Starting Over

By Sweetprincipale

Post Season 7- Non-canon beginning at the end of the final episode. No comics. Buffy and Spike find themselves trapped in a void between two dimensions, watching their mirror images acting out pieces of their lives in another realm. If both halves can find true love, choose each other, and make some other important choices, Buffy and Spike will have a chance to rejoin their world, and have a chance at starting over from the point where they perished in the Hellmouth.

Author's Note: Smut, mush, drama...

Author's Second Note: Thank you for the support for this piece, and thank you for the patience in waiting for the next chapter of Unknown. It's due for an update next!

Dedicated to sjwheelan, Omslagspapper (the fabulously talented cover artist), Ginar369, Illusera, AGriffinWriter, xxtheTwistedSisterxx, and blueeyes81.

Direct quotes from shows or songs are obviously not mine, but belong to the enormously talented people who created them.

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

Part XXX

"That was the last Oreo." Willow sighed.

"Yeah? Well, you can spend the ten bucks on more." Xander looked at his wife fondly, putting their 25th week ultrasound photo on the fridge with a cat-shaped magnet.

"No, too much sugar isn't good for her."

"Hey, the poor thing's probably starved. She couldn't have gotten much to eat for the first four and half months of this gig."

"She must have gotten enough, she's pretty feisty." Willow rubbed her small bump gently. "Oh, she's rolling over again, come feel."

Xander bolted to her side, hands planting firmly around the roundness of his growing child. "Hey, Baby Girl." He whispered in an awed sounding voice. "You swimming laps in there?"

"We need a name." Willow lay back, putting her tired legs on the couch.

"Something short. No more than six letters. The kid's already going to have to learn to write 'Rosenberg-Harris' for her last name."

"We should name her after someone important to us. Really, really important." Willow led.


"No! I love Buffy, but- Buffy Rosenberg-Harris sounds like a country club lush who has three martinis for breakfast." Willow said emphatically, crossing her arms.

"You've given this a lot of thought, I see." Xander grinned. "What about- Summer? For Dawn and Buffy. And Joyce. Summer Rosenberg-Harris."

"That's beautiful." Willow's eyes traveled into the distance. "My name isn't that pretty. The one I thought of."

"I bet it is." He encouraged. "You're my brainiac, the chief namer of things and identifier of random stuff. If anyone has a better name, it's me."

"Tanya." She whispered softly, and held out a scrap of paper from the baby name book on the coffee table. The names "Tara" and "Anya" were written at the top, and underneath various combinations of their name letters had been used to make a list of names. "Tanya" was circled vigorously in pen. "Do- do you think that's wrong? Is that an insult to our relationship? I don't want it to be." She looked at him with suddenly frightened eyes. "I know it isn't the same for us as it is for other couples, but I love you, and I love being married to you. I'm not wishing it away by thinking of them. Am I?"

"It's perfect." He said hoarsely. "Honors both of them. She'll be for all of us. She'll be the daughter we wanted. All of us wanted."

"Okay." Willow smiled, blinking her rapidly moistening eyes.

"Will- we have a daughter! A daughter. I think of her as a baby, but it's a daughter. Oh, my God. I have a daughter. 'No, you can't sleepover on a school night! Eat your greens! You can't date until you're sixteen'." Xander suddenly fired off sternly.

"What the hell was that?"

"Parenting practice." Xander heaved a deep breath.

"You have plenty of time. You're gonna do great. So- you like Tanya? How about Tanya Summer?"

"Perfect. She's gonna be perfect. Just like you."

"I'm not perfect." She blushed, looking solidly in his bright eye. "You know that the most of anyone."

"Sweetie, you're perfect for me." Xander admitted.

"You're the prefect husband." Buffy groaned. Spike grunted and collapsed beside her on the sofa.

"You're doin' all the work, Luv." He passed a hand over her belly, still stubbornly unmaternal looking, remaining only slightly swollen. But other signs of pregnancy were hitting her all at once. Morning sickness, exhaustion, muscle pains, mood swings, the works. And everything she felt, he felt, through their bond, but there was nothing he could do to make it better. Particularly with the mood swings. He felt like he was sitting by an active volcano, never sure when it would erupt.

"Ughh." She groaned, and Spike felt the churning in his gut start all over again.

"That does it. I'm takin' you to the hospital. I've read the books, an' all this, all at once, so severe- it's not kosher. This isn't normal."

"Nothing about this is normal." She panted. "And if you take me, they'll look at his heart rate, they'll see how sick I am- they'll see the bruises he's giving me when he kicks, but they'll say it only proves I'm not strong enough to handle it. They'll take him from us."

"No!" Spike took her shoulders in his hands. "Because I won't let 'em."

"I know- but-" She looked at him, dark circled green eyes meeting dark circled blue, "I won't risk him."

"We gotta do somethin'." Spike marched off to their kitchen and brought back an armload of crackers, pretzels, and jars of peanut butter. "You eat."

"But I'm gonna hurl."

"You gotta eat." He sat beside her and tore open the box of saltines. "Try, Luv." He turned his big blue eyes to their full wattage.

"Thank God this kid has my eyes." She groaned and forced herself to take a handful. "If he looked at me with big blue eyes like yours, juvie city."

"Ah, but I'd keep him in line." He teased, and wrapped his arm around her. "Just rest a bit, Pet. Rupert'll be here soon, an' we can call Red as well. Maybe they can make you some kind of potion to perk you up."

"Have fun, you two. Make sure you keep him in line." Essie hugged Sul and Max goodbye.

"He's good as gold, he doesn't need to be kept in line." Max ruffled the boy's hair affectionately.

"I was talking to Sullivan." She countered with a laugh.

"Hey! Just for that, the sitter's gonna raid the fridge and watch pay per view."

"Oh, can we see a PG-13 movie? Pleeease, Essie, please?"

"No! When you're 11 you can see PG-13 movies, and the movie police are already gonna hunt down your dad and I for that one."

"Fine." Sul rolled his eyes. "This baby better be some serious fun. You two are the strictest parents ever."

"Are you sassing Essie?" Jim hustled through the kitchen, scooping Stripes and Mist off the counter, and slipping on his sneakers.


