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Love Continued by slaymesoftly
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Chapter Seven.

When the two temporarily sated lovers were dressed and ready to go their separate ways to get to Joyce’s gallery, they kissed good-bye and parted – Spike to drop down a manhole and take his normal daytime route, Buffy to walk back into the occupied part of town. When Spike asked her if she had her license yet and wanted to drive his car, she gaped at him for several seconds before responding weakly, “um…uh…no…I don’t….exactly…I mean, you know, I’m all busy with the slaying and the…the other stuff and I just never had time to…”

He cocked his head at her in amusement. “Failed the test, did you, Slayer?” he teased gently.

“Maybe,” she mumbled. “But it was a stupid test, anyway. And I didn’t…nevermind. I like to walk,” she finished firmly, her expression saying clearly that it would not be in his best interest to pursue the issue.

“Alright, pet,” he agreed readily. “I’ll meet you at the Gallery, yeah?”

“Okay, see you in a little while.” She smiled briefly and walked off, her hair gleaming in the bright sunshine.

Shaking his head ruefully, Spike pulled the blanket up to cover him completely. “You’d think they could have put the soddin’ Hellmouth somewhere where the bloody sun isn’t shining 363 days out of the year,” he grumbled as he dashed for the manhole.

When he emerged at the rear of the gallery and bolted through the open door, he was still muttering about the Hellmouth’s southern California location.

“Bloody inconsiderate of the vamps, is what it is,” he growled, shedding his smoking blanket and looking around for Joyce and Buffy.

“What is inconsiderate?” came Joyce’s amused voice as she emerged from behind a large screen carrying a newly framed painting.

“Putting the soddin’ Hellmouth in a place like this,” he growled. “England, now there’s a the proper spot for a Hellmouth. Lots of rainy and overcast days when a vamp can go about his business without having to worry about bursting into flames.”

“You don’t seem to worry about it too much,” she laughed at his grumbling. “You’re always popping up in the daytime. I think, if you asked Buffy, she’d probably tell you it’s against the rules for vampires to be running around while the sun’s still up.”

“Don’ believe in rules,” he muttered, looking around the room again. “Where’s the Slayer?”

“She stopped to see Giles and find out if he really did resign from the Council, and what that will mean for her. She said to tell you just wait here and make yourself useful.”

Spike stared at her, his eyes wide. “Useful? She wants me to be useful? What does she think I am, some kind of lap dog? I’m a bloody master vampire, I am. I don’t do useful, I do evil…things.”

Ignoring his protestations, Joyce handed him a crowbar and pointed towards a stack of large crates.

“How about you go do something evil to those boxes over there, and then help me carry the contents out to the shelves?”

Without waiting to hear his answer, she swept out of the room to go clear space for the new arrivals. Muttering to himself about bossy bints and their mothers, he began pulling the lids off the crates and lifting out the stone artifacts they contained. When he had them stacked neatly on a table, he went to the curtain separating the storage area from the selling floor and stuck his head out to look for Joyce.

By the time Buffy walked in the front door of the gallery, Spike and Joyce has placed almost all of the sculptures on the only shelves sturdy enough to hold them and they were standing back to admire their work.

“They look wonderful, Spike,” Joyce said softly. “You have a good eye for artistic arrangements.”

“I know how to appreciate beauty, Joyce,” he responded with a wink, including her in his visual sweep of the room that ended with a smile at the petite girl approaching them.

“Are you flirting with my mother?” she growled in mock anger, going up on her toes to share a chaste peck on the lips.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Buffy,” Joyce colored at the implication, as much because she knew she had been enjoying the vampire’s admiration and company as because she felt like defending him. “I’m old enough to be his mother!”

While Spike chuckled, Buffy rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Mom, you do know that he’s like a…gazillion years old, don’t you?”

Joyce looked embarrassed and flustered as she replied, “Well, no, actually. I mean, I know you told me Angel was over 200 years old, but I didn’t think— I guess that was pretty stupid, wasn’t it?”

