Sometimes, it’s easy for Buffy to forget that Angel was not always the man now before her. When he’s lying beside her in bed, his rumbling snore echoing throughout their bedroom, or when he forgets to put the toilet seat down in the bathroom, or when he burps, an unapologetic “excuse me” tossed off after a high-five congratulations with their son, Angel’s past turns hazy, time softening the harsh reality. The blood-soaked decades as Angelus, the years after the return of his soul as he wandered alone and lost, his life in Sunnydale and Los Angeles . . . it all seems so unreal at times. When she looks at Angel she doesn’t she see their past. She doesn’t see the countless nights she cried herself to sleep after he left for Los Angeles, or the emotional rollercoaster that marked their early relationship. When Buffy looks at Angel now, she sees not the past but rather their future, and when he looks at her, his eyes brimming with the happiness and joy long denied him, she knows he is awed by their current life together.
It’s the simple, offhand comments that remind Buffy of just how far Angel has come, how far she has come. When their son comes home from his kindergarten class, his face alight with excitement, bursting to tell his mom and dad what he learned that day from Miss Emily, Angel’s past comes screaming back. As Angel’s expression grows more and more confused while Ryan chatters on about the rhyme his teacher taught the class that morning, it takes a moment for Buffy to realize that Angel has no earthly idea what Ryan is talking about. She giggles, the laughter tumbling across her lips as Angel struggles to follow their son’s ramblings about colors and the rainbow. She embraces the rush of gratitude that sweeps over her as she remembers what her life, and what Angel’s life, used to be. They’re happy now, happier than she ever dreamed, and while it’s easy for her to forget that for so long, this life was something neither she nor Angel thought was ever possible for them, she is thankful to have these little reminders of what life used to be.
“. . . And Dad, we call it Roy G. Biv! Because those are the colors of the rainbow! Get it, Dad?”
Angel shoots a befuddled glance Buffy’s way, the expression clear: Help me. She covers his hand, squeezing it for a moment, before focusing on Ryan.
“Hey Ry, why don’t you explain it one more time. I think I missed some, too. You call it Roy G what?”
Angel squeezes her hand in thanks, a small smile gracing his lips for only a moment.
Ryan sighs in the way only a five-year-old can, as if Buffy asked him to eat brussel sprouts and broccoli at dinner. “Mooooooom. Can’t you listen?”
Buffy grins at Ryan, and feels the familiar tug at her heart she experiences every time she looks at him.
“Sorry, must have taken off my listening cap earlier today.” She glances at her watch before leaning over to ruffle her son’s hair.
“Better yet, why don’t you wait until Jane gets here and then you can show her how much you’ve learned?”
Buffy and Angel recently decided to redecorate Ryan’s room—after his firm declaration that he was not a baby and didn’t need a baby’s room—and after meeting with several local designers, Buffy and Angel hired Jane Lockhart to design the new space. They met with Jane two previous times to fully explain what they wanted to accomplish with the room, and Ryan made sure to chime in with his own ideas. Of course, having a wall made entirely of candy wasn’t possible, but Jane promised to incorporate a few of Ryan’s wishes. Ryan, thrilled to finally have a “big boy” room, took an immediate shine to Jane and had been eagerly anticipating today’s presentation and final selection of colors.
“Yay, Jane is coming! I will have to show her my new ball. Can I show her my new ball, Dad? Do you think she will like it? I want to have red and blue and yellow in my room. Can I, Mom? Please? And baseball! I want baseball stuff in my room!” Ryan prattles on as he jumps off the couch and runs back to his room. Buffy and Angel grin at each other as his animated self-chatter drifts down the hall. Again Buffy feels that rushing warmth and she knows that there is nowhere else she’d rather be.
A few minutes later, Ryan is rushing back into the room, arms full of his favorite things. The baseball he and Angel caught at Ryan’s first major league game. The teddy bear Dawn brought to the hospital when Ryan was born. The wishing stone Willow surprised him with at his birthday party last year. The play tool belt Xander gave him because “someone in this family needs to know how to hammer a nail.” Swimming in the leather jacket Spike dropped by during one of his visits, Ryan glances at Buffy, his excitement evident in his toothy grin. “I couldn’t bring the book Grandpa Giles gave me. It’s too heavy. ‘Sides, it’s kinda bor-ing,” he singsongs.
