Chapter 7: Worry

Chapter 7: Worry

††††††††††††††† Spike breathed, slow and deep, savoring the warm, musky scent that surrounded him.†

††††††††††††††† *Smell so good, love...*†† He bowed his head a little and licked the taut arch of Xander's neck - let his teeth scrape lightly over the scar.† Xander shuddered, his head thrown back on Spike's shoulder and his fingers, at the moment, digging into Spike's hips.† His body was quivering with tension and pleasure and Spike wound his arms tighter around Xander's ribs and breathed again, burrowing into the sweat-damp hair that lay over Xander's shoulder.

††††††††††††††† *Spike, love...*†† "Please..."† Xander was grinding his hips down, trying for more contact and Spike let him - pulled him down tight, loving the hot, clinging feel of Xander around his cock, loving the grasping flutter of muscle as he pushed deeper.† He slid one hand down Xander's chest and belly to his cock and stroked there for a moment, then reached lower, between the spread legs.† Spike was on his knees on the bed, and Xander was kneeling over him, back to chest.† Spike loved being able to hold him this way - loved the press of flesh all down him.† Xander's hands slid back, grasping his buttocks and trying to push him, to make him move.

††††††††††††††† "Sspike...please fuck me..."

††††††††††††††† "Am, love...feel this..."† Spike's fingers paused for a moment to caress the soft skin of Xander's tightly drawn-up balls, then moved on to the slick skin that was beneath them.† He circled the root of his own cock with his fingers - scratched lightly on the stretched muscle that surrounded it - then pushed one finger in, so slowly, filing Xander that much more.† Xander writhed, panting, and Spike moved his hips, lifting Xander just a little with his other arm and pulling him back down, rubbing over that sensitive bundle of nerves deep inside.† Xander's fingers sank into Spike's buttocks, hard enough to bruise, and Spike moaned.† He twisted the finger that was inside and shivered when Xander did, his teeth biting down on the scar.† There was a fizzing through the link like champagne, little prickles of pleasure along the nerves and Xander bucked desperately.

††††††††††††††† *Fuck, MOVE...Spike, just...move, move...*

††††††††††††††† *Shhh...almost, love...*† Spike let his finger slip out, and he moved his hands over Xander's body - scratching over his† belly, pinching at nipples, just wanting to pull Xander as close to him as he could - to touch everything, to know every inch.† Xander's hands roved over hip and buttock - he lifted them over his head and hooked them around Spike's neck, pulling him closer, turning his own head so they could share a kiss.† Spike nipped at Xander's jaw - his chin - pulled Xander's lower lip into his mouth and sucked for a moment and then kissed him, tongue fucking into the warm, sweet flesh faster than his cock was.† Then he let go and pushed Xander forward onto his hands and knees - curled his fingers around Xander's hips and moved once, hard.

††††††††††††††† *Ready then?† Love you...*

††††††††††††††† "Yeah, god -"†† *Love you* Xander gasped and Spike started to fuck in earnest, moving as hard and fast and as deep as Xander could take.† Loving the clench and shudder every time he hit the right spot, loving how Xander's hips moved in counterpoint, how his knees spread wider on the bed, welcoming him in, wanting more of him.† Spike dug his thumbs into the tensed muscle around his cock and pried Xander open a little wider, watching himself sliding in and pulling out, pushing with the tips of his thumbs until they were inside, pulling Xander open and Xander was crying out now, breathy sounds of encouragement.† Spike sunk in deeper, spread him open further; arching his back, his legs trembling, he thrust, his whole body driving forward into willing, squirming flesh.†† The double feeling, of fucking and being fucked - the incredible burn of the hard stretch that Xander pushed back into, wanting more - the heat and tip-to-root clench of silken flesh was almost overwhelming.† Then Xander clenched down harder - pushed the link wide and arched his back and thrust back hard and Spike nearly screamed.†

