"You're doing drugs in Buffy's mom's house?"
Willow, who'd gone searching for Xander at his wife's behest, was aghast over the scene she'd just intruded upon: Xander, Spike, and Faith, loitering and laughing amidst a cloud of skunky smoke. The windows were open, but did they really think no one would smell it? And also, why didn't they ask her if she wanted any?
"A little louder, love?" Spike said, hand at his ear. "My children didn't hear you that time."
"Technically, it's the company's house," Xander grumbled.
Tickled, Faith said, "Are you gonna narc on us, Red?"
"Pssh," Willow said, hopping off the last step. "Of course not. I'm... down."
"Oh yeah?" Faith kicked a box her way. "Take a seat, have a toke."
"Don't pressure your peers, man," Xander said. "This isn't her thing."
"How do you know it's not my thing?" Willow said, defensive. "Maybe it is my thing. I've been to Amsterdam, you know. I brownied with the locals."
"I remember Amsterdam, Will. I was there. I.E., not your thing..."
"So, okay, I barfed a little. Into the canal. But I'm also allergic to wheat flour and that totally could have been it." They stared at her. "Well? What are ya waiting for? Spark that spleef."
"'Spark that...?' Here. Don't talk, just inhale."
The basement door opened and everyone panicked as Giles' voice blared from above: "Would you lot like some ...beer?"
As Willow lapsed into a coughing fit, Spike extinguished the evidence and the other two stood up and tried to look busy.
He poked his head down the stairwell. "Is that grass I smell?"
"Wow," Faith muttered. "Just when I thought it couldn't get any more square."
He came down the steps. "You're smoking grass and you didn't tell me?"
"Sorry, G-Dawg," Xander said. "Sometimes we forget how badass you were."
Giles handed the six-pack to Spike, took the joint and expertly lit up.
"Are," he corrected, and passed it along.
* * *
"Things have been good," Buffy said. "Really good. I'm pregnant again."
"I noticed." Angel remembered that Ian was there, and probably wouldn't understand how he could sense a fetal heart beat. "I mean, I heard. Congrats."
"Mommy! I see it! I can see the dark side!"
"You can?" Buffy pet his curly locks. "What does it look like?"
"See for yourself," Ian said.
"Ooh," she said, looking through. "Dark. Kinda creepy."
"What if there was someone who could survive there? Like, if a person couldn't feel the cold and didn't have to breathe oxygen or have to eat food..."
Buffy straightened, tittered nervously. "There's no such thing, sweetie."
"Yeah, but what if there was?"
She widened her eyes at Angel. He winked at her.
"Hey, Ian," Angel crouched beside him and looked up at the stars, "have you heard that this coming December, there's gonna be a rare astronomical occurrence that won't repeat for millennia? The Mayans believed it would mark the end of the world -- or, the dawning of a new age, depending on how you look at it."
Fascinated, Ian stared at him. "What do you think?"
"Well--" Angel felt Buffy's apprehension, and stood up. "Sorry. Too macabre?"
"Look through the telescope, honey." She told Angel, "It's okay. We just try to keep the apocalypse talk to a minimum around here."
"Right," he said, chastened. "Like I said, I'm no good at this."
"You are!" She pointed at Ian and mouthed the words, 'He loves you.'
He murmured to her, "You know, he reminds me a little of Spike when I first met him."
Glancing at Ian, Angel said quietly, "He never told you about... what he was like?"
Spike had once drunkenly revealed to her that before he was turned, he was a lovestruck poet and a 'bit of a Mama's boy', but that was where the share had ended. "Not entirely. Maybe you can fill in a few blanks for me sometime."
His gaze slid down her body and back to her eyes. "I'd be happy to."
Oh, god. Did he think she was flirting with him? And was he flirting with her in front of her child? She closed her body language, cleared her throat. "So... You and Faith again."
"Yeah. Look, I'm sorry about... her." He laughed as he said 'her'.
"Don't be sorry! Faith will be Faith."
"She insisted on coming, and she's got no family, y'know? I couldn't say no... And there's nothing serious between us, it's just..."
She held her hands up. "I get it. No judgment."
He looked at the house. "I wonder what she's up to in there."
"Oh, you know. Probably making everyone feel bad about themselves."
