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Title: Good things come in small packages.

Author: Sarah

E-mail: taraka66@hotmail.com

Disclaimer: The characters belong to Joss Whedon, WB and Mutant Enemy. I've just borrowed them.

Summary: Willow inherits something unusual.

Rating: PG 13 (I guess!)

Author's notes: This is set in the future. I've tampered with the time line a little but nothing major.

Feedback: Yes please!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Willow picked up the telephone receiver and spoke the sentence she'd said several hundred times since taking the job as Senior Computer Analyst at Thompsons Computer Software Company. "Good afternoon, Willow Rosenberg."

She waited patiently for the voice on the other end.   Eventually the pause was broken.

"Miss Rosenberg, my name is John Anderson, I'm a lawyer with Binchley, Bracken and Burst. I need to arrange a meeting to discuss an urgent matter.  Do you have any time at all today?"

"Today?" Willow asked, as her mind raced. She'd never heard of the law firm.  Was it local? What could be so urgent that he needed to see her today? "Can I ask what is so urgent that you need to speak to me today?"

"I would rather talk to you in person.  Would it be convenient for me to come to your office?"

Willow glanced at her diary, which was open on her computer.  "Ok," she said, a tone of uneasiness in her voice. "What about 2 o'clock?"

"2 o'clock will be fine. I look forward to meeting you in person then."

Willow replaced the receiver and began to process a range of thoughts as to why a lawyer would desperately need to meet with her today.

She returned to her computer screen, carrying out a little research on John Anderson and his law firm before their meeting.  Living on a Hellmouth you could never be sure what you might run into.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

A knock on her office door signified Mr Anderson's arrival.

"Come in," she said authoritatively.

The door opened to reveal a well dressed man, about fifty years old.  His once dark hair was now streaked with grey.  His brown eyes sparkled with honesty.

Willow felt slightly at ease in his presence. He wasn't exactly what she was expecting, he didn't seem to fit the stereotypical concept she had of a lawyer.

"Miss Rosenberg." he stated, stretching out his hand to shake hers.

She mirrored his gesture. "Mr. Anderson." When the introductions were finished Willow indicated to the couch and seat in the corner of her office "Please have a seat." Being in charge of the analysis department had benefits, like a nice office with good views of Sunnydale.

Mr Anderson followed her direction and sat down on the couch, putting his briefcase on the coffee table in front of him. He opened his briefcase and found the papers he needed, placing them by it.

Willow sat opposite him, watching his movements carefully, waiting for him to reveal the reason for his visit.

"Miss Rosenberg,  I was your cousin Eloise and her husband Tony's lawyer.  I'm afraid I have some rather disturbing news."

Willow remembered her cousin's wedding four years previously.  Eloise and Tony had been so happy together, they were going to travel the world before settling down in Chicago.  There hadn't been many people at their wedding, neither of them had very big families.  In fact, Willow and her parents were Eloise's only surviving relatives.

Willow waited for Mr. Anderson to continue, although she had a feeling that she wasn't going to like what she was about to hear.

"I'm sorry to have to tell you that your cousin and her husband have been killed in a motor vehicle accident." His face was filled with sympathy as he explained the situation.

Willow gasped, she had expected bad news, but she hadn't been expecting to find out her cousin had died.

"As your parents and you are their only surviving relatives their will states that they wish to leave their estate in your capable hands, Miss Rosenberg, but on one condition."

"Condition?" Willow asked, still shaken at the news.  Willow hadn't been particularly close to her cousin.  Attending her wedding was the last time she'd seen or spoken to her.

"Yes. They requested that you become the guardian of their baby daughter, Megan.  If you do not take up guardianship she will be placed for adoption."

"Baby?. . . Me . . .guardian. . . .baby." Willow uttered, completely stunned at his revelation.

"Yes, it was Eloise and Tony's wish that you would become Megan's guardian  in the event of their untimely deaths.  I know this must be a shock, but Megan needs to be cared for."

Willow's ind finally finished processing the information Mr Anderson had given her.  "It's a big responsibility taking on a baby.  I'm twenty five years old, I'm not in a stable relationship, I don't know if I'm ready to be a parent, especially a single one."

Mr Anderson smiled at her reassuringly. "Let me give you some time to think about the situation. I'm not leaving for Chicago until the morning.  If you've made a decision to look after Megan, perhaps you will be able to accompany me back to Chicago.  If you have any questions don't hesitate in contacting me." He handed Willow a business card with his hotel number written on the back.

"Thank you for your time, Miss Rosenberg. I look forward to hearing from you."  With that he got up from the couch and made his way out of her office.

Willow watched him leave, still shell shocked from his revelation.  She needed to talk to someone and quickly.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"A baby?" Buffy asked incredulously.

Willow nodded, "My second cousin Megan, she's three months old and needs a caregiver.  I am apparently first choice."

"Well what do you want to do? Being a single parent is hard.  Just look at my Mom, and she wasn't a single parent until I was fifteen!"

Willow grimaced. "But you're special, you're the Slayer."

"Hmm, special, I like that description." Buffy grinned. "You know I'll support you whatever you decide.  I'll even babysit and help change diapers if that's what you decide to do." Buffy wrinkled her nose at the thought of changing a baby's diaper. "We have a spare room, I don't mind having a third house mate.  How much trouble can a baby be?"

"Well," Willow started "I don't think I could forgive myself if I let Megan become adopted, it wasn't what her parents wanted.  I'm old enough to handle the responsibility, I've handled tougher jobs, like helping to save the world!" Willow smiled, she was beginning to warm to the idea of parenthood.  "Well I suppose I ought to phone Mr Anderson and ask if there's a spare seat on the flight to Chicago tomorrow."

A smile broke out on Buffy's face as she hugged her friend.  "Well, I suppose we'd better start sorting the spare room for our new guest!"

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Willow's heart pounded in her chest, she hadn't been this nervous since graduation at high school.  Although this time her nervousness was related to a perfectly human experience, in a few minutes she would meet Megan for the first time.

John Anderson opened the door to reveal a beautifully decorated room.  The pale blue walls were painted with white fluffy clouds.  There was a disarray of toys spread over the floor.  A woman sat in a rocking chair, her arms cradling a little pink bundle.

Willow's eyes studied the bundle. Any doubts or nerves she might have had instantly left her as she saw Megan for the first time.

The woman smiled at Willow, gently standing up from the chair, still cradling the baby.  "Hello. I'm Anne Jacobs, I'm responsible for ensuring that Megan is cared for appropriately."

Willow nodded in response, her eyes still focussed on the baby, who's face was peaceful in slumber.

"I've arranged for a case worker to be assigned in Sunnydale to ensure everyone's needs are met, especially Megan's."

Anne Jacobs smiled at the young woman, as soon as she entered, she had a good feeling that Willow would make an ideal care giver for Megan.  She walked towards Willow and held the baby out so that she could take her from her arms.

Willow accepted Megan into her arms, instinctively supporting her head.  Willow marvelled at how the baby seemed to fit perfectly.

"If everything is satisfactory in six months time, we will be authorising the permanent adoption papers for you to remain Megan's legal guardian." Anne Jacobs continued.

Willow nodded again, the information and emotions swirling through her.

"We'll leave the two of you to get better acquainted, while I go and sort out the paper work for you to take Megan home.  I'll drop back in about an hour or two, then I'll take you both to the airport." John Anderson smiled.  Willow looked perfectly comfortable with the baby, they looked like they belonged together.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Megan opened her eyes and gurgled happily as she looked at Willow for the first time.

Willow couldn't help but smile.  "Hello Megan.  I'm your Aunt Willow.  You're going to come and live with me and your Aunt Buffy."

The baby gurgled again appreciatively at the kind face that greeted her.

Willow sat for a long time talking and rocking the infant.  She was beginning to understand how much you could love a child, knowing that she would protect Megan against the dangers she knew existed in the world.

Their bonding time was interrupted by the door opening and John Anderson peering around the door frame. "Are you both ready?" he asked.

"Yes we are. Ready to start our new life together," Willow responded, a slight hint of nervousness evident in her voice.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Willow walked through the crowd of people towards the baggage claim.  She held Megan's baby carrier tightly, gently guiding her through the people who were rushing about their business.  Megan was sound asleep, unaware of the chaos which surrounding her arrival in Sunnydale.

