Reclamation is the sequel to Innocence Found, which can be found Here.
Crossposted to warm_and_fuzzy and my regular journal.
Thanks again willa_writes for the thorough beta work! **smooches you**
Reclamation – Chapter 3 – Fancy Free
Tara and Buffy scurried around the master bedroom, making it as child-safe as reasonably possible. Giles’ queen sized mattress would certainly be more comfortable for all four children to sleep on than the cold floor.
While Tara finished making the bed, Buffy went into the guest room to gather the children’s belongings. As she worked, she came across several folded pieces of drawing paper that had fallen out of Angel’s suitcase when she picked it up. For some reason, the papers unsettled her. Opening the first with shaky fingers, she had the oddest sense of déjà vu.
There was a pencil sketch of little Xander, huddled in the corner. It was rough, definitely drawn from a child’s hand, but the subject was one hundred percent identifiable.
Quickly, intrigued, she unfolded the other papers and found pictures of Willow reading a book, Rupert snooping through the drawers, and the last depicted the other three children sleeping. Angel must have been restless during the night, being on a vampire’s schedule. Odd, Buffy didn’t remember Spike having any kind of trouble like that.
Curious, Buffy took the sketches downstairs to show them to Spike. Clearly the artistic ability that Angelus displayed had its roots in Liam’s childhood. The boy was very talented.
Spike wasn’t surprised in the least by what Buffy had showed him. He’d figured Angelus’ talent had to have come from Liam a long time ago. “Did you make these drawings, mate?” he asked, figuring a little praise was in order.
The little vampire hung his head in shame, sheepishly acknowledging that the pictures were his.
“They’re very good, Angel,” Buffy soothed, lifting the boy’s trembling chin with her fingertips. “Don’t you think so?”
“Da used ta rip up me drawin’s. Said they were a waste of time when there was work ta be done. Said I shoulda been helpin’ me mother ‘stead of usin’ all the paper and charcoal for me scribblin’s.” Angel sniffled, his brogue becoming more pronounced with his distress.
Good grief, the blonde wondered. Were they all so screwed up as kids? By the end of the week, she’d have enough to write a book: The Effect of Childhood Trauma on the Adult Human or Vampire Psyche.
“Well, then it’s a good thing there’s no work to be done, honey,” Tara kneeled in front of the boy, taking his hands in hers. “You can draw as much and as often as you like.”
Angel’s face lit up. These people liked his pictures, and wanted him to make more? “Can I stay with you?” he whispered to Tara. “I like it here.”
Buffy smiled. The wish she bemoaned having made hours before was turning out to be a wonderful thing. It wasn’t just Spike, or even Angel… it was all of the transformed kiddies.
She’d been sure that her maternal instincts had been devoured by the Slayer in her. Buffy had never been comfortable around kids. Babysitting was something other girls did. Being an only child had been a good thing in her opinion, and she’d never asked her parents for a sibling. She’d been happy being Princess Buffy, the apple of Daddy’s eye and Mommy’s sweet girl, thank you.
That was, until the arguments started, and the screaming kept her up nights. Daddy stopped coming home for days at a time. And the worst of it was when the fighting started to center on her, each parent blaming the other for their daughter’s lousy behavior. By the time her parents finally divorced, Buffy swore she’d never, ever have children if there was even a hint of a possibility of hurting them like she’d been hurt.
But looking over at the table where a vampire and a witch were serving breakfast to kiddie versions of her mentor, her ex-lover and her two best friends, she knew her views on children had been changed forever. She just had to live long enough to do something real about it, first.
Xander’s call of “Let me help,” followed by the clatter of dishes and silverware to the floor, brought Buffy to the table. She was worried the little boy would have another panic attack, but Spike was already by his side.
“What happened, mate? Tried to carry everything all at once?”
He nodded, fear evident in his eyes, though it was nowhere near the panic levels of last night.
Spike laughed, clapping the child gently on the shoulder. “Good thing we used plastic plates and cups, then. It keeps you bitlets from getting hurt.” A gentle nudge brought Xander down from his chair. “Be a good lad now and help me get this mess into the kitchen, all right?”
Xander’s eyes sparkled as he picked up several dishes and ran them into the kitchen, then came back and did it again.
When the other children offered to help, Tara explained that it was something Xander needed to do by himself. Contented with that, one by one they walked away to do other things.
