Sequel to The Littler Bit; part of The Bittersweets Series
Summary: . . . and baby makes three.
Author Notes: This is a little sequel to "The Littler Bit." Very little happens in it.
Dedication: As always, for Kalima first and foremost. Also for the Bitches, and Deborah M, who was so worried about Jemima's fate.
Completed: August 2002.
Disclaimer: Joss creates, I borrow
"Eh, Spike. Long time no see."
"What's in the bundle? Better be kittens, if you want in this game. We're not fronting you again."
"It's not bleedin' kittens. Brought my little wench to meet you boys."
"Woah—! We don't play for those—not around here—not with the slayer we got in this town—"
"She's not a wager, you idiot. She's mine. My daughter. Made her with the Slayer."
The five demons at the round table all began talking at once.
"Then it's true?"
"You've heard the rumors—at Willie's, and everywhere—"
"Can't be true, I tell you. Vampires don't make babies. Not with human girls anyway."
"I heard tell there was a coupla vamps up in LA, last year, made a—"
"—you expect us to believe the Slayer—"
"Spike's the Slayer's beau. Didn't you know it?" Clem said. "Let's see her, Spike. My my," he said, taking Jemima up in his massive arms. "She's so tiny. Her skin's on so tight."
"Gets that from her mum, she does."
"That's the Slayer's kid? Holy Hellmouth, Spike, if you were gonna steal the Slayer's kid, why'd you bring it here? She'll come down on us all like a ton of—"
"How stupid are you? I said—Jemmy here's mine. Mine an' Buffy's. Taking her for our evening constitutional. Thought I'd stop in an' show her off to you lot, my poker so-called buddies."
"No way. That baby—is alive. You don't expect us to believe you had anything to do with making that."
"Hey—have I ever been an ordinary vampire? Anything common or garden variety about Spike? Big Bad here! I wanna knock up the Slayer, I'm gonna do it, aren't I? 'Sides, you can see she takes after me."
"She does!" Clem said, his voice warm with admiration. "Except where she looks like Buffy."
"She's a right little Summers girl, all merry an' bright," Spike allowed.
"So, when're you gonna eat her?" one of the others asked.
"How thick are you, Prezlak? Not. Not gonna eat her. I'm her Papa."
"Yeah, got that, but still—" The enormous brow furrowed.
Demons of little brain. Spike took Jemima, who was sleeping through all the furore, back into his arms. She was wrapped up neat as a jacket potato, in the woolly pink sack Tara knitted for her, with the hood drawn up around her round white face. As he shifted her against his shoulder, she stirred, yawned, and emitted a few bubbles from her wet lips, but didn't wake.
"Want me to deal you in, next hand?"
"Nah. Just came for a look-in, not staying. Gotta bring my little maid home again." Spike paused. "But look—if you win tonight—anything really good, I mean, in the way of a pretty purrer, that you could spare—"
"Oh, oh sure! I'll bring it around to the slayer's house. A kitten for the little girl. No trouble," Clem said. "No trouble at all."
"Are you asking for trouble?"
She swooped down on him—literally—as soon as he stepped out again into the dark silent street. The three zits by the corner of her mouth seemed to glow in the dark like tiny cigarette ends. She was never without them; Spike was beginning to think they were her power center. Her eyes were enormous, dark stubby pigtails bobbing as she grabbed the baby away.
"What the hell are you doing here? Thought you were off duty."
"I'm never off duty," Persis sniffed. "I peeked through—" the dimensions, she meant, from the one where she spent her nights to the one they were in now "—and the crib was empty. What are you doing toting her around at three in the morning?"
"Stretching my legs. Three in the morning to me's same as three in the afternoon to you." He peered past her. "So where's the Slayer?"
"I didn't wake her," Persis grumbled. "I saw where baby was, so I just came on to get her."
That was a big reason Buffy had hired this particular nanny: Persis' demonic ability to keep tabs on her infant charge no matter where either of them were. This was supposed to impart peace of mind, but it gave Spike the heebie-jeebies.
"Well, you can just give her back. No one told you to go interfering with me. I'm her Papa, I don't need to ask your leave to take little wench for a walk."
