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 stared down at his sleeping boy sprawled out in their bed, his quiet breathing the comforting sound Spike fell asleep to each night.
The Mayor was right. Xander made him vulnerable. No matter how well Spike taught him or how proficient with weapons he became, Xander was human. He was slower, weaker, and more vulnerable than a vampire and, once again, Spike considered whether he should turn his Claimed, make Xander his Childe.
Xander didn’t want to be turned and that was a strong consideration, although that reluctance wasn’t likely to last beyond the new vampire’s rising. No, the bigger problem was that Spike didn’t really want to turn his Claimed, not unless he had to. He liked Xander just the way he was: his human warmth, his stubbornness, and his frequently misplaced compassion, even the way he refused to obey Spike like a proper Claimed human. Xander loved Spike and was fiercely loyal, staying by his side because he chose to, not because he depended on Spike like a fledgling would.
Every time Spike woke to the sound of Xander moving around their home, every time he felt Xander’s arms around him in their bed, Spike was content in a way he’d never known before, either as human or vampire. Xander loved him and put Spike first - before his friends, before his worthless family, before everything. No one else had ever done that and Spike wasn’t willing to give that up. It was worth everything to him, even the frustrations and compromises of living with and loving a human.
Sighing, Spike shook Xander gently. “Xander, wake up, luv.”
“Hmmm?” Xander opened one eye and looked up at him blearily. “What time is it?” he asked sleepily.
“Early. Got something we need to talk about.”
Xander’s eyes cleared rapidly and he sat up abruptly. “Is something wrong?”
“Nothing we can’t handle. Angelus met with the Mayor last night.”
Xander swung the covers back and stood up, heading for the closet. “I take it he learned something?” It was a mark of how upset he was that he wasn’t distracted by the sight of Xander’s naked backside crossing the room.
“A bit. Not as much as we’d hoped.” Xander gave him an impatient look over his shoulder and Spike continued. “The Mayor is invulnerable and he wants Angelus to work for him,” he summarized briefly.
“Doing what?” Xander asked suspiciously.
“Stopping me and the Slayer.”
That got Xander’s full attention and he turned away from the closet, still holding the pair of pants he’d pulled out. “Stopping? You mean killing you?”
Spike shook his head. “Not necessarily. Doesn’t want the Slayer killed because he doesn’t want another one called right now.”
Spike shrugged. “Told Angelus he just wants me ‘under control’.”
“Doesn’t know you very well, does he?” Xander scoffed, stepping into his jeans. “How’s he think Angelus is going to do that without killing you?”
“By using you.”
Xander froze, pants pulled halfway up, and stared at Spike for a long moment, seeing the fear and the anger that Spike wasn’t even attempting to hide. His jaw tightened and he yanked his pants the rest of the way on, zipping the fly and then reaching for a shirt. Despite his calm movements, Spike heard the slight hitch in his breathing.
“Not gonna happen, luv.” Spike crossed the room in two long strides and put his arms around Xander. “He won’t get near you.”
Xander clung to him for a moment, then carefully pushed back so he could see Spike’s face. “Maybe we should let him.”
“No.” There was no give at all in Spike’s voice. Decision irretrievably made, issue settled, end of discussion. Except Xander, of course, wanted to talk about it.
“Spike,” he said persuasively. “Believe me, I’m not crazy about the idea, but we have to consider it. We know something bad is coming; something so bad they could sense it all the way in England. That’s not your demon-of-the-week bad, that’s the-whole-town-is-gonna-be-destroyed-and-w
“’m not stupid, luv,” Spike snapped. “I know that. And you walking into the lion’s den isn’t going to help.”
“You’ve told me how much the Mayor likes to talk. Maybe he’ll talk to a hostage.”
“He likes to talk about bloody comic strips and his golf game and proper manners, Xander. He doesn’t say piss-all about his plans. He’s not as dumb as he looks.”
Spike was more than a little angry at the turn the conversation had taken and it was seriously pissing him off that Xander was even discussing letting himself be taken hostage. Xander kept doing this, insisting on throwing himself into the path of danger, never taking into account his fragile mortal state and it was driving Spike out of his fucking mind.
“He’s testing Angel, right? To see if he’ll do what the Mayor says. If he brings me in, the Mayor will trust him. At some point, you tell your Lieutenants what your plans are or that aren’t any use to you.”
“Don’t tell my Lieutenants half of what I’m doing,” Spike pointed out, beginning to pace in agitation.
“You tell Jose pretty much everything,” Xander countered.
“Trust Jose,” Spike muttered unwillingly after a moment, having not thought that argument through.
“If Angel drags me to the Mayor by my hair, he’ll trust Angel too.” And wasn’t that an image that hit a little close to home for Xander’s peace of mind. Angelus kidnapping him… not a happy memory.
Spike struggled with his desire to end this by shaking some sense into Xander and forced himself to step back and consider the idea with cold logic. He wasn’t going to win this argument with emotion, Xander was too stubborn for that. He was going to have to convince Xander logically that it was a bad plan.
