|Story Title:||Miles To Go Before I Sleep|
One Fine Wire
Buffy has a plan to fix everything, but will she get a chance to carry it out? She's been walking a fine wire. How will she cope when the dark stranger that followed her from the Gift-less dimension finds a way to take advantage of her her tenuous mental state?
Music Referenced: One Fine Wire, Colbie Caillat http://youtu.be/SaN_xAOZy0A
|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 same day. Saturday, April 30th, 2011, mid-afternoon:
Buffy woke from her dream with a renewed sense of purpose, although there was also a feeling of loss that scampered around the corners of her heart. The dream had felt so real that a part of her didn’t want to leave it. She knew she didn’t come up with all that on her own; Spike was there too. They were both trying so badly to escape what was going on that they’d invented a whole new life, a normal life, a simpler life in a ‘what might’ve been’ world of the past.
At times, like when they watched movies like ‘The Matrix’ or ‘Vanilla Sky’, she wondered if something like that could actually happen. What was really real: what she thought was a dream or what she thought was life? And what if the whole thing was a dream? What if she woke up one day to find she was actually a CPA in a big firm full of suits, doing a boring job in what passed as a normal life? What if she was just another bean-counter in nice clothes who had never been in a fight or seen a demon in her whole life? Her dreams often seemed so tangible that it wasn’t a huge leap for her to imagine the lines of reality blurring in her mind.
And then there was ‘1984’ – the novel by George Orwell that she’d had to read and give a book report on in high school. How did it go? Something along the lines of: there’s no proof of anything; nothing exists other than what’s in our own mind. There’s no knowledge of anything happening at all apart from what we perceive and process through the filter of our own biases and beliefs. Whatever happens in our mind actually happens – there’s no proof to the contrary. There’s no actual proof that the world even exists – only that our mind believes it, makes it so. She thought at the time that could explain why it was so easy for the residents of Sunnydale, and the world as a whole, to deny the existence of demons and magic. What worried her was: was it the rest of the world that was wrong, or was it her and her small group of friends and family, that were the lunatics?
Buffy tried not to think about that too much. Frankly, it made her head hurt. It was almost as bad as ‘who would win in a fight, an astronaut or a caveman?’ or ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg?’ or ‘why is the sky blue?’
“Ok … plan – I need a solid time-travel plan,” she admonished herself as she pushed her inner, philosophical debate back into one of the darkest corners of her mind where she preferred it remain hidden. She rose slowly up off the floor where she’d collapsed that morning, and started pulling on some clothes. Before going downstairs, she paused another moment and pulled Spike’s pillow to her face. His scent was fading from it, even though she hadn’t washed it since he’d been gone.
Tears stung her eyes as she inhaled deeper and then slowly let the breath out. Buffy finally set his pillow back in his place on their bed. She did so gently, as if it were made of fine china and would break with the slightest pressure. “I promise, Spike,” she whispered to the empty room before heading out.
Tara was downstairs at the research table where it seemed she lived now. She was on the speakerphone with Willow again, talking about spells, dimensional transmogrification algorithms, transporting inter-dimensionally without the use of a portal, and what effect any of that might have had on the sea monster’s susceptibility to magic. Tara looked up as Buffy descended the stairs and was glad to see the Slayer did look a little more rested than she had when she’d gotten home from the hospital that morning.
“Buffy’s here,” Tara announced to Willow at a break in the conversation.
“Hi, Buffy!” Willow’s voice crackled through the speakerphone.
“Hey, Wills ... how’s it going? Any headway on anything?” Buffy asked both of them.
“Not on the magic immunity yet, but…” Willow began. “We’re ready to go on the Casper plan. We should make contact with the octopus tomorrow around mid-day. Assuming it will follow my lure into the cave on Santa Cruz Island, we could have Spike back by as soon as Monday morning.”
“Oh, Wills!” Buffy enthused. “That’s great!” she exclaimed, feeling a small bud of hope form in her palm for the fruition of that promise.
“As soon as that’s done, I have another … mission,” Buffy continued. “I have a plan to fix Annie.”