* * *
"I feel so good right now," Xander said. "This is the best I have ever felt in my entire life. Thank you, kind purveyor of happiness."
"Don't mention it," Faith said.
Coughing a little less explosively this time, Willow passed the joint to Giles.
"We should go back upstairs soon," Giles said, and puffed twice. "Before the wives notice us gone."
"Yeah," agreed Spike, Xander, Willow and Faith, but no one moved from their cardboard seats.
"I'm gonna miss this house," Willow said. "The way it was."
"I can't wait to tear it to its bleeding hinges," Spike said, just as wistfully.
"You have no soul," she said.
"Actually, I do. They say it comes with the whole 'being human' package."
"Still. If you keep tearing everything down, there's gonna be nothing left of the old Sunnydale we know and love."
"And good riddance to it. Who wants to live in the past?" Granted, he'd spent the entire previous night revisiting the past, but that was different. That was for fun. Dirty, nasty, deliciously wrong fun... He should really find someone to mend that dress. Or better yet, he could get it replicated. In bulk. An entire closetful of Little Miss Lost-and-Helpless-and-Not-Yet-Deflowered-by-My-Blockhead-Boyfriend dresses...
"I don't want to live in the past, I just want to know that it's there to visit."
He snapped out of his daydream. "I'm building a better future for your bloody sprog. Deal with it."
Trying and failing to give him the raspberry, Willow said, "My lips feel funny." Something about this was hilarious to her. Giles laughed at her, and they giggled together.
"Hey, that's right," said Faith, handing a newly-rolled second joint to Spike. "Angel said you've been playing this town like some kinda Monopoly Board. You're loaded now. Guess B chose the right vamp after all."
"She's not in it for the money," he said meaningfully, and flipped his Zippo.
"But I am," Xander said, and batted his eyelashes. "When do I get a Park Place mansion, Rich Uncle Pennybags?"
"When you can afford it."
"Hey, I put blood, sweat and tears into S.H.E. Well, sweat. And I might've nail-gunned my thumb once or twice. Never once cried, let's get that straight. Still, don't you think I deserve a little sumpin sump for my troubles?"
"I pay you six figures with full benefits, and I employ your wife though I have no idea what she actually does."
"Right." Xander cleared his throat. "Good deal, boss."
"Remember when it all ended," Willow reminisced, "and we had a pizza party here? With like, half the army?"
"Yeah, and I almost went to jail half-naked?" Faith said with sarcastic pep. "That was super-duper."
"Yeah," Willow agreed dreamily. "I mean, life was exhausting back then, and you know, terrifying, but I kinda miss it sometimes."
"Here here," Giles said. "It was sort of thrilling."
"Yeah," Xander said. "It kinda was."
Spike scoffed. "You lot are pathetic."
They looked at him.
"Everything this big wide world has to offer, and you four are pining over your glory days of derring-do?"
"Hey, don't file me in with these losers." Faith passed the joint to Willow. "No offense."
"See, Faith knows how to live in the moment. Life is thrilling, people! With or without monsters."
"Please," Willow huffed. "You were like a kid in a candy store when that necromancer reanimated all the vamps of Sunnydale. Don't try to deny it."
"It was fun! I got to kill things again. Would I want to do that every bloody day for the rest of my life? Fuck no. I have kids to protect. I have a golden goddess waiting up for me every night in lacy underthings. Killing doesn't give me purpose. Being there for my family, that's my purpose."
Xander had an important question: "What kind of lacy underthings?"
Spike took a toke. "Mostly just the bottoms."
"I love her." When he was whapped upside the head, he said, "As a friend!"
Faith shrugged. "She's a MILF."
"She's always had this strong-yet-wholesome-yet-sexy vibe," Willow concurred. "It's a hot combination."
Giles spoke up. "Might we refrain from undressing my stepdaughter with our minds?"
"Yeah," Spike said. "Leave the undressing to me. You've all got dreamboats of your own; you don't see me disrespecting them."
"Hmph," said Faith, and he glanced at her.
"Admiring someone's appeal isn't disrespectful," said Willow. "And anyway, if you're all Respectful Responsible Domestic Bliss Guy, what are you doing down here with us?"
He sighed. "Angel's up there."
"Does he still get to you?" She squeezed his knee. "You're the one she's crazy about. I know this for a fact."
