Ignoring her daughters milling around, Joyce took one last look around the kitchen. She checked the pantry, refrigerator, and cupboards, making sure there was enough food for four hungry teens for a week. The plan was for three full days with Sam but after their last adventure she was planning ahead, just in case.
"The number is next to the phone, if you need me," Joyce said. "But..."
"Only in an emergency," Buffy said, repeating the well worn phrase. "And Xander and Willow can come over but no parties," she added, imitating Joyce, causing Dawn to giggle.
"And make sure your sister gets to school on time tomorrow," Joyce said. "She has that placement test in the morning."
"I could come with you instead," Dawn said, pouting. "I don’t need to take the test."
"Yes you do," Joyce said. "If you want to take advanced courses next year, it’s required."
"Buffy didn’t," Dawn said, unsuccessfully dodging a poke from her sister. "Ouch!"
"Buffy didn’t need to," Joyce said.
"Because she’s a dummy," Dawn said, sticking her tongue out.
"I’ll dummy you!" Buffy said, chasing her around the kitchen.
"Girls, behave," Joyce said. "No fighting while I’m gone."
"Car in the driveway," Buffy said, pausing to listen.
Nodding, Joyce headed for the front door, Dawn dancing around her, and Buffy slipping in front of them, making a show of casually opening the door.
"She doesn’t look like a rocket scientist," Buffy said, giving her mother an inquisitive look before turning back to look at the blonde woman getting out of her car. "And she’s tall."
"You’re just short," Dawn said, peaking around her to look out the door.
"Your sister isn’t short," Joyce said. "She’s just the right height for her."
"Yeah!" Buffy said, trying to push Dawn back away from the door.
"Ha!" Dawn said. "Buffys are short. Short, short, short!"
"Mom?" Buffy said, ignoring the last jibe from Dawn. "You won’t forget, will you?"
"Your birthday wish list?" Joyce said. "It’s in my purse."
"Good," Buffy said. "It’s very important." She turned to the woman standing nervously on the porch. "You must be Sam. I’m Buffy, the good daughter." She held out her hand.
"Hi," Sam said, shaking her hand. "Sam Carter."
"I’m the better daughter," Dawn said, shoving Buffy out of the way. "Mom said you’re a rocket scientist. I want to be like Agatha when I grow up. What’s that?" She pointed at a patch on Sam’s leather jacket.
"Unit patch from the Gulf War," Sam said, smiling down at her.
"Did you get to fly planes?" Dawn asked. "Or go on the shuttle?"
"Yes," Sam said. "I flew an F16, not the shuttle. That’s a different part of the Air Force."
"So, nothing to do with Area 51? Or black helicopters?" Buffy asked. "You better bring Mom back."
"Buffy," Joyce said. "Dial it down. Sam and I will be back in three days, with no side trips to Area 51."
"And no black helicopters," Sam said. "I hope," she added under her breath.
"Girls, we need to get going," Joyce said. "You can continue the interrogation when we get back."
"But I’ve got these other questions," Buffy said, pulling a piece of paper out of a pocket. "Willow and I worked really hard on them."
"Willow?" Sam said.
"My best friend," Buffy said, holding out the list. "Here, be prepared to answer these when you get back."
"Buffy!" Joyce said, taking the list and stuffing it into her purse.
"Mom!" Buffy said. "Just doing my job."
Sighing, Joyce leaned down and kissed her cheek before turning and giving Dawn a hug. "Love you both," she said.
"Love you!" Dawn and Buffy echoed.
"All set?" Sam asked, taking Joyce’s suitcase.
"Yes," Joyce said, giving her daughters one last look before following her to the car.
"The short bit was overdoing it," Buffy said, watching Joyce and her friend drive away. "You’ll have to pay."
"It was believable," Dawn said, preparing to run. "They were totally fooled."
"I wasn’t," Buffy said, turning and chasing a screaming Dawn up the stairs.
"I did just what you asked," Dawn said through the crack in her door, trying to close it.
Pushing her door open, Buffy picked Dawn up and dumped her on her bed. "There’s that," she said, looking down on her. "Verdict?"
"I like her," Dawn said. "I think she’s awesome."
"That’s just because she convinced Mom to let you read Girl Genius," Buffy said.
"I want to be a scientist when I grow up," Dawn said. "And fly jets."
