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At Long Last - New Chapter of Pieces of Me

Hey there, everyone. It's been a couple of weeks and the muse has been
blocked... but slowly, surely, she seems to be coming around.

So today, I'm pleased to offer the latest chapter, and glad to say there
are a few more after this in the hold, as well.

As always, please feel free to comment and encourage. That never goes awry.
Hope the start of a new week finds you all well and happy.

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Cardboard was gone, thank fuck. Spike blew out an unneeded breath and glanced around the shell-shocked room – turning back just in time to see Buffy’s knees buckle. He grabbed her – catching her in his arms before her bum hit the floor.

“Well,” he murmured, “wasn’t that a doddle and a piece of piss?”

Buffy’s wounded whisper barely made a sound. “I can't believe it.”

“What’s that, love?”

“I can’t believe the man I once had feelings for turned out to be such a bastard.” She turned to Sam, shamefaced. “And I can’t even begin to understand the depth of the betrayal you must be feeling.”

“I never knew a person could be capable of inflicting this much pain and heartbreak,” Sam admitted. “I loved him, Buffy. I loved him with all my heart. And Daniel adored his fa – Riley, as well. To find out it was all a manipulative fabrication is soul-shattering.”

“The git fooled a lot of people with his 'I'm just an Iowa farm boy' bullshit,” Spike pointed out, reaching out unconsciously to comfort Sam - then withdrawing his hand before making contact. “It's not your fault he used you for his own purposes.” He sighed, shaking his head. “You're not the first woman he's used poorly, and I doubt you'll be the last.”

Sam wiped a tear from her eye and picked up Daniel, hugging him tightly to her breast. “At least Daniel is too young to understand what happened today. He stands a chance at an unmarked future. The rest of us, on the other hand…”

Giles spoke up from his seat on one of the stuffed chairs. “The weight of Riley’s hatred and scheming will have life-long ramifications.” His expression turned pensive, his head resting on his left hand, glasses askew.

Sam nodded and sank down onto the couch with Daniel in her arms. Spike watched as her eyes clenched shut in an attempt to stem the flow of tears. The woman looked smaller than she had when she'd introduced herself at his crypt; shoulders bowed as if they now bore the weight of the world.

Dawn moved to the floor near Sam's feet, keeping Daniel occupied, as his mo – while Sam regained her composure.

Spike couldn't help himself – he couldn't take his eyes off of Dawn and Daniel. His niblet, the younger sister/daughter of his heart, and his son. His very own flesh and blood – a dream given up long ago. Of course, if the bitlet had been his own from the beginning, he'd never have named him something as poncy as Daniel, but that was neither here nor there at the moment.

Besides him, he felt Buffy's eyes darting to Daniel. She kept sneaking glances at the lad, hurriedly turning away each time as if she feared getting caught.

This was a fine pickle they were in. The child was theirs - his and Buffy's flesh and blood. But, there was also paperwork stating that the boy was legally adopted by Mrs. Cardboard – Sam. And Sam loved the kid; even a blind man could see that. How could they even think about taking the lad from her?

How could they think of leaving the lad with her?

Dawn's voice cut through his deliberations.

“Buffy – if Mom were here, she'd have offered...”

“Oh my god! I'm so sorry, everyone.” Buffy looked horrified. “Is anyone hungry? It's gotta be well past dinnertime.”

“It's nearly 9:00 o'clock, Buffy,” Giles announced. “Why don't we order Chinese food, or pizza? My treat,” he added, much to the Slayer's obvious relief.

“Chinese!” Dawn exclaimed.

Spike shrugged. “I wouldn't say no to an order of Hunan Spicy Beef, if you're offerin', Rupes.”

“Why not? I'm feeling rather benevolent at the moment.” Giles turned to Buffy. “Write down what everyone wants, dear girl, and I'll call the order in.”

“Thanks, Giles... and you too, Dawn, for reminding me.”

Dawn's smile lit up her face.

“I don't want to be too much trouble,” Sam said, to nobody in particular. “I should probably take Daniel back to my hotel room.”

