Dream of the Devil

"Spite me, shall they? I'll show them spite...." The young demoness bent closely over a cauldron, borrowed for the night, for the purpose. Considering carefully as she prepared the potion the one whose interference owed the most wrath, the one whose cause for celebration should be most quelled. Considered and rejected three of the four, one for whose powers would seek dear revenge, one for whose strength out-did her own – a spell as such she could cast would scarcely cause a turn. The third, considered and rejected only for the appeal of the fourth. Though the one might be sport, there was dear sport to be found in the other. This last. This sleeping young man about to wake....

Or not.

Xander peeked out from under the blankets at the annoying clock-radio singing half-static and half-rock music, telling him he was going to be late by the time he dragged himself out of bed for school. True, if he clambered to vertical now, he'd have plenty of time. He lay there for a moment, warring urges for a long drink of water, a pee, and sleep, all vying for his vote. Slapping down on the fifteen-minute rigged snooze, he lowered his head and returned to sleep, with barely an awareness of his surroundings.

Until something slapped his leg. Jumping upright, one hand snaking under the pillow for the cross kept stashed for safety, he whirled around to face his... Spike? Xander groaned, and let himself fall back onto the pillow. "I thought vampires slept during the day."

"We do, mate. We do. But only when someone isn't hogging the entire bed. Come on, shift over." The bed dipped as Spike crawled onto it, and Xander felt the vampire's hands pushing him none-to-gently. He groaned again, and knew that the only way to get any peace was to do as bid and get out of bed. He didn't feel like giving in so easily, however, and resolutely kept his eyes shut and his body back in its comfortable position beneath bedclothes.

Then his eyes opened again. Spike? In his bedroom? He looked over to find the vampire grinning at him from only a few inches away, cheerfully waiting for him to make the next move.

Xander blinked as he realised Spike was wearing only shorts. "Gah!" Xander propelled himself backwards, out of bed and onto the floor – which he discovered was cold, hard, and concrete. His bedroom turned out to be the basement, decorated in half-hearted attempts to make storage space look livable.

"What are you doing?"

It was a reasonable question. One he wished he could answer. A minute ago he'd been safely asleep in his bedroom – bedroom, upstairs – waiting for the last chance before being completely unable to avoid another day of the tenth grade. Now he was in his parents' basement with a barely-dressed vampire. A friendly barely-dressed vampire who normally only toyed with his victims before, well, making them his victims.

Xander looked around for the cross he'd dropped, and couldn't find it anywhere.

"Need help?"

He barely gave Spike a glance – he didn't trust that tone. That helpful, cheerful, why don't you turn your back to me so I can attack you properly tone of voice. Xander settled for scuttling backwards across the clothing-strewn floor, until his back came smack up against a wall. "What...what...what...."

It wasn't his most coherent demand, nor even his wittiest. It seemed to suffice, because Spike looked at him with a faint bit of worry, before crawling across the bed towards Xander – and stopping as Xander tried to press himself farther inside the wall. His face cleared, a tiny bit. "Is this a game? You haven't told me the rules to this one, luv. 'Wake up to find myself in bed with a nasty vampire who's going to ravish me'? Is that it?"

Xander felt all the blood drain from his body, pooling, he hoped, in a safe location miles distant. "Buh-bah-beh...." He had no idea what he was trying to say. Neither did Spike.

The vampire tilted his head to one side, silent for a moment. Then his face changed into something eerily resembling concern. Xander felt faint. "This isn't a joke, is it?"

"Joke? Joke!? Oh god, please let it be a joke." Xander wanted to close his eyes to pray, but didn't dare take his eyes off Spike.

Spike started towards him again and stopped when Xander flinched backwards; he sat on the edge of the bed and regarded Xander carefully, thinking. "I think," he said finally in a soft, serious voice, "I had better call Tweedybird."

Xander didn't move a muscle as Spike got off the bed, moving away from him, and went to the phone. He moved only his eyes, watching as Spike dialed a number and began speaking to someone Xander hoped he didn't know.

"I'm not sure. He's gone all buggy on me. Acts like he hasn't a clue who I am."

