Title: Then there were Three
Pairing: Xander/Spike (don’t be fooled by the Willow beginning)
Rating: Mature Audiences – for content and themes
Summary: Wolfram and Hart may have won the day, but the battle is just about to begin...
Spoilers: Canon is Post S7 BtVS and S5 AtS.
Warnings: M/M – if you don't like boys together, don't play here!
Harsh circumstances and difficult start....
Willow’s treatment was complex, and though not particularly painful, left her weakened for a few days each time the injections occurred.
Spike, still not well himself, took it upon himself to boost her. He now took a few drafts of his dear Xander’s blood each early afternoon as his partner left for work (at Xander’s insistence), then fed her as soon as she was awake enough to take anything by mouth.
Late evening they would both attend their friend. Spike sitting and feeding her a second time directly from his wrist while Xander held her hand.
The feeding always cost Spike. And despite the boost from Xander, his lover could not miss the shaky grasping of the cane by the vampire post bleeding, or the occasional stall as Spike put a hand against the wall to steady himself after he attempted to walk back to their room having given up his wrist to their dear friend. Something about it was not… right. Spike did it so willingly, so often and yet at a cost that should not be that difficult were he a truly full force, Master Vampire.
Xander rang Giles again. And this time the Battle Brand had news.
“It is apparent that Illyria *took from* Spike as she departed this realm. He is still a vampire, of that there is no doubt, but his demon is *severely* weakened. Indeed it seems it was already, particularly after the incident with the First.
“There is no precedent other than those noted in the diaries of the ancients. Were they to leave this realm, they would draw from their subjects. Apparently Illyria saw Spike as not just a subject – but more than that - a pet. So she also gifted him with part of her essence, something that I am still investigating. This combined with the way he obtained his soul seems to have saved him from complete destruction… and it is more than possible that he earned her admiration for his bravery on that night, who knows. It may be years or never before his full strength and abilities are restored.
“As for Willow? The baby has all her magical power now. Willow is as any human invalid. Your current actions will help but not cure. That is all I know. The children will be happy and healthy for the foreseeable future. Each one is special. I will always admit them if they come to the Well – as with you and Spike.”
It was the most Giles had spoken in six months and for Xander was of little solace, but the phone had gone dead.
The telephone had been on speaker. Spike standing at the door and hearing every word regards his own condition, knowing the Battle Brand could only say the truth.
As Xander hung up the handset, he noted the resignation and sadness on his dear one’s face, “So… seems like I won’t be sprintin’ after F’yarlls any time soon… Bloody awful vampire I turned out to be… Now not even that… Got the ‘cut down’ version of the Big Bad, you have. Hundred an’ fifty years plus an’ still good for nothin’. Don’t know how you c’n stand it…”
Spike was miserable and went to turn, but was feeling dizzy and struggled to steady himself using both wall and walking stick to stay aloft. Xander was on his feet in an instant. He too was feeling drained but knew they both needed a break.
He knocked the cane to the floor and collected the smaller man in his arms, refusing any arguments and carrying him to their shared bedroom and placed him lovingly on the bed.
He stripped Spike swiftly then gently massaged and arranged the body he adored. This was followed by almost an hour of kissing and touching in all the right places, ending in Xander finding his partner’s rear entrance with a naughty toy, then the human sinking a well lubed hole onto his lover’s stiff member and working them both toward completion.
At some point Spike had added his hand to the mix and they both came together, the vampire wearing Xander’s spunk but (as the vibrating plug in *Spike* stilled) refusing the offer to clean it off. Xander knew… He needed the smell, the wetness just now… needed the connection, the love. Spike was in Xander and Xander was on him. Nothing else mattered.
Margaret was the centre of attention for the triplets, her brothers were toddling eighteen month olds and more than happy to engage, but were a little rough with a five month old with just about to crawl little girl, so were often ‘held back’.
Daddy and Uncle William played with them daily and all the children knew Mummy needed help for a lot of things. The girls were all adept at lifting their sister up onto the bed or the chair or the recliner for a feed, and the boys still enjoyed crawling up and being cuddled when the youngest was not present.
Willow slowly regained some of her strength as the therapy both physical and medical took effect. But Nurse Susan still worried.
Drained of her magic, Willow was entirely reliant upon Spike’s enhanced (and though compromised, worthwhile) vampire blood and an experimental treatment for her recovery, but Nurse Susan was back in full time carer mode. She had two other nurses who took her role as she cared for the children and made sure all was as it should be.
The walker was stored out of sight. The schedule of treatments and therapy sessions was put on the wall and the idea of Willow becoming pregnant again discounted for good.
