Alternate Universe: Unexpected
Story Title: Can't Buy Me Love

Chapter Title:


Hungry Heart

Chapter Summary:


Will a surprise visitor ruin Thanksgiving or can Buffy vanquish old ghosts?


Time line:

November 2010



MacKenzie Verity Weckerly born October 9th, 2010

Edmond “Eddie” Giles Rosenberg-Maclay born March 11, 2010

Joshua "JJ" Harris was born on April 21st, 2004

The twins (Danielle Dawn, "Dani" and William Rupert, "Billy") were born on February 12th, 2004.

Annie was born on February 14th, 1999

Spike and Buffy  were married in  February 1999

Buffy was born January 19th, 1981

William/Spike was turned by Dru in 1880 1890; first came to Sunnydale in September of 1997


All the Potentials were endowed with full Slayer power in February 2003.

Buffy and Spike learned of the other dimensions and got the memories from the 'Rome' Universe in May, 2003.

The ‘Wish-World’ lasted from January 19th, 2005 to January, 16th 2010.



Music Referenced:

Hungry Heart, Bruce Springsteen


ScreenCaps courtesy of ScreenCap Paradise:



Thanks to 'epd4' for betaing this chapter. Any mistakes are mine because I can't stop fiddling ...

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.

(Thanksgiving) Thursday, November 25th, 2010, 9:15am:


Buffy was just putting the turkey in the oven after getting the kids some breakfast; the ritual sacrifice with pie was scheduled to commence around two or two-thirty, but the house was already filling up with people.  Of course Tara and Willow were there since they were staying at the mansion this week, they could barely pry Edmond out of Giles’ arms to feed and bathe the baby, so, needless to say, the Watcher was also there.  Anya had sent Xander and JJ away while she put the finishing touches on the desserts, so they were at the mansion, as well.  Lorne, she knew, wouldn’t be by until perhaps noon at the soonest – he wasn’t a morning person at all, which wasn’t surprising since he normally worked until 3am six nights a week, and the same was true for Clem … although what he did all night only vaguely resembled ‘work’ in that he sometimes made money at it … playing poker in the back room at Willy’s. Faith and Spike were both still asleep, since they, too were ‘night people’.


Wes and Fred were spending the holiday together and alone … they didn’t get a lot of time together since she still lived in L.A. and he still lived in Sunnydale, so all holidays represented an opportunity for alone togetherness.


The only one obviously missing was Bess.  Buffy wiped her hands and came out of the kitchen, stopping at the research table to check on their girl.  She’d left Cleveland a couple of nights ago and had made a fairly quick trip to Philadelphia, where she’d been since yesterday. 


Willow came up next to Buffy and studied the map with her. “Do you think she’ll find any answers there?” Willow questioned, frowning slightly.


Buffy shook her head. “I don’t know … Spike says you can never go home again, but …” Buffy shrugged.


“I don’t know … you know what they say … home's the place that, when you have to go there…” Willow started.


“They have to take you,” Buffy finished with a sigh. “Not sure if that applies a century later.”


“Yeah … it could be a little awkward having Thanksgiving with strangers who are living in your house…” Willow agreed.


Buffy snorted a soft laugh and nodded. “Do you have that spell ready for later?” Buffy asked her friend.


“Yeah – no problem,” Willow assured her, before Giles came up and interrupted them.


“Do you have more nappies? I believe these are soiled,” he pointed out, holding Eddie up and away from his body as far as possible.


Willow scrunched up her nose against the aroma. “What was your first clue? The paint peeling off the walls or the buzzards circling?”


“Oh, God, Wills … don’t even say that!” Buffy grimaced and ducked, looking around warily in fear that the new paint would, indeed, start peeling off the walls.


“Sorry …” Willow apologized before leading the way upstairs to the 'nappy' supply, Giles following behind her, still holding the baby at arm’s length.


Buffy turned back to the map and sighed, laying her hand down near the glowing orb that represented Bess. “Please find what you’re looking for…please come home,” she whispered to her daughter softly.






Spike ventured down the stairs towards the mêlée of children and adults who all seemed to be talking at once while Christmas music played in the background, a reporter previewed the upcoming Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on the telly, and a fire crackled heartily in the fireplace. About halfway down he stopped and just surveyed the scene below him.


Willow was talking to Annie, Dani, JJ, and Billy … it was her normal ‘Thanksgiving isn’t about blending two cultures, it’s about one culture wiping out another and stealing their land’ speech.  Spike could just about repeat it verbatim now, and he wasn’t too proud to cannibalize her speech for his own uses when appropriate.  Annie’s teachers had heard it more than once, he knew … and now Dani, Billy, and JJ’s teachers would have the pleasure soon, no doubt about it. It was Willow’s traditional contribution to the holiday; the Honey Baked Ham was Tara’s. Buffy always got a phone call from the school as Thanksgiving approached, as soon as Annie’s teachers started spewing the same old misinformation about the pilgrims and Indians, Annie started correcting and questioning the teacher’s facts.  Buffy typically just had Willow call them back…


Giles was sitting on the floor with Eddie who was playing with a roller coaster bead maze; it was a game of moving colorful cubes and balls back and forth on equally colorful, criss-crossing wires. Giles was trying to get the child to put all the same color and shape together in one place … Eddie had other ideas.


Tara and Buffy were talking about Bess … Buffy was holding MacKenzie, jiggling the baby gently against her chest, while trying to pick the child-psychologist’s brain about the whole situation with their eldest girl and how she could’ve handled it differently.


“Buffy, I doubt anything you said that night would’ve made any difference,” Tara assured her. “Bess knew that you wouldn’t be happy with her new … job.  She may have actually done it specifically to get a rise out of you … to test you. Children constantly test the rules – push the envelope to see what they can get away with.  On the surface, they rebel against the rules and the discipline, but deep inside they know that if you didn’t care, you wouldn’t set boundaries.  They need to know there are limits … it makes them feel safe and loved,” Tara explained.


Buffy sighed. “Maybe if she was five that would work … not a hundred and five…” Buffy offered.


Tara shook her head. “From what you’re telling me, her emotional development was still at the level of a child – a pubescent teenager, but her experience has been ‘love equals loss’ … the more rules you gave her, the more she knew deep down inside that you loved her and the more that frightened her.  I think her outburst was a defense mechanism … striking out at you to keep you at arm’s length … hurting you before you had the chance to hurt her,” Tara theorized.


 Buffy frowned. “I could’ve handled ‘arm’s length’ … but my arms aren’t two thousand miles long!  Why couldn’t she have just gone across town … maybe to Xander’s or Giles’?”


Tara shook her head and gave Buffy a sad, crooked smile. “I don’t know … Spike’s probably right, she’s probably looking for the place that she remembers feeling the safest – what she thinks of as ‘home’.  She doesn’t really clearly remember anyone being her parents except Wanda and John … they’re her … her anchor, her roots.  She may be looking for answers that just don’t exist … like why she keeps losing the people she loves.”


Buffy snorted softly and her frown deepened. “If she’d just come back, we’d show her that isn’t true…”


“I think she needs to realize that on her own,” Tara concluded.


Buffy nodded sadly. “I hope she can…”


Tara shrugged and Buffy sighed deeply. “Here, can you hold the punkin while I check the turkey?” Buffy asked, holding MacKenzie out towards her friend.


Tara smiled and took the baby eagerly. “Thought you’d never ask. I’ve lost my baby … his father won’t share.”


Buffy laughed and looked at Giles, sitting on the floor like a ten year old, his legs crossed Indian style with Eddie sitting a couple of feet away. The boy had lost interest in the rollercoaster maze game and was now rolling a colorful ball back and forth across the floor with his father.


“Well, don’t think of it as losing a son but gaining one...” Buffy commented as she stood up. “They’re so cute at that age,” she quipped before heading for the kitchen.


