Dreams and Desotos
Surprise snuck up on the older man's face. "Why, to bring you home, of course."
Spike and Buffy exchanged amused looks. "Giles, I am home." Buffy sent her mom an apologetic look as hurt settled over her face.
Giles looked at her with something akin to disbelief, eyes wide and unblinking. This was home? Any response he might have made was postponed by the creaking sound of the front door opening.
"Hey! Where are you guys?" a loud voice called out.
Relief filled Buffy at the unexpected, yet well-timed, interruption. Anything to escape this old, familiar feeling of having to justify herself yet again. "We're in the kitchen," she called out, ignoring the looks her mom and Giles were sending her way.
Elaine paused with dramatic flourish just outside the wide kitchen entryway, breaking out into a wide, leering grin when she saw Spike leaning against the kitchen island. "Ooh yeah..., I see I got here just in time," Elaine drawled, allowing her eyes to run over Spike's muscular chest appreciatively. "Very nice... very nice, indeed." Elaine looked at Buffy and winked, then took a closer look at her friend, noting the unfamiliar tension that Buffy was exuding. Something was definitely wrong.
"So, that's why you wanted to come early?" Rick grumbled good-naturedly, coming up behind his wife and taking her in his arms.
"Of course," Elaine replied airily, leaning into his embrace. "It's not every day a girl gets to see sexy vampires without their shirts on, you know."
Spike merely rolled his eyes, per usual, and played along. "Your wife bloody well scares me, Rickie."
"Yeah, she scares me too," Rick replied, stepping around Elaine and walking into the kitchen. "I should have figured something was up when she rushed me out of the house- " His voice trailed off as he noticed the strangers seated awkwardly around the kitchen table. "Oh, sorry. We didn't know you had company."
Elaine walked into the kitchen and saw the middle-aged man and woman perched at the table, and threw Buffy a questioning look. She could read the panic and anguish in her friend's eyes, and it wasn't a far leap to realize this was someone from her past. Elaine walked over and gave Buffy a welcoming hug, whispering in her ear, "Do you want us to stay or go?"
Buffy clutched at her friend like the lifeline she was. "Oh god, please stay," she whispered back, her voice stressed. She looked over at her mom and Giles, who were staring at her friends with curiosity and barely veiled irritation. "Uh, Mom, Giles. These are our friends, Elaine and Rick," Buffy introduced awkwardly. "Giles is... was, my Watcher." Giles started visibly at the introduction, realizing this pair was aware of Buffy's Slayer status.
Elaine put on the false, bright, smile that she usually kept reserved for annoying customers, and crossed the room to shake hands. "It's so nice to meet you both!" she gushed. Turning to Joyce, she added, "And I just have to say, I love your daughter to death. She's absolutely the best friend I've ever had. The day she moved here was probably the best day of my life." At the pained look her husband threw her, Elaine giggled. "Besides every day with you, sweetie." She blew him a quick kiss in apology.
Joyce smiled weakly, not replying, as she watched the loud blonde begin an airy conversation with her daughter, completely excluding the other occupants of the room. Then she realized it was being done intentionally.
Buffy looked up at Spike, who had thus far, managed to hold his tongue remarkably well. "You better go get ready," she informed him.
He looked at her in surprise. "We still going?"
"I didn't make all these cookies for nothing."
Spike gave her an appreciative smile, leaning down to press a quick kiss to her lips. "If they get out of hand, just sic Elaine on 'em," he whispered in her ear, before drawing away and leaving the kitchen. He paused to inform Rick of the presence of beer in the fridge.
Rick walked over to their refrigerator and helped himself to a beer, before taking one of the empty seats at the kitchen table. The atmosphere in the kitchen had grown tense. Buffy offered beverages to her guests, and her mom commented how strange it was for her daughter to play hostess.
"So, does it always snow like this?" Joyce inquired, desperate to quell the uncomfortable silence.
"Yeah, pretty much. It took a while to get used to it, that's for sure. You know, total California girl, and all," Buffy replied getting back to her cookies, scooping more balls of dough on the sheet.
"Uh, how long have you been here?" her mother asked, desperate to fill in the blanks that her daughter's absence had created.
"Almost a year, I think it's been."
Deeming this whole situation unacceptable, Giles turned to Elaine. "I hope you don't mind my asking, er, Elaine, but I heard you refer to... Spike as a vampire."
Elaine heard the hostility in the crisp, British voice at the reference to her friend, and bristled. "Yes, I did."
Giles stared at her, waiting for her to elaborate, then realized that was the end of her sentence. "Yes, well," he began, finding himself growing increasingly aggravated, "then you are aware of that fact?"
"Isn't that what I just said?" Elaine replied in a confused voice, eyes purposely wide, causing Buffy to have to bite her lip to hold back a snicker as she stood at the kitchen island, transferring another batch of cookies onto the cooling rack.
"So, you don't mind that he's a vampire?" Joyce found herself asking, curious to hear their reaction.
Elaine exchanged looks with Rick, who was absently flicking through one of Spike's magazines. "Mind?" Rick asked neutrally.
"It... that is... it doesn't bother you?" Giles asked, his agitation escalating, completely missing the black look Buffy threw his way.
