Chapter Notes:

What may come is always connected to today.


Chapter 32: Surprise Preview

May, 2036

Buffy found herself walking through a busy, unfamiliar nightclub, unable to focus on anything but the signature that was drawing her like a magnet. She followed her senses to a young man leaning against the bar, talking to a woman. She edged toward him through the crowd. Medium height. Medium build. Curly, light brown hair, slightly sun-bleached. Probably in his mid-twenties, if she had to guess.

When she got close enough to make out the details of his face, swallowed a gasp at the similarities. Strong nose. Softly defined cheekbones. Playful smile. Dark blue eyes. He could almost pass for a human version of Spike, but the signature put even that theory in question. She fought to keep from staring as she took a place at the bar, a few stools behind him.

The woman stammered under his intense gaze. “My-- my boyfriend will be here any minute.”

“If he doesn't show, find me. I'll make you forget all about him,” He said in a soft English accent. He took a step away from the bar, giving her one last, lingering look. “The next slow song is ours if you're still sitting alone, alright?”

“Are you sure you haven't promised it to that girl by the stairs? She cant stop looking at you.”

“Only promised her a fast one. You, you're worth a slow one.” He gave her a wink as he moved away.

“Flirt,” Buffy muttered, flipping open a drink menu, because she had no idea what else to do.

The soft English accent was suddenly in her ear. “Do you think I didn't sense you the second you walked in? What are you doing here?”

She didn't turn around. “I'm, um... about to order a drink.”

“In New York.”

“Really? ...I mean, they do have rum in New York, right?”

“What happened to the tequila phase? Never mind. I don't want to know. It's probably some bizarre story about the business. Let's head out to the balcony so you can say whatever it is you came to say, before you blow my chances with these girls. I have every intention of taking one of them home tonight, and I don't want them to think I'm chatting you up.” Over her head, he signaled the bartender. “Two Captain and Cokes. My tab.” He lingered behind Buffy until the drinks were placed on the bar. He reached over her to grab one. “Let's go.”

She took the other drink and followed him out to the deserted balcony. As soon as they were alone, she turned on him, clearly annoyed. “Ok, who the hell are you?”

The familiar blue eyes blinked. “Um, come again?”

“You know me. Like, well enough to order my drink for me. I don't know you. But you're very, very much like someone I do know. Hell, if I didn't know better, I'd say you were brothers. And I don't know what you were talking about with the tequila thing in there, but my business includes having the ability to sense when someone is not quite human. That's you, bub.”

The young man gulped. “You don't know me?”

“No, but I really think I should. You feel like an Aurelian. Who are you and why do you look so much like Spike? 'Cause seriously? I'm not sure the world can handle two of you. I sure as hell know I can't.”

“Are you hurt? Did you get hit on the head or something?” He looked genuinely worried.

“Not that I know of. But I also don't know how I got here.” She looked at the sea of tall buildings around the balcony. “What am I doing in New York?”

“I don't know. But you know who you are, right?”

“Buffy Pratt, slayer. Would you like to make it a two way street?”

“Henry Pratt. Your son.”

Buffy made a squeaking noise and took a step backwards. After a long pause, she chugged her drink. “I... I think I'm going to need another one of these. Maybe six.” She set her glass on a nearby table and rubbed her forehead with the fingertips of both hands. “Oh, god. Where's Spike?”

Henry pulled his phone out of his pocket. “That's a damned good question.” When his call was answered, he said, “Sorry to wake you, Dawnie. I was wondering, what's the latest on Mum and Dad? ...Well, I'm looking at some pretty compelling evidence they're not in Moscow anymore. Mum's standing in front of me, with no idea who I am or how she got to me. I really think I need some help here. ...Huh? Are you kidding me? Of course she's marked. ...Alright, I'll check.” He pulled the phone away from his ear. “Mum, lift your hair.”

“Mum?” Buffy squeaked again. “Um... Ok.” She held her hair up. “Where's the mark supposed to be?”

