Something Gray chapter 15/26

This entry is part 15 of 26 in the series Something Gray
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Chapter 15

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Buffy tried to enter her mom’s house as quietly as possible. She wasn’t up for mom –talk right now. It would start with the “why aren’t you staying at your dorm tonight?” and likely end with too many questions about classes. After Buffy’s stellar SAT scores, her mom had held such hopes for Buffy’s college career that Buffy hated to admit she had less interest in her classes than in her social life. Most of her professors caused more terror in the Slayer than an entire nest of Glixmax demons in rutting season! The only thing worse was the dreaded “disappointed in you” mom look.

“Buffy? Is that you?” came the voice of concern from the kitchen.

“Yup, it’s me, Mom.” Buffy took a deep breath and prepared to beard the beast in its den. “Got a little homesick. Hope you don’t mind if I stay the night tonight. Maybe we could watch one of your old movies…if you’re not too sleepy yet.” Maybe that would head off the questions.

“You’re always welcome here, Buffy. This is your home and it always will be, you know that.” Joyce smiled tenderly at her daughter. Buffy looked so tired for someone so young. “You’ll have to sleep on the couch though, because I have your bed filled with boxes. I’m sorting through things now that I live alone and I really didn’t expect you back here so soon. Not that I mind.”

‘My room’s the sorting room now?’ Buffy thought with a spark of irritation. ‘Gee, gone for how long now and already she’s moved me into the used-to-live-here category?’ “The couch is fine, Mom. Um, I don’t want to keep you up or anything.”

“Buffy, I’m hardly so elderly that I go to bed at this hour!” Joyce suppressed a giggle at the thought. “Actually, I was just getting ready to fix some hot chocolate. Do you want some?”

Buffy licked her lips at the idea of non-powdery goodness made with real milk, “That would be heaven in a mug. Thanks, Mom.”

“So…,” Joyce began carefully–she really didn’t want to be one of those moms who pried into their children’s adult lives. This was Buffy’s time to explore the world a bit and grow. “How’s school?” Yes, that was general enough.

“Long, confusing and a little scary at times. I like my Nineteenth Century Poetry class though,” Buffy reassured her mom before the frown lines took up permanent residence on her still-pretty face. “Not so much Psych though. The professor is a real bit…um…bit of a Nazi. Yup, can see her in Hitler’s goon squad easily! It’s a lot different from high school, but I’ll get the hang of it.”

“I’m sure you will, hon.” Joyce poured the chocolate and warm milk mixture into two mugs and took a seat across the counter from Buffy. “You’re not missing too much sleep, are you…with patrolling and school work?” She would never fully get used to her daughter’s calling and responsibilities.

“Not so much,” Buffy answered. “Kinda quiet this time of year. Just a few vamps and a demon or two, but there’s this new group in town that are eating into my turf a little. Not as much to patrol for lately.”

Joyce noticed that Buffy sounded more sad than happy at that development. “Really? I thought there was only one Slayer at a time. Well, there is Faith too, but I thought that was an exception.”

“They aren’t slayers, Mom. They’re military, or I think that’s what they are; we aren’t too sure. Spike is going to try to remember how to get in there so we can check it out. All we know is they’re dressed like spies or a SWAT team or something, and they take out demons and vamps.”

“Spike?” Joyce’s face showed a surprising amount of concern at the vampire’s name in this context. “How would Spike know about this group?”

“Gee, I thought I told you about it,” Buffy scrunched her forehead as she tried to remember the last real conversation she’d taken the time to have with her mother.

“No, you never said a thing about Spike or this group.” Joyce got up to rinse her mug and didn’t see Buffy’s face when she added, “I’ve been worried about him. They didn’t bother him, did they?”

“Um…..”Buffy would have been less surprised to see a second head pop from her mother’s shoulders than to wrap her mind around her mom worrying about the annoying vampire currently residing with her Watcher. “Why would you be worried about SPIKE?”

