HAPPILY EVER AFTER PART III--SPECIAL DELIVERY
"Angel, I love it. I really, really love it."
In spite of Buffy's enthusiasm, Angel looked doubtful. "You're sure? You're not just saying that?"
"I'm completely serious."
And she was, somewhat to her own surprise. When Angel had first told her about the eighteenth century farmhouse on the little island where Father O'Shea's church stood, she'd been skeptical at best. She was used to living among people, not out in the middle of nowhere. But the house was just enough a part of the island's small community to make it not feel isolated, yet enough separate to give it a sense of peace and quiet Buffy hadn't realized until about an hour ago that she liked. Craved, even. And it would be a great place to raise their babies.
The first of said babies kicked enthusiastically inside her. She laid a hand against her swollen belly, making a face. That one had hurt.
"Everything okay?" Angel asked.
"Just some gymnastics. Or soccer, or tai kwon do, or something."
Angel nodded. Buffy was still three weeks away from her due date, but that didn't keep Angel from hovering and being generally overprotective. Their recent scare, engineered by the Powers That Be, hadn't helped anything.
"So you really like it?" he ventured again.
"I really do." She reached for his hand. "Let's go sign some papers."
The house had been up for sale for quite some time, so the Realtor, Bianca, was more than happy she'd finally found some buyers.
"So, you like our little island," she said to Buffy, as Buffy scrawled her name across the first of the large pile of documents.
"It's very nice," Buffy said. "Quiet and peaceful. A nice change from the past several years, that's for sure."
Angel smiled, aware she was talking more about Sunnydale than Dublin.
"You know," Buffy said suddenly. "I've never bought a house before."
"Kinda neat you're doing it with me, then," Angel said.
She elbowed him gently. "C'mon. I did a lot of things for the first time with you. Most of the important ones, in fact." She signed her name a few more times, aware of Bianca's sudden discomfort. Sometimes, around Angel, it was hard for Buffy to remember there were other people in the room.
She passed the papers to Angel to sign, wondering, not for the first time, how he'd managed to go for so long without any official papers on himself. She'd asked him once, and he'd muttered something about hacking, which explanation she felt to be half-assed at best.
In any case, he'd officially been "Angel L. Summers" since he'd signed that on their marriage license, and that was what he signed now. He's also supplied a social security number for the mortgage papers. Now that she was certain somebody had hacked for him. Probably Willow--Buffy remembered a couple of times, while Willow was still living in her house, when Buffy had come home unexpectedly and found Willow on the computer, and on the phone, looking guilty on both counts.
"It's snowing," Bianca said suddenly. Buffy looked up, out the window. Sure enough, the snow was coming down. Pouring, even, if snow could pour. Buffy still hadn't gotten used to snow, even after the time she and Angel had spent in Dublin. And this was more than anything she'd ever seen there. To her surprise, it scared her a little.
"We were going to go back to Dublin tonight," Buffy said, surprised to hear her voice tremble. Inside her the baby rolled, as if responding to her apprehension. She absently laid a hand against her undulating belly. "Will we be able to make it?"
"I don't think it would be wise," said Bianca. Her soft Irish accent calmed Buffy somehow.
Angel's attention had gone to Buffy's hand, pressed against her abdomen. She could feel a foot pressing against her palm. "Are you okay?" Angel asked.
Without answering, she took his hand and laid it flat against the spot where the baby was pushing. His eyes lit up and he ran his thumb along the foot-shaped bulge. "Where can we go, then?" Buffy asked Bianca. "We can't stay in the house. There's no electricity turned on yet, is there?"
"No, there's not."
"That's his foot, isn't it?" said Angel, oblivious to the more immediate concerns.
"Yes," said Buffy, then to Bianca--"Is there a hotel or something on the island?"
"No, but I'm thinking you could stay at the rectory. Do you know Father O'Shea?"
"Oh, yeah." Angel finally looked up from his entranced exploration of Buffy's stomach. "He's right around the corner, isn't he?"
"Yes. Here, we've only a couple more signatures. Finish this up and then I'll see you get to Father O'Shea's."
