You can find the story in its entirety Here.
Cross posted to warm_and_fuzzy and my regular journal.
What Dreams May Bring – Chapter 14A – Rites of Passage
January 2017 – Enfant Terrible
It starts with a half hour fight to get three peas into Kiana’s mouth for dinner. Another half hour to get the remainder of the stew out of the carpet. Fifteen minutes chasing the girl down to strip her for a bath and a half hour to dry the flooded floor. Fifteen more for pajamas and a story.
They watch their daughter sleep; her nut brown face relaxed and peaceful against her pillow belies the two hour struggle that took place to get her into bed.
Willow looks into Becky’s eyes, and knows they’d do this again in a heartbeat.
Willow’s grip on the receiver threatens to crack the plastic. “Buffy, I can’t take this much longer. Maybe we should have an old-fashioned Scooby research meeting to find out where my sweet little Kiana is and who left this screeching demon in her place.”
Buffy’s hysterical laughter does nothing to assuage her tension. “Thanks a lot, kiddo. I’m looking for sympathy or solutions and you mock me.”
“Oh, poor Willow,” **giggles** “you know I understand.” **cackle** “It’s just I’m so glad it’s not me! I’ve been through this three times already.”
“Remind me again why I bother to call you?”
His headaches are back with a vengeance. Xander keeps the pain to himelf, but every now and then he catches Will looking at him as if he knows something. It’s unsettling, but the boy never asks, and the father never tells.
He calls Spike for a boys’ night out but there’s no pool playing or movie going on the agenda. They sit in the car as Xander finally tells someone of his suffering, begging him to look after his family if something should happen.
Spike knows he’s not looking for false hope, so he promises and hopes for the best.
February 2017 – Eye of the Storm
Tara is never far from Will’s side these days. His father’s suffering is a heavy weight on the boy’s shoulders and he only seems to find relief with the youngest Bennett girl. Many days, the two children spend hours with their heads pressed together, whispering secrets, clamming up when people enter the room.
Buffy does her best to get Will to open up about his feelings, but comes away with nothing. “M’fine,” he tells her. “Just a little worried about Dad.”
It’s the slight twitch of his eye that gives him away, and Buffy hugs him a little bit closer.
Xander’s headaches have gotten so bad he hardly gets out of bed for more than an hour at a time. Dr. Steinmetz admits him to the hospital for an MRI. The mystery of his decreasing eyesight and pain is finally solved when the scan’s results come back: a brain tumor.
Surgery is suggested immediately. The tumor is small and localized and pressing on the optic nerve. Removal is complete and the tumor is sent for biopsy.
Molly, Treena, and Will are surrounded by family when the good news comes in. The tumor is benign and a full recovery is expected.
Two weeks later and the news isn’t all good. The tumor caused damage to Xander’s optic nerve and he has less than 50% vision. He tries to remain upbeat by cracking jokes. “I’ve set my sites on a new job, Buff. I heard there’s a spot open for a man with a cup, sunglasses, a puppy and a white-tipped cane.”
With a sharp cry, Buffy runs out of the room, unable to deal with his cavalier attitude.
“Sorry, mate. You know how sensitive the girl is to situations out of her control.” Spike forces himself to stay his own feet.
Xander hasn’t had a down moment or shed a tear since his loss of vision was deemed permanent. The doctors had warned the family about mood swings, depression, and mourning but Xander seems to defy the odds. His family, however, is another story.
The strain in the Harris household is painfully hard to bear. Each new joke is like a physical blow to the children and they begin to find excuses to stay away from the house. After a particularly stressful day, Molly makes arrangements with Buffy for the children to stay for several weeks’ time. They need a break.
Several days later, Will gets off the school bus at his own stop. He wants to pick up some books for home work and figures his mom will drive him over later. Hearing loud bangs and muffled screaming coming from his Dad’s workroom, he goes to investigate.
Seems like Xander’s situation has finally come home to roost. He’s cursing a blue streak and throwing things as hard as he can at the walls. The door opens unexpectedly and Will’s hit by a flying block of wood in the face. Blood flies everywhere, and the boy collapses with a small whimper.
The little sound cuts through Xander’s rage like a shotgun blast. He’s at his son’s side in seconds, wadding up his own shirt to staunch the bleeding. Will is lucky – the wood split his eyebrow but missed his eye entirely.
With one hand on his son, Xander fishes his cell phone out of his pocket and auto-dials Spike. Within moments they bundle the unconscious boy into the car for another ride to the hospital.
The emergency room doctor manages to stitch the wound shut before Will awakens. He’ll soon be sporting an ‘x’ shaped scar much like his Uncle Spike.
Hospital policy insists Will stay overnight for observation. Xander spends the night as well, feeling very guilty for hurting his boy, even accidentally. They pass most of the time talking about their eye problems; Xander finally being honest with his son as well as himself.
