Title: Nothing the Same
eedback: yes, please
Concrit: any and all
Disclaimer: don't own them, never will, just playing with them
Spoilers: Anything from Season 1 on.
Summary: AU from The Harvest. Xander doesn't deal well with Jesse's death and everything changes from there.
Notes: Based on the plotbunny posted awhile back by wickedchocolate. I took the first part of the bunny only: Xander never got over Jesse’s death. After he dusted Jesse, he was never the same. Xander isolated himself from Willow and wanted nothing to do with Buffy.
previous parts here
“Where is he?” Even as he said it, Spike knew it was the wrong thing to say. It played directly into Angelus’ hands and gave the older vampire even more control over the situation than he already had. But he couldn’t not ask, despite the fact that he knew Angelus wasn’t likely to answer him.
“Doesn’t work like that, boy. You earn the privilege of seeing him again.”
Figuring he might as well go the whole distance with this move, Spike countered with his own stubbornness. “Think I’m taking your word for it that the boy is still alive and unharmed? Not likely. You give me proof and let me see him or we end this game here and now. Not exactly known for telling it straight, Angelus.”
Angelus laughed but Spike could see the calculation going on behind his eyes. Angelus was weighing how far he could push this without losing his edge. Spike was well aware that Angelus wanted his submission as part of assuming Mastership of the Hellmouth. If the former Master submitted willingly to Angelus’ domination, the power transmission would be smooth and uncontested. Otherwise Angelus’ choices were either to kill Spike or to set his Court up as a rival to Spike’s and begin a war that could last for months. Spike was sure Angelus didn’t want either of the latter two options: a fight to the death carried both the risk of losing and the likelihood of being so weakened from the battle that other vampires, even minions, would seize on his vulnerability and try to kill Angelus and take over. Setting up a rival Court was also a poor risk: two competing Courts rarely worked out well for the challenger. The challenger who set up a rival Court was generally considered too weak to directly challenge the original Master and had trouble attracting members for the Court. No, Angelus wanted his submission and that gave Spike some leverage to use against his Sire.
“He’s alive. He’s a bit battered but that’s what happens to mouthy little pricks who don’t respect their betters.” Spike felt a surge of pride in Xander that his boy hadn’t been cowed by Angelus even as the banked embers of his rage flared to life again as Angelus boasted of having touched what was Spike’s. Angelus, his eyes sharpening on Spike’s face, obviously sensed something of Spike’s reaction but Spike kept his face outwardly neutral and Angelus let it go. “You can see him tomorrow evening, after you’ve submitted to me in front of the entire Court and freely handed over the Mastery of the Hellmouth.”
“Gonna be a bit difficult to assemble the Court, innit?” Spike asked, exasperated all over again as he gestured towards the burning factory. The now fully-engulfed building was clearly going to be unusable. Fire trucks were arriving and the block was a Dantean scene of confusions as firefighters rushed around, laying out hoses and trying to keep the fire from spreading to other buildings. Idly Spike wondered if the Slayer and her Watcher had made it out but he didn’t really care either way. “Minions will have scattered halfway to hell and back.”
Angelus smirked. “I’ve been working on setting up a new base for days. They’ll know where to go. Not a particularly loyal bunch, Spike, you should have chosen more carefully.”
Spike shrugged with seeming indifference though he was rocked to learn that Angelus had been able to begin setting up a power base without Spike hearing about it. “Inherited ‘em, didn’t I? Most of ‘em aren’t worth dusting. Just never bothered to turn and train new ones.”
Angelus shook his head in mock disapproval. “Never were much good at the long view, Childe. Good thing I’m taking over.”
“Sod off!” Spike gritted his teeth to stop himself from saying anything more. Only a short time ago, it had felt good to hear Angelus call him Childe again after all the years of silence. Now, his Sire was wielding the name like a weapon and Spike hated it. He wanted to tear his Sire to pieces but was hamstrung by not knowing where Xander was. Once he’d found him, freed him and hidden him away from Angelus, his Sire was going to find out exactly who was Master here. He looked up at the sky. “How far’s this place of yours?” he asked. “Be daylight in 20 minutes.”
Startled, Angelus looked to the sky, already streaked with pink and gold, and swore. Between the battle and the distraction of the fire, he obviously hadn’t noticed how close to dawn it had gotten. “We’ll have to find a place to hole up for the day,” he decided. “The new Court’s out on Crawford Street, we’ll never make it there in time.”
“Great. Got yourself a little suburban dream house, have you? Can’t wait to see it.”
“Shut up, Spike.” Angelus jerked his head in the direction of one of the other abandoned buildings in the area and the two battle-scarred vampires headed away from the lights and sirens, hurrying to find shelter against the sunrise. Spike just hoped they’d find a homeless person in the building Angelus was leading them to. He needed to feed or he wouldn’t heal and he had a feeling he’d need all his strength to deal with his Sire come the night.
As they walked, they were both thinking of a dark-haired boy, one speculating in worry, the other remembering with relish what had happened to him.
