At long last - the coda to Reclamation, which can be found Here from the beginning, has been completed, and I offer it to anyone who's still interested. The faithful muse would be honored if you'd read and comment.
Reclamation is the sequel to Innocence Found, which can be found Here in its entirety.
Reclamation – Epilogue – Blast from the Past
Two Years Later
Giles stood back and enjoyed the sight of Tara bustling about in his tiny kitchen. The young woman had put aside her shy nature and blossomed into the full, lush spirit he’d only gotten a glimpse of during her relationship with Willow.
If pressed, he would have to admit he’d developed quite the crush on his roommate over the past few years. Tara was bright, imaginative and, most appealing of all, a homebody. Her idea of a good day involved sitting in front of the fireplace with a bottle of fine wine, and a platter of fruits and cheeses.
They did go out together. Dining at a fine restaurant, followed by a night at the theatre wasn’t unheard of, but usually they settled for cooking together and talking about their respective days. Very domestic. Wonderfully appreciated.
“Are you sure you don’t need any help, love?” he asked for the third time in an hour. “I don’t want you too exhausted to enjoy our guests.”
Tara’s face was alight with contentment as she shepherded a second turkey from the oven to cool before carving.
“Everything’s under control, Rupert. What time is everyone set to arrive?”
“We did tell them five o’clock, I believe. But you know how things tend to…”
Wiping her hands on her apron, Tara looked up at the clock. Sure enough – barely two thirty. “Care to take bets on the early arrival?” she asked between laughs, heading for the door, where she was promptly encompassed in a bear hug by an over-exuberant Xander.
“You have no idea how good it is to be able to wrap my arms around a woman again, cutie.” He grinned and promptly got his hand slapped reaching for one of the cooling turkeys. “And may I just say ‘ow’ missy? Giles been teaching you self defense in his spare time?”
“One would think you’d know better than to try and sample the goods before dinner, Xander,” Giles greeted the young man warmly. “Tara might not practice spell-casting often, but I’m sure she’s quite a dab hand at turning mooching guests into salamanders for a couple of hours.”
Anya’s still-strident tones rang out from the kitchen. “Giles! Make Tara carve some dark meat right now. I’m hungry,” she demanded, waddling into the living room, her baby-belly arriving well before the rest of her.
Giles gently helped the seven-months-pregnant woman onto the wing chair, easing her down into a sitting position.
“It’s true what they say, Anya. You have quite the glow about you.”
Anya grunted, trying to ease herself into a more comfortable position. “That’s because I’m always sweating,” she muttered. “He’s impregnated me with a demon child and I’m going to burn up from the inside out.”
Without another word, Xander ran into the kitchen to get the mother-to-be a glass of ice water.
Giles was pleased at the changes the couple had undergone since Buffy’s little wish. Xander finally let go of his deep-seated demon prejudices… at least in regards to their little group. Mostly. And when his girlfriend became pregnant, he’d been overjoyed at the prospect of being a daddy.
Not so much Anya, who was terrified. She might have been able to handle a pair of five year olds in the bathtub, but the prospect of full-fledged motherhood left her bemoaning her lack of maternal instincts.
She also refused to get married until the baby was born and she could fit into a ‘proper’ wedding dress. Her mantra became: “One child. One wedding. One husband.” On particularly hormonal days, Xander had informed Giles that she would look at him sideways, mumbling something about ‘the old days’ and ‘his turn’ and ‘swollen body parts’.
Family, Giles thought happily. His children had really learned something from their experiences.
There was only one sore spot – Willow. She’d tried bravely to maintain a friendship with Tara after their breakup, but it was not to be. She couldn’t be around her ex-girlfriend without wanting more, and Tara most gently rebuffed her at every turn. Xander’s decision to focus his attention on his girlfriend left Willow feeling the odd man out, especially with…
“Gii-iiles, we’re here!”
Buffy’s dulcet tones rang out from the kitchen, followed closely behind by the sound of flapping cloth, indicating the arrival of her vampire during daylight hours.
