Three chapters at a time seemed to work last time. These three may be just a tad over the line, so we’ll see what happens. If they all fit, then I only have one more to get up tonight and I will be all done and with a couple of hours to spare!
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.”
“Him,” 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, than 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… No promises, Slayer.”
“We need to find them. That’s the bottom line.”
“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 coming from.”
“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. He’s got a website advertising his…” She coughed. “Um, his robot building skills. He never took it down, so I just looked him up on whozit. 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 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.
Buffy glanced at Spike. “Is she—” He shook his head.
“Not a robot, love. Got a beating heart, a scent, the whole human package. But I’d say there’s nobody home.”
Buffy studied the girl. “I recognize her. She used to be Warren’s girlfriend, but she broke up with him over April – the robot. Her name’s… he called her ‘Trina’.”
“And now she calls him ‘master’?”
“Something’s fishy here. Maybe this is what we need. If she’s being kept against her will, or is drugged or something…”
Xander, who had been wandering around after Spike trying to figure out what the strange-looking devices were, picked up a silvery thing the size of a golf ball. “What do you suppose this is?” He tossed it up and down in his hands a few times until the girl noticed what he was doing and shrieked.
“Put that down! No one may touch that but my master. It’s very fragile and should never be broken.”
“Oh yeah?” Buffy snatched the orb from Xander’s hand and dropped it onto the floor, planting a booted foot on it. “I wonder what will happen?” She pushed her foot down until the ball popped with a satisfying crunch. Trina fell to the floor, holding her head.
After a few seconds, she raised her head and stared at the three intruders. “Who are you? Where am I?” She glanced down at herself and tried to pull the short skirt down over her legs. “What the hell am I wearing?”
“I’m Buffy. Remember me? I saved you from Warren’s robot girlfriend who wanted to kill you.” Buffy stared at the embarrassed woman. “I thought you were done with him. What are you doing here, in his hide-out?”
Katrina shook her head. “I don’t know. The last thing I remember is… I was in a bar and Warren wanted to get back together. I told him to get lost, and he…” Her expression went from bewildered to furious. “He did something to me and I’ve been here… doing…” She looked down at her outfit again. “I’m going to kill that son of a bitch!”
“Line forms over here,” Buffy said sympathetically. “Although, I guess you’ve got more reason than I do. Will you be willing to testify against him and send him to jail for kidnapping and… whatever?” She flushed, pretty sure she knew what Warren had been having Katrina do for him, but unwilling to say it out loud in front of Spike or Xander.
“How are the police going to find and hold these losers if they’ve got magic on their side?” Xander looked around the room. “I mean, look at this stuff. They’ve got it all – modern technology, cloaking spells, and God only knows what all those things are supposed to do.” He pointed at the workbench and its collection of unfamiliar devices, some of which looked like weapons.
“We’ll just have to make it easier to catch them,” Spike said, taking Xander’s axe and swinging it at one of the computer screens. He’d smashed two of them before Xander grabbed the axe back.
“Hey, you can’t have all the fun!” he complained, taking his own whacks at all the electronics arrayed around the room.
“Fine, I don’t need that anyway,” Spike said, using his heavily booted feet to begin smashing things underfoot.
Buffy steered Trina away from the growing piles of debris. “While they have fun pretending they’re twelve, let’s see if we can find you some real clothes to wear out of here.” They went toward the rear of the house, searching bedrooms until they found one that had a dress thrown in the corner.
“That’s mine! That’s what I was wearing when I ran into Warren.” She snatched it up and quickly changed, holding the maid costume with two fingers. “I’m going to burn this,” she said.
“Um, maybe you should keep it… you know, for evidence?”
“Evidence… Oh my God. I’m going to have to tell people what they… what I…. Can’t I just kill him? Them. All of them?”
Buffy sighed. “I’m right there with you, but I can’t really let you—” Shouts and screams from the other room sent her running out to find Jonathan and Andrew shrieking in horror as they took in the damage that Spike and Xander had been gleefully causing. Warren stood behind them, fury on his face as he surveyed what had been his workroom. His face paled when he saw Buffy and Katrina.
“What have you done?” he whispered. “Trina? What have you done?” He changed his gaze to Spike and Xander. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done here?”
“A bloody good job, if I say so myself,” Spiked smirked, exchanging grins with Xander.
Warren gazed around the room, then darted forward grabbing an object off an as yet undamaged table. He threw it on the floor, creating a blinding light and a roar as the air seemed to leave the room. When they could all see and hear again, Warren was gone and only Jonathan and Andrew were left to face Katrina’s wrath.
