Geek Squeal I’ve ever heard her produce! What did you give her?”

“Geek squeal?” Charles asked, looking rather worriedly at his new, very excited granddaughter.

“A sound she makes when she’s speechless with geeky joy.” Xander smiled at Willow with deep affection. “Easy, little sis. Why don’t you tell us what you got?”

“OH!! It’sfromTOLKIEN! Whatisitabout? Canyoutellme? Didyouevermeethim? Washenice? IsitabouttheLordoftheRings? Oh! Oh!” Willow babbled.

Joyce reached out and placed a hand over the excited redhead’s mouth, stopping the merging flow of babble. “I think I heard Tolkien in there?”

Charles grinned. “Yes, you did. Willow, why don’t you turn to the second page?”

Willow, with anxious fingers, did so. There were a few lines that formed a rough family tree. At the top were two names, Fëanor and Nerdanel, below them were seven other names, their seven sons. Willow blushed a furious red. “DAAAAAD!! I can’t believe you told him that!” she wailed. Joyce took the precious letter from her hands before she damaged it.

“Now Willow, honey, it’s hardly a secret in the family.  Nanna Morry, Gran, Granddad and Aunt Penelope and the P’s… well, everybody knows it,” Joyce soothed.

“But…” Willow tried.

Charles coughed. “My dear girl, if I minded I would not have given you that letter.”

Willow nodded, still looking embarrassed. Dawn was looking at the letter with envy, but clutched the Music box to her chest and then sighed. “So, how did you get it, Grandpa Charles?”

“Professor Tolkien sent it to me, Dawn. I once did a reading of the Hobbit at a children’s hospital and Honoria, my sister, sent him a recording. He replied and we stayed in touch,” Charles smiled. “Happily, I have several signed editions of his work…”

Willow and Dawn let out a simultaneous squeal of joy. Joyce shook her head. “Really, Charles. You’re spoiling them! This is too much.”

Charles lifted an eyebrow. “What else should I do with these things, Joyce? I am an old man, I have copies of the letters, my mother and niece would love to know that the box and the bracelet are loved and cherished again.”

Joyce groaned. “But…” Simon put a soothing hand on her shoulder and whispered in her ear. Joyce groaned more loudly. “That does not actually help, Simon.”

Simon shrugged. “Well, it is still true.”

Charles grinned. “Well, now that that is over with, Buffy?”

Buffy came over and accepted the oblong package Charles held out. She opened it carefully, now very aware that the gifts were all precious. Inside was a lacquered box, black with red, bearing several Chinese or Japanese signs. She opened it carefully. Inside were two thin, black shining sticks, slightly less than a foot long, with very sharp tips and flared and bone inlaid ends.   

Buffy looked up, slightly hurt. *Gee, Grandpa Charles, thanks for the overlarge chopsticks.*

Charles beckoned her closer, put an arm around her waist and smiled up at her. “You have no idea what these are, do you?”

Buffy flushed. “No, well I thought chopsticks, but they’re totally too chic for that.”

Charles smiled. “They’re Kanzashi, Japanese hairpins. These were made for a young lady of the Imperial court called Minomoto Kishi, who lived in the Heian period of Japan. She died in the year 980, or so the records state.” 

Buffy gulped, looking down at her gift with new appreciation. “So these are a thousand years old?”

“Yes. Kanzashi were not purely ornamental either. At first it was believed that thin wooden sticks could protect against demons and evil-”

“They got that right,” Buffy muttered.

“And then they became part of Samurai Ladies’ personal arsenal, but that was later,” Charles continued.

“So I can’t use them as weapons?” Buffy queried.

Charles smiled a little sadly. “Yes, you can. They were made for it. Minomoto Kishi was a slayer, and these Kanzashi were carved for her from the wood of a type of juniper that grows on the slopes of Mount Fuji.”

“A-a Slayer?” Buffy stammered, suddenly confronted with the age old history of her destiny. Joyce started, blanching, and Simon put an arm around her shoulders.

“Yes, a Slayer. These were taken by Minomoto Kishi’s Watcher after her disappearance and given to her sister.”

“I was gifted them by the Koto family, descendants of Kishi’s sister, who kept these for a thousand years until I was given them for saving their only child, Midori.” He closed the box and pointed at the symbols. “The box was made just after the rise of Tokugawa Ieyasu-”

Buffy made a little whining noise and Charles grinned. “About 1600. The first symbol means love, the second, hope, the third, sun.” He looked at the blonde girl. “I’ve taken it to mean that as long as there is love, and hope, there will be a sunrise, a tomorrow.”

Buffy ran her fingers over the smooth box, and then looked up at the old man. “I don’t want to die.”

Charles noticed Joyce’s pale face and anguished look at Simon, who shook his head slightly, an equally pained look on his face.

“Well, Simon is very, very good at keeping Slayers alive. You have a loving family and a lot of back up. Paisley alone is worth a battalion of tanks.”

“Paisley? I heard Uncle Jon call Granddad that, what does it mean?” Kit asked from her perch on Charles' lap.

Charles looked at Joyce, who shrugged. “I don’t know either, sorry Kit.”

Charles’ mouth set into a straight line. “I see. Indeed. Where is the inestimable Captain Ellis at this time?”

“Mom and Dad took Clarice to play miniature golf, with Amy and Patrick,” Joyce replied, eying Charles, obviously wondering at his reaction.

Charles nodded, thoughtfully, then smiled at Buffy encouragingly and Buffy returned the smile, if tremulously. Charles then picked up another package and handed it to Buffy. “I thought you might feel this way, so I included this.”

Buffy took the bulky package, tore off the paper and then giggled. “Hairstyling through the ages?” She flipped through the book, noting the careful illustrations of not only hairstyles, but how to achieve them and smiled. “Cool!” 

“Thank you, Grandpa Charles,” Kit prompted.

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Thank you, Grandpa Charles,” she repeated mockingly. Then she winked at Kit and kissed Charles on the cheek. “Really, they’re awesome. Thank you.”

Charles smiled at the blonde and put a hand to her cheek, gently. “You are most welcome, Buffy. Most welcome indeed.” Buffy retreated to the couch where she and Willow dove into the book, trying to pick a hairstyle for that evening.

Charles chuckled and looked at Xander and the brunet boy came over. Charles offered him a long package, with two hands, wrapped in brown paper and with several seals on it. Xander cut the twine and broke the seals, revealing a rather worn and battered looking black leather case. Xander opened it and then looked with a stunned expression at the sheathed cavalry saber that lay in a bed of worn, faded green velvet. Charles coughed apologetically. “I realize giving a cavalry saber to someone with Native American blood is probably not entirely-”

“Are you kidding? This is AWESOME!!” Xander interrupted with a broad grin.

“Xander, decorum!” Joyce said, but with a smile.

“It belonged to Charles Emerson Winchester I, my grandfather. He used it in the Civil War.” Charles smiled as Xander partially drew the blade, his eyes riveted on the play of the light on the Damascened steel. Buffy looked slightly jealous, though she ran her fingers over the box that held her Kanzashi possessively. 

“Everybody happy?” Charles inquired, to be met with a chorus of enthusiastic ‘yesses’. “Well, that is good then.” Charles grinned as he looked around the room.

“You’ve barely been promoted to grandfather half an hour and you are already spoiling them,” Joyce said with a sigh, looking around the living room that was now strewn with wrapping paper and her awed children. Then she looked at the remaining packages. “And what are those?”

