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This story is No. 4 in the series "Weird sisters". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Janet's superiors are very curious what her niece has been up to in Sunnydale. And what is causing all those deaths anyway?

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Stargate > Buffy-Centered(Current Donor)vidiconFR15540,7982818227,57613 Apr 1317 May 14No

Sickroom and Cell

Chapter 3 Sickroom and Cell

Many thanks to Cordyfan, FireWolfe, Glendon Greywizard, JoeDineen, lunalurker, Martin, PATM, SFBKludge and SpacedCadet for recommending this story.

Legal Consultation chamber

Abigail Perkins was finishing her dossier of notes on Willow Rosenberg. She’d been closeted with the young woman for most of her second day of incarceration and had compiled a considerable amount of data on the way Willow had been treated by her parents. Though her material needs had been met and often surpassed, her emotional ones hadn’t been. And only now were, on some level, by Joyce Summers. Xander and Jesse, a friend who was missing, and now Buffy, had given the girl support, but it wasn’t parental support.

The girl was brittle with anger and anguish over her hospitalized friend and what she perceived as the umpteenth betrayal her parents had perpetrated upon her.

“Are you sure?” Abby studied the girl. “It’s a drastic step.”

“Would you want to stay with them? And most likely they already took steps to disown me,” Willow answered in a monotone.

“You’re a bit too young for emancipation, so you would go into the foster system,” Abby pointed out.

Willow hunched her shoulders. “Can’t be worse than my so-called home.”

“Actually it could be,” Abby warned.

“I don’t care!” Willow looked up, glaring at her lawyer. “Would you go back?”

Abby opened her mouth, then closed it. Then she sighed. “I hate it when she’s right.”

“What? Who’s right?” Willow asked warily.

“Joyce. She knew you wouldn’t want to go back. She told me to tell you that you’ll always have a home with her,” Abby smiled. “So if you’re absolutely certain about going through with this, that is where you can stay.”

“And you didn’t tell me this immediately… why?” Willow asked in a breaking voice.

“Because it is such a huge step and I wanted you to think it through entirely,” the lawyer answered calmly. “Now you’re absolutely sure that there isn’t any evidence on your computers?”

“There’s no evidence to find!” Willow practically shouted. “I never even activated the worm that would send a hula dancing Snyder across every screen in Comp Sci class!”

Abby suppressed a snigger. “Ah, okay. Well. I’ll have a word with Special Agent Loomis about the way you’ve been treated. Even if they can make a case for the way you’ve been searched, there was no need to not return your clothes.”

Willow looked away. The humiliation of the search was still very vivid in her imagination.

There was a knock on the door. Abby rose and looked out through the small pane of security glass to meet the blue eyed gaze of a tall, blonde woman. “There’s someone here. I’ll just ask what they want.”

She opened the door and stepped out. The woman wore an Air Force uniform and to Abby’s mind, a very guilty expression. Something clicked.

“Would your name be Samantha Carter?” Abby asked frostily.

“Yeah. That’s me,” Sam confirmed.

“You’re not welcome here,” Abby told her firmly. “As a matter of fact, I’d say that chances are that Miss Rosenberg would physically assault you if you went in her presence and since I want to get her out of this place and prevent any further prosecution or incarceration, I must ask you most strenuously to leave.”

“I-I wanted to apologize,” Sam managed.

Abby sniffed derisively. “Most likely you wanted to minimize the potential damage. Miss Rosenberg is a gifted programmer and her interests in science are such that the Air Force no doubt were delighted to put pressure on her to force her to work for them instead of the private sector.”

Sam shook her head. “No, it was nothing like that. I’m sorry, but I still think that there was enough evidence to confront Miss Rosenberg about what she knew. I regret her current circumstances and the blow to her relationship with her parents, but not that I considered her a viable suspect.”

“Right. No doubt,” Abby shook her head. “She won’t want to hear it, or meet you or see you. But I will ask. Just a moment,” she opened the door again and stepped back inside the room.

The room had been soundproofed to ensure privacy and Sam knew better than to look through the safety panel. A minute or so later Abby came out again. “No.”

“But-” Sam tried.

Abby cut her of with an upheld hand.  “Willow is usually quite soft and gently spoken, I noticed. She got both loud and rather rude when I mentioned you. I think you should leave.”

Sam sighed and nodded. “I suppose you’re right. Maybe later?”

“The phrase, ‘When hell freezes over’ may have been used,” Abby told her. “So it probably will be quite a while.”

Sam nodded in defeat. “I understand.”


Sunnydale Memorial Hospital, earlier that day

“Incompetent idiots,” Janet grumbled as she slammed the chart down on the small table.

“What, they’re not just confined to the Air Force?” Joyce asked in a sugary sweet tone of voice.

Janet winced, then glared. “I’m trying to help.”

“Well, sorry if I feel a bit out of sorts and act like a bitch if two of my kids are in hospital and in jail!” Joyce hissed.

