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This is it, you guys! After four years of dithering around like a fool without a head, What Dreams May Bring is finally finished. I bring you Chapter Twenty Four and we end on a high note. Hope you enjoy and anyone afraid to read a WIP... this is no longer such an animal. I can't thank my betas enough, but I have to try. It's so good to have gillo back on board for the final chapter. She really whipped me into shape with this chapter. I really missed her guidance and attention to detail. celesteavonne is a delightful cheerleader, and a wonderful second pair of eyes. Old eagle-eye managed to snag some boo boos I missed, and if you see any, they're my fault, not hers. Big squishy hugs to my Willa who's been rooting for me since before I started writing, and last but not least, my thoughts are always with just_sue. I miss her encouragement, and hope to hear from her soon.

The rabbi’s portion of the ceremony comes from here, and Bobby and Willa’s vows come from here.

Apparently I have to post this in two sections, as it's too large for a single post. C'est la vie!



Buffy-47, Spike-39, Xander-48, Dawn-40, Andrew-45, Willow-47, Becky-45, Giles-67, Olivia-55, Angel-26, Nina-49, Willa, Bobby, Treena-23, Tara, Tyler and William-18,Jonathan, Jason, Jeremy, Jesse, Braden-14, Kiana-12, Luna-5. **whew**



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January 2027 – Alone at Last

“This place holds so much promise,” says Willa, looking around the living room of their brand new apartment. “The walls are pristine, the parquet floors are shiny and unscratched, and it’s ours to do with as we please.” Only two days before they had signed the lease and decided to christen the year together in their very own place.

“Do you have any ideas?” he asks, amusement and affection shining in his eyes.

“I know what I don’t want,” Willa replies, a slight shudder shaking through her frame. “Clean lines, I think; nothing ‘poufy’ as Papa likes to say. No cushions you can sink into and no frills and lace.. And artwork… lithographs. We can trawl through the stores and see what catches our fancy together.”

“Sounds wonderful,” Bobby says, anticipating long walks and sidewalk dining whilst perusing images.

“We can look for furniture online… at least until we have an idea of what we’re looking for.” Willa’s caught up in the excitement of setting up their new apartment. “That will save a lot of unnecessary legwork. What do you think about carpeting? Wall-to-wall?”

“Do you really want to cover up these beautiful floors?”

“Do you really want to have hot monkey sex on the cold, wooden floor?” she counters.

“You vixen,” Bobby says, drawing her close for a kiss.

“I am my mother’s daughter,” she says, laughing and pulling away. Her expression growing serious, Willa puts her hand on Bobby’s thigh. “I had that talk with Rabbi Berman today.”

“Oh?”

“Well, we’ve spoken about it, and with the wedding not so far away, time is growing short. The conversion process takes months, you know.”

“You don’t have to change for me, sweetheart,” Bobby insists. “I fell in love with you, not a religion.”

Willa smiles. Every time Bobby says he loves her, she still gets belly tingles. “I know, love,” she says, kissing him on the cheek. “Your being raised Jewish hasn’t harmed you any, and my being raised to do the Easter Bunny hop hasn’t left me feeling empty. But I worry about our children.”

Bobby eyes widen comically. “Is there something you’re not telling me?”

“Our future children,” she corrects. “I guess I believe they should be raised as something and given the choice to follow it as they grow up.”

“So what did you and Rabbi Berman decide?”

“Look, I don’t feel pressured into being married as a Jew – you do know that, right? He advised me to do some reading and continue to think about my decision… he said it will probably be more important when we get pregnant.” She looks at her beloved, taking his hands in hers. “Unless your parents… or you… have an objection?”

“You know how my parents feel about you, baby,” Bobby croons, returning the pressure on her hands. “If there was a problem marrying out of the religion, they would have brought it up well before now. We Murcers aren’t a shy lot.”

“No, no you’re not,” Willa agrees. “Rabbi Berman is more than willing to perform the ceremony, and I doubt my parents have any objections, either. I’ll talk with Mama and Papa later, just to make sure.”

“Always a good idea,” says Bobby.

“Next up is the venue.”

