Why couldn't she kill him?
Buffy glared at Spike and he glared back with equal animosity. Behind her in Giles' kitchen, Willow was putting away the dishes that she and Buffy had washed after Buffy's mostly successful Thanksgiving dinner. Giles had gone out to get Spike some blood from a butcher's that was open late, and Xander and Anya had already gone home. That just left this unwanted guest.
She should have killed him the minute they opened the door and saw him standing there with his ragged blanket and his insane request for sanctuary. Wouldn't even have had to stake him. One tug on that blanket. That was all it would have taken. Poof! Instant soup mix. Problem solved.
Why hadn't she done it? Why had she let him in? He had come to them in seething hatred. He had said that himself. He was dangerous, treacherous, would kill them as soon as look at them, wanted to desperately. Just look at the way he was glowering at her right now, his eyes slitted with the same cold dislike with which she was regarding him.
Except he couldn't kill anyone, could he? Still evil, but currently suffering from an inability to perform, as Willow could testify. Buffy snickered and Spike gave her a deadly look, knowing full well what she was thinking about.
How are the mighty fallen! Poor Spike, so pitiful now. Can't feed, can't protect himself, can't even bond. Hadn't even been able to snow Harmony, of all people. Buffy had been able to read between the lines of the little—the very little—that he had told them about why Harmony had refused to take him in. Yeah, poor, poor Spike. How he deserved it!
Except...somehow he had gotten the better of her.
Spike's going down. So not.
A breathtaking gamble on his part, if one thought about it. Would any other demon be so demented as to throw himself on the mercy of the Slayer—his mortal enemy, someone whose duty it was to kill him? Cast aside his arrogance and his pride, humble himself so completely that she could not refuse to let him in.
How often had they set out to kill each other? And somehow never did. He was evil, but she knew him. Was...comfortable with him. Made pacts with him. Invited him into the house and even left him alone with her mother while she went off to make telephone calls. Had trusted him even at his worst.
And he had proven he could be trusted.
So she could do nothing but invite him in. Over the threshold. Inside. And now, the laws of hospitality applied. Tied up in his chair, he was a guest. She could not harm him.
A survivor, that was Spike. Angel—of his own volition—standing outside in the cold, alone in the bushes by choice. Spike—of his own volition—coming in from the cold and, despite being tied up, still ending up sitting at the table for Thanksgiving dinner, amidst all her friends, somehow included in the extended family that she had created. How had that happened?
She studied him thoughtfully. He was pale, paler than she had ever seen him, his eyes sunken and red-rimmed, lips chapped, veins showing blue where the skin over the strong, prominent bones had gone thin and fragile from dehydration. She felt a moment's compunction. It had been cruel to make him wait to be fed. If he had been human, would she have reacted that way? No. She would have found something for him right away. But, caught up in her preoccupation with getting everything perfect for Thanksgiving, she had discounted his requests for blood, thinking it was only his usual insistence on causing as much trouble as he could. But now she saw that he really needed it. She hoped that Giles would hurry, so that she could stop feeling guilty.
What was it in Spike that made him choose to come to the door of his worst enemy and make himself so completely vulnerable to her, whatever it cost him?
"Warrior," she said aloud suddenly.
"What?" said Spike, bewildered by this apparent non sequitur.
"Willow was saying something like that about that Red Indian vengeance spirit," Buffy muttered, caught up in her own thoughts and not paying attention.
"Native American," corrected Spike and smirked at her.
"Whatever." Buffy waved a hand in exasperation. "Haven't we been round and round that all night? Enough already."
"Hey, you and Willow were the ones who..."
"'To a warrior, the leader means the strongest fighter.'"
Buffy wasn't listening. That was why he had done it, why he had chosen to cross that invisible, uncrossable line. Still a demon, still evil. But the warrior in him, who would fight if he could, had recognized and chosen to submit to the strongest fighter, to the leader he could respect and trust to use him properly.
At the end of that fight with the Chumash, what had he said? 'What happened? Did we win?'
'We.' Right there. Right there was when things had changed. He had switched loyalties.
Trust him? Not really. Yes and no. The way all her dealings with Spike had been. Always ambiguous, always a puzzle.
