Dark And Stormy Night

//It was a dark and stormy night. No, seriously, it was. Sunnydale was in the middle of the worst storm it had seen in nearly a century the night it happened. Maybe the storm made everyone a little crazier; or maybe when the power went out and everyone found out how many people had a spell to make light, it made people a little desperate. It doesn't really matter though, because nothing will change what happened or the love I have for this child.//

"Oi! Demon bait, shouldn't you be sleepin'?" a familiar voice called from the hallway.

"Yay," I called back. "I want pizza, a twinkie, and a soda."

"Thought you'd given up on the strange food," Spike said as he walked to the doorway.

"Those are the three cravings I've had for the last six months," I said stiffly. "Either give me the phone and go find me a twinkie, or go get me all three because if I have to get out of this bed *someone's* gonna pay for it," I said firmly as I put up my journal.

"Yeah, you," Spike snorted. "Doctor said you couldn't move."

"Then either you go to the store while I call for a pizza or..."

"Or what? No cash in the house," Spike reminded. "Haven't worked in a while, mate, not been any money comin' in. Sound familiar?" I glared at him. "All right, I'll go announce that you're ready to be courted then, maybe the git'll give you some dosh." He stormed out, slamming the door, which, of course, woke the baby.

I rolled next to him, shushing him while I checked practical matters. Nope, dry diaper. Just cranky. Eventually he went back to sleep, just in time for everyone to run in and wake him back up.

And I sat there, in my bed with my recent surgical scars, and laughed. I'd won the bet. The Hellmouth had already gotten the baby.


Buffy was the first one awake and she angrily stomped over to see what had zapped her. "That's a baby," she said after seeing it. I nodded. "No, a human baby, no wiggy feelings from it at all. Xander, why do you have a baby?"

"Because he had it," Spike said with supreme snarkiness. "Think you would've noticed the great bloody whale he became there for a few months. If you had been around that is." Buffy glared at him instead of my son, which was good, I didn't want to have to slap her so soon. "Doctor took 'im out yesterday."

She snorted. "Men don't have kids," she said between laughs.

So I pulled up my shirt to show off my most recent incision. "And the epidural wore off," I told her, enjoying her shock. I heard a groan from Willow so I picked up my son and showed him the other two women. "Look, it's the women whose spell started you off," I said mock-cheerfully.

"Huh?" Willow asked as she sat up. "Xander, that's a baby."

"Duh, Will, Buffy already made that point."

"Why do you have a baby?"

"Well, lets see. Do you remember a *really* big storm almost ten months ago?" She slowly nodded. "And the spell you did to give us all light?" Her worry eased and she nodded again. "Your translation sucks. We didn't get any light that night. We got stomach-ripping pain. Then we got sick and huge and even bloated. And finally, *finally* Spike told me what happened," I finished in the same mock-cheerful tone. "That would've been the same night he took me to the ER because I was bleeding internally."

"Whoa," Buffy said, moving between us so she could get away from me. "I got light that night."

"You were in the same house as them," I reminded her patiently. "They probably did a second spell for your house."

Giles cleared his throat from his place on the floor. "Xander, please. We simply want to understand. There's no need for the attitude."

Spike laughed. "So, you did wonder where he'd been for the last five months then?" He laughed even harder when the Watcher's face fell. "Oh, yeah, fancy that. They thought you were still there." He pointed at the baby. "Put 'im down, he needs to rest."

"Why do you care?" Buffy snapped.

"Because I found 'im bleedin' in an alleyway, girl." He moved away from the wall, pointing down at me. "I called *everywhere* lookin' for you lot. Even talked to Dawn once or twice, but no one else showed up in the six weeks he was at the hospital." Buffy opened her mouth, but he cut her off. "And don't even try to blame it on the little bit either. I left messages on all your machines and tried every other number too. Bloody 'ell, I even got Farm Boy once and he showed up when he got back in town. And then when I finally found you and told you, you laughed," he reminded her. "Said it was something only Xander could get into and that you wished him luck with his delusion."

"Calm down," I said quietly. "He's still attuned to your emotions."

Spike flopped down beside me and took the baby, growling at Willow when she started to move closer. "Sod off, witch, you're not touchin' him!"

"I just wanted to see," Willow said, nearly pouting. "Xander, you can't really think I did this, can you?" I nodded. "But I'd never hurt you."

"Nah, you just didn't notice he was gone for nearly six months," Spike snorted.

"Willow," I said calmly, "I had someone check the spell to see if the baby would survive once it was born."

"Guess who they named?" Spike offered, sounding mean but happy.

"Me?" she squeaked.

"Technically the most powerful witch on the Hellmouth, one who's tapped into it before."

She started to cry and Buffy turned her glare on me. "Did you have to hurt her?" she demanded loudly.

"I nearly died six times the night Spike found me," I said coldly, making her recoil. "A few tears is *nothing* in the penance she should pay."

Giles cleared his throat. "You're fine now?" he asked me calmly.

"Besides a very sore stomach, and an intense craving for a few things I haven't had in months, mostly. My boss is willing to take me back. I had enough saved that I'm only a month behind on the rent. There are a few little practicalities to consider until I can start working in a week, but we'll manage."

"We?" Buffy asked. "You're keeping him?"

"Well, they can't put him back where he came from, Buffy," I noted dryly. Her glare turned more toward a pout. "Yes, I had him, I suffered for him, the least I can do is keep him."

Tara stood up and walked over. "Can I see?"

Spike nodded and handed him over. "I know you don't live to make trouble. Warlock said whomever did this had strife in mind when she cast the spell. And, Red, 'life' and 'light' are two *different* words." She glared at him, then huffed and crossed her arms.

"You still haven't shown any proof that she did it," Buffy pointed out. "There's more than one witch in town."

