Frosted - parts 1 to 3
Rated y-14, moderate sexuality, possible swearing, and femmeslash.
Main characters: Joyce Summers, Emma Frost, and mentions of Hank, Buffy and Dawn.
this is intended to develop into a Joyce/Emma relationship (femmeslash).
Disclaimer: Emma belongs to Marvel; the Summers family belongs to Joss.
Distribution: Luba, Mental Wanderings, Twisting the Hellmouth, Joe - anyone else ask.
Notes: AU post Hemery for Buffy. Joyce didn't move to Sunnydale. Written for Joe. :words in colons: are over a telephone. Dawn exists, but only as the younger daughter of Joyce and Hank. Started for Twisting's Fic-for-All, pairing #1904. As yet another note, the Astrid mentioned in this story is not the same Astrid in Joe's story. The only similarities between them is that they are both unusual females with a particular name.
Joyce looked at the papers on her table and smiled. The divorce was over with. She was finally free of Hank and his affairs, his lies to try to hide the affairs, and the need to try to make excuses for their daughters about him and his continual absences. Granted, she had three weeks to vacate the house and find a new place to live, new schools for the girls - a task made harder by Buffy burning down the gym of her last school, but still... This would be better; it had to be.
As long as she could find a place for them. Somewhere free of Hank's memory. Somewhere that she could be happy again.
“Damn it, Hank. Why did you do this to me? Why couldn’t I ever trust you?” Joyce spoke the words, feeling tears burn in her eyes, and shame in her gut. Maybe the real question wasn’t why did Hank cheat, but why had she stayed with him? Why had she put up with it for so long?
The only female secretary that Hank had had for the past fifteen years that she was sure he hadn’t been sleeping with had been Margaret, and that was only because if there had been a Summers affair, Margaret would have picked Joyce over Hank any day. She’d been a rather pretty woman, with delicate bones and beautiful green eyes, and it had felt flattering that she’d flirted with Joyce every time she’d seen her. If she hadn’t been married to Hank, she probably would have taken up the unspoken invitation…
But she’d married Hank. She’d made a promise, and she’d wanted so badly to make things work. Of course, as the years had passed, she’d almost felt like Hank had married her as a career move, someone to have dinner parties and as an excuse why he couldn’t make any promises to his secretaries. Why hadn’t it been Kevin or Jack that had been the guy in her life when the pills had failed her? Why not someone who would have treated her better, even if Hank had shown that unexpected streak of decency to not want any of his children to be born illegitimate? She occasionally wondered what he’d do if he slipped up with one of his secretaries…
She shook her head, trying to crush down the voice that whispered she had a duty to stay with Hank, to let her girls know their father. The voice didn’t sound like her, or like Buffy. She couldn’t quite figure out who the voice reminded her of, but she didn’t like the voice, didn’t like the reminder; didn’t like putting up with Hank’s antics. She refused to put up with any more.
It had been a long time since she'd been happy. Not since her college days, when she'd still been dating around, exploring life. She'd made one of the best friends that she could ask for, despite the fact that she had majored in art, and her friend in business. Business... She had stayed in touch, though not as close as she would have liked. Maybe her friend could help her find a new home, and new schools for her girls? That annoying voice tried to rise again, whispering that Emma had better things to do than waste her time with a divorced woman with no practical skills…
Joyce pushed that whisper down as well. So what if working in an art gallery wasn’t particularly practical? There was a need for art, and when people wanted art, someone had to display and sell it. Why not her? It was fun, enjoyable, and she did quite well with art of all sorts, though she wasn’t much more than a mediocre artist herself. Her friend had always found at least a little time to talk to her in the past.
It didn't take long to flip to the page of her address book, though she'd memorized the number. Her fingers trembled as she dialed, and once again, she wondered why she hadn't listened to her friend's whispered concerns about Hank. It had been like some little switch kept getting thrown, and all her worries would vanish, and she'd be there, swallowing his excuses and apologies again. She still probably wouldn't have married him except that she'd somehow ended up pregnant with Buffy, though she'd been using birth control.
:You’ve reached the office of Ms. Frost, please state your name and business.: The bland voice could only belong to the latest secretary.
"My name is Joyce, and my business is with Ms. Frost. She'll want to speak to me," Joyce replied, her voice sounding far calmer than she actually felt.
