AURORA NOW

(SHADOW)

D.M. Evans

A Box of Crayons Story - Color Shadow.

For more Box of Crayons stories head to http:www.geekgirlz-r.us/dana/danalist.html#crayons

Aurora Now is the sequel to Walk a Mile in Sorrow

Disclaimer - Joss owns this universe and all characters within except Dr. Savage and Sorcha, they're mine but he could have them if he wanted them.

Spoilers - none. An AR universe Post Chosen/Post Home S5 of Angel never happened

Rating - PG-13

Feedback - Yes please, connorswhipYahoo.com

Summary - After a terrible tragedy, Connor is confined to a Watchers Council run psychiatric ward and Buffy and Giles come with a special visitor

Remember me when I am gone away,

gone far away into the silent land;

When you can no more hold me by the hand,

nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.

Remember me when no more day by day

you tell me of our future that you plann'd;

Only remember me; you understand

it will be late to counsel then or pray.

Remember - Christina Rossetti

It hurts to focus. If I pulled out of that comfortable spot in my mind, the place where the demons don't gnaw at me, the pain swallowed me up. My birth had to have been cursed. It's why I never escape hell.

Dr. Savage came into the gardens this morning to try to help me focus. He wanted me to come inside but the demons are in there. They crawl the walls, especially at night. I moved things, made little mazes of the bedding and furniture to slow them down but it didn't help much.

Outside, in my safe place, it was better. I had my sleeping spot. It reminded me of home. Today, Dr. Savage couldn't make me go inside. He tries off and on to get me back into that scary room. After he gave up, he showed me where he had roses planted just for me near my safe place. I loved their scent. Dawnie loves roses so. He said something about visitors.

Maybe it's Dad. I kept waiting for him but he never comes. He's always letting me go whenever I need him to the most. He's never there in the dark times. Dad, don't you know how much I need you? It's what you've always wanted. I'm ready now. I can finally say it but you're not here to hear me.

I couldn't think about it. It hurt too much. I started walking the perimeter. I have to make sure it was undisturbed, have to keep Dawnie and our baby safe. I can only go so far. Something invisible stops me if I try to go too far. At first, it frightened me and I would throw myself against it until I was bloody and bruised and the care takers would come and shoot me full of sleepy medicine. Dr. Savage told me many times that it was a wall for my protection but it took a long time to sink in. The medicine made me slow.

So long as I behaved, I could go outside as much as I wanted. Dr. Savage didn't like me living outside at first but now he understood it felt good. I felt at home, calmer, out of doors. The greenness, the cool fresh air on my skin, the scents untainted by cleaning supplies felt natural. It wasn't like home. It was better. I curled up in my safe spot, close enough to smell the roses. The Rowan trees made a good place to sleep. Dr. Savage said they warded off bad magic. I liked that. Behind the Rowans was the hedge row of Yew. The only way to me is from the front, so I was safe.

At night or at peaceful times like this, I heard Dawn calling for me. I could never get to her, no matter how hard I tried. It's difficult even to remember her, how she felt, how she touched me. Now, I mostly just call out to her, hoping she can find me. I was sleeping, hearing Dawn's voice in my dreams, when I heard other voices that dragged me from my rest.

"I told him you were coming but I don't think he understood. He's expecting someone else," Savage was saying. "I couldn't get him to come in and dress. You remembered about the perfume, yes?"

"I remembered. I forgot last time that Dawn used to wear Happy."

I knew the voice, the scent so much like Dawn's. Buffy was here. I sat up, letting my blanket slide off. I didn't have blankets and pillow back home but here in this world I had grown to like them. I brought some to my safe place. I smiled up at her but she looked worried.

Buffy whispered to Savage, "Is it good for him to be out here like this?"

