EPISODE TWELVE
"Coda"

Buffy had no idea how Xander managed it, whether it was some kind of super speed or teleportation, or maybe even some funky time-travel deal. Whichever it was, by the time Angel had returned with the rest of the Scoobies, he'd miraculously cleaned up most of the carnage from Seth's delivery, tucked the baby into a sleeve from his shirt - the only part of it that had remained salvageable - and thoughtfully moved Spike alongside her.

He was the perfect guy to have around in an emergency and unquestionably the best friend in the whole world. If she were capable of any sort of movement right then, Buffy would have kissed him.

But then kissage was also prevented by the fact that as soon as the others had arrived he'd abandoned her in favor of being mollycoddled by Anya, and that the unconscious vampire lying by her side was monopolizing all her own attention. Even Seth, with his dear little face mashed into her shoulder, mouth working in a fruitless search for sustenance against the cotton, was currently beneath her notice.

"Spike?" She cupped her free hand tentatively against his cheek. He was cold to the touch, colder than he'd been even before the link. But then again, maybe he only felt that way because she was currently channeling his demon. She looked up at the group of people hovering just outside the cell, despair apparent even in her vampiric guise. "This is really it, huh? I've finally killed him."

Willow shook her head. "He's not a big pile of dust, so I'm thinking that's a 'no'."

"It's just the rift," Tara put in. "And Seth told us that was fixable. So no panicking, okay?"

Angel stared down at her, perplexed. He still got strange vibes every time he was around this girl. "What does that mean, 'Seth told you'? Seth can't talk. He's just a baby."

Tara gave him a reproachful look, then ducked around behind Willow as though seeking protection from the dark vampire's scrutiny.

"That is so not important right now," the redhead stated firmly and peered past him, seeking one of the Watchers. "Giles, any ideas? Something helpful would be great."

Giles tapped the earpiece of his glasses against his pursed lips, deep in thought.

"I believe that the rift is a pre-existing imbalance made worse by the Gemel's own actions," he postulated aloud. "From what Angel has reported of Spike's 'attacks', it's probable that the Serpiente has been compensating for this by using Seth as a bridge to keep the connection open. What remains to be discovered, however, is the source of this imbalance. There must have been some other event, a catalyst, a disturbance of the physical or..." He narrowed his gaze at his Slayer. "Buffy, has Spike ever fed from you?"

She grimaced, an expression made somewhat gruesome by her fangs. "Ew, no!"

"Oh, but...." Wesley lurched forward from the rear wall where he'd been keeping a vigilant eye on the tethered trio, almost as though his brain had pushed him into the conversation without his body's permission. "I'm s-sorry, but he has."

She turned flashing yellow eyes on him. "And how the bloody hell would you know, Junior?"

Wes ignored the jibe, shoring up his confidence in the face of her contempt. He'd become a tad more assertive of late. "Have you forgotten Pylea, and your rather hasty solution to the absence of Spike's... pre-packaged meals?"

"Pre-packaged? What? Oh." Buffy's eyes widened, then dropped to stare at her partner. "But - but that was nothing, hardly even a mouthful. He probably didn't even taste it. And I practically had to force it down his throat."

"The quantity is irrelevant. That he ingested any amount at all gives us a plausible reason for your current loss of strength," Giles explained in his most pedantic Watcher voice. "By drinking from you, Spike deepened his connection to you and subsequently, to Seth. You've been pushing him away, and now that the baby has been born he's lost the final physical thread connecting the two of you. Your demonic appearance is symptomatic of a last desperate attempt to keep the link between you intact. It is also the most likely solution." He sighed. "As much as it pains me to say it, in order to repair the rift it seems that you must partake of his life-force."

"Partake of his -? You mean, you want me bite him?"

"Yes, exactly."

Buffy looked from her Watcher to Spike and back again, highly skeptical. One of her hands rose to her mouth, gingerly testing the edges of her fangs. "And you're sure about this?"

Giles frowned. "What more would it take to convince you?" He waved one hand at Spike's inert form. "You're perfectly aware of how this works. You need no further instruction from me."

Buffy shifted Seth's weight to her right arm, and reached out with the left, taking Spike's hand in her own. It hung there, heavy and lifeless, slightly clammy with sweat. His skin was so pale it was almost translucent, the fine roadwork of blue veins all too visible to her demon-enhanced eyes. She squeezed his fingers encouragingly.

