I ended up rearranging just a touch to make the story flow better, switching part of the last chapter with this one. Which means if you're reading this story as I post it, you might want to go back and re-read the end of chapter four - it's new and different (and not to be missed!), while the end of this chapter will be familiar. I also decided to split this last chapter into two, so now there's a forthcoming epilogue as well.
I get that our heroes seem to have suffered from monumental lapses in judgement in this story, which is upsetting, but in their defense... Most everybody I know (me included) has suffered from insanity and irrationality at some point or other in their life. There's a reason for the expression 'It's so crazy it has to be true' (aka you can't make this shit up - although maybe vampires and vengeance demons suggest otherwise). I'm just hoping I'm able to make all the craziness come together in a way that feels real...
Reviews are awesome and help me figure out if I'm doing things right or not, especially on something as difficult as this!
Spike was cradling a swaddled infant in each arm when Buffy walked in, and if the situation hadn't been so serious he would have burst into laughter at the expression on her face.
"Hi honey, you're home," he said when she'd stood there for several long, flabbergasted minutes, staring.
Dragging her eyes up to his face, she tried to joke. "Did you run to the store and pick up a few odds and ends while I was out?"
"You might want to sit."
"No, I think not."
"Right." He sat himself. Spike longed to run his hand over his face, or better yet through his hair, but both hands were rather occupied at the moment. He'd had over an hour to prepare an explanation, and still the words remained stuck.
Eventually Buffy broke the silence. "Did a door-to-door baby salesperson drop by with an offer we just couldn't refuse? The buy one get one free promotion that's so hard to resist?"
"Funnily enough, something like that. They're from Halfrek." Her brow furrowed. "Anya's vengeance demon friend – the one I made a deal with," he reminded her.
"Yeah, got that. And the sixty-four thousand dollar question is – did she need you to babysit for the night?"
He gave her a furtive smile. "Uh, not as such. These are… meet our children."
Buffy sat heavily. "Ours?" she blurted. "I don't think so. I think I would have remembered any children that might be ours."
"No, no. We're meant to raise them. As ours."
"Give them back!" she panicked. "A favor is – you beating up some bad parents. Or killing a pesky demon. Or helping her move. This is not a favor. This is a bad idea!"
"We did want children…" Spike tried to soothe her.
Buffy jumped up again and paced. "Okay, yes, but... This is… This is not part of the plan! And not our choice! Don't you think we should be the ones to choose when and where and how? This – this is too much. Give them back!"
"I can't, sweetheart. Not without-"
Not without turning his wife back into an invalid. He wouldn't make that choice, not even if Buffy left him for it.
"I don't care! Halfrek! I summon thee!" she screamed at the top of her lungs, then again when nothing happened.
The noise and commotion set one of the babies to crying, and the other one joined in. Spike rocked and shushed them, but they didn't stop.
"See, bad idea!" Buffy yelled over the squawking children, staying on the far side of the room. "We don't know what to do with babies."
Spike did his best to remain calm, despite his certainty that his eardrums were about to burst. "Luv. Please. Go to the kitchen and fetch their bottles. We do too know what to do; we've babysat infants plenty of times."
Buffy stonewalled until he repeated, "Please." She gave in, grumbling the whole while, then stalked over to the couch and thrust the bottles in his face.
He shrugged, a baby in each arm. "Little help?" When she only glared at him, he asked, "Want the boy or the girl?"
Curious, she eyeballed the squalling infants, though her posture remained belligerent. "Which is which?" Spike didn't actually know, seeing as they didn't appear to be color coded.
"Uh… less'n you want to unwrap the little buggers and find out, take your pick."
She hesitantly traded him a bottle for a baby, settling down next to him. As she tucked the remaining bottle into the mouth of the infant she'd chosen, the little one gave a satisfied mewl, suckling hungrily. From his spot next to her on the sofa, Spike watched her face soften.
As the babies calmed, so did Buffy. "All right. Explain this to me… We have to raise them? And – why?"
With her simple acceptance, the tension drained out of the room, and Spike shook his head in amazement. If there was one thing you could say about his wife, she knew how to adapt to a crisis.
"We're to raise them, be good parents. A wish she granted left the little tykes without family, so she brought them to us, said they were our responsibility now."
"O-kay…" She reflected on that for a moment. "But, I guess I still don't understand why. Why did she think of us?"
"Well, here's the thing. When she looked into their more distant relations, apparently it led her to… us."
She jerked, startling the infant in her arms, and she jiggled soothingly until all was quiet once more. "Come again?"
"Ready for some more big surprises?"
"Pretty sure nothing can top this."
With a wry twist of his lips, he said, "I'll take that bet. You have – had – an older sister. Half-sister. She's the babies' mum."
Buffy gaped at him, the color draining from her face. "I take it back." She swallowed. "Splainy?"
"Your dad. Knocked some bird up when they were both teens. The mother gave her up for adoption. So – Emily was her name – was your sister, and these children are your niece and nephew."
"Oh." She stared at the babe in her arms with a newfound curiosity.
Spike waited until she looked up at him, then told her, "There's more."
