A Buffyverse Bachelor Challenge: Prologue


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A Buffyverse Bachelor Challenge: Prologue

  1. 1. <ul><li>A Buffyverse Bachelor Challenge: Prologue </li></ul><ul><li>By RoseFyre </li></ul><ul><li>So, welcome to Liam’s Bachelor Challenge! This is not the actual challenge itself, it is merely a prologue…because no way in hell is Liam ready for anything involving human relations in the state of mind he’s in right now. </li></ul><ul><li>Yeah. </li></ul><ul><li>Enjoy, and look for the BC itself soon! </li></ul><ul><li>--- </li></ul><ul><li>Definitely don’t own Joss, the Buffyverse, or anything that comes from that. Don’t own a bunch of these sims either. :D </li></ul>
  2. 2. <ul><li>As the day went on, Lilah and Tara resurrected their dead cousins and aunts and uncles and explained what was going on. </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>A couple of hours in, Tara had to leave for work – since she’d decided to switch jobs again, now that she was young enough to get yet another lifetime want. By that time, their parents had been brought back, and they agreed that Rupert could take over working with Lilah. Lynne was a bit reluctant to let him stay, but she agreed it was necessary. </li></ul><ul><li>Therefore, Lilah and Rupert brought back the rest of his siblings. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Alright, that’s the rest of my generation,” Rupert said as Xander and Marisa giggled like two teenagers and left the room. </li></ul><ul><li>Lilah watched them leave. “Who’s next, Dad?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Now we bring back my parents.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Sounds good to me.” </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>Rupert picked up the phone and dialed. “Yeah, this is Rupert Giles Whedon. Yes, again. We’re bringing everyone back. No, there are only six people left. Yes, six. This time? Buffy Anne Summers Whedon. Yes, she’s my mother. Yes, all ten thousand simoleans. Thank you.” He turned to Lilah. “Of course I’m bringing everyone back!” Lilah grinned and rolled her eyes as he turned back to the phone. “What? Yes, send her through now.” Then he hung up. </li></ul><ul><li>Buffy materialized. “Whoa.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Hey, Mom.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Rupert! You’ve gotten so old!” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I used to be older.” </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>She laughed, then felt herself becoming younger too. “Wow. This happen to you, too?” </li></ul><ul><li>Rupert nodded. She held out her arms, and he hugged her tight. “I missed you.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I didn’t want to leave, you know that, right?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I do.” He backed away and surreptitiously wiped a tear from his face. “Mom, this is Lilah, your granddaughter.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ It’s nice to meet you.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Nice to meet you too, um, Grandma?” </li></ul><ul><li>Buffy laughed. “That’s fine, if you want.” </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>Lynne stuck her head in the door. “Rupert? How are things going?” </li></ul><ul><li>Buffy looked at her with her brow furrowed. “You were one of Dad’s friends, weren’t you?” </li></ul><ul><li>Lynne nodded. “Yeah, I was. Now I’m married to Rupert.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Oh. That’s nice.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ So how are things going?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Well,” Rupert said, “I brought back all of my siblings and their spouses, and now Mom. Oh, and that random townie who died. There’s still Dad, Aunt Cordy, Uncle Liam, Grandma, and Grandpa.” </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>Buffy looked at her son, then his wife. “Why don’t you two go reunite? Lilah and I can handle it, right Lilah?” </li></ul><ul><li>Lilah nodded. “Sure.” </li></ul><ul><li>Buffy could see that her son was wavering. “Besides, you never knew your grandparents or aunt and uncle, and from what I’ve heard of this thing, you have to have known the person to bring them back. I knew all of them, so I’m the best choice to do it.” </li></ul><ul><li>Rupert nodded, finally. “Okay.” Lynne smiled at Buffy, then pulled Rupert out of the room, clearly off to find a good bed to reunite in. </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>Buffy looked at the bone phone, then her granddaughter. “How does this thing work?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You just pick up the phone and press the green button. They’ll ask you who you want to resurrect and how much you want to pay. Always pay the full ten thousand, or you could end up with a zombie. At least, that’s what Rose said.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Definitely don’t want that,” Buffy muttered, then followed Lilah’s instructions. “Hi. No, Buffy Whedon. Buffy Anne Summers Whedon. Yes, I was just brought back. I’d like to bring back my brother-in-law. Martin Davis Whedon. Yes. No, we were not married. Yes, he was. You don’t have to get married for that! It’s none of your business what our relationship was, anyway. Yes, fine, all ten thousand simoleans. Yes, we’re ready for him.” She hung up and rolled her eyes at Lilah, who was smirking at her. </li></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><li>Martin found himself materializing. “Buffy!” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Hey, hon,” she said, kissing him on the cheek. </li></ul><ul><li>“ What happened?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ The Apocalypse is over, and we’re all getting resurrected and younger.” At that, Martin shuddered and became an Adult again. “Our kids, and grandkids, and great-grandkids fixed things.” </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>“ We’re bringing everyone back?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ We are.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ It’s been so long since I’ve seen Lia.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Do you want to?” She gestured at the phone. </li></ul><ul><li>Martin shook his head, then moved away from the materializing spot. “No, you go ahead. I’ll wait here for her.” </li></ul><ul><li>Buffy nodded, then picked up the phone again. “Hi. Yes, it’s Buffy Anne Summers Whedon. My sister. Cordy. No, of course that’s not her full name. It’s Cordelia Chase Whedon. Yes, that Cordelia Chase Whedon. All ten thousand simoleans, and we’re ready.” She rolled her eyes as she hung up the phone. “That – person – is a prude.” </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>Cordy materialized on the word prude. “Wow.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Lia,” Martin breathed, sweeping her into a hug. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Martin!” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I’ve missed you so much!” He lifted her and twirled her around as she giggled. “Hey, it’s been years for me. Over forty years since you died.” </li></ul><ul><li>Cordy smiled sadly. “Well, I’m back now.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I know.” They kissed deeply, then broke apart for air. </li></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>Cordy finally looked around at the rest of the room, and broke her hug with her husband to clutch at her sister. “Buffy!” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Cordy!” They hugged, tightly, as Martin watched them with a sad smile. Lilah had her head cocked, watching her grandparents and great-aunt reunite. </li></ul><ul><li>“ How is everyone? Xander, and Mom, and Liam, and you guys, and the whole Apocalypse?” </li></ul><ul><li>Buffy and Martin exchanged a glance. “Well, the Apocalypse is over and Xander is doing fine, I think,” Buffy said, glancing at Lilah, who nodded. “I still need to bring back Liam and Mom and Dad.” She looked at her sister. “Look, a lot has happened. Martin and I will explain it all after, okay?” </li></ul>
  13. 13. <ul><li>“ Okay.” Cordy leaped into her husband’s arms, surprising him, then pulling him to a corner of the room, where they began kissing again. </li></ul><ul><li>Lilah stepped close to Buffy. “Were she and Grandpa–” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yes, they were married,” Buffy said quietly. “After Cordy died, we had to fix things, and, well, your grandfather and I realized that the only way to keep going was to have children. Let us tell her? She deserves to hear it from us.” </li></ul><ul><li>Lilah nodded. “Not my business what you do with your love lives. Should we bring back the others?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Sure.” Buffy picked up the phone once more. “Hi. Yes, Buffy Anne Summers Whedon. Yes, again. My brother, this time. Liam Angel Whedon. The full ten thousand, thank you. And we’re ready.” She hung up the phone and waited for her brother. </li></ul>
  14. 14. <ul><li>“ What the fu c k?” Liam said as he felt himself materializing, coming back from death. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Liam!” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Don’t scold me for my language, Buffy. Just don’t.” Liam looked around, noticing Cordy and Martin kissing in the corner. “Have you told her about you and Martin yet?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Liam…” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You haven’t, have you?” Liam glared at his sister. </li></ul><ul><li>Buffy looked down. “No.” </li></ul>
  15. 15. <ul><li>Liam shook his head. “Great.” He looked down, finally seeming to realize that he was fully alive again. “Why did you bring me back, anyway? Going to make me live in hell again?” </li></ul><ul><li>Buffy brightened at that. “The Apocalypse is over.” She gestured at Lilah, who was standing on her right. “This is Lilah, Rupert’s daughter. Her children finished fixing things.” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam looked at Lilah, then turned back to Buffy. “Who’s Rupert?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ My fourth child.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You had four children?!” </li></ul><ul><li>Buffy blushed a bit. “Five, actually.” </li></ul>
  16. 16. <ul><li>Liam glared at her, then at Martin, who had realized that something was happening and started bringing Cordy over. He shook his head. “I’m leaving.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ What?” “Liam!” “Don’t–” </li></ul><ul><li>He pushed past his sisters and brother-in-law and walked toward the door. “I’m leaving. I have no interest in dealing with you people anymore.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ We still have to bring Mom and Dad back–” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam turned around. “You think I care? I lived perfectly fine without Dad for my entire life, and Mom and you, ” he glanced at Cordy, “since I was a teen. I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about me.” With that, he pushed his way out the door. </li></ul>
  17. 17. <ul><li>Buffy, Cordy, Martin, and Lilah watched him go. “Wow,” Lilah said. “What’s up with him?” </li></ul><ul><li>Martin and Buffy exchanged glances. “Liam…has a lot of issues,” Martin said, trying to be tactful. </li></ul><ul><li>“ That’s putting it mildly,” Cordy said. “He had a lot of issues when I was alive, and he’s only gotten worse. What happened?” </li></ul><ul><li>Martin and Buffy exchanged another glance. “That’s a long story,” Buffy eventually said, “and we need to tell it to you. But first, let’s bring Mom and Dad back, okay?” </li></ul><ul><li>Cordy nodded, Martin breathed a silent sigh of relief, and Lilah shook her head in amazement. </li></ul><ul><li>With that agreement, Buffy turned back to the bone phone. “Alright,” she said, picking it up, “here we go.” </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  18. 18. <ul><li>When Liam left the house, he had no idea what he was doing or where he was going. He vaguely recognized that he’d been resurrected at what had been his home, despite the differences in how the house looked. The scenery was mostly the same and it somehow felt like home. </li></ul><ul><li>He shook it off and walked away from the house, along a vaguely remembered path. He’d only ever left his house once – other than on the bus to and from school – but his sense of direction was good and The Bronze quickly came into sight. Much like home, it didn’t look the same, but he knew instinctively that it was the same place as the old community center. </li></ul><ul><li>The outside alone told him how much things had changed. There were plants and a pond, to say nothing of the size of the building. When he went inside, things were even more different. There was a coffee bar and all of the musical instruments he’d ever heard of, and a hot tub was visible on the back porch. </li></ul>
  19. 19. <ul><li>Liam started to walk over to the coffee bar, ready to order, when he realized that he didn’t have any money. </li></ul><ul><li>He closed his eyes for a second, then walked into one of the side rooms, where he found a pool table and two couches. He sat on one of the couches and put his face in his hands. What was he going to do? </li></ul><ul><li>An hour later, he still hadn’t reached any conclusions. When he heard footsteps, however, he looked up. </li></ul>
  20. 20. <ul><li>“ Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize anyone–” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Meadow,” he breathed. </li></ul><ul><li>She looked at him for a second, then her eyes widened. “Liam?” </li></ul><ul><li>He stood up. “Yeah, I–” </li></ul><ul><li>She was across the room and hugging him in an instant. “I missed you, you doof!” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I missed you too,” he said. He awkwardly hugged her, then let go, unsure what to do with his hands. She grabbed one and pulled him down to sit on the couch next to her. </li></ul>
