Summary: Nineteen years after leaving Sunnydale, Spike encounters a startlingly familiar young woman fighting vampires in the alleyways of London – a young woman who holds the key to both his past and his future.
It had been midnight when Buffy got the call. She had been sitting in front of the TV, trying to work up the courage to go to sleep, when the phone had rung. She had assumed it was Willow, just calling to say goodnight. She had never expected it to be a London hospital, calling to tell her that her only child had just been admitted and was dangerously close to death.
Without thinking, Buffy had changed out of her pajamas, stuffed some clothes into the bag, and dashed out of the house on her way to the airport. During the drive, she had called the airlines, trying to secure passage on the first flight out. Luckily, there had been a redeye leaving an hour later, and she had been able to get on it without a problem.
The flight to Heathrow had been interminably long. Buffy had called everyone she knew, while she was in the air, to let them know what was going on. She had called Dawn and Xander and Willow; she had called her secretary and left a message to cancel all of her appointments for the next week.
Now, countless hours later, Buffy was sitting in a London taxi, on her way to the hospital. She hadn’t slept in almost forty-eight hours, and the sleep she had gotten was woefully inadequate. Ever since Willow had left to attend college in London, Buffy hadn’t been able to get a good night’s sleep. Normally, she was able to fake a sense of calm and wellbeing – it was one of the skills she had learned during her time as a slayer. But now, she knew she was falling apart. Her nerves were humming beneath her skin, her heart beating furiously, even though there was no immediate danger. She had spoken to the hospital several times in the last sixteen hours and had been assured that Willow was fine. But that wasn’t good enough. Buffy had to see for herself.
The doctor Buffy had spoken to had been vague about what had happened. All he had said was that Willow had passed out in a club. That was it. He had made it sound like it was a drug overdose or something unseemly like that. Whatever it was, he had refused to go into specifics over the phone. Which alarmed Buffy more than she could say. She was terrified. Just what had Willow gotten herself into? She had always been such a good kid; so well-behaved, so responsible. What had changed?
Buffy unconsciously stiffened; her back pressing up more firmly against the seat. She knew what had changed. Spike had come into Willow’s life.
Willow had said that she hadn’t seen Spike since that first night, and up until now, Buffy had believed her. But there was something about this whole situation that just had Spike written all over it. Had he gotten Willow into some kind of trouble? Buffy didn’t really want to think about it, but what if Spike had somehow led Willow into a vamp attack? How would any of them ever recover if the truth finally came out? All of it?
Buffy physically shuddered. She took in a deep breath and tried to calm her nerves. “No,” she whispered to herself. “This has nothing to do with Spike. There are no secrets being revealed. Everything’s going to be just fine.”
By the time Buffy reached the hospital it was nearly midnight. Even though it was well past visiting hours, the nurse at the front desk allowed Buffy to go up and see Willow. When Buffy entered the room, Willow was wide awake, slouched down against the headboard of her hospital bed, glaring up at the television screwed into the wall.
“I know they don’t exactly have that many channels, but British TV isn’t that bad,” Buffy chided as she entered the room.
Willow’s eyes instantly darted to her mother and she pushed herself up in bed, her whole demeanor changing. “You came!”
“You knew I would.”
Buffy carelessly threw her overnight bag on the floor. She approached the bed and hugged Willow as tightly as she could without doing her permanent damage. She was so relived to hold her little girl again. She never wanted to let her go.
“Uh, mom,” Willow protested, as she tried to push Buffy away, “you’re kinda strangling me.”
“Oh, sorry.” Buffy pulled back and looked down at her daughter, desperate to get her fill of her. “I called you a few times, but the nurse said you were asleep.”
“Yeah, well, this is the first good sleep I’ve gotten in the past month. I think it was the drugs. They gave me lots and lots of drugs.”
Buffy’s heart sank. No, not her little girl. Had she really been so blind? She had always thought Willow was too smart to get involved in things like that.
