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Here is Chapter Eighteen of What Dreams May Bring, in which our friends find out what they want isn't necessarily what they need. Please note that Willa is now seventeen, Will, Tara and Tyler are now twelve, and Kiana is six. Mega thanks go out once more to just_sue and celesteavonne for their wonderful beta work, Willa for her continuing support and gillo just because.


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January 2021 – By Chance

Xander sits behind the wheel of his car, grumbling like a madman. Here he is, out looking for milk on New Year’s Day. All the damned stores are closed, but the kids need milk for cereal, so he volunteered. Turning a corner, he spied a little hole-in-the-wall store with the lights on and cars in the parking lot.

He aims for a spot and heads inside, taking in the dreary ambiance of the place. Looking for the refrigerated section, he bumps into another man heading in the same direction.

“Hey, bucko, watch where you’re going,” he says, rubbing his shoulder.

~*~

“Sorry, pal” the guy replies, reaching for one of the last containers of milk in the case. “Coffee ain’t coffee without a little milk in it, and I’m out.”

“Cereal for the kids’ breakfast,” is Xander’s explanation. “Why else would I be out on this day at this early hour?”

The guy smiles. “Gotta do for family, I suppose,” he says, extending his hand. “My name’s Neal… Neal Saunders.”

“Xander Harris,” he says, shaking Neal’s hand.

They pay for their milk and head out to their cars.

“I’m new to the neighborhood,” says Neal. “Know anywhere to have some fun?”

~*~

“A few bars. I don’t drink anymore, so I don’t know how they rate,” Xander says. “And a pool hall I’ve been known to frequent with a friend of mine. Good snack bar.”

“Maybe we can meet up one night,” Neal muses, “You can give me the lay of the land?”

Xander shrugs. “Why not? You’re not a mass murderer, by any chance?”

“Nah,” says Neal, a quick chortle making the man’s eyes crinkle. “Gave that up in my errant youth.”

“Good to know, dude. Hit me with your number, and I’ll call you when I’ve got a free evening.”

~*~

February 2021 – Fathers and Daughters

Spike has had a secret for months. He’s been lovingly restoring another DeSoto for Willa. She’s passed her Driver’s Ed class with flying colors and has her Learner’s Permit. The car is perfect for her – big and strong enough to keep her safe on the road. The exterior is classic black, and the interior has been re-upholstered in red leather.

He spends so many hours in the garage that Tara gets suspicious. She tiptoes into the garage and spots Papa’s feet sticking out from under the new car.

“Can I help, Papa?” she calls, bending her head to the floor.

~*~

Spike slides out from under the car, wiping his forehead with his arm, and smearing grease into his hair. “Can you keep a secret, poppet?” he asks his younger daughter. “This is a surprise for Willa’s seventeenth birthday. It’s just like a car Papa used to drive.”

Tara zips her lips and gives her father a hug. For the next few weeks they’re inseparable. They talk as they work; Tara about her latest drama project and Papa about days gone by. Slowly but surely the car is finished, and Papa shows Tara how to give it a protective wax shine.

~*~

She’s practically bouncing on her heels, and so is Spike as they wait for Willa to enter the garage. A hard yank to the sheet, and father and daughter unveil the beautiful black car they poured their hearts into fixing up.

“Oh, Papa!” Willa cries. “What did you do?”

Buffy watches Spike’s face fall. This isn’t the reaction he’s been hoping for.

“S’meant to be your prezzie, petal,” he says quietly. “Tara and I worked hard to restore it to proper running order.”

Willa looks abashed, but the truth must out. “It’s just not me, Papa. I can’t drive this.”

~*~

Slipping her arm around Spike’s waist, Buffy tries to soothe the way between father and daughter. “It’s wonderful, Spike. You have to admit, though, a DeSoto? It’s not the car for everyone. I didn’t like it when you drove one.”

Quick to defend her Papa, Tara chimes in. “Well, I love it!” she declares. “It’s big and shiny an’ Papa says it purrs like a kitten. If I were old enough, I’d drive it.” Hands crossed over her chest, she looks as stubborn as her mama ever did.

