|Story Title:||Can't Buy Me Love|
Spike and Buffy have faced demons, monsters, and beasties of every description and made it through … but will they be able to hang tough against the almighty dollar?
Edmond “Eddie” Giles Rosenberg-Maclay born March 11, 2010
Joshua "JJ" Harris was born on April 21st, 2004
The twins (Danielle Dawn, "Dani" and William Rupert, "Billy") were born on February 12th, 2004.
Annie was born on February 14th, 1999
Spike and Buffy were married in February 1999
Buffy was born January 19th, 1981
William/Spike was turned by Dru in
All the Potentials were endowed with full Slayer power in February 2003.
Buffy and Spike learned of the other dimensions and got the memories from the 'Rome' Universe in May, 2003.
The ‘Wish-World’ lasted from January 19th, 2005 to January, 16th 2010.
Wonderful, Everclear http://youtu.be/MUfgAbFY4CA
ScreenCaps courtesy of ScreenCap Paradise: http://www.screencap-paradise.com/?cat=3
Thanks to 'epd4' for betaing this chapter.
|Rating / Warnings:||
NC17. Content is only suitable for mature adults. Contains explicit language, sex, adult themes, and other adult situations that some people may find objectionable. If you are under the age of 17 or find any of these themes objectionable – GO AWAY.
(Later that day), Friday, September 17th, 2010, 11am:
Since Spike had driven the mini-van to the hospital with the kids and it didn’t have necro-tempered glass like the DeSoto did, he had to take the sewers home and Buffy had to drive. Buffy had been pestering Willow every few days about trying to figure out if there was another Gem of Amarra in the world and, if so, where it might be. Barring that, Willow and Tara were trying to track down who originally created the Gem and what the spell was so they could try and replicate it. Giles had found one text while going through the Council library that seemed to speak of the ‘Holy Grail’ of vampires (based on the drawings in the old tome), but the language it was written in was foreign to him … not Latin, not even Sumerian, Hittite, or Greek … nothing that he was familiar with. He sent the book to Willow in hopes that she could decipher it and Willow emailed a few pages to Annie to see if any of it made any sense to her, but so far, no joy.
When Buffy and the kids got to the mansion, she parked in her usual place outside in the driveway near the walled garden, but walked down the gently sloping driveway to the garage to avoid the stairs. Annie walked with her the whole way, as she’d promised her father that she’d do, and she and Buffy entered the great room from the garage. Buffy stopped short at the sight that greeted them inside … people, lots of people… lots of friends. Xander, Wes, Fred, Giles, Faith, Amanda, and Anya were there … even Lorne was there, all working on cleaning up the mess. Xander, on crutches, his leg in a heavy plaster cast from his toes to above the knee, was acting as the conductor of the symphony as plaster and water and dirt and debris was swept and shoveled and mopped up. Giles had actually shut down the Magic Box so he and Anya could help; Fred had been down from L.A. for Council business, but she and Wes, Faith, and Amanda had dropped that to come here to help clean up the mess.
Tears stung Buffy’s eyes at the selflessness of her friends … especially Xander, who had to be hurting and even more exhausted than she was, to interrupt their lives and help her and Spike. Buffy started to grab a broom that was leaning up against the wall, but Annie stopped her.
“You have to lie down,” Annie insisted, pointing towards the couch, which was still in the training room, and trying to take the broom from her mother’s hand.
“But…” Buffy began, but was silenced by the determined look on her daughter’s face and a firm shake of her head.
“Dad said I was in charge of you until he got here … Don’t make me call Aunt Willow and have her put a spell on you to make you lay down…” Annie threatened.
Buffy rolled her eyes and sighed. “Remind me to never let Spike put you in charge again… you’re mean,” Buffy lamented as she released the handle of the broom and then turned and headed into the training room to the couch.
“And don’t try to sneak out, either…” Annie warned sternly. “I’ll bring you a glass of milk and a cookie in a minute…”
Buffy laughed unhumorously as she sat down on the couch, leaned back and closed her eyes, her hands automatically going to her abdomen; she couldn’t remember anyone bringing her a glass of milk and a cookie since … geez … her mom when she was little. If there wasn’t so much to do, if the house wasn’t a complete wreck, she could get used to someone bringing her a glass of milk and a cookie … as it was, sitting here doing nothing just made her feel guilty and antsy.