~*~

February 2027 – There’s a Place for Us

“Mama!” Willa all but shouts into the phone. “Guess what?”

“What is it, sweetie?” Buffy asks. “Is everything all right?”

“Only the best, Mama. Bobby and I got a confirmation on the venue for the wedding… and now we have a date to go along with it!”

Buffy couldn’t help but smile. Her daughter was so over-the-moon in love. “So… where does this fairytale celebration take place? And when?”

“We have Saturday, October 23rd – a late afternoon ceremony, and an evening affair.”

“Fine. Good. You have the date. October is a lovely month, sweetie, but you still haven’t told me where!

Willa can almost hear her mama bouncing on her toes with excitement. She finally gives in with all the details. “It’s going to be at Tavern on the Green – you know, on Central Park? They reconstructed it and it has a non-denominational chapel now, so we can have everything in the same place.”

“That sounds wonderful, honey!” Buffy’s voice cracks the slightest bit. It’s hard to have her daughter across the country where she can’t be there to help her plan her wedding. Just writing checks for this and that doesn’t seem to be enough, somehow.

As if sensing her mama’s mood, Willa says, “I wish you were here, Mama. I’d love to show you every little thing, but I promise the next, best thing. I’ll email you pictures of everything. I know it’s not the same, but…”

“Don’t worry, my darling daughter,” says Buffy. “As long as you’re happy, I’m happy. Papa, too. But I love that you’re willing to share everything. It’ll help to not be totally out of the loop.”

“Great! That makes me feel a little better. I mean, I love Sarah, but she’s not you.”

“It’s good to know you’re getting along with your future mother-in-law. She’s a good woman.”

“And she’s raised a wonderful son,” Willa says. “I can’t tell you how happy I am. Our new apartment, the wedding, our jobs…everything to look forward to.”

“Listen, Willa-Milla,” Buffy says, sternly. “It might be a little on the superstitious side, but I wouldn’t go touting all that good fortune to the world. It’s bad luck!”

“Mama,” Willa soothes, “New York isn’t Sunnydale. No Hellmouths to worry about, and the only demons I’ve seen are speed demons and only then when the streets are empty enough. That’s rare around here! Just be happy for me, okay?”

“I am, sweet girl,” Buffy says. “You know I am. We all are. I guess when you have children of your own, you’ll understand that worrying is second nature.”

Willa smiles, nodding indulgently, until she realizes that her mama can’t see her through the phone. “Okay, Mama. I’ve gotta fly. Bobby looks like he’s in need of a good dinner, so I have to figure out what we’re going to cook together.”

“You’re turning into a regular little domestic goddess, aren’t you?” Buffy asks.

“Doing my best, Mama. I promise… I’ll email pictures soon. Love you and the rest of the family. Kisses!”

“Bye, sweetheart, and say hello to Bobby for us.”

~*~

March 2027 – As Befitting a Princess

Willa is ecstatic. Her best friend Treena is in from California. They plan on hitting the bridal salons for the perfect wedding gown. During the week, of course, it has to be after Willa’s done teaching for the day, but the weekend is all theirs.

After hitting several small shops as well as the larger department store bridal sections, Willa is disappointed. Not that she’s competitive with her sister, Tara, but the gown she’s looking for has to be special… and totally unique.

“C’mon, Willa,” whines Treena, after watching her friend try on dress after dress, “You have to give the saleswomen something to work with. We’ve been to small shops and big stores. You’ve tried on dozens of dresses and poo-pooed each one faster than the last. So far, you haven’t given a clue as to what style dress you’re looking for.”

“I can’t explain it, Tree,” says Willa, shrugging out of the latest frou-frou gown with the help of an assistant. “I’ll know the right gown when I see it, and not before. This is why I’m not waiting until the week before the wedding to start searching.”

“Wise move, friend of mine.”

“There’s one more place I’d like to hit. I made an appointment for a showing tomorrow morning.” Willa wiggles back into her sweater and straightens out her leggings. “It’s called Fantasie Bridals.”

“Could be promising,” Treena muses. “Or it could be a disaster. Watch them show you one of those overblown, puffy sleeved, layered skirt nightmares. You’d look like a meringue!”

