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Here we go - next to the last chapter of What Dreams May Bring - Chapter Twenty Three. Willa is now twenty one years old, the twins and Will are seventeen, the Quads are thirteen, and Kiana is eleven. Life is being lived by all, time marches on, etc., etc. Once again beta'd by the marvelous celesteavonne, hugs for my sounding board and inspiration Willa, and shout outs to both just_sue and gillo. Read and enjoy - we're almost at our destination. (posting a little early tonight due to a dinner invitation). Enjoy!


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(Partial wedding vows were taken directly from a Wedding Guide, and Non-traditional Vows, the remainder is my own wordage.)


January 2026 – More than Friends

New Year’s has come and gone, and Winter Break is over. School once more runs Tyler’s daytime hours. The end of his sophomore year is looming large, and he can’t wait for it to be over. Otherwise, school is tolerable because of Matt. It’s good to see him again. Gym and lunch… just two periods a day, but they mean everything.

Absence did, indeed, make the heart grow fonder, and the two teens take advantage of any empty space they can find to make out.

Eventually Tyler decides to introduce Matt to his parents and invites him over for dinner.

~*~

Matt pulls his car into the driveway at the Bennett home. “This feels a bit weird, Ty,” he says, brushing the hair out of his eyes. “I sorta feel like a prospective bride being shown off to your parents.”

“It’s just dinner,” Tyler insists. “I want my parents to meet you… to know who I’m hanging out with after school. It’s not that serious, dude.”

Matt nods, and gets out of the car, followed by Tyler. “Hey Mama, Papa,” he yells in greeting as he enters his home. “This is Matt Cohen, the guy I’ve been telling you all about.”

~*~

“Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Bennett.” Matt extends his hand to Spike, and nods in deference to Buffy. “Thanks for having me over for dinner.”

“You’re very welcome, Matt,” says Buffy. “Are you sure your parents don’t mind?”

“It’s all cool, Mrs. B.,” Matt replies. “Since I turned eighteen, all I have to do is let my parents know where I’m gonna be, and they’re happy.”

“Right,” says Spike. “You’re a year ahead of Ty in school.”

“Papa,” groans Tyler, rolling his eyes. “You know we take gym together and that we have the same lunch period.”

Spike just nods, silently.

~*~

“We’ll be down for dinner,” Tyler says. “Just gonna listen to some music and hang out.”

Buffy smiles, nodding as her son and friend head up the stairs. “It’s so nice to see Tyler reaching out to someone,” she says. “He spends far too much time alone, and I worry about him.”

“The lad seems to be doin’ all right,” says Spike. “This Matt bloke comes off as a decent sort.”

“Do you think…?” Buffy asks, trailing off.

“Do I think what, love?” asks Spike.

“Do you think Matt’s gay?” she asks, finally able to get her whole sentence out.

~*~

“Don’t rightly know if it’s any of our business,” Spike replies. “Does it matter?”

“No, of course not. I can’t help thinking about it, with all the newly same sex couples in our lives.”

“Newly?” Spike scoffs. “Xander’s had a thing for my hot, tight little body since Sunnyhell. It’s no surprise he and Neal have hooked up.”

“Then what about Oz and Wesley?”

“Wolf wants who it wants.” Spike nods, sagely. “Can be mighty persuasive under the right circumstances. What's in a name?” he quotes. “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

~*~

“Mmmm,” purrs Buffy, closing her eyes. “You know what poetry does to me.”

“Why do you think I spout it from time to time?” laughs Spike, pulling his wife into a hug. “Nothing like a little unexpected touch in the afternoon.”

“Stop, Spike!” she squeals as his fingers catch her mercilessly under the ribcage and wriggle.

“’fraid the kiddies will catch an eyeful?” he asks, scarred eyebrow aimed at his hairline.

“J-just a little self-control is a good thing,” she stammers as she tries to catch her breath.

“Priss.”

“Perv.”

“Race you to the bedroom?”

“First one there’s on top!”

~*~

Sometime later, Spike walks past Tyler’s room and knocks. Unfortunately the music is blaring loudly enough to drown out the sound, so he opens the door slowly and peeks in. A quick glimpse of the room’s occupants and Spike swiftly closes the door again.

“No need to wonder anymore about whether the lad’s gay,” Spike says to his wife. “The pair of’em are busy snogging on Ty’s bed.”

Buffy’s hand flutters to her throat. “And just what did you do about it?” she asks.

“Nothin’, love,” he says, quietly. “Our Ty’s almost a man, and a man’s got needs.”

~*~

Dinner is a peaceful affair. The teens chatter about teachers and coursework, and Matt talks about his plans after graduation. Tyler is an avid listener.

Buffy doesn’t grill him on his life, though Spike sees she’s holding back.

Once Tyler has said his goodbyes to Matt, and he hears the car drive off, he turns to his parents.

“Mama, Papa, I know one of you opened my door earlier this evening. I just want to thank you,” he says.

“For what?” they chorus.

“For not embarrassing me with Matt. I like him,” he says. “A lot. And he likes me.”

~*~

February 2026 – The Proposal

Bobby likes surprises. It’s something Willa’s come to learn and love about him. So, when he asks her if she can take her birthday off from student teaching because he has plans, she does it without an argument.

She’s definitely suspicious when she spots her luggage sitting near the door, alongside his. When he hands her a long envelope and wishes her a Happy Birthday, her hands begin to shake.

Two first class tickets to Rome, Italy, elicit a very mature squeal and major huggage. “How can I not do something special for your twenty-first birthday, my sweet?” he murmurs.

~*~

The seats on the plane are luxurious, and Willa can’t stop smiling. “I still can’t believe that this is actually happening,” she gushes, eyes sparkling with excitement. “What a way to spend my birthday.”

“Nothing but the best for my girl,” says Bobby, holding her hand. If only she knew what he had planned, she would fly to Rome without the plane.

“Oh, god,” Willa says, her free hand flying to her mouth. “What did you pack for me? Enough underwear? The right bras? Suitable clothing?”

“Don’t panic, Willa,” Bobby laughs. “Mom did the packing for you.”

~*~

“Whew!” Willa swipes the imaginary sweat from her brow.

“She said she didn’t want folks staring at you,” Bobby continues, patting her on the shoulder. “…for reasons other than being radiantly beautiful.”

“I knew there was a reason I adored your mom,” Willa laughs. “She’s a wise woman, and she raised a wise son.”

“True, true,” Bobby nods.

Willa settles back into her seat, and shortly falls asleep. Within moments, Bobby follows suit. Both are awakened hours later to the announcement that they will be landing in Leonardo da Vinci Airport within the half hour.

Bobby smiles. “Almost there, sweetheart.”

