This is set in my non-canon, but canon-esque series following Uncontrollable and Unmentionable. If you haven't read those first, please do, or this won't read nearly as well or make much sense. Unknown begins a few weeks after the end of Unmentionable, around the beginning of season five.
Author's Note: It took forever to finish this story, but it's done. I hope you won't mind that it moves forward in a few leaps (not more than a week or two at a time) since it still arrives at a happy ending.
Author's Second Note: Thank you so much to the kind and awesome people/person who nominated two of my pieces for the 30th Round of the Sunnydale Memorial Awards!
Author's Third Note: My email is doing something weird. I really hope I replied to every review, but if I didn't, please know I am so grateful and thankful for everyone's support.
Dedicated to: ginar369, Illusera, Sirius120, AGriffinWriter, Jedi Steelwolf, DeepBlueJoy, EllieRose101, SlayerDaniWho, Rosalea12, writerdragonfly, Kitakana, Badgervamp, Rachel, ginger0826, lil-leti, lurker09, and DidiSummers.
Direct Quotes are obviously not mine, but belong to the fabulously talented and creative people who wrote them. In this case, some of season five's dialogue will be used.
Disclaimer: Nothing of Buffy belongs to me, except my sincere admiration. However, this story is all mine.
"Do you want to walk back to our room?" Willow and Buffy exited the library together. "Tara's going to be there soon. I have to show you this awesome thing Miss Kitty can do."
"Sure, for a little bit." Buffy replied, pulling her sweater more firmly around herself. "I have to get changed thought. Early dinner." Buffy beamed.
"You just love saying that stuff." Willow laughed.
"Nah... maybe a little." She confessed. "It's just convenient that I can have dinner out on Valentine's Day. At sunset. With the man I'm going to - be in love with. For a long time." Buffy cursed inside her head. Bad slip. Almost said it. Willow arched an eyebrow. She rambled out the rest of her thoughts. "Because, you know, Valentine's. It's like the day for lonely sad people to be less than cautious about strangers and getting way too drunk at bars. It's like vampire chow with chocolate today. Patrol's going to start early and go late. So. Yeah. Early dinner is good."
Willow nodded slowly. "Uh-huh."
They walked in silence.
Willow held her books tightly. "Is it because you think Tara and I will feel left out? That we're not 'engaged'?"
Buffy's books scattered with a soft exclamation.
"Sorry!" Both girls cried and bent, narrowly missing bumping heads as they tried to retrieve the fallen items.
"Left out? I- well- I don't know what you..." Buffy stopped her lame denials as Willow's eyes gave her a pitying stare. "I don't think 'engaged' is what everyone else says it has to be. Or that people need a ceremony." Buffy finally said softly. She took a battered book from her best friend's hand and let it linger, fingers squeezing once. "It wouldn't be a real ceremony. Legally. For either of us. Not right now." She stopped short of telling Willow her news, sympathy and concern for her friend's feelings even more important than her desire to wait to share anyway.
"I know that. Tara and I- we're already joined. Spiritually. Or magically. Both, actually. It's-" Willow blushed suddenly. "It's not a specific thing. Not a ceremony." Not one I'd want guests at anyway. She blushed harder, picturing the moment when Tara's pure white light fused with all her dark raging magic and the gray thundercloud inside their bodies erupted, powers mated, hearts mated, something only wiccas could achieve, if they ever even tried.
"Is this a sex thing? 'Cause your face is matching your hair." Buffy tilted her head and watched Willow's cheeks practically glow. "Whoa- even darker."
"It's a magic thing. But um- it was- um..." Willow trailed off. It was Buffy's turn to arch an eyebrow. "It was really awesome. Private. And awesome." Willow finally sighed. Buffy squealed, they giggled, and life resumed. Walking resumed, arm in arm, heads bent, best friends whispering.
"No offense to traditional weddings and stuff, but I would so rather have what we had." Willow said as they rounded a corner, the giggling subsided.
"Is there a name for this mega awesome private thing?" Buffy nudged her friend in the ribs lightly.
"I think Tara said in old times it was called 'full-bound.' Hearts, minds, powers, bodies. Only opposing elements or same elements can have this level anyway. You and Spike - if you were wiccan, could totally be full-bound."
"Sounds wonderful Wills." Buffy let their shoulders bump again.
"Mhm. So does getting engaged." Willow said significantly, bumping her back harder.
"Shh." Buffy hushed her and flushed.
"Ah ha! I'm right! Aren't I right? What is it with everyone getting engaged and not telling people? Or are you trying to give Anya her moment in the sun after she had to wait to break the news?" Willow's words poured out in a torrent. "'Cause I get that." She pictured the bursting at the seams with joy Anya, the proud Xander. "I really do."
"That's part of it." Buffy admitted after a long pause. Willow's shrill giggle made it impossible to continue for a few seconds. Buffy eventually joined in, more quietly. "I have been so dying to tell you!"
"So why haven't you?" Willow exclaimed. "You didn't seriously think I'd mind? Tara and I aren't like that!"
"No, I know. I didn't want to tell anyone for awhile for a few reasons. And I wanted to tell everyone at once." Buffy sighed. "I guess that's out."
"I won't tell! Pinky swear." Willow offered her finger.
Buffy linked hers around it for a second as they began to climb the steps to the dorm. "It's probably silly. But I didn't want anyone to think we were just following the crowd."
"Only idiots would think that. Oh. But you're not an idiot." Willow added quickly.
Buffy rolled her eyes. "Ask me after this math course is over." Back on topic, she sighed, "I wondered if my mom would think it had something to do with Spike being kind of human-y."
"Okay. Maybe just a little bit of idiocy."
"Buffy, your mom knows you love Spike and you chose him and you two would die for each other and all that big, life-altering commitment stuff. You two were 'married' before any of us. All you were missing was a sparkly rock on your finger." Willow explained.
Buffy considered. Then pouted slightly. "But I like sparkly rocks. And white dresses. Pink flowers. Pink and yellow. Only yellow is going to make Spike look really washed out and- oh my God. I just slipped up. I sound like Anya." She frowned. "Wow. It's actually really easy to get sucked in. It's like there's a black hole of bridal stuff in my brain."
