Starting Over

By Sweetprincipale

Post Season 7- Non-canon beginning at the end of the final episode. No comics. Buffy and Spike find themselves trapped in a void between two dimensions, watching their mirror images acting out pieces of their lives in another realm. If both halves can find true love, choose each other, and make some other important choices, Buffy and Spike will have a chance to rejoin their world, and have a chance at starting over from the point where they perished in the Hellmouth.

Dedicated to sjwheelan, Omslagspapper (the fabulously talented cover artist), Ginar369, Illusera, Kalo Suva, AGriffinWriter, xxtheTwistedSisterxx, and Tamal21. Thank you so much for taking time to read and review, friends, your encouragement means so much to me!

Direct quotes from shows or songs are obviously not mine, but belong to the enormously talented people who created them.

Nothing of Buffy belongs to me, except my sincere admiration. However, this story is all mine.


Three years later, in both dimensions...

"Tanya Summer and William J!" Spike's bellow shook the enclosed walkway adjoining the Rosenberg-Harris dwelling and the Summers house.

"Uncle Spike is mad." Tanya curled up closer to her best friend. The little girl had a long, dark brown braid, Willow's eyes, Willow's rosebud mouth, and creamy skin tone.

"You shouldn'ta done it, should you?" William hissed, his voice an unaffected imitation of his father's. It didn't help that fully one half of his "American" family was British.

"Spike, what's wrong?" Xander's footsteps paced past the corner cabinet where they were hiding.

"D'you see what your daughter did to me?"

"What are you- oh my God. BUFFY! WILLS! Come see this!"

"What's wrong, what's- oh my God! Giles! Vance!" Buffy's voice was choked with laughter. "Oh, Baby, Baby you're gorgeous."

"I'm soddin' pink!"

"Not all of you! Just your hair."

"It takes a real man to wear pink." Willow complimented.

"My hair is bloody, buggerin' Barbie doll pink, and when I find the little witch that did it..." Of course he could tell where they were, he had their scents ingrained in him so deep by now it was almost painful. Whenever either couple was asked how many children they had, both families jokingly answered "two". Tanya was his daughter, by bond if not by blood, and he knew that William's was as much Xander's child to love and protect as his. It was surprising to all of them that something so deeply personal as a parent-child bond could stretch, but in this family, the more people to protect your baby, the better.

"Oh, honey don't be mad at her, you know William probably dared her. Again." Buffy followed her husband to the corner cabinet.

"Uh-oh." William held Tanya's hand as the door burst open.

"There!" Spike lifted both of them out easily, in one steel hand. "You two are in so much trouble."

"Bloody hell." William gasped. His dad was mad. He could sense his mum's heartbeat quickening up. She was mad, too, but not as much.

"Sorry!" Tanya squeaked. She was in trouble, and even though her daddy said her uncle was a scary monster man, she knew he'd never hurt her. She still didn't like being in trouble, she liked to be a good girl.

"William! Mouth!" Buffy gasped.

"You, little miss, are in a whole flippin' lot of trouble." Spike raised the miniature wicca, imbued with her mother's powers from birth (Vance's analysis said it was probably because of the extreme amount of magic Willow had performed in late pregnancy) up to his eye level, holding her in his arms.

"I'm sorry." Her lower lip wobbled. She was sensitive, like Willow had been as a child, and it didn't take much to make her cry.

"You're gonna fix me." He put his forehead to hers, blue eyes locking with her snapping grass green. He felt the small hands line up on either side of his head, and a tingle run over his scalp.

"Ooops." The lip wobble was more pronounced now.

Loud laughter followed her exclamation. Giles and Vance entered, both in aprons (they had been making curries and samosas in the Summers' kitchen) and squawked with laughter.

"Oh, darling! It's lovely!" Vance approached her son-in-law with outstretched hands. "That lovely blue... it matches your eyes."

"Bloody hell!" Giles' spluttered as his drink went down the wrong way.

"Grandpa! Mouth!" William said automatically.

"She-witch Jr. did it." Spike groaned.

"How'd you even find out?" Buffy teased a blue lock from his head. "Without a reflection?"

"If Bit hadn't wanted to video conference from Joey's flat in Manchester, I'd never have known." Spike growled. "By the way, no ring yet, but they're talkin' about it. She wants to wait and see if the Alliance approved her to stay here or needs her with another Slayer. He wants to wait to see if the Alliance will take Vance's recommendation and appoint him Alliance Medic. And if they'll give him a post in America. Apparently that's a deal breaker for her."

