by Sweetprincipale

AU early season 5. Riley and Buffy are still together and something big happened over the summer- a little bundle of joy is on the way. Buffy is not so joyful about how Riley is now treating her. She's ready to be seen as the Slayer and woman she still is, and Spike doesn't object to lending a hand (or other parts).

Author's Note: Joyce is around and healthy, but Dawn has not entered, nor Glory. Probably because if this were a show, the entire season would be devoted to this story arc, not the Glory one.

Author's Second Note: There is smuttiness here, including, but not focusing on, one partner being pregnant during the smut. If this offends thee, read not the piece :)

Dedicated to: Ginar369, AGriffinWriter, Illusera, omslagspapper, stuff'n'nnonsense, Jackiemack916, lil-leti, nrdhrd3, Rihannon, Ginger0826, Slaymesoftly, Cloongarvin, rofan1976,, bellebellel, Vivih88, KyanaM, and Notashamedtobe.

Nothing of Buffy belongs to me, except my sincere admiration. However, this story is all mine.

Part VII

"Hey, Buffy, I got your message. Absolutely, tonight we'll meet up. Hi, Munchkin! Daddy can't wait to see you, too!"

Buffy sniffled as she erased the first message, obviously left before their meeting. "Don't worry. You'll still see him." She addressed her passenger. "A lot. As much as he's home, anyway, okay? Munchkin. That's cute. Unless you're short- I mean, short as an adult, not as a baby. Obviously you're allowed to be short then. Sorry. Mommy rambles when she's nervous."

Oh my God. Mommy. Mommy. That's me.

She sat down heavily and listened to the next of four messages. "Buffy, are you okay?" Willow's anxious little voice popped out of the receiver. Buffy smiled. She could picture the big worried eyes, the frantic, half-hidden hand motions that accompanied any nervous phone call/discussion Willow had to have. "Is he back? Did you talk? Can you call me? But not before five because I have to help out at the computer lab. Well, I don't have to, but my professor asked if I would and- what, Sweetie? Oh, Tara says I'm rambling. After five, can you call me? Or I can come over. Love you. Bye."

"Hear that? Auntie Willow rambles too. Maybe it's a 'family trait'." She glanced at the clock. It was well after five now, but Buffy just didn't want to deal with the repetition of the story yet. And the questions. So many questions. She hoped the next call was not from her mother.

Hope was satisfied. "Buffy? A Council-affiliated physician is sending an 'attachment' to my email. Yes, I do have one. I-hrm- may need some help opening the file, I didn't really pay attention when Willow explained attachments or 'downloads'." She heard the snippy little mutter between phrases and laughed quietly. Poor Giles. Give him something written before the Roman Empire got started and he'd be just fine. Ask him to search the web and pain and panic ensued. "I hope things went well as could be expected with Riley. Regardless- uh-hm, if he wishes to discuss the biological mechanics of your pregnancy- from the standpoint of a slayer, that is- he can contact me. Yes, well, that's all for now. Goodnight."

This one has to be Mom. Because she has an sixth sense about when my guilt-o-meter is already at dangerous levels and she likes to hit the overload button…

Xander's voice crackled out, loud and indignant. "What in the name of manhood am I hearing from Willow? Riley isn't 'into you' anymore?"

"Oh God." Buffy muttered, hand going to her forehead. "Why?"

"She said I'm not allowed to tell you she told me, but I'm bypassing the code of best friendship - so I can honor our code of best friendship. Wait… Never mind why! I just- that's whack. And if he is making you feel fat and unattractive, or unsexy- Will's words, not mine!- I wanted to say it's not cool and I'm on your side. Riley's a nice guy, but maybe he suffered some kinda head trauma in all the black ops stuff. Because, honest, you're hot. Really hot. Pregnant or not, representing the man club, I wanted to say, I know guys think you're gorgeous. I- Oh hi Ahn."

"More oh God…" Buffy moaned, shaking her head, unsure whether to laugh or scream. She could hear muffled conversations- and maybe the sound of a slap. Then Anya's cheerful voice came on. "As a confident girlfriend, I wanted to offer my opinion. You are still sexually attractive to males. I really like that you've been using the straightener on your hair, and I think that the trend of empire waists in maternity wear will emphasize your growing yet proportionate bust. Xander says- what, honey? Xander says call us back and if you want pizza to come over. I believe the phrase we're supposed to use is 'we're here for you'."

"Wow." Buffy dropped the phone with weary fingers. I have good friends. Crazy friends. I love my friends.

I so do not want to talk to my friends right now. Or Mom. No way do I need to talk to Riley again tonight.

So tired. Like I ran two marathons. Emotional marathons, maybe. New levels of tired. And hungry. Free pizza awaits at Xander's…

Buffy put her shoes back on and pulled on a jacket, not for the weather, but for the weapons inside it, and headed out.

She had no intention of going to Xander's.

He had gone through an entire pack since waking up around sunset, and was considering starting a second one when she pounded on his door. He stomped out the last of the burning ash with a relieved noise in his throat and rushed to let her in.

"I've been worried sick!" Spike exclaimed by way of welcome.

Buffy gaped. "What?"

Oh bugger. Casual. S'posed to act casual. No reason to act otherwise. "I… I dunno! I don't trust those army boys, okay? When I didn't see you all day, I worried. That's all." He assumed an air of nonchalance but it was a bit late for that.