Spike and Buffy. Buffy and Spike. Slayer and Vampire. Giles no longer held any real reservations about their relationship… other than, would any man ever be good enough for the daughter of his heart?
She barreled into the room; her happiness almost a tangible sensation. “Tara says we can eat in about an hour if we’re hungry. Seems she always knows when there’s foody goodness abounding, we’re likely to get here early and she planned for it.”
“Won’t be soon enough if you ask me,” Anya mumbled, clearly wishing she could devour one of Tara’s flaky, fresh-baked croissants. “It’s really cruel of you guys to have so much food around and not let me and little Elsa graze a little. I’m eating for two, ya know?”
Buffy looked at Anya’s rounded belly with reverence, silently asking permission to touch. “You know you’re having a girl?” she asked wistfully, smiling at each little kick and movement she felt.
Anya shook her head. “Well, the doctor knows, but Xander and I decided we’d like to be surprised. “It could be a little Olaf.”
“Not funny in the slightest, Ahn,” Xander chided, lovingly. “No way a kid of mine is gonna to be named after your very ex-husband-turned-troll.”
“Mates.” Spike acknowledged the Watcher and Xander with a nod of his head. “Anya, love… you look smashing. Gonna make a first-class Mum, you will.”
The young woman beamed at Spike’s compliment and turned her face up for a peck on the cheek. “Just remember that we’re expecting lots of expensive presents from you two. Godparents should spoil their godchild silly… and with the best gifts.”
“Not that I’m not feelin’ the love here, but can anyone tell me where to put this down?” Spike asked, indicating the rather large box he carried with him, and pointedly avoiding Xander’s wicked gaze as he held back the obvious gibe.
“Does it bite?”
”No more than I do these days, Rupes,” the vampire smirked. “Just a little something for after dinner.”
Giles motioned over to a spot near the small desk by the front door. “Nothing perishable, I take it?”
“Left the yummies to you an’ Tara this year.” Spike watched the three women commune – all baby talk, soft smiles and belly-rubbing. “You know, I wish…”
“Wasn’t gonna actually say it,” Spike groused.
Tara patted his shoulder; her soft smile taking what little sting there was out of everyone’s yelled response. “C’mon, Big Bad. Help me bring out the food. We wouldn’t want Anya to pass out from starvation, now would we?”
Stuffed to the point of bursting, everyone naturally paired off in the living room. Anya and Xander took to the sofa, where she could put her feet up on her boyfriend’s lap. Nothing said whipped like massaging the tired, aching and swollen toes of the one you loved.
Giles and Tara settled into the loveseat. Spike was sure if the couple weren’t already shagging, it wouldn’t be long. The arousal rolling off the pair had been building steadily for the past year and their obvious ease and affection were on display for all to see.
As for Spike? He did what he did best… settled on the floor between Buffy’s legs; allowing her fingers to card through his no longer tightly gelled hair.
The silence was comfortable – a true benchmark denoting close family. Not to mention the tryptophan reaction the humans were dealing with.
When the knock came at the door, Spike was the only being fit to get up and answer it. “‘bout time you got here, Poof,” he snickered. “Party’s mostly dead without you.”
Angel lightly clouted his obnoxious childe on the back of his head as he walked inside; a common greeting ritual between the two vampires.
Cordelia stood at the threshold and made a show of peeking inside, first. “So, bleach boy… is it safe? Nobody turned into rats or smelly Feshl’ik demons this year?”
“Wouldn’t get too close to Harris after what he ate, otherwise we’re a smell-free zone, Legs,” Spike said as he ushered her inside.
“Did you start without us? You know old Broodypants wouldn’t leave until moments before sunset.”
Buffy snorted indelicately from her chair. “Nice to see some things don’t change, Cordelia. You still think the world stops and starts for you.”
“And you’re still boinking the undead, right?” the brunette fired back.
“Yup!” The smug look on Buffy’s face gave lie to the seemingly hostile words spoken by the two women.
