We’ve nearly reached the end of the line. Here's the next-to-the-last chapter of Reclamation, the sequel to Innocence Found. (And only one week after the last update, too!)
You can find Reclamation from the beginning Here.
Crossposted to spuffyness and my regular journal.
Once again, kudos to Willa for helping me whip this little puppy into postable shape As always, comments feed the muse and are much appreciated and sought after like a little kid at Hanukkah!.
Reclamation – Chapter 7 – Aftermath
Okay… the party’s over and most of the guests have gone home. Now what?
Buffy smiled as Tara leaned over to wrap her arms around Spike’s shoulders in a firm hug. As the gentle woman headed towards the kitchen, Buffy realized some things had really changed. Spike was no longer ‘hers’ alone – to dislike or to care for. While Tara had always held some sort of affection for the ornery vampire, she was no longer afraid to show it to either him or anybody else.
“Hey, Big Bad,” she said softly when Spike continued his dare she even think it? brooding. “Wanna tell Mama what’s bothering you?”
“Now that’s just disturbin’, Slayer, no matter what age I might be.” Spike sighed, still refusing to lift his head and look at her. “S’just… to borrow a phrase from a not-so-old tune… where do we go from here?”
Buffy’s mood shifted from playful to floored in the blink of an eye. “Are you actually worried about me? I thought I made it clear that I was willing… that I wanted to see what we could be to each other. In fact,” she said, pulling Spike closer to her by fistfuls of his tee shirt, “I said it in front of Giles and Tara. No more hidey-Buffy. And no more hidey-Spike, either.”
“Not worried ‘bout you changin’ your mind, pet.” The vampire eased out of her grasp, settling Buffy back onto the couch. “This past week has been illuminating in lots’ve different ways. Got to see you as a mum, for one. It’s a good look on you – carin’ for kidlets.”
A blush arose on Buffy’s cheeks at his compliment. “I-I was sure I’d never want kids. I even refused to babysit ‘cause I thought I’d be so bad at it.”
“Don’ let anyone tell you different, Buffy. It’s not easy, but you did a hell of a job with your friends.”
“I didn’t do it by myself, you know. I wouldn’t have been able to manage half as well without Tara and you.” She batted at his shoulder, smiling at her memories. “You are so Marshmallow Fluff guy. Xander had you wrapped around his little finger. And let’s not forget Angel.”
“Yes, let’s, pet. Let’s forget all about baby Peaches and the tot brigade.” An expression of loss passed fleetingly across Spike’s face. He made a vain attempt at salvaging his usual arrogance by wiping his eyes surreptitiously. “They’re gone now, and in their place are the gits that…”
“That made your life miserable,” Buffy finished with some understanding of his attitude. “Oh, Spike. You’re gonna miss the kids, aren’t you?”
“It’s not just that I’ll miss them… an’ if you tell anyone I said that, I’ll deny it,” he huffed, trying hard for his Big Bad persona and failing, miserably. “Now that I’ve seen you with little ones…” He threw his hands up in frustration, muscle ticking wildly in his jaw. “How can I ever give you that, Buffy? And how can I deny you?”
“D’ya think we could actually go out as a couple before you have me all Mother Goosey? I mean, I understand the missage,” Buffy sighed. “They were so much sweeter as kids than as adults and they tended to listen to me every now and again. But that doesn’t mean it’s something to worry about right now.” Buffy stroked Spike’s nape gently, enjoying the way he leant into her touch; relaxing. “Besides, you can’t not give me something I wasn’t planning on having anyway.”
Buffy watched as Spike closed his eyes, letting his emotions wash through him. Again, she marveled at how she’d ever thought this vampire had no heart?
“Not good enough, love,” he murmured. “Not by half.”
With a tenderness she’d only just rediscovered, Buffy pressed a kiss to his lips, silencing his doubts and insecurities.
“If I say you’re good enough, then you’re good enough, silly bampire.” She yanked his arm in a well-practiced move, pulling Spike off the couch. “Why don’t we go see what the kitchen bunch is up to? Maybe they’ve all turned into mushrooms by now. Or… or…”
Spike fought the grin trying to appear on his face. “How ‘bout toads? We could keep ‘em all locked up in a terrarium. No more late night Wal-Mart runs.”
“Oh, God! Giles is gonna have a cow when he opens his next credit card bill,” Buffy groaned. “That’s it… this time I’m serious. Let’s go find another Framey demon. Giles wouldn’t hit a defenseless little girl, would he?”
Spike just smiled as they walked out of the room.
