Nothing the Same, Book 2
Rating: PG13 - NC-17 Individual chapter will carry specific warnings.
Feedback & concrit: yes, please
Disclaimer: don't own them, never will, just playing with them
Spoilers: Anything from Season 1 on.
Summary: sequel to Nothing the Same. Life goes on for Spike & Xander.
previous parts here
“Spike? You want to tell me what happened to all my clothes?”
Tapping his foot and glaring at his lover, Xander knew perfectly well what the answer to his question was. He just wanted to hear what his sneaky little vampire had to say about the absence of nearly his entire wardrobe. Clothes that had suspiciously been replaced with the kind of stuff Spike had bought for him once already - silk shirts, jeans and casual pants two sizes smaller than Xander usually bought, and some really soft sweaters that his fingers had lingered over, just a little, before he remembered how ticked off he was. Except for what he was standing in - an old pair of cargo pants and a brown cotton sweater - every other familiar item was gone from the closet.
Not like he could have misplaced his clothes. He’d gone back to his parents’ house only the day before yesterday to get the rest of his stuff, including his clothes. Packing up everything had only taken a few minutes and two suitcases. The hardest part had been when his father had barely looked up from the tv when he’d walked in, just one brief glance and an indifferent “thought you were staying with a friend”. His father had just grunted an acknowledgement when Xander said he was back to pick up the last of his things and told him to bring the suitcases back when he was done with them.
He’d waited for a minute, foolishly hoping for… something. Anything to show his father cared, even a little. But there was nothing, not even a request for contact information. So, he retreated slowly up the stairs to his former room and silently shoved his clothes and a few other things into the suitcases left dusty and used since his parents honeymoon. He wrote a short note for his mother and closed the door quietly behind him on his way out.
Carrying the old suitcases by their handles, envying people with wheeled suitcases, Xander wondered if he looked like someone inefficiently running away from home. And, yeah, that’s kind of what he was doing. If his parents had been even halfway normal parents, they would never have allowed their child to virtually disappear without more than a cursory note which left no address or phone for them to reach him. Xander was honest enough to admit he wouldn’t have moved in with Spike if his parents’ house hadn’t been such a barren wasteland.
He would have shrugged if he didn’t have a large suitcase in each hand. No point in crying over things that should have stopped hurting years ago. He’d practically lived at Jesse’s and Willow’s houses for long periods in years past. Nothing new here.
So, it wasn’t like any of his clothes had sentimental value, that wasn’t what was pissing him off. It was the principal of the thing. Spike shouldn’t have just gone behind his back and taken his stuff. He should have talked to Xander about it, offered to replace his clothes, not just made an executive decision. Ok, admittedly, Xander would have refused the offer - the clothes Spike had bought for him were too dressy, too tight, and he felt ridiculous in them. It wasn’t like he’d never wear them again, Xander thought, a little guiltily about the clothes Spike had previously bought for him, still hanging un-touched in his closet. If Spike took him to a nice restaurant or something again, of course he would have worn the clothes Spike had bought for him. After all, your good clothes weren’t supposed to be comfortable.
His old stuff was comfortably loose and sloppy. Ok, yeah, he recognized that his purge of all his bright colored clothes last year had been a bizarre form of mourning for Jesse, but he’d gotten used to his nice, inconspicuous dark wardrobe. Everything went with everything else and even Cordelia had stopped openly mocking his clothes because they were too boring to make good jokes about. Spike’s clothing choices would make him stand out again.
Spike looked annoyingly unfazed by his irritation. “Told the minions to burn ‘em,” he answered Xander’s accusing question without so much as a flicker of remorse. “Even I’m not evil enough to inflict those rags on the homeless,” he explained virtuously.
“Those were my clothes!”
“Replaced ‘em, didn’t I?”
“That’s not the point!”
“Should be. Not like I left you walking ‘round naked, or anythin’.” A gleam came to his eye. “Though that would be fine, if you prefer,” he offered magnanimously.
Seeing Xander’s scowl darken, Spike put down the piece of pizza he was picking at and hopped down from the kitchen counter. He crossed over to Xander and enfolded him in his arms, ignoring the way Xander tried to shake him off. “You haven’t worn the clothes I got for you even once since then, have you?”
