Always Wait For You – 8

This entry is part 9 of 15 in the series Always Wait For You
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Chapter Eight – in which the family reunion is a little harder on Buffy than she had expected…

 

 Chapter Eight

They pulled into the parking lot outside the school almost simultaneously, and Buffy realized that he had, in fact, been ‘right behind’ her. Seemingly unaware of the tension between her parents, Joy grabbed Spike’s hand again and began pulling him towards the building. Before they could reach the door, it was shoved open and an assortment of slayers, student witches and watchers flooded out of it. At the head of the group was a smiling Xander, who walked up to Spike and began pummeling him on the back.

“Took your own sweet time, didn’t you, fangface?”

Spike took the complaining in stride, exchanging manly blows to the back in lieu of hugging his friend. He then picked up a grinning Faith and spun her around, stage whispering in her ear, “Any time you get tired of this loser, make him tell you where to find me.”

“Oh, the Big Bad is back,” she purred, smirking at a glaring Buffy. “We’ll pop that champagne yet.”

Laughing, he put her down in time to take Willow into a warm, if less exuberant, embrace.

“Welcome back, Spike,” she whispered. “You’ve been missed.”

He cocked a skeptical eyebrow at her, shaking his head when she said firmly, “It’s true.” They both avoided looking at Buffy, who was frowning at her inability to hear what they were saying.

The giggling student slayers grew quiet as they all realized that the only person who hadn’t run forward to greet Spike was the boy he had come to see. Will remained standing on the top step, doing his best to appear older than his twelve years. With a supreme effort, he coolly said, “Hi, Dad. Long time, no see.” He walked carefully down the steps and sauntered towards the waiting man, searching for some sign of the father he could barely remember.

Spike let him set the tone for the reunion, taking the hand that Will extended and shaking it firmly.

“It’s good to see you, son. Done some growin’ while I was gone, haven’t you?”

“Yeah,” Will drew himself up to his full five feet. “Mom says she thinks I’m going to be taller than you.”

“Is that so?” Spike shot a surprised look at Buffy. Somehow he’d been sure that she would have done her best to keep any mention of him to a bare minimum. To hear that she talked about him with his children began to thaw the ball of ice that was sitting where his heart belonged.

“Yeah,” Will continued obliviously. “She’s always telling me how much I’m like you – usually when I’m doing something she doesn’t like.”

“Ah, that sounds more like it,” Spike muttered, ignoring Buffy’s mortified gasp.

Sending Will a look that promised some sort of retribution for his comment, Buffy gestured to the cars and said, “Why don’t we go home and continue this reunion there? Do you guys want to come?” She glanced at Xander and Faith, including Willow in her broad invitation, but they all shook their heads.

“Nah, you guys go on and get all the family stuff out of the way. We’ll take Willow home and catch up with you tomorrow.”

There was another awkward moment when they all reached the two cars, broken when Will looked back and forth between the two adults and said, “I want to ride with Dad.”

Buffy nodded, asking Joy, “Do you want to ride with him too?”

Joy watched her mother’s tight face and, with an apologetic glance at her father, she responded, “No, that’s okay. We’ll ride with you, Mom. See you in a few minutes,” she added, smiling uncertainly at Spike. “You don’t mind, do you, Daddy?”

