Disclaimer ~ Nope, sorry, I still don't own them. Though, if Joss
should ever want to pass Angel on to a good home, I'd be more than willing to
take him in. For purely altruistic reasons, obviously.
Dedication ~ I hereby pay homage to Trixie Firecracker, whose
excellent writing has inspired more than one of my fics.
Timeline ~ Jumps around a bit at first, but basically is set
after the end of S4, thus neatly side-stepping the whole Dawn/Glory story arc.
Author's Notes ~ Right. Some of the contents of this fic are a little
dark and disturbing (such as the symptoms of Buffy's post-natal depression),
but I was just trying to paint an accurate picture of the very upsetting nature
of mental illness, so don't say I didn't warn you. I have to apologise too for
the excessive amounts of B/R in this fic, the initial pairing was essential for
the plot, but don't lose faith, there is actually B/A happy ending! And
finally, before I shut up and let you get on with reading, I got bored halfway
through checking this for mistakes, so any errors are solely due to my
wedding is a small affair. Just a few friends and a small ceremony at the
courthouse. No grand church with tall stained-glass windows pouring in
beautiful coloured light. No majestic organ music. No six-tiered wedding cake
with the little sugar bride and groom on the top. No childhood fantasy.
I don't even have the huge meringue-shaped dress, with the
train that stretches so far behind you that the little flower girls trip over
it as they try to follow you up the aisle. Instead there is just a plain white
satin gown, tailored especially to fit over my bulging stomach. And in my hands
where there is supposed to be a luscious bouquet of creamy lilies and sweetly
scented roses, there is only a simple spray of wildflowers.
Nothing seems real, it's like a dream – no, a nightmare,
because this isn't supposed to be happening to me, this isn't supposed to be my
life. The atmosphere is sombre, oppressive, nothing like a wedding should be.
My eyes should be shining with happiness and love when I say 'I do', not
brimming with unshed tears.
As the courthouse official begins another long and droning
speech, I glance around me, longing to ease my hand out of Riley's tight grip.
His palm is sweaty and clammy and it's making my skin feel hot and sticky. The
whole room is far too warm, I think the air conditioning must be broken or
something. My mouth is dry and my flesh prickly and all I want to do is turn
around and run out. Run into the cool, fresh air. Keep running until day turns
to night and I am bathed in the moonlight once more.
But I just stay standing still.
My future mother-in-law catches my eye, her expression
disapproving. Her dislike of me is obvious. I think she thinks I'm some kind of
Californian hussy, who seduced her darling son and forced him into marrying
her. That's okay because I think she's an interfering, prudish bitch. Riley,
though, idolises her and can't stop going on about how great it will be to live
nearer to both his parents, how I'll love the farm with all the open space for
the kids (and he's already talking in plural here) to play in.
I haven't seen the house yet. I claimed I wanted it to be a
surprise, some romantic notion of being carried across the threshold of our
brand new home. But in reality I just couldn't face going there, to the tiny
town in the middle of nowhere. Riley's shown me pictures of where he grew up
and it frightened me. The land was just flat and it stretched out endlessly
into the distance. Field, upon field, upon field of corn and cows and
nothingness. I guess the idea of that empty silence freaks me out a little and
I was worried that if I experienced it before the wedding then I might not be
able to go through with any of it. That whatever meagre self-control I have
left inside me will just snap, and I'll break completely.
Maybe I shouldn't have agreed to move to Iowa in the first
place, but Riley was so enthusiastic about it. He made such a convincing
argument about house prices being lower – we could get a nice little farmhouse
with a white picket fence outside and a yard for the dog (that we just had to
get) to run around in, for the same price as a one-bedroom apartment in
California. And then there was the safety aspect, Sunnydale is a dangerous
place, we really shouldn't be bringing children up on the Hellmouth, it was bad
for them. I wanted to say that Willow and Xander had both grown up here and
they came out fine, but I didn't. I smiled weakly and said sure whatever, we'll
move, because I didn't care where we lived. I didn't care about anything
Sometimes I wonder what happened. How I ended up here,
trapped in this moment, this entire life. This isn't me! Of all the
things I imagined for my future this was never one of them. I thought I'd be
stuck as the Slayer forever, until I died an unnaturally early death. Now I
found a get out clause. I'll never slay another vampire again. I'll never be
that headstrong young girl who traded quips with monsters and sat on
gravestones waiting for her lover with eyes as dark as night and pale skin
shining in the starlight.
