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
From Chapter 20:
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.
There was an awful silence as Oz’s desperate cry died into silence, then suddenly, the library filled with a cacophony of overlapping voices until Giles’ voice rose sharply over them all.
“Enough! Be quiet, all of you.” The harsh command brought them to their senses and they fell silent as Giles began issuing orders. “Spike, please go to the mansion and bring the Glove back here as quickly as you can.”
Spike just nodded, squeezing Xander’s hand reassuringly before disappearing through the library doors.
“As for the rest of us, I know this is difficult but we must stay calm and think. We have only two hours to come up with a viable plan.”
Xander crossed to where Oz stood. “Oz, we’ll get her back. I promise.” He desperately hoped he’d be able to keep that promise.
“We’ll get her back, Oz.” Buffy joined him at Oz’s side, looking worried but trying to keep a brave, reassuring face.
Oz just nodded. In the moment’s since Willow had been taken, Oz had drawn in on himself, his body language screaming ‘don’t touch’. Xander was afraid to try and breach the wall that Oz had wrapped around himself, afraid of shattering Oz’s composure when Oz clearly needed to be calm and functioning for Willow’s sake.
“We will get her back, Oz, but we cannot give Mrs. Post the Glove. If nothing else, for purely practical reasons: once she has the Glove, she could incinerate us all before we could get out of range and there simply isn’t anything to hide behind in a parking lot.”
“Needing back-story here, Giles.” Buffy held up a hand like a student asking a question. “You’ve obviously learned stuff you haven’t shared yet.”
“Of course. The Glove is at the mansion. Angel apparently knew the Glove’s location and he and Spike retrieved it last night.” Giles removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “The Glove gives the user the ability to use lightning as a weapon.”
“Ok, that doesn’t sound fun.”
“No, it doesn’t. Anyone wearing the Glove must be nearly invincible.”
“So how do we get Willow back and not give up the Glove?” Oz’s quiet question drew everyone’s attention.
“That is what we have two hours to figure out.”
Twenty minutes later, they were still hashing it out, throwing out desperate suggestions for the others to critique and ridicule and no closer to a viable plan than when they’d started.
“We’re running out of time,” Buffy flared angrily. “We have to think of something.”
“Don’t wait the two hours,” a quiet voice suggested. “Take her by surprise now.”
Xander nearly jumped out of his skin at the unexpected voice and spun around to face the library doors, heart hammering wildly. Spike and Angel were standing in the doorway and Xander couldn’t stop the rush of fear at the sight of Angel. Knowing the vampire was around was one thing. Seeing him, being in the same room with him, was a whole different story and, for a moment, Xander was lost in the memory of being chained to a bed, with Angelus’ weight pressing down on him, the silken voice purring threats into his ear.
Spike was at his side in an instant, arm around him, steadying him, his familiar voice murmuring in Xander’s ear and erasing the phantom sound of Angelus’ threats. “It’s all right, luv. He’s here to help. I’ll never let him hurt you again.”
Xander buried his head in the crook of Spike’s neck for one moment, and took a deep, steadying breath, inhaling Spike’s familiar scent. The nightmare memory tucked firmly back into the back of his mind, he lifted his head and forced himself to look directly at Angelus, at Angel he reminded himself sternly, who simply nodded at him.
And really, what could Angel say? ‘Sorry my other personality put you in the hospital while my soul was on vacation?’ His jaw tightened, angry at his own self-absorption, and he looked quickly towards Giles to see how he was reacting. Angelus had put Giles through a lot more than Xander had suffered. Giles was white-faced but in control and, if he looked as if he wanted a crossbow in his hands, who could blame him.
“What do you mean?” Buffy asked, either missing their reaction to Angel’s presence or, more likely, ignoring it in favor of pressing business.
Giving Spike a grateful squeeze and a tiny smile to let him know he was all right, Xander made himself listen as Angel explained.
“We can’t let her have the Glove,” Angel set the bulky item he was carrying down on the counter where they all stared at it. It was wrapped in what looked like filthy white rags and Angel stepped away from it, like a man who knew that half the people in the room didn’t trust him with it. “And we can’t not give it to her because she’ll kill Willow. At the exchange, she’ll kill Willow and everyone else the minute she has the Glove, there won’t be time to get far enough away for safety.”
And that pretty much summed up their own reasoning so far.
