Rating: R, mostly for swearing and violence
Summary: Begins at the start of Season 7, but immediately goes AU. Buffy gets pregnant with Spike’s baby, and it fixes everything that’s wrong in their relationship. Don’t try to figure out any timelines, because they won’t fit.
Disclaimer: Characters and settings belong to Joss Whedon. The prose and plot are my own.
Word Count: Around the 37,450 mark
WARNING(S): There’s not much violence in this fic, but what’s there involves a baby. That’s right, a baby. Also, don’t expect too much happy mushiness. This is Pregnancy-With-Minimal-Plot and does involve consensual non-sex, naughty words and the author’s rather sick sense of humor. Uh, enjoy? Many thanks to slaymesoftly, who generously offered to beta the last five chapters. They’re all shiny and new!
A/N: This is as much as I can get posted this morning. I’ll get the rest posted this evening. Sorry about the delay!
Spike watched the dance-goers at the Bronze, keeping an eye out for his target. A sixteen-year-old girl with black hair. She would’ve been exactly to his taste, had he still been noshing on veal.
Spike sighed. These little assignments weren’t getting any easier. A part of him still reveled in the smell of his victim’s fear, still wanted to bite and drink and feel their lives shudder to an end in his arms. Until the other, newer part of himself erupted with self-loathing and disgust, a volcanic flow that all but obliterated the rage and hunger of the demon. His bedrock.
Spike finally spotted his would-be prey, Jackie, rubbing against some bloke in the back corner. Her dancing partner was the overly-large, oafish sort, but human. Spike could practically smell his sweating palms, even through the crowd of acrid, gyrating bodies that formed the Bronze’s Thursday-night crowd. Then he caught sight of something else, and a low growl rumbled through his chest.
Dawn, tarted up like a ten-dollar whore, her lithe little ass gyrating against the crotch of some puppy-eyed wanker. Spike sniffed . Dawn’s puppy had fangs. Her sister was the Slayer for chrissakes – couldn’t she tell a vampire when she saw one? And a minion, too, no more than a year or two from the grave.
Spike growled, rising to his feet as he saw Dawn take the vampire’s hand and lead him towards the back of the Bronze. Maybe she was simply taking a play at the Slayer’s lifestyle, though, truth be told, that annoyed him only slightly less than her dancing with worthless lumps of grave dirt. Made it less about sex and more about suicide.
He’d have to tell Jackie’s parents that the girl was sneaking out to see a human boy, and that he hadn’t found an opportunity to attack the two of them in a public place. Not like they could get too upset ‘bout that.
Spike watched as Dawn’s partner took her by the hand and led her towards the back exit. He knew exactly why young, pretty little things shouldn’t disappear into alleys with the undead. Good girls and bad girls, didn’t matter. They all tasted sweet and frothy like soda pop. Berries powdered with the agony and shame at the violations, plural, of their bodies. Fuck, but even now, even now –
He wondered if Dawn really knew how vamps saw her.
He never should have shielded her. Made his crimes – like that word could encompass the whole of what he’d done – into creepy stories told cryptside. Dawn had known, not understood, what he was until he’d been stupid and desperate enough to spell it out for her. She hated him, now. He knew that. But maybe she’d learned her lesson too late. Had the daft idea that vamps weren’t all the same sort, that they could be as she’d once seen him.
Spike stepped outside. He heard a drunk little giggle from behind the dumpsters and stalked forward.
“You’re a vampire,” Dawn was saying, in that flat, cold tone that usually preceded screeching. “Did you really think I wouldn’t figure it out? I mean, you’re all cold. And you wouldn’t stop staring at my neck. Hello! My boobs are down here!”
“What can I say?” said the vampire. “I like that you figured it out. Now there’s no secrets between us, Dawnie. You have to know how much I like you. We’ve been out, what, four, five times? And I haven’t tried to bite you. Not even a little.”
Spike hesitated, wondering what Dawn had been up to, dating a vamp. And what the vamp was up to, playing this drawn-out game. Fledges weren’t big on patience. Hell, neither was Spike, and he’d been around over a century. There had to be a reason for the restraint.
“I like you, too, Edward,” said Dawn, sounding a little shy. “Do you really like me? For more than a snack, I mean?”