“Way to be supportive, sport,” Willa snorts, picking up her pocketbook and heading towards the door. “The right dress is out there, somewhere, waiting for me to find it.”

“And you’re determined to cover every inch of the city until you unearth this marvel, right?”

“You got it, kiddo,” says Willa, tapping her friend on the shoulder. “And now it’s time to go home and have dinner. Tomorrow is another day.”

“Maybe they’ll have Scarlett O’Hara’s old dress.” Treena smiles, her eyes twinkling with laughter. “Think you can fit into an eighteen inch waist?”

“If it means going home and throwing out that death by chocolate cake Bobby picked up for us, it’s not worth it,” Willa laughs.

~*~

They arrive at Fantasie Bridals ten minutes early for their appointment and Willa browses the racks dismissing each gown in turn. “Looks like the same old, same old.”

“I’m sure they don’t have all their dresses out on display,” Treena soothes. “C’mon, Wills… dig deep and come up with a detail… any detail… that will give the salespeople something to work with. White and pretty and special are just a little too generic to be of much help.”

Willa sticks out her tongue at her best friend.

“Very mature, loser,” Treena retorts.

“Why, thank you, Miss Treena,” Willa drawls, fanning herself with her outstretched hand. “I always strive to be my best self for my public.”

“Allo, ladies. My name is Madame Yvonne. Welcome to Fantasie Bridals.” The saleswoman speaks with a slight French accent and startles the friends with her silent approach. “I assume one of you is Mademoiselle Willa Bennett?”

“I am,” says Willa, caught off guard and blushing slightly. “I have an appointment to look at wedding gowns.”

“Then you have come to the right place,” chirps Madame Yvonne. “We are here to make your fantasies come true. Do you have anything specific in mind?”

Treena rolls her eyes as Willa fumbles for words. “I want it to be extraordinary. Feminine. Unique. I understand it’s not much to go on, but I’ll know the dress when I see it.”

“Please follow me into our viewing area, and I’ll have our models show you some of our more interesting designs,” says Madame Yvonne. “Have a seat, and feel free to help yourself to our refreshments.”

Willa and Treena sit down on a purple, overstuffed couch, eyeing the pastel glazed petits fours set on the table before them. Treena plucks one from its fluted paper wrapper, while Willa begrudgingly resists.

“Here we have Mademoiselle Suzanne, wearing one of the more popular silhouettes of the season – the sheath.”

As the model parades the gown up and down the little runway, and pirouettes in the triple mirror, Willa wrinkles her nose and shakes her head. “With my figure, the sheath isn’t appropriate,” Willa says, eying her curves.

Madame Yvonne claps her hands and the next model appears. “Next we have Mademoiselle Arnette, wearing one of our princess gowns.”

Willa and Treena exchange glances and barely manage to restrain their laughter. The dress in question has off the shoulder puff sleeves, empire waist, and billowing skirt. “Too Scarlett O’Hara!” she exclaims, finally taking a petit four to stifle her amusement.

Several more gowns make their entrance and are summarily dismissed as too young, too old, too froufy, too straight laced. Willa begins to despair that this place will fail her, as well, when Madame Yvonne announces a final gown.

“We have a gown by a young new designer – it’s one of a kind… her first sample, in fact. Mademoiselle Felice models for you.”

As the model enters, Willa’s eyes light up. The gown is white satin with a strapless Basque bodice and sweetheart neckline, long full skirt with a self-train, embroidered in silver flowers on both bodice and skirt.

Willa shakes Treena by the shoulders. “This is it!” she exclaims. “The dress… it’s just perfect. It’s elegant, and not overly froufy or old fashioned. It’s modest without being boring. Oh my god, Tree – we’ve finally found the right gown!”

“About time,” Treena sighs. “It is stunning. You’ll look a right princess in it.”

Willa beams. Papa’s princess, Bobby’s Queen. The dress couldn’t be more perfect if it’d been made specifically for her.

“Would you like to try it on?” asks Madame Yvonne.

“Will it fit? The model looks so small,” Willa worries, biting her lower lip.