They quickly finished the paperwork, then bundled back into their coats and headed up the road to the rectory. It seemed easier to walk the short distance than to drive, with the snow coming down in sheets. Angel was overprotective as usual, hovering over Buffy, grabbing her elbow from time to time when he seemed to think she might be about to slip.
"You are so hovery," she finally said, jerking her arm away from him before he could catch her for the fifth time in as many yards.
"Sorry. Maybe I should just carry you?"
"Yeah, I don't think so. Then if you fall, we all die."
The Realtor suppressed a smile as she knocked on the rectory door. Father O'Shea answered shortly, smiling. "Bianca," he said, then, "Angel! How good to see you." He held out his hand and Angel took it.
"Father. Sorry to impose, but it looks like we might be a little stranded."
Father O'Shea's gaze went to Buffy. "You must be Buffy."
"Yep. That's me. Nice to meet you, sir. Father." It occurred to her she hadn't spent a great deal of time talking to priests. This one seemed nice, though, and she knew Angel liked him. He was fairly young, not much older than Buffy herself, with dark hair and green eyes. And rather handsome, she thought.
"Please, come in." Father O'Shea moved to one side, and Angel led the way in, offering Buffy his arm, which she studiously ignored.
"I'll be heading back home," Bianca said. "Call me if you need anything."
"Thanks, Bianca," Angel called after her. She waved, then bent herself into the wind, heading back toward her office and her car.
The rectory was warm and cozy. Father O'Shea waved Buffy toward a chair. "Have a seat," he said. "Relax."
She shrugged out of her coat and sank gratefully into the comfortable recliner. She probably shouldn't have been so stubborn about refusing Angel's help. She hadn't really needed it, but, to be honest, the huge, ungainly weight of the baby was starting to wear on her.
"You okay?" Angel asked, taking her coat.
"Yes, yes, for the seven hundredth time, yes." She rubbed her forehead then, a little embarrassed by the sharpness of her tone.
"How much longer?" Father O'Shea said, looking at Angel.
Angel rolled his eyes. "Three weeks."
"Poor man," Buffy mumbled. "He's not carrying around thirty pounds of water and fat and wriggly kicking baby." She looked at Angel. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay." Angel smiled, hanging her coat alongside his own in the priest's front closet. "Just take it easy."
"So what brings you here?" the priest asked.
"We bought the house," said Angel. "Just finished signing all the papers. We'll be moving in in a few weeks."
"It'll be a great place for the little one." The priest smiled at Buffy. "You'll be a wonderful addition to the island. I think you'll really like it here."
Buffy nodded, then grimaced. A sharp, tense pain lanced through her abdomen, then subsided. She rubbed it, feeling her muscles clench under her fingers.
"You okay?" said Angel. It was his favorite phrase of late.
"Yeah." She wasn't entirely sure she was, though. That hadn't been a kick or a roll or anything she'd ever felt before. Suddenly she realized the room had fallen silent, waiting for her to say something. "I'm fine," she said. "Just weird baby stuff."
Angel still looked concerned, but much to Buffy's relief, he didn't press.
"Are you hungry?" Father O'Shea asked. "Can I get you a sandwich?"
"If it's not too much trouble." Buffy rubbed her stomach again, for no reason this time, but the motion still brought a spark of concern to Angel's eyes. He didn't say anything, though, not this time.
"No trouble at all," said the priest. He walked into the kitchen and Buffy heard him open the refrigerator.
Angel left his seat and came to kneel next to Buffy's chair, rubbing his hand over the high bulge of her stomach. His fingers spread wide, he massaged her gently, as if he could tell by touch if she was really all right.
"Don't ask me if I'm okay," she said. "You're over your quota for the day."
He smiled a little. "He feels so big in there. Does that worry you?"
"Angel, everything worries me. I've never been pregnant before, I don't know what's normal and what's not in spite of having read every book I could get my hands on, and frankly, yes, I'm deathly afraid I'm going to have to shove something with your gigantic forehead out of my body."
"You know, their heads squish up. I mean, when they come out." At her befuddled look he added, "I read that somewhere."
"That's really gross."
