So it was his fault the demon-girl had come to Sunnyhell and got her demotion! Spike watched as Anyanka hovered around Cordelia trying again and again to grant the wishes Cordelia rattled off to no avail.
Everything had been typical post chaos Sunnydale. The wonder twins were busy alternating between guilt at having been caught kissing and indignation at having had any consequences to their lip lock. The cheerleader was hurt emotionally as well as in her pride and the Wolf was silently stoic.
Buffy tried to be supportive while not accepting Xander’s assertion that no wrong had been done. Hearts were fragile things and Buffy remembered how painful it was for someone to be cheated on. Hank’s shadow hung over those sorts of situations and probably always would. Still, Xander was her friend long before Cordy and his bravado was covering up guilt, or so Buffy told herself.
Buffy did try to reach out to Cordy though. Under that cool exterior was a feeling human being. Cordy had taken a chance and let herself care for a boy even when it cost her social standing. She’d put up with Xanders many put-downs and treated them as playful banter instead of the passive-aggressive jabs they truly were. Now she found herself hurt and with no support system.
It had taken a while to make sense of that he was seeing. For a bit he wondered if he’d stumbled on a nightmare of Buffy’s. The witch and her boy were vampires, Buffy was scarred inside and out and aloof from them all. He did find it amusing watching Willow play dominatrix with a cowering Angel though.
When it was ended thanks to Giles, and all went back to normal, Spike was angered to see that the cheerleader had decided to blame her bad taste in boyfriends on Buffy and that she had been the one to wish her into such a horrible world. Buffy shouldn’t have been blamed for Xander’s failings.
‘Not really even fair to blame me,’ Spike insisted to himself in spite of the guilt that overcame him seeing what had happened after his short visit. ‘Willow and Harris had played footzie before I nabbed them. Not on me they decided to cheat. Not on Buffy either though she paid the most for it in that hellish other world.”
Over and over Buffy helped her friends. They relied on her for it. Then when things went south they pointed at her expecting her to always protect them from even their own bad judgement and behavior. “Not in the job description, Bitch,” Spike glared at Cordelia.
Buffy was supposed to be the supportive friend yet her friends rarely returned the favor to Spike’s way of looking at things. Willow tried at least. Xander was highly conditional with his support though. “Always lettin’ my girl down.”
Spike looked at Anya and shook his head in confusion. ‘Pretty strange she turned to Harris for her own loverboy though. Already knows he cheats. Knows he treated his former like dirt too. Lookin’ for trouble there,’ he predicted. ‘Likely blame Buffy when that shit-storm happens too.’
Buffy watched, jaw agape, as Spike turned up at her mom’s gallery. ‘How did I not know that he didn’t leave right away?’
She’d been surprised earlier when she’d seen Spike leave Sunnydale only to pull over to the side of the road and sob over his loss of Dru. He’d sobered up since his romp in Sunnydale and his announced departure filled with bravado and determination.
“Who am I kidding, this time she really meant it,” Spike gasped out between tears. “Never gonna win her back. Turned on her precious daddy and there’s no comin’ back from that.”
He was heartbroken but also completely without moorings. His whole life had revolved around Dru even when they were apart. Now he was utterly alone and with no direction for his long, long, future.
“No idea what to do now. Where to go,” he whispered. “Only one who really took the time to listen was the Slayer’s mum.”
With that thought, he perked up a bit and put the DeSoto in gear, executed a hair raising u-turn and headed back to Sunnydale.
Buffy almost expected him to go back to her house but he hunkered down in a cave instead, drinking and muttering to himself so quietly that Buffy couldn’t properly hear him.
“Said I’d leave. May not like livin’ without Dru but not ready to dust just yet,” he concluded and then set off into the twilight.
Ending up at the gallery had surprised Buffy. She hadn’t known that Spike knew where her mom worked at that point.
Joyce was tidying up the closed shop and preparing to call it a night when Spike knocked on the locked front door. She looked more than a bit apprehensive after their last encounter and Buffy’s many warnings.
“Hello, Spike. I thought you’d be on your way to … Brazil wasn’t it?”
