Author's Notes:

The twins' heritage is a little OTT, I know. Probably because the idea started out as silly and somehow mutated into this whole angsty backstory. I had to cut out a huge section of the epilogue because... well... not a comedy. But that idea shall go into the new short story that IS silly and fluffy (hopefully I can make it stay that way).

In my mind the PTB were involved, even though our heroes never find out for sure.

PLEASE let me know if I managed to make this work. I'll see you soon with something new (damn plot bunnies multiply like... rabbits).

Also, I've changed the epilogue to A Gem of a Soul a little bit, because enough people pointed out to me that it was too light in tone compared to the rest of the story, and it probably was, so if you want to see the changes I'll be posting it soon. Thanks!

"Hey guys!" Buffy called out across the twilit park, jogging to catch up to Tara and Willow and their children. Their toddler was snuffling softly in his sleep, safe in the sling Willow sported, while Tara pushed their daughter in a stroller.

"Buffy!" Willow said cautiously, returning her friend's hug. "Long time no see."

Buffy cringed. "Yeah, sorry."

"No, no," the witches rushed to apologize, "there's-"

"Look, I know things have gone to hell between us, and, well, it was my fault, okay?" Willow's protest died on her lips as Buffy reached out and stroked the little boy's soft, curly red hair, smiling at him – and meaning with all her heart this time. Maybe he wasn't her son, and it still hurt, but… what had Spike said? He was a nephew. An important part of her life. And she'd had a hand in making that happen.

Like Dawn. Dawn was part of her DNA, connected to her, made from her… but not hers. If her sister hadn't shared Buffy's genetic material, wouldn't Buffy have loved her just as much?

She hoped so.

Looking into her friend's hopeful face, Buffy said, "I'm not crazy-Buffy anymore. I mean, I still have some issues to work through, and Spike and I are logging major discussion hours to the point where I think I'll never want to talk again, but…"

Willow smiled, a genuine grin that fairly brightened the darkening sky. "Oh, Buffy, that's…" She leapt forward, turning sideways to avoid crushing her son and squeezing Buffy tightly. It felt good. Buffy didn't realize how much she'd missed her friend until that moment. Tara joined in the hug too, and – once again – the tears were coursing down Buffy's face, but this time they were tears of happiness.

"So, uh… I think we should have a party next week," Buffy said, the unbidden words tumbling out before she could stop herself. "I haven't had a birthday party in years, what do you think?"

"Will there be cake?" Willow smiled.

"Definitely cake. Chocolate-y cake-y goodness. With ice cream. And friends and family."

"I like this plan," Tara said.

"It's a plan I can get behind," Willow agreed.

Buffy fidgeted with her wedding ring. "Good. Because, well, I'm tired of missing out on things. I've been so… wrapped up in what I couldn't have, that I've been ignoring all the good things I do have. Like… you guys," she said shyly. "And Xander and Dawn and all the kiddies…"

Willow and Tara each took one of her hands and Buffy used the gesture to tug her friends closer. "While I'm in sharing mode… well, we haven't made any decisions yet, but… Spike and I have been discussing what we're going to do about having kids…" She trailed off and they squeezed her hands encouragingly.

Buffy thought about her husband waiting at home for her, waiting to discuss the option of surrogacy. Gazing at the witches' little boy once more, her decision was suddenly clear. "It's time to face the facts. Having a family is… so much more than just propagating genes. It would have been nice if that would have worked out for me and Spike, but… it wasn't in the cards. And funnily enough, not because my husband's a freaking undead creature of the night," she laughed. "So. We're going to adopt."

There. She'd said it.

Adoption had been the original idea, after all, back before they'd started trying to cheat nature. She grinned at her friends, the ones who had been by her side for almost twenty years now, truly happy for the first time in a long time.

Buffy said it again amidst their congratulations. "We're going to adopt." She had made her choice and it felt right.

Life was good.

"'Gain, Da-da!" Tommy squealed, his childish laughter ringing out across the park. With a grunt, Spike grabbed the baby swing in both hands and ran forward, passing under and then letting it go to swing backwards in a large arc.

Emily was not to be left out. "Me too! Me too!"

"If I'd known you lot were going to be such little dictators I would have sent you back with the stork," he growled.

"Thilly Daddy!" Emily hooted.

When they'd had their fill of the swings, the two wispy-haired blondes toddled off to a corner of the sandbox, digging happily. Spike plopped down on the nearby bench with a sigh of relief, offering the grandmotherly type on the other end a friendly smile.

"I bet those two wear you out," she smiled back.

"You don't know the half of it," he agreed. "First time their mum has left me alone with them for more'n a day or two." His phone beeped, alerting him to a new text message. "Excuse me," he said, and she nodded her understanding.

Miss U hubby. U R my strength. Never doubt it. Pick me up from airport wearing nothing but duster?

Spike smiled, tracing the words with the pad of his thumb and wishing they were Buffy's soft lips instead. He stayed lost in thought for a long while, not even noticing when the older woman left.

Coming back to himself, he crossed to his children and scooped them up. "Come on then, little nippers. Let's get you home and in the bath. We don't want to miss bedtime or Mum will have our heads."

Striding down the street with a giggling child tucked in each arm, Spike remained introspective.

His wife was an amazing woman, a hero, who had been through a hell of a lot in her short life. The last few years had been an especial kind of hell, but they'd pulled through in the end, together, and were stronger than ever. With Buffy by his side, he knew they could face whatever the universe threw at them – though Spike wasn't naïve enough to harbor any illusions that life was going to be sunshine and daisies from here on out. He and Buffy, they'd had their good days and they'd had their bad, and they would be balancing the two for the rest of their years together.

But no matter how dire things got, Spike was certain he would never stop fighting for the good ones with all he was worth.

As first one, then the other cheek was graced with a slobbery kiss, Spike squeezed his children closer and knew the fight was more than worth it. Because life?

Life was good.

Even when it wasn't.