Bonding Experience by Enigmaticblue

ReviewsRating: PG-13

Summary: Ficlet following Cast Me Not Away. Buffy and Spike go on that vacation. Wesley gets to baby-sit.

Author's Notes: This story takes place approximately five months after the end of CMNA. Again, you'll want to read that one first. I've been told it's really very good.

A/N2: The poem quoted is from John Donne's "The Good-Morrow."

Text + | -


Early October 2006

"Are you sure you have everything?" Buffy asked anxiously. "Because if you don't, we could go back and get it."

"No, we can't," Spike objected. "We're runnin' late as it is. Wesley has keys to your place. If they need somethin' they can go over there an' get it themselves."

Nika and Wesley exchanged amused glances. No one, except perhaps Nika, could have predicted what kind of mother Buffy would be. The midwife, however, had seen plenty of first-time mothers. The anxiety on leaving the baby alone for the first time, the fretting over every little detail, the solid belief that they were the only person in the world who could give their baby what he or she needed... It was all there.

Nika knew for a fact that Spike had found it cute up until the point the Slayer started using baby talk on the vampires she was dusting. Or when she'd slipped into cooing in the middle of sex, well, that was the last straw.

"We'll be fine, Buffy," Nika promised. "Both Wesley and I have some experience in taking care of babies. Meg's in good hands."

"I know," Buffy replied, looking down at her little girl. Meg's blue-hazel eyes stared back at her fearlessly. "I know, but what if something happens?"

"If something happens you have a trained paramedic on site," Wesley pointed out logically. "She's quite safe, you know."

Buffy frowned. Wesley's logic was indisputable, but the fact still remained that Meg needed her and she was leaving. The guilt was overwhelming, even if she was looking forward to four days of uninterrupted Spike-time.

Another wave of guilt took over. He'd been so good with both her and the baby these last few months, putting up with her slight tendency to be insane (hormones, Nika had said wisely to both of them), the late-night and early-morning feedings, the diapers, not to mention her being seemingly oblivious to Spike's needs. This little get-away was as much for him as it was for them as a couple.

Okay, Buffy admitted to herself. It was for her too, and she was lucky to have people to whom she could entrust her daughter for the long weekend. "Alright," she finally said. "We're going."

The Slayer gave Meg a kiss on the forehead and watched as Spike touched his daughter's cheek. The girl swiped at his finger and held it in a tight grip before letting it go with a chortle. Buffy was always slightly amazed that Spike could get Meg to smile and laugh more than anyone else.

With reluctance, Buffy handed Meg over to Nika's waiting arms, then gave her daughter one more quick kiss, dashing out the door before she had a chance to change her mind. Not going at this point would definitely piss Spike off, and Buffy really didn't want to do that.

Now that Buffy was out the door, Spike dropped his amused posture and gave his friends a look that was clearly torn. "You sure this isn't gonna scar her for life, yeah?"

"Quite sure," Nika assured him. "Now go. Spend some time with Buffy."

Spike backed up towards the door. "She's a bit of a night owl," he warned. "So don't be surprised when she won't go to sleep till 3 or 4 in the morning."

"We're all night owls, Spike," Wesley replied good-naturedly. "Go."

Spike hesitated, and then left much as Buffy had-quickly, before he could change his mind. Wesley smiled. "Alone at last, my love."

Nika returned his grin. "Hardly. We've still got Meg here, cariad." She gave him a sly look. "It will be good practice for us."

"I can think of better ways to practice," he replied.

Nika shook her head and laughed. "Later. For right now, I think someone might want to be fed."

