Spike sauntered down the alley followed by several of his minions. They had been trying to find the Slayer and her friends for several hours, but their luck had been all bad. The vampires stopped in surprise when a portal opened, and a little blond girl around five or six tumbled through.
Manna from heaven. Spike smirked through his fangs. What a perfect treat for my wicked ripe plum. He grabbed up the girl, and he was a little surprised when she didn't scream and struggle because of his game face.
As Spike sauntered down the alley with Dru's gift in his arms, he was surprised by her sweet little voice.
"Daddy? Are you mad at me?"
"Why would you think that?" Spike meant the 'Daddy' thing when he asked the question.
"Because you only go all grr face when you're mad."
"Is that right, princess?" Spike stared down into the bright, green, vaguely familiar eyes of his slight burden.
"Yep." The little girl looked around at the buildings. "Are we on the bad side of Cleveland, Daddy? I don't think Mommy will like me being here."
"We're in Sunnydale, princess," Spike replied. He guessed the portal had somehow transported the girl from Cleveland and addled her brain.
"But, Daddy, Sunnydale's gone," the girl whispered. "You and Mommy d'stroyed it, or that's what Grandpa Rupes says."
Spike shivered as if someone had just walked over his grave. Something told him that the portal hadn't just transported this little girl from Cleveland, but it had also propelled her through time. "I don't think I'm your Daddy yet, princess."
"Does that mean you don't love Mommy yet?" The girl's lower lip quivered as tears filled her eyes. "Are you gonna eat me, Daddy?"
Spike looked at the little girl in horror. If she was who she said, there was no way he'd hurt her. He learned his lesson about hurting his family. "I need to know a few things like your name and your mother's name."
"Oh, that's easy." The girl gave her Daddy a thousand watt smile. "My name is Tara Anyanka Joyce Jamison, but everyone calls me Taj, and my mommy's name is Buffy Anne Jamison."
"The Slayer's your mum?" Spike stared at the little girl. Would I really fall for that prissy little bitch? However, as he thought about how the Slayer danced and fought, he had to admit there was something special about Buffy Summers.
"Do you want to taste my blood to be sure?"
Spike's game face melted away as Taj's appeared. She quickly nicked a finger on a fang, and she shoved it in his mouth. The vampire could taste himself and what he assumed to be the Slayer --it was that potent-- in her blood. He pulled the appendage out of his mouth, and he whispered, "You've got a demon."
"Yeah," Taj nodded. "Will's awfully jealous, too. He just got Slayer strength, but me and Tasha have demons. Grrrr." She put her fingers up to her mouth to indicate fangs.
"Is that right?" Spike changed course mid stride. "I think we need to go find your mommy, and share the good news. Might want to lose the fangs, princess. Don't want to scare her off."
"Okay, Daddy." Taj flung her arms around Spike. "I love you forever and ever."
Spike felt his undead heart contract with caring at his daughter's heartfelt words. He stalked off towards the high school. When he got there, he had no problems slipping inside where he set Taj on her feet. The vampire and the girl walked hand in hand into the library.
"Grandpa Rupes," Spike called out. "Gotta surprise for you."
Giles and Buffy came out of the librarian's office. They both grabbed a weapon.
"What are you doing here, Spike?" Buffy gave the vampire a look of disgust.
"Mommy!" Taj said happily when she saw Buffy. "Grandpa Rupes." She tried to leap forward, but Spike held her back.
"Give them a moment to adjust, princess." Spike tightened his grip on the girl's hand. "Watcher, Slayer, may I introduce Taj Jamison, daughter of William the Bloody and Buffy Summers."
"You've got to be kidding me," Buffy growled. "What are you trying to pull?"
Spike shrugged. "Portal opened, and the nibblet fell out."
"That's Auntie Dawnie's nickname, not mine," Taj protested. "Mommy, Daddy's not pullin' anything. I'm really sorry I touched Auntie Willow's magic stuff. Please don't be mad at me."
"Magic has consequences, Taj," Spike said sternly.
"I know, Daddy." Taj heaved a sigh. "I said I was sorry."
"Sorry doesn't cover as an excuse for everything," Spike reprimanded the young girl. "You need to remember not to do it again."
Giles watched the interaction carefully. "A portal, you say?"
"Yes, Watcher. A nice, shiny portal." The vampire kept his eyes on the stunned Slayer.
"She's really mine?" Buffy stared at the girl.
