DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course, and the chapter title comes from Shakespeare’s “Sonnet LVII.”
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Havi kept the soldiers away while Willow and Spike did the souling spell, and the rest of the gang showed up to create the diversion to get Buffy out, only to discover that Willow was gone from Buffy’s room; Willow learned from Rose that they changed a vision that Rose had regarding Buffy’s baby and that she’s passed the test the Guardians set to determine her worthiness in joining them…
Truth be told, these were not circumstances Giles had ever believed he’d be in. The potential of Buffy’s pregnancy ending in an operating room had always been there, but her excellent health and the superb attention she, Joyce, and Spike had given to the baby’s wellbeing had convinced Giles that she would carry to term and he would forever have to tolerate stories afterward about the pains of natural labor.
He had never anticipated pacing in an emergency room, waiting for news from the operating theater about whether either mother or child would survive a nasty bit of magic.
Willow’s unexpected absence from the Initiative infirmary had worried everyone, but Spike—in spite of his weakened condition—had started barking out commands to get Buffy to hospital. There had been little choice but to act; a phone call to Joyce had ensured that the hospital would be prepared for them when they arrived. It had only taken a first reading from the monitors for the staff to take Buffy immediately into surgery.
Now they could only wait.
Graham and Oz were speaking quietly in the corner, a silent Robin and Wesley at their side. Giles’ initial fears about Willow had encompassed Oz’s reaction as well, but the young man hadn’t seemed nearly as disturbed with this disappearance as he had her earlier one.
“She’s a Guardian now,” he’d said. “I have a feeling she’s going to be investing in some mystical frequent flyer miles.”
Havi leaned heavily against Xander in seats near the vending machines. Her explanation about what had happened had shocked all of them during the ride to the hospital. Being in the van with Buffy and Spike, Oz had only learned the details after they’d arrived. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t appear to shock him in the slightest.
Joyce merely sat there, staring at the closed doors that led to the bowels of the hospital. She hadn’t said a word since Buffy had been rushed back.
Giles sighed, stopping in his paces to rub wearily at his eyes. It was remarkable to consider just how much had been sacrificed for the sake of this one child; the possibility that Spike would give up his only chance to atone for his past misdeeds to save it was boggling, to say the least. He simply hoped that for Buffy’s sake, the sacrifice had been worth it. The magical damage had been fixed. It was now up to modern science to do the rest.
Knackered didn’t even begin to cover just how tired Spike was. The spell had drained him more than he could ever have imagined, but seeing Buffy wake up, hearing her voice and Willow’s assertions that she was fairly sure the spell had worked, had rejuvenated him enough to get her out of there once the witch had scarpered off. Another of those teleportation spells would have come in handy, but he’d give her scratch about that later. After Buffy and the baby were safe.
In spite of the results of the spell, the little one was still in distress, and the doctors had rushed Buffy into surgery for an emergency c-section. She was pale and terrified, but did everything she was told, silent throughout the entire anesthesia while they prepped Spike in the next room. It was only when he was sitting on a stool at her head, holding her hand as the blood pressure cuff attached to her bicep expanded and deflated periodically, that she spoke up.
“I love you,” she whispered. She didn’t look at him, her eyes fixed on the ceiling overhead, but he could see the shine in her eyes. “No matter what happens, I’ll always love you.”
Her fatalism made him angry, and he leaned forward, pressing his mouth to her ear so that the others in the room couldn’t hear him. “Nothing’s goin’ to happen,” Spike said. “Nothing bad. You and me, we’re fighters, understand? We’re the same. It’s goin’ to take more than one witch to bring us down.”
“It’s not us I’m worried about.” When a spray of blood unexpectedly splattered on the sheet hanging just below her breasts, blocking her view of her lower body, she winced. “It’s the baby.”
“Then you’re worrying for nothing,” he scolded. “Me and Red took care of the magic part. And do you really think I’d let anyone but the best doctors near you? They bugger anything up, and this town will never know such misery as what I’ll wreak.”
A faint sound came from her throat that could have been a chuckle. “Yeah, because I’m just going to let you do that.” She squeezed his hand. “What you did, though, with Willow? It was amazing.”
Spike sat heavily back on his stool. His legs were starting to quiver from exhaustion. “Not really.”
Her eyes followed his descent, her head turning just enough to make it comfortable. “I know what you offered, Spike. What you gave up. That’s huge.”