“Your kids?” Janet scoffed. “Since when?”

Joyce seemed slightly surprised by her own words. “Probably since the first time I fed them at my table. That would be about a week after they met Buffy,” she responded after some thought. “It’s hard for me not to care about children who have no one to take care of them.”

Janet opened her mouth to reply, but Joyce’s words forestalled her. “I don’t know if you remember the reason why Xander is here? Or who drove Willow to the FBI?”

Janet rubbed her face. “I know. But even after all that I’ve seen it’s so hard for me to really accept how horrible some parents can be to their children. Dad was nothing compared to this.”

Joyce frowned. “To you, maybe. Now what have the idiots on staff here done?”

“All the wrong sorts of medication. And these are not Xander’s x-rays!” Janet’s anger was surfacing again. “I wish I could move him to another hospital! At least the doctors I met at Busby Base were competent!”    

“Xander’s not military,” Joyce pointed out.

Janet waved a hand. “The General would arrange that in minutes. But we don’t have anyone with the authority to-”

Joyce cleared her throat. “I do. Since most of his family was drunk or absent or in jail or all of the above, the court needed someone and I volunteered. I actually am Xander’s foster mother, and allowed to make medical decisions by court order. At least until this mess is resolved, if it ever is.”

Janet opened her mouth and then shut it. Then she made a frightened little noise. “You’re gonna kill Colonel O’Neill when he gets here, aren’t you?”

Joyce gave her a dark look. “The thought may have crossed my mind, but as that would leave these kids without a mother, that would be counterproductive. Mild maiming I may get away with, I think.”

Janet suppressed a shiver. Then she looked up and moved to the door. “Nurse? I need to speak to a senior doctor, not the one in charge of Mr. Harris’ case, or an administrator. Can you call one?”

The nurse nodded and picked up her phone, apparently unsurprised by the request.

Janet closed the door, thoughtfully facing her sister. “Joyce? If anything ever happens to me, will you take care of Cassie?”

Joyce blinked. “What? Where did that come from?”

Janet shrugged. “My mother is dead. My friends are wonderful people, all very protective of Cassie… But none of them are ready to be parents to her.”

Joyce opened her mouth to protest, then shook her head in resignation. “Dammit, now I can’t be as angry with you as you deserve.”

 Janet grinned. “Yeah. I can do sneaky. I do mean it though.”

Joyce snorted. “I ought to call mom and have her spank you.”

Janet sniggered. “Bring it on! I can take one little old lady!”

“Mom went to Bryn Mawr and was on the Lacrosse team,” Joyce smiled. “She’s still in way better shape than I am. Deeply disappointed with my dislike of sports. And still as tall as me.”

“I’m a trained Air Force officer,” Janet replied blandly.

“Who’s taking care of Cassandra anyway?” Joyce asked, changing the subject.

“General Hammond’s daughter and son in law,” Janet explained. “Very nice couple. But I’d prefer family for Cassie.”

The door opened and a tall, slightly stooped man with a long angular face and wearing gold rimmed glasses and a white doctor’s coat came in.

“Yes?” he asked testily.

Janet gave him a small smile. “We’ll be moving Mr. Harris to Winslow B. Busby Army Base. Could you make sure the paperwork is done quickly?”

“Move? Are you mad? He’s a in near critical condition!” the nearly white haired doctor glared at her.

“Which is why you will want us to sign lots and lots of papers that state that we’re fully responsible and you’re not liable. If you get the papers to me, I can call for a military ambulance ASAP. That way you might dodge the considerable claim that Ms Summers might lay against the hospital and the doctors treating him for the incredible malpractice that you managed,” Janet told him sweetly.

“Malpractice? What are you talking about?” The doctor huffed.

Janet opened Xander’s file to the x-rays. “Look at these.” 

The doctor did so. Then blinked. Then looked at Joyce. “File the suit please.”

Janet gave him a look. “What?”

The doctor pointed at the x-rays. “These are a woman’s. The doctor treating him looked at these and based a treatment plan on them. A malpractice suit about this should allow us to get the idiot’s medical license stripped.”

Janet looked startled. “Errr.”

The doctor gave her a grim smile. “I may have to compromise on the quality of my staff for various reasons, but there are limits,” he frowned.  “Ms Summers? Mother of Buffy Summers?” he asked.

“Yes?” Joyce asked belligerently.

“Triple blasted idiots,” the man muttered as he stepped up to the bed and ran his hands quickly over Xander, checking his neck, lifted his eyelids for pupil response.

“It was his father, this time,” Joyce told him after he whipped out a magnifying class to study a rug burn. “You know, don’t you?”

The man nodded. “I do. I’m… I’ve seen many things, starting in Korea.”

“You were in Korea?” Janet asked sharply. “How old are you?”

“Old enough to have retired years ago from the Army and not old enough to retire entirely,” he told her calmly.

Janet gave him a distrustful look. “Are you going draw up those papers?”     

