Chuang-Tzu once dreamed he was a butterfly.
When he awoke, he no longer knew if he was a butterfly dreaming he was a man,
or a man who had dreamed he was a butterfly.
The baby was a little slippery as Connor lowered him into the water. And he kicked, splashing water about as his tiny feet encountered the wetness of the bath.
Connor winced as he got soapy water in his mouth. "You could just settle down, you know, kid. Make this easier on your mom and I..."
Naturally, his son continued to kick the water.
As he gently took the dipper and poured water over the tiny body, he wondered whether his father had felt this way the first time he'd had to give Connor a bath. Had there been soap, slipperiness, and uncertainty about the temperature of the water? Had he squealed and splashed about, or wailed and clung to the hands that betrayed him, or had he just slipped into the water without so much as a cry?
Now that he was married, with his own son, he wondered.
"You may not want to do this," she'd said, nervous and shy as a colt.
"Because..." she flushed "Because I'm not like other girls."
Behind him, the door creaked open, a sound so familiar, he'd almost stopped hearing it at all. "Why the pensive look, Con?"
He glanced up at her, small and trim, so small they'd worried about the baby at first, whether she'd be able to give birth at all. There'd been complications because her metabolism worked faster than normal, and there was something strange about her biochemistry. According to her stepfather, Rupert, she shouldn't have been able to carry to term at all.
Connor was always grateful for the miracle that meant she'd both conceived and carried the baby to term. Their son, their child. Their link to the future, spanning back from the past; from Leo to Connor to Jason to David... A line of Richardsons stretching out and back into the far reaches of times nobody remembered...
Immortality of a kind. Eternity of a sort.
"Nothing, Buff," he replied.
Not like other girls? "What do you mean?"
She flushed. "It... My last boyfriend said that he had dreams..." She glanced at him, blue eyes pale beneath brown lashes. Fear behind a curtain of bravery. "Weird ones. After we slept together..."
"So? Lots of people have weird dreams. It's what dreams are."
Her gaze was grey-blue and pure as springwater, running crystal-clear through the mountains of his soul.
"These aren't dreams."
He loved the way she moved, certain and sure of herself. She was grace and beauty and she walked in both the night and the day without fear.
He envied that.
"How's he doing?" She crouched down on the bathroom floor beside him. "Hey kid, Daddy hasn't drowned you yet, you're doing well." She grinned as he glared at her. Then winced as Leo kicked and water splashed onto her face.
It was his turn to grin at her. "Serves you right," he told her.
"Want me to take him for a while?"
He shook his head, "You go ahead and do...whatever it is you're doing," he told her. "We're fine here, aren't we, Leo?"
Leo burbled back in assent.
She kissed Connor on the mouth, and he tasted freedom and strength in her kiss.
She was citrus and spice; nutmeg, perhaps. Other girls had been strawberries, or pepper. She had tang and flavour, but without the sharp edge.
"You're not wholly human," she said, breaking away from him, startled.
He stiffened with the knowledge of what he was, what he'd been made. Impossible possibilities converging in him to produce who and what he is.
"Neither are you," he retorted, smelling it on her scent, feeling it in her fear.
"This isn't such a good idea..."
Why was it so amazing that everything that was there in an adult human was there in a baby, only smaller? Connor didn't know. It was just one of those things. And it was amazing. He rubbed his fingers over the tiny fingernails and toenails, gently washed the tiny penis and testicles, dripped water over the pudgy arms and legs.
He was whipcord thin, and until the pregnancy, she'd been pretty skinny, too. Now she had curves, born of motherhood and her milk-full breasts. She complained of course, longing for her figure in the days before, but Connor had no objections.
Carefully, he leaned Leo backwards, giving him a chance to wave his hands in the air at the fear of falling backwards, and took the washer to rub over his son's face while the infant wailed in horror.
"Oh, don't make such a fuss," he said, chidingly. "It's only a facewasher."
Leo continued to wail.
"What kinds of dreams?" He asked, intrigued.
She looked back at him, her hands twisting gently in her lap. "Other worlds. Other places. People, strange situations. Things you probably won't get in this world..."
He snorted, thinking of his dual past. Of his Mom and Dad, of Lisa and Aunt Kate, of Tracey and his high school friends. And of Angel and Holtz, of Wesley and Cordelia, of Gunn and Fred and Lorne and the demons and vampires that inhabited that world.
"Weird is nothing to me," he said. "And I want this."
His hands drifted over her body, silencing her protests, quelling her fears.
Buffy came in as he was pulling Leo out of the bath with a ripple of water. She took the baby and wrapped him up in the towel, gently laying him down on the worn floor outside the bathroom so they could dry him off.
"He looks so small." Connor said as he knelt down beside her with the changing mat and diapers.
"He'll grow," she said, confidently. "They experience most of their growth in the first six months... He'll get big like you have no idea..."
"How do you know that?"
She shrugged, "I was about five when Dawn was born. I heard a lot, mostly because I was hanging around, resenting the fact that Dawn was the centre of attention." There was exasperated affection as she spoke of her sister. "And we're done!"
Weird was nothing to him. And yet, weird was everything to him.
He knew weird, and this was weird.
Other worlds, other places, other dreams, other lives.
Threads of memory twisted and crossed over, spinning new patterns, driving new stories. The warp and the weft tangled, and the threads sprang taut and parted beneath the pressure, leaving him lost.
And through it all, she slept, the dreamer; blood-singing, blood-waking, blood-calling.
- fin -