After a few minutes, Billy came in with the promised milk and cookie … well, actually, there were two cookies. Buffy offered him one of them but he declined. “I just had one,” he explained with a guilty smile as he sat down on the couch next to her.
“Are you gonna be ok?” he asked her as Buffy nibbled at the cookie and drank the milk.
“Yeah, baby … I’ll be fine, I just have to rest for a while,” Buffy assured him.
“Last night in the car, Papa told Uncle Giles on the phone that it was like before … when you had us …” Billy fished some more.
“No, honey, it’s really not. It’s different. I just did too much and now I have to rest,” Buffy continued to assure him.
“So, you aren’t gonna die, right?” Billy continued, his big blue eyes full of worry.
“Oh, baby … no, I’m not gonna die. You can’t get rid of me that easily,” Buffy tried to tease, putting an arm around him and hugging him tightly against her side.
Billy scrunched his nose and lips up. “We don’t want to get rid of you. We’d be sad … like when we had to give away the kittens. If we give too many kittens away, then we’ll be afraid of love and we’d have to run away… then Papa would be all alone,” Billy explained in earnest.
Buffy furrowed her brow momentarily and shook her head, trying to sort out what he was talking about. “Ok … well, don’t worry, I promise we won’t give any more kittens away and no one’s gonna leave anyone else all alone.”
Billy pursed his lips together thoughtfully and nodded his agreement before leaning his head against her. “I think that’s a good idea.”
When Spike got there, he checked on Buffy and made her actually lay down on the couch rather than sit, despite her arguments that she was fine, then he went a made her a grilled cheese sandwich and chicken noodle soup for lunch and brought it to her before heading out to help their friends with the clean up. As the day went on, everyone slowly filtered in to see her, each one bringing her something to eat or drink or both … she was actually starting to feel like Gretel of ‘Hansel and Gretel’ fame … like she was being fattened up for the oven. After a couple of hours, she ventured out of her room, unable to stand it anymore, and was met with a chorus of admonishments from her friends to go back and lay down.
“Can I please pee?” she argued, pointing to the bathroom.
“Oh, indeed…” Giles agreed, moving over to her and taking her arm to help her walk.
“Giles … I can walk, I’m not an invalid,” Buffy contended.
“Well, let’s just make sure, shall we?” he insisted. Buffy rolled her eyes and shook her head, but let him lead her to the bathroom. When he started to walk in with her, she stopped him.
“I can handle it from here … thanks,” she assured him, pushing lightly on his chest.
“Are you quite sure?” Giles questioned.
“I have a system I've been perfecting it for years … it’s a one person operation,” Buffy insisted, closing the door in his face.
“Quite right … I’ll wait here,” he called through the closed door.
“Please don’t … I can’t pee with people listening,” she argued.
“I assure you, I won’t listen…”
“Giles!” Buffy moaned.
“Alright … but just call when you’re done, then,” Giles acquiesced, moving away from the door.
When Buffy emerged from the bathroom, Spike was coming down the stairs lugging their mattress. Buffy sighed and her shoulders sagged. Had that gotten rained on too? She moved to the other side to help him…
“OI! What the bloody hell do ya think you’re doin’?” Spike stopped in his tracks, setting the edge of the heavy mattress down on the floor.
“Helping?” Buffy asked meekly.
“Noooo … you are not helping anybody. Get your stubborn, Summers ass back in that room and lay the bloody hell down!” Spike commanded her, pointing at the training room.
Buffy rolled her eyes again and sighed heavily, letting her shoulders droop. “I feel like a big, worthless, blimp,” she moaned as she shuffled dejectedly across the floor back to her ‘cell’.
As she entered the training room, she was surprised when she saw their bed frame and the box springs already in there and stopped short, blocking the doorway. “If ya want to help, get the bloody hell outta the way, Slayer,” Spike insisted as he followed her in with the mattress.
Buffy jumped slightly when he spoke, pulling her out of her musings of how he’d gotten that down here so fast, and then quickly moved out of the way. “What are you doing?”
“Gettin’ you comfy-cozy … got the TV in ‘ere … and the bed, Annie’s gatherin’ ya up some books and trashy magazines … you’ll be snug as a bug,” Spike informed her.
“You didn’t have to bring the bed down, Spike … I could’ve gone up…” Buffy began.
“You got cotton in them ears, Slayer? No stairs…” Spike reminded her.
Buffy shook her head. She had remembered that when she got home and didn’t take the garden stairs down, but somehow the fact that she couldn’t take the stairs inside the house hadn’t clicked in her brain.
