And to top it off, a brand new banner by the wonderfully delicious Twinkles, who is also my beta for the end run to the finish line. She makes me so much better than I'd be alone, and her encouragement bolsters my insecure little ego.
And now, without further ado - here's the new chapter:
Buffy awoke to the feel of warm sunshine on her face, streaming in through the double windows. A slow and gentle awakening, she stretched out like a starfish, feeling the vertebrae of her back release their tension. Every little sensation felt like a revelation. The touch of the sheets on her body, the warmth of Will’s hands folded beneath his head as he slept mere inches from her torso – half on and half off the bed. Even the currents of the air moving in the room from the opened window. She drank it all in and smiled.
She was FREE! It wasn’t some psychotic dream. She wasn’t delusional.
Buffy reached out, running her fingers through Will’s hair, catching in the wild tangle of bed-head curls. He stirred, then fell back to sleep. No biggie, she was content just the way things were for the moment. Then again, he couldn’t possibly be comfortable in that position.
“Will,” she said softly, tugging gently on an errant curl. “Will, wake up.”
He kitten-stretched, arms shooting across her legs, shoulders bunching and… unbunching. “Buffy?” he asked, uncertainty coloring his voice. When he finally opened his eyes and saw her, the smile that split his face was glorious.
“Oh my god! You’re here. You’re really here!” he exclaimed, his joy evident in his eyes. “You are the most gorgeous woman I’ve ever seen wearing my pajamas.”
Buffy laughed. “How many other women have you seen in your pajamas, Mister?”
“Just you, I swear! Cross my heart and hope to die.”
“Hush! Don’t jinx us, Will. You never know who’s listening.”
Both startled at the knock on the bedroom door.
“Who do you think would be the first to pop in?” Will asked, still unable to stop staring into Buffy’s eyes.
“Uncle Will, it’s me!” came a small voice.
“Us, too, Will. Are you guys decent? Can we come in?”
Buffy had to smile. Of course her sister would be right behind her son, and her husband. “Of course you can, Dawnie,” she said, after glancing to Will for his approval.
Dawn hadn’t lost a decibel to her screech in all the intervening years. “Who’s the baby sister now,” she crowed, jumping on the bed to gather Buffy into her arms. “I so rule!”
“You old bat,” Buffy murmured into Dawn’s – unexpectedly short – brunette hair. “An ancient crone.” Quickly doing the calculations in her head, she teased, “Where’s your walker, you thirty-eight year old granny?”
“Mommy’s not old,” little Liam piped in. “Mommy’s pretty!”
“Here, here!” Connor added in his two cents. “Hey there, Buffy. Nice to finally meet you.”
Buffy greeted her almost brother-in-law with a hug. “You have no idea how much better it is to be able to touch you guys – to be part of the world again.” A quick swipe of her eyes proved she wasn’t going to be able to stem the flow of tears from cascading down her cheeks. “Oh, Dawnie,” she started to say, then… well, I guess the diminutive doesn’t quite fit anymore.”
Dawn giggled. “There’s no short form of Buffy, is there? Except for the short form of Buffy,” she said gesturing at her sister’s body.
A sharp tug on her sleep pants drew Buffy’s attention. “Hello, Auntie Buffy. I’m Liam. Liam Bryant Summers-Dowell, an’ I’m five years old. You’re very pretty, too.” He climbed into her lap and hugged her around the neck.
Buffy melted into a puddle of Auntie-goo. “You’re such a beautiful little boy, Liam. I’m so glad to finally meet you.” Turning to her sister she said, “You and Connor did good, Sis.” She sniffled, once more reaching up to wipe the happy tears from her eyes. “My god, I must look like a mess, what with the bed-head,” she laughed nervously, trying to run her fingers through her tangled locks.
Will interrupted, grabbing hold of Buffy’s nervous fingers. “You are the most beautiful sight in the whole world, sweetheart. I’ve waited a lifetime for this.”
“I’m gonna be sick,” Dawn fake-gagged. “So much sweetness we’re all gonna come down with diabetes!”
