Just one more letter today. You should know about it. You should know how special you are, and I should get it all down now.
You are here.
You are wrapped and lying on your mother's chest in the deepest sleep the world knows. Your skin is the color of a seashell held up to the sun, a luminous and mysterious pink, with all the power of creation in it. I could sit longer by the bed, but I want to get it all down now, so you will know. I want you to know about the day you were born.
Late last night it started. I could feel you coming and so could your mother, who from the beginning had refused to go to the hospital. I almost contested her on it, but I knew I would lose. The midwife came, and the nurse; they ejected me from the bedroom. A storm was starting. The house was surrounded by a pressing surge of air that nudged fitfully, shivering along the length of the walls, pulling at the windows and doors; I could feel the air pressure in the house changing. I went back into the bedroom to shut the windows. I pulled the curtains aside and the wind gathered dust and leaves into the shape of a snarling face; I slammed the window shut. I looked at your mother.
"It's OK," I said.
She smiled at me. "It's going to be fine," she said.
I paced for nearly an hour. I boiled endless pots of water for no reason. Your grandmother came, Giles came. They made tea and tried to soothe me, but they were as nervous as I was. A birth is no small thing; before modern medicine one in three women died in childbirth. Your Aunt Willow came. She made more tea, then she began throwing various spells of protection. The wind began to leap and pound at the house. I watched the front door buckling, heard the wood frame creaking under the strain. There was a deep moan, a moan as deep as whale song, but without it's sound of yearning. This moan was a threat. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. Willow had just begun a spell to calm the wind, when the doorbell rang.
I answered the door. Three women stood on the step. The wind buffeted their clothes, but they were planted firmly. They were all of different ages; one was elderly and small, perhaps in her mid-eighties, but she stood straight and strong. One was about sixty or perhaps a little younger, and the youngest looked to me to be in her late thirties or early forties. They were about twenty years apart and of varying heritage, but they all had one thing in common, that slight bending of the air around them, the energy they gave off that startled and frightened me at first. They were all Slayers.
"How is she?" asked the eldest, a tiny Asian woman with the most direct gaze I had ever tried to match. She was dressed in prim, neat-fitting navy blue, and her salt and pepper hair was trapped in a tight bun.
"They-they," I spluttered, "They won't let me-"
"It's going to be fine," the youngest of them, a coffee-skinned woman, tall and shapely, brushed past me and touched my shoulder, "She's ready. She'll be fine. We're here to protect them,"
The last of them, a woman with sharp green eyes and short, white hair stopped before she entered the house.
"We're here, Angel," she said, "Nothing will happen,"
"We know you," she smiled, and the creases in her face crinkled pleasantly. Like the other two, she exuded power. She had strength; her build, even under the pastel blouse and loose khakis, was athletic."We know you through her. I'm Ruth,"
I tried to speak, and then gave up.
"Through her dreams," said the eldest. She was difficult for me to look at directly; her strength was larger than she was. It was as if she wore a cloak of gravity. She spoke with a melodic calm, she walked with the sureness of a young girl, lightly and with elastic power. I had never seen anything like her. My dark nature trembled, but I was drawn to her, I trusted her. "I'm Li," she said, "She will be as we are, she will survive. She will be one of us. She will be a Dreamer,"
"What's happening, with the wind?" I asked.
"The First Evil is coming. It wants the baby," said the tall one. I was nearly eye to eye with her.
"What do I do?"
"Stay by her. She needs you there," Her eyes were gentle on me; large, almond-shaped, heavy with lashes. She had a silky, feline energy, at once elegant and alarming. I knew they were not here to kill me but it took all of my resolve to stand calmly with them. She saw it. "It's natural, Angel," her voice was crisp-edged and sweet, like an apple.
"Who are you?" I asked her.
"Slayers," she said, but Li turned sharply.
"Dreamers, now," she said.
"There's work to do," said Li, "Angel, upstairs. Tell her we're here. In the deepest part of her mind she knows us, and she knows what we're doing. Stay by her. We'll fight,"
I was frozen. The thought of not standing to fight when you and your mother were in such danger was terrifying.
Chelsea put her hand on my back and pushed me gently toward the stairs. I turned to look at them. Ruth lowered her chin, fixing her eyes on me.
"It knows you too well, Angel," she said, "We need to fight it by ourselves,"
My heart sank.
"But-where are your weapons?"
"The First isn't fought with weapons," said Li, "But you must protect her. You are her last line of defense. She will know how,"
"She needs you," said Chelsea, "Go,"
Your mother is the strongest person I've ever met. Her strength comes from the deepest part of her, from the recesses of her soul. She's strong in intent, strong in execution, strong in character, in heart. She knows instinctively what is right and proper and she knows how to fight for it. From the first moment I met her, I've relied on her in one way or another. That night she was propped up in bed, sweat glistening on her brow and her cheeks, bracing herself for the pain. She suddenly looked tinier to me than she ever had, but the way she held on, the determination she had, thrilled me as always. Willow sat beside the midwife, wrapping herbs in bundles with red thread. Your mother looked up at me.