In her godmother's arms, Meg gave a little squeal.

~~~~~

"You alright, luv?" Spike asked. They had left as soon as the sun went down, but it was a three hour drive from L.A. to the bed and breakfast where Nika had made reservations in their behalf. Luckily for him, the couple in charge of the place didn't mind late arrivals.

Their ability to be alone had taken a serious hit over the last few months. While Spike wouldn't have given up Meg for all the world, it took some readjustment. After all, he'd had so little time with his Slayer before she'd given birth, and suddenly there was a very demanding third person in their lives.

Then again, he was perfect for the job. He was used to dealing with difficult women.

"I'm fine, Spike," Buffy promised him. "It's just-weird."

Spike reached over and linked his hand with one of hers. "'s weird for me too, luv. Didn't much want to leave the little one behind, but-"

"I'm looking forward to a few days with just you and me," Buffy said, finishing his thought. They'd actually been doing that quite a bit lately, and Buffy figured it only made sense. Even if Spike hadn't officially moved in with her, he spent the bulk of his time at her place. She figured they'd start acting like an old married couple sooner or later. (As long as the sex didn't go, she was fine with that.) "I just have this crazy idea that we're the only people I can trust to take care of Meg, even though I know it isn't true."

Spike shrugged. "'s natural, I think, part of bein' a parent."

"I'm glad you're in this with me," Buffy suddenly confessed. "I know it might not seem that way sometimes, but I really am."

Spike smiled in return. "Buffy, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. You know that."

"I do." Amazingly enough, she knew he was telling the truth. Spike always told the truth. It was one of the things she loved most about him (now).

~~~~~

Two days had passed in domestic bliss. Wesley was finding the reality of having a baby around full-time rather enjoyable. Meg was a happy child, rarely crying unless she was hungry or needed to be changed. He found himself watching Nika with her, daydreaming about the future. He had discovered that he liked babies, though he'd already suspected as much from his time with Connor. (Even though his memories of infant-Connor were tainted by betrayal and failure.)

His time with Meg and Nika had no such negative connotations, however, and Wesley watched his fiancée with growing anticipation of the time when they would start a family of their own. Of course, that was until he was left alone with Meg for the entire evening.

It wasn't like he hadn't been the sole babysitter before. His physical therapist had only very recently cleared him for "medium activity," and so it was largely Buffy and Spike who had taken over the physical aspects of their work. Connor and Dawn helped any way they could depending on their school schedules, but there had been plenty of nights when Wesley was the only one available to look after the baby.

He had never had a problem in the past, but things seemed to get out of hand the third night that they had Meg with them.

"Do you have my number at work?" Nika asked. "Because if you have any trouble at all-"

"Nika, love, I am quite capable of taking care of Meg by myself. It isn't as though I haven't done it before." Wesley sounded disgruntled, and Nika immediately gave him a kiss by way of apology.

"I know, cariad," she assured him. "You're very good at anything you put your hand to. I just worry, that's all."

Wesley wasn't appeased. "You wouldn't worry if it were Spike," he pointed out.

Nika laughed. "That's because he's her father. It does make a difference. You'll be fine, and I'm being silly." She kissed him again, and this time Wesley allowed her to deepen it.

"Be careful," he murmured, a tradition at this point.

She smiled. "Always. I'll see you when I get off."

Spike hadn't been lying when he'd called his daughter a night owl. Meg typically napped for a few hours in the afternoon, but then she wouldn't fall asleep again until 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning. Wesley supposed that was what came of living with a vampire and the Slayer, even though both parents were entirely willing to change their schedules if necessary.

In any case, Meg was just waking up when Nika left to be at work at ten, and Wesley fed her when she seemed a bit fussy. A full stomach quieted her down for a little while, but then she started to cry again, and so he changed her.

After getting her cleaned up, Wesley tucked her into her swing and set it in motion, heading back over to the couch where he had his books spread out. Giles had been sending him more and more texts to translate on consultant basis, and Wesley had to admit that he found the work relaxing. Languages had always been his first love; well, knowledge of any kind, really. It was a balm to his self-esteem to have Giles coming to him for help these days-a kind of acknowledgement that he wasn't the utter fool the Council had called him when they'd fired him.

For a blessed half an hour, there was quiet except for the squeaking of the swing and Meg's happy sounds. Wesley gave a sigh as he realized he was finally reaching the turning point in the text; he'd soon have completed his task and have a nice, fat check to put in the bank. He and Nika were trying to save for a new house-a bigger one-and every penny counted.