But she thought she could see where he was coming from. He could be useful. If she were wise enough to use him properly.
And he didn't trust her either, not really, not completely. He had done it all instinctively, without thinking, just as she had taken him in instinctively, without thinking. Even surrendering himself to her use, he would still fight her every step of the way. Both of them had reason for distrust, she saw now. She, because of what he was—vampire, killer, soulless. He, because she was the Slayer and had so far seen everything in terms of black and white. And neither of them was very good at trusting. Both of them had been betrayed by those they trusted.
Time to grow up, Buffy. A knife could cut, was dangerous; but was useful in both offence and defence. One just had to know how to use it.
"You know who are the real indigenous people?" he was saying. "Demons."
She blinked at him in surprise. "What?"
"Demons were here first. Even your Watchers agree to that. Then you humans came. Took it away."
Now there was a weird perspective.
"Don't get to call it yours unless you're winning," he said sadly. "Demons lost. Didn't get any grants, golden handshakes or politically correct phrases to be called. Just get exterminated. And we're the original Native Americans."
She stared at him, her mouth open.
He grinned at her suddenly. "Got you."
He was so damned exasperating! "You are such a...!"
"And proud of it."
Giles came in with a bag from the butcher's, presumably full of blood packages, and a burlap sack that clanked.
"Oh, thank God! I'm bloody starving here!" Spike exclaimed. "There you were, stuffing your gobs, and me without a drop of anything, not even brandy! Heat it up quick, Watcher. Ninety-eight point..."
"You've got a nerve," groaned Buffy. He did, making himself at home like that, just taking over everything, ordering Giles about in his own house, damn near terminally annoying. "What's in the sack, Giles?"
"Chains. He can't sleep in that chair and I'm not going to bloody well sleep if he's loose. We can chain him up in the bathtub and he can sleep there."
"Sounds like a plan. But where did you get the chains?"
"Angel's old mansion."
"Oh." She didn't want to think about Angel tonight. She was still too angry at him.
He had come to watch over her, but hadn't told her directly about his friend Doyle's vision that she was in danger, hadn't let either Giles or Willow tell her about his presence, all for fear that she wouldn't be able to handle it, that the distraction would put her in greater danger. Which might all sound good and caring. But, essentially, he was treating her like a child again, not trusting her to react with maturity and competence. Once again, he had made a unilateral decision about what was best for her. By withholding information from her like that, he had been—again!—dominating and controlling the situation.
She saw Spike grinning at her, his scarred eyebrow raised provokingly. He knew how furious she was. Of course, he would. Damn him!
Giles had poured some blood into a mug and was heating it in the microwave. Buffy went behind Spike and cut his hands free so that he would be able to hold the mug, but left the ropes around his chest and arms that tied him to the chair just as they were. The microwave dinged and Giles retrieved the mug, then brought it over.
Spike took it in one hand at first, then quickly caught it with both hands. Buffy noticed the way the mug shook when he held it with just one hand; he was that weak. He glanced sideways at her in embarrassment, then drank with his eyelids dropped to hide his eyes. It wasn't the fact that they were watching him drink blood that bothered him, as it bothered Angel. Spike had no qualms about that and never tried to hide his nature. What bothered him was his weakness and that they might have seen it.
He drank it quickly in shuddering gulps, then sat for a moment with his eyes closed and his lips parted, just breathing. She hadn't realized how vibratingly tense he had been until now, when the tension ran out of his body and he relaxed. All that cocky, defiant attitude had only been a cover-up. He hadn't really believed that they would let him live, provide him with the sustenance that he needed.
She felt an unwilling compassion for him, bit it back.
"Want some more?" Giles asked and she saw that he was feeling the same way.
"Yeah, mate, thanks. But give it another thirty seconds," he called as Giles took the mug and went back to the kitchen. "Disgusting stuff! Might at least get it to the right temperature."
"Nothing like gratitude, is there?" she said pointedly and he smirked at her.
"Make it human blood, instead of pig, and then you'll have gratitude."
"Human? As if."
He raised his eyebrows at her derisively. "How about Slayer blood then?"
