full 3/4 1/2   skin light dark       
Normal Is Just a Word by slaymesoftly
<<     >>
Chapter Eight

The filtered light reaching the bedroom awoke Buffy just as Will was emerging from the bathroom. She blinked in confusion for a moment, then blushed as she remembered the night before. She blushed again when she realized he was naked and so was she. She sat up and clutched the sheet to her neck, turning her eyes away from his obviously wide-awake body and laughing face.

"What's this now?" he purred, slipping back into bed and pulling her down onto his chest. "Gonna go all modest on me, are you?"

"It's morning!" she said, her voice cracking just a bit. "I stayed here all night!"

"Yes," he murmured, nuzzling her neck and smiling as she relaxed in spite of herself. "You did. And it was wonderful. What's the problem?"

Resolutely pushing him away, Buffy said, "Have you forgotten that I live with my parents? The parents who still want to think of me as a fifteen-year-old? They're going to freak out! I'mfreaking out! I've never done anything like this before."

"Ah," he sighed, releasing her and lying back with his arms behind his head, giving her a distracting view of his toned and fit torso. "I did forget that, love. I'm sorry. There's nothing about you that seems like a little girl. I forgot that to your parents, that's who you are."

"They try," Buffy said, somewhat mollified by his apology. "I mean they know I'm not a kid anymore, but they still worry about me, and...."

"And staying out all night without letting them know has probably worried them sick. I get it, pet." He got up and grabbed his cell phone from the pants he'd left on the floor. He quickly turned it on and handed it to Buffy, wincing as he noticed all the missed calls from Joyce.

"Here, call your mum and let her know that you're all right. We'll deal with the rest of the fallout later, yeah?"

Making a face, Buffy took the phone, staring at it as though it might bite her. She took a deep breath, and punched in the number of her mother's cell. It was answered on the first ring.

"Will? Where's Buffy? Is she with you?"

"I'm here, Mom. I'm sorry I didn't call. I wasn't expecting to...I didn't plan to stay out all night, but I...we...I fell asleep and..."

"Oh, thank God!"

"Thank God?"

"That you were just... whatever you were doing that was so engrossing you couldn't remember to call home. I thought maybe you—" Joyce paused, reluntant to say what both she and Hank had feared might have happened.

Buffy flinched, guilt overcoming her relief. "I'm sorry, Mom. Really, I am. I should have realized you'd think... I'm sorry. It won't happen again." She glared at Will as he made an anguished face at her and mouthed, "It won't happen again?" Ignoring his silent laughter, she tried to salvage what she could of the situation.

"I'll be home in a little while, Mom. We can talk then, okay?"

"I'm going on in to work," Joyce said. "Now that I know you're safe, I need to get to the office. We can talk tonight."

"Okay. Tell Dad I'm sorry, too, please?"

"All right. I'll see you later." Joyce paused. "And tell Will I'm holding him completely responsible for this!" Her voice carried, and Buffy's "Mom!" was barely audible over Will's shouted, "I'm sorry, Joyce. Don't get out the axe!"

Buffy slowly closed the phone and stared at him.


"Why did you say that? About the axe? My mom doesn't even own an axe."

"I don't know, pet. It's something you've mentioned once or twice. I thought she did have one, from the way you talked about it."

"The other Buffy's mom has—had an axe. Well, not her axe. A fire axe. She hit Spike with it one time when he was trying to kill me."

"Ah," was the best he could offer as a reply. He shook his head and came over to tip her face up to him. "I'm sorry, pet. Didn't mean to bring up anything like that. I thought it was some sort of family joke."

"In that world, it is—was," she said, swallowing hard. "But my mom is dead in that world, so—"

"So, even worse that I should bring it up. Shit, Buffy! I am so very sorry."

"No biggie," she said, giving him a brave smile. "If you can handle having a crazy girlfriend, I can handle being reminded of the crazy place. We're good."

Heaving a very visible sigh of relief, he pulled her against his bare chest and put his lips on her neck. His still-alert cock pressed against her stomach.

