|Story Title:||Miles To Go Before I Sleep|
Buffy and Annie must both deal with their fears.
Poem referenced: Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost
|Thanks:||Giant thanks to Anona for betaing this chapter, including her grammatical and punctuation corrections, wonderful commentary, and final review. Also thanks to Capella42 for her insightful suggestions that made the whole story better and epd4 for her help with the initial beta. All mistakes are mine because I simply cannot stop fiddling right up to the last moment.|
|Rating / Warnings:||
NC17. Content is only suitable for mature adults. Contains explicit language, sex, adult themes, and other adult situations that some people may find objectionable. If you are under the age of 17 or find any of these themes objectionable – GO AWAY.
(Later that day) Thursday, April 21st, 2011, 4pm:
After lying in a tight ball on the bed for a long time, determinedly not sleeping, Buffy finally forced herself to get up. She dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved, turtle-neck sweater to hide the scratches that marred her skin from her neck all the way down to her feet. She still felt dirty, but knew that she could wash until the cows came home, and then she could wash the cows, and it wouldn’t get the stench off her; it was coming from within.
Buffy found her address book buried in the pile of clothes and broken dresser drawers on the floor, and dialed Wolfram & Hart’s number. She got put through to Lilah’s voicemail. In a business-like tone, Lilah said she was sorry she’d missed the call, and assured Buffy, and anyone else that called, that she would return the call ‘as soon as possible’. Buffy rolled her eyes and hung up – she didn’t need Lilah calling here and Tara answering it. Buffy had enough first-class tickets to ‘Guilt-ville’ without Tara giving her a disappointed look and a lecture about making deals with ‘Evil, Inc.’ Buffy would call Lilah back later.
Buffy looked in the mirror and practiced putting on a smile. It looked ridiculous on her gaunt and exhausted face and she dropped it. She knew the twins needed her and she longed to hold them in her arms again, but at the same time she didn’t want to see the accusations and worry in their eyes. She hadn’t kept Annie safe. She hadn’t kept Spike safe. Even though she hadn't been there on the mission with Spike, somehow she should’ve done something. Refused to let him go … something! But if she had done that, would it be Bess they were looking for now? Maybe they’d be looking for Bess’ bones, because without the Gem to heal her, that acid would eat right through her body. Could a vampire actually live without any flesh? It seemed impossible, but who knew? Anyway, that was beside the point. The point was she hadn’t protected her family, and the kids would know it as soon as they looked at her, Buffy was sure of it.
Buffy sighed and flashed another smile at the haggard woman in the mirror, but it wasn’t working. She finally gave up trying to look brave or cheerful and headed out to face the music.
She hoped everyone was down in the basement. Somehow, Buffy felt more vulnerable facing them in the harsh light of day. It was unreasonable, she knew, but she felt like it would be easier for her to hide her guilt and failure from her family down in the dark of the ‘bat cave’. Her hope was short-lived, however. The twins, along with JJ, Tara, MacKenzie, and Eddie were in the great room. Tara was at the research table looking through spell books and the kids were watching TV. Buffy took a deep breath and steeled herself. She tried another smile, smaller than the ones she practiced in the mirror, but it hurt her heart, so she dropped it again, then started down the stairs.
The children heard her heavy footfalls and ran to meet her just as she got to the bottom of the staircase, even JJ came. She dropped down and gathered all three into her arms, as she’d done the twins at the hospital the previous day, and held them close.
The children’s anguished cries of worry and relief at seeing her brought new tears to her eyes. She blinked them back, determined not to cry again, as she dropped kisses atop their heads and held them tightly. They smelled of Johnson’s baby shampoo and gummy bears and Kool-Aid. Buffy hoped they couldn’t smell the fetid aroma of guilt and failure on her.
They bombarded her with questions as she finally stood up and headed for the couch, three little hands grasping her fingers tightly as she walked.
“Are you okay?”
“You won’t go away again, will you? Please!”
“When’s Annie coming home? Is she gonna be okay?”