He took a moment to respond, trying to block out the scent of Buffy’s blood so thick in the air. “It’s the same you would’ve done, put in the same place,” he said quietly, then smiled. “’Sides, if there’s one thing in this world I know I can do with my eyes shut, it’s love someone. There was never a question ‘bout it, Buffy. All I did was what had to be done.”
A sudden shift in the medical personnel, tilts of heads to peer beyond the sheet, accompanied a fresh scent within the room. Before Spike could stand up to see what was going on, he heard a suctioning followed by a muffled gurgle.
“He’s out,” the head doctor said.
Spike snapped back to see Buffy staring at him. Everything stopped. “He?” she whispered. Tremulous. Hopeful. Terrified.
“It’s a boy,” the doctor said. A small cry filled the room. “And for such a little thing, he’s a hell of a fighter.”
Buffy’s hand gripped Spike’s so tightly, he felt his bones shift. “Is he all right?”
The question was directed to the doctor, but Spike took it upon himself to stand and pull away from her, moving down so that he could see what was going on. He needed to know.
They were already taking the baby away from the table, its limbs covered in red and white fluids only half of which he recognized. Though Spike hung back, his eyes searched for the tiny feet and even tinier hands, counting digits automatically and then choking back an exhausted giggle at how quickly he’d fallen into overprotective father mode. But what convinced him not to intervene, what called out to him as surely as it had all those months ago when he’d first heard the echoes in Buffy’s body, was the little one’s heartbeat.
“He’s perfect, luv,” he said. “He’s got your fire.”
So absorbed in watching the nurse tend to the baby—his son—Spike didn’t notice what the doctors were doing until the other heartbeat in the room he cared so much about slowed. He jerked back and saw the anesthetist holding a mask over Buffy’s face, her eyes closed.
“What are you doing?” he asked, alarmed.
“Mr. Freston…” The other nurse took his arm and tried to lead him away from the table. “The doctors need to see to Ms. Summers now. Her vitals aren’t as stable as they’d like, so they’ve just decided to let her rest a little while they sew her up. We’re going to have to ask you to leave the room.”
“No!” He pulled away so hard that the young woman cried out in pain. “I’m not leaving them.”
“It’s hospital procedure--.”
“Fuck bloody procedure!” He hadn’t come this far just to be sent away like a small child.
She stepped forward again, this time resting a hand carefully on his arm. When she spoke, her voice was deliberately soothing. “It will only be for ten or fifteen minutes,” she said. “Once Ms. Summers is done, she’ll be placed in a private room and you can see her as soon as she’s settled.”
His head twisted toward Buffy. There was nothing alarming about her body’s rhythms, and he could see the careful stitches the doctor was sewing in her abdomen. Though all they were doing was closing the incisions, Spike hated the idea of just leaving her alone. He wanted to be there when she woke up.
“You can be,” the nurse said when he voiced his concerns. “It’ll take awhile for the anesthesia to wear off.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the first nurse heading for the door, his son cradled within her arms. Spike was stopped from bolting after her by the tightening of the second nurse’s grip.
“These first few hours are a critical time for your son,” she said. “He needs to be closely monitored, so they’re taking him to NICU. I’m sure you realize he’s very premature, and, yes, he’s strong, but we need to do everything in our power to make sure he gets all the help he can right now. Please, Mr. Freston. Let us do our job.”
He didn’t want to give in. He’d sworn to Buffy and he’d sworn to himself that he would do everything to protect their child. But what could he really do here? He didn’t know anything about pediatric medicine. All he would be doing was watching and getting in their way. It so happened those were two things he was very good at, but somehow, in the hospital milieu, Spike was suddenly unsure if that was appropriate.
“You have family waiting for news, right?” the nurse asked. “Why don’t you go and tell them? By the time you’re done, Ms. Summers should be in recovery.”
Reminders of the others in the waiting room—especially Joyce—made his mind up. With a curt nod, he allowed himself to be led from the room and stripped of the hospital kit they’d insisted he wear during the operation. Didn’t matter that a bloke couldn’t spread germs, but that was a fight for another day. Then it was down antiseptic hallways, trying to block out the scents of death and disease that lingered no matter how much the staff tried to scrub them away. He concentrated instead on images of the baby—his son, fuck, he was never going to get tired of thinking that—and what it would be like to see Buffy holding him.
By the time he reached the waiting room, Spike was grinning. He met Joyce’s eyes first; this was her family, too.
