Disclaimer: I don't own BTVS or the characters. I just like to borrow them for a while.
Buffy's life had changed beyond recognition since Alice had been born. She knew it was going to go to change; she wasn't stupid. Still, it was more different than she ever could have imagined. She was now a fully-fledged member of the land of little sleep, smelly diapers and night time feeds. No amount of books or advice could prepare her for the reality of being fully responsible for a little person. She had been able to have a full night's sleep for the first time in a long time. It was a Saturday morning and Angel had kept Alice the previous night. Willow had come over for a girls' night in and the pair had spent the night watching chick flicks and guzzling ice cream. It was ten pm before Buffy roused, feeling refreshed. Buffy lay in her bed, revelling in the silence. She sat up in her bed and stretched. Being a new mother meant she didn't get much sleep and she had no social life to speak of, but she wouldn't trade Alice for anything. She smiled at the thought of her baby girl and picked up her cell phone from the dresser. She dialled Angel's number and leaned back against the headboard listening to the phone ring on the other end.
Angel answered almost immediately. "Hi, Buffy. I suppose you're calling to check up on Alice."
Buffy felt a little embarrassed. It wasn't as if Angel had never taken Alice before, however, it was the first time Alice had been away for the whole night.
Angel must have taken her lack of a response as an admission because he continued, "She's fine. She's just had her bottle."
"Sorry," she mumbled. "It's the first time she's stayed over."
"Don't worry." Buffy could hear the smile in his voice. "It's natural to feel that way."
"When will you be back?" she asked.
"I can bring Alice around six," was his response.
"Thanks, Angel. I'll see you later."
Getting off the phone Buffy felt foolish. Of course, Angel would look after Alice. He was proving to be an excellent father and was being a good friend to her too. He bonded with Alice instantly and she could see he was happier than she had ever seen him.
After a quick shower, Buffy made her way down stairs and was delighted to see Willow had been in cleaning mode all morning. She could also smell the fresh smell of newly brewed coffee.
"I heard the shower running," Willow said as Buffy walked into the kitchen.
"What would I do without you?" Buffy plopped down gratefully on one of the chairs at the table.
Willow placed a steaming mug of coffee in front of Buffy, "About that."
Buffy looked up to see a sheepish looking Willow wearing a grimace. "What's going on?"
"I'm thinking about moving back to the States," she announced. "My Mom isn't very well and I want to go visit her."
Buffy felt a pang of sympathy for her friend; she knew what it was like to have an ill mother. "I'm sorry to hear that. How come you never said?"
"I only found out over the weekend and you've enough to deal with."
Buffy patted her shoulder. "I'm always here for you no matter what."
"I know, Buff."
"How long are you going for?"
"I don't know." The red head bit her lip. "Sarah is coming with me. Actually we're thinking of moving back for good. I miss it, you know."
Buffy couldn't help the slack jawed expression before recovering quickly. "Of course, I completely understand, Will."
"Will you be alright?"
"Of course I will. You've taken time out of your life for long enough. It's Willow time now. Besides, if you do move back, Alice and I will have somewhere to go on vacation."
Willow smiled gratefully. "We've got the flights booked for Friday."
"So soon?" Buffy threw her arms around her best friend. "I'm going to miss you. You better Skype me every day!"
Willow returned the embrace with a sniffle. Both women pulled away and smiled at one another.
"Are you sure you'll be alright, Buffy?" the redhead asked again.
Buffy managed a weak smile. "I'm fine. I've got Dawn to help and Angel's being great."
Willow shook her head, "I'm not talking about you coping with Alice. You're a great Mom."
Willow's words made Buffy's face warm. "What are you talking about then?"
Willow's forehead creased into a frown. "I'm worried about you, Buffy. You're still hung up on Spike."
Buffy shook her head. "I just wish we could have worked things out." She paused a moment. "I really messed up, huh?."
Willow patted her arm gently and looked at her with sympathetic eyes. Buffy could see she was struggling with something. "I'm not sure if I should tell you this," Willow began, "but maybe it's what you need to move on.."
