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Lonely Souls

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

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

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > Joyce-Centered(Current Donor)vidiconFR1595738,6431501333354,75928 May 119 Mar 14No

White robes and Purity

Author’s Note:

Thanks very much to my Beta’s, Letomo and EllandrahSylver.

The following ways of notation may be found in this story. This is excluding whatever I need to represent chatting, texting and stuff like that. And you can thank Twilightwanderer for the Abbott and Costello.

Speech: “Who’s on first.”

Thought: *What’s on second.*

Vision: #I-don’t-know’s on third.#

Thanks to dodger, the latest to recommend me. Seventy-four reviews, that’s a very good number, but I appreciate everyone of them. Let me know if you like the story by recommending or reviewing or drawing or making a banner or fanart. Feedback is what we authors thrive on, after all…

This is the first chapter of which I announce right now it may yet be ret-conned. Letomo did not have a chance to beta this due to the fact I only managed to finish it on Friday…

68 White robes and purity

Xander glared at his white linen robe. “This looks stupid.”

Willow twirled around, her own robe clinging to her calves, her simple leather sandals noiseless on the concrete floor of the basement. “They’re standard initiates’ robes. We need them for the ceremony. And since you have to be cleansed as well,” she smirked, “you get to wear them, too!”

“Wonderful,” Buffy growled. “This thing does nothing for my figure or my color.”

“That’s because they’re not intended to. But I agree, they’re not very flattering,” Prue said from the corner where she was seated.

Jon sat in the opposing corner with Evy, who was wearing an initiate’s robe as well. Kit and Dawn were with them, bickering a little about who was going to be allowed to pour the milk, honey and wine that were part of the ritual onto the nexus.   

The door opened and Joyce came down the stairs, followed by Arlene. Unlike her older sister, Joyce wore a robe similar to her children.

Buffy blinked. “Mom? Why are you dressed like us?” She gestured at the gathered teens.

“Because I'm an initiate too, dear. Your Aunt Clarice has got one just like this.” Joyce gestured down at herself.

“And Aunt Arlene?“ Willow inquired.

“Is a fully trained and accepted witch, even if she hasn't done much with it the past fifteen years,” came Cecelia's voice. She wore a robe much like Arlene's, but with a few flowers embroidered along the hems. Penelope followed, in similar apparel and Danielle wore one too. Patrick and Clarice came down the stairs with Amy, all in the initiates' robes. Then the door opened and Phoebe and Piper came down, guiding Kendra, who looked very uncomfortable in her white dress. Willow and Buffy moved to her, trying to ease the discomfort.  

The door opened again and Simon strode down the stairs, his robes of much heavier material, resplendent white and embroidered with silver. A high, stiff collar stood up and a heavy linked platinum necklace encircled his neck. As he descended and moved across to his position by the well that held the Nexus the robes billowed around him dramatically.

Joyce let out a little sigh and Cecelia and Penelope looked at each other and then rolled their eyes. Danielle grinned. “Oh, come on. He’s allowed to be a bit dramatic on occasion.”

Simon looked around rather haughtily. Then he shrugged. “This was the one Miller packed.”

Willow looked a trifle annoyed. “Why’s yours so much thicker? And-and neater? It has silver and all!” 

“Well, the silver is the sign that I am, or at least that I was, the Grand Magister. The reason it is thicker is because the weather in New York tends to be colder,” Simon answered, “Even with the under robe and the t-shirts and trousers it can get nippy during the winter solstice.”

“Under robes? T-shirts? Trousers?” Buffy scowled irritably. “All we got were these thin linen shifts! All my goods are on display!”  

Joyce took three steps forward, very slowly turned towards Phoebe, and glared. “Phoebe Halliwell!”

Phoebe, who had been grinning, suddenly gulped. “I’ve got the underclothes upstairs! It was just a joke!”

Buffy growled, as did Xander. Then they stopped and looked at Willow. She merely pointed at Piper. “She told me what to wear.” Willow’s innocent face fooled no one, least of all Buffy.

“Expect my vengeance, which you totally deserve, soon!” Buffy glared at Willow, who started to look uncomfortable. Then Buffy turned back to Phoebe. “And now you, my dear cousin!”

Phoebe looked at Joyce who crossed her arms and raised her eyebrows. “This is a hole you dug, Phoebe. Now take them upstairs, give them their underwear and pray very hard you get through this weekend without ending up in the Bay.”

Penelope grinned. “Better do as Joyce said, Phoebe. And fast.”

Phoebe sidled over to the stairs, avoiding the angry teens and then scurried ahead of them. Xander and Buffy followed. The door closed behind them and there was a yelp. Piper smirked.

A few minutes later Buffy and Xander reappeared, looking much more comfortable, and accompanied by a chastened looking Phoebe, who was rubbing her rear. Piper’s smirk widened considerably. “Gee Phoebe, you weren’t even drunk this time.”

Phoebe glared balefully at her older sister and then, with a huff, took the place that Penelope indicated. The older witches stood closest to the Nexus, with the younger, untrained ones further away.

Simon closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Powers of earth unbound, balance we seek, drive out that which is dark and cleanse us, body and spirit.”

The nexus flared from blue to white. A deep thrumming noise started and a pulsing white light rose slowly from the pit, touching first the inner circle and then the outer. The light hovered near their chakra points, gently probing. Willow, Xander, Amy and Evy winced, as did Kit. Jon groaned and leaned on his canes heavily. Danielle, Penelope and Patrick seemed the least affected. Kit bit her lip and started to cry. Tears began running down Willow’s and Evy’s faces as well, and Xander groaned and clenched his teeth. Billows of black, oily energy suddenly erupted from the tops of their heads. They screamed. Evy fell to her knees sobbing, and Arlene hastened to kneel by her, Amy shuddered, cried out in pain and swayed on her feet and Clarice rushed to support her. Simon gritted his teeth and the children gasped in relief. Smaller clouds had flowed from the others, but the Sunnydale natives seemed to be pouring forth the disgusting energy, roiling cloud upon crackling discharge, the dark filth continued to stream.