  21. 21. <ul><li>“ Xander told me you died.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ That was…nice…of him.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Xander’s a nice guy.” He looked at her and she rolled her eyes. “He’d also been happily married for like 50 years when he died.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Xander died?” </li></ul><ul><li>Meadow reached out a hand, patting his shoulder, as though unsure what to do with it. “Of old age, after having two daughters and two granddaughters.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ That’s…good.” </li></ul>
  22. 22. <ul><li>Meadow looked at him knowingly. “You’re upset.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ What?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I know your broody look, mister.” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam glared at her. “They brought me back.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ So?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ So what if I didn’t want to be back?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I’m betting they’re bringing everyone back. Who else was there when you were resurrected?” </li></ul>
  23. 23. <ul><li>“ Buffy, her grandkid, and Martin and Cordy.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Anyone mention your parents?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yeah.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yeah, they’re bringing everyone back. The Apocalypse is over, after all.” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam put his head in his hands. “What am I supposed to do?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You’re supposed to live.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ How?” </li></ul>
  24. 24. <ul><li>Meadow put her hand on his shoulder. “By doing the best you can.” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam looked up at her. “Meadow…” </li></ul><ul><li>She shook her head. “I mourned you a long time ago, Liam.” </li></ul><ul><li>His shoulders slumped. “I know. You’re a teen, anyway. It would be wrong.” </li></ul><ul><li>She stood up. “Yeah. I have to get to work in half an hour, so I’m off. But if you ever need to talk, my number’s the same. And the phones actually work now.” </li></ul><ul><li>He tried to smile at her, but wasn’t sure it came out well. “Thanks.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ No problem.” </li></ul>
  25. 25. <ul><li>As she turned and left, Liam let his head fall back on the edge of the sofa. He was no closer to figuring out what to do. </li></ul>
  26. 26. <ul><li>A few minutes later, a woman Liam didn’t recognize walked in. “Sorry – I – the barista said there was a pool table. I can leave, though.” She started to turn to leave. </li></ul><ul><li>“ No, it’s okay. Stay.” </li></ul><ul><li>The woman looked at him, then started getting the balls out. “Do you want to play?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I don’t know how.” It cost him a lot to admit that. </li></ul><ul><li>“ I can teach you.” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam took a deep breath. “Okay.” He stood up and grabbed two cues while she finished arranging the balls. </li></ul>
  27. 27. <ul><li>She took one of the cues. “I’m Elle, by the way. Elle Fitzhugh.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Liam Whedon.” </li></ul><ul><li>They played quietly, without much talk other than Elle’s explanations of the rules and discussions of strategy. She was good at the game, Liam found, but he wasn’t as bad as he’d thought he’d be. </li></ul><ul><li>Elle won, of course, but he hadn’t expected to win his first game ever. </li></ul><ul><li>As they were setting up the balls for another game, Elle spoke. “What else is there to do around here? My husband and I just moved here.” </li></ul>
  28. 28. <ul><li>Liam focused on the balls. “I’m not the person you want to ask about that.” The look she gave him was questioning, but she didn’t actually say anything, choosing to take her first shot instead. </li></ul><ul><li>The fact that she wasn’t pushing was what made him answer her unasked question. “I’ve been…away…for a long time. My family came to get me today.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ What happened?” </li></ul><ul><li>He didn’t look at her as he set up his shot. “A lot. Arguments, and marriages, and laws.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Why did they come for you today, then?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ The Apocalypse is over now.” His voice was bitter. </li></ul>
  29. 29. <ul><li>“ You too?” Liam’s head snapped to face her. “That explains why the town’s trying so hard to attract new people.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ What do you mean, you too?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ My great-great-grandfather came back from college to an Apocalypse.” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam’s voice was quiet. “My father did too.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Hard life?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Very.” </li></ul>
  30. 30. <ul><li>Elle let him brood as she continued to play, seeming to understand what he needed without asking. When the game was over – Elle won again – she put her cue away, then started on the balls. “If you want to talk about it…” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam put his cue on the wall and kept his back to her. “I don’t think I’m ready.” </li></ul><ul><li>She nodded. “If you want to talk about anything – even just pool or what’s on TV – let me give you my email address.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Okay.” </li></ul><ul><li>She took a notepad and pen out of her purse and wrote something down, then ripped out the page and handed it to him. He read it – Elle.Fitzhugh@simmail.com. A very practical address. </li></ul><ul><li>Of course, this meant he would have to get one so he could email her. He found that he actually liked that idea. </li></ul>
  31. 31. <ul><li>As she was about to leave, Liam stopped her with a hand on her elbow. “Thank you.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ For what?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Not pushing.” </li></ul><ul><li>She smiled. “Not a problem. It was good to meet you, Liam Whedon.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You too, Elle Fitzhugh.” They both chuckled at the inadvertent rhyme. </li></ul><ul><li>They shook hands and Elle turned to leave when they heard footsteps again and someone else entered the room. </li></ul>
  32. 32. <ul><li>“ Mom?” Liam asked in disbelief. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Liam. You’ve grown so much!” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You’re young again.” </li></ul><ul><li>She laughed. “We all are.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Oh.” Elle was watching them with curiosity. “Mom, this is Elle Fitzhugh. Elle, this is my mom, Eloise Whedon.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Pleased to meet you,” Eloise said. The two women shook hands. </li></ul>
  33. 33. <ul><li>“ You too.” Elle checked her watch. “Stuart should be home from work soon. Email me?” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam nodded. “I will.” Elle smiled and left. Liam looked at his mother, then at the door, and sat down on the couch, leaning his head on the back. </li></ul>
  34. 34. <ul><li>His mother sat down next to him. “So who was that?” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam lifted his head and looked at her. “It’s not like that.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Oh?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ She’s married. And new to town. I think she wants to meet new people, make friends, all that stuff.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Ah.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yeah.” He let his head fall back again. </li></ul>
  35. 35. <ul><li>“ Buffy told us you left. She thought I might have better luck getting you to return.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I can’t deal with them.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ She said that, and implied that there were valid reasons.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I’d have thought she would keep that quiet.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Oh, she didn’t tell me what those reasons were . But I know my children, and Buffy was feeling nervous and guilty.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ She should be,” Liam said venomously. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Did something happen after I died?” </li></ul>
  36. 36. <ul><li>Liam looked at her incredulously. “Did something happen? What didn’t happen?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Do you want to tell me?” Eloise asked calmly. </li></ul><ul><li>Liam closed his eyes. “Tell Buffy that if she doesn’t tell Cordy what happened within a week, I’m going to tell her. She gets two weeks to tell you before I step in.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Does that mean you’re staying?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I don’t have the money to go anywhere else.” </li></ul><ul><li>Eloise took a breath. “If you want, I can give you the money to leave.” </li></ul>
  37. 37. <ul><li>“ But?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ But what?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I can hear the guilt trip.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Your father wants to meet you.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ So?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ He’s your father.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ He’s been dead since before I was born.” Eloise jerked back as though she’d been slapped. “Where was he when I needed him?” </li></ul>
  38. 38. <ul><li>“ The laws–” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I know all about the fucking laws, Mom! They killed Dad, and they killed Cordy, and they killed you, and they killed me!” </li></ul><ul><li>“ What?” Eloise’s voice was horrified. </li></ul><ul><li>“ I became an adult, had a breakdown, and got scared to death by your ghost.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Oh my God.” </li></ul>
  39. 39. <ul><li>Liam shook his head. “It’s not your fault. I assume I became a ghost, but I don’t remember it.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Neither do I. I – Liam, I’m so sorry.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ It’s not your fault.” </li></ul><ul><li>They sat in silence for a few minutes. “Do, do you want to leave?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I do and I don’t.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Please come back?” </li></ul>
  40. 40. <ul><li>Liam sighed. “Alright. But I’m not living with Buffy again.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You don’t have to. Houses have been prepared for everyone, and you always have a place with your father and me. He’s setting it up right now, actually.” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam smiled a little. “I’m still not sure about this.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You don’t have to be.” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam nodded and stood up. His mother joined him, and they left The Bronze together, headed for their new home. </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  41. 41. <ul><li>“ Joss?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Eloise?” The voice came from a room that Liam assumed was the kitchen, based on the smells coming from it. His father appeared in the door. “The pie is almost ready.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Dessert for dinner?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I haven’t had anything but burgers in years. And it has fruit, so it’s got nutritional value.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ True.” They smiled goofily at each other. Eloise then stepped to one side and pulled Liam forward. “Joss, I’d like you to meet our son, Liam Angel Whedon. Liam, this is your father, Joss Whedon.” </li></ul><ul><li>The two men stared at each other awkwardly. “Um, hi,” Liam said once the silence got to be too much. </li></ul>
  42. 42. <ul><li>That seemed to inspire Joss to move; he came over and pulled Liam into a hug. Liam stiffened, then awkwardly patted his father on the back. “It’s so good to meet you.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You too,” Liam said, pulling out of the hug. The oven dinged, but Joss didn’t seem to notice, so Eloise headed into the kitchen to get the pie. </li></ul>
  43. 43. <ul><li>Joss and Liam didn’t even notice when she left, they were so busy staring at each other. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Boys! Pie’s ready!” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam broke away from the stare first and sat down at the table. Joss followed him with his eyes for a moment, then sat down himself. </li></ul><ul><li>The conversation at dinner was mostly superficial – none of them really had the energy or the want to talk about anything deep. They talked about the renovations to The Bronze and the house, the weather, and family members other than Buffy, Cordy, and Martin. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Can you believe we have great-great-great-grandchildren?” Eloise asked her husband. Joss blew her a kiss; she giggled as she caught it. </li></ul>
