18. Nurseries & Biology
Betas: mabel_marsters, tanit, & slaymesoftly
In Harm's Way
Chapter Eighteen: Nurseries & Biology
Buffy had just popped a juicy green grape into her mouth when Giles entered her hospital room, hobbling on his crutches. This time, he came alone. She eyed the clock and smiled as she chewed. Visiting hours has just begun and ever the rule keeper, Giles had come in at nine o'clock on the dot.
With a frown on his face, he paused at the foot of her bed, holding a bag of grapes. “It appears that you've already had a visit from an Englishman.”
She swallowed the grape. “Yes, but I don't have any red ones yet, thank you. Sit down.” She didn't like the way was he was looking at her or the awkward silence.
He placed the bag of grapes next to the half eaten bag already on the end table. “So, when did Spike leave, and do you know what he's planning?”
Giles sat down and stared at her, expectantly.
“Um...” Buffy had no idea what to say. He didn't even sound surprised that Spike had been there. “He left an hour ago. I'm not sure where he went.” She paused and then said, “How did you know it was Spike that brought the grapes?”
“It's an English tradition to bring grapes when visiting the sick in hospital. How many other Englishmen do you know?” Giles took his time pulling a green grape from a cluster and chewed it slowly. His intent stare, as if he could read her mind, began to wear on her nerves.
“So, where's Mom? I know you didn't drive here on your own.”
“Joyce dropped me off and went to find a parking space. She should be here shortly, and I'd like to discuss Spike before she arrives. She seems to have developed a fondness for him.”
“Well, he did save all of our lives.”
“That is what I wanted to talk to you about. Do you think that he's just waiting for you to get better before he attacks, or is there something else going on?”
“I...I'm not sure. I mean, he hasn't said that he plans to kill us all, but that's been his plan for years.” Buffy shrugged and kept her eyes on her hands.
“Well, he's brought you grapes, so that either indicates that he wishes you good health so he can kill you in a fair fight, or he really wishes you well.”
Staring down at her hands, she shrugged again. If she looked him in the eyes, she knew she'd feel even guiltier for the way she was feeling about Spike and for the fact that she was keeping her current condition as an expectant mother a secret from him.
“You know what I think?” Giles leaned back in his chair. “I think Spike has been taken with you, ever since Willow's spell.”
Buffy looked at him then. “You think he's still under a spell?”
The glasses came off and as he wiped them, he said, “Well, no, I...I don't think he's under a spell. I believe he is simply besotted with you. At least that's the feeling I got from his actions the other night.”
“He did bring me this,” Buffy said, holding the Care Bear up. “Spike said it was an impulse buy, but since when do vampires ever have the impulse to buy me stuffed animals?”
With his glasses firmly in place, Giles inspected the bear, and then gave it back to her.
“I believe this little turn of events can be used to our advantage. If you haven't caused too much damage already by turning him away, that is?”
She shook her head. “What do you think we should do?”
“Well...” Giles reached for his glasses again, but quickly put his hands in his lap before he could take them off. “I think it would be best if...if you encourage his attentions.”
Buffy sat up straight in her bed. “What?”
“It worked before,” he quickly told her. “When you were under the love spell, his guard was down and you were able to get the ring.”
If she had to pretend to have feelings for Spike again, she just knew she wouldn't be able to control herself. She was having a hard enough of a time keeping down real ones. There was no way she could do it. Her plan was to distance herself, not cozy up with him. She had a baby to think of now. She could not let herself fall for another vampire. That was no life for a child.
“Spike got the chip out,” she said. “He told me that with the ring on, he doesn't need to feed.”
Giles paused while he thought about that new development. “That does pose a problem, but with the ring he is unstakeable. What's to stop him from killing just for the sake of it?” He interrupted her stuttering come back and said, “Once you have the ring, you can stake him before he has the chance to kill again.”
“I'm not sure,” she said, looking down again, “if I could stake him now. He has helped us.”
