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All ABout the Mission by slaymesoftly
 
Chapter Four
 
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CHAPTER FOUR
 
The short meeting with Giles and Winston went as well as it could have. They had read their own notes, but with the spell in effect, still couldn’t wrap their minds around what removing a general spell could have to do with Glory. Even though Winston insisted he knew that he “knew” what they meant but just couldn’t grasp it.
 
“Can’t you just trust us on this?” Buffy asked. After a fruitless conversation during which she was really feeling the effects of her fight with Glory, she was getting a little impatient. “If you just do the damn general spell removal spell, then your notes will make sense.”  She stopped and bit her lip. “The only thing I don’t….”
 
“It’s going to have to be shared sooner or later, love,” Spike said, immediately understanding her concern.
 
“Yeah, but knowing where she came from isn’t the same thing as losing all those memories of her from…”
 
Winston, who had also come from a future where Dawn’s origin was part of his memories, interrupted.
 
“I wasn’t affected by the spell,” he said. “I mean, obviously I ‘know’ that you have a sister now, but I also know where and how she got here.”
 
Giles frowned. “I would have assumed it was in the usual way. What am I missing?”
 
“Check your notes, Giles,” Buffy said. She turned her gaze on Winston. “If you guys do a general removal spell, isn’t that going to wipe out the one that makes everybody think Dawn has always been here? That could mess things up. Glory would know right away that Dawn was the Key.”
 
Giles glanced up from where he’d been reading the notes he left himself about Dawn and her arrival. “If I’m understanding these notes correctly, that is a legitimate concern. However, if we do not do the spell, we won’t believe that Glory’s human host is a doctor here in town, and it wouldn’t go well for Spike if he killed him.”
 
I’ll still know why he did it,” Buffy said. “But yeah, right now, the only thing convincing you besides us, is your own note to yourself. Which you don’t look like you believe.”
 
“Winston still knows it, don’t you?” Buffy frowned at him.
 
“I think I do,” he said. “But only because I have my memories of being told about it years from now. Not because I wouldn’t immediately forget I saw it just like anyone else. However,” he added when Buffy’s face fell. “I believe we can tweak the removal spell to make it specific to Glory’s forgetting spell, leaving in place the much more powerful and all-encompassing one the monks managed to send along with the Key.”
 
“Do it.” Buffy looked back and forth between them. “Now might be good. Before she pops up somewhere again, or we run into Ben.  Not that that’s as likely to happen if Mom doesn’t have to be in the hospital, but still…”
 
“Have you determined to let me remove the tumor, then?”
 
“Well, I have, but I haven’t really brought it up to Mom yet. I’m kinda hoping to catch her in the middle of a headache or something. But if it doesn’t happen soon, I’m just going to have to sit her down and talk to her.”
 
Winston nodded. “Whenever you’re… or she is… ready. Just let me know. In the meantime, Rupert, we have a spell to work out and implement.”
 
“And Buffy has bruises that need to heal,” Spike said, rising to his feet and holding out his hand to help her up. “We’ll catch up with you tomorrow night.”
 
Giles frowned as he noticed for the first time Buffy’s still somewhat disheveled appearance and the way she was limping.
 
“When you come back tomorrow evening, you’re going to have to go into more detail about this first meeting with Glory. Something more enlightening than ‘we fought, she changed and ran away’.”
 
“Yeah, yeah. You’ll get all the gory details tomorrow. I promise.” Without looking back, she ducked under Spike’s arm and out the door he was holding.
 
 
 
XXXX
 
 
Buffy had already been watching Joyce closely, hoping to catch her with a headache to use as a conversation starter. She’d also been spending more time with her mom than she knew was normal for a girl the age she was pretending to be, and she hadn’t been able to stop herself from frequent physical expressions of affection, particularly now that she knew Joyce was already having symptoms.
 
By the following evening, she hadn’t yet caught Joyce at what seemed to be the right moment, when her mother took things out of her hands, ordering her to remain seated after a quiet dinner at her house. Dawn, whose presence in their lives hadn’t been affected by the spell to remove Glory’s protective glamor, was having dinner with her friend Janice, so it had just been Joyce, Buffy, and Spike. Buffy had been happy to accept Joyce’s dinner invitation as she was still sore from her encounter with the wall.
 
“Spike, I’d like to speak to my daughter in private, if you don’t mind?”
 
He frowned, but nodded and carried his mug to the kitchen. “I’ll just go out in the garden and have a fag,” he said as he opened the door.
 
Buffy smiled nervously at Joyce. “What’s up, Mom?”
 
“That’s exactly what I want to know,” she said. “You’re treating me like I was made of glass, and not that I don’t appreciate the company, but it’s not normal. What is it about my future that you aren’t telling me?”
 