He frowned at what he saw. “Dawn, there's a faint scar there instead. Much more crude and jagged. ...You can't be serious. Angel tasted my mother?! What the bloody, buggering f--”

Buffy snatched the thin phone from him. “Dawnie, tell me you have some idea of what's going on. This guy is way, way too much like Spike to not be related, but I, um, was kind of sure when I told Mom I wouldn't be providing grandchildren. 'Cause, you know,” She looked at Henry. “This isn't exactly possible. ...2001, the second time around... Of course it's time travel. Again. This has got to be Whistler's doing. I'm going to strangle that little weasel. ...Ok, I'll tell him. …Well, yeah! Where exactly to you think I'd run off to? ...Just get me some answers. And maybe -oh, I don't know- find Spike? I think I need him. ...Thanks. Love you.” She handed back the strange, single-button phone with a brief frown at the screen. “Dawn wants you to take me to your place, and let her know when we get there. She's going to start waking up people.”

Henry sighed. “So much for avoiding the family business. I think I'm about to host my first Scooby meeting.”

“What kind of weird-ass hellspawn of me and Spike are you that you don't get knee deep in this craziness on a weekly basis?”

He gave her a wry smile. “Thanks, Mum. I hear you.”

She jerked in surprise. “You know what that means.”

“Yeah. It means 'I love you, too.' Why?”

“Um, it's just that... that's private, just between me and Spike.”

“In your time, maybe it was.”

*~*~*

Slow clapping drew the young woman's attention to the shadow of a nearby crypt. She tightened her grip on her stake as the last of the ashes blew away. “Who...?” She focused her senses, frowning when she recognized the signature. She slipped the stake into the back of her waistband as the clapping came to a stop and a man stepped into sight. She did a double take. “You've started bleaching your hair again? Really?”

He ran a hand through his hair. “Again? What--?”

“Also, I thought you hated Brazil.” The young woman crossed her arms over her chest. “What are you doing here, Dad?”

*~*~*

Tara answered her phone, sounding sleepy. “Yes?”

“Tara, it's Dawn. Wake up. I need you alert for this.”

“What time is it?”

“4 a.m. That would be 11 p.m. last night in New York. So... midnight in Rio?”

Tara sat up in bed. “Why am I getting a time zone run down? Is everyone ok?”

“That package from Whistler we were expecting this year? It's just been delivered.”

“Oh, dear. Are you sure?”

“Henry just called, trying very hard not to sound freaked out about finding himself with a case of Magically Appearing Amnesia Mama. I had him check her neck, Tara. No claim mark. It's the Buffy Whistler sent from early 2001. No question.”

Tara took a deep breath. “Ok, so we should-- Hang on a second, Dawnie.” Tara pulled her phone away from her ear to read the text messages she'd just received. “Yep. You're definitely right. Annie has just run into a 2001 version of Spike.”

“Is she as freaked as Henry?”

“A little caps lock here and there, but you know how she is. Nothing rattles her half as much as it should.”

“Always the calm one,” Dawn muttered. “I still think that kid was switched at birth.”

“Switched with what?” Tara chuckled.

“I don't know, but she's way too mentally and emotionally stable for this family. ...So I guess this is the part where we play dumb and let it play out?”

“Unfortunately, yes. They have to figure it out on their own.”

“And Henry?”

“Dawnie, there's nothing we can do but keep our mouths shut and wait.”

“Since when do we take Whistler's advice?”

“Since he was actually right about this, as much as I hate to admit it.”

“Intellectually, I tend to agree. But knowing what's coming... Tara, it goes against every instinct I have to just sit back and... watch.”

Tara snickered.

Dawn sighed. “You know what I mean.”

“I do, and I'm right there with you. Soon, Dawnie. It won't be long now.”

*~*~*

When they were outside the club, and walking down a minimally populated street, Buffy dared to speak again. “Strange parking meters.”

“Charging stations, actually.”

“Interesting.” She stole a glance at him as they walked. “Henry, what's your middle name?”

“Alexander.”

“After Xan,” she whispered. “You do realize that this... You... You're impossible.”