Wesley was almost ready to pack it in when Meg started crying again. With a sigh that was close to exasperated, he turned to check on her. After fifteen minutes of running through the checklist of possible problems, frustration was beginning to dawn. After three hours of non-stop crying, he wanted to burst into tears, though he'd never have admitted it.

Meg didn't want her bottle, nor did she need to be changed. When he popped the pacifier in her mouth, she spat it back out again. Singing didn't work. Walking didn't work. Bouncing didn't work. He tried rocking, and she still wouldn't stop crying.

Wesley was very close to calling Nika, but that would have meant conceding defeat, and that was unacceptable. What kind of father would he make when he couldn't even get his goddaughter to settle down?

"What the bloody hell do you need?" he finally demanded, anger coloring his tone. Wesley wasn't quite shouting, since that wouldn't do him any good with an infant, but he wanted to. Actually, what he wanted to do was to put her down in her crib and let her cry herself out, but that was impossible. The sound itself was driving him crazy, and he was ready to pull out his hair.

His question just caused her to cry harder, and Wesley tried walking her again, hoping that something would finally click. Racking his brain, he tried to remember if Spike had ever mentioned any of the strategies he'd used when Meg wouldn't stop crying, but couldn't. He did recall Buffy saying something about the girl liking to lay on Spike's bare chest, but that probably had something to do with the coolness of the vampire's skin.

Obviously, the situation was a little different with him. Wesley had no lack of body heat to offer her.

Wesley was almost ready to admit defeat when a possible solution hit him. Teething. Of course. Wasn't this about the age when babies started getting in teeth? He knew they were notoriously fussy during that stage. Perhaps what he needed to do was to go to the drugstore and get something that would soothe the savage beast.

It certainly beat sitting around and waiting for Meg to tire herself out. (She was, after all, the daughter of a Slayer. Wesley had no desire to find out how long she could go.)

Now it was just a matter of accomplishing the mission, and Wesley had always been quite good and doing what he set out to do.

