|Mask and Mirrors by pfeifferpack|
|Chapter #5 - Chapter 5|
|A/N: From here on they are Beta'd by the lovely Scarlett2U! Thank you Mary!!!|
The night had surprising amusements. After Spike’s rather heartrending confession about the original fate of his mother, Giles was privately enjoying watching the stereotypical interactions between mother and son that took place at day’s end.
"My son, while I am new to this world and unfamiliar with its society norms, I can scarce imagine your… wardrobe…is the way a proper gentleman would dress." Anne had looked from Spike to Giles pointedly. "You look more a cracksman than a young man of good breeding."
Willow stepped in to offer support to the flummoxed vampire. "Well, Mrs. Pratt, Spike ….er…William is dressed okay for California. Pretty much anything goes here and there’s a whole group of people who do the Goth look."
At Anne’s arched eyebrow, so reminiscent of Spike, Willow did concede one point at least. "Well, the ‘coat in the house’ look is sorta just Spike, but the all black theme isn’t odd."
"It’s kind of like his costume, like Superman’s blue tights," Xander offered.
"Blue tights?" Mrs. Pratt looked at sea. "Is this
‘superman’ one of William’s peers?"
"Hardly," chimed in Giles. "Superman is a fictional hero and Spike is a quite real…." His voice trailed off as he tried to decide how to best classify the vampire for his mother.
Anne didn’t seem to notice the sentence was incomplete and accepted the distinction without further comment.
"Say!" Willow brightened with a thought, "I know how to help Mrs. Pratt get her footing!" Willow looked at the woman and smiled warmly. It felt wonderful to be able to fix something for a change. "Let me show you how a computer works and where to go to Google anything you might want to know. You’ll catch up so quickly. It’s like having every library and museum in the world right at your fingertips."
After snatching up her laptop from the entry hall table, Willow guided Mrs. Pratt to the dining room.
"Hope Red’s ISP has a filter," Spike spoke with a physical shiver. "Don’t fancy havin’ to revive my mum if she types in the wrong word and gets into some ‘net porn."
"And you would know all about those sites, wouldn’t you?" teased Buffy.
"Your mother appears to be far stronger than you
think, Spike," added Giles.
"Maybe you should go clothes shopping, make your poor mother happy," suggested Dawn. "I could go along. You know, advise."
Spike seemed to gather his duster closer about him as if to stave off a cold spot.
Anya furrowed her brow at the notion and then shared her thoughts, unfiltered as always. "That’s it! It IS your costume, isn’t it? You can’t BE the Big Bad anymore, but you can dress like it." She turned in excitement to Xander and patted her boyfriend on the back. "You were right, Xander. Good for you! I didn’t know you were so insightful. It is like Superman’s cape and tights!"
"Don’t know what you’re natterin’ on about," Spike muttered. "Daft as Dru ever was." Spike shifted uncomfortably as the Scoobies all stared at him in evaluation.
"And the whole ‘living in a crypt’ bit, that would fit
too," added Buffy. "I never understood why you picked that icky place when Angel lived in a perfectly nice apartment and then the mansion. You even lived in that old factory at first."
"Like my crypt. It’s quiet, not too many visitors,"
Spike defended. "No need to insult me with Angel comparisons either."
"Ooh, ooh, that explains the radioactive hair too,"
inserted Xander with a wicked grin.
"Well," added Tara with a gentleness the others
lacked, "the whole Goth look is designed to show a certain rebellious power. I’m sure it frightens many people if they don’t get to know you."
Spike looked like a trapped animal. The way they were looking at him made him feel naked and not in a comfortable, getting ready to shag way either. "’S not like that. Just like it simple’s all. Basic black, a classic look. Timeless, just like me."
Buffy snorted in amusement. "Old, you mean."
"Put me down with the simple," Xander quipped.
Spike glared at Xander from a ducked head. If the chip hadn’t been there, Xander would be learning just how simple it was to bleed to death. "That’s right. And what does your fashion sense tell us, whelp? Oh, that’s right, you don’t have any style except doofus nerd, do you? Plaid in the winter and Hawaiian in the
summer would be my guess. What image you goin’ for, lumberjack or surfer? Gotta tell you, it’s not workin’ for me."