“Xander, if Angelus takes you to the Mayor, what would my reaction be? If it was for real,” he asked finally.
“You’d come rescue me,” Xander answered promptly with complete confidence.
“Exactly. Angelus and I would be in an all-out war. He’d also be fighting the Slayer, messing with her head, killing people around her, just like last time.” Spike gave Xander a long, measuring stare. “Mayor doesn’t want a Lieutenant, luv. If he did, sure as hell wouldn’t be Angelus. Angelus doesn’t share power. What the Mayor wants is to stir the pot, get us all fighting Angelus and not him.”
He could tell that Xander was considering that argument, his brows drawn together in thought. “Ok,” he said, and Spike almost sagged in relief. Xander wouldn’t do something crazy if he agreed with Spike’s reasoning. “But maybe we can use his own ideas against him.”
“What do you mean, luv?”
And found himself grinning like a fool as Xander told him his idea.
“You want to do what?” Wesley’s eyebrows shot up.
“I think we should kidnap the Mayor,” Xander repeated.
“Are you crazy?”
Ok, so Buffy wasn’t on board with the plan yet. Actually, from the shocked looks around the table, no one but Spike was. Even Angel had just looked dubious since they told him. Spike was the only one who looked like he wasn’t wondering what size straightjacket Xander wore. Spike’s expression was one of gleeful anticipation. Spike really wanted to test the whole invulnerability issue: immolation, acid, drowning, hacking to pieces with an axe; Spike had been making a list.
“No, I’m serious. We can’t hurt the Mayor, which means he’s pretty much impossible to fight because eventually, Buffy is exhausted and the Mayor’s still just standing there.” Xander looked around and saw that Buffy at least had considered the physical impossibility of fighting something she couldn’t harm. At least they were listening and not in a humoring the crazy guy way.
“But the Mayor’s just a guy right? Invulnerable, psychotic, wanting to become a demon guy, but as far as we know, he’s got no real fighting abilities.”
“As far as we know,” Giles cautioned.
“So, a bunch of us go in, tie him up, lock him in a cell somewhere and wait the Ascension out.” Xander looked triumphantly around at the group. “He’s only got so long to do the Ascension spell, right?”
Giles and Wesley exchanged glances and there was a long silence.
“I don’t think it would be that easy, Xander,” Elizabeth said slowly.
“Boy’s not sayin’ it’ll be easy. Just possible,” Spike answered sharply.
“It does rather depend on a lot of assumptions,” Giles began.
“Can we assume the Mayor has no special abilities?” Wesley asked.
“We know he can do magic,” Elizabeth answered thoughtfully. “He’s passing as human, so he could be hiding abilities, or his long life could be the only extra-human ability he has.”
“Where could we keep someone prisoner for an indefinite period?” Wesley asked, then answered his own question: “Although, I believe the Council - ”
“No,” Buffy interrupted harshly. “I don’t trust them.” She made an apologetic grimace. “Present company excepted.”
“Thank you,” Wesley replied gravely, with a small, quickly-hidden smile.
“Are we really talking about kidnapping someone and holding them prisoner indefinitely?” Willow asked, looking worried.
“Hey, Buffy was talking about killing him yesterday. This is way less extreme than that,” Xander pointed out.
“True.” Willow didn’t look any less troubled.
“Can set up something in the sewers, easy as can be,” Spike offered cheerfully. He really wanted to get to work on testing the Mayor’s invulnerability.
“We need to think this through extremely carefully,” Wesley answered. “We are talking about the Mayor of Sunnydale. The entire police force would be calling in if he disappeared.”
Spike’s scoffing noise was echoed by almost everyone else. Giles, while clearly agreeing with the group’s opinion of the Sunnydale Police Department’s competency, added: “We wouldn’t just be dealing with the local police, I fear. Undoubtedly, the State police and federal agents would be called in as well. And the Deputy Mayor is aware of Buffy, Spike, and Angel’s existence, possibly the rest of us as well. If he pointed the finger at us, there could be all kinds of trouble.”
Xander sighed. He’d really liked his idea but Giles had made some good points. Spike and Angel couldn’t risk police interrogation, someone was bound to notice something, especially if the interrogation went into daylight hours. Or Spike killed the interrogators. Even the Sunnydale police noticed things like that.
“Can kill the Deputy Mayor,” Spike suggested.
“He’s human, Spike,” Angel said quietly from his place on the edge of the group where he’d been leaning silently against the bookshelves.
“Know that. Make a one-time exception because he’s trying to destroy the town.” Spike glanced casually at Xander, who smiled reassuringly. He knew Spike was just thinking out loud. For now.
“It’s a very good thought, Xander,” Giles said. “I don’t think we can make it work right now, but we’ll keep it in mind.” He sighed. “If we knew the date of the Ascension, it would be more feasible but without knowing that, we could conceivably have to keep the Mayor prisoner for months.”
