Chapter One: Glass
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hatter M, and Anita Blake belong to their respective creators, Joss Whedon, Frank Beddor/Liz Cavalier/Ben Templesmith, and Laurell Hamilton.
Chapter One: Glass
“I left my number next to the phone,” said Xander, “and on the refrigerator. And the nightstand. There's also a cell phone in the hamper—for an emergency, in case everything else gets stolen or slimed. If you need anything
“Guys,” said Buffy.
“I'll be back by eleven,” Willow was saying. “I'll bring food, so you don't have to cook anything! Just relax! Don't even answer the phone! I'll call to make sure you don't.”
“Guys,” said Buffy.
“—like you get a craving, you need a shoulder rub, or maybe just someone to come over while you're taking a bath—”
“And I did laundry,” added Willow, “so don't worry about that or the detergent, I'll bring more—” “Guys!”
They ground to a stop, mouths still open. Buffy smiled tiredly.
“Don't worry,” she said. “I'll be fine. You go do your things. I'm probably just going to sleep.”
Willow rushed to hug her, and then Xander took them both in his arms. For a second, neither could speak, choked with their feelings, and Buffy patted them both on arm and back, trying to exude comfort.
“We love you, Buffy,” said Willow when they'd pulled back. She looked close to tears. “Don't lift anything heavy, we'll do it for you when we get back.”
“Yeah,” said Xander, “if there's a book or a donut that needs moving, we're your lifters and movers! Anything bigger than a breadbox, Faith will be here tonight.”
Buffy practically pushed them out the door. When it was closed behind them, she turned to find Giles standing there, watching quietly.
“You, too,” Buffy told him. “I swear, it's like Slayer Central again, I can't go the bathroom
Giles's arms were wiry, strong, and warm. Buffy pressed her face into his shirtfront and tried not to cry.
“I am extremely proud of you,” he said quietly.
He left. The door closing behind him seemed like an echo. Everything was quiet.
The apartment was finally, finally empty. Buffy didn't have the energy to think about doing anything but going to sleep. There wasn't a bone in her body that didn't ache, and all she wanted to do was lie down.
The bed was soft, familiar, and felt almost as good as a hug. Willow had obviously changed out the sheets that morning, and everything smelled pleasantly of fabric softener. Buffy arranged herself carefully around the bundle sleeping in the middle, smiling as she touched feathery curls with her fingertips.
“We're home,” she whispered. A small hand was wrapping sleepy fingers around her thumb. “Let's take a nap, OK?”
It felt so good
to stretch out and relax—and in a place that didn't
smell like disinfectant and doctors. Buffy dozed off almost immediately, floating somewhere between sleep and a half-awake awareness of the head and body resting against her breast and stomach, the tiny hand that was growing heavy and slow against her arm. She'd never been so tired before in her life.
Thoughts like stray butterflies wove through her mind. Dawn would be getting out of class in a few minutes, but it would take her at least an hour to fight through traffic. She hoped Willow brought pizza. Faith was probably griping somewhere at high altitude, Robin rolling his eyes where he sat next to her. If she was lucky, Andrew had been left behind to keep an eye on the other Slayers.
Soft, shallow breaths lulled her to sleep.
The dream was a strange one. She was in her bed, asleep, like she actually was, and by the window she could see it was late afternoon, like it actually was. The mirror on the wall was a burnished rectangle of reflected light.
Buffy was sleeping. She was watching herself sleep, but she was also asleep. Her eyes were closed; they were open. She tried to move and only managed a lazy sweep of her arm, stretching over the sheets to curl up around the warmth at her side.
The mirror was as bright as a small sun. The cool glow was growing brighter and brighter, throwing the room into brilliant whiteness or black shade.
Distantly, somewhere far away, she felt panic tightening around her heart. Shock made her dizzy, made her want to throw up. But that was for someone who was awake, and she wasn't, she was lying there, breathing deeply, her eyes gently closed against the light that touched her face, dreaming of herself dreaming. No,
she wanted to say, but she was still asleep. No, don't.
The Hat came first, like it always did, like it had before, then the head of dark hair, and then the face, sharp-edged and hard as granite, the eyes like knives.
He wore his blue coat, like he always had, and his boots made no noise against the carpet. He stepped out of the mirror like other people stepped into rooms, and his eyes never went anywhere, fixed on her from the moment she could see them. Wake up,
she told herself, watching him come, watching him walk over to stand beside the bed, almost touching her, looking down at her and the meaning of her life lying in her arms. Wake up, wake up, wake up.
There was no expression on his face. He could as well have been a wall, faceless, except that was when something changed about his eyes, his lips, something about the tension of his body, and then he was looking down at her in a completely different way, softly, like the blunter edge of a one-sided knife.
Slowly, excruciatingly, he reached out and, with one gloved hand, laid his fingers against her son's cheek.
Buffy opened her eyes.
The room was empty and quiet. She sat up slowly, carefully, looking first for her son. He lay sleeping on his stomach, eyes peacefully closed, and she felt some of the fear ease from her heart.
