Visiting Hours by Djinn

Joyce woke slowly. There was someone in her room. She looked over and saw him sitting quietly in the chair. "How long have you been here?"

"Not long," he leaned toward her, took the hand she held out to him.

She smiled at the sound of his dear voice, the familiar British accent. She saw his shy smile, the way he looked down. She let go of his hand and pushed herself up against the pillows. "You don't have to come, you know."

"I know. I just wanted to make sure you were ok. Oh, and I brought you something." He dug into a white paper bag. "Decaf mocha, from the Espresso Pump. Figured you might be wanting one of these about now."

She smiled as she pulled off the lid, took a tentative taste. "Ummm. Heaven. You're going to spoil me."

"Seems to me you've earned it." He leaned back. "I heard you're going home tomorrow. Buffy will be relieved."

"She's been amazing through this."

"She has."

Joyce frowned. "She was so distant tonight though. I'm worried about her." She looked at him accusingly. "Do you know what's wrong."

"She'll tell you when she's ready." He looked faintly guilty. "I haven't done a very good job of watching over her. I know I told you I would, but I've just made things worse."

"You have her best interest at heart. I know how much you care for her." She studied the man across from her. Theirs had been a rocky relationship. First she had hated him for trying to hurt her daughter. Then, as she came to know him, she realized he would never hurt Buffy. That she meant the world to him and he would defy all convention to protect her. She suspected that he would even die for her if need be. She trusted him with her daughter. But they had also forged a friendship of their own. One that nobody else knew about because they kept it private, between themselves.

"I haven't seen Riley around." Joyce watched his face turn to stone. "That's what's wrong isn't it? Riley."

"Could be." He seemed desperate to change the subject. "Your hair looks ok.I mean they didn't take much."

She reached up to the bandage self-consciously. "Buffy brought me a wig, but I don't think I need it."

"You don't. You look good."

She smiled. "You'd say that if I looked like the creature from the black lagoon."

He grinned. "You know his ugliness wasn't so bad once you got to know him."

Her smile widened. "Right."

"That didn't come out quite the way I meant it." He ran his hand over his hair, which was perfect as usual. Why did he do that, she wondered, nervous affectation or just the fear that he wouldn't look quite right?

"Getting back to Buffy," she shifted in bed so she could see him better. "Did she break up with Riley? Because they didn't seem to be getting along very well."

"Can't hide anything from you, Joyce." He got up and began to pace.

"You never really liked him did you?"

He turned, paced back to the chair. "Never really thought he was good enough for her."

"You'll laugh at me for saying this. I mean I'm her mother, I should have been thrilled to see her with such a nice guy. But he always seemed a bit tame for her."

"You know her too well, Joyce."

"Or maybe I just know myself. She's a lot like me, even if I never haunted cemeteries waiting to poke a sharp stick in some demon's heart."

"Don't knock that, it's highly underrated, you know." He smiled mischievously at her.

She gave him a knowing smirk. "I'm sure it is." She yawned.

"I'd better be going. Don't want to tire you out before your big release day." He held out his hand. "Best give me the cup, can't leave evidence just lying around."

"She grinned at him. "Wouldn't want to get caught."

"Not when we've been so careful." He leaned over her, giving her a quick kiss on the forehead. Then he took his coat from the back of the chair, pulled it on.

She looked at the black leather enviously. "I want a coat like that."

"You've got to work years for the bad buys before you get a coat like this." He laughed. "Ok, well I've gotta go cause havoc, mayhem, you know," he held his hands up in a threatening way, changed to his vamp face. "Grrrr."

She just laughed. "Right, well you go do that."

His face changed back and he nodded. "Or maybe I'll just go make sure that Buffy is safe."

"That would probably be a much better activity." She smiled at him fondly. "Good night, Spike. Thanks for coming to see me." Suddenly very tired, she leaned back, closed her eyes.

"Good night, Joyce." He didn't leave until her breathing became the deep peaceful rhythm of sleep.

FIN