“If had a brick for every time I've been told that, I could rebuild Los Angeles.” Henry bit his lip at her confused look. “Forget I said that. Let's take a shortcut.” He put a hand on her shoulder to lead her down an alley. “Why don't you tell me something? Make it a two way street?”

“Um, I don't see why not. What do you want to know?”

“Why anyone but Dad has had their teeth in you, for starters.” He shuddered.

“Dad,” Buffy echoed, shaking her head. “No, that's not freaky at all. In my time, your um, Dad hasn't. Ever. We've kind of been avoiding it. ...We've been time traveling before. Did we ever tell you that?”

He laughed. “Of course! How could we not know our parents are travelers?”

“At least we didn't keep it secret from you. Wait.” She came to a stop on the sidewalk. “'Our parents.' Are you saying you're not an only child? The impossible happened more than once?”

“No and no. Not an only child, but you only got pregnant once. Twins.”

She gulped, then started walking again. “Please tell me fraternal.”

“Her name is Anne.”

“Does she look like me?”

“Annie's about a fifty-fifty mix in looks. In personality? Well, she's Dad's pet. That should tell you everything you need to know. I may make an interesting reflection, but I'm no slayer.”

“My... my daughter was called?”

“Not exactly. Born to the business, and happy to stay right in the middle of it, is more like it.”

“But not you? If you're not out getting your hands dirty with the rest of us, what is it you do?”

“I took up the other family business, the one Dad pretended he wasn't in for most of his life.”

“Real estate. Well, at least it's lucrative. ...I didn't know about it until not long ago, you know. I'm a middle class girl, who hooked up with a vamp I assumed was as reckless and impulsive with money as he was with everything else. He told me he'd invested in some land and houses over the years, and had some cash stashed away. I didn't put much thought into it, at the time. But the first time I saw the numbers in the accounts? It nearly sent me into shock.”

Henry chuckled. “So you remember some stuff. Do you remember getting married?”

“Well, yeah! It was only a few months ago... Or not... Shit. I don't know how long ago that was, now. And I probably shouldn't ask you the year until we know what's up.”

“Probably not. So about that scar...”

“There were three, actually. When we made our jump back, we avoided the one from Dracula. We didn't go back far enough to erase the other two from history. The first was from the guy who was Master of the Order of Aurelius at the time. Spike calls him Old Bat Face. The Master killed me. I killed him back. I was gone for a minute. He was gone for good. That scar eventually faded away. The second bite, the jagged one, was when Angel had been poisoned, and the only known cure was to drain a slayer. We were still semi-sort of dating at the time, and I offered myself up. He barely got me to the hospital in time for a transfusion to save me.”

Henry shuddered again. “You dated Angel? That's... I can't picture it. And where was Dad?”

“Um, when that happened, Spike was in Brazil, trying to convince Drusilla to take him back. It turned out to be his last attempt.”

“Brazil? He hates Brazil. Is that why?”

“Probably,” Buffy answered distractedly. She came to a stop again, realizing something. “Dru... She said something... Henry, does Anne have your father's eyes, too?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“'Blue-eyed cherubs will question,'” she quoted. “Dru knew this was coming. She knew that Spike and I would... Can I just say, you seem like a nice guy and everything, but your existence is seriously weirding me out.”

Henry chuckled as they fell into step again. “Yeah, I'm a real nice guy. What was it you said to me the last time I saw you? Oh, yeah. 'Hiding in a city, masquerading as a human, really doesn't work. You need to get your spoiled, lazy ass back to the real world, and do your part to help save it.'”

“Ouch! Sorry. But on the plus side, that wasn't technically me.”

“You've lost me.”

“Henry, I'm not your mother. I can't be. The way I traveled before, I was merged into that time's version. But this body isn't marked, and your mother's is. This is my body, from my time. I'm willing to bet your mother is still in Moscow, completely unaware her past self is hanging out with her kid. Unless I remember this trip later. She might actually know. ...Anyway, the good news is that the way I traveled before, with the merging, was a one way trip. So maybe, since this is a different method, it will be a two way trip.”