Rick slapped the magazine closed and leaned back in his chair. "Look. Spike and Buffy are our best friends, ok? Yes, we know Spike is a vampire. Yes, we know Buffy is a vampire slayer. Does it matter? No."
Giles mind was ready to explode with the implications these two had just made. He stared intently at Buffy's alleged friends, seeing if perhaps his first opinion was completely off. By all appearances, they seemed to be a typical middle class couple. The woman, Elaine, was a bit overdone and loud for Giles's taste, but they certainly seemed normal enough. Spike must have worked some serious mojo to make these two so oblivious to the danger he presented, yet had so easily befriended.
Ripping his glasses off once more, he turned in his seat to look at Buffy, desperate to make her see how dangerous this was. "Surely you can see that something is very wrong here. Good Lord, you are the Slayer, and yet, you are harboring a known killer in this town. I'm quite sure there have been a rash of unexplained deaths or injuries since you've been here. How can you be so blind? You are being completely irresponsible."
Joyce shot Rupert a look of dismay; this wasn't the way they had agreed to handle things. Yet, apparently Rupert felt the need for accusations. Joyce knew from experience that this was the absolute wrong way to approach Buffy, and could only hope Rupert knew what he was doing.
Buffy's reaction was much as Joyce had feared. Even their unexpected arrival hadn't dimmed the happiness and peace Joyce could see surrounding her daughter. However, Rupert's words managed to do just that, leaving a chilly replica in her place.
Buffy drew herself up slowly, feeling every muscle tighten in response to the harsh, unfounded, accusation. Poised, she quietly replied, "I don't expect you to take my word for it, or even the word of our friends. If you feel the need to investigate these things for yourself, I encourage you to do so."
Giles held the determined gaze of his Slayer who seemed so different from the girl he had last seen, and found himself nodding his head. "Very well. I believe it is my duty to pursue this avenue. Perhaps you could point me in the direction of the library?"
Joyce gaped at him, incredulous he was leaving so soon after finally locating Buffy. All she wanted to do was sweep her daughter into her arms, and beg for her forgiveness. Joyce was beginning to see the reason behind Buffy's desperate need for escape; the Council had been her shadow this past year. Even now, their intrusion was enormous.
"You're kidding, right?" Joyce heard Buffy's friend, Elaine, ask.
"I beg your pardon?" Giles asked haughtily.
Elaine exchanged looks with Buffy, and saw nothing in her face that gave her a red light. "I mean, the whole 'point me in the direction of the library' thing."
Buffy could see Giles getting his little British feather ruffled, and was suddenly very tired. She so didn't need this. Deciding to be kind to Giles, and not let Elaine get a hold of him, Buffy interrupted, "Giles, the library is closed. Just... come with us tonight, and you can talk to whoever you want, ok?"
"You're going someplace?" Giles sounded outraged.
"Yes, we are going someplace." Buffy replied in a steely tone.
"Well, I would think that you could cancel whatever plans you have..." Giles began to say, only to be interrupted by Buffy mother.
"Rupert," she said sharply. "If Buffy has plans, she has plans." Joyce looked at her daughter. "I'm sorry we just barged in on you, Buffy," she apologized, pleased to note when some of the previous contentment re-entered Buffy's eyes.
Buffy allowed her body to relax a fraction. "It's ok. No big." She smiled hesitantly at her mom, feeling a surge of guilt at the profound happiness that surfaced on her mom's face at the hesitant gesture.
Spike swooped back into the kitchen at that moment, wearing his usual bowling outfit. He'd heard every word the Watcher had said, and was fighting the urge to cause the git a great deal of pain. But for Buffy's sake, he knew he had to play nice. She was taking the last batch of cookies out of the oven, and he went to stand by her.
"Why don't you go get ready, luv?" he suggested softly, his eyes searching hers. He could see the pain swimming in her eyes, and drew her into his arms, holding her for just a moment. Spike could practically feel the contempt burning into him from the Watcher, and had to steel himself not to react. There was no way he was going to give the man the satisfaction of acting true to stereotype.
"So, where are you going?" Joyce asked, watching the tender way Spike held her daughter.
"It's bowling night," Elaine announced.
"You bowl ?" Giles asked incredulously.
"Yeah, and they're damn good at it, too," Elaine commented.
"Spike bowls as well?" Giles inquired, a confused look marring his face.
"Yes, Spike bloody well does," Spike retorted, turning Buffy around and giving her a slight shove towards the entryway. He had just looked at the clock and realized that they were starting to cut it close.
A half hour later, Buffy and Spike walked hand in hand into the bowling alley. However, this time, it was not with the usual carefree abandonment they usually presented. Even if it wasn't for the presence of the strangers shadowing behind them, the change was immediately noticeable.
"Hey! It's Fanged Lightening!" one of the men called out in greeting, causing Spike to snort. The usual rounds of hugs and hand shaking commenced, with Rick and Spike heading for the bar soon thereafter. Buffy was almost worried Spike wouldn't come back, but knew he wouldn't desert her like that.
The bowling alley was crowded, and the faces were all familiar ones to the regulars. Giles found himself looking around in stunned shock. He had never set foot in a bowling alley in his life, and now he knew why. The idea of renting shoes that had been on someone else's feet was appalling, making him visibly nauseous.
