Nothing the Same, Book 2
Rating: PG13 - NC-17 Individual chapters 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.
Previous parts here
Dusk was approaching and Spike was just beginning to stir when Xander got home. Pleased with his timing, Xander pulled a bag of blood out of the refrigerator and warmed it in the microwave before carrying it in to Spike. He knew that breakfast in bed for his vampire was a guilt issue with him but Spike either didn’t care or was indulging him. Spike didn’t seem to mind drinking bagged human blood and, although Xander knew it didn’t fill all of Spike’s feeding needs, he cherished the illusion that Spike wouldn’t be biting people on the days when Xander was there when he woke with a cup of blood and hopefully some nookie. If he was a better or stronger person, he probably shouldn’t be able to live so easily with the knowledge that Spike injured people frequently, but he’d settled with his conscience a long time ago that he was not going to ask Spike to change more than he already had for Xander.
Not to mention that living completely human blood free didn’t seem to have done much for Angel’s personality.
Speaking of which…
“Hey.” Xander handed him the mug and slid onto the bed, curling up next to Spike without saying anything else as he drank it. He hadn’t come home straight from school after the scene in the library. He’d been too angry and unsettled by what had happened, despite his talk with Giles, and he knew that Spike would sense it and ask questions. He’d spent the rest of the afternoon checking up on his regular customers, doing quick jobs or scheduling ones that needed materials or more time than an hour to fix. Talking with his customers had helped and so had a quick fence repair, just involving nailing up some boards that had come loose. Pounding nails had helped release some of his pent-up anger and if anyone had noticed how hard he was hitting them, they’d been polite enough not to comment.
The mug was emptied rapidly - Spike hated how fast bagged blood cooled and always gulped it down quickly so it didn’t have a chance to drop below internal body temperature - and Xander set it down on the bedside table before asking, with deliberate casualness: “What are your plans today?”
“Gotta go see Angelus. I’ll take him some bagged blood and see if it helps him heal.” Spike looked at him intently. “I’ll go straight there as soon as the sun’s down, Xander. Crypt door’s wedged shut and he won’t have been able to open it today without frying himself. I won’t let him hurt you.”
“I know.” Xander made a face as he began his carefully edited version of what had happened at the school. He’d decided while viciously hammering in the nails that he wasn’t going to tell Spike about the truth spell. There was no way he’d be able to talk about it like it hadn’t really shaken him, like he wasn’t still a little freaked that Willow could have permanently changed him in ways he couldn’t even tell because he’d been changed, like he wasn’t still feeling betrayed and hurt and furious about what Willow had done. Spike was sure to overreact. While Xander didn’t think he ever wanted to see Willow again, he didn’t really want her torn limb from limb.
“Buffy knows he’s still alive and that you moved him. Sorry, I didn’t mean to tell her, it just kind of slipped out.” He gave Spike an apologetic look. “She thought you’d killed him because of the cigarette butts all over the crypt. I got really mad and told her that you were the only one who had a right to decide his fate and she figured it out.” He brightened. “Good news is, Giles read her the riot act about how she let Angel distract her from her responsibility as the Slayer and ordered her to not look for him.”
“Hmph. Wonder how long that will last.”
“Tonight at least, Giles was pretty impressively angry.”
“Must have loved it that she didn’t tell him that the vampire who tortured him was back in town.”
Xander sat up straighter, eyes sparkling as he recalled Giles’ words, practically bouncing on the mattress. “That was part of it, but Spike, the best part is that Giles trusts you to make the decision about what to do with Angel.” He knew that Spike didn’t care what Giles thought like Xander did, but to him it was huge that Giles was trusting Spike for something like that. There were so few people who knew about, much less trusted, Spike, Giles being one of them was… was huge, he thought again.
“Watcher trusts me?” Spike sounded doubtful and Xander nodded vigorously.
“Said you would err on the side of caution when it came to me and if you thought Angel wasn’t dangerous to me, he shouldn’t be dangerous to anyone.”
