Actions

Work Header

Choices

Chapter Text

Part One: Angst Central

Chapter One

Buffy couldn’t believe it. Why was this happening to her? She’d done the right thing and ended it with Spike. Well, sure, it wasn’t right to have used him in the first place, but wasn’t it understandable? Hadn’t she suffered enough?

She groaned and inspected the little white stick one more time, expecting it to change if she looked hard enough. How was it even possible? Vampires were supposed to be sterile, right? She hoped that wasn’t a myth. Spike would have told her if it wasn’t, wouldn’t he? Or Giles?

A million questions. Another groan.

Giles was going to kill her. Except, no, he wasn’t, because he was gone – he’d left her, just like everybody else – and she didn’t have to tell him anything. She obviously wasn’t going to keep it, so why was she even stressing?

A knock at the door.

“Buffy? Hurry up, you’re taking forever and I need to pee!”

“Uh, sure, Dawn. Just a minute.”

Buffy looked at the test one final time.

It looked back at her.

---

The first thing Spike was aware of in his sleep-addled state was the Slayer busting into the bedroom of his crypt.

He grinned, assuming she must be there for some of the old cold comfort, but there was anger written across her face and it caused flashbacks of their breakup the previous week to return.

His smile dropped as he racked his brains trying to think if he’d done anything wrong since then. There was panic as he drew a blank, because she was surely pissed off. He hadn’t seen her so angry in such a long time. Was it bad that he missed it?

She plowed through his thoughts with a demand of, “What did you do?”

Well, now, wasn’t that the million-dollar question. He stared at her blankly and she began pacing.

“I’ve been over this a hundred times and I don’t get it. It must be a trick. Some kind of twisted ploy to get me back.”

“Buffy–”

“No, don’t talk. Just tell me what you did.”

He quirked an eyebrow, wondering if her request would sink into her head and she’d realize how ridiculous it was.

“Well?” She tapped her foot. “I’m waiting.”

Obviously not.

Spike sighed and stood up. Clearly there was to be no more sleep for him anytime soon. He didn’t know how to feel when she didn’t shy away from his naked body and turn around like she normally did, pretending that it was something unnatural when she wasn’t using it to get her rocks off. This time she didn’t react at all – he could have been wearing a clown suit and she wouldn’t notice, the mood she was in. It worried him.

“Buffy,” he began again, “What’s wrong?”

“You! God, don’t you listen?!”

“Heard you fine, you’re just not making any bleeding sense.”

Within the space of a few moments, she breathed a heavy sigh, let her shoulders drop, and sat down quietly on the edge of the bed – defeated.

Spike watched the fight go out of her, terrified. He was stuck between going over and holding her tightly, and staying stood where he was and asking her about it again, instead. He didn’t think either would do much good, so he remained in limbo as she made the first move.

Buffy took something from her pocket and held it out to him. Then, as soon as he took it, she burst into tears.

---

Buffy was sorely disappointed when she didn’t feel Spike’s arms come around her like she expected. Sniffling and pushing her tears aside, she looked at him.

He was stood there, looking at the test with deep concentration etched into his features.

“Spike?” her voice came out as a whimper and she hated herself for it.

“Who is….” He finally looked at her again. “Who’s the–”

She stood up so fast her head spun. “You are not going to ask me that question!”

“Okay, fine.” He tossed down the test and held up his hands. “It doesn’t matter. What do you want me to do?”

She gaped at him. There was a brief moment of pause, and then she threw herself at him – punching and kicking. “You did this, you undo it!”

Spike seemed too shocked to block the blows. “Me?”

“You idiot!” She smacked him hard across the face.

He took a firm grip of her upper arms and looked deep into her eyes. “Me?” he said again.

“What, you think I’ve been with someone else?” She was hysterical. She knew that she was hysterical, but she didn’t care. She expected him to help. Why wasn’t he helping?!

He let her go and she just kind of slumped back onto the bed. He still wasn’t wearing any clothes, but both of them were ignoring that.

“How could I?” he asked.

“That’s what I want to know!”

He shook his head. “Well, I couldn’t.”

“God, you really do think I’ve been just sleeping with everyone, don’t you?” Genuine betrayal sliced through her. “I thought this meant something to you.” In truth, she thought it meant everything to him. She had her hopes set on it. That was her guarantee that he’d help her. Her mind was still reeling. “Have you been with other people?”

“What? Bloody hell, of course not!” Relief flooded through her for a moment, then she pushed it aside. “Well, I haven’t either. I can’t believe you thought–”

“I didn’t, alright? But you’re the one always denying that we have something, and you ended it, so why should I think I’d be the only one, other than my sad little ego you like to kick so much?”

Buffy wanted to cry again, knowing he was right. There was no reason for him to have faith in her. She tried to be calm. Rational.

“I thought vampires couldn’t have babies. Aren’t you all like sterile?”

“Far as I bloody know,” he affirmed. “Not like we’re known for shacking up with humans. Well, not long enough to find out at any rate. More like suck, fuck, and move the hell on. Not even in that order.”

Her stomach lurched and she closed her eyes. Finally – FINALLY – Spike did what she’d been silently begging him to do and he leaned in close to offer comfort, but she pushed him away, not done being angry. With him, the world – everything.

“Am I a lucky one, Spikey? That you didn’t kill me before having your way?”

“Hey, now!” He physically recoiled at her words. “One: it was your first move. The kiss, the fucking, that was you who started that fire.”

She went to argue, but he held up a hand. “Two: I was talking about other vamps. That was never my game.”

“Yeah.” She spat the word out, making it very clear she didn’t believe him at all.

“Yes,” he stated, firmly. He was not joking around.

She believed him, then. Changing tack, she asked, “You think if I got knocked up by someone else I’d come to you?”

He gave her a look that said, ‘duh.’ “Who else would you go to?”

That made her laugh. In the midst of her crisis, she cracked and laughed at the truth behind his words. She laughed until she was crying again.

Spike moved to hold her again and she let him. Buffy let her tender side show through, for once.

“Spike, I can’t keep this baby. I don’t have a job, or a future, or money. I….” She looked away. On this occasion, she found no perverted kind of joy when she released her old mantra: “I don’t love you.”

He didn’t say anything, but his grip on her tightened significantly. That told her all she needed to know. She considered it the perfect response, actually.

“Shouldn’t you talk to your watcher?”

“No.”

“Okay.”

“I should go home.”

“Okay.”

“Spike!”

“What?”

“Stop being nice to me!”

“Bloody hell, woman, what do you want?”

“I… I–” Once more, she looked around, searching for the answer. “I don’t want this to be happening.” Her voice cracked. “This can’t be happening!”

Chapter Text

Buffy walked into her house and was instantly met with what looked suspiciously like an intervention. She would have walked straight out again but, as she turned around, she ran directly into Spike’s chest. She hadn’t even noticed him following her home, this time.

He had her pregnancy test in his hand again.

“Will you put that away!” she snapped. It was pointless, though. He slipped it in his pocket and they turned to face the Scoobys, who were holding a bunch more.

Willow stepped forward. “Is there something we should know?”

Spike threw Buffy an annoyed look. “How many did you bloody take?”

“Shut up.”

“An’ you left them around?”

“Not around. In the trash!”

“Uh, guys?” Willow tried again. “What is this?”

Buffy shrugged. “I’m pregnant.”

“Whoa!” said Willow.

“I’ll see your whoa and raise you a what-the-heck,” added Xander. “This is mystical, right? Some big supernatural thing, not a Buffy’s-been-playing-with-boys thing, right?”

Buffy snuck a quick look at Spike and said, “Yeah, mystical. Totally supernatural.” Then, just as quickly, she lost her nerve and added, “Spike’s the dad.”

There were no ’whoas’ that time. Everyone was speechless, at least for a while. “What do you mean?” asked Dawn, eventually.

Buffy looked at her sister. “What do you think I mean?”

“That, that–” Willow interrupted as she clutched at straws. “Oh, that you had a vision, and that you were told you’re pregnant, and that Spike is the dad, for, uh… some reason? And that’s it. Nothing more too it.” She nodded, clearly proud of her theory.

“Or it’s a joke?” guessed Xander.

Anya rolled her eyes. “What’s most likely is that they had crazy naked sex.”

Buffy wasn’t in the mood to go over everything again. “Y’know what?” she said. “This isn’t up for discussion. I’m pregnant, I’m keeping it, Spike’s the father, get over it. I’m going to bed, you can let yourselves out.”

When she moved into the hallway, there was a beat as everyone just sat and stared at each other. Spike, in particular, looked uncertain about whether he should follow her, or if he was included in the group that was supposed to leave, so she came back and grabbed him before amending, “We’re going to bed.”

---

“Love?” Spike questioned tentatively as he shut Buffy’s bedroom door.

Almost instantly, she pinned him against it and started attacking his mouth with bruising kisses. “I’m not your love.”

“Now hold on a minute!” He pushed her back a little. “You said this was over.”

“I say a lot of things,” she retorted, jumping right back on his lips again, knowing he wasn’t likely to reject her twice.

True to form, he gave in and laid her on the bed, but even as he did so he was torn about it. In all the times he’d been with Buffy – in all the ways – it had never felt wrong to him before. When a knock came at the door, he was actually somewhat relieved.

A very pissed off Dawn walked in without waiting for an answer. “How long has this being going on?” she asked, specifically him.

Why was he suddenly supposed to be the font of all knowledge? He loved the Summers women, he really did, but in that moment he just wanted them to leave him the fuck alone. He half expected Joyce to rise from her grave just to yell at him for knocking up her eldest.

“Does it matter?” asked Buffy.

“Yes,” said Dawn, who then whipped around to look at her. “I’m not surprised you didn’t tell me. But you–” she faced Spike again. “How could you?”

“Wait.” Buffy got to her feet. “What is this? You expect the soulless blood-sucking fiend to be honest with you, but not me?”

“Duh!”

Buffy gasped and Dawn looked taken aback.

“You’re shocked? He’s the only person to ever treat me like an adult and all you do is push me away.”

“That’s not true!”

“It is, pet,” said Spike, softly.

“Shut up,” she told him again. Spike had heard her say those words to him so many times, but never with so much venom. Apparently it was a day of firsts for them, and not the good kind. Could he run away? No. Well, yes, technically. But he wouldn’t. There was never any doubt about that.

There was a tense silence as everyone glared at each other.

“Are you just going to start sleeping here?” asked Dawn.

“Yes,” said Buffy, at the same time that Spike answered. “No.” He shook his head and amended his answer to, “I don’t know.”

“Don’t I get a say in this?” asked Dawn.

“No,” said Buffy.

Spike didn’t argue with that one, but he did throw Dawn a sympathetic look, wondering if he’d just buggered up all the faith she had in him.

“Look, Dawn,” he began, only for Buffy to interrupt him, finishing his sentence in a way completely different to what he was going for: “We need some space.”

She looked freshly injured as she was forcedly moved back towards the door. It was shut in her face.

“Buffy, you can’t–” began Spike.

“Shut up.”

“No, Buffy, this is bloody insane.”

She stalked up to him with a clear fighting stance and he backed down. So much for not being her whipping boy. A day earlier, he would have clocked her one for being such a bitch. Not now, though. Never now.

He prepared himself for a blow, but it didn’t come. When he looked at Buffy again, she was sat on the bed ready to burst into tears again.

“God, what’s wrong with me?”

“Shock?” he suggested.

She shook her head. “I thought I was better. That I was stopping doing this; had put it behind me.”

Spike placed a tentative hand on her back and she curled into his side. “I think you should talk to Niblet.”

Buffy shook her head again. That annoyed him, but he wasn’t going to show it.

“Can I?” he asked instead.

She nodded and rolled on her other side, away from him, assuming the fetal position.

As Spike reached the door, he could smell the tang of her tears hit the air and he was tempted to forget Dawn and go back to her, but he didn’t. He couldn’t.

---

Spike knocked on Dawn’s door and was greeted with a string of swear words he didn’t know she knew. Some he didn’t even know.

“It’s me,” he said.

There was silence from the other side.

“Niblet?” He tried the handle and found that it was locked, but that didn’t stop him getting in anyway, with just the right amount of force.

“Can’t you take a hint?!” she screeched. She’d been crying too.

“I’m sorry,” said Spike, and he meant it. There was a part of him that thought the words might become his catchphrase for the next nine months, if not beyond.

Dawn looked at him, intently. “Is Buffy sorry?”

“She doesn’t know what she is,” he answered, honestly. “She doesn’t mean to push you away.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Hey, she loves you.”

“What do you know about love?”

Spike flinched, and then Dawn apologized.

“Look,” he said, trying again. “Everyone’s just a little wound. Give it a day or two.”

“Fine,” said Dawn.

“That’s my girl.”

Dawn laughed a little awkwardly but didn’t correct him. “Will you sit with me?” she asked.

“Uh….” He looked around, spotting a fold-up chair beside the desk. “Sure, for a bit.”

With any luck, she’d be asleep soon and he’d have a half a minute to think straight before going back to check on Buffy. The day couldn’t end soon enough, far as he was concerned.

Chapter Text

At 3AM, Buffy came to stand in her sister’s doorway and look across at Spike. He was sat there, at the desk, staring into the middle distance, but eventually his eyes drifted to hers.

With just a look, she invited him to come with her and he stood. Dawn was lightly snoring when he passed her. Reaching Buffy, he closed the door without a sound. They looked at each other again and said nothing. Both appeared weary as she took his hand and led him back to her room. They laid down and began kissing and touching tenderly. Clothes slipped off and then Buffy rolled over and demanded Spike “Stop it.”

“What?” he asked in a whisper.

“Being gentle.”

“Buffy–”

Please.”

It wasn’t often she begged – only when she really wanted something. It gave him pause. “I can’t work it out,” he said. “Are you trying to punish me or yourself?” Buffy didn’t answer and, so, he posed another question: “Did you mean what you said?”

She sighed. She didn’t want to talk anymore. Didn’t want to think. “Which bit?”

“You’re keeping it?”

“No.”

“No?”

“I don’t know.” She sat up. “Maybe. Probably not.”

“Right.” He looked troubled. There weren’t words to describe the wars going on behind his eyes. Not able to look at him anymore, Buffy pushed him out of bed, only then to throw herself back on top of him.

“Stop being understanding.”

Not knowing how to grant that specific request, he kissed her, and that appeared to be the right answer.

---

They slept in late, waking still on the floor, which was a good thing, because neither one of them had closed the curtains and the bed was swathed in daylight.

It was the first time that Spike had actually got to hold Buffy the whole night through. It tore at his heart knowing it only happened because she was hurting more than ever, and not knowing if it would happen again.

“I had a shift at work this morning,” she said, idly.

“Yeah?”

She sighed against his chest. “I don’t think I’m gonna go back.”

He kissed her forehead. Although logically he knew she needed the money, he didn’t want her to go back to the Doublemeat Palace. She was better than the place, he’d always said so. He’d also told her a million times he’d happily provide for her, but he didn’t think she’d accept that even yet. There was a temptation to ask her what the plan was, but he knew better than to voice it. So, they laid on in silence.

---

Finally up and dressed, albeit in sweatpants and a loose-fitting top, Buffy rummaged through her fridge, finding a bag of blood and tossing it to Spike, who was on a stool by the island.

“You not eating anything?” he asked as he ripped at the plastic with his teeth.

She shook her head. The blood was then abandoned, as he went to her; tried to hold her.

“No,” she said, shrugging him off.

“Just let me do something,” he pleaded, wrapping her up in her arms again.

Buffy breathed a sigh and let her head fall against his shoulder. That’s when Willow came in from class.

“Oh, I– I didn’t mean to interrupt,” she stammered as she put her book bag down on the counter, effectively pushing Spike’s meal out of the way. “Shouldn’t you be at work?”

“Don’t, Will,” said Buffy. She thought about letting go of Spike, now they weren’t alone anymore, but didn’t follow it through. It would take too much energy.