Buffy sighed. “I’m sorry, Mom. I should’ve known you’d see through me.” She gazed at Joyce and said, “This is a big year for me—us—because the thing Spike and I were sent here to stop has already started. But it’s not the only thing we want to change.”
 
Joyce waited, her expression making it clear she had a pretty good idea what the other thing was. Buffy blinked back tears, causing her mother to reach out and stroke her hair.
 
“Just tell me, Buffy. Am I going to die?”
 
“Not if I can help it!” she blurted.
 
“And if you can’t?” Joyce asked gently.
 
“I can! I will!” Buffy’s lip pushed out in a stubborn pout only too familiar to her mother.
 
Joyce smiled at her. “Well, far be it from me to tell the Slayer she can’t do something. Exactly how do you intend to do this? I’m guessing it has something to do with my headaches?”
 
Buffy sighed. “You’re so smart,” she muttered. “Okay, here’s what happened in my time….”
 
They sat in silence for several moments after Buffy finished a detailed, if brief description of the events she’d lived through.
 
“So, if I’m understanding you correctly, it isn’t the… tumor”—She waited for Buffy’s nod— “that kills me. It’s a much later random aneurysm?”
 
“We can’t know if it was random. The surgeon did warn you it could happen, he just didn’t think it would, or that it would kill you.”
 
“And why is it you think you can prevent this perhaps-not-random event?”
 
“Okay, here’s where it gets weird…”  Joyce rolled her eyes and Buffy snickered. “Okay, I know weird is kind of a relative term when your daughter is a slayer from the future who lives with a vampire, but hear me out. You know Willow’s a witch, right? We’ve talked about that. And you’ve heard me talk about Winston, the guy the Council sent back a few months after they sent me? Well, he’s also a sort of witchy-magic-doing-sorcerer kind of guy, and he says he…”
 
 
When she’d finished, Buffy sat back and waited to hear what Joyce thought of the plan.
 
“So, instead of getting to a neurosurgeon immediately for surgery to remove a tumor he’ll have to take my word for it is there, you want me to allow a stranger to use magic to remove the tumor without having to do any invasive surgery that might leave me in danger of having a ruptured artery near my brain?”
 
“Uh, yeah?”
 
“Does this miracle worker do this sort of thing all the time?”
 
“No. He’s not a healer, just a really powerful magical something-or-other. But he says he can do it. If it really is benign, which it is.”
 
“How do you know that?”
 
“From the biopsy after your surgery in our time. It’s the tumor pressing on your brain that’s causing the headaches and dizziness. So, if he can shrink it into nothing without having to cut any blood vessels, then there shouldn’t be any weaknesses to worry about.”
 
“I see. And what would my options be if I refuse to be ‘magically healed’?” Joyce’s air quotes made it obvious she wasn’t convinced of anything yet.
 
“Then you’d have to have the surgery as soon as they can see the tumor on an MRI, and we’d have to convince the doctor he has to monitor you really closely from then on to see if the aneurysm is forming.”
 
“And why is that not a good option?”
 
“Because, ‘my daughter who came from the future says you have to do that’, probably isn’t going to fly very far.”
 
“I suppose not,” Joyce agreed with a sigh. “Just give me some time to think about this before I make a decision,” she said. She shot Buffy a quick glance. “I do have some time to think about it, don’t I?”
 
“Oh yeah. Not a whole lot, ‘cause the earlier they find the tumor, the smaller it will be and the less dangerous to take it out. But you can take a few days to think about it.”
 
“Do you trust this man who isn’t a healer but says he can remove a brain tumor?”
 
Before Buffy could speak, Spike entered the room. “So far, he hasn’t given us any reason not to, and I suspect we haven’t even come close to seeing how powerful he is. You should really think about this, Joyce.”
 
Joyce stared up at him. “You weren’t part of Buffy’s life then, were you? In your time?”
 
“Not like I am now, no. But you were kind to me, even after your daughter had me disinvited from your house for telling her I love her. And the Bit was already somebody I cared about. I like you. And I don’t want to see either of your girls in that kind of pain again if we can do something to prevent it.”
 
“I used Spike’s crypt to hide you and Dawn from Glory. He helped me take care of you, and then helped me keep Dawn safe after you…. When we were all trying to get away from Glory.” As she spoke, Buffy remembered that as of yet, Joyce had no idea where Dawn had come from or what she was. She exchanged glances with Spike and they tacitly agreed to save that information for another day.
 
“This Glory creature came after your family? That’s unusual, isn’t it?” Joyce was frowning.
 
“It is. Most of the things I have to fight wouldn’t think about going after you or Dawn—or any of my friends, for that matter—”
 
Spike’s coughed “Angelus” made her break off to glare at him. “I said most,” she muttered with a credible growl. “Shut up, Spike.”
 
He just grinned and said to Joyce,” And there you have our relationship in our timeline. I’m trying to be helpful, and she’s abusing me.”
 
