A Chance to Survive Today - #3 in the 'Shadows in Time' series

by Isis FG

Feedback: vagabond_angel@comcast.net

Disclaimer: must this be stated every time? But to answer the question, no I don't own them.I'm borrowing them because certain writers are cruel and heartless.

Rating: PG-13 ish?
Pairing: indirectly B/A, C/?, W/O
Series Summary: post-s3 (BTVS) AU.departs from canon after the s3 finale and jumps into my own universe. From there, almost everything will be different. A few characters and concepts will pop-up, but really, this doesn't relate at all to the seasons that followed s3.
Fic Summary: Buffy begins her new life in Seattle with the help of some new, and old, friends.
Spoilers: The first 2 fics in the series, and anything through the end of s3 of BTVS, but mostly the end of s3, and also mild generic spoilers for AtS.

Distribution: my site (Vagabond Soul), and if you already have any of my fics, you may take this one, if not, please ask first.

Author's Notes: This is the 3rd fic in the SiT series, the first 2 can be found here:
SiT series index
Anyways, this fic starts two months after Buffy left Sunnydale to go to Seattle with Cordy. From here on out, this fic/series jumps way out of canon, *but* there will be things/characters here and there that I've borrowed from the actual shows. You'll know them when you see them. Even so, the things I borrowed may not be exactly as they existed on the show...I made some modifications. Also, the pregnancy is a big part of the fic, but not entirely the focus. I didn't detail it as much as I should have, but it was kinda hard to write because I've never been pregnant and not been around many pregnant woman. Hopefully it's not overly noticeable!

Thank yous: To *Stars* for being a wonderful beta, and also to PigPimping for the help with pregnancy research.

Warnings: mild angst (not as bad as the first 2 fics in the series)


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Part 1
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~two months after Buffy and Cordelia left Sunnydale~

Looking up the six flights of stairs, Buffy frowned unhappily. Why couldn't the apartment building have a *functioning* elevator? Didn't they understand that stairs and pregnant women just did not mix? Well, the landlord probably knew it, but just didn't care. Slimy bastard, it would serve him right if he got snacked on by a cadre of vampires, Buffy thought. Okay, so she wouldn't go that far, but the guy really did need to be put in his place.

With an annoyed sigh, Buffy again looked toward the numerous stairs. At four months pregnant it wasn't that she was huge and waddling like a duck, but the extra weight she had gained so far had thrown off her balance somewhat, and never mind the aching back and feet. Those were the reasons that she dreaded the six flights of stairs. Unfortunately, they were her only option, so Buffy begrudgingly began her hike up the many stairs. Hopefully, if she ever moved to a nicer place, they'd have a working elevator.

A short while later she arrived at her floor. Her nose wrinkled in distaste as it almost always did when she viewed the sight before her. The walls of the hallway were a dirty white, interspersed with an occasional crack. On the floor was a ragged, faded beige carpet that looked to be over thirty years old, and she really didn't want to know how the reddish-brown stain had gotten there. Then there was that smell that she didn't want to think too much about. The hallway just gave one the impression of a slum, but it wasn't that bad...exactly. The landlord of the building was just a lazy jerk-off who couldn't ever be bothered to do anything. The man had a serious aversion to work.

At least it was a place to live, though. She had a roof over her head, one that thankfully didn't leak, and for that she was grateful. Things could definitely be worse. She could be homeless and pregnant. She'd managed to avoid the homeless part so far. The tiny apartment she lived in may not be much, but it was a welcome comfort. For now, it was the best she could do. Maybe in a few months she'd be able to upgrade her living conditions, but until then, she just had to take what she could get.

Snapping out of her internal musings, Buffy trudged down the hall to her apartment. Her steps halted in front of the door labeled '68'. As usual, the number '6' had come loose and turned sideways again. She'd have to find a screwdriver and tighten the screw sometime. Maybe she'd go ask the middle-aged man who lived in '61' if she could borrow one. Buffy couldn't help but chuckle at the thought. Ever since the time when, a week after moving in, the sleazy asshole had come on to her and she'd forcefully shoved him into a wall and kneed him in the crotch, he'd avoided her at all costs. Nothing like slayer strength to ward off obnoxious men.

Buffy reached up and straightened the crooked '6' before putting her key in the lock and opening the door. She walked tiredly into the small apartment, tossing her keys onto the uneven table to the left of the door. The sound of the television blaring caught her attention and she turned and walked around the corner toward the living room.

"Hey Cordy," greeted Buffy, causing the brunette to jump slightly.

"Jeez! Do you always have to sneak up on people?" huffed Cordy, capping the bottle of nail polish in her hand.

"Sorry, I thought you heard me come in," apologized Buffy with a sweet smile.

"Where were you anyway? I thought you had today off?" Cordy questioned as she turned down the volume on the tv and focused her attention on the weary looking blonde.

Buffy shrugged, putting down the bags in her hand. "I was supposed to, but Tara called and asked if I could come in to help sort through a new shipment of stuff. I figured why not? Plus, it's more money."

"Good point," conceded Cordelia with a nod. Anything that involved more money was definitely a good thing. Hopefully, they'd be able to get out of their rat-trap apartment sometime in the near future.

Not long after arriving in Seattle, Buffy had found a job at an occult store owned by a shy, sweet girl named Tara. The shop was right around the corner from her apartment and Buffy had wandered into it one day, curious about what it sold. That's when she'd met Tara and taken an instant liking to her.

Buffy hadn't known at first that the dirty blonde was a witch, and not just someone who liked the occult. The witch part hadn't come out until about a week after meeting Tara. After Buffy had found that out, she'd told Tara about her destiny being the Slayer. The young woman had taken the news in stride having already known a great deal about the supernatural world. She'd offered Buffy a job, saying it was hard to find people to work in a store such as hers. Buffy, though, later came to believe that Tara seemed a bit lonely, and also seemed to somehow sense Buffy's dire situation. Either way, it was a nice job, and she was grateful for it.

"I brought dinner," Buffy pointed to one of the bags sitting on the floor.

"Oooh! Goody! I'm starving. What did you get?" asked Cordy, eagerly getting off the couch that they'd gotten from a Salvation Army store. The thing was a hideous yellow-orange color, but Tara had saved them from having to look at it by making a navy blue slipcover.

"Chinese from the restaurant next to Crescent Moon," Buffy replied referring to Tara's store.

"Cool," Cordy stated, pulling cartons out of the bag and setting them on the coffee table, which also served as a dining table.

The two sat on the floor and ate off their make-shift table while exchanging friendly banter about their day. It was a strange sight to say the least; two people who'd never really liked each other, now living together and engaged in a comfortable companionship. Yes, it was definitely strange, and not in the least expected. The camaraderie was appreciated by both, though. Neither was sure where they'd be right now without the other.

They hadn't planned on sharing an apartment once they arrived in Seattle. Both figured they'd go their separate ways after reaching their destination, but during the long drive, they'd bonded over their situations and formed an easy alliance. The loss of their lives as they knew them gave them a common bond that allowed them to push aside past grievances. And although neither would actually admit it out loud, they didn't really want to be alone.

Initially, they thought they would just help each other shop for apartments, but the unfortunate realities of life soon set in. Both came to the realization that affording rent on their own right away was going to be nearly impossible, at least if they wanted to live in a tolerable apartment. So they'd sat down soon after arriving in Seattle and pooled their finances. Cordy had worked the numbers out (Buffy was still shocked that the quintessential cheerleader was a bit of a math whiz) and then they'd figured out a plan for their near futures, one that involved them sharing a place to live.

Even with combining their money, they still couldn't afford much, which was how they ended up in their current apartment. The place wasn't that bad, but it wasn't that great either. It had a short entranceway that opened into small, windowless living room. The kitchen, well it wasn't exactly a kitchen as much as it was an open space on one side of the living room that featured a refrigerator, stove, sink and counter space, was functional enough for two people who didn't really know how to cook. There were two closet-sized bedrooms, each with a tiny window, which connected to a joint bathroom. The one amenity the apartment had that Buffy was glad for was the cracked fiberglass bathtub. She knew it would come in handy as her pregnancy progressed.

So their situation wasn't exactly great, but it could have definitely been worse. They hoped that in a few months they'd be able to afford something better. Cordy was working at a small, but expensive, boutique a few blocks away, and Buffy had her job at Tara's occult shop. Together, maybe they'd be able to save up enough money to move.

"So what's on the menu for tonight?" Buffy sighed, pushing away the nearly empty large carton of sweet and sour chicken. Her pregnancy had certainly upped her appetite, and although money was tight, she was at least eating better than before.

Ever since finding out that she was pregnant, Buffy had put a great deal of effort into taking care of herself. She'd been in horrible shape the first two months after Angel had left, and she knew that continuing on that path wasn't healthy. So she made sure she ate at least two meals a day, which really wasn't that hard. The growing child within her seemed to make her more and more hungry every day.

She still had trouble sleeping, but not as much as before. The strains of her pregnancy, plus the numerous hours of work she put in almost every day, tended to wear her down and let her sleep at night. The dreams were still there, and often were of Angel. Many nights she'd wake up crying out for him, only to find him not there. She'd usually end up shedding silent tears until she finally drifted back to sleep. All in all, she wasn't in tip-top shape, but at least it was better than before.

In response to Buffy's question, Cordelia picked up the TV Guide and flipped through the pages. She read through the listings, looking for something worthwhile to watch. It had sort of become a ritual to them; watching tv at night. They couldn't afford to go out anywhere, and Buffy had given up slaying, at least for now, because of her pregnancy. So they tended to stay in, most times watching tv, but other times Buffy would read, something she'd never really had time for before, and Cordy would practice some of her beauty habits that she just couldn't quite give up despite the changes in her life.

"Hmm...oh, hey! Ferris Buehler's Day Off is on tonight!" Cordy exclaimed happily.

"Cool! I love that movie!" laughed Buffy. She was in the mood for a good comedy, and really, neither of them wanted to watch a sappy romance.

The two cleaned up the remains of their dinner and went to change into their pajamas. Buffy made some popcorn and grabbed a couple of sodas while Cordy turned on the tv and switched the channels. Soon, they were both settled on the fairly comfortable couch, laughing at the classic teen comedy.

Neither would ever admit it to the other, but both were immensely grateful to have the other in their life. They may have settled into a routine in their new home, but the scars of their pasts still held strong in their minds. For Cordelia, going from rich to poor, and from popular to an outcast was an everyday struggle. She used to have everything, and now she could barely afford food and a place to live. But she was getting by, and she'd had time to get used to her new status in life.

Buffy, however, even though she hid it well, was still deeply hurting over the way her life had changed in one horrible day. Despite the way they'd treated her, she missed her family and friends. She couldn't just stop loving them because they'd rejected her. As much as she wished she could forget them, she didn't have it in her heart to do so. And then there was Angel. She tried so hard to not think about him, but that was absolutely impossible. Especially since she was carrying his child. More often than not, she cried herself to sleep with her fingers stroking the taught skin of her abdomen, wishing he were there with her.

Despite both of their inner turmoil's, they were surviving, and they were doing it together. Neither really wanted to think about where they would be if they'd had to start their new lives on their own, and thankfully, they didn't have to think about it.

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Forty-five minutes into the movie, a knock on the door sounded through the apartment. Cordelia and Buffy looked at each with frowns etched on their faces. No one ever knocked on their door, which was why they were wary of whoever had come to pay them a visit. Buffy knew that even though she kept her true identity low-key since moving to Seattle, there could still be any number of demons standing outside their door.

Slowly, both girls got off the couch and looked toward the door when another knock sounded. Buffy reached under the sofa and pulled out an axe she kept stored there. Once it was safely in her hands, she nodded for Cordy to go open the door. The brunette waited until Buffy was tucked away behind the entry before opening it to see who was on the other side.

The former cheerleader instantly scowled when she saw a short, sloppily dressed man staring back at her. "Can I help you?" she asked nervously.

"Quite possibly," the gentleman smiled warmly at her. "I'm lookin' fer Buffy Summers. Does she live 'ere?"

Cordelia heard Buffy's breath hitch and forced herself not to look at the blonde. "Why are you asking?"

"I'll take that as a yes then," he replied with a raised eyebrow.

"And I'll repeat my question," Cordy stated in annoyance over the strangers cocky attitude. "Why are you asking?"

The teasing smirk left the man's face, replaced by a serious countenance. "It's important that I talk ta 'er."

His change in demeanor was not lost on Cordy. She glanced at Buffy who gave a slight nod of her head. Stepping back, she opened the door wider to reveal Buffy standing behind it, axe still in hand.

The tackily dressed man stared at Buffy for a moment before speaking. "Slayer," he spoke in the form of a greeting.

Buffy's eyes narrowed at the word. She focused her senses on the man and immediately tensed. Taking a defensive stance, she replied forcefully, "You're a demon."

"Only half demon, and non-violent," he clarified, looking pointedly at the axe in Buffy's hand. "Name's Allan Francis Doyle, but everybody calls me Doyle," he introduced himself and held out his hand.

Buffy made no move to accept the handshake while Cordy eyed him with distaste.

"I don't suppose you'd invite me in?" the man now known as Doyle asked politely, hoping they wouldn't turn him away. It was imperative that he speak to Buffy.

"You're not a vamp, you don't need an invite," Buffy spoke slowly, trying to get a beat on the supposed half-demon named Doyle.

"I know, I jus' don't make it a habit ta enter people's homes without permission," he explained with a sigh. "Look, I'm not 'ere ta cause trouble or ta try an' kill yer. I jus' need ta speak ta the Slayer."

Buffy thought for a moment, and exchanged a look with Cordy before stepping to the side. "Come in, but if you try anything, you'll have an up close and personal meeting with my axe."

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Part 2
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Doyle nodded and entered the apartment. He walked into the living room with the two female inhabitants trailing behind at a safe distance, whispering softly to each other. The appearance of the living room made him frown. It was Spartan to say the least. Along one wall sat an undersized, two person couch, with a worn coffee table in front of it. To the right of the couch resided a dark blue bean bag chair, and then along the opposite wall a small tv was placed on the floor. That was it. There were no personal touches, no knick-knacks or other such things that you would find to make a place homey. He couldn't help but sigh in frustration. This was not the way things were supposed to be.

"Thanks fer lettin' me in," he spoke, turning to face Buffy. He thought for a minute before continuing, not knowing how the Slayer would take what he had to tell her. "I was sent 'ere ta talk to yer."

"Sent here?" Buffy's brow furrowed. "By who?"

"The Powers That Be," he answered simply.

"Huh?" grunted Cordy in a very unladylike manner.

"The Powers...well, I guess yer could say that they are the bein's of good who have a hand in what 'appens in the universe. I'm one of their messengers," he furthered, pacing to one side of the room.

"Oh," Buffy answered softly, growing worried over what some higher powers wanted to tell her. "And they have a message for me?"

"Sort of," he replied with a shrug. "They sent a message, and well...me."

"I repeat, huh?" Cordy eyed him in confusion.

Doyle sighed loudly and took a seat on the couch. "The Powers know of yer...condition," he glanced at Buffy's slightly expanded abdomen. "They are worried that yer at risk because ya can't defend yourself as well. Yer important to them in the fight against evil and they don't wan' ta lose ya because of a demon attack while yer pregnant."

Buffy was speechless at the revelation. She hadn't quite thought about her safety outside of slaying, which she'd stopped doing as soon as she found out she was pregnant. Now, she was suddenly worried about her baby even making it to its birth.

"Oh," Buffy mumbled almost inaudibly, flopping herself down onto the bean bag chair. "I...they think something is going to happen to me and my baby?"

"No...they don't know of anything specific, but they don't want ta take any chances," he clarified, leaning back on the couch. He could tell the poor girl was obviously shaken by his news and in a state of shock.

"Wait....so these Powers, or whatever, just don't want to lose their Slayer?" Cordy stated with a look toward Buffy. "I would think her child would be more important."

"No, well, sort of. They don't want ta lose one of their best warriors, but they also don't want ta see the child harmed," he stated as genuinely as possible given that there were certain things his bosses had forbade him from saying, and he intended on obeying them. He had no desire whatsoever to piss off the Powers.

"And why exactly should we believe you anyway. For wall we know, you could be some assassin or whatever sent here to kill her. Or worse...ME!" Cordy nearly shouted the last part, inching a little farther away from the sketchy guy.

"I can't prove ta yer that I'm not lying. You'll just have to believe me." If he had proof, he would gladly show them, but all he had was his word, and Doyle just hoped the took it.

Both Cordy and Doyle turned their gazes back to Buffy who had been silent for a few minutes. Slowly, she raised her eyes to look at them. Tears trailed down her cheeks as she spoke, "I don't want anything to happen to my baby."

The very thought that she could lose her child, her and Angel's child, was absolutely terrifying. It had only been two months since she discovered she was pregnant, but in that time she had grown to love her child dearly. And it was one of the very few tangible things she had left of her Angel. She didn't know if she could go on if she lost the child they had created together.

