Which Way is W.i.t.c.h.?

By: A J

Disclaimer: I do not own W.i.t.c.h. or Amber. I'm merely a Fan of both expressing my appreciation through this original piece of fiction, with no monetary gain sought.

Chapter 9

Scenes from a Funeral, part 3

Between speakers, Clarissa snuck from where she'd been sitting with her parents and the Paytons, crossing the aisle to slide in next to Susan, Will and Will's dreamy boyfriend, Matt the musician. "That was beautiful, Aunt Suzie," she said quietly.

"Thanks, Clara," Susan said, giving the copper-haired girl a quick hug. "So, how'd you do on your test?" Clarissa groaned.

"I won't know 'til next week, but I'm sure it's not too good," she replied. "Stupid mainstreaming public schools …" she muttered.

"C'mon, 'Rissa, fergitit," Will said from her other side, with a nudge. "You hate to read, I can't do math, and Steph spends waayyyy too much time on her hair. Pobody's nerfect, right?" Will grinned at one of her oldest friends. Matt, who'd tensed for a second at her calling the other girl Rissa, gave her temple a kiss.

"And you still wonder why you're the leader of the Guardians?" he sent. "There ya go, Angel."

"Someone say my name?" a girl with dark blond hair asked, appearing on Matt's other side as if teletransported. "Budge up, band boy, she was ours first." Will found the comforting embrace of her boyfriend replaced with the thinner arms of Stephanie Payton.

"S'up, cuz?" Will chuckled. She rolled her eyes from Steph to Clarissa and back. "You two get tired of terrorizing Angelo?"

"Nah, he had to disappear into the little pallbearer's room," Clarissa giggled.

"Small wonder," Susan countered, "when you two have had him trapped between you all evening. It reminded me of the scene from 'New Moon', where the two boys were both waiting for Bella to hold their hands in the theater." Will and her mom both laughed evilly at the blushes the other two girls sprouted.

Matt looked up just then, to see the African-American boy in question sneaking in to sit at the back by the rest of W.i.t.c.h. and Cobalt Blue. Angelo caught Matt's eye, and made a 'shush'ing gesture. Matt hid his grin and turned studiously away, to see Merle going out the door Angelo had come in.

Randall Vandom was up at the podium now, clearing his throat for attention. "I didn't really come prepared for this today, I was planning on saying something tomorrow at the interment instead. But I wanted to thank you all for coming out tonight, and saying your farewells to my … my son …" He broke off, and Martin in their family's row of seats exchanged a mournful look with Susan, then Luke. 'Ahem!' "Well, there's a wake tomorrow afternoon, at the Viscount on … Eleventh, after four. Hopefully you can all make it there, and we'll give Tony a real send-off." He stepped away, and turned the lectern back to the hired Reverend who'd opened the service earlier. He'd have to remember to thank Florimel for her recommendation; Father O'Connell had really come through for them.

W.i.t.c.h.

The crowd was milling around after Father O'Connell's final remarks, when Taranee whipped her head around towards the exit. "Guys … she's back." The rest of W.I.C.H. opened us their senses, searching surreptitiously for the recently vanished Coral.

"Got her," Cornelia replied shortly, silently thanking the hanging fern by the rear entrance for its assistance. "Back hallway, girls. She's with Merle." Will had taken pains to get names for the rest of her extended family who were attending. She'd then described each one to the other girls.

"On our way," they all responded telepathically. "'scuse me, Mom, Aunt Jane," Will told the two women. "Privy call." She wended her way past consoling old friends of her parents and well-wishing coworkers of her father to the far exit, and skedaddled to the rendezvous.

"FINally!" Hay giggled when Taranee and Will got to the workroom bowels of the funerary business; the crematory, the preparation and embalming rooms, and the casket storage were all at the back of the building on the hallway leading to the two-hearse bay.

"So where ..?" Will started, when Cornelia pointed with a smirk at the door of the storage area as it opened, revealing Merle and a disheveled Coral. One look at her condition and the girls forgot the majority of their anticipated inquisition. "Aunt Coral, what happened?"

Seeing her welcoming party, the Bearer of the Eye took a moment to collect herself. "It is good to see the mystic warriors of this shadow are so alert. That may help you save your world."

"Isn't that a bit dramatic, Coral?" Merlin asked, as the Guardians gasped.

"Not given the circumstances," she replied. "Caine's body is missing from Amber."

"Amber? Like the room?" Will wondered, aiming a thumb back to where her father lay in state.

"It was the King's inspiration for selecting Mister Cambourne's business," Coral told her.

"The King? What, now Elvis is involved too?" Irma deadpanned, earning a giggle from Hay Lin. Cornelia and Taranee's gazes met, matching exasperated smiles showing. Will facepalmed with a groan.

"Which King?" she asked.