"Maybe you caught it from your mom and Anya." Willow soothed.
"Maybe. Ugh. I actually feel queasy thinking about it. It won't be for awhile. And you have to keep it a secret until I tell, okay?"
Willow held up her pinky. "Have I ever broken pinky pact?"
"This is why I love you." Buffy beamed.
"I'm lovin' this. Male bonding. Quality time." Xander's sarcasm was obvious.
"Be quiet and mark the wall." Giles muttered.
"I can't. You have to hold the level straight. How is it you can't hold the level level?" He joked.
"I use bookshelves, not build them. Typically." Giles frowned and adjusted the level. There. Now write." Xander made a mark on the wall. "You're sure you know what you're doing?"
"Built in bookshelves. Right after the birdhouse and spice rack in wood shop." Xander said heartily.
"You never had wood shop."
"I know. Scary, huh? I can build frames for a housing development but I missed the birdhouse and spice rack."
"Maybe you should ask some of your crew mates to assist us. Joyce will probably be quite upset if the first thing I do after moving in is destroy Buffy's old room."
Xander sighed. "I've got it, I promise. And you've lived here almost two months. When is this going to be 'your library' instead of 'Buffy's old room'?"
Giles paused, then answered shortly. "After the books are in place. What's next?"
"It depends on whether or not you want to be covered in sawdust for the next couple hours. 'Cause once I start on this wall, it's better not to stop halfway."
Giles looked out the window, the darkness filling the winter sky. "It is getting late. And we have both fiancees this Valentine's night."
"How weird is it that we're both engaged at the same time? When you're so much ol- oh boy, I better get cleaned up." Xander caught Giles' mildly irritated scowl and hastily started packing his tools away.
"Life is certainly full of unpredictable events." Giles relented. "Can I offer you a beer for your trouble?"
"I've got time for one before I hit the road. That's the male bonding I'm talking about!" Xander eagerly finished packing his tools. Giles chuckled softly and lent him a hand.
"You think we should ask Spike to help out?"
Giles coughed on his chaser. "Did you hit your head?"
"Not a good idea?"
"No, no, a fine idea. I just didn't think you'd be the one to propose it."
"I didn't see myself as the proposing type either, and now look at me. June wedding." He grinned and shrugged. "I don't think this is his gig, but- oh man. This is going to hurt to say," he winced painfully, swallowed another gulp of his beer and then forced himself to speak, "I don't want him to feel 'left out'."
"Don't look at me like that! I don't 'like' the guy. Much. But he's not going anywhere, and I... Hey." A frown crossed his face.
"Hey? I'm paying attention." Giles looked at him steadily.
"No, I know you were. I just had a ... a thought about something I had before." He looked uncomfortable. "Remember when Joyce was sick? And I told you I had my own little future peepshow?" The uncomfortableness seemed to double, the joking turn of phrase fell flat.
"I think we're past hinting at things now." At least on your part. My part- well, that's different.
"If Spike wasn't around, Joyce would die. Willow would snap. Tara, Anya, all of us, dead or probably wishing we were, and there would be some screaming teenager in our lives." Xander said bluntly, not looking at him.
"Then thank heavens Spike is around." Giles said softly, not quite used to voicing that thought aloud.
"But I don't really get it. Were they messing with me? Because I know Spike put up one hell of a fight, he saved Buffster's life from Glory- but I don't know why he effected everything else. I don't want him to go anywhere, I just don't like this feeling. Feeling like there was something important I should know and haven't figured out yet." He gave a rueful smile. "Think I'd be used to it by now, right? I'm not exactly the brains of the outfit."
"The heart is equally important. The brain has no purpose without it." Giles said firmly. Both men smiled, then coughed uncomfortably. "I try to imagine the dreamscape like this- a world with clues but not enough context at times. All of the dreams turned out to be connected. Remove any one of us, and the future would have been wildly different. What if we had lost Willow or Tara? No blade to battle Glory, no conduit to reach out to Buffy and bring her back to us. Without you, no hope of getting Willow to accept help and calm her rage, no way to damage the structure or buy us time. You see?"
"I see." He nodded. "Then why make Spike such a huge deal? In the dream, I mean."
"Because who else would you refuse to accept without a bloody good reason?" Giles pointed out, a tiny twitch of his lips threatening to unearth a smile.
"Now that's a good point." Xander admitted.
"Look at it like this, without Spike, we could not have harnessed Buffy's powers, we could not have joined, could not have called forth things which let us into our dreamscapes. Without that, I would never have known to take Joyce's "little headaches" seriously, to insist she go to a hospital immediately, at the first sign of problems, instead of waiting and trying stronger pain killer after painkiller until surgery was needed, or until it became inoperable. Without Spike, the monks wouldn't have had such a hard to crack shell for the Key. He had room for a soul, a pure thing in a demon's form, so Glory didn't focus on him until it was almost too late. He bought us the most time."
Xander frowned "Yeah he did. And in the meantime, Hell Bitch went after Tara."
"Who is all right in the end, who is stronger than ever." The frown didn't disappear. Giles gripped his arm. "Glory had to have life blood. Who's did she spill? Spike's, who didn't have any."
"But Buffy's!" Xander reminded him in a sharp hiss.
"So who's life blood would you rather she have attempted to spill? And once it started to spill, and opened the portal, how could it have been closed?"
"What are you saying?"
Someone would have had to die, Xander. Someone, someone with 'lifeblood' would have had to pass through." Giles looked at him steadily. "Which one of us could have survived that fall from the tower?"
Xander's mouth dried out. "Only a dead man."
"Or an undead one. Spike." Giles nodded slowly. "So."
"So. Spike." Xander let out a shaky breath.
Her breath came out fast and shaky. "We really shouldn't."
"Should. Happy Valentine's, Baby." Spike pushed her back to the brick wall behind the bronze, their feet scuffling in ashes of their last kill. "Got you something pink and frilly, but it's at home." Skirt ripped up the middle front, jeans hurriedly, heatedly unzipped. "Haven't done this in awhile."
