|Story Title:||Miles To Go Before I Sleep|
Wash It All Away - Part 1
Confusion reigns as life goes on in the Unexpected Universe.
May - July 2011
Wash It All Away (Understanding) by Evanescence http://youtu.be/revnB46LPAE
|Thanks:||Thanks to YOU for reading! Without you none of this would mean anything! Giant thanks also 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. All mistakes are mine because I simply cannot stop fiddling right up to the last moment.|
|Rating / Warnings:||
Wednesday Morning, May 12th, Unexpected Universe:
Buffy sat bolt-upright in bed. Her heart was racing and her chest was heaving with labored breath; her skin was covered with beads of perspiration, even though she felt chilled right to the bone. The whole room was whirling around her in a blur of color and shadows as if she were on an out-of-control Merry-Go-Round. She shivered uncontrollably, as if she’d just emerged from a freezer.
Her hands were clenched in tight, painful fists against her chest. She slowly opened them; they’d been closed so tightly that it hurt to flex her fingers. She could feel a bit of warmth return to them as she worked her hands, and blood began to flow into her cold, stiff digits. She turned her hands over and over, staring at them with confusion – what had she been grasping? As she pondered this and tried to remember the dream that had awoken her, the spinning room finally settled and lurched to a stop.
At the heart of her physical state was a terror the likes of which she’d seldom felt before. Black, bony fingers of fear seemed to reach out from her sleep and take hold of her. She tried to figure out what it was she was afraid of, tried to see where the fear was coming from, but she couldn’t remember. Whatever it was had slipped from her mind like wisps of smoke through her fingers.
Now that the room had finally stopped spinning around her, she looked around. Spike was sleeping in the bed next to her – he hadn’t stirred when she awoke. Everything looked … fine. So why was she so frightened? What was she so afraid of? Had she simply had a nightmare and its remnants were clinging to her emotions even though she couldn’t actually remember what it was about?
Buffy got out of the bed slowly, then silently padded out of their room and down the hall. She stopped first in the nursery and checked on MacKenzie. The Dagon Sphere illuminated the baby’s room in a golden light. It had been handed down from Annie, then to Dani and Billy, and now to the ‘seer of truth’ as her protective nightlight. In the soft glow of the orb which repels ‘That Which Cannot Be Named’, Buffy could see that the baby was sleeping peacefully.
Next, she checked on Dani and then Billy. Both of them were also sound asleep in their beds.
Down the hall, Bess’ door was standing open a few inches. She pushed it open farther and saw that the bed was empty save for Angelpie. The kitten stood up and leisurely stretched her back into a high arch before re-curling against Bess’ pillow and settling back to sleep. Buffy then remembered that Bess said she was going to Troy’s after patrol and wouldn’t be home until the following night. Buffy could clearly remember the conversation. Bess said Troy was going to help her study for the GED assessment test, which was coming up in a couple of weeks. Buffy had laughed at the girl’s lame excuse and told Bess she should be sure to take her books with her to make that more believable.
Bess had rolled her eyes and insisted, “It’s true! He’s helping me study!”
“Yeah, yeah – I know how that goes. I used to ‘study’ at the Bronze: ten minutes with the books, twenty minutes on the dance floor. Why do I think your study habits were inherited from me?”
Buffy frowned at the memory of the conversation; it was so clear and yet … vague at the same time. She felt like the answer to her unease was just beyond her reach; like a word that was right on the tip of your tongue but you just couldn’t get to come out and the harder you tried, the further away it got. She felt like she knew something, but couldn’t get her mind to find it in the jumble of un-indexed bits of data she had stashed in there. Buffy shook the feeling off, unable to grasp any substantial reason for it. She pulled the door closed a bit to cast Angelpie back into darkness, and headed down the hall to the last room.
When she got to Annie’s room, she felt those ethereal tendrils of fear wrap around her tighter, like a boa constrictor wrapping around its prey – suffocating her.
She tried to take a deep breath to calm down before reaching for the handle of Annie’s door, but she couldn’t breathe; the fear had her gripped too tightly. She steeled herself and opened the door. Her breath was nonexistent, caught in fear’s deadly grasp. Inside, everything was … fine. It was fine and yet, somehow, it seemed … wrong. Something was different. What was it?
Annie was sleeping soundly on her bed, curled on her side facing the wall. Miss Kitty slept at her feet, as she’d done since she was a kitten. The old cat gave Buffy a disdainful look, then changed positions and snuggled in the crook at the back of Annie’s knees, out of the shaft of light that Buffy had let in when she’d opened the door.
