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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)vidiconFR1598780,0851591497402,31028 May 115 Jul 14No

Many reasons to give thanks

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.#

Many thanks to James, Shieldage and SongBirdie the latest to recommend me. Wow, three more recs, that puts me at seventy-seven recommendations and 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…

Chapter 68 has been very mildly revised. This one may be as well, but I doubt it will be heavy. As noted in the Author’s note of Luna Lovegood and the Shaggy Dog I’m probably going to be cutting down on the number of updates. Some personal stuff, including moving house, has come up. That cuts into my writing time. I’m still aiming for a bi-weekly update, would people prefer one week of Lonely Souls and the next of Shaggy Dog or alternate weeks?

Well, read, hopefully enjoy and let me know!

69 Many reasons to give thanks

Monday, 20th of November, 05.30, (Five thirty AM) SGC

General Hammond looked in some surprise at the large shape sitting on the chair in the cafeteria. He was there to get some coffee, and sneak a donut from Chef Hardmeyer, who was sympathetic to the fact that Dr. Fraiser was a tyrant who took away a man’s simple desires. Like donuts.

“Mr. Teal’c? Are you alright?”

Teal’c looked up and inclined his head, his face even more pensive than usual. “I am… Pondering.”

Hammond hesitated. Despite the Jaffa’s courage and obvious dedication, there was something inhuman about him, something that made Hammond wonder if he could really be trusted. He shrugged and sat down on the opposite chair. Hardmeyer came over with a tray with two cups of coffee and four donuts.  

Teal’c looked at the confections with some surprise, or at least as much surprise as he ever showed. “I thought that Dr. Fraiser had forbidden you to eat sugar, confectionary and fat?” he ventured.

Hammond took a sip of coffee, made from the blend he had deposited with the chef. “Yes, she did. And I’ve cut back on sugar and fat a great deal. But I’m not going to give up donuts or Pecan pie,” he gestured at the donuts. “Have one. Tell me I’m wrong.”

Teal’c took a sugar-coated jelly donut and took a bite. He chewed and swallowed. “I can imagine that it would be difficult to give up such a delicacy.” There was a glint of humour in the Jaffa’s eye.

Hammond smiled slightly. “Now try and give it up with the weight of the world on your shoulders. So, care to tell me what you were pondering?”

Teal’c took another bite, and then sipped some coffee. “Family.”

“Ah.” Hammond relaxed. “Who did you leave behind?”

Teal’c looked at the other man, his face closed and guarded. Hammond, on impulse, took out his wallet and flipped it open. “These are my granddaughters, Kayla and Tessa,” he pointed at a picture and then at the next. “That’s Margaret, my wife; she died a few years ago. And this is Lauren, our daughter. Every time I was deployed we had to choose if they’d go with me or stay in the States. Every tour I did in ‘Nam, they sat at home and wondered if I’d come home safely, and every night I wondered if I’d ever hold them again.”

Teal’c took the wallet and looked at it for a few long, silent minutes. Then he spoke. “My son. My wife. Rya’c and Drey’auc.”

“It must be very hard to leave so many things behind,” Hammond commiserated.

“It is strange. I miss many things. The stars. The feeling of the engines under my feet. My friends and comrades among the Jaffa, for I had them. And yet I most miss her laughter and Rya’c’s questions. He always has questions.” Teal’c looked at the pictures again, closed the wallet and handed it back.

“Do you play games with your children?” Hammond asked, suddenly curious to know more about the strange offshoot of the human race the man in front of him belonged to.

“We train them to be the best possible servants, warriors to the Goa’uld,” Teal’c answered shortly, as if the words pained him.

“Ah. So no hide and go seek? Tag? Airplane?” Hammond noted with a certain sadness in his voice.

“Airplane? Indeed. I was under the impression that your children were considered too young to fly such machines,” Teal’c inquired, curious.

Hammond grinned. “Not that kind of airplane. Let me explain.”

Teal’c leaned forward to listen, sipping coffee and eating donuts, listening to the games the Tau’ri children played.

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“MOM!” Buffy yelled as she threw the door to the kitchen open, her face a mask of irritation. “Kit and Dawn used up all of my shampoo!” she blinked, her eyes and mouth opening wide and then her face twisted from irritation to horror. “MOM!! EWWWW!! WE EAT OFF THAT EEEEEWWW!!!!”

Joyce winced at the noise and jumped from her seat of the kitchen island and straightened her skirt. Simon, flushing, but with a slight smirk on his face, had hastily retreated from his position between Joyce’s legs.

“Really, Buffy. You should be used to this by now,” Joyce chided gently, a mild flush on her face.

“I don't want to get used to my Mom and her boyfriend kissing in public, or in front of me,” Buffy shot back, shuddering. “And don't say that I'll get used to it through acclimatization, just don't.”

Joyce smiled. “Very well, I won't. I'll talk to Kit and Dawn. This was the Kiwi Shampoo?”

“Yeah. It's expensive,” Buffy defended her annoyance. “And it's mine and they've got their own and I've got to pay for it from my allowance and-”

“Buffy, don't worry. I'll talk to them and take the difference out of their allowance. Now go upstairs and get ready for school, okay?” Joyce soothed.

Buffy blinked, looked down at her blue PJ's with white frolicking lambs and with a gasp ran back upstairs, as near to the top of her Slayer speed as the stairs and narrow hallway would allow.

Joyce sighed. “Well, looks like I've got my work cut out for me today. What a splendid beginning of the week.”

Simon smiled. “I must admit that it feels good to me. Just normal problems. Are you sure about Thanksgiving?”

Joyce sniffed. “I'm sure if you are. I do have three ovens and the small kitchen in 1628, at least if Patrick's projections aren't off.”

“They're not,” Simon assured her. “He's got the manpower and the materials, and he gets a bonus if he's finished on time. We will have to ventilate a good deal to make certain the place isn’t one giant paint fume cloud, though.”

Joyce sighed. “This would be much easier if we celebrated it at Hooghwater...”

“No doubt.” Simon's answer was short and his tone exasperated.

“It might help you bury some old fears and dispel some old demons...” Joyce encouraged.

“No. Not yet. Maybe next year.”

Joyce smiled. “Well I suppose Christmas at Vlughwater will be enough of a victory.”

“I suppose it will be. I hope it is,” Simon smiled as he heard Xander's discordant humming come up the stairs. “I'll put the waffles on.”

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“So, how are you feeling?” James asked Cecilia as she leaned against him on the couch.

“I think that this year's Thanksgiving will truly be something to be grateful for,” Cecilia smiled. “All my daughters, several grandchildren more than we started the year with, Penelope and four grand nieces.”

“A year to be grateful for, indeed,” James noted with a smile.

Cecilia's smile faded. “I still haven't told Charlotte.”

“I understand. We’ll do it together, Wednesday evening, when they get here.”