"Gross but true." Her abdomen tensed up again and she rubbed it until it softened. Not quite pain this time, just the clenching of muscles. Probably those pre-contractions she'd read about. Angel's hand followed hers, rubbing the ridge of tight muscles as if to feel for himself what was going on.
"Everything'll be fine," he said. "They'll give you drugs and you won't feel a thing."
"Ah, sounds like a plan." She reached up to trace his eyebrow with her finger. "I really--"
From the kitchen, Father O'Shea screamed.
Angel jumped to his feet. Buffy lurched awkwardly out of the chair, taking a second to steady herself before following as quickly as she could.
In the kitchen, Father O'Shea stood with his back to the counter, holding up a butter knife covered with mayonnaise toward the strange figure standing on the opposite side of the room. Angel froze in the doorway, staring. Buffy, carried by the momentum of her weight, stopped rather ungracefully by slamming into him. He reached back to steady her.
"What the hell are you?" Father O'Shea screeched, brandishing his mayonnaise-smeared knife.
It was a reasonable question, Buffy thought. She wasn't entirely sure herself. A demon, for sure, but she wasn't sure what vintage. She'd never seen one quite this green, or with the little spiky horns, and certainly not wearing a tangerine suit.
But Angel had broken into a wide grin. "Lorne?"
The demon turned his red eyes toward Angel. "Hey, Bubbe. Think you can convince the holy man not to condiment me to death?"
Angel stepped across the room and engulfed the extremely green demon in a warm hug. Buffy went to the priest and touched him on the shoulder. Father O'Shea shakily lowered his knife. "I take it whatever this thing is, it's friendly?"
"Looks that way," said Buffy. "Angel doesn't usually hug unfriendly demons."
"Well, that's a good sign, then."
Angel was enthusiastically pounding the demon on the back. "What the hell are you doing here?" He let his friend go, stepping back a bit. "I haven't seen you in ages."
"Yeah, it's been a while." Lorne straightened his bright orange suit jacket fastidiously. "As to the what the hell? Magic gone wrong again, Angel-cakes. As par the usual."
"What were you trying to do?" Angel asked, while Buffy lifted her eyebrows and repeated, "Angel-cakes?"
Lorne looked toward her then and smiled. He had a nice smile, she had to admit. "Hey! Is this the Buffy we've all heard about? Must be--she looks just like every single page of the eight volumes of pencil sketches you had in your bedroom back in LA." The demon crossed the room and Buffy found herself enfolded in a tangerine embrace. "My, are you ever a cutie. And something just kicked me really hard."
Buffy leaned back, rubbing her stomach, where the baby had suddenly become quite active. "I have two questions."
"Ask away, sweetie."
"First--Angel-cakes? And second--eight volumes?"
"Oh, it's just a thing," said Lorne, and Angel mumbled, "Well, a lot of the other ones blew up in the other building."
Buffy just shook her head and looked at Father O'Shea. "I think we're in for an interesting evening."
"…so the intention was just to talk to you, Angel. I had no plans to actually, you know, arrive." Lorne looked at Father O'Shea. "My apologies, Father."
The priest waved it off. He had recovered from his initial shock, and now they all sat around the living room as if it were a normal conversation group: the priest, the pregnant ex-Slayer, the ex-vampire and the green-faced, orange-suited demon.
"My apologies to you," Father O'Shea countered, "for the knife."
"Ah, I get that all the time when I appear out of nowhere in the middle of a rectory." Lorne stretched, the bright suit leaving afterimages on Buffy's retinas. "You wouldn't have anything to drink around here, would you?"
"He's Irish," said Angel. "He's got whisky."
"Technically I'm not Irish," Father O'Shea countered in his decidedly New England accent. "But I do have whisky."
"Whisky's perfect," said Lorne. "If it's not too much trouble."
Father O'Shea stood. "It's the least I can do after threatening you with mayonnaise." He headed back into the kitchen.
Lorne looked at Buffy. "So, pumpkin nut, when's the baby due?"
Buffy tried very hard not to laugh. "Three weeks."
"Looks like it's gonna be big. Must take after its daddy. Is it gonna be a boy or a girl?"
