This is archived at my "caromiofic" journal, but because Space lord asked so nicely...

Chapter 1

My vampire is a romantic. We've been together for a week, and I've seen a whole new side of Spike. I don't know how he's managed it, but there's always a little note in the pocket of my white coat and a rose in my locker at the hospital. When I get off work, he's at my door with food and a foot rub. I'd had some vague idea he'd be like this, but it didn't come close to the reality of how cherished I'd feel just for giving him my affection.

Tonight is completely at our pace, since I have the day off tomorrow. It's the first time we're going out for a date (and back to the crypt) and I can tell he's nervous. I don't think it's quite sunk in for him that I'm not going anywhere. We have dinner at the nice Italian place, which includes this to-die-for dessert. You really have to try it. It has layers of ice cream, super thin chocolate and cookie wafers, and whipped cream – all frozen and pretty to make a torte that has to take hours to look that perfect. It's like a work of art, and so decadent. Since Spike encouraged me to go for the calorie-laden stuff, I'm guessing he has big plans for later, not that I mind.

We've been at my apartment, or Dawn and Tara's place, all week, so I haven't seen the crypt since before I picked Spike up from the airport.

"You've been busy," I say in surprise, upon walking in the door. He's looking at me hopefully.

"Just a bit of cleaning," he says casually. There are lit candles all over the place, the room is as spotless as you could expect a crypt, and there's a new throw blanket on the sofa.

I smile at him as I sit down, and see him breathe a sigh of relief. "Thank you for dinner," I say as he sits next to me, and follow it with a kiss. That's another thing I hadn't thought about. Spike kisses like a man starved for affection, which I guess he was. And he's so passionate, which you might guess from his temper, but his doubters would never guess that he could be just as gentle, too.

We're still in the 'honeymoon' stage where one of us is always touching the other, so I don't mind when he pulls me onto his lap.

"I like the boots," he murmurs, kissing beneath my ear. I smile as I lean my head over to give him better access.

"I figured you would." I'm wearing a pair of black leather knee-high stiletto boots my mother picked up in Italy for me with my long sweater-dress. They're the kind of boots you sit and look sexy in, not the kind you wear all night, but I love them for special occasions.

He chuckles in that sexy way I've come to adore and carries me off to the trapdoor in the floor. My stomach drops as we drop down to the cave, Spike landing on silent feet.

"Oh, my…"

I look up to see that his bedchamber has been transformed into the ideal lovers' setting. There are enough candles that I think he must have bought out the drugstore. The bed is draped in blood red silk sheets, with a black velvet comforter. A bouquet of deep red roses is on the nightstand, next to a basket of stuff – I can't tell what of. It looks amazing, and I can't believe he went to so much trouble.

"If this is what you do after a week, I can't wait to see what you come up with after a year."

"Well, I'm certainly not telling you, luv. I'd never be able to surprise you." Spike sets me down on the bed and proceeds to peel my boots off. Then my socks are dropped to the floor to join the boots.

"Come up here." I pull his face up to mine. It's been too long since he kissed me, and I want to show how much I like the room.

His quick, nimble fingers work on the buttons down the front of my dress as I kiss him. The reverence in his touch belies the playful nature he's tried to exude tonight. It dawns on me that having me here, just how he wants me, means a lot to Spike. It's not just a first for us, being in his bed, it's a first for him. He's been nervous because it's the first time he's made love to a woman in his own home. I could beat that blonde bitch over the head right now with something really heavy, only her loss is my gain, and I can't complain when I have a gorgeous man looking at me like I'm the oasis to his desert.

God, how could anyone say there's no soul in those luminous blue eyes?

A pleased purr rumbles through his chest as my dress slides to the floor. I'm wearing a black lace slip I picked up over the weekend…and no panties. Spike's eyes darken further with desire as I take my turn to undress him.

"This new?" he whispers hopefully.

"Mmm-hmm. I didn't keep any lingerie from my last break-up."

