Disclaimer: I don't own BTVS. The only thing I own is the plot of this story as inadequate as it is. You might recognise a quote from Lovers Walk there towards the end as well.
Thank you all so much for all the amazing reviews and feedback. This chapter is dedicated to all of you.
Chapter Twenty One
Buffy stopped just inside the door of the apartment block and listened to Spike's footsteps as he walked away and she let out a deep sigh of relief. Her muscles relaxed and she leaned against the door. Idiot. Buffy was mortified about asking Spike if he wanted to hold her baby. No wonder he was wigged. She felt like kicking herself for being so tactless; Alice was her and Angel's child. He must think she was a heartless bitch. Well, even more of a heartless bitch then he had thought before. With a jolt of realization, it occurred to her she had been unable to read what was going on in those blue eyes of his. He always wore his heart on his face, but this time she couldn't decipher anything. His emotions were tightly controlled, his face inscrutable. He was like a stranger now. Spike looked good and he seemed at ease with himself and showed no anger or coldness towards her. Perhaps it would have been easier if he had; It would mean he still cared. She knew she was being selfish but she missed him. She tried to shake the feeling. She wanted him to be happy, she really did. Stop being such a self-indulgent bitch, she told herself. It's good that he's happy. He deserves it after all the shit I put him through. And it wasn't as if she was terribly unhappy either. She kept herself busy with little time to be lonely; being a new mom was exhausting and she had little time to bemoan the lack of her social life. Willow had left for the States and that was a punch in the gut, but she had Xander, Dawn and Giles of course. A cry from Alice brought her out of her musings, and she handed Alice the pacifier. There was no point in staying standing here. She might as well go inside. She pressed the button for Giles apartment and waited for Giles' response.
"Spike?" came Giles' voice, fuzzy through the intercom.
"No, it's me," she replied as he opened the door. "And Alice."
"Come on up."
Buffy walked to the elevator and pushed in the buggy. Alice seemed happy now she had something to suck on. Giles was on the third floor and he was waiting at the door when she got out of the elevator.
Giles smiled at her. "What brings you here this hour?"
"Alice is teething and she wouldn't settle." Buffy reached into the pram and took the baby into her arms. "I was just passing by."
"Would you like something to drink?" he asked. "I was just about to make some tea."
"Yes, please," she said.
She followed him into the kitchen, Alice gurgling on her shoulder.
"I bumped into Spike," Buffy blurted out.
"Oh?" His eyebrows knitted into a frown. "How are you?" he asked softly, concern evident in his expression.
"Peachy with a side of keen," she lied.
"Oh Buffy," he said, shaking his head. "You don't have to lie to me. I hope you know that."
Buffy sighed, "It's okay. I mean - I'm not still fixated on the idea that we can be saved. I know it's over."
"Doesn't mean it doesn't hurt," he said gently.
"It does." Hating herself for the self-pity, she forced a smile. "But I'm ok. I've got my little girl and my friends. And I'm thankful for that."
She wondered if she was being a bad mother, worrying about her personal life and aching for a relationship that had been doomed as soon as she had become pregnant. It wasn't that she would have wished Alice away for a moment, although sometimes she wondered how things could have been different. The guilt rose up and she felt sick to the stomach.
"Being lonely doesn't mean you love her any less," Giles said, as if he read her mind.
She leaned over and gave him a peck on the cheek. "Thanks. You always know the right thing to say."
Giles handed her a cup of tea and gestured for her to sit at the table. Buffy took a grateful sip from her cup. She had turned into a bit of tea addict since moving to the UK.
"Have you any news?" he asked, sitting down opposite her.
"My Dad's coming to visit tomorrow," Buffy said.
Giles' expression clouded. "I'm not sure he deserves your forgiveness." He reached across the table and patted her hand. "He's lucky."
"I think that everyone deserves a second chance," she replied.
"You're a more forgiving person than I."
Buffy shook her head. "No – You're a much better person than me. I do the right thing when it comes to being the hero and being the Slayer. In my personal life I'm always doing the wrong thing."
