Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Character/Pairing: Spike, Joyce, mentions of Spike/Buffy
Challenge/Prompt: nekid_spike Nekid Color: Red (Red Blush, Red Sweater, Red Blood)
Word Count: 2,481
Date Written: 27 July 2018
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Whedon, not the author, and are used without permission.
Spike stopped as he neared the Slayer’s home. He could smell all the regular scents that he typically associated with the Summers’ household. There were the perfumes the three females wore, something chic for Buffy, a lighter fragrance for Dawn, and a more sophisticated one for their mother, the deodorants, soaps, and various other makeups they used, and the scents from their dinner for the night. They had had Mexican evidently, probably Joyce’s tortillas, and their mother was now making hot chocolate again.
His stomach didn’t rumble at the scent, because he no longer needed to eat and hadn’t in well over two centuries, but he did long for the chocolate and the conversations he used to have while sharing a cup with the mother of the woman he loves. He hadn’t loved her then, or at least, he hadn’t known that he loved her, but he had still relished his talks with her mother. There was something about Joyce, something understanding and warm and quietly passionate that reminded him of his own dear mum before he’d made the terrible decisions to follow Drusilla and, later, to turn his own mother.
It was bad enough he’d been condemned to being a creature of the undead; he never should have wished the same for his mother. It had been purely selfish, and although Vampires and other Demons were incredibly selfish by nature, Spike realized his mistake after he’d turned her and had regretted it ever since. If only he could be back . . . Hell, if he could go back, he wouldn’t have any regrets, would he? He’d do everything right the second time, because he knew now which decisions he should have made in opposition to those he had made. But nobody had the power to turn back time and relive their lives. It was the one power he was certain anybody who had lived any amount of time, even a mere mortal life, would give anything for, and yet it was the one power he had yet to find anyone who possessed.
He stopped in front of the Summers’ gate and looked up at their porch. He had already known he would find Joyce sitting on the bottom stoop, but he hadn’t expected to find her sitting alone with a second cup cooling next to her. “Spike!” she said, seeming to brighten as he watched her warily. “Come in.”
He didn’t point out that he didn’t need an invitation to get pass her gate, or that it was dangerous to leave him an open invitation that he could use at any time to enter her home. He’d never hurt Joyce. He’d never truly, willingly hurt any of the Summers women. There really something special about the women in this family, he reflected as he started up the pathway to her, and it wasn’t just that the Slayer was one of them or that the youngest wasn’t supposed to exist but did. They were all special in their own ways, and Buffy’s and Dawn’s powers had little to do with it.
As he started up the pathway to her, Spike stopped suddenly and sniffed the cool, night air again. His eyes flashed to her troubled face. In that moment, he was quite positive that if he’d had a heart that still beat, it would have stopped for at least one or two seconds. He wouldn’t have been able to breathe; his heart wouldn’t have been able to beat. All because he now knew what was different about the scents coming from the Summers’ home. Death lingered around their mother, and he felt like crying for her as he gazed at her with this troubling, new knowledge. He tried to speak, to ask her if she knew or how long she’d known or if the girls knew, but the words jammed in his throat.
Joyce’s eyes met his for the briefest of seconds, then she looked away. She looked out at the night. She looked at the leaves that littered their yard, leaves she normally would have had raked away weeks ago by now. She looked at her own hands, and Spike’s gaze travelled after hers and saw that they shook slightly. She curled one hand’s fingers more tightly around her coffee mug while smoothing her other hand down the pleats of her business slacks. She moved it to pick up the other mug, and as she focused on lifting it, she was able to stop her hands from shaking -- for now. But they both knew she was still shaking inside.
“Hot chocolate?” she asked, her voice coming out in a small squeak. She blushed crimson red, the tone of her skin momentarily matching the soft sweater in which she was bundled, an old one whose hem and sleeves were fraying but which remained one of her favorite articles of clothing.
Spike felt as though the ground was being taken out from under him as he realized that she had been waiting for him. That second cup of cocoa wasn’t meant for Buffy or Dawn. She’d made it for him, and for the first time since he’d known the woman, she wanted something. She wanted something from him, something for which she was scared to ask, something he already knew he couldn’t give. He could never turn anyone again, especially not someone for whom he cared, not after what had happened before, not after what had happened with his own, dear mum.
But he couldn’t exactly just bolt away. He couldn’t leave her like this. He felt his head move in a sort of nod as he took the cup from her and sank down onto that bottom step. Buffy would kill him if she caught him with her mother, but that thought didn’t even bother him right now. All he could think was the reason why Joyce was inviting him to sit beside her, to drink beside her -- She wanted him to drink from her.
His eyes slanted toward her as he slowly raised the warm mug to his lips. The scent of chocolate swirled around him, mixing dangerously with Joyce’s perfume, her own special fragrance, and that of the blood pumping inside her veins. He listened to it for a moment and knew he wasn’t imagining things. Something was wrong with her. Something inside of her wasn’t the way it should be; her very blood was calling for help. But he couldn’t give her the help she needed, and he couldn’t give her what she was about to ask him for.
He could go ahead and tell her that, he knew. He could go ahead, open his mouth, plunge straight ahead, and tell her that he couldn’t give her what she wanted, that he couldn’t turn her even if it was to make certain she didn’t leave her daughters who both still very much needed her, perhaps even more so than they knew. But he couldn’t find the power to put voice to the words in his head, so he just sat there and demurely sipped his hot chocolate. The woman definitely had a penchant for making cocoa, but tonight, it didn’t taste half as good as it had in the past. Even as he drank it, he couldn’t focus on its sweetness. All he could do was think about what she was going to ask him and wait for that terrible, inevitable moment when she actually did.
