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by Gypsy Gray

Willow's voice stopped him from falling into Spike's arms. Xander looked lost for a moment, as though he didn't know how to answer. But then he raised his head and looked into his mate's eyes. Giles' part in this little melodrama was over, but the others still hung in the corners of his memories. It was time to chase them out. There was only room for Spike and his family in his heart, it was too full to keep carrying around all this pain and grief. Xander took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and turned to face Willow. 
Her hair was long again, almost to the small of her back. And for the first time he was hit with how long he'd been gone. He almost reached for her, ready to hug her and have his friend back, wanting to get something back from what they'd had. But her eyes, they weren't his sweet Willow's worried about Xander eyes, they were eyes he'd seen on a thousand faces a night when he first arrived in New Orleans. They were hungry and greedy, eyes that wanted and meant to take whether anything was being given or not. 
"Hello Willow." 
"You shouldn't have just left like that. You made me worry. It wasn't very nice of you." 
Xander said nothing. He was studying her, trying to figure out what she wanted so badly. He knew it wasn't his body. It definitely wasn't his friendship. 
"I can't wait for you to move back to Sunnydale. You can help us like you always did, only now you know magic. So you can help more. Maybe we can even do some spells together." 
"So that's it." 
"What's it? Where are you gonna stay when you come back? You could stay with me if you wanted. I have a spare room. There's a cemetery near by for Spike." 
"Spike and I are going back to New Orleans when we finish here. And it, is that I figured out what your so desperate for." 
"Desperate? Xander make sense. Of course you'll come back home." 
"New Orleans is home. What happened to Tara? Oz and Spike told me about her. I've been wondering where she is. Did she run out of magic Willow? Didn't have anything left for you to learn?" 
"We split up. Things changed between us, that's all." 
"Giles first, then Amy, then Tara, and now you think I'll be fool enough to play this game." 
"Xander what are you talking about?!" 
"You used them all. For the magic. Except Oz. I believe you did care about Oz, but the magic was becoming more important even then. Giles saw it. He kept trying to get you to stop, maybe he was afraid you'd become another Ethan. You're not that far off from it are you Willow? Nothing's more important then the magic." 
Tears sprang into the red haired witches eyes, but they never dimmed that hungry light. Xander could've cried himself. Willow was dead. She'd been eaten up by this greedy little witch that wore her skin like an overcoat. There was nothing left to save with her, no friendship to be renewed. His Wills was gone. 
"Xander!! You apologize to Willow right now! You made her cry!!" 
Of course, Buffy. He couldn't forget her, she wouldn't allow it. Time hadn't changed the Slayer, she still looked like an anorexic three year old when she was angry. Self-centered and selfish, she couldn't set by and watch without getting to be part of the floorshow. Nothing in the world was suppose to happen if it didn't involve Buffy. Xander tried not to get angry. He'd forgiven Giles, he let Willow go, he shouldn't let the Slayer get to him. She hadn't done anything but be her usual self-absorbed childish self. But he felt his already over taxed nerves begin to fray. 
"I knew this would happen. Damn it Xander, why do you always have to be so stupid? You hurt Giles, and ran off for no reason. Then you let Spike get unchipped, and let him trick you and Oz and Wesley into this stupid mess, and now here you are making everybody cry and needing to be saved....again! What is wrong with you? Why can't you do anything right!?!" 
Spike tried to get to him, but he wasn't fast enough. Wes starting chanting a containment spell immediately, and Oz tried to haul Buffy out of the way. But Buffy wouldn't move. She never imagined she was in danger...not from Xander. So when the blast of magic slammed her against the ceiling, she wasn't prepared for it. 
Willow threw her hands up and began a spell to yank Buffy away from Xander, but Riley slammed into her like a football player. They went down in a heap and Riley rolled to his feet to stand between Xander and the witch. Angel looked away from the Slayer and buried his head in Doyle's neck. The half demon took Cordelia's hand and led his family to the farthest corner of the room. 
"You arrogant bitch!! Who the fuck do you think you are?!! Why can't you ever mind your own fucking business?!!!" Each questioned finished with Buffy being slammed into the ceiling. Her already bleeding head was now splattering the room in gore. Spike grabbed his mate, putting his hand over the warlock's eyes broke the spell and Buffy would've crashed onto the floor if Riley and Oz hadn't caught her. Wesley laid hands glowing a soft blue on Xander's forehead and the struggling body slumped and went still. 
"He's asleep. I'm not very good at this particular spell, it will only last an hour or two." 
"S'fine Wes." 
Spike was grateful to the ex-watcher for his quick thinking, but he had no attention to spare for anyone but his mate. The vampire lifted the lax body in his arms and carried him to their room. Laying him on the bed and crawling in beside him, the blonde cradled his love close. He could only hope the Slayer lived, it would hurt his Xander terribly if she didn't. But live or die, when they finished this....none of his family would ever come back to this place. Ever.