Willow looked offended. Halfway through taking out a notebook, she decided to put it back in again and go upstairs instead.

“Is this what it’s going to be like?” Buffy asked the empty space that had been occupied by her best friend.

“Only if you let it, I reckon,” said Spike.

“Can you get post-natal depression before you give birth?”

“No.”

“Oh.”

“Could just be the regular kind,” he suggested.

“I guess.”

“Buffy, you need to eat.”

She let him go. “Maybe I don’t want to eat. Maybe I don’t want to work in a crappy job, or have your baby, or go out fighting demons some night and not come back.” She shook her head. “I don’t want this life.”

“Tough,” said Spike.

She cracked a smile despite herself. “Well, that wasn’t so reassuring.”

“Because it’s the truth. It’s your life, and you either change it or accept it.”

She pouted. “I had a plan, y’know? Get rid of you, check–” she paused when she saw him wince. “Sorry but, I mean, it was the plan. Then I was gonna get out of debt. Sort everyone else out – Dawn, Willow – save the world, then figure out what I want and go after it.”

“If you don’t mind me sayin’, that was a shitty plan.”

Buffy narrowed her eyes and licked her lips. “How about we go upstairs again?”

“Sure,” said Spike, opening a cupboard. “Just as soon as you eat something.”

Chapter Text

Spike felt angry with himself. Part of him – the man part, he reckoned – was aching because of what Buffy was putting both him and herself through, while the demon in him was celebrating the fact that that it had what it wanted, at least in the physical sense. His demon-self was angry with his human side, telling him to shut up and just enjoy it, whereas his human side was anything but enjoying what he and Buffy were doing. His conscience was screaming inside him to stop.

“So much for not bloody having one,” he muttered to himself.

“What was that?” asked Buffy, who was currently under him; again, on the floor rather than the bed.

“Nothing,” said Spike. He didn’t want to talk to her. They’d been switching between shagging each other’s brains out and having long verbal fights all day, and he was just so tired of it all. He wished they could just have a good proper fistfight and have done with it, but that wasn’t going to happen. Buffy wasn’t going to let it drop, however. She’d had her orgasm and now it seemed time to revert to bickering.

“No, I think it was something,” she said. “Why don’t you just say it to my face?”

Spike took a deep breath and moved off her. “Maybe it wasn’t about you.”

Buffy raised her eyebrow, to which Spike rolled his eyes and then reached for a cigarette. He didn’t find one, of course, because Buffy had made him throw them out earlier in the day.

“Is this it?” he asked.

“What?”

“Are we together now? Is this what it’s going to be like?”

Buffy opened her mouth only to close it again without answering. Clearly, it wasn’t the argument she was expecting – or wanting.

“Why do you always have to ask me these questions?” she demanded after a beat.

Spike shook his head. Now he knew she was doing it on purpose. “Are you actually trying to find things to fight about?”

“Of course not! How could you think–”

He gave her a look and she stopped, mid-sentence, to shuffle around awkwardly. “So maybe that was a little immature.”

“Yeah,” said Spike, not hiding the annoyance in his tone.

Buffy looked almost on the verge of yelling at him again but bit it back at the last second. “At least we know where we stand when we’re fighting,” she said instead.

“Speak for yourself.”

Buffy’s brow furrowed. “You don’t think it makes things simpler?”

“No.”

“Well, I do.”

“Figured that one out, yeah? Look, can’t we just talk about things?”

“What things?”

“Bloody hell, stop doin’ that!”

“Sorry.”

Spike’s eyebrows shot up but, before he could say anything, Buffy put a finger to his lips and said, “Don’t get used to me saying that.”

He smiled and she took her finger back again.

“I just….” She paused to gather her thoughts, “Everything’s so complicated right now, and you were always supposed to be easy.”

“Oi!”

“Oh, you know that’s not what I meant.”

Spike’s smile turned into a smirk. Yeah, he knew exactly when she meant. He always did. It’s what she liked about him.

“When I was with you, before,” she continued, “it was the only time I could get away from all the stuff that’s bearing down on me.”

“And now?”

“Now even this is complicated,” she admitted. “Would you quit smiling at me?”

“I’m just relieved it’s not just me,” said Spike.

“Yeah,” Buffy agreed, snuggling closer to him again.

Spike breathed her in. “Never thought I’d say this, but can we cut back on the bloody stupid arguments, just for a bit?”

“Yeah,” repeated Buffy. And then she kissed him. It seemed they were back into the sex portion of the pattern, but it was less frantic. Spike wondered if they’d stay true to their word and give the petty fights a rest in exchange for more conversation, when the time came round again. He supposed only time would tell.

---

“It’s awful!” Willow exclaimed, for the fifth time. “You guys don’t know how bad it is, having to live there, hearing them do that all night.”

“I don’t really wanna even think about it,” said Xander.

“Why don’t you move out?” asked Anya.

Willow looked gravely offended at the suggestion.

“Well, if it’s as bad as you say it is,” Anya pressed.

Willow pouted. “Why should I have to move out?”

“Why should they stop? It’s Buffy’s house.”

Willow turned to her best friend for support, but Xander held up his hands to indicate he was staying out of it.

“It’s awful,” she said again. “It’s wrong!”

Anya stopped dusting the Magic Box stock and turned to look at her, sat there at the research table. “Is it?”

“Duh!”

“Why?”

“Xander, say something!”

“Alright, alright. Anya, it’s wrong because Spike is evil.”

“Is he?”

Willow released a loud groan.

“I’m sorry,” said Anya. “But I just don’t see it. You weren’t calling him evil when you were letting him babysit Dawn all last summer.”

“Well, no. That was different!”

“How?”

“It just is!”

“This is getting us nowhere,” said Xander. “Why don’t we all meet up later for a proper Scooby meeting and get to the bottom of it then?”

“Fine,” said Anya.

“Whatever,” added Willow.

---

As it turned out, by the time the post-conversation round of sex was over, Buffy had put sleep next on the agenda. She stood on wobbly legs and then flopped herself down onto the bed. Spike was initially unsure if he was welcome beside her, but she moved over a little to indicate that he was. And, so, they rested – for all of two minutes until they heard Dawn coming in the house and bounding up the stairs.

“Buffy?” she called in through the door.

“Yeah?”

“Is it safe to come in?”

Spike wrapped the comforter more tightly around both of them and then gave Buffy a nod.

“It’s fine. What’s up?”

The door opened. “Geeze, guys, you’re still in bed?”

Spike avoided Dawn’s gaze.

“What’s up?” Buffy repeated.

“Oh, I just came from the Magic Box. Xander said to tell you there’s gonna be a meeting here later.”

Buffy’s jaw dropped.

“Hey, don’t look at me,” said Dawn. “I think it was Willow’s idea.”

“Great. When are they coming?”

“Uh….” Dawn looked at her watch. “A half-hour?”

“Bloody hell!”

Buffy turned to Spike. “Do you think we could just not let them in?”

“Well, I’ll just leave you to it,” said Dawn, clearly not wanting to hang around for the answer.

“Wait,” Buffy yelled after her.

She turned around again and folded her arms, an expectant look on her face.

“I’m sorry, about before,” said Buffy. “We’re good, right?”

“Yeah,” said Dawn. “Right.” She shut the door.

“That sounded real convincing,” noted Buffy.

“It’ll take time,” said Spike. “As for havin’ people in your house, I’m all in favor of just locking the bleeding lot of them out.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Well, I mean, yeah. You can.”

“But I’m not going to.”

“There’s your answer, then,” said Spike, as he sank further into the comfort of the bed.

“Hey, what are you doing? We’ve gotta get ready!”

“You’ve all but bloody worn me out! And plus, it’s not me they’re gonna want to talk at.”

Buffy yanked him roughly out of bed. “You are not getting out of it that easily, mister. C’mon, shower, now.”

He perked up a little at that. “Havin’ one together, are we?”

“Well, we don’t have time for separate ones!”

Chapter Text

Spike paced around Buffy’s bedroom as she purposefully took a long time to do her make up. Despite supposedly saving time by sharing a shower, she was in no rush to go down and see her friends.

She didn’t want to see them. He knew that, and he didn’t blame her, but it was still unsettling. Buffy’s friendships were one of the few things that kept her together. It’s why he’d attacked them when he was trying to double-cross her to Adam. They used to be a strength – a support – along with her mom, but she’d lost Joyce, and the Scoobies were on shaky ground. He wouldn’t have been so concerned if she’d lean on him emotionally, instead of just physically. At least then she’d have someone, but it wasn’t happening.

Just as she was beginning to shake off the things weighing her down and starting to open up again, she got the news and just closed right back up again – tighter than before. Spike wanted to feel resentful of his baby for that, but he couldn’t find it within himself. By contrast, Buffy seemed to be bitter enough for both of them. He could see it growing, each day. The darkness was swirling around her and he was desperate to find a way through it. Somehow.

Downstairs, he heard each of the Scoobies arrive – Willow first, then Xander and Anya – and found himself wishing Tara was there, thinking she might bring some balance to the meeting that was bound to go south fast.

Buffy turned to face him, finally. She looked nervous. He reached out to touch her but pulled back at the last moment, unsure if she’d accept his comfort. He looked down, then suddenly back up again – into her eyes – when she took his hand and gave it a little squeeze. They kissed, briefly, and then bit the bullet….

Willow, Xander, and Anya stood as Buffy and Spike entered the living room. Dawn had joined the gathering by that point, too, but she remained seated. Everyone’s eyes seemed focused on Buffy and Spike’s joined hands, but then Buffy quickly pulled hers away again. Spike forced himself not to feel the hurt of it. He sat down in an armchair only to have Buffy follow him across the room and sit directly in his lap.

So, he thought, It’s not just me she’s giving mixed signals to. He could see the concentration on Xander’s face as he tried to figure out what was happening. As if it wasn’t bloody obvious. Spike expected him to be the first to jump in and voice his concern but, to his surprise, it was Willow that did it.

“Buffy, this is crazy,” she began.

Spike grit his teeth. He really expected her to have more tact than that. Buffy said nothing, giving no sign that she was actually listening.

“Which bit?” asked Dawn in her stead. Willow gave her a confused look, and she clarified, “Is it crazy that Buffy’s with Spike, that’s she pregnant, or that she’s acting like a complete moron?”

“Bit!” Spike warned.

“What?” said Dawn. “She is!”

“I am,” agreed Buffy. It was all she said, making no defense of her actions.

“Look,” said Spike. “Your sister’s been through a lot. She’s still going through a lot.”

“And you think you’re helping?” asked Willow.

“I don’t think I’m making things worse.”

Willow made a scoffing sound, to which Anya stood up and gave her piece: “I don’t want to be here,” she said. “Everything’s tense and I’m not sure any of us are helping.”

Xander tried to sshhh her and get her to sit down again, but she smacked his hand away and went into the kitchen. He didn’t follow, but he also didn’t openly disagree with her.

“What’s this meetin’ supposed to achieve, exactly?” asked Spike.

Willow looked around awkwardly, then shrugged in answer.

“An intervention, is that it? You think you can talk the Slayer out of depression and the little problem of bein’ pregnant will just disappear?”

“No. That’s not– No!” said Willow. “I mean, how is she even pregnant? We should look into it.”

“Still in the room,” said Buffy.

Spike willed her to say more, and actually take part in the discussion, but she didn’t, so he spoke again. “I don’t know what the big deal is. If Angel and Darla can make a sprog, I don’t see why it’s so bloody impossible for me.”

Willow, Xander, and Dawn gaped at him while Buffy rose to her feet and slapped him so hard across the face.

“Angel has a kid and you didn’t tell me?”

Rubbing his jaw, Spike said, as calmly as possibly he could, “I reckoned that was his job.”

“No,” said Buffy, clenching and unclenching her fists. “Well, yeah. But you knew. You’re supposed to be honest with me. I expect more from you!”

Spike didn’t know how to feel about that, exactly, but he could have sworn he felt his dead heart swell a little. She expected better of him? Well, surely that meant she knew he could be good; for her, at least. It was only a crumb, but he grasped it tightly. Buffy was in a bad place right now, he knew that, but she wouldn’t always be. And he planned to still be around when then good days would come. If she didn’t stake him first, that is. He knew he needed to be on his best behavior.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

Buffy wheeled round to face him again. “What?”

“I said I’m sorry.”

“Right,” she looked around, suddenly not able to meet his eye. “Good.” If Spike didn’t know any better, he’d have sworn Buffy wanted him to lash out at her in return.

“Wait,” said Xander. “Don’t you wanna know more about this Angel and Darla thing? Wouldn’t that, y’know, be relevant?”

“No,” said Buffy, waving the thought away. “It doesn’t matter. It must have been years ago.”

“Uh, actually…” said Spike, bringing all eyes back on him again. “I think she’s due soon.”

“Whoa!” said Willow.

“What the hell?” added Dawn. “I thought Darla was dusted.”

Spike shook his head. “Not anymore.”

Anya must have been listening to the conversation from the other room, because the new development drew her back. “How did you hear about this?” she asked.

Spike shrugged. “Demon grapevine.”

“Oh,” she sighed. “I wish I was still connected to that.”

Ignoring Anya, as she usually did, Willow said, “Maybe their pregnancy is connected to this one.”

“No,” said Buffy and Spike in unison.

Willow tried to explain the reasoning of her theory, but neither of the prospective parents would entertain the idea. In fact, Buffy wasn’t prepared to entertain any more discussion at all. She tried to go upstairs again, but Spike held her back.

“Buffy, pet, you have to make some kind of decision,” he said, gently.

“No, I don’t,” she bit out.

“Buffy–”

“Just stop pressuring me, alright?!”

“Bloody hell, you’re not the only one this is hard on!”

If looks could kill…. Spike thought she was considering hitting him again. Her fists balled again, but she didn’t strike.

“You have no idea what I’m going through!”

“I know that,” said Spike, lowering his voice again before heaving a sigh. “I’m just–”

“I know,” Buffy cut him off. She seemed to get what he was trying to say, and she softened too. “I’m sorry. Please can we just leave it for tonight?”

He nodded his head and took her hand again. Before they reached the living room door, Willow stepped in front of them.

“I’m not gonna let this happen,” she said. “I’m not gonna live in a house where you’re doing these things.”

“Then don’t live here,” said Buffy, her voice completely devoid of emotion once more. She didn’t look back as she pushed past her, dragging Spike upstairs.

Chapter Text

Chapter Six

If Spike was worried about Buffy spending all day riding him ragged and doing nothing else, he was downright disturbed when she went catatonic on him. She’d spent hours just lying in bed, ignoring the world. Her heartbeat and breathing were so soft and steady he’d almost been convinced she were asleep, had her eyes not been open. Last time she was like this, Willow had helped her but there was no chance of that now.

Each time Buffy blinked, her eyes stayed closed a few seconds longer than normal. It was like her whole body was slowing down. Shutting down, more like. Would it reject the baby as a result? Or was the baby the cause and not the effect? Everything was a mess. The Slayer had got that much right.

Spike tried talking to Buffy, holding her, sitting as far away from her as he could while still being in the same room, but none of it changed anything. She didn’t react to him at all. He gulped as a new thought hit him: that it was as if he were dead to her; or she to him.

She was dead to the world, and it was his fault.

Irony notwithstanding, he needed air. He just couldn’t bear to go outside and be that far away from her. Not the way she was.

The bathroom being two doors down, with now only an empty bedroom in between, Spike decided it was a safe enough distance to give him space but also not too far, so he could still feel her presence.

His tears washed down the drain as he scrubbed himself clean.

---

Re-entering Buffy’s bedroom, he found her sitting up but still with a vacant look on her face. He cursed himself for needing space; for leaving her, and for the fact that he wasn’t there when she achieved the monumental task of minute movement. Then he wondered if she’d been waiting for him to go just so she could do it.

Her mental state was infecting him, he realized.

“I called the doctor,” said Buffy, in monotone, not looking at him; barely moving her lips. “Booked an ultrasound.”

