It wasn’t a bad life, really.
Willow was learning a lot, including the most efficient ways to use the trickle of magic she was allowed each day. She was able to spend most of her time studying and writing papers and stuff, which she’d always liked. She even had her own little suite, basically, with a bedroom, sitting room full of books, and a bathroom, complete with shower and a nice bath. And most of her food was even delivered to her. Shoved right through the slot in the locked-from-the-outside and magically reinforced door.
Willow gave that door a resigned look from her comfy recliner. It would open soon, and she’d be taken to her weekly therapy to deal with the loss of the lower part of her left arm. On non-therapy days, she got to walk out in the garden or visit the greenhouse if the weather was bad. Then she’d be brought back to what was basically her jail cell to wait until it was time for the magic and ethics class with other learning witches.
If not for the locked door…. If not for the spell that gave her a nasty shock and drained her magic if she used too much…. If not for how she was used as an example of what not to do in regards to magical ethics…. If not for the fact that no one other than her parents and Spike would take her calls…. It would have been a wonderful experience. Like being selected to go to Hogwarts, or something.
Except I don’t have a Harry and Ron to go on adventures with. Not anymore. Not like back in Sunnydale. She closed her eyes and tried not to think of Sunnydale and the mess she’d left behind. It was hard, considering she’d be getting on a plane to the place tomorrow for a supervised visit with her parents. The pair of coven witches escorting her were also going to try to do something for Amy. At least that was one failure of hers that would hopefully be salvaged. As for her friends….
She hadn’t told Spike about the trip. He was her only link to the rest of them, but when she asked, all he would ever say was that everyone was “fine” or sometimes “right as rain” when he wasn’t too annoyed with her. When he was pissed off, all she’d get was that if they’d wanted her to know how they were, they’d “bloody well” tell her themselves, wouldn’t they?
Willow took a deep breath and opened her eyes. She’d messed up big time, but Buffy and Xander had been her best friends. Especially Xander. She wanted to see them again, at least once. A frightened part of her wondered if she’d even recognize them, but she shook the thought away. She’d only been away for about nine months or so. Not much could really change in that amount of time. Right?
The warm glide of her skin against his, her strong hands circling and rubbing, fingers squeezing with just enough pressure to skirt the exquisite edge of pleasure and pain. Spike couldn’t hold back a low moan, body arching, head tilting back as his eyes fluttered closed with mind-numbing bliss.
“Oh, jeez, get a room you two,” Dawn complained from the kitchen, voice practically dripping with an exasperated eye roll.
“Wow, gutter-mind much?” Buffy shot back without slowing or pausing the foot massage.
She was sat at one end of the couch with his feet propped in her lap, working out the aches and swelling. Also giving his nails a fresh coat of black varnish. Seeing as how he was the equivalent of seven months along with their second sprog, he couldn’t even bloody see his toes most the time, much less do anything with them, so her help there was much appreciated.
They’d gone off for a bit of a patrol once the sun had set around six. Normally, they’d join Joyce and Dawn for some grub, then just hang about for a couple of hours with Thursday before Buffy went on a solo patrol. Tonight was different though, on account of all of the non-infant Summers women being involved in Anya’s bridal shower.
At Ben’s suggestion, Xander had been going to a group meeting for the families of alcoholics. After a few months of it, he’d got up the confidence and courage to pop Anya the question. And while his lady love was being showered in gifts, he would be spending the evening at Chateau Summers with Spike, Giles, and Thursday, who had been jokingly declared an honorary boy for Boys’ Night In.
The itty bitty herself was sitting about on one of her blankets, making adorable growly noises at her stuffed toys. “Having fun then, are we, kitten?” he asked.
“Dada!” Thursday chirped, carefully getting up to her feet and toddling over to him.
God, but she was growing fast, wasn’t she? Seemed like she should still be naught but a crawly little sprog, but she’d had her first birthday just last week. She was able to walk about a bit now and say a few words. Next thing, she’d be running all willy-nilly and nattering on in full sentences. Then there would be boyfriends — or possibly girlfriends. He was an open-minded sort of bloke — and he’d have to eat them. Or, well, maybe not. Bloody soul twinged a bit at that thought and some of his nightmares stirred in his subconscious. He pushed them back, focusing on the idea of scaring the sodding crap out anyone wanting to date his little girl before she was at least sixty.
He was pulled from his thoughts by Thursday slapping her little hand against his belly and giggling when it woke Aliena enough to start kicking. “Hihi!” she called out, slapping again.
Thank god for baggy sweaters, he thought, wincing as he snagged his girl and pulled her up onto the couch. Superpowered baby slaps stung like a wicked bitch against bare skin. Didn’t do a bloody bit of good as protection against the kicks, though. Not that he really minded much. Was a comfort, feeling Aliena moving all about.