“The meet is a death trap for everyone. The only way is to take her out before the meet, preferably as soon as possible, when she won’t be expecting an attack yet.” Angel shrugged. “It’s unlikely she’s going to spend the next two hours with her knife to Willow’s throat. Our best chance, our only chance, of catching her off guard is to attack as soon as possible when she is most likely to be far enough away from Willow to not be able to kill her instantly.”
And Xander would have felt a lot better if that had sounded like Angel was used to doing this from the rescuer’s side of things, not the hostage taker’s.
“The problem is that we don’t know where she is,” Giles reminded him, more sharply than necessary but then, Giles had personal experience with Angel as hostage taker and who could blame him for being testy to the man who had kidnapped and tortured him.
“She won’t have gone far. Most likely, she’s still here on the school grounds somewhere,” Spike said. “It’s a mite conspicuous to drag a protesting hostage through the streets, even in Sunnydale, and she wouldn’t want to do it twice - away and back.”
That made sense and they fell silent as they digested that idea, but Xander could feel hope replacing despair in the room at the prospect of doing something.
“Angel, check out the school, see if you can locate them,” Spike ordered quietly.
“Why him?” Giles asked with tightly controlled calm.
“Because he’s a vampire, he’ll be able to hear them long before they hear him,” Spike pointed out and Giles was silenced by the irrefutable logic.
“What if they aren’t making any noise?” Oz asked. Xander could see that, despite his outward control, he was nearly shaking with the effort of holding his emotions in check.
“Oz, you’ve been a werewolf for about a year now, right?” Angel asked unexpectedly.
Oz nodded. “Just over.”
“You should be able to tap into some of your wolf abilities even while in human form now. Like smell.” Angel looked at the group. “I’ll take Oz with me. Between hearing and scent, we’ll know if they’re here.” Typically, he left without waiting for them to agree or disagree, somehow having the ability to fade into shadows even under fluorescent lighting. Oz followed him silently and Xander wondered at his ability to accept the idea of possessing a super-power, even just smell, without one question or protest. He smiled to himself. Better Oz than him, a string of irrelevant questions and observations wouldn’t really be helpful right now.
The rest of them were still hashing out the details of a tentative plan when Oz and Angel returned.
“They’re in the principal’s office,” Oz reported.
“Makes sense,” Buffy commented. “His office overlooks the parking lot so she can keep an eye on anything we try to set up in advance. Did you hear anything useful?”
Oz shook his head. “They weren’t talking. I could smell Willow.”
“Ok, that’s disturbing.”
“I tend to agree.”
Xander could tell that Oz was shelving a minor freak-out over this new development in his wolf side until a better time. He was having similar thoughts, wondering what this meant for Oz and whether it meant that he was becoming more wolf than human the longer he was a werewolf.
“The principal’s office has two doors,” was all he said, filling in the information for Spike and Angel’s benefit. “One to the hall and one to his secretary’s office.”
“If we enter through both doors at once, we have a good chance of containing Mrs. Post, before she can hurt Willow,” Giles said, thinking out loud.
“It’s risky. What if she kills Willow before we can reach her? Are we sure this is the way to go?” Buffy asked, worried. Her eyes turned speculatively towards the wrapped bundle still sitting on the counter. “Can we use the Glove?”
“No!” Both Giles and Angel answered simultaneously, Giles starting forward and Angel’s hand coming up to physically bar Buffy from the Glove.
More calmly, Angel explained: “Legend has it that, once you put it on, the Glove can never be removed.”
Buffy’s brows shot up. “So…, no touching.” She exchanged a long look with Angel, then deliberately looked away and shrugged casually. “No problem. Gloves don’t work with most of my outfits anyway.”
“As for your earlier question - I don’t think we have any choice,” Giles said. “If we give Mrs. Post the Glove, there is very little chance that any of us, including Willow, will leave the parking lot alive.”
Buffy nodded grimly. “I don’t like it, but it’s our best shot.”
“Oz, are you on board with this?” Xander asked quietly.
“Like Buffy said, this looks like our best chance.”
“No time like the present. There’s still an hour to the meet, with luck she’ll have tied Red up and be pacing up and down waiting for the time to move. Slayer, you and Angelus go in the front door. Don’t muck about, kick it in and get in there fast. Secretary’s office’s got a hall door?” he asked Xander.
“Yeah, right next to the principal’s.”
Spike nodded and looked at Buffy and Angel. “I’ll go in that one as soon as you make your move. It’ll mean that you two are in the room 2 seconds before me, make ‘em count.”
“Why not go in the side door at the same time as we go in the front?”
