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January 2025 – Easing the Way
A full bladder awakens Neal from a deep sleep. He rolls over, looks at the man soundly sleeping next to him and smiles. As much as he’d like to hunker back down under the blankets and spoon, he has more pressing matters at hand and slips carefully from the bed.
Neal’s eyes smart from the daylight as he pees, a result of last night’s enthusiastic toasting of the New Year. He washes up when he’s done, and crawls carefully back into bed.
“Mornin’, Neal,” Xander drawls sleepily. “Why’d ya leave me?”
“Next time I’ll pee the bed, instead,” Neal chuckles.
Xander yawns, stretches, and realizes he’s totally naked under the covers. In spite of his desire for more intimacy with Neal, he still blushes.
“Now that’s just sweet,” Neal says, stroking lightly up and down Xander’s arm. “I wonder what color you’ll turn once we’ve actually made love.”
As if on cue, Xander’s blush deepens, spreading down his neck to his chest.
“Come here, love,” Neal whispers along Xander’s neck, pulling him close. “You feel so good in my arms. Warm and hairy, like a bear.”
“Grrrr,” Xander growls, wrapping his arms softly around Neal’s neck and kissing him soundly.
Slowly but surely, Neal melts Xander’s resistance. Seduction is a heady thing, and Neal knows what he’s doing. Breakfast in bed. The occasional afternoon lunch and grope session. Candlelight dinners, catered and delicious.
“I like this wooing thing you’re doing,” Xander laughs at his rhyme. “You certainly know how to turn a fella’s head.”
“There’s nothing wrong with taking it slow when there’s gold at the end of the rainbow,” Neal replies, turning on an instrumental station. “I was the kid who ate the cereal first, before taking the toy surprise.” He waggles his eyebrows and holds out his arms.
February 2025 – Learning Social Skills
Wesley takes a slip of paper off the bulletin board at the grocery store for a play group. Luna’s two and a half years old, and it’s high time she learns to get along with other children. He and Oz speak with the head of the group. After determining it age appropriate, agree to bring their daughter around.
Unfortunately, Oz is called away on a mission, and Wesley has to attend the group alone. He watches as everyone files in and notes there are eight mothers and only one other father.
“Welcome to Mommy and Me!” the teacher says, cheerily.
Sharing a look of sympathy with the group’s only other man, Wesley prepares to run. This was not what he expected.
“We also welcome our two fathers. Wesley and his daughter Luna, and David with his son Misha. Welcome gentlemen,” she says. “Will everyone sit, please, and place your child in your lap, facing you.” A push of a button, music begins, and the whole group starts singing and moving their hands.
“The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round. The wheels on the buss go round and round, all through the town.”
Wesley looks around, totally lost. Luna, however, seems to have picked up the hand motions and copies the other children.
“Don’t worry, old man,” Dave says, jiggling his son to “The people on the bus go up and down.” “When Misha first started coming to this group, I didn’t know one song from another. You’ll catch on, quickly.”
Despite David’s support, Wesley isn’t so sure about his ability to let loose with his girl. He’s definitely not comfortable with it, but looking at the delight on Luna’s face makes him determined to try.
Soon, he’s singing along with the rest.
There’s plenty of time for free play, and Luna enjoys all the riding toys. Only once did she break into tears – when another child pushed her out of the way to get to a car first. Wesley jumped to her side, and the other girl’s mother was already reprimanding her. She is made to apologize to Luna, and the two little girls go off to play.
“I-is it always like this?” he asks, uncertain what the etiquette is between parents of feuding tots.
The woman laughs and pats Wesley on the back. “You’ll get used to it, kiddo,” she says.
When Wesley gets home, he’s almost as tired as Luna. The class was a rousing success. The girl goes down for a nap willingly, and Wesley makes himself something to eat.
Oz makes it home just as Wesley takes his first bite of a turkey sandwich. “So, success?” the younger man asks.
“Indeed, though I never expected to be part of a Mommy and Me group,” Wesley chortles, an unfamiliar sound from him.
“Happy as the proverbial clam,” Wesley says, smiling at their daughter. “She plays very well with others.”
“Then our job is well done,” says Oz.
March 2025 – To Give of One’s Self
Things have been better with Neal, but Xander still needs a push to make that final move. He heads out early one morning to Los Angeles, to meet with Oz.
“Good,” says Xander. “Now that we’ve gotten the small talk out of the way, I’m hoping you can play Dear Abby for me.”
“Shoot,” says Oz.
“How’d you do it?” Xander asks.
“How’d you go from being in love with Willow, to being in love with Wesley?”
“Lots of life in-between those two, Xan,” Oz says.
“I know. But you know what I mean,” Xander says.
“I really need to know… how’d you go from having sex with Willow to sex with Wesley? It’s so… so… not the same.”
“No, it isn’t.” Oz smiles, patting his old friend on the back. “It’s not a matter of body parts, in the end, no pun intended. Sex is just a natural extension of the love you feel for someone, whatever the anatomy.”
Xander groans. “I’ve heard that so many times before, but I’m having a difficult time going from word to deed. I love Neal. I do, really. And I’ve almost lost him due to this once before...”
“I’d suggest getting pleasantly drunk, or a little stoned,” says Oz, “and don’t wait for the haze to clear. Just go for it. If it’s meant to be, it will be. Ya just gotta dive in – make the commitment.”