Willow finally claimed their baggage, well,  Megan's baggage. She hadn't realised how much baggage a baby needed.  Fortunately Buffy would be waiting to take them home.

It was incredibly difficult to steer the baggage trolley and carry Megan, but with determination, a little magic and careful observation, Willow managed it.

Willow spotted Buffy as she pushed her way through the crowd of people, her hand waving vigorously in the air.  Buffy hugged her friend, then peered down at Megan who was still asleep in her carrier.

"Hello Megan. I'm very pleased to meet you," Buffy spoke softly to the baby. "Did you enjoy your plane ride?"

Megan responded by opening her eyes and yawning.

"I see you appreciate my enthralling conversation, I hoped you'd give Grandpa Giles the pleasure of yawning at his speeches.  The children of today!" Buffy rolled her eyes, shrugged her shoulders and grinned at Willow.

Willow smiled, relieved to be back home.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Willow gently set Megan's carrier on the floor of the lounge.   A sudden thought hit her. Where on Earth would Megan sleep? They didn't have a crib.

Buffy noticed Willow's panic stricken face. "What's wrong Will? Are you having second thoughts?"

Willow shook her head. "No I just realised, we don't have a crib for Megan."

Buffy glanced at her watch. "I guess we have time for some urgent baby shopping.  What else do we need for Megan?"

"That's a very good question.  Although I'm sure as soon as we hit the baby store we'll find out!"

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Willow and Buffy couldn't believe their eyes, they'd never seen so many baby things in one place.  There were so many different types of cribs, strollers and other items, they didn't have a clue where to start.

After ten minutes of feeling like Alice lost in Wonderland, a shop assistant finally took pity on them and helped them to find everything they needed.

After an hour they finally left the shop after spending a fortune and arms laden with packages. The store would be delivering Megan's crib in the morning, so tonight Megan would have to sleep in her stroller.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Willow smiled as she watched Megan sleep.  Her eyes were slightly scrunched up and her chest rose and fell rhythmically.

Willow was beginning to appreciate how much hard work a baby could be. Since their return from the store Megan had challenged Willow and Buffy to a new game, trying to decipher what Megan needed when she cried.

Willow had nearly burst out laughing when Buffy changed Megan's diaper for the first time. She had sat casually on the couching waiting for Buffy's response.

Buffy had cooed and smiled at Megan, until she removed the diaper.  The Slayer's face had instantly changed from one of pleasure to complete incomprehension, as to how anything as small as Megan could produce something quite as revolting as the contents of the diaper.

"I see your Slayer skills come in handy when dealing with the diaper demon!" Willow teased.

"You could have warned me Willow. I'm prepared for vampires and demons, but this... this is worse than anything I've ever met on the Hellmouth. Are you sure she's human?"

"Perfectly, 100% human." Willow replied, wishing desperately that she had a camera on hand to immortalise the moment forever.

Checking on Megan once more, Willow climbed into bed, hoping that she could get a few uninterrupted hours of sleep.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The sound of Megan crying woke Willow from her slumber.  At first she was a little confused by the sound, until she remembered she now had a baby.

Willow leapt from her bed, dashing to the stroller, trying desperately to identify what Megan wanted.

Willow gently picked her up.  As soon as she was in Willow's arms Megan stopped crying, content to be cuddled and comforted by her Aunt.

Willow gently rocked the baby in her arms, glancing towards the clock on her bedside table. 2am. "You certainly like to keep me on my toes, don't you?" she cooed gently at the baby,  watching as the infant's eyelids flickered and closed.  Her chest rising and falling to the rhythm of slumber.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

6am.  Willow glanced at her clock again.  This was the fourth time Megan had woken her that night.  Willow clambered out from under the duvet and went to the crying child.  The sun now shining through her window.

"I think its time we got up. What do you think?" she asked the infant.  Megan stopped crying as soon as she recognised the soothing voice speaking to her.

Rubbing the baby's tummy, Willow spoke gently. "I'll go and have a shower, then you and I can spend the day together.  I might even take you on a tour of Sunnydale."

The baby wriggled in her crib, and watched as Willow left the room.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Freshly showered and changed for the day, Willow carried Meg downstairs and placed her in the baby rocker.

Willow sat on the couch reading the morning newspaper, Meg gurgling softly as the movement of her rocker soothed her.

"What shall we do today?" Willow asked Meg.

"I know what I'm going to be doing." Buffy's voice called out from the hallway. "I'm going to go to Oz's and try to get some sleep." Buffy smiled wearily at Willow.

"I'm sorry, but Megan must have just been unsettled by the move.  New state, new aunt, no crib.  These things can make a baby cranky."

"Lack of sleep can make a Slayer cranky!" Buffy teased. "Seriously, its my day off from work, Oz is home.  There's time for a little Slayer-Werewolf get together.  That is, if you don't mind missing my company."

"Buffy, Megan is my responsibility not yours.  Oz is your boyfriend, go spend time with him.  Meg and I will be perfectly happy.  We might go and take in the numerous sights of Sunnydale."

"She's a little young to be hanging around cemeteries, isn't she?" Buffy teased.

"I thought we'd leave the cemeteries until she's a little older.  But I thought I might visit Giles."

"Does Giles know about Meg?" Buffy asked.

"The only person I told was you, and because I was in such a rush to get to Chicago I haven't had a chance to. So I think he's going to have a little surprise!  It could certainly be interesting around here for the next few days."

"It certainly could be. Anyway, Oz should be awake by now.  I'll see you both later, I'll bring Oz by to meet the newest Slayerette in Sunnydale." With that Buffy bent down, kissed Meg on the forehead and turned and hurried out of the door.

"Looks like its you and me then, Meg." Willow smiled at the baby.

Meg gurgled her reply.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Willow backed into the bookstore, pulling Meg's stroller carefully through the doorway.

Having to take a stroller everywhere made everything ten times more difficult.  After trying unsuccessfully to shop at a few stores for things Meg needed, Willow decided to regroup at Giles' bookstore, before returning home.

The bell on the door jangled, announcing their arrival.  As Willow turned Meg's stroller around, she noticed Giles appear from the backroom, a small smile on his face.  As soon as he saw it was Willow his smiled widened, however when he noticed Meg his face clouded with mild confusion.

"Good afternoon Willow."

"Hi Giles.  Have you had a busy day?" she asked pleasantly.

"No, its been quite quiet." his eyes gazing once more at Meg in her stroller.

Willow attempted to stifle a giggle, Giles was looking more and more bewildered by the second.

Giles looked up from the baby to find Willow smiling at him.  "I have to ask Willow, where did the baby come from? Who's baby is it? Why have you taken up babysitting?"

The giggle finally escaped, "Well, a lot has happened over the past few days," Willow began, but she was interrupted by Meg beginning to cry.

Willow bent down and scooped up the infant, glancing at her watch in the process. "Someone's hungry. Could I warm up Meg's bottle please?"

"Er. . . of course."

Willow followed Giles to the backroom, trying to console Meg on the way.

As Meg's bottle warmed Willow continued with her story.

"So. . .Er. . . Megan is now your responsibility?" Giles asked.

"Yes hopefully for the next eighteen years.  Wow! That's a long time!"

"It is yes."

"Well, I'm up to the challenge and responsibility.  So far things aren't going too badly."

"What about work? Child care?" Giles asked, trying to remind Willow of reality.

"I've taken a leave of absence.  I can do most of my work from home.  I will be looking into day care.  But for now, Meg and I are just becoming acquainted.   I do have one thing to ask you though Giles."

"What's that?"

"I was hoping you'd let Meg call you Grandpa, when she's old enough, of course."

Giles appeared to be a little taken aback by Willow's request.  Then his face filled with pride and happiness at the honour of being Meg's grandparent.  "I'd be honoured Willow, truly honoured."

"Thank you Giles."

"My pleasure. And if you need any help, like. . . .er. . babysitting, I'm sure I can manage." he offered genuinely.

"Thanks Giles."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Willow placed Meg in her crib, which she'd finally put together.  It had taken nearly two hours, much longer than Willow had anticipated.