"Open my top drawer and take out the wooden box," I told her. Buffy did so and handed it off to Giles. "It'll flash when the caster touches it."

Giles opened the box, taking out the simple piece of metal, wincing and tossing it away as it flashed. Willow picked it up and it flashed again, brighter this time.

"Oh, forgot. Warlock said there was stolen power in it too. He said it'd flash a bit when it found them that it came from," Spike said helpfully.

"Like I'm going to trust magic," Buffy told him snidely. "Xander, if you're the mommy, who's the daddy?"

"The witch," Spike growled. Tara handed the baby, taking the piece of metal for herself. It didn't flash at all. "Hmm," Spike said, looking down at the little boy.

"You can babysit if you want, Tara," I offered with a faint grin.

"Xander, you can't keep this child. You're not prepared," Giles ordered.

"Yay," I said dryly. "Happens every day in this country. There are *ten* year olds with kids, Giles, I'm sure I can at least do better than them." I looked down at my son, then over at Giles and Willow. "So, both of your powers are in there. Something you wanted to share with the group?"

Willow glared at Buffy. "I've heard enough. Tara?"

"No," she said simply.

"What?" Buffy shrieked.

"No. We'll have the baby retested," she told them, staring at her girlfriend.

"Nearly killed 'im the last time," Spike told her gently.

"He's stronger now," I said, sharing a look with Spike, the one who had sat with me since the night he found me. He had even taken care of all the demons that had tried to come after me while I was in the hospital. We'd become...friends since that night. "We'll get an independent retest as long as it won't hurt him." I grinned. "You can even call your Sire for help finding someone. I'm sure this'll make his century."

"I'll find someone," Giles said grimly as he stared at the baby trying to nuzzle the vampire's chest.

"Spike, bottle," I sighed. I got my son back and my friend went to make a bottle for him. "I said independent, Giles, not a friend of yours. We'll let someone else pick them and most of us at least partially trust Angel."

"All right," he agreed, after thinking for a moment. He looked at Willow, who looked pissed.

"How are you affording to feed him?" Buffy asked, moving a little closer. "You said you were broke."

"I am, but the hospital's social worker heard that fact and sent him home with birthday presents." I nodded at the large bag in the corner. "A few clothes, some diapers, and a can of formula mix with two bottles. They were all donated for people like us, who need a little bit of help."

"There's always WIC," Tara said gently, laying a hand on my arm. "They pay for formula, but not diapers for some reason."

I nodded. "I've got an appointment with someone from them tomorrow." I shifted over, letting her look down at the handsome little pudgy face of the baby. "Would you like to burp him?"

She laughed. "No thanks. Next time." She kissed me on the cheek. "You rest. We'll call Angel."

Spike walked in with a bottle and the phone. "Here," he said, handing it to her. "He's up by now." He watched as I tested the formula, smiling as the baby gulped it down. "Knew he was a Harris. Eats like one of your Uncles."

I laughed. "Don't curse him with my family," I said, shaking my head at my son. "No, you're not going to be like them at all. Hopefully, you'll be smart and be well appreciated when you're in school, and then you'll go to college and get a degree that makes you lots of money."

Buffy sat on the edge of the bed, watching him eat. "Xander, I'm sorry I was a butt," she said quietly.

"That's nice," I sighed, looking over at her. "Buffy, you made fun of me over something I had no control over."

"Magical rape," Tara said quietly, looking at the phone. "What's the number?"

"I know it," Buffy said, taking the phone and dialing it for her. "Cordy? No, it's Buffy. I need Angel's help. No, I need his contacts, not to have him run up here." She looked at Spike, who grimaced at that suggestion. "Though I think, someone's going to be getting a long explanation. Is he out yet?" She smiled. "Thanks." She pulled her legs up under her, watching the baby eat while she waited. "Hey, Angel. I need you to find someone independent to test a baby's magical beginnings for me. Yeah, I said beginnings. No, not like a fertility spell. More like magical rape according to one of our witches." She smiled. "No, not Willow. Xander. And Spike's helping take care of him." She looked up at me. "I think he passed out, but before he did, he wanted to know the baby's name."

"We haven't picked it out yet," I said with a shrug. "I'm still arguing with fussy over there," I pointed my elbow at Spike. "He wants to name him something British and I refuse to have a kid named Herbert."

"It's a perfectly good name," Spike said with a grin. "Upstanding and all that."

"It's a nerdly name," I argued. "No Herbert's. I ate a pig named Herbert, my son will not remind me of it."

Giles coughed, starting to warm to the situation. And the baby. "There are better British names than Herbert if you'd like some help naming him," he suggested. "I could run by the library tomorrow and check out a book on baby names for you."

"Thanks," I said with a grin. "We could use that. We had one somewhere but I think one of the demons ate it when he came for me."

"It ate a book?" Buffy asked. She listened to the voice yelling on the other end of the phone. "Wes? Why are you in LA?" She laughed. "Okay, not a big. No, we need someone to test the magical origins of a baby boy. Because we've had one and it confirmed..." She looked at me. "Stolen magic?"

I took the phone, nestling it between my head and shoulder. "Wes, it's Xander. We had an independent test done and it showed stolen magic, but the Warlock said the spell came from the most powerful witch on the Hellmouth. No, the talisman flashed on both Giles and Willow, we need a definite answer here." I looked down. "Yeah, it's really important. I need this, Wes. Can you and Angel find someone for us?" I nodded. "Yeah, send him to the Magic Box, Giles runs it. We'll be there in a few days." I hung up. "Two days he said. He thinks he knows someone who can do that." I looked at Willow. "You will be there," I said calmly. She tapped her foot. "Giles?"

"I'll make sure we're all there," he said soothingly. He reached out, but his hand stopped short of touching the light brown hair on the little head. "May I?"

"As long as you don't hurt him," Spike warned.

