Banner made by banner_grab
January 2023 - Goin’ Courtin’
Neal’s pulling out all the stops on their second anniversary. Fancy dress, top-flight reservations… he even sends a bouquet of roses. Not the flowers, but cookie roses!
Xander is nervous. Neal holds the car door open for him. Conversation is minimal during the ride to the restaurant and Xander has no idea what to expect. They pull up into Downey’s parking lot.
“I don’t know why, but I half-expected you to take me to a dark, hidden gay bar.”
Neal’s laughter rings out loud and he nearly bends over double in laughter. “Oh, man,” he says. “You have got to be kidding!”
Blushing with embarrassment, Xander can hardly look at Neal.
“Do you really think I’d hide us away” Neal asks. “I told you, I’m not into labels. I don’t frequent gay bars. I’m proud to be out with you, Xander. I’m not about to go sneaking around.”
Chastened, Xander looks up and apologizes. “Sorry, Neal,” he murmurs. “Sometimes my mouth runs away from my brain.”
“It’s all right, really. I promise to disabuse you of all your notions of a male/male romance. Are you ready?” he asks, crooking his arm.
Xander shakes his head. “Not yet, Neal. Sorry, I just can’t.”
The hostess shows them to their table and hands them each a menu. Xander balks when he sees the price of the complete dinner. “This is too much,” he says. “Neal, you don’t need to go overboard like this.”
“Fine,” says Neal. “When you take me out, we can go to a Doublemeat Palace. My courting, my place, my pick.”
Xander sighs and makes his choice. For an appetizer: Prosciutto with Bosc Pears & Roasted Walnuts. Second course: Butternut Soup with Caramelized Apples. Entrée: Prime Boneless Beef Shortribs with Winter Root Vegetables. Dessert? Something chocolate and creamy off the cart.
“Lovely choices, Xan,” says Neal, turning his attention to his order. Appetizer: Home-smoked Duck Breast with Fresh Mango Chutney. Second course: Watercress & Belgian Endive Salad with Shepherd's Strawberries & Roasted Hazelnuts. Entrée: Colorado Lamb Loin with Local Chanterelles & Young Green Beans. For dessert, he chooses a peach topped cheesecake.
“Between both of us,” Neal says, placing his hand over Xander’s, “we can pick and taste some of everything. A total gourmet feast for the distinguished palate.”
“You can’t possibly eat like this all the time?” Xander asks.
“Nope,” replies Neal, “but it’s a refreshing change from hot dogs.”
The meal tastes divine, both men leaving only garnish and bones on their plates. Neal is leaning back against the cushioned seat, and Xander looks fit to burst. Full stomachs, happy hearts.
“So,” says Neal, making no effort to rise. “How do you like the beginning stages of courting, Mr. Harris?”
Xander laughs. “If you must know, I feel like a high school virgin. A very well fed virgin, I must add,” he says as a little burp escapes. “Excuse me. I don’t think I have room left for air.”
“Time to go, Xan,” says Neal. “Up and at ‘em.”
February 2023 – College Girls
Willa marvels at the turn her life has taken. Here she is, nineteen years old and sitting in a dorm room in New York City. She’s beyond thrilled that Columbia University accepted her for January admission. She loves her classes, and her teachers, and most of all, she loves being close to Bobby. Outside of studying and working on school projects, her weekends are filled with her boyfriend.
She worried about being homesick, but finds the thrice weekly phone calls and constant emails from family ease the way. She and Treena manage to connect several times a week, as well.
She never imagined she and her best friend would be at different colleges, on opposite sides of the country, but that’s the way it’s turned out. Treena now attends the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has no clue what course of study she wants to follow, so she’s taking general courses at the moment. Willa, on the other hand, has decided she wants to become a teacher… of elementary aged children.
Bobby’s schooling has a unique distinction – he’s going to the Manhattan School of Music – and studying piano. He’s gotten really good, and listening to him is a treat.
Settling into bed, Willa places a call. “Hey Tree,” she says when her friend picks up the phone.
“Willa! What a nice surprise. Hey, isn’t it a bit late for you to be up?” Treena asks.
“Enough, Mama,” Willa replies, giggling. Just wanted to hear your cheery voice before calling Bobby, and then heading for sleep. How college life treating you?”
“It’s all right,” Treena says. “Dad calls me all the time. I know he misses me, and Will does, too, but honestly, I’m not that far away and I go back home on the weekends. So far,” she amends.
“You’re a big part of his life, Treena,” Willa chides, gently. “Of course he misses you.”
“I know,” Treena agrees, then turns the tables. “And look who’s talking, Wills. Do you think your parents are doing better? Or the wonder twins? Dad says they’re practically hanging crepe!”