Buffy looked around the room, trying to figure out what it was that had changed. All of Annie’s posters were on her walls, the frilly, fuchsia-pink ballet costume for her upcoming recital hung on the closet door, her school books and computer were on a small desk in one corner. Everything looked fine. The grip of fear loosened, and Buffy was finally able to breathe again, but the trepidation and unease within her remained. On impulse, she went back to MacKenzie’s room, retrieved the Dagon Sphere, and placed it on Annie’s dresser before heading back to her own room.
Spike stirred when she slid in beside him. “Everything alright, pet?” he asked, his voice low and drunk with sleep.
“Yeah … yeah, fine,” she whispered back as she cuddled up against him. She felt another shiver of fear trail down her spine as he snaked one arm around her, and Buffy settled her head on his shoulder. “Everything’s fine…” she whispered again, more to herself than to him.
(About 3 weeks later) Saturday, June 4th, 2011:
JJ, Dani, Billy, and Annie roared into the kitchen like a speeding freighttrain about mid-afternoon. School was out for summer and they’d started their vacation off with a game of three on two football in the park. JJ, Billy, and Annie against Spike and Dani. After an hour of running on the soccer field in the park, trying to get and keep the ball away from Spike and Dani, the ‘three’ team lost thirty-four to twenty-two. High scoring, no doubt, but there were no goalies – only forwards who also acted as sweepers when the other team had the ball. It made for a much more lively, and high-scoring, game that way.
The kids swarmed around the kitchen, rummaging through the cupboards and refrigerator like bears that had just awoken from a long winter’s hibernation. Cabinet doors opened and slammed shut, plastic potato-chip bags rattled, boxes of cookies, and other equally healthy treats, were torn open, and the cold Coke supply dwindled dangerously low. The children chattered endlessly about everything from Dani taking JJ down, which he said should’ve been a foul, but she protested was perfectly legal, to how hot it was outside, to the dog that had run off with the ball, making them all chase after it. None of them seemed to even notice Buffy, who was working on her latest project: Organize the Weckerlys So I Don’t Go Completely Insane.
She looked up from her project, which covered half the kitchen table and nearly one whole wall behind it, and watched them as they all gathered their sustenance of choice. With rations in hand, they all whirled back out of the kitchen like four miniature Tasmanian Devils, leaving a disaster area worthy of National Guard activation in their wake. Buffy sighed and shook her head. She decided to just leave the half-empty boxes and bags out on the counters where they’d been strewn. Putting them away was a lost cause – it was like trying to hide a cornfield from a swarm of locusts. If she left them there, most of the contents would be gone in the next invasion and then she could just throw the empty packages away … assuming the locusts didn’t eat them as well.
She still had a ‘funny feeling’ almost all the time. She didn’t know what to call it, so that was her solution: a ‘funny feeling’; although it was actually far from ‘funny’. She didn’t know the cause of it and she didn’t always know how it would manifest. Sometimes she’d be overcome with emotion and just start sobbing for no apparent reason, like she’d done at Annie’s dance recital two weeks ago.
Other times she was filled with fear and panic so profound that it was actually beyond her capacity to control. This happened just last week when she’d gone as a chaperone on Dani and Billy’s class trip to the zoo. She’d been perfectly fine most of the day, right up until they’d gone in the ‘bat cave’. It wasn’t a bat cave as in ‘Batman’ like they had at the house, but a real … or simulated to look real, cave full of living, breathing bats. She had freaked out – there was no other way to put it.
The whole class had to leave the cave – immediately if not sooner. She began ushering the children from the exhibit like a crazy woman, screaming at them to get out, and she would not stop until the area was cleared. The teacher and other mothers tried to show her that the bats were behind glass, not in with the children, but it was like she didn’t even hear them. Then, to make matters worse, she wouldn’t let anyone else enter the exhibit, either. She told everyone that would listen that it was dangerous to be that close to bats. What kind of place was this anyway, putting children in danger like that? Billy finally had to call his father to come to the zoo and calm her down.
To say that Billy and Dani were mortified would be an understatement. Buffy apologized later, both to the teacher and the twins, and she never could fully explain to anyone, including Spike, why she was so wigged out. Dani was sure they would forever be known as the kids with the ‘batty mother’. Her only consolation was that the school year was nearly over; hopefully everyone would forget about their lunatic mother over the summer. Billy was more understanding – he could tell their mom was really, really upset – she wasn’t pretending just to embarrass them (as she sometimes kidded that she would one day do). Still, he had to agree: they would never live this down.
