It begins with the simplest of things, a little white stick.
Well, no. It begins nearly two months before in a whirlwind of magic, but Buffy tries not to think of that and focuses instead on her predicament. Hers. Nothing to do with the annoying vampire currently snatching Weetabix from her watcher's cupboard and lingering in the house a little longer than necessary in an attempt to eavesdrop. This is her dilemma alone.
So she shoulders the burden when he's finally gone and she can talk to Giles freely, accepting his doubt and bewilderment as she explains the situation.
God help her, she's carrying Spike's demon spawn.
She visits an abortion clinic two weeks later, the day before her mother's due back from a business trip. They show her an ultrasound, and when she sees the beating of the tiny heart, she swallows back bile and hurries out. They don't seem surprised.
Giles tells her that she shouldn't feel guilty for contemplating terminating the pregnancy, not when it's the product of a violation. Her head snaps back to glare at him then, irrationally furious with the implication, and Giles hurries to clarify that he meant the spell.
He'd better have. Spike might be many things, but the father of her child is no rapist.
It's Willow who screws it up yet again- and only at her angriest does Buffy concede that this is all the witch's fault- by letting the pregnancy slip in front of Spike. Next thing she knows, he's shouted at her for ten minutes straight and run off, then returned half an hour later in her dorm, and is now crouched at the foot of her bed, promising earnestly that he's going to provide for her and the baby. She's assailed by deja vu, the sudden memory of Riley promising the same before she had broken it off with him, but this time, she can't bring herself to send him off. Instead, they argue and argue about everything from her decision to keep the baby a secret to him to said baby's dating life as a teenager (and naturally, Spike wants her to have none. Evil, after all), and by the end, they're both choked up and so hormonal that she wonders wryly if Spike thinks he's pregnant, too.
She doesn't remember how it happens, but when she finally falls asleep, Spike's curled up around her, arms gently clasped around her abdomen.
Spike might be many things, but he isn't a liar, and she concedes that with amusement and exasperation as he immediately sets out to fulfill his promise to her. He forces her to a doctor and tries to give her ill-begotten cash, and when he attempts to stop her from patrolling, it's the last straw. She hurls her fist at his face and heads off anyway, feeling him follow her doggedly through the night. He doesn't stop for nights, until she grudgingly (and silently- no need for him to know that she listens to him) admits that he's right and stays home. He slays three vampires and then heads back to her dorm room, and she feigns sleep until he's pulled her into his arms and fallen into slumber.
The next day, they go out to eat because Spike's complaining about all the junk food she eats, and she finds that he isn't always as annoying as he seems. He tells her stories about a baby Dru once tried to take in (and she's so not thinking about the way her stomach twists every time she hears him say Dru's name), and he has her laughing so hard by the end that the snooty waiter comes over and asks them to quiet down. Spike flashes his fangs at him, and Buffy concedes that it's more than warranted, and when he takes her home that night, she barely manages to stop herself from inviting him to stay again.
His lips graze her throat early one morning, and it's all she can do to hold her breath and pretend she hasn't noticed. She can't afford to notice, not when things are changing so much already, and she nearly cries when she realizes what's happening.
It's unexpected but understandable at first; a look of affection from time to time, the way he says her name with frank adoration, the way her heart flutters when he crouches down to lay his head against her protruding stomach... They're having a baby together. Of course there are bound to be...feelings.
But she can't manage it, isn't ready for that. She can see the strength of his love toward the baby, and it terrifies her to imagine that kind of emotion directed at her. She's too fragile right now to handle the love of a monster. No matter how tame the monster might seem.
She's just under six months along when they go for a walk together on campus, he supporting her like the proud father he is and she pulling away to stand on her own like the stubborn slayer she is. She isn't ashamed, not even when she can see people staring and whispering. Nope. Not at all. She doesn't want to run inside and hide from their derision, right? Right?
"Ignore them, slayer," Spike murmurs in her ear. "They're outraged that you've captured the only specimen on campus this gorgeous."
She snorts and glances up at him, her face bright with amusement. He meets her eyes, and she's caught breathless at what she sees in them. He moves closer, tentatively pausing inches from her lips, and she thinks to hell with it and closes the gap between them.
Kissing Spike is nearly as good as she remembers. Now, they have to maneuver around her swollen stomach, but Spike still makes a go of it, sitting her down against a tree and coming in from the side, cradling her face in his hands and pressing soft, fleeting kisses up and along her neck. He doesn't include the baby in this new development, and she's oddly glad at the unspoken assurance that this isn't just about the child she carries.
They don't move for what must have been hours, and soon she's returning his kisses with ardor, clawing at his clothes and nipping at his neck. He laughed breathlessly and pulls her closer, hands sliding up her top to fondle tender breasts.
They're dangerously close to giving some young coeds a show they won't forget when a scream splits the air and Spike has to jump up to stake a vampire. He takes her to the door of Stevenson Hall and plants a soft kiss on her lips, promising to be back in an hour or two after patrol. She can only nod, her blood singing with need for him as she hurries upstairs.
She makes her way down the hall, still beaming, when time freezes and her smile fades away, because there, standing in the doorway, his eyes glued to her belly, is Angel.
"You're really pregnant," he says stupidly, and she wraps her arms around herself protectively, unable to meet his eyes. "I heard- I mean, Cordy said- but I didn't think-" He frowns suddenly, sniffing the air. "What the hell were you just doing with Spike?"
"You gave up the right to ask me that when you walked away," she says tiredly, trying to move past him into her room.
"I left so you could have a normal life," he reminds her. "So you could have babies and a family and walk in the sun with them." He clears his throat. "So...uh...guess I was able to give you a child, so...I'm back," he finishes sheepishly, shrugging a little.