~*~

They deplane, pick up their luggage and go through customs with no problems. Bobby’s arranged for a private car to take them to their hotel. After the long flight, he wasn’t looking forward to taking the train. The car pulls up in front of their hotel – The St. Regis Rome – and the staff takes their baggage as they check in.

Once inside their hotel room, Willa plops down on the bed. “What do we do now?” she asks, stretching. “Sitting on our butts for nine hours isn’t as invigorating as it sounds, you know? And it’s almost midnight, Rome time.”

~*~

“I’d suggest we try and get some sleep to catch up with the time difference,” says Bobby. “I’ve heard from friends that jet lag can ruin the first days of a vacation, and we don’t have any to spare.”

“No snack before heading for bed?” Willa pouts. “Is there room service available at this time of night?”

Bobby shrugged. “I’ll call down to the desk and see… I’m not averse to a little nibble. Maybe some fresh fruit?”

“Sounds yummy and refreshing,” Willa agrees. “And not too heavy to keep us from sleeping.”

“That’s the idea,” says Bobby, kissing her.

~*~

They wake up bright and early, refreshed and ready to go. “So, my love,” says Willa. “What do you have planned for us today?”

“Nothing special, really. Just some gallivanting around the streets of Roma, seeing the sights and people watching.”

“And how do we ‘gallivant’ exactly?”

Bobby smiles. “What do you say to hopping onto the back of a Vespa and holding tight?”

“Sounds divine,” Willa purrs.

“Great,” he says, patting his pocket. “We’ll pick up something for breakfast along the way.”

“You have a destination in mind?”

“Oh, just sightseeing, sweetheart. Nothing special.”

They leave the room arm-in-arm.

~*~

As they motor through the streets, enjoying the day, the breeze rustles through Willa’s golden curls where they emerge from her helmet, sending a little chill down her spine. The nape of her neck has always been a sensitive spot.

She looks past Bobby’s shoulder and spots their final destination. Right up ahead is the glorious Trevi Fountain. Indeed, they turn into the parking area and try to worm their way as close as possible

“Wow!” Willa exclaims. “The sound of the cascading water is quite loud.”

“It is,” Bobby agrees. “But look at the statuary… it’s stunning.”

“So beautiful!”

~*~

“This fountain has been around since 1762,” Bobby murmurs. “In fact, it’s still being fed by the same aqueduct - the Acqua Vergine.”

“Aren’t you just the ‘fount’ of knowledge,” Willa laughs, hugging him around the waist.

“So we’re heading into punnage, are we?” Bobby reaches into his pocket and then kneels in front of Willa. “Maybe this won’t seem so funny.”

She gasps, finally figuring out what he’s been up to.

“Willa, my sweet girl,” he says, flipping open the box to reveal a ring – a round diamond with smaller set-in diamonds in the band. “Will you marry me?”

~*~

“Oh, Bobby,” she breathlessly murmurs. “I will. Of course I will!” She rewards her fiancé with a soul-searing kiss, which is greeted with loud applause by the tourists surrounding them. Color rises high in her cheeks, staining them a bright pink.

“So beautiful,” says Bobby, staring deep into Willa’s eyes. “I couldn’t think of a better setting to propose than this. I hope you don’t mind the publicness of it.”

Willa shakes her head, shocked speechless.

“You know the legend of the Fountain, right? Toss a coin into the fountain while facing away, and you’ll ensure a return to Rome.”

~*~

Finally gathering her wits, Willa nods. “I’ve definitely heard of it. They say to throw it with your right hand over your left shoulder.”

“I was thinking,” Bobby muses, “that we just might want to come back here for our honeymoon. What do you think?”

“Yes!” Willa exclaims. “Yes, I would love to come back when we can take our time and relax.”

“Good! That’s one less thing that we have to worry about. The most important thing is the date for our wedding. Any ideas?” he asks.

“Not yet,” she replies, “but soon. Next year sounds good to me.”

~*~

The rest of their vacation flies by. Romantic walks, meals… everything they do or see is colored by the rosy glow of their love.

“You’re spoiling me, you know,” Willa whispers into Bobby’s ear as they cuddle on a park bench. “How on earth will you ever top this?”

“I’m sure I’ll think of something,” Bobby says, and waggles his eyebrows.

“Oh, you!”

“Not like you’ve ever complained, sweetie pie,” he insists. “Of course, we could always try new things, if you’re getting bored.”

“Nope!” she says, popping her ‘p’. “Then again, new has a lot going for it, too.”

~*~

They arrive home, exhausted, but ecstatic. Sarah and Nathan Murcer greet them with hugs and slaps on the back once Willa’s ring is spotted.

“It’s about time,” says Sarah, hugging her soon-to-be daughter-in-law. “Bobby’s been mooning about for months.”

Nathan nods, hugging Willa in turn. “It was all we could do to keep him from springing it on you before the trip.”

“I can’t believe you were all able to keep this from me.” Willa laughs, punching Bobby lightly in his shoulder. “I mean, you’re all such a bunch of gossips! Does anyone else know?”

Nathan demurs to his wife.

~*~

“We told your folks you’d gone to Italy when they called to wish you a Happy Birthday, but that’s it,” Sarah insists.

“Oh gods! I’ve got to call Mama and Papa!”

“I’m sure they were tracking your return flight online,” says Nathan. “They know you’re home safe.”

Willa gives them a look they’ll become familiar with over the coming years, and she heads upstairs to make her peace with her parents.

Buffy picks up on the fourth ring. “Hello?” she says sleepily into the phone.

“Hi, Mama, it’s me,” says Willa, brightly. “Sorry to call so early in the morning.”

~*~

“Papa and I were sleeping in this morning, sweetheart, but it’s okay. When did you get home?” Buffy asks.

“About a half hour ago. I’m sorry I didn’t let you know, but Bobby sprung it on me as a surprise, and there was no time…”

“Don’t worry, honey. So we’ll wish you a belated Happy Birthday. You know we love you.”

“I have news, Mama.”

“Good or bad?” Buffy asks, warily.

“Great!” Willa exclaims. “Bobby proposed to me at the Trevi Fountain!”

“Spike! Wake up! Our daughter’s engaged.” Willa heard Papa being roused to the phone.

“Mornin’ poppet,” he slurs.

~*~

“I’m so sorry I woke you, Papa,” Willa entreats. “Forgive me?”

“Of course, lamb,” he says, sounding more awake. “So what’s this Mama tells me? The git finally popped the question?”

“Papa! Bobby got down on one knee in front of the Trevi Fountain and asked me to marry him. And oh, what a ring he gave me,” she adds. “I’ll email you a picture later this afternoon. I promise.”

“You do that, my precious girl. Mama and I are both very happy for you. Should we let Tara and Ty know, or do you want to do the honors?”