"He's comfortable. It's unorthodox but letting him be out here calms him. I have to medicate him less and we talk more. I'm confident he'll come back in on his own. Until then, we just enjoy our talks out here in the garden. The magic won't let him wander off and he's woven his shelter there so tight it's damn near waterproof. He's used to this, Buffy. This is how he lived most his life. It's good isn't it, Connor?" Savage smiled at me, his blue eyes bright. I liked his eyes. They were the kindest eyes I'd ever seen.

I nodded, letting my eyes close. I drank in the scents of roses and Buffy, making me think warmly of Dawn. "I like it here. I like my new roses."

"I'm glad. Okay, Buffy, no time limits on your visit. Talk as long as you'd like. If you get into trouble, give me a call on the walkie talkie." Savage handed her the bag he had been carrying. "For him." He nodded at me then walked away.

Buffy just stared at me. She was nervous. I could tell. I couldn't really remember the last time she was here only that she smelled too much like Dawn and it hurt and there was screaming. I think it was me. I think I might have hurt Buffy that time. I hadn't meant to, though. I glanced around, breathing hard, trying to find him. He had to be with her, didn't he? She sat down in front of my safe place and her eyes were big and wet. "He's not here, Connor."

My lips trembled. "He didn't come?"

She pointed at the sky dotted with fluffy white clouds. We didn't have skies like this back home. "It's daylight, Connor."

I contemplated the sky. Of course. Dad couldn't come out, not now, but her eyes told the whole truth. "He's not here."

"No, sweetie, he's not." She touched my cheek. "He couldn't make it."

Tears leaked out of my eyes. I was powerless to stop them. How could he not be here? "Did he call and ask about me?"

"I told Angel you were up and out of bed and that's a good thing."

I stared at her, trying to make my eyes obey me. The tears had to stop. I had been in bed for months. That's what Dr. Savage told me. I don't remember it. I remembered Dawn then an awfulness that sucked at me, dragging me under, into hell and then the muddy swirly bits of the demons in my room and the talks with Doctor Savage and Buffy and being outside in my safe place but it all ran together.

Buffy dug in the bag Savage gave her. She brought out some sweat pants and a t-shirt. "Could you put these on for me, Connor? I have something I want to show you later and I think it would be better if you weren't naked."

I looked down at myself. I had cleaned up in the rain that had fallen last night. My skin was tan, more so than it had ever been, my body taut and firm, ready to keep those demons away from Dawn. Should I feel embarrassed that I wasn't wearing clothes? I couldn't remember. Buffy seemed to be. I dressed like she wanted me to, then looked at her. "He didn't call, did he?"

She hesitated then said, "Of course Angel called, baby. He just can't leave L.A., not just now."

She's lying. The tears tried to break free again but this time, I won. I walked away from my safe place to the roses and flopped down there. "He didn't call."

"Sweetie, he cares about you."

She never used to call me by pet names, not until I ended up here in the gardens. She says them all the time now, like she's afraid I'll break, like I'm glass. She touches me like I've a crack in me and anything more would shatter me. I wanted to tell her to stop because her acting like this scared me. But I think she needs it to be like this so I say nothing. "I heard Dawn calling me, Buffy, just as you were coming across the grass. Did you see her?"

Her face screws up. Her tears are back now, too, as she gets up and sits beside me by the roses. She strokes my hair. "Dawn's dead, baby. You know that. She died six months ago."

I shook my head violently, jerking away from her touch. "No, I heard her. She just needs me to find her and bring her home. I can't find her, Buffy. Why can't I find her? She's hurting and I have to help her."

Tears poured down Buffy's face as she grabbed me into her arms, holding on so tight I can barely breathe. She rocked me, saying my name, saying baby over and over. Finally she kissed my forehead, her blond hair falling down like a veil over us. "Dawn isn't hurting any more, Connor. She's where no one will ever hurt her again. Please, try to understand that. You hearing her calling, that's just a memory, baby. You don't have to find her. You have to let her go now so you can get better."