Xander had been jolted sharply awake as he was dropped suddenly to land on an unfamiliar bed. Disoriented, he looked around, not recognizing his surroundings or remembering what had happened.
“Finally awake, I see,” a terrifyingly familiar voice spoke from behind him.
Xander instinctively rolled away from the voice, landing with a crash on the floor beside the bed. He scrambled to his feet and glared at Angelus as the vampire sarcastically applauded him.
“Graceful,” Angelus commented mockingly.
The vampire was leaning against the opposite wall, arms folded, looking like patience incarnate, except for the malicious amusement in his eyes. Xander took a hasty look at his surroundings and discovered he was in what looking like an old apartment. An old apartment with boarded up windows, he realized with a sinking feeling in his gut. The only light came from a lantern sitting on the floor near where Angelus lounged indolently. “What do you want?” he asked nervously.
“You offered me the chance to prove I was as good as Spike,” Angel’s smirk was already wearing on Xander. “I’m taking you up on it.”
“I did not. What are you talking about?” If this was some sort of game, Xander was clueless about the rules.
“You said Spike was worth ten of me. You don’t just say something like that without giving me a chance to prove you wrong.” Angelus unfolded himself from the wall, stepping closer. Xander retreated two steps before hitting the wall behind him.
“No. No proving, no proving of anything. You stay the hell away from me.”
“Or what? Do you really think you have any chance to stopping me from doing anything I want?”
“Maybe not. But I’m not just going to lie down and take it.”
Angelus leapt over the bed before Xander had finished his sentence, moving so quickly that Xander didn’t have a chance to react. Grabbing Xander, Angelus flung him onto the bed so that he landed hard on his back. Xander started to roll off on the other side but Angelus pounced on top of him, pinning him down. He grabbed Xander’s wrists, trapping them against the mattress.
“Looks like you are going to lie down and take it, boy,” Angelus leered. “Which leaves us with a lot of interesting possibilities.” He settled down, seating himself on Xander’s hips and staring down into his face. Xander was miserably aware that he was doing a lousy job of hiding his fear.
“It’s really puzzled me that Spike hasn’t bothered to mark you.” Angelus pulled on Xander’s left arm, tucking his forearm under Angelus’ leg and pinning it down with his knee, freeing one of Angelus’ hands. “I guess he’s not been worried about anyone else claiming you. I may just have to teach him better.” He leaned forward, shifting to vampire face. “I’ve got plans for tonight. A snack first will hit the spot.”
Xander yelled, screaming for help, fighting and bucking beneath Angelus’ weight. The vampire just laughed at his futile struggles, clapping a hand over Xander’s mouth. “A little quiet while I feed, please.”
Xander bit down hard on the fleshy part of Angelus’ palm. Angelus swore and jerked his hand free, backhanding Xander in the same motion, splitting his lip until the taste of his own blood in his mouth mingled with that of the vampire’s.
“You need to learn manners, boy,” Angelus snarled. With one clean jerk, he tore the sleeve off Xander’s shirt and used it to gag him, letting go of Xander’s wrist long enough to swiftly wrap the makeshift gag around Xander’s head. As soon as his arm was free, Xander hit Angelus as hard as he could, striking out awkwardly and ineffectively, hampered by his position. Angelus ignored the blow, tying the gag securely before snagging Xander’s wrist again. Instead of pinning it, he ran his hand over the exposed skin where the sleeve had been, his fingers lingering on the human warmth.
“You know,” he said thoughtfully. “I should just rip your arm off and bring it to Spike as proof you’ve changed hands.” Xander tried to jerk away, but Angelus had an implacable grip on his wrist. He continued running his other hand up and down the length of Xander’s arm almost sensuously. “But he might not know your arm well enough yet recognize it. Hmmm, what to do.”
Xander knew Angelus was just toying with him, trying to scare him and it was working. Big time. He didn’t like Angelus touching him at all but add in the creepy, inspecting the merchandise aspect and Xander’s wig-o-meter was off the charts. He couldn’t help the shiver that ran through him and hated the vampire’s little chuckle as he felt the shiver, glaring impotently at the vampire, his eyes filled with hate.
Angelus backhanded him again for no apparent reason, lashing out with a casual strength that terrified Xander. His head rocked with the blow and pain exploded across his cheekbone. The vampire was suddenly on top of him, pressing him down into the mattress and Xander struggled wildly, trying to shift the literal dead weight off himself.
Angelus grabbed his hair with both hands and his weight shifted for a moment only to settle back again a second later as Angelus succeeded in securing both of Xander’s arms under his legs, his knees digging into the muscles painfully. It only took a moment for Xander to stop struggling, knowing he didn’t have the strength to fight the vampire off.
“Maybe I’ll just turn you,” Angelus purred, “save Spike the trouble.”
Xander screamed behind the gag, bucking and twisting uselessly, hearing Angelus’ little giggling laugh. The laugh of a sociopath having fun. A tongue licked a trail along his throat, Angelus’ iron grip in his hair preventing him from flinching away.
