Chapter 3 pt. 4


Erin clutched at the comforting, familiar shoulders of her Papa. She didn't know what had been going on all day, but Erin knew she didn't like it. Papa and Grammy had been yelling at each other, and she thought she'd heard Grammy fighting with Mommy earlier. And that man with the white hair frightened her. The moment she'd seen him the Erin had felt as though her hair was standing on end. She was very careful not to invite him in, and had been both relieved and frightened when he hadn't been able to enter. So, when Grammy had asked him to come in, Erin did what she'd been taught to do from the moment she was mobile; she ran to Mommy or Papa. It looked like Papa didn't like the strange man either, but Grammy had, or she wouldn't have invited him. Erin had been upset already when Grammy and Papa started yelling, so she had been delighted to see Mommy in the doorway. Mommy could make anything better, and Erin could stop being frightened. After several more minutes of being cuddled, she couldn't stand the curiosity any longer. "Papa?" she ventured quietly as she snuggled her head under Giles's chin. "Was he a monster? A... vamp? Like the ones Mommy kills?"

"Yes Love," Giles murmured, holding her a little tighter. "But don't worry. She won't let him hurt anyone." Erin looked at Papa like he was crazy. Of *course* Mommy wouldn't let the monster get them. Giles tiredly shook his head and continued. "I'm very proud of you Erin, and I'm sure Mum is too. You did everything exactly right when you didn't ask him in."

Erin beamed up at him for a minute, before remembering that the bad man still got into their hotel room. She frowned, concern in her brown eyes. "Is Grammy in trouble for letting him in?" she asked, trying to relate the scene to her own experiences. "Is that why you were yelling?"

Erin felt Giles sigh and start to stroke her dark curls as he cuddled her closer. Usually, she loved cuddles, but she knew from past experience that the soothing presence of her Papa and the calming strokes would soon put her to sleep, and Erin wanted her questions answered. The little girl pulled back in his embrace to stare at Giles, waiting.

Giles's blue eyes were sad as he apologized. "No Erin, Grammy is not in trouble. We shouldn't let any vampire in, but Grammy thinks Spike is a friend. I was angry with her for not thinking things through before she asked him in, but I was also frightened for you. Vampires are monsters, every last one of them. Just because Spike is helping right now does not mean he isn't dangerous. Still, I should not have yelled, and I'm sorry if I frightened you. I would never, ever hurt you Erin." Erin didn't respond to his apology, all of her attention was focused on one sentence. She dragged in deep breaths, trying not to cry, knowing that her Papa did not lie, but hoping he had this once. She could feel Giles pull back slightly and ask concerned "Erin? Are you all right?"

Erin brought her brown eyes up to meet her Papa's, her small body shaking slightly as she tried not to let her tears escape. "Is it true?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper, yet concentrating on his answer so hard she missed the door opening behind her. "All vampires are monsters?" At Giles' confused nod in the affirmative, Erin let the tears come. "What about Mama's Angel?" she managed between sobs. "Mommy told me he's a vampire, so he must be a monster. But, Mommy loves him, and she wouldn't love a monster."



Buffy stood frozen in the doorway, her heart breaking at the sight of her little girl huddled against Giles, sobbing her eyes out, yet refusing to be comforted. Her mind raced as she registered Erin's words, and what she and Giles must have been discussing. Buffy was about to step in, still trying to find a way to fix things, when Giles spoke. "Erin?" Buffy watched as he waited patiently for her to pay attention before continuing, loving how good Giles was at taking care of Erin. Big changes were coming for everyone, but Buffy reminded herself not to let Giles feel left out, or unimportant. If it hadn't been for his help, she would never have made it through the last several years, and Buffy wasn't about to forget that he was part of her family.

"Erin, it's true that Angel is a vampire. And I was right when I said that all vampires are monsters. I just forgot that there are two kinds of monsters. The mean, horrible kind your Mother hunts, and the kind that change what they are." Buffy smiled a little in recognition of the speech he'd given her a long time ago, but the smile slipped away quickly. She had continued to avoid talking about Angel with Giles, and now Buffy wished she hadn't. Giles held her future in the palm of his hands, and she was a little afraid of what he would do with it. Buffy knew Giles would never hurt her on purpose, but Angel had always been a difficult issue between them. When Giles was sure Erin understood him, he continued, drawing Buffy back out of her thoughts. "You're right Erin, Buffy would not fall in love with a monster. A-and she does love Angel, very much. It's been so long since we've seen him, I forgot for a moment that while Angel is a monster, he's a good monster. Angel's the kind of monster that protects the people he loves, and fights the darkness."

