Dear followers of "Cradle",

Although the fic is now over (I know, I can barely believe it myself), please permit me this final chapter to offer gratitude, gushing, and something resembling an explanation.  A critical essay, if you will, on how and why this monstrosity… um, I mean, epic came about.

This is the DVD extras section.  Only you don't have to pay extra for it, and it plays on all-region players ;)



Many thanks, of course, to absolutely everyone out there who reviewed – there are too many of you to thank individually – both here on and via email.  The positive feedback has been overwhelming, to say the least, and the slightly more negative feedback has been helpful in making me actually think about things.  However, special thanks go to all of the following:

~kmoody, for being the first to offer decent, critical, constructive comments, and for enrolling me so nicely into the Buffyfic community.

~ Darryl J, for the lengthy reviews (that I always look forward to), the constant, torturous poking, and for 'getting it' before I'd even told him what 'it' was (more on that later.)

~ Firelily, for bugging me endlessly to finish.

~ Cyril, who, despite a decided lack of reviews *pointed stare* has been helpful and wonderful throughout.  Yes, even when complaining about the fluff.

~ all the other fabulous reviewers out there too numerous to mention, and anyone who read without reviewing, I LOVE YOU ALL!  Although I love the non-reviewers slightly less.

Special acknowledgements must go out to the following people, even though the likelihood of them reading this is very slim (but, hey, I can dream):

~ Joss and co., for creating them in the first place

~ Sarah, James, Alyson, Nicholas, Emma, Michelle, Amber, Anthony, and anyone else, for playing them all and aiding my hallucinations

~ and an extra special thank you to James, in particular, for just being utterly fabulous and one HECK of a cuddler.

The How and Why

Okay, you've sat through all thirty chapters of angst, fluff, and catfights, and for that, I commend you, especially those who stuck with this from the start.  You have stamina, I'll give you that much.  But I thought I'd better explain just how this thing came about.  I'm an English geek, and I have a desperate urge to explain myself at every turn.  Deal.

When I started this, I did not, in any way, anticipate it becoming the bloody huge thing it is now.  In fact, it was meant to be a short fic, and the only reason I wrote it at all was as an excuse for shameless fluffy Spuffy.  Believe it or not, it all stemmed from a dream.  Yes, a dream.  No, I do not dream entire episode-length adventures in my head.  My dreams are bizarre at best, and when they're not, they're sporadic and unconnected.  This particular dream was all about Spike and Willow, who, both on the rebound, ended up together through comfort, thereby making Buffy jealous.  That's what I think it was about, anyway… it was so vague, I can barely remember it.

It got me thinking.  I started wondering how I could turn it into a fic, and decided it might, actually, possibly, if I tried hard enough, work.  The problem is, I have a Fix-It Complex: when writers leave us in a mess, I need to clean it up.  And thus, I had to get Spike back from Africa before I could do anything.  I got that semi-sorted in chapter one – Spike argues with shaman, shaman offers Spike a deal.  Hurrah.  We're in business.  Only this was when I realised I could suddenly write the characters (my last attempt at a Buffyfic being somewhat dire) and so, on I went to fix all the other problems Joss had left us with while I was at it.

Bad idea.

That's when I realised it was going to need chapters, and thank God I did, otherwise it would probably never have gotten off the ground.  By default, it also needed a title.  I'm a sucker for one-word titles, especially when they encompass a lengthy story and most of its themes.  I was, however, at a loss, and since I didn't even have much of a plot figured out, either, I just thought of something provisionally.  The title, "Cradle", merely came out because I thought, "what's the opposite of 'Grave', anyway?"  Voila.  The title.

I was fully anticipating having to change it at some point, only then I got thinking some more (hey, it was a long summer, and Sky One were showing continual daily repeats of Season 4…)  Cradle à birth à rebirth à THEME!

And, amazingly enough, my theme not only worked with what I had already (then, approximately three chapters), but did so continually, right through to the end of the fic.  In some places, it was deliberate; in others, less so, making me pleasantly surprised on re-reading…  If anyone missed it (or for those who didn't, and wants to know if they were right), here's a basic list of that theme, broken down into characters and relationships.

Buffy – her 'rebirth' begins almost immediately, and happens in three stages: admitted her feelings to herself, to the Scoobies (specifically, Giles), and to Spike.  Also, to a lesser degree, there's the whole incident with the magic and going to England, where she sorts out her head a little.

Spike – he gains a soul, and begins his own process of rebirth.  He turns his life around for Buffy, and becomes accepted by the Scoobies.  He still has a way to go, though.  There's still the bathroom thing for him to get over.

Giles – his role as 'the adult' causes him to eventually realise that he's not needed at all, and he starts over in England.  It seemed like the coward's way out not saying goodbye to the Scoobs, I know, but by saying goodbye, he'd be tying himself to them ever more permanently.  By leaving in silence, he's just starting over, and so are they.  Which probably makes more sense in my head, but it's 1.40am here, so gimme a break ;)

Xander – his responsibility for Willow's well-being helps him to come to terms with his own life.  The attack on Spike was uncalled-for, I realise, but he came out of it a better person.  Sometimes, we have to go a little crazy before we can go sane.

