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Previously: Almost a month and a half ago, Willow did the highly improbable and brought Buffy back from the dead, ripping her from heaven in the process.  Unfortunately, Willow neglected to retrieve her nicely, forcing Buffy to dig herself out of her own grave.  Spike found her immediately following and brought her home.  They are now openly living together, with the blessings of Giles and Dawn, while Tara and Willow’s relationship has hit the skids.  Willow was forced to leave the Summers’ house, after giving Angel a head’s up about Buffy’s return, her manipulation of Tara being the real reason behind their split.  This opens up. . . well, you’ll see.

Book Two
Chapter 1.  A day in the life


The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible
and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening.  
It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of
the rainbow which I have clutched.
    Henry David Thoreau, Writings, vol. 2, p 239

He hath a daily beauty in his life.
    Othello, act v, sc. 1




Three weeks of peace amid the onslaught of life on the hellmouth.  In that time, those precious three weeks, life in their house had settled into a semblance of normalcy.  Well, as normal as a household consisting of the Vampire Slayer, her vampire boyfriend, her Key sister, and an every-day garden variety witch could be.

Not long after Willow had moved out, Tara had opted to move into Spike’s basement bedroom just to get away from the memories, and with Spike’s help she’d transformed the room into something a bit more her style than his.

Joyce’s old bedroom was now empty, devoid of all furniture and the two girls were still trying to come to an agreement about what to do with the room.  Spike was doing his best to stay out of the argument, knowing if he were to side with either of the sisters his love life would get that much more complicated.

Dawn had been uncharacteristically quiet in the last few weeks, which was prompting his current mission.  She was once again locked in her room, ignoring everything and everyone around her.  Spike had no idea if this was normal for Dawn or a teen-aged girl, just adding to his unrest about the whole situation.  Didn’t matter, because either way he was more than a little concerned and since Buffy was out with Tara, he figured it was a perfect opportunity to get Dawn to open up to him about what was bugging her.

Which was why he was knocking at her door, just before three in the afternoon.  “Dawn?”

He tried again, “Niblet?  I know you’re in there, wanna talk to you ‘bout somethin’.”

The stereo lowered and then the floor creaked under her feet, the lock clicked open and there she stood, hip thrown out to one side and a slight defensively defiant look on her face.

“Need to talk to you, Bit, got a moment?”  Spike leaned against the door jamb, his arms crossed over his chest, waiting for her to invite him in to talk.

“Spike, I’m in the middle of doing my homework, is this important?”  Dawn shifted from one foot to another avoiding his direct gaze.

Not accepting her implied dismissal, Spike pushed past her into the bedroom.  He glanced once at her bed, taking at face value the spread of books and paperwork strewn across the covers, not bothering to look any closer.

“Bit,” he started, then turned around, peering at her closely, “Is everythin’ okay?”

“What do you mean?”  She sat on the edge of her bed, trying not to disturb the papers.

“Been awfully quiet lately.  Somethin’ eatin’ at you?”

“Nope.” Then, changing her mind, she said, “Well, school’s kind of hard, I’m not . . .” She shrugged, trying to convey part of her confusion.

“Not fittin’ in?”  He rested back against her desk watching her closely.

“Partially, still got Janice and . . . well, Kirsten’s not in any of my classes, in fact I hardly see her anymore and Janice has a boyfriend and I don’t really like him and I get this creepy feeling sometimes that someone’s watching me and I just don’t fit in and all my classes are super hard and I just . . .”  Her voice trailed off into nothing and she kept her head down studying her feet.

He was silent for long minutes waiting for her to spill whatever else was bothering her.  He knew there was more to this, just by the way she was holding herself.

She’d read three of the four journals cover to cover and had a fairly extensive amount of notes on other slayers and Spike.  But little on her own background.  The most recent journal she had ended before Buffy was born, so she doubted there was a whole lot of information in that one.  She was just about to start reading the last journal when Spike had knocked on her door.

Dawn kept her eyes down, away from his all too perceptive gaze.  The absolute last thing she wanted to talk about was really the only thing on her mind – well, that and Buffy.

“You’re not upset about me movin’ in are you?”  Spike, for once, didn’t know what was wrong with Dawn.  Since she wasn’t talking, he could only guess it was their living arrangements that were bothering her, especially since she clammed up about the same time Willow officially moved out.

“No!”  Dawn looked up at him then, “You’ve been here all summer, why would it bother me now?”

“Because of where I’m sleepin’.”

She snorted, “Gee, Spike, how long have you been in love with Buffy?”  Waving off his retort, Dawn giggled, “So not upset by that.  Saw that coming when you brought her back and she was all cling-to-Spike girl.”

Giggling harder at his look, Dawn said, “Seriously not so worried ‘bout that, I’m just glad she’s back, you know?  Just wish she wasn’t so. . . is she gonna get any better?”

So that was her problem
– Buffy.  His girls weren’t as close as they were before and Dawn was feeling the lack of sister time.

“Getting better every day, Bit.  Still hard for her and with Rupert going back home for a bit, it’s bound to bother her.”

“She doesn’t talk about things with me.”  Dawn’s disappointment was hard to disguise, not that she was trying all that hard.

Spike sighed.  “Sis doesn’t like to talk about it at all.  S’like it’s jus’ too hard.  Can’t imagine what heaven must have been like, don’t imagine I’ll ever find out either.”

Moving around a bit, Spike continued, “Give her time, Bit, she’ll open up.”  Looking at her once more, he said, “Is ‘at all?”

“Well . . . there is a guy. . .” and giggled at the look on Spike’s face.

He growled once, then said through semi-clenched teeth, “Bring him round.  Lemme suss things out, yeah?”

“I’m hoping he’ll ask me to homecoming.”

On his way out the door, Spike repeated, “Bring him round.  Then I’ll think about it.”

Once he was gone, Dawn locked the door behind him, diving back into her notes and the last journal.

The one thing weighing heavily on her mind – though she’d never tell Spike, at least not until she had more proof than she had right now, was that she was convinced Spike was her father.  Her biological mother was still not certain.  It could have been either Joyce or Buffy.  She was thinking – hoping it wasn’t Joyce.

Not that there was any doubt in her mind about how the monks had done it – it had to have been magic, because as far as she knew, vampires couldn’t have babies.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Five hundred years of existence, or nearly so, had not prepared her for any of this.  Hands, feet, legs, everything –  belly, god what a belly, every last little part of her ached.  But for all that pain, this was such a miracle.  And it was all in danger.  By her very nature she put this child inside her in danger’s path.  Once the infant was born, his soul would remain with him and she would once again be herself.

Soulless.

Once upon a time she’d killed infants like the one she carried, slain their mothers while the babies struggled within their wombs or cried helplessly amidst the slaughter, blood, and gore.  She hadn’t known.

Hadn’t understood what she’d done.

Darla understood it all now.

The enormity of over four hundred years of murder and wanton destruction weighed heavily upon her.  Crushed her with near constant waves of overwhelming guilt and grief.  Tears were her ever present companion – no solace to be found anywhere.

No absolution.

No forgiveness.

Her belly thumped, a hand or foot pushing against her taut skin, stretching it further out from the inside.  Darla ran a soothing hand over the lump, humming softly to herself and the baby through her tears.  

Time was running short.  This baby, this boy-child created by her and Angel . . . this completely undeserved miracle – would be born – and soon.

And Darla didn’t want to let him go.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Buffy was meeting Tara at UC Sunnydale, since the Slayer had decided she might want to think about going back to school for the next semester.   Just thinking about it.  She wasn’t really sure she was ready for it.

There was a lot she wasn’t ready for, but having everyone’s support was a big help – from Giles giving Spike a job to Tara cooking nightly to Dawn not acting out, was good.

The myth that vampires slept all day had been shattered by Spike’s ability to function on a couple of hours every morning.  So he was usually up when she woke up, and though he was prone to napping around eleven, he was awake again no later than two.  Since Giles had offered him the job, Spike was at the Magic Box by three, working until seven or so.  So, if they kept to that pattern, come the next semester, provided she got scholarship money, she could take classes from ten until three, which fit in nicely.

Which was a huge if.  Right now, Buffy thought, if I have to make a decision, it’s a world of no.

UC Sunnydale wasn’t a huge campus, not by a long shot, not by anyone’s standards, and yet here she was, in the main quad completely overwhelmed and trying to stop herself from wigging.    Too many people milling around, bumping into her and Oh! God!  Parker Abrams, that slug! had just walked right by her.  Thank god he hadn’t seen her.

“Buffy?”

Oh no, no, nonono. . . Whirling around at the sound of her name, she stopped short, literally, at the sight before her eyes.

“Oz?”

“Hey,” He smiled slightly at her stunned expression.

“Hey.  How are you?  When did you get back - where’ve you been?  What have you been doing?”  Nervous babbling filled the air around them.

Pulling on his arm she moved them out of the flow of foot traffic.  His replies were mumbled as they moved.  “Okay.  Couple of weeks.”

At her confused look, he just raised an eyebrow.  She smiled brightly, relieved to have found a familiar safe face to stave off the panic.

“Sorry, I’m babble-girl.”

He gave her his patented Oz grin, consisting of no more than just a mere raised lip and sat down on the bench next to her.

“Got back a couple of weeks ago.  Hooked up with the band.  Been playing some gigs.”  He squinted into the sunshine then continued, “What’s new?”

Buffy giggled nervously – what a can of worms that question is.  “Um . . . well, lots.  Where do you want me to start?”

There was one thing on his mind and both of them knew it, yet both were afraid to bring it up for completely different reasons.

It was into that awkward moment Tara stepped into view, calling, “Hey, Buffy.”

Oz stiffened beside her, recognizing the other girl.

“Oh.”  Tara shared a look with Buffy then greeted him.  “Hey, Oz. How. . . how are you?”

“Good.”  He started to get up, but Buffy placed a hand on his arm.  “Oz, this is Tara,” and blurting out what was suddenly on all their minds, “Tara, who is no longer Willow’s girlfriend.”

“Whoa.”  It spoke volumes that Oz actually raised his voice a bit.

Tara ducked her head smiling at Buffy’s blunt declaration.

“Hey.”

They sat there, frozen for a moment until Buffy said, “Come home and have dinner with us.”

Looking from one girl to the other, Oz thought for a moment, then shook his head in agreement.  Free food sounded good.  “Sure.”

“Gotta make a stop first and then we’ll head home, okay with you?”  Buffy asked cheerfully, happy now that this was going better.

“Sure.”  He shrugged, pretty much willing to go with the flow.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Spike was in the basement, packing orders, getting them ready for shipping when he heard the bell tinkle upstairs indicating some new arrival.  Glancing at the clock on the wall, he dropped one last handful of bio-degradeable filler into the box, sealed it with packing tape, slapped an address label on it and headed up the stairs to greet his woman.

Buffy was chattering animatedly to someone he couldn’t see and his nose couldn’t identify.  It wasn’t Tara because he could see her talking with Giles, while Anya was finishing a sale.  Spying him before anyone else, she smiled then went right back to the customer.

He watched his golden girl, a smile playing on his features.  Whoever she was talking to she was comfortable with, apparently considering whoever it was a friend, because she was chattering away like he hadn’t seen her do since before her mother died.

Leaning against the counter, Spike just watched her, drinking in her presence.  Every day he marveled at her, how she accepted him into her life and how far she’d come since those first awful days back from the dead.

Buffy paused in her almost monologue, no longer ignoring the tingles his presence set off within her.  Deciding she wanted to tease him a little, Buffy flipped her hair, then wiggled her hips a little, stretching her arms up over her head.

That strip of skin at the small of her back exposed by her stretch beckoned him.  Her scent engulfed him as her emotions strengthened.  Stalking up behind her, Spike knew she felt him because her body shifted, urging him closer.

Still standing away from her, Spike reached out a finger, running it across that stretch of skin.  Goose bumps raised themselves at his touch and Buffy fought the shiver of arousal running through her muscles.

His hand brushed around her waist, pulling her back against him.  Nuzzling into her hair, Spike whispered, “Hello, cutie.”

Buffy leaned further back against him, her hand caressing his, their fingers entwining.

Watching the display in front of him, Oz realized things had really changed.  He wasn’t sure at first, but as he watched them his eyes confirmed what his sense of smell had deduced.  Oz almost didn’t believe it when he’d caught a glimpse of Spike watching Buffy, a different kind of predatory gleam in his eyes.

Sighing a bit, Buffy turned in Spike’s embrace, her arms automatically spiraling around his neck, her whispered, “Hello, yourself,” sending a thread of arousal through him.

Realizing their audience was staring, Buffy kissed Spike, then reluctantly broke from his embrace.

“Spike, you remember Oz, right?”

Ahhh, now he did.  Willow’s dogboy.  

“Oz, I’m sure you remember Spike.”

Spike leaned over to shake the other man’s hand saying, “Welcome back.”

If Oz was surprised by the change in Spike it didn’t show.  Then again, Oz was never one for huge emotional expressions.
                    

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The last journal was finished.  She’d read it from cover to cover.  Unfortunately, it did nothing to further her quest.  The good news was Giles was leaving tomorrow, going back to England because the Council was demanding his presence.  That meant she’d be able to sneak into his apartment and steal another couple of books.

He wasn’t happy about it, but he really didn’t have much choice, since he was going for two  reasons that she was aware of anyway, only one of which the Council was aware of.  She’d overheard Giles telling Spike he was going to try and get the Council to give Buffy a stipend so she wouldn’t have to go get a job, not that Spike wasn’t earning enough, but so things would be a bit better.

Between Tara’s housing grant, Spike’s weekly poker winnings and now the job with the Magic Box, money wasn’t so tight.  She got a check monthly from Social Services, but the adults had decided not to dip into what they were calling her college fund unless things got  dire.

Which was cool.

But right now Dawn was frustrated.  And so not happy.  So when the phone rang, she wasn’t at all pleasant-girl, until she realized who was on the other end.

So when he asked if she wanted to go to homecoming with him, she played it cool, until she hung up the phone.  Then, and only then, was when she squealed high enough to shatter glass.

Chapter Text

Book Two, chapter 2.  Clutching stardust

Any idiot can face a crisis – it’s day to day living that wears you out.
    Anton Chekov

Unbeing dead is not being alive.
    e. e. cummings

Life is easier than you’d think;
all that is necessary is to accept the impossible,
do without the indispensable,
and bear the intolerable.
    Kathleen Norris




Filling Oz in on what had been going on since his departure had left the werewolf more than a little confused.  But, in typical fashion, he’d just taken it all in stride without commenting on any of it.

During the course of dinner, Oz discovered what had happened to Faith, learned about the arrival and subsequent departure of Riley (at least more than he’d known before); about Dawn and Glory.  Hearing about Joyce had made a small frown appear on his face, but hearing about Buffy’s death and Willow’s part in her return had disturbed him nearly as much as it had the others.  And now, Spike was living here, openly part of a couple with Buffy.  Even with all that, for Oz, the really wiggy part of the whole evening was discovering how much he actually liked Tara.

There hadn’t been much opportunity for bonding during his last visit, hadn’t been much desire for it either.  He’d watched her while they ate, seeing how comfortable everyone was, how much they were a family unit.  Tara was the glue that held them together.  He liked that, could appreciate it even.

He found himself wishing it wasn’t time to go when dinner was done and Buffy and Spike were getting ready to patrol.

Which kind of explained how he and Tara ended up talking most of the night, until it was nearly one in the morning, and why Buffy invited him to sleep on the couch when they’d gotten in a few minutes later.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


They still hadn’t been able to dispatch the Cwn Annwn, though the nightly attacks had begun to dwindle.  The number of bodies had dropped also, down to one or two per attack, instead of the four or five previously.

Further research was another reason Giles was returning to England and despite Buffy’s protestations otherwise, Giles knew he had to go.

Besides, it wasn’t a permanent move.  This was just, at least in his eyes, a fact finding trip.  The Council wanted a report from him and he needed information  – and concessions – from them.  Unfortunately his list probably exceeded theirs by about five.  Wesley had requested Giles scan the library for vampire pregnancies, which Spike had seconded, then there was the Cwn Annwn and Willow’s ritual and . . . he needed also, to know what, if anything, the Council knew about the monks.

What he’d read so far convinced him that the monks had predated Christianity by at least a millennia, subverting themselves by allowing their absorption into the Church for protection during the Middle Ages – when the Inquisition was in full swing.  The order had been formed, or so it seemed, for one purpose – to guard the Key and the gates from Glorificus and any other being with enough power and hubris to try wielding the Key.

Though the Council had stated they had shared what information they possessed, Giles was not convinced of their honesty, which was why he had no intention of revealing the extent of his need for information.  At least not until he got some indication which way the wind was blowing; whether they’d offer to support Buffy and to what extent.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Oz woke to the sound of slightly raised voices.  It sounded like Spike and Dawn were going at it in the kitchen.  Unable to fall back asleep, Oz listened, getting an idea about how close they were.  They sounded like any parent and child discussing dates, which was kind of weird, considering Spike wasn’t Dawn’s father.

“Told you, wasn’t going to say yea or nay wi’ out meetin’ the boy.”

Something landed hard on a counter and Oz winced at the pitch of Dawn’s voice.  “Why do you have to?  It’s not like I’m gonna marry the guy.  It’s just homecoming.”

“Dawn, what’s his name?”  It was hard to miss Spike’s exasperation with the teenager.

“Casey.”

There was silence, then a deep sigh, and the girl spoke again.  “Fine.  I’ll do it.  But no going all ggggrrrrr on me okay?”

“Let you know about that.”

And apparently the conversation was over, because silence once again reigned.  Oz rolled over and went back to sleep.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


They took turns getting up in the morning, making sure Dawn got up in time for school, and this morning it had been his turn.  Dawn had ambushed him about homecoming once she was dressed and ready to go, telling him only that the boy she wanted to ask her had.

Trudging back up the stairs to curl in beside Buffy, Spike ran a hand through his hair.  He knew what Dawn was up too, it was fairly obvious.  With his approval it would be that much easier to get Buffy to agree, however he wasn’t going to cave on this issue.  Spike was adamant about meeting the snot first and if he made it through his ridiculously long check list, Spike would allow her to go.

Sitting on the side of the bed, Spike untied his boots, dropping them heavily on the floor, trying yet trying not to wake Buffy.  She stirred, moving under the blankets but didn’t wake up.  Sliding off his jeans, Spike lifted the cotton sheet and blanket off her.  Flesh colored lace with a faint tinge of lilac barely covered her rounded butt cheeks.

He grinned at the sight, his fingers grazing across the slope of her upper thigh, whisking over each globe.  Buffy shifted one leg, bending it upwards, lifting her ass in the air.  Spike took it for an unconscious invitation.  Playing his fingers gently over her skin, Spike allowed his other hand to push up the scrap of lace she dared to call a nightgown.  It barely covered her, leaving little for his imagination, constructed of two thin strips of ribbon and stretchable lace.  It was one of his favorite articles of her clothing.

Moving closer to her, Spike grinned as she moved into him, her face turning toward him.  Barely there touches grazed her from behind, raising gooseflesh all over her back.  Her legs twitched, her mound pressing against the mattress, a tiny whimper escaping her throat.  His grin widened.  Teasing both of them he ran his fingers over her softly, slowly, his fingers moving ever closer to her molten core.  She was liquid fire, especially there, burning hot.  Buffy’s hips shifted again, quivering under his touch.  The whimper morphed into a soft whine as she swam toward waking.

Spike wiggled two fingers around her center.  “God, kitten. . . so wet. . .”

His words breathed across her shoulder, answered by her sleepy murmur.  “Open up for me, love, let me in. . .”

Shifting a bit so he was looming over her, his mouth by her ear, he rumbled her name deep in his chest.  “Buffy.”

Sleepily she responded to his intimate touch, her eyes drifting open as he slowly, almost lazily thrust his fingers inside her.  Her eyes opened, his name escaping from her lips, seeking his.

“Mmmm. . .  There she is. . . my sweet one.”

Buffy gasped into the pillow beneath her, arching her bottom into the air, writhing slowly with each thrust.  “Spike,” she practically moaned his name as he knelt between her thighs, his hand lifting her.

“Want you . . . want to be inside you . . . gonna let me in?”  He leaned over her back, his words spoken against lace covered skin interspersed with nipping kisses.  “C’mon, beautiful girl . . .”

“Spike . . . please.”  She was barely awake, sensations drowning her, his touch igniting her from the inside.

Still using only his fingers, Spike brought her to the edge, drawing her back as he raked his fingers from her warmth.  Buffy’s hips were churning, seeking friction, penetration . . . something. . . “Please Spike. . .”

Pulling her back over his legs, Spike opened his knees, spreading her legs apart.  His cock nudged at her from behind, making her whimper with need.  His strong hands held her still, lifting her onto his hard length.

His name hissed in the air, ending in a half shriek as he slid all the way inside her.  “Spike.  Oh, god. . . oh. . .”

The grunts in her ear were driving her insane, his voice repeating her name over and over as he drove into her from behind, filling her up, hitting her exactly where she needed him. “Oh, god, Spike . . . please. . . need . . to. . .”

Buffy grabbed the iron bars in front of her.  He was pounding into her now, hard and fast and “Spike. . . oh. . .”

A deep growl sounded from her throat surprising him into stilling his movements.  A breathless chuckle sounded in her ear as he nibbled on the nape of her neck.  

“Love,” he thrust hard, “come with me.”  

“So . . . god, kitten. . . love you.”  Slow, hard grind of his pelvis into hers.  

She writhed against him, seeking more, “Please . . . now. . . Spike.”

“Buffy . . . love you . . . beautiful girl. . .”   Thrusting hard and fast again, Spike lost all pretense of control when her inner muscles constricted around him.  

His blunt teeth bit down hard on that spot where her neck met her shoulder and Buffy groaned in response.   “Spike . . . wanna see you. . .”

Growling low in his throat, Spike slid from her depths and she rolled over to face him.  Spike’s mouth was on hers instantly, their tongues battling against each other, his hard length sliding into her again.  Wrapping around, her arms encircled his neck, holding on tight.

“Look at me, kitten.”  

“Oh, god. . . oh, god . . . Spike. . . need you. . . want.” For once, Buffy was nearly as vocal as he was.
 
Her eyes never leaving his, Buffy bore down, convulsing around him.  Staring into each other’s eyes, they exploded together.  His whispered words echoed around her, “Love you so much, Buffy.”

Sliding down sideways onto the mattress, Spike lifted her hip over his, pulling her against his chest.   “So much.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Oz woke up for good sometime mid-morning to find the house quiet again.  There was a note on top of his clothing from Tara.  Reading it, he finally understood what had attracted Willow to Tara.  She wasn’t the hottest looking girl around, but looks weren’t much really if you weren’t a beautiful person underneath.  And Tara was.  

There were homemade muffins and fresh coffee in the kitchen.  All he had to do was turn the coffee maker on.

Wandering into the kitchen he found everything where the note said it would be. She’s really thoughtful, kind, caring.  I get it now, with Willow. Tara was not safe, but comforting.  Something about her just drew the other person in, making the other person feel terribly important.

The phone ringing pulled him from his reverie and he thought about answering it, though he didn’t want to overstep his bounds.  Didn’t really matter, because it stopped after three rings and the answering machine didn’t pick up, so he assumed that either Buffy or Spike had answered.  Ten minutes later feet pounded down the stairs and Oz wasn’t surprised when a slightly disheveled Spike entered the kitchen.

“Hey.”

“Mornin,’” moving toward the refrigerator, Spike motioned to the coffee pot, “How much is in there?”

 “Dunno.  Tara set it up.”  Oz watched him pour some blood into a mug then pop it into the microwave.

“Right, should be enough for all of us.”  Waiting a beat, Spike asked, “Sleep all right?”

“Yeah.”

“Good then.”

They stayed in comfortable silence until Buffy made her way downstairs, water dripping from her almost dry hair.

She smiled in appreciation when Spike handed her a mug of coffee, exclaiming, “Ooh, caffeine-y goodness.”

Spike rolled his eyes, hiding his grin at her good mood behind is own cup.  Figuring now was as good a time as any, he mentioned Dawn’s impending date, then watched his girl panic.

“What?”  Huffing a bit, she said, “A world of no.   She’s not ready . . . no.  I’m not ready.”  Blowing cool air across the surface of her mug, Buffy said.  “No.  So not ready for this – does she have to?”

“Bit wants to go.  She’s bringing him round so we can meet ‘im.”

Buffy made a face, thinking about this.  “Spike, she’s too young.”

“She’s fifteen.  ‘s not too young.”  Spike waited for her to get to the point on her own.

She huffed again, giving in before his steady gaze.  “All right.  We’ll meet him.”  Grabbing one of the muffins, Buffy turned her attention to Oz, asking, “Did you sleep okay?”

“Yep.”

“We’re headed to Giles’.  He’s going to England today.  You need a ride?”  

“That’s cool.  You can drop me near campus.”

Spike locked the back door then rinsed out his bloody mug and headed for the stairs, saying, “Car should be unlocked but check before I run out there.”

Buffy went out the front door, opened the driver’s side of the DeSoto, then ran back into the house.  Oz followed out the door, watching their crazy ritual.  Every window on the DeSoto was blacked out, with bare strips in the windshield and on the side and rear windows, so that Spike could see out the mirrors.

Spike dashed out the door, covered in a dark blanket, hit the seat and slammed the driver’s door behind him.  Buffy giggled a bit at Oz’ expression, saying, “It’s an adventure” as she locked the front door behind them.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Xander was running himself ragged.  Between his job, planning the wedding – that was still a secret –  with Anya, and now trying to spend time with Willow, he didn’t know if he was coming or going.

And he didn’t know if it was his imagination, or just the weirdness of life in Sunnydale but it felt like stuff was going on around him that he just didn’t understand.  Stuff with Willow, coz she was just getting more and more un-Willowy.  She was talking to Amy – Amy the rat and sometimes he thought she expected an answer.  And Willow was always reading, okay, so that wasn’t really unusual, but he wasn’t so sure about what she was reading.

A couple of times he’d picked up special packages for her and the return address labels kind of spooked him – like this last one that was sitting in his car – was from Haiti and well, he didn’t think she knew anyone from there. . .  And don’t they practice Voodoo down there?

He just wasn’t sure what she was up too.  And he was kind of concerned, because he really wasn’t sure there was anyone he could talk to about all this – because he’d only seen Buffy a couple of times since they threw Willow out and Spike was always with her and he still didn’t trust the guy.

Anya didn’t want to hear about Willow either, or rather she was so focused on their wedding and Giles leaving that he just couldn’t talk to her about it.  

In fact, he was finding it hard to talk to Anya at all.

He wished he had someone to talk to, because all this was just confusing him too much.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Buffy watched as Giles walked toward the boarding area, her hands clenched together in front of her, a pained expression on her face.

Spike wrapped his arms around her from behind, his chin resting on her head.  “He’s comin’ back.  Only goin’ for a month or so.”

“Is he?”  Her voice was papery-thin and bleak.

“Said he was.  Got no reason to doubt him.”  He pulled her closer, his arms tight around hers.  Buffy relaxed into his embrace, gathering strength from his proximity.

“Yeah.  I guess you’re right.”  She sighed but didn’t move at all, just basking in his nearness.  Tilting her head to the side, she glanced at him from the corner of her eye.  “Have I thanked you yet?”

“For what?”  She had his attention now.

“Everything you do for me.  And Dawn.”  Buffy turned slightly in his arms, her head resting on his shoulder.  “Dunno how I would’ve managed.  Don’t think it would’ve been pretty.”

“You’d’ve figured somethin’ out, pet.”  He kissed the end of her nose, saying, “C’mon, Slayer, I’ve got to go to work.  Demon girl’s looking for a night of girl stuff.”

They headed out of the airport, toward the dark parking garage, not knowing about the wispy redhead following them.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


She was meeting Casey at five and then together they were going into the Magic Box so Spike could meet him.  That meant she had an hour to get into Giles’ and find some new journals.  This time she was going to be very specific about what she took.

Dawn was done with taking chances.  She needed to know.  Sooner rather than later.

Unlocking the door, Dawn cautiously let herself into the apartment.  She loved it here, it always smelled so good.  She supposed that was because Giles always had good things around him.   Old books, good tea, and not so stinky cologne, not like some other men.

Would’ve been hard not to miss the books, although since there were so many Giles had put them into a steamer trunk.  The trunk was against the inner wall, close to the television, yet far enough away from the window so that no one would notice them.

Kneeling down on the floor, Dawn quickly opened the trunk, pulling out volumes.  Sorting them by language and year, she rapidly found four fairly current volumes, except for the last one – the one she needed the most.  Spying a smaller book nearly at the bottom of the pile, Dawn grabbed it.  Opening it up, she glanced at a random page and stopped.

Blinking a couple of times, she went back to it.

Her sister’s name stared back at her and the date on the entry was Halloween two years ago.  Snapping it closed, Dawn grabbed the others, stuffing them into her backpack.  Shoving the rest of the books back into the trunk, Dawn had to force herself to calm down.  Gulping in deep breaths, she finally calmed herself enough to stack the journals exactly as they’d been.

Locking up behind her, Dawn set off to meet Casey and after that to brave the lion’s den.

Chapter Text




Book Two
Chapter 3.  Indiscreet questions and answers.

An ounce of blood is worth more than a pound of friendship
    Spanish proverb

A child can ask questions that a wise man cannot answer
    Anonymous


    


Anya had left ridiculously detailed lists of instructions on such diverse topics that Spike had no recourse but to smile.  Buffy was reading one of the lists, an occasional giggle escaping her.  They currently had the shop to themselves, it being too early for the after work crowd just yet and the after-school college kids and suburban moms ending their shopping days.

Spike looked around surprised at how empty the shop was.  That was good, because he didn’t want to have a rush.

“Love?”

“Yeah?”  She peeked over the edge of the list she was reading, a smile on her face.

“You okay w’Niblet doin’ this?”  He had no idea why he was harping on it, except sometimes his mouth ran ahead of his brain.

“I guess.  Just wasn’t really ready, but hey, it’s gonna be sooner or later, right?”  Buffy made a little face her unreadiness showing.  “She’s gonna be okay, right?”

“Yeah.”  Spike was fully prepared to not allow Dawn to go if the boy proved unworthy, or if something was off, even just a little something.

He was still thinking about just what kind of things he could do to the boy when the phone rang.  “Magic Box.”

“May I speak with Rupert Gi . . Spike?”

“Oxford?”

“Yes, it’s me.  How come you are there?”

“Giles left this mornin’.”

“Damn.  I was hoping to catch him before he left.  He’s got his cell with him, right?”

“Yeah.  Oxford, what’s goin’ on?”  Spike had picked up on the anxiety in Wesley’s voice.

“Darla’s in labor.”

Spike released a long breath.  “What . . . Is everythin’ normal?”

Buffy had gotten up, coming closer, listening to his side of the conversation.

“Unknown.  We think it’s normal but we can’t be sure.”  

“Keep us posted.”

“Will do.”

They hung up simultaneously.

                                            
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Wesley wasn’t sure what constituted normal labor for a vampire – nor had he ever been present during human labor.  He had no idea about the mechanics of the process and none of the others were prepared.  However, unlike some of the other members of AI, Wesley had at least read a book on the subject.  According to their calculations, Darla was about at term, give or take a week.  Unsure what to do next since Rupert was currently incommunicado, Wesley consulted “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and figured they needed to eliminate false labor pains.

Forcing Darla into the shower, Wesley waited, hoping this wasn’t the moment.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


They were sitting at the table talking about Wesley’s phone call, when the doorbell tinkled, signaling a new arrival.  Both of them looked up, Spike automatically getting to his feet, while Buffy stared at her sister and the boy behind her.  It was obvious to the older two that the teenagers were very nervous.  The boy stood to Dawn’s left, his hands stuffed into his pockets, while Dawn shifted her feet, her eyes darting between the two people who held the most control over her.  

Taking pity on her sister, Buffy said, “Hey, Dawn.”  

Returning the greeting, she started down the steps toward the table.  Throwing a glance over her shoulder to her prospective date, Dawn smiled at him and he followed her slowly.  “Buffy, this is Casey.”  

The boy Dawn was introducing had sun-streaked blond, kind of wavy hair, dark blue eyes, and braces.  He was taller than Dawn, about the same height as Spike, kind of on the thin side.  His features were even, nose not to big, forehead not to pronounced, chin not too weak.  Casey was, all in all, a typical normal teen-aged boy.  Taking him in from top to bottom, Buffy had to suppress a giggle.  He was so clearly nervous because he wouldn’t look her in the eyes at all, just kind of politely said hello.  

“Casey, this is my sister Buffy,” and glancing once at the still form of Spike, continued, “and her boyfriend Spike.”

At the name, Casey’s head reared up, eyes widening slightly at the sight of him.  Reaching out a hand, Spike was pleased when the boy took the hint and extended his in a handshake.  “Hello, sir.”

Buffy suppressed the inappropriate giggle that was threatening.  Sensing her amusement, Spike just said hello back to the boy, then sent her a pointed look.  Better the boy fear him than think he was a pushover, because this one was all human, not a scent of demon about him, and that meant Spike couldn’t do anything other than intimidate the hell out of him.  Which wasn’t hard.

His raised eyebrow was enough to get the boy talking, because he said, “Dawn talks about you.  Well, both of you.”  

As if embarrassed about mentioning it, Casey looked over at Dawn, smiling at her.  She was struggling not to scream at both of them to not make this any harder than it already was, but she grinned a little bit when Casey realized she was struggling with her backpack and he helped her.  

Two, well, almost three points in the boy’s favor.  Spike was quickly re-assessing his original thoughts about the boy, worried that Dawn would have brought home, at worst, someone with demonic origins, if not an outright demon.   In one respect it would have been easier, because he could take care of demons but on the other, it wouldn’t have been good for Dawn or Buffy.  

Casey shifted his feet, nervous now that there was no conversation, unsure of what to do or say.  Throwing an uneasy glance at Dawn, he sat down after she did, his hands clasped loosely on the table in front of him.  

God, this is so awkward.  Why did he want to do this?  Dawn sent a frosty glance at Spike, which he completely ignored.  Instead, he tried to come up with something to talk about.

It was Buffy who finally broke the ice.  “Casey, did you grow up in Sunnydale?”  

“No, we moved here from New York about six years ago.”  

Spike’s ears perked up at that.  “Where ‘bouts in New York? I lived there for a bit, long time ago.”

“Um, outside of the city.  We lived out on the island.”  

Leaning against the ladder, Spike said, “Lived down in the Village.”

Buffy cleared her throat, forestalling any real sharing of Spike’s memories of Greenwich Village, and he just grinned at her, knowing full well what she was doing.  

“When’s this dance, Ni – Dawn?”  Spike was done with the conversation, moved to let the boy off the hook by the expression on Dawn’s face, when things started getting uncomfortable again.

“Saturday,” was Casey’s answer, which surprised everyone, including himself.

“Doesn’t give you much time to get ready.”  Buffy looked at him, wondering how much money this was going to cost both of them, and how much they actually had to spend on this.

“I was afraid Dawn was going to say no.”  The boy looked a little embarrassed to admit it, but the smile on Dawn’s face was enough to tell Spike that he had been foolish to worry about it.  

“Can we go?”  This was torture and she had to get out of there, otherwise she was going to end up shrieking the shop down, piercing eardrums for a five hundred yard radius.  

“To the dance?”  Spike looked at the pair of them, then Buffy.  Waiting for a signal from her that she was okay with this, Spike smiled when she reached for his hand.  “One condition.”

“Spike.”  Dawn’s soft whine was all she would permit herself in front of Casey, though it got her point across.

“No debatin’ it.”  He crossed to where Buffy was sitting, his hands dropping to her shoulders, an implacable look on his features.

Sighing loudly, she gave in.  “Okay, what is it?”

“I’ll pick you up when it’s time to leave.”

At least he’s not insisting to be there the whole time.  “That’s it?”  It was better than what she’d first thought he was going to say or what he might have said to Casey.  Looking toward her date, she wondered what he was thinking about all this, but he stayed silent, looking to her for an okay on this condition.  “Okay, Spike.”

“Good.”  He squeezed Buffy’s shoulders, gazing down at her, a smile playing about his lips.  “You girls goin’ shoppin’ then?”

Knowing he’d managed to please one of the girls in his life, Spike did what he could to ease the thoughts of the other.  “C’mere, pet.”  

Effortlessly helping her to her feet, Spike led Buffy over to the counter, whispering the whole way.  “Watcher left some extra dosh in case we needed it.  Got it here.  Take her out for a bit, and I’ll worry ‘bout the rest later, yeah?”

Winding her arms around his neck, Buffy kissed him, whispering back, “Thanks for not going so hard on her about this.”

“I get a reward for bein’ good?”  He leered at her, his tongue against his teeth, mischief clear in his eyes.

“Later. . . I promise.”

“C’mon, Dawnie, we’re going shopping.”  Buffy collected her bag, motioning for her sister to get up.  “Casey, it was really nice to meet you.”

“Thanks.”  Looking at Dawn, Casey said, “I’ll call you later, okay?”

Spike watched as the girls walked out the door.  Calling the boy back to talk to him for a minute, Spike waited until the girls were gone before speaking.  

“Dunno what she’s told you ‘bout me, but you don’t wanna get on my bad side.  You take care of my girl, treat her right an’ you won’t have to worry ‘bout it.  Hurt her, an’” he didn’t let the demon out, though Spike did get a flinty look in his eyes, “You won’t know what hit you.”

To his credit, Casey didn’t back down, didn’t flinch at all when Spike started speaking.  His only comment to Spike was, “I’ll do my best.”

And Spike let him go, knowing it was the best he could do.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Instead of heading to the mall, remembering the disaster that was their first shopping expedition, Buffy headed to some of the smaller dress shops on Main Street, not too far from the Magic Box.  Dawn was trailing behind her, watching over her shoulder for Casey to leave.  She was kind of worried what Spike was gonna say to Casey when he was alone with him, knowing the vampire wasn’t going to let things go as easily as they had.  He’d just been playing nice for her sake, to not embarrass her in front of him.  

Finally realizing Dawn wasn’t walking beside her, Buffy turned around and headed back to where the younger girl was standing.  “Dawnie?”

“He’s still in the shop.”  Turning to her sister, Dawn asked, “Do you think he’s gonna scare him?”

“Maybe.  Just a little bit?”  Buffy wasn’t sure either, though as they were discussing it, the shop door opened and Casey walked out, in one piece and not looking too scared.  

Breathing a sigh of relief, Dawn watched as he headed off toward his house, never once realizing the girls had been watching for him the whole time.  “Let’s go.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Dealing with the smaller shops had been a smart move.  They found a dress for Dawn in the second shop, shoes and the rest in the next shop.  Easier than last time.  Buffy was so embarrassed about that, she’d made Dawn promise she wouldn’t ever tell anyone, not even Spike.    Bags in hand and a plan for dinner, they made their way back to the Magic Box, chattering excitedly at each other. Although, in the back of her mind, Buffy was still thinking about what had happened that first time, realizing she was making progress.

Then, the bright lights and all the people had sent her into a panic, causing her to hyperventilate and nearly pass out in the middle of the mall.  The really embarrassing part was that she had just stood there, crying, unable to tell Dawn what was wrong and the whole time every bit of her had been screaming silently for Spike.  Dawn hadn’t known what to do either and in her confusion she’d started yelling at Buffy and the situation had just gone from bad to worse.  “Dawnie?  I’m sorry about last time.”

“No biggie.  I goofed too.”  Smiling over at her, Dawn made a face.  “Guess you weren’t ready then.”

“Nope.  But I had fun tonight.”   With a cheerful answering smile, Buffy continued, “Major shopping goodness, since we got everything you need.”  

“Yup.  Do you think Spike’s gonna wig when he sees the dress?”  

“Dunno.  We’ll just have to hide it from him until Saturday.”  

Dawn had found a dress, but it was blue, which just brought back memories of Glory and she’d balked until they found a similar dress in red, although it was more of a wine color.  She just hoped Spike wouldn’t give her a hard time about it.

Three days until the dance.  “OH!  What about my hair?”

Putting their heads together, the girls headed into the shop, talking about hairstyles and makeup.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Willow had watched them say goodbye to Giles in the airport, a calculating look upon her face.  She’d followed them to the Magic Box then left to head back home.

One support gone.  Giles leaving was of the good.  He’d set up wards around the shop and his apartment and started setting them up around Buffy’s house.  All they did was prevent her from wandering in as invisible girl, so they weren’t even all that elaborate.

But they existed.  And Willow knew they were aimed specifically at her.

It wasn’t time yet.  Soon enough and she’d prove to Giles that his little wards weren’t enough to keep her out and then she’d prove to Buffy that Spike was only playing at being a good guy.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Rupert couldn’t help thinking that he was leaving too much undone.  Even though he’d checked everything more than once.  He still had that tingle at the back of his neck that always signaled bad news.  Perhaps it was just what had transpired the last time he was on a plane or perhaps it was trepidation over dealing with the Council.

Or maybe it had been the look in Buffy’s eyes.

She was obviously very upset at his leaving.  And nothing he’d said had reassured her in the least.  Thank heavens for Spike.   If the other Englishman wasn’t around Giles’ fears over leaving would have increased immeasurably.  His unwavering support of Buffy in the last couple of weeks solidified Giles’ belief that the vampire would do anything to keep the girls safe.

When he’d first pitched the idea of him working, Spike had just kind of looked at him strangely.  Although as he’d laid out his reasons to the younger man, Giles had seen the moment Spike understood.

He was only asking Spike to do it for now, while Buffy got used to being back, and then Buffy would take over.  This way, she’d have some steady money coming in and she wouldn’t have to worry about the utilities or the mortgage.  It would also put the mail order and the shop in trusted hands.

Rupert focused on the list, instead of that sense of impending doom.  It was going to be hard enough keeping things from the Council without the added distraction of worrying about what he’d left behind.
                            

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


They were out patrolling.  Tara was downstairs studying.  It was now or never.  The wait had been too long anyway.  Dawn locked the door to her bedroom and fished out the last journal.

It was easily the smallest and latest of all the books she’d chosen so far.  Closing her eyes in a silent prayer that the answers would be found within, Dawn settled herself on the bed and began to read.

Four hours and thirteen minutes later, she found what she’d been searching for.  It was there.  The answers.

It had been just as she’d suspected.

The damn monks had engineered it all somehow.

From the placing of the Gem of Amara in Sunnydale – to Spike’s discovery of it; from the Initiative capturing him – to their taking of all sorts of DNA samples.

They’d done it all.

Taken something of Spike’s and something of Buffy’s . . . and magically constructed her.

Now that it was there in black and white and in Prior Raymond’s handwriting, Dawn almost didn’t believe it.

She was theirs.

Their flesh.

Her blood.

Dawn laid down on her bed and cried.

Chapter Text

Book Two

Chapter 4.  Farewell, fair day and fading light

But what minutes!  
Count them by sensation,
and not by calendars,
and each moment is a day.
    Benjamin Disreali

You must have been warned against letting the golden hours slip by;
but some of them are golden only because we let them slip by.
    James Matthew Barrie


    


Spike was downstairs watching a repeat of an old Premier League update that was at least half a week old.  It was the second time he’d watched it, although he would rather be doing what he was than dealing with the hen party upstairs.

They were making his Niblet into something else and he wasn’t so sure he liked the idea.  It was only four in the afternoon, he couldn’t imagine what was going to take this long, the dance wasn’t until seven.  No one needed three hours of prep time.  Especially not someone as pretty as his girl.

He must have fallen asleep, because Premier League wasn’t on any more, some other inane program was on and the sun was already down.  Glancing at the time on the television, Spike realized it was nearly time for the pup to arrive.

As if on some sort of cue, the doorbell rang.  Running a hand over his face, Spike got up and answered the door.  There he was, decked out in a penguin suit, flowers in hand.

“Lo.”

“Hello, sir.”

Purposely not saying the words necessary for an invitation, in case the boy’s status had changed in three days, Spike just gestured him in.

Casey walked inside the door, clearly nervous.  “My Dad’s outside waiting for us.”  Then he made a face and admitted, “Actually, both my parents are here.”

This was such unfamiliar territory for Spike however he knew what was proper and what wasn’t.  “Bring them in.”

Casey bounded out the door while Spike bellowed up the stairs.  Tara’s voice floated down as Casey and his parents came to the door.  They followed the boy in and Spike introduced himself as Will.

“Girls‘ll be down in a minute.”

The father, Jim, declined the offer of a drink, while the boy’s mother, Loretta, accepted his offer of iced tea.

Retreating to the kitchen, leaving them alone in the living room, Spike took his time.  The longer the girls took the more agitated he was becoming.  Finally as he was done stalling, he heard footsteps on the stairs.

Glinda.

Breathing an unnecessary sigh of relief he wandered back into the living room with the mother’s drink.  Introducing Tara only ate up a few moments, and by the time he was finished, Buffy was on her way down the stairs, Dawn a few steps behind her.

Glancing up at the stairs, Spike could see the strain on Buffy’s features though she tried to hide it.  He could also smell the distress and pain his girl was in.

“Buffy?”

She smiled at him, which was clearly taking an effort and mouthed, “Later” at him.

Motioning behind her, Buffy moved out of the way, revealing an all too grown up Dawn.  Spike gulped.

“Niblet?”  He almost didn’t believe his eyes.

She was nervously biting her lip, waiting for his reaction.  Reaching out a hand to help her down the last steps, Spike whispered, “You’re beautiful, pet.  All grown up.”

And she was.  

Her hair was a mass of curls, lifted away from her face, which was made up perfectly.  The curls cascading down her back were held up by jeweled clips artfully arranged around her temples.  The dress was a high neck halter gown of deep wine red and she had a matching cashmere scarf draped around her shoulders.  A tentative smile crossed her features at his words and she glanced at Buffy who smiled in answer.

The next few moments were a blur of flashbulbs and good natured laughter, all of which sped past him too quickly, and then the teenagers and parents were gone.

Buffy slumped against the wall while Tara sat on the stairs.  Spike looked between the two, unsure what to do next.  He watched in disbelief as Buffy crumpled to the floor, a soft sob breaking from her throat.

“Kitten?”

“That was so hard.”  Looking up at him from her spot on the floor, Buffy gave into the tears she’d been fighting all day.  “And I really don’t feel good.”

Crouching down in front of her, Spike reached out to pull her into his arms.  “What’s wrong, sweets?”

“Cramps.”  She sniffled once or twice, expecting him to get it.  

Unsure for a moment, Spike inhaled and immediately understood.  “Aww, sweetheart, c’mere.”

Gathering her into his arms, Spike lifted her up from the floor.  “C’mon, goldilocks, into the shower with you.”

Tara moved away from the stairs, letting them pass.  Watching the two of them, she called out, “I’m heading out, I’ll be home later.”

And they were alone.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


It was dark now, only the bright artificial lights illuminating the night sky.  There was a steady breeze up here, but that was only because of the height of the building.  Darla watched the night sky around her, hand cradling her huge belly, tears in her eyes.  She felt him approach, his scent assaulting her over-sensitive nose.  

He spoke without looking at her.  “You always did love a view.”

She returned the favor, her eyes on the distant lights, the faint smell of car exhaust and palm trees wafting in the air around them.  “Can you smell it?  This world.  This horrible world.   Why would anyone want to bring a baby into it?”

He sighed a little bit, turning to look at her.  “To make it better, maybe?”

Darla laughed ironically.  “Or to destroy it finally.”

Angel got irritated with her, just as he’d been getting with everyone else, since word of the ‘prophecy’ had surfaced.  He wasn’t so sure the prophecy even applied to this baby, so why was everyone else insisting it?  “Why is it everyone insists on planning my son’s future before he’s even born?”

Moving away from him, Darla tried to escape his presence, escape everything.  This is not what she had thought would happen, never even dreamed it once, probably not even when she was human, all those long centuries ago.  And recently?  She’d had a few other things on her mind more pressing than babies and a future.  “It doesn’t have a future.  Not with me.”

“Angel, I can’t have this baby.”

He was floored.  It was a little late to be thinking those kind of thoughts.  “What?”

“I can’t let it out.  I . . . just. . . I can’t.”  The tears she’d been fighting finally surfaced, pooling in her eyes.  At his look, she continued, “I know.  It wants out.  I can feel it.  It’s ready.  It’s time. . . but I just can’t let it.  I can’t let it because. . . because. . .”

Angel finally understood.  Or at least thought he did.  “You love it.”

Shaking her head in agreement, Darla fought the tears clogging her throat.  “I don’t think I’ve ever loved anything as much as this life that’s inside of me.”

It was almost funny.  If the situation had been any different, Darla admitting she loved their baby would have been funny.  But it wasn’t.  “You’ve never loved anything or anyone, Darla.”

“I never did, til now.”  She brushed aside his somewhat nasty comment, knowing it was the truth, though no longer having the strength to fight about it.  “I don’t know what to do.”  

“You do what you have to do.  You’ll have it and then . . .” Angel was at a loss for a further explanation.  He knew what he wanted, what he hoped for, but he wasn’t sure at the moment that any of this was possible.  It hardly seemed impossible either.

She snorted a little bit in disbelief at his naivety.  “What, we’ll raise it?  Be a happy family?”

“Why not?”  His response almost made her laugh.

“Why not?  Angel, have you been paying attention?  I’ve nothing to offer this child.  Nothing.  Nothing but an ugly death.”  He was so blinded by the miracle that he wasn’t seeing anything in terms of reality.  It was her job, her responsibility to point those things out.  She had too, for the sake of this baby.
    
“No.  What I do know is that you love this baby.  Our baby.  You’ve bonded with it.  You’ve spent nine months carrying it, nourishing it . . .”

Darla laughed through her tears.  “No. . . no.  I haven’t been – I haven’t given this baby a thing.  I’m dead.  I can’t nourish him.  It’s been nourishing me.  These feelings. . . that I’m having, they’re not mine.  They’re coming from it. . .”

Angel was willing to dispute that.  He knew she had some feelings, he was sure of it.  “No.  You don’t know that.”

Shaking her head in disagreement, Darla said, “Of course I know it.  We both do.  I don’t have a soul.  It does.  And the soul . . that soul is inside of me, but soon it won’t be and then. . .”

Her tears finally, completely broke, sliding down her face.  Her voice sounded a soft sob and she looked so wretched and distraught there was nothing for it but to hold her.  “I won’t be able to love it.  I won’t even remember that I loved it.  Won’t remember how to. . . and I want to remember.  Oh god.  Angel.  I want to remember that I love this baby.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


By the time he got her up the stairs and into the shower, Buffy had run the gamut of emotions, one second weepy, the next complaining, and then finally back to weepy again, as she whispered against his skin, “Sorry I’m psycho-Buffy.”

He grinned, wondering what her reaction would be if he described some of Drusilla’s frequent less-than-lucid moments.  She’d never apologize again for being psycho anything.  “‘S all right love.  No worries.”

Shouldering his way into the bathroom, Spike dropped her onto the vanity.  “Gonna get you set up and you should be fine, okay?”  

Turning woeful eyes up at him, she nodded yes, but he knew it wasn’t all right.  “What’s wrong?”  
“Nothing.  Everything.  I dunno.”  She sniffled into his shirt, her hands fisted in the soft cotton material.  “Not sure.  Just . . . sad.”

“Anythin’ in p’ticular?”  He kissed the top of her head and turned away to see to the taps and get the water hot enough to make a difference for her.  She was silent, content for a little bit to just watch him.  He was so . . . he enjoyed this, Buffy realized.  He liked being needed and taking care of someone.  

“No.”  She huffed, realizing she sounded like a little girl.  “Just not feeling so hot.”

Spike looked at her for a long minute, not saying anything.  The shower sounded like comfortable rain in the background, the warm air curling around the two of them, reeling them in, increasing the intimacy between them.

“Want me to wash your back?”  He wasn’t leering at her, though it was a near thing, she could tell by the tone of his voice.  

Wrinkling her nose, Buffy said “Eew, Spike, I’m all – it’ll be messy and bloody and . . .”

“Buffy, vampire here.  Bloody and messy is fine, more than fine.”  

She looked down at her feet, trying to hide the blush that was staining her cheeks, but he could smell her, every last little thing about her, smell the shampoo she used this morning, the makeup and scents she’d used with Dawn, and under it all, the scent of her growing arousal mixed with the heady fragrance of her blood.  Moving closer, his voice just a gravely murmur, Spike stood between her legs, his hands reaching out to caress her skin.  His hands tugged on the loose ponytail, releasing her hair to float all around her, fingers massaging the back of her neck.  All thoughts of tears were gone, dried up in the heat surrounding them, his touch driving away the momentary sadness.  He engulfed her, sent her outside of herself, away from all fear and pain, no sadness, no regrets, the sorrow at being back here long gone in the face of his devotion and care and his touch.  He grounded her, brought her back from the brink time and again, giving and giving, never once worrying about how much she had to give in return.  He asked only for her nearness, her acceptance.  

Buffy looked down at herself, seeing her bared breasts in his strong hands, calloused and scarred, watching as he molded them, almost feather light touches raising gooseflesh everywhere.  His mouth captured hers and she forgot to think, nearly forgot to breathe.  Spike’s hands were still molding her breasts, his thumbs flicking across her nipples.  Arching her back she broke the kiss to watch his hands on her.  Wet kisses trailed from her lips down her neck, nipping gently on her skin.  Her eyes never left his face, gazing at him as he wrapped his tongue around a hardened nipple.  Blunt teeth bit down, tugging at her gently.

Leaning further away, one hand gripping the edge of the vanity, Buffy was almost offering herself up for his mouth to taste.  More kisses trailed downwards.  At her waistband he moved sideways, nipping at her exposed flesh.  Glancing up at her, Spike was surprised to see her eyes opened and watching him.  Mischief flickered in his and before Buffy could prevent him from going any further, Spike began nuzzling his way further down her body.  His bites, even with her clothes between them, were electric.  

Big hands pulled her forward so his face could nudge closer into her.  “No . . . Spike. . .”

Sliding his fingers down the back of her waistband, Spike bit hard at the apex of her thighs, sending a jolt of desire straight through her.  Whining his name softly, Buffy bucked her hips closer to him, wrapping her legs around his chest.  Dropping to his knees, he pulled her to the edge of the vanity, his opened mouth bites trailing over her still clad mound.  

“Spike . . . no . . . god. . . Spike.”  

Her free hand fisted in his hair, holding him close and trying to push him away.  This was so . . . “Spike.”  

He was drunk, wanting nothing more than to drink her in, reeling from the scents surrounding them, the heat, her little gasps and whimpers of protestation and need, lost in the moment.  “God, kitten. . . please. . . let me. . .”

“Want you . . . all of you. . . please, love. . .”  

Whispered deep pleadings rang in the air between them, his fingers digging into the soft skin of her butt.  Her heels pressed into his back, belying her words of protest, urging him closer.

Small fingers pulled at his hair, holding him against her, her whimpers of pleasure overtaking her deeper protests.  Pulling away from her, Spike nipped her knee, then moved her off the vanity.  His head slumped against her belly, swimming in the scents covering her.  His hands pushed down her loose pants, exposing her, giving him more skin to nuzzle.

She kicked off her sneakers, her hands reaching for his shirt.  Leaning into him, Buffy let her arms wrap around his now bare shoulders.  Spike rocked back, lifting her clear of the pants pooled at her feet.  His mouth captured hers and he let go of her when his back hit the floor, letting her hold herself up away from him.

Their hands tangled together as they both reached for his boots and jeans, desperate now to be skin to skin.  A deep chuckle sounded in the air as they managed to get him half naked, with one boot stuck as the jeans slid down his hips.

Rolling Buffy off his chest, Spike sat up, practically ripping the laces open and violently kicking off his boot, sliding off the jeans in one swift movement.  Leaning over her, Spike’s mouth  captured a nipple, sliding his free hand down her torso.  Wasting no time, his mouth followed its earlier path downward.

“Spike,” but before he allowed her to stop him, he sucked her clit into his mouth, grinning as his name ended in a little shriek.

Buffy’s hips lifted, arching into his mouth, her hands fisting in his hair.   “Oh, god. . . Spike . . . don’t stop . . . oh . . .”

She tasted like nothing he’d ever had before.  Rich wine, smooth whiskey, virgin’s blood; nothing compared to the taste of her.  His hands gripped her thighs, fingers digging in, holding her open for his mouth.  Tongue circling her clit, Spike groaned into her, feeling her muscles begin the dance signaling her climax.

Buffy was beyond speech, beyond thought, beyond anything save the feeling of his mouth, his tongue, his teeth on her.  His tongue was circling around her core, lapping at her like cat, gathering all the moisture.  Her shrieks nearly pierced his ears when his tongue finally penetrated her, the bathroom echoing with the sound of her voice, the mewling cries of release.  She was shaking, writhing under his touch, her body his to play.

“Oh, oh . . . gaaaah . . . Spiiiiike . . .”

Seeking something to hold onto, her hands scrabbled over the floor, over her own hips, squeezing his fingers, pulling on his hair.  Nothing worked, she couldn’t gain purchase, couldn’t find anything solid to hold onto.  His nose butted against her clit and she softly screamed his name.  Using blunt teeth, Spike nibbled at her clit, sending her over.  “Oh, god . . . Spike. . . Oh. . . oh god. . .”

She was still convulsing when he slid his erection into her pulsing warmth, pumping into her hard.  “Love you,” wet kisses rained over her face, “So fucking much. . . always.”

Her legs came up around his waist, her arms encircling his shoulders, holding him close.  “Spike, please. . . inside me . . . please.”

Locking her ankles, Buffy held him in, allowing him only short shallow strokes that hit her clit every time.  Her mouth tugged on his earlobe, her voice scarcely more than a ragged whisper, “Please, Spike. . . cum inside me. . . now. . . please.”

Pounding furiously now, Spike groaned, her pussy tightening around him, “Love. . . Buffy. . . now. . . kitten. . . with me. . . now.”

Her third orgasm slammed into her, seizing every muscle in her body, her fingernails leaving bloody marks on his shoulders, sending him over the edge.  His balls tightened painfully and Spike exploded into her, his grunts filling her ears, her name on his lips like a prayer.

Slumping together in an exhausted tangle of legs and arms, they were both undone.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Dawn was having the time of her life.  Everything was perfect.  The dance was okay, the music wasn’t too bad, Casey brought the right flowers, his parents didn’t stick around to watch them enter the gym.  And best of all, Spike hadn’t wigged completely when she came down the stairs.

She had spent all the time while Buffy and Tara worked on her hair and makeup, silently pleading with the Gods of First Dates that Spike wouldn’t lose his mind and make her change her clothes when he got a look at her in the dress.  Not that it was all that revealing.  It had a low open back, the collar was high and the bottom long, the side-slits weren’t up to her thighs, only cut to just above the knees, and she wasn’t made up like a hooker.  Not that her sister and Tara would’ve done that to her anyway.  But she’d still breathed a huge sigh of relief when Spike had said she was beautiful.  And all grown up.

The look in his eyes had been awed and amazed at the changes the other two had made to her everyday look.  She’d tried so hard to look sophisticated and not like a little girl, hoping that Spike would acknowledge it, at least a little bit.  Thank you Gods, thank you. .. . thank you.  Now let the rest of the night go just as well.

Looking over at her date, Dawn figured she had one thing in her favor, coz he was just the cutest boy she’d ever seen.

Chapter Text

Book Two

Chapter 5.  Last remaining light.


He either fears his fate too much,
or his deserts are small,
that dares not put it to the touch
to gain or lose it all
    James Graham, Marquess of Montrose

the moment of a miracle is unending lightning . . .
                      Dylan Thomas, On the Marriage of a Virgin

Curl like smoke and breath again
down your throat inside your ribs
through your spine in every nerve
where I watch and wait and yield to the hurt
    
And if you don’t believe
the sun will rise
stand alone and greet
the coming night
in the last remaining light.
    Chris Cornell, Audioslave,
    The Last Remaining Light, eponymous album



They ran out of hot water half way through the shower.  It hardly mattered to him, because the slight changes indicating they were running low on it didn’t register with him, and Buffy was shielded under his shoulders, so she didn’t notice them until it was too late.  They’d wasted enough of it before they even stepped into the shower.  He didn’t much care, however Buffy was complaining half-heartedly because her hair was still full of conditioner, so he pulled her into his arms and let the water rinse off her head.  

Her teeth were chattering by the time they emerged from the cold water, her fingers and toes blue at the tips.  Spike toweled her off, ignoring his own discomfort, anxious to get her comfortable.  

Giving in to his curiosity, Spike asked while she was towel drying her hair, “‘S it always like this?”

“What?”  Her hair covered her face, making her look like a bedraggled waif, causing a smile to grace his features.  

“The bleedin’, pet, ‘s it always this way?”

She sighed, “Yeah.  Lasts for about forty-eight miserable hours, all crampy and bleah and I can’t go out because, hello, vampire magnet . . and it’s just – so yeah.”

Tilting his head, Spike watched her run a comb through her hair, struggling with some of the tangles.  Taking the comb away from her, he worked it through her hair, as she wrapped a large towel around her torso.  “Had a problem with vamps before?”

“Couple of times.  Enough to make me rethink patrolling.”  

Dropping the comb onto the vanity, Spike turned to watch her face, “And the other?”

“Huh?”  

“The pain, love.  Cramps and,” he wasn’t sure how to phrase this part of the question, because he’d never had to encounter this before.  When he was human, suffering under the heavy morals of Victorian England, body parts were never mentioned, much less bodily functions.  After turning, he’d never spent much time with humans except to drink, so this was new information.  He was struggling with how to ask the question, Buffy watching him closely, finally just blurting it out, “The amount, I guess.”

Bright pink blush bloomed on her cheeks, traveling across her shoulders and upper breasts.  Not looking into his eyes, she just nodded in response.

“Hey?  ‘S me, vampire, no need to go all missish on me now love.”  His finger reached out to lift her chin, forcing her eyes upwards.  “Tell me.”

“Just a benefit of being the Slayer.”    She shrugged, feeling a bit uncomfortable with the conversation.  Riley never wanted to talk about this, staying away from her when the mood swings got too rough, or worse, just pretend it was all in her head and that she should ‘buck up and take it like a man’.  

Spike wasn’t stupid.  Accurately guessing what path her train of thoughts followed, he pulled her into his arms, resting her head against his bare chest.  “‘S all new to me, kitten.  Wasn’t exactly talked about in my day, yeah?”  Brushing a kiss against her temple, he murmured, “Jus’ wanna make it better, don’t like seein’ you this way.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


For the first time in a couple of weeks, easily since before Buffy came back, Tara was having a good time.  As in a really good time.  She hadn’t told anyone else where she was going, almost afraid to tell any of her house-mates where she was going and more importantly who she was going out to meet.   It was weird enough in her mind, no doubt it would be impossible to explain to anyone else.

Glancing over at her companion, Tara stifled a giggle.  He wasn’t at all like what she’d thought on their first meeting.  There had been so much going on that time, she was afraid she was going to lose Willow and worried about being outed so violently to all Willow’s friends.  It didn’t matter so much to her, since she’d always been quietly open about her preferences.  Wasn’t like she was flamboyant, not at all, it was more like she didn’t hide those preferences from people observant enough to notice.

So all things considered, it was kind of hard to imagine getting along with and even liking her current companion.  Yet Oz was a likable guy, if a bit laconic and taciturn to a fault.  He did have a wickedly dry sense of humor, which she appreciated, and he wasn’t hard to be around, not like some other guys.  It was amazing the number of guys who would try to pick her up, despite knowing she was gay.  What wasn’t surprising was the number of guys who wanted a threesome, but Tara wasn’t going there.

Thankfully, Oz was different.  There was zero pressure, just . . . a weird bond they shared because of Willow.  Through Oz, Tara got a glimpse into what kind of made Willow tick.

They were sitting in the Bronze, waiting for a band that Oz wanted to hear start their first set.  The noise was escalating, the music pounding out a very dance-able beat and Tara couldn’t stop her feet from responding.  Catching her restlessness from the corner of his eye, Oz took pity on her, asking, “Wanna get out there and cut a rug?”

She was up off the chair before he’d finished talking, “Let’s go” wafting over her shoulder as she walked toward the dance floor.

“After you,” he said to her back, a very slight smile on his face.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Willow had laid out everything she would need for the summoning.  All the herbs, all the right candles, her small cauldron, even an offering for the gods.  It was all ready, waiting for her to cast the circle and start the ritual.

It was a sending and a summoning at once.  She was going to prove to everyone Spike was a liability, that it was dangerous for him to close to everyone, most especially to prove it to Buffy and Dawn.

Deciding which gods to invoke had taken more time than she’d thought.  There weren’t many directly associated with vampires, a few Egyptians and Celts aside, so she’d settled instead on invoking task-specific – Mercury for the messenger, Gwyn ap Nudd for the Wild Hunt (because Spike was, after all hell bound); Isis and Osiris because he ruled the underworld and Isis had raised Osiris from the dead with help from Anubis, among a few others.

She wanted to send a message, specifically to Buffy, but to the universe in general that Spike was dangerous – and she was summoning warriors to prove that to Buffy.

Concentrating hard, Willow closed her eyes, drawing in a deep breath and began invoking the gods and goddesses she sought help from.
   
Standing in the middle of four candles, each at one of the corners, a fifth candle at her feet, Willow opened her eyes and called them forth.  

“Deities of the north,” and the flame sprung to life in a bright spark of light.

“Deities of the east,”  The north candle flared, arcing over to light the eastward candle, then receded.

“Deities of the south,” This time both lit candles flared, met in the air above her, then sparked the third candle to life.

Without turning around, Willow chanted again.  “Deities of the west,” Three candles sparked, triangulating, joining together and igniting the last directional candle.

“Deities all,” The four lights flared high, arcing over her head, arrowing down to ignite the candle at her feet.

“Hear my plea, heed my cry.  Give flight to my message, let the arrows fly.  True nature be revealed, let scales fall from every blind eye.”

Taking a deep breath, her voice faltered but didn’t break, “Bring forth those enemies that can defeat him.  Let Buffy see Spike for what he truly is – let them all see his true nature.”

Drawing her athame across her palm, Willow let three drops of her blood fall over the candle, landing directly in the flame.  She bent down, grabbing the candle with her still bleeding hand, then set flame to the contents of her cauldron.

“So mote it be.”

The candles flared, flames touched the ceiling then extinguished.  Willow slumped to her knees, repeating, “So mote it be.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Dark, fathomless, ancient eyes focused their gaze upon the gaping mouth of hell.  Amusement played about within the eternal, elemental consciousness and a rather ironic thought wafted back once the request was received.

Have a care what you wish for.

Prayer granted.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Somewhere on the desolate high desert plains above what used to be part of Iran, a black robed cleric turned pleased eyes upon a warrior with a blue runic tattoo upon his brow.  “We have located her.  Your men are ready?”

“They are,” was the terse reply.

“It is time.  Activate them.”

Turning away from the elderly cleric, the warrior gave the command.

And over four thousand miles away, several teams of similarly tattooed men got into position.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Buffy was on the couch, feet propped up on the table, heating pad at her lower back, drinks, popcorn, and chocolate all within easy reach.  Spike was standing there at the kitchen doorway watching her.

She couldn’t remember if she’d ever been indulged like this.  Looking down at herself, she thought hard to be all grumpy girl when I’m being pampered Buffy.  Catching sight of him standing there leaning against the door jamb, she smiled.  Who’d’ve thunk William the Bloody would be all caring guy.  I really am kind of lucky.

He was trying not to laugh at her.  She looked like a little kid, sitting in a too big chair surrounded by goodies.  Pigtails, popcorn, big eyes, she was utterly adorable at the moment.  What made it even cuter were her expressions.  He could always tell when she was talking to herself, she’d be a terrible bluffer, if she ever learned poker.

He could almost see the mental conversation just by her expressions alone.  Suddenly a dreamy expression crossed her features and a Mona Lisa smile graced her features, her face aimed in his direction.  Before he could ask, Buffy called him.

“Spike?”

“Yeah?”  He stayed where he was, leaning against the doorway, ankles crossed, hands in pockets, one shoulder against the wood frame.

“Spike?”  Her voice had a bit of a whine to it now, yet she was still too cute for words.

“Yeah?”  He crossed his arms over his chest, a smile on his face.

“Spike.” She was really whining now, though her eyes were smiling.

“Yes, dear?”  His smirk crossed over into genuine smile and his eyes were crinkling at the corners.

Her lower lip came out and he lost it.  Deep chuckles sounded over the low hum of the television and he tried not to laugh as he asked, “Somethin’ you wanted pet?”

“Ahuh.” Fiddling with the throw blanket over her, Buffy lowered her eyes teasingly, deliberately keeping the pout in place.
    
“Gonna tell me what?”  Oh gods, the little girl routine is gonna kill me.

Twirling one of her pigtails, Buffy whispered, “Ahuh,” then, “Wanna kiss.  Can I have a kiss?”

All playfulness was gone now, replaced with instant hot pulsing need.  His nostrils flared and he moved away from the door, flowing toward her like a panther on the prowl.  “Always.  Any time.”  A heartbeat pause.  “Anywhere.”

His body was humming, every nerve ending fired with need for her.  This was a first, Buffy making the first move, initiating this . . . between them.  His brain was reeling, she wanted him, thoughts scattered.  She wanted him almost as much as he wanted her.

Standing over her, Spike looked down, really looking at the woman-child before him.  Sometimes she was so . . . childlike, so innocent, uncertain, unsure . . . then there were moments when she was pure wanton, world-weary hardened and cynical.  He loved each one of those moments, all of them.

Buffy looked up at him, watching while he struggled to keep his desire to pick her up under control.  She realized, as he struggled for breath, that he was probably the most controlled person she knew, despite his inability to stick to a long-term plan, but that wasn’t what she . . . loved about him.  What she did love was his loss of control around her.

Her hand came up, running up his thigh, tugging on his tee shirt, pulling him down toward her.   “Are ya gonna kiss me?”

She was up in his arms, his hands cupping her ass, her legs wrapped around his waist before she finished speaking, her ‘kiss me’ whispered directly into his mouth.

Nose to nose, Spike stared into her eyes and finding his answers in the deep emerald-gold depths, slowly captured her mouth with his.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Her feet hurt and the beautiful curls were drooping, she was all sweaty and tired, but none of that mattered, because she was having the best night of her short life.

Casey was everything she’d thought he would be – funny, cute, considerate, cute, did I mention cute?  Okay so he wasn’t Spike or Brad Pitt or Jude Law or Paul Walker or  . . .  Wesley, but he was her own age and knew she was alive.  Coz, while two of those guys knew that about her, one was her biological father and the other was just . . . way above her and also, way, way too old.

Dawn stopped those thoughts.  Wesley thoughts were not of the good, especially not while she was standing here supposedly listening to Casey.  Go away Wesley thoughts.  Focusing on what Casey was saying, Dawn never noticed the exits being blocked, nor the men poised at the windows about to enter.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Breaking away from Buffy, Spike gently dropped her onto the couch.  “Time for me to go, princess.  Gotta get Niblet and the Sprout.”

This time the pout wasn’t a tease.  She didn’t want him to go, but he’d insisted on getting the two teens when the dance was over, and since it was now almost midnight, it was time.

Wasn’t hard to miss her disappointment. “Princess?”  He was torn, she shouldn’t come with him, she wasn’t kidding earlier about the bleeding, although he wasn’t comfortable leaving her alone.  “Wanna come with me?”

Shaking her head no, Buffy said, “It’s okay.  You won’t be gone long, I’ll be fine for a few.”

“Buffy?  You sure?”  He could feel the combination of emotions rolling off her.

“Seriously.  Go.”  Waving him away, Buffy said, “Leave now, back quick.”

“All right, love, back in fifteen.”

Stealing another quick kiss, Spike was gone in a flash.

Buffy threw a pillow across the room, hitting the television.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Willow came to, slumped on the floor, surrounded by puddles of hardening wax and a sickening stench in the air.

Her muscles were strained, feeling like they’d been over-stretched and then folded up, not allowed to pull back to their natural state.  There was a constant in-between-radio-station hum in her ears.

Pushing up off the floor, Willow realized her legs wouldn’t support her slight weight.  Giving into the weakness, she crawled her way over to her bed, slumping against the side.  She barely made it on top when she collapsed onto her pillow.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


There were people running away from the school when Spike pulled up in the DeSoto.

Not good
was his first grim thought, followed quickly by where the hell is she?  Leaving the keys in the ignition, Spike pushed his way into the fleeing teenagers, minor shocks from the chip going off when he bumped into people.  Didn’t stop him, his only thought was to find Dawn and get her out of here.

Making his way toward the gym, Spike’s battle sense went into overdrive.

Something was very wrong.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Darla was panting for breath, trying to escape the pain wracking through her body.  Her belly was heaving and every muscle in her belly area was constricting.  “Angel, our baby is gonna die right here in this ally.  You died in an alley. . . do you remember?”

“I remember.”  His face was grim, averted from Fred’s eyes and staring down at Darla.

“I wanna say I’m sorry.  But I can’t.”  Tears were sliding down her face, and he fought the urge to cry right along with her.  “Aren’t you gonna tell me everything’s gonna be okay?  That it’s okay?”

“No, Darla, I can’t.  No.”  He shook his head, unwilling to look at her, unable to not look at her.

She sighed, facing some things about her long unlife that she’d never wanted to face, never had to; however the soul within her, burning her from within, was forcing her to take stock.  “We did so many terrible things together.  So much destruction, so much . . . pain.  We can’t make up for any of it.  You know that, don’t you?”

He couldn’t answer her, couldn’t lie to make it better.  “Yeah.  I know that.”

Her hand caressed her belly.  “This child, Angel, it’s the one good thing we ever did together.”  His hand reached out to hold hers, lifting it to his lips and placed a tender kiss on it.  “The only good thing we ever did.”

With her hand still in his, Angel’s unneeded breath broke on a sob.

“Make sure to tell him that.”  Before he could react, Darla had grabbed a stray piece of wood from the destroyed door and buried it in her chest.  Angel gasped, staring as she turned to dust before his eyes.

Her dust mixed with the rain, falling lightly back down to earth, covering the crying infant laying exposed on the cobbled street.

Ignoring everything and everyone around him, including the vampire hunter with the crossbow aimed at his back, Angel gathered up his crying son, getting slowly to his feet.   Purposely turning his back further to Holtz, Angel took the jacket Fred was holding out to him and wrapped it loosely around the baby, then walked toward where Wesley and the others were waiting next to his car.

The baby in his arms whimpered a little, cold, wet, needing warmth and something to suckle.  Angel could only provide him with shelter from the rain.  He stopped for a moment, adjusting his jacket around the baby and then stopped all movement.

This wasn’t just any baby.  

It’s a miracle.  

His miracle.  

His son.
 

Darla’s son.  

A gift from the gods, the universe.  He’d never done anything to truly deserve such a gift.  Angel stared down at the innocent shining countenance of his barely-minutes old son and every emotion he’d ever felt roiled up within him.  Bubbling, churning, conflicting and dizzying in their intensity.

He had a son.

So many emotions were swirling about, he’d never thought he could have children, never wanted them when he was human, not thought about the prospect in hundreds of years of existence.  This was a part of him, part of Darla . . . A magical, mystical part of them both.

Pride, fear, the weight of responsibility, disbelief, confusion, helplessness, yet above all, through it all, with each conflicting and accompanying emotion there was overwhelming love.  And the love over-rode and consumed every other emotion – subsuming them all within the unconditional, deep love. . . and a wellspring of such joy and happiness that . . .  Angel faltered . . . felt something rip from his chest – and in a vain attempt to reel it back, he clutched the infant close – then stepped forward to Wesley.

Thrusting the infant at him, Angel stumbled, caught himself, stumbled again – looking at Wesley with agonized eyes, saying, “Call him Connor,” then gasping, sucking in unneeded air, growled out, “Keep him safe.”

Uncertain what was happening, Wesley nearly dropped the baby . . . but when Angel’s words finally registered with him, Wesley’s eyes widened in horror.

Backing away from the prone and writhing vampire, Wesley calmly, cooly caught everyone’s attention.  “Run.   Hide.  Split up . . . now.”

No one understood until the vampire laughed.

“I’ll find you.”

Cordelia’s voice was as calm as Wesley’s had been, as she cocked the crossbow at the vampire.   “Not if one of us gets to you first, Angelus.”

Gunn slammed his boot down on Angelus’ ankle, breaking at least one bone.

The AI team, using the advantage Gunn had given them, scattered.
          

Chapter Text

Book Two

Chapter 6.  A charm of powerful trouble

All things truly wicked start from an innocence.
    Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast, ch. 17

Dire combustion and confused events
new hatch’d to the woful time
    Macbeth, act ii, scene iii





Wesley hadn’t waited for anything.  The minute Angel’s – Angelus’ attention had shifted to Cordelia, he backed into the car, placed the baby on the floor of the front seat and drove off.

He had to put as much distance between father and son as humanly possible, as quickly as possible before Angelus had time to start tracking.

Buggering hell.

Bloody buggering fucking hell.


Wesley had no idea where to go.  It was after midnight and while he was sure he could at least get diapers, he couldn’t risk it while still in LA.  Had to get out – find a safe place to . . .  Sunnydale.

Cutting across four lanes of traffic, Wesley turned the car south, toward Sunnydale.  

Toward the only two people who could possibly protect this baby from his father.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The gym was barricaded from the inside.  He couldn’t get in by conventional methods, not even through a window. . . unless . . . circling around toward the athletic field, Spike slipped into game face, sniffing out the hostage takers.

Fuck.

Humans.  Every last fucking one.


No matter.  He could probably still get in, get Dawn and the Sprout to safety and let the authorities clean up this one.  Opening an unguarded locker room window, Spike let himself in.  On silent feet he prowled through the smelly locker room, freezing when one of the hostage-takers came closer.  Bloke was doing his own searching, trying to be all stealthy, but Spike could hear his elevated heartbeat and echoing footfalls.  Turning a corner, Spike got a look at him, swearing in his head upon his glance.

Buggering hell.

Bloody fucking buggering hell.


Thought we beat the knights who say key.  What the fuck are they back here . . .
Dawn.  No fucking way in hell.

Without thought of the chip, hoping if he picked them off one by one it would lessen the effects, Spike reached out and snapped the sentinel’s neck.  The pain blinded him momentarily and he tried willing it away by breathing deeply.

It took him longer than he was willing to wait for the pain to subside.  Fuck it.  Not gonna wait.

Pushing away from the lockers, Spike made his way steadily toward the gym, fully prepared now to do whatever necessary to get Dawn out of there and home.

Laid out flat on the floor, Spike pushed open the door, thankful that the woeful knights had kept the dim lighting scheme.  Idiot wankers pro’ly can’t find the bloody switches.

Sliding along the floor, Spike got to his feet behind one of the tall speakers, inhaling deeply, he tried to pinpoint how many people were currently in the room.  Ten. . . fifteen . . . twenty-two, yeah, twenty-two people. . .   He had no way of knowing how many were the bloody knights.  

Dawn was here.

Not more than a dozen steps away.

Surrounded by other heartbeats.

Risking a look, Spike leaned around the amp.  The boy, to his credit, had Dawn firmly by the waist, not letting go.  Dawn was hanging onto him also, another good sign.  Not so good was the group trying to separate the two.  There were four of them.

He had one chance.

No more than that.  One opportunity to get them out of here.

Thinking quickly, Spike ripped apart the thin fabric covering the amplifier.   Disconnecting wires and quickly threading them together, Spike soon had two garrottes ready for use.  Two down. . . he’d leave it to Dawn to take care of one. . . three down.  Figuring he could get one good solid kick in while he was choking the other two, Spike had no choice but to go with the makeshift plan.  He waited. . . then, when Dawn’s date elbowed one of their attackers, Spike struck.

“Nice work, Sprout.  Up for more?”

Slipping one noose over the elbowed knight, Spike yanked, turned, flinched visibly, then slipped the second noose down around a short knight’s neck, he yanked again.  Pain blossomed in his head, worsened at Dawn’s ear and glass shattering shriek of his name, which thankfully enabled him to garrotte the second victim, but unfortunately alerted everyone to his presence.

Grunting through the pain, unable to see, Spike ground out, “Quiet, sweets, gotta get us outta here.”

Dawn kneed her current attacker in the groin while Casey, quickly catching on, sucker punched the fourth knight in the kidney, then when he arched back in pain, slammed his knee up into the man’s balls.

Holding his head and hunched over from his own pain, Spike pushed them toward the locker room, hobbling behind them.  His mouth was running, trying to break through to Dawn, who was babbling and crying.  “Niblet . . . Dawn.  Shut up, listen.  Keys in car.  Get home. . . Get Buffy.”

Two knights grabbed him from behind and ignoring the pain, Spike threw a left at one, striking out with a kick to the other in a follow up motion.  Instead of yelling in pain, Spike howled with fury, diving into the fight.

Casey was pulling her toward the door, while Dawn screamed out Spike’s name.

Grabbing a folding chair, Spike slung it at another knight, yelling at Dawn, “Get out!  Now!”

Somehow Casey understood this was about keeping Dawn safe and he bodily picked her  up and ran for the doors.

“No . . .  No!  They’ll kill him!!”   Dawn’s voice was panicked, real fear lacing her tones.  “Spike!  SPIKE!!”

He was braced at the doorway, doors to the locker room at his back, four knights ranged in front of him.  Pain was cresting in waves through his head and Spike knew he had only a few precious seconds of consciousness left, however every second counted, gave the two time to get away, to get home, so that Buffy could at least avenge his dusting.  He knew this was it.

The knights knew what he was.  Each one of them holding a makeshift stake in hand, but Spike was doing his best to avoid that final plunge, holding them off with a folding chair.  

Fucking hell.  

Do not wanna die at the hands of Society for Creative Anachronism rejects.

Fuck.


The door swung open behind him, and Spike turned to face this threat when they closed in on all sides.  Something hard and metallic slammed into his head, then he took another hard blow to his right and he tried fighting back, praying to a god – any god that he could hold out longer, when a tiny blond blur streaked in under an upraised arm.  His blurred vision thought it was Buffy except the stance was different, the figure smaller.

Lifting the chair, Spike mentally shrugged, no time to worry about who or what she was, then slammed it into one of the knights.  Together he and his unexpected ally fought, yet with each blow Spike struck and landed, he weakened.  He was faltering and he knew it.

There was another hard blow to his right from a sword, raking down his entire torso, and he felt and heard bones snap and as he was trying to recover, a whoosh sounded past his ear and everything went black.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Dawn was screaming his name, fighting against Casey’s hold, trying to get back to Spike  somehow.  “Dawn. . . Dawn. . . stop!  He said get your sister.  We have to go.”

Casey just kept repeating the words until finally Dawn understood what he was saying.  Gulping in a deep breath she said, “I’m okay. . . I’m okay. . . yeah.  We gotta go now.”

Taking off her shoes, Dawn grabbed Casey’s hand, heading for the back of the locker room.  Spying an open window, Dawn scrambled up and out, spying the DeSoto while Casey escaped from the school behind her.

“Can you drive?”  At his answering nod of yes, Dawn said, “Good.  Let’s go.”

    
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


He should have been back already.  Buffy looked at the clock on the wall, then down at her hands. Could just be Dawnie didn’t want to leave the dance or her date.  Could be . . . so then how come she was having these little niggling thoughts about something going wrong?

She threw aside the blanket, searching around for her sneakers.  Upstairs.  The sense of urgency grew, intensifying the longer it took to find her sneakers and get some weapons.

Buffy stood still, her weapons bag at her feet, staring off into nothing.  Was she over-reacting?  Was this just her over-active imagination?

Was it?


Her slayer sense was telling her something was wrong about tonight.  Something gone wrong.  Shaking off the inertia, Buffy slipped a stake into the back of her pants, then grabbed a short sword.

She was running down the steps when an upset and crying Dawn burst through the front door, calling her name.

“Buffy!  Spike . . . school . . . go!!”  Doubling over, trying to catch her breath, she blurted out, “Knights came. . . Casey drive. . . go!  GO!  GO!

“Stay inside, Dawnie.  Lock the doors.  Call Tara.  Don’t let anyone in but us.”  Buffy was out the door and staring at Casey who was standing at the door of the DeSoto.  “Drive now.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Wesley checked the speedometer, then flicked a glance at the gas gauge.  His eyes drifted toward the sleeping infant on the floor.  He needed to get gas, but couldn’t risk leaving the baby in the car all alone.

His mind was completely blank.  Having no idea how the others had gotten away, Wesley only hoped everyone survived, at least through the night.  He was staggered from the events of the last couple of hours.

Darla had staked herself so the child could live.

Angelus was returned.

Angelus is back.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Be alive.  Not dust.  Just be there.  Not dust.  Not dust.  NOT DUST.

Not dust.


The drive felt endless, Casey trying to stay within the speed limit yet drive fast.  Buffy was afraid to even open her mouth, for fear of nothing but screams emerging.

Her hands were clenched in an iron grip, jaw tense and frozen.  The two thoughts kept repeating over and over, looping in her head.  Be there.  Not dust.  Not dust.  Be there.

She was out the door before they hit the parking lot behind the locker rooms, her only words to Casey, “Don’t leave,” flung over her shoulder as she ran toward the building.

Unknowingly following Spike’s earlier path, Buffy went in, practically diving through the window.  The locker room was eerily quiet, not even her footfalls made a sound.  Stepping over a corpse, Buffy wasn’t surprised when she saw the tattoo – and grimly thought, good.  He got one.

She ran quickly to the gym doors, not caring about stealth anymore.

Swinging open the door, Buffy quickly surveyed the scene before her.  A little blond girl was standing over a huddled bloody mass of black . . . oh god. . .

Spike.


That bloodied mass of black was Spike.

Oh god.

Without another thought, Buffy ploughed into the fight raging around the little girl, knocking out one of the knights and hacking at another’s arm.  Grim faced, scared, and highly pissed, Buffy set about to free Spike from the warriors.

                                    
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The band was almost done with the first set when her phone went off.  Glancing down at it, Tara thought about ignoring the call, although when the main house number flashed, followed by the number one, Tara quickly changed her mind.  Motioning to Oz, she walked toward the bathrooms and flipped open the phone.

Dawn was crying, that much was clear, but nothing else made sense, until Tara filtered away the tears.

“Dawnie.  We’ll be right there.  Stay put.”

Turning back toward her companion, Tara sent up a quick plea to the heavens to keep everyone safe.  Oz raised his eyebrow at her gentle yet urgent touch.  “I have to go.  Spike’s been hurt and Buffy’s had to go rescue him.  Dawn’s alone. . . the knights are back.”

He didn’t say anything, just left his beer on the table and followed her out the door.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Three more.  Only six now surrounding the three of them.  Buffy was afraid to look down, afraid to break her concentration.  Afraid – because if she looked, she’d break.  

Still here.  Not dust.

Not dust.


Unaware she was muttering those words out loud, Buffy was surprised when Spike’s rescuer joined in.  Flashing the blond girl a look, Buffy was taken aback when teary blue eyes gazed back at her.

Those eyes were kind of familiar, but Buffy had to fend off a blow aimed at the other girl’s head, nearly decapitating the knight.  Jumping over Spike’s inert body, Buffy switched off with the girl, idly noting she fought left-handed, something she was used too.

Her world narrowed, all time for thought gone.

Hack.  Lunge.  Punch.  Kick. Not dust.  Punch.  Slash.  Not dust.  Punch.  Kick.  Not. Slash. Dust.  Hack. Not. Stab. Dust.

It was done.  

The last knight was bleeding out on the floor.  Buffy dropped the sword, crumpling to her knees, facing away from where his battered body lay inert.  Blood was pooled everywhere, soaking into the knees of her pants.  Stifling a sob, Buffy retched onto the floor, adding to the mess.

A hesitant call of her name brought her attention back to the forms behind her.  “Buffy?”

She spun around, responding to her name from the unknown girl.  “How do you know me?”

“I know lots of things.  I’m Kirsten.”

Somehow that wasn’t a surprise.

There was a groan from the bundle of dark clothes, drawing Buffy’s attention away from the girl, kneeling at her side.  “Spike . . .”

Scooting over to him, Buffy searched for an unbloody part of him to touch.   “Spike . . . Spike can you hear me?”

His hair was red, there was so much blood on him.  His face was barely recognizable, swollen, battered, bruises all ready forming.

“Oh, god.  Spike.”  Her hand covered her mouth, afraid to again to move.  His legs were at odd angles, his lower right arm broken through the skin, the bone bare and exposed. This was as bad as Glory’s beating.

“Buffy.  We need to get him out of here.”  From her position on his other side, Kirsten wiped away her own tears.

“Blanket – we need something to lift him.”  looking around Buffy spied a small gymnastics mat and was up dragging it over before Kirsten could move.  “Help me get him up.”

Together they moved him without jolting him too much.  Working remarkably well and in relative silence, the two moved toward the door, Spike’s prone body on the mat between them.

Emerging from the gym doors, Buffy was surprised to find Oz waiting for her instead of Casey.  At her questioning look, he said, “Sent him to your house.  Dawn called Tara.”

As if that made sense.  Buffy just shrugged.  Oz hopped up into the back of the van, grabbing one end of the mat, sliding it in.  Buffy hopped up beside Spike, while Kirsten closed the doors.

Climbing in beside Oz, Kirsten said, “We should be safe at Buffy’s.  Tara’s probably got stronger wards up now.”

Neither one of the adults thought her comment was strange.

Chapter Text

Book Two
Chapter 7 Fear itself

Fear makes us feel our humanity
    Benjamin Disreali

A tragedy need not have blood and death: it’s enough . . .
that it all be filled with that majestic sadness that is the
pleasure of tragedy.
    Jean Racine, Berenice, preface

I will not fear.  Fear is the mind killer.
I will face my fear and I will let it pass through me
    Frank Herbert, Dune




There was no sound in the van, except for the sounds of three people breathing.  Buffy sat in the back, huddled next to Spike’s still form, trying to stop the bleeding.  Tears were sliding down her cheeks, dropping onto his bruised face.  He hadn’t made a sound since that groan in the gym, and his chest was still.  She knew he wasn’t in danger of dying, yet knowing didn’t help the fear gripping her insides, nor the hammering of her heart.  Two different Buffy voices in her head were alternately screaming and chanting.  Screaming in fear and grief and chanting in prayer and thanks.  He’s not gone, still here, not dust and the other just a primal howl of grief echoing in her head, drowning out the soft chant of saner Buffy.  Her tears were washing away the blood from his bruised features and she gingerly touched his battered cheek.  

One eye flickered open, searching around for her.  Settling his gaze on her, his eye closed again, and a soft growl sounding in the air between them.  It wasn’t his usual strong, forceful growl, more the whimper of a lion in mortal pain.  Closing her own eyes, Buffy reached a decision.

“Oz.  Stop by the hospital.”  

Without a glance back or any other acknowledgment that he’d heard her demand, Oz changed direction and headed for Sunnydale Memorial.  He had a feeling he knew what she was going to the hospital for and he had thought of it himself, but hadn’t wanted to make the suggestion.  The little girl sitting next to him jerked to attention, turning around to look at the older girl.  “We need to get to safety.”

“He needs blood more. . .  And I can’t set his legs or his arm.  Someone has to do it.”  Buffy wasn’t going to argue with her, not for any reason.  

“They’re gonna tell you he’s dead.”    Kirsten wouldn’t look away from Buffy.

“I know that.  I can’t . . .”   Buffy wiped away some of the tears, smearing Spike’s blood across her cheek.  “He needs someone to set his legs.  And his arm . . .”

Oz spoke for the first time since getting in the van.  “Want me to get one of the docs I know?”  

“Yeah.  That would be – one that knows you’re a werewolf?”   Buffy shouldn’t have been surprised by this, yet somehow it had never occurred to her that some of the people in Sunnydale had to be aware of what was going on in this town.

“Yup.”  Pulling into a deserted part of the hospital, near the morgue entrance, Oz jumped down from his seat.  “Be right back.”

It wasn’t a long wait, not nearly what she’d expected, it was still longer than enough.  Spike was groaning softly, his left hand clenching and unclenching.  Buffy ran her hand over his face, wiping more of the blood away, soft little whimpers of sympathy filling her throat.  She was rocking back and forth on her knees, her other fist against her mouth.  Buffy was watching his face so closely and so intently that she was unaware of almost anything else.  Their faces were inches apart, her breath rushing over his still features, her hand cupping his face.  She didn’t feel it at first, the slight tug on her hair, until it became insistent.  Spike’s fingers were entangled in the ends of her hair, holding on tightly.  

“Spike” she whispered to his face.  “Spike, I need you to be okay.  Please be okay.”

The van doors opened revealing Oz, some other guy, and a woman.  Turning her blood and tear streaked face toward them, Buffy just looked closely, trying to decide if this was a good idea.  The woman was all business, holding out a hand to Buffy, “Let’s get him out of there and inside.”

It took her a long moment to make a decision.  She knew he needed more assistance than she could give him, but she wasn’t sure she trusted this woman.  Looking at Oz once, Buffy raised an eyebrow.  
Pretty sure he knew what was going on in her head, Oz stepped up into the van beside her.  “It’s cool.  She knows all about this stuff.”  When Buffy didn’t move, Oz gestured at her, “She’s my aunt Maureen.”

“It’s okay, her son’s the one that bit me.”  Buffy focused her attention on the woman, taking in her appearance, really looking at her.  

“Must you, Daniel?”  His aunt made a face, clearly indicating she wasn’t happy with his blunt admission.  “Let’s get him inside.”

Buffy held out a hand to stop Oz, then pointed at the other man.  “Who’s that?”

Maureen answered, “That’s Dr. Thomas.  Ray Thomas.  He’s going to work on your friend.”  The doctor smiled, nodding at Buffy.  

“He knows?”  Buffy looked him up and down, taking his measure.  Ray Thomas was fairly tall, with sandy blond hair and nondescript features, although he had a kind face with nice blue eyes that were currently looking at her over wire-thin framed glasses.  

“Sure do.  Let’s get him inside so I can work on him.”

“What about taking him home?”  Buffy wasn’t willing to let him work just yet, still unsure of the strangers.  Spike’s fingers tightened on her hair, a sure sign he was listening, or at least she hoped it was.

Doctor Thomas and Oz’ aunt exchanged glances.  “He can’t stay here.  He’s going to have to go with you when we’re done.”

Giving in, Buffy nodded her head, then moved to help Oz lift the end of the gym mat, while his aunt and the doctor held up their end.  Kirsten got out of the front, coming round to help the two normal humans and between them, they got Spike inside the morgue entrance without any mishaps.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Sometime after one in the morning, and roughly forty-five minutes outside of Los Angeles County, Wesley couldn’t go any further without pulling over.  The gas gauge was on empty, had been for close to five minutes, and the baby definitely needed something warmer than Angel’s jacket covering it.  The infant was still sleeping, otherwise his already sharp nerves would be cut to the quick.  There was a mini-mart gas station within sight, thankfully one that was open 24-hours and Wesley had to take a chance.

It had to be far enough away from Angelus, though he was sure one of the first places the vampire would look would be in Sunnydale, at least for the time being.  Coasting into the gas station on fumes alone, the car finally came to a stop precisely where he’d aimed it, next to the petrol pumps.  Breathing a sigh of relief at one thing going correctly, Wesley contemplated how to get himself and the baby inside without anyone being the wiser –  and avoiding the surveillance cameras – which were no doubt somehow monitored by Wolfram & Hart employees.

He believed it would be impossible to disguise his appearance right now, but he had to hide the baby at all costs.  Switching off the engine, Wesley leaned over to lift the baby up in his arms.  Poor little one, he thought, no parents, no one to love him.

