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
“Spike, have you heard anything about a demon called Lagos? New in town, looking for something in the cemeteries?” Xander was really hoping Spike knew something. He really wanted to give Giles a chance to show up Mrs. Post by being able to come up with the information they were looking for before she did.
“Big fella? A medieval armor and tusks look going for him?”
“Could be. Giles hadn’t found a description yet.”
“Some of the boys reported a demon tearing apart the cemeteries the last couple of nights. Was carrying a sweet double-bladed battleaxe.” Spike smirked in satisfaction. The blade was even better than the Watcher’s favorite battleaxe. “It’s mine now.”
“You killed him?”
Spike shrugged. “Wanted that weapon,” he said off-handedly, “Plus, bloke had no manners. His idea of a search was scattering crypt contents over half an acre. Made a hell of a mess in three cemeteries.” He cocked his head and looked at Xander curiously. “What was he looking for?” At the time, he hadn’t really cared, the mess the demon was creating had been enough of an excuse to justify killing him. He’d really wanted that weapon from the second he saw it strapped to the larger demon’s back.
“Something called the Glove of Myhnegon. Ever heard of it?”
“Doesn’t sound familiar. Take it it’s not an opera glove?”
“Supposed to be some kind of really powerful weapon, but again, Giles didn’t have any details.”
“Watcher’s a bit off his game, eh?”
“The Watcher’s Council sent someone to check up on him. She kind of rattled him.” He sent a dubious look in Spike’s direction, adding dryly: “You might like her, she’s a real charmer.”
“Don’t generally do tea and biscuits with Watchers, pet. Dead boring, that lot, and very intolerant of vampires for the most part.”
Xander gave him a crooked smile. “This one’s more towards the mean and rude end of the spectrum.”
“Maybe you’re right, might like her at that.”
“Probably not, she wears tweed, Spike,” Xander’s voice was appropriately horrified although his eyes gave the game away.
“Hmph. No taste. Unlike some people who have learned how to wear proper clothes.” Spike’s hand slid teasingly up Xander’s back, caressing him through the silk shirt, tracing the firm lines of muscles across his shoulders.
Xander kissed him, shivering as Spike’s fingers began deftly unfastening the buttons on his shirt. “How would you know?” he mumbled into Spike’s neck, “you spend a lot more time removing my clothes than admiring me in them.”
Spike silenced him with a kiss. “Like you naked, pet.”
Xander could deal with that.
Spike was still asleep when Xander left for school early the next morning. The vampire had left the previous night shortly after sunset, having to take care of Court business and hadn’t returned until long after Xander had fallen asleep. Nights like this happened a couple of times a week, when their schedules didn’t coordinate at all, but they were both used to it by now. Xander knew that, when Spike slept through Xander getting up and leaving, the vampire hadn’t returned to their apartment until shortly before dawn. Some mornings, Spike came drowsily awake and they could spend an hour or so together before Xander had to leave for school and Xander loved the mornings. Sleep mussed and groggy, Spike was adorably cranky first thing in the morning: complaining about the cheerfulness of the early morning birds and muttering death threats to the perky hosts of morning talk shows. Today, however, Xander wanted to let Giles know as soon as possible that Lagos was dead and half their problems had already been taken care of.
“Hey, Giles. Sp…,” Xander’s stopped in mid-syllable as he saw Mrs. Post standing off to one side of the library. After a bare hesitation, he recovered and finished circumspectly: “William took care of….”
“Mr. Harris,” Giles’ voice over-rode his urgently. “I believe I was clear that we would not be able to re-schedule your study session until next week. I’m quite busy right now.”
Xander snapped his jaw shut. Giles’ eyes were boring into him intently, carrying a clear warning, and Mrs. Post was listening avidly, her eyes flicking between the two of them.
“Nonsense, Mr. Giles, it sounds like this young man has some urgent information for you.”
“Yeah, I thought you really wanted that book,” Xander ad-libbed desperately, not sure what the problem was. Giles clearly didn’t want him to say anything in front of Mrs. Post and Xander was left floundering.
Xander shrugged and tried to look like he wasn’t making this up as he went. “My friend William runs a used book shop. He’s got a lead on a book Mr. Giles has been looking for for awhile now.” Deciding retreat was in order, he said, “Sorry to have barged in, Giles, William doesn’t have the book yet, so this can wait.”
Giles shoed unmistakable signs that leaving would be a good thing. “Thank you, Xander. Tell William I am grateful if he has finally located a copy.” He looked at Mrs. Post and added some clarifying details to Xander’s story: “William has been extremely helpful in finding some rare volumes to round out the library’s collection.”
“And what book is it that you are hoping will do so much to ‘round out’ your rather limited collection, Mr. Giles?” Mrs. Post’s voice was full of bright malice: a playful shark circling for the kill. Despite her words, she looked inquiringly at Xander as if expecting him to answer the question.