After the two minor villains had been turned over to the Sunnydale Police, who were happy to have a semi-normal crime to deal with – they blithely ignored any of the magical explanations for anything, blaming it all on the “evil computer guy” – and Trina had been hustled off to the Victims Advocate for counseling and support, the Scoobies turned towards home. Buffy winced as her back reminded her that she’d been on her feet for a long time.
“Are you alright?” Spike was beside her immediately, his hand rubbing the small of her back.
“Could probably use a backrub when we get home,” she said with a grateful smile. “And possibly a stiff drink.”
“You can’t have a drink,” he said at the same time as Willow’s “Buffy!”
“I know, I know,” she sighed. “But I’ve got to call Giles, and I thought it would be useful if I was, you know, even less coherent than usual.”
“Do you want me to do it?”
“Oh yeah, that’ll go well,” Buffy said, her mouth twisting into a grimace. Willow agreed quickly. “You’ll say something mean about me and my spells, and—”
“Look at it this way, he’ll be so busy being brassed off at me, he won’t even think about either one of you or how it could have been avoided.”
“As tempting as that is… this is something I need to do. I probably should have done it a couple of weeks ago. I guess I can put it off till morning. He might take it better if I’m not waking him up too early.”
“Good morning, Watcher.”
“Spike? What is it? Is something wrong?”
“Well, depends on your point of view, I reckon. The good news is, we found the wannabes, and two of them are in jail.” Spike quickly filled Giles in on what they’d found and how they’d dealt with it. “So, he got away last night, but they’re after him for kidnapping, rape, wrongful imprisonment, and don’t know what else they’ll have when the two minions get through spilling their guts. He can’t stay hidden too long.”
“And the bad news….?
“Ah. Yes.” Spike cleared his throat. “Well, Buffy was planning to tell you herself later today, but I thought I’d give you a heads up so you can get all the swearing and ranting out of your system before she calls you.”
“And I’m going to be ranting and swearing because…?”
“Well, there was this portal, and…” In short, clipped sentences, Spike gave Giles a bare-bones version of what had happened to him and Buffy. Interrupting only to growl, “Willow?” Giles listened until Spike got to where he and Buffy had returned to Sunnydale after living as man and wife for what had seemed to them like several months.
“And, once you were back?” Spike could hear the underlying tension in the Watcher’s voice, and he sighed before speaking.
“Long story short, Rupert, the Slayer and I are… she’s pregnant. Neither one of us were thinking about my little swimmers, and… Anyway, she’s—we’re—going to have a baby in a few months. Girl needs another adult in her life and I’m asking you to quit playing around in the Council of Wankers’ library and get your arse back here to give her some support.”
There was dead silence on the other end for some time, then Spike could hear Giles begin to breathe again.
“You got my slayer pregnant? And you want me to come back now? Do you have a death wish?”
“Yeah, yeah. I know. But I figure maybe by the time you get back, you’ll have calmed down enough not to try to dust the father of her child… and the man she seems right content to have in her life just now.”
There was incoherent sputtering on the other end, punctuated by the occasional rude word and reference to Spike’s obvious parentage. When Giles ran down, he paused to pant, giving Spike the opportunity to say, “I’ll have you know my parents were lawfully wed and very much in love. It remains to be seen if the same can be said about this baby – but it is loved and wanted. If you can’t be supportive of that, then I guess you’d best stay where you are. I’m sure Buffy can get along without you.”
“I need to speak to Buffy.”
“She’s planning on ringing you when she wakes up. I just wanted to keep her from having to listen to what I just did. Girl needs support, not some wanker yelling at her for something she had no control over. You be thinking that over.” Without saying good-bye, Spike hung up the phone and stared at it.
“Hi, Giles.” Buffy fought to keep her voice from trembling and to make it perky. “We got the bad guys last night – or two out of three anyway.” She paused and when there was no response, she rushed on, “But that’s not really why I’m calling. See, there was this portal — but it totally wasn’t Willow’s fault. I mean, she didn’t mean for it to open where we were standing, and she didn’t know… But it was a nice place, you know? The other dimension we went to… oh, we means Spike and me, by the way. We got sent to this other dimension, and here’s the funny part… we were just normal humans there. Both of us. Isn’t that crazy? And we were married – to each other. Isn’t that funny? I mean with us being engaged a couple of years ago and Spike being all in love with me, and stuff… Anyway, we were there a long time. Not a long time here, or I’m sure Willow would have called you for help bringing us back, but a long time there. And we… and then we came back… and I wasn’t… I didn’t know what to do, so I didn’t talk to Spike and he got all mad and left town, but he came back when I told him I needed him, and then he was all mad again when he saw me, until he remembered who I’d been living with… and now we…” She paused to gasp for air.