"Now don't worry, lass. I'm going ta make sure nothing 'appens to ya, or yer little one," Doyle told her sympathetically. He honestly couldn't even begin to image what the young girl was going through.

He was well aware of the Slayer's history. He knew about her Calling, the death of her first Watcher, her parents' divorce, the move to the Hellmouth, and also everything that had occurred there. For someone so young, she had been through more than any single person should have to. He really didn't know how she handled it all and kept going. It was just a testament to her inner strength, he supposed.

Cordy stared at Doyle after his announcement and then burst out laughing. "You? You're going to protect her?"

"Yer forget, princess, that I am part demon," he smirked at the chucking female.

"So? What's that supposed to mean?" she questioned, trying to hold back the giggles that arose from the thought of the short man in front of her protecting Buffy.

"The demon side of me makes me stronger when need be," Doyle went on to explain. He didn't always like acknowledging his non-human status, but in this case it was necessary.

"S-so you're, uh, job is going to be staying around and looking after me?" Buffy interrupted the strange bickering between the two people who had never met before.

Her voice was tired and wavering as she spoke. Most times she could keep up a strong front, but others it was just too hard. This was one of those times. Endless thoughts were circling through her head, and all of them centered on the infinite things that could happen to her baby.

"Yup, I'm yer humble servant," he grinned and bowed, hoping to lighten the mood, but the gesture was lost on the preoccupied Slayer.

"Oh, that's, uh, that's good," mumbled Buffy in response. Her mind was reeling over the fact that she had forgotten the threat to her child from the supernatural world even if she wasn't slaying anymore.

"Wait!" Cordy nearly shouted. "How's this supposed to work? You're not moving in here because, well, A. I'm still not sure you're not and axe murderer, and B. this space barely fits the two of us."

"I don't know how it'll all work, princess, but we can figure that out la-," Doyle abruptly stopped speaking when he noticed Cordelia staring at him, frowning slightly. "Uh, do I 'ave something on my face?"

"No...I just...," she trailed off. "I just realized that you look familiar for some reason."

The statement caused the half demon to fidget immediately, which in turn made both girls suspicious. Buffy quickly wiped away the tears blurring her eyes and stood up from the bean bag chair, taking a defensive posture toward the guilty looking man. Her eyes shifted to Cordelia, trying to figure out what the brunette was thinking, but her friend's gaze was entirely focused on Doyle.

"Cordy?' Buffy asked hesitantly.

"I know I've seen him somewhere before," she muttered mostly to herself.

"Now princess," Doyle interrupted, growing worried over the brunette woman's sudden realization and how it may affect his alive state of being.

"Why do you keep calling me that?" she snapped at him.

The half demon ignored her angry question, and shook his head slightly before explaining the little detail he hadn't mentioned before. "I was in Sunnydale...two months ago to be exact."

Cordelia thought about his words for a moment and then loudly exclaimed, "Oh!"

"Yeah, that was me," he answered with a nod at Cordy's sudden understanding.

"Uh...someone wanna fill me in here?" requested Buffy, relaxing her stance somewhat, but giving the other two people in the room with her strange looks.

"Huh? Oh, sorry!" Cordy shook herself out of her daze. "Umm, do you remember that day...the one where you came to the hotel?"

"Yeah," Buffy spoke sadly, not particularly wanting to remember one of the worst days in her life.

"Well, you just up and passed out in the parking lot. I was trying to figure out what to do with you when this guy came along and asked if I needed help. He ended up carrying you into my room," Cordy relayed, staring at Doyle with mild curiosity and slight unease.

Buffy turned to Doyle, "That was you?"

"Yes," he answered with an affirmative shake of his head.

"Why?" the blonde Slayer questioned. "I mean, what were you doing in Sunnydale then?"

"The Powers...they, uh, knew of yer situation even before ya did. They told me I was ta go ta ya and help out in any way I could, but that I wasn't ta reveal myself until you were aware of the babe," he told the two friends. "I'd been watching yer from a distance. That day...I was on my way to yer house to speak with ya when I saw ya leave. I followed yer and saw what happened, so I offered my help."

"Oh, uh, well, thanks," mumbled Buffy, her head was beginning to pound a bit over everything the half demon had told her over the last half hour.

"Yer welcome," he smiled at her sincerely. He couldn't help but feel sorry for the poor girl. He was sure he wouldn't be handling things as well as she was if he were in her situation.

"If you guys don't mind, I'm, uh, I'm going to go to bed," Buffy spoke wearily, suddenly feeling a need to be by herself. The walls were starting to feel like they were closing in on her.

"Sure. I'll come back tomorrow night, and we can figure things out then," Doyle responded and then pulled a paper out of his pocket. "If ya need me, this is the address and phone number of the hotel I'm stayin' at."

Cordy took the paper from Doyle and watched as he quietly strolled out of the apartment. She sighed loudly and shook her head once he was gone. Nothing was ever simple. She knew what the half-demon had told them had upset Buffy. In the two months since they'd left Sunnydale, one thing was painfully obvious to the brunette: Buffy loved her child dearly and would do anything for it. She couldn't imagine what would happen to her friend if something where to happen to the baby, the baby she'd created with Angel.

Turning around with the full expectation that she would need to comfort her Buffy, something that was still a hard thing for the former cheerleader, Cordelia found herself alone in the living room. The door to Buffy's room was closed, and she knew without a doubt that the Slayer was likely inside, lying in bed crying. More than a few times since their arrival in Seattle, she had heard the quiet sobs of her friend through the thin walls of the apartment. She never brought it up, though.

The past was something they didn't really talk about. Neither of them had yet to face their personal demons. They were only pushed aside. Out of sight, out of mind. It made life simpler, but it didn't stop the pain and the hurt. And right now Buffy was hurting. Everything Doyle had said had brought up reminders of the past, and the tenuous hold on the future. She just hoped that Buffy would be okay. Even though she hated to admit it, she was glad to have the other girl around.

As she turned off the single living room light, Cordy could hear the muffled sobs coming from Buffy's room. They were a bit louder tonight than they usually were, but she could understand why. The old her would have wasted no time in telling the blonde to shut up so she could get her beauty sleep. But that was the old her. Life had changed. She had changed. And she hoped that they would be able to make it through whatever was to come.

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As soon as the door to her room closed, the tears that Buffy had been valiantly holding back came bursting forth. Her body shook under the force of her silent sobs as she stumbled toward the small twin bed resting in the corner of her bedroom. Not even bothering to pull back the covers, Buffy crawled onto the sagging mattress, curling into a fetal position as her head tucked itself onto the pillow.

With Mr. Gordo, her trusty pink pig, clutched against her chest, she let herself cry for the hand that fate had dealt her. Only in the sanctuary of her room did she allow herself to be weak, to release all of the emotions she spent hours a day trying to conceal. In her room, where no one else could see her, she let herself mourn all that she'd lost, and all that she'd never had.

Even though he'd been gone for four months, she still missed Angel dearly. He was never far from her thoughts despite her best attempts not to remember him. How could she push him out of her mind when the child she carried within her body was partially his creation? Every time she looked in the mirror and saw the growing swell of her abdomen, every morning she ran to the bathroom to throw up the contents of her stomach, every bodily ache and ounce of retained water, and anything else associated with her pregnant form reminded her bluntly of the man she'd loved and lost.

Her heart still ached to be close to him, to feel his presence near her. She longed for the comfort his arms provided. Like she'd once told him, he was the one freaky thing in her freaky world that made sense. But he was gone now, leaving her to fend for herself under the guise of wanting her to have something better, something that wasn't him. She couldn't hold back the bitter laugh at that. Was this the better life he wanted for her?

Not likely. His ideal life for her probably didn't involve being abandoned by her friends and family, and being pregnant and alone except for the company of a girl who'd once been her pseudo-nemesis. No, that was probably not the better life he'd left her for.

She didn't want to be angry with him, but there was a part of her that was bitter over his actions. There was no denying that she missed him terribly, but there was also that side of her that was hurt and betrayed. He hadn't trusted her, hadn't believed in their love. How could she not be upset over that?

None of it mattered, though. Angel was gone. Her Mother was gone, as were her friends. Even though they'd treated her horribly she couldn't help but miss them. She longed for her Mother's disapproving glares, for Giles' nervous stutter, for Willow's incessant babbling, and even for Xander's lame jokes.

If she could go back and change everything, would she? No, she wouldn't. She'd do it all exactly the same if given the chance. She may have lost everything she'd ever known, but nothing would make her give up the cherished life she carried within her. Nothing. And she was damn sure that nothing was going to endanger her child. This baby was a miracle, her and Angel's miracle, and she was going to protect it at all costs even if that meant locking herself away in her room for the remainder of her pregnancy.

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Part 3
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Author's Note: The song used in the last scene of Part 3 is 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?' performed by Elvis Presley, written by Roy Turk and Lou Handman.

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~two weeks later~

Doyle stood outside the girls' apartment and retrieved the key from his pocket that they had given him to unlock the door. In the two weeks since he'd revealed his presence and mission to them, they'd come to trust him. So instead of having to knock every time he came to their apartment, they gave him a key so that he could just let himself in.

Since their first meeting, Doyle had spent a lot of time with the two friends. When the Powers had first thrust this mission upon him, he hadn't been all that enthusiastic, but he was quickly growing to enjoy his time around Buffy and Cordy, especially the latter. There was just something about the feisty brunette that he liked.

The three had quickly come up with a system to help keep Buffy safe. Pretty much, it solely involved making sure Buffy did not go anywhere alone, particularly at night. So Doyle often found himself walking her the few blocks to and from work, or to various places she needed to go. The blonde-haired Slayer had put up little fuss over the invasion of privacy, thinking more about the safety of her unborn child than of her own comfort and freedom.

So far, they had not encountered any real threats to either Buffy or the baby. A few vamps had come across their path, but they had been easily dispatched. And then there was that one time when Doyle had heard something in an alley and had gotten worried, only to find it was a cat digging through a trash can. The two girls were still bringing that up and teasing him. He was just glad that things had been quiet and that there hadn't been any major dangers to face.

Doing as had become habit, Doyle unlocked the apartment door and strolled inside. He didn't have any particular reason this night to stop by other than to see if they needed anything, and as a bonus he'd get to spend some time with Cordelia. He knew it was probably useless to think that the brunette girl would ever go out with him, but he could silently hope so at least.

"Hey, princess!" he greeted Cordelia once he entered the living room and saw her sitting on the couch.

Cordelia stopped filing her nails and glared at him. "How many times do I have to tell you NOT to call me that!"

Doyle only grinned at her in response and took a seat on the couch next to her.

"What are you doing here anyway?" Cordy huffed, not wanting to examine why it was he could get to her so easily.

"Just wanted ta stop by and make sure everything was okay up 'ere," he replied with a shrug. "Where's Buffy?"

The annoyance she felt at the obnoxious half demon left Cordelia's eyes at the question. She looked at Doyle for a moment before casting her gaze toward the closed door to Buffy's room.

Doyle frowned at Cordy's non-verbal response and looked in the same direction she was. It was then that he caught the soft strains of music coming from behind the Slayer's bedroom door. He listened for a moment before realizing what the song was.

"Is she listening to Elvis Presley?" he questioned, slightly bewildered.

"Yeah," Cordelia sighed, sympathy for her friend filling her eyes.

"Uh, no offense to The King, but why?" Doyle asked and then clarified his words. "I mean, Buffy doesn't strike me as the type ta listen ta Elvis."

"She's not, at least not usually," Cordy relayed, staring at Buffy's door. "She heard this song a few weeks ago when we were watching the movie 'Elvis and Me' on VH-1."

"Oh....okay. So, uh, why then is she locked up in her room listening to Elvis then?" a perplexed Doyle inquired.

If he wasn't mistaken, he thought he could see a hint of tears in Cordy's eyes. And that was utterly surprising to him. The brunette didn't strike him as the type to cry in front of other people.

"She, uh...," she began, her voice barely above a whisper. "She felt the baby kick for the first time today."

"Oh," Doyle replied slumping back on the couch, suddenly understanding the situation.

"Yeah," Cordy answered, looking back at Buffy's door. "I think it made the pregnancy seem more real than it was. Not that it wasn't before, but...well, you know what I mean."

"I do," nodded Doyle as his eyes too looked toward Buffy's door. "And it made her think of him, right?" Between what he had already known, and what Cordelia had told him, he was well aware of what had gone on between the Slayer and the vampire with a soul.

"I think so. She didn't say it, but how could it not?" Cordy stated softly. "We were just sitting here on the couch when it happened. She was so happy when she felt it....and then there was just this look in her eyes. She ran off to her room and has been in there ever since. I think she has that song on repeat."

"Man, that's rough," stated Doyle, feeling sorry for the poor girl and the endless sorrows she seemed to be subjected to. He wished there was something more he could do for her, but he couldn't. His hands were tied when it came to this situation.

Cordelia tore her gaze away from Buffy's door, knowing there was nothing she could do for her right now and looked at the man sitting next to her. A frown formed on her face when she saw Doyle staring at her wearing a rather odd expression.

"What?" she questioned loudly.

"Huh? Oh, nothing," Doyle mumbled, realizing he'd been staring at her.

"Do I have something on my face?" Cordy asked worriedly.

"No," he shook his head. "It's just...well, I just don't get yer."

Cordelia opened her mouth to reply to the strange statement, but found herself oddly without something to say for a moment. Her brow furrowed as she tried to understand the implications of the half-demon's words, but came up blank. "Umm, okay..."

"I mean, I don't know everything that 'appened in Sunnydale since Buffy moved there, but I do know yer two were never really friends," he explicated, hoping what he had said had come out as least offensively as possible.

"No, we really weren't," Cordy conceded, wondering what Doyle was getting at.

"And I know yer weren't exactly...nice...to her most of the time," he went on, watching the brunette with a curious eye. "Yet, 'ere you are, sharing an apartment with her, and concerned for her well-being."

Cordelia's expression instantly changed as Doyle's statements reminded her of things in her past. She knew very well the person she used to be, and why she was no longer like that. It was still hard for her to forget the reasons she had left Sunnydale behind her.

"I-I...," she stuttered, and then trailed off. The hurt of her situation reflected in her eyes before she cast them away from the man she hardly knew and generally found to be obscenely annoying.

"Hey, princess," Doyle started, placing a gentle hand on her arm. "I'm not gonna judge you. I'm just curious about how you two ended up 'ere together."

The former cheerleader sighed and looked back at Doyle. She smiled weakly at him, mildly touched by his concern. So she told him about her own reasons for leaving Sunnydale, about how she'd lost everything because of her Father's neglect in paying his taxes, and about how all of her so-called friends had shunned her once she was no longer rich. And she told him about how she and Buffy had ended up venturing out on their own together.

To his credit, Doyle only listened, not passing judgment as she mentioned the contemptuous past she had with Buffy. It was easy for him to understand what had drawn the two girls together. They'd both lost pretty much everything, but in that process, they'd found a friendship that had never before existed. He was glad they had. They were good for each other. And on the plus side, the girls' friendship, along with his mission to protect the Slayer, gave him a chance to get to know the enigmatic brunette.

They sat in silence for a few moments after Cordy had finished her story. Letting people in was still such a foreign concept for her. And never mind the fact that she was sharing an actual conversation with Doyle, the obnoxious half-demon with no fashion sense whatsoever. She really didn't want to examine that fact at the moment.

Doyle, sensing her need to take the focus off her, switched his attention back to the beleaguered Slayer who was still locked away in her room, listening to Elvis on repeat. "Do ya think she'll be okay?"

"I don't know," Cordy shook her head. "I honestly don't know."

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

Are you lonesome tonight,
do you miss me tonight?
Are you sorry we drifted apart?
Does your memory stay to a brighter sunny day
When I kissed you and called you sweetheart?

Lying on her bed, Buffy stared out the small window at the half moon rising in the night sky. Her right hand rested lightly on the small bulge of her abdomen, waiting in anticipation of feeling the small flutters again. That's all it had been earlier, just a small flutter. But she had felt it, and it had been wonderful, and excruciating all at once.

Do the chairs in your parlor seem empty and bare?
Do you gaze at your doorstep and picture me there?
Is your heart filled with pain, shall I come back again?
Tell me dear, are you lonesome tonight?

For one short moment after she'd felt the movement of her child, she'd wanted to run to Angel and tell him. She wanted to have him place his large, strong hands on her stomach and feel the miracle that was their child. But then she remembered. Angel was gone. And she'd never be able to share this experience with him. He'd never even get to know that he was going to be a father, that they had created a tiny life on that forbidden night they had spent together.

I wonder if you're lonesome tonight
You know someone said that the world's a stage
And each must play a part.
Fate had me playing in love you as my sweet heart.

The instant she realized she couldn't go to Angel, the excitement and wonderment of feeling the slight flutter of her child had vanished, replaced with heart-wrenching misery. She hadn't even been able to excuse herself from the movie she'd been watching with Cordy. She'd just run off, needing the safety and solitude that her tiny bedroom provided on a nightly basis.

Act one was when we met, I loved you at first glance
You read your line so cleverly and never missed a cue
Then came act two, you seemed to change and you acted strange
And why I'll never know.

