Prisms Part Five - Orange

I don't want to cut my hair.
I mean again.
I like it how it is, shoulder length. My friends always said if 'framed my face nicely.' But now… Saw a documentary once about, y'know..women who had been raped and their recovery. The one woman I remember above all others, she had..she had a crew cut. She said it was because the man who attacked her grabbed her long hair when she tried to run so she'd decided to never grow it long again. She looked horrible. Her husband was sitting next to her and when, during the interview she began to um… began to cry he…he put his hand on her knee to comfort her and… It was fast, you had to be really lucky to see it, or unlucky I guess.
She flinched…she gave just a teensy, tiny start and turned her head a little too fast. Like she was twisting around to see who was sneaking up behind her. She forgot. She had forgotten it was her husband behind her, the man she loved. Not the man who had turned her..her…into this.
I don't want to spend the rest of my life like that, afraid. Afraid of my friends just because some of them happen to have a penis. I don't want to feel panicked simply when they touch me, or look at me or ask me how I am. I don't want to be scared of my friends. And I don't want to cut my hair.
I really don't.
We had gotten back to our room, from where I had basically gone to pieces in the shower. Buffy carried me. I mean it literally. I wasn't in any shape to stumble along much less actually walk. She just picked me up as if I weighed nothing, draped my towel over me like a blanket, and carried me back to our room.
In that instance I felt safe again. It was…so perfect. Have you ever noticed that when you're fine, feeling perfectly okay that you don't even particular it? Remember the last time you had a headache or something? I mean a really bad headache. And it won't go away and it's pounding incessantly and no matter what you do it's still there just pounding and pounding..and pounding.
Y'know what I'm talking about?
And you finally give up, can't read, can't watch tv, studying is so ludicrous an option you practically laugh at the concept and being social even more so. So you just give up…go to bed, turn out the lights and try to sleep. Eventually, even with the pounding you do manage to slip off. The next morning you wake up and the first thing you particular is the pain is gone and it feels so wonderful. Not being in pain I mean..just being normal, fine…everyday you. This was a…a..billion times better.
Until she put me down.
I wasn't safe anymore. I was alone…naked…cold…hurting…in the dark. I wasn't safe, they were going to come after me again…catch me…hold me down and…and…
She must have changed her clothes 'cause when she slipped into the bed beside me she was wearing her flannel jammies. The warm fuzzy ones. I didn't even know I had been whimpering or …something until she lay down beside me gathered me close and being making hushing noises …rocking me…rocking me…going shhhh….shhhh…rocking…shhhh…
I couldn't believe it, I fell asleep.
I had nightmares. Of course I had nightmares. What else could I expect to have?
I had nightmares of hands. Not clawed hands, not demonic limbs or pale undead crawling thingies.
Normal human hands. Some raised in greetings, others reaching out to shake my own, affectionate pats on the back. Reassuring hands, comforting hands…sources of strength and affection. Contact and love but I'm frightened. They scare me and they won't stop. Won't stop touching and comforting, won't stop reassuring me, won't leave me alone and they're getting bigger and softer more like pillow shaped hands just all over me, soft and tender and I'm getting smothered by them, drowning in them and I'm screaming and I'm screaming, screaming, screaming…
Shhhh….being rocked…
I was being rocked by Buffy.
"Shhhh.." She says. "Shhhhh.."
Back and forth.
"Shhhh…" Holding me close.
In the dark.
I'm not safe.
I want to be safe again.
Why can't I be safe?
I have no idea how long I was asleep. Felt like weeks. But then all my sense of time had been..mucked up very nicely. The whole night seemed like my entire lifetime, the ritual with my sisters a distant, distant echo. It was my truth that I held onto. The Truth I had learned, it gave was something I could keep close. Something else kept close to me too even though I wanted nothing more in the universe then to be free of it. My pain.
Let's not talk about that too much alright? It's not like I could use some fancy, mancy, poetic metaphors or simile to convey the 'depth of my suffering.' You've probably heard stuff like it before and think I was one of those cranks who goes to small bars and listens to beatnik works with lines like 'Don't drink the water, don't drink the water',while wearing a beret.
