“What?” Joy looked up from her homework to find her brother hopping around her room, on and off the bed, and making a general nuisance of himself.
“We’ll get somebody to do a locator spell for us. To find Dad.” He beamed at his sister, pleased that he’d come up with a solution to their problem.
“You know how Mom feels about magic...and we can’t tell Aunt Willow. Mom said that nobody can know about Daddy; that they might try to stake him.”
“It doesn’t have to be Willow, does it? Locator spells are easy – I’ll bet we could even do one ourselves if we had to. Or, we can ask one of the girls at the school. Somebody who’s studying to be a witch, not a slayer. We don’t have to say who we’re trying to find – just ask her to locate him for us.
Will’s enthusiasm was contagious, and in spite of herself, Joy became excited.
“Maybe Karin? She’s pretty cool and she’s always doing stuff she shouldn’t be. You know, that dark-haired girl with the big brown eyes and the...” His voice trailed off as he noticed his sister’s amused expression and raised eyebrows. “Not that I pay any attention to the girls at the school,” he mumbled.”
“She’s a little older than you are,” Joyce said gently. “And very focused on her magic.”
“Well, yeah.” He forgot his feigned indifference immediately. “If she was one of those stupid, giggly girls I wouldn’t be interested in her, would I?”
“Aha! So you admit you’re interested in her. You like her!”
“What? No! I didn’t say that. Did I say that? I said that, didn’t I? Oh shit.”
“What? Like you never say that word when Mom isn’t listening.”
“That’s beside the point. I’m older than you are.”
“Everybody’s older than I am.” With an abrupt change of attitude, he sank onto her bed, his lip coming out in a pout. “Even the girl I like.”
Smothering another smile, she said, “Ten years from now, it won’t matter.”
“Ten years from now she won’t remember that I exist,” he mourned, the sudden resemblance to his father at that age almost uncanny – had they but known it.
“Yes, she will,” Joy said confidently. “She’s my friend – and we’ll still be friends when we’re grown up. I’m sure of it.”
“Well,” he made another mercurial switch, “if she’s your friend, then she should be willing to do the spell for us, right?”
“I’ll ask her.” She cocked her head at her brother, noticing for the first time how his face was losing its youthful prettiness and starting to look more masculine. Except for the color of his eyes, he was coming to resemble their father now, more than he was Buffy. Although she would never tell him so, she was very aware that the younger slayers and witches followed him with their eyes on his rare visits to the school. Shaking her head at what a bad idea it was, she asked, “Do you want me to find out if she likes you?”
“What?! No! Don’t do that! Are you crazy? I don’t want her to know! Don’t say anything! Promise you won’t?” His face screwed up in anguished anticipation of being humiliated by his sister and her friend.
“Okay, okay. Relax. I just thought I’d ask. Sheesh!”
Buffy pulled herself together and picked up the papers describing Spike and Angelus. She put them in her desk and then splashed cold water on her face at the kitchen sink. She leaned over it, her head hanging down and water dripping off her nose as she thought about how her relationship with her children had changed forever.
I wonder if they will ever trust me again? Maybe, when they’re older, they’ll understand how hard it would have been to explain to children that age that their father had become a vampire. And why their mother wouldn’t trust him not to hurt them. Maybe... Someday...
She grabbed a near-by towel and dried her face, then began mechanically getting things out in anticipation of making dinner. Joy had a gymnastics class at the slayer school later in the evening, and Will had intended to stay home. However, in light of the day’s events, Buffy was too worried about what he might do to leave him by himself. Making a quick decision, she wiped her hands and picked up the phone.
Faith answered on the third ring, her voice breathy and soft. “This better be good, B,” was all she said.
“They know.” Buffy’s tense voice was all it took to take Faith’s mind off whatever Xander had been doing to her, and she answered quickly.
“Joy. She must have gotten suspicious somehow. She’s been going through old Watcher’s Diaries and she found...she found everything. I had to tell her the rest.”
“And the junior Mr. Bloody?”
“He was here, too. They’re both mad at me for lying to them – not to mention sending their father away.”
“What can we do?” Faith’s easy inclusion of Xander in the offer to help was a painful reminder that her children were not going to be the only disappointed people in her life.
“I guess, bring Xander up to speed – and... and I need someone to watch Will while I take Joy to class. I made them promise me they wouldn’t look for Spike, but I’m not sure I can count on him to keep that promise. He’s kinda...willful, and he doesn’t always follow my advice.”
“Gee,” Faith joshed gently. “I can’t imagine who he gets that from...”
“Very funny, Faith. Can you guys watch him tonight?”
“Yeah, sure, Buff. No problem. We’ll be over in a hour or so.”
“Thanks – I appreciate it.”
Joy and Will were still upstairs when the two brunettes that they referred to as “Aunt Faith” and “Uncle Xander” came through the unlocked door. Buffy’s eyes flew to Xander’s, waiting for the condemnation and anger she was expecting from him. Instead, he laughed quietly as his wife muttered, “He’s known all along. Lying sonofabitch never even told me!”