Grabbing the jacket, Wesley discarded his first idea.  The baby was small.  Small enough to –  Thinking quickly, Wesley unbuttoned his shirt partially, tucking the boy inside, the tiny  head resting against his belly.  What had Angel said to call him?

Connor.


The baby’s name was Connor.  Cradling him close, with his arm along the baby’s body, his hand cupping and supporting the wobbly head, Wesley figured this was the best he could do.  Making quick work of re-buttoning his shirt, Wesley half zipped up his jacket.  Connor settled in, reacting to the warmth of the body next to him.  Gingerly getting out of the car, he made his way toward the mini-mart.

The kid at the counter ignored him as he entered, not even looking up.  Walking down the aisles quickly, Wesley spied some necessary supplies.  Diapers, formula, a small bottle and nipples, and in a burst of creative thinking, sanitary napkins, tee shirts and a few other things.  Laying his purchases on the counter, Wesley said, “And a full tank.”

Just grunting his acknowledgment, the kid rang up the items and held out his hand for the payment.  Without exchanging another word, Wesley left the mini-mart.

He filled the tank, his eyes constantly flicking around, watching the dark night for signs of pursuit.  The stop hadn’t been more than twenty minutes, although the longer he stayed in one spot the more dangerous it was, at least until he got to Sunnydale.  It was imperative he get there before sunrise, without having to stop again, and that was provided the baby cooperated.  Wesley figured he’d get to Buffy’s in just over an hour.

More than enough time to ask for sanctuary.

Long enough to batten down the hatches and prepare for Angelus.

Lifting the nozzle back into the holder Wesley secured the gas tank and got into the car.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Cordelia had run away from Angelus, muttering under her breath the whole time about stupid vampires and shaky souls.

She’d deliberately lagged behind, giving Wesley as much of a chance to escape as she dared.  Gunn had grabbed Fred and headed in the opposite direction from her.  At one point Lorne had kept up, though when they’d thought Angelus was behind them, they’d split up.

Cordelia had no illusions that she wasn’t on Angelus’ list of people to torment.  She knew she was.  And she knew why.  Angel might not be willing to admit to his growing feelings; however, Cordelia knew when a man was interested in her.  In light of Darla’s sacrifice leaving Angelus no one else to torture, she was it.  He’d come for her first, then go after Buffy.

Creeping her way toward her own car, Cordelia thought about heading back to Sunnydale once she had transportation – figuring Wesley might head there.  Cordelia decided it wasn’t a bad plan.  Double checking that no one was around, Cordy ran to her car and screamed when big hands closed around her shoulders.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


His clothes had been cut from his body and in deference to Kirsten’s presence and at Buffy’s insistence they’d covered him with a sheet.  Oz’ aunt had washed the blood away from his wounds and set up an IV drip of human blood into his left arm.

It was the only part of him that wasn’t in some way injured.  The list was frightening in its length; fractured skull, broken jaw, compound fracture of his right arm, one broken femur and two broken shins, in addition to the long slice running the length of his torso from right nipple to left hip, and various broken ribs, Spike was lucky he was already dead.  As it was his injuries could still take weeks to heal.

The IV drip was helping, because the smaller wounds were already closing, lighter bruises fading.  Buffy stood by the Gurney, her hand clutching his good one, squeezing rhythmically.

There was nothing they could do for the fractured skull, however Dr. Thomas had re-aligned his jaw and then set his broken legs.  “No point in proper casts, a couple of splints should keep him contained for the next forty-eight hours.”

Dr. Thomas had taken one look at his legs, giving Buffy an explanation of sorts. “Once he has enough blood, he’ll start healing.  He’ll still be healing faster than a normal human being, which means no casts because the legs aren’t so bad.”

All the while Dr. Thomas was speaking, Buffy stroked his hand, re-assuring herself that he was there, solid beneath her touch.  His fingers tangled with hers weakly, tugging her closer.  Spike inhaled deeply then, letting her scent wash over him.  He couldn’t talk and his eyes were just slits due to all the swelling, but Buffy knew he was in there, knew he could hear her voice.  “Spike, I’m here.  Not leaving.  Please, be okay, please.”

She leaned down to say the words in his ear, her hand still holding onto his and when he turned toward her, new tears flooded her eyes.  “Spike, I’m here.”

His eyes closed again, pain tightening his features as the doctor pulled the skin around his right arm together.  Using staples instead of stitches, the doctor made quick work of putting him back together.  
A thump sounded by her feet, and Buffy turned to look at what caused the noise.  Oz’ aunt had dropped a styrofoam cooler at her feet, filled with blood packages and a bag of bandages and other supplies was in her outstretched hand.  “You’re going to need all this.”

Straightening up, Buffy smiled tearily at the older woman, whispering, “Thanks.”

Transferring Spike back onto the gym mat, they headed out to the van, carrying him gingerly.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Despite the lateness of the hour, every light was on at Revello Drive when Wesley pulled up at the curb.  The baby had slept the entire trip, and was only stirring now, soft cries sounding in the car.  Lifting Connor up to his shoulder, Wesley headed for the door and was surprised into dropping the bag when the door swung open before he got to the steps.

Tara and Dawn were standing at the door, watching him closely, staring intently at the bundle in his arms.  

“Wesley?”  Tara’s voice was quiet, though he heard her clearly.

“Yes, it’s me.  I need some help.”  That is an understatement.  He wasn’t quite sure what to do now.  He’d gotten a diaper on the baby, and managed to wrap him in a tee shirt, keeping him warm.  

“Is that a baby?”  Dawn was staring at him, not taking her eyes off the approaching male and his burden.

“Yeah.  It’s Angel’s son.”  Looking down at the baby in his arms, Wesley missed the startled looks the two girls shared.

“What?”  

“That’s not possible!”

“Actually it is.  Can I bring him in?  I need to get him safe and,” sniffing the air about the baby, “he needs a change and a bottle and to get warmer.”

Tara looked at him, accurately gauging his awkwardness and taking pity on the helpless Englishman, said, “C’mon in Wes, we’ll get him settled.”  Stopping him at the doorway, Tara took the baby from his arms, motioning toward the car. “You might want to hide that in the garage and get his things.”

Dawn was peeking in at the tee shirt that was wrapped around the baby, cooing at him.  “Oh, he’s gorgeous.  Look at him.”

With Dawn trailing behind her, Tara made her way into the kitchen, issuing instructions on the way.  “Dawn, run upstairs and get some bath gel and some towels and . . . oh, start a pot of water boiling first.”

“Ahuh.  Sure.”  Dawn stayed put while Tara slid the baby out of the tee shirt, watching as he reacted to being cold again.  

“Dawnie, I need you to do this.”

“Do what?”  Wesley’s voice sounded from the hallway, his footsteps sounding loud in the quiet house.  

Her gaze still on the wriggling infant in her arms, Tara listed once again the things she needed done before they could settle into explanations.  “He’s cold and needs to be washed and fed and I need Dawnie to get me some things.”

“Right, then.  Do we need . . . what?”  He placed the bag of supplies on the counter, a bemused smile settling on his features as he watched the two girls with the baby.

“Boiling water.  Towels, some bath wash, and dry diapers.”  

“I can get the water going but not sure where to – towels upstairs?”  Moving about the kitchen, Wesley got the water going then looked toward Tara to see what else she needed, when it struck him what time it was.  He blinked twice at the time on the clock, wondering why they were all up and awake.  “Tara?  What’s going on?  Where are Buffy and Spike?”

He was taken aback when Dawn looked up with tears in her eyes, and her face crumpled, as she tried to answer him.  

“Spike got badly hurt when the knights tried to attack Dawnie.  We don’t know . . . when she left him, to come get Buffy, he was still on his feet, but,” Tara stole a glance at the teenager at her side, “She’s been gone over two hours and there’s been no word.”

“Oh, dear gods.”  He slumped against the refrigerator, his posture defeated.  “Oh, dear god.  Angelus is back.”

“What?”   Both girls stared at him, the baby almost forgotten.

“Darla . . . staked herself, so that the baby could be born and Angel – I’m not entirely certain what happened, but Angel was holding the baby and suddenly he wasn’t Angel anymore.”  Wesley didn’t know what to do.  He’d thought by bringing the baby here that there would be some sort of assistance from Buffy and Spike, though now, with their status unknown he might need to rethink his strategy, “Perhaps I should just get him fed and cleaned up and then head someplace safer.”

“Oh, no, you don’t.”  Dawn looked over at him, Summers’ determined look on her suddenly very old features.  “Nope.  You and he are staying put.  We don’t know anything.  And Spike,” she fought a tear or two, “he’s tough, he’ll make it.”

Neither one of the adults wanted to contradict her.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Loading Spike back into the van hadn’t taken long, and just like before their detour, the trip was conducted in silence.  Dr. Thomas had given them the strongest drugs he could find, so that Spike wouldn’t move around while his bones were knitting.  Buffy was most concerned about his jaw, because he couldn’t bite until it healed and she wasn’t going to wait around for it to heal before letting him drink from her.  She’d not said it to anyone else, wouldn’t dream of sharing something like that with virtual strangers, though it was sitting there in her mind.

Oz murmured something that Buffy didn’t hear, wasn’t even paying attention too, but she heard Kirsten’s quiet response.  “Your parents know where you are?”

“Um.   Yeah.  They know.”

In her tired and other-focused mind, Buffy didn’t think anything of Kirsten’s answer, turning back to Spike when a groan emerged from him.

“Right here, Spike, I’m right here.”

The van lurched, then swung around, slowing to a stop.  Oz jumped out, his unnecessary announcement of, “We’re here,” sounding over his shoulder.

Buffy emerged from the van to find Wesley and Oz waiting to help her, with Kirsten and the other two girls hovering in the back behind the men.  Tara had an armful of sleeping baby  and Dawn was crying again.  None of it made any sense to her, and she wobbled a bit once she got her feet underneath her.  Oz and Kirsten hopped up into the van, lifting one end of the mat while Wesley and Buffy handled the other.

She almost dropped her end of the mat, the emotional upheaval finally reaching her, and Buffy burst into fresh tears when Spike groaned at the disturbance.  Handing the baby to Dawn, Tara grabbed the mat next to Buffy’s hands and motioned everyone toward the house.  

“Let’s get inside.  Everything can wait until we’ve all slept.”
                                     

Chapter Text

Book Two

Chapter 8.  Tomorrow’s questions

Dreams are toys.
Yet for this once, yea, superstitiously,
I will be squared by this.
     A Winter’s Tale, act iii, scene iii

roving dreams –
over charred fields,
the wind’s sound
    Onitsura, untitled haiku





Wesley and Oz had carried Spike upstairs to their bedroom while Buffy followed behind.  Everyone was reeling, stunned from both events of the night, not a single one of them had gone unscathed, not even the newest one.

Putting Spike on the bed had taken a bit of skill, yet the two men managed without her assistance.  Buffy stood at the end of the bed watching him.  Maureen Osborne had added morphine to Spike’s IV blood drip and right now he was blissfully numb.  There was no guarantee how long that would last.  They had no way of knowing how Spike’s body would absorb the painkillers.

In addition to the blood, there were three more IV bags of morphine, plus some painkillers Spike could take orally once he was a bit better.  All of it was now in the refrigerator, courtesy of Tara.

Buffy almost didn’t care about that.

Buffy didn’t care why Wesley was here or why he’d brought a baby.  She didn’t care how Kirsten had managed to hold off six knights alone, saving Spike or why she wasn’t worried about getting home.

She wasn’t concerned about any of it.

Her world had just narrowed.  Had just collapsed on itself.  Her rock, her strength, her unwavering support was on precarious legs.  On broken legs.  Her best friend and worst nightmare, her world since coming back was lying on her bed, broken, battered, and more than dead.

Buffy didn’t move when Oz and Wesley walked past her, didn’t acknowledge either of them in anyway.  Her eyes were fixed on Spike’s still form.

It took her long minutes to realize they were alone.  Even longer for her to gather her courage, her wits and approach the bed.  On soft feet she moved, slowly going forward.  His head rested on his favorite pillow, the hospital sheet wound around him.  Both legs were splinted and his right arm was loosely bandaged with a soft cast on it.  Kneeling down on her side of the bed, almost bent double, her head resting close to his left shoulder, Buffy let the tears fall freely, her words washing over him.

“Need you so much.  Was so scared when Dawnie came home. . .” Her hand brushed over his torso, resting lightly on his belly.  “Can’t die on me, Spike.  I need you.”

Soft sobs whistled through her lips, “Can’t do this alone. . . god, Spike, I need you so much.”  Laying her head partially on his shoulder, Buffy whispered, “I want you to . . . need you to know.  I can’t do this without you. . .  My heart would break . . . be not fixable . . . don’t break me again.”

His left hand moved, inching toward the arm covering him.  Holding on, Spike squeezed her wrist, his fingers digging into her skin.  She leaned closer, brushing her lips against his shoulder.  He swallowed noisily, kind of clearing his throat, then ground out in a bare whisper from behind clenched teeth, “Love you. . . not going.”

Smiling through her tears, Buffy half heartedly hushed him.  Resting her head against him, she kissed his shoulder again, then stretched out beside him, cuddling close.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Tara sent the two teenagers to bed after Oz and Wesley came back downstairs, despite their protests otherwise.

The baby was sleeping again, his small body resting peacefully in the middle of her bed, surrounded by pillows.  The doors between him and the first floor were all open, although Tara had set a simple ward around him to sound his cry louder throughout the house.

Oz was staying the night again, on the couch, while she and Wesley were going to share her bedroom with the baby.  They just weren’t going to bed just yet.

Not that Tara didn’t need to sleep.  It was closer to four than three and babies were notoriously light sleepers, needing to be fed at short intervals.

That wasn’t why they weren’t going to bed right away.  No, not at all.  She had to do a disinvite spell just in case – and – she also had to strengthen the wards around the house.  And since Wesley was here, he could add his voice and talents to hers.  Hell, she was prepared to use Oz – and she still might.

These wards she was about to set had to be the strongest she’d ever done – shields, wards, cloaking, no matter – anything she could think of to keep them all safe, until everyone was healed.

Grabbing her sage and athame, Tara went to get Wesley.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Spinning around, Cordelia smashed her assailant in the face, realizing too late that it wasn’t Angel.

“Damn it!  Look what you made me do.”  Shaking her sore hand a few times, Cordelia resorted to kicking Gunn’s shins.  “Why’d you do that?”

“I think he was tryin’ to keep a low profile.”  Fred spoke up softly from the front of her car.

“Well it was stupid.  Should’ve just called my name.”

Gunn had his hand to his nose, trying to stop the bleeding.  “ Helluva a punch you’re packing, there.  Don’t think I have to worry about you.”

“Why are you guys back here?”  

“Charles thought we should get some supplies before we hide from Angelus.  Is it really that bad?”

Huffing a bit, Cordelia fished around her pockets for the keys, “Yeah.  It’s that bad.”

Holding up a hand, she stopped either of them from talking.  “If I don’t know, he can’t make me tell him.  Just go.  Keep your cell phones charged.  We’ll keep in touch that way.”

Cordelia slid into her car, not watching to see their reactions.  “Stay together as long as you can.”  Nodding at Gunn, she waved a hand in Fred’s direction, “Watch out for her.”

Motioning to the hotel, Cordelia said, “If you go in now, he’s probably not back yet, but be careful in any case.”

“Broke his leg, he ain’t moving anywhere fast.  But I hear ya.”   Gunn lowered his hand, wiping away the blood.

Exchanging a look with Fred, Cordelia repeated her earlier statement.  “Be careful.”

Starting the ignition, Cordelia drove off, watching them in the rearview mirror.

    

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She hadn’t meant to fall asleep without cleaning up first.  The blood on her clothes was mostly dried when she jerked awake, startled by an unfamiliar noise.  She didn’t think she’d been asleep all that long, because it was still mostly dark out, and the morning birds hadn’t started singing yet.  

Spike groaned, pulling her attention to him.  “Uughh.  Buffy. . .”

“I’m right here.  Right here.” She brushed a hand over his face and he turned slightly toward her, a pained look on his features.  “What do you need?”

A strangled sort of noise came from his throat and Buffy panicked until she realized his head needed elevating.  Lifting him up as gently as possible, she arranged the pillows under his head better, getting him more comfortable, all the while muttering under her breath.  “Gonna make sure you get better. . . get you back on your feet.  Deal with all the other stuff later, when you feel better.  Can’t . . . not doing this again.”

Searching his face for signs of consciousness, Buffy stared down at his swollen face.  “Can you swallow?  Don’t have to bite me, but can you?  Do you wanna try?”

His eyes opened up slightly, pain-filled and slightly unfocused, however the good sign was he was reacting to her voice and what she was saying.  “If you take a little bit whenever you can, it should help, right?”

She wasn’t pretending he didn’t need her blood to heal.  He needed it desperately.  He needed it more than he needed painkillers or needed regular human blood.  She couldn’t have him . . . didn’t want him lying flat on his back taking forever to heal because she was too squeamish to bleed for him.  And maybe she was being selfish in wanting him back by her side, but she wasn’t ready to do this on her own.  Might not ever be again.  

Memories of heaven struck her at the oddest moments, no matter where she was or what she was doing, they just surfaced and she couldn’t stop them.  Didn’t want to fight the memories.  The closest she came to that feeling of safety, completeness, and unconditional love were those moments spent in his arms sheltered from the rest of the world.  Buffy didn’t want to lose that, didn’t want to trade that for anything.  And she wasn’t going to.

Buffy got up from the bed, trying not to jostle him too much and reached down into her weapons bag, looking for one of her smaller knives.  Rummaging about, Buffy listened for signs of distress from him giving any indication that he was uncomfortable in any way, but he was silent.  His eyes were open though, mere slits in his swollen face, although Buffy could see that he was trying to follow her movements.  Keeping up a running monologue about what she was doing, Buffy saw his muscles relax as he heard her voice.

Finding the knife she wanted, Buffy was back on the bed in mere moments, telling him, “Gonna do this on my wrist, is that best?”  Not waiting for a response that wasn’t going to come, Buffy kept talking, “Yeah, this is best, just gonna have to make sure I cut deep enough to do this.”

Taking the knife in her hand, Buffy made a cut on the inside of her wrist, then waited.  And waited.  Sighing deeply and mentally berating herself, Buffy tried again.  This time, she actually put some force behind the cut and managed to really break the skin.  Laying her arm against his lips, Buffy snuggled next to Spike, her right arm around his head, her breasts against his ear.  “C’mon, Spike, swallow. . . c’mon, take this.”

Weakly at first, he swallowed, letting too much of it trickle down his cheeks. Eventually, after just a few moments, Spike managed to open up his mouth wider and he latched onto her arm.  His left arm came up, his hand gripping her arm to hold her in place, his fingers curling around her wrist.  He didn’t drink long, didn’t take much, but it didn’t matter.  If he managed to take more every time, she would be able to gauge how well he was healing.

His tongue licked her wound, closing it off as his eyes drifted close.  Those deep chest rumbles that she loved so much echoed through him, warming her up from the inside.  For long minutes they stayed like that, his hand holding her arm against his mouth and her body almost curled around his head.  Spike drifted back into sleep and she knew the moment he surrendered, because his fingers went lax and his head drifted to the side, facing her.  Slowly she moved back away from him, reluctant to move too quickly in case her movements caused him discomfort.  She needed to get clean.  Blood and vomit was all over her and she felt decidedly dirty.

The water was blindingly hot, stinging needles against her battered muscles, soothing and numbing all at once.  Buffy rested her head against the cool tile, wishing that it was Spike’s chest.  The desperate fears she’d tried so hard to keep at bay were crowding her, swirling about in her head and heart.  He’d almost been gone.  He’d almost been dust.  

She wasn’t ready for him to not be here.  She didn’t know if she’d ever be ready for him not to be here.  Dropping down to her knees, Buffy rocked herself, the tears falling from her eyes, mixing easily with the shower.  Sobs broke through, wracking her, doubling her over in their intensity.  God. . . oh god . . . I wish he was here. . . he’d know what to do. He’d hold me and I wouldn’t feel so . . . lost, so alone.  Spike . . . need you so much . . . don’t leave me.

She cried for so long that she had no more tears, no more fluid in her body to give toward the grief, and finally in a moment of pure surrender, raised her head to the water and let it wash over her.  His voice, that heady blend of aged whiskey, dark pleasure, and pure sex sounded in her head, his words soothing her, his presence in the next room calling to her.  “C’mon, kitten, be right as rain soon enough, no worries, yeah?  Get to your feet and come back to bed, need you.”

It was so real in her head that she imagined he was standing behind her, urging her to get up, find her feet, and come lay beside him.  Obeying his voice in her head, Buffy took a deep breath and did just that.  

Buffy barely dried off, wrapped another towel around her head and without getting dressed again, she climbed back into bed beside him.  Laying her arm over him, Buffy kissed his shoulder once more then closed her eyes.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Tara was curled up on one side of her bed, the tiny baby cuddled next to her, with Wesley on the other side of him.  She was sleeping lightly, more than aware of the unfamiliar bodies in the bed next to her, unable to get completely comfortable because of it.  The baby was on his belly, tucked into her side, her arm resting lightly over him, protecting him from the world.  Wesley stirred beside her, his body jerking from tense muscles and over-wrought senses.

She shifted, trying to get more comfortable, the vague sense in the back of her mind that she was going to need this sleep, because come daylight, she was going to have to hold it together for everyone.  Especially Buffy.

The look in the Slayer’s eyes had been hard to miss, gauging how close she was to breaking down.  Wesley’s news wasn’t going to help.  Tara shifted once more, brushing a hand over the baby’s head when he also shifted.  “Shhhhhh, hush now” she murmured whisper soft.  “Sleep, little one.”

Closing her eyes again, Tara followed her own advice.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



It was raining, the soft sounds of pittering and pattering splatted and splooshed against the sides of the house; against the pavement.  She was tired of rain, tired of being cooped up because of . . . rain.  Looking out the window she peered down the long rainy street.  Strong hands reached out to close the curtains, a low voice sounding against her ear and there was a very solid presence behind her.

“Not time yet, love.  Too soon for them.”

“Don’t want to wait.  Want them now.”

Those strong arms wrapped around her, pulling her close to the body behind her.  Linking fingers together their hands rested just beneath her heart.  “Be here soon enough, pet.  Then we won’t have time to think.”

“Thinking’s not good.”

He chuckled then, his voice low and seductive in her ear, as he nipped it between each of his words.  “Can’t exactly do anythin’ ‘bout that just now.  Couple o’ days love, I’ll see to you proper, yeah?”

She smiled then, hugging him tightly to her.

“Promise?”

“Promise, kitten.”

“Kay then.”  Settling against him, Buffy rested her head on his shoulder, content to stay put.

His voice sounded again, this time clipped and controlled.  “Need you to listen now, pet.  Gotta trust us – what we feel.  Stronger together.”

Turning around to face him finally, Buffy was surprised to find him in game face.  

“Mine you are as I am yours.”  His features faded back to human, his voice continuing, “He’ll come for us – for the sprog.  Oxford will help Dawnie, but we’ve gotta help him first.”

A frown appeared on his features then cleared again.  “She’s ours too.”

Thunder sounded, crashing loudly all around them.  “Shadows are fallin’ now, pet.  Can’t get free . . . we need to stay inside.”

Her hand reached out to touch his face, his hand covering hers.  “Gotta watch them.  They’ll all be one of a kind.”

Thunder crashed around them, lights went out, flickered on, his face bathed in shadow, here, gone, game faced then not.

“Rest now, kitten . . . battles yet ahead . . .   Rest . . . rest.  First ones ‘ill be here soon.”

He pulled her into his embrace, his arms linking around her, his kiss against her temple.  “Yours princess, always.”

Buffy came to slowly, trying to remember all the details of her dream.  Reaching for her dream journal, she flicked on the bedside lamp, then gasped when she saw Angel standing beside the bed in game face, his hands dripping blood.

She lunged up, and realized when she woke to half light, that all of it had been a dream – even that last part.  Her heart was pounding, racing in her chest and she was gasping harshly for air.  Spike groaned beside her, reacting to both her jerked movements and her elevated heart rate.

“Buffy – kitten?”  His voice was a bare whisper, though it was enough to shake her from the effecs of her dream.  His eyes were open, the swelling down visibly and though tired looking and pain-filled, his blue eyes were clear.  Reaching out with his left hand, Spike wiped away the tears she wasn’t even aware of shedding.  “Tell me.”

“Was a dream.” Clearing her throat, she continued, “A Slayer dream.”  Reaching for his face, she ran a gentle finger across his lips.  “Give me a minute.  I’ll tell you.”

Leaning over him, she kissed his face, saying nothing.  She had no words for what she was feeling.  Could only show him.

Too soon for his emotional liking she pulled away, though only far enough to get out her journal and pen.  Sitting next to him, Buffy narrated the dream as best she could remember as she wrote it down.

When she was finished, the sun was just coming up and he was back asleep.  Closing the journal, Buffy curled against him again, wondering if he’d heard the last bit, about Angel standing in their bedroom with blood on his hands.

It was a long time before she fully went back to sleep.

Chapter Text

Book Two

Chapter 9.  Don’t cry little sister

It is some relief to weep; grief is satisfied and carried off by tears.
    Ovid

Tears are the safety valve of the heart when too much pressure is laid on it.
    Albert Smith

Grief has limits, whereas apprehension has none.
For we grieve only for what we know has happened,
but we fear all that possibly may happen.
    Pliny the Younger




It was ridiculously early to be up when she’d only had a couple hours of sleep, but she couldn’t stay in bed.  Nightmares kept waking her.  Disturbing images of the aftermath of her first real date and Dawn couldn’t shake them.  Images of Spike as he’d been when Buffy brought him home, others of Buffy coming home alone – shattered, beyond reaching, grief-stricken and bereft.  Dawn remembered all too well what it was like in the days just after Buffy’s jump – could never forget them.  The burning, aching hole in her belly that got caught in her throat whenever she thought about it was back.  It was what wouldn’t let her sleep, wasn’t allowing any rest.  She wanted to vomit, she wanted to cry, to scream, to yell at someone.  She wanted to put her head against Spike’s chest and cry.  Let him hold her.  Tell her he was gonna be okay.  That he didn’t blame her.
 
Not that it would help at all. This was all her fault.  If she wasn’t the key, none of this, absofreakinglutely none of this would have happened.  Except for Joyce dying and Riley leaving, everything else bad that had happened in the last year had been her fault.  Because she was the Key.  Not anyone else’s fault.  Hers.

It was all her fault.  Glory beating on Spike, Tara’s getting her brain sucked, Buffy . . . jumping.  And now this.  Dawn stared up at her ceiling, Kirsten sleeping quietly beside her and wondered what her purpose was.  Am I just gonna destroy everything and everyone . . . piece by piece, one at a time?  Why am I here if that’s all I’m good for?

Tears welled up in her eyes.  The house was quiet, too quiet for a house with so many people here at once.  

Getting up, Dawn looked at her companion.  How she had gotten involved in this Dawn had no idea, but every time something weird or bad happened at school, Kirsten was around.  Which kind of set off slayer-type alarms.

I’ll just be Scarlet and think about that tomorrow.
  One last look at the other girl and then Dawn was out of her room and opening the door to Buffy and Spike’s room before she realized it.

Opening the door to their room just wide enough to slip through, Dawn gently closed the door behind her.  Neither of the figures on the bed moved, then again, she hadn’t expected either of them to.  Spike was flat on his back, his right arm resting on a small pillow, his head leaning to his left, close to her sister.  Buffy was curled up next to him, wrapped up in a big bath towel and nothing else.  Her towel-wrapped head was nearly resting on Spike’s uninjured left shoulder.  Their left hands were clasped together, laying across his belly, Buffy’s smaller hand nearly swallowed up under Spike’s larger one.

Just looking at their hands made the lump in her throat travel.  She wished she was a little kid, then it wouldn’t be freaky if she climbed into bed with them.  Part of her wished the monks had made her smaller – little enough to enjoy being theirs.  Climbing into bed with them would give her some reassurance, something she desperately needed, especially from Spike.

Dawn stood at the foot of the bed, shifting her weight from one leg to the other, uncertain about what to do.  Should I go?  Leave them alone?  Don’t want to do that.  Just want to stay.  It was only when she shifted that she realized she was crying, probably had been since she’d walked in and seen them both.

Giving in to her sudden need to touch them both, Dawn crept closer to the bed.  They looked so . . . despite the bruises and bandages, they looked cute . . . no.     Not cute.   Right.  They looked right together.  And cold.

Taking the light comforter that was folded up at the foot of the bed, Dawn spread it over them.  Her hand covered their entwined fingers, nearly jerking away when Spike’s hand twitched.  He didn’t wake up, though, which almost disappointed her.

She needed to see his eyes, needed to see that sparkle he had, just to reassure herself he was still with them.  Dawn’s hand hovered over theirs.  She was torn between touching and not touching.  Unable to stand it any longer, Dawn laid her hand gently over theirs.  Spike’s usual coolness was replaced with a slight warmth, definitely borrowed from Buffy though instead of bothering her, it gave her some small measure of comfort.

Without much conscious thought, Dawn walked around to the opposite side of the bed, coming round to where Buffy was curled up against him.  Kneeling beside her, Dawn couldn’t resist any longer.  The tears were clogging her nose and streaming down her cheeks.  She slipped down behind her sister.  Silent sobs wracked her and she curled into Buffy’s smaller body.

It was barely eight in the morning, the sun already begun its ascent into the sky when Dawn laid down beside them and barely a half hour passed before Spike stirred.  She wasn’t asleep, was in that sort of in-between state, just sort of numb.  His low groan caught her attention and she could feel him shifting and stretching from her position.  Buffy automatically adjusted, her answering murmur a soft exhalation of sound.  Spike inhaled loudly, Buffy’s name escaping from him.  Dawn smiled, listening to the two of them shift and stir, instinctively reaching out for the other.  Buffy’s arm moved and she shifted closer to Spike.

Dawn felt like she was . . . not intruding, but getting a glimpse into how things really were between them.  Buffy stirred again and Dawn nearly jumped out of her skin when Spike ground out, “Mornin’ Niblet.  You okay?”

A half sobbing laugh sounded from her throat.  “I’m fine. . . you . . . how’re you feeling?”

“Truck run over me.”

“Oh god, Spike, I was so scared.   I thought. . .”

“Not going like that.  Not now.  Not ever.”

“Dawnie, let him sleep.”  Buffy’s sleepy voice sounded between them.  Taking away the sting of her words, Buffy disengaged her hand from Spike’s and reached around to touch Dawn.  She grabbed her sister’s wrist and with an indrawn breath Buffy pulled away quickly.  Dawn grabbed her again, this time lifting her hand up to look at her wrist.

“You should put a band-aid on these.”  Then after a second, she asked, “Would mine help?  Being the Key?  Would it be better than regular human?”

Buffy sat up slowly, trying not to jostle Spike who was listening to their quiet conversation.  “I don’t know, Dawnie.  Not sure what your blood would do.  We know mine is best.”  Now a bit more awake, Buffy unwrapped the towel from her hair, facing her sister.  “You aren’t wigged . . . how come?”

“It’s not that big a deal is it?  Spike needs it.  You’ve got it.”  Thinking about it Dawn continued, “Xander would wig big time.  Tara not so much and Giles?”  She shrugged.  “Do what you think is best, Buffy.  Not my decision.  But I wanna help.”

It was on the tip of her tongue to just blurt it out and tell them both what she’d found out – except no one knew she even had the journals, much less read them.  She couldn’t tell them like this.  So she bit the inside of her cheek to remind herself of that.

“Oh, Dawnie. . . maybe when he’s a bit. . .”

“No.  Not biting you, Niblet.  Not now.  No.”  Spike wasn’t going to argue it not now, but he’d explain later. . . maybe.

Dawn sat up, insulted and hurt.  “Gee, Spike, make me feel wanted.”

Guessing what was in Spike’s head – about crossing a line with her sister and creating a need for a vampire’s touch within Dawn, Buffy had to agree with him.  “Dawnie, let’s talk about this later okay?”

“Love you, Niblet, an’ I don’ wan’ t’ hurt you.”  He waited a bit, then repeated himself.  “Love you.”

Dawn’s face crumpled, her sobs shaking her shoulders.  Buffy looked down at Spike, seeing his barely opened eyes looking back at her, a wealth of understanding in their unspoken communication.  Turning to her sister, Buffy pulled her into her arms and let her cry.


                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                
Dawn was still the only one awake when Giles called to check in and report on his progress or, more accurately, lack thereof.  He knew immediately something was wrong just by the way she’d hesitated before telling him that Buffy was still asleep.

“Tell me, Dawn.  Don’t leave anything out.”

And she didn’t, spilling it out for him in horrifyingly minute detail without her usual girlish side commentary.  Which also told him how bad it truly was.

There was absolute silence when she’d finished, then, “I have to stay at least a few more days, Dawn.  There are things I must see to.  But I won’t waste time.  When Buffy wakes tell her I’ll be back as soon as possible.  I’ll call back at,” and she could hear him fumbling for a watch, “Three your time.”

‘Okay, Giles.  I’ll make sure she’s awake.”

“Dawn?”

“Yeah?”

“Spike is tough.  He’ll pull through this.”

Tears clogged her throat and all she could manage was an, “Ahuh.”

“Dawn.  He’s a vampire.  Takes more than what happened to kill him.”  Didn’t stop her from feeling guilty about what happened.

She whispered back, “I know.”

“Take care, Dawn.  Speak with you in a few hours.”

Giles disconnected the call and mentally re-arranged his itinerary and his priorities for the rest of this trip.  Changing his mind, Giles tapped on the driver’s shoulder, directing him to the Council’s headquarters instead of going back to his hotel.  No time to waste unwinding and spending a lazy Sunday afternoon doing nothing until the morning before resuming his research.  He was needed back home.

    
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


After hanging up with Giles, Dawn grabbed some cereal and headed for the living room – stopping short when she spied Oz’ sleeping form.  What, is everyone sleeping here now?

Wrinkling her nose, she turned around and walked right into Wesley.  His hands reached out to steady her and Dawn hid the squeal of-my-god-it’s-him that was threatening, instead she settled for the squeal-of-startled-surprise.  “Wes!”

“Sorry, Dawn.  Phone woke me.”  He turned back toward the kitchen.  “Need some coffee.  Any here?”

“Yeah, it’s all set up.  Tara usually does it before she goes to bed.”  Flipping the switch, Dawn smiled at him.  “How did you sleep?”

Looking at his disheveled state and the two day stubble gracing his features, Dawn figured it was a stupid question, but she couldn’t think of anything smart and intelligent to say to him.  He usually did that to her, made her all tongue-tied and feeling very foolish and very, very young.

“Actually, all things considered, I slept fairly well.  Just not long enough.”  He searched around for a coffee mug, his gaze averted, which gave Dawn ample time to just stare at him, and asked her, “And you?”

“Huh?  Oh. Um. . . okay I guess.  Kinda worried about Spike.”  She hid her blush when he turned around to look at her by dipping her head down and focusing on her cereal.  Wesley caught her pink cheeks and ducked his own head.  He’d never been the focus of a teenaged crush and he had no idea how to react or even if he should.  He liked Dawn, she was a cute little . . . looking at her intently, Wesley realized she wasn’t a little girl anymore, wasn’t nearly the same little girl he falsely remembered from a few years back.  She was at that age when men his age got into serious difficulties by looking.  And it was worse because Dawn was growing into his type of woman . . . tall, smart, and beautiful.  Wesley realized he was going to have to be very careful around Dawn.  Very careful indeed.  Temptation was not something he wanted right now.  And god knows what Spike would do to him if he ever found out.

“He’s going to be fine, Dawnie.”  Tara’s voice came from the basement doorway, a mewling baby held in her embrace.  “We’re going to make sure he’s fine.”

Turning a grateful glance at the older girl, Dawn motioned for the baby and when she had him in her arms, began cooing at him.  “We need to get lots of supplies while the sun is up.”

Wesley looked down at himself, noting his days old clothing and the need to be clean gripped him.  “Both the baby and I are going to need things.  I didn’t know where else to go with him.”

Bottle and formula in hand, Tara stopped what she was doing to look at Wesley.  “You did the right thing by coming here.  If Angelus is back we have to stay together.  All of us.”  

Without looking up from the baby, Dawn said, “This time we need to just stake his sorry ass and not worry about re-souling him.”

Neither one of the adults had an argument against that statement.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Every inch of him was in pain.  He ached all over, with parts that were throbbing in screaming counterpoint.  The morphine was wearing off and he was reluctantly waking up.  Sleep would be easier.  His head was a mass of pain, sharp, spine-bending, ice-hot shards of shrieking pain.  Groans of complaint fought for release in his throat and he tried vainly to suppress them.  Brief flashes of last night’s events circulated in his head, moments only, mere blurbs, a punch, a kick.  No more than that.  Later flashes, strange voices, different hands on him and much later, Buffy’s touch, her kisses and the sweet taste of her blood.

A soft groan sounded and she was instantly awake.  “Spike?”

Her head lifted away from his shoulder, a light touch against his skin.  “Kit – kitten.”

“Shhhh.  I’m right here.  Gonna take care of you.  Want some pain killers?  Need blood?”

He blinked, focusing on her, his eyes shifting to look at her, “Yeah.”

“Okay.  I’ll be right back with the painkillers.”  She slipped on one of his tee shirts and a pair of shorts, nearly flying out the door.

Spike closed his eyes, straining his ears to hear what was going on.  The girl’s voices were easy to pick out, and there was a deeper voice he didn’t recognize at first, though when he heard a phrase, he knew it was Oxford.  Not catching the implications of that, Spike was glad someone else was around to help the girls.

He must have drifted, because Buffy was shaking him awake, a morphine bag and a straw in one hand.  “I’m not sure how much to give you.  I don’t know how much they gave you last night.  I – I’m not . . .” Her voice broke and she wiped away a tear.

His left hand lifted to cup her cheek.  “Half,” he managed to croak out.

She let her cheek rest there for a bit, just grateful he was awake and still with her.  Her eyes watched him, drinking in his presence.  Finally she lifted her eyes to meet his, a soft smile on her face.  “So glad you’re here.”

His eyes sparked, glittering in their intensity.  “Love you.”

As an answer she kissed his palm, then reluctantly broke away from his touch.  “So drugs or me first?”

A chest deep growl sounded from him and Buffy suppressed her smile.  “Drugs.  Best last, pet.”

“Thought you would say that.”

Poking a hole in one end of the bag, Buffy stuck the straw into it, offering it to him.  Memories of him chained in the bathtub came back to them both, and Buffy giggled, saying, “No teasing this time.  I promise.”  Then growing serious, “I want you to be able to bite me.”

The look in his eyes spoke volumes and Buffy’s heart beat picked up.  When he was better. . . oh yeah.  She thought about the two other times he’d bitten her, feeling her whole body flush.

Lost in each other’s eyes, they didn’t realize he’d practically inhaled just under half the bag in record time.  “Okay, Spike, ready for some extra special Buffy goodness?”

His smile was much more of a grimace, but his whispered “Please” sent shock waves through her whole body.

Buffy froze for a moment, wishing he could act on the promise implicit in his husky whisper.  She needed to show him. . . to prove to him and herself that this wasn’t one sided. . . that she cared about him. . . that he was in her heart.

Resting against him, Buffy kissed his shoulder, her right arm beneath her.  Raising her left wrist to his mouth, Buffy asked him, “Do you wanna try biting or should I do like earlier?”

“I’ll try.”  Opening his mouth, Spike kissed her, at the spots marking where he’d drunk earlier.  His tongue came out, little licks running over her skin, just tasting her.  Spike closed his eyes, his tongue tip playing over the flesh of her wrist.  Buffy’s breath hitched and she fought a tiny gasp as he slowly, gently bit down, pulling at her skin.

Her heartbeat double raced, pounding against her ribs.  He tugged on the skin just above her biggest vein as his tongue circled on that tiny bit of flesh.  Her blood pulsed beneath the healing cuts, leaping toward his mouth, aching to be part of him.

Buffy’s eyes drifted closed her senses narrowed on that tiny strip of flesh inside his mouth.  His left hand dropped, no longer holding her arm against him.  He fisted his hand, his knuckle rubbing against her mound. In response she writhed, seeking any contact with his body.  His face shifted, his canines elongated once the overpowering scent of her arousal filled him and she lifted her hips, Spike gently, slowly sunk his teeth inside her flesh.  Her gasp of pleasure echoed loudly in his ears, “Spike. . . oh. . .”  Her breath was hitching, trying to get in enough air to whimper his name.

He drank slowly, not wasting a drop, as she curled closer into his side.  The morphine kicked in and his muscles relaxed, his face shifting back to human.  Buffy rested her head against the side of his face, brushing small kisses on his skin.  Long before she thought he was finished, Spike licked the cuts, closing them off.   “Thank you, kitten.”

Drawing in a deep breath, he rested his left hand down alongside hers, both of them across his belly.  Contented gurgles rumbled in his belly and Spike sighed.  Buffy stirred beside him, entwining their fingers together.  She whispered something against his bare shoulder, sounding suspiciously like ‘Sleep now’ and he drifted off in a jumble of thoughts filled with Buffy and home.  


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The first thing they decided was, rather than scramble about for whatever they could remember they needed, that they needed to be working from a list.  Wesley was at a loss about what they needed for a newborn, however Tara proved to be a wealth of information, apparently from first hand expertise.  Wesley was acting as scribe, writing down everything Tara said to, while Dawn fed the baby.

When Buffy had come down the stairs earlier to get supplies for Spike, she’d just stared at the baby, muttering, “Thought I imagined that last night.”

A hasty explanation from Wesley had brought her somewhat up to speed, though  Buffy had only shaken her head, unable to focus on what might be coming until Spike was at least sitting up.  Instead she had gazed up at Wesley, noting his tired eyes and almost defeated stance, saying, “Not worried about him right now.  It’s daylight and he can’t travel between here and there.”

Turning to Tara, Buffy asked, “Can you do a disinvite?”  Thinking again she continued, “We’re gonna need weapons from Giles’.  Can you guys pick those up also?  And anything else we might need from the Magic Box.”  

Exchanging looks, Tara and Wesley both answered at the same time, “We can do the disinvite,” then Tara continued, “We’re gong to have to split up.  This way we aren’t going to be caught out after dark.  It’s already after two.”

Buffy looked up at the clock, disbelief on her face.  “Is it?”

Dawn picked up her head, looking at her sister for the first time since she came downstairs.  It was clear Buffy had been crying and she looked like she hadn’t slept well at all.  “Buffy?  How is he?”

A deep sigh sounded in the air, and Buffy tried to control the tears that were threatening, saying, “He’s awake and most of the cuts have healed.  I’m not sure about anything else.  He is talking, so I guess his jaw is healing too.  Hard to tell right now.”

Her sister relaxed just a little.  Dawn’s body was still tense, and her worry was clearly evident.  “Can I see him again?”

“Maybe later, Dawnie, okay?”  Buffy grabbed a straw, then headed back toward the stairs, her voice trailing behind her, “Let me know when you guys leave.”

Once Buffy was back upstairs, the other three pointed shared looks.  Neither of the two adults had said anything about re-doing the disinvite, then again, Buffy hadn’t waited for a response. Tara was the first to recover, going over the list Wesley had been writing, asking him to add all the things Buffy had mentioned, plus whatever else she was going to need for healing and warding.

Dawn was still cuddling the baby close and as he started falling asleep, she asked, “Who’s going to take the baby?”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


She wasn’t asleep, not really, just in a sort of fugue state, where she wasn’t really awake either.  Spike was breathing beside her, his chest rising and falling in time with hers, although he was deeply asleep.  Right after he’d fallen asleep again, Buffy had checked his right leg, which hadn’t been broken badly, just a fracture.  The swelling was all gone, the bruising subsided from the livid dark purple, nearly black they had been to a less intense purple-bluish color.  It was a good sign.

He’d been able to talk a bit also, another good sign.  She was mostly worried about his right arm, since that was the one that had broken through his skin.  Right now it was propped up on a pillow, however, she was afraid to unwrap the bandages to look at it.  It had stopped seeping blood earlier while they slept the first time, and she wasn’t looking forward to changing those bandages.  He was mostly clean, because though they hadn’t washed his hair, Oz’ aunt Maureen had made sure the blood was cleaned up from his body after the doctor had patched him up.  Getting his hair clean would have to wait until he could get into the shower, which wasn’t going to be at least until sometime tomorrow.  
Their hands were still entwined, resting across his belly, which was free of bruises now.  Buffy was watching the dust motes dance across the room, the late afternoon sunlight hitting her mirror, causing cross beams of indirect light, the only illumination in their room.  The idle thought crossed her mind that she was going to have to redecorate, adding dark drapes, so Spike wouldn’t get hit by stray beams of sunlight.  This was their bedroom now, it was only right he be able to enter it without worrying about bursting into flame issues.  

Buffy was mulling over ideas, not really thinking seriously about anything, in a half-drowsy state, when there was a soft knock on the door.

“Buffy?”  Tara’s voice sounded from behind the closed wood and at her sleepy muffled answer, the older girl opened the door.  “How’s he doing?”

“Sleeping now.”  Placing a kiss on his shoulder, Buffy loosened their hands and rolled over to face Tara.  “What’s up?”

“Well. . .” Tara started fiddling with the sleeves of her blouse, a sure sign she was hesitant about what she was about to say.  

Taking pity on her, Buffy said, “Tell me.”

“We can’t take the baby when we go out.  He’s got no clothes and we can’t spare the hands.”  She wouldn’t look at Buffy’s face, afraid the Slayer would be angry.  

Instead, Buffy just sighed, “Bring him in here.  He can stay with us.”

“You sure?”  

“Tara, you guys need to do lots of stuff, having to carry him around is just gonna slow you down.  Bring him in here.”  Making a face, she continued, “Think I can take care of both of them?”

That comment elicited a soft giggle from the taller girl.  “Shouldn’t be too hard.  He’s sleeping most of the time and we just fed him.  He’ll be good for a couple of hours.”

“Okay.”   Then she laughed sadly.  “Sounds like both of them.”

Spike stirred, a groan passing through his lips and Buffy focused her attention back to him.  He didn’t wake, though, and she motioned Tara to go get the baby and bring him back.

Chapter Text

Book Two

Chapter 10.  A light shines in you

I will not ask from you
anything that you were not capable of giving
I would not ask from you
anything but that which I truly need
and I would not take from you
without giving equal value in return
        Javan, Footprints in the Mind

And as the rain (begin again)
falls heavy in my heart (as the storm breaks through)
believe the light (so the light shines)
in you (in you)
(without color, faded and worn)
torn asunder in the storm (torn asunder in the storm)
(unless the sound)
(save your body’s soul)
(Unless it disappears)
first the thunder (selfish storm)
then the storm (cold on the inside)
torn asunder (one life)
in the storm (in the storm)
in a lifetime
        Clannad with Bono, In a Lifetime

    



Oz woke up just after Buffy had gone back upstairs and he’d been enlisted to help them get all the necessary supplies.  His van was empty, except for the two seats in the front, and it would enable them to make one trip for everything, instead of having to use both the DeSoto and Angel’s convertible.  Having been brought up to speed about what was left of the day’s prospects, Oz characteristically remained mostly silent throughout Tara’s list of things to do, only speaking once to say, “How soon do we leave?”

Which was answered by Dawn, “As soon as you’re ready.”

“Then let’s go.”  Oz fished his keys from his pocket and dangled them in the air.  “Where to first?”

“The mall, we need supplies for the baby and Wes.”  Tara answered.

“So we go from there to get the stuff from the Magic Box and then we need to go to Giles’ to get more weapons.”  Dawn’s voice sounded from the hallway closet as she grabbed a light jacket.

Tara headed up the stairs with the baby, calling down, “I’ll be right back.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Spike woke to the sound of Buffy’s voice singing lullabies softly in the very late afternoon light.  He had no idea how long he’d been asleep this time but he felt much better.  His headache was mostly gone, now just a fuzzy dull ache in the back of his head.  One leg was relatively pain free and his ribs felt like they were all healed.  A smile graced his features, listening to Buffy’s singing, and he stretched gingerly, taking care not to disrupt his healing bones.

Buffy looked up from the chair and he realized why she was singing.  “Somethin’ you wanna tell me, kitten?”

Her smile was blinding and he almost looked around to see who else she might be looking at.  “Buffy?”

“Hey, you.  How’re you feeling?”  She got up from the chair, lifting the infant in her arms to her shoulder, walking over the bed.

“Better.  Who’s this then?”  Spike watched her carefully.

“Wesley brought him.  You want the good news or the bad news first?”  She laid down next to him, the infant between them, waiting his response.  

“Does it matter?”  He wasn’t quite sure what was going on here and was feeling completely confused.

“Nope,” her voice was quiet, mindful of the baby sleeping between them, “Not much is good.”

“Tell me then.”  He shifted, trying to get more comfortable, moving almost onto his mostly  uninjured side to face her.  “This Angel’s sprog?”

Her hand brushing over the baby’s back, Buffy looked at him, a little laugh in her voice, “If by that you mean if this is his son, that’s what Wesley said.”  Sobering quickly, she continued, “Wes also said he’s lost his soul and Darla is dust.”

“Fuck.”  Spike knew this was worse than he’d expected.  “Gimme the rest of the news, love.”

“I’m not sure this rest is really news.  Oz was with Tara last night,” at his raised eyebrow she giggled, “I don’t think it was like that, you pig.  Do you remember what happened?”  When he nodded, she continued, “Kirsten is gone.  She slipped out while everyone was asleep and Dawn was in here with us.  She fought last night.”

“Yeah, I seem to remember that.  Chit saved me, did she?”  Looking at her closely, he said, “Thought she was you at first.  She reminded me of you the first time I saw her.”

“She’s too strong to be just a regular girl.  She fought off almost six knights before I got there.”  Buffy’s face took on a pensive look.  “Could she be like me?  Maybe a could-be-slayer?”

“Dunno, pet.  She’s somethin’ else, dunno if it’s that, or,” He hesitated, trying to find the words for what his brain was thinking, “She sounded like you, not just . . . somethin’ ‘bout her, love.”

“Well, she was here, until sometime this morning.”  Buffy watched his face for signs of fatigue and pain.  “Are you feeling any better?”

“Yeah.  Head’s not so fuzzy.  Fractures are doin’ better.”  The baby mewled, drawing their attention away from Spike’s injuries, “Sprog have a name?”

Buffy looked up, a horrified yet amused look in her eyes, “I didn’t. . . oh my god. . . what kind of . . . I never even asked.  How horrible am I?”

Spike grinned at her, a laugh threatening in his eyes, “Pro’ly jus’ slipped your mind.  We’ll jus’ call him Sprog for now.”

Buffy had looked back down at the baby, missing the laughter in his eyes but at his words, she gasped, saying, “Spike we can’t . . that’s.”   She shifted her gaze to look at him, only then realizing he was teasing her.  “Not funny, Spike.”

“Yeah, it is.  Peaches’ get w’out a proper name, leavin’ it for me to do.”  Spike’s eyes gleamed with further mischief, “Think I’ll call ‘im Spawn.”

“What?  That’s . . . why would you call him Spawn?”

“Cause tha’s what he is.  Spawn of Angelus and Darla.”  He tried holding back his mirth, though it was impossible.  “What else could he be?”

Buffy finally responded to the teasing glint in his eye, giggling softly along with him.  “So not nice, Spike.”

“‘M evil, love.  Can’t expect better from me.”

She ignored his statement, instead focusing on the baby sleeping between them.  Her hand smoothed down his back, running over his head.  She could smell his scent from where she was, he smelled so sweet.  A wave of longing unexpectedly surged through her, catching her off guard.  Buffy fought the tears, hiding her expression from Spike, not wanting him to think the tears were because this was Angel’s son.  That was something she almost didn’t care about.  It was just the fact of a baby, and them, lying in this bed, that was enough to cause the longing.  She had no idea where the emotion had even come from, yet suddenly it was there, clawing in her throat.  Trying to hide the tears, she sighed, shifting closer to the two of them.  

However, Spike was watching her closely, knew when she started to fight tears, knew when her breathing hitched.  He thought he had an idea what was running through her mind, though he was afraid to call attention to it.  This was Angel’s son after all, the child of her first love, and the one thing she’d never expected to see.  Part of him hoped that it was just a baby she was reacting to, and it would have happened with any baby, though a bigger part of him was convinced the tears were because it was Angel’s.  He gingerly rolled onto his back, grimacing with pain and emotions he didn’t want to face.  

Her hand reached out to touch his face, running over his cheekbones and down along his jaw line.  The tension and pain that had bloomed with his movements eased with her touch and he closed his eyes both to hide from her concern and from the emotions swirling between them.  

Spike wanted to mark her as his in so many ways that the sheer number was staggering.  He wanted to bite her, claiming her as his, he wanted to brand himself into her soul so that long after he was dust and she was gone, they would still be bound.  He wanted to be so indelibly marked on her that everyone, demon, hellspawn, human, everyone she came into contact with would know that she belonged to him.   He wanted it with a presence that was as real as the miraculous infant sleeping between them.  He wanted that baby . . . to be theirs.   Wanted to see her . . .  gods, she was sunshine and light now, he couldn’t imagine how much more incandescent she would be.  

Her warm hand stopped moving just over the spot where his heart used to beat, pushing aside the sheet covering his skin.  His good hand came up to capture hers, despite his brain’s inclination to keep some distance between them at this moment.  

He’d gotten his crumbs.

He’d gotten more.

Now he wanted everything.

Spike stopped breathing, when her fingers ghosted once more over his lips, her words a breath in the air between them.  “Should be ours.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Once at the mall, Wesley had handed Tara a stack of bills, saying, “I’ve got more if you need it.”   Then they’d split up, Dawn trailing after Tara and the guys going off together.  

They made short work of the mall excursion knowing that time was now their single biggest enemy.  While Angelus might have temporarily been slowed by the breaking of his leg, none of them was willing to take the chance of being caught outside without some more substantial form of protection than what they had now.  

The trip from the mall to the Magic Box was undertaken in silence, each one of them lost in their own thoughts.  Dawn and Oz were the only two with first hand knowledge of what Angelus was capable of, although both Wesley and Tara had heard the tales.    Wesley also had read the Watcher’s Journals, and his mind was grimly focused on going over Angelus’ weaknesses, if there were any.  
Dawn sat in the back of the truck, her legs crossed, going through some of the baby things she and Tara had picked up.  They’d gotten the basics, plus another package of diapers and a case of formula, and Dawn had insisted on one little extra.  There was a blue baby blanket that she’d thought was just adorable and had quietly whined until Tara gave in and allowed her to throw it in their basket.  She was holding it now, running her fingers over the satin edges, hoping that everything was fine at home.  And also hoping that the baby’s father stayed far, far away.

Tara was running through more of the practical things that were going to be needed, extra food, formula, diapers, the supplies from the Magic Box and any thing else to keep her mind on the present and not worry about what might be coming for them in the next few nights.   She had no real comprehension of what Angelus was capable of, had only one thing really to balance against it, and from what little she had gathered, Angelus was on a Glory-level of badness.  And that was bad.      
She almost was afraid to ask just how bad.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


She couldn’t possibly have said what he’d thought she said.  Spike kept his eyes closed, afraid to make a sound.   Buffy had always had the ability to render him speechless and senseless.  Her fingers were back on his chest and he could feel her eyes on his profile.

Buffy was equally stunned.  She hadn’t meant to just blurt that out.  Hadn’t meant to say that out loud, at least.  Not that she didn’t mean it – because she did – but more because she was afraid he felt differently.  A baby . . . their baby would prove to him that she felt just as strongly as he did.  But if he didn’t want that . . . she just knew that it would be one more way to bind themselves together.  
One more thing to make him want to stay and never leave her.  

The enormity of what he’d done last night, fighting off humans to save her sister, wasn’t lost on her.  He’d known, going into the fight that he was going up against something he couldn’t fight and still he hadn’t hesitated, apparently hadn’t even thought to do otherwise.  It was just further solidification for her that his feelings ran very deeply both for herself and Dawn.  Maybe she should just tell him what that meant to her.  Try to tell him how she was feeling, what she was feeling.  Could. . . she actually say the words?  Or would that be the end for them?  Would he disappear . . . not because he wanted to but because that was just what happened when she loved someone?  Could she take the risk?  

Did she trust him enough with her heart?

His chest was warm beneath her hand, stealing heat from her, solid and strong.  Even without the beat, just being close to him was comforting, was . . . safe.  There was safety in his arms, safety knowing he was with her.  She’d already faced that, accepted that, known that.  He’d taken the leap before her, placed his unbeating heart in her hands, laid it out and given it to her.  Trusted her with his love.  And that was no small thing.  Not something to be sloughed off and made light of, it was as big a deal as her . . . loving him back.  To love her, to be with her, he’d turned his back on everything he was, everything that made him what he was.  

Spike was a demon.  No soul like Angel to set him apart, nothing but his own sheer force of will, from other demons.  Pure, unadulterated demon.  And yet he walked that shadowy place between light and dark far better than Angel ever had.  He fought beside her for the best of reasons, for truly the only reason there was to fight.  Spike fought for love.  Because he loved.  

And the chip?   The chip was nothing more than a piece of hardware designed to stop him from hurting humans.  The chip didn’t stop him from ordering minions around, didn’t stop him from getting other demons to do his bidding.  And the chip sure as hell didn’t direct him to take a beating to protect Dawn – take two beatings.  Neither did the chip make him go out and patrol for her, all summer when she was gone and then again recently,  before she was ready to do it on her own.  The chip was just a hindrance.  Last night, had the chip not been there, she wouldn’t have had to worry so much, wouldn’t have had fear choking her the entire night.  He’d have been able to fight off the humans, and those humans?  She so wouldn’t have minded if he’d killed more than the couple he did.  She would have been happy if he’d killed them all.  

Giles said he trusted Spike with or without the chip.  Could she do any less?  How silly was it that she slept beside him and pretended that she didn’t trust him.  She let him bite her . . . and there had been no question of him hurting her, though he could still drain her – every single time he bit.  Except he didn’t.  He always stopped himself, usually long before she thought he was done.  Even earlier this morning, Spike hadn’t taken a lot.  He’d taken barely enough to start his healing.  

He fought her battles because he loved her.  Not because it was expedient to do so, not because it served his purposes, but for one simple reason – her.  He loved her.  Told her so all the time – showed it, god how he showed it, every day.  Some days, like yesterday, and was it really only yesterday? He more than proved it.  

Sure he didn’t always have the best of ways to show it, at least not in the very beginning, that moment when he’d tied up her and Drusilla, in an effort to make her see that something was brewing between them, always came to mind.  And she’d thrown it back in his face, told him the only time he’d had a chance was when she was unconscious.  He’d begged for something, a crumb. . . well, she’d given him crumbs.  Given him cookies, cakes, sweets, whatever it was he’d been asking for a crumb of. . .  But now there was so much more.  

The words ached to be said, caught in her throat, choking her with their intensity.  Her fingers flexed on his chest and his came up to entangle with hers.  A soft smile graced her features as she realized he always instinctively knew just what she needed, sometimes, even before she herself knew it.  His eyes were closed, the dark lashes resting against his pale cheeks, only the slight tensing of his muscles there an indication that he was still awake and not sleeping.  He’d been uncharacteristically silent for a long time, far longer than she’d ever imagined he could be in a moment like this.   Buffy watched his face, almost amazed at this man, and yes he was a man, who gave everything for her.  


Taking a deep breath and more than aware she was about to make the biggest leap of faith in her life, even counting the jump from Glory’s tower, Buffy tried to get the words out. She was more afraid of this . . . of admitting her feelings than she was of facing down an entire nest of vampires, or a swarm of fyarls.  Maybe. . . she could build up to it.  Tell him . . . just –  “Spike.”

He angled his head toward her, looking at her from beneath his lashes, his eyes hidden from her.  “I was so scared last night. . . didn’t. . .  I don’t know what I’d have done if . . you had. . .” Her voice broke, the harsh whisper full of unshed tears.  “And you were all broken. . . but at least you weren’t gone.  Were still with me.”

Opening his mouth to speak, Spike felt her fingers cross his lips, holding his words silent.  “Wait, please?  Let me try.”  Gathering her courage, Buffy cleared her throat, swallowing back the tears that kept threatening, “I need you so much, I can’t do this alone.  Don’t know how to do this alone anymore.”

Spike was watching her now, his eyes wide open and concerned, focused on her. Her eyes were a brilliant green, shot with gold and silver, and he was lost in them.  His lips pursed against her fingers in a kiss and her answering smile was radiant.  Her eyelids fluttered closed, then opened again, “Spike . . . you . . . you.”

“Shhh, kitten.”

Shaking her head again, Buffy whispered, “My heart, Spike, it’s . . . it’s in your hands.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Anya was on the phone with Giles when the group walked into the Magic Box.  Wesley was the first in the door and he mumbled a greeting at the former demon.  Motioning him over, Anya said, “Wesley just walked in now.”

She handed him the phone and faced the other three, taking in their drawn and tired expressions.  With characteristic bluntness, she launched right into her concerns, “You all look like crap.  Rupert said I should make sure you have everything you need and that I’m not to charge you.  I want you to know,” as she huffed somewhat indignantly, “that since it’s so important I was going to give you a discount.  We can’t possibly make a profit this week if I give you everything for free.”

Tara and Dawn shared an amused look, while Oz tried to figure out what whirlwind he’d just walked into.  This was like old times gathered around the library, and he was struck with a sense of deja vu.  There were a few new faces and some missing from the old days, but the situation was, ironically enough, quite similar to what used to happen when they were in high school.  

The girls knew Anya was just blustering, although sometimes she could be shrill and a bit off-putting, especially if you didn’t know her all that well.  Tara walked over to Oz, whispering, “She’s like this sometimes, you just have to get used to her.”

Despite the former demon’s protests otherwise, both girls knew that she’d give them whatever they needed, even without Giles’ say so.  This was an emergency and Anya never really quibbled about those.  

Anya walked over to where Dawn was sitting at the table, then sat down beside her.  Dawn was playing with one of the books that had been left out, not really focused on what was in her hands.  “Dawn?”

When the younger girl glanced in her direction, Anya continued, “You do know that unless you use a stake or cut off their heads, vampires always recover.  Eventually.”

“I know that.”  She knew Anya was just trying to be comforting and helpful, but she really wasn’t being either of those things.  Dawn looked away, then mumbled, “Doesn’t matter, though.  Coz it’s all my fault anyway.”

“Because why?”  Anya had heard her, despite Dawn’s efforts to not be heard.

“Because I’m who I am.  Because I’m the Key.”  Dawn slammed the book down, then got to her feet to escape from Anya’s pointed questions.  “It’s all been my fault.  All of this.”

Dawn headed for the training room, tears threatening, when Wesley hung up the phone and cut her off.  “Dawn.”

“Leave me alone, Wes.  Just . . don’t.”  He’d reached out a hand to stop her forward movement but she pushed him off.  

The adults watched her go, none of them sure of what to say.  Tara turned to Anya, about to say something, when she caught the look on the other girl’s face and realized there was nothing she could say to Anya.  There were tears in Anya’s eyes and it was obvious whatever had transpired between the two struck a chord with Anya.  “She thinks it’s all her fault.”

“Her fault?”  Tara and Wesley spoke at the same time.

“That’s what she said.  That it’s because she’s the Key.”  Anya’s answer was muffled.  

Before Tara could react, Wesley was at the door to the training room, listening intently for any sounds from within.   Motioning the others to quiet, Wesley opened the door and stuck his head in.  Dawn was huddled on the couch, curled up on herself, crying softly.

He slipped into the room, watching her intently, “Dawn?”  

“Leave me alone.”  She said from behind clenched teeth, her hands fisted against her knees, her shoulders hunched over.  “Just go away.”

“Dawn.”  Wesley was at something of a loss.  He wasn’t sure how to approach this, yet part of him wanted to try.  He liked Dawn and didn’t want her blaming herself for everything, even one tiny little bit of it.  “Let me ask you a question.  Angel’s lost his soul because of the baby’s presence.  Granted the baby doesn’t know that now, so do you think that when he gets older he’ll feel any differently than you do at this moment?”

She didn’t say anything.  He wasn’t even certain she was even listening to him.  Wesley shoved his hands down into his jeans pockets, waiting for her to respond.  Shifting his gaze about, Wesley took in all the equipment around him.  This really is a remarkable set up Giles has going.  The shop out front was definitely pulling in a nice little profit, given the number of customers that had been leaving when they arrived, and this room is simply marvelous.  Attention caught by the knives on display over Dawn’s head, Wesley almost didn’t hear her response to his question.

“Would you tell him that?  Would you tell that little baby he’s the reason why everything went wrong in his life?  That his mother killed herself so he could be born and other people died so he could live?”  Dawn couldn’t look up at Wesley, didn’t even want to be having this conversation with anyone, much less him.

“I don’t know.”  He sighed a little, absently kicking the couch, then walked about the room, his attention on the things around him, although his focus was definitely on her.  “You see, he’s really innocent.  He didn’t ask to be brought into this situation, it just sort of happened that way.”  

He paused, trying to gather his thoughts on the matter, “Much like you.  You didn’t ask to be brought into this situation and you don’t have control over every factor that causes these results.  You and Connor are only,” and he paused again, trying to be logical and yet sympathetic at the same time, “Perhaps pawns is not the best word, however it’s the only one I can think of at the moment.”

Dawn sniffled at bit, wiping her eyes with one hand.  She looked at Wesley, seeing how hard he was trying to balance the equation for her, help her understand it all and perhaps put it into perspective.  She was grateful for his logical side at the moment, because she couldn’t deal with any emotions other than her own.  “Still.  Doesn’t mean I’m not gonna feel guilty about it.  Spike wouldn’t have gotten hurt. . . if I was just nothing special.”

“You can’t know that.  Something else might have occurred to put you in harm’s way and Spike would have gotten hurt just as badly.  Something else might have happened to cause Angel to lose his soul.”  Wesley was facing her now, watching her every move.  “We can’t be certain of the future.  Nor can we blame ourselves for everything that happens around us.”

Wesley moved closer to her, scrunching down on his haunches to look in her eyes.  “And Dawn,” he said, reaching for her hands, “I really don’t think Spike would want you to do this to yourself.”

She shook her head in agreement, “He already said . . .”  Her tears fell on their joined hands, “He already said. . . that he loves me.  And . . . and that it wasn’t my fault.”

“He’s not the type to lie.  He meant what he said Dawn.”  His arm came around her awkwardly, then he helped her to her feet, continuing, “And I don’t think he’d want us wasting time worrying about things over which we have no control.”

He hugged her once, then waited while she wiped her eyes and they moved back into the shop area.  Wesley hoped to hell and back that Spike would be up and around soon, because he didn’t relish facing Angelus on his own with a distracted Slayer and precious little other back-up.

Chapter Text

Book Two

Chapter Eleven.  The real stuff of life.

Oh, God, I know no joy as great as a moment of rushing into a new love,
no ecstasy like that of a new love.
I swim in the sky; I float;
my body is full of flowers,
flowers with fingers giving me acute, acute caresses,
sparks, jewels, quivers of joy, dizziness, such dizziness.
Music inside of one, drunkenness.
Only closing the eyes and remembering,
and the hunger, the hunger for more, more, the great hunger,
the voracious hunger, and thirst."
    Anais Nin, May 30, 1934 from Incest






He knew she didn’t confess her feelings easily.  That it was hard for her to admit the way she felt.  She had such capacity for love, could give herself over to it completely, could drown in it – if only every single time she’d done so in the past hadn’t gotten her poor little heart stomped on.

Spike looked at her, saw the fear lurking in the green depths of her sparkling eyes and his own heart nearly broke.  The wariness crept in the longer he remained silent, afraid to trust him, afraid not to.  
“Buffy?”

His good hand came up to brush against her cheek.  “You’re my world, love.  ‘M yours.”

She’d closed her eyes when he’d said her name, unable to hold his direct gaze.  She’d opened them again when his knuckles brushed against her skin.  Her eyes grew impossibly wider when Spike’s words echoed the ones he’d said in her dream.

Was this it?  Was this the moment the dream was foreshadowing? Buffy stared at him, a growing something . . . awareness in the pit of her belly.  She had the feeling this was one of those moments in life, that if she didn’t follow her instincts – that, if she didn’t leap – this chance would never come again.  And if she didn’t, things would change between them . . . and eventually he would leave her. Not because he didn’t love her, but because she wouldn’t trust herself to love him back.

Buffy opened her mouth and the words came tumbling out.  “Yours.   I’m yours. . . I don’t want anyone else. . . you . . . only you, Spike.”

His hand froze against her, his eyes burning into hers.  Spike drew in a deep breath.  “God, woman. . . . what you do to me. . .   Always . . . always, yours.”

“Love you.”  

He smiled crookedly at her, unable to be any more eloquent than she’d been.  His mind was racing, kept coming back to one thing, how she’d looked when she’d said, “Yours”.

The simultaneous cry of the baby and the phone ringing broke their focus on each other.  Neither one was sure what to do, until Spike said, “Give me the phone, you take the sprog.”

Buffy handed him the phone then lifted the baby into her arms.  He settled down almost immediately, allowing Buffy to hear both sides of the conversation.  It was Tara, giving them an update and letting them know they’d be a bit longer, because Anya wanted a disinvite spell and wards put on the shop, designed specifically for Angel.

Spike had rolled over onto his back to hold the phone to his ear and Buffy eyed his bare chest.  It made such a comfy pillow.  With the baby tucked into the crook of her arm, Buffy laid her head down on Spike’s shoulder, her back to his side, moving his arm until she was more comfortable.  He grunted when she nearly knocked the phone from his hand and the baby sent up another wail, this time a more insistent one.  

“Think he’s a bit hungry?”  Buffy sat up again, taking the phone away from Spike and looking around for the bottle Tara had left with her earlier.  

Spike’s stomach growled loudly and Buffy fought a giggle.  “Must be.  Both babies are hungry.  Need some nummy treats?”  The last was said to a now fully crying baby and Buffy got up from the bed.  “Ssshhhh. All right, baby.  Gonna get the bottle.”  

There was another answering growl from Spike, causing outright laughter from Buffy.  “So didn’t know vamps did that.”  

“Quiet, missy.  When I’m back on my feet . . .”  He mock growled at her, amusement twinkling in his eyes, then he winced at a particularly piercing wail from the baby.

“Oooohh the Big Bad is gonna get me?”  Buffy was searching frantically, until she remembered that they’d put the bottle in the bathroom sink to keep it warm, since they had no idea when the baby was going to need to eat again.  Her laughter floating behind her, she headed for it, saying “I’m soooo scared. . . . can’t you see me shaking?”

“Jus’ you wait, little girl.  Big Bad’s gonna give you what for.”  He rumbled back at her, his eyes staring at her backside as she left the room.

“Promise?”  She was standing at the doorway, infant and bottle in hand, gazing into his eyes.

“Yeah.”  Their teasing had taken a serious turn and the promise of intense lovemaking lay between them.

“I can wait then.”  She made her way back to the bed, reclaiming her spot next to him.  As she was getting settled, Buffy asked, “Can you reach my neck from here?”

“Buffy?  You want to do this now?”  Spike rolled over to cuddle against her, his injured arm resting on her hip and his good curling up under her head.  

“Might as well.  Gotta stay still for the baby and,” she sort of shrugged, feeling her shoulder brush against his, “you need to eat as much as he does.”

“Do you know how much I love you?”  Not really expecting an answer, Spike leaned closer, kissing her shoulder.  “Any idea at all?”

“Think I’m getting the picture.”  She smiled as he continued to lay kisses on her shoulder.  She shifted her head, dropping it down from the pillow to rest only on his good arm, exposing her neck for him.  An almost purr rumbled from his upper chest and Buffy felt the vibrations all the way through her body.  She couldn’t help the answering wriggle from her hips nor the soft “mmmmm” from escaping her.  

He chuckled against her neck, whispering, “Baby likes that?”

His answer was a soft exhalation that suspiciously sounded like a breathy moan of, “Yes.”

Spike licked her pulse point, Buffy moving closer and he tried holding her still.  “Princess, can’t do more than this.  Need you to stay still.   Don’t need to give the sprog an education this early.”  He breathed heavily against her neck, fascinated as the goose bumps rose on her skin, “But by god, kitten, I want you so much.”

“Spike.”  She whined his name softly, unconsciously hugging the baby tighter.

“Love you.”

She could feel him shift behind her and knew the second he nuzzled against her with extended canines.  He kissed her one more time and then gently, slowly sunk his fangs into her neck.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He hadn’t expected them to stand up to him, they were after all, swayed by emotional ties and had been caught by surprise.

Obviously happiness came in more than one form.  The grin widened across his squared features. Isn’t that a kicker . . . the great soul wrenched free by a tiny little baby.

Unfortunately for them that little stunt – Gunn slamming his huge boot down on his ankle – hadn’t done what he’d obviously intended.  His leg wasn’t broken just badly bruised.  They weren’t  his first prey though, no, not by a long shot.  So he’d let them all go, let them stew in their fear, worry about who was going to be first. . . .  Let them wonder.  He knew where he was headed.  

He had to eliminate the one person he knew who could restore the soul.  Once she was gone – his sights were set on the Slayer.  And her traitor.

Oh, yeah.  The traitor was going to die.


But not until he watched all of them suffer and beg for release first.

First little Willow.  



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


It took her a more than full night’s sleep until the backlash from the summoning had finally worn off.  She still felt groggy and a little fuzzy though for the most part she was feeling much better.

Making her way to the bathroom, Willow figured a hot shower would help.  Ducking her head over the sink Willow didn’t notice until she stood up and faced the mirror.  Blinking at her altered reflection, Willow shook her head once more.  Huh. . . need some sunlight, I guess.

Shrugging the changes off as a trick of the light, Willow stepped into the shower.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Between them, Wesley and Tara came up with wards that would work to keep Angelus from doing harm if he ever managed to get into the shop.  Tara had left an opening for Spike although she wasn’t entirely certain it would work.  They’d worked quickly, trying to get as much covered in as quick a time as possible, knowing they had to get back to Revello Drive before full dark.  It was now nearly seven and sundown was less than an hour away.

Anya was closing the shop at seven and heading directly home.  Until the Angelus situation was resolved she wasn’t keeping the shop open passed seven – on Giles’ orders, and – again on Giles’ orders, the mail order business would take priority.  Live customers could wait.  He’d actually prefer if she wasn’t in the shop alone, although at the same time, he didn’t want Buffy or Wesley to leave Spike alone.

Though, Tara thought, I can’t imagine that Spike will be in bed longer than a couple of days.  There was no doubt in her mind that Buffy wouldn’t let Spike drink from her.  Tara was positive she’d done it when the hounds had nearly severed his wrist.  There couldn’t be any reason why she would refuse him now.  Her intuition was telling her that Giles knew it also.  In this case it was the best course of action, they had too many unknown assailants, the knights, Angelus, the hounds . . . the number kept growing.  If they didn’t get some good luck soon, Tara wasn’t sure they’d all survive.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Buffy was watching the baby drink, his tiny lips wrapped around the nipple, formula pooling at the corners of his mouth.  He was a cute baby.  Hard to tell right now who he resembled, though  Buffy thought he had more of Darla’s looks than Angel’s, though his dark hair had to be from his father.  She smiled, imagining what her own might look like.  The probability of her having a blond baby was unlikely, since she was pretty sure Spike’s natural color was not bleach white.  

Damn it.  


She was trying not to think about him while he was . . . feeding, because his bite . . . Oh god, his bite was intoxicating, taking her away, transporting her some place. . .  It was almost like being in that other place. . .  Memories of heaven were getting dimmer everyday, although being with him was akin to that feeling.  Safe.  Loved.  Protected.  

Involuntarily, Buffy’s hips wriggled again and Spike tried flexing his fingers around her hip, silently asking her to be still.

Lifting his head away from her neck slightly, Spike said, “Kitten, please. . . can’t. . .” His breath was warmed by her blood and still it caused shivers down her spine.  “Wan’ t’be inside you, love, to feel you aroun’ me, warmin’ me, surroundin’ me . . . I wan’ tha’ more than I wan’ to get up an’ walk.”

He licked her neck, closing the wounds.  “But I can’t, love. . . can’t be where I wan’.”  Slapping her butt with his closed fist, Spike play growled.  “So stop wrigglin’ an’ givin’ me ideas, woman.”

Buffy giggled, though she did as he asked.  “Did you get enough?”

“Yeah.  ‘M not taking any more.”  He sighed, resting his head against hers.

“Why?”  She turned her chin, brushing against him.  “Spike, you need more.”

“Buffy.  Can’t have you too weak either.  Won’t do anyone any good if we’re both too weak to fight.”  He nuzzled against her, “I’ll still be up and around quicker than you think.”

“Are you just telling me all this Spike?  Or is this the truth?”  There was a sort of amused exasperation in her tone, though he easily picked up on it.

“Buffy, headache is gone, ‘m talkin’, which means the fracture and broken jaw are healed.  There’s only a bit of an ache in m’right leg.”  He flexed the fingers of his right hand, feeling the skin stretch beneath the bandages.  “The rest will take a bit more time, but should be better by week’s end.”

“Promise?”

He pushed up as much as he could, using his uninjured arm.  “Promise, love.”

“Okay.”

That show of strength was too much and Spike had to drop down heavily unto the pillow.

“How soon?”  She asked again after feeling the bed dip from his weight.  

“Buffy.  Let it go.  Be up soon.”

She could hear the growing aggravation in his voice, but she was concerned.  Didn’t want him just telling her he was going to be okay when he wasn’t.

“Don’t tell me what I want to hear, Spike, tell me the truth.”  There was an edge in her voice that she couldn’t fight.

“What’s today?”  His rising irritation wasn’t hard to miss.

“Late Sunday afternoon.”

“An’ how many times today have I drunk from you?  Three?  Four?”  

“Something like that.  Three.”

“Plus yesterday.”  He couldn’t hide the leer in his tone, then he quickly sobered,  “‘M already healin’ kitten.  Can feel the bones knittin’ together.  Everythin’s right itchy.”

He shifted, rolling onto his back, easing the pressure on his left leg.  “Should be up for a shower in the mornin’.  ‘Specially if I get more from you.”

“So yeah, be up an’ around by the end o’the week.”

“Okay.”  Resignation was clear in her tone and he knew she was just humoring him.

There was one other thing on her mind but she wasn’t sure how to bring it up, how to tackle this subject at all.  Because she was sure not everyone was going to agree with her.  She had to make sure Giles wasn’t just saying ‘chip or no chip’ to placate her, because she was going to put that to the test.  
The chip . . .

It was coming out.  As soon as she could arrange it.  Whether she had to go to the Council or to the Initiative, that chip was coming out.

Spike wasn’t Angel, wasn’t likely to go on some ugly psychotic fish and friend killing spree – wasn’t going to stalk her or her friends, well . . .  He might put some fear into Xander, then again he probably deserved it.  He might threaten, might even throw a few punches, however Buffy didn’t believe for one second that Spike would kill Xander.

Or anyone that really didn’t deserve it.

The chip was their biggest weakness – their huge Achilles heel and she couldn’t allow that weakness.

Anyone bent on destroying them had a way to defeat them.  All that had to be done was separate them and send humans after Spike – eventually he’d be unable to even defend himself . . . then he’d be gone. . . and it was so fresh in her mind that her breath caught on a sob and new tears sprang to her eyes.

“Kitten?”  He heard the sob and felt her breath catch.

Instead of answering, Buffy sat up, lifting the now full and very sleepy infant to her shoulder.  Turning to face him, she stared into his concerned eyes, wiping her tears on the baby’s back.  Blowing out a breath, she gathered her courage.  “It has to come out.”

At first he had no idea what she meant, although the expression on her face, the set to her shoulders hinted what she was getting at.

There was no keeping the surprise from his voice.  “What?”

“The chip.”  Her jaw flexed, clenching a bit and her hold on the infant tightened.  A look he’d seen often enough crossed her features, telling Spike this wasn’t just a whim or spur of the moment decision.  Deciding not to question the what further, he tackled the why.

“Been thinkin’ ‘bout this have you?”  He shifted, moving his left hand behind his head watching her closely.

“Yeah, I have.”  Loosening her hands from around the baby’s back, Buffy didn’t flinch from his gaze.  “Last night just kind of decided it for me.”

“What ‘bout me being a serial killer in prison?”  He’d objected to that statement the first time she’d thrown it in his face and he was now returning the favor.

“You feel the urge to drain anyone lately?”  She had a feeling he was going to bring that up and she was kind of prepared for it.

Before answering her, he gave the question the thought it required.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Wesley and Dawn were in the truck, waiting for Oz and Tara to finish grocery shopping, not really talking.  He was staring into space, his mind still focused on finding a weakness for Angelus.  There weren’t many.  He realized, however, that they currently had an untapped source of information about Angelus and how he fought and what, or rather, who he was most likely to target first.  

There was a possible list of candidates he kept rearranging in his head, going over the permutations of who was the mostly likely first target.  Any one of the AI team could be it; so to, could any one of the Scoobies; Holtz was also a possibility.  A chilling prospect would be if Angelus were to connect with any one of the employees of Wolfram and Hart – including, quite possibly Lilah Morgan.  Which would give him an advantage they might not be able to overcome.  Another thing Wesley didn’t want to contemplate.

Dawn cleared her throat, then rested her head against the back of the seat Wesley was sitting on.  She was exhausted and the lack of sleep was beginning to tell.  Wesley shifted, looking over the back of the seat to look down at her.  “We’ll be home soon.”

“Ah huh.”  She looked up at him, noting his exhaustion equaled or exceeded her own.  “I’m so tired.”

Smiling down at her, Wesley laughed a bit.  “I know just how you are feeling.”

A tired little twinkle entered her eyes.  “Oh, I bet you do Mr. Former Watcher guy.”  She laughed a bit, “You know, you used to be a real geek.”

“Thanks, Dawn.”  He winced, remembering just how badly his first stay in Sunnydale had been, “Wasn’t exactly a shining moment for me.”

“Was it so bad? “ Dawn wanted to know, how things were from his perspective, since what she remembered wasn’t real.  “Was it all bad?”

“No.  It wasn’t all bad.”  Looking back, it really wasn’t, there had been some moments when things were settled, but then either his own overblown sense of importance and insecure need to force Giles out of the picture would surface and he’d destroyed whatever inroads he’d made.  “But it really wasn’t very good.”

“Oh, vague it up a bit more, Wes.”  She stuck her tongue out at him, completely catching him off guard.  “Still with the cryptic talk.”

He froze, realizing she was flirting with him, all at once unsure what to do.  She is attractive, but good heavens, she is only fifteen years old.  Without any idea how to behave, Wesley was at a loss.  Falling back on his strengths, he launched into an excruciatingly detailed account of what it had really been like, at least from his view.

Dawn listened, letting his voice wash over her, his presence giving her a bit of security.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Oz was hovering by the meat section, trying to decide what they needed more of, steak or bacon, while Tara was getting other stuff.  Wesley was outside with Dawn, both of them nearly out on their feet.  Once more Wesley had just handed them both a handful of bills, weariness etched on his features.  

He knew what he wanted to get and that would probably be okay with Spike and at least one of the girls although he wasn’t entirely sure his wishes counted in this instance.

Contemplating his options, Oz smiled a little when Tara’s voice sounded in his ear.  “Get both.  We have a lot of people to feed.”

“Hey.”  Glancing at her, Oz shrugged a little, “Not sure everyone eats it,” he lifted the steaks, raising an eyebrow.

“I’m the only one that won’t.  But,” she whispered, leaning closer to her, “If this is around, I’m not responsible for what happens.”  As she spoke she grabbed the bacon from his hand.

He smiled again, moving away to grab another package when an oh-so-familiar voice spoke.  

“Tara?”

Turning around, Oz saw a stricken wounded look cross her features then she steeled herself to face the form of her ex-girlfriend.  He froze, aware that Willow hadn’t seen him  yet.

Chapter Text

Book Two

Chapter Twelve.  A man trustworthy

What is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil.
    Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 153

The chief lesson I have learned in a long life
is that the only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him;
and the surest way to make him untrustworthy is to distrust him and show your distrust.
    Henry L. Stimson

I count him braver who overcomes his desires
than him who overcomes his enemies.
    Artistotle, In Stobaeus, Florilegium




He finally closed the book, his head swimming from the stuffy atmosphere of the library and the crabbed handwriting of some of the journals.  Giles took off his glasses with one hand, resting his head in the other.  He was the only one in the library on this late Sunday night, the rooms silent and hushed.  Thankfully the particular information he was searching for was readily available.  The myth of vampires having the ability to impregnate women was more than just that.  While it had been nearly three hundred years since the last reported case, there had been more than one.

Each case was fairly well documented and in each case it appeared that Angel’s theory was borne out. Giles grimaced at his own internal pun.   In the six cases he’d uncovered, the women had all been dead and then mystically resurrected.  His mind raced through the possibilities – Darla, and well, now Buffy.  Not that she was pregnant – yet.

Interestingly enough, so far all the cases had something else in common – every vampire involved was an Aurelian.  However it was entirely possible that the only reason the diaries mentioned Aurelian vampires was because of their status.  Very few Aurelians sired minions indiscriminately, thereby preserving the bloodlines, additionally the Aurelius line produced an inordinate number of master vampires.

It had come as no great surprise that there was considerable mention in the Council’s libraries of Aurelian vampires, as a whole they were indeed, a “master race”.

What also hadn’t really come as much of a surprise was the rise of the William the Bloody.  Giles had suspected much of the information, his findings merely confirming his suppositions.

Sired by either Drusilla or Angelus around 1880 (and he knew for a fact it was Drusilla); rose to master status in less than ten years – defeated his first Slayer in 1900 – the diaries mentioned other battles with Slayers – spanning nearly a century and the globe – Spike had set out to prove himself.  By attaining his status as master, Spike had also elevated Drusilla to the same.

What struck Giles was the difference between the two vampires he knew well.  While most Aurelians did not sire minions, Angelus had done so freely, twice in the last one hundred years, the first time immediately following Spike’s turning and then again recently, when the soul had been removed.  According to the books, Spike had never sired more than a handful of minions, if that many.  Another marked difference was while Spike preferred outright battling and open warfare,  Angelus chose to stalk and frighten his prey – much as he had done with Drusilla, and what he’d attempted to do with Buffy.

There was a certain amount of chilling honesty in William the Bloody’s behavior.  No subterfuge, no hidden agenda, just open face to face confrontations.  His willingness to face his opponents said much for his character.  If he said he was going to do something, he did.  His loyalty was unquestionable and there was a rather gallant air about him.  Oddly enough, there were little records of him torturing his victims while in Angelus’ case there were copious references to his brutality.

Giles sighed, feeling the strain of hours of research spent in an uncomfortable chair.  Whatever had driven Angel away from Sunnydale, and Giles was beginning to suspect while Angel claimed it was because of the futility of his relationship with Buffy, he used that as merely an excuse and not clearly the real reason.  He suspected they might never know the real truth.

If he were being honest with himself, Giles would be happy if Angel were to take up residence somewhere else.  Some place further away like the inactive hellmouth in New York or London . . . or Singapore . . . or another dimension.  Somewhere very, very far away.

Once more going over his mental to-do-list, Giles added another item as an addendum; Find a neurosurgeon capable of performing surgery on a vampire.

There hadn’t been any discussion of this with Buffy or Spike, though after speaking with her earlier, Giles had to at least be prepared for the possibility that she would be open to having the chip removed.

The chip was a liability.  

Spike knew it.  Giles knew it.  And he was beginning to wonder if Buffy might know it as well.  If they were going to be a truly effective team, neither Buffy nor Spike could afford such an obvious weakness.  The chip was far too exploitable, leaving Spike far too vulnerable to attack.

And if the possibility of parenthood were thrown into the equation, with a further possibility of more human assailants – then, well, Giles was certain the chip would need to be either removed or neutralized.  He had no doubts at all that either the Council or Wolfram & Hart would be tempted to get their hands on any child produced by the two.  Or any number of other entities desiring control or power.  There was no telling what the child of a vampire and a Slayer could do, what powers or talents such a child would possess.

Any child of a slayer was destined for scrutiny by the Council; should that child be also half vampire, Giles had no idea what the Council’s reaction would be.  Wolfram & Hart would be just as . . . curious.  Which was, he thought, a rather mild word for the amount of interest such a child would garner.

Getting up from his chair, Giles headed for the listings of known demon surgeons.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Anya was just locking the door and setting the alarm before slipping out the back door, heading directly to the apartment she shared with Xander, when she realized just how late it was.

The only illumination was from the street lights on Main Street and there were only a few people out walking.  Most of them were going to or coming from the Espresso Pump so she wasn’t really paying attention to faces or forms.

She had every confidence that the warding and the disinvite Tara and Wesley had done earlier would be more than adequate. She’d also sent a quick plea out to D’Hoffryn, and although protection was not strictly his expertise, she knew he’d watch out for her.  Which kind of explained why she didn’t flinch when a dark hulking shadow came up from behind her.

However, when a heavy hand clamped down on her shoulder, her shrieked surprise had her boyfriend covering his ears.

“Gee, Ahn, did you have to try and wake the dead?”  Xander winced at the pitch of her voice.

“Xander!  Why did you do that?  I’m here all alone and you . . .” She swatted him on one shoulder.  “Not good, Xander!  You made me shriek and I hurt my ears.”

“You hurt your ears?”  Xander looked at her in disbelief.  “Ahn, I called you twice before I came closer, didn’t you hear me?”

“No.  I was thinking.”  Realizing Xander didn’t know what was going on, she said, “Wesley was here earlier.  Something happened in Los Angeles and Angel has lost his soul.”

Xander wasn’t sure he’d heard her correctly.  He wasn’t quite sure what to say.  He’d always had this sneaky suspicion that someday Angel would slip and the soul would disappear.  Staring at her for a few moments, Xander just tried to process the information.  “Why was Wesley here?”

“He brought word from Los Angeles.”  They hadn’t said anything to Anya about why Wesley had come and not just called, nor did she know how Angel had lost the soul.

“So who was the unlucky girl?   Do we have to worry about an Angel groupie too?”  Xander grabbed her hand, pulling her after him toward the back door.  “What did Buffy say?”

“I don’t know, Xander.  Buffy wasn’t here.  She was home with Spike.”  Completely missing the disgust on Xander’s face, she went on, “Tara and Wesley put up stronger wards and they also did a disinvite.  Angel’s never been to our apartment so we don’t have to worry about that.  Oh, and Giles called, he thinks he’ll be home before the end of the week, but he doesn’t want me in the store alone after dark.”

Xander was more than half listening this time, though his mind was still focusing on Angelus.  “Ahn?  Did Wesley say why Angel lost his soul?”

“No, Xander.  I don’t believe he did.”  Anya huffed at him, clearly peeved that once again he wasn’t paying attention to her.  “Sometimes I don’t know why I talk to you.”

“Me either.”  His words were a half attempted response to her, but an extremely unthinking and hurtful one.

Small tears sprang to Anya’s eyes while she bit her tongue.  Staying uncharacteristically silent, Anya kept her thoughts and wounded heart to herself.  She really was beginning to question her relationship with Xander.

She silently fumed the whole way home, not even questioning Xander when he changed his mind and turned the car towards Revello Drive.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


“Tara?”  Willow’s voice wavered, emotions leaking through, pain and loss coming through in bell-like clarity.  Oz winced, knowing he was witnessing something he, above all people, probably shouldn’t be.

“Hello, Willow.”  For some strange reason, Tara wasn’t nervous or upset or drawn in by the sound of Willow’s voice.  The butterflies were there, but they weren’t crippling her and she wasn’t  feeling at all apprehensive.

“Hey.  How – how are you?”  Willow, on the other hand, Willow was very nervous, Tara could clearly see it.  She was fidgeting, her hands fluttering at her sides and she was shifting her weight from one foot to another.

“Good.  I’m good.”  Knowing she expected it, Tara asked, “How about you?”

“Okay, I guess.”  Willow clearly didn’t know what to do next.  A flash of pity surged through Tara, but she quickly squashed it.  Despite outward . . . Tara finally looked at her ex-girlfriend.

Willow’s normal complexion was gone, that almost sun-kissed look gone, replaced by a paler version and was that?  Yeah. . . Willow’s hair was darker, the red shot through with almost black highlights.  Tara’s internal alarms went off and her back stiffened.  Whatever internal changes the paleness and hair marked, they weren’t good changes.  Taking an imperceptible step back, Tara said, “That’s good then.”

Opening up her senses, Tara tried to get a reading on Willow’s aura, even though her own emotions were blocking her.  Drawing in a deep breath, she tried centering herself and realized that Oz was close, unobtrusively watching them.  A sudden flash of insight let Tara know should something happen, Oz would come to her aid – and not automatically side with his ex-girlfriend.  Taking another deep breath, Tara focused inward, drawing power and strength from the universe in, and on her exhalation, reached out with all her senses, reading Willow.

What she discovered was not good.

Willow . . . Willow what have you done?   All is not what you think . . . be careful what you wish for. . . oh gods, Willow. . . my gods.  What have you done?  Poor Buffy . . . poor Spike.  

Tara’s horrified thoughts were halted when Willow’s tentative, wavering voice interrupted her.  “Tara?  Do you think maybe we could talk?  You know just . . . talk?  With coffee?  Or something?”

Tara recoiled violently, the ugliness that was creeping into the other girl revolting her.  Back stepping away, Tara started shaking her head in denial, unable to form words.

Oz perked up from his spot just out of Willow’s line of sight, his nose getting a scent of Tara’s that was not so much fear, but . . . covering his own mild apprehension, Oz stepped out from behind the Hostess display, pretending he didn’t know what was going on.

“Thought I’d lost you,” taking the bacon from Tara’s hand he tossed it into the basket.  He purposely avoided looking in Willow’s direction.

Willow’s shocked “Oz?”  rang through the store.

Turning to look at her, he dead-panned, “Hey, Will.  Didn’t see you.”

“Tara?  Oz?”  Confusion and pain and panic warred within her and each emotion was reflected on her face.  “Oz?”

Ignoring her for a second, Oz touched Tara’s arm in a way that had Willow gaping further, but gave the blond a moment to recover.  “We got everything?”

When she nodded then ducked her head to give him a silent thank you, only then did Oz shift his attention back to Willow.

“Hey.  How’ve you been, Will?”

She was gaping at them like a fish too long out of water.  This was . . . Willow couldn’t even wrap her mind around this.  Oz and Tara?  Oz.  And.  Tara.  Were talking like they were all . . . domestic.

“We need to get milk and eggs.  Oh, and tortilla chips and salad stuff,”  Tara said while smiling at Oz.

“Um.  Yeah.  Tara?  I?”  Willow couldn’t complete a thought, much less a sentence.  “How?”

Smiling at each other and sharing a look that had Willow reeling off balance even further, Oz said, “Ran into Buffy.  She introduced us.  Been hanging ever since.”

Deliberately keeping it vague, yet with enough innuendo to trigger further incoherency, Oz kept his expression neutral.

Willow couldn’t breathe. . . couldn’t. . . she felt like she’d stepped into an alternate dimension, but couldn’t remember how or when.  This was so far beyond bizarre her brain couldn’t possibly process it.  This was just like her nightmare, when the First Slayer attacked them all in their sleep, and the two of them had been passing notes and whispering . . .

Oz and Tara.  Grocery shopping.  Together.  Maybe it was just . . . errands for Buffy.  Yeah.  That has to be it . . . and that line of reasoning was shattered by Tara’s next question.

“Do you remember if we have enough soap in the bathroom?”

What?  Laundry soap and bath. . . and milk?  Eggs?  Willow couldn’t . . . this just isn’t . . happening.

Having gotten enough time to compose herself, Tara faced the other girl.  “Willow?  I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to have. . . to get together right now.  I’m just not ready.”

