The Gentleman Returns, Part 1

This entry is part 1 of 3 of the story The Gentleman Returns

So, being without my laptop for almost three weeks meant I totally missed my posting day, in spite of the fic having been completed weeks ago. (note to self – sometimes it’s a good idea to store things in more than one place…) Thanks to gillo who so ably filled in for me that day. And extra thanks to abelina who not only was my extra set of eyes on this fic as I wrote it, but who stepped in to take over my assigned mod duties at Seasonal Spuffy this round.(Any typos on the fic are probably the result of my tinkering even as I’m posting and not a failure of Abelina’s eagle eyes.)

Anyway, it’s Free For All Day now and my fic is ready to go. I think I’ll post it in three separate posts as it’s a bit over 20,000 words and one or two probably isn’t going to do it. This fic is the fourth (and last) in a series that began with an old semi-pwp ficlet set during the Halloween episode in season 2, and continued in two other ficlets set in that same AU season 2 world. By the time the third fic ended, Spike and Buffy were realizing that their “truce” was a bit more than that. But, it was season 2, Spike was still in love with Dru and Buffy was still in love with Angel (although not real fond of Angelus…) and, yeah, a Spuffy relationship wasn’t an option. Not then, anyway. This longer fic takes place a year later.

Behind the cut are the first two chapters of The Gentleman Returns. The next two installments will go up as quickly as I can get to it.

 Title: The Gentleman Returns
Author: Slaymesoftly
Era/season: Season Three
Rating: R
Genre: AU early seasons?

The Gentleman Wore Leather
The Gentleman Takes His Leave
The Gentleman Leaves Again

Just a reminder that this is a very AU universe by this point, so there will be some events that diverge from canon. More and more so as these meetings go on and this Sunnydale becomes more and more different from canon Sunnydale. If that bothers you….

The Gentleman Returns

Spike threw another butt to the ground, adding to the growing pile under the tree he was lurking behind. Between the alcohol he’d consumed in past several days, and the hunger now that he was back in Sunnydale where Buffy wouldn’t appreciate it if he started feeding, he wasn’t at his best. With a curse, he pushed off from the tree and went to the back door of the house. He could see Buffy’s mother in the kitchen, puttering around as if looking for something to do until her daughter was safely home.

“Can’t be much fun, being the Slayer’s mum,” he muttered to himself. “Much as I worry about her, I can’t even imagine what her mum goes through every night. The Slayer must have clued her in to what she does by now.”

He raised his hand and rapped lightly on the door – not really sure if he wanted her to hear him or not. But she did, and approached with a slight frown. The porch light was on, and he knew she could see him. Suddenly very conscious of how he must look, he ran a hand through his messy hair, trying in vain to push the curls down, and standing up a little straighter.

“Yes?” Joyce had opened the door only far enough to talk, keeping the chain in place. Spike gave a snort at the idea that such a small chain could have kept even a human man out, never mind a determined demon or vampire with an invitation. Which he didn’t have.

“Sorry to bother you, Mrs. Summers. I was looking for Buffy, but I can’t find her and thought I’d check if she was home.”

“Are you a friend of Buffy’s?” Her voice and expression as she took in his appearance showed exactly how unlikely she found that idea.

“We know each other,” he responded, his expression as noncommittal as his words. “The Slayer and I have—”

“The Slayer? You know what she is?” Joyce visibly relaxed, her expression softening.

“Do. It’s why I know her. It being her job to…. Never mind that. Do you know where she is?”

Joyce’s expression darkened. “No,” she said tersely. “I rarely know where she is. Or how she is. Or who… or what…she’s—” Her eyes squeezed shut briefly “No. I don’t know,” she finished.

“Must be a bit rough, being the Slayer’s mum.” He gave her a small sympathetic smile as he voiced his earlier thought.