They watched him sip slowly at the second mug Giles brought him, taking his time now that the first desperate need had been assuaged.
"Don't you know it's rude to stare?" he mocked.
Giles flushed and collected the chains, then went into the bathroom. Clanking noises began. Buffy just leaned back against the door jamb and continued to watch Spike.
"As long as your hands are free, I'm going to keep an eye on you," she said and he laughed.
"You still think this is some kind of a con. You can be blindingly stupid, Slayer."
"But I'm not the one who's tied up," she retorted meanly with satisfaction.
The next ten minutes passed in unfriendly silence.
How he would like to break her neck! Spike thought. Drink her blood, drain her dry. Stuck up, arrogant, self-righteous prig that she was! Get this chip out of his head, he'd tear the lot of them into shreds, scatter the pieces from here to L.A.
His gaze slid wistfully to her neck. Nice neck. Smooth and supple. A real turn-on to a vamp. His glance slipped down to the off-the-shoulder neckline of her blouse. He didn't know what they were calling that look these days, but it was enticing on her. Made his fangs itch. You wouldn't know how strong she really was when you looked at those delicate bones. His gaze moved over the curve of her slender shoulders, the fine lines of her collarbones, lingered on the shadowed indent where his vampire senses could pick up her pulse beating so alluringly in the hollow of her throat.
Skin as silky as the material of her blouse. Angel was a bigger wanker than he had ever thought. Lose his soul if he had a moment of perfect happiness? Yeah, yeah. Just had to keep from being perfectly happy. Could still have fun. Could still get a happy, if not that happy. Spike could walk that line, do that balancing act with ease. He wasn't clumsy like Angel; he hadn't wasted a hundred years chasing rats. He was a bloody good lover, knew exactly how to play it so that both she and he would be satisfied without the soul doing a bunk.
Thank God he didn't have to worry about that. No soul, no curse. His gaze slipped lower. Nice swell in the blouse there. Oh, yeah. Nice breasts. Wonder what they would feel like in his hands.
"What the hell are you looking at?" Buffy demanded.
His gaze jolted up in shock to her annoyed face. Sweet Jesus, what was he thinking about? She was the Slayer! You didn't think that way about the Slayer. The Slayer was the enemy, to be fought, to be killed. Not...
It was sick.
Buffy couldn't understand what had brought that horrified look to Spike's face, certainly not just being caught staring.
"Your neck," he said violently and jerked his head away.
"Turns you on, does it?" she mocked and wondered at the appalled look he gave her. "Well, you're never going to get a chance at it."
"Right," said Giles, coming back into the room. "Everything's ready. Let me just get my crossbow before you untie him."
Spike sighed ostentatiously. "Watcher, if I could, don't you think I'd have killed the lot of you already?"
"I would rather be safe than sorry," said Giles inexorably and held the crossbow trained on him as Buffy unwound the ropes.
"Wait," he said and took his red shirt off and went to hang it beside his duster. "Might as well be as comfortable as I can."
They shepherded him into the bathroom and waited while he settled into the tub, then slid down until his neck was on the rim and he was lying as comfortably as he could before holding his hands resignedly out to be shackled.
Buffy snapped the shackles on his wrists and ankles, then stepped back to check the fastenings. They looked like they would hold, despite all his vampire strength.
She looked down at him as he lay amusedly testing the strength of the shackles. Angel lying down had just been Angel, no different than usual. Spike lying down looked oddly vulnerable. He shouldn't have. The black of his T-shirt and jeans that contrasted so sharply against the white of the tub only emphasized the supple, powerful musculature of that lean body. Something in the angle perhaps—the bent knee, the long legs, the lithe hips and flat stomach all relaxed like that, the curve of his throat flung back against the rim of the tub. The man was just very tactile, lying there surrendered like that.
He looked up at her, giving her that sideways, sloe-eyed look. "And this turns you on, doesn't it, Slayer? Always knew you were the dominatrix type. Bondage do it for you?"
She spun and stamped out of the bathroom. It was either that or kill him right where he lay. She could hear him laughing behind her as she stalked towards the front door.
The worst thing was that, just for a moment there, she had been turned on.