"Didn't you get enough last night?" she grumbled, even as she felt a glow of pride that she was still having the same effect on him as she had before they'd made love all night.

"Did you?" He sounded so crushed that she could help laughing as she hugged him back.

"For now, I did," she admitted. "I've got to get home, change, get to class and then to work—where I'll get to see my sexy, desirable..." She ran a bold hand down his chest and brushed it across his erection. "...and always ready boyfriend," she finished, spinning away and heading for the bathroom, leaving him laughing through his curses as he gave up and pulled his pants on. By the time Buffy came out, wrapped in a towel, he was already clothed and sipping his coffee.

Trying not to look as disappointed as she knew she shouldn't feel, Buffy quickly dressed and joined him at the kitchen counter to drink the cup he'd fixed for her.

"Ready any time you are, love," he said, putting his own cup in the sink and picking up his keys.

She nodded and gulped as much of the coffee as she could without getting the hiccups.

"What do you do in the mornings?" she asked, putting down her cup and walking to where he was holding the door open. "When you're not driving debauched virgins home, that is."

"I debauched a virgin? I think I like the sound of that. I wonder if I could do it again tonight?"

"Nope," Buffy said cheerfully. "Once is all you get."

Their banter continued as they got in the car and made the relatively short trip to Buffy's home, where Will was relieved to find neither of her parents still there. He kissed Buffy good-bye and returned home to get some writing done, leaving her to get herself off to class. It wasn't until he got to his apartment that he found the notebooks she'd left in her haste to get out the door. Instead of opening his own laptop, he found himself sitting down to read the detailed history of Buffy's life in the imaginary world that had held her captive for so many years.


Two hours later, Will's eyes had been opened. Reading Buffy's account of her life after she'd slipped into that world had given him a completely new understanding of why she still made so many references to it in her daily conversations. The notebook he'd been reading—an after-the-fact journal of her first few years as a slayer—was full of notes in the margins, inserted as Buffy had remembered more and more of that life and gone back to stick her new memories into their proper places. There was much more detail than had been there when he'd originally skimmed through the notebook only a few months ago.

Along with the big, potentially world-ending events and daily dangers that she'd faced, were the minutiae of her daily life as a high school student by day, heroic savior at night. Alongside the aptly named "Scoobies," she'd spent her days being as close to a normal teenager as she could, and then after school they all went into what he could only think of as "superhero and her sidekicks" mode.

As he fixed himself another cup of coffee and settled in to read more, the novelist in him almost wished he had been a part of that life; that these were his notes that could be fleshed out to make an incredibly gripping story. He had to keep reminding himself that it probably wasn't in Buffy's best interest to encourage her to spend any more time remembering that world than she already did. The more distance between her and her imaginary life, the more firmly she would be anchored in this one.

As he'd gone through the notebook, he'd been sucked in, and he found it hard to remember that it wasn't real—not really Buffy's history, only a very detailed illusion brought on by mental illness. Eventually, he found that if he treated it as a novel, one in which he was really engrossed, he could maintain the boundaries between the two worlds without losing the thread of the narrative. However, he also couldn't wait to move on to the next installments.


Marcia raised an eyebrow when he rushed into the store, apologies falling from his lips as he immediately got to work. It was over an hour before there was enough of a lull for her to give him a hard time about being late.

"Long night?" she asked, then narrowed her eyes when he blushed and avoided looking at her. His non-committal mumble about being busy this morning, had her sighing and pursuing him to the back of the store. "Are you cheating on Buffy?" she demanded, then flushed and apologized.

"I'm sorry, Will. That was out of line. It's just that sometimes Buffy seems so fragile, and I--"

"It's alright," he said, smiling at her. "And, no, I wasn't cheating on Buffy. Trust me," he laughed quietly. "She knew exactly where I was last night."

"Oh? Oh! TMI, Will!"

"Sorry. Didn't mean it to come out like that. But I didn't want you thinking I would do anything to hurt her. I wouldn't. Ever."

"All right, then. So why were you late this morning?"