~*~

“I’ll call later, Papa. I just wanted to let you and Mama we’re home and tell you the news. Love you so much.”

“We love you, too, lamb. I hope we get to see you soon,” Spike says, the longing evident in his voice.

“We’ll visit as soon as we can. Say goodbye to Mama for me?”

Spike nods, then shakes his head and says, “I will, sweetheart. You and Bobby take care of yourselves until then.”

“We will, Papa,” she agrees, reluctant to hang up the phone. After all this time, she’s still Papa’s girl. “I miss you, too.”

~*~

March 2026 – Mama Knows Best

Noel is the most adorable baby ever born. This everyone agrees on. Where they do not agree, is how to get Mr. Adorable to sleep when he awakens for the tenth time in an evening. Will walks him up and down the hallway, and around their room, to no avail. Tara tries nursing him, changing his diaper, offering a pacifier, and nothing works.

Spike sings lullabyes, and when that doesn’t work, heads into The Clash, and other old favorites.

“Maybe he’s colicky,” Buffy tries. Tara’s eyes roll in response.

“Mama, he’s nursing. Breast milk fed babies do not have colic.”

~*~

“Well,something must be wrong,” Buffy insists. “There’s no reason for a baby to cry like this every, single, evening.”

Tara bites her tongue. She knows her parents are supporting her, going above and beyond to make sure her little family is secure, but there are times when Mama forgets that Noel is hers and Will’s, and not her own.

“Let me take him,” Buffy says, holding her arms out. “Maybe if I hold him over my…”

“Mama, enough!” Tara explodes. “I know you mean well, but don’t you think Will and I have tried every position possible to hold Noel?”

~*~

Spike and Will take that moment to duck out of the room. Will feels guilty for not standing up for his girl against her mother, but honestly, Aunt Buffy is really trying, and Noel is disrupting everyone’s sleep.

“So,” says Spike, sprawling onto his favorite chair, “livin’ with a strong woman is a lot harder than lovin’ one, eh, lad?”

“Tara can be feisty,” Will says carefully. Tara is Uncle Spike’s daughter, after all. “She’s stressed out about the baby. Going without sleep is making us all crazy.”

Spike nods. “Got a decent set of lungs on ‘im, for sure.”

~*~

Eyes look skyward as voices rise and someone stomps on the floor. Will visibly shudders and Spike claps him on the shoulder in a show of support. “Don’t fret, son,” he says. “Sometimes you’ve just got to give the women their space. Motherin’s rough business. Best to let them figure things out on their own.

“But he’s my son, too,” Will says, ear still aimed towards the ceiling, trying to listen in on what’s going on. “I just don’t want to fight with either Tara or Aunt Buffy.”

“Don’t be afraid to stand up to my daughter,” says Spike.

~*~

Buffy walks down the stairs, eyes slightly red, but smiling. “Will, Tara wants to see you,” she says, looking at her husband.

Will excuses himself and runs upstairs.

“Battle fought?” asks Spike, brushing back a lock of hair from Buffy’s forehead and tucking it behind her ear.

“At least this round,” she replies, leaning into his touch. “Tara’s got good mothering instincts. I have to remember and let her follow them without interfering.”

“She’ll ask for help if she needs it, love,” Spike murmurs. “And she will. Nobody raises a child on their own. Takes a village and all that.”

~*~

Tara looks up and smiles when Will enters the room. “Sssh,” she says. “Noel’s finally asleep.”

“What did you do?” he asks.

“Nothing,” she replies. “I think he just cried himself out.”

Will settles gently into the bed at Tara’s side. “We need to move forward with our lives, sweetheart. I’ve got to get a job after I graduate.”

“Can you make money selling your paintings?” Tara asks.

“I’d love to, but that’s not gonna pay the bills on a place of our own right away. Maybe Dad can help,” he muses.

“Good! I mean, I love my parents, but…”

~*~

April 2026 – Like Father, Like Son

Taking a deep breath, Will approaches his father on a lazy, Saturday afternoon. “Hey, Dad,” he calls out, entering the yard. “I need to talk to you about something important.”

“Sure thing, kiddo.” Xander sits up, placing his sunglasses on the table near the chaise. “What’s up?”

“You know my college plans are a bit derailed at the moment,” he says, sitting on the chaise next to Xander’s. “I need to find a job… to make money to support my family.”

“True,” Xander says, nodding. “What do you want me to do about it?”

“Can I apprentice at your job?”

~*~

“You want to be an architect?” Xander is stunned. “You’ve never expressed interest...”

Will shakes his head. “It’s not that I want to,” he says. “I’d prefer to make a living off my art, but I need to be practical. My mechanical drawing skills aren’t shabby.”

“I don’t know,” his father replies. “I’ll have to ask my boss and see what he has to say. You know there won’t be any real money in it for quite a few years.”

Will nods. “I know, but I have to start somewhere. Tara and the baby deserve a place of their own.”

~*~

“Are you having trouble with Aunt Buffy and Uncle Spike?” Xander asks, concern lacing his voice.

“No, no… not really,” Will insists. “It’s just Aunt Buffy can be a little… forceful,” he says, tactfully. “And Tara and I have our own ideas on child rearing. It will just be less stressful for everyone involved when we can be self-sufficient.”

Xander laughs aloud. “Buffy, forceful? Kid, you don’t know the half of it,” he says fondly, remembering high school days.

“Do you think your boss will agree to help me?” asks Will.

“All we can do is hope, son,” Xander replies.

~*~

May 2026 – Growing Pains

The four teens stand in front of the long mirror in their bathroom. “There’s no doubt about it,” says Jesse. “Mine is bigger.”

Jason snorts. “Yeah, right. Mine comes down to here, and yours isn’t close.”

“Boys, boys,” says Jonathan. “Listen to your older brother. Mine is longer, of course.”

“You’re all imagining things,” insists Jeremy. “Mine tops all of yours.”

“That’s enough, you guys,” Dawn says, standing at the bathroom door. “You all have manly mustaches.”

“Aw, Mum,” they chorus.

Dawn shakes her head; grateful that mustaches were the only thing the boys were measuring when she walked by.

~*~

It’s been going on for weeks, and Dawn is about ready to tear her hair out. Her sons have gone through a growth spurt – having shot up some four inches each in the past few months. The upstairs resonates with the sounds of grunts and bodies hitting the floor as they wrestle each other in a show of strength.

Jeremy’s voice cracked the other day, followed in rapid succession by his brothers. The puberty fairy has hit the Wells’ household hard, and Dawn’s thinking of grabbing Andrew and running for the hills.

“Boys will be boys,” her husband reminds her.

~*~

“And their competition is friendly,” he continues. “At least there isn’t a bully in the bunch we’ve raised.”

