Spike/Xander, Pg-13 rating. Spike gets to play Dear Abby.

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Old Friends


by
Cimmer



Part One

"It's not like I never tried to talk to her about my feelings, you know?"

Spike sighed and continued to line up his shot; if Harris would shut up for just two seconds he could sink this ball.

"And since when did just asking for a little time mean I want to break up with you? I never said the words 'break up'. I said, 'I love you and I want to marry you but I think we should just slow down a little.'"

Spike slowly dropped his head forward and sighed again. He straightened and looked at the ruffled lad almost pityingly. "Women can smell fear you know? Just plain human women can smell fear on a bloke from a mile away and you thought Anya, a former vengeance demon, would buy that load of crap about just needing some time?" Spike snorted.

Xander looked slightly affronted. "Who said I was afraid? Hey pal, I've faced down hell demons, fish people, werewolves, and you. Besides, my best friend's a woman. I know about women. She's just being unreasonable." Xander nodded decisively.

Spike just shook his head wearily. A couple of older guys at the next table glanced at the boy upon hearing that last bit of nonsense and shared a commiserating look with the vampire.

Spike leaned down to line up his shot again.

"I'm not going after her either. If she thinks I'm going after her, she's got another thing coming. A man's got to have some pride." Xander took a swig of beer.

Spike sunk two balls, gave the brunette a disgusted look and walked around the table to place his final shot. Maybe he could end this in the next minute and get the hell out of here. If he had to listen to Harris natter on about Anya, chip or no chip, he was going to rip the kid's throat out.

"I mean you didn't let Dru get away with that stuff right? Oh sure, you were a pathetic drunken maniac at first but then you got it worked out and stood tall right? Buffy told me, you went back and let her know what was what, right?"

Xander stared at him hopefully. Spike stared back and then seemed to come to a decision. He beckoned the boy over. Xander stepped closer. Spike waved him closer still then leaned in and whispered very softly in his ear.

"I did what just about every male does when the light of his life tosses him out on his ear and he feels like his heart's been ripped out."

Xander looked horrified. "No, say it ain't so?" Xander met the blonde's unblinking gaze. His shoulders slumped. "You threw yourself on her mercy and begged?"

Spike shrugged and nodded. "Did you think it was different for vampires?"

"But, but, it wasn't your fault." Xander floundered. "She was being, being......"

"She was being Dru." Spike smiled fondly and a little sadly. He promptly sank the last two balls and finished his beer. He patted his pockets down looking for matches. Damn, was he out of matches?

Xander slumped dejectedly against the pool table. "So how long should I give her before I go up to San Francisco and beg her to come home?"

Ah, matches, but only four. Well he only had three cigarettes left so that would work. He'd have to nick some more before the night was out. He hated waking up with no smokes. "Don't know, what were her exact parting words?"

"Alexander Harris you need to grow up." Xander said in monotone.

"Give her until Monday otherwise she won't believe you actually thought about what she said." Spike headed for the door and Xander roused himself. He quickly finished off his beer and caught up with the departing vampire.

"I'm not scared, I mean not really. I do want to marry her. I love her. I just, everything's moving so fast you know? And she was talking about kids, not right now or anything, but kids! And I just, I don't know." Xander trailed off.

"How old are you Harris?"

"Twenty, why? You don't think I'm old enough to get married? Well I am. I'm responsible too, I just." Spike stopped the flow of words by putting a single finger against Xander's lips.

"I don't know whether you're old enough to get married or not. That's not for me to say, besides I want to reserve the right to laugh my arse off at you if you screw up." Spike gave the outraged boy a slightly twisted smile. "There is one thing you should think about though; getting married is not a rite of passage for adulthood. It's something you do because you just can't imagine your life without that person in it."

Spike gave him a final stern glance and then resumed his leisurely stroll home. Xander stood very still for a moment and then hurriedly caught up with the blonde. They stopped at a store on the way and he paid for a whole carton of smokes for Spike. The vampire had nicked some chocolate while he'd been paying for the cigarettes. Spike offered him half and Xander hesitated briefly before he accepted the pilfered candy.

"I could have paid for those too."

"Yeah?" Spike looked disinterested.

"So you want to get together tomorrow, watch some videos or something?"

Spike tipped his head to the side studying the human before him. Xander bit his lip and tried not to look too hopeful.

"Yeah, sure." Spike shrugged. He didn't have much else to do, what with Dawn being away with the witches for the weekend.

Xander grinned hugely and then tried to cover. "Great. Well see you around then." He bounced into his apartment building.

Spike shook his head; it was like having a pet. He ambled home, scaring a couple making out in the park on the way. Idiots. He'd just gotten in and turned on a late night movie when he stopped and sniffed the air. He frowned, Naw, couldn't be. He sniffed again. He had almost convinced himself that he was wrong when he heard the knock on the door.

He closed his eyes, maybe if he stayed very quiet she would think he was gone and go away. Silence, and then, another timid rap. "Will, are you there?"

Spike watched fatalistically as the door slowly opened and a bright head of shiny gold hair attached to a blue pixie like face peered cautiously around the corner. She gave a relieved smile as she caught sight of him and stepped inside the crypt. She carefully juggled the little bundle in her arms.

"Thank goodness. I was afraid we might have the wrong crypt."

She held the baby in her arms a little higher and cooed, "Look honey, it's daddy."

Spike gave her a weak smile.





Part Two

Spike walked up to the young woman and gave her a soft kiss on the cheek. He gently moved the blanket aside and peered into the face of the disinterested baby. She was almost a miniature of her momma; the same pixie like features and golden hair. In addition though, she had darker blue stripes across her cheeks. The markings looked a bit like war paint.

"That's apt," thought Spike. "Got a bit of her Da in her."

"She's a beauty luv, real pretty, just like her mum." Spike said quietly.

"Thanks. She looks a lot different than when you last saw her, huh?"

"Yeah, well she was just a little egg then. When did she hatch?"

"Last month, right on time and everything." She glanced around and Spike took pity on her. He dusted off the chair and offered her a seat.

"This is nice. I can tell you've really gone to a lot of trouble to brighten everything up." She tried not to look too closely at the stains on the battered old piece of furniture. She sat down very gingerly on the edge of the chair before giving him a brightly awkward smile.

Spike watched her arrange the babe carefully on her lap. A large rat scuttled between two coffins in the corner. She flinched but then caught his eyes on her and tried to cover her dismay with a cheerful fašade. He smiled wryly. "Pet, why are you here?"

She didn't answer immediately and Spike steeled himself. When she bit her lower lip and looked at him entreatingly he groaned inwardly. It was going to be bad.

"I've left him Will. You were right. He doesn't have a sensitive bone in his body." She sniffed and reached up to wipe away an errant tear. Spike rummaged in his coat pocket and pulled out a fairly clean bandana, kept for first aid emergencies. She smiled her thanks and dabbed at her eyes.

"He wasn't even around when she hatched. I mean I don't think that was asking for too much do you? You were there when she was born. He was supposed to be there when she hatched." She sniffed again. The baby sensing her mother's unrest began to fuss so she concentrated on soothing her, making soft little nonsense noises.

Spike pushed away from the wall he'd been leaning against to sit on the chair arm. She leaned her head against him and sighed sadly. "Loving someone who doesn't love you back is terrible. You'd think I'd know better."

Spike wisely kept his silence. He could tell she had a great deal more to say on the subject and was just warming up.

"All he ever does is issue orders. He just tells me what we're going to be doing. He never asks. And every time I want to talk things over he just says, there's nothing to talk about" Her eyes flashed although her voice stayed low so as not to upset the baby.

"He doesn't hurt you or the little one does he luv?" Spike asked grimly. He was fairly sure the answer was 'no' but you could never tell. He'd learned that a long time ago.

"No, of course not!" She looked shocked and he nodded.

"He wouldn't do that! He's just, just bossy and insensitive and, and," she searched for the right word. "He's a wanker," she finished triumphantly.

Spike snorted inelegantly. "Well you knew that before you married him luv," Spike gently reminded her. "I seem to remember you insisting that you liked your men forceful."

She blushed a becoming shade of indigo and dropped her head, peaking up at him through her lashes. "Well, I may have said something to that effect but there's a difference between forceful and jerk," she finished primly.

"It's all in the eyes of the beholder luv." He stroked his hand through her hair, letting the silky strands slide through his fingers.

She hrrumphed, "Besides, I thought after we got married it'd be different, you know?"

Spike rolled his eyes, "How many centuries old are you love?" He gave a slight tug to the locks of hair in his hand. He stood and pulled two suckers out of his coat pocket, offering her one.

She took it with a little pout and watched him watching her. They stared at each other for a few seconds before she broke into another one of her sunny smiles, although this one was slightly rueful.

"Alright, I'm an idiot, go ahead and say it. It's what you're thinking."

He smiled back, "You're an idiot."

"That's why you're my favourite husband, you say the sweetest things." She winked.