Before long, a ‘couch potato’ oasis was set up for Buffy in the training room … she had the bed and the couch and the TV and videos and books and magazines and a deck of cards and her iPod … there were donuts and cookies and chips and a bag of Hershey’s kisses and a pitcher of ice water on the table near the bed. She had everything she needed to turn into Jabba the Hutt.
All of her friends stopped in several times over the course of the day as they worked on getting the mess cleaned up, which only made Buffy feel guiltier seeing them all hot and dirty and sweaty from working on the mess in her house while she sat there like a bump on a log. By the middle of the afternoon, the mess had been cleared out and the huge hole in the roof of the nursery had been temporarily fixed, Anya had re-washed and dried all the linens and curtains from the nursery and put them in one of the spare rooms until the roof could be permanently fixed.
At one point, Faith stopped in and brought Buffy a Frappachino and double chocolate brownie from Starbucks.
“Wow! I need to be put on bed rest more often!” Buffy enthused when she saw the bag, trying to force her mind to stop calculating how much ‘real food’ she could buy with what Faith spent on just those two luxuries.
“Well, I figured you weren’t getting enough chocolate or caffeine, which I have on good authority are really vital nutrients for pregnant women,” Faith explained.
“Very true…” Buffy agreed taking a bite of the brownie … look out Jabba, Buffy the Hutt’s on the way!
“Soooo …” Faith began, sitting down in the chair next to Buffy. “I was thinking…”
“Be careful, I have it on good authority that too much thinking is bad for your brain…” Buffy teased as she washed down the chocolaty goodness of the brownie with a sip of the over-priced drink.
“No doubt …” Faith agreed, giving Buffy a quick grin. “But, you know me! I like to live dangerously … So, I was thinking, if you guys still have a spare room … well, I wondered if I could move back in at the end of the month. I… well, Willy gave my job to some guy from the 'Blue Man Group' and all I’ve got now is what the Council is paying. I can pay room and board … I don’t want to stay for free, but I just can’t afford my own place and I’m hardly ever there anyway …”
“Oh … well, yeah, I mean, we have room, Faith, but you know the kids are a lot older now and they’re everywhere …” Buffy started.
“Oh, me and the Scooby pups get along fine … they don’t bother me. I can even help, you know, babysit if you and Spike want to ‘patrol’ or whatever…” Faith volunteered, giving Buffy a wink.
“Well, yeah … that sounds great,” Buffy began. “But, Faith … you can’t be bringing guys … strangers here.”
“Oh! No – that’s no deal, B! … I’m off guys!” Faith assured her.
Buffy’s brows shot up. “Or girls…no strange girls either…”
“No ... I didn’t switch teams, I’m just … I’m taking a hiatus … I’m abstaining,” Faith explained.
Buffy’s brows went up further, if that was possible. “You’re … abstaining from … sex? Since when?”
Faith shrugged. “Since London. I just … I’m trying to get my head around what I really want and I think what I really want is what you and Spike have. I know it's like ... wild craziness, but I'm thinking I can’t find that jumping the bones of every anonymous guy I meet,” Faith continued to explain her decision.
“Wow. That’s really … wow. Seriously?” Buffy questioned, her brow furrowed in disbelief.
Faith shrugged one shoulder and rolled her eyes. “Like I said, crazy, right?”
“Well … it’s … wow,” Buffy stammered, scratching her head a bit. “Ok, then … yeah. I mean, let me talk to Spike, but I don’t see why not. It would help to have another adult here…”
“Cool, B! Thanks!” Faith offered brightly, standing up.
“Uhhhhh … just so I understand, you’re trying to find true love by not having sex…” Buffy questioned.
“Uh-huh … well, let me know how that works out for ya’,” Buffy urged her friend.
“You’ll be the first to know … I mean, after me … and probably him … you’ll be the third to know!” Faith assured her. “Be sure to finish that frappy … gotta have plenty of caffeine for my new little niece to grow on!” the brunette called over her shoulder as she headed out of the training room.
Xander limped into the training room on his crutches and sat down gingerly in the chair next to the bed where Buffy was dutifully staying … popping Hershey Kisses into her mouth, trying to figure out what exactly was going on with ‘All My Children’, and washing the Kisses down with a Tab that someone had brought her earlier. More vital chocolate and caffeine nutrients for the baby to grow on … along with Buffy’s hips. Oh well, she'd worry about hips after she stopped being Queen of the Damned... or whatever it was she was supposed to be queen of.
