Spike lay stretched out on a stone slab, which wouldn't have been too bad if his arms and legs weren't being pulled out so tightly. He'd actually slept in crypts that were more uncomfortable although he usually wasn't bound hand and foot, at least not against his will, shirtless, and cold. He looked around, as if for help, but all he could see were the silhouettes of large rocks, about thirty feet out, encircling him in the mist.

Only one thing to do. He'd learned long ago that only bluster could get you through some situations. "Hey," he shouted. Hey, hey, ey echoed back.

"Think I could get a blanket over here?" Here, here, ere.

"Or, oh, I don't know, maybe somebody could cut me loose?"

As if his words had been a signal, although Spike knew it almost never worked that way, more likely a star had risen or some such, drums thundered through the... well, wherever he was. Drums were never a good sign, not when you were tied up in the middle of nowhere. Spike struggled to free himself but the bonds, whatever he'd been tied with, wouldn't give.

Demons filed in around him until they'd filled the stone circle. They reminded him of a comic book character, something he'd read back in Sunnydale, in Xander's basement. Hulk, the guy was called, and that's what these demons looked like: all green skin and dark hair. Except Hulk had a human face instead of demonic features, horns, and fangs. Also, Hulk didn't have bright red veins popping out against green muscles or four arms even. He also didn't wear leather thongs which, like Hulk's torn pants, didn't cover much.

The head honcho, as far as Spike could tell based on the elaborate feathered headdress, raised a stake up towards the sky. It looked like a toothpick there, against that huge, green fist but Spike knew it'd be enough to kill him.

"Hey," Spike shouted. "Let's talk about this. No need to do anything hasty."

A large rock fell from the sky, bashing in the demon's head. Spike's eyes widened as he looked up. The sky was full of helicopters – he couldn't figure out how he hadn't heard them before, even over the pounding of the drums – and Slayers rappelling down every which way.

Battle cries, both demonic and human, replaced the drumming as the Slayers hit the ground. Unfortunately, the Slayers, influenced by Buffy, tended to use quips instead of actual battle cries. "I can't stand your face. One of us will have to go." Most of them didn't share her talent, if you could call it that, for witticisms.

"Ugh, two points," an Indian girl shouted as she cut a demon in half. More disturbingly, they'd taken to scoring each other, mid-battle even.

"No way! Six points for the Oscar Wilde reference," a little Goth replied as she jumped onto a demon's back, stabbing downwards.

"Who?" a brunette with an American accent asked, ducking a blow.

"You're in for some serious schooling once we're back in the castle," the Goth replied as she leaped off of the falling demon.

"You know what looks good on a demon? Decapitation."

Spike had no idea who'd said that but he'd heard more than enough. "Oh, please, somebody save me," he cried, trying to free his hands so he could cover his ears.

Xander rappelled down next to the stone. "Somebody ask for a hero?"

"Not you, too," Spike moaned although Xander did look mighty heroic in that dark uniform he favored. Not that Spike would ever admit it.

"I'll save you," Xander said, sounding just like bleeding Superman, as he started hacking away at Spike's bonds.

"What's the matter? Sword got your tongue?" the American shouted.

"That's it. No more movies for you," Spike said. Xander just kept hacking, and hacking. "Uh, Xan?" Taking a bit long, isn't it?"

"Hey, Felicia," Xander called out. "We need some serious hack and slash here."

"Cute, five points," Spike heard a Scottish accent say.

"No way. Four. Loses at least one for obviousness."

"That might not be the best idea," Spike said as he saw a vine raising itself up behind Xander.

"On it," a girl, who looked like she'd just stepped out of a prep-school catalog, shouted. Her arms became blurs of motion as she hacked at the bonds that held Spike's feet. At least she didn't make a stupid comment. Just did the stupidest thing she was told to do.

"Six points," called over the battle field. "Yeah, it's obvious but she did slice that demon's tongue in half, which is a bit of a trick in and of itself."

"No, it's a hydra-bloom," Spike yelled but too late. With every hack, the plant had grown larger and stronger until both Xander and Felicia were fighting large bushes, verging on small trees, whose vines whipped at them with vicious accuracy.

"Flamethrowers," Xander shouted, pulling one out of nowhere.

"No," Spike screamed. "Flammable here."

His world was consumed by fire. As Spike slumped against the stone, he wondered which would kill him first, the flames or the heat but then the flames vanished and Xander was leaning over him. "He's worse than we thought," Spike heard him shout. "These demons must have done a real number on him."

No, Spike thought, his energy increasing once the flames had died out. It was the friendly fire.

"Are you OK?" Xander asked. "Do you need a stretcher? 'Cause I'd really like to just get us out of here."

"In your face from outer space." Spike heard groans from all over at that one.

"Quick. Get me out of here before one of them quips again."

A spate of swearing, in Swahili, starting with outer space and getting downright creative from there, broke out to Spike's right. Impressed, he turned his head to see a Slayer with two swords: the one in her left hand was slitting a demon's throat while, with her right, she gutted another.