“Well?” Leave it to Harris to jump in before Spike could get his moment. “How’s Buffy? And the baby? Did we get here in time? Did--?”
Giles held up a hand to cut him off. “Give him a chance to speak, Xander.”
Silently, Spike thanked the Watcher. “Buffy’s fine,” he said. “Came through it with flyin’ colors. Little one’s doin’ well, too. Doc says he’s small but scrappy.”
“Sounds like he’s the spittin’ image of his parents already,” Xander quipped
Ignoring the levity, Joyce took a step forward. “He?” she questioned. “It’s a boy?”
His smile softened, and he closed the distance between them to gather her into a warm hug. “Yeah,” he murmured. His gaze met Rupert’s, and a charge of pride surged through him when he saw the acceptance there. In spite of everything that had happened that day and the obstacles they had yet to overcome, the world had never been a better place. “I have a son.”
The last thing Esme expected to find at the underground military base was chaos. Yes, she had left amid intruder alarms and doctors fighting to save Buffy, but that should have been only temporary. It certainly didn’t account for the dead soldiers she saw being rolled away, or the vampire dust that seemed to clog her pores. Something had happened in her absence, something bigger than a magical intruder.
When she teleported into Buffy’s empty room, she realized exactly what that had been.
She didn’t loiter. One person was going to know what had happened to the Slayer—the Slayer she still needed—and Esme had every intention of using whatever means necessary to get what she wanted.
A soldier on a gurney blocked her path. His pants had been ripped from the thigh down to allow him to hold a bandage to his bleeding knee. When he saw her, he tried to sit up.
“You’re not authorized personnel,” he said. “You’re not supposed to be here.”
She rolled her eyes. She didn’t have time for this right now. “Sleep,” she commanded, and watched as he pitched to the side, his hand falling away from his wound as he dropped immediately into unconsciousness.
Esme frowned, taking a step forward. It was a bullet wound he’d been covering. Soldiers shooting soldiers? That didn’t make sense.
One of the Slayer’s friends shooting soldiers, however, did.
She wasn’t going to find Buffy Summers here. The Slayer’s friends had already done Esme’s dirty work and got her free from the military’s clutches. In her condition, that left only one place for them to take her.
Buffy woke up feeling like her lower body was made of lead, but the moment she saw Spike’s glowing face, any fears she had vanished. He was physically incapable of hiding his feelings. If anything had been seriously wrong with the baby, more than just being way premature, she would have known just from looking in Spike’s eyes.
He squeezed her hand as soon as he saw she was awake, leaning in to brush feather kisses across her brow. “You’re a bloody miracle, you know that?” he murmured.
“Oh, please,” she scoffed. “All I had to do was lie there. Even I can’t screw that up.” Buffy tried to sit up, but quit after only a peremptory struggle. There was no way her legs and lower back were ready to work yet, and she scowled at her useless lower half.
“Are you sure they got the baby out?” she complained. “I still look pregnant.”
Spike laughed when she poked at her rounded tummy. “Took you more than a few hours to get that big,” he teased. “Reckon it’ll take you more than a few to get rid of it.”
Her lip jutted out in a pout. “You think I’m fat.”
“Great,” he muttered good-naturedly. “More raging hormones. Just what I bloody need.” When she slapped at him, he laughed again. Buffy thought she’d never seen him look so happy before.
“So…did you see him?” she asked. “Is he all right?”
Mention of the baby softened Spike’s features, and his hand returned to cover hers, mindlessly stroking along her knuckles. “He’s more than all right,” he assured. “He’s got a fight ahead of him, bein’ early and all, but the docs are takin’ really good care of him. They’ve got him hooked up to every machine under the sun to make sure nothin’ goes wrong.”
Though she had been reasonably sure of his response, relief flooded through her at hearing the actual words. “We’re not going to be able to take him home any time soon, are we?”
Spike shook his head. “He’s got a spot more growing to do. But I talked to the nurses and we’re goin’ to be a part of every step of it. I promise you.”
“When am I going to be able to see him?”
“Soon. Very soon.”
They lapsed into a comfortable silence, and Buffy was struck again at how happy Spike seemed. Do I look like that? she mused. She would bet yes.
“I guess it’s a good thing we never agreed on a girl name, huh?” she commented with a smile.