"It's going to be fine," she said.
"Of course," I said, my voice shaking,"Everything's fine,"
"It's OK, Angel," she smiled, then her face twisted, she moaned.
"Go take a walk," said Willow.
"I'm-I'm supposed to stay here," I protested.
"Then come back in five. You're going to mess up the spell," said Willow, "It's a pain spell, I can only do it with women in the room. Your vibe's going to throw it off. It's an old gypsy thing, anyway, and you've had enough of those, so just leave the room for a few minutes. I don't mean to kick you out, but well, I'm kicking you out,"
"One thing," I took your mother's hand, "There are three women downstairs. They're all-"
Your mother looked up at me with astonishment. "The Dreamers," she whispered, "They're real,"
"They're going to fight,"
"Yeah," she blinked, then writhed and cried out.
"Angel," Willow confronted me, hands on her hips.
"They wanted me to tell you they were here,"
"Good," said your mother, and as Willow shut the door, "It's going to be OK, Angel. Do what they say,"
I stood in the hallway. Giles and your grandmother came up the stairs.
"Who are those women?" asked your grandmother.
"Dreamers," said Giles.
"I've never heard of them," I said.
Giles handed me a cup of tea.
"They aren't in any of the books. I'd heard stories, at Watcher's council gatherings, but the general consensus was that they were entirely fictional, a sort of myth,"
"Yes. I do remember having some stirrings of that memory when Buffy defeated the Master,"
"She died," I said.
"And was returned from death. That is the formula, according to the old stories. The Slayer who gives her life to the duty and then is returned, will fight in new ways. It is a rite of passage, of sorts. Near-death for a Slayer...well, the idea is hardly far-fetched,"
"That would mean that it happens about every twenty years,"
"It would seem so. As the records reveal, not every Slayer is like Buffy, but it seems the record keepers up to this point were unaware of the Dreamers. It's apparent to me now that some do live quite a long time, although the majority of Slayers live very short lives,"
"Do they still-"
"Yes, they still carry out the duty, but not in the forefront, according to the stories. They become active in-in other ways,"
"Why are they called Dreamers?" asked your grandmother.
"One of the characteristics of the calling is vivid, precognitive dreams," said Giles, "This strengthens over time, and becomes an actual means of fighting evil in and of itself. They fight in dreams, apparently, and on different levels of reality then are perceived here,"
"How are they going to fight it?" I asked. "They don't have any weapons, no spells-"
"I have no idea," said Giles, a bit blithely, "But we can assume it will be an interesting bout,"
There was a deafening slam; it sounded as if the house next door had been thrust against ours. We all jumped. Instinctively I threw your grandmother to the floor and crouched over her. Giles had the same impulse, and now we were nearly nose to nose.
"Go to Buffy," he said, but I was already scrambling down the hallway.
I threw the bedroom door open. Willow was circling the room, deep in a chant. The midwife and nurse were frozen with fear.
"It's a tornado!"
"No," I said, "It's just some freak of weather. It's going to be OK,"
I took your mother's hand. She laid a look on me that I had seen before. This was a fight, and she was in her element. She pulled me next to her.
"Hang on to me," she said, "Something's happening in my head. They're hooked into me,"
"Them. You can help me,"
"Look at me," she panted, "And love me,"
I took a breath. "Oh..." I whispered.
"That's its one weakness," she said, "Look at me and love me. That's the last line of defense. If it crosses every other safety, it can't get through that,"
I took her hands in mine. I sat next to the bed. A contraction started and she tensed, gripping my hands. There was another shattering blow to the house. My teeth rattled, the organs in my chest quivered.
"Don't-" she heaved, "Don't let it break the feeling. No matter what happens you have to be really feeling it. For me and the baby. Love us," she arched and shouted; the nurse was suddenly active.
"Is she doing OK?" I asked.
The nurse had the look of someone who was hanging on to reality with white knuckles. She was obviously frightened, but she was focused on the job at hand. I had to admire her for it. She looked down again. "Very well, actually," she said, "The baby's going to crown soon,"
The pressure in the air began to rise. It was crushing my skull, my chest. It worried me; how could this be affecting her?