Simon’s eyes glowed white and tears of white light ran down his cheeks. The black clouds started to dissipate as the white light broke them up.  

“In darkness, in light, there is balance,” Simon grated out, his voice harsh with pain. “Evil lurks in men’s hearts and in the hearts of demons, we ask the favour of the old gods: Lar Familiaris guard this house, Hestia, Lady of home and hearth, protector of families, keep our loved ones safe from the evils of our enemies, break their bonds on our souls and drive out the evil and its touch upon us.”

The thickest black cloud hung over Evy, though the one over Amy was only marginally less ominous. One by one the dark energy was replaced by white, which was then drawn back into the bodies of the members of the circle, until only the ones over Amy and Evy remained. Then these too, started to break up, the thick miasma finally driven from their bodies.

Simon let go of the energy, dropping to his hands and knees as it flowed back into the Nexus. Danielle hastened to his side, as did Joyce. Jon staggered over to where Evy was kneeling. “Bloody hell. That’s not something I want to repeat at my age,” Jon shuddered and then glared at Simon. “Idiot! I’m well able to bear my own pain!”

Simon groaned. “Possibly, but your heart might not be so certain.” 

Joyce sighed and knelt down. “We need to speak about your annoying habit to sacrifice yourself, love.”

Kit dashed the remaining tears from her eyes and flung herself into the arms of Simon who had just sat up. “Thank you, Daddy. Did it hurt very much?”

Simon snorted. “Regrettably, yes.”

Willow shuddered and moved towards Xander, who drew her into a hug. “We might want to get Dave and Mike over here and cleanse them too.”

“And warn them beforehand that it’ll hurt like he-ck,” Amy wryly commented, changing her choice of word at Clarice’s stern gaze. She paled and got to her feet quickly, hurrying up the stairs. Clarice sighed and immediately followed.

Simon was helped to his feet by Joyce and Kit, and then Kit immediately burrowed back into his embrace. Willow went over to hug him as well. “Thanks, Dad.”

Penelope sighed. “And don’t do it again. That much pain is not healthy.”

Simon shrugged. “I got used to it long ago.”

Danielle shook her head. “Incorrigible.”

Simon smiled, kissed Joyce gently on the lips and headed to the stairs. “Shall we go and perform the protective rituals? That should help settle our power into the proper channels,” he suggested.

Penelope nodded. “Yes, let’s. And you will sit on the couch with an aspirin and do a background chant. The girls and I have to lead anyway, it’s our house.”

Simon tilted his head, looking as if he was about ready to protest. Joyce glared at him. “Two aspirins please, Aunt Penny,” she asked, pointedly.

Simon hung his head and sighed in defeat. “Yes, dear.”

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Amy was in the garden, as far away from the basement as she could get. Clarice found her, hiding behind a bush. “Would you like to tell me what’s wrong?”

“I’m not good enough, am I? We’re not really good enough, Dad and me. I mean, I keep cursing and he runs a nearly bankrupt building company!” Amy said in a small voice. “I mean, I’ll be here all alone and you’ll all be in London and New York and-”

Clarice put a finger to the girl’s lips. “Amy, shush.”

“No! No I won’t shush! I mean, there should be reservation and preparations and Dad should be worrying about his company and how it will run with him away and that’s not happening!”

“That’s because we’re flyin’ to New York on one of Simon’s jets, Simon’s office deals with all the reservations and Ahm payin’ for a sub for your father. An’ that you keep cussin’ is not a problem that can’t be corrected. Your mother was not exactly prime material for the job, if you’ll excuse me sayin' so. Ahm sorry for not makin’ this clear before, but ya’ll are comin’ with me! Now stop bein’ a silly sow!” Clarice glared at Amy and was starting to wonder at the girls expression, half mirth and half immense joy. Then Amy hugged her.

“Thank you. I’ll stop being silly, but can I be a piglet? At least they’re cute,” Amy giggled.

Clarice hugged Amy back. “Yes, you can. Now can you enlighten me as to what’s so funny?’

Amy bit her lip. “You get really Southern when you get emotional. It… Well you get all passionate and, you’re usually so reserved… It was just funny. I’m sorry.”

Clarice groaned. “An’… AND people wonder why I try and hide my accent.”

Amy immediately looked contrite. “I’m sorry, I really am. You just never really let go. I mean, you hug, but there always seems to be a- a wall or curtain between us. It just made me feel so good to see you.”

Clarice sighed. “Amy, when I was young... There's a lot of prejudice against my sort of accent. It became clear to me very early on that if I wanted to achieve what I set out to achieve, I had to change. Had to bury the emotional, had to change the accent, become a different person, in all effect. It's difficult for me to show emotion. Ah didn't have the best of childhoods myself, after I was eleven. After I was seven really, my father was workin' most of the time, and Ah had to take care of my mother until she died. Then dad died two years later and I got sent to my Uncle, and after I freaked out while the lambs were bein’ slaughtered, he sent me to an orphanage. It’s difficult for me to, to-”

Amy's eyes had gone wider and wider as Clarice had spoken and her hug more fierce. “I’m sorry. I didn't realize. I didn’t mean to make fun of you, I swear. I understand now, I’m sorry.”

Clarice put a soothing hand on Amy's hair. “It's alright, Amy. I understand you, too. Now, we’ll go and help put up the wardings to protect this house and then we can see if there is time left for shopping. You'll need winter clothes for New York and London.”

Amy looked a little hesitant. “Dad really can't afford-”

“Amy, I can. And I would love to. Simon says we may have to make a public appearance, visit an orphanage, maybe one of the Meier Houses. At least he won't drag us off to church,” Clarice grinned, “But you’ll still need a few very nice clothes.”

Amy sighed, laying her head against Clarice’s shoulder. “You know, I can't remember when Catherine last held me like this. If she ever did. Or offered to take me shopping. I'm sorry I made fun of your accent. I'm sorry I doubted you. It's just; all of this is too good to be true.”

