Love Is All You Need... Or Is It?
When a conscience-less being exhibits a great propensity to love, is this a sign of his redemptive potential? To know, we must first determine the motivation of this love. If it is truly selfless
"Oh, that poor woman," Joyce said, and Buffy looked up from her book. Her mom was still mulling over the newspaper article about Professor Rousseau. "You know she has two grown kids in France? I wonder if they even know yet."
"Remember, she mighta been evil," Buffy said, refocusing on Angelic Demons. "Mighta been the mastermind behind this great kidnap caper from the get-go." Who loves truly selflessly? I don't.
"You don't really believe that, do you?"
"No," Buffy said, closing the book. "But if I believe anything else, her massacre is my fault."
"Oh, honey, no it's not! You're the victim here, someone is doing this to you, and--" Joyce stopped mid-tirade to sniff the air. "What are you eating?"
Busted, Buffy slowly offered up the small multicolored bag she had in her lap. "Gummy shark?"
"I told you I'd make you breakfast. I'm staying home to take care of you today, will you please take advantage of it?"
"This is breakfast. Gummy breakfast."
"But you're eating for two now. Think about the baby."
"Mom, unless the magick stops, I'll only be eating, sleeping and my personal favorite, dressing for two for a couple days more, max."
Sighing, she took a seat beside her daughter at the kitchen island. "It's so hard for me to wrap my mind around this."
"You're telling me," she said through a mouthful of gummy.
"I'm getting worried, Buffy. Aren't you worried?"
"I can't afford to worry. Either we find her, or she finds us."
"What if it's too late?"
"It won't be," she said, summoning her slayer bravado. "No one is getting anywhere near my baby. Come showdown, Evil's gonna find out it messed with the wrong mother."
She dug for another shark, but found the bag empty. "Aw, phooey."
* * *
Giles turned the old book in his hands. Every hour was precious now, he was better off translating the Babylonian tablet he'd received that afternoon -- if anything, it could shed some light on the caster of their bonding spell.
He heard a student meander into the library and took it as a sign. Stowing The Song of the Lilin into his desk -- perhaps he'd bring it home and browse it there -- he put on a librarian air and went out to the main room, where he was met with a curious sight.
"Good lord. What happened to you?"
* * *
"Okay - Spike?" Buffy clamped his evil hand between her thighs before it finger-walked any further. "The 'P' in PDA doesn't stand for 'parental'."
"So come upstairs with me," he murmured at her cleavage, obsessed with his newly discovered use for it, "and I'll show you what the 'D' stands for."
"While my boobs are, no doubt, dying of curiosity," she said, pulling his head away from them, "they're gonna have to wait. Mom is home to spend time with me. I can't just run off with my boyfriend for a quickie."
"She's on the phone." Maybe he could convince her to catch his load in her mouth this time, instead of all over her neck... "What's the harm if she doesn't notice us gone?"
"Mmn..." He'd somehow reopened her thighs and was now gently frigging her, which always served to switch her logic button off. "Well... Maybe just for a--"
"Buffy?" her mother called before rushing into the living room.
Buffy shoved Spike across the couch and smoothed out her dress. "What's up?"
Joyce handed her the phone. "I think it's Willow."
"Hello?" All Buffy heard was incoherent blubbering followed by a high-pitched wail. "...Willow?"
"Where are you? Are you at your dorm?" There was a possible positive, so Buffy told her to wait there and hung up. "Can you drop me off?"
"Of course," Joyce said. "I'll get our coats."
"What?" Spike, who'd been furtively sniffing his fingers while devising a Plan B, was confounded. "You're running to her rescue after the way she treated you?"
"It's called friendship, Spike. You should try it sometime."
"Friends are for single people who have nothing better to do."
"Wow. You must have had a giant funeral." At his smirk, she blew him a kiss. "I'll make it up to you."
As they scrambled off, he sighed, lay back on the couch and turned up Oprah.
* * *
Buffy found Willow face-down on her bed, shuddering with sobs. "Oh, Will..." She stroked her hair. "Thank god you're okay."
"I'm not okay," she sobbed, "I'm really not okay."
"I mean, no bodily harm. That's all I meant."
"I'm sorry... I know you hate me right now, but I didn't know who else to call..."
"I don't hate you, you hate me -- Wait, did someone do something to you? Because I will kill them."
"No... It's about," she heaved in a gulping breath, "Tara. And Oz."
"Oh my god. Tara and Oz?"
"No... Tara and me. Me and Tara."
Buffy stared at her friend's trembling back. "Huh?"
* * *
"And then he turned all wolfy, like totally on his own, and it's not even that time of the month. He could've killed her! And, and I don't even know where he is, and I'm worried, but... he wouldn't want to see me anyway, you know?"
"I'll make sure we find him. Don't worry."