“My poor baby. What do we do if the plan doesn't work?” she asked, snuggling into his embrace.

“We go and find them. Every single one of them. And really hurt the sons of bitches that hold them,” James’ normally gently amused face was set in a look of implacable hatred. “Should I carry her today? Let her know Granddaddy loves her as well?”

Cecilia nodded. “Do that.” She reached behind her neck and undid the clasp of the chain, lifted it gently and handed the glowing white gem and the platinum chain to James. “Go to Granddad, Gwendolyn, sweetie.” The gem glowed more brightly for a second and then settled down to its previous intensity. James hung the chain around his neck, touching the gem lightly before putting it inside his shirt. Then he put his arms around Cecilia and kissed her neck, moving on to nibble.

There was a slight gargle and then a groan and Buffy stomped past them noisily, opening the door. “Sheesh, is there no place in this house where there's no kissage going on?” she muttered as she left. Cecilia noted Buffy passed the windows and walked towards 1628, glaring down at her feet. Then her attention was diverted by James’ mouth on hers.

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Patrick Madison was a conscientious man who did good work and made sure his employees did the same. Usually that meant that he was the supervisor of the works. But with a man brought in to do that job so that Pat could assess if he would do and also have some time off to work on Abluaria, it meant he was currently able to pay attention to something else. The something else being five foot three and a half, with auburn and chestnut hair and in his lap.

Clarice smiled as his chin rested on the crown of her head. “So... You feelin' happy about this?”

Patrick grinned. “Well, the notion that you're moving here full time, yeah, that makes me quite happy. Your parents are a little less happy. And your Dad was quite graphic in his descriptions of what he'd do to me if I didn't treat you right.”

“Oh, come on!” Clarice giggled. “Dad's a lamb.”

Patrick raised a skeptical eyebrow “To you and your sisters, maybe. To his grandchildren, certainly. To any suitors of his daughters or granddaughters? He's Ice Ellis.”

The giggle intensified. “Ice? Ahm worth the cold then?”

Patrick shrugged and pulled Clarice tighter to him. “Worth every glare and cleared throat and even the annoyed looks from your mother.”

Clarice smiled. “Hmmm. Patrick? Are you sure you want me to stay in the apartment?”

“Sure? No. Want? Hell no, I'd love for you to move in with me instead of into Simon’s apartment. And I'm pretty sure that Amy would love to have you as well. But I think we have to go a little slow. Give ourselves some time to adjust to the idea.”

Clarice bit her lip. “Oh. I see.”

Patrick smiled and gently tucked a strand of hair behind Clarice’s ear. “'Ris, you're coming out of a nervous breakdown and I was the whipping boy of a powerful witch who messed up my mind. I think we both need some time to recover-”

“OH MAN!” Buffy glared at the couple from the doorway and then slammed the door shut again. “Is there no place where there’s no goings on?” she yelled, and strode towards the kitchen.

Clarice grinned. “And of course at the apartment no one will walk in on us, even if they know very well what we are up to...”

Patrick blushed. “Err, yes there is that.”

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Buffy sighed as she watched Willow's lips peck and pull at Dave's, looking for all the world like a Robin Redbreast eating from a birdfeeder. Or at least to her irritated mind it did. *Dammit, I want to be able to kiss my own boyfriend! And I want to get hugged for other purposes than martial arts practice.* She scowled as Willow, seated on the wall, drew Dave closer and Dave moved in for some serious Frenching. Buffy groaned as flashbacks to the sight of Joyce and Simon that morning appeared before her mind's eye.

She looked at the camera on her shoulder - put there by Willow since Dave felt rather self-conscious about kissing Willow with her ‘twin’ looking on from quite so close- and spoke at the microphone. “So Rowan, you ready to blow this joint?”

Rowan let out a sigh. “Yeah. We can go bring Mom's invitation to Giles. He’ll be there. Jenny’s usually later, we’ll give her hers in Comp-sci.”

Buffy nodded, her face brightening. “Yeah, that's good. Come on, let's get to the Library.” 

They left quietly. Not that Willow and Dave would have noticed had they done so with a full fanfare playing a Sousa march.

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The Library was quiet, and the office of the Librarian should have been as well, but the sounds of kisses and moans would have been audible to anyone with good hearing. Inside Rupert Giles, standing between the young Comp Sci teacher’s legs as she sat on the desk, in her black slacks and red sweater, gently kissed Jenny’s lips and withdrew to give her a rather goofy smile. “So, what are your plans for the weekend?”

Jenny’s equally goofy smile evaporated. “Nothing much. I don’t have any family to celebrate Thanksgiving with…”

“Ah, well, perhaps you’d like to celebrate it with me? I’m quite willing to give thanks that we’re no long stuck with you Yanks,” Giles teased. 

“I-I’d like that.” Jenny moved her lips closer and Giles complied with her unspoken demand and kissed her again.

That was when the door to the Library was thrown open with some vigour and a cheery teenage voice called out. “Giles! Mom and Dad want me to tell you that you and Miss Calendar are invited over for Thanksgiving!” Buffy’s voice was clear as a bell. Giles and Jenny shot apart, trying to smooth their clothes into a semblance of propriety.

“Ah! Ahem, Buffy! Hello!” Giles stammered out.

Buffy groaned. “Oh, man, can't I catch a break? First Mom and Simon in the kitchen, Gran and Granddad in the living room, Aunt 'Ris and Patrick in the Big Room, then Willow and Dave just now and now you?” She glared at Jenny. “You're supposed to be, like, our elder sister and totally a good example! Wait until I tell Mom you were necking with Giles at work! And don't you dare not show up at Thanksgiving! You so owe me after this! I’m scarred for life!”

Jenny started to giggle. “Sounds like you had a bad morning.”

“Very bad,” Buffy pouted. “And no Angel anywhere for feel better snuggles, and I broke a nail patrolling last night.”

Recalled to his duties, Giles picked up the log in which he recorded Buffy's patrols and opponents. “Really? What happened?”

Buffy glared at Jenny, whose hand was running up and down Giles' spine. Jenny raised an eyebrow and smiled. Buffy's glare intensified and then she sighed and started describing the previous night's encounters.

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Charlotte Chase was packing her bags into her Mercedes A124 and looking furtively around. Victor was at his LA office, dealing with the aftermath of Cordelia’s flight to the Kendalls. Charlotte straightened her shoulders. If her daughter managed to escape the house, and Victor Chase, so could she. She’d considered going to the Kendalls as well, or finding refuge in a house for battered women. Anything would be better than to submit to the tender mercies of Victor. But both options lacked style, and both of them lacked what she craved: control, and to continue her admittedly very comfortable lifestyle. She shivered. No, she had to get as far away from Victor as she could. The East Coast. She had friends there. Well, acquaintances. People who would probably not kick her out immediately.