Embarrassment joined his irritation. He’d secretly been hoping that Spike hadn’t noticed that his gifts hadn’t exactly been out and about since the night he’d bought them for Xander. To Xander’s annoyance, he couldn’t help feeling a little guilty at not liking Spike’s gifts. “It’s not that I don’t appreciate them, Spike, but they’re not everyday clothes.”
“They should be, luv.”
“They aren’t comfortable,” he complained, knowing he sounded like a whiny four year old. He felt like someone caught with an unwanted Christmas gift stuck in the back of the closet - oh, wait, except for the Christmas part, that was exactly what he was. “Not comfortable, everyday stuff,” he added lamely, trying to make up for it.
“Need to wear them more than once to know that.” Spike regarded him seriously and Xander had a sinking feeling that this was important to the vampire. “Xander, I’m Master of Sunnydale. I’ve got a certain image to maintain and you’re part of that. I want everyone who sees you to know that I value my Claimed. Dressed in your usual kit, people will think that I don’t care about you.”
“But I know you do,” Xander protested weakly.
“Need everyone to know, luv.” His voice dropped to a sexy purr. “’sides, you look good in something that shows you off a bit.”
Xander struggled to hold on to his annoyance with Spike but images of the dressing room where Spike had conned him into accepting new clothes the first time kept intruding and he felt a flush of heat at the memory of Spike’s teasing caresses through the tight jeans and his husky voice in Xander’s ear saying how good he looked.
“Do this for me, luv?” Spike’s pleading voice finished the job and Xander could feel his resolve crumbling to dust. “Promise - if you still don’t like them, or think they’re uncomfortable after wearing ‘em for a week, we’ll go to the mall and pick something else out.”
“You’re just saying that because you know I hate the mall,” he grumbled. “And I want three pairs of sweats for kicking around the house in. That’s non-negotiable,” he added, trying to sound like someone who had a backbone and would never just cave in completely to a coaxing smile and a pleading voice.
Spike’s smile went a long way towards making him feel better about the whole stupid clothes issue. “Already in the dresser, luv. Bottom drawer.”
Xander’s spinelessness was obviously a matter of official record, he couldn’t help smiling back at his vampire.
“Do you know anything about the Slayers you killed?” Xander’s tone was a little too casual.
They were sprawled comfortably on the couch in their new apartment watching tv. An earlier wrestling match over the remote had left them laughing and hopelessly tangled, the remote triumphantly in Spike’s hand and Xander proclaiming himself the actual winner due to Spike’s resort to unsportsmanlike tactics. Spike had scoffingly dismissed the idea that distracting his opponent with hands in unusual places was anything other than a completely legitimate move. A bloke faced with the prospect of a Babylon 5 marathon had to use any means necessary to win.
Leaning against the warmth of Xander’s body, encircled by his arm, idly watching some movie with a lot more gunplay and car chases than plot, Spike felt as contented as a sun-warmed cat. They were working on adjusting their schedules to each other and Xander’s summer vacation helped enormously. They slept late in the mornings and Xander would putter around doing his human stuff in the afternoon - visiting the Watcher and the werewolf or just hanging out in the sunshine. Late afternoon and early evening was their time to be together, whether just watching tv or talking or making out on the couch. He was being cautious about being seen around town with Xander and had explained to Xander that they couldn’t go out together just yet. Spike was waiting for what he knew was coming - the inevitable challenge for control of the Hellmouth. The war with Angelus had left things too unsettled in town for there not to be at least one assault, especially while it appeared that he might be vulnerable given his new lair and lack of minions. But this was not the time to take on new minions, not until the dust of his challenger had settled anyway. Until then, every minion was a potential source of trouble that Spike didn’t need. He had three who were falling all over themselves to prove themselves to him and that was plenty for now.
Stroking his hand idly over the soft cotton of the sweats that Xander insisted on changing back into the second he returned to the apartment, Spike smiled to himself. It had been so worth that trip to the mall. Breaking in at night and rifling through the racks in a couple of different men’s department had used up a fair bit of time but it was a task he couldn’t leave to a minion. Xander was getting more comfortable in his new clothes as he got used to them. He was honoring their agreement and wearing them whenever he left the apartment and, despite his elaborate sighs of relief every time he slipped the sweats on, he’d admitted grudgingly that people seemed to like his new clothes.
