Joyce sat in stunned silence, trying to tell herself she hadn’t just been given a lesson in parenting by a self-identified evil monster who was clearly in love with her daughter. She heard Spike’s door slam shut as she got to her feet and walked to the hall.
She paused outside Buffy’s door, then straightened her shoulders and raised her hand to knock. Before she could do it, the door opened and Buffy was staring past her at Spike’s door.
“What happened? Why is Spike mad?”
It was obvious that she’d been crying and Joyce’s regret grew even stronger. She took a deep breath and said, “I… I think he’s a little disappointed with me. That it has taken me so long to come to you and tell you how much I’ve missed you, and… and how proud I am to be the mother of the… of a hero, a girl who saves people from dangers they don’t even know about. Can you forgive me, Buffy? Will you come home with me?” Her speech ended with a plea and a muffled sob as she waited to see if she’d lost her daughter forever.
Buffy’s turned her still-damp eyes away from Spike’s door to focus on Joyce. “Of course I will, Mom. I miss you too. And I miss my room, and my closet, and my bathroom, and your cooking….” She threw her arms around her mother and they clung together, crying and laughing at the same time. Joyce was so happy to have her daughter back, it took her a while to notice she was having trouble breathing.
“Um, Buffy?” she managed to gasp. “I believe you about the super strength….”
“What? Oh! I’m sorry, Mom! I didn’t do that on purpose, I swear. I was just so happy—”
“So, you’ll come home with me then?” Joyce wiped her eyes and ventured a smile.
Buffy nodded eagerly. “Just give me some time to collect all my stuff. Some of it’s scattered around the house.”
Joyce mentally flinched at the reminder of how long Buffy had been living away from home, but outwardly she nodded.
“Of course, honey. What can I do to help?”
“Um… maybe put my clothes that won’t fit in the suitcase into one of those boxes? That’d be easiest for you to find. Everything’s either in the closet, the dresser, or… um, on the floor?” Buffy coughed, but Joyce just forced a laugh.
“Just like home, huh?” she said lightly as she bent down to pick up some jeans and socks.
Buffy hesitated. “Mom? Maybe we should talk first?”
Joyce clutched the clothing in her hands and tried not to panic. “Whatever you think, Buffy. I mean we can talk at home….” At the look on Buffy’s face, she sighed and sank down on the edge of the bed. “Or we could talk here, I guess. Are you changing your mind?”
“Not really. I just don’t want to get all the way moved back in to your—”
“Our! It’s our house!”
“—our house and then find out you still don’t understand what I do and why I have to do it. If I can come in and out one of the doors instead of climbing through a window, that would be great, but if we’re going to be fighting about how late it is, or why I’m out in the middle of the night—”
Joyce’s shoulders slumped. “I guess I didn’t think this through. I do understand what you do—I think. But the day-to-day, or night-to-night I guess, changes it’s going to make in our lives….”
“Mom, I don’t want to come home unless you’re sure you can handle it. The normal stuff—go out, patrol cemeteries, stake new vamps, come home and try to get a decent amount of sleep before I get up and go to school—that stuff shouldn’t be a big deal. And most of my meetings with Giles happen at school. But sometimes it isn’t so routine. Sometimes I have to fight demons, or something else really bad and dangerous. Sometimes I’m gone all night. Sometimes I have to skip school because there’s something I need to do in the daytime. Sometimes I get hurt—”
At Joyce’s whimper, Buffy said quickly, “I heal really fast, Mom. That’s why you’ve probably never noticed. I’ve always washed the blood out of my clothes myself, and made up an excuse about getting hurt in PE class or something if I had to limp for a couple of days. But I don’t want to do that anymore if I don’t have to. I don’t want to have to lie to you all the time, but if every time I stay out all night, or come home bloody or bruised, you’re going to freak out and demand I stop slaying—”
“Oh God.” Joyce put a hand to her mouth. “I never thought—all this time, you might have been killed out there and I would never have known…. Oh my God.” She hugged herself. “Doesn’t anyone help you?”
“Well, Giles does sometimes—usually in the ‘Here’s what you’ll be fighting against and how to kill it, now go get it’ sense of the word. But sometimes he comes with and brings a crossbow or something. And, actually, sometimes Willow and Xander come with me. Not lately, but before, when we were hanging out together more.”
“Are they slayers too?”
Buffy laughed. “No, Mom. There’s only supposed to be one slayer at a time. But Willow’s practicing to be a witch, so she can do little magic spells, and Xander just… he helps. He saved my life last year when the Master almost killed me and Xander gave me CPR.”
Joyce felt like she was going to be sick. “CPR? You needed CPR?” she said weakly.
“Uh, yeah? I kinda drowned when Batface threw me into a puddle face down. Technically I guess I was dead for a minute, but Xander brought me back and I kicked the Master’s ugly butt and saved the world, so it turned out okay.”
Joyce wrapped her arms around her body, letting Buffy’s clothes fall back to the floor as she held herself long enough to regain her courage and make a decision. She picked the clothes back up and said firmly, “I think I would rather be part of this life of yours, and know what risks you’re taking, than chance losing you to something I know nothing about. I’m your mother. If you’re facing danger, I want to know about it. I may even be able to help, who knows?”
