Chrysalis
 
 
a sheltered state or stage of being or growth -- Webster's
definition of chrysalis
 
~
 
"Close your eyes."
 
Every single time a woman has spoken those words to me, my
entire life has changed. I sincerely doubt this time is
going to be any different. Or maybe I'm so tired, I'm being
overly dramatic.
 
It all started in that goddamn alley.
 
If you asked me, I don't think I'd be able to tell you if
I'd do things differently. My soul is likely damned doubly
for that. I used to wish I'd never laid eyes on Darla, never
followed her down that dark, dangerous path. Sometimes, when
I'm quietly reflecting (Cordelia insists it's brooding),
I'll think about what might have happened if I hadn't left
home. If I'd stayed, tried to work things out with my
father, been there for my sister, not broken my mother's
heart . . .
 
Thoughts like that are unproductive, and unless I'm having
an extremely acute bout of self-flagellation, I manage to
push them to the back of my mind.
 
Extreme cases of brooding (again, Cordy's word, not mine,
but it seems appropriate) haven't been as common lately.
Usually, they only come on when I'm extremely tired, like
now, after having spent an exhaustive amount of time on the
job.
 
But back to what I was thinking about before I got
distracted trying to explain why I was thinking about it.
 
To say my feelings about becoming a vampire are ambivalent
would be an understatement. Darla damned me that night, but
she also gave me something, something few people ever touch,
something none ever truly appreciate. With immortality,
comes a terrible price -- the loss of one's soul, one's
self, is unfathomable, and I pray those I love never know
it.
 
Then again, if I hadn't ended up with a severe case of dead
(that's what Xander calls it), I would never have lived long
enough to find my true family.
 
So I can't say whether I'd close my eyes for Darla again. I
only know that I don't hate her anymore for what she did to
me. Not when it's brought me here, to this place where I
feel like I have a purpose, for the first time. I am loved,
I am needed, and I am appreciated. With the exception of
Spike, I think I'm even respected. Even Harris respects me a
little.
 
When I'm tired like this, I remember things I'd just as soon
forget. The shock of waking, of being born the second time,
into eternal darkness. Murder, torture, feeding, hunting --
it all fascinates me, even now, fully souled, even while I'm
quietly, and violently horrified by what I was. That horror
brought with it an ecstasy unto itself, something the demon
always responded to, and it sickens me to think of.
 
Maybe I wouldn't close my eyes, after all.
 
Damn, I hate it when I'm this tired. And I can't fall
asleep. And she's still telling me to close my eyes. I stare
at her, even as my thoughts continue to drift.? I can't
ignore her; she won't go away . . .
 
Buffy never went away, either. That moment, the one we
really said goodbye to one another in, remains burned into
my soul with more intensity than that night in the alley. It
was strange. The first time I had my soul restored, I didn't
recognize anyone or anything around me. I didn't even know
who I was. The second time, though . . . I looked into
Buffy's eyes, and while I barely knew more than my own name,
I knew her.
 
There was so much confusion in that moment, so much I hadn't
remembered or understood. Soon, I would. I'd have a few
centuries to play it all over again, the pain I inflicted,
again, the agony Buffy must have felt when she'd realized
what she had to do . . .
 
"Close your eyes."
 
The next thing I'd felt was her soft, succulent lips against
my mouth. I'd forgotten what fresh peaches tasted like, but
I remember thinking Buffy's lips were the same. It's not the
trauma of being stabbed through the abdomen and sucked into
hell that I associate with those words. It's her kiss. Even
while I didn't understand what was happening, I felt goodbye
in that kiss. I tasted her sorrow and her regret. Countless
centuries passed in hell, and still, the only tactile memory
I kept with me was peach-soft lips, tasting of bitter tears.
 
Later, I remembered the rest. Before I'd lost myself there,
before the madness drove the memories, or at least, what
they meant, away, I saw it all. Our bitter fight to the
death, swords clashing, metal on metal, and how much I
wanted to kill her. To make it stop, to wash away every
trace of love I'd felt, I would have sucked the entire world
into hell.
 
Then she'd regained the upper hand, and my soul cheered for
her. The change, then tears, running down both our cheeks,
hers, mine, it didn't matter. I'd always felt her pain, and
then was no different.
 
I know what it cost her to sacrifice me that day. I'm glad I
finally got a chance to tell her how proud I was of her. The
day we had that long overdue conversation, she cried in my
arms. But it was a good cry. Healing for both of us.
 
For her, if she asked, I would close my eyes again in a
heartbeat.
 
A girlish giggle shatters my contemplative silence. A mass
of Chestnut brown hair sails past me, wide hazel eyes
twinkling with the firelight. She uses all of her
considerable strength to pull me off the couch, and I sigh
with resignation, bidding a reluctant farewell to the first
sleep I might have gotten in 24 hours. It was just as well
-- I probably would have started thinking about Graduation
Day, or the Darla/Drusilla fiasco of 2000 if I'd lain there
much longer.
 