“Mom, what’s wrong? Is everything okay? You look like you just saw someone kick a puppy. What’s the matter?”
“I thought . . . I thought you knew better than to get involved with drugs. There are other ways to deal with life if you’re really that unhappy.”
“What?” Willow blinked at her a few times, as if trying to comprehend what Buffy was saying. “I’m not doing drugs. I’m talking about what the doctors gave me.”
Willow pulled her knees up against her chest and hugged them to her, giving Buffy enough room to sit beside her on the bed.
Buffy sighed, some of the tension finally draining out of her. “Well that’s a relief. So, you wanna tell me what happened?”
Willow started picking at the lint on her hospital-issue blanket, avoiding Buffy’s gaze. “Not really.”
“The doctor said you were found passed out in a club.”
“Yup. Guess so.”
“You guess so? Willow, look at me.”
Willow turned her head, resting it against her knees, and looked at Buffy.
“What really happened?”
“I don’t remember.”
“You don’t remember? Or you don’t want to remember?”
“I don’t remember,” Willow replied blankly, unconvincingly.
“Let me guess, you don’t want to tell me because Spike was involved.”
“No!” Willow’s head shot up and Buffy knew, just by her reaction, that Spike had most definitely been involved.
A cold chill ran up Buffy’s spine as an unsettling thought pushed its way to the front of her mind. “Let me see your neck.”
Willow’s hand instantly shot up to coddle the opposite side of her neck, the side that Buffy couldn’t see, and the tingle running down Buffy’s spine grew colder.
Buffy reached out and grabbed her daughter’s hand, pulling it away from her neck. Then she put her fingers under Willow’s chin, and forced her to turn her head. There, running the length of her neck, was a white, gauze bandage, held on by surgical tape. Buffy quickly pulled the tape away to reveal two perfect fang marks imbedded in her daughter’s skin.
Buffy’s hand fell to her side and she unconsciously started to drift away from the bed.
“It’s not what you think,” Willow protested hastily. “There was this Goth guy at the club, and he said he does this all the time. He has surgically implanted fangs, and sometimes he uses them to play vampire. That’s all.”
“You don’t really believe that, do you?”
“Well . . . that’s what he said. I mean . . . I mean, you don’t believe that vampires are real, do you?”
Buffy’s heart was pounding furiously in her chest. Apparently her own daughter had been taken in by a vampire, had been convinced that he was just playing dress-up, and had ended up nearly losing her life. Buffy suddenly felt a wave of guilt overtake her. If only she had told Willow the truth from the beginning, if only she had prepared her for this, she wouldn’t be in this situation now.
Buffy swallowed the lump that was caught in her throat. She somehow forced air into her lungs and managed to speak. “What does Spike have to do with this?”
“Nothing,” Willow protested again. “Absolutely nothing.”
“Where is he?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen him in weeks. I swear.”
Buffy’s eyes narrowed on Willow. Why was she defending Spike so vehemently? He obviously had some involvement in this debacle. Why was Willow trying so hard to hide it?
“Did he get you involved in the Goth scene?” Buffy knew it was a ridiculous question, but she was desperate. Of course Spike wouldn’t be caught dead – or undead – with a bunch of vampire wannabes. Then again, if some of them were real vamps, perhaps Spike was just trying to infiltrate their nest.
Buffy mentally shook herself. What the hell was she thinking? Of course Spike wasn’t trying to infiltrate anything. The only reason he had pretended to be a good guy back in Sunnydale, was because he had wanted to be with her. After nineteen years out on his own, she was sure he had reverted to type. Unless of course, he was using the good guy act to get to Willow. Buffy prayed that wasn’t the case.
“I told you, Spike had nothing to do with it. Can we just forget about it now?” Willow picked up the bandage where Buffy had dropped it on the blanket and worked on putting it back in place.
Buffy was momentarily contrite. “I’m sorry sweetheart. I’m just worried about you. And this . . . this isn’t like you.”