She had twenty-thousand dollars in cash in her bag, withdrawn that afternoon from the private account into which she had been carefully squirreling away funds for years. She might not be able to access the rest of the money, but she did have the numbers of three of Victor’s Swiss bank accounts and one in the Caymans. The twenty ought to tide her over until she could get enough off the other accounts to live in the style she’d become accustomed to.

*Get away from here. Cordelia might think she’s safe with the Kendalls. But Cordelia is wrong. Get far enough away and the embarrassment might be outweighed by the trouble it takes to get me back.* She loaded the final suitcase onto the back seat, put the driver’s seat back into position and got in, driving off quickly without a backwards glance at the house she’d inhabited since her marriage.

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Monday, November 20th, late afternoon, Sunnydale High Theatre

Giles groaned. Next to him Jenny did the same. The Christmas Pageant, organized each year with and for Sunnydale Elementary, was being rehearsed.

“I’m telling you, we need more grenades! Can’t have enough grenades when you’re being attacked by Zombie Martian Nazi Amazon Catwomen! From Demos! We have to have more grenades, Santa!” the scantily clad young woman with the fake elf ears called out.

“No, Skillderpintle, my loyal servant, I will use the FORCE!” the heavily padded boy in the bright red robes and the very fake white beard drew a plastic lightsaber.

Jenny leaned over to Giles. “Who wrote this?” She whispered.

Giles flipped to the front of the script. “Ah… it’s a collaboration, by the Roleplay, Comic book and oh, the Cheerleader squad?” his voice turned up in amazement, then he took off his glasses. “And possibly ten thousand monkeys on typewriters.”

Jenny giggled. “This was the best they managed to produce?”

“Apparently. It’s still a lot better than the material written by the Fantastic Four,” Giles groaned.

“Fantastic Four?” Jenny sounded interested. “Who’re they? They sound like they should be members of the Comic book club.”

“The authors of the masterpiece ‘Flying Monkeys from Oz attack Santa’s sleigh and a massive dogfight takes place’ oh look, the summary says it has deep emotive conversations between Santa and his supporting elves, all of whom have bedded Mrs. Claus,” Giles turned a page. “Apparently at the same time,” he blinked and grimaced. “By Tucker Wells, Jonathan Levinson and Warren Mears, with additional ideas by Andrew Wells.”

Jenny looked at the stage, at the list on the clipboard in her hand, and looked sideways at Giles. “A Christmas Carol?”

Giles nodded. “A Christmas Carol.”

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Jack O'Neill pushed himself away from the wall and studied the bout going on in front of him in the SGC gym. Teal'c was calm and composed, as always. His opponent had an expression of intense concentration as she moved towards him, taking the offensive, trying to surprise the big Jaffa.

Airman Carol Weterings was quick on her feet and talented at martial arts. She was also highly frustrated. She had not been allowed off base since the Marigold men had tried to kidnap her and she was starting to resent being cooped up, even for her own good. That meant that she had to take out her frustration on someone and Teal'c was willing to accommodate her. Carter had more or less given up on the physics lessons until the younger woman had had a chance to relieve some stress on the mat. She even joined them sometimes. Neither woman was exactly a girly girl, but apparently hanging around the primarily male SGC base made them seriously crave some female companionship. He'd seen the two blondes and Dr. Fraiser's auburn head lowered together over a cafeteria table quite often lately.

With a swift, short punch Carol Weterings went to the attack, only to have her fist caught and her feet kicked from under her, landing on her butt on the mat. She glared up at Teal'c.

“Hey!”

“You are unfocused, Airman Weterings. You must concentrate and not let your anger and frustrations guide your attacks.”

Carol glared again. “Oh, you want frustration? I'll give you frustration!” She leapt to her feet and launched herself at the big Jaffa's midriff with a growl. Teal'c staggered and nearly fell by the ferociousness of her attack, then put his arms around her middle and lifted her off her feet, swinging her into the air above his head and whirling her around like a propeller.

At first Weterings let out an angry squawk, but after the second revolution she started to giggle, and then laugh. Jack looked at the look of intense concentration on Teal’c’s face as the big Jaffa kept his dizziness at bay while making circle after circle. Wetering’s bubbling laughter filled the room.

There was a soft cough and Jack turned to see General Hammond watching the scene, a mild expression on his face. “What is going on here, Colonel?”

“Err… Vertigo training, sir?” Jack offered.

“I see.” Hammond grinned. “Mr. Teal’c, that’s Merry-go-round, not Airplane!” he called out.

Teal’c raised an eyebrow, threw Carol in the air and while she still screeched in surprise, caught her flailing right arm and leg and started swinging her round.

Jack gaped at Hammond and then at the laughing young airman. “What’s going on, sir?”

“Mr. Teal’c is learning how to play,” Hammond explained with a smile. “You look a bit down, Colonel. Anything wrong?”

Jack’s mouth twisted. “Thanksgiving is coming up. And Christmas. Nothing really important, Sir.” 

Hammond smiled. “Colonel, very few things are more important than family. I assume this is why I have Thanksgiving off while you’re in charge?”

Jack shrugged. “Not much use sitting at home alone.”

“Then I suggest you get as comfortable as possible in the base, and show Mr. Teal’c Thanksgiving. Find out who else is alone. If we do not have family, friends and comrades are what we need.”

Jack looked at Teal’c and Weterings. “She still can’t go out, can she?”

Hammond looked grim. “No. We can’t get at Marigold; they seem to slip away from every search and every attempt to bring in any sort of senior agent or operative in results in failure.”

Jack almost growled. “For Pete’s sake! We need to take those guys down. My Evy is out there!”

Hammond nodded. “I know. I know very well indeed, Colonel. Don’t worry, we’ll get them. We will get them.” 

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Tuesday, November 21st

It was before dawn and the boy who skulked in the undergrowth should have been easy prey to the vampires that stalked the night. He’d been given a reprieve however, at the orders of the Master. And so it was that Tucker Wells, Warlock Extraordinaire of the Thirteenth Circle of Skazzabaaranzar was checking out his sorcery-laced bait. So far he had seen three raccoons, six badgers and a fox, as well as the feral dog pack he was actually aiming to convert for his purposes. Things were looking quite good, really. He hummed slightly as he finished the final binding spell. Soon he would unleash his wrath upon his vapid and ignorant schoolmates. Soon he would rule supreme, subservient only to Skazzabaaranzar. Tucker’s face tightened. “Hmm, I may have to find a different name for the Circle. Sounds a bit like Spazzabaaranzar. Gotta think about that…” Still muttering, he left to continue to bind his creations to his will. The Christmas Pageant was soon, and he wanted to be ready for it. “Bastards! Our play was a masterwork! A work of sheer genius! What’s Dickens got that we don’t?”

