|Story Title:||Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?|
Mother and Child Reunion
(In the Rome!Universe)
June, 2004 - July, 2004
Joshua "JJ" Harris was born on April 21st, 2004
The twins (Danielle, "Dani" and William, "Billy") were born on February 12th, 2004
Annie turned five on February 14th.
Spike and Buffy have been married five years in February. (seems longer, doesn't it?)
Buffy turned 23 on January 19th.
All the Potentials were endowed with full Slayer power in February 2003.
Buffy and Spike learned of the other dimensions in May, 2003.
The Black Thorn been taken out, the demon army’s been defeated and Spike’s gotten his memories back … now, they just need to get back home… Will Angel be a help or a hindrance to them?
Heartfelt thanks to my "ET" and wonderful Beta,
her wonderful suggestions, much needed corrections and always
“Mother and Child Reunion”, Paul Simon
This story involves jumping dimensions to the Universe where Angel and his team work for W&H - where Buffy visited before and sent Spike to Rome to be with the Buffy in that dimension. In lieu of calling it the "EvilJoss!" Universe, which is what I normally call it in my own mind, I'm calling it the "Rome!" Universe.
Where characters cross over (where the same character from both universes are in the story), I will differentiate the ones from the Rome Universe by calling them Rome!Spike or Rome!Buffy, for example. If, however, only one of the characters is present, then I won't make that distinction.
|Rating / Warnings:||
NC17. Content is only suitable for mature adults. Contains explicit language, sex, adult themes and other adult situations that some people may find objectionable. If you are under the age of 17 or find any of these themes objectionable – GO AWAY. Parents, it is up to YOU to control what your children are reading.
Wednesday, June 31st, 2004
Downstairs, the main group was gathered in Angel’s office waiting for Spike, Buffy and Andrew. Spike dropped the trunk behind the receptionist’s counter before following Buffy and Andrew into the crowded office and closing the door.
“Sorry for the hold up …” Buffy started, looking at Rome!Buffy. “What’s the news?”
“Well, lucky for us, Spike didn’t have to use any of his tact for us to see Riley,” Rome!Buffy started. “Riley had our people …umm … cleaned up ... he's got corner's reports and whatever – they're ready to be transferred to funeral homes. We just need to tell him what to do. I got his direct line, so we don’t have to play ‘I-Spy’ with the phone operator anymore.”
“What are you going to do … about Willow?” Buffy asked Rome!Buffy softly.
Rome!Buffy sighed and Rome!Spike laid a hand on her back for support. “Well, I’d love to bury her in Sunnydale next to Tara …but … no Sunnydale. Her parents moved to Norway to work at the university there … I have to try and contact them, I guess…” Rome!Buffy told the group as she blinked back tears.
“Maybe we could have a memorial service in Sunnydale,” Tara suggested quietly. “Where her body is isn’t as important as where her spirit is … her spirit’s with Tara …”
Rome!Buffy wiped tears away and nodded her agreement. “Yeah … we can do that. That would be nice,” she said as she tried to keep her voice even.
“So….any idea how we’re getting all our asses back to our own dimension?” Faith spoke up, changing the subject. “We have the vials of Annie’s blood that we brought with us hidden between here and the W&H building, but that building wasn’t looking too 'five by five' the last we saw it.”
It hadn't occurred to Buffy that, of course, Giles and Faith would've brought vials of blood with them, as well - and there was no one left in the W&H building when they arrived to take it away from them. It was a relief to not have to rely on Angel to give them the blood back...or to have to get Dawn flown over from Rome.
“Do you think it’s safe to go back there?” Buffy asked looking at Giles.
Giles sighed and shrugged. “That’s difficult to say, Buffy … even if the building is still standing, are the Senior Partners … or any of their proxies, monitoring it? Who would know the most about them? Angel?”
“No … Lindsey,” Buffy told him. “I’ll go get him.”
Lindsey scratched his head and ran his hand through his hair as he stood in front of the group gathered in Angel’s office. “The spot where that building stands has ancient power – it wasn’t chosen at random, and they won’t simply abandon it because they lost this battle. The war is far from over … millennia from being over,” Lindsey started to explain to the group.
“They may be regrouping … licking their wounds, assessing the damage and not paying attention to it right now. On the other hand, they may have a hundred demons waiting inside guarding it. The only way to know for sure, is to send someone to check,” Lindsey told them.
“I vote we send Angel,” Spike spoke up immediately, raising his hand. “All in favor?”
Rome!Spike raised his hand quickly, as did Faith, Willow, and Tara and both Giles’. Both Buffys just rolled their eyes.
“Motion passed. Angel it is, then!” Spike announced. “Won’t he be tickled? Number one draft in the first round!”
“OH!” Andrew exclaimed. “Do it again! I forgot to raise my hand!”
“Too late,” Spike told him. “Shall I go get ‘im and tell him the good news?” he asked, looking hopefully at Buffy.
“Hang on a minute …” Buffy started. “If we send him in and he doesn’t come out … how will we know what happened to him? He could go in and just sneak out the back door and we’d never know …”
“Why would he do that?” Lindsey asked, looking confused.
