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Future Imperfect by Lilachigh
Chp 13 Just Children
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Future Imperfect

Chp 13 Just Children

From the west, great black clouds boiled and curled their way across a purple sky. Thunder growled and a flash of forked lightning spat down to earth. The wind was beginning to throw the branches around and toss leaves into the heavy air. It was turning into an evening when it was best to be safe indoors.

Billy Summers-Green slid down from the tree he was perching in, ignoring the pain in his hands and knees, every nerve in his body shouting – Twin – Danger – Lost. But – that was mega weird - she wasn’t; he could see Joyce as plain as plain, standing there on the other side of the yard, peering in the window.

He reached for her with his mind as he ran across the grass but sheered away at the violent jumble of emotions that threatened to blot everything out in her mind and his.

“‘What’s up?” He grabbed her arm and spun her round. Her eyes were wide and blank, staring through him. Instinctively he pinched her arm hard.

“Ow!” Joyce shook his hand away, her eyes clicking back to normal and cross. She glared at him. “What did you do that for?”

“You’d gone away – without me!”

“No I hadn’t, stupid. I was just thinking. Look – we’re invisible!”

Billy frowned and gazed down at his dirty scratched hands. There was mud under his nails, a bright graze oozing blood across his knuckles where he’d slid down the tree too quickly. He stuck out his tongue at his sister and wriggled his fingers in his ears. “Oh yeah, look I’m the invisible boy. And you’re – oh jeeze, Joyce – you’re faaaaaaadddiiinnnngggg!”

Joyce kicked him on the ankle and he didn’t even yell because now her mind was open to him again and he realised she was genuinely scared. And that terrified him because he’d never known his twin be frightened of anything in her whole life – except the funny coloured cereal Mom had insisted they ate when they were tiny until Joyce had sent it “away’” every breakfast time. That had been the first time she’d known what she could do if she wanted.

He reached out and grabbed her hand.

“We’re invisible to everyone else, Billy,” she whispered and her fingers felt very cold against his. “I tried to take us back to normal – honest – I thought I could. I always have before. Haven’t I? But it just won’t happen.”

Billy stared at her, then pushed past and peered in through the window. He banged on the glass, but Granny, Grandad and the big dark man called Angel didn’t glance up. They were busy arguing; Granny looked upset, Grandad had a weird expression on his face, as if he wanted to punch someone. The Angel man was sitting with his head buried in his hands. Perhaps he had a headache.

But whatever – none of them noticed as he thumped on the window again. Billy watched as Grandad pulled on his long leather coat, kissed Granny on the cheek and vanished out of the kitchen. He wondered if he was going for pizza. Billy realised he was hungry and needed his supper. Pizza would be great.

“We’re not making any noise either,” he said cheerfully, knowing that if he sounded scared that wasn’t going to help Twin.

“Yes, that’s crazy.” Joyce started to look less worried and more interested.

Billy stared up at the sky. The thunderstorm that had been threatening all afternoon was now beginning to swirl overhead. “We can’t stay out here. We’ll get soaked. Are you sure you can’t get us back? I’m hungry.”

His twin nodded. She shut her eyes tightly and concentrated, but nothing changed. “I don’t know why,” she whispered. “Nothing’s happening.”

“Can you take us somewhere else? That world with the penguins? That was sort of cool. Or hey, you could move us to the pizza house and we’d meet Grandad there and tell him what we wanted. I hate those ones with sausage on them.”

Joyce shook her head impatiently. Did Twin really think she hadn’t thought of that herself? “It’s as if I’m in a box. Every time I try and move us, I bounce off a sort of wall. And I’m hungry, too! I want a glass of milk and – ” she pulled a face – “I need to go to the bathroom – bad!”

“Can we go indoors even though they can’t see us?”

His sister stared at him, her eyes round and green. She watched as he tried to turn the door handle and failed. His fingers couldn’t grasp it: he was in the same ‘box’ she was in.

Just then there was a fizzing crackle of lightning, a roar of thunder and rain began to lash down. But the twins stood there, gazing up at the sky, completely dry.

Indoors, Buffy winced as the storm finally broke; the thunder rolled as she stared out at the rain-lashed yard. Water was running over the grass and the branches on the trees were bending nearly double in the wind. Oh God, if the twins were out in this, not under cover, they’d be soaked, cold and wet and scared. Where on earth had they gone?

