A stunned silence filled the room as everyone struggled to make sense of what had happened. Buffy and her friends had been certain that Dawn was planning to resurrect her mother this night. Instead, there was a strange, rather old-fashioned lady standing just outside the magic circle. The woman seemed to recognize Spike. Spike, for his part, looked to be in shock.
"Who are these people, William?" The woman looked about her with growing alarm. Every one of the young people in the room was dressed strangely. She didn’t recognize the room either and had no memory of how she had come to be there. She would have been terrified had her dear son not been there as well. Dear William always taking such good care of her!
Dawn had come out of her magic induced trance and had noticed the lack of the presence of Joyce Summers and had begun to cry softly. "He said it would work, Spike," she wailed not even taking note of the others in the room.
"Who ‘he’? What ‘work’? And how did I just know Spike was involved in this." Buffy sputtered as she turned to face the oddly trembling vampire. Rage at Spike once more leading her little sister down a dark and dangerous path diverted Buffy from the other questions she had about the night’s events.
Tara could see the pandemonium about to break out and just knew from the wildly changing auras of everyone that it was not going to be pretty. "Um, perhaps we should all take deep breaths and sort this out one problem at a time," she suggested.
"Yeah, what she said," agreed Xander. He could see that something had spooked Spike and anything that weirded out a vampire could not be of the good.
Tara crossed the room to the older woman and held out her hand in greeting. "Hello, I’m Tara Mcclay. Won’t you have a seat while we figure out who you are and how you got here?"
"Has there been an accident, William? Has the carriage overturned, perhaps," she looked to Spike for some reassurance. "These good people do not seem to know me any more than I them. Have I sustained a head injury my son," she asked with a slight quiver to her voice.
Spike had finally managed to shake off the willies and slowly approached the lady. "Mother, no there has been no accident, not of that sort at any rate. There is much to explain, however. I fear I am unsure of where to begin."
The group looked from Spike to the mystery lady in shock. Had he just called her "mother"?
"I ask that you trust me for a short while, mother dearest, while we work towards discovering some important answers to our many questions. Can you do that, love?" Spike had put a tender hand under her elbow and guided her to a seat near the fireplace.
"Of course I trust you, son," Anne replied. "I fear that I have so many questions of my own I can scarce decide which to ask first." The woman looked only at Spike, keeping her loved and familiar son as her focal point in the odd world she found herself.
Anne began to cough, much to Spike’s alarm. The blood on her handkerchief caused the scoobies to look at each other in concern.
Spike looked about in reflexive panic searching for something liquid to ease his mother’s distress. "Could I get some water for her, please?"
Tara headed for the kitchen immediately and returned with a glass of water handing it to the woman gently. "Here you are. Are you all right? Is there anything else we can get for you? Do you need medication of some kind?"
"No, thank you my dear. The doctor has been quite honest with me that there is nothing to be done for this." Anne patted Spike’s hand lovingly and smiled up to him before continuing. "It has only become this bad of late. The spasms will abate anon. That is the way with Consumption. My William always takes good care of me. I am a lucky mother to have such an attentive son."
No one could deny the look of genuine love that passed between mother and son at that moment. Vampire or no Spike clearly loved this woman. The scoobies had all noticed the change in Spike’s accent as well. He’d sounded almost like Giles!
"Maybe you’d like to lie down for a while. We can’t really answer your questions until we answer a few of our own and I’m thinkin’ you could use a nap. Maybe it will help keep you from any more coughing," Buffy suggested.
"That would be lovely my dear," Anne replied with a look of relief. "You have such nice friends, William."
Dawn’s crying had stopped as soon as she had noticed the strange woman and the room filled with scoobies as well as her clearly annoyed sister. Seeing a chance to delay the biggest of those questions alluded to, she leapt to help, "I’ll be glad to show you to my room for that nap, ma’am."