I couldn't swallow. My throat felt too tight, like someone was pressing against me with a branch. "I can't let her go."

I crumpled up in the grass for a while. Buffy rubbed my back until I relaxed and felt loose like a cat in the sun. We had lots of them here, cats. One of them, a bold one with lots of colors in her coat, shares my safe place from time to time. "I'll find her, Buffy."

She didn't say anything, her eyes puffy and red as they watched me. Buffy looked at her watch as she got up. She walked away and talked into the walkie talkie where she thought I couldn't hear. She told Savage about Dawn and he told her it was still okay for her plans. Buffy told him to tell Giles it was all right. She came back and sat with me. "Connor, I brought someone to see you. Dr. Savage said it might be good for you to see her."

"Dawn?"

Her pretty eyes dimmed as she touched a finger to her trembling lips. "No, baby. We just talked about this. Dawn's gone."

I looked away. I didn't want to hear that. I wouldn't listen. I would stop the demons and find my Dawn.

Giles came out of the building, limping across the grass to us. He leaned heavy on a cane and he had something on his back that I couldn't see. I didn't want to look at that cane. Bad things came with that cane. Before the hurtful, awful darkness, Giles didn't need a cane. Bits of memory tore themselves bleeding from my mind. Giles being badly hurt, Dawn being taken. Giles needing a cane, Dawn needing me to find her.

Buffy got up and took the carrier from his back. Giles eased to the ground beside me, grunting a little in obvious pain. His cane was even more awful up close, the handle adorned with a tree being climbed by a snake. The tree, the forbidden one. I knew that story. Father told me that story time and agin. I could recite it without thinking.

He reached out and touched my arm. "How are you today, Connor?"

"Confused," I said honestly. I couldn't lie to Giles. I never could, not the whole time I was with Dawn in his house, waiting for our baby to be born. He was like Father. I had to be honest with him. Maybe he could help me find Dawn and our baby.

"That's understandable. Savage said you're doing much better," Giles said as Buffy sat down, cradling the carrier Giles had had.

"Dr Savage seems happy," I said but I wasn't really sure of that. He'd be happier if I was indoors.

"Connor, I want you to meet someone," Buffy said, setting the carrier aside. In her arms was a little baby. She smelled sweet like milk and powder. Buffy gently nestled closer to me so I could see the baby better. She has almond-shaped blue eyes and a wide smile with just a tooth or two showing behind red, red lips. "You can touch her if you want. Her name is Sorcha."

"Sor-aka?" I stumbled over the name.

"It means bright and radiant, like the dawn. I wanted to remember her mother in her name and I know you and Angel were pushing for something Irish." Buffy smiled. "I thought it fit."

"Dawn?" I was getting more confused.

"She's your daughter, Connor," Buffy said and I shook my head. How could my daughter be here if Dawn was missing? "She is. Do you want to hold her?"

I was so afraid. If I held her, it would be real. Dawn would be gone for good but I couldn't say no. Buffy put my child in my arms and I stared at her. This was what Jasmine should have been, not some goddess promising peace, delivering death. Sorcha reached out and batted my face with her tiny hand and there was more power in her simple touch to make someone love than Jasmine would ever have known. My daughters, one dead at my hand and the other rested in those strong, traitorous tools, cooing at me. Drops of water beaded on her face and I didn't realize at first that I was crying on her. I lifted her closer, drinking in her scent. She smelled of Dawn, of me. She was ours. Her hand snared my hair, drawing me to her. Her lips found my ear lobe and she sucked hard on it. I was crying so hard now I was shaking and Buffy put her arm around me to steady me. "Sorcha?" I asked again.

"It was that or another word for Dawn like Aurora." Buffy sounded almost apologetic. "If you hate the name, I guess we could always change the birth certificate."

"It's perfect," I said, my eyes canting over to her. "Sorcha, Dawn, Aurora, it's all beautiful."