"I know who the hell you are, Spike," Xander half-yelled, half-choked. It occurred to him that this was his chance; he scrambled for the bed and began searching, frantically. A cross, a stake, anything.

"I don't really know," came the calm but worried voice of the vampire. Then there was an undignified snort. "Look, I wouldn't be bothering you if that's all it was. Like I need your critique of my sex life."

His what? Xander stopped in his search, unable to decide if he wanted to look over to verify he'd heard what he'd heard, or pretend it wasn't happening and where were all his protections? No cross, no stakes, no nothing! What was he, vamp-pet boy? His hands flung to his neck, but he couldn't feel any wounds. No pin-prick holes telling him just who was doing what to whom....

But he still wasn't safe, and he still had no clue what was going on. He heard Spike saying, "Great. We'll be here," and then the phone was hung up. Xander spun around, pressed up to the headboard, and stared back as Spike regarded him.

"We're going to wait." Spike crossed his arms in front of him, looking for all the world like someone who hated waiting. "In the meantime, neither of us is going to do anything."

"Does that include no killing the human?" He was impressed he'd said it intelligibly, no stammering. Or pleading.

But Spike's eyes went wide, and something – something peculiar – happened to his expression. Then he said quietly, "It means no killing the human."

Xander wondered if he were still asleep, because that was the only way to explain the bizarre sensation that the question had upset him.


They remained on opposite sides of the room for nearly twenty minutes. Neither had tried to move; Xander kept glancing around for something he could use to stake Spike with, and found a disturbing lack of sharp wooden pointy things. Each time his gaze snapped back to Spike, he found the vampire watching him, a resigned look on his face.

"I'd offer to fetch you one, but I'm afraid you'd use it," he said at length, startling Xander.

"How did—" He didn't want to know. A moment later, he didn't have to ask, because someone was knocking on the outside door. Spike went to open it, and stepped back to admit Giles.

Xander was half a step away from leaping off the bed to go towards – possibly behind – Giles, when he realised that if the Watcher had come in response to Spike's call....

"Hello, Xander," Giles was nodding at him, smiling ever so slightly. Then he looked at Spike. "What, exactly, seems to be the problem?"

"Look at him!" Spike pointed, unhelpfully.

Giles looked, Xander looked back. Xander wanted to ask him if he'd brought anything useful, but Spike was standing right next to him. Why hadn't he brought Buffy, anyway? What was going on?

"Hmm. It doesn't seem to be his usual behavior, does it?" Giles was regarding him with a slight frown, but he still sounded confused.

"Usual behavior? If he'd had a stake under the pillow I'd be dust right now!" Spike snapped, petulantly.

Xander blinked. Petulantly? Spike?

Giles stepped closer, and when Xander didn't move away, the other man continued over. "Xander? Um, how do you feel?"

"Confused. Why is Spike in my basement? Why am I in my basement? Why are you being nice to him?" Xander heard his voice rising, and tried to clamp down on it. He settled for glaring, to further his point.

"Why is...? Um, well, Xander, I'm not exactly sure...oh. Oh, dear."

It wasn't clear to Xander if he should be reassured by the fact that Giles seemed to have figured something out, if he should be worried by the fact that he didn't seem all that worried about it, or if he should just be freaked by the fact that Spike was hovering behind Giles.

"What 'oh dear'?" Spike demanded, saving Xander the bother.

"Well, do you recall what that demoness said last night? Right before we banished her?"

'We'? Xander thought. ''We' as in you, myself, and Spike?'

"Yeah, she said what they all say – 'I'll get you, my pretties!' or something like that. Doom, gloom, and revenge. They all say it." Spike blinked. "You mean she whammied Xander? Made him forget who I am?"

"I told you, I know who—" Xander was interrupted by Giles' placing his hand on his arm, comfortingly.

"It's all right, Xander." Then he spoke to them both. "I'm not exactly sure what she's done. We'll have to check him over. But it's clear she has done something. Xander... what is the last thing you remember? What is it you were expecting to find when you woke up this morning?"

With a distrustful glance at Spike, who was staying safely – for him – on the other side of Giles, Xander replied, "I remember we were at the Bronze last night. Me, Willow, Buffy, Cordelia. It was a quiet night, and I got home around ten. Pretended to do some homework – sorry, G-man – and fell asleep. In my bedroom. I woke up, here. With him. Dressed like that." He wanted to point. He wanted to demand that Giles make the vampire put some clothes on.

