When she woke in the morning, Buffy went downstairs to find Spike making breakfast while Anne and Joyce sat at the dining room table.
“What are you doing?” she demanded.
“What’s it look like I’m doing, Slayer? Mum was hungry, figured I’d make enough for all of you birds.”
“And you’re not going to poison it?”
“Of course not.”
He glared at her like he wanted to throw a punch, but he just took to stabbing the eggs in the pan especially hard.
“Surprised you know how to cook anything that isn’t blood,” she scoffed.
“Lot’s you don’t know about me, and aren’t ever going to. Now go sit down before I get annoyed enough to change my mind about the poison. Could put it on your plate after I’m finished,” he glared.
She rolled her eyes and left to sit with the moms.
“Do you have plans for the day, Buffy?” Joyce asked her daughter as she sat down.
“I was thinking about going shopping.”
Joyce didn’t reply, but Buffy knew well enough what her mother was thinking from the look on her face. Time to be a good host.
“Would you like to come with me Christmas shopping?” she asked, directing her attention to Spike’s mother.
“If you feel well enough, of course!” She added hastily, remembering the older woman’s poor health.
“Why yes, my dear, that would be lovely. I feel quite well this morning and I hope taking a turn in the open air shall improve my spirits even more. William, dear, would you join us?” Anne turned to Spike, who’d just entered the room with a large tray of eggs.
Buffy almost felt bad as he blanched.
“I… must decline, mother, the sun is dangerous for me.”
Anne’s expression quickly turned reticent. “I apologize, my dear! I only need a short while to become accustomed, I assure you.”
“No need for apologies, Mother, you have been placed in a most difficult position.”
She reached out and grabbed her son’s hand, and Buffy felt almost like she was intruding at her own dining room table.
“I have you, my son.” She didn’t notice him flinch. “With that comfort, I shall look upon this all as an adventure. Maybe I could write a novel!”
“You could at that, mother!” he said with false brightness, then looked relieved when his mother returned her attention to shopping.
“Joyce, might you accompany us, or will it just be Buffy and myself?”
“I have to work at the gallery today. I don’t work tomorrow; I could bring you in for a private tour.”
“Oh yes, dear, I’d love that!”
“So, Buffy, dear, where were you planning on taking Anne?”
“I was thinking the shops downtown. It shouldn’t be too busy and it’s close enough to walk without going too far.”
“We should make sure she gets clothes, too, but I can take her shopping for those at the mall when I’m off work,” Joyce replied.
“That sounds lovely, Joyce. I do feel bad, though— William, will you be alright alone all day?”
“I’ll be just fine, Mother. I believe I might take the time to rest.”
“I am relieved that you are taking care of yourself, my son. I remember the days when you would stay up for nights on end attempting to finish a particularly tricky verse.”
Spike looked like he might have blushed if he could have, and Joyce took pity on him by beginning a conversation about art with Anne.
When Buffy came down the stairs after getting dressed for shopping, Spike stopped her with a gentle hand on her arm.
“Take care of her, Slayer.”
She bit back her snark when she looked in his eyes and saw the sincerity in them.
Instead, she nodded solemnly. “I will.”
He squeezed her arm softly and turned to head for the basement, leaving Buffy once again in shock at how much her life had changed in less than 48 hours.
They walked into the antique shop and Anne was instantly in her element. She flitted from case to case, taking in what they had to offer.
“Let me know if you find anything, okay, Mrs. Pratt?”
“Please, call me Anne. Formality seems to have taken a downturn in this century, and I would like to make an effort to modernize.”
“Makes sense,” Buffy replied with a smile.
After a few minutes of looking, Anne let out a soft gasp. She pointed to an old pocket watch and looked over at the store clerk.
“Could you remove this from the case, for me?”
Meanwhile, Buffy had been distracted by a beautiful old fountain pen. She didn’t notice Anne had finished having the cashier put the watch back for her to purchase until the older woman approached her.
“Oh, dear, William would love that. Are you thinking of getting it for him?”
She hadn’t been, mostly because she hadn’t associated it with Spike, but who better to know his tastes than his mother?