“Wonder twins?” Willa squawks. “That’s rich, coming from someone with a mind reading brother. And my parents are fine,” she insists. “They swear they’re happy for me, and their phone calls are always upbeat.”
It’s Treena’s turn to giggle. “Of course they miss us, stupid! Who wouldn’t? We’re irreplaceable!”
Eventually, the call ends. Willa begins her routine; brushing both sets of teeth, washing her face, applying moisturizer and going to the bathroom. When she’s done, she gets back into bed and pulls the covers up before calling Bobby. She punches in preset #1 and waits.
“Hey there, sweetheart,” comes Bobby’s dulcet tones through the speaker. “I miss you.”
“Miss you, too, my love,” she replies, feeling warm and toasty inside. “How’s college treating you?”
“Practice, practice, practice,” he laughs. “Can’t wait to see you this weekend and kiss you.”
“Practice, practice, practice,” she says, throatily.
March 2023 – Old Friends
A knock on the door has Ethan wheeling over, intrigued, since his visitors are few and far between. “Took you long enough,” he says to his old friend. “Thought the Slayer would have sicced you on your poor, crippled friend a lot sooner.”
“You’ll find no sympathy here,” growls Rupert Giles, every inch the Ripper of his youth. “How dare you threaten my grandchildren, you bastard?”
“Nary a threat was spoken,” declares Ethan, seemingly affronted at the thought. “I just thought I’d pay a return visit to the child who appeared right in the very spot you’re standing in.”
“I don’t believe your innocence for a second, you tosser,” Giles spits. “You have your apartment and yourself warded from detection. That’s what took so long to find you. There was no way I was going to use that little boy and leave him open to your influence.”
“Taking the role of protective grandfather a bit far, aren’t you, Rupert?” Ethan sneers. “After all, not one of them is yours by blood.”
Giles glares, eyes sparking in anger. “And yet still under my protection,” he states. “I warn you, Ethan. Stay away from my family or retribution will be certain.”
Ethan glares back, though a shadow of his old, conniving self. “I need to maintain the wards, mate,” he states. “After all, I must protect myself. A man in my condition is too open to being preyed upon by those younger and stronger.”
Grabbing the front of Ethan’s shirt, Giles pulls them face-to-face. “There’s more to you than meets the eye, you wanker. There always has been, and I was there to witness the troubles you’ve caused. You are still a danger in my book.”
“Why, Rupert, I’m flattered.” Ethan preens where he sits. “Nice to know I’m still feared.”
April 2023 – Bite Me
Wesley researches the latest demon at Angel’s request, while Oz sits on the floor, watching Luna as she crawls about, pulling herself up on every available object.
She’s got her first word down: “Dada!” The men are pleased, until she also calls the toilet “dada” amongst other things. It’s quite comical watching her talk to inanimate objects.
Luna is an amazingly happy baby, so Wesley and Oz become concerned when their little one cries for no obvious reason. She’s also putting everything in sight into her mouth. Toys, books, blankets, you name it.
“Teething,” is the diagnosis from the pediatrician.
From that point on, their little darling becomes a crying banshee. Most of the day, and throughout the night, there is nothing that brings her relief from the pain of new teeth coming in. They try gels, teething biscuits, and various frozen rings to ease her discomfort but nothing works.
They take turns walking with her during the night, so at least one of them can try and get some shuteye. It’s not always successful.
One night, Angel comes storming into their room, muttering about going deaf and crying hellbeasts. A dab of whiskey on the gums, and blessed silence.
“You don’t want to use it often,” Angel warns. “After all, it is whiskey. But for emergency relief, it’s a godsend.”
Wesley looks gobsmacked. “H-how did you know?” he stammers.
“Something from long ago,” Angel says. “Then again, that could be why I developed such an early taste for the stuff when I was human.”
“We’ll be careful,” says Oz, “and be sure to hide the key to the liquor cabinet when she grows up.”
“Goodnight,” Angel tosses over his shoulder as he goes back to his room.
“Silent night,” Oz begins to sing as they put Luna to bed.
May 2023 – Goody Two Shoes
Tara is doing her best these days. She’s polite to all her teachers, is attentive in class, doesn’t cause trouble with fellow classmates and does her homework without being coerced. At home she doesn’t mouth off to her parents, is attentive to her twin and dutifully speaks with her older sister when she calls home from college.
What has Mama and Papa gawking is her industriousness at home. Tara clears the table after meals and does the dishes without being asked.
Buffy turns to Spike and asks, “Who is this pod person and what has she done with our Tara?”
She’s learned her lesson, she insists. She bites down hard on her impulses, thinking through to the consequences of her actions before going off half-cocked. It’s the hardest thing she has to contend with. When she wants, she wants deeply, immediately. Learning to delay her gratification is not in her nature, but she’s putting up a brave fight.