“So, mates. How’s it feel to be a couple of old farts again?” Spike came out swinging, figuring the best offence, blah, blah, blah. He wasn’t overly worried about the Watcher, but his Sire could be a volatile creature, and given the changes he’d just been through...
Angel grumbled, staring down at his now-empty mug of blood. “Let it go, Spike. Can’t I just sit here in peace until Cordy comes to pick me up?”
“Knew you’d be back to your broody self in no time.”
“Boys,” Tara soothed, coming over to the table. “Haven’t we had enough childish behavior to last us for awhile?”
“Bloody git started it, Tara. M’tired of…”
He rolled his eyes, but gave in without another word. “Yes, Mum. I’ll be a good lad, Mum. No spankin’ for… What’s this?” He reached into the waste basket and pulled up young Angel’s drawings. “Why’d you toss the sketches?”
“Leave them, Spike. They’re… they’re nothing but a little boy’s scribblings.” Angel refused to look at anyone; apparently the openness he’d shown as a child was a thing of the past. “The boy’s gone. Was nothing more than spell-based nonsense, and so are those.”
Buffy gasped, yanking the drawings away from Spike. “Don’t you dare throw these out, Angel. How could you? These are precious. Something we’ll never have a chance to experience again. Probably.”
“Look,” he growled, lunging for the papers in her hand. “I just told the bleached pest, and I’m telling you… they’re nothing but garbage.”
With a ballerina-like pirouette, Buffy managed to evade the large vampire’s grasping hands by ducking under his arms. “Nuh uh. I’m gonna keep ‘em. At least this time your drawings aren’t followed by dead bodies or threats. I like them.”
“It wasn’t so bad, you git – bein’ a kiddy an’ all.” Spike’s hand fell on Angel’s shoulder, trying for a moment of what passed like peace between them. “You were a cute li’l bugger. An’ rather ticklish, if I recall.” He grinned, watching the older vampire twitch. He should have known better than to tease, however.
“All right, sonny boy. You’re so fond of remembering, are you?” Angel leered. “I seem to remember someone purring against my chest as he fed…”
Spike threw up his hands in a gesture of surrender. “Fine. You win. The past is the past an’ I won’t be bringin’ it up again. But I still say Buffy’s right. Keep the piccies. You may not want ‘em now, but I’d lay odds that you will, one day.”
A small peck on the cheek was Spike’s reward from Buffy, before she took the drawings and put them away in Giles’ desk for safekeeping.
Angel grumbled, but he let Buffy keep the images, sitting back down with his head in his hands. “Where the hell is Cordelia with the damned car, already?”
“She won’t be here for several hours, Angel,” Buffy said softly. Why don’t you go rest upstairs and we’ll call you when she gets here?”
He left without an argument.
Buffy walked in on Angel – unannounced. She’d obviously startled him, watching with amusement as he tried to hide the sketchpad and pencils behind his back.
“I thought you came up here for a little rest.” She smiled, trying to peek behind his back. “What’re you hiding?”
“Nothing. I’m not hiding anything.”
As her well-sculpted eyebrow rose in disbelief, Angel relented.
“Fine, so maybe I’m hiding a little something.” He pulled out the pad and handed it over with a grimace.
“Oh, Angel. These are beautiful.”
Buffy was amazed as the images came into view. Angel had done detailed character studies of everyone except himself as children. Little Wills and Buffys laughing, sleeping, eating breakfast… every expression captured for posterity. Images of little Willow, Rupert and Xander… skating, at the Ice Cream Emporium, and playing around the house filled the other pages. Tears filled her eyes as she looked up at him.
“They’re perfect,” she sniffled, hugging the vampire as his sat there, stiff as a board. “Thank you, Angel.”
“They’re not too much,” he demurred. “It helps having a photographic memory for details.”
She shook her head in disagreement. “You don’t understand. They’re probably the only children I’ll ever have. These pictures mean everything to me, especially since you drew them.” Buffy held the papers to her chest, smiling wistfully. “But you’re still hiding some. Can I see?”
“Sorry, Buffy. These aren’t for you.”
”But…” She pouted, turning on the eyes of doom that no male had been able to resist since the first time she was five years old. “Please, Angel? Lemme see.”
Angel finally relaxed enough to smile at his one-time girl. “That hasn’t worked on me since… well, last week, anyway.” He handed her the remaining drawings he’d held back.
The first was a group photo of all the children. “That’s for Giles. I thought he’d enjoy a family portrait, even though you weren’t all kids at the same time.”
The second was Tara, holding little Willow on her lap. Sort of a modern-day Madonna and child. “I figured even if they don’t get back together, she’d enjoy the memory.”