“You are not so large, Mademoiselle Bennett. You are curvy, that is all. Come to the dressing room and we shall help you put it on.”

Willa emerges from behind the curtain and stands in front of the triple mirror. The gown actually fits, enhancing her curves, yet containing them at the same time. Treena wolf whistles and applauds her approval.

“So what do we do now?” Willa asks, still checking her image out in the mirrors.

“You make a down payment in this amount,” says Madame Yvonne, handing her a bill, “and you can either make monthly payments, or pay in full when you come for your final fitting a month before the wedding.”

Willa nods, and heads back into the dressing room with Mademoiselle Felice. She asks Felice to take a picture with her phone before changing back into her street clothes. She would never forgive herself if she forgot to email the image to Mama. She promised, after all.

After writing a check for the down payment, Willa and Treena head for the apartment, and a final splurge of death by chocolate cake.

~*~

April 2027 – Girl Talk

“Hey, Tara!” Willa calls into the phone, only to be greeted by the wailing of her nephew. “And hey there to you, too, Noel,” she laughs as he’s handed off to someone else.

“Hi, Wills,” replies a harried Tara. “Sorry about that. Your nephew doesn’t take well to change these days. He’s so overtired and just can’t seem to settle into sleep.”

“Ah, poor baby,” Willa commiserates. “I’ll give him an Auntie Special talking to when you’re here for the wedding.”

“I can’t wait. Oh, Mama absolutely flipped over that picture of you in your wedding gown. Papa had to restrain her from blowing it up and framing it.”

“Thank god for Papa’s good sense. Did Mama really think I’d want to be seen by anyone else with my hair all over the place and no makeup?”

“Honestly, Wills, I don’t think Mama sees anything but gorgeous where you’re concerned. I mean really,” Tara says, with fond exasperation, “she practically weeps every time she looks at the thing.”

“She was just as choked up with your wedding preparations, you know.”

“I know,” Tara replies. “Trust me, I’m not jealous anymore.”

“Ahhh, my baby sister has grown up on me.” Willa pauses, listening to Will try and sing Noel to sleep in the background. “So, how are things with you all these days? Will treating you right, or do I have to threaten him with my impressive strength?”

Tara laughs. “He’s fine, sis. I mean, we do have our arguments but nothing deep. He’s working hard with Uncle Xander and learning how to work with blueprints. Of course, he paints on the weekends when he has time. He says he needs to keep the creativity alive to nurture his soul.”

“He’s a deep one, your husband,” Willa agrees. “I’m so glad things are working out for the three of you. I take it Mama has calmed down, somewhat?”

“Yeah. She’s settling into the Grandma role with grace these days. In fact,” Tara admits, “there are times I wish she’d help a little more, but I don’t dare ask. Not after coming down so hard on her in the beginning.”

“It’s karma, sweetie,” Willa says. “It’ll come back to bite you on the ass every time. Aside from that… Noel is doing well?”

“He really is,” Tara replies with a mother’s pride. “He’s really walking now and saying his first words. He says dada and mama and cookie.”

“Do you think he’ll be able to be a ring bearer by October?” Willa asks hopefully.

“Oh, I’m sure he will. He’ll be so handsome in a little suit!” Tara squeals.

“He’ll be absolutely adorable, I’m sure.” Willa’s voice turns solemn. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about this for awhile now, but I’ve been afraid of hurting your feelings. Will it bother you very much if I have Treena as my maid of honor? She’s been my bestest friend since we were little.”

“I would have loved being your matron of honor,” Tara says with quiet resignation, “but I understand how you feel about Treena.”

“Thanks so much, sis.” Willa breathes a sigh of relief. I do want you to be my lead bridesmaid. How can I get married without you in the wedding party?”

“As long as you don’t put me in something poufy, we’ll be okay,” Tara laughs.

“I promise – cross my heart,” agrees Willa. “Give Will and Noel a hug from me and Bobby?”

“Of course! Though Noel’s will have to wait until he wakes up,” Tara says. “Sounds like Will was successful in lulling him to sleep, finally.”

“Bye, sweetie. I love you.”

“Love you, too.”

~*~

May 2027 – Let Them Eat Cake!

