Thank you to Spikeskat for beta'ing! Be advised - dull chapter ahead.
Deep in her own personal musing, Joyce visibly started when the back door to her home was unexpectedly thrown open, and a smoldering, blanketed apparition barreled into her kitchen. Another time, this occurrence would have given Joyce more than a moment of panic. These days, however, it hinted at a normalcy that was becoming part of her life, especially when her daughter trailed in behind. It had been such a long time since she'd seen Buffy pass through that very door that tears of nostalgia pricked at the corners of her eyes.
Swallowing the lump that suddenly found its way into her throat, Joyce pasted on a bright smile.
"You're back sooner than I imagined. How is Angel?" she asked, searching Buffy's face for desperate reassurance that she had returned home unscathed. The corners of Joyce's mouth tipped downward when she noted her daughter's pale and exhausted countenance, eyeing the twin marks on her neck that were undoubtedly responsible for the unnatural pallor. Even though Joyce had been witness to the fact that it was obviously a mutually satisfying experience, the mere thought that Buffy had been bitten right in front of her was going to take some getting used to - regardless of the circumstances.
Buffy threw herself wearily onto one of the stools at the kitchen bar, watching as Spike stomped out the smoldering blanket. "He's... better," Buffy replied simply. "Do we have any orange juice?"
Joyce nodded, about to suggest that very thing to bring some color back to her daughter's cheeks. She turned to the refrigerator without sparing the smoky vampire a glance and searched for the six pack of Sunny Delight she had stashed a while back. With her head deep in the bowels of the fridge, Joyce heard Spike slide out the stool next to her daughter and suddenly remembered the blood she had picked up from the butcher’s before Buffy and Spike had arrived.
"Spike, I got you some blood, although you probably don't need it for a while," Joyce tossed over her shoulder, leaving the container where it was on the shelf. Finding the bottles she was searching for, Joyce removed one and stepped back from the open door, closing it before opening the bottle for Buffy.
"Oh, Spike, where are my manners? Did you want a Sunny Delight too?" Joyce pivoted and sent the vampire a questioning smile - only to have her mouth fall open with shock, an involuntary gasp leaving her lungs.
It soon became quite obvious to Joyce, who was not a stupid woman, that the bite that Spike had inflicted upon Buffy had been done with care, the scabs neat and tidy.
But Spike had obviously not been given the same consideration.
One side of his neck bore the tell-tale signs of a vampire bite, but it was nothing compared to the chaste matching holes that had been left in Buffy's throat. It almost looked like something had tried to take a chunk out of him, the barely closed-over wound resembling more the bite that a wild animal might make, rather than one supposedly from his own kind.
Joyce observed in horrified silence as Buffy fussed over the vampire, holding napkins to the ragged and bloody wounds in an attempt to get the slow trickle of blood finally ceased.
She suddenly felt nauseous.
"Could use a bit of the blood, if you don't mind," Spike told her, giving Joyce something to do besides look at the injury.
Joyce flinched at the sound of Spike's voice before getting control over her emotions, chiding herself for not having already offered it to him. She met his weary gaze with one of compassion before turning back to the refrigerator to remove the container she'd just left there.
Not knowing how to serve it to him, Joyce merely handed him the container, offering him a rueful smile. "My apologies, Spike. I don't know where my brain was."
"Not a problem," he assured her, removing the lid and gulping the contents down quickly.
Joyce couldn't help but observe him, pondering the surrealism of the entire situation. She had thought she had accepted the reality of Buffy's calling, and more recently, her choice in men, but apparently she hadn't quite come to terms. Because when Spike lowered the emptied container to the counter with a satisfied sigh, Joyce was struck with a sense of finality, that this was the reality of her life now. This life where vampires and demons were the norm, her eyes now well and truly opened.
And her daughter was in love with one of those vampires. And that really was ok.
"Did Angel do that?" Joyce found herself asking, knowing the answer beforehand, but wanting to draw her thoughts away from any other profound realizations.
"Nope," Spike answered evenly, settling back in his chair. "Buffy did."
Joyce could do nothing but blink at his answer before turning accusing eyes to her daughter.
"I so did not, you big, fat liar!" Buffy denied heatedly, her voice reflecting the rolling of her eyes.
