parts 44 and 45
Joyce frowned as Dawn shuffled into the room. Her younger daughter looked miserable, when this morning she’d looked absolutely thrilled with life in general, and her friends at school in particular. There had even been talk about a weekend horseback riding trip with the Stepford girls…
Setting her coffee mug to the side, she looked at her daughter and asked, “Dawn? What’s the matter?”
With no warning, she suddenly had a lap full of her daughter, forcing her to realize just how much Dawn had been growing. She wasn’t her snuggly little angel any more. No more than Buffy.
Joyce hugged her daughter, uncertain what was going on, and wondering if there was somebody that needed to experience pain. “Honey?”
“Mostly it was a bunch of little, stupid things…” Dawn whispered. “Tripping on the stairs, a pen leaked on my homework. Dumb stuff. And Julie Louden making fun of my shirt. Her and her nasty friends…”
“What else happened?” Joyce didn’t think that those things, upsetting and frustrating as they could be, would leave her daughter so close to tears.
“There was a fight that broke out at lunch. None of us were fighting, honest!” Dawn looked at her mother, eyes gleaming in a way that suggested she was trying not to cry. “But… but this big guy… I think he’s older than Buffy. Anyhow, he started shouting really nasty things at a couple girls, and then one of their boyfriends started shouting back…”
“And?” Joyce had a bad feeling about this, though it didn’t look like Dawn was hurt.
“And the first guy started throwing chairs. One of them hit Phoebe, and she had to be taken away by an ambulance,” Dawn whispered. “She was bleeding… it was everywhere…”
Joyce held her daughter, wishing that she could make things better. But this wasn’t as simple as someone teasing about her clothing, or her hair, or what to do about a boy that she liked. Not that Dawn had brought up that problem just yet… hopefully not for a few more years. But words wouldn’t fix an injured friend.
She wondered if Emma’d leave the guy who threw the chair capable of remembering his name and how to tie his shoes. It might serve him right if she didn’t.
* * * * * * * * * *
Joyce did her best to calm Dawn after the rough day of school. She promised that she’d talk to Emma and learn if Phoebe was hospitalized and would need a friendly visitor, or if she’d been treated and released. Emma might not be supposed to give details, but surely she could share that much with them?
She also decided that now wasn’t the time to tell Dawn that news like that made her very glad of the self defense lessons. Glad that they were all being given training in how to react to a fight, how to dodge and block and attack on their own. Or that she hoped lunch fights growing out of bounds would be the only reason Dawn ever needed those lessons. Well, that and exercising off the occasional extra desert.
Exercising extra desert from the waistline was the best reason to need martial arts classes. And if none of them needed to dodge thrown chairs and flipped tables, with possible hurled bottles and plates, then Joyce would be happy. If none of them had to worry about angry fists and flying feet – except for Buffy, who would have back up on her patrols – that would be splendid. She doubted any martial arts class in the world would do more than help you keep from panicking in a gunfight though.
Joyce sighed, wondering if Emma was going to insist on all three of them learning a little bit about safe handling practices for guns and how to get the bullets where you want them. If they’d all wind up learning an assortment of defensive and lethal combat skills.
It was rather depressing that she thought they might be needed.
But she wasn’t about to let her daughter have to deal with this alone. And she had no desire for some unscrupulous monster to use her against Buffy by taking her hostage. Or someone to attempt the same against Emma, for that matter.
When did life get so complicated?
End part 44.
Emma was an hour late getting home from her school, and Joyce suspected the cause to be the fight in the cafeteria and the resultant mess, especially the medical treatments. There might also have been some legal issues - ohh, there would almost certainly be some sort of legal mess. Perhaps legal charges against the students fighting. Perhaps charges related to the injuries. Perhaps angry families. Factor in that Phoebe was one of Emma's special and preferred students and the result was a big mess.
"I know you aren't supposed to play favorites with your students, even the special ones, but I know Phoebe and her sisters are some of your favorites," Joyce called, tugging Emma towards the dining room. “I've got dinner, why don't you tell me about it?"
"The primary instigator is currently in holding while the charges are sorted out," Emma sighed.
"Primary? How many people are in trouble for this?" Joyce frowned.
"There are seven students in trouble on the school level for fighting. One of them has a sprained wrist and a black eye, the other six have nothing more than scrapes and bruises. A week of suspension and a few essays on the reasons why fighting on school grounds are not the way to solve problems will be their official punishment, and the sports coaches will be very displeased with the three on sports teams. I foresee additional practice for those athletes. Peer pressure will add additional levels of disapproval, and yes," Emma waved a finger at Joyce, "I will make sure it doesn't get out of hand."
"We certainly don't want things getting further out of hand," Joyce agreed.
