This may be the last chapter of this story. It's not been easy, I will NEVER again post a story that I've not finished. Thanks to all who reviewed! Sorry it took so long to reach a possible ending. Now I'll get back to 'Later Days', so need to complete that puppy…
Giles looked at his watch and took a deep breath. In approximately 2 minutes the portal would open and he only hoped and prayed Angel would be coming through with his slayer and their son. Willow came to stand next to him, taking his hand in hers.
"Giles, I'm sure he found them. They wouldn't have wandered too far from the opening and…and I'm sure he found them." She squeezed his hand and Giles smiled down at the young woman.
"I'm sure he did Willow, I'm sure he did."
Dawn sat on the couch between Tara and Spike, barely breathing. Two months, it had been two months since her sister and Connor had been pulled through the vortex and everyday she felt herself losing hope. She was almost afraid to be hopeful in case Angel came back empty handed. Or worse, didn't come back at all.
Cordelia held onto Xander's arm, leaning her face into his shoulder. "Oh Xander, it has to work. Angel has to have found them. It's just all too unfair, this has to work." She whispered.
"It will Cordy. Angel wouldn't have it any other way. And he's a master vampire after all. He'll make it right." He reassured her.
The air crackled as Buffy, Angel and Connor stood at glen, waiting for the vortex to open up. Geeta had come to their cottage that morning with the news.
"I've had a visitation. The portal will open this afternoon to take all of you back home." There was a sadness in her voice but a smile on her face. "It's time to return to your destiny."
So Buffy and Connor had gathered the few things they wanted to take home and Angel had spent his last morning in the sun. Buffy and Connor had joined him, their last outing as a family in Cernunnos.
The vortex opened quickly, not giving them time to really think. Angel pushed Buffy through first, then Connor before jumping in himself. A quick look behind him gave a last view of his family's home and friends and with a final wave, it was gone.
The crackle let Giles know the vortex was opening, he grabbed at Willow and backed up several feet as the swirling current opened up.
The first person they saw was Buffy, she held a package in her arms, which all assumed was Connor. Before anyone could react, a second body flew through, slamming into the slayer and toppling them both to the ground.
"Mom? Are you okay?" Connor's voice was filled with concern.
"I'm fine baby. Has you father come…" Before she could finish her question, Angel was force though the opening as it quickly closed behind him. He fell on his knees but quickly jumped up, checking his wife and son for any injuries.
"We're fine Angel, we're both fine." She laughed. Buffy looked up to see her whole extended family, eyes wide open, unable to move.
"Aren't you gonna welcome me home?" She asked. Dawn jumped off the couch and ran to her sister's arms.
"Oh my god! Buffy, Buffy, I was so scared. I missed you so much." She hugged her sister, burying her face in Buffy's neck. Taking a deep breath. She pulled back. "Where's Connor?"
"I'm right here." The young man who had crashed into her sister spoke up. "You must be Dawn." He smiled. Connor looked up at the rest of the group. "Giles, Willow," he swung around to face the couch, "Tara and Spike? And Xander and Cordelia."
"Wow!" Xander spoke up. "What the heck did they feed ya over there?"
Buffy smiled as Angel helped her up, which was made a little more difficult as Dawn would not let her go.
"Dawnie, sweetheart, let go. Buffy's not going anywhere." Angel gently pried the young girl off the slayer.
Buffy looked up at her watcher. "Oh Giles, it's so good to see you. And Will, how I missed you. It's been so long." Tears filled her eyes as she embraced them both. She turned to Connor and held her hand out. "Come here sweetheart."
Connor went to his mother and took her hand before he looked over at his father, who quickly joined them. "This is Connor."
"Goddess Buffy, sixteen years? Can I say it? You look super fabulous for a 38 year old woman." Willow laughed.
Buffy leaned against Angel as she kept a hand on Connor. "Yes, you can say it. And thank you very much for saying it." She smiled.
"And Connor." Giles shook his head. "My god Buffy, you raised you son all on your own. I realized the time might be differentiated, but I never let myself think so much time could pass. Buffy, I'm so…" He bit his lip, unsure how to continue. Willow took his hand again.
"But Giles, look at him. And look at Buffy. They're fine. And Angel was given time to get to know his family. And they're back. Really, it could've been so much worse." She looked over to her best friend for agreement. "Right?"
"Right. Giles, please. I won't lie, it was hard at first. I had no idea what I was doing. I was all by myself with my baby. I kept waiting. I knew you'd come for me, but the big question was when." She rubbed Conner's back as she felt him stiffen in discomfort.
"But we settled, we adapted, adjusted. And I knew you'd come as soon as you could. And I raised my son. I don't think I did such a bad job." Buffy smiled at her son and husband.
"You did a great job." Angel smiled back at his wife. He looked over at the watcher. "And he's great! You should see him fight Giles." Angel said with pride. Connor rolled his eyes.
"Dad, really." Connor blushed.
Giles nodded. "I just feel, as your watcher…"
Buffy chuckled. "Giles, I'm an adult. I was an adult when I left. A married woman, a mother. I made the causes that took me away with my son and the only regret I have was that Angel wasn't there to see him grow up. I did what I had to do Giles and you have no idea of the joy, the happiness I was allowed despite being away from you all."
"You really have grown up into a wonderful woman Buffy." Giles smiled at his slayer.
"Thank you for that. Now, if you will excuse me." Buffy noticed that Dawn had retreated to the kitchen and got up to find her.
"Dawnie?" Buffy went to her sister. "Are you alright?"
The young girl shrugged. "You have everything. You don't need me. I'm just the sister, you have this fabulous son who's like a prophecy and you have the love of your life for a husband. And then there's me. I just don't fit into to it all." She sniffed as she felt tears begin to build up.