Meg lay on her stomach, her arms stretching and exploring their new surroundings.

Willow wound up the musical mobile and watched as Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet rotated above the baby's head.

Willow hadn't the heart to put Meg's crib in the spare room, instead she'd made room in her own.  She would be closer to her when Meg woke up.

"Goodnight, sleep tight and make sure the bed bugs don't bite." Willow repeated the rhyme Xander's Mom had told them when they were small on sleep overs.  Willow gently kissed her fingers and gently placed them on Meg's forehead.

She watched for a moment longer, before turning to leave the room, switching on the baby monitor on before she left.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The house was finally peaceful, Willow relaxed on the couch, closing her eyes and enjoying the silence.

The sound of the telephone ringing woke her with a start.

She rose groggily from the couch and snatched the receiver from it's cradle before it could wake Meg.

"Hello," she said sleepily into the receiver.

"Hey Will.  How's Sunnydale?" Xander's voice filled Willow's ear and her heart.

"Hi Xander.  Sunnydale's the same as usual, relatively normal by day, abnormal by night! How's the conference going?"

"Fine. Well, ok. I didn't think there could be so much to discuss about pruning and trimming.  There are apparently a wide range of techniques and I've had the opportunity to become familiar with a whole host of them!  Later I'm going to attend a discussion on the latest grass cutting methods!"

"The National Landscaping conference is proving interesting after all?"

"Yes, you can gloat.  Thank you for persuading me to come. One day I will return the favour."

"I'll hold you to that!  When are you coming home?"

"Day after tomorrow.  Do you think you could meet me from the airport? Please?"

Willow imagined his handsome face constricted to produce the perfect puppy dog expression.  She had never been able to resist that expression and she had no intention of starting now.

"What time?" she asked.

"2.30 in the afternoon."

"I'll be there."

Willow heard Meg's cries through the baby monitor.

"Can you hold on a minute?" she asked Xander

"Why?"

"Meg's crying."

"Who's Meg?"

"My cousin."

"Cousin?" Xander's mind filled with images of beautiful women.

"I'll be back in a minute." Willow wasn't paying particular attention to Xander, she was more concerned about Meg, who's cries were getting louder by the minute.

Just as she was about to put the receiver on the table and rush upstairs, Buffy and Oz came in through the door. "Talk to Xander," She instructed as she thrust the receiver into Buffy's hands. When Buffy had hold of it, Willow turned and hurried up the stairs.

"Hey Xander. How's the plants?" Buffy asked.

"Fine thank you Buffy.  Now I have a serious question."

"What?"

"Is Willow's cousin cute?"

Buffy smiled.  Obviously Xander hadn't been fully updated.  She could have fun with this. "She's gorgeous Xander.  Beautiful blue eyes and a smile to die for."

"Will she still be there when I get back?" he asked hopefully.

"Yes, Willow and I have made her our third house mate,"  Buffy turned to smile at Oz, who was following the conversation.

He mouthed to Buffy, "Willow will not be happy" as he shook his head.

Buffy shrugged and continued smiling, enjoying the moment.

"Tell Will I'll see her at the airport Sunday afternoon at 2.30.  I can't wait to see everyone and meet Will's cousin.  This conference seems to be lasting for years."

"Well two weeks in Kansas certainly can have that affect on people who are used to the unusual nightlife in Sunnydale.  I'll see you Sunday. Bye."

"Bye."

Buffy hung up the phone and shrugged her shoulders at Oz.  "I couldn't resist.  He's so easily led by my Slayer powers!"

"This could lead to trouble Buffy," Oz replied.

"But fun trouble. I wish I could be with Willow when she collects Xander with Meg.  It could be at true Kodak moment.  It's a shame I'm working."

"Did Xander have to go?" Willow asked disappointedly from behind Buffy.

Buffy jumped. How much had Willow heard?  "Yes important discussion on trees.  He asked me to say thanks for picking him up at the airport on Sunday and he can't wait to meet Meg."

"Did you tell him about Meg?" Willow asked nervously, she had wanted to explain everything to Xander.  His opinion mattered most to her.  She still loved him, and she knew she always would.  At least they'd repaired their friendship, she should be happy with that.  But secretly she hoped that one day, he would love her, just as she loved him.

"I told him she's cute and she's staying here," Buffy said truthfully.

Oz rolled his eyes at Buffy.  Willow didn't notice, her mind was still working out Xander's reaction to Meg.

"I've come to meet Meg," Oz said, turning to smile at Willow.

"She's in her crib ready for visitors." Willow replied

"It came!" Buffy exclaimed.

"Yes and don't ask how long it took to put together." Willow warned.

"It took that long huh?" Buffy replied.

"Yes."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Another two sleepless nights were beginning to take their toll.  Buffy hadn't come home last nigh, taking the chance to stay over at Oz's.

Willow looked at her reflection in the mirror, her eyes were beginning to look bloodshot, and if she didn't know better, she thought she could see bags forming under them.

"I'm really going to impress Xander looking like this! Thanks Meg." she smiled as she passed Meg's crib.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Willow cradled Meg in her arms as she waited for Xander's plane to land.  Her stomach churned as she waited, her mind trying to find the right words to explain to Xander, that in the two weeks he'd been away, she'd become a parent.

Meg's gurgles brought her back to reality.  As she looked at Meg the announcer confirmed Xander's plane had landed.

"Well Meg, in a couple of minutes you're going to meet Uncle Xander," Willow explained. "I hope he's pleased to meet you."

Willow raised her eyes from Meg to the doorway, looking for Xander in the crowds of people who were entering the terminal.

Willow finally spotted Xander, his dark hair slightly mussed.  She waved, attempting to attract his attention.  His face broke out into a broad smile when he saw her.

He smiled when he saw Willow, who was waving furiously, her face was decorated with a huge smile. As he got closer, he noticed that she was holding something.  It looked like a baby, but it couldn't be. Willow didn't know anyone with a baby.  Unless it was her cousin Meg's baby, he thought.

"Hey Will," he called as he got within speaking distance, his eyes once again glancing from Willow's beautiful face to the baby she had cradled in her arms.  "Did you miss me?" He asked hopefully, because of all the people he knew in Sunnydale, being away from Willow for two weeks was the hardest.  He had really missed her, and that was the reason he'd tried to call as often as he could, just to hear her voice.

Willow smiled and nodded her reply.  She was so pleased he was home.  The past two weeks, had been difficult enough, but without Xander everything was harder.  She'd enjoyed his regular phone calls because at least then she could hear his voice and imagine his face.

He hadn't said anything about the baby.  Willow began to wonder why.  Buffy had explained Meg was staying, she must have told him Meg was a baby. Then a horrible thought entered her mind, what if Buffy didn't tell him the whole story, he could think Meg was the same age as they were?  That would certainly make explaining the truth interesting she thought.

Willow looked so comfortable holding the baby, it was an image he'd never thought about before, Willow holding a baby.  It sent shivers of emotions Xander thought he'd buried, only they had the nasty surprise of surfacing when he didn't expect them.  Xander inhaled deeply.  He had to ask Willow who's baby she was looking after.  "Willow.  Who's baby is that? Is it your cousins Meg's?"

Willow shifted nervously.  He didn't know.  She felt herself blush, and her stomach churned violently.  This was not exactly the place she wanted to explain the situation.   So she decided to try and give as little information as possible until they were home.  "No Xander, this is Meg."

Xander's face clouded with confusion, "Buffy told me Meg is sharing your house."

"Yes, that's true, Meg is staying with me and Buffy." Willow tried to smile, but she knew she wasn't doing very well at appearing confident.

"Did Meg's parents need a babysitter?" he asked.  That being the only answer he could think of, as to why a baby would be staying with Buffy and Willow.

"Kind of."

"Willow," he stated her name seriously, he could tell when Willow was being economical with the truth.  He knew her too well for her to try and lie to him. "You're not telling me everything."

Willow sighed, he could read her like a book.  She knew she was asking too much for him just to accept her first answer. S o she decided to change the subject, delaying the moment of explanation for a little while.  "I'll explain everything when we get home.  Do you want to eat at our place tonight? Being's you've just arrived, you won't have any food at your place, not that you'd want to cook anyway. Then I promise I'll explain everything."