"Spike?" There was no response save for a minute twitching of his fingers; like he wanted to return her gesture, but didn't have the strength for it. She took a deep breath before continuing.

"Spike, I know I've been a complete bitch to you the last few months. I know that this whole separation thing is my fault. It's all my fault a-and I c-can't..." She bit back a sob, tracing the significantly deep path of his heart line with one finger. "I can't apologize for it. I can't take any of it back, but I can tell you... I love you. A lot. So much sometimes that it scares me. But, I can live with the scary, and all that other stuff I was stressing about; being normal, being not-the-Slayer, it doesn't matter. What matters is here, and now. And us."

Her tone was hushed, but fiercely passionate. She was making a vow. "Right now, I'm committing everything I have, everything I am, to you." She brought his arm up to her mouth. "I'm yours and you're mine. From now on, we're family."

She pressed a kiss to the inside of his wrist, then opened her mouth wider, fangs descending to pierce through the soft flesh.

Spike's eyes snapped open, locking onto the Slayer's with an uncanny precision. He didn't make one sound of protest or any indication that she was hurting him, there was no acknowledgement of the bite at all, he just stared at her - into her.

A light flickered to life deep in his pupils, a flash of pure blinding white that obliterated the black and set off a mirrored reaction in Buffy. She dropped out of game face and drew back, lowering his wrist slowly, almost dreamily, as though she'd forgotten just what it was she'd been doing. She seemed mesmerized by Spike's very presence.

"Be mindful of their eyes," Giles said softly, sounding like a science lecturer. "The effect can be somewhat disconcerting."

Xander nodded. "I'd say very somewhat."

The white light gave way to familiar swirls of blue, green and gold, and then dissipated completely, leaving just Buffy and Spike, rapt in the sight of each other.

Angel had been standing back with the rest of the Scoobies, allowing for a modicum of privacy for what was essentially a very private moment. He swooped in when they both suddenly collapsed, saving Seth from tumbling onto the cement floor. He rocked the tiny baby absently; his attention still focused mainly on its parents.

Cordelia observed this interaction with a melancholy little smile tugging at her lips. She came up behind Angel and wrapped her arms around his waist, hooking her chin into his shoulder. He glanced back at her, then down at the child, a sharp pang of understanding making him wince. This was something they'd never have, best to savor it while they could.

Willow, on the other hand, had been staring raptly into the Gemel's swirling eyes the whole time. She shook her head abruptly, as though breaking out of a trance, and let out an excited whoosh of air. "Whoa. That was really trippy."

"And the award for understatement of the year goes to..."

"Xander!" Anya admonished. "Even I know that was inappropriate."

"Sorry," he said sheepishly. "But using humor to cope? Kinda my thing."

Andrew broke into a crooked grin, forgetting exactly where he was for a moment. "Hey, that was really cool! Do they do that a lot? 'Cause I have my Handy-Cam outside in the van, and we could probably..." He broke off when Jonathon nudged him in the ribs with his elbow. "Ow, what?"

"Knock it off," Jonathon muttered through a painfully fake smile, his teeth grinding together.

Andrew looked around, finally registering the many irritated faces aimed in his direction. He swallowed. "Oh. Right." He pasted on a similarly broad fake smile, a nervous tic causing his left eye to wink at them repeatedly.

"Why's that stupid pillock winking?"

Spike's voice was rough and slightly slurred, but at least he was conscious and calling people names - a status that could pass for normal under other circumstances.

He struggled into a sitting position and rested an open palm against his chest. "Oh yeah," he sighed in relief. "There it is." He turned to Buffy, giving her a bashful little grin and batting his lashes. "And there you are." He pursed his lips at her empty arms. "And wasn't there a wriggly baby-shaped thing about here someplace?"

Buffy snorted. "Way to go with the keen observiness, honey." She reached up to accept Seth as Angel handed him back. The baby had dozed off by this time, exhausted by his dramatic entrance into the world. "Look what we did."

Sheer wonder blossomed across Spike's lean features as he finally gazed down at his son. His mouth moved as if to speak, but then he abandoned words altogether, preferring to just sit and stare with an expression of complete and utter joy.