Charles coughed. “Well I thought I might give some presents to other people as well… The hostess of tomorrow’s Veteran’s Day party for instance…”

Joyce let out a girlish squeal. “For me?” and then blushed and glowered at her laughing family. “Oh, make fun of your poor mother, why don’t you?” she mock growled, before leaning into Simon. “Well, anyway, Eliza is gonna be by soon to pick me up for the Cookery course, and we’re picking up Clarice at the golf course.”

Willow grinned. “She found out Amy is a total Chinese addict?”

Joyce nodded. “It appears that the way to a teenager’s love is through her stomach. Possibly by means of cheese.”

Willow sighed, exasperated. “I did not take the cheese! I swear!”

Joyce frowned. “Hmmm, then what happened to it? A pound of cheddar does not grow legs and walk away!” She leaned back against the pillows, deep in thought. “I might have imagined buying one half pound, but two?” she muttered.

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The Sunnydale Cookhouse, November 9th 1995

Eliza Kendall stifled her laughter as she observed the redoubtable Clarice Starling wrestling with the concept of creating egg rolls. The only thing that prevented her from laughing all out was the fact that Clarice was, as Joyce had noted, ‘probably packing heat.’

Clarice was covered in the fine flour and had streaks of oil on her face. Bits of the sweet-and-sour sauce had nestled in her hair. Her tongue tip was between her teeth and her eyes focused on her task.

Eliza exchanged looks with Joyce and Joyce grinned broadly. Then she leaned over. “Amy loved them. And Clarice has just about adopted her already. Amy even called her ‘Mom’ once…”

Eliza grinned back. “Is it me or is Clarice not a very good cook?”

“She’s quite good, really. She just tries to be perfect the first time, and it seldom works.” Joyce suddenly looked thoughtful. “She’s much like Buffy that way.”

“Well, we need to get some pictures.”

“Definitely. Oh, great.”

Eliza looked at her friend, wondering at the sudden change in demeanor.

“Ted is making his move.” Joyce pointed at where Ted Buchanan was, approaching with his usual courteous manner and solicitous questions.

“Hello Miss, my name is Ted, Ted Buchanan. Might I be of assistance?”

Clarice blinked up at him, startled from her concentration. “If I let you help me, how will I learn myself? Thank you, but no.”

“Might I inquire who you are learning to cook for, Miss?” Ted asked.

“Myself,” Clarice answered curtly. “Now do you mind, I need to concentrate on this.”

“I do apologize.” Ted bowed, still courteous. “And I am sorry to bother you… hmmm, you seem familiar somehow?”

Clarice looked up again her eyes fierce. “Look Mr. Buchanan, I’m here to learn to make Chinese food, specifically egg rolls this afternoon. And though I appreciate the thought, I do want to learn to do this myself, and to do that I need to concentrate and to concentrate I prefer to be alone.”

Ted bowed again. “But certainly. Good afternoon, Miss.”

Clarice continued making egg rolls. Eliza and Joyce exchanged looks and grins again. “She didn't even notice that he was making a pass at her,” Joyce whispered.

“Talk about concentration,” Eliza replied whimsically. Both women grinned. 

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James Ellis arrived at the Summers’ house with his wife, taken the kitchen door and headed immediately for the basement room where they were staying. Cecilia went into the sitting room and blinked to see two old men talking. “Err... Good afternoon. I assume this is Dr. Winchester?” She asked Jon, who nodded.

“Yes indeed. Cecelia, this is Charles Winchester. Charles, you remember Cecelia Ellis? Paisley's wife.”

Charles Winchester rose and extended a well kept surgeons' hand at her. “Mrs. Ellis, a pleasure to see you again. Might I inquire where Paisley is?”

“He really does not like that nickname, you know,” Cecelia bristled.

“We are aware of the fact. We are also aware of the fact he has been dodging his duty and responsibilities to his people.”

“Duties and responsibilities? Duties and responsibilities? He RETIRED! Leave him alone!”

“He retired from being a Native American?” Charles asked sceptically. “I wasn't aware that was possible.”

“What?” Cecelia asked, confused.

“Is he downstairs? We need to have a word with him.”

“Yes he is, but...”

The old men rose and headed for the basement, Cecelia following, her face grim. “You had better not hurt him.”

“We won't, we just want to make certain he understands,” Jon assured her. He knocked on the door and opened it before James could respond.

Charles glared at the younger man. “Tomorrow we observe Veterans Day, and Saturday as well. You will be there, in full uniform, and you will wear it proudly.”

“I have nothing to be proud of!” James replied bitterly.

“Paisley -”

“DON’T CALL ME THAT! DON'T FUCKING CALL ME THAT!” James shouted.

“Why not? You earned the name,” Jon replied quietly. “Do you think it is easy, boy? To be alive when they are all dead? To wonder who would have been born of them, if they had lived and not you? Oh yes, you know that. But you have not given them their due, boy; you have not given them their honour. You have taken that from them and ducked your responsibility.”

“I have never ducked any of my responsibilities!” James bristled.

“Haven't you? Who remembers the Rounders today if you will not tell them? Who remembers your platoon, Paisley? Who remembers what they did at Inchon, and Chosin? Who remembers the assault on the 4077th M*A*S*H? Who remembers their sacrifice, not as one who was saved but as one who fought?” Charles leaned forward, speaking earnestly. “Who will remember Barney Hobart, Huey Lomm and John Brother if not you? Have you spoken their names at schools? Held up their examples to graduates of West Point or Boot camp trainees? No, you have hidden in your guilt. You have hidden yourself, and with it them. For shame, James.”

“I killed them all,” James whispered, stricken.

“No, the demons killed them, you led them and they followed, and you, all of you saved the camp. Do you think Erin Hunnicutt blames you? Or Sherman Klinger? Or any of the children and grandchildren of the other people you saved? Your men could have stayed behind, James. They chose not to,” Charles encouraged.

“It’s easy for you to say-”

“How many men of my battalion do you think I buried after Gold, James?” Jon said sharply. “How many of my friends from Cambridge do you think died in the trenches? Have you ever heard of Pals battalions? All of us, in a single battalion. Most of them died the first time over the top, three days after we arrived. Don't talk to me about survivors’ guilt.”

James winced. “But what good will it do?”

Charles exchanged a look with Jon. “People will remember, and we will remember people. That is why we do it, James. Not just for us, but for the ones who cannot be there anymore.”

“Memorial Day is for the dead, Veterans Day is for all of us, Paisley. It is our day to cry, to remember our friends, our fallen, and even our honourable foes. And to inspire the young. Do you really think your people – your tribe – cannot use a little inspiration?”

James lowered his head in thought and then lifted his gaze. “My… uniform… is in Imperial.”

Jon nodded. “We'll ask Hurst to send someone. Charles?”

Charles nodded and went back upstairs. Cecelia sat at the Island, a frightened look on her face. “Is he alright? I heard shouting.”

“He's fine. Would you mind if Hurst fetched his uniform?”

Cecelia blinked. “He's going to...?”

“Yes,” Charles replied quietly.

Cecelia rose and then nodded. “Tell whoever is going to get it to come to me, they'll need some keys and such.”

“Of course. Thank you.”

Cecelia smiled, grimly. “Not even Coltec could make him face this particular demon. It is high time he did so. Thank you.”

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The three men looked at the heavy plastic. Sawing worked, as did melting, but both overloaded the air ducts, which tended to malfunction. The lights had gone out, and the electricity. They had had to lay a special cable from an external generator to power the drills and saws.