“Now this is going to be the fun part,” says Bobby as they head for the bakery. “Imagine, all the different cake flavors we can eat!”

“There is a purpose behind the pig-out, you know,” laughs Willa, swatting her fiancé on the shoulder. “We need to agree on a cake flavor, and a filling, not to mention fondant or buttercream for the outside.”

“I know, sweetheart, but you have to allow a man to be a little boorish at times. Otherwise he’ll explode from an overabundance of manners. It’s written in the guy code.”

“Behave!” she hisses as they enter the shop.

“Welcome to Truly Scrumptious,” says a woman from behind the display counter. “How can I help you?”

“We’re here for a 2:30 cake-tasting,” says Willa. “We’re getting married in October and don’t want to be rushed in finding the perfect cake.”

“Ah, you must be Miss Bennett and Mr. Murcer,” the woman says after checking the appointment book. “My name is Harper, and I’ll guide you through the tasting. Please, have a seat at the back table, and I’ll have the first sample cakes sent right out.”

A few moments later, a staff member comes out of the kitchen bearing a tray with a half dozen small, round cakes. “We have here a variety of common cake flavors, along with different icing/frosting methods,” says Harper. “The first is chocolate cake with vanilla mousse filling. It is covered in a chocolate ganache.”

Bobby digs his fork into the chocolatey goodness and moans. “This is absolutely divine!” he declares.

“It is delicious,” Willa agrees. “What’s next?”

Harper pushes a second plate forward. “This is yellow sponge with a chocolate Bavarian cream filling. It’s topped by a vanilla bean buttercream frosting.”

“This is lovely,” says Willa. “It’s light and moist, and the filling is wonderful.”

“It’s a little bland for me,” says Bobby. “Anything more interesting?”

“This is a carrot cake, with a cream cheese filling, topped with rolled fondant.”

“Now this is good,” Bobby agrees, “but I don’t think it will be quite to everyone’s taste.”

“How about a marble sponge cake filled with hazelnut mousse, covered with chocolate buttercream and chocolate shavings?” Harper smiles as the couple digs into her latest offering, sure she has a winner.

“So good,” says Willa. “I can feel my hips widening with each bite.”

“More to love, baby,” says Bobby, laughing gently.

“This one is a little unusual, but we’ve gotten quite a call for it lately,” says Harper. “We call it our Candy Cane special - marbled peppermint cake with peppermint schnapps and crushed candy cane cream filling.”

“This is just heavenly,” says Willa, “but it brings more of a wintery feel, and we’re getting married in October.”

“Would it be possible to take one or two of those home with us?” asks Bobby. “That’s a personal favorite so far.”

“That could be arranged,” says Harper. “You’re not the first couple to fall in love with a tasting sample cake.”

“What’s this last one?” asks Willa as the plate is put before her.

“That’s our Sugar and Spice special - just the right combination of ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon and filled with French pastry cream,” says Harper. “It’s topped with marzipan, which adds a lovely almond flavor to the mix.”

“Oh, this is it!” declares Willa, swallowing the delicious morsel and going back for seconds. “Bobby, you just have to agree!”

“It’s very good,” Bobby says. “Though I was hoping for some chocolate.”

“I swear I’ll buy chocolate and bring it home with us,” Willa insists. “This cake is different than the usual wedding cakes we’ve eaten, but not so off the track that half the guests will hate it.”

“This is just the tip of the iceberg, folks,” Harper interrupts. “We have many more flavors to offer you. We have banana walnut, apple spice, white almond, peanut butter cup, tiramisu, and citrus curds… such a wide variety.”

“Oh god,” groans Willa. “You’ll have to roll us out of here if we taste everything.”

“What a way to go,” says Bobby. “I’m open to trying a few more. I’m pretty sure I can get my fiancée to agree to a couple of forkfuls.”

Willa nods. “You probably can, sweetheart, but I think we’ve found our cake already.”

“No harm in trying,” Bobby says, as Harper calls for the next tray of samples.

~*~

June 2027 – Come One, Come All

“I can’t believe we waited so long to get the invitations,” Willa cries, gathering all the lists and paperwork she has involving the wedding. “We’d better hope the printing can be done quickly.”

