Comes The Son
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I do it once a month.
I go back and stand in the shadows just like I used to. I think that sometimes she senses me because I can see her shoulders straighten and she tilts her head to one side. If she wanted to see me, she would, but she never looks close enough and that’s good.
For five years, it’s been the same. Once, every thirty days, I make the short drive up the interstate and watch her for the night. Sometimes, if she looks sad, I stay an extra night and I won’t leave until I hear her soft laughter.
Only he can bring that sound.
The first time I saw him, he was wrapped in her arms and she was clutching him to her chest in the park. I could hear her talking to him, telling him that he would never be without her love and she promised him he would never know the truth about the world. It seemed odd to me that she would make that promise. How could she protect him if she didn’t tell him what the night truly held?
I saw the man, Parker, once. He was arguing with her, making her cry as he snatched the baby from her arms. I wanted to rush out of the bushes and hit him as hard as I could, but I just watched in silence. I could hear him making threats about the child and telling her that he would sue her for custody because she was a slut. Buffy kept telling him that he was the only one she had slept with, but he stared at her in disbelief before he handed back the baby and stormed off.
I heard through Cordelia that the paternity tests revealed that Parker was not the father at all. In a town like Sunnydale, a scandal can be born overnight. People told Cordelia that Giles had to be the father because there was no other reason for him to be hovering around her all the time. I heard that Xander was the father and I also heard that someone named Riley had proposed to her and offered her a family but she refused.
I’d like to think she refused because she knows.
I found out after I saw her celebrating the boy’s first birthday. I stood in an alley, watching him stick his tiny hands in a chocolate cake inside Joyce’s gallery. Everyone was there, smiling and laughing and clapping their hands to encourage him.
I saw him.
I saw my son.
I did the math in my head and realized that it was nine months and one year since Buffy had come to Los Angeles and spent the day with me as a human. It had been twenty-one months since I had made love to her.
The child was mine.
I panicked and quickly ran to my car. I had questions and only the Oracles would have the answers. I roused Doyle from sleep as soon as I made it into the city and told him to be ready when I arrived for him. He took me back and I asked the Oracles and I will never forget what they said to me.
The man, he smiled and whispered, “The child, he is yours.”
I must have looked stunned and unsteady because the woman stepped forward and rested her hand on my arm. Calmly, she said to me, “We have the power to take back a day and erase it. We can erase the deaths that occurred that day but we can’t erase conception. We can’t erase a new life. We can’t tempt fate that way. The gift of life is only given to the most worthy and you were deemed worthy by a greater power than you can grasp.”
“You erased my life.” I pointed out. “You said that the day was gone. How can there be consequences?”
“It was your will to have your human life taken away and returned to vampire form. A child can not make that decision. He came into being and he is here and that is the way it was written.”
I shook my head angrily and stared at the expanse of the nothingness around me. Staying away from Buffy had been one torment but how could I possibly be strong enough to stay away from my child? “I have to tell her. I have to be there.”
“That is your choice.” The man replied, twining his fingers together.
“Is that the right choice?” I asked angrily.
Apparently they didn’t like my question and I found myself blown backwards, straight into Doyle. He asked me if I was okay, but I wasn’t okay. Alone in my apartment, I thought about her and tried to decide what to do. On the one hand, I could go and try to explain and complicate her life even further or on the other hand, I could watch and wait for the time when she would need me to come back into her life.
Somehow fate slipped in and kept me occupied in Los Angeles. I took that as a sign that I wasn’t meant to be in their life. I made the time to return once a month without fail, but there was always something that stood in the way of me returning just to tell her the truth. I don’t think I had the nerve anyway. She had been very clear about the fact that she didn’t want me in her life.
She wanted to forget and who am I to force her to remember something that can only hurt her?
For five years, I have stood and watched in the darkness, hoping she would take him outside. I’ve longed for her to call me or to come see me but she never does and she seems so strong. The woman she has become is nothing like the young girl of years ago. She doesn’t look as vulnerable as I recall and she doesn’t seem insecure.