"I can kick Riley's butt, okay?" She smiled slightly.

"I could, too. Once." He gestured to his temple significantly. "He couldn't have taken me alone, but he had a ruddy platoon."

Would he do that to me? Not while carrying this baby. Not after either. "Riley's a decent guy. At least to humans." Buffy informed him.

"Yeah. Decent guy to others like him." You're different, Luv, much as you try to fool yourself, much as you let him be fooled.

"Look, we both want to do the right thing for our child, okay? That gives us enough in common to make things work." I hope.

Make things work. Workin' it out, are they? An' what am I, just a workout of a different sort, a little bit on the side? "Glad it's all patched up." Spike smirked, not showing any genuine emotion. An evil to semi-evil crooked grin was a safe backup.

"It was horrible. Messy. Oh God- we were flipping out on each other in the middle of campus." She sat down on his chair, head in her hands, reliving the rage and the frustration. Calm down. Over for now. She took a deep breath and gagged and coughed immediately. "Spike! God, are you trying to see if the undead can get lung cancer after all?" She noticed all the butts surrounding her feet.

"I smoke when I'm- antsy."

"You should try yoga. You're flexible enough." She coughed again.

"Thanks, Luv. Not exactly into leotards and tights."

"Tai chi, then!" I can't survive this much second hand smoke, geez! "That's not yoga, Angel used to do it and he wore-"

"All right, Slayer, I'm done. I don't fancy hearing about all the 'loves of your life' right now." He spat with sudden acidity.

Buffy stood up, stung. Spike knew she wasn't in love with anyone now, past or present men included. "Sorry! I wasn't trying to talk about them, I was just getting lightheaded from the fumes. I'll go if you want."

Damn. I liked - I liked being over here, with him. Just coming to see him. I thought… I don't know what I thought, I thought it was going to last. Not in a relationship way, in a "sort of a friend" way. The shrinking, 'something is wrong with me, I can't be happy with a guy- even in a non-relationship way' feeling was scraping at her insides, making her wince on the outside.

She didn't notice he was wincing, too. "Don't really think I'm needed, am I Slayer?" He spat. I'm not gonna wait for you to get away from him to come and fuck me.

Though what she has is pretty well worth it.

No. Nothing gets fixed if you keep breaking it behind someone's back. I'm unliving proof of that.

"Whatever you say, Spike. You asked me to come over and tell you, so I told you."

"Yeah, you did. G'night, Slayer. Congrats on 'working it out'. Hope you two'll be awfully happy." Livin' a lie. Expecting me to play dumb if we run into each other…

Buffy paused halfway to the door. "Working things out for the baby, Spike. Like- custody and if he's going to make it home for the birth. Riley's leaving town, and I'm not going with him. I want to stay and he doesn't. I don't want to change, and I don't want to ask him to change- well, not after I thought about it. I really don't want him involved, 'cause I know he's going to be mega-interfering, but I'm one of the 'good guys' and I think this must be a good guy thing, where you put the tiny innocent life first, even though it's probably going to cause a lot of emotional pain and long-distance phone calls filled with arguing."

"But you said you were working it out." Spike repeated dumbly.

"Working it out. As in parenting stuff. Not couple stuff." Buffy watched him move towards her, and she turned to him.

"Oh." If vampire's could blush, he might've been. He looked somewhat ill at ease, even embarrassed.

Spike has some kind of principles. He didn't want to move things along if he thought I was trying to fix things with Riley. Total misunderstanding and he just got it. "Do you still want me to go?" She asked softly.

"No." Spike's voice was muffled. "Not if you don't want to head out, that is."

Buffy swallowed. Things were rough. Confusing. Exhausting. She wasn't in the mood to burn energy or take out anger right now. She wasn't even in the mood to talk, and she didn't know why she'd come over here, except because she promised she would. She wanted to, just a simple want she hadn't overthought. "I- um- I'm not in the mood to do- to do what we did last night."

"That's fine." Spike said quickly. "Doesn't mean you have to go."


"Even vamps don't do it every single night, Slayer." We could, we just don't have to. Sure we want to. I wanted a lot of things I didn't get. At the moment he didn't know how Buffy fit into that category.

"I'm not really in the mood to talk, either." I'm sounding more like bad company every second.

"Okay. What are you in the mood for? Help me out, Slayer."

"Waffles." Buffy said, shocking them both.

"Waffles. Where the bloody hell do you get waffles at this time of night? Aren't waffles a breakfast item?"

"Diners." Buffy sighed. "I didn't eat dinner yet. Talking with Riley and him trying to force feed me calories made me kinda lose my appetite. Until now. And I didn't know I wanted waffles until I said it. Weird. Guess it's part of 'cravings'."

"Cravings? Oh, cravings, pickles, ice cream. Seen it on telly."

"Well, apparently for me it's waffles. With a lot of syrup."

"An' that's what you want?"

"Sadly, yes. My entire crappy evening seems like it could be magically better if someone let me eat a big plate of waffles. And maybe bacon."

Spike nodded slowly. "Let me get my keys."

"Where are you going?"

"To the diner to get you the effin' waffles you need, idiot." He fished into his duster, put it on as he jangled the keys through his sleeve.