By Spike, of all people.
It was sick.
"Wondered where you'd got to," Spike said when Buffy walked into the bathroom. He was lying in the tub, still shackled, watching the TV that Giles had set up for him. "Then Watcher said that you'd gone down to L.A. to tear a strip off Angel." He grinned at her. "How'd that go?"
"Weird," she muttered.
"Oh, yeah?" He thumbed the button on the remote that would turn the TV off. "How?"
"I'm not sure." She paced about the bathroom restlessly. "I got there, told Angel to back off. Some Samurai-type demon leaped out at us. Angel killed it. I came home."
"What's weird about that? Just sounds par for the course."
"Mm. Nothing unusual happened. But something happened. Don't know what."
She also didn't know why she was telling Spike about it. It was just that her Slayer sense kept picking up vibes that something was off-kilter. Giles would think she was crazy, because it was nothing that she could put her finger on. It was the kind of thing she'd normally talk to Willow about, but Willow was in the kind of zone right now with Oz taking off on her like that, where even the slightest bit of additional stress might send her right over the edge. Spike, as a demon, seemed the closest thing to an expert on weird occurrences that she had right now.
"Feel like there's a spell running. Wish I could talk to Willow about it, but..."
"Yeah, she's hanging on by a thread." Spike was watching her with interest. "What kind of a spell?"
"That's just it. I don't even know if there really is one. I just feel..." She shook her head. "It's like a door opened and then closed."
Spike frowned. "A portal? And you think something came through?"
"No, no. A door opened and then closed for me."
"Um." Spike considered that somewhat dramatic statement, then reduced it to practicalities. "You think there's a spell on you."
"I suppose. Oh, I don't know!" She thumped the heel of her hand on the wall in frustration. "It's just a feeling! It's all so vague!"
"That nebulous, is it?" said Spike thoughtfully. "Wouldn't discount that Slayer sense. Could be a spell. Tell you what. You wanna make sure, you go see this demongirl on Market Street, couple of blocks past Willy's. Name's Shaina. A Lister. Not a witch like Red, but psychic for all that. She can do a reading for you, tell you if there is or isn't, maybe tell you what it is. "
"I might do that," she muttered. She sat down on the edge of the bathtub and sighed. "Okay. Leaving that aside. You said you had information to give us about the commandos. Right. Spill."
She saw his eyes flicker and knew right away that he was going to be obstructive. It didn't surprise her. She had known from the beginning that he would cross them if he could. That was not why she had taken him in. They did the obligatory dance anyway, she pressing the issue and he sliding away as adroitly as possible, giving her no answers at all.
Giles came in with a mug of blood for Spike and he grabbed at that distraction immediately.
"About time! I hope you got it warm enough."
Pain in the ass. Abusing the laws of hospitality. Completely helpless, but still owning the room.
She held the mug of blood for him distastefully and he made a production out of drinking it through his straw, amused by her queasiness.
"I don't know why you're so dainty all of a sudden," he mocked. "You've done this for Angel. You must have."
That was below the belt. She pulled the mug away angrily.
"Okay, that's it. The invalid amnesiac routine is over. The kitchen is closed until you can tell me something useful about the commandos."
"I'm trying to remember." All innocence. Then picking up right away on the word 'amnesiac' and clearly intending to use it to his advantage from now on: "It was very traumatic."
She looked at him, exasperated. "How long are you going to pull this crap?"
He looked back, his face cold and hard. "How long am I going to live once I tell you?"
There it was. He had only that one card to play and he dared not give it up. They all understood that. He didn't trust them. Knew only that if he gave up what he knew, he would be giving up his hope of shelter. And he had risked everything for that.
"Look. Look, Spike," said Giles, trying to get through that distrust and reassure him that they were not the zealots he thought they were. "We have no intention of killing a harmless, uh, creature, but we have to know what was done to you. We can't let you go until we're sure that you're..." he searched for a word, "impotent..."
"Hey!" exclaimed Spike, stung.
Giles was trying to backtrack. " Until we're sure you're, you're..."
It was too delicious. Buffy couldn't resist.
