Author: spikes_heart and liliaeth in their first ever joint effort
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Pairing: Angel/Nina, Gunn/Anne, sort of S/B, with hints of A/B
Setting: One year post NFA
Disclaimer: If they were ours, would we be writing fanfic?
Feedback: Yes, please!
Archive: Ask us, nicely.
Warning: Not a B/A fic
A/N: Spoilers for the entire run of BtVS and AtS - our take on what happened after the lights went out
Beta'd by: A sneak appearance by Willa!
Summary: Before the Powers that Be withdrew from the playing fields, they made one last move with their favorite pawns - leaving Angel to clean up their mess.
“Spike doesn’t know the meaning of the word responsible, Angel. It took me a while to figure him out. He’s like a child that needs guidance. One hundred and twenty years of murder and mayhem led around by the attention span of a two year old.”
Giles looked down his nose at him, disdain dripping from every word. “Who’s going to point him in the right direction? You? He’s a vampire; it’s in his nature to thrill in the fight, and we’ll give him more than his fair share of engagements. He’ll be kept from getting in over his head and endangering either himself or anyone else. With any luck, we’ll manage to keep his screw ups under control. It’s what you do with childish natures like Spike’s.”
“Angel! Snap out of it, man!” Giles voice roused the vampire from his fugue. “Where were you just now? Is everything all right?”
William’s squirming had taken on a frantic quality. “Daddy hurt me,” he cried. “Lemme go.”
Hugh stepped forward, reaching out to take the boy from his grasp. “Angel, perhaps it would be best if you gave me…”
“Get out! Get the fuck out of my sight!” he bellowed, eyes flashing amber with his anger.
The younger Brit paled and sat down at his desk, hiding his head in his hands as if hoping he would simply disappear.
Angel then turned his wrath on Giles. “Why are you so interested in breaking up my family, old man? Did you think I’d forgotten? Spike’s just a child, right? An immature idiot with no attention span. He’d benefit from your guidance. I remember every word you spoke to me outside that infirmary door. Same argument, only this time he’s a real child and far less able to speak up and defend himself.”
“I didn’t let you take Spike when I thought he was still a potential threat to the populace, so what the hell makes you think I’d let you take him now?”
“It wouldn’t be like that,” Giles promised, using his best conciliatory tones. “We’ve updated the Council. There’s even a nursery for our single parent Watchers. Young William will have plenty of children to play with – he wouldn’t be as isolated as he is here. And he’d be able to go out into the sunshine as any normal human child would.”
Angel’s voice remained thick with anger, though the amber had bled from his eyes. “William goes out in the sunlight now, Giles,” he hissed. “He has playdates, he laughs… he loves his mother and father. The boy is happy and healthy and strong. He doesn’t need your minions treating him like a guinea pig because he used to be a vampire.”
The sound of Hugh’s heartbeat ratcheting up a notch or three gave the vampire pause, but only for a moment as he turned back to Giles, who was still speaking.
“Just think on it, man. We all want what’s best for the boy.”
Angel loomed large into the man’s personal space, as menacing now as he’d been several years ago in the Infirmary’s hallway. “If you ever bring this garbage to my wife,” he said, barely loud enough to be heard. “If Nina catches any wind of this conversation – that you don’t think she’s fit to raise William, I’ll have your intestines woven through the banister.”
He banged his fist onto the desk for emphasis, startling William enough to stop his crying for the moment. Without another word, Angel turned on his heel and made ready to leave.
“Bear, Daddy,” Will sniffed, reaching down towards the floor where he’d dropped his new friend, Paddington.
With a growl, Angel grabbed the animal, shoving it into Will’s arms, then spirited the boy into his office, slamming the door behind them. He’d already lost one son’s childhood to a Watcher. He wasn’t about to go through that again.
By the time Nina entered the office with a warm mug of blood and a sippy cup of chocolate milk, Angel had calmed somewhat by focusing his energies into sketching his son. Will sat on the floor by his desk, happily scribbling in his coloring book and chatting away with his Paddy Bear. Image after image of the boy’s cherubic face filled the page.
“Don’t worry about anything, sweetie. Everyone understands you need some time to yourself and Will looks none the worse for wear. Isn’t that right, big boy?” She reached down, ruffling the child’s curls.
