Speaking with the Angel
I Will Remember You - but the day was never turned back
"See, Mom. He's doing it again."
Buffy sounded worried, but not hysterical. Which was a good sign. When it came to Brendan Buffy has already proved that she could do hysterical with the very best of them. Joyce came up behind her daughter and slipped an arm around her shoulders. "I'm sure he's fine," she said neutrally.
"But look at him," Buffy insisted. "What's he staring at? And he does it _all_ the time."
Joyce suddenly knew, without even checking, what it was Buffy meant. But she looked anyway, just to be sure.
Brendan was lying on his back in his crib, his eyes fixed on the ceiling above his head, a happy, baby look on his face. He was completely ignoring the silly, colourful mobile Xander had given him and Buffy had fixed above the crib. He gurgled suddenly, an incoherent, child's sound of delight, and waved one tiny fist in the air. And his gaze never moved.
"It's like he can see something I can't," Buffy said. She gave her mother a worried, pleading look. "Mom, do you think he's being haunted?"
"Of course I don't think he's being haunted," Joyce retorted without hesitation. "Really, Buffy. What an idea!"
But then she remembered the Hellmouth. Sunnydale being the place it was, she had to suppose it was quite possible that the Slayer's son was being haunted. Although he certainly didn't seem particularly unhappy about it. All the same, Joyce made a mental note to go and talk to Giles about it. He might not exactly be Buffy's Watcher anymore, but he was still the best source of knowledge when it came to the strange and unusual.
Buffy walked over to the crib, leaning on the carved wooden baseboard and watching her son with the kind of look only mothers know how to wear. "I don't want anything to happen to him, Mom. I couldn't bear it if something happened to him too."
Joyce didn't know how to comfort her. She had already learned - the hard way - that sometimes you just can't protect your children from their destinies. But she didn't think Buffy was ready to deal with that harsh bit of reality just yet.
"He did it when I was looking after him too," she said instead. "The doctor told me I was imagining it and I just figured it was something about his being such a special little boy. After all, how many Slayers get to have children?"
"I don't know," Buffy answered absently, smiling without realizing it when Brendan laughed again. "Not many. Maybe not any. We could ask Giles." Her frown returned. "Wouldn't he have been too young to focus on anything when he was with you?" Her fears came crashing in again. "What if he is being haunted? Maybe Giles or Willow could do something to find out."
"Honey, look at him," Joyce said helplessly. "If he is being haunted, it's a good kind of ghost. He's happy, he's smiling. Maybe he's got a guardian angel looking out for him?"
Buffy gazed down at her son again and her smile came back. She waggled her fingers in front of his face and his gaze shifted to look at her. He gurgled happily and she laughed, reaching out to tap him lightly on nose with one finger. "Maybe he does," she conceded.
She turned back to her mother and Joyce was startled to see the set, controlled look on his face. "I keep thinking maybe it's Angel," she said in a careful voice that broke on the last word. "Oh but Mom, if it's Angel, why can Brendan see him and I can't. It's not fair."
Her mother did the only thing she could to help, she wrapped her daughter in a hug and held her while she cried.
Holding her, feeling her shake as she sobbed, Joyce found herself remembering the terrible day of the phone call. Every mother's worst nightmare - _Come quickly, your daughter's in the hospital. We don't know if she's going to make it._ There are some things you can get used to with exposure but that, as Joyce had been forced to learn, is just not one of them.
But really, that wasn't where all this had started - not with Buffy bleeding her life away on an operating table as Brendan was forced early into the world. No, it had begun long before that on a sunny Thanksgiving weekend afternoon, when Joyce had received a most unexpected visitor.
She'd been curled up on the couch, reading a book when she heard the car pull up outside. Normally, she would have ignored it, but this time something made her get up and go to the door. There was a sleek, black convertible parked at the curb and a man walking up the path to the house. He was half-way there before she recognized him and standing at the bottom of the steps before her brain was ready to concede that it really was him.
"Hello, Mrs Summers." He had sounded a little different, more confident than the last, fateful, time she had spoken to him. He looked down at the ground before looking up again and smiling that devastating smile at her. "I wanted to...," he had paused, then gone on formally, as if they had been transported back 200 years, "...to ask your permission to court your daughter."
While she had gaped at him, as astonished to see him standing there as by what he had just said, he had turned instinctively to look back at the car. Joyce had looked with him, to see Buffy standing there, her arms crossed defensively across her chest.
Helplessly, Joyce had waved at her and she had come running, skidding to a halt at Angel's side and wrapping her arms around his shoulders. "Oh, Mom," she had exclaimed breathlessly, "Angel's human and it's wonderful and I'm so happy."
Seeing this brilliant, smiling daughter who had replaced the lost, distant, determinedly and falsely happy one Joyce hardly ever saw anymore, there was only one answer she could make. "I'm glad you're happy," she had said honestly and with those four words they had started healing the breaches they had created between themselves.
From there, they had made themselves a family, a happy comfortable family of three that had expanded immediately to four when Buffy had announced, both delighted and a little worried about what her mother would say, that she was pregnant.
A family that had drastically and tragically reduced to three again just five months ago. Which, of course, brought her back to the phone call she had been trying not to remember. She had arrived at the hospital to find Rupert Giles already there, pacing and with only bad news to offer. That Angel was dead, had died protecting his wife and child from a group of vampires who had decided an eight months pregnant Slayer was an easy target. That Buffy was in surgery right then as the doctors tried to save both her life and that of her unborn son.