“When?” Spike asked.

“Tomorrow.”

He sat beside her, knowing that was as much as he was going to get. Again, he was lost between feeling guilty for the fact he wasn’t there when she called and feeling bitter that she’d done it without him. A small part of him even wondered if she’d made it up just to make him feel better. When he went to speak again, she stood up and walked out of the room. A few seconds after that, he heard her moving around in the bathroom. Spike tried not to be hopeful at the action, but failed.

When Buffy came back, after a long while, she laid down again, this time pulling him with her and wrapping his arms around her middle. Facing him, she rested her head on his chest, closed her eyes, and went to sleep.

---

Warren checked all of the monitors again before running an anxious hand through his hair.

“Something’s not right. There’s been no movement from the house since Willow left yesterday.”

“Unless someone went out the back door,” suggested Jonathan. “We don’t have it covered.”

“Hmm…. I still feel like I’m missing something. Something big’s happened to the Slayer, and I want to know what it is.”

“You’re in luck, then,” came a voice from the top of the stairs.

All whipping around at once, the trio saw Dawn stood there with a door handle in her hand. She tossed it at Warren. “I think you need a new lock.”

---

It was morning before Spike knew it. Buffy was up and dressed before he stirred. Opening his eyes, he saw her doing her makeup. Idly, he wondered how many times she’d wiped it off and started again.

“Time to go,” she said, a long while later.

Spike got up, pulled on his boots, and silently followed her down the hall. Passing Dawn’s room, he noticed she wasn’t in it. He hoped she’d just gone over to her friend’s house without telling her sister and made a mental note to check up on her later. Right now, he had bigger things to deal with.

---

A deep frown was etched into the doctor’s features. Buffy knew instinctively it was bad news. Was he about to tell her she was pregnant with a five-legged demon freak? She was so busy worrying, she didn’t actually hear the words at first.

“What?” said Spike. “What did you say?”

Buffy swallowed and concentrated on trying to catch the news the second time around.

“There’s no heartbeat,” the doctor repeated.

Chapter Text

“What do you mean there’s no heartbeat? There has to be!”

The doctor looked at Buffy with pity in his eyes and she hated it. “Perhaps the test gave a false positive,” he suggested. “It happens.”

“No,” she insisted. “You don’t understand. I took tons of them!”

The room was silent for a long moment; silent with the other, unspoken option: that she had been pregnant, but wasn’t anymore. Buffy shook her head. It was not an option she was going to consider. She looked to Spike for answers.

The doctor stepped outside to give them a moment.

Spike’s brow was furrowed. He wasn’t looking back at Buffy so much as staring a hole through her; eyes focused on her midsection. She thought he might be angry. Hell, she was angry. The past few days had been torture. She’d probably lost her friendships over it. And it was all for nothing? She couldn’t breathe.

Spike gripped her arm as panic gripped her heart. “Take it easy,” he said firmly. She hit him in the side of the head. He grit his teeth and gripped her other arm tighter. It was trembling under his hold. “Buffy, you need to take a breath. Think. This doesn’t have to mean anything.”

The world stopped. Her panting got a little softer as her eyes grew wide. What was he saying? He was studying her bump-that-wasn’t-a-bump again.

I’ve got no heartbeat,” he continued. “Doesn’t mean I don’t exist.”

Buffy’s hand went to her flat belly. “You think my baby’s really is there? Alive?” Her voice hesitated over the next word: “Undead?”

My baby,” he said carefully. “Could be. I mean, it’s possible.” He shook his head. ”What am I saying? None of this is bleeding possible, but–”

“It might just be happening anyway,” said Buffy, finishing the thought.

“I don’t know what to think,” said Spike.

Buffy barked a humorless laugh. “Well, that’s helpful! How can I go for an abortion if I can’t prove I’m pregnant?”

Spike held his breath for a minute, considering it. “Maybe a demon doc could give you answers?”

She glared at him and he swallowed back the suggestion before helping her up.

---

The car ride home was completed in silence; a heavier silence than the one that had rested on Spike’s shoulders when they were on their way to the doctor in the first place. He hadn’t thought things could get worse, an hour ago, but of course he was wrong.

He fiddled with the radio just to have something to do, but Buffy shut it off again. Their hands touched for the briefest of moments on the dial and she flinched back, like she’d been burnt.

Things were definitely worse.

---

Warren had mixed feelings about Dawn being in his hideout: anger that she’d broken in, a little impressed that she’d broken in; horny, confused, interested, and worried.

“You didn’t lead Buffy here, did you?”

She shook her head. He was both relieved and disappointed about that. There was this one fantasy he had about both Dawn and Buffy visiting his place and–

“What do you want?” asked Andrew, cutting off Warren’s wayward thoughts.

Dawn shrugged. “You guys seemed to have fun projects. Maybe I wanted to sign up.”

“Maybe?” Jonathan asked, nervously.

She shrugged again and took a glance around.

---

Arriving outside Rovello Drive, Buffy made no move to get out of the car. Spike waited as she stared into space. After a while, she said, “Either I never was pregnant, or I was, or I still am. Is that about it?”

He nodded slowly and she turned to him with fresh tears in her eyes. He resisted the urge to reach out to her, knowing he couldn’t bear her to flinch away again.

“Why did you think you were pregnant?” he asked, when he couldn’t contain the question any more.

Buffy sniffled and the tears receded. “Because I took the test, duh!”

“No,” said Spike. “I mean, why did you take the test?”

“Oh.” That wasn’t something she wanted to admit to, so she went for a half-truth. “I wasn’t feeling well.”

Spike quirked an eyebrow, indicating he’d noticed she was hiding something, but he didn’t push her on it, walking the tightrope of her emotions as he was.

Buffy took her time to lock down said emotions before finally going into the house. They were only in through the front door a matter of seconds when someone knocked at it. Spike and Buffy looked at each other. She didn’t have the energy to answer, so gestured for him to go ahead.

He swung it wide then backed up a step. “Hello, watcher.”

Chapter Text

Giles hadn’t believed Travers when he said the council had intelligence that Buffy and Spike were together. Seeing them now, however, made all his doubts vanish. It wasn’t that they were touching, or even particularly looking at each other, but it was the way they moved in each other’s space. There was a familiarity there that hadn’t existed before. He stood in shock by his car as he watched them enter Rovello Drive, determined to get to the bottom of this.

---

Spike clenched his teeth. “Hello, watcher,” he greeted, coolly.

The next thing he knew, Giles had hit him in the jaw – right in the sore spot Buffy had made at the hospital. Unlike the first altercation, though, this one made Spike snarl.

Giles had opened his mouth to insult him, or swear – maybe even to snarl back – but before he could make a sound, Buffy was bearing down on him.

---

Giles’ face fell when they locked eyes. She looked gaunt – so much sicklier than she seemed from across the street. There was also something somewhat feral about her, he noticed.

“Buffy?” he questioned.

“How dare you?!” she said in response.

He was speechless. Confused. He had come looking for answers, and to search for them rationally, but the scene before him made no sense. Even if Spike and Buffy were together, why would she so fiercely defend him? Even with his chip he was far from helpless, especially against a human. More importantly, why was the girl whom he considered to be a surrogate daughter looking at him like they had no bond whatsoever?

Because she died, he reminded himself. She’d died and he’d left. She’d come back, and he’d not been there. Then he’d returned, seen that she wasn’t coping, and left again.

His heart clenched. “Oh, Buffy, I’m sorry!”

She relaxed her stance and gave a small nod.

“Pet,” said Spike, gently. “You should be taking it easy.”

“I’m not ill,” she protested.

“Are you sure about that?” asked Giles carefully.

Buffy silently walked away to take a seat in the living room. After an awkward pause, Spike moved so that Giles could come the rest of the way in and follow her.

“What exactly is going on?” he questioned aloud.

---

Warren was getting twitchy. As much as he liked the idea of having a girl around in theory, the uncertainty surrounding her was deeply bothering him.

“We’ve done chit-chat and Jonny-boy got you a Gatorade,” he said. “Why don’t you tell us why you’re here?” She hesitated and he could tell she was going to try and avoid the question again, so he leaned closer and narrowed his eyes.

Dawn gulped.

“Why don’t you back off a little?” asked Jonathan. “She’s not causing any trouble.”

“Shut it, Sparky. I didn’t ask you. We don’t know what she’s up to, that’s kinda the point.”

“Nothing bad,” she assured them, all semblance of the confidence she’d projected when she’d first arrived now lost. “Or, uh, nothing good? Because you like bad, so bad is good, right?”

Warren shook his head and looked away.

“She’s playing mind games,” Andrew whined.

“She is not,” said Jonathan.

That got Warren’s attention. He grinned and resisted the urge to rub his hands together. “Someone’s got a crush on the jailbait.”

“Oh! Who?” asked Andrew.

Ignoring him, Dawn and Jonathan shared an awkward glance.

“Oh my god! You do, don’t you?” Warren crowed. After a moment, his smile dropped and he got in Dawn’s face again. “What are you trying to pull? Is he in on it?”

“What? No! There’s no pulling. Honest!”

“Why are you here?”

“I… I don’t know. I should leave.”

“Nu-uh, princess.”

Jonathan stood up and puffed out his chest. “Warren, you can’t keep her here.”

Warren rose to his feet, too, silently daring him to keep challenging him. He dragged Dawn up by the arm. With a sharp intake of breath and another glance at Dawn, Jonathan sat down again.

For once in his life, Andrew had the good sense not to comment.

---

After a few attempts at a somewhat general interrogation, Giles started again with more specific questions.

“Are you and Spike… dating?” he hedged.

Buffy balked then immediately clapped a hand over her mouth upon seeing a range of emotions fly across Spike’s expressive features. Taking a breath, then removing her hand again, she said, “I’m not sure I would call it dating.”

Giles pursed his lips as he mentally catalogued the conflicting body language. “What would you call it?” he pressed.

Buffy looked briefly thoughtful before giving a dismissive wave of her hand. “It’s a thing.”

Clearly unable to take it anymore, Spike stood up and began pacing near the door. “Can I go, or do you want me here?”

Again, Buffy’s entire demeanor changed. “Go where?” she asked, in a seemingly sincere little-girl-lost voice.

“Just out for some air. You can holler if you need anything. I won’t be far.”

There was a brief nod of her head and a swish of leather, the back door slamming behind him. Giles expected Buffy to relax once they were alone, but she only seemed to tense up more.

“Is he hurting you?” asked Giles promptly, not sure how much time they’d have.

She looked at him, eyes wide, then began to shake her head. “No,” she said, her lip wobbling. “No. I’m hurting him.”

Giles was horrified afresh to see tears spring to her eyes.

Spike was back at her side within moments. Holding her tenderly as she sobbed against his shoulder. To Giles’ further bewilderment, he heard her mumble a string of apologies followed by what sounded suspiciously like, “What if I killed it?”

---

Tara was surprised to find Willow on the doorstep of her temporary student apartment. The mere sight of her brought on an influx of warring emotions, as well as some palpitations. Happiness was winning out until she looked closer and saw anger etched across her ex-girlfriend’s face. Further assessment of the scene made her realize Willow had brought all her worldly possessions with her, in addition to the foul mood.

Without preamble, Willow told her that she had nowhere to go, because Xander’s, “Ho of a vengeance demon didn’t like her crashing with them.”

Tara worried her lip and, against her better judgment, invited her in.

Chapter Text

As Spike and Buffy pulled out of their embrace, Giles stood up and stepped closer to them, wagging his glasses in his hand as he did so.

“Just what on earth is going on?” he demanded. “Buffy, I must say, your behavior is deeply concerning, and Spike – well, I’m really not sure you’re helping the situation at all.”

“You’ve just said you know nothing of the situation,” said Spike. “So why don’t you pipe down, Watcher.”

Before Giles could speak again, Buffy interjected more quietly saying, “Really Giles, you don’t understand. He’s the only one that helps. The only one holding me and Dawn together.”

Obviously taken back at her words, even though he wasn’t sure he fully agreed with them, Spike took a moment to revel in how they made him feel. The Slayer, standing up for him, who would have thought it? Did he really keep Dawn and Buffy together? He certainly tried to help, but he thought he’d ruined his casual friendship with Dawn, and–

Wait. Dawn!

Suddenly remembering his mental note from earlier in the day, Spike realized she still wasn’t in the house. He must have looked really worried, because Buffy was staring at him like she was going to cry again.

Pushing his concerns aside and forcing a small smile, he told her, “I’m just going to look for Niblet,” then placed a nervous kiss on her hand before making his way back into the hall.

---

“Yeah,” said Buffy lamely as she watched Spike leave, trying and failing to pretend she wasn’t bothered by said leaving, or by the fact that she’d not even once questioned where her teenage sister was.

As soon as the front door was closed, Giles began questioning her again, deeper than before, but with less of an edge.

Admitting defeat, Buffy slumped into a chair and resolved to explain everything to him properly.

---

“You’re trying to infiltrate our little gang, is that it?” Warren pressed. “You’ve already got to Jonathan, and now you’re working on the rest of us.” He turned around to address Andrew. “Do you know what this means?”

“Uh, that we’re cool?” Andrew hedged.

“That we’re a threat,” affirmed Warren. “Buffy’s scared of us.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” said Jonathan. “If Buffy was scared of you, why would she send Dawn to confront you on her own?”

Realizing it was a good point, Warren paused to think about it. “She must be wired,” he concluded. “Or carrying weapons. Let’s search her.”

“Wait!” cried Dawn. “I’m not doing anything. There’s no big plan. I just thought hanging out here would annoy Buffy and, and–” she looked away, ashamed, before finishing her admission in a quiet voice. “I thought maybe then I’d feel better.”

While Warren was intrigued, he still wasn’t completely convinced. “Why do you wanna hurt your sister?” he questioned.

“No!” Exclaimed Dawn. Her eyes shot up to meet his again. “Not hurt! Just… annoy, a little.”

“Why?” repeated Warren, his tone steely.

“Because of the baby,” she blurted. “Buffy’s crazy and pregnant and I’m not going to matter to her anymore. She already doesn’t care about me!”

Andrew made ‘Aww’ sounds at the revelation while Jonathan looked at her with concern. Both of them jumped when Warren started maniacally laughing.

“This is perfect!” he declared, rubbing his hands together. “There’s nothing I love more than a weakened opponent.”

---

“I don’t understand,” said Tara. “Buffy just kicked you out? That doesn’t sound like her.”

“Well, no,” said Willow, fiddling with the hem of her shirt. “There wasn’t kicking, exactly, but she said that if I was really that bothered by her and Spike then I could leave.”

Tara’s eyes widened. “Buffy and Spike are together?”

“Kinda. Y’know, since the whole pregnancy thing came out.”

“Whoa!” Tara stood up. “Pregnancy?”

Guilt flooded Willow’s expression as she looked up into Tara’s eyes and realized she hadn’t even tried to keep her in the loop.

“Oops?”

---

Horrified by Warren’s attitude and really regretting her ill-conceived plan, Dawn exclaimed aloud, “What’s wrong with you?”

Warren stopped laughing and hauled her up again. “Do you think you can talk to me like that?”

“Warren, stop,” Jonathan pleaded.

“Really? Again with the false heroics? What is it with you two? Defending each other.” Warren shook his head. “I mean it’s sweet, really. I bet you’ll cry when I have a little fun with Dawn, here. Hey, sweet cheeks, you ever been with a real man?”

“What?!” Dawn screeched, her eyes scanning the room for an escape, or a weapon, before coming up empty and returning to meet Warren’s glare. He was not joking. “You’re sick! Let me go!”

For resisting, Warren struck her across the cheek. It was mere moments before Spike started hammering on the barrier to the open front door upstairs. With that distraction in place, Jonathan shoved Warren one way and then pushed Dawn in the direction of the basement steps, telling her to run.

