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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)vidiconFR1598780,0851591501409,25128 May 115 Jul 14No

Finding Family

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.

yourself be heard.

Speech: “Who’s on first.”

Thought: *What’s on second.*

Vision: #I-don’t-know’s on third.#

Greek: ^Who cares?^

Ancient Egyptian: »Who’s that?«

Latin: ~Who’s who?~

Telepathy: %Who’s that in my mind?%

It’s been a long and rough few weeks, so the updates have been less punctual than I might have wanted. Sorry about that.

Seventy-nine recommendations. Wow. Almost eighty… Thanks to Kalira and shazamfan for being the latest to rec me.

And 672 reviews. Are there certain milestones which should be commemorated? Should I publish a special at a hundred recs? And if so, what?

Thanks to you all for reading, reviewing and recommending.

70 Finding Family

Friday, November 24th, the day after Thanksgiving

Jenny Calendar sighed as she listened to the bickering teens. *I shouldn’t have come here today. No matter what they say, I’m not part of the family.*

“Regretting joining and getting a bunch of hellions as siblings?” Penelope Halliwell’s voice came softly from her side and a cup of coffee, the deep, dark scent of it revealing it as Simon’s personal blend.

Jenny blinked. “Siblings?”

Penelope chuckled. “Oh, I know they’re a handful, but you don’t honestly think that Joyce would let them go on like that in front of just a guest?”

Jenny winced at a particularly loud squeal about Xander and Dawn being horrid cheats, Amy being the spawn of Mammon and Willow being a hard-hearted slumlord.

Jenny made careful note of the fact that while with her family Buffy seemed rather more intelligent and focused than at school. She smiled a bit sadly at the group.

Penelope chuckled, shaking her head at the children’s behaviour. “It’s Monopoly, not the end of the world. Though you wouldn’t think it from the way they’re carrying on.”

“They wouldn’t let me join…” Jenny clasped the mug.

Penny snorted. “So that’s what’s been bothering you. No one but them is allowed to play, this is a grudge match. You may have noticed that none of my girls joined either. They got destroyed during our last visit. I think Phoebe still has nightmares about Willow’s resolve face when she demanded her six hundred dollars for landing on her three houses on New York Avenue.”

Jenny looked at the redhead; notepad by her side and pencil behind her ear as she faced a spluttering Buffy and extended her hand, once more, for the money owed her. “I can actually imagine that.”

Penny nodded at the corner. “We’re gonna play Risk in the corner. A nice, safe game that will not result in trauma, we hope.”

Jenny winced as Buffy handed over the money, growling under her breath. “I think that might be safer.”

Kit, in the corner with Phoebe, Piper and Evy waved cheerily. Prue and Kendra were playing chess and it was obvious that Prue was not in the younger girl’s league. It was the only game Kendra knew and they hadn’t managed to convince her yet to try any of the more ‘frivolous’ ones, the ones that brought nothing to her training as a potential.

Jenny rose and joined the group in the corner. Kit kept grouching about the lack of realistic logistics. And that her dice-rolling was abysmal. Eventually Piper won, because Phoebe couldn’t bear to lose any of her Pink-Piglet armies.

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Friday, November 24th, the day after Thanksgiving

“Joyce Summers, good afternoon,” Joyce answered the ringing phone, slightly breathless. Simon had had her pinned against the fridge when it rang and both the quick dash and the previous exercise had caused her current condition.

There was a momentary hesitation and then Jack O’Neill’s voice sounded in her ear. “Hello, this is Jack. C-could you ask Arlene if it’s alright for me to talk to Evy?”

Joyce smiled. “I’ll do that right away. And I doubt she’ll say no.”

Joyce reached into her pocket, got out her cell phone and rang Arlene’s number.

Arlene picked up immediately. “Yes?”

“Well, now I know where Buffy got that atrocious habit from,” Joyce smiled. “Jack’s on the phone. He wants to know if you’ll let him talk to Evy.”

Arlene snorted. “Tell him yes, and tell him to call her cell phone. And if he gives her a fishing rod for Christmas I’ll skin him and make the skin dance.”

Joyce winced but couldn’t resist asking. “Can we do that?”

“Yes. He’s got her number. I’ll tell her he’s gonna call.”

Joyce sighed. “I really hoped the ritual would help with her being so jumpy.”

“We all did. But I fear that years of abuse and neglect won’t be gone with just a touch of magic, no matter how powerful,” Arlene admitted softly.

“I’ll be here if you want to talk.”

“Maybe later. You just tell Jack to give me a few minutes to warn Evy.”

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Friday, November 24th, the day after Thanksgiving

“Buffy Summers, good afternoon,” Buffy picked up the phone. She was feeling more than a little grumpy. She’d come in last in Monopoly, she’d broken a nail and she had to train with Angel and Giles later, despite it being the Thanksgiving holiday.

“Hello, Princess. Is Cuttle there too?”

“Dad?” Buffy sank onto the couch. “Y-you called…”

“Yes. I thought it might be better not to do it on Thanksgiving itself. How’ve you been?”

“Fine. Busy with school and stuff. Dawn’s refused to play fifth sheep in the Christmas Pageant at her school. And she would have been perfect for it, she sounds just like one!” Buffy waited and heard her father chuckle and count softly under his breath.

“HEY!!” Dawn squealed. “I so do not sound like a sheep!”

“Three,” Hank counted, chuckling. “Hello, Cuttlefish.”

“DA-AD! Don’t call me that!” Dawn whined.

“But it’s so fitting,” Buffy teased. “So clingy and curious…”

Dawn sighed. “It’s not fair! You’re a princess and I’m a mollusc!”

“A what-usk?” Buffy asked, confused.

“A cephalopod?” Dawn clarified, then rolled her eyes at Buffy’s still confused expression. “A squid-like thingy.”

“Oh, so you admit to being a squid,” Buffy grinned with satisfaction as Dawn realized she’d just given her sister years of teasing material.

“Da-ad! Buffy’s teasing me!”

“And doing it well, I’d say, but Buffy…” Hank’s voice held a warning tone.

“Don’t worry; I won’t tease her too much. I’ll spread it out over years and years…” Buffy let her voice trail off so that Hank could hear Dawn’s groan.

Hank sighed. “Behave you two, Buffy, remember you’re the elder, and wiser here.”

Dawn snorted and Buffy stuck out her tongue. Hank smiled. He knew these sorts of exchanges well enough to picture the scene in his mind. “So, how’ve you two been?” he asked hopefully.

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Friday, November 24th, the day after Thanksgiving

“Joyce, can we talk?” Cecilia stood nervously in the doorway of the dining room. The table was strewn with papers and photographs and Joyce wore her steel rimmed spectacles.

“Is it urgent?” Joyce asked as she read a line, a frown on her face.

“Not… as such. But it’s important,” Cecilia replied hesitantly.