It hadn't escaped his notice how his slayer and... Spike, seemed to be acquainted with everyone present. They were a loud group, and so far, no introductions had been made. Although to be fair, they weren't exactly there as esteemed guests.
Buffy had shown he and Joyce to a little table, than had gone off with her crass friend somewhere. Giles met Joyce's eyes, and saw the curiosity lurking there as she looked around.
"I have to say, of all the scenarios I imagined where we'd find Buffy, something like this was never even a consideration," Joyce admitted.
Giles had to admit to the same thing. "I rather thought we'd find her working in an out-of-sorts diner somewhere."
Suddenly, a drink was banged down on the table in front of him. Scotch. Giles looked up and saw Spike standing above him. In his capable hands was a tray laden with several different pitchers. "Just call me the soddin' barmaid, Joyce. Beer or diet coke?"
When Joyce was unable to do anything but stare stupidly in his direction, he arched a scarred dark brow.
Joyce finally found her voice. "Uh... beer." Spike nodded, and set down one of the empty mugs on the table. He poured it full from the pitcher, placing it front of her. With a sly wink in her direction, he deftly picked the tray back up and strode over to the group of people that were clustered around the middle lanes. They watched as he put it down on one of the tables, and called out that the bar was open.
"Do you think they know? What he is, I mean?" Joyce asked, her curiosity more than piqued.
Finding himself flustered, Giles sputtered, "I should say not."
Joyce saw Buffy heading towards them, her friend finally gone from her side. She was more than aware of the curious looks that were being sent in their direction, and wondered how Buffy was going to introduce them.
Before Buffy could get to the table, Joyce saw her engulfed in an enthusiastic hug from a distinguished-looking older gentleman. She saw her daughter's face light up as they exchanged pleasantries, then Buffy grabbed his arm, remarking, "You are so the man I was hoping to see here tonight. Do you have a few minutes?" Joyce heard the man assure Buffy that he would do anything for her, then her daughter closed the short distance to the table, bringing the man over to be introduced.
"I wanted you to meet my mom and... an old friend of the family, Rupert Giles," Buffy announced, as Giles got to his feet, extending his hand out. His hand was clasped with a sure grip, as the two men sized each other up.
"When I'm not 'mom,' I'm Joyce." Buffy's mom said teasingly, earning a round of laughter from the newcomer.
Buffy rolled her eyes slightly, before saying, "This is Dr. Adler. He's the Director of our Emergency Room." She pinned her stare on Giles, then turned to the doctor. "Our friend here, Mr. Giles, was curious about some things in our town, and I thought maybe you could help enlighten him a little?"
Giles felt very much put on the spot, but nodded encouragingly when the ER director assured him that he'd help in anyway he could. He and Buffy sank down into the two empty chairs, both looking at their watches in sync, realizing they had a few minutes before their games began.
"So, what can I help you with?" Dr. Adler inquired, curious to finally met any of Buffy's family.
"Well, I do quite a bit of research, you could say," Giles began, unsure how to phrase it without seeming obvious. "And I was just wondering if there was any trend of accidents recently, that fit a peculiar... profile? Perhaps injuries not easily explained?"
Dr. Adler gave Giles an odd look, then tipped his head in Buffy's direction. "Why didn't you just ask Buffy?" At the confused looks that met that remark, it didn't take much to figure out that these were some of the people that Spike and Buffy didn't want coming to look for them. "No, I can honestly say there have been no unexplained injuries lately."
Giles tipped his head in response. "I see. You wouldn't happen to know if there have been any increase in missing persons, would you? I know it seems like an odd question, but it correlates with my research, you see."
Dr. Adler gave a wry smile, keeping his gaze locked on the man in front of him. "Look, if you're trying to subtly find out if Spike is slowly offing the town, the answer to that is no. I'm surprised Buffy didn't tell you that." He looked over at her and caught the look on her face, actually laughing in response. "Ah, I see you tried."
Giles finally comprehended what it was this doctor had said. "So... you know about what Spike is?" he asked in shock, his contempt palpable.
Dr. Adler nodded, then turned to shoo Buffy away. If he was the one who had to tell the story, he didn't want her sitting there listening. When Buffy had finally left, rejoining Spike and Elaine, Dr Adler turned back to Joyce and the family friend, and his face turned serious.
"There is just one thing you should be aware of before I tell you my piece. This town thinks pretty highly of your daughter and her husband..."
"Husband ?!" Giles uttered disapprovingly.
Dr. Adler's face hardened. "Yes, husband. I reviewed her job application myself, and that is how she listed him. Husband. Spouse. At work, she refers to him as her husband. I think that is clear enough, don't you?"
"You work with Buffy?" Joyce asked in confusion.
Dr. Adler heaved a pained sigh and realized he'd probably be missing a few games tonight. "Yes, she works in the ER. She's our best ER tech."
He noticed her mother looked oddly proud, while the 'family friend' had a tight look on his face. "Anyway, as I was saying, Spike and Buffy are well thought of here. Whatever problem you have, I suggest you keep it to yourself."
