Title: Nothing the Same
Feedback: 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
Xander had stayed late at school at Mr. Giles’ request. The librarian had asked if Xander would give him a hand with some rearranging of the books in the library. Willow was watching Oz’s band play and Buffy was out patrolling. Xander hadn’t minded helping, having been meaning to talk to Mr. Giles alone for awhile now. As they had shifted books around to make way for a couple of boxes of new books sent from the Watchers Council in England, Xander asked to the librarian for recommendations of the best books to read to get a general knowledge of the most common demons likely to be found on the Hellmouth. Mr. Giles had been enthusiastic and had begun laying out a course of study that would have kept Xander busy until he was Spike’s age. Talking about it as they worked, they came to an agreement on a beginner’s survey course rather than the full Watcher’s education Giles had been proposing. Xander had no intention of giving up eating, sleeping, and hopefully one day soon sex, to spend 20 hours a day studying. He wanted to learn more but not in an insane devote-his-whole-life-to-it way.
Xander stopped for a moment, a book resting halfway on the shelf, considering what he’d just been thinking. Did he want to have sex with Spike? Ignoring the immediate, enthusiastic “Hell, yes!” from his libido, he thought about it. He knew that Spike and he were moving in that direction but his knowledge of the mechanics of gay sex was pretty much limited to locker room taunts that did not make for happy thoughts about actually doing it. On the other hand, Spike was being incredibly patient with him, especially considering that the vampire wasn’t exactly known for his patience. Spike was…Spike was courting him, Xander realized with a warm glow and he was enjoying being courted. He didn’t think that made him girly, actually it made him feel pretty damn good.
Walking home later through the early twilight, Xander thought about Spike again as he so often did these days. He had enjoyed everything he and Spike had done so far, enjoyed it so much that replays frequently starred in his fantasies. As Spike had said, it was all just friction. Besides, since guys had been doing it together for thousands of years, there had to be something to it. He’d spent way too much time in his head recently, Xander decided. Maybe he should just let his body take the lead for this one.
The quiet voice behind him calling his name brought Xander out of musings. Turning to see who it was, Xander was surprised not to find anyone behind him. “Hello?’ he called. There was no response for a moment, then the bushes stirred and Angel stepped out into the open.
“Don’t be frightened,” he said quickly. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
Xander stumbled back a couple of steps at the shock of suddenly seeing the vampire. Heart pounding, he hurriedly snatched the cross from his back pocket and brought it around in front of him, holding it between himself and Angel like the fragile shield it was. “What do you want?” he asked harshly, checking surreptitiously for the best route to run like hell.
“I need your help,” Angel, Angelus, Xander reminded himself, took a step towards him but stopped as Xander moved back at the same instant, keeping the distance between them from closing. He waited, apparently expecting a response, but Xander didn’t answer him. His mouth was so dry he didn’t think he could have said a word to save his life, so he just continued to watch the vampire in wary silence.
“I need you to help me get in touch with Giles,” Angel finally explained, his tone pleading for understanding. “My soul is back. I don’t know how it happened exactly but… I felt magic go through me like a cleansing whirlwind. It felt exactly like it did a century ago when I was first cursed.” He shrugged, his eyes clouded with pain and memories. “When I recovered, I was myself again.”
He waited but Xander still didn’t say anything. Every muscle tense, cross still held out in front of him to ward the vampire off, Xander kept his mouth shut, studying Angel and thinking hard.
Angel sighed. The tiny sound was mournful in the stillness between them. “I know it’s hard to believe and I don’t blame you for mistrusting me.” He winced. “I remember everything I’ve done in the last few weeks, how much I’ve hurt everyone and I’m hoping you can help me like you helped Spike.” He looked up again, brows knitted together.
“Did you know that Ms. Calendar was a gypsy?”
Xander tried to avoid reacting away as he shook his head in what he hoped looked like puzzled denial, terrified of giving things away to the damn vampire lie detecting senses. He was afraid he hadn’t been successful from the way Angel’s eyes flickered, but the vampire just said: “It’s ok. After my soul was restored, I went to the magic shop hoping to learn who had done it. The owner told me there were two powerful gypsies in town and that one of them was Jenny Calendar.”
