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 regarded the vampire hanging in chains in the center of the crypt with mock sympathy. “Working for the Mayor,” he said, shaking his head. “Trust you got something out of it up front. Don’t see him showin’ up here to save you. Doesn’t seem the type somehow.”
After several nights on watch outside City Hall, Spike was sure he’d identified most of the vampires working for the Mayor. While none of them were a threat by themselves, the sheer number of minions the Mayor had gathered around him was cause for concern. The Mayor was obviously recruiting cannon fodder. Generally, when someone started gathering expendable troops around them, it meant they were preparing for war
If the Mayor had been a vampire, Spike would have challenged him for setting up a rival Court in Spike’s Territory. Well, if the Mayor was a vampire and didn’t happen to be invulnerable, he thought sourly.
Separating one of the Mayor’s vampires from the pack had been absurdly easy. The twit hanging in chains was actually working as the Mayor’s night chauffeur. Spike had chosen him because he’d driven up to the courthouse the previous night with a tattooed human wearing cowboy boots in the back of the limo. The vampire chauffeur had gotten out and opened the door for the human - something Spike objected to on general principles - in full game face. The human had climbed out of the car, indifferent to the yellow eyes and demonic features of his driver, and carried a large metal box inside City Hall. Looking closely, Spike had rolled his eyes in disgust when he saw that the box was handcuffed to the human’s wrist.
Moron. Like that stunt wasn’t just asking to get your hand amputated.
He was disappointed when the human left a short time later without the box, looking pleased in the way someone who’d just made a lot of money tended to. Spike had rather been looking forward to teaching the human a lesson about handcuffing yourself to a goody box. He was sure Xander wouldn’t mind a little educational maiming. Not that he’d really expected the human to leave with the box, but pleasant thoughts helped pass the time.
A human in the know about vampires, delivering something valuable to the Mayor of Sunnydale, certainly merited investigation. Accordingly, Spike had returned to City Hall tonight and snatched the chauffeur from the garage as he reported for duty, knocking him unconscious with a tire iron and carrying him to this crypt, which Spike had set up in advance, ready for a little question and answer session.
“What do you want?” The vampire had cursed loudly and repetitively, struggling against the chains, when he’d first woken up, his dangling feet kicking futilely inches above the stone floor. Spike had just sat silently, perched on a sarcophagus, smoking and watching until the initial struggles had gone still and the vampire began to look around him, his eyes going wide and frightened as he saw the items Spike had strewed artfully over the stone sarcophagus the vampire was facing.
“Want to hear you scream,” Spike told him in a matter-of-fact voice that was far more chilling than any angry threats. “Then I want you to tell me everything you know.” His lips quirked up in a smile that had nothing to do with reassurance. “Can start by telling me about the box.”
Wiping his hands off with a rag, Spike strode out of the crypt, leaving the ashes behind.
The Mayor obviously wasn’t being choosy about who he hired. The vampire had shown no stamina under torture: crying, pleading, screaming, practically begging to tell anything he knew before Spike had barely gotten started.
Not that he knew much. Didn’t know what was in the box. Didn’t know the Mayor’s ultimate plans. Had never heard the word Ascension. Just knew the Mayor was going to become “really powerful” and anyone who worked for him would be rewarded.
Wanker. Hadn’t even bothered to get his reward spelled out. Just following someone he recognized as being stronger.
Certain he’d gotten every scrap of information the vampire possessed, little as it was, Spike had considered leaving him hanging there as a lesson to other vampires about working for the Mayor. In the end, though, Spike had staked him. Not worth the risk of someone finding and rescuing the idiot.
Standing outside the crypt and lighting up a cigarette, Spike leaned against an elaborately carved tombstone and considered his options. Chances were, going back for a second dip in the information pool wouldn’t get him much. Mayor seemed to be playing this game close to the chest. On the other hand, it wouldn’t hurt and a spot of torture on minions who’d signed up to work for the thing that had threatened his Claimed gave Spike more satisfaction than it probably should. He couldn’t get at the true source of the anger still roiling inside him at the unavenged insult, but hearing one of the Mayor’s lackeys screaming had felt a lot better than doing nothing at all.
Glancing up at the barely risen moon, Spike took a final drag and flicked his cigarette away. One more, he decided. He’d find a likely candidate and see if they knew anything more than the lack-brain he’d just dusted. He’d still make it back to the library long before Xander started to worry.