“Thanks, Pidge,” Spike sighs. “Sorry, Princess,” he says to Willa. “I tried.”

~*~

“Oh, Papa,” Willa murmurs, and hugs Spike tightly. “Thank you for putting so much of yourself into that car. I wish it were more me, that’s all. It’s not that I’m ungrateful.”

“I know, sweetheart,” Spike croons into his daughter’s hair. “I should have asked what you liked before going all out. As long as you know I meant well.”

“Oh, I do. I so do, Papa!”

“Then I promise Mama and I will take you car shopping, so you can pick out something more your style.”

“Thank you, Papa. Thank you so much!”

Buffy smiles. All is well again.

~*~

March 2021 – Strands of Time

As she does every night, Buffy brushes her hair at her vanity mirror. The texture is still soft and luxurious, but tonight she sees it. Not just one, but a whole lock of silver-grey hair. She can’t stifle the little sob that rises in her throat.

“What’s the matter, love,” asks Spike as he comes up behind her. “Got a knot you need help with?”

Buffy says nothing, but points at the offending hair.

“Beautiful,” Spike purrs, curling the hair around his finger. “A bountiful treasure well earned over time.”

“And tomorrow, it’s gone with the Lady Clairol,” Buffy insists.

~*~

“Don’t you dare, petal.” This time it’s Spike’s turn to insist. “You promised, remember?”

“What? When did I promise to not dye my hair?”

“You promised to grow old with me,” he replies, stroking her face, gently. “You wouldn’t toss this gorgeous specimen of manhood out for the few grey hairs at my temples, would you?”

“On you it’s distinguished.”

The pout had scarcely formed when Spike says, “And don’t think that pout’ll work this time. Treasure your days past, love. For us, they’re all gravy, and the hair is a badge of honor.”

Buffy nods her head in agreement.

~*~

April 2021 – Love Is…

The rain is pouring down outside, and it’s given Becky the extra kick she needs to throw herself into Spring cleaning. She pulls out the rags, and the broom, ties her hair back and sets to work. First thing she tackles is the joint closet in their bedroom. There’s no rhyme or reason to the way things have been thrown on the bottom.

She comes across a quilted box that she doesn’t recognize. Removing the lid she finds a gauzy scarf, a kitty pin with a heart and a picture of a woman with lush lips and hooded, sultry eyes.

~*~

Tara. The name comes to her in a flash. This must be Willow’s murdered lover. The one who’s death she went evil over. She was a beautiful woman – plenty to be attracted to. Ripe breasts, wide hips… what was there not to love?

Becky walks to the mirror and compares her body; slender hips, small breasts, and her face is different, too. A cupid’s bow mouth and wide, doe eyes. She couldn’t be more different from Tara if she tries. Was Willow settling? Did she hold a special place in her heart?

Willow’s arms wind around her waist from behind.

~*~

“Mmmm,” croons Willow. “You’re looking at the woman I love, you know.” She kisses Becky’s temple and hugs her close.

Becky turns around in the circle of her arms and asks, “Are you sure, Willow? That you love me for me, and not because I don’t look like your ex at all?”

Puzzled, Willow asks, “What brought this on, sweetie? Of course I love you for you.”

Becky holds up the quilted box.

~*~

“Oh!” Willow reaches for the box, tentatively opening the cover. “I haven’t seen this in ages.”

Becky sits on the floor, watching the glow in her wife’s face; her stomach twists.

Willow joins her on the floor. “I’ve told you about Tara, haven’t I?” she asks, holding out the picture. Seeing the look on Becky’s face sparks a connection. “Did this upset you earlier?” she asks.

“Well, most women have a ‘type’, yet she and I look nothing alike. I was wondering what you ever saw in me,” Becky says, eyes downcast.

“Silly woman,” says Willow. “I saw your heart.”

~*~

May 2021 – Senior Prom

Willa is ecstatic. Bobby is in from New York to escort her to the Prom. Treena, however, is beside herself. The expected invitation from Lucas doesn’t come, and she’s left scrambling. She’s got everything – the dress, the shoes, the purse and accessories – everything, except a date.

