Her shoulder hurt and burned badly enough that Buffy was sure it would break out in flames. “It was waxy with weird eyes. It didn’t even look real, like some Hollywood idea of a demon. The poky thing just popped out when it trapped me against a car.”
Willow headed for the computer in full research mode. “Anything else you can remember that makes this demon special?”
Buffy was staring into space with a blank look on her face before crumpling into a heap on the floor.
“Oh, Goddess! Buffy?” Willow rushed to her fallen friend and checked her pulse. It was racing. “Tara! Dawnie!” Willow wasn’t sure if either of the girls was home but didn’t want to leave Buffy prone and alone.
Buffy had a small smile on her face but showed no signs of consciousness.
“Hi, honey! Welcome home!” Joyce looked pretty in a pale blue dress but most of all she looked so happy with her hand holding Hank’s as they stood in the doorway beckoning Buffy and Spike into the house.
Buffy looked around in confusion. “Mommy?” Her voice broke, “Daddy?” She started to cry softly and Spike handed her a tissue.
“Honeymoon went a bit long, I ‘spect,” Spike explained to the Summers. “She may love me, but still a girl will miss her folks.”
Buffy looked at Spike in amazement. The sun was shining and he had a slight suntan, other than that he looked like he always did. “Why aren’t you on fire?”
Spike looked at her in complete confusion. “I’m always on fire, pet. You have the power to do that to me.” He smiled at Joyce, who blushed slightly.
“Come in, you kids,” Hank suggested. “You still drink Sam Adams, Spike?”
“That’d be great, Dad,” Spike replied and motioned for Buffy to proceed him into the house.
Buffy blinked and shook her head trying to stand up only to have a worried Willow force her back on her back. “No way, missy, you just lay there for a minute. You had me scared half to death.” Willow looked ashen. “Do you want a glass of water? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Buffy answered. “Okay, a bit confused, but fine.”
“You just kinda blinked out then collapsed. Don’t try to get up right away, you’re still pale.”
“That was weird,” Buffy muttered.
“It was like I was in some dream,” Buffy tried to explain. “Mom was there and my dad and Sp…um…it was sunny and everyone was happy.”
“Sounds like a nice dream.”
“It was.” Buffy remembered how blue Spike’s eyes looked in the bright daylight. His smile was soft and happy. “I must need more sleep if I’m dreaming while awake,” she joked.
“That has been known to happen,” Willow agreed. “Some down time might be a good idea. Why don’t you take a little nap while I research this demon that spiked you.”
Buffy’s eyes shot up at the word but saw that Willow hadn’t a clue. “Okay, good idea. I don’t have a shift tonight, so I don’t have to be anywhere ‘til patrol time.”
“I’ll fix dinner, so you don’t even have to worry about that. Tara is coming over and we’ll do spaghetti. No worries!”
“Sounds great.” Buffy was shaky as she climbed the stairs. ‘I hope I can get that dream back. God, I miss them all so much!’
“So have you given any thought to staying here in Sunnydale? I know with Spike’s career you two are able to live pretty much anywhere, but Joyce and I would love being nearby.” Hank squeezed Buffy’s hand affectionately. “We wouldn’t be underfoot all the time, no need to worry about that!”
“We’ve talked about it, Hank,” Spike answered with a grin. “Buffy promises to take cooking lessons from Joyce and I can’t very well turn that down, now can I?”
Everyone laughed except Buffy, who was still disoriented.
Spike immediately stopped laughing and looked at her in concern, “I’m sorry, pet. I was only kidding about your cookin’. Hate to be in the dog house our first night back.”
“I’m sure Buffy knows you were teasing her,” Joyce said. “I should have tried to teach her some of the family recipes anyway.”
Buffy decided to just go with the dream. “I always did want to know how you made that meatloaf. It’s never dry and cardboardy.”
“Barley,” Joyce whispered, “I use barley as filler. It keeps it moist!”
“I have to say, I usually like my barley liquid,” Hank lifted his glass of Scotch, “But I do love your meatloaf, Muffin!”
Joyce giggled and motioned to Buffy to join her in the kitchen. “Let’s leave these two fellas alone to talk about silly guy things while we catch up on important things, honey.”
“Sure, Mom,” Buffy walked slowly, taking in all the familiar things and noting what was different. Not just the people in the dream were different. All the family pictures showed Buffy and her parents, but not a one showed Dawn. A few photos even had Spike in the group, but there was no indication that Buffy had a little sister in this dream world.
The deep voices were muffled, but there seemed to be plenty of laughter coming from the living room. “I’m so glad your dad likes your husband. It makes things so much easier without all that male posturing that sometimes happens. My dad never liked Hank; we had trouble at first because of it.”
Buffy felt lightheaded at the word ‘husband’. She was married! To Spike! She looked down at her left hand at the sparkling circle of diamonds adorning her ring finger. Looked like Spike had some kind of decent job too. The idea of Spike and a job boggled the mind. “So, what do you think about Spike’s career?” Buffy fished for information.
“I’m so proud,” Joyce gushed. “All my book club friends are green with envy that I’m now the mother-in-law of a best selling author!”
Spike, a writer? Well, there were times when he had quoted poetry to her when he thought she was asleep. Funny how her subconscious had turned him into a writer.
“Buffy,” Willow was shaking her and had a worried look on her face.
