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January 2014 – Walk Through the Fire
Angel doesn’t ask for help often, not wanting to put a family man in harm’s way. However, this appears to be an easy case – methane breathers have created a weapon that breaches realities, allowing them to strike from the safety of their own dimension.
It should be an easy outing for the vampires. No need to breathe makes them formidable foes against the Rishok’s forces.
Making it all the more frightening when Buffy opens the door, seeing her husband nearly unconscious and gasping with the pain in his grandsire’s arms.
“It’s probably an allergic reaction to the methane,” Angel explains.
“Don’t worry about me,” he says, brushing off her concern. “Let’s get our boy cleaned up and comfortable, first. I can wait.”
Spike’s skin is pinkened, as is Angel’s. Apparently methane burns affect even tough as nails vampire skin. Her husband’s eyes and nostrils are inflamed; raw and bleeding slightly. Buffy remembers the night he held her tightly, dripping water into sightless eyes to counteract the Sugroth venom and prays.
A quick sponge bath, several mugs of blood later, and Spike finally relaxes.
“Did anyone ever tell you how lovely you are, all soft and fuzzy?” he asks his wife.
Two days later Spike’s eyes are fine, but he develops a stubborn fever, hovering around 85 degrees. Buffy’s alarmed when he can’t even rise from the bed.
“Weak as the proverbial kitten, sweeting. Couldn’t get it up with your two pretty hands helpin’,” he sighed, the heat radiating from his body in waves.
Aspirin doesn’t help. The only thing that brings Spike any comfort is a cool bath, and Buffy’s getting used to soaking in a lukewarm tub several times a day.
“Just call me pruney butt,” she said, settling into yet another bath, nestled against her husband’s heated chest.
The fever and the weakness leave as swiftly as they appear. Spike is back to his horny, boisterous self, pleasing both his wife and his children.
Nobody in Angel’s employ has been able to find out anything meaningful pertaining to Spike’s illness, or the correlation to exposure of the Rishok’s atmosphere. What they know is minimalist. Warm-blooded and breathing beings die; cold blooded and non-breathing beings are usually not affected.
Spike laughs it off. After burning up in the Hellmouth, a little fever’s not going to do him in, and once he’s up and about... promptly forgets all about it.
February 2014 – Thoroughly Modern Willa
Her age is now in double digits! Ten years old and twice the age of her siblings. Officially no longer a little girl, but a budding young lady.
Papa and Mama promise her a very special present when she gets home from school. As Willa heads out for the school bus, she hears Mama grumble: “… and it’ll take all that time to set it up, too.”
It turns out to be a computer of her very own, complete with printer and a cable modem.
She chooses her screen name: ShiningStar04. A little help from Papa and she’s all set.
The first name Willa adds to her Buddy List is… Bobby’s. She pulls his last letter from her desk drawer and fills in his screen name – NYbyStorm – in the appropriate spot. She can hardly wait for him to turn on his computer.
Willa listens to the ‘care and feeding of a computer’ lecture, knows that parental restrictions are set against naughty sites, and understands she’s being given a useful tool for schoolwork. She learns how to open Word, and work with Google.
Mama promises to give out her email address to family and friends, and warns her about spam emails.
When musical notes sound indicating her first email, Willa practically jumps off the chair. Clicking on the Yahoo icon, she finds an email from QueenTreena. Seems that Mama has snuck in a phone call to give her best friend the heads up. Papa shows her how to add Treena’s email to her address book
After a few minutes, ShiningStar04’s Buddy List reads as follows:
Mama – SlayBelle
Papa – WhiteFang
Tara – Tarabelle
Tyler – MightyMite
Bobby – NYbyStorm
Dawn – 1000Eyes
Andrew – Daddyof4
Becky – BeckaBoo
Willow – WhompingWillow
Xander – PapaXan
Molly – MallMolly
Treena – QueenTreena
Will – Willful09
Angel – BroodMaster
Nina – WolfGirl
Oz – UncleWolf
Giles – GrandpaG
Olivia – GrannyO
The sound of an opening door heralds Bobby’s arrival online. Willa hurriedly opens the AIM window, and types: “Guess who?”
NYbyStorm answers: “Willa!”
ShiningStar04: “How did you know it was me?”
NYbyStorm: “I know everything. And your mother emailed me your screen name and email.
ShiningStar04: “I love my new computer! Mama and Papa set it up while I was at school. It’s the bestest present ever.”
NYbyStorm: “Java misses you, Willa… ”
ShiningStar04: “I miss him, too. Wish you guys didn’t move.”