"Thank you..." She broke into a new bout of sobs. "I love him so much, you know, but I'm in love with Tara."
Buffy was still trying to make sense of it all without appearing uptight.
"I've never felt this way about anyone before. And when we... you know..."
"You... you know'ed? You already you know'ed?"
"It was like, better than anything. ...It was perfect."
"But-- You two are magick-heavy. Maybe it was, you know, magick?"
"This was the regular kind of magic, Buffy. Without the k."
"Are you sure it's not just... I mean, maybe you just have more... common interests, or..."
"I'm sorry, I'm being dumb. C'mere."
As she reached up for a hug, Willow finally noticed her belly. "Oh my god, you're--"
"A Beluga with legs? Yeah. Baby-stealing skank put me on fast-forward again. But let's not talk about me."
"No, you're... this is huge! I mean, figuratively and literally, god you must be so scared!" She wiped her tears away. "I can't believe how pig-heady I was about you and Spike, I was just..."
Buffy hugged her close. "We are so bygones, Will."
* * *
"Oz, I understand your concerns, but I don't think staying locked in a cage for the rest of your life will solve anything. If you could tell me what brought it on..."
Still refusing to share, Oz sat on the floor of the book cage with his back to Giles, rocking to and fro.
Giles sighed. "Of course, you're welcome to stay the night if you'd like." He looked at his watch and thought, But do suppress your murderous impulses until my date is over.
Which suddenly wrought an idea: "Perhaps there's a positive implication. If the wolf can be evoked at will, mightn't it also be suppressed?"
Oz turned his head, considering the possibility.
* * *
Buffy walked briskly down the campus' exit path. Willow was a lesbian. Or, she thought she was... and Buffy wasn't handling it as well as she wanted to.
It wasn't the lesbianism... mostly. It was more that she thought she knew her friend better than that. Didn't she?
Well, she hadn't exactly been paying much attention since Spike came back. Or while Angel was around last year... or basically, any time her own problems eclipsed that of the world around her. Which was just about always.
But still, she felt somehow betrayed. She loved Oz. She wanted Willow to stay with him forever, and no one deserved to be hurt like this, least of all a stand-up guy like him.
Also, deep down, she'd always kinda thought that she'd be the first to experiment with a girl. It made sense -- it almost happened with Faith.
Buffy sighed. This wasn't about morality or competition. What was the real issue?
Was learning Willow's secret identity sort of like walking in on your hero doing her soulless vampire boyfriend in a sleazy public bathroom?
It was exactly like that, she realized, because no matter how it looked from the outside, Willow was only following her heart. And Buffy had become a firm believer in that cause.
She slowed, feeling the need to go back and share this revelation with her friend. But then there was a rustle in the leaves to her right that put her on alert: Oz?
"Miss? Excuse me, Miss?" A male voice from behind her. Yay, just what she didn't need, civilian intervention.
Turning on her heel, she saw Riley rushing toward her.
He stopped in his tracks, dumbfounded. "Buffy? ...I... I didn't recognize..."
"Oh," she said, realizing that he was gawking at her stomach. "Big baby. Had a growth spurt, kinda overnight." Another rustle. She had to get him out of there.
"Does... that even happen?"
She heard it again. "Look, I need to cut through these trees. I'll catch you later?"
"Wait--" he said, looking a little desperate. "You shouldn't be walking home alone."
"Believe me, I should."
"Hey," he blurted quickly, stopping her again, "How 'bout some coffee? Want some coffee? I could really go for some coffee right now."
Okay, now he was getting weird. "I need to get home."
"I beg you not to go that way."
Taking his frightened stare to mean that the vampire was right behind her, she pinched Riley in a strategic pressure point and let him crash to the ground before facing her opponent.
"Thanks," the vampire said. "You just made my night a lot easier."
"Try 'harder'," she said, whipping a stake out of her pocket.
The vampire did a double take. "You're the Slayer? Aren't you a little..." he gestured at her stomach, "fat?"
She gasped. "Fat?" Oh no he didn't! "I'm pregnant, you 'tard!"
"Ah, I kinda suspected, but you never want to assume, you know? Chicks are so sensitive about their problem areas."
"This has never been a problem area, okay? My thighs, maybe, but -- What the hell am I doing?"
Fielding her first swing, he said, "Should you be slaying this far along?" He swept her legs out from under her. "I mean, think about the baby."
"What is it with everyone today?" Amazingly, she was able to do a backwards flip into battle stance. "Look at me! How can I not think about the baby?"
During her ensuing barrage, the vampire noted, "Wow, that really doesn't slow you down, does it?"
"Nope," she said, just as surprised. Whether it was out of ire or protective adrenaline, Buffy was in tip-top form. "Eating for two, dressing for two," she pushed him against a tree, raised her stake and closed in on her target, "and slaying for two." Poof!