"This is ludicrous!" Giles muttered, shaking his head in disgust. "He's worked the whole town."
Dr. Adler leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. "I take it you don't care too much for Spike?"
"I should say not! He's a cold blooded killer," Giles sputtered.
"I don't know about his past before he came here, and quite frankly, I have no desire to. All I can tell you is this-the Spike we've had the pleasure of knowing this past year is a good man."
Joyce took a moment to study her daughter and Spike mingling with their friends, their arms looped easily around the other. It was clear they cared for each other, even Giles wouldn't be able to deny that. Joyce was trying to differentiate this carefree, joking man with the morose, intense vampire that had stood in her living room so long ago. There was little similarity left.
"How did you find out he was a vampire?" Joyce found herself asking.
Dr. Adler's face grew animated. "Well, I found out with about half the town," he replied. At their questioning look, he continued, "It's a bit of a long story, and I'd really appreciate no interruptions, if you don't mind."
Giles took the hint, and nodded, bringing the drink that Spike had brought him to his lips, as he listened to this man's story.
"It was an occurrence at Larry's Bar." Dr Adler paused to take a sip of his beer. "Buffy's birthday, actually. A gang of bikers blew into town. Turns out they weren't your ordinary bikers. We kind of figured that one out when they locked all the doors and grew fangs." He paused to appreciate the shocked looks he was receiving. "So, everybody in the place pretty much froze, too horrified to move, and the bartender was just about to get eaten..." he paused once more for dramatic effect, "When suddenly Spike walks up to the leader and tells him to shove off, told him that this was HIS town. The leader just laughed a bit, then leaned down to bite Gary and damned if Spike didn't grow his own set of fangs. He rescued Gary, told the leader that we were his people, then Buffy jumped in and I got a lesson on the post mortem disintegration of vampires."
Dr. Adler took another sip of beer, then looked meaningfully at Giles. "So, like I said, this town is pretty protective of those two."
Giles felt like his mind was running on two separate levels; one where he wanted to believe in the Spike that this town did, while the other screamed at him that vampires do not change. That their evil is inherent and as immortal as they are themselves.
He quite honestly didn't know what to think.
Thanks to Maidenro and Beanmommy for guidance on this chapter.
Joyce continued to watch Buffy from afar as a new level of respect for her daughter washed over her. Buffy was not acting like the "rebellious teenage fugitive in hiding" that Joyce had so often imagined. Neither was she acting like the broken lamb Joyce feared she'd find. Rather, she was acting in a very adult manner, and it was clearly obvious that this small, close knit town was now her home.
If only Rupert would realize that. Joyce was jarred from her silent musings to hear Giles questioning the physician that worked with Buffy. He was apparently sacrificing his bowling time in an effort to make her and Rupert realize a few basics facts about the lives that Spike and Buffy now led. Joyce was beyond horrified to hear the hostile tone that Rupert was using to question the doctor. The watcher's back was rigid in his seat, and his features were grimly set as he bit out his questions in a clipped manner.
Joyce had to hand it to Dr. Adler; he was holding his patience and composure rather well. She listened in growing horror as Rupert began bringing up Spike's past atrocities, embellishing one hundred plus years of the murder and mayhem the vampire had committed, and watched as the ER doctor's face began to close off. Enough was apparently enough.
"Rupert." Her voice was short and forceful.
Giles stopped mid-sentence, and looked at Buffy's mother in a questioning manner. "That is more than enough," Joyce chastised, throwing Dr. Adler an apologetic look.
"Really Joyce, I think it is only fair that this town is made aware of what exactly they have let roam amongst them."
"The town has seen what is amongst them, Rupert," Joyce pointed out.
"Look, I sat here and let you ramble on and do you know why I did that?" Dr Adler cut in. " I did it for Spike and Buffy. We know what Spike is. And while he may not be the first one picked for babysitting duties, the majority of this town trusts him, myself included. As you can see, the town has kept the secret pretty well. There hasn't been a rush of trashy magazines like the National Enquirer storming our town to do a story on the 'Vampire Who Saves Town from Vampire Bikers." Dr. Adler made sarcastic use of air quotes as he mentioned the fictitious title, while pinning a harsh look on Giles. "So I suggest you drop the attitude. I can guarantee it will not be tolerated here. By anyone."
With that ultimatum, Dr. Adler pushed himself to his feet, and with one last warning look, strode confidently over to the lanes his team was using.
"Well, I never..." Giles began to sputter.
"He's right, Rupert. Knock it off."
"Really, Joyce, you have no idea what Spike is capable of, regardless of how much he appears to have restrained himself. His inherent nature is evil, never forget that. He is, and always will be, a demon."
"Look, you said it yourself, we need information from Buffy. But you're doing such a fabulous job of getting her upset, she's not going to want to talk to either one of us," Joyce felt compelled to point out.
"I'm just doing what is necessary."
"Oh, stop sounding like a damn watcher for a moment, will you? I've had about enough of your organization to last me a lifetime." Joyce pushed herself angrily to her feet. "Buffy is what is necessary. That's my little girl, in case you have forgotten. She's happy here, Rupert."
"Yes, well, be that as it may, things will change soon enough. She is the chosen one, after all."
