Good evening, All:)

Well, here it is. The beginning of Book Five. As I start, I would like to thank everyone for all of the wonderful feedback. You have been so supportive and so helpful. Without your kind emails and reviews, I would never have written this installment. Please, please keep it up. It helps me to know what you want to see, and that you like the story.

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Thank you again for all of your words of support and your great reviews. I am so happy to have found you all.

*Cheery Vibes* Nimue

"As sick as it sounds, in my little head, there's a little Sunnydale, and a widdle Spike and a widdle Buffy and Spike wubs Buffy." James Marsters 14 July 2002

Title: The Lioness and The Stars (Chapter One of Time)

Author: Nimue

Rating: PG -13

Pairing Buffy/Spike. Most major characters included.

Feedback: Yes, please

For Fic notification and discussion, please see Always_Everyday@yahoogroups.com

Disclaimer: All characters belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, UPN, Fox... Just Borrowing. (with, of course, the exception of Emma, who belongs to Buffy and Spike)

Summary: Set 3 months post The Epilogue of the Evil Within. Dawn aids Spike on patrol, putting her training to the test. Buffy's situation is far more complicated than originally expected. Spike and Buffy have a conversation which uncovers a revelation for Spike. And the Captain requests orders to be assigned to protect the Peacemaker.



The Lioness and the Stars

"You've become quite good with a stake," Spike commented as the last Vampire burst into the wind in front of him. The warm, late May night had been thankfully slow. Only a few fledglings rearing their newly undead heads. Good thing, really. In the last few months, Spike had realized exactly how much work it could be to hold the title of Lone Slayer of Sunnydale.

"Thanks," Dawn panted, leaning over to press her hands to her knees and catch her breath. She drew a long pull of night air, and then stood to face him. "I know you just brought me along for the company, but it's good to put all the training to the test.

Her face glistened, rosy with the exertion of battle. Dawn was not Buffy, but she had learned well and improved vastly. Almost truly helpful in battle. "Glad for the back up," Spike encouraged, dusting off her back from where she'd been knocked to the turf. "Bout ready to head back? Think the nasties are pretty scarce this evening."

"Back to study hell?" Dawn whined, pouting.

"Thought you'd been accepted to University?" Spike began back down the cemetery path, craning his head to look at Dawn over his shoulder.

"Still have finals in order to receive that little piece of paper of high school freedom," Dawn declared. "But yes. Seven, thanks to the essay help." A proud smile broke on her face.

Spike considered blushing, but held his ground. "You did all the work, Niblet. Just helped you polish them up, is all."

Dawn elbowed him softly. "Thank you all the same." She was quiet, pensive. Purposely, she had avoided the discussion of where she would attend until it was too late to change her mind. "I'm staying in Sunnydale, though. To help out." The announcement was quiet, but Spike did not miss the importance.

He looked at Dawn, studying her closely. He knew she'd been accepted to several universities out of state and had almost hoped she would go. Not because he hadn't wanted her around. Quite the opposite. Spike loved her as one of his own, but she had the chance at a normal existence if she got out of the Hellmouth. Dawn deserved at least the opportunity that fate had robbed her sister. Spike smiled to himself. Buffy had certainly made the best of it, hadn't she? At least, he'd like to think so.

"You don't have to stay here, Niblet," Spike finally responded, his voice soft and sincere. "You can do anything you want to. Your sis'd understand."

"What, and miss all the fun and excitement?" Dawn chided, hooking her elbow through his.

Spike chuckled, knowing that she was not really referring to the creatures of the Hellmouth. "You talking bout our little family, Pet?" Spike responded, a smile in his voice.

"Well, yeah," Dawn said, a bright smile breaking across her childish face. "That and all of the demons and goo and fun stuff. Besides, best of both worlds. I'll be living on campus so I can get away from *you* people." Spike grabbed his heart in mock offense, but Dawn laughed him off. "But I will still be around if you need backup." Her voice was serious, the smile becoming neutral.

"Keep that in mind," Spike responded, nodding at her.

Dawn sighed, regretting the words about to form before they ever escaped from her lips. "Not to mention *occasional* babysitting."

"Only occasional?" Spike questioned, lifting an eyebrow.

"If that boy is *half* as big a brat in the world as he is being to Buffy, you'll be lucky," Dawn warned, eliciting a sly smile from Spike.

"He caused his share of trouble," he responded. "Slayer's a bit worn down. Missed most of Emma so..."

"This is *nothing* like Emma," Dawn complained, long legs covering ground nearly as quickly as Spike's. "Emma was a breeze. Cookie here. Ice cream there. Occasional crying fit because you were in hell and she never had the chance to tell you how she felt." Dawn changed her voice, mimicking her sister on the last bit and Spike could not help but laugh. "But other than that, smooth sailing." Dawn's hand gestured through the air like a sailboat bobbing on water.