Summers is gone. Dead to the world. She died as soon as the new life was born
in her stomach.
I hadn't really thought it possible. I didn't believe it
at first, or maybe I just didn't want to. It was August, sweltering hot and I'd
been off my game for a while. In the slaying department, that is. I'd been
feeling tired, lethargic. I wasn't hungry, couldn't eat and when I did eat I
usually vomited afterwards. More vampires were getting away from me, and one
evening a particularly nasty demon slashed open my ribcage. The blood spread in
a red cloud across the front of my pristine white t-shirt, and I remember being
annoyed that the top was ruined then the next thing I knew I was in the
When I was there in front of the doctor, it all came out,
the exhaustion, the nausea, the deep aching in my bones. He said he'd run some
tests, see what was wrong. Then he asked could I possibly be pregnant. I
laughed at him, so hard that I nearly burst my stitches. Looking back, I was
probably more hysterical than amused. Pregnant! With Riley Finn's baby! No, it
couldn't be happening. It wasn't happening. I'd always been so careful, took my
pills at the prescribed time, insisted that Riley wear a condom. The last thing
I'd ever wanted was to be was one of those teenage moms, who strolled the
streets with their baby carriages and their little, chocolate-smeared brats in
I shook my head vehemently. There was no way, no how I was
pregnant. They did the test anyway. They sent my blood off to take glucose and
thyroxin and God knows what other levels and at the same time they said they
might as well just dip it for hormone levels. Just to make absolutely sure.
they were in the end. After I'd had them redo the test about three times I think
everyone was sure. Not one person had a single solitary doubt. Apart from me. I
still didn't accept it. I couldn't accept it, because it destroyed everything
I'd ever hoped for in my life. It destroyed me.
they discharged me from hospital, I went to see Willow. The first thing I did
was burst into tears. No words, no explanations, just bitter, heartfelt
sobbing. She'd been so worried about me then, she thought I'd just found out I
was dying or something. That made me laugh too. If it was death I had to face
then I probably would have been much calmer. Eventually, I told her, I found
the strength in me to utter the two little words that finally made it real.
Buffy," Willow's mouth dropped open and her face fell. "I-I don't know what to
forced a tearful smile. "I don't know what to say either." She held me for a
long, long time as I cried away all my dreams and fantasies, as I reconciled
myself to the future I'd never wanted, the one I was now stuck with. But then
that's my life all over, isn't it? I'm always the one landed with the
responsibilities I never wanted.
are you going to do?" Willow eventually asked.
grimaced, wiping my eyes roughly with the back of my hand. "I don't see what I
can do. I'm gonna have the baby, I guess. Be a mom, have Riley be a dad."
could always…you know…"
an abortion?" I shook my head. "I couldn't. I don't think I could ever bring
myself to go through with it. Besides, I don't think Riley would very readily
agree to murdering his baby."
not murder and it's not his decision," Will told me gently. "It's your body."
it's his baby," I snapped back at Willow, just the thought of it making me feel
sick again. Riley's baby growing inside me. I wanted to tear open my stomach
right there and then and pull it out. Somebody pass me a knitting needle,
please, because I can't bear this…this thing, this foreign object, inside me any longer. Somehow the issue
never became about my baby, my child. In my mind it was always
Riley's baby, my problem.
be told I didn't really ever think I'd live long enough to have kids. Slayer's
have short lifespans, it's an accepted fact. And that never bothered me particularly.
I'd always lived in the moment. I worried about the next five minutes, not the
next five years. My idea of planning ahead was making a date for next weekend.
The big picture wasn't something I routinely looked at, probably because to do
so would have been a little too scary.
saw it once. I caught a glimpse of dark-haired, serious children, with huge
eyes that gazed up into your very soul. I felt cool kisses and strong arms
encircling me. And then it was all lost, a house of cards collapsed, a fragile
dream blown away on the breeze. Ironic, how the only man I ever wanted the big
things with – the wedding and the children and the forever – was the only one I
could never have.
sudden thought occurred to me, the realisation almost physical in nature,
hitting me in the solar plexus and stealing my breath away. "God, what am I
going to tell him?" I blurted out to Willow.
patted my hand comfortingly. "Riley will be fine about it, Buffy. He's one of
those responsible, reliable types – he'll make a great father."
shook my head desperately. "No, not Riley, I'm not worried about his reaction.