Joyce sighed. “Oh, very well. Come in.”

Cecilia entered and sat down, followed to Joyce’s surprise by Penelope and Danielle. The three elder witches looked worried.

“What’s wrong?” Joyce asked, alarmed.

“We did an aura reading of Kit and Dawn,” Cecilia admitted.

Joyce lifted an eyebrow. “Finally pestered you into it, did they?”

“Yes. Joyce… Dawn’s no longer fully latent. She’s very likely to break through some time after her period begins, Danielle thinks about fourteen or fifteen or…”

“Or what?” Joyce asked, alarmed.

“When she feels threatened, or is shocked,” Penelope soothed the worried mother. “We can’t tell what her power is going to be.”

“And Kit?” Joyce asked, worriedly.

Cecilia’s shoulders slumped. “There’s a block on her aura. She has power, and lots of it. But she can’t and I doubt she ever will, access it, even in the direst emergency.”

Joyce nodded. “Okay.”

Cecilia opened her mouth and closed it. “Okay?” she managed to ask.

“I’m not you, mother. If she wants to learn about magic, she will be taught. She will know what is out there; she will get to know her new heritage from both sides, Simon and me. I don’t care if any of my children can or can’t do magic,” Joyce spoke repressively. “Now, if you’ll excuse me-”

“Joyce-” Cecilia began, rather anxiously.

“Cece. Stop it. Come on,” Penelope rose, grabbed her sister by the arm and led her out.

Joyce returned to her thesis and tried to suppress the anger and resentment that had flared in her chest.

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Monday, November 27th 1995, 1630 Revello Drive

Joyce hummed as she went downstairs to the basement. “Kendra? Are you there dear? I just got off the phone with the High School and you can start lessons there next week.”

Kendra, who had been looking at a pair of sneakers in her hands dubiously, dropped the shoes and looked at Joyce, wide eyed. “NO!” Then she quailed and nodded, meekly. “Yes, Ma’am.”

Joyce pushed her steel-rimmed glasses further up her nose and then smiled at the girl. “What is it? ‘No!’ or ‘Yes, Ma’am’? And I think it’s no, but I’d like to know why.”

Kendra looked at Joyce with hopeless eyes. Joyce sat down on the bed and patted it. “Sit. Talk to me. Do you want to go to Sunnydale High?”

“I do not wish to go the High School,” Kendra bit her lip after she’d spoken the words and looked at her tightly clasped hands, lying in her lap as she sat on the bed in the basement room she now occupied, waiting until her own room in 1632 was finished.

Joyce sighed a little and sat by the girl. “Well you need some sort of schooling, and you definitely need socializing. Evy is being home schooled only because she’ll be moving to Colorado Springs in January. Kit can’t go to school yet, she’s not supposed to be able to even be out of bed much, let alone walk or go to school. To many questions would be asked.”

Kendra looked at her hands. “Yes, Ma’am.”

“So what do you have against the school?” Joyce inquired gently.

“I-I… I don’t… I don’t like it there,” Kendra whispered miserably. “They’re all so disrespectful, so noisy, and so rambunctious. And the Principal is not a nice man,” the last was added shyly and grudgingly, Kendra being unused to criticizing authority figures.

“Ah. I see. Did you ever imagine going to a school? What do you think a school should be like?” Joyce took one of Kendra’s writhing hands and put an arm across her shoulders.

Kendra bit her lip. “I used to read books. Some by Mrs. Blyton and some by Mrs. Brent-Dyer. A school like that, I dreamt of.”

Joyce nodded thoughtfully. “Tomorrow we’ll go to St. Ursula’s. Kit will be going there once she’s supposedly recovered enough. You might like that better. It’s got more of a boarding school atmosphere. Well, it is a boarding school, but they take day students as well.”

“But such schools are expensive,” Kendra objected.

“Yes, they are. And Simon is one of the richest men in the world,” Joyce smiled. “We can afford it.”

Kendra stiffened. “I will not accept charity from that man!”

“It’s not charity, it’s responsibility,” Joyce corrected, still gently, but firmly. “Simon does not approve of the actions of the Council of Watchers but he will not deprive a Potential Slayer of the necessary training. He will see you schooled and trained, whether you like it or not.”

“But-”

“Kendra,” Joyce interrupted firmly. “We’re going to talk to Rupert this afternoon, and we’ll go through Simon’s file on you and Rupert will show you some older Watchers’ diaries. Note they call them that, not Slayers’ Journals. And with that name you have the whole thing in a nutshell; there you have who they think is more important. And that is why Simon hates the Watchers.”

“But the Watchers guide and train us. Without them we’re not capable of defeating evil! And you don’t like them, either!” Kendra protested.

“Not particularly, no.” Joyce admitted. “Since they usually take potentials from their parents and raise them like they did you, or worse. I have a daughter who is a Slayer and I would not have been pleased to have her taken from me. So no, I don’t like them. Not to mention that the support given by a Watcher could be provided by many others.”

“Who? Who has the skill and ability of a Watcher?” Kendra demanded to know.

“Well Simon does, for one. And Dr. Carnahan, that’s Grandpa Jon. He’s more skilled than any three Watchers, even if he’s too old to train you in physical combat these days. And from what I understand from Simon, there are dozens of others. What they lack is the organization to find the potentials, but against what the Council of Watchers lack, a moral compass, that is actually a small thing,” Joyce’s face was sad and stern.

Kendra looked mulish. “I do not believe you.”

“You don’t have to. But you do need to listen to Mr. Giles. He may not like the facts, but he does admit to them.”

Kendra nodded. “I will listen.”

Joyce smiled. “That’s all I’m asking.”

Kendra bit her lip, a nervous habit she’d picked up since her kidnapping. “Does St. Ursula’s have school uniforms?”

Joyce was about to answer in the affirmative and commiserate when she saw the look of hope in Kendra’s eyes. *Ah, yes, the girls in those books wear one.* “Yes, they do. Kit has hers already, shall we go and have a look at it?”

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Monday, November 27th 1995, Sunnydale High

Jenny Calendar hummed as she switched off the last computer in her classroom. Willow had recently read how much energy it took to power a computer, even on standby, and her horrified ‘drain on earth’s resources’ babble had convinced Jenny that the only way to placate her little sister’s worries was to turn off the computers. It didn’t take long for them to boot up again and it did save energy. She froze momentarily as she toggled off the monitor. *Little sister? When did I start thinking of her that way?* 

“So you’re Rupert’s little Gypsy,” a cultured, British accented voice came from the doorway, startling Jenny out of her shocked thoughts.

Jenny turned round and saw a tall, elegant woman a few years older than herself, in a well cut pants suit of blue serge. Her mid-brown hair was cut shoulder length and curled slightly. Her eyes were blue green and her face long, with distinguished cheekbones.

“I beg your pardon?” Jenny blinked at her.