“Paddy Bear too, Mama.” He held the toy up for Nina to pet and then returned to his coloring.
“I’m sorry, Nina,” Angel murmured, finally looking up into her eyes. “I didn’t mean to ruin things. Giles just… he just…” Words escaped him. He couldn’t voice how scared he’d been – what he’d thought when Giles suggested taking Will from him… from them.
It wasn’t like he’d wanted the boy in the first place, but once he was there – a reality – somehow the kid managed to get under his skin. No, to be honest, that was a lie. Spike had gotten under his skin over a century ago, when he’d first lain eyes on the newly turned fledge. Like a bloodstain he’d never be able to cleanse from his soul. So used to it, that the world felt empty for those few moments when his loss seemed imminent.
“I don’t know what went down between you guys, but Rupert is honestly sorry for upsetting you.”
“He didn’t tell you what was said?”
Nina shook her head. “Not a word. Just that he…”
“He said… implied… that I’m not a good enough parent for a human child,” Angel blurted out the words quickly, taking the focus onto himself, lest Nina feel her parenting was called into question as well.
“Rupert said that. In those exact words.”
“Then what exactly did he say that’s got you so upset?”
Angel’s brown eyes grew shiny as he held his emotions in check. “He said he would take Will back to England with him – to be raised by the Council. In sunshine, as he deserved with other human children.”
“Oh, Angel.” Nina hugged her husband tightly around his broad shoulders. “Surely you misunderstood him. Rupert would never…”
The note of anger in her voice delighted him, both man and demon. She was willing to fight for Will. For family.
“Will is ours, isn’t he? Legally… or as legally as anything in the demon/human world. They can’t just take him away, can they?”
“He’s ours, Nina.” Angel smiled at Will as the boy drew something vaguely resembling a tree. “I had Gunn draw up the adoption papers. They’re airtight. The boy is ours.” He had to be.
“Then don’t worry about Rupert, baby. He was probably just pulling your leg. Besides,” she whispered, nuzzling the nape of his neck. “You two are always pushing each other’s buttons. I’m sure our son is safe.”
Angel couldn’t shake the feeling of distress coursing through him, but acquiesced to his wife’s better nature and drew her into a soft kiss.
“Come out soon, hon. Gunn and Anne need to get Alonna home and Hugh and Charlotte…well, I think he finally had to courage to ask her out on a real date.”
“What? Is she insane?” Angel’s anger shifted to his more current nemesis as he forced himself out from behind the desk. “What could she possibly see in that…”At a loss for words, he stared out the window at the couple standing in the shadows at the far end of the room, apparently deep in small talk.
Nina graced him with that ‘silly man’ smile she’d honed to perfection. “If you’d been paying that man the slightest attention over the past year, you’d have noticed. They’re really quite fond of each other.”
“But she’s supposed to be on my side.”
All that his whine produced was an eye roll from his wife. And yet, he forged on.
“She’s pretty, intelligent… what does she want with a dolt like him for?” Even to his own ears Angel knew he sounded like a belligerent… brother annoyed with his kid sister’s choice in men.
“He’s a good man, Angel. He’s here to help if you’d only let him. I heard about the information he found,” she admonished, pointing an accusatory finger in his face. “You can’t deny his perseverance without a single crumb of encouragement from you.”
At his growl, Nina added: “And don’t you dare do anything to interfere with Charlotte’s personal life. It’s none of your business.”
“But she’s our babysitter. Our… our family,” Angel insisted, knowing he was fighting a losing battle.
“And she has eyes and a heart of her own. Right now, they’re focused on Hugh. If you get in the way, she’ll resent you and probably quit. You wouldn’t do that to Will, would you? He’d be devastated. The boy loves his Lotte.”
“Me love Lotte lots,” Will chimed in. “Me and Paddy Bear.”
Angel groaned, grumbled, and groused but eventually he relented, ready to face his guests once again. Throwing open the door, he came nose-to-nose with a somewhat familiar face.
Dawn cocked her head and her hip in an eerie impression of her sister. “I see you’ve been a busy boy since the last time we met,” she quipped.
Ten Minutes Earlier
Buffy had taken to leaning against the door’s barrier as a sort of battle against ghostly physics. Beating on the damned thing had no effect, but sometimes, if she pushed just right, she managed to make it give a little. Sometimes as much as an inch.
