Mother Hen

By: Highlander II

Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: Season 5, through "Crush"
Summary: Spike goes to the art gallery to talk to Joyce. (No romance)
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Joss Whedon and are property of Kuzui/Kuzui Entertainment, Mutant Enemy Productions, WB, UPN, FOX etc. etc.
Feedback: Highlander II

Spike took a deep, unneeded breath and stared at the letters stenciled on the door. He had never been here before, was not exactly sure why he was here now, but he needed something and this seemed to be the only place to get it without the Slayer picking at him and stumbling in to ruin things. Resigning himself to the fact that the only way to do this was to open the door and go inside, he reached out and grabbed the handle. He froze. He was having second and third thoughts about this, but he managed to pull the door open and force his body to follow his brain's commands and enter the gallery.

He walked around, silently, looking at the pieces on display. He smiled at the sight of the Greek amphorae, remembering the story Joyce had told several days ago, before all that nonsense with the Slayer and Dru and Harm.

"Spike?" he heard her ask with surprise. "What are you doing here?" She placed a packing list on a nearby desk and crossed the floor to where he was standing and folded her arms over her chest.

"Well, I could tell you I was here to apply for a job…"

She smiled. "Yes, Spike, you could, but you won't." Her words sounded a bit more harsh than her smile had told him they might be.

"Um, no. I won't." He turned away to pretend to study a large canvas on one wall. Colors of brown and green and dark red and orange. He was not sure what it was, but he was sure he would never put anything like it over his couch - tomb - whatever.

"Did you need something or are you just trying to annoy me?"

Spike looked at her over his shoulder. He thought she looked a little guilty, that maybe she had hurt his feelings and he might hurt her. "You do know I can't hurt you, right?" he asked.

"Well, Buffy told me about that chip in your head, but you are a vampire."

"Last I checked. Look, I just stopped by to… nevermind. I'll just go." He turned for the door.

"Spike, wait. You came here for a reason. Whether to view the art in the gallery or to talk to me, you should just do whatever it is you came here to do, then you can go. Trust me, you'll feel better."

Always the mother hen, that Joyce. Even keeps little marshmallows around the house for cocoa purposes, if I ever decide to drop in, which I haven't done in the last few days and probably won't do if I can't bring m'self to do what I came here to do. Well, that and the fact that Buffy had the little witch uninvite me, so I couldn’t go in for cocoa and marshmallows if I wanted to. He turned back to her and nodded once. "Right then." He took another deep breath - still not necessary, but it gave him a small stall - and began, "I just wanted to apologize, again, for not sending Dawn home the other night. But she, well, she… I think she just wanted someone to talk to who didn't treat her like she was a small child."

Joyce looked flabbergasted for a moment. Completely astounded that Spike had said something like that to her. "She is only fourteen," she managed.

"Yeah. Fourteen. That's teenager, not toddler. She has a lot of," he paused, searching for the right word, "pseudo-adult feelings that she doesn't know how to deal with. And the only way she'll learn is to work 'em out."

"Not with you," Joyce gasped, taking a step away from the bleached vampire and looking for something that might be useful as a weapon.

"Bloody hell, no! Not with me." Spike took his own set of steps backward, blinking at the concept of him and… Not finishing that thought.

"Oh," she sighed. "Was there something else?"

Change the subject, nice move. Very smooth, Joyce. "Well, yeah. Um, about your eldest…"

"Buffy? What about her? Is she okay? You didn't kidnap her again did you? No, of course not, you wouldn't be here if you had…" she rambled off into a strange silence.

Spike let out a long-suffering sigh. "Here we go again. No, Joyce, I didn't kidnap your daughter." He stared at the ground. "Not since it really didn't go so well the last time," he muttered very low. A bit louder, he spoke to Joyce again, "I only did that so she would listen to me. She has a habit of being terribly stubborn and hard-headed and refusing to listen to people when they try to tell her things."