"I was reading and I got caught up in it."

"Must have been one hell of a book. Is it something we carry here?"

He coughed and shook his head. "In a manner of speaking. But, no, to what you're really asking. It's not a published book. Not yet, anyway."

"Oh, so it's yours?"

"Nope. Not mine. And that's all I'm saying about it. I'm sorry I was late. It won't happen again."

"I wasn't really yelling at you, you know," Marcia said softly. "I know you wouldn't have done it without a good reason."

"I knew that." Will did his best to hang on to his dignity.

Marcia gave an unladylike snort and went to wait on a customer, leaving Will to ponder the story that had kept him so engrossed. He'd had a general idea what it was like in that other world where Buffy's mind had trapped her; he knew the names of some of the other inhabitants, which were good, which bad—although he gathered that could change from time to time. And he knew that Buffy had jumped off a tower to save both her sister and the world. But until he'd sat down to really read her account of her life there from the very beginning, he'd really had no idea what she meant when she said she was living in another world.

He smiled to himself as he waited on a sudden influx of customers, comparing their seemingly mundane lives with what Buffy's imagination had provided her. While he worked, smiling and chatting automatically with the people he waited on, a portion of his mind was always on the notebook and the new things he'd learned that morning. He had made it all the way through the first journal, taking him up through her last year of high school and the heartbreak when her vampire boyfriend decided to leave town to pursue his redemption in Los Angeles before he'd realized how late it was getting and he'd reluctantly put it down to rush to work.


When Buffy arrived that afternoon, he looked at her with renewed understanding and admiration. Fighting the urge to greet her with a kiss, he settled for squeezing her hand tightly when she came behind the counter to change her shoes.

"How was class, luv?" he asked.

"It was class. It was mostly stuff I already know."

He raised his eyebrows. "You've studied psychology?"

Buffy flushed, remembering that she hadn't really. "You live in a mental hospital long enough, you pick up stuff," she mumbled, hoping he would drop the subject and not force her to admit that, in her memory, she'd taken psychology at UC Sunnydale only a year ago.

Ignorant as he was about the later parts of her life in Sunnydale, he accepted her remarks at face value and just nodded.

"Oh," he said, remembering. "I brought your journals with me. You left them at my place this morning."

Buffy smiled her relief. "I thought that's probably where they were. Thanks for bringing them."

"My pleasure, love." He hesitated and then continued, "I hope you don't mind. I read the first history notebook this morning. Cover to cover."

Fear flashed across her face, fading as his expression didn't change from its usual fondness.

"All of it?" she squeaked, remembering how graphic some of her descriptions had been—including her night with Angel.

He grinned at her and stepped closer.

"All of it," he whispered. "By the time I'm done with you, you won't even remember that vampire's name."

Buffy shivered as his warm breath stirred tendrils of hair. "What vampire?" she murmured, batting her eyes at him.

"That's my girl," he said, laughing and moving away before Marcia could stop rolling her eyes long enough to send them back to work.


Much later that night, as they rested, temporarily sated, in his bed, Will turned the conversation back to her journals.

"You, know," he began in a conversational tone, "I'd like very much to read the next installment in the life of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Would you object if I read the next one?"

Buffy giggled. "You make it sound like it's a book or a movie."

"It would be an excellent book—or a movie. But right now, I just want to know what happened next."

"I could just tell you that," she said, twirling the hair on his chest around one finger.

"Why don't you, then? Tell me a story, Buffy."

"Just like Scheherazade, huh?"

"Just like," he agreed with a smile. "Except that you don't have to keep coming up with stories so that I won't kill you." He reached over the side of the bed and took his phone out of his pants. "But first, call your mum and let her know that I've got you and you're perfectly safe."

Buffy giggled as she took the phone. "I think I might word it a little differently, but good idea." She looked at his phone for a second, then handed it back to him. "But I think I'll use my own phone. I don't want them to think you've kidnapped me and all communication has to go through you."