Tara has to toe the line. The worst thing her parents can do to her is deny her Will. No phone calls, no IMs, no emails… she can’t handle it. Will doesn’t want to lose her for any length of time, either.
“So, how’s the goody two shoes campaign going, Tara,” asks Will.
“My god,” replies Tara. “Nothing has ever been harder for me, and that’s including Ancient History.”
She could hear Will’s sigh over the phone. “Then your parents are pleased with your behavior? No fear of grounding in the near future?”
“Not if I keep going like this. I think doing the dishes has put it over the top for Mama,” she says with a giggle.
“A real domestic goddess, that’s what my girl is,” says Will.
“I just hope I don’t crack and rob a bank!”
“You wouldn’t dare!”
“Hey, Ty,” Tara calls from the hallway. “Can I come in?”
The door opens and Tyler walks back into his room, eyes never leaving the book he has in his hands.
“What do you want, Tara?” he asks, quietly, finally raising his head to meet her eyes.
“Just to talk, Ty.” Putting her hand on his shoulder, she says, “It’s been awhile.”
“I was just wondering,” Tara muses, “Since you came out to Mama and Papa… is there anyone at school you want to go out with?”
Tyler looks into her eyes, trying to ascertain the sincerity of her question.
“I don’t mean anything bad,” she insists. “I want to help. If it’s anyone I know I would be more than happy to get you two together.”
“It’s hard enough for me to figure this out, Tara,” Tyler says, avoiding her avid gaze. “What happens if the kid I’m interested in isn’t gay? Things could get really ugly.”
Tara sighs. She means well, really, but perhaps she’s not best suited to help her brother. “Sorry, Ty… I just wanted to do something for you.”
He acknowledges his sister with a nod, and she moves closer to sit next to him.
June 2023 – Up, Up and Away
Buffy wakes up one morning, feeling adventurous. She goes upstairs to her office and does some Googling, makes a couple of phone calls, and decides to surprise her husband.
“C’mon, Spike,” she cajoles. “Get your ass out of bed. We have someplace to go.”
Knowing Buffy won’t let sleeping dogs lie, he stretches, groans, getting up. After hitting the bathroom and getting dressed, he grabs a bite to eat and they leave a note for the twins. Heading off for places unknown, Spike questions his wife, who only smiles enigmatically and continues to drive.
Half an hour later, they arrive.
The field is dotted with dozens of hot air balloons in various states of readiness. Spike quails at the sight, knowing he’s going to have to let Buffy in on the last of his secrets.
“What’s the matter, honey?” she asks, noticing his pallor as he gets out of the car.
“Did I ever mention that these things scare the crap out of me?” he asks, breathing heavily.
“They’re safe, Spike,” Buffy insists. “Look at the families getting into the gondolas. If kiddies can, so can the Big Bad.”
“Haven’t been the Big Bad in a long time,” Spike mutters.
With a virtual girding of his loins, Spike steps up to the gondola they’re led to. “You all right there, fella?” the pilot asks, taking in his erratic breathing and nervousness.
“I’ll be fine, mate. No worries,” Spike insists. “Just first time jitters.”
“You folks have the balloon all to yourselves today,” the pilot says. “And it’s a lovely day for a flight. Clear as crystal, that sky.”
They step into the wicker basket, noticing the gas tanks along the basket’s side. “Just propane to heat the air,” the pilot clarifies.
Spike’s fingers itch for the cigarettes he’s given up.
They hold on to the edge of the basket as the pilot pulls a cord and ignites the propane, reading the balloon to take off.
“I wish you would have warned me, love,” Spike grinds out through clenched teeth. “I’m standing in a bloody picnic basket and the bloke’s shooting fire into a balloon.”
Buffy rubs his neck, stroking the sensitive nape and says, “Honey, you’re thirty-five years old. Live a little.”
He hugs her tightly, closing his eyes and breathing in the smell of her shampoo.
“Folks,” the pilots says, breaking the mood. “You might want to look around.”
“Bloody hell,” whispers Spike, mouth agape. “We’re flyin’.”
“Smooth as silk,” the pilot says. “No turbulence expected whatsoever. Settle in folks, for a fantasy flight.”
Buffy loops her arms around her husband’s waist. “Look at us, Spike. We’re floating through clouds.”
Spike manages to look around without panic overwhelming him. “It’s a lovely sight,” he admits, looking at the balloons floating around them.
“This is something I have to take pictures of,” enthuses Buffy. “Wish I had my good camera with me. The cell’s gonna have to do.” She captures several images and emails them immediately to family and friends.
