Chapter 95: Dear Agony (Part two)
Lincoln, Nevada. Five Days Later. FPOV
"Buffy, are you ready?" I ask and look over my shoulder. We're sitting on our bed facing away from each other, just staring across the room. That's how it's been for the last twenty minutes. Just dead silence while I try to figure out how to talk to her. Today we're going to England to bury Giles. All of the advanced witches at the school, plus Willow and Sky, are going to be teleporting people there in about five minutes. The funeral isn't for another hour but we think that will be enough time for the people who aren't used to teleporting to get over the side effects. The last thing we need in the middle of this is a bunch of people puking their guts out.
"No. I don't think I'll ever be ready," she says, but she doesn't look up. Her head is turned down like she's staring at her lap, and I don't think she's ever looked more vulnerable and weak than she has right now. Maybe when she was in labor, but that's actually running a really close second. This is harder on her than anyone else. He was her Giles, and that's always how it was gonna be. No one could ever have a bond like the two of them did, ever. When I blew through Sunnydale I was jealous of that, and it took me a really long time to understand it. They trusted each other completely. Even after Giles poisoned her to make her "normal" for the stupid test the council did, they still got the trust back after a while, and they loved each other just like a father and a daughter are supposed to. Hell, the bond I have with my dad doesn't even come close to what they had, and we're blood related.
"I know how you feel, babe, but we need to go soon," I say in the softest voice I can possibly manage. Being around Buffy these last four days has been like walking on broken glass with salt mixed in just for the fuck of it. It means I haven't had a moment to just rest and try and grieve because I have to constantly be watching out for her mood swings. She's been taking her shit out on other people, unintentionally, and the other day Joey was the target. I just can't let that shit fly. I know she's going through hell, but the last thing our baby boy needs is his mom freaking out and yelling at him because he tried to pour himself a bowl of cereal and spilled the milk all over the counter. Normal Buffy would have been totally understanding, might have even laughed about it, but she's not normal right now and it's going to take a long time to get back to that.
"I don't think I can," she says, and her voice sounds all fucked up like she's trying not to cry. I scoot towards her and wrap myself around her completely. My legs are resting on either side of hers, my arms are wrapped around her waist with my hands on her stomach, and my chin is lightly resting on her shoulder. She hasn't been letting me touch her much since that afternoon when Willow and Xander delivered the bad news so this is a big fucking deal. She lets out a little sigh, and places her hands on top of mine, and I gently nuzzle her cheek with the tip of my nose. Now that she's letting me do this I want all the comfort I can get. "It's just...he was Giles, and I don't think I can stand there and watch that coffin be...be lowered into the ground and..." She has these fat tears rolling down her face and I get a really fucked up feeling in my chest, like a huge weight was just set on top and then lit on fire.
"I know, babe, I know," I tell her, but I don't, at least not really. Not as much as she does. He was her Giles and she was his Buffy and I don't even think Willow or Xander are feeling this as much as she is. But she has to go. I have to make her go. If she misses this she'll never be able to forgive herself. Maybe not right away. Maybe not for the first couple of years, but when the pain finally dulls to just a low throb instead of a gushing chest wound then she'll look back on this day and fucking hate herself for not going and saying her final goodbyes to her Giles. But now the question is: how am I going to get her to go? If I try to force her hand she'll resist and it'll start another fight. I don't want to get in a fight with her, not today. Well, not ever, but that's beside the point. I guess it's time to do the thing that moms do best: guilt trip.
"But I need you today, B. I don't know if I'll be able to get through this day without you, and the kids..." I let it hang there, mostly because I can't think of anything else to say, and partly because leaving it unsaid gives it more power. I know that this is kind of fucked up, taking advantage of her emotions like this, but I really don't see any other way to get her to that funeral. I feel more than hear her let out a long sigh, and I lay very gentle kisses along the back of her neck. I know I'm pushing it, and things can go from comforting to agitating really fuckin quick, but I need this. We haven't touched in days, and I'm not talking about sex. I mean, every time I try to get a hug, rub her back, snuggle up to her at night, or even sit really close to her on the couch, she pulls away. I need this right now, and I'm going to milk it while it lasts.