Spike felt a warmth that seemed to blossom from within him as he took in the whole scene.  It was like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life … well, if Norm painted in the Twilight Zone.  How this group of misfits could turn into such a close family never ceased to amaze Spike, and that he was accepted into the fold, considered one of them, was even more astounding.  In all the years traveling with his clan … Angelus, Darla, and Dru, he never felt like this. The only thing that had ever come close was the years with his first family, but even then there was always a … detached coldness about Cecily that never would allow the love inside him to fully unfurl.  There was no coldness in this room, in this house or in this family. They didn’t always get along perfectly, they occasionally grated on each other’s nerves, and things were hard for many of them economically, but when it mattered, they knew they could count on each other for anything.


Spike was drawn from his reverie by a stranger coming in through the garden doors. The man stopped and looked around at what must’ve seemed to be utter chaos to an outsider, but no one even seemed to notice him. Spike headed the rest of the way down the stairs … If they’ve sent a bloody bill collector out on Thanksgiving I’ll …




“Spike!” Buffy yelled for her husband from the kitchen. “Spiiike!”


“Buffy,” Spike replied as he came in from the great room, his voice even, almost apologetic … sympathetic.


“Spike, something’s wrong with…” Buffy began, her head in the oven – which was cold, along with the turkey. “…the oven. I was running the dishwasher and …” Buffy continued, turning her attention to the also cold and dry dishwasher.


“Buffy…” Spike repeated a little more loudly, trying to get her attention.


“... now neither one of them is …” Buffy turned around. “…Dad!”


“Buffy,” Hank Summers replied, smiling sweetly and crossing the short distance to pull his daughter into a hug.


Buffy’s eyes went wide as she stood dumbfounded as her father hugged her. She looked past him at Spike, questioning. Spike shrugged and shook his head. Let himself in, he did… Spike sent her through the bond in explanation.


“What? … When? … Dad? …” Buffy stammered when he released her, looking between Spike and her father, like a deer caught in the headlights.


 "I rang the bell, but I guess no one heard with the music and TV blaring and all that racket,” Hank explained. “This … uhhh … guy … rescued me from the commotion out there.”


“Dad?” Buffy questioned again, still not quite believing her eyes. “What …”


“You look good, Buffy! I see you’re living up to your mantra, though – never met a chocolate bar you didn’t like!” Hank teased, patting a hand on Buffy’s abdomen.


Buffy frowned. “I … had kids … I just had a baby last month.”


Hank nodded and laughed. “Yeah, your mother, God rest her soul, used that excuse for about fifteen years as I recall…”


Buffy’s frown deepened. “Mom wasn’t…”


“She always liked to cook in grubby clothes, too … well, if you could call it cooking,” Hank continued blithely, the smile never leaving his lips.


Buffy looked down at her clothes, jeans, t-shirt … no shoes … there were some unidentified stains … maybe a little gravy, or spit-up, on the t-shirt, but … what the hell? It’s impossible to stay clean with a six week old baby. "There wasn't anything wrong with Mom's cooking..." Buffy muttered, lifting her eyes back to her father.


“Just finally got a bit a' meat on ‘er bones,” Spike jumped in, moving up to Buffy’s side and putting an arm over her shoulder protectively.


 “Some cushion for the pushin’, if ya know what I mean,” Spike winked at Hank and smirked, running his tongue slowly over his teeth. Buffy hit him in the ribs with her elbow and Spike ‘ooomphed’ lightly, rubbing at the spot with his free hand.


“Dad – this … this is my husband, Spike … but I guess you already met,” Buffy offered, prying her brain away from her grubby clothes, and Spike’s suggestiveness in front of her father, still in shock over him even being here.


Hank’s brows went up in surprise. “This … this is what you’re married to? What happened to William?! Ran him off and re-married already? What kind of name is Spike, anyway? Sounds like a jailhouse nickname.”


Spike narrowed his eyes at the man. “Used to work on the railroad … given name’s William,” Spike explained coldly.


What are you doing here? How did you even find me?” Buffy wondered, ignoring the silent posturing between the two men.


“I’m … between jobs – moving back to L.A. – thought I’d stop in and see my favorite daughter. Is that a crime?”


“You could’ve … called first. You … you didn’t even come to Mom’s funeral …” Buffy pointed out.


“I sent flowers,” Hank defended. “And I didn’t have your number … plus, since when does family have to call ahead? Hey, you know what they say, home's the place that, when you have to go there, they have to take you. And home will always be where my little girl is.”


Buffy frowned at that statement. He’d never lived in Sunnydale and he’d only visited a couple of times when she first moved here with her mom. Home my ass. “Yeah, I remember the flowers … you sent poinsettias,” Buffy agreed coldly, her agitation growing. “You might’ve had the number if you’d bothered returning any of my calls or letters…”


“Your thank you card said the flowers were ‘lovely’.” Hank pulled the thank you card that had been sent for the flowers out of his pocket, he also had their wedding announcement out of the newspaper and a birth announcement for Annie that Joyce must’ve sent him. Buffy now knew how he’d found her, the return address on the thank you card envelope. Buffy hadn’t sent them – Willow and Tara had, Buffy was too despondent to function at that point.


All the cards said that, Dad – it’s called being polite. It was February – not Christmas. Mom didn’t even like poinsettias that much. You couldn’t have sent roses? You were married to her for almost twenty years! You didn’t think that deserved something better than leftover Christmas flowers?” Buffy argued.


“I see you got your mother’s temper,” Hank observed, unfazed by Buffy’s outburst. “Hope you didn’t inherit her cooking skills too! Joyce was a lot of things, but Julia Child wasn’t one of them…”


"Mom was a good cook ..." Buffy began to defend again when she felt Spike’s growl vibrate against her where his body was touching hers – he could tease her about her cooking, but no one else better say a bloody word. “Spike … honey, could you and Xander go downstairs and check the breakers?” Buffy requested, turning to her husband. “The oven and dishwasher are both dead and I don’t think anyone but Clem likes raw turkey…”


You sure? Spike asked silently, pulling his angry eyes away from her berk of a father and looking at her.


Yeah… please?


Spike nodded and released his hold on her before heading out to find the problem with the electricity.


“Need me to come with you? I’m pretty handy …” Hank offered.


“No!” both Buffy and Spike answered at once.


Hank sauntered further into the kitchen and looked around. It looked like a bomb might’ve gone off with all food that was in the process of being prepared. “I see you didn’t get your mom’s penchant for cleanliness … you could eat off her floors, I’ll always give her credit for that,” Hank remarked as he bent down and picked up a small piece of celery that had fallen onto the floor.


Buffy frowned and plucked the celery from his hand. “That’s an offering to the god of ceramic tile … it keeps it from cracking under the strain of my weight,” Buffy quipped dryly, dropping the celery back onto the floor. “And, anyway … we saved all year and bought a whole set of dishes – they match and everything, so you don’t actually have to eat off the floor.”


Hank watched the celery fall back to the tile and shrugged. “So, aren’t you gonna offer your old man a beer?” he asked amiably, looking back up at her.


Buffy raised her brows. At ten am? she questioned silently, but went to the refrigerator anyway. She started to pull out a Michelob Ultra, Clem’s preferred beverage, but her dad reached in past her and grabbed one of Spike’s Wells Bombardiers that Lorne had gotten imported for him from England especially for the holiday.


“Generally prefer German beer over English swill, but I guess if that’s all you have,” Hank commented as he opened the bottle and took a deep swallow.


Buffy choked back a protest as she put the Mic back and closed the refrigerator.  “You never answered my question, what are you doing here?” she reminded him, turning to face him and crossing her arms over her chest.


“I told you, just in the area … wanted to spend some time with my girl, meet my granddaughter. Is that too much to ask?” Hank replied, taking another nip of the ‘English swill’.


“Anne, right?” her father questioned. “Let’s see,” he started, looking at the birth announcement. “How old is she now … ten?”