“Well, he hasn’t been around in a long while and I was sure he’d show up last week for the opening of my Venetian glass show. His mother had a collection from that time period and he was going to look at some pieces of Barovier to help me set a fair market price. He never came and hasn’t been by for a visit in a long while. I thought he might have left town for some reason.”

“Spike…Venetian glass…shows…visits?” Buffy was clearly flummoxed. “Since when have you become talking buddies with the bleached bane of my existence?” Buffy riffled through her memories to try to see just when THAT odd friendship could have begun. ‘Oh God, I hope it’s just a friendship. Mom CAN’T be interested in that…that…she just can’t!’

“Since last summer when he came back to town.” Joyce poured another cup of chocolate for her sputtering daughter. “He dropped by as soon as he got back to let me know that I had been right in the advice I’d given him. That Drusilla wasn’t really worth all his heartbreak. He tried to woo her back and she still cheated on him with some mushroom–no, fungus demon, it was. He was heartbroken again but finally determined to let her be his past.”

Buffy’s eyes nearly crossed as she listened to her mother talking about Spike and demons as if it were the most normal thing in the world for her to be Dear Abby to a vamp! She was suddenly hit with the timing of her mother’s new friendship. “Last summer? You’ve known Spike was back in town and never said anything?”

“Sweetheart, I’m entitled to my own set of friends too,” Joyce admonished. “Spike’s been very helpful at the gallery. He always seems to know when a heavy shipment is coming in and when I’ll need help lifting the larger pieces. He’s really quite a gentleman.”

“And he comes HERE?” Buffy was aghast. “I tossed his skinny ass out of here the night he kidnapped Will and Xan. How dare he come back here talking up my mother?”

“He came here on my invitation,” Joyce huffed. “The last time I looked this WAS still my house.”

Buffy blinked repeatedly and began to hyperventilate. “MOM, he’s a vampire! He could have killed you!”

“Nonsense. Spike likes me. He misses intelligent conversation, that’s all. Dru only had moments of lucidity, after all, and according to Spike most vampires aren’t much interested in art and literature.”

“Art. Literature.” Buffy was seriously in need of full sentences. While she was trying to get her mind focused, her mother went back to the initial question.

“He is all right, isn’t he? Those soldiers haven’t harmed him?” It was clear that Joyce Summers was genuinely concerned for her friend.

When Buffy didn’t seem to hear her, she cleared her throat loudly and asked again.

“Uh, no, he’s okay. I mean they captured him and put a chip in his head so he can’t kill anymore, but he’s fine,” Buffy answered in a daze.

Joyce looked appalled. “Okay? You say he can’t feed himself and you think he’s okay? How is he surviving? He should have come here. I would have slipped out to the butcher for some blood.”

Buffy began to look around the kitchen for the pod that clearly had to be there holding her real mother as this strange creature took over her life. “Mom, are we talking about the same Spike?”

“Of course we are. How many vampires named Spike do you know?”