Quick as a bunny, Dawn escorted Anne upstairs to her bedroom. Anne for her part was coping brilliantly with all the strange people and things surrounding her. After all, William was here so there was no reason to fear.
Buffy turned on Spike as soon as the lady, his mother it would seem, had gotten out of ear range. "Care to explain what my sister was doing with the magics? Maybe explain why she’s arranged this little family reunion for you?"
Spike blinked rapidly, still in a bit of shock over the events. "Not real sure about how my mother came to be here, Slayer. As for the first question …. Well, I’d appreciate it if you held off staking me till we sort out my mum. She’s a nice lady and I’d hate to have her see her only son coatin the furniture before she has a chance to get her bearings."
Buffy crossed her arms and set her jaw in that stubborn way that Spike secretly found adorable. "Uh huh. Just what were you and Dawn up to tonight. I get the feeling your mom popping up was a surprise to both of you so what was the real plan, as if I have to ask."
"Spikey and plans never work out, no wonder we’re in this mess," Xander whispered. He turned to Spike and raised an eyebrow, "And how did a nice lady like that wind up with YOU for a son?"
"She didn’t, remember," Willow chimed in. "Giles told us a long time ago that the demon replaces the human. That nice lady may think Spike’s her William but we know better."
"Pffft," snorted Spike. "Bunch of rot that is. Course that’s me mum. Nothing got replaced, just removed." He took in the looks of disbelief on all the faces except Tara and rolled his eyes.
"Look, you lot call it a soul, so fine. Lost my soul getting turned by that way of lookin at it. All I really lost was any feelin of guilt ‘s all. Not a handy thing to have when your dinner looks like you do." Still the group looked less than believing. Spike was rapidly loosing patience. "Oh Bollocks, I’ve lived it, Watcher’s only read a bunch of tripe those wankers have bound up and called fact."
Dawn returned to the group as Spike was making his impassioned statement. "What did I miss? Oh and Spike, your mom is so sweet!"
Spike smiled at the girl in affection, "Thanks Bit, that she is."
He looked more than a bit bemused at the need for the present tense when talking of his mother however.
"All right, splainy time," Buffy looked pointedly at a nervous Dawn.
"I …. It’s just ….. Buffy, you can’t be mad at Spike cause I totally made him help me," she began. "I was going to do it without him but I would have messed it up bad, well even worse than I have I think and Spike wouldn’t let me." Dawn looked from her sister to her vampire friend in panic. "That dragon thing would have eaten me instead of just taking a big bite like it did out of Spike."
"Dragons? Now there are dragons? Biting dragons?" Buffy closed her eyes in exasperation and let out a deep sigh. "Okay, not gonna dust Spike ….YET…. at least not with his mother upstairs. Let’s all sit down and you," she pointed to Dawn, "can start from the beginning."
It took over an hour to get the entire story out of the girl and another half hour of Spike and Buffy bickering over his part in it before the group all seemed to get back to the questions about the lady upstairs. "So if Dawnie was trying to bring back Mrs. Summers … how’d Spike’s mom show up," Willow asked the million dollar question.
"Haven’t a clue, Red," Spike said. "My mum died soon after I was turned. She looks a lot like she did there at the last what with the coughin’ up blood and bein’ all frail like."
"What’d you do, eat your mom after you were turned," Xander asked his eyes glaring.
"NO. Well, not exactly," Spike looked desperate. "It wasn’t like that! Thought I was helpin’ her, found a way to make her feel better." The scoobies were looking at him as if her were evil incarnate. "Just wanted to make her well again. Didn’t work out."
"So you …. What…. TURNED your mom?" Buffy’s eyes were huge in shock.
"Whoa, that’s cold man," Xander added.
"It wasn’t like that!" Spike began to pace in agitation.
Tara could see how upset the vampire was getting and could also see the play of emotions as his aura shifted colors in his distress. She put a hand on his forearm and said gently, "Of course it wasn’t. Anyone can see you love your mother. You were trying to keep her from a slow and painful death. Didn’t work out though I take it."