“Eleven … and we have three more now… which you might’ve known if you’d ever taken a minute to call or write,” Buffy informed him, dropping her hands to her hips.


“Wow – your boy must make a good living. What did you say he does again? Railroad work?” Hank questioned.


“He’s in security …” Buffy answered truthfully, if slightly vaguely. “And he’s not a boy.”


“Really!? I could use some advice on the security system in my new house in Malibu …” Hank began.


“Not that kind of security … more like personal security,” Buffy corrected.


“Ohhh … a bodyguard, huh? Looks a little small for that kinda work. Any clients I’d know? Rock stars?”


“I don’t think so – his work’s more … clandestine … top secret stuff,” Buffy provided, still not really lying – Scooby work was ‘top secret’ … she was just stretching things a bit.


“Should be on now, luv…” Spike interrupted their conversation as he came back in the kitchen. “Harris says the blokes that hooked up the dishwasher bollixed it up … don’t run them both at once ‘til he can fix it.”


“Ok, thanks …” Buffy addressed her husband before going back to the oven to make sure it was working again.


“So, Spike – you do a lot of traveling in your line of work, I suppose,” Hank started, taking another sip of his beer.


Spike’s brows shot up. “Done my share…” he replied. What line o’ work would that be, luv? Spike asked his wife silently.


Personal top secret bodyguard …


“Ever been to Germany?” Hank wondered.


“A time or two …”


 “Then I’m surprised you’re drinking this swill. Schneider Aventinus beats this English ale hands down!” Hank informed him, holding up his nearly empty bottle of Bombardier.


Spike’s brows shot up even higher. “Does it, now? I notice it ain’t stopped you from nickin’ one and downin’ it in world record time…” Spike growled.


Buffy stepped near Spike and put her hand on his back near his belt, just in case she needed to use it to pull him away from her father.


“So – Dad … what time do you have to leave to get back to Malibu?” Buffy wondered, trying to sound nonchalant.


“Oh – the house there won’t be ready for another couple of weeks. Figured I could hang out until then – get to know the granddau … kids – you know,” Hank replied with an equally nonchalant shrug, reaching in the fridge for another bottle of English swill.


“A couple of weeks?” Buffy exclaimed, the deer in the headlight look returning to her face. “I … I don’t think that would work … we’re … uhhh, going out of town tomorrow. Won’t be back until after Christmas.”


“Well…” Hank began. “… maybe I could, you know, join you…”


Buffy’s eyes widened further. “Uhhh … that would be great but we’re going to …" Buffy paused, trying to think of somewhere her father wouldn't want to go.


"Madagascar..." Buffy finally came up with at the same time Spike offered, "Zimbabwe..." then they both reversed their destinations, quickly, talking over each other.


Finally, Buffy said, "Zimbabwe then Madagascar ... and uhhhh ... you don’t have your shots,” she asserted. “They’re very strict about shots down there… it’s a whole thing … many, many … painful ... very bad shots.”


“Oh … that’s a shame. That’s alright, got plenty of friends in L.A. I need to catch up with, anyway,” Hank replied casually as Buffy’s heart slowly descended from her throat back to her chest. “I can come back down when you get back.”


“Right … uhhh … would you excuse us for a minute?  I think I hear something … someone … that needs us … somewhere … else,” Buffy stammered.


Buffy grabbed Spike’s hand and dragged him out of the kitchen into the great room and towards the stairs. Only pausing long enough to ask Willow to keep Hank contained in the kitchen and away from everyone.


“How?” Willow asked, looking warily at the entrance to the kitchen.


“I don’t know how! Use … magic! Put some magical tape over his mouth and tie him to a chair!” Buffy called in a stage whisper as she pulled Spike upstairs with her.


“Why did you let him in?” Buffy demanded of Spike whirling on him as soon as they were in their bedroom with the door closed.


“Pardon? I didn’t let ‘im in … he came in! Said he was your pop … Red confirmed it… What was I supposed to do, kick ‘im out?” Spike defended.


“Well … yeah! That would’ve been an idea! I could’ve supported that plan!” Buffy agreed as she started frantically pulling dresses out of the closest and holding them up in front of her body as she looked at them in the mirror – examining and discarding one after another.


“Buffy … calm down, luv,” Spike cooed, moving in front of her and putting his hands on her upper arms. “If ya want him kicked out … I’ll kick ‘im out.”


Buffy sighed and leaned into him, dropping the dress she’d been appraising to the floor and Spike wrapped his arms around her. “I feel like I’m ten years old … I hated him for so long after he ran off … then he sent those stupid cut-price poinsettias to the funeral and I worked so hard on just pretending he didn’t even exist … and now, it’s like – poof … I’m ten years old again and all I want is his … approval.”


Buffy lifted her misty eyes up to look at Spike. “I’m almost thirty … I have four kids … a husband, a home … great friends, a Watcher that’s been a better dad than that SOB ever was  … I’m the damn Slayer, for God’s sake! And all I want is that bastard to toss me a crumb … why do I even care? I shouldn’t care!” Buffy insisted, pulling away from Spike and pacing back and forth in the small space.


“I should be like a Carebear only … the opposite. I’m the ‘Don’t-Care-Bear’,” she admonished herself, putting a determined look on her face and lifting her chin defiantly. “I should give him a poinsettia and send him on his way! I should hate him … I should … change into nicer clothes,” Buffy sagged, picking a striped dress out of the closet and holding it up in front of herself.


“Does this make me look fat?” she asked Spike, turning to face him so he could get the full effect of the dress.


Spike sighed and rolled his eyes. “You aren’t fat and the dress ain’t a bloody quilted parka, so I’d haveta go with no!”


“I’m serious!” Buffy exclaimed, dropping that dress and going for a conservative solid black one. Black is slimming, right?


“So the bloody hell am I!” Spike insisted. “I don’t see anything wrong with what ya got on … looks bloody good to me.”


“You just like my ass in jeans…” Buffy retorted.


“And? What the bloody hell is wrong with that? Your ass looks good in jeans, pet … ‘course you’d look good in a bloody burlap sack…” Spike argued.


“Yeah, I’ve heard that one before …” she moaned as she started getting undressed.


“Buffy … you’re inside your own bloody house … dress how you want – do what you want. Only two people you got to worry about pleasing … you and me – and if you’re happy, I’m bloody happy,” Spike assured her.


“I know…” Buffy moaned, letting out a sigh as she pulled the black dress on.  “This is silly … utterly ridiculous … Why should I even care? … Honestly ... I don't care ... How do I look?”


Spike rolled his eyes. “Like a million bucks…”


Buffy fixed her hair and put on some makeup and heels. “We better get back downstairs…” she suggested when she finished.


“Buffy …” Spike stopped her and turned her to face him. “You don’t need his approval. You’re a strong, beautiful, smart, sexy woman and a caring and compassionate mum … he’s the loser that left his family. He’s the one that sent poinsettias to a February funeral … he should be the one groveling at your feet to forgive ‘im,” Spike reminded her.


Buffy nodded solemnly. “I know … ‘Don’t-Care-Bear’, right? This is me not caring what he thinks,” she preached more to herself than Spike, nodding resolutely before her eyes went wide in horror.  “Oh God! We have Stove Top stuffing and powdered potatoes! I can’t serve him Stove Top stuffing and powdered potatoes!”


Spike’s chin dropped to his chest in defeat. “No worries … I’ll take care of everything, yeah?”


“You will? How? It’s Thanksgiving morning! We don’t have time to grow a potato crop!” Buffy pointed out in a panic.


“You take care of your pop – keep him away from my bloody beer, and I’ll take care of it…” Spike assured her. “Everything will be fine … ‘Don’t-Care-Bear’.”


“Right … totally, completely ‘Don’t-Care-Bear’ …” Buffy nodded and the pair headed back down stairs.