Fire burned in his neck as Angelus bit down, sinking his fangs in and beginning to feed. Xander closed his eyes, praying that Angelus would just kill him and not turn him into a vampire. He couldn’t help the little whimpering noises he made as he felt the blood being drawn out of him.
To his astonishment, Angelus stopped feeding after only a few seconds. The exquisite pain of the fangs being withdrawn from his neck hurt almost as much as when they’d entered but he cherished the feeling as relief swept over him. Angelus sat up, blood staining his lips, grinning through demonic features at Xander who could only stare stupidly back at him. The vampire reached out a hand and rubbed his thumb along the bite mark. “You’ll carry my mark now,” he said triumphantly.
Spike pointedly settled into a windowless corner of the abandoned building Angelus had selected and pulled out his pack of cigarettes ignoring his Sire as he lit up and tried to figure out a way to escape of the trap he was caught in before the jaws snapped shut completely. He refused to accept that the trap was well and truly triggered already. All he needed was a little leverage of his own.
Waiting out the day in this smelly hole would give him time to think about where Angelus would have stashed Xander. He ignored Angelus as his Sire came to stand directly in front of him, boots planted firmly on the concrete floor.
“Spike, you were never known for your ability to think. Don’t try and start now.”
When he didn’t respond, Angelus laughed and flung himself down on the floor next to Spike. “Going to be a long day, Childe. Shall we talk about my plans for your boy?”
Angelus had left shortly after biting him. He’d simply warned Xander not to move or he’d snap his neck, gotten up, picked up a length of chain already secured to the wall and snapped a manacle around Xander’s ankle. And Xander had just lain there and let him do it, too frightened to consider resisting. Angelus had removed the gag, tucking it into his pocket, patted Xander on the cheek patronizingly, run his finger over the bite mark again, and left, promising to be back shortly for more games. Bastard had taken the lantern with him, plunging the room into darkness as the door swung shut behind him.
Left alone in the dark room, Xander had fallen asleep. Looking back on it later, he couldn’t believe he’d done that. Despite the danger of his situation, he hadn’t woken up for hours if he was right in his guess that it was still early in the evening when Angelus had brought him here. When he finally woke, the room was dimly lit by sunlight coming through the boarded up windows and he was keenly aware he needed to get the hell out of Dodge.
He looked around the room, seeing it for the first time when there wasn’t a psychotic vampire holding all his attention, not liking the implications of what he was seeing. He was in what was clearly a studio apartment, long empty. The two small windows had been boarded up, but just enough light slipped through the narrow cracks for him to see his surroundings. There was a small kitchen nook in one corner with a scarred countertop and a few cabinets. It contained an old refrigerator with the rounded corners that reminded Xander of his grandmother’s ancient refrigerator but no stove. Old burns on the narrow countertop indicated there had probably once been some sort of portable burner on the counter. A toilet was set up in a closet sized room in the opposite corner barely large enough to hold the toilet and a freestanding sink outside the tiny kitchen served both. Other than the bed, there wasn’t any furniture, just bare walls with peeling paint and lime green wall to wall carpet that smelled strongly of mold and cat pee.
The room had clearly been set up for long term captivity. Why else provide a bathroom and secure him with an ankle restraint that allowed him to move around a bit?
Investigating, Xander first checked the chain Angelus had put on him. The chain was secured to the wall by a large U-bolt. Tugging produced no reaction and it looked like the thing was sunk deeply into a support beam. With his luck, the whole damn building could probably fall down and he’d still be chained to the last post standing.
He tried the boarded up windows next. They weren’t a jury rigged job: the boards met tightly and were clearly designed not only to keep him in but to keep sunlight out of the room. Which probably meant that vampires intended to enter during daylight hours. And he was not loving the idea of being an amusement for bored vamps. He could tell that it was daylight outside now from the thin slivers of light shining through the narrow gaps where a couple of the boards were slightly warped and didn’t meet exactly. The gaps were far too narrow to get a finger into but they did allow a few individual beams of sunlight in. Listening hard, he couldn’t hear anything through the windows; no voices, no music, not even any traffic noises.
Testing the boards, he found they were solidly anchored and too close together to pry them apart, certainly not with his bare hands. Leaving them for now, Xander checked the door. Surprisingly, the handle turned, although the door didn’t budge. Looking at the lock more closely, Xander could see that duct tape kept the original, knob lock from working. Which made sense, it wouldn’t do for the prisoner to lock the guards out. The original chain lock had been cut off. Since the door wouldn’t move, some sort of lock had to have been fastened to the outside. The door opened inward which meant the hinges were on his side and Xander eyed them speculatively. He might be able to pry the hinge pins loose if he could find something like a screwdriver but they had been painted over and might not move easily. Sighing, he rested his ear against the door but heard nothing. That didn’t mean there wasn’t a guard; even if there was one immediately outside, he for damn sure wasn’t going to hear breathing from one of Angelus’ guards.
