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 Post subject: She Lit Up the Sky That Fourth of July
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2019 12:23 pm 
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Acknowledgements: This was originally written for a contest (the rough draft is posted elsewhere) and I want to thank all the readers of the contest submissions for their suggestions.



A nod also to the writers of the song "Independence Day" and that great signer Martina McBride for giving me the idea for the title. This is of course a much happier subject.









Summary; July, 2014, The Scoobies are semi-retired from the hero business, with jobs, houses, and families. But of course circumstances often force them to be semi-un-retired. And circumstances often follow children very closely.





















The town had been rebuilt starting from the south slope of the crater where the old town had been, then continuing over the flat lands further on. Other parts of the crater were state property, a wildlife reserve and national monument, including the town’s old cemeteries, which had somehow suffered less damage than other parts, one part the main municipal park.









The neighborhood overlooking the crater had about the second priciest homes in the Sunnydale area, and the Independence Day multi-family picnic was being held on the combined backyards of three of the houses. The meal was over and it was near to sunset.









Angel Herlihy, Xander Harris, Willow Rosenberg-Maclay and Tara Maclay-Rosenberg were setting up the home fireworks they'd be using while waiting for the official display to start. Jonathan and Harmony Levinson, her brother Trevor Kendall and his wife Kylie were packing up some of the dishes. Harmony and Jonathan's ward, Kharissa Potashkin, followed by her best friend Autumn Rosenberg-Maclay, came up to her guardians. Her expression showed she was pondering something quite seriously; people often remarked that she was bright beyond her four years.









"What's up, honey?" Jonathan asked her.









"Well, I was just talking with Autumn and she said how she and Summer don't call their parents Mommy and Daddy but all their aunts' and uncles' kids do. And the boys call you two that. And I was thinking, since you take care of me like a Mommy and Daddy, maybe I should start calling you that, and that I want to."









"That would be just great, punkin'," said Harmony, "but remember what we told you, that's only if you want to, not because you feel you have to."









"Well, I want to, Mommy and Daddy," she answered with great resolve and both adults smiled.









. Buffy Herlihy, whose good leg was a bit sore that day so she had brought her cane, and Anya Harris, with her infant daughter Nita, and Dawn Summers-Trilling, with two infants, TK and BW, were sitting in lawn chairs enjoying things. So were six people some twenty-odd years older, sitting a bit higher up the hillside.















And as it happened, Jill and Ed Kendall, Sheila and Ira Rosenberg, and Mitch and Lori Levinson, parents to some of the folks mentioned above, had bought homes next to one another in the South Slope neighborhood, ironically located on the north side of town.. This unexpected occurrence moved them to rekindle an old friendship, which they'd had back in the early 80s. They had of course drifted apart towards the end of that decade for what they, in their very hearts of hearts, knew to be ordinary adult reasons, certainly having nothing to do with some of their children's having become enemies.









One result of this was their joint holiday cookouts. They had decided not to fence in their rear yards but to have a single gathering field, overlooking the park.









"It's still ironic, Ira," said Lori with a chuckle. "Mitch and I have three children, so do Ed and Jill, you and Sheila have one but you always have more guests for these things than we do. And I don't think it affects the numbers much that Jonathan is married to Harmony, theoretically we should still be in front."









Ira thought about it for a second and replied, "Things happen for a reason, I guess. We raised a girl who could go out and find her own circle of intimate friends, and that was never a secret about her. Over the years we've come to care about them like they were our own. You could call us the Sophia of the piece and them the Roses and Blanches." That statement had an irony of its own, as Sheila and Ira had never been the most caring parents in town.









Everyone smiled at that, but Jill grew thoughtful, knowing a bit, a little bit, more than any of the others, why Willow and her wife Tara, Xander and Anya, Angel and Buffy, and Buffy's sister Dawn were so close. Harmony had disappeared for some years after her high school graduation, and in tracking down her daughter, Jill had learned things about the world and her hometown she’d never wanted to know. So, she also knew the personal reasons were private ones, and the other reasons, well, she respected the secrecy of those as well. It was comforting to know that now her older daughter could again walk out in daylight or in front of a mirror without worrying. Or a shop window; Jill could never forget the one down in Mexico, the one in front of which she'd first confronted Harmony after the latter had disappeared, and found out her daughter had become a vampire.









