“Okay, let’s go—” She froze looking from Spike to her mother. “What’s wrong?”
“Spike thinks he heard something outside, and I thought I saw movement at the window.”
“Wonderful.’ Buffy sighed and put down her small dufflebag. “Here. Take this.” She pulled the ring off her thumb and handed it to Spike, who quickly slipped it on with a quiet “thank you, love.”
“How are we going to play this? Doesn’t look like he’s planning to knock on the door, so—” She was interrupted by the doorbell. “Or not. I’ll get it, Mom. You stay here with Spike.” Buffy marched to the door and threw it open to find Riley standing there, hand’s up in the universal sign for peace.
“What are you doing here, Riley? This is my mom’s house.”
“I know. I just haven’t been able to find you anywhere, and Willow said she didn’t know where you were, so I thought I’d check here. I’m not here to cause trouble, and I’m by myself—”
Buffy stared at him skeptically, but behind her she heard Spike say, “Think he’s telling the truth, Slayer. I can’t hear anyone else outside and your mum hasn’t seen anyone.”
“Oh,” Riley said as Spike entered the foyer. “You’re here too. That’s… good… I guess.”
“We’re both here, Riley, but we were just leaving. What do you want?”
He gave Spike another uncomfortable look, then sighed when Joyce came in behind him. “I really wanted to talk to you… alone.”
“Not happenin’,” Spike said. Behind him Joyce nodded firmly before speaking up.
“Buffy, why don’t you introduce me to your…friend? And invite him in.”
“Riley, this is my mom. Mom, this is Riley, the guy I told you about.” She stepped back to allow Riley to enter the house, although he didn’t come in very far and the door remained ajar.
“The one you think you need to hide from?” Joyce gave Riley her best ‘get away from my daughter’ glare, causing Spike to chuckle.
Riley held up his hands again. “I hope not. I looked up “Slayer” online, but there isn’t much information available. There’s a “Vampire Slayer” mentioned as being a mythical creature that hunts vampires, but—”
“Do I look mythical to you?” Buffy said indignantly.
“Trust me. There’s nothing mythical about her right cross,” Spike offered, rubbing his jaw.
“But… you can’t be real. A girl. Who fights vampires?”
“And demons. And cyborgs that want to rule the world.” She grinned when Riley’s eyes went wide. “And who stops world-ending apocalypses every spring… It’s really more of a multi-tasking position,” she said cheerfully, even as she shot Spike a “shut up” glare.
“Cy— How do you know so much about…. things you shouldn’t know anything about?”
“I can’t tell you that, Riley,” Buffy said as kindly as she could. “Just accept that I do. More than you do about some of it, probably.”
“And now we’re back to me thinking I need to take you in—”
“That’s not going to happen, Riley. As much as I’d like to know for sure that Adam—you do know she calls him Adam, by now, don’t you?” She didn’t bother to grin this time, just nodded when Riley winced. “Anyway, as much as I’d like to know what happened to him, I’m pretty sure you aren’t going to tell me now, so I’ll just have to wait until I find out through other… channels.”
Riley narrowed his eyes at her. “What ‘other channels’?”
“I can’t tell you that either… except… I guess I can tell you that your secret army unit isn’t so secret anymore, thanks to my….” She glanced at Spike. “I don’t know what to call the Council.”
“Wankers always worked for me.”
“Not helpful, Spike.” She turned back to Riley. “I guess ‘former employers’ is as close as I can come. The group of people who… watch… over slayers is very powerful. And they know things. And people. So your army knows about what’s been going on here now, and there are people on the way here to take over. Or so I’m told, anyway,” she added.
Riley looked like he was really regretting having arrived unarmed. When he glanced toward the door, as if considering trying to get to his vehicle, Spike slid up behind him, with a speed that made Riley’s eyes widen. He looked at Spike much harder than he had in the dim light of the Bronze.
“You… you’re….” He continued to stare, weighing Spike’s pallor and speed against his otherwise completely human appearance. His limited experience with the vampires they’d captured gave him no frame of reference for one that didn’t spend all its time in game face.
Spike glanced at Buffy, but when she shook her head slightly, he leaned against the door and did his best to appear harmless. “I’m just making sure you don’t change your mind about shooting one of us,” he said.
Riley looked back at Buffy and her very normal - seeming mother. “I don’t want to shoot you. I just want to know what’s going on. And now I want to know what you had to do with it.”
“Trust me, we’ve got nothing to do with your little vampire and demon catching and torturing operation,” Spike said, losing his harmless stance. “And if anything any of us did was able to put a stop to—”
He rolled his eyes, but stopped talking.
“What does he mean?” Riley looked to Buffy for an answer.
“He means, that if those alarms that went off mean what we hope they did, you can be grateful that your men aren’t going to become cyborgs slaves to a monster. A monster that your boss was creating in that room she never let any of you go in.” Buffy took a deep breath and exhaled before continuing. “I want you to go back to… wherever… and just chill for couple of days. Until your new bosses get here.”
