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A Lady of Aquitaine

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Summary: Joyce was many things before LA. And will be again. Once she deals with the loss of her golden girl.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Highlander > Joyce-Centered(Moderator)acsFR18414,96744612,35014 Jul 061 Jan 09Yes

Leaving Sunnydale

Disclaimer: BtVS belongs to Joss Whedon, Fox Television, etc. Highlander belongs to Panzer/Davis and a bunch of others.
Spoilers: This fic is set in a BtVS post Season 5 AU world. How AU should be clear in the story. It is centered around Joyce and Dawn and how they deal with Buffy's death. For Highlander - it is set before Richie died (and he won't die in this AU story.)
Pairing: None.
Author's notes: Feedback would be much appreciated (what worked, what didn't in this story.) This first part contains a lot of setup for things that will be explained as the story progresses. Everything has a reason.

"You knew this would happen eventually," the gruff male voice said, breaking through the blackness that seemed to engulf her heart. "From the moment you found out that she was the slayer, you knew her days were numbered."

"Yes," she agreed, forcing the word out while she struggled to control her breathing. A long life did not make one immune to the pain of losing a child. Even an adopted one. And she had been so bright, so energetic as a little girl, always curious about the world.

Joyce had fallen in love with her at first sight. Her little Buffy Anne, gazing up at her with her hazel eyes, rescued from the immortal who'd slaughtered her parents. Her daughter in every way but one. Even down to the mistakes she'd made, bringing her up in ignorance of what the world was really like. And now she was gone.

"I should have been here to protect her," Joyce whispered, running her hand along the words chiseled into the stone. "To save her again."

"You're lucky you didn't lose your head," the voice admonished. "Just because Sunnydale sits on a gateway to Hell doesn't mean a headhunter won't find you here."

"Most of Sunnydale is holy ground," Joyce said, waving her other hand vaguely in the direction of the center of town, knowing it was a flimsy excuse.

"And if I hadn't found him before he could finish the ritual?" She felt the pressure of a strong hand squeezing her shoulder. "If he'd had just five more minutes we wouldn't be talking."

"I wasn't expecting poison," she protested. "And why couldn't I feel him?"

"This is Sunnydale." She sensed rather than saw his shrug. "There is so much power flowing through here I'm surprised you can sense any immortal traveling through."

"Connor?" Joyce asked quietly a few minutes later, trying to feel him out. They'd been friends for centuries and she valued his opinion. She'd already set things in motion as soon as she'd recovered but his support would help immensely. "What am I supposed to do?"

"Leave," he told her bluntly. "She's gone. There's nothing here for you anymore."

"But what about Dawn?" Joyce asked.

"Buffy's friends are taking care of her. She should be fine," Connor told her.

"No," Joyce said firmly. "She's going with me."

"They can't see you. How would you get her?" he asked. "I haven't gone to so much trouble cleaning things up here and in San Francisco for you to ruin it."

"If you weren't such a good friend..." Joyce muttered angrily, "we would see which one of us was better with a sword. She's just as much mine as Buffy was. No matter where she originally came from. She needs me now, even more than before." She drew in a shaky breath. "Dawn worshipped the ground her sister walked on. She must be devastated."

"We don't have time to argue," Connor told her. "You need to leave Sunnydale. Now. Before anyone sees you and word gets back to Heinrich."

"Only if you promise to bring Dawn to me," she said, reluctantly pushing herself to her feet.

"How?" Connor asked, reaching out to steady her.

"I called Hank as soon as I heard about Buffy," she admitted. "He'll take care of it. A little bribery and guilt goes a long way." She shrugged tightly, her emotions only barely under control. Hank had broken so many rules as a young Watcher trainee when they'd fallen in love that his career in the Society would have been ruined if she'd said anything after the divorce.

And he was irresponsible, not heartless. He was well aware that he'd treated his adopted daughters badly after the divorce. Even now, when all they had left was a badly strained friendship, his family's law firm handled all of her legal paperwork. "He'll send you the papers showing you have guardianship of her until you can turn her over to him. Just make sure she ends up with me."

"You've had this planned for some time," Connor murmured in surprise.

"Yes." She gently brushed the dirt from Buffy's grave from her clothes. "Well... not almost losing my head. I was expecting something more permanent," she said sheepishly. "I needed someone to take care of Dawn if something happened to both Buffy and myself. Hank was willing to help out but he couldn't take them himself."

Connor nodded in understanding. "I'll bring her to you as soon as I can."

"Thank you," she said, giving him a quick hug. Sometimes a long life trying to do what was right could be a disadvantage. It was hard to avoid making enemies and friends were few and far between.

"Where?" Joyce asked. Sunnydale, even with all of its attraction to evil creatures, had felt safe, a shelter from things in her past that she wished to forget. But where could she go now? she wondered.

"I'd been planning to open a gallery in Seacover. I could use your expertise in getting it running. You'll be safe there until we can deal with Heinrich."

"Near your cousin? The one who attracts headhunters?" She turned briefly to look him in the eye. "Isn't that just as dangerous?"