  44. 44. <ul><li>Liam put his fork on his plate, leaving his pie half-eaten. “You know, I don’t think I’m all that hungry after all.” He pushed away from the table and stood up. “I’m gonna go sleep.” He stepped away from the table, then turned back. “Um, where’s my room?” </li></ul><ul><li>His parents exchanged a glance. “I figured we’d take the master bedroom,” Joss said, glancing at his wife, who nodded. “Feel free to take either room at the top of the stairs – they’re fairly similar, and it’s just us three here anyway.” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam nodded and headed upstairs. They watched him go. </li></ul>
  45. 45. <ul><li>Joss put down his own fork. “What was that about?” </li></ul><ul><li>Eloise sighed. “I shouldn’t have said that.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Said what?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Us having great-great-great-grandchildren.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Why not?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Liam never got to have children.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I thought you died when he was a teen.” </li></ul>
  46. 46. <ul><li>“ I did. From what he told me a few hours ago, though, he was barely an adult when he died. And neither he nor Buffy – who was still alive when he died – mentioned him having a wife or kids. He’s living with us, after all – would he do that if he were married?” </li></ul><ul><li>Joss picked up the dirty dishes to wash them while Eloise stayed at the table. “That was a big deal for him?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ He’s a Family Sim.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Ah.” </li></ul>
  47. 47. <ul><li>Eloise put her face in her hands. “He’s a perfect blend of us, you know. Your personality, my aspiration.” She sighed again. </li></ul><ul><li>Joss finished the last dish and came over to her. “We’ll do whatever we can to help him.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I know,” Eloise said as she let him help her stand. “I just hope there’s something we can do.” </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  48. 48. <ul><li>Liam found that living with his parents was both nice and awkward. </li></ul><ul><li>His father was an excellent chess opponent – and he didn’t cheat, either – and they all enjoyed quiet evenings reading together or watching old movies. </li></ul><ul><li>On the other hand, activities that involved more talking didn’t go quite as well. Conversations during meals were a big problem. </li></ul><ul><li>Plus, his parents didn’t really seem to understand just how thin the walls were. </li></ul><ul><li>Or the fact that Liam could see the hot tub from his bedroom window. </li></ul><ul><li>At least Elle’s emails and phone calls helped – and she agreed that they needed to not spend time in the hot tub when he was home. It still felt too awkward to talk to Meadow, leaving Elle his only real friend outside of his family. </li></ul>
  49. 49. <ul><li>Still, things were mostly going well when the phone rang one evening, its tones loud in the silence of three people spending the evening with their books. As Eloise started to put her book down, Liam stood up. “I’ll get it,” he said. “It’s probably Elle anyway. She said she would call.” Eloise nodded, and Liam grabbed the phone. “Hello?” </li></ul>
  50. 50. <ul><li>There was a moment of silence on the other end. “Liam?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Buffy.” His voice was suddenly ice-cold. </li></ul><ul><li>“ I, um, just was calling to tell you that Martin and I, we told Cordy–” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Good,” he said. Then he hung up the phone, ignoring Buffy, who was continuing to speak. </li></ul>
  51. 51. <ul><li>He noticed his parents exchange a glance as the phone started ringing again. This time he ignored it except to shoot a glare in its general direction, and instead headed outside. He needed to get away. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Buffy?” His mother had answered the phone. “No, I don’t know why Liam hung up, he just glared at the phone and left.” </li></ul><ul><li>Her voice faded away as he left the house. He sat down on the steps, watching the fireflies play. He was glad that Cordy knew, but he couldn’t deal with Buffy. </li></ul><ul><li>It wasn’t his job to be the responsible one. He’d been the babysitter, the sink-fixer, the cook, the maid, the pet-befriender, the homework-doer. He couldn’t be that person anymore, or he’d break under the weight of it. </li></ul><ul><li>He tried to make his mind go blank, but it wasn’t working. He couldn’t stop thinking. </li></ul>
  52. 52. <ul><li>A while later, the door opened behind him. “Liam,” his father said. “Your friend Elle just called. I have her on the line if you’d like to talk to her.” </li></ul><ul><li>He stood up. “Yeah, thanks.” </li></ul><ul><li>Joss put his hand on Liam’s shoulder as he passed by. “I don’t know what’s upsetting you so much–” </li></ul><ul><li>“ It’s not my place to say.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I know. Buffy said she’s coming over tomorrow to tell us exactly what’s going on.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Good. I’ll make sure not to be here.” </li></ul>
  53. 53. <ul><li>Joss’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t know why you two are avoiding each other.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ There are reasons. They don’t concern you.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Liam…” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Elle’s probably wondering what’s taking so long.” He pushed past his father into the house. He knew his father was staring at him, but he ignored it and picked up the phone instead. “Elle? Hey, yeah, it’s good to hear from you. Look, are you busy tomorrow?” </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  54. 54. <ul><li>“ Thanks for meeting me here, Elle.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ No problem. Thanks for buying me coffee.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ It’s the least I can do – you didn’t have to come.” </li></ul><ul><li>Elle shrugged. “There wasn’t any reason not to.” She sipped her coffee. “And you sounded like you needed a friend.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yeah, I…yeah.” </li></ul><ul><li>She drained her coffee and tilted her head, watching him as though she knew what he was thinking. “Want to play some pool?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Sure.” Liam drained his coffee. </li></ul>
  55. 55. <ul><li>They headed into the pool room and played two games in complete silence. Elle won both, though Liam could tell he was getting better. </li></ul><ul><li>Elle never asked about his problems – she never had, in email or over the phone or even the one time they’d met in person – and that let him choose to talk about them. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Buffy is visiting our parents today.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Buffy?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ My sister.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Ah. And you didn’t want to be there?” </li></ul>
  56. 56. <ul><li>He sighed. “I really, really didn’t. I don’t want to speak to her at all right now.” </li></ul><ul><li>She looked at him questioningly, then leaned forward to take her shot. </li></ul><ul><li>“ The town you came from was in an Apocalypse, you said,” Liam began as Elle stood up, having sunk the ball, and nodded. “But most of the problems had been fixed by the time you were born.” </li></ul><ul><li>She nodded again. “We had seven major sets of restrictions to lift, and we did.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ When I was born, three restrictions had been lifted. When I d- left , six had been lifted, and life was…awkward.” </li></ul><ul><li>He could feel Elle watching him, but he carefully kept his eyes on the table. “Oh.” </li></ul>
  57. 57. <ul><li>“ Hard choices had to be made. I understand that. And Buffy was basically left in charge of the family, so she had to make those choices. But you don’t sleep with your sister’s husband even if she’s dead!” He placed his cue on the table, then leaned on it himself. “Even if you think the family needs more kids,” he muttered. </li></ul><ul><li>“ No,” Elle said, sounding thoughtful, “there are some things you don’t do with your sister’s guy. Not if you’re smart, anyway.” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam nodded. He agreed completely. </li></ul>
  58. 58. <ul><li>They stood in silence for a few minutes, then Liam began cleaning up the balls. “Thanks for meeting me.” </li></ul><ul><li>She smiled, somewhat sadly. “It was my pleasure.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I–” </li></ul><ul><li>“ It’s okay.” </li></ul><ul><li>He smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “Thanks. Really, thanks.” </li></ul><ul><li>She smiled and left, somehow sensing that he needed to be alone right then. He finished cleaning up the balls and hung the cues on the rack. Then, with one last glance at the room, he headed out. </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  59. 59. <ul><li>When Liam got home that evening, he found his mother sitting on the porch swing, obviously waiting for him. He sat down next to her and stared out at the houses around him. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Buffy came over today.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ There’s a reason I went out, Mom.” </li></ul><ul><li>She sighed. “I know. She told us what happened after I died.” Liam carefully didn’t look at her. “About the choices that were made to keep the family going.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Is that how she phrased it, then?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ One of the ways.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ What else did she say?” </li></ul>
  60. 60. <ul><li>“ That she and Martin realized that the entire responsibility for fixing things couldn’t rest on just Xander’s shoulders, not with three angry ghosts in the house.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Xander’s strong. He’d have been fine.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ And if he had died?” Eloise snapped, turning to completely face him. “What would we have done then?” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam turned away. They sat in an awkward silence for a few minutes. “Anything else?” he finally asked. </li></ul><ul><li>“ That they woohooed exactly three times and had five children, including two sets of twins.” She looked at him. “What exactly is making you so upset, Liam?” </li></ul>
  61. 61. <ul><li>He knew she wasn’t trying to be confrontational – that she had, in fact, phrased her question as non-confrontationally as possible. It didn’t matter. “Buffy woohooed her sister’s husband. Martin woohooed his wife’s sister. And they didn’t even stop when they had enough children to be safe!” </li></ul><ul><li>“ No one was safe, Liam! I remember when Cordy died. I was there.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You were senile.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I was forgetful . I didn’t always know what was going on. But I knew that my daughter had died, and I knew what that meant for Xander.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ So?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ So I agree that Buffy and Martin ultimately made the right choice.” </li></ul>
  62. 62. <ul><li>“ How can you say that?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ That I believe it was the right choice? Because I do.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You’re a Family Sim, Mom! Marriage is sacred!” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Is that what this is about?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Martin is a Family Sim, and he cheated on his wife.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Cordy was already dead.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Cordy is also a Family Sim! I respect her marriage, and her right to not have her husband and her sister going behind her back, even if no one else does.” </li></ul>
  63. 63. <ul><li>“ Liam,” Eloise put her hand on his shoulder, “Cordy has already forgiven them. They’re all living together. Actually, Joss and Buffy went over there just before you got home to invite them to a family dinner.” </li></ul><ul><li>His jaw dropped. “You invited them over for dinner?!” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Of course we did.” She looked at the sidewalk. “Ah, there they are.” </li></ul><ul><li>He stood up and turned swiftly to face the sidewalk, where Joss, Buffy, Cordy, and Martin were coming toward the house. “You invited them to dinner and didn’t even warn me?!” His voice was getting louder and more horrified, but he couldn’t help it, and didn’t particularly want to. </li></ul>
  64. 64. <ul><li>By that point in time, the small group had reached the house. Buffy turned to her father. “I told you this was a bad idea.” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam glared at her and turned to his mother. “What, you thought throwing us together would make me suddenly realize they were right? That’s not going to happen.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Liam…” Eloise said, placing a hand on his arm. He shook it off. </li></ul>
  65. 65. <ul><li>“ Liam,” Buffy said, coming almost to the porch and looking up at him. “I’ve said I’m sorry. I’ve apologized to Cordy, to Xander, to Mom and Dad, to you. What more do you want me to do?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You woohooed your sister’s husband.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ And how the hell am I supposed to make up for that if you won’t let me?” She was clearly frustrated. “For God’s sake, I have no interest in Martin! I prefer women anyway!” </li></ul><ul><li>“ So if it had been me who had been married and died, you’d have slept with my wife and enjoyed it? Will you be doing that now?” </li></ul>
  66. 66. <ul><li>There was silence for a moment as everyone started at Liam in shock. Buffy reeled back as though she’d been slapped and walked swiftly, head held high, around the corner of the house until she was out of sight. </li></ul>