“Of course not, love. We’ll be there before you know it.”

~~~~~~~~~

When they were all settled in the living room, after another awkward moment when everyone forgot that Spike would need an invitation to come in, Buffy excused herself and went out to the kitchen. For lack of anything better to do, she found herself making hot chocolate and filling a large teapot with the warm, sweet-smelling liquid. She smiled ruefully as she got out the cups.

I’m turning into my mother. Thinking that cocoa will make everything better.

Reminding herself that there were worse things she could turn into than Joyce Summers, she carried a tray full of cups and hot chocolate into the living room, setting it on the coffee table and then retreating to a big chair against the far wall. She watched quietly as the initial awkwardness between Spike and the children he hadn’t seen for years gradually gave way to familiarity.

Joy sat next to Spike who kept one arm resting lightly behind her on the back of the couch. As the conversation went around, explaining about Lucy’s daytime duties, talking about their school and their activities, he gently stroked Joy’s head from time to time. Lucy helped herself to a cup of hot chocolate, and asked innocently, “Is it true that these vampires we’re watching for are your family? Are they, like, cousins or something?”

Spike grimaced and briefly tightened his fist on Joy’s shoulder. “Something like that. The first time I was a vamp…” He shot Buffy a quick look, suddenly wondering how much she’d told them about their lives before he was human. When she just nodded, he continued, “The first time I was a vampire, they were my family. Drusilla was my sire and Angelus was my grandsire. Along with the whor-, ahem, the vampire that sired Angelus, we were a family for a good twenty years or so. Kinda fell apart after that, and for a long time it was just Dru and me. Till I met your mother,” he said, casting a look at Will and carefully avoiding Buffy’s eyes.

“And then you fell in love and got married!” Lucy smiled at her own cleverness, not noticing the way both adults winced. “That is sooo romantic!”

“I know!” Joy happily joined her in a teenager’s fantasy of how people meet and fell in love, living happily ever after. Their delighted chattering flowed around the other three people in the room. Will made a face at their cooing and sighing, choosing to watch his parents instead. He tensed when he saw his mother’s eyes fly to meet Spike’s, then relaxed when they both tried to smother smiles and laughter. He watched them carefully, feeling his heart drop when the moment of shared laughter quickly ended and they turned away from each other. Spike’s barely suppressed sigh was only audible to Joy.

“Daddy? Isn’t that the way it happened?”

“Not quite, princess. Was a bit more to it than that, I’m afraid. Took me a while to fall in love with your mum, and a bit longer for me to admit it to myself.”

“But then you guys were in love, right?”

“Took her a bit longer than that,” he said shortly, putting an end to the topic in a manner that that wasn’t lost on anyone in the room.

There were a few minutes of uncomfortable silence before Buffy forced out, “Why don’t you all have some hot chocolate before it gets cold? While you’re drinking you can catch your dad up on what you’ve been doing while he was gone.”

Giving her mother a look that was much less kind than was normal for her, Joy said, “You mean after you made him go away?”

Her face tight, and her voice steady, Buffy said, “Yes. All the things that he missed because I made him go away. Why don’t you tell him about them?”

She surged to her feet and made it to the kitchen before the tears pricking her eyes could become visible. Deciding that was still too close to the murmurs coming from the living room, she yanked open the kitchen door and went outside to sit on the deck.

The glider in which she had sat with her children the night they said ‘good-bye’ to their father had long since succumbed to the abuse of belonging to a family with very active children; she sat, instead, on a bare recliner. She enjoyed the feeling of the hard wooden slats against her body – as if being comfortable was something she should not allow herself. Drawing her knees up against her chest and huddling against the chill in the late fall air, she stared blindly into the dark yard.

So intent was she on not crying, that she never heard the kitchen door open, or Spike’s booted footsteps on the boards. His voice startled her and she twitched in surprise when it came from behind her. “Do you really think it’s a good idea to be out here alone, Slayer?”

She shrugged, recovering her equilibrium. “He isn’t going to want me. Not right away. He’ll try to take the kids first. Or you…” She glanced up quickly, then away.

“The tosser doesn’t want me. He’s got no family claim over me this time, and he’ll know it. If he even knows I’m not dust.” He paused for a moment and Buffy shook her head to indicate that she hadn’t told Angel about not staking Spike. “More’n likely, he’s gonna go for hurting you whichever way he can.”

“ I don’t suppose there’s any chance your crazy ex is going to just drag him off to South America to terrorize the populace down there, is there?” she asked, half-seriously and with the tiniest trace of hope in her voice.

“She might be willing to try, but based on the message he sent by killin’ that slayer the way he did…”

“Her ‘daddy’ is in charge again.”

“Probably so. Dru’s more of a follower than a leader. She probably wanted him back so she’d have somebody to tell her what to do and when to do it.”

“So, how did she manage all those years when you and Angel weren’t with her? Why hasn’t she been dusted?”

“She’s insane, Buffy. Not stupid. And she had some good teachers when she was first turned. As long as Miss Edith is whispering the right advice in her ear, she knows how to keep a low profile when she has to. I expect she did go to South America – or maybe Africa or the Middle East. Someplace with a lot of confusion and bloodshed, where another dead body here or there would hardly be noticed.”

“Great,” she muttered. “Two crazy, smart vamps stalking us.”

The short conversation about the very real dangers they were facing had wiped any trace of Buffy’s tears away. She pushed thoughts of wallowing in guilt over having deprived her children of their father’s presence to the back of her mind, where it could keep company with her fear that they would never forgive her.

I’ll worry about that after I know they’re safe physically. I can’t afford to let myself be distracted by anything until I know that Angelus and Drusilla are dust.

She took his offered hand and allowed him to pull her to her feet, saying, “I guess I should stop pouting and go back inside, huh?”

“That’s why I came out.”

