Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Many thanks to my beta Leon Stryfe who stepped up when I was stuck and helped write more than a few chapters with me. For all your help you have earned the title of Co-Author for this story and my sincere gratitude. Thanks to my wonderful friend Sweetprincipale who listens to me and encourages me. And the wonderful ending was all her idea!

I have played with the time-line a bit in this story. The Angel episode "The Trial" actually aired a week after the Buffy episode "Shadow". For the purposes of this story "The Trial" happened first. I have taken quite a bit of dialog from a few episodes of season 5. Shadow written by David Fury, The Trial written by David Greenwalt, No Place Like Home by Doug Petrie, Checkpoint by Jane Espenson and Doug Petrie, Blood Ties by Steven DeKnight, Spiral by Steven DeKnight and Intervention by Jane Espenson.

I hope you enjoy the story. This is the longest piece I have ever done and hopefully I did it justice.


Spike sat quietly on the back porch while Buffy cried silently. After a few minutes, Buffy dried her eyes and calmed down.

"Those nothing little headaches she's been having?" Buffy spoke but did not turn to face the vampire. "Well it turns out they might be something. She's going to the hospital in the morning for some tests."

"Let me know what the docs say." Now Buffy looked at Spike, confused. "What? I like your mum slayer; she's always been right decent to me."

"Sorry, Spike. It's just–it's just too much. She can't be sick, Spike! She just can't." Buffy broke down again. Spike stayed with her until she had gotten all the tears out of her system and was ready to go back inside.

When he finally left the Summers home and returned to his crypt, a memory flashed into his mind. The demon grapevine had been in full swing the previous night at Willy's bar. Spike had overheard something about Angel finishing some sort of trial to save a woman's life. Details were sketchy of course but in Spike's mind, if the poof could do it then so could the big bad.

Spike went back to Willy's to get some more details. Walking in he quickly scanned the room, looking for the demon that was doing all the gossiping the night before. Spotting the horned creature, he sauntered over to the table.

"Oi, Willy, I need to use your back room for a bit." Grabbing the creature by one of its many horns, he dragged him into the back room. "Now, I wanna know everything you know about Angel and those trials, mate."

The demon started to struggle in Spike's grasp until he got a good look at Spike's face. It was clear the vampire was going to get the information he wanted, one way or another.

Impatient with the time it was taking for the demon to talk, Spike snapped one horn off his head.

"Okay! Okay I'll talk! Just don't break any more!" Spike kept his features menacing but was smirking inwardly. "Angel was trying to save this blonde woman's life. I heard her name was Daphne, Darcy, or something like that." From the pain in his voice it was obvious that losing his horn had hurt a great deal.

"Darla? I thought the old whore was already dead?"

"No man, it was the talk of LA. Some big wig law firm brought her back from the dead. Turns out she was dying anyway. So Angel goes to see the Host. He makes that girl sing and next thing you know Angel is on his way to the trials to save her life."

After snapping off one more horn, the demon gave Spike all the information he needed. Spike learned that, in order to repeat Angel's performance, he would have to travel to Caritas, a demon karaoke bar in LA, run by The Host.

"Bollocks! That means I'm gonna have t' sing." With a quick twist the demon was dropped on the floor with a broken neck. "The things I do for the Summers women." Stalking out the back door, he started muttering to himself. "No way can I tell her the great poof took the trials. I can't tell her he took 'em for Darla, either."

The next day, Spike made his way through the maze of underground tunnels into the hospital. It took a few hours before he was able to catch Buffy alone near the snack machines.

"Have you heard anything yet?"

"They just took her in; she is having a CAT Scan done now," Buffy answered, her voice pained with worry.

"I need to talk to you alone for a few, alright pet?" Spike took her gently by the arm and led her into an empty room.

"Heard about this place; it's mostly demons that know about it. You can go on a quest or some such and, if you pass, you get ta ask for somethin'. Do you know when they're letting your mum out?" Buffy shook her head no. "It's in LA, but if we take her, and I pass, they can cure her." At Buffy's disbelieving look he assured her. "Listen pet, it's approved by the soddin' PTB, yeah? We can't go to the place until we meet with an anagogic demon, The Host. He works for the Powers. I sing, he reads me, and if the PTB agree, he'll tell me where to go." Spike watched the effect his words had on the woman before him. Sensing doubt, Spike tried another tactic, the emotional road.