Xander nods, knowing this is all down to him. Neal won’t force him – he’s proven that in so many ways. What did he say? “Shit or get off the pot.”? The time has come, he thinks. Finally. They both deserve this final step.
“Thanks for not laughing at me,” he says sincerely. “I don’t know why I make things so complicated.”
There’s traffic on the way home, giving Xander extra time to think. He’s finally made up his mind to give himself fully to Neal; he just has to figure out a way to set the scene properly, so he doesn’t freak himself out.
When he arrives at Neal’s place some hours later, Xander lets himself in with his key and sets to work. He cleans, dusts, and makes the bed. He sets out candles and finds their favorite CD for ambiance. He orders dinner, and has the delivery time set for several hours later.
He greets Neal with a kiss.
“What’s all this?” Neal asks, pleasantly surprised. “I wasn’t expecting to see you until the weekend.”
“Nothing much,” says Xander. “Had a major epiphany, thanks to a little extra shove from a friend.”
“Oh? And what might this epiphany be?”
Xander smiles, his eyes shining warmly. “I love you, Neal. And that I don’t think I can live without you in my life.”
“Love you, too,” says Neal, “but this isn’t news.”
“Maybe not,” Xander replies, “but this is.” He draws Neal close, kissing him deeply, and slowly removing his jacket.
Neal’s eyebrows lift, but he gives Xander the lead.
Neal’s tie and shirt follow the jacket, landing on the floor. As he leads him towards the bedroom, Neal says, “You know you don’t have to rush this. I can’t believe I’m the one putting on the brakes, but I don’t want you to do something you’re not ready for.”
“Not rushing,” Xander insists. “Been a long time coming, in fact.”
“Let me help, then?” Neal asks, reaching for Xander’s shirt.
The clothing flies until both men stand in all their glory, their need for each other evident.
“Let’s get this dance started,” Neal says, tumbling his partner into bed.
“Got everything ready in the night table drawer,” Xander says, blush beginning to form on the tips of his ears and rapidly spreading.
Neal kisses those little red tips, then gently presses more kisses down the column of Xander’s neck. “You are just so damned cute.”
Xander looks down, making sure his masculinity is intact. “I’d take offense to the cute, but I think you’re rather adorable yourself.”
“Shut up and kiss me,” says Neal, and then he hesitates. “Um… how’s this going to happen?” he asks, curious.
“First time? I offer myself to you, love,” Xander says, blush intensifying.
“You’ve been the patient one and I have no clue as to what I’m doing here,” he continues. “Be gentle with me?”
“I’d never be anything but, sweetheart.” Neal turns off the light and eases his man down into the sheets. He starts with a soothing massage of Xander’s feet, working his way up from the toes, to the ankles. The calves to the knees. The thighs to the chest, drinking in Xander’s breathy, little moans like fine wine.
“Just relax, Xander,” he says. “I’ve got you, and I won’t let go.”
Xander sighs and melts into Neal’s possessive touch.
April 2025 – What a Difference a Day Makes
Angel takes Nina out for a night on the town. Dinner at a fancy restaurant, a little slow dancing, a movie to top off the evening – those are the plans. They get as far as the restaurant.
They’re seated quickly, and the waitress hands them menus. She comes back ten minutes later to take their orders.
“I’d like a sirloin steak so rare I can still hear it mooing,” says Angel, handing back the menu.
“And your mother?” the waitress asks.
Before Angel can say a word, Nina kicks him under the table. “Waldorf salad, please,” is all she says.
Nina picks at her salad, her ebullience from earlier, gone. “I-I’m sorry, Angel,” she says. “I seem to have lost my appetite. I’d like to go home.”
“Please, Nina. Don’t let that insensitive woman ruin our night out,” Angel pleads. “I know how much you like to dance.”
“That’s just it, Angel,” she sighs. “That waitress isn’t insensitive. It’s just compared to you, I look like your mother.”
“I don’t see age when I look at you,” Angel insists. “I see the woman I love.”
“Then you need glasses, sweetie. I’m forty seven years old, and you’re still twenty six.”
Nina’s not in the mood for anything once they get home. She undresses, bathes… alone for a change, and snuggles under the blankets.
He just doesn’t know what to do for her. Her aging is something they discussed years ago, and they knew what happened tonight was inevitable, but it still hurt her, and Angel needs to make the hurt go away.
A flash of inspiration strikes. He gathers up supplies and heads into the bathroom. When he comes back, Nina just stares. Angel falters for a moment, until she lets out merry peals of laughter that just doesn’t stop.
Angel is wearing a ratty, old cardigan he dug up from somewhere, and a pair of pants pulled up to his chest. His hair is powdered gray, his skin is puckered from smearing glue and letting it dry, and has bags under his eyes, thanks to a judicious application of Nina’s makeup.
“Do you think you can get used to this old geezer?” he asks, waggling his eyebrows.
“Oh, Angel,” Nina gasps, once she can catch her breath. “Your hair! You did all this for me?”
“I wouldn’t do it for anyone else,” he says, love shining in his eyes.
May 2025 – And Baby Makes Three
Tara wakes up sick to her stomach. No way will she be able to sit through school. She tells her Mama she needs to stay home.
“You don’t feel warm, baby,” Buffy says, feeling her forehead. “Maybe it’s a stomach bug.”
Tara nods, hoping it passes, and soon. By the afternoon, she does, indeed, feel better and putters around her room, going from her computer, to her books, and then to the television. She feels antsy, but not ill.
