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[A/N: In every story, there’s a beginning, a middle and an ending. This then is the middle; whether or not this also constitutes the end remains to be seen. So much for a break in between these two stories. The title comes from that English band, you know the one – four guys?; and the quotes are as attributed. You should all know the drill by now, I own nothing, it all belongs to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy and all those other big corporations that own a piece of the Buffy empire.]
Previously: Almost a month and a half ago, Willow did the highly improbable and brought Buffy back from the dead, ripping her from heaven in the process. Unfortunately, Willow neglected to retrieve her nicely, forcing Buffy to dig herself out of her own grave. Spike found her immediately following and brought her home. They are now openly living together, with the blessings of Giles and Dawn, while Tara and Willow’s relationship has hit the skids. Willow was forced to leave the Summers’ house, after giving Angel a head’s up about Buffy’s return, her manipulation of Tara being the real reason behind their split. This opens up. . . well, you’ll see.
Book Two, Chapter 1. A day in the life
The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched. Henry David Thoreau, Writings, vol. 2, p 239
He hath a daily beauty in his life. Othello, act v, sc. 1
Three weeks of peace amid the onslaught of life on the hellmouth. In that time, those precious three weeks, life in their house had settled into a semblance of normalcy. Well, as normal as a household consisting of the Vampire Slayer, her vampire boyfriend, her Key sister and an every-day garden variety witch could be.
Not long after Willow had moved out, Tara had opted to move into Spike’s basement bedroom just to get away from the memories, and with Spike’s help she’d transformed the room into something a bit more her style than his.
Joyce’s old bedroom was now empty, devoid of all furniture and the two girls were still trying to come to an agreement about what to do with the room. Spike was doing his best to stay out of the argument, knowing if he were to side with either of the sisters his love life would get that much more complicated.
Dawn had been uncharacteristically quiet in the last few weeks, which was prompting his current mission. She was once again locked in her room ignoring everything and everyone around her. Spike had no idea if this was normal for Dawn or a teen-aged girl, just adding to his unrest about the whole situation. Didn’t matter, because either way he was more than a little concerned and since Buffy was out with Tara, he figured it was a perfect opportunity to get Dawn to open up to him about what was bugging her.
Which was why he was knocking at her door, just before three in the afternoon. “Dawn?”
He tried again, “Niblet? I know you’re in there, wanna talk to you ‘bout somethin’.”
The stereo lowered and then the floor creaked under her feet, the lock clicked open and there she stood, hip thrown out to one side and a slight defensively defiant look on her face.
“Need to talk to you Bit, got a moment?” Spike leaned against the door jamb, his arms crossed over his chest, waiting for her to invite him in to talk.
“Spike, I’m in the middle of doing my homework, is this important?” Dawn shifted from one foot to another avoiding his direct gaze.
Not accepting her implied dismissal, Spike pushed past her into the bedroom. He glanced once at her bed, taking at face value the spread of books and paperwork strewn across the covers, not bothering to look any closer.
“Bit,” he started, then turned around, peering at her closely, “is everythin’ okay?”
“What do you mean?” She sat on the edge of her bed, trying not to disturb the papers.
“Been awfully quiet lately. Somethin’ eatin’ at you?”
“Nope” then, changing her mind, she said, “well, school’s kind of hard, I’m not . . “ she shrugged trying to convey part of her confusion.
“Not fittin’ in?” He rested back against her desk watching her closely.
“Partially, still got Janice and . . well, Kirsten’s not in any of my classes, in fact I hardly see her anymore and Janice has a boyfriend and I don’t really like him and I get this creepy feeling sometimes that someone’s watching me and I just don’t fit in and all my classes are super hard and just . . . “ her voice trailed off into nothing and she kept her head down studying her feet.
He was silent for long minutes waiting for her to spill whatever else was bothering her. He knew there was more to this, just by the way she was holding herself.
She’d read three of the four journals cover to cover and had a fairly extensive amount of notes on other slayers and Spike. But little on her own background. The most recent journal she had ended before Buffy was born, so she doubted there was a whole lot of information in that one. She was just about to start reading the last journal when Spike had knocked on her door.
Dawn kept her eyes down, away from his all too perceptive gaze. The absolute last thing she wanted to talk about was really the only thing on her mind – well, that and Buffy.
“You’re not upset about me movin’ in are you?” Spike, for once, didn’t know what was wrong with Dawn and since she wasn’t talking, he could only guess that it was their living arrangements that were bothering her, especially since she clammed up about the same time Willow officially moved out.
“No!” Dawn looked up at him then, “you’ve been here all summer, why would it bother me now?”
“Because of where I’m sleepin’.”