Jill's grandsons, 6-year-old Frank Levinson and his four-year-old brother Charles, along with 6-year-old Liam Herlihy and five-year-old Nick Harris ran in front of her, the older boys trying with little success to teach Charles how to handle a soccer ball. Her other grandchild, Trevor Kendall's four-year-old daughter Tiffany was with her best friend Joyce Herlihy, tagging along after Harmony, whom both little girls admired.









Unbidden, Jill thought to herself, "Elisa would be three now," then shook her head. Harmony's difficult third pregnancy, and the little girl who lived only a few weeks, weren't memories anyone wanted to dwell on. She felt Lori's eyes on her while she did so, and, glancing over, noticed the other woman's expression, and knew she'd had the same thought at the same time. "Grandmothers' ESP," Jill said to herself, "sometimes good, sometimes bad."













































________________________________________________________________________________-









Within a few minutes, darkness had, for the most part, fallen, and things were ready. Jonathan's younger sisters Randi and Rikki, and Harmony and Trevor's sister Pearl, were in charge of lighting the fountains, while Willow and Tara were dashing around setting off snakes and tanks. Meanwhile, Angel, Xander and Jonathan were lighting the sparklers, sticking some in the ground and handing others to the children.









"Walk, Liam," called Buffy to her oldest child, whose six-year-old legs were carrying him in a streak with the two golden sparklers he was holding. Joyce, like Tiffany, was too much a lady to play at something so silly, but three-year-old Winnie Herlihy was standing happily at her father's feet, laughing as she spun a red sparkler in a circle.















The two oldest children, eight-year-olds Summer Maclay-Rosenberg and Lexa Harris, best friends almost since birth, had two sparklers each, and were standing near the grounded sparklers, replacing the ones they held as soon as one burned out. Meanwhile they were moving their fireworks in an oddly complex pattern, and singing what sounded like a nursery rhyme. The words and tunes were different, but blended into a harmonious whole.









Jonathan was only listening with half of one ear, but his retentive mind was holding and processing it. He didn't recognize what they were singing, but he began thinking about the sound.









About this time, a medium-height man, whose radioactively blonde hair glowed almost without the light from the fireworks, had walked up out of nowhere and begun joining in lighting fountains. And the three young women had begun joke-flirting with him, a sport he was always up for. Absolutely never serious on the parts of the ladies because, well, he had dated Harmony quite a few years ago, and Buffy too, and getting real-flirty with him would be just too ewwh-y. Buffy, Anya, and Dawn waved to him from where they sat.









Jonathan continued to listen to what Summer and Lexa were singing, intentionally this time. He soon realized it was no nursery rhyme or song from school. But what it was he couldn't be certain. And the afterimages left from the pattern in which the girls were twirling their sparklers began to look disturbingly familiar. He knew their parents wouldn't complain if he said something to the girls himself, as all the adults were friends if not all family. But, knowing how he'd prefer to be treated if anyone else saw Frank, Charles, or, let’s face it, Kharissa doing something similar, he decided not to act on his own, especially since he still couldn't quite recognize anything.









As he came up to Willow and Tara, they were laughing over a shared joke and handing a sparkler each to Liam as he made another pass.









"Wil, Tare," he said, "I'm not sure what Summer and Lexa are singing but I think you should give it a listen," which the two witches immediately did.









Willow first looked merely attentive, then her face screwed up into a more serious look and said, "I don't recognize it either but I know it's 'something,' if you get me."









Tara, looking intently at the two children, said, "I've never heard this exactly before either, but it’s more than 'something.' They're doing . . . that!"









A ripple had appeared in the middle of the air and two child-sized, flame-like things had flown through it. They looked like a cross between a human infant, a lion cub, and a bear cub, and were colored in rippling patterns of red, orange and yellow.









Summer and Lexa laughed joyously as did the two flaming creatures, and the four began doing a sort of folk dance, the flame creatures zooming around the girls, chasing after them, doing loops over and under their twirling sparklers. As one sparkler burned out the girls picked up another, and all four were obviously having a great time.