"No." There was a wealth of meaning, of pain, in that one word.
Tara could see that it was not the time or place for anything further. Besides with his mother quite alive upstairs, the point was rather moot. "You don’t need to say anything more about that if you don’t want to, Spike."
"The hell he doesn’t!" Xander had grabbed hold of the evidence of Spike’s evil doing past and wasn’t about to let it drop easily. "That nice lady upstairs was murdered by this….this….monster here, I don’t think that’s something we can just drop."
"Yes, I think it is," Buffy said. She really wasn’t in the mood for a witch-hunt, or a vampire hunt rather, from her too eager to judge friend. "Like Tara said, it’s all changed now and even if it hadn’t, it was like a hundred years ago."
"Okay," Willow decided to jump in and get the conversation back on track. "Looks like we’re all with the blank slates for answers here. Time to call in the brains." She looked at Buffy and asked, "You want to call Giles or should I?"
Giles had said enough "good Lord’s" to qualify for sainthood and polished the lens out of his glasses, literally. There was a scramble to grab the glass before it could break and then a search for a small screwdriver to replace the lens while the group suppressed giggles at Giles’ reaction to the evenings doings.
"Let me get this straight," he reviewed, "Dawn and Spike attempted to bring your mother back from the dead." They all nodded in agreement. "Instead of Joyce, however, the mother of William the Bloody has put in an appearance?"
"That about sums it up," Buffy acknowledged.
"You would be so kind as to not use that dreadful epithet, sir. It is never used in my hearing and for good reason," Anne had quietly slipped down stairs and had overheard the very last of Giles’ comment. "I am a mild mannered lady, sirrah, but I shall not have my son made sport of in my presence. His poems are lovely and these ill-mannered jibes are ungentlemanly."
Xander and Willow looked at each other as Xander mouthed, "Poems?"
Giles rose from his seat and looked at Anne in astonishment. Truly she was nothing like he expected Spike’s mother to be.
"Forgive me, I meant no disrespect I assure you."
"Perhaps I am overly sensitive. It is just that I have seen the effect that terrible appellation has had upon my William and will not stand by to see him hurt further." The room was filled with wide eyes all directed at a squirming Spike. "He was ever a gentle boy and the ruffians and bullies who traded sticks and fists for taunts and jests can still do the same harm. I will not stand for it."
"Again, my apologies," Giles said in a placating tone. "I had no idea the context of the nickname. No offense is intended toward William," Giles had to work to surpress a smirk directed Spikes way, "or his … poetry."
Anne narrowed her eyes and glared daggers at the man. She was no fool and could tell that despite her best efforts her William was being made sport of. She looked at Spike and smiled warmly. "I feel much better now. William, who are these people and how come we here?"
Spike introduced his mother to the entire group in an old fashioned manner and escorted her to sit in the side chair nearest the coffee table, the very one he had been seated in when first introduced to Joyce.
"We have much to speak of, mother, but I beg your indulgence a bit longer. I am not certain how to answer some of your questions as yet." Spike spoke softly with tenderness attached to every syllable. "I promise you that I have things well in hand and that all will be well. You needn’t worry yourself over anything."
Xander turned to Willow and asked, "So what do we call her anyway. Spike introduced her as his mother but we can’t just say, ‘hey, Spike’s mom’ to her."
Anne looked at the ill-mannered boy and offered, "You may call me Mrs. Pratt unless customs are far different in your country." She had rapidly realized that the people in the room were likely from the United States or Canada with the exception of Mr. Giles.
"Pratt," Xander let forth a childish giggle. "Spike’s last name is Pratt?"
Anne drew herself up and looked down at the chortling boy. "Indeed, we are. The name is old and honored and William’s bloodline is one of the finest. His grandfather was the second Marquees of Camden, George Charles Pratt. William was named for his great-grandfather’s best friend, William Pitt, the former Prime Minister. It was Mr. Pitt who was responsible for the elevation to Marquee from the previous title of Earl."