Mostly.

~~~~~

After two days of doing nothing but spending time with Spike, Buffy was infinitely relaxed. She felt better than she had in a long time-not only did she get to have some exclusive time with her guy, but she also knew that Meg was in good hands. It was guilt-free vacation at this point, and she was actually looking forward to going back.

She was also terribly grateful they had another couple of days.

Spike lay sprawled across the bed, his head pillowed on her shoulder. Buffy ran her hands through curly hair that hadn't seen a hair product for a couple days. They'd taken time to shower and eat and that was about it. The proprietor of the bed and breakfast had smiled at them indulgently and asked if they were on their honeymoon.

"No," Spike had replied with a twisted smile. "First vacation away from the kid."

The woman had nodded knowingly. "Mm, yes. I remember that one very well. I thought it was better than the honeymoon."

It had been those words that had got Buffy to thinking. That, and the wedding plans that Nika and Wesley were making. The ceremony was only a few months away, and the Slayer had been doing a lot more for her friend than she had for Anya. Wesley and Spike, she'd noticed, had a tendency to disappear any time plans were being made. "I'm sure whatever you decide will be perfect," was the sentence most frequently heard out of the ex-Watcher's mouth.

After Buffy had finally admitted to herself that she was in love with Spike-and had been for a very long time-she'd also accepted that certain things would be different with them. There would be no afternoon picnics in the park as a family, no sporting events unless they were at night or indoors. And, chances were, Buffy would never get the church wedding with the white dress that she'd dreamed of as a little girl.

Granted, when she was five she was quite sure her father would walk her down the aisle and that she'd have the wedding first and then the baby, but that was then. It was an entirely different matter to realize now that she might never have that all-American dream. Not that she would exchange Spike for anyone or anything. It was just hard to let go of that ideal.

Which was why she had to ask the question. "Spike?"

"Yeah, luv?" he murmured, nearly asleep with the feeling of her fingers running through his hair. He wasn't sure he'd ever felt so content in his unlife.

"Would you ever want to get married?"

Spike blinked, suddenly wide awake. He was certain that it was a trick question. When a woman asked a man if he wanted to get married, it put him in a precarious situation. If she didn't want to get married, and he said that he did, he would be accused of being pushy. If she did want to, and he didn't, he would completely ruin the mood that had been building for the last two days and probably send them home early.

It was a conundrum of titanic proportions.

"What do you want to do?" he replied evasively.

Buffy rolled her eyes, knowing exactly what he was doing. "Spike, I asked you first."

He pulled away, propping himself up on one elbow and regarding her with serious blue eyes. "I don't know, luv. If you want it, I do too, I s'pose."

"Not good enough." Buffy's tone was amused, but firm. "This time it's about what you want. So what do you want?"

This side of Buffy was not precisely new. Despite being wrapped up in the new baby (of which Spike was equally guilty), Buffy had been making a much stronger effort to focus on his needs as much as her own. At the same time, Spike sensed that she was being absolutely serious. No matter what she might want, she would put it aside for him, without complaint.

The crazy thing was, that just caused him to desire to capitulate to her demands that much more.

"I don't know," he repeated. "'s not that simple, luv. When a vampire says 'till death do you part', it means somethin' a little different than it does with humans. It's probably why we don't say it all that often."

Buffy frowned, wanting to ask a question, but not desiring to bring anyone else into the bed with them. "Spit it out, Slayer."

She gave him a mock-glare, and then asked, "What about you and Drusilla? If you guys were forever and immortal and all that..."

"It was understood, an' never said." Spike sighed. "Dru was never exactly faithful to me."

A look of both hurt and understanding crossed her face. "Angel."

"Angelus," Spike corrected her gently. "Though I can't say as I care for either one."

"So you wanted forever and she didn't?" Buffy asked.

He nodded. "Pretty much."

A somber mood had taken over, and Buffy watched the emotions flitting over his expressive face like light and shadow. "And what if I said it?" she asked finally.

He stared at her, pain reflected in his eyes. "I'd return the favor." Only someone who knew him well would have caught the tremor in his voice.

The Slayer wasn't stupid, nor was she entirely insensitive. She was well aware that her lover was immortal and that she was not; that it was more likely she would die before him. Should she make a promise of forever, it was entirely possible that she would be released first, and that there would be no chance of a meeting on the other side of death.

For her, it meant that every moment was to be treasured. Every possible gift given.

"I was thinking maybe next spring," she finally said, tracing the lines of Spike's cheekbones with her thumb. "After Wes and Nika get married. I think Willow might even be able to marry us by then."

"That would be alright," Spike acknowledged, closing his eyes against his inner vision of the future. There were times he hated his immortality with a passion.

Buffy smiled. "But until then-I want to give you something."

It was her tone that alerted him to the seriousness of the moment-sly and hopeful and willing all at once. Spike's eyes snapped open to stare at her, and he knew. It was impossible to mistake the gesture as she pulled her hair out of the way, exposing the tanned skin of her neck.

"Slayer-"

"No," she corrected him. "Not just the Slayer, Spike."

Her offer stunned him. "Buffy, you don't have to-"

"That's not the point," she replied quietly. "I trust you. That's what this is about."

Spike stared, in awe. This was about surrender, love, trust, all the things she'd withheld from him for so long. All of the things he'd found with her so recently. It had been about a year since they'd renewed their acquaintance, and Spike had thought he was as happy as it was possible for a vampire to be.

Apparently, he'd been wrong. There was yet another level.

"Luv, I'm honored," he said past the lump in his throat. "But I don't really think that's a good idea. What if-"

Buffy shook her head stubbornly, resolve face firmly in place. "No thinking. You don't normally think before you act, so don't start on me now." Her smile softened her words, and Spike leaned back, watching her.

"You're really serious 'bout this, aren't you?"

"Absolutely." She reached out and grasped one of his hands. "I think I have some idea of how much it would mean to you."

"I'm not sure you do," Spike objected. He wasn't sure why he was hesitating at this point-perhaps it was because he didn't quite trust himself to stop. After all, the richness of Slayer's blood was an ambrosia one did not willingly give up.

"You'll stop." Her voice was steady, certain. "I want this too, Spike. I want to give you this."

He nodded, slowly. "Alright. 's gonna hurt a bit, but I'll make it good for you, luv."

"You always do." She closed her eyes, unafraid, as Spike's lips skimmed her face, her neck, her collarbone. He had always been able to make her feel-anger, excitement, lust, joy. Now she let the physical sensations of his lips and hands overwhelm her, remind her of how well they fit together.

There was only the moment, the tactile pleasure of skin on skin. The heat of friction and desire that Spike's cool skin did nothing to diminish. He concentrated on her, on the moment, on bringing her pleasure so that when the pain did come it would be but a momentary distraction. Or it would bring her over the edge. Spike was hoping for the latter.

When Spike buried his fangs in Buffy's throat-ever so gently-they both flew on the wave that overtook them.

