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January 2024 – Room to Grow
After the New Year, Spike, Buffy, Dawn, Andrew and Xander gather for a painting party. With all those hands, it doesn’t take long. One coat of primer on the new walls, and one coat of deep sky-blue paint. The ceiling, of course, is painted white, as is the molding.
The furniture will arrive later in the week; a full-size captain’s bed, a six drawer standing dresser, and several bookcases. Once the furniture is arranged to Will’s liking, Xander will mount shelves on the wall.
The rug comes in tomorrow.
Will checks out the freshly painted room and announces, “It’s perfect”.
He fully moves in a week later, tweaking the layout of his furniture, putting things up on shelves, finding the best spot for his easel… the smile never leaving his face.
The quads are happy for him, though Jonathan and Jason look a little dejected at Will’s newfound liberation. “Don’t worry, you guys,” Will says. “You’re always welcome to come into my room. If I need my privacy, I’ll keep the door closed.
The boys perk up at that and let Will get on with the business of fixing up his room.
He settles on his bed and calls Tara.
“Hey, you,” he says when she answers. “Here I am, all alone in my room. Nobody listening in on my calls.”
“It must be such a relief,” Tara says. “I can’t imagine having to share with anyone. It would drive me nuts.”
“Nah, it wasn’t so bad.” Will fiddles with the buttons on his shirt, toeing off his shoes.
“Riiiiight,” Tara replies. “Then it wasn’t you but your twin brother bitching about not having space for your stuff, or having a place to escape from everyone a couple of weeks ago.”
Will blushes in the privacy of his own room.
February 2024 - Frustration
Neal paces back and forth, fearing that this isn’t going to end well. But something has to be said, and it’s past time to do so, in his opinion. There’s a knock at his door, and he lets Xander in.
“Hey, buddy,” Xander greets him with an affectionate hug. Neal shies away from his embrace and distances himself before speaking.
“Xan, we have to talk,” he begins.
Xander’s face falls. Something about Neal’s nervous demeanor unsettles him. “Is something wrong?” he asks, watching the man’s expression.
“You’re damned right there is, “buddy”,” Neal retorts, his whole posture stiff with tension.
“Is that what we are, Xander” Buddies?” he asks, resuming his pacing.
“I-I thought we were friends,” Xander stammers, feeling the ground shift beneath him.
“We’ve known each other for over three years now,” Neal continues, “and I’ve made my intentions clear from the beginning. You know I’m in love with you.”
“I know, I know,” Xander assures him, “and you know that I care deeply for you, as well.”
“I’m a normal man, Xander. I have urges and needs, and I’ve kept things slow between us, hoping you would eventually catch up. Or leave,” he admits, dropping his gaze.
“What do you want from me?” Xander is this close to panicking.
“I want you to make up your mind! Is a relationship with me something you want or can’t handle? I feel you’ve been leading me on… teasing me with kisses.” Neal pauses, catching his breath. “In public you still refuse to hold my arm, and blush beet red if I attempt to hug you.”
Xander’s body goes rigid. “I don’t take well to ultimatums,” he says, quietly.
“And I’m not giving you one,” cries Neal. “I need to know where we stand. We’re not in high school anymore.”
“I’m not sure I can give you what you want, Neal,” Xander insists. “I enjoy your company and the smooching is rather hot, but… but… I just don’t know if I can deal with sex. Does it have to be a deal breaker?”
“Oh, Xander,” sighs Neal. “Sex is about so much more than body parts. It’s sharing on such an intimate level… and so necessary in a relationship where there’s nothing to withhold from one another.”
Xander sighs, nodding his head slightly.
“We have an old saying, Xan,” says Neal. “Shit or get off the pot. Do you understand?”
March 2024 - Conventioneers
“I can’t believe you got me to do this,” grumbles Dawn, staring down at her doubleknit red skort outfit and thigh high black leather boots..