He gave her a shrewd glance. “You obviously have something in mind. So yes, I will,” he held up a hand. “But I will want to see him afterwards to see how he is doing and I do want you to file that malpractice suit. Preferably just against the doctor, but the hospital does have insurance for it.”

He gave Xander’s rug burn another look and then scribbled something on a prescription pad. “Go to the Magic Box and have that made up, Ms Summers. Or have Miss Rosenberg do it. Where is she, by the way?”

Janet frowned. “Why?”

The older doctor gave her a look. “Because nine times out of ten, no matter what the cause for Mr. Harris’ presence in this hospital, she’s been here…” his face slackened in shock. “She’s not in the morgue… is she…?” 

Joyce put a hand on his arm. “No. No, Willow’s fine. She wasn’t able to come, that’s all. Thank you for caring.”

The man smiled in relief, though he seemed thoughtful. “Oh, thank you. That’s a relief. She’s a very sweet girl.”

Joyce smiled glancing at the tiny embroidered name on his coat. “That she is. Thank you. Dr. Pierce.”

Xander had been transported to the Winslow B. Busby Base in a military ambulance. A call to the Base CMO by Dr Pierce had speeded up the move considerably and Xander was still in his artificially induced coma.

New X-rays had been made and Janet had re-examined Xander, carefully and tactfully blocking any attempt by the base medical team to evaluate him. If she was the only who knew how bad it really was, it would be easier to explain his miracle cure.

Joyce had driven into town to get the ‘prescription’ made up at the Magic Box. That worried Janet. A lot. That a doctor respected enough by an Army base CMO to gain his personal attention had done that, written that up… It really made her wonder if that demon remark by Joyce had not been made just to wind her up. That the bite was really from a vampire.

*Because Demons don’t exist, right? I would have noticed!*


Jacob was feeling cranky. He was feeling stiff. And he was just about ready to shoot Jack O’Neill and dig Selmac out of his body and shoot the symbiont as well.

Jack had started singing Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall. After Selmac had asked Jacob the significance of the song, he had had no rest, inside or outside of his head, until Sam, disregarding all protocol and rank had thrown an inflatable pillow at his head.

Jack had smirked and wondered aloud if he should write her up for striking a superior officer. 

Sam had grunted and ducked back into her Journal of American Physics. Jack had finally dug out a computer game and settled down.

Selmac had decided to substitute various drinks she had encountered over the years and then began using ever larger numbers. 

This had left Jacob with a headache and in need of a drink.

Sam had gone her separate way in LA, headed to the FBI building to deal with the Rosenberg matter while Jacob let Jack drive him to Winslow B. Busby Army Base.

“What’s the kid like?” he asked, breaking the long silence.

Jack opened his mouth to make a snarky reply. Then he closed it. “I liked him. He seemed like a good kid.”

Jacob nodded. For now, that was all he needed to know.

Watchers’ Council headquarters, London

Rupert Giles wearily ran a hand through his hair. After Buffy had been found and the demonic attacks in Sunnydale had tapered off with the coming of summer, he’d headed back to Britain to speak with some older Watchers and ask their advice in handling his rather headstrong Slayer. And to discretely inquire if aid given by friends and family was more common with Slayers than he’d thought.

He’d not gotten any conclusive answers to his queries, though he believed it was more common than the Watcher Journals he’d studied seemed to indicate.

And then Joyce had called him. And everything had gone to hell. Buffy had been found, but Willow had been arrested and Xander was in hospital. “And there’s bloody nothing I can do about it,” he muttered angrily.

The door to the antechamber opened and a prissy looking secretary looked out. “Mr. Travers will see you now, Mr. Giles,” she declared fussily.

Giles nodded his thanks and rose, entering the room through the door she’d opened and then passing through the next one. Travers was sitting behind his desk and in front of him was an inlaid wooden box.

The older Watcher smiled thinly. “Mr. Giles. I think you know what this is.”

Giles didn’t return the smile. “The Tento de Cruciamentum.”

“Yes. The test to see if the Slayer is worthy of her Calling. In the case of yours, that of course is a certainty,” Travers pushed the box further across the desk.

Giles couldn’t protest what Travers had said. But it was clear that the older man did not believe Buffy was worthy. He expected her to fail.

“Its wasteful,” Giles said as he accepted the box.

*Not to mention cruel, barbaric and murderous. But you’d not accept those as reasons, just as overemotional waffling. Pillock.*

“It is a long established tradition that exists for many purposes and reasons,” Travers corrected him. “Such as weeding out those who have no true Calling. Those who are unfit for the responsibility, who would avoid the so-called sacrifices involved in it and rather run off and play.”

Giles kept his breathing under deliberate control and didn’t reply. He couldn’t deny that he would have greatly preferred if Buffy hadn’t gotten romantically involved with Angel. And had acted far more swiftly against him when he became Angelus.

*Jenny might still be alive then,* he thought bitterly.