Xander started to move over into Spike’s face, but Anya put a restraining arm on him to keep it from getting physical. Spike might be chipped, but he could still knock Xander across the room with only a small headache. And unconscious Xander wouldn’t be up to giving many pleasing orgasms, after all.
"Xander, back off." Anya pulled on Xander, causing him to look at her instead of his intended target. "If Spike needs to hide behind an image, don’t poke fun at him. Lots of people do that. Look at Giles!" Everyone looked at the Watcher in curiosity.
"Giles dresses like some fusty recluse from a BBC import, even though he once was called Ripper. You just know there’s contained violence and fire under all that tweed! Besides, Xander, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about your wardrobe myself. Nothing you wear shows what a wonderful stallion you are in the bedroom. All my girlfriends must wonder what I see in you!" Anya nodded, determined to do a bit of
shopping herself and soon. There were some leather pants she had been eyeing at the local Eddie Bauer that would look hot on her Xander.
Giles cleared his throat before speaking. "Yes, well, now that every male in the room has had his wardrobe reviewed and found wanting, perhaps we should move on to more important issues."
"Spike," Giles looked at the still fuming vampire,
"you will need to begin looking for a place to live
with your mother. I shall prepare documents for both of you to facilitate that. Do you have any plans to arrange financing your responsibilities?"
"We don’t have any need for another employee, Rupert," Anya piped in. "The profits won’t support another employee and I will not take a pay cut because Dawn messed up a spell!"
"Actually, I do have some dosh. Goes all the way back to my human days. Demon bank with branches all over’s been watchin’ over it. Guess now’d be a good time to make some withdrawals," Spike shared.
"Demons have banks?" Buffy was clearly shocked.
"Of course they do, Buffy," chided Anya. "How do you think demons live anyway? In some cases, such as vampires and vengeance demons, lifespans are very long too. You can’t just steal and pillage all the time! How do you think they educate their spawn? Living isn’t cheap, after all," Anya huffed.
Silence greeted that revelation as the humans began to wonder at the unseen world all around them. They all knew about the areas of town frequented by demons but had never given any thought to what sorts of lives that the inhabitants might be living when not in combat with the Slayer.
Spike took that opportunity to poke his head around the corner where his mother and Willow were engrossed with the laptop. "Mother," he began with cultured tones, "I need to go and collect some of my things for our stay here. I’ll get some things you’ll need as well. Will you be quite all right while I am gone?"
"I’ll be fine, William. This lovely girl has just
introduced me to a wondrous collection of computer sites with what are called webcams. Do you know that you can sit in front of this machine and actually see what is happening right now at the Houses of Parliament and Covent Gardens? This is quite the window on the world." Anne looked at her son, eyes sparkling like a child’s come Christmas morning.
"I’ve even had a peek at Tahiti, can you imagine?!"
Spike swallowed the lump in his throat at the pure joy he was seeing on his beloved mother’s face. ‘Last time I saw her, she was bleedin’ comin’ on to me. This is so much better. I could kiss the Bit for her screw-up,’ he thought. "Glad you’re enjoyin’ what this world has to offer. Willow is just the guide too." Spike smiled in gratitude to the witch.
"Spike," Tara stopped him at the door. "If you’d
like, I could go out and pick up a few things your
mother might need for a day or two. I think I could select things she’d like."
Spike looked in surprise at the girl who had been the shy wallflower of the group. ‘Always on the fringes, never fully part of the group,’ he thought. ‘Know that feelin’ well.’ He smiled at the blushing girl and dug out some cash. "Thanks. Appreciate it more than I can say, Tara. Nothin’ too radical but in style, yeah?"
The crypt didn’t have the feel of home that it usually held for Spike. Perhaps seeing it through the eyes of his mother put a pall on the atmosphere. No amount of imagination could allow Spike to see Anne Pratt setting up housekeeping in this place, no matter the
resources at her disposal. Spike thought he might call his poker mate, Clem, and offer the place to him. Be nice to be able to drop by and be welcomed. Right good memories in this crypt. First home he’d ever really had on his own.