She stares at him. "Huh?"
She finally lets him into her room and he explains it all, a day being human and the child that has come with it, the longing he's felt toward her and the love that'll never die.
She's silent, absorbing all he says with grim understanding. His story makes more sense than a vampire impregnating her, and she knows that Giles, at least, will be relieved with a reasonable explanation at last. And she does still love him, though maybe not with that all-encompassing intensity of the years previous. It should be simple to accept his offer, to move in with him in the mansion and build a life together. It's just...
He blows into the room half an hour later, an unguarded smile stretched across his face as he starts for her-
-Only to stop short when he sees Angel seated beside her, her hand hanging loosely in his. "What the bleeding hell is this?" he demands.
Angel shakes his head pityingly, but Buffy can feel from the way his hands tighten around hers that even that motion is him controlling himself. "And you thought he was the father?" he murmurs, and she bristles at the patronizing tone. "Buffy, he's sterile."
"No." Spike shakes his head vigorously. "No, that isn't..." His voice trails off, and he stands silently, a single hand still unconsciously stretched forward to her.
She's silent, gazing at him with pleading eyes full of confusion. Give me time. Let me sort this out. Let me figure out what I need to do.
He's whispering now, ignoring Angel and fixing her with a pained gaze. "I can't lose you both. Not now. Buffy?"
Tears slide silently down her cheeks, and Spike turns abruptly and stalks out of the room. She doesn't need to watch him go to know that his eyes are welling up with tears.
But she does anyway.
Angel's supportive, doting and surprisingly expressive about his excitement for his baby. His baby, not Spike's, she has to remind herself at least twice a day. It was always his. Spike had just been an innocent bystander who'd been caught up in the lie.
But that doesn't stop her from feeling his presence everywhere she goes, in the uneasy gazes of her friends and in the curious questions of the doctor. She doesn't go out at night anymore, but sometimes she can feel him just outside her window, watching. Waiting for...well, she doesn't know what he's waiting for, why he still lingers.
Clearly, he doesn't want her anymore, or he'd have actually approached her again. She doesn't know how she'd respond to that. She doesn't get the chance to find out.
She misses him. Dammit, she hates admitting it, but it's her ninth month and she's overly emotional, and now she's hunkered down in the corner next to her closet, clutching one of his black t-shirts to her face and bawling her heart out. She needs him, she wants him, and holy crap she misses him, and she wishes he'd just give up on the skulking and come upstairs to her.
He's out there right now, and the baby is kicking, too, sending wracking pain up her sides as it chimes in with its own desire to get to him. She pats it feebly, sniffling back more tears and hugging the t-shirt close.
And that's what Angel walks in on moments later. He stares. He's silent.
Finally, she speaks. "I can't anymore," she croaks. "I need…"
"Yeah. I got that," he says quietly, and sits down beside her. "I love you. You know that, right?"
They're quiet, awkward, and she prays for something to break the tense silence. Salvation comes unexpectedly in the form of a sudden wetness, staining the carpet underneath her, and it's moments before she realizes what's happened.
"What's going on?" Spike demands as Angel races from the dorm, Buffy in his arms. "What's wrong with her?"
"Her water just broke!" he snaps, and she can see Spike recoil in shock. She reaches for him, catches his wrist, tightens her grip. Angel sighs, "We're not taking him with us."
But she doesn't let go, not when they're in the car and Angel grumpily takes the wheel, not when they're at the hospital and Buffy's thrashing around as the pain gets worse and worse, not even when she's pushing a baby out of her and Spike's fingers are cracking in her grip.
Only once she reaches out for the baby boy to cradle him in her arms does she let go, and when she turns around to speak words she hasn't figured out yet, he's already gone.
Angel's rocking the baby back and forth when Spike finally returns the next day, and without another word, he hands the baby to Buffy and steps out of the room. She grins at the way he bumps into Spike on his way out; while he's claimed to be okay with the situation, he clearly isn't over it yet, which she finds both comforting and sweet.
Spike glances after him. "What's his issue?" he asks snippily. "He's got the girl, hasn't he?" His eyes meets hers questioningly, and she flushes.
"Spike…" Then his gaze settles on the baby in her arms, and she gasps at the awe in his eyes. Wordlessly, she raises her arms in invitation, and he lifts the baby from them gingerly, moving to sit beside her. His eyes are glued to the child, his love unabashed and free, and she knows that she's made the right decision. "His name is William," she admits softly, and he starts.
"Angel wanted Connor," Buffy murmurs. "But I had the final say, and I chose William."
He stares down at William. The baby gurgles peacefully. "I don't understand."
"Angel's going back to LA," she explains, resting a hand on his. "He'll come back to visit, but he's not going to be living here anymore." She takes a deep breath. "I asked him to go," she clarifies.
"Buffy, why?" His eyes are wide with undisguised wonder, and, mindful of the baby in his arms, she leans over to brush a kiss against his lips.
"Because William…he's ours, right? He's always been ours. And you're his father… if you want to be," she adds quickly, studying his face for clues.
He's motionless for what feels like hours, and she starts squirming, wondering if she's made the right decision, after all. Then he stands abruptly, places the baby in her little hospital bed, and sweeps Buffy into his arms and kisses her breathless.
They don't part for a long time, and Buffy ignores the strain in her body from the exertion and pulls him closer, inhaling his scent and tasting his lips with all the fury of a woman kept from her man for far too long. They're both laughing and crying and gasping with the force of the kiss, and when it finally ends and he sets her down, Buffy can't remember how to work her legs.
Spike shrugs, his eyes shining with something she's certain is love. "Yeah, I can do that," he agrees mildly, and she laughs, and Spike laughs, and little William lets out a gurgle, too, and Buffy thinks that she's never been more content.