Willow raised a hand for attention. “Now that we know the Mayor is invulnerable, and since we know the date he did the invulnerability spell, I can sort the database by that factor. It will eliminate about half the possibilities, the ones that don’t call for invulnerability, and we can keep track of possible dates for the Ascension by the period between invulnerability and the Ascension itself.”
“Good thinking, Willow,” Wesley said. “Anything that narrows it down will be helpful.”
“Only 600-some possibilities,” Buffy said gloomily. “Great.”
Which pretty much summed it up.
They decided not to have Angel keep up the Angelus act. They’d learned one crucial fact - that the Mayor was invulnerable - and trying to find out more could cause more trouble than it was worth. The Mayor would expect Angelus to do something: attack Buffy or Spike, kidnap Xander, kill lots of random people, something Angelus-y. Either they spent all their time and energy faking a war, or the Mayor caught on to them. Either way, it would just lead to badness.
Willow sorted her database, which did eliminate almost half the possibilities - still unmanageable but no longer completely hopeless. The Ascension recipes had a lot of common factors, so it wasn’t like they could expect the Mayor to become demon A on the 53rd day and demon B on the 54th day after the invulnerability spell. The list sorted into clumps: 60 demons at 30 days, 100 at 75 days, etc. etc. They were able to eliminate almost another 50 species because their recipes called for the Ascension to happen 30 days after the person became invulnerable and that time period had already passed earlier this week. Most of the recipes called for Ascension to happen 90 to 120 days after the invulnerability ritual so, most likely they had some breathing room.
Spike was still fuming that the Mayor had threatened Xander and began spending a good portion of his nights watching City Hall and the Mayor, looking for weaknesses he could exploit, leaving the regular patrols to Angel and Buffy. To his surprise, he discovered the Mayor had gathered a cadre of vampires around him.
Watching City Hall for several nights in a row, Spike watched as vampires came and went openly. None were members of his Court, the Mayor obviously knew better than to recruit from vampires loyal to Spike. Spike marked them carefully, memorizing their faces and scents. A spot of questioning might help them learn what the Mayor was planning.
“Did you hear about what happened?”
Yeah, can you believe it?” Xander looked up as Buffy plunked down next to him on the couch in the lounge. He was still reeling from the news himself, the gossip about the near miss had swept through the school with its usual speed.
“It’s crazy. Larry and Jonathan making out? It’s got to be a sign that the world is going to end.”
He blinked. “Umm… actually, I was talking about the part where they caught the cook putting rat poison in the cafeteria food.”
Buffy waived that off. “I always knew that woman was crazy,” she said impatiently. “I mean, did you ever see the way she’d look at you when you took a second desert? It was like she thought you were an ax-murderer or something. No sense of proportion.”
Xander’s jaw literally dropped. She thought two guys kissing was more significant than an attempted mass poisoning and she thought the cook had no sense of proportion? Aware he was staring at her like one of them had lost their mind, he closed his mouth with a snap and shook his head. “Buffy…” he began and then stopped, not really knowing what to say.
“Lighten up, Xander. I’m kidding.” Buffy grinned at him, obviously pleased at having messed with his head and Xander laughed.
“Oh, man, I thought you were serious.”
“Hey, Larry and Jonathan, so didn’t see that coming, but give me a break - cafeteria lady is the bigger story.”
“I still can’t believe that Jonathan took her out.” From what Xander had heard, Jonathan and Larry had snuck into the kitchen for a little clandestine nookie with a jello chaser and surprised the cook in the act of pouring rat poison into the food. Larry had run out into the cafeteria to warn people not to eat anything and, when the cook grabbed a meat cleaver and chased after him, Jonathan had thrown a frying pan at her and knocked her out.
Jonathan was currently the embarrassed hero of the hour and he and Larry were officially out as a couple. Only in Sunnydale, Xander thought, not for the first time.
“I just hope Spike never hears about it,” he said. “He’s got this crazy home-schooling plan he keeps bringing up because he thinks Sunnydale High is too dangerous.”
“Whatever gave him that idea?” After a moment, Buffy’s smile died and she looked wistful. “Must be nice to have someone who worries about you like that.”
Xander looked at her, caught off guard by the sudden change in mood. Her eyes were sad and she looked lonely and uncharacteristically vulnerable as she stared off into the distance. After a long, awkward pause, he finally said: “You know, there’s a lot of people who love you and worry about you. Your mom, Giles, Willow, even Angel. You don’t have to be in a relationship to have that.”
“I know,” she said quietly. “It’s just hard sometimes. You’re lucky.”
“I know I am,” he answered simply.
After a moment she shook off her introspective mood and turned to him with a speculative gleam in her eyes. “So, I hear you’re the one who fixed them up. Spill.”
Grinning, Xander told her how Larry’s doing Xander a favor had turned into Larry and Jonathan becoming a couple.
And when had life in Sunnydale become so strange that attempted mass murder by a human was less newsworthy than who was dating whom?