: Please hold for a moment.: The secretary's words conveyed a sense that she truly doubted someone as important as Ms. Frost would bother with this presumptuous caller, and there was a sudden rush of classical music.
After several minutes, the music stopped, replaced by a voice that held more warmth than the woman's business contacts would have believed. :Joyce! So lovely to hear from you. Please tell me that jerk hasn't left you crying again. Or maybe one of the girls this time? Your oldest is what, fourteen?:
"Buffy’s fifteen, and if I’ve been crying, it’s only tears of relief. I've got the papers in front of me, signed and everything. It's over," Joyce explained.
:Wonderful,: Emma purred. :Was there an ulterior motive to your call, dear?:
"Apart from taking the moment to say, yes, you were right about him. I can't believe it didn't occur to me sooner, before it was too late, before Buffy, before... everything?” Joyce sighed, resting her hand on her head. “I was hoping that you might be able to help me find a place to move to. I'm now officially divorced, as of a half hour ago, but I need to be out of the house in three weeks or less, with the girls in school. The whole thing is a bit overwhelming."
:I've got a very good idea why you didn't realize, and this isn't the time for that discussion.: Emma's voice didn't quite cover her anger. :If you wouldn't mind my help, I can find you a place to stay, and schools for your girls. We can just put your oldest in the Academy, maybe both of them.:
"Buffy would do terrible in a military environment," Joyce murmured, trying not to laugh at the image of her rebellious cheerleader confronted with a drill sergeant. She'd probably start asking him about proper baton grips and twirls. "But I'd love a bit of help finding a place to live, maybe a job if that's not too much. I've been working in an art gallery, but if I'm moving out of LA, that won't last."
Emma's laughter was a charming trill. :No, I didn't mean a military school, I meant the Frost Academy. That way I could help you keep an eye on her. And how old was Dawn?"
"Ten. It feels like only yesterday, she was just learning to walk, but she's ten almost eleven already. Her birthday’s next month," Joyce mused.
:Hmm... Recently, a group of special students joined the school; they're about Dawn's age. If you think she might be able to keep up... They could use a bit of outside challenge.:
"Outside challenge? Gifted twins, or something?" Joyce asked.
:Quintuplets, actually.: Emma sounded thoughtful. :They could almost be my younger sisters, looking at them. Or clones... I might want to check into that, actually.:
"Remind me to ask you more about your interesting life after college sometimes," Joyce drawled. "I think Dawn could cope."
:Delightful. I'll make some arrangements.: Emma stated, her tone a statement that things would happen.
end part 1.
Emma had things arranged in under a week. The girls were enrolled, there was a list of jobs at museums and art galleries, and a note that suggested they just live in one wing of Emma's house, since she had fifteen bedrooms. Joyce had smothered laughter as she read that, agreeing that Emma could surely find a corner to tuck them into.
Dawn hadn't complained too much about moving, muttering something about the school there being full of losers, and who needed them anyhow? Buffy had complained and pouted until Joyce had mentioned that they would be moving to Boston, and then moved to a shocked sulk.
Emma met them at the airport, dressed in a white suit that had an unbuttoned jacket over what looked like a white corset. The years had obviously been good to Emma, though the limited color scheme - white clothing, pale skin, almost white hair... Joyce smirked, "Aren't you taking the whole frost thing a bit too far, Em?"
"No, I'm dressing to make an impression. You'd be amazed how effective it is in the boardroom," Emma replied.
"Mom, who is she, and what does she do for a living?" Buffy demanded in a whisper.
Joyce frowned at Buffy, having a few ideas what her daughter was thinking. "Her name's Emma, I went to college with her, and she's got a corporation and a school. A school, might I add, where you and Dawn will be attending."
"Your carry-on luggage has been taken to the car, and the rest of your things have been sent on to the house already," Emma explained, motioning for them to follow her. "I've got a car for us, you'll be staying at my place, at least for now."
"Will there be room? I thought places to live were hard to find," Dawn offered.
"Inherited wealth has a few perks. We get all the nice toys and playgrounds," Emma waved a hand as it dismissing the worry. "If it makes you feel better, I'll keep you confined to the North wing."
"A limo?! Cool!" Buffy gasped, darting towards the long white car. It seemed like the only thing needed to make her forget her sullen dismay was a shiny, expensive car.