They stepped into an apartment building and went to a bank of elevators. Henry rubbed his forehead. “Bloody hell, that's confusing. Is it any wonder I stay out of this stuff?”

Buffy gave him a grin. “Oh, yeah. It's a mess. It's a huge, confusing mess. But you just keep working it, untangling the knots, piecing the details together, and when you know what you're dealing with, and how to fight it, you go in swinging. It's a hell of a rush. Also, saving the world? It's kind of a cool job. When you don't get killed doing it, of course. That's always a risk.”

“It never caught my interest all that much. I guess I didn't get the superhero genes.”

“Were there any other genes to get? 'Cause from the look of you, Junior, it's a safe bet you didn't come from the mailman.”

“Junior.” He chuckled as they stepped onto an elevator. “This must be where it comes from. And here I always figured Dad was the one who first called me that. That's kind of what he does, you know.”

“What?” Buffy faked shock. “Impossible! Spike giving people nicknames? Are you sure we're talking about the same vamp?”

The chuckle developed into full-blown laugh. He tilted his head, studying her. “I think I like you. You're kind of fun.”

“Well, I hope so. I'd like to think I wouldn't be an uptight, finger-wagger mom if I ever became one. Of course, it sounds like that happened.”

“You're not, not usually. Dad says you and I butt heads because you spent a few years chasing the dream of normalcy, and you're afraid it'll go as badly for me as it did for you.” He escorted her off the elevator and down a wide hall. “It's ok. I love my Mum. Really. We just don't agree on everything. Lately, not much of anything. You're a lot less serious, more like how she was when I was younger. She's pretty tense and quiet, these days.”

Buffy shrugged as he let her into his apartment. “I am, too. I mean, sometimes. War times, specifically. Does Spike still call me General?”

“Some days, that's all he calls you... her. I don't keep up with what's going on with the business, but whenever I've visited my parents the last couple of years, it's been... quiet. There were phases like that when I was a kid, and it always stressed me out. My schoolmates thought it was a good thing to hear less arguing when they came to visit. It always felt a little off to me.” He pulled out his phone and sent a text message. When he looked up, she was wandering around, inspecting the small apartment. “What do you think of the place?”

“It's nice. I like it. Do you keep so much blue around so the women you bring here notice your eyes?”

He smirked. “Is it that obvious?”

“It is to someone who has spent a hell of a lot of time looking at a nearly identical set. Granted, his are sometimes amber and gold, but they're usually blue. What about you? Do you have enough demon in you to have a game face?”

“No. On the demon thing, we're like you. It's all internal strength.” His phone vibrated in his hand. “Scoobies incoming, ten minutes out. We're about to be descended upon by the masses.”

“Who?”

“My guess? Anne, Aunt Dawnie, Joy, Aunt Tara, Uncle Xan, and RJ, at least.”

“Um, Joy and RJ?”

“More second generation Scoobies. Joyce and Ru--”

“Joyce,” Buffy whispered, sinking into an armchair. The facade of taking everything in stride began to crumble. “My mother's name. In my time... she was just buried two days ago.”

Henry crouched in front of her. “Are you alright, Mum?” He shook his head at himself. “Um, Buffy?”

“Yeah... It's just that this is a bit too much on some really raw nerves.” She swallowed back her emotions. “I'm really trying to act like I can handle things. Even before I landed here... For Dawnie, you know? I'm supposed to be all mature now. All... parent like.” She smirked. “It figures, right?”

“You can handle more than you think,” he assured her.

“No, I just fake it like a pro. Spike's the one who can actually handle the hard stuff. He doesn't have to pretend.” She looked at him, crouching on the floor before her, looking up at her with concern in his dark blue eyes. “You're so much like him...”

Henry shook his head again, this time with a rueful smile. “Not even a little bit. Don't let the face fool you.” He began composing another text message. “I have an idea. I'll take you home. That will cheer you up.”

“Henry, I'm from California. My husband has houses all over the world. And my son apparently lives in New York... but has an accent I know he didn't pick up from his faux- Cockney English father. Where exactly is home?”

“The Folly.” He noted the confusion on her face. “William's Folly? It's an old farm outside of Bath. That's where Annie and I grew up, mostly.”

