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
“Master Spike, there is something that may need looking into.”
Spike lifted an inquiring brow. “What?” Jose remained his most reliable lieutenant and his instincts were good. If he thought something was odd, it almost always was.
Jose had been waiting for him when Spike had come down to the factory after Xander had gone to sleep. He’d approached Spike casually, his manner telling Spike it wasn’t anything Jose regarded as a threat, just something he felt should be brought to Spike’s attention.
“Are you familiar with the Sunnydale Arms on Prescott Lane?”
“The old rooming house?” Spike asked, after searching his memory. “It’s been abandoned for decades. Not even fledges are stupid enough to lair there - too far out and no tunnel access.”
“Three humans are staying there now.” Jose shrugged. “Ordinarily, I would assume it was human business - criminals hiding out or something similar - but the humans were seen buying blood.”
Spike narrowed his eyes at that bit of information. Humans rarely bought blood and most of the time it meant trouble of one sort or another. Sure sometimes it was something disgusting like someone dusting off an old family recipe for blood pudding, but it wouldn’t hurt to check it out. “Take a couple of the boys and have a look. See if there’s anything I need to know about.” Spike ordered quietly.
“At once, Master Spike.” Jose ducked his head courteously and turned to go, signaling to two other vampires to follow him.
“My coordination is shot, my strength is gone, and last night I got a bad case of the dizzies and almost let a vamp stake me.”
Buffy’s worried tones carried clearly through the library doors and Xander hesitated, thinking that maybe he should come back later.
“I'm sure it'll sort itself out.” Giles’ voice was full of hearty reassurance and Xander frowned, wondering why it sounded so false.
“You're not getting the big picture here, Giles. I-I have no strength. I have no coordination. I throw knives like…”
“Like a girl?”
Xander was listening shamelessly now, the door cracked opened so he didn’t miss anything. Buffy tended to clam up about anything that made her feel vulnerable and this sounded like a biggie. What really surprised him though was Giles’ reaction which seemed way too calm for a Watcher being told his Slayer had lost her powers.
“Like I’m not the Slayer,” Buffy said desperately. “Giles, what’s happening to me?”
“As you yourself have said, Buffy. It’s most likely nothing more than that you are coming down with a bad flu bug. Just take it easy for the next couple of days until you are yourself again.”
Well, that made sense. Xander remembered Spike having to take Buffy down last year before she would agree to not patrol while she was sick. If it was just the flu, of course Giles wasn’t particularly worried. He was quietly easing the door closed, intending to leave, when Buffy spoke again, sounding lost.
“What if this is some kind of sign that my calling is a wrong number? If I'm not the Slayer, what am I? Giles, I can’t just be a normal girl anymore. I’ve seen too much.”
Forgetting his good intentions, ok, his desire not to be caught eavesdropping, Xander reversed direction, pushing the door open hard. “Hey, on behalf of normal people everywhere, thanks for the vote of confidence,” he snapped.
Buffy turned to glare at him. “What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked crossly.
“It means that some of us manage to contribute even if we’re just boring, normal guys with no special talents. If you think that you’re worthless unless you have super powered strength and speed, well, then you probably are.”
“No, Giles. As a member of the worthless ‘normals’ she’s so afraid of becoming, I’m kind of offended. You should be too. You’re just an ordinary guy and you manage to fight evil most days of the week. I’ve managed to stay alive and even help out some and I’m just a normal guy. Without us normal guys, super-powered Buffy here would be dead - remember the zombies?”
“I didn’t mean it like that.” Buffy actually looked kind of embarrassed.
“I hope not but it’s what you said.” Xander softened, knowing he was over-reacting, but she’d hit a sore spot. He worried sometimes that Spike would get bored with his ordinary, human lover and move on. As the lover who came after the gorgeous, insane vampire seer lover, he admittedly had some issues about being just normal.
“I thought you were the one who was always complaining about not getting to be a normal girl?” he asked. “Maybe this is a ‘careful what you wish for’ thing.”
He’d really meant that to come out cheerful but somehow it didn’t. Buffy just looked more depressed, slumping miserably in her chair.