“Doubt she’ll listen… ever.” His shoulders slumped.
“Can I help you with something?”
“Could use a bit of a listen, maybe some advice if you’ve got a mo?” He ducked his head shyly as if expectating rejection. “Don’t want to put you to any bother. Just don’t have anybody… well… nobody with any sense at least. Got a feeling I need a human soundin’ board for emotional baggage. Demon’s are more likely to just advise me to rip her head off and be done with it.”
Joyce blinked and managed to keep her face from reacting to the images his words created.
“Well, I certainly would never advise that! Not even Hank and his secretary deserve that.” She grinned a bit after a thoughtful pause that surprised even her.
“Happy to buy a cuppa in exchange for your ear,” Spike offered. “‘Less your daughter’d be lookin’ for you for a bit that is. Already got on her bad side before.”
Joyce looked at the clock and shrugged. ‘Really, if this boy is so dangerous Buffy wouldn’t have let him just leave. Besides for some reason I don’t feel threatened by him at all.’
Ever since Spike had shown up on her doorstep with Buffy the year before, Joyce had a feeling of familiarity she couldn’t shake or place. Somehow she felt she knew him and was safe with him. Whatever it was made the idea that Spike represented danger to her seem laughable. She knew better than to say that to Buffy though.
“Just let me lock up and we can drop by the Expresso Pump for a while if you ‘d like. Buffy is staying the night with Willow and I’m completely free. Your timing is perfect.”
“Well, in that case… I can spot you dinner too. No reason you have to put off a decent feed ust to listen to me pour out my misery.”
“You don’t need to do that, Spike. I’m glad to listen. Don’t know how much help I’ll be but I’ll try.”
“Nice Italian place over by Main and Crawford if you like,” Spike brought out his best Victorian manners and tempted her to a meal. “Make a tasty Piccata.”
“Okay,” Joyce laughed. “You sold me. I’ll just be a minute.”
Joyce went to the office and locked up the books and whispered to herself, “Buffy’d never understand so we’ll just keep this a secret. How can I explain that he just feels familiar and not that scary to me?”
GhostBuffy smiled, “Maybe because part of you remembers when he saved you as a kid.” She wondered if Spike had put two and two together and realized this was the little farm girl who had a non-lethal tea party with Dru all those years ago in Illinois. She knew that Sam would recognize her mom right away since she looked so much like her mother. ‘I’ll have to ask Spike when we see each other next time.’
“So I finally had to admit that this time she meant it when she said we were through.”
“Spike, it sounds to me as if your Drusilla isn’t too stable in the best of times. You’ve devoted a century to her needs and wants and managed to forget yourself along the way. It’s easy to lose yourself when you try to be everything for someone else.”
“What do you mean? I know who I am. I’m the Big Bad.” Spike blustered but it was clear he was just pulling out old lines from habit.
Joyce smiled and laid her hand over his gently. “That’s what you became because it was expected. I’m sure you’re very good at it too. But, Spike, when, since you were turned, have you even asked yourself what YOU wanted from life… for yourself?”
Spike looked flummoxed, as if Joyce had suddenly started spouting Etruscan. He couldn’t remember ANY time in either of his lives when he had taken that option. His whole existence had always been about what those he loved needed from him, needed him to be.
“Didn’t think so,” Joyce nodded having properly read his expression.
“So instead of lamenting what you’ve lost, why not take this time to decide what you do want? How you want to live. Rather than looking backward, build a future.”
“I’m a vampire, Joyce,” he reminded her quietly. “That ship of what I want to be when I grow up sort of sailed already.”
Joyce laughed. “It’s easy to forget how old you are. But by the same token, you have a long future ahead so it’s a perfectly valid thing to do. People can reassess often at any age for that matter. You can reinvent yourself, be more than just Dru’s other half.”
Spike sat back with a thoughtful look on his face. He’d never really considered life as something that could involve what he wanted and needed. He wasn’t even sure if he knew what that would look like. “You’re a good mum, Joyce. Good friend too I’d imagine.”
“Any idea where you want to go? To do?”
All Spike could offer was a blank look.