††††††††††††††† *Love, do it, please - c'mon, yours, love, take it, take me...*† Xander was groaning, panting - arching his throat, and Spike rammed forward hard, sending him to his belly, getting one hand under and around Xander's cock in a hard grip and snaking the other up to clench into his hair.† Chest to back, glorious heat and friction and sweat-wood-sweet-savory, the complicated scent that was *love* and *home* and *family* and *mine*.†† Spike sucked salt-tinged flesh into his mouth - let the demon come out, whining with need and bite, deep and hard.† They both froze for a split second and then Spike was thrusting and sucking, all rhythm lost in the surge and twist and fire of his orgasm and Xander's.†† Sensation coiling through and through the link: Xander's come hot over his hand, slick as oil and rich with musk, and the fist/body around his own cock.†† The blood that tasted of desire and magic and spice, and the delicious sting and pull of being bitten.†† The low, gasping cries that Xander couldn't stop as he undulated under Spike, his skin roughening with gooseflesh and his body practically vibrating around Spike's cock, and the vampire's own growling moan from deep in his chest as he shuddered to completion.

††††††††††††††† *Fuckin' lovely, you're so lovely...always, Xander, always mine, yours, always, always...*†† Drifting into incoherency as the climax left them limp and gasping.

††††††††††††††† *God yes, love you, always, don't, want you there, love you there, holding me...*† Spike stopped in his half-hearted attempt to roll off Xander's back and simply collapsed over him, easing his fangs out carefully and licking up the smear of blood.† Xander's body was still clenching and fluttering around him and he moved his hips ever so slightly, loving the soft moan it elicited.

††††††††††††††† "Never get tired of that," Xander murmured, turning his head just a little so Spike could kiss him.† Spike did, awkward as the position was, and he slowly unwound his fingers from Xander's hair and stroked the tangled strands.

††††††††††††††† "Love this.† Don't ever cut it, pet."

††††††††††††††† "You just want it long so you can pull it when you fuck me," Xander mumbled, his hand twitching over the sheet and pulling Spike's out from under him - twining his fingers with Spike's sticky ones.

††††††††††††††† "That too, love.† But it feels so soft," Spike nuzzled into the nape of Xander's neck, rubbing his cheek over the hair bunched there and Xander sighed.

††††††††††††††† *Feels good when you pull it, though.† I won't cut it but you have to beat up everybody that calls me a girl.*

††††††††††††††† *Anything for you, pet.*†† Spike felt the rumbling rasp of the purr starting in his chest - felt Xander's delight through the link and let it go - let it get loud.† Xander took a deep breath and tried to purr back.

††††††††††††††† "Silly," Spike mumbled, his voice choppy from the purr, and Xander giggled.† Talking and purring at the same time never failed to make Xander laugh.† Spike glanced up at the dresser - at the postcards that had been stuck back into the mirror frame the first day they'd moved into the new house.††† *See if you laugh at poetry, then* he thought, knowing it was Xander's not-so-secret weakness.††† He whispered in Xander's ear.

††††††††††††††† "Rise with the wind, my great big serpent...Silence the birds and darken the air...Charge me with terror, alive for a moment...Strike for the heart and have me there..."

††††††††††††††† "What's that?† That's...weird."

††††††††††††††† "That's Auden, and he was a weird bloke.† Try this, then."† Spike shifted, just a little - rumbled the purr higher and grinned at the pleasure in the link.

††††††††††††††† "He kissed me awake and no one was sorry...The sun shone on sails, eyes, pebbles, anything...And the high green hill sits always by the sea...So, to remember our changing garden...We are linked as children in a circle dancing...My Dear One is mine as mirrors are lonely...And the high green hill sits always by the sea."

††††††††††††††† "Like that, love?"

††††††††††††††† "Mmmm...weird but pretty.† How do you remember all those?"

