Jack did make it home that day and, once he figured out that she really wasn’t going to say anything, they started their very own Cold War. It didn’t help at all that Jack looked sicker with each passing day, dark shadows under his eyes and his complexion far too pale.
A week of trying to apologize only to have the words stick in her throat later and she was at her wit’s end. Jack had taken off, probably to one of his favorite fishing holes, and the kids were in the middle of throwing a quiet rebellion. Their father was a teenager and sick, and their parents were fighting. They were worried. A situation that had been funny had become dire and, for all her efforts, the children still had the rationalizing skills of an emotionally constipated turnip.
Joyce was just putting out the latest fire, metaphorical, thankfully, when Sam, Daniel, and T burst into the house. (She was 90% positive that the giant man with a gold emblem on his forehead wasn’t actually
named T. Murray, but he answered to it and that was all that mattered.) She raised her eyebrow as the two men split off with barely a nod to indicate that they realized she was standing there. Sam shifted from foot to foot, obviously uncomfortable.
“What do you need?” Joyce said with a little sigh. She honestly liked the Major but what they had in common could be summed up in one word.
“Jack,” Sam said and Joyce swallowed another sigh.
“He left early this morning, before the children got up,” she said, shrugging as Dawn came to lean against her, watching Sam warily. “Try his fishing holes.”
“Any idea which one?” Sam asked.
“The one down off Main is probably the closest,” Joyce said, suddenly feeling weary. “When you find him, tell him we should talk.”
Sam gave her an understanding look, her unease washing away as she said, “We’ll have this wrapped up soon.”
“Not soon enough,” Joyce said, combing her fingers through Dawn’s long hair.
Sam squeezed her arm as Daniel and T came back into the room.
“He’s not here,” Daniel said, smiling absently at Dawn.
“Joyce gave me a few spots to try,” Sam said and they left as quickly as they came.
Dawn sighed, resting her head against her arm. “I’ll be glad when Dad’s back to normal.”
“Me, too,” Joyce said, kissing the crown of her head. “Now go finish your math homework.”
Dawn grimaced at her but left to sit beside Sirius who was prodding paper airplanes into doing loop-de-loops around the room. He’d managed, thankfully, to hold off on that until their guests had seen themselves out.
Joyce pinched the bridge of her nose as she left the den for her tiny office and some alone time. She juggled the Gallery’s books and the family’s bills out of that room, but usually she had Jack to help distract her from the monotony of crunching numbers. Not that they had money trouble or anything. She just hated that part of owning a business. No, her memories told her, an inheritance from her mother’s side that brought along stories of a mostly proper English girl and her two pirate loves kept the Summers-O’Neill family solvent. Still, Joyce, with all her memories old and new, hadn’t quite managed to believe the fondly related tale just yet.
She’d finished wading through the bills a household the size of hers could accumulate and had just begun tackling the Gallery’s when the phone rang and her heart leapt, her thoughts immediately swinging to Jack. She’d only known him a chaotic week or so (or seven years, if she was to be technical), but she loved him and she worried and it was all so ridiculous.
Still, she lurched towards the phone, snatching up the receiver and saying, breathless, “Hello?”
“Joyce, we need to talk about Meredith.”
Of course, it was only her sister.
“Abbey,” Joyce said, fighting off the pang of disappointment. “Things are a bit hectic here.”
,” Abby said, stress radiating from her voice even if there seemed to be a bit of distraction on her end. Understandable as she was both the mother of a lively teenage girl and in the middle of an election. “Ellis is being…well, herself and Meredith has been getting into a bit of trouble lately.”
Joyce scrubbed her hand over her face. She wasn’t sure why, as the baby of the family, she had to play peacemaker between her older two sisters. Wasn’t that usually the middle child’s job?
“I’m not certain what you want me to do about it, Abbey. You vetoed my only idea,” she said after a moment. When Abbey continued to be silent, Joyce looked up, eyebrow raised even though her sister couldn’t see her. “What’s happened to make you think that Meredith shouldn’t stay with Ellis?”
“Meredith was arrested. For underage drinking and driving under the influence,” Abbey bit out and Joyce’s heart sank. She didn’t ask how Abbey knew. Having a husband in politics meant knowing everything that went on in her family’s public lives and most of their private ones. “Ellis won’t listen to me and we both know it. Talk
to her, Joyce. Before Meredith ruins her future or gets herself killed.”