"Really?" Spike asked curiously. "No... explosions?"

"Really," Dawn answered. "In her defense, Emma didn't beat the hell out of her..."

"Language," Spike chastised.

"Sorry," Dawn blushed. "Anyway, she wasn't sick all the time and she wasn't always hurting. I'd probably be cranky too, if I was her. Not to mention you *know* she isn't good at being still. Not training, no patrolling, I'm assuming no..."

Spike did blush this time. "None of your business."

"Spike, I'm 18 now? Hello? I am aware of where babies come from," Dawn chided.

"Not discussing this with you," Spike snapped, completely out of his element. Dawn had the singular talent of completely derailing him. A talent that only one other person possessed. Buffy.

"Whatever," Dawn answered, smiling victoriously. It was fun to watch him squirm. "I just think we will all be happier when he is born."

"Probably so, Pet," Spike answered quietly. "Not much longer. Month and a bit?"

"Thirty nine days," Dawn commented. "Thank everything good in the world." Spike snorted, then had to agree. It'd been a long road for all of them of late. Especially Buffy.

They had reached the front walk and were heading up the stairs when Dawn spoke again. "I have to study for finals, Spike. You think you've got it on your own?"

Spike wanted to laugh. Sodding big bad master Vampire and a little high school girl wants to know if he needs help with his own five foot nothing human. He *wanted* to laugh. He couldn't. She had a point.

Bloody hell.

"Think I can manage, Nib," Spike sighed as she opened the door. Dawn peeked into the living room. All the lights were off.

"Locking self in bedroom," Dawn announced, turning back to Spike. "Good luck and Godspeed, William the Bloody." She giggled, patting him on the shoulder compassionately.

Spike smirked at her. "That's right, Niblet. Send me to the bloody lions with a grin on your face."

"Just one little lioness," Dawn joked, holding up one long finger and giggling uncontrollably. "And it's your fault anyway."

"Got me there, Pet," Spike sighed, watching her dart up the stairs. Spike headed to the kitchen to grab a snack before checking in on Emma and then tossing himself willingly into the coliseum and facing his most challenging opponent.

*****

Spike was lost in thought as he went through what had become a nightly routine. He and Dawn may have given Buffy a bit of a hard time when they patrolled, but it really was just venting. Both he and the Niblet had watched Buffy go through hell in the last three months. Every minor complication, and some not some minor, had plagued her of late. Horrid morning sickness, nearly crippling back pain, complete inability to sleep, not to mention two extremely close calls with losing the child. It hadn't helped that their son was also practicing to be the future kickboxing champion of the free world. Seems the only time that Buffy got any rest was when Emma, with her uncanny ability to settle all of them to docile puppies, curled up with her mum and managed to settle William as well. But Emma was three. Keeping her still any length of time was a miracle unto itself.

Buffy had come off patrol much earlier this time round. Even training with Spike had to stop well over a month ago after Takina's trip to the Magic Box to visit Buffy in excruciating pain and far too close to delivering. Nothing had been easy or peaceful for the girl. And this seemed to be the one thing that the One could do nothing about. He could just hold her and try to be patient and spend countless hours working kinks from her back. Not that he minded. Anything for her. Always.

Buffy had bucked up better than any of them thought she would. Spike had to give her that. She rarely complained. Just cried without saying why. Or screamed. He'd come home one night to the utter destruction of their bedroom and Buffy so upset and angry that she was crumpled in the corner in labour. Takina's second emergency visit. Since that little horror, she'd been trying. Still, he never knew what he was coming home to on any given night. Some evenings she was happy, excited Buffy. Others she was angry and frustrated Buffy. And the worst of all was weep an ocean Buffy. That one killed him every time.

As he popped a mug of blood into the microwave, he noticed the back porch light was still shining brightly into the night. Spike strolled over, thinking someone had let the dog out and simply forgot to shut it off. As he reached for the light switch, a flash of blonde caught his eye. Slowly, Spike pulled side the curtain and saw her huddled on the steps looking all the world like the night her mum took ill.

Forgetting about the snack, he slipped quietly through the door into the night air. Either he was remarkably silent despite Doc Martens on a wooden deck, or she was so lost in her thoughts that she barely noticed him until he sat down next to her.

Spike was quiet, waiting for her to lead. Waiting to figure out which Buffy was his tonight. But she said nothing. Just stared up at the stars and seemed almost unreadable.

"You alright, Pet?" Spike asked, brushing her hair behind her ear. Buffy lowered her head and looked at him as if he'd appeared from nowhere. Softly, she smiled.

