Banner made by banner_grab
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 himself, 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 after 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 makes 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 wails. “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.
July 2017 – The Good Old, Bad Old Days
It’s a pleasant evening, and Buffy cajoles Spike into taking a walk. Willa’s old enough to babysit her siblings. They end up in the park, swinging gently side-by-side; enjoying the rare cool breeze.
Her feet stop the swing’s motion abruptly as her spidey sense kicks in for the first time in years. Vampire! More than one, in fact and her hand reaches automatically for a stake… that isn’t there.
“William!” she hisses, not wanting to give away his identity if she doesn’t have to.
Recognizing the Slayer’s stance, Spike moves to her left side and readies himself for a fight.
Low, rumbling growls become more pronounced as the vampires emerge from the woods and circle the two humans.
Nearly fourteen years have passed since Buffy was the active Slayer with nothing to lose but her own life on nightly patrols. Now she has a husband willing and capable of fighting by her side, and children at home who will be devastated if anything happens to their parents. It tempers her urge to land the first blow.
As the five vampires close their circle, herding Spike and Buffy closer together, a war whoop is heard, and suddenly two vampires go *poof*.
Through the clearing dust emerge three young girls Buffy estimates to be anywhere from fifteen to eighteen years old.
“Slayers!” a vampire confirms with a snarl before he takes off, followed quickly by his remaining companions. Two slayers break into an easy gait that implies they won’t be back until their prey is dust in the wind.
“At your service, Ms. Summers.” The remaining slayer bows in her direction. “And an honor to meet you, Spike.” She extends her hand in greeting. “I’m Amber, and my pack girls…” she says, waving her hand towards the trees, “…are Jelisa and Amy.”
Back home, Buffy hugs her kids, takes a shower, and snuggles into bed.
“Little run-in with the mini-mites botherin’ you, m’love?” Spike asks, rubbing the tension out of her neck and shoulders.
“We could have been killed tonight, and the kids would find out they’re orphans from the police. I can’t believe I’ve gotten so lax as to go out without a stake. You know, I think I almost miss slaying,” she says, wistfully.
“Just lookin’ back on a rose strewn path, Buffy. You were the best, but it’s time to fully let the next generation take on the mantle.”
With mock indignance, she turns to her husband. “Is this your way of saying I’m too bloody old to wield a stake, mister? I’ll have you know…”
“Not old, pet. Just have different priorities. Not that I have to tell you,” he murmurs, brushing her lips tenderly with his. “First thing you worried about was the youngsters. Not you… not me. You’ve always put them first.”
“D’ya ever miss it? The patrolling and your old spot of violence?”
“Told the eldest mite once, an’ m’tellin; you. Don’t miss being a vampire near as much as I love bein’ with m’family.”
Buffy sighs, turning onto her side, scootching back to spoon against her husband. “Don’t know why I feel so blue, Spike. It feels like things are starting to pass me by. Amber looks like she hasn’t a care in the world… and the little ones hardly looked older than Willa. Was I ever so young?”
“Younger than Amber first time I saw you behind the Bronze.” He smiles into her hair with the memory. “Had a glow about you even then that drew me in.”
“A patina that grows with each passing year. Sleep, love. Spike’s got you.”
August 2017 – An Eye For An Eye
Will wants to celebrate his birthday quietly, turning down his parents’ offers of movies or amusement parks. He prefers home and family. Of course, just family includes the Bennetts and Rosenbergs and dinner consists of no fuss, no muss food: pizza and cake.
He shuts his eyes, makes a wish, then blows out the candles on his cake. Grabbing Tara’s hand, Will pulls her into the livingroom. Fitted into the wall, is an electronic meditation waterfall with the P’linth Goddess of Prayer situated under the cascading water.
The children clasp hands, sink to their knees and begin to chant, quietly.
While continuing the chant, Will looks at Tara’s face; eyes closed in concentration, her brow wrinkled with effort. He can feel her – in his heart and head. She’s an open book to his developing empathic capabilities.
Words softly falling from his lips, he leans over for a kiss, just as her eyes open wide. She returns the press of his lips; warm and soft.
They’re interrupted by Buffy, who’s come to collect her daughter for the ride home. She says nothing to her daughter of the kiss. There’s time for talking later.
Nobody sees the little idol begin to glow.