"Oh, good," he gasps. I always get a gasp from sucking on his nipples. A scrape of the teeth earns me a growl. I love how responsive he is.

I must have had him pretty distracted. Spike jumps when I wrap my hand around his dick and give it a warm squeeze. "Want you, baby."

He backs me up to the bed and lays me down. "Wanna taste you first, kitten. Naughty girl, not wearing any knickers." He pushes the slip up to my waist and buries his head between my thighs.

"Well, you've already ripped five pairs," I complain. Decent undies aren't cheap nowadays. Not that I care too much at the moment, since he can basically have me ready to come in about a minute. He found this secret button on me the other day and has taken advantage of it ever since…only I don't get to come until he decides to let me, the evil bastard.

"I'll buy you more," he murmurs, then plunges his tongue in my core. The length of that man's tongue should be illegal!

"Ohhh, god…baby…" My legs are starting to shake, and if he'll just let me let go… "Spike!"

I haven't even come down from my orgasm before he's inside me and kissing my breath away. "Bloody hell, you're still so tight," he moans. Spike starts moving in shallow thrusts. "Don't know if I'll ever get used to how hot you are."

I lift his head from my neck and smile. "Plenty of time to find out. I love you, William."

As much as it touches me that he's still awed by the words, I wish he had heard them more often before. It breaks my heart that he never knew love for 120 years. I say how I feel often, but I know it'll take time to heal that old of a wound. He can't say it back to me, yet, but I feel how much I mean to him in every touch, every smile, every time his eyes soften in that way I've only seen otherwise when he looks at Dawn. I'm his girl.

We kiss and touch and rock in time to an ancient rhythm. Other nights, we've coupled in a lust-filled frenzy, and we might get to that tomorrow, but tonight…tonight is about erasing bad memories.


God, Corinne undoes me with how well she knows me. I haven't said a word, and yet, she knows what I need tonight…what I hoped for.

Coming home, after the day we'd spent together, I realized I wasn't the same vampire that had lived here a month prior. I left as a man trying to hold on to a dream that I knew had already passed its time. Buffy cared for me, and even wanted me, but she couldn't give me what I want and didn't know when she'd ever be able. No one's fault, really. Just a bleedin' casualty of war. At one point, I would have waited forever for her to have a few free moments, but I realized I've been my own man for too long now to still be her slave.

I was about ready to come home when I got thrashed trying to be a bloody meat shield, so it was a blessing in disguise. We had some fun, but there was also pain that neither one of us wanted to acknowledge, and couldn't talk about with the Watcher there, anyway. Soddin' git watched me like a hawk the entire trip. Hadn't I proved myself enough already? That's another reason I was ready to come back. Buffy isn't ready to say to hell with her friends' opinions, and I'm not ready to get a soul. She might trust and care for me without it, but she'd never make the full leap in front of everyone while I'm soulless. Cori only judges me by my actions, not my condition. Got to say, it's pretty liberating.

So, I took one look down here and knew I had to clear out the old. Every memento I'd collected or stolen of the Slayer was boxed up. Gave the sheets to my laundry lady, as they were in perfectly usable condition. Sold the old rugs to one of my poker mates. Wasn't entirely easy, but I owed it to the Doc to make my best effort to move forward.

I ordered what I wanted, and made sure the place was perfect before I invited her to dinner. I think the chit missed her calling as a psychologist, though, because she picked up right away that I was nervous, smiled, and squeezed my hand. To be able to show affection in public is a glorious thing, you know. A secret relationship might sound thrilling, but all you really feel is restrained, denied what everyone else takes for granted. I can smile at Cori without getting accused of plotting something evil. I can put my arm around her without getting punched in the nose. I can even kiss her, and she still looks me in the eye. At least I'd had that much with Dru, but I didn't realize how much I'd truly missed it over the past few years, until now.