“Ve haff vays,” sneers Andrew, raising a sculpted eyebrow and brushing down his captain’s uniform over his rotund belly. “And you promised if I did that…”
“Shhh!” hissed Dawn. “I remember exactly what you did. And what you’ll do again, if you know what’s good for you.” She finishes, grinning.
“As you wish,” promises Andrew. “Don’t worry, wife of mine. The line will start moving soon.”
“I hope so,” she complains. “These boots are killer!”
Finally allowed entrance, they walk up and down the aisles, looking at each booth’s merchandise. There are lithographs of space scenes, actors in their famous roles, black velvet displays of both costume and gemstone jewelry, ornaments, magazines, cards, props… anything fandom related that you one think of.
“It’s a good thing you’re mostly content with looking and not buying, Andy,” says Dawn. “We have four sons to think about. And speaking of the boys,” she continues, “how come they’re not here with us, today?”
“I want to be alone with you, fair maiden,” says Andrew, dramatically, sketching a deep bow.
Andrew drags his wife to panel discussions, memorials to fallen actors and finally, a marathon showing of Star Trek, the Original Series. The seventy nine episodes are spread out over several days, but they stay through their fair share of them.
“I love Mirror, Mirror,” gushes Andrew. “When she turns to Sulu and says, ‘Neither!’ she’s so hot.”
“I rather fancy a bearded Spock, myself,” claims Dawn, laughing. “I’m so glad I came, Andy. It’s been a lot of fun.”
“The night is young, my dear,” he says, looking upwards.
Dawn squeals, “You booked a room!”
April 2024 – Future Plans
Willa sits on the uncomfortable plastic chair, filling out forms attached to a clipboard. Her whole medical history, as well as her parents’. “There’s no ticky-box for vampirism,” she mutters to herself, checking off this, writing that. Just as she finishes she hears, “Ms. Bennett. Ms. Willa Bennett? The doctor will see you now.”
She hands her forms to the receptionist and follows the nurse into an examination room. She takes the proffered paper gown and changes into it behind the screen.
“Relax, Willa,” says the nurse as she adjust the stirrups. “It won’t be so bad.”
The doctor arrives.
“Hello, Willa. I’m Dr. Gusuynov,” she says with a slight Slavic accent. “I see this is your first gynecological visit.”
“Are you sexually active?” the doctor asks, snapping on a pair of gloves.
“Not to the point of actual sex,” Willa replies. “I’d like to get birth control pills just in case. My boyfriend and I have been together for a long time, and…”
“Got the picture,” says Dr. Gusuynov. “Smart girl, taking care of yourself. You do know it’s imperative your boyfriend uses a condom against sexually transmitted diseases, yes?”
“I know. We’ve discussed this,” says Willa.
The exam proceeds without a hitch, and the doctor pronounces Willa is a healthy young woman and prescribes the latest in birth control pills, as requested. “Make sure you take these at the same time each day. The pills must be taken correctly and without fail to guarantee their efficacy.”
“Got it, doc,” says Willa, hopping off the table. “Thanks so much.”
The doctor and nurse both leave Willa to get dressed in private.
She makes a quick call to Bobby. “I’m gonna stop off at the pharmacy before I go back to the dorm, sweetie. I’ll see you Saturday.”
May 2024 – Help Needed
It’s been several months since Xander walked out of Neal’s home, and he’s been absolutely miserable. Neal had become an integral part of his life in the few years since they’d met. And deep down, he had to admit to himself, he always knew and enjoyed the fact that Neal pursued him. It was flattering.
Being confronted like he had been made him feel like a kid on the Hellmouth again. He freaked and froze, unable to be honest with himself or Neal, and his inaction seems to have cost him everything.
He calls Spike, needing to hash things out.
“What’s the matter, Harris?” Spike says as he walks through the door. “Look like you just lost your best friend.”
“Appropriate,” Xander sighs. “Though it’s been a long time since that happened. Neal and I are kaput, and it’s all my fault.”
“You two were well on your way to becoming more than best mates, git. What’d you do to bollocks it all up?” Spike asks.
