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Somewhere In Between

I can't meet
Losing sleep over this
No I can't
And now I cannot stop pacing
Give me a few hours
I'll have this all sorted out
If my mind would just stop racing

Cause I cannot stand still
I can’t be this unsturdy
This cannot be happening

~ Lyrics by Lifehouse

Spike held Xander’s trembling body for a long time before the girls finally ventured into the room.

“Xander, we talked about it, and we think you really do need to see a professional,” Willow said in a tone that invited no argument.

“You can’t live like this, knowing this, and you need help with it,” Buffy agreed.

“Please just…” Xander started quietly.

“Fuck off,” Spike finished for him.

“We’re trying to help!” Buffy snapped at the vampire, her jaw set angrily.

“He’s our best friend, and he needs to listen to us,” Willow agreed, her voice gaining more of a lioness growl than a housecat.

“Fuck off now,” Spike reiterated.

“You’re the one making this worse on him,” Buffy gritted out. “He needs to do this, and he needs to do it soon.”

“You have no idea what Xander needs,” Spike growled deeply, standing to face off with the slayer. He actually agreed with Buffy about Xander needing to get help quickly, but the stress of the day was catching up with him, and he was itching for a good, bloody fight.

“And you do? You’re the one who set this off in the first place!” Buffy cried.

“Yeah, with all your growling and being a jerk, no wonder he’s scared!” Willow pitched in.

“Guys,” Tara started, trying to calm the shouting.

“If you bitches weren’t being so bloody pushy, I wouldn’t have to growl at you!” Spike snarled, all flashing fang and fury.

“Guys,” Tara tried again. She remained unheard, or at the very least ignored.

“We wouldn’t have to push if you’d let us get a word in edgewise with him without snarling at us!” Buffy accused.

Tara gave up, and simply went through the room into the bedroom, where Xander had escaped during the shouting, unnoticed. He was curled up on his bed, in a fetal position, his knees up against his chest as he stared blankly at the wall.

“Xander?” she asked him gently, moving toward him. He tensed visibly, and she discreetly moved to the chair beside the bed, instead of sitting on the bed with him.

“Kinda tense out there, huh?” she asked him after a moment of uncomfortable silence.

“I guess,” Xander replied, not taking his eyes off the wall.

“You’re getting kind of tired of all the questions, aren’t you?” she said with an ironic smile. The smile didn’t reach her eyes, however.

“I guess,” he repeated, still staring at the wall as if he could melt into it and be anonymous.

“I kind of understand what you’re going through,” Tara tried, hoping to get some response from him.

He waited a moment to answer. “I’m sorry for you,” he finally said, his voice as monotonous and quiet as his previous answers.

“Th-they just want to help,” Tara said, her eyes pleading with him to respond in some way.

“Yeah,” Xander said, his eyes finally moving from the wall. He didn’t look at Tara, though, but rather at the bedspread in front of his face, and his face was still emotionless.

“They…we all get that you’re hurting, and we want to help you,” Tara said, moving off the chair to the floor directly in front of it. She kneeled leaning slightly toward him, her eyes holding encouragement. “If you’d let us help, things could get better.”

“I don’t want them to get better,” Xander whispered quietly. Before Tara could break in, he spoke again. “I want them to already be better.”

“It’s going to take work, Xander. I think you know that. But, I think we’re all willing to wait for you to be ready,” Tara said, inching a little closer. Xander didn’t tense until she was right in front of him. “As soon as they’re done bickering, that is,” she said with a smile.

“I don’t want them to fight about me,” Xander replied, his voice full of misery.

“They aren’t.” Xander gave her an incredulous look. “Not really, I mean. They’re scared, and worried, and they’re just taking it out on each other.”

Tara put her hand out to pet his hair, and after the initial flinch, he allowed the contact. She stroked him gently, with a sad smile. “They’ll soon realize that you and I are in here, and they’ll stop fighting.”

As if on cue, Spike rushed into the room, followed by Buffy and Willow.

“All right, pet?” he asked with measurable concern.

“We’re sorry, Xander, we were just being stupid,” Buffy said before he could answer.

“Stupid us,” agreed Willow. Xander gave them a very small smile.

“I’m okay. I just needed a break. In fact…you guys should all go home. I could use some sleep.”

“We’re not leaving you alone,” Buffy stated stubbornly.

“I’m not leaving at all,” Spike added with a low growl.

“Spike’ll be here. You girls go. Sleep. You don’t look like you got much. Or any.”

“We’re fine,” Willow pleaded.

“Will…” Tara said, giving Willow a glance that told her lover that the guys needed some time alone. Willow stared back defiantly before her shoulders sagged and she moved toward Xander on the bed. His body tensed, so she stood back from him a little.

“I’ll call you tomorrow, okay Xan?” she said gently, giving him a patented Willow-in-pain smile. He nodded, a grateful look on his face.

“Thanks, Will. Bye,” he said.

“Buff?” Willow said, sending the slayer the same look Tara had given her. Buffy nodded reluctantly.

“Bye, Xander. Talk to you later. Try to get some sleep?” Buffy said.

“S’all I do,” Xander smirked. Buffy nodded and followed Willow and Tara, who waved at Xander one last time, out the door. They left the apartment, Spike trailing after them to lock the door. After a few minutes, he came back into the bedroom with two steaming cups of hot chocolate. The scent roused Xander, and he sat up.

“For me?” he asked, almost childlike.

Spike held the cup out to him, and Xander took it, and sniffed it before beginning to blow across the top of the mug. He inhaled again, obviously enjoying the scent of the comforting drink, as Spike took a small sip from his own mug.

“At least it isn’t so bad that you’re beyond hot chocolate help,” Xander snorted at Spike, who looked up over his mug at Xander’s dark eyes, holding the gaze for a moment before casting his eyes back at his mug.

“Didn’t say that, now did I?” Spike murmured.

“But usually, when things are really bad, you don’t even bother with hot chocolate and head straight for the Southern Comfort.” Spike smirked grimly, and held out his mug for Xander to smell. The aroma of the fragrant bourbon highly overpowered the chocolate. Xander let out a bark of a laugh that sounded too loud in the intense quiet of the room.

Xander took a sip of his own drink, noting that there was no bourbon in it. It made him feel a little miffed, as he wouldn’t mind drowning his sorrows this afternoon. But the memory of his father smelling like Jack Daniels elevated his heart rate, and his hand began to shake so much that Spike reached out and took it, setting it on the bedside table.

“Xan?” Spike said, looking into Xander’s face until he opened his eyes.

“I’m okay, Spike. Just…memories.”

“Wanna talk about them?”

No, he didn’t. At all. Ever. “Just…Dad drinks Jack.”

“Right, then.” Spike stood up, the quickness of his movements startling Xander. Spike went directly to the kitchen, and Xander followed, curious. He watched silently as the vampire poured his mug down the sink, then moved to the liquor cabinet and took the two bottles of alcohol, one Southern Comfort and one Jack Daniels, there, moved back to the sink, and poured them down the sink as well. He put the bottles in the trash bin under the sink, and turned to make himself another hot chocolate, using the hot water still in the kettle. He put marshmallows in, but no bourbon, as it was all down the drain. He turned back to Xander, and the two held a gaze filled with love and comfort.

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