The flight is wonderful, both Buffy and Spike enjoying the view and the feeling of floating through the open air. Eventually, however, it’s time for the balloon to land, and the pilot takes the steps necessary for descent and landing.
“Hold on, folks,” the pilot says. “The landing tends to be a little on the bumpy side.”
The gondola skips on the ground like a stone on water, but finally comes to a stop. Slightly shaky, the couple exits the basket, and Spike, for all his bravado, kisses the ground.
“S’good to be on terra firma once more,” he admits.
They watch as the grounds crew arrives and secures the balloon. Shortly thereafter, there’s a shuttle bus to take them back to the parking lot and their car.
“You okay now, sweetie?” Buffy asks before they get into their car to head home.
“Could do with another snog,” he replies, giving her the bedroom eyes that melt her knees.
“Wish granted.” She sidles up to him, and they kiss, deeply and passionately.
“Thanks, love,” Spike murmurs.
“For still being able to surprise me after all these years.”
Buffy smiles. Still pretty cool at the age of forty three.
July 2023 – A Gathering of Friends
Sitting at an outdoor table at Esau’s Café, Xander says, “Why is it that when we go out, it’s always to eat? Next time, why don’t we go bowling, instead?”
“For greasy burgers and fries?” Buffy’s nose wrinkles in distaste.
Neal chimes in with, “You can’t tell me you don’t enjoy that first bite of a greaseburger, ketchup running down your chin.”
“Nope, she can’t tell you that,” says Spike, winking at his wife. “She can scarf down with the best of ‘em when she’s of a mind.”
Buffy blushes, the pink rising in her cheeks like a young child.
“So, Xander,” Willow says, mischief in her green eyes. “Looks like I didn’t have to ‘gay you up’ after all. You got there on your own.”
This time it’s Xander’s turn to blush.
“Look, I know I’m gonna sound like a broken record, Xander, but I have to say this once more. I don’t believe in labels. I won’t say I’m gay. I’ve had quite a few relationships with women in my past and enjoyed them. This time, it just so happens that the person I fell for has a penis.”
“What a wonderful dinner topic,” says Dawn, giggling softly.
“Let this be the last time we hear penis at the table, okay?” begs Becky, also blushing.
“Here, here!” says Andrew, pounding a breadstick on the table.
“Anyway, getting back to Neal’s last statement, I understand what he means,” says Willow. “I think humans are more flexible than we’ve been led to believe. I mean, I dated Oz, and Oz is now with Wesley. It’s a matter of what the heart wants, it seems.”
“World’s a more interesting place if you allow yourself to sample from more than one dish,” says Spike, grinning.
“Just try touching another ‘dish’,” Buffy threatens.
The food comes and the wine flows, and several hours later, everyone is sated and pleasantly buzzed. They tell stories about their past, couched in terms so as to not to scare the hell out of Neal. They talk about their kids, and changes in their families as their children grow up.
Dawn turns to Neal, asking, “I hope we’re not boring you with the family talk. With so many kids between us, it’s always first and foremost on our minds.
“No, no, it’s cool,” says Neal. “I love kids. It was never the right time for me, that’s all.”
The bill is paid and they head towards the parking lot, en masse. Neal stops, asking, “So, do I pass everyone’s muster?”
“Gold star, mate,” says Spike.
“Perfect!” says Buffy.
“Oh, hell,” says Willow. “I forgot my shovel speech. Short version – hurt Xander, shovel applied to head.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Neal agrees.
“Looks like a match made in heaven,” says Dawn.
“Must be Molly still looking out for her man,” agrees Andrew.
“You’re a good man,” says Becky.
“Good.” With that, Neal grabs Xander by the shoulders and kisses him thoroughly. Xander responds before remembering they’re not alone and pulls away.
Once again, Xander blushes red, and says, “See? His School virgin!”
“I could help you with that, Xan,” laughs Neal. “I haven’t offered before, but we’ve never been out with everyone before, either. They have to know I’m nothing if not helpful.”
“I am so never gonna live this down, am I?” he asks, raising his head to the sky.
The answers come from much closer to the ground.
”No way, buddy.”
“Can I watch?”
“Oh hell, that last one came from Dawn, didn’t it?” Xander groans, hiding his face in his hands.
“It most certainly did!”
August 2023 – Back to School
As August nears its end, Buffy finds her daughter busy with the last of her laundry. Sitting on her bed, she’s packing each piece in her suitcase as she folds it, listening to her music with her earphones. Buffy’s heart clenches, though not as badly as it did when Willa first headed off to New York.
She taps her daughter gently on the shoulder, and Willa removes her headphones. “Yeah, Mama? What’s up?”
“I just wanted to talk a little,” Buffy replies. “Your summer vacation went by so quickly, I can hardly believe you’re going back to New York already.”
