Disclaimer: I don't own the characters.
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.
Jinx and Murk were discussing what had happened at the slayers house during the day and didn't notice Spike as he slipped out the kitchen door for patrol. Veck, being down the street, couldn't see as Spike left the house. All three minions assumed that Spike stayed in the house the entire day and night.
The next morning, just before the sun came up, Buffy and her mother were seen by Murk leaving the house. As that was happening, Spike was coming in from a fruitless search for Glory all night. The few vamps he took out had hardly made up for the fact that no one seemed to know where Glory was staying. The good intern hadn't been on duty that night, a quick check at the hospital confirmed he was off that night. A phonebook ripped off of a payphone stand had no listing for him. Spike was frustrated, in more ways than one, to say the least.
It had only been one day and already he was going out of his mind. Staying at the slayer's house was going to drive him completely around the twist. Everything smelled like her. He could even picture her sleeping in her bed just a few floors above him. The Nibblet was keeping him company during the brightest part of the day when he couldn't go upstairs, but there was a limit to how much boy-band nonsense a vampire could take.
Spike hoped that everything would go well at the hospital today. Buffy didn't understand why he said that she needed to stay away from the intern but eventually she agreed after Dawn added her voice to his. Joyce was going to have the doctors check to make certain that the sadistic butler had actually done what he said he would. One more scan and Joyce should be home safe, sound and healthy.
"Ms. Summers, a repeat CAT Scan isn't called for," the doctor, Dr. Isaacs, explained patiently. "We have the OR scheduled for you and we will be ready to do the biopsy in a few hours." Dr. Isaac's explained.
"Look, you want to cut into my mom's brain," Buffy said angrily. "Before you get your sharp little knives anywhere near her head you're going to do another scan thingy." She stepped into the doctors personal space, making sure that her position was clear.
"I understand that this type of surgery can be very frightening for the patient and family members, but it is routine." The doctor tried again to make them understand that nothing would have changed in the few days since the initial scan.
"I don't care what you think! If you won't do it, we'll find someone else. You're not touching my mother until she has another test!"
"Dr. Isaacs, what seems to be the problem?" A woman in a business suit approached the group.
"Mrs. Tremle, Ms. Summers is scheduled for a biopsy today and both she and her daughter are insisting on a repeat scan. We performed a CAT Scan just a few days ago and it showed a shadow on her left temporal lobe."
"Hello Ms. Summers, I'm Victoria Tremle, hospital administrator. Can I suggest we take this conversation somewhere a little more private?" With an admonishing look towards the doctor for having a heated conversation with a patient and their family in the hallway, she led the group into a small waiting room.
"Now, from what you have explained the patient would like a repeat test before surgery? Is that correct?"
"Yes! He wants to cut open my mom's brain! I don't think that asking for a new test is to much to ask."
"Well, I can understand your concern, but Dr. Isaac is correct; it is not standard protocol. That said, I can't see the harm in it. Unfortunately, I don't think your insurance will pay for a repeat test this soon after the first one, but if you are willing to pay for it yourselves I think we can take care of that for you, don't you agree, doctor?" Shooting a reproving look at the doctor, she turned her attention back to Buffy and Joyce. "Caring for the mental and emotional well-being of our patients is just as important as their physical well-being. Taking a little time to set your mind at ease before major surgery is not a problem. I'll call down to the x-ray department and have them take you now."
"Thank you very much," Joyce said, clearly relieved. "I-, it's just I have two daughters and the thought of having something as dangerous as brain surgery without being absolutely sure first..." Joyce trailed off, unable to finish her thought. She didn't want to doubt that Spike had cured her, not after the horrific things he had gone through, but the nagging thought that this wasn't over just wouldn't leave. She needed to be sure.
She didn't have much regard for the Powers; they took her beautiful little girl and turned her into a slayer, ruining the life she had envisioned for her, making her baby go out every day, killing the things that went bump in the night. She didn't know if the so-called Powers were responsible for Dawn. She loved her little pumpkin belly, but the thought that she hadn't carried her little girl in her body, that the memories of her were all fake, that this wonderful girl hadn't existed until a few months ago, made her blood boil. That some powerful beings could play with peoples lives to suit their own agendas didn't lend themselves to her good graces.
A few hours later a very confused and thoroughly chagrined Dr. Isaacs walked into the waiting room.
"Ms. Summers, I don't know what to say. The shadow we saw just days ago is gone."
A shared look between the two women had the doctor even more confused.
"Could it have just been an error, or maybe a smudge or something?" Joyce tried to give the doctor an excuse for the dramatic change in her condition.
"I can only assume, although I have never heard of something like that. But miracles happen everyday in medicine. Since we can't see anything on your new scan, I have canceled the biopsy. I would like for you to come back in a few months from now for a repeat scan, just to be on the safe side."
After agreeing to have a check up in a few months, the two women left the hospital, grinning and laughing the entire way home.
"Buffy we need to celebrate! Invite everyone over."
