Chapter 29: Lost

Chapter 29: Lost

                "He's coming."  Buffy held the cell phone out to Oz and the werewolf took it, tucking it away into the pocket of his baggy cargo pants.  "He was - on the highway, going down to L.A.  He lost his job..."  Buffy looked at the three impatient faces looking back at her and shook her head.   "He can probably get here in a couple of hours - his car is faster than the Winnebago, anyway.  Can - can Giles hold on that long?"  Buffy looked at Spike as she asked, and the vampire nodded slowly, glancing over his shoulder at the still form.

                "He'll be all right, Slayer.  We got a little water into him - he's asleep."

                "Okay..."  Buffy rubbed her hands tiredly over her face.  "Thanks, Spike," she said, voice very low, and Spike shrugged. 

                "No problem."  Buffy nodded and wandered away, heading for Dawn, and Xander put his hand gently on Spike's back - rubbed there for a minute.

                "You're being so nice."  *Thank you love you.*

                "Family, pet.   I'm not happy with some of them...but I won't let them come to harm."  Spike looked worn out and Xander slid his arm around his waist and pulled him gently over to the far side of the room - faint impulse in the link and Oz followed them into the shadows.  The sun had been down an hour now or more, and the desert chill was creeping into the place.  The only light came from the torches and fires the Knights had lit beyond the barrier and in the flickering dimness Xander was sure no one would see them.  He put his back into the corner and pulled Spike close, one hand curled around his back, the other cupping the back of Spike's neck.

                *Drink a little, love.  You need it.*

                *Pet -*

                "Spike - c'mon.   Just a little.  That...Knight wasn't enough.  And you know my blood - works better."  Pain, from Spike's hands and from numerous tiny burns shivered in the link, just below conscious thought but maddening as a buzzing fly.  Xander stroked his thumb over Spike's cheekbone - leaned down and kissed him softly.  Spike shifted a little closer and sighed in pleasure - let his mouth slip down from lips to jaw to throat.  Muscle and bone rearranged themselves and his fangs pierced easily.   Xander leaned his head back against the worn boards behind him and surrendered to the waves of shivery heat that washed over him, arousing and comforting at the same time.  After a minute or so Spike pulled away and kissed him - fleeting warmth from the blood, taste of metal and lemon and smoke.  Of vampire blood, like sparks of darkness - Spike had bit his own lip.  Taste of Spike, cloves and sweet, and magic, thick in the back of his throat.  

                *Magic in the blood.  In all of us now.*   Xander let the rest of the room - the rest of the night - fade away for one long, blissful moment.  Then they both slowly let go - backed off - and Xander took Oz's place on watch as Oz offered his throat and Spike pulled him close, taking.   The need, the lust, the love, shivered through the link, heady and distracting.  Xander blinked slowly - felt through the link Spike pulling back - felt the near-pain the withdrawal caused.  Oz's hands tightened reflexively across Spike's back for a moment, then he was letting go and Spike was taking deep, long breaths, eyes closed.  Euphoria, in the link, and possessiveness.   There was much more to this than Spike feeding - it was reaffirmation.  Comfort from the stress of the past few days, and a strengthening of their link - of their family.  Oz's eyes were glowing witchfire-green in the dimness, and Xander knew his own were - could almost feel the hyena right there behind his eyes, wanting.  From outside came the acrid stink of unwashed men and metal - horses and blood and burning wood, dung and something cooking.   Smells that recalled other fights - other enemies - and the soldier moved restlessly.   

                *Wanna go out there and -*

                *Fuck something up.*   The demon gazed at them both, malice and chaos, a hair's breadth from release and Xander took  a hard, deep breath - pushed the others down and away, taking control again.

                "Can't.  You know we can't.  Can't open the barrier, can't - kill them."

                "Can and will, the minute I get the chance."  Spike shook the demon away - squinted out through a crack in the boards.  "Not that many of 'em.  We could take 'em on - they wouldn't stand a chance."  Image in the link, the three of them like Hell's own angels, and Xander took a sharp breath.

                *No...*

                *Blood and bones,* from Oz, and he turned away abruptly, going over to Giles and tucking the blanket up around the man a little more securely.

                *Wolfling?*

                *Don't.  Don't want...*   Oz turned back to them, his eyes wide and his hands shoved deep in his pockets, shoulders hunching.   "I don't want to - lose it.  I don't want the wolf to take over, Spike.  I can't.  Willow is..."  Oz stopped, and they all felt the unease - the frustrated desire - in the wolf.  He had his pack, but he needed mate, and Willow had been that - was still that, in a purely physical sense that the wolf couldn't resist or deny.  His heart wanted them - wanted Derio.  Something deep in the wolf wanted the age-old magic of the female.  Children - a pack of his own making.

