Pet by the Emperor's Sister

Joyce was at her wits end. She couldn't believe it. Her baby. Her sweet, innocent little girl. She was going to die. True it wouldn't happen right away. Buffy had a few more years, or so she hoped. But it would happen, and it was more than likely to be violent, and painful, and at the hands of some monster.

An honest to God, real live monster.

All because her baby girl was a slayer. She had been 'Chosen', like it not and she most assuredly did not, to go out every night, alone, and face all sorts of horrible bloodthirsty creatures. Buffy was supposed to kill these fantastical demons until one of them killed her. Then it would be some other poor little girl's cruel destiny.

The few sips of dark coffee Joyce had managed to swallow curdled in her stomach. Here she was, sitting in a quiet little corner café, by herself. She was nursing a cup that she had purchased some time ago, and had yet to realize that it had long since gone cold. She was too busy trying to deal.

Buffy was being released tomorrow. She would be coming home from the sanatorium and Joyce had no idea what to do, or how to respond to her only child. When Buffy had told them of her calling, Hank had thought she was crazy. To be honest, so did Joyce. Even though that scruffy Englishman had twice before warned them about Buffy's destiny, they still went ahead and had her committed. Joyce confessed that it was not the best way to handle the problem, but then everything at the time was spiraling out of control. Her drinking, Hank's affairs, their fighting, the divorce. It was all too much and Buffy was the one who paid the price.

Buffy's calling had broken the proverbial camel.

Forewarned is never forearmed in real life. Back when Buffy had been only an innocent six year old, the scruffy 'Watcher' had come to them in the park and insisted that her baby had 'Potential'. They had written him off as some loony child pervert. To this day she is still stunned at how the policeman they had complained to simply spoke a little to the Englishman then let him be. The second time he visited it had been the morning after Buffy had left for school. He told them she had been 'Called'; they told him not too politely to go away. He was dead now; Buffy said he had been killed by vampires.

It wasn't just him; Buffy's doctor at the asylum had also told her that everything her daughter had been saying was true. The doctor had even had the audacity to exclaim that it had been good to have Buffy committed as she had taken care of a little demon problem at the hospital. That coupled with a stern letter of reprimand from the 'Council of Watchers' in merry old England, Joyce was faced with the dire task of having to believe. Even when it meant that Buffy's days were numbered. Joyce couldn't go back to ignoring the issue. She refused to force her daughter to suffer, alone, anymore.

She hated the cold nauseating feeling of helplessness that seemed to claw into her flesh and bones.

Eventually she got up and tossed out her coffee cup. 'Maybe a bit of fresh air will help'. She buttoned her jacket and braved the great outdoors. The weather was fairly temperate but the wind was brisk when it chose to be. Even so she left her car and marched down the next few blocks with purpose.

Soon enough her steps slowed to a stop, leaving her leaning desolate against the nearest store front. She must have stayed there for a few hours, reining in tears, before a small sign in the window came into focus. She had been staring sightlessly for some time before the words seeped into her brain.

'… protecting your loved ones since …'

'Protect? Buffy.' Joyce mused in confusion. Looking up she saw the name of the store that had been holding her up.

'Exotic/Specialty Pets & Companions' Joyce read 'Why stop here?', but she entered the establishment anyway. Inside she saw notices for special breeds, like Afghan hounds, and others for Seeing Eye and Hearing Ear work animals. She didn't leave though, for some reason she kept seeing that phrase 'protecting your loved ones'. Could there possibly been some beast for sale that she could get to protect her baby? Against demons?

"Can I help you?"

Joyce turned to meet the shopkeeper. The woman was of an indefinite age, olive skinned, and must have been taller than any female had ever met. She could have been an Amazon in another life, if not for her eyes, which seemed loving and kind as well as shrewd and calculating.

"I don't know." Joyce told her.

"Perhaps if you explained your situation we can see what can be done."

Joyce did, or at least she tried. "My little girl, she just turned fifteen not too long ago. Still just a baby… she's a slayer. She has to fight these monsters, and demons all by herself, but she's just a little girl." She stammered but pressed on, hoping she wasn't sounding as completely insane as she thought. "She's going to get … I can't… I would pay anything, Do anything to keep my baby safe. I'm sorry that it sounds crazy, but I just didn't know, and your sign said protecting loved ones, and there is no one I could possibly love more than her."

"I understand," the woman nodded, patting Joyce's shoulder softly. "I may have something for you. Please come this way."

The shop girl lead the way down a long hallway that stopped at the top of what appeared to be the basement stairs.

"Now Mrs. .. err?"

"Summers. Joyce Summers."

"Mrs. Summers." She smiled, filling Joyce with a sense of relief. "Down here we store our more special and dare I say exotic companions. As you said earlier how you were willing to pay and do anything, there is someone in particular I would like you to meet. Are you still willing?"

"Yes. Please." Joyce answered desperately.

The two women entered the lower level filled with what appeared to be Star Trek-like holding cells. Residing within each pen were beings and creatures beyond description. They didn't stop until they reached the very last enclosure. Joyce addressed her attention to the occupant and was startled. Within the confines paced a handsome young man, dressed all in black from head to toe. His hair was a shockingly unnatural white, with a small diagonal scar above his right eye. He had a devilish smirk when he saw them, but his cobalt eyes were cold and angry. He radiated with the aura of a caged wild cat ornery and intrigued.

"This is Spike." The shopkeeper said. "He's a vampire."

Joyce was astounded. 'This is what Buffy had to slay every night? Oh my. Seems almost a waste.'