“Please?  Just. . . please, baby?  I miss you so much.”  Tears of confusion sprang to Willow’s eyes.  ‘Can we just, you know, talk for a bit?”

Relenting a little, Tara said, “Maybe.  I’ll let you know. . . just not right now.”

Oz touched her arm again, cocking his head toward the registers and by unspoken agreement, the two spoke at the same time, ‘We gotta go, Willow.”   “I’ll let you know. . . okay?”

And before she could respond or really even recover, the two loves of Willow’s life were gone, leaving her in tears, without either of them sparing her a backwards glance.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


She was watching him carefully, noting the bruises that dotted his arms and chest, the black eyes he was currently sporting, waiting patiently while he thought.  He was usually so animated, so alive it was sometimes hard to watch him being this still, when his chest didn’t rise and fall with unneeded breath.  Not tonight though, tonight she was grateful to have him in any shape.  Breathing or not.  Walking or not.  Buffy almost didn’t care.  As long as he wasn’t dusty, he would recover.

He was watching her just as carefully, from underneath partially closed eyes, noting the changes marking her.  Her body had filled out some, she was no longer so painfully thin, her hair curling over her shoulder almost down to her waist.  The baby was sleeping against her shoulder, his tiny form snuggled against her, her strong arms cradling him gently.  She was unusually quiet right now, though there were times in the past when he’d seen her this still it was infrequent enough to remember.   Whatever she was thinking right now was no doubt serious, very serious.

A soft sound escaped from the baby, breaking their contemplation of each other.  She’d asked him just moments ago one of the more serious questions of his life.  Would I? Would I go out and kill everything in sight?  Opening his eyes, resting them on her slim form, Spike had to admit if he did go on a rampage the burden would fall to her.  Buffy would be forced to not only slay him but she would be alone, probably for the rest of her short life.  Do I miss the hunt?  If he were being completely honest with himself the answer was, yes, at times he did.  Was what he and Buffy did every night, patrolling and being a white hat, was that enough to replace the hunt?  Yeah.  Reluctantly admitting it, Spike quickly re-evaluated his life.  

If they removed the chip, he’d have no restraints but himself.  

If they kept the chip, more instances like the one from last night were likely to occur.

The chip kept him vulnerable, made them both vulnerable.  At this point it was far more of a hindrance than a help – because looking at the woman standing in the doorway, Spike was so completely certain of his feelings for her that he didn’t ever want anything to alter the life he had now, except for it to get better.  He wasn’t about to bollocks that up.  Not for the taste of fresh blood.  Besides, he had the best stuff in the world right here, why on earth would he go hunting for something that was of lesser quality?  He knew, too, with sudden clarity that if he were to lie to her, there would be an indefinable change in their relationship.  And they stood the chance of losing everything.  

“No.”  His voice was strong and steady and without any hesitation at all.

Spike waited a beat, wondering if she were going to say something to make him clarify his ‘no’ but she remained silent, her eyes fixed on his.  “Why would I do that?  ‘M not some fledge that can’t control himself.  No need.”

Buffy left her position by the door, walking toward the bed, her hand unconsciously stroking down the baby’s back, her eyes still not leaving his.  

There was a look in his eyes that she’d only seen once before – a look he’d had a very long time ago – and suddenly she remembered when it was.

She’d followed him out the front door, watching as the coat flared behind him.  “Spike?  You promise to keep Giles safe?”

The vampire had whirled around at the sound of his name, a nasty comment at the ready, but the look on her face had stopped him.  Instead of spouting something glib or nasty, he’d closed the distance between them, his hand reaching out to cup her cheek.

A look entered his eyes, resolve, and a strange mixture of promise and tenderness, combined into a look of such fierce . . . Buffy couldn’t put a name to the emotions flickering in his eyes, though she knew on a gut level she could trust that look, would always be able to trust that look.  


It was that moment – standing on the porch, Angelus on the loose, that moment and that look that started it for Buffy – the trust she had in Spike.

Sitting down on the bed facing him, Buffy realized that look was back.  It was the same look and she knew now what she hadn’t known then, what he might not even have known back then, that other indefinable emotion in his eyes?  All those years ago – it was love.

He’d loved her then.

Very deliberately, she laid the baby down on the bed, tucked up against Spike’s side, then she raised her eyes to his.

Her voice was low, almost hushed when she spoke.  “How long?  When . . . how long have you loved me?”

Drawing in a deep breath he searched her wide hazel green eyes.  By way of answer he moved his good hand from behind his head, reaching for her, tugging on the ends of her hair.  “From the first . . . moment I saw you.”  His voice was equally low, husky with promise.  ‘Didn’t know it . . .  But it was there. . .”

She curled into his hand, kissing his palm.  A smile cracked his face and she whispered his name.  “When did you suspect?”

“Probably that night, come to find you when Angelus was . . . when he had Rupert.  So fierce you were . . . yeah.  Then.”  Watching her nuzzle his had, Spike asked, “Why?”

“Because that was the night I started trusting you.”

“Ah.”  Smiling a bit, Spike said, “Big night that was.”

“Yup.”

They lapsed into silence, both of them lost in their thoughts.  Buffy laid her head down on Spike’s chest, his arm curling around her from the side.

“Sweetheart?  You’re serious about this?”

“As a heart attack.”

“Right then.  How’re we gonna do this?”  His arm tightened around her and Buffy leaned down to kiss his chest.

“Spike?”  She hesitated, then rushed into what she wanted to say, “Just promise me before you kill Xander you’ll wait.”
                        
He chuckled a bit.  “All right.”

Chapter Text

Book Two

Chapter 13.  Half a dozen reasonable hours.

Clouds now and again
give a soul some respite from
moon-gazing – behold.
    Matsuo Basho, untitled haiku

Reason, the prized reality, the Law, is apprehended, now and then,
for a serene and profound moment, amidst the hubbub of cares and   
Works which have no direct bearing on it;
Miss then lost, for months or years, and again found,
for an interval, to be lost again.  
If we compute it in time, we may, in fifty years,
have half a dozen reasonable hours.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson




They were still unloading the supplies from the van when Xander and Anya pulled up to the curb.  Knowing they hadn’t told Anya the entire story – what had caused Angel to lose his soul or why Wesley had sought shelter in Sunnydale or why Spike and Buffy hadn’t been the ones to warn Anya – really, they hadn’t told her much of anything, they all braced for an epic outburst.

“Hey, guys, what’s up?”  Xander got out of the car and walked to where the van was in the driveway.

“Xander.”  Wesley stuck his hand out while shifting bags with the other.

They shook hands and Xander reached out to help him.  “Need some help?”

“If you wouldn’t mind?”  Gesturing toward the back of the van, Wesley continued, “There’s still more there.  You don’t mind, do you?”

“Nope.  This is easy stuff.”  Moving as he spoke, Xander didn’t hesitate to grab the bags, not realizing what was in them.

Anya had gone right into the house, trailing after the girls, for once lost in her own thoughts.  She really wasn’t sure what was going on with her and Xander.  

Dawn was emptying the grocery bags, putting everything away, while Tara sorted through the baby things, getting bottles and nipples boiling and gathering up the clothing so it could all be washed before they got him dressed.

Oz was carrying the box containing the small crib up the stairs when Anya realized what the majority of the supplies were.  “What’s all this stuff for?”

Both of the other girls froze, sharing a look.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Neither one of them had moved in the long minutes after his promise not to kill Xander, content to just be together.  Buffy was so grateful he was here with her that she finally had nothing more to say.  Everything she could say had been said.

Spike was thinking much along the same lines; except he would be content to stay like this, here with her for the rest of their days.  Which would be a very long time from today.  He wasn’t going to . . . he was going to see to it that she lived a very long life and when she finally died of a very old ancient age, he was going to go with her.  They’d face that together.  And maybe, just maybe, he’d be granted a gift though he wasn’t going to bank on that.   Spike just wanted here and now.  After could take care of itself.

His morbid train of thoughts was halted when there was a knock on the door.  “Company, love.”

Grumbling slightly, Buffy got up and opened the door to find Oz standing there a huge box that was longer than it was wider in his hands.  “Whatcha got there?”

“Baby crib.”  Trying to shrug, he ended up dropping one end, narrowly missing their feet.  “Not sure where to put it.”

Sharing a look with Spike, Buffy motioned him in.  “Best place is probably here.”

There wasn’t much room, but Buffy looked around, trying to find a good location for the crib.  Spike pointed a finger at the corner by the window.  “Put him there for now.”
    
While they were working, Oz said, “We ran into Willow at the market.”

As the other two shared a look, he continued, “Something’s not right.  Got a whiff of something . . .” he shrugged.  “Tara might know more.”

“She saw you two together?”  Buffy stared at Oz while Spike waited for his answer.

“Yeah.  She got all flustered.”  He reached for a slat, “Think she jumped to a weird conclusion.”

Spike laughed, “Gave Red somethin’ to think about?”

“Yeah.”  Turning his attention back to the crib, Oz didn’t catch the looks passing between the couple.  

Buffy was confused.  “But you’re just friends, right?”

“Yeah.”

She stared at him for a few more minutes, though Oz didn’t say anything else.

By the time Xander and Wesley had finished unloading everything else from the van, between the Slayer and the werewolf, they had the crib set up and ready for the baby.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was long past midnight, however Rupert wasn’t ready to return to his hotel.  There was still so much to be done and his time here in London, must, as a necessity, be short. Too much going on back home in Sunnydale for him to comfortably stay here.

Are we never going to get a break?  Just once, Rupert thought, could we forego a weekly crisis?  Seemed like it always happened like this.  Whenever there was a lull, it never meant a cessation, it was merely the hellmouth taking a time out.

Maybe it was time to think about closing the hellmouth.

Rupert shook off that thought, realizing it was not now the time, because the research on that alone would take far more time than he currently had.  Right then, gaffer, back to the matter at hand.

Vampire pregnancies – found; sidebar to demon-friendly neurosurgeons, found.  Housing and/or living expenses for the Slayer - he’d presented that proposal to Travers more than two days ago, the day after his arrival.  The senior staffers were discussing the matter, they’d have an answer for him by Tuesday.  Which was good, because he’d just made up his mind to depart for home on Wednesday.  With or without all the information he needed.

So far the Council archives had yielded little information about the monks.  He was beginning to believe that omission wasn’t the result of ignorance or even a case of misplaced records.  Truth was, the journals were missing and quite possibly deliberately so.  The monks had already proven to him, through their own journals that they were more than adequate sorcerers and they had, up until very recently, controlled an inter-dimensional Key.  Perhaps, in their spare time they’d figured out time travel.

A very real rational part of him was able to dismiss that notion almost outright.  Problem was another equally rational part believed it was entirely possible.  Which presented its own set of problems.

If, in fact, the monks could do so, then Giles had to wonder how much of their “history” was real and not constructed.  He also had no way of verifying whether or not they were even humans that originated in the dimension they currently inhabited.  Giles realized with a start all of this was pure conjecture on his part and, at the moment, counter-productive with regard to his search.  And it would be time wasted he needed to focus elsewhere.

The monks were, at the moment, a lost cause.  However, quite possibly more information was contained in the monks’ journals.  

Right.  Wasn’t there something else?  Giles fought the fatigue but was forced to concede to it when he found himself reading the same paragraph for a third time.

Pack it in for the night, old man.  Gathering up his books and replacing them on the shelves, Giles made his way out into the waning hours of the London night.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The baby was asleep and Spike was drifting off after another dose of morphine and some other than Buffy blood.  They were both on the bed, the baby on his belly and Spike flat on his back. They are, she thought watching them settle in, adorable.  Spike’s chest was rising and falling needlessly.  She wondered if maybe he did this because he was still in pain and unable to hide it in sleep.

Brushing a kiss across his forehead, then doing it again for good measure, Buffy smiled.  It was getting harder and harder to fight her feelings.  And really, why should she be putting so much energy into fighting the feelings?  Wasn’t like there was something to hide – and if she were being truthful about this, she was pretty much in love with him anyway, so why couldn’t she tell him that?  Well, that wasn’t entirely true either.  Because earlier, when they were talking – she had told him how she was feeling.  She just hadn’t said those three words.  Maybe she could just – build up to them.  Practice saying them.  Sort of like memorizing something for school. . . like MacBeth’s speech. . . or a poem for English.  Yeah.  That’s what she’d do.  Leaning over him one more time, Buffy brushed a third kiss on his forehead, whispering very softly, “I love you, Spike.”  

Reluctantly heading for the door, Buffy never saw the slight smile cross Spike’s face, nor the hitch in his breathing as she left the bedroom.  

On her way to the stairs, Buffy was hoping there was something ready to eat.  She was tired and hungry and really not looking forward to all the questions and problems.

Stopping at the landing, Buffy very nearly went back up into the bedroom.  That room was . . . sanctuary.  Safe.  

Numerous voices sounded from the kitchen and she could hear Dawn and Tara talking, Wesley’s voice and Xander.  When did Xander get here?  Is Anya with him?  Hesitating once more, Buffy stood indecisively on the stairs, half turned back to the bedroom.  She was poised to do just that when Xander’s voice caught her attention.  

“Hey, Buffster, how are ya?” Xander looked up at her from the bottom of the stairs.

Blowing out a breath, Buffy said hello, then headed down toward him.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Humans were ridiculously easy to kill.  He’d forgotten that fact and also the fact they were, as a whole, pretty trusting, which just made things all the easier for him.  It was full dark now and he’d already drained two.  Nothing compared to the taste of human blood right from the source.  Fresh blood zinging through his veins, Angel stalked through the streets of Los Angeles, heading straight for the Hyperion, for some insane reason.  He really didn’t know why he was heading this way.  There was probably nothing there for him.

Wesley wasn’t stupid, neither was Cordelia and it was more than likely they’d gone undergound and were now hiding.  Even so, he needed a few things from there – clean clothes and . . . son of a bitch.  Wesley had his car.  

He need to get himself some wheels.  Jumping from building to building was fun, but really, it wasn’t like this was London or Paris where in the older sections the buildings were closer together, no, this was LA, where the buildings were artfully designed with space in between them and, truly, he needed a set of wheels.   Watching the street, Angelus started picking out the kind of car he wanted.  Something flashy . . . something. . . and hey, this is Los Angeles . . flashy is de rigeur . . .

Spying a Viper stopped at a light, Angelus smiled.  Yeah.  A Viper would do.  Sprinting toward it, Angel smiled again.  It wasn’t pretty.  

Killing was simple.  

Killing was easy.  

And he was really going to enjoy destroying everyone’s lives – stripping away everything dear to them first.  Filling his mind with how and who and when, Angel pressed the accelerator of his newly acquired ride.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Figuring everyone was hungry and knowing it was going to be an early night, Tara hastily got pasta and sauce going after starting a load of baby laundry.  Bottles and nipples were sterilizing away on the back burner and Dawn was chopping vegetables while Anya roved about.  She and Dawn had asked Anya to wait until Wesley and Buffy were in the kitchen before they told her and Xander everything.

Once the supplies had all been unloaded, Wesley had headed right for the shower, since he was now working on three days in the same clothing and he really needed to be clean.

She heard Xander call up to Buffy, while Oz was coming in the back door.  “Everything’s secure.”

Anya’s ears perked up and she knew something very serious was going on – perhaps even more serious than just Angelus being on the loose.

Xander preceded Buffy into the kitchen and it was fairly obvious the Slayer wasn’t happy.  Whether it was the situation or just the fact she would rather be hovering over Spike, Tara had no idea.  Though she kind of guessed that if it were her lover upstairs near death, she’d want to be close, damn all other responsibilities.

“He sleeping?”  Tara looked up from making sauce to catch Buffy’s eye.

“Yeah.  He’s exhausted.”  

“Buffy?”  Dawn stopped what she was doing to watch her sister.  When the older Summers girl looked up, Dawn asked, “How is he?”

Her smile was genuine, yet still very tired, “Much better.  He says the headache is gone and he’s talking, so his jaw is much better.  Says the ribs are healed and that he’s all itchy.”

Shrugging a bit, she snagged some of the vegetables that were on the counter, “I’m so hungry.”

The other two girls shared a look when Xander snarked, “What happened to the bleached wonder?”

Again it was Tara who answered, though about halfway into the story, Buffy started speaking.  “He saved Dawnie from the Knights of Byzantium last night.  He . . .” she paused, trying to swallow her tears, “He took. . . he got badly beaten for Dawnie.  Again.”

‘What?  I thought the knights went buh-bye when the portal got closed and we beat Glory?  How come they’re back?”

“We’re not sure, Xander.  Don’t really know why we thought Dawn’s danger stopped with Glory.  Just because that skanky hellbitch is gone doesn’t mean someone else won’t try to open up another doorway using Dawn.”  The fatigue was evident in Buffy’s voice.

Dawn’s hand was clenching and unclenching around the knife, a muscle in her cheek jumping.  If anyone were to look closely at her, the resemblance to her real father was remarkable – but no one noticed.

Anya caught her hand, releasing the knife.  “Let me, Dawn.”

“This isn’t good, Buffy.  What does Giles say about all this?”  Xander leaned back against the refrigerator, his arms crossed.

Before anyone could answer Xander’s question, Anya’s voice filled the silence.  “What about Angelus?  Wesley didn’t tell me anything.  And how did Giles know all about this?”

Wesley’s footsteps sounded on the stairs and the now familiar sounds of a wailing infant accompanied him.  Fumbling apologetically, Wesley said, “Spike’s awake again.”

Anya gaped at the infant in Wesley’s arms while Xander exclaimed, “Whoa!  What the hell is that?”

Throwing an exasperated look at Xander, Buffy reached for the baby, rescuing Wesley.  “That is just what it looks like, Xander.  It’s a baby.”

“Sounds like gas.  Try rubbing his back.”  Tara glanced over at Buffy, noting she’d already thought of that.  Sniffing a bit, Buffy said, “He needs a change of clothes too.”

Grabbing the diapers and wipes, she headed for the living room.

“Who’s baby is that?”  Anya’s voice was quiet yet strangely wavering.

Buffy’s voice wafted in from the other room, “Your turn, Wes.”

“Yes.  Well.  It’s . . um.”  Wes hesitated, clearly at a loss.  “Connor is well, he’s the child of Darla and Angel.”

Buffy’s muted, “So he does have a name,” was completely over looked because of the clamoring in the kitchen.

“What!”  Xander’s outburst rang through the house.  “That’s not possible.  Vampire’s can’t . . . and wait!  Darla was dusted years ago.”

“She was mystically resurrected by Wolfram & Hart, who represent many of, well, they are lawyers and,” Wesley was trying to explain when Anya interrupted him.

“They represent demon clients and very unscrupulous humans.  Wolfram & Hart are a force to be reckoned with and they have offices all over this world and quite a few in other dimensions as well.”

“Impressive people.”  Oz had been quiet up until then.

“You have no idea.  Their resources are endless.  And their influence is immeasurable.”  Wesley had gained his equilibrium continuing, “How they managed to resurrect Darla, I’m not entirely certain, however, the means appear to be quite different from Buffy’s case.”

“You’re sure of that?”  Buffy came back into the kitchen, handed the baby off to Wesley, threw out the diaper and headed for the sink to wash her hands.  

“Reasonably.  I know they used something called the Urn of Osiris, although beyond that I’ve not been completely able to discern.”

Standing by the sink, the water still running, Buffy turned to look at Wesley.  “You mean to tell me there’s more than one way to resurrect someone?”

His answer was stark and chilling.  “Yes.”

Turning back to the water, Buffy muttered something under her breath that no one heard fully.

“That still doesn’t explain the baby.”  Xander’s brain was reeling.  This was all so. . . so far beyond what he’d come to expect as normal he didn’t know what to say.

“Angel and Darla had relations.  More than once.”  Looking down at the baby in his arms, Wesley continued, “Darla left Los Angeles for a while and when she returned she was heavily pregnant.  Connor was born last night.  Darla . . . I believe Darla was deeply affected by the baby’s soul.  She didn’t want to – she didn’t want to forget that she loved him.  She staked herself so she wouldn’t harm him after his birth.”

Buffy hadn’t known this and found herself strangely moved by Darla’s decision.

“That must have been hard.”  Tara’s soft tones broke the silence and at Wesley’s nod she took the baby from him.  

“So Darla sacrificed herself for the baby.”

“She did.”

“But how did Angel do that?  I thought vampire’s couldn’t have babies.”  Dawn’s tone was curious.

Wesley and Buffy shared a look each uncertain, though for entirely different reasons, about sharing Angel’s theory.  However, it was Anya’s next words took the option of keeping silent from them.

“Because they can have babies.  It takes a certain set of circumstances, mystical return from death and an intense relationship between the recently undead woman and a male vampire and then the stork comes.”  Anya looked around at everyone, smiling brightly, “I knew this girl once who fell in love with a vampire.  She was killed and he forced some witch to bring her back and the next thing you knew – she was pregnant.”

All eyes shifted from Connor to Buffy, who held up her hands.  “No . . . um . . . nope.”

Not that I don’t want to be. . .I’m just not.  Yet.  Maybe.

Dawn sighed a little but kept silent, because what she wanted to do was yell hooray because if that meant Buffy could get pregnant – that meant she might someday have real-honest-to-god siblings.

Xander, on the other hand, was freaking out.  ‘This is not good.  We don’t know what this kid will be like – he could be a bloodsucker, he could be an evil little demon.  So not good.”

“We don’t know enough, Xander, none of us can tell yet what these babies are going to be like.”  No one but Tara caught Buffy’s slip of the tongue, though the witch didn’t point it out.

“Spike says it doesn’t matter where you come from, only what you do with the present and future that matter.”  Dawn piped in with her comment.

“Right.  He would say that because he doesn’t want anyone looking too closely at his past.”

“Really?  Sounds like a positive outlook to me, makes sense actually.”  Wesley was shaking his head in agreement.  

“Spike’s not the only one who has to worry about a past.  I was a vengeance demon for over a thousand years, Xander.  There’s lots of stuff I did.”

“That’s different, Ahn.  You have a soul now.  You’re human.”  Xander shrugged off her past.

With an apologetic smile at Anya, Tara said, “So it’s okay because she’s human now, but it’s not okay for Spike because he’s still a vampire?”  She paused for a moment, waiting to see if Xander would try and defend his narrow-minded ideas. “ Even with all the good things he’s been doing – none of that matters?”

“He doesn’t have a soul.  He’s not going to keep this up.  All he has is a chip that keeps him from killing everyone.”

“So Spike couldn’t go out and get minions to do all his dirty work?  Couldn’t set up situations where all of us die?”  Buffy was getting more and more angry with his attitude.

“Well, I guess he could do those things.”  Xander didn’t want to concede the point.

“Ah huh.  So?”  Any further comment Buffy might have made was forestalled by the sound of the doorbell.

It had them all confused until Buffy moved toward the door first.  She wasn’t really prepared for the sight before her.  Her face broke out in a smile and a giggle slipped past her lips.  The, “C’mon in,” she half-laughed while trying to get out a “Dawn” was impossible.

Still laughing, she motioned the figure to follow her.

“Dawn?”

The teenager picked up her head and gasped out a surprised, “Casey?”

She wasn’t sure it was him, because all she could see was a hand and a pair of legs.  His voice sounded from behind the fistful of balloons.  “Hey, Dawn.”

“Casey?”  Dawn got up from her chair and circled round the balloons.

What had Buffy laughing so hard was the assortment.  They were mostly mylars – and there were ‘over-the-hills’, ‘get-well-soons’, ‘happy-birthdays’ and ‘congratulations it’s a girl’ and Buffy pointed at them, nudging Tara.

The two girls were smiling and Tara whispered, “Why don’t you take a couple up to Spike.  Dinner won’t be ready for a bit.”

Dawn must’ve had the same thought, because she took the balloons from Casey, explaining to him that Spike had gotten hurt and he was upstairs in bed.  Handing off the balloons to her sister, Dawn steered Casey out into the backyard where there weren’t so many prying eyes.

Chapter Text

Book Two.  

Chapter 14.  True colors

Though I cannot be said to be a flattering honest man,
it must not be denied but I am a plain-dealing villain.
    Much Ado About Nothing, act I, sc. iii

the pulse of the hero beats in unison with the pulse of
nature, and he steps to the measure of the universe;
then there is true courage and invincible strength.
    Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers



He decided he was going to keep a running body count.  This way he’d know it was a good day by the number of drained humans he left behind.  Today was shaping up as a good one – so what if it was technically night.

Three dead in Los Angeles.  Two dead on the highway.  And who knew how many more after he got to Sunnydale.

This was fun.  The kind of fun he hadn’t had in years.  Not even the last time – well Drusilla had been . . . he closed his eyes for a moment, sending a call through the bond.  She might recognize it.  Hell, she might even come . . . and wouldn’t that be another kick.  If she did – if Drusilla did come, he’d be assured of some very fine cock sucking.  Not that Drusilla wasn’t a good lay, but her true talents were elsewhere.  The best benefit of not having to breathe – hours upon hours of oral sex.  And Drusilla was the best – well, the second best cocksucker he’d ever had the pleasure of being with.  

So if Drusilla responded to his Sire’s call, good.  Even if she didn’t that was also good.  Either way – because once he’d taken care of everything in Sunnydale, he would have all the time in the world to find her.

Teach her not to disobey a Sire’s call.  Discipline Daddy’s little girl.

His sneer turned into an outright smug leer.

Oh yeah.

He was looking forward to some discipline.  Maybe he’d keep Buffy alive while he disciplined Spike – remind  him of some things he’d apparently forgotten.

Flipping the radio stations, Angelus finally found one he liked, singing very badly and not caring, he drove on toward Sunnydale.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Leaving everyone in the kitchen, Dawn dragged Casey out onto the back porch, without a word or sparing anyone else a glance.

Plopping down on the top step, Dawn tucked her long legs under and looked up at Casey.  Sitting down next to her, he stole a glance from the corner of his eye.  “You okay?”

“Yeah.”  The tone of her voice made that statement the lie that it was.

“I was worried, you know.  Called you earlier and no one answered,” he shrugged a bit, playing with the frayed knee of his jeans.

“We had to go out for a little while.  Had to get stuff.”  Thinking quickly, she said, “Wesley’s place was destroyed in a fire last night and his, well, everything is gone.”

“That sucks.”  Casey leaned back, resting his weight on his elbows.  “How’s Spike?”

He’d thought it was a simple question, though instead of answering, Dawn just started quietly crying all over again.  ‘Dawn?  I’m sorry.  What happened?  Hey, c’mon.  He’s okay, right?”

Dawn couldn’t answer him.  She was trying so hard not to cry that the tears just kept falling.

“Dawn?  Is he gonna be okay?”  Casey was really concerned now, so he sat up and touched her back.

She crumpled, resting her head against him, her hands fisted awkwardly against his stomach.  “He’s my . . . like my father, you know, my big brother and he’s like . . . he’s . .  . He’s the strongest person I’ve ever known and the stupidest and he could’ve gotten killed last night and he was trying to protect me and . . he’s a jerk, you know?”  Taking a hiccupping breath, she went on, “He’s Spike, you know, he’d do anything to keep me safe and those wank – wankers that hurt him should die and they should all just freaking die.”

Casey put his arm around her shoulder, just holding her, listening to her until she finally couldn’t talk any more.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


He wasn’t really awake, more like drifting in a haze, especially since Wesley had come in and taken the sprog.  At least he thought it was Oxford.  Could’ve been his brother Gordon. . . no, Gordie died when he was eight, wasn’t him. . .   Wasn’t Ripper. . . Spike knew his brain was fried.  Morphine was great. . . . bloody great good stuff for pain.   Itchy no more.  Some stupid tune was running through his brain and he couldn’t remember the damn words.  Where’s Buffy?  Didn’t like letting her out of his sight, not since she’d come back. . . his girl wasn’t gonna get hurt again, not ever.  Sunshine she was, light in his dark . . given m’everythin’.  Love her.  Can’t get that damn song outta m’head.  Bloody tune.

Humming only slightly off key, Spike thought he was dreaming when he heard her voice calling his name.  “Buffy . . .  my Buffy,” he chuckled, imagining she was kneeling on the bed, her hands smoothing the sheet and pulling up the . . . hey.  “Buffy?  Not dreamin’ am I?”

She giggled a bit.  His ramblings were actually cute and she wondered if she should tell him that he’d said all of that out loud, including the bit about his brother. “No, Spike, you aren’t dreaming, but it’s a good thing for you all those thoughts were about me.”

“Love you, kitten.”  His words were drawled, each one drawn and husky, sending shivers down her spine.  “F’r’ever.  Always.  ‘Til we’re ol’ and gray.”

Despite his almost drunken state, Buffy knew he hadn’t meant that to be cruel.  “We aren’t gonna get old.  You won’t age and I’ve got an early expiration date.”

“Nope.  Not gonna let you go alone.  You go, I go.  Pair.  Mates.  F’rever.”  He pulled her close, his arm lacking its usual strength.  “Love you, kitten.  Gonna grow old. . . figger it out.  Love you.”

She found herself listening more to the sound of his voice than his words, though somewhere in the back of her mind, Buffy heard them.  And as crazy as it sounded, she believed him.  He’d come up with some crazy, insane, hair-brained idea and somehow he’d make it work.   Her head was against his chest, her face in the hollow of his throat, his arm clamped around her body.  She kissed his skin and Spike felt the ripples warming hm.  

That damn tune was back in his head and he couldn’t help humming it.

 “Spike?  Do you realize you are humming Patsy Cline?”  He could feel Buffy’s smile against his skin and he didn’t care what caused it.

“‘S a good song.”  He didn’t care, it was just the damn thing was in his head and he couldn’t shake it.  “Heard her sing it once, jus’ b’fore she died.  Nice voice.”  

They lapsed into silence, the only sounds drifting up from downstairs and the muted voices from everyone in the house.  Everything was hushed, the October breeze ruffling the curtains on the open windows and the moonlight just starting to spill in through the glass.  Her arm curled up around his shoulder, the other one resting against his injured right arm, her hand worming its way underneath his shoulder almost of its own volition.  Spike’s good hand began running up and down her back, his fingers sometimes getting caught in loose tangles of her hair.  

There hadn’t been many moments like this in her life, where she was just content to sit still and be – there had always been something else to cause a distraction, some other thing needing her immediate attention.  Even with Riley, she hadn’t been able to really relax, to trust in what they had enough to just let go.  Come to think of it, had she ever really trusted Riley?  Not the same way she trusted Spike.  Because despite all the good things, Riley had done some really, really bad and hurtful things to her – in fact, their whole relationship had started out with lies, on both their parts, although she wasn’t supposed to tell people about being the Slayer.  The cheating on her didn’t help Riley’s cause either.  Sleeping with Faith while they’d been body swapped – that was so not good that, even now, almost two years later, it still hurt.  The vamp whores?  No . . that was not good either.  That was so far from good it was in another country.  And the bit with him blaming her for going to the whores?  She wasn’t quite sure how that worked, because in her mind, it had still been cheating.  You don’t cheat on your partner, you either split or you work things out.

Spike was humming again.  She wasn’t sure this time what the song was, because she didn’t recognize the melody at all, though apparently it was one he remembered.  His chest was rising and falling again in time with her own breathing.  She wondered if he knew he did that or if it was just his body’s unconscious way of adjusting to the closest person.  She kind of liked the idea of him breathing in time with her, no matter who else was in the room, made them more . . . joined.  Or something like that.  

Somehow the universe was playing a huge joke on her because the truly evil vampire, the one without a soul, the self-professed Big Bad,  was the only guy she’d ever been around who hadn’t lied to her.  Not once.  Not ever.  Even Giles had lied to her.  And Xander’s lies?  She could write at least a chapter on Xander’s lies - starting with the little forgotten moment when he’d tried to rape her, and then lied about not remembering it.  

The man lying in bed with her had not ever lied to her.  He’d been threatening, angry, violent, but never ever had he lied to her about anything.  Not his intentions, his plans or his feelings.  He valued honesty, which was just even more ironic, because demons weren’t big on truthfulness.  Most of them anyway.

His eyes were closed and he was just lying there, enjoying the peace and quiet.  There was no one that mattered except the two of them and he didn’t care what else was about to happen.  What was coming for . . . he felt it. . . that unconscious instinctive call, the one sent out through the blood line.  Fuck.  Angelus.  He hadn’t forgotten, though in light of his own situation, he’d pushed the issue of Angelus aside.  Bloody bastard is comin’ here.   He didn’t want to do this, didn’t want to disturb the peace. . . “Kitten?  He’s headin’ this way.  Comin’ for us.”

A heavy breath blew across his neck, warming him yet chilling him at the same time.  “Sort of knew that.  Figured he’d take out his people first.”

“No, sweetheart.  He’s on his way now.  Need to get Oxford and Glinda up here.  Need to talk about this.”  Spike drifted for a long moment, long enough for her to think he’d fallen asleep, so when his voice sounded again it startled her, “Should get the bot out patrolin’.  Maybe the whelp can go w’it.”

Buffy laid there for a few more minutes to see if he was going to say anything else and when he stayed silent, she asked very quietly, very strongly, “How much would you have to take to be up and around?”

He knew damn well what she meant and he didn’t want to get into this now.  Not tonight.  Not again.  He should have known this wasn’t settled.  “Too much.  Don’ ask me again.”

Oh, he’s angry.  She could feel it.  His entire body had tensed up and she could see his jaw clenching and unclenching as he held his temper in check.  Getting up from her spot, Buffy placed her hands on either side of his head, staring down at his face, noting the softness of his gaze as he looked up at her.  “Spike.   I . . don’t want anyone else with me for this.  You and I can do this together, he’s not strong enough to take both of us . . . and he’s alone, right?  No one’s with him, right?”

“Near as I can tell.  He,” Spike hesitated a bit, reluctant to admit to her that he could feel this, “used the Sire bond callin’ to Dru, but he’s one of the oldest of the line, so we all feel it.”

Another deep breath blew against him   “Right then.  So he’s alone.”  Thinking a minute or two, she tried to remember everything about Angelus.  “He won’t come for us right away – he’ll try to pick us off one by one, right?”

“Yeah.  No one goes out near dark alone.  No one.”  Thinking hard, Spike said, “Rather you keep Niblet home, not let her out a’all.”

“Good idea.”  Then in a rush, “How. . . if you drink again tonight and again all day tomorrow – how soon will you be up?”

“Will you not let this go?”  God, she could be a stubborn bitch.

“No.  I’m not going to until you give me a better answer.”  She got that look in her eye he hated, that Slayer bitch on wheels look, the one that made him want to slug her.

Closing his eyes and praying for patience, Spike ground out, “Three more good feedings, or so.  Not much more than that, all right?  Happy now?”

Her left hand cupped his cheek.  “Look at me, Spike, please?”  Her thumb brushed over his lips, tracing the lines, her eyes searching his face.  “Spike . . . Slayer here, remember?  I’ll be fine.  I need you to be fine also.”

“Buffy.  We have time to wait.  He won’t come except to taunt us, at least not right away.  We’ve got time for me to rest a bit.”  Thinking a second, he said, “M’promise, kitten, he wants us scared enough to make mistakes.  ‘M not making any.”

His good hand brushed away a tear and he pulled her down to his lips.  “Love you.  Now go get Oxford and Glinda.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Anya had Connor now, his head resting on her shoulder, while Tara made the final preparations for dinner.  Wesley was questioning Xander on what he remembered of Angelus last time, while Oz listened, sometimes adding his own comments.

Deciding not to wait for Buffy to come downstairs, Tara set out plates and transferred full bowls to the counter.  Sticking her head out the door, she realized Dawn was crying and Casey was a bit overwhelmed.  

“Dawnie?”

“Hey,” The younger girl wiped her eyes and pulled herself away from Casey.  “Sorry.  Guess I’m tired and . . . sorry, Case.”

Smiling at her shyly, he said, “I’d be a really crappy boyfriend if I complained.  Don’t worry about it.”

Dawn ducked her head, a blush spreading across her face.

Tara found herself smiling at the two of them.  “Dinner’s ready.  You’re welcome to stay, Casey.”

“Thanks.  That’s cool.”

Giving them a few minutes, she slipped back inside to find everyone eating, including Buffy, who was trying to talk and eat at the same time.  “No one goes out alone, unless it’s broad daylight.  If it’s close, we travel in pairs.   We need to come up with some kind of survival . . . self-defense thingie so that if he does get one of us, we can get away.”

“You mean like crosses and holy water?”  

“Yes, Anya, that’s exactly what I mean.”

“Emergency kits.  And we all have cellphones, right?”  Buffy was gesturing with her fork, trying to eat as fast as possible.

“I want one of these.  This is wonderful.”  Anya looked at Xander.  “Can we have one please?”

“One what?”  Xander was suddenly very afraid of what she was going to ask for.

“A baby.  I want babies, Xander.  Can we have one now?”

A very pained look crossed his features, something of a cross between a grimace and embarrassment.  “Can we not talk about this?”  He threw a quick look around the room, but no one was actually willing to meet his eyes.

“Why?  Why can’t we talk about this?”  Anya was at a loss.  What was wrong about talking about having babies?  

“The timing isn’t right, Ahn.  Maybe we could talk about this later, after we get home, okay?”  He was desperately trying to change the subject, anything to get away from this topic.  

“Fine, Xander Harris, you always want to talk about things later.  What about when I want to talk about things?  Does it matter to you that I want to talk about this now?  Or that I want to talk about this in front of Buffy?”  Anya bristled when he tried shushing her, moving away from his gesturing hands.  

Xander took hold of her arm and Anya pulled away from him, misjudging the strength of his grip and she teetered off-balance, trying not to lose the baby or fall at the same time, and she was in real danger of falling hard when Wesley reached out a hand, bracing her against him.  

“Xander!?  What are you doing?”  Everyone stared at him, while Anya got her bearings back, trying to comfort the scared and crying baby.  “What is wrong with you?  Can’t you see I had the baby?”

Anya moved away from Wesley, thanked him for helping her, then purposely turned her back on Xander and went into the living room to sit down.  Her legs were shaking badly and she couldn’t get a deep breath.  What just happened had scared her, badly.   She needed to do some thinking.

The other four adults shared a look over Xander’s bowed head, none of them willing to comment too closely on what had just happened.  

“I didn’t mean to grab at her.”  His low voiced comment elicited no response, because not a one of them could really believe what they’d just witnessed.  It had looked, from almost every view, like Xander was going to shake Anya, whether she had the baby in her arms or not.  And that was not good.

There was a long painful silence in the kitchen, when finally Buffy said, “Tara?  Wes?  Spike wants to talk to you both.  When you’re done eating maybe you should come upstairs.”

Dumping what was left on her plate into the garbage, Buffy left the kitchen to go back up to her bedroom, more than Angelus on her mind now.


    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


She never shuts up.  Always talking about things at the worse possible times.  Why does she always have to bring up our relationship when everyone’s around?  Xander stared at his hands as they flexed against the counter.  Sometimes he wished she’d just keep her mouth shut.  Why the hell does she want to have a baby for?  He was only twenty-one, he wasn’t ready for any of this – a girlfriend, yeah – full time sex, yeah – fiancee, he wasn’t so sure, so, well, he’d already asked her, but that didn’t mean they had to get married right away.  They could have a long engagement, really long.  But babies?  Nah huh.

And why the hell was she cuddling that demon brat anyway? Kid shouldn’t even been possible, and now Buffy could – the same thing could happen to her.  How disgusting is that?  And why would she want to? Xander figured that was probably the worst thing she could do.

Buffy wasn’t like that.  All this Spike stuff, he couldn’t – refused to think of it as love – had to be the result of some side effect of the spell Willow had done to bring her back.  Couldn’t be because she actually liked him or anything.  So when the after effects wear off, she’ll toss Spike out on his ass and the worthless blood-sucking bastard will leave.  And that’s good.

Firmly convinced once more that all this was going to end soon, Xander apologized to the other two adults.  None of them, not even Xander himself, was really sure what he was apologizing for.

Chapter Text

Book Two

Chapter 15.  A hard day’s night.


O that a man might know
the end of this day’s business ere it comes!
    Julius Caesar, act v, sc. i

This day I breathed first – time is come round,
and where I did begin, there shall I end.
My life is run his compass
    Julius Caesar, act v, sc. iii




Spike was sitting up in bed, his injured right arm propped up on a pillow, Buffy on the bed next to him, their heads close together, voices low and muted.  She’d left the door open partially, though Wesley knocked anyway, pushing it open further when Buffy responded, then stepped aside to allow Tara entry.

“Oxford.”  Spike looked up at his fellow Englishman, noting the bloodshot eyes and fatigue.  “Glinda.  Where’s the wolf?”

“Went home to get some sleep,” was Tara’s soft spoken answer.

“How are you feeling?”  Wesley took catalog of the visible injuries.  This did not bode well.  Although it was encouraging that he was up and talking.

“Been better.”  Tara came round to the far side of the bed, looking closely at his swollen face.  Smiling at Buffy, she glanced at Spike, asking, “May I?”

Cocking his head to the side, the vampire looked at the witch, “Gonna work some good mojo?”

Shaking her head yes, Tara motioned for him to lean forward into her hands.  Muttering a soft incantation, Tara’s hands warmed considerably, the heat passing into Spike’s skin.  The bruises around his eyes faded to yellow and those on his chest lightened considerably.  Taking a step back, she smiled again.  “I’ll do it again in the morning.”

Spike smiled in response, gratitude evident despite the pain.

Motioning her to the chair, Wesley leaned against the crib, remarking, “You sure this is the best place for the baby?  You need your rest.”

“Should be up an’ around this time tomorrow.  Won’t be completely healed, but I’ll be on m’feet.”  The blond pair on the bed studiously avoided looking at each other and both were surprised by Wesley’s next words.  “So I can assume Buffy’s blood is helping greatly then?”

Two pairs of glittering eyes stared at him, though Wesley was already gesturing at them, “Relax.  I meant no censure.  It was merely a statement of facts.  You had to have some thing more potent than regular human blood.  Given your relationship to find otherwise would have been more of a surprise.”

Spike’s low growl sounded in the room, prompting Wesley to once more apologize.  “I’m very sorry.  Watcher training is sometimes hard to overcome.”

Laying a hand on Spike’s arm, Buffy said, “It’s still kind of private for us.  Not everyone would be so practical or so non-judgy.”

That was a nice way of saying most of her friends wouldn’t approve if they knew.

“Right, then.  I’m sure this isn’t why you wanted us up here.  My guess is Angelus?”

“Yeah.  Last time he got all stalker-guy.  Got into my room.  Left creepy hand-drawn pictures of me sleeping and lots of other stuff – dead flowers – he killed Willow’s fish . . .”  Buffy ran through the list of his actions in her head, “Things kept getting scarier and scarier and he tried to kidnap Mom.  Then he killed Jenny and well, this part wasn’t real but we all remember it that way – he took Dawn, though Spike brought her back, before he could get to her.”

“He was busy tendin’ to Rupert.  Was savin’ the bit for after.”  Spike waited for a minute, “Point is, he’s not comin’ the way I would – he’s gonna try an’ pick us off one at a time.”

Wesley interrupted, “Any idea which of us might be first on his list?”

Reaching over to clasp Buffy’s hand, Spike thought for a moment.  “No way of knowin’. What’s more important, we need to decide about restorin’ the soul.”  He knew he didn’t care one way or the other, save that dusting Angelus left him as the head of their branch of the Aurelius line, Spike knew it mattered to Buffy and possibly Angel’s crew.

Picking at some imaginary lint on her jeans, Tara added, “I don’t have the spell, Willow does.  I could ask her but I’m not sure she’d give it to me.  We might have to find it ourselves.”

“It’s too early to call Giles, to see if he can get anything out of the library that might be helpful.”  Wesley double checked his watch, mentally calculating the time difference.  “He should be up in a couple of hours, I’ll call him before I retire for the night.”

“What about minions?”  Buffy asked, but Spike was shaking his head.  

“Doubt it.  He did it last time an’ all he got was trouble from them.  He’s too long away from runnin’ a nest for it.  It’d be easier to do what he’s already done.”

“What’s that?”  Wesley had his hands stuffed into his jeans pockets, trying hard to keep his eyes open.  He was suddenly exhausted.

Spike sighed, reluctance a clear emotion.  “Used the Sire’s bond, an’ seein’ how he’s the head of the blood line, we all felt it.”

That woke him up.  “So you’re telling us that Sunnydale is about to be over-run with Aurelian vampires?  And you aren’t fit to fight?”

“Easy, Oxford.  Nearest Aurelian is me, an’ I’m not answerin’ any call Peaches sends out.  Now or ever.  ‘Side from me, Dru was in Brazil, Penn’s dead and there’s a few others, but it’ll take time before anyone gets here.  Don’t imagine that we’re gonna have to worry ‘bout the others before, well, at least a week.”

Tara gripped the chair arms.  “So we have a little more than a week before Angel starts – what about the Huntsman?”

Blowing out a breath, Buffy said, “With any kind of luck, he’ll get what he’s here for and leave.”

Wesley shared a look with Spike.  “That’s one of the things Rupert’s gong to London for, to find information about the Huntsman.  Hopefully his research will support my theory.”

“What’s that?”

“That the Huntsman won’t leave until the traitor is judged.”

“The traitor?”  An unbidden image of Willow flashed in Buffy’s brain and unknowingly it also surfaced in other’s heads.

“Once the traitor begins to . . . the process of betrayal, the Huntsman usually appears, and when the final act of betrayal is complete, traditionally that’s when the Huntsman strikes.  The hounds retrieve the traitor, and they go before Gwyn ap Nudd for judgment.

“So your theory is that the Huntsman is here to actually do some good?  What about all those dead girls?”  Buffy’s voice held a bit of disbelief.

“That, I believe, was in response, in payment for releasing you from heaven.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Cordelia was more than halfway to San Francisco when she abruptly changed her mind about her destination.   Checking her rearview mirror, she made a quick u-turn and headed back toward Los Angeles.  If she was going to hide out and be inconspicuous, she was going to do it in a spot with better weather than northern California.  San Diego is good.  Tijuana might be better.  

Either way, she was guaranteed more sunlight than San Francisco would provide and right now, sunlight was her new best friend.  Glancing down at the gas gauge, Cordy figured she’d stop for the night at the next exit.  There was no way anyone would find her there.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The kitchen was empty when they finally headed inside, dirty dishes piled in the sink and food warming on the stove.  Dawn could hear the low murmur of voices in the living room, though she couldn’t tell who was in there.

Grabbing a plate, she motioned for Casey to get one, then started piling spaghetti on hers.  She was really hungry and the events of the last twenty-four hours and the emotional roller-coaster were beginning to tell on her.  She was tired.  Really tired.

They had just sat down at the counter when Anya strode into the kitchen.  The baby was mewling loudly, his I’m-hungry-feed-me-now cry piercing the silence.  “I don’t know what to do for him.  He just started crying.”

Before Dawn could answer, footsteps pounded on the stairs and Buffy’s rapid words were countered by Tara’s slower drawl.  “So that worked well didn’t it?  Way better than one of those baby intercom thingies.”

‘Well, I forgot I had it in place.  But yeah,” and Tara’s proud smile lit up the room, “It is pretty cool.  It was only on an emergency basis though.  Should wear off sometime tomorrow.”

“Hey.  How’s the hungry boy?”  Tara smiled at Anya, motioning for the baby, which the ex-demon reluctantly relinquished, despite his wails of hunger.

Anya watched Buffy and Tara, one holding the baby and the other getting his bottle ready and uncaring of the two teens in the room, burst into tears.  Grabbing the sponge, Anya did what she always did when she was upset, she cleaned.

Unsure of how to approach her, though knowing somehow that Anya needed to talk and figuring she desperately needed a friend, Buffy motioned the two teens inside.  “Anya?”  The slayer stood at her side, while Tara stuck her pinky in the baby’s mouth trying to calm him a little while they waited for his bottle to heat.

“I just don’t understand, how come it isn’t okay to talk about things when other people are around?  How come?  Is it wrong?  Am I thinking incorrectly?”  She wiped away a tear, leaving a streak of foamy bubbles across her face, “And why would that make him angry enough to do that?”

Neither of the other two had an answer, though at this moment Anya wasn’t really looking for one.  “Babies are cute and warm and fuzzy and cuddly and holding them is wonderful and sometimes they smell so sweet and what is there not to like?”

Tara grabbed the bottle from the pot, testing it against her wrist, then stuck the nipple into Connor’s mouth, which gave her enough time to come up with, “I think men don’t feel the way we do about babies – or at least some women do.”

“I’m not even sure I want to marry that man right now.  He asked me you know.”  She blew out a breath, disturbing an errant curl that was drooping across one eye.  “He even got me a ring, but I just don’t know.”

Buffy finally found her voice.  “Xander asked you to marry him?”  She paused, thinking hard, “When?  How come you didn’t say anything?”

Anya huffed again, blowing out another breath hard enough to disturb the mound of soap suds in the sink.  “He asked me the night we,” she paused, avoiding Buffy’s suddenly earnest gaze, “The night we fought Glory.”

“Oh.” Buffy’s face fell a bit, but she recovered quickly, “Still, this is happy news, right?”

Anya’s voice dropped to a near whisper.  “I don’t know anymore.  I’m just not sure.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The clarion of alarm echoed in their room, startling them all.  Spike’s, “What the bloody hell?”  Was drowned out only by Buffy’s unintelligent yowl.

Tara waved a hand and the noise stopped.  Sheepishly she apologized, “Sorry.  I did that last night for the baby.  It’s supposed to sound when he’s in a different room from me and crying.  He’s probably hungry.”

Buffy got up from the bed, saying, “Well let’s go get him,” and turning back to Spike, “You want more blood now?”

Thinking to himself for a minute, realizing the more he drank now, even regular stuff, the quicker he’d heal, Spike said, “Yeah, please, kitten.”

“Back in a bit.”

The girls were out the door and halfway down the stairs, voices trailing behind them before either Brit realized it.

“I would have thought Buffy had no interest in children.”  Wesley’s dry observation pulled Spike’s attention away from contemplating his blanket and his thoughts.

“Tha’s an infant.  Bit different from children.  Babies, all females go crazy over ‘em.”  Spike’s assessment was nearly as dry as Wesley’s had been.

Wesley shifted, taking the chair Tara had just vacated.  He was rather reluctant to broach this subject, though he’d come to think that he and Spike had something of a friendship and he felt compelled to discuss some things with him.  Yet he really didn’t want to disturb his recovery.

Spike, for his part, was watching Wesley, waiting for him to spill whatever it was that had him looking so sour.  He was about to prod him a bit when Wesley broke his silence.

“I owe you an apology, Spike.”

A furrowed brow, oddly reminiscent of Spike’s vampiric guise met his words.  “How so?”

“Bringing Angel’s son here.  It was wrong of me, I shouldn’t have.”

His further comments were cut off when Spike interrupted him, “What’re you on about?  Couldn’t rightly go elsewhere, could you?”

He gaped at the blond for a second, then recovered, “Bringing the child of Buffy’s former boyfriend isn’t exactly good form.”

A rather inelegant snort sounded in the air.  “You git.”  He softened the insult with a laugh.  “Thinking wrongly on that one.  ‘S not a problem.  But thanks for the apology.  ‘S not many that would.”

Before Wesley could get on that subject, Spike continued, “Sides, where else were you thinkin’ of goin’?  You know a whole lot of people with enough knowledge of Peaches to keep the sprog safe?”

Gazing at the other man and completely surprising himself in the process as well, Spike said, “Did the right thing, Oxford.  Can’t have Angelus killin’ his own flesh an’ blood.  Killin’ demons is different, vamps are different – that sprog’s a bloody miracle.  Shouldn’t die because his da is wrong in the head.”

Staring at him and trying to process what Spike had just said, Wesley was forced to a realization that both Buffy and Giles had already had to acknowledge.  William the Bloody was far from the average vampire.  

His mouth was open and the words flowing out in an uncharacteristic moment, long before he could take them back, “That’s not the chip is it?  That’s . . .  You don’t think Angel would come after the boy? “

“‘S not what I said.”  He stretched his legs for a moment, testing the healing, “He’ll come after the boy.  He’ll come after all of us.  ‘M probably first or second on his list, tied up with the Slayer.  Jus’ dunno which of us he’s gonna come for first.”

Wesley steepled his fingers, thinking deeply.  “You have ideas who else will be a target?”  

“You.  The sprog.  Niblet.   An’ then there’s the extras, ones he’s not lookin’ for specifically, but wouldn’t mind takin’ jus’ to worry the rest of us, make us scramble tryin’ to rescue whoever it was.”

‘Add Cordelia to that list.  And probably Fred.”  At Spike’s quizzical look, Wesley explained, “Winifred Burkle is a young woman we rescued  from Pylea when Cordelia got trapped there.  She’s been with us ever since.”  

“Didn’t know the cheerleader was that important to him.”  Spike shifted on the bed, his muscles jumping and flexing from the healing and his arm was itching badly again.  Obviously the morphine was wearing off.  Might need more if he was going to try and sleep tonight.  He was tired and nearly every inch of him hurt.  Tara’s touch had helped some and he thought the swelling was down, but the dull ache in his head was back, his right arm was actually jumping, the muscles were anyway, his back ached and his chest was itchier than all hell and his legs kept cramping on him.  This was a bitch, the side effect of rapid healing was the internal violence with which it occurred.  There was no bloody way he was going to get through the next twelve hours without nearly all the morphine.

“Oxford, have Buffy bring up the morphine, would you?”  

Wesley studied him for a moment, noting the drawn and exhausted look, the grey tinge to Spike’s normal pallor and the lines of fatigue and pain bracketing around his mouth, realizing what he was seeing.

“Right.  I’ll send her up and get everyone else settled.  As you said, this can wait a bit.  Besides Angelus can’t get in here, so we are safe for the moment.”

Spike closed his eyes, clenching his teeth against the pain blossoming in his head after Wesley left the room.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


He passed the State Highway patrol officer doing eighty-five just before the Sunnydale exit.  For half a mile he ignored the lights and sirens, then he finally stopped at the off-ramp.  Wasn’t like he cared much, though he really didn’t want a passing motorist calling in a complaint about a dead CHP officer on the side of the road.  Because that would mean he’d have to ditch the Viper.  And he really liked this car.

Angel waited until the cop leaned down to ask for his license and registration and then struck with cobra swiftness.  His fangs were in the cop’s neck before he finished speaking and the taste of anger and authority was so delicious, he was drained and dumped in short order.

He rolled into Sunnydale just after nine, according to the Viper’s clock, time enough to establish his presence, let people know he was here.

Angel grinned, slowly driving through the streets of the sleepy little town.  Sleepy.  Hah.  Pulling into the driveway of the old mansion on Crawford Street, Angel grinned once more.  He really did like this place.  Liked its proximity to – well – the hellmouth, and the Slayer and . . . everything.

Whistling tonelessly, Angel sauntered to the doorway.

Oh yeah, it’s good to be home.

Grinning broadly, almost laughing in anticipation, Angel crossed over the threshold and howled with pleasure.

Chapter Text

Book Two.  

Chapter 16.  Coming in the air tonight.

I’ve seen your face before my friend
but I don’t know if you know who I am
well, I was there and I saw what you did
I saw it with my own two eyes
so you can wipe off that grin,
I know where you’ve been
it’s all been a pack of lies.
    Phil Collins, In the Air Tonight





It hadn’t taken very long for everyone to settle down once those not living at Revello Drive departed.  Dawn was the first one to go to bed, aside from Spike, who’d never left his, since she was practically asleep on her feet by the time Casey left with Xander and Anya.  The conversation had been guarded around the teen, but he knew something was wrong, since Xander insisted on driving him home, even though his house was in the opposite direction from their apartment.  

Dawn was followed rapidly by Tara, who first got bottles ready for middle of the night feedings and brought the baby upstairs, settling him in Buffy and Spike’s room.  Wesley had tried staying up, guarding the house, though by eleven o’clock, he was sitting on the couch, fast asleep.    The first time Buffy had to go downstairs to get a bottle for the baby, she’d tried waking him up, though when he didn’t budge, she just took a throw blanket and covered him.   

Everyone was out cold when she woke the second time, the house still and silent.  She could hear various snoring sounds coming from Dawn’s room on her way down the stairs and it brought a smile to her face.  She didn’t blame Dawn for any of what had happened, because, really, none of it was her fault.  She laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of all those nameless, faceless monks that had conspired in some way to bring all of this about.  If not for them and Glory, she wouldn’t have had to jump.  Though she also wouldn’t have Dawn.  It was kind of a tough call there.  She wouldn’t trade her sister for anything and really if she had to do it all over again, she probably would have done it . . . well, no, might not have done everything the same.  Would’ve trusted Spike a little bit more. Might not have reacted so bitchily if she knew then . . .  And so would have dumped Riley sooner.  

Buffy huffed out a little bit of an ironic laugh, the sound strangely muffled in the quiet house, listening to Wesley shift and mutter in his uncomfortable sleep.  This was her favorite time of night, when everyone else was asleep and the night’s patrol was over.  Glancing at the clock she realized it was close to three and it was about the time she and Spike had been getting back home after patrol lately.  He’d roused a little bit when the baby woke up crying, though still groggy from the effects of an entire bag of morphine, and Buffy figured she’d warm him up some blood and make him drink while she fed the baby.  

She was standing in the kitchen, watching the microwave heat up Spike’s blood and keeping an eye on the bottle on the stove, when the first tingles of awareness shot through her spine.  Her back stiffened, the hackles on her neck rising, though she gave no outward indication she was able to sense anything different.  Buffy was certain he couldn’t get in the house, since the disinvite had been done earlier and she was also fairly certain that even if he somehow managed to get an invite, he couldn’t do any violence.   It didn’t help her nerves though.  She was the only one awake, and the only one strong enough to take him on.

The microwave pinged, drawing her attention, and in that moment, she had something of a plan forming in the back of her mind.  She grabbed both the mug and bottle, wandering warily back into the living room.  Checking the big picture window, Buffy didn’t see anything, though the feeling hadn’t dissipated any.  Mug and bottle got placed very carefully on the table next to Wesley’s sleeping form, as she leaned over close to his ear.  “Wesley.  Wake up.  We have company.”

He didn’t stir the first time, but when she whispered in his ear the second time, Wesley slowly opened his eyes, whispered just as softly back, “He can’t get in the house.”

“I know that.  I think he’s circling the house trying to figure out how many of us are here.”

“You aren’t thinking of going out there are you?’  When she didn’t answer, he grabbed her wrist, holding on as forcefully as he could.  “Buffy, you can’t.  It’s not safe.”

“No, I know that, Wes.  I just want to see if I can figure out what he’s doing.”  There was the creak of a floorboard from behind them and they both whirled around, though it was just Tara, silently making her way toward them.

“He’s outside.  Just got here,” was what she said by way of greeting.  At Buffy’s questioning look, she explained, “Um, I set it up, sort of like what I did with the baby, only geared for him.  Lets me know when he’s nearby.  It just woke me up.”

“How come we didn’t hear anything?”  Buffy had grabbed the taller girl’s hand, pulling her down to crouch beside them.

“For me only, remember?”  Tara’s hair fell in front of her face and she brushed it aside.  “So now what do we do?”

“Can you pinpoint where he is from the alarm?”  She felt rather than saw Tara’s response of no.  Buffy kept her eyes on the front window, while Tara focused on the back door.  Motioning Wesley with her hand, Buffy got down on her knees, skittering to the front door.  A low growl sounded from the second floor and all three of them scrambled for the stairs.  Running full out now, Buffy crouched low before entering her bedroom, wary of what might greet her on arrival.  She was not prepared for what she saw.  

Standing on wavering feet, Spike was in game face, the baby cradled in his injured right arm, a cocked crossbow in his left.  The bow was aimed at the window.  She was aware of Wesley behind her. Tara was still racing up the steps.  Cautiously she inched around the doorway, still crouched low to the ground.  Careful to stay out of the line of fire, Buffy edged closer to Spike.  Once inside the room, Buffy could see what had gotten Spike up and out of bed, not that she needed any visual confirmation.  Angel was standing outside their window with a wide leering grin on his features.  

Her breathing sounded very loud in her own ears and she could clearly hear the sounds of the two breathing deeply behind her.  Spike’s voice was just a rumble in the air, his, “Stay down,” unnecessary but it managed to calm her.  Okay.  First thing. . .  Get the baby.

She was about to open her mouth to tell Spike she was coming to get the baby, when Tara’s softly hissed “Spike,” got their attention.

Without waiting to worry about whether they were listening or not, Tara continued to whisper.  “Just get the quilt off the bed, Buffy, and be ready to cover Spike.”

Only Spike questioned the instruction, Buffy was already moving away from the wall toward their bed.  “What are you plannin’?”

“When I say so, just drop down, okay?”  He had no idea what the hell she was thinking, but whatever it was, it had damn well better be good.  

“Buffy?”  

“Yeah.  Got it.”

“Okay.”  She paused, whispering something in Wesley’s ear and then, “Go!”  

Wesley walked boldly into the bedroom, drawing Angel’s attention away from Spike, and Tara stood behind Wesley, muttering an incantation, while Spike collapsed to his knees and Buffy swirled the quilt over him and the baby.  A bright blinding light filled the bedroom.  

Angel howled in anger, his hands coming up to shield his eyes and he stepped back away from the light, falling off the small piece of roof outside the window.  

There was complete quiet in the room, then, “Oh, my god.  Oh, my god.  Spike?  Spike?  Are you okay?  Oh, my god.  Grab the baby.”

Tara dropped to her knees, speaking the words to end the incantation, then moving quickly to get Connor and Spike out from under the quilt.  Wesley double checked the window, making sure it was locked and secured, then as he stepped away, he said to Buffy, “I’m going to make sure everything is secure in the rest of the house.”

Before either of the girls could respond, he was making his way methodically through the house, starting with Buffy’s bathroom.  

Spike had passed out, still holding the squirming infant against his side.  Tears were filling Buffy’s eyes and she passed the baby to Tara, trying to re-arrange Spike’s sprawled limbs until they were aligned straight enough for her to lift him back into the bed.  The baby continued to cry and Buffy finally remembered what had woken her up.  “I left his bottle downstairs and blood for Spike.”

“I’ll get them both.  Is he okay?”  Tara was on her feet, preparing to head downstairs when Buffy hauled Spike up in her arms.

“Oof.  He’s heavy.”  Drooping him on the mattress, Buffy grabbed hold of his good arm and pulled him toward the head of the bed.  “Yeah, it was just too much for him, I guess.”

Tara nodded heading out of the room.  Encountering Wesley in the hallway, he accompanied her down to the first floor.  By unspoken agreement, they retrieved the bottle and mug and headed right back up the stairs to Buffy and Spike’s room.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


So that’s where they are.  Wesley had acted quicker than he expected.  How very smart of the ex-Watcher – running to the Slayer for protection.  And wasn’t that a nice surprise.

What he didn’t like at all was the witch.  He hadn’t been prepared for her to attempt that, using a bright sunlight spell to temporarily incapacitate him.

The traitor.

His signature was all over the house, on the grounds surrounding it.  His anger with Drusilla’s whelp had grown the second he neared the Slayer’s house, which had prompted his foray onto the roof.  He was there in bed, in her bed, where the infant was . . .  He’d watched while Spike had gingerly gotten up, nearly laughing in glee when Spike realized who was  standing casually on the roof, staring at the window.

That look on his face had been worth the trip to Sunnydale and oh, how the not-so-mighty- have fallen.  Angel had always known the bastard was weak, his reaction just now proving it.  Little William was afraid for his humans . . .

And he should be.

Oh yeah, he should be.




~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


“Obviously we need better wards around the house or a better warning system.”  Spike swam toward consciousness to the sounds of Wesley’s voice.  “Do you think you can adapt that spell further to alert us if Angelus enters the property?”

His comments had to be directed at the witch, because he heard four heartbeats in the room and one he’d recognize if he was dust, “I can try.  I’m not sure how much energy it would require and I’m really not sure about my ability to keep it going.”  Tara’s voice was low and filled with self-doubt.

“Can we find an alternate power source, like maybe electricity or something?”  Buffy’s voice sounded close to his ear and Spike realized his head was in her lap and it was her fingers that were brushing back and forth across his face.  He couldn’t stop the groan from emerging from his mouth, nor could he fight the muscle tremors rippling through his legs. “Spike?  Are you okay?”

“Payin’ for m’own stupidity,” was his wry comment.  “Fuckin’ hell, that hurts.”

“What happened?”  No point in denying he’d passed out from a combination of pain and excessive amounts of morphine, not when they’d all seen him hit the floor, which was the last thing he remembered.

“Tara did it.”  Buffy’s voice held a note of pride that he’d never noticed before.  The witch must have silently protested, because the next words out of Buffy’s mouth were, “Tara actually did it all tonight.  She’s got this great alarm thing, like the baby thing, and, she’s got a ball of sunshine spell.  How cool is that?”

Evidently Glinda must’ve done something else to protest, because Oxford added his penny’s worth of praise.  “It really was quite remarkable.  You’ll have to instruct me how to use it.”  

“Good.  So the wanker’s gone, right?”  His question forestalled anymore comments on the witch’s talents and then he remembered, “Didn’t drop the sprog did I?”
 
“No, Connor’s fine.”

He grimaced and Buffy immediately moved to try and make him more comfortable.  “Tha’s his name?  Connor?  Suppose Peaches did that before his soul went walkabout?”

There was a short silence then Wesley said, “It was the last thing he said to me before he changed.”

Spike heaved a long drawn out sigh, sounding much put upon, then saying, “Suppose we’ll have to call him that then.  Still think spawn was the better choice.”

“Spike.  That’s not nice.”  Buffy tried, but Tara’s giggles were infectious and even Wesley managed a little laugh.

“How long was I out for?”  Spike finally opened his eyes to find himself exactly where he thought he was, his head pillowed on Buffy’s lap as she rested her back against the headboard.  

“Not long, only about ten minutes.”  Wesley’s voice answered.  

“Right then.  Need a drink, kitten.”  He hated to admit to any weakness, except now he felt worse than he had earlier.

There was a rustling of noises and Tara laid the baby down in his crib while Wesley got to his feet.  “We should be all right for the rest of the night, good night all.”

Then he was gone, followed quickly by Tara, who whispered a soft, “Sleep sweet,” and she too was gone.

Lifting Spike’s head up so she could move to lay down next to him, Buffy stared into his eyes.  “No more fighting about this.  You have to take what you need.”

“Buffy, you keep insistin’ and I say no.”   He steeled his features, trying hard to stick to his guns.  He knew she was going to argue with him.  He just wasn’t entirely sure how she was going to play this.  He thought he was prepared for any argument she could come up with. He was wrong.

“Spike?  What if that had been our baby – what if . . .”  His look of utter disbelief stopped her flow of words.  

“Buffy, wha?”  Pausing, he tried to gather his thoughts.  “What are you sayin’?”

“I think it’s pretty obvious.  I’m trying to talk some sense into you.”  She moved closer to him, one arm around his waist, the other tucked under her head.  “You can be so stubborn, you know that?”

He chuckled, intoning, “You wanna be the kettle or the pot?”  

She pinched his ass in partial, unspoken response.  The spoken one was, “I’m being serious here, Spike.  You know it’s a possibility.  What would have happened then?  And what if the attacker had been human?  What then?”  She paused once more, letting her words sink into his thick head.  “Spike, you can’t keep sipping.  Two or three mouthfuls aren’t enough  and you really aren’t going to drain me, so stop worrying about it.”

His eyes watched her as she spoke, trying to gauge her conviction and sincerity.  They weren’t going to agree on this subject.  Maybe if he hadn’t know how badly she bled during her monthlies he might not be so stubborn about this and . . . he inhaled deeply.  The smells coming off her were delicious.  Anger.  Fear.  Arousal.  Buffy.  Mate.  And still bleeding heavily.

“Sweetheart.  Listen to me.  I’m not putting both of us at risk.”  He could feel the dissension rising within her, the argument coming back around to it again, so he cut her off before she could continue, “No.  Listen.  C’mon, kitten.”  Spike nudged her with his bad right hand, getting her to look up at him.  “He’s looking to unnerve us.  Knows you’ll cave before I do.”

“Cave?”  Her whole demeanor changed, her back instantly stiffening with pride and some other emotion Spike wasn’t quite ready to identify.  “What’s that supposed to mean?”

He paused, suddenly unsure of what to say and how to say it, without one of two things happening.  The first and the lesser of the two would be Buffy getting angry and taking it out on Angelus, the other being with him sleeping on the couch or worse, tossed out on his ass.  Drawing in very unneeded air, Spike looked into her eyes and for a split second thought about not answering her question, but then she leaned in and brushed a delicate kiss on his chin.  “He knows a part of you, sweetheart, knows how strongly you protect those you love and he knows you can get rattled when your heart is involved.”  

“He doesn’t know me anymore.”  Buffy ran her hand up his injured arm, finally curling around his neck.  “He doesn’t know me half as well as he thinks he does.  No one’s known me quite as well as you.  Even before you were chipped, you knew me.”   Resting her head against his chin, Buffy got as close as his numerous injuries would allow.  “So, since you know me so well, what will I do?”

He barked a little short laugh, his left hand worming its way down to cup her hip, then his lips were brushing a kiss over her hair.  “Probably what he least expects.  He knows something’s up with me, tha’ I’m not full strength.  

She thought for a minute, nestled in the circle of his arms, just breathing deeply.  “You know . . . he knows now you’re hurt for some reason.  He also knows about the chip.”  He just listened, knowing instinctively she was just thinking out loud.  “So. . . we play it like that, that you’re injured and still have the chip.  In the meantime, we heal you as quickly as possible and make arrangements to get rid of it.”

Spike didn’t say a word waiting patiently for her to finish.  “How long do you think it’ll be before any of the Aurelius vamps come visting?”

“Not sure.  Could be a week at the earliest, that and only depends on who’s closest.  If it’s Dru, last I knew she was back down in Brazil.  No one else is here in the States.”

“You sure about that?”  Her tone was gentler than the question, but he wouldn’t have taken offense anyway.  It had been a long time he’d been away from his side of the killing fields, his information could be wrong.

“No way of knowin’.  I know Dru’s not nearby.  Can’t tell so much o’ the rest.  Only Angelus is near.”  He wasn’t going to lie to her, they’d know the truth soon enough.

“Kay.”  Little kisses were laid on his bare chest, warming him all over.  “So.  How do you wanna get the chipectomy?  Wanna use a demon-friendly surgeon or call the Initiative?”

Despite his earlier stupidity, he’d been feeling kind of okay until she brought that up.  What a choice.  A surgeon who could easily botch the job or the sanctimonious bastards that had rendered him useless.   “Dunno.  We got a time limit on this?”

“Don’t you want it out?”  She was mystified by his unenthusiastic response.

“I do.  Jus’ don’ wan’ to be a vegetable after.”  Although Spike wanted the damn thing gone, did he want it badly enough to possibly face another of her exes?  They’d already survived the biggest hurdle of all – and it wasn’t Angel, because for some odd reason he still couldn’t fathom it was Xander.  If Buffy could face his daily disapproval, maybe seeing Cardboard wouldn’t be so bad.  There was a bigger hurdle to his getting the hardware removed.  That impediment was one fellow Englishman, – one Rupert Giles – ex-Watcher, and current father figure.

Spike knew he had to mention it, knew it wasn’t just about them.  This affected everyone in the house.  “What about Rupes?  Your Watcher is liable to have somethin’ to say.  And Dawn?  What about her and the witch?”

“Let me worry about Giles.”  She didn’t brush him off, though clearly she wasn’t worried about it.  “Dawn and Tara will be okay with it.”

“Not so sure the Watcher is gonna be okay with this.”  Spike was too tired to argue, which for him, had to be a first.  “Where’s m’blood, woman?”

Placing a kiss on his cheek, Buffy got up and helped him to a semi-sitting position.  Handing him the cooled mug of twice warmed blood, Buffy said, “I really don’t think Giles is gonna be all that hard to convince.”

Chapter Text

Book Two.  

Chapter 17.  The ragged edges of truth
    
Truth titillates the imagination far less than fiction.
    Marquis de Sade, L’Histoire de Juliette,
    ou les Prosperities du Vice, pt. 3.

Truth, like light, is blinding.  
Lies, on the other hand, are a beautiful dusk
which enhances the value of each object.
    Albert Camus, The Fall, p. 126

The truth is a snare; you cannot have it, without being caught.
    Soren Kierkegaard, The Last Years: Journals 1853-55

Truth uncompromisingly told will always have its ragged edges.
    Herman Melville, Billy Budd, Sailor.




Even though they’d given her permission to skip school, Dawn was up early.  The baby’s cries had woken her and she couldn’t really get back to sleep.  She could hear everyone else moving around downstairs, and she knew Spike was still in bed, yet there was no reason for her to be up.  It took her a while to finally decide she was getting up and by that time Buffy was in the shower, while both the baby and Spike were sleeping again.  

After using the bathroom in her mother’s old room, Dawn snuck inside Buffy and Spike’s room.   The baby was on his belly, a tiny little lump in the middle of the crib, his dark hair the only spot of color against the pale sheets and blanket.  Spike, on the other hand, was sprawled out on the bed, left arm flung wide while the right one was still propped up on one of the pillows.  He was sound asleep, his breathing very slow and steady, occasional rumbling noises emanating from his chest.  Dawn stood in the little patch of sunlight just watching him, weird thoughts running through her head.

I wonder if that’s why I sleep that way when I’m really tired . . . does he dream?  He stirred, his injured arm jerking with a muscle spasm, then settled quickly.  I really hope he’s not mad at me.  I don’t want him to be.  I can’t believe he got this hurt trying to protect me.  Is he crazy?  We could have just run away . . . he didn’t have to stay.  Oh god.  He could have been gone.  Dust.  Tears pooled in her big blue eyes and Dawn sniffled loudly in the quiet room.  

There was no change in his muscles, no change in his breathing to indicate he wasn’t anything other than asleep, yet Spike’s voice broke into her musings.  “Mornin’, Platelet.”

“Ack!”  Wiping the tears from her eyes, she sort of griped back at him, “Geez, Spike, you scared the hell out of me.”  

“Nice to know I still can.”  His groan of pain seemed to come from his toes and he stretched a bit, trying to ease the healing itch.  He hated this part of the rapid healing.  Felt like fire ants were crawling around inside his skin for days.  Least this time he had morphine to help.  When Glory had taken her frustrations out on him, he’d had to keep himself inside a bottle of whatever he could find.  Thankfully, this time he had the good stuff.  Right now he needed another shot of it.  His skin felt like it was on fire.

“Are you feeling any better?”  He’d almost forgotten she was still in the room.

“Eh.  Sort of.  ‘M all itchy.”  He was about to ask her to go get him something to soothe it, when her voice caught his attention.

“Why did you do it?”  

“Do wha’?”  He struggled to lift his head up and she scooted to his side, lifting him and piling the pillows behind him so that he was no longer flat on his back.

“Stay and fight.  Why?”  She sat down on the bed, one leg folded underneath her, staring at his still battered features.  

She had a look on her face that was so reminiscent of her sister he wanted to laugh.  He would have too, if it wasn’t the look he hated.  “Needed to make sure you were safe.  Couldn’t let anything happen to you.”

“But why?”  She looked away from him then, mumbling softly, “It might be better if I wasn’t here.  No one would get hurt then.”  

Without his enhanced hearing, he never would have heard her.  Her words went straight to his heart.  “Dawn.  Look at me.”  

The eyes that focused on his were swimming with tears and a very dark blue.  “Don’t think like tha’.  Your sis couldn’t take ‘nother thing goin’ wrong.  Couldn’t forgive m’self if somethin’ were to happen to either of you.”  

Her head shook in denial.  “Why?  I don’t do anything but make people hurt.   Glory beat your ass and sucked Tara’s brain because of me.  Buffy . . .”   The tears that had been threatening finally slid down her cheeks and when he reached out his hand to wipe them away, Dawn flinched.  “You shouldn’t. . . why did you do it again to protect me?  I’m not . . . I shouldn’t even be here.  All I do is destroy everything around me.”

He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  This couldn’t . . . “Niblet?  Wha’ are you thinkin’?  Wasn’t your fault at all what happened.  Not then, an’ not now.”  This time when he reached for her she didn’t flinch, she just collapsed against his side, her head resting on his chest.  “Not your fault, sweets.  None o’this.”  

Running his hand down her long brown hair, Spike wished for a moment that he could really put his arms around her, letting her cry on his shoulder like he did before Buffy came back.  Hugging her tighter with his arm, Spike kept up his litany, trying to comfort her.  She mumbled something else through her tears and he pushed her back a little, searching her face for signs of what she’d just said.

“Dawn?  C’mon.  It’s not your fault.”  Using his thumb to wipe her eyes, Spike tilted her face so she couldn’t avoid looking back at him, “Love you.  Do you know that?  Love you like no one else.  You’re my Niblet.”

He’d thought that would have calmed her, thought she was settling down, but at his softly worded declaration, Dawn burst into fresh tears.  She pulled away from him, getting off the bed, her hands balled into fists.  “Don’t love me.  It will just end up . . . just. . . how can you love me?”

“Because I do.”  His voice was calm and deep with emotions he rarely showed anyone.  She was so upset she was shaking and he started to get up out of the bed, realizing abruptly he was still bare-assed naked under the sheets.    “Dawn, c’mere.  C’mon.”

Despite her shaking her head no, Dawn sat back down on the bed, this time perched on the edge.   Spike reached for her hand, lacing their fingers together.  “I love you, Niblet.  Not the same way I love your sis, but, I love you.  Have to take care of the ones I love, an’ tha’s you.  Both of you.”

Her chin lifted in stubbornness, Dawn refused to look at him, almost growling out, “Doesn’t mean you’re supposed to die for us.”

“Yeah, it does.  If tha’s how I keep you safe, then tha’s wha’ it means.”  He wasn’t going to fail either one of them ever again.  If he had to dust to keep them safe, he would.  

“No, dammit!  Don’t you dare die on me.  I need you.  Stupid vampire.  I need you. . .” Her voice trailed off, after the outburst, her free hand brushing away more tears.  “You can’t die.  I need you.”

“Niblet.  You don’ need me.  You’ll be fine without me if it comes to it.  You did fine . . . this summer.”  She stared at him, not really believing what he was saying.

“No.  I didn’t . . . I wasn’t fine all summer.  My mother was gone. . . my sist –  god you are so stupid!  Joyce was dead and she . . . and Buffy and . . . the only one of my family that was left was you!  I wasn’t fine.  I needed my mother!”  Her voice had risen to an almost shriek, uncaring about the baby or anyone else overhearing.  “Damn you, Spike.  I needed both my parents!  My mother and my father!  I needed my mommy and my daddy.  And all I had was my father.”

The words had spilled from her in such a rush that she had no idea what she’d said, until she looked up into his face and saw that he’d heard her.


    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Hot water.  Yeah for showers and hot water.  Buffy was in an okay mood, well, a way better mood than yesterday. After Angel’s . . Angelus’ late night visit, she and Spike had stayed up a little bit longer and Buffy had finally convinced Spike to take more blood from her.  They’d also reached a decision about the chip.  They weren’t going to make inquiries, either about surgeons or the Initiative, until after Giles came home and they had a chance to confer with him.  For some odd reason, Spike insisted on telling Dawn, and he also wanted Tara to know before they got it removed.  Buffy had an idea that it was because he cared for the both of them and valued their opinions.

She wasn’t stupid enough to think Xander was going to agree with it at all. But right now, not so sure I care what Xander thinks.

The bathroom door was open just enough in case the baby woke up or if Spike needed her and her train of thought was interrupted by a sound she hadn’t expected.  Unable to hear clearly because of the running water, she quickly rinsed off, closing the taps.

Dawn’s voice came through the open doorway, though her words were muffled and her voice low, Buffy was able to distinguish only some of her words.  Then she heard, “Doesn’t mean you have to die for us.”

Grabbing a towel, Buffy stepped closer to the door in time to partially hear Spike’s response, “If tha’s wha’ it takes to keep you safe, then tha’s wha’ it means.”

Resting her head against the door jamb, Buffy almost had to hold herself up.  I’m an idiot, coz I know he loves me and god, I do love him back.  Dawn was speaking again, almost shouting, “Stupid vampire!  You can’t die on me.  I need you.”

You tell him, Dawnie!  I need him too.  Stupid vampire is right.  Can’t die on us.  We need you too much.
  Buffy heard his idiotic reply and then Dawn was shrieking at him, only this time it was things Buffy hadn’t heard from her sister before now.  Her own tears were sliding from behind closed eyelids as she listened to her sister.  “I wasn’t fine all summer.  My mother was gone. . . my sist, god you are so stupid!  Joyce was dead and she . . . and Buffy and . . . the only one of my family that was left was you!  I wasn’t fine.  I needed my mother!”   

Buffy had to stuff her fist in her mouth to stop her own sobs and she slid inside the open door, her eyes barely able to see the pair on the bed through her tears.  “Damn you, Spike!  I needed both my parents!  My mother and my father.  I needed,” Dawn’s voice broke and she collapsed in a heap, “my mommy and my daddy.  And all I had was my father.”

Buffy’s head snapped up in time to watch Dawn realize what had flown from her mouth.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The words had poured forth from her mouth in a torrent, heedless of the consequences, like water held back too long by a dam.

Dawn realized a split second too late what she’d just said.  Tears stopped and every muscle froze.  Spike was staring at her, almost studying her features.  Afraid to move, afraid to stay, Dawn felt the air behind her change, though before she could get up and run, Buffy was there with one hand on Dawn’s shoulder and the other clutching her towel.  Involuntarily Dawn dropped her head down, completely missing the look shared between the two adults.

Why can’t I ever learn to shut up?

No one said a word.  The room was very silent, the only sounds the rapid breathing of the two youngest occupants.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


He knew when she’d turned off the shower.  When she stepped onto the rug.  When she’d grabbed the towel.  When she started listening to Dawn.  When her own tears started to compliment her sister’s.  When she’d come back into their bedroom.

Even knowing all that, she still wasn’t the focus of his attention.  Dawn was.  Her words, her pain and her heartbreak were his focus.  And it narrowed even further at Dawn’s slip of the tongue.  He’d nearly said something harsh about Hank Summers, when the gist of her words caught him.  Dawn wasn’t talking about Hank – she was talking about him.  And she obviously never meant to say it out loud, because her face was more shocked than his.

Searching her face, Spike took stock of her features.  It had been a very long time since he’d seen himself in a mirror, but he knew his own face, knew when it looked back at him.  Why the bleeding hell didn’t I see this before?  Am I just as blind as the rest of those idiot Scoobies?  Dawn looked like his mother.  Raising his eyes to the green depths of his heart, Spike also saw Buffy’s features within her sister . . . No.   They weren’t sisters.  Not reallyThe sudden conviction of that notion wouldn’t be shaken.

Over Dawn’s head, Spike stared at Buffy, his eyes on hers.  He smiled, then mouthed, “I love you.” At sight of her answering smile and whispered, “I know” he turned his attention to . . . their child.

Reaching out his hand, Spike traced a finger down her nose.  “That’s mine.”

Dawn jerked her head up so fast she nearly ended up with Spike’s finger in her mouth.  Her raised eyebrow and expression weren’t his, which he pointed out by remarking, “That’s all your. . . Buffy.”

“My Buffy?”  Dawn finally found her voice.

He thought hard for a second, unsure what to say, just settling on, “Not sure how you wan’ to word it, pet.”

She was silent for long minutes, then finally on a deep indrawn breath, Dawn said, “You’re my parents.  My real honest-to-god-parents.”

When neither one said anything to refute her, Dawn continued, “I found it in the journals Wes brought.  I had to know.”

They shared another look over her head, while Spike said, “You took them from the Watcher’s.  Stole ‘em.”

Lying wouldn’t pay, not at this point.  “Sort of.  Wasn’t going to keep them.  I put back the first set I took.”

“It’s okay, Dawnie.  I guess I understand.”  Buffy sat down in front of Dawn, next to Spike.  “I think I would’ve done pretty much the same thing.”

Spike remained silent, knowing his actions probably would’ve been worse, but for once letting common sense rule his tongue.  Buffy leaned against his shoulder, her hand reaching out to hold onto her, well . . . sister really doesn’t fit any more does it?

“So what did you find?”  Buffy was curious now.

“They’ve been tracking Slayers for a really long time, and they’ve been trying to give them the key for almost as long, but, uh, something kept getting in their way.”

Somehow knowing this was going to end up as his fault even if it wasn’t, Spike asked, “An’ wha’ was that?”

“In the beginning it was because the Slayers weren’t strong enough, or they died just before the monks could come up with a form for the key.  But then it was because of a Dark Warrior who was destined to help a Chosen One.”  Dawn caught Buffy’s eye and they shared a smile.  “A Vampire who kept battling and defeating the Chosen Ones.”

“Been readin’ far too many of the Watcher’s books, there, sweet bit.  Lay off with the forebodin’ language, will ya?”  Spike had grimaced at her intonation, looking away from both the girls.

“I counted seven Slayers you fought – were there more?  Oh!”  She peeked at Buffy, then went on heedlessly, “Some Slayer you fought just before World War I?  She died of her injuries later.  So really, you already have a third.”

He growled at her then – a real honest to goodness growl.  Dawn realized she’d overstepped a line though she wasn’t really sure what it was.   Is he more upset about killing the slayer slowly or something else?

“How long have these blokes been followin’ me?”  He was aggravated and he wasn’t really sure what the real source of the aggravation was.

“Since the Boxer Rebellion.”  She couldn’t look at either of them, wary now about their reactions to what she was telling them.  The tension within Spike had grown considerably, especially since she’d mentioned him fighting slayers, and her sister. . . no, Buffy was just sitting there quietly taking all this in, not saying a word.  Which had her more wigged than she wanted to be.

“Bloody fucking hell.”  He was. . . he felt . . . he didn’t know what he was feeling.  Didn’t mind so much about Dawn being a part of him, though he really didn’t like the fact that the monks had been following his actions for years.

“It’s all in the journals.  Well, as much as they knew.  I wasn’t sure it was you until they found you again in New York, all decked out in leather and bleached hair.”  She tried for being as nonchalant as possible and somehow managed to achieve it.

“Niblet. . .”  His warning was clear.

“What?  What am I . . . ?”  His eyes shifted to the side, toward Buffy and Dawn finally realized what they’d been talking about.  “Oh.  Sorry Buff. . . ” She stopped talking, then in a very small voice said,“Mom?”

Buffy had only been half listening to their conversation, instead she’d just been watching the two of them, and hadn’t really heard what Dawn had just said. They really do look alike.  It was really scary how alike they were.  “It’s okay, Dawnie . . . I know.   It’s okay.”

She and Spike had talked about his past some, in the dark hours when they were the only two beings awake in Sunnydale.  He hadn’t been all true-confessions, though she knew him well enough to read between what he said and what he wouldn’t say.  This information from an independent source wasn’t that big a deal.  She wasn’t stupid, he couldn’t possibly have killed the only other two slayers he’d ever fought.  He was good, but killing every slayer he’d fought would mean he was the vampire equivalent of a slayer.  Although. . .

What had startled her was their resemblance.  Without much of a warning, and completely off topic from their prior conversation, Buffy blurted out, “You look just like each other.  You didn’t get anything from me.”

And if the situation wasn’t so serious, Spike would’ve teased her about the petulance of her tone.  “She did, love.  Got plenty from you.”

Buffy was shaking her head in denial.  Looking at the two of them with a new perspective, she had to admit it.  “How did we miss this?  Your noses, eyes, pretty much the structure of your faces, and Dawnie got your height.”  Her pout was adorable though Spike was ignoring it for now, beginning to point out all their similarities.

“Her mouth is all you, kitten.  Attitude.  Mannerisms.  She may look like me, but her personality is all you.”  

Opening her mouth to protest, Buffy was interrupted by Dawn, who snarked at both of them, “Sitting right here, in the room.  On the bed with you.”

“Sorry.  Our bad.”  Buffy glanced over at Spike who was watching Dawn with a strange look on his face.  

“You look like m’mum.”  He smiled then, a bit sadly, continuing, “She had hair like yours, only with more of a curl to it.  Long and dark, always wore it up.  Took it down only to brush . . . it was down past her waist.”  His voice trailed off and both girls held their breath, hoping he would continue, but he kept his silence.

Spike looked away, his eyes on a long dead vision, his mum with Gordie and Janet and. . .  His da, before they were all gone and just the two of them were left.   Buffy tilted her head at Dawn, silently asking her to move and when she did, Buffy shifted so she was facing Spike.  Her left hand reached out to cup his chin gently, drawing his gaze back to her.  For long seconds he was still not seeing her and Buffy was afraid he was going to shrug her off, when suddenly he was focused on her.  His brilliant blue eyes gazed into hers and Buffy’s eyes filled with tears at the expression on his face.

“Family.  Spike, we’re a family.”

“Yeah.”  He shook off the memories of his first family, smiling at her.  “Yeah.”

His hand wiped away tears she didn’t remember shedding and Buffy nuzzled a kiss into his palm.  Very slowly she inched closer to him, her words for his ears only.  “Yours, Spike.  We’re yours.  I’m yours.”

Resting his forehead against hers, his big hand still cupping her cheek, her hand now resting on his shoulder, Spike rumbled softly, “I love you, Buffy Anne Summers.  F’rever.”

Pulling her close, tucking her head under his chin so that her breath warmed the spot where his heart used to beat, Spike breathed deeply, raising his eyes to where Dawn stood watching them.

“C’mere, you.”  He rumbled at the teen, gesturing her forward with his left hand.  Buffy moved her legs, creating a spot for Dawn, who just put her head down on Buffy’s hip.  Spike smoothed out her hair, slipping the brown strands through his fingers.  Dawn wiped the tears from her eyes, while Buffy curled her arms around Spike.

His voice was low and deep, curling like warm liquid chocolate through both of them, the words a promise and an oath.   “Love both of you.  My girls.”

They were quiet for a long time, none of them willing to break the silence, until there was a rustling of sorts and the baby started crying.

Chapter Text

Book Two.  

Chapter 18.  Communication got me down.

The communication
of the dead is tongued with fire
beyond the language of the living.
    T.S. Eliot’s memorial inscription,
    Poet’s Corner,  Westminster Abbey (from Little Gidding)

Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth
belong to any human disclosure;
seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised,
or a little mistaken.
    Jane Austen, Emma

Women’s propensity to share confidences is universal.
We confirm our reality by sharing.
    Barbara Grizzute Harrison, Secrets Women Tell Each Other



He’d gotten precious little sleep.  He hadn’t expected to get much in any case, the news from home giving him more than enough reason for concern.  There was a sense of impending doom Giles felt he needed to avert that was causing him the most amount of worry.  Just over five hours ago, he’d been sitting in this same library, in nearly the same damned chair and the uneasiness hadn’t dissipated at all.  In fact, it had grown bigger, sort of like a spill of dark liquid leaching into a pristine white tablecloth.  

An hour ago, he’d gotten a phone call from Wesley, updating him on everything. Nothing was good.  The old adage no news was good news was being tested in this case.  There were no new developments and the status was still piss-poor.  Giles was beginning to think they were heading into deeper troubles rather than coming out of it all.  

He also wasn’t quite sure what they should do about Angel.  Angelus.  

It was almost beginning to not matter what they called him.  Neither one of his appellations fit him.  There was nothing angelic about the vampire.   But, really, old man, he could hardly walk around being called ‘satan’ or ‘devil’.  Even if those names fit him better.

Glancing down at the weighty book on the table before him, Giles shook his head and focused once again on the matter at hand.  At the moment he was searching out possible mentions of the monks or the Key in the Slayer Annals.  So far, it was a waste of his time, and he had no reason at all to continue searching, and he really . . . didn’t . . . What the bloody hell?
                
It wasn’t possible.  Has to be just a coincidence.   He was frozen in place, staring at the name on the page in front of him.  It was the list of Slayers from the year 1603 to 1699, including some potentials.  It couldn’t possibly be the same girl.  Had to just be a misprint or a similar name.  Yet the hair on his neck was rising and his stomach was telling him it wasn’t just a similar name, wasn’t a misprint.  Ignoring the looks his increasing agitation was garnering, Giles got to his feet and headed directly to the books he’d been reading the night before.

Flipping quickly through the pages, at first he passed right by the information he was looking for.  Heading back to his seat, the book in hand, the pages rustling loudly in his haste, Giles was mumbling to himself under his breath.  “Can’t be.  Got to be wrong.  Has to be wrong.  Just a . . .”

There it was.  1623.  Isabeau de la Fontaine, delivered of a son, after dying in the year 1622.  

Looking down at the book on the table, there it was again.  Isabeau de la Fontaine, potential, identified in the year 1619.  Never called as a Slayer.

Ripping off his glasses, Giles flipped a few pages back in the smaller book, finding another girl who’d given birth to a vampire’s child.  Bryn of Rhuddlan, died 1587, gave birth to two children, first in 1588 and then again in 1591.  Searching through the Slayer Annals, Giles found her identified as a potential in 1585.  

Only two so far.  Might just be a coincidence.  

Could be.

Though he really didn’t think it was.  

Sitting down heavily in his chair, Giles got set to cross reference all the girls.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


“Buffy?”  Tara’s voice broke into the other girl’s musings, drawing her back into reality.

“Hey.  What’s up?”  Damn.  Cornflakes are all soggy now.  Wrinkling up her nose at the lumpy mess, she got up from the counter, dumping the bowl’s contents into the garbage.

“Last night?  At the supermarket, Oz and I ran into Willow.”  Buffy looked at her, waiting for her to continue.  “She’s changed.”

“What do you mean?”  Pausing, she rambled, “Willow’s Willow, always the same.  Well not so much, she did change from high school to college girl and,” catching sight of the bemused look on Tara’s face, Buffy said, “Never mind.  Tell me.”

“I’m not sure what she did, but she’s not the girl I dated.”  Trying for composure, Tara inhaled deeply, continuing, “The thing is she’s done something.  She’s darker, you know?”

“Tara?  Try again, coz I’m not following you.”

“Right.  When we saw her I checked her aura, because, well, she looked different.  Her face was all white, all her color was gone and, and, her hair is shot through with black.  So I checked.”  

She now had Buffy’s full attention.  “Go ahead, tell me.”

“I got a glimpse of what she’d done.  It isn’t good.  She did something to call forth . . . I’m not certain, but whatever she did isn’t working the way she thinks it is.”  Tara took a deep breath.  “Whatever she did – the goddess – the response was ‘be careful what you wish for’.”

“Oh no.”    This didn’t sound too good.  “So this means?”

“That Willow’s either not prepared for the answer or, or she’s gotten exactly what she’s asked for.”  Tara was fiddling with the breakfast dishes, not really looking at Buffy while she explained her impressions.

“Which is?”  She’d stopped what she was doing, her attention fully focused on the other girl, realizing she was about to hear something she didn’t necessarily want to know about the girl who used to be her best friend.

“Something really not good.”  Purposefully unloading the dishwasher, Tara missed the narrowing of the Slayer’s eyes, her own agitation increasing every time she thought this through.  She’d spent half the morning debating with herself about telling Buffy and Spike her suspicions over what she’d inadvertently discovered about Willow and earlier, when she’d stopped outside their room, she’d heard Dawn’s voice, Tara had thought better of interrupting them.

“Tara?  What aren’t you telling me?”  Buffy had been watching her, realizing that Tara was very upset about what she was about to say.

Blowing out a breath, Tara said, “I think the reason why Spike got hurt is because Willow summoned the knights.”
    
Buffy stared at the witch, a hundred different thoughts racing through her head.  No, she wouldn’t do that, my Willow wouldn’t. . . you so sure about that, Buffy?  This is the same Willow that hurt your sister and her own girlfriend and brought you back from heaven. . . and who else has she been hurting?  What else has she done that you don’t know about?  This isn’t the same girl you first met five years ago. . . this is someone else.  Buffy got a faraway look in her eyes, staring into nothingness, not seeing the girl in front of her.  

