"Can she ever forgive me?" whispered Joyce, as tears trickled down her cheeks.
The dry voice of the entity sharing her mind was oddly helpful in its bluntness. *Forgiveness is not my purpose in existence, Joyce. I represent truth, no matter how hard it is to bear. Rather, it is my sister, Hebe, who encourages the absolution and pardon of offenses by humans among each other. Still….,* Justice's inflection became musing, as she went on. *….as I have observed Hebe in her work, there remains very little that may be truly unforgivable, with people fairly willing to refrain from blame or causing guilt to those who wronged them, if their apology is accepted.*
"We, Hank and I, put her in a mental institution, just for telling us the truth!" Joyce choked, grabbing some more napkins from the middle of the kitchen table of her home, and dabbed her face with these. "How do I apologize to Buffy for that?"
*Your daughter has not told you the truth since then in her work as the Slayer,* pointed out Justice a trifle sardonically.
Joyce wouldn't have minded the slightest if at that moment her mind's companion had materialized in the other chair at the kitchen table across from her, just so that Justice could be properly glared at for saying that unkind observation.
While the woman was growling under her breath, the other presence seemed to ignore Joyce's displeasure, instead pensively saying, *You seem to be more concerned about the danger to her, rather than what has happened to you since our joining, and what was done during it.*
At the table, Joyce blinked, and then she shrugged in resigned acceptance. "It's not like I asked for it, Justice, so I might as well live with it. As for what happened to them both…." Joyce's face went iron-hard as she gazed into the distance, remembering the feel of a sword in her hand as it finished a pair of deserved executions, with the woman then gritting out, "I remember through you what they all did and planned! I'll do ANYTHING to protect Buffy and everyone else I love!"
*And Buffy Summers will do anything to protect her mother and those she loves,* quietly said Justice.
For a time, there was then silence in the kitchen.
"Not alone, she won't," finally said Joyce in a very determined voice.
Justice approvingly noted the sudden surge of resolve in her host's mind, but the entity then delivered her next question in a casual tone. *You are quite certain of this?*
"After what you told me?" Joyce shuddered. "Buffy dying in that cave, Xander becoming a hyena, Willow and her on-line demon, Giles having to help stop that snake demon…. With all that, somebody really needs to keep a close eye on them!"
*Let us say rather….a blind eye upon the Scooby Gang.*
Joyce sat bolt upright in her kitchen chair, and disbelievingly asked, "You're really willing to help?"
A mental sigh, that changed into an equally intangible, deprecating chuckle, was made inside the woman's head. *Since our joining by chaos magic, I have had no success in sundering the link between us. While it may be possible, I doubt that it can be done right at this moment, and in the meantime, as long as we are a pair, we may as well be to those who guard and protect this place, the….I believe the proper term is 'den mother.'*
Joyce's lips twitched in amusement over those last wry words, and then she unconsciously pulled those back to show her teeth to the world, the proper response of a maternal animal that would instantly fight to the death to defend her cubs. At the same time, a fierce firmness of purpose pulsed in the human's mind from a being that was equally dedicated to shielding the innocent and punishing the guilty.
A few moments later, Joyce shook herself, and after becoming more composed, the woman got up from her chair. Speaking to the air, she said, "Well, if we're going to lay down the law to the others--"
*Tell them there is a new sheriff in town--*
"Very funny. Anyway, it would be more convincing if we showed the kids exactly who we are."
Justice sent out an emotional wave of approval to Joyce. *Yes, gather our accouterments from your art shop that you put away before coming here. Then, attire yourself in them while speaking to your daughter and the others."
Heading for the front of the house on her way to her business, Joyce nodded, and then she offhandedly spoke, "Right, but before coming back here, I think maybe we should stop off somewhere else."
A suddenly wary Justice inquired, *Where, exactly?*
"Oh, a certain Crawford Street mansion." Right after that, the mother of the Slayer had left her home, and she began to stride rapidly with a single-minded purpose. It was fortunate that the street was deserted in the middle of the day. Even in a town where people quickly learned to mind their own business due to Sunnydale Syndrome, attention would certainly have been paid by onlookers towards an angry-looking woman currently stomping down the sidewalk, her fists clenched, and savagely muttering to herself.
"That creepy, stalking, coward who never thought that since he could talk, he really could use his breath for CPR! Which was just another sign of that moron's stupidity, who sat on his ass for a century whining about his curse, without even checking it out! 'One moment of perfect happiness,' idiot! If that statutory rapist ever got his clammy hands on my underage daughter long enough to accomplish that, even if he didn't change back to Angelus, I'd kill him myself!"
