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A cacophony of voices, machines, sounds wake him but he doesn’t open his eye, doesn’t want to see, to face the world. He just lies there, wonders why he’s alive, wonders why his head feels as if it’s wrapped in a combination of cotton wool and razor blades. The tang of antiseptic in the air barely masks the other smells – sickness, death, decay – and even if there were no other clues he’d know from the smell alone that he’s in a hospital.
He tries to focus his thoughts, tries to remember why he’s here but he can’t. All he recalls is a heat so intense he thought his blood would boil in his veins, a fear so sharp he thought his heart would never start beating again.
He drifts away, unable to remember, unwilling to try.
When he resurfaces everything is sharper. Light shines into his eye, blinding him, he tries to turn away but hands – and other things – hold him firmly in place. Voices are talking to him, hurling questions his way – does he know where he is, who he is?
He doesn’t answer. Too many questions, too many people, too much chaos. He lets the blackness take him.
The next thing he’s aware of is of being watched – no, not watched. Regarded. There’s a malevolence in there that belies the simple act of watching. He feels the way he imagines an amoeba on a glass plate would, having something superior to him observing him. He wants to squirm away, escape that malevolent gaze, but his limbs won’t move. He’s stuck firmly in place.
A cold sweat born of fear prickles his skin and he shivers involuntarily.
“He’s waking up!” A familiar voice, one which makes him remember a black-eyed stare full of hatred.
“Xander? Can you hear me?” Another voice he knows, this one bringing images of unshed tears burning bright in her eyes.
He knows them, he sees them in his mind. Why can’t he name them?
With a struggle he opens his eye, wincing as the light blinds him and for a moment he panics. He can’t see, his remaining eye has failed him. Then his vision starts to clear and he berates himself for his stupidity. He’s not blind. He’s fine.
He knows the last part is a lie.
Blurry shapes hover at the edge of vision and he knows they are the owners of the voices he recognizes. He blinks away the glare, remembers how to focus, and looks at them.
As soon as he sees their faces their names fall into place. Dawn is perched on the end of the bed and Willow is at his side. He starts a little when he sees her. She’s been crying, that much is obvious from the puffiness around her eyes, but there’s something else. Something missing from her eyes.
He searches her emerald gaze, trying to figure out what’s wrong. All he sees is worry, for him apparently. She doesn’t flinch under his scrutiny although he knows he’s staring, he doesn’t care though, he just knows that whatever it is he’s not seeing is important. It’s the reason he’s in this hospital bed.
He frowns for a second, then it hits him. Her eyes are regular old Willow-eyes. No trace of the Black-Eyed Girl. But the fire… and Kennedy… he saw her, she’d been doing some kind of spell. He knows he saw her.
He pulls his hand from her loose grip and shrinks away from her. She did this.
Fresh tears spring to Willow’s eyes at the sudden rejection and she stands so quickly that her chair hits the ground with a crash.
“I’ll… uh, I’ll go get a doctor. Tell the others you’re awake.” She babbles a little as she beats a hasty retreat. Xander watches her go with relief, doesn’t let himself believe her innocence is real.
He turns to see Dawn watching him wide-eyed, not understanding, not getting it. He wonders briefly where she’s been for the last few days. Everyone else seemed to be falling over themselves to get in his way bit he’s not seen hide not hair of her since…
He frowns. The drugs they’ve put him on must be really strong – memories keep replaying in his head but it’s like there’s two of each, he doesn’t know what to believe.
Dawn’s the pivotal point. He sees that now, she’s the one thing he can count on to be who she was made to be. She’s the only one he can trust. Well, /she/ is, and then there’s –
“Faith.” His voice rasps in his throat and he realizes his mouth is dry. “Where is she?”
Dawn looks down, not able – or not willing – to look him in the eye. “She…” She stops, gulps, takes a breath. “She’s still in the ICU. They.. they don’t think she’s going to pull through.”
He slumps back, defeated. He can’t find words and something about the way Dawn’s looking at him, the sympathy, the worry, makes his skin crawl.
Finally he has to know. “What happened?” It comes out as a demand but he doesn’t apologize. He can’t.
Dawn doesn’t seem to notice, she just looks down at the sheets. Finding something interesting in the weave of the material she focuses on that as she answers.
“Willow.” She whispers.