He wanted to ignore the part of his brain which was getting used to seeing Spike mostly naked.

"Ah. I see." Giles sighed, and said nothing more illuminating.

"See what?"

"It seems... I wonder if I should tell you this at all, actually."

"Tell me!" Xander yelled, leaning forward and grabbing Giles' arm... only to look over Giles' shoulder at Spike, who'd yelled the same thing, and was holding onto Giles' shoulder.

"Yes, well," Giles disentangled himself. "It would appear that Xander has... lost a couple years. At least one. As many as three. If he believes he is still in high school—"

"Believes he's still in high school? I am in high school. Giles," Xander took a hold of the librarian's arm once more. "I am. High school, Sunnydale, California, and I'm," he glanced over again. Spike looked so worried.... "I'm one of the good guys. We kill vampires," he ended, weakly.

Fortunately Giles was nodding. "Yes, those things are all true. Well, they were true, when you were still in high school. Xander," he spoke over the attempted outburst, "You've simply forgotten. You're nineteen, now, and Spike is one of the good guys, too." Giles stopped, and looked up. "Well, no longer one of the bad guys. Exactly. When it was still only the chip the fact was still rather debatable."

Spike growled, then gave Xander a cheeky grin. Xander 'eeped' and tried to crawl backwards inside the wall, again. But Giles was right there, talking again, sounding as if there were every reason in the world to believe what he was saying.

"We had an encounter with a rather nasty demoness last night. We sent her back to whence she came, but before she left she swore revenge. It would seem that toying with your mind is part of it. Hmm. We should find out what else she's done. We'd better call Buffy, and Willow, and the others."

"Others?" Xander asked, opting to not think about what had to have changed, for Spike to be a good guy, 'sort of', and for Giles not to think it odd that they were sharing a room. "What others?"

"Get dressed. This could take some time," was all the reply he got.


When they arrived at what Xander was told was Giles' apartment, they found everyone else there already. Buffy and Willow were there, looking almost but not quite like themselves. There was a guy standing near Buffy whom Xander didn't know, and a woman standing beside Willow. She seemed oddly familiar, though he knew he'd never seen her before.

He wanted to ask where Oz and Cordelia were, but hesitated to do so. If they were still part of the group, they'd be here, or someone would have mentioned they were on their way. Right? Xander kept quiet throughout Giles' explanation of what he surmised had happened.

Then, before they could go about breaking whatever had been done, they had to first figure out what exactly was wrong.

"This won't hurt a bit," Willow told him, smiling in that same, sweet way, the obvious aging in her eyes making Xander want to blink rapidly to make it go away. But he sat there and let Willow talk him into a hypnotic state, so they could check him out for spells. He got one last good look at her, had time to think the short hair looked good on her, then there was blackness.


"You gonna sleep through this?" came a soft voice at his ear. Xander moaned softly, feeling warm and comfortable and utterly uninterested in moving.

The person spooned up behind him moved closer, squeezing them together more, and Xander was suddenly very awake. There was a naked male person behind him, and it was murmuring to him in Angel's voice.

Xander wondered if Willow's hypnosis had dredged up long and deeply repressed fantasies. If so, it was remarkably... real. Angel shifted his hold, bringing one arm up around Xander's chest, and Xander realised he was naked, as well. Naked, and obviously very interested in what the equally interested naked vampire was doing. Xander moaned again, but tried to shift away.

Angel followed easily, helping roll him onto his back, then leant down to kiss him. Any thought Xander had of fleeing for reality was shattered by the feel of Angel's lips on his. He found himself reaching for more, even as his brain tried to kick itself back into gear long enough to demand where 'here' was. Xander put his hands one Angel's sides, stealing the moment to feel what he'd hardly dared let himself admit he wanted to feel.

And Angel was pressing down on him, giving him clear and open access to everything he could reach. Xander gasped when Angel broke the kiss, and for a moment only pressed his face against Angel's shoulder. He felt a hand come up behind his head, holding it there.