“Spike, I’m not gay. I’m not!” Xander insists. “How can I have sex with another man?”
“Harris, it’s high time you got your head out of your arse and let Neal in,” Spike says,
At Xander’s raised brow, Spike adds, “And you know what I mean, git. The man loves you. And I daresay you love him.”
“Gods, I do miss him,” Xander admits, quietly.
“Neal’s right, you know… about not labeling sexuality,” Spike insists. “D’you think in all my years that I only slept with women? Or humans, for that matter? Given, that I was three sheets to the wind with some of ‘em, but you fall in love with a person – a soul, if you wish – and not their genitals.”
“How do I let go?”
“You just do, Xan. You just do.”
Spike knocks on Neal’s door, figuring if he’s gonna offer advice, he might as well do so to both parties.
“Spike!” exclaims Neal. “This is a surprise.”
“Yeah, well today I’m just everybody’s favorite Agony Aunt. Mind if I come in?” he asks.
“Please,” says Neal. “Can I get you anything? Soda, beer, something harder?”
“Nah. I’m fine, mate, but you look like shite.”
“I’m… managing,” Neal says, softly. “Not that well at times, but I’m trying.”
“Do you love Xander?” Spike asks straight out. “If you do, why’d ya give up on him?”
“What business is it of yours?”
“He’s my friend. You’re my friend,” Spike adds, sitting down in an overstuffed chair. “You’re both miserable apart. All you have to overcome is a little sexual ambiguity.”
“That’s all?” Neal mocks, staring miserably at Spike. “Do tell.”
“There’s nothing worse than the differences between Buffy an’ me when I first pursued her. Wasn’t fit to walk the same ground as her, but it didn’t stop me. Call me a wanker, but I ended up with the prize, an’ never been sorry for the pain I went through.”
“But your coupling is ‘normal’,” Neal says, bitterly.
“Wasn’t then,” Spike replies.
Neal flounders for words. “What… who… can you explain that?” he asks.
“Not important, and not my story to tell,” replies Spike. “Just understand you can overcome anything for love. If you want it badly enough.”
“I do want him, Spike,” Neal says, softly. “I need him in my life.”
“Then, as I’ve said already today… get your head out of your arse, and go to him. Work this out. This kind of suffering is useless.” Spike looks at the man from his slouched position in the chair. “It ain’t gonna happen on its own.”
“Thanks for caring,” Neal says.
June 2024 – Young Love
It starts out innocently enough. Will and Tara are doing their homework. The quads are listening to music, so Will closes his door.
“Will, can you help me with this?” Tara asks. “I hate diagramming sentences, and I always get it wrong.”
They lean in close, and Will can’t help but inhale the floral scent of her hair. He moves closer, just as she turns around and their lips touch. Very quickly the books are forgotten and they’re lost in the throes of teenage passion.
A touch to a breast, the grope of a groin, and kaboom! Clothes go flying.
Neither Will nor Tara take the time to explore each other’s bodies. The sex is fumbling and quick. Outside of Tara’s cry when her virginity is breached, relatively quiet. It isn’t until after the deed is done that both teens gasp and sit up.
“Oh god, what did we do?” cries Tara, covering herself with Will’s blanket.
“I-I’m sorry I hurt you,” Will stammers, looking down, spying the stain of blood on his penis. “We better get cleaned up before someone comes in.”
He wipes himself down and hurriedly dresses, then manages to sneak Tara into the bathroom .
Tara emerges fully dressed, dragging Will’s comforter. They make his bed then sit down… this time with most of the bed’s length between them.
“You realize what we didn’t use,” she whispers, looking at the rug at the foot of the bed.
Will can’t look the girl in the face. “I know,” he says. “What if…?”
“I can’t even think of that right now,” Tara replies. “We’ll just have to hope and pray we got lucky.”
“Not that he doesn’t scare me as he is, but if your dad was still a vampire, I’d be dead if he finds out.”
“I’d do it again.”
“I’d make love with you again, Will,” she says, finally looking directly at him. “Just not in your room with our cousins outside the door.”