Giles nodded, sparing a glance for him, then touched the soft, downy hair. "So very tiny."

"They were amazed, I went two weeks past my due date and didn't die."

"Why didn't you have it taken care of it was killing you?" Buffy asked.

"They tried," I told her simply, shrugging at her shocked look. "They tried twice using some sort of shot after I recovered from my surgeries for bleeding. It didn't work." I looked up at Giles. "They don't know why. No uterus, no ovaries, but a little baby nestled in my abdominal muscles that wouldn't go away and couldn't be found when they had to go in and fix my bleeding problems. And trust me, the doctor looked really hard for him while he was playing in my guts all three times."

Giles swallowed. "We'll get to the root of this," he promised, staring me in the eyes. "I swear." He looked around. "Is there anything you need that we can get for you tonight?"

"A twinkie, a soda, and a pizza," I said slowly and clearly.

"And some more diapers," Spike added. "The little creature's almost out of what they sent home with us. Goes through them like I do people." He grinned at Buffy's discomfited fidgeting. "Want to help with that too?" he asked her.

"Eww," she said, standing up and moving away from us, apparently afraid that diapers were catching. "I can take care of the twinkie and soda, I've got both in my car for studying. Be right back."

"I'll spring for a pizza," Giles said, giving me a smile, "and for some diapers. What does he use?" Spike walked over to the bag and tossed him the nearly empty sack of diapers. "I see. I'll run out and get some for you. Plain pizza?"

"That'd be great," I said warmly, more than wanting to give him a hug at that moment. Spike laughed at the look on my face. "What?"

"You were givin' him moon eyes," he snorted, heading out to the kitchen.

Giles shook his head. "Don't worry, I know what it's like to be deprived of something you depend on in your life. I once spent a whole month and a half without tea. Made myself sick when I finally got some." He hurried out to do his appointed chores.

Tara leaned against my shoulder. "I'll let him eat on me," she offered, then she blushed. "I mean, I'll feed him so you can lay down."

"Thanks," I said, gratefully handing him over. "My stomach *aches*." I plumped up my pillows and leaned back against them, stretching my stomach muscles as far as I dared, then relaxing them. "Ah, better now," I noted, wigging into the blankets. I guess I must have fallen asleep because when I opened my eyes, Spike was opening a new bag of diapers and everyone else appeared to be gone. "How long?" I said through my yawn.

"Few hours. You needed it." He handed over the baby, going to toss away the disgusting smelling diaper before it infected the house. He came back with a glass of soda. "The blonde had a two-liter and she handed it over with a twinkie and a ho-ho," he said gruffly. "Watcher found a place with a two-for-ten special, so you've got two now."

I grinned. "Thanks, Spike, for being here." He waved it off. "Do you think Angel's coming up too?"

"Oh, I've no doubt," he said lightly. "He called back while you were down. Said he wanted to *talk* to me." I laughed at the sour look on his face. "What?"

"We can get him to burp the baby," I said cheerfully.

My son spit up on me, proving my point that babies could be more gross than any demon. And Spike laughed at my grimace.


I walked into the Magic Box carrying my son, Spike right behind me. He made sure I sat down with a good amount of space between me, the door, and Willow. "Where's Angel?" I asked Giles, who had come over to greet the little one.

"He's on his way, called about an hour ago saying he was leaving home." He smiled and made cooing noises at my son. "My, you've gotten more flesh-colored instead of red," he complimented.

"The nurses at the hospital said that it'd take about a week for him to look like a little human," I told him. I carefully held him out. "Take him for a few?"

"Of course." He pulled a chair over, sitting down in sight. "How are we this evening?" he asked lightly.

"We're naughty," Spike told him. "Wants to stay up all night, he does. Keeps my hours with me."

"You're not taking him out of the apartment," I reminded him. "He's not old enough to go beat up demons yet."

"No, he's far from old enough to be anywhere near a fight," Giles chastised the vampire. The door opened and he smiled as Buffy walked in. "They're early."

"So I see." She handed over a small bag. "For him." Then she walked away.

I looked down inside it, smiling at the little card. "Thanks, Buffy," I called after her.

"Presents are customary," Tara said as she walked over, looking over Giles' shoulder. "You're very handsome," she said quietly.

"He gets it from me," Spike said with a grin. I hit him on the arm. "He does, he got it while I rubbed your bloody great stomach," he insisted, but he moved out of hitting range.

"As long as he doesn't do to his hair what you do to yours," I teased. "Giles, have you ever watched his hair dying ritual?"

"Yes, I have," Giles said, frowning at Spike. "He left a mess in my bathroom the last time I had him." He looked down in shock as the baby belched. "Oh, dear, was that you?"

"Yup, that was him," I said, pulling a spit-up cloth out of my pocket and handing it over. "Here, you'll need it soon." Just then, the baby finished throwing up on him. "Happens every time."

Giles carefully wiped off the former formula, putting the cloth down beside him. "There we are, clean again." He looked up to see both the vampire and Xander silently counting. "What?" he asked, trying to not sound scared.

Xander nodded at his son's middle. "Spike, bag," he demanded, and it was handed to Giles.

"Ah." Giles looked around, smiling at Tara and bringing her running back to them. "Do go change him for us, dear."

She laughed and smiled. "Sure. I want to be a good auntie." She carried the baby over to the research table.

"You might want to put something under him," Spike told her, not moving any closer.

"Eww, it's *green*!" Buffy shouted, moving away from the baby. "Xander!"

"Now you know why we offer to let selected people change him for us," I said happily. I still hadn't forgiven her, but I was looking forward to the baby tossing all over her shirtless back. A little torture, spread out over a long time, worked as punishment for me.

"Xander, it doesn't want to come off," Tara said helplessly.

Spike groaned and went over to help her. "Hoped you'd be doing this tonight." He took another wipe and rubbed at the tender flesh. "Stuff sticks like tape," he muttered, going for another one.