"He'll travel like I do. I don't see the problem. I'm 'posted' in America - really dear, couldn't you make it sound less military?- and I go wherever they need me." She leaned over and kissed her recently wedded husband. "Home is where the heart is."

"Aunt Dawn's coming home?" William, held in his mother's iron grasp, sought a distraction.

"One more week." Spike shook the girl in his arms with a playful smirk. " Now, Tanya, put me back to my sparklin' blonde self, or I'm gonna tickle it outta you."

"Sul's gonna get you. Sul's gonna get-you!" Lizzie squeaked happily as her recently turned teenager brother scooped her up and hung her upside down across his slim chest, tickling her now that she was somewhat defenseless. Her hair was just a shade darker than his, and despite of their different mothers, the family resemblance was obvious.

"Baby Boy, are you sure you're gonna be okay?" Essie pulled down her skimpy black dress, trying to make sure it would be decent, at least coming to mid-thigh.

"I'm fine. It's only for- what- three hours?" Sul was starting to babysit on his own- if it wasn't for too long.

"Unless they start taking requests." She looked at herself in the mirror. Sexy. She was still young. She might be a mom, but she had a hot body. And a slightly bigger cup size, thanks to nursing her beautiful daughter.

"Mama!" Lizzie held out her upside down arms for a hug. "You tuck me in?"

"I'll kiss you goodnight. But you better be asleep when I get home, Little Missy Lizzy."

"Don't worry, Lizikins, I'll read you stories, just like Dad and Mom do."

The doorbell rang, and Essie cast a nervous glance at the front hall. "You didn't invite Sean or Megan over, did you?"

"No but I did invite someone over. Someone responsible. Older. You'll like him, I promise."

"Sullivan! I can't believe you would-"

"I'm using my key, okay?" Max walked in. The recently divorced man had spent a lot of time with his surrogate family in the aftermath of his break up.

"You said responsible!" Essie laughed and kissed both her children. "Hi, Max."

"Hi, Hot Mama-holy crap, usually I just say that- but Jesus H. Christ, Essie, you look hot! And not just 'cause I'm not gettin' any."

"Small impressionable children present." She snarled, smiling sweetly. "And my totally ripped hubby's gonna beat you up for that."

"It was a compliment! Come on!" Plucking Lizzie out of Sulster's arms and draping her over his neck like a scarf, he followed Essie to the garage.

"You didn't have to come over." Essie smiled softly. "But thanks. Did he call you?"

"Yeah. Pizza, foosball, and Lizzie-catching." He tossed the giggling girl in the air and caught her in a bear hug.

"I seriously look okay? I don't want to be too 'wifely', I want to be the hot groupie."

"Jim'll love it. Heck, even I love it." He winked.

"Do I look like a s-l-u-t?" She hissed, adjusting the dress again.

"Sul, help! What's S-L-U-" She was shushed by a frantic yelp from her mom and a hand clapped over her mouth from her uncle.

"Mom! What are you spelling in front of Lizzie?" Sul came out to the garage as well.

"Never mind, never mind, I'll go, I hope I look good."

"Hey, Pat, did you see Essie?" Jim wiped the sweat off of his torso. The stage lights beating down on him, combining with his nerves at playing in front of such a huge crowd, made him feel like he'd been giving a concert in a swimming pool instead of a mid sized venue.

"How could I not, front row center. She looks bloody fu-"

"Shush! You're her father-figure, man!"

"I didn't say I'd do her. But if you have any fantasies about you an' a groupie, this is the time to live them out." Patrick tossed his cigarette away, and raked his hands through his steely spiked hair.

"I might just do that. If I can walk after this."

"One more set. An' I'll do my solo piece, give you a break."

"We should do this more often."

"You wanna move to the UK?"

"No. You wanna come back here?"

"No." The two men shouldered their guitars again with a sigh. "Hey, it's good for old times' sake, mate."

Jim entered after Patrick to a fresh round of screaming applause, 95% of it female, and 80% of them probably there to see if he'd get hot enough to take his shirt off. No such luck. The ribbed tank top was the best they'd get, and they'd still be getting an eyeful, the way it was clinging to his damp chest.

"We love you, Jimmy!" One groupie, wearing a tee emblazoned with the old television show's logo, screamed at close range.

"We love you, too." He laughed. A key with a note landed at his feet. "Hey, no projectiles!" He watched Essie shaking her head in amusement. She knew where his heart was. "There's one hottie here, just one, who's going home with me." The screaming was deafening, and Patrick flipped him off for delaying the set again. "It's my gorgeous wife, Essie. This set's for you, Baby."

