Chapter 16: Lies

Chapter 16: Lies

††††††††††††††† Spike shuddered awake, gasping, twisting frantically away from the hands that were on his shoulders.† He growled, feet skidding over the flannel sheets and then there was nothing and he was falling and he hit the floor with a thump that jarred his teeth together.

††††††††††††††† "Spike?† You okay?"† Xander's voice - Xander's face, peering at him over the edge of the mattress, wide-eyed and *Love, safe, you're safe - Spike? Wake up, love, wake up, you're safe -.*†† Spike just stared back for a moment and then slowly he sat up - pushed up until he was on his feet and crawled back into the bed.† He was shivering and Xander pulled the covers back - got under with him and snuggled close, pulling Spike into the furnace heat of his own body and bedclothes warmed by an electric blanket.

††††††††††††††† "Love, shhhh, it's all right, it's all right..."† Xander stroked his hair - rubbed his back - and Spike just clung to him, face buried in Xander's neck, trying to sort dream from real - frantically shoving images, memories - sensations - back into the deepest recesses of his mind.

††††††††††††††† *Question fear question,* from Derio, downstairs somewhere, and *Nightmare, it's all right...Spike? Okay?* from Oz.† But Spike couldn't quite articulate a response - couldn't get the nightmare packed away fast enough and Xander's arms tightened around him, just holding as hard as he could

††††††††††††††† *What is that, what, what -*†† Derio sounded confused - sounded scared - and Spike focused and pushed, forcing every bit of the nightmare down and away and gone.

††††††††††††††† *Initiative.† That's...thought that was...?* confusion from Oz, and Xander stroked Spike's back, kissing his hair and his temple, kissing his forehead.

††††††††††††††† *Hasn't dreamed that in a while.† Love, you all right?*

††††††††††††††† *All right, I'm - sorry, sorry...*†† Spike wanted to hit something - wanted to kill something.† He hadn't dreamed of the over a year.† *Fucking's Glory, it's...fucking 'aftermath' but it's getting WORSE, it's...*

††††††††††††††† "Love, it's all right, shh..."† Xander's heart was pounding under his ear, and Spike nodded into his chest, trying to calm himself down - trying not to panic.† There was sunlight behind the curtains - low and mellow gold and Xander smelled of wood and varnish and sawdust.† Smelled as if he'd just gotten home.† There were footsteps up the stairs and the door creaked open and first Oz and then Derio slid into the room.† Derio looked thoroughly spooked and Spike winced inwardly.

††††††††††††††† "Didn't mean to scare you," he mumbled, and Derio and Oz both came closer, settling on the edge of the bed.

††††††††††††††† "Not your fault," Oz said, his hand finding Spike's foot under the blankets and squeezing gently.† Derio was looking steadily down at where his hands were playing with a dread and he'd managed to shut the link down to almost nothing.

††††††††††††††† "Derio?" Xander said, and the man looked up sharply, his black eyes snapping with some emotion.

††††††††††††††† "That's - Oz told me, before, but...Dios mio, he never...told me...† Did they do that to you too, mi amor?† Did they - fuck -"†† Derio clamped his mouth shut, shuddering, and Oz pulled him into a tight embrace.††† *Protect pack outsiders kill them!* from Derio.† Fierce but also desperate, because there was no one left to kill - no one left to fight.

††††††††††††††† *Love you, safe, we're safe, it's all right, pack, family.*

††††††††††††††† "Bloody fucking hell..."† Spike felt as desperate as Derio did but for different reasons.† *Can't do this, can't go BACK to that - have to know...what this is.*†† He'd been spending his time lately going around to different places - demon places - and asking questions.† Finding out this and that but none of it made any sense and none of it seemed to have anything to do with what was happening to him.† Something bad, building in the Hellmouth but something bad was always happening there, and it wasn't his problem anymore.† *Still our problem, always our problem, half of our family is there and we can't leave them, won't abandon them -*

††††††††††††††† *I know, I know, I know!† Just have to get this sorted, just have to - fix this first. No good if I can't think straight...*†† He deliberately took a deep breath, then another, and pushed himself upright, scooting down the bed a little.†

††††††††††††††† "Just a nightmare, fiddler, don't let it bother you."† He tugged gently on a handful of dreads - tugged Derio's head over just a little so he could kiss where the fiercely-knit brows made a 'v'.† "Just a left-over.† Happens sometimes."† Derio's hand and Oz's, tight together on Oz's leg, and Xander's hand in the small of his back and he felt the security of their pack as something terribly, frighteningly fragile.† "'Bout time for some dinner, yeah?" he asked, and Oz smiled faintly.