Now, she lay on her bed, willing herself to make it through this. She knew, though, that it wouldn't ever get better. Her body was changing more and more every day because of the child within her, and each change was a painful reminder of the man she loved. She also knew too that even after the baby's birth the sadness wouldn't go away. What if her child was a boy that looked just like his father? Or what if it was a little girl with her father's big brown eyes?

Honey, you lied when you said you loved me
And I had no cause to doubt you.
But I'd rather go on hearing your lies
Than go on living without you
.

Rolling over, Buffy stared at the cd player sitting on her night stand. The soft melody of Elvis Presley's 'Are You Lonesome Tonight' echoed through her ears. There was just something about the song that called to her. It had ever since she'd heard it a few weeks ago while watching a movie. Since entering her room, the song had been playing on repeat as she had laid there staring out at the night sky.

Now the stage is bare and I'm standing there
With emptiness all around
And if you won't come back to me
Then make them bring the curtain down
.

Reaching over to her night stand, Buffy finally turned off the cd player and rolled back over on her bed. She pulled the covers tighter around her body, trying to fight off the inner chill that seemed to have settled over her. Slowly, her eyes drifted shut as she watched the moon rising in the sky, wondering if her Angel was out there somewhere staring at the same thing.

Is your heart filled with pain, shall I come back again?
Tell me dear, are you lonesome tonight?

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^
Part 4
^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

~about a month and a half later~

"Doyle!" Buffy screeched as she heard objects inside the refrigerator clanking together. "What are you looking for?"

Doyle pulled his head out of the fridge, a heavy scowl on his face. "Don't ya two have anything ta drink with a li'l kick to it?"

Buffy shook her head at the question. In the two months she'd known the half-demon, it was completely obvious that he fulfilled the stereotype of being a liquor-loving Irishman.

"Well...considering that I'm pregnant, and also the fact that we can't afford booze, you're lucky we have anything at all to drink," she smirked at him, ignoring the loud groan that came from her friend.

Doyle skulked back over to the couch, mumbling under his breath about needing a good shot of whiskey. He plopped himself down next to Buffy and kicked his feet up onto the coffee table, only to have them promptly knocked off by the blonde haired Slayer.

"Don't put your feet there!" she yelled at him. "We have to eat on that table."

"Oh! Sorry," he apologized guiltily.

"S'ok," shrugged Buffy, adjusting the plate of cookies resting on her ever-expanding abdomen. She knew that she should hate the fact that she was practically twice the size she used to be, but in all honesty, she loved being pregnant. There was something so magical about it.

"Looks like you got your own table there," Doyle, eyes twinkling mischievously, nodded to the plate that comfortably rested on Buffy's belly.

The cookie Buffy had been about to put in her mouth halted its movement. She mock-glared at Doyle, trying her best not to laugh. It was true. Her pregnant stomach made quite a nice table. And it kept her plate of cookies within reach!

"That wasn't nice," she feigned hurt, then threw the cookie in her hand at his head before bursting into giggles.

Doyle shook his head at the Slayer's attitude. He couldn't help the grin that formed on his face. It was nice to see Buffy smiling and laughing. She'd been doing it more lately, and it made him happy to see that. He'd grown to genuinely like the blonde headed girl during the two months he'd known her. And he wouldn't be ashamed to admit that he admired her. Her life was rough, but she managed to survive every roadblock that tried to stop her.

Seeing her smile and laugh was a bit of a relief to. He worried about her. Knowing about all she'd been through, and being around her the first few weeks after he revealed his presence had allowed him to see the pain and sadness she was enveloped by on a daily basis. She was slowly pulling out of it, though. Each day, her mood was a little lighter, her smile a little brighter. Even so, the sparkle still wasn't in her eyes. The hurt was still there. And he knew from Cordelia that there were still many nights that she cried herself to sleep, but she was getting by and that was all that mattered.

"I was jus' pointing a fact out," smirked Doyle, trying to hold back a chuckle.

Buffy rolled her eyes and reached for the remote to turn on the TV when she heard the door to the apartment open. Moments later, Cordy came trudging into the living room. Both Buffy and Doyle cringed at the expression on the brunette's face. She did not look happy.

"Somebody's in a bad mood," Doyle whispered to Buffy.

"Doyle!" Buffy murmured, elbowing him lightly in the ribs. "Bad day?" she asked Cordy.

In response, Cordelia only glared at her before sighing and sitting down on the beanbag chair next to the couch. "Bad day doesn't even begin to describe it. Try horrible, crappy, totally sucky...," she trailed off.

"What happened?" Buffy questioned, feeling concerned for her friend's unease.

"There was this really great dress that came into the boutique. A one-of-a-kind knock out dress, but it was $275! I used to be able to afford clothes like that. Of course, that was before Daddy decided to be a criminal," Cordelia groused, a heavy frown on her face. "So I asked my boss if I could pay for it in installments...ya know, like layaway?"

At Buffy's nod, she went on. "She wouldn't go for it. So I couldn't buy the dress. And then some obnoxious twit comes into the store, treats me like crap, and buys my freakin' dress!" the brunette ranted loudly.

Both Buffy and Doyle were trying to hold back their smiles. Cordy may have changed, but she was still the same in a lot of ways. It was more than a little amusing to see someone get so upset over a dress.

"That suc-" Buffy started to say but was cut off when Cordelia continued her rant.

"And then as if that wasn't bad enough, I come home, and that lousy little leech of a landlord hits on me! Again! That's the third time in the past two weeks! I don't want to be in the same room as him let alone go out with him!" she yelled at no one in particular.

"Ugh! That guy is such a troll!" agreed Buffy. He'd tried to ask her out once, but had backed off when he found out she was pregnant. She'd never expected her pregnancy to come in so handy.

"I'm glad I'm a guy," Doyle stated with a frown. How could that prick come on to his Cordelia?...well, not that she was his, but that was a minor detail. At the girls' confused looks, he explained his previous statement. "He can't come on ta me since I'm a guy...err...well, he could, but ya know what I mean."

"Uh huh," nodded Buffy, shuddering slightly as she thought of their gross landlord.

"We *have* to do something about our living situation, Buffy. I don't know how much longer I can deal with this place," Cordy groaned and leaned her head against the arm of the sofa. "Not only do we have to deal with the horny troll, but this morning I found a cockroach in the bathtub!"

"I know, Cordy," conceded Buffy, sighing in frustration. This place had seemed okay for a while, but it just seemed to get worse as time passed. "But what can we do? We can't afford anything better yet with the money we've saved."

"That's another thing!" Cordy shrieked, still wound up from her bad day. "Money! We need more of it!"

"Well, duh!" Buffy rolled her eyes. "I know that, but we don't have a lot of options. Unless you want to be a hooker, which eww, there's not much we can do."

Doyle watched the two friends talk about their financial situation and wished that there was something he could do to help them. This place really wasn't good enough for them, and he really didn't like their landlord. But what could he do? He certainly didn't have any money to give them. He thought for a few minutes when an idea suddenly came to mind. Maybe there was something he could do...

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

~a few days later~

"Are you going to tell us where we are going yet?" Cordelia snapped, looking at Doyle with narrowed eyes. The annoying half-demon was being a particular pain in the ass tonight.

"I told yer, we are goin' ta visit a friend of mine," Doyle replied with a sigh. The two had been questioning him non-stop since he'd gone to their apartment earlier that evening.

"Yeah, you already mentioned that," grumbled Cordy, looking mournfully at her now dirty shoes. He hadn't told them they'd be trudging through yucky back alleys!

"Uhh...not that I don't trust you Doyle," Buffy stated cautiously. She'd been quiet for a while, amusing herself by watching her two friends bicker, but she was a little worried about where they were going. "But, you could at least tell us who your friend is, and maybe why we are all going to see him...or her."

"He's just a friend," Doyle shrugged, not looking at either girl. "And just as a warning, he is a demon, so don't got slicin' and dicin'."

"Gee, thanks ever so much for the details!" Cordy muttered under her breath, sharing a look with Buffy. They'd go along with him, for now. He'd never given them a reason not to trust him.

A few minutes later, Doyle's footsteps came to a halt in front of a large, brick building. Not having seen him stop, too busy chatting, both girls walked right into his back. Buffy would have fallen if Doyle hadn't turned and caught her arm at the last minute.

"Next time, tell us you're stopping," scowled Cordy, smoothing down a wrinkle on her shirt.

"Sorry, princess," Doyle smirked, loosening his hold on Buffy's arm. "We're 'ere," he pointed to the building they were standing in front of.

"You're friend lives here?" Buffy asked, studying the building.

"No, he just asked us to meet him here," he told them cryptically before walking up the stone stairs that led to the front door.

The two friends shrugged at each other and followed Doyle up the staircase, but both kept cautious eyes on everything around them. It wasn't dark yet, but that didn't mean there still weren't demons around to cause trouble. So far, they'd not had any trouble, but that could quickly change.

"Whoa!" stated Cordy in awe the second she stepped inside the building. The whole first floor was huge and wide open, and a lot cleaner looking than she would have thought when she first saw the building from the outside.

"Nice place, ain't it?" Doyle smiled at Buffy and Cordy, who were wandering around the open space.

"It's huge," Buffy mumbled, wondering if her voice would echo. They could fit at least five of their apartment in here!

"Doyle! So glad you could make it!" an up-beat voice called out from somewhere to their left.

The three friends turned to face the speaker, two of them finding themselves in shock at the sight. Buffy's eyes were widened in surprise while Cordelia's mouth was hanging wide open. This wasn't quite what they were expecting when Doyle said they were meeting a friend of his. They thought it was someone like him...not a green-skinned, red horned demon wearing the most awful looking electric blue suit they'd ever seen.

Doyle stepped toward his friend and held out his hand, "Of course, we came!"

"Any trouble getting them here?" the demon whispered low enough so that only Doyle could hear.

"What do yer think?' Doyle muttered back with a roll of his eyes.

The tackily dressed demon chuckled and walked toward where Buffy and Cordelia were still standing and staring at him.

"Ladies, nice to meet both of you. My name's Lorne," he smiled widely at them.

Buffy shook herself out of her daze, "Umm, hi?"

"Hello, Sunshine! You must be Buffy," he held out his hand, which Buffy reluctantly shook. She wasn't getting any evil vibes from him, but she was still wary, especially considering Doyle's crypticness about the whole situation.

"Yeah, that's me," Buffy smiled slightly. She'd never before met such a perky demon. It was a little unsettling.

"And you," the green-skinned man turned to Cordy, "must be Cordelia. I've heard a lot about you two."

"Wish I could say the same. Does he know how horrendous that suit is?!?" Cordy muttered under her breath to Buffy.

The blonde stifled a chuckle. She'd wondered the same thing. It truly was an ugly suit, even more so when matched with his green skin.

"So, uh, you're a good demon," the Slayer spoke, trying to break the awkward tension in the room.

"Completely non-violent," Lorne held up his hands in his defense. He could understand their concern. Doyle had told him quite a bit about what the two friends had been through.

"That's, uh, good," Buffy mumbled, feeling uncomfortable, and also glad that she wouldn't have to fight. In her six months pregnant condition, she really didn't think she'd be capable of kicking an eighty-year-old woman's ass, let alone this demon.

"So...I don't suppose," started Cordy, looking at both Doyle and the freaky Lorne-demon, "that either of you want to tell us what we're doing here?"

Lorne turned to look at Doyle, "You didn't tell them?"

"Naw, thought I'd give yer the pleasure," Doyle nodded to him.

"Oh...ok," Lorne shrugged indifferently. "Well, Ladies, I'm here with a...business... opportunity for the both, well three, of you."

"Business opp-...huh?" Cordy stuttered in confusion, while Buffy looked on with curious eyes.

"Yes, a business opportunity. I've been told about your...situation...," Lorne explained carefully. "And I think I have just the thing you need!"

Cordy and Buffy looked at each other in surprise and bewilderment, but there was also a hint of something akin to excitement in their eyes. They had no idea what the demon was proposing, but something inside them was telling them that this was going to be a good thing. Suddenly, they were feeling hope that maybe things were about to get a lot better.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^
Part 5
^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

"So I take it you are both interested in hearing Lorne's and my idea?" Doyle nearly smiled at the hidden excitement he saw from Buffy and Cordelia. He was growing more confident in the idea he'd come up with, knowing they were both frustrated with their living situation and lack of money.

"Well, it can't hurt to hear it," Cordy answered as nonchalantly as possible. All the while, visions of new shoes and dresses were flittering about her mind.

"Uh, yeah, sure," Buffy added in, still trying to get over her initial shock of the situation. This wasn't turning out at all like she had expected.

"Good," grinned Lorne, who then wandered a few feet away. "See, I used to own a club in Los Angeles. It was quite popular, but LA can be rather...dangerous. I got tired of having the place destroyed. So I closed up shop, and moved up here a while back.

Buffy's brow scrunched in perplexity. A club? Lorne, an obvious demon, owned a club? What the Hell kind of place was it?

Cordy, on the other hand, laughed out loud at the idea, only stopping her chuckles when Lorne looked at her and frowned. "Sorry, I just can't picture you owning a club."

"It wasn't a typical club," Lorne spoke, conceding that it was a bit of a strange concept. "It catered to the underworld of L.A."

"The underworld?" Cordy questioned, head cocked.

"Hey, even demon's like to have fun sometimes!" he exclaimed, a smile now on his face.

"Umm, okay," Buffy stated, interrupting the banter. "What does this have to do with us?"

"I'm getting to that, Sunshine," Lorne looked toward her. "Here's the deal, ever since moving here, I've wanted to reopen the club. But I was waiting for the right opportunity, and you two are just what the doctor ordered, so to speak."

"Uhh...that's...wow. I umm wasn-," Buffy suddenly stopped her sputtering and looked at Lorne. "Wait. Why do you need us? I mean you had a club before so would you need help this time? And why do you want *us* anyway?"

"My club in LA was strictly for demons, or those who knew of demons and didn't mind socializing with them. It drew a surprising amount of business, but now that I'm starting over, I'd like to expand to include the general public. Problem is, I don't think this," he gestured to himself, "is apt to draw people in. It'd more than likely scare them away. That's where you two come in."

"Ya might want to close yer mouth Princess," Doyle pointed out, referring to Cordy's hung open jaw.

"I...huh?...I mean...let me get this straight. You want us to help you open up and run a club?" the flabbergasted brunette asked slowly

"Wait a sec!" Buffy interrupted quickly. "Maybe I'm having a dumb blonde moment, but I'm confused."

"It's okay Sunshine. Here, have a seat, and I'll explain," Lorne pointed to a couple of crates near the center of the room. Buffy gratefully sat down, her feet and back were killing her. Cordy, though, looked at the dirty crates and decided to remain standing, as did Doyle.

"What I want to do," began Lorne, "is open up a club that will draw your average humans because it would bring in quite a bit more revenue than just catering to demons. But, being what I am, I can't do that on my own. So I would like you two to handle the human side."

"The human side?" Buffy asked, her mind reeling over what the demon was proposing.

"Yeah. I'd still like to have a demon club, separate from the human club, which I would run, and then you two, along with Doyle could handle the other," he clarified, sharing a look with Doyle, who already knew what the plan was.

"But we don't know anything about running a club!" Cordelia blurted out suddenly.

"I realize that," Lorne conceded, shrugging slightly. "But that's why you'd still have me, Sugar! I'll be around to help out with the behind the scenes stuff. At least in the beginning until you understand things better. I would just need you to be here when the club is open to kind of manage things, you know, be the pretty faces behind the name. Besides, it certainly can't hurt business end of things to have said pretty faces dealing with the supplies, bands and such.

"Wow...I, uh, don't know what to say," mumbled Buffy, wringing her hands together nervously. What did she know about running a nightclub? Sure, she'd been to the Bronze hundreds of times, but that was as a customer.

"I know it's a lot ta take in," Doyle spoke up after being quiet for a while. "Ya don't have to give him an answer tonight."

"Yes," agreed Lorne. "Please take some time to think about it. I'm hoping you'll agree. I've been trying to find the right people to help for a while. I couldn't hire just anybody, considering the whole demon aspect. When Doyle came to me and told me your situations and that you knew of the supernatural world, I knew you'd be perfect."

"I, uh...yeah, I think we'd need to talk it over," Buffy looked to Cordy who nodded slowly. Both girls were in a bit of a daze over the opportunity that had literally landed in their laps.

"So we'd just have to be at the club when it was open?" Cordy questioned, trying to get a better understanding of what exactly Lorne wanted from them.

"Well, yes that, and as I said, dealing with face to face human interactions also. Plus, I'm hoping you'd want to help with the décor, since I've been told, just once or twice," he added with a chuckle. "That my taste is a bit extreme. You two would probably also be helpful in dealing with the music end for the human part of the club. I'm familiar with today's popular music, but I want to make sure we play stuff young people would like. It's better for business that way."

"Decorating?" a giddy twinkle entered Cordy's eyes.