††††††††††††††† "My very warped upbringing," Spike rumbled, and Xander giggled again.†† His free hand was on Spike's thigh where it sprawled down on the bed, rubbing lightly.† He squirmed a little under Spike and then settled again, sighing happily.† *Love feeling you on me...owning me...*

††††††††††††††† *Don't own you, pet.† You're your own.*

††††††††††††††† *You DO.† Own all of me.† I want it like that.† Love that you want me that much.*

††††††††††††††† *Always, love...*† Spike kissed what he could reach of Xander's face and neck and shoulder - felt himself hardening again, as the love and want and *yours mine always* suffused him.† Oz and Derio were asleep down the hall, the faint night-time images the wolf sent - pack and den and completeness - only added to the vampire's own sense of utter safety, utter happiness.

††††††††††††††† "Say me another, Spike..."† Xander murmured, his own desire rising, as his blood did.

††††††††††††††† "Mmmmmm..."† Spike thought for a moment - lifted himself up a little and started a slow, shallow thrusting, just teasing that sensitive spot, lightly brushing over it.† Xander shivered and arched into him.

††††††††††††††† "My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand...His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven...His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set...His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers...his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh...His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl...his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires...His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold...his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars...His mouth is most sweet...yea, he is altogether lovely...This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem..."




††††††††††††††† "This week sucked," Dawn said, slumping down in her chair and Tara absently patted her shoulder.

††††††††††††††† "Why'd it suck, Bit?" Spike asked, sitting up on the loft stairs in the Magic Box, smoking and watching Xander.

††††††††††††††† "Because!†† Janice has some new boyfriend and she's spending all her time with him and he's a big dork.† And I don't get the lab we're doing in biology and Buffy is no help...† And that's another thing - Buffy is acting like a total freak."

††††††††††††††† "C'mon Dawn - can't be that bad," Xander said.

††††††††††††††† "Says you," Dawn muttered, rolling her eyes.† Xander ginned at her and flipped a page over in the book he was reading.†† Some weird demon had robbed a bank and now they were looking for it, since bank robbing was apparently not common demon behavior.

††††††††††††††† *How does anybody know that?† Maybe all the great bank robbers of history were really DEMONS - special bank-robbing demons.*

††††††††††††††† *Robbed a bank or two in my day,* Spike mused, grinding out his cigarette on his boot heel and pocketing the butt.† *Was fun.† Dru wanted a house and there wasn't anybody to kill for it.*†† He stood up and jumped down off the stairs - sauntered over to the counter where Anya was doing paperwork.† The shop was closed for the night and research was the theme of the evening.† Except for Willow and Giles, who were in the training room having another discussion/argument about magic, and Buffy, who was patrolling.† She did that a lot, these days.

††††††††††††††† *Buffy's been kinda - weird, lately.† You notice?*

††††††††††††††† *Slayer's always weird,* Spike thought, and Xander shot him a look.† *But, yeah...she's been*†† It hadn't helped that the day after her resurrection some demon - a hitchhiker, Anya had said, that had ridden into their dimension inside Buffy - had tried to kill her.† And had possessed Dawn and Anya and Xander in the bargain.† Another reason for Spike to be pissed at Willow, and Xander was starting to wonder if they'd ever go back to being anything like friendly.† Now almost every encounter devolved into a sniping match, and Ethan Rayne was no help.† His sly or mocking or sarcastic commentary did nothing to smooth ruffled feathers, and his own struggle to regain control of his magic made him short-tempered.† And the aura of chaotic energy that constantly hung around the man set their whole pack on edge.† The man himself was sitting in the fourth chair around the lighted table, deeply engrossed in something.† Xander had the feeling it wasn't demon research, but at least he wasn't stirring everybody up.† Xander reluctantly liked Ethan - admired his tenacity - but his ability to cause, well, chaos was too good by far.

††††††††††††††† *Only been a month since she came back.† Can't expect everything to be all hearts and puppies,* Spike thought, and idly peered into a plastic bag lying on the counter.† Anya slapped his hand, snatching the bag away.

††††††††††††††† "Oi!† What was that for?"

††††††††††††††† "This is private, Spike.† So hands off!"† Anya glared at him and Spike smirked, and Xander heard the mental note to look in the bag as soon as possible.† Anya shoved the bag away into a drawer and slammed it shut - went back to her accounting.† Xander wished fleetingly that Oz were there - his calm always seemed to affect everyone around him - but he was helping Derio and his bandmates at a show down in Oxnard and wouldn't be back until the next day.

