My butt hurt. My butt hurt a lot. I recapped the syringe, tossed it into the overflowing red sharps container, frowned, and rubbed at the giant knot on my left side.
“What’s wrong, love?” Spike’s arms came around me from behind, embracing me lightly.
I leaned back against him and closed my eyes at his touch. “Nothing. Nothing at all because you’re here.”
“Then, why were you rubbing here?” He brought his fingers gingerly to the injection site and the giant painful knot, and I winced. “It’s hard.”
“And it’s my own fault.”
“How so, love?”
“I thought that with my Slayer healing powers, I could inject myself in the same area every day and it not make a difference. But apparently, I was wrong. So, now, I need to switch to giving the injection in the opposite muscle.” The nurse had recommended it, I’d read about switching in the forums, and I’d studiously ignored the advice. “It’s just more awkward with my left hand. But never mind that. We have more important things to worry about.”
“Like wrapping the Bit’s Christmas presents while she’s hanging out with Em?” Spike asked, pushing aside the strap of my tank top and kissing my shoulder so that a ripple of desire coursed through me. The shirt braced by my arm, he ran a finger over the top of my breast before cupping it gently. “Little blue veins.”
I shrugged and nuzzled the concave of his cheek. “Uh huh. Freaked me out, too. Google told me that it’s the increased blood and hormones.”
He squeezed. “And they’re bigger.”
I laughed. “You, of course, would notice that.”
“I notice changes in the woman I love,” he said, slightly affronted, “and more than just what you’re insinuating.”
I pulled his other arm tighter around my mid-section. “Hey. I know you do. I’m looking forward to less time with injections and insertions and patches and more time with you.” I felt so bad about the shift in our sex life.
He turned me in his arms then and cupped my cheek. “I am not worried about what we do between the sheets or outside of the sheets, as it were.” He smiled and then softened. “Do I miss the way it was? Not gonna lie. I do. But I love you for far more than that. Thought you knew.”
I nodded but still avoided his eyes. The guilt wasn’t going away that easily. “I know that.”
“Look. You’re so tired that you can barely stand on your feet half the time. You’re creating a bloody life inside you. I wouldn’t be a proper gentleman to my lady if all I cared about was putting it to you.” He ran his hand over my stomach, the stomach that was still bloated from the medicine but didn’t have a proper bump yet.
I rolled my eyes at him. “Okay. There’s more to us than that.”
“Now see, that’s what I’m saying,” he teased, tucking my hair behind my ear.
“I guess you’re right.” My shoulders sagged. “Half the time lately, I feel like I’m walking through mud. And we might need a new sofa because the one we have now? It totally has some sort of glue on it. Makes it hard to get up.” It was true. I fell on the sofa after work and couldn’t work up the energy to make it to the bedroom, let alone change in my pajamas. For the past few weeks, Spike had been carrying me to bed, helping me change, and cuddling under the blankets with me.
“Has the Bit said anything about the sofa being adhesive?” Dawn camped out on the sofa at night, her boxes half-unpacked with most of her belongings neatly stowed behind the Christmas tree.
I pretended to think about it. “Hmm. Nope.”
“Think it’s the hormones, love.”
“You’re right, you’re right.” I thought back to what Willow said about bodily systems working together. Now I was building another system in addition to my own. I never knew such exhaustion. . . not even when I was depressed all those years ago in Sunnydale. “Should we wrap presents now that Dawn is out for a bit?”
Dawn had taken to hanging out at Emily’s place a few days over the past couple of weeks to study and give us some privacy. She and Spike had spent yesterday evening babysitting Leah and decorating the Christmas tree together. Leah, of course, didn’t know about the baby yet. We didn’t want to confuse her if something should go wrong. If Spike had his way, he wouldn’t tell anyone about the baby until he or she was eighteen. It was a funny thing seeing him be so careful. He was impulsive, rash, and impatient, a front to how much he really cared for those he loved and to how tender his heart was. I shouldn’t be surprised in the least that he was cautious with the pregnancy.
“You know me and wrapping presents,” he joked. He wasn’t the best at finagling the paper and the tape, but he did his best.
“Well, come supervise at least? Hand me the tape?”
Thirty minutes later, Spike and I were sitting on the hardwood floor in the living room. We were neck deep in wrapping paper, tissue paper, bags, and wrapped and unwrapped presents. Somehow, we’d managed to wrap all of Dawn’s gifts. Spike tried to cut the paper, but maybe because he was left-handed, his lines were often crooked, resulting in a large heap of unusable wrapping paper.
“Let me cut the paper this time!” I insisted, pulling my long hair into a low bun and reaching for the scissors in his hand.