I've learned that Cori is as physical about things as me. Sharing contact just comes naturally to her, and every touch has been fading these old scars. She plays with my hair while we're watching the telly, twines her foot with mine under the table at the Revello house, and cuddles with me at night. And I'm enough of a ponce that falling asleep with her in my arms nearly brings me to tears. It's even worse when I wake up in the morning and she's still there.

Probably shaved a year off my unlife worryin' that she wouldn't like what I'd done to the place. I actually do have taste, but my style doesn't always go over the best with others, so, yeah…I was anxious. My heart could have started beating again, I was so relieved when her face lit up in surprise. I can't wait to see all that creamy skin against my red sheets. She's a classic beauty, no denyin', but it's her warmth that shines the most. The most beautiful heart I've ever known. As I start to undress her, I'm thanking every deity I have no right to call on that she's let me into it. Her taste is divine, and then I'm wrapped in her warmth…and it's heaven. And it burns.

She knows all of it, and gives me those lovely, precious words again. I love you. I want to say it back, too, but I'm not there, yet. Yet. Soon, though. Probably sooner than either one of us realizes. William the Bloody has always been impulsive. We're making love long into the night, but however long we last before exhaustion claims us, she's going to come at least once more before I do. I was raised a gentleman, after all.


I've lost count of how many times I've climaxed. My legs don't work anymore, and I'm pretty sure speech will just come out as gobbledy-gook. I'm sweaty and boneless and oh-my-God was that amazing.

"I think you broke me." Huh, I can talk, after all. At least, I hope that was coherent.

He beams, and chuckles, kissing my brow. "Worth it, though, right?"

I nod. "Mmm-hmm." He's breathing hard, too, so I'm not the only one affected. I squirm a little and wrinkle my nose. "Sticky."

Spike outright laughs at me, and gets up, wobbly, walking naked to where I know his 'shower' is hidden. He comes back and hands me a damp washcloth, and lies down next to me again. We never made it under the covers. Cleaner now, all I can think about is sleep. Too bad the pillow is so far away. But, Spike's thinking ahead, so he tosses the washcloth towards his dirty clothes pile and slides me to a proper place on the bed, covering us with the bedding. A good thing, too, since I'm starting to feel the cool air on my skin.

"Sweet dreams, luv," he bids me, as I drift off in his arms. My vampire makes a very comfortable pillow.

"Mmm, love you."

I feel a kiss on the top of my head, and hear a whispered, "thank you" just before I fall asleep.


Chapter 2

It only took two months from the time we started dating for Spike to say the words back to me. I guess you could say it was my Christmas present, and just in case I forgot (like that would ever happen), my actual present was a gold locket with the inscription 'For My Love, William' engraved inside. I haven't taken it off, yet.

It's January now, and Buffy's back in town. She came by to see Dawn, of course, but she, Mr. Giles, and a bunch of the potential slayer girls are holed up at one of the hotels. I was worried about how Spike would react when Dawn told us, but he didn't say much, just that he would lend a hand if a fight went down. I'm pretty sure he's patrolling where they won't be at, but I don't know.

Tara and Willow have been doing constant research with Mr. Giles, looking for a way to stop whatever's after the girls. I patch them up occasionally in the E.R., but otherwise, I'm not involved. My priorities are Spike and Dawn.

Spike helps train the girls at The Magic Box. I haven't gone to watch. I don't know why I feel so insecure about seeing him around Buffy. I'm not usually that type, and I know Spike loves me. I guess the history they have is just a little intimidating. Tara and Dawn tell me I'm being silly. I know I am. It's me he comes home to every night, whether we're at his place or mine.


February 2003…

The chip is misfiring. I'm blasted with current so strong, I'm having seizures until it passes. The damn thing has to come out now, but I don't know how it's going to happen. The first one happened when I was over with Dawn. It's a testament to how much my Bit has grown up that she didn't panic. She called Corinne, who called Glinda, and now, there's a bloody pow-wow at the Revello house over what to do about it.

