"Hey," Xander said, sticking his head around his back door. "Mom?" She walked in, frowning at him. "Sit down, okay?" He walked in, carrying the baby. He'd been planning this for a few days now. After the initial shock had worn off, he'd gone into a tell-everyone-time, which he was still in.
"Whose is that?"
"Um, mine. I just found out last week." He sat down across from her. "I'm moving out soon, so don't worry. She won't be here." She nodded so he turned her around. "Miriam, this is your maternal Grandmother." He smiled, brushing her hair down again. "She's got my hair."
His mother nodded. "That's nice." She looked over the child. "Raise her like we taught you and you're right, she's not living here." She stood up. "Anything else?"
He controlled himself and stood up. "Nope, just an introduction." He waited until she was gone. "As in the last time you'll ever see her," he said quietly. He walked out the back door, his happy mood broken again. He ran into Anya on the sidewalk, grinning fakely at her. "Hey," he said. He bounced the baby slightly, trying to get her to calm down. "What's up?"
She looked him over, seeing the little leather covered lump. "I should ask you that." She walked around him, looking at the scrunched up face. "You've had that look before." She pulled the small hat down farther. "Something you wanted to tell me?"
"It happened a long time ago and I just found out." He tugged on her arm as she walked back around him. "Walk me back to Giles?" She nodded so they walked. "You know her mother but not that well. She sent her over to me."
"What's her name?"
"Miriam Madeline." He smiled a bit more, feeling her calm down more. "See, what a good baby."
Anya nodded slowly. "So, she's yours?" He nodded. "And you're keeping her?" He stopped, staring at her. "Well, I mean, with your life right now a baby might get in the way."
He shook his head, backing away from her. "Nope, got it figured out." He started to walk down the street. "I'll tell you where I am when I move," he called over his shoulder.
"Wait!" She tried to catch up to him but he had just crossed a busy intersection and was walking down a crowded street. "Xander! I didn't mean it like that!" she called after him but he didn't turn around.
Xander heard the yell but didn't care anymore. He smiled at a familiar form coming out of the magic shop, so kicked at her bag. "Hey, Will." He smiled as she stopped. "We're out introducing her to people she'll never see again." He pulled her away from his shoulder some, looking at her, seeing the little closed eyes. "Yeah, we're gonna go take a nap." He turned to his friend. "What's up?"
Willow shrugged. "Supplies." She shook her bag. "Want walked back since I walked?" He nodded and they started up the street. "I'm sorry I acted that way. It was a huge shock to me and I was flustered."
He nodded. "I know, so was I, but that question was cruel and mean." He stopped her, turning to look at her. "I didn't ask for this, then or now." She nodded, looking down. "As long as we've got that straight." He started walking again, feeling her come back beside him. "So, how's Spike? I've not seen him around."
She blushed. "Why?" She stopped, holding onto his arm. "You talked to Oz."
"Right after he got off with you. Told him about her and everything. He said he's coming back this summer."
She nodded. "I know. I just made that up to piss him off." She shook her head. "I'll apologize when he comes back."
Xander nodded, knowing she was already forgiven as the older man had seen through the lie. He'd said so before he left the day before. "I'm sure he'll forgive you for it." He started walking again. "Just a few more blocks, Miri, and we'll be back at Uncle Giles," he said softly.
"I woulda thought Grandpa," Buffy said, crossing the street to walk with them. "Get it?" She smiled at the nod. "Me too. Found a killer CD too." She tipped her head to look at the baby. "Is she supposed to be sucking on your shirt?"
"Nope," he said, "but she can't get her thumb so she's making do." He pulled her off his shoulder, looking at her and wiping off her drool trail. He started walking again, catching up easily, walking down the few stairs to Giles' place. "Home again," he said. He knocked as he walked in, grinning at the two men sitting at the table. "And all your Uncles are here." He handed her over so he could get out of his jacket.