"Yes!" Essie blew a raspberry on the back of her stepson's neck.

"You two go have fun on your 'date'." Max pulled Jim into a quick one-armed hug.

"Just because it's a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon and not a dark, moonlit Friday night, doesn't make it any less of a date." Essie pouted.

"That's right, Hot Mama." Jim came up behind her and nibbled her ear, hands on the prominence-gaining bulge under her royal blue sundress. "Let's get out of here."

"Oh! Shoot, I forgot my sunglasses. I'll be right there." She trotted off, somewhat more slowly than she had in the past.

"See you back here in a couple hours?" Max muttered to Jim in an undertone as Essie began searching the sunroom.

"Less. I'm dropping off and I'm gone."

"When's Uncle Patrick coming?" Sul hissed.

"He'll probably be here before I get back, the way he drives. It's the British speed limits. They regard 65 miles an hour as a bad American joke." Jim hastily straightened up, seeing his wife coming back with the sunglasses triumphantly perched on top of her head.

"I'm ready to roll, let's go." She kissed Sul's cheek, and then Max's- who moaned goofily and clutched his face with an expression of rapture-before heading out to the car with Jim.

"Ready for your surprise day out?"

"Yeppers. You're sure a dress is appropriate? And you're sure there's a bathroom near wherever we're going?"

"Yes to both, Ess. The miniature giving you trouble?"

"He or she is elbowing me in the bladder. And I understand it only gets worse from here on out."

"Uhh. Well, honestly- yeah." Jim looked at her with a sympathetic smile. "You can stop the voice over work, if you want. We can more than get by."

"No, I've had enough time off, and I think I've been interviewed by every magazine or celebrity hunting show in the business, so I need to do something." She sighed and sat back, adjusting the seatbelt more comfortably over the soft hill of her stomach. "Are you sure you want to go out with me? I might get arrested for smuggling watermelons."

"A honeydew melon at this point. Little one's gonna have your bone structure, I bet." Jim reached over. "I always wanna go out with you, Ess. You sure you wanna go out with me? Look at this." He bent his head to the side. "Gray hair. First one ever." He dropped his voice. "Plus- you know, long past the big three-oh."

"Shut up. I love you." She smacked his arm, rolling her eyes skywards.

"Then you shut up, too. You're my Essie, and I love you. Besides, the current bump in your dress has something to do with me, so..."

"And the current bump in your shorts has something to do with me, right?" She teased reaching over and fondling said rise.

"You just look so damn cute in that dress, all strapless, and these." He ran his hand softly over her curving bosom, which had become heavier and fuller in the last few weeks.

"Sorry they're too sore to play with." She smiled. "That goes away, right?"

"I guess it does." He leaned over at the red light and kissed her quickly. "The main thing is, you're still the most beautiful girl in the world to me."

"And you're still my ab-alicious."

He grinned, and moved his hand lower, across the bump and between her legs. "You're still the hottest, wettest, best lover ever. After we get home and get Sul to bed..."

"Oh, yes. More two for one specials." She purred. They chuckled together, minds casting back to the two, nearly three years they had spent being more than just friends, all the comforting, confiding, making a family, making love. Jim pulled the car into the valet spot of the LA Regency, and she beamed. "Oh, a fancy lunch?"

"Fancy lunch." He grinned.

"Can we see if they have a room, and have fancy room service? Maybe with whip cream and hot fudge and other edible things?" She teased him.

"You're making it hard for me to walk." He hushed her, passing the keys to the valet and taking his ticket.

"Take me upstairs and make it hard for me to sit." She returned, not in the slightest shushed.

"Second trimester sex cravings. God, I love this." He ached to do whatever she suggested, but there was something already planned. "I promise, as soon as we eat." He led her to the hotel's restaurant, and they were shown past the main dining room and down a corridor. "Must be expecting a big crowd for lunch." Jim said with a shrug.

"That reminds me, your mom and your sister called and they-" Essie's voice died with a gasp as the corridor opened into a smaller banquet room, decorated with pink and blue streamers and dozens of white balloons.

"SURPRISE!" Thirty or so women shouted, and threw confetti shaped like rattles and bottles.

Essie staggered back a step into Jim, glaring at him. "That's twice! Twice you've fooled me and led me to a shower!"

"I know. I'm good, aren't I, Baby?" He gave a suddenly Spike-like grin, one that always gave her nostalgic feelings, and she let go of her mild indignation at having been so easily fooled. "Oh, Jim! Oh, guys! Wow!" Jim hugged her, and then left her side, easing into the crowd to say hello to all of their friends and families before slipping away.

She hugged her friends, friends from the show, friends from her earlier movie days, her sister-in-law, and even some of her older relatives who'd arrived from Long Island. "This is a-mazing. Ellie! Monica! Ashley, Gwenn, you didn't have to do this!"

"It was fun to do!" Monica kissed her surrogate sister's cheek and fondled the baby bump lovingly. "Come on! There's a ton of people waiting to hug you and the tadpole."

"I'll say. You must have told every girl I've met in the last ten years." Essie laughed and let herself be led to a heavily decorated rocking chair.

"Who've you told about the baby?" Giles took one look at the pale blonde, vastly different from just two weeks ago, and her husband, vampiric pallor sunk to new depths, and decided to dive into business as soon as they let him in.

"Just the family." Buffy said quickly. "And Madge. Both my professors. Matthew, Claire, Jenna."

"The gits at the hospital." Spike muttered harshly. "And the pharmacy's been fillin' prescriptions for Summers, Buffy, for prenatal goodies. Whether or not they actually know who that is, I don't know."

"This is worse than I thought. Tell no one else." Giles sighed. Seeing the parents' stricken faces, watching Spike tighten his grip on his partner and their unborn child, he hastened to clarify. "No, it's not dire. This pregnancy is becoming more obvious." He gestured to Buffy's frame. "Admittedly not much, yet. But the symptoms are finally beginning to come along."

"No kidding, Watcher-mine." Buffy grunted sarcastically.

"Someone after the sprog, Rupes?" Spike tried to keep his voice light, but the worry was obvious.