The next drawing showed Spike caught in a moment of pure joy; his head thrown back, laughing with delight over something unseen. “I don’t recall the last time I’d seen him so carefree, Buffy. I was going to keep this one for myself, but you can have it if you want.”
Realizing how big a deal it was for Angel to admit wanting any reminder of Spike around, she refused his generous offer, turning to the last drawing in the pile. Her hand flew to her mouth, trying to stifle the sobs welling up in her throat.
Little Will and little Buffy cuddled up together on Giles’ guest bed. The detail was extraordinary. Light, shadows, down to the wrinkles in their cotton jimmies; the way Buffy’s little pinky toe crooked where it caught the blanket.
“You were gonna keep this one, too?” Buffy looked up at him with tear filled eyes.
“When you and Spike came to my office last week, I saw it. Saw that I’d lost you as my girl in that girlfriend sense, for good. But by the time you’d left, I knew you’d become something more. You and Spike were both my – mine. My…”
Buffy put the pictures down, taking up Angel’s hands instead. “Your… children?”
“In a twisted sort of way. Vampire childer are our way of procreating – keeping the line going, so even if he’s not mine by blood, he’s mine by my blood.”
“You’re his by choice, which makes you mine, as well. Unless he hurts you, in which case he’s dust.”
Buffy’s comments were cut off by the blaring of a car’s horn outside, signaling Cordelia’s arrival.
Spike caught sight of Buffy coming down the stairs, hand in hand with Angel. It took all of his control to keep from barreling into his elder and knocking him flat on his arse.
“So what’s with the buddy-buddy routine?” he snarked, resentment simmering just below the surface. “You two back to being a couple? Had a bit of a revelation whilst you were…”
“Do you ever shut up, idiot?” Angel bit out; his clenched teeth showing control issues of his own. “Buffy and I have finally closed the door on our old relationship. We’ve decided it was time for something new.”
“Oh, my God, what’s wrong with both of you?” Buffy dropped Angel’s hand and stood between the two vampires as Spike’s growl reverberated throughout the room. She then smacked him not so gently on the arm. “Tell him what you told me, already. Cordy’s not likely to take being kept waiting really well.”
Spike eyed his grandsire warily as he stepped back, giving them both some maneuvering space.
“Here,” Angel growled, holding the drawing out for Spike to take. “I just thought you might understand how I feel without my actually having to say the damned words.”
Spike felt the warmth of Buffy’s arms as they stole around his waist. “This what you two were discussin’ upstairs, love?” He had a hard time processing the emotions he felt as he looked at the drawing of themselves as children.
As a fledgling, William had an affinity for Angelus’ drawings. For a supposedly soulless creature, he could often bring you to tears with his artwork. It was that evocative. He’d lost nothing of that talent over the years.
With eyes sparkling with barely held emotions, Spike put the drawing down carefully on the kitchen counter. Silence reigned; everyone apparently waiting on his reaction to Angel’s olive branch. He reacted in the only way he could… he punched the older vampire in the shoulder.
“Bloody tosser,” he growled; voice rough with unshed tears. “You promise never to call me sonny boy again, and I’ll make a fair effort not to call you Gramps within anyone’s hearing. We got a deal, mate?”
A rough hug was Angel’s only reply, before he turned his suspiciously wet face away and walked out the door after another of Cordelia’s impatient honks.
Oh, how good it felt to be home. Buffy walked through each room, re-familiarizing herself with each little knick-knack and knothole. It had only been a week since she’d been there, and two since the start of the whole kiddy business, but for the first time in over a year, the house on Revello Drive was all hers. Willow would probably move out. Tara had moved into Giles’ place. All alone… unless… Spike moved in with her? For real this time, not just for convenience. Maybe the guest room until they were more sure of their relationship? Not like they couldn’t have some together time if and when they chose.
She sat down on her bed, staring at her girly-pink phone. Maybe some things still needed to be changed. Something that reflected the new, older and more improved Buffy. Along with getting rid of those boy band posters. Geeze, what had she been thinking?
Anyway, it was time to do what she’d come home for. Spike wouldn’t be back for a couple of hours, giving her the space she needed to check up on her other newly grownup friends. As much as she wanted his support, Buffy knew this was something best faced alone.
Staring at the phone wasn’t going to accomplish anything, so Buffy quickly tapped Xander’s number into the keypad before she lost her nerve, hoping he’d still pick up the phone when her number came up on Caller ID.
“Hey, Buff. What’s new?”
His voice was so shaky, Buffy cringed.