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Long story – just trust me, he might.”
“OH! OH! OH!” Andrew exclaimed, holding his hand up like Horshack on ‘Welcome Back, Kotter’.
“What, Andrew!?” Rome!Spike asked him, his hands going to his hips.
“I’m the answer to your prayers!” Andrew exclaimed.
“I seriously doubt that,” Rome!Spike told him with a smirk.
“No! Angel!” Andrew explained. “I can hook up a small camera on his shirt … he won’t even know it’s there! It’s called a button-cam and we can see whatever he’s seeing!”
“Brilliant!” Spike exclaimed. “Why don’ we have an Andrew?” he asked, looking at Buffy.
“You know why … ‘cause I was home with you instead of saving his sorry ass on Prom Night,” Buffy reminded him.
“Hey! I was just about to suggest the same thing!” Willow interjected. “I can do button-cam’s, too, ya know!”
“Sorry, Red …” Spike told her, looking away so she couldn’t see him roll his eyes.
“Ok, so, that’s a plan, then,” Buffy summarized. “Andrew, you do the button thing; Faith, why don’t you take some of your Slayer’s and go retrieve the blood to open the portal in case we can get in the building; Willow and Tara, we probably need to start thinking about getting more food for the girls … ummm, I don’t have any money left though …”
“I do,” Spike volunteered, pulling Angel’s American Express card out of his pocket and handing it to Willow. “No credit limit … lobster tails, Dom Perignon, and filet mignon all ‘round!”
“Are you serious?” Willow looked wide-eyed between Buffy and Spike.
“As a heart attack … oh, and get some more bloomin’ onions, too,” Spike told her.
“And some “911” spicy wings from Hooter’s,” Rome!Spike added.
"And some chocolate," both Buffys put in at once.
“Cool!” Willow exclaimed and she and Tara headed out to make the arrangements for dinner, Angel’s credit card in hand.
Buffy looked at Rome!Buffy and spoke softly. “When do you want to have that service like Tara suggested?”
Rome!Buffy sighed and shrugged. “Tonight, I guess … we can all drive down to what was Sunnydale, then come back and send Angel into the lion’s den …”
“Ok,” Buffy agreed. “Listen, we need to talk to you two about Angel a minute … alone,” Buffy said, looking around and silently asking everyone else to leave.
When the remainder of the occupants of the office filed out, Spike went out and brought Angel’s trunk in and dropped it down heavily on Angel’s desk. Buffy pulled the pages of the diary out of her pocket and handed them to Rome!Buffy before opening the trunk and explaining the significance of it all.
“So, Angel’s a … stalker?” Rome!Buffy asked, still not quite able to believe it, when Buffy had finished talking.
"Bloody wanker!" Rome!Spike exclaimed, leafing through the pictures and stuffing the 'best' ones in the pocket of his duster.
“Yeah … pretty much,” Buffy agreed with Rome!Buffy.
“What did you do about it in your dimension?” Rome!Buffy asked Buffy.
Buffy sighed. “Not enough … he just kept coming back and coming back … no matter what I told him or what he said, he’d never stop fucking with us. I finally dropped him to the bottom of the ocean … Faith wanted to dust him…I probably should have.”
“Thanks,” Rome!Buffy told Buffy as she closed the lid on the trunk, still in a daze as she tried to absorb the fact that Angel had been stalking her since before she was even called and had continued do so even up until the last days before she and Rome!Spike had left Rome to come to L.A. for the wedding and claim ceremony.
Buffy knew the feeling well. It had taken her a long time to come to grips with the fact that Angel really was nothing more than Angelus with a thin muzzle on him in the form of his soul – one that he could break out of if he tried hard enough. After all, he had Liam’s soul, and as Spike had told Buffy many times, Liam wasn’t the most upstanding citizen to start with.
"What are you gonna do?" Buffy asked her counterpart.
"I don't know..." Rome!Buffy responded, her mind still whirling, trying to process it all.
"Dust the wanker," Rome!Spike suggested. "I volunteer ..." he said as he started for the door.
Rome!Buffy laid a hand on his arm and stopped him. "Let's see what happens with the Wolfram & Hart mission ... maybe the decision will be made for us."
Spike, Buffy, Rome!Spike, Rome!Buffy, Willow, Tara, Andrew and both Giles’ made the trip to what used to be Sunnydale later that evening. They arrived a little after sunset and pulled their cars up to the crater that had once been their town. The headlights of their cars shown off across the nothingness where their world had once stood and the light was quickly swallowed up by the emptiness that remained.
The only ones that had actually seen the crater that had formed when Rome!Spike and the others had defeated The First and closed the Hellmouth were Rome!Buffy, Andrew, and Rome!Giles. Even Spike and Buffy, who had the memories of their counterparts from Sunnydale in the deep recesses of their minds, hadn’t seen the destruction since the Spike and Buffy whose memories they had been given, had both burned up in the Hellmouth.
They all stood in silence at the edge of the crater, trying to really comprehend that this was Sunnydale. In this dimension, this was all that was left of it. Their houses were gone, the high school was gone, the college was gone … all the cemeteries where they’d spent so many nights patrolling, fighting, talking, crying, laughing, and growing up were gone.