Clarice smiled. “And you feel lighter and far more emotional and less balanced. Yes, Danielle said that would be a temporary side effect. We think we may have to repeat this about once a year as long as we live on or near the Hellmouth.”

“Oh. So all this is a reaction? To the cleansing?” Amy asked uncertainly.

“Not all, just the fact we might be a touch more emotional about it.” Clarice reassured her. “In Sunnydale you would just have bottled up your fear, but now the removal of the dark magical energies is making you look for a new equilibrium. It probably affected our hormones too.”

Amy giggled. “So we're like a bunch of pregnant women?” She giggled again. “Four pregnant teens, Wonder how Snyder would react?”

“Not good. And with today’s available protection, so would I.” Clarice replied half threateningly, half joking. “So before you begin anything, come to me or one of your aunts. Or your cousins, I think Phoebe especially might tell you a thing or two.”

Amy blushed furiously. “God, I'm so not ready for this conversation.”

“Well, I'm not ready to be a grandmother yet, so when you start, please get advice.”

“Mo- Clarice! I'm like, fifteen!” Amy objected.

Clarice merely smiled sadly. Amy blinked. “Oh. Is this one of those rotten childhood things I probably don't want to think too closely about.”

“Probably,” Clarice admitted.

“Let's go in and help with the Wards, shall we?” Amy asked nervously.

“Let’s.”

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Piper flung her hands out and Penelope and Prue froze mid gesture, as did the two balls of yarn that they were floating. The ball that James had thrown down from the landing did not. It fell with a soft plop onto the ground and there was a slight sigh.

Phoebe giggled from the couch where she was getting instructions in the trials and tribulations of being a seer. “Oh man, Piper, the look on your face!”

Piper glared at her younger sister. “Aunt Cece, you know that saying about your face staying the way you look, like when you’re scowling or frowning?”

“Yes Piper, I know the expression. And no, we can't do that. Now unfreeze Penny and Prue.”

Piper sighed and did so. The balls almost dropped before Penelope could reassert her power. She raised an eyebrow. “A bit off target there, Piper dear.”

“Yes, Grams. Sorry,” Piper replied, contrite.

“Not a problem, dear. It's not like you tried to freeze my face after waking me at four in the morning on the night before the prom.”

Piper and Phoebe looked at Cecelia. Cecelia shrugged. “I told you we couldn’t do that. I had to find out the hard way.”

Arlene looked at her mother and then at her aunt. “Aunt Penny, once we’ve got time, I want to hear every embarrassing tale about Mom you have.”

Penelope grinned. “It will be my pleasure.” Then she tiptoed to the couch and looked over the edge and smiled gently.

Evy slept on the couch, her head in her mother’s lap and an expression of complete peace on her face. Phoebe had her feet on her lap and was rubbing them gently.

“She looks peaceful,” Prue remarked, having joined her grandmother.

Cecelia came and joined them as well, as did Piper. “She’s been dozing or sleeping almost since we finished the protection rituals.” Arlene smiled at her daughter and then looked up at the ceiling. “As have Willow, Xander, Kit and Amy.” She shuddered. “I can’t imagine how it must have felt, that miasma of evil always in you, without even knowing.”

Prue grinned. “Amy’s going to be mightily disappointed that she slept away today and can’t go shopping in San Francisco.”

Cecelia snorted, but softly. “She can go shopping in New York and London in December. That should make her feel better.” She smiled and shook her head. “I think Clarice was more disappointed really. But at least Buffy and Dawn get to do some shopping.” She looked tenderly at her sleeping granddaughter again and then at Piper. “And as we leave tomorrow, and you have much to learn…”

Piper sighed and nodded. James, who had an excellent view of his sleeping granddaughter from his perch on the stairs and felt no need to climb down, made a mental note to be near when Penelope spilled the beans on her sister and then threw one of Penelope’s balls of yarn towards Piper, for her to freeze.

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Monday, 20th of November 1995

Leo took a deep breath. He looked up at the manor and smiled at the powerful wards that now encircled it, that were woven into the very fabric of the house and garden.

The Family had left, only the Charmed Ones and their grandmother remained. If he could win their confidence they might have a chance at getting Dr. Meier to agree to at least one Whitelighter for his daughters, future wife and sister. He climbed the steps and knocked softly. The door was opened by the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He gulped, trying to remember what he wanted to say. He knew who she was, but seeing her from afar, from above, or incorporeal, none of those were any real preparation for meeting her for the first time in the flesh. “Miss Piper Halliwell?”

“Yes?” Piper asked suspiciously. “Are you here to sell something? Then we're not interested. And if you're peddling redemption, we don't want that either.”

Leo winced. “Err, actually I'm here about the plumbing and the hole in the basement. I'm Leo, Leo Wyatt.”

Piper flushed. “Right. Sorry.” She stepped aside, not inviting him in, apparently having listened well to the lessons her cousin had told her. Leo took another deep breath and stepped inside. He could feel the Nexus pulsing and put his tool bag down.

“Miss Halliwell, I am a handyman, but there is something I need to tell you, and your sisters. Your grandmother, too.”

Piper looked at him suspiciously. “Like what? Remember that bit about redemption? Really, don't even try it.”

Leo nodded. “I won’t, I promise. But I need to get this out of the way before I start work.”

Piper gave him a look as if he was insane. “You’ve got to be the weirdest handyman ever.”

Leo shrugged. “Probably true. Can you just call them?”

Piper sighed and called out. “GRAMS! PRUE! PHOEBE! THERE’S A WEIRD HANDYMAN WHO WANTS TO REVEAL SOMETHING!”

There were footsteps on the stairs and from the kitchen and the Halliwells gathered in the hallway. “Well, hello! What was it that you wanted to reveal for us?” Phoebe asked as she slinked up to the well muscled man. Piper sighed. “He’s probably here about brimstone, death and redemption, and to fix the hole in the basement.”