  67. 67. <ul><li>“ Liam!” The shout came from all sides. </li></ul><ul><li>“ You shouldn’t have said that,” Cordy said, then went after her sister. Martin followed her. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Liam…” his mother said again. </li></ul><ul><li>He glared at her. “Fine. Side with them. Have your perfect little happy family dinner. But I won’t be there.” He stormed into the house, up the stairs, and to his room, where he flopped onto his bed. </li></ul><ul><li>He half-expected his mother to come after him, and half-wanted her to, but she didn’t. He lay on his bed, trying not to think. </li></ul>
  68. 68. <ul><li>After a while – maybe an hour or so – he got up and headed over to the window. </li></ul><ul><li>In the backyard, his father was serving obviously-just-grilled fish to the rest of the family. </li></ul><ul><li>Liam grabbed his cell phone out of his pocket and looked at his contact list. It was shockingly short – family members, a few people he barely knew, Rose, Meadow, and Elle. He skipped over Rose immediately, then paused on Meadow. Did he want to call her? </li></ul><ul><li>The answer was no. Instead, he dialed Elle. The phone rang three times before she picked up. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Elle? Hey, it’s Liam. Sorry to disturb you, I just needed to talk to someone who isn’t family.” </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  69. 69. <ul><li>The next few weeks, Liam spent most of his time out of the house. He played pool at The Bronze, went to the gym, and hung out with Elle. He also finally met her husband, Stuart Legacy, and found that they all enjoyed a good cup of tea. </li></ul><ul><li>In his quest to stay out of the house, he also got a job at the Sunnydale Police Department. It wasn’t what he wanted to be doing with the rest of his life, but for now it would suffice. </li></ul>
  70. 70. <ul><li>“ What are your plans for this weekend?” Elle asked as they all sat together in the park on a Friday evening. </li></ul><ul><li>Liam shrugged. “Avoid the family again. Maybe go to that concert at The Bronze tomorrow night. What about you guys?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ We’re going to the concert,” Elle said as she pulled Stuart’s arm around her. “The Dingoes are supposed to be fantastic.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Would you like to join us for dinner beforehand?” Stuart offered. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yeah,” Liam said, as he relaxed into the bench. “That sounds good.” </li></ul>
  71. 71. <ul><li>They all sat in peaceful silence for a while, enjoying the sight of the fountain and the sounds of nature. </li></ul><ul><li>“ You seem to be spending much of your time away from your family,” Stuart said idly. </li></ul><ul><li>Liam tensed, though he knew Stuart didn’t mean it in a bad way. “I am, yes. It’s a long story.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ If they bother you that much, why not move out?” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam laughed darkly. “Oh, I would, if I had the money. I’m saving, since I got a job. But I don’t have nearly enough.” He stood up. “I’m going to find a bathroom,” he said as he headed off. </li></ul>
  72. 72. <ul><li>“ Stuart?” Elle looked up at her husband once Liam was gone. “Do you think we should invite Liam to move in with us? We have the room.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ We do,” he agreed, “but I am not certain it would be a good idea. I do not know Liam that well, and I am not certain I want to invite him to move in. If things get worse, perhaps, but for now, I think we should not.” </li></ul><ul><li>Elle nodded. “That’s fair.” She smiled up at him, then snuggled closer, slipping into his lap. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Elle, what are you–” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I just want to kiss you,” she said, then did so. </li></ul>
  73. 73. <ul><li>Neither of them noticed Liam watching from behind a tree. </li></ul><ul><li>He smiled wistfully. He didn’t want Elle – he liked her, yes, but as a friend, not a lover – but he did want what Elle and Stuart had. He sighed and walked back around to them, making sure to make some noise – which they clearly heard, as they pulled apart and Elle slipped off of Stuart’s lap. </li></ul>
  74. 74. <ul><li>“ I’m going to head home,” Liam said. “See you for dinner tomorrow.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ The Espresso Pump at six?” Elle asked. “I’ll make the reservations.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yeah. See you then.” </li></ul><ul><li>The concert went well, as did dinner, but over the next few weeks Liam found himself feeling even more out of place than he had before. He was barely speaking to his family, he felt like a third wheel with Elle and Stuart, his relationship with Meadow was still stilted, and he wasn’t really comfortable with anyone else. </li></ul><ul><li>Still, things were going decently, and Liam was…well, he wasn’t happy, or even content. Resigned, perhaps. But he wasn’t expecting things to get worse. </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  75. 75. <ul><li>Rose hadn’t been around much since she’d helped with the resurrections of the Whedons. She’d been rather busy with other projects, actually, not to mention family, work, and volunteering. </li></ul><ul><li>Still, it was nice of Joss and Eloise to invite her over for dinner, and she certainly wasn’t going to say no. </li></ul><ul><li>Plus, Eloise was a damn good cook. </li></ul><ul><li>They were finishing her excellent Baked Alaska when the front door slammed and Liam entered the house. “I’m home,” he said, “but I already ate, so–” </li></ul><ul><li>Rose knew the second he noticed her – he suddenly went silent. “Hello, Liam,” she said. He looked at her for a second, then turned and left without a word. </li></ul>
  76. 76. <ul><li>All three of then watched where he’d gone for a second. “This,” Joss said, standing up, “has gone too far.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ What?” Rose asked, looking up at him. </li></ul><ul><li>“ He’s been avoiding us for weeks, since that fight with Buffy. It’s time to sit down and talk about it. Even if I have to force him to join us.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Eloise said. “Especially with Rose here.” She looked at Rose apologetically. Rose had to agree that her being here wasn’t likely to help – but she also knew that her not being there wouldn’t make things considerably better. </li></ul><ul><li>Plus, she was curious. Therefore, she didn’t volunteer to leave. </li></ul>
  77. 77. <ul><li>“ We need to have this conversation,” Joss said. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Can’t we just wait? Maybe he’ll talk to us on his own.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ He hasn’t yet. And I doubt that he will. You stay here if you want, but I’m going to talk to him.” He left the table. </li></ul><ul><li>Eloise and Rose looked at each other, then got up to follow. </li></ul>
  78. 78. <ul><li>When they reached the entryway, Liam was just hanging up his coat, and Joss had moved to stand in front of the stairs. </li></ul><ul><li>Liam turned to go up the stairs, but found his father in the way. “Move,” he said. </li></ul><ul><li>Joss just raised an eyebrow. “No. We need to talk about why you’ve been avoiding us.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I’ve been avoiding you because I don’t want to talk to you. Isn’t that obvious?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ That’s not a good enough answer.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ It’s the only one you’re getting.” </li></ul>
  79. 79. <ul><li>“ No,” Joss said, “it is not. Sit down and tell us why you’re so angry.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Who are you to tell me what to do?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I am your father, Liam, and you will listen to me.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Oh really? Because, the way I see it, until you actually act like my father, you don’t get to demand that respect. You don’t get to just wander into my life and start ordering me around.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I am doing my best to be here for you.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I don’t need you now!” Liam finally exploded. “I needed you when I was a kid, and a teen, and you. Were. Dead.” </li></ul><ul><li>Joss flinched. </li></ul>
  80. 80. <ul><li>“ Liam,” Eloise said, walking over to him, “he is still your father.” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam turned his glare on her. “It’s not like you were around, either.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I did my best.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You went senile when I was barely a child and died when I was barely a teen. And you may be back, but you’re not even trying to understand my point of view.” </li></ul>“ Is this about Buffy and Martin?” “ You sided with them .” “ I think they were right! That doesn’t mean I love you less.” “ The same goes for me,” Joss said Liam almost seemed to be believing them. Almost.
  81. 81. <ul><li>Unfortunately, that was the moment that Eloise popped into her second trimester of pregnancy. Liam’s eyes instantly went cold and his whole body tensed. “You’re trying to replace me, aren’t you?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ What?” Eloise asked, clearly shocked. </li></ul><ul><li>“ No!” Joss said at the same time. </li></ul><ul><li>“ We’re not trying to replace you,” Eloise said. </li></ul><ul><li>“ You think I haven’t seen how much time you spend in the hot tub? For God’s sake, I can see you from my window. And the walls aren’t that thick in this house.” His parents blushed. “You’ve clearly been trying for another child. I’m surprised it took this long, with how much you’ve been woohooing.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yes, we want another child,” Eloise said, “but not to replace you. Never to replace you.” </li></ul>
  82. 82. <ul><li>“ Definitely not,” Joss added. He smiled at his wife. “And sometimes we just like woohooing.” </li></ul><ul><li>Rose could see Liam getting angrier, but she had no idea what to say. It was almost like watching a train wreck – she didn’t want to see the results, but she couldn’t look away. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Can’t keep it in your pants, can you?” Liam asked coldly. “Going to become so obsessed with woohoo that you die before this kid is born too? Oh, no, wait, you can be resurrected now, so it doesn’t matter if you die.” </li></ul><ul><li>This comment made Joss sit down on the steps, his head in his hands. </li></ul>
  83. 83. <ul><li>Eloise came closer to Liam. She lifted her hand, as though to touch his shoulder, but let it fall instead. “When we were alive the first time, we only woohooed twice. Once for the girls, once for you. There was no birth control – unless you wanted a child, and were prepared to have one, you didn’t woohoo.” She smiled sadly, her eyes tearing up. “As soon as Buffy and Cordy were children, I wanted another child. We waited until they were teens, and they could watch you while I went back to work. Then, well, I was getting old, and I wanted another child before I got too old. So I pulled Joss into the bedroom without asking how hungry he was, and, well…I got pregnant, and he died.” She turned to look at her husband. “It wasn’t his fault, Liam. It was mine.” </li></ul><ul><li>Joss looked up at that. “I didn’t tell you to stop. It was as much my fault as yours.” </li></ul><ul><li>This conversation made Rose feel the need to speak up. “I didn’t stop you either. I should have. But I didn’t.” </li></ul>
  84. 84. <ul><li>Liam turned to Rose. “Yes, you should have. Or you should have brought him back.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ There are rules. Even I have to follow them.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Then what good is it, being the Creator, or Goddess, or whatever you are?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ It isn’t. I know things were bad, Liam. I had to take time off when you died, and I vowed then and there to bring everyone back when the Apocalypse was over, and the rules didn’t have to be enforced anymore, and to give you all better lives.” She looked down, then up, deciding to tell Liam more of the truth. “When Will – your nephew – lifted Paranormal, there was discussion about bringing you and Cordy back, as you could still lift restrictions, and everyone else back as well, to live again. It was unanimously decided that they wouldn’t bring you guys back – make you live in the Apocalypse again, make you lift restrictions. I could have overruled them. I chose not to.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You shouldn’t have brought me back now. I’d rather have stayed dead.” </li></ul>
  85. 85. <ul><li>Rose took a deep, shuddering breath, then let it out slowly. She closed her eyes, then opened them, looking straight at Liam. “Do you still want to be dead? I can kill you, if that’s what you really want.” Eloise and Joss both gasped, but Liam and Rose ignored them. </li></ul><ul><li>He looked at her, his eyes piercing. She tried to show that she was telling the truth. </li></ul><ul><li>“ No,” he said. “Not now. I want you to change the past. Make everything better then.” </li></ul><ul><li>She shook her head. “That I can’t do.” </li></ul>