Will smiles, moving closer, and Tara meets him halfway. They kiss, gently this time, hands around each other’s necks to hold them close.
They fail to hear the door open, or the footsteps as Xander walks into the room.
For a few seconds, Xander’s stunned, unable to move or think. When the words come, they’re in a great rush.
“William Giles Harris – what the hell do you think you’re doing?”
The teens jump apart, looking guilty as can be. However, what they know about what happened, and what Xander knows are two different things.
“How many times have we told you not to have Tara up in your room with the door closed?” Xander yells, scared and furious at the evidence of his maturing son. “We have rules in this house for a reason, mister.”
“I-I’m sorry, Dad,” Will stammers, standing up to his father to try and keep his attention off of Tara. “It won’t happen again.”
“You can bet it won’t,” Xander agrees. “Tara, get your books together.”
Tara meekly complies, sneaking looks back at Will.
“I’m driving you home, young lady. And don’t think I won’t be having a little discussion with your mother.” Xander looked at the girl… young woman before him, and wonders where the child had gone.
“Bye Will,” she calls as she’s herded down the stairs.
“See you at school,” he replies, before the front door closes behind her.
Tara climbs into the car, head down. The ride back home is made in utter silence. Parking in the driveway, Tara disembarks and opens the door with her key, Xander following close behind her.
“Hey, Tara,” greets Buffy, only to have her daughter walk right past her without a word. She watches as Tara walks up the stairs to her room and slams her door shut.
“Xan, what’s going on?” she asks, noticing her friend standing in the hallway.
“Seems our kids were macking on each other in Will’s room,” he says. “Behind closed doors,” he adds with a flourish.
“Hoo boy. I knew it was coming,” Buffy says, nodding her head. “They’ve been close for so long, it’s inevitable.”
“Time for another talk about responsibility and safe sex, I guess?” is Xander’s question.
“Shyeah,” Buffy snorts. “You do remember what life at fifteen was like, don’t you, Xan? All emotion, no brain.”
“True,” he says. “I recall mentioning that at that age, linoleum turned me on. Walking hormone bombs, Buff… that’s what we have. Why couldn’t they just stay kids a little longer?”
Buffy sighs, hugging Xander, indicating it was time for him to leave. “Off to talk,” she says, looking up the stairs. “Hopefully, she’ll listen. Good luck with Will.”
Xander nods and walks out the door, back home to his own son and talk.
“Gonna be a long night,” he murmurs.
July 2024 - Fireworks
Angel and Nina stand side-by-side in front of a large picture window in one of the Hyperion’s rooms. They’re watching a beautiful Fourth of July fireworks display. Colored starbursts and flares cut through the night sky, lighting it up almost as bright as day.
Looking at the woman by his side, Angel can’t help but compare her to Darla, and long ago fireworks extravaganzas. Both blonde, but Darla is petite where Nina is tall. Both are nicely shaped, though Darla’s bosoms were usually pushed up by tight corsets.
And of course, the feelings he has for each woman are different.
Whereas he would happily smash Darla against the wall and take her standing then and there, Nina he would finesse into bed and the lovemaking would be slow and sweet… at least most of the time. Soulless, he and Darla would have taken great pleasure in running Nina to ground. Vampires were not great fans of werewolves.
He wonders what his unlife would have been like if Darla had not procured that Gypsy girl for him… if he’d stayed with her throughout the centuries. Would they manage to avoid being dusted? Would he have been satisfied continuing his demonic ways?
Wondering doesn’t accomplish anything, and he’s brought back to the present when Nina opens the glass doors, and they step out onto the railed-in terrace. “The fireworks are lovely this year, aren’t they?” she asks, flinching at a particularly loud burst.
“They are something,” Angel replies, gathering Nina closer to him. Their age difference has become quite noticeable, now that she is forty six and he still twenty six. They only have a finite amount of time left together, and Angel intends for it to be as good as possible.
“I love you, you know,” he says, kissing her passionately.