She felt Wesley’s mild laughter at her efforts. He wasn’t visible to her at the moment, but she knew he was around. For some reason his spirit was bound to the hotel and its immediate vicinity. Buffy wasn’t sure if he knew why, or just wasn’t telling her.
The yelling inside drew Buffy face first to the barrier, desperately trying to make out the words. Angel was yelling at Giles about taking Will away. No! Not Will… he said Spike. Oh God, why did he do that? He just confirmed little Will’s previous existence as adult vampire William the Bloody in front of a Council flunky. Who knew what Hugh would do?
Better get a hold of yourself, Summers. All that rhyming might be a sign of going as nutso as Drusilla. Maybe all that sun beating down on your cranium is frying your brain.
By the time Buffy’s attention re-focused on the fighting inside, Angel had stomped off in a huff and slammed himself into his office, taking the boy with him.
The fear rose in her throat. Buffy didn’t know Hugh from Adam, and worried that it would only be a matter of time before he betrayed them all and snitched the info to the rest of the Council. Her silent cry went unheard as she beat on the barrier in frustration.
Wesley’s sly chiding echoed in her ear. “Why do you always think the worst of people you don’t know, Buffy?”
She turned rapidly, looking for him and found only empty space. Not wanting to leave the doorway in case any more information was forthcoming, Buffy leant backwards into it, staring up at the trees. She wished… and suddenly found her ghostly ass on the ground, inside the Hyperion.
The shock of finding the barrier gone would have taken her breath away had she needed to breathe. Standing in front of Giles, using words she’d not known her little sister even knew, was a furious Dawn.
Looks like someone was keeping secrets. So you made Dawnie live through my death yet another time? You tell ‘im, Sis! That was just cruel. Buffy yelled and pumped her fist in the air, but nobody saw or heard a thing.
Not another word passed between Giles and Dawn for some minutes, but the Watcher was slightly cowed and backed away. Dawn was more than impressive in her righteous anger.
“I’m not a child, Giles.”
The man bowed his head. He seemed so… old.
Buffy watched the exchange, fascinated with the changes in her not-so-little sister. She’d grown since they last saw each other – not only in height but in self-awareness. Dawn had really come into her own. Buffy’s heart ached at not being able to hug or talk to her sister. To hold her in her arms. To smell her favorite perfume. She ghosted her hand over Dawn’s back.
Dawn flinched, almost as if she’d felt Buffy’s touch. She shook her head and strode over to Angel’s office, knocking on the door once. She walked in without waiting for an answer.
Buffy ran after her, waltzing through the door as Dawn closed it just before she could enter the office.
Cool! Now nobody can keep Buffy the Ghost out of the loop.
“What are you doing here, Dawn?” Angel sighed. Not much as greeting went, but he wasn’t in the best of moods.
“Can’t a girl visit her sister? Where is she, Angel?”
Shit! “She’s outside, in the little garden.”
Dawn stamped her foot, losing the air of maturity she’d brought in with her. “How dare you keep this hidden for me for an entire year? You let me believe she was dead. Again!”
Angel shook his head. “It’s… it’s complicated, Dawn.”
Dawn’s composure totally crumpled. “God, I hate that word,” she shrieked. “Complicated. Like that should be enough to make me go away quietly like a good little girl. You so need to drop that bloody word from your vocabulary, mister. I’ve heard it all my life, and it’s always meant ‘Don’t tell the idiot child – she’s too young to understand’. Well, I’m now nineteen years old, and I understand perfectly well that you and Giles have my sister stuck in a statue and didn’t think it was important enough to tell me. I don’t care if nobody else knows. She’s all the family I had… have left.”
“We didn’t want to hurt you.” Angel’s throat tightened around the words, hating to show solidarity with Giles so soon after wanting to rip his throat out. “We believed you’d already done your mourning by the time we’d found out Buffy was entombed in marble. It would have been wrong to get your hopes up, and then not find anything to help her. It’s been a year and we just got our first decent clue a few moments before you arrived.”
Dawn would not be mollified. “Who are you two to play God with me? How dare you decide what I should and shouldn’t think and how I should feel? Geeze Louise, no wonder Buffy turned to…”
“Hey, lady. See my Paddy bear?” Will held up Paddington until Dawn took notice; his eyes shining bright when she shook the bear’s paw and introduced herself.