"Dawn," Giles called. "Please bring them a washcloth." His mouth fell open as a perfect arc of light-colored liquid shot off the table. "Oh, dear," he said, getting up to go get a mop, both people had managed to get out of the way.

"Wow, good aim, he almost got Spike," Buffy said, staying *far* away from the baby until it had a diaper back on.

I laughed, holding onto my stomach so it would quit hurting. Which is how the LA group found us. "Hey, Deadboy, go worship at the altar of cuteness that is my son," I offered.

Cordy bounced over, three well-wrapped presents in her arms. "Hey," she said, kissing me on the cheek as she handed them over. "How are you?"

"Sore stomach, but I'm dealing," I said happily. I leaned closer. "He just tried to pee on them."

She laughed. "That's so cute. You need a camera to capture such things." She patted the presents. "Two are for him and one's a mommy gift, but I didn't think you'd mind." She hopped up and walked over to look down at the child. "Hey, you." She took over cleaning duties, getting everything off the tiny bottom and flawlessly hitching the diaper. "There, how's that?" she asked, picking him up to hold him. "And what's your name?"

"We haven't decided yet," Spike said, looking at her. "When'd you get kids?"

"I have one," Angel said quietly. "He's being babysat by the rest of our group." He looked around, sidestepping the mess on the floor to go talk to Giles, smoothly ignoring the shocked looks. "Is it really Harris'?"

"Yes, I'm afraid it is," he said quietly. "He's got the surgical marks to prove it." He took off his glasses to clean them. "That and he said Spike took care of him through all this. We had no idea I'm afraid, we didn't believe Spike when he tried to tell us." He looked down at his helpless glasses, then decided to put them back on. "Angel, did you find someone?"

"Yeah, but he refused to travel with me." He turned to look at the baby. "Harris is keeping him?"

"Yes, he's determined."

"He's a great dad, I bet," Dawn said as she came over to Giles' side. "Anything we can do to help setup?" She handed over the mop she had just used back in the shelves. "Here, I don't do bodily fluids, no matter how cute it was when it came out."

Giles frowned but he went over to clean up the mess, getting some help from Tara with cleaning the table too.

I sat back and waited. This would all come to a head soon enough and I'd have to act then, better to save up energy for it. A green man in a loud suit walked through the door, carrying a small box. "Hey," I said, waving. "The rest of Angel's crew?"

"Sort of," he said happily, putting the box on the table. "Here you go," he said, stepping away. I waved him over so he came and sat beside me. "Lorne," he said, holding out a hand.

"Xander," I said, shaking it. "That's my son, soon to be named."

"Angel told me something about that. You okay, kid?"

"More or less. I got over the freak-worthy stuff pretty quickly while I was in the hospital. The nurses were great about helping with that." I shifted, getting more comfortable. "I just wish my stomach would quit aching and itching."

"Aloe gel," Cordy called. "It should stop some of that and it's all natural. Works all the time when I need stitches." She handed the baby off to Angel, who had come over to look down at the box. Then she opened the box, letting the little man inside it out. "We need to know the origins of the baby," she told him.

"It's a baby, it came from sex," he said dryly.

"Wrong," I said, standing up and walking over. "No sex, not in a *very* long time."

The little man looked at me, then at the baby, then nodded. "Then we'll do this the hard way. Lay him down in front of me." He reached into the box and pulled out a long pin.

"Whoa!" I said, grabbing it. "Not a chance you're hurting the kid."

"I just need a drop of blood," he explained, carefully taking the pin back. "I won't hurt him." I watched as he pulled out a small bronze plate and a candle, which lit itself. Then he stuck the baby on the heel, getting little drops of blood for the plate. They were heated over the candle, and he stared into the boiling puddle. "A witch," he said finally. "A very powerful witch, one connected with the Hellmouth." We all nodded.

"Can you tell which one?" Cordy asked. "In case you hadn't noticed, this *is* the Hellmouth and there are lots of witches around here."

The little man gathered up the rest of the blood onto a piece of white cloth and tossed it into the flames. Giles moaned and Willow shrieked. "That's the witch," he said, pointing at her. He stared down Buffy, who was looking uncomfortable. "She's stolen power and energy off others, they're feeling it now too." He packed up his box and hopped up on top of it, looking over at me. "Are you prepared to raise this child?"

"I am," I said simply. "I got used to the idea when we couldn't get rid of him to save my life." The little man frowned. "I was bleeding so badly that I got sixteen pints of blood over the course of a week and a half," I explained. "They went into my intestines three different times to fix the bleeding. They never could find the baby when they were in there looking. Everyone agreed it would be best if I didn't have him and I agreed with them." I took Spike's hand. "They did try, but nothing ever touched him apparently."

The little man nodded. "I figured as much. This was a powerful spell, drawn directly from the chaos that is the Hellmouth's energy. Are you willing to raise the child without harm for its origins?"

I nodded. "I came to grips with that while I was in the hospital. It's not his fault." The baby was handed back to me. "Thank you."

"Don't worry, he'll be fine," the little man told Angel. "He's got a way to protect himself and two parents that want to protect him." He hopped down off his box and looked around at the group. "This sort of spell can only be woven by the most high of the chaos people." He glanced at Willow. "I have no idea why you're working with her."

"She's recently turned," Tara said, staring over at Willow. "She wasn't always a chaos witch."

"Well, now she is," he said firmly. "And this child needs to eat." He patted my son on the leg. "Take good care of him, it's a long road before they're adults." He looked up at Angel. "Did I need to do anything else?"

"No," Angel said, giving him a smile. "Want a ride home?"

"Nah, I've got a friend in town I've been meaning to visit. I'll be back in town in a few weeks." He climbed into his box and it spun a few times, seeming to disappear into the wood of the table.