"I'm trying to do my job."
"Yeah. Yeah, course you are." Spike held his arms out. "Give her back now. I'll take her home."
"I'm meant to protect her from predators, and you're parading her around to low places!"
"Low places I know like the back of my hand. No one messes with ole Spike in this town, pet," he said. "Got a rep here. Now gimme."
With a sigh, Persis handed the baby back to him. The leather arms of his duster creaked as he enfolded her. Jem stirred and began to cry.
"Now she's hungry," Persis said. "Let me get her back to—"
"What, you think I don't know when she's gonna want the teat?" Spike pulled the bottle of breast milk out of his duster pocket. It was still cool from the refrigerator at Revello Drive, but not too cool to shock that delicate mouth. He got Jem latched onto it as he strode slowly off in the direction of home. Persis pouted, hastening after him, two strides to his one. When he glanced at her, she bristled, and disappeared.
Fine. She'd be back there already when he climbed the porch steps, have the whole house blazing with lights, Buffy mobilized—maybe Glinda and the Bit for good measure, the Femme Four ready to tear him limb from limb.
Let 'em come. He hummed for her as she drank, the bottle steadily emptying. Jem stared up at him all the while, and though he knew, realistically, that it was probably too dark for her to see much, he thought there was agreement in her gaze. Yeah, precious, this is better. You an' me. You don't need some strange bint hogging all the joy when you've got your Papa.
The house was dark as he'd left it when he turned up the walk, but he could feel Buffy on the porch even before he smelled her, or heard the little creak of the swing as she gave it a tiny push with her toe.
She sat in the sleep clothes she never wore to sleep anymore, but only put on when she got out of bed: the thin white tank top, the pajama bottoms patterned with bacon and eggs and frying pans. He expected her to fling herself at them, but as he climbed the steps all she did was shift a little, as it to make room for him. Spike paused for a moment, looking at her in the ambient light from the streetlamp some yards away. What was this? Her face seemed mild enough.
"Have a nice stroll?"
"Yeah, we did." He came closer. She put her arms out, but still there was nothing grabby about her, nothing incensed. He gave Jemima over, and Buffy laid her against her shoulder, patting the baby on the back until they heard a burp.
Suddenly he was speaking, fast, angry. "She's mine, an' I needn't ask anyone's leave. . . needn't fight for what's my own . . . ."
Buffy glanced at him, startled. "Of course she's yours, Spikey. We're both yours."
He slid down beside her on the gently moving swing. Buffy shifted at once to rest against him. Her hand came up and smoothed the hair at his temple.
". . . don't even have to court her, like I do you. I'm always courting you, Slayer, but Jem's come ready-made to love me, and want my love. I've a natural right to her, don't I? Couldn't ever say that of anyone before. Not since—"
"Not since the other Jem drew her last breath, right?" Buffy closed her eyes. When she opened them, she pressed her lips to his ear, and whispered that she loved him too, that she loved him so much that sometimes she ached when he just stepped out of the room.
Spike could feel the dew forming on the grass and bushes; he smelled the first distant approach of daybreak. In the next street a dog barked; further away, a car passed. He heard it just as clearly as he heard the thump of the two hearts gathered there against his body. Buffy moved her head to kiss his throat.
"You happy, pet? Happy to be a mum, happy with—"
"Spike, remember the first time we fought?"
"Ah . . . not likely to forget that, Slayer."
"Mom clobbered you, didn't she? And what did she say . . . ."
"Nobody messes with my daughter."
"Yeah . . . ." Buffy pressed herself more tightly into his side. "I always knew she loved me, Spike. But now I know . . . now I really feel what that's like from the inside. That passion. How she loved me. Because she made me."
"Yeah," he breathed. "It's a kick, innit? Never made anything before myself."
Then, as if she sensed his need, she said it again, pressed the words against his neck, her lips buzzing against the flesh. Love you, I love you, my lover, my love.
Even so, he could not restrain himself from questioning her, though his uncertainty shamed him. "Do you really miss me, my queen? When I walk out of the room?"
