Reuniting with her mother didn’t go quite as swiftly or as easily as Spike kept insisting it would. Although Joyce did talk to her on the phone once, and was apparently reading the notes Buffy still left for her, another full week went by without an invitation for Buffy to come home or any indication Joyce was even considering it. So, when her mother showed up around lunchtime, knocking on the door of the mansion, Buffy didn’t know what to say to her.
“May I come in?” Joyce asked.
“Oh, of course. I’m sorry, Mom. I was just surprised.”
“I brought lunch.” Joyce held out a pizza box. “It might need to be warmed up, though. I hope you have an oven.”
“We have a microwave,” Buffy said, leading the way to the kitchen.
She missed the way Joyce flinched at hearing the “we”.
“Here we are.” Buffy cleared some newspapers off the counter and made space for the pizza box.
“Who reads the paper?” Joyce frowned at it.
“Spike does sometimes, but that’s here because I was looking for some kind of summer job. It’s pretty boring just hanging out here all day. At least I can see Willow more now that school’s out, but she’s taking a class at UCS, so she’s still busy. And Xander has a job—”
Buffy blinked at the sudden change of subject, then gestured to the hallway. “His room is down there. I’d guess he’s sleeping.”
“At noon?” Joyce frowned her disapproval.
Buffy just stared at her. “Mom. Spike is a vampire. I know you know that and I know he flashed his fangs at you last week. Vampires sleep in the daytime. It’s their thing. Prowl all night, sleep all day. Don’t you watch any horror movies?”
“Apparently I’ve been unwittingly living in one for many years,” Joyce said stiffly. “I don’t know enough about vampires to know what is real and what isn’t.”
“Sorry. I guess I’m just so used to—he’s asleep. That’s what he does in the daytime.”
“Did you…do you want to talk to him? I can wake him up. He’ll be grumpy, but he
“No, no. That’s quite all right. I’m just trying to understand your life with him.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “What do you mean, my ‘life with him’? We just share a very large house.” She frowned as she began to understand. “Do you think we’re sleeping together?”
“Well,” Joyce said stiffly. “I don’t know, do I? I thought you were on your own and it turns out you’re living in a house with a much older man…er…vampire.”
“In case you didn’t notice the weeds in the yard and the peeling paint, this house was abandoned. This is where Angelus was living with Spike and Dru when he decided to end the world. It’s where I… it’s where I killed him and sent him into the hell dimension he was trying to open. Right out there.” Buffy pointed to the just barely visible atrium.
“Spike and I had a truce. He would help me save the world from Acathla if I would let him take his girlfriend away.”
“And yet he is still here.”
“Yeah. Dru wasn’t real happy that Spike helped me kill her… Angelus. She ran away somewhere. He’s been afraid to leave here in case she comes back.” Buffy bit her lip. “I think he’s getting over that, though. He wants to go look for her now.”
“Then why hasn’t he?” Joyce sniffed, then gave a small yelp as she received her answer from an unexpected direction.
“Because I’m not leaving the Slayer by herself until I know someone’s taking care of her.” Spike’s voice was cold and hard as he appeared in the entrance to the room, although his expression was reasonably friendly for a just-awakened vampire.
Buffy was grateful to see he’d put on a shirt and combed his hair, so he didn’t look like he’d just rolled out of bed, even though she knew he had.
“I’m sorry, Spike. Were we too loud?” Buffy said.
“You weren’t exactly quiet, but it’s the smell of pizza that woke me up.”
Joyce frowned, moving so as to keep the counter between herself and the man she was finally starting to accept was a real-life monster.
“Do you want some? I thought vampires drank blood?”
“We do,” he said, tersely, then continued in a kinder tone. “I can’t live on human food, but doesn’t mean I can’t eat the things I like. And I like pizza.”
While Spike and Joyce sat in uncomfortable silence, Buffy put slices of pizza on paper plates and warmed them in the microwave. Joyce got the first one, and the second went to Spike. Taking the last one for herself, she sat down at the counter and began to eat. Joyce continued to eye Spike with some trepidation as she perched on a stool opposite Buffy.
Spike took his plate and nodded to Joyce. “I’ll just take this to my room, Mrs. Summers, and leave you to get reacquainted with your daughter.”
“Wait,” Joyce said. “I… I’d like to talk to you, too. If you don’t mind. And please call me Joyce.”
He shrugged and sat down next to Buffy. “I don’t mind.”
In spite of her words, Joyce was silent for several minutes while they all munched away on their pizza. Buffy put three more slices on a big piece of paper towel and set them in the oven to warm up. Instead of asking any more questions, Joyce excused herself to use the bathroom, and Buffy led her to the hallway to point out which door it was. Joyce hesitated as she passed the entrance to Buffy’s room, seeing Mr. Gordo on the bed, as well as other signs that someone was obviously using that room. A frowning glance into the other open door showed her Spike’s unmade bed and his leather coat hanging on a chair.