“The farmhouse.” She tilted her head toward the ceiling as realization dawned. “Of course that's where we ended up. I should have known. Spike's in love with the place. He talks it up pretty big for a guy who's never lived there.”

“You've never been there?” He sent the text as she shook her head. “You'll love it. And I've asked Dawnie and Tara to limit the crowd. How does that sound?”

“Perfect.” Buffy put a hand on his shoulder. “See? I told you you were a nice guy.”

“Are you just saying that because I look so much like your husband?” he asked with a smirk.

They were laughing when a flash of light vacated Henry Pratt's apartment.

Buffy found herself staring at a curvy woman in her fifties, whose long, loosely tied hair was a mix of sand and silver.

The woman gave her a soft, slightly crooked smile. “Buffy? Are you ok?”

“Wow. Tara. Um, sorry. You're a little older than I remember you.”

Henry took Tara aside and whispered, “She's jumped from 2001. She came straight to me, like she was sent, but without any memory of why. Something's off about all of this.”

“It'll be alright. I know what to do.” She gave him a reassuring pat on the shoulder and went back to Buffy. “No flashing or bouncing, huh?”

“Nope. And no memory of what the hell happened to get me here, either. Can I get a read?”

Tara studied her aura. “Oh, dear. Buffy? What's the last thing you remember?”

“We were having a 'big picture' talk with Whistler, two nights after Mom's funeral. Do you remember that?”

“Of course. You're under a suppressant spell. Good. I was a little worried. I haven't seen the bond that dim since... around that time. I thought maybe something was wrong.”

“Yeah, Tara. Something's wrong. I'm pretty sure Dorothy's not in Kansas anymore.” Buffy looked around the large, old-fashioned kitchen in which she found herself. “But the Magical Land of Oz apparently has nice kitchens. Hardwood floors, a fireplace, modern appliances, a pantry, plenty of cabinet and counter space.” She dropped into a chair at the scarred kitchen table. “I think I like it.”

“I hope so. You'll be living here a while.” Henry took a seat beside her and leaned in close. “But a little secret, Traveler? Those appliances are kind of old.”

She laughed. “Yeah, well, I'll be kind of old, too, when I'm using them. Spike, on the other hand... Well, Dawnie always calls him 'ancient.' It drives him bonkers. Which I'm pretty sure is why she does it. ...Did it.”

Tara chuckled softly. “She still does, occasionally.” She looked from Henry to Buffy. “You two seem to be hitting it off pretty well.”

“He thinks I'm cooler than his mum,” Buffy explained. “Do me a favor, Tara: Smack me whenever I act like General Stick In The Mud, letting the slayage and stuff turn me into an emotionless zombie.”

“That pattern was set long before we ever went back in time, Buffy. Remember how things were when you and Spike first started...” Tara trailed off. “Henry doesn't need to hear this story.”

Buffy shrugged. “He's an adult.” She turned to him. “Guess what? Your parents have sex. I'll give you a minute to sort out your trauma.”

Henry's laugh filled the room, just as two people teleported into the kitchen. “Wow!” he said. “Definitely not Mum! I only bought you one drink, so I know it's not the rum.”

“It's the stress,” came the response from across the room. “Sassy or silent. Nothing in between.” Spike gave Buffy a cautious look. “Slayer?”

Buffy jumped to her feet at the sight of the newcomers. “I'm going to go out on a limb and say you're Anne.” She said to the woman. She looked at Spike. “Sparky? As in, 2001, round 2?”

“It's me, love.” He stepped closer to the table. “Glinda. And you must be Henry. Bloody hell...” Spike's hand went to his own face. “Been a while since I've seen my own reflection.”

Henry raised an eyebrow at Buffy. “I told you so.”

She laughed. “We could bleach your hair, have the current slayer scar up your eyebrow, and really freak him out. Sound like a plan?”

“Hell, no.” Henry ran a hand through his hair. “Absolutely not.”

