Warnings and disclaimer in Chapter 1. Enjoy.
"We're back," Ben called cheerfully as he led Buffy's gurney back into the room. Buffy was curled on her side, her injured side up, and looked miserable.
"You didn't put her out?" Joyce demanded, heading to her daughter. She grabbed her hand and lowered herself until she was in Buffy's line of vision. "It's okay baby. Mommy's here." Buffy surprised everyone when she tried to move closer to her mother.
"She wasn't in any pain Joyce," Ben reassured her as Joyce began combing Buffy's hair of her sweaty forehead. "When I realized some of Spike's blood had contaminated the wound I thought unnecessary anesthetic might do more harm than good."
"You're right," Giles told him, coming over to stand near the two of them. Ben tried to move Buffy back to her bed, but she held on tighter to her mother, once again surprising everybody.
"Buffy?" Joyce whispered to her daughter, trying to free her hand. She shot a look at Ben. "Why is she acting this way?"
"Some of Spike's blood did contaminate her wound," he told her. "There's no adverse reaction as far as I can tell, but it is making her feel lousy."
"She's clinging to the one person every child knows will make it all better," Giles said softly, a hint of regret in his voice. "Their parent." Joyce stared at him until he gave a wistful nod. Sighing, she kicked off her shoes and climbed into bed, all but pulling her daughter after her. Realizing her intentions, Ben and Giles quickly helped and soon the blonde Slayer was settled comfortably in her mother's arms.
"She's warm," Joyce commented as she rubbed her arms and back soothingly. Ben nodded.
"One of the symptoms of the contamination. I doubly irrigated it so hopefully mild flu like symptoms will be all she gets."
"Will she become a vampire?" Dawn asked quietly
"What's this Niblet?" Spike asked gently.
"It's all about blood right?" Dawn asked again. "She fed you and now your blood is in her body. Is that enough to turn her?"
"No Niblet," Spike told her. "It takes more than blood entering her body to turn her. She has to drink from us at the point of death. And I will never let anyone turn Buffy, even if she begs me to." Spike turned back to Buffy, unprepared to find Albert watching the exchange intently. "What?" he asked harshly. Albert raised his eyebrows but turned his attention to his son.
"Did you still want to move her tomorrow?" Giles asked Joyce. She nodded. "Willow. Tara. I need you two to go home and strengthen our magical defenses. Use whatever spells and charms you think appropriate." The witches nodded.
"They shouldn't be on their own," Xander pointed out.
"Which is why I want you and Anya there," he added. "Whatever protection you can give the homes and property."
"That will leave you shorthanded here," Anya pointed out.
"Maybe I can help," a voice called from the hallway. The crystal glowed green.
"Angel," Faith smiled. "Welcome to the party." He stopped just inside the doorway, surveying the scene.
"So the rumors are true," he said.
"Which particular rumors would that be?" Spike growled, standing up to confront his Sire.
"Buffy has kids," he answered, taking one step towards the twins' cots. Spike growled warningly and Angel stopped, holding up his hands in surrender. "I won't hurt them. I know we can never be together, but that doesn't stop me from loving her. And she's a part of them. They're safe from me." Spike looked over to Joyce, who nodded her head. He stepped aside and Angel slowly approached the sleeping children.
"Not that we don't love having you stop by and visit," Xander started, "but is there a reason you're not in your big cozy office? You know the same office that is trying to kill the love of your undead life."
"It's not them," he said, gently running his hands over Alex's head before pulling away and facing the group. "Wolfram and Hart are not behind the bounty." He paused to let that sink in before continuing. "But they are carrying it for a client. And no, I don't know which one."
"I have an idea," Giles said, sharing a look with Joyce.
"You may have another problem with Wolfram and Hart," Angel told the group. "Apparently they didn't realize the Slayer was pregnant."
"A prophecy?" Giles asked wearily, taking off his glasses and cleaning them.
"Several possible prophecies," Angel admitted. "The firm is in severe research mode right now. The Senior Partners don't like it when something big like this happens and they aren't prepared."
"Are they a threat?" Faith asked.
"Right now no," he admitted, "but they could be based on what they find out. If the Senior Partners find a prophecy they like, and they think they can tweak circumstances to let it fall in their favor, they might try something. I'll let you know if they find anything."
"And they are bringing you in on this project?" Daniel asked curiously. Angel nodded.
"Strangely enough yes. Wesley is extremely suspicious of their motives, but he is also leading one of the research teams. We're not quite sure what to make of it."
"If you find anything," Giles started.
"We'll be sure to let you know first," Angel assured them. "But I do have a small problem I was hoping you could help me with."
"What?" Giles asked. Angel fidgeted.
"We have our own apocalypse we're trying to stop in L.A.," he explained, "or we'd be able to babysit them ourselves, but with everything going on down there it wasn't safe for them."
