Willow leaned against the wall, breathing deeply. Buffy and Giles were fighting, alternating between weapons as they went. Oz and Xander had placed various items around the room, some weapon-y, others more mundane, and occasionally one of them would shout "Change" and the two combatants would have to find the nearest thing.
The fight had almost ended when Giles stood up, broadsword in hand, to face Buffy with a blow dryer. Even Buffy had laughed, but she managed to get the cord tangled in his legs and sent him sprawling to the floor.
It was graceful, even as it was absurd. Finally, Xander looked down at his stopwatch and cried, "Stop!"
The room rang with the echo of quarterstaffs as Buffy and Giles both dropped theirs to the floor. Their breathing, harsh and erratic, filled the room as well. "E…excellent, Buffy. Never let the…unexpectedness of a weapon limit its usefulness. Often the surprise that comes with being attacked by someone brandishing a blow dryer is enough to take your opponent's mind off the fight and finish him."
"Unless you're fighting Angel," Xander threw in. "Because he'd probably just dodge you until the heat had styled his hair."
Buffy rolled her eyes. Catching a movement out of the corner of her eye, she turned and caught the two water bottles Oz had thrown. She handed one to Giles and cracked the top on hers. "Thanks, Oz."
"No problem." He shut the door of the mini-refrigerator they'd installed to keep fresh meat for his time of the month, and water for the training sessions. "Although…" he paused and tilted his head, looking for all the world like a curious puppy. "I think you might want to offer Willow some."
Giles looked up from his drink. "Why's that?"
"Because hers just broke."
"Good Lord," Giles dropped his water on the floor and rushed to Willow's side. She was leaning against the wall, her face pale and pasty. He grabbed her arm; his eyes filled with worry as he touched her cold, clammy skin. "Xander, call the hospital. Tell them we're on our way."
"We can take my van," Oz offered. "She can lay down in the back." He grabbed his keys off the table and took the stairs three at a time. Xander was hot on his heels, grabbing the phone off the wall before he'd even stopped moving.
Buffy came over to Giles' side and put Willow's arm around her shoulders. "Let's go. Nice and slow." They started walking, trying to block out Willow's soft moans of pain. Her whole body seemed shocked as she moved as if underwater.
"This isn't…" Giles growled and swept her up in his arms. "I'll carry her. Buffy, you get her suitcase and gather a change of clothes for me, if you would. I'm sweaty and…wet. Xander can drive the two of you to the hospital as soon as you're finished. We'll meet you there."
Buffy nodded, starting for their bedroom. Before she got to the stairs, she darted back and kissed Willow's forehead. "Hang onto that baby, Wills. I'm not missing this for the world."
Willow's green eyes seemed to focus on Buffy for a moment. "Promise."
"Take all the strength you need from me, Wills." She whispered before running for the stairs once again.
Giles continued to the door, Xander following behind. "They're expecting you at the emergency room. We'll be there as soon as we can." His voice was full of worry. "Don't let anything happen to her."
"The only thing that's going to happen is that she and I are going to have a beautiful baby, Xander. I swear it."
He nodded, even though he knew Giles couldn't see him. He looked up, hoping to see Buffy coming down the from the upper story. He heard the van peel away and started pacing, mentally willing Buffy to hurry.
Oz screeched to a halt, stopping a mere inch from the bumper of the ambulance in front of him. He threw the brake and jumped out of the van, rushing to the back doors. He swung them open, reaching in to help Giles lift Willow. As soon as the Watcher had her securely in his arms, Oz rushed to the door and grabbed the nearest orderly. "We've got a very pregnant lady out here, trying hard to have a baby. Help?"
Just then Giles walked in, Willow in his arms. Her skirt was stained, wet with water and blood, and she was trembling fiercely. One of the interns approached Giles warily. "You need to set her down, Mr. Giles." He touched Giles' hand, pulling back as he snarled.
"Giles," Oz snapped. "They'll help her."
The Watcher nodded, setting her down on the gurney. He backed away slowly, holding tightly to her hand when she held it out to him. His eyes went to the orderly. "Please help her? She's my life."
"She'll be fine."
He released her hand as they started wheeling her away, tears sparkling in his eyes. He looked lost, searching for something to hold on to. "Oz?"
"Sit down, Giles." He led him to a seat. "I'm gonna move the van and I'll be right back. Stay right here. When Xander and Buffy get here, we'll find her again and then we'll be there for her, all right?"
Giles nodded, his eyes unfocussed as he stared down the hall where they'd taken Willow.
Xander and Buffy practically fell in the doors, rushing to Giles' side. A hastily packed suitcase was gripped tightly in Buffy's hand and she set it at his feet. "Where is she? Is she okay? Can we see her? Did she have the baby?"