                "She's so close...  I'm afraid..."

                *Safe - safe, wolf.*   Xander and Spike moved at the same moment - surrounded Oz and held him close. 

                "We wouldn't let you hurt her, Oz.  It's okay."

                "Soon be out of here, wolfling."  They stayed huddled for a long moment, reluctantly separating only when Anya walked over.

                "Everybody's hungry.  Can one of you make a fire?"  Anya opened her carry-all.  "I brought snacks - tinned meat products!  I can cook if somebody makes a fire."  She brandished a can of Spam and a can of corned beef, smiling, and Oz smiled back at her. 

                *Keep me busy.*    "I cooked over open fires all through Mexico.  We've got plenty of wood - where do you want your kitchen?"  They walked off together, and Xander sighed.

                "That's -"

                "Biology, love.   As ingrained as fight or flight."

                "He'll be okay, though?"  Xander looked anxiously at Spike, who looked back, faint glimmer of gold.

                "We'll see that he is.  What was Red telling you, before?"  Xander shook his head, propping one elbow on the counter just above where Giles' head was pillowed.

                "She was pissed at me, about the whole chip thing.  She...  Fuck, Spike, she acted like she didn't think I was right, about your soul - about anything!  Like I was being conned."  A week ago and Xander might have silently begged for reassurance.  He didn't need to, anymore, and Willow's mistrust just made his own resolve stronger.

                "I thought we were over all that.  I don't...want to lose her friendship, Spike.  She's the only one who was there for me.  For years.  You know?"

                "I know, love."  Spike looked briefly up at him, serious for once.  He was unpicking the knots on the bloody bandages, and slowly unwinding the one on his right hand.  His palms and fingers had deep score-marks across them, but they were closed over, merely sunken places rather than open wounds.  His left hand was the same - nearly healed.  He flexed his hands, smiling, then looked back up at Xander.

                "I can't tell you what to do about her, love.  I don't trust her magic - I didn't before, and I trust it less now that I've....seen it.  Through you.  She wants, love - wants so much and so hard.  I don't know if she really understands how her wanting...can hurt." 

                *Thinks she knows what's best.*

                *I know...  I hate that I don't trust her...*   Xander took Spike's hands in his - studied the fading wounds and lifted each to his mouth, kissing Spike's palms.

                "I just - I don't want to cut her out of my life.  I want her to understand - to accept.  I don't know what to do."

                "Leave it be for now, pet - nothing to be done.  And until Glory is gone, we have other things to worry about."

                "Yeah."  Xander smiled faintly at Spike - looked over at Giles as the man moved on his pallet - opened his eyes.

                "Hey, Giles.  You awake?"

                "Hard not to be when you two are prattling on practically in my ear."  Giles' voice was rough and thready, and he grimaced in pain.

                *Needs a drink.*

                *I'll find something.*  Spike wandered off, and Xander moved so that he was down by Giles' waist, making it easier for the man to see him without having to turn his head or strain himself in any way. 

                "Spike's going to get you a drink, G-man.  Just relax.  Does it - hurt a lot?"

                "Only when I'm forced to answer annoying questions like that."  Giles let a faint smile curl up the corners of his mouth and Xander smiled back.

                "You must be feeling better then, if you can be sarcastic."  Giles raised his eyebrows - squinted at Xander.

                "Where are my glasses?"

                "Huh?  Oh - here."  Xander picked them up from the counter and eased them onto Giles' face, and the Watcher carefully adjusted them with a shaky hand.  He looked at the blood smeared on his fingers and let his hand fall back to the blankets, grimacing.

                "How bad is it, then?"

                "Spike says not so bad.  Says you'd already be dead if you were gonna die.  Apparently, it takes a long time to die from a belly wound."

                "I see...  Xander, what - your neck!"  Xander's hand went automatically to the fresh marks there and he shivered a little, touching them.  Shrugged at Giles' weak glare.

                "He needed blood, Giles.  He needs to be at full strength if we're gonna beat Glory.  It didn't hurt me, didn't hurt Oz -"

                "Xander, I don't understand.  You - the last thing I would ever imagine you doing is voluntarily giving your blood to a vampire."  Xander shrugged again, silently willing Giles to calm down.  A fine dew of sweat stood on the older man's face, and Xander hoped he wouldn't move around much and make the wound bleed again.

                "I wouldn't give any to Angel.  This is different, Giles.  I'm giving it, for one thing - it's not being taken.  And...  I love him.   He loves me...  There isn't anything I wouldn't do for him."  Xander glanced over at a sharp crack to see Spike breaking boards into manageable pieces for Oz, who was crouched down over the beginnings of a small fire.  The girls were circled around, watching, Willow holding Tara's hands back from the flames.

