(AUTHOR'S NOTE: Ha. FINALLY, it's finished. The end of Out Of Time: Pleistocene Panic is finally here! Thanks, if anyone waited… And thanks, even if you didn't. I know it's finished… and that's good enough for me.)
Spike groaned softly as he woke up. He felt like he'd been hit over the head with a large rock, or stepped on by a Mammoth. A Mammoth? Giles! He'd been hurt, and there was… there was… hands, in front of him. Hands? HIS hands!
He leaped off his sarcophagus, knocking the dictionary and Boggle timer onto the floor in the process. He was back! He was… alone? But… the others…
Buffy made a face and spit out a mouth full of grass. Ew. How'd she get grass in her mouth? She sat up… and couldn't quite get all four legs under her properly. She felt dizzy and confused, and… 'Jackson Johanson, Born 1932 – Died 1985'.
A tombstone? The.. She lifted her head. Yes, it was! The Johanson's big concrete angel headstone! She was back! She was human! She stood up shakily and had to grab the headstone to keep from falling over. However long she'd been stuck in that Smilodon body, it had sure thrown off her balance. She giggled softly. What would Spike say if he saw her hugging a concrete… SPIKE! She turned and RAN for his crypt.
Giles felt distinctly like he had had FAR too much to drink. His tongue was fuzzy. Instinctively, he tried to move his trunk to feel in his mouth and see what was stuck there… But his trunk didn't respond. Groggily, he opened his eyes. How deep had that spear gone, anyway? And what was… his… flat?
He was back? He was… He was back! In London, in his flat! In… London. Thousands of miles away from his family.
Well, that just wouldn't do. He quickly picked up the phone and made arrangements for the first flight back to Sunnydale.
Willow and Tara fell off their chairs in unison. It would've been hilarious, (and was to everyone else in the coffeehouse), if it hadn't been so confusing. Chairs? People? They were back! And it was as if they'd never been gone. "Our coffee is still hot!" Willow squealed excitedly. Tara grinned and kissed her girlfriend.
"GOD, I'd missed that," Willow moaned, almost purring, then they both froze.
"The Scoobies!", they said in unison… and rushed out of the coffeehouse without even bothering to FINISH their coffee.
Xander and Anya woke up at almost the same moment. Xander, however, woke up a moment earlier. He knew he was awake first because HE was the one who grabbed his fiancé' and kissed her fiercely, rather than the other way around.
"We're back, Anya!", he laughed after they broke the kiss. Anya, for her part, looked a bit dazed. Whether that was from the time travel or the kiss, she wasn't really sure. "We're completely back! We're us! We're here!"
"Where are the others, though?", the former vengeance demon slurred slightly. That made Xander stop for a moment… then grab their coats.
"Come on, honey… We're going to a family reunion."
Within twelve hours, EVERYONE was all together in the Magic Box. To a casual Scooby observer, not much would seem to have changed. After all, these were the same people who'd gathered there earlier that week, with the exception of the older, distinguished-looking librarian. But to the trained eye, there were many subtle, but exceedingly important differences.
Spike and Buffy, who before had reluctantly been in the same room with each other, and usually with a bit of distance between them, were now sitting side by side. Half the time, the petite Slayer was sitting in the vampire's lap. They nuzzled, played and laughed as if they'd been together for months. Love was so apparent from simply looking at them, that you couldn't help getting a warm fuzzy feeling in your stomach just from being near them for any length of time.
Xander and Anya, who less than a week ago had been in violent debate over something as trivial as the seating arrangement at their wedding, now were focused on the fact that there would BE a wedding. As much in love as if they were already newlyweds, they spent more time together than one would have thought healthy if they didn't know them. Now, all the Scoobies were in on the wedding plans together. Giles was to give Anya away, Dawn would be the flower girl, and Spike would be the best man, while Buffy and Willow both carried the Maid of Honor role. It would be a beautiful wedding. Not because of where anyone sat, or what they ate, but because of the love contained by the group at the heart of it.
Willow and Tara were making plans to move out of the Summers house and get a place of their own. Willow had finally managed to COMPLETELY kick her magic addiction, seemingly overnight to anyone who hadn't spent all that time without access to even a single spell ingredient, and Tara loved her all the more for it.
Giles had taken his old apartment back, moving back to Sunnydale full time. Watcher and father figure for Buffy and the Scoobies, drinking buddy for Spike, and just one of the group on nights like this, everything seemed perfect finally.
And Dawn, finally, felt that her family was whole. Together, with enough time for everyone, every day. There was always someone to talk to, from Spike to Giles. There was always someone to help her with her homework, or go to the mall with. There was always someone to watch movies or just hang out with. THIS was what a family was all about. And for someone who'd started her life as a ball of green mystical energy, she figured she hadn't done too bad for herself.
Buffy laughed at something Spike said and lightly bopped him on the back of the head with her hand. "Oh, shut up. I'm turning on the TV." She got up and went over, flicking on the TV sitting on the counter, showing the news, before going back and flopping in Spike's lap again.
Dawn blinked suddenly, looking up from her Earth Science homework. "Oh! I forgot…" She fished in her pocket and pulled out the now completely dark amulet, looking guiltily at Anya. "I want to put this back…"
Anya raised an eyebrow. "Why?", she asked bluntly. "It has no use now… Time Shifters are one use items… You might as well keep it."
Dawn blushed, but smiled. Even useless, the amulet was still pretty. "Thank you," she said happily, slipping it back into her pocket, then blinked and pulled out the piece of paper that had been in there with it. "Oh! My permission slip… Buffy, I need… uh…" She looked at the slip again, taking in the images of the Smilodons, Dire Wolves, Woolly Rhinos, and Mammoths gracing the slip. "Well, I thought I needed to go on this fieldtrip…"
Xander craned his neck over to look. "Let me see?" He looked at the slip and made a face. "Uh, Dawn? I think we've ALL had enough of that time."
"Yeah," Dawn said with a giggle. "That's EXACTLY what I was thinking." She held the slip up so the others could see, and everyone laughed. "I think I'll just skip this trip."
Xander snatched the slip from her hand and made a face at it. "Know what? How come you NEVER see any Giant Hyenas on these things, huh? I mean, it's like a… conspiracy…" He trailed off, since everyone was laughing at him, then dropped the slip and joined in the laughter. "Okay, okay… So maybe I don't HATE them anymore, alright?"
"I thought you made a handsome hyena, Xander," Anya said, kissing him gently. But her statement set everyone off again.
"Hey! Everyone, shhhh!", Willow said suddenly, pointing at the TV. "Look! It's the Tar Pits."
Everyone quieted down and looked at the TV, as the News Announcer said:
"And in other news, the largest Saber-Toothed Cat skull in recorded history has been unearthed in Pit 91 at L.A.'s famous La Brea Tar Pits. Scientists say that this cat had to have been bigger in life than any previously discovered, and there is some debate among Paleontologists if this is truly a specimen of Smilodon Californicus, or if it is a new species of cat entirely. Further testing will be conducted-" The announcer was cut off when Spike muted the TV.
"Oh, it was a bleedin' Smilodon, alright," the vampire muttered. "Just a BIG one."
Dawn grinned and hugged him. "And you faced it just to save me." She kissed Spike's cheek. "I love you."
Spike grinned. "Thanks, Nibblet."
Buffy playfully batted Dawn away. "Hey, paws off my boyfriend, Dawnie." The 'boyfriend' statement, however, made Spike grin from ear to ear, and sent everyone else into giggles once again.
Dawn just smiled.