"Flaccid?" she suggested wickedly and enjoyed the outraged reaction. Payback time for the Angel mention, for the dominatrix remark.
Secure in the knowledge that he was inescapably chained up, she could play, tease him with her neck, with double entendres, "Just look at my poor neck, all bare and tender and exposed. All that blood just...pumping away..." Watch his eyes darken and his lips part and his gaze grow intense, fixed on her neck. Watched him lean towards her, unbearably tempted. For the first time, she could really play with her sexuality, use it on him, turn up the heat, safe in the knowledge that they were obdurate enemies and that he hated her.
"Oh, please," groaned Giles, leaving the room in exasperation.
"Giles, make her stop!" Spike called after him. Buffy laughed and he glared at her. "I violently dislike you."
Her own words to him a year ago. She couldn't help grinning, saw the corner of his mouth twitch involuntarily. The one thing that made Spike bearable to her was his ability to laugh in the worst of situations, even at himself.
Curiously, the teasing had eased the tension and something in them both had relaxed. He seemed a little more reassured that they weren't going to stake him out of hand. She realized that, for both of them, it was because of her, because she was seeing him as a person, not just as a thing.
She retrieved the mug and sat on the side of the tub, holding it for him as he drank. It was oddly companionable.
She found herself remembering how she had felt when she had lost her own powers that time when the Council of Watchers put her through that Cruciamentum test. How helpless and angry and despairing she had felt. But, leaving the test aside, all it would have meant to her really was that she could have become a normal girl again. She saw suddenly how for Spike, this was a devastating blow. Unable to fight, unable to feed, everything that he loved taken away from him. She found herself unwillingly empathizing with him.
And yet he was coping, finding ways around it, ways to deal. It took courage. She had to give him that.
She found herself thinking about that the next day, as she listened to Willow, drunk and hitting out at her friends because of her pain at Oz's departure, listened to Willow saying, "Well, isn't there some way I can just make it go away? Just 'cause I say so? Can't I just make it go 'poof'?"
There wasn't any way to make things like that go 'poof'. No easy solutions. You had to work through them. She'd been where Willow was, when Angel had left. All those things—Angel's abandonment of her, Spike's 'trip to the vet', Willow's pain—sure, you wished they would all just go away. But all you could do was deal.
She found herself thinking again of Spike's stoicism the next night, with Willow doing another meltdown and not wanting to understand that Buffy couldn't stay with her when Giles had just called and said that Spike had broken loose and was out there in Sunnydale somewhere doing God knows what.
When she found him, she was not at all surprised that he was looking for the commando lab. Spike always looked for solutions. But, unlike Willow, not easy solutions. The tough ones. Gamble on the mercy of someone dutybound to kill you. Somehow force the people who had damaged you to fix you again.
He didn't make any attempt to get away from her.
"The door was right here where I escaped," he said to her, giving away free the information that he had saved to keep himself alive in the enemy camp, trusting her.
She looked at the untouched grass all around. "I don't think so."
He fell to his knees, tearing at the grass. "Open up! I'm gonna kill you!"
"Spike, there's nothing there."
"Let me in!" Anger turned to dejection. "Fix me."
She could hear his grief. She had to tie him up to get him back to Giles' place, struggling all the way.
By the time they got through the front door, they were snarling at each other
Then the world turned upside down.
Willow with her easy solutions. Which backfired not on her, but on everybody else.
'My will be done.' Which turned Xander into a demon magnet and almost got him and Anya killed. Which made Giles blind and that, with his whole life bound up in books and reading as it was, would have destroyed him. Buffy honestly thought that Giles wouldn't have wanted to live if he couldn't read. And Buffy and Spike...
God! She didn't even want to think about that! She glared at Spike. Who glared back. Then they both looked away.
They were both horrified, embarrassed right down to the core. Willow's spell had broken when they were down on the floor, in really, really hot liplock. Buffy had jerked away, scrubbing at her mouth and gasping, "Spike lips! Lips of Spike!" Spike had rolled over and leaped to his feet, gagging and making spitting noises, trying to get 'Buffy taste' out of his mouth.