“Buffy,” Giles said quietly. “Spike already rang me.”
“Oh… He did? But I told him I’d do it.”
“He seemed concerned that I may have needed some time to… adjust… to the information before I spoke with you.”
“And did you? Need time?” Concern and hostility played equal roles in Buffy’s tone of voice.
“I think it is probably just as well that I had some prior warning.” He sighed heavily, and Buffy pictured him pinching his nose with his free hand. “I cannot in good conscience say that I am happy about this turn of affairs. However, I do seem to have got over my initial dismay and desire to plunge a stake through his heart.”
“It wasn’t his fault, Giles. We were married in that dimension. And he didn’t even try anything then. It was me. Without all the vampire/slayer stuff… we were just us. And we… we fell in love. Birth control just wasn’t… maybe one of us should have realized… but we didn’t. So I’m having a baby, and her father is a vampire. A really old vampire. So this baby isn’t going to have any grandparents unless….”
“I will be ‘Uncle Rupert’, but I refuse to be labeled ‘granddad’,” Giles said somewhat stiffly.
“So you’ll come back? You’ll be here when the baby’s born?”
“Yes, of course. I’m almost through with my work here. I’m sure you would be able to cope just fine without me, but if you want me there—”
“I do! We do!” She stopped and bit her lip. “You’ve got to promise not to yell at Willow, though. She’s really, really sorry. And she hasn’t been doing any magic – well not until last night, anyway. She’s totally saving it for emergencies. Fighting evil type emergencies.”
“I will endeavor not to ‘yell at’ her, but I cannot promise not have a conversation about the reckless use of magic.”
“Okay. So, you’ll be here soon?”
“As soon as I can wrap things up here. I will let you know when to expect me.”
“’K, thanks, Giles. I… I’ll be glad to see you again.”
“And I you, Buffy. Good-bye.”
“Do you think he left town?”
Buffy lay across Spike’s lap, her eyes shut in contentment as he rubbed her bulging belly. In spite of everyone’s best efforts, Warren had never been found or brought to trial. – unlike Andrew and Jonathan, who had been guests of the Sunnydale police department since their first appearance before a judge. They remained in the Sunnydale jail until there was space for them in the state prison.
“Dunno, love. Haven’t been able to find him anywhere. The wannabes pretty much spilled their guts about what they’d been doin’ and what they’d planned to do. Wouldn’t be very smart of him to hang around Sunnydale. He’ll go away for a long time if and when they catch him.”
“Just doesn’t seem like him to disappear like that. Without trying for some kind of revenge.”
“Boy’s not totally stupid. Got to know his minions ratted him out. And that ex-girlfriend still isn’t sure if she hopes the cops find him before she does.” He nuzzled her neck and sucked the skin into his mouth briefly. “And I haven’t forgotten that he was thinking about adding you to his list of kidnapped women.” His eyes flashed briefly. “Could do the world a favor and just make him disappear forever.” He suddenly sat up straighter and patted her stomach. “Hey! That’s a new kind of kick!” Glancing at Buffy’s face he amended, “Or not?”
“Not,” she said, smiling as the contraction faded. “I think baby Summers-Pratt is getting ready to make her appearance.”
“Let’s go!” He stood up, depositing her on her feet and staring around the room. “What do we need?”
“Nothing yet. Relax. The bag is already packed, it’s at the door, and everybody knows their job. After a few more contractions, I’ll call the doctor and see when she wants me to go to the hospital.”
“Now! Now is when you should go to the hospital.” Spike was taking rapid, unnecessary breaths as he paced around the room.
“Spike! Relax. It was only one contraction. It could be false labor, or something I ate, or— Ok, or you should probably hand me a towel and call the doctor….”
“My water just broke. Go call the doctor while I change clothes.” She stared at his panicked face. “Go on. I’m fine. It’s not like the baby’s going to fall out as soon as I stand up.”
Frowning dubiously, he followed his instructions, throwing her a bath towel before going up to the kitchen to call the doctor. After a short, terse conversation in which the doctor assured him she would meet them at the hospital and that Buffy would be fine, he hung up and ran back to find Buffy coming slowly up the stairs, one hand on her belly.