“You will make sure that she’s ready for it. Actually present on the Hellmouth and preferably actually slaying vampires and demons,” Travers sneered. “Show you have some influence over the girl. And get rid off those silly friends of hers.”

“Get rid?” Giles asked mildly.

Travers waved a hand. “I’m sure you can arrange for Miss Summers to be delayed and for them to meet someone interesting. It will show Summers that we’ve been right all along and bind her more firmly to us.”

He placed a thoughtful hand to his mouth. “You might consider doing something about the parents and the sister as well. I believe that the vampire Darla nearly killed the mother? Actually that would have been an excellent opportunity to resolve that situation. Especially if the sister had been killed as well. The slightest pressure would have made her gravitate to you and some minor pressure on the father would have made him give up his parental rights, especially if you hinted that Summers’ behaviour brought on the attack that killed his ex-wife and younger daughter.”

Giles kept his face carefully cool and composed. “Of course, sir.”

Travers gave the younger Watcher a considering look. “With custody over the Slayer, and the reason for it, you could have easily swayed her to break contact with those children.”

“I think that if she were to lose her parents and sister, Miss Summers would draw even closer to her friends,” Giles remarked calmly.

“Then you should have already acted to counter that. You have discretionary funds. There is a large demonic criminal underworld in Sunnydale. Use it,” Travers told him crisply. “I expect results. Summers tamed and broken to the bridle. It is your job to see to that. If you lack the backbone to make it a truly permanent solution, you will never rise high in this organisation. This is the fate of the world that you’re playing with, Mr Giles. Every minute of every day, of every night, that the Slayer is not performing her duty entirely and single-mindedly is one in which the world might be destroyed, mankind might be enslaved. A few useless American teenagers are a small price to pay for mankind.”

Giles nodded. “Of course sir. After all, they are only Americans.”

Travers glared at him. “You think it’s a matter for jesting, Mr Giles? I assure you it’s not. The Watchers’ Council has kept the world safe for untold millennia. The fate of the world is not a subject for soft hearts or addlebrained, new-fangled experimentation. I expect a report on how you intend to deal with the matter of controlling your Slayer within a fortnight. You may leave.”

Giles rose, bowed slightly and left. He placed the casket in his attaché case and marched out off the building and it wasn’t until he was a good half mile away from it that he took out his handkerchief, cleaned his glasses and swore.

Winslow B. Busby Army Base, hospital

The medical facility at the Army Base was a bit dated, but the staff was excellent and the equipment of the level that might be expected of a less important army base that wasn’t heavily used or a hospital. Good, but not extremely so.

It was however, private. Xander had been taken into a room that usually held those suffering from infectious diseases, or in possession of considerable rank or influence.    

Joyce stood at the foot of the bed, watching the boy. The door opened and Buffy came in, followed by Hank. She went to her mother and hugged her, gratefully receiving the hug she got in return.

Joyce smiled slightly at Hank, who looked in shock at the still form on the bed. He’d only met Xander twice, during the short time they’d been looking for Buffy, and had nowhere near the emotional connection to the boy that Buffy and Joyce had. But the sight of him was devastating.

“My God,” he swallowed. “His father did this?”

Joyce nodded as Buffy let out a sob. “Yeah.”

Hank looked slightly guilty. “Is it bad of me to think that no matter what I did, at least I wasn’t this much of a bastard?”

Buffy made a noise between a sob and a snort.

Joyce smiled slightly. “I must admit that after what happened, I feel rather the same about Jessica Harris and Sheila Rosenberg.”

“So what happens now?” Hank asked. “Why is he here? How is the military involved?”

There was a cleared throat and a grizzled man in the uniform of an Air Force Colonel stepped in. He winced at the sight of Xander in the bed. “Moral obligation, Mr Summers. Our actions, however well intended, led to the current unexpected situation. My commanding officer agreed that we would do our best to help. He looked around apologetically. “My name is O’Neill, Colonel Jack O’Neill. This is Gene-”

“Mr. Carter, Jack. I’m retired, remember?” Jacob smiled at the group in the room. “I’ve been asked to use certain skills I have…”

His voice trailed off as the small blonde girl fixed him with an icy glare. He’d been expecting her to rail at Jack, possibly deservedly so, but she was staring at him. Selmac squirmed inside him as if the symbiote was worried or afraid.

“Buffy?” Joyce asked. “What’s wrong?”

Buffy stepped between her mother and Jacob, grabbed her father and pushed him behind her as well. “I don’t know what you are, but if you move any closer, we’ll get to see what colour blood you have,” she growled.

Jacob stepped back at the sheer sense of violence and anger the girl exuded. %Selmac? What’s going on?%

%I don’t know. I can feel her and on some level I fear her. That is strange, as I’ve never met her before. Yet she seems familiar on some instinctive level. That is worrisome.%

%What else is worrisome is that she looks about ready to tear us limb from limb and that she knows we’re not completely human,% Jacob pointed out.

