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January 2018 - Sisters
Another New Year comes and goes, and there’s tension in the Bennett household. Tara is still frustrated at being a little girl with large feelings. She wants to be around Will all the time, but Mama and Papa try to divert her attention to other pastimes, as well. Nothing, however, catches her interest.
Mama silently pleads with her eldest daughter, and Willa dutifully agrees to try and connect with her younger sibling.
One day she comes home with a present for her sister. It’s a thousand piece puzzle of kittens. Tara rolls her eyes and pronounces it another baby gift.
Two weeks later, both girls are painstakingly pawing through the box, looking for edge pieces. Every now and then they stop to talk. Willa talks about Bobby, and asks her sister about Will… about how he’s doing in school, and if they’re still as close as they used to be.
Tara tells her that she and Will still like spending all their spare time together. This leads to talking about how her tummy feels funny when she’s around Will… and how she feels better when they’re together than apart.
It’s not quite “the talk”, but definitely a precursor. Mama, beware.
February 2018 – Great Expectations
“Oh. My. God!” Treena complains to her best friend. “They’re so lovey dovey it’s sickening, what with all the smoochies, and the not-so-secret gropies when they think we’re not watching. How on earth do you guys put up with it?”
Willa simply smiles. Nobody’s parents are more affectionate than hers, but the Harrises have been giving them a run for the title of most obviously obnoxious.
“I mean, I don’t mind having a new brother or sister, but knowing they’re FLW is embarrassing.”
“Good thing we were too young to notice the last time our moms were pregnant,” Willa laughs.
Molly slips from their bed first thing in the morning, hiding the little wand in her pocket. She’s two weeks late and hopeful that this time she’s pregnant. One quick moment in her urine stream, and it’s wait and see on the bathroom sink time.
Last week’s test was negative and this will tell the tale. It’s the most sensitive one on the market and the most expensive, but so worthwhile if…
Three minutes. That’s all it takes to crush her hopes for another month. Xander’ll find out soon enough she’s failed him again. There’s no need to be obvious.
Xander lies alone in bed, listening to his wife’s quiet sobs. They’ve been trying to conceive for months, but to no avail. Maybe they just got lucky with Will. Such a delightful treasure and one he never thought he’d live to see. And Treena? A second blessing. He couldn’t love her more if she were his own flesh and blood.
But Molly wants to give him a second child. It’s not like it’s killing either one of them. The mind blowing sex is a welcome benefit. It’s just that each period leeches a little more sparkle from his wife’s eyes.
Xander welcomes his wife back into bed with a hug and a kiss. “Sorry, sweetheart. I know we were both hopeful that this time we were successful. It’s not the end of the world, however,” he says, looking deeply into her green eyes. “We could always try to adopt. I’m sure there are plenty of children in need of loving families.”
“But I want to give you another child, Xander,” Molly insists. “I want to give Will a full-blood sibling.”
“Gods, I love you so much, Mol,” Xander says. “With or without another child in our lives, we’ll be fine.”
Molly rolls onto her side and spooned back into her husband’s body. She closes her eyes, but sleep won’t come. She just has this feeling – not something she can even put into words for herself, much less explain to anyone else – that time is running out.
Secretly she’s been organizing the family’s important paperwork. Every day she cleans until the house is spotless.
And most of all, Molly tries to show her love in every way to her husband and her children. She comes off as a little clingy, but laughs it off with a hug and a quick kiss.
March 2018 – Bloody Hell
Tara comes home from school one day complaining of stomach cramps. Mama questions her, asking if it’s something she ate cramps, or a dull pain, like a bruise. When her daughter picks the second kind, Buffy calls the pediatrician for an appointment.
Lo and behold, it seems her baby is about to enter puberty at an early age. Terrific! Just what they need… a third case of hormones. Spike is gonna flip… or run screaming into the night.
The doctor explains what’s to come, and Tara knows she can talk to her Mama or sister to fill in more details.
April 2018 – Howling at the Moon
A frantic knock at the office door and Harmony ushers in a flustered guard. It seems that their favorite moontime guest is more agitated than usual, and rattling the bars of her cage with enough force that alarm is warranted.
Angel stands by with a pained expression as an enraged Nina is tranquilized, and the damage to her cell assessed. The grit around the base of the bars shows the werewolf’s strength has increased over the years, and something needs to be done to ensure her safety and well being.
The decision is made to contact Oz for a consultation.