"It's perfectly safe as long as you don't let him drag you into one of his schemes." Connor visibly grimaced. "And stay away from his dojo. Every headhunter in the country knows Duncan lives there and that inexperienced immortals can be found training there."

"Okay," she agreed reluctantly.

She'd needed to get out of her small hotel room. The paperwork allowing Connor to bring Dawn to her was taking longer than expected. Hank had been difficult. He'd had no desire to be saddled with a teenager but her hold on him hadn't been as tight as she'd thought. It had taken some additional monetary incentives to ensure his complete cooperation.

Walking into the small bar a block from her hotel, Joyce carefully arranged her coat to conceal her short sword as she slid onto a bar stool that gave her a clear view of the entrance. Living in Sunnydale, it had been years since she'd had to worry about being challenged by other immortals and she'd gotten used to walking around relatively unarmed.

"What can I get you?" the older man, who seemed to be the bar's only employee, asked.

"A glass of Chardonnay," she requested.

"Coming right up," he told her.

While waiting she glanced around, idly wondering how the bar got its name.

"Here you go," the bartender said, placing a glass in front of her. "Anything else I can do for you?" he asked cheerfully.

"Yes," she said casually. "I was wondering about the name of the bar."

"Well," he drawled, "I'm Joe, Joe Dawson. And this," he waved a arm at a small stage with several guitars sitting in guitar stands, "is my Blues bar."

"Oh?" Joyce looked a little closer at him. He reminded her of one of Hank's uncles. Not ancient, but well preserved. "Do you play yourself?"

"Of course. And you?" he asked.

"No," she demurred. She'd been many things in her life but never a true artist, of any sort. She'd learned the basics as a child, as all noblewomen of her era did, but had never developed any real artistic ability. "Just a listener."

"What brings you to Seacover?" Joe asked.

"I felt a need for a change in scenery for my daughter and myself," she told him. "An old friend was looking for someone to run their gallery and I jumped at the opportunity."

She'd been casually talking with Joe for a seemingly timeless moment when, after a sip from her third glass of wine, her attention was drawn to the entrance by the buzz of an approaching immortal. Carefully putting down her glass, she reached into her jacket and rested her hand on the hilt of her sword.

As the immortal entered, a young looking man with red hair, she could sense Joe tensing and then abruptly relaxing. Keeping her face blank, she realized she must have given something away to Joe. Reaching over quickly with her free hand, she grabbed his visible hand and turned it over before he could react to the quick movement.

Just barely visible underneath a large watch was a familiar tattoo. Joyce stifled a groan, knowing she shouldn't have been surprised. If Connor's cousin lived in Seacover there was bound to be at least one member of the Society of Watchers nearby. And Connor had already warned her that other immortals, friends of his cousin, tended to congregate in Seacover. Looking up at his face, she registered his surprise at her quick action. "Watcher?" she asked quietly, keeping her voice as neutral as possible.

"Yes," he confirmed nervously.

"Does he know?" she nodded her head towards the immortal making his way over to them.

"Yes," he answered.

"Is that allowed?" Joyce asked, frowning. Releasing his hand, she picked up her glass and took a small sip.

"Is what allowed?" the redhead asked, cautiously approaching them, his hand under his jacket.

"For an immortal to know who their watcher is?"

"He's not my watcher," the redhead protested. "And who are you?"

"My true name or my name now?" Joyce asked. She quirked an eyebrow at the Watcher. He had the same kind of excited expression on his face that she remembered seeing on Hank's face when he'd discovered some obscure fact about an unknown immortal.

"Does it matter?" the redhead asked.

"Your true name," Joe blurted out.

"At one point in my life I was Alix de Poitiers," she told him, well aware of the ramifications of what she was telling him but not caring, feeling a little of the recklessness that had consumed her when she'd first heard of Buffy's death. "But I prefer to be called Joyce. I've used that name much longer."

"That name isn't one I'm familiar with," Joe said, setting a bottle in front of the redhead.

She shrugged. "I keep to myself. I prefer to have a private life, free of voyeurs."

"That's impossible around here," the redhead grumbled, grabbing his beer and angrily taking a long drink.

"You don't have to stay in Seacover, Richie," Joe told him. "You could be in Paris with Mac and Adam."

"Mac and Adam?" Joyce asked, eyeing the grumbling Richie. "Are they immortals also?" Joe shrugged noncommittally. She hadn't expected him to answer, but knew it wouldn't hurt to ask.

"They're old friends," he admitted.

She nodded and finished her glass. "I should get back to my hotel." Putting on her jacket, Joyce nodded to Joe and headed towards the door. Stepping outside, she began walking back to her hotel. Maybe there would finally be a message from Hank waiting for her.

Note: Alix de Poitiers(also known as Petronilla of Aquitaine) was a historical figure - the younger sister of Eleanor of Aquitaine (who liked to marry kings). The character in this story is only loosely based on her. The real Alix/Petronilla was divorced in her twenties and spent the next 40 years of her life following her sister Eleanor around. Fictional Alix/Joyce, on the other hand, had a much more exciting pre-Immortal life.
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