Spike followed his mate down the stairs toward the kitchen. Her wounds were healed, but he couldn't let her out of his sight just yet. Holding her through the nightmares exhausted him, but he was going to spend the day at her side. For all her ferocity, she was still easily hurt. He wanted to hold her and keep her close. She smiled over her shoulder at him as her hair bounced in golden waves with each step.
Joyce smiled and waved at them from the living room, then turned her attention back toward the laptop Willow had set up for her to help run the gallery remotely. They tiptoed away and headed toward the chopping sounds echoing from the kitchen.
Giles smiled up at them from the table and silently offered a section of the paper. Spike took a deep breath and was hit by a scent at once familiar and foreign. His eyes narrowed and he looked at Sophie. She was quietly cutting fruit. Her meek demeanor was so reminiscent of their earliest times together. Her heart beat caught his attention, even as his own began to beat. She felt threatened somehow, and the scent was enough to guide him. He growled, unable to contain the sound. His eyes swung to Giles and he was across the table in a single leap his forearm holding the human's throat pinned to the wall.
"I couldn't protect her back then, but I bloody well will now. How could you, you bastard?" Spike snarled and watched Giles' eyes narrow.
"Spike, let him go." Buffy said. Her voice sounded deep and threatening. He knew without looking that her eyes were glowing.
"He took advantage of Sophie. She has never once had consensual sex, yet she reeks of him. She's sliding back into that meek, battered persona because he forced her. I will not have it. She is our family."
"So is he." Sophie said as she pulled the neck of her sweater aside to show off a very interesting scar. "More so, now. He's my mate."
Spike stared at her incredulously. Her words made no sense to him. Buffy's hand closed on his shoulder.
"Let's try talking instead of hitting, Baby." Buffy pulled him back from her watcher slowly. "So far you're handling this better than he did when he found out about us. There's no bloodshed."
"You mated her? You can barely look at Buffy anymore, but you just go and jump on the nearest female vampire you can find." Spike lunged forward, but Buffy held him fast. Giles glared at him, green eyes flashing. "I don't buy it."
"Spike, the marks are there." Buffy touched his mark with her fingers and he felt a shiver run up his spine. "They are mated. There is so nothing for you to buy."
"I'm sorry." Giles looked over his shoulder toward Buffy. "I didn't understand and I did pull back from you, Buffy. He's right about that. My training got in the way of my own observations."
"I knew you'd come around eventually." Buffy said as she squeezed Spike's shoulder. He turned and caught the big grin on her face. She was happy about this, smiling like a proud mother at her damn watcher. "I should have figured it out when you asked me which book contained the ritual we used. It wasn't about me and Spike at all."
"When did he ask for the book?" Spike asked.
"A couple of days ago." Buffy dragged him back to the chair.
"A couple of days." Sophie looked over at Giles with a warm smile. "So, it wasn't the threat of losing me in battle."
"Our tenuous situation and the constant fighting only hurried the decision, Sophie." She blushed and Giles walked over to her, wrapping her in his aposses
"This isn't a spur of the moment decision." Spike slammed his hand down on the table. "Sophie is ours."
"Don't." Sophie said. "You told me I could make my own choices. You said that freedom was real here."
"It is." Buffy shoved Spike into a chair. "He's just going all Neanderthal vamp because he wants to protect you."
"She hasn't had any time to consider her options. It's a wide world." He looked up as Joyce snorted.
"That's rich. Did you give Buffy a chance to consider her options?" Joyce touched her chin with one finger, tapped it, and looked up at the ceiling. "Oh, no, you didn't. At least they're both adults."
"I took those decisions away from him, Mom. Not the other way around." Buffy clasped Spike's hand. "We have been over this."
"He could have said no." Joyce shrugged. "It didn't have to happen this quickly, and he knows it."
"When you make this decision, you just know." Buffy sat on Spike's lap. "Our lives aren't like yours."
"Then why is he upset?" Joyce smiled.
"Because he cares." Sophie said with a harsh edge to her voice. "He saw the existence I was forced into and he wanted to be sure I was safe."
"He sounds like a father." Joyce shrugged.
"In a vampire family, in this family, he is the father." Giles looked at him oddly. "I know that's strange, but I should have talked to him before I approached Sophie."
Spike caught sight of Joyce's quick grin as she ducked into the fridge. He squeezed Buffy gently and buried his face against her shoulder. Whichever power had smiled on him had blessed him with wonderful women, mischievous, stubborn, difficult, wonderful women.
"We aren't a vampire order, so those rules don't matter." Buffy looked at her watcher and his mate. "The love is the important thing."
"Well, Watcher, we'll need to see what changes you've wrought. Angelus and Dru will be coming for us, and you will be joining us on the front lines." Spike met the man's eyes steadily.
"I would have anyway. You may be the head of this family, but even it's weakest members have been known to wield an ax." Giles said as he wrapped Sophie in his arms and pressed a kiss to her temple.
"Yep." Joyce closed the fridge and leaned back against it. "We need human battle boot camp because this fight isn't like the others you've kept from me, and we are all a family. We sink or swim together."