Buffy took another step towards them, her eyes narrowing, this time at Jack. “You’ve got nerve. Is this what you wanted? To get Xander, all of us, so you can experiment on us? You’ve already got a pet demon, now you want to see if we’ll jump through your hoops?”

“Demon?” Jack said rather stupidly.

%Oh. Ah. Hmmmm,% Selmac seemed to have a moment of clarity.

%Care to share?% Jacob replied sarcastically. %I’m dying to know.%

%Legends of the time Ra was driven from this world. May I?% she asked.

%If you can talk us out off this, be my guest,% Jacob groused.

“Greetings. We mean you no harm. Nor are we anyone’s ‘pet’. I am Selmac and Jacob and I are joined,” he gestured at Jack. “At any rate, Jacob still outranks Jack, so if anybody is the pet, it would be him.”

“Hey!” Jack called out.

Buffy smiled slightly, but it was a cold smile. “So what do you want with Xander?”

“To help him,” Selmac replied seriously and looked at Joyce and Hank. “But there are certain secrets that must be kept.”

“I’m not leaving you alone with him,” Joyce said sharply. “I want to know what happens.”

“You wouldn’t ask to remain in an operating theatre would you?” Jack tried.

“Surgery would have no effect on Xander. That means that whatever you’re planning is something different. And that means I, we, stay here,” Joyce stated. “Right now I trust Janet about as far as I can throw her and the rest of you not at all.”

Janet had just come in and winced at Joyce’s words. “You can stay if you sign the NDA’s. Major Davis faxed them to me.”

She showed a pile of papers and after a glance at Joyce, Hank took them. He leafed through them. “Pretty standard. We can’t talk about whatever Project Bluebook is.”

Buffy was frowning at Jacob, or Selmac. “Joined. As in Trill? As in Star Trek?”

Jack grinned. “See, Selmac! I told you watching that would be useful. Yeah, Jacob and Selmac share a body. Not quite my thing, but hey, different strokes.”

“I was dying of cancer,” Jacob took over. “Look, Miss Summers, if you sign those, I can start helping. We won’t tell you everything, but the boy needs help.”

“You’re not going to put a little Selmac into Xander?” Buffy asked suspiciously.

An expression of sadness passed over Jacob’s face. “No. It has been a long time since there was a young Tok’Ra.”

“Against Ra? What is that supposed to mean?” Buffy murmured, drawing stares from Jacob, Janet and Jack.

“What?” She asked. “I can’t know things?”

“We’ll have to talk about what you do too, Miss Summers. But first…” Jacob slipped on a healing device. “I will need to concentrate, so please don’t talk to me too much. And sign those forms or Paul will have an apoplexy.”

“Jacob!” Jack snapped.

“The boy needs help now, Jack. Showing some good faith might do a lot of good and I see no bad side. Now sit down like a good little Colonel,” he stressed the rank, “And let me deal with the mess you made.”

Jack winced. Jacob turned to the bed. He smiled slightly, took a deep breath, and started work.

LA, Office of the Cyber Crimes Division

Willow stood, looking down. She was in the corner of her cell.

“Can I at least get dressed without an audience?” She asked in a subdued tone of voice.

Abby glared at the agents who’d brought the girl’s clothes and they shuffled outside. “Call when you’re ready,” she told Willow kindly, and left herself.

Willow took a deep breath that changed into a sob, stripped off her orange overalls and the prison issue underwear and shoes, then dressed again in her own clothes.

Outside Abby glared at the two agents some more. “She should not have had to ask for that. She’s no longer a suspect. You’ve treated her, a juvenile first offender, worse than I’ve seen multiple murder suspects treated. And as I will continue to represent Miss Rosenberg, the FBI can expect a considerable claim against it.”

The agents exchanged looks. “We had evidence-”

“That evidence did not require a strip search!” Abby hissed, stepping closer. “You were frightening her and trying to get her off balance. If I find out that you overstepped the bounds in more ways…” she lowered her voice dangerously. “I don’t know what budget the FBI has for claims, but I’m sure this case will put a nice dent in it.”

She looked around. “And where is the man of the hour? Agent Loomis?” she almost snarled.

Jean coughed. “Trying to get hold of Wil-”

“Only her friends call her Willow,” Abby stated coldly. “You can call her Miss Rosenberg.”

Jean kept her expression calm. “He’s calling her parents to pick her up.”

Abby snorted. “Good luck with that. They were scheduled to fly to Boston to attend a conference. They both have presentations there.”

Caitlyn’s mouth fell open in shock. “But their daughter is in custody!”

“Was in custody,” Abby corrected sharply. “And to the Drs Rosenberg their careers have always come before their daughter.”

Loomis walked up, stopping just short of the group waiting outside the cell.

Abby leaned against the wall, casually inspecting her nails. “Well?”

“Mrs Lipinski will be here to pick Wil-”

“Her name is Willow only to her friends, Special Agent Loomis,” Abby snapped. “It’s a bit late to try and ingratiate yourself now. And Willow will not be leaving with that woman.”