"Not as far as I know. But that may be because the darker elements don't know about it. However, your offspring-"

"Baby!" Buffy shot him a venomous glare.

"Your baby, I apologize. I know it's a baby, Dear, I do." Giles took her hand. "But the baby is going to be regarded as an incredible source of power, either good or evil, or simply just because it's the only souled champion vampire/ chosen slayer hybrid we know of. It's going to be supremely desirable, even if simply to have as a bargaining chip. Anyone who knows you two, knows any of us, knows that we'd give anything to protect it."

"This isn't the pot at poker, Rupes. watch your mouth." Spike paced, fingers running through his hair, blue eyes angry and burning. "What are you saying needs to be done? An' can we worry about it after my wife gets seen to?"

"Don't worry about me." Buffy cast him a quick glance, partly grateful for the fact that he put her first, partly annoyed that he'd even think twice about her when their son might be in danger. "We knew this was gonna happen. I'll go back on patrol. I'll find whoever wants him and we'll kick his evil butt back to wherever it was spawned. Or-" she reluctantly sighed, "Spike can handle it. I guess. If he has to."

"Thanks for the confidence, Luv." Spike grinned wanly.

"Buffy, you will not go on patrol. The best method right now is secrecy. Not many people know you're expecting, but they will if they see you out and about. Probably one of the main reasons no one has made a play for you yet is because the bad elements in Pine Ridge haven't seen your condition to report on it or challenge you themselves."

"No, it's because I'm the SLAYER. They wouldn't make a play for me unless they want their heads kicked in." Buffy argued shrewishly.

"A pregnant woman won't fight to the endangerment of her child. And if they threatened you with- violence-" Giles swallowed hard, "you'd cooperate, wouldn't you? To keep him alive?"

"Yes." Buffy whispered, eyes straight ahead unseeing. They'd have a hard time killing her. Beheading, burning, or pierced through the heart, that was all. But a knife to her stomach, maybe even just a hard enough blow- that'd kill their beloved child.

"If we can just keep them at bay until he's born, you'll be able to fight without endangering his life at the same time as yours."

"No one endangers Buffy or the baby. I can handle them." Spike insisted. "If there's even someone who's gotten wind of this."

"If you let me act like a Watcher, for once, Buffy, just for once, Spike, I might be able to prevent anything from getting to that point. You forget. She's your wife, but she's my daughter." Giles fixed his "son-in-law" with an icy stare, Ripper's eyes looking out from the sensible mask of Giles' face.

"So. You wanna stash her someplace?" Spike nodded once and sat back down. Buffy immediately began to crawl into his lap, as he half-pulled her to the same spot, stroking his mind with hers. 'Easy, Baby. If they need us to hide, we'll hide. Jus' for a bit. Then we'll be back in no time, little bundle on our backs, to give the baddies a damn good killin'.' They shared a tight smile.

"Moving you suddenly out of your community is going to arouse suspicion, plus takes you out of your protected environment. We need to take care of the ones who know. Madge, Claire, Jenna, Matthew, your professors- memory spells. Very small, specific ones, only related to your pregnancy. Willow knows them well enough to get in and do it without suspicion."

"The doctors aren't a problem. They see hundreds of patients, plus they think this baby won't survive." Buffy said bitterly, snarl on her pale pink lips.

"Well, we know better, don't we?" Giles comforted gently. "Still, I'll ask if Willow can make a ruse appointment, get in there."

"She sees them anyway." Spike pointed out. "Same blokes are handlin' mini wicca as were handlin' ours."

"What about all the people we talked to, months ago, when we were researching the necklace?" Buffy demanded.

"Two covens and Alliance members all. And only the very most knowledgeable and trustworthy were informed. I've never reported back to anyone, except for Robson, on the outcome of our research. I only plan to tell one more person, an obstetrician the Alliance knows of."

"You sure this bloke's trustworthy?" Spike asked warily.

"She delivered a child for a werewolf/human pair. She's studied demonic property transference from parent to child."

"And that baby?" Buffy asked hopefully.

"Alive and well, although I don't know more than that. I fly to England at the end of the week to meet her. I'll be testing her thoroughly, making sure she's not the type to be carelessly or deliberately informative to potential enemies."

"Big words. Head hurts." Buffy moaned softly. Her moan turned into a sudden stifled hiccup, and Spike sprang up.

"Stand back!" He advised Rupert, pushing a plastic bag lined wastepaper basket to Buffy.

"I got it!" She was already scrambling to the downstairs powder room.

"How-" Giles began to form a question, and Spike waved him off, swigging from an ever present bottle of ginger ale.

"She feels sick, I feel sick. I can't vomit, she can. But I don't wanna eat when she doesn't, I can't sleep when she can't sleep." He leaned back with a deep sigh, boots landing heavily on the coffee table. Sounds of quiet retching made him shift painfully. "Can't we do somethin' for her and the boy?"

"Anti-nausea medication might help. Or possibly, Spike," Giles leaned in closer, "her body is trying to fight this. Slayer healing. I don't believe slayers were designed with pregnancy in mind."

"So, wait-" Spike's gaunt face darkened, "all these girls who've just gotten handed superpowers are gonna get robbed of bein' mums?" He slammed his feet to the floor and sat up straight, anger on his proud features. "That isn't fair! That's a soddin' crime! That's-"

"A form of genocide, to keep slayer powers confined to mythical rites of passage and divine choosing, no biological or genetic traits passed to humans that would be considered 'unworthy'." Giles shook his head. "We've never had slayers live long enough, or form emotional bonds leading to pregnancy, to test that theory. It may be unrelated to her- it may be because of the unique parentage of your child."

"Polite way of sayin' slayer body is tryin' to kill vamp body's contribution." Hands seemingly acting on their own, Spike picked up a thick throw pillow and ripped it cleanly in half. "Sod. She liked these. Gonna have to go back to Macy's."

"We don't know anything for sure, Spike. Nothing at all. Many, many women have difficult pregnancies. But I've got to guard her, take every precaution."

"I'm with you. For once, I'm with you."

Giles gave him a grim smile. "Oh, we're past the 'for once', William."

Buffy reemerged, looking even paler than earlier. "So, I'm sequestered?" She forced the subject back to the primary concern. "How's this gonna work?"