"This is the even stranger part. Apparently my mum had a brother I knew nothing about. Black sheep of the family, ran away to California during the gold rush. Never heard from the tosser again. His great-great-something is the da. And, uh, if you look at the photo in the folder there," he gestured to the folder on the table, "well, yeah. Pretty sure we're related, me and Thomas."
Buffy picked up the folder and flipped it open. "Thomas is – was – the father."
"Yeah." Spike knew she'd reached the right page when she dropped it with a gasp. "Bloody disquieting, isn't it?" he said. He didn't need to look; the face was clearly etched in his mind. It had been like looking at a distorted reflection of himself.
Buffy stared and stared. "So they really are like… ours… Does this seem too perfect?" she asked when it had sunk in.
"Little bit," he conceded. "They'll probably grow up to be hellions, break our hearts, if it makes you feel any better."
With narrowed eyes, she said, "I can't help but feel like the PTB are involved somehow. And if they are… well, it doesn't bode well. I say we call Giles up, make with the research."
"You really wanna go looking a gift horse in the mouth, pet? Will it matter? They're ours now, no matter how they got here." Like Dawn, he thought, and one look at her face told him she was making the same connection.
Buffy relaxed into him, tiny, innocent children sleeping trustingly in their arms. "I – I guess. Still processing here, you know. This is not something to just spring on a girl after a long day." Spike nuzzled her hair, hearing the muted shock in her voice. He didn't exactly blame her. He was still processing too.
"They have names?" she asked suddenly.
"Not anything we're going to use. Bloody ridiculous names."
"Randy and Joan."
Buffy burst out laughing. "Oh, you're right. So not keeping those!" With a crooked grin she added, "Sayeth the parents named 'Buffy' and 'Spike'."
He grinned back. "How you holding up?"
"Instant family. Just add water. Kinda crazy." Buffy fell silent again, thinking. "I guess this means we don't need to have that other talk tonight. Which is too bad, because I had my brain all sorted out for once."
"Could still…" Spike offered.
She nodded. "Sure, I'll give you the Cliff Notes version. It would be a shame to waste my one moment of self-awareness ever," she said dryly. "I was going to choose adoption. The first reason was the sane one – because you're right, the whole DNA thing doesn't really matter when you get right down to it. If you don't care, why should I? Although the whole internal debate I had with myself to get to that point seems kinda ironic now, considering," she said, nodding at the babies, and he chuckled sympathetically.
Buffy paused for a moment before continuing, embarrassed, "The second, less healthy reason was an overwhelming fear that it wouldn't just be my body, but me. That our baby would still die, even in somebody else's body. Because of – oh, I don't know. Maybe the resurrection messed up my eggs, or something. I know it's cowardly and irrational, but I don't think I would've ever recovered if that had happened."
"I'm sorry, luv. You don't know how much I wish..."
Buffy snuggled deeper into him. "I do though. And you're… I can't tell you what your support has meant to me, Spike. I don't even have the words to tell you how much I appreciate you sticking by me, despite all the crazy-Buffy-who-makes-Dru-look-sane shit I put you through."
Grimacing, Spike said, "T'was me who failed you, luv. I didn't give you what you needed. Didn't earn my title of husband."
"Spike. Listen to me. For as awful as things got between us, it was never your fault. I don't know how you could have given me more. Life is majorly unfair sometimes, and I couldn't accept it. I went off the deep end for awhile there, and tried to take you with me… You're a good man, husband. My hero. My champion."
Spike closed his eyes, overwhelmed with gratitude. It had been years since she'd called him by any of those designations. His wife was back, and it sounded like she was here to stay.
"Love you too, wife. More'n anything. We're gonna be okay, yeah?"
"Yup, I think so. Insta-family here is going to take some serious adjusting to, but I have the feeling we're going to be okay." They basked in silence, until Buffy sniffed the air. "Did Hallie bring diapers too or do we have to go shopping tonight?"
"Should be enough nappies and such up in the nursery to last the night."
She twisted to face him, eyes widening, then dropped her gaze to the bundle in her arms once more. "The nursery," she repeated, her lips curving into a dreamy smile.
"Our nursery," he echoed, his expression matching hers.
"A house of our own," Spike beamed, carrying her across the threshold.
"It's not the first house we've owned," Buffy reminded him.
Spike didn't put her down, instead continuing up the stairs, two at a time. "Yeah, but that one's at the bottom of a giant crater. 'Sides, it's the first house we've had to ourselves. Just me and my beautiful bride." He set her down at the top of the stairs as she wriggled out of his grasp.
Poking her head into one of the smaller bedrooms, Buffy sighed wistfully at the large mural painted on the wall. "I would have loved this room when I was a kid."
"And someday our children will love it," he replied automatically, wrapping his arms around her waist from behind. Buffy stiffened and he tried to backtrack. The topic of children had become touchy of late. "We could always paint over it if you prefer."
With a final glance at the cavorting animals, she said, "No, I like it just the way it is. But right now I'm more interested in our room."
She attempted to leer at him and he laughed, chasing her down the hall, leaving thoughts of nurseries and children for another day.