Three pages of Nikki flashback in New York. The page turn after Crowley asks "Will you at least tell me..." morphs into Dawn asking Buffy "...who the father is?" They're in Buffy's bedroom. Buffy replies, "I have no idea."
Dawn coaxes her into going through the list of potential fathers: Riley, Andrew, Root, Tumble, the shut-in neighbor, and Spike - or someone at the party who she didn't know. She says it must have happened at the party when she blacked out, as she hasn't been getting much action otherwise. Dawn reassures her that everyone makes booze mistakes and that she and Xander are there for her, and that she's prepared to stick around until they figure something out. Willow is unavailable, but Buffy says the fewer people she talks to about it, the better. She gets out her phone to talk to "someone else."
Page turn. Dowling is in his car, calling Spike, who is apparently late for a planned ride along. As he's leaving his message, the bug ship lands in the parking lot across the street and Spike jumps out. "There's a lot I don't know about vampires," says Dowling, and Spike replies, "Oh, we don't all have spaceships."
Segue back to Nikki and Crowley. He's patching her up in her apartment and suggesting that the father raise Nikki's baby. She says she doesn't know who it is, and he says that if she goes through with this she's going to hurt that child. She counters with the possibility that the baby could be her reason to fight, and Crowley says that's putting a burden on the child for which he'll blame her for the rest of his life. Cue Robin's appearance, speaking with Buffy at a restaurant.
He says he can't give her an easy answer and she says she doesn't want one. She asks what it's like to grow up with a Slayer mother. He's blunt: he learned about scary things young, he was closer to Crowley than to his own mother, and when she didn't take him on patrol, he'd have to lie awake wondering if she wouldn't come home that night. And of course, that one night she didn't.
Buffy responds with "I guess it's obvious what I should do," because she doesn't want to raise a child who resents her. Robin disagrees: he's here because Nikki decided to have him, and he thinks Buffy should consider the same. The page returns to Nikki, this time fighting a group of vampires. She's in danger from one until Crowley shows up and stakes it, wearing a metal brace on his arm that seems to be a nifty seventies-era vampfighting weapon. More vampires attack, and they continue to take them out until they're alone together and Nikki asks Crowley why he's taken up arms. He turns the question back on her: he's rented her a cabin, unbeknownst to the Council, where he wants her to stay until the baby's born. Nikki refuses to stop patrolling; she's set on the mission. Crowley insists that he'll cover, "...until you decide to give him to a family who can provide him with a better life."
We return to Spike and Dowling. Spike's teaching him about vampires, but says he's not ready for a nest, so they're going to wait in the alley until a zompire shows up. In the meantime, Dowling inquires about Spike's history with Buffy, which Spike is reluctant to divulge but then sums up in a few sentences, ending with "...and Buffy and I went our separate ways," after Dowling insists that a Slayer/vampire alliance is relevant to what they're doing.
Dowling asks if they're still ellipses, and Spike asks if he fancies her, adding that he'd be happy to see her with someone as un-supernatural as Dowling. Dowling's answer to this is that Buffy shouldn't date a cop, who tends to bring the "bad stuff" of his job home, and Spike points out how ridiculous that is in comparison to what Buffy's been through. "On second thought, you're the one I'd worry about."
Back to Buffy and Robin. She asks why Nikki didn't give him up for adoption, and he explains that she had set up walls inside herself and wouldn't allow any attachments to people until he was born. She couldn't give up what her baby gave her, but Robin points out, she didn't have to - she could have given up slaying instead. The scene cuts to Nikki in the hospital, with baby Robin in her arms, and Crowley standing at her bed. She says she doesn't want to go back, and Crowley says that she doesn't have to, and that he'll deal with the Council. He thinks she's earned her right to walk away for Robin's sake, and has even brought her passports and tickets. "When the doctors let you out of here, don't come back. Just leave. Be a family." Nikki's smiling at Robin.
Back in the present, Buffy asks Robin why Nikki came back. He says that when he was a baby, they moved around a bit, but she "got an itch" and soon they came back to New York, where she continued to patrol. Eventually he understood that it was because she was Chosen, like Buffy, and she wasn't strong enough to ignore the pull of her calling. Buffy asks why that would make him think that she should keep her own baby, and he says that she's a different person than his mother, and that she's capable of what she isn't, because she allows others to help her. As she gets into a car and buckles in, he tells her that if she decides to have the baby, not to do it by herself. "Don't worry. I won't," she says, smiling at him.
