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
“I don’t want you going back there,” Spike repeated stubbornly. “It’s not safe.”
Spike had been bringing up the issue all day, saying there was too much risk in returning to school since no progress had been made on figuring out who had left the bomb in the basement. Xander understood Spike’s fears and had been non-committal in his responses, changing the subject every time Spike tried to get him to promise not to go back to school. Spike had even come up with a plan for home tutoring that sounded suspiciously thought out in advance. He’d been able to avoid a serious confrontation up until now but Spike wasn’t letting him avoid the issue this time.
Even though the idea of being able to spend more time with Spike was tempting, Xander didn’t want to give up his last months of high school. He’d finally been accepted at school in a way he’d only dreamed about in junior high. He had friends in enough of the school cliques that he didn’t get hassled by anyone: Larry kept the jocks off his back and his odd, snarky friendship with Cordelia ensured he was pretty much accepted everywhere. Say what you will about Cordelia - and Xander had said most of it to her face - if she liked you, no one messed with you. You weren’t safe from Cordelia herself, of course, but that was fair considering that Xander felt free to criticize her wardrobe, her dates, her personality and anything else about her. Their whole relationship was based on insulting each other but they both enjoyed it and it worked for them.
Of course, if he couldn’t convince Spike the school was safe, god knows what his lover would do to keep him home. Blow up the school himself in a preemptive strike or something, knowing Spike, Xander thought with an inward grin. Cordy had nothing on Spike when it came to not letting anyone mess with Xander. Fortunately, he’d had all weekend to marshal his arguments.
“Spike.” Xander looked at him seriously, knowing he couldn’t duck the issue any longer. “The bomb was set to go off after hours on a Friday night, right?”
“So, whoever put it there wanted to destroy the school but wasn’t interested in killing anyone, right?”
“It was a bomb in a public building,” Spike shot back immediately, obviously not willing to give in on the issue, although Xander knew Spike had gotten his point.
“But it wasn’t set to go off on a Monday morning in the middle of classes,” he argued. “So I think we can assume that they weren’t deliberately trying to kill people.”
“Maybe,” Spike conceded reluctantly, “but it could have killed people easily - a janitor in the wrong place, a teacher workin’ late, any number of people in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“I know and I’m not taking it lightly but, if they were going to try again, don’t you think they would have already? You said it wasn’t a complicated bomb, just stuff found in any hardware store. If they were serious about it, wouldn’t they have tried again by now?”
Spike looked at him disbelievingly. “Can’t use logic to predict their actions, luv. Bombers don’t exactly think like normal people.”
“Ok, good point, but Spike, we may never find out who put the bomb in the school. I can’t just hide out here the rest of my life because something might happen.”
“Not talking about you bein’ a shut-in because you’re scared of life, Xander, this is a specific threat.”
“Which may never happen again.” Their eyes met in a long stare, neither willing to back down, but both understanding the other’s point of view. “How about if I promise that we’ll check the school basement morning and afternoon to make sure whoever it was doesn’t try again?” he offered.
Spike thought about that and reluctantly nodded. “Every day. You don’t stop because a day or two has gone by and you haven’t found anything yet.” He looked sternly at Xander and Xander smiled at him.
“I’ll be careful,” he promised.
“Bloody well better,” Spike muttered.
Looking at Xander in exasperation, knowing he’d lost the battle to keep Xander home where he belonged, Spike fought back the possessive instincts that clamored at him to chain his boy to the bed and not let him leave the lair - ever. Having Xander at his side all weekend, his boy in full nursemaid mode, had been a taste of how their lives should be and he was having a hard time reconciling himself to giving it up and going back to their daily separations.
He was almost fully healed now, the wound in his side could still be seen but no longer caused him pain. It would be awhile before the scars disappeared entirely, but he was ready to leave the lair, make his presence known and confirm the fact that he was still on top of things and capable of ruling the Hellmouth. A few days working out would see him back in fighting shape and, if the Watcher hadn’t come up with a name for who had set the bomb, well Spike would see what he could find out.
That decided, Spike looked fondly at his boy. Xander was stubborn and determined to have his own way, qualities Spike prized except when he and Xander had one of their rare arguments. Rare and almost always about Xander recklessly putting himself in danger. Why he had to go and fall in love with a second person with the survival instincts of a lemming, Spike would never know. The chaos gods had to be laughing their asses off at him about now.
Pulling Xander closer, feeling his Claimed settle in comfortably by his side, he tried not to think about tomorrow, when Xander would be back at school and Spike would have to spend the long daylight hours alone.