“Good for Rupes,” Spike said casually, but Xander could tell he was pleased. His eyes narrowed as he looked closely at Xander. “Something you’re not telling me, luv?”
Xander worked to keep from reacting. “Nothing important. It’s just… Angel still makes me a little jumpy. I’ll feel better when you’ve diagnosed him.”
“Not a bloody doctor, just still considering my options,” Spike said grumpily, apparently buying Xander’s explanation for whatever he was sensing. It was both flattering and annoying to have a lover who could read him so well, Xander thought, tucking away his guilt at, not lying, but not telling Spike everything about what had happened at the school. What Spike didn’t know wouldn’t lead to bloody retribution, he reminded himself.
“What is a ‘riot act’ anyway?” he asked idly.
It had been barely dark enough to avoid singeing around the edges when Spike left the apartment. Gathering up all the blood in the refrigerator, Spike made his way quickly to the crypt where he’d stashed Angelus the previous night, not running, but close. He still wasn’t sure what he was going to do in the long run with his returned Sire, but he was going to pour human blood down him and see if it could heal him mentally as it would if Angelus’ wounds were physical.
Pondering his Sire’s condition before going to sleep this morning, the mental breakdown, the physically undamaged but not up to strength body, Spike had reached the conclusion that his Sire had been feeding fairly regularly, but not on human blood. Decades of improper feeding had left Angelus weaker than he should be before his little sojourn to hell. It seemed unlikely there were many humans to feed off in a hell dimension, even if his restored soul had let him. Stretch that starvation diet to centuries, along with whatever other little delights had greeted him on the other side of the portal, and it might just be that Angelus was simply loony for lack of a vampire’s proper food.
Worth a shot anyway.
Arriving at the crypt, he was relieved to see the door was still jammed shut from the outside. No sound emerged, so Spike set down the bag of blood and worked the rocks wedging the door shut out. He picked up the bag of blood and opened the door, carefully scanning for movement inside. “Angelus?”
A low growling came from a corner, and Spike entered, pulling the door shut behind him. Angelus was crouched defensively in a far corner, eyeing him mistrustfully. The crypt was a shambles: the sarcophagus lid shattered into pieces, the dried remains of death offerings scattered and crumbled to powder.
“Had fun last night?” His Sire had obviously had enough awareness of his surroundings to know he was trapped and to be frustrated by that. “Brought you some blood.”
He tossed a bag of blood to Angelus, who flinched away and let it fall to the floor without trying to catch it. After a long, suspicious pause, during which Spike didn’t move, Angelus stretched out a hand and picked it up. Still keeping a wary eye on Spike, he investigated the bag then, with surprising suddenness, shifted to his true face and tore into it with his fangs.
“Haven’t completely forgotten you’re a vampire, I see,” Spike commented. He tossed Angelus another bag as soon as the first was drained. This time, Angelus caught it and tore into it immediately.
Five more bags disappeared as quickly. Vampires were capable of drinking astonishing quantities of blood but they didn’t need volume so much as they craved the living warmth flowing into their undead bodies. He couldn’t give that living warmth to his Sire, the bags, hastily warmed at the apartment, had cooled to the temperature of the mild night by the time he’d reached the crypt. But whatever it was in human blood that vampires needed, it was present whether the blood was fresh from living prey or cold bags.
“Spike?” The voice was still rusty from disuse, but the identification was a bit stronger.
“Yeah. You feeling any better?”
“Gonna have to convince me you’re not still off your trolley before I do anything about that.” Spike crouched down and studied Angelus. His Sire was huddled in on himself, as if trying to preserve a body warmth he no longer owned, but he looked as if he was aware of his surroundings in a way he hadn’t been yesterday.
Making up his mind, Spike stood. “Let’s get you something warm to eat.”