“Did you see Papa when you were gone?”
“I talked to Bess last night in a dream, she promised she’d find Papa!”
“My mom said a big monster swallowed Uncle Spike! Is that true?”
Buffy rolled her eyes skyward. Thank you, Anya, she thought sarcastically as she sat down and the children piled on top of her. Of course, the kids probably would’ve known about the monster swallowing Spike anyway just from listening to the adults talking, even without Anya’s direct honesty, but it still grated on Buffy’s last remaining nerve.
Tara looked up from her reading and gave the Slayer a worried look. Buffy didn’t look any more rested than she had when she gave her that mild sleeping pill and put her to bed a few hours ago. Buffy’s aura looked off, too. It was streaked heavily with black and grey where normally the Slayer was surrounded by bright, vibrant reds, blues, and purples – colors of power, of courage, strength, and confidence.
“Bess, Angel, and Willow are doing all they can to find him.” Buffy tried to sound confident. “They’re working on a new plan and I’m sure it’ll work,” she overstated – she wasn’t sure of anything at this point. “I talked to him and he’s fine,” she exaggerated – a lot. “He misses you guys so much and wants to get home, but … yes, a big monster did swallow him and so he can’t come home right now.”
“It swallowed him whole!?” Dani asked widening her eyes and mouth as big as they would go and then chomping them all closed quickly.
Buffy had to smile at the face her little ‘mini-me’ made when she did that big-mouthed bass impersonation. Buffy made a mental note to not make that face herself – ever. “Yes – whole. So there’s nothing to worry about. He’s really ok; he just can’t get out right now. Everyone’s working on getting him back,” Buffy explained as she wrapped her arms around the children in her lap. “You know your Papa – he’ll probably give that ole monster indigestion soon and it’ll just spit him right out, just like Jonah.”
The three children looked at her with furrowed brows, none speaking for a moment. Finally, JJ asked, “The monster swallowed Jonah? Jonah Stein, from soccer?” his eyes wide with a mixture of fear and amazement.
Buffy laughed and shook her head. It felt good to laugh for a moment. “No … it’s a thing … an old story … Not that Jonah,” she assured them. “It’s just … uhhh … I’ll have your dad explain it when he gets home ‘cos he’s better at that bible stuff than I am.”
Buffy had to laugh at the absurdity of that statement. Yes, I’m the Slayer – supposedly the epitome of good and righteousness, but I’ll have your vampire father explain bible stories to you.
Buffy looked over at Tara, who was still studying her with a worried expression. When Tara realized Buffy was looking at her, she gave the Slayer a reassuring nod and a smile, and then looked back down at the spell book on the table.
“When can Annie come home?” Billy asked.
Buffy took a deep breath. “I don’t know yet, sweetie,” she replied truthfully. “But when she does, we’re all gonna have to give her a lot of help and be especially nice to her.”
“Aunt Tara told us,” Dani admitted sadly as all three children nodded.
Buffy sighed in relief as she scratched absently at her arms through her sweater. She hadn’t been sure how she was going to get through telling them about Annie without completely breaking down. Thank goodness she didn’t have to.
“She’ll probably need lots of super-giant Hershey bars,” JJ added thoughtfully, his tone serious.
Buffy smiled and looked into the soulful, brown eyes of the dark-haired little-Xander. “Yeah … I’m sure you’re right.”
“We made cards for her,” Dani piped up, jumping down off her mother’s lap and running to the research table. She came back with several pages of construction paper covered with crayon and glitter-glue drawings of hearts and flowers, along with words of love and ‘get well’ wishes. Buffy clenched her jaw and gave the children a strained smile. Annie would never ‘get well’. She would heal, but she would never be the same, not physically or emotionally.
“Thank you. I know she’ll love them,” Buffy pressed out past the lump in her throat, her voice clouded with emotion. “I have to get back to the hospital now, ok, guys?” she posited as she began to stand up.
“You should take Mr. Mocha, her teddy bear, with you,” Billy suggested. “It always makes her feel better.”