“Why not stay here in Sunnydale for a while until you get some ideas then?”
“Have to lay low,” Spike bit his bottom lip. “Slayer’d be pissed if she knew I was still in town. Peaches’d likely make a point of it in a less than pleasant way too.”
“Well, they don’t have to know, do they?” Joyce stabbed at her chicken and determined that she could choose her own friends as far as that was concerned. This boy needed a friend. “Why not drop by the gallery tomorrow. I can put you to work and give you a sounding board while you think of options.”
Spike wondered if Buffy had discovered he was still in town yet. He’d managed to keep hidden from all of them, even Angel, back then. He also wondered where Angel had been while Buffy’s friends let her down in not one but two realities.
Having the cheerleader make that wish against her was painful and neither of the two who deserved the Chase girl’s wrath seemed to consider they had caused Buffy to be a target for revenge.
In the other reality, her friends had been turned and had reveled in their evil. While the pair weren’t responsible for the actions of their counterpart’s it had shown sides of their character that none would likely ever acknowledge in this original world.
The bashful redhead had a taste for power and more than a bit of a talent for the dark side. She would bear watching. It had been Willow’s magic that had landed them in this mystic bubble and her powers were nothing to shrug off as unimportant. ‘Girl could be a genuine threat since she seems to like bein’ just that much more than someone else.’
The boy had shown that he’d not needed a hyena demon essence to have an inclination towards bullying that would lead down the road to evil. Yeah, they were vampires in that wish world but as Darla had once said, ‘the human informs the demon.’ Some traits didn’t need the demon to be present to be dangerous. ‘Plenty of issues in that one too.’
Buffy’s friends had been one of her strengths. It wouldn’t take much for them to become her greatest weakness if certain things continued on course. Buffy didn’t need to be let down over and over by them. It undermined her confidence and undercut her growth.
Ever since Angel’s soul pulled a runner and let his worst side out her friends had been less a support and more like keeper-wanna-be’s. He was glad that Buffy had already assured him that she had no intention of giving over her agency to them once the spell ended. He hated to think where things could have gone without her having this time to learn and think and mature.
Willow liked the power too much and had changed from supportive friend to a budding jealous competitor in the “super-hero” arena. Harris used the Angel fiasco to bolster his position in knowing what was best in Buffy’s private life. Things could have really deteriorated had this magical respite not happened!
“‘Course to be perfectly honest, I’d probably keep bein’ an arse too without this time-out. Least Willow did one thing right, even if it was by accident.”
Somehow once they were back to the real world Spike was going to make sure Buffy’s days of being let down by those she loved and counted on were in the long past.
Buffy giggled a bit at the less than professional stealthiness displayed by her vampire. Spike was trying to stay far away from Buffy, her crew, and Angel. Not an easy task while also basking in his new friendship with her mom.
The gallery was the place they met most often. Spike had proven helpful both with offering extra muscle and more than adequate knowledge of art and antiquities. Buffy wasn’t surprised. Unlike her corporeal version, she knew Spike’s true background and abilities.
“I’d still check on this one, Joyce. Seem to recall Brancusi tossin’ the piece and by tossin’ I mean literally. Bit of a temper when he couldn’t get just what he was goin’ for with a piece. Nice enough bloke otherwise. Never heard of him re-doin’ it. Suspect it’s a good copy of his work though, not an original. I wouldn’t bid.”
Spike and Joyce were looking over items up for auction at a usually reliable auction house and Joyce had become excited at the prospect of gaining a rare piece for the gallery. “It did seem too good to be true,” she sighed, never doubting Spike’s word for a minute.
“Field attracts more than a few forgers. Sad, really ‘cause it’s clear they have the talent in their own right. Art world’s a harsh one, more luck than talent to break through usually and often after the artist kicks it.”
“The old days of wealthy patrons helped so many create who wouldn’t have been able to in this age,” Joyce agreed. “It’s hard to devote life to art and put food on the table. Having someone else take care of those day to day issues was a blessing for the whole world. Just think if Michelangelo had to get a regular job just to survive instead of being able to just make the masterpieces he left for all of us to enjoy!”
