(((Warnings and Disclaimers in chapter one. Hopefully everyone reading this has seen season 6 Buffy, if not, links to transcripts are available in previous chapters. Thank you as always for reading! Jason for your plot beta’ing! And all the wonderful reviews I have received! Quick AN at end)))
“You sure you don’t want to go back to the hotel and get some sleep, mom?” Buffy asked handing her mother a cup of warm tea.
Joyce sat curled up on the couch in the apartment Buffy and Willow shared. “I’m sure, honey, I’d rather sit and talk with you for a while.”
Buffy smiled, “So, you’re doing ok, right? And Dawn? You said she was having a rough time with the whole, me coming back from the dead stuff.”
“Well, she’s dealing with it as best any teenager can, I guess. But she has been pretty wound up.”
“She didn’t seem to be too upset today.”
“That’s because Jack threatened her before we left, that she would behave and not bring it up.”
“He threatened her?” Buffy asked a bit concerned.
Joyce nodded, “Yeah, that he would force her to learn how to fly fish this summer - the whole standing in a cold river with biting insects and pulling out slimy, scaly fish. Then the worst of it,” Joyce lowered her voice, a look of disgust crossing her face, “He’d show her how to gut them properly.”
“EWW!!!” Buffy shrieked. “That has got to be the most horrible threat I’ve ever heard of. Mom, it’s practically child abuse!”
“Oh, I don’t think it’s really as bad as some of the stories about demons and other things you’ve had to… disembowel over the years.”
“But… but there’s a difference!” She tried to defend, “They were evily and needed… that. Fish are so totally different!”
The two continued talking for a while about their lives before Buffy finally brought up a heavier topic. She confided to her mother about heaven, and how she felt being back in the world.
Buffy stood and began to pace, “I talked to Giles the other day. It seems that when I died, you were healed because someone still need to protect Dawn, and since you’re our mother, you were chosen for the same reason I was able to take her place when Glory tried to open the portals… because Dawn was made from me, and shares my blood… and then because I share yours, it was just a sort of failsafe to make sure nothing happened to her,” Buffy paused trying to figure out how to phrase the next part. “When Willow brought me back, all Giles and I can figure out, is that it somehow broke that spell that made you healthy again.
“So, I guess Dawn was right, you are sick again, because of me, and because of the magic…”
Joyce shook her head and brought her daughter back to the couch, “Buffy, my tumor is a real thing, not magical; it would still be here, no matter what. I would have died from it long ago, but because of the monks and Glory and all that, I was given a second chance I never would have had.”
Buffy tried to argue, but Joyce cut her off, “Let me finish. Because of all this, I have been given a miracle. We have this extra time to spend together, I wouldn’t have met Jack, someone who can help give Dawn a good life, without giving you the burden of trying to raise a teenager and be the slayer.
“Now, I still don’t like all this prophecy stuff, but I understand, and I want the best for you, honey. I know how difficult it can be to hold down a ‘normal’ job and raise a teenage girl on your own. You’re too young to be a single mother, especially if it’s being a mother to your sister.
“But if they would have left me in heaven, you wouldn’t be sick, and Dawn would have you…”
“Buffy, you have given me something so special. I know, when my time does come, that it’s a place to look forward to. You were given the gift so many people look for all their lives, and you know from your own experience that most aren’t really ready to see it yet. When your real time does come, which I hope is a long, long, long time away, I’ll be there waiting for you. But like me, you need to be here, now. Who will protect people out there if you’re not around? Who else has the courage, and heart, and stubbornness to keep them safe, even when they’re ungrateful and don’t know they need protecting. Who else has the bravery to stand up at Xander and Anya’s wedding in that… dress, she’ll force you to wear?”
A soft knocking at the door brought Buffy out of her light doze. After spending time with her mom talking, both women fell asleep together on the couch. Buffy quickly moved to answer the door before it woke Joyce. After a quick look through the peephole she groaned softly before opening the door. “What do you want, Spike?”
“Thought I would stop by and say hello to your mum and the niblet, if that’s alright with you, Slayer?”
“Well, my mom’s sleeping, and I’m not going to wake her just to so you can say hi,” she said with a bit of a scowl on her face, her anger at the vampire and herself for the activities of the other night still hanging heavy in her soul. “And Willow took DAWN to the movies,” Buffy added, emphasizing her sister’s name.
“Bugger,” Spike moved to the fountain edge in the courtyard of the apartment building. With a swish of his trench coat he sat down and pulled out a cigarette. “Well, suppose I’ll just wait until they get back.”
“That might be a while,” Buffy rolled her eyes then glanced at her watch. She squinted her eyes and tapped on the face of the watch. “Huh, odd,” she commented to herself and took a quick look at the wall clock inside the apartment.
“They take in the late show, did they?”
“No, it was supposed to be the nine o’clock one. Is it really after midnight already?” She asked in disbelief. “Maybe they went to the hotel…” Grabbing a jacket and her mom’s room key, Buffy scribbled out a quick note in case her mother woke up, and headed out the door.
“You don’t have to follow me, you know,” the slayer said with irritation as she reached the hotel. Spike simply shrugged and continued to tag along making inappropriate comments, as he was wont to do.