Buffy almost laughed at the confusion on Erin's face. Giles tried so hard to explain things, but occasionally he still had problems making the explanations simple enough for the three-year-old to understand. "I don't get it," Erin finally sighed, tears still slipping down her cheeks, though she was much calmer. She stared at the Watcher expectantly, waiting for a better explanation, one that she could understand.

Buffy stepped forward at Giles sigh, knowing he would try again, but also knowing how hard this was for him. "I'll explain," the Slayer offered quietly, managing to startle them both. Giles nodded in relief, though he avoided meeting her eyes. Erin went to Buffy, arms raised, waiting to be picked up. Buffy cuddled her daughter close and, mindful of the fact that Spike was still on the other side of the door, moved toward the sliding glass door that opened onto the balcony. She paused, half in and half out, to quietly remark, "Thank you Giles. Thank you for trying to explain. You didn't have to do that." She knew her Watcher would pick up the hidden meaning, and was sure he had by his response.

"We'll talk about it later Buffy. I'll keep an ear open, make sure Spike departs." Giles found a smile and offered it to them as he waved to Erin, wishing her good night.

Buffy slipped quickly out of Giles room, past the living room, and into the room she was sharing with Erin, shivering in the cold December air. She quickly tucked Erin in, and managed to find the girl's security blanket and favorite doll on automatic pilot, as she tried to figure out a way to explain Angel, and why some of her friends and family would react to him the way they did. Finally, she curled up next to Erin both of them leaning against the headboard, trying to figure out how to start, when Erin piped up. "You said you'd 'splain Mommy. How come Angel's a monster? He's the good guy in your stories."

Buffy smiled a little. "I *did* promise you and Angel story. I guess I didn't realize this was the one I'd end up telling." Buffy paused once more to gather her thoughts before starting. "I've told you all along that Angel is a vampire, but that he's a good vampire. I've told you about the way we met, and all the times he saved me, or some of our friends. I told you how much he loves me," Buffy crossed her fingers behind Erin's back hoping the statement was still true, still planning how to tell her daughter about Angelus without ruining the ground work she'd lain for Angel. "I talked to you a little about why we aren't together right now, and how he doesn't know about you because I had to go away to protect you when you were little. You know a lot about the things Angel's done, but I didn't tell you a lot about his past, about how he became the 'good vampire with the sad, sad eyes' in the stories I tell."

"People are more than just the bodies and faces that we see. The parts that really make you Erin, are your heart and soul." Erin twisted in Buffy's arms, and Buffy could tell she was already lost. She sighed, reminding herself that bright as Erin was, they were still dealing with difficult concepts, and Erin was only three. Buffy began again, trying to explain. "Your heart tells you who you love, and is what makes you feel bad when someone hurts your feelings. Your soul is what tells you right from wrong. It's what makes you feel bad when you do something you know you aren't supposed to do. A person's heart and soul are very close, and they are what make people good. Bad people have hearts and souls too, but they've been hurt or scared too much to listen to them anymore. OK?"

Erin nodded doubtfully, but Buffy figured she couldn't explain it any better, and that would have to do for now. "When a vampire kills someone, a demon takes the body of a person, and all of their memories, but the person's heart and soul are set free and go to heaven. So, a vampire looks, and sounds, and sometimes even acts a little like the person they used to be, but they aren't really that person. They are horrible monsters that like to hurt and kill people. I hunt them to make them stop doing that." Erin's nod was much stronger; she'd had this explained to her many times before. "A long time ago, that's what happened to Angel. He was attacked, and a demon took over his body. Just like all the other vampires, he was a terrible monster. Angelus was the demons name, and he was very mean, one of the worst monsters out there. He did horrible things, for more than a hundred years, but he was just a vampire. My Angel, the heart and soul part of him, was safe in heaven."

Buffy looked down at Erin, trying to gauge how much the child understood. Erin looked upset, and Buffy hoped she wouldn't have nightmares, but she refused to lie to Erin about Angel. The Slayer took a deep breath. The next part would be difficult to tell. "One night, Angelus hurt the wrong girl. Her family was very angry, and they knew very powerful magic spells. They wanted him to suffer, to hurt like they did, and like their little girl did, so they cast a spell on him. The only problem was, her family didn't understand vampires very well. The spell took Angel's heart and soul out of heaven, and put them back in his body. I bet you think that's a good thing," Buffy asked, smiling sadly at Erin. Erin nodded, wondering at the tears starting to gather in her mother's hazel eyes. "It is, because it brought Angel back so I could meet him, and fall in love with him. But, they put Angel back in his body *with* the demon." Buffy noted the confusion on Erin's face and explained. "Angel can remember every horrible mean thing the vampire did. He will always remember, everyday, for as long as he lives. And in those memories, he will always see his face laughing at the people he hurt, and his hands hurting them. Angel blames himself for all the bad things the vampire did."

