Note - Thanks to my beta, t_geyer, for her unending patience, perseverance and support. Thanks also to always_jbj who keeps arguing that she doesn't merit a co-writing credit, but without whom I would never have got the basic plotline worked out.
"Blondie Bear!" Harmony half-shouted her relief, but to Spike, who was more than a little worse for wear, the nasal quality of her voice made it sound like a buzz saw against his skull. "Blondie Bear, where have you been?"
"I've been to London to diddle the queen," Spike replied, adding a whole new interpretation to the nursery rhyme.
"Ohhh!" Harmony answered in an almost awed tone before she realised that Spike couldn't possibly have made it to England and back since midday. "Heyyy! I'm not an idiot you know!"
"You could've fooled me," Spike muttered under his breath, and in the midst of all the uncertainty that had driven him to get steaming, shit-faced drunk, he remembered the one thing that he knew for sure. He wanted Harmony out. "Tell me something, Harm, if you can remember that far back, why exactly was it that I agreed to let you stay here?"
"Well, 'cause you're my Blondie Bear..." Harmony suggested, though maybe even she was beginning to get the feeling that this might not be the right answer.
"Wrong, Harm. Try again." Spike grinned a wolfish grin. "Think back to your exact words."
"Oohhh! You mean 'cause I said we could have sex." Harmony bounced her joy, like a puppy delighted at pleasing her master, and even Spike began to have second thoughts about his back up plan.
Nailing puppies to doors was Angelus' style, not his. In light of the day's events, bourbon had seemed far more important than Harmony's bus ticket and about three quarters of the way down the second bottle, he had come up with an alternative plan, which involved taking her unicorns, her pink silk coverlet and her and physically throwing all of them out the door. Suddenly, that happy smile and those bobbing breasts made him feel like a complete git.
"Well, I know it's been a while, but..." She began to lift the hem of her top to reveal a silk slip underneath it.
"Harm!" Spike barked, making her pause before she could get the top off and she let it fall back into place. God knows what he'd do with this much alcohol inside him if he didn't make her stop before she took her clothes off. He deliberately softened his voice and his gaze. "Look, Harm... Don't you get it? It's been a while because whatever spark there used to be, it isn't there any more."
Harmony inhaled deeply and, underneath the bourbon stink, she caught a whiff of perfume, perfume that wasn't hers... One her mother used to wear sometimes. He didn't smell of sex, but that was probably a matter of time.
"You've been with another woman?" It came out as only half question, the other half an accusation.
Spike shrugged. There didn't seem to be much point denying it. He doubted that he would be able to make her understand why he was spending so much time with Joyce, but if she thought there was someone else then maybe she'd be less keen to hang around Sunnydale, and that had to be better ...for her as well as for him. "Harm, it's not like we didn't give this thing a decent try, but it's not working. It's time we both moved on... literally in your case."
"So you find some new whore and all of a sudden you're kicking me out?" Harmony demanded.
"How about, 'So you go and show your face in front of some of your high school buddies and they go running to the slayer so that I've had to spend half the night, pretending to look for you'?" Spike suggested, avoiding Harmony's eyes. He didn't know for sure, but he had a feeling that the temptation to hang out at The Bronze or on campus would have been too much for her. "Believe me, if you stay in town, you're dust."
"Buffy doesn't have time to worry about me." Harmony sounded way too sure for Spike's liking.
"The slayer has a god-bitch that wants to make her life hell, yeah? And there's not a lot she can do about that 'cept get herself all frustrated. Then, she finds out that the vamp who kidnapped her little sis is still hanging 'round town, and she could dust her without breaking a sweat. What do you think she's going to do?"
"Ohh!" All of a sudden Harmony began running around the crypt, throwing clothes and unicorns into bags at random. After about five minutes she paused. "How about I give you one last blow job and you give me a ride to LA before day break?"
