A/N : So this is the end of this fic, but not the end of the whole story. The second part of the Trilogy will begin soon.
(For disclaimer, etc. - see chapter 1)
"C-Congratulations?" Tara said uncertainly as the gang stood in a semi-circle and looked over at the unlikely sight of their best friend, the Slayer, with a vampire who was holding his own baby daughter.
"Thanks, luv" Spike glanced up at the kindly Wiccan and smiled. She was a decent sort and meant well, she'd even tried to help Dru for all the good it had done her, "Appreciated what you tried to do before, y'know. All of you, I s'pose" he said awkwardly, before his focus went back to the child in his arms that already meant the world to him.
"She's beautiful" Willow offered, coming a little closer and looking down at the child, "Gonna be a heart-breaker one day" she smiled, glad when she saw the same expression on Spike's face and Buffy's too.
"I want to see" Anya spoke up suddenly, pushing her way to the front to see the baby. Her expression shifted when she finally looked properly at Annaliese.
"Oh, she's kind of, well, weird looking" she said before glancing around at the less than impressed expressions of her friends, "but in a beautiful way, obviously" she smiled, wishing everybody would just stop looking at her like she was a maniac or something. It really did seem that Xander's friends were never going to learn to appreciate honesty.
As Tara and Willow fussed over the baby, and Spike seemed comfortable with them doing so, Giles signalled he required Buffy's attention and disappeared off into the kitchen with her, whilst Xander listed to Anya all inappropriate words she'd used for other people's new-borns, even if the father happened to be the Evil Dead.
"Kinda crazy, huh?" the Slayer sighed as she and Giles entered the kitchen.
"Indeed" he agreed with her, "It is quite unprecedented, and you said Drusilla is gone?"
"Yeah, she dusted" Buffy nodded sadly, "She knew she had to, to save Annaliese"
"You sound almost sorry" her Watcher observed as he removed his glasses and polished them on his handkerchief, "I feel I must remind you Buffy that Drusilla, and indeed Spike, are both evil demons, and the world would not be lacking in any way should they both cease to exist"
"Giles" Buffy said sharply, a frown on her face, "You can't say that, not after what's happened. A miracle happened here, a baby was born from two vampires, that should be impossible" she reminded him, "The Powers That Be obviously have a plan, that baby is..."
"That baby may not be the miracle that you perceive it to be, Buffy" Giles pointed out to her as he replaced his glasses on his nose, "You seem to believe it is the forces of good that granted Spike and Drusilla the means to make a child. You have not even considered for a moment that it may be borne of evil"
The Slayer shook her head. That made even less sense than her own theory.
"Annaliese is innocent" she said firmly, "She has a soul, and she's human. How could she be made my something bad?"
"And yet she was" Giles reminded her, "As I said, Drusilla and Spike are demons, and therefore evil"
"Maybe, technically" Buffy sighed, "But Spike has been on our side for a couple of years now, and yes, I know some of that is maybe the chip, but he's not evil Giles, not anymore" she tried to explain, "And Drusilla, well, okay, so maybe she was kinda evil but she died to save her child, that has to count for something"
"Buffy" her Watcher shook his head, "I do understand that you want this situation to turn out well, and it is possible the child may be innocent" he agreed, "but we must prepare ourselves for the fact that it could just as easily not be"
"So we research and stuff, I guess" the Slayer shrugged, "but in the meantime, I... I'm going to tell Spike he can stay here" she admitted.
She'd thought about it on her walk back to Revello Drive, amongst a hundred other related thoughts. The point was, a baby needed a proper home, a warm and safe place and people to look after her. Spike couldn't cope alone, and his crypt was no place for a child. For now at least the most sensible option seemed to be if Spike and Annaliese stayed at the house with her, Willow and Tara, they had a spare room after all, since Dawnie...
"...don't you see that?" Giles was saying when she zoned back in to the conversation.
"Huh?" she said absently, turning to face her Watcher, just as Willow appeared in the doorway.
"Hey" she smiled, "Um, me and Tara thought since Annaliese is kinda not your average baby it might be a little awkward to take her to the hospital" she explained, "We know a spell that'll check her health, and Anya offered to go buy a few things Spike might need, after all you know how much she likes to spend money" she smiled.
"That's great, Will" Buffy smiled back, "You and Tara, you'd be okay with Spike and Annaliese being here a while, right?" she asked as she and her witch friend headed back to the living room, leaving a grim-faced Giles behind.
"I don't mind" Willow assured her, "And Tara... well, I think she'll be fine with it" she grinned as they approached the Wiccan woman who now sat beside Spike with his child in her arms.
"She's just so precious" Tara sighed as she held the baby close.
"She is" Buffy agreed, sharing a smile with Spike, wondering why he looked almost grateful to her. She hadn't even offered him the chance to stay yet. That would have to wait in any case, as Willow pulled a spell book from her bag and prepared to mystically check Annaliese for any problems.
Spike held the breath he didn't need til the spell was over and was thrilled to know his baby was healthy as any normal human child could be. Giles joined the group just as the good news was announced and he offered congratulations to the proud father, with a smile on his face that didn't quite reach his eyes.
Buffy suspected she was the only one who really noticed, as everybody else's attention was far too focused on Annaliese right now. The Watcher would not believe that the baby could be anything good because of her birth, a fact that Buffy found very annoying, and yet she couldn't explain why. Even if something evil had brought Annaliese to this world, it did not mean she was any the less innocent. After all, Dawn was a force of great power, used for something evil by hell goddess Glory, but she was as blameless as anyone could be. She had no memories of being the Key, no knowledge of her true purpose until the very end. In many ways, she had a lot in common with Annaliese. Buffy only hoped this child's fate would be less harsh than her own sister's had been.
