Title: Three Nights Spent in Bed
Setting: Post-series, in the same setting as Ouroboros.
Thank you, enigmaticblues! I'm so grateful to be able to participate. I hope you all enjoy it.
I. The Book
She is neither pink nor pale,
And she never will be all mine;
She learned her hands in a fairy-tale,
And her mouth on a valentine.
"...and they lived happily ever after. The end."
He closed the book and leaned over to place a kiss on the barely-there swell of her belly.
"Hmmm," Buffy hummed drowsily, tangling her fingers in his hair. "That was nice. Look at you, doing the daddy thing. It's..."
"You'd better not say 'sweet'," he warned.
"...rugged and manly?"
"Better," he allowed, settling down next to her and pulling her into his arms. Buffy curved her body around his, soft and warm against him. "Never too early to start with the classic literature, I always say."
"Classic? I don't seem to remember the handsome prince having fangs and a sunlight allergy."
He shrugged, tickling her at the bottom of her ribs where he knew she was especially sensitive. She laughed and slapped his hands away.
"What? It's important for the little one to learn her heritage."
"Or his," he allowed. He tossed the book onto the nightstand, wincing when it slid to the floor. Pregnancy had had the interesting effect of turning Buffy into the freakiest of neat freaks, and there would be no peace in this world if she stepped on the damn thing in the middle of the night during one of her bathroom runs.
"I can't wait until we know," she said, yawning.
"If it's a his or hers. I mean, him or her. I'm tired of having pronoun issues. I want to know already. Willow thinks girl, and Dawn swears it'll be a boy."
He traced his fingers around her navel, unable to stop touching her there. One of the books Dawn had given him - Pregnancy for the Mouthbreathing Male, or some such rot, and she swore it would save his life one of these days - had said that pregnant women didn't like people pawing at their bellies. Spike had been delighted to discover that these prohibitions apparently didn't apply to him. Buffy was always resting their joined hands on her stomach, as if needing his confirmation that, yes, he could feel their miracle too. When he pressed his ear there, he could just make out the faintest flutter, quick as a hummingbird's wings. He hadn't told Buffy yet. Their next doctor's appointment was in a few days, and he wanted them to hear the heartbeat together.
"What do you think?"
She shrugged. "Not a clue. I am officially clueless. Sometimes I feel absolutely sure she'll be a little girl, and then the next day? Boy." She turned her face up to him. "Is that a bad thing? Shouldn't I know, somehow?"
He smoothed away the wrinkle between her eyes with his thumb, pulling her head down against him again and kissing the top of her hair.
"I think that's normal," he soothed. "At least, that's what the books say."
She snorted against his chest. "Oh my God, we are so weird. Look at you with the baby books, and me with the bump. I still can't believe it. You and me? Parents? The universe has officially lost its marbles. I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop. I think there will be a lot of shoes involved."
"And we'll deal with them as they come," he said. "You, me and the lima bean. That's what we do."
"Yup," she said sleepily. "We do. Can you read more?"
He eyed the book laying on the floor. It seemed an awfully long way away, and Buffy was so warm snuggled against him. "If you'd like."
"Tomorrow's fine. Spike?"
"You're the baby book expert. Does the lima bean even have ears yet?"
He laughed. "Not sure, to tell the truth. Should I stop with the reading then?"
She tightened her arms around him. "Don't you dare."
She has more hair than she needs;
In the sun 'tis a woe to me!
And her voice is a string of colored beads
Or steps leading into the sea.
"Honey, not tonight."
He froze, one hand cupping her right breast.
"Seriously? Slayer, I haven't seen you in two weeks! The only thing that kept me going down in those caverns was the thought of your..."
She raised her eyebrow, and he coughed.
"...your precious self." Sighing heavily, he gave her an apologetic squeeze and withdrew. "I'm sorry, love. You know how I am. Apt to lose my head a bit at times. Are you not feeling well? Can I get you anything?"
She sighed. "Spike, it's not that I don't want...I mean, I do want. I've missed you too, you know, even though it's totally not fair that you got to go on the big troll hunt and I had to sit here and pretend to care about the stupid Council's stupid new accounting system."
"Not that you're bitter."
She huffed a laugh. "Oh, shut up."
"It's only for three more months. Then I can help take care of the little parasite, and you can go out and kill as many monsters as you can."
"You know it, baby." He gave her a leer and a kiss, pulling away after just a moment. She clutched at his shoulders, following him up and trying to catch his lips again. "Hey, what happened to 'not tonight'?"
She looked sheepish. "Sorry. I do want to. I just feel so...."
"Buffy, if the word 'fat' passes your lips...."
She shook her head, absently rubbing her swollen belly. "I know, I know. Baby, not fat. It's not the stomach - although I grew out of another pair of pants this week, thank you very much. It's just...." She frowned and turned her face to the window. The moonlight washed over her, giving her skin an unearthly glow. "I just don't feel like myself," she admitted quietly. "This body doesn't feel like it's mine anymore, and it's scaring me."
He smoothed her hair back from her face. "Must be hard, going through all those changes."
"No kidding. I mean, have you seen my boobs?" At his look of disbelief, she rolled her eyes and amended, "Of course you have. You can't stop checking them out. But they look...and I'm not just talking about the fact that they're bigger. My nipples are bigger, and they look so dark, and there are all these veins and stretchmarks, and they hurt, and they don't feel like they're mine anymore."