"My first thought was to have a more experienced slayer, Faith or Kennedy-"

"Not Kennedy!" Spike and Buffy said as one.

"But I decided against it," Giles continued patiently, "because that would certainly arouse suspicion, plus, leave Cleveland or New Orleans unguarded and you know how deadly that could be."

"I just disappear then? Into the house? Won't people still be asking where the heck I am?"

"No, since everyone will know that you're very, very busy taking care of your best friend and neighbor, Willow, who's been put on bed rest."

"What?" Buffy looked puzzled, then panicked. "Willow? I thought she was fine! A few weeks ago they found out the baby's a girl, they didn't say they got any other news at the appointment!"

"That's the bait an' switch, Pet." Spike grinned at his wife's naiveté, still goin' strong after a decade of facing evil. He loved her for that, that purity, that unshakable belief that good wins. "Willow'll look after you. You'll both be home on stork watch."

"O-kay." She nodded slowly. "But, um, Giles? Do remember what it was like for the few weeks when we were moving, and you wouldn't let me patrol, or help with anything energetic?" Her tone became saccharinely sweet. "I almost killed someone."

"I can vouch for that." Spike muttered. "Me, if I remember rightly."

"Only 'cause you can take it." She gave him a quick feline smile. "But this time, if I have to sit still for about three more months..." She trailed off ominously.

"But it's for the-"

"But look at me! I'm a twig! I'm a twig with a little potbelly, but still, I'm a twig! I won't tell anyone else, I swear! I'll wear baggy clothes, I'll never leave the house alone." She gave him her best pouting little girl look. "Can I still play?"

"They can't kill her without me comin' along for the ride, remember?" Spike spoke bravely. "You can't keep this bird cooped up, Rupes. Not fair until it's a matter of absolute need, right?"

"Thank you!" Buffy kissed her husband soundly. "You get extra Buffy-nummies for that. Well, once I stop barfing every hour on the hour."

"Stop! Please!" Giles polished his specs furiously. "I agree, just- stop with the pawing. It's inappropriate in this situation."

"Pregnant couples can have fabulous sex lives!" Buffy protested, blushing.

"Yes, Dearheart, I know. I meant inappropriate because I'm still bloody here!"

"Oh." Her blush deepened and she studied the room intently, avoiding Giles' eyes. "Hey! My pillow!"

"I'll get you another one." Spike promised quickly, removing the torn item.

"I've got to go, get packing, and then pick up Dawn for some training." Giles rose. "Is it Xander and Willow's night for dinner, or mine?"

"Theirs." Spike replied after a quick count up of the last three days.

"Then I'll make sure I pick Dawn up in time for dinner, we'll get this plan underway." He hugged Buffy goodbye, rubbing her back, fingers almost skirting her abdomen and then backing off. Spike growled softly.

"Spike!" Buffy laughed and rolled her eyes. "Here." She put Giles' hand, resistant and reluctant though it was, on her slightly puffed belly. "He's not moving just now. But you- and only you, and the rest of the family, have the right to pet Mr. Miracle."

"Ask first." Spike circled predatorily.

"Well, I, uh-" Giles laughed nervously, a grin breaking out on his lightly seamed face, making the boyish glow suddenly surface. "This is all new. I've never-well, there weren't any pregnant women in my circle of acquaintances. It's- it's quite- remarkable."

Buffy tapped her fingers over her stomach. "Kick little guy. C'mon, kick for Grandpa."

"What are you doin', Luv, you're gonna get cracked ribs if you encourage him."

"Well, he's gotta learn to be gentle sometime. You did." She reminded him with an arch grin.

"William." Spike said suddenly, loudly, and nothing happened. "At least we know it isn't the name that sets him off." He laughed.

"Your father is a bleached reject from an eighties punk band." Giles crooned softly.

"Hey!" Buffy and Spike cried. Giles' hand jerked away from her belly explosively.

"Oi! Dija see that! It kicked, blimey, he's gonna be a 'Spurs center when he grows up!" Giles turned excitedly between the parents.

"That wasn't a kick." Buffy, still upright, and not in pain, smiled at him. "He just rolled over."

"That was just rolling - bloody hell." Giles was shaken out of his composure even further. "Must get to Dawn. Be back in time for dinner!"

Spike followed the gray-haired man outside, staying in the shadows of the eaves. "Look, all things considered, you lot do the thinkin', I do the fightin'. I'm sure you've looked at the angles an' all the rest of it. Sounds like a brilliant plan, but I've gotta ask you- did you ask Red how she feels about bein' under house arrest for a couple months?"

"I haven't asked. I will tonight. But this family would do anything for each other." Giles braced Spike's arm with his own. "And I firmly believe it will continue into the next generation."

"This quilt is going to go on the back bar of the crib. It's been in my family for three generations." Essie, Jim, and Sul were in the nursery.

"Is this the fourth one then?" Sul asked.

"Uh-huh. And when you grow up, and have your first baby, you get it." Essie smiled down at him. Jim looked at her with wide eyes. That was huge, and his heart melted even more than it already had over the last few years, watching her interact as a stepparent to his child.

"The baby can have it." Sul smiled, and put the soft green lamp on the white bookcase.

"You can both have it. You'll use it for your kids, and then you'll give it to your brother or sister for their kids." Essie smiled complacently. "Jimmy- the bassinet stand is facing the wrong way."

"It looks like the box photo."

"No, the curlicues point away from the head."

"Sul, hand me the flathead again."

"Do I put the crib sheets on now, or the basinet sheets on?" Sul held up two identical packages of pastel sheets with little frogs jumping on lily pads.

"Let Essie do the light stuff." Jim took the screwdriver from his son's hand, and passed the sheets to Essie.

"What can I do?"

"Start putting together the mobile?" Essie suggested.

"Okay." Sul moved cautiously through the small department store's worth of baby goods that were stored in the freshly painted room across from his. The baby shower had been weeks ago, but Essie had finally kicked it into her nesting phase. Or, as Jim liked to remind his long suffering son, "The first nesting phase. She'll have more, the closer it gets." "Um- there are five mobiles. This would have been so much easier if you told people if it was a boy or girl."