"Yes, I know," Joyce agreed and sat in the chair behind the desk. "Oh, that wasn't very appropriate was it? I’m sorry, I shouldn't speak that way about Buffy."

Spike quirked his eyebrows at her. "Anyway… I just wanted to talk to her. And I wanted her to listen. Didn't work, by the way. Had a few unwanted distractions. But, I wanted to apologize for that too. Can't apologize to Buffy; she won't talk to me."

Joyce looked up sharply. "Aren't vampires usually less concerned about being apologetic?"

"Yeah. They are. So, don't let this get out, okay? Don't wanna ruin m'already useless reputation here on the Hellmouth."

She laughed, it started as a smile, but developed into a laugh. He tried really hard, but was unable to control his own amused outburst. Yeah - I'm bleedin' hilarious.

"I won't mention it. Unless you want me to tell Buffy? But I think you'd do better telling her yourself."

"Sure, if she'll ever bleedin' talk to me again. Kinda surprised you are, after what happened." He looked down at his scuffed Doc Martens and tried to retreat into the shadows without moving.

"Everyone has their faults, Spike. Everyone makes mistakes. And everyone deserves to be allowed to apologize for those mistakes."

"Could you stop doing that?" he snarled.

She frowned. "Doing what?"

"Being nice to me. Like you're my mum."

"I don't understand. You want me to stop being nice to you?"

"Isn't that what I said?"

She squinted her eyes at him, trying to figure him out, for several moments. "You are a very strange vampire, you know that?" She pronounced the word 'vampire' like she was trying to remind herself that was what he was. When she looked at him she saw the look of confusion play over his face and smiled. "First time I saw you, you were trying to kill my daughter."

"And, as I recall, you hit me in the head with an axe for m'trouble."

"I did. Then, you came back a year later and drank cocoa in my kitchen, crying over Drusilla."

Defiantly, he puffed out his chest and rolled his shoulders. "I was not crying. I was complaining."

"Yes, of course." She let him have that one. "And at that time, you had also kidnapped Buffy's friends. They weren't too badly hurt, but she ran you out of town again."

"Was gonna leave anyway. Had to go back and torture the hell out of Dru for leavin' me."

"Very nice. Then, the next year, I seem to recall you got into a little fist-fight with Buffy over a ring? Which, if I remember right, she sent to Angel and you went after it and tortured him?" She looked at him for an affirmative reaction. She got one, a smirk.

"Not apologizin' for that one. Poof deserved what he got for bein' such a rat bastard to me before that." He crossed his arms over his chest. "How much longer we gonna trip down my memory lane here?"

"You have someplace else to be? Where are you going to go?"

He sneered at her this time. "You know, you're lucky I have this chip in m'head…"

"Shut up, Spike. You wouldn't hurt me even if you didn't. You could have before and you didn't then, why would you now?"

She's not afraid of me? When the hell did that happen?

She sighed. "Spike, what I'm getting at is that you've changed. Just a little bit. Last year you tried to have Buffy and all her friends killed. Now, you're, sort of, helping them."

"I'm not helpin' anybody. They don't pay me, I don't do anything." Which was a lie and he knew it, but he was not going to tell Joyce that.

"Sure, if you say so. Now, what I want to know is, are you really trying to change? To be a good person, or are you just doing it to be close to Buffy?"

"Any of this gonna leave this gallery?" Spike snarled at her.

She shook her head. "Not unless you want it to."

"Truthfully? Can't stand your daughter. Buffy, anyway. Nibblet, I can deal with that one. She doesn't flit around like she's the coolest thing since sliced bread - which really isn't all that great, what bloody difference does it make if your bread comes pre-sliced or not? Lazy bunch of Yanks."


"Right, sorry. Buffy. Can't stand her. She prances around all chosen and bad ass. Only reason she hasn't killed me yet is because of this stupid chip in m'head. Well, best I can tell that's the only reason."

"What other reason would there be?" Joyce asked, confused.

"Dunno. 'Les she's got the hots for me or something." To which he added, under his breath, "Little tramp."