Spike didn’t bother knocking, just opened the door and walked in, striding rapidly through the empty outer office and pushing open the door to the Mayor’s personal office.
Two days of worrying and no progress in identifying the person who’d set the bomb and Spike had decided to take action on his own. He’d pretty much ruled out demons as the culprits - no self-respecting demon would use a bomb to blow up a school. Demons destroyed things the old fashioned way: with fire and brute force, tearing buildings apart stone by stone if that was how they got their kicks. Bombs were human things.
Problem was, no human agency was investigating - besides the Watcher and Xander, and neither one of them had a clue about how to hunt down human perpetrators. Outside their little group, no-one even knew the bomb had been placed in the school. Xander had found the barrel of supplemental explosives pushed against the wall in the basement room where Spike had left it. Some janitor had apparently simply moved it out of their way without bothering to find out what it was or why it was there. With no other choice, Spike had reluctantly decided to involve the Mayor.
Mayor Wilkins and his weasely little assistant were bent over a stack of paperwork on the Mayor’s desk and both looked up in surprise at Spike’s entrance. The assistant flinched and stepped back nervously but the Mayor simply gave Spike a beaming smile.
“Mr. Spike, I’m glad you stopped by. I’ve been meaning to congratulate you on your handling of the Sisterhood of Jhe. Very well done.”
“Since I did you a favor by takin’ care of that lot, figure you owe me somethin’ in return,” Spike said bluntly. “Someone set a bomb in the school basement the night we took out the Sisterhood. Since it was humans, not demons who put it there, need your help in finding out who it was.”
The Mayor’s smile died. “A bomb?” he asked.
“Yeah. Would have taken out half the school if I hadn’t disarmed it. That kind of thing wouldn’t look good on your record if it happens again.”
“No, I agree,” the Mayor answered easily. “Terrible the things people do these days. Why, not even when… when my father was Mayor during Prohibition did we have to worry about bombs in the schools. That’s just not a very civilized thing to do. I can assure you, Mr. Spike, I will look into this immediately.”
“Do that,” Spike let his eyes flare yellow, pleased when the assistant swallowed hard and retreated another couple of steps. The Mayor, on the other hand, just nodded, looking completely unfazed.
“Don’t worry, Mr. Spike, I don’t approve of that kind of random violence in my town. And certainly not in the schools. I’ll find out who is responsible.”
Spike nodded sharply. “I’m keeping the demons in check, least you can do is make sure the humans don’t run rampant.”
“Thank you for bringing this to my attention.” The Mayor smiled his too-wide smile, the one that never quite reached his eyes. “Are you sure you don’t want to reconsider working for me, Mr. Spike? I think we make a good team.”
Spike cocked an eyebrow at him. “Was thinking more on the lines of you working for me,” he drawled insolently. “Ta, mate,” he lifted one hand in a half wave, and spun on his heels, stalking out the door without looking back.
“So, this is the new Watcher?”
It wasn’t rocket science, Buffy had spent most of lunch complaining about the pompous idiot who’d been sent by the Council to be her new Watcher. He and Oz had been sympathetic - none of them wanted Giles replaced - as she enumerated his character flaws, which had included a run down on the new Watcher’s bad fashion sense and geeky persona, his complete uselessness as a Watcher, and the fact that he was obviously all book learning and no field experience. Entering the library now, Xander had been on the lookout for a “geek with a smarmy accent and slicked back hair, wearing a dark, pin-striped suit, totally wrong for daytime.”
He hadn’t been hard to spot.
Despite dressing better now, thanks to Spike, Xander would never claim to be an authority on what was fashionable but he had to agree with Buffy that the suit was over-the-top for daytime wear at a school. The guy looked like a corporate attorney, or at least a corporate attorney according to television, he’d never actually met one in real life.
“Yes,” Giles confirmed and Xander shot him a questioning glance at the tight-lipped irritation apparent in the one syllable response. Buffy had been openly resentful about the prospect of a new Watcher but Giles had been Mister equilibrium on the subject of his replacement ever since he’d been fired. Xander suspected it had less to do with fair-mindedness than not wanting to worry Buffy, but still, Giles had been reassuring and more than fair, telling them all on several occasions that they needed to give the new Watcher a fair chance when he arrived. It didn’t bode well that Giles was already having difficulty with the new guy.
“Wesley Wyndham-Price, Xander Harris,” Giels introduced them and Xander eyed the new guy with open reservation. The new guy was obviously irked at being introduced to Xander and making no attempt to hide it.