Wesley picked her up, cradling her gently in his arms. "But I have to leave today. I need to go hunt another demon tonight." He looked down at her, tracing over her little features. "I'll be back soon though, don't you worry about it."
Buffy leaned on Giles' shoulder, watching him. "You took care of her?"
"For a month, her entire life so far," he said, not looking up. "But I'll have to leave her here and visit often."
"Just so long as you do," Xander said. He patted the man on the shoulder. "I think she needs to know about that side too." He walked into the kitchen, putting the bottle that had been in his pocket into the refrigerator. "Oh, and my mother just nodded at her." He shrugged as he turned around, seeing the dark form in the hall. "Oh, look who's back," he said, recognizing it as the neutered vampire. "How's life, Spike?" He grabbed a soda and walked back out, sitting at the table to watch his baby be fussed over.
Giles looked up as the vampire walked in. "Yes, he came back today." He shook his head. "We need to make him more independent too I'm afraid."
"Hey, mansion's empty," Willow said. "There's the butcher's and they can feed him." She smiled at him. "He can even start brooding and wearing lots more leather too. Then it'd really be like old times."
Buffy shook her head. "I think we need some more time before we have another brooding vampire in town." She wiggled her fingers at the baby. "I don't sit," she told the father, not looking at him. "Babies and I don't mix."
Willow rolled her eyes, shaking her head. "I can, well sometimes." She smiled at Xander. "So, what's next?"
"Um, new apartment and stuff." He looked at Giles, who shook his head subtly. "I've been asked by someone to start a store in the place from that Halloween." He paused while the girls shuddered. "I'll have the apartment above it for a while." He sipped at his soda, watching his little girl for a while longer. "Audio letters in between so she doesn't forget you in the absences," he told Wesley. "You can leave her notes and everything." He looked at Giles. "Three more days."
"Then I'll be over at your place for a while." He patted the younger man's hand. "Don't think we're leaving her alone with you. You aren't that lucky." Buffy snickered. "I didn't mean it like that," he told her.
She nodded. "I know. It just sounded that way." She tugged on Willow's sleeve. "Come on, we've got class in a little over an hour." She pulled her roommate out of the room.
Xander leaned closer to Giles. "Do you think...?" He nodded at the door. The former Watchers both nodded, smiling. "Yeah, me too, but that's cool." He sat back. "She needs to know that's okay too."
Giles sipped his tea, looking over the edge at Wesley. "Yes, it is, isn't it." The younger former Watcher nodded, smiling himself.
"Wonder if I could watch," came from the couch. "And don't expect me to watch her either. I don't do babies."
"Mentally or physically?," Xander asked. "Or shouldn't I point out that Harmony had the IQ of a grapefruit?"
Giles snorted. "Quite, but let's be kind to former lovers. He probably regrets her everyday."
"And then some," Spike said. He looked over the back of the couch, not sitting up fully. "So, she goes when?"
"After you do," Giles said, smiling nastily. "I'm sure we can get you in someplace. Maybe a nice shelter or something." He looked at Xander, who had snorted.
"You think?" He grinned at the disappearing blonde head. "I hear LA's full of nice demons and things." He winked at Giles. "I'm sure someone could convince Angel to take you back."
Wesley smiled. "He's in need of some more help at the moment. One of his people died recently." He set her down on the table, wiggling his tired arms as he stood up. "I shall try not to worry too much about her." He looked at Xander. "I'll want frequent updates when I'm not around for a while. Pictures so I can savor her growth." He looked at Giles. "I'll call periodically to get updates also." He pulled on his leather jacket, an identical if bigger version of the baby's. "I'd best be going. May I offer you a ride, Spike?"
The vampire started to laugh. "Not like you meant, thank you. And I've still got my car."
"Was being towed when we came in," Xander said, grinning, putting hand on Giles' arm to clue him in.
"Bloody hell," Spike swore, getting up and walking out.
Wesley smiled and picked up his bag. "I'll be back in a month or so," he said, walking out. "Take good care of her for me." He closed the door and Giles got up to lock it.