"But you like surprises." Jim teased.

"I hope the baby likes green and frogs. If it's a girl, she might hate frogs!"

"No, 'cause see, she'll think whatever we teach her is okay. If we teach her frogs are pretty, interesting animals, she'll like them." Jim explained patiently, hanging up a framed poster of electric guitars and a final cast shot from the show. "We've got music, family, cute animals, what else goes on the wall?"

"Our official family portrait." Essie remarked, sorting out some of the gender neutral layette.

"But I look like a dweeb in that." Sul groaned. "Can't we use the wedding picture of the three of us?"

"I look like a dweeb in that one." Jim protested playfully.


"Someone's ready for bed." Essie put down the packs of onesies and sleepers, shutting the white dresser drawer softly.

"Noo!" Sul began to whine, and then paused. "Oh! No, that's okay, 'cause we were at a really good part in The Goblet of Fire! Come on, Dad!"

"Hurry back." Essie yawned to Jim after she hugged her eldest goodnight.

"You need to go to bed,too, Sweetie." Jim suggested.

"It's only 8:45!"

"I didn't say you needed to sleep." He murmured seductively, and chuckled to see Essie speed up her sorting.

"Dad." Sul put the thick paperback on the side of the bed, and picked up his cats, holding them close on his chest, listening to the purrs go from soft to jet engine in seconds, and looked intently at his father.

"Uh-oh. Did you read ahead? Are Ron and Harry still not speaking?"

"No, not that! That!" Sul pointed to his guitar-a-day wall calendar where several sheets were pulled out and taped together, so Sul could see multiple months at once.

"Uhhh- field trip to the Natural History Museum?"

"No, look." Sul pointed to several dates he'd circled in red. "I figured it out. The baby's gonna come while I'm with Mom!"

Jim had known that would happen. It was only a matter of a few weeks, but the due date was past the day Anna was slated to take Sul to Seattle for the summer. "Mom and I already talked. You can come home for a week after the baby's born."

"But I wanna be here when it happens!"

"If you came home right when it was born, Essie and tadpole would be in the hospital for a couple days, you couldn't visit them very much. And the baby would be very fragile, it wouldn't be able to be held too much by anyone but Essie or me." Jim explained. "We'll bring you home as soon as it's home from the hospital, okay?"

"Divorce sucks!" Sul slammed the book down on the table, and Stripes abandoned ship.

"I know." Jim didn't scold him for his temperamental outburst. It was the truth, and he wanted to slam things into tables, too, when he thought of it. "Mom misses you, but she's giving up her time with you to make sure you can be with your little brother or sister. Okay? Sometimes we just have to deal."

"Dealing sucks." Sul remained unmoved.

"I know." Jim gave him a wry grin. "What else makes you mad, Buddy? You wanna go down and beat the snot out of the punching bag with me?"

Sul's frown cracked. "No... not right now. Here, read me two chapters?"

"You drive a hard bargain." Jim retrieved the book and began to read.

Essie was admiring herself in the walk in closet's full length mirror. "You finally decided to show up, huh?" She murmured to their "tadpole", a nickname unwittingly given by Sul's critique of an ultrasound photo where the baby did appear to be in a tadpole shape, tapered, and all the limbs tucked up tightly so that only little bulges appeared. Now she really was going to be accused of smuggling watermelons, no, basketballs. But thank goodness, pilates twice a week with Ellie had kept the rest of her in good shape. Not that she thought she needed to look trim right now. Jim said she was "voluptuous"- which was frankly ridiculous, because the top half of her nowhere near matched the middle, and the legs had never changed.

She lit some candles and slid into a black transparent nighty, which was supposed to come to mid thigh, and now barely came to crotch level. "Does this look silly?" She asked the bump, but as usual, it gave no reply.

"Ask the father, Baby." Jim's voice was outside the closet door, and she knew he couldn't see her.

"I look like a pregnant showgirl."

"As long as the show's for me..." He smirked lustfully and stepped to where he could see her. Damn. "Yum, Ess."

"How do I look?"

"Like a fallen angel who got herself in a little bit of trouble." He laughed softly, and came up behind her. "Hot."

"Hot?" She giggled. "Pregnant women are supposed to look beautiful. Possibly even holy. Not hot."

"Then someone's not paying attention." Jim murmured, mouth roving over her neck, hands moving down her back, resting at her hips. "Besides, you are beautiful when you're hot. And as to holy- let me do a little worshipping, Sweetie."

"You pray to basketball carriers, is that it?" She looked ruefully at her bulge as he began pulling her to the bed.

"Hey." His face lost its wolfish hunger and became serious. "Thanks to the see-through look, I know this is all you." He put both hands firmly over their growing child. "And this is all us. This is our miracle. This is proof that you love me, trust me. This is proof that you want to make life with me, that we weren't just two co-workers who got carried away one night. This makes us real."

"No, this made us real." Essie tapped her wedding band to his. "This makes the reality better."

"Then you're my dream come true. Either way," the wolfish look returned, "that bump is significant, and beautiful, and you will stop referring to it as anything involved in criminal activity." He poked it gently and she giggled again.

"No more watermelon or basketball swiping, I promise." She grinned.

"Good. Back to worshipping." He lay down beside her, and she shifted uncomfortably, getting big enough that lying flat was uncomfortable. Jim' hands slid up and down the sheer fabric a few times, helping her to her side, and then the hands slid under the garment and tossed it aside. "That's what I was after." He gazed appreciatively. "Goddess."

"Oh, I think I like this."

"You're still my partner, Honey, and I'm not gonna put you on that pedestal."

"I know. I like that. Makes my screw ups much less earth shattering, I'm sure."

"Yeah, it does. Oh, speaking of screw ups, I cleared up the car insurance thing." He moved his head in slow circles finding her ripe breasts and mouth lapping at an engorged nipple.

She gasped, everything so much more sensitive. "Thanks, Honey." She clutched his head to her, fingers tangling in short dark hair, as one of his hands made it's way down to her own patch of curls. "I like not having to live up to- oooh- unreasonable expectations." She spasmed as a finger entered her extra hot, extra wet channel.