"Yeah," she answered quietly, nuzzling her cheek into his palm. He relaxed. Thoughtful Buffy. This one had been missing in action for quiet a while. This one he could handle. He could talk to her all night.

"Something up there I am missing?" Spike asked. She looked confused for a moment and he pointed back at the sky.

Buffy chuckled softly. "Na."

"Gotta be something, Pet. Sitting here all alone at one A.M., staring at the stars." He wrapped his arm around her shoulder and she leaned back against him.

"Couldn't sleep," Buffy answered. "And who said that I was out here all alone?"

"Right then, where is he?" Spike chided, feigning getting up. Buffy laughed and the sound was musical in his ears. She didn't laugh nearly enough.

"Unless he has a forklift and a truckload of Ben and Jerry's, he's not moving me," she giggled, whistling into the night. Pony trotted up and sat obediently at her feet. Spike smiled. She'd fought the dog more than anyone and now they were inseparable. He constantly had to coerce the monster pooch off the bed so that there was room for him and, usually, Emma. Most mornings, their bed resembled a public bus.

"Little scamp, moving in on my girl," Spike joked, absently scratching the dog's ears. "And as for you, woman," he whispered, kissing her forehead. "Stop with the forklift remarks."

Buffy sighed, pressing her hand to the side of her belly and immediately getting a foot to the palm. "I'm so over this. Remind me to never let you do this to me again."

Spike looked over at her, feeling that she was close to melting down again, but she smiled. "Kidding," Buffy chuckled, rolling her eyes. "Although we are going to have to look into birth control since, obviously, the whole one time miracle theory is completely *wrong*."

"I dunno, Love. Could have Harris build an addition. Double 'em up. Produce a little tribe," Spike snarked, his hand moving over hers and feeling the force of another jab.

"A world of no," Buffy groaned, sitting back up. Spike chuckled, his hand moving to her back to steady her. She was as tense as wire.

Spike was quiet again, looking at her. She was so perfect. So beautiful. "So, Pet, you going to tell me what you were thinking about?"

Buffy sat still, staring at the stars. Her mouth opened, and then closed, and then opened again as if she couldn't find the words. Spike felt her mind grapple with it, but she didn't seem upset so he let her search. "I think I kind of remember."

"Remember what, Love?" Spike's fingers wound through hers as she tried to formulate an explanation.

Buffy sighed. "I don't know." Spike looked at her, eyebrow raised, questioning her. "I mean, I don't know what I am remembering. Or even if it's a memory at all."

"Might help if you clue me in on what's going on in there," Spike said softly, brushing his fingers over her temple, then trailing softly down her cheek. "I know how you're feeling most of the time, but I can't quite read your mind."

"Most of the time," Buffy answered, smiling. He returned it, waiting. Buffy stayed quiet for a moment, then took a deep breath. "I remember the stars singing."

Spike's head tilted, watching her. "Not sure I follow, Pet."

"I remember the starts singing and then waking up in a meadow. It was so perfect. And the ocean..." Buffy continued, eyes still trained on the sky.

Spike was silent, the itch of a memory in his own mind as she spoke. "This the In Between, Love?"

"I think so, " she answered, taking another long breath. "And my... I think my mom..."

"Was there," Spike completed. "And a house like ours. Well, hers...."

"Yeah," Buffy agreed, turning towards him. "I don't remember anything specific, but I keep getting little bits of it. Sometimes when I sleep. Sometimes when I am... quiet."

"Is that why you're out here? Trying to remember?" Spike asked, bringing her hand to his lips and kissing her fingers softly.

"I saw the stars out the window upstairs and I thought it would make more sense if I were under them," Buffy answered, hesitantly.

"What is it that you're trying so hard to remember?" Spike questioned, studying her puzzled expression.

Buffy sighed, looking back up to the sky. "You."

Spike turned her face to his, cocking his head to study her. "I was there, Pet. Remember?"

"You said you came," she answered. "You were all in white. I remember seeing you by the ocean."

As Buffy spoke, memories began to trickle into his own mind. Things he had forgotten he had known. Suddenly, he had a picture of her in palest yellow silk, standing barefoot in the sand. She glowed, backlit by the moon, looking all the world like an angel. His heart beat faster at the thought of her there and his excitement of recalling any of it. "Do you remember anything else?" He asked her softly.

"There was another you," Buffy answered, knowing it sounded ridiculous. "Except it wasn't. I mean he was like... polite you," Buffy joked.

Spike rolled his eyes. "I'm bloody polite," he whined.

"Get over it, Spike," Buffy responded, leaning over to kiss his cheek. He met her half way as her body had long since become uncooperative in the bending, leaning arena.