One look at his face and the Slayer was struggling, ineffectually as it turned out, not to cry again. She was riding in the front carriage of the ultimate emotional rollercoaster.

Spike's hand lifted to hover just millimeters from cupping the baby's head in his palm, it would have fitted easily. "Small," he commented softly.

"Early," Buffy pointed out in amused imitation, brushing tears from her cheeks. She'd never seen him at a loss for words before; it was a novel experience.

Willow made a delighted cooing noise and tugged Tara close, resting her head against her shoulder. "Isn't that the sweetest thing you ever saw?"

"Yeah. In a sickly, wake-up-and-smell-the-saccharine way," Xander observed. "So, aside from the obvious happy, how do ya feel, Big Daddy Vamp?"

Spike barely glanced at them. "Like I just went fifteen rounds with a brassed-off Chirago demon."

"Okay." Xander nodded his understanding, then twitched baffled brows at Giles. "I'm assuming that's a bad thing," he disclosed in aside.

"Oh yes. Chirago demons are quite large and brutish, and prone to unprovoked bouts of violence."

"So they're a lot like Angel then?"

Both Angel and Cordelia glared in unified protest.

"Hey!"

"Watch it!"

Xander held both hands up in surrender. "And again, I make with the sorry. My motor-mouth is running on empty."

"You mean your head is," Cordelia snarked.

Anya scowled. "Your status as former girlfriend doesn't allow you to be mean to Xander."

Cordy smiled smugly. "It does actually."

The former vengeance demon mulled that over. "You're correct. I apologize. Please continue with the petty criticisms."

"Please don't." Giles was growing weary of their bickering. "There are more pertinent things we need to discuss."

Buffy finally looked up from the flannel-clad bundle in her arms. "Yeah, there are," she said. "Like, before the whole biting thing, when you said that Seth was being used as a bridge to keep the link open? That was the full extent of his bridgey powers right? That was the whole kit and caboodle?"

Giles shrugged. "I've no reason to believe otherwise. He seems entirely normal now." He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, his eyes narrowed on the family as a unit. "Unless there's something you aren't telling us? Any of you?"

Buffy shook her head. "Nup."

Spike duplicated her movement, forehead crinkled slightly in concentration. "All square as far as I can figure." He gave Giles a hard, level stare. "So you can quit banging on about prophecies and such now, alright?"

Giles began to argue, but Spike set his jaw, one raised brow daring him to go ahead and make an issue of it.

"Certainly," he agreed reluctantly. Privately, he was of the opinion that nothing at all was certain. Everything could not really have been settled this simply, and there were so many other factors that hadn't yet been addressed.

"This is all quite wonderful and heartwarming," Wesley interjected, "But..." He gestured at the trio.

Warren glowered sullenly at the renewed attention. He'd been hoping that if they kept quiet, they'd be able to escape unnoticed.

Andrew cowered awkwardly behind Jonathon, trying to seem as insignificant as possible.

"Uh yeah." Jonathon, despite his small stature, seemed to have significantly more backbone than the other two did. "We were kinda wondering... What are you gonna do with us?"

Spike rocked up into a crouch, eyes sparking yellow. He seemed a whole lot stronger than he had just a few minutes earlier, practically radiating power. "Well, I've got a few extra-painful ideas I've been meaning to try out..."

"Back off, Spike." Angel stepped in between the blonde vamp and his intended prey.

At what he saw as the older vampire's defense, Warren suddenly grew cockier. "Yeah. You heard him. Back off, golden boy."

Angel whipped around to pin the youth with a hostile glare, flashing a few yellow sparks of his own, and more than a hint of fang.

"Don't get it into your head that I'm helping you here," he burred, a trace of Angelus filtering through in the silkiness of his tone. "I just don't want him to kill you before I get my turn."

"Your -?" Warren swallowed the enormous lump in his throat, his eyes so wide that white was visible all the way around the brown of his iris. His voice was reedy with fear. "Your turn?"

"Yeah. You're all coming back to LA with me." He smiled evilly. "For... re-education."

"Oh, you'll enjoy that, pursuit of wisdom being your thing and all," Spike said cheerfully, a matching smile curving mouth. He sauntered across to Angel's side and clapped a hand on his shoulder, backing him up. They'd used to pull this intimidation routine back in their evil days. Who knew it'd still be this much fun?