Buffy laughed. “Well, you already have, Mom. Remember last fall when you clocked Spike with the fire ax?”
“Was he going to kill you?” Joyce glared across the hall, wondering if it was too late to try killing Spike again.
“Well, that’s was his plan. I wasn’t really planning to lay there and let him hit me with that wall stud, but it would have been close. He might have gotten lucky.”
“Explain to me why I shouldn’t go over there right now and cut off his head?” Joyce looked at the sword leaning against the wall by the door.
“Well, for starters, you probably couldn’t. Spike’s a pretty amazing fighter and I’m sure he’s listening to every word we say, so you probably wouldn’t even make it through the door. And anyway— speaking of people who help keep me safe—we don’t hate each other anymore, so I don’t want his head cut off.”
“I don’t understand. Buffy, he tried to kill you! How can you live in the same house with him?”
“Mom, I was trying to kill him too. It’s what we do. I’m a Slayer, he’s a vampire. Spike has killed two slayers in the past 100 years or so. I don’t even know how many vampires I’ve slayed since I was called. Probably hundreds or even thousands. It’s who we were then. Enemies.”
“And now we aren’t enemies,” Buffy said, turning her face away.
Joyce shuddered, remembering the emotion she’d seen from the vampire. “No,” she agreed. “It seems you aren’t enemies anymore.”
They were quiet for a few seconds, then Joyce began briskly gathering up more clothing and putting it into the boxes Buffy had kept from her many trips to and from the house.
“So, we’re going to be all right then?” Buffy asked. “If you don’t think you can handle—”
“I’m the mother of a slayer. I’m pretty sure there isn’t much I can’t handle,” Joyce said, telling herself she meant it. “Let’s get this show on the road.”
In spite of it being summer and daylight lasting longer, by the time they’d boxed up everything Buffy had accumulated in the big house, the sun was already out of sight behind the trees and dusk was not that far off.
Showing how much she’d learned recently, Joyce cast an anxious glance around.
“Will we be safe here after dark? You told me not to come if it wasn’t broad daylight.”
Buffy grinned at Joyce’s sudden concern about being out and about after dark.
“Well, by yourself in this neighborhood, you probably wouldn’t be. But you’re in the driveway of the house where William the Bloody, reluctant master of Sunnydale, lives and you’re standing beside the Slayer. So, yeah. You’re pretty safe here.” Buffy grinned at the understatement.
Joyce blinked a couple of times, then shrugged. “All right then. One more trip and I think we’re ready to go.”
Before either of them could reenter the house, Spike appeared in the doorway with several boxes piled precariously in front of his face.
“Little help, Slayer?” he said, feeling for the shallow front step with his foot.
Buffy ran to help, putting one hand on the teetering boxes and the other on his leg to guide his foot. “Step down now,” she said as she nudged his leg forward. “I could have gotten some of these,” she said, taking the top one off and handing it to Joyce. She didn’t look at Spike, peering at her over the boxes he still held, as she said, “Are you in that much of a hurry to get rid of me?”
Buffy kept her voice light, but a trace of disappointment must have bled through as Spike said, “Just thought the quicker you get this baggage home, the more likely you’ll be able to do a patrol tonight.” He hesitated, “Or did you want me to do it for you so you can spend some time with your mum?”
Buffy took the next box off and stared at him. “I was kind of hoping you’d want to spend some… but never mind. I guess you really are ready to get rid of me.”
“There you go again,” he growled. “Thought we’d agreed you were going to stop trying to sound stupid, Slayer.” He didn’t explain what he meant by that, just carried the remaining box to the back of the SUV and put it in with the others.
Leaving Joyce to close up the back and start the car, Buffy ran inside to make sure she hadn’t left anything. She paused just inside the door, staring at the big umbrella stand in which they’d been keeping weapons. She felt Spike’s presence just behind her and leaned back barely enough to be able to feel his chest brush against her back. Buffy felt his hands hovering over her shoulders, but they never actually touched her.
“Take what you want, love,” he said, his breath stirring the hair by her ear. “I won’t be taking anything with me. Or, you could leave one or two here in case you need a safe haven with weapons one night.”
He stepped back and made room for her to turn around.
“Do you think it will stay vamp-proof if I’m not living here?” She grabbed one of the swords and her crossbow, leaving two swords there as well as an extra stake.
“Don’t know why not. What Red did was a pretty general ‘no vamps allowed’ spell. It wasn’t specific as to who owns or is living in the house. Might ask your watcher about it though. He’d be the expert… in theory.”
He touched her back lightly, urging her towards the door. “Best get Mum and your belongings home, Buffy. As it is, you’ll be unloading in the dark.”
She glanced up at him. “We could do that faster and easier if there were two people with super powers working.”
He snorted. “Reckon you could at that. Alright, you go on with Mum and I’ll be right behind you, soon’s I have some nourishment and get my boots on.”
Buffy’s smile felt inappropriate for what was happening, but she was so glad he would be there later she couldn’t help it. “Okay. We’ll wait for you.”
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