He looked at her, his eyes locking onto hers.  She looked nervous.  Why would Willow be nervous, she knew that she could tell him anything, didn't she?  She'd changed the subject, so obviously now was not the time to pursue the issue.  She would explain everything later, he would hold her to that.  "Yes dinner at your place would be nice, and I don't mind waiting for the explanation."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Willow placed the lasagne into the oven, aware that Xander's eyes were following her every move.  When she turned away from the oven, she looked at him.  He was leaning against the doorframe, his brown eyes watching her intently.  Why was it so hard to tell Xander that she was

hoping to be Meg's permanent guardian? Her heart answered the question for her.  Because you never expected to have anyone else's child.  You always imagined you and Xander would have children together, not inheriting your cousin's daughter.  You're scared that Meg will frighten Xander away.  Not that he's mine to start with, Willow thought dismally.  He'd always wanted everyone other than her, why would that change now?  Your fooling yourself, she thought, he only wants you as a friend, nothing more.

Xander watched her, she shifted nervously and seemed to be wrestling with her thoughts.  A wishful look passed over her face, then it faded to be filled with one of concern and worry.  He decided to break the silence and suggest they talk.  "Willow." She looked at him, meeting his eyes, "I think it's time we talked."

She nodded, "But it's a complicated story, and I think I need to sit down."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"In six months, if everything is going smoothly, I will become Meg's permanent guardian." Willow finished her story, her eyes looking at her shoe laces.  She couldn't bear to look at Xander, she didn't want to see pity or any other emotion in his eyes.

Xander was utterly astounded by her revelations.  In the two weeks he'd been away, Willow, his Willow, had become a parent.  He knew he should be happy for her, especially if it was what she wanted, but he couldn't be.  He was jealous.  He knew how ridiculous that was, but he'd always hope that he and Willow would be a family, have children together.  Now as fate would have it Willow was going for single parenthood.

"Are you sure it's what you want?" he asked.

"Yes." Willow nodded, her eyes meeting his for the first time since her explanation.

"Looking after Meg on your own is going to be hard."

"I'm not on my own! Buffy's promised to help and so has Giles."

"One day Buffy and Oz are going to want to make things permanent, they'll have a family of their own. And although Meg is important to them, their priorities will change.  Giles, well Giles had enough difficulty dealing with three teenagers, can you really imagine him with a baby? His heart's in the right place and he genuinely will help, I just don't think Giles has the experience necessary with babies."

"I'll manage!" Willow exclaimed, her resolve face backing up her determination.  "Why are you being so critical? It's my life, I should be able to live it how I choose.  Why is looking after Meg any different than having my own child? For all intents and purposes she will be my child!"

Willow could feel tears of frustration welling in the corner of her eyes.  She couldn't understand Xander's reaction, everyone else had offered their support.  Xander had challenged her, he obviously didn't think she could handle being a parent.

I'm just trying to be realistic.  I care about you too much to stand by and watch you make a mistake."

"Megan is not a mistake!" Willow shouted, becoming angrier by the second.

"I didn't mean it like that!" He hadn't wanted to upset her, but he was doing a very good job of hurting her.  "I just want to make sure you're taking Meg for the right reasons, not out of obligation to your cousin.  Willow, you're the most selfless person I know.  You're going to make an excellent Mom to Meg and to any other children you have.  I'm sorry for upsetting you, I just wanted to understand why. I want to help."

"Help! Well you're going the right way about doing that!" She stood and turned away from him, shaking with anger.

He reached out and touched her shoulder.  She pulled away from his touch.

"I wanted you to be happy for me, that's all." She stated meekly, her anger dissipating, being replaced by the feeling of isolation from her best friend.  The one person she'd hoped would understand obviously didn't.

"I am happy, if you're sure it's what you want," he spoke quietly, regretting the entire discussion.  He remembered the time he told Willow in high school that he was the King of Cretins, he still retained the crown with a flourish, he thought.

She turned to look at him, recognising the tone of regret in his voice.  She allowed herself to look into his chocolaty brown ones.  He smiled reassuringly, his eyes filled with apologies.  "I've thought about this long and hard.  This is what I want Xander."  Although, she added silently, it would have been so much better if it had been you and me inheriting Meg together.

"I'm sorry Will, I really am.  You're my best friend and I want you to know I will support you.  Not that I know anything about babies, but I am willing to learn."   Why was his life never simple?  They'd rebuilt their friendship, the were closer now than they'd been for a long time, but he'd managed to threaten everything by upsetting her.  When will you learn?  He asked himself.  He pulled Willow into a hug, hoping that being close to her would reassure her that he meant every word.

Willow gave herself over to his embrace, accepting his apology.  She'd expected him to be a little shocked, she just hadn't expected the reaction he'd given her.  It was as if he was jealous of the relationship she would have with Meg.  Could he be jealous? That would mean he cared more than he was letting on, wouldn't it? Willow decided to contemplate that thought later.  She was just enjoying being close to him.  His hand gently played with her hair, his touch sent tingles though her body.  She'd hoped that as time passed the sensations she felt every time they touched would diminish, but they hadn't, and she knew they probably never would.

Their hug was interrupted by Megan's cries.  Willow pulled gently from Xander's grasp.  "I'll go and see what Meg wants." She said glancing quickly into Xander's eyes.  She turned quickly and hurried upstairs to check on the baby.

Xander waited for a moment before deciding to follow Willow.  If he wanted any future with his best friend, he was going to have to learn about child care and what better time to start learning, he thought.

He stood in the doorway watching as Willow skillfully handled the infant, rocking her gently and soothing her with words of comfort.

You're a fool Harris, he silently admonished himself.  If you'd had any sense you'd have admitted to Willow how much you love her a long time ago.  Instead you hurt her with everything you say and do.  As he watched, his heart ached.

Finally he walked over to the crib, standing by Willow.  Megan had stopped crying, she was looking intently at the two adults who were paying attention to her.

"Buffy was right," he started.

Willow turned to look at him questioningly.

"Meg has got a smile to die for." He smiled at willow, his hand caressing the baby's head.

As he looked into Meg's sparkling blue eyes, he felt his heart melt.  She was truly gorgeous, and he made a silent promise that he would protect Willow and Meg from everything the world could throw at them.  It was a promise he intended to keep.

 3 months later.

 

Xander let himself into Willow's house after waiting patiently on the doorstep for five minutes. Buffy had moved out last week to live with Oz, and Xander wanted to make sure that Will and Meg were ok.

 

"Willow," he called, popping his head into the kitchen.

 

"Will? he tried again, this time looking in the living room.

 

He stopped and allowed himself to catch his breath. The sight that greeted him had caused his breath to disappear and his heart to pound. Willow was asleep on the couch, her long auburn hair fanned around her head, her face peaceful in slumber. Willow looked like a beautiful angel. She hadn't really changed in the twenty years he'd known her, except she'd grown more beautiful and important to him with every day that passed.

 

Megan gurgled from her playpen. Xander walked over to her and scooped the baby into his arms. Meg's face broke out into a smile as she recognised Xander's face. Her chubby hands pulled on his shirt.

 

"How about you and I go and make a start on dinner for Aunt Willow?" he asked Meg.

 

Meg gurgled contentedly.

 

With his free hand, Xander grabbed Meg's rocker and took her into the kitchen.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Willow stretched on the couch, opening her eyes slowly. Had she fallen asleep? As she raised her head from the cushion, it pounded as if someone was inside hitting her brain with a sledgehammer.

 

She returned her head to the pillow, the pounding stopped. She gently turned her head to check on Meg in her playpen.

 

Willow's eyes found Meg's playpen empty. Her heart pounded with fear and Willow began to panic until she heard Xander's voice from the kitchen.

 

She smiled, allowing herself to relax. After his initial reaction to Meg, Xander had become wonderful with her. He was an expert at changing diapers, he read to her and took her to the park. He spent as much time as he could with Meg and Willow. In a way he was becoming Meg's second parent. An idea which Willow didn't mind at all. She'd always known Xander would make an excellent father, and he was demonstrating to her just how good he was at the job.