Tara and Willow both drew in a sharp breath. “Buffy … you can’t … that’s not something that…” Tara began. “Magic has consequences.”
“Yeah, well, if you hadn't noticed, life has consequences,” Buffy pointed out. “I’m going back in time to stomp on a butterfly and kill a hell-god in the other dimension … and you witches are gonna get me there.”
“Buffy,” Willow began slowly over the phone. “That’s some pretty heavy stuff. I’m not sure we know how.”
“Then you need to figure it out. Soon. If Rack can do it, then you can do it,” Buffy encouraged them. When Tara looked less than pleased and Willow didn’t say anything, Buffy changed tactics. “You will do it. This isn’t a discussion; it’s not a request. It’s what’s gonna happen. Period.”
“Buffy? That’s a little harsh! What’s wrong with you?” Willow asked, offended by the Slayer’s dictator-like attitude.
“The list of what’s wrong with me is longer than my arm,” Buffy retorted. “We can start with: I don’t like my family and friends being hurt, and, if there’s a way to fix it, I will.”
“But, Buffy,” Tara interrupted her. “You can’t just use magic like that. There’s a natural order to things; you can’t just go messing with that and not expect things to…”
“Annie was attacked by a demon – it wasn't a car accident, for God's sake,” Buffy interrupted her. “Don’t start with me about what magic can and can't do. Whatever the consequences are, I’ll deal with, but I’m doing this,” Buffy informed them in no uncertain terms. “If you won’t help me, I’ll find someone who will.
“And, while we’re on the subject of helping,” Buffy continued tersely. “If you guys think I need help, then help me by getting Spike back. Don’t sneak around behind my back slipping Mickeys in my cocoa! I don’t like being drugged. Don’t do it again.”
“What? I didn’t …” Willow argued from the speakerphone.
“Wills, I know Tara physically did it, but you can’t say she didn’t talk to you about it first … I know better,” Buffy cut off Willow’s objection before the witch could even finish. “Don’t do it again,” Buffy growled into the phone.
“Yeah, sure Buffy … We’re sorry, we were just worried about you. Tara said you were … not sleeping,” Willow explained sheepishly.
Buffy looked at Tara, who remained silent; her eyes looked guilty, but she didn’t look away from Buffy’s hard gaze. “Yeah, well, did it ever occur to you that there might be a reason I’m not sleeping? Like maybe things in my sleep are trying to … trick me ... maybe hurt me? I might’ve woken up dead this morning.”
“Pretty sure if you were dead you wouldn’t have woken up … Oh, so not the point.” Willow cringed. “What’s trying to get you in your dreams? Is there anything we can…”
“No. I’ll handle it, but please don’t do that again, ok?” Buffy cut her off.
“Sure, Buffy. We just thought…” Willow began.
“From now on, you guys just start thinking about getting Spike back and sending me back in time. I’m going to keep my promise to Annie and Spike and … the other Spike.”
Warren leaned back in his chair, tossing a Koosh ball back and forth in his hands as he shook his head. The bank of monitors in front of him had all the Slayer’s haunts covered, but it was the one on the bookcase in her great room that he was concentrating on now.
After he’d gotten to this dimension, he tried to look up some old friends – only it seemed they were all dead. Then he looked himself up, and found he was in jail doing life without parole for killing his ditzoid, clingy girlfriend. Seriously? Like she didn’t have that coming?
Having failed to find his old friends, he looked up some new friends. Funny how having boatloads of cash in your pockets can buy you all kinds of new friends. After some heart-to-heart chats with some capitalist, dimension-hopping demons later, he had some insight into not only what happened to him in this dimension, but also what happened to him in several other dimensions, as well. None of them were good. And almost every time the badness stemmed directly from one person: the Slayer. Buffy Summers and her band of misfits always seemed to be sticking their noses into his business.
