Put Your Dreams Away (For Now)
Summary of the
story: "The widest land/Doom takes to part us, leaves thy heart in
gratitude to Dark Star, who is constantly stepping up to take on fandom
projects, like this tremendous one which makes my month once a year. Title from
Sonnet VI by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and summary from the lyrics of Lost In My Mind by The Head and the Heart.
On Tuesday morning, Lizzie wakes up
slightly early, early enough to lie in bed for a moment or two, trying to
recall her dream.
She was getting married, she knows that,
although the details of the wedding are lost to her. She remembers the kind
eyes of a man, a strong hand shaking slightly before sliding into a pocket. She
had whispered something to him, something that made the officiant blush and
stammer and reach to swipe a handkerchief across the lenses of his glasses.
Lizzie gets up, grinning, and begins to
dress, but her mind is still on the dream. She enjoys the fearless, cheeky self
who lives there.
She has always been jealous of the gentle
waves of Ava’s Scottish accent, but it doesn’t help in their French lessons.
“Mère,” Lizzie enunciates carefully,
emphasizing the appropriate accents.
Ava obediently repeats, “Mère,” although she is not as careful about the pronunciation as
Lizzie had been. At her teacher’s skeptical look, she tosses her book away. “I
wish we could just speak in English instead.”
“Ava, your father,” Lizzie begins, but the
girl interrupts, knowing the speech by heart, even at six. “Yes, I know, the
French language makes a solid foundation for a young lady’s future education.”
She looks so downcast that Lizzie brushes
her book aside as well. “Well, I think that learning about one’s natural
environment is also an important piece of the foundation. Grab your coat. We’ll
go for a walk.”
For a few moments, while they giggle into
light jackets and slip out the door, there’s a delicious feeling of rebellion
to the simple stroll. But as they leave the house, Lizzie feels a pricking
sensation in the center of her back, the slippery feeling
of someone watching. She listens to Ava with one ear, letting her run around
and collect autumn leaves in the name of an alleged botany lesson, devoting the
rest of her attention to keeping a sharp lookout from the corners of her eyes.
That night after eating dinner with Ava-
eaten in the lounge that adjoins Ava’s bedroom rather than at the overly large
dining room table- and sending her to bed, Lizzie sits up trying to focus on
her novel. Even in her room, she has an unsettling sense of being watched. A
faint click down the hall tells her that it isn’t just herself and Ava and the
staff in the house anymore. She puts the book down almost gratefully, and goes
to talk to Charles.
Her memories of Charles stretch back as far
as any of her memories do, but she still knocks and waits for a response before
entering his study. He has a small glass in his hand, the bottom filled with
what Lizzie is fairly sure is alcohol, and he uses it to gesture to the chair
across from him.
“Hello, Lizzie. I hope that you’re doing
well and that Ava behaved herself.”
Lizzie sits and allows him to pour her a
cup of tea. He doctors it for her, adding the milk he believes she likes,
although she truly just prefers sugar. “Yes, everything was fine. I hope that
your trip went well.”
“It was…satisfactory. Luckily it ended so I
could make it back for Ava’s birthday next week.” Lizzie makes a sound to
express her agreement at this happy coincidence and sips her tea politely. “Do
you have any idea what I can get her?”
“I know that you could let her stop
learning French.” She tries to give the suggestion a light, joking tone,
stepping cautiously around Charles’s sensibilities.
Apparently it was not light enough. “Oh,
Lizzie,” he sighs, shaking his head at her apparent foolishness. “The French
language makes a solid foundation for a young lady’s future education. And I
want my Ava to have the best foundation.”
“Of course.” Feeling the spied-upon shiver
again, Lizzie asks quickly, staring down into her cup to try to avoid
embarrassment, “Have you made any changes in the staff?”
Charles stares at her oddly. “No, although
Hodgeson wasn’t here when I arrived home. Why do you ask?”
Lizzie almost tells him, but she can
clearly picture his expression turning to mirth that he might try to conceal
and instead she says, “Never mind. Ava enjoys books about horses. You could try
buying one of those.”
“I’ll have Hodgeson look at some reviews in
the morning,” he replies, thankfully dropping the subject and urging her to
finish her tea before he sends her to bed.
But Hodgeson doesn’t look at reviews in the
morning. Whatever he was looking at was unknown to them, as he had vanished and
no one in the household seems to know where he might be. Charles calls the
police, who seem ready to ignore the request as low priority until they receive
a call from a powerful council member. They come around after that and Lizzie
can see them poking around before she shuts the door so Ava won’t be distracted
from her lessons by their investigation.