“And what will you be doing?”
“Probably hiding from you, if you still think I’m some kind of demon or something you should put in a cage.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I know. And if I didn’t think you were still trying to take me down to what’s left of your demon jail, I’d sit down and explain to you about slayers. But I already know you don’t want to believe there’s anything but a scientific explanation for everything in Sunnydale, so you probably wouldn’t believe most of what I told you anyway. If you want to tell me what happened down in the labs—” She smiled when Riley flinched. “If you want to tell me, that would be awesome. It would be really helpful to know if Adam is still a danger or not, but if you don’t, then you should just go back and wait.”
Riley looked back and forth between Buffy and Spike, who was still blocking his way out the door. “I’m guessing that there’s no way I can fight my way out of here, is there? Not against you two.”
Joyce broke into the tense atmosphere by walking up to Riley and staring him in the face.
“My daughter risks her life every night to keep this town and this world safe from the creatures of the night. And has since she was only fifteen. If I thought for one second that you were a danger to her, those two would be the least of your worries. Are we clear?”
Riley stared back at the unarmed and, as far as he knew, perfectly normal woman and swallowed hard.
“Yes, ma’am,” he said, shooting a glare a Spike who had audibly snickered.
To his surprise, Spike gave him an apologetic shrug and said, “Best listen to her, mate. She’s a dab hand with a fire axe.”
“You had that coming,” Joyce turning her glare on Spike.
“I did. Never doubted it.”
Riley shook his head. “I think you’re all crazy, but you seem to know more than I do right now, so I’m going back to campus and we’ll see what happens tomorrow. We’ve been told to stand down for now.”
Spike studied him for a full moment before nodding and moving away from the door. Riley held his gaze as he walked past Spike, his indecision clear on his face.
“Not sure, are you?” Spike said with grin.
Riley pointed at Buffy. “Slayers, mythical or not, are always girls. So how do you fit in?”
Buffy’s warning glare told Spike to be careful. “Think of me as an assistant slayer. Back up muscle if and when she needs it… which isn’t all that often, to be honest. Greedy bint hogs all the good fights.”
Riley stared at Buffy. “Good fights? You enjoy fighting subterrestrials?”
“He enjoys it. I’m just doing my job,” Buffy said with a sniff.
“Say that often enough, you might come to believe it, Slayer.” Spike gave her an unrepentant grin as he walked over closer to Joyce. “Reckon we’re stayin’ for dinner, Joyce. Need some help in the kitchen?”
When Spike and Joyce were out of sight, Riley relaxed somewhat and shook his head.
“I don’t even know what I don’t know, do I?”
Buffy gave him a sympathetic smile. “No, not right now, you don’t. Maybe you will after whoever’s coming to clean up your mess gets here, but I don’t know for sure. If they say it’s okay, maybe we can meet for coffee and I can give you more information.”
He studied her for a few seconds, his gaze becoming steadily more suspicious. “Are you even the Buffy Summers I met when the semester started?”
Buffy nodded. “Yes…. And no. I mean, I am me. Have been since I was born, but… I’m not quite the same me you think you know. And that’s really all I can tell you, Riley.” She smiled at him. “But hey, points for noticing.”
He sighed. “I’d be more impressed by myself if I wasn’t sure it’s something I should have noticed before now.” He looked at her shrewdly. “Shouldn’t I?”
Buffy sighed and shook her head. “I can’t answer that, Riley. I wish I could, but there would just need to be more explanations…. and yeah. I think learning more about slayers is about as good as it’s going to get for you.”
“All right, Buffy. You keep your secrets and I’ll keep mine.” As he turned to leave he said over his shoulder, “At least now I know who or what Maggie was calling for when she died.” He waited for her response.
She smiled and nodded. “Thank you. And… I’m sorry about Professor Walsh… but he probably would have killed her soon anyway.”
“So you do know what happened down there.”
Buffy shook her head. “Not really. Not exactly. I’m guessing his power pack blew up, but I’m just guessing.”
“I’m guessing you’re right, but I’ll know more tomorrow.” He stared at her for another minute, then shook his head. “Goodnight, Buffy.”
“Night, Riley… and thanks.”
“All sorted now?” Spike asked as she walked into the kitchen.
“Don’t pretend you weren’t listening. I know you heard every word of that.”
He looked slightly abashed, saying, “But your mum didn’t. You should tell her.”
“I think we’ll be okay. But who knows when he gets back there what he’s going to hear from all his buddies? Those guys you knocked out are probably still pretty pissed off, and now he knows who did it.”
“We should probably stick close to the crypt for a while,” he said. Glancing at Joyce, he asked, “Do you have some WD40 I could borrow?”
“There might be some in the garage,” she said with a frown. “What do you need it for?”
“Door to the crypt squeaks a bit. Want to keep it quiet so we don’t have to worry about being heard going in or out.”
“Think of it as a big stone building in a cemetery, Mom. You’d never know what it is if you didn’t know… what it is. Trust me, in our time you spent some time there hiding out yourself and watching Passions with Spike.”
