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Beautifully Irrational

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The umbrella stand is his first clue. He bought it for her on their six month anniversary because she remembered envying a similar one in her grandmother's house. Now it is turned over, the decorative parasols Buffy had placed inside spilled angrily across the front hall.

He strides toward the kitchen, determined to search the house and call their friends before he panics. Luckily for his barely concealed panic, she is sitting right inside the kitchen, back against the cabinet, fingers digging mournfully around in a jar of peanut butter.

Angel has lived with Pregnant Buffy- who he sometimes swears is a different person from his wife- for eight months now. He knows that: a) “Are you alright?” b)”Did something happen?” or c) “What happened to the umbrella stand?” are likely to end up with him sleeping on the couch he wishes they had bought more comfortable.

So instead he crouches down and strokes her shoulder. “Do you want more peanut butter?” he asks softly.

She lets her now empty jar drop beside her. “No,” she says sadly. “Can I have barbeque chips and celery instead?”

He smiles, stands and goes to cut the vegetables, tossing her a bag of chips from the cabinet on the way. She munches for a few minutes before starting to speak.

“I had an appointment today.”

“I know.” Angel stares at the cabinet in front of him and lets out a deep sigh. He should have been there, but she had forbidden him after month six. Apparently he was a backseat ultrasound tech. A really paranoid one, who was sure that each beep of the machine was the baby falling into distress. Thinking of this, his back stiffens. He keeps his voice calm with effort. Pregnant Buffy did not like being alarmed. “Is the baby alright?”

“Healthy, happily swimming in fetal juices and making me crave massive amounts of salt," she groans, licking barbeque flavoring off of her fingers.

He runs celery stalks under water, rubbing dirt off with his thumbs. “So what's the problem?”

Do you think I screwed up Dawn?”

“Your sister Dawn?” Angel moves to the counter, grabbing the cutting board and knife. “Dawn who you got through high school- the majority in Sunnydale- alive, who you got through college and who is now the highest paid Watcher on Giles's staff? No, I don't think you screwed up Dawn. Where is this coming from?”

“Spike and Faith uncoupled long enough to drive me to the doctor-”

“Spike?!” Angle nearly takes off his finger as he brings the knife down. “My pregnant wife was being driven around by a vampire whose brain was probably melted by peroxide decades ago, if he had one to begin with?”

“Good to see you're not letting your rampant paranoia rule your life.” Buffy rolls her eyes. “Besides, Faith was with us. It was fine.” She blinks. “And yes, I just realized the irony of my saying that.”

“What did they say?”

“Dawn's been patrolling with them.”

Angel comes and sits beside her, offering the saucer of celery. “I understand that you're concerned, Buffy, but you and Dawn agreed that this was the perfect job for her. She loves being a Watcher.”

“Yes, a Watcher. Root word being watch!” Buffy bites into the celery viciously. “I know that I'm not big into the Latin roots, but I'm pretty sure that that doesn't translate to 'run around fighting monsters and getting killed.'”

Angel contemplates whether or not taking a piece of celery will result in the immediate loss of a hand, and decides to err on the side of caution. “When did Giles just watch, Buffy? He was always involved, you knew that Dawn would be involved. You've been fine with her fighting and training for years. What is this really about?”

Buffy sighs, leaning against Angel's shoulder and groping for another celery stick. “Dawn should be deciding on grad schools and getting over her end of finals hangovers, not hanging out with fifteen-year-old girls in cemeteries. I'm just afraid...I'm afraid that my non-normalness made Dawn non-normal. And when the baby comes...”

“Buffy,” he turns his head toward her, his lips against her hair, “At this stage, it seems late to worry about the baby's parentage. Neither of us are normal, but we can get as close as possible. I already love the baby. That won't change, no matter what happens when he or she is born.”

“But what if I ruin the baby's life? What if my being there hurts him or her?” She twists her hands. “What am I going to say the first time I miss the school play for to go kill some vampires? What do I say about monsters under the bed?”

“Buffy, stop.”

“And think about all the times Dawn has been kidnapped by the monster of the day, week, whatever. What will happen to the Slayer's baby?! What if I can't-”

“Buffy!” He puts a hand on her arm, rubbing lightly. “It's going to be fine. We have wards, we have our strength and we have the best magical fighting organization in the world on our side.”

She sniffs gently. “Professor Walsh used to say that when you phrase things so specifically, it's because they're meaningless.”

“And didn't she turn out to be the power-hungry head of a secret government branch that employed weak, disrespectful idiots?” He keeps his voice even, but his words imply the growl for him. She giggles, and worry seems to slip out of her with the sound.

“How is it that you can calm me down from perfectly legitimate, only slightly paranoid thoughts of the dangers against our offspring, but when I mention the words 'Spike' and 'driving,' you get justifiable homicide face?” Buffy's back is starting to hurt, and she arches a little away from the cabinet, trying to stretch.

Angel doesn't answer. He might be getting more civil towards Spike, but that doesn't mean that he'll ever let him take chances with Buffy and the baby. He stands, extends a hand to help her up. (Although he ends up mostly getting her up all the way. Even slayers get tired and off balance when pregnant.) She wobbles, legs a little asleep from sitting for so long, and he swings her into his arms and carries her upstairs.

When they are settled in their bed, the light out, he turns to her. “I don't need to worry about the dangers to the baby; you do it for me. I worry about Spike's driving so you won't have to. We're complementary like that. We fit together.”

“Like puzzle pieces?” she asks, her voice very sleepy and young. It makes him smile.

He curves himself around her- not his entire world anymore, thankfully, but the biggest part of it. “Just like puzzle pieces.”