"I'm your only husband now love." And a good thing too, he thought. Wouldn't want to meet his nibs in the state he's bound to be what with the wife and baby having up and left him. Divorce doesn't sit well with most demons and he's probably busy destroying a village somewhere to vent.

She blinked and looked away before clearing her throat nervously. Spike felt his stomach tighten.

"Well, actually, I didn't really formally end the marriage." The look she gave him begged him to understand. "I still love the big idiot. I just needed a little space." She cringed slightly at the dark look the vampire was giving her. William could be so old fashioned about things sometimes. "I left a note," she offered brightly.

"A note," he echoed faintly. "What did it say?"

"Nothing much," she said mutinously.

Spike straightened and gazed very sternly at the woman before him. "Nualla," he growled.

Her eyes widened slightly but the stubborn tilt remained to her chin and her lips stayed firmly closed. Spike eyed her narrowly and crossed his arms. Two very old creatures locked horns, figuratively speaking, and there was a tense silence in the old crypt for a good five minutes before Spike shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly and reached for his jacket. He popped the sucker back in his mouth as he pulled on his duster and headed for the door.

"Oh all right, I said that I was going to visit you in the States," she snapped. "I don't see that it
matters. It's not like he's going to come and fetch me home."

Spike snarled, "Come and fetch you home? We'll be lucky if that's all he does."

Spike fumed as he paced back and forth. "It's your own fault," he thought, "no one told you to go on a week long bender in South America after Dru told you good bye that last time. Serves you right to wake up married to the local forest sprite because she's got an egg in the oven."

He stopped and took a deep unnecessary breath and glanced at the object of his ire. She looked miserable. She was pleating and re-pleating the baby's blanket and gnawing her lower lip almost raw. She looked up when he stopped.

"I'm sorry Will," she said quietly. "I just didn't think. I can't imagine why I did something so crazy. I do know better." She sighed heavily.

"Love makes madmen of us all," Spike quoted gently. He held out his hand, "C'mon then luv. Let's go."

She stood with a question in her eyes.

"Well you and the little one can't stay here. This is no fit place for a babe. We'll go to my mate Xander's place. He's got an extra room." Spike was already turning away and heading outside so he missed the surprised look in the blue sprite's eyes as she followed him out the door.

"Did you hear that baby? Daddy's taken another mate. I hope he's not as crazy as Dru." Nualla whispered to the bundle in her arms.





Part Three

Xander tapped his foot impatiently waiting for the microwave to beep and signal an end to his wait. Ummm, hot, buttery popcorn and back-to-back Jet Li movies. He rubbed his hands in anticipation. Not even the prospect of grovelling to Anya dampened his enthusiasm. He frowned, well maybe just a bit. He looked down at his ragged t-shirt, old sweatpants and rainbow scuffs. The scuffs were a present from the witches, who lately had been in some sort of mad crocheting phase.

He sighed and thought back on his conversation with Spike earlier in the evening. Man, what a total let down. He'd really thought that Spike had returned to Drusilla and laid down the law. Not that Xander approved in any way, shape or form of torture as a way of cementing a relationship but to find out that the Big Bad had caved and thrown himself on the mercy of the court so to speak. Xander gave a slow shake of his head. It was like finding out that Superman wasn't really faster than a speeding bullet or that the Lone Ranger didn't use real silver in those bullets.

Whoa, back up, not that he thought of Spike as a hero. He didn't, although he had come to think of him as a friend. It's just that his whole worldview had been skewed. He'd never thought of demons as just regular guys. The thought of some big Fyarl demon getting nagged at by the Missus just gave him the wiggins.

He giggled suddenly, overcome by the thought of Ralph Cramden played by some horned demon yelling 'To the moon Alice.' Heh, oh boy, two beers on an empty stomach were two beers too many. The microwave beeped at him invitingly; ahh, popcorn, one of the four basic
food groups.

He carefully juggled the hot bag as he grabbed a cold bottle of water out of the fridge. He had about five minutes to get settled before the movie started, perfect timing. If he couldn't spend the evening having wild sex with Anya, this was the next best thing. He arranged everything within easy reach and was just about to hit 'play' on the remote when the doorbell rang.

It was after midnight and no sane Sunnydale resident would just blindly open their doors at night. He reached under the couch cushion and pulled out a stake and a small vial of holy water. He approached the door at an angle, standing slightly back and to the side before calling out.

"Who is it?"

"It's me, open up mate."

Xander raised an eyebrow suspiciously. It sounded like Spike. "What's the password?"

"Let me in before I kick the bloody door down whelp." He heard the vampire snarl, followed by what sounded like a muffled giggle.

He opened the door a crack, which was quickly enlarged by Spike as the vampire shoved his way into the living room. Xander's eyes widened comically as a small blue woman carrying a baby followed him inside. She gave him a shy smile and a little wave.

"Shut the door Harris, you're letting the heat out." Spike gestured to the small woman, "Nualla, Xander. Xander, Nualla." Spike dropped gracefully onto the couch and waved Nualla and the baby over to the easy chair. "Have a seat luv."

"Actually, Will and Xander," she bobbed her head in the still stunned boy's direction, "where's the bathroom? She needs changing."

Spike grimaced slightly, "Yeah, she does, doesn't she. Down the hall and to the left."

Xander continued to stand, mouth slightly agape. He had managed to shut the door however. "Who, what, why?" he finally stuttered.

Spike regarded the young man mournfully, poor lad, maybe he'd been dropped on his head when he'd been younger. From what the vampire knew of his home life there was a good chance that's exactly what had happened. He patted the cushion next to him invitingly. "C'mon pet, have a seat. I don't have all night and we need to talk."

Xander scuffed his way over to the couch and flopped down looking a little bit lost. Of course Spike thought the kid always looked a little confused. He glanced down. "Nice slippers," he commented dryly.

Xander blinked and then glowered at him. He opened his mouth and Spike just shook his head and held up a hand.

"She's a forest sprite originally from the Old Country and now guarding territory deep in the Brazilian jungle. She's not really a demon, more like a dryad or faerie. Yes that's a baby and it's hers."

Xander, trying to make up for his earlier surprise, nodded sagely, like he'd seen it all before. He casually reached for the water and took a swig.

Spike grinned evilly, "Did I mention that she's my wife and that I'm one of the baby's fathers?"

Water spewed across the entire coffee table as Xander started coughing. Spike helpfully slapped him on the back but carefully so as not to set off the chip. "You all right mate?"

"You did that on purpose," he gasped, glaring at the smirking vampire before he went to get a cloth to wipe up the mess.

Spike laughed softly to himself. "I still got it." He probably shouldn't antagonize the kid. He was going to need his help after all. He'd talk Harris into letting Nualla and the baby stay here while he quietly pulled in a few favours to find out where that hulking husband of hers was. In the meanwhile, maybe he could convince the barmy lass to 'go home' or at least talk to the big oaf.

He watched Harris mop up the table as he absently rubbed his temples. He felt like he was getting a headache. He shouldn't be able to get a headache should he; would an aspirin help?

Xander glared resentfully at the blonde menace sitting on his sofa. Spike was rubbing his head like it hurt. Well good, maybe his chip was bothering him; serves him right for that last bit. Stupid vampire jokes, ha ha, tease the human. He knew vampires couldn't have kids. He'd done a lot more reading then people gave him credit for, at least when it came to vampires. Besides, that baby hadn't looked more then a few months old. He frowned, or not. It was a supernatural baby after all. Maybe Nualla had laid an egg in the body of some poor sap Spike had killed for her and the egg had grown until the baby had chewed its way out of the corpse. He drew in a sharp breath then gave himself a mental slap. Get a hold of yourself Xander. A couple of bad incidents involving insect teachers and hatching egg demons and this is what you get, letting your imagination run away with itself.

Spike was looking at him strangely. Xander decided it was time to go on the offensive. "So when did the marriage take place?" he inquired with false politeness.

Spike gave him a razor thin smile, "Two years ago, last time I was down in Brazil."

Xander sneered, "And the baby, when did she enter the world and don't try to tell me she's two years old."

"Well the baby only hatched about a month ago but the egg was laid about two years ago." Spike said conversationally.

"And you're the dad." Xander scoffed.

"Like I said whelp. I'm one of them." Spike puffed his chest out just a bit.

"Vampires can't have kids. It says so." Xander snapped.

"Where?" Spike inquired innocently.

"In Giles's books and before you ask which ones, even Angel said so." Xander having quoted one of his least favourite people, now considered the argument won.

Spike sneered at the mention of one of his least favourite people and was about to tell the lad what was what when Nualla returned.

"All clean. Thank you so much for letting us stay here with you Will's mate." She gently laid the newly cleaned and sleeping baby on the easy chair, pulling extra blankets out of the backpack she'd had over her shoulder.

"I can't tell you how happy I am to find you so stable; not that Drusilla couldn't be stable but, well, you know what I mean." She chatted happily while she fixed a little bed for the child. "I had no idea that William had taken another mate, and such a nice young man at that." She turned to face the bewildered pair. Her gaze flickered between the two astonished men. "Did I say something wrong?"