Willow concentrated on fixing her bandage. She wouldn’t look at Buffy. “I’m growing up. That’s all. I’m going to have to make my own mistakes.”
“Mistakes are one thing, but letting a vampire suck on you for fun—“
“He wasn’t a vampire!” Now Willow did look at her. “Vampires don’t exist!”
Buffy’s eyes desperately searched Willow’s. She could see fear there; fear that Buffy would recognize the truth.
“Oh my god.” Buffy stared at her in disbelief. “You knew. You knew he was a vampire and you let him bite you anyway.”
“And . . . and it wasn’t some guy you met in a club, was it?” Buffy’s eyes lost their focus as her mind finally put two and two together. She began to drift about the room aimlessly, lost in her own thoughts. “No, you would never do that. Would you? It was him. It had to be him.”
“What are talking about?” There was a rising note of panic in Willow’s voice, but it barely registered.
“Spike. You let Spike bite you. You let him feed off you. And he nearly drained you dry.”
“It may be insane,” Buffy said, finally looking up at her daughter, “but it’s the truth.”
“No it’s not the truth.” Willow pushed herself up on her knees so that she was kneeling on the bed, finally at eye level with her mother. “Vampires aren’t even real.”
“Of course they’re real. Something I’m sure you’re well aware of. Did Spike tell you? Was he the one who introduced you to the idea of the noble vampire?” Buffy asked, unable to keep the derision from her voice.
“I bet he played it for all it was worth too. He made it all seem very attractive, very seductive.” Suddenly, Buffy’s whole body went cold. “Please tell me you kept your promise to me. Please tell me you didn’t sleep with him.”
“Of course not. I would never lie to you.”
“Except about this of course.”
They were both silent for a long moment. Buffy’s insides were churning, her stomach was in knots. She had spent the past eighteen years trying to shelter Willow from the truth, and then Spike shows up, and a month later, her daughter is at death’s door. It was too much for Buffy to take.
“How do you know about the vampires?” Willow asked, as she sat back on her haunches and looked up at Buffy.
“Spike didn’t tell you?”
Willow shook her head in the negative.
“I used to fight them.”
“I was a slayer.”
Willow gasped. “That lying son-of-a-bitch.”
“Excuse me?” Buffy gave her daughter a quizzical look.
“Spike. He told me that you weren’t the Slayer. I specifically asked him and he lied to me, right to my face.”
“Yes, well evil, blood-sucking fiends will do that.”
“But Spike’s not an evil, blood-sucking fiend. He’s a pretty cool guy.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. She suddenly felt like she was talking to a 15-year-old Dawn again. Oh, Spike’s so cool. He's got cool hair, and he wears cool leather coats and stuff. Buffy felt just a little bit nauseated.
“Guys who are really cool, don’t use young girls as take-out. Despite what Spike thinks, you’re not a Happy Meal with legs.”
Buffy shook her head. “Never mind.” And also, of course, never mind the fact that Angel had once used her in that exact same way. Spike had never done it though, but she was sure it was only because she had never given him the chance.
“Spike didn’t feed on me, if that’s what you’re referring to. He didn’t tell me about the vampires either. I knew before I met him.”
“How?” Buffy absently drifted back toward the bed and sat at the end, looking across at her daughter.
“A couple of months back I was dating a guy who turned out to be a vampire. I didn’t know until it was too late. He attacked me one night on our way home from a club, and I instinctively stabbed him with a nice, pointy pencil.”
An unbidden smile slowly spread across Buffy’s lips. She knew she should be shocked and furious, but more than anything she was just proud. Proud that her little girl could take care of herself; that she had the instincts of a slayer.
“And then what happened?”
“Well, after that, I knew I had to do something. Every time I went out, I would look around and wonder if the people on the streets were vampires or not. I started taking the long way home at night, ducking into alleys—“
“Willow, you didn’t.”
“I thought I was the only one in the world who knew. I thought it was my responsibility to do something. So I started hunting them on my own. And then one night, Spike found me. I guess he was watching me from the shadows. He introduced himself, and the rest, as they, is history.”
