I looked up. Everybody else was staring at the map, raptly watching the glowing spot jerkily move infinitesimally closer to our house.
"I... I didn't know the spell could follow somebody moving like that," Willow said in an awed voice.
"Cool," Annie said.
And then, as one, we all stood up and moved to the door, stepping out into the night and looking up the street. Nobody could be seen.
Bob spoke up. "I think it should just be Buffy. We don't want to overwhelm him".
"Plus, if he's dangerous for some reason, you're the best equipped to deal with him," Xander added, practical as ever.
"Mom?" Billy asked, his face begging me to let him stay. Billy had been training with me for years now. While not at Slayer strength, he could easily defend himself.
"You too, son," Bob amended. The rest all faded back inside.
I gestured forward. "Shall we?" We started walking, slowly and deliberately, peering into the shadows. After a block, the back of my neck began to tingle. I put my hand on Billy's arm and stopped him on a street corner, just under the light.
"Spike?" I called, and waited. The tinglies grew stronger.
And then a figure stepped out of the shadows. I clutched Billy's arm harder. My breath caught in my chest. It was definitely Spike.
My legs wanted to run to him, but I forced myself to remain still, calm. Billy was tensed under my restraining hand, and I was sure he was fighting the same urge.
"Spike," I said softly. "You're here". He stepped closer, and I noticed with disappointment that his expression was confused. His mind must still be in limbo I reflected. He sniffed the air, hesitating. I held my hand out, like to a stray dog.
He came nearer, then stopped again. Without taking his eyes off us, his hand snaked into his pocket, re-emerging with something small. Under the streetlight, it looked like a photo. The photo I'd left him. He held it out to me.
"That's right," I said soothingly, placing my hand over the photo and letting my fingers lightly touch his. He flinched, but didn't pull away. "We want you to come home". I slid my hand into his. "Will you come with us?" I asked, tugging him as gently as possible.
Spike moved quickly then, hands reaching out to grip our arms and keep us from getting away, moving right into our personal space. He smelled us again, face buried first in my hair, then Billy's. He leaned back and gazed quizzically at Billy's face, then softly touched his features with one finger. He turned to me with a little smile and did the same, then squeezed us both together and nuzzled into our necks.
Billy turned to me, alarmed, questioning. In response, I looked into his eyes as I tipped my neck to give Spike better access, showing Billy that it was safe.
Spike had always buried himself in my neck when he wanted to be close. It was a vampire thing, a way for him to bury himself in my essence, he'd explained. For a vampire, a human's scent was strongest over the pulse point in the neck.
Billy didn't know it, but baring my neck to Spike was a symbolic gesture of how much I loved and trusted him, a proof of the bond we shared. Spike seemed to take it as I meant it: that he was safe and secure.
We are going to have our first ultra-sound today. Spike is as excited as I am, maybe even more so.
As he explains it, the last time he paid any attention to pregnant women, there wasn't anything to pay attention to. It was unseemly for a mother-to-be to display her condition in public. The whole miracle of motherhood is a mystery to him, but he embraces that mystery with his usual boundless enthusiasm.
He reads "What to Expect when You're Expecting" so many times the book disintegrates. He knows every aspect of my pregnancy as well as I do, and with his enhanced senses, often better.
At night, before we go to bed, he places his ear on my belly and gives me an update on the sprog, as he calls our miracle child. "Strong heart. Wriggling like a fish. Sounds like he might be sucking his thumb," he'll say, or, "Seems a mite restless. Reckon a song will calm her down". And then he'll sing a lullaby from his childhood, or maybe a Ramones song, his mouth pressed against my belly, voice rumbling subsonically into my womb to soothe our baby.
Today is the first day we'll actually get to see it, though. The bug ship parks in the shadows of the building, and we hurry inside, heading to the office. The nurse ushers us into an examining room, takes my vitals, and I lay on the table. "Doctor will be here soon," he says.
Spike holds my hand, strokes my leg while we wait. He is always touching me now, making sure I'm really there. We flip through a book of baby names to pass the time.