Part Four

"Pet I think you're a bit confused," Spike recovered his composure first and spoke gently to the puzzled young woman.

"Well, you did say we were going over to your mate Xander's place and this is Xander's place isn't it?"

Xander who'd spent the past few seconds feeling shocked, to say the least, recovered enough to enter the conversation. "Hey, you told her we were mates?" He gave the vampire a friendly punch on the shoulder and grinned happily.

Spike glanced at his shoulder and then at the goofily grinning boy. "Watch it Harris," he growled. Nualla was giving them an 'aww isn't that cute smile'. Right, well it was time to nip this in the bud.

"Look luv, when I said mate I didn't mean in the shag you senseless for the rest of eternity kind of way; I meant friends you know?"

"Oh I get it," she gave a little wink and a nod. "Say no more, just friends. I understand."

Spike snarled in disgust, "No, I mean it. Does he look like someone I'd sleep with?"

"Hey," Xander and Nualla declared in unison.

"That's not very nice William!" she scolded.

"Yeah, that's not very nice 'William'," Xander smirked. He turned to Nualla with a pitiful expression in his eyes and sniffed theatrically, "He's such a brute sometimes."

She managed to nod sympathetically at the woeful young man while simultaneously glaring at Spike, which was a fairly impressive feat as far as the vampire was concerned, although Dru had done something similar on several occasions when he'd really ticked her off.

Spike gritted his teeth and mentally counted to ten and then twenty before a thought popped into his head, which caused a truly evil smile to cross his face. Xander did not like the look of this; he should have remembered that it's not nice to tease the vampire.

"Yeah, well I guess there's not much point in my trying to deny is there?" He shook his head sadly as he put an arm around Xander and squeezed just hard enough to make his point. "I can't wait to see the look on old Anyanka's face when we tell her, can you?" He turned to the suddenly frozen human with jovial smile.

"Anyanka?" Nualla questioned thoughtfully, tapping her lip.

"Friend of ours, just about the most easy going lass you'd ever want to meet; grand sense of humour too. She just loves a good joke, doesn't she pet?" Spike gave an extra hard squeeze; happily ignoring the warning twinge the chip gave him. It was worth it.

Xander's mouth was opening and closing like a fish out of water. He started to speak but it came out as more of a squeak then anything verbal. He coughed and tried again. His voice coming out only slightly cracked this time.

"Actually, Anya's my fiancÚ. Spike and I aren't together. Heh heh, I was just teasing. I don't know what got in to me. It's probably the beer. I don't usually drink on an empty stomach. Not that I'm a big drinker. It's just that we went out to play pool and they don't do that blooming onion thing like they used to and no chicken wings tonight if you can believe it?" Xander rubbed the back of his neck fretfully. "Did I mention that Anya and I are planning on getting married?" He smiled nervously at the woman who was still tapping her lip and appeared to be deep in thought.

She suddenly slapped her forehead, "Of course, Anyanka!" She stared at the pair before her, "Are you cheating on a vengeance demon? That's not very bright, William. You at least should know better."

Spike opened his mouth to explain but Xander jumped in first. The boy just had to keep babbling away; no wonder he was best friends with Red.

"Actually she's human now so the whole curse us with boils or other nasty spells thing isn't really available to her anymore. Not that there's any reason to because, not with Spike. Nope, we are not a couple, so of course there's no reason to cause important bodily parts to fall off or anything. Not that she couldn't make my life a living hell if she wanted to," he laughed, "she's a woman after all." He stopped suddenly aware of his audience.

Spike winced; the kid had no survival instinct whatsoever. Nualla frowned.

"Not that there's anything wrong with women. I like women." He tried to pull away from the stranglehold Spike had on his shoulder but the vampire was getting such perverse pleasure out of his discomfort that he wouldn't let go.

Xander risked a quick glare in his direction promising revenge before forging gamely on. "Heck, I'm going to marry one and boy am I happy about that." He gave her his most ingratiating smile.

Nualla threw up her hands. "Males, you're all insane. I have no idea what's going on but you know what? I don't care." She resolutely turned back to the blankets she had started to fold before this entire crazy conversation had begun.

Xander jerked lose from Spike's hold with a passable growl for a human. The vampire returned it with a self-righteous look. Serves you right to be hoisted on your own petard, he thought. He turned to the too straight back of the sprite. He heaved a sigh.

"We're really not a couple luv. Just having a bit of fun." She disdainfully shrugged one shoulder but didn't turn around.

"It's nothing to do with me. It's none of my business. I'm not mixing in." She continued taking everything out of her backpack and carefully folding it before putting it back in.

"Ah pet, don't be like that." Spike wheedled. He'd been reliably informed that he wheedled with the best of them.

"Yeah, Nualla, I'm sorry too. We were just being silly," Xander added, using his puppy dog eyes.

She turned, giving the two contrite males a long look before smiling slightly. "You're idiots. I hope you know that."

They nodded solemnly in agreement.

"Okay, now that we've settled that what do you want to do?" she asked.

"Well, Spike was going to explain how he could be a dad and how you met and everything." Xander grinned.

"Oh, the story of how Will and I met. This is so romantic." She winked at the brunette and gave him a saucy grin. Spike actually looked embarrassed.

She slipped to the floor and leaned back against the easy chair. Xander arranged himself comfortably on the couch and Spike sat down with a weary air of resignation.

"I remember his first words to me like it was only yesterday." She paused dramatically before continuing in a fair imitation of the vampire's accent, "Bloody hell woman, I think I'm gonna hurl."





Part Five

Xander burst out laughing then slammed a hand over his mouth with a quick look towards the baby but his eyes were still dancing.

Spike raised an eyebrow and calmly pulled what was left of his sucker out of his pocket and popped it in his mouth while Xander tried to get his snickering under control.

"To be fair I'd just dumped an entire pail of water over him," she smiled.

Xander managed to catch his breath and gave Spike a slightly disapproving look. "He was that drunk?"

The again was left unstated but you could hear the implication. Xander didn't approve of anybody getting that drunk. Spike sneered around his sucker. The boy had a bit of the Puritan in him sometimes.

"Actually, he was about to burst into flames. He was smoking like a bad chimney and it's a good thing I found him when I did. He was lucky that it was my doorstep he passed out on and I was able to drag him inside in time," she said wryly.

It was Xander's turn to raise eyebrows. "That was pretty nice of you."

"Well, the whole community knew about that crazy northern vampire who'd spent the past week drinking and getting into fights at the local tavern. It was the juiciest bit of gossip we'd had in a long time." She gave Xander an apologetic look. "Things move slowly where I live which normally is just fine but as you can imagine in a quiet place like that when anything different happens, well." She leaned forward conspiratorially and Xander found himself leaning forward to meet her; "A handsome, dangerous stranger, obviously heartbroken over some little filly, saunters into town, well all the local demon girls and a few others spent a lot of their free time discussing how he might be 'consoled' if you get my drift." She giggled and then sobered mockingly, "Not me of course, I'm much too mature for that kind of thing."

Spike snorted inelegantly and Xander chortled at the disgruntled vampire, "Hey, romance novel material." Spike scowled back at him but the effect was somewhat ruined by the lollipop. It just didn't appear as menacing as usual.

"Have you ever seen him without his shirt on, whoa!" She fanned herself delicately and then patted the blonde's knee.

"Havin fun pet?" he asked conversationally. He was a little surprised at how calmly he'd taken the retelling of one of his most embarrassing moments. Maybe it was because he felt comfortable with these two. Harris wasn't in any position to laugh too hard at relationship troubles and neither was Nualla. Plus they all shared the same self-deprecating sense of humour, which, considering how their lives went was probably just as well. They weren't just laughing at him, they were laughing with him.

"Yes," she said in a childlike voice and with an unrepentant twinkle in her eye.

"Okay, Spike's sexy, fine, I get that." Xander stopped, "Wait, what I mean is, I can understand how some woman could get that. But, well, why would you think 'daddy' about some vampire who was too drunk to come in out of the sun?" Xander felt truly perplexed. Maybe it was different for supernatural creatures, but compact body and good looks aside, Spike did not strike him as good parenting material. Although, to be fair, he was really good with Dawn; in fact he was a lot stricter than Xander was about curfews and such. From what little he knew of demons, including Anya, they tended to be wild and maybe strict was good?

Nualla smiled a little sadly, "My people are few and far between. There aren't a lot of us left, no wild place, no sprites." Xander bit his lip and looked uncomfortable.

"Bloody humans," Spike muttered under his breath.

She shrugged in resignation, "Hey, that's progress. It happens and I got over being really angry about it a long time ago. The problem is, male sprites. There were never a lot of them to begin with and there are a lot less now. So, quick lesson in sprite biology if you're up for it?" she questioned the brunette.

Xander cleared his throat and nodded in his best mature manner. "Yeah, sure." He hesitated briefly, "Not too in depth right?"

"I'll censor out all the icky bits," she smiled. Spike laughed softly.

