Nothing the Same, Book 3
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 & Nothing the Same, Book 2.
Previous parts here
The muse woke up and apparently I'm continuing the story.
This won't make a lot of sense if you haven't read Book 1 and 2. If you need a refresher or are interested, here are the links:
Nothing the Same
Nothing the Same, Book 2
UC Sunnydale was not in Spike’s regular patrol area. On the outskirts of town, in many ways the campus was almost a separate entity from the rest of Sunnydale. Most of the students either lived in the dorms or in student housing close by the park-like campus. “Townies” were looked down on and surprisingly few locals went to school there. Or maybe not surprisingly, when you considered that any human with any sense at all left town immediately after high school and never looked back.
But Xander was going to be spending a lot more time in the area than he ever had before and Spike needed to see for himself that it was safe for his Claimed. Xander and the Slayer had grown closer over the summer, hanging out together in a way they never had before as all their other friends left town and they were pretty much the only two left. Close enough friends that Spike had had to endure far too many evenings at the Bronze - the kiddie hangout the Slayer was so fond of. Granted, as Xander had pointed out, they couldn’t actually drag the Slayer along with them at their own hangouts. Spike could just imagine the reaction if the Slayer began stopping by for drinks at their usual bar. Between half the patrons leaving and the other half arguing over who got the first shot at killing her - actually, that might be fun. Pity Xander probably wouldn’t think so.
Xander wasn’t any more fond of the Bronze than Spike was, although for different reasons. Xander had never been comfortable at the Bronze since the night he’d staked his friend there and, until this summer, the only time Xander had gone there after his friend died had been the night the chaos mage spiked the candy. The horror of the middle-age orgy he’d witnessed there hadn’t endeared the establishment to his boy. So, if Xander could put up with the place, Spike would go to keep him company. Fortunately, the bar did serve half-decent beer and the pool tables were acceptable. The competition wasn’t up to his standards but then they were human. Nothing gave you an edge like 100 years of practice.
Considering the vapid bitch he was watching now, Spike regretted not having extended his patrols to the college campus long before now. The prima donna in the room below was giving herself airs because she had a handful of useless minions too stupid to know better taking order from her. Laired in an old fraternity house on campus, the group were obviously living what they thought was the good life. The lair was a magpie’s nest of tawdry loot: mismatched furniture, a fence’s nightmare of cheap, portable electronics, piles of useless, broken junk shoved against the walls. Perched on the roof, looking down through the skylight - and what kind of morons had a lair with an enormous skylight over the main room? - Spike couldn’t help feeling nostalgic for the days when he and Dru, Angelus and Darla had done this in a style these idiots could never duplicate. It was one thing when you were looting the noble houses of Europe of priceless treasures, the shite this group had filled their lair with wasn’t worth stealing, much less holding on to.
Having seen enough, Spike eased quietly away from the skylight, and moved down the slope of the roof toward the fire escape ladder bolted to the wall of the building. He was tempted to burst through the skylight and drop down into the midst of the vampires below - that sort of thing always made one hell of an entrance. But there wasn’t a clear area below and he couldn’t be certain of landing safely on his feet after a two-story drop onto uneven footing. He’d have to go through the door. Pity.
He made up for it by smashing through the door with a satisfyingly loud explosion of splintered wood. Stepping through the opening, he found the five vampires scrambling to their feet, too surprised by the sudden entrance to even go for a weapon. Useless wankers.
“Who the hell are you?”
That was the blonde, the leader of this little group. She faced him, hands on her hips, in human guise. The front of her long hair was pulled into tiny little braids that stuck up from her head.
“Name’s Spike,” he said casually, strolling inside like he owned the place. Which he would in a minute.
The vampires clustered in a group, the four minions shifting so they were behind their leader. Spike eyed them in disgust: these vampires gave minions a bad name. Didn’t have enough sense even to spread out so they would be ready to come at him from all sides. Studying the blonde without seeming too, even as he made of show of idly glancing around the room, Spike realized that she was so young herself she was afraid to give up any power or initiative to her minions. They had all obviously been taught to never do anything without her direct permission. Exactly why he’d forbidden the minions of his Court to turn their victims: vampires younger than fifty or sixty years didn’t know what the hell to do with minions.