It was as bad for him as it was for her, if she thought about it. She was the Slayer. No vampire in his right mind would make out with the Slayer. A world of no. It was just not done. Okay, it was worse than that. It was a major transgression of the rules. Every self-respecting demon in the universe would be appalled at the thought.
She and Angel had broken the rules. But Angel had a soul and that officially made him not a demon anymore. So Angel didn't count. But Spike...!
And they had been really sappy about the whole thing. With the wedding plans and the cooing and the cuddling—which had totally embarrassed Giles and Xander and even Anya, for God's sake, who usually never got embarrassed about anything to do with sex or romance. And the first dance thing? 'Wind Beneath My Wings'! Eeegh!
She had to get out of there. She couldn't stand being with the Scoobies right now, with all of them knowing how she had behaved. Yeah, it was because of Willow's spell. But still...!
She straightened things out with Riley somehow, telling him that it was all a joke. Regular kind of guy that he was, he bought it. Thought she was nuts of course, but that was just part of her charm. Uh huh. She watched him go and thought how nice he was. Sweet and solid and dependable and reliable and...
Kissing him would be sweet and solid and...all those other words. No fire. No passion. Just...
So dull after kissing Spike...And she so did not just think that!
Because that had been all fire and passion and tenderness. Even Angel hadn't kissed like Spike. It was that total focus of Spike's, as if nothing existed in the world but her, nothing but this moment of absolute delight. It was so erotic, melted her bones. She couldn't help thinking: what would it be like to have sex with him and that intense focus? She had only had sex twice. Once with Angel and then she had been virgin and naive and unsure. And once with that jerk Parker and that had been disappointing, only mildly pleasant and nothing like what she had hoped for. If Spike could send her into meltdown with just a kiss, what would...?
Oh, God, she didn't just think that!
What was it with her and bad boys? She had to get away from that! Normal. That was what she needed. Just like Angel said. Nice and normal and reliable and...whatever.
And speaking of nice and normal, Mom was back from Aunt Darlene's. All of a sudden, she wanted very much to be with her Mom.
Joyce was delighted to see her, but it didn't take her long to see that something was bothering her little girl. She watched Buffy curl up on the couch, her feet tucked under her.
"Oh, it's good to be home!" Buffy said, spreading her arms wide on the back of the couch. "It's nice to be in the dorm and out on my own, but every now and then I just want to be where there's no pressure, no trauma, and I can just relax and be myself."
"I'm sorry I couldn't be here for Thanksgiving, but Darlene needed me," Joyce said. "Did you mind very much being alone on Thanksgiving?"
"Giles and the Scoobies and me, we all had Thanksgiving dinner together. I made it," Buffy said proudly. "With my very own hands. And, hey, everybody said it was good."
Joyce laughed. "I'm glad. So everything went well."
"Except for these Chumash vengeance spirits crashing the party with arrows and axes and bears. We had to circle the wagons and fight back. But we got them and they didn't even ruin the place settings."
Joyce was laughing helplessly. "Oh, dear. The drawbacks of being a Slayer." She shook her head wryly. "I guess I've really come to terms now with you being a Slayer if I can laugh about it."
Buffy smiled at her. "It went good. No one got hurt, except for Spike getting shot full of arrows. But they missed the heart, so he's okay."
"Spike? Do you mean that vampire from last year? That nice boy who was so sad that his girlfriend dumped him?"
"Nice boy?" Buffy sighed. "Mom, you really shouldn't take people at face value like that. Spike's evil."
"Well, I liked him," said Joyce stubbornly. "He was very sweet and he didn't hurt me."
"Sweet." Buffy contemplated that word in relation to Spike and giggled involuntarily. "Well, he can't hurt anyone else right now either. It seems there's some kind of commando types running around Sunnydale these days and they grabbed him the minute he set foot in town. They did something to him that stops him from hurting anyone."
Joyce frowned. "How?"
"Well, if he tries, he gets this blinding pain in his head. He can't hurt people the least little bit. Which means he can't bite, can't feed. He was starving, so he came to me for help. And, well..."
"I'm glad you're helping him, dear." Joyce shook her head. "Poor boy."
"Well, it must be so traumatic for him."
