Titlle: If That’s What it Takes

Author: Slaymesoftly

Word count/chapters: 36,400 + or – (13 Chapters)

Rating: Strong R (eventually)

Not my characters, not my world. Very grateful Joss allows me to play there.

Beta and banner by <lj user=alwaysjbj>

Summary: Takes place in an alternate season six where Buffy did not die in a dive off Glory’s tower, but was still gone for a good bit of the summer. Without the depression caused by her resurrection, she has accepted Spike’s presence more readily and learned to appreciate the help and companionship he can offer as she goes about her nightly duties. The Nerd Trio are still the villains of the season, but things play out a little differently from canon, starting with a portal that Willow accidentally opens where Buffy and Spike are standing....

 

Description: Macintosh HD:Users:patriciarasmussen:Desktop:Patti_babyfic.jpg

 

 

 

 

If That’s What it Takes

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

“Uh oh” 

 

“That bleedin’ witch. What’s she done to us now?”

 

“Okay. It’s going to be okay. It was a portal. We know about portals.” Buffy’s words projected a confidence her voice couldn’t quite carry off.

 

“We didn’t know that one was going to open just where we were standing!”

 

“Well, in her defense, neither did Willow…” Buffy gazed around. She felt no warning tingles on her neck, not even from Spike, so she relaxed a little as she tried to get her bearings. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she began to make out trees and bushes and what looked like it might be a picket fence.

 

“Didn’t know it wouldn’t,” Spike grumbled, extending his own senses, but getting nothing. “She’s gonna be the death of one of us someday.”  He frowned, odd that he couldn’t seem to smell much except newly mown grass under his feet. He listened, but only picked up on ordinary night sounds – an owl, distant traffic… “Bloody, buggering fuck!” he whispered to himself, noticing for the first time that his heart was pounding so hard he could feel it.

 

“Buffy… I think I’m….” He reached for her hand and put it against his warm cheek, then slid it down to his chest. She left it there long enough to feel the warmth and the way his heart was pounding, then snatched it back.

 

“What the hell?”

 

Almost as disturbing as discovering that Spike seemed to be human, was discovering they were both as weak as normal humans – which they learned when Buffy, frustrated by not knowing where or when they were, tried to throw a trash can across the yard. She frowned and tried again, managing to get it only a few feet. They stared at each other, her eyes wide and frightened. Spike recovered first, going to a nearby stone bench and attempting to pick it up with one hand.

 

“Bloody hell... I’m weak as a kitten.”

 

Buffy gave a half-hearted attempt to lift the same bench, giving it up when it became obvious she couldn’t budge it even as far as Spike had.  She stared around at the darkness again. It was suddenly more foreboding than it had been at first, although their surroundings seemed safe enough.  They appeared to be in a suburban backyard; a small bungalow was just visible at the other end.

 

“I don’t have my powers! How will I slay—”

 

She spun around, searching the night with non-existent senses for any sign of vampires. He took her by the shoulders and stopped her gently.

 

“Don’t have mine either, pet. And my heart’s beating like a trip hammer. Face it, we’re just ordinary humans. Somebody else must be the Slayer here. Or maybe they don’t need one. We haven’t seen any vamps yet.”

 

“We’ve only been here a few minutes! We don’t know if there are vampires or not.”

 

“Well, if there are, we know what mistakes not to make, don’t we? If we can’t survive the night as normal humans… well, doesn’t say much for what I know about being a vampire… or what kind of a slayer you are, does it?”

 

Buffy rounded on him, bristling with indignation. “I’ll have you know, I passed my Cruciametum,” she said. “I killed Kralik without my powers. I’m a hell of a slayer!” A small part of her recognized that he was only goading her as a distraction, but she was offended anyway.

 

He grinned at her, pleased with himself. “That you are, love. I’ve always said that, haven’t I?” He shook his head. “Kralik, huh? I’m sorry I missed that.” His expression darkened. “But when your wanker of a watcher comes back from the Old Country, he and I are going to have words about putting you through that barbaric ritual – and against something like Kralik. Cruciamentum vamps are supposed to be easy kills. It’s how the Council of Wankers weed out the slayers that really shouldn’t be one. Kralik would’ve killed just about any…” He paused when she just stared at him with her eyebrows raised.  “Oh, right. Not their favorite or most obedient weapon, are you?”

 

“Not hardly. They thought he’d kill me and they’d kill Faith, and then they’d get a whole new Slayer that would listen to them. Bastards.”

 

“That they are, pet.” 

 

He looked around, watching Buffy as she stared at the house. He waited until he was sure she was feeling the same pull he was. “Meanwhile, what say we get inside that house. Just in case there are vamps in this world.”

 

“I’m going to kill Willow when we get back,” Buffy muttered, walking toward the little house they both somehow recognized as being a safe place. “Sending me to a world where I don’t have my powers…”

 

“And where I’m just a normal human ponce,” Spike agreed. “Not something I’ve ever aspired to be again.”

 

Buffy frowned as she preceded him to the door. “Oh yeah. ‘Cause being an evil vampire is such an improvement over being human.” She missed the look that went across his face, but heard his whispered, “Was in my case.”

 

She gave him a curious look over her shoulder, then tried the back door, which opened easily.  “Huh. Whoever lives here doesn’t believe in locking doors.”

 

Spike was wandering around, picking things up, peering at the photographs around the small living room, and being generally nosey.  “Um... Buffy? Those careless people who live here – I think one of them might be you,” he said, holding up a framed picture of what appeared to be Buffy and another girl standing on a beach in bright sunshine.

 

Buffy blinked in surprise, but then nodded.  “Yeah, I’m getting a kind of familiar vibe. Like I know where things are, and what the rest of the house looks like…  Now if I just knew how long we were going to have to stay here. I haven’t been back long enough to go running off and leave the Hellmouth unprotected... again.” She gave him a small smile. “And you’re not there to take up the slack this time.” 