                "You loved before, Giles - I know you did.  I saw it.  Wouldn't you have done anything, anything at all, for -"

                "Ethan..."  Giles sighed, and he closed his eyes for a moment.  "Yes, I would have, Xander.  Long ago...  But Ethan - betrayed us all.  Did so many things..."  Giles stopped for a long moment, and then took a shaky breath.  "I have never regretted Ethan, Xander, but I have regretted some of the things he - persuaded me to.  I don't want you to have regrets."  He looked sad - infinitely tired, and Xander smoothed the edge of the blanket, not daring to put his hand on Giles' shoulder.

                "I don't have any regrets, Giles.  I haven't - I haven't turned my back on what you and Buffy do - I haven't given up being one of the good guys.  But the world isn't so...clear-cut anymore.  I've lived Spike's life too, since the claim spell.  I've been inside his memories and seen the what and the why.  There's so much more...to everything.  More sides than two.  It's hard, sometimes.  But I don't think I've - betrayed myself.  Or you."

                "You are my only concern, Xander.  My feelings on the matter are -"

                "They're important to me, Giles."  Xander couldn't keep the slight tremor out of his voice.

                *All right, love?*

                *All right.*   "I meant what I said before - about you being like a father.  I don't want to - disappoint you, Giles."

                "Xander -"   Giles held his hand out and Xander took it, squeezing as hard as he dared.  Giles squeezed back, and after a moment they let go.

                "I am - honored - that you see me in that - that light, Xander.  I can only hope that I'm able to...to be what you need me to be."

                "Already are," Xander said softly.  He took in a hard breath, closing his eyes for a moment.  "You'll have to trust me on the rest, all right, Giles?  Trust that I'm not some - poor deluded fool?"

                "I -"   Giles stopped, and he looked at Xander for a long moment.  "I do trust you Xander.   I really do.  My background - my training - tells me otherwise, but I've realized, since coming to Sunnydale, that things are not always what they seem.   And one of those things is that my training....isn't bulletproof, as they say."  Giles coughed, and Xander looked back over to Spike.

                *Drink?* 

                *You done?*

                *Yeah.  Thanks. Love you.*

                *Anything, pet.*  Spike came back over, one of Anya's juice boxes in his hand, and he gave it to Xander - carefully slid his hands up under Giles' shoulders and lifted him a few inches so he could drink without choking.  Xander held the straw to his lips and Giles drank slowly, coughing only once.  Then Spike lay him back down and he sighed - winced.

                "I hope you're correct in your assessment of my physical well-being, Spike."

                "Don't fret about that, Watcher - I've seen plenty of belly wounds last for a week or more.  And they were men who didn't start out near as healthy as you.  You'll be fine."  Giles stared at the vampire - raised his eyebrows.

                "Do I want to know where you've seen these wounds?"  Spike answering smile was wolfish.  "I thought not.  What, exactly, are we doing?"

                "Demon-girl's making Spam.  Everyone else is waiting for Spam.  That Ben - that nurse bloke from the hospital?  Slayer called him - he's comin' out here to have a look at you."

                "Good Lord.  How did she...?  No - I don't want to know.  The Knights are going along with this?"  Spike dug out a cigarette and lit it - blew the smoke over his shoulder towards the fire.

                "Yeah - honorable warriors that they are, they decided not to deny you medical treatment.  And we got General Forehead over there, so they're playing nice."  Giles raised his head a little and looked over to where the captive Knight - General Gregor - was still tied to the pole, looking furious.

                "That's their General?  Oh I say - good on us.  Has he told us anything useful?"

                "No," Xander frowned over at the Knight.  "He only confirmed what you found out - that using the Key will mean the end of the universe as we know it.  All he wants to do is destroy the Key - he doesn't care about trying to fight Glory or coming up with any other solutions."

                "He is a Knight sworn to his Cause.  I'm surprised he even spoke to you."

                "He seems to like the sound of his own voice."  Buffy emerged from the shadows and Giles looked up at her, a smile of welcome creasing his face.  "He told me all kinds of stuff, but nothing we didn't already know.  How are you, Giles?"  Buffy put her hand lightly in his shoulder and Giles lifted his own hand to hers.

                "I'm all right, Buffy.  At least, according to Dr. the Bloody."   The look Giles sent Spike's way was sardonic and amused, and Spike casually waved two fingers at him - took Xander's hand in his.

                "We'll just be having our dinner then, Slayer."  Buffy actually smiled, and Xander and Spike walked away - went to sit on the floor near the fire, propping each other up.   

