Grief Counseling


by
Amejisuto and Sukiblue



Part Six

Spike ran a shaking hand through his hair. He knew it. He’d been certain of it. He just hadn’t realized exactly how it was going to make him feel. And now he was faced with it, it was twisting his gut in half.

“They can’t fucking do it. No. She’s dead. They can’t fucking do it.”

Xander fidgeted where he now stood, a good six feet from the table where he’d previously been sitting. He glanced nervously down at the broken plates and the ruined toast and then back up at the pacing vampire. “So…um, you’re not happy about this?”

Spike whirled and fixed Xander with an incredulous stare. “’Course I’m not fucking happy! Why the fuck would you think that?!”

“I-I didn’t…well, I wasn’t sure.” Xander paused to think. “I wasn’t sure because you loved her.”

Spike was silent while he pondered this. He did love her. With all his heart, he loved her. But did he want her back? From the dead? No. It was over. She was gone. She’d done her job, served her people well, and now she was reaping her reward in heaven. Spike was certain that there was a heaven somewhere; several, actually. There was no place else a person like Buffy could be.

“You loved Anya, right?”

“Did you really need to ask that?”

“Just answer the question.” Spike’s voice was tired as he bent down to clear up the mess he’d made.

“Yeah. I loved her.”

“And what would you be thinking right now if I’d just told you that your friends were about to dig her up and re-animate her?”

“That isn’t an easy question, you know. When they first told me what they planned to do, I…I couldn’t help but feel angry that they wanted Buffy back but not Anya. But it was just a reaction…”

“Yeah, I get it. And how do you feel now?”

“I wouldn’t want Anya back, not like that. She died and she should be left to rest. She doesn’t deserve what might happen. Neither does Buffy.”

“And what do you know about what might happen?”

“Willow said that it was all straightforward; they just needed this Urn of Osiris thingy and they’d be all set. She said it was easy. It was such a lie, Spike. I remember Joyce. I remember doing my research afterwards. I remember what she could have come back like. Thank the gods she didn’t come back at all. I don’t think I could have coped with that. And I don’t think that I can cope with seeing Buffy like that. I know that it could all turn out peachy, and that we could have Buffy back just like normal. But…”

“The risk is too high,” Spike finished.

Xander nodded and suddenly narrowed his eyes. “Yeah, you’d know.”

“What does that mean?”

“You know damn well what that means! You’re the one that helped Dawn try and bring Joyce back.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Don’t I? Is that really so? So who encouraged her? Who got her all the ingredients for the spell?”

“Leave it, Harris.”

“Why the hell should I?! You’ve got no right to act all high and mighty! Do you know what you nearly did?!”

“’Course I fucking know!”

“Then why did you do it, huh? So you could play up the big bad vampire to Dawn? Or was it just to get into Buffy’s pants? What, did you think she’d be grateful?”

“Careful,” Spike warned.

“I bet it was you that put the stupid idea in Dawn’s head in the first place.”

“Don’t be bloody daft! Why the fuck…? No, don’t fucking answer that. I did what I had to, just be satisfied with that.”

“So, Spike knew best, huh? What a surprise. So, what’s different this time ‘round? Bored with Buffy? Waiting for Dawn to grow up and be her replacement?”

Spike lunged forward and grabbed Xander by his shirt. His face was a picture of fury as he slammed Xander into the wall. He roared through razor sharp fangs. “Just! Fucking! Leave it!! I had my reasons for what I did. And I ain’t fucking telling the likes of you!”

The chip buzzed and Spike hissed, shook his head and ignored it. He was beyond feeling the pain right now. Chip or no chip, the temptation to punch, kick, tear and claw into Xander’s body was almost overwhelming.

“I fucking hate you, Spike,” Xander sobbed. Push him away. Push him away. Too much pain. Push him away.

Spike let go of Xander’s shirt and staggered back. He’d never seen Xander cry. Not at Buffy’s funeral. Not even at Anya’s. His vampiric mask faded away and he stared wide-eyed at a man that suddenly looked more like a child.

Xander slid down the wall and hit the floor with a bump. He wrapped long arms around his legs and buried his face into his knees.

Spike stepped forward one pace and reached out a hand to comfort. He drew back at the last moment and straightened up. He couldn’t do it, not like this; not while he felt so weak. He turned around, snatched his duster and stormed out of the apartment.

He needed to go kill something.


~*~*~*~*~


Now, who said that killing was a bad thing? It wasn’t. It was damn therapeutic.

As Spike stared down at the fledge he felt the familiar rush of adrenaline. It was better than any drug or any drink. The feeling drowned him in a sea of fiery passion; love and hate, a scattering of happy memories and a black pit of helpless nightmares.

Why was it still eating at him? Why wouldn’t the pain go? Why was he still hanging on to a love that never really was? Buffy had never loved him. And she never would have. Or would she? That doubt was something that he’d been clinging on to for far too long, now. And in the back of his mind, he wanted to have that doubt. He needed to believe that there could have been a tiny little maybe. But at the same time, he didn’t want to have it. It was all so fucked up.

He wanted it to be over. He wanted to move on with his life. Why wasn’t he allowed to do that? Buffy may never have loved him, but he was positive that she’d have wanted him to be happy. She’d have wanted him and all her friends to move on and be happy.

It was just a pity that certain people couldn’t get to grips with that.

Spike collided with the fledge and knocked them both to the ground. He rolled them over and pinned the fledge by his throat with one arm.

Were people trying to make him more miserable and more worked up? Every time he felt like he was starting to get somewhere with his life, someone had to come along and wreck it.

If possible, the fledge actually looked like he was turning blue. Fear crept into his eyes and Spike abruptly let go and backed away. He decided to wait for the fledge to get fully to his feet before he struck.

And what about Xander? Did those do-gooder friends of his actually realize what they were doing to him? Did they realize that he was on the edge of his sanity?

The fledgling got brave. And paid for it.

As he watched his opponent stagger backwards, clutching at his smashed nose, Spike realized what had caused Xander to lash out so suddenly.

It wasn’t about Buffy or Anya. It wasn’t even about Dawn or Joyce. It was about the lies. Too many fucking lies.

The fledge ran and Spike took a drag on his cigarette. He’d done well to hang on to it so far. He tossed it aside and chased his victim.

Xander had been lied to too many times. Buffy had lied about Dawn being the Key. Willow had kept Xander in the dark while she planned Buffy’s resurrection. Willow had lied about how risky it was to bring someone back from the dead. Giles had lied when he said he would stay. And all this was in the last few poxy months. Spike didn’t even want to think about the lies that Xander had faced before that. And he didn’t really want to think about the lies that both he and Willow had told about Joyce.

The fledge didn’t get far. Spike smiled as he heard ribs crack, bones break and muscles tear.

Well, no more. It was time that someone told the truth. And that someone was going to be him. Xander could cry, hit and scream all he wanted, but he had to hear this. He had to know what really happened with Joyce. It was the only way that Xander could possibly be convinced to trust him. He had to know the truth.

The fledgling tried for another escape. Spike nearly laughed at the now twisted form as it limped along, looking somewhat like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Of course, Xander could very well hate him for this but, as they say, sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. If the two of them were ever to get along, if they were ever going to be able to support and help each other, then there needed to be no secrets. The cards needed to be on the table. A clean slate. A blank canvas. Or maybe some other metaphor that Spike couldn’t quite think of.

Spike casually strolled through the cemetery and easily overtook the fleeing vampire. He stuck out his leg and tripped it up.

So this was it. Cards on the table. Tell Xander the truth about Joyce. Stop this thing with Buffy. Start to heal. Sounded easy enough.

Without even looking, he pulled out a stake and plunged it into the fledgling’s heart. By the time the dust had settled, Spike was gone.


~*~*~*~*~


There he was, just where he’d left him.