Wesley manages to locate Oz in Nepal, where he serendipitously is studying meditation techniques to gentle the wolf. Not to suppress him, but make him easier to live with on a daily basis. He agrees to come to LA before the next full moon. Hopefully what he’s learned will be of help to Nina.
He presents the news to Angel and Nina, together, and both agree to work with the ex-Scooby. Anything to make life more bearable for her.
Wesley, himself, is looking forward to hearing about the meditation rituals. His own life could do with some centering these days.
May 2018 – Despair
She stares at the little stick, once again damning their hopes and dreams. Negative. Molly was so sure this time. In fact, she still is. She can feel the changes in her body, her womb swelling as it prepares itself for the newest Harris. Rather than rely on a stupid piece of plastic, she makes an appointment with Dr. Lecher for tomorrow morning.
The blood test at the hospital shows positive, but the doctor isn’t happy – Molly can tell. He spends far too much time on the internal exam and orders additional blood work.
“Better safe than sorry, Mrs. Harris.”
Xander takes the phone call from Dr. Lecher, requesting additional testing for Molly. The urgency in the doctor’s voice prevents him from chastising his wife for keeping her pregnancy a secret. After another thorough exam, the pregnancy is determined to be ectopic in nature and must be terminated, immediately.
Molly is taken for surgery, leaving Xander to call and make arrangements for their children.
“Do you want one of us to come keep you company?” Buffy asks, concern coloring her words.
“Nothing you can do, sweetie. Tell the kids we’ll be home as soon as possible. Talk to you later.”
Dr. Lecher emerges from the operating theater and makes his way towards the worried husband. He absolutely hates this part of the job, and his features soften in sympathy as he relays the news: the fallopian tube and fetus have been removed – but the threat to Molly’s life remains; lumps and lesions are found on her ovaries. They’ve been removed and sent for biopsy, but in his learned opinion, she was in deep trouble.
With promises to rush the biopsy results, the doctor leaves.
Xander sits, stunned. He’s gone from thinking baby to widower in the course of several hours.
The results are devastating: ovarian cancer – Stage IV. Drastic surgery is performed, leaving Molly unable to ever bear another child should she survive the upcoming rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatment commonly prescribed.
“Please, love. I want to see my babies,” Molly whispers as she fights off the anesthesia. “And Buffy.”
Though hesitant to leave her side for a single moment, Xander makes the call.
Treena kisses her mother, barely holding back her sobs. Will holds her pinky, mindful of the wires and tubes. Buffy lets her oldest friend cry out his grief in her embrace outside of the room.
During the next two weeks, Molly signs off on Dr. Lecher’s course of treatment against his advice and bids a tearful farewell to all her friends. It seems there’s a small P’linth colony in Three Rivers, Texas, and their healer has an unorthodox treatment.
Xander takes a medical leave of absence from his job, and the children once more move in with the Bennetts. It’s a good thing that the school year has ended; nobody can concentrate worth a damn.
The first phone calls are tentative but hopeful. Molly asks everyone to have faith. Whatever happens is meant to be.
June 2018 – Bye, Bye, Love
Treena takes her comfort in Willa’s presence. They mall-crawl, go to the movies, and block out everything else like any teenage girl out of school for the summer. Will has gone silent for the most part – clinging to Tara and accepting Tyler’s calming presence.
Spike heads out for the airport. All he’s been told is the airline and flight number, and his stomach is tied up in knots. Molly and Xander have been in Texas for the past three weeks, and outside of the once weekly calls to their children, they’ve been extremely secretive.
Xander walks off the plane, alone.
The day of Molly’s funeral service is overcast and damp. Xander stands stiff-backed; his children red-eyed and sniffling as the service drones on. One by one, Molly’s friends step up to send shovelfuls of dirt onto her casket, each clod echoing through Xander’s frame.
Willow enfolds her best friend in her embrace, Rebecca looking on while holding a wriggling Kiana. He numbly accepts everyone’s platitudes, but she can tell he’s not taking any of it in. They’ll all have to make sure Xander and the children are taken care of until they can cope with the reality of Molly’s demise.
The procession of cars wends its way through the town to the Wells house, where friends and family gather after the funeral. A small statue of the P’linth Goddess of Mourning is surrounded by Molly’s favorite flowers… white daisies. Spike and Buffy organize the buffet with the help of the children as Dawn sits by Xander’s side, talking softly.
“Xan, why don’t you and the kids spend a couple of nights with us?” she asks, holding his hands and looking into his eyes. “The boys would love to spend time with Treena and Will, and you won’t have to worry.”