"I think I need to put the two of you in a room and have you work out whatever these issues are."

"Oh, I don't think that would be such a good idea."

"Spike, really. If you're going to stay in this town…" she trailed off and looked dazed for a minute, then slumped forward, holding a hand to her head.

"Joyce?" Spike crossed the few feet to her in split-second time, catching her before she fell off the chair and onto the floor. He sat her up as best he could, laying her head on the desk.

He ran back to the gallery's front door, locked it and turned the closed sign, then hurried back to her side. "Joyce? Can you hear me? Are you okay?" What is going on? What's wrong? "Joyce?" he tried again, a little, as Buffy would say, 'wigged out' by the dazed, blank eyes that were staring at him almost lifelessly from Joyce's face.

She made no response, but he noticed her sliding from the chair again and caught her before she fell. He lowered her, gently, to the floor, resting her head in his lap, much the way he had done with Drusilla when she had gotten in her moods. "You're gonna be okay, right? Because I really have no idea what to do to help you. And I can't call Buffy because she wouldn't believe me if I told her I had nothing to do with this. Joyce, you have to wake up," he rambled into the air, stroking her hair away from her face just so his hands had something to do.

"Just like Drusilla, only, not. If that makes any sense. Helpless like she was - when she wanted to be. She had her moments. She wanted to play the weakling and let me take care of her like a child. Which, she pretty much was after what Angelus did to her. In many ways, though, you're stronger than she ever was. Not in a physical sense, o'course, but in all kinds of other ways." He knew he was just spouting useless nonsense, but he had to do something to occupy his time while he waited for her to recover from whatever was going on, because he got bored easily unless he could distract himself. "You're the mother of the Slayer. That can't be easy."

He glanced around the gallery, or what of it he could see from his position on the floor. Some of the pieces were actually quite remarkable. He had never considered himself a lover of the arts, well, not these types of art, at least not since his 'transformation,' but he saw someone's passion in the pieces hanging on the wall over his head. In the construction of the pottery and the statuary. Whatever he could see, it all looked different to him somehow.

Spike shook his head and squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. "Yeah right. Enjoying an art gallery? Not really my style unless I'm there to munch on those admiring. And, as I can't do that, guess I'll just have to sit here and talk m'fool head off to an unconscious Slayer's mum." He looked down at Joyce's head in his lap. "You really oughta wake up now, Joyce. I can't sit here all night. Especially not in front of this big picture window, as the rising of the sun would surely be detrimental to m'health." He stared out the window for a while, watching the stars. "Drusilla, love, why'd you do it? If you hadn't left me, this wouldn't even be a problem. I wouldn't have this buggerin' chip in m'skull and I wouldn't be sitting on the cold tile floor of an art gallery with the Slayer's mum's head in m'lap, hopin' she'll wake up before the sun does so the Slayer doesn't kick my arse into next year for not doing anything to her mum."

He wanted to stand up and pace the floor, but he did not want to leave Joyce alone. Brushing a hand over her hair, he continued ranting, "I wouldn't do anything to Buffy's mum. Buffy wouldn't believe that though. If she showed up here right now, she'd think I had something to do with this and stake me first and never bother to ask questions because, to her, it wouldn't matter. It wouldn't matter that I sat here with Joyce this whole time, waiting for her to wake up. It wouldn't matter that I didn't leave her alone. I could call the paramedics, but I don't know what I'd tell them, don’t even know if there's a phone nearby. Guess there might be one in the office…." And have I gone completely bonkers? Paramedics would want information that I don't have. And they might make me a suspect, even though I didn't do anything.

"Joyce, you have to wake up. I can't take this anymore. My ass is cold and my legs are cramping, which by the way, they can, vampire or not. And I'm bored. My attention span is shorter than a two-year old's. I can't stand to sit around doing nothing for too long. Kinda why all my big plans go to hell. Yeah, probably wouldn't have been clocked in the head with an axe if I'd waited for the damned Feast of St. Vigeous. But no, I got bored and had to do something." He looked down at her again. "Oh, come on. Are you sleeping or is something going on? Or are you just laying there pretendin' to sleep, lettin' me ramble on like a fool until I say something that makes you laugh or cry or jump up and run away screaming. Because if it's any of those, I'll start now and you won't have to wait."