That left the bathroom. Without a lot of hope, he moved to the bathroom and saw that it held nothing but an old, stained toilet.
First things first. He used the toilet to relieve his bladder, glad that at least one urgent need could be taken care of so easily, then zipped himself up and flushed, thankful when water responded. Moving awkwardly to the sink, despising Angelus with every step that sent the chain snaking behind him constantly hitting his leg and rubbing his ankle, he tried the tap and was rewarded with protesting noises and a thin stream of brownish water. He washed his hands, then gingerly splashed water on his face. From the lines above the sink, at one point there had been a mirror mounted on the wall but it was gone now. Gingerly, he examined his injuries by touch, wincing as his exploring fingers found swelling on his jaw and hot tenderness along his cheekbone. One eye was swollen almost closed and his hair was clumped and sticky with what he assumed was dried blood. His head was throbbing with a mega sized headache.
There wasn’t any fabric in the room except the clothes he was wearing. Looking down at his ruined shirt, Xander shrugged out of it and tore the other sleeve off. Using the fabric as a washcloth, he attempted to clean the worst of the stickiness out of his hair and gently patted the wet cloth along the damaged side of his face.
Finished, he draped the torn sleeve over the edge of the sink and shuffle-clanked the few steps to the bed. The mattress sighed underneath him as he sat and he sighed back at it.
If Angelus kept this up, Spike was going to lose it completely and kill his Sire, taking his chances on finding Xander. Angelus’ ideas for passing the time consisted of taunting Spike about his ability to run a Court, Angelus’ fond reminisces of his sexual exploits with Drusilla both before and after Spike was turned, and Xander: Angelus’ plans for him and what he’d done with the boy when he’d had Xander at his mercy last night.
The only thing that kept Spike from snapping was the fact that not only did Angelus change his story every few minutes but there simply hadn’t been time to do everything he claimed to have done, especially since he’d spent part of the night killing the Watcher’s girlfriend. If it hadn’t been for the piece of Xander’s shirt, Spike might almost have believed that Angelus didn’t even have the boy.
Eyes on the far wall, trying to block out his Sire’s voice, Spike sat silently as Angelus once again took up the topic of the gypsy witch he’d killed last night and how much he’d enjoyed decorating the Watcher’s place with her body. As his Sire rambled on gleefully, Spike spent his time smoking and thinking hard.
After what felt like a long time had passed, nothing had improved or even changed in his situation. Xander had contemplated simply screaming for help out the windows but abandoned the idea almost immediately because he didn’t think it would accomplish anything except possibly bringing the guards he assumed were outside the door down on him. Nobody had responded to his earlier yells and he doubted anyone would now.
He caught the sunbeams in his hand, the slanting rays reminding him of the summer days when he and Jesse had used a magnifying glass to burn holes in the plastic soldiers they had once collected. When they had outgrown actually playing with the soldiers, they’d gone through a phase where they would try and outdo each other in “wounding” the soldiers by burning holes all the way through them or amputating limbs by precisely aimed, deadly sunlight. He found himself wondering - if he could hold a vampire in one of the tiny patches of light, would the sun eventually drill through the vampire or just set it on fire?
Which simply brought him back to the thought that night was coming and with it, generic vampires at best but most likely Angelus. Watching the dust motes in the air play in the sunbeams while his mind drifted wasn’t getting him anywhere. He really needed to get out of here because he was so not wanting to see Angelus again. At least not without a lot of weapons and backup.
Looking around at the room, Xander considered whether there was anything he could use for a weapon or better yet, for escape. Kicking himself, he realized he hadn’t even checked the kitchen cabinets or refrigerator. Energized by the thought of finding something to use, or possibly even food, he shuffled to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. It was dark and silent and empty. Sighing, he checked the cupboard doors and they were also empty. A thought occurred to him and he opened the refrigerator again, this time checking the small door to the freezer compartment. The thin piece of metal swung open easily and could probably be removed but without a screwdriver he could only try and tear it off which would undoubtedly create a lot of noise. Fingering it, he decided reluctantly that it was far too flimsy to be useful as a weapon.
The sink was one piece, just a once-white porcelain sink attached to the wall. Nothing he could use. The toilet on the other hand…. Xander crossed to the bathroom, hating the fact that he was perfecting a glide-shuffle walk that worked with the chain, and considered the toilet. Just a standard issue home model, it held possibilities that an industrial model wouldn’t have.
Lifting the tank lid off the back, he considered the pieces inside. The metal rod on the flush mechanism was only about a half an inch wide. Xander put the lid back and sat down on the toilet seat to examine the shackle on his ankle.
It was metal, heavy iron or steel, unpadded, and Xander winced as he rubbed his already sore ankle and thought about what his ankle would look like if he had to spend much time wearing the thing. Angelus had locked it with a big, old fashioned key. The whole get-up looked like something out of a movie: an old-fashioned manacle, huge, heavy and clumsy. Well, Angelus’ drama queen tendencies might just have given Xander the break he needed. Thanking god Angelus hadn’t used modern police-issue leg shackles which he would never have been able to get off, Xander stood and investigated the toilet tank again.
