Buffy dashed out of the kitchen and they could hear her rapid footsteps on the stairs. Spike and Joyce stared at each other in a silent contest of wills. With a sigh, Joyce dropped her gaze.
“So. Are you here to stay, or are you going to make my daughter unhappy again by running back to your real girlfriend?”
“Ouch!” Spike said, visibly wincing. “Got right to the point, didn’t you?”
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
“The watcher and I think it might be good if I hang around a while. Seems like some demon is planning a big event and it’s bringing a lot of undesirables to Sunnydale. And the other slayer is a bit of a loose cannon. She may or may not be reliable backup for Buffy.”
Joyce sighed again. “We’ve tried to include Faith as much as we can. The poor girl has had a terrible life so far and it’s made her much… harder… than someone her age has any right to be.”
“Point is, no matter how hard a life she’s had, she’s a slayer. She has a duty, and if she doesn’t want to do it, Buffy could suffer for it.”
Joyce was silent, but her face was set into lines of stubborn resistance.
“As for the rest of it… Dru and I… we aren’t together anymore. She said I’m not enough demon for her, and that I’m too… too….” He took a deep breath. “She thinks I spend too much of my time thinking and worrying about Buffy.” He stared at Joyce, forcing her to see what she didn’t want to. “You know I’m in love with her. You figured that out last year, yeah? It didn’t go away while I was gone, and I don’t expect it’s going to.”
“She’s just a child—” Joyce shook her head, and started over. “I know, she’s legally an adult now, and I know she’s had some… experience… I would have preferred she hadn’t, but she’s very young and you’re… not.”
“No, I’m not. I’d be a bit old for her even if I were human and of this time. Although, not in my time,” he said, looking thoughtful. “In my time, our age difference would be considered just about right.”
“You’re not human, and this isn’t your time.” Joyce seemed to be searching for whatever reasons she could find to prevent the relationship she was afraid to acknowledge.
“No. It isn’t. And the Slayer isn’t some delicate flower that’s never been without the protection of her family while they pick out the proper young, but mature, gentleman for her.” Spike didn’t mention that Joyce had thrown her under-age daughter out of her home, but he could see her wince.
“Touché” Joyce said. “She’s not a normal eighteen-year-old, and you’re not an ordinary older man.”
“I’m not even a normal vampire,” Spike said with a snort of laugher, then sobered. “I’m not going to hurt her, Joyce. If I think that’s what’s going to happen, I’ll take myself out of her life. I promise you.”
“Your idea of hurting her and mine are not the same thing.”
“I expect they aren’t,” he said. “But it is what it is, and whatever else it becomes is between the Slayer and me.”
The sound of Buffy jumping down the stairs, put an end to the conversation, and Joyce was wearing a forced smile when Buffy joined them.
“Are we ready to go?”
“Just let me get my jacket,” Joyce said. “I’ll drive.” She went out to the hall closet to get her coat, leaving Buffy and Spike staring at each other.
“What did you guys talk about?”
“’Bout what you’d expect. She thinks I’m not what you need in your life and was hopin’ I was leaving again.”
He shook his head. “Not unless you tell me you want me gone, or I think being here is harming you in some way.”
“I want you here,” she said, blushing, but meeting his eyes firmly.
He nodded. “Let’s go have ourselves a birthday celebration, and we’ll talk later about what that means.”
“Can we drop you somewhere, Spike?” Joyce asked as they walked out of the restaurant.
“That was some serious desserting,” Buffy said before Spike could answer. “Thank you, Spike. That’s the best chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted.”
“I think it was the vanilla ice cream that made the dish,” Spike responded, snorting at her attempt to change the subject.
“It was delicious,” Joyce said, pretending she didn’t know Buffy had deliberately tried to derail her thoughts. “Thank you, Spike. It was very thoughtful of you.”
“Wanted the Slayer to have something better than facing a homicidal maniac to remember for her eighteenth birthday.”
“And on that happy note….” Joyce unlocked the car doors and stared at Spike. “Do you want me to drop you somewhere?”
“Since I’m obviously not invited back to your house,” Spike said with a wry twist to his mouth, “I reckon I’ll just run a few errands and then make my way back to Crawford Street.”
“Mom! That was rude. What if I want Spike to come back to the house? I haven’t seen him for a long time. We have catching up to do.”
Joyce sighed. “Yes. I suppose it was rude, especially after he bought us dessert. But it’s been a long day and I was hoping to go to bed soon.”
Buffy put her hands on her hips. “And having Spike in the house is going to make that impossible?” She blew out a strong breath and continued. “Look, I know you don’t want… and we aren’t going to… but if you don’t trust me….” She stopped and got a sterner expression on her face. “You do remember that we lived in the same house for more than a month, right? If Spike was going to seduce me, or ravage me, or whatever it is you think will happen if you aren’t in the same room, don’t you think it would have happened then?”