August 2024 – A Walk in the Park
The morning of the full moon finds Wesley and Oz discussing their daughter.
“I don’t know how to put this delicately,” says Wesley, watching Luna play happily with a set of jumbo Lego blocks. “I think we need to consider getting a crate for Luna’s moon nights.”
“You want to put our daughter in a box?” Oz asks, incredulous.
“I already put my lover in a cell,” is Wesley’s comeback. “You’re not here when she undergoes her change, love. She’s not dangerous, but she’s getting more and more destructive.”
“There has to be an alternative,” Oz insists. “She’s so young.”
“Putting a baby behind bars doesn’t seem right,” he continues. “Maybe you can take her out… a dog run would be deserted at night.”
Wesley ponders the idea. “That doesn’t sound half-bad,” he says. “She would have to be leashed… at least until the dog run, which will be enclosed. I shall ask Angel along, to help me keep an eye on her until we know how she’ll behave.”
Oz nods. “Much better, Wes,” he says. “And with luck, she’ll be too tired to cause any damage once she’s home.”
“Dada, look!” yells Luna, showing off her tower of blocks.
Angel is more than happy to go along and supervise Luna’s first moonlight run. Wesley holds the leash firmly, as the wolflet is not pleased to have the collar around her neck.
The dog run is deserted, and walled in. After a walk around to familiarize Luna with the place, Wesley lets her off the leash. The wolflet bounds around, taking turns at climbing rocklike structures, and running madly through tunnels. The joy is evident on Luna’s face, her eyes are sparkling and her muzzle bears a toothy grin.
“Definitely better than a cell in Wolfram and Hart,” Angel muses.
September 2024 – Scare Tactics
Tara struggles to button up her favorite jeans one morning and has a genuine ‘oh shit’ moment. When was the last time she had her period? She scrabbles frantically for her personal calendar, and realizes it was the middle of June. She’s skipped two months! That’s never happened before, and now she’s frantic. What if she’s pregnant? How will Will react? What happens when her parent’s find out?
Tara grabs her phone and punches in Will’s preset button. She hangs up before he answers. She does this twice more before she has the courage to speak with him.
“What’s wrong, Tara,” he asks, sensing her turmoil.
“I’m late,” she cries.
“Late for what?” he innocently asks.
“My period, you idiot. It’s two months overdue,” she wails. “What are we gonna do?”
“Meet me outside in about fifteen minutes,” says Will. “I’m on my way.”
When he arrives, he hands her a small bag.
Tara can’t believe he had the guts to buy a pregnancy test. “I don’t want to be a mother now,” she cries, hugging her boyfriend tightly.
Will wipes her tear away with his thumbs. “Don’t worry, sweetheart. In a few hours, we’ll know for sure.”
“The box says use it first thing in the morning. Until then, there’s nothing we can do.” He returns her hugs, rubbing soothing circles on her back.. “Maybe you’re not pregnant,” he says, hopefully.
Crossing her fingers, Tara says, “I hope not. I can’t imagine facing my parents with the news.”
“I can’t believe we were stupid enough not to use condoms. Not that I had any,” Will admits. “It’s probably a wise idea to get some in case we decide to do this again.”
“In case?” Tara says, shyly.
“You’re right,” Will says. “I should have said when.”
Morning comes and Tara hightails it into the bathroom with her test. “Hold in urine stream,” it says, “then wait for three minutes.”
“Clear, clear, clear,” she chants, pacing around the bathroom.
Three minutes later, the stick reads clear, and Tara takes the breath she’s been holding since last night. She waits an additional five minutes to be sure and nothing changes. She gathers the box and its contents and puts it back in the brown paper bag and buries it in her garbage pail.
“It’s negative, Will,” she whispers into the phone, wary of prying ears. “We got lucky.”
Two days later, cramps wake Tara. Sure enough, she finally gets her period. The physical evidence is more a relief than the pregnancy test. For the moment, she chalks up the lateness to stress, although the stress didn’t really hit until she was late. If it happens again, she’ll ask Mama to take her to her first gynecologist visit.