Wondering what was coming next, Xander found he was gripping the cross so hard, his hand was beginning to hurt, but he didn’t dare relax his vigilance.
“I’m assuming she found a way to duplicate the original spell. I guess her people still knew the magics involved.” Angel took a single step forward and held out a hand as Xander retreated a matching step. “Please,” he said earnestly, “you’re the only one who can help me get back in touch with the others. I need to make up for the terrible things I’ve done.”
Xander relaxed his clenched jaw with an effort and finally spoke, his tone almost conversational. “Just how dumb do you think I am?” Maybe it would have been better to play along with the vampire but he couldn’t believe Angelus was trying something like this on him again. Did Angelus really think he’d fall for this twice. Plus, he couldn’t see any way that playing along with the evil undead would end well, so what was the point?
The aura of sadness and remorse dropped away from Angelus like the badly fitting cloak it was and he straightened, sneering at Xander. “Oh, I think you’re plenty stupid, boy. After all, aren’t you the one who spent months obsessing over having staked a useless fledgling?”
Xander struggled to keep from giving in to the wave of fury that remark brought.
“Excuse me?” he snapped back incautiously. “Mr. I-spent-100-years-obsessing-over-my-sins.
“That wasn’t me.” Angelus hadn’t lost his smirk but his eyes flared with glints of yellow.
Xander glared at Angelus, pulling the stake out of his back pocket. Even knowing it was stupid to antagonize someone with Angelus’ reputation, he couldn’t stop himself after the vampire’s crack about Jesse. “Of course it was you or you wouldn’t remember anything that your body’s done in the last century. It was just you with a little something extra.”
“That was the soul, boy, and the soul is gone. You’re dealing with me now. I’d be careful if I were you.” The vampire’s eyes were golden and his mocking grin had slipped, giving Xander a vicious feeling of satisfaction at being able to rattle the vampire. Which probably only served to make Angel’s point; he probably was an idiot for poking an uncaged tiger this way.
“Yeah, like being careful is going to change your mind about whatever it is you’re planning. No matter what you try to tell yourself, Angelus, the demon wasn’t vacationing in Florida. The demon was in there with the soul while your body was doing all those sickeningly nice things. A hundred years fighting to get out and your demon couldn’t win.”
Angelus moved like lightening, grabbing Xander and slamming him up against a tree. Xander’s breath whooshed out of him as his back his the bark hard enough to draw a pained gasp but he kept his grip on the cross and swung it hard, aiming for Angelus’ face. A large hand closed around his wrist, stopping him short of his goal. Angelus flinched at being so close to the cross, averting his face as much as possible, but forcing Xander’s hand away from himself with relentless strength, twisting Xander’s wrist until he cried out and the cross fell from his nerveless fingers.
Angelus snarled furiously: “You are about to get a practical demonstration of the difference between me and Angel.”
Xander struggled against the inhumanly strong grip, bringing the stake up, regretting not using it first. Angelus laughed and batted the stake away and Xander heard it land and skitter away down the sidewalk. Weaponless now, he stopped struggling and dropped like dead weight towards the ground. Angelus lost his grip as Xander’s weight shifted suddenly and Xander suddenly found himself on the ground looking up at the vampire. Bringing both legs up, he kicked up as hard as he could, aiming for Angelus’ groin. The vampire snarled and jumped back to avoid the two-footed kick. Using the momentum of the missed kick, Xander rolled to his feet in a move Spike had taught him, facing Angelus again. Weaponless, but on his feet and ready.
Angelus laughed again. “So the little boy wants to play. Could be interesting. Let’s see what you’ve got.”