"I know." Buffy gasped as he pushed solidly in. "We don't need to anymore. We have a nice bed in a warm, indoor bedroom. Hint hint."
For all her protests, she was soaking him faster, well, faster than usual. "I think... you miss this." He growled.
"Miss what? Worrying about getting arrested for public nudity?"
"Maybe you miss-" he nipped his way across her neck, "the quick an' dirty, shaggin' in secret."
He head rolled back, eyes crossing as they met the sooty stars through a maze of power lines and brick overhangs. "Maybe..." She conceded once she could find her voice. "I like that everyone knows."
"Everyone doesn't know everything." The accent thickened, the voice thickened, ridges rose up and sank back down as he rocked himself in deeper and harder, nips turned to scrapes, her fingers turned from gripping to bruising. "Never know just how bad we are."
"How good we are when we're bad." He made her sound like a crazy, kinky nymphomaniac. He hit a spot high and dead center, and the stars spun lazily as she spasmed. I can handle that. I could sound like worse things.
"Oooh, Slayer likes that spot." He purred. "I know what else you like."
"We can finish this inside." Buffy panted sharply, knowing there were a million things she'd like him to do, but that would take time, a loooong time, more time than you could get away with out here.
"That's the second course, Pet." He was lost in her, that heat, still such a paradise for him. He'd never be a "warm body" again, no matter that his heart would lazily lope along inside his chest or that he had some bits and bobs that were "human-y", as Buffy called it. "Not even done with the appetizer y-"
"Ow! Take it easy." Buffy gasped sharply as his blunt teeth tugged a nipple through the fabric of her white shirt.
Spike laughed, "Role play now? I think we need to start with something more believable. Though if you want me to play your big bad wolf, Little Red, I could- ow!" He shut up abruptly as Buffy's strong hand latched onto the back of his hair and pulled his head up from her breasts sharply.
"Sorry! I meant really, stop. That hurts. No, no, not stop, take it easy." Buffy corrected.
"Oh, shit, Luv." Spike hugged her tight, laughter leaving his face. "You never said that before. There. I thought you were playing around."
"No, they just really hurt."
"Some bastard punch you in the chest?" Spike growled, pace slower but still feverish, cock thrusting hard, hands soothing and gentle. "That big guy, the guy we saw first off tonight?"
"Yeah, probably." Buffy shrugged. "Usually it doesn't get me. He must've hit me right - right there." She blushed faintly.
He laughed again. Sometimes the Slayer, sometimes still that sweet little sophomore. "I love you. Love these." He kissed each nip softly. "How about round two, huh? How about bubble baths and champers and rose petals. I can do the 'soft' bit."
"How about we finish this round first?" The fiery gleam was back in her eye.
Slayer an' Soft. "I love you."
"I love you."
"Mm, good mornin' gorgeous." Spike plucked a rose petal off her cheek . Her eyes opened blearily. Last night was the first truly romantic Valentine's he'd ever spent, where his demon was in love, he was in love, and the poet felt safe enough to come out and quote at his lover and not worry about being laughed at, not worried someone would go off on her own crazy poetic rant in the midst of his profound declarations of love. Heart and soul happy. "I can compare thee to a rose, all soft and pink, so sweetly scented, so sweetly blooming-"
"Stop!" Buffy yelped suddenly and lurched off the bed.
Spike winced. The poet was apparently still bloody awful. "Sorry, Luv, I..." He stopped, trailing off as Buffy heaved herself awkwardly down the stairs, then paused- and threw up. The wince was a twitch now. "Bloody hell. That's a whole new level of awful." He muttered as he hurried over.
"Champagne. You know I'm not good with alcohol."
"You didn't even have a whole glass."
"Proves me point- oh, God!" And the retching repeated.
"I'm sorry! I'm so sorry! Spike! Stop cleaning that, I can clean that."
"You stay in that shower then you eat some eggs and bacon. Need to fill up that virgin stomach."
"Ha! Virgin? Did you forget what went along with the champagne?" Buffy shouted back.
"You know what I meant." Spike sat back, steps cleaned, thanking providence the old man had never carpeted the steps. Easy clean up. Helpful if you're livin' on a Hellmouth, comin' home drippin' blood and gore.
Or if your girl can't hold her liquor.
"Slayer, I don't think it's the alcohol. You've got a super system. Shouldn't get prone to hangovers. Not from one glass of the light and bubbly."
"I guess. I drank like five pitchers of beer one night. All though, that was cursed beer- and I turned into a cave-slayer. Eww. I don't want to talk about beer. I'm gonna barf more."
He waited on the couch until she emerged, wet and pale, wrapped in a towel and pulling on socks. Ah, domestic bliss. "You've gotten sick on me before, you know."
"I have?" Buffy's mind hurtled over past mortifying events, but tossing her cookies on Spike didn't come up. Maybe it was so bad I'm repressing it.
"Not heaved your guts up. But said you felt like it. You know when that happens?"
He sighed. Explanations were painful sometimes. "Whenever you're worried about telling your mum something you get weak in the belly. Nerves."
"Oh. Yeah. True." Buffy looked at her knees. "I told Willow. I told you that."
He nodded, raised an eyebrow and waited for the rest.
"I thought we were doing the right thing by waiting. But now I feel kinda bad. Like, if I tell my best friend before my mom-" she trailed off, "it seems like a bad idea."
"Seems like what you used to do. Let the other ones in, keep her out."
Buffy glared. Smart vampires. So annoying. "Psychology much?"
"Oh please, our lives've been annoyingly symbolic lately. Keys, hearts, souls, blood, everything's gotta meaning around here. Apparently being sick on the hardwood is a 'symbol' of you feelin' guilty over not telling your mum the big secret."
"So tell her. It's been long enough for them to know we're not just joinin' in the fun of making weddin' plans."
She met his eyes. "I bet you she'll still think it's because you're kinda human-y."
He put his arm around her. "If she thinks that, we'll correct her. Nicely." He added with an effort.
"I want to tell everyone at once. Get it over with."