And now she was going to butt her pug nose into his life again. If she went back and changed what happened in the other dimension, there’s no telling what would become of him. Flayed alive was his favorite of all the possible outcomes he’d been privy to … gotta love a good flaying. The way things stood now, he had it made in the shade. He had plenty of cash, which had been rendered worthless in the other dimension, but opened every door for him here. All that money had just been sitting there in the banks ‘back home’ waiting to be picked up. That had been sweet.
When he got here, he had needed a lair, so he’d taken over the abandoned Initiative headquarters under the UC Sunnydale campus. He knew the layout of the place, he knew how everything worked there. He’d tapped into the university’s electric grid, into their Ethernet … hell, he even had 528 channels of cable TV, including ten porn channels and SyFy – all free and all completely 'off the grid'. No one could track him down here – this place did not exist.
With this setup, he could get a new crew together with no problem and take over the whole world. He could be like Charlie and have some beautiful, semi-naked ‘Angels’ working for him. Hell, he could have completely naked ‘Angels’ working for him! No more dealing with geeks and losers – no way. Naked, hot, evil girls with big guns: that was the way to go. Who didn’t love naked, hot, evil girls with big guns?
Warren sat forward in his chair as his delusions of grandeur whirled in his mind. Images of beautiful women in skimpy outfits fawning over him, following his every command, bringing him bags of cash and jewels and Star Wars action-figures, danced in his head. He actually had to lick a bit of drool from the corner of his mouth as he thought of the possibilities.
A sly smile came to his lips. He dropped the Koosh ball and picked up one of the keycards, along with Andrew’s summoning flute, off the console in front of him. He’d learned quite a bit during the long years he spent with that loser Andrew, and summoning demons was like second nature to Warren now. That was about the only thing whiney, pitiful, pathetic Andrew had really been good for.
Warren headed out of the freshly christened ‘World Domination Command Center’ and walked through the cavernous, empty area of the underground facility to the sewer entrance. Handy of Buffy to have a sewer entrance in her basement; well it’s handy if you’re an evil genius wanting to leave her a little surprise down there.
Warren opened the door to the sewers with the keycard and headed out. If he hurried, he could get there before her daily afternoon laundry trip and have his welcoming committee ready and waiting for her.
(Later that Afternoon) Saturday, April 30th, 2011, 5pm:
Buffy was late … everything was late. She’d slept late ‘cos of Tara’s meddling potion and everything else just seemed to get behinder and behinder as the day went on. She needed to get to the hospital and see Annie. The other kids were all over at Anya and Xander’s house – the Harris’ had offered to give Tara a break from the babysitting duties. They’d bring them to the hospital later and then Tara could pick them up from there and bring them back home.
Buffy still needed to get a shower and get dressed. There were dirty dishes in the sink and the carpets looked like they hadn’t been vacuumed in a week of Sundays; dust bunnies hopped around on the shelves in the research area and seemed to be making baby bunnies by the dozens. And then there was the laundry. Buffy thought about blowing it off, like she was blowing off the vacuuming and dusting and dishes. But, with four kids and a baby in the house, if she left it for tomorrow, it would just be that much worse and take that much longer to get done. She’d just run down really quick and put a load in. That would save some time, anyway, and maybe keep Buffy from falling even further behind. Buffy could run home later and toss those in the dryer and put in another load. Buffy knew Tara would do the laundry for her, after all, she’d done it before – just as Buffy knew she’d done the dishes and vacuuming before. But, at the moment, the Slayer was still pissed about the whole spiked cocoa thing and didn’t feel like asking the witch to do anything like that – in fact, she didn’t feel like talking to her at all just then. Buffy realized it was much like cutting off her nose to spite her face, but sometimes spite was worth a nose-less face.
Buffy had just put the fabric softener in the little dispenser and dropped it into the washer when she heard a noise behind her. She turned around barely in the nick of time to block a punch from a demon in definite need of a dental plan. The demon was humanoid; taller and larger than Buffy by a good bit. Its skin had a bluish pallor and it was hairless – at least on its head, face, and arms – the only parts of it she could see. Its eyes were set deep and surrounded by red bags, which made her own eyes, and the dark circles that surrounded them, look fresh and well-rested in comparison. Its long teeth were yellowed and jagged – it definitely did not floss … or even brush, for that matter. He looked vaguely familiar to her, but she didn’t have time to really focus on identifying where she may have seen this demon before.