She showers, shaves her legs, dries off and gets dressed for the day, suddenly feeling like singing. A kiss for Mama before she leaves the house strikes Buffy speechless.
All in all, it’s a good day to be alive, Tara reasons.
October 2024 – Play Ball!
It’s a brilliant October evening – the temperature is delightfully cool with low humidity. An excellent night to take in a ballgame, and wouldn’t you know it, but Angel’s managed to procure an entire box at Dodger Stadium for a World Series game between the Yankees and the Dodgers.
The Bennetts and Harrises haul out to LA for the event, arriving early enough to watch batting practice. Angel has to stay in the car until the sun goes down, but he and Nina find ways to occupy themselves until then.
Eventually, they all settle into their seats to enjoy the game.
Tyler finds it surprising to note that he’s enjoying himself more than he expected. “It’s different being here at the game instead of watching it on the television,” he says to Spike, noisily munching on the buttered popcorn he cajoled him into buying.
“That it is, love,” Spike agrees. “The sights, the smells and the emotions of the folks around you make all the difference in the world.”
Buffy nods, and says, “Even if you’re not a fan of the game, you can enjoy being out in the air and baseball food. For me, it’s nice not having to cook!”
Will and Tara are sitting side by side, flanked by Spike and Xander. They’re not allowed much privacy these days, but it’s better than being isolated from one another. Will’s enjoying the game, and Tara leans against him, holding his hand.
“I want a Dodger Dog,” she says to nobody in particular, “with cheese, ketchup, mayo, and onions. And garlic fries.”
Just as Will reaches into his pocket, Spike puts out a hand to stop him. “No worries, mate. I’ve got it. How about the same for you?” he asks.
Will nods. “Thanks, Uncle Spike. Don’t forget two root beers.”
The game see-saws back and forth - the Yankees scoring first, answered by the Dodgers. The ninth inning finds the score eleven runs for the Yankees and twelve runs for the Dodgers. The Yankees are up, bases loaded, two out and their hopes are hung on a rookie. There’s nobody left on the bench to pinch hit for him, and the crowd goes wild.
All the fans are standing and the noise reaches a crescendo when the pitch is released. The sound of the crack of the bat silences half the crowd when the ball sails over the centerfield fence.
Buffy turns to her husband and says, “The girls would have loved this game.”
“That they would,” says Spike. “I’m sure they’re watchin’ with their boyfriends.” He furrows his brow, looking odd for a moment. “I can’t believe I can say that without wantin’ to kill someone.”
“I’m so proud of you, honey,” Buffy coos, kissing Spike on the cheek. “It doesn’t seem like we can stop our kids from growing up.”
“We can try to stop them from doing it so quickly,” chimes in Xander, looking at the teenagers in their midst.
“We can try,” echo Spike and Buffy.
The Dodgers fail to score in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Yankees win the game fifteen runs to eleven, and take the Series four games to three. Everyone stays for some post-game celebrating, and then fight the crowds to the parking lot.
Angel and Nina have invited everyone to stay over at the Hyperion, considering the hour, and all are happy to comply. The drivers will all be better off with a full night’s rest.
Nina swats Angel on the ass as they head towards their bedroom. “Ya done good, kiddo,” she says linking their arms together.
November 2024 – Giving Thanks
“Let’s do something really different for Thanksgiving this year,” Buffy says. “We have lots to be thankful for, so let’s share our good fortune with others.”
She signs them up for a stint at the local food kitchen, helping to set up the room and serve the food to the less fortunate.
“Mama, do I have to?” whines Tara, not thrilled with spending the better part of a day feeding strangers.
Tyler is a little more sanguine about the whole deal. “It’s only for a handful of hours,” he says. “We’ll still have the rest of the day to ourselves.
Spike, Buffy and a dozen other adults from their neighborhood set up tables and chairs. Lots of children, including their own, lay out tablecloths, silverware and centerpieces. Everything has been donated by local businesses except for the labor.