"Right then. Tell me more about your precious, polite version of this horribly evil, insensitive Vampire," Spike snarked.

"You forgot impolite. Oh, and soulless thing," Buffy shot back, grinning.

"I have a soul," Spike huffed indignantly. "Shared one, but it's bloody mine. Prophesied and everything."

"Oh. Right," Buffy corrected.

"The other me?" Spike joked, spurring her along.

Buffy was quiet, thinking. She looked to the stars and back at Spike. "He wasn't really. You, that is."

Spike thought a moment, a vague image resurfacing. "Some bloke on the beach with you."

"Yeah," Buffy answered, wistfully. "He looked like you. Well, a kind of ... dorkyish... you."

"Foppish," Spike corrected. "Never dorky."

"Whatever," Buffy giggled. "But he was sweet. Kind. And he loved me. I could tell. Like you, but not. Still, for no reason he loved me."

"I have my reasons, Pet," Spike commented, pulling her back to him and kissing her nose softly. She settled her head in the crook of his arm, toying with the buttons of his shirt.

"You know what I mean," she replied. "But he was different. Like a shadow of you or one part of you. Not you. Does that make sense?"

"Depends, Love," Spike commented. "How did you feel?"

"Safe," she answered, softly. "But he made me realize that it was all of you that I love. That I need. The big bad and the horrible poet."

"Awful," Spike corrected. "I had my moments." A thought occurred to him and he shifted Buffy so that he could see her eyes. "Buffy, what did he call himself?"

She was quiet. Pensive. "I... I'm not sure."

"William?" He asked gently. "Your mum was there to watch out for you. From Heaven. Do you think....?"

"That it *was* you? I mean the you before you were turned?" Buffy finished.

"Well?" Spike asked, studying her pretty green eyes.

"William," she whispered, looking back at the stars. Her hand pressed against her belly and in a stream of nearly incoherent thought flooded her. But suddenly, everything made sense, and she gasped, jumping. "William!" It came out more as a yelp than a declaration.

"Buffy?" Spike asked, concerned by her reaction.

She looked at him. The endless, perfect, blue of his eyes. The sweet, kindness within. The toughness layered over it all. "Spike," she whispered, letting her lips brush against his. "It *was* him. You. And I think..." Her words trailed off as he let him add the pieces together.

"You think?" He asked, touching their unborn child.

"I think," she answered, nodding.

"The name?" Spike asked.

"It feels right. Now I know why," Buffy answered.

"My soul?" Spike asked, watching Buffy's eyes sparkle. He could feel her contentment, like some part of her settled.

"Yeah," she said. Her smile became soft, beautiful. "Maybe we all get second chances."

"Maybe so, Pet," he whispered, leaning down to kiss her belly, then moving up to her lips This one he would have to think on before he knew how he felt. "Bed?"

"Bed," she sighed, putting her hand on the rail to pull herself up. Before she could, he scooped her up and carried her into the house effortlessly.

"See, love," Spike said, kicking the door shut as Pony followed them in. "No forklifts. Just me." Softly, he kissed her lips. "And you." Another kiss.

"Better stop," Buffy agreed. "I really. *really* miss... yummy research."

Spike smiled slyly, staring down at her beautiful face. "Let's see what we can do."

*****

"General?" The soldier strode into the room, long legs covering the ground between the door and the heavy wooden desk in seconds. He stood at attention. The dark haired woman stopped just behind him.

"Captain?" The general responded. "Your report said you have news of the Peacemaker?"

"She needs protection, sir," the Captain responded, dropping his hands behind his back and spreading his feet. "We have reason to believe that Draconius has been released from the Watcher."

The General was quiet, swallowing a gasp. "Do you know where he has settled? The new host?"

"No, sir," the Captain sighed. The woman shuffled her feet nervously. "But I feel our recent missions make us singularly qualified to identify the threat and neutralize him before he does any harm to the girl."

The General stared as his soldier. A trusted, experienced officer. But the information on the location and identity of the girl was a matter of the utmost security. "Captain," he sighed. "I understand your drive, but this is not information I can just hand you on a whim."

"Yes, sir," the Captain answered formally. "I understand, sir."

The General watched him for a moment and sighed again. "I will contact the tribunal. If they agree, I will send you the information via courier." The Captain relaxed, smiling. "Understand, soldier, if the information comes to you, you must leave right away and *no one* can be told. Not your unit. Not your family. Just the two of you."

"Yes, sir," the Captain agreed, a sly grin spreading across his face.

"I'm trusting you with this," the General warned. "Don't disappoint me."

The Captain smiled. "No, sir. Never."

To be contd.