“Did you cast a spell on him? Or a charm or a Geas perhaps?” the woman mused, coming closer to Jenny. “Are you some sort of shape-shifter out to eat his brain?”

Jenny growled. “Who the hell are you and where do you get the gall to think I cast a spell on Rupert? Or am a demon of some kind?”

The woman’s nose wrinkled. “Oh, he didn’t mention me? I thought he would’ve explained the family to you, if he cared. Or knew what he was doing. I’m his younger sister, Esther. Esther Giles.”

Jenny took a step towards Esther and looked up into the taller woman’s eyes. “Oh, yes, he mentioned you. His baby sister. Well, I’m Jenny, Jenny Calendar. Rupert’s fiancée. And you’re rude, obnoxious and I don’t think I like you very much,” she stalked past Esther, out of the classroom, grabbing her bag as she went. She hurried to her car, ignoring the calls from Rupert’s sister who followed behind her.

Esther Giles saw the car take off at speed and groaned. “Bollocks. Rupert is going to kill me,” she muttered to herself and hastened to the rental car she’d put in the school parking lot. 

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Monday afternoon, November 27th 1995, Rupert Giles’ apartment

“I, ah, I’m afraid that Ms. Summers is correct. The Watchers’ Council has not lived up to its duty for the last few years and-” Rupert Giles’ explanation to Kendra was interrupted by a door being thrown open.

Jenny stormed in, glared at Rupert, and then stomped up the stairs and slammed the door closed. Giles looked after her in some amazement and then rose, ignoring the questioning looks from Joyce and Kendra. “Jenny? Jenny, what’s wrong love?”

“Err, that would be me,” a rather timid voice came from the doorway. “I err, thought she might be another Mathilde, Billie, or even worse Karlotinna.”

Giles blinked and then groaned. “Esther? What are you doing here?”

“Err, Travers told me I’m to be temp Watcher for Miss Young, but err, Mum told me to come here and errr…” Esther stammered.

“Put your foot in your mouth?” Giles looked at the stairs and the door. He imagined it was still quivering from the violence of its closure.

“Yes, I mean no! Mum told me to bring the official invitation for Christmas and wanted me to ask Jenny about allergies and such matters so she can prepare for New Years and Christmas. And I-I just wanted me to make absolutely sure it wasn’t a spell or a demon this time. I’m sorry Ru, but I was worried,” Esther replied while looking at her feet. “You have to admit that you have the most amazing rotten luck regarding women.”

Joyce lifted an eyebrow in amusement. “Is that contagious? Xander seems to have the same problem.”

Giles glared at his sister. “I could have done very well without you informing the world of that fact, Esther.”

Esther winced at her brother’s cold tone and full use of her name. “Sorry Ru. I-I’ll go up and apologize, right?” Esther’s voice was subdued.

Giles sighed and shook his head. “No, I’ll talk to her. There are some things I haven’t told her yet and it’s time. Why don’t you explain to Kendra here that the Council and its Watchers are not always paragons of virtue.”

Esher sighed as she realised the identity of the girl. “Oh, wonderful. My first introduction to my new charge and I act like a complete tosser.”

“Miss Giles, I’ll thank you not to use language like that in front of my children again,” Joyce remarked coldly. “And if I find that you insult or hurt Jenny again, you will feel the full force of my wrath.”

Esther looked the woman up and down, a rather disdainful expression on her face. “And who are you?”

“Joyce Summers. And that,” she pointed at a huge, looming shape that suddenly rose from a chair in the corner. “Is Mr. Bchenka, who’s been assigned to be Kendra’s bodyguard but won’t mind at all, giving you a little lesson in special forces hand to hand combat.”

Oleg grinned, his teeth huge in his broad face.

Esther gulped and looked at her brother, who merely shook his head and sighed. “Esther, considering the people you manage to annoy it’s a miracle you’re still alive. I’m going to talk to Jenny.”

Esther flumped down on the couch beside Kendra while Giles went upstairs. “Bloody marvellous, barely here for five minutes and already I’ve mucked up everything,” she muttered morosely.

“I wouldn’t say ‘everything’, but you do seem rather different from Rupert, he needs at least ten minutes to muck things up,” Joyce stated thoughtfully. “And you just used language in front of Kendra, again. This is your last warning.”

Esther looked at the girl on the couch, blinked and sighed. “Sorry. Right. Let’s get this on the road. What do you want to know?” 

Kendra bit her lip. “Has the Council really killed Slayers for political reasons?”

Esther pursed her lips, as if reluctant to answer. “Well yes, but if you want a number I can’t give you more than a guess, I’ve only been able to uncover seventeen so far, what with the sources being so sparse.”

Kendra looked at the woman in astonishment. “Seventeen? So far?” She stammered.

“Hmmm, it’s difficult to find out their reasons for killing Slayers. Most of them were probably killed for ‘disobedience’,” Esther’s face twisted with distaste. “Some were probably for somewhat acceptable reasons, after a few years some Slayers can go a bit… strange without proper guidance and help. PTSD can change a person, we now know. Some are injured beyond even a Slayer’s ability to heal. Those are the hard ones, at least if the Watcher is decent,” Esther took a deep breath. “It got easier with firearms. A lot of arrows need to be shot into a Slayer to kill her, and very few poisons work. Going hand to hand with one is not a very safe thing to do, after all.”

Kendra swallowed heavily. “Dr. Meier told me there is something called the Cruciamentum…”

Esther winced. “Ah, he’d know about that, yes.”

“How?” Kendra asked bluntly.

 “They knocked him unconscious and locked him in a room with a vampire as well,” Joyce explained, her eyes on Esther. “It’s one of those many reasons why he hates the Watchers.”

Kendra’s eyes widened and she turned to Esther. “Is that true?”

“I fear so, yes. It rather… spoiled relations between the Watchers’ Council and authorities this side of the pond,” Esther admitted.

Joyce looked at the young woman and raised an eyebrow. “Are you supposed to be telling her stuff like this?”

Esther nodded. “Augustus Travers told me to tell her everything. She was nearly killed because of the old ways,” Joyce was about to interrupt and Esther held up a hand.  “No, she could have been, if she’d attacked the man who hurt Mr. Zabuto, he would not have held back. Augustus Travers doesn’t want any Potentials hurt due to the fallacies of Watchers.”

“Augustus?” Joyce inquired.

“As in the Emperor Octavian, Exalted One,” Esther shrugged at Joyce’s expression. “Yeah, pretentious, I know. I think he’d prefer director or something,” She turned to Kendra. “Anything else you’d like to know?”

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Tuesday afternoon, November 28th 1995

Kendra groaned. “Ow.”

“You girl too soft. Dr. Meier, Mrs. Summers, they say, you train. You train. Again!” Bchenka looked at the girl and gestured.

Kendra got up from her position on the ground and edged closer, ready to leap away as soon as he made a move towards her. 