“Oh God … he got out,” Buffy moaned as they descended the stairs and saw Hank talking to Annie, Dani, Billy, and JJ.


Spike noticed that Clem had arrived. “Clem and I are gonna go shoppin’ … we’ll be back right quick – keep your bloody father away from my beer,” Spike admonished her.


“Ok, I’ll try…” Buffy agreed.


“I thought you were gonna keep him tied up!” Buffy whispered to Willow as she got to the bottom of the stairs while Spike grabbed Clem and headed for the garage.


“I tried …” Willow defended.


“Some witch you are!” Buffy chastised her friend as she took MacKenzie from Willow’s arms and went over to where her father was talking to the other kids.


“Of course, we tried to help your mom, even committed her to the cuckoo ward for a while, but it didn’t help. When she set that school on fire, it was the final straw … tore our family apart.  Buffy and Joyce came to Sunnydale and …” Hank was saying.


“Dad! What are you …!?” Buffy interrupted him.


“Oh, I was just telling them that funny story about how you set the high school gym on fire at Hemery … chaos and destruction … that’s my girl’s legacy,” Hank offered with a syrupy smile.


“Did you really set the school on fire?” Dani asked her as all the children’s eyes turned to Buffy.


“Just the gym … and there was a perfectly good reason,” Buffy told them, hoping they’d get the hint. “A super secret reason.”


“So … I see you met some of your grandchildren …” Buffy observed, changing the subject and turning her eyes back to her father. “This is MacKenzie Verity,” Buffy began proudly, bouncing the baby lightly in her arms. “She’ll be seven weeks old on Sunday. And you probably already met Anne Joyce, Danielle Dawn, and William Rupert … and this is JJ … uhhh, Joshua – he’s not ours,” Buffy introduced them touching a hand to each of their shoulders as she did so.  “Kids, this is my father … your Grandfather Summers.”


Dani crinkled her brow. “I thought Angel was our grandfather …” she questioned.


Buffy smiled innocently, glad that Spike wasn’t here to hear that. “Sort of … but that’s on your dad’s side … this is my father.”


“Just call me Hank … ‘Grandfather Summers’ makes me sound old,” Hank offered, extending his hand and shaking each of the kid’s hands in turn.


“Of course, I guess being a young grandfather is to be expected when you have a promiscuous daughter that’s careless or stupid enough to get knocked up at seventeen,” Hank observed derisively.  “Lucky the boy even married you with an illegitimate kid in your belly.”


“DAD!” Buffy flinched like she’d been punched in the gut and looked at Annie who looked like she’d been slapped.  Annie knew that Buffy was pregnant with her before they got married; it had never been a big secret. It would’ve been a hard secret to keep, given the wedding pictures with Buffy looking like the Goodyear blimp.  When Willow and Tara got married, they had teased Annie and told her this was the second wedding she’d been in as the ‘flower child.’  When their daughter was little, she liked to say that her papa had married both of them – her and Mama.


“Are you sure that punk rocker of yours is the father of all these kids?” Hank continued, apparently oblivious to the wounds he was inflicting. “I mean ... blonde, brunette, and a redhead? That’s some gene pool!”


“Yes, I’m quite sure, Dad,” Buffy asserted, gritting her teeth and giving her father a scornful glare.


Hank shrugged. “If you say so … hopefully you’d know. Aren’t you going to introduce me to your other friends?” Hank asked, seemingly unaware of her discomfort or the daggers she was projecting on him from her eyes.


“Why not? Maybe you can alienate them all …” she muttered half under her breath. Buffy guided Hank away from the kids, giving Annie an apologetic look back over her shoulder as they started towards Xander and Anya, who were sitting on the couch.


“I like that dress,” Hank offered as they walked.


“Do you?” Buffy questioned with a small smile, looking down. “Thanks … I just hadn’t gotten a chance to change before…”


“It suits you. The flared skirt hides your belly and slims your hips … of course, I wouldn’t go with black for Thanksgiving … it’s kind of dour, don’t you think? But … I’m sure you did your best,” Hank complimented her … sort of.


Buffy stiffened again as they got to Xander and Anya and Buffy introduced them … then continued around the room.  She saw Spike and Clem come back in and head into the kitchen, skirting the gathering, laden with more bags of groceries.  Buffy originally thought it was ridiculous that Wal-Mart had started opening on Thanksgiving Day … but now she was starting to see the logic of it.


During the introductions, Tara confiscated MacKenzie again, giving Buffy a sympathetic look – she knew firsthand how torn Buffy must be about having her father suddenly show up unannounced. No matter what he’s done, he’s still your father; that will never change, and the emotions that evokes are deep-seated and powerful. When Buffy finally broke away from Hank, leaving him with Giles and Willow, she went into the kitchen to check on the meal.  Spike and Clem were both elbow deep in peeling potatoes and chopping more celery and onions for the stuffing.


“Everything alright, luv?” Spike asked her when she came in, intent on his task.


“Hunky with a side of dory …” she replied, feeling as dour as her dress. “Can I help?”


“We got it under control, pet … you just worry about your pop … leave everything here to us,” Spike assured her.


“Are you sure I can’t help? I mean, maybe I could just … stay here and hide,” she suggested hopefully, dropping her face into her hand.


Spike put down the knife he was peeling potatoes with and turned to her. “If you want me to kick him out, just say the word…” he offered.


Buffy’s shoulders sagged. “Noooo…” she moaned. “I guess not.”


Buffy’s eyes went wide when she finally looked up at her husband. “Spike! My God, what happened?” she exclaimed, reaching a hand out to gently touch his battered face. He had a blackened eye and cut lip and she wasn’t sure but thought he might have some bruised or cracked ribs judging by the way he was moving.


“Jus’ a little do at the supermart … you know how brutal them blue-hairs are this time o’ year,” Spike explained with a shrug.


“Hank Summers strikes again…” she moaned, shaking her head. “God, baby … I’m so sorry.”


“No worries, luv … be a cold day in hell when a grannie pries the last bag a’ spuds outta my cold, dead hand.”


Spike had gotten some Löwenbräu when he was at the store, so Buffy got one for her dad, opening it and taking a long swallow of it as she walked. It wasn’t Aventinus, but hopefully the German brew would keep him away from Spike’s prized ale.  She found him talking with Giles, Willow, and Tara near the research table…


“Of course it’s to be expected that she’d fall in with a fella like Spike … heaven only knows what qualifications he has to be a bodyguard.  Probably spent more than a little time in the slammer…” Hank continued.


“Actually, I believe it was just the once …” Giles began before Hank interrupted him.


“I mean … knocked up at seventeen … kicked out of two high schools in three years, no college education … I guess the punk rocker was the best she could do – of course, if I had been here, I would’ve never allowed it,” Hank continued. “She obviously didn’t have the paternal guidance she needed to keep from falling in with the wrong crowd.”


“Spike’s quite an extraordinary individual once you get to know him…” Giles asserted, taking offense not only for Hank’s rash judgment of Spike, but his contention that Giles would’ve allowed Buffy to ‘fall in’ with the ‘wrong crowd’ or marry someone unworthy.


“Of course, I should count my lucky stars, I suppose,” Hank continued taking the proffered beer from Buffy’s hand as she walked up to them. “With all her fighting and acting all butch, her mom and I weren’t too sure she wouldn’t turn into a dyke.”


“Dad!” Buffy exclaimed, looking between Willow and Tara. “That’s totally rude and … offensive! There’s nothing wrong with loving who you love, man or woman,” Buffy informed him.


“It’s ok, Buffy,” Tara assured her. “It’s nothing we haven’t heard before … from my own father.”


“Oh!” Hank exclaimed, looking between the girls. “You two are … together? But … I thought you two …” he continued, wagging a finger between Giles and Tara, “… were a couple. Isn’t that your rug-rat?” he questioned, pointing towards Eddie who Xander was entertaining by making funny faces.