"I like Sid for a boy and Nancy for a girl," he says. I glare at him. I've been around him long enough that I finally get the joke. He laughs. "No? I suppose you want something more namby-pamby then?"
"How about Angel?" I say sweetly. He chokes. "It works for either a girl or a boy," I continue while he splutters. Luckily the doctor comes in then and saves me from Spike's wrath.
We have the usual conversation about how I'm feeling and how I'm the healthiest pregnant lady she's ever seen. If only she knew. Of course, it's hasn't all been smooth sailing. I'm thankful the morning sickness stage was brief, because it was awful. She asks if I've been exercising. I wonder if fending off demons counts.
She lifts my shirt and squirts the jelly on. "Do you want to know the sex?" she inquires.
We look at each other.
"Yeah," Spike says, all casual like, but I can see the anticipation in his eyes. He's told me he doesn't care, but he still wants to know.
The wand rolls over my belly. Our baby appears on the screen in three dimensional glory. It's beautiful. As the wand moves, different features pop into view. The doctor confirms the baby has all its parts, then moves down to the genitals, which are hidden from view.
She gives my belly a little shake. "Come on now sweetie, don't be shy, show us what you've got". Spikes eyes are glued to the screen, but I'm enjoying watching his face much more. "Oh," she says, "here we go. It's a boy!"
"A boy!" Spike declares. "Did you hear that Buffy? William Junior!" He swoops down on me and kisses me breathless. The doctor chuckles.
"So, William, would you like a copy of the little movie we've just watched?" She is as entranced by Spike's rapture as I am, flirting in that subconscious way that all females seem to do around him.
Back off, bitch! I think, but Spike barely even notices her. His eyes are back on the screen. "Absolutely," I answer for him.
She tells me to come back in one month, and hands me the DVD she's burned. Spike takes it from me, turning it over and over. It always amazes me how good it makes me feel to see him so happy. I want to make him this happy for the rest of his life. Un-life. He deserves it. I vow to go to that place in the mall where you can get an hour long video of your baby in utero, and surprise Spike with it.
When we get back to the ship, Spike immediately puts the DVD into the player and watches it over and over. When he's finally satisfied, he turns to me. "Buffy," he growls, his voice filled with emotion. "We did this. We made this beautiful boy".
"We did," I agree. I feel a pang of regret that neither of us actually remembers conceiving our son. It's not a story I'll ever tell him.
"I... I'm not worthy of this. Your love, a child, reckon s'not what I deserve after the things I've done".
"What, after you've saved the world how many times?" I return incredulously. "Saved me how many times? Fought to win your soul and be a better man? You're right, you don't deserve this. You deserve more".
He stares into my eyes. I'm proud that I've been able to shut him up. It doesn't happen often.
He turns bashful. "William all right with you then? Want a different name?"
I don't even hesitate. "William is the only choice," I answer.
"And what should be his middle name, then?"
I consider different options. I certainly don't want to be reminded of my father. I think about all the times I'd told Giles he was like a father to me. "Rupert?" I say out loud. We both shake our heads.
"Randy?" I giggle. "'Desperate for a Shag' Giles?" Spike guffaws loudly.
"How ‘bout just Giles?" he offers.
"William Giles. Billy Giles. It could work". I'm wondering how to bring up surnames when he does it for me.
"You know I can't claim my child, since I don't exist and whatnot. Means t'would be easiest to call him Summers".
I disagree. I want to announce to the world that this is Spike's baby, but legally speaking, he's right. Stupid vampire. "William Giles Summers," I proclaim to the room.
Spike smiles. "Yeah".
"So, did you see when he yawned?" I ask. "Did those look like little fangs to you?"
He doesn't realize that I'm teasing. His eyes get big, and he starts the DVD over.
That night, after Spike completes his ritual lullaby, he adds something new. "Goodnight little Billy," he purrs. The vibrations set my skin tingling, and I pull him up me.
Spike had been afraid of harming the baby for the longest time, but our overwhelming need to touch each other finally had him giving in. We'd had amazing sex in the past (too long ago I think), but now it was so much more. Making love the way we did each night was everything he'd always wanted and I'd always refused. I can't remember why I ever denied him this.