"Is there a spell that can lift it out, if you can't find a doctor?" Dawn asks.

"Probably, but we need to know if there's some kind of fail-safe to prevent removal," Tara replies.

"It would be just like the Initiative to booby trap their equipment," Willow adds. "It could blow up, for all we know."

"I can get you in for an MRI, but we'd still need a neurosurgeon." Corinne turns to the Slayer, who has yet to contribute an opinion since she walked through the door. "You know people there, right? Is there a way you can get in touch?"

My head tries to explode again. It's bloody undignified to fall out of a chair and have blood dripping out your nose while everybody stares at you. Except my girl, who's at my side in an instant with something that brings blessed darkness.

"Buffy? Do you have a way to contact Riley?" Dawn asks, well, more like demands. Corinne smiles at the protective tone she's taken over Spike.

"Uh, yeah…at least, I think so…there was a florist's shop…" Buffy rummages around in her bag for an address book and goes into the kitchen to use the phone. They have to admit she looked worried, too.

The Slayer comes back in a few minutes and explains that she tried to leave a message, but she's unsure if that's even a valid contact anymore. She looks genuinely apologetic, so the group settled in to wait for the call.

"What did you give him?" Buffy finally asks.

"Something for the pain. Hopefully, he can sleep for a while," Corinne replied. "And maybe the chip won't fire if he's unconscious, either."

"Ah. Good plan. None of us had thought about the chip having a short life-span, but it makes sense. The Initiative would never have kept their subjects around long term. Most of their experiments didn't even stay in one piece," Willow said.

"Well, there's only so long his brain can withstand this kind of voltage, with the repeated firings. If they haven't called by the morning, we have to find another alternative," the doctor stated firmly. "Can you guys look up a spell, or spells?"

"Sure, Cori," Tara replied. She and Willow went upstairs to look through their personal library.

The Slayer fidgeted in her seat for a few minutes until she finally decided to leave. "Um, I need to get back to the Potentials. Page me if they call, Dawnie."

"Okay. I have your number," the teen replied. She helped Corinne lift the vampire onto the couch so he could be more comfortable.

"Dawn, you can go do homework if you need to. Spike won't let you use him as an excuse, you know."

"Yeah, I know…might as well do something to keep my mind busy." The teen wandered off to the dining room.


Two hours later, Spike was wide awake, screaming and writhing in pain again whenever the chip fired. He gratefully accepted a mug of blood.

"How're you holding up, baby?" Corinne murmured.

"I'm alright, luv," he said gruffly. "A vampire can recover from just about anything 's long as his head is still attached." Spike downed the blood in two gulps.

"No word?" the Slayer asked as she came in, this time with the Watcher in tow.

Corinne shook her head. Buffy nodded.

"I have an idea. Maybe there's something that can help back at the old Initiative base. Schematics, or something."

"Spike?" Corinne asked, wondering if he was up to the trek. He stood, looking stubborn.

"Better than sittin' around here twiddlin' our thumbs," he replied.

"Buffy, is this really a wise use of our time right now? The girls need protection," Giles interjected.

"The girls will be fine for a couple hours, Giles. They have armed chaperones. Besides, no one asked you to come," she defiantly replied.

"I hope you know what you're doing," he stated, and left.

"Let's go before you have another seizure, Spike," she said.

Corinne wasn't going to be left out. "Let me drive, it's faster."

The blonde nodded in agreement. "Okay. We're heading to Sunnydale U. It's under the college."

They managed to get in through a known entrance, Buffy in the lead, armed with a sword and a flashlight. Corinne hovered close to her boyfriend, holding another flashlight, in case he had another attack.

"Ugh, the smell! They sure didn't bother to clean up down here, did they?" the Slayer remarked.

"Cost less just to seal it up and forget about," Spike replied. His voice dropped. "I think something's here."

A demon lunged out of the darkness at the petite Slayer, who beheaded it instantly.