She continued to the bathroom, noting it didn’t appear that either Buffy or Spike did much to keep it clean, but deciding to keep that opinion to herself. On the way back to the kitchen she took another look into the two bedrooms, admitting to herself that they seemed to be quite separate and there was no sign they were being shared.
“Find what you were lookin’ for?” Spike asked, raising one eyebrow.
Joyce felt herself flush, knowing she’d been caught snooping, but she held her head up as she snapped back. “I have a right to know if my underage daughter is being abused by an older man.”
Spike’s hand on Buffy’s arm prevented her from making what was obviously going to be an indignant reply.
“That you do, Joyce. I’d never deny you that. Although I’m not sure that right didn’t become a bit dodgy when you told your underage daughter not to come home.” His eyes challenged her to deny the truth of his words
“I didn’t understand,” she said softly, sending Buffy an apologetic smile. “I still don’t, but at least now I know there is something to understand.” She glanced at Spike again. “Could you… I mean… do you have to…” While she stumbled for words, he went into game face, baring his fangs.
“That what you wanted?” he asked, yellow eyes fastened on hers.
She cringed away, in spite of herself. ‘Yes… thank you.”
“No problem.” Spike shook off his fangs and wrinkles and went back to his pizza.
“The books Mr. Giles gave me, they say vampires are demons? Demons from hell? Like the devil? Are you a… devil?”
“Vampires are dead people, Joyce. I’m nothing but a corpse that is animated by a demon. Release the demon by staking or beheading me, and I turn to the dust I should have been over 100 years ago.”
Joyce shuddered. “I don’t understand.” She turned to Buffy. Was your… Angel… a dead man too?”
“Yes, Mom. The only difference between Angel and Spike is that Angel had a soul. So he wasn’t evil. Until he lost it,” she finished in a whisper.
“That is not the only difference between that wanker and me!” Spike’s growl was low, but his indignation was clear, causing Joyce to cringe again.
“You’re right,” Buffy said, putting a reassuring hand on his arm. “I’m sorry. You’re nothing like Angel…. Or Angelus.”
“Too bloody right, I’m not,” he muttered. To Joyce’s surprise, he calmed immediately.
“You don’t look or act dead,” she said, staring hard at him.
In response, he held out his hand and said, “Touch me”. He also stopped breathing and became preternaturally still. She touched the cool skin on his hand, recoiling, then noticed his lack of breath and movement. She shrank away from him, staring at Buffy in horror.
“You went… did… with a dead body?”
“Breathe, Spike!” Buffy said, nudging him into motion. She avoided her mother’s eyes as she said, “That’s not what it’s like when they’re moving and talking, Mom. You didn’t know what Spike was until he flashed his game face at you. And if you hadn’t felt his skin and seen him play dead, you wouldn’t have thought anything about it now. I didn’t even know what Angel was when I first met him.”
“But, Buffy, a… corpse? How could you not know?”
“An animated corpse,” Spike said, coming to Buffy’s rescue. “The demon does a good job of providing life to the body it takes over. Much more durable and powerful life than it was before. And the body still has all the parts it had as a human including a brain, so it knows how to walk and talk, and…. do other things that humans do.” He picked another slice of pizza off the towel. “Even eat pizza and drink beer.”
“So, vampires can have sex then.”
Spike choked on his food as Buffy wailed, “Mom!”
“I just want to be clear Buffy. You are living with another vampire.”
“Mom. Look, I slept… had sex with Angel one time. On my birthday. We didn’t plan it, it just happened when I was—well never mind. You don’t need the gory details. The point is, I did it. Okay? Just like thousands of other teenage girls do with their boyfriends every day. Except their boyfriends don’t lose their souls and go all evil and start killing people. And those other girls aren’t slayers, so if their boyfriends do go evil, they don’t have to kill them for it.” She took a deep breath. “It was one. Freaking. Time. And it was a disaster. In what universe would I want to ever have sex again with anybody? Never mind another vampire!”
Buffy slammed what was left of her pizza down. “I’ll be in my room!” She stomped out of the kitchen, leaving Joyce biting her lip and Spike looking like he might be sick.
“This isn’t going well, is it?” Joyce said. She glanced at Spike’s face before he shut it down. “For either one of us.”
“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. He got up and stared down the hall at Buffy’s closed door, then back at Joyce, turning his gaze on her with no warmth in his eyes. “I’m not the one that just accused her world-saving hero of a daughter of being some kind of teenaged necrophiliac bimbo. Buffy has her room. I have mine. We cross paths here in the kitchen sometimes in the morning, and we worked on her studies so she could pass those exams she missed while she was saving the fucking world. And we go out at night and fight evil together… sometimes.”
His eyes were still cold, but she heard the pain in his voice. “That’s all we do. That’s all we ever will do. Do you think I don’t know how wrong anything else would be? She’s everything that’s good, and I’m… I’m everything that’s not.” He dropped his gaze and his head. “And I’m going to be out of her life just as soon as you stop being such a self-centered, selfish bitch and let her back into yours.”
He went to the pantry and took out a new bottle of whiskey. “I’ll be in my room.”
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