Giles intervened, thank god, because Xander was coming up empty on nice things to say. “Buffy, I assure you, given time we'll get to the bottom of, of whatever's causing this... anomaly. In any case, we should wait a few days and see what develops. It is still most likely just a bad flu bug.”
“If you want, we could research this afternoon and see if we can find anything,” Xander offered. Giles was probably right and whatever was happening was just some sort of fluke but he could see that Buffy was wigging out.
A research session would be a good chance to try and hook Oz back into things as well. Oz had pulled one of his vanishing acts after Willow left town and hadn’t been seen at school for several days. He was back now but even quieter than usual, spending most of his time hiding out in the music rooms.
“Thanks, guys.” Buffy looked a little brighter.
“Let’s meet back here after our last classes and see if we can find anything.” That would given him time to track Oz down and persuade him to join them.
Jose had returned just before dawn with a report. The humans at the Sunnydale Arms were holding a vampire prisoner and doing some very odd work on the place - bricking up doors and windows. Jose had also reported with faint distaste that the vampire appeared to have no control at all: screaming and kicking at the walls at regular intervals. The situation was odd enough that Spike had gone to check it out for himself shortly after sunset.
Xander was at school researching whatever had caused the Slayer’s dizzy spell last night. He’d called and told Spike he would be home late. Apparently, the Slayer had something more seriously wrong than a brief spot of dizziness. Her Slayer abilities were gone and she was freaking out over it.
Spike had cheerfully told Xander not to work too hard on solving the problem, which made Xander laugh. After hanging up, Spike decided to head out as soon as the sun was down to find out what was going on at the Sunnydale Arms. Something about the timing of the Slayer’s problems and these humans holding a vampire prisoner had him on edge. Seemed a bit too much of a coincidence.
Prowling around the run-down boarding house, Spike’s suspicions went into high gear. The two humans inside were complaining about the living conditions and the noise their prisoner was making. They were both clearly terrified of their vampire prisoner, despite the fact that Spike could hear chains clanking every time the vampire began one of its frequent noisy struggles. He heard them mention feeding the vampire and the vampire yelling for pills.
These were not people out for a lark, or a game of torture the vampire, such as humans in the know occasionally played. These people were deadly serious about whatever it was they were doing.
Fading into the shadow, Spike decided to stop by Angelus’ apartment. His Sire had been patrolling fairly regularly on his own recently and might have heard something.
Angelus hadn’t heard anything and insisted on visiting the boarding house to see for himself. Spike went along, puzzled enough by the situation that he didn’t mind taking another look.
The third human was there this time and was clearly in charge of the other two. Spike and Angel overheard him telling the other two that everything was in order and that “the Slayer’s preparation is nearly complete.”
Angelus growled at that and Spike yanked him away from the window before he gave their position away. Retreating some distance from the boarding house, Spike filled Angel in on the Slayer’s current weakness and that no one knew what was causing it.
“I’ll lay you money those are Council members,” Angelus said, glaring back in the direction of the boarding house. “Nothing else makes any sense.”
“Yeah,” Spike agreed. “Probably they’re the reason the Slayer isn’t feeling herself.”
“Giles must be in on it.”
That surprised Spike, given the Watcher’s obvious affection for his charge. Thinking it over, he realized that Angelus was probably right. Who else could be “preparing” the Slayer? “If the Watcher’s involved,” he said slowly, “can’t believe he means her to come to harm.”
“Maybe not deliberately, but I don’t like the smell of this.”
Spike couldn’t disagree. This whole set-up felt wrong, underhanded and sly. Not really what he’d come to expect from Giles.
“I’m going to talk to Giles about what’s going on,” Angelus announced.
Spike rolled his eyes. “Brilliant. Great plan. Let’s send the person who spent hours torturing him to tell the Watcher he’s not doing his job properly. While you’re at it, why don’t you criticize his love life as well. He’s sure to appreciate it since you’re the one screwed that up for him in truly spectacular fashion.”
