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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)vidiconFR1598780,0851591501409,86128 May 115 Jul 14No

Witches and Confused mothers

Author’s notes:

Disclaimer: I own none of the characters conceived and created by Joss Whedon or any company affiliated to him. I do claim ownership of any and all OC’s that appear in this piece of fiction and all non Buffyverse related subjects, organizations and metaphysical discussions.

The series is heavily Joyce centric.

1)   This is an AU setting, featuring a number of OC’s from a novel I am currently writing. One of the characters absolutely refused to cooperate and so I’m giving him a bit of a run in the Buffyverse. It is, if you will, a sort of crossover with an as yet unpublished book.

2)   I assume that the reader is aware of the content of the episodes of Buffy. The plotlines of many episodes are only touched upon.

3)   I try to incorporate dialogue and occurrences from episodes as best I may into the narrative, but I try not to repeat verbatim or to retell whole episodes. Unless I think it adds to the narrative or is necessary for the development of the characters of course. I am grateful to the transcribers of the scripts I’ve used, though I regret I do not have their names.

 

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.

Speech: “Who’s on first.”

Thought: *What’s on second.*

Vision: #I-don’t-know’s on third.#

Reviews are much appreciated, cherished and always answered.

Chapter 1: Witches and Confused mothers

Principal  Robert Flutie held certain views with which Rupert Giles did not agree. As long as these views only pertained to the way in which the pupils of the school were taught, he had no problem ignoring the man, who seemed at least dedicated to making the lives of his charges better and well, more full of learning. Giles was in favour of learning. Now however the views of the principal conflicted with his own. He sat in the highly uncomfortable chair opposite the Principal and glared impartially between him and the young woman who sat beside him, in an equally uncomfortable chair. She was, he had to admit, very striking and carried herself with an unconscious grace. Her dark hair and bold brown eyes, her humorous smile, her obvious intelligence, the lilting timbre of her voice, they attracted him. It was a pity she was so much younger than he was, and well, so…modern. And annoying.

Flutie spoke again. “Now Mr. Giles, the library is not yours, it belongs to the school and the pupils, and the pupils need to learn to use computers and need to be encouraged to use the library. And as Miss Calendar has so kindly volunteered to help set up a database program with her great experience in the field, we will most certainly proceed to create one of the finest library databases in the country!”

Giles noted the slight roll of the Calendar woman’s eyes. Even he knew that the programs that contained computer databases were already well developed. Flutie probably understood as much about the use of technology as he did about teaching. He glared at the picture *Of himself, the egotism of the man* the principal had upon his desk.

“I fail to see why the use of computers is of such great importance. Mankind has done without computers for generations, centuries, since the birth of man. And all of a sudden we must bend our knee to this new… fad? This demon of technology that would enslave us to its will, break our minds and reduce us to mindless, thoughtless consumers of information rather than original thinkers.” 

Jenny blinked at him *Wow. Technophobe is not the word. This is like the uncrowned king of the tech haters. I wonder if he drives a horse and buggy?*

“I hardly think that being able to find books faster is going to make for less original thinking…Rupert.” *Did he just wriggle a bit when I said his name?* “I mean after all, they’ll have more time for the actual reading if they don’t have to go through the card index.” She batted her eyelids at him, in a little girl fashion. That usually had an effect on his type of chauvinist male. He glared at her. * Ok, maybe not quite the effect I wanted.*

“I do not think that it is necessary for a library of this size to have its catalogue digitized.”

Jenny sighed. “From what I’ve seen shipped in you don’t intend for the library to be this size for much longer. It’d be better to get to work on it now and add to it later. Maybe even scan some of the books that the students can use, the ones you only have one copy of?”

“Scan? Skim the knowledge of ages and condense it into a few miserable pixels?”