Buffy tilted her head quizzically. "Are you- taking me out?"

"I don't have any waffles in here." He gestured to the stone surroundings. "Gotta take you out to get some, unless you know a waffle delivery service. Although, gotta say, even if you do, they're not gonna show. I was tempted to call for Chinese once and then realized no one delivers to a cemetery. Not in this town, anyway."

Her head was spinning with the surreal conversation. Surreal day. I broke up with Riley. We didn't kill each other. I avoided all my friends because of the potential for awkward painful conversations, and came to Spike because I thought I owed him one. Now I don't want to talk, or have sex, or do anything but eat waffles, and Spike- doesn't question that. He just says, "Let me get my keys." "You're not paying, right?"

"Hell, no, I'm not payin'! I barely have enough to get by on, I don't make enough to support waffle cravings." I guess I could. If I had to. Kid has to eat. What's Slayer live off of? Mum, Dad? "Army boy's gonna pay for your upkeep, right?"

"Huh? Oh, no. No, he doesn't owe me anything." Buffy said quickly.

"But the baby, it's half his!"

"That's different. I know he'll help out, we just haven't talked about it. I - I can't talk about everything at once. I just- I just want to talk about nothing. Not talk." She hastily brushed her hair out of her eyes, a pretense for making sure no tattletale tears overflowed.

"Just eat." Spike murmured. "Not talk. I can do that. We gonna walk, or we gonna drive? Don't know where this diner is."

"Does your car stink like this?"

"No, an' this'll air out in a bit. I'm not in the habit of going through a pack a day. Those things cost." If you don't steal 'em.

"Sorry you were antsy."

"Don't have to apologize, Slayer. I think your day may have been worse than mine." His voice was heavy with sarcasm.

"Maybe." Yes. Definitely. But not talking about it now. "It's not too far, but I'd rather drive. I walked a lot today."

Slayer metabolism, strength, and energy that not even carryin' a bun in her oven can slow down. So today was a really shitty day for her. "I'll leave the tip." Spike opened the crypt door for her.

"I never asked for seconds at a restaurant before." Buffy watched the waitress put down a second stack of thick golden-brown waffles in front of her.

"Me, either." He wasn't planning to, either, enjoying his barely cooked, rare steak with eggs. "So all diners serve breakfast at odd hours?"

"All the ones in college towns, I guess." Buffy buttered her waffles eagerly. "Drunk people seem to like unpredictable food, you know? Breakfast at midnight?"

"You still think you'll be eating at midnight?" He didn't know whether to be worried or impressed.

"No, but I'm not drunk either."

"I can fix that for you if you- oh. Never mind."

"Thanks. I don't drink anyway." Buffy gave him a weak smile. "Riley would probably have a cow right now anyway, without the alcohol. If he saw how much syrup I was using."

"Why, is it alcoholic syrup?" Spike took the little carafe from her hand and sniffed it.

"No, just wanted me to watch my sugars. Eat super healthy. Eat enough calories. That part I have covered."

"Sounds like a control freak, Pet." Spike muttered darkly. "You wanna watch them- though I guess that's your type. Angel. Tin Soldier."

"Angel was never- controlling." Just a little overly decisive. "Anyway, that's my ex-type. The only new love in my life is going to be short, bald, and wear diapers."

"Sounds like a businessman I caught Dru with once." Spike said thoughtfully.

Buffy spluttered, spitting orange juice back into her glass. "Spike!"


"Not while I'm eating." She wiped her mouth. "I meant the baby, and you know it."

"I know it. But it was nice to hear you laugh."

"That was choking."

"It was both."

A subtle smile. "Maybe."

"Mmhm." He leaned back and let her finish in silence.

Well. She talked some by the second helping.

Why do I care if she talks? Why am I doin' this anyway? Although the steak isn't bad and it's been years since I had fried eggs.

"Full? Spike asked after a bit.

"Full enough. I think some of it's stress eating."

"That's a thing, huh?"

"Maybe not for vamps." She whispered. Then burped delicately. "Oh my gosh. Sorry!"

"Trust me. It's okay. I've heard- an' done- worse." Strange little thing. Gets all hung up over her table manners, but I've had her bent backwards, spread open, seen her screamin' angry an' tearful. That was nagging, uncomfortably deep for someone who was supposed to be kept on the periphery of friendship, someplace between "useful at times" and "not quite enemies". "Settle up. I'll take you back to the dorms."

"Do you always park in the same spot? The old caretaker shed?"

"Yeah, no one uses it anymore." Spike prepared to turn past Restfield.

"Can you park there, then?"

What about your dorm?"

"Oh. I can walk over."

He heard her swallow and her heart rate seemed to speed up a bit. "Thought you didn't feel like walkin'."

"I feel a little better."

There was a pause. "No need to rush off."

"Thanks." The heartbeat evened out.

It was unspoken and easy to follow him down to the lower level, but even so, he said, "You can lay down if you're knackered, Luv."

She knew he meant that. Just to rest, not that her using his bed meant she had to do anything besides rest. She slid her shoes and coat off gratefully. Her eyes closed almost instantly. They flew open when she heard the rustle beside her, the thunk of heavy boots kicked off.

It's his bed. Of course he's going to sleep in it. Her stomach crunched uncomfortably, a mix of nerves and instinctual responses to being near him again. But I can't.