Spike sat down and made himself comfortable. He crossed his legs, picked at the fibers of the carpet and began his story.

“I never gave her the idea. Someone else already did that. Little Nibblet was dead determined, pardon the pun. She was gonna do it. With or without me.”

Xander raised his head from his knees and gave Spike his full attention. “Please don’t lie to me. I don’t think I can cope with any more…”

“Ain’t lying. Not gonna lie. Not to you. Not anymore. Got more to tell you. You gonna be alright with it? It ain’t pretty, luv.”

“Please tell me. Please just give me that.”

Spike nodded and looked back down at the carpet and his busy fingers. “It was Willow that put the idea in Dawn’s head. She told her it was a risky business and it rarely worked, but that didn’t really matter to Dawn.”

“It planted the seed of hope.”

“Yeah.”

“I get that.”

“Yeah,” Spike repeated. “Trouble was, she also gave Dawn the key to her heart’s desire. A spell book. It had the specific instructions for raising the dead.”

Xander cradled his aching head in his hands. It had been a long day and it was getting longer by the moment.

“And how did you find out about this?” Xander’s voice was cracked and hoarse, the result of a good half hour of non-stop crying. He raised his head to catch Spike’s eye, putting arms down to his side, his palms flat against the carpet and his back straight against the wall.

“Caught her at it. Fuck only knows what she would have conjured up if I hadn’t come along. She’s a child, for fuck's sake; what does she know about magic and the like?”

“I still don’t understand why you helped her, Spike,” Xander said wearily. “Couldn’t you have just taken the book away?”

“I wish it had been as simple as that. Bloody brat had the whole thing put to memory. I had to help her. I had to help her try to get it right. If I hadn’t…”

“Oh, god, I’m so sorry. I know how you feel about Dawn. You were just doing it for her, to keep her safe. I’m so sorry. I just fuck everything up, don’t I?”

“Don’t, Xan…”

“No. I do. There I was being all apologetic and stuff and then I go and fuck it all up. I don’t hate you, Spike. I just hate myself.”

Spike shook his head and resisted the urge to pull Xander into his arms and comfort him. “There’s more to this, Xander. Something that nobody else knows. It’s the reason that self hatred's a hobby of mine, too.”

Xander bit back tears and nodded. “Go on; it can’t get much worse.”

Spike laughed. “Beg to differ, pet. The spell worked.”

“…wh-what?”

“The spell; it worked. Joyce came back.”

Xander tried desperately to keep his focus on Spike as a veil of salty tears obscured his vision.

“She came back. I didn’t think it would work in a million years. But I kept watch anyway. I waited by her grave at first, but there was nothing. I knew there wouldn’t be. I knew it. But then I thought I’d better lurk about by the house, just in case.”

Xander stared at Spike like a kid waiting to hear the end of a scary ghost story. His eyes were now focused and unmoving, his jaw dropped and rigid.

“She came back,” Spike whispered. “She came back. But…she wasn’t…right. She wasn’t…She wasn’t Joyce. Xander, you have to understand that. I don’t know what the fuck she was, but she wasn’t even a shadow of that woman. I didn’t have any choice! Fuck! Xander, they never come back right!”

“Oh, god, you…”

“Yeah. I fucking had to, okay? Do you hate me now?!”

“No.” The tiniest of sounds and Spike whipped his head up to see Xander staring intently.

“No?”

“No. I’m sorry you had to go through that alone. I hate being alone. How…?” Xander took a deep breath and started again. “How do you kill a dead person?”

“With difficulty. You really want the gory details?”

Xander shook his head no. “But I’ll listen if you want to tell me. I’ll be here for you, Spike. We’re sticking together, remember?”

“Yeah, I remember. I will tell you. I’ll tell you everything. But…it might all be a bit much for one night, eh?”

“Yeah, probably. Definitely. But you will tell me?”

“’Course. No secrets, now. Gotta look after each other, eh? Can’t do that with secrets.”

“Totally,” Xander said with a sniff. “Spike?”

“What, pet?”

“I’m glad you’re here.”

A warm hand flexed and Spike looked down and wondered at what point he and Xander had joined hands.

“I’m glad I’m here, too.”





Part Seven

The morning after a crying jag on the floor was just as bad as the morning after a bottle of whiskey, maybe worse. He was really glad he was staying away from the alcohol right now because…ow, that would hurt.

He tried to quietly get up out of his recliner so as not to wake up Spike. The stupid thing made a clanging noise and he winced as he slowly pulled himself awake, his eyes gritty and muscles aching. He looked towards the bedroom. There were no signs of life.

Xander snorted to himself. Of course there were no signs of life; Spike wasn’t alive in the technical sense. He slowly made his way into the kitchen to make coffee. There was no way he was going to get into the metaphysical shit until he’d drunk a pot or two of caffeine, possibly more.

Thank god for Xanax; after the crap that he’d gone through the night before, he would never have been able to sleep without it. He sighed and went to look in his near empty refrigerator. He had so not been ready for half of the things he and Spike had talked about. The apologizing-- well, he’d been halfway ready for that. The Willow as the next Dr. Frankenstein discussion was needed but he really hadn’t wanted to go into it.

The sudden hatred for both Spike and himself and the entire conversation about Joyce? He could have waited until the Wellbutrin kicked in good before doing that. That entire…thing required more anti-depressants that he had, as of yet.

He settled for Coco Puffs instead. Thank god for chocolate. Forget the dog, chocolate was a depressed man’s best friend. Besides, wasn’t he thinking of getting a cat? He’d never had good luck with pets but he bet he could handle a cat. He could get an old tom. It would be just like keeping a vampire, only instead of blood he’d set out bowls of Friskies.

Well, and the cat wouldn’t steal the remote, or leave his boots in weird places. Or smoke.

He hoped the cat wouldn’t smoke. Then again, this was the Hellmouth. With his luck, he’d get some demon cat that breathed fire.

Then again, a cat wouldn’t hold his hand and give him comfort. At most it would sit on his lap or, even worse, the top of his head. And hadn’t that been weird, when he and Spike ended up holding hands? Maybe it was just that the whole situation called for hand holding.

He wasn’t sure if he really wanted to know what had happened with Joyce. In fact, he was pretty much certain that he didn’t want to know a damn thing. But he could also tell that it had been eating at Spike and maybe the vampire needed to share it. Just like he had to talk about what had happened with Willow trying to bring back Buffy.

But there was a part of him that just wanted to find a hole to crawl into, cover his head and not deal with the entire mess. He sighed and used the leftover milk in his bowl to wash down his anti-depressant. That wasn’t going to happen.

It had always sort of sucked to be the normal one, the one to bleed the most easily and the one the demon of the week always went for first. But this time he was ending up being the strong one, even if he didn’t feel like it right at this very moment. It was…weird.

But instead of dealing with Buffy’s death, Giles had taken off halfway around the world. Willow had flipped out completely and he still wasn’t sure what was with Tara. He’d always trusted the blonde witch to ground Wills but this time it was like nothing anyone said or did could convince Willow of anything. He’d argued for hours about how bringing Buffy back was against her wishes.

He shook his head. It was too damn early to be thinking. Well, actually, it was after two in the afternoon but he hadn’t been awake that long, and definitely not long enough to be wondering about heaven and hell and power and all that crap.

Xander gasped as he remembered that he was supposed to email Shaun last night, and in the middle of talking with Spike and his emotional breakdown it hadn’t happened. His friend was going to think he’d flipped or taken a razor blade to his wrists or something.

He quickly logged onto the computer. He’d email Shaun and do a little web surfing while he waited for Spike to wake up. A little repression wouldn’t hurt, at least until he was awake enough to deal with the mess his life was quickly becoming.


~*~*~*~*~


FROM: not_luthor@yahoo.com
TO: graveyard_disturbance@crystal_lake.net
SUBJECT: RE: Email me!


