The day was done. Mostly. The kids were finishing homework before the older ones snuck out for a late patrol because plausible deniability was key and Dawn and Sirius were amusing themselves before bedtime. Joyce was doing the dishes. She needed time to think and none of the kids would bother her while she was elbow deep in dishwater for the fear that they would be drafted into helping.
Or not. Joyce sighed and tossed Buffy the dishtowel.
Buffy jumped up onto the cabinet and started drying plates. It took her a few minutes but she finally said quietly, “We have to tell Dad, don’t we?”
“I’m afraid so,” Joyce said. “There just isn’t a half truth that makes any sense.”
Buffy sighed and Joyce winced. This wasn’t the first time she’d parented teenagers. Still, everything being her fault grated.
“Is he gonna be mad?” Buffy asked, focusing on the plate in her hands.
“On, no. He’s going to be livid
,” Joyce said, shaking her head. The plate cracked in Buffy’s hands and she sighed. Joyce patted her knee. “If it helps, it’ll be focused on me.”
“That’s not fair!” Buffy protested.
Joyce looked at her, eyebrows raised. “You more than most know that life isn’t always fair.” Buffy winced. “Besides, husbands and wives tell each other things.”
“But you’re not even you! I mean-the same
you. Wait, I didn’t mean that you aren’t you, just that-,” Buffy stammered, frowning.
Joyce patted her knee. “Now you know how I’ve felt all day.”
Buffy snorted, then sobered. “You shouldn’t take the blame. I asked you not to tell and it’s my secret to tell.”
Joyce’s heart jumped like it always did when Buffy was being selfless.
Still…”That’s not the way it works,” she said quietly. “A parent deserves to know when their child saves the world and risks their life doing so.”
Buffy twisted the dishtowel in her hands then winced when it ripped apart. “We should have told him from the beginning.”
“True,” Joyce agreed and Buffy grimaced at her. “But finding out your daughter runs headlong into danger isn’t something that ever goes down easy. Besides, I’m pretty sure he suspects something’s up. You’re not the kind of kid that torches a gym.”
Buffy coughed, looking sheepish, then sighed. “I need to go finish a paper for English.”
She slid a stack of plates into the cabinet behind her, then hopped off the counter, kissed Joyce on the cheek, and bounced out of the room. Everything wasn’t better with her but Buffy was extremely good at faking it when she wanted to be.
Joyce sighed, fishing a dishtowel out of a drawer and set to work on the dishes.
“So…Larry Blaisdale’s gay,” Xander said, pulling the dishtowel off her shoulder and drying a glass.
Right, the only time she was going to get alone was when she was asleep. Only if Jack was home, not so much.
“Yes, he is,” she said, sighing.
“He apologized for being an ass,” he continued.
She glanced at him from the corner of her eye and either that glass had become extremely difficult to dry or he was puzzled about something.
“Did he?” she finally asked and watched him start.
“Yeah,” he said, propping his hip on the edge of the sink. “And he really, really wanted me to know how cool my mom is. Which, don’t get me wrong, when it comes to parents, I won the Awesome Lottery. But how does Larry Blaisdale know that?”
“I may have had a word with him today,” she said unable to shake that guilty feeling.
“Mom!” Xander yelled, betrayed.
She turned to him, resolute. “When a mother knows that someone is hurting one of her children, she doesn’t turn a blind eye.” She patted his cheek. “You don’t, either, dear.”
He grinned, looking down before he sighed and looked her in the eye. “I think he was flirting with me.”
She raised an eyebrow. “And how did that make you feel?”
He raised an eyebrow right back at her. “Considering he spent the first six years of our acquaintance shoving me into lockers, pouring things down my shirt, and berating my nerditude? Confused.”
“But not disgusted or particularly disturbed?” she asked lightly, turning back to her dishes.
“Huh,” he said, sounding amazed. “I knew there was a reason I wanted to talk to you besides the Mama Interferus thing.”
“Glad I could help,” she said with a little laugh. She glanced at him as she said, “Now. Have you finished your science homework?” He winced and she said firmly, “Go
He huffed but draped the soggy towel over her shoulder, and left. He wasn’t gone but a few minutes before Faith was beside her, placing the dried dishes into their cabinets. And that was it. Her children were obviously colluding to drive her crazy.
“What’s happened to you today?” she finally asked after a few minutes of silence.
“Nothin’,” Faith said, shrugging.
“Really? Because the others have all come to tell me about their woes and weirdness,” she said, absolutely willing to pry if Faith needed to open up.
day is a weird day around here. I mean, yeah, Queen C committed social suicide, Xan got hit on by a dude, and you took a level in strange, and don’t ever tell Xander I said that. But there’s always something weird happening. Gettin’ all bent because it’s personal don’t make any sense,” Faith said, shrugging. “I just came to help with the dishes because the Squirts are going to need to be put to bed and, besides, you made dinner.”
“We’re not Squirts!” Dawn and Sirius bellowed from the family room.
Joyce ran a hand over Faith’s hair, then squeezed her shoulder before turning back to the dishes. Faith had been five when her mother dropped her on the Summers’ doorstep. She was always defensive and vulnerable in turns because Maggie LeHane had put her through hell before deciding that having a kid was too much trouble.
A clock chimed and Joyce looked at the radio clock to find that it was already 10 o’clock. She passed the last dish to Faith and said, “Can you…”
“Go,” Faith said, waving her away. “I’ll finish the clean up.
Joyce dried her hands and walked into the family room in time to see Sirius whisper something to Dawn and her muffle peals of giggles. Joyce bit back a laugh. She didn’t know what they were conspiring about but it would doubtlessly lead to the devilment of their older siblings.
“Bed time,” she announced and they whirled on her, horrified. “No arguments.”
Dawn slumped and Sirius pouted but she finally had them tucked into bed. Joyce very carefully didn’t look behind the closed doors of her older children’s darkened rooms. They’d been too quiet for too long not to have already slipped out for patrol.
She passed through the kitchen on her way to the back door to check the lock and wasn’t surprised to see it spotless. When Faith put her mind to something, it got done.
Turning the deadbolt, Joyce took a moment, closed her eyes and pressed a hand into her lower back, just breathing out a long, difficult day.
Solid arms came around her and Jack murmured into her cheek, “So about that talk…”
She turned until she could wrap her arms around his neck and looked into his eyes. “Can’t we just sleep on it tonight?”
“Yeah, sure, you betcha,” he said, awkwardly waltzing them towards their bedroom.
Joyce dropped her head onto his shoulder and let him lead.Author's Note:
Now the fun really begins. ;)~