Tara knows she’s not supposed to mess around with magicks anymore. She’s promised Auntie Willow and Uncle Wes not to conjure unsupervised, but Will needs her help. And Uncle Xander, too. Mama explained all about the tumor; that it damaged his eyesight and there is nothing to prevent it from coming back.
Praying to P’yohm of the Waters has given her the determination to try and help out. Just a small, harmless healing spell to fix her uncle’s eye. Give him back his sight and the job the tumor stole away. She just wants to see her family smile again.
Molly awakens to her husband’s pained whimpers. The gentle brush of her hand across his cheek comes away wet and sticky, and she panics, turning on the light to reveal a small trickle of blood from the corner of Xander’s eye.
A few hurried words to Treena and they’re once more on their way to the emergency room, where Xander’s eye is swabbed and checked for injury. The examination reveals nothing. No tears, no swelling… in fact, Xander swears he sees more clearly than earlier in the day.
Dr. Steinmetz removes the bloodied patch from his empty socket, and gasps.
Molly is ushered into the cubicle along with another half-dozen interns and doctors. Xander is sitting on an examining table, getting annoyed at all the gawping and pointing that’s going on. “What’s going on, Mol?” he asks. “Everyone’s looking at me like I’ve grown a third eye.”
Silently, Dr. Steinmetz hands Xander a mirror. The image is a bit blurry, but staring back at him are two whiskey brown eyes.
It’s the understatement of the century. An examination shows 30% vision in the regenerated eye and no idea if it will improve over time. The doctors are stumped.
The medical staff insists he check himself in for a couple of days’ worth of testing. Xander goes home two days later with the doctors none the wiser and his vision improved another 20%.
Everyone gathers at the house for the ceremonial ‘patch burning’. It’s a little disconcerting to have his head grabbed and his face stared at, but Xander weathers it well. His headaches are gone and he sees properly for the first time in forever.
Tara clambers into his lap, moving his head from side to side. She nods happily to Will, who doesn’t leave his father’s side.
Their daughter’s little inspection hasn’t gone unnoticed by Mama and Papa, who corner the youngster on her way to get another piece of cake.
“Pretty nifty of your Uncle Xander to grow a new eye, isn’t it, mite?” Papa asks. “Think the eye fairy had a hand in it?”
Tara giggles, but says nothing.
“I know. He stepped in a lucky pile of Luke or Leia’s poop and his wish was granted.”
“No way, Papa. It was me an’ Will when we… oops.” One look at Papa’s disapproving face and she knows a lecture is the least of her worries.
Willow, Wesley and Grandpa Angel question the children for the fourth time. They demand a verbatim accounting of the prayer offered to P’yohm, and the spell Tara cast to determine what powers have been invoked and the possible consequences.
“It’s not that we’re angry your Uncle Xander has his eye back,” Wesley chides.
Willow adds: “Not at all. It’s just that you promised not to practice magicks without supervision. Not only did you break your word, something went wrong with your spell. You got more than you bargained for.”
A decision is made to bind Tara’s and Will’s powers temporarily.
September 2017 – The Big Three-Oh
Dawn and family are firmly ensconced in their new home and making the most of being surrounded by loved ones. If they’re not visiting Buffy, they’re with Xander… or the whole troop is at Willow’s. The quads are ecstatic at being so close to the other kids. They find a freedom to just be amongst their kith and kin. With them, they’re not freaks or prodigies or exploitable resources… just Jesse, Jonathan, Jason, and Jeremy.
For her sister’s thirtieth birthday, Buffy schemes with Molly and Willow to throw a memorable party, and comes up with the perfect place and time.
It’s Ladies’ Night at the upscale Idyll’s Emporium. Dressed to the nines, the women are ushered to a table in front of the middle runway. Drinks are ordered and they’re primed and ready for a night’s entertainment. They’re far from disappointed.
Pretty men in all sizes bump, grind, strip, and gyrate either singly or en masse, to a loud, pumping techno beat. They roam all three runways, performing for the entire room, but center-stage rates the brightest lights and the most vigorous jiggles, and before long, everyone’s fighting for position to stuff dollar bills in the men’s tiny leather thongs.
As the evening draws to a close, Idyll’s empties. “Hang on, ladies. Got a surprise for the birthday girl,” Buffy giggles.
A pounding rhythm precedes the lyrics:
Hi Hi! We're your Weather Girls Ah huh
And have we got news for you. You better listen!