“Okay, maybe we need to hurry… just a little bit,” she said with grimace. “Things seem to be going faster than I expected.”
Not bothering to take the time to leave a note for anyone, Spike grabbed Buffy’s bag from beside the door and, supporting her with one hand, helped her out to the car. He drove to the hospital in the rapidly lightening morning sky, one eye on Buffy and one on the light traffic at that hour. He roared up to the emergency entrance, stopped with a screech, and was around to her side in less than a second. He helped her down and into the wheelchair that a nurse was wheeling out the door.
“Doctor Parada called,” she explained to the surprised couple. “She said you’d probably just drive right into the ER, so I figured….”
“Good call,” Buffy said, biting her lip and falling gratefully into the chair. “He’s not very patient.” She exchanged an “aren’t they silly” smile with the nurse, ignoring Spike’s muttered “Jus’ worried about my family”.
“You’ll need to move the car,” the nurse said kindly. “Don’t worry, I’m not taking her very far away, just inside to check in.”
Spike started to argue, but Buffy’s glare sent him back into Joyce’s SUV to move it to a legitimate parking place. He ran back to the building just as the sun began to peek over the trees at the end of the street, running his hand over his head to hide the trace of smoke drifting up.
He caught up with Buffy and the nurse just as they were leaving the check-in desk and rolling toward the elevators.
“Now what?” he asked, one hand resting on Buffy’s shoulder.
“Now we get her prepped and into the birthing suite, and you get into a set of scrubs.”
The nurse shrugged and met his glare calmly. “If you want to be there, you’ll do what you’re told… and don’t even think about trying that,” she added when his eyes flared gold and his fangs started to drop. “I’m in charge here, and don’t you forget it.”
Growling at Buffy’s barely muffled giggle, he followed them from the elevator and meekly took the green scrubs the nurse handled him. She’d made a quick appraisal and gave him the size he needed, guessing correctly that he probably wouldn’t be willing to take off his tee shirt or jeans to wear them.
By time Spike had put on the green scrubs and Buffy had been settled onto the birthing bed, Doctor Parada had arrived. She gave Buffy a quick exam and smiled. “I should have guessed the child of a slayer and a hyperactive vampire would be too impatient to take her time being born.”
Spike tried to look insulted, but the doctor had spent too much time with Buffy to worry about his feelings, and he ended up smiling proudly as she assured Buffy things were progressing just fine.
“If you change your mind about wanting anything to take the edge off the pain, you’ll let me know, won’t you?”
Buffy took a few seconds to ride out another contraction before she answered. “I’ll let you know, but my pain threshold is pretty high. I’ve survived a lot worse with not nearly as much to show for it.”
“I thought as much, but I want you to know the option is there.” She pointed to the IV that the nurse had started. “We can just slip something in there. It won’t interfere with your ability to participate, but it could make you more comfortable.”
“I’m fine,” Buffy said through her teeth. “I’m just going to hang on to Spike’s hand when I need something.”
“That would be a lot more appealing, love, if I didn’t think you meant breaking all my bones would make you feel better….” He winced and tried to flex the fingers Buffy had a death grip on.
“This is all your fault,” she said. “Suck it up and do your part to make it better.”
“All my fault?” He looked stricken. “I thought you were happy about this? Are you sorry we—”
Doctor Parada broke in with a smile. “We’ve talked about this, Spike. She doesn’t mean it—” When Buffy snarled, she amended quickly, “Well, she does mean it right now, but it’s perfectly normal. Remember? I gave you things to read about the different stages of childbirth?” She looked at Buffy. “You’re going through the stages pretty quickly. Do you remember what you read about transition?”
Buffy grimaced and relaxed her grip on Spike’s hand. “That I would get really cranky and probably want to kill somebody. You do understand that killing vampires is kind of a normal thing for me, right?” She gave Spike, who was rubbing his hand and trying to check for broken bones, a glare. “How is this not his fault? He seduced me, and he knew he was alive. He should have thought about what could happen. It’s all his fault,” she concluded. “If I kill him, I mean.”
Spike gave the doctor a worried look. “Is there a way to speed up this stage? I’m not liking it very much.”
“You don’t have to like it, you moron. You just have to try to keep me soothed and calm until I’m ready to push! Didn’t you read any of those brochures? Ooooooh!” Buffy’s gasp, rather than frightening the doctor, made her smile again as she got into position at Buffy’s feet.