"Everyone makes mistakes. The most important thing is that you learn from them."
"Oh Giles." She got up from her seat, put Alice back in the buggy and threw her arms around Giles. "You've been more of a father to me than my real dad ever was."
"And you're the daughter I never had."
The jacket was itchy on her skin as she squeezed him tighter. A wince from Giles let her know she needed to loosen her grip. "Sorry," she murmured into his chest.
"I'm used to you abusing me," he joked. "Remember the days of sparring in the library in Sunnydale?"
The pair started to laugh, Alice watching them curiously from the buggy.
The following morning Buffy was trying to clean the house while Alice was having a nap. She wanted the house to be spick and span for when her father called later. He was coming for lunch, then that evening he was going to take her and Dawn out for a meal, while Michael minded the kids. Despite herself Buffy was looking forward to it. They had several conversations over the phone and this would be the first time they would be face to face since her emotional meltdown after Alice's birth. She knew she should still be angry but he was her father after all and all she had ever wanted from him was love and affection. Back in Los Angeles as a child she had been Daddy's little girl and he doted on her right up to her early teens. Around about the time she became the Slayer was when everything changed. Things were particularly difficult with her parents accusing her of acting out and the revelation that her father was having an affair with a temp in his office. It was amazing how much the world could shift beneath you in such a short space of time and everything you hold dear ripped from you. He'd had an affair when she was younger but she had never known. It wasn't until his visits stopped completely that her mother told her that. Her mother had never wanted to cause any rift between her daughters and their father. This was why she was so determined to make sure her own daughter would never know the pain she had felt. Her father had walked out of her life with the promise of frequent visits. These had become few and far between as he got wrapped up in his new life, and eventually stopped completely. The most hurtful thing had been his absence after her mother died. He hadn't even come to the funeral. A tear ran down her cheek at the memory. She took a deep breath composing herself. She had gotten these resentments out of her system and called him on his failings. This was supposed to be a fresh start and she desperately wanted to believe that their relationship could be mended, but she was terrified she was in for more heartache.
The front door bell rang two hours later and Buffy rushed to the front door. Hank Summers was holding a bouquet of flowers and a gift bag.
"Hi, Buffy." He handed her the flowers and the gift bag.
She took both from him and buried her nose in the flowers. "Thanks, Dad. You really shouldn't have." She took a deep sniff and smiled at him. "Come in, Dad."
They walked into the living room together.
"Where's my granddaughter?" he asked.
"She's just over there," Buffy said gesturing to the playpen in the corner of the living room.
His eyes lit up at the sight of Alice, wearing her most adorable little pink dress.
"She's so beautiful, Buffy."
Buffy swelled with maternal pride.
"Can I pick her up?" he asked.
"Of course." Buffy smiled. "Do you want a coffee or something before we have lunch?"
"That would be lovely, thanks." He picked up his granddaughter, who was delighted to be picked up. Alice reached for his nose and gurgled.
"She likes you," Buffy said. "And she doesn't always like strangers."
"She's knows we're family." He paused for a moment, and looked at his daughter fearfully. "We are family, aren't we?"
Buffy knew he was afraid he had overstepped the mark. She nodded. "Of course, we are."
Her heart felt lighter and she was hopeful they could make a go of having a good relationship again.
"I better go and get that coffee now," she said making her way to the kitchen.
She stopped and turned around.
"I'm so sorry, Buffy, for everything."
"I know, Dad."
Dinner that night was really nice, Buffy reflected on the way home in the cab she shared with her sister. During the evening Buffy and Dawn had a long conversation with their Dad about the things that had happened in their lives since he had split with Joyce. Since Dawn and Hank had reconciled years earlier, he really only wanted to know more about his eldest daughter's life. Her father was trying really hard to reconcile and despite any lingering resentments Buffy was doing her best to repair their relationship too. Having dinner with her father and sister for the first time in years was bittersweet; it reminded her of the last time they had eaten together back when Joyce would have been alive. Her mother would have been so happy to see Hank making the effort even if it was years too late and she would have been proud to see what an amazing woman her youngest had turned out to be. She would have doted on the grandkids too. Buffy smiled at the thought.