As Xander’s unexpected question broke the long silence between them, Spike turned his head to look up at him. Xander continued to stare at the telly but, from the faraway look in his eyes, his thoughts weren’t on the hero currently dodging an improbable number of bullets. “Like what, pet?” he asked, curious about what his boy was thinking.
“Did they have families?”
“Dunno. Could be. Slayers fight alone. Usually their Watcher’s the only one knows who and what they are. Don’t usually have a little groupie like Red backing ‘em up.” He saw Xander’s lips tighten at the mention of the little red-head. Spike knew something had happened between them but Xander had been reticent about the details, apparently out of a misplaced concern for Spike’s feelings. Spike didn’t give a piss about what the amateur witch thought of him. He despised her for re-cursing Angelus and hadn’t sought her out to wreak vengeance for his Sire only because he knew it would hurt Xander. Regardless of how far they’d drifted apart, he knew Xander still cared about her. Spike could relate - he had similar lingering feelings for Angelus. Whether born or chosen family, you never could truly shake those ties.
“Giles’ books say that potential Slayers used to be turned over to Watchers when they were really young, so they could be trained in case they were ever called.”
“Makes sense. All the strength in the world doesn’t do you much good if you don’t know what to do with it.” Spike made a mental note to start Xander’s self-defense classes again. Between both of them being injured and Xander’s finals at school, Spike had put it off but there was no longer any reason not to continue training his boy how to fight properly.
“So, their families would have to know about vampires and stuff, if they know their daughter is a Slayer.”
“’s only in the last century or so people stopped believing in demons. Lots of places in the world where people still do.”
Xander looked over at him, his head cocked to one side curiously. “Is it easier for vampires to hunt now that no-one believes in them?”
“Not really. Modern world has lots of advantages over the last century in calling for help. ‘s not like people don’t know they’re being attacked, they just put it down to a mugger with a biting fetish or whatnot. Police still come.” Like any predator, Spike adapted to the behavioral changes in his prey. He was just better at it than a tiger was. “What’s this about, luv?”
Xander shrugged one shoulder. “I’ve been thinking about trying to talk to Buffy’s mother about what happened with Angel.”
Spike’s eyebrows rose. “You want to tell the Slayer’s mum that her daughter was dating a vampire?” He began to sit up, a wicked sparkle in his eyes as he thought about the Slayer’s reaction when she returned to town and learned that her secrets had been spilled. “No time like the present.”
Xander tightened his arm, holding Spike in place, his free hand coming up to bop Spike on the head. Grinning, Spike blocked the scolding blow before it landed. “Not to mess with Buffy, because I’m worried about her mother.” He sighed, “you’re right though, it’s guaranteed to piss Buffy off if I do it.”
“Why’re you thinking about it then?” Spike asked, more seriously. Xander had obviously been thinking about this a lot.
“Giles won’t do it. He says it will just make things worse. So he just keeps stalling her, telling her Buffy will be home soon.” His troubled eyes sought Spike’s. “If she shows up tomorrow, he’s right - why stir up a hornet’s nest. But what if she doesn’t come back for weeks, or even months? We can’t just leave her hanging.”
“Thinking about your friend’s mum, aren’t you?” Xander had mentioned in passing how his friend’s mother had moved away. Despite the off-hand manner, Spike had heard the sorrow in his voice.
“Yeah,” Xander admitted quietly. “Not telling her worked out real well, didn’t it?”
Spike could sense Xander’s guilt and shame and sat up straight, pulling Xander into his arms. It was like Xander to blame himself for the choices other people made. “You do what you think best, luv. Not what anyone else tells you. You know better than any of them what’s right.”
Xander clung to him tightly for a moment, his face buried in Spike’s chest as he fought with his emotions. Pushing back, he turned back to face the tv. After a moment, he said resolutely: “If someone doesn’t shoot this guy soon, I’m reporting these clowns to the NRA as a reason for having mandatory target practicing laws.”