                *Spam* Xander thought,*actually smells kind of...appealing...when cooked over an open fire.*

                *So does rat but you won't catch me eatin' it.*   Spike's hand crept up Xander's back - began a slow pet of his hair.  It was tangled and knotted from the day's activities and his fingers gently tugged and smoothed.  It was soporific - infinitely calming - and Xander just closed his eyes and leaned into it.  Somewhere off to his right he could hear Oz dialing a number on Derio's cell phone.  It only rang once.

                "Oz."

                "Yeah."  Long sigh, and then:

                "Everything - good?"

                "Everything...just is.  Score one for the bad guys."

                "Who?"  Derio's voice was tense, even through the phone.

                "Mr. Giles.  But Spike says no worries."  There was a long pause, and then:

                "Miss you.  Don't -.  Fuck it.  Be careful, amante..."

                "Yeah..."

                "Don't take it off, okay, mi dulce?  Don't."    Oz shifted, and Xander could hear something - a soft clicking.

                "Won't.  Derio..."

                "Yeah.  Te amo, mi amante, mi dulce..."

                "Love you too," Oz whispered, and then the phone beeped, turning off.   Xander kept his eyes closed, but through the link he could see what Spike saw.  He saw Anya, spooning corned beef out of the can and into the iron skillet she'd brought, a spare t-shirt wrapped around the pan-handle like a pot holder.  He saw Willow cutting off small pieces of cooked Spam and trying to get Tara to eat it, and he saw Dawn slowly eating canned peaches.   And he saw Oz pulling a string of black and green beads out of his shirt, letting them slide through his fingers for a moment before tucking them away again.  He looked tired, and so lonely.   The fire sparked gold from the tips of his hair, but made the darker parts seem an almost bloody red.

                *Wolfling...*   Oz looked up - got up and walked over.  Sat down with a small sigh in front of them, cross-legged, head down.

                *Pack, wolf.  Love you.*

                *Love you, Oz.  Be home soon.*   Oz nodded, not looking up, and Spike reached out and took his hand.

                *Sleep a little, wolf - we'll need you soon.*

                *You too,* Oz thought, looking up at Spike.  Xander opened his eyes finally - smiled over at Oz and then scooted a foot or so back, so he could lean against the wall. 

                "C'mon, Spike - take a nap."  Spike was stroking his fingers over Oz's knuckles - let his hand go, finally, and wormed around, head on Xander's thigh, curled under his duster.  Oz did the same, curling up against Spike's back, the top of his head pressed into Xander's knee.  The link quieted slowly, finally just a low, steady pack that was more feeling than actual thought.  Xander felt his own eyes fluttering shut.  He looked around the room one last time - saw Buffy standing by the door, looking out - saw Giles with his eyes closed, resting if not asleep.  He slid his hand under the edge of the duster and found Spike's hand, and fell asleep tracing his fingertips over and over the fading cuts.

 

                "That's him - he's here, Buffy," Anya said softly, and Buffy pushed herself upright from where she'd been dozing restlessly against the wall.  The sound of car wheels crunching over gravel, and a dazzling sweep of headlights showed Ben had arrived.  Buffy brushed at the seat of her pants - pushed her hands back through her hair. 

                 "Have you fixed up in no time, Giles," she said softly, and the Watcher nodded slightly at her, closing his eyes again as Buffy moved away.

                "Willow?  You ready to make me a doorway?"  Willow touched Tara's cheek and stood up as well - went to stand next to Buffy. 

                "Ready when you are," Willow said quietly, and Buffy nodded.  Xander touched Spike's shoulder - shook him gently.

                "Love -"

                "The medic here, then?" Spike murmured.

                "Yeah.  Willow's gonna open a door."  Spike rolled onto his back and stretched hard, arching up and closing his eyes.  The pleasure of it rippled through the link and Oz stirred, lifting his head.  Xander leaned down and kissed Spike's mouth softly - grinned as the vampire uncoiled and sprang to his feet, lithe as a cat.  He stalked over to the General, looking down at him with gold-glittering eyes, and then went past him to the door, standing behind Buffy and Willow.  Xander got up more slowly, stiff, and stretched himself, working his shoulders and neck.  Oz did the same, yawning, and went over to the 'supply' corner.  He got a bottle of water and opened it, taking a long drink.  He handed the bottle off to Xander, who finished it and walked with the werewolf over towards the door.  The Knights were standing warily around Ben's car - a dusty sedan.  Ben was inside, looking out the window with a look of astonishment and fear.  Willow chanted something under her breath and part of the barrier shivered.  Buffy took a deep breath and marched out, back straight.  Ben saw her and got hastily out of his car, looking warily at the Knights as he hurried over, a bulky gym bag in one hand.

