Buffy was somewhat terse later that evening as she filled Giles in with more details on the previous afternoon’s fight with Glory and how, even though it was somewhat different from what happened in her time, the monk still died and she still lost the fight.
“So, it wasn’t quite the same, but the same things happened,” she sighed, slumping in her chair.
“Some of the same things happened,” Spike growled. “This time you didn’t have to jump out a window to get away, and you got to see her change.”
“Well, not much else changed.” She shook herself. “Anyway, first I need to tell Winston about Mom.” She turned her attention to him.“My mom’s ready anytime you are.”
“Wonderful, we’ll set it up for some time tomorrow, if that’s good for her.”
“Maybe late afternoon? Or early evening? She’s still going in to the gallery every day, so she won’t want to miss too much work.”
“That will be fine. Just tell me when. Did you want to do it at her home?”
“Hmmm. Let me ask her. Has to be either there or here at the Magic Box, I guess. Maybe at our apartment….” She remembered about Max and the wards she was sure he had on the building. “Okay, probably not there. She knows I live with Spike and that I’m old enough to be doing something like that, but that’s not the same thing as seeing our tiny apartment and having her nose rubbed in it.”
“Well, you’ll let me know.” Winston smiled at her and Buffy decided the small not-quite-a-lie for not using their apartment wasn’t a bad thing to do. She switched her attention back to Giles, who volunteered his own apartment for the event. Buffy smiled her thanks, but then quickly went back to the problem of Glory.
“Did you do the spell yet? Did it work?”
Giles frowned even as he nodded. “We assume it did because I now have no difficulty remembering that Glory’s human host is a doctor named Ben. However, as I’ve not had a chance to see her or him, nor to watch the transformation, I can’t be absolutely sure.”
“Well, if you believe us when we tell you Ben is Glory, then it must’ve worked. In our time, Spike tried to tell us, but nobody could understand him—or remember what he’d said.”
“That must have been quite frustrating,” Winston said, raising an eyebrow at Spike, who snorted.
“You might say that.” Then he smirked. “On the other hand, I got so bloody tired of repeating myself, I traded my own headache for a healthy whack on Harris’ head. Didn’t make him hear what I was saying, but I felt better anyway.”
While Buffy shook her head at him, Winston and Giles tried to smother smiles of agreement at Spike’s having succumbed to the common urge to give Xander a whack on the head from time to time. There was a moment of quiet amusement among them before Giles recovered his worried mien.
“When you saw Ben run off, did you not try to stop him then?” he asked Buffy more gently than she might have expected from his words.
She sighed and shook her head. “No. I was expecting to have to fight for my life and I just sort of collapsed when she changed and I knew I wouldn’t have to face her without my backup—”
“I was on my way!”
“I know that,” Buffy said quickly. “I wasn’t accusing you of slacking, just explaining why I didn’t chase after Ben.”
“Were you badly injured?” Winston asked, looking at her more closely. “You seemed to be more mobile yesterday.”
“I’ve probably been hurt worse,” Buffy said with an embarrassed shrug. “But I’m not sure when. Hard walls are… hard. I think I’ve just stiffened up.” She waved away the discussion of her injuries. “The point is, Ben was gone by the time Spike got into the building, so he couldn’t have done anything anyway.”
“I believe what Rupert is actually asking is, were you prepared to permit Spike to do what has to be done had he arrived in time?” Winston gazed at Buffy, waiting patiently for her answer.
She exhaled a breath she hadn’t been aware of holding and nodded. “I think so,” she said slowly. “Watching her change, and seeing him run away like he knew what she’d done… that made it a lot easier to want him dead.” She glanced at Spike, then at Giles and Winston. “I’m still not sure I could have done it,” she said, “but I don’t think I would have tried to stop it if one of you did it.” She rather obviously included Winston in her assessment of potential executioners. Giles nodded when Winston raised no objection to being included, and Spike gave a small smile as if he’d just had something confirmed for him.
No one actually addressed the tacit admission that Winston’s mission to help Buffy and Spike might include using his own, still-not-completely-understood talents to destroy Ben or Glory, but Buffy found herself quite happy that Willow would have some magical backup.