Get ready, all you lonely girls
and leave those umbrellas at home. Alright!...
It's Raining Men! Hallelujah! It's Raining Men! Amen!
I'm gonna go out to run and let myself get
Absolutely soaking wet!
It's Raining Men! Hallelujah!
It's Raining Men! Every Specimen!
Tall, blonde, dark and lean
Rough and tough and strong and mean
Backstage the men are just this side of frantic. Even though Xander instigated this whole idea by reminding everyone of his ‘experience’ in Oxnard as a stripper/dancer, he’s the one trying to back out of it now.
And although Xander outweighs his compatriots, Spike and Andrew manhandle him into his costume, while Spike offers his rarely used flask for extra courage. A few gulps, a final adjustment or two, and they’re ready to go.
The spotlight hits the stage when the music begins and three leather clad cowboys make their way past the curtains to the gasps of their wives.
“Howdy ma’ams,” Spike drawls. “We hear there’s a birthday gal amongst you.” He punctuates the end of the sentence with a hip roll, and a dip of his Stetson.
Xander shimmies to the front, removing his hat and takes a deep bow, placing it in front of his crotch. “Can’t let something as important as a thirtieth birthday go unnoticed, now can we men?”
The music cranks up a notch as Andrew faces his wife. “This is for you, my Princess.” He tosses his hat into her waiting arms as the beat becomes infectious and his body begins to sway.
“Oh my God!” Dawn drools. “Check out the packages they’re not hiding in those yummy leather pants.”
Buffy slaps her sister lightly, laughing. “Just remember kiddo, only one of those packages gets unwrapped by you. The rest are on a strictly look but don’t touch policy.”
Leaning back and enjoying the camaraderie, Becky watches as the women in Xander’s life flank him, doing a bump and grind that brings a huge smile to his face. His best friend in front, and wife behind him, they double team to pants the man in an unguarded moment, ripping off his cutaway leathers.
Spike takes it upon himself to rip off his own cutaways, revealing the same teensy pair of black leather shorts that his buddy is sporting. They shimmy and pose to the music, and when Spike bends over to grab his ankles and look through his legs, Buffy hops up onstage and spanks him smartly on his rump.
“That’s my little sister you’re waving that thing at,” she admonishes, slithering up close and personal for a standing lap dance, then leads him offstage with a yank to the black leather studded collar he’s sporting. “I can’t wait to get you home.”
The years have been good to Andrew, lending a bounce to his step as he struts to take his place in front of his wife.
“Come to Mama, big boy,” Dawn calls out to her husband. “It’s my party and I’ll ogle if I want to.”
“As you wish, my sweet.”
With a calming breath, Andrew reaches down and tears off his own leathers. He swings them above his head, tossing them offstage and pumping his small hips as the music urges him on. He’s all alone onstage, and he’s not wearing little black shorts like his companions.
Hands behind his head, Andrew’s showing off for all he’s worth, sporting a black leather pouch with the image of Darth Vader appliquéd to it. It’s a picture perfect moment when he starts serenading Dawn with an off-key rendition of the Beatles They Say It’s Your Birthday.
The rest of the table raucously joins in, accompanied by claps and catcalls from Idyll’s staff and resident dancers.
Spike chuckles, causing Dawn to smile fondly at him. “What’s it to you, older than dirt guy?
“Officially? I’m younger than you are, Niblet,” he snickers, setting the table off in paroxysm of laughter.
October 2017 – Children Should Listen
Tara doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about. Yes, she knows she and Will disobeyed their parents, and disappointed Auntie Willow and Uncle Wes by doing magick on their own. But why are they still so bloody angry?
Uncle Xander has two good eyes, even though they only meant to fix the one. He’s got a new job and he’s happy, so why do her powers have to remain bound? She didn’t do anything bad. It’s just not fair and she’s angry.
She crawls under her bed and retrieves the spellbook hidden in a pocket slit into the mattress.
Most of the ingredients are easy enough to find in her own kitchen. Since all her meditation candles have been confiscated, Tara grabs a box of birthday candles and hopes they’ll last long enough to cast the general reversal spell.
Mama’s taking a nap, and Tyler and Papa are over at Will’s house. Just a little undisturbed time and it’ll all be over. No more restrictions. And she’ll prove to Mama and Papa that she can be trusted to not cause trouble with her spells.