Oh yeah, setting up a Court and moving Xander into the same building, that had been a brilliant plan. He’d forgotten how he met Xander in the first place - spying on the Anointed One’s Court. They’d barely moved in and Xander was already down on the main floor, chatting up the help.
The minions didn’t know what to make of it. Baffled and uneasy, they were busy trying to figure out if this was some sort of obscure plan Spike had set in motion to test their loyalty and self control. To see if they could be trusted alone with his pet.
Not a bad idea, actually. Standing silently in the shadows, watching the minions talk to Xander was giving him insight into the way they behaved when they thought he wasn’t around. As Spike would have guessed, Jose was his normal self-contained self. Rare for a vampire, he didn’t seem to feel the need to impress other demons. He was answering when Xander spoke to him directly, but not volunteering anything. Of all of them, he was the only one who appeared at ease. Even Xander wasn’t nearly as relaxed as he was pretending. Spike could see the tension in his shoulders even as he leaned with fake casualness against one of the support pillars.
The second minion was going on about the 60’s again. Spike suspected he spent so much time talking about the past to emphasize the fact that he was oldest of the three minions. There couldn’t be any other reason for bragging about his days as a stoner following rock concerts around the country - who hadn’t done that? He seemed to feel that being oldest automatically made him the leader, something Spike was going to disabuse him of soon enough. Ralph - Spike enjoyed the way the third minion tried with such spectacular lack of success to hide his anger at Spike’s name for him - was toadying up to Xander, flattering him and laughing too readily at Xander’s humorous remarks. Spike could tell that Xander wasn’t falling for it. He was leaning away from Ralph slightly and focusing most of his attention on the other two to Ralph’s obvious frustration. Little pissant obviously thought the way to power was through Spike’s pet.
Spike would have found the whole thing funny if it hadn’t been so infuriating. The minions were clustered in a loose semi-circle around Xander, who had no weapons out and lacked the skill to deal with three at once, even if he’d been holding a stake out and ready. His status as Spike’s claimed gave him a strong measure of protection but minions were minions and not to be trusted lightly, if at all. He needed to have a talk with Xander about the difference between a Master vampire and a minion. Spike and Angel had obviously given Xander the wrong impression about the ability of most vampires to control themselves.
Spike waited until the timing was precisely right, then attacked. His target was expecting trouble and heard him at the last second, giving him just time to turn and meet the attack face to face before going down under Spike’s weight.
He did well, grabbing on to Spike’s shoulders and pulling one leg up defensively even as he went down, then kicking upwards with all his strength, using Spike’s own momentum against him to flip him over his head.
Spike landed on his feet like a gymnast and spun to face his victim, who rolled over on the mat to squint up at him. “Not bad, huh?”
Spike smirked. “Not good, either. Got to remember to hold on to me or I’m on my feet while you’re still on the ground taking a siesta.” More seriously, he added: “You’re thinking too big, luv, thinking you can send me flying 30 feet into the bushes. That’s Hollywood bollocks unless you’ve got vampire strength. When you flip me, I’m still going to be right there next to you. Need to keep your grip on me, which will throw me off balance so I don’t land on my feet. Plus, if I jump to my feet before you do, I’m gonna pull you up with me.” He smiled at Xander’s crestfallen look. “Don’t fret, luv. You’ve got a good understanding of leverage and you’re getting to be brilliant at using a person’s momentum against them.”
He reached down, extending a hand and hauled Xander to his feet. “Let’s try that again.”
They were working out in a make-shift dojo at Angelus’ mansion. Spike had thought long and hard about where to train Xander and had reluctantly decided to use the mansion. He’d grabbed Jose last night and the two of them had burgled several athletic supply stores and a martial arts dojo, loading up a stolen pick-up with their spoils. Spike really was testing the minion this time. If he heard one word about tonight’s activities, from anywhere, he’d know Jose couldn’t be trusted and that would be the end of that potential lieutenant. He’d only been willing to trust the minion so far, though, and had left him behind after picking up the last of the equipment Spike wanted.
Driving to the mansion, Spike had unloaded everything himself, shoving the furniture to one side and spreading training mats on the floor of the living room. He’d set up an archery target in the long hallway and carried in boxes of throwing stars and knives. He’d make sure Xander continued to practice the crossbow with the Watcher - the Englishman’s crossbows were much better than anything Spike could find in town. Beautiful weapons that man had, he thought with a trace of envy.