“Still thinking about Tucker?” Dawn asks, as Andrew visibly shakes.

“It was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away,” he says, bravado coming to the fore. “I live in the now. It’s better that way.”

“I agree,” says Dawn with a comforting hug. “We can’t let the past cripple us. As long as we learn from it, it’s all of the good.”

“You’re right, my dear woman.” Andrew nods. They both jump at an exceptionally loud thump from upstairs.

~*~

“That’s not fair,” yells Jason at the top of his lungs.

“Is too,” yells Jesse, suddenly appearing next to his parents.

“What did you do, Jesse?” Dawn asks, sternly.

We were playing chicken, and Jason was being a butthead,” Jesse snarks. “I portaled downstairs and he hit the ground.”

“Then he’s right, and you were wrong,” Andrew insists. “You know you’re not supposed to take advantage of anyone with your powers, especially family.”

Dawn nods her head in agreement. “I think you need to haul it upstairs and apologize to your brother, young man. Two buttheads don’t make a right.”

~*~

Jesse rolls his eyes and tromps up the stairs. It’s not that he doesn’t love his brothers… it’s just there’s almost never enough alone time for any of them. He wants to ask his parents if he can move into Will’s room, now that he no longer needs it, but he know the ruckus it’ll cause with his siblings.

Reasonably, however, it would give one of his brothers their own room, too. Maybe, just maybe, with a little tact and good luck, this could work out. Of course, he’s really going to have to apologize to Jason. And mean it.

~*~

Jesse makes his mea culpa, which is grudgingly accepted by Jason, and holds a meeting. “Look, guys. I know we’ve been getting on each others’ nerves lately, and I think it’s time for us to branch out. I want to ask Mum and Dad if I can move into Will’s bedroom.” At the expected uproar, he pushes on. “That means Jeremy would have his own room, too – or you could work it out between you.”

“What makes you think Mum and Dad will let you have the room?” asks Jonathan. “I could ask, too, you know.”

“You could,” Jesse admits.

~*~

“So can we,” chime in Jeremy and Jason.

“You all could,” says Jesse, “and our parents will veto the idea totally. If we don’t fight about it, it’s much better.”

“Maybe they can turn the playroom into a bedroom,” says Jeremy. “That wouldn’t be too hard, and we’d each have a room of our own.”

“Then why don’t all four of us ask together? They have to take us seriously if we act cool.” Jesse is excited. This might actually work out for everyone.

“We can do it tonight, after dinner,” says Jeremy. “When they’re both in a good mood.”

~*~

June 2026 – The Big Day

With the big day only weeks away, Tara’s become frantic. She’s been searching for the perfect wedding gown forever, and nothing makes her happy. The dresses she finds are either too frilly or too plain, too virginal or too desperate. She’s driven all her female relatives insane with hour after hour of gown rejections.

Finally, two weeks before her wedding, she finds it. The gown is simple, elegant, and most important, looks wonderful on her post-partum body. Strapless, gathered bodice attached to a dropped waistline satin skirt with train, the dress barely requires alteration.

Everyone cheers, the loudest being Tara.

~*~

“Oh, Mama,” she murmurs, turning this way and that in the triple mirrors. “Look at me… the dress is perfect!”

Buffy is too choked up to say a single word, but manages to hug her beautiful daughter tightly.

Willa and Treena are an ensemble act, turning Tara around, pulling here, tugging there, until they’re satisfied.

“Gorgeous, sis,” Willa says. “You couldn’t have done better if you’d had the dress custom made.”

“You’re gonna knock my brother out of his shoes, girl,” laughs Treena. “The poor guy doesn’t know what he’s in for.”

“If he survives Noel all day,” Tara giggles.

~*~

From there on, everything falls into place. They purchase an adorable flower girl dress for Luna, in white, with a lavender sash and polka dots on the full skirt. Tara finds a comfortable pair of strappy high heeled sandals and a pearl-edged demi-veil.

Since Grandpa Angel has offered to foot the bill for this shindig, Nina helps Tara pick out her flowers and decorations. Between catalogues and the internet, everything is done online.

The cake is the last detail. Tara doesn’t want the traditional tiered wedding cake, so she pores through hundreds of images until she finds the right one.

~*~

Tara decides on several layers of individually wrapped slices, decorated in edible flowers. She finds the perfect topper and the order is placed. The flavors she and Will pick are also non-traditional. They’ve opted for devil’s food cake, filled with cannoli cream and chocolate chips. The cake will be delivered to the Hyperion the morning of her wedding.

“I can hardly wait, Grandpa Angel,” she says over the phone. “Everything has been ordered, Will and I have our clothes… we even have a little suity thing for Noel. I can’t thank you enough for all this.”

“Me, either,” adds Will.

~*~

The family heads to Los Angeles two days before the wedding so everyone will be well rested for the ceremony and celebration. Willow and Becky make a fuss and hand Tara a present.

“It’s your ‘something new’,” Willow explains. “Gotta keep some of the traditions for new brides.”

Tara smiles and rips off the wrapping paper to find a long jewelry box. Inside is an eighteen inch strand of pearls. “Aunt Willow, they’re lovely,” she squeals, hugging the redhead tightly.

“It was Aunt Becky’s idea, and Kiana helped pick them out. She was hoping you’d wear them at your wedding.”

~*~

Tyler hands his sister a polished piece of turquoise. “I’ve been holding onto this for awhile, waiting to see if you got anything else for ‘something blue’,” he says. “I hope it brings you luck.”

“Thanks, Ty,” she says, kissing her brother on the cheek. “You are the best brother ever.”

“Don’t forget ‘something borrowed’,” Treena calls out from across the room. “You’ve always liked my mother’s pearl earrings. They look really nice with your new necklace.”

Tara smiles. It’ll be nice having a reminder of Aunt Molly with her. “I’ll give them back to you after the wedding, Treena.”

~*~

The night before the wedding, the women have a pact to keep Will away from his intended. “Bad luck,” they crow, before shutting the door in his face. Tara smiles, because tomorrow will make all this worthwhile.

“Only one little guy’s allowed in here tonight,” says Buffy, “and that’s my grandson.” She tickles his belly for emphasis, and he gurgles happily.

“And I can help watch him,” says Kiana, who’s happy to be included in the hen party.

“I’m so glad you came home from school,” Tara says to her sister. “I miss you.”

“Miss you, too, Tara,” says Willa.

~*~

The morning of June twenty-first finds everyone as chipper as can be. Last night was spent talking and dry (of spirits), except for Noel, who wet his diapers like a pro. Tara is absolutely giddy. She’s been anticipating this day since she first learned about marriage. As much as she’s a non-traditional girl, in this one instance she’s all for it. Having Noel first is nothing more than a little detour on their path.