However, when she wakes up the next day with the same need to vomit, it comes to her in a flash.
This time she might really be in trouble. Again the thought sends her scrambling for her calendar, and sure enough, she’s a month and a half late. She slumps down to the floor, holding her head in her hands. There should be no way she could be pregnant. Will faithfully uses condoms after their first scare.
“Oh god,” Tara groans aloud. “What are we gonna do now?” She can’t call Will – he’s at school. Slipping past her mother to buy another pregnancy test will be impossible after her pukefest this morning. She’ll have to reach Will when school lets out.
Will shows up like last time with a pregnancy test in a paper bag. He greets Buffy cheerily before heading upstairs to Tara’s room, where she hides the bag in her dresser drawer.
“If you are pregnant,” he says, holding Tara’s hand, “this is one little Harris who’s very determined to be born.”
Tara nods, sniffling, her emotions getting the better of her. “I know condoms aren’t one hundred percent effective,” she says, “but they’re close enough this shouldn’t be happening.”
“So what do you want to do,” Will asks, knowing it’s really up to Tara to make this decision.
“W-would you hate me if I say I want to keep the baby?” she stammers, practically folding in on herself with worry.
Will draws her close, stroking her cheek as he looks deeply into her eyes. “How could I ever hate you, Tara?” he asks. “I don’t know how we’ll manage, but if you’re okay with becoming a mother, I’d love to be a dad.”
“Our parents are gonna freak,” she admits. “They’re gonna think we were being careless and irresponsible again.”
“Well, we’ll have to tell them different, then,” Will insists. “We did everything we could to be careful.”
“We can’t tell them yet, if I am pregnant,” begs Tara. “Please, Will… don’t tell Uncle Xander. I need time to come to terms with this.”
“The longer we wait, the more obvious it will become, sweetheart,” Will tries. “Trying to hide this will be killer stressful.”
Tara nods, hanging her head, but doesn’t change her mind. “We’ll tell them together, when it’s time,” she insists.
Will agrees; he can’t deny his girl anything, especially in this. “So what do we do now?” he asks.
“I have to eat better, for one thing,” Tara says. “And get plenty of sleep.”
“What about seeing a doctor?” asks Will, concern evident on his face. “I wouldn’t want anything to go wrong with either of you.”
“Tomorrow, Will,” Tara says. “We’ll talk about this more tomorrow, when I know for sure. It could be just another false alarm, like last time.”
“You don’t believe that, do you?” he asks, cupping her chin and looking into her eyes again.
“With the puking? Nah,” she says. “Not this time. I’m pretty sure we didn’t dodge this bullet.”
“Okay, Scarlett,” Will says with a little chuckle. “Tomorrow is another day. I love you, Tara. Never forget.”
“Love you, too, Will,” Tara responds. She kisses him goodbye, listening as he walks down the stairs and out the door. Lying on her bed, her hands curl around her still flat belly, and she imagines the life that might be growing there.
“A baby,” she sighs, “A little piece of Will and me.” Mama and Papa becoming grandparents. Willa – an Auntie. Tyler – an Uncle. Her decision will affect so many people. If this baby is a reality, she’ll have it. Growing up in such a large, extended family with so many kids makes her realize what children are worth.
June 2025 – Art – You Make it with Your Hands
Ten years old. Willow marvels at how quickly the time has gone. It seems like yesterday she and Becky received their little brown bundle of joy. Now, she’s practically a young lady, with long, black hair, flashing green eyes, and a winning smile.
To celebrate their daughter’s birthday, Willow and Becky have organized a pottery party for her classmates. Ten chatty girls in jeans and tee shirts take smocks from the attendants and slip them on, hopefully to keep their clothes somewhat clean.
Each one sits at a table with a pottery wheel and is shown how to use it.
Each girl attempts to throw a pot, with varying degrees of success. Those who are pleased hand their finished product off to be fired in the kiln. They are each given a second lump of clay and told to make anything they want, free-form.
Kiana picks up her clay and centers it on her table, squeezing it between her hands. When she takes her hands away, she says “Oh!”
“What’s the matter, sweetie,” asks Willow.
“Nothing, Mom,” she says. “It looks like a bunny already!”
Sure enough, Willow could see the raw form of a baby bunny’s haunches and shoulders.
Kiana’s brow furrows in concentration as she works hard, trying to more fully bring out the bunny’s form from her clay. A squeeze here, a push there, and a head forms. Another tweak and ears are lying against the head. Kiana is fascinated as she works.
Picking up a sculpting tool from a cup on her desk, she carves in the facial features; eyes, mouth and twitchy little nose. A finishing touch adds definition to the paws, tail and fur. Becky takes a picture of the unfired bunny “just in case”.
Everyone hands in their finished sculpture to be fired.
The sculptures are picked up the following day, with the promise of a re-firing if anyone wants to paint their piece. Kiana cuddles her bunny on the way home, saying it’s perfect as it is. It takes place of pride on the mantle, over their fireplace.
“I had so much fun, Mom,” Kiana says to Becky. “Do I have to wait for another birthday before I can do this again?”
“Of course not, sweetheart,” says Becky. “I’m sure Mom Willow and I can find a pottery class for you if you’d like.”
Kiana smiles broadly. “Oh yes, I so would!”
July 2025 – Future Shock
Buffy has the strangest feeling. She’s not sure what it is, exactly… can’t put her finger on it… but something is definitely “not quite right”.
