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It used to take me a while to get going in the mornings. The running joke was that I'd be vamp chow if there was an attack before my first three cups of coffee. Waking happened slowly, a mild confusion, followed by a sense of place and, finally, a sense of self. One time I climbed into the shower and was there almost ten minutes before realising I was showering with a wolf-spider the size of a dinner plate. Did I mention that I have a strong aversion to things with too many legs? Yuck!

 

I wake up.

And something is very, very wrong. My heart is already racing, nostrils flaring and with each panicked breath the wrongness flows in. It's like when it's cold and your nose is on fire because you're more or less sniffing icicles. I can feel my body tense waiting to fight or fly, except for a few horrible seconds I can't do either. I can't move, because it's right there. Behind me.

 

Ohgodohgod

 

There's no direct sunlight into the master bedroom. I try to fix my gaze on the opposite wall, through the murky early morning light and concentrate on not moving. It's sleeping and I really, really don't want it to wake up. Two different types of dread hit me at this point. The first, (I'm sorry, I'm sorry, oh forgive me, love) can't compete with the second; a rolling ball of nausea and I have to breathe out my mouth now because because it fills with the horrible, acid saliva you get when you've reached the limits of what you can face. I'm still not moving, but I know I can't stay here forever. I'm going to have to turn around. I'm going to have to get away. I'm going to have to look at it. And I can't.

 

It's the dead body that eventually makes me move. There's an arm, pale and lifeless, flung across my chest. I'm naked and it's making my skin crawl in the paces where it's touching. I never really understood the uncanny valley thing until I touched my first real dead body. When you're touching a living person there's warmth, life. It's not that you're concious of feeling a heartbeat or anything, but you know when something's not alive. And the owner of this arm has been dead for a long time. It's touching me and I don't want to touch it and I'm frantically telling myself that I've seen, moved, held enough dead bodies to stop freaking the fuck out but the mammalian part of my brain that also knows I'm very, very close to something that can kill me in very not fun ways is making panicked non-manly squealing noises and logic is having a hard time getting itself heard. Breathe!

 

I slide over to the edge of the mattress. The arm stays put. The demon doesn't wake.

 

I know I should force myself to look at it, a least once.

 

I make for the door instead.

 

In the shower I brace my arms against the tiles and work on steadying my heartbeat as the water washes the fear-sweat off. There could be a whole... I don't know the word, flock of spiders? Legion? Web? … in the shower with me and I wouldn't see them.

 

It takes a while but I'm mostly ok by the time I've finished showering. I eat breakfast wearing a towel and then I have to get dressed for work.

 

I'm ok. I'm ok.

 

There's barely more light in the room but I can look at it now.

 

I can look at you now.

 

I get dressed and kiss you on the head before I leave. Every morning I kiss you and remind both of us that I love you.

 

'Love you, Xan,' you mumble, still part of that vampire coma. I freeze but you don't wake up.

 

You won't be fully awake for hours. By the time I come home from work you'll be Spike and I'll be Xander and we'll laugh and bicker and you'll give me that look that makes me fall in love with you all over again. I'm happy with you.

 

We've developed sleeping pattens that mean we're not on completely different schedules. I just go to bed before you do.

 

And If I'm lucky we'll never, ever wake up at the same time.

 

 

I go through all this

before you wake up

so I can be happier

to be safe up here with you

- Bjork, Hyperballad