Lorne got up and walked over, looking down at the baby. "Hum something," he suggested lightly.

"Huh?" Buffy asked, breaking the staring at Willow she had been doing.

"The Powers gave me the gift of seeing into people's futures when they sing or hum," he explained.

"Must be handy," I noted. "What do you do?"

"I run a karaoke bar." He glanced at Angel. "Or I did before someone brought a fight there and it got blown up."

I laughed. "Angel sings?"

Spike snickered at that too. "Too funny probably," he said, patting the baby on the head. "Sing for the man and we'll go get you a bottle."

I hummed a lullaby, something I had needed to learn, if only to preserve my sanity when the baby wouldn't sleep. Lorne smiled and nodded. "Good things?"

"Very. Perfectly normal from what I could see. Which was up until high school. After that, I saw a few diverging paths." He patted the baby. "He'll be fine." He looked at Angel. "Need me for anything else?"

"No. Thank you, Lorne," he said, smiling at him as he left them alone. "Harris, I won't lie to you, taking care of a baby is hard."

"Like you'd know," Spike snorted.

"Oh, he's very hands-on with Connor," Cordy told him. "It was a miracle Wes and Gunn got to babysit tonight." She wiggled her fingers and smiled at my son. "You be good for the daddy or else I'll only get you *two* presents for your next birthday."

I grinned. Trust Cordy to come up with a good incentive for good behavior that might work with any child of mine. "You're invited for his first birthday party," I told her. "We'll work on getting embarrassing pictures before then."

"Cool." She tugged on Angel's arm. "Coming? And I'm still driving."

"Not even," he told her, glaring mildly down at her. "I am not riding in a car with you driving." He looked at his childe, who was watching the baby intensely. "I'll be there in a minute," he said, grabbing Spike and dragging him outside for a discussion. Or a spanking. Or whatever sires and their children did in alleyways when they were being good.

Cordy shrugged and hugged everyone but Willow, heading out to wait in the car, Lorne following her.

I sat on the edge of the table, the baby carefully nestled in my arms. "Okay, now what do we do?" I asked.

Giles glanced at Willow, then looked down at the baby. "Why don't you feed him and open your presents? Cordelia always did give thoughtful gifts." I glanced at Willow and he nodded. "We'll figure out where we go from there, Xander," he assured me, patting me on the shoulder. "How is your stomach?"

"The internal stitches itch. The staples seem to be pulling the skin. Oh, and I went to see my boss today. He's willing to put me on clean-up duty until I'm more steady. He, and most everyone, know that I had internal bleeding, but they also know that the baby is mine. That my *girlfriend* had him at home and then ran away when it hit her what sort of responsibility a baby was."

Buffy nodded. "I can stick to that lie." She looked at Tara. "Come on, let's go fix a bottle. I guess I should learn how." They grabbed the diaper bag and headed into the small kitchen area that Giles had finally installed.

Xander slid off the table, heading over to a couch. He yawned as he sat down, cuddling his surprisingly unfussy son. "Hey, how are you?" I asked him quietly. "You're not being noisy like usual. Not feeling good?" He yawned and waved his arms, making little sucking noises. "Ah, you're sleepy," I said with a gentle smile. "Good, we like it when you're sleepy." I looked at the big window, where I could barely see the edge of Spike's back. Then I smiled at Tara as she brought over the bottle. "Thanks." I tested it on the back of my hand then stuck it in the open mouth. The baby started to suck as fast as he could, his eyes drooping closed. "He's a happy eater," I told her.

"So we can see." She took the baby and settled herself in. "Go find Spike." I forced myself to stand up and go out to help Spike harass his sire. "Hey," I said, interrupting Angel's baby care lecture. "Don't worry, he got a lot of that from the nurses. The hospital offers a three-hour lecture on baby care." I patted Spike's back. "He only fell asleep twice."

Angel gave me a slight smile. "I'm sure you'll do just fine with him, Xander. He seems to be a very sweet baby."

"How did you get one anyway?" I asked.

"Darla had him. He's fully human but she died in the birth. It was a massive spell and prophecy."

"Wasn't she already dead?" I asked, looking unsure.

"Until she was raised," Spike agreed, nudging me. "Don't worry, she won't be coming back. She and Dru both died."

"Oh. I'm, um, sorry," I told my friend. He shrugged. "Oh, and where do you go to find the cheapest diapers, Deadboy?"

"Walmart," he said in his best 'knowing' voice. "Salvation Army and other thrift shops for the basics of clothes, because they don't care as much as Cordy does. Special outfits from Sears so far." He shrugged. "There's tons of places. And the generic are usually just as good for diapers. Connor doesn't like generic formula though."

I nodded. "We don't have that problem yet. So far he's only had Gerber." I glanced back in the store. "What about Willow? What should I be worrying about?"

"That she'll try something," Spike said, returning to his serious mood.

"Willow's turning is proved by that child, Xander. If she wants to make everyone forget, she'll have to do something to him. I would if I were her." I nodded. "Just watch him. And watch him too," Angel said, pointing at Spike. "He's never seen a baby before."

"Seen one now, haven't I?" Spike said flippantly. "Take good care of him too, I do."

"Yeah, you do," I said with a grin. "You took very good care of me too. Angel, he was wonderful when I was so sick." I left them alone, going back to watch my son, my worst fears confirmed. I sat down beside Tara and watched as my son spit out his bottle and tried to breast feed, apparently not the first time by the wet mouth-prints on her shirt. "Gee, I think he thinks he's in love," I said dryly, taking him back. I stuck the bottle in his mouth, looking down at him. "Don't harass the aunties, son, they'll make you wear horrible clothes."

Spike walked in, smiling at the wet spots on Tara's shirt. "Guess he has a thing for blonds."