Hey man!

Sorry I didn’t get back to you yesterday. I took your advice and took my sorry carcass to the doctor and got some meds and appointments for counseling and, well, I’m hoping it will help.

Now I just need to get my friends' heads out of their asses. See, Will’s getting into the heaven and hell stuff and, well, my fiancée wasn’t exactly the nicest person in the world. Still loved her, but the others didn’t really get her. We got to talking about the afterlife and between not sleeping for a while and some other…comments, I kinda freaked.

But I’m doing better today! Well, kinda. You’d never guess, though. When I got home from the most crappy day ever yesterday, that punk friend I was telling you about was waiting for me. We ended up talking till four in the morning and I had a minor nervous breakdown and he didn’t even poke fun at me for it! That’s, like…amazing. We usually fight over anything and everything. What time the sun comes up, chunky or smooth peanut butter, if Starsky and Hutch are secretly gay or not.

So us sitting down and having a semi-serious conversation with only a few hurt feelings and a bit of upset on both sides? Is so of the good.

Listen, I’m going to get some coffee and then I’ll come back and answer your other email. Things have just been so weird lately, it’s like the world is ending, only without the rain of toads.

And believe me, you can’t have a proper apocalypse without a rain of toads. Or an earthquake. It’s, like, a rule.

Talk to ya later!
Lex




~*~*~*~*~


“So…what do we do now?”

It was early evening and by silent, mutual consent neither one of them had talked about the situation with Willow until they’d both woken up completely and had eaten. Xander had slipped out, while Spike was showering, for blood and groceries since they’d eaten an entire loaf of bread the night before.

He hadn’t bought Spike any JD. He’d thought about it but just didn’t want to take the chance. So far Spike hadn’t said anything, and hopefully the vampire wouldn’t decide that he needed a drink to get through this conversation.

“Fuck if I know, Harris. This is as big of a mess as Glory was, and it’s just me and you, mate. You up for it?”

“Gonna have to be, aren’t I? It’s not like there’s anyone else to do this; it’s like we’re the only two sane ones left and that’s kinda scary, when you think about it.” Xander was sitting in his chair in the living room and he picked at the frayed edge of the arm.

“Okay, here’s what I know. Willow’s doing this spell that requires an Urn of Osiris. Then there’s a ritual that Willow has to get stuff ready for, and she was, like, really vague in that area. Maybe…maybe I can act like I’m helping her, get more information and then we can fuck up the ritual. I mean, if one of the steps gets messed up, maybe she can’t do it. Anyhow, the more we know the better able we’ll be able to stop it-right?”

He knew he was sounding lost and needy. He just didn’t do well with magic. He and magic were unmixy things; he’d learned that in High School when the entire female population had a Fatal Attraction for him. He'd made a vow to never fuck with magic again, not unless he knew what he was doing with it.

Spike was thinking and smoking all at the same time. It was always odd to see him do that because it was like he was looking for answers in the smoke. Maybe he got that from Drusilla.

Spike shook his head. “That sounds about all we can do right now. Maybe if we get some more information we can call the Watcher and get his opinion, if he can pull his head out of his arse long enough to give it.”

Xander opened his mouth to automatically defend Giles but just didn’t have the energy. Plus, he kind of agreed. “Yeah, maybe. And, you know, I hate to do it but we can always call on Deadboy in L.A. I mean, if there’s anything we both agree on it's that he’s a pain in the ass but he is closer than London. And he’s the guy that’s been chosen as a Champion. It's, like…his job.”

He waited nervously to see how Spike reacted to that suggestion. Xander himself had issues with the older vampire but if calling him would keep Willow from playing Zombie Master, he was all for it.

“Fuck. I hate it when you’re bloody well right. It's annoying.” Despite his words and tone, Spike smiled at him and Xander felt as if he’d been given high praise. He couldn’t help but grin back.

“Plus, Angel has Wesley and he was a Watcher too, so maybe between them they could help. I don’t know. It’s worth a shot. But first I’ll have to get more information. I’ll have to hurry; I think she was going to do it during the dark of the moon and that’s…well, I have no idea when that is. Guess I’d better look it up.”

“Why is it always the damn moon? Why can’t people do magic around other things, like the telly schedule?”

Xander gave a weak smile. It was obvious Spike was trying to cheer him up. “Spike, it’s summer, there isn’t anything good on TV except Law and Order reruns.” He turned serious again, though. They weren’t quite finished with dealing with all the crap. “Spike? What are we going to do about Dawnie? I mean, we can’t just leave her there with Willow, can we?”

Spike stopped and looked at him. “Well…fuck.”

“Joyce…” Xander’s voice broke for just a moment. “Joyce left custody to Buffy but, I’m sorry, no matter how much Willow tinkers with that damn Buffybot it’s not going to fool anyone. For god’s sake, that thing was messed up before Glory knocked the shit out of it.”

Spike looked actually ashamed for a moment and Xander bit back the usual comments he’d make about a walking vibrator and sex toy. There was no time to get petty or bring up old crap; they had to work together.

"‘M not gonna let that git that donated sperm have her, either. Hasn’t been around since…well, fuck, I don’t think he’s ever been around.”

Xander sighed. “Back when Buffy first moved here, we had this deal where nightmares came to life. One of hers was that her Dad blamed her for the divorce and that he just didn’t like her. She tried to work it out with him but between the typical teenaged angst and the Slayer angst she talked to him less and less. He even missed her birthdays. She spent the summer before Senior year with him but after that it was like he just disappeared off the face of the earth. Of course, I remember Dawn being with them, and blaming Buffy some too, but mostly I think he just couldn’t handle teenagers, much less female ones. I doubt he’d want Dawn, even if we could find him.”

“Bloody shit, this is a mess! Can’t leave the Niblet with the Witches. Is there any way you can claim custody? Say you’re a cousin by marriage or some such shit?”

For a moment, all Xander could feel was an overwhelming wave of panic. He was still just a kid, for god's sake. He had cereal out of a box with a toy surprise and a cartoon on it! He could barely take care of himself, much less Dawnie!

Then he realized there was no one else, not really. Spike would, Xander knew that down in his bones, but Spike…wasn’t a real boy. He didn’t have I.D. or a job or any of the necessary documents someone taking custody of a girl would need. So who else could walk into the court during daylight hours and sign papers or whatever? Xander knew he would have to be the one to do it.

He took a few deep breaths and then got up and walked into the bedroom. There in the drawer of his nightstand was the ring he’d bought for Anya. He’d been keeping it, not sure what to do with it. Maybe now was the time to deal with it.

He brought it back into the living room and set it on the coffee table between him and Spike. “I asked…before. She…she said to ask again after, but there wasn’t any after, not for her.”

There was blood in his mouth, and it was like his voice came from down a long tunnel. Part of his brain realized he'd bitten his lip. Spike opened his mouth to say something but Xander shook his head. “There’s a rule to buying engagement rings, you know? I started saving right after I got this apartment. See, the ring, you’re supposed to pay three times the amount of your monthly salary. It’s an odd thought but I knew Anya and she would have liked that, to know that I remembered something like that. I worked some overtime and Saturdays and sold off parts of my comic collection. I’ve…I’ve got other savings, too, for the wedding, and the…the honeymoon. I’ve been working really hard.”

He knew there was a hitch in his voice but for once he didn't care. For fuck’s sake, Spike had seen him full out snotting the night before and he was upset with good reason.

“I’m still working overtime, well, until today. Just to have something to do. And Anya had life insurance and other stuff…we should be able to afford a good lawyer, and figure out what to do. How I can become her foster parent. I just don’t know what to do about Wills and Tara. I mean, I don’t want to kick them out of the house but…”

“Don’t worry, pet. We'll figure it out. We’ve got the start of a good plan now. We’ll do a quick patrol tonight and sound out what’s happening. There will be time enough tomorrow to do all that legal shit.”