Ignoring the name calling, Spike merely smirked and ordered her to finish all of her juice. He heard the sigh of relief that Joyce wasn't quite able to hide in learning that her daughter really wasn't responsible for the massacre of flesh that had taken place at his throat.
"See? Your mum believed me. She knows about your violent streak." Spike took great pleasure in needling Buffy, already feeling better with a bit of blood in him.
"Don't even start," Buffy threatened, placing the empty bottle of juice on the table with more force than was necessary, knowing exactly where Spike was going with his teasing. Desperate to take the focus off of her and the recent carnage she had inflicted in her kitchen, Buffy answered her mother's initial question. "Yes, mom, Angel did that."
Joyce's forehead furrowed with confusion. "But... I thought Spike said he could get him to drink. That it was some... vampire thing. For some reason, I didn't think it would be so gruesome."
Buffy couldn't help but snort at that. "Yeah, right. His great plan was to piss Angel off so that he would get attacked and practically drained."
"What? It bloody worked, didn't it?"
Buffy glared in his direction. "Sooo not the point. Angel could have gone for the stake-age or something."
Spike shrugged her concern off. "Nah, he wouldn't. That would have taken brains. Knew he would act on pure instinct. Besides, humpty dumpty is all put back together again, so I don't know what you're going on about."
Buffy stared at him in shock, her own fatigue fading as the orange juice hit her system. "That, Spike. " She pointed at his neck. "That's what I'm going on about."
Not wanting a fight taking place in her kitchen, Joyce interrupted. "Uh, how did you manage to get Angel upset enough to attack you? I was under the impression he wasn't in full possession of his faculties."
Buffy ignored Spike's snort. "Spike taunted him," she explained.
Joyce appeared thoughtful. "Well. That certainly didn't work when Xander couldn't keep his trap shut. All Angel did was sit there. It was all I could do not to do something violent to get that boy to shut up." She immediately looked chagrined. "Oh dear. I'm afraid that wasn't very nice of me."
"It's ok, mom. Kinda know what you mean there."
"Yeah, well, the whelp is just an irritant. I knew where to stick it to Angel, where it would hurt the most," he commented smugly, settling his hand on top of Buffy's smaller one. "I just went in and made him think that he'd left your daughter here ripe for the picking and I swooped in and had my evil way with her."
Buffy rolled her eyes. "Yeah, like that didn't happen?"
Spike's smug grin took on a leering edge, one eyebrow arching up in frank appreciation. "Used and abused, baby."
"So, he's more with it now?" Joyce asked, eager to steer the conversation away from the vampire's disturbing sexual innuendo.
Buffy nodded after giving Spike a warning look. "Yeah. We left him with Giles. He was all with the talky and everything."
"You don't sound very happy about that," Joyce observed, realizing that their current behavior did not mirror their previous concern.
"I can honestly say that I'm on the side of neutral, if you want to know." Buffy stood up on shaky legs and moved around to the refrigerator, helping herself to another bottle of juice. Gulping it down, she threw the bottle in the recycling bin before turning to face her mother again. "I am glad he's not dust or in Hell, but in the grand scheme of things? He's at the low end of the priority scale."
Her mom nodded thoughtfully, examining her own emotions regarding her daughter's first vampire lover. Nothing seemed changed from her previous detached consideration, her attitude resembling that of her daughter's. But the reappearance of Angel had meant that Buffy was back in her life, and for that, she would be grateful - regardless of the circumstances.
"We're going to go take a nap," Buffy announced with a yawn, interrupting Joyce's musings. "This vamp savage stuff is hell on the metabolism."
Joyce nodded, her eyes drawn instinctively to the vicious holes on Spike's neck as he stood up. She was pleased to see that they were beginning to heal, the bleeding had stopped and the edges were beginning to come together.
"Appreciate the blood, Joyce," Spike remarked on his way out of the kitchen.
She waved off his gratitude. "Rupert sent me for it. I was only following his orders."
He nodded. "Right. Well, still appreciate it." Spike wasted no time in following Buffy up the stairs to the room she had occupied before leaving Sunnydale.
Before her life with Spike.
And Joyce found herself alone, strangely at odds with the solitude - regardless of the fact that loneliness had been her constant companion the entire time Buffy had been gone.
So she decided to cook.
next chapter more interesting, I promise!
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