Her block caught the demon off-guard and it stumbled backwards when she hit it with her own powerful blow to its midsection. It didn’t knock the monster down or out, however, and it started back towards her after quickly catching its balance.
"I seriously don’t have time for this!” Buffy informed the intruder as she landed a round-house kick to its abdomen, then followed it quickly with a solid punch to its face, catching it on the right temple.
The demon’s head snapped to the side and it snarled and growled at her as it regrouped. It only took a second for it to recover, then it took a swipe at her face with its long, claw-like nails. Buffy leaned back to avoid being cut, but snapped back up quickly and delivered another blow. Her clenched fist landed directly in the thing’s dental-hygiene-challenged mouth. When she pulled back, she noticed that her knuckles were bleeding; she’d cut them on its sharp teeth. Apparently, they weren’t as rotten as they looked; none fell out.
That blow did seem to stun it at least momentarily. Buffy quickly looked around for a weapon, but of course, there were no weapons down here where the kids played their video games. She saw the pile of her garden equipment in the corner and headed for it; a shovel would work perfectly well as a weapon. Before Buffy could reach the garden implement cache, the demon charged and caught her from behind. She jabbed backwards with her elbow, landing a vicious jab against its mid-section, and stomped her booted foot down on its instep. The demon growled in pain but didn’t release its grip on her. Instead, it countered by suddenly extruding a sharp skewer from the knuckle of his middle finger and jabbed it at her. Buffy tried to block the blow. She kept the demon from stabbing his new, shiny appendage into her neck, but didn’t deflect it completely. The sharp, pencil sized, demonic hypodermic cut deeply into the flesh of her forearm.
Buffy immediately screamed out in pain and clutched at her arm. It hurt worse than a simple stab in the arm should’ve and she dropped to her knees in agony, cradling her arm against her chest.
“Oh my heavens, Elizabeth!” William exclaimed in alarm, kneeling beside his wife where she’d fallen. “Are you quite alright?”
“I … uhhh … William?” Buffy stammered, looking up from her bleeding and painful arm to his concerned face. “What happened?”
“I believe your feet became entangled in your crinoline, my dear. They really aren’t designed for leaping over mud puddles,” William answered her question as he examined her for injuries.
“Oh, my word! Your arm! Can you stand? Can you walk?” William rattled questions off quickly as Buffy held her right hand over her left forearm to try and stem the bleeding. Shards of broken, brown glass littered the footpath where Buffy was splayed. The largest piece was covered in blood – her blood, from where it had stabbed into her arm when she'd fallen.
Buffy looked back down at her injury, blood dripped through her fingers and pooled on the footpath below. “William?” she questioned again, looking around to get her bearings. It was very clearly not the basement and certainly not 2011. Had she passed out?
“Yes, I’m here, my love. Let me help you to your feet. Do be mindful of the glass,” he advised her as he stood back up and literally picked her up from the sidewalk and set her on her feet in front of him. “I cannot imagine who could have been so careless as to leave such a hazard right here on a public walkway. It’s simply unconscionable!
“We should get home immediately and call Dr. Gull,” William insisted. “I’m dreadfully sorry about the night out. I know you were so looking forward to it.”
“No, William … it’s … I’m fine,” Buffy insisted even as she swooned and swayed against him, her eyes fluttering closed.
“I rather think not, my dear,” William argued as he caught her around the waist to keep her from collapsing.
Tara came running from the research library when she heard a crash in the basement. When the witch got halfway down the stairs, she could see a demon standing over Buffy. The Slayer was crumpled on the floor and seemed disoriented, as if she’d taken a hard blow to the head. The demon lifted Buffy up by her shoulders and drew back the dagger on its fist, preparing to deliver the killing dose of poison to her heart. As Tara watched, Buffy seemed to regain her bearings and realize where she was. The Slayer swung a fist at the demon’s face, rocking its head to the side violently.