“Trying to stage a prison break, are we, love? None of that. This one is serving her full sentence, she is.”
“Darn straight, she is,” Buffy grumbled, giving his foot a gentle squeeze to let him know she was done.
He sat up, scooting closer to her and tucking Thursday in between them. “Mum-uh,” she said happily, wiggling over into Buffy’s lap and gently patting at one of her breasts.
Spike snorted and shook his head. “I see how it is. Stirrin’ up trouble like a little terror and smacking a fella about for fun. But when it comes to filling your belly, turn into a wee, innocent lamb, don’t you?”
“Sorry, sweetie,” Buffy said, giving their baby a kiss on the forehead. “Mama has to go soon. But I pumped, so there will be a nice bottle and some blood for you while I’m gone.”
“Gifts are all wrapped,” Dawn announced, coming out the kitchen with a stack of three presents, her mum right behind her.
“You ready?” Joyce asked.
In answer, Buffy stood up, settling Thursday beside Spike instead of in his lap as he hadn’t much of one at the moment. Then she leaned down to kiss him, her lips warm and firm against his. A simple thing that happened all the bloody time, but he still treasured every bit of simple sweetness between them. The ghosts of his past yammered that he didn’t deserve her or the life he had, but he’d nearly a year of practice shoving them aside. Someone knocking at the door just then helped with it some, too.
Buffy slowly pulled away from the kiss as Xander and Giles came into the house, the former with a stack of four pizza boxes and the latter with a cooler.
“That is a lot of pizza,” she said, eying it dubiously as both stack and cooler were set on the coffee table.
“Yeah, well, have you seen how much ‘Aliena’ eats?” Xander asked, actually curling his fingers into air quotes before dropping down on the couch beside Thursday. “Hey there, Daysie. How’s my favorite little independently mobile Slaypire?”
“Xaxa!” Thursday squealed happily, lifting her arms up for a hug. Then she peered around once he was holding her. “Nawa?”
“Nope, not today, kiddo. Auntie Anya is having a party at the Magic Box.”
There was a hustle and bustle of activity as the womenfolk finished getting ready and headed out, leaving the men — and Thursday — to sit about being all manly.
“I brought the proper refreshment,” Giles announced as he sat down. “Modified, of course, for Spike’s current condition.” The cooler was opened, revealing cans of root beer and ginger ale. “The film is ready?”
“Just have to hit play,” Spike said, grabbing up the remote and doing just that.
It struck him, as the opening of Labyrinth started to play, just how much things had changed. Gone from human to vampire in what was basically the blink of an eye. Over a century of that, and then he’d gone from a powerful, murderous fiend to a pathetic excuse for a vampire, at the mercy of anyone human and unable to bite. Laughingstock of the demon world and unwanted by it or the humans he’d got to know. Alone, unwanted. The bad penny that just couldn’t seem to take the hint and shove off, already.
And now look at things. Family and friends aplenty. A peculiar place, the world was. Steady on, and then so much could change in so little time.
“A band I was in opened for David Bowie once….”
Spike settled back with a smile as Rupert launched into his story. It was bloody good to be part of a group, wasn’t it?
“… tried the meditation crystals you recommended.”
Buffy couldn’t help the grin as she passed by Tara and Bethany on her way to the punchbowl. They weren’t officially dating yet or anything as far as she knew, but Tara had come to her just a few days before to talk out whether it was taking advantage since she’d basically become the ethics teacher for the UC Sunnydale Wicca group that Bethany was part of. But since it was more peer tutor than teacher and there were no grades, they’d decided it wasn’t an issue. Not like when Riley had pursued Buffy despite being a TA in one of her classes. Something she hadn’t realized was majorly of the ick until Ben had pointed it out to her.
She wrinkled her nose at the memory of Riley and resolutely shoved him out of her mind as she dipped more punch into her cup. It was a really nice little party. There was cake and the punch, and it had all been done up with banners and balloons and everything. They hadn’t wanted to risk getting glitter mixed in with the butterfly wing scales or anything, so it was all happening in her training room. The decorations had been hung thanks to a few members of the Wicca group practicing their magic by levitatign things up into the air. They’d even made a party game out of it, getting blindfolded while Anya called out directions.
It had been pretty fun so far, especially Anya squealing in joy over the gifts. Even the basic little blender Dawn had gotten for her. ‘Cause blenders were a total necessity when getting married. She idly wondered if she and Spike would be given one if they ever decided to get married. They were living with Mom still, and Mom already had a blender. Maybe they’d end up getting their own house if they got married? Buffy frowned and tried to shake the thought away. She was so not ready to think about proposing right now.
