Solstice by SLynn
Disclaimer: Usually I say here that I own nothing, thankfully that isn't true. After Ivan came ripping through my town, I'm very glad to still own what I do and that my family, house and worldly possessions remain intact. For those who were not so lucky, my heart is with you. Original characters are mine, but anyone you think looks vaguely familiar is obviously not. Please don't sue me.
Notes: Yeah, that didn't take too long did it? As does happen, almost immediately after I wrote the words, 'I don't see a sequel any time soon' the evil plot bunnies struck. I'm trying to be more organized and more efficient with my writing and I'm also trying to not take a year to complete this one. Should be shorter, should be just one story. But after this, I've got to try to write some fluff.
This is a follow-up to my 'Games' trilogy. I'll try to make this as stand-alone as I can, but it will probably help to read those first.
Chapter 1: Perchance to Dream
She slid up behind him and kissed him gently on the neck.
He grabbed her hand and pulled her closer to him.
She continued to nuzzle his neck, kisses becoming more and more frequent.
Finally he turned to her, capturing her lips with his in one quick movement.
Touching, holding, feeling; intent on only each other.
She slid on top of him, pinning him in place, changing the mood.
"What's wrong?" she said playfully.
"Can't what?" she asked leaning in closer.
He couldn't answer. Couldn't move. Couldn't breath.
"Don't worry," Constance said smiling down at him, "I'm here now."
Xander jolted from his sleep covered in sweat and breathing hard.The first thing he did was turn on the light and look the room over. He'd been staying with Giles for just over two months now but still and especially on nights like this he found himself expecting to wake up in some cell. He knew it was over, that she was gone and wasn't coming back, but still he checked the room. He checked under the bed, in the closet, he even risked opening the door to the hallway and looking it up and down.
Finally convinced it was just a dream, he sat back down on the bed and wiped his brow. It was just after four in the morning and there was really no point in going back to sleep. Xander knew from experience that once he had one of these nightmares, he was bound to have another.
It was just after four in the morning, way to early to risk waking Giles by running the shower. Giles was already asking way too many questions about how much or how little Xander was sleeping. Xander knew that they were all still worried about him, and he really appreciated their friendship, at times he wished they'd just stop.
He was doing everything he could. Everything possible. Still, the nightmares continued.
Not that he told anyone that.
If they thought he was still having such vivid nightmares, and so frequently, they'd be worried. Wait, rephrase that. They'd be more worried. They were already worried enough.
They would worry that Xander couldn't handle it. That he'd never be alright again. And mostly, that Constance was coming back.
But he knew she wasn't.
These were just dreams. He'd like to explain to them, that having gone through it more then once, he should know that difference between a regular nightmare and an actual possession, but that would be too much like fighting. They'd never believe him and he'd never convince them. To avoid the issue was the only option.
So on nights like these, most nights as it was, he'd sit in his room and try to think of anything else. Sometimes he read. Sometimes he wrote. When he grew really desperate, sometimes he cleaned. But mostly he just waited.
Waited for time to pass before he could start his day. And alone in your room with just your nightmares, time passes very slowly.
Giles wasn't at all surprised to find Xander up and breakfast made before he had made it down stairs. He knew that Xander hadn't been sleeping well for months and tried his best to ignore it. If he wasn't ready to talk about it, Giles wouldn't push. At least not to hard.
He had dropt hints but Xander just didn't seem to feel like talking. Not to him. Giles hoped he was at least sharing some of it with Buffy. But there he was also in the dark.
'Buffy and Xander,' he thought with a slight smile and a shake of his head.
There was no telling what was really happening between them, and it was really no ones business but their own. It was apparent that now they did have a much closer relationship, but beyond that was anyone's guess. Whenever they had any spare time apart from work, or school, or slaying, it was spent together. They talked, laughed, and acted just as if nothing had changed around everyone else, despite the fact that it so obviously had. In short, they seemed as though to the world they had nothing and everything to hide.
"Good morning," Xander said as he caught sight of him.
"You're up early."
"Best way to start the day," he said sounding somewhat rehearsed, "besides, I'm opening this morning and I wanted to go over the inventories again."
Giles just nodded. It was becoming an old excuse between them.
"We should be getting an order in today," Giles added.
"No problem," Xander said as he finished his plate, "Thursday's are slow anyway. I'll have plenty of time to do both."
"Good then," Giles continued, "I'll be in by one, sooner if you need help."
"I can handle it," Xander said firmly, meaning more then just the store.
"I have no doubts."
Xander just nodded once and left.
'He'll be fine,' he told himself. It wasn't the first time he'd thought such a thing, but it was the first time he'd believed it so strongly.
Giles knew it was a struggle for Xander just to keep on going with his life. After everything that had happened, it seemed like almost too much of a struggle. But he'd made it this far. He'd made it so far and never once asked for help or special treatment. Xander really was starting to become his old self again. It was almost unbelievable and very reassuring.