“Of course I do,” insisted the vampire, to Spike’s annoyance. He’d said things to women, of course, but never after he’d dropped his human mask. Enjoyed their screams too much. “You’re not a meal to me, Dawn. You’re way more important to me. I’ve never met anyone like you, Dawn. You make me feel like a man.”
Spike froze. Had it sounded that stupid when he’d said it? And was that smacking?
“Look, you berk –” but Spike stopped at the sight of Dawn pressed against the wall, one hand clamped to her neck as her not-so-smooth talker disintegrated. She dropped her stake with a clatter. It rolled and stopped against Spike’s boot.
“He was going to kill me,” she informed Spike. “I thought he really liked me, but he was going to kill me.”
“And what?” Spike barked, “That some sort of big revelation? A twist in the romantic tragedy of Dawn and her undead ponce? ” Spike paced in front of her, milling arms underscoring his anger. “What’s wrong with you? Jesus, don’t you know what it would do to Buffy to lose you? Promised to protect you, but won’t bother if you’re going to act this bleeding stupid.”
“What, no threats about drinking from my brain stem?” snapped Dawn, eyes and cheeks unnaturally red.
“Bleeding hell, Dawn.” Spike stopped and stared at her in frustration. “Sorry if I don’t like thinking of you dead.”
“Why do you even care?” asked Dawn. “So what if he killed me? It’s better than what you were going to do to Buffy!”
“No,” Spike stopped short, standing directly in front of her. “It was the same as I’d almost done to Buffy, only he would have gone through with it, then bled you like the idiot you are. Maybe turned you for good measure. Really want to put Buffy through that nightmare?”
Dawn faltered for a second. “No. But it wouldn’t have happened. I staked him, didn’t I?” She crossed her arms over her chest. “Plus, if he was scamming me, I was scamming him, too.”
“You tell me you were pumping him for information? On what, exactly, the finer points of piss-poor beer? His opinion on Miss October?”
Dawn eyes flashed. “You’re not my baby sitter anymore, Spike. I don’t have to explain myself to you. So why don’t you leave? You’re good at that.”
Spike knew that there would be no repairing his relationship with Dawn. He’d lost her, same as he’d lost Buffy. More so, because he’d had further to fall in her eyes. But if she thought that meant he’d tuck tail and run, she really didn’t know what he was. Slayer of Slayers. Thorn in Angelus’ side. Sodding fool, who couldn’t change course, even when all hope was gone.
“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry I hurt you,” he said.
“It’s not worth anything.”
“Know it,” said Spike. “Know something else, too. Try a stupid stunt like that again, and I’ll break your kneecaps.”
He couldn’t be sure, but it seemed for a moment like Dawn almost smiled.
Buffy was surprised when Spike and Dawn walked into the house, not only earlier than expected, but together. She looked up from her spot on the couch, where she had been vegging with a blood-spiked strawberry smoothie and Colin Firth on BBCA. “Dawn? I thought you were staying with Janice tonight?”
Spike glowered. “That the story she told you?”
“It wasn’t a story,” pouted Dawn. “I was going to Janice’s house. Just … after the Bronze. Not that it’s any of your business, Spike.” The teenager ran past Buffy to flounce up the stairs. Somewhere upstairs, a door slammed. And then it slammed again. And again.
Buffy used the remote to lower the sound of Lizzie rejecting Mr. Darcy’s ungentlemanly proposal. “Just tell me. Was it drugs? Alcohol? Spudding the principle’s yard?”
“Worse,” said Spike, solemnly. “A date with a vampire. Don’t be surprised if she wears turtlenecks the next few days.” He shifted uncomfortably. “Red home?”
“The library,” said Buffy. “And did you say Dawn was on a date with a vampire? And that she got bit!?” She started to lurch to her feet – another five minutes, well make it seven, since she still had to get up the stairs – and Dawn was hamburger. “What was she thinking? I swear, I’m going to kill her.”
Spike applied a gentle, yet firm, pressure to her shoulder, preventing her from standing. “Think it can wait until morning. She’s already been punished more than you can do, anyway.”
“Wanna bet?” huffed Buffy. “She should know better. I mean, my life is practically an after school special on the dangers of dating the undead.”
