“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.
“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 <i>married</i>. 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 <i>you</i>, 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.”
“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...”
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