There was silence for a few minutes after Buffy left, the vampire trying to smother the urge to run after her and promise to stay forever and her mother biting back tears at the life in which her daughter was trapped. Finally Spike spoke up.
“Joyce, I know how that must have looked – me wanting to give her money for clothes. I just didn’t think— “
“You sure as hell didn’t!” she snapped at him, her vehemence setting him back on his heels. “You do NOT get to treat my daughter as some little toy for you to buy pretty dresses and presents for. She doesn’t need a sugar daddy in her life, and I won’t have you treating her like that’s what you are to her.”
“I’m sorry.” Spike did his best to grovel in the face of her righteous anger, while trying to do so in a manly fashion. “I really am. I just didn’t think before I spoke. It’s been a long time since the morals and customs of humans have been something I needed to worry about and all I was thinking was my…the woman I love needed something and I wanted to give it to her. I didn’t realize how it would look until you spoke up and it hit me what I had done. That’s not what she is to me, Joyce, I swear to you. I just don’t always think before I act.”
The genuine regret and embarrassment on his face, as well as his words that pleaded for understanding, softened her anger and she shrugged as she responded.
“If you’re going to be seeing Buffy, you will have to work on some of those things you haven’t worried about while you were...dating…other vampires. You’re going to have to think about what you’re doing.”
"Thinkin’ before I do or say something is one of those things I’m still workin’ on,” he offered with a wry smile.
Her mouth twitched at the corner. “Is that right? How long have you been working on it?”
The smile turned into a sheepish grin as he admitted, “A hundred years or so – give or take.”
“And how’s that going for you?” She tried to hide her smile, wanting to hang on to her outrage so as to avoid the rest of the conversation.
“It’s a work-in-progress,” he mumbled. “Not like I had much reason to worry about it until recently.”
Joyce sighed and sat down on a crate indicating that he should do the same.
“Do you really think this is going to work, Spike? Your popping up once a year, taking my daughter to bed for a couple of days and then running off again? Is that fair to her?”
“Bloody hell! No, it’s not fair. But she’s a right stubborn bint, your daughter, and she won’t see my leavin’ her alone as anything but a coward’s way of telling her I don’t want her. I don’t ever want her to feel not wanted. Or not loved.”
“So, I repeat my earlier question, what’s the plan?”
He blew out an unnecessary breath before he tried to answer her as truthfully as he could.
“I’m tryin’…I’ve been working on…on not killin’. Not as much, anyway. Been stickin’ to findin’ criminals and such lot who deserve some retribution for their crimes. An’ unless I catch them in the act of something unspeakable, I usually leave them alive.”
“And this means?”"
“Doesn’t mean anything yet,” he answered gruffly. “It’s me tryin’ to change my ways after over 125 years of takin’ whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it. It’s not like I can jus’ go from a lifetime of killin’ and eatin’ to bagging it all the time. Could do that when I was hurt, cause I didn’t have much choice, but I AM a vampire, Joyce. Couldn’t change that if I wanted to.”
“And you don’t want to.” Her voice was flat and he couldn’t tell what she was thinking.
“No,” he admitted freely, “I don’t. My life changed completely when I was turned and I wouldn’t take back a day of it. I’ve got no interest in bein’ anything else but a vampire; but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn to change some of my ways. It’s jus’ going to take some time. And I don’t want Buffy to know about it.”
“Don’t want to hurt her if it turns out I can’t do it. If I can’t control the demon the way I want to, I don’t want to disappoint her.”
Joyce nodded in agreement, then stood up, brushing off her skirt. “Well then, I guess the sooner you leave, the sooner you’ll be back.”
“That’s my hope.”
“Mine too, Spike,” she said calmly. “Have a safe trip.”
“Thank you, Joyce,” he said softly as he went back into the main part of the gallery. Picking up his blanket, he prepared to go back to the mansion until it was time to pick Buffy up for their “date”.
Buffy burst into her ex-Watcher’s house to find him sitting morosely at a table, an open bottle of scotch in front of him, and the newspaper open to the classified ads.
“What’s up, Giles?” she asked brightly. “I thought you might be taking a nap, not reading the paper.”