“Xander … I’m soooo sorry,” Buffy began, clicking the TV off, sitting up, and swinging her legs off the bed.
Xander brushed it off. “Hey – what’s it been? About thirteen years of fighting evil here on the Hellmouth? … Evil has to win once in a while, even if the evil is little bug-eyed, wood-eating monsters,” he joked. “I’ve always had a thing for insects ... or they had a thing for me, not really sure now... Either way, it’s kinda ironic, they finally got me.”
“Oh, Xand …I’m still really, really sorry. Have Anya send the bills to me, I’ll pay them,” Buffy offered.
“Did you forget? Anya made Giles provide health insurance a long time ago … we’ll just have the co-pays, so no big, Buffy, but thanks for the offer,” Xander assured her.
“But … how will you work? I know money's tight …” Buffy started.
“I haven’t had many handy-man jobs lately, anyway … I’m sure I can still serve beer at the Bronze on one leg,” Xander assured her again. "Might even garner me some sympathy tips..."
Buffy sighed. “I’m so sorry,” she repeated.
“And this concludes the atonement portion of the program,” Xander announced. “Forget it, Buff … it’s kinda cool, actually. I’m gonna tell everyone I was thrown from a speeding train while rescuing Miranda Kerr from certain death during a photo shoot…”
Buffy looked at him blankly. “Miranda …”
“Tell me you know Miranda Kerr, Buff! …Victoria’s Secret … Maybelline ... uhhh … Victoria’s Secret …” Xander stammered. “She has the most amazing …” Xander cupped his hands in front of his chest to simulate breasts, “…eyes.”
He picked up the stack of magazines off the table and scanned them quickly. “Oh … and she makes a very sexy, naked eco-warrior …” he added, handing Buffy a Rolling Stone magazine from the stack.
"Well … I’m glad your suffering was for a worthy cause, anyway…” Buffy joked, rolling her eyes and setting the magazine back down.
“Here! You can be the first to sign my cast!” Xander offered, lifting his broken leg up and propping it on the bed. “Right after JJ, Anya, Annie, Dani, Billy, Faith, Fred, and Amanda …”
Buffy laughed and picked up a marker and wrote:
With all my love,
“That’s what I’m here for, little lady…” Xander mocked in a John Wayne voice, pushing the brim of an invisible cowboy hat up with one finger.
“So …” Xander continued, gingerly lowering his leg down off the bed. “I called a few contractor friends that I know … I’ve got three coming tomorrow to give you an estimate on the repairs…”
Buffy nodded and sighed. So much for just having a ‘small’ mortgage…
“I can meet them here if you want … make sure they know everything that needs to be done,” her hero offered.
“That would be great … ‘cos I’d just have to say ‘fix it’ …” Buffy admitted.
“No problem, Buff …” Xander assured her as he grabbed his crutches and started to stand back up. “Don’t worry about anything – you just be the queen … rest and chillax here in the throne room ... errr ... that would be the actual throne room, not the one with the toilet in it," he added hastily. "Let the rest of us take the lead for once…”
Buffy snorted a laugh and rolled her eyes, but nodded. “Thanks again – you guys are the best.”
“Of course we are! I mean, only the best would risk life and limb to save a homely, eco-warrior from certain death!”
(A week later), Thursday, September 22nd, 2010, 2:45am:
Spike slogged through the door from the garage into the great room in an exhausted stupor. He didn’t actually even remember driving home from the docks … but apparently he did, he was here. The last week had pretty much done him in … he’d been tired before that, working double shifts to try and keep his family afloat, but the last few days of trying to keep Buffy off her feet had him bone-weary and feeling more like a zombie than a vampire. If he started craving flesh instead of blood, he'd know the transformation had been complete.
As had become the new routine, Spike headed for the research table and checked on Bess. If she was headed for Philadelphia like he thought, she was taking the long way round. She had veered off I-40 in Fort Smith, Arkansas and started heading more north-east since then, passing through Springfield and St. Louis and was currently on a track towards Indianapolis. It wasn’t the route he would of used to get to Philadelphia, but if she turned due east on I-70 in Columbus, Ohio, it would get her there.
