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Born Great

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Near-certain death does many, many things to the human psyche. Grown men weep and cry for their mothers. Barely-bearded boys fling themselves on grenades to save their platoons. Mothers develop the strength of ten to save the precious flickering life that is their infant.

And they fuck.

Wesley and Illyria certainly did, thoroughly, repeatedly and undeniably, in the ruins of what had once been the Hyperion, amid the blood of a thousand demons and (it emerged) before the not terribly averted gaze of onlookers including but not limited to Spike and Angel.

Wesley discovered this six weeks later, as he spewed his breakfast uncontrollably for the third day in a row and turned from his retching to find Spike regarding him with a brow quirked to straining point.

“What?” said Wesley, pardonably perturbed to find that his vomiting had become a spectacle.

“You seen Blue lately,” Spike asked, in the manner of a man aware that the true answer would be ‘no’.

“No,” mumbled Wesley, wiping his mouth and wishing for toothpaste.

“Cos I have, and she’s spewing just like you.”

“Erm.” Wesley was not in any state to consider this with clarity. Nor confidence.

Spike flicked a lighter, lit a fag in a way severely deleterious to Wesley's control of his nausea, and proceeded to make matters worse. “Now, either there’s some unpleasant digestive bacterium toxic to Old Ones and humans alike, or you should be finding some reference works on how Old One reproduction works, instanter. Know what I mean, Wes?”

*

It wasn’t hard to find Illyria. She was in Spike’s old flat, basement gloomy, and now reeking of poor sanitation and mild ill-health. She looked, if anything, bluer than usual.

“You are with child,” said Wesley, tasting every ridiculous syllable on his tongue. Illyria had burned Fred from the inside. There was no means to produce offspring, not by any method Wesley would recognise. But then, that hadn’t stopped him fucking her, in the instant rush of relief when they lived, and it didn’t stop him caring that she looked unhappy.

“We.” She didn’t need to say much more, though being Illyria, she did. “We are generating new life. An obscenity, to mingle my essence with a human insect. What debased concoction of aberrant inheritance have we made?”

She paused. “And why I am carrying it?”

Ah.

Wesley sighed. “In our world, women bear children. You must know that from Fred’s memories.” Memories of Darla dusting, Cordelia ripped open by Jasmine’s calling… and probably some more normal human births along the way. He hoped so, at least.

“In my world, the consort bears. You are the consort in this coupling.”

“I think that’s at least a debatable point.” Wesley tried not to bristle. Then, remembering, he flattened his hackles in favour of an attempt at useful dialogue. “Also, I appear to be… erm, bearing… too?”

Illyria reached out a blue-tipped hand and rested it on his belly. Something kicked, in both non-existent wombs, or neither. Wesley and Illyria flinched in tandem.

Wesley tried not to pass out.

A clatter behind them reminded him that Spike was very much part of this ridiculous encounter. “So, twins?”

“Possibly not,” was all Wesley could offer. It felt like one creature. In two places, or one place beyond either of them. He didn’t want to lose the connection with Illyria.

He never wanted to see Illyria again.

He did not want to think of Fred, and the normal, healthy child they might have had, had they been very different people, in a wholly different world.

Spike, again, broke the silence. “Strikes me, you need a medic on this one. And what with having demolished and erased our former workplace, with all its handy contacts, you might need some other international organisation with resources and mystical connections. Want me to call the Slayer Council?”

Wesley moved a little closer to Illyria, ensuring the contact of hand on belly stayed strong as he finally broke her gaze to look at Spike. “That’s a particularly naked attempt to find a reason to call Buffy.”

The vampire’s flinch suggested that leaving that unexpressed would have been merciful, though typically, the chin came up and the head bobbed, acceptingly. “Still. Got a point, haven’t I?”

Wesley didn’t answer, face back to Illyria’s once more. His nausea had gone. This felt better.

*

Spike was not a man to let things drop, of course. Back at the Hyperion, casual references to Council resources slipped seamlessly into what felt like every second sentence. Wesley and Illyria, sexlessly distantly cocooned in each other, breeding fast, ignored him for the most part.

“But, look, I’m not just trying to give Buffy a bell, am I? You need help. Also, we need some kind of plan, crazy kids. Can’t bum around a bust up old hotel forever. Be good, be bad, be super-duper evil, just for the love of god, let’s stop sitting on our asses all day.”

Therein, a good point. The fall of Wolfram and Hart, Angel’s shanshu, the necessary healing of fragile human flesh abused beyond reason, had all distracted them from the fact they didn’t quite know what to do these days. Where next?

At least a conversation with the Council might be productive of a few ideas. And, possibly, some mystical gynaecology tracts, which would undeniably be helpful.

Wesley tried not to regret the Wolfram and Hart library. It undoubtedly held information on this, if anywhere did. And they had burned the place and salted the ground. Perhaps overkill, upon reflection. They might have saved the book.

“Oh, very well. Shall we see whether the evil corporate jet is still available?” They hadn’t, after all, burned quite everything. And suppliers appeared curiously reluctant to cut off Wolfram and Hart’s credit lines.

*

Wesley would also, it emerged, gladly have gone an entire life without discussing his own mystical pregnancy with Rupert Giles. It was an exchange of clotted embarrassment, swallowed syllables, and fiery burning sensations in the ears and face.