Mama is doing her hair, and Aunt Nina is in charge of her makeup. She inspects herself in the mirror when they’re done, pronouncing herself pleased.

~*~

Tara’s hair is pulled back from her face by two pearl-encrusted barrettes, but otherwise loose down her back, the natural curls bouncy and shining. Her makeup is minimal; smoky lilac shadows and mascara making her eyes the beautiful focal point of her face. A little blush, and a natural shade of lipstick are the perfect finishing touches.

“Time for your dress, sweetie,” says Mama, who, with Nina’s help settles the gown over Tara’s head and onto her body. A quick zip up and the application of double sided tape and all she has to do is slip on her shoes.

~*~

“Don’t you dare cry, Mama,” Tara warns. “If you start, then I’ll start, and everyone will follow like dominoes.”

“No tears,” Buffy agrees. “Not until after the pictures, anyway.”

Nina checks her watch. “Okay, ladies. I think I hear the beginning strains from the piano. I’ll make sure Noel is ready and we’ll head into position. Spike’s probably waiting for Tara, already.”

“Are you sure you want to carry Noel with you?” asks Willa. “I’ll be happy to hold him.”

Tara shakes her head. “Not a chance, sis. My little man and I will head into this together,” she says.

~*~

Spike is, indeed, waiting on the stairs for his daughter. “You’re a sight, kitten,” he greets her. “Young Will doesn’t know how lucky he is.”

“Papa, behave,” she says, giving him a peck on the cheek. “I think they’re ready for us.” She adjusts Noel in her arms, and shifts the bouquet to link her arm in her father’s.

“One moment, love.” Spike reaches out to settle the veil over Tara’s face, then takes her arm and they head down the stairs to the sound of Wagner’s Bridal Chorus.

All heads turn as Spike, Tara and Noel make their entrance.

~*~

Spike walks Tara halfway down the rose petal strewn path that Luna has so nicely laid for them and lifts her veil, giving her one last kiss as a single woman on her forehead.

Will joins them and Spike pauses, hesitatingly passing Tara’s hand to him, then he sits down next to Buffy. Together, they walk to the altar and the Justice of the Peace.

“Dearly beloved,” she begins, addressing the guests. “We are gathered here today to join together these two young people in the bonds of matrimony. Will and Tara would like to offer up their own vows.”

~*~

Will turns to Tara. “I’ve always know we would end up here. We’ve been drawn to each other since our earliest days, sharing cribs, baths, cookies… I’ve always been able to sense your heart and soul.”

“I’m so at ease with you, and totally excited by you in ways unique to only you. You’ve given me a perfect son, and I join a wonderful family in an additional way. You unmake me, and rebuild me on a daily basis. I would be totally lost without you.”

“I, Will, take you, Tara, to be my lawfully wedded wife before these witnesses.

~*~

“I vow to love and care for you as long as we both shall live. I take you, with all of your faults and strengths, as I offer myself with my faults and strengths. I will help you when you need help, and will turn to you when I need help. I choose you as the person with whom I will spend my life.”

As Will finishes his vows, Noel picks that moment to speak up, burbling happily. Will takes the baby from his soon-to-be wife, so she can concentrate on her own vows.

Tara takes a breath and begins.

~*~

“What I feel for you surpasses words, though I’ll try my best to explain. My heart feels half empty without you. My days are bleaker, the nights are darker… the warmth of your presence sets my soul at ease.”

“You’ve given me a sweet, wonderful son, a little earlier than either of us had planned, but he makes us our own family. You light my way in the dark, and find me when I am lost. I can’t conceive of a future without you in it.”

“I, Tara, take you, Will, to be my lawfully wedded husband, before these witnesses.”

~*~

“I vow to love you and care for you as long as we both shall live. I take you, with all of your faults and strengths, as I offer myself to you with my faults and strengths. I will help you when you need help, and will turn to you when I need help. I choose you as the person with whom I will spend my life."

“Will, I give you this ring – wear it with love and joy. I choose you to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward for better or for worse.”

~*~

“For richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish as long as we both shall live.

“I take you, my beloved and my best friend, my chosen one, through all of our lives together. I give you this ring, which is bound to my heart. Please wear it always, as a symbol of my love.”

“I promise to love you without reservation, honor and respect you, comfort you in times of distress, encourage you to achieve all of your goals, laugh with you and cry with you, grow with you in mind and spirit.”

~*~

“I’ll always be open and honest with you, and stay with you for as long as we both shall live.”

Will repeats the last part of the vows, and they turn back to the Justice of the Peace. “That pretty much says it all,” she says, smiling at the happy family. “According to the power vested in me by the State of California, I now pronounce you husband and wife. Will, you may finally kiss your bride.”

Nobody has to tell him twice. Careful of the child in his arms, Will embraces his wife and kisses her soundly.

~*~

Tara takes the baby from Will, and linking her arm with his, they walk down the aisle to the applause of their family and friends. After a cocktail hour, they all adjourn to the ballroom, which has been lavishly decorated for the reception.

Will and Tara are introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Harris, and Noel is passed off to Grandma and Grandpa Bennett. They dance their first dance as a married couple and glow with the light of love in their hearts.

Dinner is followed by more dancing, then the wedding cake, and last, the tossing of the bridal bouquet.

~*~

Nobody is surprised when it’s caught by Willa, who blushes prettily, waving the bouquet in triumph. Spike and Buffy, through their smiling facades, look a little shaky at the prospect of yet another child getting married.

The happy couple is showered in confetti as they leave for a few honeymoon days in a five-star hotel. Noel is being left in the good hands of his grandparents.

“We are now officially, lawfully related, you guys,” Xander says to Spike.

Spike smiles. “And yet the world still spins. Who’d have thought, eh, Harris?”

“Who’d have thought, indeed,” replies Xander, gazing at Noel.

~*~

Neal approaches Xander as he’s deep in discussion with the baby, who’s waving his chubby little fists in the air and staring intently at his grandpa. “It was a beautiful celebration, Xan. The kids looked so happy. Nothing like young love, is there?”

Xander looks at Neal, and something quick and impulsive stirs his heart. “Maybe a second love,” he muses. “There’s lots to be said for it. We’re old enough that we’ve passed first love, had true love… a second love can be deeply life-altering.”

“Oh?”

“I… would... oh hell,” Xander stammers and blushes. “Neal, will you marry me?”

~*~

July 2026 - Certified

Sitting in an overly warm classroom that’s more suited to sleeping than concentrating, Willa busily fills in circles with her number two pencil. It takes her back to her school days and standardized test taking, only this time, her whole future is at stake.

She has a wonderful job lined up for this September, teaching kindergarten, pending passing this test for her teaching certificate. As do most of the other people taking the same test with her.