Spike had his hand on Xander’s shoulder, just squeezing, and it felt so good. Spike was so strong, both mentally and physically, and maybe if Xander could just rest with him and Dawn tonight, some of that strength would be transferred to him and he'd be able to deal. Tomorrow he could do the lawyer thing, and then he had a counseling appointment the next day. He'd need all the strength he could get.

And while he was at the counselor’s office, maybe he'd find out about counseling for Dawnie, too. If he needed it, she must need it more; it was her mother and her sister who'd died, for god’s sake.

So he leaned into Spike, just trying to soak up his touch to carry him through the next day. “Yeah, an evening with just me you and Dawnie sounds like just what we need. We'll deal with the other stuff tomorrow.”

Spike nodded and the hand on his shoulder gave a squeeze and it felt so good to be touched. Except for brief Willow-hugs and Dawn’s glomps, he hadn’t been touched in so damn long.

Spike snorted, and then laughed. The kind of laugh that made Xander grin, even if he didn’t know what the fuck was going on.

“We…we both sound like bloody Scarlett O’Hara. Tomorrow is another day. Shit!”

That made Xander laugh and it felt good to be happy about something. Although he had a feeling he was laughing for an entirely different reason.

Spike was being all giggly over comparing them to a movie character, and a female one at that. Xander was laughing because the mental picture he had of Spike watching said movie was just too funny for words.

Besides, tomorrow really was another day.





Part Eight

FROM: graveyard_disturbance@crystal_lake.net
TO: not_luthor@yahoo.com
SUBJECT: Email me!


Lex, mate!

So bloody glad you’ve seen someone, pet. You can’t do this by yourself - well, you shouldn’t have to, yeah?

And the cool punk guy turned up? That’s great. It helps to share all this stuff. In fact, it helps just as much as any anti-depressant or sleeping pill; sometimes it helps even more.

You know, you do sound a thousand times better. I can tell by all the exclamation marks! LOL!

I know that you’ve got masses of stuff to work out, probably both inside and outside your head, but this is a brilliant start, luv. I’m so proud of you.

Listen, I gotta go. Expecting a mate any second now. Talk later and email me if you need me.

Shaun.




~*~*~*~*~


Spike left the computer on and got himself a juice from the fridge. He’d already noticed the strange lack of alcohol in the apartment, but it wasn’t something that he wanted to question. Xander was always one for an odd beer here and an odd glass of wine there. He wasn’t a big drinker, but he would certainly partake when the occasion called for it. So the absence of even a single can of beer or a cheap bottle of wine struck Spike as slightly out of place. But Xander had his reasons. People often judged him too quickly, thought that he was rash and impulsive, excitable and spontaneous. But the truth was, the Xander-brain was a constant whirling hive of activity and thought processes. He rarely did anything without having thoroughly thought it through - admittedly, sometimes at the speed of light. Not many people actually realized that, except for Spike. So if Xander didn’t have any booze in the apartment, then it was for a reason.

As discussed, they had joined the others on a short patrol. They'd concentrated on the cemetery and had dusted a good handful of newly risen fledges. Not a bad night's work and it had been nice for both him and Xander to let off some steam and pound some negative emotions into whatever luckless creature they’d stumbled upon.

Spike sipped his juice and smiled. Actually, they made quite a good team. Xander was surprisingly light on his feet and his erratic and somewhat amateur fighting moves tended to confuse his opponent. That left a lovely, neat opening for Spike to take the vamp out while the fledge was still scratching his head and wondering what the fuck was going on. Teamwork.

After the patrol Xander had gone back to the Summers’ house to talk ‘shop’. Spike had politely declined, knowing full well that he wasn’t wanted for this meeting anyway. The oh so sweet and innocent smile Willow gave him when she’d reiterated that ‘You’d probably be really bored anyway, Spike’ made him feel like punching her. No, he knew why they’d never wanted him involved. Because he would have made his feelings clear from the start. He would have told them no and he would have told them why. And then he would have made damn sure that they would never be able to go through with the ritual - even if it meant cutting off several limbs and making a bonfire out of every spell book in a thousand mile radius.

Something clunked against the front door and Spike heard the distinctive sound of keys jangling in a panic to get them in the lock. A familiar heartbeat thundered from behind the wooden door and Spike could make out the sounds of harsh breathing turning into panicked gasps.

Xander.

He ran to the door and quickly wrenched it open. “Xan? You alright? What happened, pet?”

“N-nothing.” Xander rushed inside and headed straight for the couch.

“Nothing?”

“Not really. N-nothing much.”

“And nothing much has got you into such a state that you can barely breathe.”

“I’m…fine.”

“What happened?” Spike asked again. Even he was surprised by the patience in his voice. His hand on Xander’s cheek was also a bit of a shocker.

It was to Xander, too. “Spike…”

“Just talk to me. I ain’t gonna laugh…much.”

Spike’s eyes glistened with easy humor and Xander felt himself calming and half smiling.

“Come on, tell me, Xan.”

The hand on Xander’s cheek slowly moved and settled on his shoulder in a comforting grip that made him feel safe and supported.

“It really was nothing,” Xander said, with a flush of red to his skin and an embarrassed smile. “We had a fight. I got upset and suddenly everything seemed to start spinning and closing in on me. I couldn’t let them see me like that so I just left and came home.”

“Panic attack?”

Xander nodded. “I think so.”

“Don’t be embarrassed, luv. These things happen.”

“Yeah? I feel like such a baby. Stupid panic attack over a fight. I’m so pathetic.”

“No, you’re not. People have panic attacks over lesser things, you know. I once had one when my favorite brand of hair colour got discontinued.”

As usual, Xander spotted the well timed humor and he decided to run with it. “Really? I always assumed you just used the stuff that you pour down drains.”

“Cheeky fucker!” Spike said as he pinched Xander’s arm.

“Ow! Stop it!”

Spike pinched him again. “Stop what? Pinching?”

Xander rubbed his arm and laughed. “Ow! No, stop making me laugh when all I want to do is to sit here and be miserable for the rest of my life.”

“No can do,” Spike said as he pinched Xander again.

“Hey! Do you have a pinching kink? ‘Cos I’m seriously considering charging you for the pleasure.”

“Yeah? How much?”

“You couldn’t afford it.”

“Is that right? I’m richer than I look.”

“Really? Not so hard when you consider that you look like a total bum.”

“Oi! Says the bloke wearing all the Gucci. Oh, no, wait, that wouldn’t be you.”

“Bastard.”

“Wanker.”

“Asshole.”

“Tit.”

“Tit?!” Xander tipped back his head and roared with unashamed laughter. “You are so weird.”

“Takes one to know one.”

“Okay, okay, I give in, alright? Laughing and smiling here; no need for the really childish insults.”

“I’ll keep them for emergencies, yeah?”

“Yeah, okay. Thanks, Spike.”

“Welcome,” Spike said in a voice that was nearly a whisper. He reluctantly removed his hand from Xander’s shoulder and ran it briefly down his arm before he sat back against the couch. “Not meaning to upset you any further, and if I do just say and I’ll break out the extra childish insults, but did you manage to find out anything about the ritual?”

“I think so. Willow said that there are a few different ways to bring back the dead, but most don’t have very good success rates. In fact, they rarely work at all. Like Joyce, I guess.”

Spike stared at the wall and nodded. “Yeah, exactly like Joyce.”

Xander mentally slapped himself. Joyce was a sore subject for both of them. Maybe it was best if they just didn’t mention her for a while. But then again, that could do more harm than good. Silence was the reason that he’d felt so alone for so long.

“I asked Willow why the hell we were taking the risk, then. What’s the point of having Buffy back if she’s not the Buffy we know?”