Most of the older adults were too; they thought it was some type of show that their children and grandchildren had concocted for them.









"Goodness, how did they do that?" shouted Sheila joyfully.









"Oh, they have a friend in the business," said Jill, forcing a smile. She had some idea of what was really happening, and was as scared as most of the younger adults. Trevor and Kylie, standing right in the middle of it, also weren’t, apparently, neither were Randi, Rikki, and Pearl, who were running up the hill towards the seated elders to get a better look.









Buffy handed her niece back to Dawn and began hobbling over as quickly as she could.









Angel said to Tara, "Are those what I think they are?" Winnie was hugging her daddy's leg, picking up on his concern but loving the pretty dancing creatures.









Tara answered, "Yes, Angel, creatures from the Elemental Plane of Fire, or some plane close to it."









Xander, pragmatically, asked, "What do we do about them?"









Willow picked up the discussion, "Nothing. The girls seem to have the gate under full control, and the creatures they summoned aren't really dangerous. Interrupting them, breaking their concentration, would be more dangerous than what they're doing right now."









They were people who had dealt with the supernatural for many years, and smart enough to know that just saying things didn't make them happen; they believed in magick, not superstitions. However, coincidence being the mighty being it is, that was exactly when it happened.









Summer tripped and both of her sparklers went flying. The flame creatures stopped following the girls and began dancing more freely, flying up and down at their own hot-headed whim and back and forth over much more of the lawn. And setting patches of grass on fire. Meanwhile, nobody noticed the ripple in the air getting bigger and more radiant.









Seeing the fires and unstructured motion, Willow, Tara, and Jonathan all went into action, chasing around trying to keep the movements of the creatures within some limits and also using extinguishing spells on the bits of grass fire.









Spike had left off his flirting and was running up to them, so he was the first one to notice that something else had come out of the portal, something as big as a very large man, with a human head and torso but a snake-like lower half, and carrying a huge iron spike. Not needing his breath, he shouted, “Look at that” and changed his course to get in front of the sala-man, which proceeded to float at him and raise its weapon, roaring.









Liam yelled, “Everyone down,” to the other children, which Nick made sure happened with Charles, who had been just standing, fascinated by the new monster. Liam himself knocked over Joyce and Tiffany, who had remained too snootily disdainful of the whole business to protect themselves. Harmony, the weakest of the adults who were near the center of things, knelt down and dragged both Winnie and Kharissa to her in a big hug; Autumn, a bit more familiar with what was happening, ran to join them but kept her eyes delightedly on the action.









Meanwhile, Summer had replaced her sparklers and gotten the two smaller creatures under control again, and secured the portal so nothing else could get through it. Tara began pronouncing a spell to hinder the large creature’s movements.









Buffy had reached Angel, who bent down and took her stiff right leg into his hands as she bent it at the knee. Then he straightened out and used his own considerable albeit human normal strength to toss his tiny wife into the air, boosted by her own unimpaired left leg and her left arm off her cane; after years together, their timing was perfect. She soared through the air and scored a clean hit with both feet on the sala-man’s spike, knocking it free of his grip. She landed, hard but still moving.









The iron rod wasn’t exactly cool enough to touch, but Spike grabbed it and ran with it to a concealed location, so there’d be fewer questions when the monster disappeared and it didn’t. then he ran back to join Buffy, who was yelling and throwing things and moving as best she could to distract the monster, Angel and Xander helping from the sidelines by running around and shouting. All were silently cursing themselves for leaving their weapons in their cars, and being careful not to get close enough to touch the flaming monster..









Jill’s hands gripped the arms of her chair white-knuckled. She hoped nobody, especially not Ed, looked too closely at her; he’d know she was hiding something. Fortunately, he and the other retirees were still busy enjoying the “show.”









Jonathan had run through his memory and had recalled a spell to dismiss such sala-men. He thought, “This kind of spell is iffy at best, and with no prep time or components, I hope it works. Because I know once I start, his attention will switch from Buffy and Spike to me.”