"We haven't done this in years." Essie panted. Jim threw her legs around his waist, setting her rear on the dressing room vanity.

"We haven't had a dressing room to share in years." He gasped, pushing her black thong to the side.

"We never put the ones we had to full advantage." She pointed out, muffling a groan as his velvet-skinned cock split her open.

"We were kinda scarred at the time, Baby." Kneading her soft skin, hands under her skirt, pulling her tight little rear further onto him, fingers caressing her slick nub.

"I know." She pulled him close to her, looking for pain in his eyes, and finding nothing. "We're not like that anymore."

"No, we certainly aren't." He pushed into her hard, rattling the water bottles and guitar pics off the edge of the table.

"You're happy, Sexy?"

"I never, in my life, thought I could be this happy." He leaned into her neck, murmuring from his heart. "There's my best friend, my partner, my hot, sweet, sex goddess- and she married me, then she made my little boy her little boy, and then we had this amazing little girl on top of it."

"I never thought I'd be a mom. Not a good one. And I am. They think I am."

"I know they do. It's 'cause you are." She pushed back on his shoulders, sending him backwards into the canvas back chair, and riding him as she sat in his lap. "Oh, Baby..."

She moaned at his praise, and slithered the dress off over her head, revealing her black lace bra. "Essie, you're gonna make me-"

"I want it." She hissed, green eyes engulfing him, drowning him.

"You know, the only thing that could make me even more happy?"

"Yeah, but I think we need a bed." She giggled, leaning over, cupping his smooth jaw in her cleavage, gazing into his still awed eyes.

"You're the best wife in the world. You're the best mom ever, Essie."

"You're the best husband. And father. You taught me all the tricks." She clutched the arms of the chair and started pistoning on him harder, bringing herself to the peak as his mouth found her breast through her bra.

"You just want two?"

"Two for one specials are fine. You always do more if we have time. But eventually they're gonna want to clean this place up and we've got babies to get home to."

He held her hips to his hard, surging his pelvis up into her, writhing bucking in a circle as one. "So good. After all these times, Essie... still so good."

"Jim... I love you so much." She winked down at him and panted, "Rock star."

"Not much of a star yet."

"You are to me."

The thin wooden chair frame cracked suddenly and they slowly toppled, sliding down, farther, and farther, giggling as they reached the floor. "It was probably a dumb idea." He looked up at her. "You can't mess with perfection."

"Did I miss something?"

"You just want Sul and Lizzie?"

"You mean, do I ever want more miracles with you?"

"Yeah. I mean, a long time ago- you said, just two."

"That was with him. Not with you. I'm not gonna be part of a power couple. I'm gonna be part of a happy couple. Do you? Want more?"

"Whenever I'm in you, I want it. I just wanna stay in you forever." Part of me to fill you, grow in you again, with part of you. Once it was proof that you trusted me, now it's proof that we made it.

"I'd like another one. Maybe another two. Not more than four, I can barely cope when I have Sean, Megan, Lizzie, and Sul in the car."

"I'm not saying it'll happen so easily, like it did the last time." He felt the familiar shudder running through her and the conversation stopped for a minute. He reached down, finding her soaking cleft, nudging her into a swift double with his lightly calloused finger tips.

"We'll wait longer to tell anyone this time. It won't be so new." She murmured, coming down, resting on his chest.

His hands cupped her rear and plowed himself into the hilt with a final burst. "Everything's new with you, always." He brought her head to his, panting as their lips brushed. "Just right for me." And he exploded inside her with a satisfied cry.

"Just right for me, too."

"You're sure this is all right with Vance?" Buffy bundled up William to take his grandmother's. Though, she still felt odd with calling Vance a "grandma", she was only about fifteen years older than she was. Then again, Giles was barely old enough to think of a grandpa. But since she'd known him for so long, and he was like her dad, that it made sense for her kids to think of him like that. "I mean, she's got all the medical magical mumbo jumbo to help with. I don't want her to think we like her just 'cause she's another babysitter so we can all patrol more easily." She bit her lip. "Are you sure she's all right with this?"

"Sure is. She was jus' sayin' she missed the sprats while she was out in sunny Cal. An' now that she and 'Ripper' have had a few nights of shaggin' themselves senseless, I'm sure they'll be happy to see Will an' Tanya." He moved his duster off to the side, taking William in his arm and tucking the leather back up around them both. "You know they don't mind, Luv, not if they went to all the trouble to turn the guest room into a pint-sized version of Fun Land for the kiddos." The family of three set out, off down the block.