Buffy was doubly glad that Spike had pulled that amulet off her neck in the Hellmouth in their dimension when she scanned the barren wasteland that remained. Even if, as in this dimension, she had been re-animated in L.A. with Angel and had left there to find Spike, Sunnydale would’ve still been gone – and there were so many memories here that would’ve been nothing more than clouded shadows buried under the rubble.
Even though Buffy had lived in L.A. for many more years than she had in Sunnydale, it was in Sunnydale that she’d really grown up. It was here that she fell in love, gotten her heart broken, learned that life’s not fair. It was here that she met Giles, Willow and Xander, Anya, Tara… and Spike. It was here that her mother died and was buried … it was here that she had been buried when she died, here that her babies had been born, and it was here that she’d learned what her true destiny was. To be part of a kooky family of witches and demons who sometimes saved the world … sometimes argued over wet towels on the floor, sometimes didn’t follow all the house rules … but loved each other all the time and had each other’s backs without question or hesitation.
Rome!Buffy pulled everyone from their thoughts by lighting a candle and setting it down on the rim of the crater. She went down on her knees in front of the candle and hung her head as tears fell unhindered from her eyes.
“Willow … I miss you already. I don’t know how you think I’m going to do this without you around. You’ve always been there – right from the very first day,” Rome!Buffy started, speaking softly, almost to herself.
“Always there in my crazy life, helping me to make sense of my calling, of my life, of love and heartbreak … of algebra. I wish we could bury you with Tara, I know you would’ve liked that - I know she would’ve liked that, too …
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry I wasn’t strong enough or fast enough to save you; I’m sorry that you got dragged into my fight yet again. It’s never been fair – all my friends just want to help me and they all get hurt or killed for it … Tara, Anya … even Xander, he’s not the man he was before … and now you.
“With friends like me, who needs enemies?” Rome!Buffy quipped through her tears as she stared blindly at the flame that danced atop the white pillar candle in front of her.
“I love you, Willow… I’m so, so very sorry,” Rome!Buffy cried as she covered her face with her hands and sobs overtook her. Rome!Spike knelt down beside her and pulled her to him and Rome!Buffy wrapped her arms around his neck and cried against his shoulder.
Rome!Giles lit his candle and set it on the rim next to Rome!Buffy’s. “Willow Danielle Rosenberg was a girl when I met her. Eager to learn … hungry for knowledge – a true and loyal friend who gave up a life of limitless possibilities and chose to remain on the Hellmouth – to fight evil in all its forms. She grew into a beautiful woman and learned many hard lessons in her too short life – her wit and fire will be sorely missed. She had so much left to give this world … the world will be a more barren place for the loss.”
Rome!Giles backed up away from the candle and the rim of the crater, removing his glasses and wiping the tears from his eyes as he moved to the side and allowed Tara to take his place at the makeshift altar.
Tara lit her candle and set it down with the others on the rim. She extended her hand behind her towards Willow and Willow took Tara’s hand and stepped forward, lighting her candle from Tara’s and setting it down next to it.
“I love you, Willow,” Tara began, looking at her girlfriend. “I know we say those words a lot, but it’s true. Those three little words mean so much…much more than you’d think three words could mean.
“They mean you’re my best friend. They mean you’re my lover, my confidant, my teacher, my student, my soulmate … my dreams come true. You make me laugh and cry, make me scream and sigh and make me thankful for every day we’re together.”
Tara turned towards Rome!Buffy before continuing. “Willow loved all her friends … she loved you Buffy … and Spike, Giles and Xander – with all her heart. And she loved Tara. Know that she’s with her love now … she’s with Tara and she’s watching over all her friends, just like always.
“When you feel a breeze on your face, but the wind isn’t blowing … that will be Willow. When you feel a gentle hand steering you when you’re unsure of what path to take, that will be Willow, and when you laugh for no reason at all … that will be Willow. Keep her spirit in your heart and she’ll be with you always.”
Willow drew Tara into a hug. “I love you, too,” Willow whispered to Tara as she hugged her tightly. “Grow old with me. Marry me.”
Tara pulled back and gave Willow a small smile. With tear-streaked cheeks, she nodded. “Yes ... yes,” Tara whispered back and pulled Willow back into her arms. “I love you.”
Buffy and Spike stepped forward and lit their candles from Willow and Tara’s and set them on the rim of the crater and Giles did the same, then they stepped back. Willow and Tara released the hug and moved back as well as Andrew stepped forward and lit his candle from one of the ones rimming the crater and set it down with the others.
Andrew stood back up, looked out over the dark crater and took a deep, shuddering breath before beginning. “We are assembled here today, to pay final respects to our honored dead. And yet, it should be noted, in the midst of our sorrow, this death takes place in the shadow of new life. She did not feel this sacrifice a vain or empty one, and we will not debate her profound wisdom at these proceedings…”
“Andrew, what the bloody hell are you on about?” Spike asked, walking up next to him. “We ain’t sending Spock out the soddin’ torpedo chute!”