The set up is quick, the candles hold, barely, and Tara chants the words carefully.
Tara quickly cleans up her room. She doesn’t want to leave traces of her spellcasting for Mama to find and get all mad about. For a quick moment, the little girl thinks she can feel the tickle at the base of her neck that means Will’s trying to make contact but she makes a distinct effort to ignore it and it goes away. When the phone rings, Tara hurries to answer it, not wanting to awaken Mama.
It’s Will, of course. “What did you do, Tara?” he asks. “I can feel something all creepy crawly around you, and it’s scary.”
She promises to tell him tomorrow in school. Right now there’s too much worry about being discovered. Tara finishes her homework and her chores without any scolding and is very quiet throughout dinner.
“What’s the matter, Poppet?” Papa asks, concerned about his daughter’s lackadaisical demeanor.
“M’fine. Just tired. Can I go to bed now?”
Mama feels Tara’s forehead, worried about fever. She never goes to bed without a fuss. “Are you sure there’s nothing wrong, sweetie? You don’t feel warm, but you could be coming down with something.”
Tara shakes her head, really wanting to do nothing more than sleep.
Buffy gets a phone call from the school nurse at 11:30. “Please pick up your child, Mrs. Bennett. You shouldn’t have sent her in to school with a fever and nausea. It isn’t fair to the other students.” Instead of arguing with the obnoxious woman, Buffy tersely tells her she’ll be right there, and heads out, sticking a note for Spike on the refrigerator door with a magnet.
By the time Tara is home, her fever has spiked to 104.5 and after a quick lukewarm bath and a dose of Tylenol, she’s bundled into bed where she promptly falls asleep.
Leaving Kiana at home with Becky, Willow pays an unannounced visit. “How’s Tara feeling?” are the first words out of her mouth when Buffy opens the door.
“I just brought her home from school. How did you…?”
“I got a call from Xander’s Will. He got the school nurse to place the call; told me about a talk he had with her – about something she did involving a spell.”
Buffy is flabbergasted. “A spell? Are you telling me she’s still messing around with magic even after the binding?”
“The spell reacted with the binding. It’s meant to teach a lesson.”
Furious, Buffy turns on the red head. “Why didn’t you tell me she’d get sick? She’s a baby, Will. She’s only eight years old!”
“Buffy, don’t you see that she’s not normal? She has power and all the arrogance of a child. It’s worse than when I first learned about witchcraft and magicks.” Willow sighs, sorry that the little one is suffering for her gifts, but she knows intimately that Tara must learn control early or suffer possibly deadly consequences.
“She’s so sick, Will. Her fever is so high, and she’s vomiting. Maybe I should take her to the hospital?”
Tara’s screams brought the adults running. She’s sitting in a puddle of vomit and sobbing uncontrollably. Mama can tell just by holding the girl that her fever has risen. With an efficiency born of practice, she shucks Tara’s nightclothes, gathers her child in her arms and sets her down in another lukewarm bath. Tara is so out of it, she doesn’t take her hands away.
“Making with the bed detail. Kiana’s trained me well. And I know it looks bad. Magick kickback is a bitch to recover from. You do remember me, right?”
All too well, Willow.
Taking Willow’s suggestions, Mama gives Tara a double dose of Advil and makes sure she knows her garbage pail is right by the side of the bed for her to be sick in. It takes three days before the symptoms abate, and by the time she’s feeling better, Mama lets her know in no uncertain terms they need to talk.
Papa explains her illness is a direct consequence of trying to remove the binding spell. Any spell would have left her feeling poorly, but she hit the jackpot with the reversal spell.
This time, she swears she’s learnt her lesson.
November 2017 – My Body, My Self
On her way to bed, Mama is drawn to Tyler’s room by a faint whimper. When calling to him from the doorway produces no response, Mama enters the room to find him shaking under the covers. Worried that he’s in pain, she slowly draws back the covers and finds the reason for his distress. With a firm, constant motion, Tyler Liam James Bennett is masturbating in his sleep.
She gently replaces the covers and tiptoes out of the room, marveling at how quickly Tyler’s childhood seems to be slipping by. Eight years old and it’s time for the sex talk.
Ty’s newfound sensuality doesn’t confine itself in the bedroom. Subconsciously, his hands are always in his pockets, or down the front of his pants. He’s reprimanded in school and teased by the other children, but he can’t seem to control his actions.