He frowned. "Get it over with? Not how you ought to feel about gettin' married."
Buffy opened her mouth- then clamped it shut, rose, and ran back to the bathroom. In a few moments, after the unmistakably unpleasant sounds had ended, she called back, "No! Not how I should feel about telling everyone I'm getting married to the best guy ever- but really, really how I feel about having 'worry-barf'."
"Ahh. Pop over to the shop around five. Everyone's usually there, checking in, hanging about by then."
"I know! There's hardly room for customers."
"They really need a bigger space."
He mapped out the space in his head as he sat in the realtor's office.
Summers and Giles- ornate script.
Art and Magic
For the connoisseurs of the beautiful and occult
He frowned. We'd better widen that picture window...
"Mr. Giles?" The realtor returned. "I'm sorry to tell you, but the probate hasn't cleared yet. I'm sure you heard about the tragic circumstances?"
Yes. I was there. "I had heard indeed. I'm so sorry. The store doesn't pass to a relative?"
"No, it was a rental, it's not a probate from the owner's death, but the landlord's selling. He's had very bad luck with that location."
Don't I know. "But offers may be accepted?"
"I believe the police will be done with it soon and they'll release the landlord from any ties- including the ability to put it up for sale. I'm afraid it'll be an unsolved case."
Though justice was served. Harmony is dead. "I see."
"And you still want to buy this place?"
"Let me know when you'll accept an offer." Giles answered firmly.
The realtor looked relieved. "Come back in another month, and then we'll be willing to discuss offers."
"Oh, it's fine. I'm thinking about the- the big picture. However long it takes."
He could concentrate and see it. Find the glimpse, latch on, and dig in deeper now. That was new. Maybe, as with any gift, you had to practice using it. There were some moments he hurriedly looked away from, tears in his eyes, and hoped his mind would lose those glimpses until the future made them the present. This moment however, this was one to savor.
The two of them- Spike and Joyce- they were, oddly enough, a good set. He could hear something, like an echo, though he knew it was really only that time blurred voices, that memories of things that hadn't happened yet would be tricky at best.
Calls of "Where'd you want this one, Mum?" and her call of "Tea!" ringing through the upstairs. The artsy, well proportioned loft gallery.
Spike needed a mother. A second chance with one, a second chance not to fail someone he loved. Giles didn't know how he knew those emotions went with the vision, he simply accepted them now.
It fit. Buffy needed someone who was like a father. A better father, anyway.
The vampire and the gallery owner, upstairs. The Watcher and The Slayer, working away amongst the books, going into the back and the basement to train, the perfect cover. And all of it run skillfully with Anya at the helm, a business manager who had a millennium of experience in the occult and a crash course in business, raking in the money- and able to shout up the stairs to her best friend.
"Lunch times are the best." Giles smiled absently.
"To call you?" The realtor had watched the man filling out the contact forms and passing over loan pre-approvals with a bemused smile on his face, silent, seemingly in his own world.
Giles started. Dear Lord. Focus on the present, man! "Ah, yes. Please."
They shook hands and parted.
The secretive, pleased smile drifted back across his face as he hit the sidewalk.
Lunchtimes were the best. Mother and daughter passed at the foot of the spiraling staircase, a smile, a laugh, at ease. One wife took her husband's tweed covered arm and they departed to the day's cafe of choice with a familiar call of "Ready, Darling? Anya, we'll be back in an hour."
And another husband would grab his wife by the arm, with a smirk and chuckle, "Ready, Pet?"
"Ready." And the training room door would open and shut. And he really didn't know what sort of "training" occurred there.
He didn't care. His family was happy.
"Although we could all get on with being happy if they'd hurry up and tell us already."
"Hey, Mom, can you flip the sign? For like ten minutes, tops." Buffy asked, trying not to sound nervous.
Giles shut his book. Anya shut the till. Xander shut his mouth, full of cheese balls, and Tara guiltily stopped tossing them at him.
"What's wrong, Sweetie?" Joyce waved goodbye to the customer she was seeing out and quickly flipped the sign to read "Closed".
"Nothing! We just- wanted to tell you something." Buffy assured hurriedly.
"Oh?" Joyce sounded curious.
"Oh?" Willow sounded eager, and slid off the back room counter to come close.
"Yeah, um. I just- we just wanted to let you know that-" I planned this so much better in my head. I'm gonna hurl. Deep breaths, look at Willow. Look at Xander. No, no look at Spike. 'Cause the rest really doesn't matter. "I love Spike."
"I love her." Spike smiled.
"We knew that!" Xander managed to say in garbled voice, cheeks puffed out.
"So no one should really be too surprised we'd like to get married, right?" Spike filled the pause Buffy was leaving, seemingly unable to open her mouth.
The pause was reborn, then filled with noise, happy noise, questioning noise, but overall pleased.
"Yes! We can get that third person discount for bridal expo tickets!" Anya hooted.
"Vampires can get hitched?" Xander was hugging Buffy anyway, coughing as he swallowed.
"Well done!" Giles kissed her cheek. "And about time." He muttered when no one could hear him. Well, no one by the groom-to-be who gave him a puzzled glance.
"Mom?" Buffy finally managed to croak out.
Joyce just hugged her, nodding, throat swelled shut with tears.
"Mom?" Buffy insisted.
"I'm so glad." Joyce whispered finally. "So glad." She's not going to be alone. She's safe. "Come here!" She hauled Spike into her open arms. "Be good. Take good care of her. Take good care of each other!"
"We're not moving away!" Buffy exclaimed quickly.
"I'm still fuzzy on the vampires getting married part. Happy, but fuzzy." Xander held up his hands innocently before he could get glared at.
"Well, Spike's partially human right now, so, we can do a daytime ceremony. Right?" Anya was already reaching for the store calendar.
"It doesn't have anything to do with ceremonies. Or human parts." Buffy's voice was firm. "It's because I love him. And he asked me, because he loves me."
"We might have to wrangle up a few documents." Spike addressed this comment to Willow.
"Already on it." Willow whispered.
"And a marriage is a marriage. It doesn't matter the paper, it matters about the people." Tara said with her typical quiet wisdom.