"I know," she says, and then we both get really quiet. I rest my chin on her shoulder, and close my eyes. The feel of her in my arms and the heat from her body are really comforting, more than I thought they would be. I guess it's true what they say about not really knowing what you got until it's gone. She's denied me physical contact and now I feel like a fucking junkie craving her touch. "I talked to Willow and she said the same thing. She said she doesn't know if she can get through it without me there." She gets really quiet, and she's not even breathing so I know she wants to say something, but she's unsure. I know her better than she realizes. "Would you hate me if I didn't go?" Her voice is barely above a whisper and if I wasn't a slayer I don't think I would have heard it.
"No, babe, I could never hate you," I say, and I feel like her words were a slap to the face, but I force my voice to remain neutral and not defensive. Knee jerk reactions are a bitch to control, but I manage. This next part is tricky because if she takes it the wrong way I don't know how she's going to react. Odds are she won't let me touch her for at least the rest of the day, and I don't think I could handle that. But I need to say something 'cause if I don't speak my mind I know I'm going to regret it. "But I think you're going to hate yourself one day if you don't go and say goodbye to him." She finally lets out that big breath she's been holding, and when she inhales it sounds really shaky. Her body is really fuckin tense now, and I know she's trying not to cry.
"Shhh, B, it's ok. You don't have to go if you really don't think you can face it," I say, and she clings onto me. Her nails are biting into my skin, and if she adds any more pressure I know the skin is going to pop, but I won't make her let go. Her breathing is really ragged now, and her whole body is heaving with her effort to keep it together. Since I'm pressure right against her we're both rocking back and forth a little, and I'm sure it looks fucking weird, but I don't give a shit. I start taking really deep, slow breaths and after a minute or so she starts trying to mimic what I'm doing. When she finally calms down a little she sniffles really loud, and wipes at her tears. The hand she left go of practically sings in relief now that her death grip is gone.
"No, you're right," she says. Quick, someone mark the date 'cause Buffy Summers just admitted I was right about something. Ok, that's a fucked up joke to be making at a time like this, but I need to stay sane somehow. "If I don't go then I'll never forgive myself." I leave more little kisses on the back of her neck, and that seems to calm her down even more. The tension practically melts out of her shoulders, and if this is what helps than I'll spend the rest of forever doing it. "Just don't let go of me, ok? I feel like I'm about to shatter any second." I squeeze her a little for a few seconds before I relax my grip, and rest my chin on her shoulder again. My mouth is by her ear, and I really wanna leave a little kiss on the shell but that will be taken the wrong way 'cause that's one thing I do when I'm trying to get some.
"I promise, B," I whisper, and we just sit here holding onto each other as her tears finally disappear and her breaths goes back to normal. I wish we could just stay like this for the rest of the day. I mean, she doesn't want to go anyway. We could take off our clothes, wash off our makeup, and lie in bed just holding each other and talking, maybe even sneaking some kisses here and there and just pretend nothing else is going on outside that door. That could work. We used to do shit like that all the time before we had kids, and jobs. Only we would do more than just kiss. Then I hear Willow calling our names from downstairs, and our little bubble is shattered. God damn reality forcing us to be a part of it instead of just fucking off like it should.
"Will you go downstairs and talk to Willow? I need to fix my face," she says, and I fuckin hate it when she words it like that. Is it really so hard to say the word makeup? But I don't say anything. I don't need to get into that particular stupid argument right now. I just give her a little kiss on the side of the cheek, whisper that she always looks beautiful to me, and very reluctantly peel myself away from her. Before I go I stand in the doorway for a few seconds and just breathe. I need to try and keep it together. Seeing Willow upset seems to be everyone's Achilles' heel, and if the kids see me cry they're going to get really upset and be even clingier and I wanna get out of the house as smooth as possible.
After putting up that emotional wall again, I head downstairs. As soon as my feet hit the floor I feel two thin, but really strong arms wrap around me in a crushing hug. Well, it would be a crushing hug if I weren't a slayer, and she weren't a witch. Don't get me wrong, if she set her mind to it she could kill me with the flick of her wrist. Thank God I'm not on her bad side. What the fuck am I thinking about? That's not what I need to be focusing on right now. I wrap my arms around her, and just let her cling onto me. I can feel her hot tears against my neck, and remember all of those emotional walls I took time to put in place? Yeah, those are getting knocked right the fuck down. God damn you, Willow, and your kryptonite tears. Between Red and B, I'm going to be a fuckin mess by the end of the day, I just know it.