Strangely the last dictate was the easiest for Willow to come to terms with. She had squeezed the nurse’s hand shortly after Xander had discussed it with her. Somehow, her dear daughter Margaret, who had taken everything magical from her (and she felt it) also marked the end of the ‘production line’ horror that had been W&H – perhaps that and the destruction of the facility which Willow had seen! It all led to her feeling that another pregnancy was unnecessary.
Also now, she was just tired. Spike fed her and she rallied most times; Nurse Susan read to her and helped her with her speaking board and she responded; but there was still something… not quite right. No pain exactly, just… not right.
The girls and their younger brothers all blew out Noreen and Clem’s candles as they celebrated their second anniversary.
Noreen was obviously about to have their own brood to the great rejoicing of the general family (all the children willing to tell *anyone* that Aunty Noreen was *having kids*!), and the woman was all but glowing with her pregnancy! Willow had leaned over to her on that evening and had her hand taken and pressed to the demon mother’s burgeoning belly.
That had been Margaret’s first birthday, on a Sunday, just on evening.
Willow was in her chair with the guest of honour on her lap. She was still limited in speech but seemed to be improving some over the last months with the stem cell therapy. ‘Happy to you’s’ were sung at Margaret’s first birthday and everyone enjoyed her little girl’s special day.
There was nothing that could have prepared them. She had been *well*, and though maybe mostly silent and needing help, she was still Willow!… Mummy!... and so much more despite her current limitations. It was more than twelve months after the final destruction of the breeding facility, surrounded by friends and family, she was comfortable, feeding herself and directing her own chair, and drawing on her board again. And after Margaret and the draining of her magical energy, Willow had felt strangely at peace.
Whether it was the destruction of the W&H facility, the apparent connection she felt with her tiny daughter due to her Maggie’s immense magic, or just generally, she was surrounded by family and loved.
Despite treatments, her major motor skills were still extremely limited, though her use of her drawing pen had improved immensely as had her eyesight and hearing. Speech was still limited to “Hmm”, “Whhnnnooo” and “Greee” but it was enough. That combined with her use of the computer and it was… fine.
She was taken swimming with the girls – Noreen volunteering to ‘swim’ Willow as her girls had their lesson, the lovely floppy skinned demon forgoing the embarrassment of stares from human parents for the pleasure of allowing her own floppy folds to relax into the warm water and simply pull her friend’s semi-inert form backwards and forwards through the water.
Xander or Nurse Susan or Nell were always there at the end of the experience to help with small girls, and/or Willow, and though the invalid wished in her heart it were different, she also knew… it was not to be.
The scare of her blood pressure was now gone and she was expressing her milk without the need of assistance. And Willow was... happy.
She had smiled and been kissed by her dear friend Xander as he left for work the morning post celebrations. But a day after her daughter turned one, Willow was dead.
She had fed Margaret and admired the boys’ finger paintings and her beautiful girls’ ceramics and creations from kindergarten after they were led in to show their mother by Nanny Susan late afternoon. Spike fed her an hour later but she had still been tired… so strangely, very, very tired, despite the therapy and her ability to stand by herself these days.
She had been attentive post feeding as Spike read to her, as he did always of late. It was “The Scarlet Pimpernel”, her lovely vampire insisted upon the book, ever the Victorian romantic, and they were up to the last chapter, the conclusion wonderfully read by a rather... emotional Spike.
Finished, Spike had kissed her on the forehead, said “You’d better rest Pet, y’ look spent” then announced, “No arguments though, next time it’s ‘Ivanhoe’, OK with you?”
She had squeezed his hand and now mother of six, minutes after being left alone, though limited, a woman still leading a meaningful life and under good medical care, like Joyce Summers she quietly, and without announcement, suffered a fatal aneurism.
The catastrophic event in her brain took someone very loved, a dear person, most needed.
It was an untimely death of a loved lady who had… just for a short time… enjoyed her life and left the most wonderful legacy, but also left a family utterly bereft.
Nurse/Nanny Susan tried to help advising for the music for the service but struggled even with that. Willow had been her charge but also her friend for close to six years now. They had been through times… tougher than most health wise, and joys beyond measure with the children. Now Susan *begged* not to have to speak when it was suggested. Spike realised that Xander’s children… *their*, his and Xander’s, children(!) would need Susan more than ever… to guide and hold the little ones at the service just as much as their fathers would need to respect her role and attend them for the months and years to come.
Xander’s grief was heightened by realizing that his wonderful Spike had been willing to give up everything, his blood, his vulnerability, his unlife, to a woman that was really Xander’s long time friend, despite the fact his partner had been truly struggling.
Spike insisted he didn’t care, but had obviously been working with Nurse Susan and feeding Willow regardless of his own precarious health. And sadly they had both known, Spike had been unable to turn her, even if he had wanted to, it was no longer possible – at least not while his Demon was so compromised. Sadly were he to do so without his Master Vampire fully in play, Willow would be condemned to being a minion and have an eternity in her compromised state. It just wasn’t an option.