"And," he went on, "As I recall, Peaches here can be very..." He paused, licking his lips. "Thorough."

Warren tried to retreat from their scary-as-hell stand-over tactics, backing into Jonathon and Andrew - who batted him aside with frantic flapping hands; difficult to push in a manly way when your wrists were tied - before stumbling sideways. He was quickly grabbed by Xander and hauled back upright.

"You can't do this," he protested, kicking futilely. "I've got rights."

"The right to remain silent," Xander noted. "Kidnapping being a crime and all." He tightened his grip, twisting slightly to avoid Warren's thrashing feet. "Ow! Hey! Keep that up and I will hand you over to the bleached wonder."

"He can't touch me," Warren sneered. "He can't hurt humans. Falchion's shackled with Trooper's Bane or whatever the hell passes for it in this dimension."

"Yeah? Shows what you know."

Spike whipped out a deceptively casual left fist, connecting with a crack as the boy's nose broke. Warren slumped like dead weight in Xander's arms, blood flowing down over his mouth and chin. Spike dipped a finger into the gore, contemplated the streak of crimson for a moment, and then wiped it off on Warren's shirt. "I got over it."

Buffy climbed to her feet. Her Slayer healing had started to kick in and she was feeling... well, not great, but not too bad either. There were tired shadows beneath her sea-green eyes, but a contented glow shone through nonetheless. "Spike, leave him alone."

"Right you are, pet," he agreed readily. "No fisticuffs for the respectable family man."

She shook her head. "Oh no, you can fisticuff all you want. Feel free to pummel them bloody. Just don't do it where Seth can see you."

Spike abandoned his showboating and moved back to her side as though magnets drew him there.

"Sees me, does he?" He leant over her shoulder and pushed a fold of material away from his son's cheek, squinting at the tiny face. "Amazin' how he does it through his eyelids like that. Must be some sort of miracle kid after all."

Buffy nudged him with her elbow, smiling indulgently. "Shut up."

He brushed a sweat-dampened curl from her forehead and placed a gentle kiss on the exposed skin. "Love it when you boss me about."

She reached up with her free hand and wrapped it around his, turning the palm over to expose the twin punctures on the inside of his wrist. They were already healing. She gave him a shy smile, drawing the wounds to her mouth. "Love you," she responded, running her tongue across the overly sensitive skin.

It took a moment for him to realize that she hadn't spoken aloud, the fact that she was using the link only just beginning to sink in as a frisson of pure Buffy-love flowed through into his body.

Spike shuddered.

God, he'd missed that! That glorious sense of belonging, the feeling of complete and utter rightness he got from their connection.

Best bloody thing he'd ever done, getting linked to his Slayer.

A low growl left his throat, and the look he gave her was blistering in its intensity.

Anya took their behavior in with sharp-eyed voracity. "Well," she said. "Judging by that, Seth will probably have a sibling within the next year."

Xander glanced over, having unloaded his unconscious burden off on Angel for transportation back to LA. He moved to his fiancée's side and took her hand, playfully turning the engagement ring round and round on her finger. It was slightly too big, but she'd adamantly refused to exchange it. "Any luck, and we'll beat them to it."

Anya gaped at him. "You mean that?"

He watched as Buffy carefully tucked Seth into the crook of Spike's elbow, taking in the helpless new-father panic on the vampire's face with a newfound benevolence. He envied their little family so much. And that, he realized, had been the source of a lot of his antipathy. "Yeah. I really mean that." He smiled down into Anya's shining eyes. "I love you, Ahn."

"I love you too," she replied briskly and slipped into business-mode quicker than he could blink. He could almost see the wheels turning in her unfathomable head. "But you do know that these family plans mean that I'll have to move up the date for the wedding, right? That way we can try to conceive as early as the honeymoon. It's very traditional for the bride to get knocked up on her wedding night..."

Xander cut her off with a kiss.

Sometimes it was the only way.

~[*]~

SIX MONTHS LATER...

Despite the inordinate amount of time he'd had to adjust to the situation, Giles still had to grapple with his sense of propriety on each and every visit to the house on Revello Drive. Today was a good day, however, and it only took five minutes or so before he gave up and got around to knocking.

The door opened open almost immediately, and he caught a glimpse of Buffy's back as she swung by on her way upstairs.