At nearly the same time the Slayer hit her attacker, Tara commanded, “Eradicae!” The demon was thrown back away from Buffy with the magical force. When the demon released her, the Slayer once again crumpled to the floor in a heap.
William cursed and grabbed for his jaw, which he was quite certain his wife had just broken with a right hook. When he released his hold on her, she once again collapsed to the ground, barely missing being cut by more of the shards of glass on the footpath at their feet.
By now, the couple, and their obvious distress, had drawn a crowd, but William barely noticed as he dropped back down onto his knees next to his wife. Her arm was bleeding profusely and he clamped a hand over it to try and get it to stop. His whole face seemed to be swelling and throbbing. A shooting pain stabbed behind his eyes, reaching all the way through his brain, down his neck and spine, and even weakened his knees.
“Looks t’ me like you could use a bit of a hand,” a deep Irish brogue rained down on William.
“No … no thank you, I assure you I’m … I’m perfectly capable,” William stammered as he tried to stand, but wavered as his head spun with the searing pain that radiated from his jaw.
“Are ye now? Well, I’ll just help the lady then,” the large, dark-haired man offered with a congenial smile.
“No … I assure you…” William began again, but before he could offer any further objection, the man had picked Buffy up, tucked her bleeding arm between their bodies to help stop the flow, and was looking at William expectantly.
“Where might ye live, then? Should no doubt get your lovely lass to a doctor before more blood is spilled. I offer me services – I am your humble servant,” the larger man continued, bowing slightly at the waist.
William was uncomfortable taking help from a stranger, but his head was still spinning and the ground seemed to be tilting slightly. In all honesty, he wasn’t at all certain he could carry his wife home, although it was only a few blocks. Finally he acquiesced, unsure what else to do. “You’re quite gracious.”
“It’s often been said,” the man holding his wife agreed with a serious nod.
“Right then … just this way,” William began as he started for home, walking as quickly as he could on the wavering ground, which seemed to sway under his feet. The man carrying Elizabeth followed behind him, right on William’s heels.
Back on Macaulay Road, William opened the front garden gate and let the man precede him up the footpath towards the front door. Elizabeth hadn’t regained consciousness at all and she was looking quite pale.
William hurried past the man and opened the front door for him, then stepped aside to let him pass.
The man hesitated on the front step and looked at William. “A gentleman doesn’t enter a stranger’s home without a proper invitation. May I have leave to enter?” he asked in his thick broque.
William thought it a little odd, but then, the man was Irish, after all. “Yes, yes, of course! Please do come in!”
In short order, the house staff was gathered in the front parlour. The man set Elizabeth down on the settee and backed up to allow Nellie and Theresa to tend to her wound while Cassandra lit out for Dr. Gull’s.
“You have been quite gracious and kind,” William thanked the man as he walked him back towards the door. “Oh, where are my manners? Allow me to introduce myself, I am William, William Weckerly,” he offered, extending his bloody right hand to the Irishman.
“Liam,” the larger man offered, shaking William’s hand without hesitation.
“Thank you again for your assistance. You were very kind … Oh, I dare say I’m in such a state that I seem to be repeating myself now,” William began, tugging nervously at his curls. He suddenly noticed the blood on Liam’s clothing. “Oh my heavens, your waistcoat. It seems to be bathed in blood! Please allow me to have it laundered.”
Liam held up his hands, declining the offer. “Don’t concern yourself, Willie. 'Tis just a trifle. Certainly nothing more than a minor annoyance, and well worth the price. After all, helping our fellow man in his hour of need is what’s really important in this world. It’s the Lord’s calling for us all, wouldn’t you agree?”
“I … yes, yes, that’s quite true…but I feel I should…”
“You should tend to your lass. Keep her safe while ye can. You never know when another catastrophe might befall such a lovely maiden,” Liam advised with a pleasant smile which didn’t quite reach his dark eyes. Liam spun on his heel and headed for the door. It seemed to William that he moved more quickly than humanly possible, but perhaps it was just the aching in his head that made it seem that way.