"Well," Xander said, looking at him closing the curtains. "Now what?"
"Now she goes down for a nap," the older man said. "And we ignore Spike until he goes someplace else that's shady."
"You know if he's ever fixed we're in deep poo-poo," Xander said, making his friend smile and nod. "Okay, just making sure." He picked up his daughter and walked toward the bedroom. "Time for nighty-nights," he said, setting her down on the bed in her new foam sleeping spot. He stripped her down to a diaper and a t-shirt, covering her lightly and walking backwards out of the room, leaving the door open. "Okay, down," he whispered, walking back out to the living room. "Now what?"
"Now, we work on the store." He pulled out the notepad they'd been using to jot down ideas on, looking over the list. "We have quite a mixture of products here. It might be too diverse."
Xander shook his head as he sat down in his former spot. "I don't think so. It'd give the kids someplace closer to go for some of that stuff." He sipped at his warm soda, thinking. "What about the candle guy? Is he willing to let us take over his stuff?"
"Yes, he was. I talked to him yesterday and he agreed readily. He didn't want to retire but his wife is ill so he has to." He put down the paper. "He's also the one making the all-natural candles, which he'll continue to do. It'll give him a source of income outside of his retirement benefits and he's more than happy doing it." He checked off next to something. "Special-ordering books I don't have a problem with either. That's something that only the magic shop does at the moment in town." He checked off something else. "Some of these novelties worry me though. If we sell fake craft items, then some people may not trust us to get the real things."
Xander nodded. "Yeah, but there are plenty of kids in the high school and junior high that want to be what they aren't. And there's no way I'd give them actual things." He shifted some, leaning back. "I talked to the people at the magic store, telling her the idea and she agreed it'd be a good plan. She won't do it, it's too dangerous, but we could guard them. She's not practicing so she couldn't ward a book or anything." He shrugged. "And she's going out of business in a few years too she thinks. She wants to head to Florida to finish school so she might sell her stock to us if we're still going then."
Giles nodded. "That seems realistic. I believe we could handle that. We could make up discreet signs about the real stuff being in the back. Something that only a real user would know." He checked off something. "Very good thinking." He looked down at the list. "So, that leaves us with the novelty gag stuff?"
"And the special music. Oz might need a place to work too if he doesn't want to go to school and I heard the most killer instrumental stuff the other day. I don't usually like stuff like that and it sounded good to me."
"Hmm, I'd like to listen to some first."
"More than possible. Check the new CD Will bought. Moving yet mystic." He grinned, finishing off his soda. "That only leaves what, moving me up there?"
"Both of you," Giles reminded. "She takes much more equipment than you do."
"Oh, yeah, I know." He raised an eyebrow. "And then most of it needs to be replaced in a year because she outgrows it." He shook his head, getting up and walking into the kitchen. "Need anything?"
"Put on some more water for me please," he said. Giles got up, heading for the bedroom and the slight noises he heard from in there. "Oz! How did you get in!" came the semi-yell.
"He's special like that," Xander told the kitchen. He pulled out a second soda, carrying it into the bedroom. "Hey," he said, handing it over. "Back already?"
"Yup. Told my friend there that I had to come back. Everyone was falling apart without me." He grinned, leaning down to kiss the baby. "So, store?"
"Yeah, finalizing stuff now." Xander fussed with the blanket for a minute then walked back out to the living room, looking over the list. "Hey, um, Oz, have you heard some of these titles?" he called, realizing he was alone. When he didn't get an answer, he walked back toward the bedroom but stopped and turned around when he saw the tight liplock the two older men were in. "Okay, it can wait," he whispered, sneaking back out to the table.
Oz pulled back and looked at Giles. "Wow. Thanks." He stepped back. "Later," he said. "We'll talk and everything." He walked out to the table, patting his friend on the shoulder. "Wigged?"