“Never actually dated me,” Spike pointed out. “Maybe that’s where she got confused.”
“Whatever.” Buffy didn’t like the sharp set to his jaw, so she quickly changed the subject. “So how about them Yankees?”
Spike blinked. “Come again?”
“Okay, so not my smoothest segway. Monster and I had a busy day,” Buffy said, stumbling over the baby’s pet name. She hoped Spike took the gesture as she intended it – it was still difficult for her to refer to the pregnancy as anything but “the spawn” or “the parasite.”
“That so?” Spike softened as his gaze moved to her belly.
“Uh-huh.” Buffy tried not to shudder under his scrutiny. She thought she had been big before, but the baby had rapidly gained weight on a steady diet of Spike shakes. She felt like a Buffy-zepplin. A Buff-plin. Only without the floaty qualities.
She set down her glass. Drinking Spike’s blood was bad enough. Doing it in front of him smacked of all kinds of wrong. “Well, we worked this morning, and then we listened to classical music, y’know, so Monster will be a smart cookie. And now we’re working on literature.” She motioned to the TV.
“Sounds exhausting.” Spike was sitting on the couch, now, and while she wasn’t quite sure how he had gotten there, she couldn’t argue with the pleasing weight of his hand in hers.
“You have no idea. But Monster’s working on his kickboxing at the mo, so it’ll be awhile until I can fall asleep.”
Spike looked at her stomach. “Mind if I –?”
Buffy leaned back into the couch cushions. “Be my guest.”
The vampire’s spare hand stroked against the soft material of her T-shirt. “Hey there, Monster. How ‘bout you lay off and give your mum a rest, yeah?”
The spawn paused, then resumed his activity with more vigor than before.
Spike grinned, “Can already tell he’s going to be a handful.”
“You don’t have to be so happy about it,” grumbled Buffy. “We’re looking at eighteen to twenty years of a kid with your stubbornness.”
“Because his mum’s so gentle and accommodating,” teased Spike.
“Shut up,” Buffy told him. “You’re working him up.”
“And how’s that?” asked Spike, his fingers tapping mischievously against her tummy, much to Monster’s apparent delight. “Maybe the kid just needs a lullaby.”
Buffy grabbed his hand, stilling its movement. “‘Anarchy in the UK’ is not a lullaby!” she protested. “Besides, don’t you have better things to do?”
Spike looked genuinely surprised. “No?”
But then Buffy leaned forward, licking a long line from his jaw to the base of his neck, which she held in a sweet little love bite, enjoying the mild salt of his skin. She sucked a little, feeling Spike tense, even as he arched his neck to allow her better access. “Tasty,” she told him, as Monster purred in happy anticipation.
“Buffy?” asked Spike, and she bolted backwards, accidentally hitting the smoothie where she had placed it on the floor. She winced as the blood-tinged liquid soaked into the carpet.
“I’ll get the paper towels,” said Spike, disappearing from her side only to reappear with a roll of towels and a bottle of seltzer with inhuman rapidity. Buffy watched with wide eyes as the vampire rubbed at the spots on the carpet, her vision filling with the subtler mark her teeth had worried on his neck.
“Don’t worry about it,” said Spike, refusing to look at her. “Interrupted your dinner is all. Monster thought he’d get a taste from the tap.”
“Yeah,” Buffy agreed, softly. “I guess that’s probably it.”
She watched as Spike scrubbed the blood into progressively lighter, wider circles. She touched his shoulder gently. “Leave it. We’ll just move the couch or something.”
“You say that now,” said Spike. “But our kid’s going to be messier than anything else this house has seen. Can’t cover up everything with furniture.”
“We had a house party full of zombies, once,” said Buffy. “And Xander assures me the bug man you sicced on me was all kinds of squishy grossness.”
Spike paused, then continued scrubbing. “Fine, this house has seen enough horrors. The kid can wreck sixty-four colors of Crayola destruction at my apartment.”
Buffy snorted. “I take it Xander’s shared the yellow crayon story?” The she picked up on the last thing Spike had said. “Wait. You’re still planning on moving out?”
“The Pursuers should leave us well enough alone after they notice our baby’s not a god,” said Spike. “Plus, we’re gonna kill them. Can be on my own.”