“Does she hate me that much?”  Unaware that she’d said the words out loud, Buffy was startled back to herself by Tara’s soft hand on her arm.  

“I don’t think it’s you she hates.  I’m not sure what she’s feeling anymore.”  Tara watched carefully as Buffy snapped back to herself, concern for the other girl overpowering her own sense of unease.

“So why would she do something like that?  What’s the purpose behind summoning the knights?”  This was bewildering, Buffy couldn’t understand why someone would do something like that.  “The knights were there to hurt Dawn, so why would she summon them?”

Drawing Buffy toward the back door, Tara tried to settle her thoughts.  They were the only ones downstairs at the moment, Dawn was out with Casey, Wesley had gone to the Magic Box and Spike and the baby were still sleeping upstairs.  It was as good a time as any to talk about what she’d seen in Willow’s aura.  Before they knew it, the girls were seated on the back step, basking in the late October sunlight.  

“I’m not sure, not completely sure about this, so you have to, to just trust me on this, okay?”  Tara looked at Buffy, unconsciously wringing her hands, trying to come up with a way to voice her concerns.  Without waiting for a response, she tried again, ‘I just – the thing is,”  she sighed deeply, stilling as Buffy’s hand touched her arm, then Tara blurted out, “Her aura is dark and not good dark, sometimes dark can be good, like dark purple or dark gold or, dark blue and, and dark green.  But this was dark red and dark black and . . .”  

The steam seemed to go out of her and Tara slumped down further on the step she was sitting on, her hands clenched together tightly.  Bowing her head, hiding her face in her hair, her voice sounded very softly between them.  “I think Willow is trying to hurt Spike.  I think she tried to get his true face to show.”

The air was very silent, the street noises so very far away in that moment, like they belonged to another place and a different time, like the noises of everyday had no business being part of the conversation taking place on the back porch.  Neither girl moved, each of them lost in the enormity of what one had just confessed to the other.  

The truth isn’t always kind, nor is it caring of what was before or what will come after, only that it is heard.  Truth never has an easy birth.  Yet once it arrives, there is a feeling of rightness, a sense of having known what the truth is before it is even uttered, an inescapable moment, when the speaker and the witness know, deep in their souls, that a truth has been revealed.  

Buffy shivered, a chill working its way up her spine, dancing across every nerve.  Her voice, when she spoke after so long a silence, was even and uninflected, almost devoid of emotion.  “She wants to hurt him because of me.    Because I’m not what she wants me to be.  Because I haven’t gone to her or accepted what she did.  Spike may have been the target of her anger, but she’s really pissed at me.  Why else would she do what she did?”

There was no question about believing Tara, Buffy knew as soon as the other girl had spoken, that Tara was speaking truth.  Willow had done the summoning.  Had set into motion events that she couldn’t control . . . but hadn’t Willow always done that?  How many times had Willow felt slighted or wronged or betrayed in some way only to lash out when control of a situation escaped her?  When Oz left and she had no control over anything, Willow had lashed out and caught them all up in a spell that had colossal impact. . . and then, when she’d jumped . . . again, there was Willow with the non-acceptance.  

“Oh, god.  Tara. . . she’s. . . oh my god.  She’s going to keep going until something bad happens, right?”  Buffy turned wild eyes to the other girl, her hand clenching and unclenching around her wrist.  “What . . . she can’t.  I can’t lose him.  I . . .”

Tearing herself away from Tara, Buffy was through the back door before the other girl even realized she was gone.  The sound of feet pounding up the stairs was audible outside, then the sound of a door banging open echoed through the backyard.  Barely able to make out their voices, Tara could guess what Buffy had done upon entering the room.  

Dropping her head down into her hands, Tara tried to stop the tears, even all the while knowing it was futile.  


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


He’d taken the last of the liquid morphine after Dawn left the room earlier.  There hadn’t been all that much anyway and it was mostly just to calm the muscle spasms that had been wracking him since he’d drunk from Buffy at first light.  He’d gotten a concession of sorts from her, when he’d agreed to drink, he wasn’t going to take more than just little bits until her – on the condition she agree to wait –  until her courses were done.  She hadn’t liked his condition, in fact had almost started another argument about it, but he’d verbally boxed her into a corner and she had no choice.

They had enough human blood on hand anyway that he could, if he wanted to, gorge himself on, yet strangely enough he wasn’t all that hungry.  What he was, was itchy and sore and he could really use a good soak and he needed to wash his bloody hair.

It was easier right now to focus on the physical ailments rather than the other things that had gone on in the last forty-eight hours anyway.  At least the physical reminders were fading.  The other stuff . . . Spike groaned and rolled over onto his side.  Pretty much everything was healing, although he was still hovering near the halfway healed mark.  Buffy’s blood would do the trick.

The baby shifted in his sleep, rustling the blankets a bit.  Spike didn’t know much about babies, but he did know that two day old ones weren’t supposed to move around.  They were just supposed to lay there.  This one was restless.  Shifting about, snuffling in his sleep, he was unusually active.  Fair enough, child is of supernatural parentage, stands to reason something would be different about him. His parents were both master vampires, no doubt he’d gotten something from both of them, since they weren’t normal.

Which brought him back to thinking about his own . . . Dawn.  From the first moment he’d laid eyes on her, he’d known there was something about her that called to him, something on such a deep level that he’d never questioned it.  Just known she was somehow part of him – he’d never imagined that she literally was part of him.  She was his.

His daughter.

Part of him was beyond angry that the monks had planted the Gem here, specifically for him, to lure him in, then engineered other events of his unlife to suit their purposes.  He didn’t mind so much being love’s bitch – but he resented the hell out of being destiny’s plaything.  Part of him hated the monks.  They’d stolen something from him – and from Buffy, using The Initiative to do their dirty work, in turn stealing the blood and tissue samples from Initiative labs and . . . creating Dawn.

His anger didn’t matter then.

Wasn’t at all important.

Because every wrong thing the monks had done was outweighed by the one good thing they had done.

They’d given him Dawn.

His daughter.

And through her, the monks had given him a second blessing, because of Dawn’s appearance, he’d gotten the unattainable girl.  He’d gotten Buffy.

So the anger wasn’t important at all.

Spike just let it go, and like vampire dust drifting away, the anger disappeared.

When the baby had cried, after Dawn had dropped the bombshell on them, he’d realized yet another benefit.  Because of the monks, and Dawn, he and Buffy had the same chance that Angel and Darla had been given – and that, that was something he’d always wanted.  Home.  Wife.  Family.

Opening his eyes to stare at the crib, Spike watched Connor shift around again.  He was getting ready to let loose a full throated cry when big cool strong hands lifted him up to an equally strong cool chest.  Crooning softly, Spike laid back down on the bed, Darla’s son cradled protectively in his arms.  The baby settled down, mewled once, going right back to sleep.

“Your mum had the right way of it.  Rather than hurt you, she did the right thing, to protect you.”  His low voice rumbled in his chest and it wasn’t until his breathing hitched that Spike realized he had tears in his eyes.  “Much as I hated your mum half the time, she did the right thing.  Only thing she forgot was taking your idiot father with her.  But tha’s all right, got old uncle Spike to watch out for you.”

Brushing a hand down the baby’s back, he said, “Promise to the memory of your mum, and my daughter, I’ll do m’best to keep you safe.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Her feet hit the steps at a dead run, pounding at the same rate as her heartbeat.  What Tara had just said chilled her to the bones, and coupled with what Wesley had said last night, Buffy was nearly in a full blown panic.  

She knew it had taken a lot for Tara to admit that it was all Willow’s doing, to face the realization that Willow was at the root of what was happening now, the reason Dawn was in danger and Spike had nearly been dusted.  In fact, save for Angel going homicidal again, almost all the bad stuff that had been happening lately was all Willow’s fault.  Even the Huntsman’s appearance was her fault.

Buffy slammed through the door to their room, gasping breaths sucking in much needed air, her panic receding somewhat at finding the two of them curled up together on the bed.  Connor was sleeping in the crook of Spike’s arm, his nose pressed up against the vampire’s chest, Spike’s right hand resting lightly on his back.  Tears welled up in her eyes and she really wasn’t even sure why they did so.

Spike’s voice was soft in the room, trying not to disturb the baby sleeping in his arms.  “What’s wrong?”

“I. . . Tara thinks Willow cast a spell, did something to bring the knights here.”  Agitation was clear in Buffy’s voice and Spike opened his eyes to find her wringing her hands and pacing the room.

“An’ you came charging up here because?”  He wanted to know the real reason her heart was pounding like a trip hammer and her breathing was off.

“Spike, she wants to hurt you.  She wants you gone.  I can’t. . . I’m not, I can’t let that happen.  I don’t think I could survive that.”  Buffy hadn’t stopped moving, unable to sit still  or calm her panic.

“Kitten,” he paused, waiting for her full attention.  “Buffy, c’mere.”  Almost reluctantly she moved toward their bed, still unable to stop hyperventilating. “‘Member what you said ‘bout me?  That I wouldn’t go away even if you sent me?  How I’d keep at ya ‘til you took me back?   Buffy, c’mere.”

Holding his arm out, he gestured for her to come closer.  “Buffy.  I love you more than you understand.  If somethin’ were to happen – even if I got dusted, I’d find a way back.  ‘M not leavin’ you, kitten, ever.”

She moved onto the bed, Connor snuggled tightly between them, his arm covering them both, his hand firmly on her butt.  Buffy looked into his eyes, seeing again the look of fierce tenderness he held just for her, “I love you.  Have from the first.  Not goin’ to waste any more time.  Got you, Niblet, and spawn here to worry over.  Not goin’ w’out a fight.”

Her hand reached out to cup his cheek and Buffy felt the walls around her heart crumbling away to nothing.  “God, Spike – how could I not love you?”

Spike’s slow grin warmed her heart.  Not quite how he wanted them said, but he’d take this until she was ready to say the others.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The phone ringing was an annoyance her sleeping mind didn’t want to deal with, so she tried ignoring it.  It would ring for a while, then stop for a little bit, then start ringing again.  Really, couldn’t you just leave me alone?

Groaning and rolling over at the same time, Willow finally gave in and reached for the phone.  ‘What is it now, Xander?”

There was silence for a moment, then his voice drifting over the line asked, “How did you know it was me?”

“Xander?  It’s a witchy thing.”

“Oh.  I thought maybe you got caller ID.”  There was a hint of a tease in his voice, but Willow wasn’t in a playful mood.

“What do you want, Xander?”  Her exasperation was clearly audible, even to Xander.

“Geez, Wills, you could be less happy to hear from me you know.”  Slight hurt came over clearly despite the phone line and Willow winced a bit.  She was being a little too mean to him.

“Sorry, Xand.  Have a bit of a headache.  Not feeling so chipper.”  Sitting up now, Willow twirled the phone cord around her fingers, “So what’s up?”

“Dunno if anyone’s called to tell you, but Angelus is on the loose and possibly on his way to Sunnydale.”  Willow’s entire body stiffened, every nerve on alert.

“What happened?”  Willow’s voice was eager, impatient for Xander’s explanation.

As he launched into what happened, Willow sort of turned him out, the beginnings of a plan formulating in her head.  Angelus is back.  I’m the only one with the restoration spell,  and . . . he’s going to come looking for me.  He’s going to try and kill me.

“Xand?  Does anyone have an idea if he’s coming here soon?”

“I haven’t talked to Buffy since last night.”  Not wanting to tell Willow about what had happened between him and Anya, he focused instead on something else that bothered him enormously.  “Wills?  Are you sure you did this spell to bring Buffy back correctly?  She’s all on board with the Spike is good train and I don’t get it – unless it’s some spell you  did that went all wonky.”

Willow’s anger coiled and wound through her, rattling the edges of her nerves.  The snap in her voice got his attention though, penetrating his usually slow wits.  “No, Xander.  That’s not me.  I didn’t make any mistakes.”

“Okay.  No need to get all huffy with me.”  Xander’s voice held a trace of fear, though he knew Willow would never hurt him.  “Just thought you should know.”

“Thanks, Xander.  Nice to know someone is still my friend.”  The bitterness in her voice was clear and something Xander couldn’t let go unremarked.

“C’mon, Wills, you know I’ll always be around.”  

“I know, Xander.”

With a promise to meet him later at the Magic Shop, Willow hung up the phone, her mind running through numerous situations and scenarios.  How to keep Angelus off my back with out becoming dinner?

Focusing a bit, Willow held out her hand, willing a small ball of sunshine into existence.  Not satisfied with that, she breathed out some Latin, changing the sunlight to flame, watching it dance across her hand.  Closing her hand into a fist, Willow smiled slightly.

Chapter Text

Book Two.  

Chapter 19.  Knowledge is power.

A single conversation with a wise man is better than ten years of study.
    Chinese Proverb

You can discover what your enemy fears most
by observing the means he uses to frighten you.
    Eric Hoffer




Wesley paced along the length of the small hangar, waiting for the plane carrying Rupert to debark.  His connecting flight from Los Angeles had arrived ten minutes ago and the passengers were about to . . .  And here are the first ones now.

He’d offered to get Rupert after Buffy had slightly balked when Spike had said the two of them would go.  It was clear to all of them but her that Spike was just about fully healed, even the bruises were gone, although Buffy wasn’t completely convinced.

So that was how Wesley found himself waiting for Rupert.  It was also how he and Buffy had been patrolling along with the ridiculous Buffybot Spike had had commissioned.

He couldn’t possibly imagine what Spike had been thinking. . . well, actually he could, which just made the entire situation quite funny.  Spike’s expression had been priceless when Buffy jeeringly referred to the thing as “Skirt girl.”

Tara and Dawn had collapsed in a fit of giggles while the vampire had just stalked from the room, imprecations falling from his lips.

“Wesley?”  Giles’ voice broke into Wesley’s musings and he turned to greet the older man.  

“Hello, Rupert.  How was your flight?”

“Thankfully uneventful.”  Giles searched Wesley’s face, noting the fatigue around his eyes.  “Not sleeping well?”

“Hardly sleeping at all.  While Angelus has been quiet, we fear he’s solidifying his position by taking over already organized nests.”  Wesley paused as they shouldered past some travelers, then resumed talking once they were outside the airport.  “Spike is back on his feet, which is good news.  But no one’s heard from Willow.”

Glancing sideways at his companion, Giles commented wryly, “Obviously not a good sign.”

Without looking at his fellow Englishman, Wesley nodded.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Dawn was sitting on the floor of the living room, the television on, Connor on a blanket beside her, phone at her ear, chattering away with Casey, while Buffy was in the basement doing laundry.  Tara was off at late classes and Spike was upstairs when Wesley and Giles came through the door.

Barely registering their presence, Dawn waved hello, going right back into her conversation.  Motioning Giles into the kitchen, Wesley offered hm a drink, explaining, “Dawn’s got a boyfriend.  She spends a fair amount of time attached to that thing.”

Before Giles had a chance to comment, Buffy was in the kitchen, hugging him.  “Hey.  Welcome back.  How was dreary old London?”

“Not so dreary.  Then again, I was hardly outside at all.  Spent most of my trip in the Council libraries, in fact.”  He tried maintaining a straight face, except that Buffy’s welcome was far too enthusiastic for him to remain stoic.

“Right, go Giles with the researchy trip.  So.  You gonna tell us all the good stuff?”  Buffy reached around Giles, opening the refrigerator, grabbing a bottle after glancing up at the clock.

“I thought perhaps I’d wait until everyone is assembled, rather than go over this numerous times.”  Giles watched her closely, noting that the gauntness and shadows that had clung to her seemed to be easing somewhat.

“How are you doing?”  Giles wanted to know and it seemed like now was a good time to ask.

Putting the bottle on the stove to warm, Buffy stole a glance toward Wesley, then shrugged.  Very softly she said, “I’m doing okay.  Was afraid for a little bit that I’d lose Spike and Dawn, but I’m okay.”  Smiling at him brightly, Buffy continued, “Not perky Buffy yet, though I’m working my way toward sometimes chipper.”

Checking the bottle’s temperature, Buffy put it back into the nearly boiling water, smiled at Wesley, saying cryptically, “He’s a bit late. . . wonder why?”

Wesley’s answering smile was a bit lopsided, although his response was equally cryptic.  “He’s been going a bit longer every time.”

Just then an ear splitting wail rang through the house and two things happened at once – Dawn yelled “Buffy!” and thumping feet were heard on the stairs.

Spike’s voice reached them.  “Niblet, instead of addin’ to the racket, pick up the sprog an’ bring him inside.”

To which she replied, “I’m on the phone.”

Which just caused the other two in the kitchen to laugh, though Giles failed to see the humor in any of it.

Spike entered the kitchen with a caterwauling Connor cradled to his chest, a look of pure chagrin on his features.  ‘Kitten, tha’ girl needs to get of ‘er butt and take care of the sprog.”

Realizing the kitchen was more occupied than he thought, Spike said, “Never mind.  We’ve the convention here already.  ‘Lo, Rupes.”   Handing off the infant to Buffy, Spike perched on the counter.  “How was the old sod?”

“It was fine.  What I saw of it in any case.”  Giles realized that only Tara was missing from this group that he needed to update so he asked, “When will Tara be returning?”

Spike answered, without taking his eyes away from where Buffy was cuddling Connor, “Not long.  ‘Bout half an hour at most.  Got lots to share, Watcher?”

“I do and I’d rather do this once.”  He was tired and he wanted to get into his own bed and sleep until sometime late tomorrow morning.

Wesley asked, “Is she coming home right after classes?”

“Don’t rightly remember,” was Spike’s idle response, then he shook off his reverie.  “Think she an’ dogboy were supposed to be here for movie night.”

“Dog boy?”  Giles looked between the other two Englishmen, clearly not understanding.

“He means Oz.”  Buffy’s voice was laced with something Giles couldn’t quite pick up on, he thought it might be confusion, though he just discounted it as his own misreading of the entire conversation.

“Oz and Tara are –  getting along?”

Spike choked back a snorted laugh, saying, “S’right Watcher.  Go away for a bit an’ the whole soddin’ hellmouth goes a bit wonky.”

At Giles’ completely baffled look, Spike and Wesley filled him in on all the details of what he’d missed while Buffy listened, feeding Connor.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Two days she’d been working diligently, relentlessly perfecting the spells and glamors she was going to need to protect herself from Angel.  She’d known as clearly as her own name, he was coming for her.

No one else could perform the soul restoration.  No one else knew it.  She wasn’t going to do it.  Wasn’t even going to give the spell to Buffy so that someone else could try.  She also wasn’t going to wait while Angel played his stalker game.  No.  Going to take control of the whole situation.  Maybe. . .  Angel will kill Spike and then I’ll take care of Angel – make him all poofy and everything will be like it should be.  I’ll have Tara back and Buffy will be my best friend again and life will be good.  Yeah.  That’s what I’m going to do.

Mind firmly made up, Willow went back to studying the books strewn across her bed.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Dark blue eyes framed by inky black lashes surveyed the room, idly noting the broken porcelain bits and tattered lace littering the floor.  Dainty feet pirouetted round the room, snippets of songs bouncing off the blood splattered walls.  A delicate, deceptively fragile ivory hand cupped the cheek of her latest find, a luscious little girl wrapped in layers of silk and lace, then pulled back, leaving a line of crimson across one cheek.

“Mmmmm.  Mummy likes that . . . lovely pretty ribbons of red dancing all about, curling round.”  A cool tongue licked a path from a puckered nipple upwards, pausing to nibble delicately at the throbbing pulse, lapping at the blood pooling in a hollow cheek.  “Lots of pretty ribbons for Mummy.  Does precious kitty want to play?”

Sharpened nails slid down the mostly naked torso, tweaking already engorged nipples, then dipping lower, lower still.  The form beneath the questing hand was quiet, the only sounds gasping, panting breaths as cool blood-slick fingers slithered downwards.  Dipping two fingers into the warm pussy of her latest prize, Drusilla laughed softly as her toy’s hips raised up, the girl silently begging for more.

“That’s it, little kitty cat, purr for Mummy.”  Sinking her fangs into the breast in front of her, Drusilla stilled, taking long gulps, then stilled again as she felt the silent pull, the feeling of . . . home. . . of Daddy. . .  It was not the first time she’d felt it, but this was by far the strongest; cocking her head to the side, Drusilla listened to the call of her Sire, a call only she could hear. . .

Pistoning her fingers in the toy’s warm pussy, Drusilla growled her joy at the thrumming in her veins.  Ripping her mouth away, she cooed her delight, forgetting about the willing body beneath her hands.  “Daddy’s home, little pussy. . . pssssssss my little pussy shall be just for Daddy now.”

Running her tongue over the bucking form of her latest human, Drusilla singsonged into the girl’s flesh.  “Daddy’s home. . . Daddy’s home. . . and he wants his little girl.”

Watching now as her human bucked and writhed in orgasm, Drusilla smiled.  “Yes. . . little pussycat shall be Daddy’s prezzie.”
                        

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Buffy was changing Connor’s diaper, something Giles absolutely never envisioned his slayer doing;  Tara and Oz were clattering in the front door, yet his full attention was on the two figures on the floor.  Buffy was kneeling by the fireplace, Connor on his blanket and Buffy was actually, evidently happily, changing the infant’s nappy.  He shook his head, trying to come to terms with this vision.  He’d thought about waiting to give them his biggest discovery in private, but the sight in front of him had him so rattled that Giles just blurted it all out without thinking.

“You aren’t the first, you know.  There have been other Slayers who had children.  It’s a rare occurrence, I’ll grant you that, yet it has happened.”   He paused when Buffy looked at him, her eyes calmly digesting this information.  Spike had stilled at the first sound of his voice, lowering the volume on the television, although gradually everyone present had focused on his words, each of them anxiously awaiting whatever else was about to escape from his lips.

“The last slayer to have a child was actually pregnant when she was called.”  Remembering what had happened to her, Giles rushed on, “Although she wasn’t the first.  What is more remarkable were the others.”

“What others?”  Buffy shared a look with Spike, knowing which slayer Giles had been referring to and why he’d nearly tripped over himself to skip the story of Spike and Nikki Wood.

“The ones who managed to fall in . . . the ones who weren’t called but were identified as potentials and their fates.”

Spike got up off the chair, going to stand beside where Buffy and Connor were, his hand unconsciously stroking her hair.  “Go on, Watcher, may as well finish it.”

“The information regarding vampire pregnancies was fairly easily found, however my research did turn up an interesting fact I’m sure none of us considered.  The males are all of the same line.  They are all Aurelians.”

Buffy’s hand reached up to clasp Spike’s and their fingers entwined, his thumb brushing across the back of her hand.  It was his voice that asked the question they were both thinking, “Why’m I gettin’ the feeling there’s more to this story?”

“Because there is.”  Giles focused his full attention on the couple in front of him, fully aware what he was about to tell them could literally change their lives.

“Six well documented cases of vampire pregnancies, all of them human girls with Aurelian  males.”  He ticked them off one by one on his fingers.

 “Ariadne of Crete, died in 1137, had two children, one in 1138 and another in 1142;”

“Amalie of the Franks, died 1222, had four children, 1224, 1226, 1227, and the last in 1230;”

“Sorcha of Clan MacDonald, died in 1282, had three surviving children 1284, 1285, and 1286;”

“Miriam of the City of Grenada, died 1301, one child 1303;”
                                
“Bryn of Rhuddlan, died in 1587, had two children born in 1588 and 1591; and the last recorded was Isabeau de la Fontaine, died 1622, one child in 1623.”

The room was quiet, none of those present willing to make a sound.  Buffy couldn’t look at Spike, afraid of what emotions she would find on his features.  She could feel his eyes on her, could feel his tension in the stiffening of his muscles and before she could risk a glance upwards, Giles was speaking again.  

“It was Isabeau that lead me to the second part of this, the other half of this puzzle.  Isabeau was identified as a potential slayer in 1619.  She was never called.  Bryn was identified as a potential in 1585.  All the others I mentioned were identified within five years of their first deaths.”

Spike was staring down at Buffy, willing her to look up at him, which she finally did when he unconsciously tugged on her hand.  The fierceness of the look in his eye coupled with the set of his jaw loosened the coils of fear that had settled in her belly.  Buffy smiled up at him and she watched as the ferocity grew.

Heedless of the small drama being played out on the floor of the living room, Giles finally spoke again.  “The as of yet unrecorded vampire pregnancy took a bit more uncovering.  Darla and Angel.  Darla was turned by the Master – do you know when?”  At Spike’s shaken head, Giles said, “I believe it was 1609.  She was an indentured servant, actually working as a whore, just as the rumors implied.  If she is who I now believe her to be, she was born Darla Witherspoon, identified as a potential in 1602, who ran away from home when the Council attempted to approach her in England.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Willow was standing in the middle of Restfield, working on perfecting her ability to conjure fire out of thin air.  She’d been practicing outside now for about an hour, leaving the safety of her parents home when one of the curtains got singed.

The fireball spell was proving trickier than she’d imagined, working well only about a third of the time.  The sunshine spell was fine, in fact was better than fine, as the vampire dust at her feet attested to.  Transmuting the energy from sunshine into flame wasn’t as easy, and for all of her hard work, Willow was no more accurate than when she first started.

Why isn’t this working?  This should work without a hitch – so what’s the damn problem?  Holding her palm open, Willow blew out a breath, breathing life into the invocation.  A tiny pulsing light bathed her pale features, casting almost noon-time shadows as it flittered above her head.

Willow stared up at the light for long moments, contemplating the sight overhead and the nature of fire.  Think, Willow . . . what is it that . . . sunlight – glass – dry leaves.  Is that?  No.  Too complicated and it’ll take too long.  Think.   Put your thinking cap on and work this darn thing out.

“Sunlight to flame . . .”   Pacing back and forth, Willow started muttering chants beneath her breath, trying to come up with one that would be simple and effective – and fast.  “Sunlight to flame. . . sunlight to flame, never go out in rain.  Nope.  That’s just silly.  Flame, game, same, name, dame, claim, fame, tame. . . nothing fits.”

A low laugh echoed off the marble surrounding her and Willow’s head snapped up, trying to pinpoint from which direction the sound originated.

Glancing overhead, Willow uttered a single word – “Widen” and the area bathed in light enlarged.

Casting a wary eye all around, Willow waited, instinctively knowing nothing excited Angelus quite the way fear did.

Long minutes passed, or so it seemed, without either adversary speaking.  Willow crossed her arms over her chest, a bored expression drifting across her features, hiding her internal agitation well.

She knew what he was trying to do.  He was trying to get her to panic, to leave the safety of the sunshine.  Not gonna happen, big guy.  I’m way smarter than you – can so outplay your game right now.

Angel was impressed.  Little Red was all grown up, trying to play with her elders.  He could feel the power pulsing within her and he could also sense the deep well of anger nearly swallowing her.  She was . . . magnificent.  Or she will be when she’d fully come into her power.

Oh boyo, would ya look at that one.  She’s a bright dark one . . . an dorcha geal realta.  She’d make a right fine vampire.
  He laughed again, for the joy of watching her and the thrill of chasing her.

She’d expected him to laugh, yet strangely wasn’t fazed by his mirth at all.  Unlike before, when by now she would’ve been a babbling mess, Willow was determined to remain silent.  

“Well, well, well.  Look at how little Willow has grown.  Not scared of me either.  That’s such a shame.  I must be losing my touch.”  He paused, watching her try to pinpoint his location.  She aimed a small ball of sunshine at a spot, but he’d already moved from there.

“That’s not very sporting now, is it?  And all this time I thought you liked me.  Was all that an act for Buffy’s sake?”  She launched another one at him, yet again, he’d moved before she could narrow down his position.

“Not a very nice greeting for someone who came to town just to see you.  I was expecting something less hostile.  I mean really, Willow?  Where’s the love?”

She was looking off to her left when she finally spotted him.  Angel was leaning against a crypt in a deceptively casual pose, his arms crossed as he leaned back, his ankles crossed as well, a slight smile playing on his face.  He was hidden just enough from the sunshine to ensure his safety and had waited patiently until Willow turned around.

“Gotta say, I’m liking the new look.  Treading a bit on the dark side, aren’t you?”

Willow arched a dark brow, holding her silence.  “So tell me, Willow – how come you’re out here all alone?  Buffy desert you?  Hmmm?”

He paused, staring her down, willing her to say something, but she held her tongue.  

“Where’s your boy?”  He sniffed, inhaling deeply, his inhalation ending in a surprised spluttering laugh.  “Oh, I’m sorry . . .  Should be asking where’s your girl.  Willow, I’m surprised – an innocent girl like you?  What are the neighbors saying?”

His grin got wider, watching as her composure started to crumble.  “So, Willow, don’t you just love the taste of a juicy wet pussy?  Just where is your girl?  Oooohhhh, is she the tasty one living with Buffy?  Wonder if she and Spike share?”

Willow’s resolve wavered and she sent a ball of sunshine winging toward Angel, but he laughed, disappearing into a crypt before the light could hit him.

His cruel and callous laughter echoed around the interior of the mausoleum, bouncing back at her from all sides, and its echo still rang in her ears as she raced home.
          

Chapter Text

Book Two.  

Chapter 20.  Wisdom lingers

A little knowledge that acts
is worth infinitely more than much
knowledge that is idle.
    Kahlil Gibran, In A Second Treasury of Kahlil Gibran

Our most bitter enemies are our own kith and kin
Kings have no brothers, no sons, no mother!
    Honoré De Balzac, Catherine de Medici expliquée, Souverain





Darla had been a potential.  

It explained so much about her, who she was, why she was so formidable, and why, years after she’d dusted, Darla’s actions and memory still haunted Buffy.   It also explained why the Master had turned her, why Angelus and the rest of them were so strong, why they rose to master vampire status so quickly.  Even poor Drusilla – poor Drusilla?  Where the hell did that come from, Buffy?  Buffy shook her head in askance at her own thoughts.  Even Drusilla must have benefitted from the infusion of potential slayer blood.  

Glancing up at Spike, she wondered just how much her blood affected him.  She knew it was powerful.  He’d said so more than once, but she wondered what the long term effects might be on him.  Would he be stronger?  Would he be quicker to heal with regular infusions of her blood?  Almost guessing the train of her thoughts by the expression on her face, Spike knelt down by her side, pulling her into his embrace.  His voice was a low hum in her ear, his words whispered so that only she could hear him.  

“Explains a lot now, what Rupert’s sayin’.  Never would’ve imagined it.  Darla always was a right bitch, and more powerful than she looked.  Downright scary sometimes.”  

Wesley was staring down at the baby, who was wriggling around on the blanket, Buffy’s hand covering his belly.  “So the boy has slayer and vampire strength in him.”

Giles cleared his throat, preparing to speak, when Dawn’s voice broke through the heavy atmosphere.  “Buffy?  What does that mean?”  

Oh god.  Dawn.  Buffy looked at Spike, both of them realizing at that instant that not only was Connor the child of a Slayer and a vampire, but so was Dawn.  The panic in her voice was clear, at least to both of them, although no one else in the room caught the emotion.  

“Niblet?”  Spike’s gaze shifted to where she stood in the doorway, phone in hand and a concerned look on her face.  He could hear the buzzing of the disconnection from where he was and he got to his feet, walking toward her.  “C’mon, sweet bit, hang up the phone.”

He took the phone from her, hanging it up on the receiver, leading her to the couch.  “Why don’t we let Giles tell us what it might mean before we all go off the deep end.”

“I’m not sure what it means.  Most of the children were out of the Council’s – their fathers,” The former watcher faltered for a moment, then continued.  “It appears that the children were spirited away for their own safety.  One of the girls – Sorcha of Clan MacDonald – one of her children, a boy by the name of Seamus was taken into custody by the Council.  He died while in the Council’s custody and both of his parents disappeared with their other children shortly after.”

“There’s no records of what happened to the others.  They just simply disappeared and there were no details surrounding the rest of their lives.”  His comments were greeted with silence, Buffy and Spike lost in their own thoughts concerning both the children.

Buffy lifted Connor off the floor, holding him against her breast.  Spike pivoted to face Giles, tension radiating off him in waves as he partially blocked Giles’ view of the two Summers girls.

Giles, sensing the impending fight, raised his hands in an effort to calm Spike’s temper.  “Relax.  The Council has no knowledge of Connor’s existence – or his lineage.  And,” he added, “I felt no compelling need to enlighten them.  The baby should be safe for the time being.”

“As safe as he can be with his insane father sniffing around.”  Dawn’s voice was laced with sarcasm and it was Wesley’s quietly spoken words that shocked them all.   

“Until we can eliminate the threat Angelus poses, hiding Connor might not be a bad idea.”

“Eliminate?”  Tara questioned him while Buffy and Spike shared a long look.

“One way or another we are going to have to deal with Angel.”  Giles responded to Tara’s question – his attention caught by the sight of his Slayer holding onto the baby while Spike looked down into her eyes.

“Your decision, Pet.”  They both knew Spike’s carefully worded statement pertained to Dawn as well as Connor and that admitting it out loud was just going to just add to the confusion and turmoil of the moment.  

Buffy shook her head, refusing to think about letting either of them go.  “No.  Not now.  He’s still safe here with us.”

The unspoken second half of that was Dawn would still be safer with them was clear, at least to Spike and his eyes only wavered from hers to glance briefly down at Dawn, who was watching their exchange very carefully.  He smiled at the teenager, then shifted his gaze back to the other Englishman.  “Right then, Rupes, what else have you got?”

Giles motioned Spike to sit, himself moving to take the chair Spike had vacated earlier.  This next part was going to be tricky, Giles didn’t for once fool himself about that and he braced himself for the outcry and the outright refusal he was certain to encounter.

“I did some additional research while I was in the Council’s library, following what happened with Dawn and the knights.”  Buffy sat down on the coffee table, angled toward Giles, while Wesley settled against the fireplace and the others found seats in various spots around the room, realizing this was going to be an involved discussion.

“Spike’s injuries while protecting Dawn from the knights could have been avoided.”  Giles knew he was drawing this out, prolonging the moment – though he couldn’t for the life of him just open this up for discussion, without some sort of introduction.

“Not bloody likely.  Got this hardware that prevents certain actions.”  Spike’s tone of voice, and his words, cut through the room, and Giles had his opening.

Throwing a somewhat grateful gaze in his direction, one he hoped Spike didn’t incorrectly interpret, Giles said, “Well, yes, that is true.  So now I believe it’s time to discuss the chip and its removal.”

Instead of the upheaval and outrage he fully expected and had doubly prepared himself for, his statement was greeted with complete and utter silence.  So much so that the only noise was Connor’s quick inhalations and the ticking of the clock on the wall.  No one moved and no one spoke.  

Time crept forward slowly as Giles waited for the hue and cry of denials that never came.  His gaze moved from Spike’s still figure standing in the middle of the room to Buffy’s seated form.  Dawn had shifted forward, as did Wesley, but like Tara and Oz, neither spoke.  There was a quiet giggle, and Giles looked about for the source, when it was joined by another low chuckle and all eyes were riveted on the blond couple.  Buffy looked up at Spike, who turned to face her, amusement playing about his lips and her stifled giggle broke into a full laugh.  

Misinterpreting the reason behind Buffy’s laughter, Giles attempted to interrupt her, but it proved impossible as she sank further into mirth.  

Finally, after long minutes of relieved glee, Spike’s voice finally broke through enough to calm everyone else’s growing concern.  “Thought we were goin’ to have a hell of a time tryin’ to convince you.”    

He chuckled again, looking toward the love of his entire existence and smiled at her wide grin.  She opened her mouth to speak and another series of giggles erupted.  “Spike thought you would be the one to object.”

Giles trained his eyes on both of them, his senses suddenly alert.  “You’ve talked about this?”

“Just Spike and I.  Kinda wanted to wait until you were back.  Except I sort of made up my mind while Spike was still out of it.”  Buffy’s voice was steady, no hesitation or doubt present.

Spike braced himself for the arguments from the others in the room, and although he hoped there’d be none, he expected more than a token resistance to their decision.

“Have . . . have  you decided how?”  Tara’s voice broke the silence – and, it seemed, everyone’s reluctance to speak, because Wesley then asked, “Is removal even possible?”

Dawn’s comment was, “About time the stupid thing came out.  Stupid thing to do to a vampire anyway.  What were they trying to do?  Create some controllable demon army?”

“Bit?  That’s exactly what they were plannin’.”  Spike addressed her comments first, while Buffy fielded the others.

“Not sure if it can be removed, but we need to find out.  Tara?  Do you think you and Giles could check out magical means?  We have a couple of options – either the Initiative or demon-friendly surgeons.”

“There’s always Dr. Thomas.  He might be able to help.”  Oz’ quiet voice drew Spike’s attention.

“Who’s that?”  

“He’s the dude that fixed you up.  Works at Sunnydale Memorial.”  Oz leaned forward a little bit, his gaze intent on the vampire.

Giles surged to his feet, heading for his carry-on bag.  “I brought a list of surgeons.  I’m not certain he’s on it.”

“Might not be listed in Sunnydale.  He’s from Pennsylvania originally.  Somewhere near Hershey Park, I think.”

Wesley said, “There’s a fair number of demon-friendly medical personnel in Los Angeles also, if you want to travel.”

“No.”  Spike’s one word answer was softened when he continued, “Don’t want Angelus catchin’ wind of this – so it has to happen here – can maybe hide one or two people comin’ into Sunnyhell, but me leavin’?  He’d know it quick enough.  ‘M not leavin’ town for this.”

“Angelus?  What’s he got to do with this?”  Obviously there was something else he was missing, because Giles was suddenly confused.

“He knows about the chip, and he would be just twisted enough to send humans after Spike.  Plus he knows Spike was injured.  What he doesn’t know is how or why – and he can’t know or find out the real truth about Dawn.”  There was a steely quality in Buffy’s last statement, almost as if she were warning the others.

“So we are going to find a way to remove the chip before Angel realizes it’s happening.  And we’re going to confuse the hell out of him or at least try.”  Buffy looked toward Giles, realizing he’d been too quiet in his lack of objections.  “Giles?”

“Hhmmm?”  Recognizing his distracted air had the feeling of disapproval, Giles shook himself.  “Perhaps then a ruse to keep him occupied would be in order.”

“Huh?”  Buffy looked to Spike for a translation while Wesley capitalized on the thought, his own internal cogs shifting into motion.

“The Buffybot.”

“‘Splain.”  Was Buffy’s clipped command.  

“Angel knows about the chip.  Knows Spike is injured.  Do we know how closely he’s watching us?”

“He tried being all stalkery guy again, but Tara saved the day.”  Buffy beamed over at her friend, a big smile on her face, to which Tara blushed in response.  “Oh! Giles  – we need an eternal source of power – got one handy?”

“Of course, Buffy, I packed one in my bags.”

It took a moment for Giles’ snarky comment to register, though when Dawn and Tara both giggled, it was all over and the room’s occupants all laughed.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Willow was seething.  Her anger and resentment were almost palpable, another presence pacing along side her.  She did not like this feeling.  Angelus had, despite all her efforts to the contrary, managed to get under her skin earlier in Restfield.

He’d made her feel like stupid, powerless Willow and she really didn’t like that.  She was supposed to be the one in control; the cool-under-fire one who didn’t panic when the boogeyman came calling.

All those words from him still stung, even though he hadn’t been that bad.  It had still shaken her.  The fact that he’d been able to creep up on her and get close caused a major case of the wiggins every time she really thought about it.  

The more she thought about it, the more she just got aggravated.  And how come no one had called  – well no one but Xander.

Oh no, I am not going to let that nasty vampire get the better of me.  Nah huh.  With renewed determination Willow focused her energy on making the spontaneous flame spell work.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


He was really happy his other self had been so concerned about his humans that he’d insisted they all get cell phones.  Angel thought about calling Cordelia  but decided against it.  He’d call her later, give her time to think about where he was, how close he might be.  Gunn?  No.  Not unless dear Freddie was with him. . .  But no.  Angel realized he just really wanted to talk to his most trusted right-hand man.  Not since the Scourge had ranged about had there been anyone he trusted . . .

Flipping open his phone, Angel hit the address book and dialed Wesley.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The laughter was slowly dying down when Wesley felt the vibration of his cell against his hip.  He reached for it, standing away from the wall, his attention divided between the room and the phone.  Glancing down at the display screen, he began motioning everyone to silence.  

Waiting just long enough for everyone to still, Wesley opened the phone.  “Angel.”

“Aw.  That’s no fun peeking at the incoming number.  Had to know you’d be the smart one.”  There was amused disappointment in the vampire’s voice, almost as if he couldn’t complain about Wesley knowing who was on the other end, but wanting too in any case.

“What is it you want?”  Spike had drifted closer, standing just to Wesley’s right, so that he could hear the entire exchange and the taller man shifted so that Spike wouldn’t have to strain so much.

 
“Want?  Gee, that’s such an open question.  I want lots of things.”  There was a slight pause, as if Angel were really contemplating what he wanted.  “I could say world peace, but really, that’s such a cliche, and so very far from the truth.”

“Yes, well, your point is?”  Spike’s eyebrows rose in amusement, but he made no sound, waiting to hear what else Angel had to say.

“Not really the tone you want to take with me.  If I want to talk, we’ll talk.”  There was now a harder edge to the vampire’s tone, one that Wesley wasn’t at all comfortable with.  “My point, Mr. Wyndam-Pryce, is that I wanted to check in, catch up on all the news.  Find out how everyone is.”

Wesley and Spike shared a look, both of them trying to hold onto their mirth.  Amazing how having someone else to listen to this relieved some of the fear.  Buffy got up from the table, leaning into Spike’s side while she tried to listen also.  

“Everyone’s fine.”  Spike shook his head in agreement, a smirk playing on his features.

“Really?  That’s so nice to hear.  So tell me, has the infant sported fangs yet?”  

“No.”  Wesley was determined to not give Angelus any more information than absolutely necessary, giving him as little to go on as possible.

“No?  Would’ve thought the boy would do that right away.  Oh well, he’ll have them soon enough.”  Buffy flinched and Spike pulled her and the baby closer, placing a silent kiss on the top of her head.  


“Really, Wes, the object of a cell phone is communication.  So, please, communicate. I’m all ears.”  

There was an edge of irritation creeping into Angel’s voice and Spike’s smirk started to bloom into a grin, when Wesley just stated simply, “I’m not really all that chatty, you know.  Prefer to keep to myself.”

It took nearly all his will power not to laugh into the phone, though the looks that everyone around him were sporting was enough to send him over the edge.  Really, what did Angel think he was dealing with?  A bunch of easily scared teenaged girls?  Intimidating phone calls might work if one of them was alone; but in this house, surrounded by a group of people, all of whom were either of supernatural origin or in their own way capable of battling one or two demons without any assistance. . . this tactic, of using a phone call, did not work. It was actually more of an annoyance.  Wesley shook his head, not really sure he was really believing this.  “Angel?  Are we done here?  I have things to do.”

“For now, Wesley.”

And the phone disconnected.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Angel stared at the walls of the mansion, feeling distinctly dissatisfied and very perturbed.  It shouldn’t have gone that way.  Wesley should have been more on guard, more worried; shouldn’t have been flippant.  I suppose he feels all safe and sound inside the Slayer’s house.  But everyone has to move out of that safety sooner or later.  And that’s when I’ll have you.  All of you.  

Fooling himself into believing that the Slayer’s people would be easy targets, Angel discounted their combined strengths, knowing as he did, that divided they would all fall.  Like dominos. . .
         

Chapter Text

Book Two

Chapter 21.  An unhurried sense of time.
    

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.
    Douglas Adams

We've erased a lot of the distinctions between night and day,
between weekday and weekend.
Our notions of time and space are collapsing.  
    Susan Orlean, Saturday Night in America



On Saturday, when Giles had been home for a couple of days, Spike showed up alone at the Magic Box, with a couple of books in hand and something obviously on his mind.  It was fairly early for him to be up and around, which indicated something of importance.  He’d come in through the tunnels, using the fairly busy underground routes in and around Sunnydale.  The girls  were meeting him here later, after they did some shopping.  Buffy knew he was going to tell Giles about Dawn, and they’d told Dawn together what Spike was planning.  

Giles was, for once, alone in the shop, Anya giving him the flimsy excuse of needing some girl time to herself and requesting the day off.  He’d obliged, noting that something was bothering the girl, but secure that when she felt up to it, she’d no doubt tell them all what was on her mind.  

“Rupert.”  Spike rarely used given names in proper forms and when he did, the person always knew there was something important about to be said.  “Niblet got into your flat when you were gone.  Took some of the books Oxford brought.”  He placed the set of four on the table, laying the smallest on the top.  “She read them.  Searchin’ out how she got here.”

The older man walked around the counter toward the books.  “What did she find?”

Expelling air in a deep sigh, Spike sat down with his arms across the back of chair, unsure how to just say this.  “She found out who she is.”

“What?  Spike, what do you mean she found out who she is?”  Giles was confused.  “Just tell me.”  
After their talk the other day, when Dawn had slipped and told them, Spike had asked her for the journal so that he and Buffy could go over it.  She’d given it to them and they’d read the thing together, picking up things that Dawn had missed, instances that she wouldn’t have known about.  
Spike gestured toward the smallest journal.  “Need to read that one, Rupert.  Should answer all your questions.”

Not wanting to wait, Rupert asked him again.  “What’s in it?”

“Jus’ read the bloody thing.  Answers are all in there.”  Done with his questions, Spike got up and went back downstairs to start filling mail orders.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Two and a half hours later, Giles closed the journal and wiped his eyes, answers to nearly all his questions regarding the Key filling his head.  The journal also supplied a few other answers, unfortunately those answers were for questions Giles had never bothered to pose before.  He’d known, after they destroyed the Sunnydale branch of The Initiative, that human and demon experimentation had been an ongoing practice in the labs.  He’d known and hadn’t once thought that samples might have been taken from either Spike or Buffy.  Hadn’t even thought to look for them in the aftermath.  

Giles was now faced with the truth that it wouldn’t have mattered even if he had thought to go back; however, he was also realizing that somewhere, someone had the samples that hadn’t been destroyed.  Sometime in the future, some bizarre hybrid like Adam could be reconstructed from those samples.  He stared off, not really seeing his surroundings, instead letting his mind drift back nearly two years.  Defeating Adam and the Initiative had taken the combined strengths of all of them, and at the end, even Spike had been of some assistance.  There was no telling what they might face in the future, what madman could possibly dream up with the samples.  It almost didn’t bear contemplating.

His supposition about the monks had been correct, which in hindsight was of little comfort.  They had been capable of manipulating energy with far greater skill than he’d ever seen or encountered and it appeared they were not originally part of this dimension.  However, the vessel they used to house the Key was something else entirely.  The vessel was purely human – as much as the child of any vampire and slayer could be – and although she had been manufactured – she was most definitely the child of Buffy and Spike.  

Which explained so much.  The irony of the situation was that all summer, Spike had stayed to protect Buffy’s sister, never once imagining Dawn was something more.  That Spike harbored feelings for Dawn and they were reciprocated was never a question, at least in his mind.  Now the information in the journal was doubly important, though Giles doubted any of them but him were aware of that fact.  If the child of a slayer and a vampire was strong enough to house an eternal elemental energy, there’s no telling what else that child or other children were capable of, what other strengths they would exhibit.

The coming months with Connor were going to be enlightening ones.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


It was domestic and very coupley of them; something Buffy had never done with any of her other boyfriends, but everyone else was out doing their own thing and well, they needed to do some shopping.  The house was dangerously low on groceries.  At least they had money to do the shopping with, because Giles had come through in a big way.

Unbeknownst to her, Giles had gone to the Council asking them for some financial support for their only active slayer.  Citing the need for her to maintain her own household, since she had a dependent sister, Giles had pretty much effectively blackmailed the Council into providing housing expenses and incidentals.  The Council had, in typical fashion, asked for concessions from Giles on her behalf and he’d resisted, refusing to budge on his position of requesting the necessary funds.  While the Council had conceded the need for separate households, and understanding that the sister in question was not just another teenager; so they’d made arrangements for the payment, in full, of the mortgage that was still outstanding.  All other household expenses, including the electricity and water bills, would be paid monthly out of an account Giles would manage.  Anything else that was needed would have to be supplied by the Slayer herself.

So here they were, in the supermarket, she and Spike with the baby, shopping.  Picking out foods.  Buying diapers.  Getting formula.  Doing stuff she never ever thought she’d be doing, with probably the last person she’d ever thought to be doing all those things.  But it was fun.  Spike had a weird way of making everything easy.  He was tossing boxes of pasta in the cart, while Buffy held the baby, dragging the cart behind him, grumbling all the while good-naturedly about how this was ruining his image.  

Connor was resting against her shoulder and Buffy tried to reach for a jar of sauce that was over her head and she nearly brought down the whole display on top of the two of them.  A little old lady who was in the aisle with them gasped, drawing Spike’s attention and he was there, holding the jars up, before any of them could fall.   He got them back up on the shelf, then shifted his attention to her.  He was all set to yell, but the look on her face stopped him short, so instead he gathered her into his arms, holding them both close.  
    
“All right, sunshine?”  He kissed her forehead, his hand cupping Connor’s head as he let her lean into his chest.  

“Yeah.  I think so.”  She was shaking and he could feel it, so he knew she wasn’t really okay.  

“How’s m’sprog?”  Spike lifted the baby up onto his shoulder, wrapping his arm around Buffy.  She was overreacting and they both knew it, though he wasn’t going to mention it.  And they both knew it was because of the baby.  

Neither of them was paying attention to anything around them until the old lady whose gasp had alerted Spike patted Buffy on the back.  “It’s okay, dear.  First babies take a bit of getting used to.  You’ll learn.”

Buffy lifted her head to gaze into the kind face and sniffled.  “I’m not used to this.”

“Nothing to worry about, dear.  You and your husband will find your way.”  She smiled at the two of them, patting Buffy again, then laid her hand on Connor’s back.  “It’s a boy, yes?  I’m sure he’ll grow up big and strong, just like his daddy, here.  Congratulations and good luck.”

With that, the little old lady walked away, though not before winking at Spike.  


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Cordelia was sitting on a lounge chair, listening to the waves break gently on the Mexican shore when the buzzing of her cell phone interrupted.  Grumbling half-heartedly, she flipped open the phone without looking at the incoming number.

“Hello, Cordy.  How’s my favorite girl?”

His voice sent shivers down her spine and she didn’t speak, almost didn’t breathe.

“C’mon,  Cordy, don’t forget to breathe.”  The false sincerity in his tone was her undoing and she gasped in a few quick puffs of air.

Listening to her strangled gasps, Angel chuckled.  “You know what’s great about cell phones?  You never really know where the other person is calling you from.”

Despite the fact she knew he couldn’t be that close, since the nearest shelter was five hundred feet behind her, Cordelia whirled around, looking for him.

“Know what else is great about cell phones?”  He paused, waiting for his question to sink in.  “You can track them.”  He laughed then, the sound going right through her.

The connection ended and Cordelia was left staring wild-eyed all around her, goosebumps erupting all over her skin.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Tara had gone on a date, with someone Oz had introduced her to and that was slightly weird, at least to Buffy.  Spike was out playing poker and she was kind of at loose ends, although Connor was a handful.  He was on the floor, playing with the toys everyone kept buying him whenever they went out, while she folded laundry.  I am domestic Buffy.  Go me.  She smiled a little, wondering when she’d become a mom and how it didn’t give her such a weird feeling.  

Connor was a sweet baby, as long as he wasn’t howling to be fed, and he was generally quiet.  When the clothes were all folded Buffy watched Connor for a minute, as his plump little fist waved around the rattle.  Aren’t babies his age supposed to just lay there and do nothing?  According to the book Wesley had gotten – What to Expect the First Year – Connor wasn’t supposed to be moving or doing anything other than sleeping and eating.  Instead he wriggled around and held things, grabbed at all sorts of stuff they waved in his face; he recognized them all too.  He knew whenever Spike was in the room, sometimes crying until the vampire caved and picked him up, reacting whenever he heard Spike’s voice.  Thinking for a moment, Buffy decided to try something.  Very softly she called out his name, watching him as he stilled.  She did it again and it was very clear that he heard her.  The third time, he was struggling to move in her direction.

Buffy got up, walked a bit toward the front door and called him again.  His arms and legs went crazy, flailing as he sensed she’d moved further away from him.  She could see his face screw up into a bit of a scowl, which was adorable on his tiny features.  Buffy moved  closer and called his name.  If a baby could snap his head up and look directly at someone, Connor did.  Buffy called his name a third time and his little legs pumped up in the air like he was trying to run to her.  Buffy laughed and Connor did it again.  Dropping down to her knees, scooting over to him, she leaned down and nuzzled him.  

“How’s my big boy?”  Play nibbling on him, she blew raspberries onto his cheek and when Connor grabbed at her, Buffy cooed at him, “There’s my baby.”

“No.  He’s not yours.  Projecting much?”  Dawn’s voice came at her from the kitchen and Buffy looked up into the angry eyes of her sister.  No.  She’s not my sister.  That’s my daughter.

“Hey, Dawnie.  How was the movie?”  Not realizing Dawn was brewing for a fight, Buffy went right back to the baby without waiting for her answer.

“He’s not yours, you know.  Not really.”  Finally Buffy heard the words Dawn was saying and she picked up her head to look at her.

“Dawn?  I know that.  I’m just playing with him.”  Dawn made a face and Buffy waited for the outburst.

“But he’s not yours.”  Oh, okay, that’s what’s bothering her.

Leaving the baby where he was, Buffy got to her feet, walking closer to Dawn.  “I know who his parents are, Dawnie.  But it’s not fair to him to treat him like he’s unwanted.  He didn’t ask for any of this.”

Dawn looked away, a set look on her features, “He’s still not your baby.”

“No.  He’s not.”  Buffy reached for her, pulling Dawn’s chin so that the teen had to look at her.  “I don’t pretend that he’s mine either.”

Dawn’s eyebrow raised and her hip thrust out and oh boy does she look like her father right now, and Buffy could see Spike in her so clearly and she was just watching her not really hearing the words her sis. . . daughter was speaking.  “You sure about that?”

“Am I sure about what?”  Buffy was confused.

“God, are you even listening to me?  Do you even know I’m here?”  Dawn’s voice rose in volume, climbing toward ear-splitting levels.  

“I know you’re here.  Dawnie, why would I pretend that he’s mine?”  Refusing to let her pull away, Buffy wrapped her hand around Dawn’s wrist.  Dawn tried pulling away, but Buffy held on.  

“Why wouldn’t you?  It’s Angel’s baby. . . isn’t that what you’ve always wanted?”   There was real sarcasm in her tone and Buffy though perhaps Dawn’s reaction was partially for herself and partially for Spike.  Does she think that I’m doing this because Connor is Angel’s?  Knowing that she’d already had this discussion with Spike and he knew how she felt, though no one else did, Buffy quickly realized that everyone might be thinking the same thing.

“No.  I don’t want his baby.  Honestly?  I don’t want anything to do with him.”  Buffy looked  into Dawn’s eyes, trying to make her understand.  “I’m so over Angel.”  

Big tears sprung into Dawn’s eyes and Buffy pulled her close.   “What’s really wrong?”

“Nothing.”  Her jaw clenched and she pushed away from Buffy.  

“Dawnie.  Something’s bugging you.  So dish.”  Buffy grabbed Dawn’s hand and dragged her over to where Connor was on the floor.  She sat down, then looked up at the teen and said, “C’mon, sweetie, sit down here with me.”

“It’s just, you know, I see you with him and it seems like all you want is to take care of him and you know, what about Spike?  And what’s with the baby?  I mean I thought you didn’t want . . . you never said you wanted babies and now all of a sudden Angel’s baby is here and now you’re all oohh baby and aww and how come. . . it’s just not fair.”  

Buffy hid her smile, because Dawn hadn’t breathed through any of that halting explanation, which didn’t even make much sense at all.  The last words struck a chord, though, so Buffy focused on them.  “What’s not fair?”

Finally breaking down, Dawn choked out, “Because he gets to be a baby and I . . . I don’t.  All my memories about that are false.  None of them are real and it would have been . . .”

Oh.  That’s what’s this was all about.  “It would have been different if at least part of them were real?”  Buffy wasn’t sure what Dawn was getting at, or really trying to say other than she wished she’d been given memories of growing up with her real parents.

Dawn wiped her eyes, not looking at Buffy.  “Yeah.  If, you know, the monks had planted memories of you and me and Spike as, you know, what we really are.”  

“Would’ve been way complicated, don’t you think?”  Buffy thought about it for a moment, then blurted out, “Couldn’t you just picture the look on Giles’ face?  He’d have headed right for the books.”

Dawn let out a watery giggle.  “What would’ve been even funnier would have been Xander’s reaction.”  


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Patrolling with the Buffybot was enough to drive him round the bend.  Spike was not looking forward to being out there, trailing after the robotic image of his love, but they had all decided that one of them should be home at all times with the baby.  Connor was thriving, had grown like a weed in the last two weeks, and was constantly wriggling around; doing things a normal infant didn’t do until much later.  Things at the house had settled down also, Wesley had moved out to join Giles at his flat, since sleeping on the couch was decidedly uncomfortable and Buffy and Spike were contemplating a move into Joyce’s old room.  

It was nearly time to get out there and patrol, and since it was his night to go, he was restless and pacing around like a panther without enough room to roam.  Spike was also missing Buffy, since sleeping with an insatiable infant wasn’t his idea of fun.  Probably as a side effect of his growth spurts, Connor was still eating every couple of hours, which left their sex life suffering.  Not that Spike minded, well, he did, but the spawn came first, much as he hated admitting it.  He didn’t care as long as the sprog didn’t yowl at the top of his lungs in the ear splitting howl he seemed to have perfected whenever his belly wasn’t full.  

There were moments too, when Buffy couldn’t soothe the boy and only Spike’s touch would settle him down.  His theory was that the infant was used to the lack of a heartbeat and it in some way comforted him to be held by Spike.  So there were long nights when he and the sprog were up and everyone else was asleep.  Spike realized how funny it was when he was up late, the television on and he found himself with the infant in his arms and he was talking out loud to the baby.  It had been the most surreal moment of his un-life; William the Bloody, the Slayer of Slayers, watching late night infomercials with a two week old infant in his arms, one he had no intentions ever of harming.  It was enough to cause him a serious case of, as Dawn or Buffy would put it, the wiggins.  

Everyone was gathered in the Magic Box; Giles, Wesley, and Anya arguing over some obscure point of demonology, Buffy was holding Connor and making faces and noises at him, Oz was hanging out by the front door, waiting for Tara to come back from classes, and Dawn was also due to arrive in any minute.  But he was restless.  There was an itch along his spine that no amount of scratching would alleviate.  He couldn’t shake the feeling; it was like a hum just beneath his skin, a nagging sense of some impending disaster.

He snorted mentally, ticking off the number of things that could explode in their faces.  The Huntsman and the hounds had effectively stopped hunting the innocent or nearly innocent; Willow had drifted in and out of their lives, meeting here and there, accidently running into Tara, who still put her off about having a real discussion and then there was Angelus.  That at the moment was his biggest worry.  Angelus had been too quiet in the last couple of weeks, leaving only subtle reminders of his presence.  

The scariest moment for the girls had been when he’d tailed Tara home just a couple of nights ago.  Although  that was nothing, really, in the scheme of things.  Spike knew Angelus better than any one else, and he knew this was all part of the game, lulling them all into a sense of security and then he would strike.  And strike hard.

He stopped pacing, turning on his heel to watch Buffy, his head cocked to the side.  She was not classically beautiful, not like some other women he’d known, there was too much character in her face for that, but there was a beauty all the same.  A smile traced across his face, as he stood just watching her.  He was completely unaware his actions had garnered his own audience.  Anya nudged Giles, who was standing behind her, pointing her chin in their direction.

Spike was standing on the upper level of the store, his eyes trained on Buffy and the baby, an expression on his face Giles had never seen before.  The soft lighting of the area at the table complimented Buffy though it was also clear it wouldn’t matter what light she was bathed in, because it was obvious in Spike’s eyes Buffy was everything.  Anya sighed softly and Giles glanced down at her, catching the sadly wistful look in her eyes.  

Anya had been unusually and uncharacteristically quiet since the arrival of Wesley and Connor.  There were times he wanted to question her about why, and he’d heard from Wesley about the incident when Xander had frightened her, so he was fairly certain the reason behind her introspection.  Even before his successful trip to England, Giles had begun to notice a rift between the former demon and her boyfriend, however  he’d chosen to stay out of their situation.  Though  the sadness in her eyes as she watched Spike eyeing Buffy called to him.  

Giles laid a hand on her shoulder, squeezing gently, silently lending her some support.  Spike moved, breaking the spell they were all under, leaning down to say something only Buffy could hear and Giles made a snap decision.  Buffy’s face lit up, her eyes glowing as Spike’s hand reached out to ghost along her cheek and she leaned into his touch.  Watching the two of them, Giles knew he had to do what the crazy notion in his head was telling him to do.  

Once more Spike leaned down, whispering something into Buffy’s ear that caused her to blush hotly and swat his arm.  The leer on Spike’s face left no illusions about what he’d said or what was on his mind yet somehow that didn’t really bother Giles.  

“Buffy?  Why don’t you go with Spike tonight?” Glancing down at the woman standing next to him, Giles continued, “Anya and I will stay with the baby.”  

With a quick glance up at Spike, Buffy asked, “You sure?  You don’t mind?”  

“No.  I don’t, but, well, I didn’t exactly. . .” He hemmed and hawed so much that Anya finally came to his rescue, announcing, “I don’t mind.  I’ve nothing else to do.”

“There.  It’s all settled.  You and Spike go patrol and we’ll sit with the baby.”  


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Wesley was heading to Los Angeles – in the quest for a demon-friendly surgeon they’d run up against a brick wall.  Dr. Thomas wasn’t a neurologist, was in fact an orthopedist whose first choice in medicine had been obstetrics and the only other demon-friendly surgeon in Sunnydale was another obstetrician.  Two others they’d contacted had refused, so Wesley had volunteered to try and get his contact at Wolfram & Hart to give up more information.  The good news was they now had x-rays of Spike’s head, so that Wesley could use those to show them what the situation was.

Giles had privately told Wesley that it appeared they were going to have to contact The Initiative, which everyone had agreed was a last resort.

He was leaving as Dawn and Casey trooped in the door; his meeting with Lilah Morgan scheduled for nine.  Dawn watched him go, a question in her eyes, though because Casey was present she never voiced it.

Anya’s greeting was subdued and Dawn knew there was something bothering the ex-demon yet she was in the dark about that too.  She was beginning to think that no one trusted her at all, especially when Buffy said, “Dawnie?  Giles and Anya are gonna stay home and babysit tonight.”

“I don’t need one.”  She very nearly stamped her foot, stopping when she realized how very childish that would be.

“Not for you – for Connor.”  Buffy rolled her eyes.  

“Oh.”  Shrugging her shoulders, Dawn said, “Okay then.”  She thought for a moment, realizing Buffy was supposed to be home that night and Spike was supposed to patrol with the Buffybot.  “Where are you going?”

“Out with Spike.”

They’d told Casey that Connor was Spike’s nephew, and that his mother had been badly injured in an accident and wasn’t going to recover.  Since Spike was her only family, he got custody because the baby’s father was a jerk and in jail.  The story wasn’t entirely off the mark and easily explained why Buffy and Spike had the baby.

“You kids have fun.”  Dawn giggled when she realized Spike was tugging her sister toward the door, his impatience evident.  “Gee, Spike, you’re not gonna wait until full dark?”

His “No” was said as the door was closing behind them.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


So far, patrol had been a huge bust, pretty much the way it had been since Angelus had come back into town.  It was so dead in fact, that Spike was beginning to question why they were even bothering anymore, because even the humans seemed to have noticed.  There were more people on the streets than he remembered seeing in a long time, and Spike looked over at Buffy, who was walking to his right, a somewhat distracted air about her.

“How come everyone’s out and about?”  He was bored and if something didn’t show up soon, the itching along his spine was going to drive him around the bend.

“Thanksgiving is next weekend.”  Buffy scrunched up her face, thinking about the holiday.  ‘First one without Mom.”  She sighed.  “I guess I’m gonna have to figure out how to not ruin a turkey and learn how to make a decent pie.”

“Seem to remember that last one wasn’t so bad.”  He swung around to watch her, walking backwards.

“Please, that turkey was overcooked and the only thing that came out perfectly were the mashed potatoes.  Everything else was bad.”  She made a face at him, more than willing to admit she wasn’t up for cooking an entire Thanksgiving meal.

“Ah, sunshine, you were also fighin’ a whole tribe of mystical Chumash that day.”
        
He paused searching his memory.  “Yours truly was tied up and unable to help, Red was going on about exploitin’ the natives an’ the whelp ended up all sickly.  It’s a wonder anythin’ turned out well.”

She stared at him, looking for any sign of sarcasm.  When she found none, Buffy nodded.  “There was a lot going on.  I don’t remember, though, why it was so important that everything turn out perfectly.  It was only us, the only new one was you.”

Spike stopped walking.  His eyes were on her and Buffy couldn’t fight the blush that bloomed across her cheeks.  Dark blue eyes bore into hers and she didn’t want to blurt something out that would further embarrass her.

“So the only thing different was me.”  He reached out to touch her chin.  Deciding to leave that one alone, he thought about the time he’d spent with Giles.  Knowing she’d never share her real feelings unless he was up front about it first, Spike whispered gruffly, “Never did thank Red for that spell.”

“Thank her?”  Buffy looked up at that, her eyes fixed on him.  “Why’d do you wanna do that?”

“She gave me somethin’ I’d wanted.”  He paused, watching as what he was saying registered.  “Didn’t wanna admit it then, but yeah, I wanted you.”

The truth was there, easily broadcast by his eyes on her.  “Spike?  Promise you won’t laugh?”

“Won’t laugh.”  He kissed her forehead, waiting for her to speak.

“I thought you were the best kisser in the world.”  

His smirk was back and he swaggered, then swooped back to tug her along.  “Would’ve shagged you senseless if it had gone on longer.  Then Cardboard wouldn’t have been around.”

Thoroughly surprising him, Buffy said, “I was trying to be normal.  Riley was normal.”

Spike snorted out something too low for Buffy to make out, turning an innocent look on her.   “Nah huh, Spike tell me.”

“All right.  Should’ve . . . just. . . dunno.  Soldier boy got off on the pain.  Liked bein’ miserable.”  He ducked his head, not looking at her, aware that this was a potentially dangerous subject for them to be discussing, but as usual, his mouth was moving before he realized it.  “Didn’t like not bein’ the strong one.  Tried to make you feel like you weren’t good enough.”

Buffy was quiet for so long he thought she was building up for a good fight, but when he stole a glance at her, she was staring down at the ground, watching where they were walking.  In a very small voice, she said, “I guess I missed that.  I thought I needed normal.  Everyone said that . . . normal was what I was supposed to want.”

He made some sort of grumbling noise, but she was speaking again, “Only one person ever saw me.  There was only one person that ever really got me.”  

“Oh?”  Half expecting her to say Willow or Angel, Spike was surprised when she flicked his arm.  “What’s that for?”

“Yep.  Only one.”  She looked up at him, the soft moonlight playing across her features, her eyes dark and twinkling.  “Imagine that, a vampire understanding a Slayer.”  

Spike didn’t say anything, just watched her from under his lashes, waiting for her to speak.  “Angel never really understood me.  Did lots of things that . . .  He made decisions on what he thought was right.  But only . . . it was you.  You were the only one who got me.”

Buffy stepped closer and his arms automatically curled around her.  Reaching up, she wrapped her arms around his neck and Spike grinned.  “I know you, Slayer.  That’s why.”

She whispered back at him breathlessly.  “Yeah.  I guess you do.”  

He was about to lean down to kiss her when a voice came out of the shadows.  “Really, that’s just. . .  So sweet.”  

They broke apart, going into an anticipatory stance, their figures almost back to back, waiting for Angel to show himself.  He didn’t disappoint, emerging from behind a crypt, deceptively at ease.  “Nice night, moon’s shining down ever so softly, and two lovers are out for a stroll.  Makes a pretty picture.”

Unconsciously they shifted, moving so that their dominant hands were on the outside, standing almost side by side.  

“You two are soo adorable together.  Just cuter than anything.  But I have to ask, who’s home with the baby?  Did you just leave the two kiddies alone?  Or is Willow’s girl there?  Hhmmm?”  Angel leaned back on his heels, his hands in his pants pockets.  

Neither one of them spoke and for once Spike held his tongue.  There must have been some change in his expression, because Angel started speaking again.  “You know, Spike, this won’t last.  She’s human and, well, fickle.  Can’t decide what she wants, can’t keep  a man.  You’ll get tired of her and leave.”

Without warning, about ten or so of Angel’s minions jumped down from the tops of nearby crypts and they were surrounded.  Angel drifted off, knowing Buffy and Spike would make short work of the other vampires, uncaring of the losses.  They’re cannon fodder anyway.

They were fighting, punching, and staking right and left, when suddenly Buffy realized she’d gotten separated from Spike.  Dusting the last of the minions she’d been battling, Buffy searched around looking for him.  Moving back toward where she last remembered seeing him, she didn’t start to panic until he wasn’t there, and there were only piles of dust scattered around.  Moving faster, she half ran toward his old crypt, her eyes sweeping over the grounds of Restfield.    Spying a dark spot and seeing something move in the shadows, Buffy set off in that direction, only to skid to a halt when she recognized what she was looking at.  It was Spike leaning over someone, talking and gesturing wildly.

Buffy walked closer, then caught a glimpse of who Spike was talking to.

It was Drusilla.




                      

Chapter Text

Book Two.  

Chapter 22.   Tender looks becoming habit.


At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet.
    Plato

Love is something eternal, the aspect may change, but not the essence.
    Vincent van Gogh

To love and to be loved is to feel the sun from both sides.
    David Viscott

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
    A Midsummer Night’s Dream, act I, sc. I




There was something interesting that happened to females when infants were introduced.  Even females that had never expressed an interest or desire or any other concern about children became enamored with infants.  The tinier the better it appeared.  Giles was fascinated by the entire process.  Buffy was constantly holding the boy, Dawn was usually eager to play with him, Tara was downright motherly and, lo and behold, even the former vengeance demon Anya was reduced to googly eyes and sotto voce behavior.  It thoroughly mystified him.

And while he could admit the baby was kind of cute and appealing, he didn’t see the need to get all starry-eyed over his presence.  What was interesting and perhaps of some importance, at least in his opinion, was the boy’s development.  He reacted differently when certain people were around, and it appeared his sense of smell was acute, because whenever he smelled his bottle he howled piercingly until the bottle was put in his mouth.  It was a wonder Spike hadn’t purchased earplugs to block out the sound.   And it wasn’t crying.  It was howling.

Like he was doing at the moment.  Anya was in the kitchen, fixing his bottle, while Giles tried to calm the infant.  His efforts were proving unsuccessful.  Connor was wriggling in his grasp, howling his displeasure to everything in the general vicinity, including dogs.  Giles almost wondered if there was more than vampiric blood shared between Dawn and Connor, because the pitch in each of their shrieks had to be identical.

He was fumbling, awkwardly holding the baby up to his chest, trying to rub his back and pat him at the same time, while trying not to crumble to his knees because of the damage to his eardrums when Anya finally came back into the living room.  “Giles.  What are you doing?”

“Apparently nothing.  Is that bottle done?”  The frustration in his voice was evident and he unceremoniously thrust the baby at her.  “Here.  You take him.”

Anya cocked her head to the side, taking the baby and giving him the bottle all in the same motion, talking to the boy, making insane noises, though her words were directed at him.  “Silly Poppa Rupie. He doesn’t know how to take care of hungry little babies.  Such a silly old man.”

Giles huffed a bit, once his brain registered what she was saying.  “Really, must you?”  He took off his glassed, peering at her intently.  “I’m not old.  Nor am I Poppa anything.”  

Anya laughed.  It was such a happy sound, one she hadn’t made in quite some time, and it made him smile in return.  She’d been so quiet lately, quite unlike her usual self, and it pleased him now to see her in a better frame of mind.  “Giles.  You need to lighten up and smile more.  Makes you look younger.”

His retort of, “Well laughter suits you much better than brooding does,”  was out of his mouth before he could censor it, and the look on his face made tears well up in Anya’s eyes.

“I haven’t had much reason to smile lately.  I just don’t understand.”  She looked away from him and he laid a hand on her arm, squeezing gently.  He remained silent, waiting for her to elaborate.  “If you love someone you shouldn’t say mean things.  And tell them to be quiet all the time, right?”  

“And your relationship shouldn’t be something to hide either.”  She looked up into his eyes, trying to find some enlightenment there.  “Am I thinking wrongly?  These emotions . . . sometimes I just don’t understand.”

He was beginning to, understand that is.  So he told her.  “I think you aren’t wrong.  In fact, you’re quite right in believing that being in love shouldn’t be hidden.  It is something to celebrate.”  

“I used to think so.  But now I’m not so sure.  I think love hurts too much.”  Anya sat down on the couch in a huff, jarring the baby a bit.

“Perhaps you’ve just gone about this all wrong.”  He stood in front of her watching her closely.

“Why are you staring at me like that?”  Anya flushed and looked away from him.

Rupert smiled slowly.  “Because I’m just now realizing that you’re an amazingly attractive woman.”

Her gaze snapped up to his and he thought the blush blooming across her face was terribly attractive and distracting.  “You are?”

“Yes.  I am.”  He smiled crookedly at her and sat down on the couch beside her, reaching for the remote. "Shall we watch some television?”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Realizing belatedly that Angelus’ minions were deliberately herding him away from Buffy, Spike tried repeatedly to break through and get back to her.  His worry for her was uppermost in his mind and even with his superior strength, he couldn’t break through the number of minions blocking his way.  It was only when he realized they weren’t fighting him that he actually stopped.  

The hum just beneath his skin had become a near shout and Spike whirled around thinking it was some new threat that was causing it.  Should have fucking known.   Expected it so, why didn’t I recognize it? She was cradled, ironically enough, in the outstretched arms of a winged marble angel.  Cradled?  She’s bloody lounging there like the bleeding Queen of Sheba.  

The sight of Drusilla, ivory skin clad in scarlet and black lace, against a backdrop of pure white marble, normally would have moved him.  Would have had him aching to be buried inside her, surrounded by crimson blood.  Now, looking at her posed form, he felt none of the old pull, none of the old attraction.  No pulsing need to join with her.  Just a naggingly real fear that something dire had happened to Buffy.  He scrambled mentally, trying to think of a way to extricate himself from this situation.

Playing for time, Spike paced in front of Drusilla.  He waited for long moments, wondering what she was up to and why she would plan something like this.  And as usual, she didn’t disappoint.  “Hullo, Spike.”

“Dru,” was all he said, his eyes narrowed dangerously.

“Are you cross with me?”  She pouted and where once it would have had him running to smooth things over or on his knees making it up to her, Spike just rocked back on his heels.

“Oh, you are. . . whatever for?  Can’t be because I left you, William, after all, you left me first.  Taken by sunshine.”

He remembered the first time she’d said that to him, a very long time ago, long before they’d ever decided to come to Sunnydale.  He’d scoffed at her then, completely dismissing her.  But he had been taken by sunshine.  Call her that all the time.  ‘S what she is.  My sunshine.

Before he could say anything, Dru slithered away from the statue, flicking her fingers at the remaining minions, dismissing them.

“Why did you come, Dru?”  He swung his arms wide.  “Why bother?  For him?”  He couldn’t keep the bitterness from his voice.  In the days and weeks following his escape from The Initiative labs, he’d tried everything to get some help – his distress sending reverberations through the bloodlines – yet none had responded, not even her.  Instead he’d been forced to seek shelter and asylum from the Slayer.  In retrospect, it had been the right thing, but his sire should have cared.  “I needed you then and you ignored me.  He calls once and you drop everything?”

“Miss Edith said you were already lost.”  Drusilla tried placating him, though Spike was beyond caring.

“Fuck that soddin’ doll, Dru.”  He looked at her, eyes hard and unfeeling, his nostrils flaring.  “For once in your life, Drusilla, just tell me the truth, in plain English.”

“The truth?  The truth is a whisper on the wind, a ray of light in the dark.  The truth is not for the likes of us.”  She was shaking her head, swaying a bit.  “The truth already knows you, William.  Sunshine and baby flowers.  Precious little strawberries.”

Buggering fuck.  “Drusilla, you are mad as a hatter.”  He flung out an arm, gesturing wildly, pointing her eastward.  Spike stepped closer, until he was within touching distance. “He will be dust, Dru.  Leave now while you still can.”

She snapped at him, then giggled.  “So brave and gallant, my knight, always protecting his lady fair.”

Spike rolled his eyes, loudly growling his aggravation.  “Not yours, Dru.  Not for a long time.”

Drusilla curled into him, her hands on the duster’s collar.  “Always mine, Spike.”

He pushed her away, hard enough to make her stumble to her knees.  “No, Dru.  Not then and not now.”  He loomed over her, about to say something else when his attention was pulled away.  That mouth-watering scent filling his senses was enough to tell him Buffy was on her way, he didn’t need her pounding heartbeat to know how close she was.

“Spike?”  There was a quavering tone to her simple question, yet he heard the tension clearly.  Right then, she’s already seen Dru.  How’re you gonna fix this one, eh, mate?  

“Sunshine?”  It took her half a dozen steps to reach his side, though as soon as she was in striking distance he hauled her closer, his eyes roaming over her, checking for obvious injuries.  “You okay?”

“Yeah.”  The hurt and fear were clearly audible in her tone and Spike knew it was because of the vampire behind him.  She must have seen enough to misunderstand, or worse, heard Dru’s last comment.  He wasn’t hers.  Had never really been hers, even when they’d been together.    Spike stared down into Buffy’s eyes, his hands holding her shoulders so that she couldn’t possibly turn away from him.  At first she wouldn’t look, wouldn’t return his gaze, but he shook her just a tiny bit and she finally looked up at him.  

The emotion in his eyes humbled her.  And yet there was still that tiny seed of doubt lingering in her mind.  This was, after all, Drusilla she had found him with.  Had it been Harmony, Buffy wouldn’t have felt it at all.  But it wasn’t Harmony.  Drusilla was the one constant in his life.  And when she was gone. . . would it be Drusilla that he’d run to?  

Drusilla was singing softly, swaying in time to a beat only she heard, her voice a bare whisper in the wind, and yet Spike felt no desire to turn away from the woman in his arms.  His eyes bore into hers, midnight blue into forest green and he knew, oh yeah, nothin’ is worth losing her over.  Not a bleedin’ thing on earth.  
 
Without taking his eyes from Buffy’s, Spike said to Drusilla, “Go back to where you came from, princess.  There’s nothin’ here for you.”

She couldn’t smile at him.  Couldn’t make her face change expression.  The only thing she could do was let the tears that had been held off by sheer force of will, well up in her eyes.

Sparing neither a glance nor another word for the vampire behind them, Spike moved closer to Buffy and kissed her forehead.  Breathing out against her skin, he said, “C’mon, kitten, let’s go home.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Dawn was spying again.  She stopped at the top of the stairs, straining her ears for any sound from the two adults downstairs, but she couldn’t hear anything.  It was driving her crazy, not knowing what the heck was happening in her own house.  And this was crazy, whatever it was between Anya and Giles.  Well, not in the sense that it’s icky, coz it kinda isn’t.  But more crazy because Xander was gonna lose his mind when he found out about it.  Sheesh, Giles should know better than this, coz he’s like old.  Way old.  Although it was better than Giles and Joyce getting together.  Dawn suppressed a giggle when she realized that had been one of the couples she had thought might have been her real parents.  Nope.  Sooo glad it wasn’t Giles and Joyce.

Once she’d found out the truth, it made complete and total sense to her.  She’d never questioned it, about Buffy and Spike, never even thought to question it.  It just made sense.  In the hellmouthy, nothing really makes sense sort of way.  There were some couples that just made sense to her and some that . . . she couldn’t see.  Like Tara and Willow made sense in the same way that Willow and Oz had made sense.  In a really weird way, Oz and Tara made sense too, but not in the smoochies kind of way.  They sort of just fit together.  

Like Buffy and Spike.  If there were ever two people who fit together better than those two, Dawn had never seen them.  Even though they’d only been together since Buffy came back, it felt like forever.  Felt like they belonged to each other.  It was so different from when Riley was here.  He constantly belittled everything, without even realizing it.  He dismissed her friends as useless, even while he tried to be a part of them, and he treated her and Joyce like they weren’t real.  Dawn wrinkled up her nose.  And really, Riley was way better than Angel.  At least Riley had just treated her like a stupid kid.  Angel had treated her like a cross between a meal and an alien.  Even knowing those memories were fake didn’t do anything to making them any better.  

Her ears pricked up and Dawn heard movement downstairs.  Giles murmured something, then it sounded like he got up from the couch and walked into the kitchen.  Taking the chance that he had, Dawn got up from her seat on the floor and made her way noisily down the steps.  

Anya was changing Connor, after the chow hound had downed another full bottle and looked up when Dawn stopped at the doorway.  “Hello, Dawn.”

“Hey.”  In preparation and as a cool cover, she had a full laundry basket in hand.  Using her chin, Dawn indicated the laundry.  “I’m just gonna head down to the basement and you know, do some wash.”

“Okay.  That’s a productive thing to be doing.”  Anya nodded her head, then went back to her task.  
“I’ll just do that then.”  Dawn sauntered away, intent on her next target.  Giles was in the kitchen, fiddling with the teakettle and obviously searching for something for them to snack on.  “There’s cookies in the jar.”

He stood up so quickly that he nearly whacked his head on the cabinet, barely managing to miss it by inches.  “Dawn.  You really shouldn’t sneak up on people.”

“Right.  Coz I was being all stealthy.”  She rolled her eyes and pretended insolence.  She shrugged.  “Anyway.  There’s sweet stuff in there.  Plus I think Spike has some chocolate hidden somewhere.”

“No.  I was just looking for some biscuits.”  Giles folded his arms across his chest, contemplating the teenager in front of him.  He started to say something, then thought better of it.  Judging by the look on his face, Dawn had an idea of what it was, and she decided to stop that idea from blooming into full fledged research.  

“I don’t want to talk about it.  About Buffy and Spike.  Okay?”  She moved toward the basement door, then looked at him over her shoulder.  “I just wanted to know who I am.  Who I really belonged too.  It wasn’t anything more than that.”

“All right, Dawn.  I won’t bring it up unless you want to talk about it.”  He understood her need to discover who she was, and who she was part of; it made perfect sense.  

His easy agreement seemed to soothe her nerves, because she smiled at him and he was forcibly reminded just who her parents were when the smile ended in a slight smirk.  “Thanks, Giles.”

She was gone in a swirl of long dark hair, the sound of her feet thudding down the stairs countered by the light tap of Anya’s heels on the kitchen floor.  Pausing to wash her hands at the sink, she turned to face him.  “Connor’s asleep.”  

“Oh good.”  Giles suddenly didn’t know what to do with his hands and he was relieved when the kettle whistled.  “I fixed us some tea.”

“Are you nervous?”  Anya studied him carefully, her eyes watching his every move.

“I am.”  He fiddled with the kettle, filling the teapot and placing it slowly back on the burner.

“Why?  Am I making you nervous?”  She smiled brightly at him. “I don’t mean to make you nervous.”

“No, it’s not just you.”  Deciding to take the bull by the horns, Giles stopped fiddling and looked directly at Anya.  “It’s me also.  I’ve . . . I’ve developed. . . that is . . .” Oh, buck up, you git.  “You are a beautiful, attractive, and intelligent woman, Anya.  And you deserve much better than Xander Harris could ever give you.”

There.  He’d said it.  But he wasn’t prepared for her reaction at all, because when Anya burst into tears, Rupert Giles was at a complete loss.  On the other side of the basement door, Dawn was silently screaming at him, give her a hug, c’mon Giles, just do it.  Somehow, in the cosmic way of things on the hellmouth, he must have heard her, because  Giles took two steps toward her and then folded her into his arms.  

Peeking one eye through the partially opened door, Dawn pumped her fist once in the air, then with a huge grin, jumped down the entire flight of steps.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


They were quiet the whole way home, both of them wrapped up in their own thoughts, neither one of them willing to share at the moment.  Spike had a feeling he knew what was bothering her, though he wasn’t really sure he wanted to start this discussion anywhere except inside the safety of their own home.  

For Buffy, seeing Drusilla had dredged up lots of memories and emotions she didn’t want to face.  Not for a very long time.  Drusilla once had the love of both Angel and Spike and she feared that she would never, ever be able to compete with that, to carve out a place for herself.   She’d known, deep down inside, in some way that Angel was more in love with her image than the real deal, but she wasn’t always so sure about Spike.  Not that she doubted he loved her, but. . . sometimes the doubt about how long and how deeply would creep in.  He’d been with Drusilla for over a hundred years.  That was, in itself, an incredible feat.  How could she hope to measure up to that?  She wasn’t even going to have twenty more years with Spike.  And that hurt.  Because right now she wanted a  lifetime.  A real lifetime.  She wanted to be able to see Dawn grow up and have kids; hell, she wanted to see Connor grow up.  But she wasn’t going to get that.  And Spike would have a really long time to forget about her.   A really, really long time.

Trudging in the back door, they missed the hurried movements and guilty expressions on the faces of the other two adults, wrapped up as they were in their own thoughts.  Giles and Anya bid them a hasty goodnight, slipping out the front door within moments of their arrival, barely imparting that Dawn was downstairs doing laundry and Connor was asleep in the living room.

Spike went to the basement door, telling Dawn they were home, then locking up, while Buffy silently collected the infant and drifted up the stairs with him.  Normally, since they were home so very early, Spike would have settled himself in front of the television and watched some movies or something, but tonight he didn’t even look at the television.  He locked all the doors, left a light on for Tara and followed Buffy up the stairs.

She was just putting Connor in his crib when he walked in the doorway, and he stopped to watch her for a long moment.  He knew she was upset about Drusilla, knew it was bothering her but he suddenly couldn’t think of a way to get her to open up.  The only light in their room was from the small bedside table lamp and he thought, while watching her, that she was the most beautiful sight he’d ever laid eyes on.  Figuring he might as well tell her so, Spike quietly murmured, as he closed the door behind him, “You know she can’t hold a candle to you.  You are the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen.”

For once, he must have said the right thing, because she swung round to face him, her hands on the sides of the crib, her heart in her eyes.

“You are, you know.”  Seeing the denial on her face, Spike forestalled any vocalized refutation by closing the distance and repeating himself.  “Trust me, kitten, she can’t compete with you at all.”

“Really?”  Her voice was small and flooded with disbelief.

“Really.”  He was standing close to her, nearly chest to chest, his hands resting on hers, his gaze focused intently on her.  “Yeah.  Really.”

Her eyes drifted closed and Buffy drew in a deep breath.  His scent surrounded her, pulling her in and she swayed closer to him, just a little, though it was all the invitation he needed.  Swinging her up into his arms, Spike moved toward their bed, his words low and gruff against her ear.  “If I have to prove it all night, I will.”

Arms around his neck, she nuzzled against the duster, wanting to feel his skin.  She must have made some noise, because he shifted her higher and her mouth sucked on his neck, just to the right of his Adam’s apple.  He stopped in his tracks, inches from the bed, every nerve in him pulled taut.  “Oh god, kitten.  Don’t. . . not now. . . jus’ gimme a . . .”  

His words ended in a growl when she nipped at the spot just under his ear.  Spike couldn’t think, just wanted to feel her under his hands, responding to his touch.  His brain was screaming at him to slow it down, but his body wasn’t listening.    He moved his hands to grip her by the waist, rubbing his thumbs in circles on her skin.  “Love you so much. . . so bloody much.”  

Spike kissed her then, his mouth hungry and needy on hers, nipping at her lip, tongue curling against hers.  She broke away, pushing the duster off his shoulders.  “Spike. . .”

The momentary break gave him clarity.  There were some things he needed to say to her, things she needed to understand.  “Buffy. . . love, look at me.  

He shrugged off the duster, tossing it on the chair behind him, stilling her almost frantic hands.  “Hey, sunshine, listen to me. . .” He caught the fear and tears in her eyes and he knew he had to speak before they got lost in each other.  “Kitten, lemme hold you a moment.  I want you to understand something.”

She nodded against his chest after burying her face against him, inhaling deeply.  “I did love her.”

 
He felt her stiffen in his embrace, but he knew he had to finish this.  “I said did. . . though it wasn’t anywhere near the way I feel about you.  She freed me from being nothing, gave me enough to set me free of who I was.  But she . . . much as I loved her, I wasn’t first in her heart.  Not then.  Probl’ly not ever.”  Spike knew he was about to lay himself bare for her, yet he didn’t care any more.  He loved her, every inch, from her shampoo commercial hair to her incredibly powerful little feet; and it was time he made her understand what that meant.

“Dru was my way out.  But, you kitten, you . . .”  He smiled at her, a real genuine smile and tears welled up in his eyes as he looked at her.  “You are everything.  You make me feel things I’ve never felt, never thought I wanted to feel.  You make me want things I told myself I couldn’t have anymore.  I love you an’ I will never stop lovin’ you.  Not if I live forever.”  

Buffy pulled away from his chest, looking back up at him, tears sliding down her face.  “I’ll love you even if you never love me back, kitten.  I can’t help it.  Don’t want to.  Told you once I was drownin’, I meant it.”    

Her hands slid beneath his shirt, curving up around his sleek back.  She could feel the tension in him, feel that he was nervous about all this and Buffy just couldn’t fight it any longer.  “I don’t want to lose you, Spike.  Not for any reason.”

“You’re not gonna, sweetheart.”  Inhaling deeply, Spike took one last gamble, and prepared himself for the rejection.  “I . . . Buffy. . .”  He had to clear his throat, because the emotion was clogging it and he couldn’t force the words past his tongue, couldn’t even get them to form. . . then a memory of another time he’d asked her something similar crossed his brain, and Spike grinned internally.  Maybe. . . “I love you kitten.  An’ I’m askin’ you to hear me out, before you say anythin’.”

Buffy smiled at him, then settled down on the bed, pulling him up after her.  Her head hit the pillow and she waited patiently.  He hovered over her, held away from her body by the strength of his arms, his face inscrutable.  “The bond Dru an’ I shared was only Sire and Childe. . . nothin’ more.  She wouldn’t . . . didn’t want to make it anythin’ deeper.  An’ after a while I stopped thinkin’ about it.”   Spike paused when she started to speak, saying,   “Shush.  I asked you to wait, yeah?  Right then.”

 “Stopped wantin’ anything deeper with her.  With you, though, it’s different.  All I want is more . . . somethin’ deeper.  Something permanent.  I want you with me . . . no, not turnin’ . . . never that.  But, kitten, I want . . . I’m askin’. . .”    He slumped a little, his forehead resting against hers, unable to force the question out.  Christ, why was this easier hopped up on magics than now?  Coz now, you git, it means more.

“Spike?”   Her arms were around him and he nearly couldn’t think anymore.  “What are you  saying?”

He blew out the breath he didn’t need to hold and ruffled her hair in the process.  “I’m sayin’, Buffy, that I love you more than anythin’ else and that I want to make this permanent.”

Buffy brought a hand up to cup his cheek, forcing him to lift away from her forehead and look at her.  “What are you asking me, Spike?”

“Stubborn bint.  Gonna make me spell it out for you?”  He rolled over then, getting himself into a sitting position against the headboard, then pulled her over onto his lap.  “All right then.  Not gettin’ down on bended knee, already did that.”  Taking a deep breath and not looking away from her, Spike finally spoke.  “Guess I should have planned this out better, but . . . Buffy?”

Her smile was soft and full of love, something he never expected to see.  “Spike?  Would it help if you already knew the answer?”

Without thinking, the words shot out of his mouth, “Bloody right, it would.  Never thought askin’ you to be mine would be this hard.”

Her giggle lit up the room and he realized belatedly what he’d just done.  “Oh, bollocks.”  Spike watched her, then just finally said what he’d been thinking all along.  “Wanna make you mine, kitten, want you to be my Mate.  That means forever.  Always.  No matter what happens.  We’d belong to each other.”        


  

Chapter Text

Book Two

Chapter 23.  An ever fixed mark.

For you and for me the highest moment,
the keenest joy,
is not when our minds dominate but when we lose our minds.
    Anais Nin,  Feb. 1932 from Henry and June

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error, and upon me prov’d
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.
    Sonnet CXVI  
     




Her smile faded a bit when she heard him say forever.  “Spike, I don’t have forever.”

He grabbed her shoulders and held her still.  “We don’t know that.  Gonna have as long as I can give you, an’ even then it doesn’t matter.  I’ll love you for the whole five minutes I have after you’re gone.”

Buffy’s brow wrinkled as she said, “Five minutes?  What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Coz, sweetheart, I’m not living if you aren’t.  Not going through that again.  Chances are no one’ll be stupid enough to try an’ bring you back a third time.”  He held on, his fingers almost digging into her muscles, willing her to understand what he was saying.  “I couldn’t. . . not even for Lil Bit.”

“Oh.  You . . . love me that much?”  Her small hand reached up to run down his angular cheek, her eyes on his.  

“Yeah.  Been tryin’ to say that.”  His hold on her eased a bit, letting her relax in his arms.  “So?”

“So. . . you are asking me to . . . asking if I want us to belong to each other?”  She was stunned, in a way.  He was  – the few times she’d paid attention when Giles was going over claims and mating, she understood that it was unbreakable, that it was powerful and it was forever, more binding than any ring or legal documents could ever be – asking her to take a monumental step in their relationship.

It had only been a few months. . . since her return, since they’d become a couple.  Was she ready for this?  This was a huge commitment, bigger than anything she’d thought.  She and Spike had sort of just drifted into this relationship, bypassing the dating thing she’d done with Riley.  Unfair comparison Buffy, Spike is completely different from Riley. . . and stop thinking about him.  Pushing him out of her mind, Buffy focused on Spike.  He was pretty much everything she ever wanted but didn’t know; everything she needed and hadn’t realized.  So what if it was only months. . . she had the sudden feeling that it wouldn’t have mattered if it was only days.  

Buffy was silent for so long that Spike braced himself for the rejection he believed was coming.  He looked away from her, his jaw clenched and body poised to get up and leave her alone, because he didn’t think he could sleep next to her if she refused him.  She opened her mouth and Spike’s every muscle tensed.

“You want me to be yours.  You want to be mine.  That’s what you’re asking me, right?” She wished he would look at her, because this was just so hard to say, so terrifying to admit.

“Yeah.  ‘S what I’m askin’.”  Her finger traced over his lips, and he unconsciously kissed the tip.

“Then maybe you wanna look at me when you get your answer.”  Her words were a bare whisper between them.  

Spike glanced down, prepared to look away quickly when he saw denial and was instead trapped by the love he found swimming in her eyes.  Her hands pulled his forward, linking their fingers together.  She opened her mouth, to say it, when her answer got caught in her throat and all she could do was nod her head in a yes.  “Is that a yes, kitten? Coz I need to hear it.”

His voice was as quiet as hers had been and she finally managed to get it out.  “Yes.  That was a yes.”  

The rumbling in his chest vibrated through her and Buffy melted into his arms.  “Love you, kitten, I do.  Always.”

“Me too, Spike.”  She leaned closer into him and he could feel every inch of her against him and that was no longer enough.  He needed to feel her around him, letting him sink into her depths.