She squeezed his shoulder. “I'm just kidding! Can't you tell? Geez. Your mother really is too serious. We need to get her drunk. It could be fun, and I think it's necessary.”

Anne looked at her twin as she joined them at the table. “So much for staying out of the family business, huh?”

“Oh, bugger off, Annie.”

Buffy stared at the young woman, noting the dark blue eyes, a nose and face shape that looked very much like her own, and a smirk that she knew all too well. The voice was as softly accented as her brother's. The hair was wavy, light brown, and falling loose around her shoulders. “Wow,” Buffy whispered. “Sorry. I know I'm being rude. I'm just a little stunned.” She looked over the woman's grass-stained cargo pants, slightly sweaty fitted top, and dirty fingernails. “You just came off patrol.”

“Yeah, that's where Dad... um, not-exactly-Dad found me.”

Spike gave Buffy a proud grin. “Dances a bit like a certain slayer I know.” He looked around. “You lot got a place I can have a chat with my wife?”

Tara tried not to laugh at him. “Spike, it's your house. You've owned it for how many decades?”

“Not my house right now. Belongs to the bloke who raised these two. Doesn't feel right being in his place.” He caught Buffy's eye. “There's a back porch.”

She looked relieved. “Perfect!”

Anne watched them leave the kitchen with a frown. “They needed to ID each other? And the way they were talking, actually saying every word aloud... It's like they aren't even mates.”

“They aren't,” Henry said. “She's not marked. They've only been married a few months.”

“Huh. I could have sworn they said the claim came right after the human marriage.”

Tara kept her own counsel on the matter. “I think I should make some cocoa.”

There was another flash in the room. Dawn looked around. “Where are they?”

“The usual,” Anne answered. “They want to have a serious conversation.”

“Apparently, back porch dates are a longer standing tradition than I thought,” Henry said.

Tara looked up from the sink, where she was filling the kettle. “Tea, Dawnie? I'm putting water on for their cocoa.”

Dawn dropped into a chair. “Why not? They could be out there until sun up, for all we know.”

“I doubt it. Remember how they left the kitchen when they came back?”

“Please! We both know how quickly that can happen,” Dawn countered. “Neither one of them is exactly--” She noticed the curious expressions on the twins' faces. “Never mind.”

*~*~*

Buffy sat down on the porch step beside Spike. “Are you as freaked out as I am right now?”

He stared at her. “Buffy... We have kids. How the hell does that even happen?”

“I'm guessing the usual way, plus some mystical interference. A better question would be: What the hell are we doing in their time? We've jumped so far ahead, our 'kids' look slightly older than I do.”

“I've no idea.” Spike ran a hand along his jawline. “Is he really as close a match as I think he is?”

“Pretty close. Not identical, or anything. But I don't think my genes played a significant role.”

“What's he like?”

“A flirtatious, ladies man type who works in real estate, drinks rum, and apparently avoids the demon hunting game like the plague.” Her voice softened. “He and... his mum don't exactly have a perfect relationship, but he wants to get along, I think. He seems like a good person, Spike. I think we did ok.”

“Yeah, seems that way. The girl's alright, too.”

“Tell me about her.”

“Anne Elise...” He shook his head. “My sister would be beside herself if she knew I'd passed on her name to such a killer. Should see her in a graveyard, love. Moves like a cat.”

“She gets that from you. So is she a real slayer? Or does she just have the same power as one? Henry wasn't all that clear.”

“Smells like the two of us- A little Slayer, a little Aurelian. Got the same thing from the boy. Says she's just a freelance demon hunter, though, not the chosen one. Enjoys the work. Relishes the fight. Saw her do a flip and come down on some poor fledge in a move nearly identical to one I've seen you do. Looks like you taught her well. There's a bit of the general to her, too. Figure she's seen a few big nasties in her time.”

“If Henry has, he doesn't show it. He's got all of your charm, and none of your grit. No taste for the fight at all, as far as I can tell. I doubt he's ever even picked up a sword.”

They turned around as the back door opened behind them. A woman stepped outside, carrying two mugs. As she passed under the porch light, Buffy gasped at the slim, middle-aged figure. “Dawnie?”