And he’s the only man I’ve ever seen in her life.
I saw him go from the stroller, to toddling from her fingers on the sidewalk in front of her mother’s house. I’ve seen him go from being awkward, to standing tall on his muscular little legs. I’ve lurked behind her in the supermarket, listening to her answer his many questions.
“Mommy, why is jelly red?” His voice is small and the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard.
“Not all jelly is red.” She replies, glancing at the parcels on the shelves.
“Why is some jelly red?”
“Because that’s what color the fruit is that makes it.” She says patiently. I peer around the corner and see her muss his brown hair. He looks at her adoringly and I figure that he must have gotten that from me. She pauses and stares at him for several seconds and part of me wants to believe that she is thinking that he looks like me. I want to think that she is remembering, but the look fades and she kisses him on the cheek. “What do you want for dinner?”
Sometimes, like tonight, she leaves him with her mother and goes out to patrol. If there is supernatural activity here anymore, then I can’t see it or feel it. It’s almost like his birth brought an end to the demonic force that pulled monsters here. I trail her to the park, remembering the many times we held each other here. One time in particular, she was upset about two dead children that he mother had found in this same park and she wondered if she would ever truly make a difference.
I pause behind a tree and stare out at her. She’s sitting with her back to me on one of the swings and her head is leaning against the chain. The swing is barely moving and I wonder if she’s ill. I chew on my lower lip, careful not to move and she suddenly stands and faces in my direction.
“I feel you there, you know?” She says it like she’s tired and bored. “I know you’re there because every month I feel you in the pit of my stomach. You’re the only vampire that ever comes here anymore.”
I feel something knot up in the pit of –my- stomach and step out of the shadows. I search her face as she sees me for the first time and try to find something to say. She beats me to it, “How are you, Angel?”
“I’m fine. How are you?” I feel stupid exchanging such a formal greeting with her. I am so used to the passage of time that I think I convinced myself that I wasn’t really gone that long and it was only yesterday that I held her and she loved me. I guess the greeting isn’t odd to her because she shrugs and regards me like an old acquaintance, a person who you acknowledge only because they speak to you.
“I’m fine too.” There’s something else in her face, something that seems leery of me. “Are you here to tell me about some grave danger? Should I beware?”
I’m instantly slammed back to the Bronze, reliving the moment she had asked me that same thing. Back then, it was because the Master had killed her and she couldn’t deal with it. Now it’s because she can’t deal with me. “No. I just wanted to see you.”
“You get to see me but I can’t see you? I see you haven’t changed.” She pulls her lips back in the most pathetic excuse of a smile I have ever seen. “No, I guess that’s the one certainty in this world, you will never change.”
“Only physically. I have changed inside.” I want to tell her that I’m a better man and feel like I deserve her for the first time. I want to tell her that I’m sorry that I didn’t come back to her and most of all I want to tell her that I still love her just as much. I settle for saying, “Except that I still think of you every second.”
Her false smile fades and I swear I can hear her heart break. Her face contorts and she begins to sob and then she’s in my arms. I clutch her tightly against my chest, marveling at the fact that she still smells the same. “Shhh, Buffy, it’s okay.”
“Please, Angel. Hold me.” She cries and she feels so tiny in my arms, I do just that. I lift her, carry her to a picnic table and hold her in my lap, trying to soothe her with my voice.
Soon, she grows quiet and, save for a few hitches in her breathing, seems to be pulling herself together. I smooth her hair back and press my lips to her forehead. “I miss you.”
Buffy slides off my lap, suddenly distant, and sits across from me at the table. I turn to face her and lace my fingers together, resting them on the table. She picks at the wood for a second and then lifts her eyes to mine. “I missed you until I had him and then there you were. He’s the spitting image of you.”
I gasp and try to read her face better. “Y-you know?”