"But it's not his fault!" Erin exclaimed, bouncing up to her knees. "Your Angel wasn't even there! Wouldn't he have stopped the mean vampire if he had been there?" Buffy smiled proudly at her daughter and nodded, hugging her tightly. She was so relieved that Erin understood, yet she was also frustrated that a three-year old could reach that conclusion immediately, while many of the adults in her circle of family and friends couldn't. "Mommy?" Erin's voice pulled Buffy out of her thoughts, making her aware that she now had tears running down her cheeks and a story to finish.

"You are so smart Erin!," Buffy exclaimed proudly, "You and I can see that, but it's very hard for Angel, because it's in his head." Buffy started again, settling Erin back down at her side. "You're right, Angel would have stopped the mean vampire. That's what he's been doing ever since. Angel was hurting and confused for a long time, but one day, someone told him that maybe he could help fight the vampires. Angel found out that the new Slayer might need help and decided that if he helped her, maybe he would start making up for all the people the vampire hurt."

"*You* were the slayer!" Erin exclaimed with a giggle. She had heard this part of the story before. "He saw you and fell in love with you. So Angel decided to help, but when he met you, he got scared and confused, and said silly things to you. And you kicked him." Buffy smiled. One of Erin's favorite stories was about how Buffy had knocked over Angel in that alley so long ago.

"That's right. And you know how we made friends, and how I fell in love with him, and how I found out he was a vampire. And I told you that something bad happened, and that Angel went away for a while, and that when he came back, I had to send him to Hell for a while, even though I didn't want to." Erin nodded, so Buffy continued, swallowing the sobs she could feel struggling to escape. "The horrible thing that happened is that I finally told Angel I loved him, and showed him how much. Now that wasn't horrible," Buffy corrected herself quickly, forestalling the protest she could see in Erin's eyes. "It's never wrong to tell someone that you love them. What was horrible is what happened afterwards. You see, Angel still felt horrible about what the monster did with his body; that's what made his eyes so sad. But, when Angel really saw that I loved him anyway, that I didn't blame him or hate him for what the vampire did, he was happy. And for one moment, he forgot all of the horrible things that had happened."

"But that's good!" Erin said, confused again. "He shouldn't hurt or be sad, because he couldn't stop them."

"I know Erin, but you remember the spell that brought Angel back? A part of that spell said that if Angel ever forgot what the vampire had done, he would be sent back to heaven, and the demon would be free again. Angel's soul went away when I made him happy, and the vampire was very angry with me for making him feel things again. So he was mean to me and my friends. He scared Grammy and hurt Papa before we could bring Angel back. Because of all the mean things the vampire did when Angel was gone, sometimes it's very hard for them to be around him. Even though they know about vampires, they are still scared and hurt inside."

"Why aren't you?" Erin asked.

"I am Sweetheart," Buffy admitted for the first time. "But something scares me and hurts me more than knowing what the vampire did. Losing Angel, not being with him is so much worse. It hurts all the time, and Angel feels the same way. But, he could tell that I was scared when he got back from Hell. Angel was hurt and scared too, and had new memories that made him even sadder than the ones from before. Angel loves me so much, he's afraid of being happy because he doesn't want to go away again."

"But Mommy, you said he went away anyway. That was silly."

Buffy laughed through the tears that had managed to escape. "You're right Erin it was. But like I said, Angel is scared and confused. Angel thinks that he can't make me happy because of all the things we can't do together, and because of all the things the vampire did while Angel was gone. Angel wants me to be happy, and since he can't be happy, he went away so I could be happy with someone else."

"Who?" Erin questioned through a yawn.

Buffy shrugged. "I don't know Erin. I guess he thought that if he went away, I would stop loving him and meet someone else I could love. You and I know he's wrong, but he wouldn't listen. Then I left too, so I could have you. Maybe Angel got smarter, and knows I'll never stop loving him. Maybe he's figured out that it doesn't matter what we can't have, what we can have is enough for me." Buffy paused, realizing that she'd probably lost Erin at the end of her story. She looked down, trying to think of a way to help Erin understand, only to find Erin half-asleep muttering about fixing something, and how Buffy never stopped loving anybody. The slayer laughed sadly, touched by her daughter's innocence and wishing there was a way to fix things. She tucked Erin in again, and whispered, "I may not be able to fix everything, but I'll work on it. Love you." Buffy kissed her baby, and feeling no sense of Spike in the suite, left the room to try to fix something else in the mean time.