Andrew pouted and looked at Spike. “But what she did was the same,” he whined. “She gave her life so others could live … ‘The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few … or the one,’” Andrew reminded him, raising his chin and looking away from Spike and back over the empty crater.
“Of my friend, I can only say this: of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, hers was the most... human,” Andrew concluded before reaching in his pocket and pulling out a pair of plastic, pointy, costume Vulcan ears and laying them down next to the burning candles. “Live long and prosper…” he whispered as he stood up and backed away from the crater.
Everyone stood in silence for a long while, lost in their own thoughts. Only sobs and occasional sniffles broke the silence as the flames of the candles danced in the breeze.
Finally, Rome!Buffy pulled away from Rome!Spike and nodded for him to go. They both stood up and Rome!Spike moved forward, lit his candle and set it down with the others.
Rome!Spike stood for a long time looking out over the crater that was once his home, his prison … his downfall and his redemption. Finally, Rome!Spike smiled sadly as tears glistened in his eyes and said simply, “I'd bite you in a heartbeat, Red.”
Rome!Buffy moved up to him and wrapped her arms around his waist and he hugged her to his side and dropped a kiss on the top of her head.
Suddenly, a strong wind came up from nowhere and blew all the candles out … but the light remained. A ghostly Willow stood before them, bathed in brilliant glow and hovering over the deep crater. She smiled at them and was joined by a ghostly Tara before they both turned and floated gently away, down into the deepest depths of the crater that had been Sunnydale, until the light was gone completely. Then, just as suddenly as they had gone out, all the candles reignited, casting a soft glow over the people that had become Willow’s family – the people that she called true friends.
“Goodbye, Wills,” Rome!Buffy whispered. “I love you.”
Thursday, July 1st, 2004, (Early morning hours)
Later that night, the entire Hyperion hotel had cleared out – all the Slayers, the Champions, the warriors, the witches … and Andrew … stood on the sidewalk a block away from the W&H building behind another skyscraper – out of the direct line of sight from anyone or anything that may be in ‘Evil, Inc.’s’ crumbling headquarters.
Spike and Buffy were at the front of the group and they ventured a look around the corner of the building they were behind. The W&H building looked like it was about to fall down … most of the windows were broken out, they could see girders buckled and broken and fallen concrete and glass covered the street. The city had closed the roads near the building and plastered big, red “Condemned – NO ENTRY” signs on it.
Buffy and Spike ducked back behind the building where everyone else was waiting. “Well, the building is still there, such as it is,” Buffy started. “Now, we just need to find out if there’s anything waiting for us inside.”
“Angel, are you ready?” Buffy asked, looking at the broody vampire.
“I still say Lindsey should go – the Senior Partners can’t see him!” Angel argued.
“Ahhhh, but you were voted in … all fair and square like,” Spike reminded him. “This is America, after all. Home of the free and land of revolving credit.”
Angel rolled his eyes and started to walk past Spike and Buffy towards the building, resigned to his fate. “Wait!” Buffy said, stopping him. “Put this on …” she instructed him, handing him a jacket.
“Why?” Angel asked, looking at the brightly colored jacket with distaste.
“It’s the latest style …” Spike opined.
“Spike!” Buffy admonished her husband, before turning back to Angel. “It will help keep you hidden from the Senior Partners. Willow and Tara put some mojo on it …”
Angel raised his brows and looked at Willow and Willow nodded in agreement. He sighed and took the jacket and put it on before turning and heading down the street towards the W&H building.
“Is that the best jacket you could find to put the button-cam on, Andrew!?” Buffy asked him in hushed tones. “He almost balked at that!”
“Well, yeah … on short notice and in ‘size Angel’ … It is the latest style,” Andrew defended. “The lady at the Goodwill store told me so!”
Buffy rolled her eyes and motioned with her hand for Andrew to open his laptop computer and show them what was going on with Angel.
Angel walked cautiously up to the front doors of the W&H building listening for any sounds or signs of life coming from the building, but he didn’t hear anything. Both Buffys and Spikes, along with Rome!Giles and Lindsey watched the computer screen over Andrew’s shoulder to see what Angel was doing and what, if any, demons he encountered.
Angel ducked down and stepped through a broken plate-glass window – glass and debris crunched under his feet, announcing his arrival and he cringed inwardly. Stealthy! he thought, rolling his eyes as he stood back up and stopped just inside the first floor lobby. Angel waited a minute, and when nothing happened, he started moving again. When he reached the stairwell, he pulled on the door, but it wouldn’t open. He pulled harder … nothing. The building must have gone into emergency lockdown mode after they had left it.
“Break the bloody door down, wanker!” Spike advised in a stage whisper as he watched the computer screen.
“Those doors are triple reinforced steel,” Lindsey informed them, keeping his voice low. “He can’t break it down. He needs to enter his override code on the keypad … which will probably send a signal directly to the Senior Partners …
“We need to get some climbing gear, some grappling hooks and climb up to at least the fifth floor … the doors from there on up aren’t reinforced,” Lindsey suggested.
Buffy sighed. “Ok, Lindsey – go get Angel and tell him to come back and wait. Faith … where’s Faith?” Buffy asked looking around and finally spotting the other ‘senior Slayer’ sitting on the curb a few yards away smoking a cigarette. Buffy walked over to her and Faith stood up.