Dawn handed them each a mug. “Welcome to the future, guys. I'm not going to stay. I know you want to talk. When you're ready, come back inside, and we'll see if we can work this out, ok?”

“You think we can be sent back, Nibblet?”

She laughed. “I certainly hope so. And soon. You're supposed to be in Sunnydale, protecting me from Glory. And you haven't called me that in a very, very long time, Spike. I think I've missed it.”

Spike watched her go back inside. “Guess we did alright with that one, too. Called it right, besides. Bit's dressed up all prim and proper in the middle of the night. Has to be a watcher.”

“Good. At least she knows out to fight. Maybe we're only good at training girls. That's our background, after all. Maybe we just didn't know how to handle Henry.”

“Yeah, Slayer, that's gotta be it.”

“Am I missing the subtext here, Sparky?”

“The living version of William Pratt wasn't exactly a brawler, love. You know that.” Spike took a sip of his cocoa. “If we end up here for a while, promise me you won't pressure him. Last thing the boy needs is his own mum being the one to push him down the wrong alley in London, or worse.”

“He lives in New York.”

“You know what I mean. Leave him be, Buffy. Let him find his own way.”

“Ok, ok. I promise.” Buffy looked down into her mug. “So this is parenting, huh?”

“Suppose it's easier at this stage. They're already grown. Likely missed the worst of it.”

She was silent for a few minutes, sipping her cocoa and staring out into the unfamiliar backyard. “That kind of sucks,” she eventually whispered.

He turned to look at her, his surprise evident. “Yeah? You'd want that? Raising kids?”

Buffy shrugged. “I don't know. Do you think we could? You know, without screwing them up too badly or getting them killed?”

“Seems like we managed. Bit's good, too.” He tilted his head. “You're really thinking about this?”

“Me with kids? A passing thought I've had a few times over the years. Us with kids? I never had any reason to even consider it. ...But yes. I mean, I think so. What about you? Have you given any thought to...?”

“Love, that dream died a long bloody time ago. No reason to consider it since.”

“Except that there are two people in the kitchen right now that prove the dream can be resurrected.” She grinned and nudged his shoulder with her own. “Come on, what do you say? In a few years or so, sometime when we're between wars, let's see if we can't have some mutant slayer-vamp hellspawn running around. It could be fun.”

Spike laughed. “Hellspawn is probably right. And I don't wanna hear a thing from you ever again about romantic proposals... 'It could be fun'? Is that the best you can do?”

“That's so a yes.” She nudged him again. “You loved Anne calling you 'Dad' in there, didn't you?”

“Not the point,” he grumbled around a lingering smile. “So how exactly do you think we'll manage the impossible this time, Slayer?”

Buffy shrugged. “I'm sure we'll figure it out eventually. Maybe we'll bribe some witches or something.”

“It would take a lot more than a bit of cash, love.” He paused, frowning. “Witches.”

Her smile fell as quickly as his. “That's why we're here.”

“Because the same witch is always responsible for things that go haywire for us.”

“The pond we're wading in. Willow's pond.”

“She's how we get the kids.”

Together, they called out to the darkness, “Whistler!”

In a flash of blue, two mugs of cocoa were abandoned on the back porch steps.

*~*~*

In a hotel room in Moscow, Spike read the texts he'd just received. He went into the bathroom and offered his phone to Buffy, who was kneeling beside the bathtub, scrubbing demon entrails from her boots. “You need to see this, love.”

She looked at her boots and scrub brush, and back up at him, raising an eyebrow.

“From Dawn.” He read her the messages.

They came, they epiphanied, they poofed. The 2001 versions of you guys aren't exactly how I remember you. Annie shrugged the whole thing off, of course. Henry is waiting for you to 'port home. It seems he wants to talk, especially to his mum. Score one for 2001 Buffy. So far, so good.

Buffy stopped scrubbing. “And so it begins,” she whispered.

“Won't be long now.” Spike leaned against the sink. “Soon, Junior's gonna know the whole story.”

“I'm not so sure that's a good thing.”

“I am.”





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