*Hmmm, he has the terminology down quite well for a technophobe. Like an atheist who knows his biblical quotes.* “Now…Rupert.” *Hah, yes, he does writhe just a teensy bit when I use his first name.* “They are handheld scanners, not flatbed, quite nice software to merge the images; your babies will not be hurt. And need not ever be touched again. Think of it, all those wonderful books kept safe from those horrid grubby teenage fingers and their horrendous study habits. No more dog-earing, foxing, underlining, highlighting or food stains…”

She grinned and he glared. *Am I having fun? Yes I am. He’s so incredibly stuffy. Wouldn’t know a byte if it bit him on the ass or a demon if it appeared right in front of him. Well, I’ll take care of the first and the Hellmouth might do the second if he’s unlucky.*

Flutie held up his ineffectual hands. “It is my decision and it is final! Final! The library catalogue gets digitiled and the books get skimmed! Final, I say. Now, both of you shake hands and make up.” Both the teacher and the librarian winced at the man’s failure to get the terms right.

Rupert glared at the smug young woman before him. *Far too young to be so cocky* She rose and extended her hand, a broad grin on her face. * A lovely face.* He took the hand and to her surprise, and a little bit to his, he bowed over it as he had been taught so many years ago, and held his lips gently above her knuckles, allowing his breath to tickle them ever so slightly and ever so shortly.

“Miss Calendar, I place myself and my library in your hands.” He straightened; face carefully calm, looked her in the eye and noted the slight flush and the widened eyes. He bowed again, to both of them. “Miss Calendar, Principal Flutie.” He turned and left.

“Well now, that is a fine example of old world courtesy. Maybe I ought to get him to teach some etiquette classes.” He nodded at the woman. “Carry on Miss Calendar! Carry on!”   

Jenny Calendar left the principal’s office deep in thought. *Hmmm. Interesting. A more worthy opponent than I had thought. We shall see if he can keep up.* She quickened her step. Maybe her stay in Sunnydale would be less boring and, well nasty, if she could divert her mind.

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Buffy came home, seeing the lights on in the living room, expecting her mother to be there, on the couch, the glass of wine that had been far too often present lately at her side, going over the paperwork for the gallery that she was opening. Her mother was not really a business woman. She was a good sales woman, and a good art expert, but the more administrative aspect of the business got her down. Buffy really hoped that it wouldn’t worsen the drinking.

Her mother was indeed on the couch, was going over the paperwork, but she was also casting little glances at the phone. There was no wine, no glass. There was a pot of tea, Earl Grey by the smell of it. And a porcelain cup to hold it. This… was different.

“Oh, Hello Buffy. You’re home early.”

Buffy shrugged. “Grounded remember?”

Jocye sighed. “Not grounded dear. You just have to be home and in bed by 22.00 on weekdays. And do your homework. And go to classes, I think you’ll find that does not qualify as ‘grounded’ in the vocabulary of most people.”

“Yeah, sure Mom.”

“Willow not here? I wanted to talk with her.”

“Her parents are home, she’s trying to get them to sign off on her extra course load. Maybe get some dinner.”

Joyce shook her head. “How that girl can be so cheerful and lovely with such… such…” Words failed her.

“Yeah Mom. It’s amazing.” Buffy sighed. *Mom probably would have loved a daughter like Willow. Studious, quiet, willing to work hard and thrive under the gentlest of touches. It must be annoying for her to have, well me, with all the Slayer issues and teen angst to deal with.*

“Buffy, sit down.” Buffy did as she was told, sitting on the couch, leaving about a foot between herself and her mother. That was her mother’s ‘we’re going to have a serious talk’ voice. She wasn’t aware what she’d done this time, but she’d better sit through it with as much patience as she could muster.

To her surprise she was gathered into a hug and held close. “I love you Buffy. Don’t ever doubt that. I love you more than I can say. I hope that one day, when you’re a mother; you’ll understand why it is so difficult for me to put into words what you mean to me.”

“Mom?”  Buffy was honestly surprised.

“I might like to think sometimes that it’d be nice if you were a bit more biddable, or a bit more interested in studying, but if you were, you wouldn’t be my Buffy, you wouldn’t be my little girl. Well, not so little girl.” She smiled, stroking Buffy’s hair.

Buffy was getting more and more confused. “Mom? What’s going on?”

“Remember that psychiatrist Simon said he would get into contact with? His office called to make an appointment.”

Buffy blinked, trying to keep her panic under control. “Uhhh… that’s great Mom.” She tried to wriggle out of her mother’s embrace, to run upstairs, hide in her room and wig out in peace.

