Author's Note: I still don't own anything related to this show. All I own is the sense of satisfaction that I finally, finally finished and I don't think it's the worst thing I've ever written. That's a plus all around! Happy New Year everyone!
Happily Ever After
Cordelia lifted her aching head with a slight groan. Those vision headaches were a bitch but she never remembered blacking out after a vision before. A pang of fear gripped her as she realized that they were getting worse. The fear grew stronger as she realized she wasn't where she was supposed to be. Before the vision hit, she was sitting at the long table in Magic Box, with the rest of the Scoobies, reading up on the latest big bad and moping about their missing friends. Now she was apparently still sitting at a table but it wasn't the Magic Box. She was sitting in what appeared to be a reception hall. All around her, the room appeared to come to life with a variety of noises and sounds.
"Cordy, you feeling alright?" Cordelia blinked, suddenly realizing she wasn't as alone as she previously thought. On the contrary, she was staring back at the slightly concerned faces of Willow, Faith, Anya and Buffy. She was reasonably sure that Anya was supposed to be working behind the cash register and Buffy was too depressed to get out of bed that afternoon. So where had the two blondes come from. And on that note, why did they all look different… older? And that wasn't the only change that Cordelia noted. Buffy's face appeared fuller. The slayer had been looking pale and drawn since her other half had died. So it was refreshing for her to see the blonde looking healthy and almost happy.
"Seriously, Cordy, what's your damage?" Faith asked, running a hand through her dark hair impatiently. Cordelia caught a brief flash of gold on her left hand before her hand was returned to the small cloth covered figure currently cradled in her arms. Cordelia's eyes widened slightly at the sight. "You look like you've seen a ghost or something."
"Or something," Cordelia agreed. She found her eyes riveted towards the baby on Faith's chest. A pair of familiar, dark eyes opened blearily in her direction before the baby snuggled closer to Faith and fell asleep once more. "Where the hell am I?"
"Oh, that's comforting," a voice behind her chimed in. "My so-called event planner doesn't even know where she is!"
Event planner? Cordelia whirled around to face the newcomer. The woman was strikingly beautiful with large blue eyes and a warm smile. Said eyes were watching her with fond amusement even as she tapped her foot on the ground.
"Really, Cordy, you feeling ok?"
"Yeah," Cordelia finally replied, tired of that particular question. "Just had a bit of a head rush is all. I'm great!"
"Good," Buffy replied, skeptically. She gave the seer a once over before returning her attention to the other woman. "How about you, Dawnie? Reality kicking in yet?"
Dawn? Cordelia's eyes widened as she finally placed the woman with the name. Gone was the gangly teenage mystic ball of energy, and in her place was a beautiful, confident young woman, who was every bit as snarky as Cordelia remembered.
"Don't start, Buffy," Dawn chided, taking a seat next to her sister. "Reality settled in for me a long time ago and I'm just fine with it. Not all of us wanted to wait until after the kids were born for a wedding. I prefer fitting in my wedding dress without a dozen alterations, thank you."
"Screw you, little sister."
Dawn started to respond when another interruption made itself known in the form of a small child latching onto Faith. The younger slayer appeared used to these occurrences as she passed the baby to Dawn without a word. Dawn took her precious burden, smiling at the newcomer to the table.
"What happened, Maggie?" Faith asked while brushing a few tears away from a small heart shaped face. The little girl, who had to be no more than six, merely stared up at Faith from behind a fringe of dark brown hair. She moved a tiny hand towards a ponytail that hung down to the small of her back.
"Danny pulled my hair," Maggie replied finally, mournfully staring at the end of her braided ponytail.
"Not again," Buffy huffed. "What am I going to do with that boy? He gets more like his father everyday," she pushed away from the table, and it was then that Cordelia finally saw what had filled the slayer's face with joy and contentment.
"You're pregnant?" she blurted out before she could stop herself. That, of course, was an understatement. The slayer's petite form was all but consumed by her expanded midsection. A pout formed on her friend's lips as she processed the question.
"Yeah, Cordelia, where have you been?" Anya asked, joining the conversation for the first time. Her eyes were idly scanning the crowded dance floor. "Buffy's in her what? Seventieth month now?"
"Divided by ten," Willow replied with the same infinite patience that had gotten the Scoobies through life without the twins. Something they all felt they wouldn't survive. But if her estimation was correct, this was living proof that they had all indeed survived, and quite well too. "You sure you're ok?"