Xander sighed. “When did this happen, Dawnie? When did my friend’s baby sister turn the tables and start taking care of me?”
“You might have noticed, doofus, I’m no longer a baby,” Dawn said, poking him gently. “Neither are the quads. Can you believe they’re five years old?”
“Time flies,” Xander agrees. “Cherish your family while…. you can,” he sniffles, tears falling from his eyes.
Dawn hugs him tightly. “We’ll get through this, Xan. I promise. We’ve all got your back.”
Xander nods, but he knows his back will always be chilly at night, when he goes to bed, alone.
July 2018 – Grieving Hearts
Tara’s young heart breaks for Will. She doesn’t have to be an empath to know how much he’s hurting over his mother’s death. She shudders… even the words make her blood run cold. She can’t imagine how she’d go on if her mother died.
“I wish I could do something to help, Will,” she says to her grieving friend. “Maybe if I still had my powers…”
Will shakes his head. “It won’t help, Tara. Only having Mom back will make it better, and that’s not gonna happen, is it?”
Sadly, no. Even Tara knows resurrection isn’t to be messed with.
Treena turns sullen. She’s angry at everyone and everything. She’s surly to her father, ignoring the pain in his eyes as he tries to keep his little family functional. They fight over what she wears to school, who she hangs out with after school, her homework, her attitude… and it makes everyone around her uncomfortable.
Willa tries to understand her behavior. Thanks to talking it over with her Mama and Papa, she knows Treena’s reacting to losing her mother. As hard as it is, she still tries to keep her best friend company, offering her comfort when she’ll allow it.
Xander’s ready to tear his hair out. For the third time in as many weeks, he’s called down to a store at the mall to come pick up his daughter. Shoplifting!! It’s not as if she doesn’t have an allowance. She’s not wanting for material things. He gets that she’s trying to fill the hole in her heart with the danger and the wrongness of it all, but that doesn’t make it right.
He can’t make her understand that if she keeps this up, she’ll be banned from the mall, and possibly sent to juvenile detention. Maybe Dawn can help.
Dawn is more than happy to talk with Treena. She tells her about her own stint of five-fingered larceny, and of Buffy’s efforts to reform her. She doesn’t yell or chastise harshly, but she does get across that shoplifting doesn’t help ease the loss. Only time will do that.
She does offer Treena a joint babysitting job with Willa with the quads once a week. It’s been awhile since she and Andrew have had some alone, adult time, and it would do them all good. Treena agrees, and Dawn insists she ask her father for permission, first.
Treena reluctantly nods.
Giving Dawn a big, squishy hug in gratitude, Xander is relieved that his daughter has something positive to turn her attention to. She spends less time at the mall, away from temptation, and more time with Willa, discussing babysitting strategy. The boys are sharp as tacks, and will definitely keep the girls on their toes.
Will spends a lot of his spare time with Tara and Tyler. Between the two Bennett children, Will seems to be handling things well. He still cries softly into his pillow at night, but that’s only to be expected.
Xander’s pillow is also often wet.
August 2018 – Coming to Terms
Oz has been at the Hyperion for several months now, nicely settled in to a routine. They talk about how much of the wolf bleeds into her life during non-wolfy times of the month, and what she remembers during the transformed time. There’s navel gazing involved, and some chanting, some burning of herbs to heighten the senses and awareness. While she’s still trying to bring the house down, Nina is not quite as agitated as she had been.
Angel participates in the touchy-feely parts, deeply massaging Nina’s muscles to get her to relax fully. Wesley, of course, watches and records.
One day, Tyler calls and asks his Uncle Wesley if he has time for some in-person lessons before school restarts. A discussion with Spike and Buffy results in permission, and Tyler is driven over with suitcase in hand for several weeks stay.
Grandpa Angel is happy to have Tyler spend some time with them. He feels drawn to his sensitive grandson, and finds they have a lot in common. Reading, music, demonology… things to share.
There’s an odd problem, however. He seems to be fighting Uncle Oz for time with Uncle Wesley. Angel notices and tries to suss it out.
Could it be a case of the green-eyed monster? When questioned about it, Tyler insists he’s not jealous, and he loves Uncle Oz, but he practically growls when the two men share a laugh.
That night, Oz knocks on the door to Tyler’s room. “Did I do something to upset you, Ty?” he questions. “I thought we were buds.”