They both flashed back to the summer, when, at Spike’s instigation, she’d been forced into taking an unheard-of vacation from the Hellmouth.

~~~~~

The cumulative effects of Riley’s departure, her mother’s death, and Dawn’s almost-death on Glory’s tower had finally overwhelmed her.  Not until the crisis was over – Buffy was too much the Slayer to fall apart when an apocalypse threatened – but once Glory had been defeated and all the loose ends tied up, she'd gone into a depression that had rendered her almost helpless against the weakest fledglings. 

As soon as he’d recovered from his injuries, Spike became her constant shadow when she patrolled, saving her from death or worse over and over until, alternating between tears and rage, he was finally able to convince Giles that Buffy was going to get herself killed if something didn’t change. After he’d studied her more closely, and listened to Spike’s unembellished reports of her behavior while on patrol, Giles had to agree that Buffy seemed very fragile and probably needed some kind of break from her unrelenting duties.

Taking advantage of the normal summer slow down of demonic activity, and using the excuse of wanting her to report on Glory’s defeat personally, Giles had asked her to visit England with him.  Her listless acceptance of the plan to have her talk to the Council’s Research Department was additional proof of how detached and uninterested in her life she had become. She hadn’t even bothered to ask how Dawn and the Hellmouth would fare in her absence, just picked up her bag and followed Giles on to the plane.

With no nightly slaying duties and no other reason to hold her tightly wound emotions together, the breakdown she’d had after she got there shouldn’t really have come as much of a surprise to anyone. But the hospitalization and counseling that Giles had insisted follow it, were a bit unusual. That lengthy therapy, as well as various other complications, including a strike that shut down the airports just before she was supposed to fly home, conspired to turn what was intended to be a two week trip into one that lasted much of the summer.

Spike had been left to handle the slaying duties and help the Scoobies take care of Dawn. Although they all missed Buffy – including Dawn who had begun to regret her decision to do summer school rather than take a trip to England – having to rely on Spike’s assistance every night had given the Scoobies a chance to get used to the vampire’s presence, and to accept him as part of their lives – if not a full-fledged Scooby.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

Shaking off memories of that long, boring summer, Spike said, “True enough. Ought to give Red a bit of incentive, yeah? Without us, fighting evil is going to be left to her witching skills.”

 

“Which are apparently getting stronger all the time…” Buffy gestured around their new surroundings.

 

“Not getting any more under control, though, are they?  ‘Less it was a deliberate choice to send us away for some reason.”

 

“Kinda doubt it.” Buffy said with a shrug. “How long do you think she’s going to leave us here?”

 

“Till she figures out how to get us back, I reckon.  May as well make ourselves at home.”  He followed his words with actions, flopping onto the couch and picking up the remote.  “Come on, Slayer. Maybe we can learn something from watching the telly.”

 

“Like what?” she said, joining him on the couch anyway. She frowned at the screen where two men seemed to be tearing each other’s clothes off. “That you like to watch gay porn?”  She couldn’t contain her laughter at the look on his face.

 

“What? No. That wasn’t… I didn’t… Here! See? There’s news. We can find out what’s going on in the world and maybe where we fit in.” The tips of his now human ears were turning a bright red, causing even more laughter on her part.

 

When she had stopped snorting, and he was glowering at the screen, she said, “I kinda doubt our arrival is going to make the news.  If there are pictures of us here” (she pointed to photo of Spike smiling and holding a soccer ball) “then there must be a Spike and Buffy that already live here.”

 

“Either that, or somebody with some major mojo has managed to make those monks that invented Dawn look like amateurs.”

 

“Or that…”

 

They watched the late evening news, not really learning anything more about where they were than the little bits and pieces they were gradually beginning to “know”.  By midnight, Buffy was yawning and said she was going to bed. She was at the entrance to the bedroom when she stopped, staring back and forth between the room and Spike.

 

The small house had only one bedroom and one bed. She spoke first: “You take the bed, I’ll sleep on the couch.”

 

“Don’t be daft. My mother didn’t raise me to treat women like that. You take the bed.”

 

Buffy gaped at him. “Your mother didn’t raise you to eat women for dinner every night either, but you do—did. Anyway, I’m shorter than you are. I’ll fit better on the couch.”

 

He glared at her, shaking his head. “You’re shorter than everybody. And, no, she didn’t. But, in my defense, I was usually very polite to them… at first,” he finished in a much softer voice.

 

“I heard that.”

 

He sighed. “Just go to sleep, Slayer. If we’re lucky, we’ll wake up back in Sunnyhell, and if we aren’t, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do so we know what’s expected of us here. Like why we ended up in the same backyard, and how we knew this was where we—you live.”

 

“I hate it when you make sense,” she grumbled, acknowledging his laugh with a small smile. “Goodnight, Spike… and thanks for the bed.”

 

“You’re welcome, pet. Sleep well.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

They spent the next day fielding phone calls from friends they were only just beginning to understand they had. Friends who wondered why they hadn’t made some agreed-upon social event the night before.  When not on the phone, they went over the house, looking for clues as to what else might be expected of them.  The wedding picture they’d somehow not noticed the night before – although Buffy swore she’d looked right at the table it was sitting on – brought them both to a halt. Spike stared at it with wistful awe, Buffy in complete bewilderment.

 

“Married? We’re married? To each other?”

 

“Is that so hard to believe?  It seems like we live here together. Would make sense, wouldn’t it? To be married?”

 

As if the picture had opened some sort of psychic door, they began to “remember” more and more about who they were and what their lives were like. While they were absorbing more about themselves all the time, it still took some creative lying to explain away their absence when Buffy’s friend Susie berated her for ditching them.

 

“Well… I told everybody you were either too busy fighting to leave the house, or you’d been fighting all day and were too busy having make-up sex to bother meeting us.  And I still think I’m right,” she added before hanging up.

 

Buffy put the phone down and peered at Spike out of the corner of her eyes. “Did you hear that?”

 

“Every word. I’m ready for the make-up sex anytime you are, Slayer.”

 

“In your dreams, Spike.”

 

“Just trying to fit in. Sounds like fighting and shagging are something we do a lot of.”

 

We don’t do a lot of anything. Whoever the ‘we’ here is, they apparently do a lot of… whatever. We don’t.”

 

“We fight a lot,” he pointed out. “Or, we used to, anyway. Now you just punch me in the nose a lot.”

 

“Shut up and help me figure out what to tell people about us.”

 

“Make up your bloody mind – is it ‘shut up’ or help?”

 

She sighed and sank down on the bed.  “Help. Please?  How are we going to do this?”

 

“I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to… know… more things. Like, I saw a paystub on the table in the kitchen, and now I know I work at a bar downtown. And I know that I just happened to be off last night, but tonight I have to be there by six.”

 

“What do you do there?”  She paused and frowned. “Wait. I think I know this. You’re a bartender. You mix drinks… and I… Oh, no way!”

 

“You’re a dancer!” he crowed. “You stand in a cage dangling from the ceiling and you dance! The Slayer is a go-go dancer in a bar.  Oh this is delicious.”

 

“This is not happening. You’ll have to tell them… something. Tell them I’m sick, or dead, or… something.”

 

“Nope. Can’t do it, luv. We have to go to work in just a few hours.  You might want to take a nap. Could be a late night…”

 

Buffy fell backwards with her arm over her eyes, moaning. “This cannot be happening. I know how to wait on tables… I don’t know how to dance on them!”

 

“Well, technically, pet, you’ll be dancing above—” She lifted her arm to glare at him. “Right. Not your style.”  He waited, sitting down a safe distance away. “But do you really want to get the Buffy who lives here, and likes dancing in cages, fired? Doesn’t seem right, somehow, does it?”

 

“I hate you.”

 

“No you don’t. Not here. Here you love me.” With her arm over her eyes, Buffy missed the sadness that flickered across his face. “Here, you love me,” he repeated in a whisper, standing up and walking out of the room.

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Their arrival at the bar was greeted with warm hellos and much joking about what they’d been doing on their day off.

 

“You two must have worn each other out,” the manager said with a leer. “You haven’t even held hands since you got here. Usually, I’d have to pry you apart to make you get to work.”

 

“Heh,” Buffy said with a weak smile. Spike put his arm around her and pulled her into his side.

 

“Just taking a breather,” he said, squeezing Buffy in warning when she tried to pull away indignantly.  “We’re still the same shagging machines you know us to be.” He leaned down and nibbled on Buffy’s ear, his warm breath sending a shiver through her body that had nothing to do with the temperature in the bar. “Play along, Slayer. It isn’t going to kill you.”

 

That isn’t what I’m worried about. Buffy tried to control the fluttering in her stomach caused by Spike’s attentions to her ear and neck. She assured herself that the nervous reaction was because she knew he was really a vampire and that’s why his warm lips on her neck were making her…

 

“Okay!” She pulled away. “Time to get dressed for work.”  She let her feet, which seemed to know what they were doing, take her to her dressing room where her costumes were hanging under a sign that read “Buffy”. 

 

“Oh joy.” She yanked the one on the hanger labeled “Tuesday” off the rack, never questioning how she knew it was Tuesday.  She changed in a small curtained area that she assumed was for that purpose, then came out to see herself in the full-length mirror.

 

“You are soooo dead, Willow,” she muttered, staring at her reflection. The tiny bikini she was wearing was saved from being totally humiliating by the fringe dangling from it that covered most of her untanned body parts.  She huddled in the dressing room until another girl came in, toweling the sweat off her face.

 

“You’re up,” Susie said. “Are you okay? You look kinda strange.”

 

“You’ve got no idea how strange I am,” Buffy said with a grimace that she turned into a smile. “But I’ll be fine.”  She walked out and stepped into the cage that had been lowered to allow Susie to get out.  The man working the pulley whistled at her and grinned in a friendly fashion.

 

“If your hubby wasn’t my best friend, I think I’d have to kill him so I could be there to comfort you in your grief.”

 

“Heh,” Buffy tried to smile her appreciation as she panicked at the idea of not having Spike around to share the weirdness with. Suddenly she was much happier about his presence than she would have expected to be. “Well, good thing he is then, huh?”

 

“Yep. Good thing.  Up you go. Have a good show.”

 

When the music began, Buffy had another brief moment of panic before her body seemed to know what it should be doing and she began to move to the music.  The time dangling above the busy bar passed more quickly than she’d expected. She met Spike’s gaze one time when he got a short break from mixing drinks, and he gave her an encouraging wink that made her smile before she remembered who he was and looked away.

 

At the end of her shift, she changed back into her street clothes and joined Susie at one of the back tables. She’d already figured out that the beer and sandwiches were part of their pay, so she wolfed down a hamburger while she waited for Spike to join them. It was almost disturbing that they seemed to be growing more and more like the Spike and Buffy who apparently lived here. Not that Buffy wasn’t grateful not to be stumbling around completely bewildered in this world, but it was a little eerie how easily she and Spike were slipping into their new personas.  She didn’t even blink when he walked up and ran a hand over her hair before leaning down for a quick kiss.

 

Seeming to be as startled as she was, he pulled back and frowned at her, then his eyes shifted to Susie and he remembered that the behavior, as strange as might seem to them, was perfectly in character.  He relaxed and slid into the chair next to Buffy, setting down his own beer and leaning back with one arm on the back of her chair.

 

“Lookin’ good tonight, ladies,” he said, including Susie in his leering smile. “Could take you both home with me.”

 

Susie laughed. “Yeah, sure you could. If you wanted to sleep on the couch for the rest of your life.”  She didn’t notice the guilty start Buffy gave, or the sideways look she got from Spike.

 

“Right. Can’t have that, can we?  Guess you’ll have to do without the pleasure of my company.”  His hand was absently stroking Buffy’s arm as he spoke. She assured herself she wasn’t throwing it off only because they needed to remain in character.

 

“Do you want a ride home?” Susie asked. “Or are you going to hang around and wait for him?”

 

Buffy glanced at Spike, who said without missing a beat, “Why don’t you go on? I have to close up tonight, so I’ll be pretty late.”

 

“But what if—” She couldn’t think of any way to say that they needed to be together in case the portal opened.

 

“It’ll be alright, love. Know you wouldn’t leave me here.”

 

Susie frowned at them. “She leaves you here all the time,” she said. “I know how much Buffy likes her sleep. She’s not a night owl, like you are.”

 

“Right. I know that. Was speaking of… something else. Of course, she should catch a ride with you.”  He leaned over and kissed Buffy, drawing it out until she

made herself pull away, giving him a quick glare to cover her increased breathing. “I’ll be home later, sweetheart.” 

 

“Okay. See you at home. Don’t be too late. You know how I worry.”

 

“Not a moment longer than it has to be. I promise.” He brushed another quick kiss across her lips and stood up.  “Take good care of her,” he said to Susie.

 

“I always do,” she said, sounding offended. “Not that Miss Martial Arts 2000 needs any help from me.”

 

Spike nodded and went back to the bar, leaving Buffy to mull over that new piece of information.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

After the first few weeks, when they jumped every time there was a sudden noise or a bright light, they became resigned to the idea that the portal wasn’t going to reopen any time soon.

 

“Red didn’t do it on purpose, did she?” Spike said. “It’s prob’ly going to take her a bit to recreate what she was doing when she sent us on holiday.” He wiggled his eyebrows at Buffy and held up his beer bottle. “Got to say, as unexpected side effects go, this one’s not that bad. She’s done worse to us.”  He cocked his head. “Got to wonder why it is when her magic goes awry we always seem to end up married, or planning to get married, though. Think she’s got some kind of match-maker thing going on?”

 

Buffy made a face at him, but didn’t respond to his ridiculous suggestion with actual words. Instead, she focused on his reminder that they’d been marooned in a pretty pleasant place.

 

“It is kinda like a vacation, isn’t it?” Buffy said. “No slaying for me, no nosy Council wanting to tell me what to do, no skanky women who can beat me up, no robot-making, wannabe evil guy making my life miserable. You don’t need to find blood to eat, or to worry that you can’t hit back if somebody hits you... We can just relax and be normal people. It’s kind of… I dunno… calm and normal and—”

 

“Boring.” 

 

“It’s not boring! It’s relaxing. I’m relaxed. No work except dancing – I like to dance – and we’ve got friends to have fun with. I’m not bored.”

 

“Well I’m bored!”

 

She rolled her eyes. “You’re not bored either. You have friends who play poker. You work in a bar. With free booze. And you spend every night flirting with slutty girls and watching half-naked dancers. It’s like Spike Heaven.”

 

“Flirting with women I can’t follow home because everybody thinks I’m married to you,” he pointed out. “And you’re the only half-naked dancer I’m watching. By the time we leave work every night, it’s a wonder I can even walk.”

 

She turned away, her face flaming.  “You are such a pig.”

 

“I’m only human, Slayer. Very human, in case you haven’t noticed. I’m a young, healthy man who lives with a gorgeous woman he can’t touch except when somebody else is watching. If this keeps up much longer, I’m gonna wear out my left hand.”

 

She glared at him, shuddering at the vision he’d just planted in her brain. Finally finding her voice, she choked out, “TMI, Spike!” The image remained, in spite of her best attempts remove any visions of a naked Spike stroking himself.

 

“It is what it is, luv. It’s not like my feelings for you disappeared with my fangs. And now I’m married to you and I still can’t touch.”

 

As he spoke, he’d been walking toward her, and he raised one hand, hovering over her hair.  Buffy was frozen in place. Her normal urge to hit him at the slightest provocation had long since vanished, but she steadfastly refused to admit that there were other urges taking its place.  She stood still while he lowered his hand to stroke her cheek, closing her eyes so as not to see the naked longing on his face.  With a sigh, he withdrew his hand and went back to the couch to watch TV.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

Buffy wondered aloud where this world’s Spike and Buffy were, or what, if anything, they would remember of the time a very different Spike and Buffy had inhabited their bodies. Although she scoffed at Spike’s theory that they’d been slipped into this world the same way Dawn had come in to theirs, sometimes it did seem as if they had been deposited into a world that had just made a space for them and adjusted around it.

 

As the days went on, and she and Spike played the public role of happy newlyweds, she found herself looking forward to the times when the presence of other people meant that they had to cuddle together and kiss frequently.  Remembering what he’d said about his frustration, Buffy tried to keep her body’s responses hidden from the very warm and human man nibbling on her neck and whispering in her ear. But their time spent providing their friends with evidence of their passionate relationship had become her favorite part of the day.

 

“You’re killin’ me here, love,” he groaned one night as they stopped in the hallway to the office and dressing rooms for the expected make out session. “Can’t stop thinking about….” He pulled her against his body, letting her feel what she was doing to him as she indulged in kisses that curled her toes in spite of her mental reminders that she was kissing Spike.  She couldn’t help the whimper that escaped when they had to move apart to allow other employees to pass by.

 

“Get a room!” Jake said. “Oh wait. You’ve already got one.  I don’t know why you guys think you have to go at it so hot and heavy here.  You’re off in another five minutes, you can just go home. You’d think you never got a chance to—” He was interrupted by a question from someone else, and continued down the hall without finishing his comment.

 

Spike and Buffy stood, breathing hard and staring at each other until Buffy dropped her head and turned away. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “We probably shouldn’t….” She glanced up at him, blushing to her roots.  “I just like… you’re a really, really good kisser.”

 

“’S alright, pet. Nobody ever died of a hard-on. If you like kissin’ me, you keep it up. Not gonna hear me complainin’.” He took a deep breath and straightened up, adjusting himself. “Let’s go home, yeah?”

 

They left the bar to the accompaniment of lewd, but good-natured, comments about where they were going and what they’d be doing when they got there. Smiling as best they could, they walked out holding hands, although Buffy somewhat reluctantly pulled her hand away as soon as they were out of sight.  Spike said nothing, only sighed and put his own hands into his pockets.

 

When they got home, Buffy went into the bathroom to get ready for bed. She came out and peeked into the living room to see Spike already lying on the couch, pillow over his head and body hidden under the blanket.  She flashed back to the night she’d accidentally walked in on him getting ready for bed, and how she’d not been able to take her eyes off his body before he’d wrapped the blanket around himself and smirked at her.  “I sleep naked, love,” he’d said. “Better get used to it.”

 

Shaking the image from her brain, she went into the bedroom and shut the door behind her. 

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Some weeks later, they had a late night encounter with a would-be mugger.  Although the encounter itself turned out to not be nearly as much fun as it would have been if Spike could have flashed him some fang, or if Buffy could have picked him up with one hand and shaken him, they did manage to show the man that he’d picked on the wrong couple. He quickly discovered that the petite girl and rather small man knew perfectly well how to take care of themselves in a street fight. When they’d left him whimpering on the sidewalk, they exchanged heated looks that left them both breathing hard.

 

“Buffy....” Spike all but groaned her name.  “Please, love. Just let me—”

 

He stopped talking and dipped his head to kiss her.  Spike still took every opportunity he got to act as he was expected to by their friends and co-workers.  And Buffy had long since given up trying to pretend she was only playing along. She enjoyed the kisses every chance she got, smothering her guilt at what she knew it was doing to Spike.

 

But when they were alone, she still maintained the distance they’d had when they arrived. They remained apart until they were around people who expected them to be showing a lot of physical affection. Other people were Buffy’s safety net, leaving her free to indulge in all the affectionate behaviors that she was careful to avoid when there was no one else around to limit their activity.

 

Suddenly, here they were, in the dark, by themselves, kissing on a public sidewalk.  Surrendering to what her body was demanding, Buffy put her arms around his neck and sank into the kissing.  Not until her knees were threatening to drop her to the ground did she tear her mouth away from his.

 

“Let’s go home,” she whispered into his neck, breathing in his scent and the warmth of his skin.

 

Without another word exchanged, they linked hands and ran the several blocks to their home.  Once inside, Spike hesitated, his gaze going back and forth between the couch and the bedroom. Buffy blushed, but held on to his hand. “I think there’s room in the bed for both of us.” 

 

Giving a happy whoop, he picked her up and carried her, giggling with mingled embarrassment and excitement, into the bedroom.  He walked to the bed and turned around to fall backwards on it, landing with Buffy on top of him. She gazed down at him just long enough to see his expression fading from happy lust to uncertainty, then fastened her mouth on his and resumed the kissing they’d interrupted in order to run home. This time, there was no interruption as their young, healthy bodies took the kisses to their logical conclusion.

 

 

The next morning, Buffy went into the living room, picked up the pillow and neatly-folded blanket off the couch, walked back to the bedroom, and silently placed them on the bed. She tried to avoid Spike’s eyes and the awed devotion shining there, but she could feel them burning her skin. 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

The alternation in their sleeping arrangements, visible only to them, was a major change that soon affected all aspects of their lives. They were both a little surprised at how easily they’d fallen into the new relationship and how comfortable they felt there. Buffy insisted on blaming it on the situation that had apparently already existed in this world, Spike insisted it just proved what he’d tried to tell her – that they were made for each other. 

 

They began to spend more time at home, making love in every room of the small house, and even outside in the yard one very dark night.  Buffy had stopped stiffening up when, in spike of Spike’s attempts to keep the words to himself, a rare, whispered “I love you” would slip out. She never responded verbally, but she would sigh and hold him a little tighter.

 