"Now he isn't your average vampire." The shopkeeper continued. "He's the youngest Master Vampire in written history, plus one of the monikers he holds is 'the Slayer of Slayers', for his victory over two of the more promising Slayers ever called. Accomplished no less in a fair, one on one, death match. Spike I'd like you to meet Mrs. Joyce Summers. She's looking to buy you for her daughter."

"H.. hello Spike." The vampire nodded in greeting.

"Perhaps Mrs. Summers, you could tell Spike here your story."

Joyce did though she couldn't say why. Perhaps she felt in her heart that this man, this vampire named Spike, for some reason would understand. So she told him all about Buffy Anne Summers. When she was born: the date, time, how much she weighed, and her first words. About her Dorothy Hammel phase, and ice-capade birthday tradition. About her own marriage to Hank and subsequent divorce. About all the warnings they had received about Slayers, and about Buffy being committed. She told him of their mistakes, her drinking, and even about the time Buffy fell in love with Mr. Gordo, her stuffed pig. She talked about Buffy's cheerleading, ignoring how Spike's eyes lit up with mischief. She mentioned how Buffy burned down the school gym whilst killing vampires and her resulting expulsion, and heard him giggle with interest. Joyce told Spike everything and anything, going so far as to burrowing into her purse to show him photos that she kept in her wallet. She talked of her hopes and fears, especially her fears.

"This is Buffy, my baby girl, Spike. My world." Joyce confessed. "Nothing else matters to me. Not where and how we live. Not society. Not money. Not people, monsters, or councils in England matter one bit. Only Buffy matters."

"So you want me to what? Be her lil doggie then." He snarked in a brash British accent.

"I want you to keep her alive." She stated.

The shopkeeper chose that moment to regain their attention. "The reason I wanted you to see Spike here, Mrs. Summers, is this. Slayers are notoriously short lived, we all know this, and I have to say that your daughter will be no exception. However, what is not common knowledge is that at the core of every Slayer lies the pure essence of a demon's soul, put there at their creation. That extra spark of darkness is what gives the girl's their power."

"It is only an essence of demon within them, so all slayers are in fact completely human. What I am proposing to you madam is, with the purchase of Spike, we perform a ritual that will allow us to contact or harness that demonic spark inside your daughter. This ritual will do more than give her a chance at survival, but a chance at living a relatively normal life."

"What is this ritual and how is Spike needed?"

"It is an ancient binding ceremony that would tie Buffy's demonic essence and Spike's demon together."

"Oi!" Spike snarled in complaint. His face shifted before Joyce's surprised eyes, bursting forth with golden eyed and sharp fanged fury.

'Oh. That's a vampire.' Joyce thought fearfully.

"Quiet Spike." The shopkeeper scolded.

"Now the ritual is a lot like a mating claim."

"A Claim?"

"Think of it like a marriage…"

"S'more permanent than that pet." Spike spat.

"Spike!" the woman scolded again. "As I was saying. It is like a marriage, like a hand fasting ceremony except like Spike so rudely inferred it is quite permanent. There would be no divorce, no annulment, not even a 'till death do they part'."

"I don't' know." Joyce hedged. "What about love? What if Buffy doesn't even like him? Or vice-versa? I do not like th idea of my little girl trapped in a loveless existence."

"Rest assured that that will not be the case Mrs. Summers." The shopkeeper replied with the speed and confidence all retail associates had when dealing with the possibility of a lost sale. "The binding cannot occur unless both individuals agree. And I have a feeling that these two were made by the Powers That Be, especially for each other."

"There are many advantages to the claiming ritual." She pressed on, as Joyce seemed to take her words to heart. "Being bound to a creature of Spike's characteristics, your daughter will become stronger, faster, and be practically immortal. All these things while remaining human. She will never be alone again, as Spike will forever be at her side. She will be loved, Mrs. Summers, as Spike has an unending capacity for it unlike others of his ilk. She will be respected and cherished, for as much as he would prefer to appear otherwise, Spike is and always will be the Victorian gentleman his mother raised him to be. She will also be supported and satisfied by him in ways no other man ever could."

"No one?"

"As a slayer… no as a young woman with incredible strengths and desires, normal human males would be intimidated and insecure in her presence. They would ultimately discourage her potential and be physically unable to satisfy her needs." She clarified. "In the end your daughter would suffer crippling emotional traumas that would…"

"Kill her." Spike concluded.

"Yes, thank you Spike." She sighed in exasperation. "Just imagine, Mrs. Summers. Being married to Spike she would be spared such hardships. She would continue to grow and even be able to bare children should she choose. With Spike, she would never become feeble, never get sick, and never die a terrifyingly horrible death."

Joyce nodded. This is what she had been wanting all along after all. Spike seemed like a perfectly amiable young vampire.

The shopkeeper grinned at Joyce. "Of course I cannot guarantee that she will not get sick of Spike here. He does have an infallible ability to be as annoying at times as he is charming. Where he lacks in the ability to perform thrall like other vampires of his lineage, he more than makes up for with his bizarre form of vampire ADD." She teased.

"I do not have sodding ADD!" Spike whined, rising to the bait. "I just get bored easily. Doesn't help being all locked up like this, without so much as a telly."

Joyce smiled for the first time in a long while. 'Pouting vampire! He's perfect!' She thought as a small seed of hope began to plant itself inside her. "So he can really save my baby."

"He can, Mrs. Summers."

Joyce looked Spike carefully in the eyes. "Will you?"

The bleached blonde vampire tilted his head to the side as he considered her proposition. With a quirk of an eyebrow he replied.

"Yeah mum. I will."

And the seed bloomed.