“How could I not know when he looks up at me with your eyes and smiles at me with your smile?”
“I think he has your smile.” I tell her, spiraling down into something that could be happiness but scares me too much to enjoy.
I see her eyes cloud again and fear the worst. She delivers it by asking the questions I have dreaded since I discovered the truth. “How could you stay away from him? How could you let him be without a father? You don’t have to love me anymore but he-“
“I have never stopped loving you.” I say quickly and lean forward, taking one of her small hands in mine. “Before I answer you, do you remember how it happened?"
“No. I just know it did and I view him as a little you. I guess I just figured that he was my reward and this was their way of letting me have you. If there is a God, he decided to take pity on me and give me a small piece of you and that’s just fine with me.”
“We made love.” I admit it in a low voice and when I feel her squeeze my hand, I quickly blurt out the story of what happened and how I had to give up our future.
I wait patiently while she digests all the information and finally says, “I guess that’s better than the Immaculate Conception I thought he was. At least I got him the old fashioned way.”
My eyes widen and I stare at her. That’s not how I expected her to react at all. I figured she would punch me and scream at me. She notices my hesitation to respond and asks, “What? Did you expect me to freak out? Angel, I’ve survived being a slayer, I have survived labor, his colic, his chicken pox, and his potty training. Nothing you say to me is going to surprise me.”
I smile when she does and then immediately feel guilty. “You asked me how come I stayed away and the answer is because you did survive all that. You didn’t seem to need me anymore and I couldn’t live with coming back into your life if you didn’t want me there.”
“Didn’t you ever find it odd that I took him out so often at night? Didn’t you wonder why he was always dressed in his best clothes when you saw him? I always knew you were there and I gave you every opportunity to come to us.” Her eyes leave mine and she brushes away a tear before she speaks again. “Didn’t you ever wonder why I was alone? I was waiting for you. We were both waiting for you.”
“If you knew, why didn’t you tell me?” I feel angry all of a sudden. Angry at how stubborn she was and how stubborn I was and most of all angry that my son spent his first five years without me.
“Honestly?” She asks and I nod. “I thought you must see us as a burden or you would have made the first move.”
“That could never be true.” I’m on my feet and moving around the table before I complete the sentence and she lets me pull her into my arms again. “I just felt so unworthy and kept waiting for some sort of sign that you would want me. I was such a fool, baby.”
She sits up and runs her hand down my face and I start to speak, but she silences me. “Would you like to meet your son?”
I can’t help it. I start to cry. It’s overwhelming to me and my hands start to tremble. The Oracles told me that someone had deemed me worthy of creating this life. I was a killer and still have a demon in me but I was deemed worthy somehow. What if my son doesn’t view me that way? I nod slowly and whisper, “I’m scared.”
“He already loves you, Angel. I tell him about you all the time.”
“I always have.”
“Does he know what I am?” I hear my voice cracking and part of me wonders if I’m dreaming.
“Not yet, but I will tell him one day.” She lowers her head and then looks back up at me. “Or maybe you can tell him one day.”
“I don’t deserve this, Buffy. You have already forgiven me for something that you should hate me for and I can’t let you do that.”
“And I can’t hate you, Angel. Even if you turned around and walked out of my life again, I couldn’t hate you. I couldn’t even lie to myself and say I did.” She gets to her feet and holds her hand out. I take it in mine and she squeezes it softly, before she adds, “If you want to leave, please do it now before he sees that you really do exist. I can handle the pain, I’m used to it, but I can’t let him get hurt.”
“I would never hurt him.” I reply. “I will never hurt you again either.”
She nods slowly, but I don’t think she believes me. Still holding my hand, she pulls me out of the park and we walk in silence back to Revello Drive. Despite the many years, it feels like I’ve stepped back to the time where she was a young girl who was desperately anticipating my good night kiss. I’m right back at the beginning of our relationship, unsure of what to say or what to do. I glance over at her and realize that she hasn’t changed one bit. Maybe her hair is a little lighter and she looks thinner, but she may as well still be a teenager since time hasn’t touched her.