“What I’ve got is an annoying jerk in my face,” Xander shot back. He moved backwards warily, trying to get some distance between himself and Angelus. Angelus feinted towards him and Xander broke and ran, running towards the road. He was at the edge in three steps, and stooped and grabbed a handful of gravel, turning and bringing it up in one movement. As he’d hoped, Angelus was toying with him and was several feet back. Xander threw the gravel at his face, causing Angelus to duck, then turned and ran again, sprinting with everything he had for the safety of the nearest house. If he could just get inside, Angelus wouldn’t be able to follow.
He was tackled from behind before he gotten halfway up the walk, Angelus’ weight bearing him down and knocking the breath out of him as he landed on the concrete walkway with the vampire’s full weight landing on top of him. Struggling for enough breath to scream, Xander waited for the bite he fully expected. To his surprise, it didn’t happen. Instead, Angelus hauled them both to their feet, holding Xander pinned against his body. His arms trapped by the vampire’s arm wrapped around his middle, Xander tried to kick backwards, but Angelus blocked it and a crushing grip closed around his throat in warning.
“I’m really beginning to wonder what my boy Spike sees in you. Not much of a fighter, are you?” Angel leaned closer, purring the taunting words directly into Xander’s ear. “Just a useless kid. I’ll be doing him a favor, getting rid of you.”
Furious, sure he was going to die, Xander lost any thought of caution and struck back with the only weapon left to him. “Admit it, you undead freak. The soul is stronger than the demon. An ordinary human soul made a Master Vampire jump through hoops for over a hundred years. You’re weak. A pathetic excuse for a demon. Spike is worth ten of you.”
“Let’s find out, shall we?”
Angelus’ grip tightened around Xander’s throat, shutting off his air. Xander struggled uselessly, unable to bring his hands up enough to claw at the grip, unable to kick effectively as Angelus lifted him off the ground, unable to even scream for help. His vision began to blur and his oxygen-starved lungs heaved desperately struggling to draw breath. Slowly, the useless struggles stopped, his vision darkened and the last thing he heard before the world went black was Angelus’ mocking laugh.
Returning to the factory, Spike was brought up short by the sight of Angelus slouched in his chair, legs up over the armrest. Jaw set, he strode towards the older vampire, determined to once again show his Sire who was Master here.
“Spike!” Angelus called jovially. He gestured to the minions clustered around him. “I was just telling the boys here what I’ve been up to. Left a sweet little present for the Watcher.”
Spike eyed him with distrust. “And what’s that? Another of your little sketches? You used to have more style, Angelus.”
“For once, you’re right, Spike. I’ve been off my game recently. So, I decided to do something about that.” Angelus swung his feet down to the floor and sat back in the chair, arms folded behind his head, the picture of relaxed contentment. Spike wasn’t fooled though, he caught the tension in his Sire’s muscles and the anticipatory gleam in Angelus’ eyes. It made him cautious.
Eyes flickering to the minions, most of whom had stepped back but were eagerly watching the conversation, Spike had a feeling that the building tension between himself and Angelus was about to come to a head. Angelus had been causing problems again, courting the minions, trying to win their loyalty and Spike feared his Sire was about to make a bid to take over the Court. His thoughts racing as he considered how to handle this, Spike asked without any real curiosity, “and what’s that?”
He didn’t really care what Angelus had done, he was mostly wondering whether it was something he could use against his Sire.
“It’s been a long time since I really took the time to savor a kill, to make sure that their family and friends appreciated the artistry I’m capable of.”
Spike rolled his eyes. Angelus was such a pompous windbag when he got on a roll about how great he was. “Let me guess, some little kiddie arranged prettily on the Watcher’s doorstep? You always did go for the helpless prey.”
Angelus’ eyes narrowed dangerously, but otherwise he ignored the snide tone. “Too trite and prosaic, you’ve always lacked poetry, Spike. No, I set up the perfect date for the old man. Champagne on ice, soft music, rose petals leading the way to his ladylove, who lies waiting for him on the bed. He won’t see much action with her,” he paused thoughtfully, “unless he’s into necrophilia, of course,” he added with a smirk.
