disclaimer: unfortunately i don't own buffy, sad but true. maybe if i wish hard enough for xmas i'll get lucky.

a/n:well this story has been bugging me for a while. i've attempted to write it several times until i came up with this. buffy left with spike at the end of season 2 (i know so been done before but what can i say?) unfortunate (or fortunate-depends how you look at it) side affects of a curse and a persistant vampire have them back in sunnydale...

Prologue

The package arrived ten days after Buffy's eighteenth birthday. They'd celebrated it even though she wasn't there. They celebrated to remember her and hope that wherever she was, she was alive and well. Joyce appreciated the thought behind it but it didn't make up for the fact that she hadn't seen her daughter in months. They had dinner and then moved to the living room where Willow, Giles and Xander updated her on their attempts to slay in Buffy's place. Sometimes she wished she was out there helping them but mostly she just wished her daughter was home and that she didn't have to think about the things that go bump in the night.

The package was hand delivered by a very nervous looking, floppy skinned demon. Joyce never even got the chance to freak out before the package was shoved into her hands and the demon fled with a cheerful wave. Everything Giles had ever told her was telling her she shouldn't open the package but the open demon delivery had her skeptical. If you were going to deliver a sinister package do it in a less suspicious way. She opened the package.

It was a box roughly the size of a shoe box, wrapped in simple brown paper. There was no return address but the post mark was from somewhere in Germany. She opened it slowly afraid it might be dangerous. What she found was nothing of the sort. The box contained a single envelope and a small black photo album. She opened the envelope first. It contained a single piece of white card with one simple sentence written in black ink.

She's safe and happy.

Joyce froze for a moment as she reread the words. She dropped the card and reached for the album with shaky hands. She knew what she would find and she was both nervous and excited. With tears forming in her eyes she opened the album. Staring back at her from the first page was Buffy, her daughter looking indeed happy and safe. She was standing in front of a banner that read "happy birthday slayer" and wearing a party hat that said birthday girl. She had a huge smile on her face and was holding up a bottle of vodka. Joyce felt like a weight had been lifted, like for the first time in months she could breathe properly. Buffy was alive and she looked happy. Feeling somewhat relieved she turned the page. There was photo after photo from her birthday party, some of her dancing, some of her sitting at a table with two other women laughing and drinking. After the party photo's came what appeared to be the morning after. There were photos of the two women looking a little worse for ware as they were flopped on a couch. There was one of Buffy lying on her stomach in bed in her pajamas smiling at whoever was taking the photos.

The ones that really got her thinking were the ones showing Buffy smiling and lying in bed next to a bleached blond Joyce recognized. Spike was quite obviously asleep and Buffy was snuggled up in his arms, back pressed against his chest. If the way her lips were in the photo was any indication she was having a conversation with the person behind the camera. Just as she was starting to get worried again for her daughter's safety, she was after all in the company of a vampire who had killed two slayers in his time, she flipped to the last photos in the album. It was just a single photo of Buffy standing on a balcony overlooking a city Joyce didn't recognize but Joyce breathed a huge sigh of relief. Buffy was standing in the sun.

Joyce could feel the tears slipping down her cheeks but for the first time in a long time they were happy tears.