“I’m looking forward to it so much,” Willa says, before seeing her mother’s crestfallen face. “Not that I won’t miss you and the family, of course,” she corrects. “It’s just that I love my classes, and of course I miss Bobby, too.”
“I’m glad you’re enjoying college, sweetheart,” says Buffy. “I can’t help but miss my baby girl, even if she happens to be so grown up already.”
Willa gives her Mama a hug, and kisses her sweetly on the cheek. “Got my wings, Mama,” she says. “And I can fly thanks to you and Papa.”
Buffy stifles a cry.
“Don’t be sad, Mama,” Willa soothes. “You made me the strong and independent woman I am today, and I’m grateful. I’m on my way to becoming a teacher. Young kids in my charge, and I’m sure I’ll be good at it, thanks to the way I’ve been brought up. A girl couldn’t ask for anything more from her parents.”
“Couldn’t you be just a little more clingy?” Buffy sighs. “Just another couple of years would be fine.”
“Mama, don’t be silly. Just because I’m not at home doesn’t mean I don’t love you. That will never, ever change,” she insists.
“I know, baby,” Buffy replies. “As much as I knew this was coming, it still comes as a shock. Papa and I will get more comfortable with it in time.”
Willa smiles. “I’m glad, Mama. I’d hate for my happiness to cause you or Papa pain.”
“Such a good girl you are, my darling.” Buffy rubs her shoulders. “I’m gonna leave you alone to do your thing. Love you lots,” she says, with a final hug before walking out the door.
Willa sits and ponders for a moment. Guess growing up is hard on both child and parents, she thinks.
She finds Papa outside, raking the fallen leaves in the yard. He stops at her approaching footsteps. “What’s up, Princess?” he asks, shading his eyes from the sun.
“Taking a break from packing,” she says, toeing the ground. “Had a talk with Mama. She’s still a bit upset that I’m leaving for school.”
Spike gives her a small, lopsided smile. “Can hardly blame her, petal,” he says, quietly. “We miss you something fierce when you’re gone.”
“I miss you, too, Papa,” Willa says, giving her father a bear hug around the middle. “But I am so very happy in college.”
When he looks at Willa, his eyes are suspiciously moist. “I’m happy for you, love. We both are. S’just you’re our first. Our little miracle. Sometimes it’s hard to let go.”
This time it’s Willa’s turn to sniffle. “I’ll always be your little princess, Papa,” she swears. “But I’ll let you in on a little secret. I hope to be Bobby’s wife someday.”
Spike lets out a deep, rumbling belly laugh. “That’s about as secret as the fact that I still love those little marshmallows in my hot chocolate.”
“You’re not mad?” Willa asks, shrinking in a little on herself.
“Oh my dear girl,” Spike murmurs, hugging his daughter gently. “What good would being mad do? And Bobby seems like a decent sort after all this time. Is he being a gentleman?” he asks, delicately.
Willa pinkens at the implied question. “Papa, you should know better than to ask your daughter about her sex life. Not that I have a sex life to speak of.”
“Sorry, poppet. Don’t know when to keep my mouth shut. Not the first time it’s happened, and it won’t be the last, I’m sure.”
“S’okay, Papa. Bobby doesn’t do anything untoward, and I adore him.”
The night before Willa’s flight she searches out her brother and sister. “Stand together, you two. I want to take a picture for my phone.”
Tara and Tyler pose with their heads together, and Willa snaps away until she’s satisfied. A few clicks and the best photo becomes her wallpaper. “This way I get to carry you with me, wherever I am,” she says, smiling at her siblings.
“I miss having you around, Wills,” Tara says. “I wish we could talk more often, and have pajama chats like we used to.”
Willa takes a good look at her younger sister.
“I can’t believe how grown up you’ve gotten since I’ve been in college,” she murmurs, taking in her sister’s figure and stature. “The little girl I used to have those pajama parties with is almost all gone.”
Tara is very flattered. She’s always felt like a baby next to her big sister. “Can I come and visit you in New York?” she asks.
“If Mama and Papa say it’s all right, sure. Though it’ll be a little cramped in my dorm room, I’m sure my roommate won’t mind.”
“I’ll ask them next summer, if you don’t come home,” Tara says.
“And you,” Willa says, turning to Tyler. “You have grown into a very handsome young man. Checking out all the cute girls in school?”
Tyler blushes, but forges ahead. “Cute boys, more like it,” he says quietly.
“Are you sure?” Willa asks. At his nod, with no hesitation, she adds, “That’s wonderful, Ty. I’m sure you’ll find someone as wonderful as you.”
He hugs his big sister, grateful for her understanding and love. “Maybe I could come with Tara next year?” he asks.
