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Hunger

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See my heart I decorate it like a grave

                -Alice In Chains, “Down in a Hole”

****

It was late. Too late for her to be out alone, walking back to her tiny apartment from the diner where she worked. Except Buffy’s car had broken down weeks ago and she didn’t have any money to even see what was wrong with it, let alone get it fixed. The tips she made at the diner barely kept her bills paid, clothes on her back, and food on the table.  Payday was still three days away and there wasn’t much to eat at home, but Buffy’s stomach was still growling at the thought of the can of chicken and stars soup that was waiting for her.

It'd be warm and no one would care if she ate the whole thing. There was even a couple of packs of crackers she’d “forgotten” to take out of her apron pocket to go with the soup.

She hunched into her coat. Fall was starting to turn into winter and she was going to have to buy a heavier jacket soon if she was going to keep walking to work. A bigger one too, since her belly seemed to be expanding at an alarming rate. The first three months of her pregnancy had been a blur of nausea and heartache. The father of her baby ditched her as soon as he knew she was pregnant. She didn’t even know where Riley was. He’d signed up for some super-secret special ops mission and disappeared out of her life. All she had left of him was the kiddo. At the end he’d said so many harsh things about how deviant she was, what a terrible lay she’d been, and how no man would ever be able to love her.

The worst part was that it was all true. At least she had the baby. She didn’t know how yet, but they’d make it. Her son or daughter might never have fancy clothes or the latest toys, but they’d have a loving mother.

Tears blurred her vision. She never saw the man that grabbed her and pulled her into one of the many dirty alleys that downtown Seattle was full of. She struggled against his grip, but he was too strong. He pushed her up against the wall behind a reeking dumpster. Her hand scrabbled over the leather of his coat, unable to find purchase.

“I don’t have any money,” she whimpered.

The man laughed. “Not what I’m looking for, pet.”

Oh god, he was going to rape her. “No, please. Don’t.” She tried desperately to get away. The man simply used his body to pin her tighter against the wall. A car drove by and in the glare from the headlights she could see that his face wasn’t right, he looked like an animal. Fangs gleamed in between his snarling lips.

Buffy knew she was going to die.

The creature brought its face to her neck.

“Please, no, please. I’m…”

“Shut your gob,” the creature hissed. Tears were cascading down her cheeks. Her own life was garbage, it didn’t matter if she ended up dead in a ditch, but her baby not getting a chance at life was driving a stake through her heart.

The creature’s breath tickled her exposed throat. Her own lungs ceased to function.

It paused, holding preternaturally still. Its hair looked white against the darkness.

“What’s this?” The creature went to its knees in front of her. It kept her pinned with strong hands, but gently laid an ear on her belly.

“I’m about four and a half months along,” she whispered.

‘”I can hear them, their little heartbeats.”

“Them?”  Her mouth went dry. She was having twins. She was eighteen with no degree, no talents, barely a job, and was having twins.

“Doctors should have told you that.” He sounded reproachful.

“I…my job doesn’t offer health insurance.”

The creature leapt back to its feet and starting pacing in front of her. “Woman!”  It shook a finger at her. “What is wrong with you? You can’t be walking the streets at night like some common…street walker, not when you have such important cargo on board! You could have died! I’m not the only thing that goes bump in the night!”

“Are you scolding me?” Buffy crossed her arms, anger bubbling up inside her.

“I haven’t even begun, you bloody bint! You have to take care of yourself, why are you out so late? There’s clinics you could go to for less than nothing. Do you care so little about your children that you’d risk their lives like this? You’re not even dressed properly, your tits are halfway hanging out of your blouse. Does your…whatever know you’re out here?”

“Stop, just stop.” The tears were coming thick and fast from her eyes. “How dare you!” she bit out. This guy didn’t know her. No one did. He didn’t get to judge. He murdered random people in alleys! “I was disowned by my mother when I accidently burnt down the school gym, not to mention expelled. I’ve been working for crap tips at the one place I’ve found that’ll pay me under the table. I have to work a lot to pay rent; those clinics are all during the times I’m at work or they’re too far away. My car is trashed, I can’t afford another work blouse so I’m having to make this one do for as long as possible, and I’m walking home at night because I was working late. I have forty-two cents in my bank account, I don’t get paid for another three days, I only have a single can of soup to eat at home. I’m exhausted, my feet hurt, I really need to pee, and I’m stuck in an alley with some monster that either wants to eat me or shame me to death.” Buffy was panting. The monster in question had stopped its pacing and was just standing there, head cocked to the side.

“When’s the last time you had something proper to eat, luv?”

“A while.” It’d been more than twenty-four hours since she scarfed down her last can of beans and ate the last two pieces of stale bread. She stepped away from the wall, intending to try and brush by the man…creature. Only her legs felt like jell-o and her head was spinning.

****

Spike felt gobsmacked. His dinner had turned out to be a firecracker. He’d been meaning to grab some junkie for a quick bite before heading out of Seattle, but when he’d caught the girl’s scent he’d been unable to resist.  She was delectable.