††††††††††††††† "Christ, found anything yet, ducks?†† I'm 'bout to go to sleep on my feet -" Spike leaned over Tara, peering at the book she was looking through, and Tara shook her head.

††††††††††††††† "Nothing.† This book is a bust."† She closed it and pushed it aside - looked over at Dawn.† "C'mon Dawnie, get out your biology book and I'll help you figure it out, okay?† All these demons are giving me a headache."† Dawn grinned and sat up, rooting through her backpack and Spike circled the table, eyes on Xander.

††††††††††††††† *Don't, Spike.† Really.† Really!*†† Spike just smirked, shifting from 'walk' to 'panther stalk' effortlessly, letting go a flood of X-rated images to the link.† Xander closed his eyes and dropped his head onto the books in front of him.† *No, no, NO!† Dawn is here.† And Tara.† And Anya will make remarks about threesomes.† And DAWN is here!† And...and...there's already people in the training room, Spike!*

††††††††††††††† *Training.† I like that word.† 'Member what you were thinking about?† Cats and...collars... and...leashes...*††† Xander groaned a little, putting his fists over his ears in a vain attempt to block out the silken voice in his head.† Impossible, of course.† Spike slunk up behind him and leaned on the back of his chair.† A moment later his cool fingertips were lightly tracing over Xander's neck.† He took the elastic out of Xander's hair, fanning it out and smoothing the ends that came to the tops of his shoulder-blades.† His fingers stroked up under the hair - circled Xander's throat and held him lightly, thumbs caressing up and down his spine.

††††††††††††††† *Just there, pet.† Something...a little wide.† You've the build for it.† Dark green maybe.† Or dark brown...*

††††††††††††††† *Spike, for fuck's sake...*

††††††††††††††† *Don't you wanna, pet?† Wear my collar, kneel at my feet...*†† Xander shuddered at the images in the link - fought back with a few of his own.

††††††††††††††† *How about YOU?† You're the one that purrs...I think YOU should...*

††††††††††††††† *We can do both, love...* ††Spike leaned over further and nibbled on the curve of Xander's spine where it showed above the collar of his work shirt.† His nails scraped lightly over the claim scar and Xander shivered violently.

††††††††††††††† "Spiike - fuckin' hell -" Xander moaned.† He couldn't help it.

††††††††††††††† "Do you two need to go up on the roof?† Because I'm not really in the mood for sexual shenanigans right now," Anya said, and Spike hissed in dissatisfaction as Xander sat up and pulled his hands down off his neck - held them tightly in his own, crossed over his chest and trying to ignore the sniggering coming from Dawn.† He shot her a look of disapproval and she raised an eyebrow at him, *fondness* and *laughter* in the link.

††††††††††††††† *Thank fucking god her link is one way.*

††††††††††††††† "No.† Not going on the roof.† We're - uh - I think we need to go see how Buffy's doing on patrol."

††††††††††††††† "Buffy's right here, Xander," Tara said, tilting her head a little and it was true, Buffy had just come in the back door and was standing by the training room door, head cocked, listening.† "Maybe you do need to go up on the roof."† Tara's voice was mild but the glint in her eye was wicked and Xander closed his in utter frustration.† It didn't help that Ethan had apparently picked up on what was going on and was laughing quietly over his book.

††††††††††††††† *Spike...Spike...I love you and I want you but for fuck's sake can we NOT have...shenanigans in front of everybody?*

††††††††††††††† *That's the fun of it, pet - see how far we can get-*

††††††††††††††† *You'd go all the way right here if I let you.*

††††††††††††††† "Xander!† I'm shocked.† Not in front of the Bit!"

††††††††††††††† "Wha'?† No way I said that out loud -"†† Xander looked up at Spike, who was grinning down at him.† He reached and whapped half-heartedly at Spike's bicep.

