“Stupid fucking blundering idiot.”
Spike was running as fast as he could. He’d gone to the first demon bar he’d found and asked about Lothos. Knowing the bastard’s ego was as big as Dracula’s, it only made sense every demon on the West Coast would know what he was up to.
Apparently he’d been dusted as Spike was convincing the monks to put a rush on making Dawn a part of the Slayer’s life. Which meant that Buffy was back from her trip to Vegas and trying to explain to her parents about the things that go bump in the night.
He took a moment to thank all the gods and devils for the many hours spent talking about her past. It had given him a somewhat clear timetable for the period before he’d crashed into her life. Sure, he couldn’t quite remember the order of some of those events, but at least her first big battle and the immediate aftermath was clear in his mind. That’s why he knew he had to hurry even more than before. He might not have been able to spare Buffy from losing her first Watcher, but he could save her from her parents’ overreaction.
Unfortunately he hadn’t been fast enough. Hank was already driving Buffy to the sanitarium to ‘rid her of her demons,’ or whatever it was that one of the stupidest men on the planet thought of his daughter’s calling. If Spike ever got his hands on the man that could leave not one, but three Summers women, he’d wring his neck, rip his spleen out and shove it up his ass.
Unfortunately when he’d hurried to go from one end to the other of the city he’d neglected to take his car. Now he was paying for it by having to sprint for bloody ever. Why couldn’t at least one measly little time-changing plan go right when it involved his slayer?
He had to reach the ‘We’re hacks that don’t know our heads from our asses’ Mental Health Center to save Buffy. In the end he managed to arrive there before the supernatural equivalent of a heart attack made his unbeating heart explode. He couldn’t remember running so fast for so long even when he escaped from the Initiative. He stopped right outside the doors to get a grip.
If he simply went in there, ripped Hank’s head off and put the fear of the devil in the good for nothing doctors about to mess with Buffy then she’d either stake him on the spot, or she’d never trust him again. Which wouldn’t be that much different than most of their time together, but it would hurt him too much.
To have her hate him again would break him. It was why he hadn’t run straight to her as soon as he’d become a real boy-vampire again. He’d finally done something right, managed to go out with a more than proverbial bang, and then he’d been brought back. He’d given her life back to her and from what Angel said, she was out there living it up. He couldn’t go and ruin it for her.
That had been the past though. Future. Regardless. What he had to do now was take a breather and figure out how he could get Buffy out of the loony bin without either making her hate him, or getting them both admitted.
He paced up and down the sidewalk trying to think of a solution. He was sure he looked a sight, all disheveled and manic, but his go-to move of going in for a brawl could very well cost him more than he was willing to pay.
He wished he could talk things over with someone. He needed a second opinion. Unfortunately his options were almost non-existent. Demons were out of the question. Buffy’s first Watcher—whatever his name was—had already died. Giles was too far away. Whether or not he’d gotten to Sunnydale yet didn’t matter, it was still not LA. He didn’t have anyone he could trust close—
He stopped in his tracks. The answer was so simple, he slapped his own forehead. He could have saved himself forty-some blocks of running, and made Buffy’s experience with this place even shorter had he thought of it before. He needed to talk to Joyce.
The door was mocking him. It was simple, well kept, normal, and closed. Doors tended to stay that way when all you did to try to open them was to glare at them. He knew that. He simply couldn’t do anything else about it.
The answer to all his prayers was just beyond that door. Or at least, it was the next step he needed to take to make everything better. All he had to do was knock on the thing and talk to the woman whose death he was still mourning
In the end the decision of whether to knock, sound the bell, or stand around like an idiot was taken out of his hands. Joyce opened the door and frowned at him. “Can I help you?”
She was a vision. Her maternal instinct was most likely warning her about the predator on the porch after dark while her littlest one was tucked away safely inside. She might have looked calm and composed to the casual observer, but Spike knew her better. The stress of her failing marriage and her daughter’s supposed mental problems had shaken her to the core. By the smell of things she’d resorted to alcohol to dull the pain. In short, she was far removed from the woman he’d come to see as a surrogate mother.
Despite all of that, as soon as Spike saw her he wanted to rush and hug her for all she was worth. He didn’t have an invitation though, so he brought forth all the class and culture of a time gone by. “Mrs. Summers, mind if I come in? I have some information pertaining to your daughter. Daughters, in fact.” He tried to convey without words all that her family meant to him.
She wavered, frowned, and finally took a step back. “Yes, sure, come in. What about them? Is Buffy okay?”