"Xander?" His voice was rough, but soft.

"Gimmie a minute. I woke up... a little disoriented." He tried to ask himself why he was doing this instead of jumping out of bed and demanding answers. Why this, now, when he hadn't when it had been Spike leaning over him, eager and sexy as hell-- Xander shivered, and Angel moaned, kissing his way down Xander's neck.

Xander tried to use the time to think, letting Angel explore parts of his body which had never really been erogenous zones... oh god, until now, what was he doing? Xander's eyes rolled back in his head as Angel did something with his tongue and what had to have been the tips of his fangs. Squirming, he tried one last time to remind himself that this was not right, this couldn't be real, then Angel moved to a new spot and all Xander could do was groan aloud.

"Oh, god, oh, Angel, do that again," he gasped, hands clenching at the body above him, promising himself that he would get to the bottom of this later, first thing afterwards. Angel pressed a leg between his and pushed himself up a bit, looking down at him, fully vamped out.

"I thought I told you not to call me that," the vampire growled. Then he descended again, and latched onto Xander's neck.

"An..." Xander felt the fangs sliding into his skin, felt himself shiver once in arousal – then in fear, as he felt the blood beginning to be pulled from his body. "Angelus...."


"Xander? Xander, wake up."

He didn't want to. His neck hurt, and he didn't want to open his eyes and find someone standing over him with a stake and a cross.

"Xander, come on!" Buffy sounded less patient this time, and Xander could picture her glaring at him, with that mock I'm-annoyed-with-you frown.

'Buffy?' Xander cautiously opened his eyes and found Buffy standing over him, looking slightly annoyed... and younger than he'd last seen her. He looked around and found himself in someone's bedroom. Not his, even if it did look like all his stuff scattered everywhere. But not his... and why would Buffy be in his bedroom, anyway?

Unless this were another dream. He grinned. Then he remembered the last... whatever it had been, and his smile vanished. "You gonna stake me?" he asked, and it occurred to him that if he had to be turned to dust, he was glad Buffy was the one to do it.

"Stake you? Why, you turn into a vamp in the middle of the night? Come on, mom's got breakfast waiting and you know dad won't wait for us if we're late. I don't wanna walk to school – again."

She turned and left the room, leaving Xander sitting up in bed trying once again to figure out – what the hell. He sat there for nearly five minutes before he heard Joyce Summers' voice calling out, "Xander! Get a move on!"

The maternal voice spurred him out of bed and towards a pair of jeans before he had time to consider why Buffy's mom was downstairs making breakfast. As he pulled on what he hoped were clothes clean enough to pass for clean, he realised that if he were over at Buffy's house... because his own had, what, burned down? then maybe it made sense.

Maybe.

Probably not. He did know that he wouldn't know until he went down and found somebody to ask. He stopped long enough to use the bathroom, and verify that yes, the reflection in the mirror was him, and not an invisible vampireboy's reflection. 'Take that, Angelus,' he thought, and left the incident to wondering why it had happened at all. And where. And when. And why, how, who....

He hurried down the stairs and found Joyce and Buffy setting plates of pancakes on the kitchen table. He recognised it as Buffy's house, now, and decided that questions could wait 'til after food.

"Morning, dear," came a voice. The voice's owner came into the kitchen, gave Joyce a kiss, and Buffy a one-armed hug. Xander stared.

"Giles?"

Giles turned towards him, a very faint frown not quite appearing. "I thought you weren't going to call me that anymore," he said.

"I thought I wasn't going to call you 'G-man' anymore."

"Yes, well, that too. Xander, are you feeling all right?" Giles came over and pressed his hand against Xander's forehead. "You don't feel warm."

"I'm very confused. Does that count?" Xander dropped his fork, food forgotten... more or less. He was still hungry, but he was having thoughts of fairy food, and bad things that happened if you ate in hell. He didn't want to be stuck in hell forever, just for a few pancakes.

"Confused? How so?" Giles sat down beside him, looking him over in a very intimate way. Xander wanted to squirm.

"Confused like I don't know what the hell I'm doing here?"