Buffy couldn't help but laugh at Cordelia's statement. "So, uh, where is this club going to be?"

"Right here," Lorne spread his arms out, gesturing to the space all around him.

"Here?" both Cordelia and Buffy squeaked out loudly.

"I know it doesn't look like much at the moment. It will need quite a bit of work to be turned into a club...well, sort of. A few years back, some renovations were done on it, but they were never completed. It's up to code, and in good shape otherwise. The interior would just need to be converted into a club atmosphere," the green-skinned demon explained, his eyes wandering around the space he hoped would soon be his new business venture.

"Why don't we take 'em on a tour of the place, eh Lorne?" Doyle interjected, hoping to take some of the pressure off Buffy and Cordy, who he knew had to be overwhelmed.

"Sure. We can start with this floor," he stated, referring to the area they currently were in. "This floor would be the human club. As you can see, it's quite large. There would be a bar, a stage for live bands, an area for a DJ, and also some tables and counters for the customers. I've not thought too much about the layout, yet, though.

"You definitely have enough room for all that," Cordy pointed out. The space definitely was huge.

"I know," Lorne laughed lightly. "Come on, let's go down to the basement floor."

The group followed Lorne through a door near the back of the room, then down a hallway until they came to another door that opened to a staircase to the basement. Soon, they found themselves in a smaller, yet just as open area as where they had just been.

Lorne flicked on some overhead lights before speaking to the group. "This would be for my demon customers. It's smaller than upstairs, but it won't draw as much business, so that works," he pointed out. "There's a direct entrance to here from the back of the building so the demons can come and go from here without running into the humans."

"I don't know if I like the idea of a demon bar," Buffy stated doubtfully. "Demons aren't known for being nice. They tend to have one track minds: kill...present company excluded."

"Oh, don't worry about that," Lorne shook his head. "I have some friends who can cast a no-fighting spell over the place. It works quite nicely. Plus, sometimes demons just like to kick back."

"Oh," Buffy muttered, still not liking the idea.

"Let's go upstairs to see the other floors," Doyle attempted to break the sudden tension in the room. He knew the demon aspect was going to be a bit of a stalling point, but hopefully, he'd be able to reassure them that it would all work.

They started walking back toward the stairs when Buffy spoke again. "I don't suppose this place has an elevator."

Lorne laughed at the question, knowing that in her condition stairs were probably not enjoyable. "It does, but it's not been used for a while so I didn't want to use it in case it needs some work."

"Damn!" Buffy muttered, frowning at the prospect of climbing more stairs. They were even more of a hassle now that she was getting larger.

"Don't worry, sweetie. If you two decide to accept my offer, I'll make sure I get it working properly as soon as possible," Lorne offered as he began climbing the stairs.

A short time later, the group was standing on the third floor of the building. It was similar to the ground floor in size except that it was divided up into five or so separate rooms centered off of a large, open main area.

"Geez! How many stories is this place?" Cordy questioned, internally grumbling over her choice of wearing heels for their outing and having to walk so much.

"It's five floors, and then the basement. So technically six," Lorne responded, taking a seat on one of the chairs that sat around and oddly placed table.

"What are you going to do with the rest of the floors?" Cordy asked, studying the new area they were in.

"I'm getting to that, Sweetcheeks," he grinned teasingly. "This floor, since it's right above the first floor, would be for offices, and the business aspect of everything. Also, I don't know if you're planning on going back to slaying once you pop out the little one Buffy, but you can also set up a training area here too."

"You told him about me!" Buffy glared at Doyle, clearly unhappy.

"It was kinda necessary," shrugged Doyle helplessly.

"Don't worry, your secret is safe with me," Lorne patted Buffy's arm. "I wouldn't want to put you in any danger. Do you plan to continue slaying?"

"I don't know," Buffy sighed. "I haven't really thought about what I will do once I have the baby."

"I'm sure you'll do what's best," he spoke sadly. He couldn't help but feel sorry for the poor girl. From what he knew from Doyle, she'd had quite a rough life for someone so young.

"So, umm, what about the other floors," Cordy steered the conversation elsewhere, taking the focus off her friend before things got too serious.

"Oh, yeah. Well, they are pretty much just like this floor. They would work well for you guys to live in," Lorne told them casually.

"Live?...but....what....huh?" Buffy sputtered, completely not comprehending what had just been said.

"Oh? Didn't I mention that before?" Lorne grinned, as did Doyle. "I was told you are looking for somewhere better to live, and I've got all this extra space. So why not put it to good use?"

"But...but...we can't afford something this big!" Cordy said dejectedly. As much as she'd love to live somewhere this big, they so didn't have that kind of money."

"Now don't you worry about that," Lorne spoke with finality to his voice. "You would be doing me a favor by helping me with a club. I wouldn't want one cent for you to live here. And yes, you would also get paid to work for me."

"Man, this deal just keeps getting better every second," the brunette muttered under her breath.

Both Lorne and Doyle hid smiles at the statement, knowing the offer was going to be extremely hard for them to pass up. Doyle was glad he'd gone to Lorne for help. The demon had certainly come through for him. Not only did he have a great job opportunity for the two friends, but also an improved living situation. He just hoped they'd take it. They deserved more than they had now.

"I hate to toss all this at you and run," Lorne said, looking at his watch. "But I've got to run. Take a few days to think everything over and get back to me. Doyle has my number."

The demon spoke his goodbyes and left, leaving behind Doyle and the two shell-shocked females. When Doyle had told them they were going to meet a friend of his, they certainly never imagined the night would turn out as it did. Lorne's offer was definitely enticing, but he was right, they really did need to talk it over before making a decision.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

Buffy, Cordelia and Doyle were nearing the girls' apartment when Doyle finally decided to ask them what they thought of Lorne's offer. If need be, he would plead his friend's case. The opportunity was perfect for them, but he knew they would probably be wary of accepting it.

"So what do you think?" he questioned, taking a peak at the two friends.

Buffy shrugged, honestly unsure of what she thought. It all seemed almost too good to be true. The job sounded good, and she certainly would be incredibly happy to get out of their crappy apartment, but....and there always had to be a but....it was all so perfect...too perfect. There had to be a catch.

On the other hand, Cordy was already thinking about all the possibilities the new situation offered them. She hated being poor. It didn't suit her. And helping to manage a club? How cool was that? Especially if they did things right. They could make the club one of the newest, trendiest places in Seattle, and that would bring respect and credibility. What girl didn't like that?

"It all sounds great, but...I'm not too sure about that Lorne guy," Cordy voiced the one concern she had over the whole thing.

"Yeah, I mean, how much do you know about the guy...err...demon," spoke Buffy, supporting Cordy's wariness.

Doyle sighed loudly, he knew this was going to be an issue. They were more trusting of him when he first arrived than Lorne. Maybe that was because he looked human, and Lorne, well, didn't. "Lorne's fine. I've known him fer a while, though I wouldn't say we were best buds, but he's good guy....just a little on the odd side."

"I don't like the idea of having his demon bar right below the club where all the humans will be," Buffy repeated her earlier problem with everything she'd heard.

"Yeah. Does he really think that it won't create any-," Cordy suddenly stopped speaking and halted her steps. "Oh shit!"

"What? Cordy? What's wrong?" Buffy looked at her friend oddly, not understanding why she was acting the way she was.

"Umm...I'd say we have some trouble...," the brunette trailed off, pointing about twenty feet in front of them.

Doyle and Buffy followed the direction of her gesture and found themselves staring at two rather large demons. Both had to be around seven feet tall with orange-ish skin. There were wicked looking swords perched in sheaths across their backs, and their fingernails looked razor sharp. Buffy hoped for a moment that the demons hadn't spotted them, but unfortunately, the pair were staring directly at them, a wicked gleam shining in their eyes.

"Get over there and out of the way!" Doyle snapped, roughly pushing both girls out of the way. He stared ahead at the now snarling demons and let his own demon come forth.

Cordelia shrieked when Doyle's face changed to a blue hue and sprouted quills. They'd never before seen his demon side. He'd never had a need to use it, and hadn't ever actually told them that his appearance could change as it just did.

"I suggest you leave," Doyle spoke forcefully to the two demons, who were taking slow steps toward them.

"Now why would we do that?" the slightly larger demon snarled through a mouth full of vicious looking teeth.

"Because you'll die if you don't!" he told them more confidently than he actually felt.

The two demons laughed at the statement. "You think you can stop us?"

"I plan to!" Doyle pulled a long dagger out from the inside pocket of his jacket.

Quickly, the demons charged at him. Doyle sidestepped just as they were about to pounce, and spun around behind them. He jabbed the knife in his hand into the back of the second demon, which had yet to recover from Doyle's first movement. The blow was either perfectly aimed, or a lucky hit, because the demon fell to the ground motionless, green blood oozing from the wound.

Reaching down, Doyle grabbed his only weapon out of the demon's back and stood to face the remaining threat. To his horror, he found the demon closing in on Buffy and Cordelia, who were standing helplessly a few feet away. The demon shoved Cordelia aside, causing her to land almost at his feet, and stalked closer to Buffy, who being pregnant, was the most defenseless of them all.

Buffy pressed herself further against the brick wall behind her. Wildly, her eyes searched for anything she could use to defend herself, but there was nothing. At any other time, she'd be able to fight him with just her body, but not now. There was no way she could take on the demon when she was six months pregnant. Well, she could probably fight him, but she was out of shape, and her balance was nowhere near perfect because of the added weight. It was a toss up as to which was more dangerous: trying to fight the demon or standing there in hopes that Doyle would be able to take it out. Her body began to shake as the realization hit her that she was likely not going to make it through this, that this demon was going to kill her and her baby. Tears streaked down her cheeks with the knowledge that her child would never make it into the world.

Doyle risked a glance at Cordelia and saw that she appeared to be fine so he focused his attention back on Buffy. He tried to think of a plan, but quickly came to the conclusion that there wasn't time to think. He needed to act. The demon had unsheathed it sword and was raising it to attack position.

Taking a deep breath, Doyle stared forward, his gaze steely with determination. He would absolutely NOT let anything happen to the Slayer. It was his job to protect her, and he would do that at all costs, even if that meant putting himself in the line of fire. So without last thought toward himself, Doyle dashed towards Buffy and leapt in between her and the demon who was beginning to bring his sword down upon her.

"BUFFY!! DOYLE!" Cordelia screamed, watching the horror in front of her unfold.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^
Part 6
^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

In the blink of an eye it was over...and the Slayer had been saved. Buffy found herself unable to speak after what she had just witnessed. She could only stare at the gruesome sight before her. Her mind couldn't quite register what had just happened. She was still stuck on the belief that she was about to die.

The urge to vomit tickled the back of her throat as she stared down at the dead demon, its head deftly lopped off, mere inches from her. She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. Had what just happened really occurred? One glance behind the now dead demon assured her it had.

Ever so slowly, Buffy raised her eyes to meet those of Cordelia. The ex-cheerleader stood rooted in her spot, eyes wide in shock. The only movement came from her trembling hands which still tightly grasped the sword she'd taken from the other demon only moments before. Buffy's gaze went from Cordelia to the dead demon and back again. Cordelia hadn't really...had she? Yes, she had seen it with her own eyes. Cordelia had killed the demon.

A low groan from nearby shook both girls out of their stupors. Cordy's borrowed sword clattered loudly to the sidewalk as she rushed to where Doyle lay in a heap to the left of Buffy. Still trying to process everything, the blonde Slayer followed.

"Oh my God, Doyle! Are you all right?" the brunette cried out in worry.

"Wh-...what happened?" a dazed Doyle asked, rubbing his head where it had slammed into the sidewalk. The last thing he remembered was leaping in front of Buffy...then nothing.

"You're alive!!" Cordy shrieked and pulled him into a tight embrace, completely overwhelmed by the feelings of relief and fear for the half-demon.

"I'm fine," Doyle mumbled softly. Well, he wasn't quite fine, but if he could stay there in his Princess' arms for the rest of his life he would be.

"Good, I'm glad," she spoke quickly, hiding the few tears that had formed. Why was she crying anyway? Doyle was just an annoying twerp. And besides, he was fine!

Buffy was tempted to smile at the exchange. She was well aware of Doyle's feelings for Cordy. How could she not be when the half-demon was always staring at her with a goofy smile on his face? She wasn't all that surprised by Cordy's actions either. The brunette spent a little too much time talking, or berating, Doyle to not be interested. It made her want to laugh at their silliness, but other times, it made her want to...well, it wasn't worth saying. She couldn't have what she wanted anyway.

"Doyle! Your arm!" Cordelia's shrill voice sounded throughout the alley.

"What?" Doyle looked down at his arm, finding his jacket sleeve sliced open and soaked with blood. "Oh...I hadn't even noticed."

"Come on, we need to get back to our apartment," ordered Buffy, worried about Doyle, and wary about what else might be out stalking the streets.

Together, Buffy and Cordelia helped the slightly woozy Doyle stand and supported him as they walked back to their apartment. Luckily, they didn't run into any other demons for the rest of the short trip. None of them were in any shape to have to do any more fighting that night.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

"Cordy? Go get the first aid kit out of the bathroom while I help Doyle get his coat and shirt off," Buffy requested as soon as they had gotten him seated on the couch upon their return to the apartment.

"Ya know...dis is one of those times I wisssh you two kep' sumphin ta drink 'ere," Doyle slurred, feeling the effects of the blood loss and the knock on his head.

Buffy smiled, "well, you're in luck. I had Cordy pick up a bottle of whiskey yesterday for you."

"How'd she git dat?" he wondered outloud, remembering in the back of his mind that she was only eighteen.

"You don't think Queen C made it through her teenage years without a fake ID do you?" she grinned and shook her head.

Buffy went and retrieved the bottle and handed it to Doyle. Carefully, she helped him out of his jacket and shirt. The cut on his arm was nasty, but not as bad as she had expected it to be. Maybe it had something to do with him being part demon, or it could have just been one of those cuts that bled a lot but really wasn't that severe. Either way, she was glad it didn't look like it would need to be stitched up. It would probably hurt for a while, though.

"Here ya go," Cordelia returned to the room and handed the kit to Buffy who quickly set about cleansing the wound and bandaging it. By the time she finished, Doyle was sound asleep with his head laid back on the couch.

Buffy grabbed one of their few extra blankets and covered Doyle up before retreating to her room. She was exhausted, and her mind had yet to face what had gone on earlier. Honestly, she didn't want to face it. She didn't want to think about how close she'd come to dying, to never seeing her miracle child. Some things were just too horrible to face.

Meanwhile, Cordelia sat on one end of the couch just staring at Doyle. Her emotions were in turmoil. First and foremost, they'd all come way too close to becoming demon food. Then there was the fact that she, herself, had sliced a demon's head off. And lastly, there was Doyle. Seeing him put his life on the line to save Buffy, and thinking he was hurt, or possibly worse, had stirred something in her that she didn't know if she was ready, or willing to accept. Hadn't she already learned her lesson by dating one loser? Still...there was something about him. Maybe it would pass...at least she hoped it would.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

The next morning, Doyle awoke to the quiet chatter of Cordelia and Buffy not far from him. Cautiously, his eyes opened and quickly closed again when he was assaulted by the bright, bare bulb, overhead light in the living room. A groan escaped his lips accidentally. His head felt like a sledgehammer was pounding on it repeatedly.

"Aspirin?" a voice broke through his pain. He looked up to find Cordelia standing over him holding out a two pills and a glass of water which he gratefully accepted.

Doyle was about to let himself drift back to sleep when he realized he still had no clue what had happened the night before and how it was the demon ended up dead. "Someone wanna tell me what happened last night?"

"Last night?" Cordy feigned ignorance, not really wanting to talk about how close to death they'd been.

"Yeah, and how the demon ended up dead, and us alive," he clarified, looking to Cordelia and then to Buffy.

"I-I...I saw you dive between the demon and Buffy...a-and I saw the demon about to swing so...I don't know...I just grabbed the sword of the other demon and leapt," Cordy relayed with an uncharacteristic stutter to her voice. "Next thing I knew, the demon was dead."

Doyle smiled at her words, feeling grateful, relieved, and proud all at once. "I knew you had it in you, Princess."

"Yeah, well your lucky I did it or you wouldn't be here," she told him, regaining some of her bitchiness and ignoring the need to throw her arms around him and tell him she was glad he was okay.

"Princess?" he spoke softly to her. "Thank you."

Cordelia looked at him oddly, a slight blush on her face. "You're welcome."

"So...uh...yer both okay, right?" Doyle broke his gaze with Cordy and asked both females.

Buffy, who had been unobtrusively listening to the pair, walked over to where the two had been sharing their moment. "We're fine. A couple scrapes, a few bruises, but that's it. You got the worst of it."

Doyle looked down at his bandaged arm and winced. "Yeah. That's gonna hurt fer a while."

"You're lucky it doesn't need stitches," the blonde sat down on the couch next to him and began checking the wound. "It should be fine in a week or so, but make sure you keep it clean."

"Yes, Doctor!" he mock saluted the Slayer.