“Indeed … In fact, we’re all three together,” Giles clarified. “It’s a relatively new concept called a family … were people love and accept each other unconditionally – you may have heard tell of it on television, perhaps. I believe it’s examined extensively on a show you’d be familiar with … the critically acclaimed and intellectually stimulating ‘Jerry Springer Show’.”


The conversation was interrupted by a beeping coming from the kitchen. “I have to baste,” Buffy announced, turning abruptly on her heel and disappearing like an apparition.


Hank looked at the three parents, a horrified look flickering over his features for the briefest of moments before bringing a phony smile to his lips. “Yeah, sure …” he agreed with a head shrug. “Takes all kinds, I suppose … even perverts have a place in the world,” he commented as he walked away.




When Buffy came back, Lorne had arrived and Hank was waiting impatiently for him to set the liquor out on a table near the garden doors.


“I think you’re a little late, friend,” Hank was saying to the green demon. “Halloween was about a month ago…


“Musta worked hard on the makeup though … I’ll give you that … and those clothes! Could you have found anything gaudier? Goodwill must’ve been glad to see those go!” Hank continued as Lorne sat the last bottle of liquor out.


“Dad, this is our friend, Lorne – he’s not in costume … he just has … a skin condition– he runs the best and most successful nightclub in town,” Buffy informed her dad proudly as she gave Lorne a hug.


“Lorne, this is my dad, Hank Summers,” Buffy provided when Lorne released her.


“We’ve met,” Lorne commented dryly. “Where’s my little kumquat?” Lorne asked brightly, turning away from Hank as he poured himself a double.


“She’s bouncing around here somewhere … last I saw, she was in the kitchen with Spike and Clem,” Buffy offered.


“Then I’m off to the kitchen,” Lorne concluded, downing the first drink and pouring himself another double.


“You might want to take Spike one of those…” Buffy advised, cocking a brow at the whiskey. Lorne nodded and poured another glass.


“It was … an experience meeting you, Mr. Summers…” Lorne excused himself as politely as he could and headed for the kitchen with the drinks.


“So … I’ve heard of people running away from their family to join the circus, but never heard of anyone running away from the circus to join a family,” Hank commented to Buffy. “Of course, with this family you’ve got here … anything’s possible.” Hank shrugged and rolled his eyes.


“Oh look! Your beer is empty! I’ll just run away and … uhhh … I mean run into the other room and get you another one,” Buffy offered brightly, taking the empty bottle from her father’s hands and following in Lorne’s wake towards the kitchen.


When Buffy entered the kitchen, she plucked Spike’s whiskey up off the counter and downed it in one quick gulp.


“Hey! Mine! Master Chef working ‘ere!” Spike complained as he mashed the boiled potatoes and began adding soy milk and the special margarine that Dani could eat to them and whipping them by hand into a carbohydrate lover’s fluffy, wet dream.


“Sorry … have a beer,” Buffy offered, getting him one of his English ales and grabbing another Bräu for her dad. 


“How long before we eat so we can end this nightmare?” Buffy asked, as she opened the Löwenbräu and took a swallow.


“Not long, I reckon … turkey’s nearly done, Anya brought the desserts and set ‘em out on the sideboard in the dining room. Get the kids to set the table and we’ll be good ta go shortly,” Spike informed her sympathetically.  He’d never been more glad to be stuck in the kitchen – he wasn’t sure if he could’ve maintained the self-control that Buffy had displayed with her old man.


Buffy nodded and started out of the kitchen just as Clem did. “Where are you going?” she asked their friend.


“Bar … you don’t know what he’s like to work with … Master Chef my flabby ass!” Clem rolled his eyes, jabbing a clawed thumb in Spike’s direction. “More like Master Slave Driver …”


Buffy put a hand on Clem’s shoulder and stopped him. “I’ll get it … Not sure how many skin conditions I can explain in a five minute span.”


Just as Buffy started towards the bar, the beeper signaling ‘time to baste’ went off again.  She stopped and stuck her head back through the kitchen door. “Hey, Master Chef, can you baste?”


“Pffft!” Spike snorted. “Whaddya think, a Master Chef can’t baste? I’m a Master Baster from way back…”


Spike’s face fell when Lorne, Clem, and Buffy burst out laughing. “That didn’t come out right…” he moaned, rolling his eyes and picking up the turkey baster, ignoring their teasing smirks.


Buffy delivered the half empty beer to her dad before retrieving a bottle of whiskey from the bar and delivering to the ‘kitchen staff’, which now included Giles, Tara, and Willow, as well.  Then she got Dani, Billy, and Annie to set the table and sent JJ upstairs to wake Faith up.


When she’d finished running around, she caught up with her father who was talking to the only people left in the great room – Xander and Anya.


“So you’re living in the house I bought for Joyce…” her father was saying. “She just about broke me with that place. I never could understand why she needed such a big house when it was just her and Buffy.”


“You must not have had much money if buying that house nearly broke you,” Anya observed. “You only put ten thousand down on it … Joyce paid most of the mortgage all on her own after that because you never sent any more money after you moved to Spain. Plus, that down payment must’ve been part of the division of the community property, so, it wasn’t actually yours, but Joyce’s.”


“Well … I … uhhh..” Hank stammered.


“You know, you’re lucky she didn’t file charges against you as a deadbeat dad. There are laws, ya know? There should be a warrant out for your arrest right this minute,” Anya continued matter-of-factly with a firm nod of her head. “You owe Buffy a lot of money … well, you really owe Joyce, but since she’s dead and buried under those inappropriate poinsettias you sent to the funeral, I think she’d want Buffy to have it.”


Buffy stopped just behind her father and pulled her lips between her teeth to smother a smile. There were times when she absolutely loved Anya.


“I don’t know if there’s actually a statute of limitations on that or not,” Anya continued, her brow furrowing in thought. “Buffy should really look into that – I’ll be sure to remind her later.”


“Well, that’s not necessary,” Hank cajoled. “Buffy’s welcome to anything and everything I have – she’s my daughter, I’d give her the world. I’m sure she needs all the help she can get, bless her heart. Never was the sharpest tool in the shed, if you know what I mean, but I'm sure she does her best.”


Buffy’s smile morphed into a grim frown and tears stung her eyes again. Damn him! How could he always make her feel so small?


Lorne stuck his head out the kitchen door. “The little popper on the turkey’s popped …” he informed them.


“I know just how it feels…” Buffy sighed as she turned and headed to the kitchen.




“No, Dad – that’s Bess’ place,” Buffy began as everyone gathered in the dining room a few minutes later. “You can sit here by me…” Buffy offered, pulling out a chair for him.


“Who’s Bess?” Hank wondered, looking around at the crowd – he’d missed meeting her.


“She’s … she might be along later,” Buffy hedged.  Even though Buffy knew Bess was two thousand miles away, they always set a place for her at the table, and today would be no exception. One day, Buffy prayed, Bess would show up and her spot would be there waiting for her to join them. Stranger things had happened … her father appearing magically ranked right up there at the top of the ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ list.


Everyone fell into a subdued collaboration as platters of food and plates were passed and filled to overflowing with the bounty.  The adults helped the kids get a little of everything and soon everyone had enough protein and carbohydrates on their plates to feed a small African nation for a week. 


As Buffy lifted a forkful of the real mashed potatoes that Spike had made smothered in turkey gravy to her lips her father stopped her. “Don’t you say grace anymore?” he questioned judgmentally.


Buffy set her fork down on her plate. “Oh … uhhh … sure. I just got carried away,” she stammered, looking down the long table at Spike for help.  She never remembered saying grace, even as a child … when did her dad find religion and what kind of religion did he find?  It must be the sarcastic, callous, bigoted, if-you’re-not-like-me-you’re-going-to-hell kind of religion. That didn’t really narrow it down much.


Spike reached his hands out and joined them with Annie, who was on one side of him, and Faith on the other and nodded for them to do the same with Anya and JJ, who were on the other side of them.  When everyone had joined hands, Spike bowed his head.