Still, despite whatever might have happened
to the other gentleman, Charles still needs one around now that he is back in
residence. The exclusive agency, with which he has had much luck until now,
sends him a new man by the end of the business day.
Ava and Lizzie run into him for the first
time as they search the library for another copy of Matilda (which Lizzie feels
is more appropriate for a six-year-old than Jane Eyre, which is what her father
expected her to read). Hodgeson was a bland looking forty-year-old. Two days
after she last saw him, Lizzie can’t really picture his face, just the general
impression of one over a neat suit. The new gentleman is slightly older, but
there is a comfortable kindness in his eyes. He introduces himself as Giles
Brighton, and asks Ava about the books she has read in a tone of interest
rather than condescension before he has to go off to finish the job Charles
“He’s nice,” Ava says, tucking the Roald
Dahl against herself. Lizzie agrees, but that night when she feels the sneaky
eyes against her back while she walks back to her room, he is standing at the
other end of the hall. She has to squint against the darkness to make him out,
but it is definitely him.
The next afternoon,
while Ava’s piano teacher is there, Brighton asks Lizzie for a brief tour of
the house. Not having anything else to do, Lizzie agrees. The house is large
and full of objects that Charles had obtained in his travels, but Brighton does
not seem particularly interested in any of them. The household staff stays
away, as they usually do. They have never taken to Lizzie, although she can’t
figure out why, and although they are always kind and polite to each other. But
even when she first came back from college to work for Charles and teach Ava,
there were pitying glances that she pretended not to see.
Brighton looks her in
the eye, which is a nice change. When he watches her point to a vase or an
architectural detail she thinks he might find interesting, he has a bright gaze
from behind his glasses that Lizzie has to smile at. But although he is engaged
in the things she is telling him, for some reason, what interests him most is
“We never go down
there,” she informs him. “I believe that Charles keeps confidential files
there.” Although, as she says it, what she has always known seems thin and false.
There are such files in his office and she has never been forbidden to enter
there, so she adds, “Or perhaps there’s some kind of chemicals or equipment
down there. I…I’ve never had Charles explain it to me.”
He gives a neutral
response, something British, “Indeed” or “Quite,” and they continue on. But
later on as she collects Ava and they return to work, she spots Mr. Brighton
looking at the basement door far more intensely than it truly warrants. He
appears to be murmuring to it, although she is sure that cannot be right.
Still, the odd feeling inside her increases and she decides to speak to
She waits until after
she is sure that Ava is asleep and then steps quietly down to the hall,
thankful for the decadently thick plush carpet that Charles enjoys. She is
trying to figure out how to make her gut feeling sound logical instead of
crazy. She hasn’t figured it out by the time she gets to his door, but she is
saved from knocking by the sound of Brighton’s voice from the other side. He is
speaking coldly and furiously, his tone so disrespectful and out of place that
Lizzie feels triumphant, sure that Charles will listen to her now.
But when Charles
responds, he is amused. “How did you presume that you were going to overcome
me, Mr. Giles? With your books and research, or your minor skills in magic? Or
were you going to try to physically attack me?”
“I am not alone-”
“Come. I know that
your associates are away. I, too, can research and reconnoiter, and I did not
make this attempt blindly.”
“Oh, but you did.”
Mr. Brighton (or- what did Charles call him- Mr. Giles? Does he have an alias?
Why?) speaks in a strong voice. “With your typical human blindness, your…your
hubris and selfishness, you took away my daughter- my daughter- in an
attempt to trade her for yours. And despite that, despite the fact that you
have been poisoning her and robbing her of her memories and of herself, we can
still help you with this-”
Charles laughs. He
says, lazily, “I became who I am through taking risks, no matter what the cost.
Unfortunately for one of us, Mr. Giles, today you are the cost.”
Lizzie has had
enough. She opens the door, because suddenly the lines have become blurred and
she is frightened. “Charles, stop this.”
For the first time,
Charles looks vaguely alarmed. But he covers it quickly. Looking over at
Giles…Brighton, he whispers, almost regretfully, “If only,” and throws
something toward him. There is a flash, and Lizzie stumbles forward, her eyes
covered, to where Giles had been standing. Except that when she can see again,
there is only one man left in the room.