“And?”

“And that was why they were planning on using the Urn of Osiris. Willow said that it was the best chance we had of bringing Buffy back successfully.”

“It might be the best chance but it ain’t bloody fool-proof.”

“I know. But Willow said that she would only do this thing with the Urn. She wouldn’t even consider trying it another way. I don’t know if that’s true or if she’d eventually convince herself that another way was better anyway, but, all the same, the Urn is the key object in this sick little ritual…”

“Then we take and destroy the Urn.”

“Exactly. Although, should we actually destroy it? Or will it bring on an eternal plague of teenage comedy sitcoms and/or any other end of the world symptoms?”

Spike narrowed his eyes in a gesture of pure, hard thinking. “Dunno. We should probably find out. Bollocks.”

“You’re thinking what I’m thinking, aren’t you?”

“Sadly, I reckon so.”

“We have to call Peaches,” they said in unison. “Oh god.”


~*~*~*~*~


Xander took a deep breath and tried to stop wheezing as he glared at the phone Spike was handing him with a smirk. They’d decided to call Deadboy over an hour ago, and then started arguing about who was going to do it. Xander knew Spike had a point, that if Cordelia answered the phone he had a better chance of not being hung up on, considering the last time she’d talked to Spike he’d been chipless and tried to kill her.

But he so did not want to talk to his ex. Or Angel, really, but he needed to.

And Spike was still smirking at him. Bastard. “You know, you don’t have to find this so damn amusing!”

“What? Just because you decided to declare, of all things, a Thumb War to see who called Peaches? Or the fact that I won seven out of ten and still had to tickle you into submission to get you to pick up the fucking phone? Honest to god, Harris, if I didn’t know for a fact that you’d stood up to Angelus with no weapons I’d think you were a poof!”

Xander blushed at that, and cursed himself for it. It was kind of…neat, that Spike didn’t think of him as this giant pansy. Well, that’s how he took it; he wasn’t sure if that’s how Spike meant it.

He flapped his hand at the vampire. “Yeah, yeah, whatever. Now shut up, I’ve got to call Deadboy and not sound like an idiot and this is not going to be fun.” He collapsed on the couch and punched in the numbers Spike had looked up earlier and listened to it ring.

“Chase-Wyndam-Pryce-Gunn Investigations. We help the helpless. What can I do for you?”

“Hey, Cordy, long time no talk, huh?”

“Xander! Is everything okay? Is the Hellmouth opening?”

He gave a choked half laugh. “No, the Hellmouth isn’t even hiccupping, which is a good thing. And things are…well, they just are right now. Listen, I really need to talk to Deadboy. Is he around?”

Cordy made one of those pffting noises she was famous for. “Angel? Please, he took off on a pilgrimage to have at least a three-month brood. He’s off in Tibet or Outer Mongolia or Timbuktu or something. He just…couldn’t stand the thought of Buffy…”

Cordelia broke off and Xander closed his eyes. In the background he could hear Spike pace and he really hoped his new roommate wouldn’t hit the walls. He wasn’t up to facing a weekend of dry walling on top of everything else.

“Figures. Trust Deadboy to cut and run. That seems to be a trend nowadays.”

“Xander, he really loved her.”

“What, and we didn’t love her? Didn’t care? For god’s sake, Cordy, I can still remember the first time Buffy died! He’d been ready to cut and run even before she went off to meet the Master and if I hadn’t been there things would have been so much different!”

“I know, but Xan…”

“Never mind. I need some mystical advice and I don’t have time. Is Wesley around?”

“Sure, hold on.” She covered the phone but he could still hear her yelling at the top of her lungs for Wes. He rolled his eyes. Some things would never change.

“He’ll be here in a second. And really, you don’t have to be so grouchy about it. What’s the matter, not getting laid?” Her tone was light and teasing but it felt like a punch to the gut all the same. He gave a half strangled sort of sound.

“Didn’t you know? Anya’s…Anya’s dead.”

“What? I’m so sorry, Xander! When? What happened?” Cordy instantly went from teasing ex girlfriend to the friend he’d had at the end of school who he’d stood side by side with, fighting vamps.

“Willow…she didn’t tell you? I mean…here, just talk to Spike, okay?”

He all but threw the phone at Spike, and picked up one of the cushions on the couch to cover his face. Maybe if he screamed enough the pain would go away. He listened with half an ear to Spike’s side of the conversation.


~*~*~*~*~


As Spike spoke, explained and tried his very best not to curse louder than the devil himself, he watched Xander out of the corner of his eye. His friend was clutching tightly to a cushion and every so often he twisted the corners of the fabric between hands that had started to shake again.

“No, idea, luv,” Spike said into the receiver. “I suggest you ask Red. Yeah, I know. She should have told you.”

“Oh, my god, Spike. This is terrible! I am so going to bitch slap Willow when I see her. How could she not have told us? This is very uncool. I’ve got a mind to march right on down and kick her backside off the coast and into the Atlantic.”

“Pacific,” Spike corrected.

“Whatever. I’m kicking her a long way and in the other direction. God, I don’t believe this! All this time and Xander… I could have helped him, Spike.”

“Still can, princess.”

“Do you think he’d let me come down? Or maybe he could come here. I have plenty or room. They’re not taking care of him, are they? Well, I’ll fix that. You tell him to get his butt over here now. I’ll show him what a real friend’s all about.”

Spike half turned on the couch and placed one hand over Xander’s, stilling the increasingly agitated movements. He smiled briefly and hoped that it was a reassuring one and not a ‘ooh, scary, run for the hills’ one. When Xander tried his best to smile back, Spike was pretty sure that he’d got it right. He squeezed the hand tightly and got up.

“I’ll tell him, luv, don’t worry about that. In fact, I reckon he could do with a holiday. I’ll see if I can get him packed and in LA as soon as. But we got a bit of a situation to deal with first. Listen, where’s Percy? Time could be an issue here.”

“Oh, sure, yeah, he’s right here. I’ll pass you over. Oh, and Spike?”

“Yeah?”

“You’re invited too. But no biting and if I see even one blood ring on my coffee table I’m going to really hurt you.”

“Cheers, princess. I’ll watch where I put my teeth and my blood.” Spike laughed and he enjoyed the amused and quizzical look that Xander was giving him.

“Spike? Wesley here. How can I…?”

“Got a big bloody problem and not a lot of time…possibly. Heard of the Urn of Osiris?”

“Of course.”

“We want to destroy it. Can we do it safely or will it curse us and turn us into three eyed pigmies with an addiction to turnips?”

“Why would you want to destroy it!? It’s one of kind! Priceless!”

“Yeah? Only one, you say? You sure about that?” Spike saw Xander look up at that and he nodded an affirmative as Wesley replied.

“Of course I’m sure. Where is it, Spike? I take it that you either have it or will be acquiring it soon.”

“Red’s got it.”

“Red? Oh, Willow. I see. Well, why would she… just a minute. Now hang on, does Willow know what the Urn is used for?”

“Why do you think she’s got it?”

“How should I…? Oh, goodness, she isn’t.”

“She is.”

“Good god. She must be stopped! We cannot allow this!”

“Thanks for catching up, mate.”

“The Urn must be destroyed!” Wesley bellowed, loud enough for even Xander to hear.

Spike rolled his eyes and nearly laughed when Xander did the same. “Yes. We know. That’s why we’re phoning. But can we destroy it?”

“Hmmm, I’m not sure. I’m going to have to do some research. When is Willow planning on performing the ritual?” Wesley asked.

“The next dark moon. No idea when that is.”

“Good Lord, that’s tomorrow night!”

“Bleedin’ hell!”