I snickered. "He'll start appreciating women of other hair colors soon enough," I said, smiling at him. Spike made me happy, no matter how rotten I was feeling, knowing that I was protected by him was a good feeling to me. "Want to go home?"

"Xander, may I see the baby?" Willow asked.

"No." I stood up, handing the baby off to Spike so I could grab the bag and the presents. "No, Willow, you may never see my son. I want you to stay *far* away from him." My voice had been emotionless, I know, but it was how I felt. After all her spell had put me through and she had the balls to come over and look so innocent? "Giles, call if you need me for anything. Feel free to drop by and call him cute and stuff." I followed Spike out, letting him put us into his car. Mine had been sold around my seventh month for money. "Are we safe?" I asked as he got in to drive.

"No. Probably not for a while yet." He started the engine and headed off toward our apartment. "Angel gave me a spell to ward the apartment from any magic going on in it," he said quietly before we pulled up.

"Cool. Need my help?"

"Nah, mojo runs in my line, even if I don't usually use it." He watched me get out and grab the stuff. "I'll be back, gotta get some stuff from Rupes." He peeled off, his tires loud in the silent night.

"See, I knew we could trust him with you," I told my son as I carried him up to our apartment. I did notice the vampire standing beside the stairs, but I ignored him. He was dating someone in the building and we weren't recognizing each other. At least he was nice and helped me get the door open. "Thanks," I said with a smile. "We just met Uncle Angelus. Now we need a nap." I headed up to our apartment, leaving the stunned vampire standing there. Hey, it never hurt to drop a name as powerful as that one, it would be a little more protection for the baby. And if something happened to Spike and I, well someone would probably get word back to Angel. Angel was a parent, he'd understand. I unlocked my door and stepped inside, smiling at the familiar comfort. I had closed the door when it was knocked on so I opened it, nodding at my building's manager. "Hey, I know I owe you a month of rent, but I'm starting work again next week, man. Please? Just two more weeks?" I asked the gruff-looking man.

"Not the issue," he said, nodding at the baby. "That yours?"

"My girlfriend had him and then took off on us. She left the day I got home from the hospital this last time."

"I see." He glanced around. "Where's he sleep?"

"My bedroom. Want to come see?"

The manager nodded and walked in, checking around the apartment. He stopped when he saw the small pile of baby clothes on the bed, turning to look at me. "You're keeping him?"

"He's mine," I said simply.

"I see. I could be mean and raise your rent, after all, you did sign a lease that said a single occupant and I know you have a friend living with you beside him." He pointed at the baby. "You sure you want to keep him, kid? Babies are big responsibilities."

"I know. I've figured that part out for myself. He doesn't ever want to sleep unless someone else is here with us. He goes through so many diapers it's amazing. He eats like a horse and he belches like a drunk." I smiled. "But he's my son."

"All right. Just see that you start working off the back rent sometime soon. And get him some of those little footie jammies. They're good for daily wear." He left, closing the door gently behind him.

"Wow," I said as I set the baby on the bed. "That was really nice of him. He could have been really mean to the daddy, yes he could have," I said as I laid down beside him. I remembered the presents and went out to get them, coming in to open them next to him. He wasn't getting out of my sight until Spike got back. In the first box I found a stomach/back carrier. "Oh, this'll be handy for when we go take walks," I said, brushing some of his hair around. "You're chilly." I covered him with my blanket and opened the next one, keeping an eye on him. He belched again and I quickly found a cloth to wipe him clean. "There we go. Let's see what else Auntie Cordy bought you." I opened the second box and found a large diaper bag, already filled with some diapers and some clothes. "Wow, she really does know you." I put it aside and opened the last one, smiling at the book on baby care. "And she knows me too," I said, laying down to start reading it. "Oh, you're going to get teeth in a few months," I said, not really understanding what that meant at that time. I would soon learn, but that's another story.


I walked in the door after my first day of work, sighing in gratitude for the softness of my old couch. Spike handed me a soda and I gratefully sipped at it.

"Hard day?" he asked, flopping down into the chair.

"Yup. Cleaning is hard work." I finished the soda and put the can on the floor. "I ache like I did a few months ago. Swollen ankles, back pains. You'd almost think I was pregnant again."

Spike shook his head. "Don't even say that in this town, mate. You never know where your friends are." He looked toward the bedroom. "He's been sleepin' a lot recently."

"He's got a doctor's appointment on Saturday."

"Yeah, I saw the note on the board." He looked toward the bedroom again. "I still don't like this."

"Then we'll see if we can move it up," I agreed. "How long has he been sleeping?"

"Nearly an hour."

"That is a long time for him," I said, frowning. "Did you call the doctor? I left the number on the note in case."

"I did, the nurse said it was normal that he should be sleepin' so long." I shrugged. "She suggested I get online and find a new mommies group."

I shook my head. "We don't have a computer, much less an internet connection." I looked around the living room. "Anything else happen?"

"Nah, not yet. Had to turn up the heat, the baby's been cold all day."

I got up and headed in to check on him, bringing him back to sleep on the couch with us. Then I decided to call the nurse's helpline our local hospital ran. "Hi. I'm the father of a newborn and I need some advice," I said, sitting down next to him. "No, my baby's been screaming for the last week and refusing to sleep more than a half-hour at a time, but for the last two days he's been sleeping for hours at a time and he's turning a little cold. No, not like the sniffles, like cool to the touch cold." I groaned. "Yes, he's still breathing and wiggling, and even eating and crapping, all that good stuff. No, our first appointment's on Saturday with Doctor Innez. I don't know, that's why I'm calling you!" I took a deep breath. "Okay, I'm sorry, I'm calm. We're keeping him dressed and covered all the time, even turned up the heat in the apartment, but he's still cold." I glanced at Spike. "Yeah, sure, I can do that. Thanks." I hung up. "We're headed to the ER." Spike gave a meaningful glance at the window. "Join us when you can," I said, packing up his bag. We left him there, taking a walk in the warm afternoon sunshine. It was only a few blocks to the hospital.