The smoke was toxic and the dust clogged in the lungs. It was not a good place to work, here in the inner rooms of Sunnydale Research, when the dust was flying or the smoke circling. That meant that the work went slowly. Yet they had only a few more inches to go until they reached the second steel door.

“It’s like the place is haunted,” the first man grumbled.

“Murphy's law in action. I don't think I've ever been on a job where so many things went wrong,” the third one stated.

“I still think we need a bigger hammer,” the second one replied.

There was a momentary silence, and then the third and first men slapped the second against the back of his head.

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Sean Bottley entered Revello Drive 1627 quietly and with an unusually grave expression on his face.

“Hey, Sean. How was Imperial?”

“Surprising. Mrs. Ellis told me quite clearly where I could find what I needed. But I didn't realize why I was being sent until I saw it.”

“Saw what?”

Sean opened the small aluminum suitcase he was carrying and took out a flat velvet box, which he reverently put on the table and then opened. “This.”

Stunned silence was all that greeted the sight of the contents of the case.

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“Miss Clarice?” Hurst looked slightly confused at the person standing in the bodyguard’s living room. “Can I help you?”

“Hurst, I’m bein’ followed,” Clarice stated quietly.

Hurst rubbed his chin. “Press?”

“No, a man from the cookery course, Ted Buchanan. There is somethin’ – something - *off* about him.”

Hurst blinked, noting that Clarice was falling into the Virginia speech pattern she usually schooled herself way from so carefully, a sure sign of agitation. *Right. Trained FBI agent and profiler, trained psychologist and Dr. Meier’s younger sister. Better look into this guy, right now.*

“I’ll ask the back office to look into it. You might want to ask Miss Willow to have a look as well. After you talk to Ms. Summers,” Hurst added judiciously.

Clarice grinned. “Wouldn’t want my niece to have trouble sittin’ – sitting - again, now would we? I’ll ask Joyce. Thanks, Hurst.”

“Thanks for the warning, Miss Clarice.”

Clarice sighed. “I don’t suppose I could get you to call me Agent Starling? Or Miss Starling? I feel like a ten year old when you call me that.”

Hurst’s lips twitched. “Sorry, no can do. Doctor’s orders, Miss Clarice.”

Clarice’s eyes narrowed. “I shall go have a word with my brother then.”

“You do that, Miss Clarice.”

Muttering about annoying older brothers Clarice left.

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“Buffy? Could you come in here for a minute?” Joyce called out to her eldest daughter as Buffy was about to leave for the Bronze, her hair in an elaborate Japanese hairstyle, with her new kanzashi stuck through the central bun. She wore tight fitting black jeans and a short-sleeved red and black Chinese shirt, tied at the waist, which went to mid thigh. Soft, black calf-high boots were on her feet. Around her neck was a leather thong from which a netsuke hung suspended and Angel’s leather jacket went over the whole ensemble.

“But, Mom! You told me I could go to the Bronze!” Buffy whined.

Joyce sighed. “You can, later. Please?”

Buffy stomped into the dining room and blinked at the people present. Simon, Giles, Angel and Jon Carnahan, all looking very serious. A small, but rather thick leather bound volume lay on the table. The room, to Buffy’s sensitive nose, smelled slightly of very old Billy goat. Joyce closed the door behind them. “Please sit down, sweetie.” Joyce sat down next to her.

Buffy sat down. “Am I in trouble?”

To Buffy’s great shock, Joyce started to cry. Simon was at her side in an instant.

“What did I say? Mom?” Buffy asked anxiously.

Giles coughed and took off his glasses. “Buffy… this book… It is called the Pergamum Codex, and it contains many prophecies concerning Slayers. All of them so far have come true.” Giles opened the book and Buffy could see it was written in the Greek alphabet and that the pages had two columns of dense, spiky handwriting.  

“What does it say?” she whispered, knowing from her mother’s reaction that it would not be anything good.

“It says that you will face the Master and die,” Jon answered bluntly. “Which has got Giles and Liam here all in a tizzy.”

Buffy gaped at the man. “And not you? Y-You don’t care?”

Jon snorted. “Of course I care, girl.” He reached into his pocket. “Here is the reason they've waited until now to tell you.” He handed her some folded sheets of paper and Buffy unfolded them mechanically and read them, her brow wrinkling.

“Those are translations from the Book of Osiris. In case you were wondering, all of those have come to fruition. Myself, my sister, and my brother-in-law are still very much alive. Not to mention Alex, my nephew, and his assorted offspring.”

 Buffy blinked and looked up from the pages she was reading. “This says you should’ve died. When did all this happen?”

“The first happened in Egypt, nineteen-twenty-six. Again, as you can see, I’m still alive.” Jon gestured at himself. “And relatively well preserved. Nevertheless, it was a shock to your mother, quite understandably so, that there are prophecies like this.”

Buffy looked thoughtfully at the old man. “So why aren't you dead?”

Jon grinned and opened his mouth. Simon glared. “If you say clean living, Jon, you will be in trouble.”

Jon sighed. “Very well then, unclean living. And lots of training.”

Simon nodded. “We want to step up your training, I'll ask Hurst to coordinate with Rupert. Together I’m sure that we can work out a schedule that will let you beat the crap out of the Master.”

“Simon, language,” Joyce managed through her tears.

Buffy gave her mother a watery grin. “Sorry, Mom, but right now I’m thinking way worse.”

“Thinking is not the same as speaking, Buffy. So, well done.” Joyce returned the grin, in an equally watery way.

Buffy turned to Jon. “So training and stuff let you live to be a hundred and ten?” she asked sceptically.

“A hundred and one, but no. Actually we think it has to do with the enormous amounts of life giving magic that we've come into contact with. The training just helped us live through the battles, though Rick was always the best in actual combat situations. I was mostly support. And comic relief. However I must admit I've been feeling my age a bit lately. Slowing down and such.”

Simon raised an eyebrow. “Really? From what Colonel O'Neill told me you're still very much the same.”

Jon huffed on his nails and buffed them on his lapel, checking them for flaws. “I admit to being... virile.” He smirked at Buffy. “So I'm alive and have sex, two of the-”

“EEEEEEEEEEEWWWWW REALLY, REALLY, REALLY OLD PEOPLE SEX!!! EEEWWWWWW!!!” Buffy had her eyes tightly closed and her hands over her ears. “I'm not listening! I’m not seeing! NAnanaNAnanaNNannananananana!”

Joyce laughed away her remaining tears. “Nice diversion.” She dried her face and tapped Buffy, who was singing, on the shoulder. “Come on, Buffy, it’s time for you to go to the Bronze.”

Buffy nodded, cast a glance at Jon, shuddered and practically ran out the door, muttering about disinfecting her eyeballs, ears and sticking her brain in a bucket of acid to burn off the memories. Simon shook his head in amusement as he looked at the departing mother and daughter. “You are an evil, evil old man, Jon.”

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The Bronze was quite full for a Thursday, since the students had the next day off from school. Buffy sat playing with her drink, and Willow and Xander were sitting beside her, Dave sitting beside Willow.

“So the book says you are gonna die?”

“Yeah, but Grandpa Jon told me that I shouldn't believe it, because he was supposed to have been killed dozens of times already.”

Xander shuddered. “And then he told you he had sex?”

Buffy groaned and the other teens winced. Willow paled. “Can we stop talking about that?” the redhead pleaded.