“Mayor’s got something called the Box of Gavrock.” Spike informed the group. “Dunno what’s in it, but it’s supposed to house some ‘great demonic energy’ or summat. Doesn’t take a bloody genius to know it’s for the Ascension.”
“Well done, Spike,” Giles congratulated him, looking very pleased. “That may just be the information we need. There can’t be that many Ascension rituals that call for that precise object.”
“On it,” Willow said, already searching her database. “Anyone know how to spell ‘Gavrock’?” she asked, fingers already tapping the enquiry into the computer.
Trying the various suggested spellings only took a moment and Willow looked up from her monitor. “Only three rituals call for any ingredient sounding at all like ‘Gavrock’,” she reported. “The Ascension rituals for the demons Daratuu, Olvikan, and Wa-russ-ka,” she read, stumbling over the last name.
“Perhaps W’rrruss’kha,” Wesley suggested, rolling the syllables into a liquid sound but not looking any less blank for all that his pronunciation was more certain. “Mr. Giles?”
Giles was also looking at the highlighted names on the screen. “I’ve not heard of any of them,” he confessed. “Still, researching three demons is significantly easier than the task we have faced up ‘til now.”
“What are the time periods between invulnerability and Ascension?” Elizabeth asked, having just shaken her head at the inquiring looks thrown in her direction by Giles and Wesley.
“Why don’t I print out all the information we have on all three,” Willow suggested, already hitting the print button.
“Where’s the box now?” Buffy asked. “If we can get it away from the Mayor, he can’t do the Ascension, right?”
“Under guard in a conference room on the top floor of City Hall,” Spike answered. That had completely justified going back for a second information source, he thought smugly to himself. The second vampire, a tall, weedy looking female, had known where the Mayor had put the box he’d just obtained from the demon. Heaven forbid either one of the vampires he’d questioned should have known something really useful, like what was inside the bloody box. “Thinking of stormin’ the place?”
“Anyone have any better ideas?”
“Let’s take a look at the three rituals,” Wesley suggested. He and Giles huddled over the pages Willow had printed and she hastily printed out several more copies, handing them around to the group as they came off the printer.
“All three call for a ritual consumption of the contents of the Box to take place within days of the actual Ascension,” Giles said after a moment. “One moment.” He went to his office and returned immediately with a calendar. “If the Mayor is attempting to become Daratuu, the Ascension will take place on…” he paused briefly as he finished calculating. “May 30th. For Olvikan, Ascension will occur on May 25th. Finally, W’rrruss’kha would be May 16th.”
“Ten days from now,” Buffy said.
“Fortunately, we have at least a week before the Ritual of Gavrock will occur, even in the earliest of these scenarios,” Wesley said, consulting the notes on the three rituals, “in each case it appears that the ritual involving the box does not take place until the day before the Ascension.” He looked up with a relieved smile. “That gives us time to research the box, discover its contents, and how to destroy it.”
“It also gives us a chance to come up with a plan for getting the box,” Buffy pointed out. “Willow, can you get the building plans?”
“I’ll try,” Willow answered, already beginning a search for the records.
“We might be able to find the plans in the Records Office,” Oz suggested.
“If Willow doesn’t turn them up on-line, can you try there?” Buffy asked.
Oz nodded and Xander quietly offered to help, pleased that Oz was gradually acting more like his old self. Although he still avoided talking to Willow, he was no longer completely silent, he was just his previous quiet self, not saying much but speaking up readily when he had something to contribute.
“The rest of us can begin researching the Box,” Giles said. “Finding a way to destroy it needs to be our first priority.”
There was no disagreement and the group settled down to research. Xander was just grateful they weren’t fishing blindly anymore. Having a goal would make this much less frustrating.
Reconnaissance outside City Hall was not going well.
“Bloody hell,” Spike muttered. “When did the Mayor call out the army?”
“The missing vampires must have tipped them off that something was up,” Angelus said, his eyes surveying the vampires on the roof, and on watch on the perimeter.