Life was good, and if Buffy occasionally suffered pangs of guilt over being away from her sister and duties for so long, Spike was usually able to jolly her out of it. He pointed out frequently that since they hadn’t asked for their situation and had no control over how long it might last, they might as well just relax and enjoy it.

 

Lying in bed one night, Buffy admitted to not missing her superpowers nearly as much as she’d expected to. “What about you?” she asked, running her fingers across his bare chest. “Do you miss being a vampire? Do you miss being super strong and fast?”

 

“What do you think?” he asked, pulling her against his body and enjoying the way she willingly cuddled up to him.  “I wouldn’t trade one day or night with you like this for all the speed and strength in the world.”

 

“I’ve gotta admit, I think I could get used to this,” she agreed as she snuggled against him. “As being trapped in other dimensions goes, this has got to be the best one ever.”

 

“Best one ever,” he echoed, kissing the top of her head and squeezing her tightly.

 

The love-making that followed was more intense than usual as each of them tried to ignore the knowledge that their vacation could end at any time. They fell asleep, still intimately connected and wrapped up in each other.

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

 

 “There it is.” Spike glared at the glowing portal hovering a few inches above their newly-mown backyard.

 

They stared at the portal they had been so anxious to see when they’d first arrived. Although Buffy missed Dawn and her friends and still suffered from bouts of guilt, the idea of returning to Sunnydale and her life there had lost a lot of its appeal.  She looked at Spike’s grim face and sighed.

 

“You know we have to go. I have to go.”

 

“I know. It’s just…” He shook his head. “It’s over, isn’t it?” Buffy wouldn’t meet his eyes as he continued, forcing out the words that he knew she was thinking. “I’ll be back to being a soulless vampire, and you’ll be The Chosen One again.”

 

Going up on her toes, she gave him a sweetly sad kiss. In spite of the Slayer in her making a reappearance after months of being invisible, she was surprised to find that Spike was the one to finally break the kiss.

 

“Better go, love, before the bus leaves.”

 

His hand remained in hers as he followed her through the glowing portal, but she quickly dropped it when they stepped out. Only Dawn included Spike in her greeting, giving him a quick hug and a sincere “Welcome back.”  Spike’s few attempts to talk to Buffy were waved off as Dawn and the Scoobies surrounded her.

 

“I’m glad you guys are okay,” Willow said, earning a grateful smile from Spike at her use of the plural.  “I was afraid you might have gone different places, or it might be some kind of hell dimension, or a jungle full of lions and tigers, or—”

 

“No,” Buffy said softly. “Not a hell dimension. It was actually… very nice. It was a good vacation from here.”  She didn’t meet Spike’s eyes as she admitted, “We—I wasn’t really ready to come home... yet.”

 

“Well, it was only a few days, I guess. If you were having such a good time, maybe I should I have waited longer to bring you back.”  Willow smiled at her own joke, the smile fading when Buffy shook her head.

 

“It was... longer than that for us. A lot longer... Which was okay, because we... we really liked it. We—I was really happy there.”

 

Willow put her hand over her mouth. “Did I send you to some kind of... heaven dimension?” Her brow wrinkled with dismay. 

 

“There’s no such thing as a heaven dimension, Will,” Xander said. “And if there was, what would fangface have been doing there with Buffy? No offense,” he adding, shrugging at Spike who just snorted and looked away.

 

Willow glared at him. “If there are hell dimensions, then there’s no reason why there can’t be heaven dimensions, Xander. It could happen.”

 

Buffy hastened to assure her friend. “No, Will. It wasn’t heaven – not Heaven like you mean anyway. No angels and stuff.   It was just really nice. We were happy there. And now we’re back and…” Shaking her head and rubbing her eyes, Buffy turned and ran, leaving them all staring after her.

 

“What was that all about?” Xander glared at Spike as if it was all his fault that Willow had sent them someplace Buffy hadn’t wanted to leave. The vampire was just staring after her, his face impassive as his sharper hearing picked up the sound of muffled sobs.  When he could no longer hear Buffy, he turned his attention back to Xander who was still demanding an explanation.

 

“Where were you that she liked it so much?” he said again. “What was it like? Wasn’t there much slaying to do there?”

 

Spike shook his head. “She wasn’t a slayer, and I wasn’t a vamp. We were just two regular people, living their regular normal lives. Going to work, hanging out with friends, coming home, doing chores, shopping for groceries...” He shrugged. “We were just normal people.”

 

“That doesn’t sound very heavenly,” Willow said, frowning. “Sounds pretty much like life here... minus the slaying, I guess. Why would Buffy want to be ordinary?  And why would you? What did you guys do without your super-powers? Why would she want to stay like that?”

 

“Ask her,” Spike said abruptly. “Ask her why she wanted to stay there.”  He strode off to his crypt, now sure that Buffy had no intention of continuing their domestic relationship in this world.


 

 

Chapter Three

 

As it turned out, he was more than right about Buffy. Where before the portal they had been friends and slaying partners — in a working relationship that had been comfortable for them both, except for those rare occasions when he slipped and reminded her of his true feelings — she now avoided him completely. She spent all her time learning more about and trying to find Warren Mears, who seemed determined to make her life even more miserable.

 

After several weeks of very limited contact with Buffy – contact that was just the bare minimum necessary to conduct Scooby business, and in which she rarely spoke directly to him or met his gaze, Spike gave up going to meetings, counting on Dawn to let him know if there was something evil to worry about.  When it seemed things were going to be calm for awhile, with no apocalypses to worry about, and the only thing approaching a big bad being a human that Buffy probably wouldn’t have let him kill even if she thought he could, Spike grew tired of watching from the shadows. He knew she could feel him there, but she never asked him to come out.  Only when he was walking away and his signature began to fade would Buffy allow herself a wistful stare in his direction.  They were stares he never saw as he walked away as quickly as possible, usually to the nearest bar.

 

In an alcohol-enhanced moment of feeling unwanted and useless, he loaded his things into the DeSoto one night and tapped on Dawn’s window to tell her he was going away, promising to get in touch as soon as he was settled. When she demanded he tell her why, or how long he’d be gone, he just shrugged and smiled at her.

 

“Think you know the why, Niblet,” he’d said, making no attempt to hide his sadness. “And I’ve no idea how long. Till I’m wanted or needed here, probably. I’ll stay in touch.”

 

He found himself a small basement apartment in a city far enough up the coast to be well away from Sunnydale, but close enough that he could get back quickly if they needed him. Life in the other dimension had given him a taste for human companionship and routine, so he got a job as a bouncer at a seedy bar that reminded him of Willy’s but without the demons.  He’d had to prove himself a few times before the regular customers stopped thinking the new bouncer was too small to be effective, but he now had only to fix a cold stare on most troublemakers in order to quell any brewing problems.

 

But contrary to making him feel better, being back in a situation so similar to the one in the other world only brought home how accustomed he’d become to having Buffy in his daily life. On the surface, he enjoyed the free drinks, occasional fights and the attentions of some of the regular female patrons, but when he was alone in his apartment he cursed the impulsivity that had sent him running away without so much as a good-bye to Buffy. He wondered how she’d taken the news of his departure, or if she’d even noticed he was gone.

 

He bought a cheap second-hand laptop and sent Dawn his email address, telling her he wasn’t too far away and to contact him if she or Buffy needed him. Although she had no idea what had really happened while they were gone, Dawn knew that whatever it was, it hadn’t changed Spike’s devotion to Buffy, only his willingness to hang around waiting for scraps of attention from her.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Buffy was quietly accepting when Dawn finally told her that Spike had left town, nodding as if she’d expected it. In truth, she’d noticed that she could no longer feel his presence in the background when she fought, and she’d even peered into his crypt once to see if he there was some reason he wasn’t coming out. Although she’d refused to let herself consider the possibility that he’d been dusted, she was more relieved than surprised to hear that he’d moved away, even if it did still hurt.  She shook her head when Dawn asked if she wanted his email address or to know where he was.

 

 “No. I don’t need to know where he is. If he wanted me to know, he’d have given his address to me, not you.”

 

“Don’t be stupid,” Dawn said. “He was probably afraid you wouldn’t take it. This way, he knows you can find him, without having to admit you might want to.”

 

“I don’t want to. Why would I want to find Spike? If he’s gone, good riddance.” She tried very hard to convince herself she believed it, that she hadn’t missed his daily presence every day since their return.

 

“You don’t mean that.” Dawn blithely ignored Buffy’s attempt to be unaffected by Spike’s disappearance. “Before you guys got whisked away to someplace ‘happy’, you were spending more time with him than you were with any of us. You told me you were stuck in that other dimension for a long time – a lot longer than it was to us here. Don’t tell me you didn’t get closer when all you had was each other. Even if you don’t love him like he does you, you like him. He’s your friend, Buffy. Don’t try to deny it.”

 

“Friends don’t leave town without telling other friends they’re going,” Buffy said, her pain at Spike’s departure having turned to righteous anger now that she knew he was all right and that he’d left voluntarily.

 

With a younger sister’s blunt honesty, Dawn snapped back. “Friends don’t cut their friends out of their lives for no good reason — to where the friend thinks he might as well leave town because he’s not wanted here.”

 

“I don’t feel good,” Buffy said, holding her stomach. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore. It’s none of your business.”

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

It was another several months before Buffy had to admit she might have a problem. A problem that everyone else had already figured out, but were afraid to mention before she did.  When it was no longer possible to hide her growing (and oddly mobile) belly from either herself or her housemates, Buffy sat down with Dawn, Willow and Tara.

 

“I guess you guys have guessed by now that I’m not just getting fat,” she began.

 

“Yeah. We’re kinda glad you finally noticed – before we had to, you know, explain the facts of life to you while you were giving birth.”

 

“Well, I just…. It took me a while to figure it out. I mean it wasn’t like I was expecting to be pregnant! There haven’t been any prophecies, I haven’t even had a freakin’ date, never mind anything—” She paused, a small frown on her face. “Well, except… but that can’t be it because he’s a— Oh God.” Her eyes grew wide and she turned pale. “We were normal humans – both of us were humans....”

 

Only Dawn picked up right away on who Buffy was talking about.  “Spike? It’s Spike’s baby?”

 

Willow was almost too busy trying to digest what Buffy’d said to listen to Dawn. But she did catch “Spike’s baby?”

 

“Wait! What? Spike? You’re pregnant by Spike?  How did that happen?”

 

“Pretty much the usual way,” Buffy said with a grimace as she slumped back in her chair, shaking her head at her own stupidity.

 

“But, Spike’s a vampire he can’t… Ohmygod. The portal. This is all my fault.”

 

“It’s not your fault, Willow. It’s not anybody’s fault. It just happened. We were there, and we were married—” Identical “what?”s from Willow and Dawn reminded her she’d never shared much about their experiences in the other dimension past that more time had elapsed there, and that they’d had no trouble fitting in. “Uh, yeah? Turns out the Spike and Buffy there – they were married to each other. Had this cute little house, and lots of friends, and it was really…. Really not something you need to know more about, I guess.”

 

“Buffy,” Willow tried to keep her voice reasonable. “It was Spike. What were you thinking?”

 

Buffy stiffened. “I was thinking I was married to this really hot, very nice man who was an awesome kisser and in love with me, and since we had no idea when we’d be getting back here… Look. We did what we did, and I’m not going to apologize for it. I was sleeping with a… a good friend… a man who loves me.  If I’d had a one-night stand with some random guy here, you’d be all supportive and sympathetic.  I didn’t. I had sex with the man I was married to in that world and I forgot that he could get me pregnant because he’s wasn’t a vampire anymore.”

 

“A vampire who also loves you,” Dawn said, glaring at Willow who was clearly not ready to give up her objections. “Not really seeing the problem here.”

 

“I can make it – the problem – go away,” Willow said, trying to ignore the gasp from Tara who flinched away from her.  “Magically, I mean. Not in some icky, medical kind of way.” She frowned when Tara continued to move away, shaking her head. “What? I could, you know. It would be easy.”

 

Buffy wrapped a protective hand around her stomach. “No. I don’t think I want it to go away.  This may be my only chance at having anything as normal as a baby. I just need to figure out how I’m going to keep slaying—”

 

Dawn handed her a piece of paper on which she’d scribbled something. “You know what you need to do.”

 

Buffy stared at the email address in front of her. “I don’t know what to say to him.”

 

“Just tell him we—you—need him. He’ll come back.”

 

“What if he won’t? What if he doesn’t love me anymore? I hardly even talked to him after we got back. I drove him away.”

 

“And now you’re going to bring him back. It’s Spike, Buffy. He still loves you.  And even if he didn’t, he has a right to know about…” Dawn pointed to Buffy’s bulging mid-section.

 

“Buffy – you can’t seriously be planning to—mmmph! Ow!”  Willow stared at Tara in complete astonishment. “Did you just pinch me and put your hand over my mouth?”

 

Tara blushed and let her hair fall in front of her face, then raised her chin and faced Willow firmly.  “Yes. I did. I stopped you before you said anything else that wasn’t supportive of your best friend who is facing an uncertain future and will need help from all of us.  And if that future includes the baby’s father…” She stopped and took a deep breath. “Who or what ever the father of this baby is, it isn’t the baby’s fault. If we have to, we’ll make it everybody’s baby.”

 

She paused, having said more at one time than any of them were used to from her.  Willow was staring at her with eyes that were going from shocked to ashamed. Acting on impulse, Dawn hugged Tara tightly and Buffy gazed at her with teary eyes.

 

“Th… thank you, Tara. That’s—“ She burst into tears and sobbed into her hands for several seconds, then shook herself and sat up.  “Wow. That was unexpected.”

 

“Hormones,” Willow said. She gave an apologetic whimper.  “I’m sorry, Buffy. I’m being insensitive and a bad friend.  We’ll do this.  I’m going to look up everything about pregnancy and childbirth and….” She grabbed her laptop and began typing like a madwoman.

 

“I… Thanks, guys.  I appreciate it. I really do. But I think now I’d better bring my back up muscle home.”

 

“That’s all he is? Back up muscle?”

 

“One thing at a time, Dawn,” Buffy sighed. “Can I use your computer?”  Without waiting for an answer, Buffy walked upstairs and sat down at Dawn’s desk. She swallowed hard, then brought up the email program and stared at the blank screen for several seconds before she typed:

 

“I need you.

 

B.”

 

 

Chapter Four

 

“On my way.”

 

Spike’s equally terse response wasn’t followed by anything else, and after a few minutes Buffy got up from the computer and went back to her room. She sank onto her bed and stared at the ceiling, her hand absently stroking her belly.

 

“I hope I know what I’m doing,” she whispered. “For everybody’s sake, I hope I know what I’m doing.”

 

Her musing was interrupted by a soft tap on the door. Buffy called out her permission to enter without moving off the bed.

 

“Buffy? I don’t want to sound all bossy, but… have you even seen a doctor yet?”

 

Buffy shook her head. “I’ve been pretty busy trying to pretend I didn’t know what was wrong.” She sighed and rolled her head to the side to look at Tara while she spoke. “I guess I need to do that, don’t I?”

 

“You do. The sooner the better. You should probably be on vitamins by now, and who knows what else.” She hesitated. “I can give you a name if you don’t want to use your own doctor.”

 

“I don’t have one,” Buffy said, sitting up and shrugging.  “It’s just too hard explaining away the wounds and bruises that are gone by the next time the doctor sees you.  Or, that my body fat is so low because of the exercise I get every night. And that I don’t have regular periods because… well, who knows why it’s because, but it’s all slayer-related.  None of us are meant to live long enough to have to worry about birth control, or babies, or any of that stuff.”

 

“My doctor might be a little more understanding,” Tara said with a smile. “She’s a practicing witch as well as an ob/gyn, so she’s a little more aware of things in Sunnydale than most doctors are.  I’m not sure, but I think she’s even treated some demons.”

 

“Okay. I’ll make an appointment later in the week. I’ve got to go to work now.” Buffy stood up and pulled her Doublemeat Palace uniform off the hanger, making a face as she did.  “I wonder if they’ll give me bigger pants if I ask for them?”

 

“It’s none of my business, but I’ll be surprised if the doctor doesn’t tell you not to be on your feet so much.  All that standing and walking probably isn’t….” She trailed off as Buffy glared at her.

 

“Is your doctor friend going to pay the bills around here?” Buffy demanded as she struggled into her uniform pants. “’Cause unless you see that happening, I don’t see her being entitled to have an opinion about how I spend my days… or nights.”

 

Buffy slapped her cow hat on her head and grabbed her jacket. “Sorry, Tara. I know you mean well, but things like the Doublemeat Palace and a household that has more outgo than I can bring in… they were a big part of why I liked it so much in the other world.  Spike and I could have a cute house and still have money left over to go out once in a while. There was no slaying every night, so no torn clothes, no…. no obligations.  It was a nice, peaceful life. And I had someone to share it with.” Without waiting for a response, Buffy walked out the door.

 

Tara stared at the empty space where Buffy had been standing. “I’m pretty sure you still could,” she whispered, then shook her head. “None of your business, Tara. Just give her the doctor’s name and stay out of it.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

Buffy came home by way of the only cemetery between the Doublemeat and her house, too tired to even pretend she was patrolling. Between slaying every night, trying to find Warren’s hideout during the day, and working as many hours as she could, Buffy had reached the end of even Slayer stamina.  She staked one fledgling as he was crawling from his grave and turned for home, telling herself it was a job well done.  When the tingle on her neck told her there was a stalking vampire nearby, she groaned aloud.

 

“Dammit! I’m tired. Just come out and get staked. I’m not in the mood to chase you.”

 

“Good to know,” said a familiar voice as Spike stepped from behind a tree.  “Not really in the mood for running.”

 

“Spike!” She stared at him, trying to calm herself, knowing he could probably sense the way her heart had sped up when she recognized him. “You’re back.”

 

“Said you needed me.”

 

“I did. I do. I just didn’t think it would be so fast… Where were you?”

 

“Away,” he said, falling into step beside her. He watched her from the corner of his eye for a while, clearly seeing the exhaustion that could have meant her death if she’d met the wrong vampire or demon.  “What’s wrong, Buffy? Are you sick? You look deader than I do. No offense…”

 

She made a face. “None taken, I know what I look like. I look like I feel. It’s all pretty much part of the package.” She sighed, then remembered she hadn’t told him yet what the package was.  “I’ll explain when we get home.”

 

With her coat wrapped around her, the baby bump wasn’t noticeable, and Spike wasn’t close enough to pick up the rapid extra heartbeat.  He just frowned and slowed his pace to match hers.  They reached the house and Buffy went around to the back door, saying she always came in through the kitchen so she could grab a snack.

 

Entering the quiet house, she shrugged out of her coat, bit her lip, and turned to let him really look at her. She stood still, hands at her sides while he looked her up and down, his expression nothing like the usual combination of affection and lust that she was used to. His eyes narrowed, taking in her thickened waist and the bulge where there’d never been anything but flat, taut abs. Stepping toward her, he put his hand on her belly, then grabbed her arm and pulled her close enough for him to hear the extra heartbeat.  He dropped the arm as if burned and glared, making no attempt to hide his pain and anger.

 

“Well, that didn’t take you long, did it? Did you at least wait until I left town to find yourself another—”

 

“Find myself another wha— Oh, you bastard!”

 

The sound of her slap carried all the way into the living room, where Tara immediately whirled around and shooed Willow and Dawn back up the stairs.

 

“You son of a bitch!” Fighting back angry tears, she glared at him.  “I should have known you wouldn’t take any responsibility—”

 

“Responsibility? Vampire here, Slayer. Dead, remember? All of me. Don’t have any live swimmers… never mind that we haven’t even snogged since we got ba—” His face grew even paler. “Bloody hell…” She watched impassively as reality and understanding hit him, as he remembered where they’d been, where he hadn’t been dead, but alive and breathing and, apparently, with a sperm count.

 

“M… mine?” His expression had gone from outrage to wonder, and he reached toward her stomach again with a tentative hand, stopping before he actually touched her when the stony expression on her face didn’t change.

 

“No, it’s one of the ten other guys I was sleeping with six months ago.”  Buffy’s anger was slowly fading as she watched the emotions on his face, but it wasn’t until she saw the tears he was trying to blink away that she finally weakened. “Yes, it’s yours, you moron. Who else’s would it be?”

 

He fell to his knees in front of her, burying his face in her stomach as he clutched her thighs. “Not sure what’s stupider, my brain or my mouth, but I apologize for both of ‘em.” His voice was muffled by the fabric of her shirt. “I’m the worst kind of wanker, and you have every right to tell me to get out of your life and never come back.”

 

“Yeah, well, tempting as that is,” she said, putting her hands on her hips. “I’m not doing this by myself, so you can just forget it. You’re not going anywhere.”

 

He raised his head and stared. Standing up in one smooth motion, he cupped her cheek with his hand. “You called me back to help you raise your… our child?”  The awe and wonder on his face had her backtracking quickly.

 

“Well... I... No. I haven’t thought that far…. I mean...” She gestured at her thickened body. “Look at me! I’m already having a hard time keeping my balance sometimes. And I’m always tired.  Not just I’m-not-getting-enough-sleep tired, but if-I-have-to-take-another-step-I’m-just-going-to-fall-down tired.”  She watched the joy and wonder fade from his eyes, but pushed on.  “I need you here to help me with the slaying. I’m just not going to be very good at it for much longer, and—”

 

“And you need the muscle. Got it. No problem.” He turned away and moved toward the door. “I’ll just let you get some sleep then. I’ll hit a couple cemeteries tonight, and tomorrow we’ll do a good cleaning out, yeah?  Good night, Buffy.”

 

He’d said all that without once letting her see his face or eyes, leaving her chewing her lip and frowning as he closed the kitchen door behind him.

 

“Okay. I don’t think that went as well as it could have….”

 

She sighed and shook her head.  “Where’s a portal when you need one?” she muttered, taking the milk out of the fridge and pouring herself a glassful.  She chugged the milk, grabbed an apple and headed for stairs. At the last second, she remembered to lock the door and walked back into the kitchen. With the inside light now off, she could see into the yard. Just barely visible under a tree at the edge of the yard, Spike’s blond hair caught the light from the almost full moon.

 

