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29 October 2012 @ 01:26 pm
The Hive, Chapter 5  

THE HIVE

By Fangstress

Chapter 5

Fandom: Buffy The Vampire Slayer crossover Angel the Series

Warnings: Violence, Slash, Rating R, Spangel, Eventual Spander

Xander's life changes forever when he tries to help a deranged Slayer...

To read Chapter 1, click here:  http://fangstress.livejournal.com/10764.html

To read Chapter 2, click here: http://fangstress.livejournal.com/11426.html

To read Chapter 3, click here: http://fangstress.livejournal.com/11695.html

To read Chapter 4, click here: http://fangstress.livejournal.com/12097.html

Feedback: Yes, yes, YES! 

PREVIOUSLY:

Xander Harris lay in the dark, knowing he was bleeding out. And there was nothing at all that he could do to stop it. He couldn't even move his head out of the way of the leaking pipe that dripped water onto his face, trailing down the side of his nose, landing in the puddle of his own blood spreading all around him.

He had been murdered in the worst heat of LA by a deranged Slayer, and it was all his fault.

Earlier that day, Xander, ignoring any common sense he'd ever possessed,  had trailed the runaway Slayer from the sweltering heat of downtown LA,  into the cool darkness of the old waterfront warehouse. He had hoped that his ability to tell uncomfortable truths in his soothing, yet denial-piercing way would reach the young girl,  bringing her out darkest madness into the light.

Once he'd found the girl, things had rapidly gone downhill.

**

LAST WEEK:

Xander steeled himself and tried not to fidget. "Well, you see -- it's the slayers. The recruits."

Willow had seemed puzzled. "What about them? Did one of them do something--?”

"No, no-- it's just that--" Xander had paused, suddenly feeling like a bug under a microscope. “Have you noticed that they're-- well, acting a little-- odd? I mean, lately?"

He'd stopped, stared at his scuffed work boots and then back up at Willow. "They seem a little--too focused? Like scarily focused? Cruel, even?"

Willow's brow furrowed. She frowned, looking like a severe teacher about to give a lecture. But it wasn't comforting. There was something sly, knowing-- about the look Willow gave him. She shot a look to Magda, then back at Xander.

Xander had paused, dismayed, as he watched Willow's demeanor change. His heart sank. He'd been so very wrong to come here.



And now...

The Hive

By Fangstress



Chapter 5

The next morning, as Xander lay wearily in his monkish bed in his shabby flat, he'd heard the Speed Racer ringtone and groggily picked his phone up off the floor beside him. He peered at the screen, not recognizing the number, and so took the call.

He wasn't fully awake, so it was hard to focus on the panicked voice of the teenage girl on the other end, and he sat up, hurriedly. “Wait, wait-- what now?" He mumbled, running a hand through too-long bed hair. Oh, right. Claire. It had to be.

"I had to leave! I ran away-- and they're after me!"

Crap. "Claire?"

"Xander, you said you'd help me!"

"Where are you, Claire?"

Nothing but panicky breathing. Xander swore to himself. This was trouble he didn't need. He'd known in that moment that the next words out of his mouth would change everything. "Claire, I can help. I promise I won't tell anyone. We'll work this out. But you have to tell me where you are."

The girls sounded as if she'd been running; and was trying to hold back hysteria and tears. She needed help.

"Claire-- tell me where you are, and I'll come to you. We'll get some help. Not from the Council. I promise you that, okay?"

The girl finally seemed to calm a little. “I’m in LA.”

"How the hell'd you get to LA?" Xander was non-nonplussed and a little scared. A girl of fifteen, no money--

"I-- stole some credit cards."

"Oh, God." Xander was so going into freak-out mode. He couldn't afford that, not yet. Save girl, freak out, later. He took a deep breath. “Okay. I'm on my way. Try to stay out of trouble. Err-- more trouble. You don't need to attract anyone's attention, Claire."

“Alright."

"I'll call you as soon as I get to LA. Then we can meet, and we'll figure out what to do."

Claire swallowed audibly. “O-okay, Xander."

"It's going to be okay, Claire." Xander rubbed at his aching, empty eye socket. Time to get moving. "You hear me?"

"Yes. I'll see you in LA. Bye, Xander."

"See you soon." Xander had clicked the phone off. He laid there staring at it dumbly for a long moment.

Xander had swallowed down raw panic, hefting himself up out of bed to stumble into the tiny economy kitchen for coffee. As he hunched over the ancient coffeemaker, listening to its weak sputtering, he tried to come up with a plan-- any plan of action.

