Scenes From a Life Not Lived: The Gift
Gentle fingers brushed his shoulders, and when he looked up, he found himself looking into solemn brown eyes.
Jenny... I... I thought we agreed youd go?
She ducked her head, turned and lowered herself into the plastic chair beside his own.
I-- You needed me. I just... I just knew you needed me.
The battered old clock across the hall told him it was noon, and he realized hed been awake for... Good lord, at least forty-eight hours. His chest was aching like someone had replaced his left lung with slow-burning charcoal. Hed been dealing with the hospital staff and the police since somewhere around six a.m....
And Buffys body was wrapped in a blanket on his couch back at home.
Suddenly, even the light weight of Jennys arm around his shoulder felt like an anvil, and he turned towards her, his knee bumped hers, and he buried his face against her neck.
God. Jenny. Shes... Buffys...
I know. Shh. I know. I saw Xander.
It was an awkward position, turned towards each other in unyielding hospital chairs, his larger frame trying to curl up inside her smaller one, and the swell of her stomach between them just making them that much less able to properly intertwine, and yet, even having her there, feeling the warmth of her arm around her back and her other hand stroking his hair...
He gasped a wet and broken sob against her shoulder, and she just held him tighter, silently. He guessed she knew as well as he did that words... that there were no words. Nothing that could--
Then she tensed, and gasped, and he pulled back in concern, trying to see her through the blur of tears.
Oh God... Oh, god, I think that was a contraction.
He could only stare.
Theyd said it was all right, nothing to be ashamed of. Lots of men couldnt bear to see the woman they loved in so much pain.
But not him. He was supposed to be strong. He fought demons. He... he.. trained Slayers.
But he couldnt hack it. The first time shed squeezed his hand and gasped that it *hurt, hurt so bad*, hed bolted, like a scared deer, straight to the nearest restroom where hed dry-heaved into the toilet, because, god knew, it wasnt like hed had time to *eat* anything at any point in the near past.
Hed taken a deep breath, walked back to the delivery room, even had his hand on the door handle... but then hed heard her groan, and hed simply walked away. All the way down the hall to the small waiting room there where all the mobile members of the shell-shocked Scooby Gang, right now Willow, Tara, and Xander, had gathered.
Hey, Giles. Whats the news? Xander had said, tossing aside a magazine and looking up expectantly.
Hed snatched off his glasses, cleaned them automatically, sat down, didnt meet anyones eyes.
And it was only the rising note of panic in Willows voice that forced the words from him: I-I-I... I cant.
Cant? They wont let you in? Youre... youre her husband... its even legit and all, Xander protested.
I cant... watch her suffer. I... She...
He was back on his feet, pacing the small room.
Damn. She needs me, and Im such a coward I cant even--
Then another small hand was touching his arm, and he found Willow there, looking up at him with soft concern.
Hey. Dont. Weve all been hurt enough tonight, I think. We really dont need to be adding self-inflicted badness, ok? Stay here. Ill go. She wont be alone.
Hed returned to his chair after she left, but he could feel Xanders eyes weighing heavily on him.
He decided not to deal with it.
He just leaned back, shut his eyes, and the next thing he knew, someone was gently shaking him. He sat up, blinked the sleep away, and Willow smiled down at him, and said, Come with me, and then took his hand like he was a child, and led him down the hall and back into the room hed fled.
Jenny looked anything but condemning as he came to stand next to the bed.
Look, she whispered, and shifted the small bundle in her arms.
For the second time in twenty-four hours, his world stopped, as he caught his first glimpse of pink skin peeking out of the blankets.
Oh, he said, barely above a whisper, Can... can I...?
Jenny smiled a tired, but still characteristically wry, smile.
Shes yours, too, Ru... youre gonna have to hold her at some point, cause I am *not* gonna be doing all the 2 a.m. feedings on my own.
But he was too amazed to reply or even react, because now the tiny thing was in his hands, and, oh, it was warm, and it moved, and it was a real, solid weight in his arms... and, there, in all those blankets, was a little, tiny person. A scrunched-up red face, squinty eyes, one tiny pink hand with tiny pink fingers peeking out and clenching and opening.
She? he said, softly, looking down in wonder at this perfect little being that they had somehow been deemed worthy to have.
She, Jenny confirmed, as he reached to touch the little hand with his own finger, which looked so huge and unwieldy now, against the tininess...
And when his fingertip touched her palm, her fingers closed around it, light as butterfly wings. Daughter. His daughter.
Hello, there, he said, and she peered up at him, her brows drawn together as if perplexed. He smiled, so soon after hed been sure hed never smile again.
Welcome to the world... Annie.