“Back to being a stalker,” she said automatically, then cringed at having such an uncharitable thought. She knew Spike too well not to understand he was standing guard over the house containing the mother of his unborn child.  She gave a small wave as she locked the door, turning away before he could respond.

 

She was asleep before she’d even finished taking off her uniform. Outside, a still figure stared at the house, only the occasional glimpse of a lit cigarette indicating he was anything but another shadow.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Spike was gone by morning, of course. Buffy slept late, coming down feeling more rested than usual and greeting Willow and Tara with a smile.  She looked back and forth between them, wondering if she’d interrupted some kind of argument, but in too good a mood to ask.

 

“Thanks for getting Dawn off to school. I don’t know when I’ve slept so late.”

 

“Neither do I, but I’m guessing the arrival of the slaying help had something to do with it?” Tara smiled at Buffy.

 

“You know he’s back?”

 

“He came here first, looking for you. Dawn told him you were probably on your way home from work and he went to meet you.” Tara walked to the sink and began to wash out her bowl and cup, leaving Willow to continue the conversation.

 

“Oh.”

 

“So,” Willow said, studying the napkin she was playing with. “How did it go? I thought I heard a… a sound last night.”

 

Buffy flushed and bit her lip. “You heard me slap him when he forgot who was the most likely candidate for Dad of the Year and tried to get all huffy about my condition.”

 

“Ah. You, um, straightened him out, I guess?”

 

“Yeah. It didn’t take long for him to remember that he spent some time in a much less dead body. Then he was all sorry and happy and…” Buffy gave a sad snort. “And then foot-in-mouth-Buffy managed to screw that up.” She looked up at Willow’s “sympathy face” and shook her head. “Don’t worry about looking sorry for me. I’ll find a way to make it up to him and it’ll be okay. Spike’s never stayed mad at me.”

 

Tara cleared her throat and ducked her head. “Okay,” she said slowly. “Not really a Spike expert here, but I think there’s a difference between mad and hurt.”

 

Willow nodded her agreement. “And if I know—” She stopped herself, but not quickly enough.

 

“And if you know me, I probably hurt him. Is that what you were about to say?” Buffy’s good mood was rapidly evaporating.

 

“Well… maybe? Something like that only a little more tactful?”  When Buffy’s expression settled into a cold glare, Willow hurried on. “I mean, I didn’t think much about it at the time, when you first came back, I just figured you and Spike were sick of each other after spending so much time in that other place, and that’s why he wasn’t around as much. But now that I know what you guys were doing there….”

 

“There, we were married. Here, we aren’t. It’s different. And he’s not human anymore.”

 

“Were you different people? Didn’t you remember who you were?” Tara’s words were all the more disturbing for the more gentle tone she used.

 

“Of course we did! Otherwise, how would we have known to step through the portal when it showed up?” Buffy snatched the napkin out of Willow’s hand and began shredding it.

 

Willow picked up the thread again. “So, when you were sleeping with Spike, you knew who he was. You knew you weren’t really married.  And you knew he was in love with you in this world.”

 

“He knew that stuff too!” Buffy said, anger fading into embarrassment. “It’s not like I gave him any reason to—” She dropped her head and sighed. “That’s not true, I guess. I did. I gave him every reason to think I was falling in love with him – and then when we came back, I treated him like a stalker.  No wonder he left me.”

 

“Was he leaving you, or leaving the place where he wasn’t allowed to be with you?”

 

“When did you get to be so smart?” Buffy muttered, glaring at the remains of her napkin.

 

“Hey, genius I.Q. here, thankyouverymuch.” Willow waited for Buffy to give her a small smile, then said gently, “So, what happened here last night? Wasn’t he happy about it?”

 

“Oh yeah, he was. At least he was until I let him think I’d called him back to… to make a family and then told him I just needed him to patrol for me.”

 

“Oh. Ouch.”

 

“Yeah. Big ouch.  I’ve seen him go through some fast mood swings before, but I think he set a record last night. Really mad, scary happy, and really hurt – in less than sixty seconds.”  Buffy stood up and got the cereal from the top of the refrigerator.  She poured herself a bowl, cut up a banana, and added milk before she spoke again.  “I guess after I eat, I’d better go find him and do some groveling.”

 

“Don’t you think you ought to let Giles know what’s going on?”

 

Buffy sighed. “Yeah. I’m really looking forward to that conversation... Hey! It was your portal. Maybe you should tell him?”

 

Willow squirmed uncomfortably while Tara stared at her, arms folded.  “I... well... I kinda thought we’d just...” She sighed. “There’s no way to tell him what happened to you without, you know, telling him what happened to you, is there?”

 

Tara and Buffy shook their heads.

 

“Nope. ‘I’m pregnant by Spike because of something I can’t tell you about’ just isn’t going to fly. Not with research-guy.”

 

“Terrific. More lectures about how I shouldn’t be fooling around with—” Willow shook her head. “Nuh uh. I’m not telling him. I’m going to be busy working on my excuses.”

 

“Fine,” Buffy grumbled. “I’ll call him.  Eventually...”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Five

 

She approached Spike’s crypt with determination and enthusiasm – right up until she got to the door, where her courage failed her.  She leaned against the stone wall, chewing her lip and trying to talk herself out of running away.

 

“It’s Spike. He loves me. He’ll forgive me.  He probably already has forgiven me. He’s just sleeping until it’s dark enough to come back to the house. I can do this. I can tell him I’m sorry and that I want him to be part of the baby’s life. How hard can it be?”

 

Purpose renewed, she opened the doors and entered the big stone room. In the dim light coming through the dirty windows and open door, she could see that Spike was not on that floor. With a sigh, she pulled the door shut and waited for her eyes to adjust to the gloom. When she felt she could see well enough, she walked to the open entrance to the lower level and peered down. There was no light, so she grabbed a candle and Spike’s lighter off a nearby table.  She lit the candle and worked her way down the narrow ladder until she was standing on the dirt floor.

 

Spike, naked and barely awake, was sprawled across the bed peering at her through bleary eyes.  The empty bottle on the floor beside him explained both the eyes and the smell of booze that she couldn’t miss.  Setting the candle down, she walked over to the bed, averting her eyes from Spike as she picked up the empty bottle and tossed it in a trash box.

 

“Spike. You wanna cover up so we can talk?”  She kept her back to him, but peeked over her shoulder to see if he’d pulled the blanket up.  He returned her look, leaning back on his elbows.

 

“Nothing you haven’t seen before, is it, Slayer?”

 

“Fine!” she snapped. “Be an ass.” 

 

She looked around for someplace to sit, but there was nothing but the bed and a pile of rolled up rugs.  She sat on the rugs and stared around the room, determined not to look at him or talk to him until he covered up.  There was a stubborn silence that lasted so long Buffy was beginning to think he’d gone back to sleep. She flicked a glance at him to find him staring at her with a mixture of frustrated affection and mulish determination. He crossed his arms across his chest and lifted his chin defiantly. Buffy tossed her head and crossed her own arms, settling back on the rugs in a clothed imitation of his posture.

 

They held their poses until Buffy noticed Spike’s lips twitching. He looked away, but she’d already seen his eyes crinkling at the corners and she snorted in spite of herself. In only seconds they were laughing so hard they couldn’t talk. Buffy fell off her pile of rugs, which sent Spike into more laughter, doubling over as if in pain.  When they’d slowed down, Buffy hiccupping as she tried to catch her breath, he grabbed the blanket and stood up.  He wrapped himself in the blanket and walked over to where she was lying on the floor gasping, extending his hand and waiting for her to notice it. Her gaze flickered from his hand to his face and the laughter faded from her eyes.  She took his hand and let him pull her to her feet.

 

They stood, only inches apart, hands still linked, eyes locked.  They spoke simultaneously.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

Spike shook his head and squeezed her hand. “No, Buffy. I should apologize. I got you into this, and then I left you. I’m the worst kind of wanker.”

 

“You didn’t know. Hell, I didn’t know until it got to where only an idiot wouldn’t have figured it out.” She gave him a small smile. “I think Willow and Dawn were about to stage an intervention when I finally admitted it to myself and told them.”

 

“Doesn’t matter. If I’d stayed around I’d have noticed it sooner.  You wouldn’t have got so run down and tired.”

 

“I’ll live.”  She looked down at their linked hands, then raised her eyes again. “I… I know I wasn’t very… nice to you when we got back. I… I just didn’t know what to do.  You were still… you, but not….” She shook her head and dropped his hand.  “I know I drove you away. It’s kinda what I do with men,” she added with a grimace. “You shouldn’t take it personally.”

 

When he didn’t respond except to raise an eyebrow, she swallowed hard and forced herself to continue. “I did... do… sometimes… miss… us. The us that we were… before. In that other place...” As though that admission had opened floodgates, she rushed on.  “I missed it so much, and I was afraid to tell you I missed it, and I….” She stepped away. “I’m sorry. I know it hurt when I wouldn’t talk to you, and then last night I hurt you again and I didn’t mean to.”  She crossed her arms over her chest and shook her head. “I don’t want to hurt you, but I don’t think I know how to stop.”

 

“Buffy—” He stopped, remaining uncharacteristically speechless.

 

She stepped closer and extended a hand, letting it hover just over his heart.  “I don’t think you should trust me with this.” She tapped on his bare chest lightly. “I’m probably going to put a stake through it someday – metaphorically, if not for real.”

 

“You’re doing a pretty good job of it right now,” he said with a slight tremor in his voice. “I don’t know what you’re trying to tell me, Buffy. Are you saying you’re sorry you hurt me, but you’re not planning to change anything so I should get used to it? That I can be part of your life, but at my own risk? I’m here for you, love, no matter what, but I’d really like to know where I stand. What am I to you?”

 

She gave a shaky laugh and rested her hand on his chest. “I don’t know what I’m saying. I kinda want us to be… us again... I think. But I don’t know how to do that here.” She stroked his chest, trying not to flinch when it wasn’t the warm skin she’d been used to. “You’re different. I’m different. You’re not—I’m afraid I’m going to keep hurting you. I don’t want to be that Buffy. The one who lives here and... I want to be the Buffy who was falling in love with her Spike, not the one who always hurts him.”

 

He raised one arm and stroked her head, watching her hair slide through his fingers. “Not feeling all that much pain just at the moment,” he whispered, lowering his hand to touch her shoulder.

 

He put both arms around her, moving tentatively as though not sure if his embrace would be welcomed, but Buffy sighed and let herself melt into him, putting her own arms around his waist.  They stood like that for several minutes, letting their bodies speak for them as they found their way back to a comfort zone of sorts. Eventually Buffy raised her head and frowned up at him.

 

“When we let go, that blanket’s going to fall right down, isn’t it?”

 

She felt his chest move as he chuckled.  “Could do.  Maybe you’d best stay like this… jus’ to keep me decent.”

 

“You wouldn’t know decent if you fell over it,” she snorted as she stepped out of his loosened embrace.  As predicted, the blanket fell to the floor, but Spike quickly picked it up and pulled it around his body.

 

“I don’t think we’ve been made up long enough for you to start insulting me already,” he huffed, his words and tone belied by the happy smile on his face.

 

“Have we?” she asked, suddenly serious again.  “Made up, I mean. Are we okay now?”

 

“We’re as okay as we can be without having had any of our famous make-up sex,” he said with a half-serious leer.

 

“And there he is – piggy Spike,” she said, laughing and tugging on the blanket.  “Why don’t you put some clothes on so I won’t feel like a perv for staring at you?”

 

“Why don’t you take yours off, so I can stare at you and feel all manly?” he countered, dropping the blanket and moving closer.  “Or, better yet…”

 

Buffy held up a hand in the classic sign for “halt”. “Back off, vampire.   We’re not getting naked together.”  She bit her lip and peered at him out of the corner of her eye, sure that she’d probably just hurt him again. “I didn’t mean, not ever. I just think we’ve got some getting to know each other again to do before... And I need to talk to a doctor about what I can and can’t do for the next few months.”

 

He was immediately contrite. “Of course not. I’m a git.” He moved away and picked his jeans up off the floor.  “Need to get those bloody rugs down,” he muttered, brushing off some dried mud before he pulled them on.  He wandered around looking for his shirt while Buffy stared at the pile of rugs.

 

“Speaking of rugs… are you going into the used carpet business?”

 

He looked uncomfortable, but said quietly, “Got those when we first got back. Didn’t want you having to walk around on a dirt floor, if you…” He coughed. “Turned out they weren’t needed.”

 

Buffy winced.  “Did I mention ‘sorry’?”

 

He shrugged and, now safely clothed, put his arms around her again. Nuzzling the side of her neck, he inhaled the scent he’d told her he missed when he was human. “You’re here now. ’S all I care about. Missed you so much, I could spend the next three days just drowning in the way you smell.”

 

She stiffened at the additional reminder of his undead status, then relaxed against him.  “It’s going to be different, isn’t it?”

 

He didn’t pretend to misunderstand her, just nodded and hugged her tighter. “It is. Take a bit of getting used to I imagine. For both of us. On the plus side,” he added, raising his head and grinning, “we should have a whole lot more stamina now.”

 

She laughed and moved away from him. “Do you ever think about anything else?”

 

“Not when you’re around,” he countered immediately.  “Although, now that I think about it, I could use some nourishment with a lower alcohol content than I had this mornin’.  Let’s go upstairs and see if I was sober enough to bring the extra blood in from my car.”

 

 

Chapter Six

 

Buffy was able to get an evening appointment with Tara’s doctor for later that week. By the night of the appointment, they had whittled Sunnydale’s vampire population down to the occasional fledgling, working out a system where Buffy did the actual slaying with Spike acting as a lookout and occasional backup. If he thought he saw her slowing down or tiring, he would silently step in and take over.  The looks she gave him were a mixture of resentment, gratitude, and frustration, but she mumbled her thanks often enough that he knew she really didn’t mind.

 

She allowed Spike to come with her to the initial appointment, leaving him to sit in the waiting room while the doctor examined her and talked to her about the pregnancy.  She was immediately comfortable with Doctor Parada – an older woman who projected an aura of calm competence and empathy.

 

“Well, obviously, as a physician, I would have liked to see you as soon as you suspected you might be pregnant…” She held her hand up when Buffy opened her mouth to protest.  “But, given your menstrual history, I do understand why it took you so long to realize your condition.  Fortunately, your body is strong and healthy, and I think we can get you back on track quickly.”

 

She gave Buffy a prescription for a pre-natal vitamin and a suggested diet plan. When Buffy protested that she was already “getting fat”, the doctor scowled at her.

 

“On the contrary, you are more than a bit on the thin side.  The old adage “eating for two” still applies, even for slayers.  You need to eat healthful foods, but more of them. More protein, more complex carbohydrates, more dairy, and as many fruits and vegetables as you want.”  She smiled at Buffy’s pout. “Trust me, a body like yours will bounce back to its pre-pregnancy state in no time. Right now, you need to be thinking more about producing a healthy baby than you do about your figure.  Now, do you have any questions for me?”

 

Buffy nodded and asked a few routine questions about exercise, carefully avoiding any mention of her job at the Doublemeat Palace or her more dangerous slaying duties. The doctor, however, seemed well aware of what it was a slayer did with her free time.

 

“Your normal exercise isn’t going to be a problem until you get closer to giving birth.  Your own body will be your best judge of when to slow down and when you need to take a break.  Please remember that your center of gravity is going to be off and that you may not be able to do many of the things you could before.” She gave Buffy a shrewd glance. “It might be better to allow the baby’s father to handle some of your more… vigorous duties for the next few months. I suspect he is quite up to it.”

 

Buffy laughed and nodded. “Yeah, fighting and killing things is kinda Spike’s favorite thing to do.  Second favorite, anyway,” she said, blushing as she remembered the other question she’d wanted to ask. “Uh, there’s another thing…”

 

The doctor smiled. “Your body will be your guide there too.  When it becomes too uncomfortable, or you are no longer interested, then it will be time to stop.  I don’t recommend anything particularly athletic or… violent… but normal love-making should be perfectly safe—”

 

A loud “Yes!” from the waiting room made Buffy blush and the doctor smile.  “Had you not been having intercourse once you discovered your condition?”

 

Buffy shrugged her embarrassment. “He’s been… away… for awhile.  This happened when we were living… somewhere else.” She fumbled for words, not sure how much even a Sunnydale witch Witch doctor? I’m going to a witch doctor? would know about alternate dimensions where vampires and slayers were just normal humans. Doctor Parada studied her flushed face, then nodded.

 

“Well, then. I guess the most important question has been answered.  Yes, you may have relations while you are pregnant. Just be careful.  Perhaps, after we’ve come to know each other better, you will be able to explain to me just how a vampire was able to fertilize an egg without having live sperm.”

 

“Uh. Sure. Later, maybe.” Buffy made a mental note to ask Tara exactly how much her doctor knew about Sunnydale and its idiosyncrasies.  “So, it’s okay if I keep working then?  I mean my day job – except it’s not always daytime, sometimes it’s… never mind. Beside the point. Can I keep working?”

 

The doctor glanced down at the information sheet Buffy had filled out and frowned.

 

“The Doublemeat Palace? You’re not eating there, are you?”

 

“Sometimes,” Buffy said. “It’s not like I can afford… okay, another thing that’s beside the point. I just need to know how long I can keep working there.”

 

“If you’re on your feet a lot, I’d say only another month or so.  Your back will tell you when you’re standing too much; and your feet and ankles will swell….”

 

“Wonderful.” Buffy grimaced and stood up. “Okay, thank you very much, Doctor Parada. How often should I plan to come back?”

 

“After the sonogram we need to schedule for next week, I’d like to see you again in another month; and I’d like to see you with better color in your cheeks and about fifteen pounds heavier—” She paused and smiled when Buffy blanched. “Trust me. Your baby needs you to be well-fed enough to meet both your needs and his or hers. And that’s not where you are right now.”

 

She walked Buffy to the door, not flinching when Spike rose to his feet and moved to Buffy’s side.  She met his gaze calmly, shaking her head with a smile when he experimented with letting her see his true face.

 

“Spike!” Buffy colored with embarrassment, but the doctor just laughed softly.

 

“And this, I presume, is the baby’s father?” she said, holding out her hand. “Congratulations, Mr…?”

 

“Just call me Spike,” he said, dropping both his eyes and his vampire mien. He took her hand. “Sorry about that.”

 

“It’s all right,” she said. “You just wanted to know how I’d handle what you are. I understand that.”  She spoke with such complete confidence and lack of fear that Spike and Buffy both stared at her.  He recovered first.

 

“If I’d tried to bite, I’da been dust before my fangs got all the way out, wouldn’t I?”

 

“Very likely.” She smiled her placid smile and released his hand. “But I’m sure it will never be necessary for us to find out.  Just take good care of Buffy and see that she eats well and gets plenty of rest. You may have to be quite firm about it.”

 

Spike’s eyes widened. “You don’t know her very well yet, do you, Doc?”

 

“Spike!” Buffy elbowed him in the side.

 

“’S true,” he mumbled, rubbing his rib cage. “You know it is.”

 

The doctor gave him a sympathetic smile, saying, “Well, do your best. She needs more food and more rest than she’s been getting— Ah, and here is my next patient.  I’ll see you next week, Buffy, and we’ll talk then about how you feel about curtailing some of your activities.”

 

Nodding and smiling at the young couple who had just come in, Buffy and Spike left the office and without discussion began to walk back the way they’d come. Buffy linked her arm with his and said, “She said it was okay, you know.”

 

Spike gave a surprised start. Buffy’s question to the doctor about sexual activity was the first indication he’d seen that she might be interested in taking their still-experimental relationship to another level, and he’d assumed the question was for his benefit.

 

“I heard her. She also said to be careful.” 

 

“So?”

 

“So, we aren’t the puny little things we were before. What if I hurt you? What if we forget how strong we are and…”

 

“Are you saying you don’t want to make—have—do— Do you expect me to coax you?”  Her voice dripped with disbelief.

 

“Don’t be daft.” He put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close to his body, pivoting in front of her so they were touching from knees to shoulders. He dipped his head and brushed a kiss across her lips.  “Want you so much I can’t see straight. That’s what scares me. Don’t want to hurt you – or the little one.” He rubbed one hand across her belly, laughing with delight when he felt a little thump against his palm.  “He kicked me!”

 

She kicked you,” Buffy said proudly. “She does it all the time now. She’s got a lot of energy.”

 

“Just like his mum and dad.”

 

Her mommy and daddy.”

 

“Are we fighting again already?” He grinned at her, his happiness and excitement contagious.

 

“We might be. Would a girl be a deal-breaker for you?”  She gave him a mock-glare and put her hands on her hips.

 

Immediately sobered, he cupped her cheek. “There is no such thing as a deal-breaker – nothing on this earth or off it could make me walk away from this. Nothing. I don’t care what it is as long as it’s alive and healthy and looks like one of us.” He held her gaze. “Even if all you want is a bodyguard and a babysitter, you’re stuck with me, Buffy.”

 

“I can think of worse places to be stuck,” she whispered back, leaning into his hand. 

 

“Well, there you go then. Being stuck with me is better than some places you could be.”

 

She giggled apologetically. “That sounded more… appreciative… in my head.”

 

“Knew what you meant, love.”  He took her hand and started walking again. “Let’s get you fed, yeah?”

 

“Um… you do know that my home is in that direction, right?” She pointed away from the direction he’d started to go and toward Revello Drive.

 

“Sorry, pet, but you heard the doctor telling me to see that you rest and eat more. Let’s get you some dinner and then I’ll take you home.”  He steered her toward a small Italian restaurant and held the door until she went in. Smiling at the hostess, who, Buffy noticed, seemed to recognize him, he led her to a table and held out her chair.  Buffy’s head swam with confusion as the waitress came up, greeted Spike by name and handed them menus.

 

“Is this a demon restaurant?” Buffy hissed after the girl had left.

 

“No,” he said. “Just order yourself something good to eat.”

 

“Spike, I don’t have any money,” she said, still whispering.

 

“I do. I’ve been working every night since right after I moved. Got more than enough to fatten you up… and I’ll get more. Soon’s I find a job here—”

 