It was getting late, and it was all Buffy could do to keep her eyes open as she sat on the couch beside Spike who held little Annaliese still. Willow and Tara shared the armchair nearby, and also looked just about ready to call it a day, and did so just then, holding hands as they disappeared up the stairs to bed.
"Think the little one's had enough for one day too" Spike said in a strangely soft tone that Buffy didn't think she'd ever heard before.
"It's been a long day" she said, her sentence disappearing into a yawn that she tried to conceal, "For all of us"
"You sure about me stayin' here, Slayer?" Spike checked, looking over at her, "I know what you said and all but..."
"No buts, Spike" Buffy shook her head, "Honestly, I don't have the energy for them" she told him, "You're going to need help looking after Annaliese, there's three of us here, all willing to lend a hand"
"Gonna need more than hands, luv" the vampire told her, "Gotta get me some cash from somewhere. I mean, it was decent of your mates to fork out for a couple of outfits and the essentials, but I can't live off them forever"
"I know" she nodded, as she looked down at the tiny child, now dressed in little pink footy pyjamas and partially wrapped in a baby blanket, "but we can cross those bridges when we get to them" she told Spike, as her hand went to Annaliese's head and she smiled as the baby wriggled in her sleep.
"We?" Spike echoed, looking at Buffy til she finally relented and met his eyes, "You reckon on being a part of this, Slayer?"
"Kind of already am" she reminded him, "Spike, I dreamt of Drusilla and then she showed up, there has to be a reason for that"
"Your Watcher thinks it's somethin' evil" he rolled his eyes, "You just know he's checking every book in a five mile radius, hell-bent on discovering that my kid is the key to the latest apocalypse..." he trailed off when Buffy looked away and it occurred to him what he'd said, "I'm sorry, pet"
"It's okay" the Slayer forced a smile, "You really think it hadn't occurred to me that Annaliese has stuff in common with Dawnie anyway?"
"Gotta say, I thought about it myself" he told her, "Just wasn't sure you'd see it the same way. The Bit might've brought on somethin' bad, but she was born out of good. This one..." he said, glancing down at his own baby, "She's innocent enough but not exactly made of sugar and spice, is she?"
"You can't know that" Buffy shook her head, "She's human, she has a soul, there's nothing to say she'll ever be anything other than good and normal"
"A child born of two evil vampires, and Buffy the mighty Vampire Slayer wants to see the good in her?" Spike smirked at how ridiculous that seemed, though he was pleased about it never-the-less.
"It's not just her" she said glancing down at the baby and then back up again, "I see good in you too" she admitted, so quietly he almost didn't hear.
"Is that right?" he checked as they sat very close together, speaking softly over Annaliese's head.
"Spike" Buffy breathed, "You know I don't think of you as just another evil vampire anymore. What you did for me, and for Dawnie... it changed things" she explained, "You're the only one who even remembers I had a sister, and you've been so great these past few weeks. You showed me a side of you I didn't want to see, but Dawn was right, it was always there" she smiled, "You can be a good man, and a great father" she told him, her hand going to his face, "I feel it"
"Wish I had your confidence, pet" Spike replied, eyes closing for a moment at her touch before he looked at her once again, "Still, gonna do all I can to be those things, for her sake" he glanced at his child, "and for you too" he admitted as he brought his eyes back up and their gazes locked, "I still love you Slayer, that won't ever change"
"I know" Buffy nodded, almost hating herself for not being able to say it back, but knowing that lying about it now would only lead to no good. Whilst she was willing to accept Spike's feelings for her, she was terribly uncertain about her own and was determined not to do anything that either of them might regret later, after all there was a baby to consider in all of this now as well as themselves.
Though there were words she couldn't say, there was still one thing Buffy could do, something she'd wanted to do for a while now and she let herself at last as she leaned in closer to Spike and put her lips to his in a sweet kiss. It was a brief moment but it meant the world to him, and Buffy knew it too.
"I'm not saying we have a perfect situation here" she whispered as they parted, "I don't honestly know what I'm feeling or anything, but I think somehow we can make this okay" she said uncertainly, not really knowning how to put it all into words, "Please tell me I'm making some kind of sense here" she begged of him but Spike was at a loss.
"Sorry, luv" he shook his head slightly, "Think my brains still swimmin' from the kiss, 'm not understanding much else"
Buffy laughed slightly at that and Annaliese shifted in her father's arms, making little baby sounds in her sleep. The Slayer sat back a little and looked down on the child, a smile fixed on her face.
"What I'm trying to say is, you and me, we have a chance here" she started again, "Annaliese needs to be looked after, not just in a baby way but maybe in other ways too. We don't exactly know why she's here yet, and I don't wanna freak you out but she might need protecting"
"Thought had crossed my mind, luv" Spike sighed, knowing it was true. There was just no way he'd been given such a precious gift without a price being attached somewhere.
"Spike, you don't have to be alone in this" Buffy said softly, "I don't want you to be alone" she admitted and he smiled slightly, nodding that he now understood what she meant.
Though their little family unit, as it were, might be an odd one, they could be okay, at least Spike hoped so. It wasn't as if Buffy were declaring undying love for him but it seemed as though she was now open to the idea of his loving her at least, and of them bringing up this baby together. It wasn't going to be simple, neither of them were so naive that they thought that, but at least there was some hope. Spike could see a light at the end of the long black tunnel that was his existence. He only hoped the fates were kind, and that this particular light wouldn't burn him to dust when he reached it.