Penelope growled. “Get away from her, you... you monster!” She raised her hands to use her power and Leo raised his own in a defensive gesture and spoke frantically to dissuade her.

“Mrs. Halliwell, please listen. He called you Pennyworth. You’re ticklish at the back of your neck. Your favourite song was California Dreaming.”

Penelope’s growl became a snarl. “You think it will make things better by making me remember Allen?” She moved her hand and Leo ducked just in time to avoid the fate of the hallway panelling, which developed a deep, splintered dent.

“He sent me. Allen sent me, I swear.”

“Allen sent a Whitelighter? Why would he do that?” She waved her hand and Leo barely dodged the invisible force that shattered the glass on the clock.

“I quit! Whoa, that was close.” Leo exclaimed as the elder Halliwell telekinesis punched a hole through the floor beside him. 

“You quit? You can quit being a Whitelighter?” Penelope demanded to know, flinging another invisible pearl of power at Leo.

Leo shook his head. “Just my job, at least, I no longer take orders from the Elders. After what Allen told me… I just couldn’t.”

“Why should I believe you? Why isn’t he here?”

“Err, this is going to sound a bit strange. Can I sit down?” Leo asked. “Or can you at least stop lobbing your power at me so I can stop dodging?”

Penelope lowered her hand. “Start talking.”

“Okay, short hierarchy of mystical beings. At the top of the ‘nice’ pyramid, the Powers that Be, really big on balance and non intervention. Below them the Elders, who do intervene, by sending Whitelighters to witches and visions as well. On the other side, the First Evil, or the Source, and his chosen Vessel of the time, and all the legions of Hell and every madman among humanity who serves darkness.”

“I know all this. Explain about Allen.” Penelope gestured lightly and Leo was lifted bodily off the floor, hovering. 

“He’s not allowed down here. They say he’s too close to you, too emotionally involved! So he asked me to come and to help you.” Leo managed to gasp out as the air was pressed from his body by incredible telekinetic pressure.

“What?” Penelope released the pressure.

“Allen died in such a way that the Powers decided to have him become one of us, replacing one of the older Whitelighters. He convinced me that err… the plan the Elders have for you is wrong.”

“Allen sent you? He really sent you?” Penelope asked in a choked voice.

“Yes. He decided you needed the help of a Whitelighter. He also knew that he couldn’t, and you wouldn’t allow the usual politics of the Elders to interfere with that help. So he told me to quit.”

“He told you to quit. And you did? Just like that?” Penny asked in astonishment.

“Well, it took him a while to convince me.” Leo admitted sheepishly.

“And why isn’t he here?” Penelope demanded. “If this is so important and he is a Whitelighter, why isn’t he here? What has he been doing?”

“Ah, well, he’s not allowed to interact you, that’s not a decision of the Elders, that’s an injunction from on high, if you get my drift. He would immediately be dragged off to the afterlife and replaced. We can only observe and soothe. Dreams are about all he is allowed.”

“Dreams? Err, is Allen, like, tall and well-built and with long hair and dresses like a hippy?” Phoebe asked.

Penelope swung towards her, her eyes narrowed. “Well-built?”

“Just a description! I never thought of him that way!” Phoebe raised her hands in defence. “He came to me in dreams, talked with me, soothed me.”

“When did that happen?”

Phoebe looked at Prue. “I’d rather not say.”

Prue blinked as if in sudden memory. “A leather vest. He wears a vest, over an Indian shirt. Oh! Oh Phoebe, I’m so sorry!” She rushed over and hugged Phoebe. “I should’ve apologized long ago. I was angry and wanted to hurt you and I’m so sorry that I did.”

Phoebe gave her a watery smile. “He came to you too?”

Prue nodded, sheepishly. “He was very stern, gave me a real talking too. But I thought it was just a dream, so I never apologized, really. I’m sorry, Phoebe.”

“Okay, can someone tell me what this is about?” Piper asked, exasperated.

“Ages ago, when she was about eight, Phoebe borrowed one of my dolls and left it in the garden and then couldn’t find it again. I yelled at her. I told her that everything we’d lost, mom, dad, everything, was her fault.”

Piper winced. “Naah, it’s mi-” Her face softened. “He smells like Old Spice. He told me it isn’t my fault either.” She stepped forward and hugged both her sisters. “It’s not our fault Mom died. It’s not our fault Dad left.” She glared at Penelope. “And Granddad is very angry with you for what you said and did to Dad.”

Penelope blanched and then moved out of the hallway to sit on the couch. “Oh.”

Leo coughed. “He’s rather upset with you about that, yes. Especially that after you blocked the girls’ powers you didn’t try to get into contact with Victor even though you were no longer raising them to be magical.”

Penelope winced. “I’m not especially proud of it myself. It’s just that we always fought and never saw eye to eye. But it was wrong.” She sighed and looked at Leo. “So, who are you? And were you? And what makes you think you won’t go the way of Bertram?”

“I'm Leo, Leo Wyatt. I'm a Whitelighter and the Elders assigned me to you after Bertram err...  resigned.”

“After I nearly cut his balls off, and told him never to come back, you mean,” Penelope corrected.

“After you kicked him out, the Elders appointed me. Then Allen approached me and explained exactly why you kicked out Bertram. And why you wouldn't listen to a Whitelighter who took orders from the Elders, after everything they condoned. But the world needs the Charmed Ones. And you'll need the sort of support a Whitelighter can offer. Healing, knowledge. So I told the Elders I was going rogue and that's why I'm here.”

“A rogue Whitelighter?” Penelope pursed her lips. “I see. Most interesting.” She looked at the girls. “He's here for you three, so this is entirely your choice.”

“Do you believe him?” Prue asked.