“That woman disagrees,” a short woman with her dark hair in a tight bun and a visitor’s pass on her jacket stepped into sight. “I stand in Loco parentis to Willow, at her parents’ insistence.”

Abby smiled like a shark. “Really? Isn’t it nice then that I just filed a petition from Willow to be removed from her parents’ custody, possibly to be emancipated?”

“R-removed?” Lipinski repeated, shocked.

“Removed. And as soon as I make the call to the judge to report that her parents have left to go to a conference…” Abby sneered.

The door opened. Willow stepped out. Leila Lipinski smiled at her. “Hello Willow, sweetie. Now that all this is behind us-”

“Shut up,” Willow whispered.

“What? Don’t you speak to me like that, young lady!” Leila snapped.

“You gave them my diaries. My computers. You let them strip me and search me and POKE ME!” Willow screamed. “You didn’t once listen to me!” she glared at Loomis. “I want her gone. I refuse to go with her. I’d rather go back into the cell!”

Loomis exchanged looks with the other agents, then threw a glance at the mottled, angry face of Lipinski.

There was a cough and Agent Burns stepped forward, holding out a sealed envelope. “This was just delivered by special messenger. Miss Rosenberg has declared her intention not to return to the custody of her parents because of emotional and psychological abuse and neglect and a temporary injunction has been granted. Miss Rosenberg has been placed in the custody of Ms Joyce Summers.”

Leila made a spluttering noise. “You ungrateful child!”

Willow stepped towards Abby, looking around, as if looking for Joyce. “Do I wait here?”

Abby shook her head. “Joyce asked me to drive you directly to the hospital. She thought you’d want to see Xander first. And she didn’t want to leave…”

Willow swallowed and nodded. “She told me. She might have to make me-medical decisions. Yeah.”

Abbey sighed. “I’ll take you there. Then she’ll take you home.”

She quickly led the girl away, ignoring the shouts of Leila Lipinski.

Xander was sleeping, sedated, though he still wore some bandages and an IV was stuck in his arm. Joyce was at the bedside, holding the boy’s hand. Dawn was snuggled up to her mother, sleeping.

Buffy was sitting on the other side, holding Xander’s other hand. Her head was bent and she was nodding off into sleep. Suddenly the door burst open and a redheaded tornado flew into the room. Joyce was on her feet and caught Willow before the distraught girl hurled herself onto Xander.

“Willow, shhh, I have you sweetie. Don’t worry. Whatever they did, he’s recovering.”

Willow whimpered and looked at her oldest friend. “B-but he’s pale and sleeping and so thin…”

“I know, I know. Healing takes a lot out of a person, apparently. So he’ll need plenty of good healthy food. Which both of you will get. And plenty of sleep too,” Joyce hugged Willow and held her close until she calmed down a bit.

Buffy had woken again, watching the scene playing out, as had Dawn, but in spite of how interesting it all was, the younger Summers sister had fallen back asleep.  

Joyce smiled at Abby. “Thanks, Abby. You’re the best.”

Abby smiled. “Ah, what else is your mother’s sister’s niece’s girlfriend’s former roommate good for?”

Joyce laughed. “Oh Abby, I missed you. But seriously, thanks. I don’t know how I can ever repay you? You saved my daughter.”

Abby grinned. “She was a pleasure to save. Now if you don’t mind, I’ve got to be in the office tomorrow. It’s late and I’m gonna drive home and get to bed.”

Joyce let go of Willow and hugged and kissed her friend.

Willow rather impulsively hugged her too. “Thanks for keeping me out off jail,” she whispered.

“Just doing my job. Now be a good girl for your new mom, okay?” Abby ruffled Willow’s hair, kissed the still sleeping Dawn on her forehead, hugged and kissed Buffy and left with a cheery wave.

Joyce put an arm around the still pale and frightened Willow and looked at the boy sleeping in the bed. “Janet and Jacob say it will be a while before he wakes up, they’re keeping him sedated so he can sleep through most of the pain he still has.”

“Which is mom-speak for saying we’re going home?” Buffy looked at Xander, then yawned.

Joyce nodded. “I’m sorry Willow, I know you want to be here, but nothing is going to happen and you need sleep in a bed. And a shower.”

Willow wrinkled her nose. “Yeah well, nobody can smell of roses after being locked in a cell with no washbasin and stuff.”

Joyce smiled. “Well, I wouldn’t know about that. Much.”

Buffy whirled, here eyes wide. Willow had swivelled in Joyce’s arms. “What?” they chorused.

“You’re not the only ones to have been young and wild,” Joyce said archly. Then her eyes hardened. “Which does not mean we won’t still have a talk about your seventeenth birthday.”

Buffy gulped.

Joyce shook her head, realising now wasn’t the time. “Sorry. It’s been an emotional few days for all of us. Get Dawn, would you honey?”