My pain is there, it's real and is hanging around my neck and if something, or anything would come along and offer to take it…
"Buffy." I said.
"Right here." She said.
"I'm glad." I said.
"Buffy?" I said again.
"Still here." I could feel her arms around me. Strong arms, powerful arms. Slayer arms. I wanted arms like that.
"I want to find them."
"We will." Her chin was resting on the top of my head and my own was nestled against her chest.
"I mean tonight."
She didn't say anything for a while, didn't tell me the time wasn't right, or I still had things to come to grips with. She just thought for a bit, rolling around my declaration in her. I needed her for that, her trust.
"Why?" She finally asked.
"Not vengeance." I said. It was the truth too. I didn't want revenge I wanted something more primal, more basic.
"So I can feel safe." I finally answered.
Buffy remained silent for a few more moments.
I will love her forever. She didn't ask me if I was sure, wasn't worried I might not be able to handle it. I don't know if I can. But…with that response with her simple 'okay' she…she…followed through on her promise. She trusts me, she'll always be there for me. I can believe that now, I really can.
Then someone knocked on the door.
I curled into her embrace even more. I had gone all fetal on her. Wrapped in her arms, in a warm robe, feeling her fuzzy pajamas nestled next to me cheek. I could feel her eyes on me, in the dark.
Whoever they were knocked again. Not a harsh knock, but quiet and tentative.
I could feel her eyes on me, I tilted my head up a bit and, with the light of the moon on them, I could see them too. I gave her the teensiest of nods. I'm still surprised I was that strong. She closed her eyes, nodded in return and got off the bed.
From famine to feast and back to famine again. Or something. She…she just got off the bed and it was as if she was in another time. I could see her, hear her, but… she was gone. And it was just me again, again with my cold.
She opened the door a crack, the ray of light from the hallway speared into the room and I could see her shoulders slump.
"C'mon in." She said and turned on the lights.
Holding the door open she stepped aside and in walked the last people I wanted to see on the face of this Earth. I couldn't deal with this, I didn't want to deal with this. Just…just wanted to go back to being with Buffy, in a dark room, for just a little while longer. Then..then go out, find those responsible…do something and come back here. That's it. Over. Go back to my life, dabble in some magic, the odd patrol with Buffy, lunch with Xander…the Bronze. Just..stuff.
But that wasn't an option and realistically never had been. Doesn't mean I couldn't want it though.
Spike sauntered through the entranceway like he does everywhere else. As if he didn't care.
Didn't look at me, just brushed off some dust that wasn't there from my bed and sat down.
Giles came up behind him, he was wearing his black shirt and leather jacket.
He wasn't wearing his glasses either. He looked at me. It wasn't a bad look, not condescending or disappointed.
Finally he nodded before sitting down at the desk.
"Hi." He said.
I bravely did not shriek and dive under the covers.
Xander was the worst. He locked eyes with me and I couldn't look away, I'm guessing he couldn't either. It was like he was trying to see inside me, wondering where his friend was in this pale girl that just happened to have the same hair and eye color.
He took a step toward the bed and I'm being totally honest when I say I really, really, tried to not crawl backwards away from him but I couldn't. It was too powerful, just this wave of panic rising up and over what ever resistances I had. I jerked back a good couple'a inches.
Xander froze, I could see that I had hurt him, I can't say it was in his eyes cause he turned his head to fast for me to see. But the clenched jaw line and how he wearily was rubbing his forehead was clue enough. He sat down next to Spike and if he was aware he sitting directly next to someone he would have happily seen dusted, he gave no sign. He wasn't looking at me anymore, he was studying his shoes. Out of a lifetime of habit of looking where others were I glanced at his shoes too.
He caught me looking at…his shoes and raised his eyebrows, his 'shrug without actually moving his shoulders' look. I couldn't help it, I smiled.
He smiled.
I smiled.
We both smiled.
