TITLE: "Small Spaces" (1/1) AUTHOR: Marie-Claude Danis EMAIL: mc@fangy.net SITE: http://fangy.net/mc.html FEEDBACK: Would be delightful! DISTRIB: List archives, or just ask. SPOILERS: Up to "Tabula Rasa" I guess. RATING: PG PAIRING: Spike/Buffy SUMMARY: "It's like he knows what times are the worst, and he doesn't hold her, even in sleep."

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It's small and comfortable, and made to cradle her body.

She often mistakes her lover's embrace, or their bed, for her coffin. She wakes up and feels the silk against her neck, sees the surface inches from her eyes. Then they're gone, and she's left staring at the dotted plaster of the ceiling, high above her, and she fights off the paralysing panic. She never used to be claustrophobic. Now it seems like that's all she ever was.

She wants to scream but it balls itself up in the back of her throat instead, like it always does, and it makes her shiver with violent helplessness. She tries to calm her breathing, but her chest is heaving, and her nostrils are flared, because she clenches her teeth together in case the scream does come out. The feeling lingers, and she squeezes her eyes shut, trying to focus on electricity bills and TV reruns and making love. Anything but this feeling of being trapped, no air, there's no air, and she's trapped, right there in the middle of their bedroom. It's not fair.

So she looks at him, because that always helps. It's been years now, and she wakes up like this at least one or twice a week, still. Nowadays he just sleeps through it. She knows he hates that he does that, but there's a certain comfort in finding him there, peaceful, dark blond lashes on paler skin, familiar lips set in a soft pout. He's lying there facing her, his body curved toward hers, but not touching. His hand is there on the mattress between them, reaching, almost touching, but not quite. It's like he knows what times are the worst, and he doesn't hold her, even in sleep. It kills him, she knows it, but she also knows she can trust him to know her, and sometimes that's all she needs to calm down.

But not tonight. She climbs off the bed and pads her way to the bathroom, leaving the light off. The cabinet door creaks open and she retrieves one of the many prescription bottles, struggling for a moment with the cap. She shakes two yellow tablets out and they stick to her sweaty palm, leaving powdery stains. She puts them in her mouth and lets them dissolve on her tongue, the taste acid and nauseating. She waits until she wants to gag before washing it down with lukewarm tap water. A ritual.

It doesn't get better. It just gets more bearable. She almost likes hanging on to the fear, because it reminds her of how she got to be with him. Maybe if she loses that she'll lose him too. It terrifies her. And so she's safe.

Her feet tread cold tile then warm carpet, back to the bed. The box spring squeaks softly when she lies down again and seeks the warmth she insists he exudes when he's next to her. She reaches for his hand and squeezes it, leaving them entwined between them. He squeezes back, in his sleep. She looks at the ceiling again - it's up there, a good five feet above her - and focuses on the silence, and the warmed palm against hers.