Spike dropped his duster down on the table next to the map and headed into the training room to retrieve the sleeping children and carry them up to their own beds, which was another new routine. After Spike headed to work at night, it was up to the kids to make sure Buffy stayed where she was supposed to be, so they stayed with her in the training room watching TV, doing their homework, playing games, reading books … whatever it took – and they usually fell asleep on the bed next to her long before he got home. As he walked into the room, expecting to find everyone asleep, he was caught off guard by Buffy being up and sitting at the table next to the bed looking more than a little stressed, which she also wasn't supposed to be.
“What ya’ doing up, luv?” Spike questioned as he stepped around the table and dropped a kiss on her forehead. “You should be sleepin’ …”
Buffy sighed and picked up some papers from the table. “Xander got the estimates for the repairs…” she informed him. “I think we could buy a whole new house for what it’s gonna cost…” Buffy sighed heavily and handed Spike the estimates.
Spike scanned them and had to agree … he’d seen foreclosure houses advertised for less … but who knew what repairs those houses would need – plus, they weren’t nearly as large as the mansion, not by a long shot, and with their expanding family, they needed room.
“I’m working just as hard as I bloody well can, Slayer … I don’t know what more you want me to do!” Spike spat back in frustration, dropping the estimates back down on the table.
“I know that! You don’t think I know that? You think sitting here all day long like a parasite, being nothing more than a fucking incubator while I try to figure out how to keep the bills juggled and the electricity turned on is a bowl full of cherries?” Buffy retorted. “You know, Spike, – I’m really not in the mood for the ‘Hank and Joyce Summers Greatest Hits’ tonight,” Buffy informed him tersely before dropping her face into her hands. “I don’t want to fight … please, let’s not fight…” she begged quietly.
Spike pursed his lips together and closed his eyes. Why was he yelling at her? It wasn’t her fault…
“Sorry, pet … I … just …” Spike sighed heavily, laying a hand on her back. “I’m tryin’…”
“I know you are. I don’t know how you’re even still standing,” Buffy murmured softly.
“How are we gonna pay for all this?” she questioned despondently, raking her hand over a stack of overdue bills that sat on the table next to her.
Spike pulled a handful of crumpled money out of his pocket and dropped $300 on the table … he had been hoping to use it as ante money and parlay it into a thousand later this week when the next wave of overconfident, and preferably drunken, sailors came in the bar. He kept fifty to use for betting … leaving $250 for Buffy to use to pay some of the bills.
“Just pay the most important … electric, water … like that, sod the rest,” he told her. “I’ll … I’ll get more later,” he promised her, trying to sound assuring, but mostly just sounding defeated.
“Spike … I’m sorry,” Buffy offered, looking up at him.
Spike furrowed his brow and shook his head. “What’re you sorry for, pet?”
Buffy shook her head. “Just everything … letting Angel take all the money away and being a bump on a log and a pain in the ass and … just everything,” she lamented, blinking tears back.
“Buffy … it’s not your fault, pet,” Spike assured her, kneeling down next to her. “We’ll figure it out … it’ll be alright.”
“You must wish you’d never met me sometimes…” Buffy muttered softly, shaking her head and looking back down at the stack of bills on the table.
Spike shook his head. “You’re looking at the wrong thing, Slayer… That bollocks don’t mean anything!” he informed her, sweeping the stack of bills onto the floor with his hand.
“Right there,” he told her, turning her head towards the bed and the three sleeping children. “That’s the only thing that means a bloody thing to me. You and them – nothing else. Buffy, it’s your love and the love of those little bits that keeps me going every day, that makes me want to do better, not for me, for you – for them. You can’t buy that … money don’t buy love, Buffy, and love is the only thing that really means sod all to me.”
“Oh, Spike …” Buffy cried, leaning forward, wrapping her arms around his neck and dropping her head against his shoulder. “You know I love you … I love you so much … we all do.”
“I know, pet … I love you too. No worries now, we’ll figure the money out. I got a couple a’ ideas … put some feelers out … it’ll work out,” Spike assured her. “You just need to worry about this little bit and leave the rest to me, yeah?” he admonished her, laying a hand on her belly.
That was much easier said than done, but Buffy nodded against his shoulder, taking a deep breath to try and calm down. “I feel like a … burden. This queen routine is piling too much on you,” Buffy moaned, pulling back to look at his tired eyes as she ran a hand softly down the side of his face. She knew it wasn't possible, be he seemed to have aged the last couple of months ... maybe it was the dark circles under his eyes that made it look that way.
Spike closed his eyes and tilted his head, leaning into her comforting touch. Buffy touched her lips softly to his and Spike … didn’t seem to notice. “Spike?” she questioned softly. “Honey?” Nothing.