††††††††††††††† "Sure, time for some dinner."†† *Love you, safe here,* and Oz stood up, pulling Derio with him, out the door and downstairs.† Xander scooted up close behind him and wrapped his arms around him again and Spike sighed and leaned into him.

††††††††††††††† "Don't hide things, love," Xander whispered.† "Tell me what I can do?"

††††††††††††††† "I don't know, pet.† I really - don't know.† Gonna find out, though."† Spike turned his head enough to kiss and they just did that for a moment, lost in the link and the sensation and then Xander pulled away just a little.

††††††††††††††† "You be careful, all right?† I know what you're doing, you know.† Just - watch your back. Or better yet, let me watch it."† Spike had to laugh, and Xander grinned.

††††††††††††††† "Not as clever as I thought, am I?† No place for you, love, different as you are.† You're still too human for most of 'em.† I'll be careful.† Been careful for almost 150 years - it'll be all right."† Xander studied his face - reached to gently push his hand through Spike's hair.

††††††††††††††† "Just you make sure of that.† C'mon, I need a shower.† Wanna wash my hair?"

††††††††††††††† "Want something," Spike murmured, heated look and his hand creeping up Xander's thigh and Xander grinned and pulled him up and out of the bed.


††††††††††††††† Xander puttered around the house, feeling a little bored.† Oz and Derio where off doing something at the club Oz worked at - tweaking the sound system to some arcane standard only they knew and understood.† And Spike was off...hunting, but not for blood.† Hunting for a way to fix things.† Xander wished he could be with him but over time he'd gotten to understand some things, and this was one: if Spike said it was too dangerous for him, then it was, because Spike knew he could handle himself - had watched him take on vamps and demons and ignorant drunks and vicious not-drunks and win.† So it wasn't something Xander was going to argue about, even if he wanted to.† He'd turned on the radio and done a little laundry and cleaned the bathroom.† Carved for a while on the figure he was working on.† Spike and Derio and Oz, but the way the hyena remembered them from their nights spent on Mt. Rainier.† Fluid, animalistic shapes that twisted around each other - became each other.† Spike complained that Xander wasn't there and Xander just shrugged.† He was making a record of his memories, slowly but surely, in the clean white and green of newly-cut wood and the ashy silver of driftwood and he didn't need himself in the tableaus he was making.

††††††††††††††† He studied the figures now - about three feet tall, growing upward from a solid base and twining, bending.† Oz's wolf-face lean and open-mouthed, Derio's dreads like a ripple of water, Spike's sharply articulated form like a stooping hawk.†† He needed to clean up the details - take a little more of the base out, because he wanted more of a bowl-shape beneath the figures.† But his hands were tired - his fingers getting stiff - and he didn't want to make any mistakes.† He tidied his tools away and swept up bits of wood and dust.† He moved the figure to the corner where his 'in progress' stuff rested under old sheets.† Next to his corner was Spike's desk, and Xander paused for a moment, looking at the notebooks scattered over the surface, and the five heavy, leather-bound journals that were stacked there.† Spike had kept journals since before he was turned.† Obsessively, as a human, less frequently as a vampire but always a few pages here and there.†† He'd started keeping a new one soon after Mrs. Kroger's visit, and Xander had seen him in the grey light of dawn poring over his old journals - scribbling feverishly in the notebooks.† Trying to remember - to fix it all in his head and let none of it go.


††††††††††††††† "Come to bed, love," Xander had said, and Spike had looked up at him, his eyes red-rimmed, the link shut down hard but *fear* coming through anyway, like a tiny trickle of ice-water.

††††††††††††††† "When Red did that spell, wolfling forgot himself - forgot his humanity.† What if I... forget YOU, love?† What if I soul - my -"

††††††††††††††† "Won't happen, Spike.† It WON'T."† Xander had crossed to him and crouched down beside him - drew Spike's hands into his and held them tight, chaffing the cold fingers between his palms.

††††††††††††††† "I could HURT you, Xan - I could kill you."

††††††††††††††† "Not with the link, Spike.† Not with the claim. †It's going to be all right..."


††††††††††††††† "Gonna be all right," Xander whispered, stacking the notebooks and putting the pens back in the cup - picking up an empty shot glass and taking it to the kitchen.† He rinsed the glass out, swaying a little to the music on the radio.† A singer he didn't recognize, music that sounded like something from Manny's 'war years'.