“I’ve missed you so much, brat,” Buffy cried, grabbing hold of Dawn yet again, practically crushing Liam in the process. “It’s so good to be back.”
An hour or so later, the entire troupe headed downstairs to join Angel and Nina in the kitchen.
Nina couldn’t help the enthusiastic double hug she gave to Will and Buffy. “Oh, welcome home, Will. And Buffy… I can hardly believe you’re really here. I’ve heard your name all throughout Will’s life, but it was surreal. Now, you’re here. In person. And my god, that statue didn’t do you justice at all. You’re beautiful!”
Buffy stood next to Will, awkwardly, and blushed pink to her roots.
Angel was shocked, to say the least. Yes, he’d seen them both last night, but the immediate astonishment had passed, and now he had the chance to study them both closely. His son looked wonderful. The time away had done him a world of good, and his eyes no longer looked haunted or terrified. He knew down deep in his bones, that most of what he saw there was love. Love for Buffy. Who looked… so damned young!
This was ironic, coming from the vampire who hadn’t aged a day since his own turning at 26 years old, but Buffy was just twenty four, only five years older than his Will. In his mind’s eye, he’d always pictured her as quite a bit older.
But here they were. Spike and Buffy together again. Will, who looked more and more like the Spike he remembered from his turning in 1880. His appearance was a foregone conclusion… he is who he was, and who he was was the original William – the template for Spike.
Angel didn’t know whether to deck the lad for his cheek in taking Buffy from him, or hug the bejesus out of him for surviving until this fortuitous moment. He had to admit they looked damned fine together. His artist’s fingers twitched with the need to commit them to paper.
And through it all, he said nothing. Finally, he managed a quiet “Buffy,” and a louder “Will. Welcome home, both of you.”
Will looked to Buffy as he picked up the phone, hesitating as he waited for her decision.
“Go ahead, Will,” she said, nodding her head with finality. “I’m never gonna be more ready than I am now.”
Entering the number, Will pushed the send button, listening for the strange British dial tone. After three sets of double beeps, it connected. “Hello, Grandpa? It’s Will. I’m fine. The flight home was smooth as silk, and Dad was waiting for me and Lorne as soon as we debarked.”
“Your Grandma Lydia and I are most pleased you made it home, safely. Now that you’re back amongst your loved ones, can you tell me what your all-fired hurry to leave our home was all about?”
Will smiled, even though he knew it wouldn’t be seen. “Hang on a sec, Grandpa. I’ve got someone who wants to speak with you,” he said, pressing speaker and passing the phone to Buffy.
“Hey there, Giles,” she said, softly. “What’s new?”
The sound of the phone dropping came over the line.
“Giles? Giles! Are you okay.”
“B-Buffy? Dear Lord, is that really you, my girl?”
“In the fleshiest of flesh!”
“It’s, uh, you’re…”
“Yes, but then, I always thought so.”
Buffy couldn’t help but tear up over the familiar words from her last resurrection, and Will hugged her.
“This isn’t the time, Giles, but we do need to speak, and you can then do your favorite thing – research,” Buffy said, sniffling. “I need to talk to you about Wesley and Illyria. Both were with me during the time I spent imprisoned.”
“Wesley Wyndam-Pryce?” he asked to be sure. “He died so long ago – how is that possible?”
Buffy imagined her was busy cleaning his glasses with vigor.
“One of the Old Ones, Giles. I have a feeling she’s not done with us yet.”
“No worries, my dear,” he said. “I’ll be sure to do my ‘thing’ as you say, and see what I can come up with. Lydia’s just told me she’ll help set up the computer so that we can see each other, which would make things so much easier.”
“I – I love you, Giles,” Buffy said, once more wiping the tears from her eyes.
“And I, you, dear girl. It’s so good to have you back with us. Say goodbye to Will for me. We’ll all talk again, and soon. I promise.”
Read and enjoy. Hope to hear from you guys with your comments and opinions.