“Why would he miss a couple of useless minions?” Spike grumbled half-heartedly but he had already reached the same conclusion and was furious with himself. This stepped-up security was his fault and he knew it. The chauffeur had been an easy and useful information source, and it hadn’t occurred to him that anyone would miss the second vampire either. They were just a pair of bloody minions. In hindsight, taking two of the Mayor’s flunkies, especially the chauffeur who’d just delivered the key ingredient in the Mayor’s Ascension, had been an idiotic move, an amateur’s mistake of a kind that Spike scorned others for making. He’d tipped the enemy off that they were watching and the Mayor had guessed they were going after the box. Damn thing was the key to his plans, of course he was being careful with it, Spike thought in disgust for not having forseen this development.
Even in the short time they’d been there, Spike had spotted three vampires he didn’t recognize from his previous watches outside City Hall. Either the Mayor had already recruited more vampires or had others he could call in as needed.
“I count an even dozen on the grounds and the roof,” Angelus was saying as Spike jerked his thoughts back to the situation at hand. “We have to assume he has others inside in the same room as the box.”
“Yeah,” Spike agreed. He, Angelus and the Slayer could handle a dozen ordinary vampires without much trouble, but any chance of surprise would be long gone before they got anywhere near the bloody box, and surprise was their only hope. The Mayor would most likely have the box magically guarded as well and those safeguards would take a bit of time and caution to deal with. Things that tended to be scarce when the enemy knew you were coming. He signaled to Angelus and they retreated as silently as they had come. Once they were clear of the area, Spike suggested: “All the guards were vampires. They’re not going to be guarding the place during the day.”
“Place is full of people during the day, a raid would be a bit conspicuous,” Angelus objected, though Spike could tell he was thinking about it.
“Maybe, but the Mayor doesn’t want a lot of attention on what he’s doing.”
“If he has any sense, he’ll move the box to someplace more secure,” Angelus countered. “Let’s see what Giles wants to do, we won’t be the ones at risk in a daylight raid.”
“Dunno about you, but I know how to use sewers,” Spike pointed out. “Man with that many vampires workin’ for him has to have sewer access.”
“You really think the sewer entrance won’t be either guarded or blocked or both?”
Refusing to admit his Sire had a good point, Spike strode along in silence, turning various plans over in his mind and looking for flaws.
“Don’t concern yourself, Spike,” Wesley said calmly when Spike and Angel reported the results of their reconnaissance. “Knowing about the box’s existence has proved extremely useful in narrowing our search down and telling us when the Ascension is likely to happen. With luck, the Mayor will not have anticipated a daytime attack.”
Xander was grateful that everyone had taken the news of the stepped-up security so well. He could tell that Spike was blaming himself but Wesley wasn’t just being comforting, they really were making progress now.
While Angel and Spike had been out casing City Hall, Oz and he had gone to the Water and Power Building for a little breaking and entering, leaving the others researching the Box of Gavrock.
The others had still been chasing will-o-the-wisp references to mystical boxes through musty, hand-written volumes when he and Oz returned triumphantly from the Records Office with the plans to City Hall and they had all turned their attention to the more productive venue of planning an attack on the building and researching which spells were best for destroying mystical objects, origin unknown.
During their absence, the others had apparently learned almost nothing about the Box of Gavrock itself although Elizabeth had found a reference to a spider demon called Gavrock, that might or might not be related to the box. No one else had found much of anything. According to the Books of Ascension, the rituals called for little in the way of ceremony, the person just “consumed” the contents of the box, whatever it was.
All of which had kept them usefully occupied and feeling like they were actually getting somewhere for the first time in a long time. That is, until Spike and Angel returned to tell them that a night assault had just gone from risky to dangerously impractical.
“Ok, I’ll check it out in the morning,” Buffy said, recovering first from the disappointment. “See what it looks like when the vamps aren’t around.”
“Are you sure that’s wise?” Giles said. “The Mayor knows you. It might be better to send someone unknown.”
Xander felt Spike tense besides him as he opened his mouth to volunteer but Giles continued before Xander could get the words out. “Xander and I are out for similar reasons, perhaps Wesley and Elizabeth are the least likely to be recognized?”
They agreed that Wesley and Elizabeth would spend the day tomorrow scoping out City Hall. Willow had produced a list of Departments they could visit for various forms and applications, if they thought it was safe to go inside the building and the group broke up for the night, agreeing to meet back at sunset tomorrow.
Spike disappeared immediately down the back stairs as soon as they reached the apartment and Xander was left to pace the apartment, wondering just what kind of urgent business Spike had in the Court. He’d been unusually terse on the subject, just saying there was something he wanted to get taken care of and Xander was regretting not pushing him on the subject.