For a fraction of a second Spike was tempted. After all, it was the one time you could guarantee that she'd stop talking, but then he imagined Joyce asking him how 'Things' had gone and the idea lost all appeal. "What part of 'I don't fancy you any more' was too difficult for you to understand, you vapid little twit?" he demanded more from exasperation than any real venom.
The idea of sharing a confined space like the DeSoto with Harmony for two straight hours had all the charm of a recurring nightmare, but if he really put his foot down they might do it in one at this time of night with the roads more or less empty, he could turn the music way up so he wouldn't hear her... and, most importantly, after that she'd be gone . G.O.N.E. Gone . And, if he was really lucky, maybe he could drop her off at the ex-cheerleader's... She'd take her in like a little lost lamb. After all, wasn't that their motto? To help the hopeless, and Harm definitely qualified. Angel-arse would get to listen to her for a week or two till the do-gooders got fed up of her as well, or till she ate one of them... Either way, it sounded good to him.
"Just promise you'll keep your damn mouth shut 'til we get there... You've got five minutes to pack ...and that's my bag you're trying to dump that quilt in so you can put it back right now..." He gave a sigh, leaned back against the ladder leading to the upper part of the crypt and lit up a cigarette, figuring that, if he took it slow, then by the time he finished her five minutes would be up. "And, that's my crossbow as well. Community property doesn't apply to vamps, Barbie."
Dawn gave it five minutes after she heard the front door open and close again before she sneaked downstairs. She slipped quietly into the living room, sat down on the floor with her back against the side of the sofa, and opened her schoolbook, just in case she was spotted.
"-late, Spike." Hoo boy! Sounded like Spike was getting a telling off for not getting here earlier... but if he had, she wouldn't have been able to listen in.
Joyce passed Spike his mug of hot chocolate before she made any comment.
"It's not like you to be late, Spike."
The vampire gave a shrug. "Overslept," he offered by way of an excuse, but Joyce wasn't fooled.
"That would be why you look so well rested?" she asked in an amused tone.
"Alright," he admitted. "So I spent the money I was going to use for Harm's bus ticket on bourbon and ended up having to drive her down to LA myself. Didn't get back till near enough dawn." 'And didn't get to sleep for a good four hours after that,' he thought to himself.
"She's gone?" Joyce asked.
It was only when he heard the relief in Joyce's sigh that Spike realised how worried she had been. Maybe this was a bad idea. If she was that worried about The Littlest Vampire, then maybe he should keep the news that The Big Bad was back to himself. Maybe he should just pack his own things and go... Ah, hell, the slayer was out and it wasn't as if Joyce was about to stick a wooden spoon through his chest. She'd always treated him right even back before the chip.
"Joyce..." he paused, wondering how to break the news. Blurt it out or try to work up to it?
"Is this where you tell me why you felt the need to drink a bus ticket's worth of bourbon?" Joyce teased and suddenly he knew that he was going to tell her.
"Joyce, say, hypothetically, that the chip stopped working, what do you reckon the slayer would do?"
The question hung in the air for a very long time before Joyce responded.
"I think that would depend on what you did when that happened," she finally replied. Rising to her feet, she opened one of the cupboards and took down a bottle of vodka and a couple of glasses. "No whisky, I'm afraid. You'll have to make do," she told him as she slopped a generous measure into each one and placed one next to his mug before taking a gulp from the other one. "Don't take this the wrong way, Spike, but I need to ask... Is there some reason why, if the chip did stop working, that you wouldn't go back to... your old life?"
"Well, for one thing, there's you and The Niblet. I said I'd watch out for the pair of you, leastways until that Glory bint gets what's coming to her..." Spike took a gulp of his hot chocolate, resisting the temptation to switch straight to the vodka.
Joyce gave him a measured smile. "That's very commendable, but I doubt that the gratitude of a middle-aged woman and a teenager are likely to provide sufficient incentive for you to go so far against your natural instincts."
"Joyce?" Her name came out as a whimper, almost a plea not to make him say any more.
