Despair by SLynn

Notes:  Okay, never really expected this last chapter to take so long, somehow life got in the way.  It happens.  Again, sorry for the delay.  Here it is the last chapter.

****

Chapter 16:  Details

Something like instinct had held Buffy back.  When she'd left Xander in his room she had every intention of rushing to Giles for advice.  Once out the door though she had a change of heart.  Instead she called him from the lobby.  What he had to tell her didn't sit well.

So she waited.

For more then fifteen minutes she sat in the lobby hoping feverishly that what she thought would happen wouldn't.  But it did.

As discretely as she could she watched it happen, still not wanting it to be true.  But the act itself confirmed what Giles had only hinted at.

Buffy sat quietly and watched from her peripheral vision as he got off the elevator and walked out right out the front door and into the night.

It was true.  As much as she didn't want to believe it, it was the only explanation. 

Xander Harris had lied to them.

****

Giles had been quiet since Buffy's call.  Really, really quiet.  Tara could take that.  She preferred it really, but it was eating Willow up.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, she spoke up.

"Well?" she asked, "What did she say?"

Giles looked at her for a moment, not certain where to begin.  Not really sure what to make of the situation himself.

"Constance might have been telling the truth."

"No," Willow replied shaking her head as she crossed the room.

Tara just remained silent.

"I hope it isn't, but from what Buffy said of Xander's behavior, it certainly seems to be the case."

"Why would he do that?" Willow said, her voice breaking into a near plea, "Doesn't he know…"

"If it's true he must be aware of the risk.  Constance would not have spared him the details on that particular…"

The word he was searching for was "death" but he couldn't bring himself to say it out loud.  Instead he just shook his head and looked down.

"Can't we do anything?" Tara finally spoke up, having attempted to comfort Willow as best she could.

Giles looked from Tara to Willow and back again, uncertain how to begin.  He had hoped he'd never really need to explain the Furies Poison to them any detail, but now that looked unavoidable.

 "No, I'm afraid not.  Constance cast the spell, only she can lift it."

"So what do we do?  We can't just sit around and wait."

"There's not much more we can do.  We can make him comfortable, offer support, but really it's out of our hands.  It's a matter of time now."

"And you're positive that the only way to reverse it is for Constance to lift the spell?" Willow asked.

"Yes," Giles said solemnly.

"So how soon can we bring her back?"

*****

Buffy had followed Xander as discreetly as she could as he made his way back to his house.  She didn't know at first where he would go, but she hadn't counted on this. 

After twenty minutes of waiting for him to reemerge from the basement she decided to go in.

'Maybe I've been overreacting,' she thought, 'he might have just gotten sick of the hospital and decided to go home.'

There were a thousand reasons why he could have done this, but she didn't really believe any of them.  She wanted too, needed too.  She was desperate to believe anything that might mean Xander hadn't lied and thrown himself away just to be rid of Constance.

Slowly she opened the door and walked inside.

'He's probably asleep,' that little voice inside her said hopefully.

"What took you so long?" she heard Xander say from across the room in the darkness, "I'd expected you to come rushing in with something or other to say about friendship and betrayal and all that other crap."

She could barely make him out from where she was.  He was sitting in the same chair they'd found Anya tied up.  Apparently he'd just been watching the door and waiting for her.

"Don't you have a speech prepared?  You had all that time waiting outside; you should have something ready by now."

"Xander," Buffy finally said after a pause, "you didn't have to do this.  I mean why?  Why?  We would have found a way…"

"No," he said loudly, his voice harsh and breathy.  He was obviously still having a hard time breathing.  "This was the only way.  Constance would have kept her promise.  She would have cured me and then left town, but she never said she wouldn't come back Buffy.  You should know how she works by now.  You've been playing…"

As quickly as his voice had trailed off, it had been replaced by the sound of laughter.  He didn't sound at all like himself.  It was a dry and bitter laugh.  He sounded mean and it reminded Buffy of Constance.