                "Hey, Buffy -" he said softly, and Buffy smiled at him.

                "Ben.  I really -"

                "Slayer."  The second-in-command, Dante, stepped up to the doorway and Buffy hastily got between him and the building, pushing Ben gently to one side.

                "What is it?"

                "We wish to give our fallen brother a proper burial.  May we collect his body?"  Dante gestured towards the dead Knight that lay crumpled to one side, and Buffy blanched a little - opened her mouth to speak.

                "Don't, Slayer."  Spike pushed past Willow and strode out the door, and Buffy shot an annoyed look at him over her shoulder.

                *Spike?*

                *They don't get inside the barrier.*   Spike moved swiftly, picking the corpse up under its arms and hoisting it effortlessly.  It was rigid with death, arms bent awkwardly, but Spike paid no mind - strode over to the doorway and pushed the corpse onto the startled Dante.

                "There's your brother.  Now back off."  Dante sagged under the dead weight and metal - half turned to give the body over to two other Knights who hurried to his side.

                 "What of General Gregor?"

                "He's fine, he's -"

                "Staying with us.  Oi!  Red!  Close the door." 

                "Spike!"  Buffy looked furiously at Spike, and Dante made a move, as if to push past him.

                "Willow!  Close it!  We can't let any of them in here."  Oz's voice was low and urgent and Willow looked askance at him - nodded finally and took a breath - repeated her chant.  The barrier snapped back into place, knocking Dante back a few steps, and Spike stood there for a long moment, watching them.  Buffy shook her head but turned to Ben, giving him a weak smile.

                "This is all kinda - Outer Limits stuff for you I guess."

                "Oh, you'd be surprised," Ben murmured, looking at Spike, a puzzled expression on his face.  He turned with Buffy and they both came back to the building; Xander, Oz and Willow hastily making way for them.  He went straight to Giles - unzipped his bag and fished out a stethoscope and began his examination.

 

                "He got lucky.  The - the spear missed any vital organs," Ben said, peeling off bloodied Latex gloves and dropping them to the ground.

                "Told you so," Spike muttered, and Buffy shot him a mean look.

                "But, there's a lot of damage.  It broke a couple of ribs and the splinters -"   Ben took in the rather sick looks on Buffy and Willow's faces - the lazy interest on Spike's, and stopped.    "But you don't need to know the details.   He's lost a lot of blood.  I brought some Ringer's solution, and that'll help until we can get some whole blood into him.  I'm going to set up an IV, and give him something for the pain as well."   Giles put his hand up then, touching Ben's sleeve, and Ben looked down at him.

                "I don't - want to be all...muzzy," Giles said, and Ben frowned in concern.

                "Mr. Giles, you really would be more comfortable if -"

                "He knows what he wants, Ben.  Just - can you give him enough to -"

                "Just take the edge off," Giles finished, and coughed, and Ben shook his head slowly. 

                "Look, I'll - I'll do it, but it's better for your body if you can rest for a while.  It can start healing.  Constant pain - just drags you down."

                "I understand that, Ben.  But for now - I need to - to be aware."  Ben nodded - looked up at Buffy. 

                "I'll do what I can.  But you need to get him out of here, and soon."

                "We're trying," Buffy said, and she and Willow moved away, talking softly.  Xander touched Spike's shoulder - indicated with a jerk of his head that they should leave, as well.  Oz was off to one side with Tara, Anya and Dawn, trying to keep a restless Tara occupied.  He was letting her listen to his cd player, but she didn't seem to like the headphones and kept fidgeting with them.

                "We've got to get some sort of - of plan together.  We can't just sit here and let Giles die," Xander said softly, and Spike looked over Xander's shoulder at the Watcher, his eyes flat and cold.

                "Ben's got a car, big enough for us.  I say we take the Niblet and go.  The Knights won't have any reason to hang around once their Key is gone, and -"

                "Why can't you just hand over the Key and be done?"  Xander and Spike both jerked around, startled, at the voice.  General Gregor had somehow managed to struggle to his feet despite his bound hands and was looking at them with a patronizing air.

                 "You ally yourself with the Beast - you defy our Holy Mission - you will bring about the destruction of the world with this foolish behavior!"  Spike snarled and strode forward, getting up close to the Knight, who flinched slightly back and then steeled himself.

                "If you lot had any balls at all, you'd be on our side, tryin' to take Glory out, instead of hunting down a defenseless girl."  Spike's demon was to the fore and his fangs were inches from the Knight's face.

                "'Our' side, demon?  You have no side.  You are unclean, unholy, and will only bring despair to all around you."  The General had the wild glint of the fanatic in his eye, and Xander figured that was the only thing that kept the man from gibbering in utter terror.

