The Visitor – Chapter One

I hate hospitals. Buffy thought miserably as she splashed cool water on her face. The cramped and sterile interior of her mother's hospital room made her skin crawl and Buffy had jumped at the first chance to escape when Joyce had finally fallen asleep, making her way to the equally cramped and sterile bathroom down the hall.

As she walked back to her mother's room, Buffy thought over the day's events. Joyce's surgery went off without a hitch and the Summer's matriarch was expected to make a full and smooth recovery. Only an hour or so after surgery (a time which seemed infinitely longer to those who loved her) Joyce was awake and lucid, insisting that Buffy take Dawn home and get herself something to eat with the Scoobies.

After assuring that Tara and Willow would stay with Dawn until morning, the Slayer returned to Sunnydale General to spend the night at her mother's side. To say that Buffy was surprised to find a bouquet of fresh yellow roses displayed on Joyce's bedside table upon her return would be an understatement. When questioned about the beautiful flowers though, Joyce insisted that they were nothing more than a "Get Well" present from a friend and no amount of needling or pestering (not even Buffy's patented pout) could convince her to reveal her friend's identity.

It's probably that Brian guy, the one mom met at the gallery and she's just embarrassed to talk about it. Buffy thought, once again pondering who the mysterious rose giver could be.

Buffy was pull from her musings when she reached her mother's door and heard voices coming from the room. Peering around the doorjamb, she was relieved to see that it was only two nurses chatting quietly as they moved around Joyce's room making their rounds. She was about to make her presence known when she caught a strain of the nurses' conversation. Figuring that a little eavesdropping would do no harm to anyone, Buffy quickly ducked back out of sight.

"These are pretty." The older of the two women – who looked remarkably like Sunnydale High's old school nurse - said as she brushed her palm over one of Joyce's roses.

"Yeah," the younger woman, who Buffy recognized as the nurse who had attended to Joyce earlier in the evening, replied wistfully as she checked the various charts at the end of the adjustable hospital bed, "she is one lucky lady."

"What makes you say that? They're just flowers, what's so lucky about flowers?" The older nurse questioned.

"You didn't see the guy who brought her those flowers, did you Donna?" The younger nurse retorted. The other nurse, who Buffy now knew was named Donna and who seemed to be simply monitoring what her younger counterpart was doing, shook her head negatively. "Well I did when he popped in to drop those roses off. And any woman who lands a man that looks like he does is lucky."

Now Buffy was intrigued. Her mother had talked about Brian on a few occasions, but she had never alluded to the fact that he was even remotely drool worthy. And when Buffy asked for a description, Joyce had simply said that Brian was "nice looking."

"What was so special about him, Janie?" Donna asked. She was standing idly by the side of the bed, absentmindedly playing with one of the roses' petals while her coworker tinkered with one of the many beeping machines placed around the room.

"Well, I don't think he wanted anyone to see him for one thing, 'cause he waited until all her other visitors left before he snuck in here. Plus, he had that whole 'bad boy' thing going for him, you know what I mean?" At Donna's blank look, Nurse Janie elaborated. "He was wearin' all black: black boots, black jeans, black tee-shirt. Plus, he had on this long black leather coat that hung down past his knees."

Bad boy thing? What? Buffy was perplexed. Since when has mom liked bad boys? An unwanted image of Joyce lying sprawled on a cop car next to a greaser-styled Giles popped into the Slayer's head before she could stop it. Oh right, she groused, my mother's always liked bad boys.

"That doesn't sound too extraordinary to me," Donna interjected, drawing Buffy's attention back to the pair in the room with Joyce, "it sounds like he's some kind of hood."

"Trust me, this guy was no hood. He was way too gorgeous. All high cheekbones and toned biceps." Nurse Janie's eyes glazed over as she reminisced about Joyce's visitor. "Oh, and he had the sexiest blue eyes I've ever seen."

High cheekbones and sexy blue eyes? Buffy thought. Maybe I should ask mom if this guy has a brother! Buffy was so lost in her own ruminations that it took her a moment to realize that her mother's attendants had started talking again.

"Sounds like you're in love." Donna said, chuckling at the slightly dazed expression on Janie's face.

"Huh? What do you mean?" Janie asked as she adjusted Joyce's bed.

"The way you're talking about this guy, you sound like you're in love."

"Actually, aside from his drop dead gorgeousness, he wasn't really my type." Janie finished fiddling with the bed controls and stepped back to check her handiwork.

"Oh really?" Donna questioned disbelievingly.

"Yes 'oh really'." Janie replied huffily. "He was pale and had blonde hair. And I'm talkin' bright blonde, like he bleached it or something. I prefer my men tall, dark, and tan."

Wait a second…Something about Nurse Janie's description of her mother's mystery visitor was tickling at the back of Buffy's brain. A pale, bleached blonde guy with blue eyes and who was wearing all black clothing…Why does that sound familiar…

"SPIKE!" Buffy said out loud, startling the two nursed who had been oblivious to her presence outside the door.

"I'm sorry, miss. Visiting hours are over for tonight, but you can come back tomorrow if you like." Nurse Donna said kindly once she recovered from her initial shock.

"It's alright, Donna. This is Mrs. Summer's daughter, she's staying here tonight." Janie moved to stand next to the older women. She turned to address Buffy directly, "We'll get out of your hair now, Miss Summers."

For a moment Buffy stood completely still, trying to process the fact that Spike - evil, soulless, pain-in-her-ass Spike – had brought her mother roses. Actually, she reasoned, he probably stole the flowers. Or maybe it wasn't even Spike at all. Who knows how many bleached blonde, blue-eyed guys dressed all in black there are running around the Hellmouth? It wasn't until the other two conscious occupants of the room moved towards the door that the Slayer snapped out of her daze.

"Wait!" Buffy called when she realized the only witness to Spike's supposed visit was about to leave the room. "The man, the one who brought my mom the roses…did he have a British accent?" Janie looked confused for a moment before Buffy's question seemed to register in the nurse's mind.

"I don't know." Janie said confusedly. "I think he must be really shy 'cause the poor thing clammed up as soon as I came into the room."

"Did…Did you happen to hear anything my mom said to him?" Buffy asked, desperate to know why Spike would be paying a visit to her recovering mother. Janie hesitated briefly, clearly not wanting to seem as though she'd been eavesdropping on Joyce's conversation.

"Well," she began haltingly, "I did hear her asking him to promise her something."

"Promise her what?" Buffy spared a quick glace to her sleeping mother, wondering what her she could possibly need a soulless vamp to make a promise about.

"She asked him to protect you and your sister, asked him to promise that he wouldn't leave Sunnydale no matter what you said to him. She told him that you…that you needed him even if you'd never admit it."

"Oh," Buffy said softly, "Thank-you."

"You're welcome, Miss Summers. And I really didn't mean to listen in…" Janie trailed off uncertainly, confused by the perplexed look on Buffy's face.

"That's alright." Buffy said distractedly, "No harm done, right?" The nurses made their exits, leaving Buffy alone with her thoughts.

Mom thinks I need Spike? She wondered, settling onto the small cot the hospital provided for her stay. Why would I ever need Spike? So he stayed with me after I found out mom was sick, that doesn't mean anything. Anyone could have comforted me, Spike was just convenient…right?