Joyce now began sweeping her right arm back and forth and then thrusting forward her flattened palm in furious jabs through the air around her, as she cocked her head as if listening to an unseen companion. An instant later, a vocal explosion erupted from her.
"What do you mean, stay calm?! I AM calm! Me not being calm means that instead of waving your sword under his nose and telling him to get out of town right NOW, I'd be planning on chopping that bastard's entire body into one-inch-size cubes, starting with his testicles!"
At that exact moment, a dozen blocks distant, Angel heard the moving van pulling up behind his mansion, and the vampire quickly unlatched the back garage door, carefully avoiding the lines of sunlight shining through the cracks at the sides of that panel. Scurrying towards the large wooden packing crate in the middle of the otherwise empty garage, Angel quickly clambered into the crate, crouching down as he pulled the lid into the proper position to completely cover the top. Even in the now-total darkness inside the crate, the vampire knew where the inner latches were, and he unerringly put his fingers at work, closing these fasteners to securely seal himself within the box.
Now lying down on the cushions on the bottom of the crate, Angel waited for the movers to take his box to their truck on the start of the vampire's journey to Los Angeles. He'd set this up long since, knowing there was always the chance he'd someday need to leave Sunnydale in a big hurry, and a creature of the night could hardly tool down the freeways at high noon in a black '57 T-bird convertible, the wind blowing his hair and the sun shining on his face. Instead, the movers knew to treat the crate gently, and more than enough money had been paid for them to carry out every word of his instructions on exactly where to ship the box containing a very bewildered Angel.
For the first time in minutes, the Irish native now had the chance to think it all through, instead of rushing around in utmost terror brought on by a truly unique event.
Those in the know about vampires understood that when the demon took over the dead body of a human, the previous occupant's soul was gone, leaving only memories behind. However, since this now-deceased being's stock of retained knowledge and experiences contained virtually all that made up a personality, parts of these recollections could occasionally influence the demon now controlling the body.
One of the few things in agreement among Angel and Angelus that the human, which centuries ago had drunkenly approached a most attractive woman late one night, had while living been a total waste of oxygen. Before having been drained of blood and turned, Liam-that-was had been a bully, a lecher, a rakehell, a layabout, and a complete disappointment to his family.
That didn't mean the Irishman was totally devoid of talents. In fact, Liam did have one very special gift that he took full advantage of during his tumultuous life.
When sober, that son of Eire instinctively always managed to know the precise moment when to decamp the vicinity when things became too hot for him, easily escaping the consequences of whatever he'd done. That trait had become a major part of the young man's character, and it had been strong enough to carry over when he'd become a vampire, one of the main reasons why Angelus had survived so long to become such a dangerous demon.
So, when just minutes ago Angel had felt a wave of utter panic wash over his mind, he'd promptly heeded the warning, and he set the events in motion that at this moment had his crate bouncing inside the moving van now leaving the Sunnydale town limits.
After vowing to himself to never return, a very relieved vampire now dwelled on the short statement that had come from the Liam personality just before the remaining wisps of individuality had faded back into the depths of Angel's consciousness. It didn't matter that this announcement had been made in Gaelic, since any male of every time and place would instantly understand the declaration of doom, disaster, and calamity, with all men feeling deep in their hearts (beating and otherwise) the chill of supreme fear at hearing just three words:
Her mother knows.
Author's Note: Well, that's the end of this story, and I'm not currently contemplating any kind of sequel or continuation at present. Perhaps if I think of more to write about Joyce/Justice, I'll start again. Perhaps. Anyway, thanks for all the reviews!
For your information, the following is presented:
1. The title of this story comes from adapting the aphorism "Justice delayed is justice denied."
2. Justice's statement during Ethan's execution is from the Latin legal phrase "Fiat justitia ruat caelum" which means "Do justice, let the sky fall," or "Let justice be done though the heavens fall" and ascribed to Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus (d. 43 B.C.). Both Justice and Joyce chose to do what needed to be done, regardless of the consequences.
3. As given in the last chapter, the Greek goddess known as Hebe was indeed the female deity in that pantheon concerned with forgiving and pardons, though she was better known as the goddess of youth, and also served as the cup-bearer to the Greek gods and goddesses during their feasts. When Hercules ended his life as a mortal and ascended to Olympus, he married Hebe. Considering she was the daughter of Zeus and Hera, the latter who sincerely hated that hero, there must have been serious mother-in-law problems.