Buffy gave him a genuine smile. “That’s a good idea, honey. Would you run and get it for me?”
Billy nodded enthusiastically and hopped down off the couch. He was up the stairs and back down with the shaggy, chocolate-colored bear in a flash.
“You’ll be back, right?” Billy asked with concern as he handed her the toy. “You won’t … get lost again, right?”
Buffy nodded reassuringly. “I promise, I’ll be back soon. Be good for Aunt Tara, now,” she admonished them as she hugged them one more time and dropped kisses in their soft hair.
“We will,” they all three agreed, their voices reserved and worried.
A little while later, Buffy entered Annie’s room with Mr. Mocha, the handmade cards from the kids, a large Georgia Mud Fudge Blizzard from Dairy Queen, and a giant Hershey’s bar with almonds.
Xander and Anya were both in the room with Annie and they stood up when Buffy walked in. Xander looked at his friend and thought she didn’t really look any more rested than when he sent her home earlier that day.
“You look like death warmed over,” Anya greeted Buffy, voicing Xander’s thoughts, which he had planned on keeping to himself. “You might want to try a little makeup so someone doesn’t mistake you for a vampire and try to stake you.”
“Ahn,” Xander groaned her name under his breath.
Buffy gave Anya a stiff smile. “I thought the grey-pasty look would help me blend in when I was on patrol,” Buffy offered sarcastically.
“Oh … well yeah, I suppose …” Anya began, then she rolled her eyes, finally getting the sarcasm in Buffy’s tone. “I guess with the missing husband and newly disabled daughter it’s to be expected. But, on the bright side, you’ll be able to park right up front in those handicapped spots at the mall! No more searching for a parking space at Christmas and walking ten miles,” Anya offered brightly. “That’ll be a time big saver!”
Annie sucked in a pained gasp of air. “Dad? … Dad’s missing? You said he was alright!”
Buffy clenched her jaw to keep herself from saying anything to the ex-demon she couldn’t take back. Thank you again, Anya!
Xander grabbed his wife’s elbow and began pushing her towards the door. “We’re gonna go pick up JJ and get some dinner. Can we bring you something back?” he asked as the couple passed Buffy.
“No, thanks. I wouldn’t want to ruin my undead aura. I thought I’d paint my nails and die my hair black … you know, go for a whole Goth look. I hear it’s the in thing.”
“I don’t think Spike would like…” Anya began. “Owwww!” she exclaimed when Xander squeezed her arm painfully.
“We’ll be back later,” he called over his shoulder as they started down the hallway.
“Mom – where’s dad?” Annie asked with concern creasing her already drawn, haggard features.
Buffy sighed and set all her goodies on the small table next to the bed. “There was a problem on the mission,” Buffy began. “The octopus … swallowed him.”
“What!? Is he…”
“He’s alright!” Buffy assured her quickly. “I talked to him and the Gem is protecting him and Willow and Bess have a plan to get him back. It’s gonna be okay.”
Annie closed her eyes and dropped her head back against the raised mattress at her back as tears welled behind her lids. She didn’t think she could cry anymore, but they just seemed to keep coming. Her chin quivered and she willed it to stop, but it paid her no mind.
“Annie, honey,” Buffy cooed in a comforting voice as she drew her daughter into a hug. “He’s really okay. They’ll get him back and he’ll be here soon. I swear it’ll be ok.”
Annie’s tears began to flood from behind her closed lids as she clung to her mother. “You aren’t just saying that?”
Buffy shook her head as she held Annie to her. “No … really, he’s okay. We have a plan. We’ll get him back.”
Annie sniffed and buried her face against her mother’s neck. “What do you think …” she began hesitantly. “I mean …” Annie sighed heavily and pulled back to look at her mom. She swallowed hard and let her eyes drift down to the slack sheets at the end of the bed. “Do you think he’ll still … love me like before?”