She walked over to the dresser and took her cell phone out of her purse, missing the anxious frown on Will's face at her casual mention of kidnapping. Something, he couldn't help recalling, that seemed to happen to people fairly often in her journals. When she'd left a quick message that she was at Will's and didn't know what time she'd be home, she dropped the phone back in her bag and asked, "Where did you stop reading?"

"Right when your wanker of a boyfriend decided that being somewhere that he wouldn't be tempted by your nubile little body was a good move—even if it broke your heart." A small smile touched Buffy's lips at how aggrieved Will sounded on her behalf. She got back into bed and snuggled up against him.

" 'kay, then. Once upon a time..."

Buffy talked about her quiet summer, when she'd had little to do but think about how miserable she was without Angel. Her story of how she met Riley by dropping books on his head in the college book store made him laugh until he realized that the man she kept referring to as "our TA in Psych" was actually another boyfriend.

She skipped quickly past Parker, just saying that she'd fallen for a line of bullshit and learned her lesson. He raised an eyebrow, but didn't bother to pursue it. Will knew himself to be a possessive man, but even he couldn't see the point in being jealous of imaginary people who were long out of Buffy's life and not important to her.

"So," he said instead, "you met this teacher's helper and he turned out to be a soldier?"

"Yeah, The Initiative they called themselves." She gave him a strange look and cupped his face briefly. "It turned out they weren't the good guys we thought they were at first. Although I can't complain about the chip they put in Spike's head..."

"Chip? Spike? That's the vampire I remind you of?"

Buffy nodded. "Yes," she said. "That's the one." When he didn't pursue it, she went on to tell him about the experiments they were running on captured "hostiles" and how Spike had somehow escaped, but ended up coming to them for help when it turned out that he couldn't hunt for himself.

Will shook his head. "Okay, let me get this straight—this guy spent two years trying to kill you. You hated each other. And yet, when he was helpless, he came to you for help?"

Buffy shrugged and gave him a crooked smile. "Hey, it was Spike. Great fighter: not so big with the planning and thinking."

Will cocked his head at her. "You like him, don't you? When did that happen?"

"Okay, see, here's where it starts to get really weird."

She smacked his arm when he murmured, "Now it gets weird?"

"Shut up. Okay, so Willow's boyfriend, Oz-"

"The werewolf?"

"If you're going to keep interrupting..." He mimed zipping his lips and nodded at her to go on. "Yes. The werewolf. Just go with it, 'kay? Anyway, he had a little... thing... with a female werewolf and when she tried to attack Willow, he killed her. Which freaked him out, or something, so he left Sunnydale and Willow was, like, devastated. And she thought nobody was paying enough attention to her, so she did this spell--"


Buffy glared. "You're interrupting again. You know Willow's a witch. I told you that a long time ago."

"Right. Sorry. All right, so Willow did a spell. Then what?"

"Then, smart-ass, Spike and I got engaged." She grinned triumphantly as Will stared at her with his mouth open. When he didn't shut it, she gently touched his chin and pushed it closed. "So, is that what it means to be 'gobsmacked'?" she asked, blinking wide, innocent eyes.

He shook himself out of his daze and said, "Yeah, that would be a pretty good example of it, I reckon. You are going to explain this, right?"

She snuggled back into his side and nodded. "It was all because of Willow's spell..." She went on to tell him about the "My Will be Done" spell and the resulting chaos, ending with, "So, Spike and I spent that whole time smooching in Giles's big chair and planning our wedding."

"Should I be jealous?"

Buffy bit her lip as though actually considering the question seriously; then giggled and shrugged. "Nah, I don't think so. You're a much better kisser."

"And I'm real," he reminded her, not wanting to show how much it bothered him that she seemed to have slipped into telling her story as though it had really happened to her, and yet, too worried about it not to bring it up.

"You are," she said quickly, pulling him down for a languorous kiss that soon had them both breathing hard and forgetting all about Buffy's story. They made love again, slowly and with more tenderness than passion, before falling asleep in each other's arms. Sunnydale and its citizens had faded completely away.

<<     >>