The corner of his mouth lifted. “Nah. All it needed was me gettin’ one look at the little one, and you could’ve sold me on naming it Mona Lisa if that’s what you wanted.”
“Yeah, well, hate to break it to you, but you probably could’ve convinced me on Annabel if you’d stuck with it. I was getting ready to cave anyway.” The look on his face was priceless, and she laughed, feeling better and more alive than she had in days. Though the memories of the pain and the reasons for it still lurked at the corners of her world, Buffy didn’t care. Not in that minute. She was going to revel in her new family. The last four years of her life had been about death; she figured she was due for some good old-fashioned affirmation on the glory of living.
Giles nearly dropped the Styrofoam cups of steaming coffee he was taking back for the others when Willow suddenly materialized before him. “Good lord,” he snapped. He held the cups away from his body, mindful of the hot splashes that had already spilled onto his hands. “Teleportation is not a parlor trick to be used for your own amusement, Willow. You can’t just flit about whenever the fancy takes you.”
“This isn’t fancy, Giles. This is necessity.”
When she twisted to look at her surroundings, he noticed that the odd blackness to her irises had gone. The only indications of her earlier acceptance of the Guardian mantle were the white streaks that remained in her hair. In fact, she seemed very much like she had been prior to any of the additional magic. It could have been a pre-London Willow standing in front of him now, all the way down to the nervous dart of her eyes.
“What’s wrong?” he asked. When she turned back to look at him, he saw for the first time the items she carried, a small, intricately carved box and a wooden staff. “And what on earth are those?”
“I’ll fill you in. I promise. I just need to know, is Buffy OK? I know the souling spell worked but---.”
“Both of them are as well as can be expected. Remarkably well, actually, considering how much trauma they’ve both Remarkably well, actually, considering how much trauma they’ve both been through today.”
“And there hasn’t been any sign of Esme?”
Frankly, Giles had forgotten all about the witch. “No,” he said, resuming his path back to the waiting room. “Do you honestly believe she’s going to try attacking Buffy again?”
“She thinks she needs Buffy, so, yeah, pretty sure she’ll show up again. Giles, stop.” The command was curt, taking him by surprise, and when he turned to look back at her, he saw her fingers absently tracing the edges of the box. “I know I’m asking a lot of you, but I need you to keep your mouth shut and just listen to me for a second. There’s a way for us to stop Esme—we think—but I need your help in order for it to work. And we don’t have time for questions. Esme’s probably going to show up any second so that she can take advantage of the fact that Buffy can’t really fight back. So listen to me, OK?”
In spite what the young people might think, Giles was more than a man of reason. He also had fairly good intuitive skills, and right now, his gut was telling him to do exactly what Willow said. He listened.
When she was done, he merely nodded.
Xander was crouched in front of the vending machine, pulling out the Snickers bar he’d just bought, when he heard Havi hiss beneath her breath just behind him. By the time he looked back to see what was wrong, she was marching in those long, purposeful strides of hers toward the far corridor.
“Hey!” he called out, but she didn’t stop, and he had to break into a jog to catch up. The others gave him a queer glance as he raced after Havi, but nobody rose to follow, leaving him to grab her elbow alone further down the hallway.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
She wasn’t looking at him, her entire body rigid as she pulled her arm away and pushed past. “I saw Esme,” Havi said tightly.
His brows shot up. “Here?”
It dawned on him then that this was the same hall the nurse had led Spike down when she’d come to take him to Buffy’s room. Xander broke into a dead run to chase after Havi.
He skidded as he rounded a corner, trying to stop when he saw Havi facing off with a tiny, elderly woman. Though the old lady looked harmless, his girlfriend’s furious sneer was enough to put Xander on the defensive, and he stepped up to place himself between them.
“Can we help you with something?” he asked brightly.
“Step away, Xander.” Havi’s hand clapped down on his shoulder, the force she exerted making him wince.
“Yes, Xander,” Esme mimicked. “Step away.”
Her mocking laughter made him wrench away from Havi’s hold, wagging a finger at the old witch. “Shut up,” he said. “Or I just might let her have a turn at you after all. You really don’t want to see her when she gets angry.”
Something flickered in Esme’s black eyes. “I can assure you that it’s nothing compared to what I can do when pushed too far,” she said evenly.
He never even saw her lift her hands. One second, he was standing in front of her. The next, his back was slamming into the wall and he was crumpling to the floor in pain.