Oh, god, Riley! She looked to see him sitting up against a bench... Was that a CB radio in his hand? "Are you okay? That guy hit you and ran off."
Tucking his radio away, Riley rubbed the tender area of his skull that had broken his fall. "Maybe it's the mild concussion talking, but I could swear you just killed a vampire."
"Um..." When in doubt, play blonde. "Vampire? What?"
"Vicious bloodsucker that usually takes about four guys with a taser to snag... you obliterated with one little stick." He got excited. "You're part of the Initiative, aren't you? Some secret biogenetic weapon!"
"The Initiative? What the hell's the Initiative?"
"Uh," his eyes darted to the side, "never mind?"
After a figurative and literal pregnant pause, she asked, "Who are you?"
"Who am I? Who are you?"
"I take it you're not just a mild-mannered teacher's assistant."
"And you're not just a cute student. I mean, your strength, and your agile agility... I've never seen anyone move like that before. And I'm talking without the...!" He motioned at her midsection. "You just...!" He gesticulated wildly. "And then... poof!"
Arms crossed, she waited. "I asked you first."
He sighed. "Special Agent Riley Finn of the U.S. Armed Forces. And you?"
The army? What was the army doing on her turf? "Vampire Slayer Buffy Summers of the Sacred Duty."
"Would you, uh... would you mind running that one by me again?"
"Mystical destiny. I kill vampires. It's what I do. And obviously, I do pretty well. Why are you here?"
"Well, for one thing, I don't think we knew you were here. And for another... it's classified." He finally had the strength to get himself into a standing position. "I'd ask you if you were okay, but I'm probably in worse shape."
"Look, I've got it under control here, so you can take your taser gang back to Fort Dix--"
"I respect that you've got a system, but that's not really your call."
"I've kept the demon population down to tiny all on my own for over three years. How long have you been here? What have you accomplished?" Then she worried: "What do you want to accomplish?"
"I'm not at liberty to say." But somehow, she made him feel horribly guilty for trying to keep it from her. "We tag and study hostile subterrestrials, all right?"
"You study them? What for?" He was silent. "Let me guess. You follow orders, period."
"And I'm guessing you don't."
"That's right." What if the Initiative was behind her pregnancy? Or the demon pile-ups outside her house? Riley seemed guileless enough, but his superiors... "What can you tell me about this Initiative?"
"I've already told you too much," he said, clearly kicking himself, "If anybody found out..."
"People aren't supposed to know about me either." She looked him over. "You still want to get that coffee?"
* * *
"Not to worry," Giles told Buffy. "Oz is accounted for. A bit shaken, but none the worse for wear." He'd finally sent him on his way with a few books on Zen mastery and an old containment charm he had hanging in his office.
"Oh, thank god. Look, there's some big news I need to tell you, but later, 'kay?"
"Yes, well I do have that... dinner... meeting... this evening, so--"
"Ooh, I forgot about your date! Nothing's more important than that, Giles. Have a great time, and I'll call you tomorrow."
"Right. See you then." Giles hung up the phone, and picked up the Assyro-Babylonian translation he'd written out on a yellow pad.
WARRIOR 3 NOT HUMAN SAFE INFANT
"'Three inhuman warriors keep the baby safe'", he interpreted. "Bloody..."
Giles got up and grabbed The Song of the Lilin, turning the pages rapidly. "Three angels, three--" He found the passage he was looking for. "By god, this is the tablet."
* * *
Spike stopped in the middle of Main Street for another deep inhale. She was close.
There -- her voice, coming from the direction of the Espresso Pump. Closing in on the open-air cafe, he saw her sitting inside at a cozy table...
With a boy.
What the hell did she think she was doing?
Why were they so close and whispery?
Was that a giggle?
Oh, that was it. He was going in.
To announce his presence, Spike plucked a stir-straw from their centerpiece, pulled a chair from their table and sat with a defiant pelvic slouch.
"Spike!" Buffy said, overly cheerful, which only made him more suspicious. "What are you doing here?"
Did that look she was giving him say go away? Like hell he would!
He chewed on the straw, looking from her to him, him to her, waiting for either a rational explanation or an excuse to kill the bastard. Preferably the latter.
The lunk spoke, hand outstretched. "Hey, I'm Riley."
Spike didn't move a muscle. He just stared dangerously.
"I'm sorry," Buffy said. "This is Spike, my jealous boyfriend."
"Oh. It's very... awkward to meet you."
The nerve of this guy! The nerve of both of them! He felt Buffy's hand on his knee and jumped.
"Spike, it's not what you think. Keep your temper in check, okay?"
The word temper seemed to hold special significance. So she didn't want to scare Captain America away with a pair of sharp fangs, did she? All the more reason to do it.
She was putting on her jacket. "Thanks for the coffee, Riley."