With nothing else left to talk about, they set a time for Joyce to come to Giles’s so she could meet Winston, and they could proceed with his attempt to eliminate her tumor.
That done, Spike stood up and took Buffy’s hand.
“If we’re done here, I’m taking Buffy home to do some more healing of her own. She may look alright to you, but she isn’t yet, and she needs another good long night’s sleep while that amazing slayer healing does its job.” When Giles appeared about to say something, Spike added, “I’ll handle patrol for her tonight, Watcher. No need to get your knickers in a twist.”
Giles cleared his throat and mumbled, “I was only going to ask Buffy how she was feeling, and I certainly hadn’t planned to suggest she patrol if she didn’t feel up to it.”
“I’m fine,” Buffy said, glaring at Spike and pulling her hand away from his. “I’ve patrolled lots more beat up than this.”
“Not while I was around to do it for you,” he snarled. “Don’t be so bloody stubborn.”
“I’m fine!” Instead of replying, he poked her where he knew she had a big bruise from her encounter with the wall. She gasped, then retaliated with her own attack on him, which resulted in her being trapped against his chest, unable to move without causing herself more pain. She remained there, swearing vigorously, then relaxed and sighed. She looked up at him over her shoulder.
“Fine. You win. You shouldn’t have been able to trap me like that.”
“No, I shouldn’t have. So, if I let you go, will you let me take you home and take care of you?”
Winston exchanged a look with Giles, then suggested gently, “That sounds like an excellent idea. Perhaps you can both forgo the patrolling tonight? I feel sure the normal vampire population won’t increase by so many that you won’t be able to knock it back down tomorrow.”
“You’re all against me, aren’t you?” Buffy grumbled as Spike released his hold.
“We all love you,” Spike corrected her.
“Winston doesn’t love me,” she said with a stubborn pout, even as she walked to the door. “He barely knows me.”
“Fine. We can argue about that on the way home.” Spike shook his head as he followed her out the door and pulled it shut behind him.
The next evening, Joyce smiled nervously as Buffy introduced her to Winston, calling him someone they were all going to know in the future.
“I’m not sure I completely understand why or how you think you can help me, but these last several years of being the Slayer’s mother have given me an unexpected ability to accept impossible things.” She smiled at Buffy. “Not that I didn’t already know what an amazing and wonderful daughter I had, but I really had no idea…”
“If it makes you feel any better,” Winston said, “Buffy has been amazing those who actually know about slayers for even longer. She is a rather extraordinary young woman.” He gave Joyce a gentle smile. “No doubt much of that is due to inherited genes and her upbringing.”
Joyce flushed and relaxed enough to make Buffy roll her eyes, remembering how easily Winston had disarmed Xander with just a few words.
“I still say it’s magic,” Spike whispered in her ear.
“I don’t care, as long as he can talk her into relaxing,” she whispered back.
They watched in silence as Winston carefully explained to Joyce what he was going to do.
“Will it hurt?”
“I don’t believe so. I’ve never seen anyone indicate they were uncomfortable while a healer had hands on them. I’m just going to touch your temples like—”
Spike’s snarl caught everyone by surprise as he moved to Joyce’s side, glaring at Winston with suddenly amber eyes.
“I’m not going to hurt her, Spike. I thought you were on board with this?” Winston frowned his confusion, but was careful to remove his hands as he stared at the protective vampire.
“Spike? What are you doing? He’s just—oh my god!” Buffy’s eyes got wide as she understood.
“What’s wrong?” Joyce appeared ready to bolt out the door as Buffy and Spike flanked her.
“Buffy?” Winston looked away from Spike to the other protective super-powered person in the room. “What is the problem?”
Spike answered him. “That’s exactly what the bitch does when she’s sucking the sense out of someone. She puts her hands on either side of your head and she tries to yank your wits out to keep herself goin’.”
“Do you know that from personal experience?”
“I do,” he said shortly. “Seen it. She didn’t try it on me, on account of I’m already dead. No human energy to be had. She was right brassed off about that until she decided to torture me for information. She did it to Tara later on, and she was able to tell Willow about it when she’d recovered. And we saw plenty of other people she’d brain-sucked once the renaissance fair rejects showed up.”