Spike’s face was still as he waited to see how Joyce would react. Her shoulders slumped and she gave in. “You’re right. I’m being rude, but in my defense, I had to watch one old vampire take advantage of your youth and break your heart. I’m just trying to—”
Spike interrupted her. “You almost lost your daughter tonight, and you’re tryin’ to keep her safe, physically and emotionally. Trust me, Joyce, I understand that… and I want the same things for her. But she’s the Slayer. Her life is on the line every night. I’m no threat to her physical safety. I’m here because I want her to be the longest lived slayer ever and I’ll do whatever I can to make that so.”
“And her emotional well-being?” Joyce glared at him, making it clear she remembered their conversation from earlier in the evening.
“Not going to hurt her,” he said quietly. “Not going to do anything to make her have to stake me, not going to change into some kind of monster just because she—” He shook his head. “This conversation shouldn’t even be happening. I want to be here with Buffy. She wants me here. That’s as far as we’ve gone in terms of a relationship. Anything else is up to her.”
“Her is standing right here!” Buffy glared back and forth between them. “Anything and everything is up to ‘her’. Get over yourselves, both of you.”
Both Spike and Joyce managed to look equally abashed at the scolding, but Joyce spoke first.
“You’re right, Buffy. I’m sorry. Let’s all go back to the house. Please get in, Spike.” Joyce opened the driver’s door and got behind the wheel while Buffy and Spike took a moment to sort out where Buffy was going to sit. At Spike’s insistence, she got into the passenger seat while he sprawled in the back.
No one spoke during the short ride to the Summers home. They were out of the car, on the way to the front door and Joyce had remained silent. Without looking at either one of them, she unlocked the door and opened it, keeping her gaze down as she took off her coat. Still without meeting anyone’s eyes, she hung up her coat and walked to the stairs.
“I’m just going to go to bed now. I have a busy day tomorrow… and you have school, Buffy. Please don’t stay up too late.”
“I won’t, Mom,” Buffy responded, rolling her eyes at Spike’s grin. “I promise. Good night.”
“Good night, Joyce,” Spike added. “I won’t stay long. Slayer needs her beauty sleep.”
“Good night, Buffy, Spike.” Still without having turned to look at either of them, Joyce disappeared up the stairs.
“What do you mean, I need my beauty sleep? Are you implying I’m getting old and ugly?”
She put her hands on her hips and gave him a mock glare. He laughed and shook his head as he reached for her, putting his hands around her waist and pulling her closer.
“You know that’s not what I meant, love. You’re just as beautiful as you were when I left here. More so, to be honest. You’ve lost that worried look you used to have, and you’re obviously eating better.”
“So now you’re saying I’m fat?”
She tried to maintain the illusion that she was insulted and angry, but he just kept chuckling and held her tighter.
“I’m saying you’re growing into the amazing woman I knew you were goin’ to be. You’re beautiful, curvaceous, and if you don’t ask me to kiss you now, I won’t be responsible for my actions.”
Buffy put her arms around his neck and stood on her toes to reach his mouth. “Kiss me,” she murmured against it.
There was nothing tentative about this kiss—only their second one—on Spike’s part or Buffy’s. He gave her a second or two before he ran his tongue over her lips, asking for entrance. Without hesitation, she sent her tongue out to meet it. They played dueling tongues for a while until with a groan, Spike deepened the kiss even more, holding her up when her legs threatened to give out. Eventually Buffy tore her mouth away to gasp for more air.
“Wow, wowie, wow” she said, feeling his chest shake under her cheek as he chuckled. Now that she wasn’t so focused on what their mouths and tongues were doing, she could feel his length pressed against her stomach and she stiffened just enough that he let go of her.
“Sorry, love. I don’t have any control over that. Not when you’re that close and I’m kissing you.”
“Guess we can’t blame it on sparring this time, huh?” she said, blushing. “It’s… it’s okay. I didn’t mean to make you let go.” She peered up at him, blushing even more.
“Just as well, sweetheart. Not saying I don’t want more, but I’m just back, your mum wishes I wasn’t, and I’ve no doubt your watcher has a stake with my name on it. We’ve got time to work this out.”
“Spike,” Buffy said, then shook her head and sighed. “I don’t know what I want to say to you. I want to remind you I’m not a virgin, and I’m over eighteen…. And at the same time, I’m really glad you aren’t going to push me because I don’t know if I….” She looked up at him, reading on his face the calm acceptance of whatever she was going to say. “I know what I said when I was mad at Mom about never having sex again, especially not with another vampire, but I… I think I’m over that.” She blushed furiously, but made herself continue. “But I don’t know if I… I love you. And, I want to be in love when I—and that’s dumb, cause I already have and being in love didn’t keep that from being awful—and I—”
He put his fingers on her lips. “Shhh, love. I understand what you’re saying. You want to love with your heart, not just your body.”