It was surprisingly easy to disassemble the flush mechanism, leaving Xander with a potential lock picking tool in the form of a short metal rod, flat on one end, and worry that he would be stuck here forever with a no longer working toilet. Holding his breath, he tried the rod in the massive, key shaped lock on the shackle. It fit. Heart pounding, Xander closed his eyes and felt for the lock workings. Long practice with multiple kinds of locks came in handy and it only took a short time to trigger the release and the shackle fell open.
He barely managed to catch it before it hit the ground. Ok, step one down. Rubbing his freed ankle, Xander wondered if he should have figured out step two before going this far. Hopefully, he’d have time to replace the shackle before anyone opened the door to his room.
Moving to the boarded-up window, Xander tried unsuccessfully to slide the metal bar between the boards. He considered the ends of the boards but rejected the idea of digging into the plaster around them. Not only would it take a long time, it would leave an obvious mess that couldn’t be explained. Not to mention he had no idea of how high off the ground the window was anyway. It was a small but normal size window, not daylight basement size, so chances were he was above ground.
That left the door. Examining the hinges again, Xander was elated to discover the pins moved easily after only a small amount of prying with his tool. He pulled the first pin all the way out, then knelt to work on the lower hinge, When that one began to slide out, he stopped and moved back to the bed, sinking down on the mattress and waiting for the trembling in his hands to stop.
Opening the door from the hinge side and running like hell was pretty much his plan but he needed to think it through for a minute. It was daylight outside. Well, daylight unless they had a spot light trained on the window. That didn’t seem likely, so he was going with the daylight theory. That meant if he could get outside, he was safe. Hell, with luck he could stand three feet outside the door and yell insults back at the house he’d be so safe. Not that he intended doing that. No, if he got outside the house and into the safety of the sun, he was still going to run like hell. That part of the plan was a definite.
No, the question was: first, was there a guard outside the door and second, how many vampires were in the building and how was he going to get outside?
Ok, time for a plan. That’s what he needed. Just one little plan. Nothing to it. Realizing he was panicking, Xander shook his head sharply to stop his racing thoughts. Guard. What could he use against a guard?
There wasn’t any obvious wood lying around loose in the room. Surprise, surprise. Vampires probably loved modern metal furniture. Or old fashioned metal furniture like the iron bed frame, which Xander had been carefully avoiding looking at since his first sight of the fancy brass headboard when he’d thought that it was perfectly designed for tying someone up to it.
Ok, panicking again. Weapon. He needed a weapon.
A smile crossed his face as a thought occurred to him. He returned to the bathroom and lifted the tank lid again. The porcelain lid was heavy enough to carry a lot of impact and the rim on the underneath side gave him a good grip, meaning it could be swung hard like a club. He’d probably only get one shot because it would break upon impact but even broken it might leave him with at least one fragment large enough to still use.
Carrying the lid, Xander returned to the bed and rested the edge of the tank lid on the mattress for a second. Closing his eyes, he concentrated on breathing deeply to calm himself down. Finally, as ready as he was ever going to be, he moved back to the door.
He set the toilet lid down next to him where he could grab it quickly and silently eased the lower hinge pin the rest of the way out, laying it quietly down on the floor behind him. Hoping a guard would not be expecting anything from inside the room, Xander debated for a second whether to try and ease the door open or just yank on the hinges. Sure that either one was going to be noisy, he settled for a quick, steady pull on the upper hinge.
The hinge pulled free and the door sagged open. As soon as it cleared the sill, Xander wedged his hand in the opening and pulled hard. The door opened further with a squeal of wood rubbing against wood. It opened only partway, hanging cockeyed from the lock and Xander stepped back and kicked through the opening at the astonished vampire stupidly staring through the opening.
His foot caught the guard square in the stomach and the vampire staggered backward. Xander grabbed the tank lid with one hand and squeezed through the opening before the vampire had time to recover. He was barely through the opening, still trying to bring the lid up when the guard pounced on him. Xander kicked him again, connecting with a knee this time but the vampire snarled and kept coming. Xander got the lid up in time to deflect a punch, using it as a shield, and the vampire’s fist hit the heavy porcelain, driving it back into Xander’s body and cracking the lid. Shoving forward with all his strength, Xander pushed the guard away from him just far enough to quickly raise the lid and bring it down hard on the vampire’s head.
The lid shattered at the impact and the vampire dropped to the floor. Xander was left holding two useless, fist-sized pieces. He threw them at the dazed vampire and ran. He was in a hallway with a number of doors opening off it, all closed, undoubtedly they led to other old apartments. Throwing a quick look behind him, Xander’s heart pounded as he saw the guard was back on his feet, behind him, a second vampire appeared, and Xander cursed as he realized he’d gone in the opposite direction from the stairs. The hall in front of him dead ended, leaving only a tall window that someone had nailed a blanket over, covering the glass and blocking the sun. Xander aimed for the window, praying he wasn’t on an upper story.