Spike smiled. It felt so right to have an invitation to their house. He’d had it—not counting that bit between his telling Buffy his feelings and taking down Glory—since they’d first partnered up against Angelus to the very end of Sunnydale. Sure, it wasn’t the same house, and it wasn’t even in the same city, but it was still a Summers house. And home is where the heart is.
“Don’t worry about your eldest, J—Mrs. Summers. She’ll be just fine. In fact, I came here to tell you there’s nothing wrong with her brain either. Buffy’s not crazy and she doesn’t belong in that place.”
Joyce narrowed her eyes and her nostrils flared. He’d seen that look on her oldest enough times to be on guard. “Are you the one that put all that nonsense in my daughter’s head? Is that why she burned down her school?” She looked him up and down and he was definitely found wanting. “Are you that Merrick person she mentioned, or someone pretending to be some sort of vampire?” The way she spat out the last word cut Spike up inside.
He needed to start speaking fast, but he found it hard to do past the lump in his throat. She reminded him so much of that first time he’d seen her he almost expected her to have an axe in her hands again. He cleared his throat and gave it a try anyway. “No, my name’s not Merrick. Not nearly stuffy enough for a poncy name like that. Name’s Spike. Well, William, but most everyone calls me Spike.” He could see he wasn’t winning many points so far, so he decided to go all in. “You were right about one thing, though. I am a vampire.” He looked her right in the eye as he brought forth his game-face as slow as he could. To see the detached hostility turn into horrified understanding was difficult, but he knew it had to be done. “Now I’m not gonna hurt even a hair on you or yours’ heads, but all the rest of the bloodsuckers out there aren’t me. Your daughter, the older one, is an honest to god hero, chosen by the Powers that Be to protect this world from the things lurking in the dark.”
“You—your face.”
He morphed back into his human guise “I need you to call that husband of yours and tell him he’s to bring Buffy home. She doesn’t need to spend even one minute more with people too blind to see the truth of what she’s saying.” He maneuvered around her, careful not to spook her even further. He then sat down on the couch in the living room. “While he gets it all straightened out, I’ll be here to answer whatever questions you have. Willing slave and all that. My safe word is ‘Peaches.’” He winked and took a bit of pleasure when the outrage over his last comment snapped her out of her shock.
She went to the phone and dialed a number from a flyer next to it. “This is Joyce Summers, I would like to talk either to my husband, Hank Summers, or to whomever is in charge of admissions.” She listened for a while, then repeated her request. They put her on hold again and she tapped her foot while she shot worried glances Spike’s way.
As for him, he took his time looking around the house Buffy had grown up in. It was nothing to write home about. A typical California house. Normal. He sniffed deep. A mix of Buffy, Dawn, Joyce, and something unfamiliar that must have been Hank. He even smelled like a deadbeat.
A small noise brought his attention to the stairs to the upper level and made him smirk. It seemed Dawn’s first contact with him was written to be the same: her sneaking a peek through the slats of the bannister. She was older than she’d been in the fake memories though. This time she was just one year younger than the slayer. He’d convinced the monks it wasn’t necessary for her to be much younger just so Buffy felt obligated to protect her. The Slayer was hard-wired to protect everyone, and her sister would come first no matter what age she was.
With a Dawn at about the same age as Buffy, the youngest Summers would be more included in the slaying gig and would also understand her sister better. Spike hoped it would prevent a situation like the one that led to Dawn kicking Buffy out of her own house. He’d also get a second chance with the human that had become his best friend for a while, until he’d bollixed it all up.
Joyce’s raised voice brought him out of his revelry. “I don’t care you already signed, un-sign and get our daughter home.” She listened to whatever it was Hank was saying. “I didn’t actually agree, you decided. Well now I decided she’s coming back. I shouldn’t ever have let you take her out of our house until we got to the bottom of this.” Another pause. “Listen, and listen closely. Either you come with Buffy, or you don’t come back at all and I go pick her up.” What made the threat even scarier was Joyce’s even tone. It was the tone known throughout mankind as the ‘do as I say, or you’re in the dog house for life.’ Despite himself Spike felt a bit sorry for the man. “Yes, I would take our daughter out of there, and you can go to your secretary for all I care. I’m sure she’d be able to find some place to put you to bed.” She took her ear off the receiver as Hank lied through his teeth about his affair. “As I said, I don’t care right now. All I care is that you get Buffy safely here. If you don’t do it in an hour, I will, but you won’t be welcome in this house anymore.” She hung up over his loud protestations. Spike was proud of her.