“Basingstoke’s Daemon Compendium,” Giles filled in smoothly, to Xander’s relief since he was coming up blank. He really needed a bit more time to polish his ad-libs. Except he was pretty sure they weren’t ad-lib anymore if you had the time to polish them.
Mrs. Post’s eyebrows rose. “The Council believes the last copy of that book was burned during the Inquisition. How fortunate that you have found a book dealer in this town able to supply you with such rare volumes. Good show, Mr. Giles. Good show indeed.”
Oh, boy. The Xander and Giles show would not be taking their act on the road. The audience clearly wasn’t buying it.
“I realize there is very little chance the book is genuine,” Giles responded stiffly, rising to the occasion, which was good because Xander was busy with his fish out of water impression. “However, stranger things have happened and, you must admit, even the remote possibility of finding a copy is tremendously exciting.”
“Why don’t I leave you two to your really dull book talk and just head over to class. I can be this bored in California history and get credit for it.” Xander decided it was way past time he exercised a tactical retreat. Giles would find a way to tell him why information from Spike was suddenly off-limits to the Council lady.
Giles didn’t come looking for him until after lunch, when he pulled Xander out of class to meet with him in an empty classroom.
“Sorry about this morning, Xander. I’ve learned some very disturbing news about Mrs. Post and I didn’t want her to hear what you were about to say.”
“Figured something was up.” Xander cocked his head inquiringly as Giles looked grim.
“I contacted the Council and learned that, while Gwendolyn Post was once a member of the Council, she was kicked out a couple of years ago for misuses of dark power.” Giles took his glasses off and pinched the bridge of his nose. “They swear there was a memo.”
“Wow. I just thought she was a bitch. I didn’t think she was evil.”
“The Council believes that she is most likely seeking the Glove of Myhnegon for personal reasons. It goes without saying that we must not allow the Glove to fall into her hands.” Giles put his glasses back on and straightened up. “Thank you, Xander.”
“For pointing out that Mrs. Post was rattling me so badly that I had failed to take even the most elementary steps to confirm her identity and purpose for being here.” His lips tightened. “I’m afraid she reminds me quite strongly of a rather horrific nanny I had when I was seven.”
Xander found himself grinning at the thought of Mrs. Post railing at a seven-year old Giles and Giles smiled back. “I believe you had something to tell me?”
“Right. Lagos is probably dead.”
“Yeah. Spike killed a demon last night who was tearing apart cemeteries looking for something. Big. Tusks. Wearing medieval armor. Ring any bells?”
“Hmmm. I agree, that was most likely Lagos. I was able to find a reference to him in Friedman’s encyclopedia and that description matches what little information there was.”
“So, with the demon competition out of the race, that just leaves us with finding the Glove before Mrs. Post.”
“Quite. Fortunately, I have found a probable location for the Glove: the Von Hauptman family crypt in Restfield Cemetery. I would prefer to try and retrieve it during the day but I’m afraid that Mrs. Post is making that difficult.” He looked beyond irritated and Xander repressed a grin at his harried expression. There was something funny about Giles being harassed by a prim and proper English lady in tweed.
“Since Mrs. Post is here under the pretext of evaluating Buffy and myself, I have made arrangements for her to patrol with Buffy tonight, ostensibly watching her as she seeks Lagos. Buffy will take her on a swing through the town cemeteries while I pick up the Glove. I’m still attempting to find a means of destroying it, but the most important thing is to remove it to a safe location until it can be destroyed. Are you willing to help?”
“Count me in. You ok if Spike comes along?”
Giles hesitated. “The Glove is a source of enormous power, Xander. Are you sure?”
“Yes. Spike’s not interested in that kind of power, Giles. He likes fighting people one-on-one and proving he’s the stronger person, not nuking half the town just because he can.”
“I highly doubt the Glove can ‘nuke half the town’ but I understand what you’re saying. By all means, if he’s willing, please bring him along. He could be quite useful in keeping the Glove safe.”
It was Xander’s turn to hesitate. “Would you… Why don’t you come to our apartment with me after school and we can head out from there?” It was the first time he’d invited anyone to the apartment but he trusted Giles.
Giles looked surprised but answered matter-of-factedly. “That will be fine. Why don’t you stop by the library after your last class. I’ll make sure that Mrs. Post is occupied elsewhere.”
Xander thought about making a joke about Giles not burning down Spike’s home this time but caught himself as he remembered that the factory burning had been a direct result of Miss Calendar’s death. Giles wouldn’t appreciate a joke about that. Instead, he just said: “You know Buffy’s going to make you pay for this, right?”
“So she has already assured me.”