Vintage Angelus. A simple kill was never enough for him. Always wasting his energy with foolish trappings. Watching the minions hang on Angelus’ every word, Spike realized he needed to make a point, fast. He glared at Angelus. “Are you insane?” His voice was filled with disbelieving contempt. “I know you’ve been out of the game awhile, mate, but you’re supposed to kill Slayers, not leave gag gifts in their Watcher’s beds.” Angelus continued to lounge indolently in the chair but Spike could sense his growing anger. “Still too frightened of the Slayer to take her on directly, are you Angelus? I killed my two Slayers clean, straightforward fights both of ‘em. You waste your time playing with the Slayer’s Watcher. Pathetic.”
The minions’ heads were swiveling back and forth between the two Masters and Spike could almost feel the balance shifting back towards himself.
“Spike, boy,” Angelus growled, “you don’t get it. This Slayer is different: she doesn’t work alone. Her friends make her stronger than most Slayers but they also make her weak because they give me weapons against her. I’m just having a bit of fun with her for now because she reacts so beautifully.”
“Well, if you ask me, I find myself preferring the old Slayer-whipped, soul-having, personna. This new, improved version of you is not playing with a full sack. I love a good slaughter as much as the next bloke, but your little pranks will only leave us with one incredibly brassed-off Slayer.”
“Don't worry, Childe. I've got everything under control.”
As if the gods themselves wanted to prove him wrong, at that exact moment a bottle hurtled through the air, landing on the long central table and shattering, spraying glass fragments on the closest minions and releasing the nearly overpowering odor of kerosene. It burst into flames a split second after it landed, the fire roaring skyward, individual tongues of flame darting hungrily along the trails left by the spilled fuel, spreading rapidly across the length of the table and leaping the narrow gap to two minions who’d been standing near the edge of the table and had been splattered with kerosene. They screamed and ran, frantically trying to outrun the flames already igniting the kerosene spots on their clothing. They only made it a few steps before the undead tissue of their bodies caught fire and they exploding into fiery ash. The pillars of fire that had once been vampires burned hotly before the ashes themselves were consumed and the flames vanished with the bodies.
Everyone else in the room ducked back from the flames, shielding themselves with anything handy, scrambling to avoid the fleeing minions who risked spreading the flames in their mindless flight.
Spike had instinctively swung his leather coat as a shield between himself and the fire and he lowered it just in time to see Angelus make a run for the exit, only to be hit with a crossbow bolt. It landed perilously close to his heart and he staggered back against the wall with a cry of pain. Reaching up, he yanked out the bolt, looking around for the source of the attack.
The Watcher appeared through the smoke like an avenging angel, swinging a baseball bat down through the heart of the flames still burning madly on the table. It had obviously been pre-treated to make it a torch. A single sweep through the fire lit it and, before Angelus could move, the Watcher swung the flaming weapon viciously across Angelus’ face. Angelus staggered and almost went down and the human brought the bat down again with rage-driven strength, dropping the vampire to the floor. Two more savage blows landed on Angelus’ back before the vampire was able to struggle to his feet, only to be knocked back against the wall by a well-placed strike across his jaw. The enraged human fought in eerie silence as he sent Angelus stumbling to the ground again, blow after blow falling on the vampire’s shoulders and back. Angelus barely made it to his feet this time, staggering upright under the rain of blows that continued to hammer him, keeping him off balance and struggling to remain upright, completely unable to fight back.
The minions scattered, running for the exits like the lemmings they were. Spike hesitated, torn. Part of him was getting a great deal of satisfaction watching the human beat Angelus to a bloody pulp. Another part of him raged at seeing a human getting the better of his Sire. Keeping a cautious eye on the flames, Spike waited for now, poised to intervene, but just watching to see the outcome. Everything under control, eh Sire? he thought contemptuously. Angelus himself had taught Spike long ago when he was a barely turned fledge that vampires who made themselves too conspicuous died hard at human hands. Pity Angelus was no better than Spike had ever been at following his own teachings.