Buffy looked at the white faced girl under her mother’s arm, nodded in understanding and went to pick up Dawn. The little girl curled into her and sighed softly.

“Aaww. She’s almost sweet like this,” she whispered.

But she kissed Dawn and followed Joyce and Willow out off the room, past the Cafeteria to tell Janet they were leaving, to the car and sat in the back with Dawn on one side and Willow on the other.

Joyce drove without her usual nonchalance. “Your father had to get back to LA. He said he completely understood if you wanted to stay here until Xander woke up. And that he was gonna stick his head under his pillow and whimper.”

“How did he know what an NDA looked like?” Buffy asked a question that had been bothering her for a bit.

“He upgraded the designs on a couple of bases and did an interior renovation. Nothing major. Until today,” Joyce smiled at her daughter. “He probably will want to know what you meant with that demon remark.”

Buffy winced. “Giles is gonna be sarcastic at me.”

Joyce smiled grimly. “And I can get a fire axe. Let’s see who’d win.”

Willow, who’d only heard about that incident, looked at Joyce with something akin to awe.

They arrived at the house and Buffy did a quick scan of the surrounding area before they got out of the car and went inside. Joyce led them up the stairs and pointed at Dawn’s bedroom.

“Just put her down, I’ll undress her later, thanks Buffy.”

She turned to Willow. “We put up a camp bed for you in Buffy’s room, Willow. We’ll start clearing out the basement and thinking about some changes there tomorrow.”

“The basement?” Buffy wrinkled her nose. “Eeew. It smells there.”

“We can fumigate and clean. And Willow is quite used to basements. Aren’t you, Willow?” Joyce asked casually. 

Willow started, almost as if she was afraid. “U-used to basements?” she whispered.

Joyce smiled. “Yes, you spend a lot of time in basements. Or more specifically, your parents’ basement. Don’t you?”

Willow swallowed. “Errr…”

Buffy looked outraged. “They locked you in the basement? Willow! Why didn’t you ever tell me!?”

“No, I don’t think that the Rosenbergs were ever physically abusive, were they? I think Willow was in the basement by choice,” Joyce continued, “Weren’t you?”

Willow looked around, a hunted expression on her face, seemingly ready to bolt.

“We’ll go to the house tomorrow and pick some of your stuff up, shall we?” Joyce smiled easily. “I doubt that Lipinski woman can get around to having the locks changed that soon.”

“Y-yes ma’am,” Willow whispered. “You’re not angry?”

Joyce gave her a one armed hug. “No dear. Well, at your parents, and we will have words about what is and isn’t appropriate to hack or crack.”

“Angry at my parents? Why?” Willow asked, clearly surprised.

“For not seeing you for the wonderful young lady that you are. For failing to give you the emotional support you need, as a growing teen. For not supplying the boundaries all children need, too,” Joyce rubbed her hand up and down Willow’s arm as she spoke.

Buffy coughed. “Hello? Mightily confused Slayer here?”

Joyce laughed. “That’s nothing new.”

“Hey!” Buffy complained. “Tell me!”

Willow grinned a little then looked up at Joyce. “How did you know?”

Joyce looked amused. “Well I didn’t know until I saw your reaction just now.”

Willow groaned. “Oh…”

Joyce leaned in and kissed her temple. “You had a long day, dear. Worked hard at making all those FBI agents believe you’re a sweet innocent little girl. Would never do anything naughty. Barely even kissed a boy…”

Willow blushed. “Okay, I get it. You can stop now.”

“We’ll talk about what happened there later, though,” Joyce remarked. “Abby didn’t say much on the phone, but she doesn’t get into the righteous indignation for a mild scolding.”

Willow winced and looked down. “I’d rather not.”

Joyce gave her another kiss. “Well, when you’re ready. But you should talk about it to somebody.”

Buffy stamped her foot, but lightly. “Will someone tell me what Willow does in basements and how you knew?”

Joyce led Willow to Buffy’s bed and sat, drawing Willow down to sit by her side, then gestured for Buffy to sit on her other side.

“It took me a bit to figure it out. Willow does do the innocent bit very well-”

“I am innocent,” the girl protested.

“Uhuh,” Joyce smiled. “Let me see, what got me thinking… ‘My system can overheat so I needed to put it in a cool place and near a heat sump.’ Oh, and ‘My parents never go into the basement, even when they are home.’ All of that didn’t sound like what you told me she had in her room.”

Willow made a spluttering noise. “B-but? How?”

“You talked about it with Ted. I thought about what could have happened a lot,” Joyce shuddered as she ran a hand down Willow’s hair and hugged Buffy close. “Not just with me, but with all of you. So I started putting things together.”

Buffy frowned. “Wait, what?”

“My main system is in the basement,” Willow admitted meekly. “I got most of Ted’s computer stuff out of his place, to see if it had anything to do with him.”

Buffy gaped at her friend. “Willow! That was incredibly dangerous!”

