Author:  Meltha

Rating:  G, nothing objectionable

Feedback:  Yes, thank you. Melpomenethalia@aol.com

Spoilers:  For "Normal Again" in season six

Distribution: Fanfiction.net and the Bunny Warren.  If you're interested, please let me know.

Summary:  In the summer between seasons two and three, Joyce is left alone with her guilt.

Author's NoteThe tenth in the Jewel Box series, a collection of 500 word fics (in response to The 500 Club) and an idea taken from Challenge in a Can www.dymphna.challenge.com.  In this case, it's Joyce, jewelry, and guilty.

Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy.  Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you.  Thank you.

Waiting

She knows she's begun to drink too much.  Bourbon has become a permanent item on her shopping list alongside bread and milk and cheese.  She always buys cheese. A stack of it sits in the refrigerator:  cheddar, Swiss, mozzarella.  It's as though she thinks if she buys her daughter's favorite food, she'll magically reappear at the front door again. 

It took three weeks for Joyce to return to the gallery.  Dressing in the mornings was torturous, and the drive into work was agony.  Every time the phone rang she jumped, expecting to hear the police on the other end of the line, looking for the mother of a dead body.  She would unexpectedly start weeping when statues of mothers and daughters would come in or when a blonde girl who looked just a little like Buffy browsed. 

Willow was the first to visit after that night.  She was her usual self, twisting her hands self-deprecatingly and asking tremulously if Buffy was there.  Joyce had simply said no, slammed the door in her face, and poured another bourbon.  When Mr. Giles came around, once again timidly inquiring where her daughter was, Joyce had responded by looking him straight in the eye.

"What's a Slayer?"

He'd dropped the glasses he'd been cleaning, shattering them on the kitchen floor.  They'd agreed to work together to find Buffy after an explanation she never would have believed unless she'd seen vampire dust blowing in the wind for herself.

She'd thrown out her own daughter, not once but twice.  The first time, she blocked her ears to the truth and gave her to the men in little white coats.  Buffy hadn't been insane.  Perhaps Joyce was the crazy one.  She'd been faced so often with the evidence of this other world her daughter inhabited and yet chosen to walk around blind.  That second time, that horrible night, when Buffy had told her the truth again and there was no denying it, Joyce had wanted her to stay put and do nothing, not able to believe her irresponsible little girl who couldn't remember simple instructions, who was always in trouble at school and couldn't manage driving a car, had to save the world.  She'd tried to hold her there, to make her stay in a reality where Joyce had the power to say no and expect her to stop.  Learn to say no, the books had said.  They hadn't been expecting this situation.

It's been three months now, and she's sitting at the island in the kitchen, her hand constantly running up and down the cord of the silver pendant that hangs almost to her waist.  She doesn't cry anymore; she lets the necklaces she wears, all of them long and silver and heavy in her hand like teardrops of metal, cry for her.  She drinks her bourbon, waiting for the phone to ring, waiting for news, waiting for her world to end.  And if it does, she knows it will be all her own fault.