Though Havi glanced in his direction, she didn’t move from her stand-off with the witch. “You will not get to Buffy,” she said to Esme. “You have created enough misery today for a lifetime. I will not let you hurt her even more.”
“I don’t want to hurt her, you foolish girl. I need her strong and healthy.”
“You tried to kill her child.”
“Yes, but that was merely a means to an end. Buffy was never in any true danger.”
Xander blinked against the bleariness of his vision. Hitting his head on the wall hadn’t helped, but he pushed back up to his feet anyway, fighting back the wave of dizziness that threatened to make him fall over again.
“Losing the baby would’ve destroyed Buffy,” he said.
Esme smiled. “Yes, well, we can’t have everything, now can we?”
When she tried to turn away, Havi leapt forward. Even with his blurry eyesight, Xander saw her fly across the ground in front of him, staying low enough to try and avoid any magical blast from Esme. She’d almost tackled the old woman when she suddenly crumpled to the floor.
This time, the witch laughed. “Please,” she said. “Do you really think I’d be so stupid to come in here without some sort of protection? There are reasons I’ve lived as long as I have, and taking unnecessary risk is not one of them.”
Havi didn’t answer. She was holding her shoulder awkwardly, and Xander realized she had dislocated it against whatever barrier Esme had up around her.
“I’ll be seeing Buffy now,” Esme said.
“I don’t think so.”
He had never been so glad to hear Willow’s voice before. Squinting, he looked past the old woman to see his best friend and a fuzzy Giles standing behind her. There was some kind of box in one of Giles’ hands and a big stick in the other.
“Buffy’s visitors are limited to friends and family,” Willow said when Esme turned around to look at her. “Sorry. You don’t qualify as either.”
He couldn’t see the witch’s face any more. He could, however, see the way she stood up straighter, the way her gnarled hands tensed at her sides. It took a long time for Esme to respond.
“This…is unexpected,” she said.
“Which part?” Willow asked. “Us showing up to stop you, or the fact that you can actually see what it is you’ve been wanting so badly for the past thirty years?”
Xander figured she had to be talking about the box, because the only other option was Giles and that would’ve just been wrong.
“My power wasn’t enough for you to usurp, little girl? Becoming a Guardian, though…well, I suppose if you imagined you could ever control what was never yours, you believe you can do this, as well.”
“I have the box, don’t I?” Willow smiled. “Only Guardians and those of Slayer blood could’ve retrieved it, and last I checked, Buffy and I weren’t related.”
“Where’s the scythe?”
“The scythe is not part of this deal,” Giles said.
Esme chuckled. “We have a deal, now?”
Stepping forward, Giles held the box up so that she could get a better look at it. “The Council is well aware that one of your goals has been to extend your life,” he said. “You fear death. You fear what comes after. But, right now, I am prepared to strike a bargain with you. I give you the eternal youth you seek, and you promise to disappear afterward. No harming Buffy, no harming her family or friends, no harming other Slayers. And if you attempt to do anything to harm anyone first, the offer becomes null and void.”
“You can offer me nothing, Watcher,” Esme sneered.
“Actually, he’s the only one who can.” Xander could practically hear the smile in Willow’s voice. “Only Council members can release the power within the box. Kidnapping Buffy would have only gotten you so far.”
“This is a trick.”
“No, it’s a last resort.” Stepping forward, Giles held out the box to the witch. Though Xander wanted to jump up and scream Don’t do it!, he knew that Giles and Willow wouldn’t be making the offer if they weren’t completely sure about the outcome.
“We can’t stop you,” Giles continued. “You’ve proven that your magic is beyond our ability to counter. I’m offering you this deal because I’m more interested in ensuring Buffy and her child’s futures than I am suffering the Council’s outdated tenets.”
Tentatively, Esme reached to take the box, her wrinkled fingers stroking the carved wood almost intimately. Even from where he was standing, Xander could hear her sharp intake of breath, and when he heard the soft murmuring quickly follow, he squeezed his eyes shut and braced himself for the worst.
Seconds passed. Nothing happened. The worst turned out to be kind of boring.
Peeking, Xander saw Esme turning the box over in her hands, as if she was looking for something. “It won’t open,” she hissed.
“It will,” Giles countered. “But only by the power of the Watcher’s word. Which, I believe, Willow already told you.”
“This is a foolish bargain you strike,” she said. “You have no guarantee that I will hold true to my promise. I could come after Buffy once the power is mine.”