“I know how difficult it was for you the last time you were forced into such a position. Yes, Spike has helped us a few times in the recent past, but with or without that ring, he poses a threat to us and the human population at large. It is your duty as the Chosen One to protect everyone.”
Their conversation was cut short when her mother and Dr. Nester entered the room together.
Joyce smiled at Buffy and said cheerfully, “Look who I found in the hallway.”
“How are you feeling today, Buffy?” the doctor asked while opening her chart.
“I feel really good, and I'm kind of going crazy just sitting here. When can I go home?”
“Slow down. You are recovering from major surgery. I'll need to keep you for another day, at least,” the doctor said, amused that his patient was anxious to leave.
“But, I feel great,” Buffy complained. “I want to sleep in my own bed.”
“Everyone is always in a hurry to get out of here,” the doctor quipped. “But it's unheard of for a patient who's gone through what you have to leave so quickly.”
Buffy started to argue, but Joyce stepped in front of the doctor and ran her hand across Buffy's forehead and through her hair. “I'd feel better if you stayed here like the doctor wants.”
As the three adults stared down at her, she felt more like a child than a college aged student. She wanted to pout, or just get up and hobble out of there, but she knew they'd all disapprove. Instead, she leaned back and sighed dejectedly, folding her arms across her chest. “Fine. I'll stay and be bored to tears.”
Once the doctor left, Giles smiled at Buffy as Joyce went around to the other side of the bed and squeezed her hand.
“I love you, honey.”
“I know, Mom.”
“You might be the Slayer, but you are also my baby. No matter how strong you are and how fast you heal, I worry about you. That will never change.”
Buffy smiled at her mom and squeezed her hand back. She wondered if she'd feel such strong emotions for her own child. Thinking about the baby and staring at her own mother, a pang of sadness hit her. She desperately wanted to tell her mom about her condition, but she felt ashamed. A baby should be a happy thing and here she was, not married and too young to be doing this. Her mom would probably be a little shocked, but then she'd eventually be excited about it. Yet, Buffy wasn't ready to accept it or be happy about it. So, she kept quiet.
Before they left, Giles quietly reminded Buffy of what he wanted her to do regarding Spike. She so didn't want to think about Spike and was grateful when the nurse came in with her pills. She gulped them down, hoping that they would take effect very quickly.
She fitfully dreamed about the same thing she'd dreamed about for the past couple nights: going on the Maury Povich show. Things were always a little different, but one thing remained the same; Spike was always revealed to be the father of her baby. Each time she had the dream, there was less and less of Parker, but this time he didn't feature in the dream at all.
Buffy woke up abruptly, as the nurse brought in her lunch. She tried to be polite, but the place was getting on her nerves. Just as she would get to sleep, they woke her up to check vitals or bring her disgusting, poor excuses for meals. She waited until the nurse left and then pulled the cover off her plate.
“Ugh,” she said. “Processed turkey and lumpy mashed potatoes.”
As she ate the bland food, she watched the clock on the wall next to the TV and asked herself why time seemed to slow down when she wanted it to speed up. Then she tried to occupy her mind by thinking about what everyone else might be doing at that moment. Giles would be sitting in his chair in his living room with a dusty old book. Her mom was at the gallery, working. Xander was probably outside hammering away at some wood somewhere. Willow was probably just starting her last class of the day.
Where would Spike be? He could go out in the daytime now; he could be anywhere. Did he need to sleep? A vision of his naked, sleeping form, the day she'd slept with him came to mind and she coughed, trying to erase the erotic memory. She grabbed the remote and raised the volume. It might be soap opera hour, but anything would be better that her thoughts.
No matter what she did, Buffy still saw Spike, and the question of why she kept dreaming about Maury telling her that Spike was her child's father plagued her. She'd never heard of a vampire fathering a child, but Spike's whole physiology had changed once he put that ring on. She tried to tell herself that it was too far fetched an idea to even be considered, yet she was getting that feeling in her gut. The one she got when she was on the verge of solving a big mystery.