"Oh Dawn, don't ever say that. You're more than my sister. I couldn't have made it without the thought of coming home to you. But it's all so new, sixteen years Dawn. Almost two decades. I had no idea what we'd be coming home to. And when Angel finally showed up and I found out only a couple of months had past…" Buffy fought the tears that were threatening to fall.
"I feel lost Dawnie. How can I claim him as my son? As far as anyone here knows, I'm still your 20 year old sister. How could I possibly have a 16 year old son? How are we going to get him into school? His birth certificate is pretty much null and void. I need you so much Dawn. I need your help. So does Connor ." Buffy pulled her sister into an embrace. "Never say you aren't needed or that you don't fit. I don't think I can make it without your help."
Dawn sighed deeply. "Oh Buffy, I'm sorry. I was so full of self pity I didn't even think of all these details that need to be handled. I promise, I'll be here for you. For all of you. But we don't have to think about it tonight, do we?"
"No, not tonight. Let's go inside and get reacquainted. And I want you and Connor to get to know each other. You are practically the same age, I'm sure you'll be fast friends."
"Practically the same age? Buffy, he's older than me! So unfair." She gave her sister a false pout. "But I'm sure I can deal."
Buffy chuckled. "I'm sure you can."
Dawn stood back from her sister and really looked at her.
"You don't really look any older Buffy, but you seem so much older. I guess I mean, mature. Do you really remember me? Do you know what I'm like?"
Buffy had to laugh at her sister's expression.
"Oh Dawnie, of course I know you. Every single day I would go over my life with you. From the moment you came home from the hospital until the day I was sucked through that damn vortex. You're me, remember? How could I not know you?"
"I guess I'll need to grow up too, huh?"
"No, you are almost 16 and that's just the age you should be. I'll need your help, but I do not need you to be anybody other than who you are. I had 16 years to grow up Dawn, to mature into a woman, a mother. I just want to spend time with all of you. Can we do that, just be sisters?"
"Yes please." Dawn nodded with a small smile.
"Okay then." Buffy hugged her sister and led her back to the living room.
Connor walked around the nursery. "So, this was my room huh?"
"Well, yeah, when you were like 4 months old." Dawn picked up the teddy bear that was sitting in the crib. "We can repaint."
"No, the color's nice. But maybe we can get rid of all the little animals? And I think the bed might be a bit too small." He laughed at the look on her face.
"Oh, you're teasing. Got to get used to that. Your Dad never really got the hang of humor so I just thought you might've inherited that trait."
"Really? He wasn't so bad back home." Connor quickly turned back to Dawn. "I mean Cernunnos, this is home now."
"Hey, don't be so hard on yourself. I'm sure it's gonna take time to get used to this all. Like it took me forever to get used to the idea that I've really only been around for like 2 years." She put down the teddy bear and looked at her 'nephew'.
"Buffy did tell you that I was a key to another dimension, right?" She cocked her head to one side, hoping she wasn't going to have to go into it all.
"She did. You were the stuff my childhood fairytales were made of." He smiled.
"Fairytales? More like fright-tales."
"No, every night my mom would tell me stories of life here. Of you, of Dad. Giles and Willow. Xander. Spike and Tara." He chuckled, "Cordelia. Of all the battles she fought. Her life as a slayer. Your life as her sister." He sat on the floor and looked up at her.
"I just never expected you'd be so much like me." Connor smiled.
Dawn's breathe caught in her throat as that smile devastated her. "Well, let's just say I thought I'd have to wait a good long while before I'd have to walk you to school. Never mind that I never thought it would be my school."
"Hey you two." Buffy poked her head in the door. "Angel and Xander brought the extra bed up from the basement so let's take down the crib."
"Mom? Do you think we should just set it in the corner?" Connor innocently asked.
"Why would you want to do that? Just takes up too much room." Dawn got up and pulled the bedding off the crib.
Buffy went to her son and took his hand, leading him to her room.
"Sweetheart, I haven't told anyone else about the new baby yet. We'll do it soon, it's just all too much."
Connor nodded. "Sorry, I didn't think. You're right. Soon." He kissed his mother's cheek and went back into his room to help disassemble the crib.
Later that evening Buffy lay in her husband's arms and sighed.
"What?" Angel asked.
"Nothing, I'm just tired I guess. It's all so much, you know? We back and everyone just expects me to be the same Buffy that left, but I'm not. I'm a grown woman, a mother."
"It'll take them some time Buffy. I had over two months to become accustomed to my new wife." He smiled as he felt her growl. "Okay, not new, but the more matured Buffy. Just give them time honey. If they spend any amount of time with you they'll soon learn about the woman you've become."
"Am I so different?" She questioned.
"Not so different, but so much more. You know how I feel, so stop fishing." He laughed.
She slapped his chest.
"Don't you dare laugh at me, I'm feeling very insecure and I'm trying to prepare myself Angel. I hate not knowing what's going to happen." She burrowed deeper into his arms.
"Oh baby, none of us, with the possible exception of Cordy, know what the future will bring." Angel rubbed his hand across her back.
"Or the Powers That Be." She added.
"Yeah, there's that too. All we can do is live Buffy. Live and wait. When the time is right we'll know what prophecy needs to be fulfilled. In the meantime…" She felt her husband shrug.
"I know you're right. But you know how I hate to be in the dark, especially when it comes to our son."
"Go to sleep sweetheart. It'll all still be there tomorrow and we'll figure it out. Together." He kissed her brow before turning off the lamp.
Okay, so I'm at a cross roads here. I had planned for this to be the last chapter but I outlined several more – should I continue? If I don't get too much of a response, I may eventually write a sequel after 'Later Days' is done.
At any rate, thanks again to all who reviewed. You inspire me!