Angelus looked guilt-stricken at the reminder and sullen, which meant he agreed but was too stubborn to admit it. Mostly to keep Angelus’ big feet out of it, Spike finished with a sigh. “I’ll go talk to the Watcher and find out the skinny. You keep an eye on our friends here until I get back.”
Not waiting for Angelus’ agreement, his Sire was still touchy about taking orders from him but tended to do it as long as he didn’t have to admit he was doing it, Spike headed for the Watcher’s apartment. It was late enough that the human must have headed home by now.
The Watcher swung the apartment door open, looking startled to see Spike. “Hello, Spike,” he greeted cautiously. Spike was amused that the Watcher didn’t invite him in. Still too cautious to give a vampire an invite it seemed.
“Watcher,” Spike nodded coolly. “Want to tell me what the bloody hell you’re playin’ at?”
“I…I don’t know what you mean, Spike.” The Watcher would never make a poker player, his eyes shifted away nervously as he answered.
“Sunnydale Arms mean anythin’ to you?” Spike asked pointedly.
“The… the old rooming house?” Giles sighed, giving up the game when Spike just stared at him with cold eyes. “How did you find out?”
“Some of the boys reported something was up. I do keep an eye on things in my territory, you know.” Spike found it irritating that the Watcher had obviously not considered the little plot would draw attention.
“Ah. Of course.” Spike was surprised when the Watcher pushed the door all the way open. “Come in, Spike.” Eyebrows raised, Spike stepped inside, waiting as the Watcher closed the door behind him and gestured for Spike to follow him into the living room area. He sat down heavily on the couch, taking his glasses off and rubbing his eyes, looking immensely troubled. “It’s nothing that should concern you,” he said. “It will all be over in a couple more days.”
Spike remained standing. “What will be over?” he asked pointedly.
“It’s called the Cruciamentum. It’s a test for the Slayer. It is given to every Slayer who reaches her 18th birthday.”
Spike listened in disbelief as the Watcher outlined the test: rendering the Slayer powerless and locking them in with a vampire. If the Slayer lived, she passed the test.
“Are you out of your fucking mind?” was his only comment when Giles finished.
“Sometimes I wonder.” The Watcher rested his head in his hands, looking unutterably weary. “It’s traditional, the Council has been conducting the test for centuries.”
“The rack was a tradition for centuries, doesn’t stop you humans from getting pissy when you find a vampire still using one.” Spike knew that from personal experience. Angelus and Darla had found one in a castle outside Budapest, dusted it off and played with it for two weeks before the locals found out. They’d had to leave town hastily to avoid the humans who took issue with Angelus’ toy. “What percentage of Slayers generally survive this test?” he asked curiously.
“About half,” Giles answered, almost inaudibly.
Spike cocked his head. Something was off here. “Slayers have a short life span anyway. Who cares if they’re up to snuff or not? They’re tested every time they go up against a vampire. If they live, they pass. If not, you get a new Slayer, hopefully a better one,” he commented, thinking out loud. Their own people putting their lives doubly at risk made no sense at all.
“In matters of tradition and protocol, I must answer to the Council” Giles responded rather defensively. “I don’t have a choice.”
“Love a good Nuremberg defense as much as the next bloke,” Spike began, enjoying the Watcher’s flinch at the accusation. Fishing out a cigarette, he lit up, taking a long drag as the pieces suddenly clicked together in his head in a way that made all too much sense.
“Let me guess, the real purpose of the test is to eliminate Slayers who are getting a bit independent and maybe just a little less manageable, now they’re adults.”
Giles looked up sharply. “Of course not!”
“Don’t kid yourself, Watcher. Otherwise you’re just setting up an unequal fight: weakening the Slayer then pitting her against an opponent who can kill her on a good day. If you were truly testing her mettle, you’d tell her what was going on, give her a fighting chance. This way, you send the Slayer into battle off balance and unready. Don’t see how anyone would think that’s a fair test.”
The Watcher looked sick, as if he’d never questioned the rationale behind the test before. Probably hadn’t. Members of secret societies always thought that, once they were in, they were all the way in. Never thought about the possibility of there being layers of membership, and agendas they were never told about.