Spike took a deep breath and began, his voice sliding easily back to the accent of his childhood and as the prayers his mother and Nellie used to recite ran through his mind and pieces found their way through his lips. Well … some of it Spike came up with on his own.


“Dear Gracious Giver of all good,

"We are thankful for the bounty on this table,
“We are thankful for our friends and family gathered here today,
“And our prayers reach out to loved ones who are far away,
“We hope that they are safe and well and they will find their way.

“Under your graceful guidance,
“May we all be filled with tolerance of our fellow man,
“And the capacity to keep a civil tongue,
“To get us through this day and the challenges that lie ahead.


“Amen,” the adults repeated with everything from utter relief to hopeful sighs in their voices … the kids had no clue and they mimicked the ‘Amen’ a second later.


Buffy wiped a bead of perspiration from her brow and smiled at her father, who, for once, seemed duly impressed with her choice in mates.


“Not bad, but a little long winded, isn’t he?” Hank groused, taking a bite of the green bean casserole. “Food’s cold…”


Buffy blew out a loud sigh and lifted her own fork of mashed potatoes to her lips to help the ‘Gracious Giver’ with the ‘keeping a civil tongue’ challenge Spike had laid down.




“Looks like your boy can cook ok,” Hank offered a little while later, addressing Buffy. “Not sure why he even married you. I mean obviously, he was getting the milk free … and he must make a decent wage, and can cook … why would he buy the cow?”


“Dad …” Buffy whined. “Maybe he married me because he loved me…” she suggested.


“Yeah … sure, honey. I’m sure that’s it,” Hank agreed with condescension tainting his voice.


Buffy rolled her eyes and took another bite of food. It was best to just keep her mouth full at this point. It would be over soon … Please, Gracious Giver of all good, let it be over soon.


“It’s not your fault, sweets,” Hank continued. “I blame myself for your failures in life … your mother obviously wasn’t capable of raising you and with no male role model in your life … well … you just did the best you could with what you had to work with,” Hank explained to her sympathetically.


“You think I’m a failure?” Buffy asked softly, setting her fork down and again feeling like she was ten years old.


“No … no, not at all!” Hank assured her. “You obviously made a good choice trapping the punk … at least he seems to be a decent provider for you – and, hey – bonus, he can cook! I mean – the boy isn’t the ideal partner, I’m sure, but you better hang on to him; you aren’t getting any younger, and with that passel of kids it’ll be pretty impossible to attract a new man to support you.”


“Trap? You think I trapped Spike by getting pregnant?!” Buffy asked incredulously.


“You wouldn’t be the first, honey – it’s a perfectly understandable tactic for a girl in your position – with no real skills or future prospects.  I’m just saying, you need to hold on to him. I’m sure he has his dalliances … but that’s no reason to cut your nose off to spite your face,” Hank advised his daughter.


Spike got up from his seat at the other end of the table and stalked down to where his wife was sitting.


“What about dalliances?” Spike asked, his eyes narrowed in anger at his heretofore absent father-in-law.


“Look at him Buffy …” Hank waved a hand at Spike. “He’s in his prime. You have four kids, I’m sure you don’t have the time and energy to tend to … certain needs like you once did. What do you really expect is gonna happen?”


Buffy sat dumbfounded, her mouth ajar for several moments, unable to speak,  his words taking her breath just as sure as if she’d been punched in the gut.


Spike growled low and threatening. “No one in this bloody marriage has dalliances, you berk,” Spike informed him tersely. “And no one’s been trapped.  There’re no locks on the bloody doors. They swing both ways and I suggest you…”


Buffy laid a hand on Spike’s arm, interrupting his rant. She could feel Spike’s protective energy and his love for her and for their family wash over her. She suddenly felt ashamed … ashamed of her father and ashamed of herself for letting him run roughshod over her and her friends and family.   


What are you doing?!! her mind screamed at her. The needy ten year old daughter her father had reduced her to had suddenly had enough. Her inner child came out into the light and immediately grew into a strong woman, a passionate lover, a loving wife, a compassionate mother, and a determined, if at times impulsive, Slayer.


“So … you’re saying if Spike decides to … screw his secretary, for example … I should just …” Buffy shrugged one shoulder, as if brushing off a ‘dalliance’, “… forgive and forget. Because I’m too stupid to support myself and too fat and old to get a new man to keep me … do I have that right?” she asked, her voice rising louder as she spoke. 


Everyone had quieted when Spike joined Buffy and Hank at the opposite end of the table and now the father and daughter had the full attention of the group.


“Buffy, you’re taking that all wrong … I’m just trying to help you…” Hank defended.


Buffy crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him. “No you’re not.  I don’t know what you’re trying to do, but ‘help me’ isn’t even in the top ten! And to think that I actually let you in my house! That I let you put me down and insult my friends and family!  What the hell are you doing here – really?”


“I told you … I was just moving back to L.A. and my apartment won’t be ready …” Hank began.


“Apartment?! Earlier it was a ‘house’ …” Buffy pointed out.


“Well … it’s … an apartment inside a house …” Hank clarified.


“You’re renting a room in someone’s house…” Buffy deduced.


Hank shrugged. “Well … yeah, I guess you could say that. But it’s just temporary until I get time to look around and get my own place…”


“Right …” Buffy scoffed. “You know what I think? I think you’re broke. I think your girlfriend dumped you because of a few too many ‘dalliances’ and your company fired you for being a condescending, incompetent ass and now you’re broke and alone.


“You show up on my doorstep telling me what a failure I am and putting my life down – putting my husband down, who, unlike you, doesn’t have dalliances, he doesn’t lie to me or go behind my back. He actually loves me and our children and isn’t afraid to tell us so!


“You’ve got the nerve to stand there and put our children down – those kids are the best thing I’ve ever done – they’re smart and beautiful and funny and I love them more than anything in the world and they don’t deserve your callous remarks! And let’s not leave out Giles – the man who’s been a better father to me than you ever dreamed of being even in your wildest dreams!  I can take your criticism, I’m used to it, but they aren’t and they don’t deserve it!”


Buffy dropped her napkin on the table and pushed her chair back, the feet scraping loudly on the tile floor as she stood up literally now and continued fuming at her father.


“Did you think you could turn me back into that sniveling little girl with a hungry heart that followed you around begging you to toss her a little crumb of love? You figured you could work your magic with back-handed compliments and your hurtful ‘advice’ and that little girl who would do anything to get the slightest compliment from her dad would suddenly appear.


“Well … it almost worked… but I’ve learned a thing or two since you’ve been gone. I’m not a little girl and I have worth … I’m not stupid and I’m not unlovable or unworthy and I’m not a failure! I’m strong and … and smart and attractive … and … and amazing and perfect just the way I am, and I’m part of something you’ll never understand – a beautiful, loving family.


“What did you think? I’d beg you to stay here with us just to try and get a little nod of approval from you? Well, think a-fucking-gain! I don’t need love from someone who doesn’t know the meaning of the word! I don’t need the approval of a so-called man that has done nothing but fail his family and everyone around him all his life!


“This is so typical of you!” Buffy continued, as she started to pace back and forth at the head of the table, flailing her arms adamantly. “Waltzing in here unannounced and ruining my Thanksgiving! Why couldn’t you just stay curled up in the deep, dark hole you call a life and stayed out of mine?” she demanded angrily.


“Buffy, sweetheart … I …” Hank began.


“Don’t ‘sweetheart’ me!” Buffy growled, as she stopped and leaned down near him. “I have two words for you, Hank Summers … I think they’ll sound vaguely familiar,” Buffy continued, interrupting him. “Get the fuck out!” she screamed at him, quoting her mother and pointing a finger at the door adamantly.


“I believe that was four words actually…” Giles pointed out with a dry smile that drew repressed chuckles from the other guests at the table.