The doctor smiled as Spike walked back in, having gone out for a smoke. "Well, we can't find a reason for him to be so cold." She smiled at us. "I could keep him tonight."

"He's on a medical card," I told her.

"That's fine, Mr. Harris. We're used to children on them. How are you two doing together? I saw the notation in your chart."

"We're okay," I admitted. "Until this strange behavior started I was really tired, but otherwise okay. Now he's gone all wiggy and it's bothering me so I still can't sleep."

"I can understand that," she said, patting me on the shoulder. "Let me get him admitted. Have you decided on a use name?"

"Jeffery," I said, looking up at Spike. "Tyler Jeffery William Harris." Spike looked shocked. "That'll become official if I can stick with it for another day."

"All right, we'll get everything set up." She walked out, leaving us alone.

"You named the little creature after me?" Spike asked, looking a little shocked.

"Sure, why not? You were the first one to hear his heartbeat. You saved both our lives, I think that deserves a piece of the naming action. And Giles suggested Tyler."

"Well," Spike said, but he looked happy. "You call them yet?"

"I called Buffy's house and got Dawn. She said she'd tell Tara and Giles." I got up and walked over to touch my son's clammy skin. "This has got to be stopped."

"Think it's her?" he asked quietly.


"Why not?"

"Because Willow is more direct." I stopped as the doctor came in with a nurse. "Hey."

"Who's Willow?" she asked.

"A friend of ours who was *very* upset that I'm keeping him," I said quietly. "You might say she's the reason he's here."

The doctor nodded. "I did see your medical records, it was thought that it might have some bearing, especially those shots you received." She patted me on the shoulder. "I've already ruled that part out."

"What about brain damage?" I asked quietly. Another thing I had been dreading. They had tried to get rid of him to save my life, what if it had hurt him? "Can you tell yet?"

"Around his first birthday," she said calmly. "We'll be watching Tyler's development very closely until then." She looked at Spike. "He's going up to the Nursery, want to head up that way so we can get the forms filled out?" He nodded and left us alone. "Mr. Harris, I won't pretend to understand any of this." I nodded. "But I will support you in your decision. I wouldn't have been able to give him up either." I looked up at her, but she was very serious. "Now, fill out this form and we'll admit him. You've already done the rest."

I sat down and read the form, signing on the small dotted line for her. "Nursery?"

"Yeah, go ahead and head up there. We'll be bringing him right up." She waited until they were alone to look at the nurse. "Not a word of this gets onto the grapevine," she warned.

"We took care of him before this little guy was born," the nurse reminded her. "We know what we're doing." She smiled and lifted the baby onto the gurney, taking it out to the elevator.


Giles touched my shoulder, waking me up. "The nurse just called for you," he said, handing over his cup of nearly-warm coffee.

"Thanks," I mumbled, getting up to head to the desk, the shot of caffeine waking me right up. "Hey, you rang?" I asked.

"Mr. Harris, we just needed to inform you that we put your son into an incubator to keep him warm." She led the way into the nursery, taking the coffee cup and tossing it out for me before we crossed inside. She led me over to the incubator, letting me see him. "We also did something you might or might want to hear about to keep him warm," she said quietly, glancing around to see who else was around.

I looked down at her. "A witch was responsible for his birth," I said.

"I know. A few of us nurses got together and put a shield around him. Whomever tried to touch him now can't."

I smiled in relief. "Thank you." I gave her arm a squeeze. "Can I hold him?"

"Not yet. Let his body temperature raise a little and we'll let you hold him." She smiled. "Thank you for the warning about the zapping thing. He got a student nurse earlier."

I laughed at that. "Good. That'll teach her to be more gentle."

"Definitely." She watched me leave. "Now all you have to do is heal, young man," she said quietly, checking on him for me.


I carried my son into the apartment, he was warm and had been sent home as soon as it was apparent that whatever had caused him to be cold was now over with. We went into the bedroom to nap, letting Spike get the bag of stuff we'd been given before we left. I came out holding a wrapped present that had been sitting on the bed. "Your turn," I noted, handing it off, but watching as he unwrapped it, just in case it was something bad. Inside was some little jammies. "Oh, those are cute," I said, pulling them out. "We can put him into one." I took the top one and went to put it on Tyler, who liked it enough to wiggle around in it. "He likes them."

"It's from the landlord," Spike said, bringing me the card.

"That was sweet of him." I grinned. "And my boss said he would keep me at my old payrate, but I could start on some interior work tomorrow." I yawned. "I need a nap."

"I need to go get some more blood," Spike said, smiling down at me as I started to fall asleep.

I woke up to pounding on the door and went to answer it, letting Buffy in. "What?" I asked sleepily.

"Willow has Spike," she said quietly. "She wants the baby."

"Over her dead body."

"That's what I thought you'd say." She relaxed. "I have no idea what's going on."

"Think about it, Buff. Tyler is the only thing that can *prove* that she's turned bad." Her face hardened. "Where is she?"

"At the Magic Box. She's blocked it from entrance by the rest of us." She looked around. "Are you bringing him?"

"No. I want you to stay here and guard him. If he starts to go cold again, I need him back in the ER, they just released him tonight." I grabbed my keys and headed out. This was my problem and I'd be damned if I was going to let my infant son be part of this. I walked out the bottom door, frowning at the vampire panting against the side of the building. "What happened?"

"There's some funky shit downtown," he said, still looking shocked. "There's something guarding a door, I couldn't walk past it. And there's some sort of spirit sitting outside your buddy's shop."

