The cool night breeze ruffled a few scattered leaves, causing them to dance across the yard. Smoke curled lazily up into the air from Spike's untouched cigarette. He could hear the chattering potentials still huddled around the kitchen island. It was pizza tonight, again. Spike knew this from some of the mumbled complaints a few girls were willing to voice. The phone rang in the background.

Resting his head against the porch railing, Spike let out a weary sigh. The restless feeling plaguing him was getting worse. It didn't help when his nightmares seemed to invade his waking hours as well. More than once Spike had been hit with a wave of panic. It only lasted a few seconds. With The First and his chip both gone from his mind, Spike had no idea what was causing the attacks, or the sense of urgency and dread these events left him with.

So far, Spike had been able to keep the panic attacks and nightmares hidden from the others. Before he might have gone to Buffy, or maybe Giles with his worries, but with Buffy being run ragged, and Giles acting the role of Brutus, Spike had to try to figure things out on his own. He just had to make sure nobody else notice his distraction; Buffy didn't need the extra burden, and the others might convince her he was a dangerous waste of her time.

When the back door opened, Spike kept his eyes focused straight ahead. It was no surprise they would both seek sanctuary here, so Spike kept quiet. If Buffy wanted to talk she would, but more often then not, they would both simply sit in silence.

"Scoot." A gentle shove followed her words, and Spike slid over to make room for her on the porch step. Her head coming to rest on his shoulder was a surprise, though, and Spike fought down the surge of hope rising in him from such a simple gesture.

"Is there any chance we could open the Hellmouth and feed it a few potentials?"

"Mini-slayers getting on your nerves again?" Spike chuckled. Taking one last drag of his cigarette, Spike crushed it underneath the toe of his boot. Buffy didn't like it when he smoked.

A loud snort preceded her answer. "When are they not?"

Lifting her head, Buffy turned concerned eyes his way. A gentle hand ran over his curls, and Spike had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from purring.

"How are you?"

"I'm fine, luv," Spike answered. "Why do you ask?"

"You seem kinda distracted lately."

"Can't get anything by you can I?" Spike said with a rueful chuckle.

"Nope," Buffy said with a distinct pop at the end. "So spill. I need something else to worry about besides The First, and whatever disaster Angel has gotten himself into."

"What's this about Angel?" Spike asked, confused and a little worried to hear his grandsire's name in the same sentence with the word disaster.

"Wesley called," Buffy shrugged. "It seems they've got their own apocalypse going in L.A. All I know is he wanted to talk to Willow. I'm pretty sure she'll fill me in on the details later."

"Bloody hell," Spike grumbled into his hands. "Is there a two-for-one deal on apocalypses, or something?"

"Or something," Buffy replied quietly. "Now spill Mister, and don't tell me it's nothing."

"It's a feeling," Spike sighed. "Just a bad feeling."

"Don't forget the nightmares," Buffy said, nudging his shoulder with hers. Seeing his shocked look, Buffy shrugged. "I can hear you. Want to tell me about them? We could have a true confessions thing going. I tell you about mine, you tell me yours."

"It's dark, and I can't get out," Spike whispered. He could feel Buffy stiffen beside him. "Not that, luv. This is different. It feels endless, but confining at the same time. Bloody terrifying for something so simple."

Buffy slowly nodded at his words. "I keep seeing what's waiting for us. I have no idea how we're supposed to beat this thing, but we've got too."

"You'll think of something," Spike offered. "You always do."

"Correction," Buffy said. "We'll think of something."

"Right," Spike nodded. "Can't forget the Scooby's now can we?"

"When I said we, I wasn't talking about the Scoobies."

Before Buffy could reply the backdoor flew open. Dawn stood in the doorway, arms crossed over her chest, and a dark scowl painted on her face.

"Willow needs you," Dawn said with a roll of her eyes. "It's about Angel, so it must be important."

"See what I mean?" Buffy sighed as she turned tired eyes towards Spike. Gently patting her on the shoulder, Spike offered Buffy his own tired smile as she stood and followed Dawn's retreating form.

When Buffy got to the she turned to see Spike still sitting on the porch step, a half empty pack of cigarettes in his hands.

"Aren't you coming?"

"But I thought…" Spike said only to be cut off when Buffy reached out and grabbed his arm.

Wide blue eyes met determined green, and Buffy offered him a kind smile.

"When I said we earlier, I wasn't talking about the Scoobies. Now come on, we've got an apocalypse to stop."

Heart soaring at her words, Spike stood and gave Buffy a mock salute. When she laughed and rolled her eyes, his grin widened. Mission accomplished, Spike willingly followed her into the hostile environment of her living room, happy to act as soldier to Buffy's General. It seemed she wanted him there after all.