Buffy shook her head in disbelief … he was almost literally dead on his feet … except he was on his knees. Despite the doctor’s orders, Buffy lifted Spike up slightly and rolled him onto the bed which was right next to them.
She pulled his boots off and covered him and the kids up with the sheet. After picking up the bills from the floor, Buffy switched the light off and laid down on the couch … ‘cos there was no more room in the bed, and tried to go to sleep. An old joke floated through her mind as she thought about what Spike had said … 'People who say money can’t buy happiness don’t know where to shop.'
Buffy sighed and closed her eyes. That was cute and funny … but ultimately, Spike was right; money couldn’t buy love, not true love, and love was something they had in spades. Tomorrow she’d get Xander to help her decide which contractor to hire and she’d increase the mortgage on the house and keep the wolf away from their door another day. They’d worry about how to pay for it after the baby came, when she could carry her weight and help Spike instead of just being a huge, blood-sucking leech, weighing him down. They’d figure it out together, just like they always had, she assured herself.
Later that day, 10am:
“So,” Buffy summarized what Xander had explained to her about the bids. “None of these guys are actually doing the work … they’re just hiring other guys ... they're like ... pimps.”
“Well, in a really boring, unsexy way, yeah. You need carpenters and roofers and drywall guys and plaster-erers…” Xander untangled his tongue and shook his head. “Most guys are good at one or two things … I mean, I know how to do carpentry and drywall, but this flat roof you have is kinda beyond my expertise and you want a really good plaster man to match the new plaster to the old so it doesn’t look dorky and, well … repaired.”
Buffy furrowed her brow and looked back down at the bids. “So, how much of this money does the pimp keep out of this?”
Xander shrugged. “Each one’s probably different, but maybe fifteen or twenty percent… and they do more than just ... uhhh, pimp out labor, they also pull the permits and oversee the whole thing, make sure everyone gets paid, and everything passes the inspections and is done right.”
“Well,” Buffy continued. “Don’t you know how to do all that?”
Xander furrowed his brow. “Well … yeah…”
“And since you'd just be pimping out other guys, and they'd be the ones doing all the hammering and heavy lifting, you could still do it with a broken leg, right?" she wondered.
“Well … yeah, I guess...” Xander agreed. "But could we drop the 'pimping of guys' talk, 'cos, oddly, that's just not a good visual for me."
Buffy handed him the estimates back. “Then you do it. I’d rather pay you than some stranger.”
“But, Buffy … these guys do this for a living – they have contacts I might not…” Xander argued.
Buffy shrugged. “A superman that can save Miranda Kerr from certain death should be able to handle it…” she teased. “I have faith in you.”
(Two days later) Sunday, September 26th, 2010:
With Buffy on bed rest and the mansion in such disarray, trying to throw her a big surprise baby shower at her house was out of the question, so they just had a really small gathering at the Harris home on Sunday evening, Spike’s night off. All of Buffy’s closest friends were there, male and female, young and old. Willow and Tara came down with Eddie; Giles, of course had to attend, and Olivia was in town for a visit, so she was there, as well; Faith stopped in before going on patrol; Wes made a short appearance, and of course Xander and Anya and JJ were there, along with Spike and the Weckerly kids. It really turned into a big ‘welcome Eddie to the family’ party … with the baby shower gifts almost an afterthought, as everyone fawned over the six month old and commented on how much he’d grown and how handsome he was. No one could’ve been more proud and happy to see him than Giles, who had been too engrossed in Council work, as well as his duties at the Magic Box, to get up to see him since returning from London.
Buffy was overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity at the shower. Even though she’d gotten the nursery furnished, she hadn’t had money to buy things like diapers and bottles and baby powder and lotions and onesies or all the other ‘little’ things that seemed to add up so fast. Then there were the big things that she’d been trying to figure out how to swing, like a car seat and a new baby monitor and a bouncy seat and a high chair, a stroller, a playpen, and a bassinette… And, of course, since everyone knew the sex of the baby for the first time, no one could resist buying some of those cute little girly-girl outfits for the baby in various sizes that drew ‘awwwww’s from the women and slightly confused shrugs and head shakes from the men.
Buffy was once again reminded of how lucky she was and what good friends she and Spike had, even though most of them were struggling financially too, they still took some of their hard earned dollars and made sure the new little bit would have everything it needed to start off right. Now it was up to her and Spike to figure out how to keep that good start going…
When the party was breaking up, Buffy pulled Willow aside. “Please tell me you’ve figured out something about the Gem,” Buffy begged her friend.