"Where's Tanya?" William muttered sleepily, waking up from his after dinner nap as the cool air air hit him.

"She'll be there." Buffy reassured. "Be good for Vance okay?"

"Grandpa and Vance both there?"

"Not Grandpa, just Vance and Tanya."


"She's with Grandpa, Sweetie."

" 'Kay." And he snuggled back to sleep.

"Hey! Fang Family! Wait up." Xander called in a loud stage whisper, trotting after them, Tanya brightly clicking along behind him in party shoes.

"Hey, yourselves." Spike said.

"Oooh, girlfriend, I love your shoes!" Buffy immediately took Tanya's hand, and complimented her footwear.

"Vance and I are going to play tea party."

"Bugger that." William, coming fully awake, commented on the idea. "I want to play space rangers." He struggled from his father's arms and got to the side of his playmate.

"You can't play space rangers at anyone's house but ours, mate, and then only in the yard." Spike winced, and glared at Xander. "On second thought, you can play it at Tanya's, since it was her daddy that taught you how to play."

"I did not!" Xander lied defensively. "Except for- yeah, I totally did. But I never taught him all the crazy slayer-esque moves that go with it. That's what killed your dishwasher, and I already paid for half."

William and Tanya listened to their fathers arguing, long ago learning to accept it as background noise. "So, how d'you play tea party?"

"You get all dressed up, and then you drink tea, and then you throw all the tea bags in a harbor."

"What's a- harbor?"




"I thought you had to sit down for it."

"That'd be boring. In the book I read, they dumped lots of tea in the harbor and it started a fight."

"Fights are good." William looked at the girl beside him. "You can read? We're not even in big kid school yet!"

"Just some." She blushed. Her daddy said she was going to be smart like her mommy.

"I can't read. 'M not smart." He shrugged. His mommy said he was going to be smart, like his daddy, but he couldn't read. He wasn't smart like Tanya, but that was okay. They could still play together.

"It's okay. You're strong." William could pick her up, all the way up, right off the ground. Tanya smiled at him, her mother's enthusiasm for education suddenly bursting out, "I can teach you to read, if you want!"

He grabbed her hard around the waist in a tumbling hug, stopping when he heard her squeal of pain. "Ooops." He looked guiltily at her.

"Oh no." Buffy realized too late that she'd stopped paying attention to them, engrossed in the laundry list of insults her two favorite men were exchanging- severely creative stuff, Spike resorting to various languages to further frustrate his partner in the shouting match. "Will! Did you hurt Tanya?" She couldn't believe that he would, certainly not on purpose, but Tanya was sniffling.

"I hugged her too hard." He looked miserable. He didn't mean to do it. His parents understood, they were super strong, too. Tanya brushed off her dad's comforting hand and hugged William back, as hard as she could.

"Say ow." She hissed in his ear.

"OW!" He shouted.

"Okay, you two, enough of that." Buffy separated them. "Let's just try to make it through tonight without injuring anyone or anything."

"Luv, we made it through patrol, we've got Will dropped at Willow's, can you please come to bed?"

"No." She was looking frantically through her side of the bureau for something.

"Are you upset about those minions? I mean, they all say that, don't they- 'Come to steal the child' blah, blah, blah. Only thing that ever happens is they get killed a bit more viciously."

"I'm not worried about them. Even though I do hate it." She huffed, and moved on to the closet.

"Would you at least tell me what you're lookin' for?"

"The necklace."

"Which necklace?" Spike stopped reclining in bed, and sat up with a worried frown.

"THE necklace. Spiffy clean love necklace." A clatter of shoe boxes and a hurled pair of sandals accompanied a frustrated cry.

"The baby-makin' one?"

"Yeah, that. I know I put it somewhere safe."

"You did. I took it." Spike confessed. The noises stopped, and she exited the closet slowly.

"You took it?" She looked at him puzzled. "Well- can you find it for me?"

"No." He had dreaded this moment for two years, ever since they adjusted to family life with a baby in tow.

"No? You don't get to just tell me no, Spike."

"Well, were you gonna tell me before you came to bed that you were wearin' that thing?"

"Yes!" She'd felt the urge growing for a few months, but today it was overpowering, like part of her was already beginning to fall in love with another little miracle, another piece of him. "Yes, I totally would tell you!" She bit her lip. "Or not. I-I thought it would be a good surprise. Like normal couples. The whole thing where the wife runs in, waving the little plastic test and they hug, and there's suddenly really corny music in the background?"