“Oh, baby, of course he will!” Buffy admonished her, holding her by the shoulders and making Annie focus on her face. “You’re still you! We all love you just as much as ever. Your father could never love you with anything less than his whole heart. You’re his ‘Niblett’ … you’ll always be his little girl. This doesn’t change anything.”
Annie shook her head slowly. “It changes everything,” she murmured as her tears slid slowly, but oh so surely, down her cheeks.
Buffy sighed and pulled her back into a hug as tears stung her own eyes. “You’re still you, Anne Joyce. You’re beautiful and smart and brave and such a sweet girl. Nothing about you that’s really important has changed,” Buffy assured her. “We’ll get through this – you’ll see. Everything will be alright.”
Everything Buffy said was true, but Buffy couldn’t help but think that at the same time, Annie was right – everything had changed.
After a few minutes, Buffy pulled back and pushed Annie’s curls back from her face. She brushed at her daughter’s tears with the pad of her thumb, interrupting their trek to her chin, as she gave her daughter the smile that she’d been practicing earlier. Buffy hoped it didn’t look as horrid as it had in the mirror.
“C’mon … I’ve got a Georgia Mud Fudge Blizzard melting over here…”
(A week later) Friday, April 29th, 2011
“I don’t like Georgia Mud Blizzards,” Annie groused, her lips set in a grim, hard line and her arms folded tightly across her chest. Mr. Mocha sat in the bed next to her, but the teddy bear seemed to look just as angry as his ward.
Buffy sighed, knowing that wasn’t true. She set the milkshake down on the table next to Annie’s bed. It had been a full week since they’d gotten back from the other dimension, a full week since …
During that time, Annie’s mood had morphed from self-pity, confusion, and sadness to guilt to anger. She was terse with just about everyone; nothing made her happy. Tara said that was a normal part of healing, that it would pass. Buffy wasn’t sure which Annie she’d rather deal with: the forlorn, helpless child or the angry girl who found fault with everything and everyone around her. Sometimes she’d get both in the same day. Her daughter could change personalities faster than Angel changed to Angelus … and the analogy was apt. There was less bloodshed with Annie, but her words were just as harsh and could cut just as deeply.
It was a rollercoaster ride for all of them, for Annie most of all. As difficult as it was for Buffy to imagine not being able to walk, she would’ve changed places with her daughter in a heartbeat. She’d take this pain away from her girl, ride the emotional rollercoaster in her stead, if only she could.
Buffy looked at Xander, who gave her a sympathetic frown as he stood up and headed out of the room.
The last few days had been a blur for Buffy. She spent evenings and nights at the hospital with Annie. She got home in time to have breakfast with the twins, then rested during the day until they got home from school. She spent time with them and MacKenzie, talked to Bess and Willow on the phone about Spike's rescue mission, then it was back to the hospital. All her friends were godsends to her. They helped take care of the house and the children and, frankly, her, as well.
They always made sure someone was at the hospital with Annie, twenty-four hours a day. Tara brought Dani, Billy, MacKenzie, and JJ to visit her every evening after dinner. The entire extended family came by at least once a day, including Clem and Troy. Raj had even come once, but Annie had burst into a hysterical crying fit when she saw him and he left quickly, unsure what he’d done wrong. Buffy knew it was because he reminded Annie of her missing father. Raj was just trying to be nice – he didn’t understand how his presence would upset her.
Just like everyone else that was in town, Tara visited Annie every day – separately from when she brought the kids. As a friend and a trained psychologist, she tried to help the girl work through her anger and move on to acceptance. If they could just get Annie to turn that anger into determination and resolve, Tara explained to Buffy, the witch was sure new doors would open for Annie, which could take the place of the old ones that had been slammed closed.
Buffy had gotten in touch with Lilah and Lilah was supposed to get back to her with an offer. They couldn’t reattach Annie’s own legs, of course, but they could use legs from a cadaver, she’d explained. That didn’t really fill Buffy with joy and, after talking to Lindsey on one of his many calls to Faith, she was even less enthused with the idea. After he’d told her the story about his re-attached hand and how it seemed to have a mind of its own, how it had taken on the personality of its previous owner, Buffy had completely shelved the idea of getting W&H to help her daughter.