And I just burst out crying, for no reason it just happened and I couldn't stop. Through the tears I saw Xander, now reduced to a fuzzy blob, stand up and move towards me with his arms open. I screamed and shot backwards away from him, fell off the bed. Landed on my butt. Another bruise…oh well…I could add it to my collection.
That just made me cry harder…Buffy's arms wrapped around me and I stumbled back onto the bed. Yay. I can stumble now, if a few hours I'll be teethering drunkenly like a pro.
Xander wasn't looking at me anymore. He wasn't looking at his shoes either, no now he was studiously engaged in memorizing the pattern on our stucco ceiling.
I wanted to apologize, I wanted to reach out and hug him and know that I could trust his hugs, his arms, trust his hands not to wander or watch for leers or ..or..anything like that. But I couldn't do that anymore, it..something..I…I wouldn't let me.
Buffy sat down next to me and pulled my head onto her shoulder, I felt..a little better at that.
Like she was less unsafe then anything else.
"Ok," She said. "You found out. How?"
That's Buffy. Straight and to the point. Go Buff! Sis-rah-boom-bah..yay Buffy! God…why?
Why? Why? Why?
Giles started to speak when Spike cut him off.
"Me." That got my attention.
"You?" I felt Buffy tense up.
"Ease off Summers. I was out of my sabbatical when she was walking down the road. I was behind her, about half a block. I spotted her and…I really think we all would be better off if tell you alone."
"No, that's ok." I said. "I can handle it. Really."
Spike shot me a pitying look. Not a 'Poor you' pitying look but a 'You pathetic wretch. You are not as strong as you think you are' look.
He then shrugged his shoulders.
"If that's the way you want it then." He looked back at Buffy. "I could smell it on her."
I felt like I was about to throw up. Briefly, I wondered if I could borrow one of Xander's shoes.
"Smell it on her?" Buffy asked. "Smell what exactly?" Oh, God no Buffy I wanted to say, wanted to beg, plead, just get her to let it go.
Spike looked at me now. "Everything."
And I was running. A second ago I had been barely able to crawl and now I was flying down the halls faster then I had ever run from a night beastie in my life. Robe flapping, one hand clapped over my mouth just…just..running.
I barely made it, got over a the bowl and let everything out. When I ran out of that my stomach kept trying it's darndest to find something to add. Predictably Buffy was there an instant later.
Kneeling beside me, looking worried. She didn't touch me though, somehow she knew that would have been a bad move. Just was there and let me do my thing, waiting, until I was finished.
"Jesus." I said. "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus..oh Jesus.." I think the Goddess would forgive a little slip in lieu of the circumstances.
"I can't do this Buffy. I can't ..I can't. I want too but I can't. I just… Just..can we be alone? Get them to leave? Be alone…for a little while, please?"
I was crying again and I was sick of it. How many tears did I have anyway? I was tired of hurting and crying and being afraid and wasn't even through the first day!
Again I'm was pulled into a hug. And again her arms were around me, warm, strong… I could feel her hair brushing along my face, my tears getting smeared between the skin of her neck and my cheek. Taste some of my own salt.
At least, at the very least, I wasn't getting tired of her hugs.
"Ok Willow." She murmured into my ear. "No sweat, we'll go back and me and we'll ask them to leave and we'll sit in the dark, I'll hold you till you sleep and I'll keep holding you keeping the nightmares away. All right?"
"All..all right."
I didn't particular I wasn't the only one crying until I felt the drops of hot water hit my own neck.
She had hidden it well. I didn't particular until that very second exactly how deeply this was hurting her too. Everyone probably. 'Cept Spike, but even he was acting uncomfortable. But did I have to be respectful of that? I mean..this had happened to me! To me! Not them, me! Didn't I, at the very least, have the right to be the tiniest bit selfish?
I did the hardest thing in my entire life right then. Well, the hardest thing I had ever done until the next hardest thing came along. There's always another. But in that instant I did the hardest thing I had ever done up to that point.
I changed my mind.