With that, all three worried expressions that had been facing him, turned into understanding and concern. Still concern; Xander didn't know why everyone kept looking at him like they cared so badly. Giles rested a hand on Xander's arm, mirroring the touch Xander remembered from that nightmare in his parents' basement. "Xander, it's all right. You can take all the time you need; you know that."

And everyone went back to their breakfast. Joyce asked Buffy about her training the evening before, and she and Giles both began explaining some new something they'd come up with.

Xander just stared. Finally Joyce met his gaze. "Xander, honey? Are you OK?"

"No, I'm not OK!" He jumped to his feet. "What is going on? What is up with all this?" He wanted to know where he was. Why he was here, and not with Angelus, or Spike, or in his own room in his own house where he belonged.

Giles followed him up, holding onto his arms and waited for Xander's outburst to end. Then, in a soothing tone, he said, "Xander, we know it's going to be difficult. It's only been six months, and you've done remarkably well adjusting. I know it must still seem hard to believe, but believe me. Believe all of us. This is your home, we are your family, and every one of us loves you as if you'd been our son and brother all along."

Xander blinked. That one, he had not been expecting. "S-son?"Well, if Giles and Joyce had married, and adopted him, that would make sense. Didn't jibe with any known reality, but it did make sense.

Giles smiled kindly at him. "You said you didn't mind if I called you that. I do understand if you've changed your mind about calling me 'dad', though I do rather like it."

Xander felt his world tilting slightly beneath him. "D...dad?" he whispered, trying desperately to remember how any of this could have happened. He hated to say it, for fear it would make it cease to be true. But he couldn't let them pretend... "But I don't remember any of this."

"What?" from all three, and Giles was now looking into his eyes, as if searching for something.

"Damn it, it was a concussion," Giles muttered, and Joyce was going over to the counter and picking up her purse. "We'd better take him back to the hospital, and get him checked properly this time. Xander, does your head still hurt?"

"I... no, it... it's spinning a little," he admitted. He felt Buffy take his arm, and Giles stood on his other side.

"Don't worry, Xander. We'll take care of you," Buffy announced, and Xander found himself believing her.

"You've probably just lost a few months, it makes sense, after the head injury you got—" Giles' angry words cut off, and Xander peered up at him. With a sigh, Giles asked, "Do you remember the concussion you got last autumn? The one your... your father gave you?"

Bewildered, Xander only nodded. It hadn't been a concussion, only a headache that had lasted for two weeks and made him throw up. OK, sure, some folks would call that a concussion, but concussions got you sent to the hospital. Xander had had a headache, and was grumpy until it went away.

But no one had found out about it.

Hadn't they?

He looked around the kitchen, even as they were herding him gently to the door. He found himself gripping Giles' and Buffy's arms, hard as he could. "Is this real?"

Giles looked at him, eyes full of sorrow and warmth, all mixed in together. "Doesn't it feel real?"

Xander stopped, returned the stare for a moment, then he shut his eyes and dove forward, into Giles'... his dad's embrace.


"Easy, now. Let's get you someplace clutter-free."

He felt his heart hitting his stomach even as he opened his eyes. At this rate, he was never going to close his eyes again.

"Oz?"

"Here."

He found his friend helping maneuver him through piles of what could only be charitably called clutter, towards what Xander hoped was furniture. Xander let Oz guide him, and lower him down onto the chair. He looked around, not recognising where he was, and wondering if it was worth it to ask.

Oz left him there, and returned a moment later with a washcloth and a small bottle. Xander took the bottle, which turned out to be aspirin, and swallowed two while Oz began cleaning his neck. Xander didn't ask. He tilted his head out of the way, and didn't ask.

He felt the pain then, spreading through his neck and down his spine, and up into his skull. He didn't think two aspirin would do it, but didn't bother taking more. When Oz moved away, tossing the cloth behind him, Xander finally looked at him. "Thanks."

Oz nodded.

Xander waited. He had never been very good at knowing when he was supposed to just be silent to Oz' silences, and when he was supposed to fill the space with noise. He didn't know what he should have been saying, though, so he figured silence would do.

He wanted to know where everyone else was, Buffy and Willow and Giles; for that matter he wanted to know what year it was. But he was afraid to ask. Afraid to find out he was nearing thirty, the only survivor of the Sunnydale Slayerettes, being tended to by a werewolf who didn't age after... being mugged. Or hit by a car. Or...