William frowned as he watched the man shut the door behind him. What a queer thing to say. Irishmen!
The door had no sooner closed and William turned to see about his wife than it crashed open again. William jumped as it slammed back against the wall loudly and for a moment his heart caught in his throat as he spun back around.
Cassandra rushed in, breathless and flushed. “Dr. Gull’s out t’ the Martin’s. Mrs. Martin is ‘avin’ a bad go of it what wif the basin ‘o gravy bein’ early and all,” the nursery maid gasped out. “The missus don’t know when he’d be back, but will send ‘im right round, no matter the 'our.”
William nodded, silently deciphering her Cockney to mean that Mrs. Martin was having a baby, not that she was serving the gravy early. “Thank you, Cassandra. You may return to your duties. You should expect to feed Wanda formula for this evening’s meal.”
“Yes, Master William. I’ll tend to the little one; nothing to fret about. I’ll just run up the apples an’ check on ‘er, then,” the blonde girl assured him as she headed back upstairs to the nursery.
“Miss Nellie … what needs to be done?” William asked as he reached the settee where his wife was laying prone, unconscious, and covered in blood.
“May I be of some service?” he asked anxiously as he watched the elderly cook carefully cleaning the deep wound in his wife’s arm with warm water. It was still bleeding, but not as badly as it had been on the street. It still looked quite bad, though, and William’s stomach lurched slightly at the sight.
“Went nearly to the bone,” Nellie informed him. “Perhaps Dr. Gladstone could come ‘round rather than waiting on the good Dr. Gull,” she suggested.
William nodded. “Yes … perhaps Theresa could fetch him,” he agreed worriedly, looking up from Nellie to the house maid, who nodded and headed for the door. Dr. Gladstone was young; he had just begun his practice. Hopefully he would be available and not off on a call.
“Buffy!” Tara exclaimed as she dashed the rest of the way down the stairs. The demon crashed against the door that led to the sewers and it slammed open. He momentarily considered his options, but chose fleeing into the sewers over fighting any further with the witch and Slayer.
Tara dropped down next to Buffy and checked her wounds. There was a puncture in her forearm and the flesh around it was turning dark purple with bruising. The Slayer also had a black eye and blood trickled from various cuts and abrasions on her face. “Buffy, are you alright?” Tara asked as she helped Buffy sit up with her back against the washing machine.
Buffy blinked once, twice … then her eyes fluttered open for a couple of seconds before dropping closed again. “Tara?”
“No, darling, it’s me,” her husband assured her, taking her good hand in his.
“What … what’s going on?” she asked groggily.
“You fell and lacerated your arm, my love. I’m afraid you’ve lost a good amount of blood. But you’re safe now. You’re home and Theresa’s gone to fetch the doctor.”
“Home…” his wife muttered, her voice slurred almost like she’d had too much to drink. She never could quite get her eyes to stay open long enough to focus.
“Yes, Elizabeth, you’re home,” he repeated.
“Buffy?” Tara questioned, getting a little cool water on her fingers from the laundry sink and touching it to the Slayer’s face.
Buffy moaned and reached for her head. It was spinning and aching and … so confused.
“William?” Buffy asked as she forced her eyes open with sheer willpower alone.
“No, Buffy – it’s Tara,” the white witch told her softly. “Can you stand?”
Buffy took a deep breath and her head stopped spinning quite so erratically. She nodded, and Tara stood up and helped Buffy to her feet.
“What was that thing?” Tara asked as she helped Buffy walk back to the stairs.
Buffy shook her head. “The ‘Lack of Dental Insurance’ demon, I guess.”
Giles rose from his seat near Annie’s bedside when Buffy came in. She looked even more exhausted than her norm of late, and now also rather beaten up.
“Buffy! Are you quite alright?” he asked with concern, moving towards her.
“Yeah – you know me, just can’t resist a good mid-day brawl,” Buffy dismissed it, giving him a wan smile.
Giles grabbed her arm to stop her from walking further into the room and Buffy winced in pain.