"Nice reflexes, Slayer. Errrrrgh! Oh, bloody hell!" Spike dropped to his knees, clutching his head.

Floodlights came on from above, illuminating the area and showing they were actually in a large two-story room. Soldiers lined the upper balcony.

"Miss Summers?"

"Uh, yeah?"

"Agent Finn sent us to help you with Hostile 17."

"Oh? And what do you mean by 'help'?" Corinne interjected.

"You have two choices: either replace the defective chip with a new one, or remove it from ass-face's brain. His words."

"I really have a choice?" the Slayer asked suspiciously.

"Agent Finn said the decision is yours. We have a medical team standing by."

"I'm going to be there to watch," both women stated, then looked at each other.

"He doesn't need the chip anymore, Buffy," Corinne said quietly. "Spike's a good man, even if he is a vampire. You put another chip in his head, and we'll be right back here in a couple years."

The team of doctors approached with a gurney and started to pick up the disabled vampire.

"Be careful!" Corinne snapped.

"And who are you, ma'am?"

"Dr. Larkin of Sunnydale Hospital. I'm an E.R. resident, and I'm going with him."

"Miss Summers?"

The Slayer sighed. "Remove the chip. He knows the consequences."

"As you wish, ma'am."


Spike's eyes fluttered open. He felt someone holding his hand. "Doc?"

"Hold still, baby. It's almost over."


"You may close now, Dr. Larkin, if that is still your wish."

Corinne nodded and took the surgeon's place behind Spike's head. Minimal space had been exposed beneath his skull. She carefully released the clamp that had held the membrane aside that normally cushioned the brain from the bone, then replaced the triangular piece of skull the surgeon had removed, and finally released the clamp on the flap of scalp to cover the area. His skin was still anesthetized, so Spike didn't feel the tiny stitches she made to seal the incisions. She let out a breath once she was finished.

"Just like new."

"We're done?" Spike asked hopefully.

"If the good soldiers will allow us to leave in peace," Corinne snarked.

"I finally saw inside your head, Spikey," Buffy quipped.

The commander came in. "If there's nothing else you need, Miss Summers, we'll be on our way."

"Nope, I'm need-free. I just wanna get out of this creepy place. Couldn't you guys have done something about the smell?"

Spike was tired, but otherwise fine, and they made a hasty getaway. Another place with too many bad memories.


Dawn rushed out to greet them, tackling Spike with a hug. "I was so worried!"

"Easy there, Bit. I just had surgery," he gently reproached, returning the embrace.

"Well?" she demanded, daring her sister to give the wrong answer.

"He's chip free. Stop looking at me like I'm Satan's daughter. I'm going to go clean this sword properly, if you guys don't mind." Buffy didn't wait for an answer. This wasn't her world anymore, or her family. She didn't belong.

Spike watched her walk around the house to the back porch, indecision warring in his mind.

"Go talk to her, honey," Corinne nudged. "We really do owe her our thanks." She steered the teen back into the house.

Spike slowly approached the volatile blonde. "Slayer," he greeted. She sat on the porch swing, cleaning the sword with oil and a cloth.

"I thought we were past 'Slayer' and 'Vampire'."

"True enough. I'm just used to using your title in front of the others. Thank you…for giving me a chance today, pet. I didn't know you trusted me that much."

She looked up from the blade on her lap, eyes young and ancient at the same time. "You've proven yourself, Spike…and…I'm not the same girl that left Sunnydale on a stretcher. You've basically raised my little sister…and I've checked around. She's thriving…and that wouldn't have happened under my care…or the lack of it. She needed people that've had more years of growing up than I used, and she obviously has them. For Dawn alone, you've earned it, but you've also watched my back for years…and you could have hurt me all this time the chip didn't work on me, but you didn't…and I certainly deserved it. So, yeah, I think you're in a place where you can make good judgments without the chip restraining you. But, I still carry Mr. Pointy…" Buffy grinned, softening the threat.