“Don’t let that stop you, sweetheart,” Xander coaxes. “You only get one Senior Prom, and I’m sure there will be others kids there unescorted. Go… have fun.”

Willa wheedles, as well. “Please, Tree! I promise we’ll spend time together, too. We’ll pick you up in the limo, as planned.” (Willa’s dress.)

Treena gives in, albeit reluctantly.

~*~

The gym is decorated to the rafters. The theme this year is Under the Stars, and there are twinkling lights and prism balloons and a star archway for the obligatory prom photos. Treena watches as Bobby and Willa head off, albeit with promises to check in with her from time to time. Her Dad was right… there are other singletons there, so she gravitates towards them and sways to the music.

Her eyes snap open at the sound of a deep voice. “Here alone, beautiful girl?”

She looks up to see the handsome face of Brett MacIntyre and nods, shyly.

~*~

Entranced with his wavy black hair and blue eyes, Treena scarcely hears him ask, “Would you like to dance?”

“W-won’t your date get upset?” she stammers, cheeks blushing prettily.

“I’m not here with a date,” he replies. “I’m free to dance with whomever I choose, and I’d love to dance with you.”

Treena allows Brett to lead her to the dance floor and wrap his arms around her. She rests her cheek against his shoulder and breathes in the scent of his cologne. This is nice… better than being alone. She spies Willa and Bobby across the floor and smiles.

~*~

A break in the music allows the girls time to natter. Willa smiles as Treena bubbles over with talk about Brett, and how cute he is, and sweet, and how she’s really glad she came after all.

“So it’s not the end of the world that Lucas didn’t invite you?” Willa asks, eyes twinkling with mirth.

“Lucas, who?” replies Treena, staring off into space, looking for Brett, finally spotting him approaching with a cup of punch in each hand.

“To stave off your thirst, fair maiden,” he says, bowing low without spilling a drop.

Both girls giggle at his antics.

~*~

As do most towns, Santa Barbara has its own Lover’s Lane, and the early morning hours find the teenagers parked on an overlook, watching the lights of the town wink on and off. Willa and Bobby are comfortably seated on a blanket, cuddling and kissing with no other cares in the world.

Treena eyes Brett, wondering how she got so lucky. Gorgeous and polite, attentive but not pushy… a more perfect date she couldn’t have asked for. When he leans over for a kiss, she happily responds. Eyes closed, she melts into his embrace.

Eventually, they watch the sun rise.

~*~

June 2021 – Graduation Day

The sun is shining and a soft breeze is blowing – a perfect day for the graduating class of 2021 from Neil Armstrong High School. The Harrises and the Bennetts are sitting amongst the throngs on the bleachers, watching their children parade down the aisles towards the lectern to be awarded their diplomas.

“Ah, what memories,” sighs Buffy. “Just like our graduation, right Xander?”

“If you don’t count the missing hoards of vampires and the mayor turned snake demon, sure,” says Xander.

“Guess I missed all the fun,” says Spike

Buffy smiles. “Lots of good boom-age when the school blew up.”

~*~

“Look, Mama,” squeals Tara in delight. “There she is! Willa!!,” she calls out, causing her sister’s head to turn. A little wiggle of the fingers acknowledges her sibling.

With stately grace, Willa Bennett marches down the aisle in her royal blue gown and mortarboard with tassel, to her seat, awaiting her name to be called. One by one her friends walk up to the lectern, flashes going off as proud parents snap pictures.

Spike captures the moment as Willa waves her diploma in the air and moves her tassel from the right side to the left with a triumphant smile.

~*~

Xander takes the video camera from Spike and waits for Treena’s name to come up. He glances at Will, who’s sitting quietly, holding Tara’s hand. It’s so sweet it makes him teary. He quickly wipes the tears from his eyes so he won’t miss Treena.

Suddenly, Will stands up. “I see her, Dad,” he shouts. “There she is, standing behind that tall boy.”

Sure enough, Xander spots his daughter’s glowing auburn hair, shining in the sun. She looks beautiful. More and more like her mother every day, he thinks, wistfully.

Treena receives her diploma, and smiles broadly at her family.

