Joyce clung to her coffee mug. She was used to late nights and early mornings but this was more than a little ridiculous. Since everybody was already awake, Jack had insisted that they all bundle up and trundle back to the house, which was like mobilizing a small army. Then, even after they’d gotten home, she hadn’t been able to sleep until she’d heard Buffy sneaking in around 3 in the morning.
Buffy was gone by the time the others had gotten up to get ready for school and Joyce could only hope that she wasn’t taking the news of what her romance would have led to too hard.
Chris sat down beside her, hands folded on the table. She instinctively began trying to push his unruly hair out of his face. Then she frowned.
“Aren’t you supposed to be in the car on the way to school?” she asked. She could have sworn the children had slammed out the door minutes ago.
“I’m gonna take the…alternate means of transportation,” he said with a smirk. She winced, still not fond of this orbing business. “I wanted to talk to you alone.”
“That sounds ominous,” she said, and tipped her mug up, swallowing half her coffee in one rush. She may have scalded her tongue but she had a feeling she was going to need the jolt of energy.
He studied her face intently before saying, “I know.” She blinked at him, lost. “Mom, I know
Dread washed through her. “Chris…”
He kissed her cheek, then pressed his face into it. “It’s okay, Mom. What was doesn’t matter. What is, this life, that’s what matters.”
“When did my babies get so wise?” she asked after the shock had worn off. She never would have admitted that she didn’t know where he came from.
“I’m an old soul,” he said lightly and she thought he was kidding until he pulled back and said, “I remember my last life and you weren’t- I don’t know how I got here but…”
She shivered a bit and asked, “Do you think the others will remember?”
“No?” he said after a moment. “I was already out of time and space. I didn’t belong
where I was. So I don’t think
the others will remember. I think this is just another version of them.”
Joyce took a deep breath, running her hand over his hair, before saying, “We can talk about this more later but you really need to get to school before you miss class. Principal Snyder already has all of you on the hook for the Parent-Teacher conference tonight. I’d hate to see what other things he could come up with as a punishment.”
Chris gave her one of his wise-beyond-his-years looks and stood, leaning over to kiss the crown of her head. “I love you, Mom. And I really don’t care how I got here. I’m just glad to be here.”
He was gone in a twinkling of blue lights before the tears cleared from her eyes.
A throat cleared behind her and she twisted, seeing Jack and Jon standing in the doorway, Jon with his hands shoved deep in his pockets. Joyce brushed the remaining wetness from her eyes as Jack said, “So. Are announcements like that going to be the norm now?”
Jon shifted, scowling, but, while the tone had been a little snippy, it hadn’t been nearly as confrontational as she’d believed it would be.
“Let’s hope not,” she said, standing and gathering her coffee mug to her. “Let me put this in a travel mug and we’ll be ready to go.”
“I’ve got it,” Jack said, grinning a little. “I know Snyder isn’t your favorite person.”
“For many, many reasons,” Joyce said, lip curling instinctively as the memories of the difficulties she’d had with him after Buffy had come back from running away rose to the surface.
Jack looked at her, eyebrow raised. “I guess we can add that to the list of things that we can talk about when I get back.”
“Of course,” she said, nodding. “I’ll be here when you get here.”
Jon shuffled back out of the dining room as Jack stepped forward and even she had to acknowledge that having him in the house was going to be incredibly awkward. Jack kissed her and said, “We’ll get this squared away and everything will go back to normal.”
She gave him an amused look. “When did you become an optimist?”
“Since I learned that magic is real and my wife and kids are right in the middle of it,” he said, shrugging. “I don’t actually think it’s optimism so much as hedging my bets.”
She sighed, pressing her forehead against his chest. His heartbeat was reassuringly solid. “I don’t know about normal, but we’ll be okay.”
He squeezed her to him, pressing a kiss to her ear. “Of course we will. If I can handle random visits from your family, I can handle magic.”
She snorted, then pushed him away. “Go get Jon settled. I’ll be here.”
He winked at her as he walked backwards, then turned and walked away. Joyce sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose before downing the rest of her coffee. It was going to be a long day.