“Do stop complaining, Kendra. With training such as this you will be one of the best prepared potentials ever. And if you are not called, you’ll get an excellent education out of it,” Esther scolded from the bench she was sitting on.

“A bruised arse is what I get out of it,” Kendra muttered, before blushing and returning to her training.

Esther smirked at the outburst, shifting a little, trying to ease her own bruises. *A real girl, Mrs. Summers? Do you really want another teenager in the house?*

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Tuesday afternoon, November 28th 1995, Madison House, driveway

Lois Benchford sat in the car, an old green Ford Escort, and checked if she had all the things Amy had asked her to get. She smirked a little at the Brownie mix. It really wasn’t a bodyguard’s job to get groceries but Amy had been on edge all day and was hardly in great danger. During the day. Lois frowned. If it were up to her, Amy wouldn’t get out the door after dark, but both Mr. Madison and Assistant Director Starling were adamant that she could, if she asked permission and was not alone. Lois sighed. Apparently being a stubborn idiot ran in the family. You’d think a lauded FBI agent would know better, but Clarice trusted in the fact that nobody knew she was Dr. Meier’s sister and that therefore her relationship with Patrick was hardly going to draw much scrutiny.

Lois’ lips quirked as she recalled the paparazzi who’d come to Sunnydale to rake up dirt on Dr. Meier and Ms. Summers and had come to considerable grief in not inconsiderable numbers. She opened the door and got out of the car, walking around to get the brown paper bag of groceries from the passenger seat. Clarice was going to cook and Amy had made certain that the ingredients for at least three of her favourite dishes were going to be available. Lois smiled indulgently. She heard a noise and whirled around, but she was too late. An iron hard fist struck her in the chin and she went down.  

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Tuesday afternoon, November 28th 1995, Madison House, back garden

Amy wandered through the garden, weeding a little, tending the small plot of herbs Catherine Madison had planted, that, after much discussion, she and her father had retained. The fragrances from the herbs made her feel better.

There was a noise behind her and she whirled. There was a man standing there, a friendly smile on his face. “Miss Amy Madison?”

Amy’s eye narrowed. “Yes? What do you want? How did you get in here?”

The man chuckled. “Now, now Miss Madison, is that any way to greet a guest?”

“Guests are invited or welcome. I don’t know you and I don’t think you’re either.” Amy held the small gardening trowel defensively.

“That’s not very polite, little lady. But then, you won’t be impolite for long.”

Amy shivered. “What do you want?”

“Your daddy is wooing a lady who is annoying me, and she loves you. And to make sure she stops annoying me, I’m going to see to it she’s well distracted,” he took a step forward and Amy stepped back.

“I’ve got a bodyguard! Mo- Clarice insisted!”

“Yes, dear Miss Benchford. She won’t be helping you, I fear. She may eventually recover, but she won’t be helping you. Now, I can make this quick and painful or slow and painful. Your pick.”

Amy backed away further. The man followed, quicker than a human should be able to, grabbed her arm and twisted. The trowel fell. Amy tried to block his other hand as it reached for her throat and it was swept aside as if a giant struck a gnat. The man’s hand closed around her throat and Amy whimpered in terror as he started to squeeze.   

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Tuesday afternoon, November 28th 1995, 1630 Revello Drive

Jenny Calendar giggled. So did Arlene Ellis, Joyce Summers, Clarice Starling, Prue, Piper and Phoebe Halliwell. Danielle Moritz, Penelope Halliwell and Cecilia Ellis could best be described as guffawing.

“Oh, god. No wonder he was so embarrassed about talking to Xander about that Mantis woman. His first kiss was with a Snorkack?” Danielle sniggered.

“Oh yes, he was very lucky it was a Crumple-horned one, a straight horned one would just have drilled through his skull instead of having to go through his palate to get at his brain,” Esther explained, one eye on Jenny to see how she was taking this further revelation.

Jenny snorted. “And the second was a Blibbering Humdinger? What sort of name is that?”

“A silly one, but the demon that bears it is not a very nice one. They send out a certain sound, a hum, at a resonance that sets of a vibration in the brain that makes their chosen target very… docile,” Esther replied.

The younger witches sniggered but the older ones looked thoughtful. “So they can feed on the fluids in the spine and brain,” Penelope added and the younger witches gulped. Penelope smiled grimly. “They prefer the fluids from the magically powerful or, failing those, intelligent people. Tastes better, I suppose.”

Prue elbowed Phoebe. “You should be safe, then.”

“HEY!” Phoebe protested.

Penelope rolled her eyes at her granddaughters’ behaviour and turned to the young watcher. “Esther, how powerful is your brother? Magically speaking?”

Esther shrugged. “I’ve never been entirely certain, but not very, I’d say. He’s dropped most of his magic since the whole Eyghon debacle. He may pick it up again once that is dealt with,” she turned to Jenny with hope in her eyes. “Are you certain that ritual will work?”

Jenny looked at Penelope and Danielle who both nodded. “It should. And if Jon allows us to form a Circle with them and brings in a few Covens…” Penelope looked thoughtful.

“It should also deal with these beings that’re after him. That connection with Eyghon is like Chaos calling out to demons everywhere,” Danielle noted.

Jenny ran a hand over her eyes. “Considering all that maybe your questions to me weren’t all that out of line,” she told Esther.

“Yes they were,” Esther replied contritely. “I should’ve been far more sneaky, and then I would have found out that you’re not a demon wanting to suck my big brother’s brain out through his ears. But the only actual human girlfriend he’s had in ten years was Olivia, and she’s more of a convenience, and… errr… I should probably shut up again, shouldn’t I?”

Penelope leaned over and patted the blushing brunette’s knee. “You do that, dear,” she looked at the thunderous expression on Jenny’s face. “And Jenny can go and have another little conversation with Rupert. About friends with benefits, and he can reassure her that he only wants hers.”

Jenny blushed furiously, but rose obediently, muttering about annoying great aunts. Penelope sat very still for a moment and then winked at Cecilia. “I’m sure she’ll set a wonderful example for all your younger grandchildren.”

Cecilia snorted. “Considering the way she and Rupert were kissing in the basement, I hope they’ll find other exam-” she cut herself off, looked around the table and down at herself and sighed. “We need to find a couple of nuns and get them to move in here.”

Clarice laughed. “Well, anyway, I’m going home and set a bad example for my dau- Amy.” She left quickly and Cecilia shook her head in fond exasperation.

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Amy blinked as she woke up, her throat and neck aching and her shoulders stiff. Her hands were behind her back and her wrists tied together. There was hard knot of cloth in her mouth that had absorbed all the moisture in her mouth, making her throat even more dry and painful and breathing was hard. She looked around and realized she was in the basement of her own home, a rather smaller one than the ones on Revello Drive. Her father had once told her a story that Cordelia Chase’s grandfather had the basements dug to bury his enemies, but even at nine years old Amy head realized that not even Old Mr. Chase could have that many enemies. So she had demanded a better explanation and her father had laughed and told her that the old man had wanted more money from selling the homes and that constructing basements was relatively cheap if you cut corners. And Mr. Chase was good at cutting corners.

