*Scent: ozone after a storm.  Words: skitter, lemondrop.*


Willy had told them and at first none of them had believed him, because why should they?  But it was true.  In one three-day weekend - Presidents Day, actually - they'd actually shut the Initiative down; packed up and moved out.  They were gone.   And more than that - it was like they'd never been.  As far as the Scoobies could tell, the secret installation under the university had been filled in and the caves scoured of any and all refuse Adam might have left behind.  The cameras, the bugs, the soldiers - all gone.  And, Willy said, all their hardware.  He said it with a lift of his eyebrow and a look and after a minute they got it.  Incredibly, out of the fear of possible discovery, they'd rounded up all the 'hostiles' still around with chips and taken them out.  No more chips.  And Xander was quietly freaking out, because Spike had been gone for days.


So, him and Oz looking for Spike, because they'd found a few of the 'fixed' hostiles and the surgeons had done something else.  Had deliberately damaged them.  Buffy was engaged in the grim task of putting mentally unhinged, pathetically helpless demons out of their misery.  And Xander was frantic to find Spike.

It had rained all day and just tapered off in the last fifteen minutes and he and Oz were soaking wet, squishing through the cemetery towards Spike's crypt.  Going to start there and work their way out.  The air was thick with the smell of mud and wet, rotting leaves and the burnt-lemon smell of ozone from a last spear of lightening that had blown a transformer three blocks away.  They pushed the crypt door open slowly, so slowly, ready to duck and cover, but there was only the dry skitter of skin over stone, and Xander knew. 


He crouched down, duck-walking carefully over to the hunched form that twisted away from him.  Torn jeans, no shirt, duster covered in mud, no boots.  Hair shaved off, and blood, and a clumsy bandage half-ripped away.  Spike snarled at him, then whimpered, his hands clutching his head, his shoulders coming up like little folded angel's wings around his ears.  Oz settled beside him and Xander sighed in relief - watched as Oz held out his hand, offering...  Spike looked at the hand, and at them, then reached out and scooped the lemon drop up and into his mouth.  Remembering, maybe.  Xander hoped so.





*Sound: shattering glass.  Word: caged.*


The sounds from the other room were gradually tapering off - gradually getting quieter - but then there was that familiar, hated sound - the explosive pop and ice-on-tin rattle of shattering glass. 


*Fuck, what'd we forget?* Xander thought, and he scrambled across the living room to the second bedroom - the one whose windows were carefully boarded over.  He stood for a minute outside the door and then he breathed the unlocking word Giles had taught them and pushed it open.  Spike was in the corner, gouging the plaster back to the studs, ragged jeans and shredded t-shirt showing streaks of blood.  And the fixture, ten feet or more up in the vaulted ceiling, dangling by a wire, the bulb shattered over the carpet.    Xander picked his way carefully around the mess and Spike caught his scent - turned and snarled, caged animal.


Xander hadn't seen his human face in weeks, but that was okay.  Spike was getting better, and Xander knew he'd be back to himself one day, sooner or later.  He'd promised, and he wouldn't break that oath.


"C'mon and sit with me," Xander said, soft as he could, folding to the floor, and after a moment Spike did.  Leaned into him, rubbing against his shoulder, snuggling into his chest, rusty grumble of pleasure coming up out of his chest and....


"Sssan..." soft as a sigh.  That was why he'd promised, and that was why he'd never, ever give up.





*Sound: alto sax.  Word: truth.  Scent: night blooming jasmine.*


Lee Konitz on the CD player - something Oz had brought over.  Alto sax smooth and heavy and slow, winding out into the air.  Candles lit, because the electric light was just too bright, sometimes.  Sitting on the floor because Spike seemed to like that - seemed more at his ease when he wasn't playing at being the human.  Truth in the easy, feline sprawl of his body across the spruce-green Berber; skin the color of old ivory glinting through rips in the jeans he will not let Xander throw away. 


Oz leaning against the couch, eyes closed and head moving gently to the music.  Xander himself propped on one elbow, watching Spike.  The patio door was open and the curtains swayed in a sudden gust.  Belled and then fell slack and the apartment was filled with the scent of wet earth and spring rain and night-blooming jasmine.  Spike lifted his head, scenting, eyes half-shut.  And then...twist and shiver of bone and muscle, and for the first time since they found him it was the human face and not the demons, looking at him.  Black eyebrows and scarlet lips and the scar; cheekbones high and lifting like the wing of a bird and the oceanic blue of his eyes. 


"That's good," Spike said softly, and Xander knew he was crying - could feel it - and didn't care. 


"Yeah.  That's good, Spike."






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