"You got it, mom. I'll call everyone and give them the good news." Smiling, Buffy went into the house and started making phone calls.
Giles was having a bad day. The Magic Box was incredibly busy and, to make matters worse, Anya was on her lunch break, leaving him alone in the store. The bickering between Anya and Xander wasn't helping his mood either. The two had been fighting since the night of the Trials and it didn't look like they were going to solve their problems any time soon.
Shoving purchases in bags and taking payments mechanically, he was oblivious to the faces of his customers or what they were purchasing. On top of all that, he was worried for Buffy and her mother. He hoped that the trials had truly healed Joyce. It would devastate Buffy and Dawn if their mother died. He was a nervous wreck waiting to hear from Buffy about the results of the day's appointment.
The phone rang in the Magic Box as he was ringing up the items for a young blonde woman. Giving her a distracted smile he handed the woman her change and turned his attention to the phone.
"Magic Box, this is-" Giles paused to listen before speaking again. "That is wonderful news, Buffy. I am glad. Yes, a celebration is an excellent idea. I will inform Anya when she returns. Have you called the others yet? Good; it will be nice for all of us to get together for good news for a change. I'll see you later, my dear." As Giles hung up the phone he looked up to see his last customer standing by the door "Good day and thank you for shopping at the Magic Box." With a smile on her face the woman left the store.
The party was in full swing when Spike came up from the basement on his way out to patrol. Dawn was the first to spot him.
"Spike! Thank you! Thank you, thank you!" The teen cried, hugging the startled vamp.
"Thank you, Spike," Joyce said, reiterating her youngest daughter's statement. "It doesn't seem like enough to say that, but thank you. I had another scan done this morning and there is no trace of the shadow." Joyce gently pulled the teenager off Spike, however his look of relief was short lived as Joyce pulled him into a hug.
Willow, Tara and Buffy all came over to add their thanks. After a few minutes Spike started to feel uncomfortable. The whelp was muttering and shooting him dirty looks, not that he cared what the glorified bricklayer thought about him. During a rare moment when he wasn't being hugged by the females or slapped on the back by the watcher, Spike made a bee line for the front door.
Grateful at having managed to escape, Spike lit up a cigarette and went on patrol, his unseen shadow following at a safe distance.
Joyce heard the front door open and close. She knew Spike had been embarrassed by all the attention and she made her way to the door to call him back. It took her a few minutes to work her way through all the well wishers. She hoped that he would be just outside, smoking a cigarette by the tree. The scream that erupted from her when she finally managed to open the door shocked the entire group.
"Mom!" Buffy yelled as she ran towards the door, just in time to catch her mother as a giant snake surged into the house. It quickly scanned the assembled group and with a hiss the snake bolted out of the front window and took off down the street.
"What the holy heck was that?!" Xander yelled as he helped Willow and Anya up after the snake knocked them down during his escape.
"Was that a giant snake?" Disbelief colored Joyce's question.
Buffy was already moving. Grabbing a sword from her weapons stash in the closet, she barked orders to the group.
"Lock all the doors and windows." With a worried look at the front window she continued "Well as best as you can. I'll be back after I kill that thing." She slammed the door as she took off at a run, chasing the snake down the street.
The slithering creature swerved to miss a car in the intersection, slowing it down just enough for Buffy to jump on its back. The two tumbled into an empty lot, away from any oncoming traffic. Recovering first, Buffy starting swinging her blade, trying to behead it. The man-snake began hissing and used its tail to knock the slayer off her feet. Buffy rolled with the blow and came up underneath the snake. A quick jab with the blade had the snake rearing back in pain. Jumping up, Buffy was able to get a few more stabs in while it was disoriented. As the creature tried to escape Buffy managed to slice the head off it as it turned to leave.
Unable to hide the body herself, Buffy returned to the house for reinforcements.
"It's dead," she announced as she unlocked the front door and let herself in. "Someone needs to come on a disposal run with me; I can't leave that thing just laying there."
"We can meet in the morning to research the creature. I suggest 9am at the Magic Box." Giles looked around for confirming nods.
"I got it Buff. I can stop at the store and get some plywood to cover the window until tomorrow while we're out." Xander grabbed his car keys and made his way outside.
Giles noticed Anya was giving him an odd look. "Do you need a ride home, Anya?"
"Oh, sure. I just..." She trailed off, keeping the rest of her thoughts to herself.
Everyone waited at the Summers home until Buffy and Xander returned from disposing of the carcass. Once Xander had nailed up a few boards to close off the window, everyone took their leave.
Glory's minions watched the entire episode from the safety of their hiding places. Once everyone had left, they ran to tell Glory what they had seen. Jinx was the first to arrive.
"Your Holiness, the Sobeck Serpent did not find the key at the slayers house. All were in attendance except one. He left before it arrived. He must be the Key!"
"You know where my Key is?!" Glory jumped up off the couch, excitement radiating from her. "Go get it! Now!" She shooed her minions out the door, a gleeful look upon her face.