"Spike," Buffy called from the kitchen.
"Yes, pet," he said, standing from his place on the floor.
"I need your help."
"Just a minute then," he said, adjusting the couch cushions just so before joining her in the kitchen. He noticed at once she was on the verge of tears. "What's the matter, Buffy?"
"Oh God, nothing, I just," she sighed and Spike knew she was on the verge of a crying jag. She had been like this all day and Spike had no idea what in the hell was wrong. "Can you give Scotty his bottle?" she asked as she fastened the cap on the bottle.
"Sure, pet, you don't have to ask me." He took the bottle, hoping she had remembered to check its temperature. He was not so good at feeling the contrast in temperatures and did not want to be responsible for burning the baby's mouth. "Care to talk about it while I'm sitting with him?" He glanced at the bottle and noticed the color was different than normal and it did not smell as bad. That baby formula stuff smelled nasty. "What's in this anyway?" he asked with a slight frown, hating to ask but wanting to make sure she had not put something wrong in the bottle by accident.
"Cereal. Rice cereal, he hasn't taken a nap all day." She grabbed a hold of Spike's shirtfront with a hand, balling it into a fist, twisting his shirtfront. "I need him to take a nap, Spike."
"Okay, no problem, I'll get him his bottle." Spike would have laughed if this was not the Slayer going postal about her brat. She was about to snap and the only person she trusted enough to show it to was him. There were days that he thought little Scotty was the best thing for Buffy since she lost both her mom and her sister in a matter of months. Today was not one of them. Buffy had never gotten a chance to truly mourn her mother's death only to have Dawn die and then to be miserably pregnant during the hot California summer while struggling through a semester of school at the same time.
He returned to the living room to find little Scott Summers had rolled his way off the baby blanket set out for him on the floor. "Well, little one, Mommy wants the Big Bad to give you your bottle. Let's see what's on the tele," he said, setting the bottle on the table near the sofa before retrieving Scott from the floor and grabbing the remote control. If anyone could see him now, sitting in the Slayer's house feeding her damned spawn he would be the laughing stock of the underworld.
Not that he was not already laughed at without little one's assistance. And he could honestly say as each day passed that he did not care. Let them laugh; Spike was getting an opportunity that he never would have otherwise. He was here, helping care for a baby, and not just any baby, Buffy's baby. Buffy, the Slayer, trusted him in caring for her baby. Even though he had failed in saving Dawn, she still trusted him.
She had left the kitchen through the doorway that led to the dining room and up the stairs that way. He had no idea what was wrong with her today. He had tried to read up on the baby stuff, but nothing he read seemed to indicate any problems she might be experiencing right now were due to post-partum. Of course, none of those studies and statistics were about Slayers, they were about normal, average, human women, which were categories that Buffy was not a member of.
He found a suspense movie on and left it there. Chances were he would nap with Scotty on the couch, so there was no sense finding something real interesting. The boy was chugging away on the bottle, little air bubbles worked their way through the bottle. He ran a hand along the light brown downy tufts of Buffy's son's hair while he sucked down his dinner. It was so soft and Spike felt truly humbled that the Slayer trusted him to take care of something so precious, pure and innocent. He had been responsible for the taking of life several times over the last one hundred twenty years, but never before had he witnessed it being born, renewed. It was as close as he was going to get to the actual creating of life and he knew it.
Xander and Willow had been hurt that Buffy had asked Spike to be with her and Spike had no idea why he had been chosen. Somehow in between the time he had shown her what Finn had been up to and when she invited him back into her home again they had built some sort of friendship.
He had been mistaken for the baby's father throughout the delivery and Buffy never bothered to correct anyone. The space for the father's name on the birth certificate was blank, which broke Spike's unbeating heart. He would have gladly given the child his name if he had one to give him. And now here they were five months later, Spike living with the woman he loved.
Their relationship was platonic and it was agonizing for Spike, though he tried to hide that fact from her. There were times after a late night feeding or a crabby episode with Scotty that she would come to him, but it was for comfort instead of being the one to comfort all of the time. Spike did not blame Buffy for wanting to be held and he gave what she was willing to let him give her. She saved people on a daily basis, had saved the world more than once and now she was caring for a baby she was probably never supposed to have. Never until dealing with Glory had Spike fully grasped all this Slayer had seen and done.
