Chapter Thirty-four (of 35)
When they reached the Summers residence, everyone’s walking speed dropped dramatically. By the time they’d finally come to a stop, Spike was rolling his eyes and growling.
“I know why I don’t want to say goodnight yet, Two, but what’s your problem?”
Faith looked at Buffy and said, in an uncharacteristic tone of apology, “I think Buffy should stay home tonight.”
Spike frowned. “So do I, if I’m being honest, but what’s going on?”
“Two things, really. One is her mom isn’t saying much, but she’s really unhappy about it when Buffy spends the night with you. Like really unhappy. And having me there isn’t helping with that. She wants her daughter.”
When Buffy went to say something, Faith waved her to silence.
“That between you and your mom. I’ve got your back either way, but I thought you should know.” She bit her lip. “The other thing is, we don’t know what happened downtown tonight. The Mayor and Balthazar might have tried to kill each other, or they might have decided to join forces against us. Your mom’s safe from any vamps they send, and the wards might keep out demons, but we know the Mayor has lots of humans working for him too. And there’s nothing to keep them out if he is looking for revenge.”
Buffy nodded and sighed. “You’re right. The house isn’t protected against regular old human evil. I’m not sure I would’ve thought of that,” she said with a small smile of gratitude.
“Some of us know a little more about human evil than others,” Faith said with no expression and cold eyes. “I always think about it.”
Unsure how to respond to that, Buffy looked at Spike to see an unusually soft expression on his face. Not one he normally would show around Faith.
“Good thing Buffy has you here to keep her straight,” he said, his smile showing his sincerity. He ignored Buffy’s mock glare and pulled her into a hug. “I was going to suggest you stay here tonight, anyway. It’s been a long night and we’re all a bit knackered.”
She stiffened and said, “You don’t want me to go home with you? Not that I was planning to anyway, but—”
“I’ll always want that, love. You know I will. But I’m not stupid and not that selfish. Your mum needs you, and you and Two need to stay together until you know there’s nothing gunning for you.” At their identical scoffs, he added, “Anything out of the usual that either one of you could handle alone with one hand behind your back. That’s what I meant.”
“Sure you did,” Faith snorted.
”What she said,” Buffy murmured against his lips.
They extended their goodnight kiss as long as they could, but broke apart when Faith began making gagging noises. With a rueful laugh, Spike released Buffy and began to walk away.
“I’ll see you ladies tomorrow,” he said. “Come by the house and tell me what you’ve learned.” He waved and broke into a jog.
The girls walked to the front door and opened it. Buffy frowned. “That should have been locked.”
“Joyce leaves it unlocked for me,” Faith said. “I told her not to, but she said until she has another key made….”
“We need to do that tomorrow,” Buffy muttered as she shut and locked the door. “You go on up, I’m just going to check the other doors and windows.”
“Buffy? Aren’t you going to school today?” Buffy glanced up to see her mother peering in her door, with a concerned, but smiling expression on her face.
Buffy had time to see how happy Joyce was to find her in her own bed, before she woke up enough to respond.
“Uh, yeah. I guess so. What time is it….” She looked at her clock and shot out of bed. “OMG! I can’t be late… again. Thanks for getting me up, Mom.”
“You’re welcome, honey. You must have been really tired. Faith is still sleeping too.”
“We kicked a lot of demon butt last night. And it was pretty late when Spike walked us home.”
“Are you all right?” Joyce frowned. “Rupert hasn’t been drugging you again, has he?”
Buffy laughed as she struggled into some clothes. “No, Mom. We’re just ordinary, even-slayers-are-human, tired from all the fighting we did last night.” Buffy ran a brush through her hair and joined Joyce to walk downstairs. “It’s all good, though. I think we might have prevented the Mayor’s ascension, and if we got really lucky, he and Balthazar might have killed each other. Isn’t that great?”
Joyce looked puzzled, but smiled supportively. “If you say so. Why do you want our Mayor to die?”
“Oh. I guess I didn’t tell you. Turns out he’s the one planning an ascension. That means he gets to become an even bigger demon,” Buffy explained when Joyce frowned. “He wants to be immortal, and I think we stopped him from doing that last night.”
“Oh. Well, that’s good then. I’m glad it was a good night of slaying.” She smiled, adding, “And I’m glad you made it home. I’m always happier when I know you are safely asleep in your own bed.”
Buffy sighed. “Instead of safely asleep in Spike’s bed? Mom, I—”
“I don’t want to hear it, please. Just give me some time to get used to the idea that you’re seeing him before you ask me accept that you’re moving back there.”
Buffy frowned. “I’m not planning to move in with him. We haven’t even talked about that. It isn’t really his house, anyway. Is that what you’re worried about? That if I spend the night there sometimes I’ll move out again?”
Joyce sighed and sat down at the counter. “I suppose I am. I feel like I was just getting my daughter back when he showed up and took you away again.”