  86. 86. <ul><li>He wrapped his arms around himself. “I want Dad not to have died. I want Mom not to have been senile, then dead. I want Cordy and Martin to have had a good life together, with all the children they wanted. I want Buffy to have had her pets instead of her sister’s husband. I want Xander to have been able to lift a restriction – actually, I want him to not have had to lift a restriction. I want there to have been no Apocalypse.” </li></ul><ul><li>Rose could see Eloise and Joss hugging, and she knew they were finding comfort in each other. She hadn’t realized how much Liam was hurting, and hearing it like this…well, it was painful. She was barely stopping herself from crying. </li></ul><ul><li>“ I want to fall in love. I want to get married, to have children. I want to have had that chance when I was alive the first time.” </li></ul><ul><li>Then and there, Rose vowed to do everything she could to help him find that love. That, she could do. </li></ul><ul><li>He almost seemed to not realize what he was saying – because she was pretty sure that he wouldn’t have said all of this if he’d remembered they were there. Or maybe he didn’t realize he was talking out loud. </li></ul>
  87. 87. <ul><li>“ I want to have not caused Dad’s death by being born.” </li></ul>
  88. 88. <ul><li>With that, Liam seemed to realize that he was speaking out loud. He looked at all three of them with a horrified look on his face, grabbed his coat off the coat rack, and left the house at a run. They were all too shocked to stop him. </li></ul>
  89. 89. <ul><li>In unison, without talking to each other, they moved to the living room. Joss and Eloise sat down on the couch, and Rose sat on a chair. </li></ul><ul><li>“ We’ve failed him,” Eloise said, breaking the silence. Joss nodded. </li></ul><ul><li>“ I didn’t realize he blamed himself for your death, Joss,” Rose said. “I should have.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You couldn’t have known,” he said. </li></ul><ul><li>Eloise shook her head. “No, you couldn’t have. You barely know him, Joss. But I should have figured it out, or Rose should have. Or both of us.” She sighed. “I don’t know what to do for him.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ And I think it’s not just that,” Rose added. “If he’s blaming himself for Joss’s death, then he’s also blaming himself, indirectly, for everyone else’s deaths – and for Buffy and Martin deciding to woohoo. It all goes back to Joss dying.” </li></ul>
  90. 90. <ul><li>“ It isn’t his fault,” Eloise said. </li></ul><ul><li>“ I know that. You know that. I think Liam even knows that. But knowing you’re not to blame and really believing it…it’s two different things.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ We have to convince him it wasn’t his fault,” Joss said. “That it was ours. Which it was – all three of us.” </li></ul><ul><li>Rose shook her head. “It’s my fault, ultimately, and I don’t mind if he blames me. I can take it. Making him realize it? That’s the hard part.” She glanced at her watch, noticing the time. It was quite late. “We’ll have to discuss this another time,” she said, standing up. “I really should be at home.” </li></ul><ul><li>They nodded and stood up. They said a subdued goodbye, then Rose left and headed for home. </li></ul>
  91. 91. <ul><li>As Rose walked home, she thought about Liam. She couldn’t make his past life better. She didn’t even know how to convince him that he wasn’t at fault for anything that had happened. </li></ul><ul><li>But she could do one thing. She could help him find that love, that marriage, that right woman for him. </li></ul><ul><li>And she would. Starting now. </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  92. 93. <ul><li>Elle looked up from her book. “Stuart?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Hm?” he said. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Did you hear something?” </li></ul><ul><li>He looked up and cocked his head, listening. “I did not.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Hm. I thought I did.” She shrugged and returned to her book as Stuart did the same. A loud thump came from the front of the house and they both looked up again. “That was definitely something. We’d better go check it out.” </li></ul>
  93. 94. <ul><li>Stuart stood up. “I will go. You stay here.” </li></ul><ul><li>Elle sighed. “I’m perfectly capable of handling myself. You don’t need to protect me.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I know,” he said, “but I would feel better if you were safe.” </li></ul><ul><li>She looked up at him, then nodded. When he got near the door, she stood up anyway, though she stayed by the couch. </li></ul><ul><li>Stuart, meanwhile, looked through the door. He recognized Liam immediately, so he turned around to go get Elle. He smiled when he saw her standing. “It’s Liam,” he said. “He is sitting on the steps.” </li></ul><ul><li>Elle came over, smiled at him, kissed him on the cheek, then opened the door. They went out together. </li></ul>
  94. 95. <ul><li>“ So,” she said, sitting down next to Liam, “is there a reason you’re sitting out here without knocking?” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam’s head shot up as soon as she began speaking. “Elle!” He looked around until he caught sight of Stuart leaning against a column. “Stuart. Hey.” He didn’t say anything else as he slumped again. </li></ul><ul><li>Elle nudged him. “Did something happen?” Her eyes widened when Liam looked up at her, utter despair written on his face. “Okay, scratch that,” she said, “ what happened?” </li></ul>
  95. 96. <ul><li>“ I had a fight with my parents. I left. I don’t – I don’t know if I can go back.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Can’t or won’t?” </li></ul><ul><li>He laughed bitterly. “God only knows if they’ll want me, after everything I said. Even if they do, I don’t know if I can live like that anymore. Not–” he rubbed his face and looked up again. “My mother is pregnant again.” </li></ul><ul><li>Elle’s brow furrowed as she thought through that. “Shouldn’t she be too old?” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam sighed. “I haven’t exactly told you the whole truth.” </li></ul><ul><li>Elle and Stuart exchanged a glance. “What do you mean?” she asked. </li></ul>
  96. 97. <ul><li>“ I’m surprised you haven’t figured it out. My father got dumped in the Apocalypse. He founded my family. My sister’s great-grandchildren are the ones who finally fixed things. I told you I was away for a long time – where do you think I was?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I assumed you had lifted a restriction and moved out,” Elle said. </li></ul><ul><li>“ And not aged for all that time?” </li></ul><ul><li>She shrugged. “Some people don’t. Marina knew my father, and hasn’t aged since then, and my grandfather Spencer is actually my great-great-great-grandfather, and he’s still alive.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yes,” Stuart said, “Miss Meeee and her friends do not age. Are there not people like that here?” </li></ul>
  97. 98. <ul><li>“ Rose, I suppose, but she’s the Creator. Nobody else that I know of. Certainly not me.” He carefully avoided looking at them. “No, I never lifted a restriction. Not a career restriction, anyway – I did get abducted and discover Alien Technology when I was a teen. I never moved out. No, I was dead.” He stared, unseeing, across the street. </li></ul><ul><li>Elle moved closer and put a hand on Liam’s shoulder. “What happened?” she asked. </li></ul><ul><li>Liam told them the whole story, from his father’s time at college before the Apocalypse started to his own resurrection and what came after. Elle and Stuart listened silently. </li></ul>
  98. 99. <ul><li>“ And now? Now I don’t know what the hell I’m doing,” Liam said. “I’ve fought with my parents, I’ve fought with my sisters and Martin, I’ve fought with Rose, Meadow is a teen, I don’t really know Buffy’s kids or their descendants, and–” he hesitated for a moment. </li></ul><ul><li>“ And?” Elle prompted. </li></ul><ul><li>“ And I – there’s Xander – but…but he was barely a teen when I died and he’s married and has great-grandchildren now, and,” he muttered, “I’m not quite ready to speak to him.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Where will you go, then?” Stuart asked </li></ul><ul><li>Liam shrugged. “Somewhere else.” </li></ul>
  99. 100. <ul><li>Elle looked up at Stuart, a hopeful expression on her face. He looked thoughtful, then gestured toward the house. She nodded and touched Liam gently on the arm. “Why don’t you come inside? You look like you could use a good cup of tea.” </li></ul><ul><li>He smiled wryly. “That sounds good, yeah. Thanks.” </li></ul><ul><li>They all headed into the house and into the tea room. Liam stopped in the doorway. “Do you mind if I use the bathroom?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Certainly not,” Stuart said. </li></ul>
  100. 101. <ul><li>When Liam left the room, they sat down at the table and Elle began preparing the tea. Stuart watched her with a smile on his face. </li></ul><ul><li>“ I think we should invite him to move in here,” she said. She looked at her husband. “I think moving elsewhere would be bad for him – he needs friends right now, and we’re the only ones he really has.” </li></ul><ul><li>Stuart nodded thoughtfully. “He had a very difficult childhood.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ And teenhood, and adulthood. I had issues myself, but Zuzu and Billy were always there when I needed them.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yes, Bertie and I always had each other, and Father and our grandparents.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Liam needs siblings, and we’ve been nominated.” </li></ul>
  101. 102. <ul><li>Stuart stood up and pulled Elle into a dancing pose, then began to twirl her around. “As long as he is not looking to steal you .” </li></ul><ul><li>Elle smiled and shook her head. “He wouldn’t succeed anyway. I only want you.” She put her head on his shoulder. “Besides, Liam’s like my brother.” </li></ul><ul><li>Stuart smiled as they danced. Then he caught the scent coming from the table. “I believe the tea is ready.” They kissed lightly once, then sat back down at the table. </li></ul>
  102. 103. <ul><li>Liam came back in as Elle was pouring the tea. “Thanks,” he said as she handed him a cup. </li></ul><ul><li>They drank their tea in comfortable silence. When they were ready for a second cup, Elle turned to Liam. “Where are you going to go if you leave?” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam shrugged. “I don’t know. Somewhere else.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Will you be able to afford to live on your own?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I have a job. And I don’t need much. I got used to not having much when I was younger.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ But your job is here,” Stuart pointed out. </li></ul><ul><li>Liam slumped a bit. “Right.” </li></ul>
  103. 104. <ul><li>Elle took a sip of her tea, then turned back to Liam. “Would you like to move in with us?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ What?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ We have a spare room – actually, two spare rooms. You could use one of them.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I can’t impose–” </li></ul><ul><li>“ It wouldn’t be imposing. We want you to live with us.” </li></ul><ul><li>Stuart nodded. “We do,” he said firmly. </li></ul>
  104. 105. <ul><li>Liam looked at them. Both of them were sincere, he was pretty sure. Could he move in with them? </li></ul><ul><li>Could he afford to say no? Stuart was right – if he left, he might not have a job. And he certainly didn’t have enough money to buy a house, or to live elsewhere for long. Not without a job. </li></ul><ul><li>When it came down to it, he didn’t really have any other options. And he did like Elle and Stuart. </li></ul><ul><li>“ All right,” he said, “I’ll move in. but I’m paying rent.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You don’t have–” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I do. You’re looking to start a family, right? Money is necessary. And I have to do it for me. It’s one thing to live with your parents without paying rent. Or your spouse. But not with friends.” Stuart was nodding in agreement and Elle seemed to be wavering. “I’m paying rent or I’m not moving in.” </li></ul>
  105. 106. <ul><li>Stuart nodded. “That will be fine,” he said, placing a hand on one of Elle’s. “We can discuss the details later, however.” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam shrugged. “Okay.” He glanced at his watch. “It’s pretty late – don’t you guys have work tomorrow?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yeah, we do,” Elle said. She gathered the tea cups. “I’ll wash up. Stuart, can you show Liam the spare room? The one on the third floor, I think.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Certainly,” Stuart said. He led Liam to the third floor. “We have a spare room up here – I hope you do not mind that we would like to save the room on the second floor for our future children.” </li></ul>
  106. 107. <ul><li>“ No, that’s fine.” As they reached the third floor, Liam looked around, then stopped in surprise. “What is that?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ It is a gyroscope. It was a moving gift from my Uncle Theo.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Huh,” Liam said, looking at it. “What does it do?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ It is for fitness.” Stuart opened the far door and flipped on the light. “Here is the room.” </li></ul><ul><li>The room was sparsely decorated, but it had a bed, a lamp, and a dresser, and that was all that he needed. “Thanks,” he said. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Sleep well.” </li></ul><ul><li>As Stuart left, Liam relaxed on the bed. Maybe – maybe not living at home would be good for him. </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  107. 108. <ul><li>Eloise had spent most of her weekly coffee date with her daughters talking about her son. Buffy and Cordy were still angry about the things Liam had said, but she wasn’t. She had never truly understood just how much Liam had been scarred by his childhood, and now that she knew, she couldn’t blame him for his bitterness. </li></ul><ul><li>She waddled up the stairs and into the dining room. She’d forgotten just how much energy pregnancy took. As she sat down, she noticed that there was something on table. </li></ul><ul><li>It was an envelope with the words “Mom and Dad” on the front. </li></ul><ul><li>Suddenly, she had a very bad feeling about this. She opened the envelope and took out the note anyway. </li></ul>
