SOMETHING THAT BEGINS WITH...
"Why do I have to go?"
"We need help carrying some of the things."
"But I have things to do…"
Buffy raised an eyebrow and joined in the conversation. "Like what? You told me that you had the whole day free."
Xander, promising retribution with his eyes, shook his head. "No. That's tomorrow. I have lots of things to do today. Like work and study and stuff."
"Study?" Willow asked.
"Work?" Giles questioned.
"I hate you guys."
The four of them climbed into Giles' car, Xander grumbling the entire time. Buffy watched him, noticing his eyes straying to Willow's stomach, which was beginning to bulge ever so slightly. She leaned over and poked him in the ribs. "Strange, huh?"
"What?" He asked quietly.
"Willow. Preggers." She shrugged. "Wigs me out."
"Yeah. I don't know that I'm ready for my best friend to be a mommy."
Willow, overhearing the conversation, laughed softly. "Oh, come on Xander, I've been mothering you since you were five years old."
"Yeah, but then it was different." He hunkered down in his seat, his uncomfortableness with the topic obvious. "You weren't actually *my* mother."
Giles smiled at Xander in the rearview mirror, "Don't worry, when she has this baby, she still won't be your mother."
Xander stuck his tongue out at the older man. "I can't wait for someone to call you Dad. I'm going to mock and laugh." When Giles didn't respond, he frowned. "I can't wait, I tell ya."
Giles reached over and captured Willow's hand. He smiled at her, his love shining in his eyes. "To be honest," he whispered so that only she could hear. "Neither can I."
"Are you a pickle?"
Buffy narrowed her eyes. "Are you…a…a duck billed platypus?"
Willow giggled. "No! Sixteen."
The two teenagers in the back seat looked at Giles. He thought for a moment then shook his head in disbelief. "Are you Ringo Starr?"
Her smile seemed to light up the car. Buffy and Xander groaned in unison, collapsing back against the seat. "I don't want to play with them anymore." Xander stated. "They cheat. I think they sat down last night and plotted this whole car trip. Games, sing a longs, and…and where the hell are we going, anyway?"
"Sing a longs?" Giles smirked.
"We're going out of town for the stuff, Xander. We don't want to run the risk that we're going to end up with some demonically possessed crib that will turn into some sort of cage and steal our baby away. Plus, they're having a sale." Xander sighed dramatically and Willow shook her head. Reaching down at her feet, she lifted the lid off the small cooler she'd brought with her. "Here. This should help."
Xander caught the pack of golden Twinkie goodness as it sailed over Willow's shoulder. He grinned his thanks and ripped it open. He was about to offer one to Buffy, puppy dog eyes in full effect, when another package sailed into the Slayer's grasp.
"So he won't offer and then beg for it back," Willow stated. "All right, Giles. You're turn."
Willow settled back and got comfortable again, staring out at the passing scenery. "Are you an animal?"
Xander stared at the building in front of them, his eyes wide. "We're going in there?"
He looked at Giles incredulously. "You're going to let her go in there? I mean, she's pregnant! It could be dangerous."
"Xander, they're all children. Most of them babies, I doubt very seriously that there's going to be a mass attack from them." He looked over the other shoppers, his eyes intent, belying his reassurance. "Besides, Buffy's here with us, and I'm sure she can protect Willow from any harm."
Xander shook his head. "You know absolutely nothing about children, do you? They are the most vile creatures upon the earth. Even worse than vampires and demons, they will attack without provocation. They will sneer and mock and kick and bite. They have no morals. They are the true embodiment of evil."
Willow looked knowingly at Buffy. "Xander has playground issues."
"Don't even get me started on the playground!" Xander glared at his best friend. "The playground is where I met Cordelia." He shivered, and turned back to Giles. "They will come up to you for no reason and kick you. In the shin!" Shaking his head, Xander looked piteously at Giles. "You have no idea what you're getting into, G-man."
"Well, if dealing with you and that blasted nickname is any indication of what's to come, I think I handle myself rather admirably." Giles glared back at the younger man and took Willow's hand. "You brought the list?"
"You bring the checkbook?"
He nodded. "And the mortgage payment, a few pints of blood and the deed to our firstborn."
"Ah for the good old days," Buffy grinned. "When things used to just cost an arm and a leg."
Willow sighed happily as she stared down at the crib. "It's perfect, don't you think?"
"It's a crib, Wills." Buffy looked at her friend strangely. "I think the hormones are getting to you already. You're getting all…gushy."
"Yeah. Looking at baby furniture makes you gushy. Normally, for most girls, it's baby clothes and stuff. Brings out the Mom instinct. But I think you actually have to be pregnant for the whole furniture situation to take effect."
"Am I that bad?"
