To Sleep Perchance To Dream

by Mary Beth Nielsen
Copyright 1998

For Leslie. This may not solve everything, but hopefully it will help!

Consider this story disclaimed.

Buffy woke with a start from yet another restless night. She stared at the ceiling for a while, contemplating the day ahead of her. She carefully steered her mind away from unpleasant thoughts and focused, instead, on the more mundane, but far more enjoyable, things in life. She smiled as she thought about the new outfit she was planning to wear, and about her plans for an evening at the Bronze with her buds. When she knew she could put off the day no longer, she sighed and dragged herself out of bed.

She dressed for school in what seemed like minutes. Every hair was in place, every lash carefully coated with mascara. The house was eerily silent. Odd. Mom was usually bustling about the kitchen, trying to hurry Buffy out the door so she could start her own work day. Figuring something was up and not in the mood to face her mother's worried eyes, Buffy avoided the kitchen and went straight to the front door. She opened it and stepped outside -- and into the cemetery.

Angel was there, waiting for her. The sunlight illuminated his creamy skin and emphasized the highlights in his hair. His eyes sparkled. *God, he looks good in the sun,* she thought. He smiled--one of those rare dizzying smiles he usually flashed when he was pleasantly caught by surprise by something Buffy said or did. He held out his hand to her. Buffy took it. He reached up with his other hand to finger her cross--the one he'd given her. He smiled again, then brought her fingers to his lips for a gentle kiss on her claddagh ring. She hadn't even realized she'd put it on.

She started to speak--to ask him how this was possible--but he quieted her with a shush and then pulled her into his arms.

The feeling of security was almost overwhelming. Suddenly, she felt grounded again. In control. Safe.

She whispered into his chest. "I'm so sorry. If I had known..."

"Shhh. No regrets."

She looked up at him, searching his eyes to be sure he meant it. He cupped her face in his hands, gently stroking her cheeks with his thumbs, then pulled her close and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. Buffy closed her eyes, savoring the feel of his lips on her skin, the strength of his presence.

"You have to go now."

"No!" she cried. Her eyes flew open, and she took a step back. She frantically searched his eyes with hers. "I want to stay with you. I can't go back to that." She paused, fighting back tears, struggling to maintain control. "I'm afraid he'll kill me. And .... and I don't think I can kill him." She threw herself back into his arms and clung to him.

He held her briefly, then reached down, tipped her chin up, and looked directly into her eyes. "You have to keep the faith," he whispered.

*"Be strong."*

Buffy woke with a start--those two words echoing through her consciousness. She sat up and pulled her knees to her chest. A few silent tears slipped down her face, and she reached for the closest stuffed animal on her bed. Mr. Gordo. She smiled slightly, remembering how adorable Angel had looked clutching the little pink pig to his chest.

She sighed, swiped the stray tears off her cheeks, and got out of bed. She wasn't quite sure what to make of the dream, but she felt a little stronger, a little more in control.

She took her more normal hour to prepare for the school day, spending most of the time trying to decide what she could do to make the same old clothes look new again. Mom stopped by more than once to hurry her along. She wished briefly that she knew what the new outfit she'd dreamed about looked like. Maybe it was a sign that she'd go shopping this weekend. Once the outfit was perfect--well, as perfect as she could make it--her make up finished, and her hair carefully coifed, she started to head out. She paused with her hand on the doorknob, then returned to her bureau.

Carefully, she reached out, opened a small drawer in her jewelry box, and extracted the contents. She fingered the items gently, holding back tears. Her hands shook slightly as she first placed Angel's cross around her neck and then, almost reverently, placed the claddagh ring--heart facing her--on her ring finger. She wasn't sure how long she'd wear it. Maybe just until she'd managed to rid the world of Angelus.

She took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and left for school--secure in the knowledge that there was an Angel watching over her.


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