Angel. What am I going to tell Angel?" I wrung my hands despairingly, imagining
what my former lover will think of me now. His reaction to Riley leapt into my
mind. The heartbreak and pain in his eyes when I told him.
have someone in my life now…"//
actually sleep with this
don't like him."//
pregnant with somebody else's child pretty much killed all my secret hopes of Angel
and I ever getting back together. In fact it pretty much killed all hope of
ever seeing him again. He would be horrified by my behaviour, that I actually
managed to get myself into this situation. And Riley hates him, he'd do
anything to keep us apart.
what a mess. Riley was my rebound guy, my attempt at a calm, friendly
relationship to contrast with the blind passion I had with Angel. I was
supposed to date him for a while, go through some comfy handholding, a minor
sexual awakening and then move on. Grow up, decide what and who (as if I didn't
already know) I wanted in life. I wasn't supposed to get stuck with his kid.
glanced up at me, surprised. "I-I guess, Angel's gonna have to find out sooner
looked down at my stomach and ran my hands over its flat, muscular planes.
There was a baby growing inside there, a whole new being. I found the thought
more horrifying than amazing. In nine months time my body and my life would be
unrecognisable. Willow was right. This wasn't something I could hide from the
world. And it wasn't going to go away either, no matter how much I wished it
The ceremony completed, Riley leans over to kiss me. His
lips on mine feel wrong, alien, like they're not meant to be there. The baby kicks
and I wince in pain, glad for a momentary excuse to drop the forced smile from
my face. Riley frowns in concern and rubs the small of my back, uttering
soothing words that mean nothing to my ears.
"Gonna take after his daddy," he grins. "Gonna be the star
of the football team, aren't you son."
He pats my belly uncomfortably, making me feel sick again.
So much for morning sickness – the nausea has been almost constant throughout
the whole of the last eight months. Pregnancy is supposed to make you glow
radiance and health, but it hasn't been like that with me at all. I just got
sicker and sicker, like the thing inside me wasn't a baby at all but a
parasite, draining all my energy and spirit. After the first month I couldn't
slay anymore, I was just too weak. And then in my third month I collapsed at
college. The doctor took my blood pressure and found it to be sky high. I was
ordered to stay at home. Total bed rest for the next sixth months. It's been
driving me crazy ever since.
I was always an active person, always rushing around with
about five million things to do at once. And to be forced into just stopping
all that was nearly more than I could cope with. I had to give up school,
patrolling, my social life. And I became utterly dependent upon Mom and Riley.
Anything I wanted they had to provide for me. If I wanted to leave the house
one of them had to go with me. What I did, what I ate, the people I saw, it was
all mediated through them. I found it unbearable at first, but bit by bit my
resistance faded. I learnt to live with the situation, to be helpless and
housebound. I just came to accept whatever the situation threw at me. I
resigned myself to it all.
This new attitude worried my friends a little at first.
They missed their fiery, feisty, insolent Buffy and didn't like the new wilted
version. But as the months progressed I began to see less of them. They were
busy with their own lives and didn't have time to hang out with their heavily pregnant
friend. Giles even praised the personality change I had gone through. He
thought I'd grown up, moved into a new phase in my life. I didn't see Giles
much after that day, we just sort of drifted apart. His role as my Watcher was
defunct, and now that I was nearly a married woman with a child, he didn't
think I needed a father figure anymore.
He is a guest at the wedding today and dressed in a smart
grey suit. One should always wear grey for weddings, he explains, rather than
black. Black is the colour of death, of funerals. I glance over at Riley's
black tuxedo and think how appropriate it probably is. Something inside me died
today. I hug Giles and tell him that I will miss him when we move. The truth is
I miss him already, I miss the connection we had and have now lost forever.
Mom gets in the car next to me as we drive off towards the
nearby restaurant for the reception. She squeezes my hand tightly, leaning over
to whisper in my ear.
"I always cry at weddings, don't you?"