"Oh, you live up to them, I just don't make them." Head moved lower, his body wriggling down, hands and lips trailing gently over her torso. He rested his ear there, and smiled. "Little guy's happy in there."

"Mommy's happy out here. Helps."

"I haven't even begun to make you happy." He flicked his sinfully nimble tongue behind his teeth and then out in a tapping circle on her belly. "Show me what I wanna see, Essie." He reversed his head and hips and ducked between her parted legs, using one as his pillow and draping the other on his shoulder. "You comfy? I'm not about to knee you in the head or something, am I?"

"No. Although you might put my eye out." She stroked the length of hardness right in front of her face.

"Want me to move?" He teased. For an answer he felt her sweetly sucking mouth engulf him, making him arch forward, pulling her hips with him, wrapping one muscular forearm around her leg. "Never mind. Offer null, I'm not moving."

She squeaked a protest at him and rapped him on his shoulder. "Oh. I meant not moving that part of me. My mouth is about to become very energetic."

Thank God I can still train. If I didn't get some of this energy out, one of my beloved family members would probably end up severely injured. "You know you're dropping your knee mid kick, right?" Buffy demanded of her husband.

"Not gonna lock it in case I misjudge the distance. Don't wanna hurt the package. 'Specially not since he's settled down." Spike, shirtless and shoeless, bounced around the mat on the floor of the training room he and Xander had built. The entire basement was made for training, double, nearly triple the size of the spare bedroom turned training room in their old townhouse. In fact, all three of the basements that the family possessed were similarly equipped. "And you- you still protect your face. Protect the belly!"

"I would, if it wasn't practically in it's own zip code."

"You been lookin' in a magic mirror, Pet? You're barely into maternity wear."

"And do you know that it is really hard to buy maternity wear when you can't go to the store and TRY IT ON?" She aimed a vicious kick at her partner, who swerved just in time, and caught her ankle, sending it down to the ground with a grunt.

"I'm votin' we move to the punchin' bag stage instead of hand to hand." Spike backed away from another kick.

"I can't help it!" Buffy lunged into the heavy bag and knocked a fine shower of sand from it. "I'm finally feeling better, and I start to really-" punch "show!" punch punch kick. "So I can't go out. When I'm finally-" punch kick kick "ready, willing, and able to kick demon ass," jab jab uppercut "I have to stay in. But when I was hurling all over the place, I could patrol every night."

"I'm sorry, Luv." Spike moved to hold the bag for her, grabbing it just before it came unset from its chains. "Not sorry that you feel better obviously, but sorry you feel a bit caged."

"I feel guilty! Willow has to stay home, Dawn's been spending more time here than at the dorm, and you, Xan, and Giles have to patrol every night."

"It's only for a two more months, Pet."

"That's a lot of time to sit on your butt."

"I'm not gonna say a soddin' thing right, am I?" Spike finally realized.

"No!" Buffy threw her wrist guards down with a sob and smashed her head to his chest- or tried. The burgeoning bump that was brand new caused her some slight miscalculation. She ended up brushing her forehead to his pecs before adjusting and being able to nestle into his comforting embrace. "I can't even throw Willow a baby shower."

"I know."

"And I still feel queasy all the time, even if I'm not barfing."

"I know."

"And little baby Willow has all these cool ultrasound photos, and we only have the one."

"Bloody hell." He groaned.

"It's not fair!"

"I know! You want him gone?" He shouted, and was satisfied, pained, yet satisfied, when her fist connected with his jaw and sent him clear across the room, smacking into one of the mat lined walls.

Realizing her husband had drawn her fire deliberately only made her cry harder. "I'm sorry." She scuttled over, still getting used to the lower center of gravity, and helped him up, kissing his clearly broken jaw, crying an especially loud sob when he winced at the pressure of her lips. "Oh. Oh, God, look at me, I hurt you, and all you've done is take care of us."

"S'alright." He said in a muffled voice, blood leaking from the corner of his mouth.

"Here." She offered her neck to him, and he refused vehemently, shaking his head and grunting in pain when he realized that was a bad idea, considering his jaw.

"I'm gonna go pregnant schizo on you again if you don't." She threatened. He gave her a disbelieving half-grin with the side of his face that still functioned. "No. Seriously, I probably will."

Eyes widened, he vamped obediently, shattered groans of pain hitting the air as the bones shifted in his face.

"Oh, God! Oh, God, that was so stupid of me, why am I so dumb?" She winced as well, observing the transformation. "Here, here, here." She did a little frantic hop, pulling his head gently to her claim.

Oh sweet Jesus, if there was a finer wine in the world he didn't know of it. Slayer blood, his claimed slayer, that alone making it the rarest, and now- a new taste, like a splash of fresh fruit or a sprig of sweet mint was added in. A combination of themselves. It wasn't the child's blood, he knew that and would never have bitten if it was. But there was something there. Pregnant, claimed, mated- his demon lost its reluctance and took three long, hard gulps.

When was the last time we...? Must have been six weeks ago. That's like an eternity for us, Buffy felt a shiver course down her back and settle in her groin.

She leaned into him, hands trailing down each defined centimeter of his chest. They'd tried, they'd wanted, but with any movement making her feel like she'd just spent a week in a tilt-o-whirl, the lovemaking hadn't gotten too far. Geez. Maybe that's why I'm so cranky. Well, no, that would be the abnormality of being mythically pregnant, forced to hide, forced to drag my best friends along with me, and not being able to shop- but no sex certainly ain't helping.

"You've been sick, Luv." Spike read her thoughts, as well as smelled the pooling arousal. "And you're still getting better. Little tyke needs you strong. I'm happy to wait, no need for anything but bein' near you. You know that." He smiled, human features smoothly replacing, bones instantly mended. And it was true. When you love someone, your heart needs them, your body needs them, but the body can wait if the heart is fed.

"Poet." She muttered, tracing his reformed jaw, picking up his musings. He shrugged.

"Always for you, Baby."

"Come on. Upstairs with me?"

"After you eat. Shouldn't take your blood when you're weak." He cursed himself. He had given into the temptation. He was a right selfish git.

"Did I taste weak?" She countered, rubbing his jaw more firmly now, reminding him that she wasn't in the least "weak", not today.