“Can have too much of a good thing though… or maybe just poorly displayed.” Joyce looked at him in shock. She couldn’t imagine any world where there could be too much beautiful art. Spike caught her look of skepticism. “Thinkin’ ‘bout the Raphael Room at the Vatican museum. Each painting is brilliant and worthy of hours just takin’ in the details but they’re all butt up against one another and looks more gaudy than anything else. Shame, really, need to be allowed to shine. Then again figure the display’s more about showin’ how rich and powerful the papacy was back then rather than showcasing the actual works.”
Joyce sighed, “I’ve always said that once Buffy is in college I’d do a grand tour of all the best museums in Europe… the Vatican, Louvre, Prado… so many!”
“Could make a list of some of the smaller ones you might miss if you like. Ones without the big crowds but not to be missed.”
“Oh! Please do!” Joyce beamed and reflected on the opportunities Spike had over his long life. The wonders he’d seen and people he’d met.
“Why not drop by for dinner tonight and tell me about a few. Buffy’s rarely home except to sleep and I could use the company.”
GhostlyBuffy watched Spike saunter up to her front door, a bottle of wine in hand.
“I swear, mom,” her corporeal self whined, “I’m just going to have Angel help me with my lit project! You don’t have to worry, nothing dangerous is going on.” GhostBuffy watched herself lie to her mom with practiced ease. Yes, she HAD been careful… mostly. Platonic naps notwithstanding. Still, deep inside she’d held out hope for more than longing looks and furtive touches one day.
Spike ducked for cover as the Slayer stomped out of the house and headed towards Crawford street only to stop at the end of the block shaking with emotion. She always hated being at odds with her mom over Angel. There was never going to be a day when her mom would consider her boyfriend as anything other than a disaster looming overhead.
GhostSpike sidled up to his fellow observer. “Said I’d see you again before you expected.” He grinned in delight as GhostBuffy flung her arms about him and squeezed tightly.
“Sneaky,” she teased. “I had NO idea you were here that long much less that you’d buddied up with my mom.”
“Figured you’d skewer me with a handy bit of wood if you’d known at the time.”
“Yeah, I was kinda stake happy back then. With Faith in town making me feel inadequate and all the Angel drama, I guess I thought I had something to prove and plenty of repressed anger too.”
Spike nodded towards the younger Buffy as she pulled herself together. “Don’t have long, Pet. I stayed till after Christmas though and sometimes took to watchin’ you. Told myself I was just scopin’ the enemy but we both know better now. Anyway… I’ll see you again a few times before I finally hit the road.”
GhostBuffy smiled and gave him a quick kiss, already feeling the pull as he was drawn to her other self. “See you then.” She’d take every stolen moment given to them and be glad.
Their encounters WERE brief but they still took pleasure in those moments. Quick, urgent, touches and just basking would have to hold them over until they could have a proper amount of time to connect again.
“So, you were here for Buffy’s Holly Jolly Christmas,” GhostBuffy quipped. “Loads of fun. Almost as good as Buffy’s birthday blowups.”
Ghost Spike chuckled. “Saw enough. Just glad to be with you long enough to make sure you’re not sad seein’ it all again.”
“Even with how quickly time goes when we’re together it makes me happier than I was in the flesh back then,” Buffy nuzzled into him. “Really, I’m cool with the memories. I’ve had enough time to process after all.”
They were watching the Buffy and Angel angst show play out as the FE had its way with Angel and Buffy was getting an unwelcome look at Angelus’s greatest hits.
“He really should have gone then. Soon as he knew somethin’ was playin’ with him, tryin’ to get to you. Selfish sod, knew right from wrong. Knew he couldn’t have you and was putin’ you at risk. Instead of playin’ the Drama Queen with the sunrise vigil like that. Least he admitted the man inside was the root of his evil even if you didn’t understand what he was gettin’ at.”
“Yeah, I was really miserable that year. Confused and guilty. I’d sent him to hell and still saw him as two different beings because of that soul he was always using as his proof of goodness.” Buffy shook her head in annoyance for how easily she had accepted such nonsense. “He kept pulling me in, reminding me of how much he loved me only to push me away and moaning about how we were tragic epic lovers doomed by fate like a cheesy movie or something. Teen me ate that up,” Buffy rolled her eyes.