“He’s right … it was four – but math never was my best subject.  You know what was my best subject? ‘Chaos and destruction’.  So, I’m not sure why you’re still sitting here unless you want a demonstration,” Buffy threatened, fuming with pent-up anger and frustration.


Hank looked around the table at all the expectant and irritated faces staring at him.


“You heard the lady … your invitation’s been revoked,” Spike added a calm voice to the tirade, moving up next to Hank when the man didn’t move and reaching for his arm to ‘help’ him out.


Hank pulled his arm away from Spike and stood up abruptly. “Buffy … is this really how you want to leave it between us?” Hank questioned.


“B-bye…” she said scornfully, holding a hand up and opening and closing her fingers in an angry wave. When he still didn’t move, she grabbed his arm and pulled him out of the dining room, through the kitchen, then pushed him towards the garden doors. “It’s been fun. Let’s do this again in another … fifty years…”


“Buffy …” Hank begged, turning back around to face her. He took both of her hands in his and looked into her eyes. “You have to know I only want the best for you. I don’t know what you and your friends are into,” he told her. “But when you’re ready to get out of this … cult, I’ll be there for you.”


Buffy smiled saccharinely. “I appreciate that, I truly do, but don’t look for me on your doorstep in this lifetime.


“If this is a cult, then it’s my cult … think of me as the Jim Jones of Sunnydale,” she informed him with a satisfied smirk. “And you just drank the Kool-Aid.”


Buffy watched her father trudge up the steps and out of her life – again. This time she was nothing but thankful … it seemed apropos being Thanksgiving and all. What a difference from the first time he’d walked out.  She took a deep breath to relax and compose herself then turned back towards the kitchen doorway where Spike was standing, leaning on the jamb and covering her back as he always did so well.


“You ok, luv?” he asked running his hands lightly up and down her arms when she reached him.


“Didn’t you hear my speech? I’m strong and smart and attractive and perfect,” Buffy reminded him.


Spike smiled and pulled her into a hug. “You forgot amazing, pet.”




Back in the dining room, Buffy was met with applause and whistles.  She smiled and curtsied. “You can catch our shows here seven days a week … cash, checks, gold, and bearer bonds happily accepted,” Buffy quipped.


“For my next act, I’m gonna make this fabulous meal disappear and, lucky for you, it’s audience participation time, so dig in!” she encouraged everyone as she sat back down in her place and Spike took his seat.


“Are we supposed to say grace again since we stopped eating?” Billy wondered, looking between Buffy and Spike, unsure of ‘grace protocol’ since they’d never said grace before.


“Sure … why not?” Buffy agreed. “Good food, good meat, good God, let’s eat!”






Later that afternoon, a couple of hours after dinner:


While Xander and JJ were coaching Spike and Dani on the finer points of American football as the Cowboys battled the Redskins on the telly, Buffy went looking for Annie – they needed to talk.


“Ready for more dessert yet?” Buffy asked as she sat down at the homework/snack table in the ‘bat cave’ next to her eldest daughter, placing a chocolate brownie and a glass of milk near her.


Annie rolled her eyes and gave her mom a small smile as she took the offering, sliding the papers she’d been working on out of the way. 


“Whatchya doin’?” Buffy asked, looking at the dark TV and empty room. “Trying to escape the madness that is your family?”


Annie laughed and shook her head. “I know there’s no escape…”


Buffy laughed and ran a hand gently down Annie’s hair, pressing some stray locks back behind one ear.


“I was just taking a break and working on translating that language in that book about the Gem that Aunt Willow sent,” Annie offered, waving a hand at the papers on the table.


“How’s it going?”


Annie shrugged. “I think it’s a demon language, not human … and Aunt Will was right, it’s also scrambled in some kind of code. We’re missing the decoder ring that goes with it, soooo … not too well so far.”


“Well … just do your best, honey. Don’t stress out over it, we’ll figure something out about the Gem one way or another,” Buffy assured her.


“Did you just come down here to fatten me up or was there something else?” Annie wondered, breaking a piece of the brownie off and popping it into her mouth.


“That obvious, huh?” Buffy asked with a smile and Annie rolled her eyes.


Buffy took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “What my dad said … that’s not how it was at all,” Buffy started. “He’s pretty much an ass and he had no idea what he was talking about.”


Annie shrugged and took another bite of the brownie.


“The monks created you to conceal the Key, they gave you to your dad and me to protect and love, and somehow they knew we would – together.  They knew that we were meant to be together, even before we did ... and that together we could keep you safe,” Buffy explained softly. “Not because you’re the Key, but because you’re ours. Because we love you with our hearts and souls.”


Buffy had reflected quite a lot on that night over the years … the night the monks had made Spike alive, borrowed her life force and gave it to him in that moment to create their daughter, and hide the Key. It was also the night she admitted her love to Spike – so very unlike her to do.  No, that wasn’t like her at all, at least not like that; not that quickly, not to another vampire, ensouled or not … it just came out of her lips before she even knew the words were forming. Then, when she had the dream and realized what the monks had done, she wondered if they had done something to her to make her say that, feel that.


Even when Spike came back to the mansion after she found him with Harmony and told him about the baby, that feeling of uncertainty nagged at her, to say the least. Was that really her talking? Did she really love him? As time went on though … as they fell into a comfortable camaraderie, protectors of the Key, allies against the demons, lovers, and friends, she realized that it was her heart talking, not any spell. What the monks had done was simply taken the walls down … cut a small slit in her cautious heart’s protective cocoon, and let her recognize that feeling which stirred deep within her soul – true love.


She wasn’t sure but thought perhaps the seed of her affection might've been planted months before when she first saw him in that alley behind the Bronze. Why else had she let him walk so many times? Allowed him to escape from the 'Vampire-Wannabe' club her friend Ford had lured them all into rather than go in with a flamethrower or flood the place with holy water once he and Dru and the rest of the vamps were locked in there. And that wasn't the first or last time she'd given him a pass - or him her, for that matter. William the Bloody, who would rather dust than turn away from a fight, backed down and ran away from her more in a few months than he'd done in the entirety of his existence since meeting Dru.  Whenever it started, she was sure that it was true and it was her, not something the monks had created when they created Annie.


Annie had heard this before, the story about the Key and the monks. Despite her young age at the time, she even had some horrific, fractured memories of the fire escape and the confusing time after her mother’s death. Sometimes she wondered if they were her memories or if they were planted in her mind later after hearing some stories about that fateful night from the adults. She didn't really have any video of it in her mind, they were more like feelings or impressions than actual, full-fledged memories with pictures and sounds, and she tried not to dwell on them, although they sometimes crept into her nightmares. It was hard to keep the power of her blood a secret from her when every scrape or cut was a cause for alarm.  Luckily, the blood only opened portals that already existed … that someone else had created; it didn’t create new ones all on its own just by falling on the ground.  Apparently such portals weren’t all that common, although Annie had learned over the years to be extra careful with her blood.


“My father makes Darth Vader look like the world's greatest dad. He's a user … he likes to manipulate situations to his own benefit, make the people around him feel small so he can feel bigger.  He did it to me my whole childhood, he did it to my mom … I’m so sorry that I let him do it to you,” Buffy apologized.


Annie nodded and took a sip of the milk to wash the brownie down, her gaze glued down to the tabletop.


“Your father married me because he loved me – the same reason I married him. We weren’t trapped … you weren’t some big ball and chain hanging around our necks – you were a miracle and we both loved you from the very moment we knew you existed,” Buffy assured her daughter.


“You never thought about maybe … getting an abortion?” Annie pondered softly. “You were pretty young ... and ... ummm ...” Annie hesitated, looking down at the table before finally lifting her eyes again to her mom. "... it would've probably gotten rid of the whole Key problem and avoided the whole Glory thing..."


