The usual warnings. It's very rough, and done merely to satisfy my own urges. :)
Not surprisingly, she dreams of Oz.
She knows right away it’s prom. Everyone is there. Buffy and Angel, acting as if he isn’t a vampire but merely an older-type boyfriend. Xander and Cordelia, smiling and laughing like the whole incident with him being caught with Willow never even happened. And she and Oz, his arm casually tossed over the back of her chair as she looks around her friends at the table. In the distance, she can see a dapperly trim Giles standing by the punch bowl, and is reminded yet again of why she had such a crush on him sophomore year.
And even without having to see Jenny chatting with the librarian as if she had never died, Willow knows this is a dream.
Because she’s happy.
It’s enough to just sit back and enjoy everything.
The cacophony of voices and laughter and glasses clinking and forks scraping along china, all melding together in a heartening melange.
The floral scents that waft from too many corsages to mingle with the perfumes and colognes of all the bodies pressed into the crowded room.
Warmth. From those same bodies, heating and rising and wrapping around her bare arms to cocoon her in safety.
She smiles at a joke from Xander, and feels a gurgle rise in her stomach as a waiter with food passes behind her. Food. Oh, she’s hungry. She waits for a reasonable break in the conversation, and then turns to Oz, her mouth opening to ask him to get her something to eat.
Except nothing comes out.
Her lips are moving, and she’s thinking the words, but Oz doesn’t even turn his head, doesn’t even notice that she’s trying to speak. She pulls on his sleeve, but not even that is enough to get his attention. The gurgles come back, louder and more insistent, and she realizes she’s not just hungry, she’s ravenous, like she hasn’t eaten in days.
That’s OK. I’ll just get food for myself.
So she pushes her chair back and rises, opening her mouth to automatically excuse herself and then laughing silently at her own forgetfulness. Nobody else notices. They don’t glance up when she walks away, and she wonders if they ever even realized that she was there.
Halfway across the room, she hears the music start up from the stage, and looks up automatically to see what band is playing. Her feet stop, forcing her to stare at the idle form of Veruca before the microphone, and slowly, her head swivels to see Oz transfixed by the sight of the singer, his hands lengthening into claws as they curl around the back of his chair.
Willow’s eyes grow wide. Salty, fire-tinged panic curls its lethal fingers around her heart and squeezes, savaging rational thoughts and questions of how she could’ve gotten the moon wrong, and instead propelling her back to stumble like a madwoman through the throng, pushing aside the bodies that seem to have multiplied as she tries to return to the table and her friends.
They don’t see. He’ll hurt them and he’ll hate himself. I have to stop this.
It becomes obliterated from her view as people rise from their seats to move to the dance floor, and she is trying to tell them to get out of her way, to clear a path, but no one can hear her. There is no sound but that of Veruca’s voice, and they are in thrall to the song she sings for them, ignoring the clumsy redhead pushing and falling against their eveningwear, loose petals from the corsages she knocks fluttering to the ground to be crushed under their feet.
He is gone by the time she gets there, as are the others, and Willow’s head whips around to see him approaching the stage. Look at me, she wants to shout, but of course, cannot. So she runs instead, toward him, trying to reach Oz before it’s too late. And the questions of where Buffy is, and why isn’t Buffy dealing with this, and shouldn’t Giles be going for a weapon or something are lost in her dread.
Even when she’s on the stage, and Veruca is turning to look at her, a gleam of satisfaction in those eyes---god, I hate those eyes---it’s only then that she sees that the room is empty. All that is left is her, and Veruca, and the growing realization that the singer is changing right in front of her, the music from the band still playing as if they are there.
Run. Run. Gotta run.
But she can’t. Veruca springs before the synapses that have fired can speak to her feet. And she is pinned to the stage, the werewolf’s claws pincering into her shoulders, its jaws still working as the words of the song continue to fill the air.
She tries to call for help, over and over and over again. I have no mouth and I must scream, only this isn’t AM even if high school can feel like one big machine, and wouldn’t Giles be proud of me for having a literary reference as my last dying thought, even if it is Ellison, but still that should count for something…
The song quits in a strangled rasp, Veruca’s back arching as she howls in pain. Willow freezes, drowning in the coppery smell of her own blood, and watches as the werewolf explodes in a cloud of dust---But she’s not a vampire, that’s not how she should die---showering her in a fine mist that makes her cough and sputter as she fights now for air.
The demon’s claws are replaced by strong hands pressing compresses into her wounds. When she opens her lids, she is immediately greeted by bright blue eyes, concerned behind his glasses. Blink once. Blink twice. It can’t be. He’s long gone. And…
“Oh, god,” she sobs, the relief at seeing Wesley melting away the adrenaline that had leadened her muscles. And she’s crying, not because of the pain, and not because it wasn’t Oz that rescued her although why he isn’t there she can’t help but wonder. She cries because she heard her voice again, just hers, saying what she wanted it to say.
He’s cradling her against his chest, the soothe of his words a whisper into her hair. She can’t discern them, but their actuality is not what matters. What matters is their intent, and Wesley only wishes to make her feel better, to make the pain go away. She knows this, can feel it with every fiber of her being, and as the minutes tick away, her cries lessen, slipping away until the velvet blanket of unconsciousness descends.
She’s not afraid this time. This is good sleep. This is safe sleep. Because Wesley is there to contest any demon that might wish to attack her again. She heard him give her his word.
Surprisingly, he dreams of Willow.
What surprises him is that it’s so vivid, every sensation so vibrant and pulsing in life that he would swear he was actually awake. Because Wesley doesn’t often remember his dreams, though he knows he does have them. Only the ones that feel so real make it into his conscious thoughts. And he knows without having to question why, that this one will effortlessly join those ranks.