Buffy bit her lip. “But vampires won’t need an invite to get into your apartment, since, y’know, you’re dead. What if it’s not safe for Monster?”
“Thought of that,” said Spike, smoothly. “I’ll have you or Giles put your name on the paperwork.”
“You could just stay here.”
Spike stopped rubbing at the carpet. Stopped doing anything at all. Then he lowered his head, worked his throat, eyes fixed to the half-lifted stain of berry-tinted blood. “Say again?”
“It makes sense,” said Buffy, uneasily. “I mean, that way someone’s always home for Monster. And for Dawn, too. And you’ll get to spend more time with him that way. It makes sense.”
He looked at her, blue eyes blazing.in his shadowed, ashen face. “Buffy –” His brow wrinkled, lips pursing as he sat back on his knees. “I’ll be here for you and Monster. Don’t need to be under the same roof to care for those Î – for that.”
Buffy rattled in a deep breath, knowing that she’d have to give him something more than reasons of convenience. But she was so long used to burying her feelings for him – any and all feelings that didn’t compel her to punch him in the face, anyway – that admitting to anything softer felt unnatural. “I like you being here,” she confessed, quietly.
A subdued, hesitant sort of happiness lit Spike’s eyes by degree, and Buffy understood now, what it was to see someone else glow.
But he needed to cling to his defenses, too. Spike’s lip quirked, the tremble of his mouth belying the sardonic arch of one dark eyebrow. “You asking me to move in for good, Buffy?”
“Not permanently, if you don’t want,” she rushed to say. “Just – as long as it makes sense. For both of us.” She smiled. “I know Monster will be safer with you than anyone. Even me. I’ll probably drop him on his head first thing.”
“Tough kid like ours? He’ll bounce,” said Spike.
“Is that a ‘yes?’” asked Buffy.
“Yeah, that’s a ‘yes.’” Spike rose to his feet, leaning down to snowflake his mouth against Buffy’s cheek. His lips felt cool, and soft, their touch airless and fleeting. “Thank you, love,” he rumbled, the sound going bone-deep in all kinds of good ways. “There aren’t words for what that means to me.”
Buffy twined her fingers with his, holding him for one, two seconds before dropping the contact. “I know. I don’t have words, either. But it means – something – that you’re in my corner.”
“I am,” said Spike, eyes shining. “Never doubt it.”
“I won’t,” said Buffy. She smiled. “Especially since being in my corner means getting the cherry amaretto ice cream from the freezer.”
“Does it now?”
“It does.” Buffy nodded, feeling oddly giddy. Jubilant. “But it also means that you can get two spoons.”
Buffy met Dawn as the younger girl retrieved a Vita-Muffin from the freezer. “We need to talk.”
“I’ll be late for school,” said Dawn.
“I’ll write a note,” said Buffy, firmly, setting her mug on the kitchen counter. “I want to know exactly what you’re hiding under that sweater.”
Dawn fingered her blue cowl neck. “You don’t need to ask me,” she said, defensively. “I know Spike already told you.”
“I want to hear it from you.” Buffy sighed, leaning against the island. “C’mon, Dawn. Take pity on the fat, pregnant lady that’s going to spend the next twelve hours feeding people stinky processed lard patties?”
The teenager frowned. “No fair using the spawn to guilt-trip.”
“It’s a forced demonic infestation,” said Buffy. “The ability to guilt-trip’s the only real perk.” She felt somewhat encouraged by the fact that Dawn wasn’t screeching or doing that sullen-glare thing she’d perfected at age three.
Dawn raised an eyebrow. “I’ve heard you call it ‘Monster.’”
Buffy blushed. “It’s a thing I’m trying where I look at the bright side. Taking away the power of the name.”
Dawn walked around the island, taking a plate from the drying rack as she made her way to the microwave. “I wasn’t on a date with a vampire,” said Dawn, eyes fixed on the revolving muffin in the microwave. “I met Edward at a football game a few weeks ago and figured out what he was right away. But it wasn’t like I could stake him in front of the whole school, and there were too many witnesses for him to eat me. So we just started talking.”