“Spike,” she says, “Don’t you feel that something is off kilter?”
“What’s off, love?” he asks, sitting down at the kitchen table after a good morning kiss.
Before she has a chance to say anything, Tara comes bounding into the kitchen, snagging a small carton of juice from the fridge. “Going out, Mama,” she says, draining the last of the juice and tossing the empty into the trash. “Bye, Papa.”
Buffy gasps as she leaves.
“Did you notice anything different about your daughter?” Buffy asks, eyes unfocused as if she’s staring at something only she can see.
“Bit more specific?”
“She’s… bigger,” Buffy insists. “Tara’s gained some weight, and it shows in her breasts and middle.” Buffy shakes her head. She’s really trying not to jump to the conclusion that seems to be clawing at her brain.
“So you’ll have a talk with her about cuttin’ down on the snacks. Don’t see what the problem is,” says Spike.
“Will you be seeing it any clearer when she brings home a baby?” Buffy demands, eyes ablaze.
“My baby girl is up the duff?” Spike is gobsmacked. “Are you sure?”
“Well, no,” Buffy admits. “But mother’s intuition is a strong thing, and Tara did not look like that a few weeks ago.”
Spike goes from shocked to furious. “I’ll kill that little Harris wanker,” he says, voice low.
“Wait, honey,” Buffy soothes. “We’re not sure, yet. We need to talk with Tara first. Maybe it’s something else.”
“For her sake, it had better be,” Spike growls. “She’s too young.”
Buffy takes a deep breath and holds Spike’s hand. “We had better calm down before she gets home.”
Tara arrives home before dinner time. “Hi Mama, Papa.”
Buffy gently restrains her husband from speaking and asks, “Is there something you need to tell us, missy?”
Tara’s cheerful façade crumples, her breath hitching. “I-I don’t know what you mean, Mama.”
“Well, let’s start with the fact that you’ve put on a bit of weight recently,” Buffy begins, “and your clothing no longer fits well.”
Unable to keep her secret any longer, Tara sobs, “I’m so sorry, Mama. We used protection, I swear we did.”
“Have you told the father yet?” Spike asks, trying to hold his temper at bay.
“Will knows,” Tara admits. “We haven’t told anyone else yet.”
Spike shakes his head, unable to believe what’s happened. “Harris is gonna flip.”
“Papa, do you hate me?” Tara asks, her eyes watery and her voice small and meek.
“Oh petal,” Spike sighs, opening his arms to embrace her. “Could never hate you, lovely girl. Just disappointed that your life has gotten so complicated.”
Tara’s shoulders shake with her sobs and she clings to her father like a limpet.
“It’s okay, baby,” Mama soothes. “We’ll work this out. I promise.”
“We need to speak with the Harris men,” Spike says.
Tara calls Will to warn him that her parents know the score and to ask him to bring his father over as soon as possible. Within fifteen minutes, they arrive.
“What’s the problem, you guys?” he asks, looking at all the furrowed brows.
“Better sit down, Harris,” says Spike, settling into the couch with a sprawl.
“Uh… Tara and I have something to tell you, Dad,” Will begins. “I-it seems like there’s gonna be a new little Harris in the family.”
“This is a joke, right?” Xander asks, looking at his friends beseechingly. “I-I’m being punked, right?”
“Sorry, Uncle Xander.”
“I-I’m four months pregnant, Uncle Xander,” Tara continues. “We used protection, honest we did,” she says, eyes moist and chin quivering. “It just didn’t work.”
“Why am I… we… just finding out about this now?” Xander demands. “You must have known about this for awhile. When there was time for… for…”
“No!” Will shouts. “We didn’t want to get rid of the baby, and we don’t want to give it up for adoption, either,” he insists.
“How do you plan on taking care of a baby and my baby?” Buffy asks. It’s not going to be easy.”
“I don’t know.”
Xander sends Will home, and Buffy sends Tara upstairs to her room. The adults need time to talk.
“I take it that you’re none too happy with this situation,” Xander states, looking from Spike to Buffy and back again.
“Of course not, Xan!” Buffy replies, indignantly. “My daughter is almost sixteen years old and had her whole life ahead of her. Now she’s facing early motherhood and dropping out of school.”
“And what about my son?” retorts Xander, just as indignantly. “Same age, same future, and now he’s saddled with supporting a baby for at least the next eighteen years.”
“Mama?” Tara calls from the stairs. “Can I say something?”
“Of course, petal,” says Spike, patting the couch next to him for her to sit down.
“Doesn’t anyone care how Will or I feel?” she asks, tears tracking silver down her cheeks. “We love each other, and we’re going to love this baby.”
“We’re worried, sweetie,” says Buffy. “You can’t live on love. You need money and a roof over your heads. And don’t forget,” she warns. “A baby doesn’t care if you have money or not… they need diapers and food every single day. And so many other things.”
Tara sobs, looking absolutely miserable. “We know, Mama. Isn’t there something we can do?”
“Are you sure about this, Tara?” Xander asks. “It’s going to change your life and Will’s so much, and probably not for the better.”
“I’m sure,” she says, defiantly. “Will’s sure, too. We also want to get married, but we’ll wait until after the baby is born.”
Buffy’s hand flits to her heart. “Marriage! Oh!” she says, her lips purse in surprise. “I’d almost forgotten.”
“Can’t say we didn’t see it comin’,” says Spike, “though not necessarily in this order.”