He dropped her hand as soon as she was on her feet, but didn’t move away. Tipping her chin up, he said, “They’re mad at you, Buffy, but they still love their mum. They’ll forgive you. Knowin’ what the poofter has done now that he’s all unsouled again has gone a long way to helpin’ them understand what you were so afraid of. They’re gonna forgive you.”

She could feel tears welling in her eyes again at the reminder of how easily Spike could read her feelings.

“And you?” she whispered. “Are you going to forgive me?”

“I’m not a kid,” he said ambiguously, releasing her chin and opening the door. He held it as she walked through, not elaborating on his statement.

Telling herself that trying to salvage a relationship with Spike was something else that could wait until the current danger was over, Buffy forced a smile onto her face and walked back into the living room. She saw Joy’s eyes dart back and forth between her and Spike, but missed the disappointment when she went back to her chair and Spike resumed his place on the couch. Will, too, noticed the lack of anything resembling affection between his parents and frowned briefly. He soon went back to telling Spike about his prowess on the soccer field.

He lowered his eyes shyly as he said, “For a long time I told everybody that I was scoring goals for my dadd-dad; that he was watching me from Heaven.”

“Don’t do that anymore, then?” Spike’s face was carefully blank.

“Well… yeah… I mean, no… I mean I’m too old to…” He turned bright red and, carefully avoiding the eyes of the two curious girls, he mumbled, “I never stopped doing it. I just stopped telling everybody about it.”

“It’s too bad they don’t play those games at night,” Spike said lightly. “I’d like to see some of those goals for myself.”

Will’s face lit up. “When I get to high school, we’ll play at night under the lights! You can see me then…I mean,” he shot a glance at his mother, “if you’re still here then; and if you still want to.”

“I’ll still want to, son,” Spike said firmly. He didn’t address the issue of whether or not he was still going to be around two years later and no one pursued it.

When all three children began to flag, with Lucy openly snoozing in her chair, Buffy stood up and said softly, “All right, guys. It’s almost three AM. I know tomorrow isn’t a school day, but you still need to get to bed. You can bring Daddy up to date some more tomorrow, okay?” She waited while they reluctantly stood up.

Lucy’s quick “Good-night, Sir”, brought a twitch to Spike’s lips that he smothered behind his own polite, “Good-night, Lucy. I want to thank you for helping to keep my children safe.”

She blushed and mumbled something about it being “my job” before escaping to the guest room. Joy gave Spike a fierce hug, clinging to him until he whispered, “Off to bed with you now, love. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Promise?” she asked anxiously. The look on her face reminded him of Dawn at her age – all big eyes and insecurities.

“I promise. I’ll see you tomorrow night- as soon as the sun sets.”

He dropped a kiss on the top of her head and gave her a little push in the direction of the stairs, before turning his eyes to his son. “Well then, Will,” he said with a smile. “Are you too big to give your dad a hug, now that there aren’t a gaggle of pretty girls watchin’?”

With a strangled “No!” the boy threw himself into Spike’s open arms, blinking back unmanly tears as he allowed himself to feel like a child for the first time in years. Although fully aware that his mother was a very strong woman, the older he’d got, the more he’d felt the responsibility to be the man of the house. With his own human history of losing his father at a young age to draw on for experience, Spike had a pretty good idea why the boy was so glad to have him back, and he responded by holding him tightly until he could feel Will begin to stir.

When Will had stopped sniffling into Spike’s shirt and felt that he could raise his head without being embarrassed by tears, he reluctantly pulled away. With a shame-faced smile, he bade his father “Good-night, Dad. See you tomorrow.”

“See you tomorrow, Will,” Spike agreed easily, giving his shoulders a little squeeze as he let go. Without another word, the boy turned and ran up the stairs, taking them three at a time. Neither child had bothered to say “good-night” to their mother, their normal nighttime rituals of “I love you” and hugs forgotten in the excitement of having their father back. Only Lucy had included Buffy in her good night wave.

Spike watched until Will was out of sight, then turned in time to catch the look of complete devastation on Buffy’s face. He frowned, but made no move to go to her.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, knowing, even as he said it, why she looked as though she’d been punched in the gut.

“They hate me,” she whispered, sinking into her chair. “They’re never going to forgive me for this.”

“They don’t hate you, lo-Buffy,” he said gruffly. “Don’t be daft. They’re brassed off, yeah, but they don’t hate you. And forgettin’ to tell you ‘good-night’ was just from the excitement and the late hour. It’s got nothing to do with how they feel about you.”

“And you would know that, how?” she snapped, immediately regretting her tone when his face shut down. She watched helplessly as he visibly fought for control of his temper.

“Because you’re their mother,” he said shortly. “And they’ve had you in their lives for as long as they can remember – taking care of them, watchin’ over them, kissing their booboos, telling them you love them, cheering at their soccer games—” He stopped, unable to keep the anger and misery from his voice.

“I’m sorry.” Buffy’s voice was barely audible.

“So am I, Slayer. So am I.”

He pulled on his leather coat, similar to, but not exactly the same as his old duster, and turned towards the door.

“Where are you going?”

“Got a room,” he said quietly. “I’ll be back as soon as I can tomorrow night.”

“Oh.” Buffy had no idea what she’d thought was going to happen – her brain had been concentrating on fear for her children and worry over where he was and why it was taking him so long to get there. Any thoughts about where he would be living and sleeping had been barely-realized whispers in the back of her mind. Until he began to walk out the door.

“You could… I mean, not with… cause I know you… but the basement…”

“Got a room, Buffy,” he repeated, finally looking back at her. “Think that’s best for now, yeah?”

She nodded dumbly, his reluctance to stay in his own house just one more blow to her hopes for the evening. She watched silently as he walked to the door, then, just as his hand was turning the knob, she blurted, “I missed you. Do – did you miss me?”

“Every bloody day,” he replied, without turning around. “Good-night, Buffy.”

The door closed behind him and she crumpled to the floor, giving way to the tears that she’d fought so hard all night.

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/222501.html

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