It was a good thing Spike had years of practice in coaxing a finicky eater or he would have staked Angelus out of sheer aggravation long before he was able to convince his Sire to drink the warm blood of a living human. Not that Drusilla had ever shied away from the hunt for the reasons Angelus was; Drusilla had just been distractible, so caught up in her own mind she often didn’t realize she was hungry. It had taken a combination of persuasion, force and an unconscious, bleeding human shoved into his unwilling arms to get Angelus to feed. Spike had been counting on Angelus’ confusion and his instincts overriding his pangs of conscience but it had been a near thing. In the end, the smell of fresh blood and the feel of a living body in his arms had done the trick and Angelus had dropped his head and drank.
Spike even stopped him from draining the victim, knowing both Xander and his Sire - obviously still connected to the bloody soul - would be upset if he killed the man. Not that he expected to be getting a lot of thanks for it from anyone.
The second and third humans were easier. Angelus stopped fighting him and drank, stopping when Spike tugged the meal away, lifting his bloody lips from the third unconscious body and there was more comprehension in the dark eyes as he looked around. Spike let the third body drop to the ground and pulled Angelus away, deeper into the alley.
Once well away from the victims, Spike let Angelus stop and lit a cigarette, leaning against the wall to study his Sire. Angelus no longer seemed as nervous and confused, and certainly less feral and more manageable, as he stood obediently, his eyes fastened on Spike as if trying to remember who he was. The amount of blood Angelus had drunk was more than enough to speed physical healing, and Spike was curious whether it would fix whatever was wrong with him.
“Always been a pig headed moron, trying to live without feeding properly,” he commented, not for the first time. “How are you going to fight evil if you aren’t at full strength?” he continued acidly. “Like a boxer going into the ring with one hand amputated. Don’t need to kill, don’t even need to bite innocent victims. If you can’t bring yourself to feed off murderers and other low lifes, drink bottled. Don’t have to starve yourself drinking animal blood.”
Angelus seemed to follow that. “It’s wrong.”
“Not for us, you great poof.” Spike cocked his head. “Two words now, eh? Guess you are feeling better.”
A surge of fury tore through Spike and before he realized it, he had slammed Angelus against the wall and was shaking him viciously as he snarled: “bleedin’ Slayer’s how you got into this condition, you moron. You lost it over a bit of skirt. She’s the one who exiled you to that place.”
Angelus struggled briefly, but didn’t stand a chance against Spike in the condition he was in. “Where is she?”
“She’s alive and still killing our kind. You plannin’ on lookin’ her up? And what exactly are you goin’ to say? Sorry for torturing your Watcher? Sorry for killin’ your friends?”
Angelus wilted, his eyes dropping, the hands that had been ineffectually pushing at Spike going still. Sure that his point had been made, Spike released him.
“Even if she’s blind stupid enough to forgive you, what makes you think things would go better this time around? Ready to lose your precious soul over her again? ’Cause that worked out so well for everyone last time.” Spike glared at him, furious that Angelus would even be thinking about the Slayer after everything that had happened.
“You put my boy in danger,” he hissed. “’m not risking that happening again. You may be my Sire, but you’re dust if you so much as look at him cross-eyed again. Go near the Slayer without your head on straight, same thing happens. Clear?”
After a long moment, Angelus nodded.
“Right. ‘m taking you back to the crypt and you’re going to stay there, agreed? We’ll pick up some stuff for you on the way so it’s a bit more comfy. I’ll be back tomorrow with more blood for you.” At Angelus’ small gesture of protest, Spike rolled his eyes. “I’ll make it bagged but you’ll just have to deal with it not being warm.”
He took the precaution of wedging the crypt door shut again, locking Angelus inside with some warm clothes and a blanket, unwilling to completely trust Angelus’ word that he would stay put. He was fairly sure that Angelus would stay put in any case, but it was reassuring to know that it was unlikely his Sire had the strength right now to force the door. He suspected another couple of good feedings would see Angelus mostly back to normal - if a souled vampire could ever be considered normal.
And he couldn’t deny that he got a perverse satisfaction from ordering Angelus around like a fledge. It wouldn’t last once his Sire got back to full strength, but he was going to enjoy it while it did last.