“Will you help us?” Tara begs.
“Of course we will, darling,” says Buffy, “but we’ll need you and Will to agree to a few things, as well. Like finishing High School, and taking an active part in raising your child. Papa and I will help, of course.”
“And so will I,” says Xander. “After all, this baby is my blood, too. But Will is going to have to be responsible in his own right.”
“Oh, we will, Uncle Xander, I promise,” insists Tara. “I swear our baby has the best grandparents ever!” Tara gives everyone a hug, and heads back to her room.
August 2025 - Homecoming
Spike and Buffy have mixed feelings about Willa coming home from college. They’re thrilled to see her, of course, but this time, she’s bringing Bobby, who she’s requested to be allowed to sleep in her room. “I’m an adult, Mama,” she says. “I won’t revert to being a child again just because I’m visiting.”
“Least he’s not likely to lose his soul and go demonic on us, love,” Spike says to his wife. “Got bonus points for that, at least.”
“It’s almost too much, Spike,” she replies. “Having the kids shove their growing up in our faces.”
“I know, petal.”
“Mama! Papa!” she cries upon entering the door, bringing her parents running. “It’s so good to see you.”
“Mr. Bennett, Mrs. Bennett.” Bobby nods in their direction.
“Welcome home, you two,” Buffy says with enthusiastic hugs and kisses for both.
“Allo, princess,” says Spike, gently hugging her around the waist. “Bobby.” He nods in his direction, still holding his girl.
“Welcome home, Willa,” calls Tyler from the stairs. “I missed you.”
Willa breaks from her father’s embrace and hugs her brother. “Look at you,” she says, checking Tyler out from head to toe. “You’ve grown again since I’ve been gone.”
“A right handsome family we make,” says Spike with pride.
“Where’s Tara?” asks Willa, looking about.
“She’s out walking with Will,” Buffy says. “The doctor says it’s good for her and the baby to be active as long as she can.”
Willa shakes her head. “I still can’t believe she’s pregnant, Mama. My little sister!”
“We know, honey,” Buffy says, holding her daughter’s hand. “It’s not easy for any of us, including Tara and Will.”
“Uncle Xander must have had a cow.”
“No more’n your Mama and me,” says Spike.
“At least they both have their family’s support,” says Bobby.
Tara knocks on Willa’s door when she gets home. “Hey sis,” Willa greets her with a hug around her shoulders. “Look at you… you’re beautiful.”
Quietly, Tara begins to cry. “I’m so not,” she sobs. “I’m fat and ugly and can’t even tie my sneakers anymore.”
“Come sit on my bed, baby,” Willa croons, patting the comforter besides her. “You are a beautiful, pregnant woman. As beautiful as any pregnant woman ever was or will be. You glow with life, sweetie.”
Not quite convinced, Tara curls up next to her sister. “I love you,” she mumbles softly, and promptly falls asleep.
Bobby knocks gently on the door some time later. “I wanted to see if things were all right with Tara,” he says, noticing her fast asleep on Willa’s lap.
“Shhh,” she says. “She needs her sleep. Can we get her into her room without waking her up?”
With a nod, Bobby cradles Tara in his arms, carrying her into her room, placing her gently on her bed. Willa removes her shoes and her bra for comfort. Tara never wakes up, and Willa leaves her to her slumber, closing the door behind her quietly.
“Thanks, Bobby,” she says, kissing her man.
Willa and Bobby wake up early, shower, dress and snatch a bagel from the kitchen before heading out the door. Her car is in the garage, fully gassed, and they set out to pick up Treena for a little reunion. The three friends stop by a little deli to pick up fixings for a picnic lunch, and head out for a day of gossip and fun.
Bobby pulls out a large quilt and spreads it on the ground to sit on. Willa and Treena set up the food and sodas, then sit back and sun themselves.
It’s a glorious day.
“So, my bestest friend and future sister-in-law, how’s life treating you?” Willa asks.
“Good, and weird,” Treena replies. “On the good front, Brett is still in my life. He’d have been here today, but he has a project he needs to finish. On the weird side, my little brother is making me an Auntie.”
“I so know what you mean,” agrees Willa. “They’re just so young. It’s not gonna be easy for anyone.”
“Will you have trouble loving the baby?” asks Bobby.
“Gods, no!” exclaims Willa. “The baby is an innocent in all of this. Loving it is already easy.”
“I agree,” says Treena. “And you and I get to be the spoiling Aunties! Think of all the fun we’ll have shopping for clothes and toys and...”
“C’mon, ladies,” Bobby interrupts. “Surely you know a new baby is about more than shopping.”
“Knock it off, Bobby,” Willa says, pushing his shoulder. “We both know that. But neither one of us is living at home anymore. I’m all the way across the country. It’ll be hard helping in any other way.”
“Agreed,” he replies. “But you can be there for them. Keeping in touch by phone for support will be beneficial.”
Willa sits up straighter, indignant. “What kind of woman do you think I am, Bobby Murcer? This is my baby sister we’re talking about. And a boy I’ve adored since he was born. Where do you get off telling me to keep in touch with family?”
“Sorry, baby,” he says, soothingly. “I’m just trying to keep a level head here. You know how much I care for your family.
“Yeah, I do,” Willa admits. “But remember… bringing a baby into this world is a joyous event, and they love each other. I have to be hopeful they work things out.”