She snorted, “gee Spike, how long have you been in love with Buffy?” Waving off his retort, Dawn giggled, “so not upset by that. Saw that coming when you brought her back and she was all cling-to-Spike girl.”
Giggling harder at his look, Dawn said, “not so worried ‘bout that, just glad she’s back, you know? Just wish she wasn’t so. . . is she gonna get any better?”
So that was her problem – Buffy. His girls weren’t as close as they were before and Dawn was feeling the lack of sister time.
“Getting better every day, Bit. Still hard for her and with Rupert going back home for a bit, its bound to bother her.”
“She doesn’t talk about things with me.” Dawn’s disappointment was hard to disguise not that she was trying all that hard.
Spike sighed. “Sis doesn’t like to talk about it at all. S’like its jus’ too hard. Can’t imagine what heaven must have been like, don’t imagine I’ll ever find out either.”
Moving around a bit, Spike continued, “give her time, Bit, she’ll open up.” Looking at her once more, he said, “is ‘at all?”
“Well . . . there is a guy. . . “ and giggled at the look on Spike’s face.
He growled once, then said through semi-clenched teeth, “bring him round. Lemme suss things out, yeah?”
“I’m hoping he’ll ask me to homecoming.”
On his way out the door, Spike repeated, “bring him round. Then I’ll think about it.” Once he was gone, Dawn locked the door behind him, diving back into her notes and the last journal.
The one thing weighing heavily on her mind – though she’d never tell Spike, at least not until she had more proof than she had right now, was that she was convinced Spike was her father. Her biological mother was still not certain. It could have been either Joyce or Buffy. She was thinking – hoping it wasn’t Joyce.
Not that there was any doubt in her mind about how the monks had done it – it had to have been magic, because as ar as she knew, vampires couldn’t have babies.
Five hundred years of existence, or nearly so, had not prepared her for any of this. Hands, feet, legs, everything – belly, god what a belly, every last little part of her ached. But for all that pain, this was such a miracle. And it was all in danger. By her very nature she put this child inside her in danger’s path. Once the infant was born, his soul would remain with him and she would once again be herself.
Once upon a time she’d killed infants like the one she carried, slain their mothers while the babies struggled within their wombs or cried helplessly amidst the slaughter, blood and gore. She hadn’t known.
Hadn’t understood what she’d done.
Darla understood it all now.
The enormity of over four hundred years of murder and wanton destruction weighed heavily upon her. Crushed her with near constant waves of overwhelming guilt and grief. Tears were her ever present companion – no solace to be found anywhere.
Her belly thumped, a hand or foot pushing against her taut skin, stretching it further out from the inside. Darla ran a soothing hand over the lump, humming softly to herself and the baby through her tears.
Time was running short. This baby, this boy-child created by her and Angel . . . this completely undeserved miracle – would be born – and soon.
And Darla didn’t want to let him go.
Buffy was meeting Tara at UC Sunnydale, since the Slayer had decided she might want to think about going back to school for the next semester. Just thinking about it. She wasn’t really sure she was ready for it.
There was a lot she wasn’t ready for, but having everyone’s support was a big help – from Giles giving Spike a job to Tara cooking nightly to Dawn not acting out, it was good.
The myth that vampires slept all day had been shattered by Spike’s ability to function on a couple of hours every morning. So he was usually up when she woke up, though he was prone to napping around eleven, he was awake again no later than two. Since Giles had offered him the job, Spike was at the Magic Box by three, working until seven or so. Soo, if they kept to that pattern, come the next semester, provided she got scholarship money, she could take classes from ten until three, which fit in nicely.
But it was a huge if. Right now, Buffy thought, if I have to make a decision, it’s a world of no.
UC Sunnydale wasn’t a huge campus, not by a long shot, not by anyone’s standards, and yet here she was, in the main quad completely overwhelmed and trying to stop herself from wigging. Too many people milling around, bumping into her and Oh! God! Parker Abrams, that slug had just walked right by her. Thank god he hadn’t seen her.
Oh no no nonono. . . Whirling around at the sound of her name, she stopped short, literally, at the sight before her eyes.
“Hey” and he smiled slightly at her stunned expression.
“Hey. How are you? When did you get back - where’ve you been? What have you been doing?” Nervous babbling filled the air around them.
Pulling on his arm she moved them out of the flow of foot traffic. His replies were mumbled as they moved. “Okay. Couple of weeks.”
At her confused look, he just raised an eyebrow. She smiled brightly, relieved to have found a familiar safe face to stave off the panic.
“Sorry, I’m babble-girl.”
He gave her his patented Oz grin, consisting of no more than just a mere raised lip and sat down on the bench next to her.
“Got back a couple of weeks ago. Hooked up with the band. Been playing some gigs.” He squinted into the sunshine then continued, “what’s new?”