"Is she all right?" Xander grabbed Giles' arm, not caring when the Watcher threw him a killing glance. "Tell me, is she okay?"
"We don't know anything yet," Oz said softly. "We're waiting for the doctors to examine her."
"But…but…" Buffy's blue eyes were wide with fear that she did not want Giles to see. "When will we know?"
All four heads snapped up, all of them remembering a time, not so long ago when they'd been in a very similar situation. "Yes?" he managed to breathe.
"Your wife is stabilized. She lost some blood, but not too much. The baby appears to be fine." He patted Giles on the shoulder. "I know you don't wish to know the sex, so I won't spoil that surprise."
"Can I…" he looked around at the anxious faces around him. "Can *we* see her?"
"Certainly. Follow me."
The four of them walked down the hall, worry etched in every nerve. Buffy walked between Xander and Oz, clutching their hands tightly. Giles walked a few steps in front of them, looking as if the entire world were on his shoulders.
When they reached Willow's room, the doctor stopped. "All right. I'm not supposed to let more than two people in at a time, but I think it would be useless to try and stop you. So be quiet, take it easy and don't upset her. She's scared, but she's strong. She's going to be fine." He stated the last sentence strongly, glaring at them all as if daring them to deny it. "Smile."
They all walked into Willow's room, weak smiles pasted on their faces. She opened her eyes as the door swung open and laughed softly. "Jeez guys, I'm not dead. Quit with the tragedy masks." She hit the button on the switch in her hand and raised her bed up slightly. "I'm okay. I'm fine. It was just a little bit of a shock that there was this pain and then…well, ickyness."
Giles moved to her side and took her hand in his. Relief flooded through him as he felt the warm rush of blood through her skin. "You had us all quite scared."
"Come on! You guys have faced demons and monsters and Hellmouths. I'm not scary at all." She grinned and held out her other hand. Oz, who was closest, grabbed it and held it tightly.
Xander and Buffy exchanged a glance. "What are we supposed to do? Hold your feet?"
She wiggled her toes under the blanket. "You can if you want." She grinned. "I'm sorry I worried you all."
"You're fine. That' s what matters." Giles reached up and pushed her damp hair away from her face. "Besides, the training session was over, so you didn't really interrupt anything."
Her smile was brilliant in the dim light of the room. "Well, thank goodness for that."
"So, what happens now?" Buffy stepped closer, resting her hand on Willow's leg. "What…when?"
"Well, I'm not quite fully dilated. They're going to monitor me, but it looks like it will be some time tomorrow. They baby has turned and is in proper position, so whenever he or she decides to make an appearance." She shrugged. "But don't worry if you're not here when it happens. You'll hear the screams."
"And being Sunnydale, we'd notice?" Buffy smirked. "You're not allowed to have the baby without us, Wills. It's a rule."
"I don't know that the doctors are going to allow four other people in the room with me."
"I don't know that I want to know Willow that intimately," Xander added, blushing all the while. "I mean…well, I'm not going to say what I mean because Giles still looks mad enough to hit me."
The older man smiled, perfectly aware that danger still clung to him like an aura. "We should let you get some rest then," He stood up. "They've promised, after the events of the last time you were in the hospital, to bring in a cot for me. I'll take first watch. We'll alternate every six hours. Whenever she goes into labor, whoever is here will call the others. Does that sound fair?"
"I'm having a baby, not going to war," Willow reminded him. "Let's lose the military precision. Go home. Get sleep. We'll call when something happens. And I've warned the kid that no appearances are allowed until everyone is present and accounted for." She smiled at all of her friends. Releasing Giles' hand, she captured Buffy's and squeezed. "Go home."
"Patrol, you mean."
"Take Xander with you. He's bouncing around with enough nervous energy to light up a small city." She released Buffy and grabbed Xander's hand. "Xan?"
"It's gonna be fine." She looked him in the eye. "I promise."
"Don't start breaking promises now, you promise?" He asked with a quick grin.
"Promise." She turned to Oz. "Watch out for Abbott and Costello over there, okay?"
"Sure thing." He leaned in and kissed her cheek. "I'll see you later." He glanced at Giles. "Six hours, right?"
Willow rolled her eyes. "Yes. Six hours. The changing of the guard. Go home! I want to be alone with my husband." She glared at them all, the glint of humor in her eye, as they left the room. As soon as they were gone, Giles stood up and leaned over her.
"Now, tilt the bed back so that you're comfortable, as you weren't fooling any of us."
She sighed in relief and let the bed slowly move back. "I thought I did a fine job."
"You couldn't see your face." He tucked the blanket around her and kissed her softly. "Now, why don't you try and get some sleep? I'll be right here beside you."
She yawned and nodded. "I'll try." She snuggled under the thin sheet and blanket, watching him through half closed lashes. "I'm gonna have your baby tomorrow, Rupert."