 

Xander had even offered to look after Meg when Willow returned to work. He thought he could work his landscaping around Meg's schedule, which meant that Willow wouldn't have to leave Meg with strangers. Willow was warming to the idea, if she had to leave Meg with anyone, she would rather it be Xander.

Willow rose slowly from the couch, her head and body aching with every movement. I can't be ill, she thought, who would look after Meg?

 

She walked slowly to the kitchen, using the wall and furniture for support. She felt very wobbly on her feet, and the room was beginning to spin a little. When she finally reached the kitchen, she stopped in the doorway watching Xander and Meg.

 

Xander held a wooden spoon in his hand, pretending it was a microphone. He was singing and dancing to the radio. Meg was watching him intently from her rocker, giggling at his performance.

 

When the song ended, Xander bowed to Meg, who joyfully clapped her hands together.

 

Willow couldn't resist, she clapped her hands in appreciation at his performance. It had been a long time since she'd seen him dance, and every time she did, it always cheered her up.

 

He turned, surprised and slightly embarrassed that Willow had been watching him. "Hi Will. Meg and I thought we'd make a start on dinner."

 

"That's your story is it? I thought I'd walked in on a concert," she teased gently.

 

"Well I had to keep Meg entertained. Watching me cook can be pretty boring. Is chili ok?"

 

"Chili's" Willow yawned.

 

"Is Meg still keeping you up?" he asked seriously. Willow looked really pale, and he was beginning to worry.

 

"She's much better at sleeping now, she only wakes me once or twice a night." Willow smiled thinly as she walked over and sat down in the chair. The room was beginning to spin a little faster.

 

Xander watched as Willow walked over to the table and sat down, using the wall and other furniture to support herself. Something wasn't right.

 

"Are you ok?" he asked, walking over and kneeling before her.

 

"Just a little headache, that's all. I'm going to go and get another sweater, it's rather cold in here."

 

Xander knew there was something wrong with Willow. It was one of the hottest days of the year, and yet Willow was cold. He gently reached out the palm of his hand and felt her forehead. Her skin was burning up. "Willow you're ill. Why didn't you tell me the truth?"

 

"It's just a headache, it will go away."

 

"Willow you're burning up, this is more than a headache. I think you need to go upstairs to bed and rest."

"What about Meg?" she asked.

 

"Meg will be fine. I'm staying until you're better. You know Meg and I get on well. Now please do as I say, go upstairs to bed and rest."

 

"Ok, " Willow conceded, the thought of relaxing in her warm bed sounded very appealing. Perhaps after a couple of hours sleep she would be feeling better. Standing carefully, she used the table to steady herself. She wobbled on her feet as she walked towards the door, grabbing the doorframe  for support.

 

In an instant Xander was behind her, holding her shoulders.

 

"Ok, I'll admit it. I don't feel so good." Willow looked sheepishly over  her shoulder. "I'd feel much better if the room stopped spinning." She  allowed her body to relax against Xander's, her eyes shutting in an attempt  to stop everything from spinning.

 

Xander scooped Willow into his arms. She rested her head against his  shoulder. She felt so light, he was astounded by how well she fit in his  arms. It was as if she had been meant to be carried by him.

 

Her eyes fluttered open, a smile passing over her lips, as she realised  Xander was carrying her. She closed her eyes again, content to be cared for by him.

 

Xander carefully carried Willow to her room and gently placed her on her  bed, pulling the covers over her clothes.

 

"Will?" he asked gently.

 

She opened her eyes and replied quietly "Xander?"

 

"I'll come and check on you in a little while. Ok?"  He smiled, his fingers  gently moving the loose strands of hair from her face.

 

"Ok." she replied, yawning, her emerald eyes closing, looking for the  peacefulness of slumber.

 

Xander watched her for a moment before turning and walking quietly out of  her room, closing the door behind him.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Meg and Xander passed the evening together, watching Scooby Doo and Charlie

Brown.

 

Every half hour or so Xander checked on Willow. She was sleeping  soundly.

 

When Meg began to yawn, Xander picked her up and carried her upstairs to her  room. She'd finally moved out of Willow's room. Xander and Willow had  spent one weekend decorating her room with clouds, rainbows and teddy bears.  They had been proud of their work when they'd finished.

 

He layed her gently in her crib turning on her mobile. Meg was fascinated  by the movement of Winnie the Pooh and friends.

 

"Try not to cry too loudly tonight. Aunt Willow needs to get some sleep,"  Xander asked Meg before turning and leaving her room.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Xander yawned and glanced at his watch.  6am.

 

The sound of Meg crying had woken him.  He went into her room.  Meg was sitting in her crib, pulling at her blanket.

 

"Hey, when did you learn to sit up?" he asked, amazed at how much Meg had changed in the last three months. He knew a long time ago that Willow had made the right choice.  Looking after Meg made you appreciate the normalcy of everyday life.  There were things more important than fighting vampires and demons, and family was one of them.  Secretly Xander felt that Willow and Meg were his family now.  He loved Meg more than he had thought possible, and spending time with Willow had deepened his love for her even more.

 

"Let's get you dressed and fed. Then I'll check on Aunt Will to see how she's feeling."

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Meg was playing happily in her playpen, so Xander took the opportunity to check on Will.

 

He stood in the doorway for a long time, just watching her sleep.  He could watch Willow sleep forever, she looked so peaceful, her hair fanned around her head on her pillow.

 

Xander quietly walked over to her bed, touching her forehead.  She stirred at his touch.

 

"Xander?" she asked groggily.

 

"Hey Will.  How are you feeling?"

 

"Like I've been run over by a bulldozer." she replied, her voice scratchy.

 

"Your temperature's come down.  Would you like anything to eat or drink?"

 

"A glass of juice would be nice. Thank you."

 

"My pleasure. I'll pop it up in a minute."

 

"Xander?"

 

"Yes." he turned back to look at her.

 

"How's Meg?"

 

Xander smiled.  "Enjoying Uncle Xander's undivided attention.  When I went to get her this morning, she was sitting in her crib."

 

He looked just like a proud father, pleased with his daughter's achievement.  Willow could imagine him in a few years time, sticking the pictures Megan had drawn on the refrigerator, showing them to anyone who visited.

 

"Sitting up.  She's growing really quickly Xander.  In no time she'll be bringing boyfriends home," Willow sighed.

 

"If she's anything like you she'll bring her first boyfriend home at four," he teased.

 

"If she's lucky she will. I seem to remember my first boyfriend and he's still putting up with me twenty years later."

 

"Every day I've spent with you has been a pleasure Will.  Without you the last twenty years of my life would have been meaningless."

 

"You know I feel the same too," Willow startled by his honesty, replied in kind.

 

"Yes Willow.  Best friends forever."

 

"Yeah" Willow's heart sank, "Best friends."  She really thought they had been making progress.

 

"I'll be back in a minute with your juice." Xander turned and left Willow alone with her thoughts.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Xander had just finished bathing Meg when the doorbell chimed.

 

He carried Meg downstairs and answered the door.  A woman in her late thirties was waiting patiently, a clipboard grasped in her hand.

 

"Hi," Xander said.

 

"Hello, Is Miss Rosenberg in?"

 

"I'm sorry, Willow's not feeling very well. Can I help?"

 

"I'm Eleanor Smith, from Sunnydale Family Services.  I'm here to check on Megan's situation."

 

"Well please come in.  As you can see Meg is very happy."

 

As if on cue Meg giggled.

 

Ms Smith walked slowly around the room,  inspecting the surroundings.  Her demeanour made Xander nervous.

 

"Please have a seat."

 

Xander placed Meg in her playpen and turned to Ms. Smith.  "Would you like a drink of tea or coffee?"

 

"No I'm fine thank you.  It's a lovely home you have here. . ."

 

"Mr. Harris." Xander provided for her.

 

"Are you Miss Rosenberg's partner?" she asked.

 

Xander nearly choked.  He could imagine Will's reaction if she'd heard Ms. Smith's statement. Xander  hurriedly thought of a reply.  Should he go with the truth?

 

"It's just that Megan seems very comfortable with you and you seem at ease with her," Ms Smith continued, smiling pleasantly.