“A job? You’re going to get a job?”

 

He looked hurt, but visibly shook off his anger, and said, “As soon as I can find something I can do at night and still have time to patrol for you.”

 

“Patrol with me,” she corrected.  “I didn’t bring you back here to do my job, just to help me out.”

 

“Vampire hearing, pet.” He pointed to his ears.

 

“What?”

 

“Heard the good doctor tell you that you weren’t going to be able to do things the way you have been an’ that you’d have to stop at some point. Heard her say you might be better off letting me do the heavy lifting. I’ll let you patrol until the first time I see you in trouble, and then you’re staying in until after you have this baby.”

 

“You’ll let me?  You’ll let me!!!”

 

“Shhhh, pet. People are staring.”

 

“Let them stare! Who died and made you boss?  All I asked you to do was come back and help me.  Not tell me what to do.”

 

“If you want my help, dammit, you’re going to get it. And if that means you spend the next three months brassed off because I’m stepping on your slaying toes… too bloody bad!”

 

They glared at each other across the table, Buffy’s nostrils flaring and Spike’s eyes flashing amber.  Only when the owner came over to ask if everything was okay, did Buffy notice that the other customers were staring at them.  She blushed and dropped her head, mumbling her apology. Spike appeared equally contrite and apologized more audibly and profusely.  He tapped the menu Buffy was holding, saying, “Let’s thrash this out later, Slayer. Get yourself some food now, yeah?”

 

“You’re not the boss of me,” she muttered, studying the menu never the less. She quickly decided on lasagna and a salad, ignoring Spike’s equally quiet, “Nobody knows that better than I do.”

 

The meal was delicious, and she was soon looking at her empty plate. She fished a last piece of lettuce out of the salad bowl and watched with wistful eyes as the dessert cart went by.

 

“Buffy?” Spike nodded toward the cart, but she shook her head.

 

“No. My brain wants something, but my stomach is already telling me if I have to move fast right now, I’ll probably throw up.”

 

“On that cheerful note… “ He signaled for the check and pulled out his wallet. Laying the folded bills on top of the check, he stood and pulled out her chair. “Alright, love. Let’s get you home and into bed.”

 

The couple at the next table snickered, causing Buffy to blush and glare at Spike. “You couldn’t have worded that some way less… innuendo-y?”

 

“Let ‘em think what they want, pet. We know better, don’t we?”  He waved his good-bye to the waitress and the owner, steering Buffy out the door as he did so.

 

“We do?” Buffy tried not to sound disappointed, but she could hear the uncertainty in her voice. In spite of her words to Spike about needing to get to know each other again, she’d been just as happy as he was to hear the doctor give them permission to sleep together. It hadn’t taken more than a few days of spending time together to rekindle the comfortable relationship they’d enjoyed in the other world. And along with the relaxed tension had come reminders of the more exciting aspects of that relationship.

 

He grinned, turning his head so she wouldn’t see it, as he said, “Still getting to know each other, aren’t we?  Anyway, you said you wanted to go home tonight.”

 

“I did, didn’t I? And I should. Go home, get right into bed and get some sleep. That’s a great idea. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it. Thanks, Spike.”  Two could play at that game, and Buffy knew her vampire too well to believe he really meant it.

 

A muffled growl was his only response to her giggle as she took his arm and began to walk beside him. By the time they reached her house, they had both relaxed and were holding hands, their shoulders brushing occasionally.

 

They reached the front porch and stopped just outside the door.  “Want to walk you in and check the whole house for danger before I leave, but I’m guessing that bit of overkill wouldn’t be appreciated.”

 

Buffy snorted. “Ya think?”  She smiled up at him. “It’s my home Spike – ‘safe as houses’ isn’t that what you always say? I’ll be fine. We’ll be fine,” she added, rubbing her belly.

 

“Alright, love. In you go, then. I’ll do a short patrol before I….”

 

“Before you come back and stand under your tree all night?” The warm smile she gave him took the sting from her words.

 

“You’ve noticed that, huh?”

 

“Me, Dawn, Willow, Tara, Xander….”

 

“Long as the evil doers notice it, I don’t care who else sees me.”

 

“It can’t be a very comfortable way to spend the night.”

 

She flushed, remembering that she used to get so angry when she found him lurking outside her house before. It had never crossed her mind that he might be watching over her—and Dawn. He promised to take care of Dawn for me and he’s never stopped—rather than spying on her.

 

As if remembering the same thing, he shrugged and smiled at her. “Done it before, with a lot less reason, haven’t I? I’ll be fine. Can sleep all day when I can’t go out anyway.”

 

“Maybe…” Buffy stopped and took a deep breath.  “Maybe you should start thinking about doing your guard dog act from… from inside the house.  You could still see your tree from my room, so it would be just like—”

 

He cocked his head at her, studying her face for a few seconds.

 

“You inviting me into your bed or just giving the old watchdog a more comfy place to keep watch from?”

 

She glared at him for making her spell it out.

 

“I think that’s up to the watchdog. Some dogs like to sleep on the furniture, some don’t.”

 

He nodded. “I’ll think about it, Buffy.” He brushed his lips over hers.  “Thank you.”

 

She grabbed his head, fastening her lips on his and kissing him for the first time since they’d left the other dimension. His lips were not as warm, but just as full and talented as she remembered. His tongue joined hers, caressing her mouth and making her whimper before she pulled away. He rested his forehead on hers, both of them breathing hard.

 

“Were you afraid I was going to need some persuasion?”

 

“I wasn’t sure. Thought I’d cover all my bases. Just in case.”

 

“I think your bases are covered, love.” He stood up straighter and blatantly adjusted himself.  “You let me know when you’re ready for me to move in.”

 

“Kinda thought that’s what I was doing….” she said with a trace of a pout. 

 

“You said I should think about it,” he smirked. “I was going to think.”

 

“Hmmph!” She sniffed and opened the front door. “Do you want to come in now? Just so you know there aren’t any boogiemen lurking in a closet.”

 

He stepped inside and looked around, using his acute hearing and nose to search for anything that didn’t belong there.

 

“I was kidding about the boogieman, you know.” Buffy was glaring at him and tapping her foot. He smirked back, unrepentant.

 

“Long as I’m in here, I thought I’d check it out.”

 

“And do what? What if there was somebody here? You do remember that the current wannabe Big Bad and his... minions are human, right? In fact, I think he’s an old friend of yours….”

 

Spike winced. “Have I ever told you how very, very sorry I am about—”

 

“Only about a gazillion times,” she said with a twisted grin. “It’s ancient history. And anyway, the bot came in pretty handy for softening Glory up while you were rescuing Dawn and I was lurking with the troll hammer. Not that it took Glory long to turn her into a rag doll, but it bought us some time.”  She shrugged. “And according to Willow, she–it–was useful when I got stuck in England and couldn’t get home before things started heating up this fall. And you would never have worked out it was Warren and his minions causing all the trouble if you hadn’t met them last year.” She smiled at him. “So you’re forgiven… mostly…. It was still gross and disgusting….” “And not even close to the real thing.” He pulled her against his body and inhaled her scent. “Not even close,” he whispered.

 

Buffy blushed and pushed him away. She gestured around the quiet house, the only sounds the faint music coming from Dawn’s bedroom.

 

“Nobody here but Dawn, is there?”

 

“No.” He frowned. “Where are the witches? Shouldn’t they be here?”

 

“Spike, I’m pregnant, not disabled.  They have classes at night, and Wicca stuff. I don’t need a babysitter.”

 

“All right, love. Backing off now.” He held up his hands and moved away. “I’m going to go clean out a couple of places we probably should have hit tonight. I’ll be back before you get to sleep… unless you’re tired,” he said quickly. “If you’re tired, just go to sleep. I’ll be fine.”

 

“If I go to sleep, I’ll leave the window unlocked. Just come on in, ‘k?”

 

He shuffled his feet for few seconds.  “If you’re sure….”

 

“I’m not asking you to creep into my room and have hot monkey sex with me tonight. I’m just asking you to be here. With me.”  Her eyes widened. “Unless you don’t want to. Am I already too fa—”

 

“Don’t even finish that bloody stupid thought.”  He brushed his lips over hers and reached for the doorknob. “I’ll try not to wake you if you’re already asleep,” he said over his shoulder.  “But I’ll be back.”

 

She watched him leave, then went upstairs to get ready for bed.  She was already tucked in and half-asleep when she remembered about the window and threw herself out of bed to unlock it. Shaken by the knowledge that coming back and finding it still locked would probably have sent Spike back to his crypt to wallow in his insecurity, she took deep breaths until she had calmed down enough to drift off to sleep again.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

When the bed dipped slightly under Spike’s weight, she didn’t wake up any longer than it took to identify him. She just rolled over and cuddled into his side as she’d done so often before when he’d worked late at the bar and come home after she was asleep. It wasn’t until morning, when the sun began to make its way around the curtains, that she remembered where and who they were now.  Smothering some disappointment that Spike was lying atop the covers, still fully clothed, she moved out of his arms and ran to adjust the curtains.  She did the best she could with them, vowing to buy larger, heavier, drapes for the bedroom windows as soon as the stores opened.

 

Before she left the room, she made sure to throw the bedspread over him, taking no chance that a stray beam of sunlight might hit unprotected skin.  His mumbled “Ta, love” was the only sign that he wasn’t completely unconscious – that and the way he rolled over and buried his face in the pillow she’d been using.

 

 

Chapter Seven

 

Spike opened one bleary eye to see Dawn peering in the door.

 

“Mornin’, Bit,” he yawned.

 

“It’s almost four in the afternoon,” she replied, opening the door a little more. “So, does this mean I need to buy earplugs?”

 

He tossed the spread off, allowing her to see that he was still dressed except for his boots and coat.

 

“Don’t know why,” he said, getting up and stretching. “Buffy here?”

 

“No. She’s working the early shift at the Doublemeat.  She said she wanted to go with you tonight when you patrol.”  Dawn came into the room and sat down on a clothes-covered chair. “So, dish.  What’s going on between you two? Are you going to be my brother-in-law for real?”

 

He shot her a sharp look. “For real?”

 

“Buffy told us about being married when you were gone.”

 

“Yeah, well, I wouldn’t be countin’ on that here, pet. I don’t think marriage is on the Slayer’s short list... or her long one...” he added softly.

 

“Would you? If it was on her list? Would you marry her?”

 

“You know,” he said, sitting down to put his boots on,  “that’d be something I’d prob’ly talk about with her before I told you about it.”  He stood and picked up his coat. “Don’t suppose there’s any blood in that kitchen anymore, is there?”

 

Dawn followed him out of the room and down the stairs. “There’s probably some yucky old frozen stuff in the bottom of the freezer, but I think Buffy bought you some before she went to work today.”  She opened the refrigerator and pulled out a new container.  “Here it is.”  She handed it to him, and watched with interest as he took down a mug, poured the blood in it and set it in the microwave.

 

“I see you haven’t forgotten how to feed yourself in our kitchen.”

 

“Don’t you have somewhere to be? School or something?”

 

“School’s over for the day. I’m home already. Just waiting for Tara and Willow. Tara’s going to teach me how to cook.” She looked at his dubious expression and frowned. “I can learn to cook,” she said. “I don’t think the ‘I can’t cook’ thing is genetic. I think it’s just Buffy.”

 

Spike thought back to some of the meals they’d had in the other world and laughed.  “Could be, pet. Could be.  In all fairness to your sister, she’s been a mite busy most of her life – what with stopping apocalypses and keeping you from being Hellgod Helper.”

 

You saved me from Glory! If you hadn’t taken Doc with you when you fell off the tower—”

 

“While your sister was fighting a god down on the ground. Don’t forget that. I was just the emergency services guy; it was Buffy doing the SWAT team work.” He took his warmed blood from the microwave and sat down at the counter. “So, Red actually cooks food – she doesn’t just wave her magic wand over it?” He raised a skeptical eyebrow.

 

Dawn shrugged. “I think Tara’s upset about how much magic Willow uses. They had a pretty big fight while you and Buffy were gone about using magic without knowing what might happen. I thought Tara was going to leave her, but Willow got all sad and said she’d stop using magic all the time if Tara would stay with her.  So she doesn’t do it anymore. Not when Tara’s watching, anyway....”

 

“But she does use it when the good witch isn’t around?” he asked, pretending to be uninterested in the answer. 

 

“Yeah. I think she does. She’s determined to de-rat Amy, and I think she works on that when Tara isn’t around.  I don’t know why Tara would object to that, though. I mean, poor Amy. She’s a rat!”

 

“I’m sure there are a few things that Red could do – magically – that would do more good than harm,” Spike said, draining his mug and walking to the sink. “I can think of one or two...”

 

Dawn frowned at him, but didn’t ask what they were.  The witches in question came in just then and the conversation turned to teaching Dawn to cook. Spike did his best to defend Buffy’s culinary skills, but in the face of three disbelieving faces, he had to admit that he’d had to choke down more than one meal when his status in the other dimension meant he had to eat what was put in front of him. Buffy came in with a bag of Doublemeat sandwiches before he got around to admitting that he’d learned to do some cooking himself.

 

“’lo, Buffy,” he said, somewhat uncertainly. Except for Dawn, he had no idea who else might have known he spent the night and most of the day in Buffy’s bed.

 

“Hi,” she replied, giving him a smile.  “Did you sleep okay?”

 

“Considering that he just got up a little while ago... I’d say he slept like the dead.”  Dawn seemed oblivious to the expressions on Willow’s and Tara’s faces, watching only to see what Buffy would do. After a quick glare at her sister, Buffy sighed and turned to her housemates.

 

“I would have told you guys before this, but it was kinda a last second decision and it was really late... or early, depending... when he got in, so...”

 

“So, he spent the night?” Willow shrugged. “Does this mean he’s going to live here?”

 

“I... we haven’t...” Buffy looked helplessly at Spike who was waiting for her response, his expression giving no sign of his own preferences.  “I guess that’s up to him... and to you guys,” she hastened to add. “I mean, how would you feel about having Spike in the house?”

 

The witches exchanged looks while Dawn just sighed, explaining, “Buffy, you do know that he slept here a lot while you were over there pub-crawling with Giles, right?  He was my...” her mouth curled in disgust, “babysitter... when Willow and Tara or Xander and Anya couldn’t be here.”

 

“Uh... no. I guess I didn’t... I mean, I know he was patrolling for me, and I know he was protecting everybody, but I didn’t know—Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked, turning on the vampire. “Why didn’t you tell me you were living here while I was gone?”

 

“Wasn’t sure how you’d take it, love,” he said. “And I wasn’t so much ‘living here’ as just sleeping here from time to time.  Made myself a little place downstairs where I could hide from the sun during the day, and just snoozed there until it was safe for me to go outside.”

 

“What else went on while I was gone that I should know about?” Buffy glared around the room. Except for Dawn, everyone looked mildly ashamed and glanced away. Dawn, however, just grinned and said, “Well, let’s see, Spike taught me how to cheat at poker, and we went out barhopping with Willow and Tara, and we almost got arrested but Willow magicked up a glamour and we stole a car and got away, and then we—”

 

It was the snicker from Spike, and the muffled giggles from Willow and Tara that clued Buffy in before she could explode.  “Very funny,” she growled.  “And there was no crawling...pub or otherwise... while I was in England, I’ll have you know. It was all rest and research.” She shook her head. “Apparently, R and R means something different in England than it does here. It does to Giles, anyway.”

 

“So back to the question. Is Spike going to live here?”

 

“Whatever he wants, I guess,” Buffy said, looking at him. “Maybe he won’t want to live with a bunch of girls... Never mind,” she added when he gave her an incredulous stare. “Silly me.” 

 

Moving closer to her, but carefully not touching her in any way that could be construed as being possessive or too overtly affectionate, he said, “Let’s play it by ear, Slayer. I’ve got to go back where I was stayin’ at some point, pick up my last paycheck and get my stuff from the apartment there.  Was thinking maybe I’d do that tonight.”

 

“Do you want company?” Buffy’s question put a delighted smile on his face.

 

“I’d love company. If you’re alright with a long car ride.”

 

“Oh, crap.” She sighed and gave him an apologetic smile. “I kinda forgot for a minute there.  That’s probably one of those things I shouldn’t do.  Remind me to ask Dr. Parada when we go in for the ultrasound next week.”

 

He nodded. Neither of them noticed the expressions on the faces of the other girls as Buffy blithely talked about the two of them going in for the untrasound as a couple. The three girls exchanged looks and Dawn said, “Xander’s head is going to explode.” 

 

Spike gave a low growl, subsiding when Buffy nudged him.  “You knew it wouldn’t be that easy,” she said. “You’re going to have to play nice for awhile.”

 

“As long as the other people who live here are okay with it, don’t know why he’s even entitled to an opinion,” he groused.  “I hope his soddin’ head does explode. Would serve him right.”

 

“Okaaay, so I’m guessing we need to break this to him while you’re off packing up your other home?”

 

“Where the hell would he think the father of your baby would be living?” Spike looked at Buffy’s face and his expression darkened. “Unless, of course, he doesn’t know who it is...” When there was no response, he said, “Buffy?”

 

She refused to meet his gaze, waving her hands around and addressing the refrigerator. “There just hasn’t been an... opportunity... yet. It hasn’t been the right time, and—”

 

“I’ve been here for almost a week, Buffy. You said yourself he’s seen me standin’ outside. What the bloody hell did he think I was here for?”

 

“Just to help with the patrolling?” she said meekly, then hastened on when his expression hardened. “Not that I told him that. I didn’t! He just assumed and I didn’t feel like... I let him think it. I shouldn’t have, I guess. Now he’ll be all offended ‘you were keeping things from me’ guy, and—”

 

“Uh, Buffy?” Dawn waved her hand for attention. “I think Anya knows. She’s not dumb, you know. I heard her say something the other day about Spike probably being the father.”

 

“Really? What did Xander say?”

 

“Oh, he blew her off. You know how he is: ‘Oh, Anya, you don’t know anything’. But at least he’s had to think about it. Maybe he won’t be as surprised as you think.”

 

“Don’t give a flying fuck how surprised he is,” Spike growled.  “But if he’s goin’ to be a wanker about it, he’d better get it out of his system before I get back.” He walked to the door, peered out at the gathering dusk, and said, “I’ll be back before morning, Slayer. Don’t go out without me.”

 

“You’re not the boss of me!” Buffy shouted at the closed door.  “What?” She turned her glare on the other girls. “He’s not. I can patrol without him one night. It’s not like I haven’t been doing it up till this week.”

 

Tara frowned in concern, but a nudge from Willow kept her from pointing out that Buffy had been on her feet working all day and a good dinner and early to bed might be a better option. She sighed and said instead, “How about if you sit down with your feet up while I fix dinner, and then after you’ve eaten a good meal, you can go out to kill things.”

 

“Yeah, okay. That makes sense...” Buffy’s willingness to agree was evidence of how much of her anger at Spike’s demand was put on.  “I’ll just go change and then... sit.”

 

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

While Tara was trying to fix a quick meal and answer all Dawn’s questions about what she was doing at the same time, Willow made a quiet phone call to Xander to suggest that they accompany Buffy on patrol that night.

 

“Where’s fangface? What happened? Did he get the message that Buffy isn’t interested in anything but the extra help?  Did he leave again?”

 

“No. But he went back to wherever he was before to get his stuff and pick up his last paycheck.  He won’t be back till sometime close to morning and Buffy’s too stubborn to admit that she needs him.”

 

“Paycheck? Spike has paychecks?”

 

“Apparently. And an apartment and... stuff... to bring back here.”

 

“So he is going to be around? I wonder what Buffy’s paying him to help out?”

 

“Xander! Are you really that dense? Spike is just as much in love with Buffy as he has been since... well, since at least last year.  He’s here because he wants to take care of her and keep her safe. Please tell me you aren’t that blind.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, okay,” he admitted. “So the evil undead has his own reasons for helping.  I get it.  I just don’t understand it.”

 

“You don’t have to understand it, you just have to admit it’s true,” Willow said, her “resolve face” coming through the phone line loud and clear.  “Can you come and help tonight or not?”

 

“Yeah, sure. We’ll be there in an hour or so.  See ya later.”

 

“See ya. And thanks.”

 

Willow put the phone down to see Tara and Dawn staring at her.  Dawn shook her head.

 

“I thought for a minute there you were going to tell him yourself.”

 

“I did kinda think about it,” Willow admitted. “But it’s really Buffy’s decision what to tell and when.”

 

“What’s Buffy’s decision to tell who, when?”  Buffy walked in the kitchen, frowning when all three girls gave guilty starts.  “What are you talking about?”

 

“Just Xander.  He and Anya are coming over in a little while and I thought maybe the three of us could patrol tonight. It’ll be like old times. Just us and the vampires.” Willow gave Buffy a tentative smile, sighing with relief when Buffy smiled back.

 

“Yeah, okay, that’ll be fun.” She crossed her arms across her chest and cocked her head at Willow. “But that’s not what you were talking about, is it?”

 

“Well, I just thought... it might be a good opportunity to tell Xander about... the baby’s father.  Now. While Spike isn’t around to get mad at him if Xander is a—”

 

“An ass?” Dawn snapped. “You know he’s going to be.”

 

The older girls all rolled their eyes, but didn’t contradict her.  Tara gestured for Dawn to help her with the salad, saying, “I don’t really get it.  Xander and Spike got along most of the time while you were in England. I mean they insulted each other a lot, but they worked together pretty well. And I know Spike has saved Xander’s life more than once. I don’t understand why he hates him so much.”

 

“I don’t really think it’s Spike,” Willow said with a sad smile. “Not that he can’t be really annoying....”

 

She glanced at Buffy who just snorted. “You have no idea.” 

 

“But, the thing is, Xander really hates Angel. And since he can’t pick on him, he picks on Spike.  And he can’t understand how Angel and Spike can be willing to help us – especially Spike who doesn’t have a soul. And how they can both be in love with Buffy, when Jesse, who was his best friend, tried to kill us when he was a vamp. I think he resents that Spike can have feelings for humans,” she pointed at Dawn and Buffy, “and Jesse couldn’t stay his friend.”

 

“Wow. I never made that connection.” Buffy stared at Willow with renewed admiration. “I’ll bet you’re right. I mean Angel has a soul, but Spike... yeah, he just likes some humans. Not just us, but he liked Mom too, and he knows—” She stopped herself. “Maybe Spike’s just not an ordinary vamp? If we can get Xander to understand that, it might help him stop comparing Spike to Jesse.”

 

“Time to eat!” Dawn proudly carried her salad to the table ahead of Tara and the rest of the meal.

 