---

“And that’s pretty much it,” Buffy concluded. “We don’t know if I’m pregnant with a demon baby, or not pregnant at all. Maybe I was, but I….” She looked away, unable or unwilling to finish. Perhaps both.

Giles was speechless. Whatever he expected, it wasn’t that. There was another half-formed question on his lips when Buffy spoke again, to ask him not to research her situation. He was going to argue, of course, but then Spike walked in with a crying Dawn in his arms. Giles was horrified when Buffy didn’t immediately get up and try to see what the problem was but, more confusingly, Spike seemed to take it all in his stride.

Chapter Text

Willow was sat cross-legged on Tara’s double bed while, across from her, Tara was struggling for words, hurt written all over her face.

“I’m sorry,” Willow told her.

“Are you?” she inquired, with earnest.

Willow bit her lip.

“Do you know why I’m mad?” Tara pressed. “Please, Willow. Tell me you understand.”

“I, well… You haven’t been around. So you don’t know what’s been going on, and–”

”I’m mad,” Tara interrupted, “Because you really hurt me. More than once. And it could have been so easily avoided. I’m mad because you haven’t properly apologized to me, and your actions made me feel the need to leave the first place I’ve ever lived in that truly felt like home. I’m mad, Willow, because this is the first time you’ve seen me since then, and instead of stopping for one minute to think about how I might feel about you turning up on my doorstep, you’ve complained non-stop about problems that you helped create. You’ve been bitching about people that you brought into my life – people I began to trust, like family – and people I now can’t connect with properly anymore because not being with you makes it so hard.” Her voice starting to crack, Tara was only just able to conclude, “I’m mad because I love you so damn much, and sometimes you don’t seem to care at all!”

The room was suddenly silent around them. Willow was completely and utterly speechless. When the phone rang, she considered it the finest blessing she could imagine.

Sniffing away her unshed tears, Tara picked up the receiver, listened for a moment, and then handed it to Willow.

---

Spike had sat Dawn down in a chair and was carefully inspecting her ankle.

Giles, who was hovering behind him, had no inkling as to why she was upset, but was trying to push aside his immediate instinct that Spike was the cause. Nothing, it seemed, was as it appeared. Buffy was coping even less than when he’d left town in an effort to get her to stand on her own two feet, and Spike had taken on a bizarre mothering role.

“Stop crying,” Buffy instructed Dawn.

Dawn, Spike, and Giles all stopped what they were doing – what they were even thinking – and turned to look at her. She hadn’t said a word since they had come in, and she wasn’t even looking at them now.

Her voice slightly stronger this time, Buffy elaborated, “If you push the tears down and pretend they aren’t there then they don’t hurt so much.”

Dawn had stopped crying just from the shock of such out of character advice, delivered in a voice wholly devoid of emotion but, as soon as Buffy stopped talking, she burst into tears herself.

---

Spike was at Buffy’s side in an instant. “Hey, now, love,” he soothed, wishing he could tell her it was okay, or that she didn’t need to cry. But crying was exactly what she needed to do. Evidently, bottling things up was getting to her.

Dawn went to hoist herself up and out of the chair so she could go to her room away from the sight of Spike and Buffy being tender but, as soon as she moved an inch, Spike called out to her.

“Don’t,” he said, as his arms remained tightly wound around Buffy’s shoulders. “I’ll take you up in a bit, Niblet. Don’t think your ankle’s broken, but it’s got a bad sprain all right. You shouldn’t be putting weight on it.”

Dawn resettled herself and folded her arms across her chest. “I’ll be fine.”

Suddenly, Spike sprang up from where he was knelt in front of Buffy and turned to face Dawn properly. Pointing back at Buffy, he snapped, “Don’t you see what all this ‘I’m fine’ bollocks is doing to your sister? None of us are bloody fine, and the second both of you get that through your thick skulls we can maybe begin to start processing everything!”

As soon as he finished ranting, Spike regretted his words. Dawn looked away from him while he felt the air behind him shift. He closed his eyes, knowing Buffy was going to go upstairs and was unlikely to talk to him for a week.

When she passed him, however, she paused. In a shaky voice that he could only make out due to his advanced hearing, she said, “I don’t want to be alone tonight.” Then, after a brief nod of reply, she was gone.

Mid-way through the emotional chaos in the living room, Giles had slipped into the kitchen to make a phone call.

---

“Hello, Willow? I’m glad I caught you. Is now a bad time?”

Willow looked at Tara awkwardly standing there, waiting to finish the conversation they’d put on hold, and made a decision. She turned her back.

“I’m free,” she said to Giles. “What’s up?”

---

Spike carried Dawn up to her room just as he said he would. When he then went to leave her room, however, she finally spoke to him again, stopping him in his tracks.

“Aren’t you going to yell at me some more?” she asked.

“No,” he told her, softly yet with conviction.

“Why?” she pressed. Her voice was so small; like her sister’s had become, recently.

He sat on the edge of her bed heavily. “Because there’s no point. I reckon I know why you went there and I reckon you now know it was a bad idea, and that you won’t be doing it again. Can’t surely say I have the right to lecture you, knowing all the shit I’ve got up to when I’ve been outta my tree with worry.”

A brief moment of silence followed and then: “Thanks, Spike.”

---

By the time Willow had ended the call, Tara had given up waiting and had gone into her bathroom to change for bed. When she returned, her face was impassive. Willow went to say something, but she held up a hand.

“Can we not do this right now?

Willow gulped then gave a small nod. As much as she wanted to give her side of things, she also felt completely drained. Eying the bed, she began to hesitate over the beginnings of a question.

“The couch is free,” said Tara, before she got any further. “I’ll get you some covers.”

---

Spike and Buffy lay side-by-side in her bed, neither with any notion of sleep. They hadn’t spoken since he entered the room but, when she started to toss and turn, he reached an arm out and pulled her to his side. She calmed against his touch instantly.

“Thank you, Spike,” she murmured.

Chapter Text

Willow had been awake for what felt like hours but was refusing to open her eyes, knowing that the moment she did, she would have to face reality. Eventually, though, she grew too restless. From across the room, she heard the words, “Are you gonna toss and turn all day or are you going to sit up and talk to me?”

At that, Willow did sit up. She looked over to the desk and saw Tara sat there, fully dressed. “I skipped class so we could sort this out.”

Willow gulped as she remembered they had a mid-term due. Opening her mouth to apologize, she still found no words.

Tara left the room after the silence went on a while. To her horror, Willow felt relieved at the loss of her company. The realization made her want to cry, but she had no tears as well as no words. Deciding to take her mind off it, she got up and searched the desk drawer for a notepad.

---

Spike got up early to check on Dawn’s ankle and make sure she got to school on time. Meanwhile, Buffy stayed in bed, having only drifted off as the sun was beginning to rise.

Giles had slept on the couch and was in the process of making himself some tea when Spike went into the kitchen for his morning blood.

“Do you always sleep here?” Giles asked him, but he didn’t answer. The only noise in the room was the microwave. Spike went to go back upstairs when it was done, but Giles stepped in front of him.

“I’d like a word.”

---

Having transformed a few torn pages from one of Tara’s old notebooks into a glowing, extra-credit essay for the class she’d missed, Willow set about researching Buffy’s pregnancy, as per Giles request. Well, technically, she’d already looked into it, but she hadn’t been able to get very far, what with having to move out suddenly. She’d only just opened the first magic book on Tara’s shelf when she walked back in the room.

“I’m sorry I was harsh when–” Tara was saying, only to interrupt herself as soon as she saw Willow reading.

“This isn’t what it looks like,” said Willow.

---

“Look, Watcher,” said Spike, sighing. “I don’t know what you want me to say that we didn’t already go over last night.”

Knowing that it wouldn’t take much for him to simply push past him and refuse to engage entirely, Giles got straight to the point: “Buffy says she’s worried she’s turning into a demon.”

Spike’s eyebrows went up. “She told you that?”

“Well, her actual choice of word was ‘monster.’ She thinks she’s losing her humanity, and the ability to love.”

“Bollocks!” said Spike. “Her problem is that she feels too much.”

“I quite agree,” said Giles. He paused to smile a little. “I never thought I’d say that.”

Spike gave him a smirk in return, but there was little joy behind it. “I suppose you think I’m a bad influence and have come to warn me off?”

Giles shook his head. “I think it’s a little late for that.”

The rest of Spike’s tirade died on his lips. “So, what do you want?”

“To talk,” said Giles, indicating an empty stool by the island.

---

Before Willow had a chance to explain herself, Tara walked the rest of the way into her room and snatched the magic books from her reach.

“Really,” Willow insisted, “It’s not what–”

“You’re a magic addict, Willow!”

“No!” said Willow. “I mean, I–”

“You are,” said Tara forcefully. “The fact that you can’t see that only proves how in over your head you really are!”

“But Giles asked me if–” Willow tried again.

Tara held up her hand and took a breath. “You’re doing research for Giles?”

“Yes!” exclaimed Willow, glad she’d finally got her point across.

Tara still did not look satisfied, however. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Well, I tried, but you wouldn’t let me speak. All with the interrupting and–”

Much to Willow’s annoyance, Tara cut her off again. “No,” she said. “You were talking to Giles last night. You could have said something then, or before I left. You could have asked, Willow. Why didn’t that even occur to you?”

Suddenly, Willow couldn’t find a single thing to say.

“Giles asked you to research because he doesn’t know how deep you got into magic,” Tara continued. “And instead of telling him, you just thought things would be all right on their own – again.”

Willow cast her eyes to the floor and Tara took another deep breath. “I love you, and I don’t want to fight, but you have to think about your actions.”

---

“All right, I’m here,” said Spike. “Talk away.”

“Actually. I’d rather hoped you could tell me a few things,” said Giles.

Spike shook his head. “I’ve already told you all I know. Which is precious little, I’ll admit. Anything about Buffy, you’ll have to ask her yourself. I’m not betraying her confidence.”

“That’s very noble of you,” said Giles, failing to hide the irritation in his voice. “Tell me, have you looked into any possible mystical sources for Buffy’s pregnancy?”

Spike stood up with an exclamation of, “Bloody hell,” and started pacing the kitchen floor. “Is it all watcher types that don’t listen, or just you? I don’t know a sodding thing other than Buffy took a test and it had a little blue line on it.”

“But you haven’t been tempted to research?” Giles pressed.

“Of course I’ve been. I’d love to know what the hell’s going on.”

“But?”

Spike closed his eyes for a moment and lowered his voice. “But Buffy doesn’t want to know.”

“And you’re going to respect her choice?” asked Giles, surprised.

Spike stopped pacing a few feet from where Giles still sat and looked down at him, exasperated. “Haven’t I already said that?”

Giles was silent for a few moments, then said, “You’re scared.”

“Scared?” Spike balked. “I’m bloody terrified. If I’ve knocked up the Slayer with a demon sprog, we’ll be hunted, not least by the ever-helpful wanker’s council. And if Buffy was pregnant but somehow lost it, it’ll crush her, no matter how much she says she didn’t want it.”

“And if she is pregnant with a perfectly healthy, human child?” asked Giles.

“Then I’ll raise it,” said Buffy, who suddenly appeared at the kitchen door.

Spike looked up at her, wondering just how much trouble he was going to be in for talking behind her back. 

Chapter Text

At Buffy’s sudden appearance at the kitchen door, and her apparent commitment to raise a child – with or without Spike, it wasn’t quite clear – Giles got to his feet and stood by the Vampire in question. They both gaped at her, a little, but she clearly wasn’t interested in discussing anything further.

“Please, just leave it,” she said, as Giles opened his mouth to speak.

“Buffy, you can’t just–” he began, but Spike interrupted him.

“The lady said leave it,” he affirmed, pulling out a stool for her.

When she walked past it and pulled out a different stool for herself, Spike dared to ask her how she was.

“Tired,” she answered. “Did Dawn get to school okay?”

Spike and Giles exchanged looks. Although Buffy still wasn’t engaging fully in conversation, it was a good sign that she’d considered Dawn’s welfare.

“Harris took her,” said Spike. “Woulda done it myself but…” he trailed off, finishing his sentence only by gesturing towards the sun-streaked window.

Buffy nodded and laid her head on the cool surface of the island, looking as if she was going to fall asleep again. When Giles said her she should eat something, she looked up only to glare at him, but said nothing as Spike handed her a bowl of cereal. He and Giles looked at each other again.

“Gee, will you stop doing that?” Buffy snapped. “You’re gonna make a girl paranoid.”

“Sorry,” said Spike, a little too quickly, like he was genuinely scared of her wrath. Maybe he was, she considered, before pushing the thought away again. She really didn’t like to think about how she was hurting him.

Buffy shook her head and looked back at Giles. “Could we have some space?”

“Er, right. Of course.” Giles hesitated before choosing a course of action. “I’ve got some calls to make; shall be in the Magic Box, if you need me.”

“We won’t,” said Buffy, fairly confidently, but nobody seemed happy about that fact. She turned to Spike as soon as the front door was shut, but the anger he was expecting didn’t come. “What is it?” she asked him, instead.

“Huh?” he replied, more than a little caught off guard.

“You’re more nervous than normal and I know you’re not one to open up to most people, let alone Giles, so tell me: what’s up?”

Spike gave a fleeting smirk. No matter how warped she was about her own life, she still had him spot on. There was no use denying it now. “A letter came this morning,” he admitted. “For you.”

Buffy’s mouth dropped open. “You opened my mail?”

When he looked away and didn’t answer, she realized her assumption wasn’t quite right. On some subconscious level, she’d become aware that Spike was putting in real effort to be extra good. Violating her privacy wouldn’t have bothered him not so long ago, but things had changed. Even if he had slipped into old habits, he’d have admitted it for fear of angering her further. So, she concluded, it wasn’t him.

“Dawn,” she said, suddenly realizing.

“Don’t be too hard on her,” said Spike.

“Was it from school? Tell me she’s not been suspended!” Buffy almost sounded hysterical with rage. Spike actually thought it was a nice change from crying but, once the truth was out, she’d no doubt revert back to being her weepy self. Still, he felt it was better to get the rest of the conversation over with quickly. Rip it off in one go, like a Band-Aid. Maybe afterwards, the tension would calm down a bit again, and maybe he’d talk Buffy into going back to bed.

“The letter wasn’t from school,” he said, bracing himself. “It was social services.”

Buffy’s eyes widened. “What? Oh. She is so dead!”

Spike sighed. A release in tension was definitely off the cards.

---

As he approached the door to the Magic Box, Giles could hear raised voices coming from inside – Xander and Anya’s – but as soon as he turned the handle, they looked up and stopped. A few awkward moments later, in which they all pretended there hadn’t been an argument, Xander made his excuses and went to work.

Then, before Giles had a chance to ask Anya if she was okay, Willow came in. Seeing her made him realize for the first time that she must have moved out of Buffy’s house. And, based on the fact that he was able to contact her at Tara’s, he jumped to the first available conclusion. Trying to lighten the mood he said, “How nice that you have got a place together.”

Willow’s face dropped. Suddenly, she found herself able to access all the tears that she’d been building up but hadn’t been able to release.

Giles seemed utterly distressed at the reaction, but was at a loss for how to respond. Mostly, he was mad at himself for not realizing there were major problems going on in Sunnydale, and for walking out on them when he left. In hindsight, he’d made the wrong decision. Buffy certainly hadn’t forgiven him for it, and perhaps she never would. While he pondered this, Anya retrieved a box of tissues from under the counter and silently handed them over.

“I think we should go into the back room,” Giles told Willow, once she seemed to calm down a bit. “Have a nice cup of tea, don’t you think?”

She merely nodded at him, not really looking up from her tissues.

---

“Hold on now, love,” said Spike. “Dawn didn’t do anything wrong.” At Buffy’s incredulous expression, he amended, “Aside from the letter opening.”

Forcing herself to listen to the whole explanation before flying the rest of the way off the handle, Buffy allowed him to explain that Child Services weren’t in touch because Dawn had got in trouble but, rather, the letter had said someone had called into question Buffy’s care of her sister, and that they were going to investigate.