Spike had insisted on going out to look for them as soon as it became overcast. He was certain he could scent them, follow their tracks as he had done for her so often in the past. She’d let him go, seeing the desperation in his eyes: she could feel his the pain mirroring her own.

She heard a step behind her and knew it was Angel at her shoulder. His hand touched her. “How can I help? Spike’s scouring the streets. He’s better at that than me and anyway, they know him. They might be scared if a stranger’s calling them.”

“They’re so small. Clever, bright, powerful but small,” she said softly. “Angel, what the hell’s happening?”

“Spike blames me for coming here, but Buffy, I had to. My grandchildren! You and Spike had Shanny, and I had Connor, but I never see him. The twins are a little part of me. How could I not want to meet them?”

Buffy eased herself away from his hand. The pleading in his voice took her back so many years. It was always the same with Angel, she thought drearily. At the end of the day it was all about him and his feelings. “You knew we had a daughter?”

Angel’s face darkened. “I heard, yes. But you were in Rome, on the run, fighting a war. I didn’t think a card or a bouquet of flowers was the right gesture.”

Buffy shrugged. It was so hard to remember back to those frantic days when Shanny was born. The dark of the catacombs under the Roman streets, the endless killing, the screams as the demons died, her screams as she gave birth. All she could clearly remember was Dawn running ahead of her through a tunnel, the baby clasped in her arms and Spike guarding her back as she fought a battle with some tentacled Italian thing that stank of oregano.

Had she even given Angel a thought? The answer was no. He should still have sent a card!

“I won’t let you upset the twins by telling them about Connor,” she said suddenly. “David’s their Dad. You can’t just tell them he isn’t and that really their father is the child of two vampires! Have you any idea what that could do to them?”

Angel flung himself down in a kitchen chair, his face dark and moody. “So you’re on Spike’s side in all this! I might have guessed! You want me to just go away and forget about them.”

Buffy stared at him, her fists clenched. She had the strongest desire to punch him on the nose. “I want to find them first!” she snapped. “Angel, their mother’s coming. Shanny will expect me to have the twins safe by the time she gets here. She’s relying on me. And we’re not going to find them by sitting around worrying about their parentage. If we don’t find them it won’t matter who their father is!”

The front door crashed open and Spike stood there, water dripping off his duster, his hair plastered darkly against his skull. His face looked thinner and paler than usual; his eyes a burning blue that branded Buffy’s soul as he looked at her.

“I can’t find them, pet,” he said, guilt and worry thickening his voice. “There’s no scent anywhere.”

“The rain – ” Angel began.

Spike dismissed the words with a flash of vampire face. “It’s not helping, but I’d still smell their tracks. There aren’t any. It’s as if they’ve vanished into thin air! God, Buffy. What are we going to tell Shanny?”

Buffy felt her heart shrink and turn over at the pain on his face. She felt a moment’s pure panic, her mind scrambling in different directions.

She was worried - had they forgotten how to deal with problems like this? Their lives had been reasonably uneventful for years now. A few vampires and demons to stake, but otherwise they lived quietly, revelling in each other, in the love that they’d nearly lost so many times in the past. The biggest problem they’d had to face was Shanny’s insistence that they had nothing to do with the twins. And even that situation had seemed to be easing with their arrival and Shanny’s desperate plea for her parents to talk to them about the whole vampire, witchcraft thing.

But now with the twins in danger, Spike seemed to be on the verge of breaking down and she knew she was little better.

She took a deep breath. She was still a Slayer, even if the amount of Slaying she did these days wasn’t that great. She would tackle this problem like she had always done in the past – head on, with the man she loved at her side.

She reached out and clasped his cold wet fingers, forcing him to look at her. “Listen, Joyce has done this disappearing act before, we were told that. But I’ve got no idea how long she usually stays away. Perhaps this is normal. Don’t forget, sweetheart, this is why Shanny sent them to us in the first place. She can’t control Joyce’s witchy antics.”

Spike’s grip tightened convulsively. He couldn’t remember when he had last been so scared. He didn’t think Buffy really understood. The twins were nine years old and lost. The vampire population in town wasn’t that great – and most of the demons had left when Buffy moved into the neighbourhood – but there were still enough nasties about to snack on Joyce and Billy, no matter how strong and clever they were.