Which is so stupid, because now I'm officially broken up with Riley and I am "free" to sleep with anyone I want. But two nights in a row before, sex. Lots of it.

And it was nice.

I don't deserve nice right now? That doesn't sound right, and it's not right.

Nothing is right.

Sobs broke out. Literally escaped her, she had no idea they were coming, and then they were there, hard, gasping ones that shocked her. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry, I should go, oh- Oh God, I'm sorry." She was scrambling up, apologizing to him, but really apologizing to the world around her, for not being able to juggle all the craziness like a "hero" should.

He was holding her back. "Slayer! Slayer, stop running, come here." Spike caught her around the middle and then quickly released her torso, reaching for her shoulders again.

"I don't want to." Buffy shook her head frantically.

"I don't want you to do anything but- but stay still." Stay here. Stay with me. No, not that, just stay. "You're not s'posed to run off miserable."

Buffy let herself be lead back to the mattress, head on a pillow, eyes overflowing. This is so not something Spike should see. Or hear. Spike is- is quiet when I least expect it. Least expect it, need it most?

He didn't ask her what was wrong, or ask her to talk, or to stop.

"Why aren't you talking?" She whispered thickly.

"I didn't think I needed to say anything." It would be familiar, and tempting, to pull a sobbing woman into his arms and start offering comfort. He'd done it plenty of times with Drusilla, though the madness in her was quick to make sobs one minute turn into giggling fits the next.

Maybe I'll be better at coping with the mood changes than I thought.

"I don't know why I- I'm losing it around you. Now. I held it together all day. Mostly."

"That's prob'ly why, don't you think? Time to crash."

"I'm not big on 'crashing' in front of people. Certain people." Guys really. Angel and I- so much emotion, and when Angelus popped out, using all those shared moments- ooh, talk about twisting the knife. Riley? Missing any really deep emotion on my part, and obliviousness on his parts equals unleashing in private, on patrol, and on unsuspecting ice cream containers. And, now apparently that list includes Spike, even though he's a guy, too.

Spike scoffed, "Don't know why you'd think I'm one of the 'certain' people you have to keep up the front with. I knew you were superhuman, Luv. Equal parts super an' human. Never pretended you weren't, the human is where you get the living bit." His voice got involuntarily softer. "Love the living things…" His hand was tempted to reach for her new little life and give it a stroke, but he stopped himself.

His words provoked a slight lifting of her cheeks and a little light coming back into her eyes. "Even the hysterical part? With sudden tears? And seriously compressed bladders?"

"Yeah. Even with that." His grip on her increased, subtly, pulling her back, and this time she yielded. "I don't have tissues. I have some shirts I've been meanin' to throw out if you need a hanky."

"I think… I think I might be done now. Crying." She said.

"Good." He was relieved. Tears confused him. Her tears. There had been a time when he's seen her all helpless and tearful and it- he had to control a surge of evil lust, not sexual lust. It did things to him. But that's when she was just another Slayer. Not Buffy. Not too aware of the human under the super. "Gonna sleep now?"

"Mmhm. I think so."

She thought wrong. He'd suspected as much.

"You know how he stood me up?"

So it starts. "Remember that, yeah."

"He went to get re- re- something or other. Cleared again. For duty. Active missions."

"Actual missions through the army, or more mad scientist shit?"

"I- I think just the army." He never really said. "Central America."

"Nice place. Bright colors. Spicy food. Thick, hot blood." Damn. Hungry again.

"He's going someplace without a permanent military base. So his idea," she had to swallow down incredulous anger, "was that he and I could get married sometime this month before he leaves, and then I could go to any army base in the country. Any one that had an available space open. But pick up and move, now, this month! Just leave. Mom. My friends. The Hellmouth. My college career, pitiful as it is."

Spike sat up to stare down at her. "Head's up his ass."

A deep, thankful sigh. "Exactly." It saves so much painful explanation when the person you're talking to gets that.

"You told him to eff off, right?"

"More like 'ship off', but in a nice way. Not his fault that we didn't work out. Not all his fault. I call a fifty-fifty split, with him earning extra percentage points lately." Buffy spread her hands.

"Very decent. Generous, even."

"How'd you like to be with someone who didn't really love you with their whole heart?" Buffy pointed out.

I was. Her words made a sudden sharp wound in his heart and brain. "He didn't mind it, did he?" I didn't. As long as she was around. You'd take her love, broken or missing pieces- maybe even missing altogether- as long as you had her, and had hope one day you'd make it better. That she'd love you all the way. The wound was opening, just when he thought he'd learned a lesson, that it was only a memory, not worth more pain. Dammit, now I have some kinda 'sympathy' for the bastard. "It's not anyone's first choice." Spike scowled and grunted out finally. "But maybe you think it's your best one."

"Probably where his mind was." Buffy sighed. "Which I feel so bad about! I- I think he hoped it would just take more time, and this baby would buy it for us." Buffy admitted.

"You wouldn't play along. You've had longer to get used to the bad truths still bein' truths. Some things you don't change." Even if they hurt.

"I wanted him to. He wanted me to. That's not good. I mean, if someone wants to change, I'm not going to stop them! I just shouldn't be the one to force it."

It occurred to Spike that he could easily see Riley using force. If he considered it an action for the greater good. His gut gave a twisting lurch. "Slayer, is he still leavin' soon?"