"Point taken. It, uh…it means a lot…"

"Still?" she wondered.




By May, Buffy had found the magical Slayer artifact. She learned from the Guardian in the temple that a ritual needed to be performed to restore the balance. To mend the weakness created in the Slayer line. No one was sure who would become the "true" Slayer – it was up to the PTBs to choose. The Council arranged for Faith to be brought to town long enough for the ritual. The two Slayers, all the Potentials, and Willow and Tara entered the temple. The ancient Guardian would be conducting the ritual with the help of the witches.

In the end, a girl named Amanda, right from Sunnydale, emerged with the blessing of the Powers. In losing their powers, the former Slayers gained peace…and absolution. They had been cleansed of the darkness and set free of the burden of duty. Buffy and Faith had mixed feelings about it.

The Potentials filed out, free to go back to their lives until the next girl was called. Most of them congratulated Amanda, relieved that it wasn't their turn to face death every night. The Watchers were eager to start this new era.

Buffy and Faith were the last ones out. For some reason, they felt reluctant to leave the presence of the temple, and its Guardian.

"Girls…there's something I wanted to ask you, now that we're alone…"


Chapter 3


We're sitting at Dawn's graduation, waiting for her name to be called. Being an "S", she's towards the back in a class of 400 (give or take). It's being held at the Civic Center (indoors), so Spike is beside me, Tara on my other side. They're all here – Willow, Xander and Anya, Mr. Giles, and most importantly – her sister, Buffy. People don't see her often anymore, now that she's a Guardian, and if she does appear, it's always in a cream-colored sundress, her hair down in loose golden waves – ethereal. Kinda disgusting, if you ask me, except that you can't really hate someone who works for everything good now.

Spike and I have been mated for 8 months. He asked me on our year anniversary, and how could I say no? It hasn't changed us much, other than that we wear rings now – oh, and Spike has a wee bit more sun tolerance. I didn't gain anything, except that I can feel when he's near. And sex somehow feels more intimate. I can't describe it. I wear the marks proudly, though he was kind enough not to leave a nasty scar (not that I thought he would). He laces his fingers through mine and gives me that smile that says he knows what I'm thinking. Well, he likes to think so, anyway.

Oh! There's Dawnie, looking beautiful even in a cap and gown. We hoot and holler and make all kinds of noise, and you can see her rolling her eyes even from here. Tara has her telephoto lens out, so I'm sure we're going to have some good pictures later. My big softie of a vampire has totally spoiled the girl, too. He's got roses, and a bear, and a little jewelry box that I'm going to pray she doesn't lose later. Okay, so they weren't that expensive, but still, a nice gift. Anyway, at least we're not one of those embarrassing families with the air-horn!

We cheered for Amanda, too. Sweet kid, and she survived her first year on the Hellmouth. Becoming a Slayer helped her catch up with her height, and she now walks with the confidence of a runway model, without the funky walk. Pretty sure she has a crush on my husband, too, but I can't really blame her. He is gorgeous!

They're playing the recessional now, and it's time to go collect our girl. We have exactly two hours before she goes to the hotel for Grad Night (and wasn't that an interesting conversation to have with Spike), so the group is hustling off to a very quick dinner and gift-giving session (the little diamond earrings are a big hit), then we're dropping her off at the Hilton. Dawn got to have some time with her sister, though, and that's what counts.

Spike's pouting a little as we drive home and I can't help but smile. "Honey, you knew she had to grow up sometime."

"Why now?" he grumbles.

"Because she'll be 18 in two months, and she's already been taking care of herself for almost two years.

"Yeah, but she didn't look like an adult two bloody years ago."

"Spike, she's still going to need you, still ask your advice. Today doesn't change that. The first time a college boy breaks her heart, she'll come running right to you. Dawn will always be your Bit."

He smiles as he's driving and changes the subject. "It was good to see the Slayer show up for her, eh?"

"Yep. I'm still surprised she took the Immortal Helper gig. Not exactly the definition of 'normal'."