“Oh, god!” exclaimed Buffy. “Someone reported me?!” Her eyes bore into Spike’s, silently demanding answers she knew he didn’t have.

“You’re a good Mum,” he told her, but she shook her head. Before she knew it, her entire body was shaking. She threw up right where she sat.

“Buffy, no one’s going to take Dawn away,” he insisted, even as she refused to let him either comfort her or help clean up. “We won’t let them.”

“How can we stop them?” she asked, her voice lost somewhere between anger and defeat. “This isn’t some demon I can kill.”

“We can do it,” he reaffirmed, ignoring her resistance and gripping her upper arms firmly, so she was looking straight at him. “Together,” he continued. It’s an informal meeting, at first. Some bint will come check us out, see everything’s shipshape, and call for no further action.”

“You’re awfully sure of yourself,” Buffy snarked, but she was thankful of his confidence all the same.

“I’m sure of you,” he said. “Now get your arse upstairs. I’m bringing you a proper breakfast.” When she went to argue, his tone grew even more determined. “You’re going to eat it,” he told her. Buffy smiled at him, then. Knowing that she wasn’t taking his temporary authority the wrong way, he finally added, “Now, Summers.”

---

Giles rubbed the bridge of his nose, hoping it would help his brain absorb all of the things Willow had told him that little bit faster. “One more time. What exactly is it you’re saying?”

“I’m a mess,” she admitted, her voice small. “I’ve hurt Tara, and Buffy. I’m addicted to magic, and….” She took a breath. “And I need help. This isn’t me, Giles!”

He sighed. “All right, we’ll work through this. There are a number of places we could seek help but really, Willow, you should have come to me with this sooner.”

“I know,” she said, looking down. “It’s just, you were gone. I thought… I thought I could deal with it all.”

There was that guilt again, bubbling inside Giles for returning to England. “All right,” he repeated. “Is there anything else?”

Willow forced out a weak and deeply shameful, “Yes,” twisting the hem of her shirt around in her hands as she did so. Her next words all came out in such a rush, it took Giles a long moment to process them. “I-kinda-sorta-maybe-reported-Buffy-to-Child-Services-and-I’m-sorry-I-didn’t-mean-it-oh-god!”

Chapter Text

Spike and Buffy fell asleep together atop her bed after she finally let him take care of her, some. He tried not to get his hopes up about them having got a little better around each other, but for the first time it felt like they were connecting, instead of her trying to punish either one of them by the unusual method of having an orgasm.

Fully fed and rested, they had a long planning session about how to deal with Child Services.

---

Before Giles could form a coherent reply to what Willow had just admitted, she burst into another fit of uncontrollable tears.

Trying to keep his voice even he asked her, simply, “Why?”

She looked back at him with the uncanny appearance of a deer caught in headlights.

“Why have you done this?” he pressed.

“I… I–” She looked around as if trying to find inspiration for what would explain her actions. But, finding nothing but an empty room where her friends would normally be hanging out, she was forced to look inside herself for the truth instead. “I guess I thought that maybe the shock of it would help Buffy to see she needed help.”

“And you wanted to be that help,” said Giles. It wasn’t a question, but a statement, and it was not delivered kindly. “You’ve been very selfish,” he continued, still sounding calm. Relaxed, even. Willow found it completely unnerving.

“Why aren’t you yelling at me?” she asked.

Giles was mad at her – of course he was – but his anger drove him beyond shouting. His rage was silent, and that made it all the more dangerous. After pausing for a moment, he said, “Well, it’s not the worst thing you’ve done.”

Willow paled. “What?” she stammered.

“Compared to pulling Buffy out of heaven, I should say that this barely even registers in the harm you’ve done against her.”

“But, Giles!” exclaimed Willow.

“Tell me I’m wrong,” he challenged.

She opened her mouth to do just that but found herself unable. Finally finding her voice, moments later, she said, “I’m a monster.”

Giles shook his head. “You’ve done monstrous things, no doubt, but if anything I should say it makes you human. At any rate, it won’t do much good to sit here thinking on it. You need to take action as soon as possible.”

“What do I do?” she asked, her voice sounding small again.

“Obviously you’ve got to withdraw your complaint,” said Giles, irritation finally making its way into his words.

“Yeah,” said Willow, before struggling over the word, “Obviously.” It hadn’t actually occurred to her to do that. She’d been tied up in ideas of blanking the memory of whoever had taken her call and destroying the ensuing paperwork.

“And then you need to talk to Buffy,” Giles continued. “Tell her everything and, most importantly, apologize.”

At that suggestion, Willow looked positively horrified. “I can’t!” she said. “She’ll hate me!”

“As she has every right to,” said Giles. “Your apology will likely not be well received, but you must do it anyway.”

Silence fell in the room as she considered this. She’d come to Giles for help because she’d seriously messed up. What did she expect, an easy fix? Willow swallowed around the lump in her throat, realizing for the first time that that’s exactly what she thought would happen. Giles was looking at her as if he expected something, but she didn’t know what else to say.

“I should go,” he told her, moments later, as he looked at his watch.

“Wait, I…” Willow began, to which he raised his eyebrows in question. “I don’t have anywhere to go.”

He let out a sigh of exasperation before reaching into the pocket of his tweed blazer and taking out a key. “You may stay with me,” he said, handing it to her. “I have a sofa in my temporary apartment and shall no doubt have a spare room once I find a more permanent residence.”

At this, Willow’s face lightened a bit. “You’re staying?” she asked.

“Yes,” said Giles. “Now, I’m afraid I really do have to go. I’m seeing a man at a hospital.”

---

The moment Dawn walked in the door from school, Buffy was ready for her. What she hadn’t expected, however, was for her to be with Jonathan.

Spike growled when he saw him, but Buffy held up her hand to indicate he wait before throwing him out. Then she turned to her sister and held out her other hand.

“Letter,” she demanded.

Looking between Buffy and Spike, who were standing at the foot of the stairs, Dawn gave a small nod before searching through her backpack. Once she’d found and handed over the letter, Buffy glanced at it, folded it twice, and slipped it in her back pocket.

“Explain,” she said, next.

“I bumped into Jonathan on my way home,” said Dawn. “He came to make sure I was okay.”

Okay?” repeated Spike, looming over him. “She barely got outta your pathetic little hideout alive!” Not being particularly tall, it wasn’t often that Spike got to loom over people, but Jonathan was like a gnat to him, and he so badly wanted to swat him. Before he could get further into his rant, however, Dawn butted in.

“He’s the reason I got out at all,” she said.

Spike looked at her, nostrils flaring. “I distinctly remember you saying he was the one that made you twist your ankle, bit.”

Beside him, Buffy shifted uncomfortably. She had no idea what had gone on the night Spike had brought Dawn back in tears. She’d never even asked.

“That’s not it,” said Dawn. “He was trying to push me out of the way. It was Warren who tried to hurt me.”

At that, Buffy shuddered. “Wow, I really hate that guy,” she said, thinking about what happened to the last girl he’d got entangled with. “So what’s he doing here?” she pressed, looking back at Jonathan, who was looking very nervously at Spike.

“Jonathan was in a gang with Warren,” said Dawn, interrupted by Spike snorting at her use of the word ‘gang.’ “But he’s left them,” she continued. “And Warren’s probably going to come after him. We need to give him asylum.”

“We bloody well do not,” said Spike, but Buffy shook her head.

“You can stay,” she told him, before turning back to Dawn and telling her, in no uncertain terms, “Go to your room.”

Chapter Text

One by one, Dawn, Spike, and Jonathan all turned to Buffy in shock. Then they all went to talk at the same time: Spike to voice his complaints, Dawn to make known her confusion, and Jonathan to express thanks. Silencing all of them, Buffy repeated her order for Dawn to go to her room before turning to the other two and stating, “We’ll talk about this in the other room.”

---

At the hospital, Giles finally tracked down the doctor he was hoping to have a word with. Said doctor, who had just entered the corridor, looked flustered as he peered over the stack of reports in his arms.

“We have an appointment,” Giles told him.

“Right, Mr…?”

“Giles.”

The doctor nodded. “Mr Giles. I remember now. You’re the patient’s father, is that right?”

“Well, no,” said Giles, rather regretfully.

“Oh,” said the doctor, now giving him his full attention. “I was under the impression you were a family member.”

“So was I,” Giles muttered to himself.

The doctor looked at him with pity. “I’m sorry,” he said, “But I can’t discuss anything if you’re not related.”

After a brief pause, Giles then asked if he could have some general advice, on a hypothetical basis. “You see,” he explained. “Buffy is like a daughter to me, and I’m terribly concerned for her. It seems she doesn’t fully understand the situation.”

Seemingly against his better judgment, the doctor asked him, “What is it you want to know?”

---

“We’ll keep you safe,” Buffy told Jonathan. “But you’re gonna earn your place here, and help us take down Warren.”

“Hold on a minute,” said Spike. “You can’t seriously–”

Buffy glared at him, momentarily halting his argument.

“Should I give you two a moment?” asked Jonathan, looking between them.

“No,” said Buffy.

“Now hold on,” said Spike, “You said we could talk about this, but you’re not listenin’ to what I have to say.”

Buffy sighed. “I already know what you’re gonna say.”

“Is that right?” There was danger in his eyes, but Buffy didn’t back down.

“This is my house,” she stated.

“Sod the house!” exclaimed Spike. “We need to worry about Dawn’s safety.”

“I’m on top of Dawn’s safety!” Buffy snapped.

“No, you’re being reckless!” Spike accused, to which Buffy looked as if she’d been slapped.

“Don’t you dare!” she said, as once more Jonathan considered leaving the room for a bit.

Spike held up his hands. “I didn’t mean that. You are a good mum, like I’ve been tellin’ you. Take right good care of Dawn, you do. I just think that–”

“Stop,” said Buffy. “Please, just stop.” Annoyed that the brief peace she and Spike had found was now ruined, she forced herself to be calm. “I need you to trust my judgment on this. If someone needs help, I’m gonna give it.”

“But what about the help you need?” Spike countered. “You’ve already got more than enough on your plate.”

“Please,” said Buffy again. It was a simple plea, but an effective one.

Spike’s eyes closed as he took in a series of unneeded breaths. He’d hear her out. It was the least he could do.

“I’ve known Jonathan a long time,” she said, evenly. “He’s not dangerous. Stupid, yes, but not risky.” When Spike still looked unconvinced, she got a little louder again and said, “He’s Jonathan for God’s sake! Idiot loser boy!”

“Umm,” Jonathan murmured, shifting uncomfortably on his feet.

“No offense,” Buffy added.

He closed his mouth again.

“You may know him, but his cronies ain’t so innocent,” said Spike. “I know boys and the seedy things that go on in their heads.”

Buffy frowned. She didn’t know what a crony was and she didn’t care to find out. The argument was exhausting, and she’d been tired before it even began. “Look,” she said, finally, as she turned to the boy in question. It was weird how she considered him to be a boy, seeing as they were both the same year in High School. “If you do anything to hurt my sister, or endanger her in any way, Spike has my permission to eat you.”

Going from offended to contemplative, Jonathan asked, “Do you mean that in like a… gay way?”

Spike rolled his eyes skyward. He was beginning to at least agree with Buffy on the ‘stupid idiot’ part. “I’m a vampire,” he spelled out. “Grr, nasty. With the murder and the sucking of blood!”

“Right, right,” said Jonathan. “That’s also, y’know… kinda gross. I mean, not that gayness is gross, or anything, it’s just not that I ever found it appealing and, I’m making this worse. Are you sure I shouldn’t go?”

Buffy and Spike exchanged at the end of which Spike gave in and repeated Buffy’s earlier sentiment. “It’s her house,” he said on a sigh.

With that settled, they all set off towards the basement, where Buffy was going to set up a spare camping bed they had stored down there. On her way out the living room, she passed Spike and gave his hand a squeeze, which he took to mean as thank you, for thinking of Dawn but also respecting her decision. And there it was again: hope that things would get better if they stuck together.

---

“Buffy confided in me that her baby apparently has no heartbeat,” said Giles. “Beyond that, she doesn’t know much more. Could you tell me, so that I might explain it better to her, what has occurred? Do you think it likely she’ll have a stillborn child?”

The doctor paled at the idea. “I told Miss Summers that the test she took likely gave her a false reading.”

“So you don’t believe her to be pregnant at all?” Giles pressed, determined to have complete clarity.

“I know she’s not,” said the doctor. “There wasn’t a heartbeat. There wasn’t anything. I’m sorry if she got the impression that she maybe had conceived but the child had not survived but, as far as I could tell from the ultrasound, there hadn’t been anything growing there.”

Giles pondered this, wondering why there had been so much confusion when simply asking the doctor for clarification could have explained everything. By the time he came out of his reverie, the doctor had left to go speak with someone else. The watcher concluded that there must be something he was missing. Surely Buffy had some cause for concern to make her believe that a sterile vampire had made her pregnant in the first place. More research was needed but, disinclined as he was to ask Buffy any more questions until he’d answered some of his own, his first instinct was to go to Willow for more help. With that option unavailable, he did the next best thing.

Chapter Text

Buffy never thought it could happen but, lately, she’d actually enjoying simply spending time with Spike, hanging out more than fighting with him. Not that she didn’t still enjoy fighting with him, or the effect it had on her.

As soon as they’d stationed Jonathan in the basement, she’d gone to talk with Dawn for a bit, and then they’d both ended up back in Buffy’s bedroom, mouths clashing together in mutual lust.

Fighting, whether verbally or physically, got them both all worked up. It was a simple fact of life, and one that Buffy was learning to just accept. By the time they’d walked the short distance to the bed, groping each other with each step, Buffy was breathless, but things changed the moment they actually laid down.

Suddenly, the Slayer went rigid under Spike’s touch.

Immediately, he pulled back and looked at her warily. “Did I hurt you?” he asked, his gaze running the length of her.

“No,” said Buffy, sitting up and pushing him the rest of the way off.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

Spike’s mouth hung open for a moment. At the drop of a hat, she’d gone from running her hand against the bulge in his pants to looking around the room and pretending he wasn’t in it. “If you’re gonna do that, can you at least give me a heads up?” he snapped. “Explain, or at least bloody look at me and stop pretending there ain’t an issue.”

Buffy did look back at him when he said that, but she didn’t say anything and he couldn’t read her expression.

“Mood swings I can take,” he continued, “But these bloody mixed signals are gonna get us both in trouble. Do me a favor and throw me a bloody clue here, love.”

Finally opening her mouth, the answer that came out was not one he expected. It was a simple, “I’m scared.”

“Scared?” repeated Spike, no less illuminated than he had been a moment before. “Of having– of bein’ with me?” He just couldn’t understand, no matter what way he figured it. “We’ve done this enough times, Buffy.”

She shook her head. “Not that.”

“Then what?” he pressed, taking her hand in his and causing her to look away again.

“I don’t want to risk… things,” she said, vaguely.

“You’re worried about hurting the baby?” Spike questioned, but she shook her head again. Then she finally gave in and told him.

“I’m worried I’ve lost it, and if I have… I don’t want to risk going through it all again.”

It took Spike a little moment to process that. A little “Oh,” passed his lips. For once, he could actually see her point of view. And, what’s more, part of him agreed with it. Risking things was not a good idea.

“But what are the chances?” he reasoned. “I shouldn’t have been able to get you pregnant once, let alone pull it off more than that.” After a pause he added, “Actually, I’m not sure if it happenin’ once makes the chances go up or down.” There were so many thoughts in his head, and so many of them conflicted. “We don’t even know that you’ve lost it,” he concluded them aloud, but he wasn’t really sure where that conclusion left them. Wherever it was, though, it was nowhere near the sexual tension he’d been feeling just moments earlier.

“We don’t know anything!” exclaimed Buffy, balling up her fists. “I don’t know what’s going on, and I don’t know how to deal with it.”