“Let’s see what the year brings, you guys,” Willa says. “I’d love to have you both there.”
September 2023 – Boy Oh Boy!
howlingwolf07: Hey, Ty! Howzit hanging?
tylerbennett09: Things are cool, Jense. What’s up?
howlingwolf07: Have to tell you the greatest thing. Got me a steady, son!
tylerbennett09: A what?
howlingwolf07: Boyfriend. Met him in school. Name’s Raine.
tylerbennett09: Uh… that’s wonderful.
howlingwolf07: Don’t worry, Ty. I don’t forget my friends.
tylerbennett09: I am happy for you, Jense. Honest I am.
howlingwolf07: I’d like you to meet him. Maybe we can get together soon?
tylerbennett09: That would be great. Let me know when, okay?
howlingwolf07: You got it, dude. Gotta go now, the ‘rents need me.
tylerbennett09: Understood. See you soon, hopefully.
Tyler doesn’t know what to make of this. Yes, he knows that Jensen is two years older , but the knowledge that he’s got a boyfriend leaves him unsettled. How did he know? Who made the first approach? He’s read about gay-bashers and worries every time he sees an attractive boy.
There is no way he can work this out on his own. He could talk to his mama, and she’d understand, but he thinks Papa would be better suited for this particular discussion.
He gets up, walks out of his room, hoping Papa has the time now to talk.
“Hey, Papa,” Tyler says, finding his father in the kitchen, reading at the table. “Can we talk?”
“Sure, Ty,” Spike responds, catching his son’s worried expression. “What’s up?”
“I just got an IM from Jensen. He’s got a boyfriend.”
“Does this bother you?” Spike asks, wondering where this is headed.
“No. I’m happy for him. Really,” Tyler insists. “It’s just…”
“What, son? You can tell me anything, you know that,” Spike encourages.
“I know, Papa,” Tyler says. “It’s just that I don’t understand how he knew. Why he didn’t end up with a punch in the face for guessing wrong?”
How does one explain the inexplicable? Spike takes a breath and tries. “First of all, love, you’re really too young to be worrying about all this boyfriend stuff. It’s not that you don’t feel attraction, but it’s just beginning, and shouldn’t consume your life.”
“And given that I’m ‘too’ young, it doesn’t explain what I need to know!” Tyler exclaims, frustrated.
“There are little things that give a person away. A look. An expression. A touch. Mostly these are things that you pick up on when you’re about Jensen’s age. It’s human nature, Ty,” Spike explains. “It’s a mating ritual.”
“We’ve discussed procreation and mating in school, but what happens when the attraction doesn’t lead to babies?”
Spike smiles. At least this is something he understands. Been there, done that… not that he’ll be telling his son any details, of course. “Believe it or not, Ty, it’s the same thing for gay couples as for straight couples. You can’t help who you fall in love with. Some folks are a hundred percent into the same sex in relationships; some find the person more important than the gender.”
“So you’re saying I’ll begin to get these clues as I get older?”
“I guarantee it, son,” Spike says. “That doesn’t mean you won’t be scared, or guess wrong, but you will definitely begin to get clues.”
“And… and there are some kids who are openly gay, like Jensen.” Tyler looks thoughtful. “So it doesn’t even have to be guessing. Just normal, like any boy and girl.”
“Now you’re gettin’ it,” Spike chortles, pleased his son looks a little less upset than before. “And just fifteen minutes older than when we started this conversation.”
Tyler rolls his eyes and smacks his father on the shoulder. “Thanks, Papa. Love you.”
“Love you, too, Tyler.”
October 2023 – The Great Wall
“Aunt Dawn!” Will calls out. “You gotta read this!”
Dear Mr. Harris,
We’d like to have your permission allowing William to paint a mural on the wall in the school’s main entrance. He’s a very talented child, and we like what we see in art class.
This will involve extra hours at school, and require that you make arrangements to pick him up at an agreed upon time.
He will not be alone. Mr. Katz, our art teacher, will be supervising.
We appreciate your cooperation, and hope to see William with brush in hand, shortly.
Mrs. Elissa Sinclaire,
“Oh Will, that’s just wonderful!” Dawn squeals, age not lessening her ear-piercing high notes. “Your dad will be so proud of you.”
“Do you think he’ll give me permission to work there after school?”
“Of course he will. That is, if you keep your grades up,” Dawn amends.
“Oh, I will. I promise,” says Will. “Maybe they’ll even let me sign my name on the wall.”
“I don’t see why not. All works are signed by the artist,” says Dawn. “I’m sure this won’t be any different.”
“I’ll be in my room, working on my homework and waiting for Dad.”
