See Prologue for disclaimer
Chapter 9 – Unexpected
Giles’ desire to see Buffy hold and bond with her daughter battled against his longing to hold Aria. As they neared the hospital Giles’ yearning won out and he asked Buffy if he could hold Aria for a time. Buffy, hearing the silent plea in his tone squashed her wish to hold her daughter. Once she was well enough to visit and hold Aria she never imagined Giles would want to do the same.
“Sure Giles.” he could hear a little hesitation in her tone.
“If – if you’d rather I didn’t …”
“No, you go ahead this time.”
As they entered the unit, there was a flurry of activity but that was nothing new. There were alarms going off all the time which would call for the more trained staff to get involved. They finished at the washing station then began walking toward Aria’s area. Giles was telling Buffy he’d really like to take them both to England one day. He stopped mid-step, his heart lurched as he saw the team of doctors were around Aria. Giles had just enough forethought to grab a hold of Buffy before her protective nature would cause her to run to her daughter’s aid.
“What’s happening?” he managed to ask a passing nurse.
“Let’s talk outside the unit.” She led them to a small office where everyone took a seat. Giles sandwiched Buffy’s hand in his. “Aria had several episodes of As and Bs last night also she isn’t thermo regulating so we put her into the isolette and she has lost more weight than we would like.
Buffy looked to Giles, “Translation.”
“As and Bs are apnea and bradycardia; she, she stopped breathing for t-too long a period which caused her heart rate to slow.” He glanced at the nurse to be sure he got the information right and with a nod from her he continued. “The isolette will keep the temperature at a constant until she can control her own body temperature again.”
“What about the weight loss.” She asked. Giles looked to the nurse.
“We are running tests to determine what is wrong. While the neonatologist examines her you can stay here and I’ll come to get you when they’re done.”
The nurse left them to resume her duties in the NICU. Giles wrapped his arms around Buffy not only to comfort her but to seek comfort as well. “She, she’s in the best of hands luv.” His voice cracked with emotion.
“I don’t understand she was fine yesterday.” Buffy whimpered. “They never said she was losing weight; did they say anything to you; they didn’t to me.”
Giles let his hands caress Buffy soothingly; he set his finger under her chin so he could look her in the eyes. “All babies lose some weight after birth they, they’re probably being cautious. As to the, the other, we do not have all the facts. Her initial healthy state could have had something to do with you being the slayer. Once we know more we can, can research and …”
She wiggled out of his grasp and stood up from the couch; stepped away from him. “Giles, we’re not gonna find an answer in your books! She’s not some prophesy you need to decipher!”
Giles was taken aback by her biting tone. Though he knew it was her frustration talking he couldn’t help but feel a little offended that she thought his only interest in Aria was in combination to Buffy being the slayer. Though as he thought back over what he had said he could see where she would get that idea.
“I-I meant research into premature infants. We were both prepared for, for a normal delivery and when it wasn’t we, we were caught unprepared. There is a wealth of knowledge that we can gain; so we know the p-possible conditions Aria may face.”
“You’re right, I’m sorry … I didn’t mean to snap at you.” She sat back on the couch.
“I understand; you needed an outlet.” They shared a quick hug then waited for the return of the nurse.
Buffy was fast learning one of Giles’ quirks, when he is stressed and has no outlet for it, he paces. And when the nurse hadn’t returned after a scant five minutes his hands would clench into a fist then unclench. His expression didn’t show any tension; just his body language screamed ‘if I don’t have an answer soon I’m gonna let Ripper lose’. To distract him she asked about England and what they would see there. This worked for all of ten minutes then he was up and circling the room again. She could only imagine what Willow and Xander had to contend with, when waiting for news about her and the baby just a few short days ago. And here Giles was getting all stressed out again.
After thirty minutes the neonatologist entered the room. “I don’t believe we’ve met, I’m Doctor Whitcomb; one of the many doctors overseeing the care of your daughter.”
Buffy hugged her arms to her chest; Giles stood behind her his hands deep in his pockets. “And how is she?” Buffy all but whispered.