More than a minute passed in silence. The Watcher appeared lost in thought, ignoring Spike as he stood smoking in the middle of the apartment, something Spike was sure the Watcher would have had plenty to say about under other circumstances. Finally, the Watcher seemed to come to a decision and he looked at Spike with grim, determined eyes.
“Would you be willing to do me a favor, Spike?”
Angelus had not been thrilled when Spike had returned to the boarding house and told him what was going on.
“Spike, we have to kill him. Buffy won’t be able to handle him without her Slayer abilities.”
“Sadly enough, I agree with you. Normally, I’m pretty much a live and let unlive kind of vampire, but this git has conspicuous written all over him. We need to take him out before half the town is asking questions.”
Spike wasn’t about to admit that he’d made a deal with the Watcher to kill the Council’s vampire. He had a reputation after all. He’d already decided to take this vampire out from the moment he’d seen him earlier. It was the principal of the thing. Humans shouldn’t use vampires for their own purposes and, as he’d said to Angelus, this vampire was just too conspicuous to leave running around.
Spike wondered idly what idiot had turned the vampire. Admittedly, it was something he might have done himself once upon a time. Not as a childe, no, this thing would never make a childe - too out of control, too over-the-top insane to ever learn obedience. Still, before he’d been responsible for a territory, he might have thought it a laugh to turn this thing and sit back and watch the mayhem. With a nostalgic smile for the wild young vampire he’d been, Spike forced himself back to business.
The Watcher had given Spike one of his beautiful heavy-duty crossbows for the job, asking him to take the vampire out from a distance and to avoid the Council members guarding him, if possible. He’d taken the weapon without protest, even though he had no intention of using it - the Watcher clearly wasn’t thinking when he gave it to Spike. Yes, the weapon was capable of powering straight through the walls of the old boarding house - it had been designed to punch through a coat of armor, after all - but there was no way to aim it properly unless he could see the target.
Spike caressed the smooth-grained finish of the weapon as he crouched silently outside the old boarding house with Angelus. He’d known from the moment the Watcher handed it to him that the Watcher was not getting the weapon back. It practically sang of death. Beautiful weapons that man had, Spike thought, not for the first time. ‘Sides, the Watcher owed him for helping to clean up this little mess.
The Watcher had taken himself off to confess to the Slayer, loading up a bag of weapons and planning on guarding the Slayer’s house overnight in case the Council decided to come for the Slayer once things started to go wrong.
Returning to the boarding house, he and Angelus had settled in, waiting for things to quiet down a bit. One of the humans was off on some errand, leaving two inside. The vampire inside finally quieted down and one of the remaining humans settled onto a cot for a nap.
Nodding to each other, Angelus and Spike separated, approaching the front and rear doors simultaneously. Angelus’ quiet whistle signaled he was in position and Spike lifted his booted foot, slamming it into the door.
The old lock gave way easily, dry wood splintering under the force of his kick and Spike stepped through, hearing Angelus entering from the rear in another noisy crash of snapping wood. Spike was closer to the imprisoned vampire and he moved swiftly towards the area where all the kicking and screaming had been coming from. A heavily fortified door caught his eye and he forced it open, revealing a vampire in a… Spike blinked. In a straightjacket, chained to the reinforced wall of what had once been a good size closet.
“Well, isn’t this nice.” The vampire’s eyes were cloudy with drugs, but even that couldn’t dim the mad intensity of his stare. Dru’s insanity had mostly been a soft-focused retreat from an unbearable world, into a place where stars and dolls talked to her with the wisdom of sages. But some nights, her eyes had glittered with this same mad hatred of everything. Those had been the nights when nothing but bloody mayhem would satisfy her, when she gave free rein to the violence and chaos surging inside, and they had killed over and over again until she was finally appeased through exhaustion.