Even before he felt Willow’s hand on his shoulder, he felt the rush of energy from her adding raw magical energy to his spell. He began to cast, speaking in Coptic and gesturing simultaneously.







As Jonathan had said, the creature knew what the spell was as soon as it started, and headed for him, roaring. Spike attempted to intercept it, but the thing flew faster than he could run.









Tara looked on, worried. She had full confidence in their friend, especially with her own wife backing him up, and there were still several grass fires she needed to extinguish, but she was torn. Realizing the grass was well watered and the fires could wait, she cast a standard hindering spell to slow the sala-man.









It worked, and was enough. Jonathan’s spell was not a complex one and he finished well before the thing came in reach of him. What really made such a normally simple banishing spell so rapidly effective was the sheer power channeled into him by Willow. A second portal appeared in front of the beast, then vanished again as soon as he’d been drawn through it..









This having been done, Tara finished putting out the few remaining fires, while Summer and Lexa dismissed the two baby-creatures and closed the portal.







































_______________________________________________________________________________________-









There was then a moment where nobody moved and no sounds were made. Then, the members of the oldest generation began applauding, most of them in honest enjoyment, with some cheers included. Jill clapped perfunctorily, still with a sick smile on her face, and looked around. Randi gave her a wink. Jill, a bit surprised, nodded back at her son-in-law’s sister; apparently there was someone else who was out of the group but still in the loop.









Joyce and Tiffany picked themselves up, Tiffany saying, "Look at our sun suits, we got almost as dirty as boys!" and Joyce continuing, meanwhile glaring in the direction of Summer and Lexa, "Yeah, thanks to my not-cousins."









Willow hurried over to Summer, knelt down in front of her, and put her hands on her daughter's shoulders. With a firm and angry expression and a sharp tone of voice, Willow asked, "What have we told you about studying spells we haven’t picked out for you, and about trying spells without permission, and about involving your cousins or your friends?" Tara just stood looking at them, using her mom's glare to good effect.









With her eyes slightly downcast, Summer penitently squeaked, "Not to."









"But you went ahead and did all those things anyway. Why?"









"I just thought, this was a day for fireworks, so it might be fun to make our own," the little girl replied, in a voice that held all the sound of the tears she wasn't crying.









"That's what the sparklers are for, young lady. Now, go sit quietly and watch the real fireworks, we'll discuss your punishment when we get home." Summer hurried off to sit down by Lexa, who had just gotten a similar lecture from Xander.









Autumn had meanwhile walked over to Buffy. "Wow, Aunt Buffy, that was fun watching you. I love it when you do things like that. I hope I grow up just like you."









The golden-blonde woman couldn't help but smile and said, "Thank you, Autumn, that's a nice thing to say, and I do love you. But this isn't fun, it used to be my job, and I just have to keep in practice because sometimes it still needs doing. It's not fun, or cool, it's dangerous, big bad boo-boos. And I hope you never have to deal with those things too much."









Harmony and Jonathan had gone over to check on Kharissa, who still had an enraptured look on her face.









Harmony looked down at the brown-haired girl and asked, "You enjoyed that, didn't you?" and Kharissa just nodded, with a slight smile.









"Like mother, like daughter, adrenaline junkie," Jonathan muttered.









Harmony thought about Faith for an instant, then turned to her husband and said, "Yes, but with some big differences, one of them being us looking out for her, right, Tiny Teddy Bear?"









"Right, my Platinum Peach."









Kharissa looked up at her guardians and asked, "It was something like that that killed my real mommy last year, wasn't it? And my real daddy, too, before I was born, right?"









"Not exactly like those, but close, honey," said Harmony a little sadly.









Kharissa crossed her arms and got very serious. "Well, I'll never let anything like that happen to you two, or any of my friends," then, raising her right hand and nodding, said, "Promise-promise!"









"Sweetie, that isn't your job," said Harmony, as shocked as her husband by this, "We're here to take care of you while you're little," and, kneeling down, hugged the girl, joined in a couple seconds by Jonathan.









"Well, okay," Kharissa said," but just be very, very careful, alright?"





Robert Kendall


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