Spike was obviously upset about his miscalculation of the Mayor’s reaction to losing a couple of minions and Xander was worried that he was going to do something stupid to make up for it. There was nothing Spike hated more than having someone outsmart him, not that Xander thought that’s what had happened, but Spike despised amateur mistakes and obviously thought he’d made one.
Xander debated going down to the factory floor and eavesdropping to find out what Spike was doing. He was seriously tempted but reluctantly decided against it, knowing it was a bad idea. He hadn’t forgotten his talk with Spike about how Xander showing Spike disrespect - what vampires saw as disrespect - hurt Spike’s status. Getting caught eavesdropping on the Master of the Hellmouth would probably been seen as a bad thing by the Court. No, he’d have to trust that Spike would be back up shortly and ready to talk about what was going on.
Flopping down on the couch, he switched the TV on and began restlessly channel surfing, looking for something that might hold his attention as he waited, although half his attention remained on the back entrance leading to the factory.
“What’s going on, Spike?”
Ok, as casual inquiries go, that wasn’t his best effort. Spike vaulted over the couch to sit next to him, giving him a sideways glance.
“Sent the Lieutenants out on a job,” he explained, without actually explaining anything at all.
“What job?” Ordinarily, Xander didn’t pay much attention to Spike’s business with his Court, but this had something to do with the Mayor, he could tell.
Spike sighed and put his arm around Xander’s shoulders. “Nothing to worry about, luv. Sent the boys out on a fact-finding job.” His eyes narrowed in speculation as he stared at the TV but Xander knew it wasn’t Aliens 2 that held his attention - although Spike admitted he thought Ripley had style. Xander waited, eyes steady on Spike’s profile, until Spike was ready to talk again.
“I want to find out how the Mayor’s recruiting, what he’s telling people, if it’s just vampires, how much he’s paying, whether it’s temporary and permanent, everything.
If we can dry up the pool of recruits, get the word out that being hired by the Mayor is the key to quick, permanent death, maybe we can whittle down the number of vampires he’s got working for him.” He turned intensely blue eyes on Xander, worry lurking in their depths. “Don’t like how many vampires he’s recruited, luv. Got enough for a small scale army. Feels like this is building towards all-out war come the Ascension.”
Xander felt a shiver pass over him at Spike’s grim foreboding. If there was one thing Spike wasn’t, it was an alarmist.
Instantly, Spike was pulling him into his arms, leaning them back into the corner of the sofa and Xander shifted with him until he was lying full-length, cradled in Spike’s arms as they both pretended to watch the movie. Spike carded absently through the dark waves of Xander’s hair, his thoughts elsewhere and Xander wrapped his arms around his lover, letting Spike feel his warmth and the steady beat of his heart, just being there for him as Spike wrestled with his responsibility to keep Xander and his Territory safe from the Mayor’s threat.
“The Mayor is a step ahead of us again, I’m afraid,” Wesley reported gloomily the next evening. “There are police and private security guards everywhere at City Hall.”
“The official story is that it’s temporary security due to a valuable museum exhibit on loan from somewhere and not yet able to be installed at the museum,” Elizabeth filled in. “It’s obvious the security guards are genuine and have no idea of the actual circumstances.”
“But it pretty much rules out a daylight assault because of the high casualty rate for civilians,” Buffy summed up.
“Yes,” Wesley said flatly. “we cannot hope to successfully infiltrate City Hall and an all-out assault cannot happen with so many innocent bystanders present.”
“So, where does that leave us?”
“For now, we continue our research and wait. If we are lucky, the Mayor will relax his security and we can attempt to seize the box.” Wesley didn’t sound very optimistic about that possibility. “
“So our choices are: attacking now with very little chance of success in an attempt to stop the Mayor, or waiting until he turns into an invulnerable demon on Ascension day?” Xander asked, just to be sure he wasn’t missing something. “We really need a third option.”
“That out of town vacation in Outer Mongolia is sounding better and better,” Buffy muttered. She jumped to her feet restlessly. “I’m going to patrol. I need to do something to feel like I’m still doing my job.” She glanced at Angel and Spike. “Are you two in?”