Spike had fully intended to simply stake the mad vampire immediately but now he found he was strangely reluctant to do so. Throwing a quick glance around the room, he spied an ax leaning against the wall and stepped over to it. From the sounds, Angelus had taken down the human in the kitchen and was now - arguing? with the second human. Spike shook his head, grinning to himself. They each had their own form of insanity.
Two quick sweeps with the ax freed the huge vampire, who immediately began tearing his way out of the straightjacket. Spike stepped back, leaving him to it and pulled a stake from a pocket inside his duster. When the vampire was free, letting the straightjacket fall to the ground, Spike tossed the stake to him.
“If you kill me, well, you’ll still have to go through my Sire,” he said. “But at least you’ll be one step closer to free.”
“We’re playing your games now?” the vampire asked, moving forward and kicking the remnants of the straightjacket to one side.
“You could say that.”
“Who are you?”
“Just someone who enjoys throwing a spanner into the works,” Spike answered flippantly.
The vampire grinned toothily at him, beginning to circle him cautiously, testing him, surprising Spike who had expected this guy to be a bit more of the lunge immediately type of fighter. He grinned wolfishly back at the larger vampire, shifting his own position cautiously. The other vampire was much bigger than Spike, he’d need to be careful about getting within his reach.
Spike feinted, then spun in the opposite direction, bringing his leg around in a vicious kick that caught the larger vampire in the side. To his surprise, the other vampire absorbed the blow, hardly moving at all under the force of it. Spike followed the kick with a punch, then ducked as the other vampire swung back at him.
“Spike, what are you doing?” Angelus spoke from the doorway and Spike used the distraction to spin away from vampire.
“Bit busy, Angelus. Have a seat,” he snapped, not taking his eyes off the vampire, who was also ignoring Angelus after the first startled jerk.
“We don’t have time for this.”
“Piss off. You take care of the humans?” Spike ducked a massive haymaker and spun away again, launching a 2-footed kick at the vampire. It landed solidly, sending him sprawling and he clung to Spike’s legs as he went down, almost bringing Spike down with him. Spike swore and kicked free, stumbling back ungracefully and losing the chance to follow through while the other was still down.
“They’re tied up in the kitchen,” Angelus answered impatiently. “Do you need some help?”
Spike snarled. “Need you to stop talking while I’m trying to concentrate.”
“Fine. Just hurry up.” Angelus settled against the wall in a huff.
Angelus out of his hair, Spike let himself get caught up in the familiar rhythm of parry, attack, dodge, retreat. The other vampire was significantly bigger and stronger than Spike but not as quick or agile. Spike would bet he didn’t have a lot of stamina, either.
Twice the other vampire sent Spike crashing into the wall but both times Spike was able to roll to his feet before he could follow through. In turn, Spike kept him moving, raining blow after blow down on his bigger opponent, blows that staggered the other vampire even if they didn’t knock him off his feet. The end of the fight came unexpectedly.
The vampire suddenly screamed in agony and clutched at his head, ignoring Spike, who stopped in astonishment. Tearing at his hair and moaning, the vampire staggered away blindly, heading towards the closet where he’d been kept prisoner.
“Spike, are you through yet?”
“Guess so,” he answered absently, watching as the other vampire fumbled for a bottle of pills, tearing open the lid and swallowing the entire bottle.
There was a twang and the distinct whirring sound of a crossbow bolt and the vampire was looking down in surprise at the bolt that had buried itself in his heart.
Spike turned around. “That’s my crossbow,” he objected mildly hearing the explosion of dust behind him.
Angelus tossed it to him. “Then don’t leave it sitting around. Let’s get out of here.”
“What was all that talk I heard back there? You and the human,” Spike asked curiously as they left.
“That was Quentin Travers,” Angelus answered, not hiding his disgust. “He and I had a few words about this test of his.”
“Did you? How did that go?”
“Hypocritical, opinionated, self-righteous, old fart. Didn’t see anything wrong with what he was doing. Kept going on about how I was a vampire and it was none of my business.”
“Imagine that.” Spike was amused by Angelus’ outrage. “A member of the Watcher’s Council not approving of vampires.”
*A/N - Bits of dialogue borrowed from the episode ‘Helpless’