"Anytime. I mean--" he looked at Spike, "Not any time..."
Before he could so much as flash a yellowy eye, Buffy yanked him out of his seat.
* * *
It couldn't be right. It couldn't be.
Giles stared at the passage he'd just translated.
THE DARK MOTHER OF ALL CREATION LAM ASH TU
It couldn't be... but it was.
"Lamashtu." The name seemed to leave his mouth as a curling mist, and at the last syllable the doorbell rang, nearly startling him out of his skin.
He checked his watch. "Blast!" Shoving the notes into drawers, he picked up the tablet and wrapped it in protective cloth. "Just a minute!"
What was he doing? Sanvi wasn't involved -- damn Spike for making him suspect. But alas, his first inclination was always to be better safe than sorry, so he quickly secured it in his best hiding place, checked his hair, and rushed to the door. "Coming!"
"Don't tell me you forgot about me."
"I, I, I," Giles stammered, entranced by the vision in blue standing in his doorway. "Sanvi, you look... absolutely stunning." He swallowed. "Like no time has passed..."
"...since our last night together?"
"Yes." It was no more than a whisper. "Oh, do... Do come in."
Lamashtu smiled. This would be easier than she thought.
* * *
Petulant, Buffy said, "Thanks a lot, Spike!"
His jaw dropped as she ambled on ahead of him. "Oh, excuse the flippin' hell out of me for ruining your date!"
"It wasn't a date, you dimwit! I was getting valuable information out of him."
"Information on what, the girth of his hard-on for you?"
"Uch! You're such a pig!" She cut between two parked cars and waited for a break in traffic.
"I'm a man," he said, waiting beside her. "I know what other men have on their minds."
"Yeah, project much?"
"Don't Psych 101 me--"
Buffy mumbled, "God, I'm treated like a pariah all day, but when I want to cross a damn street--" She addressed the one car that finally stopped for her, "Thank you!"
"He wants you alright." He kept up with her. "You just can't tell 'cause you're blinded by his cornfed good manners!"
"Spike, please." She turned to him once they'd found a quiet area. "You are the only man who thinks this body is sexy, and that's because you're a vampire with an all-things human fetish!"
"No, I'm a man with an all-things Buffy fetish. And I won't let some overgrown barn-bred frat boy -- who clearly has a saviour complex, if you want to get analytical -- try to take you away from me!"
She cracked a smile. An all-things Buffy fetish. He was so annoyingly adorable. "I can't be taken unless I want to go, Spike. Do I look like I want to be anywhere else?"
Anger diffusing, he drew in a breath, let it out slowly, touched her hair. "Better not."
She got on her tiptoes, kissed his lips, and whispered in his ear, "He's an agent in a top-secret faction of the army that conducts shady experiments on demons."
The government? Is that what happened to Rich Boy Arnie?
"Believe me, it's news to me too. I thought maybe they could've set up the pregnancy... but they don't deal in magick. They're strictly sci, no fi. When you came in, I was just about to get the location of their HQ."
He fished Riley's CB radio out of his pocket and pressed a button. "Would this help?"
With a gasp, she took it from him, fumbling to turn it off. "How did you get this?"
"Nicked it from his jacket."
"I don't believe you! You... pickpocket!"
"Well, couldn't kill him, had to do something."
"Did it have to be illegal?"
He wasn't sure how to answer that. "You do remember who I am, right?"
"Yeah, yeah." She tucked the radio back into his coat -- admittedly, his way was easier than sitting through another faux date. "I'll bring it to Willow tomorrow, maybe she can track down the base."
"In other words, and I want to hear you say this, I've stolen something useful."
"By sheer accident."
He touched her chin. "Close enough."
"You are so bad," she said, which always made him horny.
She took his hand, continuing to face him as she backed up and pulled him down the street.
He rubbed her hand softly, teasingly. "Where are you taking me?"
"Home," she said with a sensual toss of her hair. "I wanna hear more about this fetish of yours."
"If you're taking me home," he pressed, eyes flirting with hers, "why are we headed toward that alley?"
She shrugged. "Short cut?"
"Could turn out a bit longer than you think," he teased.
"Much longer than I thought," she said with a wink, stepping up on a curb.
He gasped, gave her a reproachful look, and dropped the act. "You say the sweetest things, baby."
Sexual energy crackling between them, Buffy said, "There is nothing sweet about what I'm gonna do to you."
Before he could convey his acute state of turned on, the light flickered behind her, and with mounting dread Spike noticed something terrible emerging from the dark alley they were supposed to make not-sweet love in.
"Well, speak of the saviour complex," he breathed, and Buffy turned her head.
He came fully into view, and Spike spoke first.
"If it isn't Mr. Tall, Dark and Unwelcome."
Buffy opened her mouth, but no words came out.