~*~

July 2021 - Trail Blazing

Jesse awakes from a sound sleep and sits up sharply in bed. He can’t explain why, but he feels something calling to him. Everyone else is asleep. He’s feeling bold, so he dresses quickly and centers himself. A green glow and a small ‘pop’ later, and Jesse finds himself in someone else’s home.

A quick glance around shows the sole occupant – an older man sitting in a wheelchair.

“Well, well, my fine, young, lad. To what do I owe the honor of your presence in my humble abode?”

“The air was buzzing,” says Jesse. “All I did was follow it.”

~*~

“Do I know your family, child? There’s no real resemblance to anyone I’m familiar with,” asks the man. “I don’t get around much these days, as you can see. What shall I call you?”

“My name is Jesse,” he says. “Jesse Wells. And you sound like my Grandpa Giles.”

“That wouldn’t be Rupert Giles, would it?” he asks, eyes lighting up. At Jesse’s nod, he says, “Rupert is an old mate of mine from our younger days. Why don’t you give him a call and let him know you’re here?”

The hairs on the back of Jesse’s neck stand up.

~*~

“What’s your name?” he asks, taking a step away from the man, even though he hasn’t moved.

“My friends call me Ethan. Ethan Rayne,” the old man says, eyes crinkling as he smiles.

“I don’t think Grandpa Giles ever mentioned your name,” Jesse says, feeling more uncomfortable by the minute. The man – Ethan - his smile reminds him of a crocodile. All teeth.

“I’ve been a terrible host,” says Ethan, wheeling towards the kitchen. “Would you like something to drink? You’ve probably traveled a long way to get here.”

Jesse shook his head. “I think I’d better be going home.”

~*~

Ethan just smiles that crocodile smile of his, making Jesse’s skin itch. “I’d really like it if you stay. I get so few visitors these days.

“Sorry, gotta go,” says Jesse, concentrating on home as hard as he can. With a familiar flash and a ‘pop’, he’s back home, in his bedroom. Luckily for him, Jeremy sleeps through his re-appearance, and he undresses and tucks himself back into bed.

He lets go, finally, of that uneasy feeling. He’s sure it’ll return in the morning when he tells his mum what he did. If Ethan does know Grandpa Giles, it’s important.

~*~

August 2021 – Speed Racer

School’s over, and Tara’s motor is revving hot, figuratively. This summer the drama club is closed for renovations, and she has no outlet for her emotions and hormones. Willa is out with friends, Mama and Papa are behind closed doors, having a little ‘adult time’, and Tyler is busy with his books.

She’s all ready to hotwire the DeSoto and grab Will for a little adventure, but doesn’t need to. The key is behind the sun visor, and drops nicely into her hand when she folds it down. A quick call to Will, and he meets her at the garage.

~*~

“This isn’t the smartest idea you’ve ever had, Tara,” Will states, although he willingly climbs into the car and fastens the seatbelt. “Are you sure you can drive this thing?”

“Pretty sure,” she says, buckling herself in. “We’ll find out in a moment.”

The car starts up, the sweet rumble of the engine hopefully not loud enough to alert her parents. After a short jerk backwards, the car heads out of the garage and onto the street.

“Where are we going?” asks Will, not a little fear in his voice.

Tara smiles, knowing exactly where she wants them to go.

~*~

Thanks to Willa and Google Maps, they arrive safely at the overlook on Lover’s Lane. “I-I wanted to be with you,” she stammers, color rising slightly in her cheeks. “I wanted to be someplace we wouldn’t be interrupted.”

“I’m glad you called,” Will says. “You know how I feel. I always want to be with you.”

Companionable silence reigns before Tara makes the first move. She kisses Will, wrapping her arms around his neck. Will scoots closer to Tara, and kisses her back. They break for breath every now and again, and the kissing goes on for a long time.

~*~

They are so lost in each other that the sharp rap on the window makes them both jump. Through the window, Tara sees her papa, seething, and her mama pacing.

“Damn it,” she murmurs to Will. “We are so screwed.”

“It was worth it, though,” he replies, kissing her on the cheek.