Once again it hit her how absurd her life had become in just a day. Spike and his Victorian mother were living in her house and doing Christmas with them. And she had to be civil to him. She was debating on buying him a present. And…
“I didn’t know he wrote.” And she didn’t, except for Anne’s reference to his ‘verses’ at breakfast.
“Oh, yes! He writes the most wonderful poems, I shall entreat him to avail us with one when we return home.”
She paused for a moment before continuing.
“I meant to ask you, dear. My William speaks differently when he talks to you— have you any idea how that came to be?”
Buffy’s eyes widened. “Um, no, I don’t. It’s how he’s talked since I’ve known him. How he talks with you is strange to me. He actually usually goes by the nickname Spike, even. Calling him William gives me the wiggins sometimes.”
Anne raised her eyebrows, but chose to ignore the young girl’s strange turn of phrase.
She sighed. “I do not wish to embarrass him, but I worry that he finally let his harassers get to him. He tried to hide it from me, but I always knew. People in society were not known for their kindness.”
“I— I’m not sure.”
Buffy gave a tense smile and hurried over to the other side of the store before she could suffer another massive world flip. She’d been under the impression that Spike grew up on the streets of London, but clearly that wasn’t true. And his mother had casually mentioned his Oxford education, which probably meant they’d been wealthy. All of those changes in her perception were nothing compared to the idea that Spike, of all people, might have been bullied as a human.
She knew he took shit from Drusilla and Angelus, she’d gleaned that much. Why would he do that if he’d been bullied as a human? Why, then, with the leash off, did he allow himself to be treated badly?
Is it because it’s all he’d ever known?
She shook the thought away. This was Spike. He was anything but a victim… Wasn’t he?
“Ah, Mother! Finally back from shopping?”
“Yes, my dear, I had a lovely time with Miss Summers. The stores are so different from those of our time!”
Spike smiled warmly at his mother, clearly pleased she’d enjoyed herself.
“Joyce is upstairs getting ready, Mother, why don’t you rest in your room while you wait. You’ve only just begun your consumption treatment, after all.”
“You take such good care of me, my dear,” she said, placing a hand softly on his cheek before turning to Buffy.
“Thank you for the lovely trip, I had a wonderful time.”
Buffy smiled awkwardly. “Thanks, we’ll have to do it again sometime.”
Anne smiled and left the room, and Buffy turned towards Spike.
“So, what have you been up to all day?”
She raised her eyebrows.
He gave her a withering glare.
“Yes, reading. Your mum has a pretty nice collection of the classics.”
“Somehow you don’t seem like the reading type to me,” she said, still skeptical. “And classics? Come on!”
“You’re one to talk. Whoever heard of a valley girl slayer? You’re like a walking stereotype with the shoes and the clothes. Not to mention the bloody disgraceful grasp of the Queen’s English.”
“Okay, well, at least I’m not still walking around playing Billy Idol in 1998, almost 99. And what’s wrong with how I talk?!”
“I’ll have you know he stole his look from me! And I can’t help if I know what I like,” he said haughtily, but as quickly as his arrogance came, seriousness stole over his features.
“Why did you cover for me?” He asked, quietly.
“What with the huh?” Buffy asked, thrown by the change of subject.
“Yesterday, with my mum. She asked about me and you didn’t tell her all the horrible things I’ve done. Thought you would’ve swooped on the opportunity to knock me down with that.”’
Buffy looked at him like he was crazy.
“God, Spike, I’m the slayer, not a-a- a poop head. You clearly care about her and want to protect her from it. Plus, I like Anne, she’s been nice to me. I don’t want to hurt her.”
“For what it’s worth, I appreciate it, Slayer.”
She stared at him for a minute before her features hardened into her slayer mask.
“Yeah, well, I’m not doing it for you.”
“Wouldn’t expect you were.”
The silence was awkward for a minute before Joyce came down the stairs, Anne trailing behind her.
“We might be back late, kids, but we’ll bring dinner with us. I’ll stop by the butchers for blood for you, too, Sp—William.”
His eyes flashed towards his mother, nervous about the mention of his new diet as well as her slip on his name, but Anne didn’t seem phased. He turned his attention to the other woman.