 

"Willow and I are close friends, we've known each other since we were children.  I've been helping Willow since Meg's arrival, and as I explained when you arrived, Willow isn't feeling very well, so I'm staying at the moment to help out until she feels better."  He hoped he was saying the right thing, he would never forgive himself if something he said resulted in Willow being denied guardianship of Meg.

 

"Would it be possible to speak to Miss Rosenberg?" she asked.

 

"I'll go up and see if she's awake.  It's time for Meg's nap, so if you don't mind I'll pop her upstairs in her crib."

 

"Yes that's fine, as I said she seems really content."

 

Xander scooped Meg up and carried her up to her room, and placed  her in her crib.  Megan grumbled at being taken away from her toys.

 

"Sorry Meg, but I couldn't leave you alone with a stranger.   This, after all, is Sunnydale."

 

Xander left Meg in her crib and went into Willow's room. She appeared to be asleep.  He knew he'd have to wake her, if he didn't she would never forgive him.

 

He knelt beside her and spoke softly. "Willow. Willow wake up." As he spoke he gently rubbed her cheek with his fingers.

 

Her head turned towards his touch, her eyes opening.  "Hey," she smiled sleepily.

 

"I'm sorry I had to wake you, but you've got an important visitor downstairs."

 

"Who?" she asked.

 

"Ms. Smith from Family Services.  She's here to check on Meg."

 

"Oh no! I'm not prepared.  Meg's not prepared. The house.. oh.. You let her in didn't you?"

 

He nodded "It would have looked very strange if I'd just closed the door, wouldn't it? She seems quite nice.  She's met Meg, she just wants to talk to you."

 

"Oh. . .I'm scared Xander.  What if she thinks I'm not a good parent?  What if she wants to take Meg away?"  Willow's voice quavered.

 

"You are an excellent parent, Willow.  You love Meg.  Meg loves you.  She is not going to take Meg away.  I wouldn't let her if she did want to.  Meg belongs with you." And me he added silently, his fingers still stroking her cheek.. "I'm going to be there with you ok?"

 

"Give me five minutes to look reasonably presentable.  Where's Meg?"

 

"Having her nap."

 

"It's a little early."

 

"I couldn't leave her alone downstairs with Ms. Smith. She is a stranger and this is Sunnydale."

 

Willow smiled at him. Xander had become extremely protective of Meg and her.  He really cared for both of them, the question was how much?

 

"I'll be down in a minute."

 

"Ok." He removed his hand from her cheek, her skin was so smooth.  Every time he touched her a myriad of sensations coursed through his body.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

When Xander returned to the lounge, Ms. Smith was looking carefully at the photographs on the mantlepiece.  The photos were of Meg, Willow and Xander.

 

She turned to Xander as she heard him enter the room.  "The three of you make a very nice family," she smiled genuinely.  "It's nice for Meg to have two role models."

 

Xander smiled.  Even though they weren't an official family, in a lot of ways the last three months had seen them form one.  "Thank you.  Willow will be down in a minute.  Are you sure I can't get you anything?"

 

"No I'm fine, honestly."

 

Xander heard Willow's footsteps on the stairs. She finally entered the room.

 

Xander inhaled deeply, she looked stunning.  Her long auburn was hair pulled back into a ponytail, and her emerald green were eyes shining.  She looked a little pale, but she looked a great deal better.

 

"Hello. It's Ms. Smith, isn't it? I'm Willow Rosenberg. I'm sorry to keep you waiting, as Alex probably explained I've had the flu."

 

"I hope your feeling better Willow.  It was kind of Mr. Harris to help out.  He and Meg seem very close."

 

"Alex has been very helpful since Meg's arrival.  He loves Meg just as much as I do." Willow smiled at Xander, her eyes momentarily meeting his.

 

"As I said to Mr. Harris, Meg appears to be very happy.  She's well cared for by two care givers who obviously love her.  She's a very lucky little girl.  I would like to visit again before I make my final recommendation, but it looks to me that you're both handling parenthood very well.  Now if you'll excuse me I have other visits to make.  I'll show myself out.  It's been nice to meet you both." She smiled and turned towards the door.

 

"It's been nice to meet you too, Ms. Smith." Xander replied as he accompanied her to the door.

 

When he finally closed the door behind her, he sighed and turned to face Willow. "What happened to Xander? Alex sounds like someone Giles' age."

 

Willow smiled at his confusion  "To me, you'll always be Xander, but Ms. Smith seemed to be someone who would handle Alex better."

 

"I think we passed the test Will!" Xander said as he closed the space between them.

 

"She seemed very impressed with you." Willow replied, her body tensing as he got nearer.

 

"And why wouldn't she be?" he asked playfully.

 

"No reason.  But I would like to say thank you. Without you I'm sure Meg and I wouldn't have managed quite as well."  She leaned forward and kissed him on his cheek.

 

He blushed.

 

Willow blushed at Xander's response to her kiss.

 

"All we've got to do now is pass the next inspection."

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

The final inspection would be two weeks after New Years.  Willow was preparing the house for her first real Christmas celebration.  Willow had decided that she wanted Meg to celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas, that way she could enjoy both.

 

Xander had helped them to choose a tree and he was coming over in a little while to help them decorate it.

 

Meg was bouncing happily in her baby bouncer which was attached to the doorframe.  Her blonde hair had began to grow thicker, and she now had long wispy strands crowning her head.  She giggled happily as she bounced.

 

The door opened and Xander called "Hey Willow!" as he walked in. He walked towards the lounge kissing Meg on her head as he passed.  Meg giggled and outstretched her arms to Xander. Who dutifully, obliged by lifting her out of the harness and hugging her.  "I missed you too Meg," he said as she pulled on his jacket.

 

He set her down on the floor with her toys and walked over to Willow who was standing by the tree, smiling at Xander and Meg.

 

"Are you ready to decorate the tree then Will?"

 

"Yes.  Although you've got to promise not to eat all of the popcorn.  I spent ages stringing it and I would hate to see it disappear before reaching the tree," she teased.

 

"Slayerette's honour, I will not eat the popcorn until after Christmas.".

 

They began to decorate the tree, putting on lights, tinsel and baubles.  When they were finished, Willow stepped back from the tree and picked up Meg so that they could admire their work.

 

"What do you think Meg? Is it a pretty tree?"

 

Meg gurgled in agreement.

 

"It's missing something though," Xander said.

 

"What?"

 

"This." Xander opened the small bag he'd brought with him. He pulled out a beautiful angel, her blonde hair emblazoned with a golden halo, her golden dress glimmering in the coloured light from the fairy lights. "Every tree needs an angel." he said.  "Who would like to put the angel on the tree?"

 

"I think we should do it together," Willow replied. "As it's our first Christmas tree."

 

"Ok then."

 

Willow and Xander held the angel between them and carefully placed it on top of the tree.  Meg's hands waving, trying to grab the angel so that she could play with it.

 

Finally they stepped back to admire the tree.  Willow balanced Meg on her hip, both smiling at the beauty of the tree.  Xander moved closer to both of them,  slipping his arm around Willow's shoulders.  "Merry Christmas Will," he leaned down and kissed her cheek.

 

She turned and smiled at him, happy that they would be spending Christmas together.  As she looked in his eyes, she thought she caught a glimpse of something she hadn't seen since the night they'd tried on clothes for Homecoming.  Before she could register it properly, the look disappeared.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

The food was nearly ready, and Buffy, Oz and Giles would arrive at any moment.  Xander was in the living room, making sure Meg was ready for her first Christmas.  Willow checked everything was ready in the kitchen before going to check on Xander and Meg.

 

She stopped in the doorway, watching Xander as he played with Meg.  They'd both bought her far too many presents.  Meg was certainly going to be spoiled, especially by Xander.  They had watched together that morning as she investigated the presents they'd bought her.  She particularly liked the teddy bear Xander had purchased.  She hadn't let go of it since she found him, she even insisted on taking him with her for her nap.

 

Xander was playing with her shape box, showing Meg how to place the shaped blocks in the holes.  Every time one fell through the hole he pulled a face at Meg, which resulted in her giggling and smiling happily at her Uncle.

 

"I knew there was a reason why we studied geometry at school," Willow teased.