"Yeah. Without me, like I said."

"When he comes back- what's he want from you? In terms of his 'fatherly rights'?" Another uncomfortable feeling. That Riley would have certain ideas in his head, his rights, and they'd be the only ones he cared about. Thank God she's a fighter, or she'd be dead in the water already.

"Oh, you won't even believe it. His family lives in Iowa."

"I remember that. You liked the big cornfed type." Not narrow in the chest and hips like me.

"I like proportionate." Buffy frowned at him, as if hearing his inner thoughts and his silent criticizing the body she now thought was incredible. Top and bottom half, both way incredible, oh God…

"Uh- what about Iowa, Slayer?" She just gave me the look. Remembering what's under the clothes. He found himself unthinkingly returning the look, despite trying to stay on track.

"He wanted the baby to go live in Iowa! Not even with him, with his parents!"

"He's not gonna be around much?"

"The missions he's going on- they're not exactly local. And I asked him to think about local! I was trying to keep it so he was included- feeling already bad that he's not more included, and it was my decision."

"You didn't make it on your own, Slayer."

"Whatever. I tried."

"No dice?"

"No dice, no pieces, not even a game board." Buffy rolled onto her side, facing him now, and six inches closer. Ooh. That's a lot closer. "The army is in his blood. He can't give it up."

"But you can give up slaying? Pillock." He snorted derisively.

I could so kiss him right now. If he says anything else more completely perfect, I will kiss him.

"So, he can't give up a job, but your sacred fuckin' higher calling that can only be removed with death, that's somethin' you just throw off? Pack up and head to some base? What the hell did he learn in that Initiative? Learned about demons, why not the only natural enemy we have?" His mind boggled.

Spike felt himself suddenly sinking hard into the plush covers, her warm body crushing him down in a fully unexpected, completely heated kiss. "Whoa- Wh- I thought you weren't in the mood!" Spike protested, trying to talk around her lips before eagerly attempting to return the embrace.

"I'm not! But you- this is going to sound wrong, but you're saying a lot of really perfect stuff!" And after a guy who says nearly everything wrong, oh man. It's a big turn on.

"Are you- sure you're not in the mood?" Spike felt himself get hard under the wet warmth he could feel pressing to him as she sat herself up and attempted to roll off of him.

"I… I'm not teasing, you know I got the message, you don't like being teased. I'm just not sure."

An' she thinks that's not a tease. Even though it's true, it's still a bloody tease. "Could you tell your body not to make moves on mine, then? At least until you are sure? I get your head's not where you want it, but your pussy's damn close to where I'd want it." He winced. "Sorry. I'm still demon, still man, too, if you're not picky about breathing."

"Really sorry!" And she genuinely was. She didn't even mind the incredible crassness. Probably because she had some of the same feelings. And it's Spike. Spike who has incredibly nice sides along with the potty mouth.

"No worries." I need a smoke. Or somethin'. Distraction would be good. Keep talking. He was curious anyway. "He's not quittin' and so he wants the little one shipped off, too?"

"I get his point. I'm not giving up my dangerous 'job', and I'm still in school. I don't have my own place and his family has a big, sprawling farm or something. My mom's house is literally in the worst neighborhood on the planet. A Hellmouth."

"Hey, least it's not Cleveland. An' you know, with you around, it seems pretty nice a lot of the time." An' if that Hellmouth rep is gonna give him fuel to take the kid away, I can pull some patrols of my own. She wouldn't care, not if it was for the kid. Use some muscle. Keep the body count down. "Keeping the White Hats in the lead, we can do that. Not like he's likely to win any arguments about sweet little college burg vs. empty acreage, unless he can tell a judge about the dark supernatural secrets of Sunnyhell." He smiled. "Then you're looking at junior visiting him in the psych unit, Luv."

She didn't return the smile. "I don't want that to happen. I don't even want to go to court. I- I'm going to ask Willow to research it for me. I know I should do it myself, but I can't risk screwing up anything this major, and she's the best at finding out anything you could ever need to know. There's got to be some kind of non-court custody or visitation agreement he and I can make. I know this is not the best place to raise a child, but having no parent around at all? No. No, I'm not letting that happen."

"Easy, easy." The blades in her voice, the rigid spine, and the racing heart startled him into soothing her down. "I already told you, I'd help. An' if I'll help, you know the rest of your lot will. You've saved the world enough times, Slayer, you can work with one idiot with control issues. He's not evil." Not as good as she thinks, not even as good as he thinks, but he's not evil.

Buffy slowly forced herself to calm back down. She'd been doing that a lot tonight. "Thank you. I'm good. I feel better. Um. You're right. I talked to Giles today. He was on my side."

"Watcher's no fool." Spike laughed drily.

"I know Willow and Tara will understand. Xander- ugh, he really liked Riley."

"He doesn't like him more than you, Luv."

"Good point. And Anya, I'm not worried about her either."

There was a large gap in her list. "Your mum?"

Insightful vampire. Oddly comforting, sometimes super irritating. "I think one of the reasons she didn't freak out about her nineteen year old daughter being pregnant out of wedlock was because she thought the wedlock would happen pretty quick. Riley is an awesome son-in-law on paper. And not too shabby in reality, I guess."