"I need to know, Spike. I know you wouldn't hurt me and I know you wouldn't hurt Dawn, but unless you can convince me that there's a good reason why you won't be hunting, then I have to assume that sooner or later you and Buffy will try to kill each other."
"When Dru left me, I never thought that I would ever love anyone else. I thought she'd ripped that part of me out and took it with her... but there's this girl. She's not beautiful like Dru was, not yet, anyway, or not so everyone can see, but she's pretty and when she dances, she'd take your breath away... She's brighter than she thinks she is, and she's strong, but she's generous with it... and somewhere along the line she slipped into that empty space that Dru left and I didn't even notice until she was rooted in there so deep that I couldn't get her out if I tried."
"Is this the girl you were seeing last night?" Joyce asked. "And how does she feel about you?"
"There was no girl last night. Slayer jumped to conclusions and I let her." Spike gave a shrug. "As for how she feels... I'm beneath her. She'll never be able to love something like me, but that doesn't matter, not really.
...Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;*
It doesn't matter that she'll never look at me the same way. It doesn't matter that she'll probably never even believe that I'm her friend. I love her... whether I want to or not. And sometimes she looks at me as if I were a man rather than a monster hiding in a man's shell and I couldn't give that up. I can't be a man... but she makes me want to act like one. It'll never be enough. Nothing I do can ever be enough. I know that. I know it's wrong, having her inside me... People like her only fall for the monster in Disney movies and fairy tales, but none of that changes one bit of how I feel about her." He lifted his head, and Joyce saw the despair that was companion to his unrequited love. "I swapped their cage for one of my own making."
"Spike, we're not talking hypothetically, are we?" Joyce sighed.
"The chip didn't go off when I was fighting that bloke yesterday. Did some research when I left here and it turns out them knights are as human as you are... It's gone, Joyce, for good or bad."
Joyce tipped the last of her drink into her mouth. "You know that if Buffy hears this from someone else then she'll take it badly."
"I know that," Spike answered soberly. "I just..."
"Shouldn't you be reading that in your room?" The slayer's voice carried from the living room. They'd obviously missed the sound of the front door opening and Joyce moved through to greet her.
"I can read my homework in here if I want," Dawn insisted, but her cheeks were lightly flushed.
"Hi, honey. Look, Dawn, why don't you go upstairs? Spike needs to talk to your sister about something..."
"Yuh, right!" Dawn rolled her eyes but began to climb the stairs anyway. She had seen Spike disappear out the back door the second Joyce turned her back... and she knew why. She knew, even if her mom didn't, that he couldn't give Buffy the same explanation, not without Buffy realising that she was the girl.
"Mom? Wouldn't him talking to me involve him actually being here?" the slayer asked.
Joyce looked around in surprise and gave a sigh. "Well, he did say he had to try to catch the butcher's before it closed. I guess whatever it was he wanted to tell you wasn't that urgent after all." She took some orange juice from the fridge and added it to the untouched glass from Spike's side of the island. "Waste not, want not," she remarked before she took a sip. "You'll probably catch him tomorrow or the day after, honey."
Things were definitely going from weird to weirder around here lately, especially where the blond butt-pain was concerned, Buffy decided. For a start, judging by the bottle that was sitting on the counter, he'd just left alcohol behind, and for another it looked as if he was hanging out with her mom on a regular basis... and, maybe strangest of all, was the idea that she found that reassuring. Her mom was drinking the afternoons away with a vampire and the slayer felt more at ease because of it.
If you are under the age of 17, please use your head and do not read fics that are labeled "NC-17". Parents, I cannot control what your children are reading, so please be advised that the majority of the fics archived here are NOT suitable for those under the age of 17.
I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I am in no way making any profit from this site. This is for pure entertainment purposes only.
Concept: (c)bringonthebloodshed.com (2004), Code & Design: (c)Diabola (2006), Graphics: Selene & Always