The pregnancy had been a surprise. It’d stopped him. Such tiny lives, so dependent on the care of someone else.

Christ, he missed Drusilla, missed caring for her. She’d been as helpless as a child at the end, after Prague. He might have reaffirmed his title of Slayer of Slayers in Sunnydale, but it’d been a hollow victory. The Slayer had dusted Drusilla the first time his princess had wandered outside of the factory.

The Slayer. What a joke that’d turned out to be.  The tall, thin girl with short brown hair had hardly been worth the fight. Missy had been no Nikki Woods.  He’d killed her with her own stake for pete’s sake. Then he’d driven north, drinking like a fish along the way. Until tonight. Until this girl.

He’d thought her stupid, cavalier with the lives dependent on her, unappreciative of the gift she’d been given.

Then she’d let him, after he’d had her on the point of his fangs, have it with both barrels. She was going to be a formidable mama bear one day.

The blonde stepped away from the wall. He’d let her go, she and her passengers had earned a pass.

He stood his ground. No reason not to make her squirm one last time. She hesitated, blinked, and then her eyes were rolling up and her legs gave out. Before he could process what he was doing, he caught her slight form. Under her threadbare coat she was thin everywhere except for the gentle swell of her belly.

Well, and her tits. Those were nice.

Spike sighed and forced his demon back. He knelt and balanced her on his knee with one arm while he searched through the girl’s pockets. He found a key and a crumpled gas bill marked past due. It had an address less than three blocks away. In for a penny, in for a pound.

The name on the envelope was Buffy Summers.

“Buffy,” he said, trying it out. 

It fit her.

The blonde weighed less than nothing and it was no work to carry her to her apartment building. The inside of the decrepit brick edifice was dank and poorly lit with an elevator that wasn’t working. His nose twitched. Demon owned building, the scent was cloying. He'd bet there wasn't lease with anyone's name on it for her flat or any of the others. Convenient, that.

Spike climbed the three flights of stairs and found flat 322. It was a miniscule one bedroom with something that passed for a kitchen, a bathroom that hadn’t been updated in 40 years, and not enough living space for a flea. But it was clean and uncluttered. The furniture consisted of one sagging futon, an uneven table with mismatched chairs, and a TV sitting on the floor. 

Spike set the girl gently down on the futon. He poked around the kitchen, finding a few spices, prenatal vitamins, and a single can of soup. It was sad. She’d said three more days till she got paid. What the hell was the chit planning on eating until then?

In the bathroom there was a threadbare towel, a worn out toothbrush, a hairbrush, and a single bar of soap. None of the little frou-frou smell-good things that women seemed to collect like bottle caps. That was even more depressing than the kitchen.

Back in the main room, Spike took several deep breaths through his nose. The girl’s scent was the only one in the bloody place. No one else, and especially no one male, had been there in months. The firecracker was on her own. Spike growled deep in his throat. Whatever wanker had impregnated her had left her high and dry. A slow, painful death was in order if he ever caught up with the git. The lessons Spike had learned at Angelus’ knee floated through his mind.

On the futon Buffy sighed and stirred, but didn’t wake. Carefully, Spike pulled a hand-knitted blanket over her.

The girl needed help.

You could help her.

She won’t want me to. 

Feed her, she will.

Gold flashed in his eyes and a feral grin spread across his face. The girl would be his.

****

He took her keys and left her sleeping. Before retrieving his car, he emptied a drifter whose path he crossed, leaving the body in a dumpster.

At a big box store that was open all night, Spike loaded up a cart with enough food to fill up the fridge and every cabinet in the tiny apartment. He tossed in toiletries, spending a rather long time popping open the tops of shampoo bottles till he found one that he thought would complement her natural scent. He grabbed some maternity clothes that would be roughly her size, along with undergarments. There’d be time later to get things for the lil’ bits.  He even threw in a radio and a new TV. It’s not like the dead owner of the stolen credit card was going to care.

A couple bottles of Jack and a carton of cigarettes for himself and he was set. The DeSoto was packed to the gills and it took him three trips to get it all upstairs to her flat. The girl must have been exhausted, she never even moved as he unpacked the groceries and put up everything else he’d bought her.

As the sun threatened to crest the horizon, Spike stood at the one window of the flat. Past the fire escape and between two more buildings he could just make out a black and white ferry churning the waters of Puget Sound. He fingered the ring in his pocket for long moments before pulling it out and holding it in his palm.

It was a risk, but the girl didn’t have curtains and he didn’t fancy hiding until sundown. It was unlikely any other demons would see him in here anyway. Keeping the damn thing a secret was a great deal of trouble, but necessary if he didn’t want every righteous do-gooder and would-be-king vamp tracking him down to take it. With a shrug, he slipped the Gem of Amara on and pulled out a skillet. He was betting the chit wouldn’t sleep through bacon and eggs.