Don watched with a smile as Willow absorbed every word his father said, copying his movements as best she could.
His father was teaching Willow to cook. It had probably started as a way for his father to get to know Willow better, but it had evolved into something bigger.
Don was just glad he wasn't in the line of fire anymore. His father had tried to teach both him and Charlie to cook years ago, but Charlie kept getting distracted by the numbers in the recipes and Don's best offerings usually involved a fire extinguisher at some point. So, his father had turned his last culinary hope on Willow, who was eating the attention up.
Today they were making some sort of salad that involved potatoes and mustard, which Don refused to get involved in.
Glancing out the window into the backyard, Don looked longingly at the barbeque smoking away. Colby had banished him to a twenty foot circle around the barbeque, with David running interference with a water gun while Megan sat at the table with Larry, laughing.
Even his team was in on the plot.
“Hey, look who we found!” called out Charlie as he finally returned with Amita from their bun run. Trailing behind him were Buffy, Xander, Faith and Giles. Don had been half-expecting to see them here, but that didn't mean he wanted them to come.
Things were still stilted between Willow and her Sunnydale friends, but she was determined to get to know them, and hopefully learn more about who she was. Already she'd learned where a lot of her reactions came from – the instinctive revulsion of guns, the fear of frogs, the computer programming. But she was also making sure they learned new stuff about her, too. Like her love for mountain climbing and camping, how she was making a name for herself at Arctic Morgan, and how she loved to read biographies and non-fiction, but despised scifi and fantasy books. (That had generated some looks between the Sunnydale group, but no one was talking.)
All in all, the last month had been a lot smoother than he had thought possible.
Buffy, Xander and Faith had decided to open a branch of whatever company they were working for in LA, being the West Coast headquarters of their North American branch. Don figured he could cut them some slack since they'd decided to move half-way across the globe just to be closer to Willow, even if he was convinced they were hiding something.
Yet despite everything, there still wasn't even the smallest memory or recollection popping through. In some ways Don was disappointed, because he knew how much she wanted to remember these people and the stories they told. On the other hand, he liked Willow the way she was now. It was selfish of him, but he didn't want her to become the person Buffy and Xander remembered, because that wasn't the person she was now.
He'd talked to Milo briefly about this, and the other man had been of the same opinion. When it came to Willow, the two of them thought a lot alike.
Don wished he could have been here this weekend to help him deal with the Sunnydale crew, but Milo and his fiancé had a family gathering to attend in San Francisco which took precedence.
“Hey! Welcome,” he called out. “Want anything to drink?”
Buffy looked longingly at the beer in his hand, but shook her head. “Beer bad for Buffy.”
He was sure there was a story and/or joke there judging by the suppressed smile on Xander's face, but Don let it go.
“There's non-alcoholic stuff on the table, and more in the fridge,” he told her. “And other alcoholic stuff in the cooler. Help yourself.”
“Where's Willow?” asked Xander, scanning the yard for her as the other three wandered off.
“Helping my dad in the kitchen,” he said, waving a hand over his shoulder.
“What's she making this time?” asked Charlie, joining them with a beer in his hand.
“Some salad thing. With potatoes.”
“Willow's making something? Huh,” said Xander, sounding slightly distracted. “I know she makes a mean cookie, and I've seen her do something once or twice in the kitchen, but I don't think you could classify that as cooking.”
“Well, she's doing better than Don,” commented Charlie with all the glee a little brother could dig up. “Haven't had to call the fire department yet.”
“Hey! At least I never found the mathematical formula to wormhole physics in the recipe for onion dip,” argued Don with a smile.
“Wow, so is that why Agent Sinclair is at the barbeque with a water gun pointed in your direction?” asked Xander with a smile.
Charlie just laughed, even as Don glared the glare of righteous indignation at his subordinate.
“Is the food ready?” called out his father, and Don turned to see Willow and his father coming out of the house with large bowls of something.
“Yep. First batch is ready to be served,” replied Colby, casting a wary glance in Don’s direction.
Don chose to ignore them all in favour of watching Willow. Some might say he was prejudiced, but Don was of the opinion that she was the most beautiful person there. She was glowing with good health and pregnancy, looking more happy and alive than he'd seen in months.
Food went by in a rush, drinks were drained and laughter rang out, and Don watched from Willow's side as their family and friends interacted with the family and friends from Willow's past.
Don followed Willow back into the house to get the desert, managing a few moments of privacy.
Wrapping his arms around her from behind, Don laid his hands on the barely-there bump of her stomach.
“I think we should tell them,” he whispered in her ear, breathing in the scent of her shampoo.
“Today?” she asked, nervous and excited. They'd decided to keep quiet about the baby until after the first three months, though she'd had to tell her boss at Arctic Morgan. Morning sickness, apparently, waited for no man, be it CEO or Joint Chief. But the three months were up, and Don wanted to tell his family and friends.
And true, a little part of him wanted to show her friends that she was definitely staying with him, but only a small part. Barely noticeable. Really.
“I-ok,” she said, nodding her agreement.
“C'mon,” he said, grabbing the tray of desert tarts while Willow brought out the ice cream.
Once everyone had been served their sugary sweet treat, Don called for their attention, pulling Willow in front of him.
“Everyone, we have an announcement to make,” he said, wrapping his arms around Willow from behind. He could feel her beaming smile without even looking at her.
A quick look at his father showed that Alan Eppes was sitting on the edge of his seat. He probably thought Don was announcing their engagement, but Don figured a grandchild trumped a wedding by several levels of magnitude in his father's eyes.
“Willow and I – well, mostly Willow – are going to have a baby.”
There was a moment of silence before his father shouted “Oh, thank God!” and engulfed them both in a bear hug.
Things got loud and crazy after that, with one person after another offering congratulations and sly comments. Willow was somehow pried from his arms, probably by his father, and then Don was surrounded again. He was surprised to see the Sunnydale people among the congratulators, and reminded himself to revise his opinions of them.
By the time the insanity had died down to a manageable level, Willow was off to the side giggling with Amita, Megan, Buffy and Faith. The guys had somehow found themselves left to clean up alone, but the happy smiles all around kept it from turning into a bitching session.
“You're making me look bad,” said Charlie once they were alone.
“You don't need my help with that, Chuck,” said Don, knowing exactly what they were discussing. Charlie had finally gotten around to getting Amita to move in with him, long after Willow and Don had. Now, Don was in the process of providing his father with his first grandchild, and hopefully soon his first daughter-in-law, while Charlie had yet to make any type of bigger commitment.
Charlie glared in mock anger as he stomped away, and Don wondered idly if he was going to hide in his room and sulk like he had when he was eight. It wasn't like Don had planned this, it had just happened.
Next he was ambushed by his father, which he'd seen coming from the beginning.
“I'm working on it,” he said, hoping to nip this talk in the bud.
“Donny, when are you going to marry that girl?” Don noticed there wasn't any question of 'if' he should marry her, just that he was going to.
“I'm working on it,” he repeated.
“She's having your baby. You marry that girl,” he said again.
“I'm working on it.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that I don't want her to think I'm only proposing because she's pregnant, Dad,” Don explained very carefully and very quietly. “I want her to know that I want to marry her because I love her, not because she's pregnant.”
His father blinked at him for a moment before nodding his head. “So, you're working on it.”
And he was.
Note: Thanks to all the lovely people who left comments/reviews - it often gave me the boost I needed to finish writing/posting this story. You all totally rock! :)