"Close your eyes, Daddy," she giggles.
 
"I don't know," I caution, as I nonetheless do as she asks,
"what if I fall asleep standing up?"
 
"Silly," she says, dismissing my question just that easily.
 
I smile, because there is no greater joy than this child.
 
"Can I open them yet?" I ask for the third time, because I
know it amuses her when I feign annoyance.
 
"No," she answers, as though it should be obvious.
 
Her small hand still clutched in mine, I feel a pair of lips
press against the corner of my mouth. Blind and deaf, I
would know her anywhere, and I respond, letting the
connection linger as long as possible. She pulls back, and I
feel her smile kiss mine.
 
"Open your eyes," she whispers against my mouth.
 
I do, and my breath catches. It does that a lot. Nearly
seven years after my transformation, and I still can't get
over how cool it is to breathe.
 
This time, though, my breath catches because I'm gazing at
the most exquisitely beautiful creature on the face of the
earth.
 
"Buffy."
 
"You had a hard day. And I know you're tired." Her gaze
briefly moves to our daughter, then back to me, and she
presses her mouth close to my ear, so she can whisper where
little ears can't hear. "I also know where your mind goes,
and I'd like to inform you that as soon as we put the
munchkin to bed, I'm going to ride you until you can't form
a coherent thought, let alone brood." That absolutely
irresistible promise is sealed with an opened mouth kiss to
the side of my neck, and I shiver in reaction.
 
"Daddy, you haven't even looked at your surprise." The other
love of my life pouts, and I force my gaze from Buffy to the
dining room table.
 
An elaborate arrangement awaits me, wine, candles, the good
china, and several covered silver serving dishes I think
Buffy's dad sent for our wedding, along with his apologies
for being unable to attend.
 
If using them bothered Buffy, she refuses to let me see it.
'Living the clich?,' she was fond of saying whenever details
of her father's life cut too deep. I feel the sorrow that
lingers, and I press a kiss to her cheek, before scooping my
baby girl up into my arms, then depositing her in what is
referred to as 'her' chair, an elaborately carved
monstrosity with the words "Queen of the World" stenciled
along the back.
 
Willow claims we spoil her.
 
"Will, Cor, Anya, Tara and I spent the day shopping for
supplies while you guys worked like dogs, tracking that neon
frog."
 
Faith, Wes, Xander, Gunn and I had spent the last
twenty-four hours tracking a dying breed. The last Frag
("easily identified by their glowing green under-belly,"
Giles had helpfully supplied as he packed for a trip to
England, and Olivia) to survive the end of days had been
spotted in the woods outside Sunnydale. The Hellmouth was
sealed, permanently, but the demons that remained still
insisted on flocking to it.
 
Tiny hands remove the leather coat I'd nearly fallen asleep
in, undo the first few buttons on my shirt.
 
"You were working too," I feel the need to point out.
 
"We were shopping," she points out dryly. "Shopping is to
us, as air is to . . . well, everyone."
 
"But you were shopping for the magic supplies we'll need for
the spell tomorrow. And we were all supposed to help you." I
don't know why I feel the need to make her realize she'd
worked just as hard as I did, but I do.
 
A tiny smile lifts the corners of her mouth, and she leans
toward my ear again. "I guess you'll have to make it up to
me later, then," she practically purrs.
 
Bingo. That's why.
 
By this time, our little miracle is bouncing in her seat.
"Mommy . . ."
 
Buffy giggles, and the sound is magic to my ears. "Yes, my
love?" she asks around a laugh.
 
"Tell him," she orders in a stage whisper.
 
"Tell me what?"
 
Employing one of her more endearing (not to mention
blatantly erotic) mannerisms, Buffy pulls her lower lip
between her teeth, worrying it back and forth. Her hand
strays to the first silver dish, and uncovers it with a
flourish.
 
"Baby peas," she says softly, her voice like a physical
caress, expressing nervousness, joy, and more affection than
I deserve.
 
The next lid follows.
 
"Baby corn."
 
As the third is removed, my tired brain is trying to put the
pieces together.
 
"Baby back ribs."
 
The kid is bouncing up and down like she's in the car on the
way to Disneyland, and my gaze tracks to the center of the
table, to the large bouquet of baby's breath . . .
 
"Buffy?"
 
Her eyes are liquid, and our oldest (we have an oldest!)
child squeals as she sees me get it. I reach Buffy in three
long strides, pull her into my arms and hold her as tightly
as possible. Our first miracle has already started eating,
and I slide a hand between our bodies, my palm resting over
her stomach, over our second miracle.
 
We're both crying again, but they're definitely good tears
this time. My forehead comes to rest against hers, a moment
of unimaginable bliss passing through my body . . .
 
. . . and with a sense of perfect contentment, I breathe in
my wife, and close my eyes.
 
~
 
END
 



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