“So you have been seeing him.”
“I’m not sure that ‘seeing’ is the right word. He’s been training me. Every night we meet in a cemetery or an alleyway and he trains me and we fight whatever comes along. He told me once that just because I wasn’t officially a slayer, didn’t mean I shouldn’t have a watcher, whatever that means.”
Buffy had to keep herself from laughing. Spike as a watcher? The idea was ludicrous. Suddenly an image of Randy Giles popped into her head, and she couldn’t help but burst out laughing.
“I’m glad you find this so amusing.”
“I’m sorry,” Buffy said, working very hard to get herself under control, “but, it’s just, the idea of Spike . . . as a watcher.” And then she started laughing again.
“I don’t get it. What’s so bad about watchers?”
“Nothing. They’re just usually stuffy old English guys, with tweed suits with elbow patches, that’s all.”
“Oh, you mean like Uncle Giles?”
“Exactly like Uncle Giles.”
Willow’s mouth fell open. “You mean, Uncle Giles was your watcher?”
Buffy nodded, still unable to keep the smile from her lips.
“Well,” Willow said, as she leaned back against the headboard again and stretched out her legs, “that explains a lot.”
“So, if Spike didn’t feed off of you, how did you end up here?” Buffy asked, finally managing to sober up just enough to sound adequately concerned.
“We met a gang of vamps last night. A big gang. And instead of going for Spike, they went for me. He just wasn’t able to get to me in time. That’s all. It was my fault really. I should have just gotten right to the fighting, instead of taunting them first. But I like taunting them. It’s the best part.”
“Tell me about it.” Buffy tried again not to smile. She did miss fighting, missed the banter and the kill. She should be horrified that her daughter had discovered these things and seemed to like them as well, but she wasn’t. Again, all she really felt was pride.
“Do you miss it?”
“Fighting? A little.”
“Spike said you were very good at it.”
“Wait. What? I thought you said he told you I wasn’t a slayer.”
"Yeah, but he told me that you and him used to fight. Implied that you used to beat on him. Now I know he just said that to cover for the fact that you were the Slayer. I get that now.”
“Yeah,” Buffy said quietly, “I’m sure that’s why he said it.”
Buffy didn’t like to think about the way she had treated Spike, all those years ago. When the hell had she decided that it was okay to express her love through violence; that it was alright to hurt the people who cared about you just because they were willing to take it? She was glad Willow didn’t know about that part of herself. She didn’t ever want her daughter to know.
“Mom, can I ask you something?”
Buffy came out of her own private musings and looked at Willow. “Sure honey, you can ask me anything.”
“When Spike left you, were you seeing someone else?”
“Well, Spike said that he was once in love with a slayer and that he left her because she had chosen to be with someone else. I was just wondering, who that someone else was.”
Buffy looked blankly at Willow, shaking her head from side to side. “No. There was no one. Spike and I had been seeing each other for a few months. There was no one else in my life at the time.”
“But he said there was, and I seriously doubt he was ever in love with two slayers. It had to have been you he was talking about.”
The breath caught in Buffy’s throat, hearing her daughter use the word “love” like that. Yes, Spike had loved her, hadn’t he? Or at least, he had claimed to. But he had disappeared, abandoned her. Apparently that love had never really been as strong as he had always professed it to be.
“Wasn’t there anyone?” Willow prompted. “Someone at work, or at school? An old boyfriend maybe?”
“What?” Buffy’s heart literally skipped a beat and she suddenly felt faint.
“Could there have been someone that maybe Spike was unnecessarily jealous of? You know, someone in your life at the time?”
And suddenly, Buffy knew. She had spent the past nineteen years trying to figure out why Spike had left when he had. And now she knew. It was because of Riley, wasn’t it? Had he thought, even though Riley had left, that she wanted to be with him? That she had been with him?