Buffy wasn't sure if she wanted to know, however her curiosity got the better of her. "Just tell me already."
Willow continued, "I was talking with Faith and she told me Spike was out on the razz with some hottie. Her words not mine."
Buffy could hear the blood rushing inside her. She was aware Willow was watching her for a reaction. When there was no response, she suggested gently, "Maybe it's time you move on too?"
Buffy gulped, feeling like her heart was being ripped from her chest. It hurt to hear Spike was moving on. She found herself wondering if he was seeing somebody or if he was just out dating. Spike had never been good at being single except for that time before she finally put him out his misery and they got together. It seemed so far away now.
"Buffy?" Willow's voice brought her back to reality. "Maybe I shouldn't have told you? Oh gosh, Buffy I'm sorry.. I'm a bad, bad friend.."
Buffy held her hand up to stop Willow's ramble. "It's ok, Will." Her eyes were stinging but she wasn't going to cry and she pulled herself together. "I'm fine. It's just a shock. I knew it was going to happen someday."
In truth, she had been stealing herself for this since he had left. He could hardly be expected to keep celibate until she was ready for him not to be. She hoped he was happy even if she wasn't; she broke his heart after all. Willow looked as glum as she felt and Buffy realised that her friend was still feeling guilty about dropping the bombshell on her.
Buffy put on her best Slayer voice. "Willow, stop feeling so guilty! It was only a matter of time."
Willow took her hand and squeezed it tightly. Buffy blinked back the tears once more. She was determined to be ok with this; she had no right to be hurt when she had been the one that had destroyed their relationship. She had accepted it wouldn't be possible for them to get back together, but she didn't stop loving him overnight. Maybe if she told herself enough she was over him, she would wake up one morning and it would finally be true? Willow's expression was nearly enough to make bawl her eyes out. Instead she blinked back the tears, even though she wanted nothing better than to throw herself into Willow's arms and howl in misery. Just when she thought she was about to do just that, Buffy was saved from Willow's sympathetic gaze by the ringing of the doorbell. She went to the door and there was a delivery man standing on the other side with a hug, bunch of flowers.
"Delivery for Ms Buffy Summers," said the man.
He held out a pad and a pen for her sign her name and after she did so he handed her the flowers.
"Thanks," she said to the man's back as he walked to his van. She came inside admiring the flowers as she did. There were white roses and lilies, and she buried her nose in the flowers inhaling the sweet scent.
She heard Willow gasp. "Who are they from?"
Buffy took a look at the note. It was simply signed "Sorry, love Dad." Buffy didn't want to feel guilty for speaking her mind to her Dad. She knew he deserved the telling off even if it was a little harsh. She had been expecting him to phone her, but there had been no sign of him trying to communicate with her. She had figured that maybe he didn't care enough to try after all despite his words. Maybe he did care after all? However, she wasn't about to cave right away though. She was going to let him stew for a bit in his guilt.
Angel arrived at six on the dot, as punctual as ever. Alice was wide awake and was delighted to see her mother. Buffy took her into her arms and kissed her on the forehead. Angel stood in the living room with a fond smile on his face.
"Do you want something to eat or drink?" she asked him.
"I'm fine. I've just eaten."
Buffy sat down on the couch and bid Angel to do the same. He sat down on one of the armchairs, looking distinctly uncomfortable. She knew from Angel's sense of décor, he preferred hard, straight backed chairs.
"How was she?" Buffy asked.
"She was as good as gold," he replied with a smile.
"How is work going?"
"I'm being kept busy. I had to hire a secretary."
She raised a brow. "Any interesting cases?"
Angel sighed. "To be honest, they're all the same, women checking on their husbands."
Buffy fought back a smile. "You miss the old days, don't you?"
"Yeah – I do." He smiled. "How are you coping without slaying?"
"It sucks I don't get a chance to use my quips," she joked. "Although, it won't be long before I'm back on patrol. Alice means the world to me, but slaying is part of who I am, and to stop would be like losing a part of myself."