"Yeah," Cordelia nodded, with a bit more confidence. "Just got surprised by all the Buffy in front of me. That's a whole lot of Buff." She glanced back at her pregnant best friend. Glistening green eyes joined the shaky pout and it was obvious what was about to happen. And again, it would appear that they were all used to this occurrence as there were several groans and a couple of snorts of amusement.
"I would really appreciate you all would stop making fun of me," Buffy's voice trembled. "It's hard enough being as big as a house while all your friends are skinny! I don't need you all rubbing it in!"
"Oh, and cue the waterworks," Dawn rolled her eyes. "Will! Get your damn wife before her blubbering ruins my engagement party!"
Engagement party? Will? Cordelia put a hand to her head in confusion. The confusion melted away as she spotted the familiar swagger headed their way. It seemed that death and age both agreed equally well with William Giles. Though his hair was even longer than before, now curling against the back of his neck and he was carrying a small child of his own on his hip, he was still unmistakably Spike. Right down the scarred eyebrow and perpetual smirk.
"First, what did you lot do to her now? Second, Maggie, it's not nice to punch your cousin in the face. Ever. Third, why is the princess looking at me like that?"
Faith turned to the seer and shook her head. "She's been weird all day. Just ignore her. Anyway, Maggie, is that true? Did you hit Danny?"
The girl in her arms shrugged slightly. Spike carefully moved his arm to lift the head pressed against his shoulder. The movement revealed a black and blue mark marring the otherwise smaller, identical to his father's features on Danny's face. Buffy gasped. Maggie winced at the growing bruise before squirming out of her mother's arms and taking off across the dance floor. Faith cursed under her breath and followed in the girl's wake.
"I guess it wouldn't be a party if Maggie didn't punch someone," Dawn muttered, under her breath. She tilted her had back to look up at Spike. "Couldn't you magic her some anti aggression pills her something?"
"That's slayer aggression," Spike shook his head. "No cure for that." He paused, that loveable smirk still playing across his lips. "Or at least not one that anyone should be considering for at least 20 years." A matching smirk pulled at Buffy's lips even as all the other women at the table groaned.
"You two are so disgusting," Willow said, frowning. "Where are Tara and the girls?"
"Isa is currently trying to convince Lira that plants are not your usual conversation partners at social events. And our better half is currently trying to rescue Amelia from her very, hyperactive aunts."
Willow winced in sympathy, turning almost instinctively to see Tara struggling to pull a toddler from the over eager grasp of two teenage girls. The blonde witch managed to shake the smaller of the girls off and was now dealing only with one.
"She's my niece!" the older of the two girls snapped, as she tried to loosen Tara's grip.
"Yeah, and she's my daughter!" Tara retorted. "Celeste, don't make me send you to the dark place again."
"That'll hold her for what? Ten minutes?" a teenaged boy to their left chimed in. He had the same black hair as Celeste and the now moping girl who lost the battle against Tara. His hair was as long as Spike's but different due to the two red streaks framing his face. He nudged the boy beside him, who grinned in response to an unspoken question. Cordelia noticed that this boy possessed a pair of hauntingly familiar blue eyes. He appeared to sense her interest and looked up smiling in her direction. He cast one more amused look at the scene still occurring around them before sliding over to her.
"Hey, mom," he bent down, placing a gentle kiss to her cheek. Cordelia pulled away, standing up to see the teen up close. She rested her hands on his shoulders, frowning at how she had to actually reach up to see him. He was taller than her! Floppy brown hair hung in his face and she brushed the hair back to see his face.
"Connor?" she gasped, taking in her much older, obviously no longer a baby, adopted son. The boy arched an eyebrow, looking eerily like her and not his biological mother. "I mean, I know… I just… uh…"
"Oh, Al is with Lorne in the back," Connor finished, ignoring her inelegant stuttering. "Mom, can I sleep over at Giles' place?"
"Uh, sure, no problem."
"Great!" Connor said, clearly surprised that she had agreed. "Aiden, Celeste, I'm in." The two older Giles' teens looked up from their argument to flash him a thumbs up. Connor turned back towards his mother. "I promise you that little incident that happened last time will not happen again. I will stay on the couch. I honestly don't know how I got in that bed."
Cordelia's brows furrowed as she processed what her son just said. A snort of amusement from Spike only drove the worry home further. "Uh, just make sure that you don't end up there again," she said in her best no-nonsense tone. There was a quick flash of fear in those expressive, beautiful eyes and then he nodded. So it would appear that she was the disciplinarian after all. A smile tugged at her mouth as she watched him return to his friends. Or more accurately to Aiden's side as Celeste was too busy playing with the toddler she was so desperately trying to steal from Tara. The loser of the earlier battle was now standing beside her once again, also cooing over their beloved niece.