Nothing. No stirring, no moving, nothing at all. He had to listen closely to be sure she was breathing. "You know, this is really boring and if you don't wake up soon, I'm gonna have to leave you here and go get your daughter to come and get you. 'Course, I won't be back to help her because she'll stake me on sight, well, right after I tell her that you're layin' unconscious in the floor of the art gallery. As much as I don't like this chip in m'head, I really don't fancy getting' dusted by the Slayer just to get it out. So, cut me some slack here. Help me out."

A quiet voice floated up from the general direction of his folded legs. "Do you always talk this much, Spike?"

"Only when I get really bored and have the Slayer's mum's head in m'lap," he half-grinned down at her. "What happened anyway?"

"Headache. Bad one."

"Took that long to pass, eh? Coulda saved you the trouble if you'd've asked."

"Somehow I don't think you'd live much longer if you killed me."

Spike snorted. "I wasn't talkin' about killin' you, love." He flashed a full vampire grin at her.

"What?" She looked truly confused for a minute as she sat up slowly. Then a look of realization passed over her face. "Oh. No, Spike. I don't think I'd ask you to do that."

Spike shrugged. "Suit yourself, pet. Vampire's not a bad life, well, unlife. Problem is, unless you ask me to do it, chip would fry my brain if I tried."

"That's very comforting." She put a hand to her head and closed her eyes for a moment.

Spike tilted his head to one side, looking at her with concern, afraid she might tumble over again. "Joyce?"

"Would you help me get home?" she asked, the words spilling from her mouth before she realized what she was saying.

"Um, sure, just, I'm not sure you could walk that far." He looked her over and was very sure that if they started walking he would be carrying her before they had walked a block, and it was several miles back to the Summers' residence. Sunnydale was small, but not that small.

She opened her eyes and gave him a semi-harsh glare. "You can drive me back. My car's out front. That is, if you don't mind."

"Not at all. Fact, I'd feel even worse if I made you drive yourself and something happened. Not to mention the royal ass-kickin' I'd get from both your daughters for it. No thanks on that front. Let's get you home."

"Thank you. I think." She let him help her stand and guide her to the car. Joyce watched as Spike made sure the gallery was locked up tight and the alarms were set and everything was in place.

When he got into the car, he looked her over and asked if she was okay.

"I'm fine. I'd just like to go home and rest now."

"As you wish." He gave as much of a mock-bow as he could from behind the steering wheel; it made her smile. He grinned back, then started the car and pulled away from the curb, driving much better than he had Giles' Citreon. This car handled much nicer than that one, and he was trying very hard not to do anything that might make Joyce feel worse. She seemed to be handling the ride well, but she looked a little wobbly and disoriented.

"You sure you're all right?" he asked, taking his eyes away from the road for a moment to look at her.

"Oh, yes. Just a small headache," she replied, closing her eyes and leaning her head back against the seat.

"You know I can't take you into the house."

"Oh, yes. That's okay. I can manage to get inside the house. That is, if you help me up the stairs." She still had her eyes closed and her head back. Spike was beginning to wonder if she had any idea what she was saying. It was making sense, but… he shook his head and focused on driving.

He pulled into the driveway at the Summers' house and looked around to be sure the Slayer was nowhere in sight. I really don't want to run into her if I don't have to. He climbed out of the vehicle, walked around to the passenger side and helped Joyce step down.

"Oh, thank you so much, young man," she commented, draping an arm around his shoulders.

Great, delusional mommy again. Joyce, please stay with me just a little longer and get into the house. Please?

