Chp 12 Mistakes
Chp 12 Mistakes
Shanny Summers-Green had just washed her hair and was sitting on the open windowsill of her bedroom, letting the evening sun bathe her in welcome warmth. Beneath her in the yard, David, her husband, was cutting the grass. Stripped to the waist, she could see the muscles rippling under his skin.
David had filled out considerably over the years. The skinny law student with the shock of black hair and dark eyes had turned into this good-looking, wide shouldered guy. A good husband and a great father.
He looked up now at her, knowing as if by instinct that she was there, shaded his eyes against the sun and waved. “Come down and give me a hand,” he yelled.
She laughed and shook her wet hair at him. “I’ve got to start cooking dinner and I want to call the twins before they go to bed.”
“OK. Give them my love. Tell them I’ll speak to them tomorrow.”
He turned back to the mower and she sat, watching him, wondering what he would say if he knew his son and daughter were not his. They had been fathered by a one-night stand between two drunken people. That his wife had lied to him so he would accept responsibility, marry her, become a dad before he’d even finished law school. Would he forgive her? She doubted it.
Shanny ran her fingers through her short brown hair. She hadn’t heard from that Angel detective yet. He’d seemed fairly certain that he could track down the young man just from the photo she’d shown him. She’d felt she could trust him, even though he was a vampire. He’d known her parents way back and her Aunt Willow wouldn’t have had his card if she hadn’t felt he was okay.
She slid down from the sill and wandered back into her room. Why did she still feel it was so imperative that she knew something about the twins’ real father? That it was important in understanding the powers Joyce possessed.
She picked up the photo that stood on the top of the bookcase. Billy and Joyce, taken last year. They were sitting in the porch swing, eating ice-cream cones, pulling faces at the camera. Her nice, ordinary boy and her difficult, disturbing daughter whom she didn’t understand and couldn‘t control. She loved them both to distraction.
Shanny put the photo down again. Had she been wrong in sending them to her Mom and Dad? She worried at a piece of skin round her thumbnail. David hadn’t been pleased; he missed his kids. They’d had the first row they’d had for ages. He’d told her to remember how upset she’d been when Buffy and Spike had sent her to America to live with Willow’s parents.
But that had been completely different, Shanny tried to convince herself. ‘I was older and I wasn’t any trouble. I didn’t have any powers. I was just in the way in Europe! Mom and Dad never wanted me. But the twins weren’t in the way here. I wanted them. They’re my whole life. I just didn’t know what to do with them as they got older and Joyce started all that witchy business. I didn’t know what to tell them, how to raise them properly. Well, Joyce, that is. Billy was never any trouble.’
She dried her hair, taming the curls to lie flat against her head in a style that made her look years older than twenty-four.
‘David doesn’t truly understand. Oh, he knows about witches and vampires and magic. You couldn’t have Willow for relation and me for a wife and not know. But to him it’s all like something you see on the TV. Oh, your Dad’s a vampire? Cool. Mine’s a judge. Not so cool. The twins. Oh, Billy’s fine and Joyce will grow out of it as she gets older. It’ll be a neat hobby for her to have. Like Willow.’
Picking up the silver cross that she’d worn every day of her life, Shanny fastened it round her neck. She fingered the pattern on it, remembering with a mental wince the time she’d flung her arms round Dad’s neck, the cross had flipped out from her T-shirt and burnt a mark on his cheek.
Dad had just laughed but Mom had been so angry, accusing her of being careless; she’d been six. Shanny shuddered; she’d tried not to hug her dad again.
“Darling David,” she whispered. “Willow almost ended the world, so I was told. Some hobby. And she thinks Joyce is already far more powerful at witchcraft than she is.”
She glanced at her watch. She had to time her calls to the twins carefully. She was desperate to speak to them, but didn’t want to talk to her Mom.
After they’d had supper and just before they went to bed was good. They would be indoors and she knew Joyce would rush to the phone as soon as it rang.