“Which would explain why you felt it was acceptable for you to come through my door without so much as knocking?”
Abashed, Buffy shrugged apologetically. “I just came by to tell you Spike is leaving tonight and he’s taking me out to dinner first, so I don’t know if I’ll get to patrol for very long.”
“He’s leaving already? I must say, I didn’t really believe him when he said he wouldn’t be staying long, but that would be all to the good.”
“It is NOT ‘all to the good’, Giles. There is nothing good about it, but we don’t really have much choice. It’s not like I can let him stay here and feed on the local population.”
“And yet,” Giles said gently, “you feel it is all right to send him away to feed on some other city’s populace.”
Buffy’s face paled and she gasped in sudden realization. To her watcher’s surprise, she burst into huge gulping sobs, her words indistinguishable as she cried in a way she hadn’t since the morning after her rescue from Angelus. When Giles moved closer and patted her back tentatively, she transferred her sobbing from her own hands to his chest and he found himself somewhat uncomfortably holding a heartbroken slayer. As Buffy’s sobs tapered off to sniffles and shuddering breaths, he sat her down on a chair and took her hands in his.
“I’m sorry, Buffy. I didn’t mean to cause you to—what brought that on?”
She raised red-rimmed eyes to his and said clearly, “I can’t do it again, Giles. I can’t kill another man I love. Especially one who has never done anything to hurt me. Don’t ask me to do that.”
“I wasn’t asking you to kill Spike, Buffy. I would never – well, at one time I probably would have insisted that it was your duty. However, I think it has become painfully obvious that much of what I was taught by the Watchers Council is not as black and white as it first appeared and I am willing to allow this one vampire to walk away. If for no other reason, than the good he has done on behalf of someone I care about very much,” he finished, remembering that until Spike showed up, Buffy had been in serious danger of dying at the hands of the Council-sent insane vampire.
“So,” she sniffled, pulling away from him and giving him a watery smile, “you’re okay with this then?”
He sighed and shook his head, taking off his glasses and beginning to polish them vigorously.
“I cannot say I am happy that you are once again in a relationship with a vampire. I would be lying if I told you that it makes me happy. However, I also recognize that as a slayer you are not likely to have a normal life with normal relationships. I must accept that –as your mother apparently has. At least this one is not operating under the influence of an unstable curse that could fail and leave you vulnerable to danger.”
“Spike would never hurt me,” she stated firmly. “He doesn’t need a soul. All he needs is…me.”
“I sincerely hope you are correct, Buffy. For all our sakes.”
“I know I’m right,” she said stubbornly.
There was an uncomfortable silence until she asked him why he was reading the want ads and he turned weary eyes to her.
“With my no longer being your watcher, it seems that my position at Sunnydale High School could be terminated at any time, and along with it, my visa. I thought it would be wise to try to line up other employment in the event that I find myself without such.”
“They would do that? Get you fired?”
“I doubt they would need to have me dismissed – I am hardly Principal Snyder’s favorite staff member. All the council would need to do is to remove whatever pressure they have been exerting to maintain my place and I am sure he would find a reason to fire me forthwith. Hence, the necessity of lining up other gainful employment.”
“If they do that, you tell them that I’ll….I’ll quit! I won’t be the Slayer anymore. They can just stop their own apocalypses and…stuff.”
“I appreciate the support, Buffy,” he said wryly, “but, as Spike so rightly pointed out, there is undoubtedly another slayer already in place, so I don’t know that your threatened resignation would carry as much weight as we might hope.”
“Oh.” Her face fell momentarily, then lit up again. “Well, that means I don’t HAVE to be The Slayer! I can be a slayer – and just…retire. Spike wouldn’t have to stay away because who I’m dating wouldn’t be any of their business anymore.”
Giles shook his head at her naivety. “You will always be the slayer, Buffy. It’s a part of you. You could not more ignore a pending apocalypse or a nest of vampires than I could dance to the unpleasant sounds that pass for music nowadays. You could try to quit the Council, but you can never quit being a slayer; it’s who and what you are.”
“Well, that just sucks.”
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