"Then you have to do good on that test tomorrow," Buffy said. She pointed at Dawn’s desk. "Get studying. I’ll call you when dinner is ready."
"Pizza?" Dawn said, giving her sister her best puppy dog eyes.
"Put those away!" Buffy said, covering her eyes. "Willow’s coming over. She wants to try that new Indian place." Turning around, she headed out of Dawn’s bedroom.
"Janet says they’re awesome," Dawn said, sitting up.
"Get your homework done and you can find out," Buffy said, stopping in the door. "Otherwise it’s peanut butter sandwiches."
"Yes, Bossy," Dawn said, grimacing. Slipping off her bed she opened her book bag and took out her books.
"Tough crowd," Sam said, removing Joyce’s luggage from the trunk of her rental.
"They haven’t decided if it’s a good thing or not yet," Joyce said, looking around the airport.
"And do you?" Sam asked, pausing for a moment to look at her.
"I wouldn't be here if I didn’t," Joyce said. "About to fly off to a private resort for a long weekend with a dashing rocket scientist."
"So, it’s not just because we spend time together in the future?" Sam said, leaning back against the car with her hands in her pockets.
"No," Joyce said. "I recall several people saying that you can’t live your life based on future knowledge."
"It helps to not know it in the first place," Sam said, "but time is fluid. Just because it happened like that for some future version of our selves doesn’t mean it will again."
"It doesn’t matter. I don’t remember those future events," Joyce said, stepping into Sam’s personal space. Giving her a quick kiss, she stepped back with a wink. "So they aren’t going to influence my future. Some future me saw value in spending time with you and I very much agree."
"Good," Sam said, blushing. "Shall we get going?" She waved towards the terminal. "It isn’t a long flight."
"After you," Joyce said, picking up her carryon.
Sam looked around the small jet. She really hoped the weekend went well. It’d been a spur of the moment idea. Another estate sale, this time at an old mansion owned by a late 19th century explorer, on an island that had been turned into a resort. It wasn’t considered a high priority, with little likelihood of Goa’uld artifacts being present.
But with Daniel off world and Jack and Teal’c off to some big hockey game that left her the only one available to investigate. So she’d turned it into a semi-vacation. She’d managed to convince General Hammond that she had an outside expert she could bring in, who’d already signed the required NDAs. And Joyce had agreed to come along.
"So, what was on that list Buffy gave you?" she asked Joyce, as they waited for several late passengers, a noisy group, to finish boarding.
Reaching for her purse, Joyce pulled out the wrinkled list. Reading it, she blushed. "I’m not sure we need to go over this," she said. "Typical nosy teenager."
"At least she didn’t ambush us with it," Sam said. "Who is Willow? Besides the best friend."
"Willow would be the local teen genius," Joyce said. "And tutor. She helped Buffy catch up on her classes when we first moved to Sunnydale and they’ve been close friends ever since. She appears to be quite shy."
"But isn’t?" Sam said.
"Precocious, and private," Joyce said. "She and Xander help keep Buffy grounded."
"And Xander would be?"
"Willow’s oldest best friend. They’ve known each other since they were five," Joyce said. "He treats her like a sister. And possibly has a crush on Buffy."
"Boyfriend material?" Sam said. "Need help with that? As honorary aunt I’ve helped vet potential boyfriends for Cassie."
"Buffy seems to have decided he’s big brother material, and Willow has other ideas. She’s more likely to be interested in Buffy than Xander," Joyce said. "Dawn is the one with her eye on poor Xander, though she’s really too young."
"And Buffy? Is she interested in Willow, as more than a friend?" Sam asked, curious.
"She’s really hard to read, even for me," Joyce said. "Before we moved to Sunnydale it seemed like there was a new boyfriend every month. Since then, there’ve been signs of boyfriends but no one she’s wanted to introduce me to, so it must not be anything serious."
"You seem to have everything under control," Sam said.
"It’s a Mom thing, as Buffy would say," Joyce said. "We go through patches of understanding and alienation."
"I see Janet going through that with Cassie," Sam said. "My mother died when I was twelve, so I don’t have much experience with that."
"I’m sorry, Sam," Joyce said, squeezing her hand.
"It was a long time ago," Sam said. "My father, the General, didn’t have much patience or time for myself or my brother. But that’s a topic requiring a lot of alcohol and a box of tissues. Let’s see this list then."
