Somehow, I drove the Civic home without wrecking it, and I burst through the front door of our house so hard that Spike jumped to his feet out of the recliner where’d he’d been dozing, the TV on low in the background.
Slamming the door behind me and making sure to slide all the locks into place, I scanned the room. “Where’s Dawn?”
Spike blinked in the dim lamplight. “Safe. Wards are up everywhere. She’s spending the night with Emily and George. Hitting the books. Why?” His blue eyes flickered with emotion that swirled from surprise to fear to. . . hurt as his nostrils flared.
“I saw Angel,” I whispered. I held up a hand. “And he’s gone now.”
Spike’s whole body went rigid, and he covered his hurt with sarcasm. “Can smell him on you from a mile away. It’s strong.”
Still holding onto the pain I saw in his eyes, I managed to stay calm. Now was the time for full disclosure. “I thought I saw him at the parade a couple of weeks ago, but I thought it was my imagination until he showed up tonight after I closed up the shop. He wanted to talk with me about Illyria and Dawn and the prophecy about vampire witches. We sat in the car.”
“At the parade?! You should have told me then!”
“I-I know. I’m sorry. I should have.” What had I been thinking?
“Bettin’ the car reeks.” He turned his head, breaking eye contact. “Did you greet the old poof with a kiss?”
“W-what? No!” Really? He thought that I’d do that after all this time with him? First, Angel being insanely jealous and now Spike. Been there. Done that. Really tired of it. “How could you even think that?”
“Don’t know. Peaches hasn’t been around in a while. No telling what ‘feelings’ might’ve come up when he showed up.” His fists balled. “And you’ve done it before.”
“Spike. Seriously.” I reached out for his arm. “I love you. Only you. We’re having a baby.”
He jerked away before I could touch him. “Probably not such a good idea. That.”
Now, I lost my temper. “Well, it’s a little late. Sorta have a bun in the oven.”
“It’s not really mine.” His voice broke on the last word.
My eyes welled with tears. “The baby is yours. Yours and mine. He or she carries our genes. You can’t deny that. Nothing will ever take that away from either of us. Even with that, genes don’t make a father. You know this. Look at me and Giles versus me and my dad.”
“Now that’s a fine bloody comparison.” Spike angled his face toward me without meeting my gaze, the light highlighting his cheekbones and leaving shadows in the hollows beneath. His nostrils spread again as he inhaled sharply. “Something’s different.”
“If you’d just let me – ”
Spike cut me off by grabbing my wrist and pressing my right hand to his nose. I wrenched away, but he followed my backward motion, smelling my jeans where Angel had touched me. “He’s different. What the bloody hell happened? Tell me!”
I hadn’t seen that level of intense anger in his eyes in a long time, and I felt the blood rush to my head as my heart rate tripped up a notch. “H-he’s human. Spike, you’re scaring me.”
He immediately backed off, practically stumbling back as if I’d hit him with my words. Tears glazed his eyes, and he turned his back to me as he buried his face in his hands. Without thinking, I wrapped my arms around his midsection from behind and pushed my face into the concave space where his backbone was, inhaling his scent. As he trembled, I kissed him and held him tighter.
“I-I’m so sorry, pet.”
“Shhh. You didn’t hurt me. You didn’t hurt the baby. We’re yours. I love you. You had a reaction. For good reason.”
He took a deep hesitating breath and ran his hands over the tops of both of mine. “Christ. I love you and the babe so much.” A heartbeat passed. His next words were filled with vulnerability. “Are you sure you want me? Angel’s all human and I’m assuming all permanently soul-having now.”
My heart aching for him, I considered how to answer this and landed on, “Do you remember how Shane called us back in the Baltimore airport?”
“Want to know what he asked me?” I’d never told Spike exactly what Shane and I had discussed.
“Maybe?” He sounded uncertain, so I pushed my fingers between his.
“He asked how I knew it was you that I wanted, and he wanted to make sure that if Angel showed up with a permanent soul someday, I’d still choose you. Ironic, huh?” It was ironic on more than one level. “I think he wanted to make sure that the baby would have two parents that loved one another. He was sure of you, maybe because you’re his relative, but he was less sure of me. Want to know what I told him?” When Spike waited, I inhaled deeply and broke free of our embrace. Not letting go of his hand, I moved to stand in front of him, so he had to see how earnest I was being. “I told him that if I ever did that to you, I couldn’t bear how hurt you’d be. If I hurt you that way, I’d break me, too. God, Spike, you’ve always been there for me except for that weird year when you were being a dope. I love you. I don’t want anyone else but you. Not ever again. You’re not perfect, but neither am I. We fit. Our strengths and weaknesses. You and me. Always have. . . even when I didn’t know it or didn’t want to know it.” I wavered for a moment and gave him a small smile, gesturing up and down at him. “Plus, you’re not bad looking, and you’re pretty good in the sack.”