"Of course!" Joyce nodded.
"Of course?" Buffy seemed mildly perplexed. "You- you don't have questions... or stuff to say?" Or worry, or anger, or really awkward guilt stuff to lay on me?
"Oh, yes, do you have a date? And are you going to want my wedding dress? The one I married your father in?"
"Uh- no. To all of those. We thought we might wait awhile."
"You have to. The shop can't afford to lose anymore time for family events until after June. Do you want July? I see you as a summer bride. You're going to have to wait until we get back from our honeymoon though."
Willow rolled her eyes. Xander elbowed her, "She has a good point. Practical people make the world go round."
"That's money. I heard it in a song." Anya frowned.
"Practical people make the money." Xander smiled at her.
"This is why we love each other so much." She grinned back.
"Can we get back to the most recently engaged people?" Spike huffed. No one listened.
"I have so many brides maids dresses to buy..." Willow moaned.
"Joyce and I first, we're the oldest." Giles reminded her.
"Well, I'm next, and I don't know what I want you to wear yet. Joyce told me the green ones I picked out were too mean."
"Thank God." Buffy, Tara, and Willow said in unison.
"We're not in a hurry." Spike shrugged, looking at Buffy. "Are we, Luv?"
"No, we just told people we're engaged. We can wait until the summer." Buffy laughed.
"Ahhh! My baby is engaged!" Joyce suddenly gasped, and the waves of jubilant sound returned.
"Do you feel better?" Spike asked as they stalked across a twisted trail of roots and grass, heading towards old initiative stomping grounds, rumors of demon activity having reached their ears.
"I'd feel better if I knew this was a rumor. And if I didn't have a test tomorrow."
"I can handle this, why don't you go home and study?"
"Nah." She grinned at him. "I like my 'office romance'." They chuckled. "It's been a long time coming."
"Yeah, well, about two months. Guess the lesser evils have figured out Glory is gone, they can come back in and start trouble again."
"I meant finding a guy who can handle slayage and normal stuff. Like telling Mom we're getting married and fending off Anya and her day planner."
Another laugh as they reached for each other, locking hands as they crossed stones. "That's what I'd meant, you know. Stomach settled now that you've told your mum?"
"Yeah. Yeah... I - well, mostly. I don't feel awesome, but I don't feel sick anymore."
"Hurry, hurry, hurry!"
"I'm a superhuman vampire, this is top speed!" He snapped, but he fairly flew down the stairs, decided to hell with steps, and jumped the bannister, holding her in one arm. "Run."
She sped. He sighed. "Were we in time?" He asked.
Splashing sounds and porcelain clinking greeted his ears. "Barely. Guh!"
"You must've got a bug. You can't have wedding jitters. You haven't been into the whiskey have you?" The question was met with another spectacular burst of gagging. "Sorry I asked."
"If... you mention... booze, or food... I will kill you." Buffy weakly called down the hall, clutching her rolling stomach as she knelt by the toilet.
Spike came in and sat down beside her, a contrite look in his face. "Sorry, Baby."
"It's not your fault. You should go. This is gross."
"I love you when you're gross. Or when you threaten me." He teased. "Where are those things for your hair? Keep it out of your face." He began digging around the already cluttered bathroom counter.
"Thanks." Buffy took the rubber band from him eventually. "This doesn't feel like a stomach bug."
"Food poisoning? Wasn't too keen on that Greek stuff Demon Gal had for us last night." They had helped move out the After-Valentine's Sale displays and move in some new pieces, as well as researching some evidence of a demon. Happy working atmosphere, complete with take away.
"Uh-uh. I've been sick since- was it after Valentine's Day?"
"Mmhm. Then we told your mum. Lemme see." He ticked off the days in his mind, not living by dates, living by events. "You've been losin' your lunch- an' everything else, for four days."
"Maybe I'm allergic to something?"
"What could you be allergic to? Aside from champagne and souvlaki I don't think you've eaten anything in that long either."
"I eat. I ate- " The thought of food caused an internal rebellion. "Never mind. I ate. I wish I hadn't right now. I want a ginger ale." Buffy whimpered.
"I'll get you one. Why don't you get a doctor's appointment?"
She shook her head, blowing air from her lips. "Pfft, for this? No, seriously, I'm just feeling sick lately."
Spike shook his head as he headed to the kitchen. "Stubborn."
"Why you love me." She rose from the edge of the tub and started to brush her teeth.
"Mm, no argument there." He was back in a moment, slipping around behind her, can of Sprite in one hand, other hand rubbing her chest, finding its way under her robe.
"Owff." Buffy chided, smacking his hand away from her sore breasts.
"They still hurt? Maybe that guy you tangled with hit you in the stomach, too. Bruised it or something?"
She shrugged and spat, then took the soda. "Happens around now."
"It does? Now?" Spike looked confused.
"Every month." Buffy said significantly.
"Ooh." Spike perked up. "Been missin' that." He turned from her with an affectionate squeeze on the rump. "I'll get you some toast."
"Kay." Buffy nodded and started to gargle. She paused, frowned at her reflection, spat, then frowned again. "Been missing that..."
"You want jelly?"
"God, no." Buffy padded up to him. "Spike?"
"Nothing." Buffy turned away, shaking her head. "I'll get dressed. Can I have my toast to go?"
"Slayer?" It was Spike's turn to enter the room, frowning. This time he showed up at the top of the stairs, watching her slip her day clothes on, pretty white blouse with some sort of pink splotches, jeans, her boots.
"Where are those pink earrings that go with this shirt?"
He stared. "Ask me where your weapons are, not the jewelry. More my department."
"Okay, I get it, I'm on my own with earrings. What did you want?"
"Oh, yeah. Your top half doesn't usually hurt, does it? You never told me to take it easy before."
"Honey, that was days ago."
"But you never told me before. Before this month. Either you never hurt that much, or you never tell me I'm hurtin' you. Which is it?" His eyes narrowed in a way that let her know one answer would really hurt him.
"Well... we had that fight. Not you and me, that vamp who was built like a pickup truck. It's a combination of pms and bruised boobs. No big."