Willow sighed. “I’ve been working on a program to try and decipher the language that book Giles sent me is written in, but so far, no joy. Every time I think it’s got it figured out and a couple of words start making sense, the next sentence will say something like … ‘The zebra smelled the iron fish and ate the driveway,’” Willow told her with a disappointed frown. “I’m really trying, Buffy …”
Buffy sighed and gave Willow a reassuring smile. “I know you are … I just … I really worry about Spike, I mean, all it takes is one demon getting lucky … just one good day and …” Buffy let her voice trail off, leaving her ultimate fear unspoken.
“I know … Buffy, I’ve never seen anything like this … it’s not only a lost, ancient language, but it’s been jumbled up too … I have to decode it and translate it and it’s just taking time. It’d be totally fascinating if I didn’t know how much you were depending on me to find out out if there really is another Gem and where it is,” Willow explained.
“Maybe you need one of those decoder rings Spike gave the kids when he inducted them into the Scooby gang …” Buffy teased.
Willow’s brows shot up and her eyes went wide. “Awwww! We never got decoder rings! That’s so not fair!”
(Next Day), Monday, September 29th, 3:30pm:
Spike watched from the shaded safety of the seldom used front entrance of the mansion as JJ, Annie, Dani, and Billy got off their school buses and walked the short distance back to the house. Since Annie’s bus arrived first, she would wait for the younger kids and they’d all walk back to the house together. Certainly Annie would say she was eleven and didn’t need anyone to meet her at the bus stop, but Spike wasn’t so easily swayed. Since neither he nor Buffy could go meet the bus just now unless he went in the DeSoto, he satisfied his over-protective side by keeping a watchful eye out for them from the portico.
Annie grabbed the mail from the box as the younger children ran by her into the house, laughing and rough-housing as they went by Spike as if he wasn’t even there. Annie handed Spike the mail and he put an arm around her shoulders as they both headed into the house.
“Good day at school, Niblett?” he asked as they walked.
“Nooooo,” Annie moaned, pulling a paper out of her book bag. “I totally suck at math…” she informed him, handing him the math test she’d taken last Friday.
“B minus?” Spike questioned, looking at the score on the top. “You got your mum beat by several letters, I’d wager…”
“That’s not really a big comfort…” Annie reminded him.
Spike snorted a laugh. “I bet your mum will hang this one up on the fridge … proud as a peacock, she’ll be. You should be too, pet. It’s brilliant.”
Annie rolled her eyes. She hated getting anything but ‘A’s … some might call her an overachiever.
“Here … go show ‘er. I bet she hangs it on the fridge …” Spike encouraged her.
“What do you wanna bet?” Annie questioned.
“I bet … hmmm … if she don’t hang it on the fridge, I’ll let ya paint m’ nails pink … but if she does, you gotta wash m’ car on Saturday,” Spike offered.
“Fingernails … and you have to keep the polish on for a week …” Annie clarified.
“It’s a bet,” Spike announced, sticking his right hand out and Annie shook it before running off towards the training room with her test.
Spike went into the kitchen and began scanning the mail, tossing the junk into the garbage bin and putting the bills in a stack to add to the even bigger stack that Buffy had in the other room. He stopped when he got to one from ‘Department of Children and Families’ … What the bloody hell now?
When Buffy and Annie came into the kitchen, Spike looked up from the letter, which said they had been approved for food stamps. Their ‘EBT’ card was enclosed and gave instructions on setting up a PIN for it and how to use it at the store, what they could and couldn’t buy with it, etc.
“Spike! Did you see this!?” Buffy questioned proudly, heading for the fridge with Annie’s test. “Annie got a B minus on her math test! Isn’t that great?!”
“Mom … please don’t …” Annie begged as Buffy secured it to the fridge door with a magnet.
“Why not!? You’re a genius! There’s nothing wrong with being proud of being a math whiz!” Buffy gushed.
“I’m totally not a math whiz … and now I have to wash Vader on Saturday …” Annie moaned.
“Go to your room, Niblett,” Spike ordered sternly.
“Huh? I was just gonna…” Annie began, heading for the fridge to get a snack.
“Go. To. Your. Room… Now,” Spike repeated, glaring at Buffy angrily.
“I … uhhh … ummmm … ok,” Annie stammered when she saw her father’s jaw clench and tic … that was never good.