“It’ll all work out in the end, sweetheart,” says Bobby. “Let’s hit the party store now and go through their books. The sooner we get started, the sooner they can be printed.”

Willa nods and grabs her bag.

“We need to order wedding invitations as quickly as possible,” says Bobby to the woman behind the counter. “How fast is your turnaround?”

“Depending on the style of invitation you desire, the turnaround can be as quick as a couple of weeks.”

“See baby?” Bobby soothes. “I told you it’s doable. Minimal stress here.”

“Let’s pick out the invitations we like, first, and then we’ll talk about turnaround.”

“We have seven large sample books for your perusal,” says the saleswoman. “Have a seat and take your time. Just call me if you have any questions.”

Bobby practically quails at the sight of all the large portfolios.

“Buck up, sweetie,” Willa encourages. “Look at it this way – with all the invitations here, we’re bound to find what we’re looking for.”

They open the first book and begin their search for the perfect invitation. They find puzzles, and multi-layered creations, mylar sheets and sparkle decorations. Everything is fussy and overblown.

Three books later and Willa is ready to tear her hair out. “All I want is something simple… something that indicates Autumn, and a legible typeface for our information,” she complains.

“Is there something I can help you with?” the saleswoman asks when Willa slams shut the fourth book.

“We’re getting very frustrated here,” complains Willa. “I mean, the invitations we’ve seen are nice, but they’re either too complicated, or too fancy, or just not us.”

“Something plain would be preferable,” adds Bobby. “A hint of autumn about it is all we really need.”

“Okay, okay, I understand,” says the saleswoman. “Try this last album. They have a penchant for the understated.”

Several minutes later, Willa lets out a squeal of delight. “Bobby! This one is just perfect! Plain background, and embossed design and typeface. Autumn leaves!!!”

“Are you sure?” he asks, running his fingers over the raised lettering. “There are still more to look at,” he says with a shudder.

“No! This is exactly what I want,” Willa declares. “It also has matching envelopes, response cards… even directions cards!

“Do you have the text you want to appear on the invitation ready?”

Bobby hands the woman a slip of paper with the proper wording. “We’d like to have the print in russet red, to match the leaves, if it’s possible.”

“Not a problem, Mr. Murcer,” says the saleswoman. “It’s not a custom color, so there’ll be no extra charge or delay in printing. With luck, the invitations will be delivered to your home inside of two weeks.”

Willa smiles, and hands over a check for the deposit. “You’ll send us the bill for the balance?” she asks.

“You call us upon receipt, ask for me, Mimi, and tell me that everything is satisfactory, and I’ll mail out the bill.”

~*~

Two weeks later, Willa retrieves a box from the doorman. She bounds through the door of their apartment, shouting “They’re here! They’re here! The invitations are here!”

“So, open them already,” Bobby laughs. “They’re not going to announce themselves.”

Willa opens the box and takes out the first invitation. She scans each line with her finger, checking for spelling and wordage, and pronounces, “Just perfect, Bobby! It’s everything we asked for.”

They quickly check out the accompanying pieces, and are well pleased.

“I bet I know what we’re doing this weekend,” says Bobby, hugging his fiancée close.

“Writer’s cramp, here we come,” agrees Willa. “After this, we’ll set up a rudimentary seating chart. I’m so glad Grandpa Angel is able to fly everyone in from California. At least that’s one expense they don’t have to worry about.”

“My folks said to invite all of our friends, and not to worry about expenses,” says Bobby. “It’s certainly nice to have money.”

Willa nods. “You realize we could probably live for two years off of what this wedding is going to cost, don’t you?”

“I do,” he agrees, “but since this is the only wedding I plan on having, and our parents have offered, worrying is silly. We’re not being overly extravagant, just… mildly.”

“Have I ever mentioned how much I love you?”

“Not in the past fifteen minutes or so.”

“I love you,” Willa whispers, leading him towards the bedroom.

~*~

July 2027 – I Remember Mama

Dawn picks her sister up for a nice, leisurely lunch at L & L Hawaiian Barbeque, one of their favorite restaurants.