He had been the first and only person she had confided in for a very long time. It had been what hurt so much when she had continued to shut him out of her house. She trusted him enough to confide in, to tell her secrets to, but not enough to let him into her home. It hurt and yet he would silently lick his wounds like a hurt wolf when she left his crypt every evening. He was not going to beg her to welcome him back into her home. She had kissed him from time to time over the past year or so, but they were simple kisses. Certainly not like the kisses they had shared under Red's spell.
She had talked for a while about not having the baby, but he knew as each week passed that she would have it. He might have known before she did. He had hugged her when she cried, had cleaned her up when the stench or the sight of some ugly got her stomach upset on patrol, and engaged in bitch sessions with her about the bastard who knocked her up. The little bloke had been worth the pain, at least Spike thought so. He was worried about Buffy, though. She was not recovering like Spike thought she should.
Oh sure, she had recovered physically. Spike knew women who would kill for a figure like Buffy's post-partum or not. But it was these crying jags that he hated seeing her go through. It had started at Thanksgiving and he had attributed it to being her first set of holidays with a baby but she was without Joyce and Dawn. He had hoped it would get better, but it did not. Her Watcher was just as concerned, but Buffy was not talking to anyone.
"Spike," he heard her voice from the foot of the stairs. She was talking softly, too softly for a human to hear so he was not sure if she really wanted him to hear her or not.
"Thank you," she said.
"You're welcome, pet," he said, withdrawing the now empty bottle from Scott's mouth. He fussed slightly at the nipple being gone. He was at that point in between being awake and being asleep, a few minutes longer of sucking on the bottle and he would have been out for sure. "Don't blame you there, kid, but I have to tell you the real thing is much, much better than those plastic things," he murmured conspiratorially with the infant.
He sat Scotty on his lap and burped him. The infant obviously inherited his mother's stubbornness, because the tyke would not even burp the way most kids do. Put him over your shoulder like the books told you to do and it did not work.
He turned to face her now that he had the ability to do so and was saddened by her appearance. Buffy had not left the house other than to patrol in weeks. She would not answer the phone and would not come down when anyone came over. She rarely came downstairs at all for that matter and when she did it was in a dingy gray terry cloth robe. Lord knew what she wore underneath. She had not tended to her hair in months, wearing it pulled back all of the time now. Spike had no idea when she had actually done herself up last. There was nothing left of the vibrant, flashy, vivacious girl that had been there before Glory came to town.
"I'm going to take a shower now, okay?"
He glanced at the clock on the mantle as he replied. It was early yet for her to be patrolling. "Sure, pet, we're fine. Do you want me to see to dinner for you?"
"No," she said softly. "We're going out."
"Yeah, Giles sort of made it an order punishable by death if I disobey him."
"Buffy, if you want to go on your own without Scotty, go to it."
"No, I want you to come too. Please," she said. He did not need to have a clear view of her eyes to know she was pleading with him. And Spike could refuse her nothing.
"Sure then. I'll get his little bag ready to go, so all you have to do is get dressed."
"Thanks," she said and rushed back up the stairs.
He trudged up the stairs, holding Scott in his arms and set the boy in his crib to gather an extra outfit and diapers. He changed Scott, putting the ointment stuff on the little guy's unmentionables. The stuff was to ensure he did not get a rash from what Spike understood. Modern medicine was a bloody miracle. Not that he remembered anything about diaper rash, but he had seen it on Scott once or twice in the past few months to realize it could not be comfortable.
Tossing the diaper in the pail he glanced at the calendar on the wall above it, noticing it was two days before Valentine's Day. "Oh hell," he muttered to himself. That had to be what had her in her funk, what with Thanksgiving, Christmas, her twenty-first birthday and Valentine's Day one right after another. Well, platonic or not, he vowed to do something nice for Buffy's Valentine's Day.
He got Scott dressed, left him in his crib while Spike went to put on a clean shirt. That done he retreated downstairs to make up a bottle for the tyke and clean up the kitchen for Buffy.
What seemed like forever later he heard her begin her descent down the stairs with a sleeping Scott in her arms. Spike did not even notice what she wore until after she put Scott in his car seat. "Wow, you look great," he said sincerely, feeling like a moron for saying it like that. This was the Buffy he remembered and missed deeply. She was dressed in a three-quarter length black leather skirt with a cream cashmere sweater. It was a contrast, the soft cashmere to the leather, but with her hair actually curled and arranged around her face so nicely it was a good contrast. Black and white, naughty and nice, sugar and spice came to Spike's mind.
