Author's Note: I guess it's getting to be time I slap a general trigger warning for mental illness on this thing. This would include suicide, psychoactive drug use, etc. Should be pretty obvious given the over-all themes of the story, but have one anyway.
I realised after I'd come up with Will's last name that it turned into a subconscious nod to Ray Bradbury. If you haven't read any Ray Bradbury, do.
Epic thanks to SeaPea, BtheP, kim and nosurprises for being awesome and leaving such lovely reviews. I do this shit for you! Also, thanks to all new followers!
Nothing else to say except, hope you enjoy this chapter!
'So, fall '97, Ford really did come to see me here?' Buffy smiles fondly. 'I wonder why I made him a villain… Did he ever come to see me again?'
Dr. Warrens shakes his head. He has Buffy's folder open on the desk before him. In it, he has kept a meticulous journal detailing Buffy's delusions. 'I'm afraid you did get something right,' he says. 'Your friend did suffer from a brain tumour. Your mother tells me… Well, a few months later, he…'
Buffy's smile has vanished and she feels her eyes tear up. 'He died,' she finishes. 'Wow… Nothing gets past me, huh?' She wipes at her cheeks hurriedly. She doesn't want to cry. 'So, let's see… After that, Ethan came back and there was that whole Eyghon thing… And there was never an Ethan here, that you can recall?'
'No,' says Dr. Warrens. 'Though you could have invented a name for someone you saw here.'
'Not really worth considering… Okay, what about Kendra? Black, high ponytail, Jamaican accent?'
'Another no. We've had no patients like that.' Dr. Warrens consults the folder. 'Your mother did have a brief relationship with a man named Ted, though, like the robot in your delusion.'
'What, really?' Buffy tries to read too, but he shields it from her. 'Hey, no fair, I have a right to know what's in my file!'
'Not yet, you don't, Miss Summers,' says Dr. Warrens, his tone firm but not unkind.
Buffy folds her arms over her chest and sits back, pouting. 'Fine,' she grumbles. 'So what happened with Ted?'
'He came by with your mother to see you once. They ended their relationship shortly after.'
'That's… boring. Nothing interesting ever happens in this world…' Buffy frowns. 'Couldn't he have, like, turned out to be a serial killer or something?'
Dr. Warrens chuckles softly. 'I imagine if he were your mother would have been a little bit worse for wear.'
Buffy sighs, secretly agreeing. She considers for a moment, trying to remember. 'No point even talking about the eggs, I guess, that was just stupid… Oh…' She trails off, remembering what came next. 'Angel lost his soul.'
'One of the more interesting twists of your delusion,' Dr. Warrens comments.
'You're such a geek,' says Buffy jokingly. 'This is like a science experiment for you, isn't it?' Her smile fades again and she takes a deep breath. Remembering Angel still hurts, even knowing he's not real. 'And then… Miss Calendar…' For a moment she thinks she might cry again, but reminds herself quickly that Miss Calendar was fictional.
'Yes,' says Dr. Warrens a little sadly. 'Jenny. She was a nurse here.'
Buffy looks up at him, wide-eyed. Out of all the people in her mind, Jenny Calendar was one of the few she didn't make up?
She doesn't have to ask. 'Jenny was especially interested in your case. She had some theories about perhaps being able to influence your delusions by way of outside stimuli. It's little wonder she manifested in your mind. When she left us… It must have hit you hard.'
'Which would explain why I gave her such a messy ending,' Buffy finishes for him. She doesn't want to think about Jenny, real or imaginary. So she moves on. 'There was that thing in the hospital…'
'You had a very bad flu,' Dr. Warrens tells her. 'The medication we gave you for it reacted rather heavily with the ones you were already on, giving you some fairly disturbing nightmares.'
'Hence the flu demon. Yay.' She shifts in her seat and runs her fingers through her hair. Remembering everything she hasn't really been through is exhausting. It's also making her realise how fucked up she really is. She flips through her mental archives. Poltergeist, fish-guys… 'And then I killed Angel,' she says out loud.
'Ah, yes,' says Dr. Warrens. 'This also marks your first alliance with the vampire Spike.'
Buffy gives a wistful smile. 'First of many,' she mutters. 'He helped me take care of Angel, and then he ran off with Dru. It's weird… Working with him, even though I hated his guts, was kinda fun…'
'Foreshadowing your sexual relationship with him later on,' says Dr. Warrens, making her jump in her seat.
'Hey, personal boundaries!' she splutters, blushing furiously and looking anywhere but at the mental health professional seated before her. 'That's… that's private and, and…'
'And imaginary,' Dr. Warrens remarks, almost but not quite smiling. 'Can I ask, Miss Summers… Is Spike based on William Halloway?' Buffy gives him a blank look. 'Will,' the doctor amends.