Joyce looked at him in growing disbelief. "I cannot believe you. All that time, I thought you had her best interest at heart. Do you have any idea what this last year has been like for me, Rupert? How many nightmares I've had that my little girl is scared and hurt and crying out for me, but I'm not there? I was so frightened we were going to find her broken, shattered into tiny pieces. Instead, I find her like that." She gestured behind her, where Buffy was laughing at something Rick had apparently said, her arm easily curled around Spike's waist, the vampire watching her daughter with reverence and Joyce felt her throat tighten.
"I find my little girl happy. And you know what? I feel like I've been given a precious gift. You and your damn Council chased my little girl away a year ago, but it didn't break her. But what are you doing now? You're trying to accomplish just that, Rupert. And this time, I will not stand for it, do you hear me???" Her nostrils flared in the heat of her self-righteous anger as she stared down at the man who was in league with those who had caused Buffy so much pain. Her anger slightly misplaced, but it well directed at this particular moment.
Giles felt his resolve give way, and his body went lax. "I... I'm sorry, Joyce. I don't quite know what to say. You... you are right. I suppose I have been remiss in looking at this the way I should." His head bowed. "I believe I've been holding on to some issues of anger and betrayal that haven't been very easy for me to let go." Giles looked around. "The very fact that we are discussing this in a bowling alley is quite deplorable, wouldn't you say?"
"Well, beggars can't be choosers, I've come to learn," Joyce announced, determined to hang on to her anger. Turning her back on Giles, she strode across the floor in the direction of where her daughter was now seated. It pained her to see her daughter tense with apprehension as her approach was noted, but Joyce managed to plaster a pleasant smile on her face, nonetheless.
"Can I sit?"
Buffy's face relaxed and a genuine smile emerged. She gestured to the empty chair next to her, and watched with a small amount of trepidation as her mom took a seat.
"Can I get you another beer, Joyce?" Spike asked, reaching behind him to grab a full pitcher and an empty glass.
"Thank you, Spike." Joyce took the proffered mug and took a sip, welcoming the bitter brew. This vampire was evil? He had better manners than her own offspring. "I'd go get my other mug, but to be honest, Rupert is being kind of an ass."
Spike's snorted derisively. "You got that right." Joyce gave him a questioning look. "Vampire hearing," he explained.
"Ah." Joyce was aware of the numerous stares being sent her way, and wondered what had been said in explanation of their sudden appearance in Windmont. Spike, however, took care of that.
Setting his beer aside, he lumbered to his feet and pulled Joyce to hers. "Eh, listen up, all you wankers and wallflowers. Got an introduction to make. We got Buffy's mum with us. Meet Joyce."
For the first time in as long as she could remember, Joyce found herself nervous. It wasn't just the semi-hostile and curious stares that were now directed solely on her, it was the pending reaction of her daughter that caused a rush of panic to surface. Again she marveled at the fact that this vampire possessed something in the way of manners, and when she felt Spike's arm hook around her shoulders in a friendly manner, Joyce found herself relaxing slightly. She was having a hard time remembering that he was supposed to be evil.
"Now, the first time I met Joyce here, she clocked me but good on the head with the business end of an axe," Spike announced. "Not sure what her problem was, really. Just because I was trying to kill her daughter and all. Been meaning to say thanks for saving the day there, Joyce."
There was a spattering of laughter at that, but protective as always, their friends were far from convinced, having taken note of Buffy's tension that evening.
Buffy got to her feet, rolling her eyes. "Please. If she hadn't hit you, I still would have kicked your ass."
"If you need to keep thinking that way, by all means, go ahead. Joyce and I know the truth." A wink was sent in Joyce's direction.
Buffy looked at her mom standing there with Spike's protective arm around her, and a flood of emotion suddenly rushed through her. Emotion that she had tried valiantly to ignore since her mom's unexpected arrival. "Mom," she choked out, suddenly throwing her arms around her. "You're really here. As in REALLY here."
Tears began to fall from both the Summers women's cheeks as they clutched each other, leaving Spike to take a step back, with his patented look of disgust present. "Eh. If you're going to do the sniveling girlie thing, take it elsewhere, will ya? Makes me want to heave."
Buffy pulled away from her mom and sent Spike a grateful look, knowing he had acted in such a manner to ease the rising emotions and smooth Joyce's path back into Buffy's life. He was always pretty insightful.
Buffy turned to face her friends, a genuine smile brightening her features. "Guys, this is... my mom!"
In a matter of moments, Joyce found herself introduced to dozens of people, as the protective attitude of the assembled group faded away and their usual friendly manner took hold. She was told over and over again how wonderful her daughter was. Buffy's friend, Elaine, finally warmed up and gave her a tight hug, thanking her for giving birth to such an "awesome chick."
Deciding he had put up with enough feel-good emotions, Spike finally called out, "Eh people, we're here to bowl, remember?"
Taking the hint, people finally wandered back to their lanes, leaving Joyce alone with Buffy's bowling team, consisting of Spike, Elaine and Rick.
Spike turned to look at her, a challenging gleam in his eye. "So, Joyce. You bowl?"