“Out of the damned car right now, Bit,” Papa yells, eyes flashing with anger.

Mama stops her pacing and rounds on her daughter. “How could you do this to us, Tara? You could have gotten yourself and Will killed.”

She hangs her head, sheepishly, but stands her ground.

~*~

“Well, what do you have to say for yourself, little girl?” Papa demands.

Tara looks up, her own eyes flashing with indignation, and her temper overrules her brains. “I’m not a little girl,” she retorts, arms akimbo.

Papa laughs, though it is not a happy sound. “I wouldn’t pick now to show me your stones, Tara. Stealing a car and driving without proper instruction is against the law.”

“And I repeat,” says Mama, “you could have hurt yourself, or someone else.”

It takes all she has to bite her tongue. Throwing up Papa’s less-than-legal vampire past wouldn’t lessen her punishment.

~*~

“Your ass is so grounded, young lady,” growls Mama, pushing Tara into the family car. “Better take your last look at the blue sky for a long, long time.” Rounding on Will, she says, “And don’t think your father is going to be pleased with you either, William. We all thought you had at least half a working brain in that head of yours.”

Will says nothing. Words won’t accomplish a thing when parents are in a snit… especially when they’re right.

Papa drives the DeSoto home and pockets the keys and the sparkplugs. Mama drops Will off at Dawn’s.

~*~

Tara watches solemnly as her parents remove her television, phone and computer from her room. In addition, she’s grounded and restricted from seeing Will for a month. Of course she has to endure yet another round of lectures.

She gets it. She really does. What she did was wrong. It was impulsive and selfish and dangerous, to boot. It’s always her toughest lesson to learn… just because she wants something doesn’t mean she can take it, or should necessarily get it.

In a way she’s glad her powers are still bound. Things can get ugly when she gets pissed off.

~*~

Will fares no better at home. While he didn’t steal or drive the car himself, he certainly knows better and should have called someone to stop Tara’s recklessness. He’s also grounded for a month and not allowed to see or speak with Tara.

Taking away the television and computer and phone is more difficult, due to sharing a room with his two cousins, but he knows they’re more than willing to snitch at their parents’ request.

It’s not going to be an easy month. It’s not supposed to be. Will swears to watch over Tara more carefully in the future.

~*~

September 2021 – A Friendly Meeting

Xander has gone out with Neal quite a few times over the months since they met and decides it’s time to introduce him to Spike. As of late, he’s been neglecting his old friend, and it’s time to rectify the situation. One phone call and it’s a date.

They meet up at Fieldston Billiards, Xander stopping Spike from entering the building. “We’re gonna be meeting someone inside,” he says, “Someone I met earlier this year.”

Spike’s eyes light up. “You’ve a date and want me along to chaperone, do ya?”

“It’s a guy,” Xander says, “and it’s not like that.”

~*~

They find Neal already by a table. “Spike, this is my friend, Neal. Neal, this is my old friend, Spike.”

The two shake hands and eye each other, warily. Still, Xander muses, it’s better than out-and-out hostility. “Let’s start with eight ball,” he says to his two friends.

“New guy breaks,” says Spike, holding his pole like a weapon.

Unflustered, Neal racks up the balls and takes his shot. Spike follows, sinking several balls, and then Xander pulls up the rear.

“Tough break, newbie,” Spike all but crows. “Loser buys a round.”

“My pleasure,” says Neal. “What are you having?”

~*~

Several hours later, Neal makes his excuses and heads home.

Xander rounds on Spike, furious. “Are you happy, Spike? You basically pissed on me and marked me as yours.”

“Dunno what you’re talking about, Harris,” Spike sulks, staring intently at the ground.

Shades of ancient past discussions temper Xander’s ire. “I can have more than one friend, you know. Neal’s a nice guy. We usually have a great time together, and I thought you’d both get along great.”

“Sorry, mate,” Spike says, shamefacedly. “Had the feelin’ you were trying to dump me. We haven’t hit the pool hall in months.”

~*~

“I know… I’m sorry, too. That’s what tonight was… an attempt to fix things.” Xander reaches out and grabs Spike’s shoulder. “We’ve been friends for a long time, ‘mate’, and nothing is going to change that. No matter who I meet, or where I go, we’ll always have Sunnydale.”