††††††††††††††† "If the moon turns green and shadows get up and walk around
And clouds come tumbling to the ground
††††††††††††††† I wouldn't be surprised...'Cause didnít you fall in love with me..."



††††††††††††††† Spike, Oz and Derio were distant hums in the link, *pack* and *safe* and *love.*†† Xander put the shot glass in the dish drainer - turned to the fridge and got out a bottle of water and had a long drink.


††††††††††††††† "If the stars turn blue...and willows that weep begin to sing
And winter changes into spring
I wouldn't raise my eyes...'Cause didn't you fall in love with me..."



††††††††††††††† The radio fuzzed out suddenly into piercing static that made Xander jump.† He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and hurried over to it, turning the volume down and then fiddling with the tuner, trying to make the music come back.† He got nothing but static, all up and down the dial, and he stared for a moment, perplexed.† *No storm tonight, just the usual Seattle drizzle...† Radio's plugged in although I think it wouldn't make ANY noise if it was unplugged...† Antenna broken, maybe?*†† Xander poked around for another minute but the music didn't come back, so he switched it off.† *Weird.† Have to have Oz give it a look when he gets home.*† †He raised the water bottle to his lips and almost drank but at the last minute color, where no color should be, made him really look at the bottle.

††††††††††††††† "Oh fuck - what the hell?"† The bottle was filled with something red that Xander refused to identify as blood.† *Jesus, I almost drank that!*†† He held the bottle out at arm's length - tipped it a little.† The contents moved sluggishly, as if half-congealed, and he thought he could smell it - rank and old.† Grimacing, he found the cap and screwed it on - dropped the whole thing into the garbage.† As he did the lights flickered, once and then twice, and went out altogether.

††††††††††††††† "Oookay," Xander said softly.† He could see fine - there was plenty of indirect light for the hyena from the streetlight half a block away and the light reflected from the city that lit the low-hanging clouds to a soft pewter.† He looked out the kitchen window, his heart beating a little fast now.†† The lights were on in the house next door.† He checked out other windows and got the same story; every house on the block was lit up except for their house.†

††††††††††††††† "Right....check the breaker box..."† Xander needed actual light for this, so he opened the junk drawer and pawed through take-out menus and balls of string - rubber bands, screwdrivers, a couple of Spike's long spiral nails and a baggie of guitar picks for the little 'credit-card' style flashlight they kept in there.† He clicked it on, keeping his eyes half-shut and averted until he could adjust to the brilliant lance of white-blue light.† He went to the back of the house, to the windowless utility room and pulled open the cover of the breaker box.† A minute's flipping switches got him nothing and he sighed and considered going outside, to look at the box where the line came down from the pole on the corner.† Xander put his hand on the back door knob and turned - pulled - and nothing happened.

††††††††††††††† *What the fuck?† It wasn't sticking yesterday, not after I planed the door down a little...*†† Xander wrenched a little harder but the door didn't move.† He clicked the little light off and shoved it into his pocket - put both hands on the door and yanked, putting all his claim-bought strength into it.†† *Nothing.† Fuck.*†† He moved swiftly through the house to the front door, a knot of cold fear blooming in his belly.† That door wouldn't open either.

††††††††††††††† *Damnit.† Okay - calm.† Spike?*† †He reached out, feeling for Spike and got...void.† That fuzzy blankness of forgetting and that's when the fear slammed into him, kicking his heartbeat up to a gallop and shortening his breath to shallow pants.† *Spike - you hear me love?† Spike!*†† Nothing, nothing, and he closed his eyes and felt for Oz and Derio.† Again - nothing.† A sort of mindless...'we're here' that was the link on autopilot or something, if that were possible.† They were alive, but he couldn't reach them.†

††††††††††††††† *Fuck, okay - calm.† Be calm.† Gotta get out first, in case it's the house -*†† Xander moved towards the closet under the stairs where the weapons were kept.† As he reached for the little door the whole house boomed, shaking and groaning as if it were a giant waking from some thousand-year sleep.† Xander reeled and fell backwards in the narrow hall, cracking his head against the boards.† The stair-closet door popped and swung slowly open and the radio suddenly went on again, loud and piercingly clear.


††††††††††††††† "I can see what the cost will be...You know I don't need you
I just can't put you down...I can see what it all means to me
Honey I don't need you...I just can't put you down
Can't put you down..."


††††††††††††††† Something he recognized - Alice in Chains at top volume and he froze for one second then darted to the kitchen and grabbed the radio - yanked the plug out of the wall.† The music kept blaring, scraping on his nerves.† Something white moved in the corner of his vision and he spun, gasping.