  108. 109. <ul><li>Mom and Dad, </li></ul><ul><li>I’m sorry I left so abruptly last night. I just needed to be out of the house. </li></ul><ul><li>I know you’ve noticed that things haven’t been going well. I certainly have. And I think that, right now, I need to not be living with you. </li></ul><ul><li>I’ve gotten my things, and I’ve found a place to stay. Please don’t try to find me right now. I need some time to get my head on straight, and I can’t do that while living at home. </li></ul><ul><li>I am safe, and still on The Hellmouth, and I have my cell phone and email if it’s an emergency. Please don’t call me unless it is, however, and don’t expect replies to emails. </li></ul><ul><li>I’ll come back when I’ve healed a bit, but I don’t know when that will be. </li></ul><ul><li>I still love you, but I can’t be with you right now. </li></ul><ul><li>Liam </li></ul><ul><li>Eloise let the letter drop as she began to cry. Perhaps Liam would return one day, but for now, she’d lost her son. </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  109. 110. <ul><li>Rose sat down at her computer, looking at a list of all the women who currently lived on The Hellmouth. </li></ul><ul><li>“ No,” she muttered, as she ran down the list of names. “No, no, no.” </li></ul><ul><li>There didn’t seem to be anyone at all suitable for Liam, or if there was, she wasn’t seeing them. The women on her list were teens and children (way squicky), elders (Liam wanted kids), already married (hell no), or had slept with…someone in the family, whether that was Willow, Will, Lorne, Lilah, Faith, Connor, Robin, Ben… </li></ul><ul><li>Some of them had slept with more than one. </li></ul><ul><li>She could imagine that. “Oh, sure I’ll date you – I’m already dating half your relatives!” Liam would not take that well. </li></ul>
  110. 111. <ul><li>“ Alright,” she said. “Time to find him someone from elsewhere. Someone who can handle him being a crazy broody ball of angst.” </li></ul><ul><li>She put her head in her hands. “And I have to leave the final choice up to him! I can’t force him to fall in love, and I can’t force the girl, either.” </li></ul><ul><li>Something about that rung a bell in her mind. Leave the choice up to him… </li></ul><ul><li>Yes! That would work! </li></ul><ul><li>She opened up her email and swiftly began typing, sending out a few messages to a few of her friends – she would need to see what sort of responses she might be able to get, but she hoped this would work. If it didn’t, she wasn’t sure what to do. </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  111. 112. <ul><li>Living with Elle and Stuart went even better than Liam expected it to. He never entered their bedroom or bathroom, and they never entered his, but the rest of the house was shared by them all. And, after the first night, Elle stopped arguing about him paying rent. </li></ul><ul><li>They did many of the same things in the evenings as Liam had done while living with his parents, but there was less awkwardness. </li></ul><ul><li>And they always ended the night with a cup of tea. </li></ul><ul><li>Liam did feel lonely when Elle and Stuart went to bed together, while he went to bed alone. But he had other things to occupy himself. He’d finally gotten a job at a law firm, and he was busy studying to do well at that. </li></ul><ul><li>In addition to improving his mind, he worked at improving his body. The gyroscope was rather fun, once he got used to it. </li></ul>
  112. 113. <ul><li>One day, after he’d been living there for a few weeks, Elle and Liam both had a day off, so they sat together for a late breakfast. Their conversation got interrupted, however, when Elle suddenly turned green and ran into the bathroom. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Elle?” Liam heard the sound of someone vomiting, so he put down his fork and followed her into the bathroom. He found her leaning over the toilet, throwing up what little she’d had for breakfast. </li></ul><ul><li>He pulled her hair out of the way – a piece was almost falling into her face – while she finished vomiting. Then he wet a towel and handed it to her to wipe her face. “Are you sick?” he asked. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Maybe,” she said as she sat back against the wall. Liam reached over and flushed the toilet. “I think I might be pregnant.” </li></ul>
  113. 114. <ul><li>“ Have you–” </li></ul><ul><li>“ We’ve been trying. I hope you don’t…” </li></ul><ul><li>“ As long as I get to be Uncle Liam, I’m fine.” </li></ul><ul><li>She almost glowed as she smiled. “Of course.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Well, I think you’re pregnant.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ What?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You’re all…glowy.” </li></ul>
  114. 115. <ul><li>She beamed again. “I’ll have to tell Stuart when he gets home.” She reached a hand up and Liam helped her stand. “Can you deal with breakfast? I don’t think I can eat right now. And I don’t really want to be near food, either.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Of course. Do you want me to make you tea or anything?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ No, I think I’m just going to lie down for a bit.” She did, however, wash out her mouth before leaving the bathroom. </li></ul><ul><li>While Elle lounged in the living room, Liam finished his omelet and did the dishes. He was almost done when the doorbell rang. “I’ll be there in a minute!” he yelled. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Don’t worry,” Elle said, pausing by the dining room door and poking her head in, “I’ve got it.” </li></ul>
  115. 116. <ul><li>Elle headed for the door. When she opened it, however, she didn’t recognize the man on the other side of it. “Um, hello?” she said hesitantly. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Hi. I was told that Liam Whedon lives here?” </li></ul><ul><li>She glanced back at the kitchen – she wasn’t sure Liam would want to see this man, not if he was a member of his family. Of course, she wasn’t certain if he was. “Um, well, um…” </li></ul>
  116. 117. <ul><li>Just then, Liam came out of the kitchen, saw the man at the door, and ducked back in. </li></ul><ul><li>Elle smiled tightly at the stranger. She wanted to kick him out, but she wasn’t quite comfortable being rude. </li></ul><ul><li>“ It’s fine,” he said, before she could say anything, “I’ll wait out here until he decides if he wants to talk to me.” </li></ul>
  117. 118. <ul><li>She nodded and closed the door. She found Liam in the kitchen, leaning on the counter. “Who is that?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Xander.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Your nephew?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yeah.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Do you want to talk to him?” </li></ul><ul><li>He turned to look at her. “I don’t know.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I left him out on the porch. If you want, I can tell him to leave.” </li></ul>
  118. 119. <ul><li>Liam rubbed his forehead. “I…no. Do you – what do you think?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I think he came to see you. He found you here, he came to the house, and he’s being very polite about talking to you.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yeah.” </li></ul><ul><li>She put her hand on his shoulder. “I’ll stay if you want.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Are you sure?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yes. Just, you know, no food.” She smiled. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Do you – are you feeling okay? I’m not going to–” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Liam,” she said firmly, “I’m fine. Let’s invite your nephew in and get you reconciled with one member of your family.” </li></ul>
  119. 120. <ul><li>He took a deep breath. “Okay,” he said slowly. “Let’s stay on the porch, though?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Sure.” They headed for the front door and went onto the porch. Xander was leaning on the column by the door. He stood up straight as they came out. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Liam,” Xander said, hugging his uncle. Liam closed his eyes. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Xander.” They pulled apart and Elle came forward. “Xander, this is my friend Elle. Elle, this is my nephew Xander.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Nice to meet you.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You too. There’s chairs on the side of the house – why don’t we go sit there?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Oh, sure,” Xander said. All three of them headed around the corner and sat down. </li></ul>
  120. 121. <ul><li>“ How have you been?” Xander asked. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Fine.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ No, really,” Xander leaned forward, “how have you been? What have you been up to? Why haven’t you come to visit?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Does anyone care if I do?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I do. I haven’t seen you since you died , Liam.” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam put his hand over his eyes. “I wasn’t sure you would want to.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Of course I want to! You’re like my big brother!” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I – thanks.” </li></ul>
  121. 122. <ul><li>Elle reached over and patted Liam on the shoulder. He smiled tightly at her. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Are you two–” </li></ul><ul><li>Elle and Liam glanced at each other, then burst out laughing. “No,” Liam laughed. “Definitely not.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You know I love you, Liam,” Elle said jokingly. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Well, obviously,” he grinned. </li></ul><ul><li>Xander smiled, glad to see that his question had broken the tension. “Get asked that often?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ When my husband’s not around, yes.” </li></ul>
  122. 123. <ul><li>“ I needed that,” Liam said frankly. “So why are you here, Xander?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I wanted to see you. There was a family reunion this weekend, and I missed you. Grandma said she’d emailed you but you didn’t respond.” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam nodded. “I got her email. I didn’t want to deal with the awkwardness.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ It wasn’t awkward!” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Did anyone actually miss me?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I did.” Liam shot him a look . “Grandma did.” Another look. Xander sighed. “I think Grandpa might have but I couldn’t tell. Don’t forget, though – Willow and Anya were toddlers when you died, and no one else was born. They wouldn’t know to miss you.” </li></ul>
  123. 124. <ul><li>Liam smiled sadly. “You didn’t mention your parents or Buffy. I didn’t – it would have caused a scene.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You’re probably right,” Xander said. </li></ul><ul><li>They sat in an awkward silence, avoiding looking at each other. Elle shifted a bit, adjusting a body she wasn’t quite used to yet. Both men turned to look at her. “Elle, are you sure–” </li></ul><ul><li>She rolled her eyes. “I’m fine, Liam.” Then she turned to Xander. “He’s such a mother hen.” </li></ul><ul><li>Xander smiled. “He’s a Family Sim.” He leaned towards Elle and lowered his voice as though he was telling her a secret. “I think he’s happier than he’s ever been.” </li></ul><ul><li>Elle laughed and leaned towards him, speaking in the same lowered voice. “You may be right.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I’m right here, you know,” Liam said. He was smiling, though, and Xander and Elle were both happy about that. </li></ul>
  124. 125. <ul><li>“ Really, though, I think you’re the happiest I’ve ever seen you. I never remember you being happy.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I think I am. Not – well, I’m not all the way there yet. But I’m happier.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I’m glad. I was hoping your childhood hadn’t scarred you for life.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Oh, it did,” Liam said frankly. “I’m learning to deal with it, though.” </li></ul><ul><li>Elle put her hand on top of Liam’s. “That’s one of the things we all have to learn to deal with – our childhoods and how they scarred us.” Xander nodded, agreeing. </li></ul><ul><li>Suddenly, all three of them heard the Hokey Pokey. Liam and Elle looked around, confused as to where the music was coming from, but Xander simply pulled out his cell phone. </li></ul>
  125. 126. <ul><li>“ Hello? Ris? What happened? She is? Okay, I’ll meet you there soon. Where is she – at their home? Yeah, I can get there, don’t worry. Love you too.” He turned off his phone and turned to Liam. “Grandma’s having the baby. Do you want to come to her house with me?” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam shook his head. “I don’t think so, Xander. I don’t – I’m not ready.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You sure?” </li></ul>“ Yeah.” “ Come visit soon?” “ Yeah, sure.” Xander nodded. “I’ll call you tomorrow.” “ Okay.” Xander then turned and headed for his car. Elle and Liam watched him go.