“No!” Buffy exclaimed vehemently. “I mean, you don't have to. We have plenty of room for you and the baby to stay here. At least for a little while. There's... there's so much to talk about...” She faltered there, not saying much but saying everything at the same time.

“We do need to talk,” Spike agreed, watching Sam's face crumple as the weight of that statement sunk in. “But it doesn't all have to be decided tonight.”

Sam nodded silently.

“Oh, that's right!” Dawn exclaimed. “What are we gonna do about...?”

“That's what we'll talk about later, Dawnie,” Buffy said, gently. “Let's just have dinner and a good night's rest before we get into anything heavy.”

~*~

Dinner was over, Dawn was out like a light and Giles had long since gone home. Daniel was asleep in a small nest made of blankets and pillows on the floor in Joyce's old room, along with his... adoptive mother.

Spike, himself, was ensconced in the Summers basement. He'd been halfway out the door when Buffy had called him back and asked if he'd like to stay. Who was he to refuse?

Buffy wasn't quite sleeping. Spike could hear her restlessly tossing and turning in her bed.

After an hour of listening to her muscling her covers about, he heard her footsteps on the stairs. She had presumably settled on the sofa with the telly turned down low so nobody else would hear it. He couldn't blame her – the issue of Daniel had to be uppermost in her mind.

Spike briefly debated staying put, but it was a one-sided and futile battle. Pulling on his shirt, he headed up the stairs.

“Couldn't sleep, pet?” he asked as he settled on the cushion by her feet.

Buffy looked down at him; her eyes looked haunted by the revelations of the past few days.

“So,” Spike asked carefully. “are we gonna talk about the baby elephant in our midst, or watch dull-as-dishwater infomercials?”

Spike heard Sam's footsteps and then her voice sounded from the doorway.“That's a good question.” She joined them in the living room. “I couldn't sleep, either. The baby elephant is on my mind, as well.”

“Fine, then.” Buffy looked grim as she sat up a little straighter. “Let's all put our cards on the table. Daniel is biologically my son. And Spike's,” she added as he cleared his throat loudly.

“And he's legally my son,” Sam said defensively, before she backtracked somewhat and added, “If the adoption papers hold up outside of the Initiative's auspices. I hadn't thought about that until just now.”

“Nobody's disputin' that,” Spike said, not wanting to agitate the woman. “But facts of the matter are, when it comes to the kiddo. When it comes to the kiddo, we're embroiled in a threesome.”

“Whoa, mister,” Buffy interjected. “There will be no three-way of any kind here.”

“Now you know there was no sexual innuendo intended, pet.”

Not this time!Buffy took a deep breath and nodded. “I know, I know. Was just trying to inject some levity into a very unlevitable situation.”

Returning to the topic, she said, “We're just gonna have to go about this in small steps.” Her eyes slid from Sam to Spike. “You know I never expected to have children – especially not yours...”

Spike tried to hide the pain that comment caused but clearly she caught something at the look in his eyes because she rushed to add, “I mean, vampires aren't supposed to be able to make babies, what with the undead... stuff and all.”

“Nice save, Summers,” Spike said, his face once more expressionless. “But you're right... fatherhood at this stage of my unlife is a bit of a curve ball.”

Sam let out a strangled cry, hand clasped at her chest. “I don't know what I would do without Daniel,” she gasped. “He might not have been with me long, but...”

“Don't get your knickers in a twist, Mrs. Cardboard,” Spike said, softly. “Nobody's ripping the kid from your arms. At this point, it's not even a consideration, but...”

“Spike's right,” Buffy acknowledged. “If the choice had been left to me, I don't know if I'd ever have opted to become pregnant, but what's done is done, and he is my - our,” she said, pointing between herself and Spike, “biological son. That means something. What, exactly, I don't know yet, but it's definitely something of consequence.”

Sam eyed the floor and said softly, “It's the consequences that concern me.”

“I think the best thing we can do is start by deciding what's best for Daniel, not for the three of us,” Buffy said. “Everything else will have to be worked around his needs.”

“That I can agree on,” said Sam, nodding her head slowly. “With Daniel's best interests at the heart of things, we're bound to make the best decisions.”