Xander swam slowly to the surface of consciousness. Clawing his way out of the deep sleep which tried to drag him back under despite his efforts. The world around him felt dulled and muffled as if he'd been wrapped in cotton and stuffed inside a cupboard. His own body felt alien and uncooperative. His eyes remained stubbornly closed despite all his attempts to open them. Needing to make the conscious effort to draw air into his lungs felt strange and he pushed back against a tide of panic. Unable to see his surroundings he started using his other slowly awakening senses.

Foul air thick with decay caught in the back of his throat and he had to clamp down hard on the urge to vomit. He took small panting breaths through his mouth until the feeling subsided. The cool air flowing from his mouth and circling around his awakening body another unwelcome surprise. He tried to force his stiff arms to wrap around himself for warmth but found the task too much for his weakened state.

He realised he could hear another sound nearby and stilled his struggles. He listened intently and could make out a soft voice. He growled in frustration. He knew who belonged to that voice but the identity remained elusive and kept slipping away just as he thought he'd remembered. He tried again to open his eyes. His body taut with the strain.

Soft sobs floated to him and his heart wrenched with sadness. Words began to form out of the murmur of sounds drifting around him. Names which brought forth pictures in his mind. People he had called friend. He longed to reach out to them. To tell them – I am here. He listened and prayed to wake.

'I'm sorry.' A memory of strength and sadness. 'My fault.' The weight of the world resting heavily on young shoulders.

'Not fair.' Red hair and yellow crayons. Friendship and love. 'Miss you already.'

'So young.' The smell of old paper. Hands with calloused fingertips holding a pair of glasses. 'Goodbye Xander'

The sounds of shuffling feet. Becoming fainter. NO! I'm here. Don't leave me. Please. Don't leave me here alone.

A door closing echoed loudly around him. He felt a tear slip from the corner of his eye and take a meandering path across his temple to seep into his hair. Memories began to surface as the tears trickled slowly across his skin. The meeting in the Magic Box and the research before setting out on patrol. Tracking the demon which had been preying on the innocents. Not expecting the appearance of the larger mate and flinging himself into the path of it's sharp claws to protect his friends. The feeling of his skin parting and the searing pain ripping through his body as he dropped. His life's blood soaking the ground around him as the arms of death wrapped him in a cold embrace.

A sob of pain bubbled up and burst forth. His fingers scrabbled and fractionally moved against a soft slick material. He stilled his movements when he heard the scraping of stone on stone. He strained to listen. It was the door. Opening yet again then followed by the steady, quiet tread of booted feet as they crossed the room. Coming ever closer to his resting place. Had his friends returned?

He gasped when he felt a hand caress his brow and move down to wipe the away the drying tracks of his tears.

Cool breath puffed against the shell of his ear. "Wake up love. Sire's come to take you home."

~ Mòran taing ~