Joyce’s lips pinched when Abbey hung up on her. She knew exactly what the odds were of Ellis actually listening and she hated the fact that not only was Abbey still
bossing her around well into their adulthood, she was also right.
She shifted the phone and dialed Seattle. There was only a slim chance that Ellis was actually at home and not at the hospital, but Joyce was going to take it. By the third ring, she’d nearly resigned herself to having to go through the hospital to reach her when Ellis picked up with a sharp, “Hello?”
Joyce took a deep breath, then said, “Hello, Ellis.”
“Joyce,” Ellis said, voice rife with wary disdain.
“I heard that you’ve been having some trouble with Meredith.” There really wasn’t any reason to draw it out. They weren’t the type of sisters that called to shoot the breeze. Honestly, they were barely the type of sisters that called when someone was dying.
“And there’s no doubt were you heard that,” Ellis said scathingly. “Abbey always was a busybody.”
Joyce literally bit her tongue to keep from raking her sister over the coals. “Is everything alright?” There was a long pause and she could practically hear Ellis trying to find a way to explain Meredith’s behavior that didn’t make her seem like a total failure as a mother. “Ellis…”
“It’s none of your concern,” she finally snapped. “I’ve taken care of it.”
Joyce just bet she had. Enough money could make anything go away. Oh, and she knew she hadn’t done it for Meredith’s sake, either, but for her own reputation.
“Ellis, maybe Meredith would benefit from a change of pace,” she said gently.
“I have the situation in hand,” Ellis bit off.
“Just send her to me, Ellis,” she said, hand clenching around the receiver. God, it was awful of her, but she sincerely hated her sister. She hadn’t wanted to get married or to have children, but society expected it at the time and Ellis had considered it a way to advance her career. “Meredith can stay with me, finish her schooling in Colorado Springs. It’ll be good for her to be around children her own age.”
“Your children are truant heathens,” Ellis bit out. “Now, really, Joyce, I have an important surgery to get to.”
Joyce damned herself for what she was about to do. “We called a family meeting, Ellis. We’re concerned about Meredith’s welfare.” Ellis was employing that cold silence she’d perfected. “We think she would fare better with someone who wasn’t quite as busy.”
“Meredith is my
daughter and you have no
say in how I choose to raise her,” Ellis snapped before slamming the phone down.
Joyce hung up the phone, then pressed her head into her hands, trying to stave off a headache. Dealing with her sisters always made her feel like she was 12 again. They’d always been driven to compete which lent itself well to the highly competitive medical fields they’d ended up in, but Joyce had been a dreamer, wanting to back pack through Europe and paint in Paris. She’d given up most of her dreams when she’d met Hank in college but Abbey and Ellis had forged ahead, their husbands either supportive or meek enough to hold down the household until they’d reached the upper echelons of their field. Really, it wasn’t that surprising that they lived as far from each other as they could.
A throat cleared behind her and Joyce jerked around, almost stabbing herself in the eye with a finger. Jack was standing in the doorway bracketed by Sam and Daniel, T pretending not to hover behind him.
He must have seen something in her face because he frowned as he asked, “What’s wrong?”
Joyce sighed, thankful that some
things hadn’t changed in the past week. “Meredith got a DUI and I spoke to my sisters.”
A dark scowl broke out over his face. He and Ellis hated
each other with a passion that was almost frightening, but he’d always loved Meredith and Abbey’s girls like only a favored uncle could.
“She okay?” he finally asked. Joyce nodded, weary. “Did you…?”
He motioned between the two of them and she said, “I tried. She informs me she’s handled it.” He snorted and she shrugged. “I think I’m going to have to take a trip to Seattle when this has all been settled.”
Jack nodded as he said, “Which should be tonight. Ah…”
Joyce sighed, standing. “I’ll take the children to Rupert’s.”
“And we’ll talk after,” he said, grimacing a little.
She gave him a peevish look as she left the room. Secrets were about to flood out into the open and she was certain that it couldn’t happen soon enough.Author’s Note:
to have had Joyce confront Loki and Thor in this chapter but, to inject a little reality into this fiction, if they’ll haul Jon off away from Joyce and the children for security measures then they’re not going to allow Joyce, someone they know
is keeping secrets, to meet their closest and most powerful alien allies. (Besides Teal’c, obviously.) They’re the SGC and they do crazy things but they’re not that stupid.Disclaimer:
I don’t own Grey’s Anatomy or The West Wing. That’s Shonda Rhimes or Aaron Sorkin.