So now, on the night of her death, Spike had held Xander’s hand as he explained his inadequacy again then shed tears and begged forgiveness, and Xander was reminded of the truth and understanding his partner’s angst. Spike had had to come to terms with the fact that he may never recover to full strength, but his limitations were never more clearly put into perspective as they faced the outcome of the loss of their loved one.
Private tears had often flowed from the soft hearted poet/vampire as he watched the mother slowly decline, now dead, and realised in that moment… if Xander was ever on the brink, despite his weakened state, Spike would contact the coven, find a way, perhaps via Giles and turn his lover. The children needed them both, there was no way he could do it alone!
And he’d been too late… Willow… He should have recovered or… but it was now too late. It was the first time he really felt his age and utter vulnerability. If Xander failed, it would be up to him to care for six small children.
That evening both men were in distress… More than distress… *Grief*!!
Spike held Xander when he cried and Xander held Spike. Strength came only from knowing the other was there.
There were ‘arrangements’ to be done and thankfully Clem’s lovely Noreen was prepared to step up to the plate.
Courtesy of the family deep freeze, the two year old Margaret would continue to benefit from her mother’s milk for many months to come, but she, the boys and Willow’s darling three girls, were destined to struggle with their loss.
Spike, still red eyed and struggling, consulted with Nanny Susan who herself was in distress, and managed to find a lovely young psychologist who specialised in childhood grieving.
Dr Francis was a gentle individual who arrived within hours and had the children draw pictures of their mother and make a scrapbooks filled with photos and memories. The doctor recommended they regularly walk together to put flowers on Willow’s simple grave and talk to their mother at the site, and have the older children remind their tiny sister who “would never know Mummy properly” that Mummy loved her by giving the little girl ‘lots of extra hugs’ and talking about Willow. It seemed … so sensible.
Most of the hand drawn pictures had their mother naively drawn in her wheelchair, but there was a series of pale coloured, pretty illustrations by Maisie that had her with a set of faerie wings firmly in place, flying above the earth and smiling. It was those that made the adults of the house cry privately. It was what they *all* hoped for a beautiful lady.
Xander and Spike knelt at the pretty white marble headstone and placed a bunch of twelve dark red roses at its base. It was Halloween and the children, even Margaret, were all in costume. The two men stayed after the children paid their respects, Noreen, Clem and Nurse Susan having taken it upon themselves to walk the children around (fully decked out in ‘Monster Mash’ gear) All the children were dressed as fae folk – even Margaret had tiny red fairy wings though she still needed to take to the push chair as little legs just didn't go fast enough for her brothers and sisters.
The three teary girls and two little boys lasted three houses of before a lovely aging neighbour invited them in, locked the door and pulled Nurse Susan into a well needed hug. She easily addressed the children and put them on the simple sofa to watch an old animated DVD on the family machine.
And it really was Nurse Susan that needed the hug. She’d had hugs from Noreen and from Spike and Xander, but this was different, it was random, and came with milky sweet tea, and Meredith knew Willow’s closest friend and helper was truly struggling.
Susan was so embarrassed but could not help the distress showing and melted into the warmth of Meredith’s arms, then began to sob as silently as she could. She was quiet for the children’s sake but could not help her tears and Meredith pulled her closer to her ample chest and simply held on as Noreen and Clem sat with the children, claiming the need to see Chim Chimeny just one more time.
Meredith winked at the her lovely neighbours then pulled Susan in even tighter. She knew feeling of losing someone close, but had also seen Willow in decline and whispered to the dear nurse that perhaps her passing was a blessing. All Susan could manage was, “Yes but she tried so hard! And she was *so* loved.”
Meredith looked over to the triplets cuddling their little sister and the two little boys all six flanked by Noreen and Clem and happily watching an ancient video of ‘Mary Poppins’ and smiled ruefully.
“My darling, she will always be loved. And they are loved, as are you.”
It was not long later that she made a phone call. She knew the voice – a lovely baritone of the pretty ‘friend’ to her neighbour Alexander.
It was after sundown though Xander was still to return home so Spike came soon after to collect the distressed Susan and the children. Clem and Noreen were rather relieved as they were able to give up their responsibility.
This time it was a tired Spike that eventually tucked Susan into the spare bed in the room adjacent to the children’s and explaining quietly to Xander where she was, before settling beside his partner. There really was no need to explain. Susan was single and now as much a part of the family as anyone. They all needed comfort. Hopefully Noreen would deliver Clem their own twins soon… it would be something positive.
But at three that morning, a magical jolt blew every fuse in the apartment block and rocked them all from their beds.
Margaret was awake… and the tiny, immensely powerful magical being… was demanding mother's milk and comfort.