Amy wondered if she had a concussion, her head hurt, but her rambling thinking about basements was more worrying. She needed to be focused to escape. *I’m so not damsel in distress material!* 

She heard footsteps and stiffened in fear as the man who’d captured her leaned over. “Well now, I’m sure that your Daddy’s nasty girlfriend will show up soon. And then she and I will have a little conversation about privacy and decorum and leaving a man alone.”

Amy felt the man's hands, cold and impersonal, grab her and lift her off the floor. He held her straight-armed with ease and smiled pleasantly into her face. “I really don't like hurting you; after all, you're mostly innocent. Even if you do dress like a streetwalker,” his free hand closed around her throat again and with her heart beating rapidly in fear and a little anger at her fate, Amy felt her consciousness fading and terror was the last thing she knew.

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Clarice hummed as she pulled up her car outside Patrick's house, carefully fluffed her hair, checked her make up, such as it was, in the rear-view mirror and got out. The green Ford Escort Lois used stood outside. She walked by it and saw the patch of beige that ran from under it. Clarice bent down and touched the stuff. *Molten Ice cream?* 

She looked under the car. A carton of ice cream had rolled under the car and its contents had melted and caused the patch. Clarice rose, checked her gun and took out her mobile. “Hurst? Clarice here. I just found a melted carton of Chunky Monkey rolled under Lois' car. Lois isn't here and I don't see Amy either.”

Hurst was silent, but that did not mean nothing was going on, her brother’s bodyguards had been trained in silent communication and his main team had worked together for years. “A squad is en route,” he replied easily.

“Good, I'm going in,” Clarice answered, checking the surroundings.

“No, you're not. You'll wait for back up,” the former SAS officer’s voice was worried.

“Not gonna happen. If somethin' or somebody has Amy, Ahm gonna get her free,” Clarice hung up, bit her lip and groaned as the phone rang. Simon's number. She cursed and then she picked up the phone again.

“Clarice, please wait for back-up,” Simon didn't even greet her.

“Dammit Simon! Somethin’ has happened to Amy! They may be hurtin’ her! Ah don’t know where Pat is!” Clarice exclaimed.

“Clarice-” Simon began.

“What if this was Buffy, or Dawn!?” Clarice demanded to know.

Simon sighed. “Once this is over I'm sitting you three down and make you have some nice, long conversations. Be careful.”

“Ah will be. Ah promise,” Clarice answered, softly.

“Amy would never forgive herself if something happened to you while saving her,” Simon reminded her.

Clarice growled. “That was low, Simon.”

“Low but true. Be careful, little sister,” Simon told her earnestly. “We’re not alone anymore, you and I.”

Clarice hung up, checked her weapon again and then walked towards the front door. She opened it, noting it wasn't locked. She had very carefully trained Patrick and Amy always to lock the door, and both had faithfully done so. It was an unlikely coincidence that Lois would have dropped the ice-cream and not have noticed it, Amy would not still be weeding the lavender plants and that the door would be unlocked. There was definitely something going on. And Clarice was going to find out what, and if it was a danger to Amy and Patrick, she was going to take it down, if it was Amy pulling a prank, she was going to go medieval on the girl. That patch of lavender could do well with the three field system and a nice Norman tithe barn. Clarice shook herself. *Focus! Your little girl is depending on you and she wouldn't prank, not about this.* 

She entered the house and sniffed the air, trying to determine if she could detect blood, cordite or anything else that did not belong. At the same time her eyes were sweeping the hall and front room, and the side door to the kitchen.

Something made a noise in the sitting room and Clarice moved towards it, gun at the ready. 

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Tuesday afternoon, November 28th 1995, Angel's apartment

Buffy glared at her boyfriend. “When you said you wanted some alone time I expected some alone time. Not a run through the woods followed by another training session!”

Angel smiled placatingly. “Your parents and Giles want you to be as well trained as possible. I’m afraid that just takes time, Buffy.”

“Yeah, sure. I thought I was supposed to have time for fun? All I do is homework and train!” Buffy grouched.

Angel spread his arms. “I’m sorry. But with that Prophecy, we do want you at the absolute top of your game.”

“And in the meantime I get to be battered, bludgeoned and bored?” Buffy complained.

“Well, bored would imply you had nothing to do-”

“Doing something you don’t enjoy is boring,” Buffy interrupted him.

“Being with me is not something you enjoy?” Angel asked gently.

“I-I…” Buffy began uncertainly, and then took a deep breath. “Yes, I enjoy being with you. But I’d enjoy it more if it was slightly more fun and slightly less work, okay?”

Angel nodded. “Once the danger is past, things will change, I promise.”

Buffy narrowed her eyes at him. “You’d soooo better not be bullshitting me, mister!”

“I swear I’m not,” Angel asserted. “Now please, let’s try that again.”

Buffy shook her head. “Well, it appears that’s going to be the only way in which you put your arms around me…”

Angel snorted. “I must admit to a certain hesitance, after the rules your mother laid down.”

“Oh come on, she’s not that bad!” Buffy scoffed.

Angel raised an eyebrow. “Your mother is a very frightening woman when she wants to be, trust me. Now, ready!”

Angel was about to strike at Buffy when her phone rang. She dodged him easily, threw him over her shoulder and was at the bag containing her phone in seconds. Angel shook his head, part surprised, part annoyed, part elated. She’d taken him down without trouble. He could now increase her training schedule, to make certain she was ready to face a vampire eight times as old as he.

Buffy picked up her phone and her face tightened. She flipped the phone closed and ran out, calling over her shoulder. “Something’s happened to Amy. Catch you later!”

Angel leaned back on his elbows, looking at the door as it swung shut and shook his head. “It was bound to happen. There are too many weaknesses in her armour for the Master not to exploit them,” He rose and sighed, getting ready to offer what comfort he could when inevitably members of Buffy’s family started to die when face with a superior and ruthless opponent.

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Tuesday afternoon, November 28th 1995, Madison House

Clarice moved through the sitting room like a tiger. The noise came from behind the couch and Clarice pounced, gun ready and pointed at the source of it, scanning the room, looking for dangers. Behind the couch, Lois groaned against the duct tape over her mouth and struggled against the windings of the same around her arms and legs. Clarice leaned over and ripped the tape of her mouth.

“Son of a bitch!” Lois swore, but very softly.

Clarice looked around again. “Who, what, how many?”

“One that I saw. Ted Buchanan,” Lois replied.

“Pat? Amy?” Clarice inquired anxiously.

“Amy was here, Patrick wasn’t, he might have arrived since then,” Lois clarified as Clarice tugged at the tape on her wrists. Clarice sighed and reached into her slacks, drew out a switchblade opened it and started cutting Lois’ bonds.