"I'm surprised at you, Princess," a voice chuckled in her ear. She lifted her chin to see Spike standing beside her. At some point he had released his son to his mother's care and had his now free arm draped around her shoulders. "Sanctioning sleepovers between lovers?"
"Celeste and Connor?"
Another snort of amusement. "Try your son and my brother," Spike replied, gently leading her away from the table. "Must be a shock seeing him all grown up when he was a pint sized this morning, huh?"
"Tell me about it," Cordelia replied, automatically. "Wait a minute, how did you know?"
"Because we're the ones that brought you here," Tara replied, joining her brother and the seer. Cordelia ignored the vague statement in favor of staring at the. It had been awhile since she had seen the witch sane and lucid. Even before she had gone crazy and tried to end the world. There was the brief flash before she and Spike disappeared together but it wasn't enough. And if Cordelia was completely honest with herself, she thought it was going to be the last time she ever saw her friend not insane and hell-bent on destroying the world.
"That's why we brought you here," Spike said, picking up on her thoughts. "We needed you to see that there is a future for the Scoobies. A future where we're happy."
"So we do get a Happily Ever After?" Cordelia asked. He steered her towards another section of the hall where Fred and Wesley were both kneeling and apparently attempting to coax what appeared to be a blue little girl of about ten away from a plant. A slightly younger girl was her companion and had a slight orange tinge to her otherwise pale skin. They watched in silence as the blue girl finally gave in to their pleading. As she finally abandoned the plant, her skin seemed to ripple and the blue was replaced with warm, peach colored skin that resembled Fred. Cordelia raised an eyebrow. "We get demonic offspring?"
"That's Illyria and Isabella," Tara answered. "Illyria is Fred and Wesley's daughter. She is a demon king."
"It's a long story, one that you won't really remember enough to prevent anyway," Spike shrugged. "The bit is crazy as hell but she fits in this insane circus of a family."
"She's mine," Tara smiled softly at the younger child. The girl caught her mother's gaze and waved briefly before dragging her best friend towards her two aunts and younger sister. "And before you ask, yes, she's adopted. She and Amelia were both orphaned in a war that is scheduled to happen six years into your future."
"Two years into your future, you're going to hear about a prophecy that says that Angel will die in a war," Spike added. "You'll panic. You'll try to run. But you decide that you'd rather be with him now and deal with the consequences later. Of course, that is after Doyle stopped you."
Cordelia smiled sadly. "So Angel dies? I lost him again?"
"Not exactly," Spike smirked, pointing to something over Cordelia's shoulder. She turned around to see an older Giles and Jenny standing in front of a window talking with another group of people. Soft sunlight filtered through highlighting the grey hairs in Giles' hair. Jenny looked beautiful as always. "Not that, princess. Look at who they're talking to."
Cordelia's gaze shifted a fraction over to see two of the young men standing with the couple, also in the sunlight. Her heart skipped a beat as she stared at the man she loved, standing in the sun. She had missed this when they escaped Pylea. She forgot how beautiful he was in the sunlight. Her eyes flickered down to his hands. The Gem of Amara was absent but there was a gold band on his left hand that she belatedly realized matched the one on her own hand.
"How is that possible?"
"It was part of our Happily Ever After," Tara squeezed her shoulder. "We can't explain everything. We just need you to know that it does get better. It's a bumpy road filled with grief and headaches but there is still happiness."
"And your son trying to corrupt my brother," Spike added bitterly.
"Isn't it more like Celeste trying to corrupt them both," Tara mused.
"I'm so not going there," Cordelia held up a finger silencing the twins. She watched as Dawn approached the objects of her observation. Her arms slid around the shortest of the pair and Cordelia was witness to the Key's eyes sliding shut in pure happiness as his arms closed around her. Short spiky blond hair bent with the head that placed a gentle kiss on Dawn's forehead. "Hold up…. is that… Andrew? Dawn is marrying Andrew?"
"Ha, pay up!" Spike crowed. "I told you she'd react that way."
"It's nice to know that nothing has changed about you in fifteen years, brother," Tara gripped bitterly but still she handed him a twenty dollar bill. Cordelia shook her head in amusement. She missed this. She missed them. "We'll be back, Cordy."
"But I'm not going to be able to remember this, am I? I'm going to forget."