"Are you sure?" Joyce asked, taking out a pen. "We can save it for later."
"No, now is fine," Sam said. "Go for it."
"As you wish," Joyce said, winking at her. "Question one - are you evil?"
"Straight to the point," Sam said, nodding. "Have you had evil boyfriends or girlfriends in the past?"
"Not that I’m aware of, though I was asked out on a date by someone in Sunnydale who kept all of his many previous wives in his basement," Joyce said. "Fortunately, I’d met you already so I said no before becoming his next wife."
"I’m glad I could help," Sam said, nodding. "As far as I know, I’ve never been evil."
"Okay," Joyce said, marking off the question. "Question two - Have you ever been possessed by or been the minion of an Evil Overlord?"
"That’s actually two questions," Sam said. "Possessed? Or been a minion? I can’t answer either question."
"No?" Joyce said.
"The complete answer would be classified," Sam said, shaking her head. "But the official answer would be no."
"How can it be both?" Joyce asked, curious.
"You’ve seen how complicated my job can be," Sam said. "Remember Arani and Sappho? There might have been a similar encounter or two, though not exactly."
"Ah, okay. So, for the record, no," Joyce said. "Question three - have you ever been married?"
"No," Sam said. "Came close once or twice but work gets in the way."
"What about us then?" Joyce said. "We obviously haven’t done the Vegas thing yet, but could you imagine us making this something more permanent?"
"Previous occasions were made difficult by them not knowing about my job, or a cultural misunderstanding. But you at least have some idea," Sam said. "Even if not the exact details."
"We’ve never discussed technical details," Joyce said. "I know the what but not the how or where. It’s probably better that way."
"To answer your question, there are certain legalities that would make it difficult," Sam said. "Vegas would certainly cause work related problems if it happened."
"So I’m just your 'piece on the side'? Do you have a girlfriend in every 'port', as the saying goes?" Joyce asked.
"No! Absolutely not," Sam said, leaning forward to give her a quick kiss. "I would like to continue exploring where this thing between us will go. With your co-operation, of course."
"And not just so you can take another ride in a blue box?" Joyce said, smirking.
"Planes, trains, and automobiles, not just blue police boxes," Sam said. "Anywhere or any way you want to go."
"Good," Joyce said, returning her kiss.
"You two are so adorable," a voice said behind them.
Turning around, they saw a blonde head peering at them over their seats.
"Melody, leave them alone," another voice said. "They were having a private conversation."
"But, Val, they’re so cute," Melody said.
"I’m sorry, she means well," the other woman said, replacing the blonde.
"Thanks," Joyce said. "No offense taken."
"Have we met?" Sam asked. "You look familiar."
"We’re the Pussycats," Melody said. "Josie’s over there with Alan." She waved at a couple several rows in front of them.
"No, that's not it," Sam said. "At a conference several years ago? You gave a presentation on a new type of battery?"
"It’s awesome," Melody said, giggling . "All of our equipment uses it. Days and days."
"Valerie Smith," Val said, holding out her hand. "It was just an improvement over something I built years ago. We were on tour and kept ending up in places with bad power."
"It’s an interesting approach," Sam said. "We’re investigating it for several projects. It beats anything else we can cheaply replicate."
"Excellent," Val said, smiling. "I’d be interested in what you do with it."
"That might be possible," Sam said. "I don’t have any cards with me..."
"Here," Joyce said, "use this." She handed her pen and a business card to Sam, who quickly wrote her name and number on it.
"We’ll let you get back to your thing," Valerie said, taking the card. "Hope you enjoy your visit."
Thank you," Joyce said.
"What’s up?" Sam asked, listening to Joyce humming some unidentifiable tune as they waited for their dinner in the hotel dining room.
"Hmmm?" Joyce raised an eyebrow.
"You’ve been humming that song since we checked in," Sam said.
"Really?" Joyce said. "I was just thinking that Arlene would be so jealous."
"My younger sister," Joyce said. "She was a huge Pussycats fan when we were growing up. But she never got to see them live."
"They’ve been around that long?" Sam asked.
"They don’t look their age," Joyce said, "but that’s the original group. They’re playing here tomorrow night."
"Did you want to go?" Sam asked.