Her voice was thick with tears now, and he gathered her into his arms.
"You're all Buffy," he said quietly. "Every bit of you. Can I show you?"
At her hesitant nod, he raised her arms and lifted her tank top off her body, directing her to lie back against the pillows he piled against the headboard. He eased her underwear off while she was getting comfortable, rubbing his hands down her thighs to loosen her tense muscles.
"There you are," he murmured, ghosting his hand over her heavy breast. "That's my girl."
She closed her eyes with a wordless sigh of contentment, relaxing under his touch. He ran his hands down her rounded belly and over her thighs, then back up to her breasts, over and over, until she was squirming against the pillows.
"I remember that scar," he said absently, touching the pale mark just under her second rib. "Vamp nest in Paris last year, am I right? And here's my favorite mole." He pressed his lips to the dark spot on the underside of her left breast, and she inhaled a shaky breath. When he lifted his head to nuzzle her nipple, she let a moan escape. "This is the woman I love," he whispered against her.
She wound her arm around his neck, holding him tightly to her. He could feel the hum of her body, the wash of her blood, pulling him to her as inexorably as the tide. She frowned a bit when he slipped his hand between her legs to cup her sex.
"I haven't shaved in a while," she whispered shakily.
He eased her legs apart and lay between them, petting her gently as her breathing thickened and caught. Finally he lowered his mouth to her, kissing her, tasting her, painting her clit with his tongue.
"You still taste like Buffy," he said. "Not exactly the same, mind you. Different. But still you." He lowered his head for another taste, humming against her until she let out a cry of pleasure.
"Different?" she panted. "How?"
He eased two fingers inside her, anchoring her to the bed with his thumb on her clit.
"Richer," he said, taking another lick. "Saltier. Wilder, somehow. You taste of the sea, pet. I can smell it on you - the power, the life, the depths that pull a man under, never to return. You're so alive, love. So very alive."
She climaxed against his face with a hoarse cry, the tears leaking from her eyes adding to the fertile smell of her. Under the light of the moon she waxed and waned, and he let himself be pulled under.
She loves me all that she can,
And her ways to my ways resign;
But she was not made for any man,
And she never will be all mine.
The dreams started several weeks into her third trimester. Sometimes it was a demon, sometimes a medical complication, and once a car accident. The end result was always the same: she was taken from him.
He would awake in a panic, only calming when he heard her soft breathing as she lay beside him. The worst times were when the end of the dreams bled into waking reality, and it seemed as if she was gone even as he looked at her. She will leave one day, a voice would mock him. You can't protect them. She doesn't need you, and one day she'll figure it out.
"Was it a bad one this time?"
He blinked himself fully awake to see Buffy looking at him, her hand rubbing soothing circles on his back.
"How did you know?" His voice was still hoarse from sleep, and he cleared his throat.
She looked surprised at that, and a little hurt. "You think I don't know you by now?"
She shrugged. "Do you want to talk about it?"
He groaned and rolled onto his back, one arm tossed over his eyes. "Not particularly, love."
She settled in closer to him, tucking her head under his armpit. The bulk of her belly lay between them, a heavy reminder of his greatest comfort and his greatest fear. He could feel her fingers tracing up his neck and over his cheek.
"I hope she has your chin."
He lowered his arm and eyed her. "What's that?"
"Your chin." She ran her thumb over it, kissing the the curve of his throat. "It's a nice chin. She should have it."
She was so matter-of-fact about it, so decisive, that he couldn't help but laugh. "I think you've got a very nice chin yourself," he said lacing their fingers together. "In fact, I wouldn't mind a bit if she came out looking exactly like her mum."
Buffy blanched. "Oh God. That would be awful. Have you seen my nose?" He laughed at that and tweaked said nose, making her grumble. "But seriously? I want her to look as much like you as possible."
"Why's that, love? I mean, I am devastatingly handsome, but...."
She gave him a light smack on the belly. "Ego much? That's not what I meant. I just...." She frowned and took his hand again. "I want you to see yourself."
She nodded. "Do you miss your own reflection? Or are you so used to it by now that it doesn't bother you anymore?"
"Don't rightly know," he said after a moment's thought. "It's been so long since I've seen myself looking back from the glass that I wouldn't know what to do if I saw it."
"I know you've seen pictures of yourself," she said softly. "But you don't get to see what I see every day. You don't see all the parts put together, talking and laughing and growling and sleeping." She looked down, playing with his fingers. "I know I'm not that great when it comes to words. Sometimes I worry that you don't know what I'm really feeling - how much I feel - because I'm not so good at expressing it."
"Let me finish?" She rubbed her hand over his stomach and gave him a watery smile. "When you look at our little girl, I want you to see yourself as a member of this family. I want you to see what I see when I look at you every day. I want you to see us, and I want you to see love."
His vision blurred then, and he slid down the bed to bury his face against her belly as she hummed a lullaby.
"Thank you," he whispered before he fell asleep again.
And for the first time in weeks, he slept deeply and without dreams.
[A/N: The poem used here is "Witch-Wife" by Edna St. Vincent Millay, which makes me think of Buffy. Thank you, sweet_ali, for the suggestion on the second part. You know which one. :)]