Joyce held her at arms length, hands firmly on Buffy’s upper arms. “Yes it is great. Buffy, this is one of the best psychologists on the west coast. One of the most famous in the world. He specializes in treating your sort of case. I tried to get him to see you…before… Buffy, if he can help you…”

“Yeah Mom, sure. It’s great.” *And if he fails, do I get to go back to the asylum?*   

“Which leads me to what I wanted to talk to Willow about.” Joyce deftly changed the subject, realizing that her daughter was not nearly as happy with the appointment as she was.

“What?”

“I need a so-not-a-babysitter for Dawn for Friday next week. That’s when the appointment is, I checked with your school and if I pick you up there we can be at his office in time.”

“You didn’t even ask me!” Buffy was now on the verge of both tears and panic, trying to get away from her mother without hurting her.

“Buffy!” Joyce hauled her back down, knowing since her conversation with Simon what immense fear Buffy had for the institution she and Hank, in their desperation had sent her to. “No matter what, as long as you are mine, you are not going back to Overton!”

Buffy started to tremble. “Promise?”

“Yes love, I promise.”

Buffy snuggled into her mother’s arms, breathing so fast Joyce almost thought she was hyperventilating. “Okay. You’ll be there?”

“Right outside.”

“Okay. Promise?”

“Promise.”

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“DAWN!!!” The shout disturbed the peace of the Summers household. Joyce sighed, wondering what new wonder of parenting was about to be revealed to her.

“Dawn! Are you using my pom-poms as dresses for your Barbies again?”

There was a muffled reply. “Dawn, if you don’t give me my pom-poms right now I’ll wake you up with a washcloth every day for a week! With ice cubes in it!”

Joyce grinned. *Well, well. Buffy’s taking up cheerleading again. That’s good. And she’s in a good mood.*

There was a creak as Dawn’s door opened and then Buffy thundered down the stairs, a bag in her hand. “Can I run a wash Mom?”

“Sure dear. Don’t mix the…”

“Colour and the whites.” Buffy finished the familiar admonition with a smile and Joyce laughed. “Off with you. I need to go to the gallery. I’ll be back early enough to cook dinner.”

“Okay, thanks Mom. See you later.” Buffy waited until her mother had left before entering the utility room. No reason to betray the full reason why she wanted to do an extra wash. She had some vamp-dusted clothing besides her cheerleader costume and she didn’t want to explain either. When she heard the front door close she strode up to the washer and stuffed it with her clothes, added the powder and softener and straightened. She froze when she caught sight of the tableau in the sink.

There were bottles in the sink. Quite a few of them, all of them neck down and all of them empty. Buffy stood in the utility room and gazed at the bottles, the bottles her mother had turned to since her marriage had started to collapse. Yesterday there had been the pot of tea. The day before yesterday she had sat with an untouched glass of wine in her hand for half an hour, looking at something in her other hand, what Buffy did not know. Then she had risen, walked into the kitchen and poured the glass of wine into the sink, followed by the half bottle that was left. Buffy had thought the wine had gone sour. Apparently it hadn’t. Her Mom had gone sour on the wine.

She wasn’t quite certain if the development was the best for her as a Slayer, a slightly tipsy Joyce was easier to evade than a fully alert one. But as a daughter who loved her mother it was the best thing that could have happened, just about. She hugged herself, feeling a tear or two run down her face. The daughter easily won out over the Slayer.

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Buffy walked into the kitchen, seeing her mother trying to open a packing crate with a crowbar while a clipboard balanced on the edge of the kitchen island. She was humming a song Buffy identified as ‘It’s almost like being in love.’ Buffy was almost certain her mother did not know she was doing that.

“We had trials today.”

“Great. How did it go? And good afternoon to you too dear.” Joyce stopped humming and tried opening the crate once more.

“I didn’t actually get to try out. There was an accident.”

“Oh dear. I hope nobody was seriously injured?”

“Not too serious. Sooo… What was I trying out for?”

Joyce gave her daughter a panicked look. “The cheerleading squad I assume? I’m sorry is that wrong?”

Buffy blinked. ”Err… Yes. I mean no, I mean yes I was trying out for the cheerleading squad.”

Joyce sighed, relieved. “I do try to pay attention even when I’m busy, Buffy. And you did ask, well; yell at Dawn to find out where your pom-poms were. Not very hard to put two and two together. I am glad you’re picking it up again, you used to love it so much before…” Joyce closed her mouth and looked embarrassed.