“Oh! I’m dreadfully sorry,” he apologized, releasing her. “May I have a word … outside?”
Buffy looked at Annie, who was pretending to watch the TV. She sighed as she turned around and headed back into the hall.
“I’m afraid Annie had some visitors today – some classmates from school,” Giles explained.
“And … I’m guessing it didn’t go well.”
Giles removed his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose for a moment before replacing them and giving Buffy a sympathetic look. “No, I’m afraid not. It was … quite … uncomfortable. She’s been terribly sullen ever since,” Giles rolled his eyes. “More so than normal.”
Buffy nodded and blew out a breath. “Thanks, Giles. You can take a break. I’ll hang here.”
“Are you certain? You look a bit … off.”
Buffy snorted a laugh. Nothing a good hallucination won’t fix. “I’m fine, really. A little Slayer healing and I’ll be fit as a fiddle,” she assured him. “What does that mean, anyway? ‘Fit as a fiddle’? Are fiddles really into yoga or something? Oh! Maybe they do Jazzercise or Pilates! Just what is it that keeps them so fit? Inquiring minds want to know.”
Giles gave her his patented look of tolerance, like a father might give a child who kept asking ‘Why?’ fifty times in a row, and shook his head. “I’m not entirely certain, really.”
“Huh! Mark one down for Buffy in the ‘Stump the Giles’ game. That gives me three and you … ten million.”
“Well, I’m glad I’m ahead in something, although I rather think you’re still up on me with the life-saving and apocalypse-averting scorecard,” Giles admitted.
“Are you quite sure you’re alright?” he asked again.
“Just think of me as a fiddle … I’m a fiddle-thon,” Buffy assured him with a smile as she started into Annie’s room.
“Hey, sweetie,” Buffy called to Annie as she came in, trying to sound bright and ‘fiddle-y’. “Gotcha a Double Fudge Cookie Dough Blizzard today.”
Annie looked at her with sad, puffy eyes. “Thanks,” she replied morosely, not making any attempt to take the treat from Buffy’s hand.
Buffy sighed and set the milkshake down. “So, I hear you had some visitors today. Who all came by?”
Annie sighed heavily and looked back at the TV. “Just some kids from school.”
“Did Johnny come?”
“And … was there kissage?” Buffy teased, giving her daughter a knowing smile.
Annie rolled her eyes, folded her arms over her chest, and huffed out an exasperated breath. “Not hardly.”
Tears welled in her daughter’s eyes, and suddenly Buffy missed the anger and resentment that had been there the last few days. “Oh, baby … I’m sorry.”
Annie looked at the ceiling to try and keep her tears from falling again, but it was a lost cause. “It was like they didn’t even know me,” she admitted, her voice barely above a whisper. “Like … I wasn’t even me. Without my legs I’m … no one, a stranger. A sideshow freak.”
“Oh, honey,” Buffy soothed as she leaned over and pulled Annie into a hug. “That’s not true. They were probably just a little, you know … unsure. They’ll get over it and everything will be fine, you’ll see.”
“No it won’t. Nothing will ever be fine again!” Annie asserted, that edge of anger returning to her voice. “I wish I was dead! I might as well just be dead! My life is over! I hate myself! I hate you! I hate everyone! I just want to die!”
“Annie! No! Don’t say that! You don’t mean any of that,” Buffy admonished her, the words were like a knife to Buffy’s heart. Buffy knew that every child, at some point in their lives, told their parents they hated them – but that didn’t make the slashes to her heart any less painful. Perhaps it cut more deeply because Buffy hated herself for allowing this to happen to their eldest daughter – she knew that Annie was right to hate her. Buffy deserved her scorn.
“Yes I do!” Annie insisted. “I wish…” the girl stopped when her mother suddenly clutched at her head and sank down against her. Buffy’s whole body seemed to turn to jelly and she sagged against the mattress then slid to the floor. Buffy’s head cracked against the linoleum with a thud.
“Mom? Mom, what’s wrong? Mom?!"