“Oh, thank the Goddess! I couldn’t get you to wake up. I was afraid you weren’t just asleep.”
“Just in deep dreamland,” Buffy tried to make light of it. “Guess I really was tired.
The hallucinations started coming more frequently and it was harder for the Scoobies to bring Buffy back each time.
“I was checking houses on that list you gave me looking for the terrible trio and then that demon thing poked me. That was the first time I remember checking out. I was in Sunnydale and I wasn’t a Slayer. Mom and Dad were there. Everything and everyone was normal–you know, regular people. None of this,” she gestured taking in everything around her, “was real. None of it.”
Xander scoffed, “Oh, come on, that’s ridiculous. What? You think this isn’t real just because of all the vampires and demons and the sister who used to be a big green ball of energy?” He stopped and frowned, realizing how crazy it all sounded.
Dawn was still upset at having been told she didn’t exist in Buffy’s happy, normal world. Buffy hadn’t dared mention her ‘husband’ Spike. It made Buffy feel bad knowing Dawn was so unhappy at being left out of her dream life, especially how much Buffy was coming to love her time in that bright and happy place.
Each time she slipped into the fugue state, she found herself loathe to leave it. Everything was wonderful in that world. No pain, no worries and more love than she knew what to do with. She hadn’t been so blissful since her sojourn in heaven. Each time she snapped back to the “real” world it was like losing heaven once again. She was beginning to really hate her friends for pulling her back, for looking at ways to keep her there with them.
After one long visit to her happy dream world, Willow had caught Buffy murmuring Spike’s name. That had led to her admitting he was present there. Dawn had pitched a fit that the vampire who had deserted them had made it into Buffy’s preferred world but not her. Willow and Xander looked like they felt much the same, even if greater maturity prevented them from stomping up the stairs and slamming doors.
“So,” Willow gently prodded, “Spike, huh?”
“Yeah, look, I know you guys get uncomfortable when I talk about what it’s like there,” Buffy tried to change the subject.
“NO. Well, okay a little,” Willow hedged. “Buffy, do you think that maybe in your subconscious you are kinda missing Spike?”
Buffy didn’t answer for so long that Willow thought for a moment that she had slipped away again. “Not just my subconscious, Will. I said terrible things to him, did terrible things to him. You only got a small glimpse of how bad it was.” Buffy teared up. “I wanted him so much, but I didn’t want to want him. I knew how you’d all take it.”
Willow bit her bottom lip. “Buffy, I probably wouldn’t have been all supporto-girl at the time, but after thinking about it…. If I had known you really did care about him, I would have been okay with it. I just want you to be happy, especially since I’m the one that pulled you out of heaven and made the whole mess in the first place.”
“I’m not mad at you anymore, you know,” Buffy reassured Willow. “I got past that and Spike actually was helping me to be happy again, to want to be alive.”
“Then I need to thank him someday,” Willow smiled. “Buffy, I really mean it. Xander and I have talked about you and Spike and we both know that we had no business trying to interfere, make you choose between your friends and the guy you were interested in. When Spike comes back home, I promise we’ll be good friends. I can’t swear that Xander will ever be bestest friends with Spike, but we’ll be nice. I kinda like him anyway. We all worked together really well that summer.”
Buffy hung her head and choked back tears. “I’m afraid the only way I’ll ever see him again is in this dream world, Will. You don’t know all that happened, all I did and said.”
“I’m sure Spike wasn’t Mr. Perfect himself,” Willow suggested.
“No, he made mistakes, but he was really trying to help,” Buffy admitted. “He was coming from that weird vampire logic place and it tripped him up from time to time, but his heart was in the right place.”
“Look,” Willow put on her resolve face, “First we’ll get you completely back in the real world and then we’ll work on how to get your vampire back.”
Buffy sniffled and put on a hopeful smile. “Thanks for understanding.”
“Thanks for forgiving me for being too caught up in power and control to notice my friend needed me.”
They embraced for the first time since Buffy’s return with nothing but love between them. It almost made Buffy want to stay in this real world of theirs.
Willow woke Buffy from a normal sleep with a happy smile, “Look, Buffy, I found the demon! It fits your description and your symptoms–you know, the trips to happy land–perfectly!”
Buffy looked at the offered picture and nodded. “Yup, that’s the nasty that nailed me. What’s it say about it? Will the effects just fade away?”
Willow looked somber. “Um, no. That’s the problem. It says that unless you drink the cure you’ll eventually slip into a coma and won’t wake up. I guess in your mind you’ll be in that world you’ve been visiting.”
Buffy wondered just how bad that would be, to just let it happen. She was happy there. Spike was…well, he was just like Spike tried to be here in the real world. He was loving and sexy and funny and treated her like she was a treasure. She had glimpses of that in him during those torrid weeks before she had driven him away. She had been having sex and he had always been making love. It had driven her crazy and brought out the uber-bitch in her.
Willow saw her frown and misunderstood. “It’s going to be fine. The stinger has the antidote, so all we need to do is trap the monster, snap off the stinger, do a little brewing,” Willow looked at the whole list of ingredients, “Ooh, it has nutmeg! That’ll make it tasty even. You’ll be fine in no time.”
‘Will I?’ she wondered. ‘How can I be fine in a world where I drove off the guy I think I’m in love with?’ To Willow, she said, “That’s great, Will. I knew you’d fix it.”
next chapter here
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/370454.html