“You have no idea,” Joyce sighed, seeming to soften even more toward the rough looking, but soft spoken, young man with the sympathetic eyes. “I suppose she could be with that horrible Angel. She pays no attention when I tell her he’s much too old for her.” She frowned when Spike turned away to snarl quietly, but relaxed when he turn back after a few seconds.

“Sorry, Mrs. Thought I heard something in the yard, but I guess not.” He took a deep breath and added so softly she almost didn’t hear him, “Guess they got that bloody soul back into him, then.”

Although he hadn’t phrased it as a question, or even looked in her direction, Joyce responded, “How did you…? And yes, I’m told that he has a soul again – whatever the hell that means.”

“Not as much as she’d like to think,” Spike muttered as Joyce continued on.

“I still don’t like him, and I still think Buffy can do better than a… a—” She paused to study Spike’s face for any sign he wouldn’t know what she was talking about. “—a vampire. You do know that she kills vampires, don’t you?”

“That I do,” he responded with a grin that quickly faded. “I reckon if she and the big poof are all lovey-dovey again, there’s not much point in…. I’ll just be going. Was in the area and thought I’d see how she was doing, but it sounds like she’s alright. Even if her taste in men hasn’t improved any over the last time I was here,” he finished, not quite quietly enough for Joyce not to hear him.

“Well, anyone who agrees with me about Angel can’t be all bad. Can I offer you something warm to drink before you leave? There’s a bit of a chill in the air tonight.” She shivered. “I’d ask you in, but Buffy has been very insistent that I not allow anyone in the house after dark unless she is here, so I guess I shouldn’t—”

“No, Mrs. You shouldn’t. I’ll be just fine out here. I thank you for the offer though.”

“I was just about to make myself some hot chocolate. Would you like a cup before you go?”

He stared at her in amazement, then smiled. “I’d love one. I’ll just take myself out into the yard and have a fag while I wait.” He stepped off the porch, reaching for his cigarettes. Joyce left the door slightly ajar, chain still on, as she quickly finished making the cocoa she’d just been starting when he knocked. When she was done and had filled two mugs with hot chocolate and small marshmallows, she lifted the chain off and walked out onto the porch.

Spike was back at her side so quickly it made her frown, but she relaxed again when he said, “You didn’t need to come out here. Slayer wouldn’t like that.” He took the mug from her and grinned his delight when he saw the marshmallows. “I love little marshmallows,” he said, taking a sip. “How did you know, you brilliant woman?”

“You just look like the marshmallow type, I guess,” she said, blushing slightly at his praise. She sat down on the top step and gestured for him to join her. He cocked his head at her, then shook it and sat down.

“A penny for your thoughts,” Joyce said when he didn’t speak.

“Was just thinking about my… girlfriend…” he said. “And why I came running back here.”

“Oh? Is there a problem with your girlfriend?”

“There was, but I think I may try to fix it. No reason for me not to, it seems.” His expression wasn’t as neutral as he’d hoped, and he gave her a wry smile when her eyes widened and she gave a little gasp. Neither of them mentioned Buffy or Angel.

“That might be best,” she agreed without acknowledging the unspoken undercurrent.

After they’d sipped the hot liquid in comfortable silence for several minutes, he set his mug down. “Would you do me a favor, Mrs. Summers?”

“Please, call me Joyce. I’m not that much older than you are.”

He gave a small chuckle. “Wouldn’t be so sure of that, Joyce, but alright. I’m William, but you can call me Spike. ‘S what your daughter calls me.”

“How do you know Buffy, William–er–Spike? Have we met before?”

“Not exactly.” He didn’t elaborate, but went back to his original question. “If you’d do me a favor… just tell Buffy to be careful around her birthday, if you would. When is that, anyway?”

Joyce frowned. “It’s in January. Be careful how?”