“Well, illegal anyway,” Joyce noted. “They probably ought to have been confiscated as evidence… why are you two looking at me like that?”

Buffy sighed. “We didn’t have time to tell you yet. Ummm… Ted was a robot of some kind.”

“A robot?” Joyce said disbelievingly.

“An android, technically, ‘cause he looked like a human, but ummm…” Willow fell silent at Joyce’s incredulous look.

“Ted was an android?”

“Not the original Ted, but the one you met, yes,” Buffy admitted.

“I kissed an android? And you didn’t think that was something to tell me about?” Joyce asked mildly, but with an ever so slight edge of hysteria to her voice.

Buffy looked at her hands, which were folded on her lap. “Ummm, well a lot of the time Dad or Aunt Janet were there. So ummm… Not really time to say ‘Oh, Mom, remember  that guy you were dating? He was a robot.’”

Joyce took a deep breath, calming herself. “Right. You’re right. Sorry.”

“That’s okay, mom. All this is a lot to take in…” Buffy froze at her mother’s expression.

Joyce looked sideways. “You took the computers that belonged to a homicidal android out of his house?” she asked Willow in a dangerous tone of voice.

Willow gulped, her eyes widening. “They were in a hidden room behind the hidden room! The police didn’t find them! They would’ve been wasted!”

Joyce’s eyes narrowed. “To see if it had anything not do with him? You got a bunch of computers out of the lair of a homicidal robot?” 

Willow nodded, her eyes so wide the whites were showing all around her irises. “B-but it wasn’t dangerous! I checked the computers with Miss Calendar and there weren’t any evil influences and stuff!”

“We shall talk about it after we’ve gotten it all. And you’ve shown me exactly what you have,” Joyce said sternly.

“Miss Calendar? When?” Buffy asked.

“About a month after Ted got clocked,” Willow admitted.

“Tomorrow we get your computers and clothes and other things,” Joyce decided. “And after that we’ll lay down some rules.”

Buffy and Willow exchanged looks, then nodded. “Yes ma’am,” they chorused.

There was a moment of silence. “Was this why you weren’t completely freaked out about Willow, but only worried sick?”

Joyce smiled at her daughter and newly acquired foster daughter. “I was a lot less worried when she told me on the phone that they’d taken all the computers out of her room, yes. So until then I was about ready to strangle Janet.”

Buffy looked at her mother with narrowed eyes. “Mom?”

Joyce gave her daughter a look. “Yes honey, it’s really me. Don’t worry. Just a lot of things fell into place after I found out what’s really happening and I had quite some time to think about it.”

She hugged both girls close to her. “The sad thing is that I noticed Willow was being neglected by her parents and I completely suppressed what was happening to you. I really can’t apologize for that, Buffy.”

Buffy smiled and snuggled into her mother’s warmth. “It’s alright, Mom.”

“My cluelessness came in handy, did it?” Joyce asked archly.

“And it got in the way and it scared me. But you know now, and you found me and… I feel better about things than I have in years,” Buffy leaned her head on her mother’s shoulder and on Joyce’s other side Willow did the same.

And all three felt that things could have been a whole lot worse.

Hank Summers was drunk, which was bad, since he had a meeting the next morning and was going to have the mother of all hangovers.

But what was worse that when Buffy had mentioned that Jacob Carter was a demon, Joyce hadn’t looked surprised or worried, but had taken on the stance she took when she got ready to fight.

Joyce believed Buffy. And Aliens were real. There really wasn’t enough booze in the world for a man to deal with that.

*I sent my little princess to an institution… And she was telling us the truth. I need to call Joyce tomorrow and ask her how she dealt with that. And what the hell is going on.*

He groaned and got to his feet and headed to bed.

Winslow B. Busby Army Base, Cafeteria

Janet, Jack and Sam had been sent away, to sit in the cafeteria. Jacob, though, was a lot more welcome after the Summers family had looked on wide-eyed as he healed Xander, was yawning. Jack was perched on a chair at a corner table; Sam was in the opposite one with Janet beside her and Jacob at the head of the table.  

“They didn’t seem very grateful,” Jack groused.

“Wait until the kid wakes up,” Jacob told him curtly. “Until then they don’t have anything to be grateful about.”

Sam was about to protest when Jacob gave her a look. “You opened the door to the party and didn’t think about what they’d do when they got inside, Sam.”

Sam flushed a little.

Jack looked intrigued. “Something you want to tell me, Carter?”

Sam cringed. “No, sir. Not really.”

Janet rose. “I’ll go check on Xander. Then I’m going to bed. It’s late.”

Jacob rose and stretched. “I’ll come with you.”

Sam rose as well. “Me too.”

Jack slouched to his feet, “Yeah, okay. And tomorrow maybe we can get to why so many people here suffer from neck injuries.”



End note:

I’m currently thinking about the next chapter, but I hope this brings this part to a non-cliffhanger conclusion enough that I won’t get lynched. I will try and update faster than last time. Thanks for your patience.

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