"Who are you talking about?" Faith asked, before widening her eyes in shock. "You didn't bring them?"
"They followed you from Cleveland," he countered. Faith groaned while Daniel laughed.
"Who are you talking about?" Giles asked. Just as he spoke he heard voices coming from the hallway.
"Stop pushing me."
"You're the one pushing me."
"I can't believe you brought them," Faith groaned as two figures entered the doorway.
"Who?" Willow asked then gaped as she got her first good look. "Jonathan?"
"Hey Willow," he waved casually. "Xander."
"Wait," Faith asked, "you know these dweebs Red?"
"Of course she does," the second one spoke up. "We went to high school together." Willow looked at him blankly. "I summoned the flying monkeys during the school play." He looked between Willow and Xander, but both had blank looks on their faces. "Andrew," he led her on before bowing his head in defeat. "Tucker's brother."
"Oh," Willow and Xander said simultaneously. Andrew sighed.
"What have you guys been up to?" Xander asked. Andrew beamed.
"We're evil geniuses."
"They are annoying pains in my ass," Faith said, heading towards the sleeping infants, hoping the babies would create a buffer between her and them.
"These are the nerd herd?" Dawn asked, looking them over once more. "Wait. Aren't you missing one?"
"Warren," Spike said. "Where is Robo Boy?"
"I know you," Andrew said. "You're the chipped vampire. You threatened Warren then almost made him build you that robot Slayer."
"What?" Joyce hissed, tempted to move Buffy so she could go glare at the vampire properly. Thankfully Giles had the same thought. Spike shrunk back from the Watcher.
"Hold on," he said calmly. "First, that was over five years ago, back before I switched sides. Secondly, I went to Warren to get that damn chip out. And third, I was the one who backed out of the arrangement." Giles still walked over and punched Spike on the nose. "Guess I deserved that," Spike said, making no moves to retaliate. "So where is Robo Boy?"
"He got into some trouble in L.A. Met up with an old girlfriend and couldn't quite take no for an answer," Angel told them. "Tried using one of their inventions on her, but it wore off and she was pissed. He killed her as she tried to leave. He is currently a guest of the California Penal System."
"And these two?" Daniel asked.
"Didn't know what to do without him there," Angel admitted. "I thought about leaving them in L.A., but with the coming apocalypse they wouldn't stand a chance. Since I was coming up this way I hoped you would take them in for a bit."
"And if we kick them to the curb?" Faith asked. Angel shrugged.
"They're still out of L.A., which is my main goal."
"I'm sorry," Jonathan spoke up, looking toward Faith. "I never thought it would get this far out of hand. I thought we'd just have a laugh. You know, be cool in our minds. I never thought Warren would actually try to hurt you."
"I was just happy to be part of the group," Andrew said giggling slightly. Faith sighed.
"I won't try to kill them if they stay here," she finally relented, "but I am not going out of my way to protect them."
"I'm good with that," Angel stated. A loud cry stopped further conversation. Billy had woken up screaming. Faith picked him up awkwardly, looking to Joyce for guidance.
"Babies," Andrew screeched. Before anyone could stop him he rushed over and took Billy from Faith's hands. He began rocking the infant, surprising everybody when he got the child back to sleep. "Whose are they?" he asked the group, looking from face to face.
"Mine!" Joyce all but shouted. Everybody looked at her strangely, but nobody spoke up.
"I'm great with babies," Andrew said, oblivious to the exchange around him. "I can change a diaper in one minute flat. I can totally babysit for you so you can do other stuff."
"Andrew!" Joyce said as calmly as she could, "Please put the baby down." She wanted to take Billy from his arms herself, but since she still had her arms around Buffy she couldn't move. Thankfully Giles had the same idea again. He leapt over and all but ripped the sleeping child from his arms. Andrew didn't protest, but got a dreamy look on his face as he watched Giles put Billy back in his cot.
"Perhaps they can accompany the group back to the house?" Giles asked politely.
"What?" Xander asked sharply. Giles threw him a glare and he quickly changed his tune. "Yeah. There's always room at the house. Why don't you guys go get the car ready? We'll be down in a minute."
"We don't have the keys," Andrew pointed out helpfully. Jonathan rolled his eyes and pulled him out of the room.
"They want to talk about us," he said knowingly, "and they want to do it privately."
"So what do we do?" Andrew asked as they headed back down the hall. The door closed behind them before they could hear the answer.
"What do we do with them?" Xander asked once they were gone.
"I don't know," Giles admitted before turning to Faith. "Are they dangerous?"
"What?" she asked before she realized he was asking her opinion. "Not really, no. Warren was the psychopath of the group. Jonathan followed because he was too much of a coward to back out, and Andrew followed because he's in love with Warren. Without the third nerd these two are harmless."