~~~~~~~~

 

“It’s just like old times, isn’t it?”  Willow walked along, chattering even as she glanced around for trouble.  Buffy seemed unperturbed, so Willow decided to relax and trust in Slayer senses to keep them safe.  She walked closer to Xander, who had an axe dangling from his hand. He smiled at Willow and switched hands so the axe wasn’t swinging close to her legs.

 

“It does feel like old times. If by ‘old times’ you mean you were a lesbian, I was dating an ex-vengeance demon and Buffy was pregnant.”

 

“Way to spoil the mood, Xander,” Buffy scolded.  “What’s so different? Willow is still with somebody – just, it’s a girlfriend, not a boyfriend. You still have a girlfriend who cuts men down to size.... literally, in Anya’s case. And I’m... okay, losing the theme here... but....”

 

“Well, okay, you’ve got a bun in the oven, so that’s new. But on the plus side, your boyfriend isn’t a vampire that’s going to lose his soul and try to end the world, so that’s an improvement. All things considered, seems like a win to me. All we need now is to locate the baby’s father so that my trusty axe and I can convince him to do the right thing.”

 

 Xander waved his axe for emphasis, letting it drop to his side when the expressions on the girls’ faces went from amused to grim. 

 

“Okay. Or not. You don’t want him to be involved. I can deal with that.” When their expressions didn’t change he sighed. “Okay. What don’t I know?”

 

Buffy bit her lip and took a deep breath. “What you don’t know—and it’s totally my fault for not telling you and Anya when I told Willow and Tara—is that the baby’s fatheris doing the right thing. Or, he will be as soon as we figure out exactly what the right thing is.  Anyway, he’s going to be around, and involved, and....”

 

“Well, that’s great. So, where is he? Or does he not know about your night-job?” Xander stopped speaking to swing the axe at the neck of a vampire just struggling out of a near-by grave. As the dust from the headless vamp drifted back onto the disturbed soil, he continued.  “’Cause, you know, it would be nice if he could be helpful out here. Like Riley or somebody who knows how to kill vamps and demons. Not that Spike can’t take up a lot of slack,” he said, almost as if musing to himself. “But I don’t really see old fangface going out slaying for you while you cuddle up with your honey and a baby.”

 

“Xander... Spike’s going to handle it.  That’s why he’s here... or, not here right this minute, but will be as soon as he gets back.”

 

“Huh. Well, that’s... disturbingly nice of him.  So, he’s going to what? Patrol for you and then go stand under his tree and stalk you the rest of the night?”

 

Losing her patience at Xander’s blatant refusal to consider anything outside his own view of the vampire that, in her opinion, he should know well enough by now to understand, Buffy snapped, “He’s going to patrol with me until I can’t do it anymore, and then he’ll do it for me until I’m back on my feet. And, no, he won’t be guarding the house from the tree, he’ll be doing it from where he belongs. Inside, with the mother of his child.”

 

There was a crashing silence as Buffy stopped speaking and stood staring at her best male friend. Her expression went from angry to pleading as she watched her words sink in. Leaving both Buffy and Willow to gape at him, Xander nodded and began to walk away, saying, “Damn! I’m going to owe Anya a really nice piece of jewelry now.”

 

“Wait – what?” Buffy hurried after him. 

 

“She’s been saying Spike had to be the father – from when you were away together, and human – but you weren’t even talking to him, and then he went away, and... anyway, we had a bet.  Looks like I lost, huh?”

 

“You knew?” Willow glared at him as if she’d been personally insulted.

 

“Nope. No, not me. Anya knew. I’ve been swimming really hard in an Egyptian river. Guess it’s time to climb out and dry off.”

 

“Are you okay with this?” Buffy’s belligerence had faded in the face of Xander’s seemingly calm acceptance of the situation.

 

“Define ‘okay’,” he said with a twisted grin.  “Do I think my Buffster should be hooking up with another member of the undead? Hell no.  But what’s done is done, and I know this vampire isn’t going to lose the soul he doesn’t have and try to kill us all or send the world to hell.”  He sighed and gave Buffy a genuine smile. “And I know that nothing and nobody is going to get into or out of that house in one piece if he doesn’t want them there. Chip or no chip.”

 

Buffy surprised them all by throwing her arms around Xander and hugging him so tightly he began to wheeze.  “I love you,” she said, releasing him with an apologetic smile.

 

“And I love you too. I can’t believe you were worried about how I’d take—okay, maybe I can see how I might have given the impression that... Can I just go on record as saying if you had to have a baby with a vampire, I’m really glad it’s Spike and not Angel?”

 

When Buffy and Willow stared at him with their mouths open, he quickly added, “But if you tell him I said that, I’ll never to speak to either one of you again!”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

They were almost back to the house on Revello Drive when a black van went past them, slowing down as it neared the house.  From the shadows in the front yard, someone ran out and jumped into the slow-moving vehicle, which then took off and disappeared down the street.

 

Without comment, all three took off running toward the house, Buffy far outdistancing Willow and Xander. By the time they caught up, she was poking around in the bushes, trying to see if there was anyone else hiding there.

 

“Who do you think it was?”

 

“I think we all know who it was – the only question is, which one of Warren’s minions was it?”  Buffy’s human growl would have sounded more appropriate coming from Spike. “Of course they do this when Spike isn’t here to chase them down.”

 

“How would they know if he was here or not? He was gone for months.”

 

Buffy frowned. “Well, he’s been standing under the tree every night since he got back – up until last night anyway. And it’s not like we’ve been sneaking around. We go out to patrol every night, we ate in a restaurant last night... I guess they’ve seen him—us—somewhere.  I don’t know how they would know he wasn’t going to be here tonight, though....”

 

“Why would they care if he’s here or not?” Xander mused. “They know about the chip. They know they’ve got no reason to be afraid of him. He can’t hurt them.”

 

“He’d try,” Willow said, thoughtfully. “He’d try it if he had to. Even if it killed him.”

 

“There’s a cheery thought,” Buffy said with a wince.  “I’ve got to get these guys before something like that happens. Or before they remember that he can’t hurt them and....”

 

“We’ll find them, Buffy,” Willow said firmly.  “They may think they’re all computer guy this and science guy that, but they can’t beat Willow Rosenberg. I’m going to find out what they’re doing and hack them like they’ve never been hacked.”

 

Xander hefted the axe. “Maybe Spike can’t hit them, but I don’t have any problem with it.”

 

“Thanks, guys.” Buffy yawned.  “Oops! Sorry. It’s getting to be past my bedtime.”

 

“Yep, baby momma needs her sleep. I’ll just get Anya and we’ll get out of your hair.”

 

“Don’t forget to get her whatever it is she won by telling you Spike was the father,” Willow teased.  “You should have listened to her.”

 

“Yeah, I get that a lot,” he said, holding the door for the two girls. “Mostly from her.”

 

In the back of the bushy plantings in front of the house, a small recording device sent its data to a receiver where three humans listened with varying degrees of surprise and wonder.

 

 

 

Chapter Nine

 

“She’s pregnant? The Slayer is pregnant?  And Spike is the father? How is that even possible?”

 

“I don’t know,” Warren said slowly, thinking the whole time. “But there’s got to be a way we can use that.  If nothing else, she won’t be able to do as much slaying pretty soon. If we can summon enough demons to keep her busy in one place, we should be able to do whatever we want somewhere else. I think the important thing now is to find out more about this Willow Rosenberg. Who is she? And why does she think she can hack us? Delusional, obviously, but just in case...  Andrew, you get on that.”

 

Jonathan looked somewhat disturbed and cleared his throat.

 

 “What?”

 

“If it’s the Willow I think it is, she’s pretty... scary smart. She was teaching the computer classes when she was just a junior in high school. Plus she... she’s kind of a witch, I think.”

 

“Are you saying she’s smarter than I am?”  Warren waved his hand around. “Smarter than all three of us? Give me a break. You are such a coward.”

 

“I’m just saying... don’t underestimate her.”

 

Warren rolled his eyes and went back to playing with his freeze gun.  “Get on that, Andrew. If it turns out she’s too smart for you, your buddy Jon-Jon will help you out.”  He stroked the strange looking gun. “We’ve got a diamond to steal...”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

With no idea where the van had been going, or where Warren and his “minions” – as Dawn insisted on calling them – might be, Buffy left Willow to her laptop and decided to call it a night.  She fell asleep quickly, her body grateful for the early night.  The sound of light tapping on the window brought her awake with a jerk, automatically reaching for a weapon before she woke up enough to know who was probably tapping.  She jumped out of bed and ran to unlock the window and let Spike in.

 

“I’m sorry,” she said.  “I forgot to unlock it.  You could have just walked in the front door, you know. I think Willow’s probably still up.”

 

“It’s gone four a.m., Buffy. Nobody’s awake in the house.”

 

“Oh. Wow. I guess I really needed that sleep. I feel like it’s only been a couple of hours. Glad I’m not working the morning shift today,” she added, retreating to the bed and snuggling back under the covers.  Her eyes flew open and she sat up. “Where’s your stuff?”

 

“Some of it’s in the crypt, the rest is in the trunk of the car.  Didn’t want to be seen dragging all my worldly possessions onto your roof.”

 

“Speaking of being seen....” He stopped in the act of taking off his coat, giving her a cold look.

 

“Afraid Harris might have seen me sneaking in?”

 

“What? Oh, no. He and Anya had a bet that you were the father. She won.” Buffy sighed and poked him to get the glower off his face. “And he’s fine with it, by the way.”

 

He visibly relaxed. “What then?”

 

Buffy briefly described coming home to find Warren’s van picking up someone running from the house.  He stopped in the act of taking off his boots and began to retie them.

 

“What are you doing?”

 

“Going to go around the house and see if I can tell who was here, or what they might have been doin’. We know they weren’t up to anything good.” He started toward the window, but Buffy quickly pointed out it would be easier to go downstairs and use a door.  “Right. Door. Use the bloody door, Spike,” he muttered, changing direction and growling at her muffled giggle.

 

He was still growling when he returned thirty minutes later. After having circled the house twice, sniffing and using his enhanced night sight, he had some idea of what had happened.  He tossed the small transmitter he’d found outside the front of the house onto the bed.

 

“Have to ask Red what this is exactly, but I’m guessing it’s sending some kind of signal or recording to the wankers that put it here.  Might be more, his scent was all around the house. You can search for them when it gets light out.”

 

Buffy picked up the small device and stared at it. “Do you think it’s transmitting now?”  He shrugged and watched her with one eyebrow raised.

 

“Planning to give them a treat, Slayer?” He licked his lips lasciviously, laughing at her “Ewwww, Spike!”

 

“I was thinking more along the lines of talking about how I’m seriously re-considering the whole ‘slayers don’t kill humans’ thing,” she growled at the offending piece of hardware. The device didn’t appear to be intimidated, so she threw it back to Spike.  “Put it downstairs. Willow can look at it tomorrow.”

 

“Got a better idea, love.” He dropped it on the floor and brought one booted foot

down on it hard enough to get a very satisfactory crunching sound.  “Just in case,” he said, putting it in the hallway and closing the door.

 

“I think you killed it.” Buffy gave him mock-glare. “I guess the chip can’t protect spy equipment.”