September 2025 – New Relationships
It’s weirdly unsettling, Tyler thinks, staring out the windows of the bus. This is the first time in his life that he’s started a school year without his sister. It’s not that they’re freakishly close, but they are twins, and he feels as if he’s missing a part of himself.
He worries about her, home, with a belly the size of a beach ball. He can hardly believe his niece or nephew is in there. Uncle Tyler… something he never thought of as himself, but soon enough that will be his reality.
A baby that will look up to him.
Tyler has no choice but to take the much reviled gym class this year. He needs the credits to graduate next year, and wants the freedom in his schedule to take an elective course in his Senior year. Begrudgingly, he takes a locker and stuffs his belongings into it, changes into shorts and a tee and heads out to the gym.
It’s a relief to see that he’s caught up somewhat in height to his peers. Not the tallest by any means, but no longer the runt. Looking around, he catches the eye of a guy he’s not familiar with.
The kid smiles, then winks at him and turns to face the teacher. Tyler does a double take, but the kid isn’t looking his way.
As they mill about the gym, picking teams for a basketball game, he walks over and asks, “Do I know you?”
“Not yet,” the kid answers. “My name is Matt. Matt Cohen. Now you know me,” he says with another wink.
“How come I haven’t seen you before,” Tyler asks, curious.
“I’m a Senior,” he says, shrugging his shoulders. “I cut gym last year, and have to make up the credits in order to graduate.”
“Pretty much the same reason I’m here,” says Tyler. “I hate gym, but I don’t want to take it next year.”
“When’s your lunch period,” Matt asks. “Maybe we could meet up and talk?”
“Sixth period, Tyler replies. “And you?”
Matt smiles. “Same as you. Meet you in the lunchroom,” he says before haring off to the team that’s chosen him.
“Huh!” Tyler huffs, amused by the discussion. “Never had a Senior want to be friends before.”
The rest of the period goes by in a haze. Tyler is picked for a team and barely has to handle the ball.
Tyler enters the cafeteria, and looks around for Matt, not seeing him anywhere. He’s about to sit at an empty table when he hears, “Hey, Tyler… over here!” At the sight of a waving hand, he heads over, surprised at what he sees.
It is Matt, but this Matt is wearing black eyeliner and his blond hair is moussed into spikes. “Different, huh?” he asks, pointing to his eyes.
“Not what I expected at all,” says Tyler, finding it amazingly attractive.
“Can’t wear the liner in gym,” Matt says. “It tends to melt when I sweat.”
Tyler nods and stares.
“See something you like,” Matt asks, grinning widely.
“Yeah,” Tyler breathes out, afraid when he realizes he’s said it aloud.
“No worries, dude. I like what I see, too. I don’t go around winking at everyone, ya know.”
Tyler breathes a sigh of relief that he’s not going to get beaten down for his attraction. “A-are you…?”
“Gay?” Matt asks, finishing Tyler’s question. “Yeah, I am, matter of fact. And you?”
“Pretty sure,” Tyler replies, a blush staining his cheeks.
“Terrific!” exclaims Matt, looking pleased. “Glad I didn’t scare you off. It happens sometimes.”
“D-do I look gay?” Tyler asks.
“There is no gay look,” answers Matt, complete with air quotes. “You’re cute… okay, handsome,” he says at Tyler’s affronted look. “Not calling you a girl, Tyler… but let’s face it – you don’t exactly look like a Neanderthal jock, either.”
Tyler relaxes, having to admit that Matt is right. For sixteen years old, his face still has the soft features of an adolescent, not the angles of a man.
“Can I drive you home?” Matt asks, reaching out for one of Tyler’s hands. At his nod of consent, Matt says, “Cool. Then meet me in the parking lot after school.”
Just three more periods ‘til the end of the day, and Tyler can’t wait. He hopes he’s reading the situation right, and that Matt is throwing out the ‘signals’ his Papa spoke about. He can’t help but have a moment of fear that this was a setup, and he was going to get jumped in the parking lot.
There is no reason to worry. Matt pulls up to the curb and honks, and Tyler gets into his car. “Feel like going out for a burger before I take you home?” he asks.
“Sure,” Tyler responds, feeling the butterflies take flight.
October 2025 - Accommodations
After much brainstorming, plans have been made. Willa is happy to cede her room to Tyler, and the twins’ room’s partition is opened once again. Tyler’s portion of the room will be made into a nursery, and Tara’s room will be made over to house both her and Will.
“Not too keen ‘bout them shackin’ up under my roof,” grumbles Spike, “but they managed to get together living separately.”
“True,” Buffy agrees. “And he’ll be much more help to Tara if he’s here, with the baby.”
Xander, however, is a little freaked with both his children out of his sight.
“If ever I was tempted to heft a bottle, it’s now, Spike,” Xander says to his friend. “I haven’t needed this in years.”
“Growin’ up’s not easy on us left behind,” Spike agrees. “Knowin’ Willa’s not going to be callin’ this home again is a pain that’ll linger.”
“It does give me a push to make a decision I’ve been thinking on,” Xander muses. “If Neal’ll have me, I can move into his place without feeling guilty about leaving my kids behind.”
Spike smiles. “Looks like you’ve found the silver linin’ in all of this.”
It’s Xander’s turn to smile.
Neal is ecstatic over Xander’s proposal – even more thrilled that he’s not requesting a second bedroom. It may have taken years, but the man is finally getting comfortable with what he wants. He might not be the world’s most adventuresome lover… not yet, anyway, but he is definitely ardent, and baby steps are absolutely fine with him. Neal is so glad he didn’t lose him to fear.