“Do you think you can somehow steal the Urn from…? What am I thinking? Of course you can. Spike, you must get that Urn and keep it away from Willow. Bring it here if you must, but keep it away from her. I’ll see what I can find out about destroying it. I’ll be in touch. You do the same. We’ll talk shortly.”

The phone was hung up from Wesley’s end and Spike shook his head and replaced Xander’s phone back in the cradle. “Masterful when he gets going, that Wesley. Quite like it.”

Xander screwed up his nose. “Eww. So the dark moon is soon?”

“Tomorrow.”

“Oh, god.”

“We’ve got to get it, Xan. Wesley’s finding out how we can destroy it safely, but for now…”

“We have to get it away from Willow. Okay, I can do that.”

“No, pet. I can do it.”

“No, it’s fine. I’ll do it.”

“No, no. Don’t want you being around that lot. Don’t want you all upset again. I’ll do it.”

Xander smiled.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

“Oh, here we go with the ‘nothing’ again. Gonna tell me or will I have to get rough?”

Xander’s smile widened. “It’s just that you’re cute when you care.”

“Cute?! Bloody hell. I come here, just wanna help, just trying to be a friend and look at the abuse I get. Charming.” Spike tried his very best to look put out, but the big grin was a dead giveaway.

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to insult,” Xander said back with a grin of his own. “So, um, the Urn? I’m pretty sure it’s being delivered tomorrow morning.”

“Delivered?”

“Yeah. Willow found it on Ebay. She paid extra for priority shipping.”

“For crying out loud, is there anything you can’t get on Ebay?”

Xander shrugged. “I think you can get pretty much anything. When Dawn went through her Care Bear phase, I got tons of… Oh, fuck. Dawn.”

“We talked about that, pet. We’ll sort it.”

“I know we talked about the legal and the financial stuff. But what about whether she actually wants to… What if she wants to stay with Willow and Tara? This could get so messy. And…”

“What?”

“And…I think we should tell her about Buffy, tell her what Willow wants to do.”

“Shit. Xan, I don’t know if that…”

“I know, I know. But this is her sister we’re talking about. She has the right to know.” Xander stood up and paced the length of the room and back. “I think we should lay it all out for her. Tell her everything. I know she’s a kid, but she’s not stupid and hiding stuff could do more damage in the long run.”

Spike nodded slowly. “And if she says she wants her sister back, if she goes along with it?”

“It’ll make no difference. I’m not giving her the choice. It’s not her choice to make. It’s no-one’s. Buffy’s dead. So is Anya. Everybody needs to accept that and move on. I just need Dawn to know the truth. I need her to know why I’m taking her away. Maybe then she’ll come with and I won’t have to drag her kicking and screaming,” Xander said with a sad smile.

Spike smiled back. “I don’t think you’ll have much trouble. I reckon she’ll jump at the chance to live with you. Anyone would, mate.”

“You think?”

“I know.”

“Thanks.”

“Welcome. Go to bed. Long day tomorrow. Wake me up in the morning, yeah?”

“Okay. What’s the plan?”

“The plan is to go to bed. Sleep on it, pet. See what we come up with tomorrow.”

“And what if we don’t come up with anything?”

“We will. The good guys always win. I should bloody well know. I learned the hard way enough times.”

“That’s true, very true. Thanks. I feel better now.”

Spike smiled and flipped the finger to Xander. “Bugger off.”

Xander smiled back and kept his hands in his pockets. “You, too, Spike. Bugger off and sleep well.”





Part Nine

FROM: not_luthor@yahoo.com
TO: graveyard_disturbance@crystal_lake.net
SUBJECT: A New Can of Worms…


Hey there!

I am feeling some better, thanks man. I don’t know what I’d do without you. It helps, having a neutral party to talk to, you know? I know I can talk to Spike, well at least now I know, but he really loved B and I still don’t want to stir up any hurt feelings. It’s all too…raw. For the both of us really.

You know, you remind me of him some. Although I can’t see Spike ever owning anything like a Superman t-shirt! Oh, if I could get a picture of him in that I’d have blackmail material for a year! LOL!

You know, I’m supposed to be asleep. I was for a while, the sleeping pills are helping. Problem is, once it wears off I’m awake. Thank god it lasts six hours on me! That’s better than I have been getting. I just wish I could take something to get my brain to shut the hell up.

Today is going to be a big day. Spike and I discussed a lot of things and we decided we’re going to do an intervention type thing with Wills and her girlfriend tonight. She’s really getting out of control and her girlfriend, for some reason or another, just hasn’t been providing enough balance. I’m worried about her. Hell, I’m worried about the both of them.

But our biggest problem is that they’re the ones who've been taking care of B’s sister. I mean, the Bit isn’t little, she can cook a bit and get herself up for school in the morning, but she still needs watching. Spike has caught her sneaking out more than once. Of course, he usually ends up tagging along with her and participating in whatever mayhem she has planned, but he keeps her out of trouble and the creepier element of the town from trying to take a bite out of her.

But it’s not enough, and with Wills being a few cards short of a full deck right now, and that’s about the best way I can explain it, we decided that we need to step up and take care of her ourselves. Me, mainly, because Spike has had some…legal issues, you might say.

I have the steady job and no arrest record and, well, it looks like I’m going to try to be declared her legal guardian. Which scares the living crap out of me because I’m not even twenty-five yet. I’m still a kid, for god’s sake! What the hell do I know about taking care of a fifteen-year-old girl?

What’s even scarier is that we’re the best options right now. And that just sort of blows my mind. A year ago I was still living in my parents' basement, just scraping by before I got my promotion. And now I’m Mr. Responsible and a future parent. Crap. I just hope I don’t screw her up.

Enough about me. For some reason I always end up babbling about my problems and not listening enough to yours! How’s it going with you? Are you doing any better? Last I heard from you, you had a friend dropping by. Or your significant other. That Brit expression 'mate' always confuses me. Did you have some fun?

Well, gotta go. I might be out of contact for a while, we’re thinking of heading to L.A. after confronting Wills just in case she goes off the deep end. Plus I figure there’s good lawyers there to get the ball rolling with the Bit. Wish me luck!

Talk to you later!
Lex.




~*~*~*~*~


Xander tried to move quietly around the apartment but he knew he wasn’t doing a good job at it. For one, he had a mental checklist going on that was getting longer each minute he was awake enough to worry.

And he had an endless list of crap to worry about. Could they destroy the Urn without having extra body parts tacked on or, worse yet, important ones fall off? What would Dawn say? Would Willow be pissed at him forever? Why wasn’t Tara stopping her?

He stopped in the middle of the room and took four deep breathes. It was one of the things his Counselor had him doing when his brain started running away. He didn’t see it helping all that much, but he did stop hyperventilating.

The panic attack, or whatever the hell it was, from the night before had scared him. It was like once he let go of his emotions that night that he’d confronted Spike about Joyce he had no control at all. And it sucked big time, because he knew he was going to have to be the grown up, the one who had his shit together when they talked to Dawn.

Then again, maybe she’d feel better if she could take care of him. That had always been Buffy’s thing; her life could be going down the crapper but if her friends needed her she was there. He’d probably just play it by ear.

He walked into the bathroom and tried to quietly dig under the sink for a bag or something to put his shaving stuff in. He hadn't had the money for luggage when he’d left that one time for his road trip and he hadn’t needed anything since then.

He’d been touched by Cordy’s offer to come to L.A. the night before. It was totally unexpected. Then again, after that whole prom dress thing he and Cordy had buried the hatchet, and it wasn’t in either of their backs, which was great.

He really tried not to think of reasons why Willow didn’t tell them about Anya. He knew he pretty much knew why if he was honest with himself, and maybe it was time to be.

Buffy had called Willow her Big Gun right before the fight with Glory. He knew that she was just doing her best to give their friend much needed confidence. But knowing Wills like he did, Xander knew she took it to heart.

