Jack looked up, eyebrow raised when she came to sit beside him.
“The only other things I can think of are the Watcher’s Council, which Giles can explain better, and that Willow may eventually end up coming out of the closet when she’s a bit older,” she whispered, not wanting Meredith to overhear. “So, can we just…?”
She flapped her hands, at a loss for words, and he rubbed a hand over the back of her neck as he said, “Everything else is in the notebook?” She nodded and he shrugged. “Then I guess I’ll corner Giles at the thing tonight.” He grimaced at the thought of it before saying, “Meredith’s staying?”
“Yes,” Joyce said, nodding. “So about that mansion in the woods…”
He laughed as she let out a jaw-cracking yawn. “How about I look into that and you take a nap? You’ll need to be firing on all cylinders to deal with Snyder tonight.”
She made a face at him before toeing off her flats and swinging her feet up on the couch, settling her cheek on his thigh. He pulled out his computer and started to look through property listings, fingers running through her hair.
“Uncle Jack? Is everything okay?” Meredith asked, voice hushed, from the doorway.
“Yeah, kiddo. But I think we need to talk about a few things,” he said quietly.
That was the last thing she heard before slipping into a deep sleep.
She woke up when the front door slammed open, Dawn’s loud laughter spilling into the den. Joyce sat up, scrubbed her hands over face, and went to find Jack. A quick glance at the clock told her it was time for the kids to be home from school and she hadn’t even started dinner.
Fortunately, Jack was two steps ahead of her and he and Meredith were laughing as they messed around with whatever was on the stove.
“Hey,” she said and they turned to look at her. “The kids are home from school.”
“We heard,” Jack said as Meredith abandoned him and threw her arms around Joyce’s neck. “Dinner’ll be done in a few minutes.”
Joyce nodded as she petted Meredith’s hair. “What’s wrong?” she murmured.
“Uncle Jack told me everything,” Meredith said, pulling back. She stared at Joyce’s forehead for a few seconds before looking her in the eye and stressed, “Everything.”
Joyce shot Jack an annoyed look and he just tipped his beer bottle at her. “I didn’t tell you to become a doctor because of my,” she floundered, hand waving, “medical history.”
Meredith shrugged. “I wanted to, anyway. This just gives me incentive.”
That was all they managed because the children, drawn by the scent of food and the sound of conversation, invaded the kitchen. There were squeals and hugs and Joyce stepped over next to Jack so that Meredith could properly bask in all the attention her homecoming garnered.
Jack threw an arm around her waist even as he continued stirring whatever he was cooking and kissed her shoulder before murmuring, “I don’t want anyone living in this house not knowing what’s going on. It’s a safety issue. Plus, she needs something to hang onto, a goal. Your sister’s a piece of work, I swear. She’s stripped that girl of all ambition and self-esteem.”
Joyce leaned into him, watching as Buffy clung to Meredith while Meredith whispered to her. “This will be good for them, I think.”
Her kids had always been exceptionally fond of Meredith and Abbey’s girls; Meredith in particular because she often stayed the summer because of her mother’s hectic schedule.
Dinner was loud and quick because homework had to be finished before the older kids left to set up Parent-Teacher night and the dishes were loaded into the dishwasher because Joyce didn’t have time to do them by hand, despite the fact that that was usually a soothing task she used to keep her hands busy while her mind worked.
Joyce pursed her lips when she walked into the den and saw Meredith helping Dawn with her math while Jon watched raptly as Sirius made bits and bobs fly around the table they were sitting at and Jack flipped through the notebook with her memories. She cleared her throat and everybody startled. Sirius accidentally let go of the objects and they rained down on them.
“Since you two aren’t yet on the good Principal’s radar,” she said with a grimace, “and you don’t have to go out tonight, would you mind watching Dawn and Sirius? We were going to take them with us but I’d really rather not.”
She glanced at Jack, who was watching her and tapped his finger on the notebook in his lap.
“We can do that,” Meredith said, glancing at Jon who nodded. Meredith, fortunately, only seemed a little weirded out by Jon’s presence.
“Good,” Joyce said, relieved, as Jack stood up to join her. He hesitated before offering the notebook to Jon, who accepted it gratefully.
“We’ll be home as quick as we can. Lock the doors and don’t let anybody in,” Jack said, shifting a bit, obviously uncomfortable letting Jon in on all the secrets. “Anybody that needs us knows where we’re at or has a key.”
“Faith gave me the rundown at school,” Jon said, wincing only a little bit at the reminder that he’d volunteered for that.
“Good,” Joyce said, nodding. One less thing to worry about. “We’ll see you all later.”
She kissed Dawn and Sirius on the forehead, grabbed her purse, and they were gone.