"You bet." He supported her weight and kicked the car door shut, then walked her to the front porch and up the stairs. He sniffed the air to check for nearby Slayers or Scoobies or librarians. None. "Got a key, love? It opens the door."

"Here." She handed him her purse and wobbled a bit, leaning heavily on him to remain standing. "I’m really sorry, Spike. Sorry you got involved in this."

"Yeah. Look, I don’t much fancy goin' through your bag, so, if you could find the key, it'd be most appreciated." He held the purse up for her to fish the keys out of it for him.

As suddenly as she had slumped into her odd stupor, she snapped out of it and gave Spike a strange look like she could not understand why he was on the front porch. "Did you want to see Buffy?" she asked him, her brow wrinkled.

He shook his head. "Just makin' sure you got home all right. Wouldn't do for me to let Slayer's mum get in an accident."

"Oh. What were we talking about?" She took her purse back and began searching for her house keys.

"It's not important. You gonna be okay? I mean, I don't fancy meetin' up with the Slayer, but I'll sit out here 'til she gets back if you want. Just in case," he offered, his eyes soft, his voice low.

She smiled. "Thank you, Spike. But I think I'll be all right. I just need to take my medication. Buffy'll never know you were here. Or at the gallery." She pulled out her house keys and unlocked the door. "Take care of yourself, Spike. And promise me one thing."

He blinked and looked up at her.

"If anything happens to me, don't let anything happen to my babies."

He nodded, not at all sure why this woman would trust the lives of her children to a vampire, but he agreed anyway.

"Thank you." She smiled at him one more time, then pushed the front door closed.

Stunned at the most recent exchange of conversation between himself and the Slayer's mother, he could only blink and stare at the, now closed, door. What the hell just happened here? Did Slayer's mum just tell me to be a watchdog for her children? Because I'm not a babysitter.

"Spike, what are you doing here?" the Slayer's voice pentrated his thoughts and bore its way into his head.

He sighed and turned to face her, but kept his head low, not looking into her eyes. "Nothing. Just leaving."

"You knew I wasn't here. Did you do something to my mom?"

He shook his head. "No, Slayer. Haven't even seen your mum. Just got here. I’m gonna go." He started to descend the stairs, but stopped when Buffy snapped his name again. "Look, Slayer, I just want to go back to m'crypt. I won't bother you again."

She frowned. "Are you feeling all right? You look... sad," she stated iwth a grimace.

Without turning back to her, he asked, "What's wrong with your mum?"

"Huh? What? Nothing. She's fine," she replied in that tone that told him, 'no, everything was not fine, but she was going to pretend it was until he was out of sight, then she would start crying.'

"Seriously, Slayer," he turned over his shoulder and looked at her, "what's going on?"

"I thought you said you just got here." Buffy scowled at him.

"I lied. Sue me. Answer my question, please." The 'please' fell from his mouth before he could catch it, but it seemed to get him what he wanted.

Buffy sighed and sat on the top step of the front porch, her head low. "She's not doing well."

Spike sat beside her, nodding. "Yeah. So, what's up?"

"They're really not sure. There was a tumor and they thought they got it all, but maybe they missed some, or maybe it came back. We don't know. She's been in for tests and she's on medication, but I don't know if it's helping. God, why am I telling you any of this." She wiped at her eyes, trying to hide that that was what she was doing.

"I'm really sorry, Buffy. 'Bout your mum."

She glanced at him, tears streaking her face. "Thank you." She did not know what else to say, even to Spike.

He nodded. The silence stretched out between them for a long time. The cool wind blew past them, tossing Buffy's hair about her face, rustling the leaves of the two trees in the front yard. Thunder rumbled off in the distance and they both glanced to the sky, watching the rolling clouds as they covered the night sky.

"You want me to go?" Spike finally asked, still staring at the sky.

"Please. And don't come back." She stood up, turned and entered the house, leaving him sitting on the porch steps alone.

Spike turned over his shoulder and watched as the door closed, then pushed himself to his feet and slowly descended the stairs and made his way down the sidewalk to the street.