“If she starts feeling sick, or weak, tell her not to patrol. And ask that wanker of a watcher of hers to…. never mind. Just don’t let her go out around that time if she’s not feeling 100%.” He reached in his pocket and scribbled a number on the inside of a matchbook. “If she starts to feel like she’s losing her powers, call me at this number. You can just leave a message if I don’t answer. Just say ‘it’s happenin’ and I’ll—”

“Just say what’s happening? What aren’t you telling me?” He heard her heart rate go up and the impending panic in her voice.

“Ask her watcher about the Cruciamentum. Can you remember that? Maybe if he knows you know, he won’t…. But he’s a watcher, and they’re wankers, so….”

“You’re scaring me. And what has Rupert–Mr. Giles– got to do with it?”

“Nothing, I hope. But if I’m here, I’ll make sure of it. Just call me. Please.”

Spike tipped up his mug and drained it, then handed it to Joyce and stood up, staring out into the yard with a frown.

“Go in the house, Joyce,” he said, suddenly looking nothing like the pleasant company he’d been so far. “Now. Go in and stay in.” He gave her a tight smile as she began to protest but moved toward the door. “And just so you know? That advice about not invitin’ in anybody you don’t know after dark, should’ve included not going outside to chat with him, either.”

She went into the kitchen, turning to face him. “I was with you. I was safe, wasn’t I?”

“You were,” he said, as he began moving across the yard. “And you always will be. But you didn’t know that.” He threw a look over his shoulder just as his face shifted. “Close the door. You don’t want to see this.”

As she gasped and started to obey, she saw him leap into the midst of a group of what she recognized as vampires. Holding onto the door with one hand, she watched him tear through the snarling creatures, not stopping until they were all either on the ground or gone. From what Buffy’d told her about what happened to the vampires she staked, she realized that Spike had apparently managed to kill most of them. She was still staring at him when he turned back to look at the house. It was too dark for her to see his face, but the eyes staring back at her were not the soft blue ones she’d been looking into, but feral-looking and yellow reflecting the porch light.

He raised his hand once, then disappeared into the darkness.

XXXXXXXXXXXX

Buffy returned home to find Joyce sitting in the living room with a glass of Scotch and tightly clenched lips.

“Mom? Are you all right?”

“I would be much better if I hadn’t spent the evening talking to what was apparently another vampire you are acquainted with. One who left me a cryptic warning about your birthday, serious doubts about Mr. Giles, and who single-handedly destroyed a gang of vampires in our backyard.”

Buffy blinked several times, then gasped. “Spike? Spike was here? And you let him in?” Buffy’s voice had gone up to painful levels.

Joyce shook her head. “He told me not to. Let him in, I mean. But why is he worried you might lose your powers on your birthday? And what would Rupert have to do with it?”

“I don’t know, Mom, but I’ll ask Giles about it tomorrow.” She frowned and glanced around. “So you didn’t let him in, then? How did you talk to him? And why didn’t he wait for me to get home?”

“I talked to him out on the porch—” At Buffy’s rolled eyes, she huffed. “You never said I couldn’t go out on my own porch in the dark. I didn’t know he was a vampire, and he seemed quite nice, if a bit rough around the edges…”

“Mom. That was….” She shook her head. “Never mind. I can’t explain Spike. I don’t even want to try. Did he say why he was here?”

“No, but he changed his mind about waiting for you when I told him you were still seeing that other vampire.” Buffy sighed at Joyce’s refusal to use Angel’s name. Her interactions with Angelus had forever tainted her view of what she tried very hard not to identify as Buffy’s boyfriend. “He’s had a fight with his girlfriend and was looking for sympathy, I think. But when he left, he said he knew how to make up with her, so I guess that will be all right. He was really quite pleasant most of the time, but when he got so insistent that you needed to be careful around your birthday, and—Do you know what a Cruet… Crucifi… something that begins with Cruci is? He said to ask Rupert about it.”

“I’ll ask him tomorrow. We’ve got lots of time before my birthday. What does he think is going to happen?”