'Oh, is that his real last name? Wow, that's way better than Pratt,' Buffy mumbles. She looks away again, unwilling to admit it, unsure of what her doctor will say.
'Well?' he prompts her, trying to catch her eye.
'…Yes,' Buffy concedes in a small voice.
'I see,' is all Dr. Warrens says. She's grateful.
'William Halloway, is it?'
Will starts slightly as she sits down next to him on the bench. He's smoking a cigarette, as per usual when they're outside. Any opportunity to chain smoke. She asked him, the day before, whether he's thought of quitting, considering how jittery it makes him to go so long between smokes. He said it had crossed his mind, but that he had eventually decided against it. 'Besides,' he said, 'if I get too jittery they pump me full of all manner of pleasant psychopharmaca. The high is so totally worth it.'
It's a little chilly today. Well, chilly for LA in the spring, and he's wearing a leather jacket over his black t-shirt. Not a duster, like Spike wears, but a short, biker-style thing in fine black calf skin. On his feet he wears a pair of standard issue army boots, slightly worn. The smell of leather and cigarette smoke sends her back briefly to her dream of the previous night and she has to look away from his blue eyes in order not to blush.
'Oh, yeah,' he says. 'That would be my, yeah… name…'
'It's a cool name,' says Buffy. 'Bet you already know my last name…'
He grins at her. 'Well, yeah. Like I said, I listen well.' He takes another drag of his cigarette and flicks some ash from the tip onto the ground before him. 'How was your shrink appointment?' he asks after a moment.
'Oh, well, we went over my first couple of years here… Turns out you're not the only person who's slipped through. There was a nurse, and then one of my best friends from school came to visit me and he turned up in my delusion, too. As a bad guy, oddly, but I guess these things aren't really logical.'
'Talking about things,' says Will, smiling at her. 'Good. It's good you're making an effort at getting better. Me, I mostly have to rely on meds for that…'
'Sucks,' says Buffy sympathetically. She chews her lips thoughtfully for a minute, unsure of whether to share her thoughts with her new friend.
'Something on your mind, pet?' he asks, before she has time to make up her mind. She glances at him. He has his blue eyes fixed on her, head cocked slightly to one side, cigarette between his lips. Sometimes it feels like he's reading her mind, much like Spike does. Did. Never did, because he's not real.
'I don't know if I'm actually making that much of an effort,' she admits. 'I didn't tell Dr. Warrens that I'm still having those dreams… Or night hallucinations, whatever you wanna call them. I didn't lie I just… withheld.'
'So, you had another one?' Will asks, interest plain on his face. 'Was I in it? I mean, Spike.'
'Uh, yeah,' says Buffy looking away again. 'He was…'
'Oh, it was that kind of dream, then?' Will leers at her. 'Was I any good?'
Buffy glares at him in mock offence. 'You're a pig!' she says, but can't stop herself from smiling.
'Sorry, I know, I'm insufferable,' says Will, smirking and leaning back in his seat. He finishes his cigarette and drops it on the ground before him, putting it out with his boot. Then he sighs, blowing out a cloud of smoke, and reaches into his pocket for another one.
'How are the new meds treating you?' asks Buffy, changing the subject.
'So far, so good,' says Will, lighting the cigarette. 'These ones aren't really stopping the voices so much as suppressing them. They're still nagging at me from the back of my mind, but I'm lucid enough not to do what they tell me.'
Like my dreams… 'I kinda know what you mean,' Buffy murmurs, looking at her hands.
'So, how come you're not telling Warrens 'bout your dreams?' Will inquires casually.
Buffy shrugs. 'I dunno… Don't wanna…' She sighs. 'It's like, I know that I'm dreaming, or hallucinating, I know it's not real… But it's nice to just let go and be in it, you know?'
'You don't want to tell him cause then he'll make them stop,' says Will.
'Yeah.' Buffy turns her eyes to him once more. 'Exactly.'
'It's like a good trip,' Will continues. 'Where you know you're tripping, and you know when you wake up everything will be back to normal, and the stuff you're seeing doesn't freak you out, it just leaves you feeling mellow.'
'I guess, yeah.' Buffy smiles. 'Can't really compare, though, don't think I've ever really been… tripping. Guessing you have?'
'Why do people always just assume I've done drugs?'
'Cause of what you just told me?' Buffy laughs.
'Oh. Right.' He grins. 'Guess that blew my cover, huh? All right then, yeah, I have. Nothing hard core. Just acid, shrooms, pot…'
'Oh, hey, can you get medicinal marijuana here?' Buffy asks.
Will laughs. 'No, lamb, 'fraid not. THC tends to have a less than happy effect on the mentally ill. Can induce psychosis, latent schizophrenia, cause anxiety and the like. Things of the not so good.'
'Did it do that to you?'