Buffy winced inwardly. She’d quit cheerleading before the whole burning down the gym and getting into trouble thing.

“Sorry Mom, it’s just, you’ve seemed a bit distracted. And what’s all this stuff?” Buffy gestured at the packing crates scattered throughout the kitchen.”

“It’s for the exhibition on tribal art at the gallery. It’s my first major exhibition so I am a bit nervous and I’ll admit to distracted,” Joyce heaved at the crowbar again, muttering swearwords under her breath as it slipped and a splinter worked its way into her finger.

“Language Mom!” Buffy said it with a smirk. It was rare she could use that line on her mother.

Joyce gave her daughter the patented Johnson women look. “You know, it might not physically hurt you to give a hand here.”

She turned away from the recalcitrant crate and moved onto the next one. Buffy moved next to the first and easily lifted the nailed down lid off once Joyce was marking and writing on the clip board. Joyce looked up to see Buffy looking into the open crate and smiled. “Thank you.”

She opened another box, blinked and shook her head. “Oh dear.”

“Hmm?”

“Fertility statue. You don’t need to see it.” Joyce firmly put the lid back on the crate.

“You know, Mom… there’s this girl in school, Amy.”

“Uhuh?”

“She trains with her Mom for like three hours a day. Sounds like she’s really into it.”

Joyce gave her daughter an exasperated glance. “Sounds like her Mom does not have a whole lot to do.” It was only then that she noticed Buffy’s wistful look. *Oh great, wonderful mother daughter bonding Moment gone there Joyce!*

“So why is this stuff here and not in the gallery?” Buffy covered the awkward moment.

Joyce shrugged. “They’re working on the displays and such. Doing some last minute painting. I need a bit of peace and quiet to asses this.”

She turned back to her cataloguing. Buffy lifted the lid of the fertility idol and peeked. Her eyes widened. “Jeepers.” She quickly lowered the lid. A quick look at her mother showed the older woman hiding a smirk. Buffy blushed a little.

“Jeepers indeed. I could use a hand getting that in the car before Dawn comes home.”

Buffy grinned. “It might be educational for her.”

“There are some parts of your sister’s education I’d like to wait with at least a few more years.” Joyce said dryly.

Buffy nodded. “Yeah, suppose. Can we do it now? I need to go do some homework.”

“Sure.” They carried the crate outside into the car, pushing it well against the back seats. Buffy went upstairs to study.

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Buffy stood preparing a bagel for breakfast when Joyce came in. 

“Look what I found. It's my yearbook from junior year.” Buffy watched her mother leaf through a green bound book. “Oh, look! There I am.”

She put the book down on the island and poured a cup of coffee. Buffy looked at the picture, smirking a bit. *Not wearing glasses I see, trying to look good for the picture, eh Mom?*

“Mom, I've accepted that you've had sex.” *Maybe not that you want to have some more… So not going there* “I am not ready to know that you had Farrah hair.”

Joyce sniffed with hauteur. “This is Gidget hair. Don't they teach you anything in history?”

“Well, it's really cool, but I gotta book.”

Joyce looked at the book. “Well, I was thinking. I know the cheerleading thing didn't work  out... Maybe you should think about joining the yearbook staff. I did, it was a lot of fun.”

Buffy rolled her eyes.  “Not really my tip, Mom.” Buffy reached into the fridge for some fruit.

Joyce looked wistful and a bit embarrassed at the same time. “I was, uh, photo editor. I got to be on every page, made me look much more popular than I was.”

Buffy wasn’t paying much attention. “And have you seen the kids that do yearbook? Nerds pick on them.”

Joyce’s stiffened at the thoughtless insult. “Some of the best times I had in school were working on the yearbook!” Her voice was a touch strained.

Buffy finally looked at her Mom.” Oh, this just in: I'm not you! I'm into my own thing.”

Joyce spoke before thinking, her irritation and pain carrying her along. “Your own thing, whatever it is, got you kicked out of school, and we had to move here to find a decent school that would take you!”

Buffy blinked back tears, grabbed her bag and left.

“Honey! Uhh…” Buffy was out of the door before her mother could finish her sentence.