Everyone helps Xander move his things out of the Wells’ house. Dawn sheds a few tears, hugging her friend tightly and wishes him happiness. She’s glad he’s finally gotten on with his life.
By the end of the month, the baby’s room has taken shape. Xander paints the walls a rich oatmeal color. Once the baby is born, they can decorate gender wise. Furniture has arrived: a crib, a changing table, a small chest and a comfy rocking chair.
Tara’s eyes well up when the room comes together. “I don’t know how to thank you all,” she says, dashing the tears away. “You’re being so good to us.”
“We’re making the best of a difficult situation,” says Buffy. “And we love you both… and the baby.”
“Will and I love you all, too.”
At seven months along, Tara’s back aches. Her belly is large enough to have shifted her center of gravity and make walking uncomfortable. Her last obstetrician’s visit brought quite a scare when the sonogram technician thought she detected a second baby. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief when only one child can be clearly identified.
School has become an impossibility. Tara can no longer fit behind the student desk/chair arrangement. Two months into eleventh grade, she’s become a dropout. Buffy offers to home school her daughter, and she agrees to try. Dawn is more than happy to lend her expertise.
November 2025 – No Fear, No Doubt
Xander and Neal relax on the couch in front of the fireplace, staring into the leaping flames while cuddled into each other.
“I miss my kids,” he murmurs into Neal’s neck. “I miss the days when we used to spend almost every waking moment together.”
“Kids grow up, love,” Neal replies, stroking Xander’s salt and pepper locks. “Before you have one, you know they’re going to leave home someday. Doesn’t mean you won’t still be a part of their lives… just in a different way.”
“I’m gonna be a Grandpa, Neal. And with our relationship, you’ll be a defacto Grandpa.”
Neal smiles, kissing Xander. “Looking forward to it, Xan. I might not have kids of my own, but I bet I can spoil a little one with the best of ‘em.”
“Are you sure, Neal?” he asks. “Getting involved with babies is much more complicated than with adults.”
“You planning on leaving me any time soon?” Neal asks, a smile gracing his lips.
“Fine, fine. I get it,” Xander says. “You love me, and you’re learning to love my family, and you’re not going anywhere.”
Neal draws Xander closer, nipping little love bites along his lips. “Now you’re getting it.”
December 2025 – Baby Mine
Christmas Eve finds the Bennett household a flurry of activity. As usual, a bountiful meal has been prepared; a swirled honey ham, sweet potatoes, green beans, corn on the cob… enough to feed a small army.
After trimming the tree, everyone sits down to eat. The first sign that something is off with Tara, whose appetite has been prodigious as of late, is pushing food around her plate and not eating more than a small nibble.
“What’s the matter?” asks Will, concern etched on his face.
“My back hurts,” Tara replies. “And I’m just feeling sorta cranky. Can I be excused?”
“Do you want to lie down?” Buffy asks, ready to follow her daughter upstairs.
“That’s all right, Aunt Buffy,” Will says. “I’ll go with her.”
Buffy retreats, letting Tara’s beloved take care of her. It isn’t easy, but it’s something she’s learning to do.
“Call us if she needs anything,” Spike calls to Will as he heads to their room.
Xander rubs his eyes, tiredly. “It’s not gonna get easier, is it? Even after this baby is born.”
“Not a lick, mate,” says Spike.
“Probably be worse,” offers Neal. “Then you’ll have another person to worry about.”
Xander rolls his eyes.
Tyler goes to his room, and the adults sit around the tree, watching the twinkling lights and letting them soothe their worries away.
A loud groan emerges from the bedroom, and Tyler’s footsteps race downstairs. “Tara’s water broke!” he yells. Will’s called Dr. Li, and she says to meet her at the hospital!”
Buffy goes upstairs to offer help if needed and grab Tara’s suitcase, Spike pulls the car into the driveway, and Neal and Xander get ready to follow behind in their own car.
Will and Buffy gently ease Tara into the minivan and head off to the hospital.
“Any contractions?” Buffy asks.
“Not really, Mama,” is Tara’s reply. “My back is killing me, though.”
“Back labor,” Spike and Buffy chorus.
The trip to the hospital is uneventful. There’s almost no traffic on the roads, for which everyone is grateful. Spike pulls up to the emergency entrance, and they’re greeted by an orderly with a wheelchair. Will heads into the hospital with Tara, while the cars are parked.
“Insurance?” the admitting nurse asks.
“All her paperwork is on file,” Will states. “Her name is Tara Bennett.”
A quick check with the computer affirms things, and Tara awaits her room.
By the time she’s situated in a room, Tara is moaning in earnest. Will sets up his painting she will use as a focal point, and he directs her to begin her Lamaze breathing.
“Hoo, hoo, hee,” he encourages, and Tara tries hard to concentrate on the rhythm, instead of the pain. “Come on, sweetheart, hoo, hoo, hee,” he tries again, needing her to participate.
“One more ‘hoo, hoo, hee’ and I swear I’ll scratch your eyes out, Will Harris,” Tara grunts through another contraction.
“Let me see what I can do to help with the back pain,” he says.
Taking out the large rubber ball from her suitcase, Will centers it in the small of her back, and pushes gently, rolling it around to counteract the stress there. When another contraction hits, she arches back against the ball, moaning loud and long.