"Well, she's got the dark-haired bird to share the load with. That one surprised me a helluva lot more after learnin' her history, but I guess it was an easy get-out-of-jail-free card. But, if you're goin' to have fresh blood join the ranks, might as well get two chits that actually lived it. I'm just happy she's happy, for a change." Spike pulls into the garage of our two-story condo. The Desoto gets the shelter since her paint is 'original and delicate'. Whatever makes him happy.

Moving out of the crypt was an emotional experience for him, but necessary, since I wasn't moving into a home without a bathroom! It's locked up safe and tight, just in case our little group needs a safe haven, protected by a magical lock opened only by password. Spike actually paid Willow to perform the spell. My mate can be just a little paranoid sometimes.

Dawn's moving to college in the fall, so the Revello house is being sold. It's too big for the witches, even if they have renters, and Buffy's not coming back to it. We picked out the condo because it has an extra bedroom for when Dawn comes to visit during holidays. Spike wanted to move closer to her university (again with the paranoid), but I vetoed that idea until my tenure is finished at the hospital. Believe it or not, Sunnydale's not that bad, and has even gotten better. Maybe it was having all those Watchers in town. Maybe it was the spell restoring the Slayer. I don't know, but I can say that Amanda hasn't faced nearly as bad as the Scooby stories warned of. I'm glad.

"I thought I was the writer in the family," Spike teases me.

"You are, but I've always kept a journal – no peeking! I don't peek at yours!" I exclaim, closing the book and shutting it in the desk drawer.

"I wasn't going to peek," he says, grinning. "I just wanted to get you away from the desk." He pulls me close to his body and nibbles on my neck. "Come to bed, luv," he purrs.

I melt, and he knows it. "Okay, but it's your turn to wear the handcuffs."


Chapter 4


We have a baby girl.

Now, hold on! No magical, mystical tour was taken, just an opportunity that came at the right time.

You see, some teenage girl dropped a baby off at the Slayer's doorstep. 'Course, your first thought is why she didn't drop the tyke off at the hospital or a church, right? Well, the little nipper is part demon, though it doesn't show, and an empath. Add that on to a teen already regrettin' spreadin' her legs for some bloke, and the Slayer gets an early morning pressie. Thankfully, Amanda did a ton of babysitting in her younger days and didn't panic. She lives in Rupert's old flat, on a Council salary. 'Bout time they treated the girls as equals, too.

So, this little girl comes in a padded box, wrapped in a blanket with a note attached sayin' "Find a good home for my freak offspring!" Well, it didn't actually say that, but that was the sentiment behind it. Guess nine months of having someone tap into your emotions without warning will disturb some people. That's all she'll be able to do, too – just sense raw emotions, not thoughts. Not a big deal to a vampire, since they can't read us. Anyway, the girls go gaga and start making those noises women only make in the presence of infants. Which has Harris and me in solidarity for the first time ever and running to the nearest sports bar for beer and pool. A classic case of "Not it!"

A search for her parents has no luck, so all those females start discussin' who's going to take the infant until a better home can be found. Someone has the brilliant idea of taking turns, and guess who gets her first? I come home to see my mate leaned back in my recliner holding a baby and a bottle.


"Keep your voice down, she's almost asleep."

"Why is it here?"

"One, we have a spare bedroom, two, you don't work during the day, and three, I'm a doctor and she's a newborn."

"Oh, no! I am not sacrificing my sleep for a wailing baby off the street. You have bloody daycare at work!"

"And it'll look pretty odd if I just sign in an infant one day. We're trained to report odd occurrences involving children, Spike. They'd get the authorities involved. She obviously wasn't birthed in a hospital, so she's completely undocumented. If I brought her in, I'd have to turn her over to Social Services, and that's not happening."

"Why not? People adopt abandoned babies all the time."

"Not part demon babies! It's just until we can find a community of her species. Willow and Tara are working on it as we speak."