The room was empty of life and Buffy began to fidget nervously, “What movie were they going to see? I know that bloody Lord of the Rings crap is supposed to be almost three hours long.”
“I think those movies have come and gone already…” Pacing in worry, Buffy tried to think of where the two could be, “I had a bad feeling earlier, why didn’t I listen to it.”
“Now don’t go beating yourself up, love, let me have that pleasure,” The vampire grinned seductively. When he realized Buffy wasn’t going to take his bait he got an almost bored look on his face, “Why don’t we start with what movie house they were going to?”
“There’s only two in town, and Willow said something about stopping by her new mentors place on the way.” Buffy started off toward downtown Sunnydale and the closest of the local theaters.
“And who would that be?” Spike asked, jogging slightly to catch up.
“Some guy named Rack, he…”
“I know who he is,” Spike said stopping in his tracks. The concern in his voice causing Buffy to stop and turn around, “The guy is a heavy black magic dealer.”
“Willow wouldn’t…” Buffy’s jaw dropped in realization of just how far into the magic her best friend was. “I need to find him then!”
“You can’t, Slayer, he cloaks his place,” The vampire began looking around cautiously as they reached the edges of downtown, as if he were trying to sense something.
“Oh but let me guess, you can right?” Buffy asked sarcastically as she watched Spike move towards some of the back alleys. His only response was a slight nod of his head and to continue his search of the area.
The door to the apartment opened, causing Joyce to jump. The note Buffy left didn’t say much, but a look at the clock revealed that it was already nearing five am. She had tried to call the hotel with no response and although worried nearly out of her mind, Joyce tried consoling herself that Buffy or one of the others would have called if anything were wrong. Moving toward the door, she felt her heart fall as Buffy and Spike came in, a very tired and beat up looking Dawn between them.
“Dawn, honey, are you alright? What happened?” She noticed the blue splint on Dawn’s arm first, then the stitches above her eyebrow. Dawn shrugged tiredly, not feeling up to talking at the moment. Joyce looked to Buffy, silently demanding an explanation.
“Spike, you want to get Dawn into my room and settle her in?” Buffy asked quietly.
The vampire nodded and guided the young brunette around the kitchen into the bedroom.
Pursing her lips, Joyce drew in a deep breath and tried patiently to wait for her eldest daughter to speak.
“Aside from some bumps and bruises, her arm has a fracture, but she’ll be fine. The doctor at the ER gave her some medication to kill the pain and help her sleep,” Buffy started, not sure how to explain the night’s events.
“And why did she need to go to the emergency room in the first place?” Crossing her arms across her chest, Joyce blinked back the tears that threatened to spill.
“I’m sorry mom, it’s my fault. I should have never asked Willow to take her out.” Buffy's own eyes glistening with tears.
“Buffy… What… Happened?” The older woman asked again, growing a bit more impatient. She could see the guilt on Buffy’s face and, after their talk earlier, was trying to hold her temper down.
“Willow’s been having a hard time with the magic and stuff. She got in over her head and I didn’t want to see it. There was a car accident, involving a demon and Dawnie was in the car with Willow. Spike and I were already out looking for them and got there before anything else happened.” Buffy sobbed, tears running down her face, “Mom, I’m so sorry…”
Joyce nodded and wiped her own eyes before wrapping her arms around Buffy, “I know.” Pulling back slightly, Joyce looked down at her eldest daughter, “But this is why we moved away. I knew that, sooner or later, something like this was going to happen, and especially after loosing you, I don’t know what I would do if anything happened to Dawn as well.”
Buffy nodded and sniffled again looking around for some sort of tissue, “I understand, and in a way, I’m glad you did.”
Sighing, Joyce gave her daughter a weak smile, “I think I’m going to go check on her though, just to see with my own eyes that she is alright.”
Spike stood just inside the door of the bedroom, waiting for Buffy and Joyce to finish they’re conversation. “Joyce,” He said by way of a greeting as the woman came into the room.
“Spike,” Joyce said offering the vampire a small smile, “thank you for your help. I’ll have to send you some cookies for this.”
The bleach blond vampire gave a soft chuckle, remembering the first time he met Joyce. “That’ll work. Good to see you and Dawn again, wish it could have been… well, you know,” he said with a shrug before disappearing out the door leaving Dawn in her mother’s care.
Later that day, despite wanting to stay and visit, Dawn’s injuries and the night’s events caused a change in plans and just over twenty-four hours after arriving in Sunnydale, Joyce and Dawn were preparing to board a plane back to Colorado. Although it hurt Buffy to see her mom and sister leave, she understood. She had her own problems to deal with, the freezing diamond monster, the upcoming puke green bridesmaid dress she was still trying to get out of, and making sure Willow got back on the straight and narrow being among her top priorities. Hiding her friend was another possible concern - if Dawn’s warning about her new dad wasn’t exaggerated. Although it was said more out of concern than any type of threat, the look on Joyce’s face didn’t do much to help ease the Slayer’s fear of that last one.
(((Just a quick little note: Some of my boys (good friends that my husband and I game with when everyone is in town) will be arriving home from training today, so not sure what’s going to be happening for the next week. My muses came back with a vengeance today and I’ve got a lot more written that I just need to read through and put together in a way someone other than me and my lil bro could understand, but don’t be too upset if you don’t see an update until after Christmas.)))