I turn around to look at her, my eyes huge and sad, not
daring to let the tears fall, because I don't want to disappoint her or Riley
or any of the others. I don't want to ruin my picture perfect day. Just imagine
the bride in the wedding photographs with mascara track marks running down her
cheeks. Instead I just lean my head against her shoulder, seeking the last bit
of comfort I possibly can from my Mommy, before I will have to be the strong
one for my child, the one who copes through the tears and the stress and the tantrums.
It strikes me how wonderful Mom has been throughout all of
this, how tolerant and supportive. At first she was shocked and she was mad.
She yelled at me. How could I possibly have let this happen? Pregnant, at
nineteen! Did I know what a mess I'd made of my life, exactly how much I'd
screwed up my future? I simply nodded and burst out crying. And from that
moment on she never said another cross word. She seemed to accept the idea
better than I did. She liked Riley, thought he was a very courteous young man,
and she was delighted when we announced we were getting married. In fact she
went into SuperMom mode. She made wedding plans, bought baby clothes, recounted
innumerable tales of me when I was a little girl. Then I told her Riley and I
would be moving to Iowa once the baby was born, and her enthusiasm dwindled a
She told me in no uncertain terms that I was making a
mistake. I would only be unhappy living in such a small, isolated community
away from all my friends and family. I would be lonely, with no life, no job,
no connections beyond my home and husband. That wasn't the type of person I
was, not the life I should be leading. I told her coldly that I had already
made the mistake, and now all I was doing was following it through. The subject
never came up again.
Riley gets in the car next to me, all smiles and upbeat
comments. Well, I'm glad somebody here is happy, that this marriage is good for
once of us. Sometimes I think that's the only reason why I'm going through with
it, because it would kill Riley if I didn't. For some reason he seems to love
me, or at least the person he thinks I am, he wants us to be a family, to have
a future and that's all I'm trying to do now, give him what he wants. What I
want ceased to matter a long time ago, when I realised that I could never have
When we arrive at the reception, Cordelia greets me with a
faint smile and an awkward hug. She apologises for being late. She was caught
up in some business. A gang of crazy demons terrorising the citizens of LA.
"You know how it is," she says. And I think that I used to,
once upon a time.
I don't know why I invited her really, maybe because I
thought she might bring him. I had a last ditch hope that Angel would
show up and he'd see into my heart like he always does and know to take me away
from all this. Or maybe I'd look at his face, through his eyes into his soul
and remember what love really is – not legally binding contracts, or creating
life, or cosy little houses with shutters on the windows, but dark, deep,
consuming passion, a fire in your heart that will never be extinguished. And
then I'd know everything I'm giving up to be here with Riley right now. I'd
realise everything I'm condemning myself to and I wouldn't be able to go
through with it.
But, of course, Angel hasn't come. Why would he? Why would
he put himself through that? Seeing my body heavy with another man's child, my
life pledged to someone else. I know if it was the other way around I couldn't be
there. I couldn't sit back and watch Angel marry another woman. I couldn't bear
the thought of her touching him, kissing him, hearing his voice whispering
words of love into her ear. Call me selfish, but sometimes the only
thing that gets me through, my one piece of comfort, is that he still loves me.
That he still thinks of me and misses me, like I think of and miss him.
Telling him was awful. It was the worst thing I have ever
done. Well, maybe not the worst, because I sent him to Hell, remember? I shoved
a sword through his belly and I killed him, and this felt like that moment all
over again, only this time I had to look into his eyes afterwards and see the
hurt and betrayal there. I wanted to chicken out. To write a letter or make a
phone call, to have Xander or Willow accidentally drop the news into
conversation one day. Hi, Angel, I was in LA, just thought I'd drop by. I've
been shopping. Buying Buffy and Riley a wedding present. Yeah, that's right
they're getting married. Well, they kinda had to, what with the baby and all…
But in the end I knew I owed it to him to see him face to
face, to tell him personally exactly what a mess I made of my life. So, one
weekend, when Riley was away in Iowa, I just upped and left, headed to LA
without thinking about it, because the longer I thought the more excuses I
would come up with not to go. When I arrived, I checked and rechecked the new
address I had for him. It was a large, shambling building, but still grand and
a little intimidating. In retrospect it was perfect for Angel really. Despite
the month being October, it was still incredibly hot in LA, some freak heat
wave or something, and a blanket of smog hung over the city making it difficult
to breathe. Or maybe I would have found breathing a problem wherever I was,
because Angel always did have that effect on me.