“So, are you hoping to impress me, or are you just feeling suicidal?”
Spike gave her a point for that. Arms crossed, foot tapping, she looked irritated but not frightened. He wondered if it was a bluff or if she was too stupid to know who he was. Casually wandering over to the only open area in the cluttered room, Spike answered without looking at her, “Not likely to waste my time trying to impress someone who’s going to be dust in a minute.”
“Well, you’ve really got me shaking in my shoes now. Five to one odds, whatever am I going to do?”
Spike grinned at her sarcastic response. Too bad he had decided to kill her, she might have some potential after all.
“Sunday, that’s… that’s Master Spike,” one of her minions, a girl with frizzy red hair, said nervously.
“Sunday? What the hell kind of name is that?” Spike asked incredulously, distracted briefly.
“Oh, I don’t know, Spike. Like I’m worried about the opinion of someone who still thinks the Billy Idol look is in. Being dead doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep up with the times.”
Spike was on her almost before she finished her sentence, crossing the room in two leaps before any of them gathered their wits enough to react. He knocked the blonde across the room with one vicious blow, then spun to face the minions. He heard the blonde crash against the far wall even as he pulled a stake and dusted the two closest minions: the redhead who’d spoken earlier and a big guy with long greasy blonde hair who looked like he didn’t have two brain cells to rub together. The woman didn’t have time to move before he was yanking the stake out and turning to the male, whose eyes went wide with belated shock as the stake sank deep into his chest and he opened his mouth to say something even as he vanished into dust.
Their ashes were still settling when he wheeled back to the leader who had gotten to her feet with a scream of fury. She shook herself, shifting to her true face, then rushed at him. Bouncing a little on his toes, Spike judged his timing and leapt up, meeting her charge with a solid boot to the chest. The kick landed true with a satisfying crunch of broken ribs, the jolt of the impact sending them both flying backwards. Spike flipped back to his feet instantly, and saw the two remaining minions running for the door. He threw his stake and got the one in the rear, the dark haired male escaping through the door before Spike could pull another stake.
He turned his attention back to the leader who was slowly climbing to her feet, clinging to the wall for support. She looked furious and terrified, her eyes shifting towards the exit and back to him nervously. “What is your problem?” she asked.
“My problem is that you give vampires a bad name,” Spike said, circling around so he was between her and the door. “My problem is that you’re too stupid even to know who I am.”
“Look, if you want the lair, it’s yours,” she said with an outward calm that belied the desperation in her eyes.
“This pit? Not likely,” he said in disgust. “You’ve got a fucking skylight, you moron. We’re vampires, not sorority girls. We don’t sit around braiding each other’s hair. Do you even have tunnel access?”
“I’ve been here for almost 20 years,” she said, sounding almost offended that he was criticizing her lair.
She was moving sideways, away from him, sliding along the wall, trying to be subtle and failing miserably. Spike rolled his eyes. Might as well be holding up a sign up saying “I’m going for a weapon” she was so obvious. He took a step towards her, pivoting on his weight-bearing foot and executing a spin-kick that slammed into her side, doing further damage to already fractured ribs and sending her stumbling to the floor again.
Spike was on her before she could move. Hauling her up by a fist in her hair, he put an end to the embarrassingly unequal fight. “Next time, find out who’s territory you’re in before you set up a lair, you stupid bint,” he snarled, bringing up his other hand and staking her cleanly through the heart. He yanked the stake back before it dusted with her and said cheerfully to the empty room, “oh yeah, there is no next time. Sorry.”
Brushing the ashes off his front, he looked around but his earlier recon had been right - there was nothing worth taking. Sighing, he decided to do a proper job of it and went to search the rest of the house for anything that needed to be dealt with.
Five minutes later, having confirmed there were no other vampires using the lair, nothing worth taking in any of the rooms, and no bodies lying around for the authorities to get in a tiff over, Spike strode out of the fraternity house. Once outside, he stopped to light a cigarette and survey the area. This was the only nest of vampires he’d found working the campus, the rest of the area around the school seemed surprisingly demon-free, and he judged it was as safe as anywhere in town. Xander would laugh at him for fussing, except of course Spike had no intention of mentioning that he’d added the college campus to the areas in town that got Spike’s personal attention. Let Xander try and prove it.