"They do have skills though," Daniel added. "Jonathan is a warlock, though nowhere near as powerful as Willow and Tara, and Andrew can summon demons."
"Just what we need," Anya remarked. "More demons." Daniel laughed.
"I don't think he will unless he's threatened. Faith is right. These two are followers. Without Warren pulling their strings they're harmless."
"Still they shouldn't be left alone to their own devices," Giles said. "Keep an eye on them tonight while Willow and Tara secure the homes." Xander and Anya nodded. They got to their feet and were about to follow the witches out of the room when Joyce called out.
"Wait a second." Everyone turned to look at her. She glanced down at her daughter before looking toward everybody. "I want to officially adopt the twins."
"You want to take them away from the Slayer?" Spike asked. Buffy flinched slightly at the words, but only Joyce could tell.
"I don't think she'll be able to care for them for a long time," Joyce said. She spoke loud enough for everyone to hear, but her eyes sought out Dawn. "I don't want to take them away from Buffy, but I think this is the best way to keep them safe. To keep everyone safe." Anya nodded her agreement.
"But what if Buffy wakes up and remembers them?" Dawn asked.
"I don't know Dawn," she told her softly, "but I don't think that will happen. At least not for a very long time." Dawn thought about this for a long time.
"We will tell them though?" she asked. Joyce nodded.
"When the time is right," she confirmed.
"So I'll be a big sister instead of an aunt?" Joyce nodded. "I'm cool with that. Besides they have enough aunts. They really need a big sister." Joyce smiled and looked to the group.
"Do any of you have a problem with this?" she asked.
"This might actually keep us all alive," Anya said as everyone shook their heads.
"Especially when they lose her scent," Spike added. "It's already fading." Joyce smiled and turned toward Albert.
"Can the Council help me with this?"
"A grandmother petitioning the courts for custody of grandchildren when their mother is mentally incapacitated?" Albert asked. "You don't need the Council's help with that petition."
"But then there would be a paper trail," Joyce argued. "Secrecy is the only thing that will keep everyone safe. Can the Council help or not?" Albert stared at her for several minutes before nodding.
"Are you satisfied with an adoption?" he asked, "or do you want to have new birth certificates made with you as their mother?" Joyce shook her head.
"Making me their birth mother would lead to too many questions here," she told him. He thought for a minute.
"I can have their birth mother die in childbirth," Albert offered, "then you legally adopted them." Joyce nodded.
"That works," Joyce smiled at him. He nodded, getting to his feet.
"Then it seems I have some calls to make." He turned to Xander. "Can I trouble you for a ride to my son's residence young man?"
"Sure," Xander replied, getting his jacket. The ladies were getting ready to leave as well. "Are you coming?" he asked Veronica. She nodded her head.
"If there's room," she told them. "I'm interested in what magical defenses you have planned." He nodded, leading the group out the doorway.
"Spike," Willow stopped, just short of the door. "The spells we are thinking might retract your invitation. Get with one of us before sunset and we'll re-invite you."
"Hold off on that pet," Spike told her. "Let me see if I can find my own way in. Then we can plug any leaks I can find."
"I'll help," Angel offered. Willow nodded before following the group out the door. He looked to Spike. "Wanna patrol?"
"Hell yeah," Faith answered before Spike could speak up. Spike grinned as they left the room, Daniel following them. Gregory looked up.
"Did I hear you wanted to move her tomorrow?" he asked. Joyce nodded her head. "Then I better head over to the house and make sure everything is prepared."
"Can you take Dawn with you?" Joyce asked.
"What?" Dawn protested. "I want to stay here."
"You have school in the morning," Joyce reminded her.
"It's the last day of school," Dawn whined. "Nothing ever happens on the last day of school. I wanted to stay with the twins"
"You're still going," Joyce told her. "After tomorrow you can spend all the time with the twins that you want."
"Fine." Dawn rolled her eyes but followed Gregory from the room.
"I've got rounds," Ben told them. "You know where the call button is if you need anything. Abby will watch as you complete her nightly ministrations, just so we know for sure you can do it." Joyce and Giles nodded. Ben quietly left the room, shutting the door behind him.
"Was that okay?" Joyce asked Giles quietly, when only the two of them remained in the room. "I didn't mean to shut you out of the decision." Giles sighed and walked over to Buffy's bed. Buffy looked up at him without prompting, causing him to smile.
"I won't lie," he told her, kneeling down and rubbing Buffy's arm like her mother was doing a few seconds ago. "It hurt that you didn't consult with me before deciding."
"I'm sorry. I panicked," she admitted. "I don't know those boys at all, except from what Faith told us about them, and I don't want people like them knowing the truth."