Buffy giggled nervously – what a can of worms that question was. “Um . . well, lots. Where do you want me to start?”
There was one thing on his mind and both of them knew it, but both were afraid to bring it up for completely different reasons.
It was into that awkward moment that Tara stepped into view, calling, “hey Buffy.”
Oz stiffened beside her, recognizing the other girl.
“Oh.” Tara shared a look with Buffy then greeted him. “Hey Oz. H. . how are you?”
“Good.” He started to get up, but Buffy placed a hand on his arm. “Oz, this is Tara” and blurting out what was suddenly on all their minds, “Tara who is no longer Willow’s girlfriend.”
“Whoa.” It spoke volumes that Oz actually raised his voice a bit.
Tara ducked her head smiling at Buffy’s blunt declaration.
They sat there, frozen for a moment until Buffy said, “come home and have dinner with us.”
Looking from one girl to the other, Oz thought for a moment, then shook his head in agreement. Free food sounded good. “Sure.”
“Gotta make a stop first and then we’ll head home, okay with you?” Buffy asked cheerfully, happy now that this was going better.
“Sure.” He shrugged, pretty much willing to go with the flow.
Spike was in the basement, packing orders, getting them ready for shipping when he heard the bell tinkle upstairs indicating some new arrival. Glancing at the clock on the wall, he dropped one last handful of bio-degradeable filler into the box, sealed it with packing tape, slapped an address label on it and headed up the stairs to greet his woman.
Buffy was chattering animatedly to someone he couldn’t see and his nose couldn’t identify. It wasn’t Tara because he could see her talking with Giles, while Anya was finishing a sale. Spying him before anyone else, she smiled then went right back to the customer.
He watched his golden girl, a smile playing on his features. Whoever she was talking to she was comfortable with, apparently considering whoever it was a friend, because she was chattering away like he hadn’t seen her do since before her mother died.
Leaning against the counter, Spike just watched her, drinking in her presence. Every day he marveled at her, how she accepted him into her life and how far she’d come since those first awful days back from the dead.
Buffy paused in her almost monologue, no longer ignoring the tingles his presence set off within her. Deciding she wanted to tease him a little, Buffy flipped her hair, then wiggled her hips a little, stretching her arms up over her head.
That strip of skin at the small of her back exposed by her stretch beckoned him. Her scent engulfed him as her emotions strengthened. Stalking up behind her, Spike knew she felt him because her body shifted, urging him closer.
Still standing away from her, Spike reached out a finger, running it across that stretch of skin. Goose bumps raised themselves at his touch and Buffy fought the shiver of arousal running through her muscles.
His hand brushed around her waist, pulling her back against him. Nuzzling into her hair, Spike whispered, “hello cutie.”
Buffy leaned further back against him, her hand caressing his, their fingers entwining.
Watching the display in front of him, Oz realized things had really changed. He wasn’t sure at first, but as he watched them his eyes confirmed what his sense of smell had deduced. Oz almost didn’t believe it when he’d caught a glimpse of Spike watching Buffy, a different kind of predatory gleam in his eyes.
Sighing a bit, Buffy turned in Spike’s embrace, her arms automatically spiraling around his neck, her whispered, “hello yourself” sending a thread of arousal through him.
Realizing their audience was staring, Buffy kissed Spike then reluctantly broke from his embrace.
“Spike, you remember Oz, right?”
Ahhh, now he did. Willow’s dogboy.
“Oz, I’m sure you remember Spike.”
Spike leaned over to shake the other man’s hand saying, “welcome back.”
If Oz was surprised by the change in Spike it didn’t show. But then, Oz was never one for huge expressions.
The last journal was finished. She’d read it from cover to cover. Unfortunately, it did nothing to further her quest. The good news was Giles was leaving tomorrow, going back to England because the Council was demanding his presence. That meant she’d be able to sneak into his apartment and steal another couple of books.
He wasn’t happy about it, but he really didn’t have much choice, since he was going for two reasons that she was aware of anyway, only one of which the Council was aware of. She’d overheard Giles telling Spike he was going to try and get the Council to give Buffy a stipend so that she wouldn’t have to go get a job, not that Spike wasn’t earning enough, but so that things would be a bit better.
Between Tara’s housing grant, Spike’s weekly poker winnings and now the job with the Magic Box, money wasn’t so tight. She got a check monthly from Social Services, but the adults had decided not to dip into what they were calling her college fund unless things got dire.
Which was cool.
But right now Dawn was frustrated. And so not happy. So when the phone rang, she wasn’t at all pleasant-girl, until she realized who was on the other end.
And when he asked if she wanted to go to homecoming with him, she played it cool, until she hung up the phone. That was when she squealed high enough to shatter glass.
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