A tattered Harry the Hedgehog makes his reappearance with a clumsily stitched scar over his right eyebrow to match Will’s. Tara insists on sending the treasured animal along with Papa to ferry the Harris men home. Just because Will’s nearly eight years old doesn’t mean he can’t use a little comfort from an old friend.
March 2017 - Mensch
Spike is flipping out. His baby, his Willa… is flying across country with Treena for Bobby’s Bar Mitzvah. With that dress – a form fitting number in cerulean blue organza. Off the shoulder and shirred at the bustline, it gives Spike hives. Thirteen years old and his daughter is bustier than his wife. Wishes he could bleach his brain for thinking of his girl that way.
A right of passage. The little tosser is now considered a man in the Jewish faith. And he’s still hot and heavy after his girl.
“Papa, don’t you trust me?” she asks, wide eyed.
Willa and Treena are picked up at the airport by Bobby’s mother. She smiles and waves to them as they deplane and they chatter about preparations for the big event. Getting their hair and nails done, attending the Conservative Jewish service and Bobby’s reading from the Torah.
Willa shows off the Star of David from her Auntie Willow and the Hebrew nameplate Bobby sent her for her last birthday. She only takes them off to sleep or bathe. Next to her California tan, the pendants glow warmly, and the neckline of her party dress will show them off to perfection.
Bobby stands tall and proud on the dais, singing his Haftorah with clarity in Hebrew, and the Rabbi takes the time to explain it to the Congregation in English, after he’s finished. Mrs. Murcer splits her attention between her son’s performance and making sure the girls follow along in the siddurs – prayer books – which have English translations, as well.
It’s a strange but interesting experience without a religious background to draw upon, but the girls manage nicely. By the end of the ceremony they’re fidgeting in their seats, a little bored and very, very hungry. They’re reassured a feast awaits.
A short limo ride later, and everyone is led into the reception hall. Off come the sweaters that kept their dresses chaste enough for the Temple. It’s time to party.
The music is loud and raucous. The DJ, Jimmy Dee, is wound up and bouncing around the room, already enticing the kids into silly group games. Bobby introduces his friends, grabs Willa and is propelled into the center of attention as the man of the day.
In-between courses, they slide shoeless about the dance floor, watch Bobby and his parents raised towards the ceiling in chairs, and dance the Horah.
The traditional table pictures have all been snapped and the guests are sated from the abundance of delicious food served. The last remaining organized activity is the lighting of the candles on the cake. Thirteen people or groups of people are given the honor – they are introduced by a song fitting their relationship to the Bar Mitzvah mensch, and treated to a poem, written expressly for them.
Bobby’s parents are called, then grandparents and an assortment of aunts and cousins. Alte cocker – old fart – music is played, and everyone has a laugh over the choices. Friends next, and Willa… last.
Five years ago, we met in school,
I wasn’t very nice.
Said nasty things and made her cry,
It really wasn’t right.
But I’ve grown up and been forgiven,
Her laughter makes me smile.
She’s flown in from California,
And I wish she’d stay awhile.
Willa, come up and light candle number thirteen with me.
The DJ plays Candy Girl, by The Archies, as Willa makes her way from the table to take hold of the candle with her friend. Before she can turn to leave, Bobby presses a kiss to her lips.
The photographer captures the moment on film.
Sarah and Nathan Murcer beam with happiness as they watch their only child begin his journey into manhood. His Haftorah reading was flawless, and now he’s able to relax and enjoy the party.
The candlelighting ceremony makes the adults cry and kids laugh. Each generation brings their own special touch. Even though they’ve suspected the growing closeness between Bobby and Willa, the PDA is unexpected.
His eyes sparkle with mischief, hers widen with surprise, and they both blush pink with the flush of newly-realized romance.
There will be a flurry of phone calls between the coasts before Willa heads home.
April 2017 - Affirmation
Over lunch, Molly enthusiastically natters on about a decision she and Xander have reached – they’re going to try to have another baby.
“I know it’s so soon after Xander’s surgery, and that nothing is guaranteed, but what better way to get on with our lives than to create a new one?”
“But what if…?”
“Buffy, if anything, Xander’s tumor proves that each day should be lived as if it were our last. He’s a great dad, and I don’t mind being the breadwinner. This way we’re both useful… fulfilled. Can’t you just be happy for us?”
Buffy hugs her, tightly.
Buffy proposes a new project for Wonderland Productions: a series of books dealing with family illness. What’s Wrong With Daddy? will be first, based on Xander’s struggle. No photographs though; Xander’s privacy will be preserved. Molly agrees to illustrate it. Both physical and mental illness affect a family’s dynamic, and the children’s input is valued greatly.