And what was worse was something he could never tell her. Having a daughter, having Shanny, had been the final miracle, the unexpected part of the Shanshu that had made all the rest fade into insignificance. Growing old with Buffy was marvellous – bloody hell, even being back together after the L.A. apocalypse was fantastic – but Shanny! His own flesh and blood, his and Buffy’s. So small, so delicate, so precious.

Had he been the best father he could be? Doubts raged now through his brain. Yes, they‘d been fighting a War and there hadn’t been any time for playing games, or teaching lessons. Not even time to walk through the woods on a dark evening, listening for owls or nightingales. He loved Shanny to the point of desperation and although it had almost killed him, he’d agreed with Buffy that she needed to go to America, to get her out of the battle zone.

Then when she’d had the twins, he’d been horrified and angry and upset that his little girl was now a mother. But he’d liked David Green and admired the way he stood by Shanny and accepted his responsibilities.

Then had come Shanny’s insistence that he and Buffy had nothing to do with the twins. And her decision had snapped some thread deep inside him that had been growing stronger and stronger since the Shanshu. He’d realised then that having a soul meant you were vulnerable to the type of pain he’d never felt when he was without one.

When Shanny had sent the twins to them to look after, he’d felt that this was a fresh start for them all. Bloody hell, he’d even imagined that Shanny would forgive them for whatever crimes she thought they’d committed and they’d all live happily ever after!

God, he needed a drink. There was no fool like a vampire fool.

He looked at his lover now and could read all the fears she was resolutely refusing to admit. She’d gone into Slayer mode – and he admitted that it was a long time since he’d seen that particular expression on her face. The problem was – as it always would be – once the Slayer took over, he couldn’t truly be her partner, no matter how much she wanted him to be.

And on top of all that – here was his Sire back in their lives. Liam, with his expensive clothes, fast car, luxury life style. A man he’d once loved – who’d loved his woman – who’d apparently never given up hoping that one day she would be his. Liam who apparently had just as much right to be the twins’ grandfather as he did. And who knew, maybe they’d love him more. Dru had. Fred. He’d even wondered about Harmony all those years before.

Buffy looked at Spike, her eyes sharp and questioning. She sensed something was wrong besides his terror over the twins. What the hell was it?

Outside in the yard, Billy and Joyce sat on the porch steps, side by side, watching in fascination as the rain fell on them and around them and didn’t make them wet.

“What are we going to do?” Joyce asked. “I really need the bathroom, Billy. Like, right now!”

“Go behind a tree. I did.”

Joyce pulled a face. Boys could do that. Girls didn’t. It wasn’t fair.

“I’ll just wait.”

Billy sighed and pushed her. “Go pee! You’ll wet your jeans and then there’ll be real trouble.”

He watched as she slouched away through the downpour and vanished behind a bush. He threw his mind towards the people inside the house, but it was all noise and anger and upset. The Angel man was causing one big row; he’d never known Granny and Grandad be so upset with each other, so perhaps it was a good thing he and Joyce weren’t indoors to have to listen to it.

Billy stared around the yard and shivered. It was getting colder and sort of misty even though it was raining. “Come on, Twin!” he yelled. “Hurry up! We’ve got to think what to do.”

He flashed to Joyce’s mind, which he knew was wrong because when someone had gone to the bathroom, that was a private sort of thing. And then he froze. A tiny little voice was whispering, “Billy! Billy! Billy!” over and over again inside his head.

“So do we keep searching?” Inside the house, Angel spoke to try and ease the tension between the couple in front of him. He had no idea why they were glaring at each other, but he knew Spike from old and he could start an argument in an empty room. He didn’t know how Buffy had put up with him all these years.

“I mean, couldn’t they just be sheltering from the storm at a neighbour’s house? Or gone down to the mall? We don’t know for sure that witchcraft is involved.”

“If you want to go and play big detective, go ahead, Sherlock,” Spike snapped, crossing the room, throwing off his duster and pouring himself a Scotch. “I suppose that’s what you spend your life doing. And charging top dollar for it as well.”

Angel glared. “At least I’m living in an apartment that has a view and a pool. I don’t see either round here, Bleach Boy.”

The whisky glass flashed across the room and smashed on the table, just missing Angel’s head.

“Oh that’s just great!” A cool voice snapped from the front door. “My children are missing and you three are having a fight!”

Shanny had arrived.

To be continued

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