"Not even. Nice, normal stuff." He looked up, eyebrow raised. "Of course we were speculating earlier on Will and Buffy, but hey, I'm cool with you two." He sipped his soda before he could babble anymore.
"Calm down," Giles said, walking out to retake his seat. "It's not something that we're trying to hide...."
Xander held up a hand, cutting his explanation off. "I'm in the need not know category here. You don't have to explain your urges to me. As long as you're happy and not having sex in front of Miri it's fine." He looked at them. "And before you ask, the same rule goes for everyone."
Oz nodded. "Okay." He pulled over the list. "Hmm, interesting choices for music. Could be popular if done right." He pushed the list over. "Not your style though so how'd you hear?"
"Will bought a CD of the second guy on the list. Sounded killer to me and I don't like that sort of music." He shrugged, bending back to the table. "We okay here?"
"Sure," Oz said. "But can I have that other apartment?"
"It needs some work," Giles said. "It's got the most awful wallpaper in it."
"Which is stained and peeling," Xander added. "I don't mind but you can't steal Miri all the time."
"Fair enough." He held out a hand. "Partners?"
"More than happily," Xander said, shaking it. "You and Giles can be alternate Dads." He grinned. "Or Uncles, either way."
"Fathers," they said together, cracking each other up.
Xander looked around his apartment, frowning at the walls. "Seriously gross taste from the disco era," he muttered, setting down the playpen. He looked at the few pieces of furniture gracing the place and sighed, heading back out to get the rest of the baby's stuff. He had to turn sideways so Giles and Oz could carry up the crib, smiling at the baby sleeping in it while they toiled. He headed down to the car, coming back with the last of the small stuff, dropping it down on the rickety table. "Okay, so rest or not?"
Giles looked up from his watching his favorite person sleep. "In a minute. We're making sure she didn't wake up when we transferred her into here or up the stairs."
Xander nodded, heading down to get the rest of the stuff out of the rented truck, taking the two heavy boxes out and setting them on the sidewalk so he could close the back. He bent to pick them up, looking around, then started to swear. "That's all, Will, thanks for coming late," he called a little loudly, hoping someone upstairs would hear.
She shook her head. "Sorry, had to finish a paper." She made a face. "On a boring book too." She picked up a box, or tried too. "Okay, well, I can tell you packed this one." He handed her the lighter box, watching as it was handed off to Buffy.
"Guys, I got it," he said, walking back inside with his single box. "Giles," he called, "Buffy and Willow are here, prepare her Highness for a visit." He listened, hearing the other door open, the quiet steps denoting Oz's retreat. He started up the stairs, shifting the box a little to walk easier.
Giles took it at the top, smiling at the two young women. "I didn't think you'd come today," he told them. He carried the box inside, looking over their shoulders at the door below. "Willow, be a dear and go check the truck and close the door?"
"And the car," Xander added, walking inside. "Buffy, box goes on the table," he said, pointing. He and Giles shared a look, then an eye roll.
Buffy walked around the apartment, looking at the furniture and the walls in disgust. "You have to do something about this," she said, turning to look at them. She caught the look and sighed. "What?"
"Nothing," Xander said, walking over, handing her a juice from the cooler. "Just a guy thing at the mention of decorating." He grinned, putting an arm around her shoulders. "So, what do we owe the pleasure of this visit to?"
"We didn't find Giles at home so we came here." She looked at her former Watcher. "I needed some help with a paper and Willow couldn't explain it to me." She shrugged, knocking off his arm.
Giles nodded. "Of course I'll help but it'll have to be later tonight. I have an appointment earlier to meet with a distributor about some of the store's content." He gave one last look to the crib then the apartment. "Although I do agree, it needs something."
"Yeah, but I'll deal for now." Xander looked around, then out the window. "Where did Will go to?"
Buffy walked over to the window and looked down. "Friend from school doing the talking thing by the truck." She turned to look at them. "So, where is he?" She raised an eyebrow.
Xander looked at Giles, who looked as clueless as he did. "Who?"