NYbyStorm: “Me, too. Gotta go, it’s time for dinner. Happy Birthday! **eleven birthday smacks**”
March 2014 – The Old Gray Mare
Several weeks after Buffy’s thirty fourth birthday, she notices teensy crow’s feet around her eyes and her first gray hair. To say she’s unhappy is an understatement of epic proportions. The children steer clear of their Mama when they can, and when they can’t… Willa, Tyler, and Tara are on their best behavior.
Spike, of course, dispenses no such subtleties. “Come closer, sweeting. Let me see all those pretty little laugh lines that have you all atwitter.” He also brushes her hair – running his fingers through golden sable strands – as close to her natural color as either of them remember.
“Gods, Spike,” she mutters. “What are we going to do when I’m a wrinkled old lady and you’re still as pretty as you ever were?”
He smiled, tilting her face until their eyes met. “I seem to remember when you didn’t think you were going to reach twenty-one, pet. In fact, you’d died twice before you made twenty-two. Getting older isn’t a curse, but a privilege.”
“Says the man who doesn’t age,” she retorted, mulishly. “I’m gonna look like a dirty old lady robbing the cradle!”
“You’ll grow mellower… like an aged wine. Something to be treasured and sipped from.”
“You’ll be the envy of the geriatric set, my dove. We’ll take long walks after dinner; me holdin’ on to your walker to keep pace…”
“All right, all right!” Buffy slaps at the man who shares her life and her bed. “You never know when to shut up, do you?”
Spike sighs, knowing that this conversation had been inevitable. “If I could grow old with you, pet… I’d be the happiest old codger in Santa Barbara. In the mean time, you hardly look past twenty-five.”
“Flatterer,” she murmurs, secretly pleased at her husband’s compliment. Pretty lies from a prettier spouse.
April 2014 – Backdraft
The Bennetts have a rare night out alone to celebrate their eighth anniversary. During the main course, Spike feels dizzy, but puts it down to forgetting to feed earlier that day.
By the time the dessert cart arrives, Spike can hardly keep his head up. He leans heavily against his wife as she maneuvers him towards the exit and the parking lot. The restaurant worriedly asks after them as they leave, hoping it wasn’t something he ate.
Buffy promises to call them back if it turns out to be food poisoning, and they remove the possible offender from the menu.
Spike opens his eyes to the worried faces of his wife, children and Angel, and knows something must be drastically wrong. “Can’t a bloke get some sleep around here without becoming a side show attraction?” he jokes.
When nobody laughs, Spike moves to sit up, and feels as if there’s a ten ton weight pressing down on his chest. “W-what’s wrong with me? Buffy…?”
She moves to her husband’s side, concern etched in her pretty hazel eyes. “You’ve been out cold for the past two days, love. Even the smell of fresh, warm Slayer blood wasn’t enough to rouse you.”
He wants to vomit. The thought that Buffy had bled for him warms him and makes him ill at the same time. Buffy sees the struggle in his eyes. “It’s okay, Spike. Just pricked a finger and waved it under your nose like those smelly salts things. I wasn’t gonna open the tap if the customer wasn’t drinking.”
Willa and the twins climb into bed just to be near their father. His illness is unsettling in a way they can’t begin to vocalize. He’s never been sick. Papa’s always been the rock of the family, nursing everyone through their ailments.
Even Angel is fretting. “If I’d have known you were such a lightweight, boy, I’d have taken Fred with me and told her to hold her breath.”
The worry in his eyes unnerves Buffy. Yes, Angel has become patriarchal since accepting their relationship eight years ago, but this raw fear for Spike’s unlife makes her worry. What if it doesn’t go away this time? What if it happens again? What if it gets worse?
Pressing her lips to Spike’s forehead like a good Mama, she can tell his fever’s lessened. You haven’t eaten in two days. I’ll be right back.”
For three more days, Spike lays abed, waited on hand and foot. The weakness in his limbs abates slower this time, as does the blurriness of his vision. “Must be old age catchin’ up with me,” he quips, unhappy with the long looks on his family’s faces. “Don’t take on so, poppets,” he tells the children. “Papa’ll be back to his old self soon.”
Willa looks at Papa, for the first time realizing that her father might be lying to her… placating her with wishes instead of facts. She’s growing up, fast – and her pedestals are crumbling. She’s not happy.
May 2014 – Goodbye to You
Willa slams open the front door, crying: “Mama! Mama! I’ve got horrible news! When school is finished for the year, Bobby’s family is moving to New York!!!” She throws her bookbag down on the kitchen table. “That’s all the way across the whooole country.”