“Please sit down.” After everyone was situated he continued, “Aria was given her first feedings yesterday and after today’s it was apparent that she wasn’t doing well. I believe she has Necrotizing Enterocolitis or NEC.”
“Wh-what’s that?” Buffy’s voice shook with fear for her daughter.
Out of habit or need to help Buffy understand, Giles answered the question. “NEC is, is a condition where the intestines be-become infected.”
“So what are you doing for her?”
“We’ve stopping milk feedings to let her bowel rest and we have performed nasogastric drainage,” off her confused look he explained, “I’ve inserted a tube through her nasal passage down to the stomach to remove air and fluid from the stomach and intestine. She is now receiving IV fluids for replacement of fluids and nutrition. I have also started her on an antibiotic regimen to treat the infection. Aria will receive frequent x-rays to watch the disease’s progress.”
“A-and she’ll get better?”
“Miss Summers I won’t sugar coat this for you, if she does not respond to the medical intervention, or if the bowel perforates, surgery will be required.”
Buffy drew in a breath, faced with her daughter’s dire condition she steeled herself, “May we see her?”
Giles new the tone she used. She was separating herself as she did when she called him the day her mother died.
“Yes but please, not for long she really needs the rest.”
“Thank you … doctor.”
Buffy, going on auto pilot, stood and headed for the door not looking back to see if Giles had followed. It took a while for Giles to compose his rising emotions. Hold it together, Buffy is going to need me and I must be there for her. This situation with Aria was caught early; the doctors are highly trained and know what they are doing.
Taking a deep breath and letting it out he stood and followed the path Buffy took back to the NICU. He was stopped at the entrance. “Sorry Rupert can’t let you in without Buffy.” The attendant said his tone contrite.
“Bloody Hell, I was just in there with her. Couldn’t you just …”
“You know I can’t, it’s against the rules.”
“I don’t give a damn about your bloody rules. Aria is very sick and you’re gonna look the other way while I go in there.”
The person on duty had been working the first time Giles had visited Aria. In his opinion, Giles’ right to visit the baby shouldn’t have been revoked. “You must wait out here; I have some x-rays to deliver and don’t even think of taking advantage of the slow closing door.” He went into the unit with the large envelope of x-rays.
Giles stuck his foot in the doorway, glanced around then went through to the wash station. He met up with Buffy, who was standing by Aria’s Isolette. “I’m behind you, Buffy.” He warned in case she went into defensive moves as he put his arms around her upper arms.
“Giles, did I do this? Is it cause I didn’t eat enough that day? Maybe I worked out to hard?”
“Buffy, luv … you didn’t do anything. Sometimes these things just happen.” He pulled her tighter against his chest and placed a kiss at her temple.
“She seems so much smaller in there.” Buffy stepped out of the embrace. She reached through one of the access ways into the isolette setting her hand on Aria’s head. “I can’t lose her, Giles … I just can’t.”
One of the nurses, they had become quite familiar with, Cheryl, came over to do a routine check on Aria’s vitals. “Hello Buffy, Rupert. I’ll be giving Aria her next dose of antibiotics and conducting a couple of other test.”
Buffy pulled her hand out of the isolette. “Can I call later to check up on her?”
“Please do, you can call any time day or night. We are here to help Aria and you in any way we can. I should have asked before but are you pumping?”
“Excuse me, pumping?”
“With Aria’s condition when we start feedings again she would do best if she had your milk. You’ll need to start so we can have a supply on hand. We can refrigerate breast milk for three to five days or freeze it for three to six months. Plus when she is ready to nurse it is another great way to bond with her.”
“I guess I should then.”
The nurse gave Buffy the brand names of some well known breast pumps. “Oh and if you’d like, when you come back later, bring a picture of you and Rupert. We’ll put it in the isolette with Aria and if you want to, you could record yourself either reading or singing. We’ll play the recordings for her.”
“Thank you. Would it be all right if I came back around six?” Buffy asked.
“Our shift change is at six; how about seven instead.”