“I think I do.” Penelope looked Leo up and down. “He doesn't feel like a demon. If he shows that he's a Whitelighter, that point is proven. That means all that remains is whether or not he's really a rogue. The Elders don’t understand why I kicked Bertram out. They would send a new Whitelighter, or possibly Bertram, with strong injunctions to us to submit to their will, or at least their directions. This sort of subterfuge they would consider beneath them.”   

“Right. So a rogue Whitelighter. Okay. What do we do with him?” Piper looked around inquiringly.

Phoebe grinned. “He can sleep in my room...” She licked her lips and Leo nervously took a step away from her.

“Phoebe behave,” Penelope reproved. “She has a point though, where do you sleep? Do you have a place to stay?”

Leo smiled. “I don't actually need a place. I have no need for food or sleep in the ordinary course of things.”

“Ah, but the call of the flesh is strong. I bet that a nice warm bed has its own lure, not to mention a well made meal or a drink would get your attention?” Penelope teased. “Well, if need be we can make you a bed in the attic.”

“Thank you.” Leo smiled again and picked up his toolbag. “Well, shall I get to work on that hole in the basement? I assume you want it accessible for rituals?”

“Yeah. Patrick drew up some plans, to make it look like a well that we wanted to turn into a wine-cellar.”

“Sounds good to me. Show me and I'll see what I can do.” Then he grinned. “Oh, yeah. Whitelighter powers.” He put a hand next to the hole Penelope had punched in the floor. Splinters drew back and the boards reformed. “Proof enough?”

Penelope nodded. “Quite. Can you do the rest of the holes too? Oh, and don’t forget the clock.”

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Cordelia felt a lot better, as if the hard knot in her stomach had dissolved. She groaned and rolled over, looking straight into two delicate, blue-grey eyed faces. “Morning, Tweaks.” She groaned out.

“Good morning, Cordy!” The twins chorused, far too cheerfully. “Dad wants to see you. In his study.”

Cordelia winced. *Well, there goes that pipe-dream. No way Mr. Kendall is going to let me live here. He keeps looking at me as if I’m some sort freak.* “Yeah okay, I’ll try and get up.”

“He says you should be feeling better. But if you feel like vomiting, to bring the bucket.” Felicity told her helpfully.

Cordelia groaned again and got up. There was a robe, her robe, on the door, hanging form a Mickey Mouse hanger. She had no idea where that came from. She groaned again and, hand pressed to her stomach, walked down the stairs, with a heavy heart and knocked on the study door. She’d only been in there twice. It was a strange room, with a heavy, heady scent and a multitude of books, none of which Marcus Kendall allowed his children to read.

The door opened and Marcus Kendall smiled at her. It was a nice, warm smile, not the expression she was expecting. “Ah, Cordelia. Come in. Have a seat.” He gestured at one of the heavy leather armchairs by the big fireplace. Eliza was in another looking stunned, annoyed and mulish. Cordelia sat down, perching on the very front of the chair and her glance fell on the low coffee table and she gasped. There was a plan of the Kendall house on it, and in the second spare bedroom, the one with it’s own shower, the one like the other children’s, the one she always stayed in, was her name. Just like Harm’s and Mel’s and Fliss’ names were in their rooms.

“Now, we need to discuss the colour scheme, and the furniture. What’s there now is good enough for a guestroom, but not really for a new daughter. So I drew up some ideas and went by some stores yesterday, got some swatches…” Marcus looked at Cordelia as she started to sob. “Was it something I said?”

Eliza rolled her eyes and rose to sit next to Cordelia, hugging her. “No, you idiot. It’s the fact that you had all of us wondering if you’d turned bastard and were going to kick Cordelia out of the house. That you were too afraid of Victor Chase to act even now.”

Marcus’ eyes narrowed and his face tightened. “I’ve faced far worse things than Victor Chase. Trust me that he doesn’t scare me sufficiently even to turn on the alarm.”

Eliza huffed. “Right. That’s why you lock the doors so securely every night. And turn on the alarm.”

“That’s not because of Chase, as you very well know,” Marcus snapped.

Eliza flushed slightly. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”

Cordelia’s sobs worsened. “Don’t fight, please don’t fight.”

Marcus sighed. “Cordelia…” Marcus hesitated. “Cordelia, I’ve known for years that you were being abused. But bringing you into this family has its own risks. I was unwilling to expose you to them until, well, let’s say that I wasn’t aware how bad the abuse was. I deeply apologize.”

“So what is worse than what’s happened to me so far?” Cordelia demanded to know, between sobs.

“Many things,” Marcus shuddered. “And I’m grateful Chase didn’t do them to you. Yet.”

Cordelia blinked and then her eyes widened. Eliza glared at her husband. “Marcus! Keep to the point!” Eliza gathered the now trembling Cordelia to her breast. “You’re scaring her!”

Marcus nodded “I do apologize. Cordelia. The point. I was born in Britain. At that time, and still, there was a group there that hunted down certain people who suffered with what they perceived as disability.”

Cordelia nodded, still warm and safe in Eliza’s embrace. “Some sort of British KKK?”

Marcus chuckled. “Something like that, though more dangerous. The past few years they’ve been effectively defanged, due to distance and infighting and loss of their leader. Their most rabid members are imprisoned and the enforcer arm, you might compare them to a version of the Nazi SA, was killed or captured almost entirely.”

Cordelia’s eyes widened. “Oh my God… But they still might come over here and hurt you?” 

“Yes. And all of you children.” Marcus rubbed his face with his hands. “Cordelia… when I first found out about you, that you were being abused, there had just been an attempt on my life. I had just picked up you and Harmony from school and dropped you off here and was going back to the Clinic-”

“The car accident. Oh god. You nearly died!” Cordelia straightened up on the chair.

Marcus smiled. “It wasn’t quite that bad. But it wasn’t pleasant. And at that time I feared that I might be attacked again at any moment. So despite knowing what I knew, I decided, and I convinced Eliza, that it was too dangerous to bring you into the family. So we didn’t force the issue when Eliza’s first attempt to report the abuse failed.”