Of course, the adrenalin high had to break at some point, so Joyce’s knees almost gave way. Spike was next to her in a couple of strides. He kept her upright, guided her to the couch, and fixed her a drink. When she got her nerves under control, or as close to it as she could, she pinned him with her gaze.
“You are going to tell me exactly how you know Buffy, and what Dawn has to do with any of this.” She reached over to the open bottle of brandy, raised it, and then put it back down. “After you tell me all that, you’ll answer any and all questions I can think of while I wait for—” She stopped talking and just stared ahead.
“I already told you, I’m your willing slave while we wait.”
She looked at him with a small frown and a glimmer of a question in the depths of her eyes. “And after you tell me what you know about my daughters, you’re going to tell me what you know about me.”
He chuckled. “I always said you were a sharp one.”
She raised an eyebrow at him.
“Okay, see, this is gonna sound strange, and it’s gonna be very bad before it gets better.” He checked the clock above the door. “And if you want the long version, you’re gonna have to wait, ‘cause there’s only so much I can squeeze in less than an hour.”
“Tell me the truth.”
“Okay, Joyce. May I call you Joyce?”
“Something tells me you will anyway, so sure.”
“There’s no easy way of saying this, so here goes. I’m not just a vampire, I’m one of only two vampires with a soul in the world. Well, as far as I know. Apart from that, I’ve recently woken up in a motel room, next to my sire—that’s the vampire that makes you one—eight years before where I was supposed to be.”
That got Joyce’s attention. “So you what, travelled through time?”
“Your guess is as good as mine as to how, but yeah. Time travel’s a new one even for me.”
He spent the next half an hour telling her the story of Spike of Sunnydale – shortened version. He skipped over Dawn being the Key, the more graphic details of Buffy and his failed relationship, including the trigger for his trip to regain his soul, or about the Buffy-bot, but he told her as much as he could. By the end Joyce had tears running down her cheeks, but she’d refused to drink anymore. Spike thought that was a good sign. During one of their hot chocolate talks she’d admitted to crawling into a bottle more than once after the divorce became a real possibility and all the way up to Buffy’s graduation. Perhaps Joyce would cope better this go-around by tapping in to that well of strength he knew she had.
“So you’re here to get Buffy to fall for you instead of this Angel person.”
“No, I’m here— Look, I don’t know how I got back here, or who sent me, but as long as I’m here I’ll try to make things easier for the people I care about. That includes Buffy, Dawn, you, and even those meddling friends of hers.”
“She’s fifteen and in high school.” The warning was clear in her voice.
“I’m not the Poof.” He knew what it was going to look like if he hung around. He also knew he couldn’t leave her to face the coming problems on her own. Joyce was right though: the Buffy of this time was not his Slayer, she was a fifteen year old girl. A girl with a destiny and superpowers, but still just a teenager, not his General-Buffy. “I know she’s not my—I’ll leave her be best I can. I’ll help her, but I know she’s under-aged, yeah? Not gonna try anything to make you want to go at me with an ax.” He snorted. “I’ve gotten pretty decent at pretending I’m just a thing without feelings, so…”
She gasped. “No. I might not know about vampires, witches, and hell-gods, but you don’t sound like someone without feelings.”
“Thank you, Joyce.”
Joyce looked at him with narrowed eyes. “So why did you only show up now? What did you do between waking up in the past and showing up on my doorstep?”
Spike didn’t want to tell her. He couldn’t just saddle her with such knowledge. Especially when Dawn was listening in to everything he said. He didn’t have a problem to the Bit knowing the rest, as his track record of keeping secrets from her was anything but stellar, but this could not be how she found out about her true nature. “I’d answer, but I don’t think what I have to say is appropriate for your younger daughter’s ears.”
“What?” She looked up at the stairs. Spike could hear the gasp and hurried escape as it happened. “I’ll be right back.” She hurried to Dawn’s room and left Spike alone in the living room. Joyce managed to deal with her daughter quickly enough, but she didn’t come back before the sound of a car pulling up in the driveway could be heard.
Hank had made the smart choice after all.
Joyce came down the stairs and headed for the door. Dawn was right behind her, despite her mother’s instruction that she should stay put. Spike also found himself taking a few steps in that direction, but he held himself back. He wanted the family to reunite on their own.
Hank came through the door first, but Dawn plowed right by him to envelop Buffy in a giant hug. Joyce whispered a few words to her husband who shot Spike a hostile look before she joined her daughters in the embrace.
Spike was happy just watching them. He didn’t have time to bask in it though because a pair of hazel eyes pinned him on the spot.
“Mom? What did you do?”
Spike could do nothing except smirk and say “Hello, cutie.”

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