"Yes, Slayer. She's really ours." Spike smirked at Buffy. He let go of Taj's hand, and the little girl streaked across the library to her mother.
Buffy's knees almost buckled under the onslaught of emotion she received from Taj's hug. The girl felt so right in her arms. When Buffy looked up, she found Spike staring at the two of them with a hunger in his eyes that had nothing to do with wanting to suck their blood.
"Holy frijoles, what's going on here?" Xander said from the library door. He stood there with Willow, Cordelia, and Oz.
"Uncle Xander!" Taj exclaimed. She turned to look at the Scoobies. "Uncle Oz, hi. Oh, Auntie Willow, I'm so sorry I touched your magic stuff."
"Magic?" Willow gave Giles a wild, wide-eyed look.
"Oh yeah, Auntie Willow. You're really good." Taj nodded frantically. "You made all the potentials into Slayers. I don't like Kennedy, but Rona is nice."
"Maybe we shouldn't be listening to all of this," Giles, the voice of reason, tried to speak up over the din of the Scoobies questions. "It could affect all of our futures."
"Uh huh." Taj looked at Cordelia and continued on as if Giles hadn't said a word. "You must be Cordy. I saw pictures in Mommy's album."
"You've never met Cordelia?" Buffy asked.
"Nuh hun." Taj shook her head. "She's dead."
"Dead?" Cordelia screeched. "How'd I die?"
"I don't know. You'd have to ask Grandpa Angel." Taj shrugged.
"Who is she?" Xander demanded as he pointed at Taj. "Why is she hugging Buffy? What's the bleached menace doing here? Shouldn't we be staking him?"
"My name is Tara Anyanka Joyce Jamison, and I'll hug my mommy if I want to." Taj streaked over to kick her Uncle Xander in the shins. "My daddy's not a menace, and you can't stake him."
"Mommy? Daddy?" Xander looked like a landed fish. "Giles!" he screamed.
"Shut up, Xander," Giles grumbled. "Now, we need to find a paternity spell to figure out who this girl really belongs to."
"She belongs to us," Spike and Buffy said at the same time. Their tones of voice were more possessive than the Scoobies had ever heard before from either the Slayer or the vampire. Not that they really knew the vampire all that well.
"She cut a finger, Watcher." Spike glanced at Buffy. "I tasted the blood. She's mine. I believe her when she says the Slayer's her mum."
"But how?" Xander asked.
"When a vampire and a Slayer love each other very, very much..." Spike started to say in a sarcastic tone.
Buffy clapped her hands over Taj's ears. "Spike, not in front of the children."
Willow clapped her hands over her own ears. "Yes, not in front of the children."
"You're funny, Auntie Willow." Taj suddenly yawned. "I'm tired, Mommy. Where am I gonna sleep tonight?"
"We'll figure something out, princess." Spike assured Taj.
"Okay, Daddy," Taj responded with confidence. She knew her daddy would be true to his word. "Kinda hungry, too."
"How about I go get some pizza?" Oz spoke for the first time.
"I love pizza," Taj said around another yawn. "I like spicy sausage, onions, and green peppers."
"Gotcha," Oz replied. "You coming, Xander?"
"Sure," Xander muttered. "Anything to get out of this madhouse." The two teenaged boys left the library.
"Uncle Xander's being a meanie," Taj whispered. "I like my Uncle Xander better. He's nice. Him, and daddy, and Uncle Oz went out to play pool last night while mommy and Auntie Willow had a party for Auntie Faith. She's gonna have a baby with Uncle Xander, you know."
"Okay. So, I'm dead, Buffy's boinking the undead, Xander's with some chick named Faith, and Willow's into magic." Cordelia threw her hands up in the air. "Anything else?"
"Squirt told me that her mum and I destroy Sunnydale," Spike replied helpfully. "That sounds like a good time."
"That only happened 'cause mommy died and Auntie Willow resurrected her," Taj said sleepily, her eyelids drooping. "The First Evil tried to do one of those apoco-thingies."
"Apocalypse?" Buffy asked. She gave Spike a worried look.
"Yeah, one of those." Taj snuggled into her mother's arms. "I love you, Mommy. You too, Daddy."
"Love you, too, princess." Spike went to the Slayer's side to ruffle Taj's hair. The more he was around the little girl the more his heart swelled with affection for her. Watching the Slayer with the little girl made him want things that he thought he had given up when he was turned.