We arrive at her mother’s house and I tense up when I see the light on in the living room. Buffy looks up at me and I can tell that she expects me to leave. I smile a little and hear her sigh. I don’t know if it would be a sigh of relief or a sigh of dread but it’s there, small and inaudible to a human ear. We step up on the porch together and she opens the door, stepping inside and pulling her coat off.
I follow and to my surprise, the invitation hasn’t been revoked. She indicates that she’ll take my coat and I slip it over my shoulders and hand it to her. I watch her hang it over a coat rack and then glance around the house. Nothing much has changed. I think the carpet is new and the paint job looks fresh but it’s still the same. The only big differences are the photos. The ones that used to be just Buffy have been replaced with photos of Buffy and our son.
It finally occurs to me that I don’t know his name. “What’s his name, Buffy?”
Then he’s there suddenly. I see a little brown eye peek around the corner and he reaches for Buffy. Her face lights up and she lifts him into her arms. “Sam, I’d like you to meet someone.”
His stout little legs are wrapped around her waist and he has his arms around her neck when he gazes up at me again. I don’t know what to say. I know there are a million and one things I should be saying but I can’t do anything except look at him. His hair is a rich brown with small waves through it and he’s dressed in Christmas pajamas with Santa Claus and reindeer on them. I start to speak and he glances at Buffy and whispers, “I knew he would come.”
Her forehead creases and she stares at him for a second. “Sam, this is-“
“My daddy.” He says with a small smile and then reaches his arms up toward me.
Instinctively, almost without thinking, I lift him and he locks his legs on me. His tiny little hands are on my shoulders and his eyes meet mine. Smiling, he says, “I asked the Santa at the mall to make you real.”
It feels like someone is washing away the stains on my soul when he wraps his arms around my neck and hugs me. I feel his fingers on the back of my hair and glance over his shoulder at Buffy. She’s crying, silently watching us, and with my other arm, I pull her against me. Sam feels her and wraps one of his arms around her as well.
We stand that way for a long time. Until Joyce glances out of the kitchen, gasps, and then disappears back behind the doorway.
Sam is the first one to speak and he asks me if I want to see the Christmas tree. I nod and notice how Buffy is keeping her face down and not letting him see her cry. She excuses herself and walks into the kitchen with her mother. I’m proud of her for thinking of Sam first. I can hear their hushed voices as I set him on his feet and he tugs me into the living room.
“I got to make a bunch of decorations at school.” He pulls an ornament off the tree and shows it to me. “It’s an angel, just like you, daddy.”
“It’s beautiful.” I tell him, taking the tissue angel from him and examining it closely. It really is beautiful and it’s obvious to me that Buffy wasn’t lying when she said that she had told him about me. I glance at the tree again and say, “Did you make that one with the hearts too?”
“Me and mommy did.” He stands on his toes to pull it down and hands me that one as well. “It’s two big hearts and one little heart. We made it for Valentime's day but I put it on the tree too.”
“I’m glad you did. It’s very nice.” I feel so torn. I’m torn between laughing and torn between crying and most of all, I’m torn with guilt. “I like your name, Sam.”
“You do?” He turns away from the tree and looks up at me again. I open my arms, eager to lift him and he lets me. Grnning, he says, “My mommy says that Samuel means that she asked God for me and he listened and David means beloved son and O’Malley is your name.”
I can feel my eyes widen and quickly sit on the sofa with him in my lap. “Your name is Samuel David O’Malley?”
“Yeah. But I like Sam, okay?”
“I like Sam too.” I tell him, and will myself not to cry again. Samuel David O’Malley.
He squirms a little and leans back against my arm, yawning. “If you want to tell me a story, you can. Mommy does it all the time, so you’re allowed.”
