"He's not awake?"
Spike's voice showed clear and obvious concern. He had fully expected to be the last to wake and thought he'd come around to find his grand-sire hovering over him, waiting to tell him off for being such an idiot and putting himself in danger.
"Is that Spike?" Giles jolted the group back to the fact that he was still at the other end of the line.
"Rupert." Spike acknowledged before turning to Willow. "Red."
He nodded at the smiling redhead. He felt far better than he expected he would.
"I have you to thank for this?" Spike motioned to his body, opening the shirt that Andrew and Xander had helped him into and brushing his hands carefully across his stomach. There were faint purple lines where the cuts had been made, but they were healing. Healed on the surface and, as Spike could tell from his stretch, healing quite well underneath too. It felt sensitive to the touch but infinitely better than it had been.
"I had help." she replied humbly. "The coven helped me to find the correct spell, and Giles helped to get me here. It needed a lot of power, and I'm wiped out now."
"You want to come back?" Giles enquired quickly. The spell was big and it would have affected Willow greatly. She would need time to recuperate before she could do any magic again. "I can bring you back, if you like?"
Willow looked around the room. Spike and Xander were communicating silently with each other: Xander checking Spike over, making sure his injuries were healing OK, and Spike tolerating his examination with an amused smile. Andrew had moved back to the sleeping Angel's side, the frown on his face making it all too plain just how worried he was.
"I think I should go." she announced, as much to the group in the room as to Giles. "There's nothing more I can do here."
"I'll make preparations. Five minutes should suffice. Same location as you arrived. Then we can both get some sleep."
Giles rang off and Willow let out a long breath.
"We can't thank you enough for this, Will." Xander got up and walked over to Willow, pulling her into a tight embrace.
"Look after him, Xan." she said softly, smiling and nodding her head towards the blond vampire who was watching Angel intently. "And don't let him do anything heroic. He's still healing. He'll be fragile for a while."
Xander let out a snort of laughter.
"Fragile?" he asked, incredulously, "Hey Spikey, did ya hear that? Will says you'll be fragile for a while so no heroics, OK?"
Willow rolled her eyes at the two men who were clearly amused at her suggestion.
"Well, hell." Spike replied, stifling a chuckle himself, "I guess I'll just have to let ya get killed instead then, huh, whelp?"
Despite his jovial comment, Spike's face quickly reverted back to concern, and he stood carefully, walking across to Angel and kneeling alongside Andrew. Andrew glanced at Spike and then back to Xander, before standing and giving the vampires some space.
"Right." Willow deliberately distracted them from the almost intimate moment between vampire and grand-sire, "I'll be off then."
"Yeah." Andrew forced himself to stay focussed on the humans in the room, allowing Spike some time. He walked across to Willow and gave her a half-hearted hug.
"Thanks, Willow." he added, "I know you did what you could, and we all appreciate it. I'll stay and watch over Angel, making sure his blood levels stay up while Spike and Andrew head off to Bordensville to find this vampire Melandra. Brutus will get the stuff delivered when he knows it's for Angel. We'll be OK."
Andrew sounded as if he was trying to convince himself more than anybody else, but nobody in the room knew for sure how things would turn out.
Willow nodded and leant in to Xander, giving him a soft kiss on the cheek before turning and picking up her bag.
"Look after yourself, Xan. And don't do anything stupid." The last comment came as the atmosphere in the room became thick with a heavy quiet feeling.
"See you." she said, as a moment later, the room flashed brightly and, when the eyes in the room had recovered enough to be able to focus, she was gone.
Xander glanced over to Spike, wondering whether he and Andrew should leave the vampires in peace. After a minute's contemplation, and noticing that Andrew was also standing awkwardly, obviously unsure what to do, he gave a nod.
"I'll go repack my things then. Gonna make us some fresh coffee, Andrew, and box us up some blood in a cooler for Spike?"
It wasn't subtle. Xander had never really been known for subtle, but it gave Andrew something to do and gave the vampires some space. If Spike really was coming on this road trip with Xander; if it really didn't go to plan; if they couldn't find Melandra; if Andrew couldn't find enough blood to keep Angel alive...
There was no hiding the fact that, if all didn't go well and Angel didn't make it, this could be the last time Spike saw him.
There had been many times, during their long coexistence, that Spike might have relished that idea. This was certainly not one of those times. It said a lot, Xander thought, about how recent times had changed everyone, that it was plain to see in Spike's face that he was in no way ready to let Angel go.
The kitchen door swung closed behind Andrew, and Xander could hear the mutterings of a young man trying to hide his emotions and distract himself as he prepared coffee and blood for his friends' trip.
And as Xander himself climbed the stairs back up to his bedroom: the one he had barely used himself since arriving such a short time ago in LA, he could have sworn he heard the faint sounds of a desperate British voice, choked with emotion, pleading and begging his grand-sire to pull through.