“Yeah, sorry, it’s just, he's so old! I mean, he's way older even than Gran and Grandpa James.” Xander's eyes crossed. “Do you think they still have sex? And Nana Morry?”

“EEEEEEWWW! XANDER!!!!” Willow and Buffy chorused while Dave winced again.

In a shadow by a nearby pillar Angel lurked, listening. When the conversation turned to convincing Willow that breaking Joyce's injunction and drinking coffee was a bad idea, the vampire quietly left.

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The car drew up in front of 1630 Revello Drive. The man behind the wheel sat looking at the house for a few minutes. Then he got out. The bodyguards noted his appearance, photographed him for future reference and stood ready to intervene. The man walked up the path, climbed the porch steps and after looking at the door for a minute or two, rang the doorbell.  

Joyce rose from her position against Simon, Charles and Dawn were playing chess, or at least Dawn and Kit were playing and Charles was coaching Kit who, still weary from the magic used to cure her, was nodding and drowsy. Jon was on the other couch, with Evy leaning against him, reading from one of the fictionalized accounts of his life. Arlene, with Evy's feet on her lap, was reading the Army regulations on single mothers.

She went to the door in stockinged feet, looked out through the side windows and gasped. She opened the door and glared, the man backed up an involuntary step at her expression. Joyce took a deep breath and stepped out onto the porch, closing the door behind her. “You have a Hell of a lot of nerve showing up here, Hank Summers!”

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Angel looked at the small amount of light that shone out through the Sunnydale High Library dome. Then he went to the back door of the stacks, used the key he had duplicated and sneaked inside. Rupert Giles was seated at the central research table, reading. Piles of books were scattered on it and enlarged photocopies of the text of the Pergamum Codex, marked with Giles' neat handwriting, lay interspersed with Greek reference books and lesser books of Prophecy.

“Giles?”

Giles started from his work and looked at Angel over his glasses. “Angel? What are you doing here? How do you get in here?” the Watcher asked in exasperation.

“Stealth. I went to your place first. I don't think you liked that conversation any better than I did.”   

“I must admit I was hoping Lord Carnahan would take the matter more seriously, as I had hoped Dr. Meier would have,” Giles admitted.

“We need to take steps. The training they have in mind, it won't be enough. If we want Buffy to live, if we can beat the Pergamum Codex, which I doubt, she will need to be the best trained slayer ever.”

Giles nodded solemnly, “I fear you are correct. I-I do not think Buffy will survive an encounter with the Master. But we should give her a true fighting chance, with as much training as can be fitted into each day.”

Angel nodded, “Agreed. I suggest we, you and I, coordinate. I help train her in combat, patrol with her. You train her as well. You might also want to increase her studies, to help her realize the gravity of the situation. She and the other children seem primarily focused on the fact that their elders have sex.”

Giles pursed his lips. “That does seem to be an inappropriate focus of their attention, yes...”

“Do you think we can manage to do this without Dr. Meier and Ms. Summers finding out?”

“He told Buffy he would let you coordinate it with Hurst. I’m sure between us we can convince her that Dr. Meier and Ms. Summer are in full agreement with her training regimen.”

Giles looked pained. “You mean lie to her? I don't think I like that idea.”

“I don't particularly like it myself,” Angel admitted. “But I canna see any other solution. I wish I did. I really do.”

Giles nodded and took off his glasses to polish. “I fear I agree.”

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Joyce crossed her arms. Hank slumped. “Yeah, I know. Can I see Buffy and Dawn?”

Joyce leaned forward. “Yes, you can. The court gave you access, though why, since you do not seem to want it… You’ve hurt them Hank, badly. If you ever do it again…”

Hank swallowed. He had been on the receiving end of Joyce’s temper, and the memories were not good.

“I won’t. I swear.”

Joyce nodded grudgingly and opened the door beckoning him in. “Dawnie? There’s someone here to see you.”

Hank looked sideways to the small table where his youngest daughter was sitting, and smiled.

Dawn looked up from the chess board, her face going pale, her expression a mix of hope, fear and uncertainty.

Hank swallowed and remained standing, to allow Dawn to make the first move.

Dawn bit her lip and rose and walked slowly to the door, her eyes moving from the seated figure of Simon, who nodded encouragingly, to Hank. She stopped next to her mother and then crossed her arms, but not angrily, defensively, as if bracing herself for pain.

Hank winced at the sight. He looked at Dawn. “Hello Dawn. I'm sorry I hurt you... very, very sorry, Dawn. With your mother's permission I’d like to take you and Buffy to LA for the weekend.”

Dawn opened her mouth and then closed it. “Why? You don't care,” she finally said in a tiny voice.

Hank winced again and looked pleadingly at Joyce. Joyce shook her head, making it very clear he was on his own.

Hank took a deep breath. “I care, honey. I love you. I love Buffy. I-I was just being stupid.”

“So what stopped you being stupid?” Dawn inquired.

Hank flushed. “When I didn't show up last time, after that weekend, I had a case, and I’d prepared a brief. Mr. Massey had intended to ask for a period of arbitration, to see if the problem could be resolved, and if that failed to have more time to complete the brief. So when I showed up with the brief, he asked me how I had managed to finish it. And I told him. And he told me I was an idiot,” Hank smiled. “And I was.” He took a deep breath. “And now I’m hoping to make up for it. Please?”

Dawn looked at her mother, Joyce looked at Hank and then at Dawn. “It's your choice, Pumpkin.”

Dawn chewed her lower lip. “Okay. I'll go with you.” She stepped forward and so did Hank.

He drew her in his arms. “I'm sorry Dawn, I'm very, very sorry.”

Dawn sniffled. Joyce glared at Hank, but also gave him a grudging nod of approval.

Dawn disengaged and drew Hank into the house. “Okay, now you have to meet people. This is Kit. She's my new sister. This is Grandpa Charles. He's sorta Simon's Dad, so he is Grandpa. This is Simon, he's err...”

“I read about Dr. Meier in the paper,” Hank said uneasily, as he shook Simon's hand.

Simon nodded. “Mr. Summers, good to finally make your acquaintance.”

Hank nodded in return. “Pleasure.”

Dawn drew her father away and towards the other couch. “You know Aunt Arlene, and this is Evy, her daughter.”

Evy almost shrank into the couch. Hank looked inquisitively at Arlene, who shook her head almost invisibly and then rose to shake Hank's hand.

“And this is Grandpa Jon, he's Evy's great-grandfather. We sorta adopted him.” Dawn smiled at the old man, who grinned at her and then rose to shake Hank's hand.

“You’re in luck, young man,” Jon said in a low voice. “Cecelia and Pais- James are out for dinner, apparently a tradition.”

Hank swallowed. “Cecelia is here?”

Joyce smiled, just a little evilly. “Yes. I'm sure she will want to have a word or two with you. As will Dad...”  

Hank winced. “It will be a pleasure.” He glanced at Arlene, and then at Evy. “Daughter?”

“Jack’s. I was stupid,” Arlene declared in a voice that officially declared the subject closed.

Evy shrunk in on herself and Arlene sat down and hugged her. “Not to have you, silly, that I ever let you go. No matter what, I should never have done that.”

Hank looked at the pair and then at Dawn “Yeah. I know the feeling.”

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Buffy looked at her watch. “I gotta book, patrol.”

“Yeah, I saw Bchenka by the door.” Willow bit her lip. “You don't mind us not coming along?”

Buffy snorted. “Will, have you forgotten that untrained patrolling is a spankable offense?”

Willow blushed. “No I hadn't! I was just...” She waved a hand. “You know, we began this together...”