Angel shook his head before Spike could answer. “I have something I need to do tonight,” he said. He slid a glance at Spike that Xander couldn’t read and Spike nodded.
“Takin’ my boy home,” was all he said. “He’s tired.”
Xander shook his head in amusement at Spike and waved to the group. “Guess I’ll see you guys tomorrow,” he said as Spike’s firm grip closed around his wrist.
The bar was quieter than normal, enough so that Spike found himself wondering if the word was out, if demons had begun slipping out of town, rats deserting the ship before it went down with them on board. With luck, his Lieutenants would have a report for him when he got back to the factory this morning.
‘Course, it could just be a quiet Tuesday.
Swallowing his whiskey, feeling the pleasant burn as it slid down his throat, Spike signaled for another round for both of them. Angelus was being quieter than usual and Spike wondered what was on his Sire’s mind. Angelus was staring into the depths of his glass, avoiding Spike’s curious gaze and Spike was tired of waiting for Angelus to get to the point. His Sire was the one who’d asked to meet him here tonight.
“What’s on your mind, Angelus?”
“I’m thinking about leaving town.”
Surprised by the instant desire to protest, Spike hid his reaction behind a sip of his drink. “Any special reason?”
“What’s the Slayer done now?” he growled, incensed that the chit still controlled his Sire the way she did. That his Sire let her.
“Nothing,” Angelus looked up, meeting his eyes, long enough for Spike to read the truth there. “There’s nothing for me here. You’re Master. Buffy doesn’t need me to help her anymore. I need something more than just being a side-kick.”
“’bout time you figured that out. What do you have in mind?”
Angelus shrugged, his shoulders moving fractionally under the leather coat. “Maybe Los Angeles. If I stay here, there will always be the temptation…” his voice trailed off, but Spike knew what he meant. His Sire was still fixated on the Slayer. And her on him. One day, one of them would slip. A bad enough slip and goodbye soul, hello chaos.
And just when had that become something that Spike didn’t look forward to?
“Welcome in my Court any time,” he offered. “You told the Slayer yet?”
It wasn’t just idle curiosity; telling the Slayer was going to throw her seriously off her game. Buffy never had dealt well with Angelus, whether as lover, enemy, or friend. She’d always reacted to him like a schoolgirl and not the Slayer, letting him control her emotions and mess with her head. In her eyes, Angelus was still her star-crossed love, the fairy tale that was somehow supposed to wind up in a happy ending. Knights in shining armor weren’t supposed to tell their lady loves they were blowing town rather than sticking around, even when staying just meant hovering in a doomed, lovelorn orbit around their fair princess forever. The Slayer was not going to take the news well.
Angelus was still finding the bottom of his glass surprisingly interesting. “Was going to tell her after the prom,” he muttered.
“Big dance at the end of school,” Angelus explained. “I gather it’s as important as being presented at Court used to be.”
For a moment, Spike stared blankly, then realized that Angelus wasn’t talking about a vampire’s Court. He was referring to the custom from their human lives, when young ladies made their debut at the sovereign’s Court before the King and Queen. Even bookish William had been aware of the importance of that rite of passage.
“Servin’ as her escort, yeah?” he guessed.
“Yes.” Angelus sounded resigned. “Apparently, it’s social death if a senior doesn’t go.” He hesitated, then clarified voluntarily. “Buffy understands that we’re not a couple but she didn’t have a date and asked if I would take her.”
Spike was surprised to find he wasn’t angry with Angelus for putting himself in that situation. Somewhere along the line, he must have learned to trust that Angelus, at least, had truly come to understand that he and the Slayer could never be involved again. For the moment, he was far more concerned over the timing.
“Don’t tell her ‘til after the Ascension,” he ordered.
Angelus narrowed his eyes, his only sign of resentment at his Childe giving him orders. “Why not?”
“Think, Sire. We both know she’s still in love with you. You plannin’ on breaking her heart just before what may be the biggest fight of her life?” Angelus nodded thoughtfully, accepting his reasoning, and Spike added callously, with a smirk: “’Sides, if either or both of you die in the fight, won’t have to tell her at all, will you?”
Angelus just shook his head, but appeared relieved by the prospect of delay and Spike knew he would follow Spike’s order, even if he wouldn’t admit it. A worrying thought suddenly struck him.
“This dance something all seniors are expected to go to?” he asked. “Even the boys?”