“Spike didn’t take me away the first time, Mom,” Buffy said, keeping her voice and face as neutral as she could in the face of such unfairness. “He gave me shelter and support when I needed it. And that’s all he did. That and flash his fangs at you so you’d believe we were all telling the truth. He never touched me, he never even gave me any idea how he felt about me until the night he left. And the only reason he came back was because he was afraid for me.”
Buffy took down a box of cereal and began filling a bowl. She didn’t say anything else or look at her mother until she’d poured milk into the bowl and sat down opposite Joyce to eat her breakfast. She bit her lip when she saw the stricken look on Joyce’s face, but began spooning cereal into her mouth and pretending she hadn’t noticed the tears Joyce was trying to blink away.
Buffy finished, carried her bowl to the sink, ran water into it and turned around with a sigh.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I know that was harsh. But he did everything he could to help me finish my junior year of high school and get back into my own house with my own mother, and you’ve done nothing but treat him like some kind of kidnapping child molester.”
“What do you want from me, Buffy? I’m still learning to accept that you aren’t a normal high school girl, that you probably won’t go to college, won’t…. won’t get married and have your own children, and now you want me to accept that you’re sleeping with a hundred-year-old vampire. I just need some time.”
“And that’s why I came home last night. Which, by the way, was Spike’s idea. All I want is for you to give him a chance, Mom. Try to treat him the way you would if he was some college boy I was dating.”
“All right, sweetheart. I’ll do my best. Just tell him no PDAs in front of me or I might hit him with an axe again.”
Buffy laughed and gave Joyce a hug. “And on that note, I’m going off to school. I can’t wait to see how Snyder’s taking the damage that his boss caused to the building.”
Buffy was running too late to stop by the Library before her first class, so she didn’t see Giles or the Library until lunchtime. With the exception of a couple of broken chairs stacked against a wall in the corner, it was surprisingly neat and clean.
‘Whoa, Giles. You must have gotten up extra early!”
“Most amusing. And quite wrong. I’ll admit I arrived earlier than usual, but the custodial staff had already noted the mess and were well on their way to having it cleaned up.” He pointed at window the demons had come through, which was now covered by a large piece of plywood. “Haven’t replaced that yet of course, but I suspect it will take a while to have a new window properly cut and installed.”
“Don’t suppose they mentioned finding Cletus? Or that his blood is green?”
“Not to me they didn’t. They were busy complaining about the amount of dust on everything, as well as the broken furniture and the window.”
“Okay, then. All we need to do now is find out what happened when the Mayor and Balthazar had their little reunion.”
“Wesley and I have learned a bit more about Balthazar. It was in some of my older books that I’d had no reason to consult lately. It seems he is capable of using a form of mind control on most vampires and that’s how he managed to remain hidden and functional all this time.”
“That explains some of the stuff Spike was muttering when I turned him loose.”
“I suspect the control wouldn’t work well on a vampire of Spike’s age and… disposition.”
Buffy snickered, but nodded her agreement. “Probably not. It looked like they went the old fashioned knock-him-unconscious route.”
“No doubt the safer option,” Giles said wryly. “In any case, without the amulet, and without a pool of easily manipulated vampires, Balthazar would probably not have an easy time against a half-demon sorcerer of the Mayor’s age and power. We may have prevented him from becoming immortal, but he does still live in our city and he still draws power from the hellmouth. It remains to be seen what he’ll do next.”
When everyone had gathered in Giles’s apartment for an evening of pizza and reviewing the day’s news, a knock on the door had Buffy and Faith on their feet, stakes in hand.
“Surely the vampires in this city don’t knock?” Wesley said, frowning. “Perhaps it’s another one of your….” He waved his hand at the Scoobies.
“It’s probably just Spike,” Willow said. “Sometimes he knocks”
“It doesn’t feel like Spike,” Buffy muttered. She glanced at Faith. “Do you feel any vamp vibes?”
“Nope. Whatever’s out there must be human… or demon.”
“Which we will never know if I don’t answer the door,” Giles said with some asperity as he maneuvered around the two slayers. “If you don’t mind….” Buffy and Faith backed up, but remained on alert as Giles opened the door.
Standing there, obviously trying to appear less nervous than he clearly was, was Deputy Mayor Finch. He was flanked by two uniformed Sunnydale policemen who looked somewhat bewildered by the visit to what appeared to be a gathering of students and their teacher.
“Finch? What do you want? Did you give your boss our present?”
He shuffled his feet. “Yes. I did. And I have a message for you.” He glanced at his escort and then into the somewhat crowded room. “Just for you,” he said pointing at Buffy, “and maybe her, I guess. He said ‘slayers’.”
“Anything you say to me, you can say in front of my watcher and my friends,” Buffy said as she gestured into the room.
With muttered instructions to his bodyguards to wait for him, Finch followed Buffy’s tacit instructions to enter. He glanced around, frowning when he noticed Wesley and Cordelia, then facing the two slayers.