Shanny glanced at her watch again. She had the oddest feeling that she should ring now. Which was ridiculous. The last thing she wanted was to get into an argument with her mother, and this nervous cramping in her stomach, this feeling that her children were in some sort of danger was just plain ridiculous.
‘Your just imagining things,’ she told herself firmly. ‘You know you don’t have any sort of powers. And what danger could the twins possibly be in with a Slayer and one of the most powerful vampires ever known looking out for the?’
She would wait another ten minutes, she decided and forced herself to go downstairs. She was making lemonade for David when the phone rang and at her mother’s first words, Shanny knew she would never ever again tell herself that her feelings about the twins didn’t exist.
Because Buffy had said, her voice urgent and clipped, “Shanny, we’ve got trouble here. The twins have vanished.”
* * * * * *
Buffy looked up as she put the phone down. Spike and Angel were sitting on either side of the kitchen table, glaring at each other. She sighed silently. The old saying ‘cut the atmosphere with a knife’ didn’t do this justice. She knew Spike was holding himself in check by the mere hair’s breadth. As for Angel, his face was impassive, but a nerve was ticking away in his cheek and the hands laying on the wooden tabletop were curled into fists.
“What did she say?” Spike asked.
“She’s driving up right away. I knew she would as soon as I told her. I still think we should have waited a bit longer for the twins to come back.”
“I thought we agreed – ” Angel began.
“Shanny’s their mother! I can’t stop her.”
Buffy stood behind Spike and placed her hands on his shoulders, feeling the tension in the coiled muscles. She knew him too well. He wanted to kill something, or someone, break, smash, hit out in some way. But there was no one to hit.
The last hour after they’d discovered the twins had vanished had been one of the worst of Buffy’s life. The overpowering feeling of helplessness; the guilt; the despair. They had been in her charge, her responsibility. She had let Shanny down. Somehow she knew her daughter would blame her.
Angel took a deep breath he didn’t need. “OK, let’s try and think clearly. You say Joyce has gone “away” like this before? To other dimensions. So we reckon that’s what she’s done again, right?”
Buffy nodded. “Yes, not while she’s been here, but Shanny’s told us that’s what often happens, especially if she gets upset. And she takes Billy with her.“
“That’s good, then,” Angel said hopefully. “He seemed a sensible little guy; he’ll keep them out of trouble.”
Spike’s voice was hoarse. “Don’t talk about him as if you know him! You don’t know him. You’ve got him all wrong. OK, you picked up that he looks a bit like Darla, but he’s far more complicated than Joyce. Far more dangerous. He can read our minds and I think he’s learning how to make us change them, too.”
“Spike, I was with Darla for over a century. She could mess with your mind, sure. But not make you change it – well, not without a lot of physical persuasion!”
“You should never have come here,” Spike growled, vamping out and back again as Buffy’s hands tightened over his shoulders. “You should just have told Shanny you couldn’t find the guy in the photos. If anything’s happened to those children, my grandchildren, because of you – I’ll, I’ll – ”
“My grandchildren, too!”
Spike swung his arm and set coffee cups and glasses smashing to the floor. “You! You didn’t even know they existed until a few days ago. You’ve a sodding son you never see. Perhaps if you’d been a better father he wouldn’t have been running around L.A. having sex with fifteen year olds! Although perhaps you think that’s okay. I can remember a time you’d have slept with anything that moved, male or female. So don’t you dare claim the twins as yours!”
“Well, Spike, from what I can gather, I had a better relationship with Connor that you and Buffy had with your daughter! Poor little kid. Born to you two. Trying to break into the magic circle, cut herself a slice of the love feast. I never shared my love for Connor. Never!”
“Stop it! Both of you!” Buffy felt her head was going to explode, wished it would and then all this would be finished and done with. “Not helping. Not one bit. Spike, calm down. We don’t even know that the twins vanishing act has anything to do with Angel’s arrival. You know what Joyce is like. She might just have decided – oh, I don‘t know – wouldn’t it be fun to go to Peru – or a world full of penguins – and just – gone!”