“Just ‘pretty good’?” He sulked, sounding offended.
“The best,” I assured him. Had he forgotten all the times that he took me to the edge of oblivion and back the way no one else ever had?
He gathered me close then so that I could feel how much he wanted me. I shivered as a wave of desire overcame me.
He nuzzled into the hair on the top of my head. “Am torn, pet.”
“I want to know what my grandsire told you. I also really want to prove to you that I’m more than ‘pretty good.’”
“Me, too. The second part. Please,” I breathed. For once, I wasn’t scanning my body for symptoms of heartburn or constipation or exhaustion. My body was aflame with need, and I longed to feel him against me. . .
“Only if you shower. Get the Angel stench out.”
I laughed, pulled back, and headed toward the bathroom, snagging his hand again along the way. “Only if you come with.”
His sapphire eyes were dark with yearning and love as he drank me in. “That, I can do, pet.”
An hour later, we were completely sated for the moment and were blissfully cuddled up in our bed, blankets forming a cocoon around us in the darkness.
My forearms atop his, I nestled my hips back against him. “Don’t ever let go of me. Capisce?”
“You got it, love.” He kissed my ear and ran a gentle hand over my bare belly. I had the faintest of baby bumps. How did he never make me feel self-conscious about my body?
I suddenly remembered something. “I felt the baby move tonight. Well, I think that’s what it was.” I decided to leave out the part where Angel was sitting next to me when said movement happened. I wanted this to be a moment to cherish with Spike.
He gently pressed his hand down. “You did?”
“Uh huh. I don’t think you can feel it. It was so light that I almost dismissed it as me digesting something.” Or a message from the baby that Angel needed to go.
I could hear Spike’s disappointment, so I reassured him, “It’s only the beginning, you know? Before you know it, you’ll feel him or her, too.”
His thumb stroked the skin over my belly button, and goosebumps flew over my arms. “Looking forward to it.”
Now, for the elephant in the room. “We should talk about what Angel told me.”
Spike didn’t even balk. He held me closer instead. “All right. Promise I’ll listen.”
“Without too many interruptions or fits of jealousy?” I teased.
He prickled for a moment but then relaxed against me. “Carry on, pet.”
I told him everything Angel had said about Illyria first. True to his word, Spike was attentive without reacting.
When I finished the first part, he asked, his voice rumbling against my back, “So, I don’t follow the part about how him becoming human is tied to the prophecy and warning us. And what about Fred?”
“I didn’t know the answer to any of it either.” It was almost like Angel was using all of it as an excuse to come back into our lives. “So, I asked. Honestly, it was a little convoluted.”
Spike snorted and said just what I’d been thinking. “Good word for it. Convoluted. He likes to insert himself where he’s not wanted. It’s always been a talent of his.” It seemed Spike agreed with me.
“You promised to behave,” I reminded him, squeezing his arm.
He sighed. “Enlighten me.”
“He found Fred. She was at peace.”
“As expected.” There was relief in Spike’s tone. “I’m glad of it. Thought she was completely gone. Disintegrated.”
“I know. Luckily, unlike some people we both know, Angel left her to be at peace.”
“Good of him.” Spike didn’t sound surprised. Angel and Spike’s relationship was complicated at best. Angel had done a lot to toy with Spike over the centuries. I also knew that Spike eventually learned to give as he got. But when it came to Fred and the L.A. contingent, most of whom were dead, Spike and Angel were on the same page in terms of affection and protectiveness.
“The problem is that Illyria is stuck in a human body that’s falling apart, and she needs a way to obtain a new one. She can’t just insert herself into a new body. Angel was clear about that. He knows Dawn is a dimensional key in a human body, but Illyria does not. And Illyria is frustrated with Angel for sending her to check to see if we were trying to conceive while he went traveling across dimensions.”
Spike was quiet for a few seconds. “My guess is he was trying to prevent Illyria from forcing Fred’s essence into her body or possibly doing something else to rend the fabric of time and space.”
I shrugged. “That’s what he said, but he also said that he couldn’t enter the dimension where Fred’s essence was without becoming human himself.” Now that I was older, I could see the habit Angel sometimes had of leaving out pertinent information.
“He became human for you, pet. No use denying it.” With his arms around me, Spike could acknowledge this without freaking out, but I still wasn’t sure how true that was.
Spike didn’t correct my doubt. “And that confirms that we were right to let the Bit come and stay with us.”
“Yep. We need to warn Dawn just in case.” I wanted to let her have one more night of semi-relaxation.
“What did Angelus say about this prophecy?”
“He knew we were trying to have a baby. He said Andrew told him. Andrew sometimes stays with Giles. My guess was that he found the spell that Giles was working on for us.”
