Been out on the road 'bout six months too long.
I want you so bad, I can hardly stand it.
I'm so tired and I'm all alone.
We'll soon be together and that's it;
I'm comin' home to your love.
Coming Home- written by Bonnie Bramlett and Eric Clapton
She awoke to the sensation of someone stroking her hair and the sound of a lullaby that her mum used to sing to her when she was a little girl. She let her eyes flutter open to see who it was. Her eyes went fully open when she recognized the person sitting next to her. "Mum? Did I die? Am I in Heaven? Or am I really still asleep and dreaming? Or-"
Her mother placed a very real finger on her lips to quiet her. "Shh. It's alright sweetheart. You are so not dead and therefore not in heaven. You are very much awake and I am real."
Abby turned back the covers on her bed and reached over to hug her mother hard. Perhaps a bit too hard as her mother gasped, "Sweetheart, you've got slayer strength now and I still need to breathe."
Abby grinned sheepishly, relaxing her grip a bit but still holding on to her mum, "Sorry Mum, I forget sometimes." Awake now, she remembered her dreams and began to panic. "I need to go, Mum. I have to save Sarah, Robbie, Emily and Eleanor. Their being held by this monster and-"
She didn't finish her rant before her mother wrapped her in a hug of her own. "It's ok sweetheart. They're safe and sound in the infirmary here at Hogwarts. Your dream helped your Dad and your Auntie Dawn to find us."
"But what about my Watcher, I think that he's evil." Abby asked.
"You're right about that. Good call. But your Dad took care of him last night."
"But what happened to my real Watcher?" Abby asked.
Her mum let her go and sighed. "She was caught up by the bad guys. She's alright now, but she won't be your Watcher now."
"Can Billy come back and be my Watcher?" She asked hesitantly. Billy was a boy their father took in when he 11. He was providing a place for the boy during the holidays. Abby remembers the funny story about him that Sarah told of the first time that they met. She was 5 and he was 11 at the time and she literally ran into to him when he was taking a shower. She yelped and cried out "Mum, there is a naked boy in my shower." Both were highly embarrassed as Sarah was preparing to take a shower too. Still it marked an awkward beginning of a great friendship. He looked out for Sarah when she went to Hogwarts that first year and he eventually married their minder and moved to Australia. There was a dreamy look in her eyes as she thought about him.
"Definitely not, I still need Billy to run things in Australia." Her mum replied firmly.
"What about Robbie? He's been helping me out with my training." Abby suggested.
"Maybe, but he really hasn't been trained. There's a lot Robbie doesn't know. Don't worry about it sweetheart, we'll find someone when I get back in the swing of things. For now, I'll train you with Robbie's help, of course."
"Are we ever going to find out what happened to you?" She asked her mum warily.
"Yes. As soon as you get dressed we are going to an unused classroom where I will explain everything." Her mum replied.
"Are you still going to be here after I take my shower and get dressed?" Fear tinged her voice, still afraid that this was all some crazy dream and her mum was still dead.
"Of course I will, sweetheart, who else is going to lead you to that unused classroom that your Dad picked out?" She bent over, smoothed Abby's hair once more and leaned over and laid a kiss on her forehead. "Now go shower and change."
Abby didn't have to be told again. She rose from her bed, found her bathrobe and shower kit and headed to the bathroom.
Buffy wondered how much of the truth she should tell everyone. Would they believe her tale of aliens, monsters, space stations, prophecies and strange planets? Maybe Sarah, Abby and Robbie would believe the part about aliens, monsters and strange planets. Harry and Dawn would believe anything to do with prophecy. But the others, would they believe her? Rather than come across as the strange lady returned from another universe she would just extend the tale of her return to this planet, this Earth. The Powers had transported her back to a deserted island on the southern edge of the Indian Ocean, close to Antarctica. The island was a magically null zone so she couldn't use any magic to signal her rescue or even to let anyone know she was still alive. Two weeks had passed and finally an Australian fishing trawler spotted her signal fire and swung by to pick her up. When she reached the Australian shore, she contacted Billy, who was in charge of the Australian branch of the Council, to pick her up and arrange for passage back to England. She was hesitant to contact anyone other than Willow when she arrived back in England. She didn't know how long she had been gone. She spent at least a year in that other universe and even though Billy assured her that it had only been two months, she was unsure about her reception back home. As she spun her tale in front of her family and friends (the edited version without aliens and parallel universes) she saw acceptance of her story except for Faith, who looked with skepticism at her. For some reason, Faith wasn't fully invested in Buffy's story. She would deal with that later. She would probably have to tell her the whole story. She would also tell Harry too. They decided long ago not to keep secrets from each other and although this led to many arguments and disagreements during the years, their honesty helped make their marriage work. She might tell Dawn and Willow, but not the children, well at least not until they were older.