His stomach roiled in sick worry. What had made him think he could actually do anything to help Claire? He'd been out of the Damsel saving business forever; not that he'd ever saved anyone, anyway. He was going to screw this up, royally. Just like everything else, he'd ever done; this was going to end up with him either looking like an idiot, or mostly dead, if he was especially unlucky. Possibly even all the way dead. At least he wouldn't have to worry about mystical STD's. Claire was underage.

"Okay." Xander mumbled, trying to get ahold of his racing thoughts, "Claire stole somebody's credit cards, so she's resourceful in a criminal sort of way. She got under my skin, so manipulative? Maybe. Probably. She seemed awfully frightened."Xander reached under the bed and unrolled the duffle he kept there. "So, was that fear real? Or was that an act?"

He stood, holding the duffle. "Shit. Seemed real to me." Snatching clothes out of drawers, he began stuffing them into the bag. Something hard and shiny fell out of a pocket, thudding solidly onto the floor. Looking down to see what had fallen, Xander's eye was caught by the mellow gleam of old silver. A small, rounded corner peeked out from the edge of the rickety dresser.

Stooping stiffly, knees popping, Xander got his fingers around it and scooped it up.

It took Xander a long, long time to open his hand and look at it. Filigreed silver. The memories...they threatened to overwhelm him. He swayed, eye closed, remembering.

The smells of Buffy’s musty basement flooded Xander’s senses as he relived that last day.

**

"What brings you down here, mate?" Spike had asked, lazily lounging on his cot. His shirt was off, his feet were bare, and he looked more at ease than Xander had ever seen him.

 Xander remembered the weak, bare light bulb glowing; giving Spike's tousled curls a golden glow. He'd adopted an air of nonchalance-- then dropped it. It-- it wasn't appropriate here.

"I just came down to--" Xander began, and then broke off nervously.

"Escape the kiddies?" Spike chuckled darkly.

"That, too." Xander agreed. "Actually, I wanted to talk to you."

"Yeah?" Spike uncoiled himself from the cot, to snag his coat, draped across the back of a folding chair. He fumbled in the pockets, brought out a pack of cigarettes, and lit one. He drew on it strongly, but for a miracle didn't blow it in Xander's face. "Right." He said, looking at Xander oddly. He sat back down on the cot. "Let's have it, then."

Xander's face warmed. "Spike--"

"Xander--" Spike said at the same time, looking a little lost.

"Err.", Xander stopped, puzzled.

Spike's eyes widened and he ducked his head."I just wanted to---"

They stared at each other, baffled.

Xander started again, "Spike, I--wanted to--"

Spike blurted, "I'm sorry--"

"-say thank you..."Xander trailed off lamely.

“--I wasn't fast enough to save you---What?" Spike rocked back on his heels as if he'd been slapped.

"What?" Xander was sure Spike had said he was sorry. He must have been hearing things.

Spike shrugged, and then wrapped his arms around his body. “I said, I'm sorry--"

"For what, Spike?"

"I wasn't fast enough. Save the eye from that fucker."

"Spike, I came down here to thank you for not letting him take the other one, too." Xander watched with dismay as Spike's mouth dropped open, as if he was in shock. Or awe. Or something. It probably wasn't good; Xander figured Spike thought he was pulling a fast one. Which would be cruel-- par for the course. Xander understood, of course. He'd hated Spike for...it seemed like forever. But now he needed to clear the slate. "You know, Spike?" Xander said. “Tomorrow, I might not be around to say it. You saved my life. We're square." 

Spike regarded Xander with wide, shocked eyes. He took another deep drag off the smoke; exhaling forcefully. He looked away, then back at Xander, eyes impossibly blue. Xander resolutely held his hand out, to shake Spike's hand.

Spike stared at it for a long moment, and then took it in his own, shaking it firmly. Xander sighed in relief, quirking a small grin. Then he waited, puzzled for Spike to release his hand." Uhhh... Spike?"

Spike started, but still didn't let go of Xander's hand. Instead, tightening his grip, he suddenly he pulled Xander close and kissed him, brushing his lips softly, so softly-- across Xander's.  Then he let him go.

Xander stood there a like a dumbfounded ox for a good few seconds. Maybe even a whole minute. Spike smirked at him. Okay, that was normal.

When his voice returned, Xander asked in what he really, really needed to believe was a reasonable tone, "What was that?"  No, his voice didn't crack at all.

"Was for good luck." Spike tilted his head. Xander tried hard to ignore Spike's wistful and rather cute expression. He seemed almost...shy. 

Spike fished around in his pocket, finally drawing out his lighter. Old, antique silver Zippo. He handed it to Xander. "I'm carrying the amulet. Hold this for me." He handed the lighter to Xander. "If I make it, I want it back,” he warned.