“Oh. I see.” Cordelia leaned back into Eliza and looked between the Kendalls. “You knew. All this time. That’s why all the dinners, and play dates, and swim-dates, and the phone calls that it wasn’t a problem for me to stay over…” Her voice broke. “You were taking care of me as well as you could…”

“And yet it was still not good enough.” Marcus rose and gently ran a hand down Cordelia’s hair. “We should have done more. Once the immediate danger was past, we should’ve taken you in.”

Eliza hugged Cordelia tightly. “But you seemed better, or at least, oh hell. Cordy, we have no excuse. You were being abused, we knew it and we sat on our butts and let it go on.” Cordelia thought she felt her ribs crack from the fierceness of Eliza’s hug. She felt the sob rising from Eliza’s throat before she heard it. “And when I saw your back… Oh Cordy, I’m so sorry, so very, very sorry.”

Cordelia started to bawl like a baby, something she hadn’t done in years. Her father had punished such behaviour harshly and young Cordelia had learned very quickly not to cry too loudly. It took her minutes to calm down enough to feel the gentle arms that tried to soothe her.

“We’re so sorry, Cordelia,” Eliza spoke again. 

“You’re sorry?” Cordelia gasped out incredulously.

Eliza and Marcus winced. Cordy groaned and hugged Eliza. “Not like that! I meant that you did so much. So much more than was safe. Because I know what my father does to those who cross him. And so do you.” She shivered and turned to hug Marcus. “I understand if you change your minds-”

“Cordelia,’ Eliza cut her off firmly. “We won’t change our minds. We should’ve acted sooner, no matter what the risk.”

“The risk is still there. If there’s one thing Victor Chase is good at, it’s finding people’s weaknesses.” Cordelia shivered.

“Well, he may be. But we’ve got a bit of help,” Eliza smirked. “I happen to know for a fact that Simon Meier-”

“Hates my friggin’ guts,” Cordelia interrupted.

“Has a grave dislike of Victor Chase. And don’t use language young lady,” Eliza continued. “And he may not like you very much but he hates abuse. So he’ll help you, because it’s the right thing to do.”

Cordelia bit her lip. “Will it be enough?”

“Honey, Simon makes Victor Chase look like small potatoes. He’s got connections everywhere. I’m sure he will be able to help us protect you. Don’t worry.”

Cordelia nodded a few more tears running down her face. “If you say so.”

“We do say so. Now, Cordelia, stop crying, drink some of this lovely tea and tell us what colour scheme you want for your room.” Marcus smiled at her and Cordy nodded, focusing her attention on the collection of samples and swatches.

Cordy drank her tea, noting it was rather bitter. But the last of the knots and swirls in her stomach seemed to evaporate the second she’d finished her cup.

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Cordelia lay in her bed in the Kendall house and yawned. She was still feeling rather weak, but the horrible oppressive feeling in her stomach and heart was gone, and the throbbing headache as well. The tea she’d drunk, the day spent sleeping and the certainty that the Kendalls were taking her in all made her feel a lot better. And the fact that as she had lain down Eliza Kendall had tucked her in, something she could not remember either of her biological parents ever doing, made her feel incredibly safe and loved. She’d not eaten much, a few bits of toast and a bowl of chicken soup, and she was not hungry now. She looked at the clock. If this was real, if she was really going to be treated like a daughter… There was a knock and Cordelia’s face brightened with a smile.

“I say, Cordelia, would you like to join us for a spot of story time?” Marcus Kendall asked from the other side of the door.

Cordelia sat up. “Y-you mean I can?”

“Of course you can! It’s a family thing.” Marcus’ voice was gentle.

Cordelia hastily got out of bed, pulled on her robe, pulled her hair in a messy ponytail with a scrunchie and opened the door while still getting her feet in her slippers. “I’m ready!”

Marcus smiled. “Good. I’ll go and get the others.”

Cordelia blinked and looked down at herself. If this had been Victor Chase, she would be bent over his desk right now, for the sloppy way she’d dressed and addressed him. Marcus Kendall had barely batted an eye. No, he’d not even done that. He’d been amused. And… flattered. Yeah, he’d looked flattered, that she trusted him enough to dress like this. It was going to take some time to get used to all this.

She heard his voice, calling out each of his other daughters and tromped down the stairs, settling on the farther couch from the great bookcase. Eliza was there and extended an arm. Without hesitation and much to her own surprise, Cordelia settled herself under the arm, in the woman’s embrace. Eliza then pressed a soft kiss against Cordelia’s temple. Cordelia blinked back tears and bit her lip.

Melody, Felicity and Harmony entered the room and sat down, waiting expectantly. Marcus came in, a humorous expression on his face. He walked to the cupboard and stood before it. “Well, now. What shall we read today?”

Harmony looked at Cordelia, and then at the Twins. “We think you should read the first story from the Tales of the Great Bard.”

Marcus smile became serious. “Are you sure?”

The three blondes exchanged looks and then nodded. “Death at the Gates of Heaven.” Harmony whispered.

Cordelia looked confused. “What?”

Marcus went to the cupboard, unlocked it and took out a huge book, and then a much thinner one. The thinner one was embossed with a coat of arms, two sleeping dragons, their front paws resting on skulls, supporting the shield, a black field with two crossed swords on black and a silver skull on blue. A grinning skull sat atop the shield in place of the helmets that Cordelia had seen on trips to Europe.

The big one had a different coat of arms. The shield was irregularly quartered in green and silver, as if fractured, with a great, silver ‘M’ in the middle, and flanked by two black dragons and surrounded by snakes that seemed to writhe in Cordelia’s vision. She shivered slightly as she tried to translate the motto on the silver banner that ran across the bottom of the shield. *Sanctimonia Vincet Semper. Purity is always victorious.*

Marcus opened the thin book and started to read from the first page. Cordelia saw a small, illuminated picture of a skeleton on a pale grey or white horse and blinked as it seemed to move.