She nodded. "But I wouldn't stop you. It's like I told you that other time—I don't ask you where you go, Spike, or what you do when we're apart. I woke up a little while ago, and I knew you'd taken Jemmy for a walk. I knew before Persis told me. And it's okay. I know what you are, what you need, and I trust you."
She said and, he thought, not but. He drew them both closer, within the circle of his black-clad arms, his mistress and his child. The swing creaked gently, and Buffy snuggled her face against his collar. They both breathed the milky scent of the baby's head, of her sated sleep.
In the beginning he'd been afraid that she wouldn't take to him, that the touch of his still, tepid flesh would frighten her.
But it wasn't so. If she as yet noticed the difference between him and all the other people who held her and did for her and loved her, she made no sign.
Jemima contained in her small pulsing body everything that was best in himself, that the demon was supposed to have taken, that he had rioted for decades to suppress. When he was the only one awake in the house at four a.m. he gathered her sleeping form up from her crib and carried her through the downstairs rooms, out into the pre-dawn silence, holding her high so her powdery head radiated its heat against his neck and jaw. He'd look up at the stars and spin fantasies about how he'd show them to her, and to her children, and her children's children's children.
She was his everlasting connection to life.
He pressed a kiss to Buffy's temple. "Let's turn in, Slayer."
"Oh fuck—fuck—fuck—fuck—killmeSlayerkillmekillmekillme—KILL ME!"
Her breath caught. Here it came again, that entrancing, almost frightening, mystery of his surrender. The moment he first struggled against, then towards, when he seized up, trembling, nearly sobbing, before he lost speech entirely, vamped out and roared.
She made it happen by pounding at him, hard and fast, by feeling the right moment for swiveling her hips, for letting loose the sequence of obscene words in the correct order, an order that was different every time, because this wasn't a ritual in that sense, of having to be just so over and over. It was a ritual of reversal, where she took his part, so that he could experience the rapture she knew, in getting fucked.
He shuddered, stiffened, rippled, and then collapsed onto his face. Buffy crashed with him, her limbs turned to wet cardboard.
Resting her chin on Spike's back, she panted, then struggled up on her arms and knees, awkwardly as a new-born foal.
"You have gotten that down, you nasty bitch." The words, muffled by the pillow, were spoken with satisfaction and—yes—pride.
He'd taught her this thing, and yeah, she was good now.
"I only do it because you like it." This was a lie—well, a fib. It was true she'd only do it when he asked. But lately she hoped he'd ask more often. Suiting up and fucking Spike gave her a rush matched only by slaying. And since Jem's birth, over six months ago, she'd not returned to the slaying fields. Spike wouldn't let her, and Giles backed him up. That's what Faith was there for now.
"Right. At great personal sacrifice to your own delicate feelings, I'm sure."
"Oh yeah. Always. Because, you know, everything about you, evil and disgusting." She rolled onto her back. Turned her head to see Spike smiling at her, his eyes half shut. She laid a limp finger against his mouth, and whispered "Did I slay you good, Mr Grieves?"
"Good an' proper, Missis Grieves." He nibbled on the finger. "God you're so beautiful when you've just screwed my brains out." His hand came up, caressed her face. Whispered. "My pretty love. My sweetheart."
The monitor on the nightstand came to life.
"Oh—there goes Jem." Buffy started up, then collapsed. "Why's her timing always so lousy? I just wanted to snuggle and sleep with you a little, but no—"
"Dawn's in the house, she'll get her. There's pumped milk in the fridge for this very thing."
Buffy sighed. "But I want to go to her. I'm her mother. Y'know, the one with the leaky tits and the nameless formless inexplicable longing to hold her in my arms."
"Leaky luscious adorable tits."
"Yeah, whatever. Lemme go Spikey." She hauled herself up. The inexplicable longing was real enough, but it hadn't stopped her, these six months, from the other longings—to be unencumbered again, to be the full-time Slayer, to never see—or smell—another diaper. Was this normal? She was sure she was a bad mother. A bad, sex-crazed, short-attention-span mother who'd rather be up all night killing unspeakable unclean things than cooing all day over her tiny darling.
