These are the nights
You swear you were born to lose
And you wish your feet were walking
In someone else’s shoes…
-Adventures in Babysitting, 1987
Chris: What do you want?
John Pruitt: I just want to help you.
Daryl: Don’t listen to him; he just wants to scrape our faces off.
-Adventures in Babysitting, 1987
Chapter One: Buffy’s Night Out
“I made a new pitcher of formula but use the bottle that’s in there already. It’s older, and give him his bath. Use the Dove Sensitive Skin baby soap I bought yesterday and not the old bottle. I want us to try that one out because of his eczema. And the dermatologist recommended the Vanicream and not the Aveeno. There’s a clean sleep sack in the dryer because he pooped on the one this morning. Oh, and we’re on green beans this week.” Buffy paused and frowned like she couldn’t remember if there was something else she was supposed to remind Spike about.
Starting to feel impatient, Spike bounced seven-month-old Asher on his hip, and the baby cooed. “Love, Ash and I’ve managed many evenings without you. We’ll be fine. And I know what to feed him and how to bathe him. There’s even a list on the fridge in case I completely lose my mind and forget what week we’re on in food intros.”
His Slayer was fretting because she was starting to pace, her bouncing ponytail making her seem younger than she was. “But you won’t be able to reach me. It’s a no-cell-phone kind of mission. Well, I’ll have mine, but it’ll be off. George’s orders.” George was Emily’s Watcher, and they’d called in the Baton Rouge and Lafayette Slayers to help as well. “And Wil’s trying that new spell. You know the one?” Like he could forget. He’d been the test dummy for the witch’s latest shenanigans. It was bloody disconcerting that he couldn’t detect his own wife, but he supposed it’d work well for undercover missions. “Dead bodies all over the Quarter this weekend. Neck wounds. We’ll be less detectable.”
Spike was a little disappointed that he wasn’t invited to investigate, but Red’s new spell didn’t seem to work on vampires. He’d already been cooped up during the witching hours all weekend because Buffy had late shifts at CC’s, and he’d had bloody daytime inventory and team building at the bar, which always left him in a foul mood. In one of his wife’s trips back in front of him, he leaned forward and deposited a long kiss on her mouth. “Go. Have fun. Be careful.”
Buffy’s green eyes were glazed with desire when he drew back, and he could smell her arousal – as he’d intended. Only problem was his body was reacting, too – his jeans becoming uncomfortably tight, and he had a baby to feed. She caressed his face, her finger cheekily finding its way to linger on his bottom lip in a way that did not help his predicament – not one bit. Minx. “Wait up,” she commanded.
He bit at her finger, but she dodged away. “Oh, I will,” he said, letting her know that she’d better look out.
“Good. I’m taking the Pilot. For group purposes.” She grinned, pecked Asher’s cheek, grabbed her tote full of weapons, and headed into the garage. As the door swung shut, Spike saw her hand clap onto the wood, and her head poked back inside. “I love you both.”
Asher shrieked in amusement at seeing his mum again. Spike hugged him. “Love you, too.” He still sometimes couldn’t believe that she was with him and hadn’t gotten bored with the relative quiet of their married life. His unmoving heart ached at the thought of her being gone, but he quickly dismissed it as the garage door opened and closed again as she drove away.
He regarded his tiny son. “Looks like your mum left us with the Civic per usual.” They’d purchased the used grey Honda Pilot after the baby was born. He couldn’t count the number of times the vehicle had been borrowed for use in hauling Slayer supplies or helping with Slayer duties. Once it’d even been finagled as a trap for a couple of slime demons. He’d spent the better part of one of his days off scrubbing out the sticky excretions in between feeding the baby, changing nappies, monitoring tummy time, and getting his son to sleep.
Asher laughed as if he could read Spike’s mind and was amused by the thought of his dad stuck with clean-up duty.
Settling the little nipper into the high chair, Spike ignored the straps and slid the plastic tray into place until it clicked. “Livin’ on the edge, eh, Ash? You’re sitting up well now.” Asher had only been holding himself up for about a month, but he was fast becoming an old pro. There’d been no crawling yet, but sitting – even of the wobbly sort – was a big deal.
The baby laughed, his emerald eyes bright. Then, when food didn’t magically appear, he began to cry, his contorted, red face revealing his high level of distress.
Spike hustled then. He knew the drill. Highchair meant food was imminent in Asher’s world, and if it didn’t show up right away, waterworks ensued.
“Hold on, Nip.” He threw open the refrigerator door, scanning the contents of the over-stuffed appliance. Where the hell was the spare bottle? Buffy really needed to throw out food items past their expiration. He couldn’t find anything in the bloody box.
Asher wailed louder.
Sod it. He grabbed the pitcher of fresh formula. Letting the door swing closed, he snatched an empty, clean bottle from the drying station, poured out six ounces – give or take, popped a nipple into a cap, slipped the other plastic bit into the long blue piece, and attached all the parts together. Setting the assembled bottle in the microwave, he slammed the door shut and pressed the thirty-second button.
Asher cried harder.