“We up already, B?” Faith asked, dropping the cigarette to the ground and crushing it out.
“No, not exactly … we need some climbing gear – how do you feel about a ‘want, take, have’ mission?” Buffy asked her.
“I’m five by five!” Faith responded with a grin. “What do we need?”
“I’ll tell ya on the way … let’s go,” Buffy told her as she started walking in the direction of an REI store she’d seen a few blocks away.
When Buffy and Faith got back with the climbing gear and tried to give it to Angel, he just looked at it. “Did you steal this?” Angel asked accusingly, looking between Buffy and Faith.
“Nooo… that would be wrong!” Buffy told him, rolling her eyes. “We left your American Express card as payment … for the supplies and damages.”
“What!? What damages? Where’d you get my American Express card?” Angel asked them, incredulous.
“Take a pill, big guy! That’ll be nothing compared to the bill for dinner …” Faith assured him with a grin. “That Dom sure tickles your nose.”
“WHAT!?” Angel started again before rolling his head back to the sky and sighing deeply. “I guess I deserved that…” he said, resigned.
“And so much more….” Buffy told him with a smirk. “Now, go make like Batman and climb up the building like a good vampire. We’ll wait here.”
“Great …” Angel said with a sigh as he took the ropes from Buffy and headed back towards the building.
“He’s gonna wake the fucking dead with all that racket,” Lindsey commented, watching Angel unsuccessfully try to get the grappling hook to catch. Angel threw the grappling hook up and tried unsuccessfully to hook it on one of the supports of the fifth floor four times.
Lindsey sighed and left the relative protection of the building they were waiting behind and ran over to Angel as he tried for the fifth time to throw the hook up and get it to catch.
“Give me that!” Lindsey said in a stage whisper through gritted teeth, taking the rope and hook from Angel’s hands. “You’re holding the rope too tight … see?” Lindsey showed Angel. “It takes a light touch … pretend you’re touching a woman … not a rhinoceros!”
Angel rolled his eyes and waved his arm out, inviting Lindsey to try. Lindsey shook his head and rolled the excess rope up in one hand, then began swinging the hook like a lasso over his head, letting out more and more rope as he went until he had enough momentum to take the hook far enough up the building. At just the right moment, he let go of the rope, allowing the momentum of the hook to pull the excess rope easily from his other hand as it flew through the air towards the building.
The hook wrapped around one of the window supports on the sixth floor and caught. Lindsey pulled down hard on the rope to make sure it was secure and then swung it at Angel.
“Think you can handle it now, big guy?” Lindsey asked with a smirk, as he turned and walked back towards where the others were waiting.
Angel climbed up the rope and went into the sixth floor of the building. There were no demons in sight as he went to the stairwell and kicked open the door and waited … but nothing emerged from the stairs or converged on the noise.
Buffy, Spike and the rest watched Andrew’s computer as Angel made his way up the stairs to the floor where the portal opened – the floor where his office had been located. They all held their breath as Angel opened the door cautiously and looked out … nothing. Angel stood up straight and walked out into the lobby where he’d fought and killed Hamilton.
Hamilton’s body was gone … but there didn’t appear to be anyone or anything there waiting for them. Angel took a deep breath and let it out as he looked around. Everything looked just as it had when they fled the crumbling building a couple of days ago … except for Hamilton being gone.
“It looks alright,” Buffy observed, as she watched the computer screen. “What do you think?” she asked, looking at Lindsey.
Lindsey shrugged. “Maybe we hurt them worse than I thought. It would’ve taken a lot of energy to get all those demons here … not to mention losing the Black Thorn members …” he commented. “They may have to regroup, recharge.”
Buffy turned to Rome!Buffy. “I guess we better get while the gettin’s good,” she told her. “I’m really sorry about Willow,” Buffy told her again, pulling Rome!Buffy into a hug.
“Thanks … thanks for everything. Not sure if anyone would’ve made it without the extra help you brought,” Rome!Buffy told her as she pulled back out of the hug.
“And thanks for this, too,” Rome!Buffy said as she reached behind her neck and undid the clasp on the necklace she wore – the necklace Buffy had given her to wear as the ‘borrowed’ part of her wedding ceremony, and held it up. Buffy turned around and lifted her hair out of the way and Rome!Buffy fastened the thin, gold chain that held ‘William’s heart’ back around Buffy’s neck.
“We have one other thing for you guys,” Buffy told Rome!Buffy and Rome!Spike. Spike pulled some papers out of the pocket of his duster and held out to the newlyweds.
Rome!Buffy opened them and her eyes went wide. “Oh my God! A real honeymoon!? How!? How did you manage this?”
“Luckily, Angel’s American Express ain’t got no spendin’ limit,” Spike smirked as Rome!Buffy hugged Buffy’s neck.
“It looks beautiful!! Where is Maldives, anyway?” Rome!Buffy asked, looking between Spike and Buffy.