“Will you let me finish? Edward asked me out, but I kept on making us go to super crowded places and didn’t go into any dark corners. And eventually, he started telling me about his family. I mean, he said ‘Dad,’ not ‘Sire,’ and ‘Father Bishop,’ not ‘Weird Head of Vampire Cult That Just Moved Into Sunnydale,’ but I read between the lines.”
“Oh my God, Dawn. Do you have any idea how dangerous that is? He had to have known who you were. What if you had been killed? Or Turned? How could you?”
Dawn turned around, blue eyes flashing. “I’m not stupid enough to trust a vampire, Buffy.”
Buffy paused, aware that Dawn was trying to switch the focus of the conversation. “We both know that Spike’s different. He got a soul for us, Dawn.”
“Please,” said Dawn. “He said he loved you and then he tried to rape you. At least Edward only told me he liked me. But I did better than you. I got what I wanted from him, and then I staked him. Poof. The end.”
Buffy’s looked pointedly at Dawn’s neck. “Looks like he got something he wanted, too.”
“So I had to use a Band-Aid,” said Dawn. “I also know where the Pursuers are staying. That’s more than anyone else has. And even better? All we have to do is set them on fire, and we can kick Spike to the curb, exactly like he deserves.” She pinched off a piece of muffin and pressed it flat between her fingers.
“One, it could be a trap,” said Buffy. “And two, it’s not that simple.”
“One, duh. Two, why the hell not?”
“I’ve asked Spike to stay.” Buffy fiddled with her mug, turning it in small half-spins. “It makes sense. He’s the father, and it means that someone will always be home –”
“And I don’t get a say?” snapped Dawn. “This is my house, too, Buffy, and believe it or not, I don’t really want a bloodsucking rapist picking up the mail!”
“He didn’t rape me.”
“That’s supposed to make me feel better? Safer?”
Buffy drew in a deep breath. “He has a chip. And a soul. And even if he didn’t, he wouldn’t hurt us. Dawn – he’s changed. Maybe you can’t see it, but he’s trying. He’s even working with Giles!”
“I thought he had changed before,” said Dawn. “He hadn’t. And he hasn’t now. Warren had a soul and so did Willow, and look what they did! And neither one of them had a biological imperative to eat people.” She made a face at her smushed muffin. “What he almost did to you? He’s done it before. Lots of times. To lots of different girls. The only difference between you and them is that you made him stop.” Dawn put her plate in the sink. “I’m not living with Spike.”
“You kinda already are.”
“If he’s still here after the parasite’s born, I’ll move in with Janice. Or Xander. Or call in a vengeance wish. I don’t care,” insisted Dawn. “And don’t bother with the note. Call the school and tell them I’m sick.” The brunette tossed her hair and headed for the front door. “I can’t be here right now.”
“Well, you can’t leave!” said Buffy. “We need to talk about this!”
“There’s nothing to talk about!” yelled Dawn as she left the house.
Buffy put her head in her hands, finally noticing another presence lingering just outside the kitchen. “How much of that did you hear?” she groaned.
Willow shrugged. “Dawn’s gone 007 and Spike’s moving in, like, officially.” She filled the electric kettle with water and pushed down the lever. “So Dawn’s threatening to move out, and I can’t really blame her.”
“Not you, too.” Buffy watched as Willow took a bag of green tea from its box, ripped the tag off and set it into a mug. “Wills, please –”
“Oh no, you don’t,” scolded Willow. “I’m with Dawn on this one. Not on the playing undercover slutty bait thing, because that’ll get her killed. But on you and Spike setting up house? I can see why Dawnie’s pissed.”
“We’re not together,” said Buffy. “And he’s already living here, so it’s not like it will be some huge adjustment …”
Willow held up a hand. “So not the point!” The electric kettle went off. Willow filled her mug with steaming water, then cupped it between her hands. “You didn’t see them the summer you were gone. Not your fault, because, hey, you were dead – but I did. And Dawn didn’t just trust the guy. We’re talking hero-worship. You never thought that he could change – Dawn never doubted that he already had.”
Willow’s mug shook once as she brought it to her mouth, but nothing else betrayed the pain of Tara’s death. “And then she learns that he attacked you? It might’ve been better if he’d just abandoned you two. She at least knows to expect that from people. And more than that – you don’t even ask if she’s okay with him moving in?”