 

Xander looked up slightly puzzled. "Why?"

 

"Well you're teaching Meg all about geometry aren't you?"

 

Xander finally understood what she meant. "But when was geometry at school this much fun?"

 

"Good point," she allowed.  "Everything's fine in the kitchen. We've just got to wait for our guests." Willow moved and sat on the couch.  Picking up the camera from the table as she sat down, she took a couple of shots of Meg and Xander playing with their toys.

 

The doorbell interrupted them.  "I'll go," Will said, leaving them to play.

 

She opened the door to find Buffy, Oz and Giles, arms filled with packages. "Merry Christmas," she said happily as she opened the door wide enough for them to come in.

 

"Where's Xander?" Buffy asked.

 

"In the living room playing with Meg," Willow said.  "He's really enjoying her shape box."

 

"This I've got to see," Buffy replied, quickly moving to join them.

 

Oz and Giles followed, smiling as they watched Xander and Meg together.

 

"Hey Xander. Merry Christmas. I see Santa was very kind and brought you lots of new toys to play with," Buffy teased.

 

Xander looked up and smiled at his audience.  "He was extremely kind, and I am going to let Meg play with them later."

 

They sat down, Buffy and Oz on the couch, Giles on the chair, Willow and Xander on the floor with Meg.

 

They shared their presents, although most of them were for Meg. She was completely overwhelmed, she didn't really understand what was happening, and  began to cry.

 

Xander beat Willow to Meg, picking her up and comforting her.  "I think someone is a little over tired.  I'll go and put her down for a nap."

 

Willow watched as Xander left with Meg cradled in his arms.

 

Buffy sat quietly watching Willow and Xander.  Was there a chance that they might finally admit how they felt about each other?  Silently Buffy wished that they would, because they made the perfect family.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

The meal was finished, and Xander and Oz offered to wash up, since Willow had cooked. Willow and Buffy took Meg upstairs for her afternoon nap while Giles took his nap in the lounge.

 

Willow laid Meg in her crib, rubbing her tummy and waiting for her eyes to close.  Buffy stood beside her watching her friend. The last six months had seen a great deal of change, but Willow and Xander had adapted really well.  Buffy couldn't imagine either of them without Meg.  In just over two weeks Willow would be Meg's guardian.

 

"Willow?" Buffy asked quietly.

 

"Yes?" Will replied removing her hand from Meg's tummy.

 

"Why don't you tell Xander you love him?" she asked, heading straight for the important question.

 

"I . . er. . don't. . . not unless you count the friend way," Willow replied, shocked by Buffy's question.

 

"Willow, it's obvious how you feel about him. The way you look at him, the way you talk to him.  Everything you do together shows me and everyone else how much you love each other."

 

"But he couldn't love me.  We're best friends, nothing more." Willow said dejectedly.

 

"Willow, of course he loves you.  He spends virtually all his time here with you and Meg.  If he didn't love you, he wouldn't be here."

 

"He comes for Meg, he really loves her, I can see it." Willow admitted. "And he comes by to help me, but it's nothing more than that."

 

Buffy sighed.  "Willow, open your heart to him, let down the barriers for once.  You're only really happy when he's with you, your eyes shine when he's near.   It's always been that way. I know he was blind at high school, I know he messed things up with Faith, but he's grown up and finally realised how important you are to him. Give him a chance.  Give yourself a chance to be happy.  Give Meg a chance to have both people who love her so much love each other as well, because I think she would benefit having a brother or sister, because the way you both spoil her she could end up like Cordelia!"

 

"I'm scared," Willow admitted.  "I'm not just playing with my life anymore, I've got to consider Meg.  I know he loves her and I love him more than I've loved anyone else, and however hard I try, I can't stop.  If he doesn't feel the same way, I will have ruined everything, not only for me but for Meg."

 

"Oh Will, how are you ever going to know if you don't try?"

 

Willow nodded.  "I guess I'm going to have to get brave."

 

"Look, if you both need some time together, how about if Oz, Giles and I take Meg for a little walk this afternoon? We could all do with the exercise after your excellent meal."

 

"I don't know.  He's bound to guess it's a set up," she looked forlornly at Meg.

 

"I'll just say that you've both not had any peace and quiet since Meg arrived and it's our Christmas present to you both.  How could he resist?"

 

"Ok, but promise you will be careful with her?"

 

"I promise Will.  How much trouble can we get into on a glorious sunny afternoon?" Buffy asked incredulously.

 

"I don't even want to consider it."

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Xander passed the wet dishes to Oz who had volunteered to dry.  The room was silent. Xander could imagine the conversation between Willow and Buffy upstairs, they would be discussing everything that had happened in their lives since they last spoke, which was twenty four hours ago, and to two best friends, that could be a long time.

 

Oz broke the silence. "Why don't you tell Willow you love her?"

 

Xander almost dropped the wet dish he had in his hands.  "I don't love her," he stated quickly, shocked by Oz's line of conversation.

 

"You've always loved her, it just took you  a long time to realise it."

 

Xander cringed, he remembered Homecoming and the after events, when Willow was dating Oz and kissing Xander.  He'd really messed the situation up, finally noticing Willow when she was dating someone else.

 

"She loves you, you know," Oz continued, drying the plate he had in his hand.  He could sense Xander's tension, knowing he'd hit the truth on the head. "She always has, even when she was with me, she was thinking of you.  I didn't think you deserved her then, but watching you with her and Meg the last six months has proven to me that you're meant to be together.  You make each other happy, you both love Meg, you need to be together as a family.  Don't wait, time is precious enough as it is.  Tell her how you feel, you might be surprised how she responds."

 

Xander turned to look at Oz, amazed at his speech.  It was the longest speech he'd ever made to Xander.  "I'm scared," Xander admitted.

 

"Being in love is scary, but being with the right person is wonderful." Oz smiled as he thought of Buffy. He'd never dreamt of falling in love with her, but he had, and she loved him and together they were happy. "Taking the first step is the hardest, everything after that is easy."

 

"Ok, I'll think about it."

 

"Don't think too long, she might find someone else." Oz added, trying to shock the younger man into action.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Everything was tidy, and the house returned to some normality.  Buffy and Oz sat on the couch, and  Willow and Xander returned to their seats on the floor.  Giles sat in his chair, snoring gently.

 

They had sat chatting, about Christmases in the past and future plans.  Finally Buffy stretched, her plan  about to be put into action.

 

"I think I need to stretch my legs, work off Willow's wonderful dinner.  The afternoon is really beautiful, and I think Meg would appreciate a little fresh air.".

 

"Walk, good idea," Oz agreed as Buffy nudged him in the ribs.

 

Buffy got up and shook Giles gently.  He snorted then opened his eyes. "We're going for a walk with Meg would you like to come?" she asked, her eyes staring at him, showing that no was not an option.

 

"Walk . . er . . wonderful.  Just what I need." Giles said, aware that Buffy was up to something.

 

"I'll get my coat and fetch Meg," Xander said, smiling.

 

"No." Buffy turned quickly and smiled at Xander, "Oz, Giles and I will manage, you stay here with Willow and have a little peace and quiet.  I don't get the chance to play Aunt Buffy that often, and I would like to take her for a walk."

 

"Xander, if you get her stroller. I'll go and get Meg ready." Willow smiled at Xander, rolling her eyes, so that only he could see.

 

"Ok," he said, aware that Buffy's generosity had an underlying plan.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Willow dressed Meg and pulled on her thick blue coat.  She carefully put on her pink floppy hat. "You look ready for your walk with Grandpa Giles, Aunt Buffy and Uncle Oz.  Do you think you could be a good girl for them?  Uncle Xander and I have some things to talk about while you're not here."

 

Megan looked at her Aunt, fascinated by her voice and face.  She held out her arms, hoping that she would pick her up.

 

Willow gently lifted her from her crib and turned towards the door.  Xander stood in the doorway smiling.  Willow felt her face redden. How long had he been standing there?

 

"Your stroller awaits, my little princess," he said, smiling at her outfit.  "I see Aunt Willow doesn't want you to catch a cold."

 

Willow handed Meg over to Buffy, who fastened her carefully into her stroller.

