Note: Thanks to my beta t_geyer for her unending patience, perseverance and support.
SECTION 4 - ELSEWHERE
I love the time and in between
The calm inside me
In the space where I can breathe
I believe there is a distance I have wandered
To touch upon the years of
Reaching out and reaching in
Holding out and holding in
This is heaven to no one else but me
And I'll defend it
As long as I can be
Left here to linger in silence
If I choose to
Would you try to understand?
(Sarah McLachlan, Album - Fumbling Towards Ecstasy)
Thanks also to Emma for suggesting this way back
when I started FTE, even if it did take me three
months to follow through.
Hope she's still reading.
Sunday, May 19th, 2002
Angel slid the envelope through his fingers. However, his mind wasn't really on it or its contents but on the previous night's futile search. Yet again, they had found a lead on the whereabouts of The Axis of Pythia, only for the trail to peter out far short of their goal. They had been looking for the axis for what seemed like months now. He couldn't believe that it was only a week since he had sought out Dinza, in hope of being able to locate Cordelia. He hadn't found the missing girl. He hadn't even managed to find the axis, which he had been told would help him find her. Yes, they knew where it would be in three months time. The picture on the front of the glossy auction house brochure taunted him. In three months, Cordy could be dead or worse.
Angel sighed and picked up a letter opener. Until they came up with a new avenue of investigation there was no more they could do for Cordy. If Wesley was right, which the vampire grudgingly conceded he normally was, she had literally disappeared off the face of the earth.
He pulled the thick pages from the envelope and read the words written within.
"What does it say... dad?" Connor still stumbled over the word but Angel appreciated the fact that he used it anyway. Some day, somewhere down the line he would say it without the hesitation, the way Angel had dreamed he would.
"Nothing. It's not important. He's gone for now. We can worry about him once we find Cordy."
Even Connor wasn't naïve enough to believe the vampire's platitudes. "Fine, Angel." The youngster turned and stormed from Angel's office, exiting the hotel in short order.
"You know, Angel-cakes, a big part of this whole family thing is trust. He's never going to accept you as his dad if you keep telling him you don't trust him," Lorne pointed out. "So what does it say?"
Angel hesitated for a second before tossing the heavy cream writing paper to the anagogic demon. "See for yourself." He jogged to the main door of the hotel, knowing he was already too late, but calling after his son from the doorway's shadow, just the same.
Xander rolled over in his sleep. The motion set off enough pain signals to his abused brain to end his period of blissful unconsciousness. He reached for Anya only to discover that her side of the bed was cold and empty. He reluctantly opened his eyes to look for evidence to explain her absence. The bright mid-morning sunlight made him roll instinctively, shielding his eyes with his forearm, as it streamed through the open blinds. This brought him face to face with the bucket Anya had placed on the floor next to his side of the bed the previous night. The sight and scent of semi-digested chocolate brownies mixed with both bile and the salt water Anya had made him drink after Buffy had left, brought on an attack of the dry heaves and refreshed his memory of the previous night.
Anya had been far from happy. Xander swiftly decided that his best course of action was to cultivate selective amnesia. Obviously, one of the other guests had slipped him some sort of Mickey Finn before loading his plate with the offending brownies. He had no memory whatsoever of searching Lily's cupboards for undemonised foodstuffs, or at least that was going to be his story when he spoke to Anya or anyone else for that matter. The tactic had already worked to get him out of one sticky situation when he was involved in that hyena possession incident. It would work again. Only this time, instead of possession, he would firmly blame the drugs... And who the heck mixed chocolate with other mood enhancing substances anyway? It all just went to show how right he'd been to mistrust these demon types in the first place. In fact, ten to one, if Anya hadn't got him out of there in time, some demon woman would have been forcing him to impregnate her before the end of the night. Xander Harris was like catnip to the demon babes after all...
The bedroom door pushed open and he heard his wife's voice gently say his name. "Xander, honey?"
"Ahn..." Xander whimpered in his own particularly nasal fashion.
"You're awake?" the former demon asked her voice solicitous in the extreme.