It didn’t take long for Angelus to regroup. The Watcher lifted the bat over his head with both hands, gathering momentum for what was clearly intended to be a particularly devastating strike, and Angelus seized his chance. He surged up, grabbing the bat as the human held it still for a moment too long. A second later and the flaming bat was plucked from the human’s hand and tossed aside. Angelus seized the Watcher by the throat, lifting the struggling human off his feet until the Watcher was dangling in mid-air helplessly. The human scrabbled at the throttling hand, desperately trying and failing to pry the harsh grip loose.
Angelus snarled at his assailant turned victim. “All right. You’ve had your fun. You know what it’s time for now?”
He was interrupted by a hoarse voice slicing through the crackling of the flames. “My fun.”
The Slayer appeared out of nowhere, kicking Angelus hard in the face. Angelus dropped the nearly-unconscious Watcher and turned to face the new threat. Spike still hesitated in the background, not yet ready to interfere. To his way of thinking, Angelus had a solid beat-down coming to him.
The battle between the Slayer and Angelus ranged over the lower floor of the warehouse. The Slayer was, as Spike had predicted, fighting with the strength of rage, and Angelus was on the ropes. Already injured from the Watcher’s blows, Angelus couldn’t recover fast enough to get the upper hand with the Slayer. She made no move to draw a stake, seemingly content to simply use her fists on her former lover, which made Spike wonder if she was still unable to bring herself to kill Angelus.
The flames were growing dangerous and Angelus would die in the factory if something wasn’t done soon. Needed to leave himself, and cursing himself for a sentimental idiot, Spike intervened for the first time. He caught the Slayer’s arm as she swung it back for another blow on the nearly unconscious Angelus. She turned to glare at Spike, out of control fury in her eyes. “Watcher’s burning, Slayer,” Spike said, loudly enough for a human to hear over the roar of the flames.
The Slayer froze, dropping Angelus and turning to stare back at her Watcher who lay unmoving on the floor, perilously close to the flames. She abandoned the fight with Angelus instantly, leaping through the tongues of flame and hurrying to the unconscious Watcher, hoisting him to his feet and dragging him out of the factory with her.
Spike did much the same for his Sire. He stooped and grabbed one of Angelus’ arms, slinging it around his neck and hoisting the larger vampire to his feet. Angelus was barely conscious, his feet stumbling clumsily as Spike hastily fled the flaming warehouse with his Sire.
Outside, the air was shockingly cold after the heat of the fire and the chill brought Angelus around. Spike went barely a block from the factory before dropping Angelus and letting him sag down against the wall of a building. Angelus leaned against the wall and Spike glared at him, waiting for his Sire to recover enough to pay attention and restraining himself from kicking Angelus to vent some of his annoyance. After a minute or so, Angelus stirred, straightening slightly and looking over at Spike.
“Nice work, Angelus.” Spike drawled sarcastically as soon as he was sure his Sire had recovered sufficiently to understand him. He was barely keeping his fury in check. “That’s my home you’ve burned down. Love your definition of having everything under control.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve already got a new place picked out,” Angelus said, wincing and struggling a bit more upright as he spoke.
“If you think for one bloody second that I’m going to live in your home while you play at being Master…”
“You’ll do what I say from now on, Childe. You’ve played at Master too long. I’m taking over.”
“You think so?” Spike asked with contempt, watching his Sire move just far enough from the wall so he wasn’t leaning against it anymore and stagger slightly before regaining his balance. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t stake you right now, you arrogant, brainless git.”
“Only one reason? I can give you a dozen. But one will do.”
Angelus reached into the pocket of his coat and tossed something to him. Spike automatically snagged it in midair and looked at it with scant interest, then froze. It was a sleeve torn from a familiar, godawful brown shirt. Xander’s scent rose faintly from the ragged scrap of material.
Smoke and blood-stained, clothes torn and rumpled, Angelus’ smirk said he thought he held all the cards. “Funny thing about little toys like your boy, Spike. They break so easily.”