"Giles, you still have that camera?" Buffy asked. "I'd really like some pictures for when we send her home."
"Sure. Let me go get it." Giles moved towards his office.
"Sit down, Spike." Buffy gave the bleached blond vampire a shy smile. "Next to me."
Spike smirked at the Slayer as he settled into a chair next to her. Being this close to the bloody Slayer and not trying to off her was a new experience for Spike. He was pretty sure he liked it, liked it a lot.
"Say cheese." Giles appeared with the camera. He took a few pictures before putting the camera on the counter, and he returned to his books. "Spike, may I ask what was the color of the vortex Taj came through?"
"Blueish-purple," the vampire answered. "Never seen anything like it. Vortexes are usually bluish-white."
"Seen many of those, sport?" Cordelia asked.
Spike glanced at the dark-haired girl for a moment. "A few. They're an easy way to travel for witches or between dimensions."
"Between dimensions?" Giles hurried to the cage where his personal collection was stored. "Yes, I seem to remember reading about purple tinted vortexes and dimension traveling."
"So, she's not really from the future?" Buffy asked sadly. She was surprised at how fast she had accepted and come to terms with the fact that she was involved with her mortal enemy. Involved enough to bear him at least one child.
"She is, if that's what you want, Slayer," Spike whispered in Buffy's ear.
"I do." Buffy smiled at the bleached blond vampire. She blushed under his heated leer. "But, I'd like to wait till after high school, if that's okay?"
"Slayer wants a nice long courtship."
"We're back," Oz announced. He and Xander pushed their way into the library. The young men carried three pizzas each, plus several two liters of soda. "Sausage, onions, and green peppers for the young lady." Oz set the pizzas on the table.
Willow got out the paper plates, napkins, and plastic cups that Giles kept in his office for just such occasions. She handed them out to everyone.
"Wake up, Taj. Pizza's here," Buffy said firmly.
"That was fast," Taj mumbled. She rubbed her eyes, and she sat up. "Grandpa Angel's almost here. Be careful, Daddy. He thinks Mommy's cookies belong to him."
"Thanks for the heads up, princess." Spike lifted Taj off the Slayer's lap. "Now, do you drink diet Coke like your mum?"
"How'd you know that?" Buffy asked. She stared at the vampire in astonishment. Angel couldn't remember what she liked to drink, but her mortal enemy could?"
"Just observant, pet."
"I drink Dr. Pepper, Daddy." Taj licked her lips when Oz opened the pizza boxes. She grabbed her plate, carried it to Oz, and impatiently waited for him to put some food on it. "Thanks, Uncle Oz. Daddy likes this pizza, too. Sometimes he puts those pepper flakes on it."
"I think there's some packets in the bag. Let me check." Oz checked the bags the soda had been in. "Here we go." He pulled out packets of pepper flakes and parmesan cheese.
The others, including Spike, filled their plates with pizza, and their glasses with soda. They had just sat down, when Angel slipped into the library. The dark-haired vampire stared in shock at the sight in front of him.
"Have some pizza, Angel," Willow said when she saw the broody demon.
"Vampires don't eat," Angel said. He ignored the fact that his grandchilde was currently shoving pizza into his mouth.
"I think you don't eat, Deadboy," Xander snarked. "Spike doesn't seem to have any problems."
"Daddy loves to eat," Taj spoke up. "He likes spicy wings and blooming onions too. Good thing mommy learned how to cook them."
"Buffy learned how to cook?" Willow asked with a chuckle.
"Only those two things, just for Daddy." Taj grinned. "Daddy does most of the cooking. William, me, and Tasha love his hot chocolate. He says it's just like Grandma used to make." She turned to Buffy. "Can I meet Grandma Joyce, Mommy?"
"I take it you don't cook, pet?" Spike asked Buffy.
Buffy shook her head. "Buffy and appliances are unmixy."
"Good to know."
"What is going on here?" Angel demanded to know. "Why is this child claiming Spike and Buffy as her parents? Everyone knows vampires can't have babies."
"Tell that to cousin Connor," Taj muttered under her breath.
Spike and Buffy looked down at their daughter, and then at the other vampire. They both raised an eyebrow at Angel.
"Well, obviously that's a myth," Buffy replied. "Since Taj here is our child." She indicated herself and Spike.