  126. 127. <ul><li>Elle turned back to Liam. He was still staring out at the road, even though Xander had disappeared. She decided not to interrupt his thoughts. </li></ul><ul><li>Liam wasn’t sure what to think. He was ultimately glad that Xander had found him, though he wasn’t sure what he would do if anyone else did. </li></ul><ul><li>He’d stopped feeling angry when he thought about Buffy and Martin. Instead, he felt sad and guilty. Yes, they were wrong to do what they’d done. But that didn’t mean he’d been right to constantly harangue them about it either. </li></ul><ul><li>Had he broken what was left of their friendships? Could they be repaired? </li></ul><ul><li>He didn’t know, and he was too scared to try to find out. </li></ul>
  127. 128. <ul><li>The quiet sounds of someone shifting brought him out of his reverie. “You okay?” he asked reflexively. </li></ul><ul><li>Elle rolled her eyes. “I’m fine. How are you ?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I’m…okay,” he said, as though he’d just realized it was the truth. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Good.” </li></ul><ul><li>They sat in a calm silence for a while, staring out at the scenery and thinking. Finally, after a good hour, Liam stood up. “Do you want anything to eat?” </li></ul><ul><li>Elle considered. “Not yet. The thought of food is still making me nauseous. Are you hungry?” </li></ul>
  128. 129. <ul><li>“ Nah, breakfast wasn’t that long ago. Want to go skill? I wouldn’t mind another go on the gyroscope.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ That sounds fun. I still want to gain some cleaning points, and those I can get from a book. The gyroscope would not be a good idea when I’m feeling like this.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Cool.” </li></ul><ul><li>They headed up to the third floor, where Elle got a book and Liam got on the gyroscope. </li></ul>
  129. 130. <ul><li>As Elle finished a chapter and moved on to the next, she heard a strange whooshing noise. She looked up just in time to see Liam disappear from inside the gyroscope. “Liam? Liam!” She dropped her book on the floor and ran to the gyroscope. “Oh no…” She got out her phone and considered who to call. The police? Stuart? Someone in Liam’s family? </li></ul><ul><li>What on earth had happened to him, anyway? </li></ul>
  130. 131. <ul><li>As she finally began to dial 911, there was another whooshing noise and Liam reappeared inside the gyroscope. She hung up the phone without finishing dialing. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Wow,” he said, as he stopped the gyroscope and got out, “that was amazing.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ What happened to you?” </li></ul><ul><li>He looked at her quizzically. “What?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You disappeared! Where did you go?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I what?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You were there one minute and gone the next!” </li></ul>
  131. 132. <ul><li>“ It didn’t feel like I went anywhere, Elle…” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You definitely did.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ This is really, really crazy.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yeah. Maybe you shouldn’t use the gyroscope anymore.” </li></ul><ul><li>He looked at it, forehead in a frown. “Maybe not. This definitely hasn’t happened before, though.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Maybe you should talk to someone about what happened.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ No, I’m sure it’s fine.” </li></ul>
  132. 133. <ul><li>“ Liam…” </li></ul><ul><li>He shook his head. “If something happens, I’ll talk to someone, okay?” </li></ul><ul><li>“… Okay.” </li></ul><ul><li>He looked around for a reason to change the subject when Elle’s stomach growled loudly. “Lunchtime?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Lunchtime,” she confirmed, grinning, “but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook, Mister.” </li></ul>
  133. 134. <ul><li>When Stuart got home that night, he was overjoyed to hear about his wife’s pregnancy, and ecstatic when she popped. </li></ul><ul><li>Between Stuart’s fussing and Liam’s constant questions, Elle was almost ready to slap them both and lock herself in the bathroom. Finally she pled exhaustion and retired to the bedroom – and actually fell asleep very quickly. </li></ul><ul><li>Liam’s disappearance? Wasn’t mentioned. </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  134. 135. <ul><li>The next day was a quiet day. All three of them had off from work, so they spent it lazing around. </li></ul><ul><li>Liam, however, wasn’t feeling great. He spent breakfast trying not to vomit, then took a long nap. </li></ul><ul><li>He woke up to a surprise. </li></ul><ul><li>“ But…what? I didn’t – how?” </li></ul>
  135. 136. <ul><li>His musings were interrupted by his cell phone ringing. He grabbed for it. “Hi?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Hey, Liam.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Xander! Hi.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ How are you?” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam looked down at his stomach. “I’m…fine.” </li></ul><ul><li>There was a pause. “The way you said that makes me think that you aren’t.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Just…weird. Not bad. How are you?” </li></ul>
  136. 137. <ul><li>“ Good. Do you want to get together? I know Grandma wants to see you, and you do have a new sister and brother…” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yeah, uh…not right now.” </li></ul><ul><li>There was another pause. “Okay, what happened?” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam sighed. “According to Elle, I disappeared while using the gyroscope yesterday, though only for a short time. And my stomach just…did something weird.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ This gyroscope – it’s a big spinning thing that you get into and spin in, right?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yes.” </li></ul>
  137. 138. <ul><li>“ And you were abducted by aliens as a teen.” </li></ul><ul><li>“… Yes.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I’m betting that gyroscope thing is what I know as a dance sphere. And if you’re an adult male who’s been abducted before and you go on a dance sphere on high speed, you can get abducted again.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I was abducted ?!” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yeah, uh, congratulations, you’ve been impregnated by aliens.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ WHAT?!” </li></ul>
  138. 139. <ul><li>“ Adult men can get pregnant by aliens. My nephew, Lorne – he has part-alien twins. It’s fairly normal.” </li></ul><ul><li>“… I’m pregnant ?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yes.” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam looked down at his stomach, finally realizing that he was going to be a father. Or a mother. Or both. “I’m going to be a father.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yes.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ What do I do? I’ve never had a child before!” </li></ul>
  139. 140. <ul><li>“ The same things you did with me and Willow and Anya. You’ll be a great father, Liam. Don’t panic.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ But what do I do while I’m pregnant?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ The same things pregnant women do. Look, I’ll bring Lorne over. He can tell you what to expect.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ He won’t mind? I mean…” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Not at all. I’ll bring him over soon.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Okay. See you soon.” </li></ul>
  140. 141. <ul><li>“ Soon.” Liam heard a dial tone as Xander hung up. He looked at the phone, then his stomach, then changed into the only clothing he could find that fit. Then he left his room and headed down to the living room, where Elle and Stuart were watching a movie. “So,” he said, drawing their attention and widening eyes, “apparently, men who have been abducted by aliens can get abducted again and pregnant from using a gyroscope or dance sphere or whatever it’s called.” </li></ul>
  141. 142. <ul><li>“ I did not realize you had been abducted before,” Stuart said. “The same thing happened to Uncle Theo, and that is how we got my cousin Celestia.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Uncle Jon just used a telescope for Riku,” Elle said. “I’m glad you disappearing wasn’t anything bad, though.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Me too,” Liam said. “And I…I’ve always wanted children.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I would have warned you had I known,” Stuart said. </li></ul><ul><li>“ I know. Thanks.” Liam turned to the TV. “So what are we watching?” </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  142. 143. <ul><li>Xander brought Lorne and his daughters over the very next day. Liam was a bit stunned by how forward both of the twins were, and they definitely shocked Stuart and Elle, but all in all, they had a good time. </li></ul>
  143. 144. <ul><li>Liam and Lorne even managed to get a few minutes alone to talk about the mechanics of male pregnancy and birth. </li></ul><ul><li>At the end of the conversation, Liam was fairly sure he could handle it, but rather glad that he wasn’t going through the experience completely alone. </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  144. 145. <ul><li>Rose, meanwhile, had no idea that Liam was definitely too busy to go along with any of the plans that she was quite happily making. </li></ul><ul><li>She’d managed to contact a bunch of people, and it looked like there were a number of possibilities for girls who might be interested in Liam, and who he might be interested in in return. </li></ul><ul><li>She looked at her computer, counting the messages in her inbox. “That’s six, and I should have a response to that by the morning. Yup, definitely going to work.” </li></ul><ul><li>Then she tilted her head. “I should probably talk to Liam about this, shouldn’t I?” </li></ul>
  145. 146. <ul><li>Rose was a bit reluctant to talk to Liam. Their last interaction, well, it really hadn’t ended so positively. </li></ul><ul><li>But there were other ways. </li></ul><ul><li>Looking at what she could find on Liam and his current status made her facepalm. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Well, it looks like that idea is going to have to wait. Damn.” </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  146. 147. <ul><li>Luckily for Rose (and everyone else), it wasn’t that long before first Elle, then Liam, gave birth to their children. </li></ul>
  147. 148. <ul><li>Everything about being a father was amazing. In Liam’s opinion, Kathy was the most perfect infant ever, though Elle and Stuart’s Caleb wasn’t far behind. </li></ul><ul><li>All three of them spent time taking care of the children, alternating work and days at home as they had time available. </li></ul>
  148. 149. <ul><li>Liam found himself feeding infants, changing diapers, and simply playing with them. </li></ul><ul><li>He’d done it before, for Xander and Willow and Anya, but somehow it was even more when it was his own daughter. </li></ul>
  149. 150. <ul><li>With all this amazingness, he couldn’t even mind that he’d been abducted by aliens once more. </li></ul><ul><li>After all, if it could give him this, it couldn’t be so bad, could it? </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  150. 151. <ul><li>In the predawn darkness, the house was silent. Well, almost silent. The cries of two infants pierced the silence, demanding food and attention. </li></ul>