“It’s been awhile since we’ve had sisterly bonding time,” says Dawn. “I figure this calls for some carnivore action – not just salads and yogurt.”

“So there’s an agenda to this feast?” says Buffy, cocking an eyebrow at her younger sister. “Not just foody goodness?”

“Just a little one,” Dawn admits, covering her sister’s hand with her own. “But not to worry, there’s nothing wrong. It’s just… I’ve been having some thinky thoughts lately and I want to share.”

“What can I get for you ladies today?” the waitress asks, pad and pencil at the fore.

“Oooh, how about barbeque short ribs with brown rice, and a side spring salad? I’m feeling wicked,” grins Buffy, putting down her menu.

“I’ll have the same,” says Dawn. “Damn, sis, it’s really been way too long since we’ve come here.”

Buffy nods. “Sure has. So tell me, sister-of-mine… what’s on your mind?”

“I’ve been thinking about Willa and the wedding, and wondering how you’re holding up. I mean, Tara’s wedding was just last year, but they still live with you, so it’s not as jarring as Willa being across the country.”

“I miss her, Dawn,” Buffy sighs. “I can’t help it. I mean, I’m happy that she’s graduated college, and proud of her for choosing a career that fulfils her, but…”

“Thought so.” Dawn gathers Buffy’s hand in both of hers. “It’s times like these I wish Mom was still here. She’d know what to say; how to make things better.”

“She’d be so happy, Dawnie. Knowing her granddaughter is independent and finished college when I… when I…”

“When you had other obligations,” says Dawn, kindly.

“And she’d be thrilled Willa found the love of her life,” Buffy continues. “She’s happy and healthy and free of the constraints my Calling forced on us all. She may be part Slayer, part Vampire, but she leads the normal life Mom would have wished for her.”

“She’d be thrilled for you, too, Buffy. Don’t you forget that,” Dawn insists. “She understood Spike, and in the end she did trust you with him. She only got misty about not becoming a grandmother, and I think both you and I have managed to accomplish that goal.”

“Who’d a thunk it?”

“Not me, for sure. There was a time I didn’t even think of myself as human.”

“And here we both are,” murmurs Buffy, “all these years later. These beautiful, heartbreaking, wonderful years later… husbands who love us, thriving children, homes of our own… we do have it good, don’t we?”

“We do, indeed,” agrees Dawn. “Doesn’t stop us from missing Mommy. It’s… it’s not a bad thing, though. All it means is that Mom left such a good impression on us. She loved us with all that she had. And in turn, we do the same with our babies. Even the grown-up babies.”

“When did you get so wise, brat?” Buffy laughs.

“I’m older than dirt, remember?”

The waitress arrives with their lunch, and conversation stops as the sisters enjoy their meals. When they leave the restaurant, Dawn’s goal is accomplished – Buffy’s mood is noticeably lighter than when she sat down.

~*~

August 2027 – Blessed Be

“Mom, I want to get something special for Willa and Bobby for their wedding,” says Kiana. “A gift from me, alone… not adding my name onto your and Mom Becky’s gift.”

“That’s so sweet, Kiki,” says Willow, smiling at her nearly teenage daughter. “Do you have anything in mind?”

“Is Willa going to be Jewish now?” Kiana asks.

“I don’t think she’s planning on actively adopting the Jewish faith, sweetie. At least not in time for the wedding,” Willow replies. “I do think she’ll observe along with Bobby, out of respect.”

“So they’re not exactly going to be a Jewish family like us?”

“Not religiously,” Willow deadpans, and Kiana rolls her eyes. “More a traditional kind of Jewishness, than based on actual faith.”

“Can I get them something Jewish for the house? Because it’s from me, and I’m Jewish?”

“Of course you can,” says Willow. “I’m sure they’ll love anything you pick out for them.”

Kiana searched through a pile of mail and came up with a Judaica catalogue. “Would you order it for me if I find something I’d like to give them?”

Willow nods her agreement.

After a few moments, Kiana folds over a page and shows it to her mother. “Here,” she says, pointing to an item. “How about a mezuzah for their front door?”