“He just said I should tell him if you begin to feel weak or sick. That’s all I know. Except that it seems you have at least two of these creatures in your life and I’m fairly certain I don’t know how or why.”

Buffy sighed and sank onto the couch. “I don’t know why either, Mom. But it seems like I do. Have them, I mean. Aside from being my boyfriend—” Buffy paused for Joyce’s usual tight-jawed sigh. —Angel is supposed to be helping me with my Slayer stuff – but mostly all he does is talk about prophecies and crap like that. And the other one is….” She shook her head. “The other one actually does help… or he has before, anyway.”

“Aren’t there any nice boys at your high school?” Joyce muttered as she took another big gulp from her glass. “Nice normal, human boys? Without fangs?”

Buffy laughed and stood up. “I’m sure there are, Mom. But they probably aren’t interested in girls who are stronger than they are. And who aren’t available for dates because they’re out getting demon guts and slime all over their clothes. Speaking of which….” She gestured at her sweatshirt. “I’m going to get out of these clothes and go to bed now.”

“Goodnight, honey. I’ll see you in the morning.”

XXXXXXXX

The conversation with Giles didn’t go well.

“So, Giles, what do you know about something called a Crooked Momentum or something like that? And what does if have to do with my birthday?”

She watched closely as his face paled and he began to stammer. “Wha—what has Angel been telling you?”

“Angel? Nothing.” She frowned. If there was something she needed to know, why hadn’t Angel said anything?

*note to self – ask Angel what he knows about it*

“What’s more important is what should he have been telling me?”

“Then how did you… ah, I guess it doesn’t matter how, it’s all right then. It’s nothing for you to worry about. It’s an old custom to… congratulate… a slayer on her 18th birthday. Sort of a birthday celebration, if you will. “

“So the Council is going to throw me a party? For my birthday?” She snorted in disbelief. A sudden thought occurred to her. “Do I get to retire? Do I not have to be the Slayer anymore? Is that what it’s about?”

Giles shut his eyes briefly, but Buffy had seen the pain flash across his face. “One certainly hopes that is not the case,” he said softly. “But one never knows… for sure.” He shook himself and added in a more normal tone, “Please don’t concern yourself with it right now. Let’s worry about it later. Your birthday is still some months away.”

“So there is something to worry about?”

“We’ll discuss it later.” His relief at seeing Xander and Willow burst through the door was painfully obvious.

“Damn right we will.” Buffy glared at him, but he refused to acknowledge her remark.

XXXXXXXX

“So, Giles isn’t spilling anything except it’s something the Council is doing on my birthday. You’re old. Do you know what it is?”

Angel got even paler than his normal hasn’t-seen-the-sun-in-200-years pallor.

“You aren’t supposed to know about that. At least, I’m pretty sure you aren’t. He could probably get fired if he tells you about it.”

“So you do know what it is?”

“Well, yeah. All vampires know about it eventually. Maybe really young ones don’t… but they’re the kind that find out the hard way…”

“Hard way?”

“When the slayer stakes or beheads them.”

“So I have to stake a vamp? How is that different from what I do every night?”

“I’m not sure.” As Angel spoke, he turned away so she couldn’t see his face, and she wondered if he was lying to her. “But it’s probably no big deal. I’ve no idea why Giles can’t just tell you that on your birthday you have to stake a vampire that the Council has selected. You’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it.”

“I’m not worried. I just don’t get why it’s such a big secret. If they do it for all slayers when they get to be eighteen, why aren’t we told about it?”

“Buffy, most slayers don’t live to be eighteen.”

His voice was sad and resigned as reminded her of something she’d chosen to ignore, and there was just a hint of reproach in it. As if she shouldn’t have reached that age. She remembered how he’d calmly accepted the prophecy that said the Master was going to kill her.

But that was then, this was now.

“Well, yeah,” she agreed, giving him one of her best smiles. “But most slayers don’t have awesomely strong and old vampire boyfriends to help them out.”