Buffy nodded. "Yeah. But Giles is worse, so it's okay."
"Oh yeah. He makes you look like you could care less. I sort of feel sorry for Xander."
"Why just sort of?"
Linking arms, Buffy started off in the direction of the toys. "Because, it's kind of fun to see him get tortured."
"And this, you see, is to help the child sleep. It emulates the sound of a mother's womb…"
"I don't want to think about wombs. No wombs for Xander. I don't even like thinking that I've been anywhere near anything like a womb." He shook his head vehemently. "And don't think that just because it's disguised as a teddy bear, I won't know what it is. You could wrap that thing in chocolate and tie a million dollars to it and I'm not going to touch it."
"Yeah." He glared at Giles. "I'm not the one who told you to get her pregnant, so don't try and make me deal with it. And don't try and make me touch that thing." He pointed to the bear Giles was holding.
"What's up?'" Buffy asked as she and Willow rounded the corner.
"Xander is delving into some very interesting psychological territory," Giles stated.
Buffy nodded. "Anything that makes his relationship with Cordelia make sense?"
"Nothing could do that," Willow put in, smiling at her best friend.
Xander ignored them all, instead concentrating on the rows of bottles and pacifiers in front of him. Buffy watched him, a devious smile slowly forming. "Well, I can imagine he's got some Oedipal troubles. He's staring at those bottle nipples like a man who just achieved nirvana."
"What!" He whirled around to glare at Buffy, his hands raising instinctively as he saw a strange object hurtling at his head. Catching it, he looked down at it and dropped it immediately. A sound, similar to the roar of waves, came from the bear now lying in the middle of the aisle, filling the area with the peaceful noise. "God, I hate you guys."
Giles wandered off with Buffy, heading for the baby carriers and strollers, intent on finding the one with the best weapon capacity. Willow went off in search of Xander, wondering where he could have gone. She found him in the outdoor toys area, sitting on a merry go round.
"Wow, I didn't know they sold these."
He looked up, his brown eyes sad. "Neither did I."
"Xander? What's wrong?"
He shrugged, looking away from her. "I don't know. I don't…Nothing."
"You promised it wasn't going to change and now it is. You're not going to be able to help it. I mean, you're not going to be there as much, since you'll be with the baby. You're not going to be able to do anything or help, because you'll have someone else to take care of and you'll have to be safe for their sake. You're going to be…just gone."
"That's part of the reason we bought the house, Xander. I will still be there. Instead of researching in the school and trying to find reasons for us all to be there, we'll all be researching in the house. And there will be food there." She reached over and took his hand, giving it a comforting squeeze. "This baby isn't going to replace you, Xander."
"That's not what I…"
"Yes it is. You think that once I have someone else to care for, someone who needs me, I'm not going to need you. I'm not going to want to take care of you, listen to your problems and help you find solutions. I'm not going to always be there for you whenever you need me."
"No. I don't…it's true though."
"No, Xander. It isn't. You're my best friend. You've shared my whole life with me and you know me. You know me by heart. And that's not going to change just because I have a baby. I'm still going to be the same Willow, only maybe tireder. I'm still going to be *your* Willow."
He looked at her through his lashes. "Really?"
"Even though we don't hang out as much, am I any less of a friend to you since Giles and I have been together?"
"Do you still call me late at night sometimes, just to talk?"
"Does my husband mind? Does he get mad?"
"Not that he's mentioned."
"Do you think he would mention it?"
"Do you really think I could ever love you less?"
He looked back down at the floor and thought for a long moment. "I wonder sometimes, what life would be like if I hadn't been so blind."
"So do I. Sometimes. But it's never going to be that way, Xander. But that doesn't make our relationship now worth less. I love you. Besides, without you in my life, who would teach my child to eat Twinkies?"
"And who would teach the poor thing the proper way to throw a water balloon? And order take-out?" She giggled as he appeared to contemplate her questions. Sobering, Willow tightened her grip on his hand. "Who would teach my baby how to laugh when it hurts? And how to survive when it's bleak? And how to love your friends unreservedly?"
"You could teach the last one, Wills." Xander met her eyes with his own and smiled. "So, you for smarts, Giles for strategy, Buffy for strength, Oz for talent, me for humor, Angel for brooding, Cordy for fashion tips and Faith for…sluttiness? This is the luckiest kid in the world, isn't it?"
"Yeah." Willow placed her hand on her stomach. "Certainly is."
Buffy hefted the weight of one of the baby carriers. "You put a kid and a weapon in here and it's going to weigh a ton. Not that you're kid is going to be fat or anything…"
"I knew what you meant."
"So…" She set the carrier down. "You're gonna be a dad."
"That's the plan." Giles nodded. "At least, should everything go according to plan, that's what I'll be."