Buffy’s eyes widened. “It’s my house!”
“It’s Dawn’s home,” said Willow. “And mine, I might add. Not that I have a problem with Spike being here, because I don’t, and even if I did, it’s not like I want to discourage forgive-y impulses.” She lowered her eyes, blowing softly into her mug. “Dawn’s lost a lot. Your parents, you, Tara. I know this whole thing has been hard for you – but can’t you see that Dawn’s just as scared? You’re the Slayer. She knows what that means. She’s lived it.”
“She’s worried she’s going to lose me so she yells at me a lot?” objected Buffy. “And what does that have to do with Spike? He got his soul. He’s not going to attack me. Dawn has to know that.”
“It’s not that easy.”
“You actually threatened her – sorry, Wills, but you did – Spike never has. And she’s forgiven <i>you</i>.”
“Has she?” Willow shook her head. “Buffy, Dawn hasn’t had a single parental figure not abandon her. Spike’s just the one who came back. And, y’know, vampire. Part of her realizes he can take it.”
Buffy stared at Willow, seeing the silent reproach in her friend’s eyes. Dawn was using Spike the same way Buffy had, if through different means and to different ends. “You really did like Psych, didn’t you?” asked Buffy.
Willow smiled. “Nah, that there was a Sheila Rosenberg special.” The redhead’s face screwed into a pout. “Please don’t make me channel her again. It interferes with all the hard-won repression.”
Buffy let out a little groan, slumping over the kitchen island with a dramatic thump. “God, Wills, what am I going to do? How can I make it right?”
“Oh no,” said Willow. “There will be no making anything right. You can’t fix that Dawn’s been hurt. And trying to make the bad go away always leaves you with demon magnets and group amnesia.”
“Always?” asked Buffy, a quizzical quirk to her brow.
“On the Hellmouth?” replied Willow, cheeks turning pink. “You betcha.” She took an apparently-sobering sip of her tea. “Sorry, Buff. This one’s mostly up to Dawn. Just – a little understanding wouldn’t hurt, maybe? And you could try actually talking to her about things. Or apologizing.” A beat – “You could also try the baked good route. She can’t argue if her mouth’s full.”
“Is that why –?” Buffy squirmed in her seat. “I don’t think – Dawn doesn’t want to hear it.”
“Say it anyway,” said Willow. “Just because an apology won’t fix things doesn’t mean it’s not nice to know someone’s sorry.”
Buffy startled at that, her eyes darting in the general direction of the basement door.
Willow noticed. “Don’t worry about it,” she said. “Vampire hearing’s a plus, sometimes. If he’s listening in? Hey. Two birds, one awkward conversation.”
“Good thing we all hate birds,” muttered Buffy. “Wait, you were going to talk to Spike, too?”
“Well, he’s not so scary, anymore, is he? Or maybe I’ve become more scary, so Spike doesn’t bother me like he used to. It’s been a long time since he has.” Willow tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “But we’ve never been, you know, buddies.”
Buffy grimaced. “Spike’s no one’s buddy. Well, maybe Clem’s.”
“Exactly. And with us all under one roof?” Willow shook her head. “I just think it might be a good idea to keep the hostility at a minimum.” She glanced at her watch.
“Class?” asked Buffy.
“Yeah,” Willow smiled apologetically. “We can pick up another time?”
“Sure,” said Buffy, with a plastic brightness, but she couldn’t keep up the Bot impression, and her smile faded. “Thanks, Willow.”
She waited until Willow left, then walked hesitantly to the basement door. Had Spike really been eavesdropping? She supposed it couldn’t be helped with the whole super hearing deal, and she was stupid not to have thought about that before. How many whispered conversations, how many hurtful things, had aimed at his ears like arrows?
Without knocking, she opened the door and descended. She felt, rather than heard, the stairs creak, and froze. Then she took another step. She was coming to see him, not attempting international sabotage – it was silly to worry about sounding the approach. Especially when she was the approximate size and shape of a huffalump.
Buffy saw Spike at last. He wore only his jeans. His blue-veined armed splayed sacrificially across the cot. Shadowed eyes moved violently beneath their lids.