"I know. It's just... I hate the way she acts around him. Like he's a puppy dog with three bloody legs."
"That third leg?" Faith said with a wink. "Not a leg. Oh, but you know that, don'tcha, Spike?"
Everyone paused, fearing his reaction.
He was a little too stoned to get worked up. Besides, it wasn't like the gang didn't already know -- that little incident nearly destroyed his marriage. Two whole years of on-again, off-again agony before they were finally able to put it behind them. "You have something to say Faith, say it."
"I got nothing else to say," she said, and sucked in smoke, "about that time I made your wife come on my tongue while Angel fucked you in the ass."
"Oh, bloody hell," Giles said as Faith burst into laughter.
"Hey!" Spike told the group, "That's not all that happened, all right?"
"No," Faith elaborated, "Angel fucked Buffy, I fucked Spike, a fuck fuck here, a fuck fuck there, it was a fuckfest!"
"Okay!" Willow said. "That's enough nostalgia for today! Let's talk about the future. Three babies, wow!"
"Yeah, let's not dredge up the Great Peach Caper," Xander said. "It was a million years ago."
Spike pointed emphatically at Willow. "And it was her bloody peach!"
"I didn't tell you to eat my magic peaches!"
"You could've put a warning label on them!"
"Warning," Xander said. "May cause intensely disturbing foursomes."
"All over my house, no less." Giles had a giggle fit, and wiped a tear from his eye. "Oh, that was awful. Just awful."
"Tell me about it," Willow said with a shudder. "I never did magic again."
"Huh," Xander said, turning the joint butt in his hand. "I sure hope Chance's magic ears didn't work just then."
Spike frowned. "What d'you mean, magic ears?"
* * *
"What's this?" Jesse had found the tissue paper stuffed under Chance's ear muffs.
"Nothing." She pried his hands from her head and placed them over her breasts. "Over the shirt only."
Not looking to jinx this windfall, he dropped the subject and kissed her again.
Voices from everywhere screamed in her head.
-- hell happened to Xander? No, out the window, out the -- I'll get you, my pretty, and your -- Cake for sale, five dollars a slice! -- texted him like, four ti-- I can feel her. -- be playing tricks on -- her bloody peach! -- swear I just saw something out -- Tick ticky tock.
Jupiter, Mom! Jupiter!
* * *
"Jupiter, really? Wow!" Buffy smiled at Angel. "Getting him away from this thing, that's gonna be the challenge."
He returned the smile, then looked worried. "Did you hear that?"
"I think Chance might be calling you."
"Oh? I'll go see what she wants."
* * *
"So, what, you think she got vamp powers or something?" Faith asked.
"Residual vampiric powers seem so unlikely." Giles shook his head. "Then again, so was everything else about her conception. It's possible she's merely experiencing a difficult puberty."
"Oi, keep it down, you two. What if she can hear us?"
"Perhaps it's time she finally knew. After all, the longer you wait, the angrier she'll be."
"You know it, I know it," Spike said. "But try telling Buffy that. Wants her to be 'normal' as long as bloody possible, whatever the bloody hell that means."
"B's still wishing on that star? What a load."
Spike agreed with a look.
"Whoa," Willow said. "I think you need to cut me off. I could swear that cardboard box is glowing."
"It is glowing," Giles said, head atilt.
"Why would a box glow?" Xander asked.
Spike and Giles frowned at the box, exchanged a glance, stared at the box again, then back at each other. Eyes widening at once, they scrambled toward it, pushed the other boxes out of the way and spun it around.
The box was marked:
"Oh," Giles said, a chill cleaving down his spine. "Dear God."
The crystal he'd packed less than a month ago. The one that stayed dormant as long as Angel's soul was intact... was glowing.
"Buffy!" Spike tried to shout, but his voice was no louder than a whisper.
They turned to see Faith standing behind Xander and Willow, pressing her thumbs into each of their necks until they dropped to the floor, unconscious. "Do you know how long that box was glowing? Jesus Christ, people."
"Yeah, she's not gonna be able to hear you with your throat all closed up like that. And moving could be problematic. Oh, did I forget to mention?"
Ridges appearing in her forehead, elongated fangs cutting into her lower lip, Faith licked the blood and grinned.