"You wanted to surprise me with a commercial?" He smiled dryly.

"You're right, we should've talked about it." She looked lovingly up at him. "I love William J. almost as much as I love you. And the only reason I love you more- is because you're my everything, Spike. But I love him so much. You two are the best things that ever happened to me."

"Buffy, I know. You an' him are the best things that ever happened to me as well."

"I see how he is with Tanya. He loves her. They're like brother and sister and best friends. Partners in crime."

"I'll have to go on eBay an' see if I can find that china pattern for Vance." Spike recalled the evening's babysitter report.

"The point is- he's got a best friend, but there will never, ever be another kid like him, unless we make one."

"Pet, you can't 'make' a life so someone has a companion. You ever see Bride of Frankenstein? I mean, look at all the trouble that stirred up."

"That movie's so not real. Although, we had the same thing happen in high school, so ..."

"File that in the 'tell Spike later' pile, Luv, 'cause I never did hear that one. But you see my point."

"I love having a sister. When I don't want to strangle her. But there's no relationship like it. Spike- did you-"

"No. Mum was 'delicate'. They just had me, that lived anyway, before Father left."

"Your dad left you?" Buffy gasped painfully.

"Not like your dad, no. He went to India, try to help quell the uprising, between the Indians and Brits who were ruling the place. 1858, maybe, I think it was. They quelled him instead. All the Brits they found in Delhi- " he broke off, shaking his head. "I was just a tiny thing then. Five or six. He died serving Queen and country. Broke Mum's heart in pieces. Knew I had to take care of her then, prolly why I stayed so close to the nest."

"I'm sorry, Baby. I'm so sorry." Buffy wrapped herself in his arms, and they shared a moment of grief for those long gone, but still remembered. "You've never said-"

"I gotta put it behind me, don't I? I've got my own wife, my own son, to look after. I'm finally a good man, Buffy." He beamed at her suddenly. "I'm finally the man you deserve, aren't I?"

"Better than I deserve." She whispered, kissing him. And the kissing got deeper, and deeper, until all thoughts of life and death, old family and new family, were just a blur in the background.

Until it was over. Then a new life was the first thing in Buffy's mind. "Don't you see why I want another baby with you? For William, yes, but for us. I love you, Spike Summers. You're the kind of dad every kid should have. Loving, fun, loyal, protective, smart."

"You want this because Will's different though, Luv, isn't that right? Do you want to subject someone else to those 'differences'?"

"He's happy. Baby, he's happy. Does it-" she swallowed a rapidly rising lump in her throat, "does it matter if you're different, if you're loved and happy?" Tears glimmered in her eyes and her mind showed him a life time of being different, some of it happy, some of it deeply depressing. But then he came along, her mind blossomed, high speed images, a whir of colors and love, and experiences, being different no longer mattering because they were together, truly happy. "See what my life is like now?"

" Yes, Luv. Mine's like that, too, Pet." He stroked her hair softly. "Because of you." He turned serious, voice strengthening, and eyes burning hers. "And that's why I hid the necklace. We got William. I love that. But I damn near thought I was about to lose you. William's the best boy in the world, Luv, an' I'd do it again in a heartbeat to have him. But I won't risk you again. Never. Ever. Again."

"Okay." She said softly. "Okay." She sounded resigned, and defeated. and it pierced his heart.

"Don't sound like that, Luv, you never give up. That's a givin' up voice!" Why couldn't she accept it without that tone that made his soul ache?

"But I don't want to argue with you. I don't want to make you do things you don't want."

"It's not that I don't want it, Sweetheart, it's that I don't want to risk losing the best thing in the universe. You. 'Cause that's how you feel to me. Plus, if you-" he swallowed, "I know you can't die without me taggin' along, but doesn't mean you can't be disabled for a long time. What would Will an' I do without you? You're the heart of us."

Buffy paused, moved, as she so often was by the poet lurking under the bad boy exterior. She paused, laying her head on his chest, deep in thought, listening to his silent chest, watching it rise on occasion as he took an unneeded gulp of air. "Spike?We're idiots." She said suddenly, breaking the reflective mood.

"Gotta say, Slayer, I never expected that." She sat up abruptly, and started rummaging in his side of the bureau this time. "Hey! What's goin' on, I thought-"

"We're so totally stupid. Why did you worry about me last time?"