Seemed like they both had had enough of talking, because the same instant his hands snaked beneath her shirt, hers wormed their way under his tee shirt lifting it up so that she could feel his skin.  When they were both naked from the waist up, Spike leaned forward, reverently kissed both her nipples and then latched onto one of them.  His hands caressed  her and Buffy held him to her, her fingers smoothing up and down his sleek back, then resting in his curls.

His lips traced a path across her breasts, finding her other nipple.  One hand wrapped around her, settling into the small of her back while his thumb made lazy circles over her puckered nipple.

She was melting, falling into him, wanting more when he moved, lifting her away from his mouth and hands.  Buffy whined his name and Spike grinned a little, growling, “Kitten, wanna be inside you, but this isn’t gonna work with clothes on.”

Standing her up, Spike popped the buttons on her pants, sliding them down to her feet in the same motion.  One hand trailed up her inner thighs, parting her legs.  His low rumbles of pleasure went right through her and he could sense the shift in her.

 “C’mere,” he growled out as he pulled her closer.  Buffy drifted toward him, gasping a little as two fingers slid up into her warmth.  All her attention was focused on his fingers, the sensation of him gliding in and out of her, his thumb pressing on her clit.  She wavered on her feet, her knees buckling at bit, forcing her to hold onto his shoulders.

One handed, Spike somehow managed to get his boots undone and was working on getting them off his feet, trying to work the buttons on his jeans at the same time.  Buffy broke free of the haze of want surrounding her to realize that he was struggling to get naked.  Her small hands slid down his torso, cupping his ass under the denim.  He stood, his fingers trailing wetly up and around her breasts.  Buffy’s hand traced up his hipbone, over the hard planes of his shoulder and chest, finally resting on his face, her thumb tracing patterns over his lips.  A soft smile bloomed across her features and one word slipped from her.

It was all the signal he needed.  She’d done it.  Said she wanted it and now. . .  “Yeah, kitten.  Yours.”

He closed the small distance between them, his erection hard against her belly, his arms reaching out to hold her close.  They met each other in the distance between, lips melting together, tongues clashing.  His hands were under her ass, lifting her up and Buffy wrapped her legs around his waist.  “Need to feel you, kitten. . . need you.”

Spike laid them down on the bed, his cock teasing at her entrance.  “Now, Spike, please.”   She panted into his mouth, begging him to take her.

Shifting his hips, Spike pushed up and in, kissing her deeply at the same time.  Buffy opened herself, guiding him in, her breath hitching when he finally slid in all the way.  A tiny grunt of pained pleasure was forced from her and she whispered softly, “Oh.  You . . fill me.”

“Buffy. . .”  He was thrusting hard, angling deep, his forehead resting on hers.  “Love you.  Love you. . . . love you.”

Tears sprang to her eyes and she dug her fingers into his back, holding on.  “Spike. . . Spike. . .”

Hard and fast he pounded into her, unable to slow down, thrusting out of control.  His hips were pistoning into her and Buffy was writhing beneath him, holding on, her legs against him and Spike was going to. . . his balls were tight and hard and he knew she was close because she was frantically moving in time and his fangs were itching to taste her and he reared back, lifting her with him and he licked a path across her throat once and struck.

Buffy shrieked once as her first orgasm hit, then clamped her own teeth down on his neck  and Spike was lost.

Her blood was on his tongue, inside him and he could feel her. . . every part of her, knew when her tears stopped then started again.  His hips stilled, their gasping panting breaths filling the air, her tears pooling in the hollow of his shoulder and Spike felt his own tears welling up.  He licked his marks closed, savoring the feel of her everywhere on him, her coppery sweet taste in his mouth.

Spike looked into her eyes, both wet with tears, his hands cupping her head, whispering softly, “Mine.”  He inhaled deeply, breathing out, “Always.  Forever.  Mine.  Till everything fades away an’ there’s nothing left.”

Buffy’s smile wavered a bit, fresh tears falling again.  “Yes.  Yours.”

His lips were gently on hers, then he whispered, “Your turn.”  

Her smile broke through the tears and she asked, “This means you can’t ever leave me, right?”

“Means I won’t. . . but yeah.”  He waited, wondering what she was about to do.

Her arms circled round his head and she gave a good imitation of his growl, saying, “Mine. . . mine. . . mine.”

Spike laughed then from sheer relief, then said back to her, “Yours.  Always.  F’rever.”

Buffy’s head dropped down onto his shoulder, her breath warm against his skin.  They were both quiet, neither one wanting to break the silence.  Connor shifted in his crib, let loose a soft howl, then stilled again.

It seemed to break the silence between them and Buffy kissed the broken skin on his neck, feeling him shudder.  His movement caused ripples through her and Buffy shifted a bit on his lap.  “I’m not gonna get all fangy, am I?”

Spike laughed again, this one hard enough to forcefully remind her they were still intimately joined.  “No.  Though no one’s ever claimed and mated a slayer before.  According to Rupert they were only potentials.  Don’t rightly know what this is gonna do.”

“Spike?”  There was a strange note in her voice.

“Yeah?”  He leaned back a bit to look down at her.

“Can you never ever mention Giles again when we’re. . . .”

His laughter rumbled through both of them and he fell back, bringing her with him.  She landed hard, and his hips bucked up, flexing in reaction.  Instantly his expression changed and Spike reached up to cup her breasts.  “That’s it, kitten, need you again.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


They had practically run from the house, barely taking time to say good night to the two blonds and give them an update on the whereabouts of the two children.  Giles didn’t question them on how patrol went, eager for once to escape the scrutiny of the normally too perceptive vampire.   But Spike hadn’t noticed anything amiss, hadn’t picked up on the awkward atmosphere between himself and Anya, which was a blessing in and of itself.

He was quiet on the drive to the apartment she shared with Xander, unsure of what to say or how to broach any subject.  Giles had come to appreciate much about the ex-demon, including her wit and drive, and he was beginning to suspect that he might harbor more than friendly or co-worker affection for the girl.  Yet there was the very real complication of her current romantic partner.  Until she gave him some indication that they were no longer a couple, Giles had to operate under the assumption they were.  And he wasn’t a poacher.  He’d wait until she was free; if she ever decided to cut the boy loose.

So until then, he wasn’t going to make a move.  


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Dawn heard them come in, heard Spike’s voice from the top of the stairs telling her they were home, then the slam of the front door indicating Giles and Anya had left quickly.  Anya was strange, but she was cool, and since life was pretty good, Dawn wanted everyone to be happy.  

Finishing up her laundry, Dawn headed for the living room, fully expecting to find Spike settled and already channel surfing.  Instead the room was dark, only one light on and he was nowhere to be found.  That was a surprise, because it was barely midnight and he rarely went to bed this early.  Shrugging her shoulders, Dawn flipped on the television, curled up on the couch and prepared to watch bad late-night television shows.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buffy was draped over him, one leg curled over his hips, his cock still nestled in her depths and she was snoring lightly.  Spike was wide awake though, his thoughts on the girl in his arms, one hand making idle circles on her bare back.  He couldn’t sleep.  Almost didn’t want to.  He was listening to the sounds of Buffy’s and Connor’s breathing and heartbeats, his mind on what he and Buffy had just done.  

It was the single most important moment of his existence.  He had no words to explain to Buffy what it meant to him, how important her acceptance and yes, he could admit it now, what her love meant.  Buffy shifted, her mouth brushing against his skin in an unconscious kiss, and he fought off a shiver.  Spike ran his hand over her from hip to shoulder, watching her as the skin of her back almost rose to meet his touch.  She was gold and sunshine, her whole existence warming him, everything about her . . .  There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for her.  Wasn’t anything . . . he’d go out and slay demons for her every night, protect those she loved – anything she wanted.  Emotions clogged in his throat, choking him, and Spike felt a sudden need to look at her face, to look into her eyes and tell her what he was feeling.  

Rolling over gently, Spike rearranged their bodies and limbs so that he was laying over her; his arms going round her head, his hands ghosting through her hair.  He studied her face in the dark, the only light now from a candle he’d lit much earlier that was beginning to gutter, casting wavering shadows over her features.  “I love you.  So much.”

He’d slipped from her warmth during the shift and he wanted back in; wanted to stay inside her forever, become part. . . they were a piece of each other, half of a whole that had been broken for so long.  Spike didn’t necessarily believe in the idea of soulmates, though he understood that there was more in heaven and earth that defied description. They defied description.  He also didn’t believe in fate or destiny, life and unlife had thrown him too many curves to believe any longer, but he knew there was life after death, hell he was unliving proof of that. . . but the other kind of life after death; finding a piece of heaven when you least deserved it or least expected it.  He’d found it, here, in her arms.  With her.  Sometimes he wondered if maybe he should still believe in destiny . . .

He sat up a bit, looking down at the still sleeping woman beneath him.  Of their own volition, his hands stroked over her every curve, feather light and reverent.  His eyes drank in her appearance.  That this. . . was granted to him, when he’d least deserved any being’s kindness humbled him, altered him in ways that he might never begin to fathom, made him more than what he was, more than the failed poet, more than the violent demon. . .

Following his fingers, Spike laid gentle kisses in a path from her belly to her breasts, unaware of the tears that pooled in his eyes.  She’d been gone.  Taken from him, from all of them.  He’d never thought to see her again.  Her light had gone out, extinguished too soon, in a fight to preserve everything she loved.  And he’d wept.  Mourned her loss.  Flung his tears and anger at the heavens, raging at a universe that had taken the one beautiful thing in his life, leaving him bereft.  Empty.  

His love was a fierce feral beast inside him, raging against what had been torn away, unable to truly wreak the havoc he’d wanted too when she was gone.

He’d raged, using the only things he had, fists and fangs, destroying the only things he could – his own kind.  And his one fervent prayer – the only one he could ever remember saying for a very, very long time – his only request of the universe, had been granted.

Never had he wanted it granted in the way it had been, would have preferred to let her be in peace, but that wasn’t to be.  She’d been given back to a world that didn’t appreciate her, didn’t know what it had in her – and to him.  

She was back, flesh and blood and warm. . . oh god, warm beneath him, breathing, living.  Although she was broken.  Broken by her journey back, broken by the heartache that had gone before; by life and heartbreak.  And yet, she’d begun the inevitable process of healing. Starting with him.  Buffy had wanted him, needed him – took strength from him.  

And now here he was.  With her.  In their bed, their house.  

Spike felt the pull of the poet he once strove to be raging through him, urging him to put pen to paper and compose something, anything to convey to her the breadth and depth of his emotions.  Tamping down that urge, instead, he let his body worship hers, his lips reverently tracing every part of her, his words, meager as they were, a benediction, a plea, all whispered in gratitude for what they had now.  “Love you, Buffy.  So much.”

Kisses interspersed with words flowed from him, washing over the still form of his mate, his entire being focused on her.   “Always.  Forever.”

So intent upon her was he, yet still he missed the signs, missed the wakening and missed the tears falling silently at his hushed words of adoration; until warm hands reached to cup his cheek, tracing their own patterns on his alabaster skin.  

She didn’t speak, listening instead to his deep rumbling tones wash over her.  Lines long forgotten from an old Scottish poem he barely remembered his grandfather reciting to his grandmother flashed into his head and he used it to tell her what he was feeling.  

“You are the star in my every night.”  His lips trailed across her belly, his hands caressing her gently.

“You are the brightness of every morning.”  Spike licked and suckled at her nipples.  “You are the face of my sun.”

His mouth licked a path upwards, toward her mouth.  He caught the look in her eyes and all words, all thoughts fled.  “‘M yours.   All I ever was, ever will be. . . love you so much.”

Buffy threaded her fingers through his hair, holding him to her.  “Spike.”  She couldn’t talk, couldn’t think of anything to say that would compare to his words.  So she showed him.

Her lips sought his, her hands slid across his sleek muscles, her body called to his.

Following his earlier actions, Buffy laid soft kisses over his shoulders, tiny little teasing things, designed to drive him mad.

“Kitten. . . need you . . . need inside.”  Suiting action to word, Spike nestled between her legs, his cock bumping against her clit.  “C’mon, love, lemme in.”

Buffy shifted, opening herself, tilting her hips so that the head of his cock was wedged tightly just inside her.  Spike was panting, his breath washing over her while Buffy was desperately trying to gain control.  “Spike. . . love me.”

“Oh god.”  And as he slid inside, the control he’d been relying on deserted him.  “Fuck.”

His hips thrust hard into her, his hands clenching around hers, and there was nothing but the feel of her around him, the liquid heat enveloping him. . . the silky slide of her. . .  Surrounding him, bathing him in her warmth.  He groaned, unable to think, unable to be any. . . every nerve was on fire.

Buffy clung to him, her hips moving with his, her legs wrapped around his waist, anchoring them together.  He was hard and solid, filling her, his cock bumping against her and all she could do was gasp and whimper.

He could feel the pressure building, gaining in intensity and speed, his thrusting increasing in force, his balls tightening painfully and he was gasping out her name, breathing into her mouth, aching for her and he felt the fluttering, the spasming, the tightening of her pussy around his cock and Spike was lost.  His orgasm rose up, engulfing both of them, breaking like a wave within her, shattering his world and reforming it into something new.
                





             

Chapter Text

Book Two.  

Chapter 24.   Hope is a waking dream.

What reinforcement we may gain from hope;
If not, what resolution from despair.  
    John Milton,  Satan, Paradise Lost, bk. 1

There was no hope, but everyone felt the courage of despair.
    Rose Wilder Lane, The Ghost in the Little House

And thus it is that in the depth of love there is a depth of eternal despair,
out of which springs hope and consolation.
    Miguel de Unamuno, The Tragic Sense of Life





She kept waiting for things to change, little signs that something was different about her since she and Spike had exchanged claiming and mating bites, but aside from feeling him all the time and at times being able to key into his emotions and thoughts, there were no outward signs.  Everything was normal.  Well, as normal as their lives were.

That didn’t stop her from searching her face in the mirror, three weeks after they’d mated, looking for signs of bumps or fangs.  Nope.  Nothing there.

Spike stood in the doorway of the bathroom, watching Buffy go through the funniest thing he’d ever seen in a long time.  At this precise moment, she was lifting her lips over her gums, looking for signs of elongating canines.  She was adorably funny and he was having a hard time suppressing his laughter.  She hadn’t seen or sensed him yet, though that was only a matter of time.  

He’d come up here for something else entirely, but had gotten sidetracked when he’d caught a glimpse of her antics.  Connor was sleeping in his crib and the rest of the household was gone, Dawn and Tara both at school.

Crossing his arms over his chest, Spike tried to stop the laughter that was bubbling up inside him. “I’d imagine your reflection would be bit hazy if all that other stuff were to happen.”

Buffy turned, blushing furiously at being caught in the act of checking her own mouth.  “How long have you been watching me?”

“Long enough, goldilocks.”  His eyes held a spark of mischief.  “If you’re looking for fangs, love, don’t think it’s gonna happen.”

‘Why not?”  She paused, realizing how jealous that sounded and how weird that was.  “Um, not that I really want fangs and bumpies, coz, uh, not so nice, but how come?”

Spike moved further into the bathroom, almost closing the door behind him.  The usual scents assaulted his supernatural sense of smell, but Spike tuned them out, narrowing on Buffy.  He’d come upstairs to get something from his wallet but her crazy behavior, combined with her mouth-watering scent distracted him.  There was something about her that was different, newer . . .

“Coz, kitten, I’d have to turn you for that and ‘m not likely to be doing that anytime soon.”

“No?”  She pouted a bit, her lower lip jutting out, teasing him.

“Not bloody likely.”  He ran a finger over her lips.  “Course I’d still be your willin’ slave, but I like you this way. . . warm and . . .”  Spike nuzzled his face into her hair, nudging at her with his nose.  “You smell fuckin’ delicious, sunshine.  Wanna eat you all up, little girl.”

Her arms reached up around the back of his neck, holding him against her as his words set off tiny explosions in her.  “Delicious?”  His arms encircled her from behind and Spike ground his erection into her ass.  “Me?”

“Fuck, yeah.”  His fangs grazed his mating marks on her throat and tiny droplets of blood rolled around his tongue.  “Yeah, richer, stronger.  Fuller. . .”  Spike sniffed her again, this time not with the intent of seduction.  Spike spun her around, his eyes intent on her, searching her face.

Dropping down to his knees, Spike pulled her close, inhaling deeply.  He’d smelled something like this before. . .  Raising his eyes to hers, Spike grinned at the question in her eyes.  He got to his feet, then lifted her up in the air, dropping kisses across her torso.

“Spike, what are you doing?”  His growling laugh caught her attention and she pulled his head away from where it nestled between her breasts.  ‘Spike?  What is wrong with you?  What are you doing?”

The pout was back and Spike dropped her onto the bathroom counter, attacking her pouting lips with a fervor.  Breathless from his kisses, Buffy forgot his weird behavior.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Dawn was sitting in the cafeteria with Janice waiting for Casey to get there so they could eat together.

“Christmas is less than a week away.  Do you know what you’re gonna get him?”  Janice asked, trying to figure out what she should get her own boyfriend.

“He said he wanted some game for the PS2.”  Dawn scrunched up her face.  “But I gotta get Buffy’s too, and something for Giles.  I’m done with everyone after that.”

Janice sighed, grousing.  “You suck.  I haven’t even started.  Not fair.  How come you’re nearly done?”

“Spike gave me money over the weekend.  Figured I might as well get it done.  It was easy shopping for him.”

“Yeah?  Whadidya get him?”  Janice was curious.

Dawn snickered.  “I got him music.  The Essential Clash and um. .  The Buzzcocks.”

“Cool.”  Casey’s voice came from behind her and he kissed her on the cheek then sat down.  “Remind me to ask him if I can copy them after Christmas.”

A light went on in Dawn’s head and she smiled at him.   “Sure.  I can do that.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Everything was cold.  She was cold.  Tendrils of wet hair wrapped themselves around her throat and she couldn’t move her hands to get them away.  Her fingers, when she tried flexing them, were swollen and battered and at least two of them were broken.  Once perfect nails were ragged and she was pretty sure a couple were bleeding sluggishly.  Her skin felt like it was stretched out, sucked dry and every nerve ending was dulled and aching.  Her left wrist was sore.  There were small, razor thin cuts running the length of her arms, stinging her every time she moved.  Her skin was hot there and across her butt, but everywhere else she was cold.  

Whatever clothing she’d been wearing was long gone and there were no blankets to cover her.  Not that it mattered.  She couldn’t see anything but the ceiling above her, or, if she angled her head down, the tips of her breasts and the foot of the bed she was tied to.  But she didn’t want to think about that, about what was anchoring her here and now, so instead she focused her gaze upwards, staring at the ceiling.  She imagined all sorts of things, counting bumps and crevices in the flat surface above her, finding interesting patterns.  

There was no way of knowing how long she’d been tied up; no way of remembering what had gone on before.  She was nothing.  There was nothing beyond the hurt, and the smell of burning hair and the coppery metallic scent of blood.  Her stomach no longer growled, it had been days since she’d had anything resembling real food. . . was it days?  I don’t remember.  

Her once flawless skin had been shredded and torn, mottled and bruised, every inch sporting some mark, some new flaw. . .   Tears were an indulgence, something she permitted herself only when she knew she was alone, when those tormenting her left her alone.  She was crying now, silent salty tears sliding down the side of her head for what once was, what would never be again.

I’m gonna survive this.  Gonna. . .not going to let this kill me.  Not going let either of them kill me.  A sob welled up in her throat and she gritted her teeth, trying to force the sound down and away, so that her captors wouldn’t hear her.  

Little tingles of awareness shot down her spine and she knew what it meant.  Since the first night, she’d tried to retreat, to shrink away from the pain, to escape away, all to no avail.  The pain dragged her back, kept her mind tied to her body, aware of every cut, every bleeding, seeping wound.   There was no hiding.

Not even her mind would go away . . . leave her body behind, let them do what they would to it, because the shell no longer mattered, the skin wasn’t important.

She grimaced, hearing the first noises that heralded her captors arrival.  Thin leather straps circled her wrists, others binding her legs to the posts of the bed; strips that were once wet with water and allowed to dry were now slick with her blood, tightening and digging into her bleeding flesh.  Despite knowing resistance was only spice to his torture of her, she couldn’t help writhing on the bed, twisting and trying to loosen her bonds in a futile effort to get away from the monster walking down the hallway toward her.

Scrabbling like a rat in the cage, she whined and pulled at the bonds holding her tight, bringing blood to the surface, letting it drip down onto the bed below her.  

Her nerves shorted, muscles tensing and flexing with anticipation when she caught a glimpse of him in the doorway.  His pants were riding low on his hips, arms crossed over his barrel chest, a malicious grin lighting his dark features and a feral twinkle in his eyes.  She stilled, knowing something was different . . . he was different right now.

Fear welled up, seizing her, catching in her throat.  Her heart was pounding in her chest, breaths hard and drying her throat.  No . . . no . . .no . . . no. . . not this.  Not now. . . she wasn’t aware of her whispered pleas to a god that had forsaken her, to a monster without a soul, for a moment of compassion that would never come.

Rough, calloused hands brushed across her broken and bleeding skin, smoothing over the puckered and pebbled softness, a low rumbling growl erupting from his chest as she shrunk away from him.  Sharp nails scored over her nipples, raising welts from illusory gentle hands.  Blood welled up from the marks left behind, pooling on her, running down the hills of her breasts toward her neck.

The mattress dipped below his weight, as he settled between her legs, watching her try and close her thighs against him, words she didn’t understand, didn’t want to understand spewing from his mouth.  No no no. . . her mind was screaming at her now, knowing instinctively that he was about to commit the final act of violation on her.  

Without further warning, his fingers shot straight into her core, dry thrusting into her, nearly lifting her ass from the bed.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Wesley and Giles were working tirelessly, trying to find a complete copy of the translation of the Romany text Jenny had made before she died, and trying to find a surgeon who was willing to travel to Sunnydale.  The night meeting he’d had with Lilah Morgan had been a miscalculation on his part, since Lilah had done nothing but try to recruit him for Wolfram & Hart from the moment he sat down in the restaurant.  It had disconcerted him no end, especially how she had phrased the offer.  He’d been so focused on obtaining assistance about the chip that she had caught him off guard when she pitched the idea.  Because of her demeanor, once Wesley got his bearings, he held off mentioning the purpose of his request for the meeting.  His guard had been up, his inherent suspicion of anything from Wolfram & Hart setting off enough warning bells that Wesley had just clammed up and held his tongue.  So that was one avenue of chip removal he refused to pursue further.

According to rumors, or so Willie had said, Angelus and Drusilla had skipped town two weeks ago, searching for lost lambs.  Both men were afraid they were looking for the other members of the AI team, especially since they’d lost contact with Cordelia.

She’d called a couple of times, checking in and letting them know she was safe.  Gunn had also called in, informing Wesley that he and Fred were hiding out in the underground of Los Angeles, living on the streets.  Even Lorne had checked in, from Las Vegas, where he was working in one of the casinos.  But nothing from Cordelia in a couple of days; which just increased Wesley’s distraction.

The two Englishmen had just exhausted their last contact; the last surgeon on their list refusing to remove the chip.  They were sitting in Rupert’s office, neither one of them in the best of spirits.

“Do we have a way of contacting The Initiative?”  Wesley’s voice finally broke the silence.

Giles looked up from his contemplation of the text in front of him.  “I believe Buffy knows how to.  I tried to disassociate from that aspect of her life.”  

Wesley nodded, then got up to pace around the small space, “We’re going to have to tell them.  Might as well be tonight.”

Rupert grimaced.  “Happy bloody Christmas.”

“Indeed.  I take it this will not be received happily.”

“Not likely.”  Giles feared that would be a gross understatement.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Willow was pacing outside the lecture hall.  Tara’s presence called out to her from behind the closed doors, though she had no idea if her sudden appearance was going to be welcomed.  Doesn’t matter anyhow.  Don’t care.  Need to see her.  To feel her.  She’s mine.  My girl.

The class broke and suddenly the hallway was full of people emerging, laughing, chattering, and going about their day.  Tara was one of the last to leave the lecture hall, surrounded by a group of smiling people Willow didn’t know.  Placing a hand up, Willow muttered “Mute,” and all the noise receded.

“Hello, Tara.”  Willow’s voice was surprisingly controlled, none of her nervousness showing.  

“Willow.  How are you?”  Tara’s eyes shifted left and right, noting the sudden hush that fell over her study group.  Realizing it wasn’t natural, Tara stared at Willow, then said, “Release them, Willow, or this discussion will never get started.”

Chastised, Willow complied.  “Can we go someplace to talk at least?”

“What’s there to talk about?  You’ve changed, Willow – you aren’t the same girl I fell in love with.  And I’m not the same either.”  Tara moved out of the way of the passing students, stepping further away from Willow.

“I’ve . . . I’ve been thinking and well, I guess you were right.  I should’ve asked for help, told you what I was planning.”  Willow played with the edges of her sleeves.

“I suppose that’s an admission, but really, Willow, it’s not enough.”  Tara’s voice was cool, her personality almost wouldn’t allow for anything harsher, though there was a firmness that Willow hadn’t ever heard before.

“What would be enough?”  Willow was at a loss.

Tara was shaking her head.  “Until you figure that out, Willow, I can’t be around you.”  Taking pity on the girl she used to love, Tara smiled a bit.  “You have a lot of people that still care, but you need to figure stuff out.”

With Willow sputtering in confusion, Tara tried one more time, “You hurt a lot of people, those same people that care.  You need to figure out what’s more important.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Buffy looked up at the ceiling, every muscle loose and rubbery.  Daytime sex with Spike was the best, she decided.  Didn’t matter really what time of day, though there was something about him being inside her during the day that made her toes curl more than they normally did when she thought about Spike.

She was flat on her back, Spike’s head nestled between her breasts, his arms curled around her protectively.  He was quiet, so quiet that she thought he might be asleep and she didn’t want to disturb him if he was.  This is so comfy. . .  Buffy shifted a bit, running a hand through his curls, her mind a bit blank.  She sighed and felt Spike reposition himself.

His low voice rumbled out of him, “Wha’s wrong?”

She rubbed hard into the spot at his nape, the one he loved for her to massage, saying, “Nothing.  Go back to sleep.”

“You sure, kitten?”  His voice was so sleepy.  I love that sound.

“Ah huh.  Pretty positive.”  She hugged him closer.  “Nothing’s wrong here.”

“Mmmm.”  He nestled closer, a kiss brushing against her skin.

“Spike?  What do you want for Christmas?”  Buffy’s hands stilled a bit, waiting for his answer.

“Nothin’.  Already got more than I hoped for.  Don’t need anythin’.”  She could feel his eyelashes fluttering against her breast and the sensation caused Buffy to almost miss his words.

“Not about what you need, silly.  Christmas is about getting something you want really badly and can’t get for yourself.”  She played some more with the hair at his neck, her fingers combing his curls.

“Sunshine.  Got all that.  Got everythin’ I want right here.”  He paused, knowing this was a perfect opening to tell her what he suspected, but he hesitated, wondering if he should let her figure it out on her own.

“C’mon, Spike, there has to be something you really want.”  Buffy knew she was pushing, but she wanted so badly to tell him what she was thinking. . .

Spike lifted up to look down at her.  “Buffy.  Isn’t anythin’ I want that I don’t already have.”  He paused, his eyes intent up on her.  “Wha?”

There was a look he’d never seen before on her – hope and fear and something else swirled in her green eyes.  “You sure there isn’t something else that you want?”

Oh, she’s got something on her mind.
  “All right, what is it?”

She looked up at him shyly, unsure what to say now.  “Never mind.  I’ll just surprise you on Christmas.”

“You sure?”  Spike nudged at her, seeking entrance into her depths again.  “C’mon, sunshine, tell me.”

“Nope.  It’s gonna be a surprise.”  Buffy angled her hips, using her hot hand to guide him back inside her.  Her pussy contracted around him and Spike forgot what it was they had been talking about.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Oz caught up with Tara before she got to the bookstore where they were actually supposed to meet.

“Hey.”  His voice startled her from her thoughts of Willow and Tara jumped in surprise.

“Hey.”  He could see she was upset, though knowing her, she’d start talking before he asked, so he waited her out.  His patience was rewarded not moments later.

“Ran into Willow just now.  I thought she was going to apologize, but she didn’t.  I really don’t know her the way I thought I did.”

It was on the tip of his tongue to say something, though since Oz wasn’t sure waxing philosophical would work at the moment, so he kept silent.

“You know she’s never once said she was sorry for any of it.  What she did.”  Tara sighed, smiling sadly.  “And she has no idea that I know what she did to Spike.”

“Sometimes learning the hard way is the only way some people learn.”  Oz opened the shop’s door, letting Tara step through.

“I guess.  It’s just hard watching it.”  She sighed, looking over her shoulder at the short man.

“Always is.”  He pointed her toward the coffee bar and just like that the discussion was done.
                                        

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


It was hours later, when Giles and Wesley were finally able to get a moment alone with Buffy and Spike to tell them about the last attempt at finding a surgeon.

The two Watchers cornered them just before they left for patrol, as Giles was staying home with Dawn and Connor since Tara had study group and Wesley was going with them.  Since Drusilla’s first night, Spike had been adamant about someone else patrolling with them.  He didn’t want to take a chance of getting separated and one of them getting hurt.  He never voiced it, though Buffy knew he was thinking of two things, her getting overwhelmed by sheer numbers and Angelus deciding to use humans against them.  So she didn’t balk – much.

They were heading out when Giles stopped them.  “Buffy?  Can you wait a moment?  I’ve got some news.”

“What’s up?”  Buffy turned around, lifting her hair into a loose ponytail.  Spike was pulling on his duster and perked up at Giles’ tone.

“Wesley and I contacted Dr. Sutter, the last surgeon on our list, in Canada.  I think I can safely say we’ve exhausted all possibilities here.  I don’t believe extending our search to Europe will have anything but similar results.”  He waited a beat, letting that news sink in before he spoke again.  “We could use a normal surgeon.”

The blond couple shared a look, which neither of the other two could interpret.  Their silent  communication lasted longer than normal; and Giles was about to ask something when Spike growled and stormed from the house.

It was Wesley’s quietly worded question that startled them.  “How long have you and Spike been mated?”

Giles took off his glasses to peer closer at Buffy, spluttering out, “How?  When?  Why didn’t you say something?”

Buffy stayed silent for a minute, an odd look on her face and as she heard the closing of the front door, she started talking.  Deciding to answer Wesley first, Buffy said, “About three weeks ago.”  Then she giggled and said, ‘Okay, it was the Thursday before Thanksgiving.”

“Ah.”  Giles smiled, remembering the very strange things Buffy had done on Thanksgiving which now all made more sense.  “And you kept this to yourselves because?”

“It’s private, Watcher.  Not somethin’ for the masses.”   He was suddenly leaning against the door, arms crossed and features set.  Spike’s stance and tone were a bit belligerent, though Giles had come to learn that was just the vampire being defensive.  Giles had expected something like this – been waiting for it actually and wasn’t really all that surprised.

“Have you noticed any changes?”  He couldn’t help asking.  Curiosity and the need to chronicle were so ingrained he sometimes lost sight of when both traits became a bit offensive.  Spike grunted, not answering, but Buffy leaned over and thumped him.

“We can sorta talk to each other.”  Buffy shot her mate a look, admitting, “Okay, Spike can talk.  I’m still working on the verbal.  But I can do pictures and emotions.  Go me!”

“Spike, is that normal?”  Giles was warming up to the subject but was thrown for a loop at  the other Englishman’s answer.

“Dunno.  Never done this before.”  Spike relaxed against the doorjamb, belligerence gone.

“Never done this?  Weren’t you and Drusilla mates?”   He stopped speaking at the shake of both their heads.  Well, that’s bloody news.  He’d thought for sure the two had been mated.  “The Watcher’s Diaries state that.”

Spike’s snort of disgust was drowned out by Buffy’s incomprehensible grumble.

“Should know by now, Rupes, those diaries aren’t always accurate.  Lots of things the Council doesn’t know about.”  Spike stepped closer to Buffy.  “Wankers haven’t a clue half the time.”

Wesley stirred, folding his arms across his chest, remarking, “Indeed.  The Council has not been very forthcoming or accommodating in the past.”

“Not sure I trust them at all.”  Was Buffy’s softly worded statement, while Spike stated calmly, “No reason to.  Haven’t done right by you at all.”

She leaned back against him as his arm snaked around her waist and his lips brushed against her hair.  His next words brought them right back to the start of this conversation.  “So unless we go abroad, we’ve stalled, yeah?”

“We’ve hit a brick wall, I’m afraid.”  Once more Giles and Wesley watched while the two communicated silently.

Spike’s voice broke the silence, a deep sigh indicating his capitulation.  “Fine.  Call them.  ‘M not happy with it, but they put the bloody thing in there, they should be the ones takin’ it out.”

He broke away from Buffy, signaling the end of his patience and, as far as he was concerned, the end of the conversation.  “C’mon, if you’re still comin’.  Night’s still young.”

And he was out the door and down the steps before Wesley had even moved.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Oz was wrapping amp cords and putting away his equipment when he heard the first out of place rustlings.  It stopped when he stopped moving, so he knew there was someone in the practice space he and the rest of the band had rented.  Not to mention that he could smell whoever it was, he just didn’t recognize the signature.

Working more quietly, Oz finished up his tasks, eager to get going and not liking the feeling of being watched.  The hackles on the back of his neck rose and Oz knew his control would slip the moment whoever it was showed.  Thinking quickly, Oz reached into his pocket and, trying to shield his movements from whoever was watching him, opened his cell phone and punched in a series of numbers.

Hopefully, the elaborate system Giles had come up with would work and the signal would reach Buffy and Spike in time, and keep Tara away.

There was no time to finish the message, because a low growl sounded from behind him and Oz closed the phone, slowly turning around to face the threat.

Without a word, he began to morph, knowing he stood a far better chance of survival as the wolf.  His own answering growls reverberated around the enclosed space and Oz’ last fleeting rational thought was about the equipment that was about to be damaged.

Growls and rumbles filled the air along with the screech and whine of destroyed electronic equipment.  Panting for breath, the werewolf crouched on all fours, waiting for his foe to return from the shadows.  A flicker of movement caught his attention and once again the two supernatural beings fought.  Two sets of canines ripped into skin, snarling and slashing.

The vampire hadn’t expected this – hadn’t remembered this about the human at all – had imagined this one would be less of a challenge.  Yet he was more than holding his own against the master vampire.

The vampire retreated again, hiding once more in the dark shadows, waiting for the werewolf to make a mistake.  Blood was running from various claw wounds and bite marks, though he’d managed to inflict his own damage because the wolf was favoring his left hid leg, blood matting the reddish fur.

Using that knowledge, the vampire attacked on the left, trying to rip the wound open further.  But the wolf was prepared for this, and sprang for the vampire’s throat, its jaws sinking in, closing around the vampire’s throat and shaking.

Growling deeply in growing fury, Angelus forced his fingers into the wolf’s mouth, prying it open and away from his flesh.  Something cracked and the wolf roared in pain, yowling and whimpering in fear.

Unable to stay and finish the kill, the blood flowing too fast and strong from his own wounds, Angelus clamped a hand around his bleeding neck and fled.

Chapter Text

Book Two

Chapter 25.  Eye of the Hurricane.
 

Thou born to match the gale, (thou art all wings,)
To cope with heaven and earth and sea and hurricane
     Walt Whitman, To the Man-of-War-Bird  

Calm fell. From Heaven distilled a clemency;
There was peace on earth, and silence in the sky;
Some could, some could not, shake off misery:
The Sinister Spirit sneered: It had to be!’
And again the Spirit of Pity whispered, ‘Why?’
    Thomas Hardy, And There Was a Great Calm

The view from the hill looks bleak from where I stand
The waters are come in unto my soul
I can’t cry no more my eyes are bone dry sore
There’s a river of tears flowing down to the sea

I’m a desolate soul on a desolate shore
Destined to walk alone
Into the crucifix night
The storm of a cross
I live to love again and again
All my life

Oh eye of the hurricane
I walk away in the wind and the rain
Into the eye of the hurricane
Face to face
    The Alarm, Eye of the Hurricane, 1990




“Look, I’m not chipper and cheery about this either.  So not wanting to trust the Initiative, but, Spike, it has to come out.”

They’d been bantering back and forth for the better part of an hour, not really fighting, as far as Wesley could tell, although there were moments when it was abundantly clear Spike was not happy about using the Initiative.  Wesley, thanks to some late night sharing over pints, had the background on the situation, probably even more than Giles had.  Because Spike had been more forthcoming than usual that night, Wesley also knew what had transpired between Buffy and her former boyfriend.

And while Spike couldn’t remember specifically if Riley had been present during some of the more twisted “experiments”; Wesley suspected Riley Finn had tested the vampire’s strength more than once.  So his sympathies weren’t even in doubt in this situation.  He didn’t want to subject Spike to more abuse at the hands of the military.  Which was why he opened his mouth when there was a lull between rounds of the verbal sparring match.

“I’d like to be there to ensure nothing untoward happens.”

Both blondes looked at him, one confused and the other, it appeared, more than relieved someone else picked up on his apprehension and distrust.  

“Why?”  Spike sighed.  Sometimes his woman was a bit too slow on the uptake.

Wesley’s answer was quick.  “Because, like Spike, I don’t believe The Initiative would just willingly let him go once they have him again.”  Taking a deep breath and sharing a look over her head with his fellow ex-patriot, Wesley finished with, “Nor do I trust that your former companion won’t seek some sort of revenge while Spike is incapacitated.”

The two Englishmen shared another look.  Wesley’s support meant more than Spike was willing to admit and he was reassured by the idea that someone other than Buffy was going to keep an eagle eye on the proceedings.  And not just any someone.  Spike had a healthy respect for Wesley that was more the beginnings of real friendship than anything else.

Buffy was about to speak when three cell phones simultaneously chirped.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Tara was in the library of UC Sunnydale, studying for her last final, head immersed in abnormal psychology and oblivious to anything else, when her cell phone vibrated in her bag, making it jump across the table.

Jumping a little herself, Tara grabbed her bag, and reached inside for the buzzing phone.  Looking down at the voice mail message, Tara rapidly packed up her things and with a hastily murmured “Sorry” to her study group, she got up and left the building.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Giles was just settling down to read, after putting Connor down, when his cell phone rang.  Fumbling for it, he heard Dawn’s door open, then the quick patter of her feet, and the thud of them hitting the stairs.

“Giles?  Did your phone go off?”  Seeing the item in his hands, Dawn held up a hand, “Don’t bother.  It’s Oz.  Something’s wrong, because he didn’t finish the message.”

“Yes, I see that.”  Giles checked his own, just in case, then snapped his head up.  “Go upstairs and check Connor.  I’ll get everything ready.”

“What do you mean everything?”  Dawn watched him carefully, trying to figure out what he was going to do.

“If he’s hurt, he’ll need transport to hospital.   I’m going to get the car.  See to the baby, please.”  Giles grabbed his coat, motioning Dawn toward the stairs.

“Wouldn’t it be safer if Connor and I stayed here?”  She faced Giles from the stairs where she’d started ascending.

He thought for a moment, weighing the options.  There was no way of knowing until they found out where he was, what the situation was.  “Perhaps waiting might be best.  Do you know where he was going to be tonight?”

Dawn shrugged.  “Nope.”

“Right then.  We’ll wait.  Dawn, check on the baby anyway.”  Giles motioned her toward the second floor, then shrugged out of his jacket.

Placated that he wasn’t going to rush out, Dawn headed up the stairs.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Moving quickly from the library, Tara hit automatic dialer and got Spike on the first ring.

“What do you know, Glinda?”  His voice was steady, no hint of anything going on other than him waiting for her phone call.

“He’s rehearsing.”  Was her first statement.

“Where?”  He motioned his companions to silence.

“Not far from the college, one of the old converted warehouses on the end of Main Street.”

“Which one?”  He moved closer to Buffy, letting her listen in.

“Not sure.  Never been to rehearsal with him.”  Tara was using her intuition, letting her feet guide her in the right direction.  “I’d do a locator, but it would take too long.”

“All right.  I’ll head over there with Buffy, an’ send Oxford for the wheels.”  Clicking off the phone, Spike indicated to Buffy and Wesley what Tara hadn’t said.  “We need to go now.  Got a hunch dogboy could use a hand.”  Pointing to himself and Buffy, he said, “We can get there faster without you.”

“I’d best go for the car then, in case we need to get him to Sunnydale Memorial.  I’ll call Dr. Thomas, let him know we might be coming in.”  Wesley headed off toward the cemetery’s entrance, Buffy and Spike just behind him.

“Oxford.  Watch your back.”  And with that the two blonds took off, running full out toward the warehouse district.
    

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Tara closed her eyes after ending the phone call, inhaling deeply and centering herself.  She was worried about Oz, knowing the quiet man wasn’t the type to jump and send messages that were false alarms.  He was more likely to downplay any danger.

Once she achieved a sense of calm, Tara thought to herself . . . and realized how incredibly vulnerable she was in the nearly deserted area between the college and the warehouse district.  Shaking her head at her own stupidity, Tara immediately cast the sunlight spell, sending the ball of sunshine up and over her head.  There.  That will keep me safe for now.

Reaching out her senses, Tara started off toward her left, following her intuition.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Spike, on the other hand, was using his knowledge of two things, the musical underground in Sunnydale and his sense of smell.  Not quite on a level with a werewolf’s, Spike’s heightened sense was enough to lead him unerringly to the rehearsal building, once he had a general location.

Buffy was running alongside him, holding back because she was relying on his sense of smell, and she stole a glance over at him, noting he’d slipped into game face and was sporting a grimace.

“Angelus was here.”  He ground out as they skidded to a halt outside a boxy-type former factory with a sliding metal door.  Taking note of the light rapidly approaching from their right, Spike slipped out of game face.  “Glinda’s here, pet.”

Buffy swung her head to look and ran down the alleyway to meet her.

Spike had slid inside before they returned, leaving the door partially opened. The interior lights were on, illuminating a plain hallway running parallel to the door, with perpendicular hallways and doors leading away from the front.  Spike was nowhere to be seen and not willing to speak out loud in case Angelus was still in the building, Buffy held a hand out to stop Tara and silently called out to Spike.

His voice sounded in her head, “To your left, kitten, third hallway, ‘bout halfway down.”

Motioning Tara to come with her, Buffy followed his instructions.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The room was a shambles.  Destroyed amps and ripped cabinets littered the floor, electronic cables and speaker wires were hanging from the ceiling.  Sparks flickered here and there and Spike grimaced when he passed a destroyed Stratocaster and the remains of Oz’ bass.  Stepping over the debris on the floor, he gingerly made his way methodically through the room.

A low pain-filled groan caught his attention and Spike picked his way over to it.  Oz was on the floor, blood pooling beneath his injured leg, half morphed between wolf and man.  Knowing he could smell his presence, Spike kneeled down, talking quietly.  “All right, mate, it’s jus’ Spike.  Girls are on their way.  Gonna get you to hospital.”

Looking back over his shoulder, he called out, “Slayer, need to get Oxford here.”

Turning his attention back to the werewolf beside him, Spike asked, “Where else you hurt?”

Oz turned his eyes to Spike, growling softly and trying to get the words out, but could only gasp, “Ribs . . .leg . . . jaw.”

“Right then.  Don’t talk.”  Spike leaned over, checking the wound on his left leg.  Grabbing Oz’ ripped shirt, Spike tied off the wound, slowing the bleeding.

Buffy and Tara were behind him, leaning over his shoulder, surveying the damage to Oz.  Placing her hand on Spike’s shoulder, Buffy said, “Wesley’s almost here.  He called Dr. Thomas, they’re waiting for us to get there.”

Tara knelt down on the other side, her hand on Oz’ injured jaw.  “Relax.  We’re gonna get you out of here.”

Lifting her eyes to Spike, Tara asked, “Can you lift him without jarring his ribs?”

Obviously the girls had heard their conversation, and Spike nodded.  “Can try.  Should be okay.”  Looking down at Oz, Spike queried, “You ready?”

“Yeah.”  Oz barely nodded, but Spike was already lifting him up, trying not to jostle him overly.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Wesley pulled up in Joyce’s Jeep, the back seat already down and a blanket on the floor.  He was waiting at the back when the four of them emerged from the warehouse.  At first glance Oz looked nearly dead, though on a second look, he was semi-alert and responsive.  Spike carried him easily, the girls trailing behind him.  Buffy jumped up into the back of the Jeep and Spike passed his burden off, then hopped up in beside her.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Hours later, when Spike crawled into bed beside her, Buffy rolled right into his arms, nuzzling against his bare skin.  “How is he?”

“All right.”  Wrapping his arms around her, Spike whispered, “Well, he will be once he’s asleep.”

She had gone to bed before him, inexplicably tired, leaving the three Englishmen to sit up with Tara while she watched over Oz.  Dr. Thomas had patched him up, setting his jaw, wiring it closed, then wrapped his ribs and sent him home after stitching up his leg.  By mutual agreement and despite his aunt’s protests otherwise, they’d brought Oz back to Revello Drive.

It was nearing daybreak when Spike came up to bed and Buffy hadn’t slept well or deeply, tossing and turning, unable to sleep despite the fatigue that was weighing down her muscles.  Connor too, had spent a fitful night and he was back in his own bed after spending a few hours in with Buffy.

“Go back to sleep, kitten.”  Spike ran his hand over her from shoulder to hip, raising gooseflesh in his wake.

“Don’t wanna sleep.”  She nibbled at the hollow of his shoulder, her hands holding onto him.  “Spike?”

“Yeah?”  His voice was low and husky, his hands making idle patterns on her skin.

“Hold me, please?”  She sounded like such a little girl, like she had months ago when she’d first come back, that it shook him out of his lethargy.

“You okay, sunshine?”  Angling down to look at her, Spike saw the fear she was doing her best to hide.  “What’s this then?”

“Dunno.  Just thinking about when you got hurt, I guess.”  She shrugged, hiding her eyes from him.

Spike licked his marks, his tongue raspy against her soft skin.  “Don’t need to be worryin’ ‘bout me, ‘m fine an’ once this bloody chip is gone we’ll be fine.”

He heard her sniffles then felt the soft wash of a few tears that slid down her cheek.  Spike wasn’t entirely certain what had prompted this reaction from her, but it wasn’t something he’d expected.  Rolling her onto her back, Spike hiked up the flimsy slip of lace she was wearing, his hands strong and firm around her hips.  Nudging his way between them, Spike slid inside her warm depths.

Silken heat surrounding him, Spike thrust slowly in, then pulled out a bit.  Buffy whimpered at his retreat, her hands holding onto his ass, forcing him back in.  “Love you, kitten. . . I do.”

“Me too. . .” She stared up into his eyes, smiling a little when he licked the tears from her skin, letting small wisps of laughter escape when his fingers tickled her sides.  “Spike, stop.  C’mon.”

Grinning down at her, he surged up inside her, hitting the spot that made her breathing hitch and gasp.  The pressure built slowly, murmured words mixed with drugging kisses, her legs wrapped around him, holding him there. “Oh. . .”

Rolling through them the orgasm grew until they were both gasping for air, cool lips soothing the raging heat of her body.  “Spike . . . oh god. . .”

“Stay with me, love . . . come with me. . .” His hands gripped her shoulders, fingers digging into tender skin, his forehead resting on hers.  “Need you . . . always. . . fuck. . . oh god. . .” He groaned into her mouth, breathing with her.

“Now. . . tha’s it . . . fuckin’. . .” Buffy whimpered, tightened around him, her entire body convulsing, contracting, arching up into his.  Spike ground into her, pumping hard, gasping out her name, exploding in her depths.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Angelus limped his way back to the mansion, battered and bleeding from his battle with the werewolf.  Well, that had been a surprise.  Not a pleasant one either.  He didn’t remember if he’d ever heard about the boy being a werewolf.

Drusilla was waiting for him, lounging against the fireplace, her latest pet bound at her feet, both women naked and waiting for him.  “What happened, Dearest?  Did the nasty doggie get you?”

He slumped against the wall, blood congealing down his chest and throat, thick and clotted.  “Dru. . .”

His raspy voice was harsh, the sounds alone enough to hurt.  “Come here, Daddy, I’ve got what you need.”

Tugging on the chain that held the girl in place, Drusilla stood up and closed in on Angel.  “Poor Daddy. . . all battered and torn.”

“Shall I clean you?”  Suiting action to words, Drusilla dipped her head and licked a path through the clotted mess at Angel’s neck.  “Mmmmmm lovely messy.”  

The girl at her feet whimpered, drawing their attention.  Angel growled, his need for fresh blood overriding his need to have Drusilla writhing beneath him.  Pulling on the leash in Drusilla’s hand, Angel brought the girl to her feet.  Grinning, yet reeling from the blood loss and pain, Angel fell on the girl’s neck, his fangs sliding easily into her jugular.

Nearly draining the girl dry, Angel let her drop from his hold, stepped over her slumped form, then, with Drusilla trailing behind him, Angel strode from the room.

Bypassing the bathroom, Angel walked into his bedroom.  Looking at the girl tied up in his bed, the big vampire smiled, his grin stretching across his features and crossing his arms over his chest, he said, “Hello, Cordy.  Miss me?”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Connor woke her not long after Spike had fallen asleep, his cool body wrapped around hers protectively.  Spike was so very . .  touchy-feely, affectionate even.  He was spoiling her rotten, if she thought about it for a minute.  Every time he went out, he came back with something, even if it was just something she liked to eat.  Come to think of it, it was mostly chocolate he brought home, even on poker nights.  And he brought home something for the other girls too, at least once a week.

Lifting Connor up from his crib before his cries could escalate into earsplitting howls for his bottle, Buffy made her way downstairs to the kitchen.  It was still fairly early, barely seven thirty in the morning, well, early if most of the household were nocturnal, which it was. Dawn had gotten up on time and left for school, as her note and lack of presence indicated and Tara was still downstairs, watching over Oz.  Wesley and Giles must have gone back to the apartment they were sharing, although as she peeked out the back door, she spied Wesley sleeping on the lawn furniture, so Giles must still be around.

It took bare minutes to fill and warm Connor’s bottle and the entire time she kept up a running monologue to the attentive infant.  He really was a cute baby, thankfully looking more like his mother than his father.  Buffy wondered what on earth she might have been thinking there.  Angel was not really a gorgeous man, not that looks were everything, though he wasn’t bad looking either.  And yet, in a comparison between the vampires she’d loved, Angel came out a way distant second.  The vampire sleeping upstairs was far and away the better man and not just looks wise.

Before she jumped, before Glory, life –  at least hers –  had been bathed in absolutes; colors of black and white, good and evil, right and wrong, sometimes  charged with red.  Since returning – since she’d been ripped from heaven, life had been. . . all about shadings, nuances – everything in the in-between.  The grey.  Nothing was absolute anymore, nothing carved in stone. Well, there was one constant, one thing she could rely on and trust that it wasn’t going to disappear. . . to fade in the harsh light of day or disappear under the glow of perfect happiness.

Buffy brushed a kiss over Connor’s forehead, words tumbling unchecked from her lips, unaware and uncaring that she’d garnered an audience.  “Yup.  Your real daddy is a jerk, you know, just a big old dumb jerk.  Can’t love without a soul, which kinda makes you wonder what he was like when his heart beat.  But we’re not gonna think about him, nope. Nah huh.  Coz he’s just not worth it.”  Another kiss dropped down on his head and Buffy swore he smiled at her around the nipple.

“Oh, but your new daddy . . . I guess the real one . . .”  Buffy’s voice faltered for a moment, then went on, “He’s different.  Crazy, but different.  Don’t think there’s anything he wouldn’t do . . . he didn’t leave when I was gone.  Stayed to take care of our Dawnie.  And he doesn’t need a soul to do good things.  How come he doesn’t?  I think . . . dunno what to think sometimes . . . he just . . . he takes my breath away.  He loves me so much. . . he loves all of us so much, even you.”

Connor’s hand reached up toward her mouth, his fingers pulling and touching her and Buffy automatically kissed each one of the tiny digits.  “Promise you won’t tell anyone?  It’s a secret, so  you have to promise not to tell anyone, okay?”

In the back of her mind, Buffy knew how ridiculous it looked, carrying on a conversation with a two month old infant, but she didn’t care.  Lifting him higher, Buffy whispered her secret against his skin, too low for anyone else to hear, even the vampire watching her from the shadows of the hallway.

“See why you had to promise?  That’s my good boy.  I knew I could trust you.”  A watery giggle escaped from her when Connor looked up at her and smiled.  “Oh you did. . . you smiled at Buffy.  Yes, you did.  C’mon, give mommy Buffy another one, c’mon, Connor boy, you can, yes you can.”  Her voice lost its serious tone, lilting with almost laughter.

To Spike’s ears and eyes, Buffy looked happier than he’d seen her in a very long time.  Completely alone with the baby, she dropped the defenses she always carried, the worries and cares of being the Chosen One.

The tiny nightshirt she wore over the minuscule nightgown did nothing to decrease his need for her, in fact, it just served to whet his appetite, though for the moment he was content to just watch her, to listen to her with their surrogate son.

Didn’t matter how Connor came into their lives, he was theirs.  They’d both claimed him it seemed, if going by her statements to the baby were any indication.  He leaned a shoulder against the wall, his eyes intent upon the two in the kitchen.  She wasn’t even aware of his presence, her every sense focused on the baby in her arms.  He’d never have pegged her as the maternal type, but thinking about it, it made a weird sort of sense.  What set her apart from the other slayers he’d known was the depth of her heart – her love – her capacity for it.

She might’ve feared, just after her mother had died that she was losing her heart, but the truth was, it wasn’t that she couldn’t love, it was that she was afraid to love.  Buffy loved with everything she had and when it wasn’t reciprocated fully she was hurt in equal measure.  He was brought back from his musings by the sound of her light laugh and her words.

“There’s daddy Spike’s big boy.  You burp like a champ.”  She giggled again and the sound was pure sunshine.

He must’ve moved or made some sort of sound, because she became aware of him, standing there watching the two of them.  Turning around to look at him, Buffy’s breath caught in her throat.  Spike was leaning against the wall, his legs crossed at the ankles, black jeans riding decadently low on his hips, the buttons only half done, arms crossed over bare chest, eyes sleepy and curls wild and disheveled, tousled from his short sleep.  And all that is mine . . . gah.

She gasped for air, her eyes drinking in his form.  “How . . . how long have you been watching me?”

“Woke up missing you.”  Was all he said as he pushed away from the wall.

Buffy met him halfway, drawn to him by the love in his bottomless blue eyes.  His hands flexed around her hips, his breath washing over her.  His voice, when he spoke, was husky, raising gooseflesh and sending her every nerve into overdrive.  “Come back to bed with me, sunshine.”
                            
Without waiting for her response, Spike lifted them both up into his arms, heading back upstairs.

Chapter Text

Book Two.  

Chapter 26.  A soundless calm descends


Lightning makes shadows in the storm.
Nightmare and bliss tell the silent truth.
    Thelonius, Shadows in the Storm (1988)

The line-storm clouds fly tattered and swift.
The road is forlorn all day.
    Robert Frost, A Line–Storm Song.

But, first a hush of peace—a soundless calm descends;
The struggle of distress, and fierce impatience ends;
Mute music soothes my breast—unuttered harmony,
That I could never dream, till Earth was lost to me.
    Emily Brontë, The Prisoner






The chirp of his cell phone woke him from his much needed sleep.  For a long moment, Wesley wasn’t sure of his surroundings, but as wakefulness crept up on him, the memories from last night stole through him.

Transporting Oz to and from hospital hadn’t proved a problem at all; It was the in-between and the after that was a problem.  Caught in mid-morph, frozen by the pain, Dr. Thomas hadn’t been able to set his jaw until the poor guy had been drugged.  It had taken triple the amount of painkillers – based on normal human physiology and even then, Oz still sported claws and fur.  At least his mouth had reverted to almost human proportions.  Dr. Thomas hadn’t wanted to give him more drugs, afraid it would impede his healing or render him comatose.

Tara had, unsurprisingly, insisted on bringing him back to Revello Drive, and no one had really objected.  Settling him in the basement, amidst Tara’s things had almost gone unnoticed, although Giles had cautioned that it might be necessary to chain him.  Again Tara had objected, insisting that it wasn’t necessary since Oz wouldn’t hurt her and, to prove her point, she’d climbed into bed beside him.

Giles was still downstairs with them, keeping an eye on Oz’ progress and he’d come out to watch the sunrise.   Wesley realized he must’ve fallen asleep sometime before the sun actually rose, because he’d missed it completely.

It must have been cold this morning, because the blanket. . . wait a moment.  I didn’t bring a blanket out with me. . . Wesley reached for his cell phone, distractedly wondering about the mysterious presence of the blanket.

“Yo, English.”  Gunn’s deep voice greeted him.

“Hello, Charles.”  He winced, realizing he sounded barely awake and suddenly aware of an annoying crick in his neck.

“Checking in.  Haven’t heard from Cordelia, man, I’m starting to get worried.”

It had been on Wesley’s mind also.  She hadn’t gone more than two days without checking in, although now it had been close to five days since he’d heard from her.   Wesley was very worried that something had happened and Cordelia was lost to them.

“No word then?”  He knew his question was going to have a negative response, but he needed to ask nonetheless.

“Nope.  Nothing.”  Gunn turned aside to address a remark to Fred, no doubt, and Wes waited until he was done.  

“Very well, we’re going to start looking.  Hopefully, she’s still . . .”  His voice trailed off as he realized that hope was a very elusive commodity at the moment.

“Yeah.  I getcha.  Lemme know if you need any backup.”  Gunn had an idea where Wesley had gone, though he didn’t want to say out loud where they were in case someone over heard.

“Probably won’t be necessary.  My resources are more than adequate, though I shall let you know if we require your aid.”  Wesley was about to disconnect when Gunn’s wry amusement stopped him.

“Dude, why you always sound like you swallowed a dictionary?”

Despite his worry about Cordelia, Wesley smiled.  “Properly spoken English is never out of place.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever.  Just find Cordy.”  Gunn clicked off, leaving Wesley to figure out how to find Cordelia.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Giles had gone upstairs earlier, when Dawn had still been home, her footsteps disturbing his light slumber.  Tara knew he was worried, concerned for her and wary of what a wounded werewolf might do in the throes of drugged pain.  But she wasn’t worried.  Oz wouldn’t hurt her, not even an out-of-his-head Oz.

She trusted him.  Trusted him probably the way Buffy trusted Spike; that no matter what or how bad the pain got he wouldn’t ever hurt her, because he loved her.

Tara didn’t delude herself into thinking it was the same kind of love, because Spike and Buffy definitely had a groiny thing going on and while sometimes she was curious, it just wasn’t filled with passion.

Oz whimpered in pain and Tara ran a hand over his arm, soft, soothing murmurs sounding in the still air.  She’d managed to snatch some sleep here and there, mostly when he’d been out cold and it was enough for now.  Once he was out of the woods, she’d be able to completely surrender to sleep, but until then she’d manage.

Six months ago, if someone had told her, hell, if she’d dreamed this clairvoyently, she wouldn’t have believed any of it.  Willow gone from her life – after playing god – Buffy and Spike a happy couple – and Oz as her, well, pretty much her best friend.  Yet this was her life.

This was her family.  One vampire, one Slayer, a werewolf, a witch – Tara stifled the giggle that was threatening.  Her life sounded like a title from the Chronicles of Narnia or a weird adjunct to Harry Potter.  She suddenly wondered if one of them should write all this up and somehow get it published as fiction, because most people wouldn’t believe it. Maybe I’ll be able to get Spike to do it, ‘coz he’s got a way with words.  I’m sure he could do something like this.

Her companion groaned again and Tara watched him wince in pain.  Her hand rested on his chest and Oz’ eyes flickered opening barely to focus on her.  His hand clasped hers, their fingers entwining and he closed his eyes in relief.  Tara smiled, settled in beside him  and waited until he drifted back into restless sleep.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Two floors over her head, Spike had just put Connor down in his crib; letting the boy watch the mobile the girls bought him last week.  He thought it was a ridiculous thing, but was secretly pleased, because it was some educational black and white thing with bright splashes of red.  None of the girls had said anything, though he knew this silly thing had been picked with him in mind.

Which was kind of gratifying, in a way, yet still more than a bit silly.  They should’ve picked it with the sprog in mind, not me. Trailing a hand over the boy’s legs, Spike tickled him and then focused on the blond watching him.  She had a smile on her face and Spike raised an eyebrow in question.  As answer, she crooked a finger at him and as he stalked in her direction, Buffy giggled.

“Not supposed to laugh at your mate, sunshine.”  He faked a bit of a pout and Buffy sighed.

“No?  Why not?”  She watched him come closer, her eyes focused on his face, drinking in his expression.

He pounced on the bed, trapping her underneath him.  “Coz, kitten.  He’s the Big Bad an’ he’ll eat you up for laughin’.”

Her breath caught on his words, his expression no longer playful.  “Oh, you will?”

Spike pushed up her nightgown with one hand, his fingers inching toward her warm center, his mouth at her neck, brushing over his marks.  “Yeah,” he breathed against her, “yeah.  Eat you all up.”

Two fingers slid inside her, Buffy gasping into his cheek, her hands looking for a way to hold onto him.  “Oh. . . yeah. . . hhmmmm.”

Buffy pushed at his jeans, her warm hands scrabbling to free him from the confining denim.  “Now. . . c’mon. . .”

Trailing his slick fingers up beneath the lace, Spike licked the salty skin of her neck, his fangs grazing over the scarred marks and Buffy writhed against him.  “Spike, please. . . don’t tease me.”

“Not teasin’ . . .  Love you.”  His erection popped free, seeking her warmth.  “Need you baby. . . so. . . yeah. . . that’s it.”  He slid inside, both of them gasping for air, panting with the effort to hold back.  She was living warmth, surrounding him in heat and sunshine.   “Love you, beautiful girl, I do.”

“Love you back.”  He froze in mid-thrust, his eyes riveted on her eyes.  Buffy stared back at him, not flinching from the sudden intensity in his laser bright blue eyes.

Spike couldn’t speak, couldn’t focus on anything but her eyes.  There was no hiding, for either of them.  His heart was laid bare, equally to hers.  Buffy flexed around him, her hips moving involuntarily.  “Do you . . . say it.”  His voice was a hush, a bare whisper of sound.

Her lips quirked, almost like she was going to tease him, but then she took a deep breath, gathering her courage and, looking deeply into his eyes, she whispered, “Love you, Spike.”

His head dropped down, his forehead against her lips, shielding his eyes from her.  Gruff with emotion, Spike said, “Once more.  Say it.”

She almost laughed from sheer nerves.  Blowing out a breath, Buffy said, “Look at me.”  Spike lifted his eyes to hers, tears pooling in his cerulean depths.  Her smile took his breath away and he smiled at her.  “Love you.”

“Oh god . . . bloody hell, kitten, I love you, I do.”  

Cool lips curled over her face, words of love murmured over her.  His hips pumped into her, his cock bumping into her, thumping against the spongy bundle of nerves, driving her into oblivion.  Her body arched up, her inner walls clutching at him, milking him hard.  “Love you, love you. . . good . . . fuckin’ hell. . . yeah.  I love you.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Time had no meaning.  Daylight meant nothing.  Night brought pain, not relief.  Pain was constant, measured in breaths, her sense of self gone.

Cordelia had stopped crying – after Angel had raped her repeatedly, ignoring her feeble attempts to beat him off – taking her brutally, ripping into her, splitting her asunder.  Blood and other fluids dripped from her vagina and her ass, pooling on the mattress below her body.  Cuts adorned her, most of the newer, fresher ones still bleeding sluggishly and the scent of blood was thick in the air around her.  She couldn’t breathe without taking it in, the scent of it pervading everything, clogging her nostrils and throat.  

It was easy now to slip away, to lose herself some place where her mind disconnected from her body, getting free of the pain.  Beyond caring about anything, she focused only on the ceiling above her, her mind blank.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Buffy was swimming toward waking when she realized two things.  The first was a rolling sense of something being very off and the second was that there was approximately one hundred and sixty seven pounds of dead weight in the middle of her back.  While the feeling of Spike laying on her was normally comforting and something she didn’t even think twice about, however at this particular moment, it was causing a tiny bit of distress.  She was face down on the bed, some of the pillows below her head and one wrapped up in her arms and Spike was laying almost fully on top of her, his arms right next to hers and his head resting on her shoulder.  The reason why this wasn’t okay was the icky feeling in her belly.  Telling herself it was just nerves didn’t actually work and the unease grew until it became imperative for her to disturb the vampire sleeping on her.  

“Spike.”  No movement.  “Spike, wake up.”   Wiggling a little bit to try and jostle him awake, Buffy tried again, “C’mon, Spike, get off me.”  

Again, there was less than no reaction.  Having a mate that slept like the dead was not always a good thing.  Spike didn’t require a whole lot of sleep, but when he did sleep it was deeply and fully, pretty much the way he did everything.  Grumbling a bit louder, Buffy tried moving around to dislodge him.  “C’mon, you big oaf.  Get off me.”  

The weird queasy feeling was getting worse and she really needed to pee also, making her desire to slide out from under him very necessary.  Shifting her elbow and shoulder, Buffy succeeded in moving him a little bit, enough to get his head off her right shoulder and onto the exact middle of her back.  By small increments, Buffy was able to wriggle out from under his hold and she slipped from the bed and hightailed it into the bathroom.

Once there, she wasn’t sure which was more urgent, the need to pee or the overwhelming need to calm her belly.  She hesitated, nearly bouncing from foot to foot, then realized what she was doing and blew an exasperated breath out in frustration with herself.  Blond much?  Geez, just pee already!

Laughing at herself, Buffy did exactly that, then fought the nausea that crested up in her throat.  Ugh.  Uh oh.  This is soooo not good.  Gonna. . .  Leaning over the sink, Buffy gagged, holding back the bile that was rising.  Ew.  Just, not good.  Why do I feel like this?  Did I pick up some weird bug?  

Rinsing her mouth after flushing the toilet and washing her hands, Buffy faced herself in the mirror.  She didn’t look any different, there weren’t any dark circles under her eyes and no sign of anything else wrong, other than a tired look in her eyes.  But lately that look was there all the time, so she didn’t think anything of it.  Fatigue is my friend, she thought, always hanging around.  So much was going on, their life was really complicated, and getting tougher by the day.  Her sleeping patterns had been off for weeks, since Connor’s arrival almost, because she had been sleeping on a similar pattern to Spike’s.  But now, because the baby was up earlier than was permissible by god, she had to get up with him and make sure he was fed.  She’d been surviving mostly on stolen naps and stamina, but it appeared that had all caught up with her.  

Heading back into the bedroom, Buffy watched as Spiked rolled over and buried his face into the pillow she’d abandoned in her desperation to reach the bathroom.  His purring growl rolled through the room like thunder and she smiled a bit at his possessiveness.  Connor stirred again in the crib and Buffy was tempted to leave him there, but she changed her mind as she neared the infant and smelled his diaper.  Another wave of nausea surged up and it was all she could do to lift him up.  “Oh, C-man, what is this in your pants?  Ugh.  Baby boy, this is stinky.”  

Making quick work of cleaning him up, Buffy then ran downstairs to get him a bottle.  There was stirring in the living room, which she deliberately ignored and made quick time getting Connor back upstairs and into bed with her and Spike.  She needed to sleep.  Everything else, including Oz, could wait until she felt better.  Scooting into the bed beside Spike, Buffy curled an arm around Connor and propped up the bottle with one hand, closing her eyes.  The sleeping vampire shifted, rolled over and wrapped his arm around her, his head once more in the crook of her neck.  Sighing once, Buffy leaned down and kissed the top of Connor’s head, settling back against Spike and was asleep before the baby had finished half the bottle.


           ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Willow was pacing around her bedroom, her eyes narrowed in concentration.  She’d waited outside Tara’s lecture hall this morning, hoping for a glimpse of her former girlfriend, to no avail.  The honey-blond girl hadn’t been in class this morning, in fact, according to someone in her study group, she’d abruptly left them all last night in the library, without so much as more than a single word.

She knew what called her away.  Well, knew who it had been.  Had to be Spike or Buffy needing Tara’s help for some slayage emergency.  It was aggravating.  They were always interfering in her plans, in things she wanted and it was time it stopped.  Can’t have those two messing up my life anymore.  It’s all their fault anyway.  Spike with his false over-protectiveness and meanness and hey! Evil vampire there, no soul to make his all-judgy-ness anything near being right.  And Buffy with her oh I need Spike and Spike is good now and spells and magic are bad. . .  Willow pivoted on a heel, unaware she was gesturing wildly, her voice a soft sneering whine in the stillness of her room.  And what’s with the Oz thing?  Why was Tara all with the hanging with Oz and Oz?  Neither one of them was . . . Tara was gay, and not liking of men so. . . and. . .  

Huffing out a deep breath, Willow tried to gather the threads of her agitation and mold them into something more manageable, something she could use, but there were too many targets for her ire.

Buffy.  Spike.  Tara.  Oz.  Oh, yeah, and Angel.
  Damn people just kept getting in her way.  Giles.  Willow pursed her lips, an idea beginning to form in her head.   It worked once, maybe a second time would be the charm.    

All I need to do is figure out how I’m going to get it done. . .  And once I have that, everything else will take care of itself.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Making his way into the kitchen, Wesley tried weighing his options, trying to figure out who he should discuss his worries about Cordelia with first.  Time was crucial.  If she was merely missing and out of cell phone range that was one thing; but there was a real niggling fear in his heart that it wasn’t something so simple.  Angel and Drusilla had left Sunnydale briefly, only returning the other night.  And Cordelia was missing.  

The two were tied together.  

If Cordelia was being held by the two vampires, time was of the essence.  They couldn’t leave her in their hands.  Not if he called himself her friend, not if he cared anything for her.  

Standing at the kitchen counter, his eyes staring out into the neighbor’s yard, Wesley’s sense of foreboding grew exponentially.  He knew, in his gut, that Cordelia was in grave danger.  Time to rally the troops.  

Putting the kettle on and getting the coffee pot ready, Wesley opened one of the cabinets and figured he might as well get a substantial lunch together as he was waiting for the occupants of the house to begin the day.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Contrary to what she thought, Spike wasn’t very deeply asleep.  He was swimming in and out of wakefulness, aware of sounds and movements, he was tired; as tired as she was, though he was being lazy and not getting up when he heard Connor rustling about, and very unwilling to deal with the smell the infant was emitting.  So when she climbed back into bed, Spike curled around her and fell back further into sleep once he knew she was there.

His arms snaked around her, left hand sliding up underneath the nightgown, holding onto her breast and his other worming its way beneath her head.  Spike nuzzled the back of her neck and unconsciously registered her slowing heartbeat and breathing and also the faster rhythms of the infant beside her.  In the recesses of his mind, Spike was aware this was far more domestic than he’d ever thought he’d be, moments like these not even in the scope of his understanding as a human.  Victorian families did not sleep all jumbled together like this, at least those of his social standing; Vampires, on the other hand were essentially solitary, although he and Drusilla had often slept entwined, he knew of nests where all the vampires slept together like puppies.  

He also knew that he would not trade these moments for anything.  Moments like this, when he and Buffy were twined about each other, were worth any price he had to pay.  He also felt closer to her than he’d ever felt to any other being.  He wanted to crawl inside her skin and stay within her forever.  Opening one eye, Spike gauged the time of day by the light filtering in behind the dark curtains.  Soft noises reached his ears from downstairs and he knew someone else had to be up and around.  It was just a little bit after noon and he knew the sprog would be looking for something to eat and he could get up and put him back in his crib, but Spike didn’t want to leave the warmth of his own bed.  

His hand flexed around Buffy’s breast and he smirked sleepily when she shifted in his embrace.  A smile played about his lips and his hips thrust against the warmth of her ass, his erection insistently nudging her.  Buffy’s arm left its spot over the baby and curled around to lay on his thigh.  Sliding his thigh between both of hers, Spike let his hand drop down to cover her bare mound, moving aside her hand.  His fingers teased the curls shielding her pussy and she arched toward his hand like the kitten he called her.  His unnecessary breathing sped up, as he drank in the scent of her arousal.  Parting the folds of her core, Spike let two fingers brush around her clit, tantalizing both of them.   She was so wet and warm, it always astonished him just how much – and how very different their temperatures were.  Here, as he dipped into her, was where it showed most.  Within her depths, in the heat and slippery dampness that coated his fingers better than a second skin, was where it mattered most, where it manifested.  A whimpering mewl escaped her mouth and she breathed out his name in a hush.  Dark navy blue eyes fluttered open, watching her arch up into his questing fingers, her body knowing, responding to his touch even in her sleep.

Spike leaned closer, his mouth against her shoulder, blunt teeth nipping and pulling on her skin, his tongue licking patterns between each bite.  Buffy let loose a breathy moan, which made him harden more.  His cock was hard and heavy, his hips angling between her legs, the tip of his cock sliding between her ass and her pussy.  He wanted inside . . . wanted to be buried . . . wanted her warm liquid depths to swallow him whole.

“Open up for me, little girl . . . c’mon, lemme in.”  His voice was another caress across her skin, his hands creating magic within her.  Buffy slowly reached behind her, cupping his head, languidly moving toward his touch.  

“Mmmmm.”  Her eyes fluttered, fighting against the need to watch what he was doing, wanting to savor his touch without distraction.  A hard bite sent shock waves through her and Buffy couldn’t fight him any longer when his fingers plunged into her depths simultaneously.  “Spike. . . oh. . .”

She breathed out heavily, when his tongue and teeth pulled away from her skin and a cool breath wafted over the bites.  His thumb brushed over her clit, once, twice and pressed down hard on the third, sending a jolt through her.  “C’mon, baby. . . lemme in.”

Oohhh. . he called me baby. . . never. . . oh.  Baby.  Buffy cracked open one eye and found two little blue eyes peeking up at her.  She froze, her body stiffening up under his touch.  Oh no.    Nuh huh.  This is not happening.  I’m so not doing this with him in the bed with us.

He didn’t notice at first that she had frozen under his hands, but when she pushed him away a bit, Spike growled.  “Wha?  Buffy?”  

“We can’t.  Just can’t.  I can’t do this right now.”  Spike growled again and Buffy started babbling.  “No.  He’s watching me.  I mean us.  He’s awake and I can’t.”  

Spike leaned up on his hand, almost dumping her on the mattress.  “What the fuck do you mean, he’s watching?”   His head swivelled around looking for an intruder.

It took her a minute to get his attention, because his gaze was sweeping all around the room.  His eyes were narrowed on the door, but it was closed, and he shifted his gaze to the window.  “No one’s watching, kitten.  Now what the hell are you blathering about?”

Wordlessly, she grabbed his face and tilted his head down toward the mattress, and after a moment, Spike focused on what she was showing him.  Connor had dropped the bottle and his eyes sparkled when Spike looked at him and a baby grin crossed his features.  The vampire looked from Buffy to Connor and back again, before it dawned on him what Buffy had been saying.  A leer formed on his lips and a definitely wicked twinkle sparkled in his eyes.  “Spawn won’t know what’s going on.  Won’t care either.  C’mon, kitten, lemme in.”

“Are you crazy?”  Buffy spluttered as his hand snaked up under her nightgown, his fingers brushing across her mound.  “Spike. . . no.    No way.  Not while he’s. . . Spike!”  She shrieked out that last bit, when he pushed his fingers inside her wet core.

“C’mon, kitten. . . need you so much.”  He watched her face, knowing she was wavering and one more touch, one more kiss would put her over the edge where she didn’t care any longer, where it wouldn’t matter if there was a marching band trooping through their room.  Connor’s flailing arm smacked against her and Spike groaned internally as her eyes went wide again.

“Nooohh. . . we are so not doing this in front of him.”  Her hips bucked involuntarily, arching into his hand.

“Yeah, we are.”  Spike’s lips curled up in a leer and his tongue poked out between his lips.  “Oh yeah, sunshine, we are. . .”

“No.”  She reached up, bracing her arms on his shoulders as if to push him away and Spike kicked off the blankets, forcing her legs wider.  “We are not.”

Buffy knocked his arm out, pushing him to the side and rolling over on top of him, while he bucked up and rolled over again.  They thudded onto the floor and he twisted at the last second so that she landed on top of him and he grinned up at her.  “Outta view now, love.”

She gaped at him for a moment, unable to think clearly, and he took advantage of her momentary lapse by flicking her nipple with his tongue.  He rolled over once more, tucking her beneath him.  “Gotcha now, sweetheart.”

“Spike. . .” Her protest was cut off by his mouth, his hips wedging between hers.  His cock teased at her entrance and Buffy forgot all about why she’d been objecting.

Chapter Text

Book Two

Chapter 27.  Planning lies with men.


Planning lies with men; success lies with Heaven.
    Chinese proverb.

Our planning may leave something to be desired,
but our designs, thank God, have been flawless.
    Noor, Queen of Jordan, on the birth of her fourth child in six years

There will be no rescue, no intervention for us.
We can only save ourselves.
Many of you know influential people abroad, you must call these people.
You must tell them what will happen to us... say goodbye.
But when you say goodbye,
say it as if you are reaching through the phone and holding their hand.
Let them know that if they let go of that hand, you will die.
We must shame them into sending help.
        Hotel Ruwanda, 2004




Wesley’s less than quiet movements in the kitchen gradually attracted the attention of his fellow Englishmen.  Rupert was first into the kitchen, wandering in bleary-eyed yet wide awake.

“Tea’s done.”  Wesley indicated the teapot on the counter then placed another rasher of bacon on the stove.  

They made desultory conversation until Spike appeared a little while later, the baby tucked under his arm like a football.  Connor was gurgling happily and Spike searched around for his bouncy chair, grumbling about babies and their weird hours.

His comments struck the other two as funny, and Giles was quick to point out, “Aren’t vampires supposed to sleep all day?”

“Pppfffttt.  Older we get less sleep we need.”  Spike plopped the infant into the chair, then lifted the chair onto the counter and dropped a few rattles into the baby’s lap.  

“That explains your eccentricity then.”  Wesley’s deadpan delivery had them all chuckling, though his next words sobered the mood completely.  “It’s been five days since I’ve heard from Cordelia.”

Giles’ comment was drowned out by Spike’s question.  “How often was the cheerleader calling in?”

Wesley stared down at the counter top while the other two exchanged glances.  “Every other day.”  
“You think Angel has her.”  

Giles voiced the fear Wesley had been loathe to mention.  “I believe it more than possible.  Angel was. . . showing signs of developing feelings for Cordelia, before and after our sojourn in Pylea.”

The older man thought for a moment, his mind going over what he knew about Angel.  “If he does have her, it would fit his previous patterns.”

“Would.  Think we need to do some daylight re-con.  Might wanna take the bot.”  Spike had a feeling in his gut that they had her.  “Might not be much worth savin’.”

“Figures you would argue against saving something.”  Xander’s voice sounded from the hallway, anger evident in his tone.

All three of the men in the kitchen turned to look in the doorway, and it was Spike’s comment that broke the uncomfortable silence that followed Xander’s pronouncement.  “What the bleedin’ hell are you doin’ in my house?”

Your house?  This isn’t your house.  This is Buffy’s and Dawn’s house.  You have no rights here.”  Lines of fury were written all over the younger man’s features and his stance was belligerent enough that both Giles and Wesley moved between Spike and Xander.  

“Is mine.  Just as both those girls are mine.”  Folding his arms across his chest, Spike leaned a hip against the counter, his laser bright eyes boring into angry brown orbs. Not that he cared whether Harris knew the truth of things, however Spike figured that Buffy should be the one to spill the beans about all of it.  If Harris didn’t back down though, Spike would be more than happy to enlighten him.   “Question is why’re you wandering into my house without knocking.  You’ve no manners, whelp.  None ‘t’all.”

“I came to see Buffy.  Why are you still here?”  Xander wasn’t going to back down, wasn’t going to show any fear or any softening of his attitude toward this particular male.  In Xander’s mind, the last person Buffy should show signs of wanting was Spike.  He’d tried to kill them, done more damage than anyone, even if it was in a round-about way.  

Spike sighed deeply.  “I live here.”  He turned away, showing his back to the boy and opened the refrigerator.  “Tell me again why you’re darkenin’ m’door.”

He could hear Xander’s teeth grinding from his position all the way across the room.  “I came to see Buffy.”

“She’s sleepin’, whelp.”  Spike leaned on the open refrigerator door, his eyes narrowing on Xander as the other started in again.  

Giles watched the interplay between the two, exasperation growing with each exchange.  “Xander, what is you want to see Buffy about?”

“Just wanted to talk to her.  Nothing more than that.”  His tone softened a bit when he answered the older man, but just barely.

“I said she’s sleepin’.  She’s exhausted, ‘m not waking her for nothin’.”  Spike punctuated his comment by nearly slamming the refrigerator door closed, then stalked closer to the younger man.  “Might do better next time to call.”

“Right, so you can just hang up on me like you did last time?  I don’t think so, Spike.  I don’t trust you.  How do I know you haven’t drained her or tied her up or done something else to hurt her.”  The expression on Spike’s face darkened considerably and he took a menacing step closer to Xander, who, to his credit, didn’t back away from the enraged vampire.

“Wouldn’t hurt her, you bastard, ‘m not like that.  She’s mine, you git.  Mine to take care of an’ worry over, not yours, so worry ‘bout your own girl.”  Wesley stepped between the two, his eyes on the shorter man.  

“Spike.  Calm down.  This isn’t important.  We have other things to worry about besides . . . this.  Spike.”  Xander had moved forward, one fist raised as if to strike as his nasty words broke through Wesley’s and Spike leaned forward, silently daring Xander to take a shot at him.

“Gentlemen.”  Giles pushed his way between the two, hands raised to calm them.  “Xander, is there a pressing need to see Buffy?”  

“No.  Just making sure she’s okay.” He shrugged, his look a cross between chagrin and worry.  “Haven’t seen her in a while, just wanted to, you know, see if she’s okay.”

Spike snorted in disbelief, shaking his head and turning away from the boy, mumbling something under his breath.  He went back to the refrigerator, his hearing focused on the conversation behind him until Wesley leaned against the sink and whispered at him.  “I think you’re right.  We should get the bot out and have it re-con with us.  Do you think he’s holed up in the mansion again?”

“Yeah.”  Pushing aside various leftovers and drinks, Spike located his blood on one of the shelves then straightened up to answer the other man.  “Would work.  ‘M not up for daytime work, but could head over through the sewers.  

Wesley addressed Spike’s last comment before Xander had interrupted them.  “Do you really think he might have turned her?”

A shake of his head and Spike replied back, “Not his style.  Likes to play with his victims firs’, an’ then he turns ‘em.  Breaks ‘em, ya know?”

“So you think she might still be alive?”  Wesley watched as Spike put the blood in the microwave, preparing to warm it up.  

“Might be.  Not sure how alive,” He paused, knowing this was the part none of them wanted to face.  “Could be he’s toying with her, makin’ her watch and witness all sorts of things, but ‘m not sure of that.  If he had feelin’s for her, he’d move right onto the hurt.”  

Nodding his acceptance of the possibilities, and what Spike didn’t say, Wesley stared off at a spot over Spike’s shoulder.  He couldn’t imagine anyone being able to withstand the kind of damage Spike was implying Angel could inflict.  Cordelia had hidden depths, strengths he hadn’t imagined she was capable of as a teenager; Wesley had seen the woman she’d grown into and she was formidable, though that didn’t necessarily ensure her survival.  They had to move fast in order to save her, regardless of whatever anyone else thought.  “I’m going to get the bot out of storage.”

Ignoring the other two men who were still talking, Wesley moved toward the basement steps, intent on freeing the Buffybot from the confines of its storage box.  Giles had managed to calm down Xander, convincing him that when Buffy went to bed last night she was fine, just tired.  Spike drank his blood, watching Connor and half listening to the hushed tones of the Watcher.  

He heard a door creak open upstairs and Spike grimaced.  Fuckin’ hell.  Wanted to let her sleep longer.  An’ now she’s awake.  Maybe I can convince her to go back to bed before she realizes what’s goin’ on.  Spike fixed his eyes on the door to the hallway, and he waited for her feet to pound down the stairs, but he didn’t hear them.  Without a word, he left the kitchen and made his way up the second floor, focusing on her presence.  

“Kitten?”  He knocked softly on the bathroom door, then slipped inside when she didn’t answer.  Buffy was on her knees in front of the toilet, vomiting.  Her face was flush, tears leaking slowly from her eyes and her breath hitched softly.  Spike wrinkled his nose at the smell, then opened the window before lifting her hair off her neck.  “You okay, sunshine?”

A sullenly muttered “No” was his only answer.  

“All right, sweets, I’m right here.”  He was rubbing her back, his touch soothing her.  Buffy leaned back into him and she sighed against his shoulder.  

“I don’t feel good at all.”  She whined softly, wiping her mouth.  Spike leaned forward, grabbing the toothpaste off the sink and handing it to her.  “Just a little bit of that, don’t wanna get sick all over again.”

Buffy curled into his arms, tears slowly dripping down her cheeks.  “I’m so tired.  All I wanna do is sleep.”

Spike got to his feet, then leaned down to lift her up in his arms.  “So back to bed with you.“  Propping her up on the edge of the counter, he flushed the toilet, then directed her, “Spit that out, sweetheart.”

Using her finger, Buffy took some toothpaste and swished it around her mouth then spit it out.  Spike looked up at her in time to see the adorable pout that drove him crazy.  “Hey, now, what’s wrong?”

The sniffles and pout got worse.  “I don’t feel good.”  A hiccup broke through and Buffy grimaced at the sour taste.  Motioning to the toothpaste, she whined, “Can’t I please swallow some of that?“

“That’ll jus’ make it worse.  Want me to see if we have somethin’ else?”  Spike wasn’t exactly sure what else would be good for her, but he’d be willing to try whatever she wanted to make her feel better.

Her face lit up just a bit at that.  “Maybe some coke?  Or, oh. . . ginger ale.”  She thought for a minute, her eyes staring into his.  “I don’t think we have any, though.”

“‘S all right, I’ll send one of the Watchers for it.”  That said, he lifted her back up, then headed into their bedroom.  “Back to bed, missy.”

“Stay with me?”  She nuzzled into his neck, her breath hot against his skin.  “Please?”

“Can’t love.  Oxford is worried ‘bout the cheerleader, an’ the whelp is down there too.”  He had no idea why he’d mentioned any of this, because he knew his girl, knew she would –

“Let me down.”  Buffy pulled away from him, her fingers twisting into his shirt.

“No.”  

“No?”  Inwardly, part of Buffy was cheering, because she really didn’t think her stomach could handle much of anything other than just curling up into bed, but another part of her, that stubborn generalissimo was yelling, no, go downstairs and sacrifice yourself to make sure everyone else is fine.

“Jus’ said that, didn’t I?”  Spike deposited her on the bed, lifting the blankets over her.  “Nothin’ that needs your immediate attention.  We don’t even know where the girl is, much less have a plan ‘bout anythin’ else.”

Buffy slid out from beneath the blanket and Spike folded his arms and raised an eyebrow.  “You gonna be stubborn an’ bullheaded ‘bout this?”  She raised her eyes to look at him, and grinned at the fierce expression on his face.

“Spike, it’s what I’m supposed to do.”  But he was shaking his head in refusal, and his hand pushed her back down.  

“No.  It’s not.  Don’t have to do it all by yourself anymore, remember?  ‘S what I’m supposed to do.  We can handle this without you.  You rest, an’ when you feel better, you get up.”  When she moved to do just that, he pushed her back down again.  “Kitten, how’s that belly?  Still writhin’ and rollin’?  Wanna puke on Angelus?  Maybe that’ll stop him.”

Despite the way she currently felt, that image of puking all over Angel made her giggle.  “Spike.”  She whined, in a half-hearted attempt to see how far he would go to keep her in bed, but as soon as his name was out of her mouth, he dropped down beside her.  

“Heart’s beatin’ too fast, love, and you’ve gone cold again.”  Lifting the blankets once more, Spike dropped a kiss on her forehead, “Don’t push yourself.  We’ll check things out and won’t move until you feel better.   I promise.”  

Before she could protest some more, which they both knew was just an act, Spike was gone and she could hear his feet pounding down the stairs.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Xander had broken off his conversation when Spike left the kitchen, almost following him up the stairs.  His progress was only stopped when Wesley came back up the stairs with the Buffybot on his heels.

“Hello, Xander!  Wesley let me out.  I don’t know him.”  The blinding smile of the bot made all three men snicker.  “Giles.  You’re my Watcher.  Are you going to polish your glasses and huff at me?”

Giles felt his lips twitch and Wesley had to hide his laughter behind a kitchen towel.  Xander was shaking his head, almost afraid to say anything in case the bot would focus on him.  But the bot, in the way of all simple creatures, focused on the one being most likely to get annoyed by its attention, which in this case was Xander.

“Does Anya still give you orgasms?”

Completely missing Giles’ reaction, Wesley exploded with gales of laughter while Xander blushed furiously.  “Spike used me to get orgasms, but then the really real Buffy kissed him  after Glory gave him all those sexy wounds and he stopped.”
 
“Really.  Must you?  Does this thing have an off switch?”  Giles was searching frantically under the bot’s hair, looking for some sort of switch, when Xander waved him off.  “Just tell it to be quiet and not mention sex.”

“But that was my primary programming.”  The bot stared up at the two men, blinking curiously.  “Well, that and patrolling.  I kill vampires.”

“Yes, you do.  And that’s what we need you for now.”  Giles was completely flustered.  Why on earth hadn’t they allowed Willow to finish the reprogramming?  The bot was ridiculous, was it really any wonder that Spike insisted they lock the damn thing in a box?

The bot shrugged then chirped cheerfully, “Okay.  I’ll wait until you need me.”

“Right.  You do that.”  Giles shook his head, effectively blocking any further thought of the bot from his mind.  Before he could ask Wesley why, Xander had pre-empted his question.  ‘So what’s the deal with bringing out the bot?”

“Spike thought it would be a good idea since Buffy’s not feeling so well.”  Nodding his head in understanding, Giles remained silent, while Xander continued questioning Wesley.  “What’s the what?”

“Cordelia hasn’t checked in with me in five days.”  Wesley looked pointedly at Xander.  “We think Angelus has her.  Spike believes he’s back at the mansion.”

Without any hesitation at all, Xander said, “When do we go?”

Spike’s feet sounded on the stairs and Giles said as he rounded the landing heading into the kitchen, “As soon as we decide who is going.”

Surprising them all, Spike said, “Not goin’.  ‘M stayin’ put.  Buffy’s not feelin’ well.  Wants ginger ale.”

Giles looked at Spike, a question in his eyes, but the younger man avoided his gaze, ducking his head.  He didn’t want to say anything about why Buffy wanted ginger ale, because he had no answers to the questions Giles might pose.  “Spike, do you remember the layout of the mansion?”

He shook his head.  “Never went into parts of it – was in the chair.  Got the first floor, but he could have her anywhere.”  He paused a bit, dredging his memory for the layout of the mansion.  Grabbing a napkin, he looked around for something to write with; he ended up at the desk in the living room with paper and pencil.  Quickly he sketched out the first floor layout, while Rupert watched over his shoulder.  Pointing to one corner of the drawing, Giles said, “That’s the stairway to the second floor, but the first floor bedrooms are here, yes?”

Spike was nodding his head.  “Yeah.  There’s the cellars also.  Rooms were here,” he marked that with an X, “An’ here might be where he’s got her.”  

Wesley stood leaning against the door looking down at the drawing while Xander listened from a few paces behind Rupert.

“Where will they be holed up for the day?”  Wesley was concerned about disturbing any of the vampires in the mansion and possibly getting caught.

“There was a master suite on the mid-level.  House really had a couple of floors.  Angelus left me on the first floor – while he and Dru slept on the next up.  Was jus’ a couple of steps.”

Spike sketched that out.  “But m’recollection of that area isn’t clear.”

Giles lifted the first paper, passing it to Wesley.  “We’ll leave now –"

“I’m going.”  Xander’s voice broke in, interrupting the three Englishmen.

“It’s not a rescue.  We’re just going to ascertain whether she’s there and where he’s keeping her.  Once we have that information we’re coming back here to decide what to do.  How best to get her out of there.”  Giles cautioned the younger man, looking at him over the tops of his glasses.

Spike was concerned that the three of them would do something stupid and get themselves caught, and forcing himself and Buffy to rescue the rescuers.  “He’s likely to have alarms set up, he did last time.  Don’t take unnecessary chances.  No heroics, yeah?”

“Right.”  Giles and Wesley nodded their agreement while Xander started to object, but at a look from the older man, he agreed.

They were gone in minutes, leaving Spike with a sick Slayer and a gurgling infant.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The house was quiet, although he could hear the tympany of the various heartbeats echoing in the air around him.  Connor’s was thumping away fast and steady, a regular tripping rhythm that made him smile.  Counterpoint to the infant’s rapid beats were the two below him, Glinda’s fluttering, delicate and calming; Oz’ heavier, labored with pain and slowed by excessive medication; yet still strong for all that.  But the other, fainter beat of his mate, though muffled and almost far away, still, for all that, the one he knew best.

Connor babbled baby nonsense behind him and Spike turned round to stare at the boy for a moment.  The changes his life had undergone, all the things he’d seen and done, and not one of the humans of his acquaintance thought it odd or worried about leaving him alone with a defenseless infant.  Never crossed their minds to worry about the boy.  Not that he would – there were some lines even he balked at crossing.  The child was family, much as he hated to admit it, the baby was Aurelius, despite having a beating heart.  And one did not . . . well he didn’t –  some of the others might – and he could probably count on one finger who else wouldn’t harm the infant – but he wouldn’t.

The boy was family.

Just like Buffy.  Just like Dawn – his own daughter.  And Glinda.  She was family, too.  Those were the ones he’d chosen.  And Rupert.  And Oxford.  Spike sighed, wondering when in hell he’d traded his vampire clan for one of his own choosing; pretty much an all human one.

He supposed, if he thought about it logically, the process had started that night when Angel had tried to suck the world into hell. When he’d sought Buffy out, theoretically to save Dru and his own ass from destruction.  At least that was how it started.  What ended up happening was so bloody bizarre.

Would he have done it differently?

Not sought out the girl, just gone along with the harebrained scheme of his grandsire and let the world get sucked into hell.  A snort escaped from his lips. Not bloody likely, mate.  

Connor’s eyes watched him pacing back and forth drawn by the gesturing arms and the cadence of his voice, gurgling in counterpoint to the quiet raging of the vampire.

Spike wouldn’t trade any moment of the last few years – if this was waiting for him.  He loved Buffy with everything he was – every part of him – and he believed she loved him just as much.  The claim had solidified their bond, forging it into something very real and tangible, and well, if that bond came with other bonds connecting him to yet more humans, so be it.

He’d accept that.

Hell.  Already did.

A giggle burst from Connor’s mouth and Spike lifted the boy from his chair.  Holding him high on his chest, Spike said, “C’mon sprog, let’s go see what our Buffy is up too.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


After Spike left her, Buffy rolled over onto her side, curled around herself.  Slayers aren’t supposed to get sick or be exhausted.  Super powers are supposed to let me skip all those icky things.  Except they didn’t.  Not really.  Her super powers just let her heal faster.  So I should be fine in a couple of hours, just need a little more sleep, and some ginger ale and I’ll be good as new Buffy.  The only problem was, she couldn’t go back to sleep.  She could hear the noises from downstairs and if she concentrated, could hear the murmured voices of the men.  I should go check on Oz.  See if he’s okay.

Buffy started to get to her feet, when Spike’s feet pounded on the stairs.

“Hey.  Thought I told you to stay put?”  He was inside their room, Connor in his arms, gurgling happily.

“Was just gonna check on Oz.”  She settled back on the bed knowing he would just hack at her until she listened to him.