††††††††††††††† "Spike?"

††††††††††††††† "Nope.† What, you forget me already?"† The radio died - the lights flickered and then came back on with a low buzz and Xander flinched - stared.† Black hair, dark eyes.† Pointed chin and long legs.† Jesse, exactly as he was the night Xander had dusted him and he felt something worse than fear - felt the hideous twist of guilt and shame.

††††††††††††††† "Jesse?† Jesse - what -"†† Xander slowly put the radio down - took a cautious step forward.† *Spike?† Oz!† Derio, damnit - can you hear me?† This is getting fuckin' weird -*

††††††††††††††† "Hey, Xander.† Sorry about all that.† Happens sometimes." Jesse grinned at him, and Xander grinned back.† He couldn't not.† This was Jesse, who he'd shared a thousand secrets with, and every comic he'd ever bought, and his crush on Theresa Hart in seventh grade and his crush on Buffy...†† This was family, like Dawn and Tara were - like Giles and Ethan might become.

††††††††††††††† "Oh - god.† Jess?† How - how did you -"† Forgetting Jesse was dead - forgetting that he'd been a vampire before that - Xander took three fast steps forward, his hands going out to touch - to hold - to confirm.† They passed through air that seemed to faintly vibrate - to faintly cling in a way that made Xander shiver.

††††††††††††††† "Oh, you're not -"

††††††††††††††† "Not corporeal.† Bet'cha didn't think I knew a word like that, huh?"† Jesse laughed and Xander stepped back, leaning on the kitchen counter and crossing his arms - hugging himself.

††††††††††††††† "What are you doing here, Jess?† I thought...† I saw you die."

††††††††††††††† "You made me die, Xan-man," Jesse said, his voice flat and a little cold, and Xander nodded slowly.

††††††††††††††† "I - know.† I know I did.† Jess, I'm -"

††††††††††††††† "Hey, buddy, don't sweat it. I was evil, you know?† Luring you and Buffy to certain death...except it didn't really work out that way, did it?"† Jesse walked over to the table, examining the scatter of things there: a pack of dog-eared cards with a blood-stain on the Ace of spades, a handful of guitar strings still in their little paper packages, sheet music with notation scribbled on it in Oz's scratchy script and Derio's tiny, perfect Copperplate.†† Xander's tool-belt, a fan of loose change, an overflowing ashtray.†

††††††††††††††† "So, you're up here in Seattle now...left the Hellmouth - left Willow."† Jesse looked up from the cards, frowning a little, and Xander nodded again.

††††††††††††††† "She's not there, though.† She -"

††††††††††††††† "Yeah, I know.† She got with the mojo - got all Freddy Kruger or something, huh?"† Jesse shrugged - walked back over to stand opposite Xander.† "I'm not here to...accuse you of anything, Xan."

††††††††††††††† "Why are you here?† Why not - before?† Why now?"† Xander reached in the link again and got the same maddening blanks.† *Damnit!† Maybe it's not them - maybe it's 'cause Jesse is here...maybe it's me...† Fuck, I hope Spike doesn't freak out...*

††††††††††††††† "Well, mostly I'm here 'cause I wanted to see you.† you are.† See what's happened with you since, you know -"†† Jesse mimed staking himself and Xander looked away.† "Dude, I told you - I'm not here to accuse you!† I needed to be killed - I was evil and had to die."† His voice was sing-songy, too light, and Xander looked sharply at him.

††††††††††††††† "But you might not have been. I've - learned a lot of things since then.† I can see things now, Jess - it's amazing..."†† Xander told him, in the most edited version possible, of his encounter with Jack, and his gift.† Jesse listened, frowning, and when Xander was done he shook his head.

††††††††††††††† "Now that, see, is why I'm here.† What's the deal, Xander?† You're a human.† Why do you live with a vampire and two werewolves?† I mean, I'm not even gonna go into the whole 'gay now' thing, 'cause - TMI!† But - why are you taking their side?"

††††††††††††††† "Side?† It's not about sides, Jess!† If anything, Spike is taking my side!† And you knew Oz just like I did.† What were we gonna do - kill him?† He's Oz, he'!!"† Xander pushed his fingers back through his hair, incredulous.† "I love them, Jess, and they love me.† And we've done - a lot of things - a lot of good.† Saved the world a time or two."

††††††††††††††† "Well, that's true.† But you're still making exceptions.† Vampire - evil - soulless, remember?† That's why you shoved a stake through my heart, Xander!† That's why you killed me."