“It’s coming. Just. . . twenty-five more seconds.” Longest twenty-five seconds of his unlife.
The baby tilted sideways in his anguish, and Spike rushed to right his little body.
An eternity later, the microwave beeped, and Spike retrieved the now warm bottle, swirling the liquid around to ensure it was evenly heated and then deposited the manna in front of his son. “There you go.”
Asher immediately quieted and picked up the bottle. As he pushed the nipple into his mouth and began drinking, the quiet beep of Spike’s cell phone filled the sudden virtual silence. His ears took a moment to re-adjust to the quiet, so he could locate the cell; the baby’s cries were harsh on his hearing sometimes, but he didn’t mind – not really.
Spike fished the device out from under a damp kitchen towel and saw a text from someone he hadn’t heard from in a very long time.
“Hey, buddy! How are you? How’s Buffy? You’re still with Buffy, right? And oh, it’s Clem here.”
Spike snorted and pulled out the chair next to Asher, who eyed him around the bottle while he continued sucking.
Spike smiled at his son. “Bloke thinks I don’t have him programmed in my phone. Or maybe he thinks I forgot who he is?”
Asher waited with seeming expectation.
“Clem’s a fellow that was a good friend of mine in Sunnydale. Where your mum and I met. She knows him, too. It’s been a while though; last I heard from him, he was in L.A.” Spike narrowed his eyes and read his text aloud to the baby as he typed his response, “Clem! Wonderful to hear from you. All’s well. Still with Buffy. Have some other news, too. How are you?” Three dots blinked back at Spike, and he showed Asher. “He’s typing a response.”
Asher made a small sound of amusement as he smiled around the bottle’s nipple.
Spike read Clem’s message to his son, “’Glad to hear it. Buffy’s a nice girl. Oop. I suppose she’s a woman now.’”
Spike lifted his eyes to Asher and arched an eyebrow, “That’s true, but your mum was one before.”
His son’s only response was to stare with wide eyes. He always did that when Spike lifted one eyebrow and not the other. It was like he was trying to suss out how his father made that happen.
Spike continued reading, “‘Anyway, how about you tell me your other news in person? I’m in town. You live in the Big Easy, right? That young man, Andrew, told me when I ran into him at this little café in Paris.’”
Looking up again, Spike explained, “Andrew can be a bit of a wanker, but he means well.”
Asher paused in his drinking and laughed at the inflection of annoyance in Spike’s voice.
Spike’s resulting smile lingered on his lips as he finished the text. “‘Talk about a small world. Anyway, I’m in town! Want to meet up?’”
“Huh. Do you suppose Clem would want to come over here? He could meet you, and it would keep you on your routine to please your mum. We could have a couple of beers after I tuck you up snug as a bug in your crib. What do you think?”
Spike waited for Asher’s reply, but he didn’t give one. Now that Spike was done with the text, the baby was re-focused on eating. He loved his milk the way Spike loved the different flavors of blood Buffy kept stocked in the refrigerator. Of course, he also loved Buffy’s blood, and nowadays, she gave of it and freely. Best not to think about that now.
He typed off his suggestion, “How about you come round the house, mate? Got some beers in the fridge. Buffy has some Doritos around here somewhere.”
More dots. And then, “No, bud. I’m at this little hole in the wall restaurant just outside the Quarter. They have this local beer that I love on tap, and they have the best cracklins. I love cracklins. You just can’t find the good ones outside of Louisiana. Come on out! It’s pretty empty here. We could get caught up. I’m only here for a night.”
Spike frowned and glanced at the baby. Buffy was always encouraging him to reconnect with his demon roots, and she liked Clem. Spike texted, “It’s quiet?”
“Yep. Just me and this couple who look like they’re on a date,” was the quick reply. “The waiter said there’s some sort of hullaballoo on the other side of the Quarter. Making business slow all over.”
Spike missed Clem, and one beer couldn’t hurt, right? And it sounded like the trouble Buffy was helping investigate was far enough away that the baby wouldn’t be in danger. He’d babywear the tyke, catch up with Clem, and have Asher back home and in bed for his bedtime at seven. “One beer. That’s all I have time for.”
“Perfect. Let me text you the address.”
Spike hurried to the hall closet and pulled out the Lillebaby carrier. He tried to ignore how complicated the straps looked but made sure to grab the instruction manual. The overstuffed diaper backpack was on the counter, and he rummaged around to make sure all the supplies were there: extra nappies, a spare outfit, one of the Wubbanubs (an orange tabby), baby wipes, and Asher’s jacket. It was winter in New Orleans but not terribly cold. Still, he’d need the extra layer. Spike thought for a moment and decided to toss in a couple of baby toys: the waffle teether and a rattle with interesting bits to fidget with. Then, he put together a spare bottle, poured in some formula, put in the stopper, and capped the entire contraption with a lid before sliding it in the cooling side of the pack.
By the time Spike had finished preparations, Asher was done with his milk and watching his father with curiosity on his little face.
“You ready, Ash?”
Asher responded by smiling, burping, and hitting his tray with enthusiasm.