I don't mean to get anyone's hopes up that this is a new fic, but it recently came to my attention that the only place this got posted was on one of the Buffy/Riley lists. In order to make up for that, I thought I'd go ahead and post it here as well. Note: this was written in July '06. If you haven't already seen it, I hope you enjoy. (And if you have, I hope you enjoy it again. :) )
Title: Michaela Rose
Author: Alexandra Huxley
Spoilers: Vague spoilers through season 5; in my head
it takes place at least several years after Season 6.
Disclaimer: Story and original characters are mine,
everything else belongs to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy,
and a lot of other people who aren't me.
Distribution: If you'd like to post it or post a link
to my site, please ask.
Author's Note: This ficlet popped into my head
as DH and I were driving down a NJ highway. I
tried to let it go, but it kept demanding my attention
and kept intruding in the scene I am writing for MIUG.
It has nothing to do with MIUG and, in fact, takes
place in another time entirely, although I'm not
really sure when. So, rather than try to fit it
somewhere it absolutely doesn't belong, I figured I'd
just get it down on paper and share it here.
Feedback: Appreciated, as always. Send to
It felt like they'd been driving for days. Iowa was like that.
Riley usually liked it. In fact, he'd picked the motel because of the forty-five minute drive from the homestead. That plus the fact that they were driving a thirty-year- old pick-up with a radio that hadn't worked since the day Grandpa drove it off the used car lot, and, well, Riley had figured it would prompt Buffy to talk. Instead, it was just another void that she didn't seem to want to fill.
No -- take that back. 'Want' was too strong a word. It was more that she didn't care to. Didn't care to do much of anything lately.
He stole a sideways glance. Riley sometimes wished that she weren't quite so beautiful. Every time he worked the nerve up to say something, he found that she just took his breath away, blinding him with her shining hair and gleaming eyes no matter how dark the night. It used to be that she'd catch him looking and not let him go. Now she just-
He snapped his head back when his eyes unexpectedly met hers. "Sorry. I didn't mean to, uh..." Completely frozen in place, his attempt at conversation fizzled.
God, Riley, you're pathetic. The first time she'd shown any life since before it happened and you blow it. What an idiot. What a fucking-
"You can talk to me, you know," she said, twisting her body so that she was facing him. "I'm still Buffy inside; it's just the baby that's gone." Her hands went to her stomach -- she still did that occasionally -- and the veil came over her eyes again. She turned her back to him and looked out the window; her forehead touched the glass. "It's just the baby that's gone," she repeated quietly.
Instinctively, he reached his hand toward her and then immediately pulled it back. She'd let him touch her once in the two months since that night and then spent hours crying afterward. The crying he could take; the flinching when he tried to comfort her, however...
He looked up in time to slam on the brakes and avoid hitting the dog that had darted out into the middle of the road. This time when his hand went to Buffy it stayed there -- or, at least, it did until the truck had shuddered to a stop and he realized where it was resting: right on top of Buffy's hands, which were, in turn, clutching even more tightly now at where the baby had been.
The flinch he'd become used to had been replaced by a jolt of lightning strong enough to fuse their hands together. Stronger, almost, than the one he'd felt the first time they'd kissed. And that was pretty strong. "Buffy..." he said at the same moment she leaned forward and whispered his name.
The moment was interrupted by a strident horn that turned out to be attached to a 16-wheeler -- one suddenly taking up a whole lot of the rearview mirror. There wasn't even time to swear. With a yank of the wheel, Riley got them off the road. Another split second or two and the semi would have clipped them. Well, fuck. That had been close. Really, really close. Kind of ironic in a way -- Buffy had spent a lifetime at death's door and what was it that had almost gotten her killed? An idiotic boyfriend so afraid of being reamed up the ass that he was too stupid to look over his shoulder once in awhile.
After the dust cloud had settled and he'd mostly stopped shaking, Riley muttered, "There you go. Shows exactly how much I'd suck at being a father anyway."
Buffy didn't seem to see it that way. Her head went back to the window and she dully stared outside. "Well, hey," she mumbled. "At least you didn't actually kill us. For that you'd have to count on me."