By the time he reached the school grounds, Xander was about ready to turn around and head home again. The thought of bumping into Willow in the hallways was making his stomach churn and at one point, about a block from the school, he’d simply clung to a tree, his fingers digging painfully into the bark, willing the incipient nausea to settle. He counted it a small victory that he didn’t actually lose his breakfast, but he had to stuff his hands into his pockets to hide their shaking and his heart was pounding in his chest as he got closer to the school.
Only the thought that if he didn’t face her now, he might never be able to, kept him stubbornly moving forward. It was humiliating to be so torn up about seeing someone he’d known almost his entire life, but Willow had become a stranger in the moment when he’d looked up and seen the black eyes boring into him and felt her spell crawling inside his mind and he finally admitted he was more than a little frightened of that stranger.
Trudging up the walk, head down, avoiding looking at anyone, he nearly jumped out of his skin when a hand touched his arm. “Buffy!”
She was blocking his path, her whole body radiating tension. “What happened with Angel?”
How stupid was he that he hadn’t anticipated this? Of course, Buffy would be after him first thing about Angel. He sighed, knowing only Giles’ laying down the law had kept her and Spike from meeting and undoubtedly coming to blows. “He’s still alive, dead, whatever. Spike says he’s still a little out of it but he’s getting better,” he reported dutifully, feeling like the middleman in one of those ridiculous conversations where two people were ostentatiously not speaking to each other.
“Where is he?”
He really didn’t need this right now. “I thought Giles told you that you had more important things to do.”
Buffy didn’t back down… much. “Willow did the spell right. The dimensional walls, or portals, or whatever they are, are safe.” Her jaw tightened and she looked away. “I’m not asking to see him, I just want to know if he’s alright.”
Not asking to see him. Giles must really have ripped her a new one when they had their ‘discussion’ about her responsibilities. “He is.” After a brief hesitation, he continued: “Spike brought him some bagged blood and he’s locked away somewhere safe from the sun,” he added grudgingly, knowing that he’d want more information if it was Spike they were talking about.
Buffy looked slightly relieved and stepped out of his way, walking beside him into the building. Xander deliberately broke away, heading for the men’s room. It was just about the one place he knew she couldn’t follow him.
And if he happened to stay there until he had to sprint through the halls to make his next class, well, that was his business.
“Hey, Oz.” Seeing Oz was alone, Xander relaxed. He was kind of at Oz’s picnic table after all. The one on the farthest edge of the grounds that Oz retreated to sometimes when he needed to be alone.
“I was going to ask you the same thing.” Giles had told him what happened.
Oz shrugged. “It probably shouldn’t, but knowing that Pete killed Debbie and Jeff makes it easier.”
“Not to mention Mr. Platt.”
Oz sat down beside him and stared off into the distance. “Giles said that the Hellmouth twists things, influences them,” he said, after a long pause. “He thinks that its influence made it so Pete didn’t even have to drink the stuff he’d invented any more.”
Xander had heard the story from Giles: that Pete Mansfield had been turned into some kind of Jekyll and Hyde monster by some weird science experiment he’d cooked up. That he had been the thing they were hunting, killing anyone who threatened his relationship with his girlfriend Debbie. Oz had been left alone to lock himself in the cage with no one on watch, for once. Willow had been sent home after her session with Giles with specific reading materials and orders to write an essay on ethics and the misuse of power and Giles himself had gone to Buffy’s house to ‘discuss’ her actions during the whole Angel fiasco.
Xander had been horrified when he’d learned that Pete had attacked Oz, tearing the door off the book cage last night just before sunset, berating himself for not remembering to tell Giles that Spike thought the cage door was too weak to hold Oz. As a result, Pete had nearly killed Oz. From what Giles said, Oz had barely been able to fight him off long enough for the wolf change to happen. The wolf had killed Pete. Fortunately, the wolf had received enough injuries in the fight that he’d retired to the cage to literally lick his wounds. Werewolf healing being on a par with a vampire’s, Oz had suffered no serious physical effects, the wolf’s wounds had healed to scars by dawn, leaving Oz stiff and sore but basically unharmed.