Although he couldn't help from occasionally breaking from his own promise not to interfere, mostly he stuck by it. Giles wouldn't push him to hard to confide, especially if Xander wasn't ready to. As far as he knew, Xander hadn't yet spoken to anyone about Constance. But in time he would.
"Be right with you," Xander called out as he heard the familiar ring of the shop bell.
As fast as he could, he made his way to the front. Truth was, he was expecting it to be Buffy. She'd said she'd stop by for lunch and her being a little early never would surprise him. He was wrong.
"Hi Xander," Anya said.
"Anya," he returned blankly, trying to hide the shock of seeing her but not succeeding, "Hi. What can I help you with?"
"I'm not here to shop. Not that I'd buy my magical products anywhere else. That's just not why I'm here today."
"How are you?"
"Really? Because after all that I thought, well it doesn't matter what I thought. You say you're good then good. Great."
"What do you want?" Xander asked, somewhat amused but growing impatient.
"I want us to be friends again."
"No, let me talk. I'm sorry for what happened. I really am. And, I'm sorry for how I behaved. I shouldn't have given up like that, but I was scared. I don't think that anyone else can forgive me, and I don't care. If you can, then I'll feel better."
"Anya," he interrupted, "we are friends."
"We are?" she asked hopefully.
"Yes. We've never stopped being friends. I don't blame you for what you did or said. I don't blame anyone for any of this. It happened, it's over, let's move on."
Anya looked at him intently for a few moments.
"You blame yourself, don't you?"
He didn't answer.
"You do. That's worse. Xander, blame me at least, anyone but yourself. You didn't make this happened. There was nothing you could have done..."
"It's not important," he said trying to brush the whole thing off.
"It is important," she said leaning in.
The bell rang again. This time it was Buffy.
"Hi," she said cheerfully, until seeing Anya. "What's going on?"
"I should go," Anya said backing away. "I'll talk to you later."
Anya left without another word, Buffy eyeing her the entire time.
"She wanted to apologize," Xander answered knowing what Buffy wanted to know but wouldn't ask.
"It's not my business," Buffy said not too convincingly.
"No, it's not. It's your decision to make, not mine."
For a moment, neither of them looked nor spoke to each other.
"What did you say?" she finally asked.
He was tempted to remind her she'd just said it was none of her business, but didn't.
"I told her the truth. That she had nothing to be sorry for and that we could just forget it. I just want things back to normal."
She raised an eyebrow at him.
"Not that normal. I told her we were friends.""We're friends too."
Xander sighed and shook his head."Are you trying to pick a fight with me? Because if that's what you want, I just can't. Not today, maybe tomorrow."
"No," she said with more ease, "I'm not. I'm sorry. I just had a very long night, followed by a very long history test. All I wanted was to stop by and see you and that was it."
"I know," he said smiling again and coming out from behind the counter.
"I'm being a bit crazy, aren't I?" she asked with a smile.
"A bit," he answered wrapping her into his arms, "but I like crazy."
"You think you'd be tired of it by now."
"Yeah, you would think that."
Buffy laughed. Sometimes it was so easy between the two of them. She was angry still, with Anya, but it didn't seem to matter at the moment.
"How was your night?" she asked, knowing the answer by the way he looked.
"It was alright," he lied, "Typical."
"Another one?" she asked, not willing to let him off that easy.
"Not too bad," he conceded stepping back to the counter.
She just continued to look at him in disbelief.
"Really Buffy, I'm handling it. Besides, they aren't that bad. Nothing could be worse then..."
Xander grew silent and just trailed off in remembrance. Nothing could be worse then the real thing.
"I know you're handling it," Buffy said coming over and taking his hands in hers, "I know. I just want to help."
"You are," he answered, "You are all I need right now."
"It's a fixer-upper to be sure, but it'll do."
A sandy-haired man stepped around the abandoned catacombs taking in the view. Not that there was a view, the catacombs were part of the sewer system of Sunnydale. It smelt horribly, but was awfully convenient for getting around.
"What do you think?" he asked the she-demon beside him, "A few tables and chairs, place for you to sleep, we'll be right at home."
She said nothing. She was definitely the taller and stronger of the two. A hettic demon, rare in any part of the world, except for maybe a hellmouth. She had notably grayish-blue skin, large cat-like yellow eyes, multiply pierced pointed ears, and where normally would sit hair, she instead had shoulder length tentacle-like strands.
"Narissa, don't you like it?" he addressed her directly.
In turn she rolled her eyes and began to pace the place.
"There's no pleasing you," he said with a laugh, "But I know you're satisfied. It's perfect for us. Perfect for our plans."
Here, if not in words, she seemed to agree.
"Soon," he began again, more to himself, "everything will be ready. It's all going just as we wanted. Just as we planned. We just need to keep to it and be patient."
Narissa met him in the center of the room, a small smirk evident on her face.
"I knew you'd like it," he said laughingly back to her.
"Just wait and you'll see," he continued, "all of our dreams will come true."