A few minutes later, when Buffy walks into the room carrying two mugs, he’s fast asleep. I have one of his hands in mine, staring at how perfect his fingers are. She sits down beside us and puts the cups on the table. I can see that her eyes are swollen and red and berate myself for causing her so much heart ache. “Buffy, are you sorry you did this?”
“No. I’m sorry I didn’t do it sooner.” She glances at my hand, the one still holding Sam’s hand and smiles. “I’ve never seen him just start talking to anyone before. He’s usually really shy and really standoffish. Xander says he acts just like Willow used to and he’s just as smart as she is.”
“He showed me the tree and his decorations. He can draw well.”
“Mom says that he’s got an artist’s eye. He’s really observant and sees things that I don’t notice. Y-you draw too, right?”
“Yeah, and my father was an artist too. Buffy, you named him O’Malley?”
She reaches for her cup and takes a quick sip before she nods. “I couldn’t very well name him Sam Summers because of the whole Summer of Sam thing. I like your last name.”
“Samuel David O’Malley was my father’s name, Buffy.”
“I know, Angel. Is that okay?”
“It’s wonderful.” I smile at her and glance at my sleeping son in my arms. “I loved my father very much and he always wanted a namesake.”
“You can take him to his room if you want.” She starts to stand but I put my arm out and stop her.
“No. I think I’ll just hang on to him.”
She sits back, uncertainty written all over her face and nods. “That’s fine too.”
I hold out my hand and she takes it. I pull her to my chest and lean my head against hers, never feeling as complete as I do at that moment. She puts her hand on mine and together, we hold Sam’s hand. I don’t know if she feels it, but it’s magical. I feel the warmth of both of them flood through me, I feel their forgiving hearts beat as one and I feel the past begin to wash away.
“Angel?” She whispers, rubbing her thumb on the back of my hand.
“Hmm?” I silently start to beg anyone who will listen that she won’t ask me to leave.
“What do you want?”
I’ve never been more convinced of what I want. I gaze down at my son and she sits up to look at me. Trembling, I say, “I want you to know how sorry I am and how much I love you both. I want a miracle that will let me stay.”
“I love you, Angel. I never stopped and that’s a miracle by itself.”
“I don’t know how we can do it, Buffy, but there has to be a way.”
“There has to be.” She echoes, staring down at our boy.
Sam stirs in my lap and I glance down to see him smiling. He gazes back and forth between us and then whispers, “There is a way, Mommy.”
“What?” She helps him sit up straight in my lap and takes his hands in hers.
He looks at me and says, “You have to forgive yourself and think you are worthy before you ever will be. Someone thought you were worthy but you have to think it too or you can’t stay.”
I feel myself grow dizzy as he repeats what the Oracles had said to me. Buffy watches me for several seconds and then says, “Sam, go see if Grandma will tuck you in.”
“Mommy, he has to have us both to make it happen! The golden people told me that he has to know that we love him enough or he can’t be strong. The golden people said that if we warm him enough he can stay.” Sam’s lips start to quiver and it feels like someone douses me with Holy Water when I catch one of his tears on my thumb.
“Golden people?” Buffy is apparently trying to figure out what he’s telling her. “Who are the golden people, Sam?”
“A man and a woman.” He replies, staring at me. “They know you, Daddy. They told me that they know you and that we can do … a miracle.”
I find my voice suddenly and look at Buffy. “The Oracles. It has to be.”
“Mommy, tell him that we want him to stay.” Sam says, his voice shrill and panicked.
Buffy looks at me and says, “You have to stay. I can’t do it alone anymore and he needs you. I need you, Angel. I love you so much that the thought of not having you here makes me want to give up.”
“I want you too, Daddy.” Sam pipes up and wraps his arm around me. I can feel his heart pounding against my chest and I clutch Buffy’s hand in mine.