Spike was the one who ought to be the mother. She'd never have anticipated it—the intensity of his attachment to Jem, his frequent jealousy of letting anyone other than her hold the baby for more than a few minutes. Let alone do anything for her! He'd already had squabbles that threatened to veer from the good-natured, with both Tara and Dawn, over bathing privileges, even over nappy changing.
It was why Persis was no longer with them. After the night he'd taken the baby to visit Clem, she'd come to Buffy and said that, as Spike was always hovering over her and interfering with her duties, and the Kr-Gryzlak royal family was clamoring for her return at double the remuneration, she'd better give her notice.
"She's a stranger," Spike had growled when she challenged him. "Find I don't fancy a stranger handling my Jem. An' why should you pay her to have all the fun?"
The way he looked at the baby sometimes struck Buffy with a sensation of—not fear . . . but a sort of awe that was a second-cousin to it. The intensity of his attention to her sometimes seemed even greater than what he bestowed on Buffy herself, and also, somehow, purer.
She couldn't pretend not to understand how Jem alone relieved William Grieves' inborn loneliness as no one else could or would.
No wonder he didn't like to see her in the arms of a hired nanny.
He wanted Jem to rely on him. To love him best? Already, there were times when, given a free choice, the baby would reach for him first. Times when Buffy could not quiet her crying, but she'd be comforted as soon as Spike picked her up. Buffy didn't understand that. Wasn't there supposed to be something about a heartbeat? A pulse was supposedly key.
She got up now, feeling around at the foot of the bed for her dressing gown.
"First you might want to remove your—ah—ornament—" He grabbed the tip of it and gave it a playful jiggle that made her gasp and dance back, "—don't want to enlighten your sis. Kids grow up so fast on the hellmouth as it is."
She started fumbling with the straps. "I can never get this thing off!"
"You wrestle with it then, I'll get our treasure."
Jemima's large room was flooded with evening sun. There were windows on three walls, and the slanting cathedral ceiling had a large skylight let into it. Dawn was coming up the stairs and met him at the door.
"I heard her fussing. I'll bring her out."
"Nah, it's okay. I'll get her. I love this part." Spike touched the controls on the wall just outside the door, and watched as the glass in all the windows went first grey, then dark.
Dawn followed him into the room.
"Xander's a genius," she said.
"He thought of it all, yeah," Spike admitted. He lifted Jemima out of the crib, feeling her bottom. At his touch she went quiet, but he knew that wouldn't last more than a minute or two. "Who's a hungry lil' banshee, then? C'mon, let's go see your mum."
"Can I come too? I've got a permission slip she needs to sign."
"Mmm, better give her a bit of privacy yet, Platelet. She'll be downstairs in a little while, start supper."
"Uh-huh." Dawn nodded. "You two've been doing the mystery dance all afternoon, haven't you? I . . . I can tell."
"Yeah," Spike said, grinning, "we sure have. Slayer's been treating me to one of her particular specialty shags. The one I've got to make all sorts of pretty promises before she'll dole it out."
"Okay—yuck. Little sister here! You're not supposed to tell me that stuff!"
"Wasn't me who spoke of it first." Spike started out of the room, with Dawn at his heels.
"I know. Sorry. But—" She paused. Spike glanced over his shoulder.
"Do you . . . I mean . . . I read somewhere that the passion goes out of most relationships, after, like, six months. Or a year at most."
"I saw it in a magazine. Cosmo."
"Cosmo. Aren't you a little young to be reading that filth?"
"And Ladies Home Journal!"
"I was with my Dru for a hundred years, an' we two fu—I mean, made love—at least once a day, unless we were apart. Never got tired of her. Don't expect I'll get tired of your sis's fascinations either. Not in my nature."
"You doubt me, Niblet?"
"You think she'll tire of me, is that it?" Spike frowned. Jemima was squirming now, revving up to a good cry. "I'd like to see her try—! Don't leave her enough time to start looking about her, do I?"
"Spike, you know that's not what I'm saying."
"So say what you're saying, Niblet, before baby goes off at gale force six."
"Nothing, just . . . I look at you two, so wrapped up in each other, and I think—nothing like that's ever going to happen to me."
Tears appeared in her eyes.