A dream, she thought, that was all, a dream. Her eyes went to the mirror still hanging on the wall, now nothing more or less than a mirror, and fury filled her body. She swung her legs over the edge of the bed, stood up, intent on getting it out of her room and maybe even shattering it, and stopped.
The carpet was deep and squashy, lush carpeting that Willow had had cleaned the day before. A dark gray color, like stone, still she could see every stark line in the shapes of large boots, lines that were pressed into the matting.
Footprints, leading from the mirror to the bed.
A trace, the smell of water and glass and sharpened edges, a man's smell, lingering in the air.
Buffy turned quickly, put a hand out to reassure herself of the baby again, and her heart nearly stopped.
On the third finger of her left hand, glimmering dully in the sunlight shining through the blinds, was a golden ring.
Buffy had to bite down the scream that swelled in her throat, a scream that was both rage and despair. She took the ring between her index finger and thumb and pulled—and gasped with pain as she nearly wrenched the finger off of her hand.
“I hate you,” she hissed, gritting her teeth as she tried again. “I hate you, I hate you
How dare he come back. How dare he come back now, after everything, after she had finally put herself back together.
The ring wouldn't come off. Now thinking she was going to cry, Buffy took her son in her arms, barely noticing when he half-woke and made a disgruntled noise, and held him close to her chest, putting her cheek to his head.
When she looked up, Edward was there.
He was leaning against the door frame, arms folded. He wore slacks and a shirt, only one gun that she could see, which was unusually thoughtful of him. He was staring at her out of dead blue eyes, nothing in his face.
“I'm sorry I'm late,” he said, his voice like his face.
“No, you're not,” said Buffy.
He came, looking at her all the while, and sat on the bed next to her, touching the tips of his fingers to her face. She was paralyzed with dread that he might have seen the prints in the carpet, despite how faint they were, how imperceptible to anything but a Slayer.
Then he leaned down and looked her son in the eyes.
“Hello, Rupert,” he said softly.
Rupert stared back, apparently fascinated. The sight made Buffy almost close her eyes with relief.
Edward was sitting up, looking at her. “I'm sorry I wasn't there when you got out of the hospital.”
This time he meant was he said; Buffy could hear it. “I know,” she whispered.
They sat for a while, and then, without sounding like anything at all, Edward asked, “New ring?”
Buffy clenched her jaw. “Yes.”
She could feel him looking at her without looking at her, but he didn't say anything else about it.
“Edward,” she said.
He turned his face to her.
Buffy knew he cared about her, probably more than he thought he did. Buffy knew he would kill for her, even though she wouldn't kill for him. But Edward killed for a lot of people, for a lot of reasons. There were no certainties with Edward, not even for her, except for one, single thing.
He loved her.
She knew he loved her. It was why he always came back. It was why he stayed.
“Do you remember,” she asked him, “what you talked to me about last week?”
His eyes sharpened.
“I think,” she said slowly, the ring glittering coldly on her finger, “I think, yes.”
He touched her arm.
“We should find a place,” she said. “Someplace close to a good school. Um, can it not
be close to either Cleveland or St. Louis?”
He kissed her. Edward,
she thought. Edward.
Rupert wriggled between them, reaching up to their faces.
The Slayer loved Edward. She loved his instinct, his skill, his emptiness. She loved the way he lived in both worlds, both human and other, the way he knew what her life was like, understood it, and survived it. She loved that, of anyone she had ever known, he was most capable of being there for her without needing to protect her.
Buffy loved Edward. She loved the way they fit together, like the broken pieces of the same mirror, how she grounded him and made him human, and how he showed her that not everyone couldn't handle her life.
He had given up killing humans for her. I'll forget him for you, Edward,
she said to him, his hand in her hair and his mouth on hers. He didn't stay. You did.
Too late, too late. He was too late. She had Edward, now, and so, she was beginning to think, could Rupert.
Edward pulled back but lingered, his lips against hers, their breaths mingling. Rupert made a frustrated noise. “Your sister is going to be furious.”
Dawn didn't like Edward. Neither did Willow, Xander, or Giles. Faith had yet to meet him.
“They'll live,” she said.
Buffy hoped that was true. If they could just see how happy he made her, how safe...
Edward leaned back, was looking at Rupert again. He smiled just the littlest bit to see the dirty look Rupert seemed to be giving him. “Have you decided on the name yet?”
“Oh,” said Buffy. “Yeah.”
She picked Rupert up, still feeling that tingle of disbelief at the weight of him in her arms, at the impossibility made possible of her having a son.
He didn't cry or fuss or whine. He only looked at her, his dark eyes already somehow intrinsically different from anyone else's.
“Rupert,” she said. “Rupert—” a glimmer of light, a flashing blade, a mirror “—Madigan.”
Anyone else would have raised an eyebrow. Edward only looked at her in a certain way. “Madigan?”
“Madigan,” said Buffy.
The ring bit into her flesh, a promise that burned like magic.