But Oz wasn’t talking about that and Xander didn’t think he wanted to hear what he was sure would sound to Oz like empty platitudes about acting in self defense. He had a sinking feeling he knew where Oz was going with this.
Oz’s eyes were steady on his. “I think the Hellmouth is influencing Willow. I’m not making excuses for her but the person I know wouldn’t do that to anyone, much less a friend.”
“Maybe but, if so, it’s influence, not control. She made the decision.”
They lapsed into silence but it wasn’t their usual comfortable silence. Xander tried to think of something, anything, that would express what he was feeling, but came up empty. Surprisingly, Oz got there first.
“I love her.” He slid a sideways glance at Xander. “But I’ve told her if she does something like that again, I’m gone.” He smiled crookedly. “Giles is giving her more stuff to read and has her doing book reports on witches who lost themselves in dark magic.” The smile faded and his own eyes seemed unnaturally dark as he continued. “For what it’s worth, I think she understands what she did was wrong.”
“Maybe.” Xander didn’t try very hard to conceal his skepticism. “I hope you and Giles can get through to her but I’m done. I’m not interested in her apologies or her excuses,” he said bleakly, feeling again the prickle of magic inside him, being used against him.
Oz shook his head. “I’m not asking you to forgive her, I just wanted you to know.”
Giles had said pretty much the same thing: that he didn’t expect Xander to just forgive and forget. Even Willow seemed to get that much. She hadn’t come anywhere near him all day, for which Xander was profoundly relieved. It was a small school and they were going to have to talk to each other eventually, but hopefully not for awhile. Not until his heart didn’t pound and his hands shake at the sight of her anyway.
Spike didn’t bother knocking, slamming his boot into the elaborate wood door and watching with satisfaction as the latch gave and the door flew open, smashing into the wall amid a shower of splinters and plaster chips.
Despite the violence of his entry, he stepped over the threshold calmly, listening intently for any reaction to his presence. “Trick! Show yourself,” he called loudly.
“What‘s that about?” Trick complained, gesturing at the door as he walked into the foyer. “I’m expecting guests.”
“Wasn’t in the mood to wait for you to open up,” Spike explained shortly. “Want to tell me what they hell you think you’re doing?”
“Just running a small side business.” Trick gave him a disarming smile.
“Your side business is attracting a lot of unwelcome attention, Trick.” Spike tossed the small duffle bag he was holding to Trick, who fielded it neatly, even though his distaste at touching the grubby, stained material was obvious.
“Two of your potential customers.” Spike looked at the other vampire witheringly. “Humans, Trick? You’re recruiting armed humans to take out a Slayer? That’s not how the game is played.”
“Invitation was open to all,” Trick answered smoothly, still holding the bag at arm’s length. “Not my problem if some of the acceptances were from humans.”
“It’s just become your problem. Game’s off. Tell your customers to pack it up and go home. Slayer Fest is cancelled. If you really feel the need to hire people to kill a Slayer, wait for the next one. Or until this one’s not in my territory.”
“I’ve already accepted down payments,” Trick objected.
“Like I said, that’s your problem. Don’t care how you do it, but shut it down and send your customers home.” Spike fixed him with a hard look. “If I have to do it for you, you and me are going to have a bit more than words.”
“I can cut you in on the profits,” Trick offered.
“Don’t need money from a bunch of wankers stupid enough to pay to kill a Slayer,” Spike snorted. “’s like paying a human to let you feed. Slayers are there for the taking. Don’t need anyone’s permission to fight one.”
Trick shrugged. “People are always willing to buy things they don’t need, I’m just trying to make a semi-honest living.”
“We’re vampires, we don’t make a living, honest, semi-, or otherwise. You going to shut it down or am I going to take out the rest of your customers after your dust settles into the rug here?”
“No need for violent demonstrations, I’ll take care of it.” Trick smiled again. “As I said, it was just a small side business.”
“Whether you’re a member of my Court or not, Trick, don’t pull this kind of shite without clearin’ it with me first.”