" Oh, let's see. The baby wasn't growin' to spec, you barely gained any weight until the end, you were sick as a dog for about a month, an' you had the baby delivered by Willow in our bedroom!" He got up and pulled her firmly away from the drawers. "I don't know how to get it through your sweet little skull-"

"We didn't have a doctor who understood anything then. Now we have Vance. And soon we might have Joey. Vance's got everything she could possibly need right here in Pine Ridge, and even if she was called away on Alliance business, Joey could fly over. We didn't have a doctor last time who knew things. We spent the first half of the pregnancy thinking we were going to lose him, have him taken away. Now we have a doctor who's like our stepmom. Who's majorly big into protecting the family. She's all about the family. Well, she's all about 'Ripper', and by extension, us."

"Uh... good point." Spike finally conceded. "But that doesn't mean this is a good idea, Pet."

"It does so too mean that!" Buffy glared at him. "I can get regular check ups, every week, if I wanted, and this'll be so much better, Spike. We can-we can get those cute little ultrasound photos every month. We can hear the heartbeat on the monitor and not worry because we know that's how it should sound. We won't have to hide this time, because everyone already knows 'the chosen baby' is here. It's always the first born, right? Actually, I totally don't believe that, look at Dawn… but anyway, we're all protected up." She pouted and wheedled, running her hands slowly up and down Spike's arms and chest, lips getting closer and closer to his skin, until she could feel him tensing, keeping his hands in fists at his sides, so he wouldn't touch her, start to give in.

"We need time to think about it."

"Pregnant sex. Buffy buffet." She pushed her breasts into his chest. " And this time I can shop for cute outfits. I bet some place sells really hot maternity lingerie. I was thinking something in a kind of low cut red lace v for the panties, and matching bra? It'll have to be bigger than I'm wearing now,of course, what with all those nummy hormones making the cup size increase..."

"Bloody hell, woman." Spike let himself give in with a pained gasp. "You should work as hostage negotiator or a government interrogator or somethin'. People'd crack under you in a minute..."

"But I can't use these techniques on just anybody." She laughed, nibbling one of his nipples, hands tracing lower and lower until they brushed his hardness. "I only want it if you really want it." She looked up at him, glossed lips and big green eyes tempting him, squeezing him inside. " Do you want it, Baby?"

"God, yes!" He picked her up and pushed her back up against the wall, sliding her down onto his rigidness with a low roar. "God, yes, I want this."

"Where's the necklace?" She purred.

He smirked. "You'd never guess in a million years. It's been under your nose since the day we moved in, and you'd never think to look there."

"Stop teasing me, and tell me." She begged.

"It would have to be someplace where no one would see it. Where you'd never think to look. And where it would never be forgotten if we moved or had to make a run for it."

"Tell me or I'm getting off this ride." She gasped, arching into him.

He smirked more broadly and carried her over a few steps, then lifted her up off of him for a moment. "Grab that." He nodded to the framed marriage license that hung in the center of the wall, now flanked by photos of Dawn's graduation, Willow and Xander's "reception" at Bacchus, Giles and Vance's wedding, photos of them as a family and lots of pictures of William and Tanya. "The license."

"Spike, seriously what-"

"Look at the back." He instructed. She flipped the frame over, and the Amore Immaculate was taped to the wooden backing of the frame. "The two most important non-livin' things in this house. What gave me you. What gave us him."

"You're so sweet." She snuggled back into his arms with a kiss, tugging the necklace free carefully.

"Not as sweet as you." He licked her lips, then her claim.

"But seriously-" She twined her arms around his neck and regarded him with a laughing look in her eyes. "You taped a two thousand year old sacred talisman to the back of a piece of wood. Shouldn't this have been in a safe or at least a little velvet jewelry box?"

"Hey!" He said defensively. "I used very good stuff. Name brand." And they laughed as they collapsed onto the bed.

Several months later…

"Did you pick a name, yet?" Lizzie crawled into her mother's lap, finding it difficult, owing to the bulge of her growing little brother that was there.

"Patrick. Or Maxwell. What do you think?"

"Max. For Uncle Max. Because Uncle Pat has kids and he doesn't."

"You're a smart little Lizard, aren't you?" Essie kissed her daughter's curly head. "Aww! Are you hugging little Max?" Lizzie wrapped her arms around the bump.

"Kinda. Hugging you both. I miss Sul. When's he coming back?"

"September 1st." Essie sighed heavily. "We miss him, too."

"I'll be glad when Max gets here. 'Cause then I'm never gonna not have a brother around."

"Oh, you think that's great now, but just wait until you're older..." Jim, overhearing the conversation between his two girls made a comment.

"I am always gonna love my brothers!" Lizzie said stubbornly, and squeezed Essie's stomach extra hard.