"Sure." As Xander's stomach recovered from its upset he decided to pre-empt any questions Anya might have. "What happened? I feel like I have the entire cast of a Buzby Berkeley musical rehearsing in my skull."
"You don't remember the party?"
"I remember going to the party. I remember meeting Spike's bella senorita, but that's about it. I think maybe someone spiked my drink. After that ... nothing. I coulda been doing the horizontal mamba with Clem for..." Xander paused as the image of him perhaps not getting naked with the wrinkly demon but certainly indulging in a manly hug returned to him. "...All I know."
"You poor thing. Let me take care of you," Anya crooned. "How about I make you breakfast for starters? ...I'll do all your favourites. You can have devilled kidneys, or maybe those kippers from the hamper Giles had sent from London. How about some blood sausage with nice fried tomatoes?"
Xander rolled over and tried to control his stomach once more as he clutched the pail with both hands out of reflex, even though he knew there was no more for his stomach to disgorge.
"You would do well to remember that I am neither an amnesiac nor an imbecile, Xander, and I do not appreciate it when my husband lies to me and besides you already admitted what you did last night. You embarrassed me in front of my friends with your gluttony and your bad manners. You should know better than to ransack someone's house when you are there as their guest. It's inexcusable. Your feeble story is insulting, both to my intelligence and to Lily and her guests. It's also in very poor taste given the current circumstances which I only hope you are genuinely unaware of because I'd really hate to believe that you were malicious rather than misguided."
Xander coughed a couple of times before he managed to ask, "What circumstances?"
"I don't know exactly. Willow might have poisoned Spike ...or not. Last I heard, Buffy and the Watchers were headed over to the Rosenbergs' to beat the truth out of her. Well, that's not exactly how Tara put it when I rang her to see if that other Watcher whose email I answered spoke to Giles, but you know Buffy when it comes to family..."
"What other Watcher? What do you mean family? Who's family?"
"Well, Spike, of course. You don't get much more family than a husband."
"She married him already?"
"No, silly, but I mean it's all over bar the ceremony. We all know Spike isn't going to do a disappearing act at the altar."
"Thank God!" Xander sighed his relief that Buffy's marriage was as yet not a fait accompli. "So how sick is he?" Xander failed to totally eradicate the glee from his voice. "Worse than I am?"
"No, Xander." Anya answered coldly. "I'm ashamed to say I don't think anyone could be sicker than you."
Bee and Brandon both pulled up outside the Summers' house within seconds of each other. Brandon cast an admiring eye over Bee's classic convertible. Its rich cream coloured curves effectively matched it to the same decade as the dress she had worn the previous night.
He let out a low whistle. "Nice wheels. Can't say I recognise the model, though."
"1953 Sunbeam Alpine Sports."
"Need a hand with those books?" Brandon asked as he saw the stack of reading material when Bee opened up the car's trunk.
"Thanks." Bee passed off the stack of heavy books to the boy, making him gasp at their weight before she walked round to the car's passenger side, lifting the end of Rupert's lead and opening the door for him to step out of the vehicle's passenger seat.
"You brought your cat?" the teen asked as Bee delicately shut the car's door behind the feline.
Bee sighed as if she'd had this conversation many times before. "I always take him with me when I'm working. I don't like leaving him on his own for long periods of time. He gets lonely. Besides he likes the drive."
"And he always comes on a lead?"
"Well, you don't think I'm going to carry him round in one of those silly baskets when he's perfectly capable of walking on his own four legs, do you? It's comparatively common for Siamese cats, you know. They're more intelligent than your average felines. Rupert knows that if we go somewhere, he needs to wear a lead or people will freak, but I'll take it off when we get wherever we're going. He doesn't mind... much. Well, he prefers it to being stuffed in a box."
Rupert led the way to the front door of 1630 Revello as Bee explained.
"I'd say you were insane, but judging by the car, I should say eccentric instead."
"Oh, the car was a birthday present from an adorable man who knows my tastes very well, but the truth is I spend money as fast as I make it, so feel free to say I'm a mad old coot."