No. Bloody powerful. So powerful. Sweet, too." He had to admit it.

"The demon missed me." She knew it had, she could feel his reverberating happiness as he fed, feel again that sense of awe as he realized that he was miraculously part owner in the baby inside her. "I know it's you, but there's a little tingle, a little extra sense I get. That he's so happy, too."

"He is me, and we both are thrilled." He picked her up easily, and carried her up the basement stairs, heading towards their room. He laughed at his tangled sentence.

"I'm gonna read Dr. Seuss like a champ, yeah?"

"Yeah, you are." She squirmed down and pounded up the steps ahead of him, white tank top and slightly binding sports bra flying behind her.

"Now, you'll tell me-" He had caught her, and they were pawing off each other's last articles of clothing, "if it's too much? Dunno where he's at, don't wanna bump him."

"Uh-huh." She agreed breathlessly, feverishly. He'd never been with her when she was this big in front, she didn't know logistically how they'd fit together. But she was glad he was strong, he wouldn't even have to put an ounce of weight on her unless she wanted it.

He'd never been with her like this, of course. And before, it had been easy to do business as usual. Now, this seven month swell confronted him. Gorgeous. Ripe, round, and still nowhere near as big it should be. But enough to make him cautious. He ran two fingers along her slit and teased out the juice. No teasing required, it puddled into his palm at once. Must be some kind of pregnant mojo. Yeah, that'd be it, keep all the pieces in good order, no stretching or straining down there, keep everything slick.

"Foreplay later, Spike in Buffy now." She whimpered.

"Just let me make sure I won't hurt anything." He teased with an evil grin, earning her glare. One finger, two fingers, a tongue. "Mmmm. Wet and ready. Juicy little peach, yes, you are."

"Gloat later." She urged.

"So beautiful. An' this-" he cupped her abdomen, "this is mine. This is is ours, but this, a piece of me is so deep inside you, Luv, gettin' stronger everyday."

"Oh, yes." Pregnancy shouldn't be erotic. But it was. "That should in no way turn me on, should it?" She asked with a blush.

"Oh, yes, it should. Nothing we do together it wrong. You know that. And besides claims make you hot, don't they, Baby?"

"Uh-huh." A drawn out moan as he teased his crown between her parted lips, pushing lightly on her entrance without going in.

"This is the biggest earthly claim I can lay to you. You, Buffy, have me buried in you, growing. Filling you completely." He pushed in with one, deep, slow thrust of his hips. "An' it's not just for the pleasure. Not just for a minute, for an hour, not even just the nine months it's supposed to take. Once it's done inside, we've got our flesh an' blood. A legacy. Immortality that no immortal can boast of."

"That's deep." She reflected.

"Yeah, well, smart is sexy." He shifted inside her, letting her move her hips to his, letting her find the comfortable fit.

"Are you saying I'm not sexy?"

"Are you saying you aren't smart?" He challenged, laughing down on her wriggling form as it pushed, unexpectedly taking him to the hilt. " 'Cause you are."

"I'm not good with the wordiness."

"You are when you wanna be." He groaned and let her sheath him, rock him in deeper and deeper. "God, this is the most beautiful thing I've seen." He looked down on her with new eyes, Eyes that could really see, for the first time, that this woman was with child. "You're here with me, an' you've got my baby inside you."

Looking at it like that, looking up at him, it was gorgeous. "Triangle. Not just two lines anymore." She whispered. "There was always me, and then there was you beside me-" she held up her palms, facing them together, parallel, "and then there's William, he joins us more than ever." She pushed her thumbs together and tilted her fingers in until they formed a triangle. "That is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, too."

"Ah, you've got it right, just need to make one little adjustment." He took her hands and pushed the thumbs down to a point, and curved the fingers into humps, so that the triangle was a different familiar shape. "You see that? Not a triangle. A heart."

"I love that sound." Willow pushed her headphones off and passed them to her dark-haired spouse. "Wanna turn?"

"For fetal eavesdropping? Yes, I do!" Xander put down his latest espionage novel and put on the headphones, the other end on Willow's very obviously expectant belly.

"But not for too long, okay? I have to do my electronic submission by 5:00 or my professor counts it as late."

"You hear that, Tanya? Mommy's professor is a bastard. Yes, he is. Yes, he is!" Xander cooed, eye sparkling with mischief, head nodding in time with the steady swish of his daughter's heartbeat.

"Hey! Mouth!"

"Sorry. Mommy's professor is a butthead. Is that better, Wills?"

"I guess so." She sighed and stretched restlessly. "I can't wait to go back to class. I'm taking a full course load, well almost, four classes. You'll do the whole babysitting thing?"

"Is it technically babysitting if it's your baby? Isn't it just 'parenting'?" He asked.

"Yeah. Probably. Oh, in that case, no big. You parent Tanya while I'm at class, I'll parent while I'm at home."

"Sounds fair. Do you think she'll wonder why her entire family works nights?"

"Not until she's in school and realizes that other kids' parents are different." She gave a brave smile. "But that's okay."

"It'll be better than okay. She'll have little Undead Junior from next door in the same boat. They can be the nerds and rejects together."

"Not helping."

"Well, I'm trying." He sat up, kissing the baby bump affectionately. "Seriously, they'll go to school, make lots of friends, and when they don't fit in right, they'll have each other. Just like you and me and Buffy."

"You realize you're saying that you hope Spike's son and your daughter grow up to be best friends, right?"

"I prefer to think of it as Buffy's son and my daughter." He frowned.

"Aww, come on. Spike's a good guy. He's your best friend." Xander glared. "Your best guy friend."

"He is pretty funny. And he's not a bad assistant when it comes to carpentry and dry walling, gotta give him that." Xander conceded.

"He loves Dawn and Buffy."

"And he's gonna be my dad buddy, so okay, yeah, I don't mind if Tanya grows up to be best friends with William." He sighed sorrowfully. "But there will be none of the other best friend things that happened between us. No lusting. No falling in love. No getting married."

"Dummy!" Willow put her hands over her stomach, as if covering unborn ears. "You've jinxed it now!"

"I have not! They'll grow up like brother and sister. End of story."