Buffy blinked her eyes against the too-bright light that was intensified by the blinding white fog in her brain. “Annie?” she asked, her voice hoarse.
“Father said you were up. Miss Nellie sent tea and biscuits. I didn’t mean to wake you,” Anne apologized, her blue eyes full of worry for her step-mother.
Buffy looked around. She was in the bed she shared with William, in their bedchamber. Her bloodied clothes had been removed and she wore a long, cotton nightgown now. She closed her eyes again and sat up slowly, trying to stop the spinning in her head. When she pushed against her left arm, pain shot up to her shoulder and across her chest. She cried out and forced her eyes open to see the cause of the pain.
Buffy pulled the sleeve up on her nightgown to find her left arm was bandaged from the wrist to the elbow. A five inch long, dark reddish-brown stain of blood had seeped through the white, cloth bandage. A vision of seeing the glass on the sidewalk as she fell flashed in her mind. She remembered knowing that she was going to get cut, but it was too late to do anything to avoid it.
“Are you all right, Mother? Shall I fetch Father?” Anne asked as she watched her with concern.
Buffy gave the girl a reassuring smile. “I’m okay … just a little groggy. I just had a really … crazy nightmare.”
“It’s the medicine they gave you … Laudanum,” Anne assured her. “I heard them talking – the doctor said it could cause bad dreams and such.”
Buffy nodded slowly; she didn’t know what that was – a pain killer, she assumed. “Well, that’s good to know. I’d hate to think I conjured all that on my own.”
“Would you like some tea? I made it just how you like it … and I brought your favorite biscuits,” Anne offered, holding out the tray a little farther.
Buffy smiled again and sat back against the headboard, leaning her head, which was still spinning slightly, back against the solid wood. “Only if you’ll eat some with me.”
A smile lit up Anne’s features as she sat the tray down on the bed next to her step-mother and carefully climbed onto the mattress with her so as to not spill the tea.
Buffy’s smile widened and she let out a relieved breath. It had all been a nightmare: Spike missing, swallowed by a giant sea demon; Annie in the hospital, crying, sullen, her legs amputated. None of it was real; it was just a horrible nightmare. Everything was fine. Everyone was safe. She was home with William and their family, right where she belonged.
Author's End Notes:
Uh-oh. How will the Scoobies get Buffy back from her hallucination without Spike to help capture the demon? Did you guess right about who followed Buffy from the portal? I think most people figured it was either Warren or Rack. A bit more time with William in the 1800s is coming up ...
Laudanum, also known as Tincture of Opium, is an alcoholic herbal preparation containing approximately 10% powdered opium by weight. By the 19th century, laudanum was used in many patent medicines to "relieve pain ... to produce sleep ... to allay irritation ... to check excessive secretions ... to support the system ... [and] as a soporific". The limited pharmacopoeia of the day meant that opium derivatives were among the most efficacious of available treatments, so laudanum was widely prescribed for ailments from colds to meningitis to cardiac diseases, in both adults and children. Laudanum was used during the yellow fever epidemic. Innumerable Victorian women were prescribed the drug for relief of menstrual cramps and vague aches. Nurses also spoon-fed laudanum to infants. The Romantic and Victorian eras were marked by the widespread use of laudanum in Europe and the United States.
Cockney Rhyming Slang: Spike never used Cockney Rhyming Slang (as far as I recall), but he wasn’t a true Cockney, was he? Cassandra is. A true Cockney is someone born within the sound of Bow Bells. (St Mary-le-Bow Church in Cheapside, London). Rhyming Slang phrases are derived from taking an expression which rhymes with a word and then using that expression instead of the word. For example the word "look" rhymes with "butcher's hook". In many cases the rhyming word is omitted - so you won't find too many Londoners having a "bucher's hook", but you might find a few having a "butcher's".
"up the stairs" = "up the apples and pears". It is often shortened to "up the apples."
“baby” = “basin of gravy”. It is sometimes shortened to simply “basin”, but this one is more often used in its full form.
Want more? Check out: http://www.cockneyrhymingslang.co.uk/cockney_rhyming_slang
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