They had waited in anxious silence for hours until a tired-looking doctor had come walking towards them. And Joyce had found herself with a premature grandson and daughter nearly catatonic with grief and trauma, both of whom needed her to look after them.
So she had taken them home, caring for Brendan, quickly falling in love with his baby face and tiny fingers, his beautiful eyes and his desperate need for her. But Buffy had turned away, curling herself up around her pain and her grief, refusing even to hold her son. As soon as her injuries let her, she retreated to the home she had shared with Angel, hiding herself away in the big old house and refusing to let anyone come near her or touch her.
Until the day, three months later, when she had turned up on her mother's doorstep. "I've come to take my son home," she had said simply. Then she had looked at her mother with bleak eyes, that at least were no longer totally empty. "Help me Mom, please."
That had been the first time Joyce had held her daughter as Buffy cried over Angel; she seriously doubted this would be the last.
"It's okay," she whispered helplessly into Buffy's hair. "It's going to be okay." Pointless, useless words, that somehow seemed to help all the same.
Slowly, Buffy's sobs eased to sniffles and she pulled away. Joyce let her go at once, watching with a smile as her first action was to check on Brendan. He was looking up at her with his wide baby's eyes and an expression of worry on this face that, on any ordinary child would be quite unexpected at five months old. _Of course_, Joyce reflected, as she had often done before, _the son of the Slayer and an ex-vampire is never going to be ordinary._
Buffy scooped Brendan out of his crib and settled him against her chest, making soothing, mother's noises. "There, baby boy. Don't you worry about me. Mommy's just a bit sad, that's all." She smiled down at him. "And you can always make me happy again, you know that?"
Brendan gurgled, sounding much happier, and reached out one chubby hand to grab a decent sized handful of his mother's hair. "Ouch," Buffy muttered with a wince and tried to pull her hair free, but it was immediately clear Brendan had no intention of letting go.
She looked up at Joyce. "Well, he's got a good strong grip."
Joyce remembered another baby with a grip of iron and smiled. "Just you wait."
Buffy laughed. "Is that a threat or a promise?"
"Both," her mother said honestly.
Buffy settled Brendan more comfortably and Joyce suddenly felt old. Like a grandmother. _I am a grandmother._ For the first time she realized just how much trouble she was having with that concept. While she had been caring for Brendan, it had been more as if he were a belated son of her own. Now that Buffy had taken him home with her, she had to face up to the fact that he was really her grandson. She was a grandmother and she wasn't even fifty yet. Grandmothers were old people. And besides, Buffy was still her little girl. She might be the Slayer, and a widowed Slayer with a fatherless son at that, but she was still Joyce's little girl. How could she possibly be a mother herself, and how could she do something as thoughtless as making Joyce a grandmother.
"Penny for them?" Buffy's voice broke into her thoughts and she looked up, surprised.
"Oh, nothing, nothing," she said quickly.
Buffy opened her mouth as if she was going to argue, then changed her mind and closed it again. "Shouldn't you be at the gallery by now?" she asked instead.
Joyce glanced at the clock and shrugged. "I'm already late. It doesn't matter. I can stay if you want me too."
Buffy looked at Brendan and shook her head. "No, we're okay now." She lifted her head to her mother again. "But thanks for coming."
Joyce leaned over to kiss her daughter on the cheek, her grandson on the top of his downy head. "Any time. You know that."
"I know that," Buffy agreed and as Joyce walked out the nursery door, she heard her add softly, "Thanks, Mom."
"There goes Granny," Buffy told Brendan as she heard her mother's car drive away. "We're lucky to have her looking after us, you know."
Brendan smiled and his gaze slipped past Buffy's face to something over her shoulder. Buffy frowned down at him. "You're doing it again," she said softly.
And this time, slowly and carefully, she turned to see what he was looking at. There was nothing there of course, just the drawers, some partly open and almost spilling Brendan's clothes onto the floor, and behind them the mural Angel had been painting on the wall before he died, the bottom corner still unfinished because Buffy hadn't been able to bear to change anything.
Brendan was staring at the striped tiger that winked from behind a tree, the smile still on his face, and this time, for some reason, Buffy spoke to the empty air.
"Angel? Is that you? I know Brendan can see something, even if I can't. And it always makes him smile, you it must be you. I wish you were here, looking after him. But if you're watching over him from wherever you are, that's a good thing.
"I miss you so much, Angel. I miss the way you could always sneak up on me, even after you became human again. I miss your smile and the sound of you laughing, which was always so precious because you didn't do it often. I miss the feeling of safety I got from always knowing you were there, fighting to guard my back and I even miss the way you always tried to do what was best for me, even when I hated you for it. I miss ice-cream in bed and the quiet moments when we didn't need words.
"I miss feeling your arms around me, feeling you lying beside me when I wake in the night. I miss the touch of your hands on my skin and the ever-new wonder of you inside me. My bed is so empty and there's an Angel-sized hole in my heart that Brendan can only fill a part of."
She could feel the tears streaming down her face, but she didn't care. There was a healing in them this time that had never been there in all the rivers she had cried before this. Brendan was silent in her arms, still watching the tiger and she hugged him tighter, her tears wetting his hair.
"I love you, Angel."
And if she really concentrated, she could almost imagine she heard the air whisper back, "I love you, too. Both of you."
Just leave him alone, let him
The very one that spoke to you