His shocked expression mirrored her own as he said, “Buffy, this is your Cruciamentum. I can’t interfere! You have to do it yourself. That’s how it’s done.”

“Is this like that stupid prophecy again? When you couldn’t help me against the Master because some stupid book said I had to die?”

“Buffy, things have to be done the way they’ve always been done. That’s how it is. A Slayer faces her Cruciamentum vampire all by herself.”

She stared at him, eyes wide open, then shook her head. “Okay. Thanks for the information, Angel.” She turned to leave, surprised when he pulled her into a brief hug.

“I thought maybe we’d do something tonight? Maybe watch a movie, or do some tai chi?” His big brown eyes pleaded with her to stay.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she said, shrugging out of his loose embrace.

He recoiled immediately. “I didn’t mean anything by it, Buffy. I mean, if anybody knows that we can’t… I shouldn’t…. I just wanted to spend some time with you.” He gave her a sheepish smile. “I wasn’t thinking about anything soul-threatening. I promise.”

“Neither was I,” she replied without more explanation. “Gotta go. See you later.”

CHAPTER TWO

By the time her birthday rolled around, Spike’s warnings had been explained away, and Buffy no longer gave much thought to what he’d told her mother. Giles consistently assured her she had nothing to worry about, that he had taken care of it. He admitted the Council was going to provide a vampire for her to stake, but assured her that a slayer of her experience and skill wasn’t going to have a problem with it. He suggested he take her and Joyce somewhere nice for her birthday dinner.

So, when she came home from patrol one night, much more tired than usual, she thought nothing of it, only going straight to bed and falling sound asleep. She felt fine the next morning, saying to her mother, “Wow. I must have really needed that sleep last night. I don’t think I even rolled over between when I fell into bed and this morning. But I feel great now. Guess I should try patrolling earlier so I can get to bed at almost normal-people hours.”

“You were tired?” Joyce said, giving Buffy a sharp look that didn’t do anything to conceal her anxiety.

“Yes, Mom. I was tired. Regular old I’m-a-teenager-and-I-don’t-get-enough-sleep tired. Not weak. Not sick. See?” Buffy bent her knife in half with her fingers. “There’s nothing wrong with me that a good seven hours of sleep didn’t fix.”

“If you’re sure….”

“I’m sure. So take that I’m-going-to-tell-Spike look off your face.” She muttered into her cereal bowl, “Anyway, how would you tell him? We don’t even know where the dumbass is now.”

Buffy didn’t notice Joyce’s guilty flinch. She had no idea her mother had a phone number for the missing vampire. A number Joyce had kept, not wanting to encourage Buffy’s friendship with another demon, but too impressed by Spike’s insistence that she might need his help to throw it away.

“I won’t be home in time to start dinner for you,” Buffy said as she gathered her books. “Giles is having me do some kind of spooky meditation stuff after school all this week. I’ll probably stay and do my homework while I’m in the library.”

Joyce frowned, but gave a little nod. “All right, honey, just let me know if I’ll need to keep your food warm. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll expect to see you by 6:30.”

XXXXXXXXX

Buffy walked in the door just after six, tossing her book bag onto the couch and frowning when it missed and slid to the floor. “Klutz,” she muttered to herself as she picked it up.

“Mom, I’m home.”

“In here, honey. Just getting dinner out of the oven. I thought we’d just eat in the kitchen.”

“Fine by me.” Buffy took an apple out of the bowl and began munching it as she watched her mother prepare plates for each of them.

“How do you feel today?” Joyce asked, careful to keep her eyes on her task and not look at Buffy.

“Fine. I was a little clumsy, but I feel fine. I’ll do a quick patrol after dinner, come home, do some homework and go to bed early. No more tired, sleepy Buffy for me.”

“Clumsy?” Joyce set the plates on the table and sat down across from Buffy.

“Mom….”