“And as soon as you and Xand are up to the level that Hurst has specified you can come along,” Buffy declared, before wincing. “I just wish he’d let up a bit. I'm actually bruised after some of those exercises.”

“Which heal up after an hour or day at most,” Xander pointed out. “Which would be very nice to have, if it wasn't part and parcel of the whole Slayer gig.”

 Willow nodded sagely. “Yeah, imagine the potential for medical breakthroughs if we could harness it.”

“Yeah, well, sorry Wills, I'm not volunteering to be a guinea pig.”

Willow pouted. “Guinea pigs are cute. I'd like a guinea pig.”

Buffy rolled her eyes and smirked. “You got your fishes.”

“Fish. And, yeah, they're pretty neat, but I'd like something I could hug and pet,” Willow pointed out.

Xander smirked. “Dave, that's your cue.”

Dave grinned and put his arm around Willow, who leaned in and smiled up at him. Buffy looked at the couple enviously and then at Xander who was doing the same. Then she shrugged.

“Eh, whatever. I gotta go stake some vamps.”

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 Buffy sighed as she mounted her mother's bike, the saddle as low as it could go. “Guess it was too good to be true to hope for a replacement.” She muttered and set off for the first of the patrol goals, Heavenly Joys Cemetery. She wasn't quite certain what was heavenly, or joyful, about being buried beneath a bunch of conifers, but apparently it was one of Sunnydale's most popular burial sites. Not that that was saying much, as the dead tended to rise in a wholly different way than the people who got buried there expected.

She parked and locked her bike and checked her stakes, both in her pockets and the ancient ones in her hair. She drew a small notebook from her jacket and checked it. “Robert Trenton. Well, Bob, you and me and a pointy thing have an appointment.” She sighed. “Some date.”

“Would you like to make it a foursome?”

Buffy whirled round. “Angel! What are you doing here?”

“Helping you patrol?”

“Oh. Okay.” Buffy pointed. “That way to Bob.”

“Buffy...” Angel lightly took her shoulder, then placed his hands on her cheeks and very lightly kissed her lips. “After the patrol, we should talk.”

Buffy's eyes were wide and Angel could feel her heart beat very fast. Looking into her moss green eyes he smiled. “Come on, let’s go see to Bob.”

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Bob was dust and so were several other fledglings. Giles and Willow did report a worrying number of missing persons rather than deaths, which meant that the Master was probably working on the expansion of his forces.

“So... err... talk?” Buffy began.

“Buffy, I know I'm probably not the boyfriend you are looking for, or the one your mother wants you to bring home-”

“Simon would prefer to lock us girls in the basement and not let us out for a decade or three. Mom's more reasonable. She thinks one decade is sufficient,” Buffy huffed.

“Buffy, I'm two hundred and fifty years older than you, and I'm a formerly murderous vampire. Those are good reasons to object to me as a boyfriend,” Angel pointed out reasonably. “They want what is best for you. I want what is best for you.” He looked at the ground, and then took Buffy's hands. “But I admit I’m selfish. I-I'd like for us to try, Buffy.”

Buffy bit her lip. “Vampire and vampire Slayer,” she smiled. “You realize there's gonna be talk about this?”

“My reputation isn’t all that great anyway, but I do keep in mind Dr. Meier's words.”

“What words?” Buffy asked sharply.

“That I would not be a happy man if I hurt you.” *Not a man at all, but let’s not go there.*

“Oh. Okay.” Buffy looked at their clasped hands. “Now what?”

“Shall I walk you home?” Angel asked. “Or I could cycle and you could sit on the carrier...”

Buffy grinned. “I thought older boyfriends were supposed to have cars,” she teased.

Angel smiled back ruefully. “I do have a car. It's a wreck and has no insurance. Your mother would kill me if I took you out in it.” *There’s a good chance she is going to do it anyway…*

“Ask Xander to look at it, he's getting pretty good with cars,” Buffy suggested.

“Xander doesn’t like me,” Angel pointed out as they set off at a leisurely walk towards the bike.

“Xander has this thing against vampires. So do I, as a matter of fact. Present company excepted, of course,” she added quickly.

“Your mother won't be very happy...”

Buffy sighed. “No, she won't. But she’ll give you a chance. And Simon, well, you were friends with his grandparents.”

Angel sighed. “Yes. But I failed there too.”

“Hey, hey! No mister depressed Angel! You just got a gorgeous girl as a girlfriend! No mopeyness allowed!”

Angels smiled. “True. Gorgeous girl?“

“If you don't say it, I’ll have to do it myself,” Buffy asserted.

Angel nodded. “I’ll make certain you never have to do so again.” He held out his hand and Buffy took it; they walked on, swinging their hands between them. “You are beautiful,” Angel said, and Buffy blushed.

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Buffy arrived home, feeling excited and apprehensive. Angel had kissed her good night out of sight of the house, but the bodyguards would have seen them, and she wasn't sure if this counted as something they would report. So she had better tell her Mom and Simon. She took a deep breath and opened the door. “Mom! I'm home!”

“Hello, honey, could you come in here?” Joyce called out from the living room.

Buffy headed there and stopped, surprised. “Dad?”

Hank rose. “Hello, Buffy.”

Buffy took a tentative step forward. “Why are you here?”

Hank winced at the near repeat of the scene with Dawn. “To beg forgiveness. And I'd like to take you and Dawn to LA for the weekend. The Icecapades are there...”

“I-I...” Buffy looked at Joyce and then at the floor. “Yes,” she said in a small voice.

Joyce sighed and grabbed Buffy’s arm. “Excuse us a minute.” She smiled at Hank and dragged Buffy away into the dining room.

Buffy flinched as her mother very carefully closed the door and then faced her, a stern expression on her face. “Buffy Anne Summers, there is nothing to be ashamed over about loving your father!”

Buffy blinked. “What?”

“Your father is a good man who has made mistakes. If he’s willing to own up to them and make amends, I see absolutely no reason why you should not enjoy his company. Now go out there and give him the hug you wanted to when you first saw him.”

Buffy blinked again, opened her mouth and then closed it, her eyes on her mother in sheer amazement. “But-but he cheated on you! He had me institutionalized!”

Joyce flinched. “Yes, he did. But he still loves you, and Dawn. And, Buffy, don’t deny that you’ve wanted him to come back. Wanted him in your life?”

Buffy bit her lip. “You really won’t mind?”

“Buffy, he is your father and he was my husband and for a long time, he was a good one. He won’t ever be my husband again, but if he wants to be your father, well, I certainly won’t object. Quite the contrary.”

Buffy smiled and ran over to Joyce to hug her. “Thanks, Mom.”

“Good. And now tell me what had you worried when you came in,” Joyce smiled into Buffy’s hair as her eldest daughter stiffened.

Buffy groaned and rested her head against her mother’s shoulder. “Angel will need to come over for dinner,” she finally whispered.

Joyce groaned. “I thought you were over him?”

Buffy shook her head. “Apparently, I wasn’t.”

 Joyce sighed. “Oh, Buffy…”

“I’m sorry, Mom,” Buffy whispered again, her voice choked.

“It’s not your fault, Buffy. We cannot help who we love.” *I just hope you won’t get hurt. And I shall have a very long and clear conversation with Mr. O’Connell about that.*

“But you aren’t happy…”

Joyce snorted. “Well, would you be? You are fifteen years old, and don’t tell me you’re nearly sixteen, I know exactly how old you are! Liam was born more than two-hundred and fifty years ago. I can’t deny I like older men myself, but that is sort of pushing it,” Joyce smiled, taking the sting out of her words. “So forgive me if I am a little upset. You’re lucky I don’t ask Simon to have him deported to Ireland or something, or tell him to come back when you are eighteen. Or a hundred and eighteen.”