"No. Buffy wait." My head was still buried in the crux of her shoulder but I wasn't crying anymore. It had just..switched off. "I…I don't want them to leave, I need them to be there, I don't want them too but …and they need to be there too. I can't blame them for wanting to make sure I'm okay. I mean I'm not okay but I'm still here and I can't blame them for wanting to make sure I'm still here and I'll go slow and careful but, but, but I really don't want them to leave. Really I don't.
I felt her hand under my chin and she slowly tilted my head up till I was looking into her eyes. I'd been doing that a lot lately, staring into people's eyes I mean.
"Hey," She whispered. "I got yer back ok?" Then she gave me a quick kiss on the forehead, a smile and a wink, and dragged me to my feet.
Oh, I could have flown! She had done it again, just..trusted me absolutely and said what I needed to hear more than anything else and I have no idea how she did so perfectly but I was flying in my mind and I didn't hurt anymore and I wasn't tired and I could feel my cheeks threatening to split apart I was grinning so widely and…and…and she took me back to the room.
Maybe…maybe they didn't kill my Truth after all.
Buffy was helping me along when we got back to the room, the others looked up at me as I came in. Buffy closed the door behind me.
Spike was now standing against the wall just inside the door while Giles and Xander were still sitting where they had been when I …left.
"Willow?" Xander said and began to stand up then caught himself and sat back down. He must have remembered my behavior from a few minutes before. Buffy helped me back to her bed and sat back next to me making sure I was wrapped in her embrace the entire time.
I caught Xander's eyes with my own before speaking.
"Um..guys…I just wanted to say that…I'm sorry for wigging out like that and…and that I'm really glad you came. Really. I'm..sorry..really..just…sorry." I was addressing the group but he knew I was also talking to him, just to him.
I saw a half smile on his face and he gave me a silent wave of his hand, a 'pish-posh, twern't nothing' gesture and I echoed his smile with my own. Felt good to smile, a smile I understood,really it did.
"Perfectly understandable Willow." Giles said. "We're just relieved to see is..
"That you're not a comatose rutabaga in a padded cell somewhere or a cooling corpse in a the morgue..yet. That's what Brit-Boy here is trying to say." Spike interrupted. He was picking his teeth with his pinky.
Giles simply sighed. "Not quite what I had in mind…now. I suppose you're wondering why we're all gathered here?"
"Hey G-Man, isn't that line 'I suppose you're wondering why I called you all here today?'"
I laughed.
I actually laughed! It was so comforting, they hadn't changed. They still treated me the same, not like fine china or something broken and barely put together that you had to tiptoe around. Yes, yes it had happened and no matter how I wished it it wasn't going to unhappen but…I was still me and they all still saw me as me. I was still part of the gang.
Giles , the father figure offering advice and information.
Buffy, my best friend and …confidant, protector.
Xander, my brother, still cracking jokes.
Spike…still…wanting to kill me..I guess.
"Spike can find them."
Giles just dropped that on the floor and I froze. I said I had wanted to find them, and I was really going to look but the actual possibility of 'finding them' finding them…I considered ..not..not really likely.
"How?" I asked.
"Simple Red, the nose knows." He tapped the side of 'knowing nose' and glanced at Buffy. "I said I smelled them so I can track them. Easy.
"So we'll find them and then.." Xander smacked one fist into the palm of his other hand. He looked…dangerous.
"And…and then?"
I didn't know who said that and was looking around for the speaker until I noticed everyone was staring at me.
"That's a question you'll have to answer yourself Willow." Buffy said quietly.
I sat there…after we find them..what then? I had told Buffy I didn't want revenge and I really didn't at least I didn't think so. I know I didn't want to 'ask them why'. What answer could they give me? At best, even with the threat of an angry Slayer, I could hope for would be mumbles and various 'I dunnos'.
At worst…
What did I want after the 'and then..'?
"You kill them!"
I jumped.
Spike was standing in front of me looking more hellish than I have ever seen him. It wasn't a threat of violence of blood that was oozing off of him, it was the fact of it. Even more terrifying is he wasn't in his vamp look. He still looked perfectly human but…he was standing over me, towering really. All black, except for his hair and the power…just ..blazing down at me.
He wasn't a demon.
He wasn't a sadistic vampire.