“Buffy, don’t you think…. just in case?”

“If Spike wasn’t willing to stay here long enough to tell me what he was talking about, and Angel and Giles say there’s nothing to worry about, then who are we going to believe? Some random vampire who’d rather be with his ho-bag girlfriend than here where I am, or….” Her voice trailed off as she realized what she’d just said and that her mother had caught the implication.

Joyce’s raised eyebrows were accompanied by, “So, because you’re mad that Spike still loves his vampire girlfriend, you’re not going to trust that he was trying to help you?”

“I didn’t mean that the way it sounded,” Buffy mumbled, concentrating hard on her food.

“Uh huh.”

“Okay. I’m done. I’ll just patrol and… and then I’ll be home. ‘K? Bye!”

She bolted out the door, leaving Joyce staring after her and biting her lip.

XXXXXXX

When Buffy staggered back into the house an hour later, Joyce took one look at her and ran to the small desk where she’d put Spike’s matchbook. Without even asking Buffy, who was collapsed on the couch and rubbing a bruise on her jaw, what happened, she began dialing.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m calling Spike.”

“You’re calling Spike?” Buffy’s eyes narrowed. “He gave you his phone number and you didn’t tell me?”

Joyce held up her hand for silence as they both heard, “This better be bloody good. I was about to—”

“Spike? Is that you?”

“Mrs. Summers? Joyce?”

“Yes, it’s me. I’m sorry to bother you, but you said if I thought anything was happening, and I was just….”

“No worries, luv. You did exactly right. What’s going on?”

Buffy, who had by now snatched the phone away from her mother, said, “What’s going on is that everybody but me seems to know what’s going on, but nobody will tell me, and you had to go and get my mother involved and now she’s all worried, and there’s no reason, I’m just a little tired, it’s just a silly test, and I’m going to ace it, so you can just go back to your stupid girlfr—”

“Missed you too, pet.” She could hear the smile in his voice.

“That’s not what I said,” Buffy grumbled, unable to resist picturing the smile in spite of herself.

“”S what I heard. When’s your birthday?”

“Tomorrow. Not that it’s any of your—”

“Bollocks! Wish your mum had called me sooner. I didn’t know it was this close. Okay, here’s the plan. I’ll leave now, but if I don’t make it before daylight, look for me tomorrow night. And don’t go anywhere with your watcher.”

“Spike, all I have to do is stake some vampire the Council points me at. I don’t know why you’re being all over-protective.”

“Really? How do you feel tonight? What made your mum pick up the phone?”

She heard him give a big sigh when she didn’t respond.

“It is a test, Buffy. And one you’ll probably do fine… if the Council of Wankers wants you to. If they don’t, then you’ll be facing something hard to kill, and you’ll have been weakened somehow. You won’t be facing it with all your powers. Maybe none of them. The test is meant to weed out any slayers too dim-witted and incompetent to survive…. or any slayers they want to get shed of.” When she still didn’t reply, he continued, “Know you don’t fall into that first category, don’t we?”

Buffy stared at the phone, willing herself to believe he was lying.

“Buffy? Slayer? Are you there? Talk to me, love.”

“Does Angel know this?”

The snarl coming through the phone made her flinch. “Of course your bloody perfect Angel knows it! It’s common knowledge among vamps and demons. Good way to earn the right to claim you’ve offed a slayer if you can get the gig to do an easy one.”

“Easy? Is that how you did it?”

“No, Buffy.” She felt rather than heard his growl. “You of all people should know better. I wanted to fight slayers. Good ones. Not girls so scared or incompetent that they’d have been easy even if they weren’t crippled.”

“Crippled?”

“You’re not at 100%, Slayer. If you stop being so bloody stubborn and mad at me for talkin’ to your mum and not you, you’ll admit it to yourself. I don’t know what your wanker of a watcher has done to you to slow you down, but know it’s something. And if the Council wants you out of the way, they’re gonna be putting you up against something that’s hard to handle. If it’s just the usual too dumb to exist fledge, you’ll probably be okay without help, but let’s not test that theory, alright? Wait for me, Buffy. Let me help you.” When she didn’t respond, he added, “Please?”