New teachers have a notoriously hard time finding jobs, and Willa is lucky she got a personal recommendation.

She just has to pass!

~*~

It’s not an impossible test. The subjects covered are English, Social Studies, Science, Cultures, Math –
general in tone, but the longer she sits there, the more she begins to second guess herself. Multiple choice is the work of the devil, she thinks, biting the end of her pencil.

Trying to gather her wits, the words of a song come to her. I have confidence in confidence alone,
besides which you see I have confidence in me!
Gotta love that Julie Andrews. Willa smiles and sets to the rest of her test with gusto.

Bobby meets her outside the testing center.

~*~

“How’d it go, love?” he asks, greeting her with a hug and kiss.

“It wasn’t too bad,” replies Willa. “The problem is what always happens with multiple choice questions… you start second guessing yourself, and then nothing seems right.”

“But…?”

“I managed to power through it. I think I did alright,” she says. “We’ll know in a couple of weeks, for sure.”

“I have faith you’ll come through with flying colors, Willa. You’re smart, determined, and won’t let anything get in the way of what you want.”

“Thanks, Bobby. I can’t wait for September. Imagine both of us being teachers!”

~*~

Bobby smiles wistfully. “It’s not going to be easy, you know. The life of a teacher these days isn’t the most secure.”

“Well, you should be safe,” Willa replies, “as long as the music college stands, anyway. New kindergarten teachers depend on the population shifts.”

“Consider yourself lucky they abolished the “last hired, first fired” rule, and depend on the merit system. You’re a wonderful teacher. The children will be lucky to have you.”

“Mmmmm, thanks, man of mine,” Willa purrs. “You always know the right thing to say to me.”

“You bring out the best in me, sweet girl.”

~*~

August 2026 – Not the Mama!

Once the excitement and the romantic glow from Will and Tara’s wedding recedes, Xander and Neal take the time to talk about their own marriage. While Xander’s proposal had been spur of the moment, Neal readily accepted. There are no regrets on either side.

Unlike the children, their marriage will not be a glamorous affair. Just the immediate family with the usual culprits attending – no outside friends necessary.

Will is thrilled for them, but Treena is another matter. Surprisingly, she’s come down firmly against the marriage.

“No way,” she says, sounding like a petulant child. “I refuse to accept this.”

~*~

Treena comes home from college to have it out with her father in person. “How can you do this to me?” she asks, gesticulating wildly. “How can you do this to my mother’s memory?”

“Sweetheart,” Xander says soothingly, “I’m not marrying Neal out of any disrespect to your mother. I’m sure Molly wouldn’t want me to be alone for the rest of my life. I-I need him.”

“I will not accept this marriage,” Treena repeats. “And I absolutely refuse to call him Mother!”

Xander is at a loss. She’s never voiced a single complaint against Neal in all these years.

~*~

“Neal, I just don’t know what to do. Treena is resolute. I’m afraid if we go through with the wedding against her wishes, I’ll never see her again.”

With a hug, Neal shushes him. “It won’t come to that, love. I promise. Let me talk with her, and see if I can bring her around.”

“It’s just that she’s never had a problem with Willow and Becky, and Tyler being gay doesn’t faze her. I don’t understand what her problem is now!”

“Like I said, Xan. Let me see if I can work the old MacIntyre magic on the girl.”

~*~

Neal finds Treena huddled on the bed in their guest room. She looks as abjectly miserable as her father. She doesn’t respond when he knocks on the door, but he walks in, anyway, and sits on a chair opposite the bed.

“Treena,” he begins, hoping she’ll look at him. “Please, tell me what’s bothering you. I know you’re unhappy, but you’re hurting your father. Doesn’t he deserve to be happy after all this time?”

She sniffles, and mumbles something.

“Sorry, hon,” Neal says. “I didn’t quite catch that.”

“I said I don’t have a problem with you and Dad together.”

~*~

“If it’s not us as a couple, then what is it setting you off?” he asks, curiously.

“When you and Dad marry, it’s all legal-like,” Treena sniffles. “You’ll take Mom’s place in the eyes of the law. Dad was married to my mother, and you’re not her,” she cries, voice rising.

“No, sweetheart, I’m not your mother. And I would never think of replacing her in your heart. I love your father and he loves me. It won’t really change things between us. We’ve gotten along well before this, haven’t we?”

Treena nods, miserably. “I don’t want to hurt Daddy.”

~*~

“And I like you, too,” she continues. “It’s just…”

“You still miss your mom,” Neal says, nodding. “I get it, sweets. I do. And I promise that Xander will never forget Molly. How can he, when he has you? You look so much like her, and you’re the best part of her.”

Treena smiles for the first time since she arrived. “You do make Dad happy,” she concedes.

“And he makes my life worthwhile,” says Neal. “To wake up and share another day with your father is the best I can hope for.” He takes Treena’s hand gently in his.

~*~

“I’m sorry this has been so difficult for you,” Neal says, looking into Treena’s eyes. “I want you to know that I’ll be here for you. Anytime you need to talk, ask questions. Your father and I will be legal family for you and Will, and by extension, Tara and Noel. Of course, that pulls in all his friends and their children. I want to be involved. Xander won’t be less because of me… we’ll be more, together.”

Treena nods. “Sounds good… but what do I call you once you’re married? I will not call you Mom,” she says, laughing.

~*~

“You can still call me Neal,” he says, laughing with her. “Or Uncle Neal, or Papa Neal… even Hey You. Whatever floats your boat.”

“Can we leave it as Neal for now?” she asks tentatively.

“That’s my name, sweetheart,” he replies, pulling her unresisting into a hug. “What do you say we put your father out of his misery and let him see you’ve not committed murder?”

Treena responds with a thumbs up gesture.

As if called, Xander peers in the doorway. “Do I need a shovel for any bodies?” he asks.

“It’s all good, Dad,” says Treena. “All settled.”

~*~

The wedding takes place at the Justice of the Peace’s office with family in attendance. It’s the same Justice who presided over Will and Tara’s wedding, and she smiles pleasantly at the couple standing before her. “Don’t think you’re getting a family group rate on weddings, you guys,” she says, laughing merrily. “Do you gentlemen have your own vows?”

“We do have our own vows, your Majesty… your Honor,” says Xander, blushing at his error. He turns to Neal, and begins. “I thank you, Neal, for giving me my life back. While I functioned after Molly died, I didn’t live.”

~*~

“Except for my children, I had no reason to wake up each morning. Because of you, I laugh, I smile, I dare to dream again. I look forward with great joy to spending the rest of my life with you, caring for you, nurturing you, being there for you in all life has for us. I vow to be true and faithful for as long
as we both shall live.”