They pitch the idea to the school system and the publishing company Dawn had mentioned. Their series is greenlighted. Buffy makes plans for the second book – a re-telling of the twins’ and Willa’s bout with chicken pox.
It feels good to be creative again.
May 2017 – Trouble In River City
It starts with hang up phone calls. Easy to think they’re wrong numbers without the courtesy to apologize. When the frequency of the calls increases and they happen at later hours, Willow has the phone number changed and unlisted, solving that problem.
However, within a week the mailbox is ripped from the ground, the garbage cans are overturned and smashed, and flower beds are uprooted.
The heartbreaker is a spray-painted message on the garage: “Go away, lezbo freaks!” Painting over the door doesn’t lessen the grief of intolerance, and Becky begins to worry about leaving her family when she flies.
Molly drops Treena and Willa at the Rosenbergs for a visit when her chores take her to Ventura for the day. Kiana is delighted to see them, and Willow just sits back and relaxes for a change, watching them romp in the backyard.
They pack a picnic lunch and head out to the park for a change of scenery; lots of mamas and children enjoying the bright sunshine and moderate temperatures. Under the watchful eyes of her ‘babysitters,’ Kiana strikes up merry babblefests with other toddlers.
Willow shrieks as a water balloon hits her back, drenching the leftovers and blanket.
A handful of boys are playing nearby with the wobbly missiles, and Willow dismisses the hit as an accident, although none of the children apologizes for their errant aim. When Kiana becomes the next victim, it takes every last vestige of control Willow has to keep from razing the trees in search of the culprit.
Treena picks up the wailing little girl, and they hastily gather up their belongings and head back home, only to find: “We don’t want deviants around our children” splashed in red paint on the driveway.
A shaken Willow tries to explain what’s been going on.
“I don’t get it, Aunt Willow. Why would someone call you and Aunt Becky deviants? Aren’t you both as human as they are? Don’t you both love each other? What could be so wrong?”
“You know people aren’t always understanding about differences. You do remember when your precious Bobby wasn’t the kindest boy,” Willow gentles.
“But he was just a kid!”
Upset for her friends, Treena tosses in her own two cents. “And look at how much things have changed between the two of you since then.”
“I know all that,” Willow sighs. “Sometimes people prefer their ignorance to reality.”
The Rosenbergs won’t spend their one year anniversary in Ventura. Upon Becky’s return, they discuss the merits of moving to Santa Barbara. The community is exceptionally tolerant of difference and they need a safe place to raise Kiana.
“Looks like it’s time for the last Scooby to find her way home,” Buffy says softly into the phone. “You know Xan’ll be thrilled to have you close by since he can’t drive anymore.”
Willow thinks that maybe something good will come out of this mess after all. “Now all we need to do is convince Giles to move back,” she laughs.
June 2017 – Over There
Dawn is besides herself with worry. What had promised to be a dull day of translations had been interrupted by a call from her frantic husband. Jesse has vanished. Not as in can’t be found, though he can’t be, but as in opening a portal and popping through it.
They check the house from attic to basement and come up empty-handed. Jesse’s never portaled away from home before. Wherever he is, Dawn and Andrew pray their child is safe.
“I’ll get it!” Dawn cries when the phone breaks the silence.
Spike’s laughter precedes the words: “Anyone turn up missing, Niblet?”
“Oh, thank God! Is he okay? Did he do it on purpose?” Dawn’s wobbly voice make her difficult to understand but Spike patiently waits until she calms.
“Little bloke is fine, love. He wanted to play Demons and Slayer with his Auntie Buffy, an’ since you were talkin’ about payin’ a visit anyway, thought he’d pop in first.”
“What are we gonna do, Spike?” she wailed. “If the Council catches wind of Jesse’s performance, I’m afraid of what they’ll do. Kinder, gentler, yes… but controllable portals? He’s my baby, and… I’m worried enough about the other kids catching their interest.”
“Maybe it’s time to come home, pet. Safety in numbers and all that,” Spike says softly. “Buffy would be over the moon to have her sis close by, not to mention the little peanuts.”
Dawn is torn. She adores the life she’s carved out in England, but has to admit that the Council’s proximity to her children is unsettling. “I’ll talk to Andrew. There are too many people here I can’t be sure of, and I won’t put my babies at risk.”
“Talk to Giles, love. Then someone has to pick up the tyke. Don’t wanna risk a wonky portal.”
In the end, Dawn decides to fly in, leaving Andrew to watch over the rest of their brood. The entire family gathers to discuss the potential threat to their children and decide, indeed, that the Council needs to be kept at arm’s length.
A realtor is enlisted and a suitable house found no more than ten minutes away from the Bennetts or the Harrises, and by the time the final papers are signed, the Wells family become the cream in a Scooby sandwich.
Move-in is scheduled for August. The trick will be keeping Jesse from being the advance wave again.