He could hear the two vampires yelling behind him, they were so close that he expected them to grab him at any second. With no choice, Xander simply dove through the window, bringing his arms up to shield his head and praying the blanket would protect him from the glass.
Pain exploded in his arm as he smashed through the window. He landed hard on a narrow section of roof and rolled, sliding helplessly across the asphalt shingles. He tried to grab on to the shingles to stop him and screamed as pain shot through his arm at the attempt. His flailing legs found no purchase only air as he slid inexorably over the edge of the roof. For one second, he was able to snag the edge of the gutter with his good hand as he went over, but his full weight hit the end of his outstretched arm and he lost his grip, falling to the ground ten feet below.
He landed hard on his back, the impact knocking the breath out of him and his head slamming into the dirt hard enough to leave him dazed. Winded, unable to breath, Xander was still acutely aware that he wasn’t in the safety of sunlight yet. Ignoring the pain in every part of his body, blind fear gave him the strength to drag himself away from the building towards the slanting yellow rays lighting the ground only a few feet away.
He collapsed into the warmth, cradling his injured arm and wanting nothing more than to stay there forever without moving. But sunset was coming and he knew that if he stopped, he’d still be lying there when the sun went down and the vampires he could hear raging inside the house would simply stroll outside and scoop him up.
Heaving himself up with his good arm, he let out a choked screamed and fell back again as fire streaked along his side. Clutching his side, Xander was afraid he had probably broken at least one rib. He had a vague idea that you weren’t supposed to move with broken ribs but that was for people with a choice. Inch by painful inch, he rolled onto his face and slowly pushed himself up with one hand, trying to avoid jostling both his arm and his side. He staggered to his feet, pain stabbing through him with each movement and headed blindly away from the building in the direction of the deserted street.
He needed to get to Spike and let him know that he’d escaped. Unfortunately, he needed to get to a hospital first or he wouldn’t make it to the factory. Not to mention, he seriously wanted to be somewhere with lots of people and lots of wooden stakes around when the sun set. Wherever he was now, he didn’t recognize it. The street was lined with old boarded up buildings and vacant, trash-strewn lots.
Staggering down the street, Xander looked for a phone, a passing car, or anyone with a pulse that he could ask for help.
Xander came awake yelling, trying to struggle, despite the pain that seared through him with every movement. Voices were yelling at him and hands were pinning him down and he struggled blindly, terrified, not recognizing his surroundings.
“Calm down! You’re going to hurt yourself.” A single voice penetrated the bedlam surrounding him and he focused on it desperately, seeing an older Hispanic male in a white coat. “Calm down,” the man repeated. “You’re in a hospital.”
The confusion sorted itself out into nurses and orderlies and an examination room and Xander relaxed slightly. The man spoke again. “What’s your name, son?”
“Xander,” he managed to say, but even that much brought a fit of coughing which sent pain slashing through his chest. Even breathing hurt but hands on his shoulders kept him from moving.
“Get his chest elevated,” a voice ordered.
“Xander, can you understand me?”
Xander nodded, not wanting to risk another coughing fit. He felt the surface beneath him shift, raising his upper body and it became a bit easier to breath. Gradually, he became aware of something over his mouth and he tried to pull it away.
A hand grabbed his arm, stopping him. “Xander, I need you to leave that alone. It’s oxygen, you’re having trouble breathing. Just relax and let us examine you.”
He nodded and hands were everywhere, cutting his shirt off, poking, prodding, hurting. He tried feebly to protest but they didn’t listen to him. There was something important he needed to do but he couldn’t remember what. There was a slight sting in his arm and Xander closed his eyes, shutting out the room as he struggled to remember. The voices and the hands retreated and Xander relaxed. Whatever it was that was so important would come to him in a moment.
Skilled hands that tried to be gentle worked on his multiple injuries as he slipped back into unconsciousness.
Angelus’ new place was a mansion on the outskirts of town. Spike followed Angelus silently, hands thrust deep into his pockets, longingly fingering a stake. He spent the walk planning new and inventive ways to torture Angelus as soon as Xander was free.
Spike rolled his eyes in disgust as they finally arrived at the mansion. A less vampire-friendly home was hard to imagine: the enormous windows alone were sure to create problems, never mind its location in a fancy suburb undoubtedly full of bored housewives with nothing to do but spy on the neighbors.
Opening the doors, Angelus proudly showed off the mansion like a bloody real estate agent, leading Spike through the high ceilinged ground floor rooms and out into an enclosed courtyard complete with a fountain. Practically rhapsodizing over the garden, actually pointing out the flowers, Angelus finally stopped and leaned against the fountain, idly flicking his fingers in the water. “The factory had no style, Spike. Just modern industrial wasteland, not worthy of the Master of the Hellmouth. This will be a lot more comfortable and give the Court some class.”