“Off India,” Spike told her. “Gotcha the whole honeymoon package - ten days and nine nights a’ white sand, blue water, and sunshine – no news, no shoes. First class airfare there and then back to Rome. Includes the whole works - all expenses paid!”
Rome!Buffy shook her head in disbelief as she looked at all the papers in her hand. First class airline tickets to India then private plane tickets to Maldives and a private speedboat to the resort they’d be staying at. All meals, drinks, tips ... everything they could want, was included.
Tears glistened in Rome!Buffy’s eyes as she leaned back against Rome!Spike’s chest and let him look at the brochure and tickets over her shoulder. “We were gonna stay at the Comfort Inn near Universal…” Rome!Buffy laughed. “It was the cheapest … God! This is unbelievable! Thank you so much!” Rome!Buffy pulled Buffy back into hug and then hugged Spike.
Rome!Spike hugged Buffy and shook Spike’s hand. “Take care of that family o’ yours,” he told them.
“We will, don’t worry. You’ve got some catching up to do,” Buffy told him with a wink and a smile.
“I’ll get right on that,” he replied with a smirk.
It was so hard to say goodbye. Buffy knew they needed to go, but she knew she’d miss their counterparts when they were separated again. And now she wasn’t sure how they’d ever be able to come back since the only portal they knew of for certain came to this dimension landed them in the middle of Wolfram & Hart … and the Senior Partners had a pretty long memory.
“I love you,” Buffy told Rome!Spike as she hugged him one last time. “Take care of each other.”
“I love you too, Slayer,” Rome!Spike told her before releasing her and backing up for Rome!Buffy to hug her one more time.
“Talk to him, Buffy,” Buffy advised her counterpart. “He understands more than you think.”
Rome!Buffy pulled back and smiled and nodded as she fought back tears. “Be careful,” she advised them as she stepped back next to Rome!Spike and wrapped her arm around his waist.
Buffy nodded and took a deep breath. “Ok, let’s get this show on the road!” she announced and Faith, along with her Slayers started moving towards the building. Faith went up the rope first, followed by Tara and Willow and the Slayers Faith had brought with her. They carried the bodies of the Slayers that had perished in the battle with them so they could be given a proper burial in their own hometowns, in their own dimension.
When they were all up, Buffy helped Giles get up the rope as Spike held the rope steady below them, then it was his turn. Andrew took the rope from him to hold it steady. “It was good working with you,” Andrew told Spike as he tried to remain professional. “I think we make a good team.”
“The brawn and the brains, yeah?” Spike agreed.“Next time, you get to be the brawn … deal?” Spike asked Andrew with a smile, extending his hand to him to seal the deal.
Andrew shook Spike’s hand a little more enthusiastically than was required and smiled wide. “Deal!” he agreed before pulling Spike into a hug. Spike rolled his eyes and pushed Andrew off him.
"Gotta go, Sluggo ... Take care o’ yourself,” Spike called back as he started up the rope.
“You too!” Andrew replied as he watched Spike climb the rope, noting how the muscles of his arms and back strained against his t-shirt as he moved easily up the side of the building. “Body of a Greek god …” Andrew sighed to himself as Spike disappeared into the building above.
Everyone was gathered near where they knew the portal was when Spike, Buffy and Giles made it up the stairs and into the lobby.
Angel stopped Buffy and Spike as they came out of the stairwell. “I really am sorry that you got dragged into all this…” he started.
“OH, PLEASE! Spare me!” Spike retorted. “Why don’t you tell that load of bollocks to someone who don’ know you!?”
Buffy laid her hand on Spike’s shoulder to quiet him and turned to Angel. “You really need to find a way to move on, Angel. Trust me when I tell you, the course you’re on will only lead to badness.”
Angel nodded solemnly and stepped back out of their way. Buffy looked at Faith and nodded and Faith poured a vial of Annie’s blood onto the spot. Light swirled brightly, getting larger and larger until the opening was large enough for them to fit through. The Slayers started stepping through single file when suddenly the whole building began to shake and tremble.
“FASTER!” Faith yelled at them waving her arm in a helicopter motion and the Slayers began running through the opening as the floor below them shuddered and began to crack. Plaster, glass, and drywall started falling from above them as they made their way to the portal and the ironic safety of the Hellmouth on the other side.
“GO! GO! GO!” Faith screamed at them as they dove through the portal.
When the Slayers were through, Faith jumped in, followed by Giles and Willow. Then Buffy and Spike jumped through together.
In all the confusion and rush to get out of the crumbling building, no one noticed that Tara hadn’t come through. She had been right behind Spike, but her foot caught in one of the cracks in the floor and she’d fallen, short of the portal.
“Angel!” Tara yelled, looking at the dark vampire as she tried to yank her leg free. “Help me! I can’t get out!”
Angel rushed up to her and began trying to pull her leg free of the hole it had gotten stuck in. When he couldn’t get it out, he banged down on the concrete surrounding her leg with his fist and it started to crack. After several more blows, it had opened enough to allow her to pull her leg free.
But, suddenly, just as Tara was standing up, the floor dropped six feet, leaving the portal suspended in midair. Tara and Angel both fell down when the floor dropped and they both struggled to scramble back to their feet as it continued to heave and shudder under them. Finally, Angel got his balance and helped Tara back to her feet. She reached for the portal – she could get her hands on the bottom of it, but she couldn’t pull herself up into it.