He sat next to the bed and rested his forehead against hers. "Our baby, love."
"Your baby," she grinned. "Don't argue with the pregnant woman."
"Tomorrow you won't be able to use that excuse to win arguments anymore."
"Don't argue with the new mother," she giggled sleepily. "Goodnight, Rupert."
"Goodnight, little one."
Buffy and Xander both leapt out of the car, not bothering with the doors. Managing the avoid slamming into the automatic doors by turning sideways, they dodged orderlies and patients alike as they ran headlong into Willow's room.
Panting, Buffy leaned against the doorjamb and managed a weak smile. "Hey. We late?"
Xander nodded his agreement with the question, working hard to get air forced back into his lungs.
Oz shook his head. "Nope. She's headed for the delivery room now. She dilated quickly. She's at 12 centimeters and working harder than you guys to breathe." He led them out of the room and down the hall. "Giles is more nervous than she is, I think."
"I can imagine," Buffy smiled at the thought. "He's gonna stay with her through the whole thing?"
"Yup. Lamaze classes not wasted on the G-man," Xander stated, finally able to breathe normally. "Do you know how many nights I've spent, waiting for you to finish patrol, just so that I wouldn't have to hear about pressure points, breathing and massage? And I like all those things…well, not from Giles, but normally."
Buffy patted Xander's shoulder reassuringly. "You've suffered greatly, my friend."
"They said, that if we want, they'll let us in. If not, there's a video feed."
"That's…" Xander paused. "I'm not even going to…"
"Video?" Buffy paled. "I don't know that I want…"
"I told them no," Oz laughed. "But if you want to go in, you don't have to watch the scary parts. You can just watch Willow."
"Willow all sweaty?" Xander contemplated the sight in his mind's eye. "Okay."
"And screaming obscenities," Buffy reminded him. "Probably just like she would if she knew what you were thinking right now."
Xander blushed. "I wasn't thinkin' nothin'." He caught sight of Giles in the hallway in front of them, pacing. "And if you tell him I was, I'll find a way to hurt you both."
"Hey Giles!" Buffy bounced up to him, grabbing his hand. "Mom had the kid yet?"
"Not quite." He frowned, his brow furrowing. "They've given her the epidural, I'm afraid that we're going to have to bypass natural. The pain was getting intense. The labor pains have been…unmanageable."
"Sounds like she needs a little help in the strength department." Buffy tilted her head, the question hanging unasked in the air between them.
"I don't wish to…"
"I'd be happy to go in there and hold her hand, Giles. Thanks for asking." Buffy nodded. "And the guys are willing to come in and be cheerleaders."
"I'm not wearing that short skirt," Xander stated as he followed her into the room.
"Darn, I was kind of looking forward to seeing that," Oz quipped as he joined them. "Coming, Giles?"
He smiled, proud and happy that they had such wonderful friends. "Indeed."
Willow squeezed Buffy's hand as hard as she could, her own knuckles whitening with the strain. Buffy flinched slightly, apparently giving Willow some of her strength meant she lost a little of her resistance to pain as well. "You're doing fine, Wills."
"Why…why don't we…just have someone…drop a safe…on me? That…that should push…" She paused, pushing as the doctor ordered. When he told her to stop, she collapsed back on the bed, keeping her eyes closed. "The kid…out."
"It's gonna be fine, Wills. You're doing great." Buffy looked over at Giles who was standing on Willow's opposite side. His green eyes were worried, staring down at Willow as she shook from exhaustion. "Isn't she, Giles?"
"Just fine, love," he nodded, refusing to meet her eyes.
Willow smirked. "You're almost believable." Her eyes closed tightly, scrunching up in pain as another wave hit her. She squeezed Buffy's hand and sat up, pushing hard. "And we are never having sex again."
"Thank goodness," Xander joked from the corner of the room. "I was starting to wonder if there was anyplace in the house that was safe."
Willow turned her head, her eyes glinting dangerously. "You have no room to talk, oblivious boy."
Oz grabbed Xander's shoulder and pulled him out of Willow's line of sight. "Don't provoke her, Xander. It's like a dogfight. She's the dominant person here and she'd just as soon rip your spine out as look at you."
"The…voice…of reason," Willow gasped, falling back to the bed again. She hissed in pain, feeling the small aftershocks wrack her thin frame. "Ice?"
Buffy grabbed some shaved ice and pressed it to Willow's lips. "Here you go."
Willow smiled her thanks, her heart not in it. She tried to let herself drift, visualize a peaceful place, but couldn't manage to do it. "Xander?"
"Y…yeah?" He asked nervously.
"Tell me a story about you and Jesse."