Buffy laughed at his actions before clumsily getting off the couch. It was getting harder and harder to move around with the growing baby inside her, but she loved it. Sure, carrying around so much extra weight was a bit of a hassle, but all she had to do was remember that it was her baby making her look like a whale and all would be good.

For the rest of the morning, the three sat around chatting after having a small breakfast. They tried to steer their conversation away from the events of the previous night, but it had eventually come up. Doyle had apologized for not protecting them like he was supposed to, but the girls would have none of it. There was nothing that could have been done to prevent what had happened. All three did concede, though, that it would probably be best if they stayed away from empty, dark alleys at night.

Eventually, Doyle left to return to his own apartment, leaving Buffy and Cordelia on their own for the rest of the day. He was exhausted despite the fact that he'd slept straight through the night, plus he knew the two had a lot to talk about. Lorne's offer hadn't come up during the morning, but he was pretty sure it was on both of their minds. So he'd left them to talk while he went to get some more sleep, and maybe a stiff drink.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

"So...," Buffy stated for lack of anything else to say.

"So...," Cordelia echoed as they both sat on the couch.

"Ugh! We're not getting anywhere," grumbled Buffy loudly. They'd been discussing all that Lorne had offered them for the past hour and hadn't yet come to a decision.

"Wait a sec," Cordy ordered and got up off the couch, retreating to her room and returning a second later holding a piece of paper and a pen. "Okay, let's make a list of positives and negatives."

"Kay, sounds like a good idea," Buffy agreed, getting more comfortable on the couch which was difficult considering her protruding belly. "Pluses...well, it would be better jobs."

"Yeah, and working in a nightclub at that!" added Cordy gleefully.

"And a better place to live," went on Buffy. "Which is a really, really good thing."

"Second that! And we wouldn't have to deal with our slug of a landlord," she shuddered at the thought of that slimeball.

"Or that creep down the hall who is always leering at me," Buffy's eyes narrowed. She hated that guy. He didn't seem to understand that she wasn't the least bit interested in him.

Cordy looked at the list she'd been recording and shook her head, "so far we have all positives and no negatives."

"I don't really like the idea of that demon part Lorne wants to do," Buffy shrugged noncommittally.

"Why? It would be down in the basement. It's not like they'd be on the main floor," Cordy looked at the blonde questioningly.

"Yeah, but demons and humans that close together is just asking for trouble," the blonde pointed out.

"What about that spell, though? Lorne said he had some spell that kept trouble from happening," interjected Cordy quickly. It was becoming quite obvious what she wanted to do.

"I guess that would help. Do we want to trust magic though?" Buffy sighed tiredly. The deal did sound great, but she couldn't help worry over what could go wrong.

"I'm sure Lorne's witchy friends are a lot more reliable than Will-...umm, some people's," Cordelia quickly caught herself before saying Willow's name. For the most part, the two avoided talking about the people from Sunnydale.

Buffy had heard the slip, but decided to ignore it. That was an issue she just didn't want to deal with at the moment. "Good point. Do you think this Lorne guy is trust worthy?"

The brunette bit her lip slightly, "I don't know, but I mean, Doyle thinks he's a good guy, or demon."

"'Doyle says' huh? Do I see some sparkage between you two," Buffy stated mischievously.

"NO!" Cordy denied a bit too quickly.

"Uh huh, sure!" Buffy chuckled.

"He's just so...so...ugh...have you seen the way he dresses?" the brunette frowned.

Buffy's face instantly took a serious expression, her mind thinking back to events in Sunnydale. "Cordy?" she waited until she had her friend's full attention. "Let me give you some advice: don't let little things get in the way. The only thing that matters is if you are happy. If you think that Doyle could make you happy, forget about everything else."

Cordelia regarded Buffy and the solemn look on her face. She knew exactly what the blonde was thinking about. Maybe she was right, maybe everything else was inconsequential if, in the end, she was happy. Still, Doyle?

The two sat in silence for long moments, both a bit distracted by the sudden turn of their conversation. It was Cordy who spoke first, taking them back to the issue at hand. "So do we accept Lorne's offer?"

The blonde's eyes wandered around their shabby apartment. Was this any place to raise a baby? Not really. And she doubted they'd be able to find something better on their own before its birth. Her baby deserved a nice place to live, and she had promised herself she would do whatever was best for her baby.

"I guess we do," Buffy smiled slightly. She still had her reservations about how it would all work out, but it was worth a try.

"Great!" exclaimed Cordy happily. "I'll call Doyle and let him know!"

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

~later that night~

"Lorne, here," the green-skinned demon spoke into his telephone.

"Hey, Lorne. It's Doyle," came a voice from the other end.

"Doyle! I didn't expect to hear from you so soon. Why so glum sounding?" Lorne spoke in mild surprise.

"Long night. We got attacked by demons on the way home...," began Doyle and then told his friend about their close all.

"Wow. Gotta admit that you knew it would happen sooner or later, though," Lorne added dismally.

"I know. I'm just glad that they are both okay. I don't want anything to happen to 'em," sighed Doyle.

"Why Doyle. If I didn't know any better I'd say you were sweet on one of them," chirped Lorne teasingly. "You're not chasing after the Slayer are you? Cuz I don't think your bosses would like that much."

"No! No, I'm not after Buffy. She's a sweet kid, had it rough, but I don't like her like that. And even if I did, I'd never have a chance. I don't know if she'll ever be over the vampire," relayed Doyle, thinking about all that he knew of their relationship.

"Mmm, gotta agree with you there. I was getting serious sad vibes from that one," Lorne shook his head even though Doyle couldn't see it. "So that leaves the lovely brunette I met last night.

"Cordelia," Doyle supplied a little too quickly.

"Uh huh. Looks like I hit the nail smack dab on its proverbial head," laughed Lorne. "Good luck with that. That one's a firecracker. I can tell."

"Don't I know it!" concurred Doyle with a chuckle.

"So anyway, I'm guessing you didn't call to talk about your love life," Lorne spoke, anxious to hear what else the half-demon might have to tell him.

"Yeah, yeah. You got me. I was callin ta tell ya that I guess ya gave the girls an offer they couldn't refuse because they called me a little while ago ta say that they'd do it," Doyle relayed, rubbing his still sore head.

"Oh! That's just peachy!" Lorne replied cheerfully. "I'm so glad they agreed. I've been wanting to get this club going for a while now."

"Yeah, I know. I'm glad too. This is a good thing for them," agreed Doyle, happy that they'd be getting themselves into a better situation.

"Yes, I think so too, from what I've heard," said Lorne sadly. He didn't know a whole lot about them, but what he did was heart wrenching. "I'll go ahead and start making plans then. I think we should get them moved in as soon as possible. I've got some old debts I can call in to get the ball rolling on some renovations for the upper floors.

"Great. Gimme a call in a few days ta let me know what's up," requested Doyle, already making plans for the upcoming move.

"Will do. Talk to ya soon!" babbled Lorne before hanging up the phone. He had lots to do to get things moving on everything to come.

Doyle smiled as he placed the phone back in its cradle. Things were definitely looking up. Buffy and Cordelia would be moving to a nicer place and be working better jobs soon. And if he wasn't mistaken, maybe he did have a chance with Cordy after all. Yes, life was definitely looking up.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^
Part 7
^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

Author's Note: Any information regarding liquor laws for the state of Washington come from the Washington State Liquor Control Board's website, found here:
http://www.liq.wa.gov/default.asp
My references may not be perfectly accurate...I had no intention of reading the probably over 100 pages of laws.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

~about two and a half months later~

"Ooomph!" Buffy groaned out loud as she lay in her bed, munching on pretzels and mayonnaise. She wiped off her hand on a napkin before letting it drift down to her bulging abdomen.

"Ya know, you don't have to kick so hard," she told the shifting body inside her as she lightly stroked the taut skin. "It's not like I could forget you're there."

The large bump kicked again before settling down. Buffy couldn't help but stare at her pregnant stomach in amazement. Sometimes it was still hard for her to accept that there was a little life growing inside of her. She thought that being only a couple of weeks from her due date that it would have finally hit her, but really it hadn't. No matter how many times she felt the baby kick, or found herself puking up everything in her stomach, or saw her child's image on the sonogram it was all still so unbelievable.

Maybe it was because she never thought she would be in this situation. When her Destiny had come calling, her entire focus had shifted to fighting evil, and surviving to see another day. Then...then Angel had appeared in her life. For a short while, she had wondered what it would be like to carry his children, but that dream had effectively been quelled with his 'I can't have kids' speech one dark night in a graveyard. Since then, children just hadn't been a part of her vision of the future, a future she wasn't even sure she would live to see.

Now, here she was, pregnant, and by the very vampire who had told her it wasn't possible...and who was now gone from her life. It was rather ironic, really. All of it was. Slayer and vampire fall in love, a truly paradoxical occurrence. Later, vampire leaves Slayer so that she can have a normal life, one that includes kids, only to leave her with a parting gift that had no logical explanation. A child. A little miracle created from their love. Yes, there really was some serious irony there.

Whoever pulled the controlling strings of her life was either completely evil, or just had a seriously twisted sense of humor. Regardless, it wasn't like she could change anything. Not that she wanted to. The child she was about to have was a miracle. It was created out of true, pure love. How many people got to experience that in their lifetimes? And how many of those got to bore a child from that love? Not very many, if she guessed correctly.

Her unexpected pregnancy had also forced her to pull her life together again. Maybe it shouldn't have taken something such as that for her to garner the strength to go on, but the truth was that Angel's departure had left her a broken person. She had no doubt that her death would have been imminent if things had remained status quo. Her mind had not been on slaying, and her physical state had been absolutely horrible. Sooner or later, some demon would have gotten the best of her.

But everything had changed with the realization that she was pregnant. Literally everything. Her life barely resembled what it had once been. A year ago she could have never dreamed that she would be in a new city, a new life, and living with Cordelia. No, that had definitely not been on the menu. But one of the few certainties in life was that it was never predictable.

Soon, her life would again be changing, this time because of the birth of her child. She was filled with excitement, and at the same time, deeply saddened by what was to come. Everything was as close to perfect as it could be, except that her friends, family, and her Angel weren't there to share it all with her. It was the latter that struck the deepest chord in her heart.

They should be going through all of this together. That was what couples were supposed to do. But he was gone, and she had no idea where. She couldn't help the warring emotions she felt over Angel's departure. Yes, there was a part of her that could understand his reasons, but then there was the part that was, unreasonably or not, angry with him. She should have had a say in their future, but he had taken that option away. And in the process he'd lost possibly the only opportunity to be a father.

Her heart ached at that thought. He would make a wonderful father. She knew he would. But it was not to be. Still, she couldn't help but wonder. Would he have rubbed her sore feet? Would he have held her hair back when she ran to the bathroom each morning? What would his face have looked like the first time he saw their tiny baby? She could almost picture him standing there with a blinding smile on his face as he held their child, wrapped in a soft blanket, within the safety of his arms.

A few stray tears cascaded down her cheeks as she thought of Angel and their baby. Even though he'd been gone almost nine months, he could still make her cry. He was her soulmate, though, and she'd lost him. How could she possibly ever not feel his loss?

She was surviving, though. Her friends, her real friends: Cordelia, and now Doyle and Lorne had helped her pull through and build a new life. And, thankfully, her pregnancy had progressed without any complications whatsoever. At least fate had been kind to her in that manner. If something had gone wrong with the baby, she really didn't think she'd have been able to go on, but that was something she just really didn't want to think about.

Sighing, she laid her hand back onto her stomach and rubbed her hand back and forth. As much as she loved being pregnant, she wouldn't be unhappy to have it over with. Trying to fall asleep on her back could be a real bitch half the time.

"How 'bout we get some juice, huh? Orange? Apple? Grape?" she felt a slight kick at the last option and laughed. "Grape it is then!"

With a conspicuous waddle, Buffy made her way out of her bedroom and into the living room. She couldn't help but sigh as she looked around their new apartment. Well, it wasn't really an apartment. It was an entire floor of a building, and a serious upgrade from where they had been living. They'd moved in almost a month and a half ago and she still wasn't used to the place.

Lorne and Doyle had sprung yet one more surprise on them, when a month after accepting Lorne's offer, they'd been ushered up to the third floor of their future home/place-of-business and found themselves face to face with a fully renovated, and furnished apartment. Apparently, unbeknownst to both her and Cordelia, Lorne had immediately started getting the place together after the phone call of their acceptance. His generosity still completely shocked her, but she wasn't about to question it. It was a much nicer place to live and was a lot larger which would come in handy once the baby was born.

Their floor of the building was divided up into a large living room, four bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms, and a full size kitchen, plus the random closets and storage spaces. Her bedroom alone was almost the size of their old apartment. Overall, it had a bit of an industrial feel due to the fact that it was a converted warehouse, but it had been decorated in a way that you really didn't notice. Not even Cordelia had found any grievances with the décor. The piece de resistance of the entire thing, in Buffy's slightly biased opinion, had to be the absolutely fabulous king sized bed that sat dead center in her room. The thing felt like heaven to her oft-aching back. Lorne had received a very enthusiastic hug for that little detail.

All in all, Buffy had very little to complain about in her new life. She had a wonderful place to live, great friends, and once the baby was born and relatively settled she'd have a steady, well-paying job. At the moment, she was only really helping with the planning. Her condition kept her from much else. Still, even though everything was working out, there was the ever present sadness in her heart over all that she had lost. She suspected it would always be there, but she was determined to get on with her life as best she could. It was the only thing she could do, and it was what her baby deserved.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

After retrieving, and then promptly guzzling, a large glass of juice, Buffy had opted to plop herself down on one of the plush forest green sofas in their living room rather than go back to her ever-so-comfy bed. She'd been lounging in it all day and figured it was time for a change of scenery. So for the last half hour she had been reading the latest issue of Cosmo with her feet propped up on the coffee table. Now that they were no longer eating off of the coffee table she could care less if feet were on it.

Hearing the elevator door open on the other side of the living room, Buffy looked up to see a dirty and dusty Cordelia stagger in. The brunette promptly walked into the room and flung herself into one of the chairs near where Buffy was sitting.

"God! Who knew working could be so much...work!" she exclaimed in utter exasperation which prompted her blonde haired friend to giggle. "Yeah, yeah, laugh it up! I don't see you helping."

Buffy gave Cordy a 'duh' look and gestured to her large belly. "I'm eight and a half months pregnant Cordelia!"

"Excuses, excuses," huffed Cordy with a wave of her hand. "Just so you know, once the baby is born, I'm making you do all my work."

"Gee, thanks ever so much," Buffy rolled her eyes.

"You're welcome," Cordy grinned at her. "It wouldn't be so bad if Lorne wasn't such a slave driver! He had me unpacking and cleaning all of the stuff he had stored away from his old club!"

Buffy instantly sobered at her words. "Cordy, we do owe him a lot. If it weren't for Lorne, we wouldn't have any of this."

"I know," she sighed dramatically. "But this manual labor crap sucks!"

As best she could, Buffy reached over and patted Cordy's leg. "It won't always be this bad. Once the club is up and running it'll be different."

"Speaking of which," stated Cordy, staring in dismay at her ruined nails. "Lorne said he's aiming to open on June 1st."

Buffy considered the date for a moment before speaking. "That doesn't sound too bad. It's about a month and a half after the baby should be born."

"Yeah, that's what he said. He could have everything ready sooner, but he wanted to give you some time to adjust," Cordy explain, giving up on the idea that she could repair her damaged nails.

"How's everything going? I haven't been down yet today," questioned Buffy, wondering if she'd missed anything important. The last week or so she'd pretty much been staying off her feet. Her doctor had told her it was better for her to avoid anything strenuous even though she was perfectly healthy.

"Not really. They finished up the last of the stage installation. Tomorrow they start on the bar area. I think the kitchen work is going to start soon now that they've walled off an area for it. Oh, and the guy who is doing the special lighting should be in later this week," the brunette recited her mental checklist. Even though the work was hard, she kinda liked being involved in something, and she did have a nose for business.

"Good. Sounds like everything is going according to plan," Buffy answered, pulling her feet off the coffee table with a minor struggle. "So...how's Doyle?"

Cordelia blushed at the question. "I don't know what you are talking about."

"Uh huh. Whatever. So that wasn't you who came in at one a.m. last night from Doyle's," the blonde stated, referring to the half-demon's apartment on the floor above theirs. Since there was so much extra space Lorne had offered him a place to stay on the fourth floor, in exchange for his help with the club, of course.

"Fine, fine. You caught me!" Cordy glared at her nosey friend. "We were just talking, though."

"Yup, sure. I believe you," Buffy smiled innocently.

"Anyways," Cordy decided to change the topic. "What did you do today, other than lounge in bed watching talk shows?"

"I was not watching talk shows!" Buffy narrowed her eyes at her friend. "I was watching movies."

"Pfft, yeah, whatever!" Cordy rolled her eyes.

"Actually, I did do something today," Buffy stated proudly. "That baby book I have says I should have a bag packed and ready once I enter my eighth month so that when labor starts it'll be right there and we won't have to rush around getting ready."

