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Safe In My Own Skin

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Twelve The pain of the dream

Let go all the tears of your life
the one you left behind
Let the pain of the dream go by
it’s over
The love is calling
I’m searching
You have gone to be free
The love is calling
I’m searching
You have gone to be free
when the light had gone
and the night was over
Yet the feeling will still exist
For you and me
Let go all the tears of your life
The one you left behind
Let the pain of the dream go by it’s over
And the feeling still exists
For you and me
You have gone to be free
Let go all the tears of your life
The one you left behind
Let the pain of the dream go by it’s over
Oh, and as you fly past the sign
That points to our way
Send your children a whispered song
Then allow yourself away
One, two, I am you
You are but a show
Three, four, there’s no more
Your red mouth is aglow
Five, six, no more tricks
Now I’m feeling clean
The secret, yeah, it moved so fast
Had to dive into mid-stream
Let go all the tears of your life
The one you left behind
Let the pain of the dream go by it’s over
And the feeling still exists
For you and me

            


Sunnydale, two years in the past


Charles Gunn, newly promoted detective, was on a drug arrest when dispatch contacted him.

“School called in about a student and teacher.”

“Yeah, so?”  Gunn watched as the drugs changed hands.

“You flagged the student’s name.”

Oh shit.  He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t force air into his lungs.  Damn it!

“Girl’s been out of school three days.”  Gunn felt like he’d been sucker punched.

“Summers, Buffy.  Age 16.”

Gunn put the car in gear, leaving the drug deal behind.

“Have Social Services on standby.”  Maybe she’s just sick. . .

Hope warred with fear, as he drove through the quiet streets.

Be alive.  Just be alive.



@~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~@~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~@




Hope died as he pushed open the front door.

Blood splatters marred the walls, obscene red splashes covering every surface.

Bloody foot prints trailed across the floor.

A blood soaked baby blanket was crumpled under a table, next to a pacifier.

Gunn choked back his fear, blanking his mind, stepping carefully around the mess.

Fuck.  Fuck.   Fuck!

He peered down a hallway and swallowed hard.

“Dispatch.”  Gunn tried to breathe, tried to calm the racing of his heart.  “Call the Sheriffs.  Get the coroner and a forensics team here.”

“What’s your status?”

“At least one body.”

“Affirmative.  Will send back-up.”

“Yeah.  You do that.”

Gunn slid the radio into his pocket, shaking his head.

Don’t be her.  Don’t.

Pleading with God didn’t ease the writhing guilt eating his gut.

He’d known something wasn’t right.

Known it.

And now she’d paid the price of his inaction.




@~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~@~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~@



So much blood.  

Drips at first, then puddles.  Footprints.

Hand prints on the walls.

Gunn braced himself for some . . .  He didn’t want to find her.

Didn’t want to see what had become of her.

The living room was worse.

Broken glass crunched with every footstep.

The blood splatters covered every surface.  Smears covered the walls, a sick, twisted wash over the pale green.

He moved slowly through the room, heading reluctantly for the second floor.

If this is how . . . what’s gonna be upstairs?

Should never have let the girl come home.  Knew there was something up.  Knew it.

Even braced as he as, Gunn was not prepared for the scene as he turned the corner.

Dried blood tracked down the walls of the stairwell.

Blood covered everything.

Especially the two figures perched on the steps.

“Holy shit.”

Gunn could barely breathe.  “Holy fucking shit!

Wild brown eyes focused on his.  “I killed her.”

Strange, strangled, grating laughter filled the hallway.  “I killed them.  They’re gone.”



@~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~@~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~@



What they uncovered in that house was the stuff of nightmares.

Pictures.

Small dolls.  

Child-sized uniforms.

Trophies of a sick and twisted mind.  Evidence of crimes long forgotten.

A catalog of evil that had trailed Liam Angelus from Ireland, to Greece, and lastly, Sunnydale.  Stops in between in cities, places Gunn had never heard of.  Places he hadn’t wanted to ever know about.

His bones ached.  His heart hurt.

He felt like he’d aged years in the space of hours.  

This is too much.  Too much.  But where is Buffy?  Where’s the baby?  What happened?

There was enough evidence to put Angelus away for years, even without his admission of guilt.

Only they didn’t have their bodies.  

No Buffy.  No baby – Connor.

The District Attorney said it didn’t matter.  Angelus admitted killing them.  He just wouldn’t tell them where their bodies were.

Which was enough to give Gunn hope that maybe, just maybe. . .

Because William Pratt had disappeared at the same time Buffy had.

Gunn decided, as he watched them load Angelus into the van, that he’d hold onto his hope, his suspicion and not say a word.  Not to anyone.

Because he had to have a little bit of hope.  

She had to still be alive.

She had to be.



@~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~@~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~@



Between Sunnydale and London, two years ago


He didn’t breathe easily until they were airborne.

Until they were clear of U.S. airspace and over Canada.

Until he was able to look at Buffy and see for himself how damaged she was.

How bruised.

How battered.

William wanted to hide.  To hold the covers over his head and pretend none of this was happening.

Spike, the creature who’d risen from his darkest hour, wanted blood.

The blood of Angelus.  His tormenter.  Her abuser.

The demon that had destroyed them both.

Will brushed strands of burnished blond hair away from her face.  

She was sleeping – as was the infant.

He didn’t know what to do.   They had no one else.  Nowhere else to go.  He didn’t want to let her – them – go anywhere else.

He had to save her.

He had to.

Because if he saved her, he might someday manage to save himself.



@~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~@~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~@




Halfway home, somewhere over the Atlantic, Will decided against flying straight into London.

Too many prying eyes.

Though he wasn’t the normal target for the paparazzi, he knew there were always vultures at the airport, waiting for anyone famous or notorious to step off a plane.

So no.

London was too exposed.

Instead, they landed at a smaller airport, almost two hours from London.

It was closer to home, anyway.

His childhood home.

A sigh escaped him, barely disturbing his companions.

Maybe he just wasn’t ready for London.

It would be safer for all of them to stay out of the capital.



@~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~@~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~@



His name still carried some weight, at least in this small part of the world.

One quick phone call and everything was arranged.

A car, with a driver, would be waiting for them when they arrived.

His childhood doctor would be waiting at the house.

Mrs. Patterson, the cook, and her husband would make sure everything was prepared and ready.

The plane banked for landing, the steep turn waking both his companions.

“Will?”  Her voice was thick and groggy, her eyes barely open.  “Where are we?”

“Almost home, kitten.”  Almost home. . .

“Where’s that?”  

The baby stretched, whimpering in pain.

“England.  Where I grew up.”

It was a measure of how battered she was when she didn’t question him.  

Buffy didn’t even glance out the window.  Instead she reached for the infant, cradling him in her arms.

“He’s hungry.”

“We’ll be landing in a bit.  I’ll have the driver get supplies.”

It was done.  They were safe.

For now. . .