"When it's 'that time' and there is a male sprite available, well then things pretty much happen the way they do with humans except that the end result is an egg that is laid in a nice little nest that the male has created. The egg grows slowly and after two years it hatches and out comes a beautiful little sprite, usually female. Simple, yes?"

Xander nodded. This was really interesting, why couldn't they have studied this kind of stuff in school? This was so cool.

"Now if there's no male sprite around, the female has to find someone else, sometimes more than one. One to sort of start the process and one to finish it." She blushed a bit. "Also, we don't have a lot of time to do it either. Just one week or no more egg until the next cycle, which is every fifty years."

"When my time came, I already had my eye on someone, who was not cooperating. In fact he was being a pain in the neck."

"Too bloody right," Spike sneered.

"Who's telling the story, you or me?" Nualla asked primly. Spike grunted and waved her on.

"William had been staying with me for about a week at that point; drying out, making himself useful, keeping my hormones in a whirl." She laughed softly and gave him a fond look. "And just generally being a nice guy. So when I came home in tears one morning after another fruitless attempt to get my honey's attention before my biological deadline, he comforted me."

"Yeah?" Xander said, giving the vampire a rather dark look.

"Not that kind of comforting and aren't you sweet. No wonder you two are friends, both of you has a bit of the knight errant in you." The two men looked uncomfortable.

"No, I poured my little heart out to him and that's when we came up with a plan to get my man's attention. It ended up working too but that's another story and in the meantime I was going to lose my chance at a baby." She gave Spike a truly beautiful smile. The vampire gave her a wry grin in return.

Xander sighed softly. It was pretty obvious those two shared something on a much deeper level than sex.

"So to make a long story short, one night William and I started a baby."

"But he's a vampire and, well, nothing's alive," Xander squirmed a bit.

"But he is magical and I can work with that." She gave the blonde a wink. "I still needed the idiot who became my second husband though. He is alive, at least for now," she finished dryly.

She ran a hand through her hair and yawned delicately. They heard a little gurgling coo coming from the depths of the easy chair. She rolled her eyes slightly. "Oh, look, someone's awake again. Gee, I wonder why she's up half the night?" she said with a pointed look at the blonde.

"I expect it's because she has a bit of her Da in her." Spike crowed. "You get some rest luv, I'll look after her."

Xander jumped up, "Hey, where are my manners, let me show you the spare room. It's got clean sheets and everything.

"Thanks," she said tiredly. She bent down and gave the baby a kiss and a cuddle and then another kiss and another cuddle. It ended up being a good fifteen minutes before Xander was able to show her to the bedroom.

When he returned, it was to find Spike sitting on the floor with the baby cradled in his legs. He had a bit of string with a shiny piece of cellophane from his cigarette pack tied to the end and he was dangling it over the baby while she swatted at it. He kept encouraging her to grab and looked as proud as a peacock every time she swiped at it.

"That's it, grab it luv, 'grrr', wrestle it to the ground. Move in for the kill, that's my girl." Spike whispered encouragingly.

Xander slid down next to the vampire. "She's going to have to bring down a kill? What do sprites eat?" he asked a little worriedly.

"Oh, they're vegetarians, you know tree sap and such. Pretty disgusting if you ask me." Spike crinkled the paper for her and the baby blew a bubble at him in return. He grinned hugely. "Clever girl, who's a clever girl, yes you."

"I don't think she's going to have to wrestle any trees to the ground." Xander peered at the baby. She was a cute little thing.

Spike raised an eyebrow and gave the lad his trademark sneer. "Oh she won't eh? Ever been to the jungle?" Xander shook his head. "Well shows what you know."

Xander's eye's widened as the implications of that statement sunk in. Note to self, do not visit the deep jungle without lots of backup.

Xander bit his lip and peered at Spike who looked pretty relaxed. He decided to chance it. "Can I hold her?" He steeled himself for a cutting reply. The vampire gave him a long measuring look. Xander didn't think he'd ever been looked at that carefully before.

"Yeah, all right." Spike carefully held up the little bundle. Xander held out both hands.

"You got to support her head, make sure you got a firm hold now."

"I've got her head, I've got it!" Xander concentrated on receiving the tiny creature.

Anyone watching the operation would have thought they were moving highly volatile explosives. Finally she was settled on Xander's lap.

He stared down at her in awe. She stared back and yawned, obviously blasÚ about the entire procedure.

"She's so small," he breathed.

"Not even a mouthful," Spike agreed gently.

"Okay that was a disturbing comment." Xander said. "Why do you do that?"

"What?" asked an obviously confused Spike.

"Well, when you like someone you refer to them as food; like Nibblet or Little Bit, or Nummy. It's weird."

"Not if you're a vampire," Spike stated reasonably.

Xander thought about that for second and then shrugged mentally. "Can't argue with that I suppose," he thought.

"She's so cute."

"Yeah,"

They both sniffed and then grimaced. Xander looked at Spike. "Well Dad," Xander looked hopeful.

"You're holding her." Spike backed up a bit.

"Oh man," Xander, "Together?"

They stared at each other then at the baby. She cooed delightedly and kicked her little legs.

"Right then," the vampire answered. "How bad could it be?"





Part Six

"Ohh, bloody 'ell," the vampire quickly stepped back. Xander had lost the coin toss so he got to unwrap the package. He had protested vehemently, saying that he was not the dad so it wasn't even fair to have a coin toss. But, Spike had pointed to his nose and mentioned that his ability to scent prey was a necessary survival trait that he would need if he ever had to look out for his daughter. That made absolutely no sense to Xander but he had given in and was now faced with the results.

He grimaced, actually it wasn't that bad. Really, not that bad, although how such a little thing could make such a big mess was beyond him. A hand appeared around the bathroom door proffering a clean bit of cloth. Xander quickly wrapped the soiled one up inside two trash bags. He hesitated briefly about tossing the diaper but then thought, "Heck, I'll just get her more." He sniffed again, "It's gotta go."

Spike poked his head around the corner and watched Xander expertly pin the baby into a new diaper. Xander caught his eye and finished with a little flourish.

"Viola, thank you, thank you, no applause please, just throw money." He gave the astonished vampire a cocky grin.

"Where'd you learn to do that mate?" Spike tried to regain his usual cool.

"Like I keep telling you," he said pointing to himself, "best friends with a woman here, hello? When we played house, Willow was into progressive parenting. She insisted that Jesse and I know how to diaper her dolls." Xander gently tickled the squirming baby. "Never thought I'd be using that particular skill."

Xander wrapped her back up in her blanket and he and Spike headed to the living room. "Hey, we just keep calling her baby. What's her name?" Xander asked as he settled cross-legged on the couch.

"Doesn't have one yet. Won't have her Naming Day for another couple of months. That's how it is with her Father's people." Spike propped his feet up on the coffee table and yawned.

"Is she running away from him?" Xander asked in a very quiet, very serious tone.

Spike didn't pretend to misunderstand. "Naw, she just needed some space you know? He's the overbearing type and he's got no idea how to handle her." Spike nodded towards the guestroom. "Probably spent all his time giving orders and what woman likes that eh?"

Spike shook his head, "Tried to warn her but she had heart set on him she did, and wouldn't see no one else."

"Did you want her to 'see' you?" Xander asked and held his breath. He felt a little out of his depth although strangely he also felt very adult. He'd never had a really serious conversation with the blonde and for some reason he felt proud that Spike thought he was mature enough to talk to about the situation.

The vampire gave him a sidelong glance and for a moment Xander thought he wouldn't answer then Spike shook his head. "No; don't love her like that, although maybe I wish I could." He shrugged, "can't choose who to fall in love with, just happens."

Xander's thoughts strayed to a head of bright red hair and pretty green eyes. He nodded in understanding. "Yeah."

Both men sat deep in their own thoughts for a while before Xander roused himself to ask, "What's the plan? Do you want her to stay here until she gets her head together?"

Spike gave a dry chuckle, "I don't think we have that much time. If I know the big oaf, he's on his way here right now bound and determined to bring the little woman home."

"Well if she needs some space maybe he should just give it to her," Xander snorted. "I mean, it sounds like he was pushing, you know?"

"Much as I dislike the bloke and would love to agree with you whole heartedly, I happen to know Nualla." Spike shook his head, "He may be a right wanker with more muscle than sense but my wife is no shrinking wallflower either. Nualla's been on her own a long time and she's not anymore used to being married then the big idiot. When Nualla wants to do something well Nualla does it." Spike gave Xander a wry look.

Xander winced, "Irresistible force meets immovable object?"

"Too right," the vampire agreed. "You don't just walk away from the local demon leader with a note saying 'Ta, be seeing you when I see you.'" Spike snorted, "Man's got to have some pride."

Xander bristled, "Hey, when I said that about Anya you thought I was being an idiot."

"Yeah, well you were and so are they, happy?" Spike wondered about the kid sometimes although this was nice. Well nice was too smarmy a word, more like a bit of all right. He hadn't had another male to just talk to in a long time, not since the Poof, well not even him actually and Master Vampires did not 'hang out' with minions. Aside from the baby he'd never had a Childe. Now he had Dawn and a baby and a wife and a couple of crazy witches and an affianced man-child for friend, throw the Watcher, Anya and Dru into the mix and it was a real mess. I wonder if my un-life is this crazy for a reason? He thought about that for a moment and then decided it was best not to know.