After setting everything up, Spike had looked around with satisfaction. He’d finally just pushed the couches out into the courtyard, clearing the main room entirely except for the training mats. He hated using the place but it wouldn’t be safe to train Xander in the factory with the minions watching and there wasn’t room in the apartment. Training a human, even a Claimed one, to fight was not common and Spike didn’t want to give up the advantage Xander being trained gave his boy by letting everyone know Xander was being trained to fight by a Master vampire. The mansion was deserted, it wasn’t the kind of place another vampire would covet for a lair, and it was not likely that anyone, human or demon, would stumble over them accidentally while they were training.
Or ambush them.
Xander smiled nervously at the woman who opened the door.
“Mrs. Summers? I’m Xander Harris. I’m… a friend of Buffy’s.” Ok, friend was way stretching it but it was the simplest way to introduce himself.
It was two days since he’d talked with Spike and the more he thought about Buffy’s mother waiting for word from her daughter, not knowing where Buffy was or why she had disappeared, the more he recognized how much he’d failed Mrs. McNally. He hadn’t done anything for Jesse’s mother - he’d let his own grief overwhelm him and had shut her out along with everyone else. It was too late to make up for what he hadn’t done for Mrs. McNally but maybe he could do something to help Mrs. Summers in her place.
“I’m sorry, I don’t remember Buffy mentioning your name.” Mrs. Summers hesitated, “she’s not here right now.”
“I know. That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. Do you have a minute?”
Joyce Summers studied him thoughtfully as he stood nervously on the porch, his shoulders hunched, his eyes anxious. Making up her mind, she stepped outside and gestured towards the porch chairs.
“Did Buffy tell you about Angel?” Xander asked as he sat down on the flowery cushions, wondering how much Buffy had actually told her mother. Willow was probably the only one who knew and so not going there. Mrs. Summers didn’t know Buffy was the Slayer, that much Xander did know, but it was about all he knew about her.
“The college boy she was dating?” Mrs. Summers’ lips tightened. “She mentioned him. She said he began stalking her after she broke up with him.”
“Ummm, it’s a little more complicated than that,” he began hesitantly.
“It usually is,” she responded dryly.
Xander gave her a fleeting grin. She sounded exactly like he did when Spike was trying to explain vampire stuff. Warming to her, he continued with a little more confidence. “I guess Buffy still liked him a lot. She kept saying that it wasn’t his fault, that he was off his medication and that it wasn’t really him who was doing all the crazy stuff.”
“Angel had mental problems?” Joyce asked faintly.
“Big time.” Xander had struggled with what to tell her and thought he’d finally come up with something that was both plausible and kind of covered the situation. “I guess when he’s taking his medication, he’s pretty normal but he gets really dangerous when he’s not on them.”
Mrs. Summers was starting to look alarmed and Xander hurried on. “A… relative of Angel’s told me that Angel convinced Buffy to see him one more time. Apparently, he killed himself in front of Buffy.”
“Oh, my God.”
“Mr. Giles told me about the letter Buffy sent. I think she’s blaming herself for not being able to stop him in time.” Xander looked down at his tensely clasped hands. “Buffy thought it was her fault that Angel went off his meds to begin with.” He looked at Mrs. Summers earnestly. “I think she’s just holed up somewhere trying to deal with what happened.” He shrugged helplessly. “I don’t have any idea where she is but I wanted you to know what happened.”
“Thank you... Xander?” she confirmed and he nodded. “I really appreciate you telling me this. I’ve been going out of my mind these past two weeks.” She shook her head. “It’s so typical of Buffy to try and handle something like that herself.” She sighed and stared across the neglected lawn for a moment before saying: “Well, at least I know what made her run away. That helps a little.”
Relief swept over Xander. He hadn’t been sure he was doing the right thing but even though he’d lied to her, he’d told her something that was at least a version of the truth. Me and Obi Won, he thought wryly, big with the truth from a certain point of view.
“I should go, I just wanted to let you know what happened.” He stood up and Mrs. Summers stood with him. She put her hand on his arm, looking up at him for a long moment.
“Thank you, Xander.”