Buffy was being stubborn about the amount of rent Spike was offering for himself and his mother. It was a nice sum and would go a long way towards keeping the wolf from the door but still it bothered her. After all Spike’s room was a dusty basement with a small cot. More than that, the last thing she wanted was to find herself indebted to the undead. ‘I don’t even get why I offered to let them stay here,’ she thought petulantly. ‘Tara came up with the idea; maybe SHE should play landlord.’
If she were honest with herself, Buffy would have to admit that the house felt less bleak with the Pratt duo in residence. The pangs of missing her mother were fainter somehow and Buffy was torn between being grateful and resentful. Surely her mom deserved her absence to be fully felt. Still, the respite did allow Buffy to concentrate on the problem of Glory with more clarity.
Anne was learning the ropes of modern society and had even pronounced the marvel of respectable ladies wearing trousers as ‘about time women are allowed freedom of movement!’ They had all been astounded when the lady in question returned to the living room in a pair of stylish, if loose-fitting, blue gabardine pants with a powder blue striped shirt. Tara had done well in her shopping expedition. And just where HAD Spike come into all that money anyway?
"If you’re all with the cash advantage, why did you always demand money from us to help out?" Buffy glared at Spike as she grilled him. "You always stole Xander’s change too."
"Gotta have a way to do SOME evil, pet," Spike had replied with a smirk. "Vampire here, remember? Can’t even take candy from a baby with this bloody Radio Shack reject in my noggin, but I can still manipulate some of the hard earned from you lot."
Buffy looked daggers at the vampire and growled out, "Spike, it’s BECAUSE I remember you’re a vampire that I’m suspicious. I won’t take money you squirreled away from some poor innocent you murdered. How do I know you didn’t take it off a bunch of nuns or something?"
"Nuns were Angel’s thing, not mine. I preferred pissin’ off gangs of burly blokes and letting the fur fly," Spike reminisced. "Took their blood, luv, not their dosh. I’m a vampire, not a petty thief." Spike’s offended look changed as he thought about what he’d just said. "Okay, maybe I’ve been a petty thief a time or two, but that wasn’t my preferred way of dealin’. Hunt, fight, kill and eat--that was my way. Thieving was for regular breakin’ and enterin’…want, take, have, that whole thing. Didn’t usually eat anybody on those missions."
Buffy wasn’t sure just how to feel about that revelation so she decided to focus on the attack.
"This hasn’t got anything to do with Angel," she huffed. "Besides, at least nuns are adults. I heard YOU focused on orphanages and kiddies when you and that wack job you teamed up with left a wake of carnage."
"Actually, I usually took care of the orderlies and staff," Spike admitted, "Dru was the one with the kiddy fetish. Wanna make a big issue of it, that’s Angel’s doin’ too. Dru’s wirin’s not what it should be. Starts off all motherly urges, tea parties and dollies. Then ‘bout half way through she forgets why she wanted the tykes and wham, baby buffet."
"Ewwwww, Spike," Buffy pulled a disgusted face. "And I am so not wanting details!" She shuddered. The funny thing about Spike was that it was far too easy to forget he was a vampire usually. Only when a conversation like this took place was the demonic lifestyle he had embraced in his past brought into the spotlight and she was reminded forcefully just WHAT he was. ‘Maybe that’s why I goad him into this stuff, to remind myself what he is,’ she mused.
Spike let out a weary sigh. Just what did these humans think he SHOULD have done after he was turned? ‘Oh, yeah, can just picture how that would’ve turned out.’ Spike visualized his fledgling self walking into that long ago hotel room to meet Peaches for the first time. ‘But, Grandsire, why bother hunting down a person and attacking them when a simple visit to the butcher would suffice? No need to dirty our hands with all the mess and ugliness.’ Spike almost laughed aloud at the picture. ‘I’d have been floatin’ in the air before I got the second sentence out! No, maybe the Poof might have kept me chained up long enough to let me amuse his whore when she got
back.’ All the years of ‘training’ from Anglus, years that formed the monster he became, would have paled at the torture fest the two of them would have indulged in had he been that big of an idiot.