“You don’t have to do that, Joyce, I can pick some up after sunset. Need to look into some things financially, anyways.”
“Oh, yes, William, what ever happened to our estate?”
Spike turned to his mother and touched her arm gently.
“That is what I wish to inquire upon, Mother. I placed our finances in a trust shortly after…” he trailed off, then continued as if he hadn’t, “and I must be sure they are still in order and set into motion our access to the estate.”
“And places of business are open at such late hours?”
“Not all of them, but I do business with firms sensitive to my condition.”
“Most stores aren’t open so late, though,” Joyce broke in. “We should get going soon.”
“Oh, of course, thank you Joyce.” Anne turned back and smiled at the Buffy and Spike. “Pray you mind yourselves until our return.”
Spike was the only one who answered.
“Of course, Mother.”
Anne walked out the door first, but as Joyce poked her head back in after she’d followed.
“And don’t kill each other before we get back, please? I know for a fact you have homework to do, young lady.”
She looked pointedly at her daughter.
“Alright, alright, I’ll go do homework. Go have fun shopping.”
“See you later sweetie. Bye, Spike.”
And with that, the two mortal enemies were alone.
Although… Was that even what they were anymore?
They lived together. Their mothers seemed to get along famously. Every once in a while they seemed to reach an understanding and be civil with each other.
It was more than that, though. Neither one could deny it very vehemently. Every once in a while, they connected. Really connected.
As soon as the sun had set enough for him to get around relatively safely, Spike was out of the house, Big Bad Duster back in its rightful spot on his back. Buffy had fled up the stairs to do her homework as soon as her mother left, and he’d been left alone with nothing but telly or old books to keep him company.
Being alone with his thoughts hadn’t been such a problem in a long time, but his mother had returned and suddenly it was again. When he was alone he started thinking of the things he’d lost, the things he’d done. And worse, he would imagine. Play out in his mind what it would be like when his mother finally found out all the things he’d been hiding from her.
Part of him felt as though he should be more worried about giving up the Big Bad persona he had spent over a century perfecting. The better part of him, though, was aware of how futile trying to take any other course of action would be. You didn’t live as long as he had without getting to know yourself, and at the core of himself, he was love’s bitch through and through. Whatever it took to keep his mother happy, he would do.
First stop, lawyer’s office. Then he intended to stop by the hospital for expired blood to keep frozen at the house. Then, finally, he had to go find Christmas presents. Something for his mother and Joyce, for sure. The Slayer would only get something if she managed to keep on his good side until the day of. He might be giving up everything for his mum, but he still couldn’t let Buffy see too many of his weaknesses. The last thing he needed was to end up exactly where he was as a human— devoted to his mother and scorned and mocked by everyone else.…
His plan would have been a good one if he hadn’t seen the locket staring at him in the window of the demon-owned jewelry store on his way to the hospital. He hadn’t even been looking, really, but once it caught his eye he couldn’t get it out of his head.
He only made it about a block away before turning around for it. He wasn’t sure what he’d put in it, yet, but there was still a week or so until the big day, so he had plenty of time to figure it out.
As he looked down at the silver filigree, he was struck with the fact that the necklace belonged to her now, he was just holding it. There was no way around it. Slayer could be a complete bloody bitch and he’d still find a way to give it to her. As he pictured it hanging around her lovely neck, it was as if it had been made just for her.
No, there was no way he would be able to keep this from her, no matter how awful she was.
At least she’d been tolerable since this whole thing started, so maybe he wouldn’t end up having to fight his pride in giving it to her.
He nearly snorted. Yeah, right.
The next few days Spike had pointedly avoided the Slayer. He didn’t want to read into what his desire to give her the gift no matter what meant, or the emotions he felt when he pictured it hanging around her neck. , If he avoided her, he could do just that. Instead, he spent much of his time with his mother, telling her about world history and avoiding any mention of his life after being turned.
Joyce took Anne to the gallery during the day a couple of times, and she had enjoyed meeting the people. Joyce had also accompanied her to a doctor’s appointment, at which they were informed that Anne’s condition was improving immensely.
Spike had nearly cried with relief when they walked in from the sunshine to tell him the good news.