                "You're mistaken, General," Spike said, softly.  His hand was in his duster pocket, and then lost in the shadows between their bodies.  Suddenly the General stiffened - made a nasty, wheezing sort of screech.  Xander heard the pop of electricity.

                *What the hell?*

                *Commando toy, remember?*   Spike stepped away from the General, who sagged against the post, panting.  Spike held the stolen taser in his hand.  "Forgot all about it, really."  Spike looked at the General, who was obviously in pain, and grinned.   The hyena grinned right along with him.

                "Guys - we really don't have time for this."  Buffy strode over, an unreadable expression on her face, Willow hovering a few steps behind her. "Just put it away, Spike.  He can't tell us anything we don't already know."

                "But it would be awfully fun making sure," Spike said silkily, and the General seemed to get for the first time that he might be in trouble.  He looked at Spike uneasily.

                "Xander, rein him in or I will," Buffy snapped, looking ready to do a little damage herself.   Spike hissed at her, and Xander moved hastily between them.

                *Calm please love.*

                "I think the best thing to do is - is have Ben drive one of us to Barstow - it's only about twenty miles from here and we can rent a car big enough for - well, for most of us.   I'm going to send Giles back with Ben - he has to get to a hospital - and, and Anya can go with him -"

                "Split us up?  Do you think - do you think that's a good idea, Buffy?  Giles won't be able to fight off Glory if she comes calling - or Anya either."  Xander stepped a little closer to Buffy as he spoke, keeping his voice low.

                "Do you have any ideas, Xander?  I'm about out here, and I don't need arguments unless you've got something better to offer!"

                *Back off, Slayer.*   Spike stepped up close as well, still game-faced, and Buffy recoiled.

                "Yeah, I got a better offer, Slayer.  Let me and mine take those damn Knights out and let us go.  We'll get the Niblet somewhere safe and you can deal with the hell-bitch.  Her time is short.  When the glory-hour is gone - who knows?  Maybe she goes up in a puff of smoke, or maybe - she loses her powers.  Whatever happens, Dawn's safe."

                "Or maybe she just kills everything in her path," Buffy snapped, and Spike cocked his head a little to one side - looked over her shoulder at Dawn, who had got up and was talking to Ben.

                "Maybe so.  But she doesn't end the world, and Little Bit...is out of her reach."  Xander watched Buffy - watched her mull that over, watched her flick her eyes around the room, taking in who would go and probably live - and who would die.  He watched her, and knew she was going to make some sort of decision.  And whatever it was - it would break her.  Anything she chose lead to someone's death, and Xander couldn't let her take on that burden, as well.

                 *We can't - SHE can't.  Spike - we have to find another way.*

                *Want you SAFE, want the wolfling safe - want our FAMILY, damnit, don't give a fuck about the rest.*   Xander put his hand on the vampire's shoulder and squeezed gently.

                "I know.  But I do.  And we can't, Spike.  We can't leave anyone behind.  We have to find some other way."  He looked at Buffy, who looked - grateful, for a moment.  And then alarmed, as Tara suddenly leaped to her feet.

                "NO, oh no, you don't bring that here!  Little filthy beasts - out, get out!"  Tara pushed Anya aside - evaded Oz's grasp and ran towards the door, clawing furiously at it.

                "Tara!"  Willow ran for her, but a second yell made her jerk around in startlement, and they all stared at Ben, who was clutching his head in the middle of the room. 

                "Let me out!  Open the door - let me out of here!"

                "What the fuck -"   Spike started a slow stalk towards Ben, and Buffy looked at Xander in bewilderment.

                "He just started freaking out!  I didn't do anything!"  Dawn edged nervously towards Buffy, trying to keep away from Ben, and Tara screamed again.

                "Time, time time, it's time and Leviathan rises!"  Her voice broke on the last, sending her into a fit of coughing, and she scrabbled madly at the door.  Willow reached her and tried to stop her - tried to pull her away and Tara tuned and opened her mouth in a hideous, ear-piercing wail of utter terror.

                "Let me oooout!"  Ben tore at his hair - pulled it - and Xander felt his mouth dropping open as his hair seemed to stretch.   It was stretching - it was growing longer and lightening and suddenly it wasn't Ben standing there anymore, it was Glory doing a little cat-stretch, yawning.  She glanced down at herself and grimaced - flicked her fingers and Ben's khakis and pullover became a skimpy red dress.

                "My boy Ben - he sure gets around."  Glory looked coolly around her, and her gaze fell on the General.

                "Oh look!  It's Gregor!"