"I like your mum, Slayer; she always has a kind word and a cup of cocoa for me. Like the nibblet, too. I know what's it like to have your mum be sick. Couldn't do nothin' for me mum back then so let me help yours now. Bring all the Scoobies if you don't trust me. Just tell the whelp The Host runs a demon bar; no violence allowed by anyone, so he needs to behave himself."

"Let me see what the doctor says first, okay? Then I'll think about it. It's the best I can do right now."

Buffy went back to the waiting room and, after what seemed like the longest hours in her life, the doctor arrived with news that made Buffy collapse into her chair. They had found a shadow in Joyce's brain. The doctor said they wanted to do a biopsy to determine what exactly the shadow was. The surgery was scheduled for three days from that day. The way the doctor was explaining things made Buffy feel hopeful until he told her about the complications that could arise after the surgery. The list went on and on, each one sounding progressively more dangerous. The doctor also explained that if they needed to go back in to remove whatever the biopsy showed, there was a possibility for further complications.

Buffy let the doctors words flow over her not really listening any more. The fear was stifling. If she lost her mom, Buffy didn't know what she would do. She couldn't fight a shadow. Buffy wasn't ready to be an adult yet, taking care of the house and Dawn too. Scary crazy thoughts kept running through her head; tumors, cancer. Nothing that she could fight. With all her strengths, Buffy was helpless to save her mother. Grasping at the faint hope that Spike offered, Buffy made a snap decision; she had a few days until the surgery, and it couldn't hurt to take Spike up on his offer. If it didn't work, they would just go ahead with the surgery.

After reaching her decision Buffy came back to the conversation with a snap.

"Thank you, Doctor Isaacs."

"I will schedule the biopsy for three days from now," the doctor responded kindly.

As soon as the doctor left, Buffy told the gang that she would be right back. She grabbed Dawn and went to go see her mother.

"Hi mom, how are you feeling?" Buffy spoke just as soon as they entered the room.

"Tired," Joyce replied.

"I spoke with the doctor; he told me that you had a shadow." Buffy took a deep breath "Spike came to see me last night; I told him you were sick. He stopped by a little while ago. He said he might know a place that could cure you." Joyce started to speak but Buffy stopped her. "I know mom, it's Spike, but he says it's on the up and up. We can at least try; if it doesn't work we will be back in time for the doctors to do the surgery. Spike really seems to want to do this for us. I'm scared mom; I don't want to lose you." Buffy started tearing up.

A knock at the door sent Dawn over to open it. As soon as it was open Spike came into the room.

"H'lo Joyce. Did Buffy tell you about my offer?"

"She did. What exactly is this place you want to take me to?" Joyce questioned the vampire with interest.

"First, we have to go see a representative of the Powers. He's a demon that can read your destiny or some such rot. He is the one who tells us where to go after."

"He reads your destiny how?" Dawn piped up, closing the door to the hospital room.

"When you sing he can see things, lets him know your future. Then, if he likes what he sees, he tells us how to get where we're goin'. You have to choose me as your champion and I have to complete some kind of quest. The Slayer can't do it for you; she's the Chosen One. Some rule about her not asking for favors from the Powers."

"Stupid rules." Buffy said it so quietly that Spike was certain that he was the only one who could hear it.

"If, when," Spike quickly corrected himself," I'm successful, they heal you. The place is in LA, only a few hours from here. The whole thing won't take more than a day. We can wait till after your surgery if you want, but brain surgery is dangerous, yeah? My way, I'm the only one in danger. If it doesn't work, no harm done. You come back and have a poke and prod."

"Spike, can you give us a few minutes?" Joyce's motherly tone left little doubt that she expected no response other than an affirmative one.

"Sure, Joyce; just have the slayer let me know. I'll be at my crypt," Spike replied.