Most of the time, though, the ‘funny feeling’ manifested itself as a sense of foreboding and guilt, but Buffy could never pinpoint exactly what she was feeling guilty about – she just was. She tried to hide it, hoping it would go away as mysteriously and suddenly as it had come on. She worked very hard at holding it in check and, most importantly, she didn’t want Spike to know how bad it was. Just thinking about telling him the full extent of her ‘affliction’ sent a shiver of fear down her spine worse than any demon could, but she didn’t know why.
“’ow’s it going, then?” Spike asked as he walked into the kitchen a minute later. He grabbed a beer from the fridge, opened it, and sauntered over to his wife.
Buffy blew some hair out of her eyes and shook her head. “Slowly but surely,” she replied, looking up at him with a tired smile.
“If anyone can organize this lot, it’d be you, luv,” he assured her as he walked over to the giant write-on/wipe-off calendar that now dominated one wall of the kitchen. It showed the activities for the clan for the next ninety days. Pinned up to the bulletin board beneath it was another one – also ninety days. Off to one side of the calendar was a blank whiteboard for people to leave notes for each other, and on the other side was a long list of phone numbers for everyone from Angel and Cordy in L.A. to Olivia in London.
Almost every little block, meaning every day, was filled with something – or numerous things. There were day-camps and family trips, along with practices, games, lessons, appointments, and recitals. There were sleepovers and friend’s birthday parties. Bess’ GED summer school schedule was on there with a big star on the day that she would actually take the test itself.
Billy’s activities were in blue ink, Annie’s in pink, Dani’s in orange, and MacKenzie’s, which thankfully consisted only of doctor appointments at this point, in red. Other people, like Bess, Faith, and JJ were listed on there in black so Buffy could keep track of who would be home when for baby-sitting duties, or if she needed to pick JJ up somewhere other than activities shared with one of the other children. Across a full week at the end of August was written, “Olympics” in big, black letters, and the long weekend leading up to Independence Day, plus the week after the actual holiday, was marked with “Willow/Tara”, denoting their annual trip up to visit the witches.
Spike studied the colorful map of their lives for a few minutes as Buffy sorted through more printed schedules and notes. Since the children often brought home multiple schedules for the same thing, some of the papers on the table were duplicates, so she had to sort those out. Worse, some were ‘revised’ schedules – if she got the wrong schedule on the board, that would be bad. Very, very bad.
Spike furrowed his brow as he looked it all over. “Uhhh … I think ya got one a’ the Niblett’s lessons down for Junior,” he offered tentatively. Buffy had been acting, well … oddly lately. He never knew when the smallest thing would bring on a flood of tears, a panic attack, or an angry outburst. Spike was afraid his announcement would trigger the latter … or possibly the former. Possibly all three.
“Huh?” Buffy questioned, her heart sinking with dread. She took a breath and stood up to see what he was talking about, afraid that she’d messed something up.
“‘Ere … ya got ‘dance’ in blue.” Spike pointed to several different items written in blue pen to show her.
“Oh … uhhh,” Buffy made a small ‘eeek’ face and sat back down. “I meant to talk to you about that,” she muttered uneasily.
Spike raised his brows and waited, but she didn’t continue. He stepped over to the table where she was working, pulled out a chair, and sprawled down in it, spreading his tired legs out under it. Despite his vampire strength, keeping up with four kids on the football field wasn’t as easy as it had sounded when he’d suggested it.
“Yeah?” he prodded, taking another swig of his beer.
Buffy took a breath, but didn’t look at him. “Billy wants to take dance. I signed him up,” she blurted out quickly.
Spike’s brows went up again, then he closed his eyes and rubbed at them in earnest. “Bloody hell,” he moaned.
Buffy snorted softly and looked up at him. “What? He likes it – he likes acting and singing and … dancing. There’s nothing wrong with that,” she insisted. “You dance,” Buffy pointed out quickly.
“I dance with you, luv. I don’t flit around like a bloody butterfly in a tutu!”
“Boys don’t wear tutus, they wear … tights … or … just, you know … stretchable pants. And I’m sure he won’t be the butterfly, he’ll be the … thing that lifts the butterfly up and twirls her around in the air,” she defended.
At his dubious look, Buffy stiffened. “This,” she accused, pointing a finger at him, “This is why I didn’t even want to tell you. What are you, afraid they’ll make him gay? It doesn’t work that way, ya know. I thought you were more … open minded.”