Walking through the slanting rays of the late afternoon sunlight, long shadows stretching out ahead of them, Xander hoped he wasn’t making a mistake. Although he suspected Giles knew where the factory was, the librarian had never actually said and Xander hadn’t ever specifically told him. He wasn’t ashamed of their home - it was the nicest place he’d ever lived - but it wasn’t exactly guest friendly, being located directly above vampire-central like it was. Still, they were arriving while it was still daylight and the vampire immunity he had via Spike should extend to cover someone he was with.
No, he was more worried that humans visiting would cause Spike problems. He didn’t think Giles was generally known around town as the current Slayer’s Watcher and, in any case, couldn’t decide if that fact made the situation better or worse. He had a sinking feeling, now that they were approaching the factory, that hosting humans other than his Claimed would reflect badly on Spike in his Court.
He really should have called Spike first before impulsively inviting Giles over but it was too late now. They were less than two blocks from the factory and calling now would be just stupid.
Spike was waiting in the kitchen when they arrived, having heard their footsteps as they climbed the stairs to the third floor apartment. To Xander’s relief, he didn’t look upset when Giles followed him in to the apartment.
“Hi, Spike. You up for a treasure hunt?”
“Depends on the treasure, pet.” He nodded at Giles. “Watcher.”
“Hello, Spike.” Giles looked around at the apartment approvingly but didn’t comment. “I was hoping you’d be willing to help us locate something.”
“If you mean the Glove thing that Xander told me about yesterday, already done.” Spike smirked at their surprise. “Angelus knew about it and we picked it up last night. He took it to the mansion for safekeeping.” He looked at Xander. “Left before I could tell you this morning, luv.”
Giles’ shock was rapidly turning to anger. “You left the Glove with Angel? How could you take that kind of risk.”
“No risk at all, Watcher,” he said calmly. “Angelus knew about it last year when his soul went walkabout. If he could use it, he would have used it then.” Spike shrugged, “Glove can’t be used by a vampire.”
“Are you sure?”
“Why not?” Xander asked curiously.
Spike perched on the kitchen table, thoroughly at ease. “The Glove lets the wearer channel lightning through their bodies, which gives them the ability to use lightning as a weapon. Vampires and lightning don’t mix. Our bodies are about as conductive as lead so the Glove won’t work for us and lightning tends to turn us into charcoal briquettes, so he’s not interested in anyone else using it either, in case they turn it on him. Angelus isn’t going to mess with the thing, with or without a soul.”
“Of course,” Giles exclaimed. “There is a reference to the Glove in Father Theodore of Wolsham’s text. Although his sources are suspect, he refers to the Glove as ‘calling the fires of hell’, which would be a medieval view of something that controlled lightning. If that part of the text is accurate…” his voice trailed off and Spike and Xander exchanged amused looks.
I’ll need to do some further checking, but if Father Theordore’s sources are not as unreliable as has been believed, they could tell us a means of destroying the Glove.”
He fell silent again, still thinking, and then looked at Xander. “Willow is researching at the library. Would you be willing to return with me and help? We need to act as quickly as possible. The Glove is simply too powerful to allow it to be allowed to exist.”
“Sure. Spike, do you mind?” Xander was already pulling his coat back on as he asked.
“Not at all, pet. I’ll come with.”
Xander looked up sharply but Spike simply lifted on eyebrow inquiringly. Sighing, Xander knew he had to trust Spike not to hurt Willow. Physically at least. He had a feeling Spike was going to take the opportunity to mention to Willow how much he disliked people messing with Xander.
He just couldn’t decide if that was a good idea or not.
“Buffy, Mrs. Post. You’ve returned from patrol already?” Giles asked, not quite able to conceal his surprise and dismay as they arrived in the library to find those two, plus Willow and Oz, all gathered at the library table.
“It would appear that your Slayer is not used to being accompanied in the field. After touring through three of the more modern cemeteries, I elected to return here, as it became clear that I was hindering the search.” She shot an ironic look at Buffy. “Your Slayer insisted on escorting me back here.”
Mrs. Post wasn’t really bothering to conceal that she was on to them, at least as far as their stalling tactics were concerned. With luck, she just thought Giles was trying to pull a fast one on her to get credit for finding the Glove without her. She should be able to relate to that, it was clearly something she would do herself.
There was an awkward silence as the Sunnydalers exchanged helpless glances, not sure how to get rid of the interloper and Mrs. Post watched them with shrewd eyes. Xander especially didn’t like the way she was looking at Spike, like someone mentally snapping their fingers trying to recall a half-remembered face.
Xander was sinkingly aware that his presence here was an aberration. Students didn’t usually hang out with school librarians hours after school had ended. It was obvious that Willow had been in full research mode when Buffy and Mrs. Post returned: books were piled on the table and her laptop was powered up. There was no way Mrs. Post had missed that they were doing things behind her back and Xander thought they needed a diversion. Badly.