"Sounds like a good idea," Cordy nodded her head. "Where'd you put it?"

"It's right inside my bedroom door. I'll have to remember to tell Lorne and Doyle its there," Buffy made a mental note to do so.

"I still can't believe you never found out the baby's sex!" Cordy looked pointedly at Buffy. "Everything we bought had to be neutral colors since we didn't know what it was going to be!"

"I want it to be a surprise," Buffy stated, slightly frustrated. She'd had this conversation with Cordelia practically every other day.

"Whatever. I'd want to know if it were me. We can't even pick a name!" she exclaimed loudly.

"We?" an amused Buffy asked.

"Well, I have to make sure you don't pick something that will scar it for the rest of its life!" Cordy explained.

"Uh, huh," Buffy chuckled slightly. "At least the baby's room is almost done. I can't believe Lorne bought all that stuff for me."

"Yeah. We'd be screwed if it weren't for him," Cordy replied gratefully. "It was funny, though, watching him and Doyle trying to put all that stuff together."

"I know," Buffy laughed for a moment before the smile fell from her face as an image of her and Angel preparing the nursery flashed in her mind.

Cordelia noticed the suddenly sad look in Buffy's eyes and knew what she must have been thinking about. She knew she needed to change the subject before her friend was a puddle of tears again. "So...what do you want to get for dinner?"

Shaking the images out of her head, and silently thanking Cordy for stopping her brooding, Buffy pondered the question. "Dunno. What do you feel like?"

"I'm up for anything. Just don't make me watch you eat peanut butter and chicken again! Ugh!" Cordy cringed, thinking of the absolutely disgusting things Buffy had been ingesting regularly because of her wicked cravings.

They both laughed at the statement before going off to raid the kitchen for food. Deciding she was done working for the day, Cordy showered while Buffy cooked the pasta they'd chosen to eat. Afterwards, they settled onto their couches and watched a movie, something they hadn't had as much time to do since taking on their new jobs.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

~two days later~

The entire group, Buffy, Cordelia, Lorne, and Doyle, were seated in various places around the large office space on the second floor of the building going over some details for the club. It was the first time Buffy had been down to do some work in a couple days. Her excessively pregnant condition left her feeling exhausted most of the time, even when she wasn't really doing anything except watching tv.

"Ugh! Have you seen some of these resumes for the DJ position?" snorted Buffy, tossing down the papers on her cluttered oak desk.

"That bad?" Lorne frowned and looked up from his paperwork. For whatever reason, they were having a terrible time finding a DJ.

"Half of them are under eighteen! Can they even work in a place that serves alcohol? For that matter, can we work here considering we aren't twenty-one yet?" Buffy suddenly wondered.

"You can work in a place that serves alcohol when you are eighteen, but I'm not sure about anyone younger. I'd have to check on it," Lorne replied, shuffling around the paper work in his hands.

"Ok. Good. Still doesn't help us find a DJ, though. None of these resumes are very good. Or at least they don't look good to me, but you can check them over," Buffy placed the papers in the 'for Lorne' pile on her desk.

"Ok," Lorne answered absentmindedly, focusing on what he was reading.

"What's got you all distracted," Cordy waved a hand in front of his face.

"Oh, sorry," the green-skinned demon sighed and rubbed a hand over his eyes. "I'm just going over the liquor law information. Any place that serves alcohol has to adhere to strict rules, and of course, they differ for each state so I'm just making sure I've got everything covered."

"There are laws for serving liquor?" Cordy asked, wrinkling her nose at the tediousness of it.

"Yeah...and there aren't just a few! They have to make sure everything is done properly, and that minors can't get a hold of alcohol," he explained, setting his papers down. "For example, in the state of Washington, anyone who serves booze must be trained, apply for and carry a permit."

"Huh. Never realized there was so much to it," Buffy shrugged. "Glad you know all about this stuff."

"I got ya covered, Sunshine," Lorne laughed lightly and then got up off the couch. "Whadya say we call it a night and get some dinner? Pizza, on me?"

"Oooh! Can we get anchovies and pineapple???" Buffy's eyes twinkled and her stomach growled.

The rest of the group cringed, suddenly feeling less hungry than they had been. They'd indulge her, of course, knowing from experience that it wasn't wise to piss the hormonally unbalanced Slayer off.

"Whatever you want, Buffy! We'll, uh, even get you your very own pizza," Doyle offered gallantly even though his ulterior motive was so that he and the others could have a more appetizing pizza.

"Goody!" Buffy cheered with a grin. Slowly, she pulled herself out of her chair and turned to the coat rack behind her desk.

The door to the office area opened, revealing a muscular black man in jeans and a t-shirt. The man stopped in the doorway, waiting for someone to notice him.

"Yes, Gunn?" Lorne paused in the act of putting away his paper work when he saw the man standing there. Charles Gunn was an acquaintance of his who was familiar with the demon world and knowledgeable about safety issues. He was going to handle security once the club was open, but in the meantime, he was helping with the preparation.

"There's, uh, someone here to see Buffy," Gunn answered uneasily. Knowing all the things he knew about this world, he was suspicious of pretty much everyone.

"Huh? Me?" Buffy squeaked out in surprise, her back still to the door as she tried to get her coat on. Who the hell could be asking for her? Practically everyone she knew in Seattle was already in the room, except for Tara her former boss.

"Yeah, asked for Buffy Summers," Gunn stated, tossing a slight glance behind his shoulder and stepping out of the line of vision.

Buffy frowned, growing worried over who would ask for her by name like that. She was about to turn around when she heard Cordy gasp. Fearing what was about to happen, Buffy cautiously rotated to see whoever was here looking for her. The sight that greeted her caused her eyes to widen in shock.

"Willow?" she breathed out heavily, her heart tripling its rate.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^
Part 8
^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

"Oh my God!" Buffy whispered harshly at seeing her former best friend, and also Oz, standing only a few feet away.

"Buffy! You're all right!" the redhead raced into the room and pulled Buffy into a tight hug.

Buffy was shocked into stillness over the sudden appearance of Willow. A desperate urge arose inside of her to run and never look back, but well first off, running was very much out of the question considering her condition, and second, she didn't think her feet would move even if she wanted them too. Her mind couldn't seem to process the fact that Willow, one of her best friends and one of the people who had deeply hurt her, was clutching at her stunned body. Not knowing what to do, her eyes looked to Cordelia, pleading for help.

"What are you doing here, Willow?" Cordy responded to her friend's silent cry for help.

At hearing the new voice, Willow released Buffy and spun around to face its owner. "Cordelia?"

"Who did you think it was? The Queen of England?" the brunette snapped harshly. She'd never really been friends with Willow, and after what had happened to Buffy she thought even less of her.

"But...but...what are you doing here?' Willow stuttered, looking from Cordy and then to Buffy. "Together?"

"I think the more important question is what are you doing here? Especially after what you and your merry band of friends did!" Cordy folded her arms over her chest and stared angrily.

Willow's eyes immediately went downward, her shoulders slouching, at the reminder of what had gone on in Sunnydale. "I'm sorry," she whispered softly.

"Yeah, well, it's a little late for that. Don't you think?" snorted Cordy, not backing down.

"Cordy!" Buffy spoke quietly, giving her friend a look. She was feeling a torrent of emotions. Mostly, there was anger, but there was still that part of her that remembered Willow was once her best friend.

"Umm, maybe we should, uh, go," Doyle interrupted the scene before him from his spot next to Lorne. Neither man had much of an idea what was going on except that the redhead was named Willow and was obviously someone both Buffy and Cordelia knew.

"No," Buffy shook her head and tried to gather herself back together. "Well, I mean you can go if you want, but you're my friends and you can stay."

Realizing there were other people in the room, Willow spun around and flinched slightly at the sight of the two men, well, actually it was one man, and one obvious demon. She backed up slightly to get closer to Oz who had come to stand next to her.

"Don't worry, they're fine. Doyle is a...friend, and Lorne, the green guy, is our boss and landlord," Buffy stated, rubbing her now throbbing temples. Sighing, she sat herself back down in her desk chair, knowing that dinner was just going to have to wait. "What are you doing here, Willow?"

Cordelia moved to speak up on Buffy's behalf when Doyle put a hand on her arm, "Leave it, Princess. They need to work this out." Although he hated seeing Buffy distressed, he knew it would be better for her if she had a resolution to something from her past.

"Buffy...y-you just disappeared. I...we...were worried!" Willow exclaimed, her face reflecting the hurt she was feeling.

"Gee, sorry, Willow! What was I supposed to do when everyone made it perfectly clear that they wanted nothing to do with me!" Buffy bit out angrily, leaning her elbows on her desk. This was so not what she needed right now.

"You didn't give me a chance. Buffy...you just sprung that on me, us, and I didn't know how to react. I was shocked, and hurt you hadn't told me, and of course I was angry over the risk you had taken. I just needed some time to let it set in," Willow explained softly, her voice beseeching forgiveness.

"You just sat there and let them treat me like dirt," Buffy turned her head away from those present and hastily wiped at the tears beginning to fall. She didn't want to cry, not anymore, but she couldn't stop herself.

Willow walked over to where Buffy was sitting and kneeled in front of her. "I'm sorry, Buffy. You'll never know how bad I feel about what happened that day."

Looking into her (former?) friend's eyes, Buffy could see that Willow was honestly sorry for her actions. As much as she had been hurt over what had gone on that day, she missed her friend. "Thank you."

"I hope you'll be able to forgive me someday," the redhead whispered. "I-I went to your house, the day after...everything...to apologize, but your Mom....s-she slammed the door in my face. I was so worried that something was really wrong. I called Oz and we waited until your Mom left and snuck into the house. When I saw that most of your stuff was gone, I panicked. We went to Giles', but he didn't answer the door, and Xander...well, you don't want to know what Xander said...," she trailed off, fighting the tears threatening to fall.

Oz, seeing his girlfriend's struggles, put a hand on her shoulder and continued. "We looked all over town for you, but obviously didn't find you. Willow's been searching on the net ever since."

The room was quiet for a few short minutes while those present digested the conversation and let their emotions settle. Cordelia was tempted to get Gunn and have him usher Willow and Oz out of the room. Buffy had been doing so well, and now she was sitting at her desk crying. This really wasn't what the pregnant Slayer needed, especially not with her due date so close. But Cordy begrudgingly admitted that Doyle was probably right. It would be better in the long run if Buffy were to make some peace with all that had happened before they left Sunnydale. So instead of asking Willow and Oz to leave, she grabbed a couple tissues from her purse before walking over to the blonde's desk and handing them to her.

"How did you manage to find us...or rather Buffy?" Cordy asked as she sat herself on the edge of the desk.

Willow looked strangely at Cordy, completely flabbergasted to not only find Buffy, but to find her with Cordelia of all people. That was definitely unexpected. Bottom line, though, she was just happy to have finally found Buffy and that her friend seemed to be all right. Sighing, she sat down on the ground near Buffy and folded her hands in her lap.

"It was kind of an accident, actually," Willow started her explanation. "We'd been searching for a while, but there was nothing. Then, umm, Oz's band wanted to go on tour, so I was researching places to play on the 'net. I came across information for a club that would be opening soon called 'Black Destiny'. It sounded interesting so I looked into it further and saw on one of the site's pages to contact Lorne or Buffy for information on guest bands and it gave a phone number. Something told me it had to be you...and well, here we are."

Doyle gave Lorne an annoyed look. "I thought I told you to take her name off the contact info on the website."

"Whoa, whoa! Hold up there, Mr. Protector. I did. They just must have seen it before I had the site changed," Lorne defended himself. Doyle had not been happy to find the Slayer's name, well at least just her first name, advertised on the club's new website, saying anyone could figure out it was the Slayer and come after her.

"Sorry," Doyle mumbled, shoving his hands in his pockets. He knew he was being perhaps over cautious. He just didn't want to unnecessarily put Buffy in any more danger than she already was.

The blonde Slayer in question shook her head at the two and was about to speak when her stomach decided to remind her it was dinner time and growled loudly. Everyone in the room laughed and eyed her in amusement causing her to blush. "Sorry...my stomach has a mind of its own these days."

"That's okay, Sweetpea. We understand. The offer for pizza still stands. Your...," Lorne paused for a second. "Friends are welcome to join us and then you can finish talking after we get you fed."

Buffy ran a hand through her hair and glanced at Willow out of the corner of her eye. There was still so much to be said, and truth be told, she was still angry. How could she not be angry when the person who was her best friend, at the time, had turned a blind eye while Xander had said the horrible things he did and Giles had mocked her and walked away? She had needed her best friend the most then and Willow hadn't been there. On the other hand, she could understand what Willow must have been going through. The question was, could she forgive her for it? Maybe...probably....she really didn't know, but she supposed she could try.

"Yeah, I think food would be good," Buffy agreed, pushing herself out of the chair once again. She turned to the two guests, deciding she might as well extend the olive branch. "Willow, you and Oz are welcome to come."

"A-are you sure it's okay? We don't want to intrude," the redhead questioned in her typical shyness.

Buffy saw Cordelia about to say something and silenced her with a glare. "Please come."

"Umm, sure, okay," Willow mumbled, taking Oz's hand as he offered it to help her up.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

A little while later, after having a tense and quiet dinner at a local pizza parlor, Buffy, Cordelia, Doyle, Willow and Oz were in the elevator on their way up to Buffy and Cordy's apartment while Lorne had decided to do a little more work down in the club before going home for the night. They'd decided to go up to the apartment to talk some more since it was more comfortable there. In the meantime, they were all silently standing in the elevator unsure of how to act or what to say.

Doyle coughed slightly and decided to break the tension. "Umm, do you two have a place to stay tonight?"

"Not really, we came straight here after getting to Seattle. We just figured we'd find a hotel somewhere," Willow shrugged, looking to Oz who nodded.

"Well, err, I have an extra room...actually three of them, on the floor above. Yer welcome to stay there," the half-demon offered before briefly wondering if he should have asked Buffy if it was okay first.

"Umm...w-we don't want to impose," the redhead stuttered slightly, feeling awkward accepting a room from someone she didn't really know even if Buffy seemed to trust him.

"It's fine, Willow. There's no sense in getting a hotel room when we have extra space," Buffy stated, smiling slightly at Doyle to show it was okay.

"Oh, I...umm..sure...if it's okay with Oz," she looked to Oz for confirmation.

"Yeah, fine with me," the ever-quiet Oz answered.

"Good," Buffy nodded just as the elevator came to stop at their apartment. "This is our floor. Doyle, why don't you go get a room ready for them."

"Yes, ma'am," he saluted her with a chuckle and stayed in the elevator as they exited.

The moment Willow left the elevator, which opened directly into the living room, her eyes went wide with surprise. "Wow. You guys live here?"

"Yup, home sweet home," Cordy replied, her voice not entirely pleasant.

Buffy took off her coat and hung it in the closest in one corner of the living room. "Umm, why don't you guys have a seat on one of the couches. Do you want something to drink?"

Both Willow and Oz declined the drinks and sat down next to each other. Cordy took a seat on the stylish black leather chair while Buffy nervously wandered the room. None of them knew how to start the conversation that was to follow even though they knew there were things that needed to be talked about. Willow finally took the initiative and asked what she'd been wanting to know all night.

"How did this all happen? I mean...how did you two end up here together? And this...the jobs, and the apartment...," she trailed off, her eyes wandering over the rather nice living room.

"It's kind of a long story," Buffy mumbled from where she was leaning against one of the walls. "Let me go change into something more comfortable and then we can talk."

Nearly and hour later Buffy and Cordelia had filled Willow and Oz in on everything that had happened that led to their current situation. From Buffy's falling out with her Mother, to the accidental meeting at the cheap motel in Sunnydale with Cordelia, to the trip to Seattle, to living together and then meeting Doyle, and finally to how they'd come to live in such a nice apartment and have great jobs. For their part, Willow and Oz had sat and listened quietly, taking in every little detail.

"Ugh," Buffy groaned uncomfortably. "I shouldn't have drunk all that juice. I'll be right back."

Willow watched as Buffy waddled out of the room and toward the bathroom before turning to Cordelia. "How is she doing?"

Cordy looked at her with accusing eyes, "didn't she just tell you?"

"Yes, but I mean how is she *really* doing?" the redhead questioned in concern.

"She's..," Cordy sighed and shook her head a little. "She's doing better than she was. The first couple months she was really quiet and I could hear her crying a lot, but it's gotten not been as bad lately."

"I can't imagine how hard this has been on her," Willow glanced in the direction Buffy had gone.

"Why'd you do it Willow? You were her best friend. She needed you," Cordelia asked bluntly.

"Cordy, I'll never forgive myself for not standing up for her that day. But put yourself in my shoes," she stated softly. "First she told us she was pregnant, and then that the father was Angel. I mean, we all knew what could happen if they were together. I was just in shock. That whole day seems like a blur, but I know I was wrong not to support her."

"I'm glad you know that," came a voice from off to their left. Willow looked up to see Buffy standing there listening to them.

"Buffy," Willow squeaked in surprise.