“Jus’ did.  He’s sleeping.  Glinda’s got everythin’ under control.  So don’t bother gettin’ up.”

He sat down on the bed, letting Connor wriggle out of his arms, his eyes on her face.  “Feelin’ any better?”

Buffy sighed.  “A bit.  I’m just really tired.  Keeping up with you and this little guy is harder than I thought.”  Connor rolled over onto his back, feet kicking in the air.  At the sound of her voice, he angled himself toward her, moving his body closer to her.

“Dunno what to do ‘bout that.”  He thought for a minute, “Maybe we need someone to get up with the sprog in the mornin’s.”

“What?  You mean like a babysitter or a nanny?  We can’t afford that.”  She looked down at the gurgling baby.

“Maybe we can’t, but I’d bet Peaches has a stash, hell, I know he does.”  Spike watched the boy wriggling around and then roll over.  “Is he supposed to do that?”

“Not really.  I’m not sure.  Gimme the book.”  They’d taken to keeping copies of What To Expect The First Year in various spots around the house in case they needed to consult with it.  Which for them, happened at least once a day.  Spike leaned over to snag the book from the dresser and Buffy said in a hushed voice, “Put him on the floor and then see what he does.”

He looked at her kind of funny though did what she asked.  Connor was on the floor of their room before he could protest.  The baby started to whine and Spike leaned down to pick him up again but Buffy held out a hand, halting him.  They watched from the bed as Connor rolled over and got up on his knees.  “Get the book.”

Spike handed it to her without a word.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


There was a grim silence in the car, none of its occupants willing to engage in idle chatter, and the bot, for once, picking up on the quiet didn’t fill the silence.

By unstated agreement, Wesley had grabbed the keys for the Jeep, and he parked it half a block from the mansion.  Giles spoke, his voice very quiet.  “All we are doing now is reconnaissance – no heroics.  If you locate Cordelia, you cannot let her know we’re here.  Her survival just might depend on it.  If any of the vampires are awake, do not continue the search.  Just leave.”

There were no arguments.

They exited the Jeep, then the humans and the robot set off for the mansion.


  

Chapter Text

Book Two

Chapter 28.  Rescue me


Sometimes that shark looks right at ya.
Right into your eyes.
And the thing about a shark is he's got lifeless eyes.
Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes.
When he comes at ya, he doesn't even seem to be livin'... 'til he bites ya,
and those black eyes roll over white and then...
ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin'.
The ocean turns red, and despite all your poundin' and your hollerin'
those sharks come in and... they rip you to pieces.
        Quint, Jaws (1975)

My mommy always said there were no monsters
- no real ones - but there are, aren't there?
        Newt, Aliens (1986)




“He’s so not supposed to be doing that.”  Buffy was flipping through the pages of the book, her back resting against the headboard and her eyes half on the book and half on the almost crawling baby on the floor.  “Look.”

Spike took the book from her, noting the progress the baby had made across the floor.  “Figure he’s gonna reach the bed?”

“I dunno.  But this can’t be good, can it?”  She sat up, leaning on his arm.  Spike glanced down at the book, squinted then moved it further away so he could read the print.  That didn’t help, so he brought it closer to his face.  “Sprog’s not supposed to do this for ‘nother couple of months.”

Connor wriggled forward again and Buffy looked between the two males.  “This is so not good.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Xander crept around the side of the mansion, heading toward the back, peeking into the small basement windows as the bot continuously checked for awake vampires.  So far, he’d seen nothing out of the ordinary, not even sleeping minions.  It was enough to convince him that this side of the mansion was deserted, until the bot tapped his shoulder.  “There’s something in that room.”

He whirled around, following the bot’s pointed finger.  “It’s a vampire.  Can I stake it?”

“No.  Just let me check it out, all right?”  He moved forward slowly in case the vampire was awake.  Xander leaned against the window, shading his eyes.  Some nameless vampire was asleep on a couch, angled away from the window.  He didn’t recognize it, rightly figuring it was a relative fledgling.  What did catch his attention was the door opposite the window.  The sleeping vamp’s posture sort of indicated, at least to him, that the vamp was guarding the door.

“C’mon, let’s keep looking.”  Xander moved toward his right, toward the back of the house, the bot trailing him closely.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


It was funny how sleeping underground affected a person’s perceptions.  Tara had the vague idea that hours had passed since Giles and Wesley had left them alone, but she had no other way, other than her small clock, of verifying that.  Oz had barely moved in all that time, mostly shifting here and there to get more comfortable, though never truly waking up.  

Even when Spike had come down with the baby, the werewolf had barely stirred.  Part of her was beginning to worry, but, Dr. Thomas had said that the best thing for him would be sleep.  While not blessed with Slayer or vampire healing, werewolves did have something akin to it.

Within a week, the doctor had assured her, Oz would be up and around, maybe not fighting vampires again, but he’d be well on the way to completely recovered.  Tara wasn’t so sure she was thrilled with this news.  Too many of them had been getting hurt.  She was just afraid that the next time, whoever it was wouldn’t recover so quickly.  Perhaps she and the watchers could research protection spells for everyone.  

Oz growled in pain and she sat up, her hands running lightly over his injuries, checking for any changes.  For now she had to worry about him, the rest could wait until he was out of the woods.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Crouched down a bit, Wesley craned his neck to see into another window on the opposite side of the house.  Rupert was further toward the back of the house, where they had agreed to all meet.  From Wesley’s current position, he could see Giles and as he looked down into the window, he could barely make out two pair of feet and the corner of a bed.  There was movement in a corner of the room and simultaneously both Englishmen hissed for attention.

Rupert’s voice was a bare whisper.  “What have you got?”

“Possibly Angel and Drusilla.  All I can see is feet.  It appears there’s a girl chained up at the foot of the bed.”  He turned to face the older man and his expression told Wesley all he needed to know.  “How is she?”

Giles didn’t say anything, remaining silent until he joined Wesley.  “Not good.”

Without sparing a second glance behind him, Rupert headed for the back of the house and the other two.  Wesley hesitated a moment, moved toward the window, then changing his mind, backed away.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Gotta be something here I can use. . . something.  Frustration was getting the better of her temper and Willow was vaguely aware she was sort of unraveling but the information was important.  There has to be some way I can fix this mess. . . make all this badness go away.  Make everything the way it should be.  Why can’t I find it?

This wasn’t like the resurrection spell.  Willow realized that – this was more along the lines of using the Lethe’s Bramble to make them forget – but that wasn’t really what she wanted.  Don’t want anyone to forget, just want them to be the way they should be.  Make everything right.

It hardly mattered that what she thought was right might not actually be the way things were supposed to be, because Willow didn’t much care anymore.  She just wanted her rightful place back.  Buffy’s best friend.  Xander’s best friend.  And Tara’s girlfriend.  That’s the way things are supposed to be.  I’m supposed to be on the inside one of the Scoobies – not Spike.  He’s a vampire, one of the bad guys.

Willow pursed her lips into a look Xander was well acquainted with and if he were there to witness it, he’d be very concerned about Willow’s intentions.  It has to be here. . . whatever it is.  Turning the page of the old grimoire on her lap, Willow focused on the words of the spell in front of her.  Hhhhhmmmm.  Maybe I can tweak this a bit.

Determination renewed, Willow set about finding a way to fix the world to her liking.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Cheerfully sending another satisfied customer on their way, Anya idly noted the time on the clock. Quarter past four and she could lock up in another fifteen minutes, then head home.

Home.  Where Xander should be.  Anya wasn’t so sure she wanted to go there.  All they’d been doing lately was fighting.  Fighting about announcing their wedding, fighting about Willow’s strange behavior; fighting about Buffy and Spike; fighting about everything.  About the only time they weren’t fighting was while they had sex but lately they’d been fighting about that too.

Whenever Xander wasn’t happy with anything, he’d spend time complaining about it.  Complaining endlessly.  Xander bitched about everything.  Every.  Thing.

Anya thought that this was normal, until her brief conversation with Giles a couple of weeks ago.  Something he’d said had started her thinking and now her head hurt constantly because of all the thinking she’d been doing.  And not only her head hurt.

Her heart did too.  She wasn’t blind – just outspoken, and yes, she admitted it; sometimes rather self-absorbed.  But she’d seen things – lots of things.  After all, she’d lived longer than any of them, hell, all of them combined, and she’d seen life along the way.  Okay, so vengeance demons don’t always see people at their happiest or their best, but still, she’d seen.  She wasn’t blind.

It had come as a little surprise when she realized that a vampire was more capable of love than she’d ever expected.  She was so totally jealous of Buffy; not because she wanted orgasms from Spike and she wouldn’t turn him down if he offered, but really, Anya, off topic, she was jealous of the way Spike treated Buffy.

It was quite clear to anyone who cared to spend more than five minutes watching them that Buffy was the center of Spike’s world; the sun around which his universe revolved.  And that was what Anya was jealous about, because it was also quite clear she didn’t fulfill that same role for Xander.  Which made her head and her heart hurt.

Maybe Giles is right.  Maybe it’s not how, maybe it’s the who that’s all wrong.  Anya moved about the shop, needlessly cleaning an already spotless display case when her attention was diverted by the bell over the door pealing in the quiet shop.

Switching on the blinding smile and super-salesgirl persona, Anya greeted her next sale.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


“Do you think he’s gonna walk early too?”  Buffy was curled on her side at the edge of the bed watching Connor scoot from one side of the floor to the other.

Spike looked up at her from his prone position on the floor blocking the doorway.  He’d been coaxing the baby forward for almost an hour now, and all that practice had apparently paid off.  As incredible as it appeared, Connor was, at just over two months old, pretty much crawling from one location to another.  “‘Spect so.  Sprog’s strong for his age, an’ look at ‘im go.”

Connor had reached Spike and was trying to pull himself up using the vampire as a prop, butting against his chest.  Spike rolled onto his back and lifted the infant in the air, making zooming noises as he did.  Buffy watched the both of them, thinking about how cute they both were.  “We can’t. . . how the heck are we supposed to do this?  I don’t know anything about babies.  And you’re not exactly father of the year material.”

He turned an affronted face to her.  “Least I’m here, tryin’ to do m’best.”

She knew she’d hurt him by the expression in his eyes.  Damn Buffy, when are you going to learn to keep your mouth shut? Coz he’s right, he’s here doing the daddy bit and where’s the baby’s real father?  Oh.  Right.  Off terrorizing people.  Better say something.  “Sorry.  You’re right.  We’ll just have to do our best and figure it all out as we go.”

“Jus’ like everyone else, sunshine.  ‘Snot like sprogs come equipped with how-tos.  ‘Sides, we don’t know what spawn here is capable of jus’ yet.”

“True.”  She watched them both a little longer, her eyes drinking in the sight of her mate playing with a baby.  A yawn stretched Connor’s face and Buffy said, “Looks like all that practice tired out our boy.”

Spike cradled the boy to his chest, getting gracefully to his feet in the next moment.  “Yeah.  Take him.  Watchers should be in soon.  Gonna call Niblet, tell her to head home.  You rest with him.”

Dropping Connor on the bed behind her, Spike waited until she rolled over to tuck him in her arms, then kissed her forehead.  “Get some kip, sunshine, I’ll be back.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Aside from confirming to the others that Cordelia was in fact in the mansion, Giles hadn’t said anything as they made their way back to the house on Revello Drive.  None of them had much of anything to say.  Before their mission, only the possibility of Cordelia’s captivity existed; unfortunately, now it had moved from the realm of possibility into very harsh reality.

Reality they’d all hoped wouldn’t actually be true.

Hoping to spare the others what he’d witnessed, Giles had rushed them away from the mansion – partially also to distance himself a bit.

There wasn’t enough time and space to truly distance himself from that.  Cordelia was. . . his mind shied away from the visions, from the sight of her.  He couldn’t . . . Rupert closed his eyes against the daylight.  He. . . oh god.  Poor girl.  He’d known firsthand the kind of damage Angel could inflict given the time.  Without knowing how long he’d had Cordelia, Rupert had fooled himself about what had been done.

He was struck with the sudden realization that he quite possibly owed his life to Spike.  However, instead of calming him, Ruper also realized that no one had come to Cordelia’s rescue – she’d been in the clutches of a monster for days, without any protection at all – which increased his agitation.

So lost in his thoughts, Rupert had no idea they’d gotten back to the house until Wesley nudged him, after calling him more than once.  Giles looked over at the younger man, a very distracted air about him and slowly reacted. “Right.”

Almost blindly, Giles walked in the front door, and the contrast between what was struck him hard.  Tears formed in his eyes and Rupert excused himself, leaving the others to wonder at his behavior.

Walking up the steps in a daze, Rupert Giles came to a decision, one that he should have made years before, but hadn’t for reasons he couldn’t quite fathom at this moment.  This time, he was going to argue against re-souling Angel, and rather, he was going to advocate dusting him.

Spike was just closing the bedroom door when he reached the second floor hallway.  At the stricken look on the older man’s features, Spike sighed.  “He’s got her then.”

“Yes.”  It was all he needed to hear.

Opening the door again, Spike held up a hand as Rupert started to speak.  “Get dressed, kitten.  They’re back.”

With that he moved to close the door, but Giles’ hand on his arm stopped him.  “Wait, Spike, I . . . need to say, that is. . . I – thank you.  For what you did all those years ago.  Diverting Angel’s attention like you did.”

Staring at him in slight shock, Spike shook his head.  “Wasn’t doing it for you, mate.”

Giles too was shaking his head.  “Doesn’t matter.  The fact remains . . . regardless of why.  You saved my life.”

Buffy came to the door, sharing a long look with her mate.  “Giles?  What happened?”

“Angelus has the cheerleader, love.”  Her eyes left Spike’s face to glance up at Giles.  His features were without emotion, but Buffy knew Giles was deeply affected; nothing else would have prompted his prior words.

“Oh god.  I’ll be down in a minute.  Get everyone together.”  Buffy closed the door and both men headed back downstairs.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Wesley was pacing the dining room and Xander was sitting at the table, waiting for Giles to come back down so they could discuss what to do and how to rescue Cordelia.  The opening and closing of doors upstairs drifted down, and the soft murmur of voices could barely be heard.  The bot was bustling about doing something in the kitchen, by the sounds of it, washing dishes and generally cleaning.  Neither of the two younger men spoke, the silence between them complete.  

The sound of footsteps on the stairs was deafening, and both of them looked toward the staircase.  Spike stepped down heavily, Giles a mere step behind him.  Looking at the grim faces, the vampire said, “Buffy’ll be down in a tick.”  

He headed for the phone and motioning toward the others to sit and wait for Buffy; Spike waited until Dawn picked up then told her to get home and bring ginger ale.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Her belly was not cooperating.  The rolling nausea that accompanied her every move was threatening to overspill and wreak havoc with her equilibrium.  Buffy sat down on the bed, breathing heavily through her nose, trying to control the tempest.  Okay, this is not good.  Gotta stop this.  Slipping into her sweats and one of Spike’s tee shirts, Buffy lifted a sleeping Connor and put him into his crib, then ran a quick hand through her hair.  All right, let’s do this.

Inhaling deeply, Buffy slowly made her way downstairs.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


All four of them were ranged around the dining room, Xander and Giles sitting in two of the chairs, while Wesley leaned against the wall, his arms crossed.  Spike was pacing, well not really pacing so much as not staying in one place, his attention focused inward.  His head perked up as he heard her footsteps on the stairs, worry written on lines bracketed around his mouth.

She smiled at him wanly, knowing that putting a chipper grin on her face was not going to fool him, and kind of inappropriate, given Giles’ revelation about Cordelia.  “Hey, guys.”

“Hey, Buff.”  Xander had picked up his head at her entrance, his eyes doing a quick scan over her slight form.  He grimaced, but held his tongue, at her choice of attire.  

Buffy stopped short, swallowing the bile in her throat.  “Xand.”  She leaned heavily on the table, her eyes darting between all of the males.  It was strange to see so many men at a makeshift Scoobie meeting, usually they were overwhelmed by the girl-power.  Sharing a smile with Spike, Buffy stood up and said, “What’s the sitch, guys?”

By default, it was Giles that spoke, since none of the others had seen where or how Cordelia was being restrained.  “She’s in the mansion, on the mid-level floor, on the south side of the building.  I’m not certain how many vampires are in the house.  Angelus and Drusilla appear to be in the room adjacent to where Cordelia is.”

“She is . . . secured to a bed.”  His voice faltered a little, as he paused to draw a breath, but he gathered himself after a moment and he continued, “I couldn’t ascertain the extent of her injuries, though they appear to be extensive.  She’s going to need immediate transport to hospital.”

Nothing but silence greeted his words and they all processed the information he’d just imparted.  

“We can’t protect her in hospital.”  Wesley’s voice was grim.  

Giles glanced up at him, anger and frustration evident on his normally placid features.  “No, but we cannot keep her here.  She needs medical attention of the kind we cannot provide and magic won’t be enough.”

“Can we risk getting her out of town?  Or is there some way we can put a protective field around her at one of the hospitals here?”  Buffy’s gaze flickered between Giles and Wesley, wondering if either one of them knew something they might be able to use to protect Cordelia once they had her safe.

“I’m not sure.  Most public places can’t be barred.”  Wesley thought for a few moments, then fixed his eyes on the older man.  “How dire are her injuries?  If she’s as badly injured as you are implying, she would be housed in ICU, correct?”

“It’s more than likely.”  Lifting his eyes to Wesley’s face, Giles asked, “What are you thinking?”

“Since she’ll be in isolation, it might be possible to perform a disinvite.”  

Spike considered this, his expression thoughtful.  “Might work.  She’d be livin’ there.”  

Buffy’s expression mirrored Spike’s.  “Okay, so we can work on that once we get her out of there.  First we have to get her.  Any ideas?”

“Our best and probably only chance is going to be a diversion.”  Giles took off his glasses, rubbing his eyes to hide the emotions overwhelming him.  “We somehow need to draw both Angel and Drusilla away from the mansion.”

“Yeah and how are we gonna manage that and who’s gonna be stupid enough to be the bait?”  Xander’s first contribution to the planning session was typically him.

Wesley ignored his tones, focusing instead on the words.  “Exactly. What’s the best way to draw both of them?”

Buffy and Spike spoke simultaneously.  “Me.”

They shared a look wrought with tension.

“Are you kidding?”  Xander exploded into the quiet room.  “If you both act as bait, how the hell are the rest of us supposed to rescue Cordy – you two are the strongest.  And I really hate admitting that.”

Without taking his eyes from Buffy, Spike said softly, “I’ll go alone.”

Buffy was shaking her head no, while Giles and Wesley were both spluttering their own negatives.  She couldn’t speak for the emotion suddenly clogging her throat and her heart was in her eyes as she looked at him.

“We can’t. . .”  Wesley was trying to come up with a reason to deny Spike, but the vampire held up his hand.

“Listen.  I’ll take the bot – get into something so that Angelus and Dru hear of it – all public like.”  He paused, watching Buffy’s reaction to his words.  “You lot get to be the heroes an’ rescue the girl.”

He knew what she was feeling, could sense it through the bond, though he also knew this was pretty much their best plan.  Right now it was their only plan.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


She could hear the noises from the other rooms, the sounds of people stirring and moving about.  In a Pavlovian response, her body tensed, muscles clenching, tears immediately seeping from her closed eyes.  There were no prayers left in her, nothing beyond please let me die echoing inside her head.  Everything else was numb.  Pain had leached away every other thought, every emotion stripped away in the light of what she’d endured.

 Blood was sticking to her, making everything crinkle and crack every time she moved.  Whimpers sounded in the still air of the room and it took her long minutes to realize it was her own voice making them.  The outside noises came closer and the desperation filled her.  Please. . . no more. . . please. . . mommy. . . daddy. . . please. . . no. . .

There was no release, the chains still bound her, the leather cutting into her skin, slicing deep into already abused flesh, bruising muscles and creating a fresh flow of blood around her wrists and ankles.  The door to her prison creaked open and the dark looming shape of her captor stepped over the threshold.

Cordelia whimpered, high-pitched and desperate, fear ripping through her.  She couldn’t think of him as what he once was, who he once was. . . he wasn’t that person. . .   He might wear the same face, inhabit the same body, but whoever lived behind his eyes was not the person she . . .  

“Good evening, Cordy.  How are you tonight?  Did you miss me?  Hhhmmm?”  He grinned ferally as he came closer to the bed, entering her line of sight.  “You know, I’m really thinking that I like you all quiet and obedient.  But hey, kind of missing the visions.  Seen anything good lately?”  

Angel ran a deceptively gentle hand over her face, which he hadn’t yet damaged.  “You are a beauty.”  She tried shying away from his fingers, but Angel gripped her chin in one hand, leaning close, so that their faces were bare inches apart.  “Shouldn’t do that, Cordy.  Really.”

Tracing a hand down along her neck, Angel leaned down, squeezing and flexing his fingers around, tightening and cutting off her air.  Fresh tears slid down her cheeks and she gasped desperately for air.  Her lungs constricted, her body bucking and writhing in an attempt to get the oxygen she needed to survive.  His face came closer, his lips nearly brushing her ear and he whispered softly, gently, “Don’t fight so much.  You get used to not needing to breathe after a while.  Kind of like getting used to not having a heartbeat.”

Choking noises filled the room, and he abruptly let her go, watching with a wide grin as she coughed and wheezed.  Purple marks bloomed freshly over yellowed bruises and Cordy refused to look at him as he moved a single finger from her throat down toward her slashed breasts.  Pressing hard against barely healed cuts, Angel broke open the scabs, letting fresh blood ooze from the abused globes.  

Musing almost distractedly, Angel spoke aloud, his words barely registering in her mind.  “So much to play with, so nice and full and delicious.  You know, you taste like catnip.  Maybe I’ll let my kitty-cat girl play for a little while.”

Angel watched while tiny streams of blood flowed from tiny pooling red lakes, down the sides of Cordelia’s once lovely breasts.  He drew shimmering Celtic designs in blood on her torso, patterns swirling on and over her breasts and down her flanks, dipping closer to her torn and battered sex.  More to himself than her, he continued speaking, “Maybe I’ll have this branded into you, before I bring you over.  Prove to you forever who you belong to.  That you are mine. . . to keep . . . or not.”

He shoved his thumb inside her, pumping once, then reached for the police baton he’d taken from his latest minion.  Grinning, he played with it, making sure Cordelia saw what he was doing.  There was a soft noise behind him, and without moving or turning away from his victim, Angel said, “Not now, Dru.  I’m playing.”

A soft laugh accompanied his dismissal.  “Really, Daddy, might I play with you?  I’ve been ever so good and Miss Edith says the little seer will be seeing things tonight.  Such nice little visions.”

With her words, Angel did finally turn around to look at Dru.  His leer upon seeing her was wide and hungry.  She lounged in the doorway, covered in nothing but a virginal lace veil stolen from the bridal shop, her skin as pearly white as the material, save for the darkness of her long hair and the shadow at the junction of her thighs.  “A vision?   Miss Edith says our guest is going to have a vision?”

“And the pixies too.  Daddy, might your little girl come in and play?  Please. . . pretty please?”  A coquette’s grin and wide guileless eyes graced Drusilla’s face and as always, Angel couldn’t resist her.  Holding out a hand to his precious childe, Angel motioned her forward.  A happy giggle sounded in the air and she bounced forward eagerly.  “Oooohhh, Daddy, I promise I’ll be good . . . can I play?”

Gathering the swirling lace in his big hand, Angel dragged Drusilla forward, until she hovered over Cordelia’s trussed body.  The white lace dragged through the congealed blood, abrading the sensitive skin on Cordelia’s naked flesh.  “So Dru, where does Daddy’s little girl want to play first?”

Drusilla was nearly salivating and bouncing with unrepressed glee.   “Can I lick her up, can I?  Pretty please . . . please, Daddy?”

Angel appeared to contemplate the idea for long minutes, looking between the two brunettes.  The mental image had Cordelia being a willing participant, but that would come in time . . .

“Sure, baby.  Lick her all over.”

Drusilla’s mouth descended slowly toward Cordelia’s cracked and bleeding nipple, her tongue poking out from between deadly lips, but Cordelia didn’t care, her mind was blank, lost in the fog of pain and despair, all hope of rescue long gone.

 
    

         

Chapter Text

Book Two.  

Chapter 29.  Relying on hope


To the last moment of his breath,
On hope the wretch relies;
And even the pang preceding death
Bids expectation rise.
    Oliver Goldsmith, The Captivity. Act ii.

For the wretched
one night is like a thousand;
for someone faring well
death is just one more night.  
    Sophocles, Fragments, l. 377

Destroy yourselves,
you who are desperate,
and you who are tortured in body and soul,
abandon all hope.
There is no more solace for you in this world.
The world lives off your rotting flesh.
    Antonin Artaud, General Security: The Liquidation of Opium, (1925)





Just minutes after Spike’s pronouncement, Giles had excused himself in an effort to escape from the wrangling over the finer points of the plan.  Buffy had watched him, her eyes meeting Wesley’s for a brief moment then her attention was drawn once more to their plan.

Before they had a chance to come up with something solid, Dawn, with Casey just steps behind her, traipsed in the doorway, toting the requested ginger ale.  Dawn made her way into the kitchen, stopping short at the sight of the bot.  “Spike?”

Her voice was strained with mirth and he couldn’t figure out why, until he remembered they had forgotten to put the bot away.  Luckily, Casey had stopped to talk to Buffy about something so Spike hustled into the kitchen and hastily put the bot back in storage.

Buffy took the brief lull Casey’s appearance allowed for and sought out Giles, who was sitting quietly in the living room.

“Hey.”  He opened his eyes at her greeting, angling his head in her direction.

“Buffy.”  Actually taking the opportunity to look at her, he was shocked at the fatigue in her eyes and drawn look to her features.  Her normally golden color was a bit off and he could now clearly see how much she hid from the others.  “Are you all right?”

“I’m pooped.  Staying up most nights with Spike and pretending to be Connor’s mommy very early in the morning make a totally tired Buffy.”  She shrugged.  “I’ll be fine.”

“Perhaps you should consider not going?”  Buffy eyed him strangely, noting his own strained and tired look.

“Nope.  Not unless you consider it.”  She sat down on the couch facing him.  “I’m fine, just tired.”  She paused again, looking down at her hands.  “How bad is she?”

“What?  What makes you think this is in response . . ?”  His voice trailed off when Buffy raised her eyebrow and just stared him down.

“Giles?  I’m tired.  Not blind or dumb.”
                            
He grimaced, realizing he was going to have to tell someone.  “Not good.  By the amount of blood. . . I thought she was on red sheets until. . .”  He shook his head, unwilling to continue.  “She’s tied to the bed, I couldn’t see how, though it probably involves chains.”

“Only if he thinks there’s a reason.  Prob’ly tied her there with somethin’ else.  Somethin’ designed to cause pain.”  Spike’s voice sounded quietly from the kitchen doorway.  He handed Buffy a glass of ginger ale, then folded his arms over his chest.  “He’s goin’ for the hurt.  Oxford said he was gettin’ the warm fuzzies for the girl.  He’s tryin’ to break her.”

Buffy sipped the ginger ale, a slight grimace of distaste on her face.  “You think he’s going to turn her.”

It wasn’t a question.

“Yeah.”  Spike’s one word answer was enough for Buffy.  

“We’re going in tonight.”  Spike wasn’t the only one with a game face.  The Slayer was suddenly sitting next to Giles, tired and under-the-weather Buffy long gone.

“Tonight?  Are you certain?”  Giles’ eyes were on his Slayer.

“Yup.”  She was nodding her head.

“Best we wait ‘til after midnight – this way if we get stuck, it’ll be close to daybreak an’ they can’t follow you when you get her out.”  Spike laid a hand on her shoulder, absently running his thumb back and forth.

“So we gear up around midnight?”  Xander’s voice preceded him into the living room.

“Looks like it.”  Buffy was shaking her head.   “We have one shot at this so it has to work.”

Wesley, who had followed Spike in from the kitchen, glanced down at his watch.  “That gives us roughly seven hours.”  At everyone’s nodded agreement, he continued, “Then I suggest we get some sleep.”

Only Spike disagreed, though everyone expected that.  “Don’t need it, but you, sunshine, should go.”

Turning watery eyes on him, Buffy asked, “Come with?”

“Right then, see you lads later.”  Spike’s dismissal was quick as he pulled Buffy to her feet.  They disappeared up the stairs as the three men departed out the front door.

    
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


She knew something was up when Spike called her, telling her to come home, though Dawn wasn’t sure how serious it was until she’d come in the door.

For one thing, Wesley was still wearing the same clothes as last night.  For another, Xander was in the dining room and he and Spike weren’t fighting.  So whatever was going on had to be serious.

Dawn knew it was really bad when the bot was out of storage.  And she was beginning to worry.  She couldn’t ask point blank because Casey didn’t really know about the weirdness that was her life and it would take far too long to explain it to him.  Not to mention so not wanting to go there at all.

Hearing them all leave like that clued her in a little more, but she also knew she couldn’t ask what was really going on while Casey was still around.

On the pretext of finding out if she could order a pizza for them, Dawn left Casey in front of the television and headed up the stairs.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


They had climbed the stairs in silence, neither one of them inclined to talk.  Buffy was feeling better, despite all the moving around, though she still wasn’t up for the possible fight with Spike over the plan for the night.

Not that anyone else had been able to come up with something better.  She didn’t like it, and some niggling sense kept her on edge about it.  She didn’t like being split up from him while they were doing the rescuing bit.  Didn’t even like patrolling without him – at least lately.  While partially the claim, a just as real part of it was being skittish about certain things, not that fighting vampires was all that scary, it was the other stuff.

Knowing about Dawn had changed something fundamental for her.  And that was before she knew the full truth.

Jumping to save Dawn had been the most right thing she’d ever done; it had also been the easiest.  And now?  Knowing the real truth – that Dawn was her daughter – Buffy would have only done one or two things differently.  Now, with everything to live for, Buffy wasn’t inclined to take too many risks – and she was really afraid that something would go wrong and everything would fall apart, leaving her alone and without her mate.  She didn’t think she could survive that.

Once inside their bedroom, Buffy turned to face Spike.  The look on her features must have spoken volumes, because he opened his arms to enfold her and clasp her against his chest.

“I love you, you know, right?”  A smile played across his face in answer, but he remained silent, waiting for her to continue.  “Promise me you’ll be careful.”

“Always.  You too, kitten.”  His arms tightened around her as he walked her backwards to the bed.  Gently he pushed her onto the mattress, his touch firm.  “Back to bed with you, missy.”

“I’m fine.”  He just snorted loudly, raising an eyebrow at her less than enthusiastic assertion.  “Really, I am.”

“Sure thing, Slayer.  How’s tha’ belly?”  Two arms on either side of her hips, Spike leaned over her.  “Hhmmm?  Feelin’ a bit topsy turvy yet?”

“Bleah.  Meanie.”  She stuck her tongue out at him, pouting when he pushed her down onto the pillows.

“Right.  ‘M mean coz ‘m makin’ you nap.”  He was smirking at her, his eyes laughing.

“No.  You’re a meanie because you’re gonna leave me alone the minute I fall asleep.”  Her lower lip pouted and Spike growled.  “And you’re making with the rumblies now too.”

His bark of laughter caused an answering smile in her.  “If you wanted to snuggle, all you had to do was ask, love.”  He pushed her further onto the bed, “Shove over, then.”

Once he was next to her, Buffy rolled into his waiting arms basking in his attention.  He murmured into her hair as her eyes drifted closed.  “Only have to ask, kitten.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Her eyes had just closed when Dawn snuck in the door after knocking.  Finding the two of them on the bed, Buffy’s eyes already closed, Dawn knew something very serious was up – and not just the slayer stuff.

“What’s up?”  Dawn walked toward the bed, trying not to disturb Buffy too much.  Spike shifted a bit, eyeing her over his shoulder.  

“Buffy’s feelin’ poorly an’ she’s gettin’ some kip before we go out tonight.”

“Yeah, about that. . . what’s going on?”  Dawn folded her arms over her chest and raised an eyebrow at him.

She looked so much like Buffy that he had to laugh.  Buffy opened her eyes and asked, “What’s so funny?”

Spike nudged her, saying, “That look’s pure Slayer, love, nothin’ of me in there ‘tall.”

“Ah huh.”  Buffy rolled her eyes, focusing on Dawn again.  “Angel has Cordelia and we’re gonna rescue her tonight.”

Dawn’s expression faltered, knowing what that could mean.  “Do you think she’s okay?”

“No.  Giles caught a glimpse of her and she’s gotta go right to the hospital.”  Buffy brushed her hair away from her face and laid her head down on Spike’s chest.  “We’re gonna need you to take care of Connor tonight, while the rest of us sleep.”

Glancing over at the crib, Dawn made a face then gave in.  “Sure.  I’ll get him when he wakes up.”  She started to leave, then remembered her original purpose.  “Is it okay if I order a couple of pizzas?”

“Get some wings too, ” was Spike’s only comment as she headed for the door.

“All right.  I’ll see you later.”

Buffy snuggled closer into Spike’s arms and closed her eyes again without another word.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


It was half eleven when the Watchers arrived and five minutes later when Xander and Anya walked in the door.  Spike had been up for hours polishing weapons and Buffy had gotten up just after ten and showered.  She’d tried once to talk him out of going with the bot, but he had retorted with, “Only if you stay home” which effectively ended that discussion.

Tara had ventured upstairs while Casey was still around and therefore had gotten a bare account of what was going on, though it was enough to alert her to the situation.

The bot was brought out of storage and given instructions which consisted of nothing more than do exactly what Spike says and ask no questions.  Spike still had no idea what he was going to do, his only thought at the moment was to somehow draw the two master vampires away from the mansion.  It was the how that was currently escaping him.

Looking around at everyone ranged about the dining room, Spike idly noted that the rest had done them all some good.  Even Buffy was feeling better, that nausea dissipating after the enforced sleep.  Her hazel green eyes sparked with life again and while her mood wasn’t exactly cheerful, she was back to herself.

She caught him looking at her and she tried forming a question in her head and was rewarded half a second later when his answer came through loud and clear.  She didn’t have time to answer him, though, because Giles was talking and then it was time for him to go.

The plan, such as it was, hinged on Spike’s ability to lure the others away from the mansion, and, when he had their full attention, somehow telepathically let Buffy know it was time.  The rescue group would be watching the mansion anyway, and they would move on Buffy’s signal.  Once Cordelia was free, Wesley and Giles were going to take her to the hospital and Buffy was going to join Spike and the bot, hopefully confusing the hell out of the two vampires.

It wasn’t a great plan.  It wasn’t even a good one.  It was so lame that none of them thought it would work.  However, they didn’t have any more time to come up with anything better, much less something that was guaranteed to work.

Spike was gone with the bot beside him, and the others were going to wait a half hour to forty-five minutes, then head over to the mansion.

He’d started out toward Restfield, intending to just cause a huge ruckus, hoping that the other two would hear of it and head out, when he stopped in his tracks, a thought swirling around in his head.  Changing his mind abruptly, Spike headed straight for the mansion.  If he was going to draw them out, he might as well ensure that they were out – and if he took out a few of the minions along the way, so much the better.

Change of plans, kitten, be ready to roll when I give a shout
, was his last thought to Buffy before he shut down and focused on the new plan.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Cordelia hadn’t been so far gone when Drusilla interrupted Angel earlier that she missed what the insane vampire had said.  So when the first vision had started, instead of reacting, Cordelia let it come.  The pain that usually accompanied the visions was gone – overwhelmed by the pain her entire body was in.  A little blinding headache wasn’t going to matter one way or another.  

So she kept her silence, while Angelus and Drusilla tortured her body and watched as the disjointed visions showed herself, Wesley, Buffy and Spike fighting Drusilla, Angel grabbing Buffy by the throat – and then they ceased.

To afraid to guess at a meaning, Cordelia shut down again, forcing her mind away, detaching – until another vision assailed her battered psyche.  This one, as earlier, was filled with images of Spike and Buffy and Xander . . . and Giles.  Shuddering under the strain of keeping silent, Cordelia finally succumbed to the pain her body was in and surrendered consciousness.

And so she missed it completely when the first wave of the cavalry strode, black leather swirling, into the mansion, fists, fangs, and swinging weapons, killing more than a few of Angel’s newest minions.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Without coming up with a better plan on the short walk to the mansion, Spike sent another thought to his mate, then closed off his emotions.  He didn’t relish the idea of going against his sire or Angelus - the call of family bonds was still strong – yet his bond with Buffy carried more weight.  She had asked, he would do.  For no other reason.  He didn’t fool himself that he felt compassion for Cordelia – nor that he knew it was the right thing to rescue her – he just wasn’t sure he cared; it was enough for him that Buffy did.

Dragging on a cigarette, Spike contemplated the mansion in front of him.  If he could hate a building, Spike hated this one.  Hadn’t liked the decor from the beginning, all pseudo Spanish castello with a bit of art-deco thrown in for good measure, it housed some of the worst memories of his existence.

Being unable to walk while Angel fucked his woman under his bloody nose – within eye and ear-shot of him – hours on end.

His rage had been what set him on this path – the behavior of the two of them – carrying on like he didn’t even exist or was so far beneath their notice that it didn’t merit consideration had been the impetus that goaded him into seeking out his own personal nemesis.

He’d already decided that it had been worth it – all that humiliation and anger.  Stretching his neck side to side, Spike dropped the smoldering cigarette butt onto the ground, grinding it out with his boot.  Addressing his companion, Spike said, “Let’s go slay the minions.”

The bot’s only reaction was a bright perky smile and an, “Okie dokie, Spike.”

Rolling his eyes, Spike followed after the bot.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The sounds of fighting reached both of them at the same time, and Drusilla looked up from her position between Cordelia’s thighs and growled.

It took Angel a moment longer, but when Spike’s unmistakable chuckle sounded in the air, he moved away from the two women, reaching for his trousers, muttering curses as he dressed.

Slapping Drusilla on the ass, Angel said, “Now, princess, no time to play with our guest.”

She scrambled from the bed, scampering into their room to retrieve her clothes.  They could hear the sounds of fighting, Spike’s voice throwing laughing insults at his foes while Buffy’s voice chattered inanely in the background.

They were dressed and at the door of the bedroom in time to watch the Slayer and her pet dust some minions – one of which Angel had come to rely upon because of his brain and skill with electronics.  With a growl Angel headed for Drusilla’s errant childe.

Sensing the presence of the other two, Spike signaled to the bot and slowly started retreating for the door.  Drusilla screeched when the bot smacked her in the head, then followed Spike out the door.

The fight spilled out into the street, as Spike and the bot slowly gave ground.

Focusing on the bond between himself and Buffy, Spike sent his message through to her.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


She hated watching him go.  Hated the idea that he was fighting without her.  Hated waiting.  Buffy really, really hated waiting.

Not for the first time since Spike and her robotic doppelganger had walked out the door, Buffy turned concerned eyes on the two Watchers and said, “I should have gone.”

This last time Giles had merely raised an eyebrow and remained silent, while Wesley drank his tea.  “How can you two be so calm?  Is it some strange English guy thing?”

Wesley merely smiled while Giles answered, “Yes.  We’re bred this way, don’t you know?”

“Very funny.”  She stopped talking, the quip dying before she voiced it.  She waited a bit listening to something only she could hear and then after a moment of intense concentration, said, “Okay people, let’s get ready.”

The general clattering of weapons being picked then discarded sounded in the quiet suburban home and grim faces were evident all around.  Wesley hefted a pair of heavy bolt-cutters in addition to a sword, while Giles decided between an axe and a short sword.  Anya watched them, then got up to leave the room.

She was back in moments, thrusting an old sheet at Buffy.  “Here, take this.”

“What for?”  Buffy looked from it to Anya wondering what on earth the other girl was thinking.

“For Cordelia.  In case she’s all naked and bloody.  Because I wouldn’t want all these strange men looking at me unless it was group. . . well, never mind, you know what I mean.”

And strangely enough, once Anya started to explain, Buffy knew exactly what she meant.  Thanking her, Buffy motioned to the sheet.  “Think you can find another one just in case?”

With a quiet nod, Anya headed for the second floor linen closet.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


They were halfway down the block when Drusilla tried gouging out the fake Slayer’s eyes and the bot retaliated by knocking her off her feet, sending her into the side of another house, setting off alarms.  Spike paused in his all out battle with Angel, calling out to the bot, then with a look that was designed to boil the older vampire’s borrowed blood, Spike taunted him mercilessly.

Drusilla got to her feet, practically flying toward the bot, while it and Spike continued to draw the other two away.  The bot aimed another whirling kick at Drusilla, this time missing her and Drusilla stalked after the robot, hissing and swaying like a maddened cat.  Spike nailed Angel from behind, grabbing his attention with a series of punches to the bigger vampire’s gut, driving him backwards toward a house with shrieking alarms.

Police sirens sounded and although they weren’t part of his original plan, Spike used them to his advantage.  “Love to continue this, gramps, but Sunnydale’s most oblivious are arrivin'.  Might want to chase after Dru an’ hide. . .” and with that he raced off after the two fighting females.

Angel took a moment to shake off the broken ribs, realized what Spike had said and followed.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Spike’s second message ripped through her head and Buffy growled at everyone.  “Let’s move people, now.”

She grabbed the sheets Anya had gathered and headed for the door.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


They cruised up to the mansion without lights, the whirling flare of the police vehicles at the end of the block not impeding their progress.

Buffy was out of the Jeep before Wesley had come to a complete stop, heading straight for the front door.  Xander was right behind her and the two Englishmen made up the rear.  She only slowed down as she neared the door, trying to sense how many minions were left behind.

Not watching to see who was behind her, Buffy said, “I’m going in first.  Everyone in pairs, Xander you stay with me.  Giles and Wes, you go find Cordy.  We’ll back you up.”

Deciding stealth wasn’t important, Buffy kicked open the door and stormed in.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Spike caught up with Drusilla and the bot just as Dru pinned the bot against one of the old high school walls.  Swaying slightly, the vampire sing-songed at the bot, trying to thrall her.  If the situation wasn’t so important, to keep Dru and Angelus occupied, Spike would have laughed out loud.  As it stood, he was still trying not to chuckle.

Instead, he grabbed Drusilla by the throat, grinding out, “Can’t let you do that, pet.”

With her nails drawing furrows in his hands, Spike held her up off the ground until he could hear the lumbering feet of his grandsire.  Making a face and glancing at the bot, Spike said, “I’ll take care of Dru, love, you see to the poofter.”

Angel loomed into view and the bot nailed the side of his head with a flying kick that had him reeling.  Spike watched with a jaded eye while Drusilla shrieked and scrambled trying to pry his vice-like fingers from around her neck.

To Spike’s eye – it was obvious this wasn’t Buffy – but neither of the other two had spent the amount of time with her that he had, not nearly enough to know the difference.  Which just amused him no end.

Some death-defying love Angel had professed.  Couldn’t even tell his “love” wasn’t real.

Spike laughed.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Buffy was trying hard to believe it was this simple.  The house was deserted – no minions guarding at all.  It was almost no fun.  And then her mind registered that no, tonight wasn’t supposed to be fun – it was supposed to be just about rescuing Cordelia.

It wasn’t until they headed for the short flight of steps leading to the mid-level that the first sign of resistance appeared.  Two vampires came at them, bigger and stronger than any of them had expected.  Buffy ducked under a punch, rolling to her feet behind one, dusting him from the back, when another three vamps came up from the first floor, surrounding them.

Leaving Xander and Giles to battle the first vampire, Buffy turned to aid Wesley who was barely holding his own against the newcomers.  Quickly knocking two of them away, Buffy held onto one while Wesley sliced off its head, and then turned as one of the others jumped on Xander’s back.  Yelling “duck!”  Buffy swung them both around and Xander dropped to his knees, giving Buffy a clear path to the vamp’s chest.

Outnumbered two to one now, the vampires broke and ran.  Giles headed unerringly toward the room where he’d spotted Cordelia, motioning toward the other room, calling out to Xander, “There’s another girl in there.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The sudden disappearance of her captors had roused Cordelia from the fugue state she retreated to.  The noises and sounds from the outer rooms meant nothing, although she thought, at one point, that she’d heard Buffy’s voice, but dismissed it as her mind’s wish, not reality.

It wasn’t long before the noises had stopped, leaving a void that again allowed her to slip out of consciousness.  She never heard the whoop of the nearby house alarm, nor the renewed sounds of fighting, until the door to her cell splintered and cracked.

Fear rose up in her belly, racing through her like a firestorm and her entire body started convulsing.  Voices and images swam around her, making no sense and Cordy screamed a long wild keening cry of abject fear and terror, raising the hackles of her rescuers, echoing in the suddenly still house.

A crisp cool voice echoed in her head, calling her name while strong hands pushed and pulled at her bonds, ripping open half-healed cuts.  The sickly sweet scent of fresh blood filled the air and Cordelia cried out as her bonds were loosened, her arms brought down to her sides.

“Cordy, Cordy. . . it’s me.  C’mon, Cordy. . . shhhh . . . it’s Buffy.”

Cordelia opened one eye, saw the blond hair through the haze of tears and screamed.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


It was carnage.

Brutal.

The body that once forged almost every wet dream of a teenaged Xander Harris was destroyed beyond imagining.

There was blood everywhere.

Dried spots on the floor.

Newer, fresher sticky wet puddles of it around the bed.

Big blooming splotches of it, like obscene roses, on the sheets beneath the pale body.

A once virginal bride’s veil was stuck to her battered skin, dyed maroon and cerise, and garish girly shades of pink.

Buffy forced away the rising nausea at her once reluctant friend’s form and battled her own tears.

Wesley stopped behind her, staring at the nightmare vision before them.  “My god,” breathed from him and Buffy silently echoed the sentiment.

Giles was moving toward the bed, able to focus only on parts – not the whole of the damage.  Grasping his lethally sharp blade, he sliced through the leather as near to her skin as possible.

Her arm coming free galvanized the still form on the bed.  Shivering, shaking, she flailed out at her rescuers, unable to comprehend she was saved because of the terror rising in her.

Buffy and Wesley moved together, their shock wearing off in the face of Cordelia’s reaction.  Xander appeared in the doorway and Buffy yelled at him to get the sheets.  Her eyes had been drawn to the bloodied veil and her brain focused on removing the obscenity from Cordelia’s flesh.

She was screaming now, absolute terror ruling her and every time one of them tried to touch her, she writhed and bucked off their hands.  Wesley cut the last of her bonds and Cordelia lashed out with heartbreakingly feeble strength, kicking and flailing.  Buffy tried calling out for her, using her name, calling her repeatedly and yet each time Cordelia’s convulsing worsened.   She stilled as Xander returned, handing Buffy the sheets, opening one eye.

Cordelia appeared to focus, then let loose with a bloodcurdling scream.

With tears streaming down her face, Buffy looked at the three men around her, noting they too were crying, and made a decision.  Whispering softly to Cordelia, Buffy simply said, “Sorry”, drew back her fist and knocked Cordelia out cold.

Chapter Text

Book Two

Chapter 30.  Ache of heaven

The easiest period in a crisis situation is actually the battle itself.
The most difficult is the period of indecision—whether to fight or run away.
And the most dangerous period is the aftermath.
     Richard M. Nixon, Six Crises, 1962.


Crystal tears
battered innocent flesh
ache of heaven
rage of hell
unwanted angel
unspeakable violation
bruised bleeding ripped and torn
lambent eyes clouded with rage
silver shards of ice filled pain
snarling sneering
gasping shame
desecrated angel
bleeding life away
    Niamh O’Connor, 1998




Moving her, once she was unconscious, was simple.  Unfortunately doing so opened nearly all of the cuts on her skin, and the sheet they wrapped her in was quickly saturated.

Wesley’s call to Dr. Thomas alerted him to their arrival.  The Englishman’s description of her external injuries had the doctor directing them to the Emergency Room, and he promised Wesley that he and a select team of emergency personnel would meet them there.

None of them spoke.

There were no words to encompass what they’d seen.

Even Cordelia’s superficial injuries, the cuts and bruises, were horrible.  There was no way of knowing what kind of internal damage had been done.  It was clear that Angel had raped her repeatedly but none of them said a word.

Buffy was fighting tears and nausea, even as she held Cordelia’s head in her lap.  This wasn’t the work of the vampire she’d loved.  Couldn’t be . . . her mind couldn’t wrap around the idea that her Angel. . . but he wasn’t hers.  Hadn’t ever really ever been hers.  This savagery was what the soul caged – the brutality and . . . Buffy swallowed hard, fighting to keep her stomach from spewing its contents all over.  

He hadn’t touched her face at all.

What kind of sick fucker destroyed his victim from the neck down and didn’t touch her face?
  Xander was at a total loss, trying to understand why Cordelia looked so peaceful, her face untouched.  The only thought, the only answer his brain could come up with was a frightening prospect.  Angel didn’t want to destroy her face because he planned on looking at it for a very, very long time.

Giles couldn’t focus on anything but a silent prayer.  He was thanking god – whatever deity – that had protected and watched over them all those years ago – the first time Angelus had raged throughout Sunnydale.  He thanked god for the small mercy of finding Cordelia before she’d been turned.  He thanked god too, for his rescue from the vicious hands of Angel.  There was no way he would have survived the tortures Angelus had planned for him without Spike’s intervention.  He had no idea how much damage Cordelia had sustained, her surface injuries were bad enough, the internal and emotional damage would take years to recover from – if she survived.  His intuition was telling him that the internal injuries were extensive, more extensive than her body indicated – and he had serious doubts about her recovery.

He wasn’t alone in his worry.  

Wesley, like Buffy, was fighting tears and nausea, but like Giles, was masking those feelings in anger and white hot rage.  This . . . was done by someone who had professed to be a friend – who’d had feelings for Cordelia.  What had been done to the girl was brutal.  He wanted to weep, wanted to rage – wanted to grab Angel’s throat between his hands and squeeze until his head separated from his neck and his dust rained down on his skin.

At that moment, there wasn’t a one of them in the car that wasn’t willing to dust Angel.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Spike had felt through the bond the moment they’d gotten Cordelia out and away.  Now it was just a matter of eluding the other two and heading toward Sunnydale General, where they’d taken Cordelia.  The original plan had them meeting up in one of the cemeteries, confusing the two master vampires with multiple Buffys, but that had changed when Spike altered the plans.  He knew, from Buffy’s thoughts, they’d headed directly toward the hospital and that was where he was going to meet her.

Grabbing the bot’s hand, Spike headed for the sewers, knowing it was the easiest way of hiding their scent and losing the other two.  Just like her real counterpart, the bot complained the entire trip through the sewers.  Spike ignored it, his concentration on moving forward and listening for any signs of pursuit.  After twenty minutes or so, Spike slowed down, heading straight for the hospital.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Dawn was half-asleep on the couch, while Anya paced about, waiting for any word.  She’d finished cleaning the bathrooms, had vacuumed the first floor and had straightened up the dining room.  There was no way she could sit still while everyone else did all the hero stuff.  Not that she was the hero type, but she still couldn’t just sit around like Dawn.

Anya looked over at the sleeping girl, unable to believe she was so calm.  Dawn shifted, opened her eyes and Anya took the opportunity to talk.  “How can you sleep?  This is nerve-wracking.  I can’t even sit still and you’re calm enough to sleep.  How do you do that? Is there some trick?  What do you do?  Is it meditation?  Did Buffy teach you that?”

“Anya?  I’m tired.  I get up early for school and it’s just nothing more than me being really tired.”  She paused a moment, gauging Anya’s expression.  “It’s also that, you know, I’ve been doing this for years.  Since Buffy was fifteen.”

“So this is just another night.  Just another rescue mission.”  Anya perched on the armchair, looking expectantly at the younger girl.
                            
“Well, this is a little different, because it’s Cordelia.  And it’s someone . . . Cordy used to be one of us.  A Scoobie.”

Dawn wasn’t prepared for Anya’s reaction.  The ex-demon smiled widely.  “One of us?  You mean I’m one of the Scoobies?”

“Yeah.  Of course you are.”  A wide yawn stretched across her features and Dawn asked, “Have we heard anything?”

“No.”  Checking her watch, Anya said, “It’s only a little bit after two.  We should hear from them soon.”

And, in the way of all things on the hellmouth, that had to be the signal, because both cell phones went off.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Dr. Thomas, with a trauma team in tow, met them at the doors of the Emergency Room, his face grim.  Wesley had tersely relayed Cordelia’s condition, so they were prepared for the worst.

Maureen Osborne was there too, and at the first opportunity she pulled Buffy aside, asking her how her nephew was and also what cover story they had concocted for the authorities.  When Buffy had looked at her somewhat blankly, Maureen had bustled her into a side corridor, chattering softly.  “The police will believe anything, as long as it’s plausible.  Don’t worry, we’ll come up with something.”

When Buffy didn’t answer, instead seemed to crumple under the strain, Maureen pulled her into a private waiting area and handed her a tissue.  “It’s okay, sweetie, your friend is in bad shape.  You can cry.”

Buffy sniffled then said, “I’m okay.  Cordy’s safe now.  I just wish Spike was here.”

“I’m sure he’ll be here shortly.”  Waiting for a moment to see if Buffy needed anything else, Oz’ aunt patted her arm and said, “If you need me, I’ll be doing the paperwork.”

She left Buffy alone, staring at the walls of the waiting room.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Giles and Wesley stood outside the doorway to the trauma room, waiting anxiously for any word of Cordelia’s condition.  Xander was pacing around, muttering to himself, his hands tucked under his arms, tears dripping down his cheeks.

Wesley said something that Giles didn’t hear and when he repeated himself, the older man snapped his head around to look at him.  Giles stepped away from the door to find Buffy and to call the girls to let them know they’d been successful.

He walked outside the hospital doors, knowing that once Angelus and Drusilla discovered Cordelia had been rescued, there would be hell to pay.  Angelus did not like his plans thwarted or interrupted in any way – and it had been obvious to Giles that he’d planned to turn Cordelia.  His reluctance to mar her features was a dead giveaway.  Added to the fact that he hadn’t bled her to death before they’d discovered her – Giles was fairly certain of it.

Sending out the all clear code on the cell phones, Giles was surprised when he heard the tell-tale chirp of another phone seconds later.

“Figured you lot were here.  Everyone all right?”  Spike’s voice sounded in the dark and Giles barely turned around when the bot was standing next to him staring up into his face.

“We’re fine.  Cordelia’s inside.”  Giles looked away, fighting tears again.  “It was. . . worse than expected.”

“Thought so.”  Spike was quiet for a moment, knowing nothing he could say would be enough for any of them.  He’d never been like Angel, carving up his victims, destroying their entire lives, torturing them mentally and physically.  No, he’d been more direct – bash and crash – all sound and fury.  None of  that would serve as anything other than cold comfort.  And lip service on his part.  He respected Rupert too much to give him that.  “Where’s Buffy?”

“She’s inside.”

Dropping his cigarette butt, Spike said, “‘M goin’ in.  You comin’?”  At Giles’ negative shake, Spike said, “Keep the bot with you.  Jus’ in case.”

Giles nodded, “I’ll be in shortly.”

Spike nodded once, then headed inside.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Buffy was still sitting in the private waiting area, watching the hallways of the emergency room, at the activity in and around the trauma room Cordelia was in, ears attuned to any hint of commotion in the hallways.

Twice she’d almost gone to find Oz’ aunt, more for the comfort of the older mom-type woman that she represented than for a need of company, although that wouldn’t be bad either.  The last two times she’d been in this building she’d nearly lost the two most important people in her life.

Her mom.

Spike.

Joyce’s first brush with death had been in the halls upstairs and had devastated both her and Dawn.  Yeah, her mother had survived a few weeks, nearly a few months, but the end had still started here.  Tears rose in Buffy’s eyes as she thought about her mother. Oh, Mommy. . . I’m so. . . I miss you so much.  I wish you were here. A sob escaped from her throat and Buffy put her head in her hands and let the tears fall.  Oh, Mom . . . being here is so hard. . .   Everything about this life is . . .  But you were right about him . . . about Spike.  He’s been . . . god, Mom, I love him so much.  Without him, I’d have been really lost.

Fresh tears dripped down her cheeks and Buffy shredded the tissue between her slim fingers.  A tingle of awareness shot through her and Buffy lifted her head, looking out for Spike.

He was standing barely in her line of sight, talking to Wesley, while Xander hovered nearby.  Despite her tears and worry about Cordelia, just the sight of him was enough to bring a steadying breath and an almost smile to her face.  There was something so solid, so real about him and if you didn’t know he was a vampire, there was a strength to his carriage that said here was a guy you could lean on and let be the strong one.  Hell, maybe being a vampire just made that more evident.  For the first time, Buffy tried sending a complete thought, a phrase through the bond, just to grab his attention.  Concentrating hard, Buffy thought of him and focused on the words in her head.

She watched as his body straightened, his head tilting sideways as he listened to something only he could hear, motioning Wesley to quiet with an upraised hand.  A smile bloomed across his features and he slowly turned to look in her direction.  His eyes bored into hers as he left the two men, moving toward her.  Tucking his thumbs into his waistband, Spike prowled forward like the slinky predator he was, his eyes never leaving hers.  

Spike came to a stop just in front of her, a grin on his face.  Buffy tilted her head up to look at him and a shy smile crept across her wide mouth as she took in the expression on his face.  His deep voice wafted over her.  “Love you too, kitten.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


One by one they had all drifted into the private waiting area; Wesley first to join them.  He sat opposite Spike, his long limbs folded into an uncomfortable looking shape, his head was tilted back against the wall and his eyes were closed, though none of them were fooled into believing he was asleep.  With the presence of the two younger Englishmen, Buffy’s over-stretched nerves were calmed and she leaned further into Spike’s arms.

Xander came in next, bringing coffee and hot chocolate as a peace offering, which was silently accepted.  He sat down in a chair next to Wesley, leaning forward, elbows on knees and more composed than he’d been earlier.  Giles and the bot wandered in last, the bot trailing behind the older man, her eyes darting about and taking in the surroundings.  The coffee cups were lined up on the table between the anxious group and Giles leaned over to grab one of them.  With a gesture to the bot, Giles sat down next to Spike.  Glancing round at their faces, Giles asked, “No word yet?”

Negative head shakes were his only answer.

Buffy yawned, leaning more heavily against Spike’s chest.  A tiny shiver snaked its way through her and Spike stood up to slip the duster off and around her.  “Wanna lay down, pet?”

She shrugged, looking up at him with very tired doe eyes and a minute quiver to her lips.  Without a word he scooped her up, saying to the others, “‘M takin’ her home.  Give us a ring when you get word, yeah?”

The others just nodded, but it was Buffy herself who started to protest.  “We should stay, at least until we know. . .  Spike?”

He was shaking his head in refusal when Maureen Osborne approached.  “Buffy?”  She was looking from the bot to the girl in Spike’s arms, confusion clearly written on her features.

“Here.”  She waved a bit from her spot in Spike’s arms, then asked, “Is there any word on Cordelia?”

“Yes.”  She paused while the rest of the  men got to their feet.  “They managed to stop the internal bleeding, but her spleen was ruptured and her liver’s been bruised.  She just left surgery and she’s in recovery.  They’re going to put her in a private ICU room.  And she’s going to have an armed guard outside her door.”

Relieved looks were exchanged, although Giles exchanged a look with Spike that spoke volumes.  “Did they remove her spleen?”

“Yes.  She’s being transfused also.  She’d lost an enormous amount of blood and, I’m not going to lie to you, it was very close.  But they managed to stop all the hemorrhaging.”

Xander asked, “When can we see her?”

Maureen was shaking her head, “Not for hours.  Go home.  Get some rest, come back around three.  She might be awake then.”

But both Wesley and Xander were shaking their heads, and Wesley’s voice sounded first.  “I’d like to stay.”

Spike raised an eyebrow and Wesley answered his unspoken question by gesturing toward his jacket pocket.  Turning toward Xander, Wesley said, “You go home, I’ll stay now and you can relieve me later.”

He started to splutter his disagreement, when Giles voiced his own quietly worded statement, “I’m sure Anya is worried and you should probably take her home and reassure her that everything is well.”   

That stopped Xander’s protests.

Wesley handed the Jeep’s keys to Spike and after thanking Maureen Osborne for everything, those going home headed quietly for the door.  Thinking quickly, Spike backtracked a bit, then motioned to Wesley with his chin.  “Keep the bot here, jus’ in case.  Better safe than sorry, right?”

Sighing deeply, Wesley eyed the robot with amused distaste, but knowing the value of Spike’s experience and trusting he wouldn’t say something like that if he didn’t think it was necessary, Wesley nodded his agreement.  


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Angel sniffed the air one more time, trying to gain a sense of the direction Spike and Buffy had headed, but the trail was long cold and diffused with the sewer scents.  His growl of frustrated anger echoed off the cement walls surrounding the two master vampires and Drusilla clapped her hands over her ears to block the sounds.  It did nothing to help the reverberations that pulsed in her as an answer to her Sire’s distress, however, only making the situation worse by adding her temper to his.

He’d lost the two not long after they had descended into the sewers and although he could try and backtrack to the point of entry, Angel knew it was a lost cause.  Traces of Spike’s signature were all over these tunnels, and there was no way of knowing which ones were more recent than the others, due to the other, less pleasant odors wafting from the sludge beneath their feet.  Once more growling his disgust and anger, Angel motioned Drusilla to his side.  “Let’s go.  We’re not going to be able to track them.”

He grabbed Drusilla by the arm, pulling her behind him as he made his way to the nearest entrance.  It had been years since he’d been down in these sewers and his memory of them was hazy at best.  It would be easier once above ground to get a location and make their way back to the mansion from there.  Spying one of the sewer entrances not more than twenty paces behind him, Angel climbed up the ladder and emerged into the pre-dawn darkness.  The night barely held sway, though it was only about an hour or so before the inky midnight sky gave way to early morning, Angel could feel the sun making its way eastward.  Standing over the sewer entrance, his eyes scanning about as he waited for Drusilla to make the climb into the night, Angel’s gaze landed on a very familiar area.  

They were just outside of Restfield.  

No more than a handful of blocks from Revello Drive.

Grinning down into the darkness, Angel said, “Come now, Dru, we’re not far from family.  Maybe we should pay a visit.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Spike glanced at the clock in the Jeep, his eyes disbelieving the device.  It was just after five in the morning.  No wonder everyone was punchy and tired, well, except for him.  Buffy was more than half asleep in the seat next to him, curled up underneath his duster, her head dropping forward every couple of seconds.  Giles and Xander were very quiet in the back and Spike glanced once in the rearview mirror to check if they too had fallen asleep.  But they hadn’t.  Both males were still awake, just not inclined to filling the silence.

He couldn’t blame them.  What they’d witnessed tonight had to affect all of them.  He’d be surprised if they didn’t have nightmares for a long time to come about this.  Though Giles never admitted it out loud, he knew there were some sleepless nights for the Watcher that blame for could be laid solely on Angel’s shoulders.  He and Giles had spent too many sleepless nights together, both when he was captive and tied up, and later, just this past summer.  Spike could tell when someone was haunted by memories they’d rather not have experienced – hard not to know when sometimes it was what he himself shied away from.  There were plenty of memories he’d rather not have to relive.  More than enough.  Buffy too, was often affected by nightmares, although that was easing somewhat.

Kind of hard not to have monsters invading your sleep when that was what you faced every single day.  The trick for the humans was not to let the nightmares, which highlighted unconscious fears, become reality.   Xander shifted, breaking his train of thought, and Spike glanced back in the rearview mirror again.  He couldn’t meet any of them in the eye that way, though he knew Harris could sense he’d gained Spike’s attention.

“You all right?”  For once, Spike wasn’t going to goad the boy into a fight.  There had been too much bloodshed in the last few hours, Spike had no desire to get into anything.  All he wanted was to get home and crawl into bed with his woman, affirming that they were both safe and sound.

Xander was just as subdued as Spike, perhaps even more so.  He knew what kind of evilness a vampire was – he just had forgotten how truly brutal they could be.  And he was beginning to realize something else that he just wasn’t quite ready to face, something that each of the others had gone through in the past few months.  A re-assessment of the difference between Spike and other vampires.  “I guess.”  

Spike let it go, knowing any more talk could lead to a brangle and at the moment, he just wasn’t in the mood.  The Jeep cruised along the quiet streets of Sunnydale, encountering no traffic, when Giles said softly, “I think I just saw Drusilla and Angel.”

Chapter Text

Book Two.  

Chapter 31.  Things of bestial shape

As a child, my heart bleeds for him.
Someone took a little boy and turned him into a monster.
But as an adult... as an adult, he's irredeemable.
He butchers whole families to fulfill some sick fantasy.
As an adult, I think someone should blow the sick fuck out of his socks.
    Manhunter, 1987

Art, like Nature, has her monsters, things of bestial shape and with hideous voices.
    Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray




Once the “All clear” signal came through from Giles, Dawn smiled sleepily at the former demon keeping her company, yawned widely and said, “Okay, I’m heading for bed.”

“Wait!  We don’t know how soon they’re coming back.”  Anya held her back, hoping the teen would keep her company.

Dawn shifted on the couch, moving away from Anya.  “Look, they’ll be back soon, because, well, just because, but I so need sleep.”  Putting her head down, Dawn closed her eyes.  “I’m gonna stay right here, ‘cept I’m going to sleep.”

Anya huffed a bit, though settled down when it was obvious Dawn wasn’t going anywhere.  The two girls were quiet, the television on, an infomercial airing that neither girl was paying the least bit of attention to, as they waited.  Dawn’s eyes drifted closed and Anya, finally relaxing enough to get comfortable, also succumbed to the sandman’s lure.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



“Fuck.”  Spike’s one word epithet rang through the Jeep, low voiced and menacing. “You sure?”

“I believe it was them, yes.”  Giles spoke just as quietly, his eyes on the side streets as they  continued through the still dark streets of Sunnydale.

Spike was quiet for a moment, then said, “Need to warn Oxford.”  Turning the corner from  Main onto Revello, only two blocks from the house, the vampire added, “Too close to sunrise.  Doubt they’ll risk getting involved in much of anything an’ they both know they can’t get into the house.  They’ll probably cruise by then head right for the mansion.”

“You hope.”  Xander’s voice was terse, his nerves stretching thin again.

“An educated guess.  ‘S what I would do.  Can’t risk getting caught.  Sunlight isn’t forgiving.  ‘Sides, the house is too heavily warded against vamps.”  Spike pulled into the driveway, reaching over to gently shake Buffy awake.  He was beginning to get concerned about her, she usually wasn’t this tired or this willing to appear less than her best in front of anyone but him, especially lately.

“Except one.”  Xander bit out the snide comment before his brain could override his mouth and Spike whirled around as he got out of the car, pinning him with a hard glare.

“‘S right.  I live here.  This is m’house, whelp, an’ sooner you adjust better off you’ll be.”

Giles grumbled from his side of the vehicle.  “Must you two always do this?  The territorial male posturing is so very tiring.  Most especially at,” and he glanced tiredly down at his watch, “five thirty-six in the morning.”

Xander sputtered out something else, though Spike ignored him to circle the car and get Buffy.  Giles passed the dark haired young man, his brow raised pointedly and strode into the quiet house.

With Buffy lurching sleepily at his side, Spike headed for the house, tossing out over his shoulder, “Don’t wanna be caught outside, Harris, better get a move on.”

And just like that he deflated any arguments or nasty comments Xander might have thrown at him, at least for the moment.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


She was so still, her chest barely moving, the machines doing the majority of the work for her bruised and battered body.

Oxygen and fluids were being forced into her dehydrated cells, lending a false color to her cheeks.  Cordelia looks so peaceful lying there, Wesley thought, as long as I don’t look at her arms.

White gauze bandages covered most of her arms, the IVs stuck into the only veins strong enough to sustain the influx of necessary fluids, at both sides of her neck.  Most of the smaller cuts hadn’t even been bandaged, the surgeons using crazy glue instead mainly to cut down on the number of scars.  She was going to have more than enough of those as it stood; not all of them would ever show.  The surgeon had told him it had been necessary because of the severity of her injuries to induce a coma.  He’d also told Wesley that the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours were the most crucial.  If any one of her blood vessels burst, there was a real possibility they would lose her.  The internal damage was that great.

Angelus had done his work well.

Oh, Cordelia, I am so very sorry.  I should have voiced my concerns sooner, not allowed this.  Not left you in his hands so very long.  Wesley bowed his head, fighting angry tears.  All this because Angel had feelings for her.  It was outrageous.  It was disgusting.  It was . . . Wesley couldn’t find words to describe how violently disgusted and disturbed he was by Angel’s actions.

To have. . . to be violated by someone who wore the face of a friend was beyond betrayal.  He’d raped her repeatedly, sodomized her as well.   Battered and beaten her until she was nearly dead.  Drained of her blood and starved her.  The list of her injuries was chilling.

It would be nothing short of a miracle if Cordelia survived.

Wesley sat down in the chair next to her bed, praying harder than he could ever remember doing.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Angel watched from the shadows shrouding the house across the street from 1630 Revello Drive, Drusilla by his side, as her errant childe arrived at his human’s home.  A sneer crossed his features and he spat on the ground.  “Drusilla, we need to do something about that.”

“Too late, Daddy . . . so very late.”  She crooned softly, a sad smile on her face.  “My prince is long gone, lost in sunshine and baby strawberries, smelling roses and dancing with tea cozies.”

“Dru, maybe we should just. . .”  Angel stopped talking when he saw Spike stop, his back stiffening as he sensed the presence of both master vampires.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Halfway between the car and the front door, Spike hesitated a moment, then he said in a whisper, “Xander, get in the house.”

Xander Harris froze.  He could probably count on one hand the number of times Spike had ever used his first name.  His use of it right now could only mean something very bad was about to happen or something very scary was nearby.  Recovering by deftly tripping over his own feet, Xander ambled his way to the front door.

Buffy looked up at Spike when he’d spoken and his meaning came through silently yet all too clearly. “Across the street, sunshine.  Watching us both.”

“Wards?”

“Up and operational, including the new one tied to the electric.”

“Kay.  Tired now.”  And to prove her unspoken point, Buffy yawned and stumbled into his side.

Wrapping his arm around her and steadying her, Spike walked them up the steps and into the house, firmly closing the door behind him.

Take that you Irish fucker, Spike fumed as he locked the door.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


“That piss ass feckin . . .”  Angelus muttered expletives under his unneeded breath, cursing Drusilla’s insolent get.  Bastard should’ve learned by now not to try and play with his elders.  He’ll always lose.

Striding off back toward the mansion, Angel didn’t realize Drusilla wasn’t following him until he was half a block away.  “Drusilla.  Time to go now.”

But she wasn’t listening to him, she was listening to the mournful pixies that were singing in her head.  Who they were singing for, Drusilla didn’t know, but for the repetition of one phrase.  “Bell tolls. . . bell tolls.   Daddy?”

Angel had returned for his own madwoman, his tone for once gentle.  “They’re talking to you, are they?”

“Uuuuhhhh.”  Dru swayed a bit, lost to a vision, unable to speak clearly.  Angel watched her babble and sway for another long minute, then feeling the twinges that signaled daybreak, he scooped her up and strode off into the waning night.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


“Right then.  ‘Fore everyone toddles off for shut-eye, need to talk.”  Spike said as he almost kicked the front door shut.  “Angelus was outside jus’ now, watchin’ the house.”  He paused, making sure he had everyone’s attention.  “No one’s out after dark.  He doesn’t know yet that we’ve taken the cheerleader back.  He’s gonna try and hurt us now.  Every one has to be careful.  Don’t fancy any more rescue ops.”

No one contradicted him, not even Dawn.  For once, they all understood exactly what price carelessness would extract.

“Whelp, you an’ your bird can sleep in Joyce’s old room.  Air mattresses are all set up.  Watcher?”  At Giles’ raised eyebrow, Spike snorted.  “Sleepin’ on the couch again.  Gonna start chargin’ you rent.”

Buffy laughed tiredly, remarking, “You could write it off as a counsel expense.”  When no one but her thought it was funny, Buffy grumbled a bit, “Must be exhausted.  I’m too tired to pun.”

Spike pulled her to her feet from her seat on the stairs, saying, “G’night all.”

    
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Wesley had pulled his chair close to the bed, enough so that he could touch Cordelia and stay seated.  Not overly religious, Wesley had spent most of his life serving good, almost serving a higher power, and at this moment he couldn’t come up with much of a reason why he’d done so.

Cordelia had been butchered.

Savaged.

Brutalized.

By the face and hands of a . . . not a man. . .but a being who claimed to value her position in his life.  Wesley was sickened by it.  Disgusted and despaired for Cordelia’s spirit.  As an Englishman of a certain station, Wesley was supposed to maintain a stalwart mein in dire circumstances.  As a former Watcher, he was supposed to make that rise to another level.  He wasn’t supposed to ache with suppressed rage; to shake with suppressed despair and weep with profound sorrow.

Nor was he supposed to pray.

Yet Wesley did all that, sitting beside the broken, battered and barely alive form of Cordelia Chase.

Dropping his head down onto the bed, Wesley prayed to any god for compassion and strength.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Anya trooped up the stairs behind Buffy and Spike, who was prodding the very tired Slayer  up the steps, murmuring so soft and low that none of his words filtered through to her.  Dawn was just ahead of Buffy, mumbling something about school and holidays that Anya didn’t quite understand.  Xander was the last one up the stairs, watching the sleepy parade, his eyes watching the interaction between the two blonds.  There was a general closing of doors and muttered goodnights as he finally took the stairs, the fatigue and the emotional turmoil of Cordelia’s rescue finally catching up with him.

Pushing his way into Joyce’s old room, Xander was surprised to see boxes piled up in one corner and swatches of paint on the walls, as if someone couldn’t decide what color scheme to use.  All of Joyce’s old bedroom furniture was gone, the only evidence of her occupation of the room the dark curtains and the boxes with her name on them.  It saddened him, to see her things put away in boxes, when he looked closer, some of those boxes had Willow’s name on them.  Xander sighed, wondering what his oldest friend was up to, and hoping that things weren’t so broken between everyone that they couldn’t be fixed.  

Anya was already under the sheets, her head down on a borrowed pillow and she drowsily said, “Come to bed, Xander, it’s late.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Spike pushed the door to their room open, at the same time pushing Buffy over the threshold.  “C’mon, sunshine, into bed.”

Quickly divesting her of her clothes, Spike tossed her one of his tee-shirts and moved to get his boots off when Connor started fussing in the crib.  Getting up quickly to head off the howling that was threatening, Spike lifted the squirming bundle into his arms.  

“Where are you going?”  Buffy managed to mumble as her head hit the pillow.

“Gonna get sprog a bottle.  Be right back.”

He headed downstairs before she could voice a protest and Buffy dropped her head down onto the pillows.  “Stupid vampire.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Drusilla kept up her litany of nonsensical phrases the entire trip back to the mansion.  Angel was trying to figure out what some of what she was saying meant and track his progress at the same time.  Sunlight was coming up fast now, and they had only a few more minutes to get to safety.  

Arriving at the mansion, Angel strode through the front door, dropping Drusilla to her feet.  The scent of humans was all over, the signatures clear to his keenly honed sense of smell.  What the fuck is . . .  Growling ominously, Angel moved from room to room, finding nothing more than small piles of dust and the more than occasional blood splatter on the walls and floors.  Spike’s scent was strongest in the outer rooms, and there should have been an equally strong smell of Buffy, but strangely enough there wasn’t.  Not as strong as there should have been.  

His stride through the rooms was quick, a blurred fast pace, trying to get a sense of what had occurred within the walls of his mansion, before completely losing his temper.  Here and there, scattered about the rooms, were a few badly injured minions, but the majority of them appeared to be gone, dusted by the hand of William the Bloody and his bitch.  Kicking one of them to consciousness, Angel leaned over the bleeding vampire, hauling him up to his feet.  “What happened here?”

“Dunno.  Last thing I remember was fighting the Slayer and then nothing til now.”  The vampire grimaced in pain, letting out a deep yelp when Angel dumped him back on the floor.  

“Get yourself someone to eat.”

Knowing somehow that he’d just escaped the final death, the vampire, a fledgling of Drusilla’s, scurried as best he could for the sewers.  

Angel continued stalking through the rooms, his growls of disgusted anger getting louder and louder as he progressed through the rooms.  Drusilla’s pet, the girl they’d both taken blood from was gone, her chains empty.  Swearing furiously, Angel stomped into the bedroom where he’d kept Cordelia.  He wasn’t surprised to find her gone.  Not at all.  

There’d been some niggling thought in the back of his head that Cordelia had been the reason for the unprovoked assault on his lair.  And now he knew.  

That knowledge did nothing to calm his temper.  In fact, it just put match to a heated tinderbox and set it off.

Growling low in his throat, Angelus turned round to the remaining minions.  Before any of them had time to react, his fists were completing the damage started by Spike and Buffy.

Ripping the leather ties from the head and foot boards, along with one of the corners of the bed, Angel flayed the first minion in the line, another one of the ones sired by Drusilla.  Bloody splatters hit the walls and the ceiling, pieces of flesh adhering in various spots.  Groans and cries of pain split the air, coupled with the harsh breathing of the other minions.  Drusilla growled from the doorway, which changed to a high-pitched whine when Angel dropped the makeshift whip and pushed his hand through the minion’s chest.  The others watched helplessly as the dust settled.

“I want to know who was supposed to be guarding the captives?”

None of them spoke.  None dared.

Throwing cautious looks sideways, they all cowered before the raging master vampire, the legendary leader of the Scourge of Europe, waiting for the punishment that was sure to come.  Angelus stood glaring at them all, his features rippling and changing into his vampiric guise, looming over them.

“I left some of you idiots here, so that I would have something to come back to.  And now they’re gone.  Both of them.  Any idea who took them?  Any?”  The last words rose to the level of a shout, and Angelus hauled one of them forward by his shirt collar, bringing him close to his face.  “You better find out how they got out of here.  Now.  Don’t come back until you do.”

He pushed the brown-haired minion away, selecting another to go with him.  They ran from the room, despite knowing that sunrise was only minutes away.  Turning to another minion, this one remarkably well kept and curiously unmarked in the aftermath of battle, Angelus grinned with the prospect of more violence.  “Tell me,” he waited patiently for a name, which came on a whisper, “Ray.  Tell me, Ray, how you managed not to get hurt?”  Angelus brushed an imaginary piece of lint off Ray’s shoulder, leaning into him.

“Wasn’t here.”  

“Really?  When did you leave the mansion?”  Angelus circled round him, sniffing him for evidence of lies or nervousness.  There was none.

“Earlier.  Went hunting.”

Which was, unfortunately, no less than the truth.  Angelus stared into Ray’s grey eyes, daring him to back down.  When the fledge didn’t cower like the others, he smiled appreciatively.  “Got balls, Ray.  Makes me happy to see that.  Did you hunt well?”

“Yeah.  Got two.  Took one,” he paused for dramatic effect, “Brought the other back.”

“Did you now?  And where is the other one?”  Angelus watched the effect his proximity had on Ray, gauging how strong he was.  “Who sired you?  You don’t smell like Aurelius.”

“Was sired in Los Angeles.  Some blond bitch.  Never did really get her name.”  

“Doesn’t matter now.  Got a job for you, Ray, after I take your offering.  You want it?”  Angel motioned for Drusilla to come forward, running his sharp nails down her arm, slicing a thin cut that bleed freely.  “Dru, feed the nice minion, make him one of us.”

She smiled, running her arm across his lips, then circled behind him to sink her fangs into his jugular.  Ray’s knees buckled a little, but he quickly regained his courage and sunk his own fangs into Drusilla’s arm, at the crux of her elbow.

Abruptly, Angelus turned to face the rest of the bunch, his own fangs glinting.  “Didn’t think I’d forget you pathetic fuckers, now did you?  Anyone remember who was supposed to be watching the girls?”

One of the females tilted her head, then said, “It was Jake and Buddy.  Dunno what happened to them.”

“Ahhhhhh . . . thank you.  So glad someone remembered.”  Gripping her by the throat, Angel squeezed, and squeezed harder, lifting her high in the air.  Then, when it appeared as if he was going to just let her head pop off, he let go, snickering as she dropped to the floor, her face a mask of pained relief.  

Whirling on the others, Angel grabbed the broken piece of the bed frame and pounded into one of the minions, a vampire that looked no older than Buffy. The vampire cowered in fear, trying to fend off the enraged master vampire.  The fear wafting from the vampire just incited Angelus more and the beating quickly turned savage.  Bones cracked, teeth were knocked out and still Angelus kept on slamming his fist into the smaller fledgling.  

Finally, the vampire dropped to his knees, skull bashed in, arms, legs, and ribs all broken, splintered.  Gore covered Angelus and those nearest, blood spreading over the floor, the remaining minions, those few left to him, watched as the master vampire threw the destroyed wood down on top of the pulpy mass on the floor.

“Toss him into the sun.”

Angel moved away from the mass of tissue and bone while the others cleaned up, his eyes focusing on his now chief minion, newly infused with Aurelian blood.  “Prove yourself, boy, and you might get more,’ he said as he indicated Drusilla.

Moving toward the outer rooms, Angel stopped as a shadow detached from the doorway, eyes trying to discern the shape of the intruder.  

A long unheard voice sounded in the chambers, capturing everyone’s attention.  “Hello, Chief.  Heard your call.  Looks like you could use some assistance.”


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Xander couldn’t settle down, couldn’t stop the buzzing that was filling his bones and racing through his bloodstream.  He could hear the muted noises of everyone else settling in, the murmur of Spike’s voice as he, apparently, headed downstairs for something, the closing of a bedroom door, the tread of his feet on the stairs.  Mere moments passed and then another door opened, soft footsteps sounded, then another door creaked open.  A few minutes went by, then the heavy tread of Spike’s feet, or what he figured was Spike’s feet hit the stairs and bounded up, accompanied by the fretting of a hungry baby.  Thankfully, the mewls were just that, and not the full howls the infant was known for.  Curiosity aroused, Xander glanced down at Anya’s closed eyes and got to his feet.  

He tugged open the door just a crack in time to see Spike hesitate at the bathroom door, knock once and ask, “You all right in there?”

Dawn’s voice came through, muffled to his ears, though clearly to Spike’s because he responded, “Jus’ checkin’ is all.  No need to get huffy.”  

The response this time was a deep chuckle, and then Dawn opened the door.  “You know, you could be less over-protective sometimes.  Not like I’m sneaking out, just going to the bathroom.”

Her tone was a bit snappish, and Xander fully expected Spike to get nasty back, but the vampire merely said, “Only makin’ sure my girl’s okay, all right?  No need to get all waspish on me.”

“Whatever.”  Dawn faced off against Spike for a few minutes, then caved.  Her face lifted to his and her belligerent stance softened.  “I get worried too, you know.  Can’t just keep going off and being the hero for everyone.”

“Me?  ‘M no hero.  Jus’ doin’ what I can to keep you an’ your sis. . . all right,” he paused, getting a look at the expression on her face.   “Buffy safe.  Can’t let anything happen to either of m’girls.”

Dawn sighed, then stepped closer to him, her arms attempting to circle him and the squirming bundle in his arms.  “Still, you’re a hero.  But don’t tell anyone I said that.”

He dropped a kiss on her forehead, hugging her close.  “Not bloody likely.  Jus’ as soon keep that between us.”

“Okay, Dad.”  She put a twist on that last word that Xander couldn’t decipher, then kissed his cheek.  She whispered in his ear and Spike threw back his head and laughed.  He sobered quickly as the baby began to whimper louder, shifted his hold on the boy and shoved the bottle of formula into his mouth in a move that Xander goggled at.

“G’on to bed now.  Gonna need you to take the sprog in a couple of hours, so’s I can get some kip, yeah?”  

He could see by her facial expression that Dawn wasn’t happy with this request, and Spike must’ve given her some look in return, because she quickly backed down again.  “So not fair that you can get me to do stuff I don’t wanna.”

“Parental privileges, pet.”  He motioned toward her room, saying, “Get now.  Need to get some sleep.”

“Yes, Dad.”  She leaned up to hug him one more time then slipped around him to head toward her room.  “Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.”

“Never, sweets, ‘ll just bite ‘em back.”  Spike quipped as he headed toward the room he shared with Buffy.

Xander stood staring into the hallway, trying to make sense of the scene between Spike and Dawn.  What’s with the dad thing?  And the hugging?  And the listening to evil dead?  What the hell is going on in this house?  Maybe Giles knows.  Gotta remember to ask him in the morning . . . er, later on.

Quietly, he closed the door behind him, never once realizing Spike didn’t close the door to their room until after he did.

Chapter Text

Book Two

Chapter 32.  The promise of daylight.


Our lives are like the course of the sun.
At the darkest moment there is the promise of daylight.
    London Times, Christmas editorial 24 December 84

The gloom of the world is but a shadow.
Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
There is radiance and glory in the darkness,
could we but see; and to see, we have only to look.

And so, at this Christmas time, I greet you;
not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem,
and with the prayer that for you, now and forever,
the day breaks and the shadows flee away.
    Fra Giovanni, A Letter to Contessina Allagia Dela Aldobrandeschi,
    Written Christmas Eve 1513



Maureen Osborne slipped into the dark private ICU room, checking on the comatose patient within.  Wesley stirred when she adjusted the sheet around Cordelia, lifting his head to watch her movements.  The short, slightly round woman whispered her apology for waking hm, which Wesley just waved off.

“That other girl you brought in?  The one that wasn’t as badly injured – she refuses to give her name.  She’s terrified.”  Waiting a moment to see Wesley’s reaction, she continued, “Dr. Thomas has her in isolation in the psych ward. She might not,” she paused, shaking her head, “She’s in very bad shape.”

“Thank – ” Wesley cleared his throat, then finished speaking, “Thank you for telling me.  I’ll try and go see her later, if it can be arranged.”

Maureen Osborne’s “I think that would be possible,” was whispered as softly as she slipped out of the door.

Wesley glanced over at the Buffybot, who smiled brightly, then resumed her sentinel’s stance by the doorway.  Once more saying a silent prayer for Cordelia, Wesley closed his eyes.


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“Need anything?”

“No, Chief, I’m good.  Brought along some of my own supplies.”  The tall, thin, good-looking, dark-haired man eyed Drusilla, but said nothing more.

“You can take any of the rooms on the second floor.  Take any of the girls, except Dru.”  Angel motioned him into the main living room, snapping orders for the minions to start a fire.  “Surprised you responded.  Where were you?”

“Been in the Sea-Tac area.  It was just a place to call home.  Didn’t take long to get here either.”  He walked around the room, taking note of the furnishings and the assorted weaponry.  “Have to admit Chief, the summons surprised me.  Thought about ignoring it.  But,” he grinned, facing Angel, “it had the ring of an order.  So here I am.”

“Good.  We’ve got things to do.  Though, for now, Lawson, I just need a drink.”  Sinking his fangs into Ray’s captive, Angel fixed his gaze on the last childe he’d turned, while Drusilla hummed and laughed in the background.


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Spike tried kicking off his boots while keeping the bottle in Connor’s mouth, quickly realizing that he needed more than two hands to do that.  Propping the bottle on a pillow, Spike laid Connor down next to Buffy and bent to his boots.

Loud rumblings sounded from the baby’s belly as he drank and Spike had to laugh.  The boy sounded more and more like him every day.  He wouldn’t be surprised if the boy made those noises because both his parents were vampires, though he secretly hoped it was because the baby had a soft spot for his Uncle Spike.  

Buffy muttered something in her almost sleep that sounded suspiciously like, “Come to bed.”

Spike shucked off his jeans, then pulled his tee-shirt over his head.  Moving Connor closer to Buffy, Spike slid into the bed, the now wide awake infant between them.  Blue eyes very much like his mother’s twinkled at Spike, smiling at him despite the nipple in his mouth.  Little legs kicking in the air, Connor was playing, no longer in the mood for the bottle.  When Spike exhibited no desire to play right along with him, Connor screwed up his features like there was lemon juice in his bottle rather than milk.

“Oh, no you don’t, little man.  Buffy’s jus’ gone to sleep.  No wakin’ her’p coz you wanna play.  Maybe later, spawn, but not now.”  In an effort to settle him down, Spike hummed a little, then used his thumb to brush over where the infant’s ridge line would be if he was all vampire.  Connor seemed to like that, because his eyes started drifting closed.  All right then . . . good to know that old trick still works.

His eyes flickered between the other two in the bed with him, a soft smile spreading over his features.  Too tired to form words, Spike heard the words echoing in his head, felt Buffy respond and then allowed his own eyes to drift closed.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Gurgling little noises and the soft rumble of Spike’s purrs broke through the sleepy haze her mind and body had been basking in.  Buffy curled closer to the source of those noises, slowly coming to wakefulness prompted by the sounds.  Little hands brushed over her face, tangling in loose strands of her hair, innocently pulling on the long strands.  Languidly Buffy moved her hand up to disentangle the tiny fingers and slowly cracked open one eye when those tiny hands grabbed her fingers and pulled one of them towards the gaping mouth.  Gnawing on the digit, Connor continued gurgling happily, his little legs pumping and squirming between the two adults.  Spike made some noise, then wrapped a big hand around one of the baby’s legs, unconsciously trying to still his movements.  Letting the baby use her as a chew toy, Buffy closed her eyes again and tried to go back to sleep.  

Craving the heat generated by the two bodies in bed with him, Spike shifted closer, his hand leaving the wriggling legs of the baby to grasp the curve of a hip that he knew lay just beyond.  A deep rumbling sigh drifted up from his chest and one leg snaked between hers, anchoring them together.  Content now that he was warmer, Spike settled down to a deeper sleep, having not once opened his eyes.  

Dawn hesitated at the door, torn between doing what Spike had asked in the early hours of the morning and not wanting to disturb any of them.  But it was almost noon, and it was more than likely that demon baby would start howling for his bottle.  She couldn’t believe that he hadn’t done so already.  Maybe the double bottle trick was working.  Dawn could hear the sounds of Tara rustling about in the kitchen, searching out the makings of a huge dinner and another part of her was tempted to go downstairs and forget all about Connor.  She sighed, thinking, yeah, sure and Spike won’t look at me all disappointed like I’m Bara’qua demon slime.  Sighing again, Dawn turned the door’s handle and slipped inside.

The three of them were tucked up underneath the blankets, the baby in the middle while Buffy and Spike flanked him.  They looked so sweet.  Just like a real family.  Dawn felt a pang of something very close to jealousy stab into her.  Really not fair he gets this.  I’m  way too big to sleep in between them and, eeewww anyway, coz they like do stuff in that bed.  And telling herself all that didn’t really help, because a big part of her wanted to climb into that bed with them and be their little girl.  Silently cursing the monks for getting most of her life wrong, Dawn sighed a little bit, watching Spike’s hand flex over Buffy’s hip.  There was some answering movement and Buffy’s hand came to rest on Spike’s forearm, holding on tightly.  They really do look like a family.  From nowhere special came little tears, forming silently at the corners of her eyes and Dawn blinked rapidly to dispel them.  She didn’t want to cry over this, it was silly and stupid and so very babyish.  The monks had made her a teenager, not a baby and she had some good memories and so what if they weren’t really real?  They were still good.   Her memories of Buffy, and growing up in Los Angeles were good memories.  She only wished sometimes that the monks had finished the job, given her real memories of Spike, and what it might have been like to really be theirs.  

Okay, so back then Spike probably wouldn’t have been all that happy, since Buffy would have been five, bu
t . . . and Dawn stifled a giggle at that thought.  He probably still would’ve fallen in love with her, which is beyond ookie, though Dawn figured Spike would understand what she meant, if she ever got the courage to talk to him about some of the things she was thinking.  She wondered sometimes, too, if Spike would have fallen in love with Buffy anyway, even without the interference of the monks.  And then she remembered Willow’s back-fired will-be-done spell and wondered how much of a mistake that had really been.  Maybe the monks had shifted something then, playing with all of them, making it so that Buffy and Spike fell in love . . . Dawn eyed the sleeping couple on the bed, mental calculations forming.  Spike got chipped in the early fall, just after UC Sunnydale classes had started, and Willow’s spell happened just after Thanksgiving.  Giles had nearly pinpointed the moment their memories had been altered, and it was about nine months later, give or take a couple of days.   No way.  Could it have taken the monks all that time?  Like a real baby?  

A tentative smiled bloomed on her face, and had either of the two sleeping adults seen it, they would have been very happy.  Each of them had been worried about their girl, ever since the truth behind her parentage had been revealed, though neither one was sure how to get her to open up.  Dawn admitted to herself that she’d been a little difficult lately, and winced as she remembered the shouting match she’d had with Buffy not long after Connor had arrived.  Stepping closer to the bed, Dawn reached out to smooth the blanket over Spike’s foot.  Buffy stirred again, a soft groan of discomfort emerging from her and her movements picked up.  Reaching over to lift Connor from the bed, Dawn was surprised when a warm hand stopped her.  

“What are you doing?”  Buffy’s voice was barely more than a whisper.

“Spike asked me to take him so you guys could get enough sleep.”  Dawn’s answer was equally soft.

Letting her hand go, Buffy groaned again, her hand dropping down to cover her belly.  “I’m sort of awake anyway.  Might as . . .”   Hazel eyes snapped open and Buffy got a funny look on her face, as the words died in her throat.  “Ugh.  Hang on.”

Dawn watched, her mouth hanging open as Buffy scrambled from the bed and headed straight for the bathroom, a tight look on her face.  Furrowing her brows, Dawn lifted Connor up and followed her into the bathroom.  

“What the hell is wrong with you?”   She asked, when she found Buffy with her head hanging over the toilet, puking up her guts.  

“Some bug I got.”  Buffy grumped back at her, determined this time not to cry.  It was one thing in front of Spike, but she wasn’t going to do that with Dawn hovering over her.

“Bug?”  Dawn stared down at the top of Buffy’s head and nearly laughed.  “A bug?  What kind of a bug?”  She couldn’t keep the sarcasm from her voice.

“Dunno.  Stop asking me.”  Buffy leaned up and flushed the toilet, then got to her feet and using her finger, scrubbed away the icky taste from her mouth.  God, I wanna puke again.  She lifted her head, meeting her sister’s. . . no, her daughter’s eyes in the mirror.  There was amused disbelief in Dawn’s clear blue gaze, so very much like her father’s that Buffy wanted to scream in that moment, but she didn’t.  Instead she stared Dawn down, a set look on her features.

“Buffy. . .”  Dawn started to speak, but Buffy held up her hand, silently asking her to wait.

“Look.  Don’t say it, okay?  Just don’t.  I . . .” Glancing at the closed bathroom door, Buffy turned once more to face the younger Summers female.  “Just don’t say anything, to anyone.  Do you understand?  To no one.”

“Buffy?”  She was shaking her head in denial.

“Promise me, Dawnie.  You won’t say anything.  Not until after Christmas, okay?”  Buffy turned around to face her, leaning on the vanity, her back to the mirror now.

They shared a long look, neither one of them backing down and obvious questions all over Dawn’s features, but Buffy wasn’t going to let her go without a promise.  “Dawn.  I want that promise.”

“Not until Christmas, right?”  Dawn thrust out her hip, letting the baby rest there, all the while searching Buffy’s features for a hint of relenting.

“Yeah, not until then.”  

A deep sigh exploded from Dawn’s chest and she nodded her head.  “I promise.  Not until Christmas.  But it’s cool, coz that’s only two days.  I can keep a secret for two days.”  She waited a couple of moments, then prodded Buffy in the shoulder.  “But that’s all you get.  Two days.  After that I’m so spilling these beans.”

“I know.  But that’s okay.  You can spill all you like after Christmas.”  Buffy’s lips quirked in a small smile and Dawn fought the squeal that was building in her throat.  