Mama says nothing, just holds out her arms to comfort her not-so-little one
“And I won’t get to see Java anymore!” she wails. “I miss him already and he’s not even gone yet.”
‘Oh yeah,’ Buffy thinks, absentmindedly scratching Tigger behind the ears as he walks by. ‘It’s the cat she’s talking about.’
Love hurts, baby.
Conversations with Bobby’s parents show they’re not unsympathetic to their son’s misery over moving, either. They help set up several ‘play dates’ to allow them time to say their goodbyes. They go to movies on weekends and do their homework together several times a week.
At Willa’s urging, Mama plans a dinner party with the Murcers and the Harrises. She knows Bobby’s moving isn’t the end of the world. At least he’s still alive, unlike the kids she went to school with. When they left, it was usually due to death.
But it hurts Willa, and that’s all that matters.
It feels like a wake instead of a dinner. Willa does an amazing impression of Wednesday Addams – all glower and snap, for a change acting just like the unhappy child she is instead of appearing more mature than her years. Even the younger children stay out of her way.
She and Bobby hide in the playroom after dinner, playing hand after hand of cards. The activity was repetitive and distracting; just what they needed.
Will came in and sat next to Bobby, staring at him closely for a few moments.
“What’s up, kiddo?”
“Don’t worry, Bobby. It won’t be forever.”
June 2014 – A Bloodless Coup
School’s out for summer, the Murcers have moved away, and Willa’s moping, so it doesn’t seem out of character when the twins start acting wonky. It comes to a head over lunch, when they refuse to drink their blood.
Very conscious about her family’s health after Papa’s latest bout of whatever, Mama’s had it up to here with their attitude. “C’mon, guys. You know you need blood to stay strong.”
“But Mama, it tastes funny,” Tara insists, arms folded over her chest. “Tastes like icky pennies an’ Tyler an’ me don’t want it anymore.”
Tyler nods his head in agreement.
Papa hears the commotion and joins his family at the table. “What’s up, mites? Mutiny over Mama’s cookin’ again?”
Tyler crinkles his nose, shoving his glass over to Spike. “It’s stinky, Papa. Tara an’ me won’t drink it.” he pouts, folding his arms over his chest, matching his sister’s pose.
A sniff and several swallows tell Spike that there is nothing wrong with the blood, so perhaps… “Mama, why don’t we try holdin’ off on the blood for a week or two,” he muses. “They took to it like fishies to water when they needed it. Maybe they don’t anymore.”
July 2014 – New York, New York
In a spur of the moment decision, Willow and Becky stop off in California before heading east for their vacation. If Molly and Buffy don’t mind, they want to take the older girls to New York for ten days. They have a sightseeing touristy trip planned, and they think the girls will enjoy being pampered and made to feel grown up without their parents.
With last minute hugs and kisses from their parents and siblings, they head off to the airport. Willa and Treena tour of the cockpit and receive a pair of pilot’s wings to pin on their shirts.
The ladies have a fabulous time in Manhattan. They visit the Empire State Building and are amazed at the view from the Observation Deck. They’re so high up… so unlike anything in either Santa Barbara or Hawaii. It’s breathtaking.
They spend an entire day shopping at all the department stores and boutiques, ending with a makeover. Haircuts for all, makeup tips for Willow and Becky.
Willa doesn’t say anything, but she grows quiet when she thinks that she’s so close to Bobby, and can’t see him. She doesn’t want to ask for more than she’s been given from her Aunties.
It’s one of the biggest highlights of their vacation. Grandpa Angel’s Wolfram & Hart connections come through and score them season ticket holder’s seats for a Yankees/Boston game. Even though he’s an “old man” of forty, Willa and Treena still ogle and drool over Derek Jeter.
In fact, they’re so busy checking out his fielding prowess during the warmup session, they don’t notice a surprise visitor who’s joined them in the box.
“Bobby!” Willa squeals when he tickles her from behind. She and Treena both hug their friend, happy to see him. The adults smile.
Bonus: Yankees beat Boston, 18-3!
The girls spend the night with Bobby and his parents, allowing Willow and Becky some alone time. A wonderful evening is had – pizza for dinner, DVD’s, popcorn and a happy little Java soaking up the attention from everyone.
Willa, Bobby, and Treena dress for the theater; another surprise. The doorbell rings, and a chauffeur ushers them into a stretch black limousine, Willow and Becky already inside.
The show is a revival of Guys and Dolls, and the colors, songs, and dances entrance the youngsters, while the love story thrills the adults.