He’s back in Sunnydale, the bane of his profound failure. More specifically, he’s back in that damn school library, though he knows with his rational brain that he aided in destroying it just several months earlier. In his head, though, it glistens from newness, the fresh aroma of papyrus combining with the dust of tomes long-forgotten to prickle at his nose, making him smile in spite of the bitter taste of memories the archives contain.
The room is empty and a quick glance into the office tells him that Giles isn’t about either. “Hello?” he calls out, and hears an echo from among the stacks. He frowns, taking a cautious step forward, and repeats his greeting.
Her exuberance takes him by surprise, and Wesley stumbles back against the checkout desk, all long arms and long legs that never seem to balance correctly when he’s off-guard. When Willow bounces from the upper stacks, a heavy leather-bound book in her arms, to settle in a comfortable heap into one of the chairs, he straightens his glasses on his nose and relaxes.
“I didn’t think you were going to come,” she says with a smile, and lifts her legs to sit Indian-style in the seat. Her thighs become the bridge upon which she rests her reading material, and he watches as she opens it up to the middle. Only then does he notice that she’s wearing his shirt, untucked from whatever skirt lies hidden underneath it, and her feet are bare. He realizes that’s it probably a good thing she’s set the book in her lap because otherwise his vantage point would allow him to see more than the smooth expanse of curved calf and ankle she has exposed already. What shocks him, though, is when he realizes that he’s disappointed he can’t.
“You invited me,” he replies, as if that is the only explanation necessary.
Willow giggles. “You wore the leather pants. Buffy is so not going to believe me until she sees you.”
He looks down then and sees that her observation is indeed right. He is dressed in his motorcycle gear, minus his helmet, and when he steps forward, he feels the unmistakable burn along the inner seams. “Is Buffy here?” he asks, easing himself into the chair next to her.
She shakes her head. “Just you and me.” Her smile fades slightly. “That’s all right, isn’t it? After everything you said, I figured you might want a little downtime before the gang pops around. Get used to the place again. Once you take a look around, I’m sure you’ll see it’s not so bad.”
After everything I said…? He wonders how much he actually revealed but lets it go, focusing instead on her insecurity about her arrangements. “That’s fine. I’d rather thought I wouldn’t be staying long, though.”
Her face falls. “But…you came all this way. Why would…I don’t understand. Is it me? Have I messed up already? Is that why you’re running away?”
“It’s not you,” he tries to assure. “It’s me. I just…this place.” How can he explain that his distaste for the Hellmouth has nothing to do with the beautiful creature before him and everything to do with the ugly one inside? His hand runs through his hair, tugging at the roots as if the tiny pinpricks of pain will sharpen his reasoning.
Her hand is on his shoulder then, fluttering and hovering with the weightless effort of a small bird, and when Wesley lifts his head again, the book is gone, her legs are down, and he can see that she isn’t actually wearing anything, under his shirt. His unexpected arousal makes the leather trousers all that much tighter, and he shifts uncomfortably in his chair, embarrassed at his own audacity and wishing desperately that it would go away.
“Don’t run,” she says. “Please don’t run. Everybody does that.”
“You did,” he can’t help but retort.
“I was running to something. That’s different.”
“So am I.”
Only, he doesn’t know the answer to that question. She is leaning into him now, eyes luminous and thoughtful, but all he can see are the freckles that are scattered along her neck. “How long have you had those?” he asks, and lifts a hand to brush cautious fingers over the pale dots. Definitely a dream. I’d never have the nerve to do this while I’m awake.
She tilts her head so that he can more readily touch them. “All my life. I hate them.”
“You shouldn’t. They’re lovely. They’re…real.” Without even realizing he’s doing it, Wesley leans forward and runs his lips along the line of her neck, down into the curve of her shoulder, tasting the salt of her skin with the very tip of his tongue. Her sigh makes his flesh warm, and when he feels her hand cradle the side of his face, he can’t help but lift his gaze to see her.
“Thank you,” she says softly. As he begins to smile, though, the seeds of contentment brewing deep inside his gut, her eyes well with tears, flooding and shining and spilling down her cheeks until the sobs get sucked from her throat.
“Don’t cry,” he rushes in a panic, and straightens to take her by the shoulders, trying to comfort her. “Don’t cry.” Why is she crying? But all he can hear is her pain.
When his lids shoot open to see the hotel room ceiling staring down at him, it doesn’t surprise him that the same noises in his dream are coming from the bed at his side. He rises like a shot, and mimics his dream consolation, pushing a writhing Willow back into her mattress by her shoulders, all the while a stream of what he hopes are comforting words issuing from his mouth.
Her eyes open, staring blankly in front of her as the cries of pain quieten in her chest. For some reason, he can’t tell if she’s awake or asleep.
She blinks once.
And just when he thinks that maybe she’s still slumbering, her face crumples, a breathy “oh god” evaporating from her lips.
He goes on instinct then, and cradles her against his chest, feeling the sobs wrack her thin body as her tears wet his tee. “It’s all right,” he tries to soothe, repeating and repeating, in every way he’s ever heard and every way he’s ever wished to hear. “Nothing’s going to hurt you. It’s only a dream. It’s all right. I won’t let anything hurt you. I promise.” Over and over again until it finally seems as if she’s beginning to hear.
The tremors in her shoulders lessen, softening into the faintest of ripples until they are gone. When he finally looks down, he sees her lashes against her cheeks, the gentle rise of her chest. She is sleeping again. Not deeply, though, not yet, because as he tries to rise, she whimpers and clings to his waist.
He can’t remember the last time someone did that.
Wesley smiles in the darkness. He’ll just wait until she doesn’t need him anymore. It isn’t as if he requires a lot of sleep. And there will be plenty of time for sleep after she is gone.