Buffy groaned. “Mom, I know, okay? I know. It’s just… I feel so…”

“Horny?” Joyce asked dryly.

“NO!” Buffy felt she was blushing beet red from the top of her head to the soles of her feet.

“Good.” Joyce’s voice was severe. “I’m allowing this relationship, but only under very strict guidelines. Which I will make very clear to both of you will contain very little physical contact. Because there most certainly will not be any of that for many years, is that understood?”

“MOM!” Buffy had felt that no embarrassment could be worse than the previous exchange. She had obviously been wrong.

“Buffy, if he was twenty-two, you would be grounded for a year and he would be in jail for molesting a minor! The only reason that is not the case is because of the special conditions of this relationship. I’m expecting him to keep his hands off you, except for the occasional chaste kiss, until you are at least eighteen. Do you understand me, young lady?”

Buffy nodded, her eyes wide and her face pale. “Yes, Mom.”

Joyce sighed and hugged Buffy again. “I wish I could give you free rein Buffy, but one of the responsibilities of a parent is to lay down rules. There are many ways in which you can be hurt, some of which I can’t protect you from, others, like this one, I can. I know you feel like I’m being unfair, but you have to understand that… Well, he’s not quite what I had in mind when I think of possible partners for you.” 

Buffy sighed. “I know. I know. But I really want to try. My life is seriously messed up, and, well, he knows everything,” she leaned in closer and Joyce hugged her. “Mom, I don’t even understand what’s happening, or what I should tell Dad. But I feel drawn to Angel.”

“I know honey, I know. Don’t worry about your father, for the weekend, just be Buffy. Nothing else, not the Slayer, just Buffy.” *If you still can.*

Buffy nodded, biting her lip. “Thanks, Mom.” She let go of her mother and headed back to the sitting room. Hank was pacing worriedly, right up until the moment that Buffy hugged him.

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The boxes were being carried in from the van, having been taken from one of the rooms behind the Gallery where they had been shoved, willy-nilly, after the move from LA to Sunnydale. Not even the toughest bodyguard had objected that this was not part of their job description when Cecelia Ellis had firmly told them to help carry. Dawn hissed as she saw one particular box and grabbed Bchenka, who was carrying it, by the arm. “Take that up to… err… Willow’s room, put it in the closet.”

Bchenka looked as if he was about to protest, but at Dawn’s pleading look, trudged obediently up the stairs and returned a minute or two later, empty-handed. Dawn looked immensely relieved.

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Friday, November 10th, Observation of Veterans Day

Principal Snyder looked with some satisfaction at the flag snapping in the breeze. This year the main ceremonies for Veterans Day was being held on the square in front Sunnydale Town Hall, but he had insisted that the school’s pupils attend a ‘gathering of respect’. He looked down at his uniform. He had never risen above the rank of corporal and had been invalided out after he was injured, but he was proud of having been a soldier, even if only a Quartermaster. He gently touched the single Purple Heart on his chest, next to his service pins. He’d earned those. He stepped up to the gate and grinned as he saw the students arrive, later than usual, but still there. Still his. *Maybe I should found a military school, or join one,* Snyder mused.

They entered, boisterous and noisy and annoying as always. *Children. I hate Children.*

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The square and the streets leading up to it were quite full, and the great flagpole carried the Stars and Stripes proudly. It had made driving a bit difficult, and parking a nightmare.

Hank had driven himself, Dawn and Buffy to Joyce’s Gallery, where a number of events were planned throughout the day. The girls’ bags were in the car and they would leave immediately after the first event. The entire inventory of the Gallery’s showrooms had been removed, so that it was clear that there was not commercial intent. The walls had been hung with flags, photographs and copies of unit badges. Emptying the showroom had led to an overflow of boxes in the storerooms and even into the three garages and basements now at Joyce’s disposal. Hank smiled slightly. No matter what she might say, there had always been something of the packrat to Joyce.

Willow was walking down the street, hand in hand with Dave, with the elder Kirbys behind them. Dawn spotted them and waved enthusiastically, Willow dragging an amused Dave, quickly came over. “Dawn, Buffy. Dawnie, why was that box in my room? Mom said that everything was to go into the garage. I had to carry it down myself!”

Dawn winced. “Oh, great. Couldn’t you have asked first and moved then?” she sighed.

Buffy bit her lip. Hank shuddered. “The Box of Doom?” he asked Dawn, who nodded.

“Box of Doom?” Willow asked confused and a little frightened at her sisters’ behaviour. “What’s in it? O-or do I want to know? Is-is it really bad?” 

Buffy looked around to see where Joyce was, realized she was still at home, probably and then leaned in to Willow. “Mom’s thesis,” Buffy whispered.

Willow blinked and then glared at the three Summerses. “Her thesis? You’re acting as if it was a, a thing of evil!” Her voice was not loud but Buffy, Dawn and Hank all acted as if she was speaking nuclear secrets at the top of her voice in Tehran.

“It is,” Dawn whispered. “It’s her Ph.D. thesis, she never finished it, something went wrong right near the end, and every time she sees it she either gets depressed or angry and I mean a full on Johnson tantrum.”

Willow bit her lip. “Should I call and tell one of the BG’s to put it back? And why my closet?”

Dawn rolled her eyes. “Duh! ‘Cause Mom is a neat freak and checks closets to see if we treat our clothes right. She always puts Buffy’s shoes straight…”

“And Dawn’s sweaters,” Buffy interjected, making clear the fault was not merely hers.

“And your closets are so neat, well, Mom doesn’t check them.”

Hank nodded in admiration. “Well thought out.”

Dawn glowed at his praise and then slumped. “Yeah, but I should have told Willow. If Mom sees The Box…”

Willow hugged her baby sister soothingly, and Hank noted the gesture with a confused and speculative look. “It’ll be fine, Dawnie. Don’t worry.”

Dawn bit her lip. “But if she gets angry, we’ll be gone and she’ll be angry with you…”

Willow’s mouth quirked. “Dad’s there and Gran. And Granddad. I think that between them they can keep Mom civil.”

Hank listened to the exchange, and wondered how long it would take for his daughters to call Joyce’s new man ‘Dad’ as well. 

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“Simon! Get a move on!” Joyce called out, her face slightly apprehensive. Clarice was fidgeting beside her; Amy was lounging on the couch, an amused grin on her face. Xander was beside her, wearing a suit and a put upon expression. Patrick, dressed in a Marine Sergeant’s dress uniform, lounged in one of the big chairs.

“Looking forward to seeing him in uniform?” Amy teased gently.

To her surprise Joyce flushed while Clarice giggled. Joyce was saved from further embarrassment by the sound of Jon coming up the basement stairs. “I assure you, Evy, that I will be fine.”

“Jack told me to make sure you used your wheelchair and you wouldn’t overtire yourself,” Evy said in a firm tone of voice that made Joyce and Clarice exchange looks.

“I assure you I am quite capable of judging for myself what risks to take, thank you,” Jon replied with dignity and a twinkle in his eyes.

“That’s not what Jack says,” Evy stated bluntly. “And he told me to keep you away from pretty young archaeologists,” she tilted her head. “Is that something Buffy would scream about?”