Joyce rubbed a hand over her eyes, disgusted with herself. “Lovely Joyce. Uhhh! Great parenting form! Little shaky on the dismount.”

Dawn slunk into the kitchen then, her usual cheery morning self, hoisting herself onto a stool. “Ugh. G’morning.”

Joyce filled a bowl with yoghurt, cereal and fruit and pushed it and a glass of fresh orange juice across to Dawn. Dawn started eating with single minded intensity. She would perk up after eating and Joyce had long ago given up on getting anything but the most basic responses from the girl beforehand.

Parenting was waayyy more difficult in practice then when they discussed it in college. She wondered if she and her sisters gave her mother so much trouble and then turned to coaxing Dawn in something resembling good humour before unleashing her on an unsuspecting world.

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Buffy sat eating lunch with Willow in the cafeteria, Xander being absent for mysterious male reasons to do with shirking third period. They were eating a type of mystery meat that probably was not kosher in many ways. Its taste was the least of its problems.

“You seem a bit out of sorts.” Willow said it a bit diffidently. Buffy shrugged.

“Yeah, well I had a few choice words with my Mom this morning.”

“Really? What about?”

“She told me to find other interests besides cheerleading.”

“Well that is not bad is it?”

Buffy rolled her eyes, throwing back a slug of milk. “She had a suggestion. Can you imagine? The yearbook committee, just like she had been.”

Willow blinked, she couldn’t imagine her mother taking any interest in her extra curricular activities, or any of her activities at all for that matter, let alone make a suggestion. “Why is that bad?”

“Oh come on Wills! Only complete losers who can’t do anything else join the Yearbook committee! Like I told Mom, Nerds pick on them!”

Willow stiffened, tears appearing in her yes. “Well if you feel that way. That’s your opinion of course. You’re entitled to your opinion. I’m sure it’s a very valuable opinion and that your mother wasn’t hurt at all. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just go and… and do something… something else. I’m not hungry anymore.”

Willow left, leaving Buffy blinking after her. “Wills?” She rose but Willow had already left the cafeteria, not even clearing away her tray. Buffy finished her food and cleared both their trays. She fell in beside Xander as the boy stood searching through his locker.

“Heya Xand.”

“Buffy, hello.”

“Why would Willow wig out about the Yearbook committee?” She crossed her arms and leaned against the locker next to his.

Xander’s voice came muffled from within the unknown and unknowable depths of his locker. “She’s Yearbook committee president and Photo editor. She’s very proud of it. She says it may not be the coolest committee to be on, but many people would be disappointed if it weren’t there. I mean, where would the yearbook come from?”

Buffy shrunk in on herself, looking guilty. “Oh…” *Great. Just great. You’ve hurt Mom and your best friend. Now all I’ve got to do is add Dawnie, Xander and Giles and I’ll have the straight flush.!*

“I’ve got to find her. Bye.” Xander blinked after her disappearing form.

Buffy located Willow in the library after checking the favourite moping area, the girls’ restrooms. Giles was conspicuous in his absence, hiding in his office with the door closed. The fact that the petite red head was sniffling and that the occasional tear ran down her face obviously had nothing to do with this. Giles ability to panic around normal teen problems, unlike apocalyptic predictions, was fast becoming a running gag among the Slayer and her friends.

“Wills.” Buffy knelt down by her friend and put both her arms around her and hugged her. “Wills, I’m so sorry. I’m such a bitch.”

Willow sniffled. “I’m sorry, it’s just t-that.”

“Wills! This is not your fault in any way. I was mean and nasty and rotten. I never considered all the work the Yearbook committee puts into making the yearbook. We all expect it just to be there and be good. We hardly even say thank you.”

Willow finally returned the hug. “You’re going to apologize to your Mom? It must have really hurt. She was only trying to help.”

“I know it hurt. She actually flew of the handle and told me that us being here is my fault.”

“Sorry? What do you mean?”

“You know; the whole burning down the gym thing? Mom moved us here so I could go to a good school, have a life a little more normal than I’d have had if we’d stayed in LA. Gave up her job.” Buffy’s face scrunched up with guilt and grief, on the verge of tears. “She loved her job.”

“Oh, Buffy. I’m sure she feels terrible.”