He managed to hide from Buffy until the eve of her last day of school before break. She ambushed him returning from a meeting with a lawyer.
“Did you eat the last of my cereal?!” she shouted.
“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said nonchalantly, hanging his duster up on the hook.
“Neither of our moms eats my cereal, and I wasn’t the one who finished it. That leaves you. Give it up, dead boy.”
“You’re a piece of work, Summers. Walk in the door and first thing you’re attacking me over bloody cereal.”
“Well, if you acted like a civilized person instead of the bloodsucking thing you are, maybe I wouldn’t have to yell at you.”
“Oooh, scary come back. What’s next, running off to mommy and saying I was mean to you?”
He’d tried to hold back, very aware that his mother was upstairs in her room, but her last comment broke his resolve.
“Why don’t you take the stick out your arse and learn not to be such a damn nasty bitch?!”
The voice echoed from the top of the stairs, and Buffy and Spike both froze.
“William Henry Pratt, is that any way to speak to a lady? I demand you apologize, this instant. I raised you better than that, young man.”
Anne’s voice was strict, and Buffy tensed up, ready to intervene. Surely Spike, the master vampire who’d tried to kill her more times than she could count, wouldn’t stand for a little human woman telling him off when he’d lost his temper. Even if she was his mother.
Instead, Spike’s face fell and he hung his head, looking every inch the chastised little boy.
“’pologies, Slayer. Was out of line.”
“I… um… thanks…” Buffy sputtered.
His response was a curt nod, and then he was out the door again, blanket over his head. Buffy moved to the living room, dropping down on the couch in shock.
It only took a minute for Anne to settle beside her, a hand on her knee.
“I’m so sorry for what he said, dear. He really is a sweet boy underneath it all. It seems a hundred more years of verbal lashings have hardened him in a way six-and-twenty had not.”
Buffy’s eyes flew to the older woman beside her.
“What do you mean?”
“William never fit in, dear, as I mentioned. As a boy he was ridiculed, and it only got worse as he got older. He tried to hide it from me, of course, but he often returned from social events and locked himself in the study. And from what I’ve heard about his time as a vampire, it seems that death did little to ease his struggles. He mentioned a woman named Drusilla who broke his heart, and an Angelus who he spoke little about, but his face told volumes. He’s hiding under that crude armor, but he’s still the same sweet man underneath, I promise you.”
Buffy sighed deeply. “I guess it’s just hard to reconcile that. All I’ve ever known from Spike before was death threats and pain. There was never any inkling that he was more than that.”
“He helped you save the world, did he not?”
Anne had gotten that story fairly early on.
“He did, but he did that for selfish reasons. Because he needs humans to feed.”
Buffy tried not to grimace as she realized she’d been slipping up and painting Spike in a pretty mom-unfriendly light.
But Anne just smiled wisely. “I believe that is what he tells himself, dear, but I’m not so sure that’s the only reason. Perhaps you should speak to him about it. I believe he might open up to you.”
Buffy shook her head, looking at her in disbelief. “Why would you say that?”
“Oh, Buffy, he’s clearly taken with you. I only ask that you go easy on his poor heart, it’s clearly been through the wringer.”
“What?! I… I can’t…” Buffy’s face was stricken. Was she insinuating that Spike had feelings for her with her weird Victorian language?
“I understand, dear girl. Take time to process. I’ll be in my room, if you have need of me.”
When Anne was safely back in her room with the door closed, Buffy walked towards the kitchen and pushed open the door to the basement.
She didn’t quite know what made her do it, but she made her way slowly down the stairs and sat on the cot. The blankets smelled like him, and his few possessions were scattered around nearby.
She reached out to touch a stack of records, looking hard at it for a moment before flipping through. Punk rock, nothing surprising.
There was a small bag by the foot of the bed. She shifted over and opened it up. Inside were a few books of varying degrees of wear and tear.
The one in worst condition barely had a cover, and certainly no legible title. It wasn’t until she flipped it open and saw the notes that she realized what it was.
A poetry book. The title page labeled ‘Property of William Pratt, 1868’ in black ink.
He’d kept it from when he was alive. She was having trouble understanding that concept. Why would Spike keep this, unless his mother was right? Unless he was the same man underneath it all?