As risky as his next suggestion was, Spike forced himself to make it. “Why don’t you let ol’ Rupes do some research, put your mind at ease?” he asked, hesitantly.

“I’m scared,” said Buffy again. “That and, honestly? I feel guilty.”

“Guilty?” repeated Spike, suddenly confused again. “What have you got to feel–”

Buffy interrupted him with another shake of her head. “What if I have lost it, Spike? What if it’s my fault?”

He decided not to point out that, for quite some time, she’d been adamant that she didn’t want the baby in the first place, and chose to stay silent.

Buffy lay back and rested her head against his chest. He was contemplating wrapping his arms around her when someone knocked at the front door and she moved away again to answer it.

---

In the hallway, Buffy saw that Dawn had reached the front door before her. Upon seeing it was Willow, however, the teen had wandered off to the kitchen and just left the Witch standing there.

“Uh, hi, Buffy,” she mumbled, as she watched the Slayer descend the stairs.

When Spike appeared at Buffy’s back, her nervousness visibly went into overdrive and she managed a little squeak of acknowledgement at his presence. Buffy was going to suggest they all go sit in the living room but, before she could, Willow blurted out a hearty, “I’m sorry!”

“Okay,” said Buffy. “Why do you sound like you’re apologizing for a lot more than just having a bad attitude?”

“Your heart’s goin’ a mile a minute, Red,” said Spike. “What did you do?”

“Well, I…” Willow stammered, “I thought I was helping, but I was wrong, and I see that now. Buffy, you have to believe me! I thought I could fix it, and I tried. I really did, but the lady said that even if I retract my statement they’re still gonna evaluate you, and–”

Her rambling was cut off by Giles and Tara also appearing at the front door. Upon Willow and Tara’s eyes meeting, Willow shut up completely and trained her eyes on her footwear.

“Buffy,” said Giles, in greeting, choosing to ignore Spike.

This time, Buffy did move everyone into the living room before the conversation broke out again. “What’s going on?” she asked.

“Tara and I have combined our efforts,” said Giles. “And I believe we have some conclusions.”

Angry at his interference, Buffy was about to interrupt him to say that it wasn’t his place to research her personal issues, especially after she told him not to. But, suddenly, all conversation was dropped at the sound of gunfire coming from the kitchen. 

Chapter Text

Buffy, Spike, Willow, Tara, and Giles ran into the kitchen to find blood everywhere and Dawn screaming at the top of her lungs. Jonathan was on the ground, motionless, with a gaping hole in his chest, while Warren stood at the back door, blood flowing from his hand and a gun lying at his feet.

Everyone moved into action in the same instant: Spike kicking the gun to the corner of the room, Buffy going to Dawn, and Willow and Tara kneeling over Jonathan.

It was too late to save him.

“Giles, call the police,” ordered Buffy. She’d got Dawn to stop screaming, and had turned her attention to Warren. Ignoring his injury, she pushed him to the ground and held him there. “Giles, now!”

It didn’t take long for a cruiser to arrive. No one had even had a chance to ask Dawn what happened before she was formally interviewed so, as she recited the events to the cops, everyone stood around listening.

“We were just talking,” she said, her voice thick with tears.

“You and the defendant?” asked the cop.

Dawn shook her head. “Me and Jonathan. We were just…. Everything was fine, and then Warren burst in. He–” She paused, choking up again. “He shot him. Why did he have to shoot him?”

Ignoring the question, the policewoman continued on with her own. “What happened after Mr Levinson was shot?”

“He fell,” said Dawn.

“This is important, Miss Summers,” cautioned the cop. “What happened to Mr Mears?” When Dawn looked at her with confusion written on her face, she clarified the question: “How did Warren get hurt?”

“Oh.” Dawn swallowed. “He pointed the gun at me, and I think he pulled the trigger, but it kind of exploded in his hand. I guess it must have jammed?”

Spike growled low in his throat when he heard how close Dawn had come to death – again.

Perturbed at the sound, the cop taking her statement wrapped things up. Turning to Buffy, she said, “That’s enough for now. The coroner should be here soon to collect the body. Leave the room clear until then.”

Buffy nodded before pulling Dawn into a tight three-way hug between her and Spike. After that, everyone sat around for a while, silently processing things in their own way.

Spike, Dawn, and Buffy shared the couch, comforting each other just by their physical proximity. And, after a while, Xander and Anya arrived; just in time to see Jonathan’s body been wheeled away under a white sheet.

His face going just as pale at the sight, Xander rushed into the living room. “Is everyone okay?” he demanded, frantic. “What happened?!”

“Warren,” said Buffy, simply.

“Who did–”

“Jonathan.”

“But, how?”

Buffy braced herself before answering. “He shot him.”

“God!” exclaimed Xander. He slumped to the floor. When Anya sat down beside him, also with a look of glum contemplation, Dawn suddenly stood up.

“I can’t deal with this,” she said. “I can’t be here.”

Looking at Buffy, Tara asked if she could stay the night with her.

“I don’t want her outta my sight,” said Spike, but the Slayer ignored him.

“Take her,” she told Tara. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

And with a parting kiss on the cheek, Tara and Dawn left. Not long after that, Xander and Anya made their excuses to leave again, too. Everyone pretended not to hear when Anya complained about how inconvenient it was, people killing other people and ruining everyone’s plans.

When she thought about it, Buffy found she agreed with her. Death was never convenient. Jonathan wouldn’t be making any more plans. A shudder went through her as she considered it.

Having exited the same time as Xander and Anya, Willow left behind Buffy, Giles, and a sulking Spike in the house alone together. “I’m aware that this is not the best timing,” said Giles, “But I’m afraid this can’t wait.”

Buffy turned to him, her eyes flashing. “Can’t you see what just happened? Have you no shame?!”

“What I came to discuss is important, not some idle gossip!” he snapped back. “You’ve had long enough running away from your problems and–”

“Someone just died, Giles! In my house! He came to me for safety and he didn’t even last the day.” Filled with equal parts rage and sorrow, Buffy broke down into Spike’s arms, but that made Giles only more aggressive in his words to her.

“I’m not going to let this thing use this as a further opportunity to do you more damage!” he yelled, his face red with rage.

Buffy blinked up at him. It took her a long moment to realize that the ‘thing’ Giles was referring to was Spike. Spike, who’s fingers had tightened on her arm, stopping her from standing up and punching her watcher.

“How dare you?!” she screamed, tears running down her cheeks.

“How dare you!” said Giles. “How could you have let things get like this?”

Buffy was speechless. For all the guilt she’d issued herself, it was something altogether different to have someone else dish it out to her. Before she knew it, Spike had released her and sprung to his feet himself.

Squaring up to Giles, he told him to get out. Buffy had never heard his voice sound so dangerous; like if Giles didn’t comply, he’d be more than willing to let the chip fry his brain as he took him down.

Giles did not back down, however. “I am not going to leave my Slayer in this distress,” he said.

“Wouldn’t be the first time,” said Spike, venom still dripping from every word.

Giles hit him – knocked him down – and Buffy jumped between both of them.

“What the hell, Giles?! Why are you attacking him?”

“Can’t you see, Buffy? Are you that blind? He’s done this to you. You’ve let him in and he’s destroying you.”

“What are you talking about?” Buffy asked again, her voice beginning to crack under the strain.

“You’re not pregnant and you never were. I don’t know how he did it, but somehow Spike convinced you it happened as a way of getting back in your bed. Now he’s isolating you from your friends and forcing you to rely solely on him. He’s trying to ruin you, Buffy!”

“Oh, bollocks!” said Spike, who had got up off the floor again. He looked over at Buffy, just to make sure she wasn’t actually listening to Giles’ accusations about him, but she had sat down.

Looking somewhat deflated, with one hand placed across her belly, she’d totally zoned out and missed the last part of the argument. After a moment, though, she looked up again – glancing between Spike’s face and Giles.

“I was never pregnant?” she questioned, her voice terrifyingly small.

Chapter Text

“I was never pregnant?” Buffy questioned, her voice terrifyingly small.

“No,” said Giles, his own voice finally lowering. “You never were.”

Buffy’s entire body shook. “I don’t understand.”

Finally, Giles started trying to explain things again. When his explanation started with the word “Spike” however, the Vampire cut him off.

“I don’t know what the bloody hell’s going on, but I’m not the sodding villain here. Buffy told me she was pregnant – showed me the stick and everything. I’d be impressed that you think I have such skill as to plant the idea in her head to do a test, plus make it magically positive, Watcher, but I’m too busy thinking you’re a moron.”

Turning to Buffy, Spike then dropped all of the attitude from his voice and spoke to her earnestly, with a simple, “Love?” He wanted to ask her if she was okay, but the question was so redundant it wouldn’t pass his lips.

She didn’t look at him and, although Giles didn’t have an answer for Spike’s seemingly logical retort, he continued to state the facts as he knew them: “You told me Spike had not been hurting you, but it appears you said something else entirely to Tara.”

Buffy looked up at Giles, silently pleading with him to stop making things worse, but instead she just saw the look of immense hurt bloom across Spike’s face. “That’s not what I– I didn’t mean!” she stammered. “Things were… complicated and I–”

“You don’t need to explain, Buffy,” said Giles, now soothingly. For a moment, the words genuinely comforted her, but in the next instant she saw him produce a crossbow from his book bag and the world seemed to go to hell all over again.

Buffy jumped up to disarm her watcher but Spike was quicker on his feet. He ripped the weapon so sharply from Giles’ grip, it made his chip fire. Buffy stood between them – arms outstretched.

“You need him out of your life,” Giles reasoned with her. “I know you don’t have the strength to do it, which is why I have to.”

“No! This is crazy! None of what’s happened is Spike’s fault!”

“You’re blind!” Giles insisted. “You have a connection, and he’s exploiting it.”

“Watch it, Rupert,” Spike warned. “You put Buffy through much more and I’ll shove this crossbow right through your–”

Buffy took the weapon out of his arms, effectively cutting off the end of the threat. “No one else is getting killed!” she yelled. And, in that instant, they all remembered that Jonathan’s blood was still coating the kitchen floor; that terrible things had happened, and that maybe – just maybe – thinking things through was for the best.

Giles put his hands up and backed up a few steps as Spike held his ground, standing close to the Slayer’s back. After a few moments of tense silence, he said, “I don’t think Buffy can handle much more of this. Don’t bloody think I can, either. Why don’t we all just calm the fuck down, get some sleep, and talk like adults tomorrow, without the accusations?”

Biting back the comment that Spike may be an adult, but he certainly wasn’t a man, Giles replied instead with, “I think this has gone on long enough. Resolving it now would be for the best.”

“Best for who?” asked Spike, totally frustrated and very worried about how stressed Buffy had become. Even more stressed than the worse he’d ever seen her, which was saying a hell of a lot. To his surprise, though, she agreed with Giles that they should just get everything out in the air.

“So,” she began, “You spoke with Tara. And she, what, told you everything was Spike’s fault?”

“Firstly, I tried talking to you,” Giles pointed out. “I kept insisting there were things you were holding back, but you refused to cooperate fully.”

“Lady’s prerogative,” said Spike.

“How can you expect me to help when you won’t tell me everything?” asked Giles, ignoring the remark.

“I didn’t ask you to help!” snapped Buffy. “I’m actually pretty sure I told you to leave things alone.”

Giles had to concede that point. When he didn’t say anything, Buffy then asked him more about where his research had taken him. He admitted that he’d spoken to the doctor who’d done Buffy’s scan, and that he’d told him she’d never conceived.

Then I spoke to Tara. I asked if there were perhaps things that had happened that I was unaware of. She didn’t want to break your confidence, I assure you, but eventually she did say you’d opened up to her.”

“And you told her I was hurting you?” Spike asked Buffy.

She swallowed around the lump in her throat. “Not in so many words. But, I guess….” She shook her head. “God, it must have sounded so bad.” She closed her eyes as she replayed the conversation in her head. “I said that things were messed up. And I told her that I was wrong–”

“You didn’t come back wrong, Slayer.”

Her eyes snapped open again and began searching his face. “But you said–”

“Forget what I said,” said Spike. He looked utterly wretched.

Buffy stared at him even more intently, entirely lost. He didn’t actually believe she was broken? That was… something to think about. She didn’t know where to begin.

Before any more thoughts on the topic could sprout, though, Giles rejoined the conversation. “You now admit that you did indeed feed her lies?” he pressed Spike.

“I told her the way I saw it,” said Spike. “And yeah, maybe it was twisted of me. I was trying to get a rise out of her. All I knew was that the chip had stopped working, and that it wasn’t because anything had changed with me, or it.”

Buffy groaned. “Is there something wrong with me or not? I come back with super new abilities of not affecting Spike’s chip and making pregnancy tests turn blue. What the hell, Giles? Tell me you found something!”

Giles looked irritated with himself. Beyond his theory that Spike had cooked up some terribly dangerous and complicated plan, his research hadn’t come up with much. Honestly, he wasn’t entirely convinced his theory didn’t still have merit, but what he lacked was proof. Nothing made sense. There were more answers he needed from Buffy.

“What made you first think you were pregnant?” he queried.

The words, ‘That’s personal’ were on the tip of Buffy’s tongue, but she almost instantly gave up the idea that she had anything left that wasn’t already public property, somehow. Giving both Giles and Spike one last look to make sure they weren’t going to attack each other again, she sat down and then cast her eyes away from both of them.

“I haven’t had a period,” she admitted. “Since I got back, there’s been nothing. I didn’t notice, at first. I wasn’t really thinking about it. Then, after a while, I was kinda glad. It was one thing I didn’t have to deal with. But then I got mood swings, and not just the ‘I’ve just been ripped from heaven and now everyone expects me to just be fine’ depression. Like, overnight, it became sadness and grief and a million times worse. But it was also mixed in with relief and almost a sense of… pride, I guess. I lost my appetite, and I felt sick. I was sleeping worse than ever; overthinking everything – every possibility and solution – so, yeah, I took a test. I took a ton of them, and they all said I was pregnant. I mean, it explains all that, right? Those are the symptoms they teach you in school.”

There was silence as everyone processed this new information; the specifics of how everything started.

“Which night?” asked Giles, after a while.

Buffy sat up straight and looked at him. “Huh?”

“You said everything got worse overnight. Which night was it?”

“Oh. It was–” She paused to think, her expression turning shameful as she completed her mental calculation. That bit, she couldn’t bring herself to admit out loud. Somewhat thankfully, though, Spike seemed to have figured out the answer all by himself, meaning she didn’t have to.

“Breakup hit you that hard, eh?” He sounded broken. Heck, he probably was. No one, thought Buffy, was going to come out of this better than they started, and everything was more than crappy to begin with.

Before she knew it, he’d come closer to her again. Crouching beside her chair, so his face was level with hers, he said, “You played a bloody blinder, love. I thought I meant nothing.”

She shook her head, causing the tears that had been building behind her eyes to escape down her cheeks. “This is killing me,” she whispered.

Spike wrapped her up in his arms. Giles didn’t protest, this time, but he did clear his throat to announce he was leaving.

“Sleep is perhaps the best course of action after all,” he said. “Maybe we can look again at things in the morning. See if things seem any more clear then.”

When neither Buffy nor Spike answered him, he walked out the door. It really was a hell of a day.

Chapter Text

It had taken some convincing for Spike to get Buffy to go to bed. She was so mentally and physically exhausted that she could barely stand, but still she’d rather clean the blood off the kitchen floor than sleep.

He assumed part of her stubbornness was down to trying to put off the inevitable awkwardness of them talking about if they’d be bedmates again, after everything. And, on that count, Spike was ready to tell her he’d make himself scarce, to give her space and time to think, but he never got the chance. Once finally up the stairs, Buffy made him promise that he’d hold her the whole night through. Though taken aback, he’d of course agreed. As long as she needed support and was willing to accept it from him, he’d be there.

So, he held her, and watched her as she slept, going over everything that had happened again in his mind as he did so.