††††††††††††††† "Stop it, evil undead."† Spike just smirked at him, showing fangs.

††††††††††††††† "Do I even want to know...anything?" Buffy said tiredly, coming over and dropping down onto the stairs.† There were grass stains on her knee and thigh, and a scuff of grave-dirt on her chin.

††††††††††††††† "I very much doubt it," Ethan said, looking over at her with a small smile.† "But if you like I can summarize.† School, research, nerves, sex," he said, pointing at Dawn, Tara, Anya and Spike and Xander in turn.† Buffy wrinkled her nose a little.† She was gradually coming around to the idea of Ethan being a part of the group - of him being important to Giles.† She didn't like it, but she wasn't actively causing trouble over it, which had frankly surprised Xander.

††††††††††††††† *Too tired, maybe.† She always looks tired.*

††††††††††††††† *It's tiring, being resurrected.*†† Spike fingers were wiggling in Xander's grasp but he held on resolutely.

††††††††††††††† "Well, I can't help with school, I'm too tired to research, I have no idea what Anya has to be worried about since she's rolling in the green stuff, and please don't tell me one single thing about the sex 'cause...† I'm actually just too tired."† Buffy was slumped on the stairs, her hands limp between her knees, and her voice flat.† She looked exhausted and depressed and Xander couldn't help but frown.

††††††††††††††† "I've got the school thing, if th-that's okay, Buffy," Tara said softly, and Buffy looked up at her and gave a wan sort of smile.

††††††††††††††† "Sure, Tara.† It'd be nice if one of us was actually learning something."† Buffy had had to miss Fall classes at UCS - the deadline for signing up had come and gone while she was in the ground - and she'd taken it hard.† Plus, the insurance money from Joyce's dying had suffered a severe dent from hospitals bills, and what was left was being nibbled away rather quickly by day-to-day stuff.† Mr. Summers' child-support was generous but Buffy insisted that half went into a college fund for Dawn - just like her mother - and there just wasn't much left over.† Tara was on student grants and loans and had even less to spare, and Willow was currently struggling with her parents long-distance to increase her living allowance.† They were paying all her expenses through school, but had assumed she'd be in the dorms and not in a four-person household.† They were being, as Willow said, real schmucks.

††††††††††††††† *Another thing that's really bugging her...† Wish there was something...*

††††††††††††††† *No wishes, love.† She'll be all right.*

††††††††††††††† *Easy for you to say.*†† Xander still wasn't completely happy about Spike bringing home - whatever he found, really.† Two days after the Hellions had come through he'd retrieved his pillowcase full of stolen goods and later had shoved a wad of cash big enough to choke a horse into the 'petty cash' jar.††

††††††††††††††† *'Course it is, love.† You take some of that and give it to the Slayer if it makes you feel better.† But you KNOW she won't like it.† Probably won't even take it.*†† Xander sighed, watching Buffy poke half-heartedly at the mud on the side of her boot with a stake.† Spike was right.† He just wished that he could do something for Buffy.

††††††††††††††† *Oh.† I can, actually.† Spike?*†† Spike took a moment, examining the suggestion Xander had put in the link.†

††††††††††††††† *Why not, love?† Can't hurt.*†† Xander lifted Spike's hands - kissed the knuckles and the long fingers.†

††††††††††††††† *Love you...*† †He took a long breath and looked over at Buffy.†† "Taisbean," whispered so softly.† Tara and Dawn didn't notice, Anya was intent on her paperwork and Buffy on her shoes.† But Ethan's head came up sharply and he stared at Xander, frowning.

††††††††††††††† "What are you up to, boy?" he murmured, and Xander felt Spike stiffen.

††††††††††††††† "Quiet, mage," Spike growled, and Ethan flicked a glance up at him but subsided, watching Xander.† Xander did his best to ignore the swirling mass of color and sparks and disturbance that was Ethan in the sight - he had no wish to see the Chaos mage's soul.† Instead he looked at Buffy.