"I knew what you meant." Buffy grinned. "You doing okay?"
"Most of the time. When she's sick, it's difficult. And whenever there's the slightest twinge, I'm desperately afraid that something has gone wrong and we're going to have to rush her to the hospital."
"But so far, everything is good?"
She walked a little ways then walked back to him. "Are you excited? I mean, are you happy? I…my dad…when he and my mom split up, it sort of killed me. I thought it was my fault and I had done something wrong. I knew, logically, that the fights that they had had more to do with it than I did, but I was one of the things they fought about. I just…it's harder, once there are kids. And you should know that. I don't want there to be any pain."
"Neither do I, Buffy. And, if it helps, I have no intention of leaving Willow or the baby."
She let the conversation drop, concentrating her mind on the carriers in front of her. One was upholstered in pink fabric, the other in blue. "Do you know yet? Boy or girl?"
"No idea. Willow doesn't want to know. She wants it to be a surprise."
"I hope…I hope for your sake that it's a boy. Not a girl. Not a Slayer."
Giles smiled, realizing they were coming to the root of what was really bothering her. "Boy or girl, I won't mind. Having a healthy child is more my concern."
"You don't have a preference?"
"Well, I suppose every man wants a son to carry on his name. And I'm sure the Watcher's Council would approve either. Watcher or Slayer." He pulled a carrier off the rack and inspected it, handing it to her for her perusal. "But a little girl…" he sighed. "Every man wants a daughter to idolize him."
"Sounds like you want a girl."
The sadness in her tone was belied by her smile as she nodded her assent to his choice in carriers. Giles took it from her and placed it in their cart. "Perhaps. Although there's only one thing wrong with that."
"Oh?" Her blue eyes were questioning. "What's that?"
He placed his arm around her and hugged her to him. "I already have the perfect daughter."
Xander hopped on one foot all the way from the display to the checkout line, his face a mask of indignation. "Did you see that? That little brat kicked me!"
"Want me to slay him for ya?" Buffy reached in her coat, as if going for a stake.
"Yes." Xander nodded, kneeling down to massage the bruising flesh. "Little bastard. All I did was tell him that Darth Maul was in no way better than Darth Vader. These rugrats take their movie tie-ins seriously."
"Don't taunt the animals in their native habitat, Xander." Willow grinned. "Didn't you learn that with the hyenas?"
"Oh no. You don't think I was possessed by some maniacal six year old, do you?"
"Who could tell the difference?" Giles asked under his breath.
"I heard that, G-man."
"You were meant to," the older man stated. He moved the two carts of items they'd collected forward, watching as Willow and Buffy loaded them onto the conveyer belt by the register. Not thinking about the money that was casually sliding down the line, he glanced at Xander's leg. "I'm sure you'll live. Possessed or not."
"Thanks. You gonna show this kind of concern for your child?"
"I show it to you, don't I?" He reached down a hand and helped Xander to stand. Letting the smile on his face slip away, he shook the hand before he dropped it. "I appreciate the help today, Xander. Even if it was given under duress."
"Don't thank me yet. I haven't lifted a single thing." He watched the girls as they finished their task and moved out of the way so that Giles could pay. "Although I suppose I can't let Willow move anything. And since no one knows about Buffy's superpowers, I can't exactly let the two of us look like slackers and have a girl carry everything. Sigh. All right. I'll help."
"Perhaps we can get them to put the really heavy things into a bag that Buffy can carry, so that no one would be the wiser." Giles raised an eyebrow in question.
"I always knew we kept you around for a reason, Giles. Well, other than the finding prophecy to send us all out into danger reason. And the having sex with my best friend reason. Plannin' smarts."
"Yes. I have a degree in that." Giles barely blanched at the total, handing over a credit card to the sales clerk. He signed the slip, giving Willow a discreet wink as he did so. Neither of them cared much how the Council would react to the bill, although they were sure that Giles' mother would make sure the expense request was paid.
Grandmothers had their advantages.
"I can't believe we fit all that stuff into this car, Giles. What do you have, some sort of extra dimensional portal in the trunk?"
"Nothing quite so grand. I just pack well." He turned his attention back toward the road, determined to reach Sunnydale before night fell.
"I saw. I can testify," Xander put his hand over his heart. "No dimensional pockets, no crazy space demons. Just a trunk that's deceptively small."
"I think he used a spell," Buffy crossed her arms over her chest, determined to pout her defiance. "And you're not going to convince me otherwise."
"Does that mean you're not going to play?" Willow asked.
"Play what?" Buffy leaned forward, her interest peaked. "What are we playing?"
Willow grinned at Giles. "I spy with my little eye, something that begins with…"
Next: Daddy's Girl
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