Buffy felt the stupid, irrational urge to soothe the sleeping vampire, followed by a quick lick of something more insidious.
She went back upstairs.
Spike rolled over on his cot, which creaked dangerously in warning of collapse. One spot of dreamless sleep, and the whelp interrupted. Though, come to think of it, he wasn’t sure why he felt surprised.
The vampire growled as he stood up, grabbing his tee from the end of the bed. Couldn’t Xander have thought to try the girls’ cell phones? Then he’d have known they were out – Willow on campus, Buffy in a meeting with Dawn’s guidance counselor. Dawn, presumably, at school, but Spike knew there was no guarantee of that.
He frowned. Girl’d get put in foster care if she wasn’t careful. Would she really rather be put in a home than share a house with him?
Spike pulled the shirt over his head as he reached the top of the stairs. He opened the door and walked towards the sound of Xander’s heartbeat.
Xander was standing in the parlor, body rigid, face creased. He smelled fearful, but the fear churned beneath other, sharper things. Spike tensed, sensing that Xander’s fear was not for himself. He knew, too, that it must be bad – Xander registered his presence with a quick flare of disgust, but didn’t bother with quips or insults.
“I need Buffy,” said Xander, words rushing together. “I think Anya’s in trouble.”
“Buffy’s at Dawn’s school. Didn’t you try her cell?”
Xander shook his head in the negative. “No answer. Not for Willow, either. I thought maybe they were here.”
“Sorry,” said Spike, thinking quickly. “We can probably grab some weapons and head off Buffy at the school. We’ll need something big, to fend off anything that’d tangle with a vengeance demon. What kinda trouble she in, anyway?”
“I dunno, exactly,” said Xander, panicked. “Just – there was blood.”
Spike startled. “Blood? She hurt?”
“On her shoes,” Xander clarified. “I saw her when I was walking out of the Espresso Pump. She had on this long jacket, so I couldn’t see her clothes, but she was trailing blood on her shoes. Actually, that’s what I noticed first. Bloody footprints. And then I saw that they led to Anya. And she had on her Upset Face.” Xander shook his head, “She saw me and didn’t even say anything. Didn’t even get angry. She just teleported before I could say anything.”
Spike sighed, making an effort to consider his words. “Bird’s back in the vengeance fold. How do you know the blood’s hers?”
Xander paled, but stood his ground. “I want to help her.”
‘Course he did. The question was, did Anya want help? Wasn’t that Spike couldn’t sympathize. Girl’d been put through the wringer, not unlike himself. But where’d he’d asked for his soul, she’d become a demon. Anya knew what that meant – that she would hurt and kill, if not the innocent, than the not-quite-deserving – and had rejoined D’Hoffren anyway.
Still – if she could be saved –
Spike made his decision. “Wouldn’t go to Buffy for that,” he said. “Slayer’s got a job to do, and so does Anya, and they’re at odds. Way of the world and all.”
Xander’s face darkened. “Buffy wouldn’t hurt Ahn. They’re friends.”
“Buffy sent Angel to hell,” Spike reminded him, face twisting as he pronounced his Grandsire’s name. “She thinks she needs to stop your demon bird, and Anya’s toast. We’ll get Willow at campus. She’ll be able to locate Anya with a spell, yeah? If Anya’s already feeling regrets, might be able to talk some sense into her –”
The door opened. Spike and Xander turned to see Willow. She shut the door quickly with an apologetic look to Spike, who had backed up to avoid the slant of light against the carpet. “Is Buffy home?” she asked, quickly.
“No,” said Xander. “Didn’t you try her cell?”
Willow started talking before Spike could drop in a suitable sarcastic remark. “Something happened on campus. In one of the frat houses.”
Spike fixed two mugs – mint tea for Buffy, blood for himself. He walked them to the dining room table, where Buffy was contemplating the wood grain. He sat opposite her, pushing the tea in her direction. “Penny for your thoughts?”
“I’m gonna need at least a quarter,” she said. “Inflation.” She met his eyes, then looked away. “I’m not sure Xander’s going to forgive me.”