Buffy's nurse, Cathy, breezed in and cheerfully announced that it was doctor's orders that she take a brief walk. With the way her thoughts were going, she was very grateful for the interruption. Wearing a fluffy blue robe and hospital issue skid-free socks, she leaned on one crutch and walked beside her nurse.
“Doesn't it feel good to get moving again?” the nurse asked.
“Actually, it does,” Buffy said with a smile. It was nice to be in an upright position after so long in a bed, even if then nurse wanted her to go at a snail’s pace.
Her smile faded when she saw the directional signs in the hall pointing to the Birthing Center.
“Is it very far to the baby section?”
The nurse gave her a knowing smile. “Of course you'd want to see the nursery. Come on, let's go that way. It's not far at all.”
Once they stopped in front of the glass enclosed nursery, Buffy glanced around and frowned. “Where are all the babies?”
“Nowadays, most of the babies room in with their moms. Oh! Here comes one now.”
A nurse pushed a cart with a clear plastic top by them. Inside was a wailing, wiggling bundle in a blue blanket. “He's not very happy, is he?” Buffy remarked to Cathy.
“I guess not.”
They both turned when they heard an ear piercing scream come from one of the rooms. Buffy immediately raised her crutch as a weapon. It sounded as if someone was getting torn apart by a demon.
Her nurse put her hand on Buffy's shoulder. “Someone's just giving birth, I'm sure.”
Buffy was sure she'd said it to be a comfort, but she put her hand to her abdomen and looked at the nurse with wide eyes.
“Oh, sorry. It's probably not as bad as it sounds.”
A happy, yet tired looking man took their attention away from the far off room, where the screaming had died down. He carefully pushed a cart with a baby in a pink blanket down the hall. He stopped when he got to them.
“Isn't she beautiful?” he asked them with tears in his eyes. “We waited years to have a baby and now she's here.”
“Aw, she's sweet,” the nurse crooned. “Giving mom a break?”
“Yes. My wife is sleeping, so I thought I'd take Bridget here for a walk,” he said, beaming at them.
Buffy's vision blurred with unshed tears. She wouldn't have a husband to help her out, or even a happy dad to smile down and be proud of her child. Unless, a small voice inside her whispered. Suddenly she felt like lying down again. She was quiet on the way back and was glad that the nurse kept quiet, too.
Willow was waiting by her bedside and Buffy did her best to smile and put on a cheerful facade. Once she was in her bed again, Willow pulled out a stack of books and folders and Buffy let out a groan.
“Now, now.” Willow scolded. “You don't want to get behind, do you?”
“I've never been caught up. There is always something to keep me behind.”
Willow pulled her tray up and set the books down. “I brought my homework, too. We can study together.”
With a pout, Buffy gently pushed the tray to the side. “I'm just not in the mood to do school work.”
With an indulgent smile, Willow put her books back in to her bag and asked, “Well, what do you feel like doing? TV? Or, do you have a deck of cards?”
Thinking of the nursery and how depressing her trip there had been, Buffy told her friend, “What I want to do is get far away from this place. I want to eat my mom's cooking and sleep in my own bed.”
“I know how much you hate this place, but you won't have to be here much longer, right?”
The Slayer shrugged and fought back tears. “I don't know. The doctor says that I can go home tomorrow, maybe.” She hated that she was being so emotional, but she couldn't seem to stop it. At least she wasn't actually crying.
“Buffy?” Willow said, standing up and placing a hand on her arm. “What's wrong?”
“Nothing. It's stupid.”
“It's just...I went for a walk before you got here and ended up at the nursery.” Buffy caught a tear and wiped it away before it could fall. “There was this dad there. He showed us his baby and he was so proud. My baby will never have that. I don't know how I'm going to do this alone.”
“You aren't alone. You have me, and your mom, and even Giles. I know that all of us will be here for you and help you.”
Buffy sighed. “I know. But, I just don't feel ready for this.” Her hand went to her abdomen again. “How am I going to patrol when I'm seven months pregnant?”
“You won't have to,” Willow said with a smile. “We can take turns helping you. I'm getting really good with the magic.”