"Oz? What happened? Where is everybody?"

Oz didn't look surprised by the question. He did leave the room, however, and returned a moment later with a small bottle of water. He uncapped it and passed it over.

"This can't be good. I ask a not-so-simple question, and I get water. If you'd handed me chocolate, I'd be seriously wigged right now." He looked up in time to see Oz half-smile, and holding a candy bar in his hand.

"You don't want this?"

Xander just looked at his friend – whom he hoped was his friend and not some nightmarish version of his friend. "Come on, man, tell me," he asked quietly.

"What's to tell?" Oz shrugged, and slide sideways onto the couch, and began unwrapping the chocolate. Xander watched him, wondering what he was supposed to do next. Ask for a candy bar? Ravish his best friend's love interest? Go vamp and kill him?

Oz was watching him, then suddenly his eyes narrowed. "Xander."

"Oz," Xander replied, when there was nothing more forthcoming.

Oz nodded."Thanks."

Xander blinked. This was definitely surreal. "For what?"

"Vampire."

Xander blinked again. In Oz-speak, this usually meant... "Vampire?"

Oz's eyes narrowed again, and he added, "You staked him."

"Oh." This explained nothing. "Good for me."

But Oz was nodding, and returned his attention to the chocolate bar. Xander wondered if there was a second bar in this dream somewhere. He took a drink of the water instead, and found the cool liquid soothing the thirst he hadn't realised he'd had. They sat there in companionable silence until long after the water and the first, and second bars of chocolate were gone. Then Oz stood up and left the room, returning this time with a thick blanket. He handed it over to Xander, who took it with a raised eyebrow.

"You're staying?" It was a question, and yet it wasn't. Sometimes he stayed at friends' houses, when he could. Sometimes he snuck down to the park and sleep outside – only on warm nights, and less so after the hyena thing made it feel too comfortable. When they'd been young enough that no one cared, he'd stayed at Willow's house, tucked up in a pallet of blankets between her bed and the wall farthest from the door.

"Yeah." He waited as Oz cleared off the couch, then went over and laid down. It was comfortable, surprisingly so. It looked to be a hundred years old, and should have been all frame and springs. But it was soft, and wide enough to roll over on, and Xander soon found himself lying in the dark alone, trying desperately not to fall asleep.

So far nothing weird had happened. Nothing good, nothing bad, nothing weird. He was afraid to hang around and find out what would happen – maybe Oz would bite him. Maybe he'd get kidnapped by the band and forced to play the keyboards at disco clubs. He was more afraid of closing his eyes, though, and opening them to find himself yet again, somewhere else.

He didn't understand what was happening. He knew, though he wasn't sure how, that none of this was real. Dreams, hallucinations, drugs or spell, he didn't know. But nothing meshed with what he remembered of his life before that first time he woke up in the basement with Spike. He'd been just a normal high school boy, who helped slay vampires and demons with his friends. They'd been out doing so, the night before, and had won, driving the demons back into hell.

Ever since, he'd been skipping around from dream to dream....

Xander sat up, breath panting loudly in the darkness. Something must have happened. The demons must have done something to him, before they left. A spell, or a rock to the head, and now he was dreaming all of this....

He started to jump up to find Oz, tell him they needed to find Willow and Giles. But this was a dream, too, and getting help here wouldn't help. He sat back down and started to close his eyes so he could concentrate, and stopped himself just in time. Eyes flying wide open, and frantically looked around. Nothing seemed to have changed. But it was dark; how much could he tell?

Pretty soon something weird would happen, he reminded himself. The long this dream goes on, the better chance I have of becoming Oz' houseboy. Or snack.

Xander shivered. He had to get out of here. He had to wake up. But how? He tried the usual remedies – pinching, telling himself to wake up, wake up, wake up. The room stayed dark, and he remained on the couch in Oz' living room.

Maybe Giles and the others were working right now to save him, pull him back from this dreamworld. But how long would it take? Hadn't it been a couple days already? He tried to count back the mornings and nights he'd lived through, but the days' hadn't progressed normally. Each dream had been a different time of day – a different year. He had no way of knowing.

