Joyce was bored to tears. She’d made it through the children’s teachers without incident and managed to avoid Principal Snyder, although he continued to circle like a shark. She glanced at Jack, where he had Giles cornered, and sighed. At least someone was getting something out of this.
Jenny barreled into her and hissed, “Tonight’s the Night of Saint Vigeous. The vampires will have enhanced strength. Giles says to expect something, especially since some guy named Spike is around.”
“Does Buffy know?” Joyce murmured, watching Jack. He’d gone tense, which likely meant that Giles had told him some bad news.
“I already told her,” Jenny said, hand tight on Joyce’s arm.
Joyce patted her arm. “Relax. I remember how this night went. We just need to get all of the parents into an easily enclosed area and the children into the library, where the weapons are.”
Joyce was watching Connor as she said that last bit and he caught her eye and nodded, rounding up his siblings and explaining what she said. They started slipping away unnoticed and she felt a rush of relief.
Jenny nodded, took a deep breath, and straightened. She moved out into the center of the room and called, “If everybody would follow me, I think I should show everyone the brand new computer lab we installed over the summer.”
The other parents were confused but willing to follow her. Principal Snyder was hissing in Jenny’s ear as they lead the way down the hall.
Jack caught Joyce’s arm. “Does this have to do with the thing that Giles just told me about?”
“Yeah,” she said, nodding. She patted his arm. “There’s something I need to do; a message I need to deliver. Just…go with the others. Grill Giles. Keep the other parents calm. I’ll be fine.”
His jaw clenched, then he pressed a quick, hard kiss to her lips before jogging after the other parents.
“Oh boy,” she whispered, then started working her way to where she remembered being at the time of the incident.
She heard the crash of the windows where they’d all just been standing and started running, ignoring the other parents’ cries of alarm. Jack would be fine. Half the other parents were military of some sort. The children would be fine. They were either hidden or well armed.
She grabbed a fire axe on her way, then slid into place and waited. It felt like forever until the battle made its way to her, then she saw Buffy skid across the floor, nearly unconscious. As Spike stood over her, Joyce popped out of her corner and whacked him over the head with the axe. He fell to the floor and she lifted the axe, preparing to bring it down across his neck.
Time slowed and it felt like she was wading through molasses. A man in an ugly bowler had appeared from the shadows, shaking his head.
“Lady, you and your family are giving me an ulcer. The name’s Whistler, by the way,” he winced as he stepped over Buffy’s prone form, around Spike, and plucked the axe from her hand. “You can’t kill him, yet. He’s needed.” He rolled his eyes. “Besides, I though you liked
She took a deep breath and found herself able to speak. “I do,” she said, swallowing hard because she did
. “He just keeps getting too close to my daughter, my family
“There are other solutions besides killing him, ya know,” he said, shaking his head.
“So we should ensoul him?” she asked, a bit baffled.
“Well, not right away,” he cautioned hastily. “There are still things that he needs to do as he is. Souls mean a conscious and inhibitions. He doesn’t need those, just yet.”
“He’ll kill people,” she whispered, aghast.
“Yeah,” Whistler said with a shrug. “That’s part of the whole balance thing. Besides, none of them would survive long, anyway, even if you killed him. When it’s they’re time, it’s they’re time.”
Joyce felt a cold chill sweep her body. “So I am
going to die.”
“What? No!” Whistler yelped. “That’s not what I meant. I mean-jeez, lady, I don’t know if you noticed, but you’re living in a different timeline, now. Things are different
now. You’ve got a chance to make everything turn out okay.”
“I don’t understand,” she said, trying to shake her head and realizing that she was still frozen. She took a deep breath to calm the ensuing panic. “Curses always have consequences.”
Whistler rolled his eyes as he started to walk backwards. “What’s the opposite of a curse?”
“A blessing,” she whispered.
“Score one for the home team,” he said sarcastically, sliding into shadows.
She blinked and she was standing in the corner, clutching her axe. Buffy skidded across the floor unconscious, and Joyce stepped out as Spike reached for her. She brought the axe down hard as she said, “Get the hell away from my daughter.”
Her hand tightened around the axe handle for a second before she dropped it and stepped over him to Buffy, paying no mind to as he scuttled away with a hissed, “Women!”
“Mom,” Buffy said, astonished, and Joyce smiled. “Way to be badass.”
Joyce rolled her eyes as she threw her arm around her daughter’s shoulder. “That’s me, your mother the badass. Now how about we go find your father and brothers and sisters and go home.”
Buffy nodded, then burrowed against her. “Everything’s going to be okay, isn’t it?”
“Of course,” Joyce whispered, kissing the crown of her head. “I’ll make sure of it.”