Angel panicked. This girl knew Spike – spent years around him. At that moment he worried just how much of Spike actually showed in the boy’s features. He swallowed, wondering how long it would take for her to call him on it.
“My goodness. Is this William?” Dawn got down on her hands and knees, watching the child use a pink crayon to color in the sky. “Hello, cutie.”
William smiled, and Angel could see he’d won over another conquest. He wasn’t prepared for Dawn’s gasp.
“No!” she whispered. “No bloody way! Is there something else you’re trying to hide from me, Angel?”
“Please, Dawn,” Nina tried to keep the excitable young woman grounded. “Angel would never do anything to hurt you. He’s told me all about how much your sister loved you.”
Angel knew Dawn wouldn’t be put off. In fact, it looked as if she hadn’t heard a word his wife had said. What was he going to tell her when she started in about Spike? Nineteen be damned, she was just a youngster, herself.
Dawn held out her arms. “Come to Auntie Dawn, little guy. Let me see you up close and personal.”
Angel stood up; ready to grab the boy into his own arms, but Nina shook her head, gesturing for him to sit back down.
Will and the bear clambered into Dawn’s embrace, fascinated with her long, silky hair. As he let it flow through his fingers, Dawn looked him over closely before shifting him to settle on her hip.
“What is with you guys?” she asked calmly, so as not to upset the child. “I thought for sure vamps only shot cold dead seed. First you and now Spike with the baby-making. How is that possible? Who’s the kid’s mother – Drusilla?”
Thanking whatever gods were willing to listen to a vampire’s prayers, Angel relaxed. She didn’t know. She thought… she thought Will was Spike’s son, and in a way he was – Spike, the next generation. It eased something inside of him to think of the change in that way. Not the irritating pest that had been his grandchilde, but merely family through blood.”
“It was a miracle,” he said, ignoring the vulgar sperm reference. “We really don’t know…”
“Wait a minute,” Dawn interrupted. “Will’s two, right?” She scratched her head, looking troubled. “That means he was born about the same time that Spike died. Did he even get to meet his baby? To see the miracle he created? Did Buffy know about this? Oh, God! It’s gonna kill her all over again if she finds out that Spike had a child with someone else.”
Lie after lie after lie. If he wasn’t careful, this would all fall apart before it took hold. He couldn’t bring himself to name a mother. Not out of respect for Spike and Buffy’s so-called relationship, but if Buffy ever came back to them, and found out about the lie? She’d never forgive him.
“Spike never met his child, and…it wasn’t like that. I-I just can’t talk about it, Dawn. I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s complicated, right?” Dawn rolled her eyes. “So you’re telling me Spike knocked up some bimbo by accident. And she turned the baby over to you after the father died?”
“No! No, it wasn’t like that. It’s… Nina.” He turned to his wife, silently pleading with her for help.
“Dawn, honey. Spike was a good guy. You know that. He sent the woman away to safety before the battle went down, just in case… well, just in case. He wanted them both safe. There was no relationship between the two of them, but it happened. Spike was lonely, and so sure your sister had moved on with her life. He didn’t want to hurt her.”
“Like with Anya,” Dawn murmured. “So, where is she? The mom?”
“She died in childbirth, hon,” Nina bravely soldiered on, not looking at her husband. “Angel managed to adopt the boy as the child’s uncle. So yes, it is complicated, but nothing you shouldn’t be told.”
“You named him after his father?”
Angel quickly nodded in agreement. The more it made sense to Dawn, the less she would question.
Dawn chucked the little boy under his chin. “You look so much like your daddy, Will. I bet if I gooped your hair back, you’d look just like Spike.”
“Me Spike,” the boy giggled happily, wrapping his arms around Dawn’s neck. He ran his fingers through his hair. “Make lots of spikes, like Daddy.”
“Now you have to tell me all about it, cutie.” Before Angel could stop her, Dawn had taken the boy out of the office and headed towards the garden.
All Angel could do was sigh in relief.
Nina slapped his shoulder, showing her disapproval at being forced to lie their way out of a situation that didn’t warrant such tactics.
They both jumped when a large ceramic disc slipped from its hanger and shattered on the floor.