He sat for awhile, then, waiting patiently. He tried to imagine – as best he could with his eyes open – Willow, searching for him with a spell. Maybe if he reached out, he could help them find him. Wake him up.

He tried to be as receptive as he could, but nothing happened. The room stayed dark, the couch remained underneath him.

He sat there for what felt like hours, waiting. Talking to himself silently, reminding himself what had been real, last. The night before Angelus was real. Wasn't it? No, it was before that, before Spike – how could that be real? Xander laughed once, and realised he had been growing tired. He was silly-tired now, thinking of how eager Spike had been to crawl on top of him and molest him, probably drink his blood as well in what would have been an erotic ritual between them.

Xander shook his head and pinched himself again to stay awake. Or wake up, rather.

He had to wake up...he had to. Otherwise he was going to be forever at the mercy of these dreams, and he knew they would drive him mad, eventually. If not from being in them, than from being torn out of them....

The night went on, and Xander began to think that he wasn't going to be wakened. As son as he closed his eyes, he'd be whisked away to the next dream. He found himself shaking, and pulled the blanket tighter around him. Where would he go next? What else could be waiting for him? He didn't want to know. Whatever was doing this to him... he didn't want to know. As the night moved on and he found it harder to keep his eyes open, he knew he had to do something.

He didn't know how to get back to his reality. He didn't know what was happening, or how to stop it. He didn't even know where he was, how whoever it was, was flinging him from dream to dream. If it had his mind, or his body....

Xander shivered again. The realisation that someone had control of him such that they could control what he saw, what he heard... could they control what he believed? Was one of these dreams actually real, and he just couldn't recognise it?

How could he even begin to judge?

Xander stifled what felt like a whimper, and clenched his fists. He had to stop this. He had to regain control of his mind before it was too late. He couldn't do anything here, wherever here was. He couldn't go wake Oz and demand they go see Giles. He couldn't scratch at the walls in hopes of tearing them down so he could see into the next imaginary vignette.

All he could do was find something he could believe was real. He had no idea what that could be. Everything had seemed real, at the time. Bizarre, yes, but it had felt more real than dreams ever did. He suspected that the dreams would get longer until he found himself convinced it was real before being ripped from it and thrust into something else.

Like now. Like this dream, leaving him here in the apparent safety of a living room, alone and perfectly normal. Xander looked around, wondering if the next dream was simply waiting for him to close his eyes. He was tired, it wouldn't take much to fall asleep if he just leaned back a little...

Xander shook himself. No sleeping. No dream-sleeping. No eye-closing. Eye-closing was bad.

This wasn't going to work. Eventually he would have to fall asleep. As soon as he did, he'd wake up in another reality. Another fake-life.

Dad.

Xander knew he had to get himself out. A thought formed, and he considered it more closely. It frightened him, but as the thought grew more detailed, he realised it would work. It might work; if not he'd be no worse off than he was now. But he could go somewhere in his own mind – dreaming or not, he could go and nothing outside himself could stop him.

Nor could it follow. He'd know of the possibility ever since he'd touched it. Known and always done so well to ignore it, to the point he'd almost forgotten it could be done. Once possessed, there was always some sort of connection, just waiting to be reasserted.

He left his eyes open, for this it didn't matter. He remembered, and opened his mind to every memory he had repressed. Every memory he had filed away under 'not to worry about, never going to happen'. Xander let the memories wash over him until he reached that one, that first one. The memory of stepping into his body, as the spirit took him over with a whisper of greeting and welcome.


Opening his eyes, he felt again a leg kick him. He growled, and laid his head back down. It was too hot, middle of the afternoon, to worry about things like a pack-mate kicking him during a nap. Later, they would wake and head out for the hunt, following the herd of zebras they'd been tracking off and on for days. He closed his eyes, and slept.

When the temperature had dropped a bit, the pack headed out. Laughing and calling out, they ran through the tall grass, following the scent of their prey.


"Where is he?"

"Don't know. I left him right here."

"He didn't tell you he was leaving?" Giles asked, worriedly.

Oz just shrugged. "I thought he was asleep."

"Ah well. He'll turn up later, I'm sure."