Buffy was immediately sorry for giving her mother a hard time, but before she could say anything, Spike broke into the conversation, saying cockily, “Easy mistake, Joyce. I know it’s hard to believe somebody this good looking and athletic isn’t a young man. What with my hard little body and pretty face…”

“And the fact that you act like you’re twelve, most of the time,” Buffy snarked at him.

“Hey! I do no such thing!” he huffed, immediately proving her right by sticking his tongue out at her.

“I rest my case,” she responded smugly, following her mother into the storeroom and ignoring the growling vampire trailing behind her.

“So,” Joyce said, skipping any preliminaries. “What is the plan?”

“Giles called the Council and told them their tame vampire had killed their whole team – at least as far as he knew, since he didn’t actually know how many of them were here – and that I dusted Kralik and that he was quitting because they obviously had expected me to die.”

“How’d they take the news that you weren’t dead?” Spike asked with more fear than curiosity. “I’ll bet that made their day.”

“Um…well, I don’t know exactly. I guess Giles was pretty mad when he called them -- yelling in British like you do when you’re pis-er-mad -- and he said they spent a lot of time saying things like ‘Oh my’ and ‘Surely you don’t think we would—‘ and ‘Let’s not be hasty, Rupert.’ So he’s not sure how they feel about it – except that he said Mr. Travers assured him that I would remain the Slayer for as long as I wanted to and that they would send me a new watcher if he was really quitting.”

“Oh. Well, that’s not so bad then, is it?” Joyce asked hopefully.

Spike made a disgusted noise, walking over and kicking one of the empty boxes before explaining to a puzzled slayer and her mother, “You don’t really believe they’re giving up that easily, do you?” He shook his head. “I’ll lay you odds the Watcher then send will be crooked or incompetent – and what about the other slayer?”

“Other slayer?”

“Didn’t you tell me old Batface killed you for a few seconds a couple of years ago?”

Joyce was staring back and forth between her glaring daughter and the puzzled vampire, her breathing becoming faster and harder as she tried to process what he’d just said.

“Killed? As in dead? You were dead?”

“Relax, Mom. it was only for a few minutes – Xander did CPR and I was fine. Caught up with the Master and made him really sorry he did it. I promise you. It was no big deal – Spike shouldn’t have mentioned it,” she added, glaring again at the unrepentant vampire.

“Point is, pet. There was another slayer called. I heard about her but didn’t have time to go looking for her before she died too. So, that means there’s another one out there somewhere.”

“I’m not the only one?” Buffy’s lip unconsciously crept out into a pout as she considered the implications of not being the only slayer in the world.

“You are the only one, love. Trust me when I tell you there is nobody else like you in the world.” Spike’s words, whispered in her ear as he wrapped his arms around her in reassurance, mollified her enough that she stopped pouting and snuggled into his chest for a minute. Her mother’s throat-clearing “ahem” reminded them that they weren’t alone and with matching embarrassed smiles they separated just enough to prevent Joyce from seeing anything she really didn’t want to.

“I’m just sayin’, pet. You need to be prepared for whatever they send here. Could be another slayer, could be a watcher that’s a bigger prat than the one you’ve got—“

“Could be another ugly vampire to kill me?”

Spike’s immediately snarled response sent Joyce retreating rapidly, her face showing how completely unprepared she was for the reminder that the well-mannered Englishman she’d become used to was in reality one of the very creatures her daughter was meant to destroy. She clutched at her throat with one hand, willing her heart to slow down while she watched Buffy follow the glare she sent Spike with a thump on the side of his head.

“Now look what you’ve done!” she complained. “You scared my mom and she won’t want to let you in the house anymore.”

“It’s…it’s okay, Buffy,” Joyce managed to get out. “I just forget sometimes what he is.”

Her eyes never left the clearly repentant vampire’s handsome human face and she saw the flinch and brief flash of pain that went across it at her words. She opened her mouth to apologize, but the vampire held up a hand to stop her and shook his head.