She's sounding disappointed in me, and I hate that tone. I kneel in front of the chair, my hands on her thighs. "Okay, sweetheart, I trust you. It's just…"

"Babies freak you out?" she suggests.

"Well…yeah…" Dru turned an infant once, as a present for Angelus. It was the most disturbing thing I've ever seen.

"You can hold her. The worst she might do is soil her diaper." Corinne slides the infant into my arms before I can protest, so I freeze.

I take my first real look at a baby in over a hundred years and marvel at how light she is. How tiny her hands are. Even Angelus was once this small. Freaky. She has fine, dark hair and lashes. I can't see her eyes, since they're closed, but they're probably blue. All babies are supposed to have blue eyes, right?

"Watch this," Corinne whispers, and brushes her finger across that tiny hand. Those itty-bitty fingers immediately clamp onto hers. Doc tugs against the pressure of that grip, just a bit. "See how strong her grip is? It's an amazing reflex in infants."

"She's…cute," I finally say. Cori rewards me with a dazzling smile.

"Was that so hard?" she teases.

I glare and hand the baby back. My glares don't have much effect anymore. "She have a name?"

"Nope, not yet. The mom didn't leave one on the note. She should have one, though. A person can't start life without a name."

"Well, I'll leave you to that." I kissed her, then escaped to the shelter of the tiny room we call an office. It was little more than a closet, but I could write, or think, in peace.


Cori left the bedroom doors open when she went to bed. I've adjusted my hours to being awake when she's home, but I'm still up a lot later than she is each night. The baby is on the bed in the guest room, surrounded by pillows. She's sleeping peacefully, and I have to admit that she hasn't been much of an interruption in our lives, yet. For not wanting any part of it, I still can't keep my ears from pricking up to every little coo or sigh. Blast.

My wife told me that the little bit would need to be fed before I went to bed, and how long to warm the bottle, so when I hear the first cry, I'm up the stairs in a flash to keep her from waking Corinne. She hasn't started wailing, yet, thank the Maker. Bright blue eyes stare at me in the darkness as she squirms to be picked up. I got instructed on this, too. I scoop the bit up, mindful of the head, and go back downstairs to the kitchen to get the bottle.

She's sucking on my shirt. What has the Big Bad come to, when there's baby drool on his shirt?!

I shift the tyke in my arms so she can take the bottle, which her little mouth latches on to immediately.

"Greedy little thing, aren't you?"

She just watches me with those big, innocent eyes. I imagine this is what Dawn looked like in Joyce's memories, with her little fuzzy head and pale skin. Girl's gonna be a looker, if her tiny baby features are any indication. I kick back in my recliner as she feeds. Sun'll be up in about a half hour and I'm a bit sleepy.


Corinne found Spike and the baby asleep in the recliner when she got up for work. The tiny girl was nestled into his shoulder, his arms holding her protectively. Finding the moment too cute, she tiptoed to where she stored her camera and managed to snap a couple shots without disturbing them. It would be the perfect blackmail if he got testy later.

She carefully lifted the baby out of his arms without disturbing him, or waking her (got to give her a name), and took her into the other room for a diaper change.

"Come on, sweetie. You're going to stay with Tara for the day."

Corinne made sure the living room would stay dark, then left with the baby to drop her off at the witches' apartment on the way to the hospital.


Dawn ended up coming up with the name. After a couple weeks of getting to know the infant, it was clear to all of us how sweet-tempered and easy going her personality was.


"That's pretty, Dawn. What's it mean?" Willow asked.

"'Soft-mannered'. I started looking through baby names online when you guys mentioned finding her, and that one kept mulling about in my head. Meeting her this weekend, it just seems to fit, you know?" The young woman was up for a visit from UCLA.

"Well, it looks like we can finally call you something other than 'Cutie', huh, Elyse?" Corinne cooed to the infant in her arms. The baby smiled a toothless grin.

She never left.