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Wednesday 22nd of November, the evening before Thanksgiving

The car stopped in front of the house and Harry got out, looking slightly grumpy, and opened the door for Celia as Charlotte got out the other side. With twin squeals Dawn and Kit hurled themselves at their cousin and Celia staggered. “Woah! Easy there Pooh and Tigger!”

The girls froze and then looked up at the smirking girl. “Pooh?” “Tigger?”

“Very little brains,” she pointed at Dawn, “and can’t stop bouncing.” This was addressed to Kit.

Kit growled, as did Dawn. In a concerted tickle attack on Celia’s short ribs they had her down on the ground, gasping for mercy, in short order. Then Harry sighed, picked up one wriggling nine year old with each long arm and carried them, tucked safely under his arms, squirming and protesting up the stairs to the front door.

Simon stood looking at the scene with some amusement as Buffy went to Celia’s aid, helping her cousin to her feet. Then he accepted Dawn from Harry and threw her over his shoulder. Dawn squealed. The two men exchanged glances and Simon led Harry inside. They placed the girls on the couch in the living room. Joyce sighed at the scene and put a hand on each girl’s head before they jumped up to reengage Celia as she came in.

“No. Sit quietly and wait for everyone, then greet them, politely.” Joyce stressed the last word, Kit and Dawn pouted, but both obeyed. Right until Charlotte was inside. Then they pounced on Harry.

“Uncle Harry!” Dawn hugged him, as did Kit and then they ran off to Charlotte to do the same. “Aunty Lot!”

Simon came out of the kitchen and handed Harry a beer as the taller man looked bemusedly at the excited girls, a soda in his own hand. “Still don’t like driving at night?”    

“No. I see the treatment worked on Kit. She seems very bouncy.” Harry smirked as the twin missiles that were Kit and Dawn took down Xander.

Simon smiled fondly. “Yes. And Dawn is a lot happier with another sibling her own age around. She was starting to feel a bit excluded.”

Harry smiled as well, but his eyes were sad. “Yeah. Celia would have liked siblings as well.”

Simon nodded. “So would I. Then again, I’ve got one now and she’s a right terror.”

“I heard that Simon!” Clarice spoke behind him and slapped his shoulder. Harry smirked.

Simon merely raised an eyebrow. “Yes, sister dear. Let me point out that if you want to sneak up on people you should not wear your boyfriend’s favourite perfume. I must admit I never expected Patrick to like Elizabethan Rose, of all the scents I’ve smelt you wear.”

Clarice stepped next to him. “And how is it that you can identify a woman’s perfume just like that, big brother?” she teased.

“Do you really want to know, Rissy?” Simon asked, slightly subdued.

Clarice blinked at his sudden change in mood and then hugged him. “Stop feeling so guilty about what you did in the past. Live in the now a little more.” She moved over to hug Harry and then left to help release Charlotte from the pile of teens who had jumped her right after Kit and Dawn had released her.

Harry pointed with his bottle at the timid looking girl standing in the corner. Her skin was the colour of coffee with a good dash of milk and her large brown eyes under dark brows were looking uncertain and frightened.  “Who’s she?”

“Kendra. Her guardian was injured and we’ve taken her in.”

Harry nodded thoughtfully and sipped his beer. “She knows? About… things?”

“She’s a Potential Slayer,” Simon replied softly. “We’ll do our utmost to prevent it ever passing to her of course, or passing at all. But she was raised to be a good little weapon and Joyce is determined to make her into a real girl.”

Harry shook his head. “Amazing. They seem to be crawling out of the woodwork. Well, introduce me to my newest niece. How old is she, by the way?”

“A year younger than Xander, Buffy and Willow. August 6th 1982. And you wouldn’t believe how long it took to get her to tell us that. Apparently besides being a possible Slayer, there is no value to her, no worth. She only has one change of clothing and four changes of underwear, which with sufficient washing, which she did herself, was ‘sufficient for her needs.’” Simon’s voice was still quiet but vibrated with anger. “Kendra, this is Harry Penkowski, the husband of Joyce’s twin sister, Charlotte.”

Harry smiled at the suddenly wide eyed girl. She looked about ready to bolt, obviously unnerved by the new people. “Charlotte, come meet Kendra,” he called out.

Charlotte shook loose a few teenagers and came over. Kendra looked from the one to the other and swallowed nervously. Then Joyce stepped up beside her and she visibly relaxed. “Mr. and Mrs. Penkowski. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Charlotte smiled as did Harry. “You too, Kendra.”

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“Dad? Aunt ‘Ris? Can we talk?” Willow approached her father and aunt as they stood looking at the family gathering. Kit, Dawn, Celia and Buffy were playing monopoly, Amy, Evy and Kendra were playing risk against Harry and Cecelia, the latter showing far greater strategic skill than expected, Charlotte was setting up a chessboard, eyeing Willow. Obviously wanting to test the girl’s prowess at the game and Joyce and Arlene were in the kitchen, making coffee.

“Certainly.” Simon gestured for Willow to join them and the girl stood very close, clasping a pile of papers, her laptop bag slung from her shoulder.

“Can we go to the Big Room?” Willow asked tentatively.

Simon nodded and led the way outside. The path to 1628 was lit by electric lights, to prevent any possibility of anyone falling into the building trenches. Simon opened the door. The room beyond occupied almost the entirety of the ground floor, and two large tables had been set up in preparation for the next day’s feast. On less formal occasions the room was going to be filled with clumps of couches and chairs, with two huge fireplaces. It might become the family living room, with the old one the new dining room and the old dining room a general study. Discussion was ongoing.

Willow sighed wistfully as she walked in and pointed at sat down at one of the corner after setting down the papers and the laptop. “That would be so perfect a place for a grand Piano…”

“You don’t play the piano,” Simon remarked, absently.

“I could take lessons. I’d love to have lessons,” Willow smiled with a wistful pout.

Simon shrugged. “Very well, I’ll talk with your mother and I’ll have the Grand from Hooghwater brought here. Was that what you wanted to see us abo-”

Simon’s words were cut off by Willow’s ‘Squee!’ and hug. “Thank you! Thank you!”

Clarice exchanged looks with Simon over Willow’s head. Simon smiled and hugged Willow back. “Willow if you wanted piano lessons that badly, why didn’t you tell us before?”

Willow shuddered. “Sheila thought music was a waste of time when there were far more important things to learn. Physics. Math. I once bought a little flute with my allowance, a recorder. She broke it.”

Simon tightened his hold. “Oh, Willow…” he took a breath. “Well, I want you to think very carefully if you want to play the piano or a different instrument, okay?”

“D-different instrument?” Willow’s eyes widened as she realized she had choices. “Ohhh…”

Simon smiled. “Yes. Now, what did you want to talk to us about?”