“I’m home, Will,” Xander says, peeking into his room. “Aunt Dawn says you have something exciting to share with me?”
Will grabs the letter from his desk. “You gotta see this, Dad. It’s big!” Will exclaims, practically bouncing in place.
Xander reads the letter and smiles, widely. “Look at you, kiddo! This is wonderful news. I’m more than happy to give you permission, as long as you…”
“I know, I know.” Will rolls his eyes. “Aunt Dawn already read me the riot act. As long as I keep my grades up.”
“That’s right. You know how important your education is.”
“All we have to do is work out when I’ll have to pick you up. This might be time for a cell phone, bucko. What do you say?” Xander asks smiling as Will’s eyes light up.
“Really? Oh my god! Thanks, Dad,” he says, drawing his father into a hug. “You’re the best father, ever!”
“I have some news for you, too,” says Xander. “Looks like I’ll be doing a little construction at home, too.”
“Something for work?” Will asks, curious.
“Nope! Making a bedroom for my son.”
Will looks stunned. “Oh, Dad! This is really the best day ever!”
November 2023 – Xander the Builder
Dawn and Andrew have taken the boys and gone on an extended vacation, giving Xander the leeway to make as much noise as he wants. He has the blueprints he’s painstakingly drawn up and the lumber has been delivered.
Xander has also enlisted the help of Neal and Spike, needing several more pairs of hands when it comes to raising the frame and putting in the drywall. Spike brings several six-packs of beer, and Neal brings sodas and crunchy snacks.
“M’not well versed in following blueprints,” says Spike, “but I can hold and haul what you need.”
“Sounds good, bucko.”
The frame takes shape rather quickly. The tricky part is hauling it to the roof and attaching it sturdily.
“Anyone bring their fiddle?” Neal jokes, straddling the rooftop.
The friends laugh good-naturedly and get on with their business. Two days later, the frame is perfect, the wiring is done, and the floor is installed. One more day gets the drywall and windows in place and the outside walls finished.
Xander has to borrow a cherry picker to attach the roofing and shingles.
Shortly, the shell of Will’s room is complete. Still to be added are a walk-in closet and shelves.
Sitting on Will’s bed, Xander has a long talk with his son. He shows him a swatch book to help pick out the best color for his walls, and one for the curtains. They discuss everything from carpeting to bedding. In the end, Xander feels more like an interior decorator than a builder, but there isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for his son, and getting his own room just right is a big thing.
“Thanks so much for this, Dad,” says Will, love shining in his eyes as he hugs his father.
“Only the best for my boy,” he replies.
Will punches in the number and settles back against the wall. “Hey, Tara,” he says.
“Hi, Will. What’s up?” she asks.
“Aunt Dawn promised to take me shopping for stuff for my new room, and I wanted to know if you’d come with us.”
“I’d love to! I can’t believe you’re finally getting your own room,” she says. “I mean, I love Jonathan and Jason, but…”
“Yeah,” he agrees. “That ‘but’ is a biggie. I could do with some mental alone time. And to have some privacy for painting.”
“And for visitors?” she asks, coyly.
“Dad would have a fit.”
“Will! You beast!” Tara exclaims, laughing merrily. “You know what I mean.”
“Yeah, I do, T. Studying, listening to music, talking… all fun things – with the doors open, of course,” he admits.
“It’ll be nice not to have all those other little ears in on our conversations, for sure,” she says.
“I’ll give you a call when Aunt Dawn is ready to go shopping, and we’ll pick you up. I can’t believe I’m looking forward to spending time shopping at the mall.”
“It’s not like going clothes shopping with your mo… dad,” says Tara, hoping Will didn’t notice her slip.
December 2023 – Happy Hanukkah
Everyone gathers at the Rosenberg household on the first night of Hanukkah. Kiana is thrilled that her holiday is getting attention this year. She looks to Mommy Willow who smiles and nods, then she turns to the table that holds the family menorah. “I’m gonna say the prayers this year,” she says, bursting with pride. “In Hebrew and then in English. This one is said on the first night, only.”
Borukh Ato Adoynoy Eloyheynu Melekh Ho-oylom She-hekheyonu Ve-kiymonu Ve-higgi'onu La-zzman Ha-zze
Kiana learned this painstakingly and phonetically, and pronounced each word with care. “Now for the English version,” she says.
“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has kept us alive, and has preserved us, and enabled us to reach this time,” she translates. “The next two prayers are said every night.”
Borukh Ato Adoynoy Eloyheynu Melekh Ho-oylom Asher Kiddeshonu Be-mitsvoysov Ve-tsivonu Lehadlik Neyr Shel khanuko
“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us by His commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.”
