Rise And Shine
~Rise And Shine~
Willow tried to squish the noise in her throat, but the sheer absurdity of the statement took the matter completely out of her hands. She ended up choking on her own chuckle, sputtering quite gracelessly as she did. Of course, that only made her laugh even more, which caused her to go on a giggling spree that lasted for a good minute.
Her companion, Dean, was less than amused. He looked at her sharply, that stony expression still on his face, but his eyes were deadly serious. She met his eyes, feelings of amusement fleeing as quickly as they had come. Immediately she felt bad for laughing, a blush starting to creep up her neck as she was forced to think about her situation. And there she was, once again, naked in a strange room, with a strange man, who was claiming to be her husband.
“Nuh-uh,” she shook her head, banishing the thought from her mind. “There’s no way. . . I mean, no offence, because I’m sure you’re very nice-hell, you’re very nice looking-but if I had a husband, I would remember it. Especially since the last relationship I had was with a woman-so if I had made the switch back and gotten married to boot-I would remember.”
Her verbal avalanche seemed to have little effect on him. He just watched her with that same look, like he was waiting for her to finish her little spaz so he could get on with it. She was starting to get really irritated. Willow huffed as she gathered more of the covers to her, sliding them up higher to drape over her bare shoulders. Her actions caused him to smirk. Of course he had already seen the whole package, as evident by the naked awakening, but that didn’t make her feel any better about it. She tried to observe the room discreetly, hoping to find out where her clothes were so she could get them on and continue this ridiculous conversation in a slightly less awkward position.
“We don’t really sleep with clothes on,” he said, interrupting her train of thought. She was startled by the sound of his voice, and then intensely embarrassed as she registered the actual words he was saying. Willow shifted uncomfortably and let her eyes drop down to her lap as her cheeks burned a scarlet red. It was then that she noticed the gold ring on her left hand, residing comfortably on the ring finger. She blinked and willed the image away.
It wouldn’t go.
“This isn’t happening,” she said softly, almost whispering. “I didn’t get married overnight, it’s not possible.”
“True,” he said with a nod. “We’ve been married for about a year and a half now, so definitely not overnight.”
A year and a half! Embarrassment gone and now replaced with anger, Willow snapped her head up to glare in the direction of her ‘husband’. “Okay, now I know you’re full of crap!” she growled. “Do you take me for an idiot? I would remember being married for that long! And you obviously don’t know that much about me, because you would realize that a year and a half ago I was too damn busy to have met and married some-”
The interruption was short and simple. He didn’t even have to raise his voice. She just stopped mid-sentence, angry words stuck in her throat as she processed this new statement. Her mouth snapped shut and she fell back against the headboard. “That’s even more impossible,” she protested weakly.
“I could get you a newspaper, if you like,” his tone going from neutral to peevish in a matter of seconds. He shot her another hard look, face tense as he just stared at her for a couple of moments. Then the peevishness was gone, the stony expression was back, and before he turned away she swore she saw hurt reflected in his eyes.
“Listen, I know you don’t remember,” he started slowly, stumbling over the words as if it were painful for him to force them out. He recovered quickly enough, but she noticed it. She noticed a lot of things about him, Willow was discovering. Just from the way he was sitting, the way his elbows were resting on his legs, the slight movement of the muscles in his back let her know that he was apprehensive. She didn’t think she should have this sort of insight about a stranger. And that thought made her stomach churn.
This man could not be her husband. She told herself this over and over again as she waited for him to begin explaining. There wasn’t any reason for her to believe him. The whole idea was ludicrous. She would remember getting married, she knew she would. It wasn’t likely something that would slip her mind.
And yet . . . She shook her head. She didn’t want to think of any ‘and yets’. She refused to entertain any ‘and yets’. Willow Rosenberg did not have a husband named Dean.
“I know you don’t remember,” he began again. “Dad warned me that one day, this would happen. Should have listened to him, but hell, boy can’t always do as his father says.” He turned around for a second to spare her a quick glance. “And you’re well worth the rebellion.”
Her stomach wrenched in the most painful manner. She didn’t dare say anything, just watch him with wide eyes and bated breath.
“Would it help you to know that we’ve known each for the three years?” he asked, turning his head around so that he was no longer looking at her. “Maybe not. Listen, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do that’s going to make you feel better. Maybe I shouldn’t do anything; there’s a good chance I’ll fuck this up even more. Just don’t go running off before we can talk about this. There’s a lot you probably want to know. I know there’s a lot I want to know. But it’s probably too much right now. Our bags are in the closet. I’m going to get dressed and leave, if you want some privacy.”
It was more of a statement than a question, so she didn’t bother responding. He got up and ambled over to the aforementioned closet. Willow had to avert her eyes, getting a gander at her naked supposed-husband was making the blood rush to her face again. She gave him a good five minutes to get dressed and when she dared another look his way, he had on a pair of jeans and was pulling a grey shirt over his head. Their eyes locked for a second, and Willow felt another shiver go down her spine. She looked away again, pondering her reaction to this man once more. The man had an effect on her, that was for certain. And it wasn’t necessarily a bad one. But it was confusing, and came out of nowhere (or so she was assuming) so she wasn’t sure what to make of it.
She couldn’t be married to this man. It wasn’t 2006, it was still 2003. She wasn’t supposed to be here, she was supposed to be in Cleveland. She had just spent the last two days hopping from plane to plane, making her way from Rio all the way back to her friends. She was Willow Rosenberg, a witch fresh off a slightly disastrous relationship with a Vampire Slayer, and she was looking forward to Christmas with her family. She was single, she was on a schedule, and she was not married to Dean.