He nodded, smiling. "I met him two days before I met you, in kindergarten. You had been taking all those advanced placement tests…"
Giles tuned Xander out and walked down to the doctor. He had a worried look on his face. "How bad?" Giles asked softly.
"The baby is ready to come out. She's pushing like she should. I don't know what the problem is. I could use the forceps, but Willow asked that we not use any metal instruments if we could help it."
Giles' eyes widened and he walked back to his wife. Leaning down, he pressed a gentle kiss to her ear, whispering softly. "You used a spell, didn't you?"
She turned her head, surprise on her face. "Why?"
"Damn it, Willow, you know how dangerous that could be! I told you not to do anything. Why do you think this is so difficult? The poor thing is struggling against magic!" he glared down at her, his frustration in every line of his face. "What spell?"
"I didn't…I wouldn't." She shook her head, denying his accusation. She could feel her friend's eyes on her, watching her, wondering. "I would never do anything…" she gulped for air, struggling against her tears. "I wouldn't do anything to jeopardize the health of our baby."
He leaned into her, his eyes dangerous. "I need to know the truth."
Hurt flashed on her features and she glared back at him. "Think what you will," she said simply, softly. He started to say something, his features softening, but she shook her head. "Go away."
Giles stepped back as if he'd been struck. Buffy, Xander and Oz all seemed to breathe at once. Willow turned to Buffy, her eyes accusing. "You too. All of you."
"You believe him," she whispered, afraid that it was true. "Leave me alone."
Buffy moved away from her, her blue eyes showing her hurt. "I don't…" Her sentence was cut off as Willow sat up, another contraction hitting her. She cried out, pushing down, pushing hard. Her hands dug into the thin mattress, using her own strength, her own spirit. The doctor's quiet coaxing was nothing more than background noise to her as she squeezed tears through her tightly closed eyes.
A wash of relief and pain swept through her and she fell back to the bed, not caring any longer. The room was silent except for the sound of blood pounding in her ears and her own soft whimpers of pain.
And a cry.
Her eyes opened and she struggled to raise herself up onto her arms. She felt Buffy's hand behind her, supporting her. She ignored it, instead staring at the doctor in front of her, handing a small bundle to the nurse.
"You're not quite done, Mrs. Giles." He smiled at her, watching her face transform as she heard the squalls of indignation coming from the other end of the room. "One more push for me?"
She nodded, pushing without thought. She felt another rush then lost herself in the wave of dizziness. Buffy lowered her slowly to the mattress, using the switch to raise her just slightly. Her hand moved up to her best friend's hair, stroking the damp red tendrils out of her face.
"So, you think you're ready to see what you've brought into this world?"
Willow nodded, sending more tears down her cheeks. The warmth of her friends, her family, surrounded her as the nurse brought her child to her.
She looked over at Giles. He was standing apart, his face guilty and concerned, proud and full of love. "Do you know the truth now?"
He nodded, not looking away from his child.
"I'm so sorry, love. I'm sorry that I doubted you. I should know better."
"Yes, you should." She smiled with no hint of anger. "So, are you going to stay over there all night, or are you going to come over here and meet our child?"
Buffy nodded at Oz and Xander, gesturing to the door. They nodded back, knowing that some moments were private, and that, as family, they would have their moment as well.
Willow took the small bundle, wrapped in a soft blanket, from the nurse, smiling her thanks. The other woman nodded. "We'll leave you alone for a bit. I'll get your room ready and we'll get you settled."
"I didn't do much," she laughed.
"You brought me my child. That counts."
Alone in the room, Giles sat nervously on the edge of Willow's bed. She brushed the blanket away, staring down into a wide pair of green eyes, curious and knowing all at once. "Hey, little one."
Giles barely caught his sob before it escaped. He hooked a finger under the blanket and pulled it back just a little more. A small hand escaped, waving in the air. Catching it, Giles rubbed the perfectly formed fingers, staring down in awe. "So small."
Willow couldn't speak, enraptured with the baby's wriggling. She pulled away more blanket, freeing the other arm. Giles edged the rest of it away, exposing the baby to the warmth of Willow's embrace. A soft cry rang out, startling them both.
Giles chuckled. "Probably hungry."
Willow lowered her gown, starting as the hungry mouth began feasting. "Wow."
"I thought I was the only one who got that reaction there," he grinned. His hand traced the flushed features of his child. "I suppose I can share."
Willow looked up to him, her heart in her eyes as well as her arms. "I love you."
"And I love you little one," he smiled ruefully. "Both little ones."
Willow sniffed back tears. The baby pulled away from her breast, crying softly. "I think someone wants you."
Giles held out his hands, taking the baby from her. His eyes were worshipful. The cries quieted and he looked up at Willow in question.
"Well, it's official."
"What?" He asked, confusion clouding his eyes.
"She's definitely a daddy's girl."
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