Xander took Spike in his arms and hugged him tightly. "Hold on," he shouted as they rose above the battle.

"Xan," Spike screamed, grabbing onto him with a death hold.

Xander's smile filled his world. "I won't drop you."

He was pulled into the copter, which was shaking something fierce. Grabbing onto a seat to balance himself, Spike looked up, panic clear on his face, until Xander was pulled in as well. "Hey, you OK?" Xander asked, placing a hand on Spike's shoulder.

"What?"

Xander's hand stopped shaking him. "I asked if you were all right."

Opening his eyes, Spike saw Xander, wearing pjs, crouched down next to him. Looking around he thought, no wonder I was cold. He'd thrashed his blankets clear off the bed.

Placing a hand on the cold, stone walls to orient himself, he thought castle. Scotland. "When I got sent back, why couldn't it have been someplace warm, like LA?"

"I'll take that as a yes," Xander said, retreating back to his own bed. "Had that nightmare where your the bollocks again?"

"That's bullock."

"Huh?" When Xander didn't lay back down, Spike was fairly certain he was being the white hat, giving Spike a chance to talk if he wanted to. He did. He didn't relive hell every time he closed his eyes but.. Well, he wasn't ready to sleep.

"Bollocks is slang. It means, well, literally it means balls but it's used the same way you'd say shit or fuck."

"Which I say so often," Xander replied with a smile.

"You Americans, and you knew what I meant," Spike growled. "With a bullock is a bull or calf being set up for ritual sacrifice. It's the purest animal in the herd, with no spots or blemishes." Spike trailed off, thinking of the sacrifice he'd made and the hell dimension it had unexpectedly left him in.

Xander laughed. "And its breath smells of milk and honey. You sure do have a high opinion of yourself."

"I was defining bullock, you ignorant piker," Spike growled. Seeing Xander was about to tease him some more, Spike caught his gaze. "I was wondering, um, do you regret taking me into your room?" he asked in a rush. It had been almost seven months since he'd appeared out of nowhere, much worse off than he was now, and needing a babysitter. He'd thought Buffy might, but she hadn't. As far as he could tell, Xander had, as usual, been volunteered for the job nobody else wanted.

Feeling overwhelmed by how exposed the question had left him and not wanting to know if the answer was yes, Spike quickly followed up with, "I mean, messing up your beauty sleep, which, in all honesty, you really need."

"Nah," Xander replied, ignoring Spike's aside. "Not like I ever get a full night's sleep around here anyway. If it's not one emergency, it's another." He paused a moment before asking. "But Spike? In your nightmare, I, um, heard you saying my name and I was wondering," he trailed off before shaking his head. "No, don't tell me. I don't need to know what might happen to me in hell."

Right, Spike thought, cause that's all I can offer you. Hell dimensions and nightmares. Pitiful. I'm a pitiful burden and the only person that cares, I...

"Hey," Xander interrupted. When Spike looked up, he added, "Since we're up anyway, why don't we get some hot cocoa?"

"I," Spike hung his head.

"I said something wrong," Xander said rather than asked.

"No, It's. Only. Joyce used to make me hot cocoa," he finished in a rush. Looking up, he gazed into the distance, no longer feeling the chill of the room. "With those little marshmallows," he added more reflectively. "We'd talk for hours."

"If you don't want to," Xander began.

"No, I do," Spike exclaimed, his eyes as wide as those of an eager child. "Was just remembering, is all."

"OK, we'll set ourselves up in the library," Xander began, only to be stopped by Spike's baleful stare. "What's wrong?"

"Don't want a bunch of Slayerettes bugging us."

Xander smiled at the term, even though he was sure Spike didn't know the reference. "No sweat. At four in the morning, even the most active Slayer has crashed. Well, except for those on sentry duty, I hope, but they won't bother us."

As he stepped into the hallway, Xander said, "While I'm busy in the kitchen, why don't you get the fire going?"

At Spike's whimper, Xander stopped. "Flammable."

Resting a hand on Spike's shoulder, Xander said, "It's OK, Spike. You can make the hot cocoa. OK?" When Spike didn't respond, he added, "Or we could both just sit in a cold, dark room."

"No," Spike said, with a shake. "I'll get the drinks."

"You sure?" Xander asked. Spike knew he really meant: Are you OK? He nodded.

Xander looked uncertain but merely asked, "You know where everything is?"

"Yeah, Dawn and I had some a few days back."

"How many people are you?" Xander teased. Then, with a laugh, he held up both hands and said, "Never mind. None of my business."

Could be your business, Spike thought. You don't want to know what might have happened to you in hell. How about what would, in heaven? Whispering, too low for Xander to follow, he said:

"Heaven:

the circle of your arms;

a love nest in a cloistered glade,

which is the center of the world

and apart from it.

Where we two can finally be...

As one."

"What's that?" Xander asked.

"Just a bit of a poem."

"Cool." Xander's smile flashed in the darkness. "Maybe you could recite it for me sometime."

A bit of hope, Spike thought as he headed to the kitchen to warm up the cocoa.