“Oh, not much. Still with the big and grownup.” She tried for light, hoping to diffuse some of the tension evident even over the phone line. “I wanted to make sure you got home in one piece, Xan. And that you were okay. It’s been a rough week.”
Xander snorted. “Way to put it mildly, Buffy. I’m fine. What’s left of my pride after trotting through Sunnydale in Giles’ way-too-tight sweats is once more intact.”
“Are we good, Xan? I mean, we didn’t leave off well, what with all the yelling and accusing and screaming…”
For a moment, she heard nothing but heavy breathing through the receiver.
“Look, Buff. I’m okay. Well, I’ve been better, but I’ll be fine soon enough. Nothing a couple of decades in the hands of a good shrink can’t take care of.”
“We still need to talk. About Spike…”
“Xander, please,” she begged. “We can’t sweep this under the rug and expect to move on like nothing’s changed.”
“No, Buffy. I mean there’s no way I can talk about this… about him, right now.”
It was Xander’s turn to beg. She could hear the tears clogging his voice and relented for the moment.
“I’m not dropping this, Xan. We have to talk about it sometime.”
“Agreed. Just… not now. Gotta go, Buff,” he said, in a transparent attempt to rush her off the phone. “Anya’s coming over and I’m sure we’ve got a long talk ahead of us, too. Only so much talking a guy can stand in one afternoon. Even me.”
“Later, then? You’ll come over for a face-to-face?”
“Nose-to-nose, even,” he joked. “I promise we’ll get together, soon.”
Leaving last minute details in Tara’s capable hands, Buffy ran to answer the doorbell.
Willow stood in the doorway; shoulders slumped and face hidden by a curtain of bright red hair. “I-I brought something,” she murmured, shoving a brown supermarket bag into Buffy’s hands. “Oatmeal Cookie Chunk and Phish Food. Nothing says peace offering like tubs of Ben & Jerry’s. ”
Buffy could see the hope shining in her friend’s eyes, and her nerves lessened.
“Nope. Not much like ice cold creamy goodness to get over the rough spots.” When the redhead seemed hesitant to come inside, Buffy grabbed her now empty hands and pulled her gently towards the living room.
At the sound of her ex-lover’s voice, Willow nearly bolted, and would have if it weren’t for Buffy’s grip on her arm.
“You can do this, Will. You have to do this,” Buffy urged, guiding the shaking woman over to the couch. “It’ll all work out.”
They all turned as Spike thundered down the stairs. He shared a hasty kiss with Buffy by the door before tearing out, slamming the door behind him.
“Um, Buffy? Did Spike leave because of me?” Willow toyed with the hem of her shirt, looking very much like the high school girl Buffy had first met.
She smiled, patting the woman’s back reassuredly. “Nah. Like anyone could make Spike leave if he didn’t want to.”
“Is he so angry with me he wouldn’t stay in the same room?”
“No, Willow,” Tara echoed Buffy’s previous statement. “Spike actually went on patrol, giving us some girl time.” A sad little smile graced her lips as she reached out, smoothing an errant lock of hair behind her ear. “Besides, what would he do at a hen party, anyway? Let us curl his hair and polish his nails?”
Buffy snickered, both hands flying up to cover her mouth.
“What?” Tara and Willow chorused.
“The last thing Spike needs is to have his hair curled. He’d look like a platinum poodle!” Buffy giggled. “Have you ever seen that man straight out of the shower? Shirley Temple would have been jealous of those curls.”
“Or when he’s just woken up,” Tara added, mirth evident in her eyes. “He’s so rumpled and sweet. He reminds me so much of his younger self, I half expected him to rub the sleep out of his eyes with balled up fists.”
“Hey!” Willow’s indignant squawk put a halt in the gigglefest. “How do you know what Spike looks like just out of bed?”
Tara sighed. “Is it really your business anymore, Willow? Who I see; when I see them?”
“It is mine,” Buffy interrupted. “I’d be jealous if I didn’t know the last time you saw Spike hop out of bed, it was to wash up the pukey blanket that Giles gifted us with.” With a moue of disgust on her lips from the memory, she headed towards the kitchen. “I’m gonna leave you two alone for a bit. It’ll probably be a bit easier to talk with a little privacy.” Buffy slipped quietly through the door without looking back.
“I’m sorry, baby. You know I didn’t mean…”
Tara shook her head, wondering how she could have made such an error in judgment with the woman she thought to be her life partner.
“Something else you don’t mean, Willow? At least this time one of our friends isn’t lying on the ground, writhing in pain from one of your mistakes.” Tara kept her voice low but each sentence had the impact of a slap across the face. “And I’m not the person you should be apologizing to. You hurt me, yes. By your lies and your secrets, you ruined what I thought we had. Trust between partners, once shattered, isn’t always reparable.”