Spike rolled his eyes to the ceiling and sighed. “I am bloody opened minded…” he began, “… to a point.”
At her disapproving look, Spike rolled his eyes again. “I don’t care if he’s … gay,” Spike forced out, using the politically-correct term rather than his typical ‘a right poofter’. “As long as ‘e’s happy. I jus’ don’t like where this is goin’. He’s already a book worm, now he’s gonna be a bloody ballerina too?”
“Nooo, he’s gonna be a … male ballet dancer – if he wants. He may not even like it … and plus, it’s not just ballet, they have tap, contemporary, and even hip-hop,” Buffy continued to defend. “It’s great for coordination, balance, and strength – plus self-esteem,” she recited from the brochure she’d read.
Spike shook his head and took another long swallow of his beer. “Jus’ don’t like the direction he’s headed, pet,” he said at length.
Buffy studied him a minute, her eyes narrowed in thought. Finally she began to nod and a small smile spread across her face. “You’re not afraid he’s gay, you’re afraid he’ll turn out like William,” she accused. “You’re afraid he’ll be just like you – a poet and a scholar and…”
“Yeah,” Spike admitted curtly, cutting her off. “Fine – yeah. I’m afraid he’ll ‘ave his soddin’ lunch money stolen every other day, get ridiculed, teased, and bullied. Yeah – and it should scare you, too. You don’t know, Buffy – you ‘ave no idea what that feels like.”
Buffy frowned as she studied him, then nodded. “You’re right – I never really got ridiculed or shunned for being the freak at school. I was never the one that set the gym on fire or did all sorts of idiotic things to keep my secret. No one ever looked at me like I had two heads and didn’t fit in,” she replied sarcastically.
Spike shook his head. “That’s different – you could defend yourself. What’s he gonna do, pirouette them to death?”
“Spiiike,” Buffy moaned, letting out an exasperated sigh. “He likes it – it’s what he wants to do. And, honestly, being like William … well … he could do worse. I kinda love William.”
“Not gonna work this time, Slayer,” Spike retorted. “You can charm William all ya’ want, but I bloody well remember how it was, and it isn’t something I ever want him t’ live through.”
Billy really wanted to take that class – almost as much as Annie had. His desire had blossomed after Giles and Olivia had taken all the children to see “Oliver! The Musical,” at the local amateur theatre during Olivia’s last visit to Sunnydale.
Buffy sighed and looked back down at the papers strewn over the table as she thought, worrying her bottom lip with her teeth. Finally, a light bulb, which looked strangely like a stage light, lit up over her head. She got up and looked at the schedule … oh yeah, that would work!
Buffy turned back and looked at Spike excitedly. “How about this? Billy can take the dance class if he also takes Taekwondo with Dani. Then, if he’s bullied, he can fight back.” Buffy beamed at him, pleased with her solution.
Spike looked at her doubtfully. “He really wants t’ take dance?” he asked, half-resigned.
“He really does,” Buffy assured him.
Spike sighed and gave in. “Alright … fine, do the chopsocky thing too, then.”
Buffy silently cheered. She’d been dreading this conversation with her husband, but she’d already told Billy that he could take the class and didn’t want to have to renege on her word. She walked over to Spike and sat across his lap, wrapping her arms around his neck. “I really do love you, William,” she repeated. “Billy could do a lot worse than turn out like you.”
“Yeah?” Spike asked, cocking a brow at her as he set his beer down on the table. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her against him.
“Mmm-hmm,” Buffy assured him with a nod as she lowered her mouth to his.
As their lips melted together, Buffy could feel Spike’s desire stirring beneath her bottom. She wriggled gently against his growing hardness and moaned against his mouth with a low, sensuous sound that she hoped conveyed desire. She knew that was what she was supposed to feel, how she was supposed to react; the only problem was – she didn’t, or at least, not like she used to. Ever since the ‘funny feeling’ started, she’d felt guilty and shameful and, well … dirty. She felt like she was hiding something important from Spike, but, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t remember what it was. Truth be told, not knowing frightened her, but the prospect of Spike finding out her buried secret terrified her even more.
Behind Spike’s neck, Buffy dug two fingernails from her right hand into the soft flesh at the base of her left thumb hard enough to draw blood. As the pain shot out from her hand, she sighed against his lips. Pain was the only thing that ever helped.
Continued in the next chapter ...
Wash It All Away (Understanding) by Evanescence
You hold the answers deep within your own mind.
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