"You'll forget the finer details," Spike agreed. "You'll forget that exact number of kids. You'll forget that Angel is part human. You'll forget those things. But you won't forget the feeling of happiness for the future."
Cordelia nodded, tears starting to form in her eyes. Just then she saw a blur of motion as another child came running past her and straight into Connor. She watched as the teen didn't bother to pause in his conversation as he scooped up the child, no more than two years old and hugged him tight against his chest. The boy placed his head on Connor's shoulder as if he belonged there. Tufts of black hair stuck up at awkward angles and there was no disguising the beginnings of her smile forming on the boy's lips.
"That's my son," she whispered, breathlessly. "He's mine."
"I like to think of him as ours," Angel answered, coming behind to stand beside her. "I guess Lorne lost track of him. Again."
"Well maybe you should stop being so cheap and pay for an actual babysitter," Spike added.
"Right, remind me again when the last time you paid for a babysitter was? Isn't your answer to everything to just drop the kids off at the Magic Box and run?"
"Better than dropping them off a demonic karaoke bar!"
"He's got a point," Tara sided with her brother. The fact that she also tended to drop her two children off with their grandparents had nothing to do with the topic at all. Cordelia shook her head. Things with the twins never changed either. They were still attached at the hip, except when he was attached to Gunn and Xander.
"Where are Gunn and Xander?" Cordelia asked nervously. She finally noticed that the pair was missing. If her estimation was correct Faith and Xander were married and those two children were theirs. So that meant they had to be alive, right?"
"Last time I checked, Xander is still trying to get Gunn to man up and follow through," Angel smirked. "He's still holed up in the bathroom."
Spike rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Really? I mean fifteen years and he still has doubts about it? What the hell does he need to convince him?"
"Convince who about what?"
"Gunn is supposed to be proposing to Anya tonight," Tara stage whispered. "That is if he ever grows a pair."
Cordelia couldn't help the giggle that came out. Not at the idea of Gunn and Anya still together, but rather this strange domesticated Scooby gang, where they had the time to worry about planning proposals and engagement dinners. Where they argued with their children about fighting and playing with the other children. She liked this time. And it was in her future. A bright smile spread across her face.
"Now that's more like it," Spike said, tapping her lightly on the nose. "That's what I like to see."
"When do you guys come back?"
"Come back?" Angel repeated, not in on the time travel issue. Tara held up a hand, her eyes flashed orange and then the scene around them froze.
"You've been dying to do that all night," Spike chided. "Show off."
"You're just mad that you can't do it."
Spike's eyes narrowed before a sliver colored flashed across them. He smirked. "I think it's safe to say I picked up a few more useful things, dear sister. You're not the only one who kept their ascended gifts."
Cordelia raised an eyebrow. "Uh, this one of those things I'm going to forget isn't it?'
Tara laughed. "I wouldn't worry about it too much. It'll be explained soon enough. And I promise we'll be back soon."
"What day is it in your time?" Spike asked.
"Uh, like July or something. I think your birthday is like in a few weeks."
Another smirk tugged at his lips. "Perfect. Just look for us when the clock chimes wrong."
Tara smiled sadly. "It's time to wake up, Cordy."
She lifted her hand and placed two fingers against Cordelia's forehead.
The seer blinked as she found herself back at the Magic Box sitting with Willow, Faith and Xander.
"You ok?" Willow asked, noticing her rapid blinking.
Cordelia stretched, a yawn erupting from her before she could respond. "Yeah, actually I am. I just had the most amazing dream."
"Put me down!"
All eyes turned to the recently door on the training room. They were in time to see Angel walk through with a very reluctant Buffy tossed over his shoulder. He wordlessly marched over to where the Scoobies were sitting and tossed the slayer down on the seat beside Faith.
"Is there any reason you felt the need to kidnap me?" Buffy asked, petulantly.
"Well, I really only wanted to get you out of bed," Angel shrugged. "But then you kicked me, so I figured it was time to break out the tough love."
Buffy crossed her arms over her chest. "I don't need another damn intervention."
"Yes, please let's pass on that," Xander moaned. "I definitely don't want another chair flung in my direction."
"Guys," Willow started, patient as ever. "Giles said they'd be back. So we have to just keep believing that they'll be back."
"It's been almost six months," Faith retorted. "Maybe he got the message wrong. Or maybe they lost. I mean they were talking about going to war with the Powers that Be. They could've lost."
"Do you seriously think Spike or Tara would lose against them?" Xander asked, raising an eyebrow. "They're probably just taking their time. You know how Spike is."