“See you later, Doodlebug,” Xander called to his niece as he passed Buffy, giving the Slayer a quick squeeze on her shoulder.
“Whatever,” Annie mumbled back, looking at the wall on the other side of the room.
Buffy took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Today, apparently, was one of those dark days with the ‘Irritated Annie’ large and in charge.
“I’ve got good news and better news,” Buffy began with a smile, ignoring the waves of anger that were rolling off her daughter. “Which do you want first?”
Annie rolled her eyes and shrugged. “Neither.”
“The good news is, the doctors say you can come home on Monday!” Buffy gushed as she pushed a lock of her daughter’s hair back and hooked it behind her ear. “Isn’t that great?”
Annie ‘humphed’ and rolled her eyes again.
That was Annie’s fifth eye roll since Buffy had come into the room. Her record in one hour was seventy-two … over one per minute, set just yesterday. The perky prosthetist, a nice looking young Indian woman with long dark hair and a bright smile, had been talking to them about the ‘ground-breaking prosthetics’ that were available now. She’d explained how the fitting process worked, how important the physical therapy was, and how great everything would be when Annie had her new legs. Annie had not been impressed.
Buffy soldiered on through Annie’s ambivalence. “The even better news is your father should be home soon! Maybe even by the middle of next week! You’ll be able to welcome him home. We’ll have a big party and…”
Eye rolls six and seven made Buffy stop and sigh. “Ok, so I know you’re angry and afraid, I understand that. But this really is good news.”
Willow had her luring spell, which she called ‘Casper’, ready to go. She called it ‘Casper’ because it created a large, ghostly-white lure made up of ectoplasm bundled together into a cohesive form with electromagnetic energy. She would use astral projection so she could be inside the whirling white energy to control and guide it. Giles and Wesley had called cave divers up and down the Pacific coast to find a suitable cave to lure the creature into. The cave had to be large enough for the monster to fit inside but not so deep that Angel and Bess would need pressure suits, since the Navy wasn’t keen on lending those any more than they had been the AUVs. They’d found three caves off the coast of southern California and Mexico that would work. Since the creature had been swimming in a wide looping pattern, moving slowly but surely southbound along the coast, that would work perfectly. The plan was coming together nicely.
The chartered boat that Bess, Angel, and Willow, were on now was a retired Japanese whaling boat with a full crew. It was more maneuverable than the Navy ship, but the speed with which the demon octopus moved continued to be a problem. The good news was that the monster was apparently a creature of habit. It had a certain pattern to its course, which had been noted by the experienced crew. The wide, looping pattern it swum in slowed its travel southward. The ship would go in a straight line and intercept it as it came around in one of those loops. Then they’d put the plan into action – lure it, trap it, kill it, rescue Spike … pass ‘go’ and collect two million dollars. Each. Now, they just had to pray the creature stuck to its routine.
Just in case the lure didn’t work or the PTB didn’t hear their prayer about the demon’s routine, Tara and Willow were also working on some spells that they thought might reverse whatever magical shield had been erected around the monster during its transportation from the other dimension. So far, there had been no joy on that. It remained immune to Willow’s magic.
“I don’t want good news. I just want to be angry. I like being mad,” Annie informed her tersely, narrowing her eyes at her mother. “Anyway, I don’t see how being home is gonna be all that great. What do I get to do, crawl around like a two-legged dog? Bump down the stairs on a burlap sack like the Giant Slide at the fair? Or maybe we could go for a bike ride, or play hopscotch, or jump rope,” she snarled sarcastically. “Oh, I know, we could all play baseball and I could be first base!”
“Annie,” Buffy moaned.