Joyce managed to restrain her amusement for the car ride, though it was hard, seeing the way her girls were so excited. She gasped at Emma's mansion, and the girls flung the door open, racing out and up the front stairs. “It’s huge, Emma.”
"I'm sorry, Joyce. I didn't want to say anything in front of your girls, but I think I know why you didn't dump Hank in college," Emma murmured, sounding sad.
"It wasn't your fault, right?" Joyce turned to look at her friend, remembering the times that they'd stayed up late talking about everything and nothing. Emma had been beautiful in college, now she was breathtaking.
"No, it was Astrid's. She was a telepath, and she was... I think she was afraid that we'd start dating, so she manipulated you. She made you forget about Hank's flirtations, made you accept his pitiful excuses and apologies, made you take him back time and again." Emma was nearly hissing, clearly still outraged and furious.
"Back up a moment, you said..." Joyce blinked, thinking back to Emma's annoying friend. She couldn't really remember Astrid clearly, which didn't feel right, but... "I know she didn't like me, but... She's fuzzy. What do you mean, she thought we'd start dating?"
"She thought you might be interested in me, as a better option than Hank. She played with people's minds," Emma explained.
For a few moments, Joyce considered that, and the way that she'd been in college. "I wouldn't have."
"Oh?" Emma lifted one eyebrow, leaning forward just a little. “And just why not? I know you dated Susan Conway.”
"I wouldn't have been brave enough to ask you out. You were always so confident, so sure of yourself. Not to mention that I was fairly certain you liked men." Joyce stated. "I was a bit of a coward back then."
"What about now?" Emma's words were soft, and Joyce wasn't even certain that her friend's lips had moved.
"Now, I'm a bit more confident about myself. I know who I am, and what I want," Joyce smiled, and one hand moved just a little towards Emma. "What I don't know is... Did Astrid have any reason to worry?"
"How did you feel in college?" Emma didn't quite answer, but she moved a little closer, her fingers not quite touching Joyce.
"I wasn't about to make a move, but you were beautiful then, Emma. You still are." Joyce smiled, part of her mind wondering how different things might have been. If she would have enjoyed being with Emma, if they would have lasted. But if she hadn’t been involved with Hank, she wouldn’t have had her girls. She couldn’t imagine not having them, even when they were frustrating.
"Deep thoughts, Joyce?" Emma's voice was soft, gently reminding her of the rest of the world, so unlike Hank's demanding interruptions.
"What if's, mostly. One of the most useless ways to spend my time, I suppose, lord knows I've been told that often enough. I just... would life have been easier, better, less frustrating if I'd never married Hank? But if I hadn't, I wouldn't have my girls." Joyce verbalized.
"Everybody wonders how things might have gone," Emma murmured. "Time to get you inside, there's school information that you need to look over and sign, as the parent. Job opportunities, because you never could just spend the whole day doing nothing. And..." Emma paused, a hint of a smile on her lips, "I have a tub of strawberry ice cream. I'm fairly certain that it was your favorite."
Joyce smiled, remembering the weekends that she and Emma would stay up late, watching bad television and eating ice cream, talking until they crashed in the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes it amazed her that they ever managed to pass their classes. "You're too good to me, Em."
"Not good enough, Joyce. Not good enough," Emma countered, leading her into the mansion.
End part 2.
Joyce gave herself the first day as a semi-vacation. She unpacked some clothing, arranged her bath items in a decadent room that had a tub big enough for a small orgy, and lounged on a couch with Emma, catching up on the last sixteen years in far more detail than the occasional phone call would permit. Her justification was that hunting for a job would be easier when she was on East Coast time instead of California time, but the truth was that she didn't want to let Emma out of her sight, for fear that her friend would vanish. She couldn't imagine why she hadn't tried harder, stayed in more contact, maybe visited occasionally...
"I told you, it was Astrid. She was afraid we'd become lovers, and since she wanted me for herself, the idea was intolerable to her. Especially since you're not a telepath," Emma sighed, lounging in silken pajamas that were almost sheer. Slowly, she licked the double fudge ice cream from her spoon, and grinned. "Her meddlings seem to be wearing off, which I bet she never expected."