Papa would say: “Damon Runyeon was a bloody genius.”
It’s a quiet trip home. The girls are exhausted and sleep the entire flight. Willa’s face is still tearstained from the airport farewell with Bobby. They’ve promised to continue with emails and IMs, but it’s not the same as seeing each other. It will have to do.
Willow and Becky watch over their sleeping charges. It’s been a wonderful vacation, leaving the two women with plenty to think about. Perhaps even adopt a little one of their own. Neither feels the need to biologically reproduce, and there are so many little ones in need of a family to be considered.
August 2014 – Mind Over Matter
When Will pesters his mother to call Tara for the fourth time in fifteen minutes, she becomes annoyed, sending him to his room for a time out. Instead of going quietly as he usually does, he begins to wail, screaming: “Call, call, call!” over and over again. Molly insists he calm down and stay in his room until he can be civil and polite.
An hour later, Treena lets her parents know that Will is still crying, throwing things around in his room.
Xander stands outside the door, hearing Will cry: “Call Tara, call Tara, need Tara.” He steps inside.
“Enough already, William Giles. You can’t always play with Tara. She has her own family and other friends as well as you.”
Will looked at his father, fiercely rubbing the tears from his eyes. “Don’t wanna play. Tara’s in trouble. Need to find Tara.”
Hellmouth born and bred, Xander finally takes his son seriously and calls the Bennetts. “Hey, Spike. Can I speak to Tara for a minute?”
“What’s up, mate? Tired of the wife already?”
“Not even the slightest bit funny, old man. Will seems to think there’s something wrong. He’s been crying about it for the past hour.”
An uneasy feeling settles in the pit of Spike’s stomach, as he reaches out with his senses in search of his youngest daughter… and finds nothing. “Call you back in a bit, Xander,” he says, trying to keep calm.
“Buffy, where’s the little bitlet? Will’s buggin’ his folks somethin’ fierce – says something’s wrong with Tara.”
She shakes her head slowly, trying to think of when she last saw her daughter. “Tara was playing outside with Willa earlier, but Willa’s been in the house for the past couple of hours. Are you sure Tara’s not in the house?”
Panic sets in.
They find Willa in the basement, listening to music. She’s upset… says she left Tara outside about an hour or so ago, playing on the swingset. Mama shushes her daughter when she begins to cry. “You did nothing wrong, sweetie. Tara’s allowed to play on the swings alone. We’ll find her, I promise.”
The sun is setting, and Spike is pacing – unable to go out and look for his little one. Buffy comes back inside with Tara’s sweater. “It was stuck between two slats on the back fence. She must have gone into the woods in back of the house.”
The sun sets and Spike dashes outside to join his wife. Not too far into the woods, they hear: “Mama! Papa! Help!” It’s faint, but she doesn’t sound like she’s in pain, so they relax fractionally. Buffy aims the flashlight slowly in an arc, searching for something… anything… that would indicate where their daughter is.
They hone in on her voice, and find Tara at the bottom of a deep pit – unhurt, but unable to climb out. Apparently, it was filled with leaves which cushioned her fall.
Spike jumps into the pit, and hands his baby up to her Mama.
With Tara bathed and sleeping, Spike calls Xander. “Your boy’s earned himself something special from his Uncle Spike. Little one was stuck in a pit behind the house. How did he know?”
“He says he could hear her calling for help. Oh Gods, Spike. We should have listened to him the first time he told us to call you. We wasted so much time.” Xander was beside himself, knowing the little girl suffered unnecessarily because they wouldn’t listen.
“It’s all right, mate. We found her, safe and sound. I’d look into this. Ask his Mama what abilities P’linth’s might have.”
The next day, Molly brings Will over to visit with Tara. He gives Harry the Hedgehog back to her, saying she needs him more now. When they’re safely in the playroom, the Spike and Buffy corner their friend for information.
“Some P’linth demons have the ability to sense other people,” she says. “We’re fairly empathic, and can read people we care about from great distances. I never figured that Will would inherit the trait, being half human.”
“We’re bloody glad he did, pet. Saved our girl some real grief.”
Molly promises to test out how far her son’s abilities reach.
September 2014 – Inferno
It’s been so long since the last attack that the Bennetts are unprepared when Spike’s mysterious malady strikes again. They’re sitting in the middle of a parent’s meeting for the twins’ kindergarten year, along with the Harrises, when Spike appears to speak to thin air.
“Honey, who are you speaking to?” Buffy asks, concern coloring her voice.
Spike rolls his eyes, touching her cheek tenderly. “I know it’s been awhile, pet, but you could say hello to your Mum. Came for a special visit, she did. Wants to see me.”