Spike had learned enough to keep his mouth shut. The sight of Angel rolling his eyes was satisfaction enough. Ever since ‘the incident’ Buffy had grown close to her old schoolmate, bonding over the care and feeding of little Angel. The dish between them could go on for hours over the phone, not that Spike made a habit of listening in… much… but the mockery of his grandsire was just too good to pass up.
“Gods, what a sorry bunch of old farts you all turned out to be,” Cordy exclaimed, ever tactful. “I decided we’d mark the anniversary of everybody’s childish regression with a new portrait.” She waved a tiny digital camera in the air to emphasize her point. “So… what’s everyone waiting for? Hop to it, people. And vampires – anyone kidified needs to go make themselves presentable. Chop chop!”
Twenty minutes later they all reassembled by the sofa – hair combed, clothing tucked into the proper place and somewhat nostalgic expressions on their faces.
“Oi, Legs. Hang on a mo.” Spike headed over to the box he’d brought and brought out a large wrapped package. “If we’re gonna mark the occasion, let’s do it right an’ mirror the original as close as possible.” He handed the present to Giles as Buffy beamed her approval.
“S’just a little token. Seems great minds think alike, an’ me and Buffy decided to remember our younger years as well.”
Giles began to pick fussily at the tape when Tara snatched it out of his hands. “I swear, Rupert… you’re going at it like an old maiden Aunt.” She proceeded to tear the paper to bits. “Oh! It’s just wonderful, you guys,” she said, handing the portrait over to Giles and grabbing Spike around the waist for a quick hug. “It just brings it all full circle, doesn’t it?”
Buffy joined in, and before long everyone except for Angel, and Spike, who’d managed to escape, was embroiled in the group hug-fest.
“Would you just look at ‘em, Angel?” he said with no small amount of awe in his voice. “When did everyone get so bloody sappy? I mean, it wasn’t but a couple of years ago we were all tryin’ to kill each other.”
“What’s a little killing between friends, I always say.” Angel stared at the knot of humanity in the center of the room. “Brought you something, too,” he said, reaching into his duster’s pocket.
Spike unfolded the tissue paper and stared at the small framed oil painting in his hands. It didn’t have the style of Angel’s charcoals, but the subject… the heart pouring from every deliberate brush stroke. The younger vampire was at a loss for words as he looked into his grandsire’s eyes.
“Finally made you speechless, eh, boyo?”
Staring back at Spike were two game-faced vampire children smiling around their fangs. An incongruous sight but one that warmed him from the bottom of his un-beating heart. “How?” he asked, still trying to wrap his thoughts around the image in front of him.
“Um… that would be me,” Buffy said as she sauntered up to the vampires in her life, wrapping her arms around her lover’s waist. “I sent Angel the Polaroids I’d taken of you when you were a little bampire, and Giles sent the ones he’d taken. Cordelia made him bring it,” she whispered into the shell of Spike’s ear. “And speaking of Cordelia… I think her highness is getting a bit antsy. C’mon, guys… it’s time for our close-ups!”
Using the original photo as a guideline, Cordelia shepherded everyone into place. Anya stood off to the side since she wasn’t there the first time.
Spike, Tara, and Buffy sat on the sofa. Of course, the blond couldn’t resist putting in his own two cents when Angel attempted to take his place at Spike’s side.
“Don’t you even think about sitting that wide arse of yours on my lap, ponce. Last thing I need is your crushing weight puttin’ me out of commission for tonight’s…” Spike winked and made a crude gesture instead of spelling it all out.
“You finish that sentence and there will be no…” Buffy repeated the gesture, eyebrow raised in censure.
Giles perched on her free side, leaving Xander to kneel at Tara’s feet on the floor.
Looking through the viewfinder, Cordelia motioned for everyone to squeeze in closer, then took a moment to check with the portrait.
“Okay you guys. Everyone take a ‘missing Willow’ moment and then flash those pearlies for the camera.”
The image of their once close friend in her purple Oshkosh overalls and her fuzzy pink sweater remained in everyone’s hearts