Angel started to lift her up into the portal when suddenly she turned in his arms and he felt something sharp press against his ribs. Angel’s eyes went wide as he looked down and saw a stake in Tara’s hand. Time seemed to come to a crawl as he watched Tara push the stake against his chest with all her strength, piercing his skin, splintering his ribs and threatening his heart. There was a moment, as if frozen between life and death that Angel knew what was happening, but was powerless to stop it.
Tara watched Angel's face and his aura as she pressed the stake near his heart. She hadn't planned on getting caught in the crevice in the floor, but had known, since Willow's memorial service, and finding out about Angel stalking Rome!Buffy and Rome!Spike, what needed to be done.
She hoped that she'd have an opportunity without involving either of the Buffys. Despite everything, sending Angel to hell with Acathla was still one of the hardest things Buffy had ever done and Tara knew that it would still be hard for her to dust the person she once considered her first true love, no matter how much he deserved it or how much better the world would be for the loss. Tara didn't want to involve Spike, either ... Spike would've been more than willing to do it or help her, but he was Buffy's husband now ... both Spikes - and dusting Angel could cause an irreparable rift between him and Buffy. Faith may have been able to help ... she was certainly ready and willing to do it back in their dimension if Buffy hadn't stopped her, but, Faith was almost a stranger now, she'd been gone so long; Tara was unsure if Faith would tell Buffy and ruin her plan. That left Willow ... Tara had broached the subject with her in the past, when Angel from their dimension had been haranguing them, but Willow had been noncommittal ... preferring to defer that decision to Buffy. So, that left Tara - her idea, her plan ... she'd face the consequences, if there were any, alone ... just as she now faced Angel alone.
Tara looked into Angel's eyes as they widened in surprise and fear. His aura remained constant, though - lots of red and black - just as it always was, whether he was reading a book or fighting a demon; it never changed - he never changed. He'd never leave Rome!Buffy and Rome!Spike alone ... he'd most likely never leave Lindsey and Darla alone, and he'd always find ways to drag everyone back into his 'greater good' missions - no matter the cost.
"You'll never change," Tara told him, her voice determined. "Even the PTB know you aren't the Champion here ... Spike got the prophecy, he got the Shanshu ... This is for Buffy and Spike, Lindsey and Darla, and all the Slayers and soldiers that you just killed in the name of the 'greater good' ... and, oh yeah ... for Willow,” Tara said, her voice strong and her face resolute as she shoved one last time on the stake and Angel dissolved into dust under her.
Tara fell back to the ground, dust rained down on her and the stake, which had been embedded in Angel’s torso, clattered to the ground next to her. She scrambled back to her feet and jumped towards the portal, but the floor had fallen more … the portal was out of reach, easily eight feet above her.
The whole building shook and more debris rained down on her, the floor below her was cracking and large chasms were opening in it. She looked around and grabbed a chair, but the floor was shaking so much that she couldn’t keep her balance on it and she fell back down again as the portal moved further and further away from her and started to close.
“Tara!” Lindsey exclaimed as he came out of the stairway and ran towards her. When the building started shaking and crumbling further, he'd come up to see if he could help ... if perhaps they were under attack. He was surprised to see Tara sitting alone on the floor under the portal.
Tears of frustration streaked her face as she looked up at the portal, but didn’t move to get up … it was too far – she’d never be able to get home now.
“Get your ass up!” Lindsey screamed at her, pulling her to her feet.
“It’s too late,” Tara told him.
“NEVER! It’s never too late as long as you’re breathing!” Lindsey insisted as he braced one leg out, bent at the knee. “Step here,” he told her, indicating his thigh,” “then here,” he told her, indicating his shoulder. “I’ll help you! C’mon!”
Tara grabbed Lindsey’s hand and put one foot up on his thigh as he helped her balance, but she couldn’t get her other foot up to his shoulder from there. The floor was still shaking, debris raining down on them; it was no use. Tara dropped back down on her ass on the floor.
“GET THE FUCK UP!” Lindsey yelled at her, grabbing her arms and pulling her up. “AGAIN! TRY AGAIN!” he screamed and Tara shook her head but tried again.
This time Lindsey crouched down further and helped her get her foot up onto his shoulder and boosted her up. Tara reached for the portal, but was still short, even standing on Lindsey’s shoulder.
Suddenly, Spike’s head appeared in the portal. “TARA!” he called, before seeing her below him. “BLOODY HELL!” he exclaimed when he saw her reaching towards him, towards the portal – unable to reach it. He dropped down to his stomach and leaned his torso out, grabbing her hands in his and pulling her up towards the rapidly closing opening.
Faith and Buffy pulled on Spike’s legs, pulling both Spike and Tara up and into the Hellmouth as Spike held on to Tara’s hands with a steely grip.