“Catch,” he says,
tossing something toward her, and although she has never been athletic,
something reacts within her, instinctive and involuntary. She catches a small
glass orb neatly. “I can’t see my reflection,” she thinks.
On Saturday morning, Lizzie wakes up
slightly early, early enough to lie in bed for a moment or two, trying to
recall her dream.
There was something frightening in it, and
urgent, but no pictures will form in her mind. Just a confusion of light and
noise, and something lost.
She gives up trying to fit together the
puzzle and throws back the covers, but even as she begins to dress, she feels
that she will be haunted by what she cannot remember.
Ava is taking the opportunity of her one
day off to sleep in, but Charles is awake and eating when Lizzie arrives on the
ground floor in search of food.
“Good morning,” she murmurs.
“Good morning, Lizzie,” he greets her,
folding up his paper and setting it aside. “Won’t you have a seat?”
automatically at his command, although she is a little off-put by it. She can’t
remember the two of them eating together since they were children, when
Charles’s father found her wandering on the edge of his property and took her
in. He was only a few years older than she was, but although they grew up
together, she still finds herself uncomfortable speaking to him.
“Here,” he says, and
calls for tea. He pours milk from the small silver pitcher and slides the cup
over to her. She blows on it, not taking a sip until she realizes he is
watching. Even then she just pretends. She wishes that she were just eating
alone in the kitchen so she could have her tea plain and sweet, even if it
meant the staff’s odd looks.
“Where is Hodgeson?”
she asks, realizing that he had not been the one to bring the tea service.
Charles looks over in disapproval. He reaches for his paper again, almost as if
he is punishing her with the absence of his company. “Hodgeson left days ago. I
don’t know where your head is.”
“Of course,” Lizzie
says, and manages to slip away before she has to have any of the tea.
Lizzie’s head remains
a little muddled. She manages to act normally for the most part, but as she and
Ava practice cursive on Sunday (the normal kind along with some that has a few
more curlicues and flowers attached to the corners than the workbook suggests)
even the little girl looks up and asks if she is sick. She says no, but she
can’t sleep that night and the next day she answers the door, although Charles
is very strict about allowing only the household staff to do it.
It is obvious that
the strange man- impeccably groomed, already in uniform- is the new gentleman’s
gentleman. But he is younger than the typical one, handsomer than Hodgeson or
any…others there might have been, and when he speaks, introducing himself as
Liam Masters, he has an American accent tinged with a little bit of Irish.
Charles has always been very particular about his employees. If they weren’t English,
seems to find him unobjectionable. Masters catches on quickly to his habits,
and manages to be silently holding out a pen or his favorite tie before the
request is even verbalized.
Lizzie is glad that
Masters seemed to be a permanent addition to the household. He is kind to her.
He looks her in the eye, and within a day seems to know how she likes her tea.
On Thursday, the day before Ava’s birthday, she forgets the book of poetry that
she was supposed to read in their lesson. When she bumps in to him, hard, as
she comes back from the library, he doesn’t yell at her, although she made him
drop the folders he was holding. He calmly hands back the small volume before
reordering the files and wishing her a good afternoon.
“Thank you, Mr.
Masters,” she says after an uncomfortably long while, when he is already down
“Liam,” he corrects.
“Please.” His voice is formal. It is the first time she has heard him speak
clearly rather than in polite murmurs, but still she can understand pain and a
yearning in his tone.
Gently she says,
“Alright, Liam,” and turns to go back to Ava’s room.
But the book she has
now is not the Emily Dickinson that she thought her young charge would like,
but Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Not wanting to alarm Ava further with her
confusion, she simply reads the words as if she had always meant to. But as she
starts the sonnet (“Go
from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand/Henceforward in thy shadow”) she can’t get past the second line.
“Excuse me,” she says, and drops the book to go find Liam.
She can hear voices in Charles’s office and she raises her
hand to knock on the door. But then she hears her own name.
“I knew that you wouldn’t be able to resist coming for
Lizzie. My only question is where have you been until now? From what I knew of
you, you wouldn’t leave your wife defenseless for this long.”
“I was away, helping other people. I was told that my wife
would be here rescuing your daughter from a monster of your own creation.”
Liam, who is always so quiet and controlled, sounds as if he is shaking. “But
it turns out that you are a monster as well.”
“Oh, so now a man is a monster if he tries to get ahead in
life? I was nothing, an addict headed for a lower life than my lowborn father.
I had no life to provide for Ava. So when I was offered a deal, I took it, even
if it was with the devil. And I have been able to give her all of this while
still keeping him off our doorstep.” She peers through the crack in the door.