“What’s wrong with you, Spike?!” Buffy started. “Getting a B minus is great! Why are you yelling at her?”
“What the bloody hell is this?” Spike demanded extending the food stamps letter to Buffy.
Buffy furrowed her brow as she took it and began reading. She’d actually given up on it, it had been so long since she applied and hadn’t heard anything back from them. “It’s … I … uhhh,” Buffy took a deep breath and looked up at her husband. She could almost see the steam coming out of his ears, she could definitely feel the seething anger radiating off him.
“Spike, it’s just a little temporary help until I can get off this bed rest and …” Buffy began trying to explain.
“It’s bloody WELFARE!” Spike screamed at her, making her flinch. “I don’t take handouts, Slayer … and neither do you.”
“Spike … it’s not a handout, it’s just help until…”
“It’s a bloody handout! You don’t think I can feed this family, that it? Don’t anyone here look like they’re starving t’ me … do they to you?” Spike questioned.
“No … of course not,” Buffy agreed. “I just thought, if we had a little help with the food…”
“You thought! You thought!?” Spike screamed at her. “Last I checked, there was more than you here – didn’t think to ask me, then, did ya?”
“No, I didn’t ask you. You know why? Because I knew what you’d say! I knew you’d go off the fucking deep end, again! We need help, Spike – we’ve paid our taxes for years – paid our dues, now that we need it, it’s time to get a little of that back!” Buffy argued.
“Sod that, Slayer! Give it back – we don’t need it! I can feed my own family – don’t need Uncle Sam footin’ m’ bleedin' bills!” Spike ordered.
“No! I will not give it back. We do need it! Why are you so fucking pig-headed and stubborn!?” Buffy defied him adamantly.
“Me stubborn!? Pffffft! You invented fucking stubborn, woman! I don’t know what you want from me, Slayer! Ya got m’ blood, sweat, and tears and that just ain’t enough!” Spike contended.
“What I want is for us to stop fighting! What I want is for you to stop working sixteen hours a fucking day! What I want is my husband back! Is that too much to ask?!” Buffy screamed at him.
“I reckon it is!” Spike screamed back, before turning on his heal and heading for the door. “I’m goin’ to work – at least I get some bloody respect there!”
“Spike! Spike, damn it, come back!” Buffy called, walking out of the kitchen after him, but he just kept going, slamming the door to the garage and squealing tires on the DeSoto as he left.
“Damn it…” Buffy moaned as she rubbed tiredly at her eyes and tried to keep from crying. “I’m only trying to help…”
After being ordered out of the kitchen, Annie stopped Dani, JJ, and Billy at the bottom of the stairs as they came back down from changing into play clothes. They could hear Spike and Buffy screaming at each other in the kitchen and they all stood silently and listened.
When Spike stormed out of the kitchen towards the garage, they all scampered up the stairs and down the hallway, but he didn’t even notice them. They stopped on the landing, just out of view from downstairs, and listened to see if he was coming back, but knew he wasn’t when they heard the car pull out of the driveway.
“Is Papa mad at us?” Billy questioned.
“No …” Annie assured them. “I don’t think so.”
“Is he mad at Mama?” Dani asked.
“Yeah … I guess,” Annie replied sadly. “I think … I think his new job doesn’t pay what the old one did and there isn’t enough money…” Annie shrugged, not really sure why things had been so tense in the house lately.
“Why doesn’t he get his old one back, then?” JJ voiced what the others were wondering.
“I don’t know … I think he was gone too long and now his old boss is mad at him,” Annie explained.
“They aren’t gonna get divorced, are they?” Billy asked, knowing that lots of their friends in school had parents that were divorced.
Annie shrugged. “I don’t know…”
“My mom and dad fight like that too sometimes … but they get over it,” JJ offered, trying to help.
“What’s ‘welfare’?” Dani wondered.
“It’s what poor people that can’t find a job get to live on …” Annie told them.
“Are we poor?” Billy asked.
Annie shrugged. “I don’t know.” She didn’t think they were poor, but now she wasn’t sure.
“But Papa’s working all the time – he can’t even come to my soccer games …” Dani pointed out.
“I know …” Annie agreed sadly, he couldn’t come to her dance recitals, either.
“Is it our fault?” Billy asked, his expressive blue eyes framed with worry. "Did we do something wrong?"
Annie shrugged and frowned as her stomach tightened with worry. “I don’t know…”
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