Lindsey watched as she lifted up off his shoulder and finally disappeared into the portal just before it closed and he breathed a sigh of relief. He looked around for Angel … but didn’t see him. The building was crumbling around him faster and faster … he couldn’t look for Angel any longer. Lindsey took off down the stairs, making it down the rope and clear of the building just as the whole thing imploded in on itself. Dust and glass, papers and plaster filled the air as the building collapsed.
Tara rolled onto her back in the Hellmouth as the portal closed behind her, trying to get her breath and calm her racing heart.
“Tara!! God! What happened!?” Willow exclaimed kneeling down and pulling her into a hug. “I thought you were right behind us!”
“Just … had … to do … one last…thing,” Tara told her between deep gulps of air, wrapping her arms around Willow and dropping her forehead against her girlfriend’s shoulder as tears of relief replaced the ones of frustration.
When she’d finally got her breath back, Tara pulled back and looked into Willow’s eyes. “You did the right thing … with Lindsey? You were right.”
Willow looked at her with a furrowed brow, questioning her silently, but Tara just smiled at her softly and started to stand up. “Let’s go home…”
Buffy and Spike took the sewers to Anya and Xander’s house where they knew Annie, Dani, and Billy would be. It was early morning, but the southern California sun was shining brightly.
Xander had linked in a passage between the sewers and the basement of the house for Spike a few months ago. He’d gotten tired of having Spike streak across the lawn from the manhole in the road, coat over his head, smoke billowing – stomping on Anya’s flowers and anything else that was in his way, to make it to the front porch before he burst into flames. Xander had already had to replace Anya’s zinnias, poppies, and geraniums three times and the neighbors were beginning to ask questions about it, too.
Buffy entered the kitchen from the basement door first and Annie spotted her immediately from where she was sitting at the counter eating breakfast. “MAMA!” she squealed, jumping down from the stool she was on and throwing herself at Buffy.
Buffy scooped her up in her arms and hugged her tight, burying her face against Annie’s hair and closing her eyes as she breathed in the scent that was Annie; Johnson’s Baby shampoo and Tutti-Fruitti bubble bath.
Anya and Xander turned away from what they were doing at the sink when Annie screamed. “Buffy!” they both exclaimed with surprise and relief as they started towards her.
Spike stepped through the door a second later and pulled Buffy and Annie into a hug, squeezing Annie tightly between them. Tears of joy and relief threatened his eyes and he closed them to fight them back. He really thought that he’d never be here again … never have them in his arms again…never smell Tutti-Fruitti bubble bath again…
Buffy leaned her forehead against Spike’s shoulder and wept … there were many times over the last days she also never thought she’d be here again, reunited with her children, her friends, her family. “I love you,” she whispered to Annie and Spike.
“I love you too, Mama,” Annie replied to her as she kept a tight hold around Buffy’s neck. “Please don’t go away again …”
Buffy smiled and pulled back from her daughter. “We won’t … we’re gonna stay here and make your life just as miserable as any parents could. How’s that sound?”
Annie clicked her tongue and rolled her eyes before laying her head back on Buffy’s shoulder. “Good …”
Anya, Xander, and Buffy brought Dani and Billy back to the mansion while Spike and Annie took the sewers home. It was nice to be back home … their family back intact. Lorne was there waiting for them and welcomed everyone home with open arms, hugs and tears of his own.
After spending time telling Xander, Anya, and Lorne about their adventure in the other dimension, Buffy and Spike headed upstairs for a much needed shower and sleep.
As Buffy picked Spike’s clothes up off the bathroom floor where he dropped them and started to put them in the hamper, she felt something in the pocket of his jeans and pulled it out.
Opening up the folded paper she found nine tickets to Disneyland and five pre-paid rooms at the Disney Grand Californian Hotel and Spa for ten days and nine nights; enough for the entire gang to go. Reading through the reservations he made, she saw that they included one ‘family’ night in Cinderella’s castle and one ‘honeymoon’ night there for them, as well as honeymoon nights for Xander and Anya, and Willow and Tara.
After her shower, she walked into their bedroom holding up the tickets and room reservations. “What’s this?” she asked, waving them at Spike, who was laying in the bed waiting for her.
Spike smirked. “Vacation…courtesy of Angel Investigations,” he told her. “It’s not Maldives…but Annie fancies it.”
Buffy laughed. “You think they’ll work here?”
Spike shrugged. “One way to find out, innit there?”
Buffy laughed and laid the tickets down on the dresser before sitting down on the edge of the bed next to Spike. “You’re one crazy vampire,” she told him with a smile, laying one hand on his chest.
Spike pursed his lips together and narrowed his eyes at Buffy, suddenly looking very serious. “Are you sorry ‘bout that?” he asked her. “The vampire part … other Spike Shanshued … Do you wish it had been me?”
Buffy tilted her head and shook her head slowly. “No,” she said softly, a small smile on her lips. “I love you just the way you are. You’re perfect - you’re exactly who I need, what I need … what I want and what I love. Don’t ever think you need to change …”
Spike smiled at her, laid his hand on the back of her neck and pulled her down to him. “I love you, Buffy,” he whispered against her lips.
“I love you too, Spike,” she murmured back before capturing his lips in a soft kiss.
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Paul Simon, Mother and Child Reunion
No I would not give you false hope