Many Years Later…

"I told you this would happen one day." Xander spat. "One day she'd realize he wasn't just a 'brother' to her."

"You win, okay, geez!" Buffy turned to her best friend. Xander had aged, now in mid-30's, while she and Spike remained frozen in time, the same age they had been at the time of the claim, for Buffy, early twenties, for Spike, an endless twenty eight.

"Well- should we break it up or something?" Xander moved the back porch curtain again and winced. "Your son is groping my baby girl!"

"They're 16! They're not groping anything! Wait until they head to the De Soto, then we can worry." Buffy was mildly shocked, but then again, she was also happy. William hadn't really seemed into any girl in particular, although all of them were interested in him. She was glad he had high standards. Tanya was the smartest, sweetest girl you could ask for, and beautiful, long dark hair, perfect skin, magic powers that made Willow's look obsolete. Oddly enough, in the last ten years, it wasn't William or his little sister and brother the baddies had come for, it was always Tanya. Tanya who could melt a villain with a well placed thought, Tanya who would cry every time she accidentally stepped on a ladybug, and treated her little sister and her little "pseudo sibs" with tender affection.

"He's like his father. All leather jackets, and smooth talking, with the accent, and the hair!"

"William? My William?" Buffy gave him a disbelieving look. "You sure you aren't confusing him with some other kid?" William might look and sound like Spike, but he was no "smooth talker". He was sweet, smart, and athletic, more like his mother. Stubborn as anything, reckless sometimes. Strong, far stronger than he should be, far faster than he should be, but he had no temper at all. Laid back, but determined. Sometimes Spike said he took after his "other half", that bloke Jim, and wondered if some transcendental crossover had happened during conception.

"I can't stand here and watch this." Xander groaned.

"Watch what? What are we watching?" Spike and Willow came to the darkened porch window, falling in beside their partners. "Is it something bad?"

"Yes!" Xander told his wife.

"No!" Buffy disagreed.

"William's got himself a honey, has he?" Spike chuckled, looking out the window. " 'Bout bloody time, boy's had one hell of a followin' with the local girls. Who's the lucky lady?"

"It's Tanya." Xander said in a dead voice. Willow gasped and Spike did a full on double take.

"WHAT? Tanya? What d'you mean, 'Tanya'?"

"I mean, your son is feeling up my baby girl! That vicious little vampire spawn-"

" 'Scuse me? If your little superwicca didn't like it, she'd blink an' have my son thrown clear 'cross state lines!"

"Guys! Guys, stop!" Buffy and Willow tugged their husbands apart. "Why are you so freaked?" Willow demanded. An angry swarm of comments burst forth and she rolled her eyes. "Never mind! Stop! Honey-" she turned to Xander with melting eyes, "is there something wrong with falling for your best friend?"

"Baby, can you blame him for wanting someone he can trust, who trusts him, who believes in him, even though he's different?" Buffy rubbed Spike's back.

"Is there any guy you'd trust her with more?"

"Is there any girl sweeter? Besides Sarah Joyce, I mean." Buffy said with maternal bias.

"No." Both men admitted grudgingly.

"This is worse than when Bit fell for that stupid doctor." Spike grumbled. Then he tilted his head in thought. "No, come to think of it that was worse. 'Cause I didn't know him, didn't trust him, not like I know our kids, and if not for Vance swearin' up and down on him-"

"We know. Dead doctor. We got it." Willow laughed.

"Yes, I think we all remember that fateful day." Xander had to smile in spite of his churning worry. "Frankly, I think you were over the top. Lunging at him as soon as he got through the door, in full vamp face and dragging him down to the basement."

"Only one thing saved that boy. He said 'I hear you hate Tottenham'." Spike sighed in reminiscence. "That and he swore I had first dibs on mangling him to a pulp if he ever hurt our girl."

"He's a good guy. And William and Tanya are good kids. And they're just kids. We're way jumping the gun, here." Willow interceded. "I'm sure they're not planning to make things permanent, they're only - where'd they go?"

"Buggerin' hell!" Spike pushed out of the back door, Xander over taking him in his fatherly fury.

"Worry if they go to the De Soto, you said." He shouted to Buffy. "Did you actually watch the kids? Or the car?"

"Shut up and get out of my way!" Buffy turned on her slayer speed and burst out to the carport in the backyard. "Oh my God!"

William and Tanya looked up guiltily, standing in front of the De Soto's open hood. "Mum!"