"I understand," he told her, his eyes never leaving Buffy's shivering form. "And to be honest I was going to suggest something like that to keep them safe."
"Something like what?" Joyce asked.
"Adoption," he told her. "I was able to find a few references to Slayer's children in the Watcher Journals. The few that lived to adulthood survived because the Watchers hid them with other families or claimed them as their own."
"So we're okay?" she double checked. He nodded. They fell into a comfortable silence before she spoke again. "Are you going to tell them?"
"Do you want me to?" he countered. She smiled weakly.
"This can't be my decision, Rupert," she told him gently. He sighed.
"Part of me wants to proclaim it from the rooftops," he admitted. "The other part is terrified."
"Of what the Council will think," Joyce asked, "or what the Scoobies will think? You do realize you're technically Dawn's father as well?"
"Oh God," he paled as he realized she was right.
"She's not that bad," she chided. "She's grown up a lot."
"She has," he chuckled, "but it's not the Scoobies I'm afraid of." He took a deep breath before continuing. "Quentin fired me for having a father like love for the Slayer. I am concerned what the Council will do when they find out I actually am her father."
"Don't they already know? Didn't you say the Council would pull her records which would include your paternity test?"
"They did pull her records," he told her. "I don't know why they haven't confronted me about this yet."
"Well, whatever you decide I will support you."
"Thank you," he said, gazing down at his finally sleeping daughter. A soft knock interrupted them. Abby stuck her head in.
"You guys ready to show me what you've got?" she asked quietly. They nodded, slowly disentangling themselves from the sleeping girl. They stretched out tired muscles as Abby wheeled the cart in. "Joyce first," she said just as the twins woke up hungry. Giles took care of the infants while Joyce cared for their mother. When Joyce was done to Abby's satisfaction, they traded and Giles demonstrated the exercise regime Buffy needed. "You guys will do fine," she told them as she gathered her supplies. "Buffy is really lucky. Not everybody has someone who is willing to take them in with these challenges." She smiled reassuringly at them as she left. Joyce looked to Giles.
"She is really lucky," Joyce said. "We both are." Giles smiled back as they both prepared for another long night.
"Is Buffy still Buffy?" Dawn asked, bursting into the room after school the next day.
"What?" Joyce asked groggily, jerking awake from the light doze she had fallen into. It had been another rough night of demon fighting, so they decided to move Buffy later on in the afternoon, once everyone had some good sleep.
"I had a nightmare last night," Dawn told her. "She was trying to hurt us."
"Oh Dawn," Joyce said, pulling her into a tight embrace. "Buffy is still Buffy, and she would never try to hurt you. And if she ever does, she'll have to get through me first."
"Thanks Mom," Dawn said as she pulled away. She scooted around her mother, heading to where the twins where laying. Seeing they were awake, she picked up Billy. "Whoa," she said, as she turned to look at her sister. "She's in real clothes and out of bed? Is the world ending?"
"You know that joke's not to funny here," Xander said as he led the rest of the girls into the room. Anya immediately went over and picked up Alex.
"We've closed all the holes Spike and Angel were able to find," Willow said. "We've got the car seats strapped in and the trunk cleared out for the wheelchair. Are we missing anything?"
"Just one final exam before we sign her discharge papers," Ben said entering the room. He and Gregory quickly performed one more exam.
"What's wrong?" Joyce asked when they started frowning.
"She's still a little warm," Gregory said, taking her temperature.
"It could be from Spike's blood," Ben said.
"Possibly," Gregory responded, reading the thermometer. "A slight fever, but then she did have one all night. We'll keep an eye on it." He smiled. "Other than that I think we're all ready to go."
"Sign here," Ben handed Joyce the release form. She quickly signed her name.
"Thank you," she said, handing him back the clipboard.
"If you need anything, day or night, you have my number." She nodded and he quietly left the room.
"Shall we?" Xander asked as he grabbed the diaper bag. Everyone nodded and followed him out of the room. Soon everyone was finally headed home. The ride back home was thankfully uneventful, even though all the Scoobies were ready if something did try to attack them.
"Mom?" Dawn asked. They had arrived home and were beginning the lengthy process of getting everything inside the house when Joyce suddenly burst into tears. The Scoobies quickly spun around, thinking something had gotten past their defenses.
"I'm okay," she told them. "It's just, you said she would find her way home again. And she finally did."
"Oh," Dawn said, thinking back to when she said those words. She suddenly remembered and couldn't keep the grin off her face. "I didn't think it would take her this long."
"Doesn't matter how long it took," she said, putting her arm around her daughter as they watched everyone go inside the house together. "Our family is finally together."
"Plus some," Tara said, as she gently rocked Alex as she passed. Joyce looked down at Dawn, who was grinning madly. She couldn't help the smile forming on her own face as she and her daughter joined their family.