Buffy felt tears running down her face. “Yeah, she does, I saw her face as I left. But it’s still true. We’re here because of what I did. She gave up everything for me Wills. And I go and hurt her like that. And you. I’m such a bitch.”

“Buffy, you’re the Slayer. It’s not your fault.”

“But she doesn’t know that Will! She just thinks I’m a disturbed teen. She didn’t do it because of some great destiny and horrible fate; she did it because she loves me!”

Willow looked thoughtful. “Well, umm. I still say apologize.”

Buffy took a deep breath. “Yeah. Yeah I should. I’ll do it after school.” She looked down at her hands, clasped firmly by Willow. “Wills? Are we okay?”

“Yeah sure, I mean you are an insufferably popular near cheerleader and I’m a poor downtrodden nerd, but yeah.” Willow gave Buffy another hug, smiling hugely.

Buffy laughed through her tears. “Thanks Wills. You’re the best friend ever.” 

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Joyce was squeezing oranges for juice when Buffy came in dancing, singing and wearing her cheerleader outfit. She’d been home late the previous evening and had hardly seen Buffy, let alone had the chance to talk to her privately. Dawn’s customary late rising allowed for such conversations in the morning however, and she intended to take the opportunity.

“Macho, macho, man! I want to be a macho man. Macho... Oh, hey, juice!” Buffy grabbed the glass and downed the juice in a single swallow. “Mm... Quality juice. Not from concentrate!”

Joyce glanced at Buffy a little bewildered. “You're in a good mood.”

“I am! I'm on the squad, which is great, 'cause I feel like cheering and leading others to cheer. Ooo, hey, juice!”

Buffy grabbed her mother’s glass, draining it and Joyce hastily took hold of Dawn’s and placed it on the counter out of Buffy’s reach.

Joyce sighed. “Listen, honey, about yesterday, I really...”

“Mm! That is totally yester. Besides, it's not like you were wrong, y'know. I did get kicked outta school. I'm just wacky that way!

Joyce took her daughter’s shoulder and pressed her down on a stool.” No! Sit down. Buffy what I said… Honey I can’t pretend I understand why you did what you did. But I love you. More than I can express. And moving here, it’s a small price to pay to see you happy and keep you with me…”

Buffy smiled in a disconcertingly hyper fashion. “Mom, you just don't get it. And, believe me, you don't want it. Y'know, there are just some things about being a Vampire Slayer that the older generation...”

Joyce blinked in shock and surprise. Her hope that this particular delusion was in the past was apparently unfounded. “A what?”

Buffy stopped humming her song, realizing she’d just said a touch more than even her addled brain told her was wise.  “It's a... long story.”

Joyce was now getting seriously worried. There was an unhealthy glow to Buffy’s face, as if she had a fever and a light sheen of perspiration lay on her forehead. “Buffy, are you feeling well?” She tried to feel Buffy’s forehead.

Buffy blinked, surprised at her mother’s question. She felt awesome. Her mind was totally clear. How could anyone think there was anything wrong? “What? Oh, I'm, I'm fine, y'know? What, like, I can't be in a good mood? Is it, like, a new house rule? Fine, y'know? It's just fine, fine, fine, 'cause...”

Joyce looked on in astonishment as her daughter started singing again, gathering her books and bag and dancing out of the kitchen.  “I'm a macho, macho man! I want to be a macho man! Macho, macho man! I want to be a macho man!”

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Buffy was picking up bits of smashed alarm clock and putting them in the dustbin when she heard a voice.

“I don’t get it.”

Buffy looked up surprised as her mother stood in the door of her room. “What?”

“I don’t get it. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, where you’re coming from, how to relate to you. And I’ve come to a simple conclusion: I don’t get it.” She sat down next to her daughter.

Buffy gave a small, sad smile. “I’m inscrutable, huh?”

Joyce smiled fondly. “You’re almost sixteen. I think there’s a biological imperative whereby I can’t understand you because I’m not sixteen.” She looked a bit thoughtful. “Which is a bit strange really, after all I was once a sixteen year old girl. I should be able to relate. But I suppose I can’t understand because I am not a sixteen year old now.” She reached out, cupping her daughter’s face. “I can only be your mother.”

“Mom, do you ever wish you could be sixteen again?”