"Angel-" your mother gasped. I remembered what I needed to do. I looked at your mother and saw everything that I had ever wanted, everything that had meaning, that sustained me, all of it in her. Our fingers entwined, our eyes locked. Even when she cried out her gaze stayed on me; she and I looked at each other, and loved each other. I realized quickly, as she did, that it was not an act of intent. It was an act of release. I looked at her and felt what I felt, as easily as the living breathe. I looked at your mother and I loved her, loved her from my every part of me; even the demon within me, who has always been obsessed with her, fell into the circle, an eternal circle of your mother and I and the one thing that held the world together. We looked at each other and the love we have for each other glued us together and moved us on our journey, the one we began the first time our eyes met. I looked at your mother and loved her, and she screamed, and the nurse cried out for one more push, and then you cried, not a feeble whine, but a burst of voice like an announcement. The wind fell. The pressure in the air dropped. You were handed to us. Our hands made a circle around your tiny shape. I bent closer and we both kissed you.
Willow opened the shade and pale dawn light spilled through the sheer, across the foot of the bed. Your mother and I held you, deep in a silence of awe. Everyone began to gather around. The Dreamers joined.
Chelsea was wiping away tears. Ruth grinned. Li moved close to your mother and I.
"It's the first time," she whispered, "Do you understand?"
"Yes," said your mother proudly.
"This is entirely new. She has opened a new light in the world,"
Your mother looked up at her. "Thank you," she said.
"There's no thanking," said Li, "This was not a kindness. This is important. The First has lost the battle. She is here, and it will forever be weakened by her,"
I looked up at them. "I'm glad you came,"
"We wouldn't have missed this," whispered Chelsea.
Willow smiled. "Bibbity, bobbity, boo," she said, "Who are you?"
"They're the Dreamers," said your mother, "I thought you guys were just in my dreams,"
"We share your dreams,"
"Wh...you mean, ALL of them?"
I stood up, but I didn't know what to say.
"There is no need for you to say anything," said Li, "She is here. That is all that matters,"
"Welcome, Erinne," said Chelsea, gazing warmly at you, "You are a very special little girl," she touched your tiny hand and you made a soft sound. Li put a finger delicately to your cheek and your eyes moved. Ruth touched a toe, and you cooed again.
"How did you know her-" your mother began, then stopped, "Oh. Yeah, the dream,"
"It's time to go," said Li, "We'll be close, as always,"
And they were gone, and you are here. It's a warm morning in early spring. You are sleeping, your mother is sleeping, and I am happier than I have ever been.
The First is weaker, because you are here. Because you are here, gentleness, for everyone, will be a little easier. Forgiveness will require less effort. The need to dominate, less enticing.
I hope I'll be strong enough for you. I hope I will know what to say. I hope that you will be happy with yourself. You deserve to be. It's what I want for you, most importantly. That you love yourself.
I love you, little one.
Erinne stood up, rubbing her neck. She was suddenly exhausted. Dawn was creeping into the room, and she hadn't slept since she'd stepped off the plane. That was almost forty-eight hours ago.
She picked up the phone. She was going to wait, but now she needed Joy. Now. She dialed. Joy answered, knowing, as always, who was on the other end.
"Don't worry," she said, without even saying hello.
"Nothing," said Erinne.
"Maybe she was busy,"
"Druids get busy? Doing what? I was out in the rain for hours,"
"She knows that,"
"So, I'm being tested?"
"I don't know," said Joy.
Erinne paused, confused. "You don't know what?"
"I don't know what she's going to do,"
"What do you-" spluttered Erinne, "You always know this stuff! You don't KNOW?"
"You need some sleep,"
Erinne sighed. "I know. I'm sorry,"
"No. It's OK,"
"What's Ann doing?"
"No idea. She got fired from the gym, though. Too many people got injured in her classes,"
Erinne sighed. "Are you OK?"
Joy laughed. Joy didn't laugh often; she was the least expressive member of the family. She was even more taciturn than their father, so the sound was even sweeter, to Erinne, for that.
"We're fine," she said, "Sleep. You have some dreaming to do, anyway. You'll get answers,"
Erinne sat on the bed, looking dizzily at the room around her. She wanted to be home. She wanted to lean her head on her father's shoulder, she wanted to brush Joy's hair. She missed home.
"OK," she said, finally, "I'm going to go to bed,"
"It's not going to happen in one day," said Joy, "And Mom doesn't expect that. Being harsh with yourself isn't going to make you better. It's just going to slow you down,"
"I love you,"
"I love you. Ann, too,"
Erinne hung up and flopped onto her back on the bed. She fell quickly into a dream.
Yellow lizard eyes shifted in blackness, looking for her. She stood in the dark, waiting, but she knew it would never find her if she didn't want it to. When she decided to face off with it, only then would it be able to see her. She watched the eyes darting, searching for her, and she was flooded with an odd sensation, a vibration that came up through the soles of her feet, through her pelvis and solar plexus, into her throat, rattled her teeth. Not a vibration from outside, but from within her. It was hers. It was power.