"Oz," she said patiently. "I know he's here." She pointed to the shirt balled up on the couch. "That's not yours and Giles doesn't wear bowling shirts."
Oz stuck his head out. "I'm not here yet," he said and closed the door.
Buffy walked over to get the shirt and then across the small hall to his door, knocking on it. "Then I wouldn't have a ghost wearing your clothes and stripping in there." She handed it over then walked back to the younger man's apartment. "So, now what?"
"Well, we need to get the store started," Giles said. He grimaced as he looked around. "And I think we should decorate just a little in here so it isn't so run down looking, maybe some nice saved furniture." He turned to look at his student, seeing him looking out the window. "Xander? What is it?"
He walked over to the window, looking out. "Will's not down there." He turned, jogging down the stairs and out onto the street. He looked around before going over to close the trunk on Giles' car and check the rented truck for her. He turned to look up the street and wrinkled his brow. He jumped as Oz touched his shoulder. "She's gone," he said, turning.
The year older man looked around then sniffed at the air, coughing a little. "Some people that smell like gross, flowery incense," he said. He checked things over himself, snagging a small piece of paper that Xander hadn't noticed in the mail slot. "And someone knows I'm here." He handed it over before running up the stairs. "Giles," he said, walking in. "She's been snatched and I know by who. I'll be back in a day or so."
"You're taking Buffy," the woman in question said. She pulled back on her jacket. "Not that I don't trust you but I refuse to let you go alone." He nodded, following her back down the stairs.
Giles looked at Xander then at the baby. The younger man nodded. "Go," he said quietly. "Save her for me and I'll get this stuff started and put up." He patted the strong arm as it passed, watching out the window as he caught up to the two younger people. When they drove off, he sighed, turning around. "Okay, so I'm alone now," he said, walking over to close and lock the door, glancing out in the hall to check on the bottom door. When the chain was on, he leaned against the thin wood, taking a deep breath as he looked around his new habitat. "Does need paint," he sighed, pulling out his wallet. He heard a quiet sniffle so walked over to the crib and the unhappy occupant in it. "What's up, Miri? Are you lonely?" He rubbed her stomach for a few seconds and she went back to sleep, smiling again.
He looked around the cluttered and clustered belongings of both of them, planning where he wanted things to go. "Might as well get started now," he told the bare rooms, going for the first box.
Giles put down the phone, frowning. "Angel will find Wesley and tell him to head back this way," he told the other two people. He looked at the small bag of his things and the other of his books. "Are you sure I won't need anything else?"
Oz nodded, pulling something out of his pocket and setting it off to gas the air. "Very," he said, watching them both fall. He picked up his own bag, walking out of the apartment, shutting the door gently so as to not disturb their sleep, stripping the patch off his arm and tossing it away.
Xander looked up as someone knocked on his door. He set Miri into her carrier, buckling her in before going over to look out the peephole. "Giles," he said, opening the door. "Why are you back so soon? Where's Will and Oz?"
The older man shook his head. "He went off without us. Gassed us really. I've just put Buffy into her bed and I thought to come here to sleep for a while." He looked around at the organizing that had been done in the last few hours. "Very nicely done," he said softly, holding onto the doorframe for support.
Xander saw the weakness so he led him inside, settling him down on the makeshift bed of a pile of mattresses. "Here, you sleep and I'll watch you both." He pulled up the two comforters from the pile of sheets at the bottom before walking back out to his little girl. "Hey, Miri, Uncle Giles is here." He picked her up, bringing her to the doorway to look at him. "See? He'll be up later to play with you." He turned at the weak knock on the door, smiling at Buffy. "No fun alone?" he asked her, waving at the couch. "My casa and all that." He watched as she shuffled in and flopped down on the lumpy and ugly thing then went to check the doors.
By the time he got back up and had both doors locked again, both people were out like a light, each one snoring in a different key. He shook his head, rescuing Miri's bottle from the spreading drool puddle Buffy was creating so he could finish feeding her.