"I kinda figured that much," I said, giving him a gentle smile. "Stay away from downtown and my apartment. Matter of fact, go hide." He nodded and ran off, and I went to face down my best friend. I passed by the Church's door easily, the guardian was guarding the church, not the street, only evil and undead things would have problems with it. The spirit in front of the Magic Box's door was another matter. It tried to stop me, but it was benevolent. "No, I'm going to go fix this," I said as I walked around it, heading into the store. "Willow, you're about fucked if you think I'm handing you my son," I announced. I looked down at Spike, who grimaced. "And let him go! He hasn't done anything to you, recently."

"Xander," she said, walking up to me. "I want that little boy."

"You're sounding like the witch in the fairy tales," I pointed out. "You're not getting my son, no way in Hell." I stepped down, getting between her and Spike. "I want you to leave Sunnydale," I said quietly. "You can't have my son, you can't hurt my son, and you won't be able to live anywhere in peace if I think you ever try again."

"He's my child too," she hissed.

"Yay. Rape means that you shouldn't get visitation." I stood my ground, even when she pulled out the stake. "Willow, put it away. You won't hurt him and you won't hurt me ever again." I grabbed her wrist as she moved closer to me, holding it away. "No." She tugged away, backing up some. I could see the light in her eyes as she figured something out, but I also felt fingers in my back pocket grabbing my pocket knife that I used at work. Spike had grabbed the knife and was sawing through his ropes when Willow looked down at the table and set it on fire. "Giles is going to kill you," I pointed out, not moving. There was no way she'd let herself burn up, I could follow her out when she stopped it. At least I hoped she wasn't that far gone. One of the licks of fire reached out for me, but I moved away, exposing Spike, but he jumped to his feet.

"Not gonna happen, witch," he snarled.

I gave him a light shove. "Go. I left Buffy with the baby." I looked over at him. "You know who to run to if you have to?" He nodded. "Good. Go." I turned back to her, grabbing the pole Spike had been tied to, swinging it around to test its weight. "Willow, fight me fair or drop the act. You're not getting my son." I looked up as the sprinklers went on, then shrugged. "I can fight wet."

She snarled and lunged at me, stake held out at a perfect angle. The pole was longer. She lay there on the floor, breathing but not moving, a thin trail of blood running from her head. "I told you to leave my son alone," I said hoarsely as I went to grab the fire extinguisher. Someone came through the door and I swung on them but it was a fireman. "She set it," I told them. "She's insane. I knocked her out." The pole was taken from me and I was led outside to lean against a cop car. "She started it," I repeated.

"Why would a good little girl like Willow Rosenberg start a fire?" the cop asked.

"Because she's not the good little girl you think she is," I said calmly. "Just ask her mother or the store's owner. We've been having problems with her recently."

"Drugs?" another cop asked, looking understanding.

I nodded after a second's thought. "Nearly. Something addicting, but not drugs. I don't know how to explain it," I told him at the confused look.

"Think cult," Spike said as he walked over to me. "Called her. She said the little creature's sleepin' again. Not cold or nothin' though."

"Good." I took Spike's hand, holding it as they rolled out Willow's still body. "Is she living?" I asked quietly.

"Yup." The cop handed me a card. "I want to see you tomorrow before ten."

"Yes, sir. I can stop in on my way to work. Is seven fine?"

"Good by me, boy. Go home to your son."

Spike put his arm around my shoulders and forced me to go with him. "I need chocolate," I told him.

"Got a box of it at home now, 'member?" he pointed out, keeping me walking. "Rupes is there too. He's probably got scotch with him."

"He's going to be pissed about the fire. His books are probably wet."

"Nah, he covers up the upper stuff now he said. Told him about it already. That's why I'm sure he has scotch."

I nearly laughed. It was good to have friends.


I put down my journal, looking down at my son's limp body in the hospital bed. "So, that's how you came to be," I said quietly. "I should have asked Wes to make sure you never got involved with fighting." I brushed some of his hair off his damp forehead. "Taking on a Grubber demon by yourself was not smart, son."

"Runs in the family," Spike pointed out from the other side of the bed.

I smiled at him. "Of course it does. It's not like he's at all like his mother."

"Good thing too," Tyler said from the bed, opening his eyes. "Who'd want to be like Willow? She's insane."

"Seen her, pet?" Spike asked.

"Auntie Buffy went to visit her last year for her birthday while I was staying with her. She took me with her but wouldn't say why I had to go." He shrugged and winced. "Ow."

"I know, son, but it gets better as you kiss more walls." I patted him on the hand. "Son, have I ever told you how we hooked up with your Uncle Oz?" He shook his head. "Well, gee, I guess I'll have to do that the next time you do something dumb."

"That would be an encouragement," Wesley pointed out as he walked in.

"We don't need to encourage this behavior, Xander."

Xander smiled at Oz, who was coming in behind the former Watcher. "Yeah, encouragement should be for other things." He got a kiss and a hug from his man. "As for you, you're grounded," I said as I stood up. "I'll be back tomorrow to hear your arguments about why you shouldn't be, but for tonight you're grounded."

"Yes, dad," Tyler sighed, rolling his eyes. "You'd think that I'd have more understanding parents with what you guys used to do."

"That's why you're grounded," I said with a grin. "I don't want you to become me. I want you to win a Nobel Prize, not a death certificate." I patted his foot as I walked around the end of the bed. "Spike, coming with us?"

"Nah, I'll stay and keep these two company." He smiled at Oz. "Make sure he gets to bed on time tonight. He was late today."

Oz grunted but he looked happy. "He's always late on Tuesdays," he said as he led me out of my son's hospital room.

Tyler forced himself to roll onto his side. "Uncle Spike, how did Dad and Oz hook up?"

Wesley cleared his throat. "Maybe you should rest first, Tyler. You do have injuries."

"Yay, a good story always knocks me out."

Spike laughed and got comfortable for his story.

The End.