"It's traumatic for us," Buffy muttered. "I don't know what to do with him. He's over at Giles' place and driving Giles crazy."
"But that's not what's bothering you, is it?" said Joyce. "I can see that something is."
Buffy sighed. "Yeah. Willow did this spell. You know that Oz broke up with her?"
"Well, she was feeling so bad about it that she did this spell to have her will done. I think she was meaning to make the pain disappear. It didn't. But she said stuff like Xander was a demon magnet and Giles was blind, and that did happen."
Joyce was horrified. "Giles is blind?"
"Not any more. The spell's been undone."
"Oh, good," said Joyce with relief , then looked at Buffy shrewdly. "She did something to you."
"Yeah. She made me want to marry Spike. She said something like 'Why doesn't Buffy just go marry Spike?' And there we were, all cuddled up together, making wedding plans." Buffy shuddered. "It was horrible!"
Joyce's eyes widened. "Cuddled up? Did you...?"
"No! It was just kissing and stuff. But that was bad enough."
"You're angry at Willow."
Buffy sighed. "Yes, I am. I know it's not her fault. She only did it because she wanted to stop feeling so bad about Oz. I can understand that. I've been there. I know how it feels when someone you love leaves you. But..."
"But you can't help being angry that she made you do things you didn't want to do. That's only natural, honey."
"I suppose." Buffy drew her knees up in front of her and hugged them. "Willow's starting to worry me. She keeps looking for the easy way out of things. And being a witch allows her to make it happen. The last time Spike was here, she was trying to do a spell to make her stop having the hots for Xander."
"The easy way again," Joyce nodded.
"Yeah. I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, unusual though that is..." She glanced ruefully at her mother.
Joyce smiled. "All those psychology studies seem to be paying off."
"Mm." Buffy grinned. "And it seems to me that easy solutions like that only backfire. You can't just do a spell. You won't grow as a person if it's that easy. You have to go through whatever it is and then, when you come out the other side, you're stronger."
"Yes," said Joyce quietly.
"Willow wants shortcuts. 'My will be done.' Sure, everyone wants that. It's a natural desire, even if it is childish, like wanting Aladdin's lamp or something. But it's not real and it's not healthy. The thing is, Willow can really make it happen." Buffy frowned worriedly. "Power and control. That's what she wants and that's dangerous when there are no checks on it. At her...her emotional center, Willow always seems to go for those easy solutions."
They were both silent for a while, thinking that over.
"She must be in a lot of pain," said Joyce. "Maybe I should have a talk with her. Perhaps I can help. Her own family doesn't seem to be very supportive."
"Would you, Mom? That would be great. I'm a bad friend," Buffy sighed. "I know I should be there for her, but there's always so much going on and I'm so busy. I just don't seem to have the time and I can't figure out how to make time. And when I do, I seem to say all the wrong things."
"I like Willow." She looked at Buffy thoughtfully. "This thing about being a witch. You say that she's teaching herself. Maybe that's the problem. Why don't you ask Giles if he can find a teacher for her? It sounds like she needs supervision. And maybe she won't feel quite so alone if she has a counselor."
Buffy thumped her forehead with the heel of her hand. "Now why didn't I think of that? He's a Watcher. He must have contacts."
"You're too close to the problem. And about Spike. If he's giving Giles a hard time, why don't you bring him here?"
"He won't give me a hard time and I'd like the company."
"But, Mom! He's a vampire! He's dangerous!"
"Not any more. Isn't that the problem?"
"But...but...I was thinking more of Xander..."
"Oh, that would work out well," Joyce said dryly and Buffy couldn't help laughing. "We've got plenty of space here. There's the guest room upstairs..."
"Chained up in the basement is what I'm thinking," Buffy muttered.
"I will not have a guest chained up in the basement," said Joyce sternly. "He'll have the guest room."
"Well, come and help me put stuff over the windows."
"It really is the best solution, Buffy." Joyce was determined. "I like that boy and I want to help. He can stay with me until he finds a way to take care of himself."
Spike in her own home! What could be worse? Talk about getting all cuddly and cozy! Buffy buried her head in the cushions of the couch while Joyce hummed her way upstairs happily.