"They're not bruised." Spike said quietly.
"It's not a big deal!" Buffy cried out, exasperated.
Equally exasperated he returned, "It is to me!"
"Spike!" Buffy held out her hand to him, his exasperated expression turning more serious. Almost scared.
"What if you're sick?" He whispered. "It's not... It's not normal, the way you've been lately. Not normal for a Slayer. Not normal for you. An' your mum..." Visions of sitting by Joyce's side, the way she'd been on the chemo- he couldn't suppress a shudder.
My mom had cancer. She was so sick. He watched her get worse, then better. And he thinks maybe I...? "No, Spike. Not like that. But I get it. I'll call a doctor if you'll feel better."
"Please." He said quietly. Than the cocky grin tried to climb back to his face. "Silly aren't I? But you are my future wife. What kind of husband would I be if I didn't look after you?"
"Doesn't sound like you at all." Buffy kissed his cheek, then his lips, slowly, lovingly, if not passionately. "I think I'm in good hands."
Buffy dialed her recently acquired cell phone with shaking hands. No. No way on earth . No way in hell.
I live where hell meets earth. Maybe not in earth, not in hell, but maybe where they meet?
Just like him. Earthly and demonic all at once.
"'Lo?" Spike snagged the portable after a frantic search under the couch.
"Hey." The smile he felt at the sound of her voice turned tail and vanished. "You've only been gone a couple hours, what's wrong?"
"Well- funny thing. I figured I could save the doctor's appointment and all that annoying stuff that goes with it, making time to call the receptionist and get set up-"
"You promised!" Spike growled.
"Listen!" Buffy hissed, huddling deeper in the semi-private corner of the college building where she was standing. "I figured I'd go into the health clinic on campus. Walk-in, walk out, get some Tums, maybe get told there's a super virus running around the cafeteria."
"And that's not what happened. Here's the funny part. You know what they asked me first?"
"If you ate cheap Greek food?"
"If I was late."
"I thought you didn't have an appointment?"
"Sometimes you're really stupid, you know that?" Buffy snapped. "Late. As in missed a period."
"I thought you were about to get it?" Spike blinked. Wait. What's she saying?
"Super funny part now."
"Wish you'd stop sayin' that."
"I don't remember getting it last month. We were moving, school was about to start up again, you were getting better... I kinda don't remember if I got it. Or not." But you should. Shouldn't you? How gross is that?
I should know this. I love my little bit of extra nectar in m' favorite flower. "Ah. And... I forget, too."
"It's not weird to skip a month. Sometimes. Don't feel guilty, but the last time I skipped was with Angel. The Slayer's Cure? Whenever you lose a whole lot of blood, it can mess you up."
"And you cured me. You gave me too much. Oh hell, Slayer are you sayin' I messed up your lady parts? Or your stomach? Or both?" It didn't add up. But the other unbelievable, impossible thought tugging in the far corners of his mind made even less sense.
"No. That's not what I'm saying. It's not what the nurse said either." She swallowed, looked over shoulder, and dropped her whispering voice even more. "They made me pee on a stick."
His cool hands suddenly seemed to feel ice cold, and a shiver crossed his spine. "I've seen those. Those tests?"
"Yeah. They're not 100% accurate. All the time." This one was positive. Bright pink lines appearing even before she could set the stick down on the counter. "So they took some blood. They'll call me this afternoon. Okay? Spike? Spike, are you there?"
"Pregnant? Am I bein' stupid again or are you saying... you're not ill, you're pregnant?"
"Parts of you are human. Maybe even, little, bitty, tiny cells that swim are human too?" She was going to faint. Or throw up. Her stomach lurched ."I gotta go."
"Come home! Slayer!" A click.
Is she angry? Thrilled? About to cry?
"Fuck." Spike scrambled towards the door.
Buffy saw him walking in the sunlight. Once it had been such a shocking sight, such a happy sight- now puzzling. Her mind was spinning. 'Cause he's part human. He's got human characteristics. Why am I so stupid? Am I so stupid? I mean, it's not the first thing I thought of- Hey, he has a couple human traits, maybe now his sperm are human. We should get condoms. Because who thinks like that? Because he was still a vampire, fangs, undead, all that stuff didn't vanish. It just got added to.
"Hey." Spike greeted her, sounding slightly breathless.
"Hey." Buffy sounded distracted.
"Did they call?"
"No, it'll be awhile. How'd you even find me?"
"I know where your classes are."
"Yeah, I need to get in there." Buffy realized. How come time seems to be moving all weird today, too fast, too slow, the opposite of whatever I need?
"All right. I'll wait for you."
"It's a ninety minute class!" Buffy shook her head.
Spike grabbed her hand. "I would wait for you for nine hundred minutes. You know that, right? No matter what. Anything. Good or bad- I'm with you."
Buffy's eyes filled suddenly, nodding. "D-Do you think th-this would be a good or bad thing?"
Airhead! To be a dad- well, that would be terrifying. To have a child... His mind couldn't grapple with that now. All he knew was, "Anything with you is good."
"But, I know you're saying that because we- because we've been through all the bad stuff, and yeah, it's us, so it's good."
"I'm not seein' why there's a 'but' involved."
The air around him seemed to sway, she held on tight to his face with her eyes, focusing her blurry brain. "I never thought this could happen."
"Do you want - this?"
"Slayer, d'you honestly think I wouldn't kill for something of ours? Our love, our home, our - our kid. If we had one. An' if you're not - if this oven has no bun, doesn't matter to me. When you want one, we'll find a way." It was his turn to lock gazes, clutching the vision of her like a mental lifeline. "This messes up things for you, doesn't it? Unplanned pregnancy and all."
"Messes up? No! No, no. Changes things. We're not even sure."
"Right. Not sure. So I'll wait with you. Until you're sure."
They kissed, pulling apart slowly as the change of classes was heralded by a fresh stampeded of students. "I'll see you." Buffy whispered.
"Remember- I'm sure of us." He reminded her firmly, letting her go with one last, searing kiss. She nodded reluctantly made her way inside.