Willow shook herself, disentangled herself from her father’s arms and sat down at the table, opened and set up her laptop, hooked up the internet and put the papers in front of her and tapped the mic and camera on her shoulder to catch Rowan’s attention. “Rowan? I’ve got them alone and everything's set up.”      

“I'm here,” Rowan's cheerful, disembodied voice came out of the microphone and her face appeared on the screen.

Willow took a deep breath. “Okay... Dad, Mom promised me errr... immunity, so don't freak out, ok?”

“If this is about the search for Ted Buchanan, I'm aware of it. Though I don't know why Clarice simply couldn't have gone to some of her sources.”

“Because, dear brother, that would be an abuse of power unless I had probable cause,” Clarice answered sweetly. “And that could get me arrested.”

“So you have my fifteen year old daughter hack the needed info together instead?” Simon snorted.

Willow looked uncertain. “Yeah, about that, I err, well, you see... IaskedRowantohelpandMomdidn'tokaythatandreallyitwasagoodideaandIcouldn'thavedoneitwithoutherandpleasedon'tpunishher-us-forit,” she rushed out the words at high speed, exceeding even normal Willow babble.

Simon looked stern and then a smile broke out. “I see. I think we can manage that. So what did you hack? And what did you find out?”

Willow gestured at the paper. “Well, if this was any other place than the Hellmouth, I'd say I'd done my work badly.”

“Explain.” Clarice sat down next to Willow and the redhead consulted her notes.

“Well, okay. According to everything I can find out, Ted Buchanan was born in 1925.”

Clarice tapped her teeth and looked at Simon. “Looks very good for his age. I doubt that moisturizing is going to be the reason for it, hmmm?”

Simon nodded in agreement. “Definitely worth investigating.”

Willow nodded. “Yup, so, I dug a little deeper. He filed several patents, rented a workshop that was also his home. He was evicted because the neighbors complained about the noise, sounds and smells. He bought a plot of land on De Vere street in 1949, got a license to run a metalworking shop and built one there and filed for the construction of a nuclear fallout shelter underneath,” Willow looked up. “Isn’t that weird?”

Clarice smiled. “Not really, my Dad dug a shelter behind the farm.”

“And there’s a huge one under the New York house and another on the grounds of Vlughwater, so no, not really. They were different times, Willow. Unless… What are the specifications?”

Willow looked at her papers, sighed and handed some them over. “I think that’s it. I’m not sure what they all mean.” Willow sounded disgruntled, hating the fact she didn’t know something.

Simon leaned over and drew her close. “Here, these are the thickness of the walls and ceilings. These are the notations on the mixture and the reinforcement. This is a very tough mixture.”

Willow frowned a little. “So these walls are three feet thick? Isn’t that a lot?”

“Not for a real fall-out shelter,” Simon smiled. “This is a generator room, store room, well, I’d say this was an exceptionally elaborate shelter for a man of his circumstances, the bunker’s construction must have cost several times that of the construction of the workshop.”   

“Oh. Okay.” Willow blinked at the drawings. Rowan, on the screen looked down, bending her had at an odd angle, to see the page as if she was looking Willow’s shoulder.

“Anything else?” Clarice asked, her eyes on the rest of the file on Ted.

 Willow nodded. “He married in 1957, his wife filed for divorce seven months later.”

“She did? Hmm, what were the grounds?” Clarice was taking notes.

Willow blushed slightly. “Inability to fulfill his marital duties.”

Simon chuckled. “Looked that one up, did you, Mouse?”

“Yes,” Willow sighed. “Poor woman. Anyway, that’s about it for his personal life. I found a lot about his work habits, but he’s got no criminal record whatsoever. Not even a parking ticket.”

Simon looked at the laptop screen and then at Willow. “Not to put too fine a point to it Willow, but you hacked some of the best protected systems in the US. What was so difficult about this that you needed Rowan's help?”

Willow bit her lip again. “Well, things kept sorta, slipping away the further back I went. I only found the sale of the workshop and bunker by accident, it was built when DeVere Street was and the Sunnydale Historical Society had a list of the first time owners, and he’s still it. And even with what he does now I can hardly get anything, and that’s weird.”

“Hmmm. I see. What does he do now that this surprises you?”

“He works in computers. Sells them, upgrades systems, stuff like that. Most people who do that sort of thing have some sort of net presence, some computer footprint. He doesn’t,” Willow explained.

“What about the ex-wife? Can you find her?” Clarice asked, tapping her notebook with the back of her pen.

Willow and Rowan shook their heads in unison. “Nope, not a trace. She disappeared four months after she filed for divorce,” Rowan replied.

“Ah. I see.”

Willow and Rowan looked up simultaneously. “And then there are the other three wives,” Willow stated softly. “Of whom nothing is heard anymore either.”

Clarice blinked. “Well, he creeps me out, so they may just have run off. But I somehow doubt that. Can he live from his computer business?”

Willow shook her head and Rowan did the same. “Not enough volume and its only a few years old. He works for Lorrin Software and has the computer hardware and system support business on the side. He's Lorrin’s best salesman, top seller for five years, employee of the month, everything. Not a single sick day in the entire time he's been working there. The guy is like a robot.”  

Rowan whimpered on the screen and Simon quickly stepped up and typed. The translucent figure that was always near Rowan in her virtual world was joined by another and that figure moved in and hugged her. Rowan melted into the hug, her lips trembling.

Willow bit her own lip, guiltily. “Oh, man, I'm so sorry Rowan. I didn't think.”

Rowan shook her head. “Not your fault, the guy is like a robot. I just didn't think the word would hit me like that. Sorry.”

Simon smiled and put his arms around Willow, hugging her while his virtual body did the same for Rowan. “Well, seems to me that Mr. Buchanan warrants even further investigation. Clarice, you want to set something up?”

“I’ve got no resources. I suppose I could go and camp out on his lawn,” Clarice replied dryly.

Rowan perked up. “If we set up a couple of cameras, I could keep watch on him. I don't need to sleep and it's less likely to be noticed.”

“Installing it might draw attention. But I like the idea. Willow?” Clarice inquired.

Willow looked unsure. “Well, it oughta work. But I don't know if we have all the equipment we need to set it up. I'll ask Hurst or Ms. Campbell.”

“Very well, we'll monitor him like that for a while and if nothing turns up we go and have a talk with him. I'll ask Penelope and Nanny to see if they can find something mystical,” Simon nodded decisively.

Clarice lifted an eyebrow. “Why not Mom?”

Simon's expression grew sad. “Because she's going to tell Charlotte and Harry about what Marigold did. I doubt that either of them is going to be worth much for a while after that.”

Clarice nodded. Willow looked confused. Simon looked at her with a stern expression. “Oh, and Willow, if I find out that you went to Ted’s place and planted cameras or spied on your own…” He let his voice trail off.