Morning came too quickly. Before Buffy had a chance to wake naturally, someone at the door downstairs woke her up. Spike was furious at being disturbed, until he wrenched open the door and saw Tara standing on the other side, nervously, and with dark circles under her eyes.

“Been up all night?” he questioned.

She nodded and he narrowed his eyes a little.

“You found anything?”

Again, Tara nodded before looking away.

Spike took that to mean it was bad news and, thinking that Buffy couldn’t handle any more bad news, he was tempted to turn the witch away.

As he stood there, toying with the idea, Buffy descended the stairs and took the decision from him. She welcomed Tara in, and they all sat down in the living room.

That living room at seen some things. If walls could talk, Spike was pretty sure these ones would scream. And as much as he had genuinely loved Joyce, as a mother figure, he had started the hate her whole bloody house; filled with unhappy memories as it was.

Sat there, as Tara tried to collect herself enough to deliver her findings, he was very aware that the kitchen still reeked of death. It was almost funny that the scent didn’t appeal to him anymore.

“I’m sorry,” Tara began, which was the exact opposite of comforting. “I know you’ll probably want to rest, but Giles and I were researching all night, and he thought you should know what we’ve found. He didn’t think we should wait to tell you.”

“But he did consider it best for you to tell us on your own, yeah?” said Spike. “Mighty noble of him.”

Ignoring the comment, Buffy braced herself. “What is it?”

“Well,” Tara began, “We sta-arted by going over the tests and stuff I’d already done. Giles agreed with my findings.”

Buffy raised her eyebrows. “The findings that said there’s nothing wrong with me? I doubt that.”

“Well, no,” Tara replied, quietly. “You wanted to check that you’d come back fully human. That you weren’t a demon, or something?”

When Buffy didn’t say anything, Tara continued. “You’re not. Demon, I mean. You are fully human. Bu-but…”

Buffy’s hands tensed on the arms of the chair she was sitting in, making it creak under the strain.

“I said before that you’d changed on like a molecular level. Atoms and stuff. Nothing that makes any big kind of difference.”

“But?” Buffy prompted.

Tara swallowed. “We looked harder, at the results. At the bits that weren’t relevant the first time, and…”

“Oh spit it out!” Spike growled.

Buffy would have normally criticized him for such outbursts, but she was too busy trying to stop herself from shaking the news out of Tara herself.

“Your cells have lost the ability to complete meiosis.”

Spike and Buffy sat there, waiting for the information to sink in. The way Tara sounded, it must have been the worst news in the world, except neither of them knew exactly what it meant.

“Clue me in here, love,” said Spike. “My science knowledge is a little out of date.”

Tara, who had been waiting for one or both of the power couple to react violently, mentally kicked herself for assuming that either of them would know what she was talking about without having to explain. She was so used to Willow, not only understanding everything she told her, but usually understanding it better, and faster than her, too.

“Meiosis is… cell division?” said Buffy, scrunching up her nose as she tried to remember back to biology class.

“Right. It’s the kind you do during the reproductive process. A cell from each parent splits and takes half of the information of that parent to join with the half cell of the other parent.”

“So, I’m not doing that?”

“No.”

Buffy nodded for a second, then said, “I don’t get it.”

Tara floundered, trying to figure out an easy way of having her understand.

“You’re saying the Slayer’s cells can’t split?” Spike questioned.

“Yes,” affirmed Tara.

“So, you’re saying she can’t reproduce.”

“No,” said Tara, looking ashamedly down at her shoes. “I mean, yes, that’s what I’m saying. She… can’t.”

In that word – can’t – in the instant it was spoken, everything clicked in Buffy’s brain. “Oh my god!” she exclaimed, her hand automatically going to cover her mouth.

“I’m sorry, Buffy,” Tara told her.

“Is it permanent?” Buffy asked.

“We think so.”

“So the tests?” Buffy continued to ask, as if understanding everything would somehow make the knowledge that she couldn’t ever have children somehow more bearable.

Tara forced herself to look up again as she explained, “Your cells aren’t splitting, but they’re still being produced. Usually, when two parent cells join together, they’ve formed a complete cell again. And it’s that cell that becomes a baby.

“Your body is noticing that there are cells – the ones that would usually be the reproductive ones – with the complete set of chromosomes, so it’s kind of tricked itself into assuming you’re pregnant, and it produces the pregnancy hormones, which is what the test detects.”

Silence fell in the room as the clarification ended. After a while, Tara made her apologies again and left Spike and Buffy to deal.

Putting his own thoughts and feelings to the side, Spike watched Buffy, waiting for her to react one way or the other. When she simply didn’t do or say anything, he was forced to ask the only question that came to mind; as deficient and unfairly demanding as it was:

“What do we do now?”

Chapter Text

Instead of answering Spike’s question, Buffy got to her feet and started looking around the room for the phone book.

“Slayer?” he questioned.

Still, she ignored him, until he physically took hold of her arms and made her face him. “Slayer – Buffy, stop. What are you doing?”

“I was gonna try and find a phone number for Jonathan’s mom. Maybe she doesn’t know. Or– or maybe she doesn’t care. Somebody needs to plan a funeral for him.”

“Not now,” said Spike. “Not you.”

“I’ll only do it if he doesn’t have any family left, or whatever.”

Spike grit his teeth. “Buffy, this is not–”

“This is not up for discussion,” she stated, smacking away his hands.

He clenched his jaw and took a series of deep breaths.

“Please,” said Buffy – quietly now; more insistent – before he got any more words out. “Just let me make this call.”

Spike sighed and let her be. Who’d have thought that his main weakness would turn out to be the archenemy of his species saying ‘please’? World really has gone tits up.

He sat and watched as Buffy finally retrieved the phone book from its hiding place – behind the couch – and made one call. Then another. Then a third. “No luck?” he asked, redundantly.

Buffy pouted in answer before her entire demeanor shifted and she broke down. Spike went to her and was pleased when she didn’t push him away.

“I shoulda known he had no one left,” Buffy sobbed into his chest. “Why else would he join Warren?” Her voice cracked. “Who’s gonna mourn him?!”

Judging from her reaction, Spike thought the answer was painfully obvious. Who always mourns? Who always takes the blame, and the pressure, and the responsibility all upon themselves?

“Buffy,” he whispered into her hair, as if seeing her like this wasn’t rending his heart from his chest. There was silence as he held her but, as soon as she had half-way calmed down, she went straight back to trying to plan a memorial service for someone she barely knew. A memorial service she could scarcely afford, financially or emotionally.

“Why do you expect so much of yourself?” Spike asked, exasperation rising again.

“Hello? Savior of the world, here!”

“That doesn’t mean you should blame yourself for every little thing.”

“A life, Spike. That’s not a little thing. You wouldn’t understand.”

“I understand plenty. It’s plain to see that you’re too hard on yourself.”

“Plain to everyone who’s not my friends, you mean.”

They were pacing back and forward as they fought, Buffy trying to collect items from around the room that might help her planning – a notebook, a pen, a magazine to help her pick color schemes – and Spike a constant step behind her, putting everything back and refusing to let the matter rest. Not this time. No matter how politely she might ask him.

“Can you just help?!” she snapped.

“I’m bloody well trying to!” he shot back.

Buffy heaved a sigh and rubbed her forehead. It was really starting to hurt. “What do you want from me?”

“I want you to deal with what you’re feeling. Let yourself feel it. Process it. Open up, or admit you’re hurting and need help. Any of the above.” When Buffy just silently shook her head, Spike concluded, “You need to grieve.”

“For what, Spike? The baby that never existed?”

“Yeah.”

Another heavy sigh. She was on the verge of admitting he might be right when Giles called to tell her a vengeance demon had been seen around town and that they needed a Scooby meeting about it. Hanging up the phone and looking back at Spike, she said, “I don’t have the luxury of time to grieve.”

---

At the meeting, an hour or so later, Giles jumped right into talking about the demon situation, but Xander wasn’t long in interrupting him.

“We’re not here to talk about Buffy?” he questioned.

“No.”

“Why not?”

Giles looked at Buffy, silently asking for permission to share his findings. When she shrugged, he told the group, “Buffy is not pregnant.”

There was an instant of shocked silence and then everyone started talking over everyone else. Xander had set off down the same path Giles had originally taken, assuming that Spike was behind setting up the whole fake pregnancy thing. When Willow agreed with him, Anya called them both morons and then Willow and Tara fought. Giles was yelling at all of them to be quiet so he could explain but no one was listening.

It wasn’t until Spike started growling that all the noise around him paused, momentarily. Everyone’s eyes locked onto the furious vampire, but he was too angry to put any of his feelings into words.

When Xander suggested that his anger was because he’d lost his hold on Buffy, Spike totally lost it. He launched himself at the carpenter only to rear back as his chip fired.

Unable to handle any more drama, angst, or negative feelings of any kind, Buffy slipped outside where she promptly came face to face with the vengeance demon. Buffy knew it was him, even though he was disguised as human.

Looking her over, he said, “Your pain has been calling out for such justice, it’s made entire dimensions ache in response.”

“Yeah?” replied Buffy. “Well, what took you so long?”

“We like to meet with wish-casters on their own. You have not been, for quite some time. There was simply no opportunity.”

Buffy smiled a little. “That’s Spike for ya. He kinda hangs around.”

The vengeance demon was now giving her a look, as if pleading with her to drop the sarcasm and display the sorrow he could feel rolling off her in waves.

Ignoring his silent request, Buffy said, “Can we just get this over with?”

“Have you got a wish?”

She contemplated it for a moment before asking, “Do all wishes have negative consequences?”

“Usually, yes,” the demon admitted. “But they don’t have to.”

“Right,” said Buffy, her mind now made up. “I have a wish.”

The demon leaned closer, clearly surprised she accepted his offer for help and deeply curious as to what the request would be.

“I… I wish we’d all made the right choices.”

Chapter Text

Part Two: The Wish

Chapter Twenty

“I… I wish we’d all made the right choices.”

The demon shook his head. “That’s all?”

Buffy hadn’t even asked what his name was, she realized. Maybe she should have, before asking such a big thing of him as she did.

“D’Hoffryn’s gonna be so pissed about this,” he told her. “But, hey, you gotta live dangerously. Wish granted!”

Before Buffy could blink, the demon was gone. Her head started to spin with new information. She saw visions of all the events her wish had affected, starting with the earliest first….

 

Sjornjost, 880

“I get the sense that your talents are not fully appreciated here, Anyanka. We'd like to help you realize your full self. We'd like you to join us.”

Buffy held her breath as she watched Anya – as unchanged by time as she was – standing there, seemingly considering D’Hoffryn’s offer.

First, Anya narrowed her eyes a little and then she pursed her lips. “It’s tempting,” she admitted, at which D’Hoffryn looked positively gleeful. “But….” The look vanished from his face again. “I don’t think I want to go out and do god-knows-what for the rest of my existence. It all sounds like too much effort and, honestly? I’m exhausted. Vengeance can take it out of you, y’know. I’m not sure I want to become a person who thrives on it.” She paused to look at Olaf chasing villagers before announcing, “People are stupid and I don’t think I want to be around them any more than I have to. Maybe for sex, but beyond that I think I’d like a little place in the hills where I can continue to breed rabbits.” Now looking back at a baffled D’Hoffryn, Anya concluded, “I want a nice, simple, drama-free life. No men, just bunnies. Perhaps another woman for occasional company and intimate moments.”

“Very well,” said D’Hoffryn. He was still looking perplexed, but Buffy felt greater affection for Anya in that instant than she ever had before. Anya had a way with words and an outlook on life that so many people never appreciated, herself included, but it was refreshing in a lot of ways.

Buffy was happy with the outcome of things, at least at first. Only when the scene started to shift again did the Slayer realize the full impact of Anya’s choice. How could a single wish change things so far back in history? Surely it would change everything that came after, right? She should have known better.

What would the modern world be like without Anya in it? Buffy didn’t have to wonder long. New information flooded her brain. More snippets of events that Anya had originally been involved in, changing before her very eyes: a different vengeance demon visiting Cordelia in the wake of her break-up from Xander, no one with previous experience being around to tip Buffy off about what the Mayor might be like in his demon form, and almost not surviving his ascension as a result. Those were the small things. Of course, the more monumental differences – at least from Buffy’s perspective – surrounded Xander: Xander going to the prom on his own. Xander not finding a girlfriend in his first year outside of High School and slowly easing into depression caused by bitter loneliness.

Giles employing both Willow and Tara to help him part-time at the Magic Box, plus some other girl Buffy had never seen before, and the new girl taking what would have been Anya’s role in the group but going a different direction with it and helping Xander through a lot of his issues in a lot of different ways.

It actually bothered Buffy that her wish was so successful in that respect. Things seemed to have worked out for the best, for Anya, Xander, and the unknown girl, but it almost seemed wrong that it had. As things were, Anya and Xander were well suited and things being even better with them apart seemed to almost mock the happiness that they had together. It was a lot for Buffy to get her head around. How could the best possible scenario happen, and she still not be happy about it? She was struck by the realization that this was only the beginning. What else might she have ruined by making it better? There were now a billion possibilities.

Her heart ached as she thought about how, in a perfect world, she and Spike probably wouldn’t have ever been together. Despite all their problems – and there were a hell of a lot of problems – Buffy realized she didn’t actually want it any other way. But it was too late now.

“That’s all?” the demon had exclaimed, earlier. Or maybe it was later, if she was technically in the past – whatever – he’d made it sound like Buffy had asked for something small, but now she was starting to think she’d actually asked for the biggest thing in the world: not just for seven lives to completely change, but for all of the lives those lives had impacted to change as well. The full ripple effect may never actually be quantified and it made her head hurt. Her time to ponder all this didn’t last long, however, as the next vision enveloped her.

Buffy was now in London in 1880. She didn’t know how she knew, she just knew. That place and that date could only mean one thing and Buffy now knew something else: she wasn’t ready for whatever was about to happen.

Was she about to watch Spike turn down Drusilla’s offer of immortality? Her stomach twisted knowing that she definitely didn’t want to return to a world without him in it. Even so, she couldn’t tear her eyes away.

Spike – or, rather, William. It felt wrong to think of him by his adopted moniker when he looked like… well, a Victorian William. – was stood in an alleyway, crying.

Chapter Text

William was stood in an alleyway, crying. Again, Buffy’s stomach clenched at the sight. Then she watched Drusilla approach him and the bottom dropped out of her stomach once and for all.

“What possible catastrophe came crashing down from heaven and brought this dashing stranger to tears?” asked Dru, in that sing-song voice of hers.

Buffy wanted to stop this, now. She wanted to reach out and push Drusilla away from him but was frozen to the spot, invisible to both of them.

“Nothing,” William answered. “I wish to be alone.”

Now Buffy felt pride swell within her. He was standing up to his would-be sire, and that was great, or – she deflated a little – was that just down to the wish? She had no idea how many of the small details had actually happened, the first time around, and how many she’d helped fabricate. But, seeing as Spike’s new choice hadn’t been made yet, she guessed that things would be the same in both realities up to that point.

Rapt, Buffy continued to watch the scene unfold. She watched, with horror and confusion, as William easily went back on his earlier statement and gave into the death Drusilla offered him. But no! It couldn’t be! As much as Buffy wanted Spike to be around her reality, which would have to mean he’d become a vamp., she never wanted him to die. Why was he dying? It didn’t make sense!

She continued to scream at him, tears rolling down her cheeks, as Dru’s fangs got ever closer to his throat. It was no use. Within moments, he was gone. The life left his eyes and Drusilla let his body slump to the ground having just shared her blood with him.

New knowledge flooded Buffy’s grief-filled brain, then, as days passed by in seconds. The blur of events that happened in the wake of Spike becoming a vampire made themselves known to her: Drusilla standing beside his grave – standing opposite Buffy and almost staring through her; Spike clawing himself out of the earth – she swallowed hard at that. He really did know what it felt like – and, finally, Spike looking Drusilla up and down, ignoring her opened arms, and running away from her into the night.