Spike and Dowling are still in the alley when Spike gets a text and asks Dowling for a lift; Buffy needs help. It's not zompires, she just wants to talk - so Dowling asks if he's going to talk to her about how he really feels. "You aren't over her." Spike denies it, but Dowling says that he's only saying that because he doesn't want to hurt her, and that Buffy can handle it.
Spike finds Buffy alone, soaking her feet in the pool. He asks if everything's okay, she asks how his ride along was. He says there's something he needs to tell her, and she asks if she can go first. "I want to do something. And I think it's going to be hard. So I was hoping you could help me." He accepts. She tells him she's going to have an abortion.
She explains that she thought she could do what Nikki couldn't, and stay away from slaying. She thought she had everything that Nikki didn't: "Dawn, Xander, Willow...you..." She was going to ask Spike to run away with her until she realized that she could barely hold onto a job or apartment. She thinks she can do the Slayer stuff, but she's not ready for everything else.
Both of them have tears in their eyes when she asks him if he'll come with her when she does this, but he says "Yeah" and offers her a hand up.
I suspected this when the early reviews talked about a cliffhanger at the end. I didn't and still don't really believe that she'll go through with it, but some of my irritation over the plot taking this turn has dissipated now that I've read the issue. There are a lot of ways this could be done disrespectfully, but on the whole, and considering that we all know what Whedon's personal feelings are, it wasn't.
A lot of that is thanks to Robin Wood. I'm not only elevating him to one of my current favorite characters; I'm going to start petitioning for an annual Robin Wood Appreciation Day. We'll probably never see him again. I wish this series had a face I could punch.
Recall that Buffy's history with Robin is not all that placid, and that he appears to be out of the game entirely and has had barely any contact with any of our major players in the last forty-eight issues. Yet when Buffy asks to talk to him about an extremely sensitive problem in her own life, he's there, he's honest, he's wise, and he gives her the most salient and accurate appraisal of her character that anyone in her life could: "When things get tough, you let people help." That's absolutely crucial to who she is, and he's absolutely right that it sets her apart from Nikki and gives her a fighting chance, not just in this but in anything.
Plus, he's just a great guy. Jeanty did a fantastic job with him, I think - it's been ages since I watched S7 but I could definitely feel the character in this portrayal. I love how solemn he looks throughout his arc. He's intelligent, able, and realistic, and he sticks to his convictions. It's not said outright that he (or Nikki) has a specific position on abortion, but that's appropriate for this situation: Buffy doesn't deal well with religious or sociopolitical stances. What she needs to hear is how this applies to her and her future, and get an outside perspective on whether this is a good time to trust her heart.
Which, incidentally? She wants the baby. I don't think there's even a question about that. All of her inquiries are about what kind of life the child would have, and when she finally decides against it, you can see her heart breaking. If nothing else, I'm glad we got that much out of this issue.
There's also the flashbacks. Nikki is amazing and in my opinion the reveal of what Buffy has that she lacks doesn't take away from that at all. She loves her baby and she loves her world, and if she finds she can't turn away from the one for the sake of the other, you know what? She's the only Slayer there is. Crowley might claim that he'll take care of everything, but he can't replace her and she knows it. Robin might have grown up resenting her, but as an adult, he's grateful. He knows how special she was. (Crowley knew too. What a super great fantastic Watcher.)
I might be imagining this to some degree, but I think there were some neat tricks of the art regarding Buffy and Nikki, too. Seeing them drawn in the same style and taking some of the same expressions really gave them a similarity in appearance, in spite of their obvious differences, that I wouldn't have expected. Something resonated about the respective background art, too. Nikki's wrist-deep in a fountain after fighting vampires, and at the end, Buffy's ankle-deep in the pool. Water symbolism?
This is the Dawn I loved and missed. So so glad that she was the first person that Buffy talked to, and that she's being so supportive. One has to wonder why Buffy would want Spike to go with her for the abortion rather than Dawn, though, and that might point to something a little surprising about Dawn's beliefs. We'll see.
Spike was...I guess he's kind of done with unpredictability? He still wants Buffy, he doesn't want to talk about it, he's there for her when she needs something. Shipper-wise, yeah, still not feeling very threatened. I'm glad she can so easily talk to him. He's very supportive in his usual blind way: note his automatic acceptance of her choice as compared to Robin's thoughtful analysis.
SPIKE: I'll tell Buffy how I feel. She can handle it. Buffy can handle anything.
BUFFY: I can't handle being a mother.
SPIKE: You're right.
There's going to be a lot of debate surrounding this issue, and I'm just going to note here that I will not be taking part in it. I'm happy to discuss everything in terms of the content and Buffy's character, but you have plenty of options for where to throw down your personal views on abortion; you don't need this one.