“Mr. Giles, this is precisely why you were fired.” He sighed heavily and continued as if Xander wasn’t standing there listening to every word. “Quite frankly, your handling of this assignment has been an embarrassment to the Council. And now I find out, in addition to everything else, you have not even kept the Slayer’s identity secret from high school children.”
Xander folded his arms and glared at the new guy. “That wasn’t exactly his fault. If you’d bothered to find out the facts, you’d know that. And hey, its not like I’m going around telling people.”
“It is in fact part of a Watcher’s duties to seek out promising individuals who have the potential to become Watchers,” Giles informed his replacement acidly. He met Xander’s astonished stare with a bland look, although Xander thought he could see a hint of amusement far back in Giles’ eyes. Giles thought he was a potential Watcher?
“Really?” The new guy - why did all Brits seem to have hard-to-remember hyphenated names? - suddenly seemed keenly interested. “You are interested in becoming a Watcher, Mr. Harris? I can be of assistance with that.”
“Ok, one, so not interested. Two, if I was, I’d stick with Giles.” Xander turned to Giles and added with deliberate malice - “have you done the bomb sweep this morning or should I?”
“Bomb?” Xander had to fight back a laugh at the shock and horror in the new guy’s voice. “W..what are you talking about?”
“Nothing out of the ordinary.” Oh yeah, Giles was enjoying this too. Watcher-baiting, a new sport, fun for all ages. “A small problem with a bomb being planted at the school, we’re trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he explained airily, as if it was barely worth mentioning. In fact it wasn’t worth mentioning, Xander had known perfectly well that Giles wouldn’t forget to do a bomb sweep, it had just been too much to pass up the opportunity to mess with the new guy.
“Surely that is something that should be left to the town authorities?” From the unmistakable quaver in his voice, the guy was going to be peeing his pants any second, Xander thought, ruthlessly suppressing a smirk.
“It was impossible to inform the authorities since we detonated the bomb ourselves in a successful bid to stop the Hellmouth from opening.” Giles had a smile rather like a shark’s, Xander discovered. “I wouldn’t concern yourself. It’s not all that likely that another bomb would be planted in the same place, directly below the library here.” After pausing for just a second to let that sink in, Giles continued brightly: “You should go to class, Xander, I’ll take care of the bomb sweep. Would you like to join me, Mr. Wyndham-Price? I’m sure all the ‘modern, updated training’ the Council has given you will come in handy.”
“No, I’ll…” Seeing Xander’s sardonic grin, the new Watcher straightened defensively and squared his shoulders. “I will continue unpacking my books,” he said, trying for dignity.
Giles nodded and stood up to leave, looking a bit like an inmate offered a chance to escape from prison. “I’ll see you later, Xander.”
Xander gave him a wave but waited behind for a minute. Left alone with the new Watcher, Xander studied him openly, amused that his intense scrutiny was making the man nervous. Compared to Giles, he was really young, and obviously determined to prove himself.
“Is there something I can help you with, Mr…. Harris, was it?”
“Just thought I’d pass on a word of advice,” he began.
The Watcher raised his eyebrows haughtily. “I hardly think I need advice from a civilian on how to do my job, Mr. Harris, especially from a high school student.”
Xander had intended to warn him that they all respected Giles and considered him a friend, especially Buffy, and he should tread lightly if he wanted to get along with his Slayer. Given the snippy response, he changed his mind. “You know that Giles was fired because he wouldn’t put Buffy’s life in danger, right?”
“Mr. Giles revealed the existence of a critical test to the Slayer, against the Council’s explicit instructions, yes.” And wow, Xander was pretty sure he’d just seen a demonstration of the meaning of the word “prig”. And “prissy”. And maybe “jackass”.
“So, can I take it as a given that you wouldn’t have done that?” he asked mildly, tilting his head to one side curiously.
“Of course not. I have a responsibility to the Council, which I take very seriously.”
“Right.” Xander crossed his arms, glad he could finally do that again, now that the sling was history, and regarded him steadily. “So, you’re asking Buffy to accept you as her Watcher, knowing that you would put her life in danger without a second thought if the Council told you to?”
When the new Watcher gaped at him wordlessly, Xander grinned and clapped him on the back with false heartiness. “Good luck with getting her to accept you.”
Walking out, Xander thought that Spike was rubbing off on him. He’d really enjoyed that.
A/N - Bits of dialogue borrowed from the Episode ‘Bad Girls’