Xander swipes his hand across his brow, relieved that he remembered all the words, to the laughter of his family and friends. “You know me and public speaking,” he chuckles.

~*~

“Xander, all that I am and all that I have, I offer to you in love and joy. From this day forward I will love and comfort you, hold you close, prize you above all others, and remain faithful to you all the days of our lives. We’ve both had our first loves, true loves… and hopefully this will be our last, best love.”

“Beautiful, heartfelt feelings,” says the Justice. “Once again, my words are as follows – by the power vested in me by the State of California, I now pronounce you husband and husband. You may kiss your spouse.”

~*~

September 2026 – The Pack

Luna is growing by leaps and bounds. She’s a beautiful four year old girl with a mane of thick, light brown hair and stunning blue eyes. In her wolf form, she’s becoming formidable – more adolescent than puppy, and is quickly outgrowing the dog runs in the park. Her blue eyes are equally stunning and intelligent in the wolf.

Oz and Wesley wonder what’s best for their little girl. Wesley wants to bring her by the cells once Oz and Nina change… to see their reactions to each other. Oz is afraid they’ll lose control and try to attack each other.

~*~

In the end, Wesley wins. Once the change takes place, he walks his daughter on leash down into the bowels of Wolfram and Hart. Luna is a bit skittish, stopping every now and then to smell the air. As he pulls up in front of the cages, it goes deathly silent.

Luna manages to pull Wesley off his feet and trots up to Oz’s cage. He roars and reaches through the bars, but instead of grabbing Luna, he simply allows her to sniff and lick.

Wesley is amazed, but it seems as if his lover recognizes their daughter by scent.

~*~

He’s never seen him so still during his transformation. In fact, both Oz and Nina seem fascinated with the wolf, whimpering gently and pawing at the ground. Luna pads to Nina’s cell and sticks her muzzle between the bars. Nina sniffs and licks her back.

When Wesley tries to walk Luna out of the enclosure, all three werewolves set to howling, loud enough that he has to cover his ears. “All right, I get the picture,” he mutters, and sits in the middle of the room, out of the reach of the adult weres.

He sleeps, hoping Angel keeps watch.

~*~

Angel must have visited sometime during the wee hours, because Wesley awakens to find he’s sleeping on a pillow, and he and Luna are covered by a blanket. A pair of Luna’s pajamas, underwear and slippers are next to the sleeping girl.

“Morning, Sleeping Beauty,” says Oz, slipping into his own clothes.

“Should we rent a cot?” asks Nina, already fully dressed. “Maybe we should order catering.”

“Yes, well,” murmurs Wesley. “At least we… I have some answers. I believe Luna will be able to accompany you both on your next wolf run.”

“Interesting,” says Oz. “Wish I could remember.”

~*~

October 2026 – Young Man on Campus

Tyler closes his laptop, and leans back against the wall of his dorm room. It’s different, living on campus, but he thinks he’s getting the hang of it. The University of California Santa Barbara seems to suit him just fine. The advanced courses are enough to keep him interested and in his spare time, he works with Uncles Oz and Wesley online.

Best of all are the gay support groups. Here and Queer is the most populated group, and the atmosphere is uber-friendly and informative. Tyler finds himself popping in several times a week.

And Matt Cohen is a sophomore.

~*~

He admits that Matt attending UCSB was a factor in choosing to apply to the school, but not at the expense of a better school. Unlike Willa, he’s not ready to be quite so far away from hearth and home just yet.

Tyler has his own car, a present from his parents for graduation, and he and Matt take turns making day trips on the weekends they’re not busy with writing or researching papers. The freedom to do as he pleases is heady, but he’s responsible enough to keep up with his studies.

Matt’s also taught him a few things.

~*~

Sex, for one thing. Not that they’ve progressed to actual intercourse, but they’ve petted and frotted and snogged themselves silly. He’s taken to keeping a small box of condoms and some lube in his bedside drawer… just in case the time is right. And like the proverbial Boy Scout – always be prepared.

And it’s not only about sex. Matt’s shown him he can actually enjoy participating in sports. At least those he’s physically compatible with. Football, American style: out. European football: in. Tennis: in. Even baseball: in. Only for fun, though – phys ed is still an uncomfortable class for him.

~*~

And then there’s swimming. The peace that can be found in a pool is only second to the beautiful Davidson Library. Tyler dons a pair of swim trunks any time the pool’s free and dives into the deep end. He does laps until his muscles ache and his mind is empty. He’s approached by the swimming coach and asked to join the team, but he refuses… for now.

Matt sticks his two cents in. “I think you’d be a star,” he says, eying the figure Ty cuts in a bathing suit. “You really should give some thought to the team.”

~*~

Ty shakes his head. “Not now,” he says, toweling off his head. “This is just me time. It’s soothing and releases any stress I find myself under. I’m not sure how I’d feel if it became mandatory and scheduled.”

“I can understand that,” Matt agrees. “But it’s a good opportunity, and not one you should totally brush off. A well rounded Tyler is a happy Tyler.”

Ty laughs. “A wet Matt would make a very happy Tyler. Join me for a dip?”

“Why not?” Matt replies. “How about a race, if you’re feeling up to it? Winner buys lunch?”

“Deal.”

~*~

November 2026 – In Their Image

Kiana’s been a busy girl. Her mothers enroll her in a year-long after school ceramics class after her interest was piqued at her tenth birthday party. She’s had this idea for the holidays and it’s taken months and months to get it right. If it was just her immediate family, she’d have been finished in two weeks, but Kiana’s chosen to represent her extended family, as well.

She’s been molding tiny figurines to represent each family member. The style is pretty simple – not sculpture perfect, but she’s happy with the way they come out. Her teachers have been most helpful.

~*~

On the day of the last class before Hanukkah, Kiana carries a large box out to the car. “Have you finished your project, Kiki?” Willow asks, waiting for her daughter to snap her seatbelt closed.

“Uh huh,” she replies. “All finished, Mom. I hope you and Mom Becky like it.”

“I’m sure we will, sweetheart.” Willow wonders what it can be. Clay, of course, but she’s been washing a riot of colors out of Kiana’s play clothes lately, and can’t imagine them all on one project.

“Until Hanukkah it’s gonna be in my closet,” Kiana says, “and you can’t look.”

~*~

Kiana spends the afternoon arranging her gift. First, the tablecloth, then the wooden base, and finally, the clay figurines. She keeps it covered with the box she brought them home in, and awaits the grand unveiling.

They gather around the table before it’s set for dinner, and with a small drum roll from Becky’s fingers, Kiana lifts the box.

“Oh, baby!” exclaims Willow. “It’s absolutely gorgeous! This is everyone, isn’t it?”