~~~~~

By the time Wesley had Meg tucked into her car seat, and the car seat safely buckled into the back of the SUV just behind the passenger seat, the cries seemed to have tapered off. Of course, he was well aware that it was probably wishful thinking at that point. Three blocks away from the house, and only a couple blocks from the all-night drugstore, Meg was quiet and actually looking as though she might drop off.

Unwilling to test fate, Wesley kept going, right past the store. The baby was asleep by the time he hit the highway, and he found himself driving, enjoying the blessed silence, the tension beginning to leave his shoulders and neck.

He simply drove for the next few hours, feeling almost as though he were in a cocoon. The darkness closed in about him so that he was alone in the world with a child in the backseat, with only her occasional sleepy sighs and the sounds of road under his tires for company.

It was only when Wesley realized how close he was to falling asleep himself that he turned the vehicle around to head back to the house. He pulled back up into the driveway close to 3 am, and carefully pulled Meg's car seat out of the backseat. As gently as possible, so as not to wake her, Wesley carried her back into the house. With some trepidation, he unbuckled her and lifted her limp body into his arms.

Then he froze as she stirred slightly, opening sleepy blue-hazel eyes to regard him seriously. Wesley waited for her to start crying again, but she merely offered him a small smile before her eyes drooped shut, and she went back to sleep against his chest.

There was no way Wesley was going to jeopardize the peace he'd achieved, and so he settled himself on the couch. With a sigh of relief, he gave into the exhaustion that threatened, stretching out with Meg securely ensconced on his chest.

When Nika returned home after her shift ended at seven that morning, she found her fiancé stretched out on the couch. His body was slightly askew as it wasn't quite long enough to accommodate his lean frame. Meg lay sleeping on his chest, her body rising and falling with his even breathing, one tiny fist clutching at the green fabric of his shirt.

A smile came to Nika's lips, and she shook her head at her own worrying. Sure Meg had been a little more fussy than usual the past few days, and she'd been concerned that the general mood would expand in an all-out crying jag. Wesley had obviously been just as capable as he'd said he was, however, and all was well.