“I see.” Winston frowned and sat down. “You do trust me, do you not? I understand why you reacted as you did to my gesture, but it is, indeed, what I need to do. I don’t expect my actions to cause Joyce any pain at all, and I will certainly not be trying to pull the tumor out. I’ll need to rest my hands against her temples so I can visualize it and concentrate on making it shrink until it is gone.”
Spike looked a little sheepish as he relaxed and his fangs disappeared. “Sorry,” he muttered. “I might have over-reacted a bit. It was just a little too familiar looking.”
“It’s okay, Mom,” Buffy said, giving Joyce a reassuring pat on her arm. “We’re just reacting to the last time we saw somebody in that position. We’re sorry, Winston. It won’t happen again.”
He stood back up and cautiously approached Joyce’s chair. Buffy and Spike stepped away, and Spike put his arms around Buffy as she watched Winston carefully hold his hands just above Joyce’s head. He closed his eyes and moved his hands around, never quite touching her, but stirring her hair with the small electrical current. He nodded his head, opened his eyes and met Joyce’s gaze.
“I can see it,” he said. “I’m ready if you are, Joyce.”
She nodded, exchanging a quick look with Buffy, who smiled her reassurance. “All right, I’m ready. Let’s get me cured so my daughter can stop treating me like I’m made of tissue paper.”
Winston smiled, then closed his eyes again and rested his hands on Joyce’s head, one on either side of where he’d sensed the tumor.
“You’ll let me know if you’re uncomfortable, won’t you?” he asked. “I don’t expect you to feel anything, but in case I’m wrong, please don’t be a martyr about it.”
“Don’t worry,” Joyce said with a wry twist to her mouth. “If you hurt me, I’ll yell for my daughter… or her boyfriend.”
Winston smiled and closed his eyes. “Now that you’ve thoroughly terrified me, I shall be even more careful.” With no further conversation, he took a deep breath and, eyes still closed, pressed his hands a little more tightly against her head. “Ah, there you are,” he whispered, seemingly to himself.
There was tense silence while Joyce remained still and Winston held his hands to her head, his eyes closed and a small frown of concentration furrowing his brow. Joyce made no sound for several minutes, then her eyes widened and she gave a small ‘eep’ of surprise. Winston immediately removed his hands, asking, “Was I hurting you?”
“No, no,” Joyce said, flushing with embarrassment. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt you, it’s just that there was this sudden… relief of pressure that I hadn’t even realized was there until it was gone.”
Winston nodded, but kept his small frown. “I don’t believe I have at all removed the tumor. Perhaps it has just shrunk so much that it’s no longer noticeable to you. But it isn’t gone yet, just much smaller.”
“Well keep going, then!” Buffy said. “Don’t stop now.”
Joyce smiled at Buffy, then up at Winston, saying, “Yes, please do continue. You weren’t hurting me, and even if you had been, feeling that sudden release of pressure would have been worth it. Just keep going until you’ve eliminated that little bastard!” She ignored Buffy’s gasp at her language and sat up straighter. “Let’s go again.”
“Perhaps we should take a short break, in case Winston would like some refreshment?”
Buffy stared at Giles in surprise, not having noticed that he’d been watching Winston the whole time, looking for signs of fatigue. When he exchanged glances with Spike, who Buffy knew was monitoring Joyce, and it seemed, Winston’s vital signs, she realized why he was interrupting. After getting a nod of agreement from Spike, Giles went to the kitchen and came back with a glass of ice water. He held it out to Winston, who took it with a grateful smile.
“Thank you, Rupert. This will be most welcome.”
Buffy frowned at him. “You’re tired already? I thought you were all mighty magic guy?”
“Buffy, if he needs to rest, we should let him rest!” Joyce glared at her daughter until Buffy looked away and shrugged.
“It’s quite all right,” Winston said, handing the empty glass back to Giles. “I’m sure it looks as if I haven’t done anything strenuous, but, as I explained to you when we first spoke about this, I’m neither a trained nor a natural healer. This requires a great deal more effort and energy from me than say… my pausing Willow for a few minutes so we could have a short conversation. Healers are innately able to harness the power needed to help people. It is a gift they are born with. I don’t have that gift. My talents lie… elsewhere.”