"Look, we’re off the point here, Slayer." Spike shook his head to clear the play of visuals his train of thought had brought to the surface. "Point is the money’s mine, legal and all that important nonsense. Demon bank took the bits I had when I was turned and made brighter investments than my father did and made a nice pot of plenty for me. Never had a reason to
spend it ‘til now, so there’s more than enough for me to pay our fair share for my mother and me to stay here."
Spike knew that the last thing Buffy needed at this point in her life was financial worries. She’d just lost her mom and become instant mother to a needy teen. The Slayer had been thrust into immediate adulthood with all its responsibilities and worries right when she needed to concentrate on saving the world from some raving loon of a hell god. Too much on her plate might crush the girl and she wasn’t likely to accept charity, at least not from him.
Giles took Mrs. Pratt on her first venture into the outer world. The appointment with Dr. Wilkinson was going quite well. He had been eager to help the old-fashioned woman with the wasting disease. Mrs. Pratt was appalled when the doctor suggested she call him Ben and Giles had to reassure her that conventional forms of address were not as strict as in her day, at least not in California.
The wide-eyed amazement on Mrs. Pratt’s face throughout the adventure had been a treat. She had
been quietly thrilled with the trip in the car. Giles wondered briefly at the probable reaction from this refined lady to Spike’s reference to the red convertible as a ‘penismobile.’ That might finally convince the dear woman that her son was NOT present and accounted for and that the demon in his body was nothing like her beloved, lost child.
"You know," Anne spoke proudly as she entered the car, "I’ve ridden in a steam carriage. Mr. Trevithick produced a few at the beginning of MY century. In fact, they caused such a stir that we even had red flag laws about them." She smiled a bit smugly, knowing the gentleman squiring her about would be surprised at her sanguine attitude.
Giles suppressed an urge to laugh, fearing Mrs. Pratt might not understand that he was merely charmed by her bravery and intelligence and would think he was making sport of her instead. "Indeed," he replied. "What were these red flag laws then? I am sadly uninformed when it comes to automotive history."
"Well," Anne warmed to the subject, enjoying the fact that she was the one with information for a change. "The steam-powered carriages startled horses and pedestrians causing mayhem when the young bloods took to the public roads. It became a law that if one were to engage such a vehicle for transport or simply for sport, a runner was required to precede the carriage on foot waving a red flag and blowing a horn to warn all of the impending arrival of the marvel. The law was still in effect when I was last in my own time, even though there were precious few of the carriages in use. It was something of a nine-week wonder." Anne’s eyes opened wider as Giles pulled from the curb and entered traffic. "It would seem these are an improvement over those in my day. Not likely to have anyone fast enough to run in front of one of these."
"Sadly, they are no longer a source of wonder and amazement either," added Giles. "After owning a car for a while, the novelty wears off even the most remarkable model." Giles resisted the urge to run loving hands over his still new acquisition. "These use a combustion engine that is fueled with refined petroleum rather than steam."
Anne nodded, not wanting to crowd her mind with too many facts about things of no import. She doubted it would be necessary to understand how these contraptions actually worked as long as one could learn how they were operated. She conversed lightly with Giles while watching his movements on the gears and steering column. It appeared quite simple, really.
Intent on watching Giles drive, Anne missed most of the tour of Sunnydale on the way to the hospital and was startled at the unexpected size of the building. In her day, a hospital was usually the place where a person would find themselves at the very last stages of life. Surely there were not that many terminal patients in this city!
At Anne’s gasp, Giles guessed at the reason and sought to reassure her. "This is another area that is the same yet different, dear lady. Hospitals in this day and age are not the places where one goes to await the angel of death. There are still many illnesses that are without cure, but many more, such as yours, are curable. Hospitals are used for everything from childbirth to major treatments and everything in between now."
"I must say quite selfishly that I am glad to know my illness is one that can be cured." Anne had hardly dared believe the truth of it when they had suggested the possibility before. She had spent the past years on a private deathwatch, knowing there was no hope. Her prayers had long sense gone from begging the Almighty for a cure to asking for a quick passing in her sleep.