Spike couldn’t help himself, and a sharp bark of laughter rang out. “Thanks, you git. I was beginnin’ to turn into a girl, what with the hurt feelin’s and such.”

“No worries, Spike,” Xander laughs. “Couldn’t get rid of me as a vamp, can’t get rid of me as a human.”

~*~

October 2021 – Wild at Heart

The heavy duty 4x4 vehicle makes its quarterly journey up to the timberlands in Washington, its passengers fraught with tension. The full moon will be upon them soon, and Oz and Nina are twitching at the thought of running free and hunting deer. They’ve found satisfying the wolf through natural means makes the transformations easier to bear in the long run.

As the two werewolves undress and head into the woods, Angel’s sub-vocal growl annoys Wesley.

“Cut it out, will you?” he says, pushing Angel not so gently on the arm. “It’s not like they’re having an affair, you git.”

~*~

“So you have no problem seeing your… your… significant other naked with someone else?” says Angel, petulantly. “Who knows what they do in the woods, together?”

Shortly thereafter, the air is punctuated by several howls, indicating their mates have reverted to their animal form.

“We might as well make ourselves comfortable,” says Wesley, starting to make up their campsite. We need to get the tent set up to shelter you come the dawn.”

“You never answered my question, Wes,” Angel persists.

“I didn’t deem it worthy of my time,” replies Wesley. “I care about the health of our loved ones.”

~*~

“But… naked!” Angel sputters, unable to let go of the idea.

“Angel, really,” chastises Wesley. “Enough is enough. I know when Oz comes back to me he’s rather ‘frisky’. Letting his wolf run free with Nina’s wolf is a blessing. Who else understands a werewolf better than another werewolf?”

“Then you’re a better man than I am,” Angel murmurs, staring into the forest as if he could see Nina if he tries hard enough.

“Maybe so,” Wesley chortles, continuing to set up camp. “But I think you’d better learn to trust your mate or run the risk of losing her.”

~*~

November 2021 – I Am Who I Am

Tyler can’t sit still. He’s expecting Jensen for the entire holiday week. They’ve been corresponding through email and IMs since Los Angeles, and he can’t wait until he arrives. The timing is great, since the full moon has come and gone.

The doorbell rings, and Tyler is the one to greet him. Jensen’s grown since last he saw the redhead… at least four inches. Not that Tyler has been a slouch in that department either, but he still has to look up to Jensen.

“Hey man, good to see ya again,” Jensen says, leaving Oz to bring in his bags.

~*~

“Hi, Uncle Oz,” Tyler belatedly remembers to greet his uncle and holds the door open.

“Hey, buddy,” Oz replies, dropping the duffle bags inside the house. “Jensen,” he says, “Buffy’s house rules. Remember.”

“Yes, cuz,” he says, rolling his eyes. “I’ll be a good puppy.”

Buffy walks into the hallway and greets Oz with a bearhug. “So,” she says. “Wesley, huh? How’s that working out for ya?”

“Good,” Oz says, nodding his head and smiling. “Jensen, this is Ty’s mom, Buffy. Buffy… my cousin Jensen.”

“Glad to meet you, Jensen. Tyler talks about you all the time.”

“Mama!” Tyler hisses.

~*~

“Record timing,” Buffy says. “Less than two minutes and I’ve already embarrassed my son.”

“Pre-teens,” says Oz, as if that’s enough to explain.

A slight pause, as Buffy searches for the right words. Then, “Is there anything I need to know about Jensen?” she asks. “Like food allergies, preferences, etc.?”

“Nope, he’s cool with everything,” says Oz, “but that’s not all you want to ask, is it?”

Buffy blushes to her roots, but this is important. “No,” she replies. “I need to know if I should worry about the boys sleeping together… um... I mean, in the same room, because...”

~*~

Oz laughs. “Still so innocent after all these years. It’s refreshing,” he says, unable to wipe the smile from his lips. “It’s a good thing the kids skedaddled upstairs. If they heard that…”

“Yeah, there’d be no living with me. I get that,” murmurs Buffy, the color still high on her cheeks.