                "Your time is almost over, Beast, we will crush you, we will -"   Glory's eyes narrowed and she reached out absently - plucked a rusting hub-cap that was hanging off a support beam and threw it like a Frisbee.  It sliced through the air and into the General's throat and he gagged mid-word, choking - dying.

                "Now it's not."  Glory giggled and brushed at her fingers.  With a roar, Spike threw himself forward, leaping on Glory's back.  Oz was in motion as well, the wolf surfacing as he leapt.  Spike locked his arms around her neck, attempting to snap it and Glory reached up and clawed at him - pulled him over and off and into the wall, cracking boards.  Oz was backhanded away and then Buffy was there, piling into her and being kicked sprawling to the ground.

                *Spike!  Fuck, Oz -*   Xander darted around the Hellgod, heading for Spike, knowing he was no match for her.

                "Now now, children, I'm not in the mood."  Glory grinned over at Dawn and in a movement almost to fast to track she pounced, grabbing Dawn's arm and spinning them both towards the door.

                "Let's go, pumpkin!  Things to do!"   She raced out the door, dragging Dawn, who clawed at the red-nailed hand locked around her wrist.

                "Buffy!"  Dawn shrieked.  Buffy climbed unsteadily to her feet - took off after her sister as Spike rolled and got up, shaking his head.  Anya was yanking Oz upright and they all pelted after Buffy, hearing screams from outside.

                "Willow!  The barrier!"  Buffy was yelling - pounding her fists on the barrier, and Xander heard Willow chanting as they ran up behind Buffy.  Abruptly the barrier dropped, and they moved forward.  But after a half-dozen steps Xander stopped, dazed.  It was hard to see in the uncertain light of the fires and flickering torches, but there were bodies - everywhere.  Xander looked around him in growing horror and stumbled when his foot hit something.  He looked down and recoiled from the Knight who was lying there, throat torn out. 

                "Oh, fuck -"

                "She got 'em all," Spike murmured, and took off in the direction that Glory had gone.  They all heard his roar of frustration and fury.

                *She's fuckin' GONE, how did she do it, damnit!*

                "Oh my god -"   Willow staggered to a stop near Buffy, her eyes wide and horrified.  "Buffy, we have to - have to hurry!"  She turned to Buffy, and Xander watched in confusion as Buffy's legs seemed to give out.  She sat down hard in the blood-soaked dirt, her eyes huge and vacant. 

                "Buffy?"  Willow went down on her knees beside her, clutching her shoulder.  "Buffy?  Come on, we have to - we have to get Dawnie back!  Buffy!"  Willow looked up as Xander came closer, tears standing in her eyes.

                "Xander, what's wrong with her!"

                "I don't -"   Xander crouched down as well - touched Buffy's cheek.  Her skin was cold, and Xander could see faint tremors going through her.  Her hands were clasped loosely, and she blinked once, slow.  "I don't know, Wills."   

                "Oh dear god -"   Xander looked up fast at that and saw Giles in the doorway, swaying, shirtless and pale.

                "Giles!  You shouldn't -"

                "Oh dear god," Giles whispered again, looking around him, fear and anger and horror all crossing his face.  Anya stood near him, surveying the scene with a critical eye.  Oz trotted up from somewhere, scenting the air and snarling softly, fighting the wolf with every step. 

                *Too much blood.  Spike?*

                *Here, wolf.  They're all dead.*   A sensation in the link, a flicker of an image, and Xander knew Spike was draining a Knight - knew the man was gutted and dying in the sand and Spike wanted his blood.  Wanted him as dead as the rest.   It sent a shudder through him and Spike abruptly shut the link down.

                "Oz, get Giles back inside, he can't -"

                "What's wrong with Buffy?"  Giles snapped, struggling to walk forward, and Oz growled at him, darting to his side.

                "Inside, Giles.  Now."  Oz forcibly turned Giles - made a gesture of his head and Anya hurried over, slipping through the door as Oz half dragged the older man inside.

                "Willow - let's get Buffy inside.  Come on."  Xander stood up - put his hands under Buffy's arms and hauled her upright, and Willow rose with her, taking one hand in hers and guiding Buffy back into the building.  Spike came loping in out of the darkness, shaking the demon off as he came.

                 *Gotta get a move on, love,* he thought, and Xander eased Buffy down onto the floor by Giles, who was sitting on the edge of the counter, looking ill.  Anya was putting the IV tube back onto the needle in the back of his hand.  Tara was huddled in the corner made by the counter and the wall, and Oz had moved to sit next to her, trying to coax her around.  His eyes were black and furious, but the wolf was mostly gone.

                "Move where, Spike?  What - what the hell happened?  Ben - became Glory!"