††††††††††††††† At first glance, she seemed the same, with the endless shifting of past Slayers obscuring and then revealing her own features.† But the Slayers were different this time.† Instead of being alert - on guard, almost - they were passive.† Many had their eyes closed and they all seemed lost - sad.† Buffy's own soul was as white as always, but there was a strangeness about it.† There was a mark on the soul's forehead and it shone like a star.† And there was something else...a sort of ribbon, or line that came out of the center of Buffy's chest and twisted away into the air, thinning and vanishing a few feet away.† It seemed like...

††††††††††††††† *Like a tether?† A...line?† Is that - Spike, look -*† Xander put the image in the link and he felt Spike go very still - felt the vampire's fingers clamp down a little on his.† Buffy got up, saying something to Dawn, and the tether shifted with her, as if she were attached to some invisible thing.† It pulsed softly - pale and starry, and while Xander didn't feel anything particularly evil about it, it still didn't feel right.†

††††††††††††††† And Buffy - did not feel right.† The love was still there, for Dawn and for Giles - for all of them - but...† Buffy was tired - tired at heart, weary to her soul.† Sick of killing, sick of struggling, longing with everything in her to be...

††††††††††††††† *Oh god.† Spike, does she -*

††††††††††††††† *Seems, pet.† Seems she does.† Red...really fucked up.*†† For once, Xander had to agree.† Buffy was wishing that she was dead.



††††††††††††††† "This is going to cost a fortune," Buffy said glumly, looking down into the watery depths of her flooded basement.

††††††††††††††† "Well, maybe not a fortune -" Xander started, and Buffy rolled her eyes at him.† "Hey, I know some people who know some people...well, demons.†† I can get you a good deal."††† A demon corpse floated by like an overturned toy boat, bumping sadly against the stairs.† Buffy stared down at it.†

††††††††††††††† "Plus, I have to get rid of that...thing."

††††††††††††††† "Oh, I'll haul it into the sewers, pet, be gone in a day or so, no worries," Spike said, clumping down to the waterline and looking speculatively at the corpse.† He reached out with his toe and poked it, and the body shifted and started to float away.

††††††††††††††† "Grab it, quick!† There's no way I'm gonna wade through that mess to get it!" Buffy said urgently, and Spike sighed and put his foot onto the next step down - hauled the demon in by one horn.† It lay across the steps and dripped, and they all stared gloomily at it.

††††††††††††††† "Nasty thing.† Smells like a dog's bed.† What the hell is it again?"

††††††††††††††† "I dunno.† Dawn kept saying something about 'Mmm, cookies', and I could never figure out the actual name."† Xander turned and went up the stairs and after a moment Buffy and Spike followed.† They all sat around the kitchen island and Buffy made a face and pushed a pile of papers aside.

††††††††††††††† "God, I need a job.† There's too many bills and now - the Cookie demon smashes half my pipes."† Xander and Spike glanced at each other and Spike nodded, so Xander plunged in.

††††††††††††††† "Buffy, listen - I think I can help on the job thing.†† Manny said he'd be happy to take you on at the site.† It wouldn't be anything - well, it'd just be lift-and-carry kind of stuff, you know.† But it starts at twelve bucks an hour."† Buffy looked at him, frowning.

††††††††††††††† "Manny is the demon you work for, right?" she said, and there was a slight edge to her voice.

††††††††††††††† "Yeeah...† But he's the demon who kept your being - dead a secret and - he really helped me out with the house and everything.† Not all demons are bad, Buffy.† And if you worked with them you could kind of - show that the Slayer's not out to just - kill them all."† Buffy looked thoughtful at that - sighed and put her chin on her hand, staring at the counter-top.† "Besides," Xander added, looking at the pile of applications Buffy had shoved aside, "anything beats working at the Doublemeat."† Buffy made a face but nodded, then went back to staring at the counter.

††††††††††††††† "Things were so much easier when I -"†† She stopped abruptly and shook her head.

††††††††††††††† *Gonna say something, pet?*†† Xander looked over at Spike, who had one eyebrow up, looking at him thoughtfully.