"Wow. Pretty impressive." He turned his attention to Angel. "And you, Angel-hair, are a lot warmer than the last time I hugged you."
Buffy couldn't help it this time--she laughed. "Is there something I should know? I mean, Angel, I didn't know you swung that way."
Angel waved it off, while Lorne chuckled. "So, what's the what?" Lorne went on. "How'd you get your pulse back?"
"Doctor in Dublin," Angel said. Buffy perked up--she hadn't heard much about the specifics of Angel's transformation. "Some weird dialysis thing, an exorcism, some gypsy magic, a couple other extremely painful procedures. You know."
So apparently she wasn't going to learn much more today, either. Lorne, though, nodded sagely. "Interesting. I always figured the Powers would just zap you or something."
"Apparently they'd intended to, but not for another fifteen years."
"Long story. Not gonna tell it."
Father O'Shea returned then with two glasses of whisky, one for Lorne and one for himself. Then he blinked. "I'm sorry, Angel, did you want a drink?"
"No, that's okay. I'm good." He settled back in his chair, smiling at Lorne. "So you wanted to talk to me, huh? Anything important?"
"Nah, I just heard some rumors that you were breathing again, and something about a little nipper on the way, and I wanted to say hi. So I found this telephonic spell and gave it a try and of course it didn't work right."
"You know," Buffy offered, "you could have just used an actual telephone."
"Not without a number, sweetness. Plus this was supposed to have visual and everything." He shrugged, sipping his drink. "Guess it all came out okay in the end, though."
"Well, except for scaring poor Father O'Shea half to death--" Buffy broke off, suddenly breathless. Pain wrenched through her abdomen, the muscles in her belly clenching up so hard she thought they might wrench open. Tears sprang to her eyes and she bent forward, trying to contain the pain.
Angel leapt from his chair and was at her side in an instant, one hand on her belly. "Buffy. Buffy, what is it?"
She couldn't even speak until the contraction let her go. She groped for his free hand, squeezing it tight.
"Ow," said Angel, and she squeezed harder, helpless in the grip of agony.
Finally it was over, and she sagged back into the chair, panting. "Oh, my God, what the hell was that?"
"I think it was a contraction," said Angel. He slid his hand free from hers and shook it gently, then flexed his fingers as if to be sure none of them were broken.
"It can't be," Buffy protested. "I still have three weeks--" And then it came again, horrible and hard and primal, choking the breath from her. She leaned into Angel and he held her, stroking her back until it was over.
Angel looked toward Father O'Shea. "Can we get a doctor here?"
"I don't know. I can get you a nun, though, who used to be a midwife."
The priest went to the closet to get his coat, then headed out into the blowing snow.
Buffy rested her head on Angel's shoulder. Lorne had risen from his chair and now knelt just to the other side of her chair, still holding his whisky, his green face creased in concern. "You'll be okay," he said gently.
She smiled weakly back. "You sure about that?"
"Pretty sure. But if you could hum a little I could give you a better idea."
Buffy looked questioningly at Angel. "He can read your future if you sing," he explained.
"Really? That's an interesting talent." Then another contraction grabbed her. These things were serious. Remembering something she'd heard in Lamaze class, she began to breathe rhythmically to the tune of "Yankee Doodle."
"Hey, that works," said Lorne, then winced as she slipped off-key. "This kid doesn't have a hope in hell of being musical, does he?" Buffy looked up at him and he smiled a little, his expression becoming thoughtful. When he spoke again his voice was gentle. "Yeah, everything's gonna be all right."
Angel bent over Buffy, letting her hold his hands as she rode the contraction. "Thanks, Lorne."
Lorne nodded soberly. Buffy saw something in his red eyes, though, and when the contraction finally ended, she said, "You saw something else. What did you read? You saw something bad."
"No, sugarplum, nothing bad. Everything's gonna be fine for a good, long time."
Buffy closed her eyes. So that was it. She'd suspected as much. But there was no way she was going to ask him for any further elaboration. Because the last thing she wanted to know right now was when Angel was going to die.