"You'll find another one, if you want one." Spike said confidently. "If you want a man, no shortage of volunteers, I'm sure." He concluded with a shrug, looking at her from the corner of his eye.

"She's not going to want me to just pick a random guy so the baby has a dad around!" Buffy threw her hands up in the air. Spike gave her a conceited smirk. "Oh."

"My point. She'll deal. Mention her grandchild could get whisked off to the heartlands and she'll be on your side. Ax and all." He rubbed his head with a wince. "She's a mum, too, remember? She'll defend her cub, an' yours."

Maternal instinct. Mama bears and papa bears. Vampire bears? She looked at Spike quizzically. "Where'd you learn all this stuff?"

"Century of people watching, and two years of soaps." Spike grinned. The grin faded. "I had a mum. Remember?" His voice turned raspy. "They'll forgive you anything. In time. In time."

Buffy nodded slowly, his faraway voice somehow bringing her closer to him. "Everything's about time…" Not enough time to fall in love, enough time to get over the love I used to have, enough time for people to forgive me if I disappoint them, enough time for the father, enough time for the mother. And in very little time, that seems like a long time, my life is going to change no matter what anyone does or what else happens. She ran a hand along her torso.

Everything is pulling on me, and I need more time. No, I need time to stop. Freeze.

"Not ready for all of this." Buffy gasped out, startling them both.

Well, everything about her had been unexpected from the beginning. This "anger management shagging" was the peak of unexpected. The way he got wrapped up in the fall out of her life was something he wasn't ready for either. Not this feeling. Being close. Wanting her to be okay. To be around.

"I know. It's gonna be okay." Spike's words didn't seem hollowly comforting, unlike his clumsy original "there, there" comments to the stressed out slayer. "Don't think- in our world- that we ever get too much warnin' or time to prep, an' you still come out aces, Slayer."

She nodded, lips clamped. I will not cry. I will not hyperventilate. I will be in control. I am the Slayer. I can handle this.

"You do your best work under pressure. I've seen it." Spike's voice was a whisper, and he turned on his side, facing her. His hand tentatively reached out and rubbed her arm.

"Thanks, Spike." She managed a tremulous smile through her fiercely controlled emotions.

"Here to help, Luv." He felt his touch going slower, moving up higher, cupping her face, though he knew he probably shouldn't. Girl's not sure.

Oi. Are you sure? His inner voice jolted sharply into his brain, penetrating through the haze of sensation that came from touching a warm, soft body, feeling her breathing and pulse rising ever so slightly in response to him. You do this now, it won't be to take her edge off. It's gonna be different. You feel it. You want to hold her this time. Want her to snuggle down on your chest and you stroke her hair.

That hair. He fondled a handful of it, hearing himself whispering, "Be all right, Slayer. It'll be all right."

You want her to want you. Not the way she has been. This is different and you're going in headlong. Weren't you listening? Not. Ready. The warning voice in his head was getting louder, but it was drowned out in her. She wasn't particularly loud, the little gulp of her single swallow, the rustle of fabric on fabric as she slid an inch or so closer and tilted her head into his hand.

"Not ready." Words popped out of him, leaving them both halted in mid-grasp, mid-reach. "I- dammit. I don't mean to push you." He was trying to get his hand off. Why was that honey silk of hers like some kind of webbing right now? Ensnaring. Like the green muted glint in her eye.

The only thing not pushing on me- is Spike. He's outside of everything, but right there in it, too. But not pushing. He's like a safety zone. I want to be someplace safe, where I'm still not the helpless female, or just the little mother needing protection. Safety zone because I'm just safe, the way I am, and this is my break. No pushing exists in here. Eve time seems to slow down. "Wanting is different than pushing." Buffy whispered.

It was his turn to swallow. Saying "I want you" was a little too raw right now, for some reason. He had to restrict himself to a nod. His hand betrayed him, gripping down on her shoulder. Stay. Come to me. Dammit, why?

She scooted in. It's safe. It's going to feel good, if you let him make you feel all those things you felt before.

I don't need the pleasure. I need…

And nothing would finish the sentence. So many things to need, to fix, and all she wanted was a break from thinking of them.

Can't say I need. Frozen a few inches too far away.

Can't say I want. Waiting in the place where breathless lived, and him without any breath to begin with.

"I wish I could make-"

"It's not the same, but I-"

Their desperate sounding sentences collided, and stopped. "You first?" Buffy prompted.

"Oh no you don't. You're the bloody hero. You be brave." He shook his head.

So whatever he wants to say is hard for him too. She smiled so fleetingly that even his lightning bolt eyes missed it. "It's not the same feelings, like the other nights, but I was…I wondered if you… You can guess the rest, right?" Her eyes turned pleading.

He smiled, chest expanding and falling in a shadow of a relieved sigh. "I was gonna say, 'I wish I could make you feel better.' Is there somethin' I could do?"

She didn't ask why he was being nice this time, and he didn't find it odd to offer.

"Maybe. But we might not 'do' it the same way as before?"

"Any way you like, Luv." Spike swore.

"Don't know how to describe it." Never had it.

"Then we get to find out. I bet it's slower. I like slower sometimes." Spike's hand slipped up to her temple and trailed down, not looking away from her.

"Definitely slower. And more- still." Not about cumming this time, no fun twists on positions, no angling to make each other scream. I bet it'll happen, it's just not about that.