“I suggest you take her hand again, Spike. And stand up there by her head where you can help her through the rest of this. Okay, Buffy, you can start pushing any time you feel the urge.”
“Oh thank God,” Buffy breathed, relaxing for a few seconds before another strong contraction wracked her body. The nurse was quietly arranging things the doctor might need quickly on a tray by the end of the birthing bed and making sure she had towels and blankets ready on the edge of the bassinette. There was already a pink card on it reading “Baby Summers”.
Seemingly having forgotten that she hated Spike, Buffy clung to the strong arms he’d put around her shoulders as she sat up and began to push. With his voice murmuring support and endearments in her ear, she followed the doctor’s quietly
encouraging directions as to when and how hard to push. It wasn’t long before the doctor’s voice took on an excited tone as she said, “Here we go! She’s crowning. Let’s see that slayer strength now – push down. Push hard, that’s it. You’ve got it, here she comes….” With a gush of fluid and blood, the baby popped out into the doctor’s sure hands. As soon as the baby let out an angry cry, she was placed on Buffy’s stomach while Doctor Parada attended to the cord and the afterbirth.
Spike and Buffy stared in wonder and not a little bit of fear at the squirming, crying being now being checked over and dried off by the nurse. As soon as the cord had been cut, the nurse gave them an apologetic smile and took the baby across the room to weigh, measure, and clean her up. Buffy relaxed back against Spike, sighing her relief.
“She looks perfect,” she said, gazing up at him with a soft smile.
“What else could she be?” he replied, brushing a kiss across her forehead. “She’s yours, isn’t she?”
“She’s ours Buffy corrected, smiling when he tightened his hold on her shoulders.
“Do you want to hold her for a minute?” The nurse brought the now clean, dry and swaddled baby over and held her out to Spike.
His expression flashing back and forth between stark terror and need, he straightened up and very tentatively stretched out his arms. The nurse smiled and placed the baby in his arms, guiding him until he was holding the baby securely and smiling down with wonder and affection.
“Hello there, baby Summers,” he whispered. “I’m your daddy, and I love you very much.”
“Joy.” Buffy’s voice was tired, but firm. “We need to start calling her Joy.” She looked at the nurse and said, “We decided to name her after my mother, but Joyce seems like mouthful for a baby, so…”
“Joy it is,” the nurse said, taking a Sharpie and crossing out baby girl on the card. She wrote “Joy” above it and smiled at the two beaming parents. “Now it’s momma’s turn to hold her.”
She took the baby from Spike and nestled her next to Buffy, who looked almost as frightened as Spike had at first. “Just for a few minutes. When the doctor is through with you and you’re all cleaned up, we’ll take you to your room and bring her right down to you. One of the nursery nurses will be there to help you get started with your breast feeding.”
Buffy nodded and cuddled the baby to her chest, studying her face for any sign of either parent.
“Her eyes are blue, like yours.”
“And she’s beautiful, like you,” Spike replied, leaning over the bed and beaming at them. “You did good, Slayer.”
“We did good,” she corrected. “We did real good.”
When the nurse had whisked the baby off to the nursery, and the doctor was massaging Buffy’s uterus and making sure that there was no more bleeding than would be normal, Spike kissed Buffy’s forehead again, then stepped away.
“Guess I’d best go spread the word before Red magics herself in here, or Dawn breaks down the door.”
Buffy waved a permissive hand weakly. “Go on. I’ll see you in a little while. I’m just going to rest here.”
“You did great, Buffy,” the doctor said. “It helps that you’re young and strong and very fit, but even allowing for that, this was a very easy birth.”
“Go Slayer strength and healing,” Buffy said. “Too bad I can’t have more kids.”
“Why not? If it happened once…”
Buffy shook her head. “Nah, Willow accidentally sent us to another dimension where we were just regular people. Spike was a normal human man, and I wasn’t a slayer. That’s where we were when I got pregnant. It can’t happen here.”
“Ah,” the doctor said. “Well, that’s a shame, I guess. I’m sure you two will make wonderful parents.”
“Are you kidding?” Buffy said. “If I don’t accidentally break her because I’m so strong or miss all her school stuff because I’m in the middle of an apocalypse, Spike will see to it that she never has a date because he’ll scare the crap out of every boy she ever brings home. She’s going to hate us both.”
With a laugh, Doctor Parada indicated that Buffy was ready to be rolled to her room in another section of the birthing area. “I doubt that very seriously,” she said. “She will love you both just as much as you love her.”
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.dreamwidth.org/800207.html