“Yes, that would be one. The one follows today. I had arranged to meet her at the airport, but I’m told she will have other Council members with her and they have already organized transportation and lodging.”
“On the plus side, I will be free to help you with your mother if she will need transportation.”
“Huh? Oh, Mom. She’s coming home tonight. Spike’s going to take me to pick her up. She said we were taking advantage of you or something.” At his shocked expression, she quickly added, “I told her you wouldn’t feel that way, but she hates asking for help.”
“And yet, she doesn’t object to taking advantage of Spike….”
“Yeah, well…maybe she figured she’d just spread the taking advantage stuff around,”Buffy said. “I dunno. I guess she just knew Spike would be okay with it. And it’s nightime, so….”
“So I am the daytime assistance?”
“Are you mad? I mean,”she gestured around the shop, “don’t you have a business to run? Spike doesn’t have anything to do except help me patrol.”
“No, no, I’m not angry about it. Just a little surprised. But it makes perfect sense. She trusts Spike –why, I don’t know –and he will be more than happy to have an excuse to be in your company.”
“He doesn’t need an excuse for that anymore,”Buffy said, not meeting Giles’s eyes.
He sighed heavily. “And what about Riley?”
“Oh, I forgot. You weren’t there last night.”She began to tell him about the confrontation in her backyard and Riley’s threat to leave for South America if she refused to let him stake Spike and tell him he was more important to her than anything else in the world.
“Oh dear Lord.”Giles shook his head in disgust. “I hate to say this, but I believe you are well-rid of that arrogant twit.” He leaned back in his chair and gazed at her. “He never did really understand you and your mission.”
“No, he didn’t. He said he did, but he didn’t. He didn’t want me to be the Slayer. He wanted me to be a little damsel in distress.”She raised her eyes to his. “I hope he really left this morning. Spike went back to his crypt by himself.”
Giles frowned, but said, “I’m sure he’ll be fine. Spike is an old vampire and he’s been taking care of himself for a long time. I’m sure, a predilection for seeking out slayers aside, his sense of self-preservation is quite well-developed.”
Buffy nodded. “He’s got more sense than you expect him to sometimes, but I’m afraid losing the chip might make him think he’s super-vamp or something.” She stood up. “I’m going to go check on him. We’re picking Mom up at 7:30, so if she’s okay being home with just Dawn, maybe we can have a short Scooby meeting before Spike and I do a patrol. Will you let Xander and Willow know? Maybe about 8:30?”
“A wise idea. I think some preparation before we have to meet with the Council…members…would not be amiss.”
Buffy grinned. “You were about to call them something else, weren’t you?”
“Nonsense,”he said, barely hiding his smile. “These are my former colleagues and I have nothing but respect for them.”
“Nice try.”Buffy smirked and went to the door. “I’ll call you if something happens that we can’t make the meeting.”
Giles wisely refrained from asking who “we”included, resigning himself to Spike’s apparent place in their lives.
As Buffy approached Spike’s crypt, she was surprised to see one of Riley’s former squad mates staring at the door as if trying to decide what to do. He startled as Buffy walked up behind him and spoke.
“What’s up? I thought you guys were off to South America?” The look she was giving him was not a friendly one and he quickly raised his hands and shrugged.
“We’re leaving in a couple of hours. Things got delayed a little bit with Riley’s paperwork –it being a last-minute decision and all that.”
“So why are you here? You do know this is Spike’s crypt, right?”
He nodded. “I do…I just thought maybe I should check on him…Don’t touch that!”He grabbed her arm, pulling it away from the interior door which she’d been about to open.”
“Why not?”she asked, eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Why shouldn’t I touch the door?”
He sighed. “I think Finn…he was pretty upset, you know? And I think he might have…but he wouldn’t want you to get hurt, so maybe he really didn’t…”
“What. Did. He. Do?”
Before Graham could answer, the door opened and Spike stood just inside out of reach of the sun’s rays.