"While I did date a few girls in college, I don’t recall you ever doing the same," Joyce countered. "Where would she have even gotten that idea? Unless... was she prying into my mind? Reading my thoughts? I know that more than once, I had a few rather appreciative thoughts about you…"
Emma sighed, and lifted Joyce's feet, letting them rest on her lap. "Probably. I know she made you take Hank back at least twice, and fuzzed your memories so that you'd swallow his excuses and apologies. I think she put something there, a compulsion, to make you stay with him, no matter how much of a jerk he was. I know she did things like that to other people."
"All I can remember is that she was tall, had dark hair, and she was a bitch. I couldn't stand her, and I could never figure out why..." Joyce murmured. "I hope something unpleasant happened to her."
"She got locked in her skull, and was diagnosed as comatose," Emma offered, her gaze distracted. “I'm not sure if she'll ever find her way out and back from what I did. She tried to get into my head and make a few changes."
"Harsh," Joyce commented, digging up another spoonful of ice cream. "Someone should probably tell you that something like that isn't very nice, and you should be careful not to get caught."
"I'm surprised that you aren't wagging a finger at me saying 'shame, shame Emma.' Of course, your lack of sincerity is overwhelming..." Her eyes sparkled, and she took another bite of ice cream.
"That's because I learned years ago that you have very little shame about some things," Joyce retorted. "But I mean it; don't get caught if you decide to lock up the scary people personally, inside their own skulls. Someone's probably lobbied for a law against it, since we’ve had people who actually lobbied to try and register mutants."
"What on earth would make you say such a thing?" Emma arched one eyebrow, with an expression that would have looked coolly arrogant without the smudge of ice cream on her lip. “Are you implying that I might act less than within the bounds of proper law?”
With a hint of pink, Emma glanced down, licking at the smudge.
"Apart from spending two years at the same collage as you? Apart from seeing what you consider suitable corporate attire?" Joyce smirked, and then whispered, "I remember you so drunk that you couldn't walk straight. I remember what you said, and how in the morning, you didn't ask someone to shoot you for the memories, you just demanded the negatives, and tried to smother yourself in the pillow when the aspirin didn't work fast enough."
"That would do it," Emma muttered. “I should know better than to try that with someone who remembers my youthful indiscretions.”
"They took pictures because you were dancing on the tables. Even then, it was only because you were doing a better job than the paid dancers," Joyce teased. "I still have a few copies, actually."
"What! How?" Emma gasped. "And I shouldn't have been better, I was tapping their heads for whatever it was I was doing on the tables in the first place."
"There's advantages to having negotiable tutoring rates when the running-back needs to pass his art history exam or else." Joyce smirked, and added, "They make a nice little album."
"You said you worked at an art gallery, there was nothing said about albums." Emma was surprised, but she didn't sound quite as appalled as she was trying to.
Joyce nodded, and leaned back, taking another bite of her ice cream. "Didn't I ever tell you about my aunt with her obsession for scrap-booking? Since she'd also traveled a lot, I spent time there, looking over her pictures of the world. I learned a few things. It's not professionally done, and there are no records, but it's a nice little album. Maybe I'll show you some time."
"Should I offer to be good," Emma had a teasing sparkle in her eye, "Or should I offer to be bad?"
Joyce felt a tingle go through her spine, though she wasn't certain if it was the ice cream's cold catching up, or anticipation. "I have no doubts that you could make either strategy effective."
Emma held up another bite of ice cream, as if in a salute. "If you're going to do something, do it right."
Joyce laughed, and as she scraped at the bottom of her ice cream, she sighed. "We've talked, we've laughed, the ice cream's gone, or at least mine is. I should probably go get some rest, especially since I wanted to start checking some of those potential job opportunities out."
"You can stay here as long as you need a place. Don't let anyone bully you into taking less than you deserve by making you feel desperate," Emma cautioned. “Besides, I like having someone around that I can… well, someone I can relax with. Someone that doesn’t expect me to be the corporate CEO, or the Headmistress.”
"I won't," Joyce promised. "After seventeen years of Hank, I think I can spot those lines. The problem will be not ripping them into shreds as his proxy if they do try that."
Emma just laughed, "I know some wonderful cleaners. They can get just about anything out of any fabric, and they do leather as well."
Joyce snickered as she made her way back to her opulent room, stretching out on a bed big enough for three. She dreamed of white, and of soft, teasing delights.
End part 3.