"What?" Angel narrowed his eyes at the bleached blond vampire. "What kind of scam are you trying to pull? You conjured up some little girl to get close to Buffy, didn't you?"
"Honestly, Angel, you claimed to know all about Spike." An older Buffy stepped into the library behind Angel. "That's so not his style. He likes the fight. It's you that does all the scheming." She looked at where her daughter was sitting beside her younger self. "Tara Anyanka Joyce, what have I said about Aunt Willow's magic stuff."
"Don't touch it." Taj looked down at her hands, her lip quivered, and her eyes filled with tears.
"That's enough, Taj." Older Buffy put her hands on her hips. "That only works on your father."
Taj sighed. "Can't I meet Grandma Joyce, Mommy?"
"Grandma Joyce doesn't even know I'm a Slayer yet," Older Buffy said. "And you want to show her a vampire mate, a six year old granddaughter and me? She'd freak out."
"Yeah, one thing at a time," Buffy said. "Don't want to go visit the loony bin again."
"You and Spike dusting a minion in front of her works really good," Older Buffy suggested.
"Is that how you introduced Spike to your mother?" Giles asked.
"Well, sorta, but she did recognize him from the axe to the back of his head incident." Older Buffy glanced at her watch. "Besides, Taj, we don't have time. Willow's gonna open the portal any minute now."
The younger version of Buffy rose to her feet. "Spike's really honestly your mate? What about Angel?"
Older Buffy nibbled her lower lip for a moment before she said, "Spike always had the capacity to love. All Angel has for you is a cursed soul."
"Cursed soul?" Giles looked intrigued.
"Well, if Miss Calendar is around, she can tell you. Angel leaves because we couldn't..." Older Buffy looked a Taj, and then at the others. "... Um... 'play checkers' without his soul taking a vacation." She gave Angel a small shrug.
"Taj said some things about me," Willow said softly. "I really can do magic?"
"Oh, yes, you're really powerful, Will." Older Buffy nodded. "Although you might want to go to that Coven of Giles' soon." She paused for a moment. "Oh, and.. well... um... if you like girls, that's okay. Tara was really a special woman. I miss her."
"What about me?" Xander raised his hand.
"You really are a demon magnet, and you might want to get some therapy for your commitment issues." Older Buffy had a horrified look on her face. "I'm one of those Mary Sue thingies Dawn did that report on back in her college lit class."
"I don't want to know anymore than I've already been told," Cordelia replied.
"Me either," Oz said.
Older Buffy grinned at Oz. "Okay, that's great."
A portal opened to the right of the Older Slayer. She put a hand out to her daughter. "Say your good-byes, sweetie."
"Bye, Mommy. Bye, Daddy." Taj kissed Buffy and Spike on the cheek. "Tell Grandma Joyce about me, okay?" she whispered.
"Bye, princess. Gonna miss you," Spike muttered.
Taj hugged the others, even Cordelia and Angel, before she went to her mother. She took Older Buffy's hand, and they went through the portal.
That last thing the Scoobies saw before the portal closed was Taj giving them a small smile and wave. They sat in silence as they thought about the little glimpse of the possible future that they'd seen.
"I miss her already," Buffy said sadly, tears ran down her cheeks.
"It's alright, luv." Spike put his arm around the Slayer's shoulders. "She'll be back someday, I promise."
"Get your hands off of her," Angel growled. "The Slayer's too good for you. You're beneath her." He knew from Drusilla just the right words to say to Spike.
Buffy leapt to her feet. "Angel, I think I can make my own decisions about my love life. It's not like we're gonna jump each other's bones right here and now."
"I think we need to sit down and remember as much stuff as we can about what Taj told us," Willow stated. "You start, Spike."
"Good idea, Red." Spike pulled Buffy back down into her seat.
The Scoobies went over everything that was said while Giles wrote it all down. The picture that was painted wasn't all good, but there were certainly some silver linings on the dark clouds.
Angel grumbled under his breath until Cordelia smacked and told him to shut up. Spike gave Buffy a speculative look when Angel obeyed the teenaged cheerleader.
After awhile the teenagers realized it was time to go home. They gathered their things, and they readied themselves for leaving.
"Can I walk you home, Slayer?" Spike asked.
Buffy nodded almost shyly. "That'd be nice." The Slayer and the vampire left the library.
"That's the start of a beautiful friendship, I just know it," Willow said with reverence. "They really do seem to compliment each other."