“What he did, was take me for an idiot,”Spike said. “You can come in, Slayer. It’s safe enough…now.”
Buffy looked back and forth between the two men who exchanged nods. Graham turned to go, saying, “We’ll be out of here by 16:00 hours. Good to know you’re okay.”He spoke to Spike rather than Buffy. “I was trying to figure out how to check on you without opening the door myself. In case you were just hurt or something….”
“Appreciate the concern, but I came in a different way. Just take your buddy and get him out of Sunnyhell…tell him I suggest not to plan on comin’back.”
“What the hell is going on?” Buffy glared back and forth between them.
“Come on in, Slayer. I’ll catch you up.”
Buffy frowned at Graham, but he had turned away and was already jogging toward the cemetery exit. Muttering to herself, she entered the room and waited for Spike to close the door. The dirty windows let in enough light that she could see in the gloom and she walked to where a crossbow was sitting on a table.
“Did you get a new weapon? Doesn’t seem like your style,”she said, as she picked it up and saw U.S. Govt. Issue on the side. Her eyes flew to Spike’s as he took it out of her hand and set it back down.
“Not my style. Found it when I got home. All set up and ready to shoot the first person through the front door.”
Buffy’s face paled. “He tried to kill you.”
Spike snarled. “More important –it’s daylight, he might have killed you, or the Bit or anyone else who might visit me before dark. Stupid wanker didn’t think about that. Or that I wouldn’t be using the front door in broad daylight. Even if it was dark, I’d’ve smelt him all over it. As it is, I knew he’d been in here before I even got all the way upstairs. Found the set up right off.”
“He tried to kill you,”Buffy repeated as if she’d heard nothing of what he said. “He knew I didn’t want you dead, and he still tried to kill you.”She whirled and headed for the door.
“Where’re you going, pet? You just got here.”He got between her and the door, rocking back on his heels when she ran into him.
“I’m going to make him wish he’d never been born,”she said, tilting her head back to let him see the fury on her face.
“Let it go, love,”he soothed, his soft smile telling her how much he appreciated her defending him. “No harm done, and now he knows you know, and his buddies know what a poor loser he is…We won’t see him back here any time soon.”
“Aren’t you mad?”
He shrugged. “Been a lot of things in my life, Buffy. Most of ‘em evil. If I got mad every time somebody or something tried to kill me… Man has as much reason as most –more really. As long as he’s gone and stays gone….”
“Well, I’m mad.”Buffy said with a pout. “I want to hit somebody.”
“Just hang on to that feeling for a bit. I found a nest in a far corner of the graveyard. Reckon they didn’t know who lives here, but I figured we could educate them tonight after we get your mum home and settled.”
He slid his arms around her and pulled her closer so he could nuzzle the side of her neck. “What brings you here so early? Thought we were meeting up after dark?”
Buffy tilted her head to give him more access and murmured in appreciation.
“It probably shouldn’t feel so good to have your mouth on my throat,”she sighed when he pulled her even closer.
“Prob’ly not,”he agreed with a smile in his voice. “But I’m glad it does. Can think of a few other places to put my mouth that might feel just as good…or better…”
“Your front door doesn’t lock,”she said, her actions belying her concern as she slid her hands under his tee-shirt and raked her nails over his back.
“Does too. And even better –I’ve got a bedroom downstairs.”
“Where Harmony was staying.”Buffy stiffened and pulled away at the memory.
“I promise, love. Was already too gone on you to give that airhead anything but a safe place to stay. Told you before, I’m a one-woman man. Doesn’t matter if the woman in question is available or not.”
“Really?”She softened her posture and let him nibble on her ear.
“Really. Would I lie to you?”
“Point. But you know why I don’t lie to you?”
“Because you’re terrible at it and I always know?”She giggled when she felt the growl in chest change to a chuckle.
“There’s that. But I want you to know you can trust me. And you won’t do that if you think I’d lie to you about anything important.”
“So,”she put her hands back under his shirt. “You’ve never been with Harmony down there?”