"I think remission is a more accurate term, but I am no doctor," Giles admitted. "I do know that few people actually die from it in this day and age, at least in places that are not third world countries."
"Perhaps you can explain that term later, if you wouldn’t mind," Anne suggested. "Right now, I would be well pleased to simply learn how to remove this harness and free myself." She chuckled as she fumbled with the seatbelt.
The examination was thorough and Anne was tiring from all the activity. She wasn’t an old woman by any stretch, having only been a slip of a girl of twenty when she birthed William. Still, she had experienced many radical changes in the last few days and it was a bit much. She looked at her reflection in the powder room mirror and decided she would need to speak with Tara later about updating her image further. It wouldn’t do to look like an old woman while still on the spring side of fifty!
The doctor explained the regimen clearly. The pills had to be taken in the numbers and combinations he detailed, but it was likely that in a few weeks she would be well on the road to a normal life! Modern miracles, indeed!
"Now, there can be side effects from the INH," Dr. Wilkinson said. "The most common is a general
feeling of being unwell, kinda like the flu. You may experience nausea to one degree or another."
"I daresay a bit of that is far more appealing than the death sentence this disease used to carry," Anne replied happily. To continue to live, to watch her son make his way in life, would be worth all the side effects in the universe. She was not unaware of the complete miracle of the two of them being there in the twenty-first century looking forward to years of time together.
As they awaited the filling of her prescriptions, Giles privately reflected on how wonderful it felt to save a life and not have anything supernatural involved. ‘That young doctor has a wonderful bedside manner,’ he thought as he remembered how kind Ben Wilkinson had been to Mrs. Pratt.
The drive back to Revello Drive was not without its surprise revelations as Giles casually voiced some of his thoughts on the young doctor. "He seems a fine example of the best the medical profession has to offer. He helped in the treatment of Buffy’s mother. Her death from complications of the surgery had nothing to do with lack of care by the medical staff. It was a tragedy that no one foresaw."
"My William would have been a wonderful doctor," Anne mused. "His father would have been so proud to have him follow in his footsteps. Of course William had not declared his choice of career
before he had to leave University to care for me. His professors were quite saddened to see him go as he showed such promise. He was quite the darling of the Dean as well," she said proudly. "Always had his nose in some book or other when he wasn’t writing his own creations. He knew there was no career to be had with his poetry. Indeed, he was never so silly a fribble as to expect to make his way on written words. Practical, that’s my William. Still, he ever loved things of beauty."
Giles nearly swerved into the oncoming lane as he wrenched his head to gape at the woman. "Do you mean to say that Spike…urm, William is EDUCATED?"
"What sort of home do you think William came from?" Anne was horrified to think these people could have spent five minutes in the company of her son and not see his natural intelligence, not to mention refined artistic abilities. "Naturally he is educated, even if he were not able to take his degree. Cambridge, like his father before him…only a year away from completing when I was diagnosed with Consumption."
Giles sat in a near trance as he took in the information on the unexpected talents housed in the
vampire he had seriously underestimated.
Anne was still waxing nostalgic over William’s school days. "His Latin was so good that he was being counseled to follow that path and pursue the sciences, possibly medicine. He was quite excited at the prospect, even if the sight of blood made him go over queasy. He was always clever when it came to foreign languages though. Said it was no different from learning a lovely bit of music."
"Music," Giles squeaked. "Sp…William is a musician as well?"
"Nothing unusual for a well bred gentleman," Anne dismissed the question. "A bit of the pianoforte well enough to accompany himself with a ballad or play a bit of Chopin." Anne’s eyes took on a far away look as she smiled sweetly. "I saw him once--Chopin, I mean. He played a concert in Paris when I was just a child. I was utterly transported! The music of heaven, it was." She sighed in remembered pleasure. "My dear boy loved to play his Nocturnes for me. Chopin died from my illness, you know."
"Yes, I believe I heard at one time or another that was the cause," Giles replied bemusedly.