Jon smirked. “Definitely. Now, why don’t we get to the car…” 

“Wheelchair, Grandpa Jon. No dodging,” Evy insisted in a calm voice.

“Evelyn Philippa Amanda Ellis, I am shocked and surprised you think I would dodge,” Jon said in a put upon voice as he ambled into the foyer.

He wore black trousers with a broad red piping on the outside of the legs, a scarlet jacket, a polished silver helmet with a horse tail attached to it and a slew of medals and ribbons, including a blue and red one around his neck. His epaulets carried two diamond shaped pips below a crown. Xander rose and studied the get up, while Amy tried to refrain from laughing.

“Well, that is different…” Xander noted.

“This one’s for show. For combat, I assure you, a member of the Life Guard would wear a much more modern uniform. This is, however, the dress uniform of my Regiment,” Jon said with quiet dignity, and still a twinkle in his eye. “I’m rather glad not to be a Coldstream, those bear hats are blo-” Joyce cleared her throat and Jon continued. “Quite warm.”

Patrick sniggered, and then turned out a textbook salute. “Sir!”

Clarice smiled, her eyes rather dreamy as she took in Patrick’s stance and the way his uniform fit him, until Joyce prodded her with an elbow. Clarice blushed and then turned to Jon. “I can imagine, though the helmet doesn’t look all that comfortable either.”

There was a knock and then the front door opened. Kit came in, almost dragging Charles, who wore an old fashioned army dress uniform with a colonel’s full bird on his collar.

“Ooohh! Pretty!” Kit exclaimed on seeing Jon. Charles started to laugh at Jon’s put upon expression.

There was a slight stumble and then Arlene came up the basement stairs, in full uniform. She smirked and looked up the stairs and then at Joyce. “He kicked you out?”  

Joyce pouted. “He said he wanted it to be a surprise.”

Arlene leaned in, looked around and then whispered, just loud enough for Joyce and Clarice to hear. “He wanted to be able to get it on before you tore it off him, you mean…”

Xander, Amy and Evy groaned.

Joyce blushed scarlet and Clarice sighed, before whispering as well. “Wonderful. My sister has a uniform fetish.”

“Clarice!” Joyce hissed. “I do not have a uni- oh… wow…”

Simon walked down the stairs, the two stars of a major general on his shoulders, his ribbons clearly visible on his chest.

Patrick gave him one look and sprang to attention again. “Sir, General Meier, sir!”

“At ease, Patrick. You’re retired, remember. So am I for that matter,” Simon eyed the wide-eyed Joyce rather warily as she made her way over to him.

“Hello, soldier…” she almost purred.

Simon took a step back. *Note to self. Wear this when we are alone!* “Joyce?” he asked mildly.

“Joyce, behave.” Arlene stepped between Joyce and her younger sister’s target and saw the slight disappointed pout on Joyce’s face, as well as the glint of evil amusement in her eyes. She leaned forward. “You can torment him later,” Arlene whispered.

Joyce sighed and checked her watch. “Well, we need to get going. Is Dad ready?”

“Mom said they might be late,” Arlene looked worried. “I hope he’ll be alright…”

Joyce shook her head. “I still don’t understand why he hates Veterans Day so much. I’ve never known him to wear the uniform.” She looked at Arlene, who shook her head as well.

“Me neither. Dad just hung up the uniform and never looked back, that’s all Mom would say.”

“Because it reminds him of the ones who are dead on a day he is alive and being honoured, which is worse than being reminded of the ones who are dead on a day they are,” Jon offered quietly.

Kit smiled. “I can hear ‘m now.”

Cecelia came into view first, wearing a dark blue dress. James followed eyes downcast. His old fashioned dress uniform was in excellent condition, a fact that surprised his daughters. On his chest were numerous medals: the Korean Service medal, the Korean Defence Service Medal, a Purple Heart with two gold Award Stars, a number of good conduct and meritorious service medals, a sharp shooter award, two Bronze Stars, and a small, sky blue ribbon with five stars upon it. Around his neck was a ribbon of the same colour, and suspended from it, a golden medal. Simon saluted, as did Charles and a moment later, Jon.

Joyce, Arlene and Clarice merely looked on in astonishment. After a long, shocked moment, Arlene remembered herself and snapped to attention, saluting even as she stared.

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“XANDER!! OVER HERE!!” Dawn shouted at the brunet boy. Hank shook his head at the ease with which the youngsters interacted as family. Dawn treated Willow as a sister, he could see that, and the way Xander hugged her and Buffy; that was a brother’s hug. For a second Hank felt jealousy, as he envied Joyce this, her new, large family... her protective son.

*Don’t delude yourself, Hank. You would never have taken them in. You would have found too many logical objections, too many obstacles, too many laws and regulations.*

“So, why were you late?” Dawn asked, and Willow and Buffy echoed the question with simultaneous ‘yeah!’s

“It takes time to get into uniform.” Xander looked around, noting that the street was mostly empty but that there was a contingent of JROTC cadets marching towards them. “Here, things are about to start. You’ll see.”

“See what, Harris? And what are you doing here?” Cordelia demanded as she sauntered up, Harmony and some of the other Cordettes in tow.

“Unlike my biological father my real father is a Veteran, and so is my grandfather, both of them. I have a reason to be here beyond ogling men in uniform.”

Cordelia bristled. “I am not here just to ogle uniforms!”

“Not just here, no. She’s also thinking about joining the JROTC so she can ogle more boys in uniform,” Harmony supplied.

Cordelia groaned. “HARMONY!”

Harmony bit her lip. “Oh, that was one of those things I wasn’t supposed to say, right?”

Buffy and Willow laughed, but not unkindly. Willow glanced at Dave, a speculative gleam in her eye.

Dave crossed his arms defiantly. “No. I’m not a military kind of guy. Sorry, Willow.”

Willow pouted, but then got a wicked grin. “How about boy scouts? I know you were one of them…”

Cordelia grinned at the highly discomfited Dave, and then her mouth fell open.

“Holy shit,” she gasped, her voice filled with awe. “Medal of Honor.”

The others turned and saw a cluster of uniforms approach, one resplendent in scarlet but seated in a wheelchair, and one indeed wearing the pale blue ribbon that denoted the Medal of Honor.

“I thought I knew all the veterans in Sunnydale. Who are they? Did they come to visit your father, Harris?” Cordelia demanded to know.

“No. That’s Grandpa James. The one in the chair is Colonel Carnahan, he has a V.C. That’s the British Medal of Honor,” Xander replied quietly. “I’m not entirely sure why everybody keeps showing up, but I think it’s Mom’s cooking.”

Dawn giggled and then scowled at Buffy. “Why didn’t Grandpa ever tell us that he had the Medal of Honor?”

Buffy looked at her father, who shrugged. “Sorry, honey, I didn’t know he had it either.”  

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The veterans gathered in Sunnydale Gallery spoke in cheerful or shushed tones, as they remembered past joys and past grief.  Usually this get together was held under the benevolent gaze of Mayor Wilkins, but that worthy was indisposed and a fire several weeks earlier had made the room normally used in the Town Hall unavailable. Joyce Summers, newly minted member of the Sunnydale Chamber of Commerce, had stepped into the breach. For some reason the atmosphere was far more upbeat and real than it ever was at the Town Hall. Victor Chase had made an appearance, as was beholden on one of Sunnydale’s most influential citizens, but had left early with his wife.