It was another one of those moments where he had absolutely no clue as to what he was supposed to do or say. He certainly wasn't about to agree with her, but as he'd learned pretty early on, reassuring words weren't welcome either. If the flinches weren't enough to make that clear, there were the late night trips to the bathroom. The ones where she waited until she thought he was asleep to leave their bed and then wept for hours behind the locked door.
Feeling inadequate as usual, he looked at his hands, now squarely set on the steering wheel. This trip had been a mistake. If it hadn't been planned way back before Christmas, he wouldn't even have thought twice about bailing. Buffy had said she wanted to go, though -- "It's supposed to be like Heaven, right? I mean, 4th of July in Huxley, USA. What could be better than that?" -- so he had booked the tickets and reserved a whole week at the motel. The only saving grace he could see was that he hadn't told anyone about the baby. Then again, that sucked too, since he'd spent the entire afternoon watching his nieces and nephews play at the picnic, all the while thinking how he'd expected to be making an announcement today. Not the one his mom wanted, but close enough. She'd made it highly clear how much she wanted more grandkids; he figured she'd have been able to live with the unplanned, out-of-wedlock thing once she got over the shock. Might have to miss a few Jaycees meetings, though.
"Who's Michaela Rose?" Buffy asked.
Startled, Riley turned to her. It was the first time she'd initiated a conversation in weeks, maybe months. "What?"
"Michaela Rose. You say her name at night," Buffy answered, looking down at her hands. They'd moved from stomach to lap. Someone who didn't know her would say she sounded meek; Riley knew better. There was steel was in her voice. It came out a little clearer when she coldly added, "What does she do to make you cry?"
Riley stared at her. She thought he was cheating on her -- either for sex or for blood, didn't matter which. She was so off-base that he actually laughed.
Big mistake, of course. She glared at him and then turned around, pushing the door open with enough force that she may have broken it. She was out of the truck before he could call her name; out of the truck and swiftly walking away.
Shit. "Buffy!" He jumped out of the truck and ran after her. Reaching her, he grabbed her arm. "It isn't like that."
Yanking her arm away, Buffy just kept walking. "That's what you said the last time."
Right. Nice to have the benefit of the doubt after all this time. Fine. She wanted an explanation? "She had blonde hair, just like you."
Buffy's wrapped her arms around her body, sniffling loudly as she kept up her pace.
"Wore it in long braids, though, with purple ribbons."
That made Buffy slow down a little, although she didn't quite stop.
"Would have kicked every boy's ass from L.A. to Iowa, whether she got her mom's superpowers or not."
When Buffy turned around, she was still holding herself tightly and her head was ducked down. She also, however, had the first genuine smile on her face that Riley had seen in months. Though it was tinged with sadness, he found it radiant enough that speaking would be an issue if he had to do it anytime soon. And the laugh in her voice, well, it hit him hard, spreading warmth throughout his whole being. He was grateful for the feeling; enough so that he almost missed what it was she was actually saying: "You can't name a baby Mickey Finn. That would be a horrible thing to do."
Still basking, it took him a second or two to refocus. "Um..." Mickey Finn. Horrible thing. Oh, right. Not that he disagreed, but, to be honest, he hadn't thought it would be a problem. Truth was, "I figured you didn't really want to marry me. So, you know..." He shrugged. "Mickey Summers isn't really that bad."
Her face turned sad again, although this time the bitterness that seemed to have taken up permanent residence was gone. In its place was anger -- red, hot, and searing as she caustically said, "That's the kind of decision you don't get to make alone." She started advancing toward him and, like any man who knew what was good for him, he started retreating. He stopped only when his back hit the truck, leaving his chest wide open to the somewhat painful jab from her finger as she snapped, "We're supposed to talk about it. I'm supposed to get to answer."
No. No way. She didn't get to be mad at him. Not about this. He grabbed her wrist. "I wanted to. I asked you not to go out patrolling that night." He heard himself yelling -- heard the frustration and hurt and devastation from the last two months come out in his words no matter how much he tried to contain it. He was even holding her so tightly that there was a red mark on her skin. Letting go, he looked down at the ground. "You said no. You didn't even want to discuss it."
Rather than try to defend herself, her hands fell to her sides. "That's why you wanted me to stay home? It wasn't because...?" Her arms went back around herself and she starting trembling -- no, shaking. "I thought..." She emitted a sound that started out as a sob but ended as a laugh.
