It was a little over a half hour later when Dr. Stevens slipped back into the exam room he’d left Buffy waiting in; the combination Friendly Village Doctor/Geriatric Ken doll expression plastered over his face having intensified triple-fold in the mere thirty minutes he’d been gone, if that were even possible. Obviously that meant he had news for her: “Big” news. The kind of news that’s best to break with a smile, lest the receiver bolt before you can actually get to the bad part.
Buffy wished he’d spare her and get on with it. Aside from the fact that she hated hospitals—and yes, she did count low-grade military infirmaries as hospitals—she already knew what he was going to tell her before his plastic mouth could even form the words.
“Well now, Ms. Summers,” he began in what was probably supposed to be a grandfatherly voice as he plopped down onto a rolling stool and slid over to where she sat upright on the exam table. “The results of your blood work have just come back, and it looks as though congratulations are in order!”
He shot her another plastic grin as he held out a sleeve of papers bound by a small paperclip. Undeterred when Buffy didn’t take them from him, he continued.
“According to our results, you’re about twelve weeks along.”
Buffy blew out a long breath of air through her nose and let her eyes drift shut. She’d been bracing herself for the moment of impact ever since Professor Walsh had requested she undergo a routine physical by the Initiative’s medical staff before being officially approved to join Riley’s squadron. And yet, hearing the truth from someone other than the pee stick she’d bought from the drugstore last month has sucked the air right out of her lungs.
“Sounds about right,” she said faintly.
Dr. Stevens’ face tried to turn sympathetic. “You don’t sound very surprised.”
Buffy shrugged, too antsy with the need to end this conversation and get the hell out of this room to humor him even a little bit. “Have you already told Professor Walsh and Ri—I mean, Agent Finn.”
Dr. Stevens gave what Buffy was sure was an unintentionally condescending smile.
“Doctor-patient confidentiality exists even within the military, Ms. Summers,” he said, setting an uncomfortable hand on her shoulder. Buffy shook him off, but allowed herself to unclench at the spot of good news.
“But I must advise you to be careful,” the doctor went on. “You’re about to enter your second trimester, and while that lessens the risk of miscarriage, even a girl in your uncanny physical shape is bound to experience sluggishness and increased fatigue as your pregnancy advances. Given the risks of the work the Initiative is involved in, it may be in your best interest to speak to the Director about tabling your plans to join Agent Finn’s team until after you give birth.”
He means well, Buffy reminded herself as she forcibly swallowed her scoff. Dr. Stevens had no way of knowing that even if she wanted to spend the next six months on bedrest, that’d be impossible. There was no rest for the weary Slayer. Even if she was denied the chance to fight alongside Riley and his commandos, a sabbatical was nowhere in the realm of being in the cards for her, forthcoming fifty pound weight gain or no.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” she said genially as she hopped down off the table. “So…we’re good here, then? I’ll speak to Professor Walsh and you’ll keep mum about…well, you know, the whole Mum thing?”
She settled a hand over her stomach, doing her best not to think about how try as she might—and that wasn’t very hard, admittedly—the words “pregnant” and “baby” haven’t been able to make it off her tongue since she found out about her condition.
“Sure. But just one question, Ms. Summers,” Dr. Stevens said, setting another hand on her shoulder and body blocking her lest she shrug him off again. “And I don’t mean to pry, but, well, we’re sort of a big ‘ole family here down at HQ, real protective of one another, you know? So forgive me for asking, but, does um, Agent Finn know about the baby?”
Buffy started. “Riley? No! No, Ril—Agent Finn doesn’t know. And it, um, I-we haven’t...”
She swallowed and looked away from the doctor’s prying eyes. “I haven’t told him,” she murmured. “And he doesn’t need to know because this isn’t his child. He and I haven’t exactly been...in that way.”
“Ah!” Dr. Stevens’ eyes widened in exaggerated surprise. He dragged a skittish hand through coiffed salt and pepper hair, his face reddening. “Oh, I see. Well, then, uh—Does-does the father know? And does he know about your…nighttime activities?”
Buffy looked down, hoping Dr. Stevens couldn’t see the blush burning its way across her own cheeks.
There was the rub. If only there was a father to tell, it would make this thing about two percent less mortifying. At least she could tell people then. At least then she would probably be able to say the words, “I’m having a baby” without having to follow them up with “…I think.”
I think it’s a baby.
It feels like a baby.
I’m not hearing thoughts or growing horns or spewing green puke, so it’s probably just a regular old human baby…
More than likely…
A regular old human baby that just…showed up one day. Just showed up and decided I looked like I’d make a good Mommy…
But then again, if there actually was anything wiggy inside her, the Initiative probably would have found it when they were doing her blood work; and if they had, they’d be hauling her off to Room 101 (or wherever it is they take the demons they capture) to do a monster-ectemy. She’s still standing here, right? So it must be okay. The baby must be okay.
Buffy started again. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “I was just…thinking…”
“About the baby’s father?”
“No,” Buffy said flatly, hoping the doctor would take the cue to let the subject drop.
“You never answered my question,” Dr. Stevens said firmly, plasticky smile finally starting to melt away from his face to reveal a more stern expression.
Sheesh, who did Norman Rockwell think he was, about to go all 7 th Heaven on her?