"So again I ask, what's the plan 'oh wily one'," Xander was busy watching the baby grab his finger. "And why do you keep referring to him as the big oaf or big idiot or big anything?" He smiled down at the entranced child who had decided that Xander-finger was the best toy in the world.

"The plan whelp, is to find him before he finds us and pulverizes us into little blobs of demon goo or human goo in your case." Spike pulled out a match to chew on. He was going to have to trust the lad with the baby soon so he could catch a smoke. "And I call him big because he is a very large demon."

Xander looked up, "When you say large, are we talking 'large' or 'good lord it's blocking out the sun'?"

Spike stroked his chin thoughtfully, "Somewhere in-between I reckon." He caught Xander's worried look and gave him a cheeky grin. "Not to worry ducks, too late to do it tonight but I'll put the word out at Willy's tomorrow and we'll get it settled. Besides," Spike puffed up a bit, "I can take him."

Xander hoped this wasn't one of Spike delusions of grandeur.

The baby yawned hugely while Xander gently rubbed her little tummy. She liked these strange creatures; they were funny. She liked the one who smelled a bit like mommy and whose face could change. She liked the other one who was rubbing her tummy too. She closed her eyes and slid into sleep.

"Let me have her, eh? I'll put her down with her mum then I've got to have a smoke." Spike carefully picked up the sleeping infant and cradled her against his shoulder. She fussed a bit and he rubbed her back soothingly and started making a low rumbling noise that an astonished Xander could only describe later as a purr.

His mouth fell open as he watched the vampire walk down the hall to Nualla's bedroom. "Vampire's purr! Wait until I tell Willow," he thought excitedly. He got up and stretched, walking into the bathroom and getting ready for bed.

He waited until Spike returned and then tossed him an extra set of keys. "I'm heading to bed. There's extra blankets and stuff in the closet. I don't have any blood though so you might want to pick some up before you settle in for the evening."

The vampire gave him a long look and then slowly raised an eyebrow. Xander shrugged and grinned self-deprecatingly, "I know, I know, you're not domesticated and I can't trust you as far as I can throw you and no, I'm not taking you for granted."

"Good," was all the blonde said before opening the door.

"Oh hey Spike?" Xander handed him the bag with the diaper in it and gave him cheeky grin, "don't forget the trash."

Spike grimaced and held the bag well away as he left.





Part Seven

It was a bleary eyed Xander who contemplated his cereal the next morning. Actually it was technically 12:01 pm but it was morning as far as Xander was concerned. He'd rousted a grumpy Spike and moved him into his own bed, thank you very much, at around 11:30 so that he could putter in comfort; one thing he'd learned from spending time with the bleached wonder was that Spike was not a morning person.

He'd heard Nualla get up earlier. He listened to her quietly give the little one a bath and then dozed off to the sounds of Sesame Street playing on the TV in the guest room. By the time he rolled out of bed she must have gone back to sleep to nap with the nibblet. He grimaced, "Great, now he has me doing it too".

He heard sounds of life and a tousled sprite and baby appeared in the kitchen. She gave him a sleepy smile. "Good morning. How are you?"

"Fine thanks. What can I get you and baby?"

"Oh don't worry about the baby. I've got her covered." She smiled sweetly at the suddenly blushing young man. "Do you have any granola, moss, lichen, tea?" she asked.

Xander hesitated and then offered sheepishly, "I have Fruit Loops. They recently brightened the colours."

She peered into the box somewhat warily and sniffed delicately, then shrugged, "Yeah, all right."

Xander gave a sigh of relief and then brightened, "But, hey I do have tea." He stood up and reached into the cupboard, "It's Green Tea, is that okay?"

"Oh perfect. Thank you." She was trying to juggle the baby while pouring cereal and had just about decided to set her down when Xander held out his arms.

"Can I hold her?" he asked hopefully.

"Sure." She watched him very carefully support the baby's head before cradling her in his arms. "You like children?"

"Yeah," he smiled shyly. "My girlfriend talked about having kids and I kinda freaked. I'm not sure why but, this is sorta cool." He gave her a grin.

"Well, lots of people, male and female 'freak' when the topic of children come up. It's a big adjustment." She stared at the wall with a sad look.

"You okay?" Xander asked quietly.

"Yeah, I think I just realized that maybe I didn't give someone as much time to adjust as I thought I did," she said wryly. "To think that I might have made a mistake;" she gave him a twisted half smile.

"Shocking," the brunette said with a relatively straight face.

She stuck her tongue out him. The baby giggled. Nualla watched the young man play with her daughter. She'd listened to him and William arguing about changing the baby's diaper last night. She'd had to bite the pillow to keep from laughing out loud. That nonsense Will had given the human about sensitive vampire noses inspired a giggle every time she thought of it. She could tell by the tone in the boy's voice that he hadn't fallen for it but he'd still ended up changing the diaper. Her William could talk his way out of just about anything given half the chance. She'd seen him do it.

"Xander, is William all right? I mean does he have someone, besides you of course," she asked seriously.

Xander didn't even glance up, his gaze focused on the baby he was gently rocking. "Well, not really, not since Buffy died."

"Buffy?"

"The Slayer," Xander stopped, frozen in shock. What had he just said? No one was supposed to know that Buffy was dead. They'd all gone to so much trouble with the Buffybot and now he just babbled it all out about Buffy and how Spike felt about her. The vampire was going to kill him, chip or no chip, Spike would find a way. He swallowed miserably, meeting the grave look in the sprite's eyes.

"The Slayer, oh, my poor, poor William," She said sorrowfully and slowly shook her head. She met Xander's stricken gaze, reaching across and patting his arm. "It's okay. It'll be our secret."

Xander let out the breath he didn't know he'd been holding.

"My goodness this certainly is a very bright breakfast food." She delicately plucked a floating fruit loop from her milk. "I don't think I've ever seen this exact shade of glow in the dark green before, hmm, interesting." She pretended to study the loop intently, giving the shaken young man a chance to regain his composure. He seemed to be a rather endearing mix of innocence, bravado and wisdom. The fact that he was William's friend was in her opinion a good thing for Will and from what she'd seen of Xander, probably a good thing for him as well. Well, speak of the Devil, she thought as an obviously newly awakened vampire appeared.

Spike's eyes were at half mast and his hair was sticking up every which way. He shuffled directly to the fridge and pulled out what appeared to be bagged blood. Without even looking, he held out a palm and Xander slapped a mug into his hand. He poured the blood into the mug and put it in the microwave and then leaned against the counter. The entire procedure had been performed in silence.

The microwave beeped and Spike took out his 'liberated' Kiss the Librarian mug swallowing a healthy dose of blood. His eyes opened a little more. He took another smaller sip. Xander waited until the third sip and then ventured a "Morning Spike." The vampire grunted.

Xander held the baby up, "Look baby, scary vampire. Grrr" The little girl cooed delightedly as the blonde gently chucked her under the chin.

Spike finished off his mug of blood and poured in the rest of the bag and popped the cup back in the microwave. He ran a hand through his hair so that it regained some semblance of order and yawned.

"Mornin' whelp." He winked at Nualla, "'ello Beautiful."

"Good morning William," she said through a mouthful of cereal. She had ventured an entire spoonful and was now determinedly munching away on the sugary substance. She felt herself getting a bit light-headed. No more sugar for me. I need to go find some vegetables. She thought.

Spike saw her blink a little dazedly. "We need to find you some veggies luv." He looked at the bowl of breakfast cereal reprovingly.

"Hey just make a list. I can go shopping. We can do salad and stuff. We'll be all healthy until tonight." Xander said.

"Tonight," murmured the sprite distractedly. She felt distinctly odd, not bad really, just odd. "Are we going out?"

"No, I'm going out. I just need to run a few errands." Spike glared at the boy.

Xander winced, "Sorry," he mouthed.

"I think," she stood up suddenly, "Oh dear, please excuse me." She made a run for the bathroom where she lost the entire contents of her tummy. Note to self, no more sugary breakfast cereals.

"You all right pet?" Spike asked. She waved him away.

"Just fine, no problem," she breathed slowly, in and out, okay, all done being sick, feeling much better.

"I'll send the boy out for some proper food." Spike hesitated until she got up and gave him a reassuring smile. "Pet, good rule of thumb, if Xander likes it, it's probably not good for you."


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Spike handed Xander a wad of cash and sent him to the store armed with a long list of food items that consisted mostly of fresh vegetables, fruits and a box of Wheatabix for the vampire. Nualla was feeling much better by the time he returned and they spent the rest of the afternoon watching movies and playing with the baby. The four of them got along with cheerful camaraderie right up until the point that Spike put on his jacket and mentioned that he was going out for a smoke. The sprite must have had some sort of sixth sense because she had stood up and indicated that she wanted a breath of fresh air.