“Sounds good, we will see you then.” Giles said then to Buffy he asked, “Would you like to go out for lunch then after we could stop by the Magic Box. I’m sure our friends would like to know how Aria is doing.”
“Sure, we can do that.”
They both said good-bye to the sleeping infant and left the hospital wing
When Giles and Buffy entered the Magic Box there were a few customers and the usual gang. Willow was helping someone chose herbs. Tara was demonstrating how to use Tarot cards and Xander was doing some minor repair work to one of the display shelves. Anya was, of course, behind the check out ringing up a customer’s order.
As the shop cleared of customers, everyone gathered around Buffy to find out the latest on Aria.
When Giles explained the baby’s condition to the group. “So Aria’s really, really sick?” Willow asked as she and Tara held each other for comfort.
“Yeah, but I bet she’s just like her mother …” off everyone’s stares Xander continued, “Aria’s a fighter; she’ll kick this infection and be home before you know it.”
“Babies are so fragile I don’t want any, Xander.” Anya said as Xander hugged her.
Giles left Buffy to her friends; knowing they would be there for her and went to the training room. He closed the door quietly so as not to disturb the conversation around the research table. He heard Buffy talking about the possible surgery and he couldn’t contain his frustration any longer. He tightened his fists and began to beat on the heavy bag. Silent tears fell from his eyes and soon his knuckles were torn and bloody, from the bite of the canvas but he continued to punch with all his strength. Such was his rage that he didn’t hear the door to the room open. While he was taking a breather, Buffy came up behind him then wrapped her arms around his chest laying her cheek against his back. Remembering her strength, she gave him a squeeze tight enough to let him know she was there for him.
“You okay?” she finally asked.
Not wanting her to know that he had basically fallen to pieces; he wiped at his eyes with his sleeve, making it look like he was wiping away the sweat. “Y-yes, fine. Just … just wanted a little workout is all.” He put his hands in his pockets to hide the damage; effectively trapping Buffy’s arms under his arms.”
“Okay what are you hiding?” She asked.
“Giles, you didn’t change before your workout and …” she gave him another quick tight squeeze, “…when you put your hands in your pockets you are usually embarrassed or know something you don’t want me to know.”
“Oh you’ve, become an expert on body language?”
“Not everyone’s just your body.” She paused as her statement sank in; embarrassed she attempted to release him.
Giles held her in place, “Don’t…”
The word was soft but spoken with a depth of emotion Buffy understood. Giles needed her. The news of Aria’s health issue had hit him hard too. “Giles we’re gonna get through this. Aria will be home in just …” she did some mental math, “… just about nine weeks cause I did some reading and it said a lot of premature infants go home around their actual due date and well, for Aria that’s nine short weeks.” She tried to sound optimistic as she placed a quick kiss to his back.
Giles gingerly took his hands out of his pockets, turned in her embrace then wrapped them around her. “Thank you.” He pulled her in tight then looked down into her eyes. He leaned down … his lips drew closer … he lost his nerve and placed a kiss to her forehead then stepped out of the hold.
“W-would you like to do a bit of training before dinner?” he offered as he brought his left hand up to run it through his hair.
“Giles …” she admonished gently taking his injured hand in hers. “You taught me to always wrap my hands before using the bag. What the rules change when it’s you?”
“No.” His tone soft knowing he deserved the chastisement.
“Feel better?” she asked as she doctored his sore knuckles.
“Actually … no.” He knew she meant emotionally but he held up his right hand and showed her they were just as, if not more, damaged than the left.
She shook her head, “What am I gonna do with you.” As she applied the gauze she added, “You don’t have to be the strong one all the time.” All he could do was give a small half smile. “Now to answer your question about training and dinner; need to go to the mall and get one of those breast pump thingies.”
“All right, mall then dinner.”
“Oh, I will be patrolling tonight. I figure the least I can do is make this place a little safer by the time Aria is released from the hospital.”
“Mind if - if I go with you?”
“As long as you’re not gonna let lose your inner Ripper and get concussed in the process. I’m not sure I could handle it if you were in the hospital too.”
“I promise to follow your direction.”
To be continued in The Long Wait