“No, never,” Buffy assured her sternly. “I was scared … I admit that, I think your dad was too … but I never once considered not having you and I’ve never once regretted it, and neither has your dad. When Spike realized that I was really pregnant and it was really his ..." Buffy shook her head slowly and gave Annie a smile. "He was so happy ... I'd even say joyful. You have no idea.


“Annie, I don't regret one thing - not the having you when I was so young  - not even the dying. I love you with every fiber of my being. You’re a special girl, you’re growing into a lovely young lady, and one day you’re going to be an extraordinary woman. Don’t ever let anyone tell you any different,” Buffy urged her.


Annie nodded, there were a couple of bullies at school like that – Annie figured Buffy’s dad must’ve been one of those kids when was young.  It was best to just ignore them, not let them get to you or goad you into an argument, that seemed to take their power away.


Annie pushed the plate the brownie was on towards Buffy. “Want some?” she offered her mom, finally looking up and meeting her eyes.


Buffy smiled and patted a hand on her daughter’s shoulder. “If you insist…”




Later that night, 7:00pm:


“Where are you going?” Buffy questioned her husband as he got his duster down off the coat rack by the door and pulled it on.


“Work,” he replied with a shrug.


“But, it’s Thanksgiving!” she whined. “I thought we’d all watch ‘Elf’ and eat leftover turkey and pumpkin pie tonight…”


“Sorry, pet … got a feelin’ ‘bout tonight – lots a’ lonely, drunk sailors just waiting to part with their pretty green paper…” Spike apologized.


“Plus, I don’t think I could fit one more speck o’ turkey in and I really can’t afford to miss the overtime …” Spike explained. “You’re gonna stay home t’night, right? No patrol, no shopping … nothing like that, yeah?”


Buffy looked at him a little quizzically. “No … it’s Thanksgiving!” Buffy pointed out again.


“I know, pet. Which means that Peeping Tom dressed in red’s supposed to be showing up soon – need to get all the money I can,” Spike offered.


Buffy sighed and her shoulders slumped. “But you’ve been up all day – how are you gonna work all night now?” she argued.


“NoDoz and Red Bull, pet …” Spike replied, grabbing his keys off the hook by the door. “I want you to stay ‘ome, though … don’t go out without takin’ Faith with you.”


“Why … what’s going on?” she questioned.


“Nothin’s going on … it’s just … uhhhh … demons stuffed with turkey and dressing can be unpredictable. Just promise me you won’t go out alone,” Spike admonished her.


Buffy rolled her eyes. “Oh, you think they’ll snore me to death?” she quipped. But at his insistent look, she agreed, “Sure … whatever. I wasn’t planning on going out anyway,” she reminded him, walking closer.


Spike wrapped his arms around her and dropped a kiss on the top of her head. “I’ll try not to be too late, luv.”


“Okay … please be careful, I’m not sure what the side effects are of mixing NoDoz with tryptophan … it could be dangerous,” she quipped.


Spike snorted a laugh and squeezed her tighter. “I’ll stay away from all heavy machinery…” he promised.


“Did I thank you for what you did today?” Buffy asked, looking up at him.


“What’d I do?”


“Tried to tell me to be … ‘Don’t-Care-Bear’, saved dinner, said grace … made real potatoes and stuffing and … master basted …” she teased with a sly smile.


Spike bit down on his bottom lip to smother a saucy grin. “No … I don’t believe you did thank me properly for that,” he informed her with a smirk.


Buffy shrugged, a shy smile still on her lips, and ran her hand teasingly up and down his chest. “Well … I’ll have to remedy that when you get home … I mean, assuming you’re not experiencing any detrimental side effects from overdosing on that dangerous drug cocktail of turkey and caffeine.”


Spike leaned down and captured her lips with his. She tasted of brownies and gravy and a hint of whiskey and Buffy – another dangerous addition to his illicit drug cocktail. His body screamed at him to stay … lock her away in their room with the pumpkin pie and find out what adding her sweet nectar to the mix in his blood would do.  But the head on his shoulders and their empty bank account finally won out and he reluctantly released her.


“Gonna hold you to it,” Spike purred against her lips before he grudgingly pulled away.


“I’m counting on it.”





After getting the kids to bed, 9:30pm, Thanksgiving:


“Okay … that’s got it,” Buffy told Willow as she snapped the lid closed on the Tupperware plate which held a full Thanksgiving dinner, stacked another plate of desserts on top of it and taped a small note on the top of that.


“I thought you said she was small … petite…” Willow questioned, looking at the football-player-sized servings of food Buffy had prepared.


“She is … but … she might be hungry, or have friends! It would be rude to eat in front of your friends and not have enough to share,” Buffy defended.


Willow shrugged. “I guess that’s a point…” she agreed as she lit three candles and placed them in a triangle with the plates of food in the center. With the candles and food in between them, Willow joined hands with Buffy and they both closed their eyes before the red witch recited the spell…


“Ancient wise ones link to my will,

“My greatest desire you now fulfill,

“Separated by time, separated by space.

“Send this mother’s endearment to Bess’ current place.

“So mote it be.”


There was a bright flash of light and when they opened their eyes, the platters of food were gone.


“Did it work?” Buffy asked.


“Theoretically … I’ve never sent anything, mostly I’ve just tried drawing things to me. Hopefully it won’t end up … you know, inside a wall or on the handlebars of the Harley at eighty miles an hour,” Willow explained.


“She’s been in the same place a while, I don’t think she’s on the road,” Buffy offered. “Hopefully it got to her and didn’t turn into mush or the plastic didn’t melt or anything like that.”


“Hopefully…” Willow agreed. “I wonder if that lifetime warranty on Tupperware applies to being melted by magic.”


Buffy laughed lightly and blew out the candles. “I hope she brings it back with her – those dishes aren’t cheap!”


“Buffy the thrifty miser … I keep waiting for the world to start spinning the opposite direction or something,” Willow teased. “Next thing you know your father will show up on your doorstep…”


“Yeah and Spike will become a Catholic priest, right after saying grace over Thanksgiving dinner,” Buffy quipped back.


“And Faith will take a vow of celibacy … and mean it,” Willow added, rolling her eyes.


“Oh God, three out of the four signs of the apocalypse have already come true … I better make sure Spike stays wickedly naughty.”


“It’s your sacred duty, your Calling,” Willow agreed with a serious nod. “You should debauch him tonight … don’t take any chances!”


“Oh, the sacrifices a Slayer must make,” Buffy sighed dramatically. “So demanding and thankless … but I’ll soldier on as best I can.”


The girls laughed as Willow gathered up the candles and put them back in the sideboard.


“Remember, not a word to Spike about this,” Buffy reminded her friend. “He says we shouldn’t help her or contact her … but, I just can’t help but feel like she must be wondering if we’re even thinking about her or missing her.”


Willow drew an imaginary zipper across her lips with her fingers. “Your secret’s safe with me, Buffy. You just worry about keeping the impending apocalypse at bay … at least until after Christmas. I got Eddie the cutest little teddy bear! I can’t wait for his first Christmas!”


Buffy gave her friend a mischievous grin. “I’ll tie Spike up and ravish him all night long if I have to, for his own good and for the sake of teddy bears and Jewish Christmases everywhere … of course.”


“Of course, what would the world be without Jewish Christmases and teddy bears?” Willow agreed with a firm nod of her head.




Hungry Heart, Bruce Springsteen



Got a wife and kids in Baltimore jack
I went out for a ride and I never went back
Like a river that don’t know where its flowing
I took a wrong turn and I just kept going

Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Lay down your money and you play your part
Everybody’s got a hungry heart

I met her in a Kingstown bar
We fell in love I knew it had to end
We took what we had and we ripped it apart
Now here I am down in Kingstown again

Everybody’s got a hungry heart...

Everybody needs a place to rest
Everybody wants to have a home
Don’t make no difference what nobody says
Ain’t nobody like to be alone

Everybody’s got a hungry heart...



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