“No, Joyce. Don’t apologize. You never should forget what I am. And never trust it. I hope that someday…” His voice trailed off as his mind went somewhere else for a few seconds before he continued, “But that day isn’t here yet; and until it is, you should remain cautious and aware.”

He didn’t offer any explanation for his rambling “I hope someday...” and Buffy tucked it away as something to ask about when they were alone. In an effort to relieve the tension in the room, she quickly began to discuss their plans for the evening.

“Spike’s leaving tonight, Mom, but he’s taking me out to dinner first, so I have to go buy a dress to wear out to a nice restaurant.”

“So, I shouldn’t expect you home tonight either?” her mother asked dryly, smothering the accusatory tone that kept trying to creep into her voice every time she thought about what her still-teen-aged daughter and the vampire were doing when they were alone.

Buffy blushed, but before she could answer, Spike put his arm around her and faced Joyce, his voice soft, but firm.

“Joyce, I know this situation can’t be makin’ you happy. I understand that better than you might think. This isn’t somethin’ either the Slayer or I would have imagined two years ago. Don’t fancy myself the kind of wanker who chases after young girls – unlike my late, unlamented grandsire – and I know the Slayer isn’t one for ignoring the good upbringing she had. But the damage was done – her innocence was already gone when I started fallin’ in love with her. All I wanted to do was replace some of those ugly memories with some more…pleasant ones.”

“Apparently you did that,” Joyce blustered through her embarrassment. Only the fact that Buffy was obviously even more embarrassed by the conversation than she was allowed Joyce to keep going. “Since it appears that she is as much in love with you as you are with her.” Buffy’s nodding head and blushing face almost took the attention away from the vampires whispered “Not possible”, and Joyce blew out her breath in a resigned sigh. “If my eighteen-year-old daughter must find herself involved in a physical relationship with an older man, I guess I should be grateful that it is someone who loves her so well and someone who is physically able to keep her safe and protected. When he’s here,” she added with a side-long look that told him what she thought of his stated intention to leave again so quickly.

“Mom!” Buffy’s anguished wail of embarrassment ended the conversation for the moment, but the look on Joyce’s face said she was not yet finished with the blond vampire and he nodded in silent acknowledgement. Giving Buffy a small push in the direction of the door, he suggested lightly, “Why don’t you go on an’ spend some of my hard-earned money on something pretty to wear tonight, pet?”

He pulled a roll of bills from his pocket before Joyce’s cold voice cut in.

“I can clothe my own daughter, Spike. Thank you anyway.”

Sheepishly, he put the money away, realizing he had just dug himself an even bigger hole than he’d already been in. His instinct to provide for and protect his mate had taken precedence over his long-unused knowledge of what was right and proper between a courting couple and he mentally cursed himself for his actions.

“I didn’t mean that the way it seemed, Joyce,” he said apologetically.

Joyce refused to answer him, rummaged instead in her purse for her VISA card and handing it to Buffy with a quiet, “Here, you can use this, but don’t buy anything you don’t really need.”

Buffy looked back and forth between her mother and the vampire, knowing she was missing something in the byplay, but not sure what it was.

“Mom,” she began hesitantly, “you know Spike wasn’t implying that you couldn’t afford—“

“I know that isn’t what he was implying, Buffy.” Her mother’s voice indicated the discussion was over; the Slayer shrugged in resignation and took the card.

“Okay, I’m going to back to Giles’ for a while and then I’ll get something to wear and go home to get ready. What time are you planning to pick me up?” she asked, turning to Spike who seemed disinclined to go back outside yet.

“I’ll pick you up about 5:30, love. I know that’s a bit early, but if I’m to leave while I still have time to actually get somewhere before daylight…”

“Right,” Her voice was suddenly tight at the reminder. “You’ll need to get on the road.”

He nodded and she whirled without speaking again, running out into the sunlit alley in the back of the gallery and allowing the door to slam shut behind her.

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