Spike couldn’t sleep. The deep breathing of the others spaced around the cave wasn’t helping this time. Even Buffy had dozed off, after awhile, despite wanting to stay up with him. Despite *knowing* what he knew.
They’d decided to keep it to themselves for the night. No need to frighten them. They’d need their sleep in order to get the rest of the way to the summit of the mountain- the volcano, the next day.
The next day which was rapidly approaching, and Spike still hadn’t slept.
With a sigh, he got up and walked to the mouth of the cave, just out of reach of the freezing wind outside. Looked up at the stars. They’d always been a source of comfort for him, always the same, no matter where he was.
No matter *when* he was, either.
“Hey, uh.. Evil Dead,” came a voice from behind him. A moment later, a Giant Hyena came up near him. “What’s with the midnight disappearing act?”
Spike gave a half-hearted snort at Xander. “No disappearing. I just didn’t feel like bein’ in there right now. I can’t sleep.”
Xander yawned, sitting down and scratching his side with a hind paw absently. “Well, neither can I.”
Spike gave him a look. “You were unconscious when I left, Harris.”
He shrugged. “Yeah, well. I can’t sleep now.” He looked at the Dire Wolf. “Are we where I think we are?”
“Don’t know what you’re gettin’ at, mate.”
Xander snorted and pawed the ground a little. “Like hell you don’t. Are we or are we not in a volcano?”
Spike looked at the Hyena, surprised. “You knew?”
He nodded. “Yeah. Well, I guessed. I didn’t sleep through *all* of High School, you know. I know that we’re on a fault line. And I know that the Tar Pits are a… uh..”
“Manifestation of the turmoil just beneath the earth’s crust?”
Xander nodded again. “Yeah. Well, I was gonna say ‘evidence that the hot stuff is a lot closer to the surface back home’.” He chuckled.
Spike laughed. “That works, too.” He cocked his head at the Hyena. “You aren’t worried about this?”
He shook his head. “Not really.” Chuckled. “Then again, I can’t sleep anymore either.”
Small laugh from the wolf. “Yeah.” Quietly. “Buffy knows. We were gonna tell everyone in the mornin’.”
Xander nodded, then cleared his throat. “Speaking of Buffy…”
Spike sighed. He’d been expecting this, ever since Buffy had confessed her love for him. Now it was Harris’ turn to give him the ‘she isn’t thinking clearly’ or the ‘it’s just the circumstances, she doesn’t really care’ speeches. “What, Harris?” He turned his back on the Hyena as he spoke, lying down on his belly. Braced himself for the tirade.
“I’m sorry about how I’ve treated you.” The words were so quiet, Spike was almost unsure if he’d actually ‘heard’ them.
He sat up and turned his head to look at Xander. The Hyena was sitting, head hanging, drawing on the ground with a forepaw. “What?”
Deep sigh. “Look, don’t rub it in, okay? Buffy told us all. She told us that you knew about her being in Heaven from the beginning. She told us how you were there when none of us were. She told us how she used you, and hurt you. And I just figured that I should tell you that… that you didn’t deserve anything that I’ve said. Probably for most of the last two years. And I know an apology won’t make up for any emotional hurt that I’ve caused, (if you even took any notice of it at all), but I just figured that I should say it anyway. So I’m sorry.”
Spike was suddenly glad that the Hyena wasn’t looking at him, because his lower jaw was hanging open. The moment he was able to talk again, he gave the wolf version of a grin. “Apology accepted, Harr- Xander.”
The Hyena looked up, grinned. “Whew. I’m glad that’s over. I thought you were gonna laugh at me or something. Thanks… Spike.”
The wolf chuckled. “Not a problem.” Got up and walked over to the Hyena, giving him a friendly smack on the shoulder with a paw. “C’mon, let’s go back inside. I don’t know about you, but I’m startin’ to get a bit cold.”
Xander laughed. “Sounds good to me.. mate.”
“You’re pushin’ it.”
“And one and two and one and two and one and- WHOA!”
Dawn had been jumping from rock to rock, but one false landing and she slipped. Thankfully, Giles was right behind her, and caught her with his trunk. “Easy there, Dawn.” He lifted her up and placed her on his back. “Perhaps you should ride for awhile. Till we get up to more stable ground.”
The group continued making their way up the mountain, which everyone was now thinking of as ‘the volcano’, with Dawn riding on Giles’ back. As for the rest of the group, Xander was at the back, helping Anya see where she was going. The Rhino’s nearsightedness was really becoming a problem on the slightly unstable ground, so Xander was being her ‘Seeing-Eye Hyena’.
“Rock. Ayn! Rock!”
“I said ‘rock’, honey.”
“I heard you. I thought *that* was the rock.” She gestured cumbersomely with one huge forefoot.
Xander laughed. “No. That’s Giles’ back leg.” He cocked his head. “I wonder when this stopped seeming the least bit weird.”
“About six years ago!”, Buffy called from ahead of the Mammoth. She turned around, coming back to Xander. “I bet you wish you’d never picked up that stake, huh?”
“What, are you kidding? And miss out on all of the chances to be eaten alive, possessed, or thrown back in time into the body of my least favorite animal?” Sarcasm. Dripping. But then he chuckled. “Of course not, Buff. I wouldn’t miss a day, night, or apocalypse for the world.”
Buffy laughed and nuzzled him quickly, bumping her head on his shoulder. “Didn’t think so.”
“Summit alert!”, Willow called from the head of the group. She and Tara were small enough that they could easily skirt the cracks in the ground, without worrying about slipping as Dawn had. “Whoa… Guys, get up here! It’s like something off the Discovery Channel!”
Interested, Spike bounded ahead, leaping over two cracks to land next to the pair of Dinofelis. “What?”
Tara motioned with a paw. “There. Look in the big bowl.”
“Bowl..?” Spike trotted up the edge of the ‘bowl’ as Tara had called it, and looked down. “Oh no….”
“Cool, huh?”, Willow said, moving up next to him. “The steam comes right up out of the ground down there.”
Spike shook his head. “Cool isn’t the right word, Red. Look again. This volcano’s cookin’, and we’re standing on top of the pot.”
The two cats looked at each other with wide green eyes. Tara looked at Spike. “Y-you mean that… it’s gonna.. e-erupt?”
Spike swallowed. “Yeah. It’s just a question of when. But, from the looks of that,” he said, motioning to the steam coming up from many vents in the plug down in the ‘bowl’. “It’s not gonna be long at all.”