(A/N: ever noticed that Fanfic writers are mean? We love something, we hurt it. So sorry, but makes for good writing material. Anyway I thought that episode Blue on Blue ended rather short for the type of day our guys had. So, I lengthened it a bit. Once more... I hope no one is left hating me. Oh, and would love feedback! ~~The Chronicler)

Blue on Blue

After Hours

By The Chronicler

0o0o0o0o0

Four little dots.

And they just blinked out.

Like they were nothing.

Little lights.

Blink on.

Blink off.

There they are.

There they are gone.

Four little dots.

Spike closed his eyes, letting his breath out in a long, agonizing sigh.

One…

Two….

Three…..

Four….

He opened his eyes.

Sitting around the table, laughing, pushing each other around was Sam, Jules, Raf, Ed…

All four dots, living, breathing, existing…

"Hey, buddy, how you doin'?"

Spike's head snapped about so quickly his neck popped. He tried to hide his wince with a stupid grin. "Boss… yea, yea, perfect. Just… Just enjoying the moment." He raised his bear bottle up, indicating the table where their teammates were waiting for them.

His hand started to shake. Shake so badly, beer swooshed out of the top of the long neck. Shake so bad, the full bottle slipped from his fingers.

Greg snatched the bottle before it could actually fall. Brows raised with concern, he eyed his man. "Spike…?" he asked in hush tones.

"It's nothing." Spike quickly assured, massaging the palm of the offending hand as if it might have been sore. "It's nothing. I'm fine. Fine and dandy." He was trying too hard at the reassurances, looking everywhere but at the man standing at his elbow, looking at him with those see everything eyes.

"Michelangelo…"

"Damn, damn, damn…" Spike hissed, rubbing even harder at the hand as if he could rub it out of existence.

"Hey, hey, hey." Greg quickly set the bottle down on the bar and reached for Spike's hands. But, he had barely touched Spike's hands when he jerked them away. Greg held very still, more than a little concerned about the reaction.

Spike rubbed his palms on his pant legs, offering an apologetic smile. "We should get back before they think we found us some pretty girls to run off with." He suggested, jerking his head toward the table where their friends were suddenly very quiet.

As if just noticing the quiet from across the busy, nosy bar, Spike looked at the table again.

Four little dots…

And they were all looking at him, laughter gone, drinking gone, pushing gone…

"Damn." Spike cursed so softly Greg only heard because he had been waiting for it. He dropped his eyes, licking his lips. Again he winced, this time when his tongue ran over the split on his lower lip.

Careful not to touch him, Greg leaned a little closer. "Mike, you've been through a lot today. What do you say we call it a night…"

"No!" Spike exclaimed a little too loudly. Realizing his mistake, he glanced at the table again.

Ed was nodding to the other three, saying his good nights as he sent them home with assurances. Then he turned and headed for Greg and Spike.

Spike sighed. "Really, boss. I'm fine. Just… just…"

Ed was getting closer.

Soon he'd be out numbered.

Soon they'd talk him into talking about stuff he didn't want to talk about.

Soon….

"Think I'll head home." He spun away without even looking at either man again and did everything but run to the exit.

Ed paused when he saw Spike escape. Greg tossed some money on the bar, then, with a tilt of his head, he and Ed started after. Meeting at the door, Ed asked "Starting to hit?"

"Yea." Greg answered. "Kids heading home?"

"Yea." Ed held the door open. "Gonna be a long night." He mumbled.

"Yea." Greg agreed.

The two men paused to exchange knowing looks. They'd both had their share of long nights before. Will again. More than their share.

"I'll get the car." Ed said without further discussion and headed off to find their vehicle.

Greg watched him go, suddenly feeling a tightness in his chest. God, was he glad he wasn't alone on this.

Now, if he could just convince Spike he wasn't alone.

That he shouldn't be alone!

Glancing about, the SRU Sargent searched the parking lot for his team member.

0o0o0o0o0

Shoulders hunched, hands buried deep in his pockets, Spike walked a steady path straight down the dark side walk. He told himself that the tremor through his so very tense muscles was from the cold of the night and the fact that he didn't have his coat.

Four little dots.

So little.

So fragile.

Blink on.

Blink off.

There.

Not there.

He didn't even notice the body keeping pace beside him until Greg asked "Spike, where you going?"

His eyes darted to the side. "Home." He mumbled a response.

"Plan on walking all the way?" Greg sounded almost amused. "That's a long, cold walk, isn't it?"

Spike paused. His head came up and he looked around. He was already out of the parking lot and down two or three blocks before Greg had caught up to him. He glanced at his boss but still avoided eye contact.

Greg smiled, looking at him with a tilt of his head. "Your jeep is back at the barn, remember? Ed drove?"

Spike frowned. "I knew that." He mumbled. "I… just need some air… you know… a walk to clear the head…" he was desperately developing a list of excuses. "Got a bit of a headache. Guess the noise was a bit too much. Got tipsy… you know? Long day and all…"

"You trying to convince me?" Greg wondered. "Or yourself?"

Spike closed his mouth. For a moment he just looked off into the nowhere, not speaking, barely breathing.

He was quiet so long that Greg risked touching him again. Reaching out, he set a gentle hand on the man's shoulder. "Mike, I'd really like it if you'd tell me what you're thinking."

Spike closed his eyes and let his breath out in a long, slow sigh. "Boss, I'd really like to stop thinking right about now." He admitted.

Greg squeezed his shoulder. "I know. But, buddy, it's gonna keep rattling around in there until you sit down and talk about it. If not to me, then one of the others. Or I know someone… I have a friend…"

"No!" Spike almost squeaked. "I don't want to talk to anyone else!" He tried to smile. "Someone would have to be crazy to try and shrink my head. They'd toss me into the booby hatch and throw the key away. I mean, boss, look at me! I'm a box full of mixed nuts and crackers!"