Tears well up in the boy’s eyes and his bottom lip quivers. “I don’t know, Uncle Oz,” he cries. “I just feel mad and all twisted up inside.”
“Does it happen with anyone else?”
“Some of my friends, at school.”
Oz makes a call to Spike and Buffy. He has a plan, but he won’t implement it without their permission. Tyler is, after all, a little young at nine years old. The discussion went on for over an hour, Oz being questioned again and again, but in the end, all are in agreement.
A quick talk with Angel, and Oz makes another phone call. Arrangements are made, and two days later, his cousin Jordy shows up on the doorstep, along with his eleven years old son, Jensen. He and Tyler strike up a quick friendship, relieving some of the tension.
Tyler takes the older boy on a tour of the Hyperion. They explore some of the dusty, unused floors, and then hit the basement. There’s a huge kitchen, with lots of metal cabinets, and the boys decide to play hide and seek.
Tyler hides, scrunching himself up small inside a cabinet, and slows his breathing down. He hears Jensen banging on the metal doors, waiting for a startled reaction, and he’s not willing to give it up.
He hears Jensen close in, and after several false “aha’s” blinks as the boy opens his cabinet and pulls him out.
Jensen put his hands on Tyler’s small shoulders and pulls him closer, placing a loud, smacking kiss right on the younger boy’s lips.
“Why’d you do that?” Ty asks, softly, touching his fingers to his mouth.
“You’re cute, and I wanted to.” Jensen winked at him and ran for the stairs.
Tyler is stunned. His lips still tingle, and he doesn’t know what to do. Should he tell someone? Should he call home? He isn’t upset, as much as surprised. He does have a sneaking thought. Did Uncle Oz know this would happen when he invited Jensen to stay over?
In the end, Tyler just walks upstairs, and joins everyone else. He’s quiet, but friendly, and eventually he loses his reserve. He catches Uncle Oz’s eye, and the wink he gives him in passing. So he was right! He knew something would happen with Jensen. Sneaky Uncle Oz.
Somehow, he can’t bring himself to mind in the slightest, as something clicks inside his head. Maybe he’ll call Papa after all. He has more questions now than he had before Jensen kissed him, and he needs help sorting out his feelings.
He hopes that Papa understands and isn’t disappointed in him.
September 2018 – I Am What I Am
When Tyler gets home, his nerves get the better of him. He worries about what his parents know, how he’s feeling, how will he react around his friends… and can they see if he’s different just by looking at him. He’s off to his room with no more than a quick hello to the family.
Papa knocks on the door and asks if they can talk. Tyler moves over and Papa sits on the bed next to him.
“So, Ty,” Papa begins, somewhat hesitantly. “Did you have fun while you were away?”
Tyler wonders how best to answer his father.
“I learned a lot,” he says, averting his eyes. “Uncle Oz showed me how to meditate, and Uncle Wes and I studied Fyarl.”
Spike’s eyes light up. “I speak Fyarl, too,” he says in Fyarl, and Tyler finally raises his eyes to meet his father’s. “Your old Papa knows lots of things, Ty. Been around for a long, long time.”
With that opening, Tyler has the courage to ask: “Did Uncle Oz call you?”
“Did he tell you what Jensen did?”
“No, pet. He just asked if we would mind him spending time with you.”
“Jensen kissed me.”
Spike swallows hard, knowing his reaction is key to his son’s future. “And how did that make you feel, love?”
“I liked it,” Tyler answered after hesitating. “It was a surprise, but I definitely liked it.”
“You’re a bit young to be kissing anyone, pet,” Spike says, resting his on his son’s shoulder. “You might want to wait a bit before doing it again.”
“I didn’t plan on it, Papa. But it felt really good.” Tyler fidgets. “Will Mama be mad?”
Spike cupped Tyler’s chin, raising his face to his gaze. “No, sweetling. Mama and I love you very much.”
October 2018 - Homecoming
It has been long enough. As welcoming and accommodating as Dawn and Andrew are, Xander knows it’s time to go home. He’s nervous, but tries not to show it so his kids won’t pick up on it. Unfortunately, it’s a losing battle with empaths in the family.
“It’ll be all right, Dad,” Treena says. “It’s our home, and our stuff. We’ll manage”
Xander gathers his children in a bearhug and hopes for the best. Kisses all around to the four boys and the Harris family walks out the door, heading back to the last place they were a complete family.