"Thanks," she said, offering him a smile that did not quite make it to her eyes. "All set," she said, handing him the keys. She had learned to drive, but hated doing it and Spike loved driving so the arrangement worked well.
"Hey Buff," Xander said. "Spike."
"Harris," Spike said evenly as they walked into the restaurant. He held a chair out for Buffy, which she sat in once she had settled Scotty still in the car seat next to her. Spike pushed the chair in before taking the seat next to her. No one knew what to make of Spike and Buffy's relationship. They were all a little hurt Buffy had chosen him to confide in and feared Spike was going to use this situation to his advantage and hurt her.
Buffy was surprisingly attentive and talkative throughout dinner. She even imbibed in a glass of wine, which shocked Spike to no end. The fact that she not only ate all of her meal but agreed to share a dessert with him just about floored him. Maybe she was done with her broody depression. He would never say anything to her, but she was giving Angel a run for his money in the brooding department.
"We're going to the Bronze, Buffy. Do you want to come?"
"I would, but I have to patrol and all. Thanks, though."
"Buffy," Giles interjected. "I'm volunteering to keep Scott for the evening. At your house, of course, but if you were in the mood for a bit of a respite I'd be happy to help you in that respect. And you're certainly entitled to a night off from patrolling from time to time."
Buffy glanced at Scotty, Spike could feel the indecision rolling off of her in waves. She wanted to say yes but did not want to give the appearance she was a bad mother. He could not read her thoughts exactly, but they were close enough these days that he had a pretty good idea of what was going through her mind.
He leaned over and placed a hand at her knee, squeezing gently. "Go, pet. You deserve it; you haven't been out of the house in months. No one's going to think you're a bad mum."
She looked at him, her hazel eyes wide with uncertainty. "Are you sure?" she asked, her voice a whisper. He loved when she whispered to him, taking advantage of his enhanced hearing because he knew she was talking just to him.
"Your Watcher wouldn't have volunteered if he thought that, Slayer. It's time to take your friends up on some of the help they offer you."
"I'm sorry, I didn't think you minded. I didn't mean to burden you with this for so long."
"Excuse us," he said and took her by the elbow as he stood from the table. The chip did not fire so he was not hurting her as he practically dragged her to the foyer.
"Slayer, you're not burdening me. Do you honestly think I'd have stuck around doing this crap if I didn't want to? But let's go out and have some fun. I want it, I want to have fun but it won't be much fun if I know you're sitting at home moping. Let's go get a dance or two in, talk to your friends about stuff. Talk to adults without the word diaper or bottle or goo goo being said. You deserve it, Buffy."
"God yes, Buffy, you do," he said softly, placing his forehead against hers letting his eyes drift closed. His hands interlaced with hers and he just stood there for a moment quietly. "We both do. Take your Watcher up on his offer. If you don't want me along that's fine I'll go to Willy's or something, but you should go."
"I want you with."
"Okay then. Let's go. We can go home whenever you're ready. Just say the word."
"Okay," she said softly, glancing over his shoulder at her friends. "They must think I'm such a fool."
"For getting pregnant and for acting like I've been acting. At least Giles never had to worry about things like pregnancy when I was with Angel."
"I suspect he'd take the chance of pregnancy over the chance of Angelus rearing his head again any day, pet. No sense dwelling on it now and your friends aren't judging you, Buffy. They're there for you if you let them, not that I'm complaining. Anya is all worried you're going to back out of the wedding."
"I know. I wouldn't do that. I just," she shrugged.
"Buffy, it's been five months since little one was born." He withdrew one hand from hers and placed it against her cheek lightly, careful not to startle her. "I know he's not the only reason you've been holing yourself up, but your Mum and Niblet would not want you living like this."
"I know," she said, her eyes downcast.
"Just give it a chance," he said softly, running the pad of his thumb along her jaw.
"Okay," she said with a lift of her chin that Spike knew was her getting her courage.
"There's my girl," he whispered with a smile. He saw her face fall and wondered what in the hell he had said wrong. "What?"
"Nothing. Let's go. I need to make sure Giles knows what he's in for."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com