“That is a lovely thought, sweetie. Oh, and look – this one is perfect.” The item in question is an enameled metal mezuzah, emblazoned with the saying, ani ledodi vedodi li. “In English, the inscription means, I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”

“It’s not too expensive. I have way more than enough saved up in my bank.”

“You realize you have to buy the Torah scroll in addition to the casing,” cautions Willow. “That’s gonna add quite a tidy little sum to the total.”

Kiana looks crestfallen. She hadn’t counted on the additional expense.

Mom Willow to the rescue. “No worries honey,” she says. “I’ll be happy to pay for the scroll.”

“Thanks, Mom. You’re the greatest!” Kiana squishes Willow as hard as she can.

“Do you want it delivered here so you can bring it to the wedding?” Willow asks, hesitating while inputting the delivery address.

“No, I think I want them to get it now, so they can have their place blessed as soon as possible.”

Willow fills out the couple’s address, ticking off the boxes to have it gift-wrapped and a card enclosed. “What would you like to say on the card, sweetie?””

“A Jewish protection spell for you, from your Jewish-Wiccan niece, Kiana Rosenberg.”

Willow can’t help but smile at her daughter and sends off the order.

~*~

September 2027 – The Last Hurrahs

One day, in the teachers’ room during lunch, Willa is confronted by her three closest friends: Alyse Mitchell, Sorrell Brooks, and Megan Walters. “Only a few more weeks until the big event, eh, Willa?” asks Sorrell, obviously the spokeswoman for the group. “The girls and I want to do something special for you before Bobby ties up all of your free time.”

“W-what are you talking about?” Willa stammers, slightly taken aback.

“A girls’ night out,” Alyse explains. “For your final single fling before the wedding.”

“Oh gods,” Willa moans. “Not a strip joint! You know that’s not my thing.”

“Bah! You don’t know what you’re missing, Wills,” says Megan. “All those lovely muscled men whooping it up just for us.”

“Trust me when I say I have enough at home, thanks,” Willa replies. “I can’t help it; I’ve found the perfect man.”

“It so happens, missy,” says Sorrell, laughing at her friend’s distress, “That we just want to take you out to dinner. Some place where we can sit and talk the night away… girls only.”

“We made reservations at Goodtime Charlie’s for tonight, at six,” says Alyse. “All you have to do is call your man and tell him he has to fend for himself this evening.”

“And you’re not gonna spring a stripper on me at any time this evening?” Willa entreats. “Promise me, ladies.”

“We swear on our vibrators,” says Sorrell. “Just dinner, a couple of drinks and chit-chat, honest.”

~*~

Willa steps out of the cab in front of Goodtime Charlie’s, and spots her friends standing in front of the big picture window to the left of the entrance.

“Right on time, Wills,” says Megan, clapping her friend on the back. “Let’s go get our table – I’m starving!”

“Nothing new there, Megs,” laughs Willa at her rail-thin friend. “You can eat any three of us under the table at any given time. God only knows where you put it.”

Sorrell snorts, “She’s gonna wake up one day when she’s forty and weigh four hundred pounds!”

“Aren’t you the sweet thing?” retorts Megan, poking Sorrell in her ample behind. “Just for that, I’m gonna order two pieces of cheesecake for dessert and not share any with you.”

They enter the bar and Sorrell checks with the hostess. “Brooks party, six o’clock reservation.”

“Right this way, ladies.” The hostess leads them towards the back of the bar, into a small room.

Willa looks around and sees the tables have pretty flower centerpieces, and the room is filled with balloons. Before she can say anything, the women seated at the tables stand up and shout, “Surprise!”

Alyse plonks a rhinestone tiara on Willa’s head, and it only takes a second for her to realize everyone in the room is a friend of hers. Several of the women are neighbors from her building.

“So much for ‘just dinner, a couple of drinks and chit-chat’,” Willa says, mimicking Sorrell’s voice.

“Plans haven’t changed, sweetie. Only addition is you get to open some lovely gifties from all us thoughtful gals.”

Another glance around, and Willa sits amongst her friends, with a wide smile that doesn’t leave her face the entire evening.

~*~