“I can’t leave. I’ll never leave again.” I finally say and draw in a deep breath, breathing his scent, Buffy’s scent and most of all the power of their love. I feel worthy. I feel like I’ve been given a gift that makes me whole. For the first time that I can ever recall, I feel lucky and deserving of what I’ve been given. I don’t know how or why I was chosen but I was chosen and that’s enough for me.
Sam leans back and smiles at me and I kiss his forehead. I notice something. Sam’s no longer leaning against me and I can still feel the beating of his heart. I glance down and see the front of my shirt rise and fall with my own breathing. I move my hand to my chest and feel my heartbeat. It scares me and I whisper, “I-I’m alive.”
Buffy yells for her mother and Joyce appears. I hear Buffy telling her to get Sam tucked in bed and feel him give me a hug and a kiss. While he is hugging me, he whispers in my ear, “Daddy, redemption was always in you.”
I watch Joyce lead him away and then stand up. My hand finds its way back to my chest and I’m amazed to still feel the steady drumming beneath my skin. Buffy joins me in front of the fireplace and she lays her ear against the front of my shirt. It takes me a few seconds to realize that she is crying and I tilt her chin upward. “Shhh, it’s going to be okay now.”
“Angel, when I touched Sam earlier … I remembered it all. I remembered the happiness and the love we made and I remembered the clock ticking down the last few minutes of our life together.” Her voice grows quieter and she takes a deep breath. “I remembered your life.”
“We have a new life now.” I tell her, struggling to ease her pain. “If I could, Buffy, I would wave my hand and erase all the tears and all the hurt that we’ve caused one another.”
“No.” She shakes her head. “All the tears and all the hurt have led us here for a reason and that reason is Sam. I don’t know why we were blessed with him but we were and even though the road that brought us here wasn’t paved and was full of rocks … here we are. I don’t want to relive the past anymore, Angel. I just want to move toward the future.”
And the future has moved forward. We were married three months later. Giles walked her down the aisle to me and Sam stood beside me as my best man. Two years after that, we were blessed with another miracle that we named Isabel Rose, after my mother and Buffy’s grandmother. We watched our son graduate high school and move away to college and we watched Isabel do the same. We took long walks together in the sun and before long, I could see gray beginning to replace the blond in her hair.
We vacationed and I took her to Ireland. We walked along the hillside until we stumbled onto the graves of my family. I kneeled and cried, apologizing for what I had done and told her stories of my youth. We strolled through my old town and I pointed out the few places that still looked almost the same. I told her about my father’s determination to see me become something and let her know how proud I was that she started our son off so well. The year he graduated medical school, he gave us our first grandson, Rupert Giles O’Malley.
Her beauty never faded, the wrinkles never marred her spirit. When we suffered our first loss, the death of Giles to a heart attack, she stood strong and proud and spoke about her ‘father’. My love for her grew and grew and I never once questioned my decision to stay with her. We suffered more loss, one of Isabel’s girls drowned on Buffy’s birthday and Buffy refused to ever celebrate her birthday again and Xander died not long after that, his body ravaged with cancer.
Right up to the end, I loved her with my heart, my soul, my body and with no regrets. When Buffy drew her last breath, I was sitting beside her, stroking her hair and whispering that I loved her and always would. I didn’t once question the Powers That Be for stealing her from me. Instead, I thanked them for giving me seventy-four years beside her and for taking her before the Alzheimer’s Diseases crippled her mentally and she suffered.
I don’t know when my time will come. I know that I’ll be sad to go and leave Sam and Isabel and our eight grandchildren and twelve great grandchildren, but I am convinced that I’ll see her again when I do.
I loved her in my life and I let go of her far too many times but when I finally had her, she knew that she was my everything. I’m tired most of the time now. So, so tired and sometimes I forget who the man is that stares back at me in the mirror. He looks so haggard and worn. His face is deeply etched with wrinkles and what little hair he has left is solid white.
I’m over one hundred years old now and my life has taught me to be patient.
I’ll wait patiently until I see you again, my love.
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