Joyce stared at them with wide eyes, then frowned at Spike. “You like Passions?”
He shrugged. “Got into it back when I didn’t have much else to do to amuse myself. Can’t say I’ve kept up lately, but….”
“So you know what’s going to happen to Timmy?”
“Huh! I reckon I do at that.” He smiled at her. “I might be persuaded to tell for the right amount of hot cocoa with little marshmallows in it.”
“You do know most vampires drink blood, right?” Buffy said, then laughed at his offended expression.
“Not ‘most’ vampires am I?” he fired back.
“No. No you’re not.” Her voice softened and she stroked his cheek. “You're not even close.”
“Well, there you have it,” he said, his own frown vanishing as he leaned into her hand.
“Okay, you two. Give me some time to get used to the idea that you’re not who I think you are now before you traumatize me by showing me something I’d prefer not to imagine.”
“Sorry, Mom,” Buffy said as they separated. “I didn’t mean to do anything to give you any TMI moments. It’s just… we’ve been apart for a long time, and….”
“And we won’t do anything to make you want to hit me with an axe again,” Spike said, sitting on a stool some distance from Buffy.
“I wish you'd come with an instruction manual when I had you,” Joyce sighed as she went about fixing a quick meal. “Something like ‘how to react when your slayer daughter presents you with another fact you’d really rather not know.’” She smiled at Buffy to take the sting out of her words. “I love you, you know. And I really am terribly proud of what you do – in spite on not knowing much about it. But I have to admit, it does take me some time to accept things.” She gave Buffy a hug, then went back to her food preparation. “This one… yeah. Don’t expect me to suddenly start treating you like I think you’re a grownup.”
“Just treat me like your daughter, and I’m good,” Buffy said, turning away to hide the sudden brightness in her eyes. To give her time to pull herself together, Spike began to ask Joyce questions about what she was making. When he dipped his fingers into the ground beef she was making meatballs from, she smacked his hand, making him laugh as he hung on to the raw meat and dropped it into his mouth.
“C’mon, Joyce. I like spaghetti as well as the next vamp, but the raw meat is better.”
She made a face at him. “That’s disgusting.”
“I’m a vampire. I live on blood.”
She nodded. “I guess I sort of forgot that – with only serving you hot chocolate before.”
“Don’t forget it, luv. I never do.”
Buffy noticed how uncomfortable Joyce looked and smacked Spike on the back of the head. “You’re scaring my mom, Spike. You’re supposed to be charming her into thinking you’re good enough for her daughter, not reminding her that—”
“Than I’m not? Know that, Buffy. Not good enough. Never will be.” He pulled her into a loose hug and kissed her nose. “But I’m sorry. No more scary Spike.”
“I’m not afraid of you, Spike,” Joyce said. “I’m just having flashbacks to that other vampire and wishing Buffy could find… something else.”
“I tried that, Mom,” Buffy said, going closer to Joyce. “In our timeline, I dated Riley for over a year. It didn’t work out. And he knew all about my calling and tried to be supportive, but… humans just don’t get it. Spike tried to tell me I needed more, but it took a long time before I believed him. That I need a little monster in my man.” She turned back to Spike. “But you don’t need to be reminding my mom what you are.”
“It’s fine. And I’ll get some blood from the butcher tomorrow. I can keep it in the freezer so there’s always some here when you come by.” She took a deep breath and didn’t look at either one as she dropped the meatballs in a pan to brown, saying, “So, are you going to be living together? Or is this just a temporary thing while you’re hiding?”
“Wow. I was kinda hoping to avoid that conversation for a while….”
“Just tell me, Buffy. I’ll try to remind myself that you aren’t really only eighteen and that you’ve probably been on your own for a while now.”
Buffy nodded. “Yes, we rented an apartment, and we have the crypt to use when we need to hide… anything or anybody. We weren’t planning to move in right away because I knew you’d go nuts, but since you know how old I really am, and how long Spike and I have been together… we probably will be living together.”
Joyce nodded. “What about college?”
“Huh. Good question. I don’t know. In our time, getting rid of Adam sort of trashed the second semester – for everybody there, not just me – so this is new. I guess if nothing got too badly destroyed, there will be a spring semester and I’ll be able to finish this year. Go me!”
“Only this year?”
Buffy exchanged looks with Spike. “Mom. I really don’t want to tell you much about next year yet, because we’re hoping to change that too. Let’s just say, in my timeline, things were a little too… hectic… for me to concentrate on school.” She sighed. “If I can, I will. But I’ve really got no idea.”
“That’s fair enough, I guess,” Joyce said, dropping the browned meatballs into the sauce she’d had warming up in another pan. “Why don’t you set the table while I get the pasta going? Spike, do you think you can make a salad?”
He shrugged. “Probably. How hard can it be?”
Buffy rolled her eyes and handed him the plates she’d gotten out of the cupboard. “Here. You do this. I’ll make the salad.”
He laughed and nodded. “Good plan, love.”
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