Sure of us. Two of us or three of us. I don't mind.
A smile suddenly split his face. I don't mind at all.
She got the phone call as they were walking home. Her cell was jerked from a coat pocket and answered before the phone was even fully opened.
He couldn't hear. Well, if he had tried, he could have. The world was suddenly full of white noise, because he honestly didn't care about the answer to the question- he cared about Buffy's reaction to that answer.
Tears. Sudden ones, a hoarse whisper of, "Thank you. No, I'm fine. Thank you."
The world turned the sound back on. He heard her muffled little noises under his own scratching demand, "What'd they say?"
"They said we're going to have a baby." Buffy looked up at him. Watched the incredulousness leave his face, replaced with a bewildered smile, until nothing was left but a million watt gleam.
"That's brilliant!" Spike laughed, rocking forward, hugging her hard- though not as hard as usual. "Precious, why are you crying?" Maybe she's not over the moon about this. I didn't know I would be.
"Because. They said we were gonna have a baby. A baby. My baby, our baby."
"It's a miracle." And the second they told me it was true- I fell in love with you. Buffy thought to the tiny little life inside her. I don't care if everything is harder, or better. Just like your daddy- there isn't any good, or bad, shoulds or shouldn'ts. There is just me loving you. And loving him.
"Should we go- do something'? Celebrate? Tell your folks?" Spike finally managed to do something other than grin foolishly as they walked.
"I want to celebrate by ourselves. This is something that's really just ours. And I like that." Buffy beamed. "I do have to go see a doctor. A real one, one for babies and pregnancies. Holy shit, I'm pregnant!"
"Shh! Don't swear in front of the baby. Wait- does it have ears yet?"
"I don't know. Ooh. I don't know a lot of stuff." Buffy looked suddenly worried.
He didn't. "The unknown's never bothered us before, Luv. We tackle it nicely."
Another shared smile, another loop around an unneeded block, simply enjoying a suddenly spring-like day in late winter.
"When's it coming?"
"I- wow. I don't know. They can't tell that from the blood work. Or at least they didn't tell me. It was more of a yes or no thing. I need to call that doctor. They do an ultrasound. You know what that is, right?"
"Yes, I know what that is." Spike rolled his eyes. She elbowed him. He held himself in check. "I think I know when it was."
"The night the Door closed. That first time we... well, you remember that first night after my bits started to function again." His grin was wicked, though his eyes were bright and joyful. "It felt different. I remember that night, and we've had a lot of memorable nights, Slayer."
Buffy tried to cast her mind back. "I knew it was special, and yes, it did feel really amazing, but I think that might be just how it felt. Like, emotionally, Spike."
He shook his head stubbornly. "We made a circle, Luv, Our life blood, our life forces. I was full of your life- and for a minute- you were full of mine."
Buffy nodded slowly. That's deep. That's like Giles deep. "You could have been sharing your 'life force' with me anytime since though."
"I still think I'm right."
"You always think you're right. It's one of the annoying things about you." Buffy reminded him.
"Well I am!" He insisted.
"Prove it." Buffy laughed.
" I can! Sort of. If I'm right, it'd put you almost two months gone. If that doctor says the dates line up, I'm right. And I win." He concluded smugly.
"Ha! What do you win?"
He considered. I have everything in the world I could want. What can I say to see that spark? "I get to name it."
"No way! You'll name it something vampire-y or Ye Olde English-y." Buffy shook her head. No, he wouldn't. He'd pick something beautiful. He's good with words. I mean, all things considered, "Buffy" isn't really a prize name, is it?
Spark accomplished. "The middle name, then?"
"Maybe. Ooh, we can find out if it's a girl or a boy. Before it's born. Did you know that?"
"Just 'cause I was born a couple of centuries ago doesn't mean I stayed there. Moved with the times." He reminded her.
"You're kinda stuck in the 80s." She pulled at the edge of his duster and then affectionately flicked the peroxide spikes in his hair.
"Oi." He lightly batted her off, and his hand ended up swinging, entwined with hers, as they strolled. "Do you want a girl or a boy?"
Buffy opened her mouth, but what she'd intended to say didn't come out. Instead she blurted, "I want it to be human. Oh my God. What if it's like- like a vampire-human-deposed hellgod hybrid? What if it's a Key?"
"What if it's got your eyes and your laugh? I don't think the rest matters. It's ours." Spike steadied her, pulling her to a halt, hand gripping hers harder. "You think it could come out of evil?"
"No- just- I don't know." Buffy looked slightly panicked, though she felt bad even mentioning these fears aloud. It was her baby. She loved it.
"Evil to start doesn't mean you can't love. Can't do the right thing. If it has to fight to be good, well- I'll show it how." He ducked his head to capture her now downcast eyes. "I know this baby will love you, an' we'll love him or her. That's worth fightin' for, and look at this family tree, Slayer. There's fight from all sides. We'll be fine. All three of us."
"Should we tell them now?" Buffy gazed at the photo in her lap.
"They're never gonna believe this." Spike was barely able to keep his eyes on the road, kept darting glances to the grainy black and white print out.
"We'll show them." Buffy traced the picture adoringly.
"Show 'em what? It looks like you're carrying a goldfish." Spike grumbled, squinting.
"You can't see much this early. In a couple months we'll see more. Maybe if it's a girl or a boy. Or if it has horns, or a tail..." Buffy sighed and sank back.
"More like a turtle." Spike tried to take the photo from her hands.
"You're not listening to me!" She pointed back to the road ahead of them.
"I heard you, I heard you. Making cracks about my demonic lineage. If it has fangs, well- it'll just have another weapon in the arsenal, yeah?"
"It won't breastfeed for too long, that's for sure." Buffy sighed again, then frowned and started reaching for her bag. "Peanut butter crackers... peanut butter -ahah!"
"Stomach flarin' up?"
Buffy nodded and stuffed a cracker into her mouth. "I really liked the part where he said morning sickness goes away in another couple weeks."
"Which means I was right, and I get to pick the middle name."
"We didn't agree on that! We just talked about it."
"You're tryin' to back out. Hmmph, where's the honor among white hats these days?"