 

Willow bent down and kissed Meg, "Now be a good girl."

 

"I've packed spare diapers, bottle and clothes in her bag," Xander said to Buffy.

 

"How long is she going for?" Willow asked Xander "You seem to have packed enough in that bag to last for days.  She's only going for a walk."

 

"Well better to be prepared for any event."

 

"Ok we seem to have everything we need for a walk.  Enjoy your peace and quiet, we'll see you later,"  Buffy said.  As she passed Willow she whispered in her ear "Couple of hours ok?"

 

Willow smiled and nodded discretely.

 

With that Xander and Willow stood in the doorway watching Buffy, Giles and Oz walk down the hill with Meg in her stroller. When their silhouettes faded into the distance, Willow reluctantly closed the door.

 

"She will be ok," Xander said reassuringly.

 

"I know, but I only usually leave her with you, and you're here. It just seems strange watching her go off like that. I imagine it's like watching her walk through the school gates on her first morning."

 

"Willow, you think way too much," Xander chided. "She's got another four years before school, there's no point panicking over that now."

 

"I know, but I just worry, that's all."

 

"You're entitled to worry about her, you love her. Now we have at least an hour, possibly even two, without having to worry about diapers, bottles or naps.  What do you want to do?"

 

"I've no idea," she replied honestly a rueful smile on her lips. "I've spent the last six months, sleeping, eating and breathing baby related items. I've forgotten how to be me."

 

"No you haven't, you're still the same Willow, just one with more responsibilities. Now I know a perfect way to start our afternoon."

 

"What's that?" she asked.

 

"Come with me and I'll show you." he took hold of her hand and led her into the lounge, indicating that she sit down on the couch.

 

He went over to the VCR and pushed a button.  The music for the Snoopy Dance began to echo through the room.  Xander began to dance.

 

Willow couldn't help herself, she began to giggle.  Xander had always been able to make her happy, that's why she loved him so much.

 

When the dance ended, Willow wiped the tears from her eyes.  "That was the perfect way to start our afternoon. Thank you."

 

He walked towards her and took her hand. "Dance with me?" he asked.

 

She nodded, rising to her feet.  He gently placed his hand in the small of her back, and they began to move to their own music.  Willow rested her head against his shoulder, enjoying being close to him again without worrying about Megan crying.

 

He bent his head forward so it could rest on hers, he inhaled deeply, Willow's scent filling his nostrils.  "I love you Willow," he spoke quietly into her ear, hoping he'd chosen the right moment.

 

She moved her head so she could look into his eyes.  The words he'd spoken had sent shivers up and down her spine.  She had to look in his eyes to be sure he meant them.  His chocolate brown eyes met hers shining with love.  Buffy was right, he did love her.  Without thinking, Willow uttered the words that meant everything to her. "I love you too, Xander."

His heart swelled as he heard her words.  Oz was right, she did love him.  She smiled, her eyes full of love and brimming with tears.  "I want you, me and Meg to be a family."

 

"We already are," Willow replied, moving her lips closer to his.  Their lips finally met in a kiss that started from their souls and sealed their love together forever.  Their bodies tingled with sensations of a pure and magical love.  One that was meant to be.

 

When their kiss ended, Xander had tears in his eyes.  Their first real kiss had been better than he'd ever imagined.  It linked them together forever.

 

Willow wiped the tears from his eyes with her finger tip.  Every part of her was filled with his love for her. Their kiss had been perfect, better than she imagined it could be.  She knew that they would never stop loving each other.

 

She took his hand in hers and looked deeply into his eyes. "I think I've thought of something to fill the time for the next couple of hours," she said with a soft smile, leading him upstairs.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

The doorbell chimed. Willow and Xander hurried from the living room to answer it. They swung it open vigorously to find  Buffy, Giles, Oz and Meg standing on the doorstep  to come in.

 

"Thought we ought to ring the doorbell," Buffy smiled as they entered the house.  Willow's cheeks glowed and Xander's eyes shone.  Progress has been made, Buffy thought.

 

"Oz and I were wondering if you would mind if we borrowed Meg for the night? We wanted to get a little baby practise in."

 

"Why?" Willow asked.

 

"Well, we weren't going to say anything, but in about seven months, Meg will have a little friend to play with." Buffy grinned.

 

Oz smiled, and Giles gulped.

 

Willow hugged Buffy, and then Oz. "Congratulations. Wow!"

 

Xander shook Oz's hand then hugged Buffy. "Thank you," he whispered in Buffy's ear.

 

"Well can we borrow Meg?"  Buffy asked again.

 

Willow looked at Xander, who smiled back at her.  "Ok, but if there are any problems, anything at all, phone.  Xander and I will be over instantly." Willow said as Xander nodded in agreement.

 

With that Buffy, Oz and Giles turned to leave with Meg and her teddy.  "Merry Christmas," Willow said, knowing that this Christmas was the best one she'd ever had.

 

Once again they watched their friends and child leave.  This time Xander hugged Willow to him tightly, resting his chin on her head.

 

Their future as a family was beginning.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

9 months later.

 

Xander gently kissed Willow's lips, waking her from her slumber.  She opened her eyes, deepening the kiss.  When their lips broke apart he spoke to her, "Good morning."

 

"Good morning," she returned, snuggling closer to him. "Well today is the day we sign the papers.  Megan will finally be our child."

 

"She always has been Will," Xander replied, his hand playing with her hair.

 

"I know, but now it will be official.  You and I will be her adoptive parents. She'll  be ours forever."

 

He kissed her again.  He couldn't believe how lucky he was waking up to her every morning.  Their wedding six months earlier had been perfect, Megan had looked beautiful as their flower girl.  Everything was working out perfectly, they were finally going to be the family that both of them had always wanted.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

They returned from the lawyers office to find Buffy, Oz, Giles, Megan and baby Jack waiting for them.

 

Their home was filled with balloons and streamers, celebrating Megan's adoption.

 

"Willow, Xander. Megan's got something to show you." Buffy said, placing the child on the floor.

 

Megan stood for a moment, before tottering over to her parents.  Willow and Xander bent down  scooping her into a hug.  "Mama, Dada" she said, hugging her parents tightly.

 

Willow and Xander looked at each other in amazement. Kissing Megan and then each other.

 

Buffy smiled. "You guys make a perfect family, you know that don't you?"

 

Xander and Willow nodded.  What else could add to their happiness?

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Willow and Xander tucked Megan into her crib, holding each other as they watched her sleep.

 

"I love you Willow, I love our daughter.  Being with you is more than I ever hoped for. More than I really deserve."

 

"You deserve much more," Willow smiled, gently kissing her husband.

 

He looked at her a slightly confused expression on his face, not sure what she really meant.

 

"Buffy once told me that Megan needed a brother or sister because otherwise we would spoil her too much and she'd end up like Cordelia."

 

Xander giggled at the image of Megan turning out like Cordelia.  "She'd never turn out like Cordy," he said, nodding at Megan.

 

"Well she's not going to have the chance.  I didn't want to say anything in front of the others."

 

Xander looked at his wife, his eyes gazing deeply into hers. He had a feeling Willow was going to say something important.

"I'm pregnant.  We're going to have a baby. Meg's going to have a little brother or sister to play with." Willow beamed, her eyes shining with love and happiness.

Xander swallowed, astounded at Willow's announcement.  "A baby?"

 

Willow nodded.

 

"Meg, did you hear that? You're going to have a baby brother or sister," he smiled as he leant forward and kissed Willow, showing her in that kiss that he loved her even more.

 

Xander broke the kiss and said "Oh no!" His face contorted into a look of horror.

 

"What?" Willow asked nervously, she thought he'd changed his mind about the baby.

 

"More sleepless nights! Just when Meg's sleeping through the night, we're going to be woken by the new baby!" he exclaimed rolling his eyes.

 

"Who needs sleep anyway? Especially when we've got each other." Willow smiled, relieved that Xander was pleased about the baby.  Finally she had the happy ending she'd always dreamed of.  Xander and she were a family and were blessed with not only their own baby, but the most special gift of all, the chance to love each other and be together. And that wouldn't have happened if they hadn't been given their most precious present.  Meg.

 

The End