Buffy rolls her eyes before sticking her tongue out at her son.
“What did I tell you about saying that? It was very nice of Grandpa Giles to send you that for Christmas.”
Secretly, she agrees with Ryan—what five-year-old needs a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary? Giles had told her, “I would hope that you would understand that it is never too early to start your child’s education,” as he cleaned his glasses—but her son doesn’t need the encouragement.
“He could have sent you something really boring, like socks or underwear.”
Ryan giggles, the familiar sound thrilling Buffy. This is everything she and Angel struggled for for so many years. This is why she fought and bled and died and--
The doorbell snaps Buffy back to the present, arresting any thoughts of the past, of what had once been. Her husband, her son, her friends, this is all that matters now.
“Jane! Jane is here!” Ryan jumps up and down, the items in his arms perilously close to falling. Seeing that he is letting everything drop, Buffy nods to Angel, who swoops Ryan into his arms, securing the wriggling boy as Buffy opens the door.
“Hi, Jane,” Angel greets her as she steps through the door, his son squirming to be let free. Buffy closes the heavy oak door and leans against it for a moment, marveling at the sight of her husband and son, happy, laughing, safe. It wasn’t so long that Buffy was alone in Rome, Dawn attending Oxford and sharing an apartment one of the newly found Slayers, Giles busy re-establishing the Watchers Council, and both Xander and Willow traveling around the world. She doesn’t allow herself to regret much in her life—perhaps the ill-fated affair with the Immortal upon her arrival in Rome, and definitely the baby bangs she wore during the fall of her senior year of high school—but she sometimes mourns lost opportunities with Angel. While he was fighting for his life in Los Angeles, while his family was dying, while he was losing Connor, she was busy flirting with the Immortal. Logically she knows that her life involved more than flirting, a lot more, and that the separate lives they lived during that time were necessary—something Angel has told her repeatedly—but at times like this, when she is so full of love for both Angel and her son, and life seems as perfect as it could ever be, she regrets that it could have started sooner.
The whisper brings her back to the present, and she looks up to see Angel smiling at her in the way that tells her he knows exactly what she has been thinking.
“Why don’t you join us in the living room? Jane has set up and Ryan. . . well, Ryan is about to bounce off the walls, he’s so excited.”
He stretches out his hand and Buffy accepts it gratefully. He leads her into the living room where Ryan, to no one’s surprise, is chattering a mile a minute to Jane. Buffy picks out “rock wall” and “soccer net” in the cacophony of her son’s jabbering and rolls her eyes. They are in for some serious negotiation with Ryan.
“Uh, Ry? Why don’t we let Jane show us what she has prepared and then we can discuss what you want, okay?”
Ryan eagerly nods his head, his shaggy brown hair falling into his eyes. Angel wants to trim it; Buffy doesn’t. Angel says it reminds him of Xander’s hair in high school and the slight annoyance in his voice when he says this reminds Buffy that for however much Angel has changed, his tension with Xander hasn’t. It is something they have discussed and fought over, and Angel has grudgingly begun to put aside the differences from years ago.
As Jane begins her presentation—already Buffy can tell it’s the perfect design for her son’s bedroom, even without a rock wall—said wannabe-rock climber curls into Buffy’s side. “Hey Mom,” he whispers, his voice loud enough to attract Angel’s attention. “Can I have a trampoline in my room?”
Buffy smiles, her heart filled to bursting, and meets Angel’s eyes over their son’s head.
“No, Ry, we can’t put a trampoline in your room, but maybe we can talk Dad into having one in the backyard?”
She never thought they would have this life, that they could be this happy and in love, and she has never been more grateful to be so wrong.
Feed Lee Visit Lee
Summary: It’s amazing to Buffy how such a simple children’s rhyme reminds her of how far they’ve come.