Lois raised an eyebrow. “Got a permit for that?” she asked, teasingly.

Clarice gave Lois a look. “You wouldn’t believe what Ah’ve got a permit for. And for that remark Ahm gonna let Hurst go medieval on your ass for gettin’ caught out, Bureau loyalty or not, understood?”

The former FBI agent nodded, eyes wide. “Yes, Ma’am! Sorry, Ma’am,” she squeaked.

Clarice had cut through the tape, handed Lois the knife to cut the rest herself and resumed her exploration of the house.

*Okay, Pat’s car wasn’t in the driveway, chances are he’s still near the mana point, carving Abluaria,* Clarice smiled as she remembered sneaking up on him as he’d been working, head and broad shoulders bent over his work, having forgotten the time in the soothing hum of the great monolith and the joy of creation. His reaction had been… Memorable. She shook herself, flushing slightly. *Focus! Pat will never forgive you if you can’t save Amy.* Clarice felt a sob well up from deep within her and moved into the kitchen, all senses straining to feel, smell, see, hear, even taste her enemy. With a shiver she let fall her shields and searched for her enemies, tried to sense their feelings. There was a niggle of satisfaction and… righteous anger? And then there was a deep, deep heart-rending fear. Pain, too. *Amy!*

Clarice growled and half-ran down the stairs to the basement. She ducked the first blow aimed at her by the thing emanating satisfaction.

She wasn’t so lucky with the second blow, much stronger than that might be expected of a man of similar size. It hit the barrel of her gun hard enough to knock it from her hand, sending it skittering away into a corner.

Clarice kicked, her foot aiming unerringly for the groin, but a hand lunged out and caught her ankle.

“Now that is not-”

Using the leverage his hold on her ankle gave her, Clarice twisted, kicking Ted full in the face. Ted staggered back and released her in surprise.

Clarice felt his anger, and tried to raise her shields, to get a hold of her empathic magic, get control of her emotions. She needed a cool head and letting his anger influence her was not a good thing. *I need training, dammit! I need an empathic to train me, someone who’s better at getting into people’s minds than Simon.* 

Clarice thought she saw movement in the back of basement, furthest from the stairs, the area where Pat stored things like old wood and copper pipe, too short for most things, but useful for a builder to have. She moved towards it and Ted circled to face her.

“I knew it was a stupid thing to let women into the FBI. Giving them the vote was not all that smart in my opinion. Flighty and too easily led. You need a firm hand, all of you.”

Clarice shook her head. “And I suppose you’re supposed to provide it? Is that what happened to your wives? Hand a little too firm?” she taunted.

“Women and children should be subservient to men, to their husbands and fathers. Any other way of behaviour is counter to nature,” Ted stated firmly. “When they rebelled against my just and reasonable rules and commands, I punished and chastised them.”

Clarice shivered at the absolute certainty in his voice. “Yeah, well, no doubt what you think just and reasonable any sane person would consider deranged. Actually, most insane persons would consider you deranged.”

“I’m not deranged! I’m not wired that way!” Ted glared at her, taking a step to make sure she couldn’t reach where she was sure Amy was lying.

“Not wired that way? I’d say you were cross-wired? Is that it? Your first wife left you ‘cause you couldn’t get it up, didn’t she? Women don’t do it for ya? What do you like? Boys? Dogs? Ducks?”

Ted stiffened and then moved towards her, Clarice could feel his anger vibrate within her mind her own anger flared to meet it. His anger did not feel like that of a human, she was sure now.

*Not human, he sure as hell ain’t human. Don’t know what he is, but he’s stronger than me an’ mostly faster, but not as well trained.*

Then she felt the whimper the fear, the terror come from the corner as whatever was there regained consciousness. *Amy, that’s Amy! What did that bastard do to her!? If he touched her, no, he scared my baby, there’s no if, this guy is goin’ down!*

“What the fuck did you do to my baby girl?” she kicked, her foot striking on Ted’s chest, dancing out of the way. He barely seemed to register the hit.

“Nothing, nothing at all. I don’t go after children unless the parents deserve it,” the man smirked at her; she could feel the tinge of amusement and still that supercilious sense from it, of superiority and amusement and still that annoying righteous anger.

“You only go after children when their parents deserve it? How noble of you,” Clarice taunted as she drove her fist at his face.

He shook his head, unimpressed by the hit and lunged at Clarice. She tried to block and felt her forearm bones shatter under strength that was far too great to be human. She let out a sob and aimed another, desperate kick at his groin, but he deflected it and his hand closed around her broken arm and she screamed, almost blacking out.

Ted grinned at her and tightened his hold “Well, now Darlin’ Starlin’, that’s not very nice. And after you had your little spies find out all my secrets, which wasn’t very nice either. I’m disappointed a good Southern girl like you would act in such an unladylike manner.”

As he was speaking he increased the pressure on her broken arm ever more, pushing downwards as he did so, forcing her to her knees and Clarice felt herself starting to black out from the agony.

That was when she heard the yell.

“Hey, cookery boy! Don't you think that's going a bit far on a first date?” Buffy called out.

Ted's head turned towards the stairs. Clarice shook her head muzzily and did the same. She was a bit too late as Buffy launched herself from the steps towards Ted in a spinning kick. It caught him in the face, forcing him to release Clarice's arm and fall back.

“Well now, another of you highly annoying women. It seems it runs in the family,” Ted replied as he shrugged the blow off.

Buffy danced in front of him, placing herself between him and Clarice and Amy. “Yeah, we're totally awesome that way.”

“Annoying isn't the same as effective,” Ted's massive fist shot out in a feint and Buffy dodged. He tired to grab her under the cover of the feint but Buffy ducked under his second arm and punched him in the gut.

“Yeah, you can say that again. You for instance, fight like a girl. A nineteen fifties girl,” Buffy declared, after a few seconds thought.

*Okay, not good, that was a full Slayer strength kick and a full Slayer strength punch and Mr. Nineteen-fifties chauvinist pig is still upright and annoying.*

“I am not a woman!”

“No you're right, but you could be. I mean, you like all the same things. Clothes, cooking... men.” Clarice taunted from the floor.

Buffy giggled at Ted's outraged expression and then launched another hard kick at his head. Ted was ready for her and stepped right up to her. Buffy tried to back off but there was limited space and she settled for kneeing him in the groin, hard. He barely reacted.

“Hey, no fair! Getting into my personal space like that and not backing of when I hit your Pee-wee,” she pouted, ducking under a grabbing arm.

“Well Buffy in the Bureau we say that if you cannot find the target...” Clarice began.

Buffy giggled. “Ooh, you mean it isn't there?”

“Or just too small to hit,” Clarice supplied blandly, biting back the pain as she crawled into a corner to avoid the fight.