“Mayor Wilkins is quite unhappy about the loss of his amulet,” he began as if reciting something he’d memorized. “However, he was pleased to be able to put an end to an old enemy, and he thanks you for that.” Finch cleared his throat. “It seems that some of the more powerful demons he was negotiating with about the Ascension are not pleased that he was unable to complete the ritual that would have made him powerful enough to survive the Ascension. As a result, they have rescinded his permission to attempt to Ascend, and have removed their support for his continued presence on the hellmouth. He must move to another area and spend his remaining years either as an all-human sorcerer with a normal life-span, or as a full demon. He has chosen to become a full demon, saying he no longer wishes to be human. He finds it tedious.”
There was silence while Finch recovered his breath, having recited his message all in one rapid speech. Finally, Giles exchanged looks with Buffy and Faith before asking, “So, we are to assume there will be no more attempts on Buffy or Faith’s lives? Is that what you’re saying?’
“Um… I guess so?” Finch appeared flustered. “I mean, they are slayers. Something tries to kill them all the time, doesn’t it?”
“Sometimes it’s even the Council of not-so-good-guys,” Buffy muttered with a glare at Wesley.
“Let’s be clear. Their normal duties as slayers aside, are you saying there will be no attempts to remove them emanating from the Mayor’s office?”
“Exactly.” Finch stood up a little straighter. “In the absence of Mayor Wilkins, I will be the acting Mayor of Sunnydale for the rest of his term. I can assure you, I have no intention of harming citizens who do so much to keep our city safe.”
Xander raised his hand. “Does anybody besides me think this is way too easy?”
“Relax, Xander. I’m sure something else evil will pop up any minute… or by next year, anyway.”
Everyone nodded their agreement with Buffy’s cynical view of life on the hellmouth.
Even Finch shrugged as if in accord, then glanced around the room. “Where is the vampire?”
“He’ll be here,” Buffy said shortly. “He had something to do first. And it’s really none of your business where he is.”
Finch raised his hands is supplication. “I mean him no harm. I just wanted to offer him the deed to the property he seems to have settled into. It was taken over by the city years ago, but I can arrange to make him the owner. Or you,” he added with a knowing glance at Buffy. “Whichever he wants.”
“Why would you do that?” Buffy’s eyes narrowed in suspicion.
The new acting mayor of Sunnydale gave a small smile that suddenly made him seem much less of an incompetent flunky than they’d thought him to be. “I intend to be in office for a long while, and I want to express my gratitude to everyone who made this possible.”
“Okay, now he sounds more like a normal politician,” Xander said.
“I’ll tell Spike what you said. I’m sure he’ll be interested.” Buffy stood by the door, making it clear the visit was over.
Finch nodded, and opened the door, only to run into Spike, his hand still raised to knock. His startled “Eep!” was followed by a glare at his two bodyguards. They looked at each other and shrugged.
“He wasn’t breaking any laws, Boss. Acted like he had a right to be here.”
“He does have a right to be here,” Buffy said, tugging Spike through the door to join her. “You did the right thing.” She didn’t mention that the wrong thing probably would have resulted in damage to their egos, if not to their bodies.
However, Giles joined her to say, “You made the correct decision, officers. Thank you for not harassing my guests.”
Having recovered his equilibrium, Finch said to Buffy, “Will you please explain my offer to him?”
She nodded and moved away, allowing Giles to close the door.
“Offer?” Spike said.
“I’ll tell you later,” she responded. “Did you get… that thing you were going to do done?”
“I did. Ready to show it to you anytime you’re ready to see it,” he said with a smile.
“I think I’m ready. We’re done here, aren’t we, Giles? There isn’t going to be an ascension, Balthazar’s gone, and the Mayor is going to leave town to be a real demon somewhere else.”
While Giles frowned his dismay that she was leaving already, and Wesley sputtered about her duty and patrolling, Spike took advantage of the delay to grab a piece of the pizza for himself.
“Hey! If you’re going to keep eating our food, you’re going to have to start chipping in around here, fangface,” Xander’s less than sincere complaint, brought a snort from Spike.
“Could be worse, Harris. I could be reaching for you instead of the pizza.” Spike gave Xander a fangy grin as he bit into his prize.
“Buffy! Your boyfriend is threatening to eat me!”
“Behave, Spike. And don’t steal Xander’s pizza.”
“But I like pizza,” Spike said as they walked toward the door. “And I like scaring Harris.” He pulled the door open and held it for to go out. “You don’t let me have any fun…”
As the door closed behind them, Faith snorted and said. “I’m pretty sure they’re on their way to have all kinds of fun.” She laughed as everyone else coughed or hid their faces in embarrassment. She shook her head. “Speaking of no fun…. I think we’re going to need more pizza.”
Wesley, who had remained uncharacteristically quiet all evening, muttered almost to himself, “Don’t these people eat anything except greasy Italian food?” As he spoke, he reached for his own slice of the rapidly disappearing pie. “I’m surprised you don’t eat pizza for breakfast.”
“I do,” Xander volunteered. “It puts hair on your chest.”
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