Flicking his cigarette butt away and settling his duster on his shoulders, Spike headed out, feeling as ridiculously pleased as ever at the return of his beloved leather coat. Xander had had one of his demon friends repair the coat and Spike hadn’t asked how he’d done it. He suspected magic had been involved since there was no trace of the long tears in the leather left by the Sisterhood of Jhe. He’d been delighted to be able to wear the coat again, having kept it hidden in the back of the closet, embarrassed by his own sentimentality but unable to part with it even when it was unwearable. Xander had snuck it out and repaired it as a present for him.
Smiling again as he thought of his Claimed’s generosity, Spike decided to call it a night. With college classes starting next week, he’d keep checking the area to make sure nothing set up shop to fill the vacancy he’d just created. Xander would be visiting the campus once the Slayer was living and attending classes there and Spike needed to make his presence felt at this end of town.
Striding rapidly through the quiet night, Spike found himself considering the impact the Slayer’s move would have on his territory. The Slayer would be basing her activities out of her room on campus, instead of out of her mother’s house on the other side of town. It was bound to cause a shift in how and where she patrolled. Sharing her patrols with the demon volunteers had already changed things. Some of the recruits were not limiting themselves to the cemeteries the way the Slayer often did. Plus, the natural competition between the recruits and the Slayer as both sides sought to prove themselves to the other meant there had been no summer lull in patrolling the Hellmouth. Granted, the summer before when the Slayer had blown town altogether had been unusual, but still, the Slayer tended to slack off a bit in summer and that hadn’t happened this year. If anything, the hunting had increased.
It hadn’t affected his Court as much as it might have. The number of vampires on the Hellmouth was still down from the peak it had reached under the Master. When old bat-face had been gathering forces for his attempt to break free of his imprisonment, the number of vampires in town had grown substantially. The numbers had stayed high, even after the Master’s death due to the worthless cannon fodder the Master had gathered turning minions willy-nilly just to prove they could, until Spike had taken over as Master and forbidden the members of his Court to turn their victims. The number of vampires had slowly decreased ever since, despite the brief surge when Angelus had lost his soul, and the quality had gone up. Vampires were far less likely to fall victim of the Slayer now as she seemed to mostly stake the newly-risen fledges in the cemeteries. Other varieties of demons had moved into the Hellmouth, filling the void left by the decreasing number of vampires and the Slayer spent more time hunting demons now than vampires.
The demon recruits to help the Slayer were an unknown. Spike hadn’t specifically warned the members of his Court about the change-over, but now that the joint patrols were actively happening and not just something planned for the future, he found himself spending an annoying amount of time worrying the problem from all angles, trying to decide how to handle it. He needed to make a decision and soon, because someone was going to notice the additional patrols sooner or later.
Shaking his head and putting the problem aside for now, Spike found he was almost back to the apartment His long strides had taken him across town as he worried over the changing situation in town. The next week or so might prove interesting. Xander had mentioned that the Slayer was nervous about going to college alone. No one else from their graduating class was going to UC Sunnydale and being the Slayer apparently didn’t stop you from being a nervous wreck at the prospect of dorms and a strange roommate and a huge, unfamiliar campus. Bit of a laugh, really, that the Slayer was behaving like an ordinary teenage girl facing the unknown, instead of a seasoned warrior who handled the unknown on almost a daily basis.
Joyce had been in a dither for weeks now, half anticipating Buffy’s departure, half dreading it. She’d confided in Spike that part of her was looking forward to being less of a mom and more of a woman, not having to be there for her daughter every day. She’d also admitted to being afraid of being lonely, rattling around in the house all by herself. She’d laughed when Spike had offered to drag Buffy home by her hair at least twice a week but turned him down, saying they’d work it out without unnecessary hair-dragging. Spike had made a mental note to make sure that he and Xander continued their weekly visits with Joyce. Besides, just because Joyce didn’t want her daughter forced home didn’t mean he couldn’t have a threatening talk with the Slayer about treating her mother right.