He wasn't Spike.
He was a God.
"They took you." He snarled. "They used you, reduced everything you are to a lump on the pavement. What they took you can never have back completely. It will live with you, inside like an infestation that's incurable. You can learn to go on with it, you can even learn to ignore it but no matter what, no. matter.what…you do will still always be with 'it'. And the memories of it, and the taint of it will always, always be there!"
It was very, very quiet.
"Uh..Spike..I really don't think you're in a position to judge." Xander said.
Spike was on him in a heartbeat one fully taloned hand drifting in front of Xander's face and I found myself really hopping that whoever had made that chip inside Spike's head hadn't been the lowest bidder.
"Oh yes, Harris. You are so right. To me you are food and when satisfied I do enjoy playing with it. I like hurting you, watching you dance and stringing along the game but at least when I'm through it is over…and you're someplace better. You hope."
He turned his back on Xander and wearily walked back to the his place by the door…relaxed..normal..neutered vampire Spike.
"At least…at the very least…you get a little respect from me." He said. "The people who did this…" he waved his hand at me. "To Red, I doubt very much they even remember what she looks like."
He looked up at me.
"So what's it gonna be luv?"
My mouth was hanging open, his words..they should have hurt me. They should have opened up the well of memories that, before his speech, I could feel threatening to overwhelm me but now…just..grey. Stomach wasn't even queasy.
I…didn't know.
I felt Buffy arms wrap around me from behind and I turned so I could face her.
"Willow, I'll follow your lead on this, but I gotta tell you, and I'll deny it if it ever comes up, I'm with Spike on this one. They hurt you, whoever 'they' are the second they did that they lost all rights to a name, a face, a memory. I don't care about what good they might have done in the past, or what good they might do in the future. They hurt you, my friend, my Willow. I want to kill them. I really, really do…just..use my Slayer strength to see how many times I can bounce them off walls before they break. that's not what you want…" She let the sentence drift off.
"Okay Buffy." Damnit, I could feel tears beginning to flow around behind my eyeballs. I really didn't want to cry again. I took her hand in mine and gave it a squeeze. Looks like I didn't have a choice about crying…neither did Buffy.
From behind me I heard Spike muttering, "I don't see why I even bother. This is really sad."
Giles stood up. "I think it's best that whatever we're going to do we do it quickly. There are only a few hours left before dawn." He looked at me. "No matter what happens Willow, we'll put this to rest."
"Yeah." I nodded up at him. Tears and a big grin? I must have looked terrible. "Yeah. We will."
With a nod Giles stepped to the door, grabbed Spike by the arm and dragged him out into the hallway. I heard Spike give a 'Hey, watch the material!' before the door shut.
Xander slowly walked toward me. He really was being a dear…making sure to not being threatening in any possible way. He did his best, really, but he looked like he was moving in slow motion. I couldn't help but giggle a bit.
He crouched down so we were eye to eye, with me being a little bit taller. I felt okay…really. Buffy was sitting behind be, arms wrapped around my shoulders, best friend behind me, best friend in front of me.
Not best female friend behind me and best male friend in front of me.
Just best friends.
"Willow." He said. "You're gonna be fine. I want to kill them too, more than anything. But, like the Buff-O-Matic there said, I'll follow your lead."
Tears wouldn't stop. Darn it.
"Thanks." It was all I could get out.
He smiled, not a big 'Here's Xander!' smile just…those quiet smiles he sometimes got.
"So you got a happy?" He asked.
I thought about that. "No. But I'm pretty well on my way despite everything."
He held out his hand, palm up with his fingers spread. I echoed the gesture interlocking my fingers between his own and then slowly closing them. He didn't close his though, kept his hand open so I knew I could let go and get away whenever I wanted. No big, pillow hands to drown me here.
Despite the fact that every instinct in me shrieked I gave his arm an almighty tug and pulled him into a hug. So there I was, sandwiched between the two most wonderful people in the world.
And I really didn't care that one of them happened to have a penis.
We stayed like that for a little while.
"Xander, I'm sorry but, you have to leave 'cause I gotta change."

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