“And what do you think Dad’s gonna say when he gets home? He’s gonna go ballistic! He’ll look at you and growl and say you shouldn't have let me go on that stupid patrol - even though I wanted to. He’s gonna hate you. Then you guys will get in a big fight and you’ll get divorced and every time he looks at me he’ll hate me because it’s my fault!”
“Anne Joyce! That’s ridiculous! Where did you come up with that? That’s not gonna happen and he’s not gonna hate me or you!” Buffy argued, although a tinge of fear escaped the box within her heart where she’d locked it: fear that Spike would blame her, and hate her, for what happened to Annie. And why shouldn’t he? It was true, after all; it was her fault. Her rational mind said that he would never say such a thing, but would he think it? Would it become an invisible wall between them, growing taller with each passing day? Would he ever be able to forgive her? Would their love be enough to overcome it, or would it just push them further and further apart until one day it was so tall and wide that they couldn’t even see each other any longer?
Eye roll number eight. “I’m not dumb and I have plenty of time on my hands to figure stuff out now. Funny how being disfigured clears your calendar like magic,” Annie explained sarcastically. “Dad’ll be just like Spike in the other world. Didn’t you see that look he had? Like … I don’t know …” Annie paused and considered it for a moment before continuing, “He was like a little lost puppy wanting a scrap of food and everyone yelled at him and kicked him and told him that he couldn’t have it … ever. Then he’ll turn to ice … just like that Spike. Freezing cold ice.”
Buffy took a deep breath and let it out very slowly. “Annie, you’re imagining and worrying about things that haven’t even happened – and won’t happen,” Buffy admonished her. “Your father loves you – he’d never hate you. Never,” she assured her, enunciating the last word slowly for emphasis.
Eye roll number nine. “But he might hate you,” Annie pointed out solemnly.
Buffy had no real defense against that. She bit her lip and closed her eyes a moment. She swallowed the lump of fear in her throat and finally looked back at her daughter’s sullen, blue eyes. Spike’s eyes.
“That won’t happen. It will be all right,” Buffy whispered at last, but there was no conviction in her voice. Annie’s words had cut straight through to the fear and guilt in her heart and set it free to trample her very spirit.
Eye roll number ten.
“Do you hate me?” Buffy wondered, barely able to hold her tears back.
“I don’t know … ”Annie admitted solemnly looking down at her hands, which were folded in her lap. "Sometimes I hate everybody."
Annie had spent hours doing nothing but thinking up every possible scenario of her future. Very few of her imaginings had happy endings, and she dismissed those as fairy tales and unrealistic. Sometimes she hated her mom with every fiber of her being; other times she knew that none of this wais Buffy’s fault at all. In fact, if it was anyone’s fault, it was her own. If she’d just not ridden on that stupid cart – if she’d just pushed it back to the buggy corral like a normal person, none of this would’ve happened. She felt confused and scared and angry and frightened and guilt-ridden and alone. Even with every member of her extended family around her, she felt utterly alone. Somehow, that manifested as anger and hurtful barbs. She could hear the words coming out of her mouth, feel them stab into whoever was near her, but she seemed unable to stop them, and that made her feel even more guilty, lonely, and frightened.
(The next morning) Saturday, April 30th, 2011, 9am:
“Spike … baby, can you hear me?” Buffy asked as she leaned down next to him on his ledge. The acid burned her skin through the dream, but she was used to it by now.
“Ohh! ‘ello sweetie!” he replied brightly, turning his face towards her. She couldn’t see him, but could feel him move under her palm, which she’d laid on his ravaged cheek. Her heart lifted slightly in the hopes that this would be one of his good days. There were good days and bad days and worse days…
“I just got your text! About bloody time! So that’ll work for you, then – meet me 9pm-ish at Tivoli by the Victorla,” he continued and Buffy’s heart sank just as quickly as it had risen. “We’ll dance under the stars while Rome burns! Sod Nero!”
“Spike … it’s Buffy. Honey, can you understand me?” she tried again, her lips against his ear.
“I bloody well will not! If everything seems to be going well, then you have obviously overlooked something. Cecily will be there too. Yes, I know she can be difficult, but it’s all set now.”