“Um.  Speaking of Christmas, we need a tree and all that other good stuff you know.  All the decorations and stuff.”  Dawn pushed open the bathroom door, leading to the hallway, aware that Buffy wasn’t following her.  “You want me to get Giles and Xander to go get a tree?”

“Yeah.  You do that.  I’m going back to bed.”

Buffy watched as Dawn almost skipped down the hallway, mindlessly chirping about Christmas and decorations and presents and all sorts of good things, her mind on the vampire sleeping quietly behind her.  I hope he didn’t hear any of that.  I’ll beat her senseless if he did.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


No one was at Giles’ when she got to the door, which was why she’d planned this little visit at this time.  Giles was probably at the Magic Box and she had no idea what Wesley was doing or why he was still hanging around, but he was.  Fishing the spare key out of her pocket, Willow calmly opened the front door.  Heading right for the bookshelf, Willow quickly scanned the backs.  She was looking for a specific book and she was pretty sure it wasn’t at the Magic Box.  While a lot of his books were there, she had a feeling that this one wasn’t.  Quickly searching through all the books on his shelves, Willow found the one she wanted.

All righty.  Gotcha.  This is perfect.  Should work really well, after all, I’m much stronger than Jonathan.  My magics won’t be unstable.  Replacing all the books, Willow grabbed the one she’d come for and with a last glimpse around, she left the apartment.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Dawn carried Connor into the kitchen, her good mood extending to the infant who was watching her closely.  Tara watched from her position by the sink a smile on her features.

“So, you’re in a good mood.”

“Yup.  Christmas is nearly here, everyone’s safe and, you know, things are good.”  Dawn shrugged a bit, not wanting to focus on anything bad.

“You don’t miss your mom?”  

“My mom?”  Dawn looked at her quizzically, then realized Tara meant Joyce.  “Oh, yeah.  Sort of.  I do miss Joyce.  I wish I’d had more real time with her, you know?  But honestly, having Buffy back and Spike here is . . . it’s like having real parents.”  Dawn realized she was treading a fine line, almost telling Tara the truth, though if anyone could keep a secret it was Tara.

“So you think of them, sort of, as parents?”  Tara reached for the baby, settling him in the bouncy chair.

Making a decision, Dawn took a deep breath, then spoke.  “Well, that’s coz they really are.  The journals Wesley brought, it was all in there, how long the monks had been trying to make the key human.  They were following the slayers for a long time and because of that they stumbled on a dark warrior, a vampire who kept defeating chosen ones.”

Tara looked up sharply at that, comprehension dawning on her face.  “Spike?”

“Yup.  He’s fought something like seven Slayers.  And one of them died of injuries. . .   Anyway, so they were tracking Spike and the Slayers.  I wasn’t sure it was Spike until I read the entries from the seventies and that was when he started bleaching his hair.”  A soft giggle escaped from Dawn and Tara smiled in response.

“We still aren’t sure if the monks manipulated things so that Spike got caught by the Initiative, but we do know that they were the ones that put the Gem of Amarra in Sunnydale.”  Dawn paused, waiting for Tara’s reaction.  

“The Initiative took DNA samples from both of them, didn’t they?”  At Dawn’s nod, Tara dropped the spoon she was using into the sink and took a look at Connor.  “So they used Spike’s and Buffy’s DNA to create you.”

“Yeah.”  Dawn reached into the refrigerator for a drink.

“How do you feel about that?”  Tara motioned for the formula, and busied herself with mixing something up in a bowl for Connor.

“What’re you doing?  What’s that?”  Then quickly back on the subject, said, “It beats having to think about Buffy and someone else – or Spike and someone else.”

Tara looked at her curiously and Dawn elaborated.  “Like Buffy and Giles or Spike and Joyce or Buffy and Angel. . .”

The look on Tara’s face when she’d said “Buffy and Giles” was enough for Dawn to collapse into giggles.  “See, that’s what I mean.”

“Oh, Dawnie, that’s just horrible!”

“What’s horrible?”  Giles’ voice sounded from the kitchen doorway and was perplexed when his question was met with yet more giggles.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Xander had dropped Anya at the Magic Box before heading to Sunnydale General to relieve Wesley.  There hadn’t been an opportunity to ask Giles about what he’d seen in the hallway early this morning, and now that he had more time to think about it, he didn’t want to know the truth behind it.  Whatever it was, it couldn’t be good, because Dawn had been treating Spike like she cared about the bloodsucker.  Which was something Xander didn’t want to know about.

Parking his car as close to the entrance as he could, Xander slid through the emergency room doors when no one was looking and headed toward Cordelia’s room.  He met no resistance at the door, despite the police presence, which bothered him somewhat, until he opened the door and was knocked back on his ass, landing across the hallway.

“Ooops.  Sorry, Xander.”  The bot leaned over him, guiltless concern flashing in her eyes.

He got to his feet, shaking his head.  Pushing open the door, he realized why the bot was in hit-first mode.  Wesley was sound asleep, his head resting on the gurney, next to Cordelia’s hand.

Xander approached quietly, debating about waking the sleeping Englishman.  Wesley’s uncomfortable position decided him.  “Wesley.”  He shook his shoulder and wasn’t surprised when Wesley sat up quickly.

“Xander.  What time is it?”  Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, Wesley looked around for his glasses.

“About quarter after twelve.”  Looking toward Cordelia, Xander asked, “How is she?”

“They put her in a coma, hoping that would help her heal.  Otherwise, they still aren’t sure she’s going to make it.”  No need to lie or pretend that Cordelia’s situation wasn’t dire.  

“Oh, man.  How’s the other girl?”  Xander pushed Cordelia’s hair away from her face, wincing when nothing happened.

“She’s better, physically, but mentally she’s . . . they put her in the psychiatric ward.”

Which really, when he thought about it, made perfect sense.  Wesley was certain that Cordelia would be in pretty much the same condition if her injuries weren’t so bad.

“Right.  I’ll be back later.”

Leaving the Buffybot behind, Wesley took the keys Xander offered him and headed for the door.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Spike had vaguely heard his girl’s voices, but ignored them.  He felt when Buffy climbed back into the bed, and his arms circled around her, pulling her close against him.  One hand forced itself under her head, the other grasping her hip, then slid down to press against her belly.  He murmured something completely unintelligible, kissing the back of her neck.

Buffy closed her eyes, snuggling tighter in his arms.  Gonna have to tell him soon.  Christmas morning.  That’s when I’ll do it.  Images of how she was going to tell him weaving in and around her thoughts, Buffy fell asleep.


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Dawn was trying to convince Giles to take her and get a Christmas tree, which he was trying to resist by telling her his car wasn’t the right one to be using when Wesley walked in the door.

He greeted them all, asking Tara, “How is Oz feeling?”

“Much better, he was looking for something to eat.”  She indicated the melting ice cream on the counter.

“Wesley, please tell Giles we need a Christmas tree.”  Dawn looking up at him, her big eyes pleading.

“Right.”  She hadn’t turned that look on him in weeks, though Wesley was still powerless against it.  “Well, I’m back with Xander’s car.  But the Jeep is here.  That would be best to transport the tree.”

Giles gave Wesley an unhappy look that clearly indicated he didn’t want to go and he was more than a little aggravated with Wesley for pointing out that the Jeep was available.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Lawson looked around the mansion, taking his time picking out a room.  Most of the minions were already asleep, resting warily in light of Angel’s extreme displeasure.  His progress through the rooms was hindered by Drusilla’s humming presence trailing behind him, though Lawson didn’t dare wave her off.

It was obvious she wasn’t going to leave him alone until he’d chosen a place to sleep and he was equally certain that she wasn’t to do so on Angel’s orders.  He was just about to exit the room he was thinking of taking when her voice stopped his forward movement.

“Who are you, sailor boy?  Daddy made you, to be certain sure. . . though Miss Edith doesn’t know when . . . and she’s ever so curious.”

“It was the fall of 1943, in a submarine in the North Atlantic.”  He paused, looking at the female vampire.  “Does that help Miss Edith?”

“Mmmmmmm,” she swayed a bit, listening to the voices in her head.  “It does, but Miss Edith needs to see you, come along now.”

Grabbing his arm with surprising strength, Drusilla pulled him into her room.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


They both woke up at the same time to the sounds of doors opening and closing, then feet pounding on the stairs.  Buffy rolled over to face her mate, her eyes barely opened and she nestled closer into his arms.  Her voice was sleep husky and Spike smiled slightly at her words. “I thought we got rid of all these people who shouldn’t be living here.”

He chuckled, his hand gently slapping her rump. “Bad pennies, love, they keep comin’ back.”

“Maybe if you were grumpier they’d all leave?”  Buffy sounded hopeful.

“Any grumpier an’ I’d be just like the Watcher.”  Spike rolled over onto his back pulling her along with him.   She thumped him gently on the chest, then started to teasingly give him a hard time, when the noises from the hallway got louder.

Dawn’s voice came closer to their room and then her knock sounded on the door.  “C’mon, you two, get your lazy butts outta bed.  We got a tree.”

Spike looked at Buffy.  “A tree?”

“Christmas tree.  Dawnie wanted a real one and since our old fake one is nasty, I said it was okay.”

“Guys?  You are like the biggest slugs.”  Dawn stuck her head in the door.  “Geez.  Get outta bed already.”

Spike rolled over again, grousing good-naturedly.  “All right bit, we’re working on it.”

“Good, coz everyone’s here and Oz is up.”  Dawn’s enthusiasm was infectious and Buffy found herself responding.

“I’m up.  We’ll be down in a minute.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Angel growled in his sleep, reaching for Drusilla.  It had taken him hours and two bottles of whiskey to calm down his anger and his sleep was restless as a consequence of his temper.

Drusilla was sleeping beside him and in response to his unrest she rolled over and wrapped her bare arms around him.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The tree was decorated.  All the lights and decorations were hanging from the boughs.  Buffy watched Dawn and Tara moving around the tree, trying to make it perfect.  She didn’t have the heart to tell them that it couldn’t be perfect, but looking at their faces she got the feeling they already knew that.

Connor was rolling around the floor, crawling between various feet and generally being a complete distraction.  Strangely enogh no one seemed to mind.  Every few moments someone would pick him up, show him the Christmas lights and then, when he squirmed too much, put him back down on the floor.  Right now, Spike had him, and he was tickling the baby’s sides as he dangled him in the air.

She glanced at Dawn who had stopped whatever she was doing to watch them, a knowing smirk on her face.  Buffy sighed.

Two days.  I’ve got two days to figure out how to tell him.  How am I gonna do this?

Chapter Text

Book Two.  

Chapter 33.  Unending lightning.


the moment of a miracle is unending lightning ...
    Dylan Thomas,  On the Marriage of a Virgin.

I think miracles exist in part as gifts and in part as clues
that there is something beyond the flat world we see.
                       Peggy Noonan

                            



Just hours after dark, the same day Lawson had shown up, Angel heard from Jenner, another one of Darla’s; and strangely enough, Rebecca and Toussaint.  The last two he’d long since forgotten about, but apparently they, like Lawson, felt the call to be something of an order.  Jenner was closest, already in New York and he’d be arriving in Los Angeles  sometime during the night.  Toussaint and Rebecca were coming in from Miami, though they wouldn’t be arriving until later.

But they were coming.  Feeling a bit better now that numbers were on his side, Angel relaxed and allowed the remaining minions free rein to hunt.  The holidays were always a good time to find careless humans to feed on.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Wesley was becoming a permanent fixture in Cordelia’s ICU ward, so much so that her doctors jokingly referred to him as “the husband”.  He was sitting with her again on Christmas Eve, so that Xander and Anya could have some time to themselves.  Also so that none of the others had to spend time away, especially Spike.

Buffy’s mysterious illness hadn’t eased at all, in fact, looked to be getting worse.  She was having trouble eating anything and the constant vomiting wasn’t helping.  Poor girl looked terrible and he thought perhaps she was starting to loose weight.  Weight she could ill afford to loose.

Wesley shook his thoughts free of Buffy when Cordelia shifted restlessly.  Although the doctors were slowly weaning her off the drugs that were keeping her comatose, Cordelia’s responses were still non-existent to outside stimuli.  Wesley was beginning to fear that Cordelia might not ever recover.  When he’d expressed those fears to Giles, the elder man had just peered over his glasses and simply said, “Perhaps she might be . . . well, she would be at peace then.”

From that moment on, Wesley wasn’t sure what outcome would be preferable.  An alive yet broken Cordelia or a dead and at peace one.  Good god, what a thing to contemplate.

When his concerns had leached into his conversation with Gunn, there had been no hesitation in the other’s voice.  He simply asked “Are you with his ex?”

Once Wesley had answered in the affirmative, Gunn’s response had been “We’ll be there day after Christmas.”

And that had been the end of that.  Conversation over.  Wesley couldn’t dissuade them from coming, so sometime tomorrow, Gunn and Fred would be arriving in Sunnydale.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


For nearly two days she’d wracked her brains, trying to come up with some way of telling Spike why she’d been throwing up.  His worry over her had grown the longer she kept vomiting and she’d started hiding from him, avoiding him as much as she could which was next to impossible because they shared a bed.  Buffy knew it was silly, but she had to keep biting her tongue.  Buffy wanted him to know, she needed very much to tell him, though she was also determined to wait until Christmas.

Coming up with various ways to spring her Christmas present on him and discarding every single one, Buffy was now at a complete loss.  They were out patrolling and really there was no reason except that Angelus and Drusilla were out there. It was after midnight, she could just blurt it out.  And how lame is that?   Buffy looked over at Spike, who was just as lost in thought as she was.  The duster swirled around his feet as they walked through the silent cemetery.  Slipping her arm through his, Buffy smiled up at him.

He cocked his head to the side, gazing down at her.  “You all right, pet?”

“Yup.”  She smiled as an idea came to her suddenly.  “It’s after midnight.  Wanna head home and celebrate Christmas?”

Spike pretended to consider this.  “Dunno, sunshine.   Shouldn’t we be out here protecting everyone from the sinister creatures of the night?”

Buffy pouted just a little.  “I think we can call it a night.”

He swung her around in his arms, so that they were facing each other.  His arms circled round her waist and he stared down at her in the cool night air.  The moon illuminated her face making her look ethereal in his eyes.  His gaze roved over her features, drinking in her countenance.  One of his thumbs brushed across her soft cheek.  The look in his eyes changed the longer he looked at her.

Buffy started to speak, though his thumb brushing over her lips held her silent.  His voice, when he spoke was soft and low, his words warming her through.  “And in life's noisiest hour, there whispers still the ceaseless love of thee, the heart's self-solace and soliloquy. You mould my hopes, you fashion me within, and to the leading love-throb in the heart thro' all my being, thro' my pulse's beat,” he paused, whispering softly, “though it beats not.” He paused once more, searching for the rest of the words, “you lie in all my many thoughts, like light, like the fair light of dawn, or summer eve on rippling stream, or cloud-reflecting lake, and looking to the Heaven, that bends above you, how oft I bless the lot that made me love you.”

When he was finished, Buffy had tears in her eyes, though still he wouldn’t let her speak.  Tugging her close, Spike whispered into her ear, “Let’s go home, love.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


I should have decided on this sooner.  This is perfect.  And it won’t take long.  And I can so do this without even blinking.  If Jonathan could do this – Hah! Willow paced around the confines of her bedroom, the grimoire that she’d taken from Giles’ in her hands.

Okie dokie.  So now I need to concentrate and alter this just a bit.  Change that wording . . . leaning over her desk, Willow crossed out a few lines of the incantation, replacing them with others that better fit her intentions.  Not wanting to be the center of everything – not like Jonathan.  Just want everything the way it should be.  She didn’t care about being in the limelight, if anything, she didn’t want that at all, so that called for the changes.

Her excitement bubbled over, causing her to almost bounce with every step.  Okay, Willow, this isn’t good and you can’t afford to make mistakes.  So calm down.  Folding her legs beneath her, Willow sunk down on the floor, forcing her mind to blankness.  Focusing on a soothing calming mantra, Willow prepared herself for the ritual.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Anya watched Xander get ready for bed, a yawn stretching her features wide.  “I really don’t understand why you are still insisting on going to the hospital tomorrow.  It’s not like Cordelia knows you’re there.”

“That’s not the point, Ahn.  Someone needs to sit with her, talk to her and protect her in case Angel and his fangy bunch decide to visit.”  Xander looked at her over his shoulder, frustration on his features.  Do we have to argue now?

She made a snorting noise somewhere in the back of her throat that totally skeeved him.  “Please, Xander.    You can’t possibly believe that.  You wouldn’t stand a chance against Angel and you know it.  If you got hurt then we’d have to worry about you and then there would be no snuggling or orgasms for a very long time.”  Anya paused, then said, “Besides, that’s why the bot is there.”

“Way to make me feel useless.”  Shaking his head, Xander got up to leave the room.  “I’m gonna watch some tv.”  

Shocked almost speechless, Anya made some protesting noises, but Xander just waved her off and headed for the living room.  Slumping back down on the bed, Anya muttered to herself, “Can’t speak the truth anymore.  He never wants to hear it any way.”

Grumbling some more, Anya rolled over onto her side facing the wall.  “Stupid man.”  Thinking to herself, she fought the tears that were threatening.  Instead, Anya concentrated on all the things she and the other girls had to do in the morning.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Tara and Oz were both still up when they got home putting the final touches on the Christmas tree and piling presents underneath.

Buffy stopped short, her mouth agape as she looked at everything.  “Wow.”

The lights were all out, except for the tree and Tara was sitting on the floor, giving Connor a bottle while Oz rested on the couch.

“Look at you, all earth mothery.”

Tara blushed, ducking her head, when Spike added, “Pretty as a picture.”

“He just woke up crying, figured might as well feed him.”  Connor tugged on the strands of her hair, begging for attention.  “Hey, little man, don’t pull so hard.”

“Oh yeah, that’s such a bad habit.”  Buffy commiserated with her as she came further into the living room.  “Where’s Dawnie?”

“She went upstairs a little while ago.  Said she was tired.”  Tara hid a yawn, though Buffy saw it.

“So not the only one there.”  Glancing at the clock, which read one fifteen, Buffy said, “Maybe it’s time all of us started dreaming of sugar plums.”

Spike locked the front door, motioning to all of them, “Go on, I’ll wait up for St. Nick.”

Oz signaled his agreement, slowly getting to his feet, nursing his injuries.  Waving his goodnights, he headed for the basement and Tara’s room.

“You sure?”  Tara’s voice broke the hushed silence and Spike shook his head.  “G’on Glinda, ‘ve got some things I need to see to.”

Handing Connor to Buffy, Tara got to her feet, wished them both a Merry Christmas and followed Oz.

Spike watched Buffy for long moments, not saying a word.  She yawned and he knelt down in front of her, one hand resting on her shoulder.  “Go on up, kitten.  Take the sprog with you.  I’ll be up shortly.”

Leaning into his touch, Buffy murmured a question against his neck and Spike just kissed her forehead in answer.  “I’m sure, kitten.  Go, be up in a few ticks.”

Getting gracefully to his feet, Spike took the baby and helped her up.  Pulling her toward the stairs, Spike whispered, “Be up before you know it, love.”

“Okay.”  Without much more prodding Buffy lifted the almost sleeping infant to her shoulder and ascended the stairs.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Spike waited a few minutes, his ears pricked to listen for anyone sneaking around, then, when he heard nothing out of the ordinary, he headed for the back door.  He’d bought presents for his girls, Glinda, and even broken down and purchased something for his two fellow Brits.  The trick had been hiding it all from Buffy’s over-inquisitive nature.

His girl was a snoop.  And Dawn was just as bad.

At first he’d hidden everything in the DeSoto’s trunk, although when he caught her sneaking out with his keys, he knew that wasn’t safe enough.  He’d stashed most of it at Rupert’s putting the bigger items in the shed.  Giles would bring over the rest in the morning, so all he needed to do was get the stuff out of the shed.

It didn’t take him long to move the gifts.  Most of what he’d gotten was small and still at the Watcher’s.  Tossing the gifts on top of the fairly decent-sized pile and placing one out of sight behind the couch, Spike made one more circuit of the house, securing all the doors and windows, finally making his way up the stairs.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Buffy hadn’t wasted any time once she was in the bedroom.  Laying Connor down in his crib, Buffy brushed a kiss on the back of his head and quickly stripped off her clothes.  She thought about putting on one of her old nightgowns and discarded that idea.  Slipping into the barely-there all lace nightie that she knew Spike loved, Buffy sat down on the bed, pen and paper in hand.

Quickly she wrote down some things, then stopped. Is this the best way to do it?   Thinking hard, she crossed out what she had just written, then realized she needed a new piece of paper.  Taking a new one, Buffy thought for a moment, then wrote down something furiously, not crossing out anything.  She hesitated when she got to the end, took a deep breath and finished what she was writing.  Buffy hoped this would be enough.  Not because she didn’t want him to know, she did.  Oh god, I wanna just tell him.  She just didn’t know how else to tell him.  Looking down at the paper, she wrote one more thing down and figured that would be enough.  It had to be.  She couldn’t think of any other clever way to tell him.

Sighing once, Buffy realized she was being cowardly about this.  She just really didn’t know how else to tell him.  Praying that it would be enough, Buffy switched off the main light and climbed back into the bed.  The bedside light was still on and she put the piece of paper on his pillow.  Laying down with her back to the door, she whispered a tiny wish that he wouldn’t be upset with her when he read it.

Thankfully she didn’t have all that long to wait, because she hadn’t been laying down long enough to fall asleep when he came into the room humming softly.  She tried not to tense up, knowing he would pick up on it, instead she let her hand drift down to cover her belly, waiting.

By the rustling movements behind her and the dip on the bed, she could guess what he was doing.  Boots first.  The sound of metallic snaps was followed by the thumps signaling their removal.  Then the almost silent sound of his shirt being removed and the dull thump of it hitting the wall by the bathroom.  His weight disappeared from the bed and she could hear the snap and snick of leather and steel as he undid his belt.  His jeans were off and the bed dipped once more under his weight.

Spike laid down on the bed, his head disturbing the paper she’d left for him.  He grumbled something low that she strained to catch but couldn’t because she was very intent on breathing steadily.  “What the bleedin’ hell. . .”

His voice trailed off into silence and he didn’t even breathe.  He was silent for so long, it seemed endless though really wasn’t nearly that long because she only inhaled twice.  Spike moved closer to her, his hand on her hip, his fingers curling around the smooth muscles there.  He spoke her name into her ear and she felt him move again.  His left hand flexed on her hip, then moved to cover hers, which was still covering her belly.

Linking his fingers with hers, Spike gently forced her onto her back.  “Look at me, sweetheart.”

Slowly, Buffy rolled back, opening her eyes as she did.  He was propped up on his elbow, leaning over her, staring down into her eyes.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


She was in bed when he got up the stairs, the bedside lamp throwing shadows over her  still form.  Without realizing it, he knew she was still awake, but he decided against ragging her about it.  Buffy still wasn’t feeling well, and he’d been cutting her slack for the last couple of days because of it, though if she didn’t get over it soon, he was going to push the issue and make her go to the doctor.

Sitting down on the bed, he unsnapped and unlaced his boots, then drew his shirt off and tossed it at the bathroom door.  The boots were under the table and Spike stood to shuck off his jeans, stepping out of them and leaving them on the floor.  He laid down on the bed, and instead of soft cottony pillow beneath his cheek there was crackly paper.

“What the bleedin’ hell . . .”

He stopped speaking when he saw what it was in his hand.  It was a list, in Buffy’s handwriting, of all those potentials that Rupert mentioned when he’d gotten back from his last trip to London.  Names of the girls and dates.  Approximate date of death and then the dates of their first born.  Spike’s eyes slid to the bottom of the page.

There were new names on the list.  

Darla Witherspoon.  The date of her first turning, then dusting, her return from wherever she’d been, and then the date of Connor’s birth.

And then, at the very bottom was a new set of names.

Buffy Anne Summers, died May 2001, resurrected August 2001.  

Then next to that two more words: son/daughter followed by a question mark.

And finally, a few more words.  Fathered by William the Bloody, also known as Spike.

He stared down at the paper in his hands, unable to think, unable to breathe.  He watched as the paper drifted to the floor, his mind whirling with thousands of different thoughts.  He rolled over, propping his head on his right hand, placing his left hand on the curve of her hip.   His fingers flexed gently, tightening his grip on her at the same instant her name breathed from his lips into her ear.

Her hand was cupped around her still flat belly and he slid his bigger hand over hers, meshing their fingers together.  Spike tugged her closer, pushing her gently onto her back, as he whispered, “Look at me, sweetheart.”  

A soft, tentative smile broke out on her face, though it didn’t reach her eyes.  They were filled with tearful uncertainty, questions teeming in the depths of her night-darkened eyes.  Spike squeezed the fingers that were still laying on her belly and he gazed steadily down at her.  He opened his mouth to speak, then stopped.  His eyes roamed over her face, and he watched, fascinated, when a single tear pooled in the grassy-green depths.  

“Buffy. . .”  His voice rolled through her, the deep husky tones sending shivers down her spine and settling in her belly.  Her eyes started to drift closed, just drinking in the intoxicating rhythm of her name.

“Buffy?”  

A thousand questions in that one word, a hundred million or more, and yet they all centered on the same thing.  He needed an answer, needed to know and so, too, did she.

The smile that lit her face drew fire from his touch, from the look in his eyes.  It was fierce and primal and went beyond anything they had ever touched upon before.  She was mesmerized by that fire and she willingly surrendered to it.

“Yeah?”  Her arm hooked under the one his head was leaning on and she slid closer to him, their faces bare inches apart.  The world shrunk to just them, to the space between and she eyed him coyly.

“When?”  He leaned further over her, his body shielding them both from the outside, craving the heat and shelter he found only within her.  His warmth was stoked higher by her response and Spike itched to kiss her, but he needed to know . . . everything.

“August.”  She averted her eyes, shying from the profound emotions swirling in his cerulean eyes.  His eyes had always had an intoxicating power over her, from the very first.  His eyes told secrets, held promises that she hadn’t always been willing to understand. . . and now, his eyes held her world.

Another softly worded question caught her attention.  “You sure?”

This time her eyes held the hint of a smile.  “Very sure.”  She paused, the fingers on both hands brushing over his skin.  “I got a test and went to the. . . Dr. Thomas confirmed it.”

He hesitated, absorbing the enormous news she’d just imparted to him.  Spike was in shock, he supposed, he couldn’t complete a thought, couldn’t actually formulate words.  “Buffy . . .”

“Are you okay?”  The question was absurd, coming from her and he chuckled slightly.

“Yeah.  ‘M bloody fine.  Question is, how’re you?”  He dropped further down on the bed and she automatically fitted her body to his.

“I’m okay.”  Her arm was trapped between his arm and his head and Buffy brought her hand up to play with the curls just behind his ear.  His fingers disengaged from the hand on her belly to rub little circles over her lace covered skin.  His touch was electrifying, sending sparks through her muscles.

“Spike . . .are you okay with this?”  Buffy’s eyes searched his, trying to find – trying to gauge his emotions.  His thumb brushed over her lower lip, halting her words.

“Kitten . . .”   His hand brushed down the length of her torso, once more resting over her belly.  His fingers nudged her hand away, then splayed over her, covering her from hip to hip.  “Here, yeah?”

“Yeah.”  She had no idea what he was doing or thinking.  He stared at the spot, his eyes hidden from hers.  Tentatively she laid her hand over his.  She opened her mouth to speak, to ask him once more if he was all right, when his voice broke the still night.

“Buffy . . .  This. . .”   His voice broke and she realized he was fighting tears.  “Never thought, not in a hundred years, there’d be more ‘en jus’ the life Dru gave me.  Never. . . stopped hopin’ after a bit, jus’ gave up.  And then,” he paused again trying to gain more control. “Then there was you.  Threw me for a loop you did.  Turned me upside down.  Made me want things again.  Gave me m’dreams back.  I love you, Buffy.  With all that I am.  Man.  Monster.  Every last part of me.”

He moved then, lifting his eyes to hers.  Tears filled those ocean blue depths, though before she could speak, his voice raw with emotions she’d never heard, he started speaking.  “Now. . . now you’ve given me the world.  You. . .  This is my baby in your belly. . . mine.”

His voice broke and a tear dropped down upon her breast.  “‘Ve got the family William always wanted.  My woman. . .  My children.”

He shook his head.  “I love you.”  Another tear fell and Spike leaned closer to her, his lips brushing hers.  Buffy smiled, arching into his touch.

“Spike.  I love you too.”  She kissed him back.  “So you are happy about this.”

A chuckle broke through his lips.  “Yeah, sunshine, ’m happy.  Question is, are you?”

This time a blinding smile crossed her features, reaching her eyes.  “Ah huh.  Color me happy Buffy.”

His arms lifted her up as he rolled onto his back.  Settling her over his body, Spike grinned.  “Happy Christmas, love.”

Buffy fitted her legs on either side of his hips.  “Same to you.”

Spike pulled her head down, kissing her hungrily.  “Kitten . . . this is okay, right?”
    
“Yeah.  Oh yeah . . .”   Her hands tightened around his biceps, holding on tightly as he nudged his erection against her.  Buffy settled on him, inching back so that his cock was nestled up against her butt.  “Spike. . . I need you.”

“Need you too, sunshine.  So bloody much.”  His hands gripped her hips, lifting her slightly.  Buffy let go of his left arm, her hand circling his erection, positioning him at her entrance.  Leaving her hand there, Buffy felt it as her pussy engulfed him, liquid fire spreading through her body.  She writhed a bit, adjusting to his size and he groaned, bucking his hips up.  “Fuckin’ hell. . . so tight.”

He thrust hard again as she ground down on his cock, sinking down so their groins were touching.  “Spike. . . need more. . .”

He twitched his hips and she was rolling, her back landing on the mattress and he thrust hard in the same motion, driving her up against the headboard.  Spike’s arms landed on either side of her head, his weight resting on his palms.  His eyes held a hint of mischief and he quipped, “Hello, cutie.”  

Buffy slid her legs up, her knees just under his arms, changing the angle of his entry, so that he was scraping against that soft spot within her on every thrust.   Her breath came in short gasps, his name slipping from her.  Spike drove into her, grunting against her neck.  Buffy had to put her arms over her head, bracing herself against the headboard, matching his rhythms.
 
“Oh god. . . . oh. . .  Spike!”  Buffy shrieked out his name as her first orgasm ripped through her.  Spike shifted, bringing one of Buffy’s legs up over his arm without breaking his rhythm.  His mouth sucked on the pulse points of her jugular, cool against the heat of her but instead of soothing her, it just set off more tremors.  

Spike felt her nails dig into his back and sides, raising blood to the surface of his skin, and he vamped, letting his fangs score the mating marks, while she gripped him tighter.  He was gasping for air that he didn’t need, his chest heaving with the effort.  “Love you. . . oh god woman, I do. . . f’rever.”  

He rolled his hips, pistoning into her hard, his pubic bone hitting her clit and he could feel his balls tightening, drawing up.  He was impossibly hard, and the cords in his neck stood out as he refrained from biting into her.  Spike lifted his head away from her neck and growled out his frustration.  Her name was a prayer on his lips as he fought his own nature.

A warm hand cupped his cheek, then pulled him back down to her, guiding him to her veins.  “It’s okay, please . . . I need you too.”  She whispered against his mouth before she rubbed her tongue over his fangs.

“Buffy. . .” He almost whined her name into her mouth, struggling not to slice open her tongue.  “Shouldn’t. . . not now.”

“Yes, now.  Especially now.”  Buffy cupped her hands around his face, holding him still between her legs.  “Spike . . . we need this connection.  I need it.  I want you to feel what I’m feeling.  Right now.”  

He dropped his head, letting her lips brush across his brow ridges, his breath gusting heavily across the tops of her breasts.  He was quiet, his hips moving slowly, languidly thrusting into her as she tightened all her muscles around him.  He growled low in his chest, the words harsh and guttural, swimming with emotion.  “Are you sure, sunshine?”

“Oh god, Spike, I’ve never been more sure. . .   Please.”  Buffy stared into his amber eyes, willing him to make that final move.  “Please. . . Spike. . .”  

He slid out of game face, his blue eyes staring hard into hers.  “I love you, kitten, don’t wanna hurt you.”  

“You won’t.  Not now, not ever.”  Buffy leaned up, her tongue dancing across his lips.  

Searching her eyes one last time, Spike deepened the kiss, his tongue mating with hers.  Buffy arched up into him, her arms and legs holding onto him.  She broke away from his kiss watching as he morphed back into game face.  His teeth nipped at her lip, far too gently to break the skin and then he nestled his face into her neck.  Once more scraping his fangs against her skin, Spike growled softly, then as he surged into her, he broke the skin over her veins.

Her life’s blood flowed over his tongue, pooling in his mouth, her essence filling him.  She tasted better, sweeter, stronger, heavier. . . headier.  His head was spinning, swirling with the emotional tempest inside her, his ears ringing and he swore his heart thumped once with joy.  She tasted of heaven, of starshine and dewdrops, of soft lilting lullabies, and ocean deep awe.  He groaned into her skin, tasting the salty sweet sweat mingling with her coppery blood.  Another pull of her blood into his mouth and there it was, just a shadow of a taste, but it was there . . . the mingling of them both, the promise of a future he’d never dreamed he would have. . .  

Their child.

Chapter Text

Book Two.  

Chapter 34.  Two hearts beat as one.


this is going to take a long time and I wonder what's mine
can't take no more
wonder if you'll understand it's just the touch of your hand
behind a closed door

all I needed was the love you gave
all I needed for another day
and all I ever knew
only you
    Vince Clark, Yaz (Yazoo), 1982

She is coming, my own, my sweet;
Were it ever so airy a tread,
My heart would hear and beat,
Were it earth in an earthy bed,
My dust would hear her and beat,
Had I lain for a century dead,
Would start and tremble under her feet,
And blossom in purple and red.
    Alfred Tennyson, She is coming, my own, my sweet



The first one awake that morning, was, as is fitting on Christmas, the littlest inhabitant of Revello Drive.  The fact that he couldn’t do anything other than howl his displeasure about being alone and wet and hungry didn’t stop him from showing it.  Spike had heard the first rumblings of the infant’s wakefulness and the baby belly growls that signaled vampire-like hunger pains and rolled onto his back, trying to wake up.  He grinned for no apparent reason up at the ceiling, a soft purr emanating from his chest.  Connor started to howl and Spike was up at his cribside before the boy had a full throat on him.  Grinning down at the infant, he tickled him, then before the howls could reach dog-calling decibels, he picked him up.

Connor was soaked from stem to stern, his diaper hanging off him, weighing down the sleeper.  Grimacing a little bit, Spike gingerly held him against his side, then lifted the soaked sheets from the bed also.  Figuring rightly that it would be easier to just strip the boy down and get him clean from the skin out, Spike brought him into the bathroom.  Filling the tub as he stripped off the sodden clothing, he dipped the boy into the water.  Connor gurgled happily, his legs moving at a rapid pace.  He was splashing, covering Spike in bubbles and all Spike could do was laugh right back at him.  

This time next year, it would be his own sprog gurgling happily up at him.  Spike still couldn’t completely wrap his head around that.  Even knowing it had been a possibility ever since Rupert had found out about the potentials, Spike hadn’t, couldn’t bring himself to hope for it.  Not even after he’d smelled and sensed the changes that were going on in her body.  Part of him was too afraid to hope and another, bigger part of him wanted her to be the one to tell him – making it real, for both of them. And now it was more than possible.  

Buffy’s pregnant.

Reality hit him square between the eyes as he looked down at the infant in the tub.  This was his life.  Infants.  Bills.  Medical expenses.  College tuition.

Spike shook his head, pushing thoughts of a distant future out of his mind.  Can’t think about that jus’ yet.  Niblet’s not ready for college. . . not yet.  Gonna have to worry ‘bout that soon enough.  He couldn’t believe . . . well, mate, that’s wha’ happens when you take up with humans.  Get human worries.

Not that he’d trade one second of this for going back to where he was less than a year ago.  Scrounging for blood.  Extorting money from the Scoobies and terrorizing fledglings to get him cash.  Living in a hole in the ground.  Shacking up with Harmony.  

That had to have been nearly the very bottom for him.  Harmony was a vapid, brainless twit whose only worth lay between her thighs and while she assuaged an itch sometimes, he could only stand her when she wasn’t opening her mouth to speak, which was far too frequently for him.  Thank god he’d seen the last of her.  He shook off the memories of her, focusing instead on what he had now.

 
Everything.  

Acceptance from some of the Scoobies, including the Watcher, and now, Oxford.  That had been a surprise too, that Percy would lighten up enough to consider him a friend.  Christ, he’d craved that when he was William, from someone other than his mother, especially once the rest of the family were gone.

Approval, also from the Scoobies, except for Xander, though Spike didn’t expect anything from the whelp ever, so that wasn’t an issue.  

Respect.  Something William had yearned for, as much as acceptance.

Love.  Oh, yeah, love’s bitch.  First, last, and always.  He could admit it.  Everything he’d ever done had been done to either prove his love to some woman or gain the love of some woman.  Always before now he’d crashed and burned.  His ill-fated infatuation for Cecily had doomed him to fall prey to Drusilla’s exotic wiles; his need to protect Dru had brought him to the very depths of his existence, alone, adrift without any means to feed himself other than relying on charity.  And yet, from those depths he’d discovered his greatest joy.

It had taken a while to get there though the journey had been worth every step.  

Because now he had everything.  

Because of Buffy.  Silly name for a girl.  But she was his world.  His everything.  And now everything really, truly did encompass everything.

A muffled noise from the bedroom behind him pricked his attention and just as Spike was about to pull Connor out of the tub, Buffy opened the bathroom door behind him.  Connor splashed happily, getting more soap on his bare chest and Spike play growled at the boy, which just made him clap his watery hands together.  “Morning, you two.”

“Mornin’, sunshine.”  When she draped herself over his back, leaning her head against his shoulder, so that she could watch him with the baby, Spike stole a look at her.  “All right then, sweetheart?”

“Yeah, I’m okay.  Just missed you and heard you guys in here.”  She kissed his shoulder, enjoying the feel of his muscles moving under her cheek.  

“Could go back to bed.  It’s early yet.”  He leaned over, twisting so that he could brush a kiss across her brow.  “G’on.”

“Actually, I was gonna go down and make prune-boy a bottle so that we could all go back to bed together.”  She snaked her arms around his waist, her fingers brushing over his toned abs.  “How’s that sound?”

He thought about it for a long minute, just reveling in the feeling of being warmed from the water and her touch.  Neither one wanted to move and Connor seemed more than content to play in the water.  “Tell you what.  How ‘bout I go get the bottle and you and sprog meet me back in the bed in ten minutes.”

“Mmmm. Buffy like that one.”  She quipped, letting her hands wander over his pectorals, and teasingly brush over his nipples.  

“Thought we weren’t supposed to do tha’ in front of spawn here.”  Spike growled deeply as she did it again.  

Her shrug moved her breasts and nipples against the muscles of his back and Spike forced away the growing arousal he felt at her touch.  “Not doing anything but touching.”

Lifting the baby from the water in a strong yet gentle grip, Spike dumped him on the towel he’d laid on the floor.  Turning around he eyed her sleepy form.    “So, when I do this,” he said as he pulled one strap of her nightgown down, exposing her nipple to his heated gaze and lightly licked the very tip, “You won’t mind, coz all ‘m doin’ is touching, yeah?”

She inhaled sharply, not anticipating the electric bolts that arced through her at his touch.  Goosebumps rose across her flesh when he did it a second time, not a sound escaping him, and no other part of him touching her, just his tongue on her nipple.

Buffy reached for him, though Spike stayed just beyond her touch, his tongue flicking gently over the nipple.  “It’s only a touch, yeah?  No harm in tha’.”

His voice was husky, his breath almost warm as he blew air over her nipple.  Buffy wanted to drag him closer, but Spike was trying to prove a point, so he moved back away from her.

Her nipples were both hard points, tantalizing him with their ripeness.  “An’ this is jus’ a touch.”  His left hand cupped the swelling weight of her exposed breast, his thumb brushing over her distended nipple, barely touching it.  Buffy fought the shiver his touch invoked, trembling under his gentle assault.  

A whimper sounded in the air around them, and it took her long seconds to realize such a needy noise had come from her.  

His eyes were intent on hers, watching her pupils dilate with arousal as he leaned down to lick her nipple once more.  “Jus’ a tiny touch.”  His tongue drew a wet circle round her areola, avoiding the nipple itself.

Spike withdrew from her, then using one finger, he moved the other strap down, leaving both breasts bared to his heated gaze.  The scent of her arousal was over-powering in the small room and he stopped breathing so that he could maintain control over himself.  Buffy one-handedly gripped the side of the bathtub hard enough to turn her knuckles white as he lowered his mouth to the previously neglected breast.  

“Only a touch.”  He breathed over her, raising more gooseflesh, as his tongue streaked across her skin.

“Oh god.”  She breathed out in a bare whisper.  “Oh god.”

Eyeing her breasts, Spike slowly ran a single finger over first one nipple then the other, watching her as the effect of his touch raced through her.  He moved no closer, breathed not a word, just merely touched her.  She was frozen in place by her arousal, unable to move, anticipation stringing her out over a deep precipice.  

He withdrew his touch from her, dropping his hand down to his side.  Her breathing was erratic and he could hear the thundering pace of her heart and, taking a huge gamble,  inhaled deeply.  His head swam with the overwhelming scent of her arousal.  He could taste it, feel it rolling across his tongue and sliding down his throat, that’s how potent it was.  Drawing in a second breath, no long caring of the infant that was quietly settled on the floor behind him, Spike moved again.  Using one finger again, he traced the lines of the pulsing blue veins on her leg, not stopping at the flimsy lace barrier.  
Buffy had nearly begged him to keep touching her when he’d stopped, though each time she tried opening her mouth, her voice eluded her.   Just when she was ready to scream, his finger slid along her leg, starting just below her knee, snaking up and over the rounded bend, and up along the smooth length of her thigh.  She watched, fascinated as his finger delved under the folds of her delicate nightgown.  She drew in a breath, unable to let it go for fear of the shrill noise that was sure to erupt from her throat.

His finger brushed over the junction of her hip, sliding down over the fleshy globe of her ass, and there too, he could feel the gooseflesh come to life.  Grinning to himself, Spike let his digit roam over her, mapping the contours of her skin, reveling in the feel of her.  Her leg moved as he reached a sensitive spot between the globes, and he stroked it again, letting her feel the weight of her own arousal.  A wicked gleam entered his eyes and if she had seen it Buffy would have been very worried.  But she missed it and Spike just allowed his thoughts to wander along that path for a few more moments.  Eventually, kitten, we’ll get here. . . so he kept his silence, letting his touch do what no amount of cajoling or pleading ever would.  

Her almost involuntary movements opened her up and he nudged her by just adding a tiny bit of pressure against her leg and Buffy followed his silent request by bending her knee  up.  She took advantage of his direction, angling her body to face him and the lace nightgown bunched around her waist like a decorative belt.  She was completely naked now, save for that scrap of material around her middle, exposed and open to his gaze.  It no longer mattered where they were or even who they were. . .  All that mattered was his touch upon her.

His oh-so-evil finger traced a line from between her bottom up over the curls covering her sex, sliding effortlessly through the folds of her soaking pussy, settling over her stiffened clit.  He pressed it once, then abandoned it, letting his finger course over the delicate skin surrounding her engorged sex.   She garbled out something completely unintelligent and Spike’s expression turned into a lethal leer.  

She couldn’t bear it any longer, she needed to touch him back, affect him the way he was affecting her.  Buffy dropped her hand down to where his barely touched her and following his example, used one finger to touch him.  Her smaller, warmer touch traced the fine bones and muscles of his finger and hand as it flexed and moved against the warmest part of her, then trailed up to caress the strong sinewy muscles of his arm.  She followed the path of silent blue veins, her touch leaving heat behind, heat enough to warm him from the inside and Spike forced his attention back to his own task.

Her hand ghosted up his arm as his finger slipped inside her, then slid out.  Her breathing hitched on a breathless gasp and Spike repeated the action and she retaliated by brushing her fingertip over his own hard nipple, simultaneously flicking it as he flicked her clit.

The only sound in the room was the whisper of their touches, the soft exhalations of their breathing and for him, the thunderous sound of her pounding heart.  His name escaped from her in a whisper, no louder than a breath, though he heard her.   He started to speak and found he couldn’t, his own arousal as paralyzing as hers.  She switched hands, allowing the other to fall back along the line of her leg, and her hand dropped down to his half opened jeans.  He got up on his knees, allowing her the same freedom to explore and Buffy wasted no time in flicking open the rest of his buttons.  

Her finger traced over the head of his cock, watching it jump and strain against her finger, mesmerized as moisture gathered at the tip.  Using the moisture, Buffy slowly slid her finger over the swollen head of his erection.  Spike groaned low in his chest and Buffy could see the vibrations of it in his throat and her body thrummed in response.  She wanted him . . .  He regained her attention as he slid his finger deep inside and his thumb brushed over her clit.  Buffy retaliated by using her forefinger and thumb to circle around the tip and she moved her fingers up and down, just encompassing the head of his cock.  Spike rose up on his knees, letting the jeans slip down his hips, silently encouraging Buffy to let her fingers grasp his full length.  But she wasn’t done teasing him, because she ran her finger down the underside, dragging it over the small globes of his balls.  Spike looked down at her, his eyes glittering and feeling his attention on her face, Buffy lifted her eyes to watch him.  

She was swept away by the desire in his eyes, by the love swirling in the ocean blue depths.  Her fingers cupped his balls and she gasped as he slipped a second finger into her warm depths.  “Oh god Spike. . . need you.”

Her words broke the spell and he finally found his voice.  “Fuck, kitten, need you now. . .”    His free hand circled round her hip, pulling her close, as he struggled to control his unnecessary breathing.

“Buffy . . .”    

She didn’t resist.  She couldn’t.  Not when he said her name with such raw need.

Her mouth settled on his as her name slipped from his mouth, tongue sliding between his opened lips.  Buffy broke the kiss, breathing his name out over his face as his hand cupped her breast and she leaned her forehead against his.  “Spike. . . please. . .”

He pulled her closer, molding her breasts against the hard planes of his chest.  “Buffy. . . now. . .”   Spike collapsed back on his haunches, her legs draped over his thighs.  “Lemme in. . . god, woman, lemme in.  Now.”

Wrapping her arms around his neck, Buffy undulated against his cock, grinding over him.  Gripping her hips tightly, Spike lifted her up, positioning her over the tip of his erection.  Growling as she slid down on him, Spike threw his head back, jaw clenched, muscles standing out starkly.  “Fuck. . . sunshine.”

Her pussy was hot living silk, wet and warm. . . no, not just warm. “Christ, Buffy . . . so bleedin’ hot.”   She was burning, scorching wet around him, drowning him in liquid fire, being inside her now was like being encased in hot. . .  “Augh . . .  Buffy . . .”

It wasn’t enough, letting her set the pace.  He needed . . . groaning, Spike stumbled to his feet, Buffy still impaled, writhing on his cock, strangling him in her need.

Bracing one hand on the wall, Spike held her to him, urging her to move faster.  Buffy was gasping, a softly breathed squeal erupting from her every time he moved.

His foot brushed against the baby and Spike stepped away, then dropped again to his knees, laying Buffy down on the floor.  Thrusting hard into her, Spike reached for her clit and as he pinched it between his fingers, Buffy’s whole body arched, then convulsed around him.   Her orgasm triggered his and as he surged into her, she climaxed again, breathlessly crying out his name.

Lifting her against him, he cradled his mate close, feeling her heart pulse all around him.

Collapsing on the floor, Spike stared at her dazed features, then chuckled when she couldn’t move.  
Buffy laid her head on his chest, her legs splayed on either side of his hips, his cock still nestled within the warmth of her and she smiled.  Spike nudged her once and she lifted her head to look at him.  His hand slid up under her hair, cupping her head and instead of speaking, he pulled her closer for a deep kiss.

She flexed around his cock, which had him grinning and ready again, but she stilled when a soft baby sigh interrupted.  Slowly she lifted off his chest, tightening around him and her gaze left his to focus on the infant on the floor beside them.

Freezing a little, Buffy relaxed when she caught a glimpse of the baby.  He was flat on his back, sprawled out on the towel with part of it pulled over him, his thumb firmly in his mouth.    Connor was sound asleep.

A soft giggle escaped from her and Buffy turned her eyes to Spike.  “Guess he really doesn’t care.”

He started to speak and she said in mock anger, “If you like this, you won’t say anything, buster.  Not I told you so or anything else.  Not a word.”

Instead of saying anything about Connor or their current positions, Spike just rolled them over, his arms circling her head and he leaned down to whisper into her ear, “See kitten, tha’s all it takes.  Just a touch. . . jus’ your touch. “  

He smiled then, once more whispering, “Happy Christmas, wife.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Dinner was done, the decimated remains of a mostly rare roast beef, turkey, potatoes, lots of vegetables and various other dishes still piled on the table, while the denizens of Revello Drive groaned in gluttonous happiness.  Giles leaned heavily on his elbow, a tumbler of MacAllan’s in front of him, while he looked around the table at everyone.

It is, he thought, a brief shining moment of respite amidst the chaos that was life on the Hellmouth. And while not a pure undiluted happiness, it was so much the sweeter because it was not.  He grinned, watching Dawn preen over the bracelet she’d gotten from Casey, showing it off for perhaps the hundredth time, when he saw a look pass between the two Summers girls.  His attention pricked more when the unspoken communication appeared to be turning more urgent and Giles caught a glimpse of a wary look on Dawn’s face, which cleared up when Buffy shook her head.

Wesley said something to Oz, drawing Giles’ attention away from the girls and he waited patiently while Oz wrote his response on the portable dry erase board they’d dragged out of storage for him to use.  They’d all surprised him this morning, eliciting a highly emotional response from the normally reticent man.  Everyone had finished opening their gifts and finally, when all the noise had quieted down for a second, Tara had nodded once to Spike, who reached behind the couch and removed the box he’d placed there for safekeeping.  The box was nearly as big as the werewolf and Oz had raised a single eyebrow in question.  He finally gave into everyone’s entreaties to just open the gift.  He’d shrugged in a typical gesture, his attention on the box.  As he’d opened it to reveal a new bass guitar and a used amplifier, Oz had tears in his eyes.  Unable to speak he’d just hugged the blond witch tightly, moving onto all the other girls one by one.

All in all, this had been a very good Christmas.  Despite the loss and despair surrounding most of the past year, there was some glimmer of hope that the future might not be awash with death and destruction.  Yes, Joyce was gone, and very sorely missed.  Yes, Buffy had been gone, but she’d been returned to them.  Giles considered his Slayer, the daughter of his heart.  Buffy was sitting further down the table, on the other side of Wesley, while Spike lounged at the head of the table, his eyes never leaving her.  He smiled at something she said, then watched her pick at a piece of roast beef on her plate.  Spike raised a brow, silently urging her to eat it and Giles watched as Buffy’s face blanched a bit.

No. . . this soon? Without thinking, Giles spoke, effectively silencing the conversation around the table.  “Good to see you are over whatever bug you picked up.  Feeling any better now?”

She blushed, which pretty much answered his unspoken question and took a moment to compose her answer.  Without daring to look at either Dawn or Spike, Buffy tried to respond to Giles.  “Yeah.  Feeling all better now.  No more belly aches for Buffy.”

Catching the gazes of everyone around the table, Buffy smiled wanly.  She studiously avoided looking at Spike, who leaned back at Giles’ question.  His eyes never left the Watcher, almost daring the other Englishman to press the issue.

Dawn had frozen the instant Giles started to speak, her eyes seeking out the expression on Spike’s face.  Catching the look out of the corner of his eyes, Spike gently kicked her under the table.  Dawn relaxed, waiting to see what would happen when Buffy tried answering.  Rolling her eyes at the lameness of her response, Dawn couldn’t stop the snort of disbelief from escaping her lips.

Anya, who had been starting to clear away dishes, bluntly stated, “Are you kidding?  You hardly ate much of anything.  Just mashed potatoes and a couple of rolls.” Her voice trailed off as she realized everyone was staring at her.  “What?  I’m just stating a fact.  Buffy didn’t eat much at all.”

“Thanks, Anya.”  Buffy shrugged.  “So it’s still a little wonky.  It’s nothing that won’t go away.”  In a couple of weeks. . . I hope.  She got to her feet, grabbing her plate and Spike’s in an effort to avoid everyone’s stares.  Trying to sound very chipper, she asked, “Who’s ready for dessert?”  

But her effort fell flat when her quick movement made her stomach heave and caused her face to loose all color.  No one spoke until Dawn said, “I’ll finish clearing.  You sit.  Dessert can wait.”

Taking the plates from Buffy, Dawn pushed her way past Anya and into the kitchen.  Buffy sat down abruptly, unable to look at anyone, even Spike.  Tara leaned forward, facing Buffy across the table.  “Are you okay?”

The Slayer shook her head.  “Gimme a minute.”

Spike looked at her, communicating with her silently and she started to shake her head no, but finally after a few long moments in which everyone tried not to pay attention to them, Buffy visibly caved.  She nodded her head and Spike said, “Nib, come back in here.”

Dawn came back into the dining room, a towel in her hand and in a stance very reminiscent of her father, she leaned against the wall.  Spike cleared his throat, gaining everyone’s attention.  “Right then,” he paused, all at once at a loss, he started to speak then stopped.  “Thing is . . .” and Buffy touched his hand and shook her head.

“The reason I’ve been all under the weather Buffy is because,” and she paused long enough for Dawn to lose her mind and when it looked like Anya’s head was going to explode with curiosity and excessive tension, Buffy finally said, almost in a whisper, “I’m pregnant.”

There was no sound until Oz banged his hand on the table.  Once he had everyone’s eyes on him, he wrote on the dry-erase board, holding it up for everyone to see.  He’d written one word, “Cool” and the sight of it broke the silence covering the room.

Dawn pushed away from the wall, grousing good-naturedly, “So wanted to let the cat out.”

Tara got up from her chair and made it to Buffy before anyone else.  Hugging her, she asked, “This is a good thing, right?”

Buffy nodded tearfully, thankful that Tara didn’t judge her or her choice of mate, or any part of her life.  The two blonds hugged again and Buffy sniffled once, wiping her eyes.  Anya smothered her next, wrapping both arms around her shoulders, her voice very cheerful as she whispered loudly, “You do know that sex is supposed to be better when you’re pregnant.  Every part of you is more sensitive, at least that’s what I’ve heard.  Are your nipples sore yet?”

The blush staining Buffy’s face bloomed into a cherry red and she covered her face with her hands.  Tara stared at Anya, unable to come up with something to cover the former demon’s pronouncements and the giggle that gurgled up nearly strangled the dark blond and she covered her mouth, but couldn’t stop the laughter.  Glancing over at Oz, who had both eyebrows up, Tara finally lost it, collapsing against Buffy’s shoulder in helpless giggles.

The slayer glanced over at her vampire, who merely raised his eyebrow in question and the memory of their early morning activities surfaced, causing her blush to deepen.  There was no safe answer for Buffy to give Anya so instead she just said nothing.

Giles sat still in his chair, completely at a loss.  He’d known this was a real possibility, once he’d found the information in the Council archives, though hadn’t expected it quite this soon.  Sharing a glance with Wesley, Rupert struggled to get his feelings in some sort of order.  Part of him wanted to berate Buffy for the insanity of getting pregnant now, given that Angelus and Drusilla were wreaking havoc and Willow’s motives and actions were also questionable. . . but that was just a small part.  His tight-lipped smile directed at Wesley gave away none of his thoughts, and he was grateful at the moment that the girls were reacting so volubly, because he had no idea how to frame what he was thinking.  

He wasn’t even sure what he was thinking.  His Slayer, one of the longest lived in recorded history and twice returned from death, was pregnant.  This was monumental.  Of no less importance was the father of said baby, the Slayer of Slayers, William the Bloody.  He’d long since come to terms with Spike’s transformation and his differences from other vampires and his subsequent actions to protect those he loved. Spike might be a monster, but he was their monster.  Lock, stock, and bloody barrel.  Giles contemplated the pair at the opposite end of the table.  Buffy was haltingly trying to explain to the other females how she was feeling and what changes her body was going through, while Spike listened with half an ear, his eyes on her hands as she tried to explain.

Wesley got up from the table, taking over the cleanup duties that the girls abandoned in light of the big announcement.  As he passed Spike, Wesley slapped him on the back and cracked semi-sarcastically at him, “Congratulations, old man, didn’t know you were up to the challenge.”

Spike leered, chuckling deeply.  “‘M up to any challenge, Oxford.”

Oz leaned over, thumping the table again to get Spike’s attention, his hand extended to offer congratulations.  The werewolf tried grinning, unfortunately the wires holding his jaw shut prevented it, though the sincerity in his eyes wasn't hard to miss.  

Leaving the girls to their chatter, Spike followed Wesley’s example and continued clearing away the dinner dishes.  Giles stared at the girls for a few moments longer, then got to his feet to follow the rest of the males into the kitchen.  Spike was loading the dishwasher while Wesley searched around for containers for the leftovers.  Placing his drink on the counter Giles wracked his brain for something to say, when Spike beat him to it.  “Go ahead, Rupes, it’s not like ‘m . . .” His voice trailed off and he looked at the older man.  “I know ‘m not what you wanted for her, so jus’ go ahead and say what’s on your mind.”

“Actually, Spike, I wasn’t thinking that at all.”  Staring down at the blunt tips of his fingers, Giles struggled for words to explain to his almost son-in-law.  “I’ve not had the opportunity to have children of my own.   Buffy is as close to me as my own flesh and blood would be.  She’s made her choice of mate, and honestly, I can’t say that I fault her.  And I’m not unhappy for you.  I was merely thinking of the implications of this news.  We are in dire straits – what with Angel and Drusilla roaming about Sunnydale and an obviously out of control Willow.  I’m concerned for your safety.  For Buffy’s safety.  And your child’s.  We need everyone at top form.”  He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose between two fingers, his gaze settling on the blond vampire.  “The claim strengthens you both, but this news, while not unwelcomed, presents us with another set of minor difficulties.”

Spike nodded his head in understanding.  “You aren’t sayin’ anything that hasn’t already gone through m’head.  But it’s not me you have to say anythin’ to, Watcher.  You need to speak to Buffy.”  He paused for a moment, looking at Giles, then said, “An’ you should do it soon.”
        
         

Chapter Text

Book Two.  

Chapter 35.  Patient for a moment.

A moment in time but time was made through that moment:
for without the meaning there is no time, and that moment of time gave the meaning.  
    T.S. Eliot, Choruses from The Rock

For one moment seek
a lesser beauty
and a lesser grace,
but you will find
no peace in the end
save in her presence.
    Hilda Doolittle, Amaranth

One who cannot be patient for a moment will have days and months of trouble.
    Chinese proverb




The girls were still chattering away in the dining room, while silence reigned in the kitchen.  Spike had stopped what he was doing to stare at Rupert, who was focused on his drink.

After realizing exactly what Rupert had just said, Spike cleared his throat.  “Did you just say you’re not unhappy?”  He put down one of the dishes, then asked, “Did you also say you were concerned about me?”

Giles cleared his own throat, still not looking at the vampire.  “Yes, well.  Perhaps I did at that.”

Wesley hid his grin, listening to the good natured by-play between his two fellow Englishmen.  “Rupes, ‘m touched I am.  An’ here I thought you didn’t love me t’all.”

“Pillock.”  Rupert was smiling and he’d said that last bit without venom.

Spike waited until Giles had taken a mouthful of the smooth scotch then observed with deceptive idleness, “Guess this makes you grandpa.”

Sputtering into his drink, Giles began coughing and choking, enough so that Wesley felt compelled to pound the older man’s back.  Oz was chuckling through his wired jaw and Spike was sporting a Chesire cat’s grin.

Having won this round of verbal one-upmanship that they all occasionally engaged in, Spike was feeling a bit magnanimous.  Handing Giles a towel, he said, “You get to dry tonight.”

“Bloody hell.”

Rupert sounded so much like Spike in that moment that they all guffawed.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Xander stared down at the all-too-still form of his first girlfriend. Why’d you cut your hair, Cordy?  Why didya never forgive me for that stupid mistake with Willow?  Why the hell did you ever go to LA? He had so many questions, so many things he wanted to – yet didn’t want to – know the answers too.

Her chest rose and fell minutely, the movements barely discernable.  The doctors had stopped the coma-inducing drugs, but other than muscle spasms, there was no improvement at all.  “C’mon, Cordy.  Wake up and gimme some Christmas cheer.  Day’s almost over and hey, look, I brought you something.”

Holding up a stocking full of chocolate candy, Xander waved it futilely over her still form.  Slumping dejectedly back in his chair, Xander let his hands drop.

The Buffybot stirred, then spoke, sounding far to cheerful.  “Xander.  You should talk to her because her heartbeat moves faster when you speak.”

“Huh?”

Pointing at the monitor, the bot said.  “I’ve become way good at reading these machines.  That one is for the heart.  Say something.”

“Sure.  What?”  Thinking hard, Xander realized the irony of his situation.  The motormouth who, at the moment, couldn’t think of anything at all to say.

“You’re a carpenter.  You build things.”  The smile on the bot’s features was blindingly inappropriate.  

“So?  And?”  He thought about it for a moment, shrugged and started talking about his job.

The bot stared at the monitor, watching the blips increase in speed as Xander droned on about nothing in particular.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Spike was out on the back porch, pale blue smoke curling around his head, echoing the rings puffing from his mouth.  The snick of the back door closing behind him did nothing to disturb his contemplation of the clear starry night.

He’d figured she’d make her way out here sooner or later, looking for him and a quiet moment.  

“Come sit with me, pidge.”

His voice was calm, no discernable emotion coloring its depths and she smiled, thinking about how well he could read her, and her never very clear emotions, even when his own were just as tumultuous.  

Smiling a bit, she plopped down beside him with sudden absolute gracelessness, as if her limbs had grown inches between the time she came outside and sat down.  Casting an eye in his direction waiting for him to poke fun, she ran through her own snarky, witty retorts.

When he remained silent, she almost felt cheated, since she’d been expecting his teasing commentary.

Spike stole a glance at the woman-child sitting beside him and hid a grin.

“Cough it up.”

Whipping her head around to look at him, she started to say something, then thought better of it and snapped her mouth shut, clicking her teeth together.

“You’ll explode if you don’t let it out, pet.”

Staring down at her hands, she realized something and before her brain could stop her mouth, she was blurting it out.

“We have the same hands.”

Very aware that wasn’t what she’d come out here to say to him, Spike raised an eyebrow and said nothing, more than content to wait her out.

“What was she like?”

At that Spike did look at her, wondering what – or rather – why, she was asking about this.  And why tonight.

“You said that she looked like me.  So, what was she like?”

He picked up one of those little girl hands that was very like his own and searched for something to tell her.

“Will the baby look like us?”

So that’s what she’s really thinking about.  “Platelet, I’d imagine some would come through.  Did with you.”  He laced their fingers together, squeezing hers tightly.  “Not gonna change how I feel ‘bout you, sweets.  Nothin’ could change that.”

“Spike. . .” Dawn’s voice was very quiet in the crisp air and for a second he could hear the echoes of his mother and Janet.

“Dawnie.  You’re always gonna be m’girl, yeah?  Jus’ because there’s a new one . . .”

He looked at her, watched as the one true feature they alone shared filled with tears and his resolve broke.  “C’mere, pidge.”

Settling her under his arm, Spike stroked her back.  “You were the first Summers to really trust me.  First one to love me.   Ah hah. . .”  he motioned her to silence.  “Know those were planted mem’ries, but the truth is, pidge, without knowin that, an’ knowin’ full well what I am, you still did all that.  Fake memories don’t mean shite in the long term, Bit, the truth is here.”  His hand rested over his unbeating heart, then his knuckles thumped against her chest.

“You’re mine, Dawnie.  Same way that one Buffy’s got all tucked up safe inside is.  You got here first.  An’ a bit differently, but who cares ‘bout that?”

He wasn’t sure he’d made her understand, since he couldn’t see her face, but when a big fat tear plopped down on his thigh, Spike thought maybe he did.

And when Dawn wiped her eyes, whispering, “Thanks, Daddy,” Spike knew it.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Everyone was sitting around, watching cheesy Christmas videos, bellies full and, in the case of Wesley, barely able to hold off napping, though Buffy wasn’t tired.  At least not at the moment.  Even Connor was sleeping, tucked into his portable crib in the corner of the living room, practically under the tree.  Scanning the room, she realized both Spike and Dawn were missing, but guessing where one was the other wasn’t far behind, she wasn’t worried about either of them.  She was, however, strangely hungry.  

And she wanted something she normally didn’t eat at all.  

She wanted . . . she didn’t know what she wanted.  Peanut butter and jelly?  Her belly rumbled its approval and following her impulse, Buffy headed straight for the kitchen.  Hopefully, there’s some there.

Half the sandwich was gone and she was busy looking for a glass to get some milk when she heard soft footsteps entering the kitchen from the dining room.  Without turning around, she poured herself a big glass of milk and following another impulse, she looked in the refrigerator for some butter.  

‘How’s your stomach?”  Giles’ soft question filled the air and though she had guessed it was him, Buffy stiffened just a little.  Aside from Joyce, this man was the one constant adult presence in her life since she’d turned fifteen and suddenly the bombshell she and Spike had dropped earlier seemed all the more like a really huge, big, enormous deal.

“Pretty okay at the moment.”  Buffy smiled at him, her milk mustache making her look like she was five. She bit into the sandwich, humming a mindless “happy-tummy” tune while she chewed.

Motioning to her face with a napkin, Giles said, “You’ve got a mustache.”

A soft giggle overtook her and Buffy wiped it away.  Knowing just by the look on his face that Giles had loads to say, and probably not all of it of the good, she put down the sandwich and said, “Okay, Giles, spill.”

“How are you feeling?”  The concern this time wasn’t feigned or forced so Buffy answered him honestly.

“Aside from the weirdness that is my inability to eat, pretty okay.  I’m mostly tired.”   Absently she put two pieces of bread into the toaster and made herself another half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

His eyes on her movements, Giles chose to say nothing about what she was doing, instead focusing on her words.  “So the nausea is manageable?”

“Well, no.  I didn’t exactly say that.”  She paused, finished her milk and then headed back to the refrigerator for more.  “My belly has put new meaning into rebellious.”

He couldn’t help the chuckle that surfaced at her deliberate over-exaggerated pronunciation of the word.  She certainly knew how to mangle the English language.  “Buffy.”

The toaster popped and Buffy headed for it, not exactly encouraging Giles to continue, but more than aware he was going to say what he felt was necessary, regardless of her feelings on the matter.  He remained silent however, as she neatly buttered the toast and popped one of the pieces into her mouth before the butter had completely melted.  Buffy closed her eyes, savoring the crisp toast crumbs and the melting buttery taste on her ultra-picky tastebuds, and smiled.

Giles watched her, an amused grin at her genuine delight at the taste of the toast playing about his features.   She caught his expression when she finally opened her eyes and Buffy smiled at him, blushing a bit at having been caught.  Without much of a preamble, he  took the opening her smile gave him, and spoke.  “I expected this to happen, just not quite this quickly.”

He paused while she approached the counter, one piece of toast in her hand and apprehension blooming on her features.  “I’ve no doubt you were anticipating this outcome also.”  Buffy fidgeted with the toast, her fingers shredding the bread into smaller and smaller pieces.  “It is the usual inevitable outcome when one is newly paired and not thinking clearly about methods of prevention.”

Excessive wordage.  Yup, definite signs of impending lecture from Watcher-guy-father-figure.  Stifling the sigh that threatened to escape from her lips, Buffy waited for the impending doom.  The silence loomed between them, and for once she realized that he was searching for a way to frame not only what he was thinking, but what he was feeling.  Never big with patience, something she more than had in common with her mate, Buffy started to speak, when Giles held up a hand, stopping the flow of her words before they even started.

“Hear me out.”  

And he suddenly found himself without the ability to speak as his Slayer’s eyes filled with unexpected tears.  Her lower lip quivered a bit, though before he realized the harshness of his tone, she inhaled deeply and stopped herself from crying.  “Buffy, I,” he looked on as her resolve firmed, then reached for her hand, “I am sorry, that was rather harsh sounding.  Forgive me?”

Without giving her more than a moment to shake her head, Giles forged ahead, although his first words perplexed her.  “Your mother was a fairly astute judge of character.  She never trusted Angel, even before the . . . well, and she trusted him even less after his soul was restored.  In hindsight, she was perhaps, smarter than the rest of us.”  

Giles shook his head, lost in remembrances for a moment, then brought himself back to the present.  “However, your mother did trust Spike from the first.  Why she did so always escaped me and we shared a few debates on the subject, especially in the last year, while we were battling Glory.  But your mother’s trust wasn’t misplaced at all.  In the end, she knew far better than I did, and that’s not something I relish admitting.”

Her eyes were trained on his, searching for something other than sincerity on his features.  “Spike has more than exhibited his trustworthiness.  However, that isn’t the issue.  The facts are, the situation we are in warrants caution and care.  Angelus and Drusilla are formidable opponents, ones we have faced before.  However it took the combined efforts of yourself and Spike to defeat them.  And you were in top form then.”

His glasses came off and Giles peered at her a bit myopically.  “You are obviously not in top form, which has me concerned.  And not just for you and your safety.  I’m concerned about the baby, and god help me, Spike.  Should something happen to you or the baby, Spike would. . .”

“Spike would rip Angelus and Drusilla apart.”  Buffy found her voice finally and her pronouncement was without inflection.  “You know it.  He wouldn’t rest until they were both gone.”

“Even Drusilla?”  Giles wanted to be certain that Spike’s loyalties where undivided.

“Giles.  If something were to happen to me or the baby. . .  Spike would. . .”

“Spike would wreak bloody havoc, Watcher.”  His voice broke into the quiet conversation, his tones harsh and chilling.  “Doesn’t matter who’s done it.”

Turning a slightly guilty countenance toward his Slayer’s mate, Giles caught the fierce and feral expression in his eyes, before Spike turned his head to gaze at Buffy.  “Not gonna let anything hurt my girls or the new one.  Should already know that, shouldn’t have to keep repeatin’ myself.”

Letting Dawn slip in behind him, before he very carefully closed the door, Spike moved to stand behind Buffy, his arms circling around her waist.  His hands clasped protectively together in front of her belly and Buffy sort of leaned back against his chest.  Spying the shredded toast and the remains of a  peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Spike nudged her gently.  “Did you eat something?”

“Yeah.  Not hungry anymore.”    

Before either of them could start arguing, Dawn interrupted, saying, “I’m just gonna go call Casey.  I’ll ah, talk to you later.  Thanks Spike.”  With that she was gone, pounding up the steps, escaping the uncomfortable atmosphere of the kitchen.

Giles knew he had to do some fence-mending and he needed to do it quickly, otherwise Buffy would, no doubt, not forgive him.  “My apologies.  I’m concerned about the situation, and I believe it’s warranted, given what we are facing.”  

They were all quiet for a moment, each one of them deep in thought regarding the current situation.  Spike was, as usual the first one to speak.  “Not like Angelus to move before he’s ready, though us rescuin’ the cheerleader probably put a crimp in his plans.  He’s likely to strike now, an’ then skulk away for a bit.”

“Any indication that other Aurelians might be responding to his call?”  Giles was worried about the number of possible opponents, knowing they had a finite number of battle ready warriors.  

“None yet.  Least a’ways none that I felt.”  The vampire shrugged, the motion pulling Buffy closer against him, her back molded to his front.

“I’ll be back to good as new in a couple of weeks.  This belly-achy Buffy can’t last for the next nine months.”

The two Englishmen shared a look over her head that Buffy didn’t catch.  “Kitten, dunno how much fightin’ you should be doing over the next couple of months.  Can’t take any chances.”

“Spike, I should be fine.  I’ve been doing this for years and well, I won’t go out without you.  Besides, we still have skirt-girl who can do regular patrol.”  He’d forgotten about the bot, but Spike knew there was a flaw somewhere in her plans, mainly because he hadn’t thought that far ahead.  He’d been overwhelmed with just the emotions surrounding the truth of their reality.  The reality of Buffy being pregnant.  The more practical implications hadn’t begun to register within him, up until these moments with Rupert.  Leave it to the Watcher to think of the practicalities of the matter, while he was more concerned with the emotions.  Buffy was lost in her own thoughts, hers straying not to far from Spike’s, although on some level she was aware of Giles’ concerns and worries.  
 
“We must also take into account Willow.  Heaven knows what she’s up to, or what side of the fence she’ll land on.”  Once again Giles was spouting practicalities and possibilities.  Letting go with a very loud yawn, Buffy leaned her head against Spike’s shoulder.

Giles caught a glimpse of the distaste within Buffy’s eyes and immediately changed the direction of the conversation.  “All that aside, you do realize this is a miraculous event.”

A slight smile twitched on Buffy’s lips and as she stole a glance up at Spike’s profile, she threw Giles’ words from earlier back at him.  “But isn’t it the inevitable outcome when one is not thinking clearly about methods of prevention?”

“Who said we were thinking about prevention?”  Spike’s voice was filled with laughter and some other emotion that Giles couldn’t really place.  ‘As I recall, most times wasn’t thinking clearly at all.”

Rupert stared at the pair of them, fighting his laughter, affecting a stern visage.  “Really, must both of you mock me?”

“Oh, Rupes, how to resist when it’s so bloody easy?”

“Oh ha bloody ha.”  Despite the sarcasm in his tones, Giles was teasing them and it was very evident on his normally impassive face.  Breaking into a very proud grin, Rupert clapped Spike on the black and leaned down to brush a kiss over Buffy’s cheek.  “Still in all, it’s a miracle.”

And, he thought, it’ll be another miracle if we manage to keep you safe.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Everything was in place, everything was ready.  Her supplies were in hand, spread out before her, the book opened to the correct page and Willow had stripped away all the useless bits from the spell.  Jonathan had tried to remake the world so that he was the center of it all; and thereby throwing everything off to the point of instability.  Willow had no desire to be the center – she didn’t want the fame or fortune or the notoriety that had followed Jonathan around after he’d invoked the enhancement spell.  No, that’s not what she wanted.  

Willow wanted everything to be the right way.  She wanted to be back with Tara, wanted to be Buffy’s best friend and the one Dawn turned to for advice and she wanted Giles to respect her.  And her power.  She wanted everything to be the way she thought it should be.

Spike gone.  Either back in his crypt or, hey, even further away.

Tara back in her bed, soft limbs and welcoming flesh around her, holding her close.

Buffy trading secrets with her about their lives and loves and all that encompassed being best friends.

That’s what she wanted.  Everything back the way it should be.

And that’s what she was going to get.

Beginning the chant to start the wheels in motion, Willow pursed her lips into her resolve face and got to work.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Finally, everyone who didn’t live in the house at Revello Drive was gone, back to their own homes.  Christmas was over.  Done.  

Buffy had survived her first Christmas without her mother and really, except for a few tough moments here and there, she’d been okay, and hadn’t let the tears fall.  Anyway, she wasn’t sure if the tears were there because her mother was gone or because she was all emotional girl because her hormones were getting wacky.  Spike was locking the door behind Giles and Wesley, turning out the lights as he made one final circuit through the house.  Watching him from the bottom stair, Buffy unconsciously rocked Connor in her arms.  The baby was barely awake, his eyes focusing on her features as he tugged on her lips and her hair.  Aside from the howling whenever he was hungry, Connor was a very good baby, even-tempered and quiet.  She found herself wondering which one of his parents he got those traits from, because in her experience, neither one of them ever exhibited any evidence of them.

Spike stopped in front of her, looking down at her, a smile playing about his features.  “Did you have a good day, love?”

“Yeah.  Did you?”

His smile widened and he wrapped an arm around her shoulder as he swooped down to kiss her.  “Had a great day.”

She bit her lower lip, looking up at him from beneath dark eyelashes, a question in her eyes.  “Really?”

“Really, sweetheart.”  

“Really, really?”  She shifted Connor up to her shoulder and one hand smoothed the front of Spike’s shirt, fiddling with the collar.  

“Really.  Truly.  Haven’t done the Christmas thing in a very long while, love, but it was great.”  His thumb reached up to brush away a wisp of hair from her cheek and she curled into his touch.  “Got the best gift.  You.  Niblet.  Spawn.  And now bittybit.”

“Bittybit? Spike, you are so gonna have to come up with something else to call this baby.  Bittybit is just weird.”  Her nose wrinkled and she pursed her lips, though there was a twinkle in her eyes that told him she was really teasing him.

“Makes sense, though.  Dawn is bitty-Buffy and this new one is bitty-bitty Buffy.”  He was trying to keep a straight face, but her soft giggles were infectious and he was having a hard time holding back the laughter.  

“Well, what if it’s not a bitty-bitty Buffy, but a bitty-bitty Spike?  What are you gonna do then?” She glanced at him over her shoulder as they climbed up the stairs and nonchalantly asked him, “Gonna call him lil’ bad?”

His answer was just a swat on her butt and a bit of a growl.  

“Is that supposed to scare me?  C’mon, Spike, what are you gonna call the baby if it’s a boy?  I’m so not dyeing an infant’s hair.  Or getting leather for a baby.”

“Ha bloody ha, woman.  Very funny.  Wouldn’t do that to a nipper.”  He pushed open the door to their bedroom, letting her precede him inside.  “And your hair color is the one you were born with.”

“Hey!  It’s close.”  Putting Connor down in his crib, Buffy turned to look at him.  “It’s closer than yours is anyway.”

A raised eyebrow and a pointed look at her pelvis was all the answer he gave her, though she could see what he was thinking on his face.  As she was about to retort, a wide yawn overtook her and Buffy slumped down onto the bed next to him.  “So tired.  Wanna sleep.”

“C’mon, love, into bed with you.”

He settled in behind her, spooning against her back, his arms wrapping around her.  His left hand splayed over her belly and Spike whispered into her ear, “Love you, kitten.  You and bitty-bitty-bit.”

Buffy laughed sleepily, whispering back to him, “I love you, too Spike.  You and lil’ bad.”

Chapter Text

Book Two.  

Chapter 36.  Missing

And there's a message that I'm sending out
Like a telegraph to your soul
And if I can't bridge this distance
Stop this heartbreak overload
    John Waite, Missing You, from the album No Brakes, 1983

And as I wander down to where you lay
The blood rushed up to meet the roses
In your hair
I thought I saw you smile
But now I don't see you anywhere
Whispering your love song in my ear
How can you touch me
When you're not really there?

Stumbling out I made my way towards the open door
Climbing fast the sun broad streaming
Laughter down into your empty gaze
Where can I find out
How I want to join in your games
I hear you calling
I hear you ... calling calling calling calling
Whispering your love song in my ear
How can you touch me?
How do you really dare?
    Arcadia, Missing from the album So Red the Rose, 1986





The first stirrings of an unhappy infant woke her from a fitful sleep and Buffy grumbled into her pillow.  So don’t want to get up.  Wanna sleep some more.  Why do I have to be the one all the time? Connor’s whimpers were becoming full fledged cries and Buffy realized she couldn’t ignore him any longer.  Lifting up the blanket, she wrinkled her nose and fought off the rolling nausea that was threatening.

Connor stopped howling when she lifted him into her arms, though didn’t stop his fretting.  This isn’t like him.  Wonder if he’s sick?  He rested his head against her shoulder, but kept crying, his little breaths hiccupping every couple of moments.  “Hey little man, it’s okay, Buffy’s got you.”

Even that didn’t calm him completely.  He settled down enough for her to realize her stomach was as unhappy as the baby.  Barely making it to the bathroom, Buffy vomited, narrowly missing the baby’s head.

Something’s really off.  Wish I knew what it was.  Where’s Spike?  He’d know what to do.
Buffy stopped wiping her mouth, staring at her reflection in the mirror.  Where did that thought come from?  Spike’s a pain in my butt.  Nothing more.  Right? Although the niggling thought about Spike knowing what was wrong and more importantly how to fix it wouldn’t go away.  Not while she rinsed her mouth, nor while she got herself and Connor dressed.  She couldn’t push it aside.

The smell of pancakes hit her nose before she was all the way downstairs and Buffy’s speed picked up as her stomach growled with anticipation.  “Hey, Wills.  Morning.”

Willow was flipping pancakes and stacking them on a plate.  Her greeting to Buffy was enthusiastic and the blond smiled back.  “Pancakey goodness.  Just what every hungry Buffy requires in the morning.”

“Morning, you two.  How did you sleep?”  Willow made a silly face at Connor, except instead of giggling like he usually did, the baby just started wailing again.  Willow pulled away, saying, “Guess someone isn’t a happy camper today.”

“Nope.  I think he woke up on the wrong side of the crib.”  Buffy shrugged, getting a bottle from the fridge.  “So what’s with pancakes this morning?”

“Nothing.  Just woke up early and figured I’d make everyone Willow’s special.”

“Ooh!  Chocolate chip?”  Dawn’s voice sounded from the hallway and she entered moments later all sleepy-eyed and disheveled.

“Yup.  Chocolate chippyness coming right up.”

Dawn squealed, hugging Willow then snagging a pancake all in one move.

Connor was fighting the bottle, pushing it away and crying.  Buffy jostled him a bit, but he wouldn’t settle down.  Dawn made a face, grimacing at the noise.  “Can’t you get the spawn to shut up?”

“Dawnie, he’s a baby and he’s obviously not feeling good.  Be nice.”  Buffy had a reproving look on her face, though Dawn didn’t back down.

“Brat does nothing but complain.  You need to find out what his deal is.”

Snagging a rolled up pancake, Buffy left the kitchen, muttering under her breath about bratty little sisters and how they should be more understanding.  Even as she did it, something about the wrongness of what she was saying and Dawn’s actions played on her mind.  Something was off about this morning and it wasn’t just Connor’s constant crying.  She just couldn’t put her finger on it.

Everything felt wrong.

From the moment she’d woken up until just now.

Something was missing.

Out of place.

Buffy sat down in the big chair, trying to calm Connor and he was just settling down when Willow came into the living room and held out her arms.  “Here, give him to me.  You get some pancakes.”

After a moment’s hesitation Buffy started to hand him off, but Connor’s entire body stiffened and he wailed his protest loudly, almost hysterically.

Afraid she would drop his suddenly stiff form, Buffy held him close, rocking him against her breast.  “Shush.”

Willow made to touch him and the baby visibly flinched again, burrowing closer to Buffy.  Pulling him away from the redhead’s touch, Buffy said, “No worries, Will, I’ve got him.  He doesn’t want anyone but me, I guess.  It’s okay.”

“You want me to bring you something?”  Willow backed away, apology written on her features.

“Yeah, that’s fine.  Just no syrup.”

It took a while though she finally got Connor calmed enough so she could eat.

Although she still couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very off.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The feeling of wrongness didn’t fade at all as the day wore on.  If anything, as the hours passed, it got worse.

Tara and Willow were cuddling on the couch, oohhing and ahhing over their gifts and some movie they were watching.

Dawn had gone out with Casey, spending the day together, out to dinner and then a movie.  At least that was their plan.

And through it all, Buffy felt off.  Wrong.  Out of touch with something vital.

Abruptly deciding she couldn’t stand it any longer, sometime around four o’clock, Buffy got out the stroller, bundled up the still whimpering Connor and headed for the Magic Box.  

That was another thing.  Connor.  He couldn’t stand to be near Willow – reacting physically whenever she was close and crying whenever Buffy wasn’t holding him.  She was at her wit’s end with the baby, unable to get him to stop whining for any period of time.  And she knew that wasn’t like him.

Her slayer sense was telling her something was wrong.

Connor’s behavior was telling her something was very wrong.

She just didn’t know what the hell it was.

Going to the Magic Box to see Giles would help.  He and Wesley would start with the research and that would help.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Spike couldn’t sleep.

He was up, pacing the confines of his crypt, moving from one thing to the next without being able to focus on any one thing.

Something was up.  Something was brewing.

Something’s not right.

The crypt smelled wrong, for one thing.

Unused.  Unlived in.  Empty.

Like he’d been away for a while and he had no memory of leaving Sunnydale at all in the last months.  He wouldn’t have done that anyway.  Buffy had asked for his promise.

Buffy . . .

Something wasn’t right there, though he couldn’t put his finger on it.  Was she in trouble?  Was Dawn?

Spike stopped his endless pacing, cocking his head to the side, thinking hard.  He’d woken up just after daybreak, in his chair, the television on.  Nothing really unusual there, only it didn’t feel right.  Nothing about today felt right.

He felt like part of him was missing.

Not that he thought it would do him any good, but maybe the Watcher would have some answers.

Heading down into the lower level, Spike figured it would at least eat up part of what was left of the day.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Wesley was tired.

Tired of hospitals.

Tired of falling asleep in chairs that didn’t accommodate his height.  Tired of beeping machines and over- solicitous nurses and smug doctors and exceedingly tired of listening to bad news.

So he was inordinately easily persuaded by Xander’s request to sit watch over Cordelia.

He didn’t protest when Xander dropped Anya at the Magic Box and announced he was going over to the hospital.  Wesley merely waved him off, unaware of Anya’s upset.

Giles noticed.

There wasn’t much about Anya that Giles missed these days.  That her face fell whenever Cordelia’s name was mentioned.  That her mood lightened the longer she was apart from Xander.  That there was an increasingly wistful look on her features whenever Buffy and Spike were nearby.

Wherever did that thought come from, old man?  There’s nothing between Buffy and Spike.  Right?

Giles was drawn from his thoughts by the appearance of his Slayer.  Pushing a pram.  With a softly whimpering infant.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Four solid walls and twenty-three hours a day in lock down don’t give a girl much more to contemplate other than navel lint and chin hair.  That is, if you happen to be a normal girl.

If you aren’t blessed with normalcy and instead are gifted and Chosen, four walls and twenty-three hours of solitude give a girl a long time to consider the meaning of dreams and portents.

And cryptic messages from higher powers.

Faith figured the only good thing about being locked up, aside from the GED she’d gotten, was the patience she’d learned.

Patience had been an indulgence she’d never allowed herself on the outside.  Now?  Now she had no choice but to learn patience.  And to hone her admittedly lacking interpretive skills.

So when the dreams started coming faster last spring, faces and voices disturbing her sleep, some she was more than familiar with and some she’d rather not know – Faith knew something big was going to go down.

And then, one night in late May, Faith had nearly lost it when a light in her soul went out.

She didn’t need the confirmation Angel’s next visit brought.  Faith knew.  Buffy had died protecting the world.  And she’d raged, in her own not-so-quiet way, taking out her emotions on some hapless fellow inmate, earning herself long nights and endless days in solitary.

The dreams and visions had shifted then, and Faith had more than an inkling of where her counterpart had gone.  She’d seen – or sensed – what had been done in Buffy’s memory.  Somehow the overwhelming, wrenching grief of one vampire reached into the other realms, alerting all super and other natural beings to the depths of his despair.

And it wasn’t the grief of the vampire that possessed a soul.

Faith had wondered, that time she’d switched bodies with Buffy, how William the Bloody had known – but the dreams answered that question.  It was more than apparent to Faith Spike’s feelings for Buffy were very real.  And very deep.

So when the dreams changed again – and this time including images of Buffy with Spike – Faith didn’t question the truth of them.  Somehow, and Faith wasn’t too clear on the specifics, but somehow Willow had brought Buffy back and now Spike was a big part of Buffy’s life.

Only now the dreams were changing again.

For almost the last week, the dreams had been getting darker and darker and more ominous.  If she was interpreting them correctly, and she really hoped she wasn’t, there was something up with Angel.  And it wasn’t good.

She hadn’t had any contact with the outside world since before Halloween.

That wasn’t normal.

So when she woke this morning, in a cold and clammy sweat, shaking with tears streaming down her face, Faith knew she had to act.

Time to get out of solitary.

Time to get out of this place.


Banging on the walls of her prison cell, Faith came up with and discarded at least ten different escape plans.  One way or another, I am so outta this hole tonight.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Spike was wondering why the hell he was feeling like he was missing a limb.  Drusilla wasn’t dust – and it wasn’t quite the same thing as when Darla got dusted.

This wasn’t nearly the same.

This was like his heart had a hole in it.

A Buffy-sized hole.

He stopped walking, his thoughts focusing inward.  There were bonds on his heart, in his blood that belonged there – and then there was this new feeling of incompleteness.  That was part of the wrongness.  Her Watcher might not believe him that something was off, but he would help.  He’d earned that much from him.

Resolve strengthening his steps, Spike took off again for the Magic Box, ignoring the other foot traffic in the tunnels.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


“I can’t get him to stop.”  Buffy was pacing the training room floor, Connor fretting and crying even as she held him.  It wasn’t any easier here in the Magic Box, except that the baby had stopped wailing.

He still cried when someone other than her tried to hold him, except he hadn’t stiffened up the way he did with Willow.

Right now, his head was on her left shoulder, snot and tears running down his little face and covering her shoulder.  Buffy had one hand rubbing his back while she had the other wrapped around his waist.  “Giles, he’s crying like his little heart is broken.  What is wrong?”

“I wish I knew.  My experience with infants is severely limited.  I have as much idea about what to do as you.”  Giles peered at her from his perch on the couch’s arm.  “Have you any ideas, Wesley?”

“Have you tried consulting one of the child-rearing books or websites?”  Wesley’s knowledge was as extensive as the other two – which put it at zero.  “I’m sorry, Buffy, I’ve no idea what could be wrong with the boy.”

Just then Connor let loose with a heartbreaking howl and Buffy turned tear-filled eyes to the two Englishmen.  “I can’t listen to this much longer.  He’s breaking my heart.  It’s been hours now and he’s still crying and shouldn’t he at least be so exhausted that he’d fall asleep?”

“I don’t know, Buffy.  I’m at a loss.”  Giles shared a look with Wesley, but neither one could come up with something useful.

Buffy plopped down on the couch between the two, a pout blooming on her features.

“What am I gonna do with this baby?”

“Give him here, Slayer.”  The baby jerked his head in the direction of the deep voice, almost jumping from Buffy’s arms.

Spike leaned down to take the crying baby from her and before any of the others could react, had him in his arms and Connor sighed once, then shuddered and promptly, blissfully, stopped crying.

Which was fine until Buffy looked up at Spike, saw the expression on his face and she promptly burst into tears.

“Hey now, what’s this all about?”  Spike couldn’t keep the concern from his voice, nor did he object when Buffy unexpectedly launched herself up off the couch and into his arms, nearly pushing aside the baby.

Spike looked to the other two Englishmen, though neither man had an answer for him.  They were as shocked as he when the Slayer had practically jumped into his arms.

“What’s wrong, kitten?”  Spike felt like part of the ache that had been gnawing at his heart had been eased by just looking at her – but he’d been wrong, because holding her nearly made it go away.  Didn’t matter when she only answered him by squeezing his waist and Spike knew something was seriously wrong when she didn’t let him go.

“Right then.  Watcher – something’s not right.  Woke up this mornin’ feeling something had gone off.”  He stopped talking when Buffy interrupted him.

“Told you something was wonky.  I woke up feeling all lonely like and that waking up alone was wrong.”  She pouted a bit, adding, “Even Connor felt it.”

“All right.  So the feeling of being off started when you both woke up.  What do you remember about this morning?”  Giles got up from the couch, his glasses in hand while he waited for a more detailed explanation.

“Nothin’.  Woke up.  ‘Cept the crypt smells like it hasn’t been lived in for months.”  Spike shrugged as well as he could with his arms full of Buffy and Connor.

“Woke up.  Threw up.  Got dressed.  Willow was making pancakes.  Connor screamed and wouldn’t let Willow take him so I could eat.”  Buffy sniffled again and Spike automatically nuzzled against her, then reeled back in reaction.

“Spike?”

Three voices said his name at once and all he could do was stare at her, his eyes sparking and nostrils flaring, drawing in unnecessary air.  Instead of speaking, which Spike wasn’t even certain he was capable of at the moment, he pulled her closer and inhaled deeply.

“Spike?”

Only Giles’ voice questioned him this time, because Buffy could feel the laxness in his muscles and also the almost inaudible rumbles that were rolling through him in waves.  Wesley was too caught up in his study of their faces to speak.  There was more going on here, more than just something being off.

Spike?”

Using his free hand, Spike pushed aside Buffy’s hair and ran his thumb over bite marks on the right side of her neck.  Buffy whimpered, then turned a liquid gaze on him.  His returning look was tender and fierce.  “Slayer’s claimed and mated, Watcher.”

“What?  Are you implying some vampire has claimed Buffy?”  Giles spluttered a bit, his eyes almost bugging out of his head.

“Implying nothing, Rupes.  ‘M stating a fact.  ‘ve claimed and mated your Slayer.  That’s my mark she’s got.”

The silence lasted for long moments and surprisingly it was Wesley who broke it.  “Do you think someone’s attempting to break the claim?”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Tara got up from the couch, leaving Willow to go make another cup of tea and grab something to snack on.  Riffling through the freezer, Tara spied a container of ice cream. Oh, this is good.  Huh?  The flavor was not one any of them liked, although Oz was known to indulge . . . where the heck did that thought come from?  How would I know Oz’ favorite flavor of ice cream?  And why would we have some here? Shrugging away the weird thought, Tara shoved the butter pecan back into the freezer.

Grabbing a bag of cheese doodles for Willow and some chex mix, Tara headed back into the living room.  She stopped short at the sight that greeted her.

Willow had turned out all the lights except for the ones on the Christmas tree and the flickering television, then slipped out of her fuzzy pink sweater, leaving her covered only by a lacy pink camisole and pajama pants.  Tara’s face got flush and her mouth watered.  Letting her dark lashes flutter over her eyes, she focused all her senses on her delectable girlfriend.  

And reeled back in sudden fear and doubt.

Oh goddess. . . what have you done now?!

What in all the heavens have you been doing?


Dark bands of angry colors swirled around her lover’s aura, like snakes writhing about decaying flesh.  Repelled, Tara drew back away from the sight, drew back from her lover.

Willow’s voice sounded in the air between them and Tara opened her eyes at the sound.

“Hey, baby.  Gonna come get comfy?”  Willow smiled at her and all negative thoughts fled.

Willow was love. . . Tara stepped forward, suppressing the shivers that slid beneath her skin, ignoring for the moment, her own intuition.

It had to be some other reason why her senses were screaming at her.  Couldn’t be Willow.

Couldn’t be.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


“Claims can’t be broken.”

Why Giles’ softly worded statement filled Buffy with relief she couldn’t say.  All she knew was the sudden irrational fear that sprung up with Wesley’s question eased.  Spike’s response, however, set her heart thumping loudly in her chest and brought inexplicable tears to her eyes and closed her throat.

“Doesn’t matter – even without a claim I’m not leaving.  Never gonna leave.”

Only he heard the hitched sob break from her throat, only he heard the thunderous beat of her heart as his words sounded in the air, his breath washing over her.  Only him.

Buffy turned watery hazel eyes on him and Spike felt the ache in his heart constrict, choking him.  Staring down into the green pools, he whispered for her ears only, “I love you, Buffy.  Even if somehow, something did the impossible an’ broke the claim – I’ll still love you.  An’ I won’t ever leave you.”

Her lower lip quivered, the threatening tears spilled over and she slipped a shaking finger over his lips.  “I . . .” Her voice broke, almost croaking and she tried a second time.  “I believe you, Spike.  I really do believe you.”

His lips kissed her finger, then brushed over her forehead.  Long fingers threaded through her hair, holding her close and Buffy brushed her own lips over the soft skin on his neck, next to where Spike cradled the baby.