'No,' says Will. Then he narrows his eyes and furrows his brow. 'Don't think so… No. Maybe.' He shrugs, takes a drag of his cigarette, glances at her. 'I already knew I was ill. There's history in my family. My mum's bipolar. I am too, actually. Probably part of the reason why I'm so difficult to medicate. The drugs for the different disorders conflict. Give me headaches, nausea, counteract each other… Either they stop working after a while, or they work so well they start shutting down my organs. Spent a few too many nights puking my guts out. 'S not pretty.'
Buffy smiles sadly at him. She hesitantly puts a comforting hand on his arm. He doesn't freak out. Instead he smiles back at her and puts his hand over hers. 'Poor Will,' she says softly.
'Yeah, 'm a right sob story, me.' He's smoked yet another cigarette down to the filter, and is quick to light another.
'Those things'll give you cancer one day,' says Buffy.
'So I'd be going from one hospital to another,' Will shrugs. 'Not like I'm ever getting out of here, and even if I do, I'll be back before long. Nothin' to tether me on the outside. Reckon it's why I broke last time.'
'You mean, there's no one to… keep you sane?'
He makes an expression halfway between a smile and a grimace. 'Not since Melinda,' he says. 'Since we ended it, it's only been casual relationships, work mates, drinking buddies… When I got out before, all I had was work, meds, visits to the shrink… No wonder I blew it, really.'
'What about in here?' she asks. 'Haven't you made any friends other than me?'
His expression changes to a genuine smile upon the indication that they're friends, and he takes her hand and squeezes it. 'Not really, pet,' he says. 'You don't really make friends in here… Half are bat-shit crazy, can't tell which way's up half the time. The ones who aren't are either very anti-social, prefer to be on their own, or they get better and leave. Or they…' He trails off.
'Well, some of them off themselves, don't they?'
'Oh.' Buffy looks down at her feet, and they're both quiet for a moment. 'Don't these places have all kinds of precautions to stop people from doing that?' she asks eventually.
'Oh, sure,' Will asserted. 'If they suspect you're even close to that point, they put you on suicide watch, tie you down at night, whole nine yards. But the ones who are really serious about it never say a word. They don't let on, they just go off quietly and do it, and there's nothin' anyone can do to stop 'em. They'll always find a way. Sneak in a blade, hang themselves by their bedsheets… Knew a bloke who drank drain cleaner. Broke into the janitor's closet. People come up with all manner of creative ways once they're properly suicidal.'
'Have you ever been?' Buffy asks quietly, daring a glance at him. 'You don't have to answer,' she adds quickly. 'I'm just… curious.'
'Couple of times,' he admits. 'I've had the voices telling me to off myself… And been fairly close on a manic streak, too.'
'Huh,' says Buffy. 'You'd think you'd wanna do it cause you were depressed, not the opposite.'
'Yeah, you'd think, wouldn't you?' Will smiles ruefully. 'When you're depressed you think about it, a lot. But when you're properly down there, you've barely got the energy not to shit the bed, let alone to figure out a way to end it all. It's when you're manic you're actually in danger of doing it. Did you know suicide is a listed side-effect of some anti-depressants?' Buffy shakes her head. Will takes a long drag of his cigarette. 'You get up there, you feel like you can do anything, and then sometimes, you get so fucking restless, you know? You feel like you just have to go do something. It can get fairly self-destructive. You'll get urges, things you have to do, have to try. Like jump out a window. Run in traffic. Climb buildings. Pick fights.' He gives her a pointed look and indicates his scar with the hand holding the cigarette. 'Anything to feel alive. And when you're in the territory of proper hypomania, you'll do it too.'
'I'm glad you didn't,' Buffy declares.
'Oh, I did.' Will's voice is quiet. 'I just didn't die.'
She gives his hand a squeeze, and he smiles at her. Then he looks up. 'Looks like it's time to go in,' he says. 'They're rounding up the herd.' He puts out his cigarette just as Tony the psych nurse comes up to them, holding out his hand.
'Give 'em here, Halloway,' he says. Will rolls his eyes and pulls the pack of smokes and his zippo lighter out of his pocket and hands them to the tall man before him.
'I don't get why I can't just keep them,' he complains. ''S not like I can smoke 'em anywhere without setting off the smoke detectors, anyway.'
'Hey, rules are rules, and how do I know you won't set fire to your bed or something? Being as you are a crazy person.' There's a twinkle in Tony's brown eye and his smile is good-natured. Buffy giggles.
As they start to head inside, Will whispers to her, 'Speaking of them not being able to stop you from doing something if you really want to…' He pulls a single cigarette out of his pocket and shows it to her when he's sure no one's looking. 'Got another lighter hidden in my room, and one of the loos has a window you can open just a bit. I'll smoke it through that window before bed.'
Buffy cocks an eyebrow. 'How rebellious of you,' she observes dryly as he hides the cigarette away.
'What can I say? I'm just bad.'