"Go on in, Giles," she called over her shoulder. "I've just gotta change my shirt."

The Watcher squinted after her, then shrugged. There was obviously some sort of sartorial emergency in progress. He went into the lounge and settled on the sofa, avoiding the stack of freshly folded laundry on one cushion only to find that he was sitting on something else entirely. He shifted sideways and pried the lumpy object out from under his leg, and then stared at it, nonplussed.

A rather battered-looking stuffed pig stared back, and Giles was somewhat disconcerted by the fact that it actually seemed familiar to him. He placed it on the coffee table, avoiding its beady little eyes, and tried to appear relaxed as Spike strode in from the kitchen.

The vampire himself was the epitome of relaxed - barefoot, clad in a white 'Union Jack' T-shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and a pair of jeans so worn that they were almost threadbare.

Seth was tucked nonchalantly under one arm, rounded tummy resting in the palm of his father's hand, weight balanced against his hip.

Spike jiggled the little body playfully. "'Ello, Rupert," he greeted. "Nip's about."

"So I see." The Watcher's lips twisted with amusement. "And doing a fine impersonation of hand luggage."

Spike grinned at that.

Seth grinned as well, releasing a string of orange saliva that dribbled down his chin. "Bah!" he said emphatically.

Giles grimaced. "He also seems to have sprung a leak."

"What?" Spike lifted the boy and peered intently at his face. "Oh. Pay no mind to that. He's teethin'. Gushes like a bloody fountain most of the time." He plopped down into the chair opposite the Watcher, setting his son on one knee.

"And the orange?" Giles watched, fascinated, as the vampire absentmindedly wiped at the baby's drool with the pad of his thumb and cleaned it off on the seam of his jeans.

"Mashed pumpkin," he explained. "We've been introducin' the Nip to solid food of late."

Ah, well, that explained Buffy's departure quite nicely...

Giles tried to maintain a veneer of polite interest. "So he's still... progressing normally then?"

Spike's eyes narrowed dangerously. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing. Nothing at all. I was merely..." He stuttered to a halt, struck by something. "While on the subject of food though, Spike, I've never thought to ask. Do you still drink blood?"

"Well, yeah." The blonde shrugged. "Still got a demon lurkin' about in here, you know." He pulled Seth further into his lap so that the little golden head rested against the wall of his chest, and let the boy chew on one of his fingers. "Don't have much of a taste for it these days, but Spike's still gotta have his special protein drink ev'ry mornin'. Isn't that right, Nip?"

Seth burbled happily around his father's spit-drenched digit and Spike looked back up at Giles. "That what you came over to ask?"

"No, I - I've actually got an answer to one of your questions."

"Which was?"

"Regarding the matter of your aging." He shook his head. "It's all quite logical really. I don't know why we didn't realize it earlier."

Spike just looked at him, eyebrow cocked, waiting for him to get to the point. Seth, as though sensing his father's mood, went still and silent. Both of them stared at the Watcher with identical blue gazes.

"The aging process as we know it comes about through cell growth and renewal." Giles clasped his hands together and leant forward, elbows resting on knees, shifting into exposition mode. "This occurs through oxygenated blood flow. Since you've been linked to Buffy you've regained full use of both circulatory and respiratory systems, so it follows that your blood is now oxygenated in exactly the same way as any ordinary human being. It is reasonable to assume then, that you are aging at the same rate as the rest of us."

Spike let out a breath he hadn't even realized he'd been holding. "And that means...?"

"That you and Buffy will grow old and live out your lives together as any other couple would. Most likely to become doddering grandparents." Giles pursed his lips. "I am able to determine one drawback, however. As your body continues to house a demon, you are unlikely to fall ill, or be susceptible to other concerns associated with aging." He met Spike's eyes squarely. "Buffy will. And it's probable that when she does eventually die, you will follow immediately afterward." He managed a smile. "Which is almost fitting, really."

Spike seemed to drift off. "You breathe, I breathe," he whispered softly. "'Til death do us part." His head suddenly snapped around toward the stairway as though someone had called his name. A lascivious smirk slowly curled his lips and he glanced back at Giles. "I'm, um, needed elsewhere," he said carefully, and indicated Seth. "If you could -?"

"Oh, certainly."