"Aurora now, fair daughter of the dawn, sprinkled with rosy light the dewy lawn," Giles said, then smiled sheepishly. "Sorry, I always think of that when I look at her."

"I know those words. Father used to tell that in a story," I said as Sorcha let go of my ear.

"Alexander Pope, he was a poet. He died when your father was a young man," Giles said as Sorcha started to squirm.

Buffy took her from me. "She wants down. She's not big on just sitting quietly."

She set Sorcha in the grass and I watched my daughter crawl first to Buffy then back to me. She could move on her own. I didn't realize, didn't understand that it was possible yet. How tiny and helpless she was. Had I ever been this small? How had Father ever kept me alive in hell? How did Dad survive someone taking me from him? I touched her soft, light brown curls. I had never felt anything as soft as her hair, as smooth as her skin. Sorcha flattened out on her belly at my touch then giggled before getting back to her hands and knees, plowing through the grass.

We were all very quiet, just watching her crawl around in the sun. Buffy stopped her once when she reached for the thorny roses and redirected her back at me. Sorcha paused to try and put the tip of Giles' cane into her mouth and when that was taken away, after a brief period of red-faced screaming, she found a wild flower to shove in her mouth before Buffy yanked it out. Buffy tucked a red plastic nipple on a ring in. Sorcha promptly spat that out, howled for a moment, then resumed her crawling. When she finally slowed, I picked her up again. Her eyes were fluttering shut.

I crawled back to my safe place with her. I heard Buffy protesting and Giles shushing her. She didn't have to worry. I would never hurt my daughter. I know I had killed my first one but that was different. She had been a terrible lie. Sorcha was plain truth and all the more frightening for it. Delicate, vulnerable and my responsibility. I remembered promising Dawn that I would always be there. Only I wasn't. Even as I laid down in my safe place, cradling my child to my chest, I knew I wouldn't be there. Buffy would take her away and there was nothing I could do.

I knew I was sick. I had heard them all saying it before but I never believed it. I still thought, deep down, if I looked hard enough, I would find my Dawn but until then I had our daughter to look after. But I couldn't, not until I was well. I wanted to cry but there was nothing left inside me. Instead, I just held her, letting her sweet scent perfume my safe place so even when she was gone she'd still be with me just a little. I was almost asleep myself when Buffy touched my arm.

I opened my eyes and looked at her. Giles was back on his feet. It must be time to go. "You're taking her now," I whispered, my heart breaking.

"We'll be back, Connor. I promise." Buffy's hand caressed my arm. "Dr. Savage said we could come once a week at first, more later, when you're stronger. I wish you could come home with us now but you're not ready."

"I know. It's okay. I understand. You watch out for her, Buffy. I want to but I can't. Dawn and I can't do...I'm sorry." The tears wouldn't come but the trembling did, shivering up and down my spine.

Buffy kissed my cheek. "I know, baby. I'm watching out for her. We all are. Sorcha has so many aunts and uncles, she doesn't know who to try to get to spoil her more. We'll be back in a few days. I'm sorry we couldn't stay longer."

I nod and kiss my daughter's forehead. Her skin is tender and warm and she grabs my hair again as I try to give her back. She doesn't want to let go and neither do I, but eventually she got tucked back into the carrier and Buffy slung her over her back. They say their goodbyes again and I watched my daughter's tiny face disappear into the garden with them.

I pulled off my shirt before my scent overwhelmed Sorcha's and tucked it inside the pillow case so it would be close to me. I hid the pants in my bedding then I went to find the food the caretakers have left on the table for me. I slept easy that night. The demons have stopped howling if only for a moment. Instead, I heard my daughter's cooing and I dreamed of holding her in my arms again.

Yet if you should forget me for a while

and afterwards remember, do not grieve:

For if the darkness and corruption leave

a vestige of the thoughts that once I had,

Better by far you should forget and smile

than that you should remember and be sad

Remember - Christina Rossetti