Multiple attempts to get Giles to join them in bowling had failed. He had been determined to sulk in the bar, his British snobbery shining through, as he looked down his nose at the slightly worn atmosphere of the bowling alley. Joyce finally gave up trying to deal with his behavior, knowing that the Englishman was doing irreparable damage to his relationship with Buffy, and oddly, not caring very much.
To her surprise, Joyce found herself enjoying her time at the bowling alley, once she gotten over her initial apprehension. It was odd being with her daughter in a situation different from her traditional role as the parent; and Buffy, as the child. Her daughter had grown up in the time since she had left, and Joyce found herself regretting that she had missed seeing her daughter grow into a mature, young woman. She pushed aside that negative thought, determined to make up for lost time.
Buffy and Joyce's newfound states of contentment fled the moment they arrived at Buffy's home. The short trip from the bowling alley had been worry-free, having been filled with easy conversation about bowling, their league, and the personal stats of some of their friends, as Joyce felt the pressing urge to learn all she could about this place Buffy now called home. Giles had remained incommunicative, and there had been no attempt made to draw him out on the quick drive.
After Buffy had stored her and Spike's bowling bags in the hall closet, she turned to her mother and Giles. "Um, I need to get the guest rooms ready."
"I am quite sure there is a serviceable hotel near by. We'll be fine if you could just put us on the proper route." Giles replied primly, ignoring the warning growl from Spike's direction.
Joyce looked at him with irritation. "I'm staying here, Rupert. It's already been discussed."
"I believe I should have a say in this matter."
"Well, maybe if you would have heaved your bloody arse out of the bar, you would have been consulted," Spike bit out, storming into the kitchen. He was holding onto his demon with everything he had, the urge to rip into Giles so overwhelming, it was almost painful. He hadn't felt rage like this in a long time, and was in desperate need of a distraction.
"Hey Buffy, can I eat these left-over cookies?" Spike called out to Buffy, his hand already reaching for the plastic wrap that covered the tub of cookies.
"Just don't eat them all, save a few for me," Buffy answered, picking up on the agitated tone in Spike's voice. Suddenly, she was exhausted. Looking at Giles, she asked, "So, where are you going to stay?"
Dreams and Desotos
Giles simply studied her for a long, silent moment. His eyes reflected disappointment and disillusionment as he regarded her, and he wondered once more what had gotten into his Slayer. How could he have guided her in such misdirection?
His instincts were telling him that to sleep under the same roof with this notorious vampire would most likely be the last mistake he would ever be alive to make, and he was quite confident that his instincts were correct.
However, when Giles sent a probing look in Joyce's direction, her opinion on the matter was etched firmly on her face. There was little doubt that the woman found nothing wrong with sharing lodgings with a demon who was responsible for the murder of thousands. Discovering that Joyce had been lulled into a sense of false security in the same fashion as the townspeople had, did not come as much surprise to him.
Giles sighed heavily. He had almost succumbed to the same fanciful disillusionment as well. He couldn't quite fault Joyce for being so easily misled. This was her daughter, after all. Between Spike's impressive acting job, the entire town's apparent tolerance of his true nature, and having a respected medical professional giving the vampire validation... well, one would be hard pressed to remain a cynic after that. Giles had found himself wavering, almost allowing himself a small bit of consideration to be given. A slight willingness to offer Spike the... benefit of doubt. A minute leaning in the direction that perhaps his slayer hadn't completely given herself to a... monster, but someone who was deserving.
But fortunately he had come to his senses in time.
Giles was also aware they needed a certain level of cooperation and information from Buffy, so he came to the conclusion it was best to buck up and at least make an effort to make amends. Even if that meant he was sacrificing his life. It was a Watcher code of duty, after all.
Allowing his lips to curl up in a grim mockery of a smile, Giles managed to respond politely, "If it's not too much trouble, your hospitality would be greatly appreciated."
A loud, rude snort was heard from the kitchen, which Giles chose to ignore. It didn't escape his notice, however, Buffy's answering grin and giggle. Apparently, the deplorable manners were rubbing off on her, which came as no surprise to Giles.
"I'll just go, and get those rooms ready for you," Buffy announced, wanting to escape her Watcher's disapproving eyes. She headed for the stairs, with Joyce following behind to lend assistance and be further reunited with her daughter. There were two extra rooms on the second level, both set up to accommodate guests. Aside from the few times when Rick and Elaine had opted to stay over rather than risk driving home under the influence after a few of their more alcoholic get-togethers, they had been pretty much unused.
After the two Summers women had disappeared up the stairs, Giles helped himself to a brandy from the picturesque antique sidebar. He took a greedy sip, sighing in appreciation as the familiar burn of the alcohol went to work in his system. The past year had been hell, no doubt of that. Alcohol had been a habitual companion during the long evenings, and Giles saw no point in stopping now.
Distracted, he turned around with every intentions of waiting on the couch for Buffy's reemergence. He was tired, and wished nothing more than to go to sleep, but the need to gather the information he required was pressing. The Council had been sniffing around and Giles knew it was only a matter of time before they garnered onto the truth.