"I'll hold onto it for you.” Xander promised. "And...and maybe, after we make it out of here, we can be. ah...sorta  friends?"

"Maybe more." Spike said, so softly Xander had at first thought he'd imagined it. 

**

He hadn't had the courage to find out. Instead, he'd made excuses about Buffy needing a carpenter, and just about blazed up the basement stairs.

He'd never gotten the chance to find out where things could have gone, or even if he'd ever have wanted them to.

Spike was ashes the next day.

Ashes. Dust.  Like all of Sunnydale.

More than a year later, in London, he'd  found himself remembering everything that he'd wanted to say-- everything that had gone unsaid--all these things.... and as he'd stood there holding Spike's lighter, a tear had rolled down his cheek. He'd wept then, because he'd known that everything was going to change again, and he was now officially without anyone he could trust. He’d loved Anya, once... maybe he still did. But she was gone, too.  Dead and gone.

Spike hadn’t even made it out of the school. He’d died to help save them all, and Xander had been left alone with old friends who had moved on without him and now, there was this enormous gulf separating him from them.

It was almost more than he could bear.

If Claire was going to get any help at all, it was going to have to come from Xander.

He shoved the lighter in his pocket. Then he found his patch, put it on. He took a last look around his apartment slung the duffle over his shoulder. He left with the sinking feeling he'd never see the place again. But he had to try, didn't he?

Later, he would reflect that it was the worst mistake he'd ever made.

**

Drip.

Drip.

Cold wetness on his face, and Xander jerked awake, coughing painfully. Had he been dreaming? Just unconscious?

It was getting so hard to think.

He felt so cold, now...

The cold had been pleasant enough, when he had been in the hotel…

**

It had been so fucking hot in LA.

He'd been laying on the cheap bed, pleasantly chilled from having the air conditioner in his hotel room turned up to Arctic, when he'd finally gotten the call he'd been waiting for.

“Claire?”

“Xander!” She'd answered, “Xander, I think I ... I did something bad.” and Xander's hackles had gone up immediately.

“What? Claire? What did you do?” He tried to project calm into his voice, ignoring the cold dread that crept up his spine.

“I hurt somebody, Xander... I didn't mean to--” Claire's voice sounded hollow, and there was an echo in the background as if she was in a large space underground.

“How? Claire, what happened?” Xander snagged his shoes and put tugged them back on, holding the phone to his ear with a shoulder.

“I  ...just lost it! He--he was bothering me, and I just-- I couldn't stop! I just wanted him to stop!” she snarled. “I just got so angry.”

Xander felt a chill. "Claire. Did you hurt him?"

"I -- I think he might be dead."

Xander took a deep breath, then another. Suddenly the words "Rogue" and "Terminate" made horrible sense. He had to get to her before the Council did. “Where are you, Claire?” He needed to get her off the street, get her away from people. She needed help, but it might have been more than he was capable of giving. Crap. He was going to need Angel. But he wanted to talk to her, first, try to talk her down. Maybe he could save her life. He had to try.

Claire sobbed into the phone. “I'm on the waterfront. It's an old warehouse-- there's a furniture sign on it.” She sounded like she was walking around. “Ah, it has a sign that says Frye's. It's at the very end.”

“Okay.” Xander pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger, trying to take his anxiety down a notch. “Okay. I'm on my way. Don't leave the warehouse. Don't go outside. Wait until I get there. Then we'll figure out what's next, okay?”

“Okay”, Claire answered, and then her voice turned dark. “Thank you, Xander. I'm so glad you're helping me.” She hung up, and for a moment, all Xander had been able to do was stare stupidly at the phone. What the fuck had just happened?

Had Claire been affected by whatever had made Willow behave so oddly? He had decided that after he'd calmed the girl down, maybe he'd talk to Angel, after all.

***

He'd never gotten the chance.

Now, trapped and dying in this dark, stinking warehouse, he couldn't save the people he loved. They were lost to him, and he imagined that they were being controlled by some evil he couldn't even begin to grasp the nature of. It was inconceivable that it should end like this. He would have wept some more, but his tears seemed to have dried up.

His hand, partly crushed under him clenched around something hard. His fingers, lovingly traced the intricate ridged pattern. Spike’s lighter.  How had he ended up holding it? He’d thought it gone, much like everything else in his life.

How he wished he’d have taken that chance with Spike when he’d had it…

Xander’s hand began to go numb, and he heard the soft scrape of the lighter as it tumbled from his fingers to the hard concrete.

Lost; all lost, now.

**

The story may get a bit hairier from here. I hoped you enjoyed the story! Feel free to give me feedback; I can use all the help I can get to improve my writing.

See you next Monday!