Great. Another reaction he had no idea what to do with. He may have -- reluctantly -- accepted she didn't want his comfort, but he sure as hell wasn't quite ready to join in on the laughter. Not until she'd at least given him a sense of what was so funny. "Maybe you want to let me in on the joke?"
"No," she answered, although it was so quiet it seemed to be mostly directed inward. "I really don't."
Seriously? Folding his arms across his chest, Riley set his gaze over her shoulder. Some town -- too nearby to be Huxley, wrong direction for it to be Ames -- had its fireworks display going, lighting up the sky. "I'll tell you what. You take all the time you need. I'll be in the truck if you decide you want company." He knew it wasn't the most mature of things to do, but honestly, spending two months as the strong, solid, I'll-be-there-when-you-need-me presence hadn't exactly been an overwhelming success either.
He was being a complete and utter jackass; this was clear even to him by the time he was halfway to the cab. By that point he had kind of committed though, and it felt even worse to turn around and go back. He did manage not to slam the door at least. Leaning his head back against the window, he took a deep breath.
It was my baby too.
He knew how juvenile, even petulant, that sounded and yet he couldn't deny it was a pretty dominant train of thought of late.
Knowing this had probably been his only chance certainly didn't do anything to help. If it hadn't been for the complete failure of their birth control, Buffy wouldn't have gotten pregnant in the first place. Despite her obvious sorrow -- or maybe because of it -- he wasn't sure she'd ever want to try again. And no matter how doomed this relationship was and continued to be, he couldn't see himself ever moving beyond it. Every time he tried, he found himself wandering back. He figured this was what his life was meant to be; hoped that when she finally ended it once and for all, he'd somehow manage to find his way. Having something to live for -- a little girl or boy to brighten up the day, well...
It was my baby too.
Riley reached into the glove compartment. The good thing about borrowing Grandpa's truck was there was always a bottle of J.D. stashed within reach. Opening the passenger door just as he was straightening up, Buffy caught him in the act. She didn't seem to notice what he was doing, however; instead she picked up the conversation right where it had been left off, saying, "I thought you didn't want me to go out that night because you were afraid I'd hurt the baby. And then..." She looked away as her eyes filled up with tears again. "I thought you thought it was my fault. I figured you spent the last two months hating me as much as I hated myself."
Oh. Well that did put a different light on things; he could kind of see where the laughter had come from. He felt a bit of hysteria coming on himself; relief didn't even begin to describe it. For the first time in months he tentatively reached out his hand thinking she might actually take it. "You thought wrong."
Flashing a smile that seemed without any shadow at all, she said, "Yeah. Seems like." She reached over and laced her fingers through his, staring down as though she'd never seen a pair of hands entwined in such a way. When she looked up, though, it was with perfect clarity. "Here's a hint, though: there were some things you thought wrong about too."
He looked at her; the only thought he remembered saying much about was the one revolving around her not wanting to marry him. And if he was wrong about that, then it meant...
Letting go of him, she said, "Next time you ask me to stay home, I will." She climbed up into the truck and settled into the seat. Holding her hand out -- for the bottle this time -- she added, "At least there are some good things about not being pregnant anymore."
He gave her the J.D. and watched as she took a swig. She winced as she swallowed and coughed a bit, but she took a second swig and then, after a minute, a third. "It doesn't get any better, does it?"
Taking the bottle back, Riley wasn't sure if she was talking about the whiskey or, well, everything else. "I don't know." Deciding on the latter, he said, "I guess that's up to us." He took a swig of his own and closed his eyes as the bitter liquid burned its way down his throat.
There was a crackling above as the sky in front of them lit up. A yellow rocket exploded into a thousand specks of red, white, and blue. All of a sudden, Buffy's hand closed over Riley's, causing his heart to skip a beat as the next round of crackling lit him up on the inside. Her fingers laced through his around the bottle, she lifted it above their heads. Voice breaking, she said, "To Michaela Rose."
She moved across the seat and was hovering over him, her hair backlit by the fireworks in the sky. With his free hand he took her by the waist, pulling her to him. Her kiss was sent from heaven; a thousand fireworks set off in his head. He could taste the hint of whiskey and the salt of her tears. Looking into her eyes, he saw not just the future as it would have been, but the future as it was yet to be. And, yeah, it made him cry, too. "To Michaela Rose."