"Who's Elvis?" Coral began at the same time. Merle cleared his throat, giving the woman a warning glance.

"We need to tell the others," he stated. The pair stepped through the gathered girls, and were about to continue on to the Amber Room and the dispersing service, when Cornelia nabbed Coral's sleeve.

"Yes?"

"You might want to freshen up before going back in there," outfit-conscious Cornelia said, with a nod at Coral's sand- and dust-covered clothes.

"She's right. There's no point alarming the uninvolved," Merle sighed. "I'll collect the Court, go ahead and get presentable." He gave her a chaste kiss, and went back to the gathered mourners, stopping to talk quietly to the various Amberites on his way through the crowd.

"Ooh, we can help!" Hay chirped to Coral as W.i.t.c.h. escorted her to the ladies' washroom.

"How so?" Coral inquired. They stepped inside, and after an affirming nod from Hay Lin that they were alone, Taranee locked the door.

"Drop your top layer, and step back," Cornelia answered with a smirk.

"Is this safe?" Coral asked Will, who nodded.

"We've had lots of practice," the redhead reassured her relative.

"Why would I have to disrobe for a simple cleansing spell, though?" Coral continued, a hand protectively over the copper buttons at her collar.

"Er … have ya ever been steam-cleaned?" Hay countered with an impish grin. Coral blanched, and hastily shucked her outermost clothes.

Will used quintessence to levitate Coral's outfit, while Cornelia called the various forms of Earth from it. Then Taranee and Irma teamed up to steam the clothes, and Hay gave them an instant drying with super-hot Air. Will held the outfit back out for Coral with a smile.

"Impressive," the auburn-haired woman said, re-donning her dress and coat.

"Thanks … So, who was Caine?" Will retorted.

"One of your grandfather's older brothers … and mine," Coral replied. "I never met him. He was killed before I found out about my parentage. Now, I've sworn to let Random tell you anything else you want to know, so let's rejoin the others with Merle." She gave them each a good long look, using the Jewel of Judgment to see into their beings. What she found startled her. 'My, what would the others think of this?' "My thanks," she said, indicating her clean clothes.

"Oh, you're very welcome," Hay told her, grin back in place. She couldn't wait to ask Will's statuesque aunt about that glowing line woven through her aura. It had become brighter just then, catching the Air Guardian's attention as the older woman was giving them all a once-over. 'Maybe that's her power showing,' the Chinese girl thought. 'After all, our aura's all show our Elements.' She followed the others out, barely managing to reign in her usual boisterous energy in the face of the somber gathering.

"Why is it you all always disappear together?" Susan accused teasingly when the girls returned to the Amber Room.

"Sheer coincidence," Irma answered blithely. She gave Sue her habitual cheeky grin before going over to stand with Joel and the rest of Wreck 55. Matt came over behind Will in her stead, wrapping his arms around the redhead, and she leaned against his chest with a sigh.

"So, I take it this is the boy in question," Random chuckled, stepping from the circle of well-wishers nearby. "Matt, right?" he continued, holding out a hand.

"Yes sir," Matt replied, shaking it.

"I hope your intentions toward my granddaughter are honorable," Random quipped with a grin, which Matt returned.

"You better believe it, Mister Vandom. I'm too afraid of her for them to be otherwise." That got him a round of giggles from the other girls and a growl from Will. She reached up and pulled him in for a kiss.

"And don't you forget it," she teased him telepathically. Will caught Taranee rolling her eyes at them from the corner of her vision, and gave her braided friend a mental raspberry.

"Well, we have much to discuss, granddaughter mine," Random chuckled. He looked up then, and his smile dimmed noticeably. "I daresay you'll have to wait 'til tomorrow to catch up with Bill, Sue. He's not going to be much use to anyone tonight … unless it's as a karaoke partner …" They all looked over to where Martin and Corwin were propping up a very inebriated Mister Roth.

"And a bad one, at that," Merlin added, recalling a night in Amber when Bill, similarly deep in his cups, had warbled off-key to some blues tune Random and Martin had been jamming away on in the castle library. The other Amberites, familiar with the phenomenon, chuckled or cringed as was their musical wont.

"We've got to go see about Serena at the hospital still, anyway," Will interjected before the whole conversation could be hijacked by the topic of music. She'd seen it happen often enough with her boyfriend and his bandmates.

"Hopefully you'll make it to dinner with us afterwards," Luke said from Merle's other side. He and his fiancé, Coral's sister Nayda, were already in their coats, taking their temporary leave of Vialle. "We're all staying at the old Viscount on Eleventh, Sue. I hear their alfredo's still pretty good …"

Susan gave him a glare over Randall's shoulder, then said to her father-in-law, "We'll be at the house tonight … I still have keys. Is anyone else coming to the hospital?"