His hand shakes as he pushes the key into the lock, but Xander manages to get the door open. The house smells stale, but a good airing will fix it. Luke and Leia bound down the stairs, meowing frantically. Dawn’s been feeding them and cleaning their box regularly, but they miss the company of their humans.
Will heads towards the kitchen door before stopping – as he remembers who’s not there to greet him. Treena looks around and sighs, gives her dad a kiss on the cheek, and heads upstairs to her room.
“It’ll take time,” Xander mutters through clenched teeth.
The kids seem to settle into their old routine fairly quickly, though Will wakes up with the occasional nightmare and Treena is no longer the ebullient young lady she was before . Xander, on the other hand, is having difficulty.
Everywhere he turns, he sees Molly, especially in their bedroom. Her clothing still takes up half the closet, still smelling of her perfume. He can’t bring himself to box it up, and isn’t sure he could stand seeing any of it on Treena. He touches the delicate chain around his neck, hung with Molly’s wedding and engagement rings and cries.
Xander does not do well back at home. He tries to go back to work, but can’t concentrate. He stops getting up early enough to make breakfast for his children and see them off to school. He lets his beard grow in.
Treena decides it’s time to call in the cavalry.
“Time to get your arse out of bed, Harris,” Spike yells, bursting into the bedroom. “Got a couple of mites worried to pieces about you.”
Xander groaned, pulling the covers over his head.
“Not gonna work, Xander. If I can get Buffy out of bed, you’re no challenge.”
Reluctantly, with threats to “strip him naked and shove him into the shower”, Xander cleans up his act. When the kids get home from school, they find their father and Uncle Spike talking in the living room. Buffy agrees to ferry Molly’s clothing to a local women’s shelter; the love she holds for the woman makes the task sit easier on Xander.
Treena is hesitant to go through her mother’s jewelry and asks her dad to hold onto it for the time being. Will solemnly nods his head with each decision to move forward. Family takes care of its own.
November 2018 - Thanksgiving
There’s an awkwardness in the air as Thanksgiving nears, and everyone is at a loss as to how to deal with it. It’s the first holiday gathering since Molly died, and her absence leaves a veritable crater to tiptoe around. The Rosenbergs, Wells, and Bennetts fret about Xander and the children’s reactions to a holiday when the heart of their family is gone.
Xander does his best to alleviate the sticky situation. He tells Spike and Buffy that he and the kids want to spend a quiet evening alone and not to worry about them.
Like that’s ever gonna happen.
Surprisingly, it’s Angel who provides the answer. He sends a limo to the Harris household with orders to ferry the family back to Los Angeles, and won’t brook no for an answer. When they arrive, it’s a mad hugfest – the Wells quads, Kiana, Tara, Tyler and Willa do their best to make their uncle and cousins welcome.
Wine is poured for the adults, juice for the children. Angel raises a glass to make a toast. “No disrespect intended, but we need to address the elephant in the room. We sit here today, one less in number. Molly Harris is gone.”
A collective gasp arises from the guests.
“Let me finish, please,” Angel continues. “Our family is lesser for her absence, but I’m thankful for what she has brought to us all. Beloved wife, and mother, best friend and kind heart… there is not one here amongst us who is not enriched for having known her.”
“Here, here!” Xander exclaims, thumping the table and raising his own glass, followed in kind by the rest of the table. The mood lightens considerably and the rest of the meal is quite pleasant.
Goodbyes are short and sweet… they’ll see each other again, soon.
December 2018 - Remembrances
Spike’s the one to come up with a perfect way to honor Molly’s memory… a garden, in the old Victorian sense. Asters for love, tea roses for always remember, and so on. He and Xander work on what Xander wants to convey, and they pick out the flowers at the nursery. There’ll be time for seeding next year, but this year it’s full grown blooms. Everyone helps with the planting; a labor of love.
It takes about a week of sweat and sore backs, but finally the garden is ready for Christmas – what would have been the Harris’ tenth anniversary.
Xander greets Giles warmly when he arrives. Braden developes an inopportune ear infection, so Olivia stayed home to care for their son. Angel is there, sitting in his car safely behind the necro-tinted glass. The Rosenbergs, the Wells, and quite a few families from Treena’s school are there to honor Xander with memories of his beloved wife.
It had been Molly’s wish to be cremated, and Xander chose to sprinkle her ashes over the garden; to nurture even in death. Once the task was done, everyone takes their turn with anecdotes and favorite memories, and in the end, everyone smiles.
Chapter Sixteen will be posted next week.