“Why don’t we all just put our cards on the table?” he said impulsively, and hurried on before Giles’ and Buffy’s twin glares could incinerate him. “I know you wanted to keep it a secret, Giles, but it’s a bit late for that.” He looked at Mrs. Post defiantly. “All of us,” he made a gesture encompassing everyone in the room, “know about Buffy being the Slayer. We all found out about it accidentally a long time ago and we’ve been helping research demons and stuff ever since. We work pretty well together, so if the Council doesn’t like it - tough.” He was peripherally aware of Buffy and Giles exchanging puzzled glances as he finished: “So, we’re all here to research Lagos and how to destroy the Glove. If you’ve got a problem with that, the door’s that way.”
Xander figured that, as long as they kept up the pretense of not knowing the location of Lagos or the Glove, researching how to destroy the Glove in front of Mrs. Post wouldn’t do any harm. It was both the logical next move and information they would be expected to be seeking. Mrs. Post couldn’t exactly protest without giving her own plans away.
“Xander,” Giles began reprovingly, but Mrs. Post was nodding.
“I appreciate your candor. It has been painfully obvious that Mr. Giles has failed to keep his Slayer’s identity a secret, but that is a matter for the Council. As you have said, our time would be better spent in research than in these childish games. Shall we begin?”
“Works for me.” Surprisingly, it was Spike who was the first to back him up. Xander gave him a grateful smile for going along with the research party idea, and sat down at the table, reaching for a book.
Everyone followed suit and silence fell over the group, broken only by the quiet tapping of Willow’s fingers on the keyboard of her computer.
It took less time than any of them expected. Giles suddenly gave a small, pleased exclamation that had everyone looking up at him.
“There is a way to destroy the Glove. It involves transforming fire into living flame and immolating the Glove. It’s complex, but I believe I have all the necessary ingredients.” He looked up from the fragile, handwritten book he’d been puzzling over, and added belatedly, “when we find the Glove, of course.”
“Go, Giles.” Buffy said. “Anyone having any luck on the Lagos front?”
“I believe I have something that will help.”
Mrs. Post stood up and handed her book to Buffy, who glanced down at the opened page as they all automatically looked over to see what she had. With a movement almost too swift to follow, Mrs. Post turned and grabbed a fistful of Willow’s hair, yanked her head back and jerking her half out of her chair. A knife appeared in her other hand and she pressed the tip against Willow’s throat hard enough to break the skin. Willow made a frightened sound that was swallowed up by the clatter of wood against the floor as Buffy’s chair overturned as she leapt to her feet. Everyone else was on their feet an instant behind her, their shocked protests tangling over each other.
Xander stared, hypnotized by the dark trickle of blood, looking almost black against the pale skin of Willow’s throat. Spike’s hand clamped firmly on his arm, holding him back as he jerked forward instinctively.
“All of you have been so helpful, there’s no need to stop now. Tell me where the Glove is or I will slit her throat.”
“What makes you think we know where the Glove is?” Giles asked tightly, keeping a wary eye on the knife.
The knife pressed deeper and Willow let out a frightened cry. Oz yelled, “No!” and tensed to spring.
“Stay where you are. All of you.” The threat of the knife was enough to make them obey. Willow was chalk-white, except for the dark trickle of blood running down her throat, her terrified eyes begging them to do something.
“I’m not a fool. You are all a bit too eager to find a way to destroy the Glove and not very interested in locating it. It’s obvious you have already found it. Unless you want her to die, you will tell me where it is.”
“Kill her and you lose your advantage. Five against one aren’t good odds when all you’ve got to bargain with is a dead body at your feet.” Spike might have been discussing the weather for all the emotion in his voice but Xander could feel him coiled to spring at the first opening.
“Spike!” Buffy hissed angrily as Mrs. Post’s arm jerked slightly and Willow moaned in pain. “Shut up.”
Mrs. Post pulled Willow out of the chair completely, using the knife as a goad, edging backwards with her, away from them and towards the doors. “Don’t move.”
“Let her go. I give you my word that you will be allowed to walk out of here unharmed.” Giles took a step after them, but stopped as the knife jerked again and Willow gasped.
“I’m not very inclined to do that, Mr. Giles. I’ll give you two hours. Meet me in the parking lot out front in two hours with the Glove. Try anything cute in the meantime and she dies. If you have the Glove, we’ll trade. Miss Rosenburg for the Glove.”
“Willow!” Oz’s despairing voice whispered as Willow’s white face and red hair were lost to sight beyond the closed doors.
*A/N - Bits of dialogue borrowed from the episode ‘Revelations’