straight in through the wide double doors – it was a hotel, after all, so there
was no need to knock, and I've always treated Angel's home as open to me
anyway. Wherever he lived – his apartment, the mansion, the LA office – I would
always just wander in without invitation, because I never felt I needed one. He
let me into his heart, so I assumed that meant free entry to the rest of his
life as well.
soon as I walked in I knew the place belonged to Angel. I could just feel his
presence there, even though I couldn't immediately see him, or in fact anybody.
So, I just set about exploring the huge, maze of a building, not even bothering
to call his name, because I knew we would find one another eventually, we
always did. And I was right. A few minutes later, I was walking down a dark
corridor with peeling wallpaper and broken light fittings, when he appeared
right in front of me. He looked surprised, but sort of not, like he was almost
expecting to turn the corner and see me standing just there, waiting for him.
He said my name as a question, a million other sentiments imbued within it.
I reply. "Can…can we talk?"
nods, his expression indiscernible in the shadows. "Sure, I was just doing some
work on the ballroom – you should come see it."
follow him down what seems like an endless labyrinth of corridors, finally
emerging in a huge room, cavernous in its proportions, its ceiling reaching
high, high up to the sky. The floor is parquet, now dusty and scratched and at
one end there is a large stage, clearly once meant to hold a band. Moonlight
floods in through giant windows, sparkling in little diamonds off the crystals
of a broken chandelier, which stands dejectedly in the middle of the room.
I breathe. "This place must have been incredible."
smiles slightly, a wistful look on his face. "It was, once."
I reach over to touch his hand and as we contact a vision floods my mind. The hall
filled with people, dancing, laughing, drinking, smoking. A rock and roll band
plays on the stage and the room is filled with life and colour. The bright,
swirling skirts of the women, the shine of polished wood and brass and the
richness of heavy velvet curtains. The chandeliers are in place, two of them,
hanging grandly and twinkling just like they should.
the vision is gone and I am left unsure as to whether this was a flight of my
own imagination or an actual memory of Angel's. I withdraw my hand and it
strikes me how difficult it must be to live through all this time, to see the
years slip by and watch everything deteriorate and change around him while he
stays forever the same.
twirl away from him, spinning like I am one of those carefree women from fifty
years ago, my footsteps echoing hollowly in the empty air. "I feel like we
should be dancing."
stop and look at him sadly, remembering the reason I came. "No, there isn't, is
wanted to talk," he prompts me.
I nod, blinking back the tears that I suddenly find have formed in my eyes.
"There's nothing I need to tell you." I glance around at the dilapidated room,
a place that has seen so much happiness and song, but that is now a shell of
its former self. "Maybe we shouldn't do it here."
looks at me quizzically. "Then where?"
shake my head helplessly. "I don't know. Nowhere."
not going to like this am I?"
no, you're not." I am crying properly now, my cheeks glistening with saltwater,
by voice cracked and shaky. "I'm sorry. It wasn't meant to be like this."
anything." I wipe my eyes ferociously with the back of my hand. "I had so many
smiles slightly, but there is no humour behind the expression, only irony. "We
and I are getting married," I blurt out before my brain can catch up with my
mouth. Well, I had to say it sometime, or I never would have said it at all.
freezes, not moving a single muscle. His face seems to lose all expression,
like he's shut himself off from me; even his eyes are veiled. "Oh." He turns
away from me. "Was that it then – your news?"
stomach feels heavy, like I have swallowed a lead weight and my mouth is dry.
"There's more. I-I, uh, well, I'm only marrying him because I have to." Once
the words are out I feel something change irreversibly between us, because this
is something I can never take back. Feelings change. Cruel words are uttered in
anger and then retracted. Mistakes are made and rectified. But this, this is
sorry," I say again and he finally turns back around to look in my direction.
