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
Xander’s whole body tensed at the sound of the quiet voice. He closed his eyes and braced himself, struggling to compose his features into a blank mask before he shut his locker with elaborate care and turned to face Willow.
She looked the same. He almost wished she looked different somehow. As she stood facing him with her arms wrapped around an armload of books, every detail and feature was so achingly familiar: the way her hair glowed in the afternoon sunlight, the curve of her cheek, and the little wrinkle between her mobile eyebrows when, like now, she was worried. How could a stranger be hiding behind the familiar face?
He’d foolishly hoped they wouldn’t have to do this. That, for once in her life, Willow would leave it alone. That she wouldn’t try and fix things shattered beyond repair. He knew it stemmed from the fact that Willow hated change. She liked her world settled around her and when it inevitably did change, she either tried to put it back the way it had been, or became angry and upset at the fate that wouldn’t bend to her will. For the first time, Xander wondered if that had been part of the reason that Willow never willingly talked about Jesse. Having irretrievably lost a key part of her childhood, had she chosen to deny it had ever existed as her way of coping?
It didn’t matter any more. Xander had Mrs. Cooper. He’d talked to her several times over the summer, sitting on her porch across from Jesse’s old house and exchanging stories about the laughing, dark-haired boy they both missed. He had Spike and Mrs. Summers and Mr. Olsen and other friends, who hadn’t known Jesse but were willing to listen when he needed to talk about the friend whose loss still left an aching hole in his heart.
He knew Willow wanted him to forgive her for what she had done. Even though she had scrupulously avoided him - which he’d suspected was more Oz’s doing than her own inclination - on some level, he’d known this was going to happen sooner or later.
Willow looked dismayed when Xander didn’t say anything, just leaning back against his locker and waiting for her to say whatever it was she had come to say. He didn’t want to do this but, planted directly in front of him, she wasn’t giving him a choice and he saw no reason to make this easy for her.
“Xander, what I did… I want to make it up to you somehow.”
He just continued to stare at her with the flat, unemotional gaze that was clearly wigging her out slightly. She obviously had no idea how tight a grip he was keeping on himself to prevent his hands from shaking. Knowing that Willow had the power to force him to do things he didn’t want to do, and the willingness to use that power against him, scared him almost beyond his ability to hide it. “How exactly do you think you can do that?”
“I don’t know but, if you let me, I want to try.”
Xander stared over her shoulder for a long moment, wondering if there was even any point in trying to make her understand. “If someone mugged you in an alley, would you be interested in letting that person ‘make it up to you’?” he asked finally.
“I… I don’t know,” Willow admitted. “Maybe, if I thought they were really sincere…” her eyes were begging him to believe in her sincerity.
“You’re telling me you’d agree to walk down a dark alley with the person who mugged you just because they said they were sorry?” He shook his head. “I don’t buy it. You violated my mind, Willow. You used magic to force me to do things I didn’t want to do. It’s not like you can bake me cookies and make it all go away. Why would I ever trust you again? Why would I want to?”
“I didn’t think about it that way. I just thought that it would help Buffy. I never thought about it as dark magic, or as any big deal really. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“Doesn’t change the fact that you did.” Xander turned to walk away.
“No, Willow. I’m not interested in having you make it up to me. Prove to me you’ve changed first, then maybe we’ll talk.”
Ok, he didn’t really mean that last part, but for Oz and Giles’ sake, he threw her a crumb, even though he disagreed with them. If Willow was only reconsidering her actions because she was worried she was going to lose all her friends if she didn’t, then she wasn’t doing for the right reasons. Xander’s father had tried to quit drinking alcohol for years because his dad’s many bosses had told him to quit or be fired. It never lasted because his dad didn’t really believe he had a drinking problem. And maybe he was being petty, but he couldn’t help noticing that Willow hadn’t actually said she was sorry. It wouldn’t have made a difference, but he’d couldn’t help wondering why she hadn’t said it.
“Right, on your feet.”
Angelus growled. “Don’t take that tone with me, Childe.”
“Someone’s feelin’ better.” Spike commented.
The regular supply of large amounts of human blood had done the trick: Angelus was nearly back to full strength. He might not be in full fighting trim yet but that would come soon, as long as Angelus didn’t stop feeding on human blood. For now, Spike still held a slight advantage, in addition to which, Angelus owed him for getting him back on his feet and for sheltering him while he was out of his head. But souled or not, Angelus had always been about control when it came to his family, especially his Childer. Spike had known that the passively obedient Angelus of the past nights hadn’t been going to last. He hadn’t pushed his control - much - knowing that it wouldn’t last. Angelus was 150 years older than Spike, or at least he had been. That had given him an advantage over and beyond his status as Spike’s Sire. But Angelus had aged substantially during the few months he’d been gone. He felt centuries older, even in this weakened state, Spike could feel the increased power that only comes with age.
“I appreciate what you’ve done, Spike, but I’m not staying here any longer.”
Spike studied him. “What do you have in mind?”
“I’ll move back into the mansion.”