Willow nodded, her eyes wide. Simon looked at Rowan. “And you don’t personally get anywhere near him or his systems until we’ve found out more about him. He may be able to imprison you, like Moloch. We didn’t get you back just to lose you again.” He tapped a key and the suddenly pale Rowan was being hugged by two shimmering forms. Nevertheless Simon felt bad about warning her. But they were just a too alike, led by curiosity more than common sense, his twin daughters.

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Celia looked around her cousin's room, grinning. With Willow getting her own room, Buffy's room had once more the appearance of being just occupied by the mobile shoe-treeness that was Buffy. She plunked her bag down on the floor. There might be enough room to house everybody but what was the fun in staying over without a sleepover after all.

Celia walked through the room noting the other changes. The framed picture of the brooding older guy, Buffy's rather creepy if gorgeous boyfriend, the other a recent picture of Buffy, Dawn and Uncle Hank at the Ice Capades, a collection of the romance novels Celia remembered from Aunt Joyce's cupboard. One thing was new and made no immediate sense to Celia: the thin cables and the spindles outside the window, the lines running diagonally across the yard from there to the balcony with the French doors that opened onto Willow's bedroom and the other line that went to the treehouse and the third that was aimed at the opposing bedroom in 1628.

Celia tapped the wire and looked at her smirking cousin. “Okay, I’ll bite. If this were New York or something, I'd say laundry. But it isn't so what are these for?”

Buffy grinned. “Kit thought them up, Xander built them. I'll show you what they're for later.”

Celia glared. “It'd better be good, that's all I'm saying.”

Buffy's grin widened. “Wonderful, I promise.”

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“Charlotte, Harry, would you mind joining us in the dining room?” Cecilia asked, subdued.

Harry and Charlotte exchanged glances and rose from the couch where they were sitting they followed Cecilia into the dining room and noted James sat at the table already, looking strained. Cecilia sat down opposite Charlotte and took her daughter’s hands. “Honey, I should’ve told you what we’re gonna tell you now a lot earlier. But I just couldn’t.” She shuddered and closed her eyes. “There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with Harry. There’s nothing wrong with the two of you together. None of your babies died because of anything you did.”

Charlotte gritted her teeth, her eyes tearing up. “We’ve had this conversation, mother. There’s no need to rake it up again. Harry and I’ve accepted the fact that Celia was a miracle and that-”

“They were murdered,” James whispered. “Murdered for their souls,” his hands trembled as he reached up and took off the necklace, laid the gem on the pal of his hand and held it out towards Charlotte and Harry. As the white gem neared them it started to glow incandescently. “This is Gwendolyn. We found her in the possession of a man called Lucien Drake, who tried to disrupt the ritual to heal Kit. Your mother and Mrs. Beckforth caught him.”

Charlotte gasped as the gem touched her skin and a burst of light flashed out of it. When the people around the table could see again, the white gem was pulsing and Charlotte and Harry were crying. “Our baby…” Charlotte choked out, before she glared at her parents. “Why the fuck did you wait so long to tell us? And where is this Drake?”

Cecilia let out a breath. “In an undisclosed location, until we are ready to deal with him.”

“Why is he still alive? Is the Concordat suddenly going soft?” Charlotte demanded in a scathing voice.

“Jon is working with Simon on a ritual that will exchange his soul for the ones he sold to the Lords Below. He’s a powerful adept, with the proper incentives it should work,” James replied with a shudder. “Those two know more about the Dark Arts than I really feel comfortable with.” 

Charlotte looked at the glowing gem in her hand. Her eyes met Harry’s. She looked up and her anguished, angry eyes turned to her mother. “Good. Now what is being done about our baby? And the rest of them?”

Cecilia smiled grimly. “Well now, there we have some things to tell you.”

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The car drew up in front of the house and two girls launched themselves from the porch towards the car’s occupants. Phoebe spread her arms and swirled Dawn around. “Heya Dawnie!”

“You’re here! You’re here! Yay!” Dawn yelled.

Kit in the meantime had thrown herself at Prue. Prue grinned wickedly and suddenly Kit was swirling too, but almost horizontally, her eyes wide in shock and then laughing with glee as Prue used her power to lift her.

Willow descended the stairs more sedately and embraced Piper. “Hello Piper, Phoebe, Aunt Penny. Prue. Prue, you're a show-off,” she added with a grin as Kit came back to earth.  

Prue grinned and ruffled Kit's hair. Kit grinned back. “Again!” Kit demanded.

“Maybe later, Kit. Gotta greet other people first.” Prue hugged Dawn and Willow and watched with amusement as the bags were hoisted up the stairs. Phoebe ignored the room set aside for her in 1632 and blithely started setting up a camp bed in Dawn's room. A single glance at Xander had been enough to bring it up from the garage.

“So, is there any food to be had around here?” Phoebe asked after her bed, and Prue's and Piper's had all been made.

Penelope sighed and looked apologetically at Joyce. “I did my best, but minding her manners really didn't catch on with her.”

Joyce grinned. “Well teenagers have healthy young appetites. It's to be expected. Oh, wait, wasn’t her birthday on the second? Her twentieth? She acts so much younger…” Joyce teased.

Phoebe blushed and flapped her hands. “Yeah, yeah. Sorry, I forgot to eat at home before we left.”

“Aunt Penny told me. There's some food in the dining room to tide you over until breakfast tomorrow,” Joyce replied, her grin widening. She grabbed onto Xander's collar with one hand and Willow's arm with the other. “And the guests go first and you've had dinner.”

“But, cheese cookies...” Willow looked longingly at the door. Xander nodded enthusiastically to support her words.

Joyce shook her head. “No. Tomorrow. If there’s anything left.”

Both teens pouted and Penelope laughed. “Oh that's just too cute.”

Xander winced. “Cute. Great. Next someone will tell me I'm one of the girls.”

Buffy grinned. “Xandrina. It suits you. And I saw a perfect dress for you the other day... it would totally set off your eyes.”

Xander groaned again. “And the worst thing is I probably know the dress she means. Man, I’ve got too many sisters.”

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Jenny smiled as Rupert came up the stairs, yawning. It had been a long day, for both of them, and she intended to make it even longer. He went into the bathroom to brush his teeth and shower and fifteen minutes later he walked into the bedroom in dark blue silk drawstring Pajamas. And stopped stock-still.

“J-Jenny?”

Jenny smiled lazily, fully aware of the effect she probably had on him, dressed in a burgundy negligee, her body draped over the bed in an inviting and – she hoped – alluring pose. “Rupert... Are you ready to prove you're man and not a boy?”

A shiver ran up Giles's spine at the way she purred, and he had no other word for it, his name. *God, she even makes my name sound sexy.*

He took a step closer to the bed and Jenny's languorous smile widened. “Hello, Rupert.” 

“J-Jenny, are you sure?”