Delicious smells emanate from the kitchen, fueling the workers to set up quickly. A quick glance at the clock shows their guests will be arriving within thirty minutes.
When the doors are opened, the first of the families arrive. Tara is surprised at how many young children there are, hunger gleaming in their eyes. She seats them at the first available table.
The room fills up quickly, an amalgam of young families, senior citizens, and single people. Soon it’s filled to bursting – not an available seat in sight. Volunteers run back and forth from the kitchen, pushing trolleys laden with dinner trays. As Tara places one before an elderly woman, the old lady reaches out and touches Tara on the wrist.
“Thank you, my dear girl,” she says, tears in her eyes. “I haven’t had a turkey dinner in many a year.”
“Y-you’re welcome,” Tara stammers, surprised by the naked emotion in the woman’s face. An inner warmth kindles in her belly.
Tyler is busy placing meals before a family of five children. They’re boisterous, and their mother looks frazzled, trying to keep them in their seats. As he places a tray in front of the woman, she says, “Thank you, young man. There was no way I could afford a Thanksgiving meal this year. I’m a single mother, and I just lost my job.”
“I’m sorry,” Tyler murmurs, and he feels for her situation, uncomfortably reminded that he and his family have no such problems.
“That’s all right, son,” she says, patting his arm. “What you folks do is a godsend.”
Spike and Buffy pause in their tasks, watching their children take care of others for a change. “Look at our babies, Spike,” says Buffy, eyes alight with awe. “They’re actually taking time to talk with people. Not a sullen expression to be found.”
“Was a good idea, helping others this year,” Spike agrees. “They need to understand where they are in the world, and that many folks aren’t nearly as lucky.”
Buffy smiles, taking in the ambiance of the room. The chatter is happy, and the volunteers are warm and friendly, despite all the hustle and bustle of serving everyone.
The last meal has been consumed, and dessert has been served. People are slowly filing out of the food kitchen, and back to their lives. The volunteers are exhausted, but not ready to go home yet. Everyone pitches in with the cleanup, and it goes quickly. Pots and pans have been washed and dried in the kitchen, garbage bagged and taken outside, chairs placed on top of tables, and the floor swept.
“I had fun, Mama,” Tara admits on the ride home. “Thanksgiving dinner made so many people happy.”
Tyler adds, “It felt good, Papa. Can we do this again?”
December 2024 – Goodwill Towards Men
Once again, the family gathers for Christmas. Once again, they start at the Rosenberg’s and end up at the Wells’ home. With Willa and Treena home for the holidays, the families are complete. Xander, however, is quite nervous. He’s invited Neal after nearly seven month of separation, and he’s accepted.
Dinner is delicious, as usual, but neither Xander nor Neal have much of an appetite. “Shoo, you two,” Dawn says to the two men. “Go inside and talk to each other. “We’ll join you in a bit.”
Both readily comply.
“I-I’m glad you came,” Xander says. “I’ve really missed you.”
Neal smiles softly. “It’s been so long,” he says. “I was afraid I’d never hear from you again.”
“I guess I don’t have to tell you, but I can be a stubborn fool at times.” Xander steadfastly looks at the floor, waiting for Neal’s reaction.
“And I can be a pig-headed ass,” is Neal’s rejoinder. “What a pair we make, old man.”
“I’ve had a lot of time to think while we’ve been apart, and I used it to think of the perfect Christmas present. It’s probably best that you open it now, instead of in front of the family.”
Xander hands him a box, and Neal enthusiastically shreds the paper. His jaw drops as a large case of condoms stares him in the face.
“Optimistic much?” he asks, grinning from ear-to-ear.
“Gonna give it the old college try,” says Xander, blushing to the roots of his hair.
Neal puts the box down, gathering Xander close, kissing him hard and deep. They only break their embrace at the applause and whistles from the rest of the family.
“About bloody time,” remarks Spike.
“Woo hoo!” exclaims Willow.
Everyone else just smiles.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!