††††††††††††††† *I...† Think I should?*

††††††††††††††† *Can't hurt.*

††††††††††††††† *You always say that.*

††††††††††††††† *Been right so far,* Spike smirked at him, and Xander smiled back.† He turned back to Buffy and reached out - touched Buffy's hand.

††††††††††††††† "Buffy - what's wrong?† Can you tell us, please?† You just - you seem so...sad."† Buffy looked at him, her eyes very wide and very distant.† She put her hand on his and squeezed gently, but didn't say anything.

††††††††††††††† "Haven't been to hell lately, Slayer, but I know a thing or two about it," Spike said softly, and Buffy blinked and looked over at him.

††††††††††††††† "Hell.† Oh...yeah.† You know, Willow keeps talking about that.† About how I - I must be so happy to be...out of hell and† Back home.† But..."

††††††††††††††† "But what?† Please, Buff..."† Buffy closed her eyes for a moment, and then she looked right at him, and he could see fear and longing, misery and resignation in her face.

††††††††††††††† "When I died...† I don't know much about the afterlife or...stuff like that.† But while I was dead, I was...happy.† I was warm, and comforted...everyone I loved was safe....† And I could just - rest.† I could just be.† I remember feeling - so peaceful.† Like when I was little and it would rain and I'd lie under the covers and know mom and dad were right down the hall..."† Her hand slipped away from Xander's and she lifted it to her face - touched her forehead, where Xander had seen the mark like a star.

††††††††††††††† "Someone kissed me.† I think - it was mom.† She kissed me and I knew everything was fine.† I could sleep, and dream...and it would all be okay, 'cause I was...done."† She looked at Xander again - looked over at Spike, and her eyes were wet and luminous with tears that didn't - wouldn't - fall.

††††††††††††††† "I think...† I wasn't in hell, and I wasn't being tortured.† I was happy.† I was - in heaven."



††††††††††††††† Heading home in Xander's truck, and Spike deliberately and thoroughly pushed visions of Willow wrapped in her own entrails out of his head.† The misery coming from Xander was too palpable - too much - and he wouldn't add to it for anything.†

††††††††††††††† *But fucking hell.† She had better tread lightly 'round me.† She's just - gone too far.*† Spike sat silently in the middle of the bench seat, shoulder and hip and knee pressed into Xander's, his hand on the human's thigh, feeling each shift of muscle as he drove.

††††††††††††††† *Love you...†† Family, Xander...we're family, we're safe and we're strong.† We'll - figure out something.† It'll be all right, love.*† Spike had never thought he'd find himself thinking of ways to help the Slayer, but her misery was Xander's misery, unfortunately.

††††††††††††††† *Heart like a great soft marshmallow.† Just wants to take and take and take, suck up all the bad.† You'll kill yourself, love - there's too much bad in the world.*

††††††††††††††† *Can't leave her like that.† Canít ignore it, Spike.† She's hurting so bad...† I don't know - what to do.† Should we tell Giles, do you think?*

††††††††††††††† *Dunno, pet.† Maybe think on it.† Talk to the wolf.† He always has a good idea.*

††††††††††††††† *Yeah.† Fuck, I just...*†† Xander sighed, and Spike knew what he 'just'.† He just wanted to be with his family - with Spike. He just wanted to hold and be held and be told that everything would be fine.† A great fat lie, but that was all right.† Spike had 120 or more years of lying under his belt, and he could do it as easy as that.† And he could start right now.† He turned his head and kissed Xander's cheek - his temple and the faint cross-hatch of lines that fanned out from his eye - legacy of days spent in the sun.

††††††††††††††† *It'll be fine, love, just fine.† Nothing we can't fix if we put our minds to it.† I promise, pet.*

††††††††††††††† *Promise?*

††††††††††††††† *Cross my heart, love,*

††††††††††††††† *And hope to die.*

††††††††††††††† *And hope to die.*




W.H. Auden - What's in Your Mind, my Dove, my Coney and Miranda's Song

Chapter five - Song of Solomon