All About Spike

Never Again
By jen

rating: PG-13 for language
spoilers: none -- i've gone back into the deep recesses of S5!
summary: set just prior to the last scene in "I Was Made to Love You," joyce pays spike a visit to talk about the events of "Crush."

He was good and ready for a nice sulk. Not that he was going to brood, he quickly clarified. Brooding was Peaches's territory. No, he was in a far different frame of mind. He was bitter, not broody, and if there was one thing that William the Bloody excelled at, it was stoking the coals of bitterness until they reached inferno level.

What a sodding mess. Bloody humiliating, what with him still smarting over the disinvite and all. To have to put up with those santimonious Scoobies and their righteous indignation was too much of a cross for him to bear (figuratively speaking, of course). And it wasn't as if he could stand any of them, after all...although he and Dawn had always got on well, hadn't they? Her frosty reception at the Magic Box had stung more than it should have. And Tara -- hadn't he been good to her? Well, if not exactly good, helpful at least. Earned himself one hell of a headache that night he popped her in the nose and proved she wasn't a demon. And then there was Anya. Granted, they didn't spend a lot of "quality time" together, but he admired the way she spoke her mind, and she's always seemed to have appreciated having another plain-speaking individual around.

Disgusted at himself for sentimentalizing his relationships with the honorary Scoobies, he turned his thoughts to the Slayer's innermost circle, the two chums and the Watcher. His eyes narrowed. This was definitely more secure ground. *That* lot he'd always hated.

But bloody hell, he *lived* with Giles and Xander, and okay, yeah, it had been mostly unpleasant and often downright bad, but they'd had some times, you know? Bonded and all that. Helped save their asses on more than one occasion. And Red, sure he'd tried to kill her a couple of times, so latent hostility a distinct possibility there, but she didn't seem to be the type to hold a grudge. Hell, she'd even tried to comfort him when he first discovered he couldn't bite anymore. And it wasn't like they didn't get on well *now*.

"Move the hell on," Giles had said. Bloody right. He'd boxed up his memorial to Buffy as violently as he could - he'd be damned if he was gonna worship at her altar anymore anyway - and got it all out of his sight. Robot Boy said it'd be weeks before their little construction project was finished, and he'd just have to think long and hard about whether he even *wanted* a likeness of that bitch around when the time came.

Spike sighed and lit a cigarette. Who was he kidding? He was counting the days til the robot was done -- he'd threatened the boy with all of the most gruesome tortures he could thinik of if the bot wasn't completed ASAP. What the boy didn't know wouldn't hurt him. And neither can I, thought Spike ruefully. He'd requested some behavioral modifications in the bot that ought to make it much more tolerable than the real Slayer, after all -- be a nice change. Getting rid of the annoyance and revulsion on her face every time she saw him would be improvement enough.

He didn't realize he'd drifted off until he was roused by the racket of someone pounding on the crypt door. Loud enough to wake the dead, he grumbled. Literally. He swung his legs off the sarcophagus, trying to sense who or what was on the other side of the door and priming himself for the possibility of a restorative spot of violence...only to stop abruptly before he'd taken two steps.

What the bleeding hell was *she* doing here?

He contemplated making a dash for the sewers and a quick escape, but he respected the woman too much for that. He was going to have to face her sooner or later, wasn't he? And now my day is complete, he mused. He took an unneccessary breath, crossed the room, and opened the door to find Joyce Summers staring at him in disapproval.

"Joyce," he said, ushering her in. Great. How in the world was he gonna play this?

How about with a little bravado? "What brings you by this fine--" he started but trailed off when she raised her eyebrows and folded her arms across her chest. Ah, so that's where Buffy got that particular move.

Definitely the wrong approach. How about solicitous, the gracious host? "Umm, can I get you anything?" Wait, did he *have* anything? Spike mentally listed the contents of his fridge -- vodka, blood, take-away buffalo wings, long past their prime. He grimaced.

"I think you know as well as I do that this isn't a social call," Joyce answered, sitting gingerly on the edge of his favorite chair, trying to avoid getting dust on her skirt. Must have come from the gallery.

Right, then. Straight to the point. "I'm not sure what Buffy told you, but I can explain. Well, not so much explain as tell you my side." The woman was a guilt-inducing machine. Just sat there, watching him and giving him enough silence to fill for him to hang himself.

Spike rushed on. "Dru was in town - you remember Dru, my ex? - and - and it wasn't like I was ever really gonna let her kill Buffy. See, I was just *saying* that so Buffy would think I might. I really only chained her up so that she would listen to me. Honest."

"Wait, you *chained* Buffy up?"

Oh, balls. Buffy must not have mentioned that part to her mum. Brilliant, Spike. Now what?

He took the easy way out: he said nothing and tried to look guilty. Hell, it wasn't hard -- he *did* feel guilty.

"Spike, I want you to listen to me and to try to understand what I'm saying." Joyce leaned forward in the chair, and Spike inwardly braced himself for what was to come. "For two people to have any kind of relationship, even the kind of platonic, working relationship that you and Buffy have, there has to be mutual respect. One person can't try to force the other to do something. Forcing makes people angry and mistrustful, and it's a way we hurt one another. You don't want to hurt Buffy, do you?"

"No! No, it wasn't about that at all. I wouldn't hurt her." And suddenly he was sure of it. He couldn't hurt her. He wanted to blurt out that he loved Buffy but knew that no matter how much Joyce might like him, she wouldn't approve. He'd always fancied that he could win her over someday, but, his cynical side chimed in, it wasn't an illusion he cared to have shattered that very afternoon.

"I'm sorry," he said instead. "Sorry about Buffy and sorry that I disappointed you, too." And he was. He'd mostly given up trying to figure out why. Vampires weren't supposed to feel guilt or remorse or anything akin to the myriad of human emotions welling up in him at the drop of a hat these days. Well, what could he say? He'd always been different.

Joyce's voice broke his reverie. "You did disappoint me, Spike." She paused, and he lowered his head to avoid her eyes. "But we all make mistakes. Whether or not we learn from them is what matters."

His head jerked up quickly. She wasn't just going to write him off like all the others?

"You're not going to do anything like this ever again," she continued. It was not a question or a request.

"Never," he replied quickly, meeting her gaze. "Never again, Joyce. I promise."

She searched his eyes for a long moment and apparently found what she was looking for. She nodded once, and he knew it signified that they had an understanding. "I probably won't see you for a while. I won't invite you back in -- that has to be Buffy's decision, and I imagine that she won't be in a mood to let you in anytime in the near future."

Joyce fell silent for a moment and appeared to be contemplating whether she should speak again. She stood and walked toward the door before turning back to Spike. "When you earn back her trust, though, I'm sure things will be different."

*When*. She'd said when, not if. She thought he could do it.

Joyce slipped out while he was still contemplating her last words.

When he noticed the white rectangle sitting on the chair she had vacated, he figured she'd forgotten something, thought about calling her back...until he glanced at it, one of those old-fashioned recipe cards with the heading: "From the kitchen of Joyce Summers -- Homemade Hot Chocolate with Little Marshmallows." He smiled.

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