Spike shot her an ‘are you stupid’ look. “Too much chance she’ll hear the hall door opening if we try that. Then the game’s over before it’s begun and we’re back to the knife-to-throat stand off.”
“What about the rest of us?” Oz asked quietly.
“Split up and wait at both ends of the hall until the three of us make our move,” Angel answered, knowing the layout from his reconnaissance with Oz. “Stay far enough back that she won’t be able to hear you. When you hear the door being kicked in, converge on the room from both directions. If she gets out of the room, you’ll have to corner her.”
Everyone looked around at each other and saw they were all in agreement.
“Right. Why don’t we lock away the mitten before some janitor stumbles over it, grab some weapons and get this over with?”
If someone had told Spike this morning that he’d be leading a rescue operation for the little witch who put the truth spell on Xander - who’d done so much to hurt Xander in the time Spike had known him - he would have pointed out, somewhat violently, the flaws in their logic.
He’d seen the fear in Xander’s eyes when the Watcher bint had dragged the witch out by her hair. Deservedly or not, his boy would be devastated if the redhead were killed so, instead of telling the Watcher to piss off and going out to celebrate, he’d tottled off to the mansion as requested, wondering the whole time just when his unlife had come to this: taking orders from a human to save an enemy.
There were times when Dru’s bloody tea parties seemed like the normal part of his unlife.
Angelus had stirred himself at the news that the Slayer needed him - stirred himself a bit too bloody quickly for Spike’s peace of mind about the pair of them, but there wasn’t time just then to worry about that. He’d briefed Angelus on the situation on the way back to the library and they were in agreement that a preemptive strike was the only way to handle the situation. Neither was keen on the idea of a rogue Watcher having the power of the Glove of Myhnegon at her command - the thought did not bode well for the vampires on the team.
Not that he was on a team.
Glancing across at his Sire, Spike checked that everyone was in position: Xander and Oz down the hall in one direction, the Watcher in the other, the Slayer and Angelus poised outside the main door. Getting a nod from Angelus, Spike and his Sire kicked in their doors with perfect simultaneity. Spike was through his and across the room in three strides, smashing through the connecting door even as he heard Angelus’ warning yell: “Buffy!”
Entering the office, Spike took in the situation in one sweeping glance. Angelus was down against the far wall with a knife protruding from his back, the Slayer just scrambling to her feet after having obviously been pushed out of the way by Angelus. The witch was tied to a chair, struggling against the strips of cloth that bound her, muffled yells emerging around the cloth in her mouth.
The rogue Watcher was advancing on the Slayer, a heavy bronze paperweight already in mid-swing aimed at the back of the Slayer’s head. There was no time for subtleties and no clear shot for throwing a weapon. Snarling, Spike dropped his ax and launched himself at the bitch, blindsiding her and knocking her away from the Slayer. The two of them slammed into the windows together, glass exploding beneath their combined weights and Spike found himself falling. Pushing the woman away from him as hard as he could, he tried to stop his forward momentum using the shove as leverage to change direction.
It was too late. He was already through the window, twisting like a cat in mid-air, trying to get his feet underneath him before he landed, but the ground was rushing at him too fast. He hit the pavement hard, his side taking the brunt of the impact, and staggered to his feet immediately, looking around for the rogue Watcher. Pain pulled at his side and he could tell he’d cracked ribs on the hard surface. He cursed but otherwise ignored the pain, moving rapidly to check if the woman was out or not.
The rogue Watcher was lying crumpled on the ground in an awkward sprawl that spoke of a bad landing and serious damage. Spike turned her over with one foot, and she moved limply, truly unconscious and not faking it. Kicking her hard in the head to be sure, Spike straightened up, his ribs sending a stab of pain through him. Glass cuts on his hands and face stung but would be healed by morning. All in all, not a bad minute’s work.
Spike looked up at the window to see Xander staring anxiously down. He managed to wave a reassuring hand, wincing slightly as muscles pulled across his ribs at the movement. Xander’s head disappeared, leaving him slightly disgruntled, until he heard footsteps pounding through the hall and down the stairs. His boy was coming to check personally. He smiled reassuringly as Xander was suddenly there, hovering, hands stretched out but stopping short of actually touching.
“Spike? My god, are you alright? Are you hurt?”
“Fine, luv.” Spike said airily. “Nothing that won’t heal by morning.”
“Maybe you should sit down.” Xander was clearly afraid of hurting him, his hands reaching for Spike time and again, only to be snatched back instantly before they actually touched.