No sooner had he uttered the word than Spike had shoved the tot into Giles' lap and dashed away, leaving them alone and staring at each other curiously. After a moment a loud thump was heard from overhead, followed by a crash and a giggle - oddly, not from Buffy.

Giles sighed. "Your parents are going to drive you to distraction when you're older," he informed the child. "Believe me, they're quite good at it."

Seth responded by seizing his glasses and wrenching them askew, smearing a grimy little handprint across one of the lenses.

Oh dear. What to do? He'd had scant experience with children of any age, and found himself at a loss. The Watcher finally managed to extricate himself with a minimum of fuss and sat back out of reach, only to find himself captivated by the boy's face.

Seth gazed at him solemnly, looking for the world like a miniaturized old man, wise beyond the telling. Giles had the distinct impression that he was being measured and found wanting - a sharp reminder of the remarkably precocious version of this child that he'd been introduced to via the Font of Knowledge. There was evidently more going on behind those guileless features than met the eye. He was very much like both his parents in that regard.

"Ah, well. He-hello," he greeted hesitantly, feeling ridiculous. "I'm, er..." What was it that the lad had called him? "I'm your... uh, P-Poppy G."

Seth leant over to pat his cheek, almost in approval, before lunging once again for his glasses, somehow managing to get drool all down the Watcher's face in the process.

"Oh, do stop that!" Giles complained, pulling away and rubbing his wet cheek against his shoulder.

"Guh," Seth said, then blew a bubbly, pumpkin-tinged raspberry.

Giles sighed. That settled it, then. The boy was undoubtedly evil.

A muffled snort of laughter drew his attention back toward the open living room doors. Buffy was leaning against the frame, green eyes twinkling with amusement. How long had she been watching?

"Aww, Giles," she crooned. "Nipper tried to say your name."

Spike materialized at her shoulder, scowling. He was suspiciously rumpled looking, his platinum hair standing up in tufts. "He did not."

"Did too."

"Not."

"Did so too! You just don't want him to say anything other than 'Da.'"

"Da!" Seth chimed in helpfully over the argument, one chubby fist waving in the air. "Da-da-da!" He caught sight of the waving fist and drew it into his mouth. Enthusiastic sucking ensued.

"Great," Buffy lamented. "He's already taking your side. I'm completely outnumbered."

Spike snorted. "You're just jealous that he won't say yours."

"Am not!"

"Are too!"

Buffy pointed at Seth. "I'll bet that whole messy sucking-on-things thing comes from your side of the family too. You probably made obnoxious slurpy noises just like that when you were snacking on all your poor helpless victims."

The vampire raised a lazy brow. "Wouldn't mind takin' you up on that little wager."

"Oh! You...!"

Buffy lunged after him in a threatening gesture, and as Spike ducked away, giggling like a idiot, Giles noticed that the threadbare denim covering his backside had torn during his adventures upstairs, and that a strip of pale flesh was visible right along the top of his left rear thigh.

The Watcher rolled his eyes at their behavior. "I'm glad you two have reached such an elevated level of maturity," he drawled. "Such a wonderful example you're setting."

They didn't even look at him, continuing with their impromptu game of tag, dodging around the dining furniture room like a couple of pilots engaged in a dog-fight until the Slayer managed to insinuate her hand into the tear in the vampire's jeans, goosing him.

"Gotcha!" she crowed.

Spike's legs gave way from laughing so hard and they collapsed on the hallway rug in a breathless heap, Buffy sitting triumphantly in the middle of Spike's back.

"So," she gasped. "That was fun. Giles should come over and make with the Seth-distraction more often."

"Oh, I should think that Giles might have something to say about that," the Watcher commented dryly. Honestly, one could get the idea that they'd forgotten his presence entirely.

The way they scrambled to their feet after he'd spoken merely confirmed that idea.

Buffy immediately shifted into Mommy-mode: straightening her shirt, taking Seth from her Watcher, and then plopping down into the seat Spike had abandoned earlier, grabbing the stuffed pig from the coffee table and dancing it animatedly in front of the boy's face, all in one smooth movement.

"So," she said, when she was settled. "What were you guys talking about while I was gone. All kinds of secret manly stuff?"

Spike scoffed. "You know damned well what we were talkin' about," he muttered. He stalked over and began collecting throw cushions from the sofa, tossing them into a colorful pile in front of the television.

