Written for the 2013 Circle of Friends Remix
Author: M. Scott Eiland
Summary: Spike mourns, and someone is listening.
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Rating: T, for themes
Disclaimer: Still not mine—all hail Joss and the other Powers That Own the Buffyverse.
Original Story: “Like A Stone,” by Evil_Little_Dog
She waits, and she listens. There isn't much else for her to do, since she died and found herself looking at the smiling face of a woman she had never actually met, but instantly recognized—she'd seen that photo on Rupert's desk far too many times not to recognize Jenny Calendar on sight. The deceased cyberpagan had offered her a choice—go on to her reward, or linger to see what was happening to those she loved, until the last of those she had close ties to passed away. She had considered the choice briefly—including Jenny's warning that being able to observe but do nothing could be agonizing at times—then chosen to stay. Jenny had smiled and said that she would look in on Joyce from time to time—having made the same choice herself three years before—and vanished. Joyce's first sight as an observing spirit was the chaos of the Summers living room as the paramedics made their brief, doomed effort to revive her body, and the sight of Buffy staring dully in complete shock as her world came crashing down around her.
She learned much about being a ghost in those moments—even with the lack of a body and its familiar reactions to emotion, the pain still stabbed at her as she saw the people she had cared about so much react to her death, then prepared to say good-bye to her.
The service was appropriately solemn, and Joyce could see Buffy strain to hold herself together for Dawn's sake, and that Dawn was still far from being all right. I hope the others are paying attention—Dawn's independent minded enough to do something foolish while Buffy is preoccupied dealing with the aftermath
The service ended, and Buffy lingered at the grave site, staring at the headstone as the sun set. Joyce moved closer and just watched her stand in silence as the darkness deepened. She was startled when a figure slipped out of the shadows and found herself frowning as she recognized Angel.
Angel apologized for not being able to come sooner, and held Buffy's hand as they talked quietly. After a few moment, the intensity between the two of them grew, and they kissed. Joyce tensed—her memories of what she had been told about how it had gone down between the two of them combining with what she had witnessed and the memory of her own trip to his home to quietly urge him to take the initiative in ending things forever between them for her own good—and she felt a moment of helplessness as the kiss intensified. . .and then it was over, with the two of them separating with rueful expressions and muttered apologies. They parted and left the grave site a few moments later, and Joyce was preparing to return to the Summers home when she saw another shadowy figure come out of the trees and approach her grave. She took a sudden breath that she did not truly need when she saw it was Spike, carrying a bouquet of flowers that she identified as mixed zinnias—the traditional choice for acknowledging an absent friend. He crouched at the side of the grave and carefully laid the flowers down as he whispered, “Hello, Joyce.”
Joyce watched, suspecting that she would be at a loss for words even if she was capable to speaking to a living person at that moment. I thought that he'd blame me for letting Buffy ban him from the house and never give me another thought. She moved until she could clearly see the expression on his face, and the grief was obvious, without any realization on his part that anyone could perceive it. After a few moments, he started speaking quietly, and she moved closer to hear what he was saying.
“Sorry I couldn't make the service—thought that turning into a flaming pile of dust might have been bad for the dignity of the whole thing.” Joyce discovered that she could laugh at that moment, and composed herself as Spike continued, “Sorry that whole blowup with Buffy a while back made you take away the Welcome sign for me. Would have been nice to see you a few more times before. . .it happened. My fault, not yours—or hers.”
Joyce tried to be angry—she pointedly reviewed in her mind all of the times that Spike had tried to kill Buffy over the years, all of the other terrible things that she knew he had done even after moving to Sunnydale, and she reminded herself that given Buffy's history with Angel, she was not being irrational in the slightest in thinking that his falling in love with Buffy might actually have been worse for her than his murder attempts. Unfortunately, watching him there with the dejected yet focused expression on his face reminded her of the many times he had sat in her living room, sipping at the warm cup with its little marshmallows floating in it while he told her about something from his past, or complained about a setback suffered by Manchester United, or reacting to her mention of a new piece of art in the gallery by noting that he had seen other pieces by that same artist hanging in the Louvre back in the 1930's. On some levels he's so basic, then he reveals a layer, then another—it's easy to forget that he's, well, an undead monster with a computer chip in his head.
Joyce had talked to the others many times about the things they helped Buffy fight—and occasionally had to fight on their own—and came to the conclusion that most vampires weren't exactly the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree. Probably why most of them end up as minions once a smarter and more powerful one comes to town—without someone telling them what to do they're easy pickings for Buffy or whoever the current Slayer is. Some broke the mold—she still shuddered at the memory of Kralik, and the stories she heard from the others about Drusilla were downright terrifying—and her brief encounter with Angelus was, she admitted to herself, a good part of the reason that she disliked Angel quite aside from not wanting her daughter anywhere near him. Spike was—until the chip crippled him—very, very dangerous, but in a different way from the other vampires she was aware of. He wasn't straining against a conscience, wasn't an almost mindless creature that only cared about feeding, and certainly didn't seem to want to rule or destroy the world. After Spike had been barred from the Summers house, she had actually asked Buffy directly, “What makes him different, Buffy? What makes a soulless vampire fall in love with you?”
Buffy had looked at her and obviously took a moment to consider the question seriously before answering with an exasperated expression, “I've been trying to figure that out for three years now, Mom—when I figure it out I'll let you know.”
Joyce smiled at the memory and listened to Spike again as he continued to speak softly: “I'm probably the last person you want around your daughters, but this town is a dangerous place, and with Glory gunning for Buffy it's going to get more dangerous. Slayer would probably be thrilled if I took a powder at this point, but I'm not leaving.” He paused, and the determination made his tone harsh as he added, “I couldn't protect you, but I'll do my best to protect them—and maybe when we put that bitch Glory in the ground Buffy will make us some of those cuppas with little marshmallows and we'll talk about what you would have thought of it all.” He stood up, nodded at the grave, and whispered, “Safe journeys, friend.” He slipped into the shadows and vanished, and Joyce watched him go.
She looked back at the grave and sighed. I have a feeling it will be a long fight before you all get to have that cuppa, Spike—but I have a hunch that you'll be there for it when it happens. She turned and looked out into the darkness, in the direction of the Summers house. Her daughters were there, and for now her focus would be there as well.
As always, comments are welcomed and desired.
Remix Author's comment: Spike/Joyce interaction is always fun, even if it always involved a little willing suspension of disbelief. Aside from the source material, I used the opportunity to play around a little more with the pseudo-AU I've been building out of “We Wait” (which postulated that Jenny, Joyce, and Tara ended up as observing spirits in Sunnydale after their deaths—which obviously would not have been fun for any of them). Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that Joyce got along with Spike for the same reason a lot of fans like Spike—when he's not trying to murder people or otherwise annoy them he's actually rather interesting to have around (as one might expect from a 120+ year old who has seen and done a lot of things and yet remains contemporary enough to interact with the modern world). It's easy to see how Joyce might enjoy sitting down and talking with him once he stopped trying to kill her daughter in her line of sight, though one suspects that the notorious Sunnydale “Nothing To See Here” Effect probably helped things along.
My thanks to Evil_Little_Dog for providing a lovely story for me to Remix.