"Daddy!" Tanya looked horrified. "Uncle Spike! This was supposed to be a surprise!"

"What, you having sex in the back of a vampire's car with a vampire's son was gonna be a gift for me?" Xander shouted.

"Sex?" Tanya burst into tears." Wh-what do you mean? W-we weren't..."

"Wouldn't we be in the back of the car, not under the hood if we were gonna do stuff?" William asked with a casual slouch towards his overreactive family. He reached back and pulled Tanya with him. "Don't cry, Green Eyes." He stroked her long hair comfortingly, something he'd always done, ever since he was small and she'd started having magically induced headaches when she had trouble controlling her growing powers.

"Boy has a point." Spike smiled easily at the young couple. They were right smashing together. And Willow's words aside, about them just being kids, this not being permanent, he could look at them and see a lifetime in the way his son took her hand, and the way she unwaveringly trusted him with it. "What you doin' with my car then?"

"Tanya said she could fix the carburetor- maybe. If not, we're gonna order the parts for you."

"So- you just thought we were doing stuff?" Tanya glared around resentfully. "Why?"

"We kinda saw kissage happening." Buffy confessed.

"Mum! You we're spyin' on us?" William, not easily riled, started to get angry. "That's not on!"

"We weren't spying, Will, I promise. We just- saw."

"Daddy, how could you?" Tanya stomped one petite foot.

"Why is it always me, never your mother who gets the stomp?" Xander demanded, pointed to Willow.

"It's the father-daughter bond, Sweetie." Willow grinned complacently.

"Thank you, Luvs." Spike derailed the conversation. "Been worried about the carburetor for some time. Tanya, show us what's to be done?"

"I can't figure it out. Mom?"

Willow stepped up to the car. "Well, I haven't done hardcore mechanical diagnosis in a long time, but I think I can help..."

"I acted stupid. Huh, Buff?"

"Maybe a little 'overzealous'." She leaned her head into her "brother's" arm as they walked back into the house.

"I'm sorry. For what I said about William. I love all of them, all of you. Even if they're Spike's. Hell, because they're Spike's, and yours. He's a rotten guy, but he's a good friend, a good husband, and a good dad. William, SJ, and Alex are good kids."

"Is there a but coming? 'Cause it feels like a but should be coming." Buffy looked up at him affectionately.

"The vampires always get the girl. It was never me. Never the normal guy." He sighed deeply, head tilting back, looking up at the starry sky. "Not that I'm complaining. I got Anya. I got Willow. Now I have Tanya and Lexy. I'm glad you've got what you've got. It's just- you know." He turned towards her. One more precious thing to him was probably destined to go to something with a touch of souled human with demon accents.

"I do know." She gently kissed his cheek. He'd always loved her, and even when he wasn't in love with her, she knew her choices in men often puzzled him. "But you know what?" She nodded her head to where the two teens were now hugging and whooping victoriously over a roaring engine.

"What? Them?"

"Yeah. Looks like one of the Harris kids finally gets one of the Summers." She winked.

"Hey. Yeah, you're right!" Then he shrugged, trying not to look too pleased with himself, or rather, the extension of himself. "Oh, well. Not like it's anything more than puppy love, right?"

"Xander! You know what happens when you jinx things like that!"

"I know." He smiled triumphantly.

"Now they're gonna end up getting old and gray together." She bit back a grin.

"Probably." He made no effort to conceal his look of pleasure.

"You were all freaked out Papa Bear a second ago."

"She'll grow up, whether I like it or not. And she's gonna fall in love with some guy, whether or not I want her to." He wrapped one muscled arm around the woman he'd loved, in one way or another, for over twenty years. "You can't do better than finding someone you'd like to hang with for all eternity. A best friend." He looked over to Willow. "And someone you can love, even more than that. The best thing is if you can put all of it together in one person."

Buffy looked over at Spike, the man who'd become all things to her over time, best friend, partner, lover, mate, husband, father of her children, and caught his eye. He smiled with that tongue curling grin and a wink that still managed to make her feel tingly, even after all this time. "That is the best, Xan. It's kinda like heaven."

Author's Note:

This story has consisted of large chunks of life, and there isn't room to tell every detail of everyone's story, at least not here. Many of these moments gone by are included in Deleted Scenes, which can be read at any point from now on.

The next chapter will be the finale (well, it's supposed to be the final chapter, but you know I go on) and will have an epilogue-ish feel, trying to wrap up the story. My goal is to make sure the story's major loose ends wrap up and reach the conclusion lurking in the back of my mind. Thank you to all who have hung in there this far.