Nika kissed both their foreheads in a tender, maternal gesture, and then she grabbed the afghan to cover them up. With one last look, she went to seek her own bed, ready to dream of a future that realized all the potential of the present.

~~~~~

Spike held the Slayer gently, wondering at her silence, at the limpness of her form. He was worried that he had taken too much, or that she regretted her offer.

"Buffy-luv? You alright?"

She stirred slightly, nuzzling his chest with a contented sigh. "Alright would be an understatement. That was incredible." Buffy wasn't lying. Though this was the fourth vampire who had bitten her, it had been different-so different.

With the Master it had been cruel; with Angel rough and uncontrolled; with Dracula slow and seductive and all about the lust.

With Spike, on the other hand, it had made her feel a part of him; it had reminded her of how much she loved him. It had reminded her of how alive she really was. Because she trusted him as much as she did, the pleasure and the pain had intermingled, with no fear to taint it. There had only been the rush of adrenaline as she realized how close she was to death-and, paradoxically, how safe.

"I didn't hurt you?"

Hearing the worry in his tone, Buffy propped herself up on one elbow with some effort. "Did I sound like I was being hurt?" Once he'd seen she was serious from her eyes, she dropped back down on his chest. "I don't want to move," she muttered. "Feel way too good for that."

Spike's arms tightened around her. He'd seen the love in her eyes, the expression of well-being. It was the light he'd been looking to put back there every time they'd had sex after she'd come back from the dead. And he'd seen it there before, but she'd never glowed with it before.

With a sense of awe Spike realized that she loved him as much as he loved her. What once had seemed impossible was now true, real. In his arms.

The Big Bad realized now why some people cried for happiness. Not that he would, of course, but he got it now. He'd just been handed the whole world.

"So, spring," Spike said, trying not to choke on the lump in his throat. "We gonna try for an afternoon wedding, luv?"

He felt, rather than saw, her lips curve up. "Are you kidding? I have no desire to be Mr. And Mrs. Big Pile of Dust. I was thinking nighttime, under the stars. You in a tux..." Buffy practically purred at the thought.

"Not wearing a monkey-suit," he warned her.

She snorted. "Don't be ridiculous, William. You're dressing up for Wesley's wedding because you're the best man. So you can wear a tie for our wedding if you're going to be the groom."

Spike sighed, sounding long-suffering, but really not that unhappy about the whole deal. "Fine. A tie doesn't mean a tux, though."

"Fine, no tux," she agreed. Buffy snuggled down. "Sorry, sweetheart, but I think I need a nap."

He brushed his lips against her hair. "Sleep, my love," he murmured in reply, a touch of William in his tone. "'And now good morrow to our waking souls, which watch not one another out of fear; for love all love of other sights controls, and makes one little room an everywhere...If our two loves be one, or thou and I love so alike that none do slacken, none can die.'"

Spike watched her as she slept, thinking he could hardly sleep himself for fear of losing one moment with her. He couldn't bear to lose any time at all.

~~~~~

The sounds of a very happy baby filled the room as Buffy bounced Meg in her arms, while one of the girl's hands was very firmly wrapped around Spike's finger. "So everything went okay?" Buffy asked, sounding much more relaxed than she had the day they'd left.

"It went great," Wesley said, watching them fondly, one arm wrapped around Nika. "It was a joy to have her."

Spike smiled. "Good. Then we can count on you to do it again." Wesley had noted that the vampire was doing pretty good himself, and that he wasn't even limping as he entered the house. Apparently, a little vacation time agreed with him.

"Well, 'm glad Meg didn't give you any problems," Spike admitted. "She was a bit fussy before she left."

Wesley just smiled, thinking that the value of car rides could just stay their little secret. "She was perfect."

Spike sensed that the other man wasn't telling him the whole truth, but decided not to call him on it. Wesley looked as though he was happy with the situation, and Spike wasn't going to put having a ready-made babysitter in jeopardy. "Right, well, we'd better get her home then. I'll be back later, though, Nika-luv."

"Good," she said. "It'll be nice having you around for once."

"Well, I'm afraid I should probably spend some time at my place tonight," Wesley said ruefully. "I still need to finish those translations from the Council."

Nika smiled. "It'll just be you and me, then, Spike."

"Just like old times," he replied, knowing that those days were numbered. Soon, Wesley and Nika would be married, and he'd be permanently moved into Buffy's place. They'd talked about a date in November on the drive back to L.A. Everything was changing, but it seemed to be for the better. For a while.

"I'll walk you out," Wesley said, grabbing his jacket and giving Nika a kiss as he grabbed his bag of books.

There was a moment of chaos as everyone said goodbye and thank you and see you later. Buffy and Nika shared a quick conference about when they'd get together to talk about wedding plans again. Spike did a thorough check of Meg's bags to make sure they had everything. Wesley took Meg from Buffy so she could grab the few things that had been forgotten.

Spike paused in the midst of the flurry to appreciate the moment. It was so ordinary. So perfect.

So right.


The End.

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