"I always made certain that my William was exposed to the world’s beauty whenever possible. He never made the Grand Tour like others of his peer group, but he saw all the art and musical performances that London could provide. He was never shortchanged in his cultural growth, but surely you have noticed that by now."
Giles sputtered trying to think of an answer that wouldn’t set Mrs. Pratt off on him once again. Safety was sought in partial truths. "Well, William and I have more of a…um…working relationship, rather than social. Such topics haven’t come up."
"I should think you would have naturally gravitated towards one another. You are both British gentlemen of refinement and intelligence, after all." Anne tsked at the wasted time. "William is a bit shy and sensitive, but he does need people. He likes to put forth the image that he is self-sufficient and confident, but in truth he is prone to loneliness and insecurity. He is quite proficient, however, at producing that stiff upper lip all good British subjects are rumored
Willow got all the final programming tangles undone with the robot and smiled in satisfaction at the fruit of her labor. Really, if she didn’t know better, she’d swear the robot was Buffy!
"Sweetie, are you sure we should just take this over to Spike? I mean the cover story should work, but Buffy might not let him give it," Tara offered.
"You might have a point. I love Buffy to death, but sometimes she’s all pointy-stick-now-questions-later," Willow agreed. "Think I’ll call and lay the groundwork first."
Tara smiled serenely as her lover headed for the bedside phone. She admired Willow as much as she
loved her. Willow had been up long hours the night before putting in all the information they had on Glory into the bot’s database. They didn’t know much, but they also hadn’t exactly shared that little bit with Spike to make it available when the bot was built. The robot Slayer was now as knowledgeable as any Scooby where the hell god was concerned. If anyone could make Buffy see the benefits of the robot, it would be Willow.
"Hey, Buffy! Look, Tara and I want to bring something over that we’ve been working. It was Spike’s idea actually and it’s a good one, even if it might squick you out at first, hee hee, " Willow laughed nervously. "Anyway, I didn’t want you to get with the wiggins by just bringing it over." Willow listened to Buffy’s response and finally smiled, as her attitude seemed to be favorable. "’K then, we’ll bring it by in a few. We can play a game coming up with all kinds of ways it can be useful, especially when Giles gets there."
Willow hung up the phone and wrapped her arms around her lover tenderly. "That was easier than I thought it might be."
"You are nothing but diplomatic, sweetie. How could Buffy resist?" Tara leaned into the embrace and then turned in Willow’s arms. "Um…maybe we have a little time before we need to head over there, do you think?" Tara looked at Willow through her long lashes, flirting shamelessly.
"But what would we do with our time?" Willow impishly teased.
"I can think of some things," Tara promised as she took her lover by the hand and led her towards the bedroom.
Glorificus lay like a languishing heroine of old as Jinx continued with the foot massage that was causing drool to form on his lips. "I have to have that key NOW. If you really loved me, Jinxy, you’d get it for me." She removed her foot from the scabby minion’s lap, knocking him in the mouth as she did so. The slip-clad blonde began to pace in frustration, her ire rising at an alarming rate.
"One simple thing! ONE! I’m a god and I can’t even get ONE SIMPLE THING!" Glory’s minions began to scatter in fear as the explosion built up. "It’s MY key after all, it belongs to ME! Murk hinted that you had a lead on it. I need my key," Glory whined.
Jinx nodded enthusiastically, "Indeed, your magnificence! It will be my supreme pleasure to lay
your key before your so delicate and lovely smelling feet very soon now! We are nearly certain we have located your key and now only await a moment of opportunity to get it away from the Slayer and bring it to you, o most wonderfully buxom and aromatic one!"
"What are you waiting for, you moron?" Glory towered over the cowering minion. "Get off your scabby butt and bring it here." As Jinx scrambled to his feet and the door, she added, "And bring me a brain to eat while you’re out too."
"Yes, most melodious and perfect one! You have but to desire and it will be done." Jinx ducked out the door pulling Murk with him as Glory heaved a shoe in their direction. "Quick, Murk, pick out the least inept of our order and let’s get that vampire," he whispered. "I have a device left by those silly soldiers that used to swarm over this town that will subdue even one with the strength of the undead."
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