“What if you aren’t here yet when I have to go… wherever I have to go?”

“Wait for me. Don’t go anywhere with your watcher.”

“He’s taking Mom and me out to dinner for my birthday tomorrow night. But that’ll be okay. We’ll be in public. They aren’t going to sic a vampire on me in a fancy restaurant.”

“Alright. That’s probably safe. Can’t imagine they’d do anything with your mum there. Just be sure he brings you home straight away. I’ll be waiting for you at your house. If I can’t get there tonight, which is my first choice.”

“And then what?”

“Dunno. Guess we’ll play it by ear. Soon’s you know I’m where I can provide back up muscle if you need it, you can go along with whatever your watcher wants to do. If I think you’re in trouble—”

“If I think I’m in trouble, I’ll say so.”

“Just be sure you don’t need to say it till I’m where I can hear you, Buffy.”

“Fine.”

“Good night, love. I’ll see you later – either tonight or tomorrow.”

“Night.” Buffy put the phone down and nodded as Joyce handed her an ice pack. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. What did he say?”

Buffy sighed and went back to the couch.

“He said that Giles has been doing something to me to make me weak when I have to fight whatever vamp the Council is sending me to slay. And that how hard it will be to slay depends on whether the Council wants me to stay the slayer, or die so another one will be called.”

“Rupert’s been drugging you?” Joyce leaped to her feet. “I’m going to kill that son of a bitch!”

“Sit down, Mom. I don’t want you going out without me, and I don’t feel much like fighting anymore tonight. We can yell at Giles tomorrow night when he takes us out to dinner. Maybe if he knows I know, he can call it off.”

Joyce sat back down, but the expression on her face didn’t bode well for it being a pleasant birthday dinner. After a short while, she said, “I heard you ask Spike if Angel knows about this. What did he say?”

“He said all vampires know about it. They know it’s their best chance to kill a slayer – when she’s lost her powers.”

“And why isn’t your ‘boyfriend’—” Joyce made no attempt to hide the contempt in her voice. “—doing something about this. Why isn’t Angel helping you?”

“A very good question, Mom,” Buffy said with a weary shrug. “But he didn’t help me when the Master tried to kill me either. He’s old and he just thinks everything has to be done according to the rules.”

“Apparently Spike doesn’t share that view.”

Buffy snorted her amusement. “I think you could say that. Spike’s not much for rules. Which is a good thing, I guess,” she added, thinking back to her interactions with him the previous year. “If he was a typical vamp, the Council probably wouldn’t have to be worrying about my Cruciamentum. He’d have had me by Halloween last year.”

She flushed, regretting her words, even though she knew Joyce would have no idea why “had” and Halloween in the same sentence made Buffy blush. Instead, Joyce focused on the implication.

“You mean Spike might have… killed you? When?”

“Don’t you remember hitting him with that fire axe at Back to School Night?” Buffy smirked at her mother’s expression.

“That was Spike?”

“Yep. That was the first… no make that second… time we met. It was the first time we fought. He almost won that one.”

“If I hadn’t hit him….” Joyce looked like she was going to be sick.

“It’s okay, Mom. I wasn’t planning to just lay there and let him whack me with that board. I probably would have gotten away – or he might have forgotten what he was doing,” she added with a giggle, remembering what Spike had told her happened every time they fought. “But you did just the right thing, at the right time, so go Mom.”

“Go me,” Joyce agreed weakly. “I had no idea….”

“Mom,” Buffy said softly, “you have no idea about a lot of the stuff that happens because I’m the Slayer. I don’t tell you because I don’t want you to worry any more than you already do. I’m sorry Spike told you about this thing, whatever it is.”