Buffy sighed heavily and tears stung her eyes. “Spike, please, try to …”
“Talk all you want, pet. Alcohol doesn't solve any problems, but if you think about it, neither does milk. I’ll have a cranapple, then.”
“Oh, Spike, I promise. Spike I swear we’ll get you out of here soon. Bess and Willow have a plan. I just know it’ll work,” Buffy assured him. “It has to work,” she added more to herself than him.
“Right then, Gin Fizz for the lady! Snap to it, you blighters! The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.”
Buffy woke from the dream with a jerk and tears filled her eyes.
Each day, while the kids were in school, she’d come to bed and try to rest, but she tried her best not to sleep deeply and most especially not to dream. She was exhausted, emotionally and physically, but sleep frightened her. When she did dream and found herself with Spike in the belly of the beast, she was tentative and reserved. She was always afraid he would morph into Finn at any moment, but that hadn’t happened again. Sometimes Spike would be halfway lucid when she went to him; other times, like today, he was lost in a labyrinth that Buffy couldn’t decipher. Whichever Spike she found, she tried to offer comfort and assurance to him, and tried to let him know they hadn’t given up and he shouldn’t either. Sometimes he seemed to understand; other times, not so much. She never could find the words to tell him about Annie, no matter how frequently she implored herself to do so.
She found a strange solace in the pain of the acid as it burned her through the bond. She often woke with new, deep scratches and gouges on her arms and legs from where she’d dug at her flesh in her fitful sleep. She was glad she didn’t have to explain to anyone else the relief those wounds and that pain gave her; no one else knew. In her own mind, she thought it was perhaps like a Catholic going to confession and being given penance. This was her sacrament for her sins, for her failures to protect her family, and she accepted them willingly.
Tara and Giles both tried to talk to Buffy about her sleep, or lack thereof. She would brush them off with quips like ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead … again’ as she told them not to worry, she was fine. Sometimes, as she lay in her bed alone, clinging desperately to Spike’s pillow, she could hear a stanza of a poem she’d been forced to learn somewhere along the way. It seemed to drift in through the window on the cool, morning breeze and surround her, but it was only a snippet. Try as she might, she couldn’t remember more than,
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
She thought that fit her quite well. She had many promises to keep – and many miles to go before she could sleep. It became her mantra. Sleep felt like her enemy; she was constantly worried about being fooled by Riley Finn again. Even though he was dust, he was still haunting her somehow … stalking her dreams. Her guilt and shame over those times that he had tricked her ate at her heart just as surely as the acid ate at Spike’s skin.
On this morning, however, as she lay in her bed trying to only nap lightly, she found her resolve waning. As her mind repeated her poem-mantra over and over again, it drifted further and further into the lovely, dark, and deep woods. Before the woods engulfed her completely in deep slumber, it occurred to her that Tara must have slipped something into the hot chocolate she’d made as treat for Buffy when the Slayer had returned from the hospital this morning.
Buffy tried to get up, but her head spun and the room tilted around her. She fell back down against her pillow and rolled off the bed onto the floor. She pushed up to all fours and tried to crawl out of her bedroom. She’d only made it a couple of feet before her limbs turned to jelly and refused to function. She dropped down onto the floor and her eyes closed despite her will to make them remain open.
She was filled with fear. It consumed her. Fear of not being able to control her dreams while under the influence of whatever drug Tara had spiked her drink with. Fear of being tricked again. Fear of betraying her husband yet again. Her heart clenched in her chest and tears leaked involuntarily from her eyes as she battled against the blackness that was engulfing her.
“No… miles to go … no sleep,” she muttered to herself, her speech slurred and uneven, as she tried to fight the drugs.
As the darkness enfolded her, Buffy’s chant became, Spike, Spike, Spike. His name roared inside her spinning head. Please take me back to Spike… she begged her weary subconscious before her mind blanked and the sleep overtook her.
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Fear, Sarah McLachlan
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