Any further conversation about their missing twins was cut off by the arrival of Dawn and Andrew. The two teens were babbling excitedly about some new trick they'd managed to learn. The pair took training seriously. Since discovering her abilities, Dawn spent at least an hour every day training herself. Andrew also appeared to be just as serious since discovering he could control the demons. As they both grew in their abilities, they both were more confident in their daily lives. It sparked a thought in Cordelia's mind. She watched the two friends as they talked. Andrew's hand brushed against Dawn's, prompting both to blush.
"Aw, they're so cute," Willow cooed picking up on the interaction.
"They're so going to end up getting married," Faith agreed. Cordelia wanted to laugh but it felt too true to her for some reason.
"Hey, slackers," Anya yelled from across the store. "If you're not actually going to research, then you can help out around the store. Giles and Jenny are neglecting their responsibilities again."
Faith shook her head. "They just had a baby, Anya. They're both too busy cooing over the little devil and how cute he is. As usual, they're completely ignoring the fact that he's a damn freak. He's like barely a week old and already he's a damn pyro!"
"You're just mad because he set your favorite shirt on fire," Willow pointed out. "You thought it was hilarious when he set his bassinet on fire in the hospital."
Faith grinned. "That was pretty damn funny. But I really liked that shirt." She paused. "Tara bought me that shirt."
The mention of the witch brought the mood back to its previously sober tone. Cordelia struggled to hold onto her previous feelings of joy. Her dream made her feel better about… everything. But she couldn't remember exactly why. She knew that things were going to get better.
A shrill scream broke through the tense silence causing all of the room's occupants to jump. "What the hell is that?" Angel asked, with wide eyes.
"That would be the stupid clock that you claim you've been too busy to fix," Anya pointed out. "All you've been doing is moping for the past six months. Mope a little less and fix the clock a little more."
Cordelia stood up, fascinated for some strange reason by the broken clock. It was supposed to be a cuckoo clock. Supposedly it was haunted by the guy that made it. Willow picked it up at a flea market a few weeks before. Cordelia had yet to see any signs of it being haunted, if you just ignored the fact that it let out that unholy screeching sound at noon and midnight. Her eyes narrowed as she glanced down at her cellphone.
"It's six o'clock," she announced to no one in particular. "The clock is wrong."
"Hence why I said it's broken," Anya said, her head already bent over the inventory log.
"Look for us when the clock chimes wrong," Cordelia muttered under her breath. Angel walked over to her side.
"What was that?"
Cordelia started to answer when the front door opened. "We're closed!" Anya yelled, not bothering to lift her head. "Come back tomorrow and bring more money."
Cordelia smiled brightly as she finally remembered the message from her dream. There was a happy future for them. They would get their Happily Ever After and it was starting right now. She ignored Buffy's gasp of surprise as she felt a long dead connection reopen. She ignored the murmurs of confusion from her friends. She ignored everything except for the two people now standing smugly in the center of the Magic Box.
"It's about damn time," Cordelia quipped, cocking her head to the side. "You two couldn't take on a few measly higher beings."
Spike glared in her direction. She could see there were silver flecks in his eyes now. They glowed as he tried, and failed, to continue feigning anger with the former cheerleader. Tara just shook her head.
"You're back?" Buffy stood up. Her eyes were watery as she looked at Spike. Willow was in a similar state of shock. Spike grinned.
"You tell me, pet. What do you feel?"
Buffy closed her eyes thoughtfully. Cordelia watched as a brilliant smile spread across her best friend's face. There seemed to be a light spreading through the previously depressed slayer even as she stood there. When she opened her eyes, the love that was there was almost blinding to Cordelia. She watched as Buffy launched herself into Spike's very welcome arms. The movement prompted everyone into action.
Cordelia hung back watching the Scoobies welcoming back their missing friends. Everything felt normal again. It felt calm. She knew this was just a brief respite before the next big crisis but she was going to enjoy this while it lasted. She knew that this was the beginning of their happy ending. She felt Angel wrap an arm around her shoulders and leaned into his embrace. Yes, this was definitely just the beginning for them. Their future started now.
*And this story is finally, finally, finally done! Whew! I hope that these last two chapters were worth the almost year it took to post them. I didn't want to go another year with this story hanging on. So I hope that you all enjoyed. Thanks to everyone who has stuck with this story during the eight years it has taken me to finish it off, lol. All your reviews and constant reminders that it existed mean a lot to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you!