Charles is advancing. He looks fierce.
“By sacrificing other girls. How many before Buffy? One
every birthday, is that how it works? That means four others over the years,
four innocents who you have bartered for another year with the daughter you
promised away in exchange for money and power. And now my wife, who you lured
here with a plea for help. Buffy can kill whatever you are hiding in your
basement, I promise you that, but Lizzie…”
She shakes her head. She does not understand. Who is Buffy?
Are they speaking in some kind of code? Perhaps this has something to do with
corporate espionage. But how are she and Ava involved?
Liam moves forward. “With all the spells and protections on
this house, it was difficult to get a weapon in. Fortunately, I’m fairly
skilled without them.” He moves forward. His body is powerful and she feels a
leap of triumph seeing Charles move around the desk, almost frightened.
“Even if you kill me, your Buffy will be locked inside of
“Drugs. They’ll wear off soon enough.” Liam continues to
“How will she trust you? She knows me, and I know enough
about her to keep her under control. When she goes to sleep and wakes, how she
takes her tea…” Charles is rambling, but no longer fearful. She sees his hand
grip behind him, and the world shifts and then resets before her eyes. She
pushes through the door to warn Liam. But the thick bat has already swung onto
his skull and he kneels before Charles, who reaches into his pocket casually as
he looks up.
“Lizzie, you always do manage to barge in at the worst of
times,” he admonishes. “Rewriting your memory is getting quite tiresome.”
“I always thought I had great timing,” Buffy says and kicks
at his hand, neatly catching the orb he holds before throwing it at his feet.
Angel is blinded, but she can see it crack, and she watches as Charles is
pulled down into it, as if into a funnel, before it reseals around him.
It seems safe on the thick rug, so she collapses beside
Angel. “Giles Brighton and Liam Masters?” She chokes a little, the tears already
starting as she laughs. “I think you failed Covert Ops 101. He’s evil, Angel,
Angel wraps his arms around her, although he’s clearly still
a little dazed. “Yeah, drugging you was pretty smart. How did you break out of
Buffy looks over at the small glass ball, resting seemingly
harmlessly on the carpet. “He really should have remembered how I like my tea.”
Later, after they have figured out how to restore Giles from
his orb prison and how to keep Charles in his permanently, after they have sent
the bewildered staff away and dealt with the creature in the basement, Buffy
and Angel sit on the swing on their front porch.
“How long was it?” Buffy asks. She has realized since
leaving the house that time there was different.
“Nine days,” he says. “I got back from New Orleans and Giles
had left a note telling me that he hadn’t heard from you and that if he wasn’t
back soon, I should abduct the new butler on his way to the house and take his
“You were good at it.” She plays with the fringe of the
blanket they are sharing. “Maybe we can play a little bit of mistress and
butler around here.” His chuckle ruffles her hair and she snuggles back into
“Ava went down pretty easily in there,” he remarks, some
minutes later. “I would have thought that there would be a little more
confusion. Or some reaction to the fact that her dad was willing to trade her
life for a quick trip to the top of the social ladder.”
“He might have loved her enough to kill four other people for
her, but he didn’t really care about how she felt or what she wanted. It was
all about having the perfect daughter for him and she could tell.” She sighs
and shifts. “Did you and Giles dig up any family?”
“They would all have to be dug up, literally, to take care
of Ava. And Charles had her expunged from every public record. Probably
covering his tracks in case he wasn’t successful in… keeping the demon at bay.”
They both shiver, and neither pretends it’s from the cold.
“We’re keeping her, aren’t we?” Buffy says, and Angel doesn’t even have to
“How are you?” he asks after a while.
“Glad to be home with you.” He holds her close, waiting
patiently for more. “I hate the ones who take me away from myself, who make me
into something I’m not.”
“Lizzie was nice,” Angel comments mildly, but she glares at
him sharply over her shoulder.
“She was fine, but so weak. I hate to think that I could be
that weak. Is that who I would have been in a different life, or with different
“Maybe. But it was you. Still. Always. If it was you, I
would take it anyway.” He tips her face so they are looking directly at one
another. “I love all the parts of you, the ones that make up Lizzie and the
ones that forced her out of you.”
“Hmm,” she says. She isn’t sure how much she likes that. But
then she thinks of all the parts that make up him and how she loves all of
them, apart and together. She leans back on her husband, this man of deep and
wide love, strong and steadfast.