“Nosy, perfidious little wanker.” Andrew had hero-worshipped Spike, and although he put on a big show of being annoyed with the young man’s attention, he’d secretly enjoyed it. . . except when Andrew did something like this.
“So, while Angel was at that library in Morocco, he found several prophecies about Slayers and children.” I trailed my fingertips over Spike’s forearm.
Spike repeated his earlier observation, “You mean, he was looking for a way to insert his nose into our business.”
I ignored this and continued, “He had them translated on his dimensional journey by some ancient benevolent being in the crossroads dimension. The same being who helped him locate Fred. Angel sent the translations to Giles right before we talked tonight.”
“No idea why he held onto them so long.”
“Me either, but I think he got back to this dimension not too long ago, and he said he was adjusting to being human again. He did say that he wanted to be upfront. Unlike Wes.” I shifted around to face Spike and pressed my cheek against his bare chest.
“Funny way of being upfront.”
“Preaching to the choir. We need to talk with Giles in the morning. Supposedly, the prophecy closest to the one Giles has been focused on is not about cows or women or pregnant women in general but about pregnant Slayers.”
Spike’s arms tightened around me. “Agreed. We’ll want to round in the rest of the crew, too. Where did the grand poof get off to? You said he was gone?”
“He left town. I told him to leave.” Angel had wanted to stay. “I think he’s still trying to help Illyria and trying to distract her from Dawn.”
“One thing he’s doing right.”
“That and the Fred thing.”
“That and,” Spike agreed, trailing his hand down my back. He sighed softly. “I’m sorry for the way I acted earlier, pet.”
“I’m sorry, too. I should have told you when I thought I saw him the first time.” I wasn’t sure what to say beyond that but knew I had questions. After taking time to choose my words, I said, “I thought you and Angel. . . I thought you were somewhat okay with each other after that time you spent together in L.A.” I knew things weren’t exactly smooth since they’d been out of touch, but it wasn’t like Spike and I sat around discussing Angel. He simply didn’t come up.
Spike’s voice was a low, deep rumble in my ear. “Grudgingly. On both sides. Angel and I. . . we’ve done a lot of bad things together over the years to others. . . and each other. There’s camaraderie in that. I’d kill for him if push came to shove and I thought the cause was right. I’m pretty sure he’d do the same for me.”
“So, why the reaction?” I knew the answer, but I wanted to understand more beyond my own hypotheses.
“You, love, will always be a sore spot for us.”
“The way Dru used to be?”
His response was quick. “Dru was different. She loved the best she knew how, but her psyche was damaged and twisted. Things are different with you.”
“I’m not damaged and twisted?” I joked. “Good to know.”
“It’s not just that. And before you say it, it’s not about being good or bad. Yeah, you inspired a lot of good in both of us, but that’s not the reason you’re different.”
“What is it then?” I had no clue what he was going to say.
“The give-and-take is different in a relationship with you, pet. When you’re in it, you’re in. Hell, even when you were one foot out the door with me most of the time, you were in it some of the time. I felt it.”
“I was.” Now that the years had passed, I saw it. I knew why Spike kept hanging around, and it wasn’t because I didn’t give him any crumbs.
“The potential for something deeper with you was there. No guy in his right mind wouldn’t want that. Angel included. And when I think about how you and I’ve been in it for so many years now, I realize how terrified I’d be to lose you. . . to lose what we have. I don’t know if. . . if my heart could take it. So, when my grandsire comes along and pulls his best Edward Cullen act with his brand-spanking-new human body. . .”
“You were more terrified than before.”
I felt his shoulders tighten. “Yeah. But that doesn’t excuse the reaction.”
“Do you remember what I said?” I held him closer. “I can’t – won’t do that to you.”
“I remember. I don’t want you to be broken if something happens to us.”
That wasn’t exactly what I meant earlier, but I went with it. “Same goes for you. If something happens to me, I want to know that you can go on.”
“I’d do my best.”
“After a sufficient period of mourning, of course. No pulling a Bella after she and Edward broke up.”
Though Spike knew I was referencing my own inevitable death, he grunted good-naturedly. “Of course.”
“I can’t believe you’re referencing Twilight.” First, Harry Potter. Now, Twilight.
“Look who’s talking. And sort it out with Dawn. She’s the one who’s reading about sodding sparkly vampires and making me watch those insipid excuses for movies while you’re at work.”
Now, my laughter filled the room. “Don’t tell me she likes them.”
“The Bit loves the drivel. And the author can’t even write a proper love triangle without pasting on that weird ending where their kid is bloody soulmates with the wolf.” He sounded so indignant that I had to hold back more of the mirth that was trying to push past my lips.
“Don’t worry.” I reached my arm up and patted his shoulder. “Our baby won’t be soul-bonded with Angel.”
“Let’s hope not,” Spike growled.