“It's paradise,” Spike agreed sarcastically. “Big windows, lovely gardens. It'll be perfect when we want the sunlight to kill us.”
“Spike, my boy, don’t take such a negative attitude. I don’t want my Court to have to squat in that dank warehouse.”
Spike’s jaw tightened rebelliously as Angelus casually claimed the Court. “Not really an issue now given that you succeeded in burning the place down,” was all he said. “Where’s Xander?” he asked pointedly.
“Will you stop whining about that brat? All in good time.” Angelus strode back inside the mansion, his boots echoing on the stone floors, yelling for minions to attend him. Spike was furious at the confirmation that Angelus had been turning fledges behind his back but again was forced to swallow his anger. Angelus was going to pay for every insult and humiliation, he vowed silently even as he followed the older vampire inside. He studied the building, spare and pretentious, looking for anything he could use against his Sire.
A yell of outraged fury snapped his attention back to Angelus, just in time to see Angelus backhand a minion, sending the fledge reeling backwards into the wall. Spike moved forward avidly, anything that upset Angelus had potential. The fledge was whimpering for mercy, repeatedly saying that “it wasn’t his fault” but before Spike could learn what the problem was, Angelus had staked the fledgling and Spike’s answers exploded into a cloud of dust.
“Trouble with the help?” he asked Angelus maliciously.
Angelus straightened up and shot a glare at Spike. “Nothing I can’t handle,” he said shortly, obviously attempting to gloss the situation over. He stalked off, yelling bad temperedly for the cowering minions to follow him. Spike was tempted to follow but decided to take a quick look through the mansion on the off chance Angelus had been cocky enough to stash Xander here.
Running swiftly down the stairs, Spike found himself in a daylight basement, fitted out with a laundry room, workshop, and various similar rooms. He listened intently but heard no trace of a familiar heartbeat, nor could he catch a hint of Xander’s scent. Cursing, disappointed despite knowing it had been an unlikely hope, Spike spun around and ran back up the stairs. He found a flight leading upwards and headed for the second story. Dungeons were more typical housing for captives but Angelus’ chosen lair had more in common with suburbia than a traditional castle, despite the enormous rooms on the main floor. He moved quickly from room to room, listening, smelling, searching, but found no trace that Xander had ever been at the mansion.
Spike fought back the surge of renewed worry. He hadn’t really expected to find the boy here but he’d had to look. He walked back down the stairs to the main floor not really caring anymore if Angelus had noticed his absence.
Angelus was still huddled with his minions and Spike watched as several were dispatched outside. Something was up and Angelus was furious about it but he was being careful to speak so quietly that Spike couldn’t hear what he was saying. Whatever it was, Angelus clearly didn’t want Spike to know about it. Which meant is was probably something he could use against his Sire.
He wondered if he dared hope that it had something to do with Xander. In any case, with minions being sent running on errands, it looked like submission before Angelus’ so-called Court was going to be delayed. Which gave Spike some room for maneuvering.
Xander awoke slowly, drifting gradually to the surface. For a long time, he simply lay there, too disconnected from reality to have any curiosity about his surroundings. Opening his eyes, his vision was only half what it should be but it didn’t trouble him. Looking around with his good eye, he registered a bed, machines, a curtain pulled around the bed. Closing his eye again, he dismissed the objects as meaningless, content to simply lie there without thinking.
He didn’t recognize the quiet voice at first. Opening his eyes, he saw Oz’s face peeking through the curtain. He opened his mouth but no sound came out.
“What happened?” Oz opened the curtain slightly, slipping into the gap and approaching the bed his eyes taking in the bandages, the machines, and the cast. “I was picking up Devon at the ER when I caught your scent.”
For a long moment, Xander couldn’t think what Oz was talking about, then with startling suddenness reality returned from its vacation and Xander gasped out loud at the shock of returning memory. Oz waited, watching him with worried eyes. “Do you need me to get a nurse?”
Xander shook his head. “Angel,” he whispered. “Help.”
Oz seemed to follow that. “What do you need?”
“Spike.” Oz looked puzzled and Xander tried again. “Tell Spike… Angel.” His mouth felt like it was filled with cotton and his voice rasped in his throat but he had to get this out. “Need to warn Spike. At the factory.”
Comprehension flared in Oz’s eyes along with something else Xander didn’t understand, then Oz was shaking his head. “Xander, the factory burned down two nights ago.”
“What?!” Xander sat bolt upright, then doubled over as pain returned with a vengeance. After a long minute, he eased himself back against the pillow, his face white. “How? What happened?” Oz remained silent and Xander could practically hear him editing what he was going to say. “Everything,” he demanded, his voice still little more than a hoarse whisper.
“Angel killed Ms. Calendar and Giles went after him.” Xander stared at him in mute shock and Oz went on quietly. “The factory got burned in the fight. Buffy got Giles out before Angel killed him.”
Xander couldn’t have spoken if his life depended on it and after a short silence, Oz just shrugged slightly. “Factory burned to the ground. We don’t know yet if Angel made it out.”