She decided to quit while she was ahead, and slipped out of the basement to return to her room. She didn’t hear the door when Spike came in just before dawn.
The next day she didn’t see him before school, and realized he was probably avoiding her again. And she couldn’t have that, because she was the good guy here, and she was going to make things right.
Joyce and Anne were out, and she returned home for the day and headed straight for the basement where he’d taken to hiding around this time.
“You said you read the classics, right?” she asked, standing halfway down the stairs. She’d barged in without knocking, of course.
Spike arched his brow. “Why do you care, Slayer?”
Buffy sighed, but relented instead of getting bitchier. Tis the season, and all.
“Look, I have to finish Macbeth over break and we’re being tested on it the first day back. There’s no way I can do this alone, and Willow is busy Hannukah-ing with her family. Can you help, or no?”
“And what do I get out of the deal?”
Buffy just barely bit back her instinctive retort of ‘staying undusty.’ It was so clearly a bluff at this point it wouldn’t even be funny. Except to him, maybe. Also, it wasn’t very apologize-y.
Instead, she smiled sweetly.
“The joy of my company!”
He snorted, then.
“Right, Slayer, and I’ve got a oceanfront place in bloody Arizona.”
She looked at him curiously.
His jaw dropped.
“No, I bloody well don’t!”
“Don’t get snippy with me! I just found out you were part of the English aristocracy, how would I know if you have a fancy house or not?”
“Arizona, love. Landlocked,” he replied dryly.
“Oh,” she blushed heavily. “See, this is why I need help. Buffy and school go together like chocolate and bleach… or something.”
He smirked, sitting down and lounging on the cot.
“You’re not as dumb as you like to make people think, Slayer, but yeh, I’ll help you. You’ve gotta do something for me, though.”
‘Now I’m in for it,’ Buffy thought. ‘Should have known better than to ask him for help.’
Aloud, she replied, “What?”
Spike’s face was serious again and he was sitting forward with his arms on his knees. It threw her how quickly his whole demeanor could change. For someone dead, he was certainly more lively than plenty of humans she’d met.
“Need you to talk to my mum. It’s getting to be Christmas, and I need to make sure she’s alright. She worries over me too much to tell me the truth if she’s having trouble, so I need you to get it out of her.”
“Your return favor is me talking to your mom?” He went to respond, but she cut him off. “Nevermind, I’ll do it. But for what it’s worth, she seems like she’s doing just fine. Don’t worry so much.”
She walked back up the stairs, but she paused as she opened the door.
“You’re one strange vampire, Spike.”
As she shut the door, he whispered to himself.
“Don’t I know it, Summers. Don’t I know it.”
It only took him a second after she left to realize he wanted her to stay. He’d hardly seen her in days, which was of course his fault, but at that moment her company sounded better than sitting around the basement by himself.
“Oi, Slayer,” he called, taking the stairs two at a time to go after her.
She was sitting in the kitchen when he came through the door, looking at him expectantly.
“What’s up? Decide my soul is a better price for our tutoring trade?” she asked with a smirk.
“Why the bloody hell would I want your soul? I’m not the poof.”
The exaggerated look of disgust on his face made her laugh.
“I give you a full 10 on the reaction, but you lost some points in the taking a joke category. Seriously though, what’s up?”
He rolled his eyes at her, but asked anyways.
“You know how to play Gin?”
“Yeah, my grandma used to play it with me when I was younger.”
“Got some cards downstairs and not a lot to do to pass the time. Want to play?”
She thought for a minute, then slid off her stool.
“Sure, why not.”
She’d pretty much accepted that he wasn’t going to murder her in her sleep at this point. Having his mother around had changed Spike more than she’d ever thought possible. Maybe. There was also the chance that he’d always been like this, she just hadn’t had a chance to notice it while they were fighting to the death on a regular basis. Either way, barely a week in and she already sort of trusted him. At least enough to play a hand or two of cards to avoid her homework.
She followed him down the basement steps. She’d only meant to take one step out of the frying pan, and suddenly she was jumping headlong into the fire.
It wasn’t nearly as scary as she thought it ought to be.
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December 8, 2021 13:42