Ted froze and then his eyes narrowed. “You're very annoying. But I will not be goaded by mere women. I'm not built that way.”

“Not built in any way, I'd say. Except possibly with LEGO. You know, one of those really tiny bricks?” Buffy threw a glance at her aunt, who looked thoughtful.

“Buffy? Duck,” She calmly stated as she raised her gun at Ted's head. Buffy dropped to the ground and rolled. Clarice's gun went off with a resounding clap in the basement and the bullet hit Ted in the head, ricocheting off into the wall. With a splat a part of his scalp and skin of his face fell to the ground, revealing a metal skull with his left eye dead, cracked and glassy and his right one brown and furious.

“You're going down for that, Missy!” Ted intoned.  

Buffy shuddered and with a heave of her shoulders against the floor was back on her feet. She kicked at Ted's head, concentrating on the left side. Ted tried to compensate for the loss of his eye but failed. Buffy struck him three times in quick succession.

“Built is right, sheesh. And badly built, too,” Buffy picked at Ted mercilessly. “And small, too. I mean, if you were built, why not built your teenie weenie a bit bigger?”

Ted was sparking and twitching, “Not wired that way, not wired that way...”

Buffy snorted. “Yeah sure, just you keep believing that,” she whirled and kicked him under the chin. The light went out in Ted's right eye. Like a falling tree or an iron pillar Ted went down, unbending and stiff.

“Little back up down here!” Buffy hollered. Through the basement door and the storm door three bodyguards came in. Two more came in through the windows. Buffy rolled her eyes. “Show offs. Wadda we do with Mr. Misogynist Robot here?”

Hurst looked at the body and blinked. “Well, I'd say melt him down, but we'll let Dr. Meier decide.”

Buffy nodded. “Okay.”

Hurst looked around. “Horst, Jane, see to the wounded. Oleg, get some others and do a full sweep of the premises. If he left any nasty surprises, I want to know about them.”

“Are you gonna do a bomb sweep? Can I watch?” Buffy asked hopefully. Hurst sighed, but a little smile tugged at his lips.

Clarice had gotten to her feet, while the bodyguards were coming in, supporting her broken right arm with her left one, the gun still in her left hand. She staggered to the corner and dropped to her knees again beside the trussed up bundle that was Amy.

“Amy? Sweetie? Are you alright? Please be alright.” Clarice dropped her gun and started to tug ineffectually at Amy's bonds. “I need a knife!”

Buffy knelt by Amy as well, taking a knife that Hurst handed to her and cutting the tape quickly and carefully.

As soon as the bonds were gone Clarice swept Amy into a hug, ignoring her broken arm. “Amy, are you alright? Did he… hurt you?”

There was a world of questions and fears in those few words and Amy sobbed, wordlessly.

Jane Kent sighed as she saw Lois Benchford stumble down the stairs, first aid kit in hand and a guilty look on her face. She took the kit from Lois and moved to Clarice, gently tried to disentangle Amy from Clarice and failed utterly as the girl clung hysterically to the older woman. Clarice winced and silently gritted her teeth whenever one of Amy’s sobs or movements jostled her broken arm.

Buffy knelt by the pair, facing Amy, who was wide eyed and staring, and looked into the deep blue and terrified eyes. “Heya, cousin Ames. Guess what, I think Aunt Clarice just officially adopted you.”

There was a momentary pause in the sobs. Buffy continued. “She went all mother bear. I remember mom doing that when Troy McNulty knocked me down when I was thirteen and practicing for cheerleading. He was this great big hulking linebacker and he did it on purpose,” Buffy grinned ruefully. “It was awesome as nothing I ever saw and embarrassing as nothing else as well. And Dad just stood there gaping… Poor Troy, he never lived it down.”

Amy giggled and her frightened eyes lost a little of the fear. She blinked and then stiffened. Very carefully she backed out of Clarice’s arms. “He broke your arm. I saw it. I heard the bones snap! How are you hugging me?”

Jane Kent pounced and jabbed a syringe into Clarice’s shoulder. “Painfully, I would say. Let’s get you to the Clinic, Director Starling. Dr. Meier is going to want to see you.”

Clarice groaned. “I’m just lucky Mom and Dad aren’t here.”

“Oh, but Ms. Summers called them. They’re on their way here now, I should think,” Hurst supplied, helpfully.

Clarice groaned again, this time despairingly, but allowed herself to be taken away, while Buffy carried Amy to the car.

Hurst looked down at the body of Ted. Then he walked to the wall, where an old fire axe was hanging and quickly and efficiently took off Ted’s head. He looked down at the exposed electronics and sighed. “Miss Jenny, Miss Willow and Miss Rowan aren’t going to sleep for weeks.”  

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Wednesday morning, 10 o’clock November 29th 1995, Madison House

Amy started awake from fitful sleep, her heart pounding in fear. She took a few breaths and then lay back down. A rattle at the window made her shoot up from the mattress and her hand went to her throat, to where the bruises were still visible and painful. She shuddered and got out of bed on shaking legs, pulled on a dressing gown and went looking for comfort.

Clarice was sleeping, her arm in a cast. Amy stood looking down on her, beside the bed in the master bedroom of the Madison house where her Dad, much to Gran’s annoyance, had put her. Amy bit her lip, took off her dressing gown and slipped into the bed. Catherine Madison had driven her daughter out of the parental bedroom every time she had, as a little girl – awakened by nightmares or thirst. It had been her Dad who’d comforted her, brought her the glasses of water, and held her. *This was a really dumb idea.* Amy took a deep breath and made to rise again.

“Hmm.” An arm, Clarice’s left arm, grabbed Amy and drew her close. Amy was rather surprised at the strength in the arm and felt more than a little embarrassed. “C-Clarice. I’m not Dad.”

“Ah know, now hush and go back to sleep, Baby girl,” Clarice sleepily but firmly told her.

Amy blinked. Then she scooted back down under the blankets and snuggled up to Clarice. *She fought an insane robot for me. She hugged me with a broken arm.* Amy’s eye widened as a realisation came to her, and she shyly touched Clarice’s shoulder. “A-am I really your baby girl?”

Clarice opened sleepy eyes. “You sure are.”   

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Wednesday evening November 29th 1995, 1630 Revello Drive

“It’s just a broken arm, nothing serious,” Clarice griped, but she shut up at her mother’s glare.

Just a broken arm. I’d better not ask what you consider a serious injury then, hadn’t I? What were you thinking?” Cecilia remarked dryly.

“He had Amy,” Clarice whispered, rubbing her cast. “I couldn’t bear to lose her.”

Cecilia sighed. “I suppose you couldn’t at that.”

“I’m sorry I scared you…” Clarice looked at the ground.

“Don’t be ridiculous, dear. I’ve done equally mad things to safeguard Arlene, Joyce and Charlotte. I would have for you to, had I raised you myself,” Cecilia gave her eldest daughter a stern look. “However...”