“Oh yes. Very sure.” Jenny hoped her voice sounded surer than she felt. *What if he doesn't want to? What if he's like Carl? Oh please, let this be real, let what I think we have be real...*

Giles sat down by her and ran a hand up her silk-smooth leg, then leaned in to kiss her. “Beloved, my beloved, my Jenny...” he whispered in a possessive voice.

A thrill ran up Jenny's back at the way he spoke the possessiveness, the pride, the love. “Rupert... make love to me.

Giles moved in closer, his hands moving over her body and his lips roving in places they had never gone before and did his utmost to prove to the woman before him that the fear he saw in her eyes was founded on nothing. That his love for her was deep and true.

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The smell of food started to wind its way through the houses early in the day. Simon, Piper and Joyce had taken charge of cooking. With three ovens at their disposal, the industrial sized main one in the kitchen at 1630 being large enough to hold all three turkeys at once, they had drawn up a schedule to cook, boil, roast, toast,  broil and baste their way through the menu. The second oven in 1630 was given over entirely to the baking of cookies, an activity that occupied various family members as each at least tried to bake their own favourites.

Xander and Phoebe's 'extra crunchy chocolate chips with even more extra burnt bits' were deposited in the trash and a lecture on the proper use of the oven and the waste of material was given. Kendra had never cooked anything but the most basic foods and looked on in wonder as Joyce, Simon and Piper mixed batter and dough, and with Dawn and Kit took childish delight in cutting and shaping the dough into cookies. She was also the only one brave enough, besides the intrepid bakers themselves, to taste the batch Phoebe and Xander produced. She spent several minutes gargling as it was shown that not only had they been burned to a near crisp, Phoebe and Xander had used salt instead of sugar.  

Other than that the day passed quietly, with the turkeys slowly roasting and the smell of parsnips, sprouts, baked potatoes and various other dishes filling the air. 

Evy lay on the couch, sleeping, with her head in Arlene's lap. People playing games, reading books and in the case of Willow, tabulating the pros and cons of various musical instruments, occupied the various rooms of the three houses, though the living room of 1630 was still the favourite place to be. 

Buffy looked down at Willow as the redhead sat at the table in the dining room, drawing up tables. “Watcha doin'?”

“Trying to find out the optimum instrument for me to learn to play.” Willow replied as she carefully typed in tuba on her list. And then started to enumerate the advantages and disadvantages. Buffy noticed ‘big’ and ‘heavy’ and ‘cold’ on the list on the con side. 

Buffy blinked. “What brought that on?”

Willow shrugged. “Dad said I could play the piano, take lessons. And then he told me I could learn any instrument I wanted. So now I'm seeing which one I want to play.”

Buffy bit her lip. Then she went to the kitchen where Simon in the Kiss the cook apron was neatly laying several layers of sliced and spiced apples in the center of the dough he had pressed into the tin. “Willow gets to play the piano?”

“Hmm?” Simon looked up, two slices of apple in his hands. “Yes. Did you want to learn too? If all of you want to learn to play the same instrument there will have to be some sort of schedule. Though I do think there are several pianos in the various houses, there’s only limited room.”

Buffy blinked. “So I can learn an instrument too?”

Simon smiled, looking a bit surprised. “Of course, if you want. Your mother and me have set certain rules, if you pick an instrument you have to finish at least a year’s instruction in it, unless I own one already-”

“Harp,” Buffy interrupted, breathlessly. “C-could I learn to play the harp, please?”

Simon put down the slices he was holding and closed his eyes. “Yes. If you want.”

Buffy leaned over and hugged Simon. “Thank you!” She let go of him and was about to thank him again when she noted his strained expression. “Simon? What's wrong?” she asked worriedly.

“Nothing you did, or could know, Buffy,” Simon's smiled was gentle.

“Someone you knew played the harp?” Buffy asked, half guilty, half curiosity.

Simon nodded. “My father.”

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Rupert Giles looked at his well cut clothes and then at the woman next to him, wearing a simple black wrap over her black dress. He'd zipped her into that dress, an act of familiarity that made his heart hammer in his chest. He smiled. “Ready?”

Jenny nodded. “I wish we could have been here earlier. We shouldn’t have gotten side tracked.” She fretted.

“They'll understand. And I disagree, it was utterly necessary.” Giles assured her.  

Jenny flushed a little. “Do you think they'll know?”

Giles tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. “I fear so, beloved, and yet I fear it not at all. We did nothing wrong.”

Jenny smiled wryly and leaned against him. “You can say that again.”

Giles flushed. “Errr, we should go inside, before people wonder where we are.”

“Outside. Kissing. We know,” came a matter-of-fact voice from above them.

Giles and Jenny looked up into the brown and ocean blue eyes of Kit and Dawn. Jenny growled. “When I get my hands on you little monkeys you’ll be sorry!”

The girls giggled and ducked out of sight.

Giles smiled down at Jenny. “Well, now. It seems like your little sisters have spotted us and are now probably reporting to your mother.”

Jenny’s face tightened. “Don’t joke about that, Rupert.”

“I’m not. I think they’re quite serious,” Giles assure her. “Come on, let’s get in there,” he gave her an arm and led her up the stairs.

The door opened and Joyce stood framed in the warm light. “Well, what’s taking you so long? Kit and Dawn have been giggling about kissing and cuddling and now the house is full of ‘ewing’ teens.”

Jenny blushed. “Sorry.”

Joyce shook her head. “Oh, don’t be ridiculous. Come in you two.”

The couple went inside, ushered by Joyce. “Here’s Jenny and Rupert.”

Jenny felt everybody’s eyes on her and she flushed slightly. Buffy bounced on the couch. “Cool they’re here! Can we eat now?” she let out in a near whine.

“Buffy Anne Summers! What’s wrong with you?” Joyce scolded. In answer, Buffy’s stomach rumbled. Loudly.

Then Xander’s, Celia’s, Dawn’s, Kit’s, and Phoebe’s did the same. Joyce sighed. “Don’t tell me… all of you’ve been starving yourselves to be able to eat more?”

Willow looked smug as her siblings hung their heads. “See, all it did was get you in trouble,” she teased.  

Piper snorted. “Says the girl who was firm in her resolve to fast until the cheese cookies appeared…”

Willow flushed. “Okay, so I’m bad at fasting when there’s cheese.”

Buffy grinned. “We noticed.” Her stomach rumbled again. “Mom?” Food now? Please?” she begged.

Joyce was about to scold her when Jenny’s stomach made a noise. Joyce gave the young woman a look. “Not you, too?”

Jenny blushed. “No, I’m just hungry.”

Joyce shook her head. “All my children are bottomless pits,” she intoned despairingly. “Very well, let’s go next door and eat,” her smile took any sting out of her words.

Rupert saw the way Jenny reacted to the words and took her arm. “Told you so,” he whispered as he led her out the door again and between the lit electric torches to 1628.