"Holdin' on to the other person?" He confirmed. Holding you. You'd let me, Slayer? World really is on its ear.

"Sounds awesome."

"Lemme see if I can get it right, then." Spike leaned forward, and she met him halfway.

Disrobing was an afterthought. Kissing and holding were priority, until her hands went down and found the hem of his shirt, exposing his back. He jumped when her skin met his. Even though he felt like he was letting that "human virgin" side of himself out from its usual carefully kept hiding spot, he couldn't help but enjoy the gratification in her eyes.

"Sorry." She rubbed his back in light, long strokes.

"'S fine." Spike rolled the shirt up, sitting as he did so. He watched her own hands quickly start to pluck at her top, eyes down. He didn't like that. Like she had to take it off because he had. No tit for tat shit here, not this time, not now. His arms went down and under hers, coming back into her embrace, preventing her from doing anything out of some sense of evenness.

Eventually her hands tapped at his waist and her quiet breaths between kisses turned into quiet moans. "Let's get this off." He moved his hands to her hips and deft thumbs flicked open a button, swift fingertips slid down the zip. She went to work on him with more tugging, motions more hurried.

"You feel so nice." That sounded lame, but she didn't have the right word for this feeling. Something new but not something she felt like she had to work at to get used to. So relaxed, and slow, and yet her stomach tingled pleasantly. Comfortable and exciting all at once, and it was- just so nice.

"Mmm, you're the nicest thing I've ever felt, give you that." He practically purred against her, rubbing his face sideways across the almost bare body. Thumbs hooked over the edge of white panties with a row of lace edging, and flipped, turning them down and pulling them off her unprotesting legs, showing her perfect, pouting lips to him. Stiffness became a full on, raging salute.

He's seen it before. Buffy watched him watching her, with his mouth slightly open, his eyes wide, then hungry looking. You'd never know it by the way he- "Spike?"

The vampire slid seamlessly off the bed to slip between her thighs, calves across his shoulders.

Buffy began to sit up, pull her legs back. Turning this into a repeat of their first time, with all the stress-relief orgasms wasn't what she wanted. Well, wanted yes, but didn't need them more than the close, comforting contact. "Hey-"

"This is different." He reminded her, and he sighed contentedly. His tongue gave a little flicker against one proud lip and her legs fell open more fully. This is worship. This is adoration of every inch.

Buffy's eyes closed and her toes curled- but didn't remain tensed for long. He moved back up her shortly. "Just wanted to pay my respects." He murmured. Sweet spot, that place. Not only for fucking, not only for "practical" use, though Army Git forgot that.

"Thank you." When he stood, she sat.

"You don't have to." He was quick to see where this was going.

"Shh. Want to." Her hand caressed him gently, lightly up and down, then under, a hesitant cupping of the pale weight underneath the hardness. Mouth parted in a single tender glide, tongue danced in a single, unhurried lap. Buffy giggled when his head went back and a low, ragged moan tore out of him. "I didn't even do anything fancy."

"You didn't need to." I hope you do this again sometime. Nice an' slow, savoring it all, while I'm savoring her.

Now would also be fairly bloody acceptable.

As if hearing his unspoken wish, she did give him several more long, slow pulses with her mouth. Buffy took him in much deeper than either expected, and released him with her head against the hard triangle between navel and erection. She echoed his contented sigh of earlier. "Mmm. For some reason, I didn't ever picture us like this."

"In bed?"

That for a start, but not what she meant. "Slow." Not really about sex, but I don't think we need to say it. Both of us must know it, or we wouldn't be working so well together tonight.

"I said I'd try to figure out the right way." He nudged her back and watched her easily sprawl, arms out, legs slightly apart. Vanilla goddess on a pink silk cushion, and wanting nothing more than for him to hold her tight, and fill her up. Happy to do both.

I was wrong about the positions. This one was new. And really nice. Buffy was chest to chest with him, both on their sides, her top leg bent and over his back, her bottom leg taking turns under his, or simply flat against his. He was buried about halfway in, and if she leaned back, away from him, he sank in further. But she seldom leaned away, always headed closer. Not exactly the best position for getting each other to the happy, screamy stage, but perfect for looking at the facial expressions, clinging tight, lifting up, hugging hard.

The only thing missing is talking. But he thinks I'm not too much about talking tonight, and he's right. Except I suddenly feel like I have a lot to say to him.

"I needed this. N-needed you." It would have sounded guilty if it weren't said while buried against his forehead.

"Need you, too, Luv. Want you. So much."

The silence that followed was only broken by her breathing, the soft squeak of a random spring, and the drip of water on stone.

Wasn't ready to say that. Or think it even. Not to share it.

After mutual, initial panic came the urge for each to reassure the other.

"It's good to be needed, right?" Buffy bit her lip. "In a non-pressure-y way."

"An' wanted. Feel like someone wants you without makin' demands on you. Get enough of that, don't you?"

"Even when they don't mean to." Buffy agreed. "So. Back to what I said earlier. This is nice. And I … need this." Right now anyway. She wondered how long this need would be in place. If it would go away. Do I want it to, something like this? Something that meets needs, whatever they are.