Buffy’s cheek burns where her husband’s fingers brushed her skin.
Xander helps get Spike into the minivan, leaving Molly to get all the school information and bring the youngsters back. By the time they reach home, the vampire is babbling nonsense; talking to his mother and Joyce about the children and his wife and their extended family.
It freaks Buffy out more than she’s willing to admit. “I need to get him into a cool tub. It worked the last time to knock his fever down.”
“This has happened before?”
“This is the third time, and it’s worse than ever. I’m scared, Xander. I can’t lose him. I just… can’t.”
Buffy manages to force-feed a mug of blood down Spike’s throat before he passes out. She and Xander spend the night at his side, staring at the vampire as if he’s going to go up in ash at any moment. His temperature has climbed to one hundred and five degrees, and his body is covered with a sheen of sweat.
He spends the next week unconscious; not rising to feed or move. The children are frightened, and Angel comes to stay, bringing a shaman well versed in vampire curses, poisons and ailments, but to no avail. Nothing seems to help.
When he finally regains consciousness, Spike is a changed vampire. His hair is breaking off in patches and it looks like he’s lost twenty pounds. His eyes are dull and unfocused and he has trouble recognizing anyone.
Buffy’s grateful to Molly for picking up the children earlier in the week. If their Papa couldn’t recognize his own babies, it would scar them for life.
It takes three more days for Spike’s to come back to himself, and another week for him to regain some strength and weight. There’s a haunted look to his eyes that wasn’t there before.
One by one the children file into their parents’ bedroom, staring at the man in bed. Eyes wide, Willa whispers: “Papa?” and doesn’t advance another inch closer. Tara and Tyler grab onto their Mama and start to whimper.
“It’s okay, mites,” Papa says softly. “I know I look like a poodle’s back end, but it’s still me.”
The twins reach Papa first, running their hands over his newly shorn head. His hair would grow back, and the buzz cut was preferable to missing patches.
Willa looks into her father’s eyes and knows just how close they came to losing him.
October - December 2014 – In Someone’s Bad Books
Spike is depressed. At first it’s nothing Buffy can point a finger at. The vampire is still a loving father and husband, but he’s quiet. She misses his more boisterous side, both in bed and with the kids. He’s still sweet, and tender… attentive to everyone’s needs but his own.
The next few months blend together, and the isolation becomes obvious, Spike won’t speak with anyone outside of his immediate family. Refuses calls from Giles, Angel, and even Dawn. He stops going out with the children at night.
And then their sex life wanes. This time Spike has the headaches.
Lovemaking – when it happens at all – has turned soft and sweet. It’s as if Spike tries to memorize her body. Each stroke is slow and measured, the touch and glide of his fingers gentle… as if Buffy were a fragile piece of glass.
But it’s not Buffy who’s fragile. After making love he places a kiss on her nose, and rolls over, curling into himself… and away from her. She wonders if his illness is making a comeback.
Eventually Spike refuses to leave the bed. He won’t feed more than once every couple of days. He cries when he’s alone.
The children refuse to go into the bedroom anymore. Willa says Papa’s eyes are emptying, and it scares her. Tara and Tyler peek in from time to time, but they are no longer acknowledged.
Buffy brings in the big guns. She’s got Angel and Giles researching almost full time, trying to find out about the illness and depression in vampires. Something has to work, and soon. By the end of the month, Spike stops feeding, and sleeps more and more. She feels her spouse drifting away.
Angel visits again, determined to snap Spike out of his lethargy, but fails spectacularly.
He sits on the bed and gathers his grandchilde into his arms, hoping sense memory from his fledgling days will rouse his demon. With Buffy’s permission, he sinks his fangs into Spike’s old claim mark and partially drains him. The demon doesn’t even rise in self-defense.
School vacation makes things easier for the children. Angel takes them back to Los Angeles with him. Xander and Molly take turns keeping Buffy company, and talking to Spike who’s become comatose.
Several weeks pass, and Spike’s condition is unchanged. No fever… but Buffy can tell he’s losing ground fast. She falls asleep, sobbing.
Buffy awakens to the sound of cheering and music. She must have left the television on when she fell asleep. Wiping the sleep from her eyes, she notices the celebrating on the screen. They’ve slept away the beginning of the New Year.
January 1, 2015, and Spike is as unaware as he’s been for the past two weeks. Something feels very wrong, and she puts her hand to his forehead. Sure enough, he’s warm again. The fever has returned. Not as high as last time, but in his weakened condition, it could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.