"Willow...I-I know you had every right to be angry at me and upset...but it hurt that you just sat there the whole time," Buffy stated as she walked back to the couch and carefully sat herself down. Her fingers gently rubbed her abdomen as she fought back the tears that were threatening to fall.

"I'm so sorry, Buffy. I know that doesn't mean much, but I am. I just hope someday you'll be able to forgive me," spoke Willow barely above a whisper.

"It still hurts, Willow, and it will for a while, but I'd like to try. I miss my best friend," Buffy replied in an equally quiet voice.

"Oh, Buffy," Willow cried out and reached over to pull her friend into a hug. She knew it would take her a while to regain her friend's trust, but she was glad that they were getting a chance to make things work.

The two girls embraced each other for a long while, both shedding tears over their trials and tribulations, until Buffy pulled away. "I'm sorry I cried all over you."

"It's okay, I did it to you, too," Willow laughed, brushing at the tears that had wet her face.

"Soo...I hate to ask this, but how are things in Sunnydale?" Cordy asked out of the blue, wanting to break up the endless crying going on around her.

"Oh, well, umm, t-they're fine," Willow answered hesitantly.

Buffy and Cordelia shared a look, not believing the redhead one bit.

"What's wrong?" Buffy demanded, looking straight at Willow.

"There's nothing wrong...," she trailed off.

"Things there are just...different," Oz filled in for her.

"Different? How?" inquired Buffy, somewhat nervous.

"Well, you're not there so we really had no reason to do the demon fighting thing anymore. We haven't talked to Xander since right after you left. I...I tried to talk him about...well, you know, and it was useless. So we just kinda stopped talking," Willow told them, holding Oz's hand tightly in hers. "And Giles..."

"What about Giles," Buffy interrupted, feeling worried for her one-time father figure despite how he treated her.

"He...he moved back to England about two months after you left. He said he knew you weren't coming back this time," Willow replied delicately.

"Oh," Buffy mumbled, not knowing what else to say.

"He calls every once in a while to check up. I think he likes being back in England," Willow shrugged and then shared a look with Oz, knowing the next thing she had to say would ruffle some feathers.

Buffy noticed the look, a sinking feeling developing in her gut. "What?"

"Umm...there's...uh, another Slayer has been handling the demons in Sunnydale," Willow stated, avoiding looking at Buffy.

"What?...but...but...," Buffy stuttered in disbelief. "Who?"

"Faith," Willow muttered in disgust.

If she had been physically able to, Buffy would have shot up out of her seat. Instead, she only sat up straight. "WHAT?!?" she screeched loudly.

"She...she came out of her coma about three months ago. The hospital called me when they couldn't get a hold of either Giles or you. By the time Oz and I got there, she had disappeared s-,"

"Damnit," Buffy cut her off. "I knew something like that would happen. How'd she become Miss Slayer again?"

"We started looking for her and found her at the same cheap motel she stayed at when she first came to Sunnydale. She wouldn't answer the door so Oz picked the lock and we found her sitting in a corner in the dark. She was shaking and her eyes...they just had this look in them. I don't even know how to explain it," Willow explained, shuddering at the memory.

"It was like she had no clue what was going on," Oz supplied for her.

"Next thing we knew, these Council goons burst into the room and grabbed Faith. They shot her up with something and took her away. It was like we weren't even in the room. Next thing we know, Faith is patrolling like everything is peachy and there's a new Watcher in town," she finished explaining.

"Is it just me, or is that entirely weird?" Cordy spoke up, frowning.

"No, it's not just you. I wonder what they did to her," Buffy pondered, not at all trusting the Council or Faith.

"I called Giles to tell him about it and he thinks that the Council might have given her something when she was in the coma to wipe out some of her memory, or some kind of behavior modification. It's the only thing he could come up with, but he doesn't know for sure since the Council's cut him off," the redhead relayed, yawning after she'd finished speaking.

"It's wouldn't surprise me," Buffy shook her head, remembering the test they'd put her through on her eighteenth birthday. "So she's just out their patrolling like everything's fine?"

"Yeah, as far as we know. So far no dead humans have turned up that could have been her. I guess whatever they did to her is working for now," Willow replied, yawning again.

Buffy noticed her sleepiness and looked at the clock on the wall. "You guys must be exhausted. Why don't you go up to Doyle's and get some sleep? We can talk more tomorrow."

"Thanks. We've been up since early this morning," Willow blinked her eyes, fighting the exhaustion that was quickly settling over her.

"Cordy? Can you take them up and show them their room?" requested Buffy of her friend.

"Yeah, sure," Cordy shrugged, getting out of her chair. "Do you guys need to get your stuff?"

"Yeah, it's down in the van," Oz nodded, helping his tired Willow up from the couch.

Buffy watched as the three left the apartment and the events of the evening finally started hitting her. She was still surprised that they'd managed to track her down. There was still a large part of her that was hurt over everything, but really, she was glad to have Willow back in her life. It would take some time to rebuild their friendship to what it had once been, and maybe they'd never again reach that point, but she felt better having made peace with her best friend.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

~a few days later~

Willow laughed as Cordelia told them about how Doyle had almost jumped an old lady as they were walking down the street one day because he'd thought they were being followed. They were all sitting around the club's office talking about random things. It'd been three days since their arrival in Seattle, and since that first day, they had pretty much avoided talking about anything serious. The closest they'd come to it was when Willow had asked about the baby and how the pregnancy was going. Willow hadn't missed the sad look on Buffy's face as she talked about her unborn child. She knew that Angel was the cause, but she hadn't brought it up, not knowing if Buffy would want to discuss the love of her life that had walked out on her.

So instead of rehashing the past further, Buffy and Cordelia had showed them around the club and told them of all the plans they had. Oz had been quite interested in the music aspect and talked at length with Lorne about DJ's, bands and such. They all seemed to be enjoying their time together. Even Cordelia had eased up a bit about Willow's presence.

Their casual conversation was suddenly interrupted when Buffy grunted loudly and clutched at her stomach.

"What's wrong?!?" everyone on the room who was not Buffy questioned at once.

"M-my water just broke. I t-think I'm in labor!" she raised her head showing her eyes, wide with fright.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^
Part 9
^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

Cordelia nearly fell off her seat at the words that came from Buffy's mouth. "BUT IT'S NOT TIME! YOU STILL HAVE 2 WEEKS TO GO!!!" she shouted loudly and pointed at the wall calendar with a big red circle around the approximate due date.

"I don't think the baby cares...ugh," she doubled over as more pain rippled through her abdomen. Didn't those books say labor was supposed to start out slow? Buffy was sure they had, but obviously, she had to do things the difficult way, just like everything else in her life.

Sheer panic took over the room as everyone started talking and moving around at once. In any other situation, Buffy would have found it endlessly amusing, but at the moment, it was just annoying as hell. Her attempts to break up the confusion were met with deaf ears as all of the other occupants of the room were too busy arguing. She shook her head and wondered if she'd be better off getting herself to the hospital. It could take them two hours just do decide what do to.

Willow, realizing that they were only making things worse, took control of the situation. "Everybody STOP!"

The chatter and movement in the room ceased, each person turning to stare at the redhead who'd just shouted at them. When Willow saw that she had everyone's attention, she proceeded.

"Ok...now...Oz, go down and get the van, pull it up to the curb in front of the club and wait for us. Lorne, go upstairs and get Buffy's bag. It's just inside her bedroom. Doyle and Cordy, you two help Buffy get her coat on and get her downstairs. I'm going to call the hospital and let them know we are on our way...err, well, I will once someone tells me where we are going," she finished off her orders, but noticed everyone just standing their staring at her. "MOVE IT, PEOPLE!"

Willow's final directive sent its recipients scurrying from the room in order to carry out their chores. Despite the pain and nervousness she was feeling, Buffy giggled at the sight of her quiet, shy friend taking charge. Her amusement was cut short as another contraction wracked through her body.

The next minutes flew by in a rush of words and hasty movements as Cordy and Doyle stuffed Buffy's arms into her coat and supported her to the elevator. They staggered through the club, through the front door and found Oz as well as Lorne and Willow waiting in the van for them. After a short argument over where they should put Buffy, making her feeling somewhat like an object, they settled on the open area in the back and took off for the hospital.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

Outside the delivery room, both Doyle and Oz winced when they heard a blood-curdling scream come from Buffy. Each contraction seemed to be bringing a louder and louder reaction from the Slayer. They could only imagine what was going on inside the room where Buffy was about to have her baby, and both were just a little glad that they'd opted to wait in the hallway.

"Maybe I should have brought earplugs," Doyle mumbled half to himself and half to Oz.

"No kidding," Oz agreed, his thoughts drifting to what Willow would be like in that situation.

Inside the room, Buffy was covered in sweat and panting as if she'd just run a marathon. Cordelia stood on one side, holding a cool cloth to Buffy's forehead while Willow stood on the other side hoping that her hand would survive this ordeal. The labor was progressing extremely quickly, especially for someone having her first child, but rapid pace did nothing to ease the painful contractions. Willow wanted to shout in relief as Buffy finally released her hand until she found herself being pulled closer to Buffy by her sleeve.

"I am never, and I mean NEVER, HAVING SEX AGAIN!" the blonde screamed through gritted teeth, receiving a mild chuckle from her doctor. Her very male doctor. Buffy turned her glare to the man between her legs, "why don't YOU try squeezing something the size of a watermelon out of YOUR body!"

The doctor ignored the ranting, having heard it many, many times before. "Just a few more pushes, Buffy."

"You can do it, Buffy. Soon you'll be able to hold your baby," encouraged Willow, picking up Buffy's hand once again.

"Yeah, and we'll finally know what it's going to be!" Cordelia added, removing the cloth and re-soaking it in cold water.

Willow rolled her eyes at the comment and then soon found herself distracted by the death grip on her hand as another contraction seized her friend. The next few minutes flew by in a haze of words and movement as the doctor began the delivery of the baby.

"One more! PUSH!" the doctor urged from the end of the bed.

Buffy fought the urge impale her doctor with a stake and clutched at her propped up knees. With a deep breath, she pushed as hard as possible, releasing one final scream. She fell back to the bed, panting, as the first cries of her baby reached her ears.

"Congratulations, Buffy! It's a girl!" he held up the newborn for Buffy, and the others to see.

If she hadn't already known what love at first site was like, Buffy would have the very moment her eyes landed on the precious baby that was hers. Tears freely streamed down her cheeks as she took in each and every inch of the screaming child in the doctor's hands. Of their own free will, her arms reached out, silently pleading with the doctor to let her hold her baby. Happily obligingly, he carefully placed the little girl on Buffy's chest and stepped back, a smile on his face at the sight of the happy mother.

Buffy stared in utter awe at the tiny bundle gazing up at her. Never in her life had she felt what she was feeling right then. This small, helpless person was her daughter. Her DAUGHTER! The very idea was mind boggling, but yet it felt so natural, so perfect. She sobered for a moment. Well...it wasn't entirely perfect. There was one key ingredient missing, her Angel. She wished that he could be standing there by her side, a goofy grin plastered on his face as he watched her hold their child. But he wasn't there. So instead she held on tightly to her daughter, knowing it was her last, and only, link to the man who would forever hold a piece of her heart.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

A timid knock on the door aroused Buffy as she dozed. Opening her eyes and raising her head slightly, she saw Cordy peeking her head into the room with an apologetic look on her face.

"Hey," Buffy mumbled, rubbing her eyes.

"Hey. Sorry to bother you," apologized Cordy, taking a step into the room. "Are you up for guests?"

"Yeah," she spoke, letting a small yawn out. "But not for long, and tell them to be quite. I don't want to wake her up."

"Kay," Cordy nodded and looked toward the bassinet next to the bed where the baby was sleeping. She opened the door and motioned, murmured a few words to the people on the other side and then allowed them to enter.

"Hey, Buffy," Oz greeted her quietly.

"You look exhausted," Doyle pointed out bluntly.

"Gee, what a gentleman," Buffy chuckled, making herself more comfortable, which was difficult considering her body ached all over.

"She just gave birth you moron!" Cordy whacked him lightly on the shoulder.

"I know," Doyle grinned teasingly.

Willow walked over to the bassinet and gazed down at the sleeping newborn. "She's beautiful, Buffy!"

"I know," Buffy answered, a dazzling smile gracing her face. She reached a hand out and placed a feather-light touch on her daughter's cheek.

"Speaking of *she*," Cordy interjected, cocking her head and looking at the baby. "Have you decided on a name yet?"

Buffy looked up at her friends, chewing on her lip. "Yeah."

"Well?" the ex-cheerleader asking impatiently.

"Ashlynn Darcy Summers," Buffy recited contentedly.

The smile on Doyle's face slipped minutely. Sharing a look with Buffy, he nodded his head almost imperceptibly. "It's perfect."

"I agree," Willow smiled as she leaned back against Oz.

"Hmm, well, it could have been worse. Of course, anything is better than Buffy," Cordelia pondered out loud, ignoring the annoyed glare from Buffy. "Where'd you come up with it?"

Buffy shrugged, casting her eyes down to her hands which were fiddling with the hem of the blanket. "I looked at baby sites on the 'net."

Cordelia frowned at the evasive answer, but decided not to push it. She'd question Doyle about it later. The look he'd shared with Buffy hadn't been missed by her. "Well, I suppose it'll do."

"Thank you so much, Cordy," Buffy snort indignantly before yawning once more.

"I think we should let Buffy get some sleep," Oz interrupted the friendly bickering.

"Okay," Doyle agreed and then turned to Buffy. "We're going to make sure someone is here at all times. I don't want to take any chances while you're here in the hospital. I doubt anything would happen, nobody really knows that the Slayer is even in Seattle, but I don't want to take any chances."

"Sure, whatever," Buffy murmured, her eyes already drifting closed.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

A few hours later, Willow gently opened the door to Buffy's room, intent on making sure Buffy was doing okay without waking her up, but found her friend sitting up in bed, nursing her daughter. The redhead blushed furiously, mumbling her apologies before attempting to leave the room.

"No, it's okay, Will. You can stay," Buffy motioned for her to have a seat with her free hand.

Willow conceded, albeit it nervously, but then again, she supposed it was a natural thing for a mother to breast feed her child. She was still having trouble processing the very real fact that Buffy was a mother. They were the same age and she couldn't even begin to imagine herself being a parent, but Buffy had always been stronger, emotionally and physically, than her.

"How come you're still here?" Buffy pondered out loud.

"Oh, well, Doyle and Cordy decided to go out and get something to eat so Oz and I are on 'guard duty'," she repeated Doyle's choice phrasing. "He's a bit overprotective."

"Yeah, he is," Buffy glanced down at her daughter. "But I guess he has reason to worry, and he's been a really good friend."

"So, uh, h-how are you doing?" she stuttered awkwardly, trying to keep her eyes off Buffy's bared chest.

"I'm...good, considering. I think my Slayer powers are speeding up the healing process a little. I don't feel as sore as a couple hours ago," Buffy relayed in relief, her eyes fixated on the suckling of her daughter.

"That's good," Willow nodded, relaxing a bit. "The whole...process seemed a bit, uh, painful."

"That's putting it mildly," Buffy grimaced at the memory. "Those baby books do nothing to prepare you for what it feels like."

"Well, if they told the whole truth, they'd probably scare everyone off from having kids," joked Willow, handing Buffy the burping rag she was trying to reach.

"True," agreed Buffy heartily while lifting the baby to burp her. The action seemed almost natural despite the newness of it.

Once through, she rocked the baby for a few moments, lulling her to sleep. She supposed the ordeal of being born had worn not just herself out, but also her daughter, because the newborn was soon fast asleep. Placing her back into the bassinet, Buffy tucked the blanket around her, staring at the wonder that was her daughter. The very phrase daughter still struck a chord in her heart. She raised her fingertips to her lips, kissing the lightly, before placing them on her baby's cheek.

Willow smiled at the gesture, watching the interaction between the two. "You are a natural with her."

"Ya know," Buffy started and sat herself up a little higher in the bed. "It feels kinda natural. I thought I'd be nervous, and not know what to do, but I'm not."

"Motherly instinct," filled in Willow.

"Maybe," Buffy shrugged noncommittally. "I've been meaning to ask you. When are you guys going back to Sunnydale?" The question had been on her mind, but she kept forgetting to ask. She knew they'd have to go back sooner or later, despite how much they'd miss each other.

"Umm, well, actually...," she paused, not sure of what she wanted to say.

"I mean, I know you have to go back, but I'm going to miss you," Buffy tried to hold back the frown that was threatening.

"We've, uh,...well, we've been considering staying," Willow spoke, stumbling over her words. She wasn't sure how Buffy would take the idea of her and Oz moving to Seattle.

"What?" Buffy spoke, a little louder than intended. Her eyes shot to her sleeping daughter, relieved to find her still fast asleep.

"We haven't actually decided, but we have been talking about it," Willow furthered.

"But...but...what about everything in Sunnydale? And don't you have to go back to school?" Buffy questioned in shock over what Willow had said. She'd figured they were on Spring Break and that was why they'd been able to stay a few days, and that they'd have to return soon.