But it won't always be like this. Enjoy it while you can. "Got it, Buffy." She opened her mouth, and he shook her head. "No." Eyebrows meaningfully raised, blue eyes knowing. "I said 'Got it, Buffy'." Nothing more to say. Don't want to hear her say anything else.

"With him leaving, as in flyin' the bloody coop leavin'… nothin' to make you feel too angry or 'undesirable'." He watched her waking up after a cat nap. Slow might not take up as much energy, but it took more time, and that still took its toll.

Buffy blinked, brain tripping as it processed big heavy thoughts and unspoken implications when it had just woken up. "No. I guess not."

"Yeah. So…"

"Right." So what's the point? Why do we keep doing this?

Silence. Now wakeful, waiting. "On the other hand, with him gone, no one to help you take off the edge that slaying leaves behind, is there?"

"That's right." Her voice was a shade too eager. "N-not that I need that edge taken off."

"You're a damn sight nicer when it is." Spike mumbled.

"Are you volunteering for the job?" Buffy giggled. " 'Edge-remover'?"

He tossed the ball back into her court. "Do you like the idea?"

Buffy winced. Honesty time. Painful truths again. Ugly-but somehow actually really hot truths…

Spike caught the wince. "Hey, it was a simple offer, you don't like, you don't take me up on it." Why's she lying to me? I know she liked it. Liked me. Wanted me, needed me. Like I felt about her.

"I like the idea." Buffy blurted.

His eyebrows raised, the snide grin appeared- then vanished. "Glad." He said softly.

"But it can't be a- a it can't be anything. Anything more than - what we already did." Buffy stammered, looking away.

"I got it, Slayer. Ruin your precious reputation, and I'm evil even if I play nice, all the other reasons rolling 'round your head."

She was shaking her head, eyes big and somehow worried. Worried about him? What he thinks? What he thinks I think? Ugh. I like being with Spike because … when I'm with him, I stop worrying about everything. For just a little while. "Those are all good reasons, but I wasn't thinking of them." Buffy hastened to inform him. "I'm- it's going to be a long, weird year now, y'know?"

"It always is." But this one'll be a record holder.

"So… can't be anything more, 'cause I don't think I'm ready for anything more." She told her hands, avoiding his eyes. "Not that you were even thinking there would be. I was trying to warn you. I don't like when people -important people- do things without warning me, so… yeah. Professional courtesy and all that, right?"

I'm an important person, now? And somewhere in the back of that maze she calls a mind, there's an idea that this was only the starting place.

Must not be a totally barkin' idea, 'cause it feels like that to me, too. Especially the last time. When they held on for the long, sweet ride, and neither stopped until both slept.

"Sounds good, Luv. This for now. This for a long time, short time. However it works out. Not complainin'."

She let out a relieved gush of air. "Good! That's good!" Now she met his eyes, smiling widely, seeing that same relaxed, peaceful smile on his face. Her body shifted deeper into the mattress and her eyes slowly closed again.

"Tired out, Pet?"

"Yeah." She grinned at his arm slid around her waist, drawing her back to rest against him. "Gimme ten minutes and I'm all yours."

I'm all yours. Just a turn of phrase, his head reminded him. But what a delectable phrase it was. That this, his hand stroked from filling breast to the soft space between her hipbones, this could be all his. Not just the sex, the girl, and the-

"Hey! I felt that! I felt that, holy shit, Slayer I felt that!" Spike sat up, hand flying off like it had been sprayed with holy water, then swooping gently back down to reclaim its position.

"Me, too." Buffy had felt a tiny motion, so small that no one would notice it- no one but two beings with incredible preternatural sensory systems who were doing nothing but focusing on the feel of each others bodies.

"Can I- can I do it again?" His brows were drawn together in concentration, rapt expression on his face.

"Only if the little guy does it again." She laughed.

"Well… I was gonna lay like this anyway." Spike tried to keep his voice brusque as he settled back into place.

There were no more noticeable motions. It didn't stop him from thinking. This could be mine. Mine of sorts. Mine to look after. The girl to help. The little bit to just- keep an eye on for her.

He inhaled her scent, a face full of her hair as he buried his head to the nape of her neck. It's more about the girl.

Damn. I could see m'self in this with her, at least on the edges.

"I'm so glad you came with me the other night. The night at the Bronze." Buffy muttered drowsily.

"I'm happy 'bout that, too. An' Red owes me. Gotta see her to settle up."

"Mmhmm. Or she'll wonder why you had a sudden change of heart. Didn't want your payment." Buffy agreed with a sleepy giggle.

Sudden change of heart. Another turn of phrase that touched a nerve someplace. "Wouldn't want that, Slayer."

"Nu-uh." A yawn. A burrow into the pillow, a burrow back into him, ensconcing herself more deeply, soft cheeks against what was becoming hard.

Spike grit his teeth and held down the urge to start things off again, screw her request for another little nap. Instead he kissed her shoulder and moved his hands higher, cupping her breasts and making her let out soft sound of pleasure. Deadly enemies, cozied up together, and it was… the best he'd felt in a long time. By the way she smiled as she drifted off, it must be the same for her. Another kiss on her neck, and then he closed his eyes as well.

Stay on the edges, William. At least until she thinks about letting someone in. Never know if that moment will come, but I guess if it does, I'll be ready.

The end of the first part of our journey, more to come shortly (I hope). Keep an eye out for the continuation!