Giles watched him in askance. What on earth was this? Some kind of previously unseen vampire nesting behavior?

Seth was beginning to fret. He pushed the pig away. Buffy made it dance faster and more erratically, but that only made him push all the more. It became a battle of wills, and just when an explosion seemed imminent, Spike swooped in and spirited the baby away, depositing him in the makeshift play area he'd created with the cushions. Seth was perfectly happy to lie there, swatting at a plastic mobile dangling above his head.

Giles was impressed, though a little curious. Did this mean that Spike could sense Seth's moods the way he could Buffy's? It certainly merited further research. "How did you -?"

"Nip needs his space," Spike explained with an indifferent shrug, perching on the arm of the Slayer's chair. "And someone else needs to relax more."

"I can't." Buffy twisted a lock of hair around her finger with worrying intensity. She'd been letting it grow again, apparently progressing out of that bizarre period when she and Spike had been almost indistinguishable from each other. "He hates me. I know it. He can sense my Slayer-ness. Stupid vampire genes."

"He doesn't hate you, pet." Spike untangled the strand of hair, then began gently twirling it around his own finger, using it to draw her closer. "Just independent is all. Clever. Resourceful. Can't imagine where he gets that from." He leant down and rubbed his nose against hers, Eskimo-style. "Stupid Slayer genes."

They gazed at each other, a vampire and Slayer in absolute communion. After a long minute, Spike smiled and kissed her lightly on the forehead. Buffy's eyes drifted shut and she let out a tiny contented purr.

Giles cleared his throat. "So, now that I've said my piece, I believe I'll continue on to the Magic Box. I'm already late and Anya has been intolerable. I don't wish to give her further ammunition for one of her tirades."

Spike chuckled. "Give our regards to the newly expectant Mrs. Harris, would you?"

Giles nodded. He found now that he was reluctant to leave. The house hadn't felt this warmly welcoming since Joyce was alive. They had truly made it into a home. "I shall do that."

He got to his feet, giving the couple a long, calculating look.

"I do admire what you've accomplished here," he said, after a beat. "I know that in the beginning I wasn't the biggest supporter of this relationship, but you've defied insurmountable odds and come through it all the stronger. I'm proud of you. Both of you." When Buffy and Spike just stared at him, stunned, he smiled smugly. "And I do expect to be given priority when it comes to babysitting duties. Poppy G is counting on spending many productive hours with his honorary grandson."

With that, he turned and let himself out.

Buffy blinked as the door closed behind him. "You know, that looked a whole lot like Giles, but the noise he made was funny."

"Reckon that was his way've giving us his blessing."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah." Spike reached down and took her hand. "So, what do you think. Want to do me the privilege of becoming Mrs. Liam Grey?"

"You're totally getting used to that name now, aren'tcha?"

"Just answer the bloody question, woman!"

"There was a question?"

Spike growled.

Buffy got up, moving to stand between his knees. She draped her arms over his shoulders. "Was there really ever any question at all?"

~[*]~

Seth giggled, continuing to bat at the mobile over his head. The plastic play-gym it hung from swung wildly when he made contact, teetering and then falling backward. He giggled again, stubby legs kicking in delight.

At the sound of his parent's own laughter, he paused, head tilting slightly toward the source of the noise, his tiny mouth twisting into a toothless replicate of his father's smirk. His eyes had been lightening over time to an icy blue, but they splintered now at the pupil, lines radiating outward in jagged precision, like a mirror shattering. After a moment the blue dropped away, revealing new color beneath.

A luminous yellow, strangely darker than that of Spike's demon and sparkling with age-old power.

Deep.

Fathomless.

Golden.

THE END

A/N: Happy New Year, and That's All Folks!
Yep, that's it. The lot, the works, the whole enchilada, the entire kit and caboodle, the... Okay, okay, I do concede that there are still some plot holes big enough to drive the Angelmobile through, but I've deliberately wrapped it up this way I just in case I wanted to dabble again later. There are some ideas lingering... Hmmm...
So, anyway, thank-you's galore to EVERYONE who's taken the time and effort to review, you really have no idea how much they kept me going, especially after the Buffy finale debacle last year.
Cheers to all, Dee.

GRR... AARGH...