“….your… intercourse… at a hotspot of mystical energy, the place of Connor’s own birth, on a night when the demon realms were open…” Quite. Rather unwise, now Wesley considered it in cold blood. More than human contraception would have been sensible. Not that they’d bothered with that either, but he chose not to raise the point. Bloody idiotic all round, this conception, and the only unpredictable thing was he who had been chosen to bear the consequences. He, and they.

He felt like a moral lesson. One which would, doubtless, be transmitted to future generations. (Goggling trainees, huddled to hear that, There was one a Watcher who, in the heat of battle, let standards slip… He noticed that he had begun to call himself a Watcher again. How inappropriate. He was very much more a Participant, these days.)

*

It was not possible to avoid Illyria at the Council, deeply though he wished to keep their interaction free of observers. Medical exigencies called them together. Meddling Ruperts likewise. Wesley had to talk to her, and their conversation could not be exclusively obstetric. Physically, it improved his condition. Mentally, far less so.

She seemed softer, he thought, though perhaps not in body. That hard shell, it had been determined, was not a life-giving vessel. The birth, if one chose to call it a birth, would be Wesley’s affair.

Wesley remembered, vividly, the night Connor was born. Darla’s fury. Fred’s face, as she described self-sacrifice.

Wesley was in no mood to do likewise.

One day, Illyria advanced on him, hands outspread. She did not ask for permission, but checked with his face at every step as she unbuttoned his shirt, exposing the ridiculously expanding bulge of his abdomen, and rested first hands, then face against it.

He waited. What, after all, did one do otherwise?

“She is not ready,” said Illyria, solemnly. Wesley knew that – all of it – from infinite Council medical examinations. But it felt rather more secure, coming from its mother. (Debatable nomenclature, but Wesley was not prepared to be other than a father to this brat, and someone should mother it.)

Illyria drew away from him on that thought, sharp and pained as though his feelings had been expressed verbally. “Sorry,” he said, helplessly. “This… isn’t usual. I don’t always cope with grace.”

Illyria looked up at him, composed. Then grasped his hand and drew it to her belly; untouched by him for many weeks now. If she had been a woman, one would have said – were one an old wife and a clucker around pregnant females – that she was carrying low, and small. Wesley knew better. Nothing in that hollow form but potential and power. He held the living being inside himself. But the living being kicked in welcome at the approach of Illyria.

He remembered, brutally, all those many, many depictions of the Visitation in childhood compulsory museum trips. Welcome to blasphemy, as the babe leaps in your womb, Pryce. Not that you have a womb. Not that your interlocutor carries the Messiah. Really, an Anglican education can be an awful handicap at such a moment.

*

The birth, odder still. None of the rhythmic pains so often depicted, simply a certainty. Wesley knocked on Giles’s door. “Could you call the doctors, please? She needs to come out.”

Giles looked at him steadily. “We have time. And you have a decision to make.”

The decision was not complicated. Did one invite Illyria to the birth? If one did, one would give birth to a supernatural being, who would suck all the powers from Illyria’s symbiotic growth, and become something hitherto unknown.

Or, did one… not? The child would be born. It might even live. It would be at least a reasonable facsimile of human. Illyria would continue to feed her parasitical growth, which would never – could never – come to life, and would ultimately drain her.

“And you decided to tell me this today because… what? Childbirth is the ideal moment to make complex moral decisions?”

Giles shrugged. “Because I didn’t think it was a very complex decision. But you should at least know there is one.”

Wesley, winded, wondered which of these options Giles considered the simple one. Killing Illyria, which he would once have done without thought, and ending up with at least the possibility of his own human child, perhaps with some fragmentary remnants of Fred’s DNA to give him the illusion of what he had once seen in his future? Or giving birth to a healthy monster who would tie him to Illyria forever? It was, Giles to the contrary, not simple.

He waddled off to the operating theatre. “Oh, bring her in, for Christ’s sake, and let’s get this over.” He did not turn around to see whether Giles was surprised.

*

The child grew. Children do.

Few grow this fast.

After a week, she climbed onto Wesley’s knee and said, severely, “Papa-“ This was not, incidentally, Wesley’s idea of a suitable appellation. She had picked it up somewhere and preferred it to Daddy. “-This is getting ridiculous. We need to give me a name.”

“You choose it,” he said, idly, running his fingers through her long brown hair.

“No,” she responded, gravity in the syllable. “Mummies and daddies choose names. Then children have something to complain about.”

She was a freak, but she did know humans. “Well, then, it had better be Olivia. Or Maria, or Viola. Something Shakespearean, from the coast of Illyria, don’t you think?”

The child wrinkled her nose. “Can’t I just have my own name?”

“Fair enough,” he said, after a pause. “What would you like?”

“Something normal,” was the answer, and a small part of Wesley broke.

“I’m afraid we’re not awfully normal people,” he told her, solemnly.

“All the more important to fake it,” said his daughter, snuggling back into his lap.

Lacking inspiration, not to mention experience of normality, Wesley googled the Dixie Chicks. Something Freddish there, and he had no reason to think they had particularly freakish names for American females. “Laura… Emily… Natalie… Robin?”

“Natalie,” nodded Illyria.

“Laura?” pleaded their daughter.

“Natalie,” said her parents, firmly.

“That sucks,” said Natalie.

Normality, precariously, established itself.

*