The therapy with Ben was helping, but Spike still didn’t have enough confidence in his worth to do something like ask her to marry him. So if someone was going to go all down on one knee and offer a ring, it was going to have to be her. Might as well be, she thought wryly. I’ve already gotten him pregnant twice. If that doesn’t make me the “man” of the relationship, then I don’t know what does.
She glanced around the training room. Tara and Bethany were still talking quietly. Dawn was hanging out with a couple of the other witches and Anya. And then there were the two vengeance demons that had been invited. She could just make out Hallie talking to Mom about children and justice, and Sera was off in a corner, looking vaguely constipated.
Buffy felt kind of antsy about them, even though they weren’t doing anything wrong. They’d at least promised to do their best to avoid lethal vengeance — or justice — wishes while on her turf. Unless she was just going to slaughter them for coming to a bridal shower for a friend, she was going to have to be content with that. And she was, for the most part. Maybe they’d go on and grant a terrible wish, but wasn’t that ultimately the fault of the wisher?
It was one of the things she’d been working with Ben on a lot, the slayer guilt. She couldn’t be everywhere, and she couldn’t stop everything, even with the Scoobies and the Wicca group helping out. Running herself ragged trying was just going to end up getting her killed. And with the slayer line probably going through Faith now, that meant there wouldn’t be anyone to take her place for a while.
Buffy took a deep breath, then blew it out up towards her hairline. She was at a party. She was supposed to be having fun, not thinking about things like death and Faith. She packed it all away, put on Perky Buffy like a coat, and bounced away from the punchbowl to mingle.
There was nothing quite like a late night/early morning drive with one’s partner and child. Soothes the soul right proper, it does, Spike thought, glancing over his shoulder for a moment to look at Thursday in her car seat. Sleeping like the wee babe she was, all full of milk, blood, and pizza crusts. The semi-nightly car ride wasn’t strictly necessary to get the sprog to sleep, but it was a nice little family ritual.
“Hey, eyes on the road,” Buffy murmured sleepily, giving him a gentle poke to the side.
He pulled his attention back to the road in plenty of time to turn onto Revello Drive. As nice as the drive was, would be even nicer to snuggle down into bed with Buffy, holding each other close. There’d be kisses and caresses, and if Thursday didn’t interrupt (sometimes seemed a bloody miracle, that), that could lead on to—
Spike frowned slightly as he eased the DeSoto into the driveway. All the downstairs lights seemed to be on, though he was certain they’d turned most of them off before heading out. Could have just been Joyce or Dawn up and about, but something about it all had his hackles up. He turned off the car and opened the door, letting his eyes fall closed as he took a deep breath through his nose. There was a strange scent lingering about. Something oddly familiar, but he couldn’t quite….
“What’s wrong?” Buffy asked, all trace of sleep gone from her voice.
“Not sure, but we’ve a visitor, seems like.” He glanced into the backseat again. “Sprog’ll be safest out here, I reckon, until we have a bit of a looksee.”
“No worries, love. If it’s something dangerous, I’ll scarper. Get Thursday someplace safe.” Much as he hated the idea of running from a fight, he knew he’d need to if there was any real danger. He couldn’t risk getting hurt in a way that could harm Aliena, and worrying about him and the baby would be a distraction for Buffy.
“… Okay.” The agreement wasn’t exactly ringing with enthusiasm, but she wasn’t arguing or threatening him with packing peanuts and bubble wrap. “But if you get hurt, I’m chaining you up in the tub with packing peanuts and bubble wrap.”
He couldn’t help a laugh at that. “Promises, promises,” he teased, getting out of the car and gently closing the door. Didn’t want to wake the sprog or clue in their uninvited guest.
As they approached the door, Spike could hear Joyce’s voice, brimming with anger.
“… you’ve been through a lot, but you can’t stay here! Not after the things you’ve done.”
They burst into the house, Buffy placing herself in front of Spike protectively. Joyce was there, hands on her hips as she glared at—
“Faith.” Barely leashed hate and rage practically dripped from his Slayer.
Faith. A sizzle of fury jolted through his spine at that name. The bitch what had once stolen Buffy’s body and took it for a joy ride. Who had once used Xander like a cheap whore and then tried to rape him. Last he’d heard, she was locked up where she couldn’t hurt anyone anymore. What the bloody hell was she doing free and in their home? Had she heard about Thursday and managed a break out so she could try to ruin Buffy’s life again and take what was hers? He didn’t know what Faith had planned, but she took a step towards Joyce, who flinched away in fear.
“Hey, B. Was in the neighborhood and just thought I’d—”
Spike was moving before he’d even consciously decided what he was going to do, and the woman’s words were cut off by his fist smashing into her face.