                "He did what?"  Giles said sharply, and Xander turned an incredulous look on him.

                "He was right here, Giles!  He was - himself, and the next minute he was Glory!"  Giles exchanged a puzzled look with Anya, who shrugged.

                "Ben and Glory - they are - connected somehow?"

                *What in hell!*

                "It's mojo, pet.   I think...   Wolfling, did you see what happened?"  Oz nodded.

                "Ben freaked - right when Tara did - and then, Glory.  Like the fuckin' robot in Terminator."  Xander couldn't suppress a snort of hysterical laughter and Willow looked up from where she was kneeling beside Buffy, frowning.

                "Xander!  It's not - there's nothing funny here!  I don't know how Glory got here, but she's got Dawn and - and Buffy's -"

                "She's broken," Anya said.  She leaned down into Buffy's face - snapped her fingers a couple of times.  "Hel-loooo!  Buffy!  Little sister in mortal danger!  World about to end!"  Buffy didn't so much as blink, and Anya stood back up.  "See?  Broken." 

                "No, no, she's not - she's not broken, Anya, she's just -"

                "She's off in her own little happy-land, is what she is.  Or unhappy-land, as the case may be."  Spike was searching for a cigarette - snarled furiously at the empty, crumpled pack he finally retrieved from a pocket. 

                *Why did I see Ben and Glory and not Willow?  Why you, and Oz?*

                *We're not exactly human, are we pet?  Think it only works on humans.*   "Buffy's not gonna be helping us anytime soon."

                "But there's gotta be something -"   Xander crouched down by Willow and reached out - popped his fingers lightly against Buffy's face.  "C'mon Buffy - come back!  You're needed out here!"

                "Xander - leave her."  Spike's eyes were demon-gold, and the link was thrumming with *pack pack pack*, the demon frantic with the need to get out.   "We need to get back to Sunnydale."  Xander stared at him for a long moment - nodded finally and stood up.

                "Yeah - okay - how do we do that?  Giles has to lay down, and we can't all fit in Ben's car if he does."

                "I'm takin' Ben's car.  You're coming with me to Barstow.  We'll get another car, or truck - something - and get back here.  It'll be light in six or so hours - we can be back in Sunnydale by then."

                "And then what?" Oz asked softly, and Spike laughed a short, humorless laugh. 

                "And then I'm outta ideas, wolf.  But we've got hours to think of something.  Sound worthy, then?"  He looked around at Xander - at Giles, who was slumping further down, and at Anya who looked back wide-eyed and shrugged. 

                "It's more then I've got, Spike."

                "Willow - can you do anything for Buffy?  Can you help her?"  Willow stood shakily and pushed her hair back out of her face.  Oz had managed to get Tara to turn around and now he urged her to her feet.  Her hands were scratched and a little bloody - her face streaked with tears - and she keened softly and held her arms out, reaching for Willow.  Willow pulled her close, stroking her hair.

                "Shhh, baby, it's all right."

                "No windows, no doors, no light, no light..."  Tara whispered brokenly, and Willow hugged her hard.

                "I'll figure out something - I can do something but yeah, we have to get back to Sunnydale.  I need - need to look at some b-books -"   Willow buried her face in Tara's hair and shuddered, crying now, and Xander reached and squeezed her shoulder lightly.

                "Okay, it's okay Willow.  We'll figure this out."  He looked over at Spike.  *Love you love you this is so fucked up LOVE you, Spike, my own...* 

                *Your own.   Love you, pet, love you...  Wolf, you all right?*

                *Fine.  Hurry back - be careful!* 

                "Yeah.  We'll hurry.  Think Ben left the keys in the car?"  Spike stalked out the door, and Xander hesitated one long moment, looking around at the group.

                "Everyone be careful - stay alert.  We'll be back as soon as we can.  Giles - please lay back down."

                "Go, Xander," Giles rasped, and Xander saw that *darkman* other face there; a face that was furious and ready to take vengeance on anything in reach.

                "We'll get her back, Giles."  The darkman - Ripper - only stared back, a cold and ancient knowledge shadowing his gaze, and Xander turned and strode after Spike, feeling a shiver come over him.

                *If Buffy doesn't get Glory - Giles will.*

                *We better be standing pretty far back if that happens, pet.*   Spike was doing something under the dash of Ben's car - made a small sound of triumph as the engine suddenly roared to life.

                "Let's go, love," he called, slamming the door and putting the car in gear, and Xander hurried around to the passenger side and got in.  They drove off, dust pluming from under the tires, *pack hurry hurry* fading out behind them.

 

 

______________

amante - lover

te amo - I love you

mi dulce - my sweet

Thank you, Canadian Snoopy, for the 'terms of endearment'