Spike refrained from rolling his eyes with an effort. Angelus clearly hadn’t lost his taste for conspicuous living. Ridiculous, unsuitable house for a vampire. Not to mention, Spike would have to find a new place to train with Xander. “Bloody stupid living space for a vampire,” was all he said.
Despite the lack of heat in his Sire’s tone, that pretty much summed it up. If Angelus remembered anything about how and where he’d returned, he would have known instantly that Spike had been using the mansion. Spike couldn’t help smirking as he thought about how much that fact must grate on his Sire. Regardless of how and why Angelus had first laid claim to the mansion, it was his, and he was too much a vampire to give up ground to another vampire, even family.
Better than him moving into the factory, in any case. Angelus wouldn’t be part of his Court, wasn’t pleased that Spike was keeping a Court, and it would be awkward, to say the least, to have him there. Just asking for trouble to have an older, stronger vampire, who was also his Sire, not to mention being the notorious Vampire with a Soul, around mucking up the hierarchy. Angelus had lived on the Hellmouth for more than a year without causing much of a ripple in demonic circles. Angelus killed demons, he didn’t associate with them. Let him live at the mansion and help the Slayer. So long as he didn’t lose the bloody soul again, it wouldn’t be a problem.
“Stayin’ in town, then?” he asked casually.
“I was brought back for a reason. I’m supposed to help Buffy.”
This time Spike did roll his eyes. “Oh, please. You were brought back because a teenager with more magical talent than common sense wanted to give a friend a present. Nothin’ pre-ordained about it. You’ve no more got a mystical destiny than a lump of coal does. Just got lucky.”
Angelus looked grumpy at the idea that his return wasn’t due to some great, higher purpose. “Buffy got me out of there?”
“Don’t be an idiot, the little red-head brought you back.”
“Willow brought me back?”
“Don’t go rushin’ to thank her. She’s also the one who slapped the soul back in you just before the Slayer shoved you into the vortex.” Spike shrugged, as if flickers of anger didn’t still rise every time he thought about the whole Acathla mess. “Like I said, more power than good sense. And while we’re on the subject, I wouldn’t be fallin’ all over myself to get back with the Slayer, either. She’s the one who couldn’t be bothered to listen to her Watcher long enough to know she didn’t have to shove you bodily into a hell portal to seal it. You owe your little vacation spa century to her.”
Angelus looked away but not before Spike saw the confusion and hurt in his eyes. Oh yeah, Angelus remembered the sword tearing into his chest. Said something about a person that they would kiss you, then stick a sword in you.
“Long as you’re not shagging her, do whatever you like.”
Angelus’ eyes flared with anger. “I don’t need your permission for anything, Childe. Now that I know my soul isn’t permanent, I won’t risk losing it. Other than that, you have no say in anything I chose to do.”
“It’s my territory. I have a say in everything that goes on here.”
They stared each other down for a long moment. Spike wasn’t expecting a response so wasn’t surprised when Angelus deliberately broke eye contact and stepped towards the door. “If you want anything out of the mansion, you should pick it up tonight. I’ll be cleaning out anything that’s left come the dawn.”
Oh, yeah. It was great to have his Sire back.
The main room was still a mess and Angelus surveyed it with displeasure. “What have you been up to here, Spike?”
“Teachin’ my boy to defend himself against vampires with delusions of grandeur,” he answered sharply. He and Angelus were going to talk about Xander before he left.
Angelus closed his eyes, looking pained. “Sorry,” he muttered. It wasn’t gracious but it was more than Spike had been expecting.
Bending down, Spike picked up one of the broken pieces of wood from the smashed weapons rack. As his fingers closed around it, he snapped back upright and, in the same swift movement, slammed Angelus back against the wall, bringing the stack up to rest over his heart.
“While we’re on the subject: Xander is mine. Touch him again, for any reason, and you won’t live through the night.”
Angelus stirred, anger showing in the tense lines of his body, and Spike leaned on the make-shift stake a little harder, until it penetrated the skin. Eyes burning into his Sire’s, “are we clear?”
He saw Angelus fight down his anger. The dark eyes locked onto his as Angelus said: “I don’t approve but I acknowledge your claim.”
“Don’t care whether you approve or not, just so long as you stay away from him.” Spike let the wood clatter to the stone floor and stepped back.
Angelus moved like lightning, both hands grabbing a fistful of Spike’s duster as he whirled them around, reversing their positions and slamming Spike against the wall. “Just once, Childe, because I sorely provoked you with your boy. Don’t threaten me again, or you’ll regret it.”
Spike made a scoffing noise at the threat and Angelus shook him once, hard, until his head cracked back against the wall. His point made, he released his grip and took several steps back. Spike grinned crookedly, knowing his Sire was deliberately disengaging so that they didn’t get caught up in a perpetual cycle of who-threatened-who-last. Tempting as it was, he didn’t respond to Angelus’ threats.
“Got some weapons here, other than that there’s nothing I want here.”
From the look Angelus shot him, he hadn’t missed the dig but he just nodded and waved for Spike to go ahead.
Collecting the best of the weapons he’d stored at the mansion, Spike hesitated for one second, then just shrugged. “Ta, mate,” he said flippantly and strode off without another word.