"Buffy? Babe, it's time to go," I hear Faith say, but I can't respond. All I can do is lie here and stare. The funeral ended hours ago. I'm sure by now everyone has left or gone back to their dorms. It was a really great service. A bunch of people spoke, including Willow, Sky, Xander, Kennedy, and Faith. When Faith started talking about second chances and how Giles never held anything against her I started hyperventilating, and Willow brought me here to Giles' office. She laid me down on the couch because I couldn't sit up, and I cried until I passed out. I woke up about three hours ago and I've been staring at his desk ever since. Well, Andrew's desk now.
"Sweetie, did you hear me?" Faith asks and I nod my head. She kneels down next to the couch, blocking my view of the desk, and now she's gently caressing my hair. It's hard to believe that these hands that have been apart of so many wonderful things; our children's first baths, rocking them to sleep or softly rubbing their backs to comfort, teaching them to tie their shoes, and bringing me to the height of ecstasy over and over again, have also caused so much pain, and damage. "B, it's late, we need to get home. Our babies are waiting for us." That's a dirty trick. I'd know because I use it all the time.
"In a little while," I tell her and turn my head until her fingers are softly running against my cheek. When I lay flat again, her hand stays on my face, which is exactly what I wanted. I watch as she rearranges herself so she's sitting on the floor in front of me, looking at me with those beautiful Lehane eyes, and just loving me. It's making me feel a little guilty, though, because all I want to do is stare at Giles' desk some more and zone out. So instead of saying something I know she'll take the wrong way, I shut my eyes and focus on her hand that's gently cupping my cheek, her thumb softly stroking my skin. For the first time in days I feel like I can breathe. Just breathe and let my mind wander.
I don't think I have ever felt more exhausted in my life, and I've been a slayer since sophomore year of high school. For a while I was the only slayer, and raised a teenager with the help of my friends, which was not easy. But this feeling of exhaustion wins the competition by a landslide. This makes the battle with the First look like a cakewalk, and an entire town was destroyed plus I almost lost a kidney. Even the days after the battle when we were trying desperately to figure out what to do next, and grieve over the people we lost weren't as tiring as the last few hours.
So what happened that was so draining that the infamous Buffy Summers is in a hospital bed and can barely keep her eyes open? It's a very simple answer. I had a baby. The nurse just took him out of the room to be measured and weighed, and Faith is staying as close to him as possible. I think if it even looks like they're about to harm one hair on his little squishy head she'll rip their arms off. I have a feeling she's going to be a very over protective mother, and if that means I get to lay here while she takes care of our son then I am perfectly ok with it.
Our son. God, that is such a weird thing to even think. I'm a mother. I just had a baby with Faith Lehane, the woman I'm madly in love with and have been together with pretty much since Sunnydale was turned into a crater. If I were to go back in time to the night I met her, and tell all of this to my eighteen year old self, she would probably think I'm a demon and stab me in the chest with a broadsword. Eighteen year old me was far too pessimistic and close-minded. But why am I thinking about that right now? It must be the exhaustion from pushing another human being out of my body; it's making it difficult to concentrate on one train of thought.
My whole body jerks at the sound of someone lightly knocking on the door. My slayer instincts are very heightened right now. I'm extremely weak and vulnerable, and my inner animal is not comfortable with that at all. I glance over just in time to see the door slowly open, and Giles quietly walks into the room holding a bouquet of flowers and a balloon that says 'It's a boy!'. I can practically feel how excited he is, and it makes me smile despite how freaking sore I am. He smiles back, and sets the flowers and balloon down on the little table before walking over to the bed, and gently holding my hand.
"I'm sorry I'm so late. Most of Willow's directions were lost between high pitched squeals, and a little bit of crying. Xander wasn't much help either," he says, and a small laugh is pulled out of my throat. It just reminds me how sore almost every muscle in my body is. All I had to do was sit back and push. It sounds so freaking simple, so why does everything hurt so God damn much? I think I've just decided I am going to be one of those mothers that use their child's birth against them in an argument. In fifteen years when he asks why he needs to do chores or can't stay out passed his curfew I'll just bring up how painful it was pushing him out of my vagina.
"That's ok, you're here now," I say, and I hope that didn't sound mean. I don't want to hurt his feelings, but I had been hoping he would make it sooner than this. Giles is like a dad to me, and there are certain things a girl wants her dad to be a part of. The birth of her children is one of those things, at least for me anyway. I wouldn't have wanted him in here for the actual birth part because that was totally gross, and Faith ended up kicking everyone out anyway. Well, everyone but the doctor and a couple of nurses. I don't blame her. I was scared, in pain, feeling really claustrophobic, and having Willow, Dawn and Xander crowding me while the doctor was telling me to push got a little overwhelming. "And you're not late. They just took him away a minute ago."