Willow – she goes through several rebirths.  Tara's first visitation is what provokes her to survive and pulls her back to Earth from whatever dark, desperate place she'd put herself in.  By purging the magic, and losing her own, she emptied herself of everything bad, and then Tara's donation of her own powers is what brings back the good in her.

Anya – she reintegrates into the gang, and makes up with Xander.  On a more physical, literal level, her livlihood – the magic shop – is being rebuilt.

Dawn – okay, you got me.  Not my most favourite character.  But even Dawn gets somewhat reborn in this, training as Slayer the Second.

Tara – it would have been easy – too easy – to just resurrect her in this, considering the theme, but I didn't.  It would've been too much, too soon, and also far too cheesy.  Instead, she is reborn in spirit form in the mirror dimension, and through donating her powers to Willow.  Some part of Tara lives on.

Buffy/Spike – my central relationship.  Whoa, long journey, huh?  But, as you probably noticed, their relationship is starting again, from scratch, and will proceed at a normal pace.  And this time, it's based not on lust and hurt, but basic and requited love, on either side.  Personally, I'd say that's a far healthier relationship, wouldn't you?  There's only one remaining issue – trust.  Buffy hasn't explicitly told Spike that she trusts him.  And that's where "Cold Trust" comes in.  Go read it.  Go on.  Just click on that little author name up there…

Buffy/Giles – my secondary 'ship of choice, explained (I hope) via Giles' feelings in chapter 25.  They are reborn, not as Slayer/Watcher, not as substitute father/daughter, not even as lovers, but as friends.  There's mutual respect, and mutual need; the miles between them will probably actually strengthen the bond.

Xander/Anya – they've still got a long way to go, but, just like Buffy and Spike, are going to start over.  I debated for a while over whether to make this X/A friendly, or G/A friendly; it became X/A purely because it was easier for me to write.  I've never been a G/A shipper, and it didn't gel with what I was trying to do for B/G.  But anyway, I think it worked =)

Willow/Tara – Willow has accepted and mourned Tara's death.  Now that she knows Tara is in a better place, she's ready to move on.  It's not so much a rebirth as an ending, but, as stated, a part of Tara will always be in Willow, and it's made her stronger for it.

Xander/Willow – another of my 'ships of choice, but I had to tone it down and make it a friendship, playing on the end of "Grave".  Their close friendship has grown closer because of what they went through together, and they've accepted who the other is.  Their final conversation in chapter 30 has finally put Xander's fears throughout the ordeal to rest.

Anya/Giles – again, not my 'ship of choice, and apologies to any A/G-ers that wanted me to try.  It's impossible to keep everyone happy, as Joss will probably tell you (re: "End of Days"…)  However, I do think Anya's worked through her crush – that's all I've ever really gotten from their interaction, even after "Tabula Rasa" – and appreciates his effort to get her back in the fold.

Spike/Xander – you know, I had such fun with this one =)  Take a relationship based on intense mistrust and battling testosterone, and mess with it til it results in something intense.  The fight was the end of it.  I knew from the start that Xander was going to (almost) win it – on his end, it takes Spike down a peg or two, and on Spike's side, it puts Xander in a higher esteem.  I think they could almost be friends, one day…

Spike/Anya – well, I knew that "Entropy" thing couldn't go un-dealt with.  At first I was going to leave it at their conversation on patrol, but when Darryl complained, I realised he was right.  It wasn't good for them just to forget about it, because it did happen for a reason.  These two have always been on fairly decent terms, I think, so I just went with it.  Mutual understanding.  Always good.  I can just see them in a few years, sharing stories about each other's relationships over beer…

Spike/Willow – my plot premise.  And it occurred right in the middle of Chapter 17.  Yup, that was it.  The seedling that became the mighty tree was that one little scene with Spike comforting Willow.  Which isn't the point, I realise.  There wasn't much here to actually resurrect, as it were.  They've never been on bad terms, really.  I suppose they're slightly closer because of that moment.

There are, of course, others.  But I'll be here all bloody night if I go through every possible permutation, and I don't want to do all the work.  Feel free to re-read and analyse to your heart's content; maybe you'll spot things even I missed.  If you do, email me =)

So.  There you have it.  The story of "Cradle", its origins, its endings.  I hope you've enjoyed taking the journey with me, and I hope future readers will continue to enjoy it, albeit without the suspense of my horribly long gaps between updates =S  Thank you for your continued support.  This is the most amount of reviews I've received on record for a single fic!

And now for the obligatory self-plugging ;)

If you liked this, go and read the aforementioned "Cold Trust", and "Dawn's Prom Night", which are slightly lighter stories set in the post-"Cradle" timeline.  There's also "Electric Light", a Season 4 Spike-centric standalone.  Also, if anyone desperately wishes to read the first fic I ever wrote, it's on my website.  Go clicking and find it.  And soon, you can see the Crossover of Doom, provisionally entitled BuffyPotterNetDiscScape (that one's definitely going to change) – it's a melting pot of five fandoms, and probably a few more later on, set after my infamous "Farscape" fic, "That's MY Underwear!" – but I'm sure it'll make… some sense if you haven't read that one…

Anyway.  I shall now sign off, before I start gushing.

Au revoir

T'eyla Minh