Kiana nods. “So even when we’re not together, we are,” she says, smiling.

“I’m gonna get the camera. I want to make sure this is preserved forever,” says Becky.

~*~

December 2026 – Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!

Tara stares at her son and shakes her head. Noel is standing on the floor, the fingers of one hand barely skimming the couch, almost ready to walk alone. He’s wearing a pair of dark blue denim overalls, embroidered with Happy First Birthday across the bib in bright primary colors and a red tee shirt. Her heart is bursting with love.

She finds it hard to believe he’s already a year old. It seems like only yesterday she and Will brought him home from the hospital. Looking out the window, Tara sees the tent so Grandpa Angel can attend safely.

~*~

“All right, sweetiepie,” she says, brushing Noel’s light brown curls. “Time to get this party on the road. Your public awaits.”

Will greets her at the door, holding out his arms for Noel to fly into. “Are we ready?” he asks, rumpling his son’s neatly brushed curls.

Tara sighs, but smiles in lieu of saying anything. “Ready and willing. Is everyone here?”

Will nods. “The family is here, including Great Grandpa Angel and Great Grandpa Giles.”

“What about the kids from Noel’s playgroup?” Tara asks.

“They’re all waiting for the birthday boy to arrive.”

“Let’s not make them wait anymore.”

~*~

The moment they enter the tent, Noel is whisked away and into the waiting arms of Giles and Olivia. “Oh, my dear children,” he says to Tara and Will. “Just look at the miracle you’ve created.” Noel answers with his favorite word – “dada” - and sticks his fingers into the wrinkles on Giles’ neck. “No buried treasure there, sweet boy,” Giles murmurs, passing the child to Olivia.

“He is a lovely boy,” she says, shifting him back and forth in her arms. “I see his curls favor Tara and Spike. But his eyes are all Will.”

Noel claps his hands.

~*~

Spike and Buffy stand off to the side, watching the party unfold all around them. Their grandson is being worshipped and their youngest daughter is absolutely beaming with pride. “Hard to believe this was us sixteen years ago,” she murmurs to her husband, surreptitiously wiping the tears from her eyes. “I know the time has passed… I can see it in the mirror, but…”

“S’what life is all about, love,” says Spike, hugging her close. “Change with the passage of time.”

“Are you ever sorry you won’t be young and pretty forever?”

“I’m glad you won’t be leaving me behind.”

~*~

Angel watches as Nina dandles Noel on her knee, singing snatches of infantile songs she never got to sing to children of her own. She’s pretty much past childbearing age now, at forty eight. Her hair is more grey than brown, or blonde when she bothers to dye it. Her laugh lines have deepened, and she calls them wrinkles.

In this moment, Nina seems fragile, ephemeral – he’ll be around long after she’s gone. After all the people he loves are gone. For an instant, Angel envies Spike passionately. Then again, even as a vampire, Spike lived more in the world.

~*~

He looks across the room at Spike, who’s twirling Buffy to the music. The changes in the man nearly floor him. It’s been almost one hundred and fifty years since Spike’s turning, and in most of that time, he’s looked the same – whippet thin, well muscled, spectacular cheekbones… and now? Now he’s almost stocky, his muscles are less obvious, as are his cheekbones. He no longer has that hungry look about him that most vampires have. He’s… satisfied.

As for Buffy, she’s still a beautiful woman, but definitely no longer girlish. She’s middle aged, something nobody thought she’d ever be.

~*~

But there she is, a mother of three, and now a grandmother! Angel shakes his head and smiles. In the end, she really does have a normal life – exactly what he wished for her as a teenager. He never would have expected it to be Spike who gave it to her, but that’s the way her cookies crumbled.

Angel takes Noel from Nina’s hands. “Look at you, boyo,” he murmurs. “Gonna grow up and make your family proud.” He kisses the baby on his forehead, then hands him off to the next pair of grabby hands to walk by… Xander.

~*~

“Quit hogging my grandson,” Xander says without heat, raising the baby over his head and ducking away from a strand of drool. “Why don’t you join the others and stop being such a wallflower?”

“You have a beautiful grandbaby,” says Nina, gently rubbing Angel’s shoulder as Xander and baby disappear into the throng. “Are you alright sweetheart?”

“I’m fine, Nina,” Angel says dismissively. “Go join the throng… I’ll be along in a bit.” He watches his love welcomed into the crowd, and finds that he’s throwing a pity party of his own. To compound the issue, Spike is rapidly approaching.

~*~

“Buffy wants to know why you’re hiding out in the corner, git,” he says before even reaching Angel’s side.

“Just people watching, Spike. You can tell Buffy there’s nothing wrong.”

“Ha!” Spike exclaims. “Easiest twenty dollars I ever made. I told her you were brooding, and I was right. What set you off on such a joyous occasion?”

“It’s just,,, everyone, including you, is aging so quickly,” he relents, knowing Spike will always see right through him. “I don’t want to lose my family.”

“Can’t help the dyin’ part, mate. Part and parcel of this humanity business,” Spike says. “But…”

~*~

“But what?” Angel asks, when nothing else seems to be forthcoming.

“As long as the kids keep propagating, you’ll always have family. Cast of characters changes, but not the sense of family,” Spike insists. “As long as you stay in the middle of it, not on the edges like this.”

“It’s easy for you, Spike,” Angel grinds out through clenched teeth. “You’ll just die and… and…”

“And leave you,” Spike finishes. “Peaches,” he says, bringing back the old nickname, “I can guarantee that you’ll never forget me for as long as you exist. I’ll always be a part of you.”

~*~

Spike grabs Angel’s arm and half-drags him into the swing of things. Luna, at four, is busy trying to mother Noel. It’s cute to see her picking up after him and watching as he coasts from leg to leg. She takes one hand and leads him to a clearing where he pulls away from her grasp.

“Daddy. Daddy!” she shrieks, waving her hands frantically in the air. “Look at Noel!”

Sure enough, Noel Christopher Harris is taking his first unaided steps.

“Uncle Andrew, over here,” yells Tara, hoping he’ll capture the moment.

Andrew manages to video his last four steps.

~*~

The games have been played, the cake served, and most of the guests have left for their own homes. Will and Tara have handed Noel off to his Great Grandpa Angel, who’s having a ball playing peek-a-boo in game face with the boy.

After all the tumult of the party, it’s nice to just sit and relax and take stock of what’s truly important – family togetherness.

“We’ll just have to make a conscious effort to keep the old git connected,” Spike murmurs to his wife. “World’s got enough broodin’ as it is.”

Buffy nods and cuddles into Spike, perfectly happy.

Comments

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spikereader
Apr. 4th, 2011 08:02 am (UTC)
Next to last chapter!! Yay, that means I will have a lovely long fic to read soon. :)
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