It started this way. Just in my head.
I am insane. Just so you know.
But I want this. I want it a lot. I'd be good at it, I think.
He could be awesome.
He's going to freak.
But then, after, we'd be a family.
1) Price artificial insemination options
2) Find a donor
3) Talk to Spike
4) Stand back...
Yeah, 3 should be number 1. But...
Forget it, it's a stupid idea.
I couldn't forget it. In fact, I was fixated on it.
I talked to Faith. "Did you ever think about having kids now?"
Blank. Laugh. "What the fuck, B? You gettin' soft?"
Laugh in my turn. "No way! It's not for us, right?"
"Put it this way. I got no plans in that direction."
No help there.
I talked to Dawn.
She said, "But Spike can't have children." Like that was news.
I tried to talk to Giles.
It turns out that even him sleeping with Faith and being a whole lot more relaxed these days doesn't make it possible for us to say the word 'sperm' to each other without squirming.
I phoned Willow.
She laughed, and said, "Turkey baster?"
Sometimes, I wish I was gay. But it's probably not as simple as she made it sound.
I talked to Vi.
She had some very, very long ideas about future developments to synthesise usable DNA from vampire cells and employ it via IVF. When I asked her how long it would take, she said, "With unlimited funding? Twenty years, maybe."
I was only 26 at that point, but still... And we don't have unlimited funding. Just for a moment there, I'd almost hoped.
Then she said, "But I can't say for sure it could be done. I know it's hard, but... Spike's dead."
That would be a no.
Spike came home. I hadn't seen him for so long, it'd started to seem like a theoretical problem. But when I faced him, I couldn't find a place to start.
I think I'd been doing an okay job of hiding the sitch until then, but after Spike left for Korea, I ended up in the central contact point one evening, kicking at the wall. We have a gym for the kind of thing. But it was only Illyria that caught me, and that was before I'd got through any brickwork.
She was around the place at lot right then; a job in Chad had gone bad, and we weren't letting her go solo for a while. But it wasn't like she was on my top ten talk-to list. Probably not my top hundred, honestly.
"I can smell your frustration."
"Thanks. Sweat'll do that."
A bad thing about Old Ones? No sense of social embarrassment. She wouldn't let it drop. "I smell it constantly."
"Okay, gross. Are you saying I need more deodorant?"
"You long to reproduce. You reek of yearning."
"I'm that obvious?" Well, that was embarrassing. (It's not like I was menopause-any-second gal. But it felt like it should be now, somehow.)
"Only to me, I think. All beings have such impulses, I believe."
(I couldn't not ask, could I?)
"Did you? Have... offspring?" Babies sounded like the wrong word to use. Spawn would have been tactless.
Illyria blinked at me, the way she sometimes drops her lids like shutters. "Once."
I was going to let it drop because that sounded both bad and final. But she surprised me. "If you wish for progeny, follow your wish. Our lifespans are too short. Immortality is impossible. Continuation is life."
We talked a little more, about dead men and injured pride. But, basically? Another vote for the turkey baster.
Sometimes, I think Illyria would make a better guidance counsellor than me. More focussed, anyway.
So I talked to Spike. He freaked.
But he didn't say no.
He did say, "You're out of your fucking mind". And "Can't see me bringing new life into the world, can you?" And, "You, shot full of some other bloke's spunk? Yeah, it's always been my dream."
But he did not say no.
He'd gone back to Pyongyang. I knew he was leaving it up to me.
Sourcing sperm is harder than you'd think.
I mean, not just any sperm. Viking sperm. Superman sperm. Or (ideally) medium-height blond-guy sperm with a British accent that might just reconcile Spike to this.
In my dreams.
I read resumés and very, very sincere letters about how Mr Spunky wanted to do something good in the world and wasn't just jacking off for $15 and free porn.
Maybe it works for some people. I hope so. But I read those documents and thought… I might work with some of these guys. But I wouldn't screw any of them. Not based on just a resumé. None of them clicked.
Besides, if this was how it was going to be, I wanted Spike to help me pick the strange guy who was going to help us. And that wasn't happening.
Then I may have got a little weird.
I found myself looking at every man I knew… consideringly.
Not Giles – he's practically my dad. Not Xander – way to piss off Spike. Not Andrew… no. (And I'd honestly never thought about how physically alike Andrew and Spike were before. But still: no. Shudder.)
Not Erik: highly creative ginger-freckled stoners not high on my pick-up list.
Not Silking, Spike's SSO buddy: too bald.
Not Gunn. He'd be ideal – faraway, trustworthy and fit. I did think about this a lot, mainly because Spike likes him, which might help. But Gunn couldn't be more physically different to Spike, which wasn't going to fit with my idea that Spike-alike sperm might help him bond. Dammit.
Still, thinking about how great Gunn would be as a candidate gave me another option: faraway, trustworthy, British, Spike likes. Check, check all the way. A little too tall, dark and short-sighted (though Spike actually needs glasses, if he'd only admit it), but none of it totally un-Spikeish.
And the best thing? I had never, ever had a sexual thought about him. Which is more than you can say for Xander or Gunn.
Not that I said that to Wesley's face, when I flew out to ask him.
I felt covert. Partly from embarrassment, mainly from trying to hide my visit from Angel. (Not thinking about that aspect at all was part of my current coping strategy).
I had a long list of sensible reasons for talking to Wesley. All the ones I'd rationalized from the start. A whole lot more about how it would be good to show the Slayers that a normal life would be possible; including growing up and having a family, unlike those who'd gone before us.