“Uuunh, that feels good,” she groans as the contraction ends. “I wish I could rip out my damned spine.”
“Better than my eyes,” Will jokes, but it falls flat. “Sorry, baby. The doctor should be in soon, to check on the baby’s progress.”
“Soon, soon, soon,” Tara chants, willing this to be over already.
Will heartily agrees.
Dr. Li’s examination shows Tara to be eighty percent effaced. “Soon it will be showtime, kids,” she says, pulling off her latex gloves. “You’re moving along quickly, it seems.”
“Can’t be quick enough for me,” Tara mutters.
“I’ll be back in an hour, sweetie,” Dr. Li comforts. “You’re almost there.”
“I’m thirsty,” Tara complains, knowing she’s not allowed to drink right now.
“Want some ice chips?” Will asks. “I know it’s not much, but it’s better than nothing.” When Tara agrees, Will holds up a small cup of chips to her mouth.
“Mmmm, good,” she murmurs, when another contraction hits.
This is the hardest one yet, and Will does his best to ease Tara’s way through it. She’s fighting him, though… closing her eyes and bearing the full pain of it. When he attempts to gain her attention, she screams at him to get out.
It’s hard to remember that it’s the pain talking, not his sweet girl, but he manages, sticking with her until she opens her eyes and begins breathing again.
The hour passes quickly, contractions coming hot and heavy now at five minutes apart. Tara is sweating profusely, and Will keeps her comfortable with a cool washcloth.
“Bingo!” exclaims Dr. Li at the next examination. “Time to head for the delivery room. Are we ready to greet baby?” she asks.
“Out,” sighs Tara, already exhausted. “I just want to hold it in my arms.”
“Then let’s get the show on the road,” the doctor says, sending Will to get into a set of scrubs.
Tara is wheeled into the delivery room, and the bed is cranked to a nearly sitting position. Dr. Li places her legs in the stirrups, and the waiting begins. The next contraction doesn’t disappoint and comes in hard and heavy.
“Here we go!”
Will gets behind Tara and pushes her gentlyforward; supporting her back while she takes a deep breath and pushes. She collapses backwards when the pain passes, only to be hit almost immediately with another contraction.
“Come on, sweetheart,” Will encourages. “Push!”
Tara pushes so hard, she worries her brain will slip out along with the baby. She feels an odd pressure between her legs, and Dr. Li tells her the baby is crowning.
“Next contraction, give it all you’ve got, honey. This little one wants to be born now.”
Tara complies, and three minutes later, the baby’s head emerges.
Another push and the shoulders follow, then the body. “It’s a boy!” Dr. Li announces, followed by the sweetest cry they’ve ever heard.
“I-is he all right?” Tara asks, petrified that something is wrong.
“He’s perfect!” Will crows, looking at his newborn son. “Ten fingers, ten toes, and one little weenie. Oh, Tara,” he sighs happily. “Look what we did.”
The baby is cleaned up and Apgar stats taken before he’s brought over to his mom. Tara unwraps the blanket and checks things out for herself.
“He is so very perfect, isn’t he?” she murmurs, tears glistening in her eyes.
Will heads for the waiting room, while Tara is cleaned up, and the baby sent to a warming isolette. Everyone stands up when the doors open.
“Well?” Xander asks. “Are we grandfathers or grandmothers?”
“How’s my daughter?” Buffy asks, worry in her face.
“Tara’s fine,” says Wills, smiling widely. “And it’s a beautiful, healthy boy!”
A loud ‘whoop’ escapes from the family, but they quickly quiet down out of consideration.
“I’m going back to my girl,” says Will, “but I’ll come and get you when you can see them both.”
“Congratulations, son,” says Xander, wiping happy tears from his eyes.
About an hour later, Will comes to escort everyone to Tara’s room. She’s sitting up in bed, her hair brushed and tied behind her head in a ponytail. She’s wearing a beautiful, new nursing gown and is absolutely glowing.
Spike is first to kiss his girl, stroking her cheek and gazing into her eyes. “I’m a grandpa,” he says, dazedly.
“I know, Papa,” Tara laughs. “I was there.”
“How are you feeling, sweetheart?” asks Buffy, sitting at her daughter’s bedside.
“So much better now,” she admits. “Tired, too. No wonder they call it labor.”
Buffy smiles, remembering her own deliveries.
At the sound of wheels coming down the hallway, everyone perks up. A nurse rolls in the isolette, and Will picks up his son. He looks at Tara, who nods, and announces, “Ladies and Gentlemen, may we present our son, Noel Christopher Harris.”
He kisses the baby on the forehead before he hands him over to Xander, who fusses over him. “He’s beautiful, you guys.” He gives him to Neal for a moment, before Buffy can’t stand it any longer and holds her arms out. “Here you go, Grandma,” Neal says, before relinquishing his hold.
“Oh, my goodness,” Buffy coos.
Tyler is the last to hold the baby. “Hey, Noel,” he says, gently stroking his dark blond hair. “I’m your Uncle Tyler. I’m glad you’re finally here.”
“Okay, you guys. Noel needs to nurse, so it’s time for you to head out,” says the new father. “Come back tomorrow during visiting hours?”
Tyler hands the baby over to his sister. “Love you, Tara,” he says before heading out the door. “Ya did good.”
The new family is alone at last. The baby is lustily nursing, and Will looks on with pride. This child is ours, he thinks. We are family.