"Aww, look at you!" The woman behind the counter of the seven-eleven looked fondly at Faith's stomach. "When are you due?"
"Not for another two months." The lie rolled easily off of Faith's tongue. "It's twins."
"Oh, you'll have your work cut out." The woman packed Faith's purchases into a paper bag as she chatted: A family bag of Doritos, a fresh pineapple, two packets of chilli flavored peanuts, a can of whipped cream and a birthday card. "Are they your first?"
"Well, first and second." Faith smiled as she handed over cash.
It was impossible to know who might be a spy, who might be under Troy's control, so she and the Scoobies had come up with the twins story between them. Obviously it wouldn't fool anyone who recognized her, but if Troy was just putting out random feelers to keep track of pregnant women in the area, their ruse might keep him from knowing when she was out in the open.
"Is the Daddy excited?"
Faith paused, trying to decide if the direct question was a red flag or not, but her uncertainty was brief enough to be unremarkable. "Sure, he can't wait. Probably at home right now making sure the crib he built ain't gonna collapse." She took her change and hefted the full paper bag onto the bump. "See ya."
Her security detail was waiting outside the shop, leaning against some metal railings and eating a stick of red licorice while she waited. Faith hated being dependent on someone else's protection, especially this someone else, so she didn't say anything as she walked to where the car was parked at the end of the road.
Kennedy fell into step beside her, not bothered by her lack of gratitude. "So did you find a last minute birthday present in there? Gotta say, I know you've had a lot on your mind but buying your girlfriend's gift in a seven-eleven is kinda cheap."
"I already bought the gift. I just needed to get a card." Faith pulled the cold can of whipped cream out of the bag. "And this," she added, working her eyebrows to good effect.
Kennedy pulled a face. "Eww, that's gross!"
"Really? Thought you'd be all into that kinda fun with Red."
"Sure, but Willow isn't nine months pregnant."
"You got a problem with pregnant people having sex?"
"Mostly I just have a problem with imagining you being pregnant and having sex."
Faith smirked at her, "Want me to tell you exactly where I plan to squirt this cream?"
"I'm gonna start with the stretch marks on my. . ."
"No!" Kennedy yelled, laughing as she ran the few steps to unlock the car door for Faith. "Spare me the bad thoughts or I'll drive away and leave you here."
Faith let her off the hook with a grin. "Not like it'd matter if you did. I bet the bastard's gone to ground, probably working with the best lawyer in the land to plan his custody battle. Not that's he's gonna need a good lawyer to win."
Kennedy had opened the door for her and now Faith pushed the bag of groceries into her arms so that she could start the long, awkward process of lowering herself into the passenger seat. She couldn't wait until this was over. Sure she knew life was only going to get tougher afterwards but at least she'd be able to get into a car in under five minutes again. As soon as she was in Kennedy handed the bag back to her and shut the door.
Once in the driver's seat, pushing the keys into the ignition, Kennedy asked, "You really think he's going to wait and fight this out in court?"
"I think I'm due in a week and if he was gonna try and snatch me I'd be snatched by now. I know B thinks he's scared to make a move 'cause I've always got a couple of you girls with me, but I don't believe it. He can bend time and space – space anyway – so if he's watching, why didn't he just zap you into Outer Mongolia just now and take me then?"
Kennedy shrugged, "Maybe he doesn't wanna have to deal with you going into labor and all that messy stuff."
Faith laughed, "Boy's still got some sense then. I sure as hell don't wanna have to go through that shit!"
They had to stop at a red light. After checking around to make sure no one was about to pounce on the car, Kennedy turned to grin at her. "How do you think Buffy's going to take it?"
"Are you kidding? B's more prepared than I am! She's had my birth-bag - yeah, her name for it, not mine - packed and waiting by the door for two weeks. She's been in to meet with the hospital staff twice; she said they were just friendly visits, but I think she's either vetting them or bribing them, probably both. She's had Xander make the drive from the house to the hospital with her ten times so she can work out the best route for the different times of day!"
Kennedy pulled away from the lights. "I thought I was on standby to drive you."
"You are. Do ya really think B is gonna let anyone with one eye drive me to the hospital?"
"Xander drives fine though."
"Hey, I tried telling her that, but best friend or not, he's not allowed that privilege."
"Privilege?" Kennedy scoffed. "I know you're going to cross your legs until four in the morning just so you get to wake me up."
Now Faith scoffed, "You think B's gonna let you sleep for the forty-eight hours surrounding my due date?"
Kennedy groaned, "Why did I sign up for this?"
"I'm pretty sure between Buffy and Willow you didn't get a choice."
"You're right, I don't remember actually being a part of the decision-making process."
"I can show my appreciation by telling you more of my whipped cream plans if ya like," Faith offered, waggling her eyebrows again.
"If you do, I'll drive you to the nearest crack house and let you give birth there instead."
"Hey, it was good enough for me."
Kennedy looked at her, an eyebrow raised.
"I'm joking!" Faith tilted her head to one side. "Well, mostly. Besides, Cleveland Pres. ain't that many steps above."
"I've been stitched up there once or twice."
"What did you think of it?"
"The nurses are cute."
Faith gave a dry chuckle. "Like that helps me. The last thing I'm gonna care about when I'm screaming in agony is what the nurses look like! Besides, B's gonna be there. She'd kick my ass, labor or not, if she thought I was making eyes at a nurse."
"I remember an intense urge to wash when I got out of there," Kennedy admitted.
Faith shrugged, "The maternity wing shouldn't have so many drug addicts in it."
"I thought Giles was going to book you in somewhere top of the range."
"So did I." Faith sighed, trying not to feel bitter about it. "And he tried, but being from England he doesn't have the creds here. Anywhere worth a dime wanted money upfront, G doesn't have that amount of ready cash and the Council won't acknowledge the brat's worth the expense until he proves he's a miracle kid."
"The Council have always been assholes. Two-thirds of them getting blown up apparently wasn't enough to change that."
"But Buffy's going to be in the room with you?" Kennedy asked, obviously trying to find a lighter note. "That's good."
"Yeah," Faith smiled, turning her face to the passenger window so Kennedy wouldn't see how goofy it was. "I told her she didn't have to, but I ain't sorry she's insisting on holding my hand through it, you know?"
"It's cool that she's so . . . cool with it. Willow and I thought for a while that she was having trouble dealing."
"She was; she got over it."
"I guess when you love someone you can get over anything."
"Ken . . ." Faith started to ask something and then hesitated; she hadn't mentioned this fear to anyone, least of all Buffy since they'd gotten together.
Kennedy glanced over. "What?"
"Do you think B will love the baby?"
Kennedy concentrated on changing lanes in the early evening traffic and Faith's unease mounted. Only when she was back on a relatively clear road did the younger slayer answer. It sounded carefully thought out but genuine.
"I think, from what you've told me about the hospital visits and her insistence on witnessing what has to be the most disgusting natural occurrence in the world, that she already does."
Faith finally exhaled, nodding, "Thanks."
"If you wanted to cement that though, you might want to buy her something more than whipped cream for her birthday." Kennedy laughed and then took a hand off of the steering wheel to rub her arm. "Hey! Pregnant chicks aren't supposed to hit people!"
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