"Is everything alright?" he asks and starts looking around the room. I don't even want to know what he's looking for. Probably evidence of something horrible happening in here, like lots of blood all over the floor or surgical tools or something. Just the thought of that is making me feel queasy. "And where is Faith?" Just the sound of her name makes me smile. Thinking back on how she acted as soon as the umbilical cord was cut, and the doctor handed her our screaming, mucus covered bundle of joy, I can already tell that's going to be one of my favorite memories for the rest of time. She looked like she was about to start jumping up and down screaming in excitement, and pass out because the reality of us becoming parents finally hit her, just like it hit me. And it feels like a punch to the face.
"Everything's fine," I tell him, and his attention is brought back to me. He still looks concerned, but I guess since I'm not worried or panicked his freak out level isn't getting very high, which is good because the last thing I need to deal with at the moment is a freaked out Giles. "They just need to do all the tests for newborns to make sure he's healthy, and to measure and weigh him, and put him in a diaper. Faith refuses to leave his side." We both smile a little, and Giles squeezes my hand again. "She's already a good mom." He smiles again, and sits down in the plastic chair next to my bed. I'm really glad he plans on staying awhile because I really need my Giles right now.
"I've no doubt. I know both of you will be amazing mothers. That little boy is very lucky to have you," he says, and I don't think he's ever sounded more sincere about anything before. At least not while talking to me. Maybe it's the hormones, or maybe it's the drugs, or maybe I've just gone soft, but my eyes are teary right now. He doesn't know it, but he just touched a huge nerve that's really sensitive. For the last few weeks I've been worried that I'm not going to be a good mom. I'm afraid of making all kinds of mistakes, afraid that I'm going to screw my baby up and he's going to hate me when he's older or turn out to be a bad human being like Warren or something. I haven't told anyone because I know it's stupid but right now it feels so real.
"Do you really think I can do this?" I ask, and some of those tears slip out and roll down my cheeks. Giles gets a look on his face like he doesn't understand what I'm saying, and he gently wipes the tears away with the pad of his thumb. I sniffle loudly, and try not to start sobbing at his caring touch. God, why do I feel like I'm going insane? One second I'm totally fine, and now I'm a weepy mess. Is this what having a baby really does to you? Because that was not in the brochure at the doctor's office on our first visit. They need to be more honest with people about this crap.
"I don't think you're going to be a good mother, Buffy," he says, and it feels like someone just put a huge weight on my chest, and it's about to be crushed. Why would he say something like that? Who says something like that to a person? "I know you're going to be a great mother. And if you ever need anything, any type of help at all raising my grandson, do not be afraid to feel ashamed to reach out. I'm always just a short teleportation away, you understand?" I nod my head because that's all I can do at this point. The tears are turning into quiet sobs, and my lips are quivering too hard to speak. I don't know why the universe gave me him, but I'll never be able to repay it.
"I want to take the desk home," I say after a few minutes of quiet. I look up into Faith's eyes and she looks really confused. I can't really blame her for that. I would look totally confused also if she were silent for a while, and then broke the silence with some random declarative statement. "We can get rid of my vanity and put it there." I can tell by the look on her face that she doesn't think it's a good idea. She probably thinks it's not healthy to hang onto something like that. Like maybe I'm holding onto him and keeping his desk is going to prevent me from moving on or something. Or maybe she thinks it's just too bulky to keep in our bedroom; hell if I know, and I'm not about to start a fight by asking.
"Ok, babe, we can do that. I'll have Willow teleport it tomorrow, ok?" she says, and she gently wipes away my tears. It makes me cry harder, and she leans forward and wraps her arm around me, and rests her forehead against mine. I can feel her body shaking and I know she's about to lose her resolve. She's been my rock today, and she'll never know how grateful I am for her. I honestly don't think there's any way for me to really show her just how fucking thankful I am to have her in my life. "Shh, B, we're going to be ok." By the sound of her voice, it's almost like she's trying to convince herself that more than me. On some level that's probably true. Faith always says stuff like that out loud to try to make them true when they're not. How are we supposed to be ok when our Giles is gone?