“Wrap it up, kid. You trying to make the rest of us look bad?”
Xander looked up as a friendly hand dropped on his shoulder and grinned. “Nope, just wanted to finish this one last piece.”
He’d heard the foreman closing up the job site and the sound of tools being put away but had been concentrating on nailing the last bits of trim into place, wanting to finish the room before leaving the jobsite for the night.
He’d discovered that about himself this summer - that he liked to finish what he’d started even if it meant working a little longer. He liked walking through a job-site and seeing the progress the crew had made each day. He’d been with the company for almost two months now, mostly doing general labor, but they were letting him work with the carpenters whenever it was possible and had promised him the next available journeyman carpenter slot. In the meantime, he was learning a lot of general construction skills that would allow him to expand his own business.
He’d had to cut his hours back so far that he was considering whether he should shut down the business entirely or take on an employee and make it an official business. He’d talked about it with Mr. Olsen and some of his customers and thought the answer was probably to hire and train one of the kids from the demon community. Being part of the community already would relieve the fears of his demon customers, and someone human looking wouldn’t alarm his elderly clients, or be unable to do the day-time work that was the main reason his demon clients needed his help to begin with. He had a couple of kids in mind, but what worried him was the paperwork side of things. If he had an employee, he’d have to get a business license and pay taxes and all that official stuff that scared him more than most of the monsters he’d faced.
Spike was encouraging him to hire someone but that was mostly because he didn’t like it that Xander was spending his first hour off work after his day job at his own customers’ houses, getting what work done he could. Spike had grudgingly accepted that Xander wanted to continue to work, although Xander knew that Spike would prefer it if he stayed home during the days. Not that Spike would approve of a night job either, even if one were available. There weren’t very many night shift jobs on the Hellmouth. The usual Sunnydale blindness didn’t extend to late night businesses hours. Even the stupidest employer couldn’t help noticing that night clerks at all-night convenience stores and night-shift food delivery people tended to have fatal accidents or disappear within a week or two. Even the businesses run by demons that catered to demons stayed open only an hour or so past sunset.
Automatically putting his tools away as his mind drifted, Xander knew something was going to have to give soon. He wasn’t doing right by either Spike or his customers, not while he was working two jobs. Hauling his tool box and giving the foreman a wave, Xander walked off the site and tossed the tool box into the trunk of Spike’s car, considering. He was repairing a fence tonight for the Jenkins and he thought Mr. Jenkins had been an accountant or a bookkeeper before he’d retired. Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins were one of his elderly clients, not able to keep up with the routine maintenance on their home any more but they enjoyed sitting and talking with him while he worked. He’d ask them how difficult it would be to turn his part-time work into a real business.
Decision finally made, Xander felt better. He’d been dithering over this for weeks, scared of how grown up it felt to be considering starting a business officially, worried about taxes and forms and an office and a mailing address and more complications than his life already had. He suspected he’d been making the proverbial mountain out of a mole hill, his anxiety making everything worse than it actually was going to be. He had enough business to keep two people going full time and his customers had been incredibly patient. Granted, a lot of them didn’t have a choice but he didn’t want them to have to wait for necessary work because he was the only option and he didn’t have time for them.
Spike came awake in the darkened apartment, his senses telling him the sun was beginning to dip over the horizon behind the blackout curtains and heavy shutters. He was alone as usual and he sighed. Xander was working too hard, waking at sunrise, just about the time Spike was settling down for the day, and leaving for his construction job. The only good thing about the work was that the early start in the morning meant the job site shut down early. Except Xander didn’t come home. Instead he went to one of his customers’ houses and spent another couple of hours working for them before coming home tired and spending an hour or two with Spike before Spike had to leave on his nightly business.
Worse than when Xander was in school most days. At least then they had spent late afternoons and early evenings together. Problem was, Xander was so bloody happy, Spike couldn’t make him stay home or even force him to drop one or the other of his jobs. Xander had spent most of his life, before Spike, with no one telling him he was special, or needed, or good for anything. Now he had an entire construction crew who liked him and thought he was talented, and joked with him good-naturedly about his long hair and his mysterious significant other who never came by the site like the other girlfriends and wives. He had customers who practically worshipped the ground he walked on because he filled so many needs: handyman, surrogate son and grandson, and a friendly visitor from the outside world all rolled into one.