“Buffy’s right. I reckon they’ll be back as soon as they get hungry.”
Spike stood up abruptly, hardly realising that he had shaken Buffy’s hands away. He didn’t understand why she wasn’t freaking out. “They’re nine years old! OK, clever witch, clever whatever Billy is. But there are still all sorts of things out there that would snap them up in an instant, pet. You know that. We should have taken more care. Never let Angel see them!”
Buffy stared at him bewildered. He was being illogical. There was no proof this had anything to do with Angel. Why was he jumping to conclusions? She thought he’d got over this stupid jealousy of the other vampire with a soul. Jeez, she so did not need this.
“So you’re blaming me for inviting Angel into the house?” she snapped. “Blaming me for whatever’s happened to the twins?”
Dark blue eyes and dark brown both looked at her. Then Spike glanced away. He loved her so much but he sensed that right at this moment, just when they needed to be united, she was agreeing with her first lover.
The tiny seeds of doubt and worry that had been planted in his mind when his Sire had arrived, began to sprout shoots of distrust. Had seeing Angel again made her realise she had made the wrong decision all those years before?
Angel hadn’t aged, but with his part of the bloody Shanshu he could walk in the sunshine, lead a normal life. He didn’t have to wait for dusk to go out. He was rich, had a penthouse suite in LA, probably a fancy swimming pool, fast cars.
On the other side of the state, he and Buffy lived off the interest on the money they’d collected during the Demon Wars and what he won at poker. They had a tiny house, an old car and no pool. When she went to the mall during the day, she went alone.
“I don’t think we took the problem seriously,” he said at last, feeling his muscles ache with tension. “We treated them like children first, thought about their powers second. I think Shanny made the same mistake with them that we made with her. She sent them away from home. You cut that bond and you open the door to all sorts of sodding trouble.”
Buffy felt a wave of guilt and buried it under a mountain of anger. “We didn’t make any mistake with Shanny! We kept her safe. We were in the middle of a war, Spike, or have you forgotten? She was a normal little girl and we tried to keep her that way.”
Spike gazed out of the window into the dark yard where the branches of the trees were swaying in the breeze that comes before a storm. As he watched, the lightning flashed, illuminating the lonely, empty yard. “We didn’t do a very good job, then, did we?”
* * * * *
Sitting astride a big branch, Joyce stared down into the kitchen window. Billy was sitting with his back to the trunk, his eyes closed.
“You’re still pushing and peeking at their thoughts. I’m going to tell,” she said, but her words were automatic. She was worried about Twin. She’d tried to take them away somewhere nice when he said the big man with dark hair had come to get them, but Billy had stopped her.
“I don’t understand what’s happening,” Billy muttered in frustration. “They keep going on about Mom.”
“Let’s just go!” Joyce said. She was bored and it was going to rain any moment now. The thunder and lightning were coming closer and closer. “I’ll just take us home and Mommy and Daddy can ring Granny and tell her. Then the big man can’t get us.”
Billy opened his eyes. “Granny thinks him Angel,” he said at last. “But Grandad thinks him Liam.”
Billy frowned. “Whoever he is, he knows Mommy. He calls her Shanny, like Daddy does.”
Joyce bit her lip. She was getting tired. She wanted her supper and her hot chocolate and for Grandad to put all the little marshmallows in it. She reckoned Billy had got muddled. She bet the big man hadn’t really wanted to take them away. That was stupid. Where would he take them that she couldn’t get away from?
And keeping her and Twin invisible for over an hour was boring. The lightning flashed across the yard as she blinked hard a couple of times. There – now they were visible again. She jumped down off the branch and ran across the cool damp grass, ignoring her brother’s angry shout.
She pushed her nose against the kitchen window pane and grinned at Grandad. Then a cold shiver ran across her skin, because Grandad, who was looking straight at her, ignored her. He couldn’t see her at all!
To be continued
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