By the time Father O'Shea returned with the nun, Buffy had moved to the floor, on top of a pile of blankets and pillows Angel had scrounged out of the linen closet. She didn't want to lie down--her body wanted to be upright. Angel had positioned himself behind her, supporting her as she braced her feet against the floor and pushed hard back into him, working herself through the contractions that way. The stupid Lamaze breathing wasn't doing her any good at all. Everything in her body wanted to push downwards, and she seemed to have no control over anything.
There was still space between the stretches of pain, though, during which she panted and leaned back into Angel. He stroked her hair back from her face, wiped the sweat from her forehead with his sleeve.
"Did you bring an epidural with you?" she asked Lorne, who smiled and shook his head.
"Sorry, sweetheart. No such luck."
He turned then as the door opened, bringing in the priest, a fiftyish woman and a stiff wind full of snow. The cold air felt good on Buffy's face and she breathed it eagerly.
"Goodness," said the nun, staring at Lorne. Then she dragged her attention to Buffy, going to kneel next to her.
"What is it we have here, then, lass?" she said. Her voice moved in a Scottish lilt. "Are the pains coming fast and hard?"
"Yes," she said, just as another one took her over.
The nun's voice moved over her and Buffy registered a few of the words as the other woman asked questions of Angel and requested towels and water from Father O'Shea. Buffy clenched hard on Angel's hands again, glad for his solid bulk behind her.
This contraction didn't last as long, much to her relief. She sagged back into Angel's arms and the nun said, "My name's Deirdre, lass. I'm going to see how far along you are. Is this your first?"
"Yes," said Buffy, though she was certain Deirdre had already asked Angel that question.
"I'm surprised it's going so quickly."
Father O'Shea appeared suddenly with blankets, towels, a pair of sharp scissors, and water, then retreated to the kitchen. Realizing what was about to happen, Lorne trailed after him. "You wouldn't happen to have the makings of a Sea Breeze around anywhere, would you, Father?"
"I might be able to manage a close approximation," the priest answered, then they both disappeared into the other room.
Gently, Deirdre eased Buffy's jeans and underwear off her, covering her with a blanket to preserve dignity and warmth. "I'm just going to check to see how much you're dilated," Deirdre said, reaching under the blankets.
Her fingers were cold. Buffy flinched at the necessary invasion, but the nun was gentle. "How long have you been at this?"
"Not quite an hour," Angel answered.
"Goodness. I've never seen a first baby come this fast. 'Tis time to push, lass."
Buffy let her head sag back. "Oh, thank God."
Deirdre positioned herself between Buffy's legs, bunching the blanket back a little. "Push along with the next contraction," she said.
Feeling it coming, Buffy wrapped her arms through Angel's and braced herself. When the contraction seized her, she gave in to the demands of her body and pushed. She could feel Deirdre's hands brushing against the insides of her thighs, and realized she was actually holding the baby back, gently providing counterpressure to keep him from coming too fast.
"Good girl, that's good. Now stop with the contraction, that's right."
Buffy sagged back against Angel. She couldn't help but wonder if he would have head-sized bruises in the middle of his chest tomorrow. Oh, well. It was only fair, she thought, to share the pain.
"You okay?" he asked her, as Deirdre assessed the baby's progress.
"About as well as can be expected," Buffy told him. "Have I broken any of your fingers yet?"
"Pretty close, but I think they're holding up." He kissed her hair. "I love you."
It was enough to make her smile a little as the next contraction hit. This time she felt the baby shift, felt a bright, burning pain between her legs.
"He's crowning," Deirdre said. "Stop if you can. We need to slow this down a bit. This is a big baby for a wee lass like you to deliver. 'Tis lucky he decided to come early."
"I told you he'd have your damn big head," said Buffy when she could talk again.
Deirdre looked up at Angel with a grin. "Ach, he'll be a braw, handsome lad. Just be glad he'll no' have his father's shoulders as of yet. Once we've got the head through, the rest will be easy."
"Yeah? And how many babies have you had?" Buffy snapped.
"None, lass. I'm a nun. But I've delivered a good many. And most of their mothers swore at me, so go ahead if you've a need to."