Xander had a front row seat to a very subtle battle of wills. Unlike the loud and sometimes violent disagreements his parents engaged in or the avoidance arguments he and Anya had, this was a match of champions. He watched them duck and weave with the expertise of world class contenders. For awhile there, it almost seemed like Spike just might make it out the door alone but in the end he'd found himself holding Nualla's backpack for her while she wrapped the baby up in preparation for the trip to Willy's.

Spike had lost Round One but he came back swinging when they finally arrived at the bar. He absolutely refused to let her come in. He pointed to the baby and Xander saying that neither could come inside and someone would have to stay out here and protect them. Xander bristled but his protest was quashed by a single raised eyebrow. He pouted, she pouted, but Spike remained unmoved. He'd been pouted at by the best. No one could out-pout Dru in a high dudgeon.

Before going inside he came up to the annoyed sprite and rubbed against her temple and cheek. He then did the same to the baby but for her he added a lick to which she cooed appreciatively. He then moved over to Xander who was trying to decide what the heck was going on. The vampire grimaced then grabbed him firmly by the scruff of his neck and blew along his both sides just below his ears. Xander shivered and Spike pulled back with a smirk.

He looked at his little group. "All mine," he growled before entering the bar with a decisive whirl of his duster.

"What just happened?" Xander looked over at a seemingly unconcerned Nualla.

She rolled her eyes, "Vampires," she said as if that explained it all and maybe it did.

They waited outside mutinously receiving several odd stares from the incoming and outgoing patrons but no one bothered them. A few demons stepped closer than Xander would have liked but then immediately backed off. Xander wasn't sure whether it was Spike's scent or Nualla's hiss of displeasure which caused it but he started to feel less like a walking Happy Meal.

Spike returned looking grim. "He's already in town luv," he said looking at the sprite. They walked away from Willy's, Spike and Xander automatically falling into flanking positions around the woman and the baby.

A surprised and pleased expression crossed her face. She glanced at the two men and quickly covered it with a casually disinterested shrug; "Yeah?"

The vampire gave her a vaguely disgusted look, "Yeah, he must have left right after you did; happy now?"

She shrugged again but this time looked a little uncomfortable.

"When we find him the two of you are going to have a talk and get this foolishness worked out, you hear me?" Spike said sternly.

She bit her lip, glancing at him from the corner of her eye. She nodded slightly.

"Nualla," he warned. "You two can't go on like this, it isn't good for the baby."

"Low blow," she glared. "You're playing dirty."

"Yeah, well I'm evil." Spike growled. Xander hid a smile.

They took the short cut across the park stopping to let Xander retie his shoe. He glanced up and then froze. Spike froze, Nualla froze, the baby on the other hand continued to snooze. In front of them stood one of the biggest demons Xander had ever seen. Heck, he was one of the biggest anything's the kid had ever seen. Xander swallowed past the very large lump that had suddenly appeared in his throat. He pointed.

"Daddy?" he squeaked.

"Daddy," Nualla confirmed.

"Oh bloody 'ell."





Part Eight

Rationally Xander knew that the demon facing them was probably only about seven feet tall but the small atavistic part of his brain that had kept him alive on the Hellmouth all these years was screaming It's a giant monster, run! Rational Xander, however, refused to leave his friends and certainly was not putting a baby in harm's way.

'Daddy' stalked closer with surprising grace for something so large. Xander felt his stomach tighten; regardless of what Spike had said, this demon didn't appear to be a big oaf. For one thing he wasn't rushing forward blindly or bellowing in wounded outrage or just generally snarling mindlessly. He stepped to within six feet of the little group and then stopped, arms held loosely at his side.

He nodded brusquely, "William." He bowed to the sprite, "Nualla", he said coolly. He then turned to Xander, "You're that human that runs with the Slayer." It wasn't a question.

Xander took a calming breath, "Xander" he said evenly. He saw Spike give him a nod of approval. The demon gave him a measuring look and then nodded. Oh yeah, thought Xander, the big scary demon now thinks of me as worthy of being pounded into goo. Oddly enough the thought was somewhat comforting for the young man. At least he wasn't being dismissed.

The demon scented the air and narrowed his eyes at Spike who just raised his eyebrows questioningly. The demon gave a very low growl, which Spike promptly returned. Xander felt his stomach tighten further. Oh this is so not good. He groaned silently.

The demon turned to Nualla. "If you're done visiting, it's time to come home. Now."

Xander winced, even he knew that phrasing a sentence like that in that tone of voice was not of the good, as Buffy used to say. He watched the sprite stiffen. Yup, the chin goes up, the lips drop down. Oh yeah, she's gonna do whatever you want, not Xander thought as he mentally slapped his forehead. "And everyone tells me I don't have a clue."

"Baby and I aren't done visiting my husband and his friend yet," she answered with regal coldness.

"I've been patient," he bit out.

"Ha! You wouldn't know patient if you sat on it."

"Any patience I have is quickly being used up by a spoiled little forest sprite that insists that it's her way or no way at all!"

"My way! My way!" she shouted, "Well maybe I do dig in my heels but if I didn't you'd walk all over me with those big feet of yours."

Xander could swear he saw Daddy's eyes spark. "We are not going to have this discussion in front of him," he pointed at Spike, "and a human. We are going home!" He made a grab at Nualla's arm, which was slapped out of the way by Spike.

Wow, Xander hadn't even seen the vampire move. He'd apparently been content to let the argument go but as soon as the demon had reached for Nualla, that was that. He was in gameface and standing right in front of the sprite and the baby, snarling like a wolf on steroids.

"Mine," he hissed. "Share yes; take no!"

Daddy roared in outrage and Xander quickly grabbed Nualla by the shoulders and yanked her and the baby out of the way. Oh yeah, this was bad.

"Stop it! William, Rolf! I mean it!" she yelled trying to get the circling males' attention.

"Rolf?" thought Xander. "What the heck kind of name is Rolf for a demon. No, no Rolf is the name you give a Scandinavian massage expert, not a big scary demon. I just find that disturbing." There was a loud crack and a howl. Xander jerked his mind back to the matter at hand, namely two very pissed off demons and one very angry sprite.

Apparently Rolf had just taken a swipe at Spike and had his nose punched for his troubles. Now Rolf feinted to the left, oh but he snuck in with a right hook. Give the Devil his due that was a nice move. Spike was back with a roundhouse kick though that scored a direct hit; unfortunately, not much damage. Now they were circling each other again, both a little more wary than before. Xander remembered Spike saying he could take down Daddy, yeah right. Look out, duck, oh that had to hurt. Wow, good thing Spike didn't need to breath.

Xander found himself ducking and weaving and wincing with the battle. Spike was holding his own but Rolf was not going down anytime soon. Nualla was yelling and Xander suspected, cursing in a language he didn't understand. Finally she stamped her foot and handed Xander the baby who was awake and watching the proceedings with wide eyes. Rolf grabbed the vampire in a bear hug and started to squeeze. Xander could swear he heard bones creaking. Spike smacked the demon's ears and Rolf howled and dropped him. The demon stumbled slightly, shaking his head to clear it. Spike was dancing and weaving like a professional boxer, jumping in for quick jab then jumping out of range again and laughing, the loon. Xander held his hand up over the baby's eyes when Spike caught the demon a good clip to the chin. Then Xander held his hands up over both their eyes when Rolf managed to grab Spike around the neck in one meaty paw. He was lifting the vampire clear off the ground and pulling back a fist. Xander glanced around wildly for anything to hit him with or a place to set the baby or something.

With a sudden high-pitched war cry Nualla launched herself at Daddy's back and latched on. In all the excitement, Xander hadn't noticed her manoeuvring into position. What did she think she was doing, she was way too small to have any effect on the big guy. She had managed to keep him from hitting Spike, although the vampire was still being held off the ground. The blond was hissing and clawing like a wet cat.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


"Good Lord, what's going on over there?" A very old, rather blue haired Risa demon asked her companion.

"I don't know; it appears to be some sort of domestic squabble." Her companion shuddered with delicate contempt. "There appears to be a vampire involved; well of course there would be. Hooligans."

"This was exactly what I was talking about earlier, where is the Slayer? She's supposed to keep the riff raff in line. There's not much point in putting up with the inconvenience of having a Slayer about if she's not going to do the job properly." The Risa shook her head in disgust.

"I couldn't agree more," her companion patted the Risa's arm consolingly. She took one final look at the fight and sniffed disdainfully, "Disgraceful!"


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


"You let him go right now or so help me I'll do it. I swear I will!" Nualla yelled.

The enraged demon didn't seem to be listening to her although, Xander noted, aside from trying to shake her off his back he wasn't making any other move to hurt her.

"Rolf!" she yelled raising her hand. "Fine, I warned you."

Xander saw Nualla slap a palm hard against her husband's neck. He heard the demon groan before he stood straight up like he'd been pole axed. Xander saw Spike's eyes widen almost comically as he just managed to gasp, "Oh bloody 'ell!" before Rolf fell on him like the proverbial ton of bricks.