"Spike," I say huskily, "help me rock William to sleep".
"He's already sleeping luv," he replies in his seductive voice. "Have to wake him up first. Let him know what an insatiable mummy he has. Could teach the little sprog how to satisfy a woman". What he's saying is just indecent, but I don't care. He leers knowingly, eyes hooded, tongue curled. When he looks at me like that, everything melts away but my desire.
Later, our passion quenched, we're rocking together, rhythmically and peacefully. Spike nuzzles into my neck, nipping gently with his teeth. I turn my head and bare my jugular to him, sighing happily.
"Bloody hell, Buffy. Vampire here! Do you have no sense of self-preservation, woman?" he demands incredulously. "Do you realize what exposing your neck to me like that does to me?"
"I think I've figured it out," I say. After a beat, I add, "You could, you know. I wouldn't mind. I trust you".
He pulls back, looks into my eyes. "Blood lust is a powerful thing, pet. I've controlled it so long, s'not so bad now. But if I were to start... especially Slayer blood... I don't know if I could stop".
"Spike, you are the strongest person I know. You can control it". I bite him on the neck, hard, and he shivers. I bite him harder, hard enough to draw blood, and he growls. "See? If you were any other vamp, you'd be all fangy by now. You are sooo in control". I pull his head back down to my neck, wrap my arms and legs tighter around him, rocking us together. "I believe in you".
He nuzzles my neck more, inhaling deeply, and I can feel tears falling on my skin. "I'm so afraid I'll bollix us up, luv," he mumbles into my skin.
"No! You won't!" I tell him forcefully, willing him to accept my belief in him. I shift my head until we're forehead to forehead, eyes so close it's almost impossible to see him. "We finally get to be happy. Together! You are the man of my dreams, my lover, my mate, the father of my child".
I hold Spike's face in my hands. "You won't ‘bollix' this up," I repeat. "You're not a monster, you're a man. You prove it to me every second of every day". He sobs, overwhelmed. His blue eyes are so intense, I'm sure they'll burn right through me.
I draw his head back down to my neck. He inhales again, tongue running over my dancing pulse. He's never bitten me, never even hinted at it, although I know how much he must crave it. "Go on," I say. We rock steadily, and I don't think he'll do it. I want him to though. I need him to believe in himself as much as I do.
He quickens the pace of his movements, and I feel his face change. "It'll hurt," he warns.
"Eh, I've had worse".
It doesn't hurt though. Spike barely nicks my skin, then sucks gently. He pulls away, but I beg him not to stop. The feel of his mouth on my neck is sensual, I finally understand the attraction of bitehouses. I sense another orgasm coming on, and rock more forcefully.
As it bursts over me, he clamps down harder, drawing great pulls of blood, and then convulses with a moan. When he stills, his mouth remains on my neck, but he's stopped drinking. He grabs the corner of the sheet and presses it against my neck.
"It shouldn't scar," he whispers, almost fearfully, as if I might reject him now. In response, I pull the sheet and his hand away, tracing the bite with my finger. I can barely even feel the two small punctures.
I wrap my hands in his hair and pull his face to my neck, exposing it to him once more. "I know you wouldn't ever be that rough," I whisper back at him. "You'll always stop before you hurt me". Spike finally accepts my trust in him, and burrows deeper into the hollow of my collar bone, lips resting against my pulse point.
He hums contentedly. With his deep, rumbly humming vibrating against me, it feels like he is purring.
We sleep like that, tangled together and sated, our son growing in my belly, safe in our love.
"He's purring!" Billy mouthed at me in shock.
I grinned. "Humming," I mouthed back.
I let Spike snuggle into us for a while longer, then gently wriggled my way out of his embrace. I took his hand again. "Come," I said simply, and began to walk towards home, pulling him along. He followed without resistance.
When we got to our house, Dawn and Bob were on the steps of the porch. I could see the others inside, trying to watch out the window without being obvious. Spike looked at the porch, his face a mask of confusion once again. I was encouraged by how he had seemed to recognize Billy and me quickly enough, and figured it simply took time for his poor broken mind to process things.