"As for the primary instigator, he's had a number of allegations of cheating, poor attendance, and rumors without formal accusations or willing witnesses to bullying. He's had a number of traffic violations, and a few disorderly conducts covered up by Daddy's money. This is something Daddy's money can't make disappear, as the Stepfords have more money, and Pappa Stepford is very protective of his little princesses. I expect a very messy trial, a transfer to another school, possibly a bit of time in Juvenile Correction, and a lot of community service from him, with Daddy passing out bribes like Halloween candy to keep things as quiet as he can manage," Emma was frowning.
"He was already in custody before you could add a few subtle special punishments," Joyce guessed.
"Right in one," Emma sighed. "I can make his life worse later if I feel it necessary. I had to check on Phoebe and soothe her parents. She has quite a few bruises, and has a small cut on her elbow and another on her scalp. A total of ten stitches, and the doctor is optimistic that there won't be much scarring on the elbow, and if her scalp does scar, it will be inside the hairline."
"Would it be too soon to joke that for a while, we'll be able to tell Phoebe apart from the others?" Joyce asked. "I have to admit, Dawn was very worried about her friend."
"Too soon to say that near the girls, but not to me," Emma sighed. "Phoebe is sleeping, and her family are quite worried. They'll be glad that Dawn was worried as well."
"You did mention they had trouble making friends. Would it be presumptuous to suggest they might consider developing individual hobbies, to make friends through their interests? I know I made friends through various clubs and activities in school. I was awful at Drama club, but I did make some friends," Joyce suggested.
“It might not be a bad suggestion. I’m not sure how eagerly they might take it, or how diverse their interests might be, but it’s a harmless enough suggestion. Perhaps they might take to the idea to spend less time at home. Their mother is a bit much after a while,” Emma mused.
“And apparently allergic to chocolate, which Dawn thinks is a horrible fate,” Joyce snickered.
Emma shuddered, “A chocolate allergy is a terrible fate! No Belgian chocolate, no hot cocoa with seasonings and whipped cream, no chocolate covered girlfriends… or boyfriends. Certainly not something I’d wish on a person for something as simple as social climbing ambition.”
Something flickered through Joyce’s mind, remnants of a long ago class. Psychosomatic injuries and illnesses, combined with Emma’s comment about wishing something on a person twirled in her mind until it formed an idea. “You said you were a strong telepath. Can you use that to give somebody an allergy? It would be psychosomatic instead of biochemical, but if the end result is the same? It might be a more subtle method of distracting someone who becomes a problem for the girls.”
“What a delightfully devious idea, Joyce. I’ve never tried something like that before,” Emma grinned. “I like it. We’ll have to try it the next time someone becomes a problem.”
* * * * * * *
* * * * * * *
“Has Travers made any progress on locating the slayer?” one elderly man asked as he lifted a cup of steaming tea.
“Travers assured the Council he was working night and day on the matter and promptly handed the whole thing over to young Wiltshire. Travers has been too busy trying to keep himself in power to actually attend to any of his responsibilities,” retorted Victoria Sutton.
“The latest group of field-Watcher assignments? Sending additional resources to Watchers in troubled locations? Adjustments to the training courses for our Watchers-in-Training?” another old man raised one white eyebrow.
“Assigning field-Watchers and supplemental supplies was left to Edmond Giles. Everything with training programs was left to Diana,” Victoria paused to give a small salute with her teacup to another elderly woman. “Everything involving educational advancement, program tracks and adjustments to the courses has been left to Martin Smith for the assignments and the individual instructors for the particulars of the coursework.”
“Smith? The same one who actually managed to insult a pack of demons into retreating without a fight back in 72? The one unanimously barred from any diplomatic communication involving civilized humans?” the first old man blinked.
“The very same. He’s also one of our few operatives with effective information sources among demonic circles,” Victoria sighed. “While he is rather rude and has quite the vocabulary…”
“And most of it rude at best and profane at worse,” muttered another old Watcher.
“Be that as it may, despite his language, none of us have doubts about his loyalty or his competence,” Victoria finished.
“Returning to my question, has young Wiltshire made any progress on locating the Slayer?”
“Not that I am aware of,” Victoria sipped her tea, hiding her smirk with the cup.
“Travers isn’t doing his job of monitoring the training, he isn’t dispatching reinforcements or supplies, and he hasn’t a clue about the current Slayer’s location, training, health or performance. He hasn’t gained or even maintained any diplomatic connections with other powers. Combine that with the appalling rumors circulating about things hidden in his office and records about disappearing girls and tests of Slayers and you get a rather dreadful picture. Is there any good reason why Travers is still called the Head of the Council?” the man with white eyebrows demanded.
“We haven’t removed him yet,” offered another old man.
“Then it’s high time that changed, isn’t it?”
The smiles over teacups would have sent chills along the spines of anybody witnessing them. They also would have been quite understood by any member of demonic hierarchies or old vampire orders. Those in power had decided someone had to go, and now it was only a question of time and methodology.
End part 45.