"Why did you turn here?" Buffy stopped devouring her crackers and looked around with alert eyes.
"Going to see your mum. The doctor said stress is bad for the baby. You'll stress yourself half to death until you tell her."
"But- but I don't want to spring this on her! I don't even know how to start!
Buffy ran a nervous hand over her eyes. "She's been really understanding and supportive and- and awesome- about living together, getting married... I think having a miracle pregnancy might just push the limits. An unwed miracle pregnancy." Buffy whimpered.
"We're wed- almost!" Spike protested. "We'll move up the date. We're going to have to, unless you want to walk down the aisle looking like you're carrying a pumpkin."
"Not helpful!" Buffy growled and smacked his elbow.
"A beautiful, gorgeous pumpkin!" He amended. The car smoothly rolled to a stop in front of Buffy's old home. "She's here today. Had her check up this afternoon and told me she'd let Anya and Rupes close. D'you want them all here when you break the news?"
Buffy considered. Her friends shared so much with her. Her secrets were always found out by her friends first, her mother last, and that was part of her old life, her old ways. "No. She deserves to hear this from me, alone. Special."
"Want me to hang about in the garden until you're done?"
"Nope. You're not an outsider, you're half of me, and we'll tell her together." Buffy resolutely got out of the car, taking a deep breath.
Spike watched her go, smiling fondly at his strong willed sweetheart. Wait. Tell her together? As in I break this news?
Hello Joyce. I knocked up your daughter, barely twenty, still in college, and we're not even married. She's pregnant with my half-demon spawn. How was your day?
He scrambled from the car. "You tell her! I'll just be there for you. A little ways back."
Buffy nodded absently, breathing through her nose, as if she were about to undertake some great challenge.
Joyce looked up from a stack of papers as a knock coincided with a key turning in the lock. "Buffy?"
"Hi Mom!" Buffy called.
"Come in! I didn't know you were coming over."
"Sorry, I should have called first." Buffy waved off her mother's offer of a chair and hugged her quickly. "You had your check up?"
"All clear." Joyce beamed. "Hi Spike. I could make tea? Are you staying?"
"Uh- maybe. No tea, thanks, Joyce." Spike answered, slightly choked sounding.
"Actually, I hope you can stay. Buffy, the florist just sent a bill and I think they doubled the number of centerpieces. Can you get out the seating chart and make sure we have eight to a table? I'll read off the names."
"Speaking of weddings-"
"If you have to run, I can have Anya help me later. But she's having a hard time with her own seating arrangements. Apparently some of her friends are from out of town and they need special travel clearances."
"Planetary alignments and summoning spells." Muttered Spike, poking at the sea of wedding paraphernalia. "It's not so much the 'out of towners' on Anya's side I worry about, it's those drunks Harris has sitting next to 'em. One rude word and we'll have a brawl." Possibly fire breathing and slime shooting out as well.
"I'm sure people will be on their best behavior at the wedding. They have to be. That reminds me, Buffy, have you told your father what day you're planning on? You know he'll have to clear his calendar." Joyce said in a somewhat chilly voice.
Buffy seized on the opening. "Uh, actually, Mom... I want to move the date up. Really far up."
Joyce put down her pen. "Sweetheart, how far up are you thinking?"
"Soon. Next month? Next week. I don't really care as long as it's soon." She tried to smile. Her mother didn't return the look. This isn't leading like it's supposed to. I'm not doing a very good job though.
"Do you have some reason?" They can't be moving. They told me they weren't moving far away.
"I um- I went to the doctor today." Buffy fumbled out the words and reached for Spike's hand.
Joyce looked at the couple. A sudden stab of agony hit her. Buffy's face looked paler than usual. Dark circles. She'd mentioned being tired. Not feeling well enough to eat the past few times she'd been over to visit.
Is she sick? It would have to be something severe for her to come to tell me in person. Something- life-threatening. No. No, please don't let it be what I had, don't let me have passed it on somehow. "Buffy." One word. A word that meant "Give me answers, and give them to me now."
"I'm going to - we're going to have a - a baby." Buffy blurted out the final words and braced herself for screaming.
Good call on the bracing, Buffy winced.
Spike backed away, considering pulling Buffy with him to the nearest exit and wondering if Rupert was fool enough to leave weapons laying around the kitchen.
The shrill noise turned into barely discernible words, but the actions were clear and Joyce advanced on them both, beaming, pulling Buffy into her arms.
"Mom! Mom, easy!" Buffy gasped, laughing. "I can't understand you!"
"I said, 'That's the best news in the world!' Oh honey, I'm so happy for you!"
Over her mother's shoulder, Buffy gave Spike a look of incredulous joy and hugged her mother back, relaxing and feeling her exuberance overtake her too. No more worry, only simple happiness. Tears hit her eyes. "I'm gonna be a mom, Mom." Buffy whispered.
Joyce stepped back and looked her daughter in the eye. "This is what I wanted for you."
"Normal." Buffy nodded.
"No. The chance to have what I had."
Buffy wiped at her eyes. "Being my mom was so hard-"
"It was, it is, the greatest gift I've ever had. All I wanted was for you to have that. And to have someone to love." Joyce squinted briefly, looking at the object of her daughter's heart. How could the...? He's...
I don't need to know. It doesn't matter. It's a miracle. "It's a miracle." The words burst out, and the laughing, shrilling, hugging began again.
Spike watched and shook his head, watching his two favorite women in the world dancing and hugging, laughing and crying. Been a surprising few months. Well. that's life. You just never know how it'll go. Never imagined this, ever.
I like it that way.
He stepped up, arms wide. "Oi. Can the proud father and husband-to-be get in on this?"
They pulled him in and he whirled, eyes closed, inhaling the scent of their adrenaline and their joy.
Keep us guessing, I don't mind, he thought to the divinity that had put him here, in this sandwich of love and life. It all seems to turn out okay as long as we're together.
Author's Final Note:
Thank you for reading, for taking this journey through lives uncontrollable, unmentionable, and unknown, until we landed with one surety- life will be okay if we have the ones we love.