One of the things she loved about Willow was her cheerful out look and positive spirit. Buffy needed that kind of support and friendship, but right now, Willow just sounded naïve. “Do you realize that I'm going to have to get a babysitter, just to patrol? And—what if something happens to me? No, not what if, but when? What happens to my baby, when I'm gone?”
“Don't talk like that.”
“Thinking of the future makes my head hurt, but I have to deal with the now as well,” Buffy said. She abruptly changed the subject. “Giles wants me to lead Spike along, because he thinks Spike has a thing for me.”
“I know. I know. And it doesn't help that I keep having these strange dreams about him,” Buffy complained.
Willow was silent for a time after Buffy told her about her dreams where Spike was always revealed to be the baby's father. Then she stared at Buffy in alarm. “Aren't the dreams that you have over and over again, Slayer dreams?”
“That's usually true. But, it can't be with this dream. Spike is not the father.” Buffy was glad to have been able to talk about the dreams, but now that Willow was thinking along the same lines she was, she wanted to forget it all and move on to other subjects. “I could use another candy bar or something that actually tastes good.”
Snapping out of her thoughts, Willow perked up. “Should I make a trip to the vending machine?”
With a grin, Buffy nodded.
After Willow got back with her junk food, she stayed for a little while longer. She managed to convince Buffy to open her books and make an effort at school work. They were interrupted once by the phone ringing. Xander called to say hello and find out when she was going to be able to go home, but he couldn't talk for long as he was getting ready to take Anya to a movie.
They took a break from the books to talk about Anya. Willow didn't like her, but Buffy detected a tad of jealousy there. Buffy had only spent small amounts of time in her company. “I reserve the right to not have an opinion until I've spent more time with her.”
“Get crackin’ on those books there, missy,” Willow ordered.
Buffy went back to reading the biology text book. She skimmed through the chapter on mammals, looking for the answers to the questions at the end of it that were due the next day. The tedious work of reading textbooks was one of the reasons that school bored her. She was action girl. Yet, here she sat, reading the same material that she'd read in junior high, then high school, and now college. Only the book was a little bigger, which meant more time reading. How did any of this apply to her life? Where was the chapter on vampires and demons?
“What do you think?” Buffy said, causing Willow to put her pen down. “Would you classify a vampire as a mammal? They have a four chambered heart. Doesn't work though.”
“Um, I'm going to say, dead mammals,” Willow offered. “They are cold blooded, though.”
“Well, except for Spike,” Buffy quipped.
“Why do you say that?”
“With the Gem of Amara on, not only is he warm to the touch—like human temperature—but he also has normal live human bodily functions.” Buffy smiled at Willow who was staring at her like she'd lost her mind. “I'm not kidding. When he was here early this morning, he had to use the bathroom.”
Willow got out a notebook and started scribbling away.
“What are you doing?” Buffy asked her, the tight feeling coming back to her chest.
“I'm writing this down, so I can do some research. A thought just struck me—I...I could be wrong, but I'm afraid I'm on to something. Just, I don't want to say anything until I know for sure. I might swing by Giles' before I go back to the dorms and see if he's found any more information about the Gem.”
Without looking up from her notebook, Willow said, “So, Spike was here earlier, was he?”
Buffy gave Willow the condensed version of Spike's strange visit, then Willow said, “Did you even think to ask him what he was doing here?”
She shrugged. “He didn't offer an explanation and he wasn't making any effort to kill me. It was kind of awkward. Besides, I slept through most of it.”
“I can't believe you fell asleep with Spike, the vampire who has tried to kill you many times, sitting in this chair, next to your bed.”
“He's not the vampire that showed up to kill me a couple of years ago. I think being chipped did something to him. Besides, he fought on our side, and he shows up here, invincible, but bringing me gifts instead of trying to kill me. Was kind of easy to let my guard down.”
Willow stayed for a little while longer and convinced Buffy to do some of her work. She left the hospital with two completed assignments and a promise from Buffy that she would work on some more.
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