“Buffy?” Joyce looked back and forth between them, but they were both laughing, if a bit ruefully.
 
“If he keeps it up, you’ll get to see for yourself, Mom,” she replied, waving a fist at Spike. “Or I’ll just turn him over to Glory.”
 
“Why would she want him? Oh, never mind. I guess he’d make just as good a hostage as Dawn or me.”
 
“He would now, for sure. But back then, he was just spending a lot of time with us and helping me out sometimes. He wasn’t as much a part of my life as he wanted to be, but he was in it anyway, and her minions thought he was the Key she’s looking for, so they captured him for her. When she figured out he wasn’t, I guess she expected to be able to torture him into telling her where the Key was…. But he didn’t tell.” She smiled at Spike. “That’s when I realized I really could trust him.”
 
“So the relationship you have now….”
 
“Is the result of years of working our way through lots of bad stuff, some good stuff, more bad stuff, more good stuff….and then I thought he was gone forever.” She paused to glare at Spike, who was very busy examining his fingernails. “But, he wasn’t. After he saved the world with me, he—Well, you don’t need to know all that, Mom. The whole point of us being here again is that we’re going to keep all that bad stuff from happening.”
 
Spike audibly scoffed and she glared at him until he sighed and nodded. “We’re going to do what we can to prevent it. She’s right about that. But we don’t have any way of knowing what has to happen for some cosmic reason, and what doesn’t. The things we wanted to fix last year got fixed eventually, but they didn’t happen or work out the same way they did in our time, and they still happened in one fashion or another. Seems like our fixes were for the better, but bad things still happened. And so far, this year….”
 
“So, I might die anyway?” Joyce spoke softly, and only Spike could hear the faint quaver in her voice.
 
“Only if there’s some big cosmic reason for it,” he said firmly. “If it was just the Powers That Mess With People trying to see that Buffy’s life was shitty enough that she’d throw herself off that tower—”
 
Joyce’s “What?” was almost drowned out by Buffy’s “Oh. My. God.” She stared at Spike. “Because I have to die. It was my time. It’s meant to be.”
 
“No!” he exploded. “If that’s true, then all the rest of it is meant to be too, including the First Evil’s rise when you’re brought back. And this whole time trip is meaningless.”
 
“It’s not meaningless if it gives us some time together,” Buffy said dully. “What if that’s all it’s about?”
 
While Joyce stared back and forth between them with frightened eyes, Spike went to his knees in front of Buffy and took her hands in his.
 
“Think about it, love. Do you really think the Powers care a whit about our happiness? That they’ve manipulated all this just so we can catch up on our shagging? Be serious. All they care about is their bloody ‘balance’. They get that balance whether you jump or not. It was your resurrection that let Evil loose, not your death. All we need to do is keep you alive, and the First Evil never has an excuse to rise up. And Willow never has to dive into the black magic to bring you back, so she won’t try to end the world…”
 
He paused and Buffy rested her head on his. “Do you really think so?” she whispered. “Or are you just saying that so I won’t think I have to die?”
 
Before Spike could answer, Joyce’s voice cracked through the air. “One of you is going to tell me what the hell you’re talking about or you aren’t leaving this house!”
 
Buffy and Spike broke apart to stare at her.
 
“I’m not kidding, Buffy. You two are talking about dying as if it happens every day. I want to know what’s going on.”
 
“All right, Mom. I guess you’ve got a right to know….” Spike nodded his agreement.
 
“Why don’t we move someplace more comfortable?” he said, gesturing toward the living room. “Then we can tell you exactly what it is we were sent back here to do.”
 
 
 
 
 
When Buffy had finished her recitation of how the year had gone in her time, supplemented with muttering from Spike about what he could or should have done differently, Joyce sat in stunned silence, her eyes damp with unshed tears.
 
“Oh, my poor baby,” she finally gasped out, pulling Buffy into a hug that lasted until they were both sniffling. As she pulled back, she said, “I’m not leaving you to face that alone! Where is this guy who thinks he can heal me without surgery?”  She glared around the living room as if expecting Winston to materialize any second.
 
“It’s okay, Mom. Really. I mean, it wasn’t okay then, but we’re going to fix it this time. Look how much is already different. There’s still going to be… stuff… to deal with, but now I’ve got Spike, and we’ve got Winston who’s here to help us take care of Glory. And if you never have to go to the hospital, then you and Dawn won’t meet Ben, so I don’t have to worry about that… We’ll be fine. We just need to make sure you’re going to stay healthy and the rest will be easy.”
 
Buffy beamed at Joyce, missing Spike’s frown but not her mother’s skeptical expression.
 
“It will. You’ll see. Or, maybe not easy easy, but at least whatever happens, I won’t be trying to handle it without my mother.”
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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