It was Cordelia Chase who finally scraped up enough courage to ask the question burning on everybody’s lips. “Captain Ellis? My name is Cordelia, Cordelia Chase. Would it be a very great imposition to ask you to tell us how you got your Medal of Honor?”

James looked hesitant. Jon grinned. “My dear young lady, my friend here is very bashful. Let me tell you the tale, in all its glory. I was there after all.”

James opened his mouth to protest. Charles smiled. “Don’t worry, Paisley. I’ll make sure that Colonel Carnahan doesn’t exaggerate.”

James groaned. 

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Friday November 10th, twelve o’clock.

Willow sighed as she saw tall, dark form appear from a back room and Buffy head towards it, and then the tender kiss. “Oh, that is just sooo romantic,” she whispered to herself.

“What is?” Dave asked.

“Buffy and Angel got together yesterday,” Willow pointed to the couple. “She’s saying goodbye, ‘cause she and Dawnie are off for the weekend with their Dad.”

“Romantic?” Dave said with revulsion. “He’s a vampire! He’s dead! He’s two-hundred and fifty years older than she is, and he’s a depressed reformed mass-murderer, rapist and torturer. It’s disgusting!”

“Dave! It’s wonderful! He’s trying to reform, for her, to become less broody. And I mean, she’s the Slayer and he’s a Vampire, it’s like it was fated!”

“Fated to end in tears,” Dave objected, his face hard.

“It’s romantic,” Willow insisted.

“What are they gonna do, Willow? Take a walk in the sunlit park? Go for dinner, with the waiter as an entrée? Have babies and live in a nice house with three point two children? He’s a vampire, Willow!”

“And you are a demon! So?” Willow demanded defiantly.

Dave ground his teeth, glared at Willow and leaned towards her. Willow swallowed and took a small step backwards. “Don’t ever compare me or any of my people with a vampire again, Willow, and certainly not with that butcher.” Then he turned on his heel and left, leaving Willow to stand alone and watch her sister kiss and wonder about love and romance. 

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Friday evening, November 10th

“So you want me to find out what I can about this Ted Buchanan?” Willow asked, jotting down particulars in a note book.

“Yes, we said so.” Joyce looked at her daughter with some wonder. “That’s the third time you asked me.”

Willow nodded and then sighed. “You know it’ll mean hacking, right?”

Joyce opened her mouth, then closed it, and then began to laugh, and gathered in Willow for a hug. “And no punishment will be your due for hacking. But I’m glad it made such an impression.”

Willow flushed, but nestled into the hug. “Okay, I’ll look into him tonight.”

“Not going to the Bronze?” Joyce asked sympathetically.

Willow shook her head, her eyes downcast. “Is it wrong for me to think it romantic that Buffy and Angel are together?”

Joyce sighed. “I won’t pretend I’m pleased with them being together. But the Romance novel reading part of me admits to the romance of the notion, yes.”

Willow giggled. “Romance novels? You, Mom?”

Joyce groaned. “Only once. Okay, maybe twice.”

Willow chuckled. “How many of those boxes in the garage marked ‘books’ contain them?”

Joyce glared. “None of your business, young lady!”

Willow giggled. There was a noise of a throat being cleared. “I like them too. Can I borrow one?” Evy’s rather hesitant voice asked.

Joyce sighed. “Very well. But I pick the ones you get to read.”

There was a giggle from the girls and Joyce wondered what she was getting into.

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Sunday, November 12th

“Willow? Are you alright, honey?” Simon asked gently as he knocked on her bedroom door.

“Go away!” came the muffled reply.

Interpreting this as a ‘no’ Simon tried the handle, opened the door with his eyes closed and asked “Are you decent?”

This time there was a giggle. “Yes. Well, fully-clothed at any rate,” came Willow’s cheeky if still teary reply.

“You are about ten years too young to make that joke, young lady. If I find out there is any truth to it, there will be consequences,” Simon stated with aplomb. He sat down on the bed and Willow leaned in.

“Xander won’t talk to you yet?” she asked.

“No, but it will probably take some time for him to be ready for that. I know it took me long enough to want to talk about my Mother’s death.”

Willow blinked. “I thought she was an alcoholic who ignored you?”

Simon nodded. “Yes. And it’s complicated. I’ll tell you when you are older.”

Willow opened her mouth and then closed it again. “Is this one of those things about your youth that I probably don’t really want to know?”

“Probably, yes.”

Willow snuggled into Simon and bit her lip. “Have I apologized enough for hacking into your medical records? I really didn’t mean to.”

“Since you did not get beyond page one, yes. I still don’t understand why you did it.”

“I wanted to know if you had any allergies, so I could bake you cookies or a pie,” Willow admitted sheepishly.

 “I see. You could have asked.”

“That’s what Mom said before the hand came down,” Willow admitted, hiding her face in Simon’s shoulder. “I think she was the angriest about that, angrier even than the FBI. She called it a betrayal of trust. And really, really stupid.” Willow shivered.

“Willow… It took courage to admit that you were wrong. That made up for a lot, but as your mother told you, don’t hack without first talking to an adult. A responsible one.”

Willow bit her lip. “Can I try and hack MIC?”

Simon laughed. “Go ahead, Mouse. Let them know if you find weaknesses though.”

Willow nodded. “I will. Dad?”

“Yes, Willow?”

“Dave still won’t talk to me. It’s been two days!” Willow’s voice wobbled and then she broke down in tears again.

“I know little one. I know.” Simon soothed Willow as the girl cried.

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Monday November 13th, afternoon

“Lilith, are you stark raving mad?” Simon demanded through the phone, his voice strained.

“No, not at all. You’re perfect for the job,” Lilith told him calmly.

“Lilith, I hate their guts!” Simon barked into the phone.

“Ah, but you hate both sides equally. They need an independent third who can tell them which of the two sides is wrong.”

“More wrong. Which side is more wrong. Why me?”

“Was that a whine, Simon? It sounded suspiciously like one,” Lilith teased. “Because you have the most experience at dealing with them and because they respect you. They may not know what you have done, but they know what you have been, the Grand Magister for almost twenty-five years. Not to mention the Magister Terrae, so you had contact with the Supreme Mugwump, the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and the Minister of Magic.”

“The Mugwump and the Chief Warlock is the same irritating old man,” Simon interjected. “And knowing him is hardly an advantage, it’s more of a permanent itch to kick him between his twinkly eyes.”

“Simon, you are the least likely of any Coven representative to be killed on sight. You may not agree with the rules of the Wizarding world, but you were trained in them,” Lilith said gently.

“And such a pleasure it was,” Simon grated out. “Why don’t they get that French bloke, D’Aristide?”

“He’s dead; he was eaten by a Polgara demon,” Lilith explained.

“Oh. I see.” Simon was silent for a minute and then sighed. “Send me the file, have the Secretariat prepare a level one report on the matter if you please.”

“It’s done already. You’ll have the information tomorrow.”

“Joyce won’t be pleased.”

“So, go after Christmas. Use some of your money and take your family to London for New Year’s.”

Simon smiled. “You know, that’s actually a good idea.”

“Naturally, that is why I am Grand Magister and you are a mere Solitary,” Lilith replied.

Simon laughed. “I’ll let you know in a few days time.”

“I will be waiting for your reply.”

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End Note:

In a story not yet written, set in Korea during the Korean War, I will describe the actions of one then Lieutenant James Ellis which won him the Medal of Honor. In the meantime I hope that no one will be offended that he has one. Eight Native Americans have been awarded the MoH.

http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq61-3.htm    
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