“Once upon a time, long, long ago Death was king in Egypt. The other gods were jealous of Death, and they came down from heaven through a great, round gate and killed and enslaved Death’s people, and drove Death from his palace. But Death was angered by the actions of the other gods. And in his anger he was terrible. And to him he united the forces of his country, and many other countries, a hundred heroes with the Power of Lightning and a dozen great Wizards, ten thousand charioteers and a sea of mighty warriors, and even called to him his greatest servant, the Chosen, and all marched behind the banner of Death.”

Marcus looked up, met Cordelia’s rather confused gaze, turned back to the book and continued. “And Death’s armies were victorious, and the gate to heaven was buried and the words of Death were carved upon great stones, and he forbade the gate ever be opened again, to keep gods and men separate. And Death rode forth on his pale horse and to him gathered War, and Pestilence and Famine and he slew the unrighteous and those who would bring back the gods and undo the wall he had built between heaven and earth. And from among the Wizards who had supported him, he chose a Vicar, the Vicar of Death, to guard in his stead over that Gate and all the others, that none might threaten his people.”

Cordelia looked at the Twins. The usually lively girls were sober faced and attentive. Harmony looked slightly confused, but that was normal. Marcus had noted her action and had halted his reading. As soon as Cordelia sheepishly returned her attention to him, he smiled. “Not quite what you were expecting? This is a transcription of course, the original Welsh is beyond me.”

Cordelia looked at the solemn faces of the Twins and Harmony and the slightly worried expression on Eliza’s. “Wow. That was some story. Well, not really a story. It’s weird, but I could just see it happening you know, this big, round gate with these thingies all around and these armies fighting. Sorta like a fantasy novel, but really old, written like monks wrote history.”

Marcus’s locked gazes with Eliza. “Yes. Exactly like that. These are the Annals, not the stories, of Cynddelw Brydydd Mawr, Kendall the great poet, an ancestor of ours. His stories are rather more entertaining than the Annals.”

Cordelia bit her lip. “Annals, so history. How much of that is really true?”

Marcus shrugged. “I don’t know. He claimed that all his stories were in essence true, and his annals as well. But you can judge for yourself.” His face crinkled. “Girls?”

“Fountain!” The Twins called out in unison.

Harmony didn't name a preference but looked thoughtful. “Daddy? Is Cordy my sister now?”

Marcus blinked at the non-sequitur. “Well, not quite yet according to the law. But close enough, yes.”

Harmony nodded, rose and ran up the stairs. After a minute or two she was down again, her face unusually grave. Cordelia's eyes widened as she saw the flash of black, green and silver around the blonde girl's neck. Harmony walked over to Cordelia and handed Cordelia a small leather covered box . “Here. I want you to have this.” She looked defiantly at her parents. Eliza merely tightened her hold on Cordelia, her eyes bright with unshed tears and Marcus nodded approvingly, but a little sadly as well.

Cordelia opened the box and took out the contents carefully, with trembling fingers. She'd known what it contained the second she saw the necklace Harmony had put on. One day, years ago, Harmony had taken her to the Sunnydale Eternal Rest Cemetery and shown her the small, white and green marble tombstone with the little teddybear beside it and the dragon carved below the name. Lucius Andall Kendall, beloved son and brother, April 16th 1981.Cordelia still remembered the look on Harmony’s face when she sat down by the grave and told her dead brother about what she had done that week.

Harmony seldom talked about her twin brother. Cordelia could only remember a few times in the decade or so they had known each other.

The thin silver chain pooled in the palm of her hand, the little curled black dragon seemed almost to move, the tiny emerald skull that the dragon held in its claws flashed in the light. “Harm? You sure?” Cordelia whispered.

Harmony nodded. “Yeah. He was my brother. You’re my sister. I want you to have it.”

Cordelia smiled and with trembling hands tried to undo the clasp and fasten the chain around her neck. When she failed, Eliza took it gently from her fingers and did it for her.

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“Buffy! Wait!” Harmony hastened after the little blonde and managed to catch up, but only because the girl stopped. Buffy had quite a turn of speed when she wanted to. Xander and Willow, who Buffy had been trying to catch up with, stopped and turned.

“Heya Harmony. What's up? Cordelia's still ill?” The gossip about Queen C's collapse and the fact that Mrs. Kendall had come to pick her up had still been running through the school when Buffy, Xander and Willow had come in that morning.

“Yeah, honking up chunks. Is your mother home again?” Harmony asked anxiously.

“Yeah? Why?” Buffy asked in some surprise.

“Mom needs to talk to her. And Dr. Meier. Is he home as well? It's real important.” Harmony’s large blue eyes were serious and hopeful.

“I think I know.” Xander looked at Willow. “Falling from the stairs.”

Willow blinked. “Cordelia?” Her face twisted in horror. “Oh. Oh, the poor girl.”

Harmony looked in confusion from one to the other, Buffy looked thoughtful. “Cordelia didn't fall from the stairs, I did, but I’m all better.”

Xander smiled a little grimly. “Harmony... Your mom and dad are going to take Cordelia in, right? Because of stuff her parents do to her.”  

Harmony's face lit up in realisation. “Oh, you mean like, falling from the stairs is one of those EuroDisney things? For when her father beats her?”

Willow and Xander looked confused. Buffy winced and nodded. “Euphemism. Yeah. You got a phone, Harmony?”

Harmony nodded. “Sure.”

“Call your mom. Mine and Simon are still at home, Gallery is closed this Monday and Mom won't go in for a few more hours. They'll help.”

Harmony's smile lit up the hallway and she scurried off to find a quiet place to make a phone call.

“How did you get from EuroDisney to Euphemism?” Willow demanded. There was a giggle from her shoulder and the tiny microphone piped up. “'Cause she does it herself. Buffy Summers; the Verbiage Slayer.”

Buffy stuck out her tongue. “You’re just jealous 'cause I'm creative with my idiom.”

Willow and Rowan sniggered. “Not exactly creative. More like afflicted.”