And that meant that Willow probably blamed herself for Buffy’s death.

Now she was trying to make it right. Xander figured Willow had her blinders on once again. She had always gotten that way, done something she perceived as wrong and then gone overboard fixing it. He’d gained five pounds from cookies alone after that My Will Be Done spell, and after that whole kissing thing in high school she hadn’t talked to him for a month and a half.

So this whole mess with Buffy coming back and barely talking about Anya was pretty much her guilt talking, only that this time her guilt was getting twisted and dangerous. Hopefully, after they destroyed the Urn and did their thing Willow would come around.

He still wondered what was up with Tara, though. Usually the blonde witch was the one grounding her lover and, from what little he knew about the thing with Joyce, Tara had been dead set against encouraging Dawn. He was curious as to what had made her change her mind.

“Thought you were going to sleep, Harris, not stalk around the bedroom mumbling to yourself. If you were gonna do that I could have taken the couch and skipped out on the whole absent minded construction worker gig you’ve got going.”

“Gah! Don’t do that! Sorry, I thought you were asleep and I didn’t realize I was talking. Go back to sleep. I’m just trying to get some things together for a week in L.A.”

He couldn’t really see Spike, just the top of his head underneath a pile of covers in his bed. He’d been letting Spike sleep there, since even with the Xanax he couldn’t sleep a wink in the damn thing.

Maybe it would be better if he just gave up his lease and moved into the Summers’ house.

Spike pulled back one corner of the bedspread and blinked lazily at him. “What the hell do you need? Just throw some of your crap shirts in a bag and some underwear. ‘S not bloody rocket science.”

Xander shrugged. “I figure I need to find a lawyer so I’ll need a suit or something, and I’ve got an…appointment tomorrow that will require more than just jeans and a shirt.” He figured he’d tell Spike about the counselor thing, just not while the vampire was mostly asleep. “Besides, after living with Anya I’ve learned that, no matter what, you’ve got to prepare for any and all situations.” Xander knew his smile was brittle. “She would have made the Boy Scouts look like unprepared idiots.”

The memory of Anya showing up in his basement with enough condoms for a Navy Fleet flashed behind his eyes. It was bittersweet and painful and he took another four deep breaths, trying to keep back the wave of emotions. He didn’t have time to cry or be depressed; he had a job to do.

There was a cool hand on his shoulder suddenly and Xander leaned into it, just soaking up the support for a moment. Eventually he pulled away and this time when he smiled at Spike it was more natural.

“Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it. Ever. Now go away. Can’t do anything until the Bit gets out of Summer School, and some of us actually get some help from beauty sleep, yeah?”

Xander chuckled and aimed a swat at the general area of Spike’s head. “Hate to tell you this, Blondie but you’ll need the full hundred years of sleep if you want to wake up a beauty. I’ll let you sleep a bit more, though; wouldn’t want to bother the undead and all that.”

He stumbled over that last bit, his teasing reminding him that one of his best friends was going to attempt to bring another best friend who died back from the dead.

Either Spike didn’t notice or he was doing a good job of pretending. “Shut up, wanker, you’re just jealous because you’d need even more than that.”

He grinned and left the room. If there was one thing in his changing world he could count on, it was strange British insults from Spike. And wasn’t it odd how reassuring it was?


~*~*~*~*~


After Xander had woken him and an hour of pretending that, yes, he was about to fall asleep at any moment, Spike finally had to admit that it wasn’t going to happen.

Bugger it!

He pulled the covers down and looked around the room and then at the clock. Five am, and the sun would probably be on its way up shortly. He listened carefully and, as expected, he could hear Xander pottering around the apartment, fussing and muttering to himself.

He could hardly blame him. When you thought about it, I mean, when you really thought about it, today was going to be absolutely life changing. Perhaps for both of them. Certainly for Xander, who was about to confront his best friend and tear away from her a hope that she’d clearly been clinging onto for some time, a hope that she could make wrong into right and claim one of her friends back. And not only that, he was about to take Dawn away from her and Tara. Spike wondered if Willow would ever forgive him.

In a twisted sort of way, she was only doing what she thought was the right thing. Everything was for love, everything was to make things right. Okay, so she was messing with dark magic and planning to do what should never be done, and, yeah, it made him mad as hell, but at the same time he could see exactly why she was doing it.

Bloody stupid grey instead of black and white.

Yeah, Willow was definitely in the bad books right now but, even so, Spike couldn’t truly hate her for it. And he knew damn well that Xander could never hate her either, no matter what.

But this, this was about to tear them all apart. The kind of tearing that takes a long time to heal, if ever.

Spike leant over and snatched his cigarettes from the nightstand. Xander didn’t seem to mind smoking in the bedroom. He suspected that had something to do with Anya. Her perfume still clung to the drapes and walls. Well, li'l bit o’ nicotine would soon sort that out, pronto.

So, there was no official plan yet. Well, playing by ear was often the best route to take anyway.

Spike inhaled beautiful, cleansing smoke and tried to think.

Apparently, Xander had some sort of appointment to go to. Spike wondered what that was all about. Lawyer? Maybe it was work related? Or maybe he was seeing someone about sorting his head out.

Spike exhaled through lips that were trembling slightly. Xander would tell him when he was ready. This was not a time to be pushing for answers. Xander was already fragile and highly breakable. He didn’t want to be backed into a corner and bombarded with questions. No, he’d tell when the time was right.

Yeah, so back to the plan. So far it was grab the Bit, tell her the truth and stop Willow, hopefully in that order. It wasn’t much of a plan, but at least it was a start.

Spike thought about Dawn. This was going to be hard, real hard. He had to admit, he had no idea what her reaction was going to be. Oh, he was sure that she’d jump at the chance of living with Xander; under normal circumstances that wouldn’t be an issue. But the real problem would come when they told her about her sister. In some ways Spike was all for kidnap, foil, scarper then tell her the truth. Take away her choice, take away her will and she'd have to follow because there'd be no place left to go.

But Xander was right. Dawn, although just a child, was old enough to hear the truth and old enough to make her own decision on what was right or wrong. And she was also old enough to understand that, sometimes, that decision just isn’t yours to make. He hoped to god that she would understand.

She’d understood about Joyce, in the end. She’d realized that bringing her mother back was too wrong to even think about. It was just a pity that she hadn’t realized that before they’d carried it out and he’d been left to…

Spike stubbed out the cigarette in the bowl he was using for an ashtray. There was no point in thinking about that now. What’s done is done. It wasn’t like he’d even had a choice!

He ran his fingers though his hair and willed himself to calm down. He could feel anger coursing though his body. Anger at Dawn for bringing back Joyce. Anger at Buffy for dying. Anger at Xander for making him care.

But it wasn’t their fault. And that thought made him feel absolutely furious. It was all his fault. He’d been the one to help bring Joyce back; he’d opened that can of worms all by himself. And Buffy?

He should have been quicker.

He should have been stronger.

He should have saved her.

He should have been the hero. Just once, he wished he could have been the hero.

But fate wasn’t having any of that, was it, eh? Oh, no. Fate wouldn’t let him be a winner. No, fate would rather everybody was grieving and suffering and hurting and fucking dying than let him win just that one time.

Spike wrapped his arms around his body and curled up into a ball. If only she were here to hold him now. Not that she had ever held him before.

And now he would never have the chance to feel what it would be like to hold her in his arms, or for her to hold him. At least before there had been a maybe.

So now there was no maybe. But perhaps there never had been.

Spike wiped at his eyes and quickly got out of bed. No point in dwelling. It was all done and dusted, pardon the pun. There were more important things to worry about. There were people left behind that needed taking care of. People that did need him.

He was needed.

Maybe.





Part Ten

“I take it you didn’t get back to bed, then?”

“No. Couldn’t have slept even if I’d tried. Thought I’d finish packing and um…”

“Worry about everything?” Spike finished.