“Yes?” Clarice asked in a rather tremulous voice.

“I have to warn you that your father is not happy about things like this and will no doubt sit you down and give you a very long and earnest lecture.” Cecilia smirked,

Clarice blinked. “That's it?”

“Clarice, you're a grown woman and a trained and experienced FBI agent. I've done enough idiotic things myself that doing more than telling you that I was worried would be the most arrant hypocrisy,” Cecilia grinned a little evilly. “Your punishment will be that all your nieces and cousins and sisters will no doubt find ways to humiliate you by writing things on your cast and that you'll be wearing it while you're in New York.”

Clarice groaned. “Wonderful.”

“Oh, but the best is that Xander has decided that a white cast is just too plain… I’ve seen the paint he’s preparing…”

Clarice whimpered.

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Thursday evening, November 30th 1995, 1630 Revello Drive

It had been a long day. Joyce had joined Simon in a trip to LA, to make preparations for the Christmas to be spent at Vlughwater, buying a few gifts, stealing more than a few kisses with out ‘eeewing’ children or curious nine year olds hanging upside down from the window sill. They’d also spoken to several LA witches about the upcoming Winter Solstice, one of the great festivals of the magical year. The car drew up outside the house and Simon got out to open Joyce’s door. Bottley, who’d accompanied them to LA, drove off as soon as the last bag was out of the car. Joyce yawned and walked up the steps to the door, entering quickly. A light was on in the kitchen and she went there. Buffy was sitting on a stool, sipping a soda and looking tired, with a thin, red line running down her face where some claw had cut her.

Joyce walked up to her and gave her a hug. “Hello, sweetie. How was patrol?”

“Boring. And then a fledgling almost got me,” Buffy admitted a trifle sourly. “Now I need to get to bed. Even Slayers need some sleep,” she rose and paused at the door, hesitating.

Joyce smiled. “I’ll be right up, dear. Go take a shower, you smell like vampire dust. I’ll go check on the others first.”

Buffy wrinkled her nose. “Yeah, I was a bit too close when I dusted him. Hurst was not amused.”

“How many?” Joyce asked, commiserating.

“Thirty clicks. With full pack,” Buffy grumbled. “And a full on hand-to-hand training afterwards.”

“You poor dear,” Joyce commiserated. “Well, better get some sleep then.”

Buffy nodded and went upstairs. Joyce went into the basement to check on Xander, who’d returned there until the connections between the houses had been made, refusing to sleep under a different roof from his parents. Kit and Kendra had joined his ‘rebellion’. Joyce checked the rooms that held the girls, found them both sleeping peacefully and went upstairs to check on Dawn, tucked the duvet back around her youngest, took the book she had been reading and put it on the nightstand and went to her final stop, Willow’s room. She froze. The bed was empty, not slept in. With a fast beating heart Joyce went through the room. Clothes, check. Fluffles the bear, check. That meant that whatever had happened wasn’t voluntary. She grabbed her phone and rang the guard house.

“Willow isn’t in her room!” Joyce yelled into the phone as soon as it was picked up.

There was a moment’s stunned silence and then Colombe Devouton’s calm, French accented voice came over the line. “Miss Willow, she is with Miss Jenny, Miss Rowan and Master Dave over at the Research Lab, looking at ze robot.”

Joyce’s eyes narrowed. “What? Until…” she looked at the clock. “A quarter to twelve? Why didn’t you… no, sorry, why didn’t Jenny make sure they went to bed on time?”

There was a chuckle. “I vould say, the thrill of discovery?”  

“I want a car outside right now, big enough to take all of them,” Joyce growled. “And I want the fastest driver.”

“Oui, Madame Mère,” Colombe answered, and hung up.

Joyce went to the bathroom door and knocked. “Buffy, I need to go and get Willow from the lab. I may be a bit late…”

Buffy’s humming that Joyce had heard through the door stopped and changed into a snigger. “And she may be in a touch of trouble?”

“Oh, no dear. Your younger sister is quite safe from most of my wrath,” Joyce replied firmly. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Buffy shivered in the shower, despite the heat of the water. *Jenny is sooo deep in trouble.*

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Joyce Summers didn’t knock or hesitate but almost kicked in the door. It bounced off the wall and she strode into the well lit lab space beyond. Four large tables in the centre of the room held two robotic legs, two robotic arms, a robotic torso and a robotic arm. What looked like a chemistry lab could be seen through a glass door leading to the next room. Each table had a pentagram in a circle drawn around it, and a single very large circle surrounded all four tables.

“Do you lot have any idea of the time?” Joyce asked, deceptively sweetly, despite the fury of her entrance.

Willow blinked owlishly, dry and tired eyes focusing on the clock. “Twelve o’clock?” She blinked again. “Wait we got off from school at two-thirty and there’s no way we’ve only been here nine and a half hours…” She gulped seeing her mother’s expression. “We’ve been here nine and a half hours?”

“Yes, and tomorrow is a school day, yes,” Joyce confirmed. “Out. Now. Hurst is upstairs with a car, we’ll drop off Dave at home and his parents can have a word with him, too,” She pointed at the door and the teens scurried out.

Jenny Calendar had been gripping the table she’d been sitting at with both hands, and her knuckles were white with the force she exerted. She didn’t look up when the soft step sounded beside her.

“I think Rupert is probably quite worried by now,” Joyce murmured.

“He’s talking with Esther. I’m sorry, I forgot the time,” Jenny looked up from her hands, which were lightly coated in oil and other fluids.

“Yes. We’ll discuss it tomorrow. Now, you go home and go to sleep. It’s a work day for you tomorrow as well,” Joyce gave Jenny a peck on the cheek, “And trust me, Rupert will be worried, no matter who he’s talking to.”

Jenny bit her lip. “Sorry, I messed up.”

Joyce’s lips crinkled. “Well, I admit I thought it was worse. I thought she and Dave had snuck off somewhere…”

Jenny smiled. “Well, they did. The Chem Lab – to try and analyze Ted’s hair and skin.”

Joyce sighed. “Only those two.”

End Note:

Madame Mère was the title given to Napoleon’s mother after he crowned himself Emperor of the French.

Cuttlefish are highly intelligent and curious cephalopods, who can develop considerable affection (as far as can be told) for people. It has been noted by several scientists who do research into Cuttlefish that they are unsure who is testing who at certain times…

Enid Blyton (11 August 189728 November 1968)  was the author of numerous books for children and teens. The Famous Five and Noddy  are famous creations, but she also wrote a number of series set in boarding schools such as the St. Clare’s and MalloryTowers series.

Elinor M. Brent-Dyer (6 April 189420 September 1969), wrote the Chalet school series, also set in a boarding school. A rather exclusive one in Switzerland, where ‘difficult girls’ were often sent to.

Please note that what Ted says does not reflect the author’s views.

 
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