His eyes don't focus on me, though, but through me, past me and around me. I
want to make him see, make him gaze into my eyes and realise that I haven't
changed. It's still me, it's still Buffy, I still love you! But I'm afraid, so
for?" He asks abruptly, some of his pain leaking into his voice.
letting you down," I reply tearfully. "You wanted me to move on, to find
someone who would make me happy, and I haven't managed either."
stares at me blankly, his face so devoid of emotion it scares me. "I think
maybe you should go, Buffy."
don't want to, but I agree anyway, because I long ago stopped doing the things
I wanted to. Right from the moment I let him walk away from me, I've been doing
what I'm supposed to do instead. I've been acting like the mature adult, so no
reason to stop now. After all, I'm having a baby – how much more mature can you
we reach the door he leans over and kisses my forehead, so gently, so lightly,
that I'm not sure he was ever there at all. Then he whispers in my ear.
"Goodbye, Buffy." Only I cannot return it, so I just walk away.
We never said that before. We never could.
however, it is a word that trips off my tongue easily. There are so many people
I'm leaving and they all want a special sentiment from the bride and groom. But
all my emotional farewells seem hollow and meaningless, since I can't quite
believe I'm going. I'm standing here in my tent-like wedding dress, my hand
with its plain gold band interlinked with Riley's, and it still all feels like
want to wake up now. Can I wake up? Please?
cries when she hugs me and says her goodbye. I think I cry too, but I'm not
sure, because the tears come so often now, that I can't tell the difference
between when they're there and when they're not. She promises to write every
day and I laugh at that, because if anyone could keep such a promise then it
would be Will.
hugs me too, in her own soft, shy way. I wish I'd gotten to know her a little
better, that I'd given her more of a chance. She and Will seem so together
somehow. I see them exchange little 'I love you' looks and smiles, and it makes
me ache to remember what it was like to communicate your every feeling to a
person with a single glance. It's strange, because I never thought it would
work out for them. I actually thought Willow was crazy when she first told me.
I mean, she's not a lesbian, right? But it's not like that between them. It's
not a chance to experiment with something new or a passing phase. They're just
two people who happened to fall in love, and that's exactly how it should be.
Xander comes over. He ruffles my hair, grins and makes some trademark Xander
comment. But his eyes are serious and it strikes me just how much he has
changed. He's grown up in the past six months and he's actually making
something of his life now. He's got a steady job and a nice apartment, and him
and Anya are even still together. And I thought Will and Tara's relationship
was strange. But then perhaps weird works. It keeps things fresh. When you're
dating a thousand year old former demon, then you're never likely to run out of
topics for conversation are you? And here I am in my normal relationship with
my normal guy and I have nothing to say. How's that for irony.
tugs on my arm, indicating that we have to leave soon. We're not having a
honeymoon. We've told people it's because my pregnancy is too advanced for me
to risk flying anywhere, but the truth is we can't afford one ourselves and
Riley's parents refused to pay for it. They said they'd already given us a
deposit for a house and that was enough of a wedding present. Riley suggested
we head up to LA for a couple of days instead, but I couldn't face that idea. I
couldn't be in the same city as Angel and pretend to be a happily married. So,
eventually we decided we'd just drive straight to Iowa, stopping at a few
little motels on the way. Riley has drawn up a whole schedule for us. How far
we should manage to drive each day, places to stay and sights to see. His
timetable depends upon us getting to the first motel on the state line by its
eleven p.m. check-in time, which means we have go now. It doesn't matter I haven't finished saying
goodbye – the schedule has been planned for weeks and it can't wait.
I embrace Giles, tears streaming down my face as I realise this will probably
be the last time I see him. He told me before the wedding that he is planning
on moving back to England, since he doesn't feel needed in America anymore.
when the baby's a bit older I can come back and help with the slaying," I
whisper hopefully to him before we part.
shakes his head. "Don't worry about the Hellmouth, Buffy. We've got everything
under control. You just concentrate on your new life now."
smile at him sadly. "Thank you, Giles. You were a great Watcher."
smiles back. "And you were an excellent pupil. Barring a few initial
difficulties that is."
giggle, remembering the girl I was then. Sixteen and filled with youthful
determination and innocence. When did I get so old?
is the last to say goodbye, placing a soft kiss on my cheek as she does so. "My
little girl," she says with tears in her eyes.
grown up." I hug her tightly, finishing the sentence as I do so. Then I walk
away with Riley to my new life.
don't look back, not because I don't care, but because it's too painful to see
what I'm leaving behind.
To be continued…