††††††††††††††† "I didn't know, Jess!"† Xander wished he could take Jesse and shake him - hold him - and his hand reached out, but then he pulled back, remembering the wrongness that he'd felt.† "I mean - all that happened so fast!† We met Buffy and a week later I'm fighting for my life with - with vampires!† Fuck, man..."† Xander looked up at the ceiling for a moment, taking a deep breath, calming down.† "I see things differently now, Jesse...† I'm - sorry."

††††††††††††††† "Yeah, sorry.† I'm sorry too, Xander.† Sorry you didn't give me a chance to prove if I was evil.† What if I had a soul just like your Spike?† What if I could have saved the world?"† Jesse seemed to be getting angrier, and the lights flickered, strobing.† He was pacing now, and in the stuttering light his movements became jerky and uncoordinated - out of synch.

††††††††††††††† "It's really too bad you couldn't have waited, huh, Xan?† But you just did what you were told, killed your best friend...† And now some...freak gives you this gift?† This seeing?† And you trust it - you listen to its lies and you trust what you see and now you're fucking a vampire!"† Jesse was screaming - was right up in Xander's face and suddenly the house shook again, groaning rumble of something massive and ancient reverberating through the air.† The bulbs in the ceiling light popped, scattering glass over the floor and into Xander's hair.† The lights in the living room did the same and the radio blared back to life; hissing static, overlapping layers of screams, groans, shrill screeching like metal being dragged over metal.† Jesse seemed to distort, wavering in the air like a heat-mirage and Xander darted away, running through the living room to the front door and trying desperately to wrench it open.

††††††††††††††† *SPIKE!† Spike, fuck - PLEASE - need your help - Oz - Derio!*†† Nothing, nothing, nothing, and Xander stumbled backwards - looked at the window that led out to the front porch.† *Go right through it - probably won't get cut too bad -*

††††††††††††††† "You betrayed me, Xander!† You chose those things over your human family - you chose them over Willow!"† Jesse was roaring - stretching, warping, becoming something else, and Xander stared, horrified.† "Something's coming, Xander - something that's worse than anything you've ever seen - ever heard of!† It's coming and it's going to swallow the Hellmouth whole and their blood will be on your hands!"† The apparition lunged for him, face distorting grotesquely and teeth lengthening to fearsome proportions as it morphed into a twisted parody of a vampire.† Xander flung himself aside and the thing screeched, the house shaking and seeming to settle on its foundations with an audible thump.† Then utter silence and Xander lay on the floor where he'd thrown himself, panting, shivering violently.

††††††††††††††† *Fuck, not Jesse, couldn't be Jesse, oh GOD, oh fuck, please - please -*† There were footsteps, rapidly approaching, and then a splintering crack and Spike was through the door, shouldering its remains aside and swooping down on him - gathering him close.† The link suddenly snapped open, flooding him with *XANDER! Coming, coming - fucking crazy, coming!* from Oz and *Pack, family protect protect protect* from Derio.† But best - most wanted - was Spike.

††††††††††††††† *I'm here, I'm here, I'm here, I've got you, love, I've got you, you're safe, it's all right, safe, safe, family all safe...*

††††††††††††††† In the kitchen, the radio came back on, the same song that had been playing when it had all started and Xander knew that it was - something's way - of telling them it wasn't through.


††††††††††††††† "If the moon turns green and rivers begin to flow up stream
And this is all a crazy dream, I wouldn't be surprised...
'Cause anything can happen...If you can fall in love with me..."




††††††††††††††† "So did anything happen to you guys?"† Xander was standing over the trashcan, his head bent down so Spike could make sure there was no more glass in his hair from the lightbulb.††† Derio was using a pair of pliers on an unplugged lamp to get the broken stub of a bulb out of the socket and Oz was sweeping up the glass in the kitchen.†† Spike ran his fingers through Xander's hair one more time.

††††††††††††††† "All clear, love," he said, and Xander stood up, smiling faintly - caught Spike's hands in his, frowning.† Spike glanced at his raw, bloody knuckles and cursed silently.

††††††††††††††† "What happened, Spike?"† Spike shrugged, looking away, and Xander reached out and put his fingers on his jaw - turned his head back.† "Love?† Please tell me.† Was your - was it solid?† I couldn't touch - Jesse."† The hurt and guilt in the link made Spike sigh, and resign himself to telling everything.† He hopped up on the counter behind him and pulled Xander close between his thighs.