“I’ll just go now,” he said, awkwardly pointing to the door. “I’ll find Sammy and we’ll all sit down and just try to figure this out. Okay?”
He paused and waited for her to say something. Her mind was overcrowded with too many thoughts, so that it took her a second to realize that he was waiting for an assurance that she would hightail the second he left. So she nodded faintly in agreement, and after a few more seconds of tense silence, Dean departed.
As soon as the door shut behind him, Willow all but collapsed. She buried her face in her hands as her brain went into overdrive trying to make sense of her situation. She was coming up with squat, and the sheer frustration of it caused her to pull at her own hair. Her own very long and slightly darker than usual hair.
Willow jerked upright, grabbing a fistful of hair and bringing it up to her face for examination. It was most definitely longer than before, considering she had just recently shortened it to chin-length. And the colour wasn’t her usual vibrant red. It was browner, like her hair had been back in junior high, before she had taken to adding highlights.
This wasn’t looking too good.
She scrambled out of bed, her eyes landing on the phone just beside the television set. Immediately she thought to call one of her friends, most likely Buffy, so that a daring rescue could be made. But as she edged closer to the phone, her mind began protesting that she probably didn’t need a daring rescue right now. Dean seemed trustworthy, though she wasn’t sure what her rebellious brain was basing that theory on. She didn’t know Dean, so how could she be sure she could trust him? The fact that she was ready to do so almost implicitly distressed her a tad bit.
And then her brain switched gears and reminded her that she was very naked. She opted to abandon the phone initiative for the moment and find herself some clothes. Hopefully the dressing process would give her time to reflect on her situation and give her some idea about what to do.
Rummaging through the closet Dean had indicated earlier, Willow found a pair of bags. One was open, and had both male and female clothes in it. So, they shared a bag too? Willow blinked and scolded herself. Of course they didn’t share a bag. They weren’t married, remember?
Her brain warned her not to be too hasty about that anymore. She promptly told it to shut the hell up and mind its own business.
She pulled out a pair of jeans that appeared to be her size, a fitted cotton t-shirt that had ‘Metallica’ blazed across the front, and the necessary undergarments. She got dressed as quickly as humanly possible, diving back into the closet to search for shoes. As her hands landed on a pair of sandals, her eyes fell on a purse shoved behind the other, closed bag. Deciding that Dean didn’t seem to be the type to carry a purse around, she grabbed it as well and settled down on the floor to examine her findings.
The purse wasn’t that big. Upon opening it, she found that it was crammed to the point of overflowing. There was a small wallet, a wad of receipts, a tube of strawberry lip gloss, a pen, and a pack of gum. She tossed aside the gum and the receipts, left the pen and the gloss where they were, and yanked out the wallet.
There were a few odd bills inside. Her apparent total income at the moment was sixty-eight dollars. She rummaged around the other pockets and found several credit cards, all issued to different names. That gave her pause. Since when was she into credit card fraud?
The whole situation was becoming steadily stranger. Her brain was shrieking that they were going to have to give Dean’s story some real consideration, and she was still telling it to shut up. She continued to search the wallet, finding two pieces of ID, none of which had her actual name on them.
And there was the picture.
It was nestled behind some of the other pieces of fake cards, and took some digging to get out. Once clear of the wallet’s clutches, she held it in front of her face and examined it. And then did her best not freak out again.
There were four people in that photo, three males and one female. One of those males was her supposed husband Dean. The two other men she didn’t recognize, but could tell from the faces that they were most definitely related to Dean. The older of the men, a haggard looking man badly in need of a shave, had to be the father Dean kept referring to. He had his arm slung around Dean’s shoulders, and a wide, approving grin splitting his face. She knew just by looking at that picture that his face wasn’t one that was graced with smiles often. There were worry lines and shadows under his eyes, every indication of a man whose body needed rest, but whose brain just wouldn’t allow it.
Dean looked impossibly happy, and the expression of joy on his face was so sincere that it made her heart do a funny little jump. She slid her eyes past his face to look at the other man in the picture. He was definitely the youngest of the bunch, and yet also the tallest. He was smiling all big and genuinely, with one arm wrapped around the waist of the person next to him.
That person was her.
She was dressed in a white sundress, one that stopped just under her knees and was held up with two thin spaghetti straps. It wasn’t the conventional sort of dress for the event being depicted, so she wondered if maybe it was all they could manage at that moment. She held one white rose in her right hand, while her left was entwined with that of Dean, her supposed husband. Of course, considering the locale of the picture, she was thinking that maybe she should learn to drop that ‘supposed’ part.
Did she really get married in Vegas?
Willow wrinkled her nose at the thought. She wasn’t the type of person who got married in Vegas. Hell, she wasn’t sure she was the type of person who got married. And yet, here was this picture, with her in it, in front of an all-night wedding chapel, with the infamous Caesar’s looming in the background. Dean was with her, smiling wide and proud, one hand holding one of hers, the other caressing her cheek. He looked like he was about to go in for a kiss. And she didn’t look like she minded one bit.
The photo slipped from her fingers. She felt numb as she slumped against the open closet door. She raised her shaking left hand in front of her face, looking at the gold ring once more.
“Oh Goddess,” she whispered tearfully. “Please don’t let it be true.”
Her prayer, like so many before, fell on deaf ears.
Willow Rosenberg was married. And she couldn’t even remember it.