Greg chuckled. "Well, maybe not full." But he shook his head. "Spike, you are the heart of this team. Someone try to take you away from them, you think any of those guys would hesitate to go to war for you?"

All attempt at humor vanished in a blink as Spike looked directly at his Sergeant for the first time since he was rescued. "I know that is exactly what they'd do. They'd go to war for me. They'd run to my rescue and fight to all ends… and then they'd die… just blink out of existence… all because of me!" The last was ground out through clenched teeth.

Greg felt his heart ache for the young man before him. "Ah, Mike, you gotta listen to me, buddy: You!" and he poked Spike in the chest for emphasizes "You are not cursed. Getting close to you is not a death sentence. Being your friend, your teammate, is a blessing." He smiled his crooked smile. "Trust me, Spike. Our lives are better for knowing you. You keep us connected. You keep us informed. You keep us smiling even when we're in the thick of it. We… I could not do this job without you! Believe me!"

Spike blinked at him, his eyes glistening.

"Tell me you believe me." Greg almost sounded like he was pleading.

Spike blinked at him again, then, ever so slightly, nodded.

"Spike, you might not have realized this, but I was on the headset when that C-4 blew." Greg told him. "For an instant… seemed to last forever, but it was just an instant… I thought that I had lost Team One. All of you!" He looked down at his own hands. "I had to stand real still because I was afraid I would start shaking. Ed and the kids in the explosion, you as our only lead escaped." He flexed his fingers. "I think, maybe, even now, knowing you are all safe and sound, if I think too much on it, if I let myself dwell on the possibilities… I think I would shake apart." He looked up at his friend, and he allowed his own barriers down, just for a moment, letting Spike see…

See what he had felt when all he heard over the com was… nothing.

The ice that gripped his heart when he begged someone to answer him and no one did.

The panic he had fought down when he thought, only for an instant, that he had lost them.

"Boss…" Spike whispered, suddenly wanting to offer him some sort of comfort, whatever comfort he could.

But Greg's crocked smile returned and he reached up to squeeze Spike's shoulder again, more of an assurance that he was alright than anything else. "Spike, you're not alone."

"Hey, Spike, want a ride?"

The two men turned to see Ed leaning against his truck on the side of the road.

Spike felt a sudden urge to turn and run. He really did not want to talk about what he desperately needed to talk about. But he knew, if he was going to talk to anyone, at least these two guys would understand.

They'd been there.

They'd done it.

They survived.

Spike took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

No, he wasn't going to run.

Hell, maybe his hands would even stop shaking…

… eventually.

Greg wrapped an arm around his shoulders and lead him toward the truck. "Team One is going to take a week off the rotation." He told him, as they walked. "We all need a little time to recover I'm thinking."

Ed opened the door for them. "Next couple of days Greg and I'll be checking in with you, okay." It was a statement of reality, not a question of permission. "One of us will always be close, starting tonight."

Spike frowned. "Tonight? I was just going home."

"humph. To explain things to your mother? Or to that empty apartment you've been failing at making a home?" Ed challenged.

Spike stared at him. "That's mean!" he complained, though, now he thought about it, neither destination seemed very comforting right about then.

Greg chuckled. "You'll be using my guestroom tonight. We'll see where we are in the morning." He wished they had actually done this when Lue had died. Spike had been in a bad place then, and, apparently, he had never completely dug his way out of that bad place.

Hindsight has always been the most elusive sight when most needed.

"Deep breath." Ed instructed as they settled into their seats. He turned around in the driver's seat to look at Spike in the back seat. "One deep breath at a time. One step at a time. One word at a time. Just put one word after the other… and you will get through this. Your hands will stop shaking… eventually. Things will get better."

Spike offered a weak smile. "Question?"

"Shoot."

"You think the Avengers got counseling or camped out on teammate's couches or something when they have a bad day?"

Ed raised an eyebrow and looked at Greg. "I kinda doubt it, Spike."

"Yea." Spike agreed, looking out the window as Ed directed the truck out into traffic. "Guess there wouldn't be too many volunteers saying `Hey, big guy, let's talk about the color green.'"

Greg chuckled, feeling more than a little thrill at seeing Spike's good ol' humor making an appearance. Long way from being good ol' Spike, but it was a step in the right direction.

"Yea, so…" Spike started after a few blocks had passed in silence. His voice was soft, almost as if he was talking to himself. "Natalie invited me to go away for the weekend…"

And Greg and Ed listened to the whole story: the first phone call; discovering the signal and warning of the trap; loving the way the guys grinned and rolled their eyes when he declared "Justice League!"; that wordless feeling when one suddenly understands he's not gonna get out of this; the pleading, begging, yelling, daring; having nothing left to live for, then having everything to fight for… and being so angry, so pissed off that he would hunt a man down no matter what third world jungle he tried to hide in…

When Spike stopped talking, opening eyes he hadn't realized were closed, they were parked in Greg's driveway, the two men in the front seat turned around, giving him their full attention. Licking his lips, he looked down at his hands.

Maybe it was the warmth of the truck.

Maybe it was actually telling the story.

But, he was sure, maybe, just a little, the shaking wasn't quite so bad.

Maybe it was going to all be alright.

Maybe not alright yet, but, okay.

He looked up at Ed and Greg, the two men being there, despite everything in their own lives… just being there, knowing what he was going through…

Yea.

Yea, he was gonna be okay.

0o0o0o0o0

After Hours

The End

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