Borukh Ato Adoynoy Eloyheynu Melekh Ho-oylom She-oso Nissim La-avoseynu Ba-yyomim Ho-heym Ba-zzman Ha-zze
Kiana breathes deeply, finished with the last of the Hebrew.
“Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who wrought miracles for our fathers in days of old, at this season.”
Willow and Becky start the applause, proud as can be. Kiana’s recitation is perfect. The rest of the family picks up on the applause, and claps loudly, as well.
“That was hard,” she admits, wiping her forehead in an exaggerated manner.
“You did a wonderful job, sweetie,” Willow says, giving her girl a hug.
“Just beautiful!” Becky agrees, bending down to kiss Kiana on the cheek.
“Time for dinner!” Kiana crows happily, promptly pulling out a chair.
Willow and Becky serve a wonderful meal; brisket with gravy, potato latkes, green beans and tsimis.
“What is this ‘zimiz’,” Buffy asks after tucking into her portion. “It’s absolutely delicious!”
“It’s my bubbe’s recipe,” says Becky. “We usually make it for holiday meals. It’s a mish-mosh of carrots, sweet potatoes, brown sugar, a little honey and some raisins.”
“We love it,” choruses Jesse, Jonathan, Jason and Jeremy. “Can we have some more?” asks Jeremy.
“Of course, sweetie,” says Willow, adding a spoonful to his plate. “Anyone else want more?”
Hands go up around the table. Dinner is a roaring success.
After dinner, when everyone is settled nicely in the living room, Kiana brings out a shiny blue and white bag. From the bag, she gives a little mesh pouch filled with chocolate coins to one and all. “Gelt is a Hanukkah tradition,” she says coyly. “My mommies play dreidel with me, and when I win, I get all the chocolate gelt.”
“Got any of those dreidels around, poppet?” Spike asks. He’s got quite a sweet tooth, and isn’t averse to getting more whenever possible.
“At least it’s better than playing for kittens,” Buffy laughs. “His taste for chocolate is way preferable.”
December 2023 – Ho! Ho! Ho!
Three weeks later, everyone makes the trek to Los Angeles to spend Christmas with Angel and Nina. Once again, the lobby and the dining room are decked out beautifully for the holiday.
The kids all gather together around the huge Christmas tree in the lobby, and Spike, Buffy, Xander, Neal, Willow, Becky, Dawn and Andrew gather around Wesley and Oz to meet the newest little one.
“We are very lucky,” Wesley says, smiling at Luna. “The full moon isn’t for another couple of days, so we can all spend the holiday with you.”
“Oz, you’re a lucky dog,” says Xander.
Willow smacks her old friend on the back of his head. “Nice to see how much you’ve grown up, Xan,” she says, smiling.
“Enough,” says Oz, taking the baby from Wesley. “We’d like to introduce you to Miss Luna Osborne.” The little girl smiles, toothy and wide, giggling happily.
“Would have been a mouthful to hyphenate Wyndam-Pryce to her moniker, mates,” Spike says, tickling Luna’s belly.
“We thought about it,” says Wesley, “and figured this was for the best. We did manage to get legal adoption papers drawn up, however.”
“At least Wolfram and Hart is good for something,” says Angel.
“Still sneaking up on folks, Deadboy,” says Xander, using the old, timeworn nickname.
“How else do you think I learn everyone’s secrets,” replies Angel, smugly paying attention to Luna, who reaches out for him to pick her up. “I see someone has good taste,” he coos at the little girl, who reaches out and grabs a handful of Angel’s hair.
“Only you, little Luna,” he says with a laugh. “And you, Nina,” he says catching her eye.
“She’s the only female I won’t begrudge the pleasure of messing up your coif,” Nina laughs, running her own fingers through his hair.
Dinner is a marvelous affair as always, and there isn’t a soul who leaves the table unsatisfied. After freshening up, everyone converges in the lobby, forming a large circle around the tree. Oz scoops up his toddling daughter and joins the circle, settling her in his lap
Angel kneels under the tree and with Nina’s help, hands out all the prettily wrapped gifts. He finds he misses this. He understands that his family has lives of their own, but sharing time with him… it can’t be beat.
“Looks like we’re done for this year, you guys,” he says, standing up.
“Time for little ones to go to bed,” says Nina, taking Luna from Oz and Kiana by the hand. “I’ll be back after the children are headed to dreamland.
“Don’t forget to turn on the monitors,” calls Angel as she heads upstairs.
“No worries,” Nina calls back.
Angel cracks his knuckles and pushes a button in the wall, which promptly opens to reveal a humongous television.
“’Bout time you went modern,” Spike says, settling in for a good watch. He groans loudly when It’s a Wonderful Life fills the screen.
“Shut up, Spike,” Angel says. “You know you love it.”