She sighed in relief. “That’s what I was trying to say. I mean, I know you’re a guy and it’s different for you, but—”
He pulled her into a loose embrace, obviously leaving it up to her how close their bodies were. He smiled when she put her arms around his neck and let their bodies touch, neither pushing against, nor avoiding, the hard object pressing into her stomach. He nuzzled her neck and placed a light kiss on it.
“Ah, there’s my girl. It’s not that different for me, love. I’m just way ahead of you in havin’ my heart and body on the same page. If I just wanted your amazing little body, I’d keep kissing you until I got it. But I don’t want to coax you into bed by pushing the right buttons to get your body makin’ decisions for your heart. I want you there because you want to be there with me. I want all of Buffy.”
Buffy stiffened and frowned up at him. “I don’t know if I should be happy that you don’t want to push me, or offended that you’re so sure you could.”
In response, he fastened his mouth on hers again, holding the kiss until she was melting against him and whimpering in the back of her throat. He took his mouth off hers and kissed his way across her chin and down to her neck where he pulled the skin into his mouth, growling softly. He slid his hands down to her ass and pulled her in hard. When Buffy jumped up and wrapped her legs around his hips, she surprised herself as much as she did him, but he didn’t hesitate to let her grind against him. Which she did until she realized what she was doing.
With great reluctance, she dropped her legs and slid down his body, giving a little gasping whimper when her descent was temporarily blocked by his rigid cock. He rocked his hips into her, then sighed and pulled them back so she could continue her progress to the floor. As soon as her feet were down, she pushed herself away and glared at him.
“Fine. You made your point. You’re a good kisser. If you wanted to, you could make me do it.”
“I do want to, Buffy. Don’t ever doubt that. Want you so bad I can’t even—I do want you. And if I thought you’d be alright with shagging a man you aren’t in love with, I’d have you naked before you knew what I was doing.” He touched her cheek and ran his finger down her face. “But you aren’t like that. And you’ve already been abused by one old vampire that should have kept it in his pants. Don’t want to be that to you.”
“Do you love me?”
He cocked his head at her. “I do. Think you might have figured that out by now. I haven’t tried to hide it.” He looked almost disappointed in her, and Buffy flinched and touched his hand in apology.
“But if you love me, you won’t do the same thing to me Angel did, will you? I mean, he wouldn’t have done that if he was Angel, but Angelus… he didn’t love me anymore. Because he didn’t have his soul.”
“I don’t have a soul, love,” he reminded her gently, his expression sad but patient.
Buffy frowned. “You don’t. But you love-loved Dru, and you love me. How come you can do it and Angel couldn’t?”
He took a deep breath. “Sweetheart, there is no way for me to answer that without telling you a lot more than you want to know about your first love. We’re not the same. That’s all you need to know. All vamps aren’t alike, just like all people aren’t alike. Some don’t even kill to eat.”
When her frown deepened, he hurried on.
“Most do. Don’t ever stop to wonder about that before you stake something. We’re demons. Pure and simple. But some demons are stronger than others, and some humans give the demon a bit more to work with—like your deranged stake-bait tonight. If the wankers hadn’t been so keen to be rid of you, you’d have met something so stupid and slow that it might not have even given you a fight.”
“Isn’t your demon strong?”
“Yes and no. It makes me strong, no doubt about that. It’s very strong that way, but I can control it. Just never had much reason to want to until I met you.”
“So, where does that leave us?”
The short conversation had given Buffy’s libido time to calm down, and while she wanted more Spike kisses, it was pretty obviously not something to indulge in while in her probably not-sleeping mother’s living room. His resigned smile told her Spike was aware of the change in her.
“It leaves you going upstairs to sleep by yourself so you can be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in school tomorrow. And me going back to the house and sleeping in a bed that still smells a little bit like you for some reason…” He cocked his head at her and raised one eyebrow.
“I missed you,” she mumbled. “I was just… and then I fell asleep and—”
“Not complainin’, love. Far from it. I was just yanking your chain a bit.” He pulled her into a chaste embrace and kissed the top of her head. “I’m going to hit an all-night butcher’s for some blood, maybe swing by Willy’s to see if there’s a card game I can get into before I go home. I’ll probably sleep all day tomorrow.”
Buffy nodded. “I’ll come by when I get out of school.” Her eyes suddenly got big. “And watch out for Faith. I told her to leave you alone, but she just got mad at me… again.”
“I’ll be careful. Good-night, Buffy.”
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