"No way around the changes," Spike complained to himself. "Women never let a bloke be!"
He sighed and began to pack the essentials in an old carpetbag and valise. He’d come for the rest after he had a place to call home again. Not a lot to show for over a century of existence, really. Most of what he’d carted all over the globe had been Dru’s or were for her comfort.
He had placed the two small cases by the door of the crypt and turned to the refrigerator, intending to place his blood supply in a backpack Dawn had left at the crypt during one of her visits when there was a timid knock on the door.
Spike grasped a crowbar kept next to the door for dealing with unexpected and unwanted visitors and slowly opened the door. Buffy, head down, stood next to a human that Spike knew he should recognize.
"Um, Spike," the man said, "you haven’t come to
collect your bot and I’d REALLY like to leave town for a while. Katrina’s really badmouthing me and now my mom’s on my case."
Spike grew a whiter shade of pale as he took in the robot he had completely forgotten ordering in all the excitement of his mother’s return. He drew in a breath and motioned the builder to bring the false Buffy into the crypt. "You put in all that programming?"
"Sure thing, all the extra goodies with a few I thought of myself," Warren said proudly.
As Spike spoke, the Buffybot shot her head up, a wide grin playing on her pretty face. "Spike, oh, Spike!" the robot exclaimed then pulled him into a passionate embrace.
Spike pulled back in horror. What the hell could he say to explain this to Buffy? He was already on shaky ground by having helped her little sis in the attempt at resurrecting Joyce. If Buffy got a look at this little toy, he’d be dust even if his mom were in the same room!
"You got a cell phone on you?" he demanded of Warren.
"Sure," the nerd admitted and reluctantly held it out to the rather scary vampire.
"Keep that away from me while I make a call," Spike ordered, glaring at the bot. The bot stood with that unnerving smile, just staring at Spike as if she were looking at a yummy treat all for her.
Spike rapidly dialed Buffy’s number and prayed that Dawn would be the one to answer.
"Summers residence." The voice sounded like Anya and Spike breathed a sigh of relief.
"That you, demon girl?" he rasped out.
"Well, I’m no longer a demon, but it is Anya, if that’s what you mean, Spike," Anya huffed.
"Great, yeah, ex-demon. Got it. Look, I really need to talk to Red right away," Spike demanded. "Oh, and don’t let anyone know it’s me on the phone or I’ll make some mischief at that shop you treat like a temple. Got that?"
"That’s just sad, Spike, threatening vandalism!" Anya whispered, making no one could overhear her use his name just the same.
Anya motioned to Willow and pulled her into the alcove with the phone. "Willow, Spike needs to talk to you but doesn’t want anyone to know it’s him. I really don’t want to lose valuable merchandise because you get too loud, so I’d appreciate it if you’d just answer him in monosyllables, okay?"
"Um, sure," replied a confused Willow. She took the receiver in her hand and in a low voice said, "Spike, what’s up?"
"Red…Willow, seems I really need some help that only you can provide, luv. Think you could slip away and meet me in my crypt?"
"Probably," Willow answered, intrigued. "When do you need me?"
Spike was holding the robot at arm’s length as he talked on Warren’s cell phone. "Immediately comes to mind; soon as you can get here, pet." He closed the cell phone and handed it back to the young inventor.
"You got the paperwork on this?" Spike indicated the bot with his head. "You know, specs, design, instructions, that lot?"
"I’m not giving up the secrets to my invention! Are you nuts?" Warren looked shocked at the suggestion. "I don’t even have a patent on this! Anyone could steal it." Warren was backing away from the glowering vampire as he spoke.
"Look, it’ll do everything you wanted and more. You’ll be fully satisfied." Warren backed out the open door, preparing to run. "Have a good time. You don’t owe me a cent." Warren shot off through the cemetery as if the hounds of hell were after him.
"Spike, would you like to have sex now?" The robot had started to run its hands down Spike’s chest, rapidly aiming for the hem of his shirt. Spike swatted at its hands in desperation.