"Mad maybe, but even from the dizzy heights of eighteen I wouldn't have used the word old."
"You're so-." Bee paused as a shrill scream rent the suburban Sabbath morning.
"Dawn!" Brandon dropped his cargo of precious books to the ground and dashed toward the front door, yanking it open when he got there. Bee skirted round the scattering of reference materials as quickly as she could in her high-heeled ankle-boots, following as closely behind the teen as she could manage. This still placed her third behind Tara in the dash for the stairs. Brandon rushed up the stairs three at a time, colliding full speed with Dawn as he reached the landing. Turning them, so that he was between her and the perceived danger, he watched along the corridor as he spoke.
"What is it? Are you okay? What happened? That scream scared the hell out of me."
"It was Spike. He's hallucinating and stuff. I don't think he knows what's going on or who anyone is."
"Did he hurt you?"
"No-o-o-o, Brand. Well, I guess my knee might bruise but you're not getting me. The scream? That was Spike! I kicked him, just like he taught me. Tara, we've got to get Buffy back here. That last phone call was from someone who says he knows what's wrong with Spike. He says unless Spike meets him alone within the hour he'll be dead before we can find out what's wrong with him. She is so going to kick this creep's butt."
"Glinda?" Spike groaned from his foetal position on the floor. Even in demon form Tara could see that the bruising she had witnessed earlier had spread to his face and extremities.
"It's me, Spike," the witch answered. "You know who I am?"
"Course I bloody know who you are, you silly bint. Where's the Bit?"
"She's just outside. Her and Brandon and your friend, Bee."
"Stubborn little madam. Get the kid to get her out. Now. She doesn't understand."
"Doesn't understand what?"
"That the monster wants blood. That he can smell her wounds and that he'll do anything to taste her. He knows her blood is strong enough to make him better, just like Buffy's. I can't keep telling her no. I can't fight the evil inside me and her as well. He has to take Bit away or I'll give her what she wants."
Unaware of the presence lounging on the bed, watching the scene and urging Spike along the path to damnation, Tara misinterpreted his words. "All she wants is for you to get better. That's what's important to her. That's all she wants."
Spike covered his ears, doing his best to block out what sounded to him like the gentle Wiccan bidding him to commit murder. "Get out!" he yelled at the witch. "Get out and get her out! Now!" Tara stepped back, more from shock at the vehemence of his words than out of any will to do as he said. She watched as Spike crawled along the floor to the armchair where he had left his duster the night before. Using the chair, he pushed himself to his feet and wrapped the leather around himself.
"Tinkerbell," Spike lowered his voice to somewhat less than normal conversational level, somehow making it seem all the more chilling. "Unless you want to share responsibility when I drain her dry, you will get that Andrew Eldritch wannabe that she calls a boyfriend to get her the hell out of the house, out of town and preferably out of the state before I leave this room. Am I making myself clear? You've got five minutes." He turned toward the bed. "And you know damn fine I'd do anythin' for you but will you take five minutes to think what Joyce'd have to say if she could see you now?"
Something finally clicked in Tara's brain as she saw for herself the way Rogue reacted to Spike's hallucinations. In fact, in retrospect even when Spike had been talking to her, Rogue had seemed to be trying to hold something or someone at a distance.
"Spike, if you feel that Dawn is in danger I will make sure that Brandon takes her away somewhere. Okay? But you can't go anywhere. You need to go back to bed."
"I got a place I need to be, luv. Seems I need to have a bit chat with some bloke."
"At least wait until Buffy can help."
"Buffy's got other things on her mind and this is my score to settle."
"Think about this. Dawn put you down on the ground."
"I'm not planning on letting the wanker kick me where she did."
"And you planned on letting Dawn do it?"
"Course I bloody did. You think if I'd really let him out that I could have put him back in his box? I had to let her do it. Now tell that daft bugger of hers to get her the hell out of here before Buffy talks me into doing something we'll both regret come morning. You've got five minutes at most before I leave this room and I don't know if it'll be me in charge of this body or the demon so you better get a move on."
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