Dinner was served at two tables, huge ones, set side by side in the big room. At first it had been suggested to divide the group into children’s and an adult’s tables, but eventually it had been decided that mixing the young and the old would be preferable.

The three enormous turkeys were placed before Charles, James and Jon, who started carving with a certain amount of trepidation. Huge baskets of cornbread, freshly baked; bowls of cranberry sauce; mounds of mashed potatoes; braised onions; roasted and boiled carrots, potatoes, squash and pumpkins; baked sweet potatoes topped with nicely browned marshmallows; apple, pumpkin and berry pies; chocolate mousse; a lemon Jell-o mold with strawberry slices in it, and an orange one with kiwi; salads, both fruit and green vegetable; and a vast quantity of stuffing stood beside the golden brown roasted beasts. Each table had two gravy boats, and two butter dishes with fresh sticks of butter on them. Salt and pepper shakers were spaced along them so that everyone had one of each within reach.

Buffy’s eyes fastened hungrily on a huge drumstick. Xander started to heap his plate with mashed and roasted potatoes and his salad plate was full of cranberry sauce and lettuce. Cecilia raised an eyebrow and exchanged a look with Penelope, who pointed at Arlene and Evy, who were doing the same, at Prue and Phoebe whose plates were being loaded, and then both matriarchs started to giggle.    

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The meal was over, long over. The remnants of the turkeys had been removed and the family was somnolent and satisfied. Willow hung on the couch like a wilted flower, with Dawn and Kit next to her, sleeping. A concerted attempt by Buffy, Celia, Willow and to the adults’ surprise, Evy and Kendra, to get into the coffee, had been thwarted. Hot cocoa had been supplied instead and had been drunk and now all that was left was conversation, companionship and the nearness of loved ones.

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Jack O’Neill sat at the table in the cafeteria and grinned at the other occupants.

Teal’c was looking rather dubiously at the spread on the table. “I undertook some research, O’Neill. I am familiar with most of these dishes from reading. I fear however, I did not find many colors of Jello as part of the traditional Thanksgiving feast.”

O’Neill’s grin widened. “Ah, but those are narrow-minded individuals. Jello is awesome and if the Pilgrims had known of it, they would have served it!”

“Actually, a type of Jello, made from the bones and hooves of cattle, gelatin based, was quite a favorite dessert in England at that time,” Daniel mentioned as he opened a dish and wrinkled his nose in disgust. “Ugh, Brussels Sprouts.” Next to him Carol winced. “Eeew! Take them away, please!”

“Oohh, I love Brussels Sprouts!” Sam piped up from her seat opposite.

Daniel handed her the dish. “Here you go then, eat your heart out.”

Teal’c blinked. “Is such a thing traditional among the Tau’ri, DanielJackson?”

Jack guffawed. “Nope, it’s an expression. C’mon Teal’c, I’ll make you a plate with everything you should try.”

Teal’c looked at the dishes once more. “One type of Jello will suffice.”

Carol perked up. “Can I have the ones you don’t want?”

Jack grinned at her. “Now there’s someone who understands proper nutrition!”

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Cordelia was sitting at the kitchen table, a cookie cutter in hand, the dough spread before her and playing an odd game with the Twins: whoever cut the most cookies in the shortest possible time, won. Harmony was helping Eliza with the cranberry sauce and the fruit salad, having long ago learned she could not win that particular game.

“Hey! That’s my dough! Stop stealing my dough!” Cordelia wailed as Fliss pulled on the dough and Mel stabbed it quickly with her star shaped cutter.

There was a laugh from the doorway. Marcus Kendall leaned against the jamb and then walked in, dropping kisses. “You’ll never win, Cordelia, you might as well give up.”

Cordelia looked up at him, a hand to the cheek where he’d just kissed her. Eyes still wide, she rose and then she threw her arms around him and started to cry.

Within seconds she felt a second set of arms, then another and then two smaller ones. For the first time in her life Cordelia felt that she had something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.

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Hank Summers sat at his table in his apartment and looked at the two pictures he had on his table. He had a simple meal of turkey breast, green beans, and roast potatoes and a glass of wine. A picture of Dawn and picture of Buffy. In Sunnydale right now the family, his family, would be eating. It would be a huge gathering, all the newly discovered cousins, the half-sister... Now that had been a surprise. Hank took a bite of his turkey and smiled a little. It was painful to sit here alone, but he knew no one well enough to intrude upon their celebrations. He had many acquaintances, but he realised, very few friends. And all of them had families.

Hank sighed and wondered what he would do come Christmas time. He knew that Joyce was taking the girls, his girls, to New York and London. That meant he would be alone. It was not quite how he had imagined things. When he had taken that fateful step, that stupid step, and cheated on Joyce the first time, that had been the beginning of the end. Joyce was a good, kind woman, but that had shattered her trust in him. And he'd done it again, after the trouble with Buffy. His little princess, in trouble with the police. Overton. Dawn crying in her room and not wanting comfort, yelling at him for abandoning her sister.

And then the second affair, Airiana. Beautiful, young, intelligent. On the make. Hank shook his head ruefully and turned on the CD with his remote. “I'm well rid of her, at least.” He muttered. Joyce and he had been growing apart for several years, their work, their interests, diverging. Neither possibly taking enough time to understand the changes in the other. Hank sighed. “No use crying over spilt milk. Face the music, and dance.” He ate, finished his meal, and settled down with a brief. He had nothing better to do, after all.

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Charlotte Chase smiled as she leaned back in the warm water of the luxurious bath. She'd bought a ticket to New York, but hadn't used it. The plane might get her to the East Coast faster, it was also easy to trace. Her car had taken her safely to Las Vegas and from there she would drive East in easy stages. A lot harder to follow that way. Her ticket she'd given to a young woman who wanted to go to New York and who was now no doubt wondering how to get back. Charlotte didn't really care. She was in Vegas, it was Thanksgiving and by now Victor would know she had left and taken a plane. He'd have hired a PI and no doubt there would be anger and gnashing of teeth when that PI was unable to find her. She sighed and smiled. In an hour or so she would go down, find a nice, well set up and not too bright young man and take him back up here. And with a bit of luck he'd help her forget about Victor.

She sighed and got out of the tub, washing the few suds off, dried herself and dressed, did her make up and left her room, carefully closing the door. She took an elevator down and headed for the casino dining room. She found a place in the sight of a group of young men and made sure to make plenty of eye contact. Finally one of them approached, as she was finishing dinner. She smiled at him. He was young, blonde, and handsome. Twenty-five or twenty-six. Just what she needed. He chatted and she responded, light, witty banter, He offered her a drink, and she accepted. She drank and smiled and when she became light headed let him lead her away to the car he had outside, a handsome black Mercedes.

The black car drove off, with her in it. Victor was waiting for her when she woke up.   

 
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