 

Spike mumbled something she didn’t catch and began to pull his boots off again, hesitating before dropping them on the floor. “Unless you’d rather I slept down—”

 

In response, Buffy moved over and made space on the bed, holding up the covers in case he didn’t get the hint.  With a smile and a nod, he pulled off his shirt and pants and slid into the space still warm from her body. As if the past several months had never happened, she curled into his side, throwing one leg over his and sighing when his arms went around her.

 

The now approaching dawn and Buffy’s still-tired body conspired to put them both to sleep before the cuddling could go beyond sleepy murmurs and gentle caresses.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“It’s off.” Andrew played with the dials on the receiver, but got nothing but static from the transmitter that had given them so much insight the night before.  When he played back the tape, the reason became only too apparent.  Following closely upon the furious snarling that had followed Spike’s discovery, and the colorful language when his demon had calmed enough for him to speak, was the short conversation in Buffy’s room that ended with her lightly veiled threat to kill them and Spike’s subsequent smashing of the machine.

 

“They know it’s us! They know what we did!” Jonathan’s voice held just a trace of panic.

 

“Calm down, brainiac. Of course they know it’s us. Who else could it have been? We’re the Slayer’s only enemies right now. The only ones in a position to take her out of the equation. It’s no big deal, we ‘ve still got—” He broke off as static began coming from the two other receivers. “That bitch! That’s it. She’s going down. Her and her devil’s spawn.” Warren paced around the room, ranting about Buffy and her interference and what he wanted to do to her.  When he finally ran out of air, he noticed that Andrew was trying to speak.

“If we hurt Buffy, Spike will kill us. Slowly and painfully.” They were so accustomed to ignoring Andrew that it took a few seconds for his words to sink in.

 

“He can’t. He’s got that chip, remember? All he can do is get really mad.”

 

Jonathan shook his head. “I don’t think you’ve ever seen a vampire when it’s really, really mad,” he said. “I wouldn’t count on that chip if I were you. Not to mention, no slayer means nothing to keep the vampires and demons in check. Won’t do us much good to take over the city if we can’t go out safely.”

 

“I didn’t say we were going to kill her. I’m just thinking ahead, that’s all.  What’s going to be in our best interests?”  He looked thoughtful for a minute. “Actually, what might be in our best interest is to keep her alive – and with us. We’d have control over her and over Spike. He’d have to do whatever we say to keep his family safe. Once the baby’s born...” Warren walked away, muttering to himself about how to capture and control a slayer.

 

“I want to go on record as saying this is a really bad idea,” Jonathan said to Warren’s back.

 

“An idiot and a coward. I’m surrounded by incompetence!”  Warren sat down at his computer and began to research slayers, vampires and electronic control devices.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

Buffy awoke to a familiar object poking her in the ass. She smiled and wriggled against it for a moment, then realized that Spike wasn’t even awake. Only that one body part was aware that he was sleeping next to her for the first time in months.  Moving slowly, she rolled over to her other side, letting his cock brush against the skin on her stomach while she ran her hand over his chest and reacquainted herself with his body.

 

The warmth she’d been used to had been replaced by smoother, cooler skin, but the body under it was almost identical to the one she knew so well. Although she knew this body was much stronger than the human one she’d made love with so many times before, it still felt wonderfully familiar. She hadn’t allowed herself to realize how much she missed Spike until he was back in her life and in her bed. With a sudden need that surprised her, she wrapped her arm around him and held on tightly.

 

Spike struggled against his body’s need to sleep through the early morning hours, waking to find Buffy pressed against him, her tears moistening his chest. His arms pulled her in even more tightly as he whispered, “What is it, love? What’s wrong?”

 

“N...nothing,” she hiccupped. “I just missed you so much, and it’s my own stupid fault, and now you’re here and I’m h...happy.”

 

“Ah,” he said, for lack of anything more coherent. “So, happy tears then, not sad ones?”

 

Buffy sniffled and giggled softly. “Probably more like hormonal tears, according to Willow, but the sentiments are real.”

 

“Missed you too, pet,” he said, stroking her back with one hand. “Wanted you back in my arms so bad...” He tightened his grip even more. “Never let you go, Slayer. Never.”

 

“Never works for me,” she said, hiding her face against him. Without thinking, she began kissing his chest, flicking her tongue over his nipples and smiling at his groans of pleasure.  He pulled her over on top of him and tugged her up to his mouth. “Morning breath,” Buffy demurred turning her head away.

 

“I’ll deal,” he growled. “Been waiting too long for this, Slayer.”  In spite of his words, he didn’t insist on kissing her on the mouth, but began to run his lips over her face and neck, working his way down to her breasts.  By the time he had suckled each one to a rosy peak, Buffy was whimpering and squirming against him, rubbing her leg over his thigh.

 

“Ah, love, missed this so much.”  Pushing her onto her back, he began to kiss his way down her torso, pausing over her abdomen to listen to the extra heartbeat and whisper into it. “Your father loves you, baby Summers. Almost as much as he loves your mother. Can’t wait to meet you. Never thought I’d...” Remembering that Buffy was listening to every word, he swallowed the rest of his thought and nuzzled her silky skin.  “Sorry, love, got a bit sidetracked. Didn’t forget where I was going though. Promise you that.” Leaving a final kiss on her belly, he slid down until his head was between her thighs and she was moaning in anticipation.

 

“Lesson number one in why vampires make good lovers, coming up,” he said, grinning up at her briefly before beginning the lesson.  Buffy put the pillow over her mouth to muffle her cries as Spike lived up to his words.  When she’d come down from her orgasm and was lying bonelessly on the bed, he crawled back up to lie on her inert body, his cock between her thighs. “You’re sure this is okay?”

 

“The doctor said it was,” she gasped, pulling him into her and locking her ankles behind his back.  “She said it was fine as long as we don’t get too rough.”

 

“I can do not rough,” he said, beginning to move slowly and gently. “I can do that.”

 

In spite of his words, it wasn’t long before he was moving faster and Buffy was biting his shoulder to muffle her voice again.  When he came with a shout, there was a thump on their door and Dawn said, “I asked you if I was going to need earplugs!”

 

Buffy’s embarrassed laugh was joined by Spike’s as they lay together, happy and temporarily satisfied.  He rolled off to the side, pulling her with him so that she rested against his body.

 

“Guess I’d better finish fixing up the crypt, yeah?”

 

“I guess so.  If Dawn’s going to be so nosy, we might have to spend some time there after patrol instead of coming straight home.  Or...” she said, tracing a path on his chest with her finger. “Or we could fix up the basement here. Make it into a real bedroom and we could sleep down there. That way, she can’t hear anything, and I don’t have to worry about you going up in smoke while I’m gone during the day.”  As she spoke, she pulled the sheet up over his legs so the sunbeam peeking through the gap in the curtain couldn’t reach him.

 

“Want to be wherever you are,” he said. “I’d rather have an aching dick and you sleepin’ in my arms than be satisfied and alone.”

 

“That’s a very sweet, if gross, sentiment,” she said, with a small wrinkle of her nose. “I was kind of thinking if you were downstairs, I’d be sleeping there too.”

 

“I’ll do whatever you want, sweetheart. Upstairs, downstairs, back to sleeping on the couch. Whatever works.”

 

“I think we should fix up the basement,” she said. “We need to get used to living together again.”

 

He shot her a startled look. “We do?”

 

Buffy’s face fell. “Don’t you think so? Don’t you want to be a... a...”

 

“Family?” The intensity of his gaze made her squirm. “You need to be clear, Buffy. Not making that mistake again – thinkin’ you mean... then finding out you don’t mean what I thought you meant.”

 

Buffy sighed and closed her eyes for a second. “I’m not sure what I mean,” she admitted. “You haven’t been back very long and we haven’t lived together for a long ti—” When she felt him stiffen, she hastened on. “—not that I don’t know that’s my fault. Totally. It is. But that doesn’t change anything. We still haven’t been part of each other’s lives for months. Not until this week, anyway.”  She opened her eyes and met his. “Can we just play this by ear for awhile? You’ll move in here, I’ll move downstairs with you... We’ll figure it out before the baby comes.”

 

“Baby shouldn’t live in a basement,” he mumbled. “Neither should you, if I’m being truthful.”

 

“The baby shouldn’t have to watch its father go up in flames because he got too near the window, either,” she snapped. “I’m not saying I plan to put the baby down there too.  I’m just trying to give us time to get used to living in the same house. The us that we are here, a vampire and a slayer. That other Spike and Buffy wouldn’t have had any problem having a baby and making a little family. You might have had to add another room to the house, but—”

 

Spike grabbed her chin and forced her to meet his eyes. “This Spike loves you every bit as much as that one did. And he’s going to love this baby and do his best to be a good father to it. You and the baby will be my family no matter what you decide about where I live. Nothing about me being a vamp or you being a slayer can change that. You can shut me out of your life, but you can’t change how I feel about you or the little one.”

 

“Don’t want to change it,” she whispered, holding his gaze. “I’m counting on it.”

 

“Alright then.”

 

“Okay.”

 

They each looked away, embarrassed by the emotions still roiling the atmosphere.  Buffy finally broke the silence, getting up and pulling out some sweats. “I’m going to go look for more of those transmitter things.”

 

“Be down in a few minutes,” he said, lying on his back and staring at the ceiling. He didn’t look at her when she left the room.

 

 

 

Chapter Ten

 

By the time Spike came downstairs, Buffy and Willow were staring at the remains of two more transmitters. Willow was poking through the pieces on the counter and muttering to herself.

 

“I wish you’d just brought them in and let me disable them,” she said, glancing up at Buffy. “That way, I might have had a shot at tracing them back to wherever they’re hiding.”

 

“I don’t like the idea of them listening to us,” Buffy said, her lip coming out in a stubborn pout. “It’s creepy!”

 

“I wonder where else they might have put them?”

 

“Huh! I didn’t think about that.” Buffy paused to smile at Spike as he followed his words into the room. “Makes sense though.”

 

“The Magic Box, for one,” Willow said. “They probably know that’s where we have all our meetings.”

 

Buffy glanced up at Spike. “I guess there might be one near your crypt... or even in it, if they know about your chip.”

 

“Whole bloody world knows about the chip,” he said with a shrug. “Don’t think there’s a human left in Sunnydale who respects me anymore.”

 

Willow gave Spike a speculative look.  “What was it you said you were doing in Smithfield? Being a bouncer? How did you do that with the chip?”

 

Buffy and Willow both stared at him; Buffy’s face paled when he didn’t answer right away.

 

“Spike?” Her concern and horror was too much for him and he went to his knees in front of her, ignoring Willow’s equally frightened face.

 

“I was going to tell you, love. Just workin’ my way up to it, is all.”

 

“The... the chip?”

 

“Dunno. It’s either not there, or not working. Found out by accident one night when some idiot tried to mug me.” His intent eyes never left hers as he said, “It doesn’t matter, Buffy. It hasn’t been that chip keeping me on the straight and narrow for a long time now.  All it means is I’m not a pushover for anything evil and human. Can take care of my family the way I want to.”

 

“You don’t have your chip...” Her voice trembled as she absorbed the information.

 

“Might have been the portal,” Willow said, trying to be helpful and to diffuse what looked like it might be becoming a situation. “The Spike that was in the other place had no chip, so it didn’t make the trip with you.”

 

“No chip... no soul....” Buffy was staring straight ahead, heedless of the Willow’s attempt to change the subject. 

 

Spike stood up and put his hands on either side of her face. “Don’t need the chip. Don’t need a soul. I’ve got a conscience, and two bloody good reasons to listen to it.  I haven’t had a functioning chip since the week we got back. Haven’t touched anything but pig in all that time, and have no plans to start. Either you trust me or you don’t, Buffy.”

 

“I... I...” She watched the light go out of his eyes as she fumbled for something to say, and his hands left her cheeks. He straightened up and blew out an explosive breath.

 

“Right, then. I’ll just get you through the next couple of months and then I’ll be out of your hair. I’ll just kip down here on the couch till then.” 

 

“No....” Her voice was barely a whisper.

 

“You don’t trust me. Think I got it, Slayer.”

 

“No!” she repeated, more loudly. “No, you don’t get it.  I don’t want you ‘out of my hair’. I don’t want you sleeping on the couch. And I don’t want to have to explain to our child that her father left us as soon as she was born.”

 

“His father,” he corrected automatically, his expression softening. “As soon as he was born.”

 

“You’ll see. The sonogram is in two days. And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll be happy to find out she’s a little girl.”  She put her hands on her hips, giving him a serious glare.

 

“Uh guys, does this not so serious fighting mean that the serious fight is over?”

 

They turned to stare at her. “Busy being all avoidy girl here, Willow. Can I have a little cooperation?”

 

“Sure. I’m sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking...” Willow gave Spike a sympathetic smile and turned to leave the room. “I’m going to look into the manufacturers of the parts in these things and see if I can find out who they were shipped to... and where.”

 

There was a short silence following Willow’s departure, during which neither of them looked at the other. Eventually Buffy slumped down onto a stool and put her head in her hands.

 

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

“Tried to. You were too busy pretending I was something you found on the bottom of your shoe to give me the time of day – never mind enough time to talk to you about not having the chip.” Spike’s voice was soft and more sad than accusatory, but Buffy flinched anyway.  “B’sides, it gave me time to explore my options a bit more. To find out if I could live on pig blood while I was surrounded by the good stuff. If I could control the demon in the middle of a fight – things like that.”

 

“And could you?” She flinched again when he growled.  “I’m sorry. You already said you haven’t had any—“ She raised her eyes to his.  “I do trust you, Spike. It’s just... hard for me, you know?  Here you are, no soul and now no chip, and you aren’t trying to kill anybody, and you still love me, and....” Her voice trailed off as she thought about the implications.

 

“And you’re wondering why your precious Angel couldn’t do that.” His voice was flat and expressionless, but there was no hiding the pain in his eyes. Buffy shocked them both by getting to her feet and putting her arms around him.

 

“I was. And I’m sorry. I know you’re nothing like him. You never have been, even when you were trying to kill me, you weren’t like him.  It’s like Xander said the other night, if I have to have a baby with a vampire, he’s really glad it’s you and not Angel.”  She tightened her arms around him, whispering into his chest, “And so am I. I wouldn’t want this baby to have anybody else for a father. Human or vampire.”

 

Spike gave a choked sigh and dropped his face onto her head. They stood together for a long moment, then gradually straightened and smiled at each other.

 

“Not gonna be easy, is it, love?”

 

She shook her head. “No. But we already knew that. But hey, it’s us. We know how to do things the hard way, don’t we?”

 

He snorted. “Don’t know about you, but think I’ve made a career of it.”

 

Buffy laughed softly and sat back down on the stool.  “What were we talking about when we tried to implode again?”

 

“Jus’ trying to figure out where else those wankers may have put their little spy devices.  First order of business is going to be to call demon-girl and tell her to check the magic shop. Tell her I’ll come by later and do some sniffing around. And I guess I’d better check the crypt, just in case they were stupid enough to think they could get in and out of it without me smelling or hearing ‘em.”

 

“Won’t that have to wait till tonight?” Buffy was already moving toward the phone.

 

“No. Just give me an old blanket and make sure that manhole cover is still loose. I’ll be fine. I’ll check my crypt, then use the tunnels and sewers to get into the basement of the Magic Box. I’ll meet you there.”

 

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

Anya’s reaction to the idea that the Magic Box might be under surveillance was predictably outraged. 

 

“If I wasn’t afraid you might try to kill her, I’d call up one of my friends and curse those human jerks until their parts fell off.”

 

“Vengeance demons have friends?  And you’re still friends with one of them? Now that you’re human?” Buffy stared at Anya, trying to reconcile what she’d been taught about the demon world with what she continued to learn from Anya and Spike.

 

“Of course we’re still friends. We’ve known each other for over two hundred years. Would you stop being friends with Willow and Xander if they became vampires?”

 

“Uh... yeah?  Don’t you remember the world you created when Cordy wished I’d never come here?”

 

Anya shrugged. “Not really. She just wished you’d never come here, so that’s what I did. I wasn’t paying much attention to what that Sunnydale was like, or who was in it.  Not until Giles broke my amulet....” She paused to mourn her lost powers, then sighed. “I think you died, didn’t you?”

 

“I did. And I would have staked vamp Xander and vamp Willow in a heartbeat if the Master hadn’t killed me again.”  Buffy growled. “Sometimes I almost wish—” She clapped a hand over her mouth. “Never mind. I don’t wish for anything. No wishes here, nope, none, nada....”

 

“You were about to say you wished he was still around so you could kill him again, weren’t you?” Anya smiled at Buffy as if it was the most natural thing in the world for her to wish someone back to life so that she could kill him again. “But you probably shouldn’t do that until after you’ve had the baby.”

 

“Probably shouldn’t do what?” Spike’s voice preceded him into the room as he emerged from the basement. “Kill who again?”

 

“The Master,” Buffy mumbled. “But I didn’t wish for it. I was just thinking about how much I hate him.”

 

Spike put an arm around her and squeezed. “Old Batface met his match in you, love. Doubt he’d come back for more, even if he could.”

 

Buffy smiled and leaned against him for a second before asking, “So, what did you find?”

 

“Found where one of them had been prowling around the outside, but no trace of anything human inside – ‘cept for you, of course. What about here?”

 

“We just started looking. There’s so much stuff here... lots of nooks and crannies to hide things in.”

 

Spike nodded and started near the door, his nostrils flaring as he picked up the different scents.  He shook his head. “This place has so many humans in and out all the time, it’s going to be hard to—hold on, I’ve got an idea.” He cast an eye to the rapidly dwindling sunlight. “Camera or what have you would probably have some sort of light on it, wouldn’t it? Or a motor that makes noise?”

