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Daybreak

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   Spike shudders in the bed beside me. It’s early morning, just before dawn. He tends to come to bed an hour or so after I do, though I can tell by his heat that he’s been lying beside me for at least a little while tonight. He tries not to wake me, since even though we’re both creatures of the night, he knows I can sneak in an hour or two of sunlight while he can’t. So he lets me sleep, and I don’t wake him in the mornings.

   But sometimes he shifts or shudders, and I wake up. Sometimes it’s just him getting more comfortable. But I know to ask anyway.

   “You okay?”

   Sometimes he says yeah. Sometimes he says it’s nothing. And sometimes.... “Bad day,” he says.

   I want to put my arms around him, always, when he says this, but instead I know to ask. “Do you need to go for a walk?”

    Go for a walk can mean either actually go for a walk, or a run, or even a hunt for a demon or something, distract from what’s going on in his head, the dreams or the memories. Or it can mean go for a walk to the nearest liquor store and arrange to get incredibly, soddenly drunk. I know not to complain when he does this on bad days. But instead his shakes his head in the dim light.

   “No.”

   That means only one thing. “Come here then.”

   I put my arms around his shoulders, and he shifts to pillow himself against me. Not with his head on my heart, as he does when he wants to listen to my life, treasure my existence. Not with his body aligned with mine, as when he’s feeling sensual and romantic. He puts his head on my stomach or my waist, depending on how we’re positioned, below me, as if he were kneeling in supplication. Or penitence. Which in a way he is. I caress his hair with one hand while I hold him securely with the other. Then I ask.

   “What is it today?”

   Sometimes he says I’d rather not know. Sometimes he says he can’t talk about it, and I can hear nausea in his voice, so he means it. But I wish he could talk. Because the truth is, he’s wrong. I would always rather know. What I imagine, in my own dark mind with my own horrible experiences, is usually worse (I suspect) than whatever it is he can’t escape from. I assume that, anyway. Because I can imagine some truly horrific things.

   But today he tells me. “Some of the sounds are just... echoing. Just generally.”

    Generally is generally a bad sign. It means it’s not one specific incident that’s haunting his brain. It’s the whole of them. The sounds, whatever they are that are echoing inside him, are leading to other sounds, other incidents, other thoughts, other memories, other depravities, other deaths. It’s not just a bad memory. It’s everything inside him.

   I know not to ask more. If he needs to purge it, he will. I caress his head, petting him as he would one of the cats.

   “There’s a particular sound to meat being dragged from a bone,” he says after another minute. “It’s not the same as, you know, taking apart a chicken or something, it’s thicker. Meatier. From a person.”

   That makes sense. I’ve had to dismember demons sometimes. But he has no such comforting, It’s not an innocent victim thought in his head to distance himself from the horror of the reality of it.

   “And there’s a weight, you know, to a head.... You wouldn’t think it would be so heavy, it’s so small. But it thumps. When you drop one. Big, heavy, meaty thump. Sometimes with a crack as the skull splits.”

   He sniffs, and I know he’s either been crying, or at least fighting off tears. Spike actually cries more easily than I do, though he’ll fight it harder when it comes.

   The next words he says come in a very small voice. Small and trembling, like a little boy. “And the screams....”

   He trails off, and I know he won’t say anymore.

   “It’s all right, William,” I whisper. “It’s over.”

   He shudders again with a bit of a sigh. It always reaches him better to call him William when the dark past gets on top of him. Because it’s the William in him that’s hurting. The poet’s soul suffers the trauma of holding the past of a demon’s lifetime. Usually he’s all together, and the guilt is a mild dread of a past existence, and the demon is satisfied in its life as the Slayer’s companion, and the soul feels justified as it takes down the fell creatures that stole it from life in the first place. But sometimes the soul gets lost in a killer’s past it had no control over, and the demon cringes in confusion as it feels horror where it once felt pleasure. Those are bad days.

   “You’ll never go back to that life,” I say to him low. “You know that. It’ll never happen again. You fought, and suffered, and clawed your way out of that past, and it can never happen again.”

   He sniffs again, burying his head more deeply into me, so his jaw tickles my hip.

   “You know what I love about you?” I say suddenly. There are a hundred different things, but this is what he needs to hear, now. “That you chose to walk the path I was destined to. Fate made me a slayer, filled me up with a calling -- fight the demons, kill the monsters, save the world for the sake of humanity -- and the need for that will never, never end. But no inner calling made you be what you are. No destiny. Just you.” I let my hand slide off his shoulder and find his beside me. I slip my fingers through his, hold him, our hands intertwined. “You chose this path, and you walk it beside me or on your own, but you never veer off. You chose to walk the path of the demon slayer, to protect humanity. You did that. Just you. Soul or no, that’s what you chose.”

   He relaxes a little, letting out a tiny sigh. “Did I ever mention I love you?” he asks in the darkness.

   I smile. “Once or twice.”

   “Good. Wouldn’t want you to go on without realizing that, is all.”

   I caress his head again. “I think I noticed it. A couple times.”

   His arm squeezes me around my waist, and he relaxes fully, even his hand in mine becoming limp. The sun rises, the room already brightening from blue to grey. Soon it will take on the yellow of true morning.

   “I get scared sometimes, you know,” he says into the stillness. “Haunts me.”

   “If it scares you, then you know you’ll never go back.”

   “Wish that was how it worked,” he says.

   I know it’s not. Because I get scared, too. Scared I’ll stop being able to love him. Scared that I’ll start treating him cruelly again, and that he’ll let me. Scared that some day he’ll come to me when it’s a bad day, and I won’t be able to reach for him. Once, we were both in darkness together. And it nearly killed both of us.

   We each have times in our past when we were evil. We each have things that haunt us. We each have our demons. We each have our bad days, and our good ones.

   “It’s just a bad day,” I tell him, giving him a squeeze. He’s flush through with my heat, and he’s smooth and beautiful to the touch. I do love him. So very much. “It’s okay, Spike. It’ll pass.”

    He sighs. He believes me. The sun finally peeks through the one bit of curtain where it’s left allowed, a spark of light that never lands on the bed, where Spike will be safe from it as it rises. His distressed twitching eventually ceases as he drifts into proper sleep, finally rolling off of me as I shift a little. I lay and gaze down into his finally peaceful face as the sun rises on yet another new day.

    A bad day, or a good one, it’s ours.