Two more long pushes, and the baby's head emerged in a fiery wrench. Buffy couldn't see it past the blankets, but she had felt it. Then, with the next push, she felt the slithering rush of the rest of the baby's body coming out of her. Deirdre pushed the blankets back a little and laid the little, bloody, slimy body on top of them. The nun tied a bit of string around the baby's umbilical cord.
"Did you want to cut this, lad? Or can you not reach from there?"
"It's okay," Angel said. "Go ahead."
Deirdre cut the cord and passed the baby up into Buffy's arms. "If you'll be nursing him," the nun said, "you'll want to start now."
Emotion swelled up into Buffy's throat as she looked down into the face of her son. He hadn't cried, but looked up at her with dark, keen eyes.
Angel, being his usual self, said, "He hasn't cried. Is that normal? Is he all right?"
"He's fine," Deirdre assured him. "Go ahead, lass, give him your breast."
Buffy sniffed back tears, then shifted the baby so she could unbutton her shirt. The baby latched on right away, seemingly guided by the smell. Angel bent closer behind her; Buffy could hear him sniffling a little. Big sap, she thought, with a swell of affection.
"What'll you be naming him, then?" Deirdre asked. She was gently massaging Buffy's abdomen, coaxing out the placenta.
The little boy's mouth pulled hard at Buffy's breast. She smiled at the sensation. "What's your last name, Deirdre?"
"Sullivan," the nurse answered.
"Then it's Giles Sullivan Summers." She turned a little back toward Angel. It bothered her now that she couldn't see his face. "Is that all right with you?"
"Yeah," he said, and she could tell from the sound of his voice that he wasn't going to be able to manage much else at the moment. He reached over her to cup his son's head in his big hand.
"He's beautiful," said Buffy, so happy she wasn't sure she could contain it all--it would burst out of her, bright light, and fill the room. "Except for that damn big head."
A half-hour later, baby Giles had finished his first meal, and had been cleaned up and wrapped in a fresh blanket. Shortly thereafter, he received his first visitors in the form of Father O'Shea and Lorne, who came back out of the kitchen as soon as they were given the all clear.
Buffy had moved to the sofa and half-lay there, cuddling her sleeping son, while Angel sat next to her on the floor. She could see his face now, and the contentment on it gratified her. He couldn't seem to take his eyes off the baby.
"Oh, he's adorable," said Lorne, and gently touched Giles' head with a green finger. He winked at Buffy. "I told you it was going to be all right."
"Yes, you did." She smiled at him; she'd decided she really liked him. "I'm glad you were here."
"Me, too, sweetpea."
The priest smiled as he settled into the recliner. "It's been quite an eventful evening."
"There's an understatement," said Buffy. She settled back into the pillows Angel had arranged behind her head, suddenly overcome by a feeling of intense peace. "Angel, could you get me a sandwich or something? I'm starving."
"Sure." He pushed himself up from the floor and went into the kitchen.
Buffy fixed her eyes on Lorne. "Now. You need to answer a question for me."
Lorne sobered. "Oh, darling, I don't think you want to ask me that."
"You read something. I know you did."
"Yeah, I did. It's going to be good, and happy. Everything you ever wanted."
"But not as long as it could have been." She had suspected this might be the case almost from the moment Angel had turned up on her doorstep with a pulse in his wrist.
Lorne didn't answer, but his face told her she'd hit the mark.
She swallowed, trying hard not to feel the pain. Not now. This was her time to be happy. "Just tell me one thing. Will he see his children grow up?"
To her relief, Lorne nodded. "He will."
Blinking, Buffy looked down into the peacefully sleeping face of her son. "Good. Then it's good enough."
Angel came back into the room then with a sandwich on a plate and a large glass of milk, which he put on the table next to the couch. Settling back down into his place on the floor, he looked at Buffy and frowned. "Are you okay?"
She smiled. If she had a nickel for every time he'd said that just today… "I'm fine. Do you want to hold him while I eat?"
He reached up almost eagerly, and Buffy settled the baby into Angel's waiting arms. She kissed him then, savoring the touch of his mouth on hers. There was no point worrying about the future. The present was enough for now, and it had Angel still in it, big and dark and smiling down into the serene face of their newborn son.