Deep in his own commiserations of his unduly hard charge in life, he failed to notice the vampire who had stealthily appeared behind him, catching him by surprise as Giles turned around. An instinctive startled jerk of his limbs caused precious brandy to slosh from the rim of the glass held tightly in his hand, and Giles held nothing back while delivering a withering glare to the person responsible of such waste. When he caught sight of the cruel, dangerous look creeping onto Spike's face, his glare turned wary.
"Well, well. Guess it's just you and me, eh, Watcher?" The voice alone sent tendrils of fear through Giles. The promise of evil and pain could be heard in the low, mocking tones.
Giles took a step back, desperate to put some distance between himself and the homicidal look on Spike's face. His immediate escape was halted by the side bar he had just been admiring, causing a flash of fear to strike him.
"Spike, I really don't think Buffy would be happy if any harm came to me." Giles tried to sound authoritative, but knew his voice carried a hint of fear.
The cruel grin turned mocking and sinister. "Well, see... that's where I disagree, mate." Spike heard the telltale pounding of the watcher's heart, and the familiar delicious smell of fright curled enticingly through the air. Wanting to add to the man's panic, he allowed his facial bones to shift and brought his demon forward.
Giles looked into the savage, mocking yellow eyes of this vampire, and saw his life flash before his eyes. The fact that his suspicions were proven correct in such an ironically fatal manner did not pass him by. He opened his mouth to call for Buffy, hoping that she would be able to do the right thing in this situation. That she would choose her life's destiny over her hormones for once, when a set of unyielding fingers were suddenly wrapped around his throat, making speech an impossibility.
Spike kept an unwavering stare on the man in his grasp, fighting the urge to bury his teeth into the aging flesh, tearing him apart until the blood stopped flowing, and the sanctimonious words would never again be spilled from those pompous lips. Hate didn't even begin to cover what he felt for this man.
But... he wouldn't. For Buffy's sake. Hell, who was he kidding. For his sake too. He had too much at stake here.
Didn't mean he didn't want to.
Easing his grip just a fraction, Spike leaned in close. The Watcher had him in height, but now he just seemed a shriveled shell of his pretentious self; eyes resolute with fear, and oddly, acceptance.
"Listen up, you git. Only going to say this once. If it was up to me, I'd have killed you the moment you walked through my door." Spike saw the slight spark of anger flare up in the other man's eyes. "Yeah, that's right. My door. This is my home. Mine and Buffy's. The only reason your heart is still beating is because of your slayer, and I'm not about to let you hurt my girl." When he saw disgust and rage light up in Giles eyes, a low warning growl sounded in Spike's throat.
"Yeah, she's mine, Watcher. And as I said, I'm not about to let anything, or anyone get in the way of her happiness, understand?"
A lack of response prompted another growl, and Spike's hand instinctively tightened around the man's throat. The rapid mottling of his face and bulging eyeballs clued Spike in that perhaps he was taking things too far, and he threw Giles away from him in disgust.
Spike watched impassively as Giles drew greedy painful breaths into oxygen starved lungs, his coloring returning to normal before he turned and resumed his usual uptight posture.
"You don't deserve her," he bit out in a clipped, slightly hoarse voice. The words the vampire had just spoken to him had infuriated him, and the worst part was the fact he had been completely at Spike's mercy. "You are a monster." The words slid out before Giles could contain them, knowing that he was choosing a very unwise time to share them.
Spike roared and swooped towards Giles, golden eyes blazing with hatred and anger, and the watcher tensed, preparing himself for the inevitable attack, searching quickly for some sort of weapon. He had been quite foolish indeed, his stake wasted in the coat hanging at the front door.
But the attack never commenced. Spike stopped a hairsbreadth away and rose his hand as if to strike. Giles flinched in preparation, his arm coming up in a defensives gesture.
Instead of inflicting bodily harm, however, Spike's hand held one of the procured chocolate chip cookies and the vampire took the opportunity to take a large, exaggerated bite, letting Giles know without words just how much he'd prefer it be something a little more Watcher-shaped he was biting.
Then, with one more parting glare, the vampire turned on his heel and strode purposefully towards the front door, pausing briefly to grab a weapon of sorts just off to the side, before stalking through it without a backwards glance.
Giles stood frozen in place. To have averted death by that narrow of a margin was... unnerving, at best. Snapping himself out of it, Giles half stumbled back to the bar to top his glass off, before finally making his way to the couch.
Buffy and Joyce found him there ten minutes later; perched on the edge of the cushion, both hands wrapped firmly around the body of the glass tumbler, his face set in a mask of late dawning horror.
Buffy looked around with growing dread. "Where's Spike?"
There was no answer from her previous mentor. Buffy watched as he merely tipped his glass to his lips and downed its contents in one long, smooth gulp. "Giles."
When that also went ignored, Buffy put her hands on her hips and said sharply, "Giles, where is Spike?"
Giles finally looked in her direction, his eyes blinking slowly as if to bring her into focus. "Er, he went... outside."
"What did you do?" Buffy accused, her eyes flashing.
Giles opened his mouth to make a vehement denial, but the words refused to come. Instead he just shook his head dumbly. The near-death experience had shaken him, as loath as he was to admit it.
"Giles, what did you DO?"