Spike had to remind himself at times that even though in the real time Buffy was only a year older than the girl they watched aching for her doomed love, THIS Buffy had lived and matured for a century by now and her perspective had changed radically and forever. His heart was glad for that.
Spike had watched the wanker deal with the hauntings that also added fuel to the desires of the curse-chained demon that would always be present no matter how hard Angel liked to deny it.
Even when Angel figured out that whatever beastie had hold of him had Buffy in its sights, Angel had stayed instead of leaving town to keep her safe. The whole vigil on the cliff solution he’d settled on might have kept him from raping or killing Buffy, but just dissapearing in a puff of ash without a clue to what happened would’ve just further traumatized Buffy had something or someone not stepped in with miracle snow.
‘Fail to see what’s so special with Angelus that hell spits him out and some power plays sno-globe with the town to save his sorry bollocks.’
“Yeah, he should have been the adult that his years made him. Hell, even as a human he had at least a decade on you. Add a couple of centuries as a vampire and the few more in the hell dimension and he should have done the right thing by you. Once he was strong and healed up he should’ve left, not played his games. Made you carry all that grief and guilt,” Spike growled. “He’s the one who opened the gate to hell. His fault he went there. If he loved you half as much as he liked to claim he should have let you down easy and gone.”
“Instead he just let me down,” Buffy nodded in agreement.
Buffy tried to console herself with the knowledge that Spike would return by Autumn as she traveled away from Sunnydale with that earlier Spike.
His farewell to Joyce had been sweet and Buffy had laughed as Spike warned his new friend that it was unlikely they’d meet again.
“I suppose I can understand you giving it one more try. A century is a long time to devote to one person, love someone. You’ve shared a lot. You’re going back with the right attitude though.” Joyce patted his shoulder in solidarity. “Don’t back down, Spike. You deserve better and if Dru can’t see that, then you’ll do fine on your own. You’re stronger now and know what you need. Just remember, you have a right to be who you want to be and you deserve to be loved for yourself.”
“Thanks, mum,” Spike had a resolve face that could rival Willow’s. “Gonna give it one more shot. Talk, no games. If we can’t figure a way to make it, I’ll find something to give me a purpose until I get back on my feet. You were right, need more than just dwellin’ on my Princess and her wants to make a life worth livin’. Kinda lost myself for a long time there. Thanks for helpin’ me sort myself again.”
“You’ve got so many interests and talents, Spike. There’s no reason you can’t find a way to be fulfilled.” Joyce’s words of encouragement branded themselves on his heart and he looked at her with adoration once only reserved for his own mother.
“Reminds me of an old friend. From the start, he knew he needed a reason… a purpose. Turned into a kind of Universal Soldier sort of bloke. Made bein’ a vampire an asset in the human wars always happenin’ somewhere. Kept his dignity. Might look him up if things can’t work with Dru.”
“Your friend sounds like a good influence but be careful. Don’t go off and try to play hero and get yourself killed!”
Spike laughed, “Not much hope of that, Joyce. ‘M a bloody bad egg and don’t you forget it.”
Joyce just shook her head in absolute denial of his false boast.
“I hope he did hunt up Sam! I’d love to know how he’s doing,” Buffy thought and decided to just enjoy Spike’s adventures away from Sunnydale until his return. “Will be interesting to see what causes him to come back. Whatever it was, I’m glad he did.”
Spike felt his heart break as his girl had her two strongest supports also fold on her. ‘Let down again. This time there’ll be permanent scars no matter how long it’s been.’
First he’d watched as Joyce was pulled under the influence of a demon who had a long track record for chaos. The villagers got out the proverbial torches and pitchforks and banded together to ‘Save the Children!’.