“Isn’t there anything I can do to make this better?” Willow sobbed. “Tara, baby. You know I love you.”
“And I love you, too, Will. But sometimes…”
A look of resignation crossed the redhead’s face. “Sometimes it’s not enough. Yeah, I get that,” she sniffled, swiping at her nose with the back of her hand. “I really killed us, didn’t I?”
Tara nodded, glad to see it finally sinking in. “Without trust, we have nothing. I’m so sorry, Willow, but I can’t… won’t be in a relationship without it.”
“I can change,” Willow insisted. “What if I go to a… to a shrink? To work out all my problems. Will you be willing to give us another chance?”
“Oh, sweetie. If you go to a psychiatrist, do it for yourself, not me.” Tara sobbed, losing control for a moment. “You have to find out why you need to control every situation, even those that have nothing to do with you. Do it for yourself, and any other relationship you might have in the years to come,” she whispered. “Just not with me.”
“Will we ever see each other again? Do I have to leave town? Or you… are you leaving Sunnydale?”
With a wistful smile, Tara hugged her unhappy ex gently. “You don’t have to leave town, silly. Sunnydale is your home. And mine, too. I’ve moved in with Giles. He was kind enough to offer me… to let me stay with him. A-and we’ll see each other from time to time, I’m sure. Given enough of it, we’ll be friends again.”
“Just friends?” Willow squeaked.
“Always, hon. You can never have too many friends. Remember that.”
Buffy came back into the living room; not with ice cream, but lugging a heavy cooler. “Everything okay guys? I was beginning to think I should notify the post office of my new, kitchen address.”
“Did you make us some picnicy goodness?” Willow wiped away her tears, pointing to tub now placed on the floor between them.
“Nope. It’s addressed to Spike, but I’m dying to open it,” Buffy worried. “You never know who’s gonna send him something nasty just for fun.”
“Somebody send me a prezzie?” Spike breezed into the house, settling down next to Buffy. “Well, lemme open it. We can pretend it’s my deathday, an’ you can get me some ice cream, too. Just one of girls tonight.”
“What’s got you all good-moody, Spike? Not that I’m complaining.”
“Must’ve been those Pterycaldis demons I took apart,” he grinned, wiping his hands on Buffy’s bare arms. “Buggers were attackin’ some moonlight strollers down by the pier.”
Buffy cringed, then looked down at her clean skin. “Gods, Spike. You’re worse now then when you were five. Who’s the cooler from? Does it say in the card? Do you recognize the handwriting?”
Spike snickered. “An’ you think I’m impatient? Pot, kettle, love.” He looked over the envelope, finding no card enclosed. “Guess whoever had nothin’ much to say. Looks like demon-girl’s handwritin’.” A quick flip of the cooler’s lid had everyone staring.
“Wow, Spike,” Buffy exclaimed, handing over packer after packet from Sunnydale Memorial’s bloodbank. “Looks like you’ve got an admirer. Very admiring admirer – the dates are still fresh.” Her brow furrowed with concern. “Now who do you know who’d be sending you a Blood-o-Gram?”
“There’s more, pet. Weetabix, burba weed… ya think old Rupes sent a care package for getting’ him through his second childhood?”
“Not Giles, Spike. Look.” She held out the last item from the bottom of the cooler.
“Would you just look at it? Closely?” Sheesh! What is it with men?
“Well I’ll be thrice damned,” Spike murmured, turning the carved piece of wood over and over in his hands. “A bleedin’ teddy bear with fangs. The git does nice work – fit’s m’grip good an’ proper.”
Buffy blinked back her tears, unable to cope with the sudden rush of emotions roiling through her body. She took the stake from Spike’s hand to let the girls see Xander’s craftsmanship, and hugged her vampire tightly.
“There’s hope for us all yet, bampire,” she whispered in his ear. “Maybe all this presto change-o was the best thing that could’ve happened.”
Spike nuzzled his favorite spot behind Buffy’s ear, and sighed. “You know, I wish…”
“Oh, no! No you really don’t,” she whispered back, holding his mouth shut with her hand. “No more wishing, Spike. We can do it all by ourselves… if we try.”
“I already have my wish, Buffy.” At her confused look, he clarified. “From our bet? It’s all I’ve ever wanted – just a chance, an’ we’ve more than that. Guess m’done wishing.”
Without a backwards glance at their guests, Slayer and Vampire ran up the stairs to start working on their new life together.