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.
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