“‘Course he will,” said Spike. “Can’t break up the lot of you. I should know – I tried, remember?” He wished he could say that it felt like someone else had done those things, but he remembered too well his anger, his frustration, and Buffy at the heart of it. The axis mundi of his world, even when he’d hated her.
“He saw me put a sword through Anya’s stomach.”
“Something you knew wouldn’t kill her,” Spike pointed out. “‘Sides, both you and Willow have tried to kill him before. He still buys you both drinks.” He tapped his fingers against the table.
“It’s easier to forgive when it’s you,” said Buffy. “When it’s someone you love that gets hurt – it’s just different. I love Wills. And I forgive her. But I’ll never forget how she almost unmade Dawn.”
Spike sipped some blood, remaining in human face. This conversation could go badly for him. But with Willow comforting Xander and Anya – well, doing whatever ex-ex-vengeance demons did to cope – no one was left for Buffy. “Forgiving and forgetting aren’t the same, love.”
He’d rather not discuss forgiveness. Did him about as much good as discussing tanning spots in Nice, for all he’d ever see of it.
But Buffy didn’t deserve to be worn away by the hard decisions that edged her. “Demon girl would’ve killed you, too, Buffy. You and Monster both. You know that. You both knew what you were signing up for.”
Spike frowned, reliving the moment when Anya’d went to kick Buffy’s pregnant belly. The force-field had propelled the demon backwards, made her crash into a wall. But for a moment, when Spike saw the blow coming, and knew he wasn’t close enough to reach Buffy in time – for a moment –
“I never signed up for this.” Buffy dipped a finger in her tea, spinning it to form a small whirlpool. “The Chosen One isn’t exactly a volunteer position.”
“Fair enough. But Anya did,” said Spike. “And it all came out alright in the end. Frat boys got their lives back. The only casualty was a demon you’d have slain, anyway. And Anya? She was going to give her life to right her wrongs.” He pushed aside his mug, now empty, except for the bloodstains that were slowly setting into the ceramic. “Know she doesn’t think so right now, but she came out luckier than most. I’d give my left arm for a few do-overs.”
Buffy wrinkled her nose. “We’re talking about vengeance demons. Don’t even joke.”
“I’m not,” said Spike. “Not wishing, either. Know there’s no erasing what I’ve done.” He hadn’t wanted to talk about himself. Figured it was past time for a redirect. “Xander’s not going to forget, love. But he’ll forgive. ‘Sides, any other demon, and he’d be shaking pompoms. He’ll realize that, too.”
Buffy gave him a funny look. “Yeah, any other demon.” Before he could question her, she stood up, mug in hand. “And this day started out so good, too. I talked to the social worker about Dawn, and it’ll be okay, as long as she shows up for detention the next two weeks. And the principal offered me a job.”
“A job?” Spike didn’t want to act too incredulous and piss her off – but what would a school want with a young college dropout whose expertise lay mostly in disembowelment and medieval weaponry?
But Buffy seemed disbelieving, too. “I know, right? As a guidance counselor. The last one was eaten, apparently. I mean, he didn’t say that, but it was sorta obvious from the sudden disappearance. And I get benefits! And the pay’s so much better. Like, skyrockets-in-flight better.” She smiled, the expression thin. A little too tight to really be wistful. “It really seemed like things were looking up.”
“‘Course they are,” said Spike. “Won’t have to pretend you don’t smell like deep fryer anymore.”
Buffy scowled. “Shut up, Spike.”
But just talking about her new job had brought a light back into her eyes, a hopeful anticipation that said she was looking forward to tomorrow. Spike’s heart couldn’t help but lighten with her.
Spike sometimes fooled himself into thinking she was softening towards him. She was kinder. Talked to him like a person, like she had before sex had torn down what they’d yet to build. But Spike knew better than to read too much into all that.
It was only a matter of time before Buffy tossed him curbside. Right now, she thought she needed him, but it wouldn’t take long for her to figure out otherwise, especially if it wasn’t his dosh keeping the house in frozen pizza and Klondike bars.
Then again, what was his happiness, compared to Buffy’s?
Spike stood up and walked to the kitchen, where he rinsed his mug and set it in the dishwasher like a proper house dog. Then he kicked the cabinet, just enough to leave a scuff, and felt a little bit better.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/386992.html