After the dust settled, so to speak, all that was visible of the blonde were two splayed out arms and his booted left foot. Xander had the wholly hysterical fear that when they lifted Rolf off the vampire he would be flattened like a cartoon character from an old Road Runner episode.

"Spike, Spike, are you all right? Talk to me buddy." Xander raced forward. He must be alive otherwise he'd just be a big pile of dust.

Nualla had lightly jumped to her feet and then stared down at her husbands in shock. She cringed, "Oops."

"Mffwfflglmgl," came from beneath the fallen demon.

"Oh, thank god," Xander sighed in relief. "Just hang on, we'll get you out of there." He turned to the chagrined sprite. "How are we gonna get him out of there?"

She held up a hand, "It's okay, I got it." She reached down and Xander's eyes bugged as she rolled the big demon off Spike with surprising ease. "Oh, Will, I'm so sorry," she said contritely. He just glared and she wisely moved off to see to Rolf.

Xander dropped to his knees beside the disgruntled vampire. Spike was muttering under his breath and still in gameface. He was swiping at the dirt on his coat, as his angry rumblings got louder. He glared at the fallen demon and opened his mouth. Xander winced and pointed frantically to the baby still in his arms.

"Little pitchers have big ears," he said as soothingly as he could. It was pretty obvious that Spike was at the end of his rope as far as family was concerned. Spike settled for snarling and Xander stood offering the angry blonde a hand up.

Spike shifted back to his human features and let the man tug him to his feet. He didn't really need the help but he did need the contact to help him continue to calm down. Xander stood very still as Spike moved so close that he was almost leaning against the human. He just stood there and seemed to be consciously breathing, in and out. It took Xander a minute to realize that the vampire was soothing himself with the scent of his child and Xander.

Nualla had rolled Daddy over onto his back and was now kneeling by his side. "If you're going to behave yourself, blink once." She must have been satisfied with his answer because she drew her arm back and again slapped his neck. This time though, Xander was able to see a thorn or something protruding from the palm of her hand.

The demon began blinking rapidly and then suddenly sat up. He stared at her; she stared at him.

"Are you okay?" they both asked at the same time.

"Right, that's it. We are going to the apartment and the two of you are going to get this settled, tonight. I'm not putting up with this anymore and neither is Xander and I'm not having any child of mine raised in this kind of atmosphere." Spike spoke each word very clearly and succinctly. Xander had never heard him use exactly that tone of voice before but for the first time, Xander suspected he was seeing Spike the Master Vampire.

Xander held his breath. Nualla and Rolf met each other's eyes and then looked away, both nodded guiltily. Spike indicated the way and the odd little procession headed back to Xander's apartment.





Part Nine

It was a very subdued group that made its way back to Xander's apartment. Xander handed the baby back to Nualla and walked by her side back to his place. Spike was stalking along next to Rolf. The two demons had automatically moved out in front as the procession had started home.

Xander hadn't missed Nualla and Rolf's worry over each other at the end of the fight. Because Spike was his friend and he liked Nualla and the baby he'd been prepared to dislike the errant father on principle, but it was pretty obvious, even to someone as young as him that those two crazy kids were head over heels in love. The guy didn't have a clue how to deal with women though. Xander tried to imagine giving orders to Anya or Willow. He shuddered, even worse, Buffy or Cordelia. Why even Joyce, who in his opinion had been about the best mom in the world, regardless of her occasional lapses, wouldn't have responded well to orders. He could see her getting that very polite, slightly confused look on her face while she asked you to please repeat yourself, she couldn't have heard you correctly.

It was funny really, the weekend had started out with Spike telling him to get a clue in learning how women think and it was ending with him getting a complete crash course. He was determined to pay close attention because he had a very strong feeling that he could pick up some useful information concerning relationships. He'd already decided that Spike was way more patient and thoughtful then he'd ever realized. He was also a total romantic. He'd helped Nualla get the man, er, demon of her dreams. He'd been prepared to let Nualla and Rolf yell at each other all night if they needed to; it wasn't until Rolf had made a grab for her that he'd gotten involved. Even after getting knocked around and putting up with big and jealous, he still wanted these two to work it out for the sake of his daughter.

Xander, smiled to himself watching the two demons covertly keep an eye on each other. Yeah, Spike knew that Rolf was jealous, of that Xander was certain. Heck, why wouldn't he be; good looking blonde vampire who just happens to be your wife's other husband and not her ex-husband either. She's having trouble at home and whom does she go running to; her white knight, Spike. What guy wouldn't be resentful?

He glanced at the sprite. She looked so sad. Man, he hoped she wasn't going to cry. He hated it when women cried; he just turned to mush. Not that Anya had ever cried. He would have totally freaked if she had ever broken down in tears. Willow had wept on his shoulder a time or two. He smiled a tad bitterly; he was surely even the cause of a few of her tears. The thing was, when women cried he always felt like he should do something, take action, slay a monster or at the very least give someone a stern talking to. He wasn't very good with the "I just need to get it all out" type of tears that Willow usually cried on his shoulder. After trial and error, he'd finally figured out that his job was to just keep nodding and handing over Kleenex. He was not to try to make useful suggestions or jump up and swear to kill the guy; at least not more than once.

Nualla sniffled a little and cuddled the baby. She turned to talk to Xander and caught him staring at her with a look approaching horror. He began frantically rummaging around in his pockets before pulling out a very tired looking wad of paper napkins? He was offering them to her like a supplicant trying to appease his goddess. She reached out and took one of the less battered napkins and smiled hesitantly. The poor young man, even for someone used to fighting at the side of the Slayer, tonight must have seemed quite harrowing at times.

"It's okay Xander. I promise, no more violence. I'm so sorry and so ashamed. You must think I'm just a terrible parent." She gave him a bewildered look. "I don't even know how it got this bad."

"Maybe it's hormones?" he offered. "Not that I'm one of those guys who assumes everything is hormones because I'm not, unless of course you think it might be?"

"You'd let me try and get away with that excuse huh?" She gave a half-smile. "I don't think Rolf is going to fall for that and I know William won't" She ended wryly.

Spike didn't even turn around, "Too bloody right, luv," he tossed over his shoulder.

Rolf grunted in agreement. He jerked his head in Xander's direction. "He your new consort?"

"Why the bloody 'ell does everyone assume that the whelp is my mate?" Spike growled.

The big demon gave him an incredulous look as he ticked the reasons off one by one. "He smells like you. We're going back to his place where you apparently have an invite. Nualla said she was visiting you and your 'friend'. He's another good-looking brunette. He's human and you haven't eaten him."

Spike opened his mouth to answer, then closed it, then started again. "Right, well when you put it that way, I can see how maybe, someone might get that idea but they'd be wrong. I mean, look at him, he's a puppy." Spike growled indignantly. Rolf held up his hands and just shrugged. They continued to walk in silence.

"So you think he's good-looking then?" Spike asked nonchalantly.

"For a human, he's all right; didn't run." Rolf answered.

Spike smiled with a certain pride. "Yeah, he's a brave one. Don't let on I said so though, can't let a human get the upper hand. You know how they get."

Rolf nodded and he and Spike shared a knowing look.

They reached Xander's apartment without further conversation. It was an awkward group that Xander ushered into his living room. "Look, can I get anybody anything to drink or something before I make myself scarce."

Nualla sat perched on the edge of the easy chair with the baby in her lap. She looked up apprehensively, "You don't have to go."

"This is family business. I'll just go into the bedroom and watch TV or something while you guys talk. You are just going to talk right?" The young man bit his lip worriedly.

"No worries mate, everyone is just going to talk." Spike assured him giving the other two a pointed look.

Xander spared a last glance at the little group before going to the kitchen to get a soda and heading to the bedroom. He was definitely trying not to listen but he couldn't help but overhear the beginning of the discussion.

"You wanted to talk, so let's talk." Rolf started brusquely. "Why don't you tell me what it is you think I've done that's so terrible?"

Spike growled warningly.

Xander peeked his head out of the kitchen and caught Nualla looking at her husband with big stricken eyes. Her lower lip was quivering slightly but she was trying valiantly not to cry. "You want to know, well fine I'll tell you, you didn't even ask how she was," she cried before abruptly standing up and giving Spike an apologetic look. "I'm sorry William I just can't talk about this right now." She turned and rushed into the guest room before closing the door solidly.

You could have heard a pin drop. Spike turned and gave the demon a fierce look. Xander quickly moved into the living room to forestall any violence all the while chanting like a mantra "Fragile human in the room, fragile human in the room, fragile human in the room."

"You have got the sensitivity of a bleeding ox. Why the 'ell she ever thought that you were the demon for her I'll never know." Spike shook his head, "I actually thought that her running off to see me was rash and immature but after seeing the way you've acted this evening I believe I've changed my mind. You don't deserve her and you sure as bleedin 'ell don't deserve that beautiful little baby in there." He ended his tirade with a snarl.

Xander waited for the resulting explosion so he was completely caught off guard when the big demon dropped his head into his hands and said, "You're absolutely right, I don't deserve them. I'm a terrible husband and a bad father."