“I’m fine, luv. Don’t worry. Looks like the bitch is out for the count.”
Xander spared a quick glance behind him. “Yeah.” He was watching Spike closely and relaxed as he saw the vampire moving with almost his usual fluid grace. “Should we go back inside?”
“Too much trouble.” Spike raised his voice. “Oi! Peaches! Bring ‘em down here. I’ve done my bit and I’m not dragging this bitch inside.”
It didn’t take long for the group to arrive, gathering around Mrs. Post’s limp body and staring down at her uncertainly. Angelus had a makeshift bandage wrapped around his chest and the Slayer hovering close. The witch was clinging to wolf-boy, her eyes still huge and frightened in her pale face, streaks of dried blood obvious on her throat.
“Is she dead?” she asked shakily, carefully keeping Angelus and the Slayer between herself and the rogue Watcher.
“No, just knocked out by the fall.”
“We can’t just leave her here,” the Slayer protested faintly. “We should call an ambulance.”
Spike snorted. Typical human thinking. Take your enemy out then waste your time tending their wounds.
“What do we do with her?” Xander looked around at the group. “We can’t exactly call the police because what are we going to say? She took a hostage because we wouldn’t give her a magical glove? We’re more likely to be arrested for assault than she is.”
“Call the Council, tell ‘em to come clean up their own mess,” Spike said disdainfully.
“The Council?” Buffy sounded surprised. Her eyes shifted to the Watcher. “What can they do?”
The Watcher hesitated, then nodded slowly. “I suppose there is a certain amount of justice to that.” He looked tired suddenly and it was obvious he didn’t want to make the call. “I’ll call 911 and report an accident. The Council can be here by morning to pick her up from the hospital. You all make yourselves scarce while the authorities are here. The less you are involved in this the better.”
“Giles?” Xander left the unspoken question hanging, his eyes studying the Watcher intently.
“Not now, Xander. All of you, head home.”
Xander looked at Spike who shook his head. “C’mon, luv. Let’s go home,” he urged.
Xander nodded and Spike waited as he approached the redhead. “Are you ok, Willow?”
She mustered a small smile. “Yeah. Just major freakage.” She took a half step away from Oz, looking hopeful.
Xander hesitated, then gave her a quick hug which she returned with fervor. “See you tomorrow? Take care of her, Oz.”
Xander returned to Spike who maneuvered casually so Xander ended up on his good side, slinging an arm around his boy as they started for home. “You ok, luv?”
“I’m not the one who went out a second story window, Spike.”
“So, what is it about Angel that makes perfectly normal people jump out of windows to get away from him?” Xander asked, startling Spike into laughter. If his boy could joke about it, Xander must have gotten over the shock of seeing Angelus again.
“Captain Forehead just has one of those personalities,” he answered, tightening his arm and feeling Xander lean into him carefully. He hadn’t fooled his boy as much as he’d hoped.
Walking home with Spike through the quiet night, Xander was surprised that he could joke about Angel and what had happened last year. Actually seeing Angel again had been a shock, but he was proud that he’d gotten over it so quickly. It really wasn’t fair to blame Angel for what Angelus had done, despite his gut reaction at seeing the vampire again. Angel had pitched right in to help save Willow and they might not have pulled it off without his help.
Angel was important to Spike, even if Spike didn’t like to admit it. Having Xander freaking out about his Sire wouldn’t help, it was time he got over what had happened and just dealt with Angel as he was now. Overbearing and full of himself, but not evil. He didn’t have to like Angel to work with him.
Angel and Willow. A lot had happened tonight. It wasn’t like he’d just instantly forgiven Willow because she’d been in danger, but it had forcibly reminded him that some part of him still cared for her despite his anger and the distance between them. Oz and Giles thought she was doing better, that she understood how badly she’d screwed up. It had felt surprisingly good to hug her after all this time.
Once, Willow-hugs had been a weekly, if not a daily, occurrence. Now, he couldn’t remember the last time they’d hugged. They’d barely said a word to each other since the truth spell. He sighed. Maybe he should give her another chance, or at least talk to her and see if she’d really changed.
He sighed, grateful for Spike’s understanding silence as he wrestled with his thoughts. “People should stay in the pigeon holes we put them in,” he grumbled out loud.
Spike just chuckled. “Messy when they insist on being complicated, innit it?”
*A/N - Snippets of dialogue borrowed from the episodes ‘Revelations’ and ‘Lover’s Walk’