She was home, finally. The nights unable to sleep not knowing if Buffy was all right or killed by something she did not want to believe even existed. She had spent the entire summer, three long months worrying and wondering if their last argument had resulted in Buffy's early demise. Dreams of her daughter wordlessly pleading for her mother's help only served to increase the guilt she felt and turn Joyce into an insomniac. It was easier to just not sleep than to be plagued with the horrifying dreams that were worse than any reality.
Her art gallery was on the verge of closing. She had spent so much time taking off to try to find Buffy at the drop of a hat that people could no longer count on it being open or their shipments arriving on time. There had been so many cities over the months they were all a blur to her. Giles had gone on trips of his own, but Joyce could not sit back idly and let the man she held responsible for this look for her daughter on his own.
The smile Joyce saw reflecting back at her in the window was a bittersweet one. She was happy and relieved to have her only daughter home but now she did not know what to do. She could no longer deny that her daughter was different. Special. Gifted in a way other parents could not imagine.
If only she had listened to Buffy maybe the divorce and the move could have been avoided. She had tried to tell her mother that there had been extenuating circumstances behind burning the high school gymnasium down and all of the late nights and trouble that had led up to that event.
She sighed heavily, absently sipping the hot chocolate that had now cooled enough as not to burn her mouth and glanced at the stairs. Everything was quiet upstairs. She imagined Buffy was settled in for the night. She did not look at the clock when she had stopped hearing movement above her in Buffy's room but it had been a while ago.
Joyce wanted to believe that her daughter was sleeping contentedly in her bed for the first time in months, but the anger would not subside and give her peace of mind. She felt like a terrible mother for feeling so spiteful, but damn it she wanted Buffy to know what she had gone through these months. It was not fair that she had only a matter of minutes to digest the information Buffy had given her about who and what she really was.
She had been so relieved to have her back whole and unharmed that Joyce had not made Buffy sit down and talk with her. It was something they would have to do. Slayer or not, Buffy still had to respect that she was living under her roof. There would be rules. It was as simple as that. Joyce could take the slaying, even though she dreaded the danger that her daughter was placed in night after night. She could not take the lies, the attitude that Buffy could go wherever and do whatever she pleased. That was going to stop. She was still just a girl after all. She wanted to believe her daughter's life was not tainted by death and evil.
Joyce stood from the couch, her feet taking her toward the stairs as if on autopilot. She wanted to wake Buffy and do something. She wanted to yell, to cry, to hold her, to feel for certain that she was well and truly alive. She clutched the banister, bracing herself against it to stop her from going further.
Joyce knew Buffy had to come to her. Buffy making the first step at repairing their relationship or it would never truly be fixed. She had to hang onto the hope that Buffy would do it or they were truly doomed to merely coexist in the same house and nothing more. She did not want that. Now that she knew who and what Buffy was, Joyce wanted them to have a chance.
"It's all up to you," she whispered as she forced herself away from the stairs and toward the kitchen.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com