The accusatory tone served to get his attention and he stood up primly, adopting a look of pure outrage on his face. He didn't seem to realize he was swaying slightly on his feet.
"I did nothing, Buffy. We exchanged some words. He almost killed me. He ate a cookie and then he went outside." Giles gestured wildly towards the front door. "He took a weapon, however, so perhaps it would be in our best interest to look for him."
Buffy gave her Watcher a withering look that matched the one that Spike had given him earlier and promptly ignored him. Marching to the front door, she wrenched it open.
"Spike! Get in here!"
Joyce gave Giles a questioning look, even though she felt like slapping the befuddled look off his face, as well. On top of everything else, now he was drunk. There was a muffled shout that slipped in through the partially opened door, but Joyce couldn't quite decipher the words.
"No, now . Get in here now!" Buffy yelled, hands on her hips.
More muffled shouts followed, and they watched as Buffy rolled her eyes, and shouted back, "Ok, FINE. Finish, then get your undead ass in here. I mean it!"
She shut the front door and walked back into the living room, rubbing her chilled arms along the way.
"What's he doing?" Joyce asked, noting the look of exasperation on her daughter's face.
Before Buffy could answer, Giles interrupted. " Perhaps one of us should go make sure he's not,... er... endangering anyone? Spike was potentially volatile when he walked out that door. He could be doing anything right now."
Giles felt the heat of Buffy's glare before she turned back to her mother.
"He's shoveling," she informed Joyce, making a decision to ignore the man who had previously held an esteemed position in her life.
"Buffy, I will take care of this matter. You did not see Spike's state of mind as he passed through that door. I would once again be remiss if I did not at least protect this town against any fatalities merely because he and I had... words," Giles explained in a slightly slurred, pompous tone.
Buffy's indelicate snort was followed by a robust eye roll. "I told you he was shoveling, Giles. What..., did you think he was burying dead bodies or something?"
Actually that particular thought had not crossed his mind, and now sinister scenes began playing out in his head. Bodies stacked up, mass graves, and Spike shoveling away with a demonic smile on his face...
Apparently, his face must have mirrored some of his thoughts, because Buffy's voice interrupted his musings.
"The ground is frozen solid, Giles. Bit tough to be burying bodies in the front yard of a residential neighborhood, you know."
Her sarcasm was not lost on him, and his eyes hardened in response. "Buffy, really. I have no idea what delusions you have let yourself live under this past year, but I feel it is time for you to stop. You are not some merely some impressionable, teen runaway who found herself someone who made things easier; you are living with a murderer. The truth is, you have NO idea what a vampire is capable of. Especially this one."
Buffy heard the gasp of outrage from her mother, and brought herself up to her most assured pose to coolly regard the man who had been her mentor. "You're right, Giles. I don't know exactly what this vampire is capable of," she bit out. "Only because he continually surprises me."
Taking a step forward, Buffy roughly grabbed Giles arm and bodily dragged his resisting body in the direction of the front door, ignoring his sputtering. He winced in pain as the door struck his shoulder as it was flung it open, and Giles didn't even want to ponder if it had been intentional or not.
"You want to know what evilness I am letting him get up to while he is outside-un-chaperoned-with a shovel?" Buffy demanded, shoving him onto the porch. "Well, there he is."
With a small squint of his eyes, Giles was just able to make out the a flash of white blonde hair shining against the back drop of snow across the street, gradually discerning the black bowling outfit from the nighttime shadows. He could see the glint of the shovel as it moved through the air at a furious pace. Spike was definitely taking his aggressions out on something, there was no doubt of that.
"He's..." Giles couldn't even finish the statement.
"That's right. He's shoveling the neighbor's driveway, doesn't want her to have to do it herself. She's 79 years old, lives alone and makes Spike come over for dinner once a week when I'm at work." Buffy turned around and headed back inside, Giles following dumbly behind. She closed the door to the cool air trying to seep into the cozy house and exchanged looks with her mom.
Buffy walked back into the living room, her hands clenched with fury, wanting so very badly to pummel Giles She had always known he was narrow-minded, but this was ridiculous. And irritating.
And he was really pissing her off.
Giles followed a few steps behind her, walking with an almost shaken look on his face. Spike kept the elderly neighbor's driveway shoveled. It was inconceivable to think that the vampire would do such a thing. Buffy must make him do it, he concluded, and turned his satisfied eyes to her.
"And no, I do not make him do it. He just started doing it all on his own. Said it was the neighborly thing to do," Buffy injected, ruining the foregone conclusion Giles had come up with.
The front door swung open and Spike stomped in, his face still set in a furious mask. Buffy hurried over to him, yelping when he laid extra chilled fingers on her flesh. "Gloves, Spike! You need to wear gloves!!!! I don't care if you are dead, you idiot! Your hands are icicles."
Both Joyce and Giles watched as his face softened, and the coiled tenseness seemed to leave him, just by being in Buffy's presence. Their feelings were once again in clear evidence as Buffy rubbed his half frozen hands, kissing them tenderly before smiling up at him.
It made Joyce want to go smack Rupert around herself. How he could remain so damn dense when it was clear that there were very real emotions being felt here, Joyce didn't know. One thing she did know for certain; she knew where her loyalties lay.
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