“I’m not. If he hadn’t told me, and I didn’t call him, you’d be going into it without knowing what to expect… and without any….” Her voice trailed off.

“Any backup muscle. That’s what Spike says he is. If I can handle the vamp, even without my powers, he’ll let me. But if I get into trouble, he’ll be there.”

“Are your powers all gone?”

“Not entirely, but no way should that vamp tonight have been able to hit me that hard or hurt me like that. I staked him, but it was touch and go for a few seconds.”

“I’m going to kill Rupert,” Joyce repeated, her mouth set in a grim line. “And I don’t want you anywhere near him until he picks us up tomorrow night.”

“I’m supposed to do more of that meditation stuff—dammit! That must be how he’s doing it! While he’s got me in a trance, he must be doing something that’s taking away my powers.” She narrowed her eyes at her mother. “You can’t kill him until after I beat him to a pulp.” Her anger faded and she raised tear-filled eyes. “How could he do this to me? I thought he loved… he treats me like a daughter. How could he set me up like this?”

“I’m sorry, honey.” Joyce moved to the couch and put her arm around Buffy. “It’s a cruel thing for him to do to you. I’m not sure if that doesn’t make me angrier than the fact that it’s putting you in danger.” She squeezed Buffy’s shoulder. “I’m going to pick you up after school tomorrow, okay? That way you won’t have to go to him and he can’t weaken you anymore than he already has.”

“Sounds like a plan. I’ll just tell him we have somewhere to go that’s really important and we’ll see him for dinner.” Buffy stretched and stood up. “I’m going to go bed now. I’m still not getting enough sleep. I’ll put this away.” She waved the icepack and walked into the kitchen, only to find Angel peering in the door window.

“What the….” She dropped the icepack and walked to the door, opening it just far enough to talk. “What do you want, Angel? I was just getting ready to go to bed.”

“I just wanted to… to see you.” He gazed at her with soulful eyes. “I know tomorrow’s your birthday, and I probably won’t get to see you to wish you a happy birthday, so I thought I’d come by tonight.” He waited expectantly, and Buffy sighed as she realized he was expecting her to invite him in. She shook her head.

“That’s nice,” she said, forcing more of a smile than she felt like giving him. “But I’m really tired for some reason…” She suddenly had no desire to tell him she knew more about what was going on than he thought she did. “I need to get my sleep so I’m all perky for my birthday tomorrow and whatever vamp the Council throws at me.”

“Oh, right. I forgot you knew about that.” He shook his head. “I still don’t understand how you found out about it, but as long as you…. It probably doesn’t matter. You’ll be fine. Even—I mean, you’re the Slayer. You’ll slay, and it will all be over.”

“Yep. That’s the plan. I’ll tell you all about when it’s over.”

“All right. Sure. You’ll tell me about it. That’s… that’s a good plan. I’ll just say goodnight, then.” He waited expectantly.

“Goodnight, Angel,” she replied, closing the door in his face with no urge to give him the goodnight peck she knew he was expecting. She turned around to find Joyce standing there.

“Was that who I think it was?”

“Yeah. He came to wish me happy birthday since he’s not invited to the dinner tomorrow.”

“He’s not invited into this house either,” Joyce muttered, then her eyes widened. “Is he?”

“No, relax, Mom. I never reinstated his invitation after…. Angelus. I think that’s safer, now that we know the soul can be so easily… lost.”

Buffy had no idea if Joyce had ever figured out that Buffy was the reason Angel had lost his soul, although he had made sure to let Joyce know that he’d had sex with her just-turned-seventeen-year-old-daughter. That fact, and the fact that, thanks to Spike, Buffy was already not a virgin when it happened, were among the things related to being the Slayer that Buffy had not felt a need to share with her mother.

“I’m off to bed. Night, Mom.” Buffy gave Joyce a hug and ran upstairs.

TBC

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/504714.html

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