“Not for a long time,”he said. “And I’ve changed the sheets many times since then.”
“We do have a couple of hours to kill….”
“Hold that thought,”he said, darting to the door and dropping a heavy bar across it. He was back before she’d had time to move. He picked her up and walked to the opening to his downstairs bedroom. “Trust me?”
She nodded, then gave a little shriek as he leapt into space and dropped lightly to the floor below, landing with barely a bump. “Did I scare you, love?”
He laughed as he laid her on the bed and followed her down. “Sometimes I do. But not right now…I don’t want to scare you now, I just want to love you….”
It was a couple of hours of alternating vigorous and tender love making later before they were lying side by side and smiling at each other. Each now knew much more about the other’s likes, dislikes, erogenous zones, and the scent, taste and feel of each other’s body. They basked in the afterglow, too satisfied to initiate more, and too content to want to move apart.
“It’s probably time to go,”Buffy finally said with a sigh, leaning closer to nuzzle his arm and inhale the now-familiar scent.
“Probably.”He ran his other hand over the top of her head in a gentle caress.
Neither one made a move to get up and look for their clothes. After another few minutes of smiling for no apparent reason, Buffy sighed again and sat up, blushing at his appreciative leer, but refraining from following her first instinct to pull the sheet up.
“We really do need to go. Or I do, anyway. I have to get home and fix something for Dawn and me to eat and make sure nothing went wrong today and Mom is still coming home.”
Spike stretched, smirking when Buffy’s eyes went to his taut body and growing erection.
“Stop what?”He grinned and sat up, running a hand over the soft skin on her back and licked his lips as he stared at her hardening nipples.
“Being all…sexy vampire when I need to think about leaving.”
“You don’t want me being all sexy vampire, you’d best cover up that delectable body before I can’t control my evil self and have my wicked way with you…. again.”
“We can do this. On a count of three –ready? One…two…. mmmph!”
She found herself pinned to the bed with Spike’s mouth on hers and his hips already moving. She wrapped her legs around his back and arched into him, tearing her mouth away from the kiss long enough to say, “Okay, maybe one more time….”
“This is all your fault.”
“I’ll take full responsibility. ‘I’m sorry, Joyce. Buffy and I were so busy shagging each other’s brains out that we forgot all about you’.”
“So not funny!”Buffy ran up the steps of her house, shouting for Dawn. Who was sitting calmly in front of the TV, eating popcorn.
“Are you ready to go?”
“Yeah. Where have you been? I called the Magic Box, but Giles said you left a long time ago.”
“I was worried about Spike,”Buffy said. “With good reason, it turns out.”While Buffy ran upstairs to grab the bag of clean clothes she’d packed for Joyce, Spike filled Dawn in on the trap Riley had left for him.
Dawn was still muttering threats against Riley’s entire family when Buffy came down and said, “Let’s go. One Mom coming up.”
It didn’t take long for Joyce to change into her street clothes, and she dropped the hospital gown on the bed with great relish.
“I don’t care if I never see one of these again,”she said as she gathered up the few other things she had with her. She wrinkled her nose when the nurse showed up with a wheelchair, but showed no real reluctance to ride down to where Spike was to meet them with the car. As happy as she was to get out of the hospital, she had no intention of going any further than her own bed.
The nurse began to push her, pausing in the hallway when the surgeon happened to walk by.
“Ah, Mrs Summers. I’m glad to see you looking so well. Remember our conversation about resting and taking the rest of your meds. I’ll see you in another week to take out those staples.”
“Thank you, Dr. Phillips. I’ll be careful, I promise.”
Buffy smiled. “Is there anything special we should be worrying about or watching for?”
The doctor shook his head. “Nothing I haven’t already gone over with your mother. I wouldn’t be allowing her to leave yet if I weren’t sure that she understands what she can and can’t expect. If there’s anything out of the ordinary, she’s to contact my office. No matter how minor it may seem to be.”