Buffy was beginning to wonder that very thing.

~~~

“Why don’t you stay in our dorm room tonight?” Willow suggested to the shaken girl. “Buffy will probably stay at her mom’s or Giles’ place and her bed is free. If she does come back, we can work something out.”

“Thanks. I’d like not being alone tonight. It’s not often I’m responsible for getting someone nearly killed,” Tara said remorsefully.

“You didn’t do anything like that at all!” Willow felt terrible that she couldn’t just explain that Spike was a vampire to this guilt-ridden girl. “Spike will be fine, just like we promised. He’s like that, always chargin’ in, getting into fights. It’s not your fault.”

“But this fight was anything but fair. Those bullies were out for blood. I should have just let that boy buy me a soda. He’d have gotten bored and left soon enough and then Spike wouldn’t have felt he needed to protect me.”

“You can’t know that!” Until now, Willow had never met anyone with a lower self-esteem than herself. “I can’t imagine anyone would be bored by you.” She smiled shyly at her new friend.

Tara ducked her head in embarrassment. ‘Wonder if you’d be so kind if you knew what I am?’ She shuddered at the thought.

“Look. There’s a lot of things in this town that take some getting used to. Spike’s one of them.” Willow didn’t mean to be cryptic, but it was the best she could think to do. You didn’t just go blurting out, ‘Hey, all those horror movies? Real!’ to a perfect stranger. “Why don’t you go down to the shower room at the end of the hall and I’ll hunt up a spare pair of PJs for you?”

Tara looked up at Willow through lowered lashes and smiled. The redhead was so very beautiful and take-charge. Tara could almost feel the magical power coursing through this girl. She wondered briefly if Willow knew how strong and lovely she was. “Thanks again. Wow, I wanted to meet people here, but this isn’t how I imagined doing it.” She laughed softly.

Tara borrowed some shampoo from her hostess and headed for a quick shower. ‘I don’t dare get too close. What if I turn into a demon in front of these nice people? They’ll never believe that I wouldn’t hurt anyone.’ She allowed herself a short fantasy while showering. For a brief while, she imagined having a circle of friends, maybe even one special friend. A flush of attraction flowed through her at the image of the lovely Willow as something more than a friend. ‘Great way to make sure you have no friends, Tara. Just reveal you’re gay as well as a demon!’ No, better keep to herself, like always. No place for someone like her–not here, not anywhere. Daddy was right about some things.

~~~

Buffy had related all the recent events about the soldiers, Spike and Oz while they finished a third mug of chocolate. “Spike’s at Giles’ place. He’ll be fine, but I’m kinda worried about those guys that whaled on him. I’m not used to having to protect vampires from people.”

“Buffy, it shouldn’t be about vampires or people; it should be about right and wrong. What those monsters in human guise did was evil. I know enough by now to know the police won’t be of any help, but something must be done to make this right.” She sighed and wondered just when life had become so complicated.

“I’ll drop by Mr. Giles’ place tomorrow and check on Spike myself. He’ll need someone to talk to after this. A man of his strength won’t deal well with being unable to defend himself. Say what you will about that chip, it seems unkind to me. Spike is a vampire, but he could learn not to kill. We’ve talked about it a lot and he’s intelligent enough to know there are many ways for him to live in a civilized way. Now that he’s away from that woman, he might have a reason to try something new.”

Buffy laughed at the idea. “Mom, what do you expect Spike to do? Get a job? Buy a house? Get a dog? He’s a vampire. They kill. They’re evil. It’s who he is.”

“Buffy Anne Summers!” Joyce chided her, “it may be WHAT he is, but it is not WHO he is. Don’t act like you are the authority here. I’m the one who has actually spent the time getting to know him.”

“Really, Mom,” Buffy laughed again. “What kind of weird Spike fantasies have you listened to?”

“We talked of many careers open to him. Lots of ways to feed without killing. He seemed really interested in my ideas.”

“I’m sure he did,” Buffy scoffed. “Look, Mom, don’t put too much stock into anything Spike says. He’d say anything to score points with you.”

Joyce was offended. “You seem to think I’m either a child or terribly naïve. I assure you that, aside from your father, I’m a good judge of character. I knew right away that Angel was bad news and it had nothing to do with his being a vampire.” She relented slightly at the wounded look on her daughter’s face. “Honey, I understand that vampires are dangerous and prone to evil. Spike has told me that himself. I’m merely saying that there is more there than just the demon. Spike may not be the only vampire that’s different, but he IS different. You just have to get to know him. Not everything is black and white, sweetheart. That’s something you’ll learn the older you get.”

“We’ll just have to agree to disagree,” Buffy stubbornly stated.

“We’ll see,” Joyce speculated. “I think that now that Spike has that chip and is around more people, you’ll be surprised at what you find him capable of doing and feeling. He’s quite complex and really quite human. Maybe some small good will come of this barbaric electronic device.”

“You can’t expect me to be sad about someone neutering Spike,” Buffy patted her mom on the arm. “At least I don’t have to stake him now.”

That was a point on which Joyce could wholeheartedly agree.

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/199128.html

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