Spike touched Buffy’s arm and whispered in her ear that the mage’s heartrate was going into dangerous territory. She glanced at him in surprise, then nodded.
“I’m sorry, Winston. No offense meant. I forgot about what you said about healing being so hard. Ignore me, please.”
“No offense taken,” he replied as he returned to Joyce’s side. “Your priority at the moment is your mother’s health. We all understand your anxiety and desire to make her better.” He raised his hands and laid them against Joyce’s head again. “Let’s finish this ‘bastard’ off,” he said with a smile at her.
Once again, they all waited and watched as he closed his eyes and began to concentrate. After a longer period of time, which had Spike frowning and moving toward him, he dropped his hands and sighed as he fell into a chair.
“I think that has it,” he said. “I can’t feel any trace of anything foreign in your head. Certainly nothing big enough to cause you any discomfort.”
There was a moment of silence, then Buffy, who had run to hug her mother, threw herself at Winston and hugged him until he was gasping for air. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” she said tearfully. “And sorry! Did I hurt you?” She dropped her arms and frowned anxiously at him.
“I’m fine,” he said. “I’m sure my ribs will recover in their own time….”
Buffy was horrified until he smiled at her. “I’m joking, Buffy. You didn’t really hurt me, just gave me new appreciation for oxygen… and admiration for Spike,” he added as the vampire handed him a beer. He tipped the bottle toward Spike in thanks, then tilted it up and drank more than half of it before he paused for more air.
“So, am I cured?” Joyce asked.
“As far as I can tell, you are,” Winston said. “I’ll be sure to check in with you from time to time in case it tries to grow back, but I think I got it all.”
“I think this calls for a celebration,” Giles said. “I suggest we all take Joyce out to dinner at her favorite restaurant.”
“Perhaps I’ll join you some other time,” Winston said, his fatigue clear in his voice. “I believe my time will be better spent sleeping….”
Before anyone else could move, Joyce was at his side. “Oh my God. Of course, you should rest. Rupert, don’t you have a guest room where we can make Winston comfortable for the night? Where is it? Help me get him there. What else do you need? Another beer? More water? How about some food? I can fix you something here, I’m sure. Rupert? Buffy? Why are you just standing there?”
While the other, embarrassed, people were still not moving, Winston patted the hand Joyce had on his shoulder.
“I’m quite all right, Joyce. But thank you for your concern. Obviously, I have done the world a good turn by helping you remain in it a bit longer. I just need to return to my own flat where I can recover without disrupting anyone else’s plans. And where I have the things I need to rebuild my strength.”
He rose to his feet and squeezed Joyce’s hand before it fell off his shoulder. He looked directly at Spike as he said, “I wouldn’t, however, turn down an offer to drive me home. My car is just outside.”
“Ready when you are,” Spike said. He turned to Giles. “Buffy can call me when you know where you’re going, and I’ll meet you there after I get Winnie settled.”
“You’ll be all right?” Giles asked with a frown. Spike’s obvious concern and desire to help seemed to have reinforced his own worries about how much healing Joyce might have drained Winston’s power. Buffy knew he’d come to rely on the other man’s presence, both as a peer of sorts, given his age and background, and as an obviously valuable potential ally in their quest to foil a hellgod.
“I’ll be fine,” Winston assured him as he stood up. He smiled as Joyce remained close, putting a timid hand on his arm. He patted her hand again, but gently removed it. “I really am fine. Just quite fatigued and a bit… drained. Give me a good night’s sleep and I’ll be right as rain by morning.”
Joyce looked dubious, but when none of those more familiar with magic seemed to doubt him, she nodded. “Okay. I guess you know your own limitations. But I’ll be checking up on you tomorrow!”
“I’ll look forward to it.” Winston smiled at her again, then turned to Spike. “Shall we go?”
Spike nodded and opened the door for him. “Call me in a bit, Buffy?”
“Okay. Take care of Winston. He’s my hero!”
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