“So easy to manipulate people with crazy rumors and outright lies. Make sure they worry over the wee ones, endangered kiddies always stir the heart. Enough real dangers out there make it easy to stop thinkin’ and just buy into all kinds of crazy conspiracy theories. Buggerin’ NAZI’s used that like a charm, pulled out that crap and parlayed it into a holocaust with millions of innocent victims. Took that piece of trash anti-Sematic book and sold it to the masses. Still find idiots readin’ The Protocols of the Elders of Zion even after it’s been totally discredited. Did the job though. Stirred up all that hate, and they call demons evil!”
‘Woudda hoped Joyce would have seen though it though.’
Amy, Michael, Willow and Buffy nearly burned before the demon was exposed. All the kids paid a price. The boy slunk out of town, Amy remained a rodent while Buffy and Willow had to live with the memory of their own mums lighting the fires literally.
“Know Joyce felt guilty after but she should have done more than avoid the subject.” Spike knew she was deeply ashamed of having put Buffy through any of that no matter the reason.
Sheila Rosenberg baked cookies. “So that’s where Willow got the idea that chocolate chips were the universal way to apologize, make bad things just go away.”
Spike regretted having left before this all came down. “Maybe if I’d been there I couldda helped Joyce do the right thing, pay her back a bit for helpin’ me. For someone who gives such great advice, she has a bad track record of sinkin’ into denial and avoidance when it comes to herself.”
Buffy acted like it was all okay but Spike knew that you never really got over your own mother turning on you, even if a demon was at the root of it.
He was fuming! “I get my body back and I’m gonna burn the bloody Council to the ground!”
It had driven him nearly as mad as Dru watching Giles betray Buffy as he did. ‘Fool can’t see the stupidity of the so-called reasons they give for this abomination?’
A supposed test, a tradition. ‘No reason to test THIS Slayer and if it’s a tradition, it makes no sense.’
Spike thought of the possible reasons that actually brought the Tento di Cruciamentum into use. It was a ritual sacrifice of death almost every time.
Spike thought of the many Watchers and Slayers he’d encountered over the long years and wondered how many he’d not met due to this monstrous act.
“Awful convenient to do this to a Slayer just as she’s becomin’ a woman. No longer a malleable girl. Back in the day, women didn’t even have rights. Easy to control ‘em legally. Even back then some got a bit of gumption once they were of age though.” He growled as suspicions took hold.
“Sure. Get rid of the ones startin to think for themselves. Those pushin’ boundaries a bit, questionin’, fightin’ back. Start fresh with a young, fresh, Slayer. It makes sense. Girl starts lookin’ around a bit for a partner, too, about this time in her life. Can’t have that!”
Another thought hit him. “‘Bout that time they might start seein’ a bit of the grey in the world. The old, easy demon = bad = kill demon gets questioned with experience. Can’t have that,” he thought bitterly.
“Put a defenseless girl in a locked place with somethin’ to remind her of their original fear. Either the girl dies and another gets all Chosen or the girl makes it and is re-terrorized, back to clingin’ to their dogmas.” The underlying evil of the Council and how they treated their precious charges horrified and infuriated Spike. “Least, I respect the Slayers, see ‘em for the special warriors they are. I’m a vampire, supposed to be evil… what’s their excuse?”
In the end Giles tried to do the right thing. He backed his girl and kept her from the fate intended for her.
The Watcher turned by Kralik had risen almost at once just as Sam had done much to Spike’s surprise. “Too bad it wasn’t that Travers maggot.”
Buffy and Joyce were nearly killed before the whole thing concluded and Giles was out of a job.
‘Got off lucky, old man. Good thing I’ve got some time to cool down before a face-to-face or you’d see where I got my moniker first hand.’
Buffy, once more let down by someone she trusted and relied upon was well quit of the Council in all but name.
‘If they can’t see it, I can.’ Spike laughed. “Council can go get stuffed. Buffy’s got their measure now and whatever power they once had is just illusion now. She’ll make it official in time.”
Spike watched Buffy walk away from Giles, their relationship forever damaged, trust tainted beyond repair.
“Poor lamb. They all let her down in one way or another. I’ll have to make sure I never do the same.” He looked at the brokenhearted girl and vowed, “Be your partner, your backup, the one you can rely on always. Promise, pet, by all that I am… I’ll be what you need or dust trying.”