I beckoned the two of them over. Dawn came slowly, and Spike sniffed at her. He focused intently on her face, his mouth working, but no sound coming out. Then he gave Dawn the same embrace he'd given us earlier. She stood stock still and stroked his head.
After a time, he turned to Bob, who had now joined our group. Spike's eyes narrowed, and he cocked his head. He inhaled deeply, eyes closed, brow furrowed. I wondered what was different, but whatever it was, Spike seemed satisfied. He pulled Bob to him, nuzzling him like the rest of us. Bob's eyes widened in shock. I stifled a giggle, and could see Dawn doing the same.
Moments later, I drew Spike back to me, stroking the backside of his hand with mine.
"Are we inviting him into the house?" Billy asked quietly.
"No," I replied. "He seems safe, but we don't really know. Annie..." I trailed off. Billy nodded in understanding.
"Besides," Bob said, "I have a feeling if we allowed him in the house, we'd find him snuggled up between us in bed".
Dawn snorted, and Spike turned to her, quizzical. She stroked his other hand reassuringly.
"We have Spike's handy-dandy apartment downstairs, which is coincidentally and fortuitously available now that Dave moved out last month," I said in a chipper voice.
"Indeed, great timing," Bob agreed.
"I think he's enough excitement for now kids, so let's take him downstairs, settle him in. I'll watch over him until the sun comes up, and by then he should be comfortable. Or at least, he won't be able to go anywhere".
Dawn went inside to answer the others' questions, and we took Spike to his apartment. He looked around blankly. I led him to the couch. "Billy? You want to sit with him a minute?"
I walked Bob back to the top of the stairs, out of sight, and then bounced up and down in excitement. "I can't believe it! He's really here!" I squeaked.
Bob smiled, a little sadly. "Spike's back," he agreed.
I wondered if he was worried that I would grow distant again, or worse. I wrapped my arms around, holding him as tightly as I dared, and kissed him deeply. "You are the most amazing man," I told him. "Tomorrow, we are definitely not going to want Spike sleeping between us," I promised.
He gave me a crooked smile. "Don't fall asleep, ok? I know you're the Slayer, but..." he trailed off.
"I'll be safe," I assured him. "I'll send Billy up in a minute".
"'Night honey," he said, and left after one last kiss.
Once Billy had left, I sat on the couch next to Spike. He sat there, docile, and I contemplated him. The partial restoration of the Seed must have healed him enough to give him a little more sense of identity, enough to allow him to find us. Beyond that, though, it seemed he was as lost as ever.
I remembered my internal debate from years ago. Now that he was actually here, I couldn't ignore how deeply I yearned to have him restored to his old self, have us restored to what we had lost. If he regained his missing self, I suspected that there would be a lot of heartache in our future. I reconsidered my selfish wish for him to stay like this, to have my cake and eat it too.
The sense of despair I felt at Spike being this almost empty shell was overpowering. I shook my head in self-disgust. We had to heal him, come what may.
"Don't worry," I told him. "We'll take care of you. We'll fix it". He reached for me, one hand cupping my face. I leaned into him, drinking him in, afraid he might disappear if I looked away. For over 15 years I had waited for this moment.
I eased the coat off his shoulders, the boots off his feet. "You're going to be here awhile, so let's get comfy," I said. I pulled the throw off the back of couch and covered our laps with it, and then I began to talk to him in a low and steady voice. I didn't know if Spike understood me, but my voice seemed to comfort him. I told him of my love for him, of all he had missed over the years.
As the night progressed, he leaned into me while I talked on, wriggling in contentment like a puppy, humming in his rumbling, purring way. My fingers tugged on his long brown curls, traced the shape of his face, and stroked his arms. I couldn't stop touching him, reassuring myself he was really there.
Just before dawn, he seemed to finally settle into a deep sleep, eyelashes dark on his cheeks. I kissed the top of his head and breathed in the scent of his hair. I was sure my heart would burst with joy.
"I love you, Spike," I whispered to him.
It felt so amazing to finally be able to tell him again, I repeated it over and over as the sun rose in the sky.