  151. 152. <ul><li>Liam stumbled down the stairs to the nursery to find a light already on. Elle held her child in one arm and leaned over the other crib. &quot;Do you need a hand with that?“ </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;Oh yes.&quot; “Stuart–&quot; &quot;He has work early and needs his sleep. So do you, for that matter.“ </li></ul><ul><li>Liam shrugged. &quot;I'd rather be here, even if it means I need extra coffee today.&quot; He reached into the crib and picked his daughter up. Her cries lessened at his touch, though she still whimpered. Clearly, she was hungry. </li></ul>
  152. 153. <ul><li>As he headed over to the fridge, Elle stopped him. &quot;Why don't you sit with both of them while I make bottles? It's much easier with two hands.&quot; &quot;Good idea.&quot; She passed him her child, and he headed to the rocking chair, humming an old lullaby under his breath. As he sat there, waiting for milk, cradling two children - one his own and one not, but both his in love - he smiled. &quot;Everything is going to be just fine,&quot; he murmured to them. And for the first time in his life, he really, truly meant it. </li></ul>
  153. 154. <ul><li>“ Elle?” he said, as she reentered the room. She took Caleb and started feeding him his bottle, then looked at Liam. “I think I’m ready.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Ready?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ To try and reconcile with my family.” Whether or not they’d accept it wasn’t up to him, but it was his turn to at least try to make amends. </li></ul><ul><li>She smiled at him. “Good.” </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  154. 155. <ul><li>The first step was to apologize to his parents. </li></ul><ul><li>And so, one day, Liam picked up Kathy and walked with her to his parents’ house. He had a feeling they’d want to meet their granddaughter. </li></ul>
  155. 156. <ul><li>His mother answered the door. “Liam,” she said, and reached to hug him. She checked herself when she noticed the baby in his arms. “Is she yours?” </li></ul><ul><li>He smiled. “Mom, I’d like you to meet Kathy. Your granddaughter.” </li></ul><ul><li>He held her out and Eloise took her. “Oh, she’s lovely.” She cooed at the baby, who happily gurgled back. “Oh, come in! You must meet your sister and brother.” </li></ul>
  156. 157. <ul><li>Liam followed his mother into the living room. His father was there, playing peekaboo with a little boy. A little girl, meanwhile, was happily playing with a set of blocks. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Joss, Liam came to visit, and he brought his daughter!” </li></ul><ul><li>Joss looked up. “Hello,” he said. He picked up the boy and came over to his wife and son. “How have you been?” </li></ul>
  157. 158. <ul><li>Liam shifted nervously from foot to foot. “I came to apologize. For being a brat, and for accusing you two of, of everything.” </li></ul><ul><li>Joss’s eyes softened. “You’ve changed.” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam nodded. “Living away from everyone’s been good for me. And, well, there’s Kathy.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Kathy?” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam gestured at the baby in Eloise’s arms. “I was abducted by aliens and came back with her. Best thing that’s ever happened to me.” </li></ul>
  158. 159. <ul><li>Joss looked at Liam for a moment, then at Kathy. “Would you like to meet your younger siblings?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Of course.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You won’t treat them like you do Buffy.” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam’s smile was more of a grimace. “I won’t be treating Buffy like that anymore, let alone toddlers.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Good.” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam looked around at the two toddlers – the boy in Joss’s arms and the girl by the blocks. “You had twins again?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yes. It does run in the family.” Joss gestured Liam over. “Liam, this is Allen. Allen, this is your big brother Liam.” </li></ul>
  159. 160. <ul><li>“ Big brother?” Allen asked. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Yes, big brother. A bit like a big sister.” Liam realized that this meant that Buffy and Cordy had met Allen – and his apparent twin – already, but he’d assumed that must be the case. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Oh! Want big brother!” Allen reached for Liam, who instinctively reached to hold him. Allen snuggled into him, and he smiled. </li></ul><ul><li>Joss, meanwhile, picked up the little girl. “And this is Justine. Justine, this is Liam, your big brother.” </li></ul><ul><li>Justine just smiled from her father’s arms and waved shyly. Then she moved around a bit, and when Joss put her down, headed straight back to her blocks. </li></ul>
  160. 161. <ul><li>After a long look to make sure that Liam was handling the toddler well (which he was – he had plenty of experience with his nephew and nieces), Joss headed over to Eloise and Kathy and waved at his granddaughter. </li></ul><ul><li>Eloise smiled. “We have another grandchild.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Another?” Liam asked. </li></ul><ul><li>“ In addition to the six grown ones we already had. Cordy is pregnant again, but she hasn’t had the baby yet,” Joss said absently, as he cooed at Kathy. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Oh.” </li></ul>
  161. 162. <ul><li>Just then, Allen yawned. “I think this one needs a nap,” Liam said. </li></ul><ul><li>Eloise gestured. “The nursery is that way. I’ll put Kathy in there for now as well, and then we can talk?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Of course.” </li></ul><ul><li>As Eloise and Liam headed for the nursery, Joss scooped up Justine, making sure to grab her blocks as well, and followed them to the nursery. It would be best if none of the children witnessed this conversation. </li></ul>
  162. 163. <ul><li>Once the children were in the nursery, the three of them sat down in the living room, and Liam finished his apology to his parents. They apologized to him, as well. </li></ul><ul><li>The conversation was stilted, and the forgiveness a bit forced, but by the end of the afternoon, all of them were far more comfortable with each other, and all had been, if not forgotten, at least no longer the elephant in the room. </li></ul>
  163. 164. <ul><li>Liam hugged each of his parents, then picked up his daughter once more and opened the door. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Liam,” Eloise said. </li></ul><ul><li>He turned around to look at her. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Don’t wait forever to talk to Buffy. Please.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I won’t. I promise.” He smiled at them, then turned and left the house. </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  164. 165. <ul><li>Despite Liam’s promise, he put off apologizing to Buffy. Aside from being busy with work and the children, there were a few other apologies he wanted to make first. </li></ul><ul><li>Xander, when invited over for an apology and to come meet the children, simply shrugged off the apology with a “don’t worry about that” and made a beeline for the nursery. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Hm,” he said, as he picked up Kathy, “I wonder if I can convince Marisa to have a third. They’re so wonderful when they’re this age.” </li></ul>
  165. 166. <ul><li>Rose was a bit more complicated. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Thanks for coming over.” </li></ul><ul><li>She drummed at the table a bit, having refused coffee. “Thanks for having me.” </li></ul><ul><li>They sat in awkward silence. </li></ul><ul><li>Liam took a deep breath. “I invited you over to apologize for being an ass. I shouldn’t have been so idiotic–” </li></ul>
  166. 167. <ul><li>She cut him off. “No, no, it’s my fault. I’m sorry I couldn’t make things better for you, and I’m sorry I didn’t realize just how bad the issues were. I want to help you, Liam, and I had an idea, but…” </li></ul><ul><li>“ But?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ But you have a child now, right?” </li></ul><ul><li>He’d learned a long time ago never to ask just how Rose knew anything. “Yes. Kathy.” </li></ul><ul><li>She frowned. “Hrm.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Hrm?” </li></ul>
  167. 168. <ul><li>She tapped the table. “This could work if she’s a bit older, maybe.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ What could work?” </li></ul><ul><li>Rose grinned. “Oh, just leave it all to me.” </li></ul><ul><li>Liam rubbed his forehead. “You’re making me nervous.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Trust me, it’s not bad.” </li></ul><ul><li>He took a leap of faith. “Alright. I reserve the right to say no, of course.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Of course.” </li></ul>
  168. 169. <ul><li>Rose looked at him with a penetrating gaze. “Go apologize to your sisters, first.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I already promised Mom that I would. And I’m planning to. Tomorrow.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Good. I’ll speak to you after that.” </li></ul><ul><li>He nodded. “Alright.” </li></ul>
  169. 170. <ul><li>He saw her to the door, then headed upstairs to check on the infants. </li></ul><ul><li>He didn’t notice Rose stopping Elle as she got out of her carpool, nor did he hear the conversation they had. </li></ul><ul><li>It probably would have made him more nervous, had he known, so perhaps it was for the best that he missed it entirely. </li></ul><ul><li>* * * </li></ul>
  170. 171. <ul><li>Liam had no idea what to say. He’d been thinking about it all day, from Kathy’s early morning feeding through work and the entire drive home – and he still had no clue. </li></ul><ul><li>It had to be done, though, so he left Kathy with Stuart and Elle and Caleb – it was a weekend, so they were all off – and walked across town to the large purple house with the wraparound porch. </li></ul><ul><li>The house screamed Cordy, and he knew immediately that Buffy and Martin had let her choose everything. </li></ul>
  171. 172. <ul><li>Liam smiled sadly as he climbed the stairs, then stood nervously at the front door. He took a deep breath and raised his hand to knock. </li></ul><ul><li>The door opened before he had even touched it once. His sister stood on the other side. </li></ul><ul><li>His very pregnant sister stood on the other side. </li></ul>
  172. 173. <ul><li>“ Buffy, you’re home early–” She looked up, finally seeming to notice who was actually on the other side of the door. “Liam.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Cordy,” he said awkwardly. </li></ul><ul><li>“ We weren’t expecting you. At least, no one told me you were coming over.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ No, I – no. I didn’t call ahead.” He sighed. “Can I come in? I have to talk to you – all of you – about stuff.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ If you’re just going to make Buffy cry again, you can turn around and leave right now, Liam.” </li></ul>
  173. 174. <ul><li>He almost snapped back at her, but rubbed his forehead instead. “I deserved that.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You did. Why are you here?” </li></ul><ul><li>He could tell there was no way he was getting in the house without explaining himself to her. “I need to say sorry, for–” </li></ul><ul><li>She cut him off. “I’m not the one you need to apologize to. You–” </li></ul>
  174. 175. <ul><li>“ No, but you are . I need to – I already apologized to Xander and Mom and Dad and Rose – that got weird, too, and she apologized back, I guess she blames herself as well. I don’t know the rest of the family, I mean I vaguely know Willow and Anya, but I never did anything to them that needs an apology. At least I don’t think I did. But that just leaves you and Martin. And Buffy. But I want to make things right. I do.