Xander found himself panting in quick, shallow breaths at the shock of hearing all that. Closing his eyes, he lay back, his good hand clinging to a fistful of cotton blanket as he struggled to anchor himself in a reality that had just shifted so disastrously. Spike’s home had burned down and Spike might have been caught in the fire. Miss Calendar was dead. It couldn’t be true. All he could hear was a roaring in his ear, drowning out the small alarm that went off as his heart rate shot up and the monitor reacted.
He wasn’t even aware of nurses hurrying into the room and evicting Oz. Guilt flooded him at the realization that he had caused this by telling Giles about Angelus being at the factory. Spike could be dead and Giles was probably hurt and it was all his fault. His agitated thoughts whirled uncontrollably even as he fought for calm, to think, to figure out where Spike would have gone and if he needed help.
He didn’t see the injection that sent his thoughts scattering as darkness swamped him, nor the satisfied smile from the nurse as his skyrocketing heart rhythm slowed as the sedative took effect. She gave him a gentle pat, straightening his blanket and adjusting the call button so it was more conveniently within his reach before leaving the room.
Spike was fed up with Angelus’ delaying tactics and beginning to have a sliver of hope that the reason his Sire wasn’t making Spike kneel before him was because Angelus had somehow lost control of the situation. He only hoped it didn’t mean that the now-dusted minion had killed the hostage. The fact that Angelus had sent every one of his handful of minions out on errands said no. The longer Angelus blustered about “setting things up properly”, the more Spike was convinced Xander had either escaped or somehow been rescued by someone else. While he hated the idea of not having been the one to rescue his boy himself, Spike wasn’t about to complain about the results.
“Right, ‘nuff of this hanging about. I want to see my boy now or I’m going to start assuming you don’t have him.”
“Sure you want to take that risk?” Angelus growled, stopping his incessant pacing to glare at Spike.
“Beginning to, mate. You don’t look like someone who knows his arse from a hole in the wall right now, much less whose got the treasure.” Spike could feel it, Angelus had lost Xander, his Sire’s frustrated anger was escaping his tight control and Spike just knew.
“Ponce,” he said contemptuously. “I’m finding myself something to eat. My boy better be here when I get back or I’ll burn your bloody house down around your ears.”
Spike spun with a contemptuous swirl of leather and stalked out of the mansion. He did need to feed but he had no intention of going back. No, he was going to find his boy, even if he had to recruit help to do it. Angelus’ minions were searching for Xander, he was sure of it. He had to find Xander before they did.
Cool fingers stroked along his forehead. “Xander, wake up, luv.”
Xander moaned in protest at being woken and snuggled into the touch. A familiar voice chuckled in his ear. “Lazy git. Open your eyes so I know you’re all right.”
Xander reluctantly opened his eyes and found a pair of intense blue eyes smiling down at him. Spike was stretched out beside him in the narrow hospital bed, precariously balanced as Xander’s lanky form took up most of the room. “Hey,” he said, smiling sleepily back at Spike.
“How’re you feeling, pet? Gave me a bit of a scare.”
“Better, now that you’re here.” Xander slung an arm around Spike’s waist and buried his face in Spike’s hip. “Worried about you.”
“Not the one in hospital, luv.” Despite the tart words, Spike’s voice was full of quiet affection. “Let’s get a bit more light in here so’s I can see you proper,” he suggested.
Xander protested sleepily as Spike got off the bed, turning to watch the vampire move to the window. Spike opened the drapes and Xander shot upright, screaming “No!” as sunlight streamed in through the opened drapes, turning Spike into a pillar of flames that last only a second before he vanished into ash.
“Sorry, I’ll close them again.”
Sitting bolt upright, shaking, hearing the echo of his agonized scream in his head, Xander struggled to throw off the aftermath of his dream. Dazed, he watched a young girl in a volunteer’s uniform quickly close the drapes again then move to his bedside. “Would you like some breakfast?” she asked, reaching behind him to fluff his pillows.
“Not right now,” was all he could manage, his heart still pounding.
“I’ll just leave it at the foot of your bed in case you want it a little later,” she said and brought a tray in, setting it down on the portable table before whisking out again. Xander lay back on his pillow and tried to get the image of Spike burning up out of his mind. His dreams had been haunted by the images of fire and he was exhausted. But greater than his fatigue was his need for information.
He needed to know what had happened at the factory and whether Spike had been there. Two nights ago, Oz had said. Xander wasn’t sure what day it was now but he was pretty sure Oz had meant the same night that Angelus had grabbed him. Angelus had been planning on using Xander against Spike. If Angelus had also killed Miss Calendar that same night, maybe Spike hadn’t been at the factory when Giles went there.
There was no way Spike was really dead. He was way too smart to get caught in the crossfire between Angelus and Giles. No way.
Xander pressed the call button. He really needed a phone. Somebody had to know what had happened. Giles might not be at the library yet but Willow was always an early riser.