The scrap of fabric fell unheeded to the ground as Spike yelled with incoherent fury, smashing his fist into Angelus’ face before the other vampire had time to react. The last vestiges of control a distant memory, lost in the overwhelming rage that Angelus had dared touch what was his, Spike found himself holding Angelus upright with one hand twisted in his coat as he smashed his fist into the other vampire’s face over and over again, reveling in the feel of skin splitting and blood flowing.
Angelus had been taken by surprise by the first blow and several others landed before he could recover enough to strike back. He kicked out, slamming his foot into Spike’s kneecap and sending the younger vampire crumpling down as his knee collapsed under him. On an even level with Spike now, Angelus threw himself forward, using his greater size and weight to overwhelm the smaller vampire, pushing him backwards and bearing his shoulders towards the ground.
Spike twisted like a cat, ignoring the pain in his knee and landed on his face instead of his back. Pulling his legs under him, he shoved upwards with all of his strength, lifting them both off the ground and wrenching himself out of Angelus grip. Pivoting on his good leg, he brought his damaged leg up, aiming a vicious kick at the other vampire.
Angelus succeeded in partially blocking the kick and struck back himself. As the two exchanged a flurry of savage blows, Spike was worryingly aware that Angelus was back to full strength. It wasn’t the first time he’d wondered if the reason his Sire had been so relatively low profile with the Slayer and her little band was because Angelus was waiting to recover from a century of poor feeding. Now, Spike was certain. Ducking underneath a backhanded blow, leaping up to deliver a kick to his Sire’s chest, Spike was uneasily certain that Angelus and he were only evenly matched in the fight because Angelus had started this fight already injured. Spike had to finish this now or he might not be able to take his Sire when he’d had time to recover.
Suiting action to thoughts, Spike spun quickly, putting a small amount of distance between himself and Angelus. Using the barely second long respite, he yanked a stake out of his pocket. Angelus snarled in fury as Spike held the wooden stake up with deadly intent, closing again on the older vampire. The fight increased in intensity, Angelus now aware he was fighting for his survival. Blows came with lightening speed, neither vampire either to seize or hold the advantage for long, until Spike succeeded in sweeping Angelus’ legs out from under him.
Angelus crashed to the ground like a felled tree and Spike pounced, bringing the stake whistling down towards Angelus’ heart. Angelus barely got his hands up in time, grabbing Spike’s wrist and stopping the downward motion only inches from his chest. The two struggling in deadly earnest, the one to bring the stake down, the other to keep it from piercing his flesh.
To Spike’s astonishment, Angelus began laughing. Muscles straining against each other, Angelus’ laughter suddenly filled the deadly silence that had existed between them since the start of the fight. Confused, but not relenting in the slightest, Spike glanced up from his target to Angelus’ face.
“Do you really think you’ll find him before he starves to death if you stake me?” Even in this extremity, Angelus’ voice held the smug satisfaction of one who knows he holds the winning hand.
Angelus’ words cut through the blind concentration on killing his Sire. Spike hesitated as the reality of Angelus’ words struck home. Vampires could live for weeks if necessary without feeding but humans were fare more fragile. Xander could easily die while Spike searched for him. His driving intent faltered and Angelus seized the opening, bringing his legs up in one swift movement, wedging them under Spike’s body and levering the younger vampire off of him. Hands still gripping Spike’s wrists, the two vampires rolled as one, coming to their knees facing each other, still locked together with the stake in between.
“Kill me and you boy dies,” Angelus taunted.
After a long moment, Spike opened his hands and let the stake fall. The clattering as it fell to the ground echoed unnaturally loudly in the near silence.
Angelus pushed Spike away from him contemptuously and both vampires sagged to the ground just out of touching range, exhausted by the battle. For a minute, there was only the harsh sound of their panting, the vampire equivalent of sweat, as both struggled to recover enough to move. Similarly battered, the two stared at each other, Angelus with triumphant certainty of his victory, Spike with despair at his inability to act for fear of endangering Xander.
“From now on, Childe, you’ll do what I say,” Angelus repeated.
Spike nodded silently, his lethal glare promising bloody vengeance against his Sire.
*AN - Snippets of dialogue taken from the episode ‘Passion’.