“I got it!” he maintained, holding the scissors away from me. “You just focus on the tape and folding parts.”
“But have you seen our discard pile?” I gestured with both hands at the crumpled scraps of paper.
He put his nose in the air. “All part of the art!”
I patted his knee. “My creative vampire.” He’d written me some beautiful poems over the years. His words never failed to bring tears to my eyes, partly because he cared so much and partly because I’d missed it for so many years.
He began trimming off another swath of paper for Leah’s present: a grey-blue-colored Breyer horse named “Wild Blue” and a book called, “The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses.” Spike said the book reminded him of “The Silver Stallion” movie that Leah loved. He was very proud of how he’d picked out her gift. (Luckily, Crystal said she hadn’t bought either item for her yet.) He’d even somehow found Christmas paper with tiny horses wearing sprigs of greenery and red holly berries in their manes and tails.
Gift giving made me think about my family. I hardly ever talked with my biological father anymore, and my real family – the family I’d made – was all going to be in town for the holiday. Spike and I had one more ultrasound before Christmas to confirm the heartbeat and measurements, and then, I could start weaning off medication. We planned to tell at least the major players in our lives as a kind of Christmas/Hanukkah gift. When I thought too much about it, I felt a zing of anxiety through my stomach. I was most nervous about telling Giles, and I had no idea why.
Spike set the horse box in the middle of the paper he’d successfully detached from the roll and folded the paper over one side. “Are you ready for tonight?”
“I think he’ll be happy for us,” I said, drawing out a long length of velvety red ribbon for Leah’s package.
His eyebrows drew together in minute confusion, but then, he refocused on his task, holding the two sides of the wrapping paper in place with one hand and fumbling for the tape with the other. I was falling down on the job. “Who, love?”
“Giles. I’m not sure how he’ll react.” I fingered the ribbon, focusing on the soft material.
“I’m sure he’ll be right over the top like always.” Spike glared at the ends of the package (his least favorite part of wrapping). “And I’ll be right there with him until we suss out what’s going on and put a stop to it if needed.”
Wait. How was telling Giles about the baby going to put Spike over the top? “Are you talking about what I’m talking about? We’re talking about the baby, right?”
Spike chewed his cheek and mashed one end of the paper together, somehow making neatly folded corners that looked halfway decent. “We’re talking about the vampire witches, disappearing Slayers, and the possible Hellmouth situation, which could be tied to our baby. Yes.”
His head lifted at that, and he arched an eyebrow. “Oh? What’re you talking about, pet?”
Rolling the extra, uncut ribbon back onto the spool, I shook my head. “Just feeling nervous.”
Though I didn’t lift my head, I felt him studying my face. “About Rupert? Never known you to be nervous around your Watcher.”
“Yeah.” I suddenly felt like I was back in high school and asking Giles to do fatherly things – things my dad would never do. The recliner suddenly seemed very interesting as tears filled my eyes.
Spike’s hand rested on top of my fuzzy-sock-covered foot. “Hey. He’s going to be very touched by your gesture.”
I blinked and wiped away the tears before they could get too out of hand. “You think?”
“He is. He may have failed you in many a way, pet, but he loves you like a father. He’d do anything for you.” Spike’s blue eyes were steadfast on me. He knew how Giles had hurt me.
I made a face at him. “He tried to have you killed.” And that. . . that was why I was so nervous. Would he want to be a grandfather to a child tied to me and Spike? I was afraid he wouldn’t. I shouldn’t be afraid, but I was, and I think that said more about me than him.
“Water under the bridge. It’s not like I haven’t done the same. Neither of us has done anything of late.”
A laugh bubbled up out of my throat. “True.” I sobered. “I’m worried about what this all means, you know? Illyria, Angel, the Slayers, the vampires. I just wish one thing was straightforward about all of this.”
“Nothing is straightforward when it comes to Angel,” Spike muttered as he tackled the other end of Leah’s gift. Discovering that he’d measured out too much paper to successfully fold the other side, he growled with impatience and shoved at the package.
My heart aching for the pain he’d had in his relationship with Angel, I realized I could handle at least this one little problem. “Hey! I got this.”
Slipping in front of him so that I was cradled against his abdomen, I picked up his hand and kissed his palm. Then, I scooped up the scissors, trimmed the paper, and neatly finished the wrapping job. Spike slid the ribbon under the finished product, and together, we added the extra bit of flare to one special little girl’s surprise.
“We make a pretty good team,” he whispered in my ear, giving me the good shivers.
I snuggled into his embrace and sighed with happiness. “That we do.”