"Umm...well, I kinda didn't register this semester," Willow replied meekly.

"You what? But why?" Buffy questioned, totally flabbergasted. Willow and school were synonymous. She couldn't believe her friend had dropped out.

Willow sighed and leaned back in her chair. "I decided to take a semester off. Things were kinda...rough."

"What happened?" Buffy was suddenly feeling a little guilty over things she must have missed in Willow's life.

"Right after last semester ended, my parents came home one night and informed me that they had sold the house and were moving to South Africa for some research thing. They told me I could go with them, or...not go with them," she explained, trying to mask the hurt at her parents' careless actions. "I decided to stay."

"Wow....that's harsh," Buffy frowned, remembering how clueless Willow's family seemed to be.

"Yeah, well, that's them for you," Willow rolled her eyes.

"So what did you do?" asked Buffy, taking a sip from the glass of water on her bed-side table.

"They didn't offer to help me find a place to live, so I ended up staying at Oz's house. His parents didn't seem to care. I was going to go back to college for the second semester. My parents had said they would still pay for school, but...I don't know...I just needed some time," the redhead conveyed, still feeling confusion over where her life was going.

"Okay...so, you don't have to go back to school this semester. What about Oz? Wasn't he going?" Buffy continued her questioning, trying to figure how it would be possible for them to move. Not that she didn't want them to, it was just unexpected.

Willow shrugged for what seemed like the millionth time. "He ended up not going second semester either. The band had been talking about touring so he didn't want to deal with classes and road dates."

"Understandable," Buffy concurred in agreement. She'd often wondered when she was still back in Sunnydale how college was going to mesh with her slaying, but she'd escaped that responsibility. Of course, now she had an even bigger one; her daughter.

"Yeah, so we both just skipped out," Willow stated, tugging on her sleeve. "I've been working on my magic, and Oz has been practicing with the band."

"What about the band? How can you move with them being located in Sunnydale? And what about the tour?" Buffy added to her already numerous questions.

"See, that's the funny thing," began Willow, shaking her head slightly. "Oz and I had been looking up places for them to play, and we'd just found the information that led us to what we thought was you, when Devon just up and decided he didn't want to be in the band any more."

"He didn't want to-...ok, why doesn't that surprise me?" Buffy chuckled at the oddness that was Devon.

"I know, really" Willow laughed along with Buffy. "So we don't exactly have anything holding us in Sunnydale. And...and it's just not the same without you there."

"Oh, Willow," Buffy fought, and lost, the battle not to cry. She reached her arms out to hug her friend.

The two females, glad to once again be a part of each other's lives, embraced tightly, crying happy tears, until Buffy winced in mild pain. Willow pulled back and looked at her in confusion.

"Did I hurt you," she asked in concern.

"Oh...not really...they, umm," Buffy looked down at her breasts. "They're, uh, just a little tender."

Willow turned a brilliant shade of red, but eventually both girl burst into quiet laughter over the silly situation.

"I guess I'll have to get used to that kind of thing," Willow stated. "The breast feeding, and all that."

"Yeah," Buffy smiled and looked down at her peacefully sleeping daughter. "So I guess you're moving?"

"Guess so," Willow sat back down in her chair. "I'll have to talk to Oz, but you know him. He goes along with anything."

"Yup, that's Oz for ya," Buffy stated knowingly.

"We'll probably have to go back to Sunnydale to get the rest of our stuff, though," Willow added, internally groaning over having to drive all the way back home, actually she corrected herself, what used to be her home.

"I'm glad you're staying," Buffy looked at her friend sincerely.

"Me, too," Willow smiled happily.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

"What was all that about?" Cordelia questioned out of the blue the moment she and Doyle left the hospital.

"What was what about, Princess?" he turned to look at his sort of girlfriend, wondering what he'd done this time. He seemed to be able to piss her off at the drop of a pin.

"Back at the hospital." At his confused look, she explained further. "Buffy told us the baby's name, and you gave her this look. Then she got that sad face. Ya know the one that means she is thinking of Angel."

"Oh, that. It was...er it...," he blustered, surprised she'd picked up on the fleeting glance to Buffy. "It was just the meaning of the names she picked."

"The meanings?" Cordy repeated, not understanding.

"The names, both first and middle, are Irish," he told her, thinking it would make the issue clearer.

"So?" Cordy looked at him with a raised eyebrow.

Doyle sighed. He lo-...err, liked her dearly, but she could be a bit dense at times. "Angel is Irish, and she picked Irish names. The names also have meanings which are a bit...significant."

"Oh," Cordy mumbled, suddenly getting his point. "What are the meanings?"

"Well, they tend to vary a bit, but Ashlynn can mean 'vision' or 'dream', which you can kinda see why she'd pick that. But that other one...," he trailed off, his thoughts on the heartbroken Slayer. "Darcy can often mean 'descendant of the dark one'."

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

~a few days later~

She was finally alone. Ever since returning from the hospital earlier that day, Buffy had been constantly surrounded by people. They had all wanted to see her and the baby and had crowded around her at every possible moment. It was completely overwhelming and tiring. Now, though, she was alone in her room, her cooing daughter cradled in her arms as she stood staring out of the large window next to her bed. She couldn't help but stare at the tiny life that was her daughter.

Ashlynn Darcy Summers.

Buffy wondered if maybe that hadn't been the best choice of names for her daughter. Her child alone was going to be a constant, everyday reminder of the one thing she wanted most, and could never have. And then she had to go and chose a name that was a direct link to the man that was gone from her life. Did she really want more reminders? Then again, Buffy thought with a sad smile, she really didn't need anything to make her miss Angel. He would always be a part of her, physically and emotionally.

As much as it pained her to admit it, though, Buffy knew that she couldn't spend the rest of her life dwelling on her past. Angel had walked away from her. He had made that choice alone. She couldn't spend the next however many years she is alive wanting to change what could not be changed, especially now that she had Ashlynn depending on her. From here on out, she was going to be somebody's mother, and she was damn sure she would do her best to be a good one. Maybe she'd never be able to let Angel go, but she knew in her heart that it was time to focus on more important things, like her daughter.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^
Part 10
^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

~almost two months later~

Buffy groaned and looked down at the pale pink baby-tee she was wearing that was now the proud owner of a lovely spit-up stain from Ashlynn. "I swear you do that on purpose," she looked her smiling daughter in the eyes.

It almost never failed that whenever she was wearing something nice, Ashlynn would find some way to stain it. She laid her daughter down in her crib and set about changing shirts. If she had any hope of getting rid of the stain, Buffy knew she better go soak it in cold water immediately. So she changed into an old sweatshirt and walked toward the bathroom.

The last two months had been full of new experiences not just for Buffy, but for all those around her. At one point or another, all of them had had the experience of changing dirty diapers, even Cordelia, although she'd complained non-stop the whole time. Then there were the late night feedings, the crying fits, the constant responsibility to a helpless child, and various other aspects of having a baby around. Buffy didn't mind it all, though. Sure her sleep had suffered somewhat, but when it got to be too much; one of her friends would watch Ashlynn for a while, letting her catch up on some much needed dream time.

There were moments when it became overwhelming, but they usually passed quickly. The hardest were often the late night feedings, when she would be sitting on the couch, alone, feeding Ashlynn. It wasn't difficult because she was tired, or because she'd been woken up by a crying baby. No, it was difficult because she was alone. Something in her heart told her that if Angel had been there, he would have gotten up with her each night and sat by her side.

Buffy shook off the maudlin thoughts. Angel wasn't there. He was gone, and she'd promised herself after the birth that she wouldn't let him consume her. Still, it was hard not having him near her. Every time Ashlynn did something new, she longed to share it with her Angel. What would Angel look like holding their daughter? She could only guess. He was gone from her life, never even knowing she was pregnant.

Every so often, the fleeting thought entered her mind that she should try to find him, but she somehow knew that he'd probably hidden himself away somewhere. And even if she did want to try and locate him, she had no idea where to start. He could be anywhere. The world was a large place, and looking for a single person was like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. So she'd basically resigned herself to never seeing him again, and for her daughter to never meet her father. Maybe someday he'd return, and maybe not. Whichever was the case, she would live out her promise of not dwelling on the past, and being the best mother she could be.

"Hey, you almost ready?" spoke Cordy as she walking into Buffy's room, interrupting her silent brooding.

"Yeah, just let me change into something less slackerish," Buffy answered sheepishly, looking down at her ragged sweatshirt. She, Cordy and Willow were heading out to do a little shopping. The club's opening was the following night, and the three friends decided that nothing in their current wardrobe was sufficient for such an event.

"Ok. Doyle and Oz are here, ready for babysitting duty," Cordy gave a wry smile, finding it amusing that the two of them would watch Ashlynn.

"Cool, I'll be out in a minute," stated Buffy, returning the smile. She hated leaving her daughter, but it would only be for a little while, and truth be told, a tiny break every so often was a bit refreshing.

A few hours later, the three returned from their shopping trip, laden down with packages. The sight that greeted them brought forth chuckles from each. Doyle was sitting in a chair, holding a crying and red-faced Ashlynn as Oz sat on the edge of the coffee table in front of him, waggling a stuff monkey around.

"What did you do to my daughter?" Buffy laughed and walked over to the two. She picked up her little girl who ceased crying the moment she was in her mother's arms.

Doyle frowned and stared at the baby menacingly. "How do you do that?"

"I'm her mother," answered Buffy simply, rubbing noses with her now happy child.

"Uh huh, sure. I think it's a conspiracy ta drive us nuts," Doyle replied in all seriousness. "She started screamin' the second ya left."

"And I see you had fun trying to get her to stop," she looked amusingly at the monkey in Oz's hand before turning her gaze to her daughter. "Did you give them a hard time, Ash?"

Scowling at the baby's cooing gurgle in response to the question, Doyle turned his attention to the many, many bags now littering the floor. "Did you guys leave anything in the stores?"

"No," Cordy answered with a grin. "What fun would it be if we did?"

"Well, we did leave that horrible yellow dress there," Buffy mused lightly.

"Oh! And those really ugly shoes!" Willow chirped in, sharing looks with her two fellow shoppers.

Doyle leaned closer to Oz, shaking his head at the three. "This is why they shouldn't be allowed to shop."

"Whatever makes them happy," Oz shrugged indifferently.

"Have I thanked Lorne lately for the fact that we can go shopping again?" Cordy stated with a sigh, happy that she was no longer broke. She wasn't as wealthy as she once was, but their new jobs had afforded them the ability to spend more freely than when they first arrived in Seattle.

Buffy thought for a moment. "I don't think you've thanked him this week."

"We get it, ya like shopping," Doyle rolled his eyes. "Why don't ya three go put yer stuff away and then we'll go meet Lorne downstairs. He wants to go over some last minute stuff."

"Oh fine! Ruin our fun!" Buffy grumbled unhappily.

"Work, work, work," groaned Cordy as they each picked up their bags and headed to their rooms.

"You enjoy doing that, don't you?" Oz asked Doyle in mild curiosity.

"No idear what yer talkin' about," Doyle held back a grin. "Anyways, everything ready music wise for tomorrow?"

"Should be," Oz answered, hoping that everything was prepared.

Not long after Ashlynn's birth, he and Willow had returned to Sunnydale to pack up the rest of their stuff and then driven back to Seattle. Lorne had offered them a room in Doyle's apartment on the fourth floor of the building. The layout was identical to Buffy and Cordy's place, so there was plenty of room. They had readily accepted the room, and the low rent. Both were also now employed at 'Black Destiny', Lorne's club.

The green demon had been more than happy to hire Oz to handle the music and DJ'ing considering all the trouble they'd been having finding someone to do that. He also told Oz that if he ever joined another band that he'd be welcome to play at the club during live band nights. Willow was now in the process of computerizing the club, telling Lorne it was wiser and faster. She also took on the task of helping make sure the club followed the abundance of liquor laws for the state of Washington.

Buffy had been ecstatic that her two friends from Sunnydale were going to be a constant part of her life. There was still some lingering hurt over what had happened there, but she was learning to get past it. Willow's reasons for her actions were understandable, if not acceptable. Bottom line, Buffy was happy to have her best friend back, and happy to have her and Oz as part of her and her baby's life.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

~the next night~

"He's pretty good," Willow nodded her head toward the stage where a guy in his twenties was singing.

The club was jam packed on its opening night. There was barely room to walk let alone dance, but people seemed to be enjoying themselves which was an incredibly good thing, happy people meant more revenue. Lorne had decided that for the grand opening they would have both live performers, and also Oz DJ'ing. So at the moment, Buffy and Willow were sitting at one end of the bar watching the current guy up on the stage singing.

"Yeah," Buffy agreed, shouting over the noise all around them while swirling her straw in her Sprite. "He's got a nice voice."

"Uh huh, and he's quite a hottie!" Willow yelled back.

"Willow!" chastised Buffy with a look. "Don't let Oz hear you say that."

"Hey! There's nothing wrong with saying he's cute! I wouldn't trade my Oz in for anybody," the redhead corrected her previous statement.

"Okay, just checking," Buffy chuckled and then glanced at her watch.

Willow frowned at the action. Buffy had been checked her watch every half hour or so. "What's up? Got somewhere to go?"

"Huh?" Buffy wondered what Willow meant and then saw her friend nod to Buffy's watch. "Oh...no. I just miss Ash. I hope she's doing okay."

She hated being away from her daughter for so long, but she knew it was necessary. It wasn't plausible to bring her to the club, and Buffy had to be there since it was opening night. So she'd begrudgingly admitted that she needed a babysitter. The problem was who. Having been in Seattle for less than a year, she really didn't know many people, especially ones she would trust to watch her daughter.

The answer had literally appeared at her door one day when Tara, her former boss from the occult store, had stopped by to bring a gift for the baby. Ashlynn had taken well to the shy blonde, and Tara had been wonderful with the baby. Plus Buffy trusted Tara, and she knew that if there were to be trouble that the Wiccan would be able to use magic to protect both of them. So at the moment, Tara was upstairs watching Ashlynn, and even though Buffy knew she was fine, she missed her daughter.

"She probably misses you, too, but I'm sure she's doing okay. She seemed to like your friend Tara," Willow smiled sympathetically at Buffy, knowing it must be hard for her to be away from her daughter at such a young age.

"I know," Buffy sighed sadly. She knew she was worrying too much. It was just hard not too.

Willow patted her leg. "We're only open for another hour so you'll be able to leave soon."

"Thank God! I mean, not that I'm not having fun, or glad it's going so well, but I'm exhausted!" Buffy explained looking slightly sheepish.

"I can imagine! I don't know how you're managing to do all this...the club and Ashlynn." Willow was truly amazed that Buffy had the energy to do anything at all considering how time consuming a baby is.

"Trust me, I don't know how I do it either!" Buffy yawned as if indicating her point.

Nearly an hour later, things were finally winding down. Most of the guests had already left, but a few were still lingering, trying to extend the night. Buffy was standing by the bar, talking to the bartender about a few issues that had come up that night that needed to be resolved. There was always something that needed fixing, Buffy thought as she made notes on the problems that had been told to her.

"Hi," an unfamiliar voice spoke from behind her.

Buffy turned to face whoever was talking to her and saw it was the guy who had been singing earlier. "Hey."

"Good night, huh?" the stranger smiled at her.

"Yeah. You're, uh, performance was great," Buffy chatted awkwardly.

"Well, thank you," he gave a slight nod of his head.

"You're welcome," she set down her clipboard and tried to think of something to say.

"I'm Lindsey. Lindsey McDonald," he introduced himself, breaking the uncomfortable silence.

"Buffy Summers," she returned and held out her hand, giving a small smile to the handsome stranger.

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^

Later the night, after getting the club closed down, Lorne stood in the doorway to Buffy's room watching as she rocked Ashlynn in her arms and hummed softly to her. It was a beautiful sight. He couldn't help but be amazed by the tiny blonde's inner strength. She'd been through so much and survived. A lesser person would have crumbled if they'd had to face half of what she did. Somehow, though, she'd pulled through and gotten herself back on her feet. She was truly something to marvel at, and he was proud to call her a friend. He only hoped that what was to come wouldn't break her.

"Yer reading her. Aren't ya?" a voice whispered softly to his right causing Lorne to jump.

He turned to find Doyle staring at him intently. "I...I...yes," the green demon finally admitted.

"Thought so," Doyle shifted his focus to the still humming Buffy who was oblivious to their presence.

They stood there for a long minute, just watching their friend until Doyle spoke up again. "That bad, huh?" He could tell by that look on Lorne's face that whatever he saw wasn't pleasant.

"Yeah," Lorne turned, pausing for a moment. His last words were spoken softly over his shoulder as he walked away. "Poor girl's got a long, painful road ahead of her."

^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^-^


THE END!

Next: 'A Small Sacrifice For Tomorrow' - #4 in the Shadows in Time series:
Buffy's made a life for herself when a face from her past suddenly reappears, and there's evil lurking in the shadows.

Previous:  A Moment For Goodbye