A little somethin’ somethin’ for Free For All day…
Title: Making It
Pairing(s): Buffy/Spike (Joyce/Hank)
Timeline: S4 post-Hush in an AU setting
Summary: Positive thoughts bring positive results, that’s what Joyce always used to tell the girls. It’s her polished-up, momish version of ‘fake it until you make it’.
Notes: A little coda to Reciprocal. Originally part of the main story, I cut this scene at the last minute, and have since expanded it. Thanks to herself_nyc for the original beta; any subsequent mistakes are my own. Concrit is welcome. Enjoy :)
by The Moonmoth
When Joyce returns home that evening, it’s to find the pair of them scrubbed and dressed and sitting on the living room floor playing Scrabble. Currently, Spike is trying to convince her daughter that skilamalink is a real word, gelled hair still damp and curling at the nape of his neck, and the scene is so wholesome she can practically see the skid marks on the carpet from the mad rush downstairs.
Tired though she is, Joyce goes through to the kitchen to make a cup of chamomile tea. She has a tension headache from the driving, and having to see Hank, and a glass of wine wouldn’t go amiss especially as it’s New Year’s Eve, but she doesn’t feel like staying up long enough to appreciate it. How sad is that? (as Dawn would say). Completely tragic (as Buffy would say). But seeing her ex-husband all cozy with his secretary has taken the wind out of her sails – if she stays up she’ll get pensive and resentful, and that’s no way to start a brand new year. Positive thoughts bring positive results, that’s what she always used to tell the girls. It’s her polished-up, momish version of ‘fake it until you make it’, though her life since moving to Sunnydale has had rather a lot more faking than she might’ve hoped. That’s the thing about divorce that no one ever tells you (not to mention a daughter chosen to fight the supernatural evils of the world) – it’s never over, not really, not when there are children involved (not when the world might end if she doesn’t do her duty).
There are times Joyce wonders if Buffy, too, ever feels as though she’s faking her slayer-ness, stumbling through the best she can, hoping desperately that at some point someone will affirm that what she’s been doing all this time is right and good and appreciated. Joyce never asks, though. She knows that if the answer is ‘yes’, she wouldn’t like to hear it. Then again, Spike once let slip how highly he held Buffy’s skills (looking thoroughly embarrassed once he caught himself) and though she doesn’t pretend to know the full history of his dealings with her daughter, Joyce knows that he’s old, and that he’s fought other slayers in the past, so his admiration is no cheap thing. Of course, it’s become quite clear over the last few weeks that Spike’s admiration isn’t limited to Buffy’s execution of her sacred duty.
From the basement, Joyce can hear the faint rumble of the washing machine and something tells her she doesn’t want to know about the fresh linens she imagines she’d find on Buffy’s bed. You know, if she were to look. Which she most definitely will not.
“There’s pizza in the fridge, mom,” Buffy calls out. “It’s peperoni but we left you some.”
“Thank you, honey,” she calls back, her stomach rumbling suddenly at the suggestion. She has to move one of Spike’s blood cartons to the side to get at it, but that’s nothing unusual these days. And see? The first time she’d opened one, curious about the item’s appearance in her refrigerator, she’d nearly gagged, but Spike had been right there and already unsure of his place in their household, and so she’d forced herself not to overreact; now she barely bats an eyelash. The power of mind over matter. (Or, the small cynical part of her brain suggests, the inimitable human ability to adapt to any circumstance, no matter how horrible, if given enough time).
As she heats the pizza slice in the microwave, Joyce reflects for the millionth time on the strange path her eldest daughter’s life has taken. She’ll never lose that impulse to want to protect her from the evils of the world, but Buffy’s an adult now, and Joyce knows from those parenting books she never quite gave up on that part of growing up is being given space to do that growing up. This whole claiming business that’s had her moving back home before her first semester was even through is so far from what Joyce had hoped Buffy’s college experience would be that they might as well be on planet Ork. She’d wished for keg parties and boys, and ended up with magical unions and the undead. And she likes Spike well enough, certainly more than she thought she would at first, but as her daughter’s… beau? What parent would want that? But, well, it happened, and they’re dealing with it, and in a way, Joyce feels gratified that Buffy was willing to accept her help in this, insofar as she can give it. Her baby is so strong, and it makes her so proud, but there’s strength too in admitting when you need help, and Joyce considers it a sign of maturity that Buffy accepted it when offered. For her part, Joyce has quite enjoyed having Buffy home again, despite at times the horrible awkwardness of the situation she brought with her. Oh she’s probably pretty convinced she can still put one past her mom, and Joyce is sure there’s plenty of things happening in Buffy’s life that she has a less than firm grip on (Xander’s exact role in their demon-fighting gang, for one), but there’s some things a mom can just tell, even when she’d really, really rather not. Like where exactly that hickey peeking out from the collar of Spike’s t-shirt came from.
But: growing up, space. Buffy has to make her own decisions and this is the part where Joyce has to let her.
Things have gone quiet in the next room, and with a prescience born of both experience and imagination, Joyce decides to stay in the kitchen for a little while longer, sitting at the island with her tea and her pizza. By the time she’s done, clattering the dishes in fair warning, the Scrabble has been cleared away and Buffy and Spike are sprawled with studious innocence on the sofa, watching the count down to the ball drop in Time Square. It’s not exactly an unusual sight these days, given their predicament, but something about the casual way they’re leaning into each other tonight gives them away as effectively as a flashing neon sign; like they don’t have to be touching, for once, just that it feels nice.
Unexpectedly, a nostalgic smile pulls at her mouth – she remembers that part. It’s just unfortunate that for her, it goes hand in hand with the memory of blind trust in a man who never deserved it. Buffy’s had dreadful luck with men so far in her short life, and Joyce has worried at times about the long-lasting effects of the divorce on her children. But at least in this case she can be relatively sure that any relationship the two of them may be developing is anything but blind (could also be anything but trusting, though deep down she hopes not). And that isn’t to say that Joyce is happy about another vampire boyfriend. But something about the way Spike has put his arm around Buffy, looking like he’s just waiting for Joyce to go upstairs to pull her into his lap; something about the way Buffy is toying with his fingers, an actual smile on her face for the first time in weeks; something about their air of affection and synchrony makes her think, maybe…
When she’d first met Hank, Joyce had known – known – that he was the one, and that they would always be together. Twenty-one years later, here she is alone, single mother to Hank’s babies and still struggling to find her identity without him. So who is she to say what the foundation of a lasting relationship should be? Of course she’d prefer normal, and breathing, and financially secure, but… none of those things worked out for her. Maybe, for Buffy, this can work. Maybe, for Buffy, Spike can change and stay changed. And maybe Joyce is every part as naïve now as she was twenty-one years ago – but for her children, she has all the hope in the world.
Even if, right now, the best she can hope for her eldest is a reformed serial killer cum creature of the night with a taste for violence that currently runs to fighting at Buffy’s side.
Though, if that’s all he is, she would’ve hardly expected to see so much of what she sees now, the domesticity and blossoming regard. Maybe he’s faking it, for some appropriately nefarious reason of his own – an idea Joyce has more and more difficulty associating with the man who laughs at her jokes over a cup of tea. Buffy certainly used to insist that a vampire couldn’t feel without a soul, and she’d be the one to know, being claimed or linked or whatever to one (though come to think of it, she hasn’t said that in a while). But as Joyce watches a moment longer, unobserved, it seems to her that if he is faking it, it’s only because he wants it to be so. And, well. Doesn’t that make him just like the rest of them?
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/507858.html