“Okay. Mom’s got her orders. Good to know.”
They wished the doctor a good evening and continued to the elevator and down to the lobby. Dawn was standing by the door where she gestured to them and pointed outside. The nurse obediently wheeled Joyce through the doors and to the old car to which Dawn was now holding open the front door.
“I can ride in the back,”Joyce protested, but willingly accepted Spike’s insistence that it would be easier to get in and out of the front.
“He just doesn’t want you to see all the empty bottles on the floor in the back,”Dawn said, sticking out her tongue at Spike when he barely smothered a growl.
The nurse looked at them uncertainly –the rough-looking man in the leather coat, the daughter she found somewhat frightening, although she couldn’t have explained why, and the otherwise normal-seeming younger girl almost bouncing with excitement. But since her patient seemed quite comfortable with them all, and grateful to be going home, she just helped her into car and handed her the bag of belongings. With Buffy and Dawn in the backseat, they were soon on the way to Revello Drive.
Spike insisted on carrying Joyce into the house, but she drew the line at being carried upstairs.
“Spike! I had surgery on my head, not on my legs. Buffy can walk beside me if you want, in case I get dizzy, and you can walk behind me, and Dawn can…I don’t know. I just know I am perfectly capable of walking to my own bedroom.”
She focused her best “Because I’m the mom”look on each of them before nodding and starting up the stairs, Buffy beside her watching anxiously while Spike was right behind, ready to catch her if she fell. Moving slowly, she had no trouble getting upstairs, holding on to the bannister and only stopping once to rest for a few seconds.
By the time the little procession got to her room, Dawn was already there and had turned the bed down. Joyce gave an appreciative smile and sat on the edge of the bed. She looked up at Spike. “Thank you for coming to get me. I really appreciate it, Spike. But now I’m going to want to change into something comfy before I go to sleep….”
“Oh! Right. I’ll just be downstairs, if you need me. Or even if you don’t need me…. You’re welcome, Joyce. Any time.”
Buffy smothered her giggle at his obvious embarrassment, but Joyce just smiled and said, “Thank you, Spike. I knew you were too much of a gentleman to just stand there.”
While Buffy and Dawn snorted, he shot them both a glare, then disappeared to stomp down the stairs. Joyce looked at her two laughing daughters and shook her head.
“Well, he is, you know. Or he knows how to be, anyway. Perhaps that would be more accurate…”
“Waaaaay more accurate,”Buffy said, still giggling.
“I heard that!”floated up from the base of the stairs, causing more giggles as the girls began to help Joyce get into comfortable pajamas and get settled in her bed.
“What do you need, Mom? I don’t want you getting up for anything except to use the bathroom.”
“I think, maybe a glass of water on the nightstand? I’m really much more tired than I expected to be, and I think I’ll just go to sleep in a few minutes.”She looked up at Buffy. “Will you be home later?”
Buffy blushed, but lifted her chin. “Of course I will. And Dawn will be here. She can check on you before she goes to bed, and I’ll look in on you when I get home. We’ve got it covered.”
“Okay then. If you’ll just turn out the light and close the door, I think I’m going to shut my eyes and doze.”
“I’ll be right back with your water,”Dawn said. “I’ll put it where you can reach it…and I’ll be right downstairs or in my room if you need me.”
“I’m sure I’ll be fine. You have no idea what a relief it will be to fall asleep and not have to expect someone to wake me up every few hours to make sure I’m okay. I’m completely looking forward to a full night’s uninterrupted sleep.”
“You know you probably just jinxed yourself, right?”Buffy said, giving her mom a wry smile. “That’s what always happens when I say things like that.”
Joyce smiled back, her eyelids already at half-mast. “Well, maybe that’s just a Slayer thing and won’t apply to me.”
“I hope not. Sleep well, Mom. I’m glad you’re home.” Buffy kissed her mother’s forehead and walked out, passing Dawn who was just coming back with a glass of water to put on the nightstand.
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