Xander blinked and looked at Spike who was staring at the obviously distraught demon with narrowed eyes. Xander crept quietly back to the kitchen, switching his soda for three beers. He returned and offered one to the vampire and set one down in front of the troubled demon. He settled into the easy chair. He had a feeling it was going to be a long night.





Part Ten

After further studying the brooding demon, Spike finally sighed disgustedly. "I am not spending my evening watching some big bloke brood. If I wanted to do that, I could go to LA and watch a professional brooder so why don't you tell me why you're such a bad father and husband and after I get done agreeing with you, we can all get on with our lives."

Rolf managed a half-hearted sneer in the vampire's direction before taking a rather dainty sip of beer. He stared off into the distance for a bit before answering with a seeming non-sequiter. "She's so small you know. That's what struck me the first time I laid eyes on her. She's just a little bit of nothing, as fragile as a butterfly's wing."

"I'm risking a guess here that we're talking about the baby." Spike said quietly.

"Mostly the baby, but Nualla too." Rolf shook his head. "I know she can take care of herself. She proved that tonight. In fact she can take care of herself so well that sometimes I wonder why she even needs me around. She just whirls around organizing this and taking care of that," he motioned vaguely.

"She's been on her own a long time mate. Did you want her coming to you about every little thing?" Spike questioned.

Rolf snorted, "No, of course not. I'm not some insecure young one that needs constant reassurance from his mate."

"No one said you needed constant reassurance but some is a bit of alright." Spike smiled slightly.

The demon returned the smile reluctantly, "Some would be nice, yes." He heaved a sigh. "I know I can be slightly overbearing."

Xander couldn't help it. He swore he couldn't, he choked on his beer. Spike reached over and casually slapped his back.

Rolf glared, "Right, well some of what she sees as bossy is for her own good. She's not on her own anymore. I'm a chieftain; there are clan disputes and old grudges. I want her to be safe. I want the baby to be safe but whenever I put my foot down and insist she stay close to home, she argues with me and usually does the exact opposite." He looked very aggrieved.

"I'm just venturing a guess here; you ever explain why you were laying down the law?" Spike asked conversationally. Rolf grumbled something unintelligible. "Right, I'll take that as a no."

"Chieftains don't explain decisions," Rolf grumbled.

"Chieftains might not, but good husbands and mates, do. They discuss things even when they don't think there's any room for discussion. They ask questions to which they already know the answers just because it'll make things easier down the road. And whenever possible, no matter what the situation, they turn to their mates and say, 'I don't know, what do you think about it.'" Spike stared into the others demon's eyes very seriously.

"Am I getting across here? Your mate is the one person you should be able to talk to no matter what. The one person you can admit not having all the answers to all the questions and they won't care. They might even have some answers you hadn't thought of but you have to bleeding tell them what's going on." Spike finished with a snarl.

He rubbed a weary hand over his face. Xander looked at the tired vampire with respect. The young man leaned forward and nudged the blonde slightly, handing him his unopened beer. "Wow, you're good."

"That's probably why she loves you," the demon said grudgingly after a moment.

"She loves you. She spent months trying to get your attention. You are all the chit talked about while I was with her. You just had to be the father of her baby. The only reason I'm involved at all is because you were too dense to figure out what was going on." Spike threw up his hands.

"Really?" Rolf perked up. "She had her eye on me for that long. I always thought that she just settled for me because you wouldn't stick around. She just needed some security and so she picked me."

Spike gave him and disbelieving look, "And all those times at the market place with her constantly accidentally running into you and dropping things and you having to save her, what did you think that was?"

"I just thought she was clumsy." Rolf looked vaguely uncomfortable.

Spike just stared, "No one's that clumsy, not even Nummy here." Spike jerked his thumb.

"Hey," Xander exclaimed. "I've outgrown a lot of that."

"Well I did wonder." Rolf's face was suddenly lit by a beatific smile. "It was always me? I was first choice?" The demon was grinning like a fool and kept repeating; "I was first," before suddenly standing up and marching down the hall to the guestroom and rapping on the door.

"Nualla, I would like to speak with you please and say hello to my daughter." He caught Spike's eye and nodded, "If now is a good time for you of course, otherwise I'll just wait out here with William and Xander until you're ready."

Xander held his breath as the door slowly opened. Nualla's head appeared as she motioned him into the room and the door closed. Xander looked at Spike. Spike looked at Xander as the pair waited with baited breath. Five minutes passed, then ten and still no explosion. Xander cleared his throat and grinned at the blonde.

Spike lifted an eyebrow, "What are you grinning at Whelp?"

"You," he sassed back. "William the Bloody, Marriage Counsellor Extraordinaire."

The vampire leaned back cockily and took a long pull at his beer. "Yeah, I am pretty damn good."

Xander leaned forward, "Actually you are. All that stuff you said about mates and husbands and wives and stuff. You were right. I guess if you're marrying for love that's how it should be." Xander frowned slightly and seemed about to say something further when the phone rang. Spike picked up the cordless and tossed it to him.

"Hello? Anya? No it's not too late. What's up honey? "Oh, yeah, hang on a sec." Xander hit the mute button and stood up, taking a shaky breath.

"You okay?" Spike asked quietly.

"I'll let you know. She wants to have a talk. Will you be here when I get done?" Xander tried to look composed.

"I'll be here pet," Spike nodded. Xander looked relieved before entering his bedroom and closing the door. "I ought to start charging by the hour." He was contemplating going out for a quick smoke when Nualla's door opened and a grinning sprite and husband exited the room. Rolf was holding the baby very carefully in the crook of his arm although he could have just as easily held her in one hand.

"Rolf and I wondered if you would watch her for just a bit. We wanted to go out and enjoy the park and the stars." Nualla couldn't seem to stop smiling and looking up at her big husband like he was a goof but the most wonderful goof in the world. He was just grinning back like a fool.

Spike raised an eyebrow; those two were totally besotted with each other. "I'll be happy to look after the Nibblet while the two of you 'take a walk in the park'" Spike stressed the last words with a smirk. Who were they trying to kid, walk in the park to enjoy the stars, right.

The sprite blushed and darned if Rolf did flush as well. The baby was exchanged carefully. Spike smiled down at the gurgling baby. Nualla stared at him for a moment before abruptly dropping to her knees and giving the astonished vampire a fierce but careful hug. "I love you and thank you very, very much. You are always welcome in our home. You and your friend." She kissed him gently on the lips before standing back up and entwining her arm with her husband's. He gave the flustered vampire a grave look; "We will expect you at the Naming Day, William," he said firmly before the two lovebirds turned and left on their stroll.

Spike waved them on their way before bending down and blowing softly on the baby's tummy, causing her to coo delightedly and wiggle. "You're probably going to be driving the blokes just as crazy when you get older." He grimaced, "I'll have to trust Him to keep the
louts away. You listen to him though, he's a bit of a tyrant but he means well. Although, you'll probably have him wrapped around your little finger by the time you're one." He stared at her intently, "Naw, you're my daughter. You'll have him wrapped around your finger by your Naming Day." He winked at her.

He leaned forward and pantomimed swallowing her hands. She laughed at him. "You'll be a lady though, both of them will see to that; a real live princess. But princess or not you listen to those that know better. Always make sure of your kills. Don't turn your back on an enemy. You can't trust a vampire and proper ladies and gentlemen always have a clean handkerchief," he pulled a bandana out of his duster pocket to show her," because you just never know."

His daughter stared at him very solemnly for a moment and he actually had the feeling that she was committing his little speech to memory but then he laughed, that was a nutty thought.

He heard the bedroom door open and he glanced down at his daughter. "Don't know which is worse princess; when a woman says you have to have a talk or when she says there's nothing to talk about."

Xander entered the living room and smiled sadly at the blonde and the baby. He hung up the phone and dropped next to the pair. He gave Spike a sardonic grin; "After thinking about it, she decided I was right, we did need time and slowing down was a good idea." He leaned his head back, "First time I've even been right in an argument with Anya and it has to be about this."

Spike and the baby waited patiently.

Xander turned his head and stared at the blonde. He gave him a tired smile and closed his eyes. "I'm okay though, after what I've seen this weekend, I've decided you have got to be in serious love or in desperate need of money because why else would you put up with the craziness?"

He opened his eyes and looked down at the little bundle. "I have however decided that I want one of those." He tickled the little girl and she obligingly blew a bubble at him.

"Mine, Harris, go get your own." Spike said mockingly.

"But she's kinda like mine." Xander said. "We both belong to you so she kinda belongs to me." The young man seemed to realize what he said and stammered, "What I mean is,"

Spike laughed out loud. "Harris, don't even bother." Xander grinned ruefully.

Spike suddenly sniffed suspiciously. Xander sniffed. They both looked down at the cooing baby.

"So she kinda belongs to you?" Spike offered her to the suddenly wary young man.

Xander scooted back, "Yeah but you're her dad."

"You've had practice."

"That's right, I've had practice that means it's your turn."

"Harris."

"William."

"Oh bloody 'ell."




The End



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