Papa sits the boy down for a quiet discussion. “I know it feels good, Ty, an’ there’s nothing wrong with it. Just that there’s a time and place for everything. Like in your room with the door closed.”
“Do you massurtate?”
Masturbate, love. And yes. Been known to from time to time.”
“And Mama? And Willa and Tara?”
Taking a deep breath, Papa tries to block out the knowledge of his daughters as sexual beings, and fails. “It’s natural, pet. It feels good an’ doesn’t hurt anyone else. Pretty much everyone masturbates at one time or another.”
“I don’t mean to do it at school, Papa. It just happens,” Tyler complains.
“All you can do is make an effort to know where your hands are. Maybe tellin’ yourself to wait until you get home will help. Now that you’re aware that it’s not acceptable around other people you’ll try harder, yeah?”
Tyler nods and hugs his Papa tightly.
Will grabs Tyler in the schoolyard and herds him towards the back fence. “You gotta see what I found under Treena’s bed,” he giggles as he pulls a glossy magazine from his backpack and hands it to his friend.
“Playgirl’s College Hunks for 2017,” he reads, confused. “Hunks of what?”
“Open it, stupid. Treena thinks it’s a big secret, but she looks at all the naked men when she thinks nobody’s looking.
Tyler turns page after page, silently appraising the smooth and hairy bodies presented; feeling a strange tingle in his belly at the sight of all those dangly bits.
“Just hide it until you get home, kiddo,” Will chides. “You don’t want to get caught by anyone here with that.” They wouldn’t understand, Ty.
Tyler hastily stuffs the magazine into his own backpack. “Won’t your sister miss her magazine?”
“Who do you think she’s gonna complain to? Mom or Dad? If she asks me I can always tell her I have no idea what she’s talking about.”
“Y-you won’t tell her you gave it to me?”
Will shakes his head. “Cross my heart and hope to die. Our secret.” He watches his friend head off to class, and smiles.
December 2017 – Home and Hearth
It’s Christmas Eve and all’s quiet at the Giles household. Braden is tucked away in his bed. The exuberant four year old had to be jollied into bed with one of ‘Santa’s cookies’ and a glass of milk. Even so, Giles knows the boy sits up in bed for another half an hour, waiting for Santa to make his appearance before sleep finally claims him.
All the family phone calls have been made and best wishes exchanged; now it’s time for snuggling by the roaring fire and contemplating the upcoming year with his wife of four years by his side.
He’s happy – healthier than he was years ago, and totally besotted with his life. Dawn’s absence at the Council has forced him to take a more active role, but he’s already looking for a permanent successor. The title of Watcher Emeritus is appealing.
At fifty-seven years of age, Giles believes he’s earned his retirement. Nothing compares to watching Braden grow up, his whole life unplanned and uncharted. Right now, he wants to play around the horses. He loves the way they snuffle food out of his hands.
Olivia presses a kiss to her husband’s cheek and heads off to bed.
Giles picks up his pen and begins to write:
My Dearest Girl,
The family is all abed and peace reigns, yet I find myself missing you. I know we’ve spoken earlier, and it was a joy to hear all the little ones. Only they’re not so little anymore, are they? Willa’s a fine young lady with her heart in the throes of her first love. The twins are extraordinary, and I’m afraid they’re going to put you through your paces as they grow up. May I just say ‘your turn’ in advance? Allow an old man to laugh in retribution.”
I’m glad Dawn is out from under the Council’s mantle. Her little ones will need to be home schooled to meet their needs and protect them. I’ll see if there’s anyone I can recommend for that position – someone trustworthy and with no ties to the organization.
The news about Xander’s eye has us totally gobsmacked. To think Will and Tara are responsible for its restoration. It’s a good thing their powers are restricted and Willow is there to impress the dangers inherent in overstepping their bounds.
Speaking of Willow…and Becky, of course – their Kiana is a real charmer, isn’t she?
I’m proud of you, Buffy. You’ve weathered so much over the years. I suppose I must give credit where credit is due. Spike… William. You’re good for each other. He’s come a long way… even before… well, you know. He’s a decent man and a wonderful father.
That’s all for now, dear. I believe it’s time to get back to my wife. Olivia may have the patience of a saint, but her toes get downright chilly if she’s left alone too long.
With a flick of his wrist, Giles closes the lights and heads off to bed.