††††††††††††††† "No, mine wasn't any more solid than yours - I took a swing and hit a wall, is all.† It - whatever it was - looked like Angel."

††††††††††††††† "Oh."† Xander leaned into him and Spike hugged him.† "What - did it say?"

††††††††††††††† "Bunch of lies," Spike said, too quickly, and Xander looked up at him.† "All right, pet, maybe not all lies.† Seemed to know a bit about me - 'bout my past and what I've been doing..."†

††††††††††††††† *Pack safe,* Derio thought, and there was a tinge of hysteria to that.† Oz propped the broom in the corner and crossed to him - pulled a chair up close so he could put an arm around him and kiss his hair.

††††††††††††††† "Yeah, we're safe.† We saw - well, up on those screens at the club?† There were all these...images.† These..."† A sudden, disjointed flow of pictures through the link and Xander and Spike both flinched.† The family fighting and losing.† Those still in Sunnydale being hunted down and imprisoned - tortured and tormented and used.† The world becoming a pit - a hell - and all of it starting from a Hellmouth that gaped like the maw of Leviathan.† A creeping plague of misery and death that rolled out from one place, unstoppable.† And their family - Buffy - paraded bloody and broken before the hordes as the bringers of it all - the champions who had lost and doomed the world.†††

††††††††††††††† "Jesus Christ," Xander whispered faintly, and they all huddled there in silence.† Derio had his head on Oz's shoulder and Oz was whispering - rubbing his neck.† Spike felt the fear and despair in the link - the guilt and confusion - and he shook his head, snarling.

††††††††††††††† "No, no.† We're not giving in to this, hear me?† This bloody spook wants to scare us and beat us down - wants to make us too afraid to fight.†† Not going to happen."† *FAMILY.† We're here, we're together, we're STRONG.† Pack - family - nest.† Love you ALL.*† Spike flooded the link - pushed the black mood and his own fears - his own nightmares - aside and let his love, his pride, his need and his desire - his wanting - roll over his family like a wave.† Pull them under, inundate them, fill them and send them back to the surface, buoyed up by everything he felt, everything he was and everything they made him.† Xander's arms came around him and hugged him hard, and Oz pulled Derio up and they crowded close, affirming the emotion through their fingertips and their noses and their mouths.† After a few minutes the desperation went out of them and they just rested there against each other.

††††††††††††††† "It all seems to be - centering - on Sunnydale.† We need to talk to Tara and Buffy," Oz said finally, and Xander nodded against Spike's neck - pulled back a little, wiping his eyes.

††††††††††††††† †"Yeah, you're right.† They might have already heard this - might have a handle on it."

††††††††††††††† "Bit late for calls - we'll do it in the morning, yeah?"†† Spike wanted *close family never leave* and the hyena and wolves all wanted *den nest safe together.*†† They spent the rest of the night on the pull-out bed, just being together.† Strengthening their bond, soothing each other and trying to rest.


††††††††††††††† Spike paced, smoking too much and feeling like he wanted to gut something.† It wasn't helping Derio, who kept shifting a little to the wolf and back, and it wasn't helping Xander, who was trying to find Buffy.† Oz just watched, one hand on Derio's back, rubbing in soothing circles, and *calm, we're safe, calm, calm,* like honey being poured over their souls.

††††††††††††††† "Okay Manny - I appreciate it.† Thanks."† Xander hung up and shook his head - sighed - and Spike ground out his cigarette and went to sprawl beside him on the couch.† "She called in sick today - I don't know what the deal is.† Dawn's not answering, but she should be in school so she better not be answering, and Tara might be in class too...†† Maybe we should call Giles?"† Xander twitched ever so slightly as Spike tugged at his arm and then he gave in and slumped over, his head on Spike's shoulder.

††††††††††††††† "Let's give it a little time, huh Xan?† See if she calls back."† Oz's voice was as slow and soothing as his mental chant and Xander nodded, closing his eyes.

††††††††††††††† "Yeah, okay.† We'll -"†† Then the phone rang.† Xander snatched it up - turned it on.† "Hello?† Buffy, thank god -"

††††††††††††††† "Xander, there's trouble.† You've got to come back to Sunnydale."† Xander looked up at the others, and Spike saw the dismay on his face - saw the shock and the worry and then saw, with a sinking feeling, the resolve.

††††††††††††††† †*Fuck, fuck, fuck.† Damn pit is gonna drag us back no matter what we do.† This had better be something real.† Fucking Hellmouth.† Not gonna get my family.*







Paul Whiteman - If the Moon Turns Green

Alice in Chains - Put You Down