Joyce thought for a second and Buffy thought she saw a sad look on her face for a second. She winced, remembering her comments on her mother’s work on the Yearbook committee. *Even the nerds look down on them… Yeah, smooth Buffy.*

“Oooh, that’s a frightful notion. “ Joyce said. “Go through all that again? She glanced at Buffy with some amusement. “No I don’t think so. Not even if it would help me understand you better.”

Buffy leaned in and kissed her, then rose to leave. Joyce held out a hand and laid it on her arm. “Buffy… I don’t have three hours a day to teach you cheerleading,”  She smiled deprecatingly. “And I would not be much good at it anyway; not nearly as good as you are at it already.”

She took deep breath before her daughter could speak. “But that does not,” She stressed the word emphatically. “Mean that I don’t want to spend time with you and Dawn. I need to work too and can not be as available as I might want to be. But I’m here Buffy. I am here for you, I love you. Both of you.”

Buffy sat down again, grabbing her mother in a fierce hug, being careful not to use her slayer strength. “Thanks Mom.” She released Joyce and looked down at the bed. “Mom… I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what dear?”

Buffy blushed a little. “For talking the way I did about the yearbook committee.”

Joyce gave her daughter a slightly sad grin. “It was true dear. I was way too nerdy to be popular. Much more ‘Willow’ than ‘Buffy’. Not that there is anything wrong with Willow. She’s a lovely girl.”

Buffy blushed even more fiercely. “Yeah. Wills is on the Yearbook committee.”

Joyce’s face lit up in realization. “I take it you talked about our conversation with Willow which led to an interesting revelation of your own?”   

“Yeah.” Buffy played with the edge of her duvet. “I’m sorry Mom. I didn’t want to talk you down; you’ve done so much for me…”

Joyce grabbed her daughter in a hug that had Buffy wondering if Slayer strength might be hereditary after all. “I love you Buffy.”

“I love you too Mom. I love you so much.”

Joyce wiped away a few small tears from her daughter’s eyes and did the same to her own, then reached for the tissue box on the bedside table and took one, handing one to Buffy as well. “So, you going out tonight?” She dabbed at her eyes with the tissue.

“Can I, Mom?” Buffy looked hopeful.

“Yes dear. If you are feeling well?”

Buffy blushed. “Yeah, sorry about this morning Mom. I was a bit hyper…”

Joyce looked worried and Buffy knew she had to answer the question her mother was afraid to ask.

“No Mom, I’m not doing drugs.”

Joyce rubbed her chin. “That’s a relief. I see. That leaves lack of sleep or a boy.” She decided not to mention the man in the leather jacket who sometimes stood outside her daughter’s window gazing upwards. She’d felt an occasional urge to go and ask him in and inquire after his intentions, but that was a bit…Victorian, a bit too much like her parents. Buffy would tell her when she was ready.

Buffy blushed. “Mom!”

Joyce sighed, just a touch disappointed. “Not a boy then?”

Buffy shook her head. “No.” She looked up, hope in her eyes. “So I can really go out?” 

Joyce smiled. “Yes dear. Just don’t be in too late and please let me know you come in. I worry.” She sighed. “Overworry probably.”

Buffy’s mouth twitched. “Possibly a bit. The whole ‘learning to say no thing…’ You had me thinking I was going to be grounded for life.”

Joyce sighed. “Sorry Buffy, parental over reaction. But you have to realize when the principal called…” She looked at her daughter beseechingly.

Buffy hugged her mother again. “I do. I’ll be good. I love you Mom. I’m gonna go out, Xander and Wills can pick me up.”

Joyce sighed again. “Can you see if you can convince Willow to go shopping with us? That girl needs a new wardrobe.”

Buffy giggled. “I’ll do my best Mom. But her mother buys her clothes.”

“Poor Willow.” She looked down at herself. “But at least I can encourage her from a fellow nerd’s perspective.” 

Buffy smiled. “Well, you have to dress up a bit too, if you want to land a hunk of man.”

Joyce rolled her eyes. “Now stop that. It is bad enough Dawn keeps asking me when Simon will come by again. I don’t need you on my case as well!”

“Okay, Mom. See you later.”

“Later honey. Have fun!”

Joyce picked up the dustbin and picked the final pieces of alarm clock of the floor and the bedside table. “But I still don’t get it.”
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