"Spike’s like royalty?" Dawn’s jaw had dropped at the thought.
"No, Bit, not royalty. No title here," Spike smiled at the teen. "Da was born without the help of clergy even if the old git recognized him."
"Huh?" Dawn and Buffy both said in matching puzzlement.
"I’ll explain later," Giles put in.
"It means that Spike’s a bastard," Xander said with a rather nasty grin.
"Indeed he is no such thing," Anne said aghast. "His father and I were quite properly married at St. James with both of our families in attendance two years before William was born." She turned to Spike and admonished, "I really don’t care much for your choice of companions my son. This boy is crude and ignorant, far beneath you."
"Yes, Xander, do shut up," Giles glared at the boy.
"It has been a rather momentous day for us all. I propose that we all go to our respective homes and deal with this situation as needed. Spi…um William, perhaps you could try to explain what we DO know to your mother. I shall endeavor to find answers to what we do not know in the meantime. We could meet here again tomorrow to continue this discussion."
"’Bout that," Spike looked anxious, "the respective homes part …not thinkin’ my mother would particularly appreciate mine. Think the shocks should be spaced out a bit and all. I’m open for suggestions." Spike had never looked less sure of himself before.
Tara immediately spoke up, "Of course! Your place isn’t nearly …. Um, big enough to shelter both you and your mother. William, perhaps Buffy will have room for the two of you stay here?"
Buffy and Willow both looked surprised but said nothing. Dawn looked delighted on the other hand.
"Well, there’s the," Buffy started to object.
"Really it would make lots of sense not having to ….ahhhh travel across town to that small dark place Spike lives in, don’t you think?" Tara smiled ever so sweetly at the Slayer.
"Well, since you put it like that I guess you’re right," Buffy said.
"YES," Dawn exclaimed and leapt from her seat. "You can take my room. You rested comfortably there earlier, right?"
"I really wouldn’t wish to put you to any trouble my dear," Anne said modestly.
"No trouble, zero trouble here," Dawn grinned. "I’ll bunk with Buffy and Spike can take the couch after you finish talking of course. Matter of fact, I think I’ll get my stuff and turn in now." Dawn headed for the stairs before Buffy could jump on her and mess up the plan.
Giles was busy ushering the grumbling Xander to the front door as the scoobies prepared to leave for the night. "Until tomorrow then, Mrs. Pratt. It has been a pleasure to meet you."
"Mr. Giles," she nodded in acknowledgement. She spared a smile for Willow and Tara but only offered a curt nod to Xander.
Giles looked from the unchastened boy to the unmollified lady and promised, "I’ll also work on the sad lack of manners with this one." Giles indicated Xander with his head earning a bright smile from Anne.
"Good night Spike …er… William. I’ll see why this spell gave these particular results and get back to you tomorrow," Giles said with confidence.
As the door was closing behind the group they could hear Anne ask her son, "Why do these people insist upon calling you ‘Spike’? It is undignified and sounds rather like the name for a terrier."
"Yes. I think there’s a lot I need to try to explain, mother," Spike replied.
"There’s tea in the cupboard and blood in the fridge," Buffy said quietly to Spike before turning towards the stairs. "Be sure to turn out all the lights and lock up when you finally get to sleep. And, please, try not to scare the poor woman to death, all right?"
"Thank you, Buffy," Spike looked into her eyes and she saw the sincerity in his. "I can’t thank you enough for letting my mum stay here tonight and for being so understanding."
"Well, don’t go that far, bucko, I haven’t started on you yet," Buffy took the sting from her words with a smile. It was the first real smile he’d ever seen Buffy direct his way and it made his heart sing. "First I have a sister to murder, or at least steal the sheets from." She chuckled for the first time since her mother had died and didn’t even notice that the heavy weight she had been carrying was already feeling a bit lighter.
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