"No! No sex. Things have changed and you’re gonna change with ‘em." He backed into the crypt, shutting the door with his foot as he moved away from the bot.
"You don’t like me, Spike?" The bot’s face took on a look of confusion. "I’m just like you ordered. Why don’t you like me?"
"Like you just fine, pet. Needs have changed, that’s all." Spike was trying to decide the best place to stash this potential disaster from view. All he needed was one of the Scooby clan to get a look at it and they’d know what he’d had in mind and then stakes would appear from the ether. He had to put some spin on it and fix the problem before the lot of them came to the right conclusions. He was finally making some
progress with the Slayer and this was bound to bugger it up proper.
Spike managed to get the robot to the lower level just as Willow arrived at the crypt.
Willow looked about nervously. Spike hadn’t been a menace in a while, but the witch was still twitchy around him, especially alone like this.
"Thanks for coming, luv," Spike greeted her. He
looked relieved to see her and there were no empty bottles around to be used to threaten her, so Willow relaxed slightly. "Got a bit of a problem. Sort of a misunderstanding come back to haunt me. Need your brains to fix it."
"Is Harmony back? I agree she might make your mom upset, but I don’t know what you think I can do about it. Unless you want her staked and I’m not stake girl really. Maybe you should have called Buffy?" Willow was babbling and knew it.
"No, not Harm." Spike was desperately trying to think of how to word his request properly. Willow needed to know what he was asking without having all the worst assumptions confirmed. "I kinda got this machine, computer like."
Willow relaxed even further. Maybe Spike wanted her to upgrade some old PC he’d picked up at the dump or something for his mom. No problem! "Oh, your mom would love that! She’s having a ball checking out the different web sites. I even helped her set up a Yahoo account!"
"Not quite what I need," Spike finally registered the last bit Willow had said and tilted his head in
curiosity. "My mum has a Yahoo account?"
"Sure. Before you know it, she’ll have all kinds of net friends everywhere. She’s very excited," Willow gushed proudly.
Spike was struck dumb at that concept and just stared at the girl.
"Spike, it’s dark down there and lonely. Is that our bed?" The sound of the Buffybot’s too cheerful voice broke the silence. "Oh, we have company." The bot gazed at the gape-jawed Willow as she ran through the recognition programming Warren had coded into her
processor. "Willow, my recently gay best friend. Bit of a nerd, but rather sweet. Hello, welcome to our crypt." The bot headed towards the girl with a smile of welcome.
Willow blinked in surprise and then looked at Spike, who was clearly embarrassed beyond words. "Would this be the computer problem?"
"Yes," Spike admitted. "Had the idea an extra Slayer might come in handy a while back when that robot girl was running about tossin’ vampires through windows and all. Bint’s got some programmin’ I need you to wipe out though. Stupid boy must have thought I wanted it for the kind of thing a nerd like him’d do." Spike shuffled his feet and refused to look Willow in the
"’Cause that thought never crossed your mind, right, Spike?" Willow didn’t know if she should be horrified or amused by the pickle Spike was in.
Spike blinked at her and tried to think what answer was the best to give in order to get Willow to help him. "Point is, ‘s not right havin’ this bit of wires and plastic runnin’ about with a crush on me. It’s set up to be like Buffy in every other way though, the slaying and all. Might be useful if we could get rid of the extra stuff, yeah?"
"Let me get this straight," Willow put on her stern face of no nonsense. "You had Warren Mears make a sexbot for you and now you’re scared Buffy will find out and stake you, so you want me to change its programming and act like it’s supposed to have been used as patrol backup?" She crossed her arms and glowered at the obviously guilty vampire. Willow had
no intention of letting Spike see how intrigued she was by the bot and how funny she found the whole situation.
"Gonna tell the Slayer?" Spike asked, his voice low and deep.
Willow toyed with the idea of making Spike squirm but thought of the nice older lady she had just left behind the keyboard of her laptop and took pity on him. "Not if we don’t have to, I guess. Let’s have a look at her. No promises, but I’ll see what I can do."