 

He sat down at the table and put his feet up. “I’m just going to wait till it gets dark, then we’ll turn out all the lights and look and listen.”

 

Buffy went up the ladder to where Giles’s books were stored and began to run her eyes and hands over the shelves.  When she found the transmitter, she waved her hand at Spike and Anya, making a shushing gesture to them and holding up the small device. She tossed it down to Spike, who caught it and set it on the table where Anya glared at it as if she could cause it to combust with her eyes.

 

Before she came down, Buffy continued her search of the shelves, not returning to the main level until she was sure there wasn’t something else hidden among the old books.  Spike put his hand over the transmitter and whispered, “There were at least three of them at the house. We need to keep looking.”  Anya turned the lights off and they all froze, moving only their eyes as they searched the dark for anything unusual, and listened for any unexplained sounds.

 

It was Spike’s heightened hearing that led to the next discovery, a small video camera working quietly away in the opening of a seashell on a cluttered shelf behind the cash register. He plucked it out and set it beside the transmitter, pointing the camera lens down at the table surface. Anya knelt on the floor and peered under the table and chairs, and under the stool near the register. With an “aha!” she pulled another transmitter from under the seat of her stool and added it to the small collection.

 

When nothing else could be heard or seen, they stared at the little pile of devices. Spike put his had over the transmitters and raised his eyebrows.

 

“Now what? Smash ‘em? Talk right at them and get creative about what we plan to do with them as soon as we find them?”

 

“I’m going to curse them,” Anya said firmly.  “You might want to not be here for that, Buffy.”

 

Buffy sighed. “I’m surprisingly okay with cursing them... although I’d really rather just find them and pummel them for a while.”

 

Anya shrugged. “Maybe Hallie can find them for us. If she thinks she’s going to get a good curse out of it.”

 

“Whatever you want, Anya. Just don’t let her kill anybody.” Buffy picked up the camera and one of the transmitters. “I’ll leave one for you,” she whispered, holding her thumb over what appeared to be the microphone. “I’m giving the other two to Willow.”

 

With it now being dark enough for Spike to safely go out, they said goodnight to Anya and went to do some early patrolling. Spike put the small camera and the transmitter in the pockets of his coat.

 

“Hope they enjoy that view,” he said. “Get to see a stake, up close and personal.”

 

“I think it’s probably too dark in there for them to see anything. But

 

“You’re going to have to make a decision here soon, pet.  I know they’re human, but sooner or later somebody’s going to get hurt or killed because of them.”

 

“Maybe they’ll break the law and I can get them arrested?”

 

Whatever Spike’s response might have been, he never got a chance to express it as several unfamiliar-looking demons burst out from behind a large mausoleum and attacked without warning.  Buffy fought with her usual flair, if a bit harder than she usually had to, while Spike was having his own problems with a scaly demon that was a foot taller and outweighed him by almost 100 pounds.  Only when Buffy took a blow to her mid section and involuntarily dropped her guard to protect her stomach did they realize they might be in trouble. From the corner of his eye, Spike saw her fly backwards from a hit to her suddenly unguarded chin.

 

“Buffy!” His cry was part fear and part anger as he shoved his opponent away and ran to her.

 

“Behind you!” she gasped, shaking her head to clear it. He whirled, relief that she seemed to be okay immediately replaced by his demon’s fury. Cursing their lack of foresight for not having at least one sword between them, he pulled the stake from his pocket and used it to blind two of the three demons remaining of the five that had attacked them. With his opponents unable to see him and roaring with pain from their damaged eyes, he was able to get behind them without being seen or heard. Using a nearby tombstone to give him height, he wrenched the head off first one, then another of the creatures that had threatened the mother of his child.

 

The remaining demon stumbled toward Buffy, now recovered and on her feet, only to be met by a full-fledged slayer tantrum.

 

Grunting about the unfairness of attacking a pregnant woman, and the stinky smells and ugly faces of these new demons, Buffy proceeded to kick and pummel the remaining demon until he fell at her feet in a whimpering heap. She was just about to drop a large tombstone on his head when Spike said, “Hold it, Slayer. Let’s see where these wankers came from.” 

 

Leaning over the barely conscious demon he asked a question in several different languages, growing more and more impatient as the demon just blinked at him. “Whadda ya wanna know?” it finally croaked out in passable English.

 

“Where’d you come from? I’ve never seen your kind around here before. Who sent you?”

 

The demon’s eyes shifted to Buffy, still holding the tombstone and glaring at him.

“Some skinny little human. He summoned us. We don’t live on this... plane. Had to do what he said. He knew all the right rituals. Told us to capture her and bring her back.”

 

“Capture me?” Buffy threw the tombstone off to the side; her effortless toss was not lost on the demon, who nodded.

 

“He said to try to get you when the vampire wasn’t around and bring you back alive, but it was too hard – you’re always together – so we decided to just take him out.”

 

“How’s that working out for you?” Buffy couldn’t resist a short quip, even while she was mentally wringing Andrew’s neck.  The demon didn’t respond, just waited to see what they were going to do. It was obvious that his chances of overpowering both of them were not even worth the attempt. Spike broke into the demon’s own painful plans for Andrew.

 

“Can you get back where you came from now?”  The demon nodded slowly.

 

“I think so. We—I haven’t completed the task, but we tried. I’ve done what I was told, I just failed. He should send me back.”

 

“Then go.” Buffy said after exchanging silent agreement with Spike. As the demon leapt to his feet and hustled away, she yelled after him, “And tell Andrew if he summons any more demons, I’m going to feed him to them!” She slumped against a nearby wall, watching until it had disappeared.  “What are we going to do about these guys?”

 

Spike was pacing back and forth. “They wanted to capture you,” he snarled. “My—the mother of my child! Capture! Not kill, capture.”

 

“Spike... they’re human.  And yeah, okay, incredibly annoying and now maybe dangerous humans, but humans. I can’t let you—”

 

“If they hurt you or the baby....” He raised yellow eyes to hers. “All bets are off, love. If it means I’m banished from your life, I’ll deal.”

 

“We need to find them. That’s the bottom line.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eleven

 

“So, guys, that’s the situation. We think we’ve found all the devices, but we can’t be sure. And now they’re summoning demons from who knows where and telling them to capture me. Which must mean they think they’ve got some kind of place that could hold a pissed off slayer.” 

 

Spike’s growl was barely muffled as she patted him on the leg.

 

“The point is, the sooner we find these guys, the better off we’ll be. I don’t know how much longer I can keep fighting demons without risking... ” She shook herself and gave Spike another reassuring pat. “Well, let’s just say I don’t want to have to take on anything that big on a regular basis. Not until I’m back to normal. And Spike’s not super-vamp. He’s good, but even he has limits. We don’t know what else these creeps might try to throw at us, but... ”

 

“So, we all patrol together? You, while you can, Fangface, Willow the witch, Tara the other witch, and me and my axe. What can they possibly find that would be able to take on all of us?”

 

Anya spoke up. “Well, there are the hell beasts from the Hades dimension, warlocks from the—”

 

“Rhetorical question, Ahn. We don’t need to know.”

 

“I think you do,” she retorted. “If they’re able to summon things from other dimensions, you need to know what’s out there.”

 

“Can we just concentrate on finding them? Before they do anything else? If they’ve gone from trying to distract me to trying to capture me, they must be planning something pretty big that they want me out of the way for.”

 

“Or they want your baby,” Anya contributed. “What?” she asked when everyone gasped. “It’s a slayer’s baby, and its father is a vampire. There might be prophecies, rituals, groups willing to pay a lot of money for—”

 

Buffy had gone white as a sheet, her hands forming a protective shield over her belly. Spike’s muffled growls had turned into full-fledge snarls as he went into game face and put his arms around Buffy, glaring around the room.

 

Xander glanced at Willow. “See, chip or no chip, they’d be ripped apart.”

 

Deciding it probably wasn’t the right time to tell Xander that Spike no longer had his chip, Willow tried to calm everyone down.

 

“It’s not going to get to that point,” she said firmly. “If I can’t find them through hacking, then I’ll use magic. One way or the other, they’re toast.” She took Tara’s hand and looked at her with pleading eyes. “I know you don’t want that, baby, but this is an emergency.”

 

Tara nodded. “It is. I never said I didn’t want you to do any magic. Just to save it for emergencies.”

 

“I don’t think it gets much emergencier than this.”

 

Buffy stood up and stretched.  “I think it’s time I brought Giles up to speed. He might have some ideas about this – and he’s going to want to be here when the baby’s born—” Spike’s scoff interrupted her, and she glared at him.  “He will! As soon as he gets over being pissed at Willow for making the portal, and at me for—he’ll want to be here.”

 

“Yeah,” Spike said, rising to his feet. “Wanker will want to stake me in person.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“What kind of lame demons were those?” Warren glared at Andrew who had just sent the remaining summoned demon back to his own hellish dimension.

 

“They were the best I could do. They looked pretty scary to me.”

 

Jonathan snickered. “Especially the one Buffy almost killed who wanted to take you with him back to his dimension.”  

 

Andrew shuddered. “Not funny, Jonathan!”

 

“All right, maybe we’re going about this all wrong.  Maybe in order to control the Slayer, we should just nab her boyfriend.  She’s not going to want anything bad to happen to her baby-daddy, and he can’t hurt us with that chip in his head. All we have to do is catch him when she’s not around and he’s asleep.”

 

“Can I just go on record as saying this is another really bad idea?”  Jonathan muttered just loud enough to be heard. He shook his head, but obediently followed Warren to the table to draw up plans for luring the vampire to them.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“I’m in!”  Willow tilted the screen of her laptop toward Buffy and pointed to the icon flickering on screen. “They’re trying to use magic to hide their tracks, but I got it.” She turned the screen back to herself. “Now to find out where they’re hiding those computers.”

 

“Good job, Wills. I knew they wouldn’t be able to hide from you forever.”

 

“Well, once I remembered why we knew who Warren was, it was pretty easy.  A little magic, a little research, a little hacking...He’s got a website advertising his...” She coughed. “Um, his robot building skills. He never took it down, so I just used what I could get off it.  It only gave me his old address, but I was able do a locator spell on the... Not really stuff you guys need to know,” she said, smiling as Buffy’s eyes began to glaze over. “Anyway, we’ve got a location. We know where their computers are, and if we know that...”

 

“If we know that, we’ve got them.  Good job, Will. I knew we could count on you to out-magic and out-geek them.”  She smile to show her remarks were meant to be admiring, not disrespectful. “Okay. So tonight, Spike and I will pay them a visit and—”

 

“Uh, Buffy?” Willow shuffled her feet. “Not that you and Spike aren’t very strong and scary, but these guys have been using a lot of magic to keep us from finding them. I think... I mean... Maybe if Tara and I came along...?”

 

“Sure, Wills. That’s not a bad idea.  If they throw magic at us, you can throw it right back.”

 

“Throw what at who?”  Xander wandered into the room, closely followed by Anya. Buffy quickly explained that they now had a location for the nerd trio and were planning to pay them a visit as soon as it was dark enough for Spike to go out.

 

“Can I come?  I could provide manly support by chopping up their computers with my trusty axe.” He beamed hopefully at his two best friends.  “Anya could stay here with Dawn.”

 

“Dawn can stay with herself, thank you,” she said, rolling her eyes. “No offense, Anya, but I’m too old for a babysitter.”

 

“None taken,” Anya said. “But I was kind of hoping for a girls’ night in. We could say unkind things about your friends and mock their clothing. Oh! And I could tell you all the different ways to make men sorry when they hurt you.”

 

Dawn’s “Sounds like fun!” was simultaneous with Buffy and Willow’s “No! That’s not what girls’ night in means.”

 

“Maybe not,” Dawn said, “but it can be. Come on, Anya. Let’s get started and leave the party poopers here.”  She led the way, and after giving Xander a quick peck on his mouth, Anya followed her.  Their voices drifted back to the dining room as they went upstairs to Dawn’s room.  “And then, she had the nerve to say I looked skanky!”

 

Xander shrugged apologetically.  “Sorry, guys, but in all fairness, I think Dawn can hold her own.”  He looked around the room. “So, where’s fangface? Isn’t he going to be part of this event?”

 

Buffy sighed and stood up. “Yes. He’s still asleep. I came home early last night and he took out a nest all by himself. He had some healing to do.  I’ll go get him up.” 

 

They watched her walk to the basement door and go down the darkened stairs.

 

“He’s down there? I thought they were... you know....”

 

“They are. But Buffy hasn’t had the time to get heavier curtains for her room, so when he’s going to sleep all day, they decided he’d be safer down there.”

 

Xander looked thoughtful but said nothing as he mentally reviewed what he could remember of the basement’s layout.

 

 

~~~~~~

 

Following Willow’s directions, Xander drove them to within a few blocks of the location of Warren’s hideout. 

 

“Okay, here’s the plan...” Everyone looked at Buffy expectantly. “Uh... find them? Beat them up and smash all their equipment?”  She shrugged apologetically. “Sorry, guys. That’s about all I’ve got.”

 

“You know if we don’t do something permanent about them, they’ll just come back at you again. Might take them a bit to get their act back together, but....” Spike shrugged.

 

“Well, what can we do? They’re human. I can’t kill them. I can’t let you kill them. And unless we can catch them doing something illegal, we can’t get them arrested...”

 

“Maybe,” Tara said, her voice uncertain as she took an unaccustomed place in the discussion, “we should just find out what we can about where they’re hiding, and just watch them for a while until we catch them doing something illegal. Then we can just turn them over to the police?” She looked at the more experienced fighters uneasily, relaxing when they began to nod.

 

“That’s not a bad idea, Glinda,” Spike said. “Now that we know where they are, we can step in whenever we need to. In the meantime, we can play at their game and just keep our eyes on them.”

 

Willow spoke up eagerly. “I’ll bet I can fix those cameras and transmitters we got from the Magic Box so that they feed back to my computer. We can put them where they can watch the house and...”

 

“Okay. Good plan. I like it.  In the meantime, though, let’s get a look at this place so we can all find our way back when we need to.” Buffy set off in the direction of the lair, Spike right behind her.  With a shrug, Xander shouldered his axe and started after them, leaving Willow and Tara to follow.  When they reached the place where the locator spell had told them they would find the computers into which the cameras had been feeding, they stopped, staring at the spot in bewilderment. Instead of the nondescript little frame ramblers in the rest of the neighborhood, there was nothing but a vacant lot where they were expecting to find their annoying nemeses.

 

Buffy was about to approach the seemingly empty plot when Spike’s ears picked up a sound and he pulled her back behind the car around which the others were peering.  Crouching down so that only their eyes could be seen through the car windows, they watched as the familiar black van emerged from the empty air over the piece of land.

 

“Cloaking spell,” Willow whispered. “I should have realized that. No wonder Buffy never found them when she was walking around Sunnydale looking for that van.”

 

“Now what? We know where they are – or were, I couldn’t see who was in the van – but if we can’t see the house, we won’t know where to put the camera.”

 

“Give me a few minutes,” Willow said. “I think I can break that spell... or at least temporarily disable it.”  She stood up and stepped out from behind the car, staring at the empty space and concentrating hard. There was a gasp from Tara as Willow’s hair stood out from her head and her face drained of color. Her arms in front of her, pointing toward where the house should be, she seemed to float toward it, a barely audible chant coming from her mouth.  Within a minute, she dropped to the ground in a faint, the now visible house looking just like its neighbors.

 

“Willow!” Recovering from her horror, Tara ran to her girlfriend, raising her to a sitting position and stroking her face. “Are you all right? Willow? Speak to me!”

 

“Wow... “ Willow said, a bedazzled smile on her face. “That was awesome. You should try it sometime, Tara.”

 

Spike and Tara had identical frowns on their faces, while Buffy and Xander just gaped at their friend in admiration. Recovering quickly, Buffy said, “Maybe we should try to see inside while they’re gone?”

 

“We don’t know if they all left, or just one of them,” Xander objected. He hefted the axe. “Not that I guess it matters with all of us here.”

 

“Right. Willow, you and Tara stay here. You looked like you’re a little wiped out from that awesomeness. Spike and Xander and I will take a look around and maybe try to find a good place for a camera...”

 

Tara helped Willow to her feet and they retreated behind the parked car again while Buffy led the two men across the street and onto the property. Buffy shivered as they passed through the cloaking spell’s border, and Spike growled softly.  “I still smell magic in the air,” he said. “And it’s not all Red’s.”

 

Buffy crept up to a window and stood on her toes to peer in, dropping to the ground almost immediately. “There’s a girl in there!” she hissed. “I think she saw me.”

 

Before they could decide what to do about the unexpected girl, she opened the window and peered out at them.

 

“Can I help you?” She had a serene expression, and was wearing what appeared to be a maid’s uniform.

 

“Uh... we’re looking for Warren,” Buffy said brightly. “Is he home?”

 

“No. My master will be back shortly though. Would you like to come in and wait for him?” Without waiting for a reply, she disappeared from the window and opened the front door.

 

Buffy exchanged shrugs with Xander and Spike, then smiled and walked in. “Thanks. That would be great.” They all entered the house, staring around with great curiosity at the banks of computers sharing space with some mechanical and electrical objects in various states of construction.  Spike began to stroll around the room, picking things up and putting them down as he lost interest. The girl stared at him with a worried expression on her face, then shrugged and went to stand in a corner.

 

Xander’s eyes followed her progress. Now that they were in the house, they could see that the uniform she was wearing was actually a French maid’s costume, designed to show off her long legs and tiny waist. He and Spike exchanged looks and then looked at Buffy who was gaping at the girl.