“Pretty much,” Xander grinned. “This is a big day.”

“Telling me, mate.”

“We’re really gonna do this, huh? We’re gonna stop Willow and Tara, take Dawn away and then run off to L.A.”

“Second thoughts?”

“No. Just…it’s a big deal for me.”

“'Course it is. But you are doing the right thing.”

“Am I?”

“You know you are.”

“Then why do I feel like the Big Bad? I’m going to break Wills’ heart. And Dawn’s too. What does that make me?”

“Makes you the adult in this situation.”

“What if I don’t want to be the adult?”

“Who ever does?”

“Things were so much easier when I was kid. Grown-ups made all the decisions. I just followed along.”

“Would it help if I made some decisions, take the pressure off a tad?”

“You? You’re more childish than I am.”

“Oi! Cheeky bugger. I’m a lot bloody older than you!”

“That so doesn’t make a difference. You’re much more the child than I am.”

“’M not! Who’s the one with the Playstation2 and the copy of The Simpsons: Hit and Run, then, eh?”

“Okay, that would be me. But in all fairness, I haven’t played it since… Fuck. It always comes back to this.”

Spike looked down at his toes. He could feel his own grief rolling about inside him and threatening to spill out. Xander was right; everything came down this. Everything came down to death.

“Hey, are you…? Are you okay?”

Spike looked up into Xander’s worried face and smiled. He was needed. He couldn’t save Buffy, wasn’t strong enough. But he was strong enough to save her friends.

“Me? Not really. Neither are you. But we will be. It won’t always come down to…this. I promise you that. Anyway, you had breakfast?”

“Um, no. Spike…”

“I’ll make some. We got eggs?”

“In the fridge. Spike, you don’t have to…hide, you know. I hope you know that you can talk to me. I may not be the strongest person in the world right now, but we said we’d stick together, right?”

“Yeah, I know. I’m alright, pet. Sort of got this internal battle going on at the moment.”

“Indigestion?” Xander asked with an almost smile.

“No, idiot,” Spike said fondly and with only a tiny amount of irritation. “Inner conflict. One part of me is saying stuff and another part is saying something else. Gets confusing in here sometimes,” he added, tapping at his temple.

“We could talk about it?”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. Of course. It’s me and you now. Team Spander.”

“Eh?”

“Spike and Xander: Spander. Sorry. Lame.”

“Very. But I like it. We’ll talk, Xan. But not yet, eh? Let’s get today out the way before I release more of my woes on the world.”

“’Kay.”

“I’ll get started on the eggs.”

“Sure. I’ll just grab a quick shower.”

“Right. You do that. Don’t mind your eggs burned, do you?”


~*~*~*~*~


Xander knew he was fidgeting, he just couldn’t stop himself. They finally had a semblance of a plan, and he was all packed and ready to go.

But they had to wait. And the waiting was going to drive him bonkers.

Thanks to Dawnie missing so much school with her Mom dying and then the whole on the run from a Hellgod problem, she had to attend summer school. Just for Algebra and English and Physical Sciences, thank goodness, not the whole thing. Still it was hard and Xander realized it was about to get harder. If he took her away from school too long she’d have to repeat Ninth Grade and well, he wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Maybe he was damaging her, taking her away. Then again it was Thursday, maybe he could take her out for Friday and the weekend and they’d have time to figure out what to do.

Xander sighed. He sucked at this responsible adult thing, totally hoovered at it.

“Will you bloody well sit still! For god’s sake you’re a pain in the arse when you’re nervous, aren’t you?”

Xander fought off a blush. “Well, yeah. I do better with the actual doing of things. If I have too much time, my brain starts running away and I start to think of every possible way something can go wrong. Like how many ways I can ruin Dawn’s life in the next twenty-four hours, or what if we can’t destroy the Urn? Or Willow turns us into frogs, which would be weird because then you’d be a vampire frog and I don’t think there is that much blood in flies for you to drink. Then again maybe your chip wouldn’t bother you and you could, I dunno, bite humans on the leg. That is if frogs had teeth. Then again Willow is afraid of frogs so maybe she’d turn us into turtles instead…”

“XANDER! Stop! For fuck’s sake I can see the steam coming out of your ears, take a breath.”

Xander took four deep breaths. In through the mouth and out through the nose. “Sorry. See, I’m not good with the waiting.”

Spike chuckled. “Thought for a moment your head was about to explode and there would be brain bits scattered all over the place.”

Xander just shrugged and turned back to whatever it was he was doing. There was an old Maureen O’Hara movie playing, and usually he liked watching those but he just couldn’t pay attention. It was like his nerves were on fire and the more he sat still they creeped along his back, making him shift in his seat. The longer he sat still the more irritable and scared he felt until he had to do his deep breathing stuff nearly constantly to keep from panicking.

Xander could feel Spike looking at him from the corner of his eye, but so far they were still doing the manly “I’m ignoring you unless you’re bleeding or a vital organ is sticking out” thing. Which was good because Xander was having a difficult enough time keeping himself together without trying to convince Spike that he was okay. Because he wasn’t. Okay, that is.

“Hey, do you know what Wills told the school people when she enrolled Dawnie? Am I even on the list of people who can go and get her from school?”

“How the bloody hell should I know? ‘S not like Red is telling me anything these days. Think she took the bloody bot with her or said that the Bit’s big sis was out of town or something. Watcher would know, if he were here.”

“Yeah, well, wish in one hand, piss in the other and see which one gets filled first. He’s not here so we might as well get used to it!” Xander realized he was nearly shouting and sighed. “Sorry Spike, I’m not mad at you I’m just…mad. In general. And nervous.”

“If you weren’t nervous I’d say you were being damned stupid. I’m not really looking forward to this either you know. If Red is going to throw a wobbly I really don’t want to be anywhere around, much less at ground zero. And you know she’ll blame me, she’ll say I’m the evil one.”

“Spike, you are the evil one. You’re proud of being the evil one. If you were the type of guy to wear t-shirts with sayings on it you’d have one saying “EVIL VAMPIRE. DON’T BLOODY FUCK WITH ME” on it.”

“Well, yeah. But ‘m not being evil this time. No one can be evil all the time, except for Angelus II.”

“Huh? Angelus II?”

“Angelus wasn’t as loony the first time around you know. Oh, sure 99% of the time he was but he did some good things. Saved a kitten in a tree once, he did. Course then he gave it to Dru and she ate it. Look, the point is Angelus was crazier the second time he came around.”

“You know, the talk of Angelus and dead kittens shouldn’t make me feel better, but oddly it does.” Xander shook his head. “Just when I thought my life couldn’t get any weirder it does. Look, I’m gonna go by the school and talk to her teachers. I think it’ll be good if I can say I know how she’s doing in school if it ever comes up. Plus if I sit here one minute longer I think I’ll be crazier than your ex and that’s saying something.”

Xander got up and grabbed both his duffle bag and Spike’s. “I’ll put these in the car, and when I’d done talking with Dawn’s teachers it’ll be time to pick her up and I’ll swing by and you can do your whole under the blanket shuffle thing. We can go…somewhere, where Wills can’t find us and hasn’t got a magical bug to talk to her. Not here, if Willow gets anxious this will be the first place she’ll look, and then your crypt. I’ll be back, you just…think of somewhere we can go, okay?”

Spike picked up his packet of cigarettes and pulled one out and lit it. “I’d say Willy’s but there’s no fucking way I’m letting Dawn near that cesspool. Don’t worry pet, I’ll figure out someplace safe we can go for a bit. May not be the Hilton but it’ll do.”

“Whatever. I trust you Spike. Later.”

Xander turned away and pretended not to notice Spike sitting there more than halfway stunned at his last statement. After all that manly thing about ignoring emotions went both ways.




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