"What do you have planned for tomorrow?" Joyce asked.
"We have the auction tomorrow, of course, and the resort is having a cookout in the evening," Sam said. "I thought we could go dancing after dinner?"
"Dancing tonight?" Joyce said. "It’s been a while since I’ve gone dancing with a willing partner."
"Yes," Sam said, "very willing. We can go to the concert tomorrow."
"You clean up very well," Joyce said, eyeing Sam in her dress and heels. "I’m tempted to keep you here."
"I could say the same thing," Sam said, smirking and running her eyes up and down Joyce’s dress encased form.
"And you have," Joyce said. "Shall we?"
"After you," Sam said, holding the door open for her. She followed Joyce down the hall to the elevator, keeping an eye on the figure in front of her. Reaching the elevator, Joyce turned around and gave her a wink.
"Enjoying the view?" She asked. Blushing, Sam nodded.
The elevator seemed to take forever to reach their floor. When it opened, it wasn’t empty.
"Care to join us, ladies?" Valerie said, stepping back to make room.
"Thanks," Sam said, nodding at the others and guiding Joyce into the elevator.
"You’ve met Melody," Valerie said. "This is Josie," she nodded at a slim redhead, "and Alan."
"We’re looking forward to your concert tomorrow," Joyce said, once the doors closed.
"You’re fans?" Alan, his arms wrapped around Josie, asked.
"One of my sisters listened to you and watched your show when we were growing up," Joyce said. "She has all of your albums. We didn’t know you would be here this weekend, or she would have insisted on coming with us."
"It’s nice to meet dedicated fans," Josie said, smiling at her.
"The TV show was fun to shoot, but not very realistic," Valerie said.
"I liked it," Melody said. "A lot more fun than the real thing."
"I can imagine," Joyce said. "Running for your life, being chased by minions, is a lot more stressful than it looks like on TV. What happened to the cat, Sebastian?"
"He’s still with us," Melody said.
"During one of our encounters they turned into an episode," Josie said, "the one with the Countess, he got sprayed with something and looks like he hasn’t aged a day since."
"You probably shouldn’t spread that around," Sam said, frowning. "You don’t really know us."
"We trust you," Melody said, smiling at them.
"We have friends who verified that you’re one of the good guys, Major Carter," Valerie said. "Though they wouldn’t tell us what you really do."
"She keeps secrets from me also," Joyce said, squeezing Sam’s hand. "Occupational hazard."
The elevator came to a stop, the doors opening onto the hotel lobby. "It’s been nice meeting you," Josie said.
Nodding in agreement, Sam and Joyce stepped out into the lobby. Walking towards the entrance, they joined a queue for the shuttle to the island’s only nightclub.
"Mind if we join you?" Valerie asked, her hand gripping Melody’s. "Josie and Alan are off to dinner. They’re going dancing later."
"Of course," Sam said.
"You said that the TV show wasn’t realistic," Joyce said. "But how much of it was based on real events? It looks like you ran into mad scientists on a regular basis. I wouldn’t have expected there to be that many real ones."
"I can’t say," Valerie said. "But everything was based on something that happened. to us on tour."
"Alexandra is a lot nicer in real life," Melody said. "And Alex makes a good minion."
"Whenever you came up with one of your inventions on the show to save the day, he did seem to be your main assistant," Joyce said to Valerie.
"It was a group effort," Valerie said. "It takes teamwork to make music like we do. We all contribute. The TV show was supposed to be like the Monkees so they played things for laughs."
"So, basically an early version of Reality TV," Sam said. "Real life events rearranged for dramatic purposes."
They continued chatting the rest of the way to the nightclub, separating once they reached the entrance, Joyce and Sam heading to the bar and Valerie and Melody heading directly to the dance floor.
Once they were alone, Sam whispered in Joyce’s ear, "You know an awful lot about them for something your sister was a fan of."
"I might have had a crush on one of them," Joyce said, grinning.
"Which one?" Sam asked.
"That would be telling," Joyce said, "but teen me had a thing for the snarky bad girl."
"And now?" Sam asked, taking a sip of her drink.
"Smart girls are hot," Joyce said. "Especially rocket scientists."
"At least we’re clear on that," Sam said, smiling and holding out her hand. "Care to dance?"
"Yes, please," Joyce said, taking her hand and following her out onto the dance floor.