"What are you smiling at?" Dawn asked.
"I'm thinking about Mom," Buffy replied.
"I still miss her," Dawn said.
"Me too." Buffy reached over and squeezed her hand.
The taxi pulled in outside Dawn's house and the two women got out of the taxi after handing him the cash. Buffy had insisted on paying considering Michael was looking after Alice for the night. Dawn had offered to hold on to Alice for the night, but Angel was calling over early the next morning to take her for the day and it would be easier to just take Alice home. The two women walked in arm in arm walking into the house.
Michael was waiting for them in the living room. "Did you have a nice night?"
"I had a really good time," Buffy said. "We should do more things as a family."
"You should get out more," Dawn said. "Let me take Alice sometimes so you could go out or have a night in to yourself."
"There's no need, Dawn. It's not as if I have much of a social life."
Dawn sighed. "That's exactly what I mean. You need to get back out there. Let some man get a piece of Buffy. You're gorgeous. Just because you're a Mom doesn't mean you have to be a nun."
Her sister might have a point but Alice had to be her priority now.
Buffy opened her mouth to protest again but Dawn interrupted her. "I worry about you, Buffy."
Buffy knew her little sister meant well and she knew that Summers' look of determination. "Ok, I promise to try and get out more."
"Good." Dawn smiled. "Remember what Anya said once about the best way to get over someone?"
"Get under someone else," they both said in unison. Buffy had to laugh. Anya, in her blunt way, had a wisdom all of her own. Sex was always something that meant something to Buffy. She wasn't about to jump into bed with just anybody, however a date or two would nice. She was single Buffy and it was strange being single for the first time in six years. When she was pregnant with Alice, she had been occupied with the idea of maybe getting Spike back and dating was the last thing on her mind. Spike was dating, maybe she should too.
The following morning the front doorbell rang at ten am. Angel was punctual as usual; he wasn't due for another half hour.
Buffy picked up Alice. "Somebody's eager to see you, honey."
She opened the door and let him in. "You're early. Alice isn't ready yet."
Alice held out her hands for Angel to take her. She really was Daddy's little girl.
Angel took her and rubbed his nose against hers. Alice gurgled in response.
"Would you like a coffee?" Buffy asked.
"That would be nice." He followed her into the kitchen. "Sorry for being so early."
Buffy busied herself making the drinks while Angel picked up Alice and started fussing over her. She better be careful or Alice could end up being spoiled rotten.
"How are you?"
"I was out last night with Dawn and my Dad."
Angel wrinkled his forehead. "How was that?"
"It was nice. It reminded me of how things used to be."
Buffy put a cup of coffee in the table for Angel. "It was good to get out. I've turned into boring Buffy. All work and no play."
"You should get out more," Angel said.
Buffy rolled her eyes. "You sound like Dawn. It's not as if I've got dates lined up along the block. I'm not a teenager anymore; I've got Alice to think of."
Angel paused. "Let me take you to dinner."
"Like a date?" she asked with a frown.
"No," he said a little too quickly. "We're friends. Right?"
She nodded but Spike's words from many years ago played in her mind. You're not friends. You'll never be friends. You'll be in love till it kills you both. You'll fight, and you'll shag, and you'll hate each other till it makes you quiver, but you'll never be friends.
"And friends can go to dinner," Angel continued.
"I'm not sure," she said, "I don't want there to be any blurring of the lines."
Angel sighed. "Don't be so melodramatic."
She nodded. "Just friendly things like talking," she emphasised. "Eating food together in the same place and with no alcohol."
Angel's lip started to twitch.
"Don't laugh at me!"
"I can't-" Angel managed between the chuckles that escaped.
Buffy found her own lips beginning to upturn despite herself and soon the pair of them were laughing heartily.
To be continued….
End note: Thanks so much for reading and reviewing.