Opening his eyes to look at her Spike realized they were alone, the Watchers giving them unasked for privacy.  Buffy shivered in his arms and Spike brushed another kiss on her temple.

“Need to get you warm, kitten.  When was the last time you ate?”

As he spoke he moved them toward the couch, pushing her down and handing off the baby.  When the whimpering didn’t start up again, Spike covered them both with his duster and called out for the Watchers.




  

Chapter Text

Book Two.  

Chapter 37.  What love can do

An illusion which is a real experience is worth having.
    D.H. Lawrence, The Ladybird

What staggers me is not the persistence of illusion,
 but the persistence of the world in the face of illusion.   
    A. G. Mojtabai, Mundome

Is not this whole world an illusion?
And yet it fools everybody.
    Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus

With love’s light wings did I o’erperch these walls,
For stony limits cannot hold love out,
And what love can do, that dares love attempt.
    Romeo and Juliet, act 2, sc. 2, l. 66-8.

This is one of the miracles of love:
It gives … a power of seeing
through its own enchantments
and yet not being disenchanted.
    C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed



Dawn kept looking over her shoulder, her eyes drawn to the dark shadows between buildings, the darker shadows where no light penetrated.  The feeling of something – or someone dogging their footsteps wouldn’t leave her and she knew her behavior was bugging Casey yet she couldn’t stop herself.

Being outside at night was somehow wrong.

Okay, it is Sunnydale and weirdness only gets weirder at night, but the feeling crawling along her skin right now was beyond ookie.  This was . . . I’m eleven again and there’s more than one evil vampire out there.

This was knowing the monsters in your head didn’t just exist there.

This was. . .  Nothing more than bad memories coming back to haunt you at the worst time, Dawn.

Rolling her eyes at herself, and her over-reaction to being out after dark without Buffy or Spike around, Dawn slipped her arm though Casey’s and ignored the darkness creeping closer.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Oz played with a melody that was working its way through his head, his eyes unfocused as his fingers plucked out the chords for the song he’d yet to finish writing.  The strains of the acoustic rang in the air of his otherwise quiet apartment and he couldn’t shake the image from his mind, the one his melody was invoking.

A scent teased at his nostrils, his clothes and skin covered with it and for a long moment Oz just let his mind drift.  Sandalwood and honeysuckle and dark blond hair, soft limbs. . .   Oz thought his mind was playing tricks on him when Tara’s face swam into his consciousness.  Why am I thinking about my ex-girlfriend’s new girlfriend?

Because – her scent is all over you.

Oz’ fingers faltered on the strings and he put the guitar down.  Memories and perceptions can be altered, but his wolf senses over-rode what his human mind knew.  His senses were telling him he’d been with Tara for days – without any hint of Willow anywhere.

Grabbing up his dry erase board, Oz left a note for his roommates and headed for. . . well, he wasn’t sure where he was going, but his nose would know.

                                
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    
It wasn’t hard at all to pretend panic.  

For some inexplicable reason, at least at the time, Faith had lied to the California State authorities upon her entrance into the penal system.  She’d listed Buffy Summers as her sister and next of kin.

And for some equally bizarre reason, no one had questioned it ever.

With the gut-clenching, throat-constricting fear riding her belly, Faith played her hand with the warden.  Thankfully, the warden was of the male persuasion – and not immune to Faith’s contrite act and more than willing to allow her to make a phone call, in exchange for Faith’s complete compliance.

Wasn’t the first time she’d sold the use of her flesh to get something.

Was just the first time she did it for someone other than herself.

Hope I’m there in time, B – otherwise this is just gonna piss me off more.

With a smile that never reached her eyes, Faith slipped out of the prison issued jumpsuit and got ready for another performance.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Spike had goaded Giles into ordering food for them all, using the argument that Buffy was exhausted and looked about to keel over from fatigue and hunger to get the old man to open his wallet.  Not that the older man minded.  He seemed to be willing to delve deeper into what both he and Buffy had been trying to tell them.  

The bell over the shop entrance rang and Spike got to his feet, surprised when Willow’s dog-boy came in with a white board and marker.  Wesley pivoted in his chair, his eyes pinned on the new arrival and Giles started to speak, but the phone ringing pulled his attention away from their visitor.

“Oz?”  Buffy’s question broke the silence at the same moment Giles picked up the receiver.

The werewolf smiled, which consisted of nothing more than a raising of his upper lip and he pointed to the dry erase board.  “Something’s up.  I smell like Tara.”

He’d expected a bit more of a reaction than he got, which was Spike merely tossing aside a book he’d been reading, then head for the training room as a distressed groan emerged from Buffy; and Wesley pivoting on his chair, then writing down something on the papers beside him.

The arrival of Willow’s former boyfriend triggered a memory within Wesley that he felt an almost desperate need to write down before it eluded him.  The words poured from his pen, in short flowing script and Wesley fought the pull of the distraction of the voices around him.  The growing list of  – warnings from a grim-voiced Dawn, repeating words in a language she did not speak surfaced in his head and Wesley quickly wrote them down, ignoring the discussion going on over his head.

Can’t help but think this is all in some way connected.  The images in my head, the cryptic warning. Wesley laid it out on paper, then spoke, interrupting whatever discussion was being conducted around him.  “Do either of you have any recollection of a message delivered by Dawn?”

Spike and Buffy shared a look, though it was Giles who spoke.  “Was it delivered in Gaelic?  Or some other . . . I’ve a sense of something teasing at the edges of my memory and I cannot seem to grasp it completely.”

“Yes.  That would be my vague recollection also.”  Wesley jotted down another note, idly noting that Spike once again had the whimpering baby in his arms.  “When was the last time the baby had a bottle?”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


There were a couple of moments, especially when everyone first woke up, that had given Willow butterflies.

When the baby screamed and wouldn’t let me hold him.

When Buffy got a far-away and distracted look on her face.

When Tara had gone to get snacks earlier.


Every time something like that happened, Willow held her breath, hoping – praying the spell would hold and solidify.

The spell itself was perfect – and she even used English – not some other ancient obscure language that she couldn’t speak.  The ingredients for the casting had been perfect.

Her intentions were clear.

It was a simple stupid spell – so how come when she’d cast it there had been – some sort of mystical block?  No, wasn’t a block . . . was more like ties – threads, braided together into a beautiful and unbreakable tie.  Bonds.

Willow couldn’t trace the source of whatever it was – couldn’t figure out what exactly was stronger than anything she’d ever encountered before – so she just ignored it, tried to pretend it didn’t exist.  Yet she couldn’t just ignore something that was eternal and elemental, deep and strong as an ocean and as solid and sturdy as the earth’s core.  And because she couldn’t just ignore it she had serious doubts about the spell’s stability.  She had a horrible sinking feeling that it was going to come crashing down – and she was filled with doubts about what she’d done.

Tara stroked her hand down Willow’s arm, brushing her knuckles deliberately over the sides of her sensitive breasts and Willow’s resolve and faith in her actions was bolstered.

I did the right thing.

This is the way it’s supposed to be.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


He didn’t know what had given the Slayer’s people the arrogance they were currently exhibiting, and he honestly didn’t care, because they were playing right into his hands.  The smell of the little girl and the boy was intoxicating – deliciously fresh and untouched – both of them.  Inhaling deeply, his senses focused on the two teenagers walking boldly down the dark streets of downtown Sunnydale.  Ahhhh, untouched virgins. . .   Angel watched them swinging their hands between them, noting the body language of not-yet-lovers and smirked.

Soon . . .

The Slayer’s sister stopped, peering around and checking shadows for . . .  Me?

Oh, this is touching. . . she’s feeling something following her and she’s sensing. . . 
  Realizing that he didn’t want to fully reveal his presence until he was ready, Angel slipped further away, taking to the rooftops instead of being on street level.  It would be harder for the girl to sense him.  

He was in the mood to play with his prey, to stretch out the hunt.  

Let Dru deal with all the guests . . . Daddy’s girl loves a party anyway.  I’ve got better things to do with my night.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Obviously this wasn’t Connor’s first trip to the Magic Box, because there was canned formula and a bottle on a shelf in Giles’ office, which they managed to get heated by jury-rigging something with the electric teapot.  He stayed quiet as long as Spike held him, which by turns amused the Slayer and aroused a sense of jealousy that she couldn’t control.  

“How come you can get him to be quiet?”  Her pout was adorable, and Spike wondered what the Watchers would do if he actually acted on his impulse to pull her onto his lap and nibble on it while someone else tended the baby.

“Dunno, sweets.  Might be the lack of heartbeat or the boy’s sense of smell.”  Instead of diving for her lip, Spike looked away, catching the speculative look on Giles’ face.  “What’s that old man?”

He shook his head.  “Loathe as I am to admit it, you do have a probable reason why the infant reacted the way he did.”  Giles reached for one of his personal journals, thumbing through it for a moment before continuing.  “He is only a few months old and his mother lacked a heartbeat for nearly the full term of her gestational period.  It’s quite possible that the lack of same is a comfort for him, instead of alarming.”

Apparently he found what he was looking for, because he stopped speaking then said, “By the way, Buffy, that was Faith on the phone.  Evidently she’s had a few alarming Slayer dreams in the past week.  Have you been plagued similarly?”

Without moving from her spot in front of Spike, Buffy glanced over at Giles, snuck a glance back at Spike as she rolled her eyes and said, “No, Giles, I haven’t had any Slayer dreams. . . but then would I remember if I did or didn’t?”  Spike hid the grin while she started on a rant.  “Isn’t this part of why we’re here?  Because something’s off and none of us can make with the eureka! I’ve got it?”

“Actually it’s eureka! I’ve found it.”  

“So not the point. You know what I mean.”  Buffy gave him a look that spoke volumes about his nitpicking over word usage and faced her Watcher squarely.

“Spike and Connor have bonded, which is wiggy enough.  Spike has claimed me, which should be even wiggier and isn’t. . . Oz smells like Tara which is . . .” A strange look crossed her features and Buffy burped then made a face like sour milk had curdled in her belly and before any of them could ask her what was wrong now, she grunted and ran for the bathroom.

Her retching could be heard through the suddenly quiet shop and without thinking about his actions, Spike stood up, handed the baby off to Wesley and took after Buffy.  The other three men exchanged looks while Anya quickly shooed the last customers from the shop.

“Giles?  I think there’s something wrong with Buffy.”  Anya stepped in front of him, a quirky smile on her face that looked more likely to turn into tears than not, and she said, “Perhaps you should make sure the claim is okay before we do any more research.  Claims that are tampered with can be . . . well, I’ve actually never heard of anyone trying to tamper with a claim, but there’s always a first for everything.”

“Indeed.  Perhaps you are right.”  Directing Wesley to hand him one of the books on his desk, Giles said absently to Anya, “You might want to see what’s keeping dinner.”

Handing his journal to Wesley, Giles pointed out the passage he’d been searching for, then turned his own attention to the other book.

“So you did make note of this prior to today.  Have you looked for any other, well, clues, wouldn’t be an improper word, would it?”  Wesley wrote down something else on the papers, using Rupert’s journal as a guide.

“Hhmm?”  Giles didn’t look up from his reading until Oz banged his hand on the table, trying to get the Englishmen’s attention.  “What?”

“Oh, dear.”  Oz was writing furiously on his board, erasing and starting again, when Giles reached out and stayed his hand.  Looking down into the concerned eyes of the werewolf, Giles asked once, “Are you certain it was Angel?”

The only answer he got was the squeak of the marker against the board.

It was enough.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Buffy was crying.

She was on her knees, hunched over the toilet, her stomach clenching hard, bile and the remains of everything she’d eaten that day forcing their way back up her esophagus.  A hiccup escaped her mouth and she groaned softly, trying to force air into her body.

The creak of the door opening behind her was masked by the upsurge of vomit which also explained why she jumped when a damp hand-towel was pressed against her face.

“Breathe, kitten.”  His voice was a welcome sound, his presence solid against her back.  Strong hands slid around her belly and lifted the hair off her neck and cool lips nuzzled behind her right ear.

She leaned into him, letting the small movements of his hands and fingers calm the tempest raging inside her.  From beneath lowered lashes she watched the muscles of his forearm flex and move – the actions lulling her into serenity.

“Do you love me?”  Her whispered question, if it startled him, didn’t show in his movements.  They remained strong and steady, matching her slowing breaths.

“I do.”  The vibrations of his chest deep voice rolled through them both and she settled closer into his embrace.

“How long do you think we’ve been mated?”  Her voice was oh-so-soft, and he could feel when speaking made her belly clench.

“Doesn’t matter.  For-bloody-ever.  A day.  Time doesn’t matter.”  Spike settled his weight, shifting so that she was shielded between his limbs, his body surrounding her, protecting her from the outside world.                

Buffy’s fingers entwined, playing with the rings she wore.  “So nothing can break this, right?”

“Right.  Leastways that’s what the legends all say.”  Trying for a bit of levity, he quipped, “‘Course the legends also mention yours truly.  Used to be Big Bad . . .”  A sigh escaped him and he caught her twisting hands in one of his.  “I love you.  Doesn’t matter what’s going on now with this nonsense.  This wrongness we’re both feelin’.  One thing I do know is that I love you.  Promised you I’d never leave.  That means never.”

Meshing their fingers together he continued, “Claim means ‘m yours and you’re mine.  For always.”

Lifting her hands to his mouth, Spike kissed both palms, folding each hand into a fist.  “Promise.”

Buffy stared down at the fists he’d made, then slipped the ring on the middle finger of her left hand off.  It was white gold or silver with delicate filigree on the exterior, like lace leaves or vines.  Inside was an inscription she couldn’t read.  Before she could stop herself, Buffy pointed it out to him.  “What’s this mean?”

He took the ring from her, mumbled something that sounded like “poesy ring” then stopped.  When he spoke again, Buffy didn’t understand the language, but it didn’t matter because Spike did.  “Eras, es, eris meorum solum amorum aeternum.”

“Meaning?”

Spike shifted so he was looking into her eyes.  “You were, you are, you will be my only love eternally.”

“Oh.”  Buffy stared down at the circle in his hands, her teeth biting at her lower lip.  A watery shimmer covered her vision for a moment and she glanced up at him.  There was so much emotion – his jaw was clenched, his eyes dark and intent, almost midnight blue, blazing into her, reading her soul.  

“Yeah.  Oh.”  A slight smile – not a smirk at all, crossed his lips and he leaned closer then pressed his lips against her forehead.  Buffy laid her head on his shoulder, her hand covering his open palm, the ring held tightly between them.  

“This so beats the other ring you gave me.”

He chuckled, the sound reverberating against her ear, the movement of his chest forcing her closer to him.

“Do you have any ideas about any of this?”

Spike twisted their hands so that their fingers were clasped, the ring still between their palms.  “Lots.  Not sure any of them might explain all of this.  Got more questions than answers, and more as the night goes on.  Right now ‘m worried why your innards are rebelling and determined to be out.  The rest can wait a bit.”

Buffy made a face, wrinkling her nose and furrowing her brow at his mention of her stomach.  Her thumb brushed over his index finger.  “Can we. . . I dunno what it is.  Could it be part of the wonkyness or is it something else?  And is there any way to tell?”

Spike’s shrug shifted them both and he nudged his nose against her hair.  He sniffed her, then shifted her a bit more in his arms.  “You smell different – like me an’” He did it again, then pulled back a bit.  Shifting their hands, he eased the ring back on her finger then brushed his thumb over the marks on her neck.  “These are fresh – like we renewed the claim – not that it needs it.  Do you trust me?”

They were face to face now and Buffy’s eyes were trained on his, not once wavering.  Her lashes lowered and she whispered, “I think you’re the only one I do trust.”

“Don’t . . .   Christ, Slayer, you. . .” He shook his head, for once words escaping him.  Clearing his throat, Spike took a moment to compose his thoughts.  “Don’t get angry with me kitten, but, I think I need to do this.”

“Do what?  Bite me?”  Buffy watched the look on his face change and she blurted out, “I can feel you, what you’re feeling, almost what you’re thinking and that was pretty clear.  And,” she added almost shyly, “I think I want that too.”

“Right then.  Won’t take much, just enough to know.”  He kissed her forehead then trailed his lips down her hair to the marks on her neck.  His tongue licked over her skin and tingles swept through her nerves.

“Oh. . . oh.”  Her breathy little gasps urged him on and her fingers digging into his forearms caused an answering rumble in his chest.  “Please.”

The second he morphed into game face Buffy shivered, her body knowing what was about to happen, even if her mind wasn’t fully capable of remembering.  His fangs grazed the marks and the shivers increased, edging her closer to him, her hands easing up his arms to reach under the hem of his sleeves.  Latching onto her neck, nipping at the vein pulsing beneath her skin, Spike gently eased into the marks, reopening them.  At the first pull, his eyes flew open wide and the growl emerging from his throat echoed in the small bathroom.  On the second mouthful the growls subsided into chest deep purring, while Buffy clawed at the skin of his shoulders, raising finger-tip sized welts over his skin.  She sighed as he licked closed the punctures, her head pillowed on his strong arm, watching his jaw for his reaction.

From behind hooded eyes he stared at her, a look on his features that she was willing to swear she’d never seen before.  It was feral, possessive, and it reinforced to her that she was still dealing with a master vampire, one who held an enormous power over her life. . . and her heart.

“Spike?”  Her hand reached out to him and he caught her fingers between his teeth.

“Buffy. . . you’re pregnant.”

“I am?”  Fear filled her gaze as she scrambled to understand.  “No, I wouldn’t . . . if. . . cheat, I . . . that’s not me.  I’m not that girl and I wouldn’t do that if we are together.  Spike, you have to believe me.”  Her belly clenched, fear riding high, her heartbeat accelerating, thundering in her ribcage.  “I swear I didn’t.”

He stared at her while she babbled, a blank expression on his face, then as her words reached him, he pulled her close, brushing his lips over her forehead.  “Kitten . . .  Buffy. . .  Buffy.“

Her words finally trailed off when his fingers dug into her shoulder, she turned scared eyes to him.  “Dunno how it’s possible, an’ right now, it hardly matters.  It’s mine.”

Relief flooded through her and she slumped in his arms.  “Oh, thank god.”

This time he smiled, ending the tense moment by pulling her against his chest, his strong arms wrapped around her.  “Mine, kitten.  Both of you.”

Insistent knocking and Rupert’s voice from the other side of the door pulled them from the short peace of their moment.  “Buffy?  Spike?  We need to talk.  Oz remembered his attacker was Angel.  And I’ve also found one of my journals.  Can you please come out so we aren’t conversing through the door?”

“Give us a moment.  We’ll be right there.”

Having to settle for that, Rupert snapped his journal closed and walked back into the shop area.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



They were eating pizza, uncaring of his presence just beyond the bright lights of the restaurant.  Angel crouched down, perched on the rooftop of the building opposite, his eyes trained on the two teenagers.

He could taste the anticipation running through his nerve endings.  Time to make his move. . . she knew something was following them.  Despite her seeming unconcern, Angel knew the Slayer’s sister couldn’t be this ignorant.  And it was time.

Time for the Slayer and her pet vampire to know.  

Know he was waiting. . . watching.

The two teens got up from the table, heading for the door, both of them laughing and smiling brightly.

A smirk crossed his features and Angel let them cross the street, dropping to the ground soundlessly when they walked past his perch.

Time . . .

Chapter Text

Book Two.  

Chapter 38.   The monsters of our childhood

There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.
    Andre Gide

Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.
    German Proverb

He who fears something gives it power over him.
    Moorish Proverb

It's been said that fear of the unknown
is an irrational response to the excesses of the imagination.
But our fear of the everyday, of the lurking stranger
and the sound of footfalls on the stairs,
the fear of violent death and the primitive impulse to survive,
are as frightening as any X-File, as real as the acceptance that it could happen to you.
    Mulder, X-Files

Hope is ambiguous, but fear is precise.
Leo Rosten



Faith hung up the phone, confusion swirling in the depths of her dark brown eyes.  Something was up with Giles, he was less clear than usual – she had barely understood what he was saying.  It was almost like they’d been having two or three different conversations.  So it had been a couple of years since she talked to him, she didn’t think the old man had lost it in that amount of time.

Going over everything they’d said, Faith realized it was like her dreams, the messages all jumbled and incoherent until she caught onto the pattern.  Okay, girl, what’s the friggin pattern?  What was watcher-man saying. . .  And not saying?

Her hand still on the receiver, Faith closed her eyes and cleared her mind.  Something’s seriously wrong in SunnyD.  That much I got.  Something else is up and they haven’t figured it out yet.  All righty then.  Forcing her mind to clear once more, she stared at the phone.  The urgency that had been goading her for days notched higher.  There was . . . turning away from the phone, Faith eyed the trussed and tied-up warden.

“Sorry, dude.  Gotta motor.  Duty calls.”

She realized the irony even as she spoke the words, though she pushed it aside.  Snagging the warden’s car keys and emptying his wallet, she smiled, flashing a dimple at the man.  “I’d take you with, but, dude, you’d just slow me down.”

She bent down, smirking as his eyes followed her cleavage, quipping, “Thanks for the ride though” and knocked him out with one blow.

Sauntering through the office doors, Faith headed for the guard’s locker rooms.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 
Oz and Wesley were trading notes, though it was more like Oz was writing while Wesley questioned him, when Rupert returned to the public area of the shop.  He was stopped short by a small sound coming from his office.

Hesitating beside the open door, Giles spied Anya sitting at his desk, the day’s receipts spread out before her.  Normally this was one of her favorite pastimes, counting the day’s totals, but today, she wasn’t enjoying it.  Her hands were fisted around some bills and her head was bowed, tears streaming from her eyes.

“Anya?  Is it that bad?”  He stepped into the room, concern etched on his features.

She sniffled, wiping her eyes, getting the money all wet.  “No.  It’s fine.  I’m fine.”

“Anya dear, we’ve either lost the shop or. . . what’s wrong?”  

Her little laugh ended in a sob.  “We haven’t lost the store and my management of our funds won’t allow that.  It’s not the shop at all.”

“Ah.  Would you tell me anyway what’s troubling you?”  He couldn’t imagine what had her so upset, because nothing ever seemed to faze her, she was always so cheerful.  ‘I don’t like seeing you this upset.”

“I don’t think Xander loves me the way I want him too.”  She put the money down on his desk, turning tear-filled eyes on him.  “He ignores me.  He yells at me.  And I don’t remember why.”

“There, there.  I doubt that’s the way of things.  You’re just reacting to the stress of the day.”  He awkwardly patted her back, unsure of how to help her.

“What stress?  I’m not stressed at all.  I don’t have any stress.”  Anya moved under his arm, putting her head on his chest.  “How come he can’t be more like you?”

There wasn’t anything he could say to that, no phrase or comfort he could come up with to make her feel better.  So he did what his body, instead of his brain, wanted.  Rupert brushed his hand over her hair and pulled her head toward his, sweeping a kiss on her temple, he found himself with an armful of former demon.  Anya wrapped her arms around his neck and smiled through her tears.  Not liking the look of sadness and despair in her whiskey eyes, Rupert threw caution to the wind and kissed her.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Willow laid small kisses over Tara’s shoulder, her small hands cupping around a soft breast, thumb slowly flicking her nipple.  Sliding her body around Tara’s side, she latched onto the nipple, her teeth gently scoring over the puckered flesh.  Her fingers trailed downwards, circling her navel, then dipping lower to play between the folds of Tara’s sex.

Her lover arched up into her hands and mouth while Willow’s mind chanted the litany she’d been repeating to herself throughout the day.

This is the way it should be.

I did the right thing.

This is what should be.  Where I should be.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


“Yours.”  Buffy’s gaze searched his for any hint of untruth, but Spike’s eyes were clear and steady, bright and intense upon her.

“Not far along I’d guess, but I imagine that’s part of why everything’s off.  The claim wouldn’t allow any mojo to block it and. . .” He stopped speaking when a tear dropped on his hand.

“Kitten?”

“I never thought. . . babies weren’t supposed to happen.  Slayers aren’t . . . I guess I stopped thinking about a normal life a long time ago.   I guess I sort of gave up hope, after being. . .  After Riley. Spike?  How come I can remember stuff like Riley leaving and Mom being dead and fighting Glory, but I can’t remember anything else?”  Buffy clutched at him, panic starting to filter through her.

“My guess is someone’s got some serious mojo working so we’ll forget.”  He got to his feet, pulling her up after him.  Reaching under the sink, Spike pulled out some mouthwash.  “Here, use this.”

Waiting while she did, Spike ran his hand down her back, gliding his arm around her, then splayed his hand over her belly.  His voice sounded in her ear, raising gooseflesh and triggering her nerve endings.  “When this is all sussed out, kitten, we’re gonna celebrate this news.”

She couldn’t see his reflection in the mirror, though she could imagine the look on his face.  When she turned to look at him, Buffy wasn’t disappointed with the guess.  His lips met hers in a searing kiss and Spike threaded his hands through her hair.  He held her close for long moments, reluctant to release her.

“Let’s go see what the Watcher wants.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The Huntsman woke from sleep, eyes unfocused, ears pricked to sounds only he and the hounds under his control could hear.  The first hound growled lowly, waking the others.

His face turned to the east, the Huntsman got to his feet.

“Time is on us, lads.”

His words weren’t necessary, since the hounds too had heard the wind’s whisper and they were at attention, their heads poised, bodies tense and ready to spring.

At the cave’s entrance, the Huntsman stopped.  His hand raised and an eerie whistling filled the night, stilling the air.

As one, the hounds bayed into the night, shuffling and edging forward.

Once more the Huntsman paused, whistled, then let loose the hounds of hell.

Their forms were darker shadows in the night as they sought their prey, gliding on silent padded feet through the streets of the hellmouth.

    
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Angel closed the distance, his strides drawing him nearer and ever nearer to the two oblivious teens.

He could smell their arousal now, so new and unfocused, they couldn’t possibly understand – but he did – oh, he did.

Circling around them to meet them head on, Angel wiped his face of any expression.  Best to hide behind his other self until it was too late.

Ahhh . . . there they are.

Keeping his voice carefully neutral, Angel stopped in front of the two.  “Hello, Dawn.”

Dawn’s head snapped up at the sound of his voice.  She hesitated, unsure of why he might be in Sunnydale, wary of his presence.  Angel being around is never of the good.  “Hey, Angel.  Looking for Buffy?”

“Yeah, I came to see her.  She, ah, wasn’t home.”  The lie came easily, but he knew Dawn  hadn’t been home since before nightfall, and it was going on eleven.  “Shouldn’t you be on your way home?”

“We’re heading there now.  Not like you’d know if I had a curfew or anything.”  Dawn got in her dig, which he let slide.

“Dawnie?”  The boy took her hand, pulling it and her closer to him.

“Sorry.  Angel, this is my boyfriend Casey.  Casey, this is my sister’s ex.”  Dawn shrugged, then said despite the alarms going off in her head, “So like she’s probably out, doing that walking thing she does all the time.  You should go look for her.  C’mon, Casey.”

Dawn, tugging Casey behind her, started to move around Angel, who sidestepped to allow her, then caught her arm.

“Yeah, about that.  See, the thing is, I can’t let you.  Go home that is.”

His grip was tight, not allowing her any movement.

“Angel, what’s your deal?  I gotta go home.”  She tried pulling away, but his grip tightened on her, bruising her, fingers digging deeply into her skin.

“Dude, we gotta get home.  My parents are gonna freak if I get in late.”  Casey stepped closer to Dawn, standing between the two of them.  Dawn freed her hand from Casey’s grip, winding her fingers around his upper arm.  Worry for him became paramount, because Casey had no idea what Angel really was.

“Lemme go.  I’ll tell Buffy you’re looking for her.”  Dawn managed to free her arm from Angel’s grasp, starting off toward Revello Drive.  “See ya.”

“Dawn.  I can’t let you go.”  This time he pulled on her hair, fisting it around his hand.  His voice was low, yet the menace was clear.  “You are my message to your sister.”

“Casey.  Run.”  Dawn ground out, fighting against the pain of her hair being pulled.  “Get to the Magic Box.  Get Buffy.  Or Spike.”

He stared at her for a few seconds, indecision clear on his features.  Her head was almost horizontal now, Angel tugging her closer and closer to him.  Tears sprang to her eyes and Dawn pleaded with her boyfriend.  “Casey.  Go, please.”

Angel grabbed her by the throat.  “Enough talking, Dawnie.”  He glanced at the boy.  “That’s it.  Be a man.  Run while your girlfriend protects you.”

Fighting off Dawn’s struggles, Angel lifted her by the neck, her feet inches from the ground.  “That’s it, Dawn.  Fight me.”

Casey hit him just under his upraised arm, almost knocking him off his feet, loosening his grip around Dawn’s neck.  Grabbing her hand, Casey tugged her after him, his feet already moving.  “C’mon, Dawn, we gotta move.”

She was coughing, trying to draw in breath so she could run, but Dawn couldn’t open her throat to speak, much less scream.  So when Angel once again grabbed her, all the signal Casey got was her being pulled from his hand.

Casey whirled around, looking about for Dawn.  There was a crumpled form a few feet away and Casey ran toward it, recognizing her jacket.  Blood darkened her face and her jacket but she was breathing, because he could hear the harsh gasps rasping from her throat.  “Oh god, Dawnie.  Oh god.”

He knelt down beside her, pushing aside the hair covering her face and nearly threw up.  Long furrows had been raked over her face, splitting open the skin of her cheek.  Gathering her up, Casey tried to get to his feet with her in his arms.

Staggering upright, he nearly dropped her twice before he got twenty feet, yet he tightened his grip on her and set off for Sunnydale General.  He’d call her sister from the hospital.

So focused on Dawn, Casey never realized his every footstep was being followed.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


“So what’s the sitch?”  Buffy faced two Watchers, one vampire, one werewolf, and an ex-demon and didn’t feel that was the least bit strange.

“Oz says it was Angel that attacked him.  Wesley’s got a list of what feels off.  And Faith called.”  Giles furrowed his brow, adding, “I realize that none of this makes any sense and I believe that is a large part of our problem.”

Wesley spoke next.  “It appears someone – whether human or demon – attempted some sort of spell.  Somehow the mating bond you and Spike share partially blocked the effects of said spell.  And in doing so, it altered the stability of the entire spell.”

“The problem appears to be there are other events or situations the spellcaster was ignorant of.”  Giles took up the litany.  “And while that shouldn’t normally affect a spell, in this case, those circumstances appear to be triggering our memories of what actually is going on – opposed to what the spell is actually telling us.  Or rather what our altered reality is telling us.”

“So that means?  What exactly?”  Buffy’s head was swimming.  Giving in to her impulse, she pushed Spike back from the table and sat down on his lap, which mirrored his earlier impulse.

Strangely enough, no one else batted an eye.  Anya had already closed the shop and Connor was sleeping quietly in his stroller.  Spike laced his hands around her, then brushed a kiss on her shoulder.  The talk continued and Buffy closed her eyes for a minute and promptly fell asleep.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


She ditched the car in south-central Los Angeles, stealing another one more than two miles away.  Faith figured they’d spend a while looking for her in Los Angeles and by the end of the week they’d start looking in Sunnydale for her.  Might not ever stop searching LA, coz this piece of shit is probably stolen also.

That’s what she was hoping for anyway.

Every time she passed a cop she tensed up, her entire body on wild alert.  Gotta chill.  So far, so good.  Just gotta keep my cool.

Faith drove through the night, anxiety keeping her adrenaline high.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Angel watched the boy falter again.

Safety and the hospital weren’t that far away – but he wasn’t going to let them reach the false sanctuary.

“You’re a brave boy.  Carrying a bleeding girl through the streets of the hellmouth with who knows what kinds of demons following you.”  Angel’s tone was conversational, though it still made the hair on the back of Casey’s neck stand up.

“What the fuck?  Dude, get the hell away from us.”  Casey kept walking, trying to ignore the looming figure matching him step for step.

“Wow.  That’s no way to greet the guy who’s been watching your back for the last half hour.”  Angel shook his head.  “I’m really disappointed.”

“Look, dude, I don’t know who you are and I don’t really care.  You hurt my girlfriend.  So just leave us alone.”  Casey’s tone was a mix between belligerent bravado and rising fear.  Dawn started stirring, soft whimpers sounding in the air and Casey tried picking up his pace, but his arms and back weren’t strong enough to carry Dawn’s inert form for so long and he was tiring.  He faltered and Angel snickered.

“You’re going to drop her.  There’s no way you’re going to make it to the hospital.  Face it, boy, you just aren’t strong enough.”  The grin broadened and Angel laughed when Casey stumbled.

“Such a foolish brave boy.  Too bad you won’t ever be a man.”

Angel struck, knocked Dawn from his hands, the blow rocking Casey nearly off his feet, splitting his lip and snapping his head back.

Casey reeled, shaking his head.  “What the fuckWhat is your problem?”

“Your girl is my problem.  Her existence and her sister’s.”  Angel circled round him, kicking Dawn in the side as he moved around her.  

Casey shouted, then raced back to Dawn’s side, dropping to his knees.  “You’re a sick fuck, beating on girls.”

He tried lifting her in his arms, but the hit Angel had given him hurt more than he’d thought.  He watched the bigger man warily, as he tried instead to wake up Dawn.  “C’mon, Dawnie, wake up, gotta help me here.”

“You’re calling me sick, boy?  What do you call a guy who hides behind his girl?  I’d call him a pussy. . . weak. . . pathetic.”

Faster than he could follow, Angel punched Casey twice, knocking his head back and opening a second cut over his right eye.

The teenager stumbled again to his feet, once he realized that Dawn was coming too.  He needed to protect her – and if that meant getting his ass kicked, well, he’d recover.  “You always pick on guys smaller than you?”

Hiding her movements from Angel, Dawn wiped away the blood from her face and tried not to make any noise.  A thought surfaced through the pain, one that she didn’t question, just followed.  Slipping her hand into her jacket, Dawn located her cell phone and rolling over, shielded it from view.  Punching in a sequence of numbers – ones she had no idea what they meant or why – Dawn closed the phone, left it on the ground and slowly got to her feet.

“Leave him alone, Angel.  He doesn’t know.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Spike was getting Buffy comfortable on the training room couch while the others were doing more research in the other room when more than one cell phone began chirping.

Almost immediately, some stopped, leaving only two still beeping and Spike was searching the duster’s pockets since one source appeared to be there when Wesley’s voice reached him.

“Spike.  Dawn’s in trouble.”

“What?  How do you know?”  He looked up sharply, as his free hand began shaking Buffy awake.  “Kitten, Niblet’s in trouble, wake up.”

“The cell phones.  Her name popped up on the caller ID and her approximate location, together with what Rupert believes is a ‘code red’.”  Wesley was grabbing weapons as he talked, tossing Spike a sword and then he turned toward the doorway.

“Buffy, wake up now.”  Spike grabbed his duster and shrugged it on.

“What’s wrong?”  She peered at him through sleepy eyes.

“Watchers say Dawn’s in trouble.  Came through on the cell phones.”  He held out a hand, helping her to her feet.

“Where is she?”  Buffy snagged the sword from him, speaking as she walked through the doorway, her mind racing with endless possibilities, none of them good.

Chapter Text

Book Two.  

Chapter 39.  Lambs for the slaughter


A mother's arms are strong when her child is in danger.
    Dead Man Walking, 1995

Do not stand in a place of
danger trusting in miracles.
    Arabian Proverb

I came to believe it not true that "the
coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave man
only one." I think it is the other way around:
It is the brave who die a thousand deaths.
For it is imagination, and not just conscience,
which doth make cowards of us all. Those
who do not know fear are not truly brave.
    Leo Rosten


Death is everywhere
There are flies on the windscreen
For a start
Reminding us
We could be torn apart
Tonight

Death is everywhere
There are lambs for the slaughter
Waiting to die
And I can sense
The hours slipping by
Tonight
    Depeche Mode, Fly on the Windscreen from the album Black Celebration, 1986




They had no idea what the situation might be with Dawn and why she might be in trouble.  None of them knew and, as they walked through the streets of downtown Sunnydale, none of them gave those ideas voice.

It didn’t take long for Buffy and Spike to outdistance Wesley, fear goading both of them onward.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Halfway between Los Angeles and Sunnydale, Faith’s nerves were so strung that she couldn’t continue driving without releasing some of the tension coursing through her.  The music was blaring, her foot heavy on the pedal and it still didn’t ease the humming through her entire body.  Spying the next exit on US 5, Faith cut across three lanes of traffic and headed for the off-ramp.  

Knowing full well that she wouldn’t run into any demons, or if she did, they would be more of the peaceful kind, Faith headed for the first bar she found.  More than one way to work off the tension.

Checking out her face in the review mirror, she grimaced.  No makeup, stolen clothes and yet she was still hotter than half the chicks out there.   So what she wasn’t California-blond or tall and willowy.  She had tits to make most men drool and an ass to please the rest.  It was enough to get her in the door without having to pay the cover charge and more than enough to get her the first two rounds of drinks; if she had wanted to play, there were plenty of takers.  She wasn’t there to play.  None of the boys in the bar could scratch that itch anyway.

Nope.  Nothing short of a real walk on the dark side would get rid of that one.

What she needed was something more physical.  

She needed to slay.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Determined not to show him any weakness, knowing it could possibly be fatal, Dawn did not – refused – to give into the lassitude creeping through her.  This isn’t Angel, her mind screamed, this is your own personal nightmare.  With a more than credible imitation of her father’s growl, Dawn ground out, “Get away from him, Angel, he doesn’t. . . he’s not part of this.”

With a smirk, Angel ignored her, his fist connecting to the side of Casey’s head.  “Gee, Dawnie, I think he’s part of this because he’s with you.”

“He doesn’t know!”  The shriek had been building since he’d grabbed hold of her arm finally rang through the night, echoing off the buildings, coming back around to blast them.

Casey fell, blood spouting from his mouth and his head thunked heavily against the pavement.  He groaned, rolling over, struggling to get back on his feet.  Somehow Casey managed to get to all fours and he scrabbled away when Angel kicked him hard in the side, as Dawn tackled into Angel, throwing the vampire completely off balance and knocking him down.

He was up, springing to his feet before Dawn could get to Casey, and he grabbed her arm, pulling her toward him.  The slap he delivered to her face nearly knocked her back and she fought to stay on her feet, giving Casey enough time to get to his.  

The scent of blood was heavy in the air; the panting breaths of the humans, panic-filled and scared roused his bloodlust.  “Can’t wait to get a taste of you, little girl. . . can’t wait to get close to you.”

 
Angel’s snicker ended in a deep throated chuckle, raising the hairs on the back of Dawn’s neck.  He stalked toward the two of them, his grin splitting his normally expressionless features and Dawn knew they had little chance of getting away from him.  She might be able to survive. . . but Casey – Casey didn’t know about vampires and demons and he would . . . she wasn’t going to let him die along with her.  She was about to grab his hand, when he fell to his knees beside her, his strength gone.  

“Casey, get up, c’mon, get up!”  Dawn wrapped her hands around his upper arm, pulling him vainly.  She didn’t dare look down at him, afraid if she took her eyes off the vampire, he’d gut them both.  


“Too late.  He can’t go on.  What will you do now?”  She could feel the cool breath the vampire used to speak, his taller, broader form looming over her.  “Gonna save the boy?  Hhhmmm?”

Encircling her neck with his thick fingers, Angel once more lifted her off her feet, uncaring of her ineffectual kicking.  “I’m feeling kind of thirsty . . . and I know just the thing I need. Don’t you?“  


His face morphed, fangs and brow ridges prominent.  Unlike other victims, Dawn didn’t scream, refusing to give him the satisfaction.  I’ve been here before . . . he didn’t scare me then and I’m not gonna let him scare me now.   Just have to hold on until Spike or Buffy gets here.   Gotta give Casey a chance to get away.

Just have to hold on.


She knew, despite not knowing how or why she couldn’t remember, the code she’d punched into her cell phone was a message sent out to the Scoobies and to Spike.  All she had to do was just survive.   
Unable to move her head, Dawn couldn’t see what Casey was doing behind her and she knew –  hoped –  her struggles gave him more time to escape.  She kept clawing at Angel’s hands, her nails drawing his blood to the surface, also serving to keep his fangs from sinking into her neck.

The pressure of his fingers closing around her throat didn’t ease and now breathing was becoming an issue.  Angel’s face loomed closer, fetid breath wafting over her face and Dawn’s vision began to swim.  Panting heavily for air, she scratched at his fingers and the last thing she saw was Casey’s body slamming into Angel’s side before everything went black.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Spike started to outdistance her and for once Buffy didn’t put on a burst of speed just to prove she was better or faster or stronger than him.  Instead, she called out, and before she knew it, he was back at her side.

“Kitten?”

“Promise me you’ll be careful.”  Some sixth sense – or a remnant of a ragged memory – told her they’d been very close to losing each other in the misty recent past of lost memories.

His pace had slowed, matching hers and deftly switching his weapon from one hand to the other, Spike caught her left hand up, sweeping it toward his lips.  Ghosting a kiss over the back, he said, “Was about to tell you the same, love.  Got our sprog there, don’t do anythin’ foolish, yeah?”

Without turning his head, Spike knew that mulish look came over her features, the one he almost hated.  “Sunshine.  Don’t want anything to hurt you.  Couldn’t live with myself if it did.”  He paused, waiting for the look to clear.  When it appeared she was going to get more stubborn, Spike halted, then pulled her into his arms.  “I love you.  Don’t wanna lose you.  Jus’ promise me you’ll be careful.”

She was poised to argue with him.  She really was.  But when Buffy glanced up at his features, all thought of confronting him fled.  His eyes – wavering between feline amber and human blue stalled her words.  The ferocity and depth of emotion was humbling.  He felt so much. . . “My promise for yours,” was all she was capable for uttering.

“Already done, kitten.”  He started off in the direction of Dawn’s last known location, his words resolute.  “Time to rescue Niblet.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Casey plowed into Angel’s side, with as much force as his battered body would allow, his shoulder hitting the bigger man just under his upraised arm.  The arm he had been using to slowly strangle Casey’s girlfriend.

The blow nearly knocked the teen out, head ringing and ears popping; Casey knew he heard something crunch hard on impact.  He had no way of telling, though, if it had been his own bones or the sicko’s that gave under the pressure. Every inch of him was already in pain, one more body part screaming in agony didn’t matter.  He barely kept to his feet, some instinct telling him their only chance lay in staying upright – no matter what happened.  Casey’s knowledge and willpower didn’t help, because his legs crumpled and he would have fallen if not for the weak arms suddenly wrapped around his torso.

Dawn’s voice was husky, painful to hear, though in that moment, the sweetest sound he’d ever heard.  Hope flared within him, bolstering his courage.  “C’mon, Casey, we gotta go.”

She slipped under his shoulder, propping him up, her desperation to get away easily communicated.  


“Dawnie.”  He knew what he wanted to say, yet the words wouldn’t force themselves out.

“I know, Casey.”  She paused, then whispered, “Me too.  A lot.”  

They had barely gone three steps when Angel’s dark form loomed in front of them.

“Thought I told you – you aren’t going anywhere.”

Dawn stiffened beside Casey, her back almost rigid beneath his arm.  “Screw you . . .  Angelus.  We got your message and hey, consider it already delivered.  I’ll make sure Buffy gets it.”

“See, here’s where we differ.”  Angel stepped closer, forcing the teens to give ground.  “Your sister and her pet vampire stole something of mine.  I’m just taking something back.”

From somewhere deep inside his broken body, Casey found a deeper well, a source – a part of himself he’d never known he possessed.  While Dawn faltered beside him, blanching visibly at the words flung at them, Casey’s legs strengthened and his stance miraculously widened.  Instead of continuing to cower in front of the psychotic man, he took a step forward, crowding him.

When Angel stepped back, more in surprise than anything else, Casey moved again.  Shielding Dawn now, he waited, knowing this was the only thing he could do.  Belying the words flung at him earlier, Casey knew the longer he stood his ground, the more man he was.

Angel growled at the defiance.  Shaking off his human features, the vampire snarled, gnashing his teeth and stepped closer to the boy.  Though he drew in a deep breath, Casey didn’t flinch, didn’t back down.  Didn’t even look away when he whispered his girlfriend’s name, uttering the words he’d been unable to say moments before.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The air was calm, no wind, no sounds to disturb their hunt and yet their prey was eluding them.  No sight nor sound, nor scent teased their preternatural sense of smell. . . it was as if the prey had disappeared, dissipated into thin air.  

Expecting to find traces of their prey, the Huntsman had directed his spectral hounds in that direction, only to have them balking and howling their displeasure into the quiet night.

Younger, newer hounds were circling their elders, baying and yipping in question, while the alpha male sniffed the air, searching for some ephemeral trace of the betrayer.

The red-eyed black hound caught the scent, hours old, of magicks gone awry, wielded by one without care or thought of consequences or compassion.   The hackles on his neck rose, and he bayed his find, echoing through the still, silent night, reverberating off the trees and brush around them.  

The others fell in behind him as he loped off, ground eating strides lengthening as the scent grew stronger.  His mate, the smaller, sleeker red-spotted black hound raced behind him, then broke off, veering toward the right, her yowls of warning alerting the pack to her departure.  

The Huntsman watched her go, a grim smile playing about his thin lips.  

Each hound knew their place, each knew their task.   One by one, they split off from the pack, until the alpha male was alone, his nose intent on the location of the traitor, while the others cut off all avenues of escape.

Time it is, lads.

Ar hyn o bryd . . . o fewn hwn lle . . . pechodau dcaw ateb dros. . . .



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Faith slammed back another shot of tequila – her fourth – realizing her idea to stop wasn’t working at all.  Mission Viejo is not a happening place.  Well, not the kind of place I’m looking for, anyway.

Brushing off the attentive college boys who’d been supplying her with drinks, she headed for the door.

Not working. . . gotta get the hell outta here.  Place is way too whitebread.

Without breaking stride, Faith elbowed her way through the wall of admirers and by the time she hit the bar’s main door, she was running.

Shit’s about to go down and what the fuck am I doing?  I’m here all stupid like, trying to work off the nerves.  

Not happening.  Not gonna make the same mistakes all over again.


Tires squealing and heart pounding in time to the music blaring, Faith roared onto the highway, this time focused and determined to ignore her internal distractions.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Giving Casey’s hand one last squeeze, Dawn let go, then stepped behind him.

The growl erupted from the vampire standing before them sounded low and menacing, breaking through the night.  Neither teen flinched, neither one moved.  Almost slowly, Angel drew back his hand, preparing to strike the boy in front of him, when Casey once more did the unexpected.

He laughed.

As his laughter rang in counterpoint to the vampire’s snarls, Casey added his voice.  “You’re nothing but a bully.  Gotta beat on little girls and guys smaller than you.  Don’t you ever fight against someone your own size?”

Angel reeled back as if struck, shifting out of game face.  The human’s response was so unexpected – as unexpected as the punch the boy threw at his nose.

This time, there was no mistaking what broke on whom.

Blood streaming from his broken nose, Angel roared his anger at the heavens, then turned amber eyes on the two.  Wasting no more of his energy on words, Angel smacked an open hand across the boy’s face, grinning as another cut was opened up under his left eye.  Not giving him any more chances to recover his bravado, Angel raked his hand down the side of Casey’s neck, opening a fairly shallow cut on his rib cage from collar bone to navel.  Dawn screamed, flying at Angel in a desperate attempt to distract the vampire, but he just batted her away, knocking her across a park bench.

As incredible as it seemed, Casey stood his ground, even attempted to fight back.  Dawn scrambled to her feet, trying to get between the two males when Angel’s claws ripped open her jacket and shirt, baring a breast.  Angel grabbed her then, his hand encircling the fleshy globe.  “When his blood is spilled, Dawnie, I’m gonna take you over his dying flesh and make you suck me off.  Gonna strip you bare and fuck you raw.”

Casey moved then, his hands clasped together in a double fist and he swung at Angel’s jaw, once more knocking him away from Dawn.

With a growl, Angel whirled on the boy and before Dawn could gather herself to help him, Angel dug his fingers deeply into Casey’s throat and ripped.

Screams filled the night, in one long continuous howl, pain and despair marking the dark skies.

From two sides, blond blurs raced toward the frozen figures, converging on the tall vampire and his victims.
                

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Spike heard the sounds of fighting before she did and he raced forward, leaving Buffy behind.

He pulled up short when Casey’s double fist rocked the vampire, then sprang into a sprint, desperate to reach them before Angel could move in on the boy.

He was too late.

Casey’s life’s blood was already covering Dawn when Spike ran up and tapped the side of Angel’s head with his fist.

Dawn was screaming.

Buffy’s ears recognized that sound and she streaked toward her sister, her brain not registering the presence of two people now battling Angel.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Kirsten knew she was too late to save Casey.  Dammit.  Should have come sooner.  Dammit.

Putting on an inhuman burst of speed, Kirsten slammed into Angel’s back as Spike unleashed a blow that sent the other vampire ass over teacup, rolling back over Kirsten’s bowed back.

Dawn, galvanized by Casey’s body hitting the ground, dropped to her knees and crawled forward.

“Casey.  Oh, my god. . . Casey.  Please don’t die. . . please. . .  Oh, please, don’t.”  Tears fell onto the gaping wound at his throat, as Buffy leaned over her sister, trying to pull her away from her boyfriend’s body.

The fight between the other three intensified and Angel, not holding back, lifted Kirsten off the ground and heaved her in the air, toward a tree.  Using her own momentum, Kirsten unfurled her legs, ran up the tree trunk, pushed off, back flipping up and over the two vampires.

Spike goggled at her for a few precious seconds, then bore the brunt of Angel’s reminder of their fight.

“C’mon, boy, this the best you’ve got?”  Angel tried taunting him, but Spike grim-facedly ignored him.

Wesley ran into the small park, his eyes focused on where Dawn and Buffy were huddled over the battered form of Dawn’s boyfriend.  The growls of the two master vampires were increasing in volume, the force of their blows growing stronger.

Spike swiped a hand over his split lip, his eyes steady on Angel as the older vampire advanced on him, and he grinned in anticipation.  “C’mon, gramps, not fighting little kiddies now, got the real thing.”

Kirsten hovered just beyond the two, watching them both warily, her hand wrapped around the hilt of the sword Spike had dropped.  She was positioned between the vampires and the others, almost like a secondary line of defense in case Angel got past Spike.  Angel took a wild swing at Spike, who ducked out of the path of his fist and then himself struck back at Angel.   The distinctive sound of Spike’s chuckle filled the air when Angel roared out in pain as his back hit the tree.  

“Spike?”

The sound of Buffy’s voice distracted him and the blond vampire turned away from his elder, his eyes searching out his mate.

“Spike, Dawnie’s bleeding.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Wesley checked Casey for any sign of life as Buffy cradled Dawn from behind.  Catching the Slayer’s eye, the former Watcher shook his head.  The noise of the fight occurring behind them was distant, almost unreal, as if the area around Casey’s body were encased in a bubble.  Dawn was on her knees, one hand shaking Casey’s shoulder, the other running through his matted hair.  Sobs caught in her throat, a chant of the boy’s name streaming from her mouth.  From behind, Buffy had one arm wrapped around Dawn at the shoulder, holding her up and away from all the blood.       
                                                 
“No. . . no. . . please . . .Casey, please get up.”  Dawn raised wild eyes toward Wesley, grief swimming alongside her own pain.  She stared at him, unwillingly finding the truth written on his face.  “No!  Not dead. . . no! No!  Not dead!”

Fighting free of her sister’s hold, Dawn threw herself at Casey’s body, laying her head next to the gaping neck wound.  “Please live. . . please . . . please, Casey.”

Tears spilling down her own cheeks, Buffy pulled Dawn up, holding her against her chest, running hands over her shaking body.  Dawn collapsed against her, tears and blood staining her clothing.  “Shhhhhh, Dawnie, I’ve got you.”

Incoherent mumblings interspersed with shuddering sobs wrenched themselves from Dawn’s abused throat.  Wesley shared another look with Buffy, after which he got to his feet, his cell phone out before he was ten feet away.

The fight raged on and Buffy watched with a detached eye as neither vampire gained an edge.  There was a small blonde girl watching them also, something Buffy found very strange.  She couldn’t see her face full-on, though something about the girl’s profile struck a chord within the slayer.

Wesley’s hand touched her shoulder and Buffy glanced up to look at him.  “Ambulance is on its way.”

She was about to speak when Dawn’s shudders increased, her entire body shaking.  Trying to hold her close, Buffy struggled with her sister’s longer limbs, unable to get control.  The furrows on Dawn’s face and breast started bleeding more heavily and Buffy instinctually called out for her mate.  “Spike?”

There was a pause, and without looking toward where Spike battled Angel, she knew she had her vampire’s attention.  “Spike, Dawnie’s bleeding.”

The not so distant wail of sirens bounced off the air and Buffy stiffened.  This is not good.  One handed, she shook Dawn, “C’mon, you, cops are coming.  Casey. . . c’mon, Dawnie, get to your feet.”

Beyond answering, grief and pain both white hot, Dawn sobbed harder, the tremors increasing. Giving one last cry, she slumped forward, limp and unconscious.  

“Spike!”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
               

His name sounded in the air – this time there was no way of ignoring the fear and concern in Buffy’s voice.  The sound of it gave Angel the break he’d been waiting for, Spike’s attention diverted.

When the younger vampire turned his head, Angel slid back into the shadows, escaping one more time.

“Spike!  Oh god!”

The rising panic flooded through him and Spike whirled on his heel, moving toward where his girls were.  Two steps had him facing the unknown blond girl and grabbing hold of her wrist, Spike dragged her after him.  “C’mon, you.  Need some answers.”

He didn’t ease his hold on her until they reached Buffy and Dawn.  “Buffy?”

“She’s hurt. . . bleeding. . .  Casey’s. . .” Tears choked her, forcing her to silence.

“Boy’s gone.  Nothing to be done for him.”  Leaning down, Spike gathered the teenager into his arms.  “Need to get Platelet here to hospital.”

Chapter Text

Book Two.  

Chapter 40.  Grief fades in and out

If grief could burn out
Like a sunken coal
The heart would rest quiet
The unrent soul
Be as still as a veil
But I have watched all night
The fire grow silent
The grey ash soft
And I stir the stubborn flint
The flames have left
And the bereft
Heart lies impotent
    Phillip Larkin, Grief

Like love, grief fades in and out.
    Mason Cooley City Aphorisms, Ninth Selection

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
Whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.
    Macbeth, act iv, sc. iii  

Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.
    J.R.R. Tolkien





Faith ditched the second stolen car at the next truck stop exit, hitching a ride with a trucker who was going past Sunnydale.

The truck stop was big enough and busy enough that it would probably take the cops a while to figure out her direction; although the way her luck usually ran, she’d get a smart cop who’d check in with Buffy.

Doesn’t matter.  I’m still going.  Watcher-man will think of something after I get there.  Just gotta figure out what’s what.

Ignoring the trucker’s attempts to make conversation, Faith closed her eyes and tried once more to make some sense on the conversation that had started this whole crazy night.

What wasn’t Giles saying?  He’d never once mentioned Angel, but he said Wesley was with him. What’s up with that?

Walking down the interstate’s off-ramp, Faith scanned the sights before her.  Sleepy little SunnyD.  Home sweet home.  Somewhere out there. . . all sorts of baddies are waiting for a fight.

Breaking into a run, Faith headed right for Revello Drive.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


With Dawn cradled in his arms, Spike motioned for the others to follow him.  “Gotta get her to hospital.”

He looked around, his eyes focusing on the only unknown in their company.  “Who’re you,  pet?”

Not exactly using a welcoming tone, Spike also didn’t sound too wary.  He’d seen her fight, land a few blows on Angelus and was willing to wait for her explanation before he reacted.

“My name’s Kirsten. “ She wouldn’t look at him, which Spike found odd, but he wasn’t watching too closely.

“Where did you learn those moves?”  Buffy was very curious, with her eyes trained on the girl, she hadn’t missed the hesitation before she answered.  Nor did she miss the sideways look at Spike.

“Ah. . . my dad.   He’s a . . . fight instructor.”  The hesitation was obvious.

Spike was about to question her further when Dawn started stirring.  “Conversation’s not done, pet.  Don’t disappear on us either.”

The threat was there and Kirsten, knowing she was busted, just said, “Yes, sir.”

Which would have made him snicker but it was said too earnestly – and with enough deference –  for that.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


His head was buzzing, white noise masking every other sound.  In his restless sleep, his brain didn’t register the continuous beeps; neither the quiet presence of the bot nor the unobtrusive nurses disturbed his slumber.

Xander’s head slumped forward, his body unconsciously seeking a more comfortable position, hitting the edge of Cordelia’s bed.

The bot powered down, self-adjusting to the after midnight rhythms of the hospital.

All was quiet on the fourth floor.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Her wails of grief bounced against the walls of the small room, searching for release from  containment.  Emergency room personnel shied away from the sounds and from the man who was pacing in front of the door holding the young girl.

Spike growled, menacing and deep, at anyone venturing too closely out of curiosity.  He could hear what the others couldn’t, the low soft tones of the Slayer as she tried to calm her sister, and the increasing desperation in Buffy’s tone.

Wesley was out in the waiting area with the other girl, waiting for Rupert and Anya to arrive with the baby.  Spike glared at the short, kind of round woman hurrying in his direction, and was surprised when she just shushed him.

“Just gonna give her something to calm her down, then Dr. Thomas will stitch her up.  I promise, Spike, you’ll be able to take her home before daybreak.”

“Wait.  You know me?”  Spike stepped out of her way, but put a restraining hand on her arm.

“Of course I do.  You’re Buffy’s mate.”  She paused, watching his reaction, continuing over Dawn’s cries, “Let me go in.  She really needs this.”

This time Spike let her go.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Getting Dawn to the hospital was easier than getting her inside.  Once she’d woken up, she had done nothing but fight.  Her tears and shrieks flowed freely and in her grief, she swung her hands wildly, catching Spike’s chin more than once.

With one look at her bleeding face and wild state, the emergency room personnel had waived them on, more than one of them recognizing both Buffy and Spike.  The room was  all the way in the back, used only when the rest of the emergency room was hopping, and very close to the basement.

Spike carried the struggling teen inside the room, only retreating when Dawn’s screams became too much for his hearing.  Unfortunately, that left Buffy alone with her.

Dawn was shrieking incoherently with the only recognizable word her boyfriend’s name.  Buffy couldn’t get near her, every time she made an attempt, Dawn lashed out physically.  She was about to give up and get Spike when the door opened and a kindly looking nurse strolled in.

“Dawn?  I’m going to give you something for the pain.”  The roundish woman approached the gurney, watching the teen warily.

“No.  Go away.”

“Sorry, sweetie, can’t do that.  Give me your arm.”    

Go away.”  Dawn growled at her.

The woman clucked her teeth.  “Sweetie, you don’t scare me.  I’ve got a ten year old werewolf at home.  Now give me your arm.”

The volume grew.  “I said go away.”

“We can do this easy or hard.  Easy is you giving me your arm and we’re done.”  She paused for a second, smiled at a gaping Buffy, then said, “Hard is me having the orderlies come in, strap you down and then you get the shot.”  Once more she paused.  “Doesn’t matter much to me, because either way it’s gonna happen.”

Dawn didn’t say anything for long moments – until she looked up and flinched away from the steely look in the nurse’s eyes.  “Fine.  Do it.  Not like I care.”

Grudgingly she held out her arm.

Maureen Osborne stepped closer and administered the sedative that would calm Dawn’s nerves.
                                    

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The alpha male halted, his nose aimed at the ground, his back stiff and unbowed, searching once more for traces of the traitor.  

The Huntsman watched as the hound moved silently through the night.

He bayed once, sending a signal out to the rest of his pack and the Huntsman could feel them all closing in, and yet, as intuitive as his canine charges, the Huntsman could sense a split in the scent. Some break, something that wasn’t right.  Some ephemeral scent of wrongness, almost as if there were two traitors.

The Huntsman strode down the street, trailing the alpha hound, as they neared the traitor’s refuge, the alpha paused, waiting for the rest of his pack to surround the house. . .

Every window was dark.

There was no sign of life.

The alpha sat back on his haunches, his eyes on the house, waiting.

Waiting . . .


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


She was numb.

Blood and tears were drying in strips down her face, stinging the cuts Angel had put there.

Doesn’t hurt anymore.

Nothing hurts anymore.


There was nothing but ache where her heart used to be.

The pain was . . . cottony.  Wooly . . . not real.  Whatever she shot me with really freaking works, coz I’m not feeling anything.

She was noodlely.  Rubbery.

Don’t feel real in my own skin.

Wanna just lie down.  Tired.  Wanna. . . no more . . . don’t wanna feel.

Casey.


Dawn couldn’t muster up any more tears.  They were dried up and gone, disappearing the instant the sedatives hit her system.

No tears.  Can’t cry.  She took away my tears.

Mommy. . . want my mommy.  Where’s Daddy?  Mommy get Daddy . . . wanna wear his coat.  Makes me feel all safe.

Mommy?  Please get Daddy.

Need my Daddy.


Buffy watched as Dawn crumpled onto the gurney, her voice sounding more and more childlike.  Dawn was unaware her mental ramblings weren’t; Buffy could hear every single word.

The emotion broke through her inertia and Buffy bolted for the door.  Finding Spike the minute it was opened, since he was leaning against the opposite wall, she motioned him in.

“Want my Daddy.  Will he hold me like he did when you were gone, Mom?  Don’t want anyone else dying on me.  I’m all wrong.  It’s all my fault.  Glory and Tara and the knights, Buffy-Mommy died and it should have been me. . . and now Casey.”  Dawn’s voice pitched and halted, a bare whisper of sound.

“Hurts . . .  Mommy?”  Dawn picked up her head, her blurry eyes focusing on the two figures in the room with her.  “Daddy’s here.  I love you, Daddy.”

Tears were sliding down Buffy’s face and, as she stole a glance up at Spike, she could see them pooling in his eyes also.  The two blonds shared a look, neither one saying a word.  Spike crossed the short distance to where Dawn lay, his arms shrugging out of his duster.  Laying it over the babbling girl, Spike smoothed her hair away from her face.

“Real daddies are better than fake ones.”

Spike didn’t stop touching her, letting her grab his free hand and tug it to her, his eyes never leaving Dawn’s.  “Monks made you my Daddy, is that why you love me?”

“No, sweetness, I loved you before they made you mine.”  He had no clue what she was rambling on about, at least he didn’t think so, but he knew she was upset and there was no point in making it worse.

“All I do is destroy.  Glory said so.  Everyone dies because of me.  I’m no good.”  Dawn rocked into their clasped hands, the tears pouring forth again.  “My fault.  All my fault.  Casey’s dead . . . why Daddy?  I did it.  My fault.”

He couldn’t let her think that – not for one second.  “Oh, Sweet Bit, no.  Not your fault.  None of it.  Shush now.”

“Yes it is. . . they made me and all I do is destroy.  It’s all my fault.”

Disregarding her injuries, Spike lifted her from the gurney into his arms, holding her weeping form against his chest.  Collapsing onto a rolling stool, Spike held on, crooning softly while Buffy brushed her hand over Dawn’s hair and down her shoulder.

Motioning Buffy between the examining table and the gurney, Spike said, “Push it there, kitten.”

Understanding him, Buffy did so, locking the gurney in place.  Somehow the two of them got Dawn up on the examining table sandwiched between them, with the two girls covered by his duster.  Still babbling, every word like a knife in his gut, Dawn was unaware she was still crying.  Her hands were clutched around his tee-shirt, fisting it as shivers rolled through her body.  He guessed she was going into shock but he couldn’t keep her warm – that was for Buffy to do and he could feel the heat from her smaller form radiating outward.

Dawn’s head was pillowed over his right arm, and with his left, Spike reached for Buffy.  His fingers found hers curved around Dawn’s waist, and he laced them together.  A low rumble built in his chest, rolling like soft distant thunder, comforting them all.  

“Hush now, Sweets. . . Daddy’s got you.  No more tears.”

“He’s dead. . . Spike, he’s dead and it’s all my fault and . . . I’m just wrong.  I wish I was dead.”

“No, baby. . . don’t say that.  None of this is your fault.  None.”

The sound of Buffy’s tears reached him as her grip tightened around his fingers.  Her voice, nearly as brokenhearted as Dawn’s sounded along with his.  “No, Dawnie. . . you aren’t . . . not your fault.  None of this. . .  Please, sweetie. . .”

“My fault . . . all my fault.”  

She just kept repeating it over and over, until finally the exhaustion and sedative worked and Dawn fell asleep.  

Neither of the other two moved, holding her still and safe in the protective circle of their arms.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The minute hospital personnel had waived them through, Wesley headed back out the door to call Rupert at the shop, to let him know what had happened.

It wasn’t until he wandered back inside that Wesley realized he’d left the girl alone, unattended and instantly regretted that when he didn’t see her sitting in the waiting area.  Cursing himself for his small blunder, Wesley sat in the main waiting area facing the doors, so he could watch everything coming in and out of the emergency room.  He was caught off guard, though, when a soft voice sounded from the chair to his right.  “Hey.”

“I thought you’d run out.”  He sat up, leaning his elbows on the chair arms, looking down at the young girl sitting next to him.

“Spike said not to go.”  She shrugged, as if that explained it all.

And it did, only if you knew Spike well, which Wesley wasn’t so sure this girl did.  There was something nagging him about this one – especially her appearance.  He stared at her for a few minutes, noting the shape of her face, the changeable eye color – even as she looked at him, they were changing,  and the tilt of her head.  It all nagged at him, like he should somehow know this little girl.  “How well do you know Spike?”

“I, um, I know him through Dawn.”  That was as good an answer as any she could really give him, because Kirsten knew if she said too much, there were going to be far too many questions, ones she didn’t want to have to answer – ever.

Apparently that response had been enough for Wesley, at least at this moment, because his attention was diverted by a commotion from outside.  When he got to his feet, Kirsten did the same, taking her cues from him.

Nurses and a couple of EMTs wheeled a covered gurney in and behind it, in the commotion, Giles snuck inside with Anya, holding the baby, just steps behind him.  The concern on the older man’s face was heavy and he strode quickly to the pair.  “Is that?”

“Probably Dawn’s boyfriend.  He didn’t make it.”  Wesley motioned for Anya to step out of the way of a passing intern and moved them further away from curious on-lookers.  Waiting until they were in a small alcove, Wesley continued.  “We didn’t get there soon enough.  It was Angel.  Dawn’s inside with Spike and Buffy.  Her injuries appear superficial, but,” he paused again, blew out a deep breath and said, “I’m hoping that’s all.  We haven’t heard anything yet.”

“Oh, dear god.”  Giles looked around, searching the emergency room for someone who might be in charge and able to give him some answers.  Spying Kirsten for the first time, he asked, “Who is this?”

Wesley leaned closer, so that Kirsten couldn’t overhear him.  “She’s a friend of Dawn’s.  I believe she’s a potential.  She showed up in time to help with Angelus.”

Giles eyed her speculatively, his lips firm and his eyes unflinching.  


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


There weren’t any lights on when Faith got to the house.  The backdoor key, usually hidden under the deck, was still there and Faith thought about using it to let herself in, then thought better of it.

Last thing I wanna do is piss off Buffy.

Walking around the house, Faith didn’t notice signs of anyone being home.  Hoisting herself up and into the tree outside Buffy’s room, Faith maneuvered herself so she could get a look inside Buffy’s room.  Peeking in the window, she spied the crib and nearly fell out of the tree.  What the fuck?  B’s got a kid? Can’t be . . . she was gone. . .  So who does the brat really belong to?

Swinging down from the tree, Faith headed for the back door again.  Maybe I should just. . .  The phone started ringing, interrupting her musings.  

“Willow, Tara?”  Giles’ voice sounded through the kitchen and Faith put her head as close to the open window as possible.  “Dawn’s been attacked.  We’re at Sunnydale General.  She’s . . . We hope to be out of here before sunrise.”

Not waiting for more of the message, Faith took off in that direction.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Oz had left the shop at the same time as Giles and Anya, though instead of going to the hospital, he headed over to UC Sunnydale, looking for some answers.  Neither Wesley nor Giles could tell him why he smelled of Tara; Spike had at least been able to confirm it – and he’d also told Oz the scent was more than a couple of days old.  It was like they’d started to absorb each other, in the way lovers did.  So Oz was at least assured he wasn’t going crazy, he wasn’t imagining her scent.

So dude, you smell like the girl.  And in a good way, not like going after her in the furry state.


He stopped his van, a pensive look across his features.  Last time, well the one he remembered anyway, last time his wolf had wanted to rip out Tara’s throat.   Nope, don’t feel like doing that right now.

Connecting with his canine self was always interesting.  Wolf didn’t formulate clear thoughts, was pretty much emotion driven, intensifying Oz’ own emotions, magnified them tenfold.  Calling on the wolf now, Oz let Tara’s smell override all the others and got the shock of his life.  Instead of rage, the wolf radiated . . . pack.  Tara was pack . . . more than pack . . . she was female pack.

Oz came back to himself, more than surprised to feel a hard aching arousal pulsing through his muscles.  “Whoa.”

That was weird.

Staring down at his crotch for a long minute, Oz wondered idly what was it about him and lesbians.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The door creaked open and the nurse from earlier stuck her head in, then came inside the room.  Spike sat up slowly, disengaging his hand from Buffy, his eyes trained on the woman.

“Dr. Thomas is on his way.  He’s gonna take a look at Dawn’s face, see how many stitches she’ll need.”

“Is she really going to need a lot?”  Buffy started to get up, when a wave of dizziness swept through her.  Eyes closed so she could fight the nausea she completely missed Spike’s move to her side.

 “Stay put, kitten, no need to get up just yet.”

“You should keep crackers or pretzels with you.  It’ll help.”  Buffy sent a questioning look at the woman, who countered with, “I was with you when Dr. Thomas confirmed your pregnancy, don’t you remember?”

The two blondes shared a look.  It was Spike who answered her though, not Buffy.  “Watchers think someone’s tried to break the claim – there’s some strange mojo working.  Don’t remember anything recent.”

“Have you talked to Tara?  She might be to help trace the spell’s origins.”  Buffy looked at her quizzically, about to ask her a question when the door opened and a kind-faced man in his early forties opened the door.

Greeting everyone, he stepped close to Dawn, then gently rolled her onto her back.  Most of the furrows down her cheek were closed up, only one, by her eye, was still sluggishly seeping blood.  “This isn’t as bad as I’d thought.  Shouldn’t take more than twenty or so stitches.  Given time it’ll fade and won’t be noticeable at all.  She won’t even remember them.”

“Don’t think it’s gonna be that easy, Doc.”  Spike’s tone was laced with sarcasm.

“No.  It never really is.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Wesley was the first to see her.  He got to his feet, shaking his head in disbelief, believing his eyes were deceiving him.   Can’t be her.  She’s in prison.

The illusion it wasn’t Faith was shattered the second she approached the information desk and slapped both hands down, gaining the attendant’s undivided attention.  “Got Dawn Summers here?”

He was at her side before Giles realized what had drawn Wesley’s attention.  “Faith?  When did you get home?”

“Wes?”  Faith looked up at the Englishman, a question and plea in her eyes.  “Just got in.  Cruised past the crib and heard the news.  Came right here.  Haven’t even unpacked.”

Even as she was speaking Wesley was shaking his head and fighting a grim smile.  “We’re all over here.  Spike and Buffy are with her now.”

“Faith?”  Giles nearly jumped out of his chair, completely ignoring what Anya was saying as he spied the female Wesley was talking to.  “How on earth?  How in god’s name did you escape?”

Simultaneous exclamations from the two brunettes effectively reminded Giles what he’d just said and he at least had the grace to look apologetic.  He scrambled to cover up his blunder by almost shouting, “Customs!  Goodness, that was quick.”

Faith was shaking her head, while Wesley just stood gaping at the older man.

“Is this really Faith?  The other Slayer?  Why is she here?  What’s going on, Giles?”  Anya’s whispers were much quieter than Giles’ but no less excited.

“Yes.”  Was all the answer Wesley and Giles could give her, the only answer either of them had.  It was for Faith to supply the details.

The dark-haired girl folded her arms over her chest, her stance both belligerent and defensive at the same time.  “Look, I’m here, so that should be enough.”  Pointing at the infant Anya was holding up to her shoulder, she asked pointedly, “Who is this?”

Chapter Text

Book Two.  

Chapter 41.  Savage and serene in one hour


The change from storm and winter to serene and mild weather,
from dark and sluggish hours to bright and elastic ones,
is a memorable crisis which all things proclaim.
It is seemingly instantaneous at last.
    Henry David Thoreau, The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 2,

Our life is March weather, savage and serene in one hour.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson, Montaigne; or, the Skeptic

Alas! it is the hush of suspense, and in many lands it is the hush of fear.
    Winston Churchill, A Hush over Europe,
    broadcast to the United States from London, August 8, 1939





“Maybe we should table this conversation until we get out of such a public venue.”  Giles spoke before the glaring between the two girls could escalate into an exchange of words that wasn’t appropriate for the waiting area of a hospital emergency room.

Kirsten looked from one of the older females to the other, her eyes wide with surprise.  She’d heard about Faith, but never expected to actually meet her and so far, all the stories had been true.  Despite the fatigue, and the lines of anger bracketing her wide mouth, and the obviously borrowed clothes, Faith was just as . . .  charismatic and compelling as she’d been told.

Wesley grabbed her shoulder, pulling the Slayer off to the side, away from Anya.  Kirsten couldn’t hear everything that was being said, but she could guess, just by the set of Wesley’s shoulders and his stance, what he was saying.  Kirsten turned her head to watch them more closely, and it was funny listening to Anya whispering to Giles about Faith and how dangerous she was while Faith looked anything but.

The four adults were all lost in their own conversations, none of them paying attention, when a furtive moment by the doors caught her attention.  “Giles?”  Kirsten whispered softly, trying to get his attention without looking like she was getting his attention.  “Giles.  There’s a vamp by the door.”

“What?  Where?”  Giles peered over his glasses, then adjusted them on his face to see more clearly. Keeping his deceptive pose and without moving away from Anya, he nodded to Kirsten.  “Keep an eye on him.  I’m going to alert Wesley and see if I can find out how soon we’ll be out of here.”

At that he patted Anya on the arm, then got to his feet.  As he passed Wesley and Faith, he caught the taller man’s eye and motioned his head toward the doors, mouthing “vamp” while walking to the desk.  “Excuse me, nurse, is there any information on Dawn Summers’ condition?”

The attendant looked up, then pressed a button on her computer screen, and without removing her eyes from the screen, said, “She’s still in examining room 10.  I have nothing more on her status.”

“Room 10?  Thank you.”  He stepped away from the counter, turning his back on the nurse’s station.  “She’s in room 10.”

“I’ll go.”  Anya stood up, preparing to take the baby out of the path of any possible fighting and Giles held her back for a moment, whispering, “Let Spike know we have visitors.”

Her smile was bright, though it never reached her eyes. Anya gathered up the baby’s bag and headed directly for the rooms.  When the security guard tried to stop her, she looked up at him as she pinched Connor beneath the blanket and the baby’s howls started right on cue, Anya said, “Sorry.  His mother is in the back and he needs to nurse.”

With a bright and disarming smile, she sailed right past the man and on into the back.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Working quickly and efficiently, Dr. Thomas had Dawn’s face stitched up before either of the blondes had expected.  The stitches were tiny, dark knots across her skin, like lace wings elongating her eyebrow.  Buffy leaned into Spike’s side, noting with a fair amount of fatigue and irony, although she was unaware of it, “She’s gonna have a scar like yours.”

Dr. Thomas was shaking his head.  “I hope not.  Whoever stitched up Spike’s eye did a terrible job.”

“No one did it.  Just left it alone.”  He shrugged, looking down at the young woman in his arms.  “Slayer’s blade did this.  Must’ve had it blessed.”

Before Buffy had a chance to say anything, there was a sharp knock on the door and Anya strode in with a softly whimpering Connor in her arms.  “Giles wants to know how soon we can go because there are vamps hanging around by the door.”

She looked around, noticing Dawn’s sleeping form, remarking, “They knocked her out.  What did they use?”

Connor’s whimpers got louder as he smelled his family and Anya dumped him into Buffy’s arms.  “That other Slayer is here.”  

Glancing at what she thought was two strangers, Anya leaned in, speaking in a stage whisper, “I don’t think you should trust her Buffy, remember last time?  She stole your body and slept with Riley.  Although you aren’t getting orgasms from anyone right now.”  She paused, thinking hard, then smiled brightly, “Wait, you must be getting them from Spike since you are mated.  Do you remember it?”  

Giving Spike a very knowledgeable once-over, Anya ignored all attempts to be shushed and kept right on talking.  “He is very pleasing to the eye and appears well endowed, plus he’s got vampire stamina.  Are you sure you don’t remember?”

“Anya?  Vampires?  Waiting room?  Subject.  Stay on it.”  Buffy wasn’t going to blush, promised herself and yet despite that she could feel her face getting flush.

“Why doesn’t anyone ever want to talk about sex?”  Before either of the blonds could elaborate, she held up her hands.  “Okay.  We only saw one, but Faith and Wesley are on it.  That strange little girl noticed it first.”

“Chit’s still here?”  Spike was heading for the door, after exchanging a look with Buffy.  “Get ready to bolt, ladies, once we’re all clear.”

“Spike?”  Buffy’s voice stopped him just before he stepped out into the hallway.

His eyes met hers, understanding and emotion swirling in the ocean-blue depths.  “I know, kitten.”

And he was gone.

Sparing a look down at Connor, Buffy smiled when the baby smiled up at her, while directing her words at the doctor.  “How soon can we take Dawnie home?”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


No sign of Giles or Oxford.

Where’s the chit – Kirsten?


A flash of swirling dark hair down a darkened and otherwise empty corridor caught his eye and Spike moved in that direction.  An “Ooph” and a grunt sounded off to his right and Spike slid past an open door to find Giles and Kirsten battling a lone vampire.  As he watched, Giles pushed off from the wall, knocking the vamp into Kirsten’s makeshift stake and he was about to comment when he got hit from behind.

Going down in a tangle of limbs, Spike bucked up, throwing off whatever had knocked into him, whirling around to nail his assailant with a left hook.  The vamp’s head snapped and he reeled back, arms pinwheeling, into Wesley, who shoved him back at Spike; with a deep growl he kicked up, catching the vamp across the face, giving Wesley time to stake it.

The sounds of a major smackdown sounded in the hallway was coupled with the unmistakable husky timbre of Faith’s voice as she taunted her opponent.  Spike moved past Wesley, leaning against the doorframe.  “Shouldn’t play with the locals, pet, they get a bit tetchy about it.”

“You know me.  Gotta get my groove on anyway I can.”  Faith tossed the vamp over her shoulder, letting him roll along the floor before she looked over at Spike.

“Faith.”  He nodded at her, his voice and face expressionless.

She returned the greeting.  “Spike.”

He smirked at her, noting her disheveled state and questionable wardrobe.  “Just stopping by for a visit?”

“Nah.”  The vamp came at her, charging wildly and she sidestepped him, almost slowly, her eyes never leaving Spike’s.  “Got a feeling I might be needed.”

“Could be. . .   Might not find so warm a welcome.”  He tossed her a stake, waiting for her next move.

“Goes both ways.  Lots of hard feelings all around.”  Faith turned her back on Spike to trade blows with the vampire.  Tiring of the play, she took the next opening and brutally rammed the stake into his chest.

 “Had some time to think . . . maybe it’s time to let all that go.  Start over again.”  Her body froze as her gaze slid past where Spike was as she focused on the small blond figure beside Spike.

Buffy stared back, her face as devoid of expression as Spike’s had been.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Drusilla was holding court when he finally made it back to the mansion, although it looked otherwise.  Jenner was leaning against the wall next to the fireplace, his eyes on the whirling female as she giggled softly, his pose deceptively indolent.

Older than Angel by a good fifty years, Jenner had only responded because of the lure of the hellmouth and the traitor.  A black-haired, blue-eyed Welshman, Jenner had been working on the docks in Plymouth when Darla had turned him, but unlike Angel, he’d not stuck to her skirts for more than a decade, her possessive rages inciting his own temper once too often.  He didn’t particularly care for Angel – though his anger with William the Bloody ran deep.  Their history was checkered with botched deals and betrayals, albeit on both sides, enough so that this latest bit of news brought Jenner out of his element, willing to take the chance in order to bring Spike down.

The only other of his kind he had as much anger toward was the newly returned master of the house.  His antipathy for Angelus was purely personal; while on the whole he actually enjoyed William the Bloody’s company.  The current source of his anger was based solely on business and dealings that had gone sour.

Angel sauntered into the mansion via the garden, his skin prickling and nerves jumping.  Too many masters here . . .  Aside from Jenner, Angel was the oldest vampire and he had a feeling despite their age difference, Jenner would give him less trouble than the others.  Toussaint could be a problem and with him there was always Rebecca to worry about.  As he got further into the room, Angel realized only Jenner and Drusilla were present – along with a few of his remaining minions – which was curious.  He watched Drusilla dip and sway for a moment, a grin crossing his features at her antics.

“Did you hunt well, Daddy?  Were the little ones delicious?”  Not waiting for his reply she blew playful kisses at him, then waggled her fingers.  “Daddy played too long. . . missed the glowing little girl . . . tsk, tsk.  Mustn’t play with our food.  Mummy always said so.”

“You know I can’t resist, Dru.”  Angel slapped her ass, wrapping his swollen hand around her neck, squeezing gently.  “Should’ve come with me . . . and you know Darla is the one who taught us how to play.”  He paused, then moved away from her.  “Jenner.  Glad you decided to come.”

The big vampire shrugged, his eyes never moving from Drusilla.  “Plenty of reasons to.”  He waved a hand and three of his minions emerged from the shadows by the stairs.  “I’ve made arrangements for my own accommodations.”

The air crackled with the unspoken animosity between the two master vampires.  They were, despite protestations otherwise, strikingly similar in looks.  Jenner was a bit taller, and a tad bit brawnier, and they both sported squared jaws and heavy brows.  Angel tended to softness, while Jenner was pure muscle, due to his years on the docks, resembling the rough hewn granite of his homeland.  After meeting Jenner, it had struck Angel that perhaps Darla was searching for a specific look in her men; tall, brawny and he’d suffered from pangs of . . . not jealousy, because by then he’d had Darla six different ways to Sunday, but. . . more along the lines of inadequacy.  Jenner had clearly been in Darla’s mind when she’d picked Liam out of a drunken haze and turned him – though he hadn’t known it at the time.  It had only become clear once he’d met the master vampire and had Darla missing from his bed for a week after their initial meeting.  

Jenner pushed off from the wall, his minions drifting to his side.  “I’ll be in touch.”  Eyeing Drusilla, who’d stopped swaying to watch the two of them, a vicious smile playing about her lips, he continued, “I’m staying on the waterfront.  Send word when you have something for me.”

Without another word Jenner and his men left the mansion.  

Angel watched them go, his mind more on Jenner’s actions and unwillingness to stay in the mansion than his killing of the teen; his musings making him unprepared for Drusilla’s attack.  Her nails scraped along the left side of his face, in an eerie similarity to what he’d done earlier to Dawn.  Her snarls and snapping jaw sounded far too close to his neck for his liking and Angel pushed her off, trying to hold her at arm’s length.  “What the fuck?”

“Daddy’s been very naughty.  Gone out without his best baby girl.  Can’t have that now, can we?”  Her nails dug into his wrist, puncturing the skin and drawing rivulets of fresh blood from his veins.  “Mustn’t hunt without me. . . else sunshine will take you. . .”

“It’s still full dark out, Dru, what the hell are you talking about?”  Angel threw her off him, sucking on the wounds she’d given him.

Her maniacal laughter echoed against the walls of the sitting room and she slithered to her feet, sinuous movements designed to put all thoughts of her attack out of his mind.  “Daddy mustn’t travel alone. . . Slayer’s got too many friends for that.”

“Dru. . . . they were careless.  And you were the one who told me to go hunting!  What the fuck are you complaining about now?”  She’d been the one to push him earlier – sensing something different in the air, something off.

She was shaking her head. “Tsk, tsk, Daddy. . . baby slayers have come out to play. . .  Nasty little girls who can do more than mummy ever dreamed . . . come for you . . . must stay away.  Bad little baby strawberries.  Rotten.  Deadly.”

“Dru, enough.”  Ignoring her attempt at a warning, Angel focused on their guests.  “Where the hell are Rebecca and Toussaint?”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Lawson had watched from the shadows while three more minions were dusted by the Slayer’s people.  For humans they fared better than he’d expected, the vampires had been clearly outclassed from the onset of the fight, even without the presence of William the Bloody.

Unable to get close, he had missed the conversation between Spike and the dark-haired girl, but it was clear to his eyes there wasn’t much love lost between them.  He wondered briefly if this was the Slayer, though when a small blond woman appeared, Sam knew he’d been wrong.  She’s the one. . . and no bigger than a minute.  Geezuz, she’s tiny.

An older man, slightly greying, peered from one of the girls to the other and gestured them all to silence.  That has to be the Watcher . . . so who’s the other guy? Taller, thinner than both the others, Lawson couldn’t figure out who he was.  Sliding closer, he heard the unmistakable cadence of a third British accent and he slid back into the shadows, thinking.  Tall and dark was English.  Older and greying was English.  William the Bloody was English.  What is this?  Us against them again?

The group moved away and he lost visual contact with them.

Having gotten some of the information he wanted, Lawson waited until they left, making his way back to the mansion.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Hearing Faith was back in Sunnydale and actually seeing her in the flesh were two completely different things.  Buffy had heard Anya, she just hadn’t digested the reality of it all.  Seeing Faith as she faced her mate caused a whole different set of simultaneous reactions off inside her head.  Without any conscious awareness of what she was doing, Buffy stepped in front of Spike, her eyes boring into Faith’s.  Last time they’d seen each other had been in the aftermath of the body switch, after Faith had already slept with Riley  – and hit on Spike.

“You’re supposed to be in prison.”  It was the first thing Buffy could think of that wasn’t an outright growl.

“Was there until a few hours ago.”  Faith didn’t physically shrug, but the attitude was still there.

“Why are you here?”  Buffy’s voice was clipped and she didn’t even relax when Spike stepped closer to her back.

“Buffy?”  Giles voice broke into the non-conversation the two slayers were having and he continued without waiting for acknowledgment.  “We should continue this discussion in a safer location.  Both Dawn and Connor should be in their own beds.”

Silence greeted his statement, as both Slayers assessed the other, gauging trustworthiness.  Spike’s hand reached for Buffy’s and, on contact, she relaxed.  “C’mon, kitten, let’s get the kiddies home.”

Wesley spoke, motioning to himself and Faith, “We’ll meet you back at the house.”  With a pointed look at the prison escapee, he jerked his head and started off.

Anya handed the once again mewling infant to Buffy all the while muttering under her breath about unstable boyfriend and body-stealing people.  

“Where’s Bit?”  Spike watched Wesley and Faith, a niggling feeling of eyes on the back of his neck making him wary.

“She’s with the doctor still.”  They all trailed behind Buffy as she headed back toward the examining room.  “He said Dawn would be okay to leave when I got back.”

And she was.  Dr. Thomas had gotten a very groggy Dawn up and into a wheelchair while the others had dealt with the vampires.  Tired and teary blue eyes barely opened at their reappearance, though Dawn smiled sadly when she saw Spike.

Crossing the room in a couple of strides, Spike knelt down by the chair, his hands smoothing back Dawn’s disheveled hair.  “Ready to go home?”

Her lower lip quivered as fresh tears flooded her eyes.  A soft sob broke from her mouth and all Dawn could do was nod her head.

“Right then.”  He started to get to his feet when another sob from Dawn caught his attention.  Spike wrapped his arms around her, holding her against his chest, letting her tears fall.

Giles tapped Buffy’s shoulder, whispering softly, “I’ll just go get the Jeep.  Anya?”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Their footsteps were muffled, despite the lack of any other traffic, vehicular or otherwise, as Faith and Wesley walked through the dark streets of Sunnydale.

Wesley stuck his hands in his pockets, suddenly realizing he’d rushed from the Magic Box without a warm enough jacket and the night had turned cold.  A glimpse over at his companion told him she wasn’t faring much better, though, like him, she was doing her best to ignore it.

“How?”  The question escaped from his mouth before he had a chance to think about it, or censor his thoughts.

“Easier than I thought it would be.  Could’ve just walked out.”  Dismissing the ease of her escape, Faith asked the one question that had been bugging her.  “Who does the brat belong to?”

Wesley sighed, wondering just how much information he could or should share with her.  “I’m not sure about his paternity.  His mother appears to be Darla.  His origins . . .” Following his impulse, Wesley gave Faith as much information as he could.  “We are under some sort of cloaking or forgetting spell.  There’s not much information we have at the moment, and so Buffy has no memory of what happened following her battle with Glory and I have no idea why I’m here – other than it appears Angel’s lost his soul.”

“What?”  Faith stopped walking, turning to face Wesley.  “How the hell did that happen?”

“Again, I’m uncertain of how, because of the spell.  Evidently the reason why we have some knowledge of all this is because of the claim between Buffy and Spike.  The spell appears to be incomplete because of their mating.”

They resumed walking, the cold making the urge to linger dissipate.

“So, maybe these Slayer dreams I’ve been having could help with that.”  The admission was reluctant, although it was clear to Wesley that Faith’s offer was genuine.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Kirsten hung back, watching all of them, afraid to disobey Spike and yet wary of intruding too much.  Weird thing was none of them seemed to remember her, not even Dawn, which was seriously strange.  The need to run away, to go back to where she belonged was an urge she had to fight very hard against.  At the same time, though, was the fear something else was about to go down and once more Dawn would be in danger.

Thank god, though, Giles hadn’t caught her slip.

Just have to remember no more mistakes.  Can’t tell anyone else.  Dad’s gonna be so pissed when he catches me.  Mom would understand though . . . maybe. . .   

Though there was the question of credibility and just how much she’d be believed if she actually told the truth.

She trailed behind Buffy, her eyes drifting between the Slayer and her vampire.  Kirsten sighed, a smile crossing her features.  They were a fairy-tale come true – something out of legend.  They really were.  The scarred and damaged warrior, hiding the pure and sensitive soul behind the mask of brutality wandering for years in the dark until the beautiful, fierce, deadly girl stole his heart. Totally a modern take on Beauty and the Beast.

Mentally rolling her eyes, Kirsten sighed.  They’d both knock her on the head for that one and privately they’d be mush.  But too bad, coz it’s true. . . only they don’t think it’s all that weird. . . because I think they were made for each other.  As she watched them standing by the door, Spike rested one hand on Dawn’s shoulder, his other reached out to run a finger over Buffy’s cheek, cupping her chin and then the baby’s head; Kirsten knew, no matter how much trouble she was going to get in, coming back had been the right thing to do.  Besides, now she just had more ammo to tease them with.

The Jeep pulled up and Spike turned his head, catching her eye.  “C’mon, pet, time to go.”

Chapter Text

Book Two.  

Chapter 42. Our memory is our coherence

Mild brown eyes beckon me to the past,
but memory provides no clue.
    Mason Cooley, City Aphorisms, Eighth Selection

Ah! you can die,
the world can collapse,
I have lost the one I love.
I must now live in this terrible solitude where memory is torture.
    Albert Camus, The Misunderstanding, act 2, sc. 2

I construct my memories with my present.
I am lost, abandoned in the present.
I try in vain to rejoin the past:
I cannot escape.
    Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

You have to begin to lose your memory,
if only in bits and pieces,
to realise that memory is what makes our lives.
Life without memory is no life at all ...
Our memory is our coherence, our reason,
our feeling, even our action.
Without it, we are nothing ...
    Luis Buñuel





There wasn’t enough room in the Jeep for all of them, since Connor’s car seat took up most of the backseat, especially with the added presence of Kirsten.  Until Spike decided to climb in the back with Dawn, Buffy was afraid someone else was going to have either double up or get out and walk.

Buffy watched him climb in effortlessly, her sister cradled gently in his arms.  He hadn’t caused her any further discomfort, not once jostling her even enough to disturb her broken ribs.  Dawn was still crying, tears sliding down her face, keeping the cuts open.  Didn’t matter her own eyes were blurred, Buffy could barely stem the tide of her own tears, listening to the soft sobs of her broken sister, her heart wrenched.

The attack, and by whom, had been completely unexpected.  Angel.  If she hadn’t seen it with her own eyes, Buffy never would have believed it.

Angel had attacked Dawn.

Casey was dead because of Angel.

Dawn’s heart was broken because of Angel.

Had she done something to cause this?  Was all this her fault again?

Spike’s calm low tones broke through her self-absorbed thoughts and she suddenly couldn’t imagine being the cause of all this.  There had to be some other explanation for how Angel’s soul had disappeared yet again.

She couldn’t have been so stupid a second time.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Faith remained quiet, her mind concentrating on all the jumbled dream images in her head, searching for the one thing that could explain this and make it all clear again.  So far, the answer was proving elusive, though she knew, given enough time, it would surface.  For now, though, she was better off just thinking.

Wesley’s mind was working, searching for a logical explanation.  One thing bothered him, and he knew he’d need to research it more closely, because it was nagging at him.  How come he could remember Darla was Connor’s mother – and why didn’t that strike him as odd?  Darla is a vampire.  How is it possible for her to conceive?

They turned onto Revello Drive, both of them slowing their pace when the darkened house came into view.

“Spare key’s under the deck.”  Faith said at the same time Wesley asked, “How come Willow and Tara aren’t awake?”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Curled up in Spike’s arms, Dawn gave into the tears again.  Every couple of breaths another shudder would overtake her muscles and she’d lose all control again.  His arms were strong around her, shielding her from the outside world though nothing could ease the pain in her heart.

All my fault.  It’s all my fault.  Casey’s dead because of me . . .   Stinging tears slid into the cuts lining her cheek, mixing with the blood, washing through the furrows.  Snot and bloody tears leaked from her, but Dawn didn’t care anymore.  Casey’s dead . . . I killed him.

Not even the soft rumbles of Spike’s voice helped, despite how safe she knew she was, Dawn’s guilt grew.  Casey won’t be . . . he tried so hard to protect me and it’s my fault he’s dead.

My fault . . .  My fault.


A sob broke from her lips – just his name and the pain swam into her, sweeping through every part of her.  Oh, Casey.

I’m sorry.

It’s all my fault.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


She felt so tiny in his arms.

Broken.

Shattered.

Her entire body was shaking with uncontrollable tremors, tears and grief swirling inside her, seeking some release.

Spike held her face to his still chest, hoping some of his strength would help her hold it together, at least for a little while.  Until they could get her to sleep . . .

The rising tide of anger was rapidly . . . Spike had no idea why Angel was attacking Dawn, of all people, and at this particular moment, he didn’t much care why.  All he knew was one of his girls had been hurt – and the physical damage was the least of it.

A muscle ticked in his jaw, and, had she seen it, Buffy wouldn’t have missed the control Spike was exerting.  Dawn nestled into his tight hold, more tears wetting his shirt.  As the salty wetness spread over the black cotton, Spike started an internal list of how many ways to inflict pain.

His foot tapped against the side of the Jeep, and as he was about to complain about how long a ten block trip was taking, he lifted his eyes to see the familiar houses of Revello Drive.  “Bout bloody fuckin’ time.”

Dawn sobbed out Casey’s name and he tightened his hold on her, whispering something he hoped was more soothing than the thoughts circling round his head.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Faith and Wesley were just crossing the next door neighbor’s lawn when the Jeep pulled into the driveway.  Three doors opened almost before the wheels stopped moving and not surprising, Buffy was the first one out.

Spike was emerging from the back with a still weeping Dawn cradled in his embrace.

“Giles?  Get the door please.”  Buffy directed her troops, motioning for Anya