“Oh, you mean, like you told me, you knew?” he snarked back at her.
“You...you knew-know? Why didn’t you say anything? All these years...”
“I figured you had your reasons for keeping it from the kids, and the less discussing of it took place, the less likely that someone would overhear something they shouldn’t.”
“How...how did you...when...?”
“Same way Faith did. I saw him.” He shuffled his feet and looked uncomfortable for a minute, remembering that either one of the slender women waiting for more information was capable of killing him with one blow. “I...um...I’ve actually...I...um...I’ve seen him more than once.” He stopped to allow that to sink in.
When they continued to stare at him, mouths agape, he moved slightly away from them before speaking again. “I...uh...he...we...we’ve kinda kept in touch,” he finished in a rush. “You know, just ‘How are the kids? How’s Buffy doing?’ that kind of stuff.”
“You...how could...” Buffy regained her voice and her composure at the same time. “How you could keep something like that from me?”
“From us!” growled Faith, her eyes promising retribution when they got home.
“He was...he’s my friend, Buffy. You’re my friend, too,” he added hastily, “but you have everybody here. Spike’s by himself. Except for that visit last year, he stays away, just like you asked him to...” Buffy wasn’t sure if she was being paranoid, or if there actually was a trace of accusation in her friend’s voice. “I’m his only contact with his family, Buffy. He didn’t want me to tell you. I guess he was afraid...”
“He was afraid I’d think he was stalking us,” she finished for him, her voice flat and dull.
“Uh, yeah. That.” Xander squirmed uncomfortably, remembering his own, long-ago, insistence that Spike’s constant watching of the Summers’ home was “stalking” rather than guarding.
Buffy sank onto the couch, wringing her hands, then looked up hopefully. “If you talk to him, does that mean that you know where he is?”
“I know how to get hold of him,” Xander admitted. “I don’t know where he is...exactly...but I can reach him if I need to.”
“Do it now!”
All three adults whirled, none of them having noticed the silent arrival of the reasons for their conversation. With shining eyes - one set a piercing blue, the other a stormy hazel – they waited for one of the adults to do as they asked.
“I don’t know if...” Buffy’s earlier desire to have Spike back in their lives faded with the knowledge that it was suddenly a very real possibility. As much as she knew without question that Spike still loved them, and that he was capable of forgiving those he loved for almost anything, she also understood the pride that had kept him away for so long. And don’t forget how pissed off his demon can get she reminded herself. William Pratt might forgive me, but Spike’s probably carrying a pretty big grudge...
“What do you mean, you don’t know?” Both children spoke at once, disbelief and horror on both faces. Buffy cringed as she watched their eager delight turn into heartbroken fear.
“I just meant...we’ll do it. Of course, we’ll do it. Maybe...just...not right this minute. I mean, we don’t know how far away he is. I’m sure a day or two won’t make a big difference...Joy, you have class tonight and a meet coming up this weekend. Will, you have homework. I know you didn’t do any this afternoon after...after our talk. It won’t hurt anything if we wait a day or so.”
“You don’t want him to come home. You lied.” Will’s expression was eerily similar to his mother’s ‘slayer face’ as he stared at her with cold eyes. “Well, we don’t need you to do it.” He met Joy’s eyes and said, “Go to your class. I’ll be here when you get back.” His meaning was clear and Joy wondered briefly how he expected her to find Karin, tell her what they wanted, and get it started, all while under her mother’s watchful eye. Vowing to worry about it later, she nodded and went upstairs to change her clothes.
“Will...” Buffy was speaking to empty space. Her son had followed his sister up the stairs without so much as acknowledging her.
“Way to go, B”.
Xander stepped between them. “Let’s just all relax, huh? If Buffy’s not ready to talk to Spike, then we won’t rush her. I’ll try to find a way to let him know that the kids know about him and he can decide for himself what he wants to do.”
He gave Buffy a hard look. “They are his kids, Buff. If he wants to see them, I think he’s got a right to. What happens between you two is not anybody else’s business...” He glared at his wife, who blinked innocently. “But the man has a right to be part of his kids’ lives if they want him. And it seems to me that they want him,” he added, somewhat unnecessarily.
Buffy nodded wearily. “You’re right, of course, Xan. I can remember how I blamed my mother for chasing Dad away. Of course, when I was older, I understood that he was cheating on her with his secretary and that she had every right to throw him out. The fact that he didn’t come around much to see Dawn and me was because he was a jerk – not because of her. If Spike wants to be part of their lives, he should be. They need to know that he loves them.”
Her eyes went to the hallway where Joy was standing in her warm-ups, holding her gym bag. Buffy glanced at her and picked up the keys from her desk.
“I appreciate this, guys. I really do.” She looked at Xander pleadingly. “Do you think you can find a subtle way to keep him down here with you? I don’t think he’ll do anything stupid, but...”
“But he’s the offspring of two stupid people, so you never know...” Xander’s gentle smile took the sting out of his words and she smiled back, nodding her agreement.
With a final thank you, she waved and followed Joy out to the car.