Spike left. He knew Trick well enough to know the other vampire would shut down his ludicrous ‘Let’s Kill the Slayer’ party. When Michael, still faithfully keeping an eye on Trick, had brought him word of Trick’s Slayerfest, Spike had had a hard time believing it wasn’t some kind of joke. Who would pay money for what was essentially a hunting permit for the Slayer? Not like Slayers had game wardens enforcing hunting regulations for them. It was hard for Spike to imagine a demon dumb enough to fall for that.
That humans had fallen for the scheme was more understandable. Humans could be incredibly stupid: Spike had lived through fads for the Charleston, beehive hairdo’s, and pet rocks. In his opinion, humans were capable of any kind of idiocy.
If it had just been demons responding to Trick’s little scheme, Spike probably wouldn’t have stepped in. Slayers were there to be hunted. He wasn’t hunting this one himself, but he’d never agreed to protect her. But the two German assassins had attracted considerable attention within hours of their arrival in town. Even the lackadaisical Sunnydale police had been forced notice their presence. Interpol had that effect on the local constables everywhere in the world. Spike didn’t need official attention on Sunnydale, a couple of articles in outside papers about the small town with the extraordinary death rate could cause considerable problems for the demon population.
He’d taken out the Germans. Known murderers and terrorists, responsible for hundreds of deaths, he didn’t think Xander would mind, although he had no intention of mentioning the incident to his Claimed. He’d scrupulously not fed from them, honoring his word to Xander that he wasn’t killing when he fed, but it hadn’t really been a temptation. Their blood had reeked of chemicals, steroids most prominently, as he’d severed their heads to give to Trick to demonstration just how seriously he was taking the situation.
For hired assassins, they had been surprisingly easy to kill. He’d simply yanked open the door of the van they were using to survey the town and had one out of the van with a broken neck before the second had time to do more than drop his night vision goggles. He’d taken a bullet in the side from the second one before disarming him and twisting his neck viciously till it cracked. That one had managed to get a second gun out before dying but hadn’t gotten another shot off, to Spike’s relief. Bullets hurt and were a decided annoyance.
The bullet had gone cleanly through and Spike had fed deeply from three humans to speed the healing. It should be healed sufficiently by morning so that Xander wouldn’t notice it, not on a school morning when his boy left early with no time for amorous dalliance.
He’d promote Michael to Lieutenant status, since his information had been valid and he’d proved he could follow orders. Glancing up at the night sky, Spike swore. The whole idiotic business had taken far too much time. He’d already visited Angelus and brought him more blood but had had little time to talk with his Sire before leaving to deal with Trick.
Michael had been waiting at the foot of the apartment stairs when Spike had been leaving at the beginning of the night to visit Angelus. He had a packet of information he’d gathered about Trick’s SlayerFest and, although he’d been incredulous, Spike had known he couldn’t take the risk that the whole thing was just a joke. He needed to check it out immediately, which meant his stop at Angelus’ crypt was by necessity extremely brief.
His Sire was significantly improved and had taken the fresh packets of human blood Spike had lifted from the hospital eagerly and, for a change, without asking how Spike had come by them. Angelus seemed to recognize he was still as weak as a human and had agreed to stay in the crypt one more night. Spike had even brought him a couple of books from the mansion to help him pass the time. He’d debated with himself, but ended up wedging the crypt shut again. He thought it was unlikely that Angelus wouldn’t keep his word, but if Angelus did leave the crypt, he wanted to know it.
It hadn’t taken long to verify Michael’s information that the first of Trick’s customers had already arrived in town, with more expected shortly. Finding the Germans the Sunnydale police station was buzzing about had taken several hours, then feeding and dealing with Trick had used up the rest of the night. It was too close to dawn to return to check on Angelus.
If his Sire continued to improve, maybe tomorrow he’d let him move back to the mansion where he could lay in his own supplies and start taking care of himself. Spike hadn’t been aware of consciously making up his mind but he’d obviously decided at some point that his Sire was back to being Angel, the Vampire with a Soul, and wasn’t a danger to Xander or any other human.
At least as long as Spike kept him away from Buffy, he thought grimly.