Buffy huffed and strode off. Willow, Xander and Rowan followed, laughing.

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Eliza Kendall dialled the number and hoped that Joyce really had gotten home from her emergency visit to San Francisco. She let out a relieved sigh when the phone was picked up.

“Good morning, Joyce Summers.” 

“Hello Joyce, this is Eliza Kendall. I need a favour.”

Joyce sat down on the bed, put down her hairbrush and leaned against the headboard. “A favour? What sort of favour?”

“It's not really for me. Well, actually it is. It's Cordelia. Her parents practically ignore her. And when they don't... her back is one huge bruise with welts right now. It's not the first time either.”

“I see. And I assume you don't want a favour from me so much as from Simon?”

“Yes. I’m sorry to ask this, Joyce.”

“Oh, don't be ridiculous, of course you had to ask this,” Joyce bit her lip. “It's just, Simon doesn't like Cordelia very much...”

“Please Joyce, Victor Chase... We can't do this alone,” Eliza cajoled worriedly.

“Don't worry, I'll convince him,” Joyce assured her friend. 

“I'm sure you will. He's putty in your hands. ” Eliza responded slyly.

“Not putty. Anything but putty, even.” Joyce grinned. ”And you should talk. Poor Marcus, I could tell that all he wanted to do when he saw you in that Emma Frost costume was to drag you out of the sight of all the lecherous boys and ravish you.”

Eliza giggled, slightly embarrassed. “Says the Pirate King's willing captive.”

Joyce flushed slightly. “Well, yes. So neither of us came out of that evening covered in laurels.”

“Not covered in anything much,” Eliza's giggle was rather contagious.

“I can't believe I’m actually discussing this.” Joyce shook her head. She heard the footsteps on the stairs. “Simon is coming, I'll go and convince him.”

“If he's already coming-”

“GOODBYE ELIZA!” Joyce quickly hung up, trying to control her blush and started when the door opened.

Simon walked into the bedroom and smiled as Joyce hung up the phone. “Well? What has got you all in a tizzy?” he asked as he sat down by her side.

Joyce leaned against him. “That was Eliza. She asked for a favour.”

“A favour?”

“Cordelia Chase. She was ill, and her parents away and Eliza and Marcus have had enough, Eliza said her back was one big bruise and-”

Simon’s fingers on her lips cut of her speech. “I’ll call some people. Do they have a doctor’s report on her condition yet?”

“They went to Sunnydale General and your Clinic, two opinions. Social Services is taking their side. For now. Eliza is really scared that Victor Chase will come after the girl using lawyers. Or something worse.”

“Don’t worry, dear heart. I’ll get some people on it. Cordelia may be a bit annoying, but she doesn’t deserve to be abused.” Simon hesitated. “Was there any…”

“No. He never touched her that way, even got really upset if she kissed a boy.”

Simon grimaced. “He may just have been waiting for the right time.”

“Ugh. I could have lived very well without that idea, thank you Simon.”

“So, why didn't you just hand over the phone...” Simon raised an eyebrow. “Dear me. You think I'd be that petty?

Joyce blushed. “No. Eliza err, we were just discussing... err...”

Simon grinned. “Methods of persuasion?”

Joyce groaned. “Oh God.”

“Hmm, you usually reserve that exclamation for later...”

Joyce groaned again and slapped Simon's chest lightly. Simon grinned and reached for the phone. “I’ll call some people and set the wheels in motion. Then we can see if your way to express gratitude is as wonderful as your ways of persuasion.”

Joyce slapped his chest again, face flaming. “Dork.”   

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 “I don't care what the law and the report of Social Services say, I want my daughter back in my house by the end of the week. Is that understood? I don't pay you lot a massive retainer merely to hear that it is impossible. You told me nothing was impossible.”

The young lawyer smiled. “I assure you, Mr. Chase that Wolfram & Hart will do its utmost to solve this problem. You have to realize however that this is not an ordinary opponent. The support that your daughter is getting from Meier is a counterweight to most that we can do.”

“Just most. So there are options, I suggest you get on with it.”

“Mr. Chase, it might be best to admit your daughter will never return to you and focus on keeping yourself out of trouble.”

“Mr. McDonald, I don’t think you understand. I need my daughter to be mine. There are certain steps I need to take to ensure that my family continues to exist in the manner we’ve become accustomed to. After that, I shall beget a son, a proper heir.” Victor Chase smiled darkly. “You might remind your… employers that they still owe me a new, better and younger wife.” 

Lindsey McDonald swallowed at the smile. The magical ring on his finger was pricking, painfully, seven needles, he could feel grating against the bone, sucking blood, powering it. *The maximum’s ten! Fucking Cyvus Vail is eight and a half, and this guy doesn’t even practice! Fuck, why the hell, how the hell, did we miss this guy’s power? He’s like a fucking magical dynamo!* “I assure you again that we’ll do our very best to service your needs.”

“That’s good to hear, Mr. McDonald. Otherwise the contract I’ve got with Wolfram & Hart will be void. Trust me when I tell you that the Head Office would not be pleased. Not pleased at all, if they lost my payment for the services you have rendered and have yet to render due to... incompetence of entirely replaceable underlings.”

Lindsay swallowed, wishing he’d actually read the bloody contract. He’d expected to bully a small town businessman into giving in and settle and let Wolfram & Hart cart off most of his wealth for the privilege. This was not a small town businessman. This was darkness walking, or as close to it as he cared to come. He shivered, unnoticeably, in his bespoke grey suit and vowed to read everything he could about Victor Chase in the Company Archives.

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Cynddelw Brydydd Mawr ("Cynddelw the Great Poet"; Middle Welsh: Kyndelw Brydyt or Cyndelw Brydyd Maur; fl. c. 1155–1200), in English also known as Kendall, was the court poet of Madog ap Maredudd, Owain Gwynedd (Owen the Great), and Dafydd ab Owain Gwynedd  and one of the most prominent Welsh poets of the 12th century.
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