They sipped their cocoa in silence for a while. Joyce finished first and placed the emptied cup beside her feet. “Spike,” she said and cleared her voice. She was having as much trouble finding the words to ask him as he was finding the words to tell her Hell, no, there was no way he’d ever do what she was trying to ask him to do. “We’ve known each other for a while now. I know you love my daughter or you think you do. I know what you are, but I know you’ve stood beside Buffy through some terrible things before. You’ve helped her save the world before.”
He didn’t try to lie to her. He didn’t try to tell her he’d done it for Drusilla alone, because he’d since come to realize that his former Princess was not the only reason why he had acted the hero during that time. Even then, he’d been falling in love with the Slayer. But he didn’t tell her mother any of that. He just sat there and waited.
“I was wondering . . . “ Joyce said, and again, her hands were shaking. Again, she spread them over her pants and tried her best to stop them from trembling, finally tucking them underneath her knees where she thought he couldn’t see them, couldn’t feel their quivering, nervous movements.
“Could I help save you?” he finally found his voice and almost wished he hadn’t. She looked up at him through eyes so big, bigger than he’d ever seen them. There was no doubt she was where Dawn had learned her puppy dog eyes from. He could never refuse Dawn when she wore that look, but he had to refuse her mother for them all. She also had the same green shade of Buffy’s eyes, and her eyes, in this moment, looked like her daughters’ when they’d been crying or were about to start.
“Don’t,” he said and closed his eyes so he didn’t have to look into that painful expression that tore at the heart he wasn’t supposed to have. “Don’t ask me for that, Mum.”
“Why not? You’ve managed to get control over it. I don’t want to leave my daughters, Spike.”
“I don’t want you to either,” he said softly, gently, his voice breaking, “but if I turn you, I’ll be taking them from you. I’ll be taking you from you even.” There were tears in his eyes when he reopened them, “Being turned isn’t an answer, Joyce. It’s basically opening yourself up and inviting a Demon inside.”
“But doesn’t it heal you?” She cleared her throat and licked her lips. “I mean, if there’s something wrong with you, something not quite right, something that maybe the doctors can’t figure out, doesn’t it make that go away?”
“Not exactly,” he answered honestly. “It just gives you the power to live through it only you’re not in charge any more. You’re not yourself anymore. I laid dormant inside my own body for so long, watching everything the Demon did, not caring. Some, your daughter included, say that the Demon and I are one. In some ways, we are.”
“But not in all ways -- “
“No. But I’m equally responsible for everything it did with my body. I’m equally responsible for all the lives it took, all the women it raped -- I did that same as the beast inside of me. Turning you would kill you, not save you.”
She sighed. “I was afraid you were going to say that,” she said honestly, looking away again into the night. “I just . . . I don’t want to leave them. I don’t want to lose them.”
He put down his own cup of half-finished cocoa now, the only time he’d never finished the first cup she’d given him right away, leaned forward, and placed a hand on her shoulder. The sound of her blood pumping roared inside his ears. It would be so easy to turn her, just as it would be so easy to fall for her if he didn’t already love her daughter. “I don’t want them to lose you either.” His next thought surprised him, but he kept it to himself, I don’t want to lose you. She was, he reasoned, one of the few, true friends he had after all who didn’t just look at him as the Demon he now knew he was.
“I turned me own Mum,” he whispered, confessing to her. “It . . . didn’t work out.” He shook his head slowly. “She was dying. I thought I could save her. I ended up killing her instead, and I won’t do that to you.”
She swallowed hard, and he knew she was crying. His hand slipped from her shoulder down her back where he patted her gently. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, and he knew she was. She hadn’t meant to evoke such painful memories, and she genuinely cared about someone else’s pain, even a monster’s. She reached up and wiped the tears from her eyes. “Then let me ask you two other things.”
“Anything,” he promised her quickly, meaning it. “I’ll do anything else for you.” A second later, before she could voice what else she wanted, he feared that she might ask him to turn away from her daughter, to leave her alone forever more. She’d done so before, but that wasn’t what was on her mind tonight.
“Don’t tell them,” she whispered, her voice breaking again with the sounds of her own heart splintering slowly apart. “Don’t tell me anything about what we discuss tonight. I’ll . . . tell them in my own time.”
He nodded mutely and waited for the other shoe to drop. She turned and looked up at him. He reached out and took her hand in his. He had no way to know it, but in that moment, his ice cold, dead skin actually held a warmth to it as he touched her reassuringly. Joyce raised her chin defiantly, more defying of what was happening to her and the thing inside of her than of him or anything he could possibly say or do in the next moment. “Protect them, Spike. Whatever happens to me, to them, to this crazy world we live in -- “ Her voice was shaking, and she was starting to cry again. “Protect them for me.”
“I will, Mum,” he whispered and then embraced her. He held her tight as she cried, letting her defenses crumple for the first time in a long time. She had not cried on a man’s shoulder since the last time she and Giles had thought they were losing Buffy. She’d thought of asking him to protect her, but she already knew he’d do all he could. He would do all he could to protect Buffy and Dawn, too, but there were certain lines he would not cross even for them. Spike, however, would keep his word and keep her girls safe as long as he existed. He’d kill anything for them, anyone. He’d truly keep them safe. Her babies would be safe now, no matter what happened to her.
His arms around her felt so good, so reassuring. His hands, though they’d always felt cold before, were somehow warm now and not just from the hot cocoa. He didn’t tell her to hush. He didn’t tell her not to cry as Hank had done. He just held her, and for the first time in years, since long before her divorce, Joyce let herself cry.