Dawn shook her head. "Forget it—look, Jem's all hungry. Go—I've got homework to start."
"Gimme five minutes, all right, and I'll come find you. You'll tell me what's got you springin' that leak."
She fled into her room, the door closing with not-quite-a-slam. Jem was sounding off full tilt now. Like her mother she was beautiful, fierce, exacting, and often grumpy. Like her mother, she enchanted him, no matter her mood. Spike was very much looking forward to the time when he could have conversations with her.
The master bedroom door opened in front of him.
"What's the hold up?"
She'd put on a robe and brushed her hair back into a neat ponytail, so no longer looked like the wild huntress who'd claimed and taken him a half hour ago. But the scent of her arousal and pleasure was still on her, a mist clinging to her skin. He took a deep breath of her as she moved in close to him.
Imagine tiring of that.
"Just talking to Dawn." He passed the baby to her. "Gonna have a chat with her, if you can spare me."
"Chat away." Buffy had already turned to go back to the bed. She opened the robe and got Jem's wet screamy little mouth fixed on her nipple. In the sudden silence, Spike stayed where he was, staring.
Dawn could wait a little while. She had her homework to do, after all.
Spike settled down beside Buffy to watch.
Moments like these, he felt an immense clarity. Bloodlust and the urge to destruction had nothing to do with who he was anymore. The creature who'd lived for all that seemed to have passed off somewhere. He was a man now—again?—at last?—who had his heart's desire and knew better than to take it for granted.
"Spike, I've been thinking . . ."
"You shouldn't call me Slayer in front of her anymore. Little pitchers, etc. She'll be starting to talk before we know it."
"Right. An' you don't want to have to explain to everyone at the playground why our cherub calls you slayer."
"I could do without that pleasure."
"Just like I'm not relishing the prospect of explaining to her why papa doesn't go out in the sunshine."
"I figured we'll say . . . we'll say you have that skin disease. Like I told that nurse at the hospital. Like those people who can't tolerate ultraviolet light. They do everything at night. It's called—xylophone pigment-something."
"No! Won't have Jemmy thinking her pa's an invalid."
"Well, so . . . what? What do we tell her? I mean, we can probably get away with this for a few years. She'll just take it for granted, for a while, that you are the way you are. But one day she'll notice that all the other daddies are sunshine guys and you're not. Then what do we say?"
"I don't know."
"Having a skin problem doesn't make you an invalid, Spike. What could we tell her that would be any more plausible? You know whatever we do tell her will be repeated at school, to other people—"
"I don't want to lie to my child, Spike. Or teach her to keep secrets. Which would just be too big a burden for those little shoulders. But we can't have her going around telling everybody you're a vampire."
"Dunno—who'd believe her?"
"They'd think she was crazy. It could lead to trouble. Anyway, I don't want her to be scared of you."
"Why should she be, if I'm not scary?" He'd already changed so many of his habits. Didn't smoke anywhere near the baby—or go into game-face. There were times and places for it—on patrol, killing things at her side. Alone with her in bed, or the other places they found themselves when passion overtook them and the last thing she wanted was for him to hold anything back. But he'd schooled himself not to change when he drank his blood of an evening in the kitchen. He didn't want Jem ever to see him that way until she was old enough to understand, until he was sure she was ready.
Except that he wondered if it wouldn't be better to let her see it all along, that perhaps if she knew both his faces from the start, one would hold no more horror for her than the other.
Still . . . it should. Because the horror was there. When the demon came to the surface, even tightly reined as he could keep it . . . it was there.
And as if anybody ever could be ready, for a revelation like that. He thought of Jack Stamp, the vampire in the old story, who'd lived—lived still?—with each succeeding generation of his family. Did he show them his true face?
Buffy sighed. "This is all very Ray Bradbury."
"Who's he when he's at home?"
"Science fiction writer we had to read at school. All his stories had these crazy mixed-up families where they were all giant bats and warlocks and cherubim and ghouls and whatever, but there'd be this one human child there too that they all doted on. I thought it was totally stupid at the time."
"Didn't realize you were reading about your life to be?"
She smiled, looking dreamily into her baby's eyes. "Nope. Didn't realize it."