"The devils in the details, I never really understood that till now.  That's her alright, all about details."

Xander stopped to regain his breath and let that sink in for Buffy. 

"She'd of headed straight to L.A. and killed everyone we've ever known, Buffy, everyone we've ever met for that matter.  She'd never stop and we'd never be able to stop her.  After she'd grown bored with killing off our friends and family she would have come back to Sunnydale.  She'd kill all of you one by one and leave me alone like you asked.  She'd of kept her word."

He paused again, sounding more and more ragged, but also more like himself.

"I couldn't let that happen.  I couldn't.  I'd rather die."

"You don't know that would have happened," Buffy said sternly, "We've always found a way…"

"I do know," he yelled suddenly jumping to his feet and cutting her off. 

Buffy involuntarily took a few steps back.

"I do know," he repeated, this time quieter as he turned away from her and began to pace.  "I was in her head and she was in mine.  I can hear her thoughts still.  I know how she thinks and what she thinks.  It's like all of the horrible things she's done are living in my head."

He stopped talking but continued to pace.

"Xander we'll find a way to help you."

"And it's not the spell Buffy," he continued as if she'd never spoken, "it's not.  I've felt like this since we left the school.  Since that night she's been alive in my head.  I can't tell what memories or thoughts are mine and which are hers.  It's like I did those things to you, to Willow, to Dawn.  I just want it all to end."

Buffy didn't know what to do.  Part of her wanted to just go to him and tell him it would be alright, but another part of her wanted to run.  Run and get Giles, get Willow, get anyone who might help, but she wasn't sure anyone could at this point.

"We're going to get through this.  We're going to find away."

Buffy had said it quietly to herself, so quietly she didn't really think she'd even spoken the words.

"I don't believe that."

"You have to," she said louder now, her voice getting thick with emotion, "You can't give up."

"Buffy you have to promise me something," he said taking four quick strides across the room to meet her face to face, "you have to promise me this."

He looked horrible, almost dead.  Pale and sweating.  In the darkness she hadn't noticed it before, but now that he was so close to her, only a half breath away, Buffy saw it all.  What Constance had done was obviously already taking hold of him, both physically and mentally. 

Tentatively, he took hold of one of her hands with both of his, but didn't look up.

"Xander, I'm going to do everything I can …"

"No," he interrupted shaking his head, "not that.  I need you to promise me that you won't let them bring her back.  That you won't let her come back.  No matter what Buffy.  I need you to tell me that."

"I can't…"

"Buffy you're the only one I can ask.  You're the only one I can trust because I know you know what she's like.  But you don't really even know that.  You've seen her, but you haven't seen anything like what she …"

"I can't promise that," her voice becoming as strained as his.  "She's the only one who can cure you.  I know what she is but…"

"No.  No buts.  She's been toying with us.  Since the first this has been a game and she's never even been serious about it.  But she will be if she comes back.  I've been in her head Buffy, she's capable of so much…"

He couldn't finish.  He just trailed off and turned away.  For awhile neither of them spoke. 

"I'm dead either way.  Please.  Don't make me responsible for bringing that thing back here."

He was so serious and obviously terrified, Buffy had no choice.

"Okay," she whispered, "I won't let them bring her back."

 As soon as she'd said it the tension seemed to lift from the room.  Xander, looking older sat down at the edge of his bed and laid his head into his hands.  Buffy, feeling deflated, joined him.

"Thank you."

She just shook her head slowly and put an arm around his waist both leaning against each other for support.

"Don't say that.  Don't thank me for this.  It's not right."

Xander looked up at her, meeting her eyes and looking so much like himself again that part of her hurt.

"Maybe not, but at least it's over."

The End

Author's Notes:  Again – apologies for the amount of time it took to complete this.  Obviously, I can't really leave it like this, but I also can not tell you when or how long a third installment will be.  All I can say is that it will be eventually and I thank everyone for the reviews and encouragement.