as the story moves along.
Still have that wonderful, wonderful secret. Does anyone care to guess?
Two Months Later
It was another Saturday night. Nothing special – no looming apocalypses, no prophesies that needed translating… Angel knew he was probably jinxing things just by thinking that, but screw it. Things were going well for a change, and they were damn well gonna enjoy the quiet whilst it lasted.
Buffy had been seeing Lorne for the past couple of months, quickly making her sessions one-on-one while Will spent the hour or so with his friend in the comic store. When he’d found out the owner was the supercilious idiot who Giles had sent to rescue the crazy slayer all those years ago, he was furious – until Nina reminded him that same idiot was partly responsible for Will getting his voice back after the kidnapping. That, he conceded, he would always be grateful for and let go of his animosity.
And Buffy was doing better. She managed fairly well on short outings; public parks and the like being preferable to crowded stores. But small steps were good steps, and better than nothing. It hurt to see her diminished in any way, but he’d let her heal on her own timeline and without interference. Lorne was once more a godsend.
Tonight was another small step. Movie night. Will had decided that he’d been apart from Alonna for way too long, and that inviting her and her siblings to share the evening with family sounded like a wonderful idea. Before long Alonna would be sure to find her own way in the world, and have less free time, so he wanted whatever they could scrounge together now.
Scrolling through the Netflix catalogue, Dawn and Will had cobbled together a list of Buffy comfort movies: The Princess Bride, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Neverending Story, Sister Act, Singing in the Rain. Never having been a movie fan until Nina made him watch some of the more current fare, Angel wasn’t familiar with any of the films, but was more than willing to join everyone this evening in support.
Taking a deep, calming breath, Buffy repeated her mantra under her breath: “It’s only family. It’s only family. It’s only family.” She nodded to herself; she was home, she had her own room to escape to if things became too much, and she wouldn’t be judged for it if she had to bolt.
She really hated the panic attacks. They were few and far between, but she never knew what would set them off. Lorne was helping her to identify ‘stressors’ and to develop the self-awareness to realize that something was wrong before it got to all-out panic.
Buffy had dressed for comfort. Thanks to the pleasures of shopping from home, and the availability of retro-fashions, she was outfitted in a pair of skinny black jeans and a red girly-tee. Designer duds didn’t really interest her at the moment. Let’s face it – who was she out to impress, anyway? The way Will looked at her, she’d be perfect even if she wore Anya’s idea of the proper bridesmaid’s outfit – blood larvae and burlap.
That brought a smile to her face, as she waited for Will’s knock on her door. And speaking of the devil, there it was. A quick glance in the mirror, and deeming her appearance fine and dandy, she opened the door and followed her guy to the media room, as it’d been dubbed.
“Everyone’s here, Buffy,” Will said. “Bethany, Alonna, Bennie and CJ are all hyped up to watch a couple of oldie flics, and little Liam is already in bed. Aunt Charlotte and Uncle Hugh wouldn’t miss a family night for the world. Mom made popcorn, we’ve got several gallons of ice cream in the freezer, and even Dad is looking forward to chillin’ with the fam.”
“Well,” she said, a brave smile gracing her lips, “let’s get this party started. Hey there, you guys,” Buffy waved as she and Will settled onto the couch next to Dawn and Connor. “First one up, I think, is for you, Dawnie – The Princess Bride.”
Before Dawn could object that tonight was all about Buffy, Buffy continued, “Trust me, I remember the hours we used to spend watching this, usually ending with you falling asleep on my shoulder. And Spike,” she added, with slight hesitation, “told me about the many times you made him sit through it when I was gone, the first time. And about how you always got squicked when he drizzled blood on the popcorn.”
Dawn laughed. “No fear of blood drizzles tonight, unless…” she said, turning to Angel, “you suddenly have the mad desire for bloody popcorn?”
Angel waved her off, looking a little disgusted. That kind of eating was never his thing.
Of course, Nina had to add, “Now if we had chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, we’d be having a whole different discussion.”
Smiling indulgently at his parents, Will hit the remote and the movie began. Buffy leant into her sister’s shoulder and snuggled down, but she found it almost a little too comforting – more Mom-ish snuggles, instead of the younger sisterly snuggles she’d remembered. Will, once again, unexpectedly saved the day. He nudged Buffy’s shoulder. “Wanna hit the floor?” he whispered. “All the youngfolk have the comfy pillows nested in front of the coffee table. Looks more comfy than a couch with the old fuddy-duddies.”
Connor smacked him in the head with one of the small couch pillows. “Go on then, baby bro – you and Buffy’ll get there soon enough.”
“Welcome to the cocoon,” Alonna said, greeting her oldest friend and Buffy with a hug. “Drinks on the table in back of us, huge bowl of popcorn between us… what more could you ask for?” Her brown eyes twinkled with merriment. “And the company can’t be beat!” she finished with a laugh.
Buffy just smiled, and settled in between Alonna and Will. Bethany, Benjamin and CJ were off to the side, munching popcorn by the fistfuls, noisily and happily, fully engrossed in the movie on the huge, wall-sized flatscreen.
An hour later, Dawn switched to the next agreed upon movie – Mrs. Doubtfire. When that had finished, Buffy looked around the room. Nina was passed out on Angel’s shoulder. Dawn and Connor were hanging in there, game for Singing in the Rain. Benjamin and CJ snored quietly in their pillows. Bethany sat up and smiled.
“The room’s all comfy and cozy,” she said, happily looking at her family. “Makes you want to snuggle, doesn’t it?” She winked at Will and Buffy, the little minx, and excused herself for a bathroom break.
Buffy couldn’t help but agree, and she snuggled closer to Will, tipping up her face for a kiss, which he eagerly supplied her with.
“Oh, god, get a room already,” Alonna groaned, sticking out her tongue at her friends when they broke the kiss.
“I think that’s our cue,” Buffy seconded. “C’mon, Will… I’m feeling a little… sleepy, I think.”
Will’s not so fake yawn drew laughter from the crowd. “Night, folks. Thanks for the snack spread and the company, but, the lady is… tired.”
A swift climb up the stair, and Buffy steered them both towards Will’s room. “Are you sure?” he asked, awe and happiness shining on his face.
“I’m sure,” were Buffy’s last words, before they closed the door behind them.
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