“Look, I appreciate the advice and the whole agreeing to play secret-keeper thing,” Buffy said letting just enough edge in her voice for him to get the point. “But this really isn’t any of your business. I think I should be going, if there’s nothing else.”
Dr. Stevens bowed his head respectfully. “Of course, Ms. Summers.” He side stepped her to pick up the papers he’d tried to give her earlier from off the stool and handed them to her again.
“I wrote you a ‘script for some prenatal vitamins, you should be able to pick them up from your regular pharmacy this evening.”
She took them from him with a quiet “thank you,” as he led them both over to the door. Dr. Stevens gave her another uncomfortable pat on the shoulder before turning the knob and letting her out into the hallway.
“You remember your way out, right?”
“Yep, I’m good,” Buffy said, a little too perkily at the prospect of finally getting out of hospital-jail
“Alrighty then,” Dr. Stevens smiled warily. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Summers. Good luck with everything.”
“Thanks!” Buffy called over her shoulder as she began her fast walk down the not-at-all-creepy cement corridor leading out of the infirmary.
Well, that wasn’t all bad, nosy doctor notwithstanding.
She’d been afraid—so afraid when Professor Walsh had insisted she submit to a routine checkup prior to becoming an official member of the Initiative that it would bring everything crashing down. That the doctor would be required to tell her psych professor the results: Buffy Summers, five foot one, one hundred twenty pounds, three months pregnant, father unknown. Yeah, that would’ve gone over well with Walsh and Riley.
It’s been a month and she still didn’t know what to tell him, or if she should tell him. They’d only been on a few dates, it wouldn’t kill him to lose out on a knocked up slut who couldn’t even remember who her baby-daddy was. Or if there even was one to begin with.
Riley was a nice guy, but even he wouldn’t want to stick around for that. And wouldn’t it be simpler, kinder to just break things off before either of them got too attached, rather than having to drag him through the whole freak show? Not to mention, it’d be easier on her to have to explain this whole mess to one less person, having to tell Mom and Giles would be bad enough.
Her whole body flushed hot at that last thought, at having to explain to the both of them (together? Separately?) that she was pregnant.
Pregnant, with a baby who had no father.
A baby, though. An actual baby. It had to be an actual, normal baby, otherwise Dr. Stevens and the lab guys would’ve picked up on it, right?
Hey you in there? Buffy whisper-thought, hunching over a little to look down at her stomach. You probably look like a seamonkey right now, but you’re gonna come out looking like one of us, right? With a head, a mouth, two arms and two legs, ten fingers and toes. The whole perfect package, right?
Kick once if you’re planning on eating your way out of my stomach at the five-month mark so at least I’ll be prepared.
I’m serious, kick me!
Still nothing. Maybe its legs weren’t strong enough yet. Well, in any case...
Okay then, I’m holding you to that. We’re in this together, Seamonkey. Especially if Mom takes this next newest revelation about my life the same way she took the last one.
Buffy grimaced, then, as the memory of that awful night almost two years ago briefly resurfaced. She paused for a second just as she reached the end of the hall, and bit her lip, her arms traveling down to rest at her lower abdomen and squeezing.
No one else besides you and me know you’re in there, Seamonkey. It really is just the two of us against the world for right now.
She stared down at her belly, more grateful than ever that it was still flat, for the time being, at least. Three months in and still flat. If she keeps up with slaying and skips Girl Scout cookie season, could she make it to four? Five? Six, and then blame everything that comes after on pizza and mochas?
Or should she just get it over with now? Head home and catch Mom before she went to bed, and Xander before he went to his next shift, and Willow, if she wasn’t already with Tara, and Giles, if he even wanted to be bothered at all…Head home and hand Mom the results of her blood work and then look Giles in the eye and swear to him that she has no idea, none at all as to how this could have happened, and watch both of their faces go white. Watch Mom head for the bottle of scotch in the cabinet by the stove, and watch Giles’ mouth thin and his brow knit. No yelling, no shouting, but a tight, brittle, “Surely you must realize how irresponsible it was for you to not have come to me with this sooner, Buffy.”
“Yeah, Buff, what were you thinkin’?” Xander would add. “You could have some kind of demon parasite festering in there, biding its time ‘til its ready to chew through your stomach and end the world!”
“Buffy, we’re roommates,” would whimper a crestfallen Willow. “I’m your best friend. If you didn’t want your Mom or Giles to know, you could have told me. You, me, and Tara could have researched whatever’s wrong with you together.”
“I know, I know,” Buffy heard herself choke aloud. Damn pregnancy hormones clogging up her throat and making her eyes burn with the false memory of the inevitable confrontation.
There’s nothing wrong with me.
She looked down at her belly, her arms tightening around her middle.
There’s nothing wrong with you, either. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
Promise me you’re gonna make good on that whole not-gonna-kill-me in two months thing, Seamonkey. You give me that, and I’ll give you…
A Mom, I guess.
For the first time, the thought of that actually made Buffy smile, if only Just slightly.
You chose me, so you must be good with that. And if you’re not, you’ll have to be, because we’re all we’ve got, Seamonkey.
The corners of her eyes still stinging, Buffy continued to rub at them with both hands as she rounded the corner and headed into the next brightly-lit corridor, and straight into someone’s...chest?
“Oh, I’m so sorry, I wasn’--”
A tiny pinch, right at the base of her neck.
And then nothing.