With the last of the mess finally thrown away, Xander ran over to Spike, hugging him around the legs. Unadulterated hero-worship lit up the little boy’s face. But when Spike tried to walk, Xander’s arms tightened around him until it became impossible to move without hurting the child.
“What’s with you, pup?” Spike chided, gently loosening the arms holding him prisoner. “You’ve got to let a bloke move about every now and then.”
Looking up into Spike’s amused eyes, Xander pleaded, “Can I stay with you? Forever and ever?” He raised his arms in the universal ‘pick me up’ gesture.
Spike gathered the boy up, settling him onto his strong shoulders. “How’s that, mate? A little piggy-back ride for the time being. Just you an’ me.”
Xander giggled, happy to be head and shoulders above everyone else, and so close to the nice man.
After dinner, the gang trooped off to the Ice Cream Emporium for a treat.
Rupert asked for a bowl of some apple-crumb concoction, Willow wanted orange sherbet, Xander insisted on ordering a banana split for himself – vowing to Spike that he would eat it all, and Angel claimed he didn’t want anything at all.
Buffy insisted on getting him a bowl of plain chocolate. “Just a little bit, Angel. I promise it’ll be better than anything you ever put in your mouth.”
“Uh-uh!” Angel shook his head back and forth, steadfastly refusing to try the dessert in his bowl. “Too cold,” he insisted, frowning as everyone laughed at him.
“C’mon, pet. I’ve never seen such a broody little bugger as you.” Spike tried to get a spoonful of ice cream and chocolate sauce into the little vampire’s mouth.
“Spike!” Buffy hissed. “Language! This is not the place for a potty mouth. There are other children present and we’re out in public.”
“Buffy!” he mocked. “This is chocolate ice cream! And I know just the place for it.”
Her eyes widened in horror. “Oh! You so wouldn’t dare, you… you… moron!” she shrieked, as the sweet confection suddenly landed on her nose.”
Spike had flicked his fully laden spoon in her direction.
Angel giggled. This was more like it. The stuff might be too cold for eating, but it made a great mess. Grabbing a spare spoon, he imitated the bigger vampire and splatted Willow with a glob of chocolate ice cream on her neck, whooping with delight as it melted and dripped.
Little Willow was not happy. Her parents didn’t even like it when her napkin got dirty. She attempted to wriggle out of the booth to keep herself neat and tidy when Buffy whispered something in her ear.
Horrified at the suggestion, the little redhead shook her head. “Nuh uh, and you can’t make me,” she whispered back.
When Buffy insisted that it would be all right, Willow smiled, then catching the infectious mood surrounding them all, picked up her bowl of sherbet and with a final glance in Buffy’s direction for approval, dumped the contents over Spike’s platinum hair.
At his undignified yelp, Willow tried to get away, but he caught her in his arms and shook like a terrier, spraying melted orange droplets everywhere. As he began to chortle, Willow relaxed, then doubled over in giggles when Spike started tickling her ribs.
Rupert joined the fray with several squeeze bottles of chocolate syrup and marshmallow sauce, squirting Spike and anyone else who came into his sights. Then, the little terror slipped under the table and climbed into the adjacent booth for a better angle, topping off the adults.
Tara, Buffy and Spike couldn’t believe the proprietors of the Emporium were nowhere to be found. Oh, what they must look like! The other patrons had formed a crowd, albeit at a respectful distance, and were cheering on the children, bringing over all sorts of things to add to the mess.
In the corner against the wall, Xander sat huddled over his banana split, gamely trying to finish it all. When all that was left were the sludgy remains and the maraschino cherries, the little boy scooped them out with his fingers and pelted the adults with the candied fruit.
Although it was fun, Buffy became more aware of her responsibilities when Angel slipped in the goo on the floor. Suddenly, it wasn’t so funny anymore. The children were unable to keep their footing in the melted ice cream, and it was time to get them cleaned up and home before someone got hurt.
Slowly and carefully, they picked their way through the mess and headed to the restrooms to wipe off as much of the muck as possible before heading home. Looking presentable was a lost cause.
As they approached the cashier on the way out they were told that dessert was on the house with the proviso that they never darken the Emporium’s doors again.
With a promise on their lips and a wave of hands, the gang left to the applause of their audience.
While I'm at it... I have to crow about Innocence Found being named Fic of the Moment at Vampire's Kiss, run by the delightful vampkiss.
And since I'm on a roll, the Yankees won last night - 6-4 over Cleveland - and Boston lost! It was me and Numfar, all night long.