The night enveloped Buffy in his absence. She tried to process all she had seen. William had become a vampire, not really knowing what he was agreeing to, but Spike had pushed away from his instincts, right from the moment he rose. That was it. The key to understanding clicked in Buffy’s brain – she had wished that everyone who had been in the Magic Box that night had made the right decisions. But William wasn’t in there. It was Spike.

Like it or not, the Vampire was a different person than his mortal self. Not so much in an Angel/Angelus way, but more in the way that a person is never the same after any large or traumatic event happens; such as, y’know, dying only to be resurrected again.

The wish only came into effect once he’d turned. The moment Buffy had reached her conclusion and had let the joy of it wash over her, light began to pervade her darkness. Another scene floated before her eyes. She and Spike were in some posh old house and there was a woman there – his mother, she realized. Anne. She was fretting, and coughing, and trying to make sense of her son’s absence, as well as his acquisition of dirt on his expensive clothes.

“Hush, now,” he told her. “I’m all right.”

Anne was in no state to argue with him. Gently, he helped her up to bed and then sat and watched over her as she coughed fitfully throughout the night. The scene was so tender and intimate that Buffy felt bad about intruding, but it wasn’t like she had a choice. She was going to ride this out – watch everything her wish had an effect on – for better or worse.

Time once again sped up. Buffy watched seven weeks of Spike sitting at his mother’s bedside pass in under a minute, at the end of which Anne didn’t open her eyes again.

With a sharp intake of breath, Buffy watched Spike weep over his mother’s body. She saw him lift her out of bed and carry her frail form out to their gardens where he buried her beneath a tree. She watched him mourn, for years, as he just wandered the house and read any book on Vampire history he could get his hands on. Then, finally, Buffy watched Spike leave the place, and board a boat.

He headed to China, where he sought the Slayer. He offered to help her, but she didn’t understand, and his presence only served as the distraction that ultimately led to her death.

Aggrieved, Spike then travelled around for a lot of years, not really staying anywhere for long until he reached America in the 1940’s. He built a house on a secluded piece of land on the East Coast and he continued his researching – reading Watcher’s Diaries, mostly. Buffy had no idea where he picked them up.

Spike also trained, to hone his natural abilities. Come 1977, he set out to find a Slayer again. This one in New York and without the disadvantage of a language barrier – he hoped.

In between times, he’d become a kind of vigilante against his own kind. Three times he had come across his sire and her companions and three times he’d had to walk away, able to only kill one of them – Darla. He told all this to the New York Slayer and her Watcher, but they didn’t believe him. Nikki actively tried to attack him and he reacted, more in defense than retaliation, but the outcome was the same: she landed badly on her neck and lay dead at his feet.

Buffy watched Spike’s resolve harden. For some reason, he was sure that aligning himself with a Slayer was the way to forward their shared cause, but he wasn’t going to approach the next one until he was certain the circumstances were right.

He took Nikki’s coat, as a reminder of this. He’d carry her death clothes on his back until it was time to pass on the mantle.

It was another thirty years before he arrived in Sunnydale. 

Chapter Text

Now that the events Buffy was watching were getting more up to date, she was switching between all of the people’s lives she had affected with her wish. She saw Giles grow up and not get involved with the wrong crowd in his teenage years, instead focusing on developing both his magic and his music skills, but still ultimately becoming a watcher.

Buffy also saw how, in this reality, Whistler approached Spike instead of Angel when the time was right. Spike had been waiting for such an opportunity and really wanted to help, so readily agreed, but Buffy saw that it was only help he wanted to give. He had no intention of falling in love with her, and yet….

It was traumatic to watch and not be able to do or say anything. But just being a viewer to her alternative timeline, instead of being directly involved, Buffy wagered she could see things more clearly than those who were.

She could see her younger self be very taken with Spike, falling for him fast and hard. There was an attraction there for him, too, it was clear to see – except, only clear from the outside. Alternative teenage Buffy clearly had no idea that he had feelings for her and drove both of them crazy in trying to initiate something between them. Onlooker Buffy was horrified to think that, because of her wish, Spike had never been anything other than alone for pretty much his whole existence; so long that he seemed to have gotten used to it. He knew more or less how to be alone, but he had no idea how to show his feelings. It was evident he fought them, seemingly thinking that they shouldn’t be there, but teenage Buffy was oblivious to his inner turmoil and kept doing all the wrong things. She got mad with Spike but never told him why. She flirted with him, and teased him. Then, finally, she tried to make him jealous, which was the worst thing of all.

It was one thing to watch other people’s actions but quite another to see your own. Buffy couldn’t figure out how any of the choices her younger self had made would have been deemed ‘right’ but she guessed that these things must have been really relative.

The wish seemed to be working off her definition of right and wrong, but things got complicated when you took into account the fact that Buffy, as a person, had changed. And the wish did seem to take that into account in a big way. It was letting things go ahead that were deemed right by that particular Buffy at that particular time in her life, but those things weren’t right from her perspective now.

So, yeah, it was a mess. And Buffy knew she had no one else to blame for it than herself. Idly, she wondered what would happen when she slipped back into the here and now. Would she be just as miserable as before? So miserable that the demon would have to come back and let her have another wish to change things back? Somehow, she doubted it.

Buffy had gotten so caught up in trying to get her head around what was going on with Spike and herself in this new reality, she had forgotten about the things that had happened in the original state of affairs. As such, she was completely blindsided when Angel turned up without the P.T.B.’s assistance, ready to make the already complicated situation even worse.

“I can’t believe this!” onlooker Buffy exclaimed as she saw her alternative-self pick Angel as the perfect candidate to help take her mind off Spike. “What are you doing?! Don’t do this!!” she yelled at herself, despite knowing it was no use. From her perspective now, Buffy could see Angel’s intentions. He genuinely liked her, which was an obvious bonus for teenage Buffy but, even as his souled self, he wanted vengeance on Spike for killing Darla. That was why he had followed him to Sunnydale in this reality.

Now that he was in town, things had changed for Angel. He got caught up with Buffy and mostly forgot about Spike.

Mostly.

He could see Spike and Buffy liked each other, which developed a new kind of resentment within him but, for the most part, he gave up on his plans to destroy the other vampire.

There was a brief segue of these events into the lives of Xander and Willow, but Buffy didn’t pay attention to most of these happenings. Her mind focused as it was on what was going on in her own alternative reality and it wasn’t like there were big changes for her best friends, anyway. Mostly Xander doing fewer dumb things, such as not kissing Willow when they were both already attached.

Feeling dejected, alternative teenage Buffy had practically thrown herself at Angel. To her teenage mind, it seemed like the perfect plan. Either Spike would get jealous and finally pursue her, or she’d get so caught up with the other vampire that she wouldn’t care anymore. But, needless to say, the plan didn’t work.

Yes, Buffy got caught up with Angel, which certainly helped take her mind off Spike, but she never stopped caring. And neither did Spike pursue her nor stop caring, either.

Onlooker Buffy watched him as he watched her alternative self be with Angel. She saw how much it killed him and she hated herself for doing that, but little did she know that things had to get even worse before they could get better.

Chapter Text

Buffy wasn’t sure if she believed in fate, exactly, but it sure seemed like certain things were inevitable, no matter how many other things changed around them.

Being with Angel was definitely one of those things.

Looking on the full series of events with her fresh perspective, the Slayer could see her younger self was playing with fire. And the resulting burn? Way harder to experience a second time around, even if it was vicariously.

At the time, it didn’t feel like it possibly could get any harder, but older Buffy knew better than to put limits on pain and suffering. Both in the old reality and the new, she’d willingly offered up her body to Angel and he’d tried to tear her down for it; the only difference of course being Spike’s place in the situation.

As soon as it transpired that Angel had lost his soul, Buffy and Spike lost no time in re-cementing their status as allies against him. The little details around this changed dramatically, but the result stayed the same: Buffy sent Angel to hell moments after Willow was able to restore his soul.

To onlooker-Buffy’s surprise, though, Spike skipped town as soon as the deed was done. She’d been certain he’d stay, this time, and that somehow some good would come of the whole mess, but again with the pain and suffering. Tears ran down her cheeks as she watched both herself and Spike spend almost a year apart, dealing with the emotional fallout of her actions.

The Slayer didn’t want to see any more. If her wish had taught her anything, it was what she already knew: life was never simple and definitely never easy.

That’s not to say there weren’t bright spots amidst the mire, though. It helped ease her pain a little to know that, because of her wish, Giles was quicker at forgiving Jenny over her true identity, and that they got to share her last few months happily together.

Her watcher had also stood up to the council, refusing to let Buffy go through with the Cruciamentum. He was still fired, but he’d hung around, and he also didn’t leave after she died.

Huh, thought Buffy, somewhat bitterly. So I die in this reality, too. Gotta wonder how that works out…. She had no doubt she would soon find out, but she hadn’t really got to that part, yet. Right now, she was seeing Willow’s life change.

The Witch pioneered a self-study program that allowed her to study half the year in England, at Oxford, and half the year in Sunnydale. Because Giles had spent more time learning about the balance of magic in his youth, he was able to better instruct her and he’d also put her in touch with a coven in Devon, where she learned how to not stray over the line into darker things.

At some point, Buffy noticed that time had become twisted up and that some of her new memories were foggy. At first, she had no idea what was going on. She’d seen all the things she’d affected, up to a point, but now those same scenes were shifting and re-playing with extra information, way back to 1986.

1986. The date finally clicked in Buffy’s mind. It was Dawn.

The monks’ spell to bring Dawn into Buffy’s life added a layer on top of the original happenings and the wish-affected events, making Buffy’s head ache almost as hard as her heart. She scrunched her eyes closed and willed all the knowledge to disappear; for life to disappear and leave her alone.

The buzzing stopped.

All this time, since long before the flashbacks had started, there had been a dull buzzing sound in Buffy’s brain, driving her mad. Existing only on the edges of her awareness, it was only now that it was gone that she’d become fully aware of it. The relief of silence made her mouth and eyes snap open in pleasant surprise.

She was surrounded by light, no longer on earth and no longer watching scenes from her alternate life.

This was it. Buffy was in heaven again.

“You’ve been on quite a journey.”

Whipping around to try and face the source of the voice, Buffy quipped, “I took the long way ‘round,” to the nothingness she found before her. Somehow, the place wasn’t as comforting as before, but she couldn’t understand why.

“You’re not supposed to be here,” the voice told her, then, as if reading her mind.

“I’m not?” she questioned.

“No. This time, you get a choice.”

Realization dawned on her. “To go back,” she said. “I have to go back.” Truly, she hadn’t known it was the right thing to do until she said it, but now it seemed like the most obvious thing in the world. “I have to make a choice, and it has to be the right one.”

“Yes,” affirmed the voice. She could tell that it was pleased with her, and it was then that the peace came.

Buffy was tempted to ask if things would be just as hard when she returned, this time, but she knew better. “I’m ready,” she said instead. She closed her eyes.

..

.

Eyes sliding open again and adjusting to the change in light, the first thing Buffy saw was Spike, stood wide-eyed at the bottom of her staircase. Beside her, Dawn gripped her hand as she spoke down to him.

Buffy turned to her sister, snatching her up in a tight embrace before running down the remaining stairs and into Spike’s arms. She almost fell and he almost didn’t catch her but, once there, she cried and cried until he caught up enough to hold her back.

At some point – she didn’t know when – her friends entered her home led by Giles and she ran at each of them, hugging and crying the same as before.

As instructed by Giles, no one asked her questions or demanded anything from her, and on her command, no one tried to shut Spike out of the gathering. Not much was really said at all as they sat and just shared each other’s company. Everything was too overwhelming for words and everyone seemed to get that.

Come morning, though, Buffy was sure she’d have to start putting things right. There’d been a choice, and consequences, and now this was her second chance.

Chapter Text

Part Three: A New Reality

Chapter Twenty-Four

Buffy walked the length of Giles’ living room, trailing her finger in a line across the middle shelf his bookcase as she did so. She was giving him time to process everything she’d said and he was making full use of it.

Eventually, he cleared his throat and she looked up at him, expectantly. Was he gonna tell her she’d been stupid? Was he gonna make her undo it? The peace she felt now was so precious to her, but she’s already decided she would hand it back if Giles told her it was the right thing to do.

The right thing – that was one hell of a concept.

When Buffy had revisited heaven, she’d been so sure what was right and what was wrong. Everything seemed clear and simple, but now she was back on earth, doubts had started to pop up again.

Worrying her lip, Buffy waited for Giles’ assessment.

“Tea?” he asked her.

Buffy’s mouth dropped open and he repeated the question, having obviously thought she misheard him.

“I don’t want tea, I need you to tell me I’m not wrong!” she exclaimed, the worry having tainted her blood and started flowing freely throughout her entire system.

Giles gave her a look of real understanding. God, how she’d missed that look. “You’re not wrong,” he said, slowly. “It seems to me like you made a truly brave decision, as is your nature.”

She breathed a deep sigh of relief and approached her father figure, sitting down on the couch beside him and embracing him in a heartfelt hug. She’d been handing hugs out like candy, in the twenty-four hours since her return.

Then, pulling back, she couldn’t help but question Giles’ reading of her decision more thoroughly. Maybe he hadn’t understood everything, because there was a lot, and Buffy wasn’t sure she’d explained it all right.

“When Willow did spells without asking anyone or telling anyone, it was bad and people got hurt. Is that not what I’ve done? Have I violated my friends?!” Once more, worry became more potent in her veins, threatening to intoxicate her completely.

“I don’t believe it’s the same,” said Giles, before admitting that there was no way he could know the full details of the original situation, in the other timeline of events. “From what you’ve said, Willow made her choices selfishly, even if she let herself believe otherwise. But you – I truly believe you wanted the best for everyone.”

“Does that matter?” asked Buffy. Good intentions didn’t usually count for a lot, far as she could see.

“It matters a great deal,” Giles insisted. “You didn’t set out to change things, but the opportunity presented itself and you tried to make the best of it. The larger difference, however, is that you’re questioning your actions and facing up to the consequences of them. You didn’t have to tell me what you did, but you chose to.”

Buffy considered this, not fully convinced, but hoping he was right. “Thank you,” she said, either way. “I guess we’ll have to see how things go.”

“Indeed,” affirmed Giles, smiling at her again.

Buffy felt a ton lighter, but there was still a lot of stuff she needed to process about what she’d seen and experienced.

“There’s a saying I believe applies here,” Giles concluded.

“Yeah?”

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Buffy choked out a laugh, making him give her an odd look. “Oh, trust me,” she said, “I know!” Then her smile faded, as once more her thoughts returned to the questions she was still thinking over. “What I don’t get,” she continued, “Is that I still slept with Angel in this reality. He still turned evil, and Jonathan still died.”

Once more, she was relieved to find that Giles had the perfect thing to say. “As much as we can alter the fabric of time, we cannot simply make all things perfect. And, sometimes, even the right choices will lead to terrible consequences. What you did, Buffy, was change things so everyone in your current group of friends and associates made the right decision, for which I am more than grateful. But you are not responsible for everyone. Nor should you be. Angel chose his own path, and that’s down to him. Where you must differ from Willow, is that now you must leave things and let them play out the rest of the way themselves. You can’t try and shift things to the way you believe they should go indefinitely. To do so would likely drive you mad if nothing else.”

Buffy nodded. “I guess you’re right.” Delivering another hug, she stood up and gathered up her jacket and bag, heading toward the door. “Anyway, I’ve got a Vampire vigilante to find. Let’s hope he hasn’t killed all the evil demons without me.”

Giles smiled at her, a glint in his eye. “You’re sure you won’t tell me more of Spike’s part in all this?”

“Certain,” said Buffy, though she couldn’t stop a grin from creeping across her face.

She left with one final word of wisdom in her ear: “Now things are well, perhaps it would be a good idea to try and keep them that way.”