“Just because Jensen is gay, doesn’t mean he’s going to jump Tyler’s bones, Buff,” Oz says. “And if Tyler is gay, it doesn’t mean he’ll roll over for anyone. The kids need to talk, and hopefully some things will get straightened out along the way. No pun intended.”

~*~

Buffy heads upstairs after Oz leaves, and knocks on her son’s door before entering. “Hey guys,” she says, trying for casual. “How does steak, potatoes and green beans sound for dinner?”

“Fine, Mama.”

“Cool, Mrs. Bennett.”

“If you need anything, just call,” she says, closing the door quietly behind her. She sits on her bed and her head drops into her hands. “Gods, was that awkward.,” she thinks. “Couldn’t be any more awkward if Tara brought a strange boy to the house.”

She grabs a book from her night table and waits for Spike and the girls to come home.

~*~

The boys lie on their bellies on the floor, heads propped up on their hands, as they semi-watch the television and talk.

“Hey, Ty,” Jensen says, rolling over onto his side. “Do you remember when I sneak attack kissed you?”

Tyler turns over to face his friend, color rising in his cheeks. “Yeah,” he murmurs.

“I want to do it again, but this time,” Jensen says, pausing momentarily, “I want you to know. And I want your permission. Do you want me to? Kiss you again?”

Tyler nods.

“Say it, Ty. I want to hear the words from your mouth.”

~*~

“Y-yes, I w-want you to kiss me,” Tyler stammers. “And I want to kiss you, too.”

Permission more than granted, Jensen crawls next to Tyler and leans in, slowly, carefully. Gently he touches his lips to Tyler’s, who softly returns the pressure. Unlike their first kiss, this one lasts for quite some time. Eventually, the tip of Jensen’s tongue breaks the seal of Tyler’s lips and brushes over his teeth.

Tyler matches him, stroke for stroke, before pulling abruptly away, panting harshly.

“Nifty, huh?” asks Jensen, smiling at the younger boy.

“Wow!” says Tyler, hand hovering over his racing heart.

~*~

When Jensen leaves, Tyler definitely has a better understanding of who he is, and who he is growing into. Not that they did more than kiss, but Tyler is surer than ever that his soul mate will be another male. Jensen is so at ease with himself… he makes Tyler feel less of a freak and more like a normal, human being.

Best of all, Jensen got along well with his sisters and parents who aren’t adverse to another visit sometime soon.

Tyler goes to bed, smiling, feeling much better in his skin than he has in a long time.

~*~

December 2021 – What We Weave

A rare Friday afternoon finds Willow and Becky at home , making homemade challah for the upcoming Sabbath. They make an extra batch for Kiana, and show her how to set it aside in a warm place, punch it down, and knead it until it’s ready to form the braided loaves.

Kiana rolls up her sleeves. She stands on a stool to get the leverage to punch down into the bowl of dough, covers it for a second rise and dumps the dough out again for its final knead. She rolls pieces of dough as she’s seen her mothers do.

~*~

“This one is Mommy Willow, and this one is Mommy Becky, and this one is Kiana, and the last one makes a family,” she sing-songs. The loaf is a little knobby, but Kiana is proud of her efforts. Since it’s small, she has enough dough to make several more.

“First is Aunt Buffy, second is Uncle Spike, third is…” she hesitates. “Third is all my cousins, and the last one makes a family,” she says, satisfied.

“This one is Uncle Xander, and this one is my cousins… Mommy Willow,” she calls out, confused. “Who makes a family with Uncle Xander?”

~*~

Tears prickle at Willow’s eyes. Her little one is so perceptive. “Not all families have two parents, Kiki,” she says. “Uncle Xander, Treena and Will are a family all by themselves.”

Kiana thinks on this for a moment before continuing her braiding. “First for Uncle Xander, next for my cousins, three and four for extra love, and that makes a family.”

With that, the tears fall down Willow’s face unchecked. She hugs her daughter, kissing her on the crown of her head. “I love you, sweet baby,” she says, thinking of how much this child has brought into their lives.