Until now, Spike hadn’t known about Willow; had never even known that Buffy was pregnant. Had he really left because of Riley? That was the most ludicrous thing Buffy had ever heard. Riley had a wife. Riley had willingly left her, a second time. There was no way she would have gone running after him again. Had that really been Spike’s reason for leaving? Had it really been something that absurd?
Buffy’s whole body began to tremble and her eyes stung with unshed tears. She quickly got up from the bed and went to the window, turning her back to Willow. She didn’t want her daughter to see how shaken she was; how much she just wanted to break down and cry.
“Mom, is everything alright?”
Buffy pulled in a shaky breath. “Yeah, everything’s fine sweetheart.”
“Was there someone?”
Buffy opened her mouth to speak, but couldn’t. Had all the misery and loneliness of the past nineteen years just been the result of some stupid misunderstanding?
No, that wasn’t it. It wasn’t a misunderstanding. It was a miscommunication. She had told Spike that she didn’t want him anymore. That it was over. Without ever having said the words, she had told him to go. And all the while, all she had ever really wanted was for him to stay. She just hadn’t realized it at the time.
“An ex-boyfriend of mine showed up in Sunnydale a few weeks before Spike left,” Buffy somehow managed. “I didn’t make the connection until now. I never really understood why Spike left.”
“So you and this ex got together?”
“No.” Buffy turned and looked at Willow, her emotions finally a bit more under control. “We didn’t. He came to town sporting a brand new wife.” Buffy smiled bitterly, in spite of herself. “There was never going to be anything between us. I thought Spike knew that. I guess I just took it for granted that he knew.”
“So, you’ve spent the past however many years apart because of some stupid misunderstanding. That’s . . . that’s just . . . stupid.”
Buffy laughed. “Tell me about it.”
“I guess . . . I guess it was a good thing though, right? I mean, if Spike had never left, then you would never have met my father, right?”
Willow’s tone had changed considerably and Buffy could tell that she was fishing for information. Was it time to finally tell her the truth? She already knew that vampires were real. She already knew that her mother was the Slayer. Would it really hurt for her to find out that her father was a vampire? For the first time in eighteen years, Buffy wasn’t so sure.
“Well?” Willow prompted.
“Well,” Buffy began slowly, “not really.”
Willow cocked one finely arched brow and skewered Buffy with her eyes, the exact same way that Spike always had. How could anyone miss the resemblance between them?
“What do you mean, not really?”
Buffy sighed. “I mean that Spike didn’t have to leave for me to meet someone new. I was already pregnant when he left. I just didn’t know it at the time. Spike is your father.”
“I knew it!” Willow jumped out of bed in her excitement.
“What do you mean, you knew it? The man’s a vampire.”
“But he wasn’t always a vampire.”
“He has been since I’ve known him.”
“What?” Willow stilled and gave Buffy a quizzical look.
“Spike was turned over a hundred and forty year ago. He’s been a vampire the whole time I’ve known him.”
“We don’t really know. Giles had some theories, but we were never really sure.”
“What kind of theories?”
“Nothing I feel like explaining tonight,” Buffy replied, suddenly feeling drained. So, all the secrets were out in the open now. She wondered what this meant for their future. She sighed heavily. “Why don’t you get back in bed? It’s been a very long day and I think I just need to find myself a hotel and get some rest.”
Willow did as she was told, and Buffy tucked her in like she was still a little girl. “Are you going to go see Spike?” Willow asked. “Or should I say ‘dad?’” she asked with a grin.
“Not tonight. I don’t think I can take seeing Spike just now. It’s been too long. Besides, he may not be in London anymore. Knowing him, he ducked out, just when you needed him most.”
“That’s not fair,” Willow countered.
“Maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s not. I’m just tired. I love you sweetheart.” Buffy leaned down and kissed her daughter’s forehead. “I’ll be back again first thing in the morning. Goodnight sweetheart.”
Willow smiled a small smile. “Goodnight mom.”
Buffy kissed her one more time for good measure, turned off the lights, and then left the room.