Padma was despondent. Buffy was alive and with her husband and children but where did that leave her? Did she still have a position now that she was no longer needed as a nanny? And what of her personal life, now that her ex-husband is in prison and in disgrace, what will become of that? She turned to leave the room, hoping to escape without anyone noticing her. She would go back to India, to her father's people. She would find space among them and perhaps even a new husband. Although since she was infertile the prospects of a new husband was small. Not too many suitors would be willing to risk a bride price on old woman who could not provide a son. Maybe she would just stay in England and live with her sister and her family. Tears threatened to overwhelm her. A strong hand on her shoulder stopped her from leaving. She turned; it was Mrs. Potter, Buffy.
"Where do you think you are going? Aren't you still employed by my husband?" She asked her.
"I was going to tender my resignation in the morning." Padma explained.
"Why? Did you mess up something that I don't know about?"
"No, I just thought that with your return, my presence is superfluous." Padma replied.
Buffy frowned, "Did someone tell you to say that? Did my over brainy daughter or sister tell you that, because I haven't dismissed you and I wasn't planning on dismissing you. I still need someone to watch over my two young daughters. Part of the deal in coming back was I had to take a less hands role to slaying. This means more paperwork and more office time for me."
"But I let them get kidnapped." Padma protested.
"Pfft, they're my children, they are always being kidnapped, comes with the territory. What matters is what you did when they were kidnapped, you didn't leave them."
"It's not like I could. They latched on to me as soon as they felt the pull of the portkey."
"Right, because they're big strong kids with muscles made of iron. No one could have shrugged them away."
Padma frowned, "They're just little girls."
"Exactly my point, they are just little girls and you are a grown up woman. If you didn't care for my girls you could have easily shrugged them off and left them to their own devices. You didn't do that. You grabbed on to the pair and went with them to the bad guy's lair." Buffy explained rather pointedly. She was having none of Padma pity party. "As far as I am concerned, you are part of this family now and I never give up on family." Buffy hugged the Indian woman, who was surprised by the outburst of affection from this woman she barely knew.
Emily and Eleanor were watching the interaction between their mother and their nanny warily. "Do you think that Mum is giving her the sack?" Emily asked Eleanor.
"Why would she do that? We love Nanny Padma." Eleanor replied.
"Because Mummy is back now and maybe she doesn't need Nanny Padma anymore." Emily said.
"But we still need Nanny Padma and Nanny Padma still needs us."Eleanor stated firmly, her logic rooted in her seven-year old mind.
"Yes, but does Mummy know that?" Emily asked her sister.
Doubt started to cross Eleanor mind, the possibility of Nanny Padma not coming back with them, never entered her mind. Panic set in and now tears began to form as well as an idea. "Let's go tell Mummy how much we need Nanny Padma and she'll have to keep her on." This was how two small and tearful little girls ran up to Padma and Buffy while they were hugging and joined in all the while babbling and crying to the effect that Mummy had to keep Nanny Padma.
Buffy separated from the hug, laughing at her daughters' antics. "See Padma, even the girls know that you are family. If I were to let you go, they would never forgive me. Besides what would you do with all that holiday wear that you bought? And Harry can't get a refund on the plane ticket that he bought for you to accompany us to America. So you see you're stuck with us."
Padma was overwhelmed by the generosity of her new benefactor. "But how can I repay you for your generosity?"
Buffy gave her a confused look. "Repay us? I thought you were working for us; therefore I should be paying you. Unless, of course, they changed the way they do thing since my untimely disappearance…" Her voice trailed off as she remembered being so lost in that other dimension, luckily Harry was nearby and noticed her stumble from happy-go-lucky to melancholy. He quickly came behind her and wrapped her in an embrace.
"What my wife was trying to say is that you are still in my employ and as such there will be no talking of repayment of any kind. Unless you quit than you can repay the one Knut that you owe for early termination of employment."
Emily and Eleanor were now satisfied, Mummy was back home, Daddy was with Mummy and Nanny Padma was staying with them forever.
Robbie and Sarah were eying their parents warily. They were old enough to remember the last time Mum disappeared for a long period of time and although they both adored their youngest siblings, they didn't wish to share with anymore. Also they remembered their mother's rough spell right after the twins were born and had no desire to repeat that experience again. But even if it meant that they would have a new sibling, they were glad that their mother was alive and was coming home.
Author's note: Thank you to everyone who has followed this story from its beginning and to those who have recommended my story.