"I think just us three," Random replied, indicating himself, Vialle, and Martin.

"Four, brother dear," Flora amended. "I'd like to ensure my Mercedes survives this trip." She gave Martin a significant glance.

"Ah, fugedaboutit, Princess," Bill slurred from Carl's supportive grip. "'s'just tires …"

"I'll catch back up with you all at the hotel restaurant," Corwin sighed. "Merle, could you help me get him into my car?"

"Sure, dad," Merlin nodded, his grin hidden by his beard. Giving Coral's elbow a squeeze, he pulled Bill's other arm over his own shoulders, and the trio made their way out to Carl Corey's rented Aston Martin.

"Somebody's got delusions of Bond-dom," Irma grinned, getting another giggle from Hay, while Joel and Nigel whistled as they all watched the English import roll smoothly out of the lot. The boys from Heatherfield – and half the girls – gasped appreciatively when they saw what the Aston had been hiding. A red '57 Chevy Bel-Air held court over the newer automobiles in the mortuary parking lot. The teens' admiration only grew when Merle Corey stopped watching his departing father, and turned to the gorgeously-preserved red machine, keys in hand.

"What does Merle do for a living?" Will asked Coral quietly.

"Er … something in computers," the tall woman answered.

"Who for?" Sue queried, not remembering his name from any project Simultech was working on or with – or was watching out for – lately.

"Oh, he came up with something while at Grand Design at the end of the eighties, and has been living off the royalties ever since," Luke interjected. Flora and Coral both chuckled at his phrasing. Nayda, who knew Luke was talking about Ghostwheel, had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing outright. While posing as Gail Lampron, the ty'iga had been privy to the younger Amberites' activities at the time, but that had been after the college sweetheart pair of Luke and Gail had parted ways with Susan, Martin, and Tony to go to UC Berkeley out west.

"Okay, that's six of us for the trip to Saint John's then," Flora said.

"Seven," Will and Matt interjected together.

"Will …" Susan started, parental instincts flaring.

"Hey, I'm just along to get you two there and back in one piece," Matt countered, hand up in a placating gesture. Will nabbed them and wrapped his arms back around her with a grin.

"How late you wanna stay, man?" Joel asked from the nearby group of Heatherfielders. "'cause we've still got a three hour drive back."

"Actually, I'm staying here 'til tomorrow, for Will," Matt told his best friend. Joel and the others stared at him. "I've already got a room at the 'Thirteen Colonies' we passed on the way here."

"Matt?" Will asked telepathically.

"Chill, Angel. I've got three years B-day money and Christmas cash saved up. A night sleeping at the local no-tell motel won't hurt me or my bank account," he replied, kissing her temple where her lone remaining hair-(paper)-clip still held tight. He repeated his explanations, sans endearment, to the others as well, to see smirks on several of their faces.

"So long as that's the only service you avail yourself of in that establishment, I may actually revise my opinion of you," Martin Vandom drawled.

"Speaking from experience, cousin?" Luke countered with a smirk. "Any particular ladies you'd care to recommend – or warn him about – at said establishment?" Martin's scowl, and Matt's blush at the turn of the conversation, had everyone chuckling nervously.

"Then the rest of us oughtta vamanos," Eric to the others from Heatherfield, hoping to diffuse the tension. It got him a giggle from Hay Lin, and a kiss.

"Any chance they have another vacancy?" Irma asked. At the sudden incredulous stares now directed at her, she just said "What? I'd rather stick around for the service tomorrow than deal with school, that's all."

"Relax, girls. Even if they don't, I promise we'll get back out here for the interment," Cornelia told her teammates, jingling her keys.

"Well, that's at noon, girls," Susan told her daughter's best friends.

"Good thing the teachers at Sheffield love me," Taranee sighed. "That'll be my first missed school-day since … wow … since the chickenpox in second grade!" She and the rest of W.i.t.c.h. grinned.

"You sound like our sister Fiona," Flora sniffed, "Too studious for your own good."

"How many sibs do you have, Grandpa?" Will asked, eyes wide. Just when she thought Carl, Flora, and Brandon her (shudder) mother's ex-boyfriend Luke's dad were the end of the list, they'd casually drop another name in conversation … Like Caine, who Coral had mentioned when she returned … Will whipped around in Matt's grasp to look at Coral again. Her Great Aunt Coral, if what she'd said in the ladies' room was true.

"Too many, sometimes," Random mused, to the chuckles and groans of those Amberites present. "You'll get your chance to meet them all soon enough. Now, let's away to the hospital, to see about your other ailing parent, shall we?"

"Yeah …" Will and Susan said quietly together. Matt walked them out, holding Susan's car door open for her before walking Will around the green Accord, helping her into the back seat, and climbing in with her. The remaining attendees could see the redhead cushioned against his shoulder as they left.