She noticed a hint of disapproval in his features, a crease in his forehead. "Things are different now though," Angel pointed out.
"I know that," Buffy said. "Of course, she comes first."
Buffy decided she better change the subject, because she got the impression that Angel would like nothing better than for the pair of them to live a quiet, normal life in the suburbs. He hadn't mentioned moving in or giving their relationship a go in a while; however, she was certain that he hadn't given up on the idea.
The following day, Dawn came to visit. Dawn was sitting in the armchair doting over Alice, while Buffy was bustling about the living room trying to restore order to the chaos.
"How did you do this, Dawn?" Buffy picked up dirty mugs and plates piling them on a tray placed the coffee table. "I don't have the time to clean, whereas I remember your house being as clean as a hospital when I visited after Jamie was born."
Dawn scoffed. "I was a mess, Buffy, but I had Michael to help me out. As soon as he came in the door in the evening, I'd put Jamie in his arms and start cleaning the house frantically."
The admission made Buffy feel a little better. She picked up the tray and went into the kitchen. With the dirty plates and mugs in the dishwasher, she decided she might make an attempt at the laundry. She fetched the laundry basket and took it into the living room. Dawn was standing when she walked into the room.
"I put Alice down in her cot. She's sleeping." She put her arm around her frazzled sister. "Let me help."
Buffy smiled gratefully, knowing between them the job would be done so much faster.
Once all the cleaning had been done, the two sisters were relieved to see Alice was still sleeping and they went into the kitchen for something to drink. Buffy made some cocoa for herself and some coffee for Dawn. She didn't know what she would have done without Dawn. Every time she worried about Alice's little sniffles or crying bouts, she found herself ringing her sister. She wondered once again how Dawn managed to cope when she had become pregnant and who she had to go to for advice.
"Have you heard from Dad at all?" Dawn asked.
"Funny you should say that." Buffy narrowed her eyes. "I got a big bunch of flowers from him yesterday. Did you have anything to do with that?"
Dawn's mouth opened and shut just as quick. She just shook her head in response. Buffy could tell by her face that she was just as surprised.
"Ok, I believe you." Buffy sighed. "He took his time apologising."
"I told him he needed to give you some time to cool down and settle in with Alice, so that may have been partly my fault."
"Well – gee you could have told me."
"Sorry, Buffy. But any time his name was mentioned you would go the colour purple."
Buffy whacked her sister in the arm.
"Ouch," Dawn whined.
Buffy rolled her eyes.
"Did you call him?" Dawn rubbed her arm,
"Not yet." Buffy gave her a sheepish grin. "Was I a little hard on him?"
"Probably not given what you told me. Dad can be such a jerk. But you will call him, right?"
"I will call him later," Buffy promised.
She could hardly refuse her father a second chance when she so desperately craved one herself. She would be a hypocrite.
Later that day, Buffy picked up the phone and made a call to her father. She asked Dawn for his cell number as she really didn't want to speak with whatever floozy he was hooking up with this month.
"Hello, this is Hank."
"Hi, Dad," Buffy mumbled.
She could hear the uncertainty in his voice. "Buffy, sweetheart, how are you?"
"Tired," she answered. "I got your flowers."
"I'm sorry," he blurted. "I know I've been a lousy dad for you girls."
Buffy sighed. "You really have. Not turning up for Mom's funeral really was the shitty icing on the shitty cake." She tried to keep her voice level. She knew he was making an effort and she was willing to do the same and make a fresh start.
"Oh sweetheart, I really want to make it up to you."
"I don't think you can, Dad." She paused for a moment trying to put her thoughts into words. "I want you to be in Alice's life and that's the only reason I'm willing to give you a second chance. But if you ever put Alice through anything like you put me through, then you'll never see her."
There was a brief silence before Hank spoke again, "I guess I deserve that. You won't regret it."
"You better not," Buffy warned him.
"I'd like to see her," he said. "And you of course."
"I'd like that too," she said.
And she meant it. She wasn't holding her breath that he was suddenly a reformed character but it was a new start for them both.
To be continued….
Author's note: As always please review if you can.