“You could. But then you would have all the Guardians, and the Council, and every Slayer who might come after Buffy, hunting you down. Do you truly wish to spend an eternal youth looking over your shoulder?”
Stalemate. Even Xander could see that.
Esme slowly nodded. “Very well. You have a deal.”
Willow immediately retreated to the far end of the hallway. When she met Xander’s eye, he nodded and hustled forward to Havi. Slipping his arm around her waist, he helped her fall back to the opposite end of the corridor, putting as much distance between them and Esme as possible.
“Put the box down in front of you,” Giles instructed.
As soon as she had done so, he began slowly tapping the stick against the tiled floor, murmuring something under his breath in a language Xander didn’t recognize. Too quickly, the lid of the box opened, and black smoke began to plume along the edges, curling up into thin tendrils that twisted and climbed at the same pace as Giles’ tapping.
“Yes…” Esme breathed.
The air became charged, and the hair stood up on the back of Xander’s neck. At his side, Havi gripped his arm almost painfully, but she was as transfixed by the sight as he was.
The black smoke began to wind its way up the witch’s body, insinuating itself between her legs, around her hips, along her spine. When it reached her neck, her head fell back, her mouth open, and like a moth to a flame, the tendrils sped up, raced upward along her bared throat to begin disappearing past her lips.
The tapping never stopped. Never quickened. Never slowed.
A low keening began to come from the witch’s mouth, and Xander’s eyes widened as he saw her skin begin to turn ashy. Her cry grew louder with every breath, but as the air seemed to clog with the black smoke she consumed, her eyes snapped open, and her head lowered so that she could stare at Giles.
“You…” she said, but it came out barely intelligible, gurgled like she was talking underwater. Her muscles tensed, as if she was struggling against an unknown assailant, and her gnarled fingers turned into claws.
Giles didn’t look away. He continued to chant, continued to tap.
Xander could barely see Esme through the smoke that enveloped her. It coated her skin, found entry through every orifice it could find. Beneath it, her body began to change shape, but each form lasted only seconds before reverting back to that of the elderly woman.
Then, with a brilliant flash and a deafening crack, she was gone.
Neither Xander nor Havi moved as they stared at the closed box on the floor. A black stain surrounded it, like it was the center of an explosion, but the wood was completely unmarred.
The tapping stopped, and slowly, Giles stepped forward and crouched to examine the box more closely. Willow was at his shoulder by the time he picked it up, and he passed it over to her for her to examine.
Xander hadn’t realized he’d been holding his breath until Willow smiled. With Havi leaning heavily against him, they walked back to their friends.
“Sometimes I wonder why bad guys fall for the lie so easily,” he said. “You think they’d be a little bit smarter about getting stabbed in the back.”
“Actually, we didn’t lie,” Giles said.
At Xander’s blanch, Willow added, “Esme really did get the eternal youth she wanted. But we were pretty sure the demon wasn’t going to let her get away. She’s not a Slayer. It was probably pissed.”
“But…she’s in the box, right? This is one problem we can say sayonara to?”
He grinned and patted the closed lid. “Phenomenal cosmic power, itty bitty living space.” When Willow rolled her eyes, he shrugged. “Oh, c’mon. Don’t tell me weren’t thinking the same thing.”
“What will happen to Esme?” Havi asked.
Willow and Giles exchanged a guilty glance. “We’re not entirely sure,” she confessed. “Either she’s been merged with the demon, or it’s eating her soul for all eternity. Could go either way.”
“Well, personally, I’m pulling for the soul eating,” Xander said. “After what she did to Buffy’s baby, I think she’s due a little bit of karmic justice.”
“Spike will be disappointed he was not a part of this,” Havi said. “He wished to inflict as much harm upon Esme as she did upon the child.”
Giles nodded. “Understandable. But after everything he and Buffy have experienced today, they certainly didn’t need the stress of dealing with Esme as well. They deserve this opportunity to enjoy their new son in peace.”
“And if Spike gets really cranky about being left out,” Willow added with a bright smile, “I’ll let him kick the box around some. Being indestructible makes it an excellent object for stress relief.” She stopped, eyes widening as if only suddenly realizing something. “Schmoo’s a boy? What else did I miss?”
Smiling, Xander put his free arm over her shoulders as they headed back to the waiting room. “Oh, the tales I can tell…”
To be concluded in Chapter 61: A Glorious Morning Have I Seen…