I also picked him partly because it didn't look like he was on a broody family-having course. Having lost his Fred, Wesley seemed to have refined his remaining life down to work, preparation for work, sleep, and whatever the hell he did with Illyria every year or so that made her nose turn pink. Which, probably, wasn't going to mean babies any time soon. So he'd get where I was coming from, I thought.
I phoned Spike that night, after.
"We have a donor, if we're doing this."
I could hear him take a huge pointless breath. "I didn't think he'd go for it."
"He sputtered a lot. But I think he's flattered, in a really subtle way."
(What Wesley had actually said was, "I can see the logic of your arguments. I suppose I should be of assistance if you're absolutely set on this.")
I carried on, "But he wants to talk to you first."
That was good. Spike couldn't ignore that.
I didn't find out what they said to each other, but it worked.
Which is why I ended up, a whole lot of clinic visits later, sitting in my bathroom, staring at a peed-on stick with two blue lines, and trying to get a line to Uzbekistan.
When I did get through, it couldn't have been a worse moment. The Gombril was confirmed loose, Spike was rushed as hell, and Silking had gone off looking for the demon without backup.
"We're having a baby," wasn't the perfect sentence to throw into the mix.
"Congrats," said Spike, and hung up.
I couldn't be bothered to look up the distance to Tashkent at that moment, but that's how long I wanted my arm to be, so I could smack him like he deserved.
He apologized, later. But so did I, because Silking was dead, the world was ending again and he really had been distracted. I think it was then that I truly realized Spike's not-very-Daddy feelings weren't going to be the only big challenge about Slayer parenthood.
Spike came home twice when I was pregnant. First time he was curious, enjoying the differences in me. I was at fourteen weeks: just enough to show, not enough to feel real yet.
Second time I was at twenty-nine weeks. He looked at me like I was a stranger. Flinched when he saw the baby's limbs press my belly out. He was polite, which was about the most insulting thing he'd ever done to me.
He did talk about it, a little, which I tried to call progress. "'Spect all the Slayerettes are asking questions. What are you telling them about the father?"
"Nothing. I've told no one. It's not their business. This is your baby, Spike, we're all agreed on that." Which was as close as I came to mentioning Wesley.
(This may have completely fucked up their friendship, by the way. At that point, I really wasn't sure about the choices I'd made.)
I was pretty low after that. It seemed like we were getting further apart all the time. But the baby kept on growing, which felt like hope and pressure and fear all at once.
Six weeks later, Spike called and asked about baby names. Like we were almost normal.
I said, "I thought you'd name it." (I had a list, of course, just in case. But I'd hoped this might be Spike's contribution).
He said, "'It'? That's not flattering." There was almost a smile there.
"I didn't want to make the big gender discovery without you. So get thinking, Mister."
He left me a voicemail late that night. It said he was coming home, and that I could have Annelise or Corisande, but he'd need more time on boys' names.
Annie, then, for a girl. I still don't think the other one's even a name.
I seriously thought Spike's eyeballs might pop out when he saw me at thirty seven weeks. It's hard for short women to do this gracefully, dammit.
The first thing he said was, "Fuck me, you're enormous."
The second thing he said was, "Ow." But the third was, "Sorry."
I was resigned. "No, it's true. I grew a lot while you were away."
His voice was muffled by the hugging, but it came over pretty clearly. "Not what I meant."
I was taking a leave of absence from the Council by then, plus I waddled whenever I walked, so we had a lot of time to sit and talk.
I remembered exactly why I'd missed him so much, and he got to know pregnant-me for the first time. We pretty much didn't stop talking till Annie interrupted.
Giving birth was not fun. Birth plan, my ass. But somewhere in among the pain, the medication, the wishing it would stop, and the screaming at the Council specialist for asking me if I thought my contractions were stronger than average ("it would be most helpful to learn more about the impact of Slayer physiognomy on labour"), I had a little time to worry.
We'd had four weeks of Spike and me – more concentrated 'just us' time than we'd had for years. We'd talked out a lot of what had gone wrong since I got that insane baby-want. But now it would never be just us two again, and Spike had a hell of a lot of pride to swallow still. We were going to be three, now.
I was pretty much out of it, once Annie was born, though I had time to look at her and realize she was amazing. Then I had to leave her to Spike for a bit. It was a few hours later that I woke up to find him standing over her bassinet.
Vampire and baby. Should have given me a shiver, I guess. But Spike was talking, low and calm, and it soothed me as much as it did her.
"Now look, we've talked about this. Your mum needs her rest, cuz you messed up her sleeping patterns the last fortnight or so, kicking her in the kidneys. So it's you and me for a bit, Annelise."
"There are a few things I should say from the start about this father-daughter thing. I was something of an idiot before you were born, and we're going to have to work on that. I'm not biologically your father, but you'll be surprised how little that matters now I've realised you're mine. I'm dead and slightly evil, which is pretty important to remember, but I'm not planning on eating you or your friends, ever. Boyfriends… we'll negotiate on that one.
"Oh, and don't ever let anyone call you Ann, okay? Over here, Ann Summers sells saucy nurses' outfits and sex toys. I'm pretty sure your mum overlooked that, when she nicknamed you. But it's still better than being called Pratt. Take it from me."
I closed my eyes.
It is going to be mostly okay, in our usual freakish way. And I'll worry about the name thing later.