"I'm her sister, Giles, I wanna meet this doctor lady before she gets off the plane." Dawn put down her script, tucked her essay on modern journalism in her book bag, and pulled out her Watcher's Diary.

"Dr. Vance is charming. And competent, and she'll do an excellent job. You're job is to be Buffy's secondary coach. In case Spike- uh-in case he-"

"Vamps out because of all the blood?" Dawn nodded sagely.

"I was going to say in case he faints, but that's the greater possibility. I suppose we need to make sure that we bring plenty of blood to the hospital."

"It's a hospital, isn't that like bringing a brown bagged lunch to a restaurant?"

"The Hudson County Cottage Hospital isn't like other hospitals. They cater to rich eccentrics and rehabilitation patients. Everything for maternity care is going to be rented from Pine Ridge General and whatever Dr. Vance brings in the way of operating instruments and drugs. Plus, we're going to have three of the Devon Coven here, doing a barrier spell."

"Willow can - oh, yeah. She'll be in the next room, baby-ing it up herself."

"Yes, possibly. But Dr. Vance is capable of handling it. A fascinating individual, very accomplished. Did you read her treatise on-"

"Oh my God! You like her, don't you? You're hot for doctor!"

"That's 'hot for teacher', and don't be ridiculous!" Giles blushed furiously. Dawn grinned smugly and he snapped. "Oh, well, you and that Matthew boy aren't just pen pals!"

"Yes we are! Giles, he's dating Jenna's older sister at UNC!"

"Oh." Giles looked properly abashed. "I didn't realize that. Well, Dear, you're barely out of high school, you've plenty of time-"

"Giles. I'm not interested in guys."

"Oh. Oh! Th-there's a young lady, perhaps?"

"No! Oh God, you guys are so dumb." Dawn put her hands to her suddenly throbbing temples. "I don't want to date anyone not involved in the 'family business', okay? I've seen Buffy try to do it. I've seen her fall apart trying to hide who she is and what she does. Not cool. Not for me."

"But you're so young." Giles gently caressed her cheek. "You should be out, dating, dancing. Being young and in love. That's what we worked for, to give you something of a normal life."

"And I kinda made my choice, didn't I? With the whole 'Let me train to be a Watcher or I'll set stuff on fire' speech?" She crossed her arms and slouched back in her chair, smirking, pleased with her piece of emotional blackmail.

"Bloody hell, I still wish I'd been there for that." Giles wiped his eyes with the ball of his thumb. "But my point is- don't bury yourself in your work. Like I've done. You should have a chance."

"And so should you! Finally! Do you like this Vance?"

"She's lovely. She's charming. Intelligent. And legs that go on for-bloody-ever."

"Giles! Too much information! Eww."

"You pushed."

"Regretting that now." Dawn laughed. "You have to find someone first. If you do, I'll start shopping around. But it's your turn first. Age before beauty."

"Ha ha." He said dryly. "You're very wise for a girl."

"I'm best friends with Mr. Insight. He helps."

"You're crediting Spike with your unique brand of wisdom?"

"Not all of it. Just most of it. He looks past the crap."

"That's true. Except when he's upset. Which- Buffy being in labor-"

"Right, majorly freaked vamp, in sympathy pain, wife in pain, son in danger, smelling blood everywhere..." Dawn's eyes turned thoughtful. "I'm not worried about Dr. Vance's ability to handle babies anymore."

"That's good." Giles gave her a relieved smile.

"How is she at handling fathers?"

"Oh. Oh dear. Oh, dear Lord."

"Oh, dear God! That's the most disgusting thing I've ever seen." Xander swallowed his beer quickly, before it could come back out.

"Me, too, mate, an' I've lived through some pretty impressive slaughters of my own."

"I'm not watching. I see no need to watch." Giles muttered hoarsely.

Willow continued her narration of the birth movie she had ordered from a medical supplier. "And see, there? The perineum was in danger of tearing, so the best thing to do is do an incision- look, there he goes."

"Bu- howf he know hmmf to cut?" Buffy watched with interest, asking questions calmly around a mouthful of popcorn.

"She said, 'But how's he know how much to cut?' " Dawn translated, before biting into her slice of pizza.

"There are four different level of incisions, but that's a different chapter on the DVD. I think it's between natural birth, and drug assisted delivery. Or it could be after Caesarean."

"Do we have to watch that last one?" Xander considered switching his patch to over his good eye. " 'Cause I vote no."

"Do you wanna know what to do if something goes wrong, or not?" Willow snapped.

"Hell hath no fury like pissed off preggo wicca." Xander muttered to Spike. "It's good, Honey, we're sorry. But- uh- could we maybe wait until the food is gone before watching the rest?"

"Wimps." Buffy muttered.

"Chicks rule." Dawn pumped her fist in the air. "Big Bad vamp brother wimps out before Little Bit of Bad."

"Shut your gob, Niblet."

"Master vamp's a softy-"

"Niblet!" Spike snarled. They exchanged glares, both breaking at the same time. "Be a good girl an' get me a drink?"

"Don't let Buffy touch my pizza. She's a pig right now."

"I'm not a pig! It's William. He's hungry tonight." She said in her own defense- sneakily pulling pepperoni off of Dawn's pizza as soon as the teen headed to the Summers' kitchen.

"Hurry up, Bit!" Spike called, languidly smiling. "Disgustin'- sorry, ladies, I mean beautiful movies aside, this has been a nice night. Whole family over. No one rushin' off to patrol. Wanna play some cards after?"

"Cash or chores?" Xander asked.

"What kinda chores you need doin'?"

"Crib assembly. Trim painting in the kid's room. Three crossbows need repairing."

"I've got about three hours worth of indexing, and sixteen emails that need encrypting and then responding to." Giles sat up, interested.

"Cash." Spike decided quickly. Indexing was part of their regular work, taking on extra was more self-torture than he cared for.

"Hey! Hey, there's four more hours of movie!" Willow pouted.

"Poker is hereby off the table." Xander groaned softly. "Dawn! Make Captain Peroxide's Scotch a double, but put it in two glasses."

"Make it a triple and put it in three." Giles added with a sigh.

To be continued...