Xander had filled out over the course of the summer. He was still lean but his shoulders had broadened and his arms were solidly muscled from work. He was darkly tanned from outdoor work and practically glowing with happiness even when he stumbled home almost too tired to stay awake long enough to greet Spike. He was a joy to Spike and a constant source of frustration because he was never bloody there.
Spike would have blown a gasket a long time ago except for the weekends. Xander took Sundays off entirely and they had the kind of long lazy day in bed that Spike had been dreaming about since he and Xander first got together. Xander shut off the cell phone that Spike frequently regretted ever getting for him and the two of them pretended the outside world didn’t exist: sleeping late, watching the telly, making love in the cool, dim apartment, just being together in a way that made Spike feel ridiculously content.
He knew that his Claimed was struggling to find a way to balance his responsibilities, and that he was important to Xander and that Xander loved him. He knew that, but he wasn’t patient by nature and it was hard to let the situation go on when he had the power to stop it. Problem was, stopping it would kill some of the happiness on Xander’s face and Xander had had too much pain in his life for Spike to do that. Stopping it would put limits on Xander and clip his wings. Gritting his teeth, Spike once again reminded himself that he’d encouraged Xander to become self-confident and self-reliant and that he wanted that for his Claimed. He’d done needy and clingy and it could get very old, even when you loved the person as much as he’d loved Drusilla. Xander was with Spike because he wanted to be and that was worth a lot.
Checking the time, Xander decided he had time to make a quick stop by the library before going home. With luck, there would be an email from Oz. The fence job had gone faster than he anticipated and Mr. Jenkins had been incredibly helpful, offering to draft up the papers and do all the work to get Xander set up in a legitimate, on the books business, with licenses and everything. When Xander had protested, Mr. Jenkins told him he had too much time on his hands and it would be a pleasure to dust off his old skills. They’d eventually agreed to trade skill for skill and Xander would do work for Mr. Jenkins’ help.
Entering the library, he was still bemused at the fact that he was using a barter exchange to set himself up in business officially. Logging on took only a minute - the library wasn’t hugely popular in the summer - and he was pleased to find an email from Oz waiting for him.
He hadn’t heard from Oz until nearly a month after the older boy had left town. He’d been worried but had no way of contacting Oz himself. One day a postcard from Oz had arrived at Giles’ apartment - Giles had agreed to let Xander continue to use him as a mailing address since he couldn’t get mail at the factory, for obvious reasons. The postcard had been Oz all over: “Still looking for answers. Doing ok.” but instead of a signature or a return address, there had been an email address.
Xander had already set up an email account for himself and, after that, he made sure to check it at least once a week. Oz was going on-line in public libraries whenever he got the chance, and began sending Xander emails on a semi-regular basis. To his surprise, Oz was far more talkative on email than he was by postcard or in person. Mostly stories about people he’d met, but also some surprisingly lyrical descriptions of the places he’d been. Oz was still searching for a way to control the wolf, traveling from one possible source of knowledge to another. He’d talked to tribal shamen, demons, and a New Age guru - who Oz reported was a scam artist and completely useless - and today’s email talked about maybe trying his luck in Asia. Apparently, there were stories of shape shifters in Asia going back thousands of years and Oz was hoping they might have answers to how to stop the change.
Xander felt like kicking himself as he read the email, realizing belatedly that he knew someone who knew a guy who was 400 years old. He should’ve thought of that before Oz left town, not almost two months later. He’d go to see Mr. Olsen tomorrow and see if Mr. Olsen would be willing to ask his friend if he knew anything that could help a werewolf.
He sent a short greeting, just saying he was in a rush and would send a longer reply tomorrow - one of the things he liked about email was the fact that you didn’t have to compose long letters to justify the effort of contact. When it just took one click of a button to send a note, you could whip out a quick reply and a longer one later when you’d had time to think.
He was using that a lot with Willow. It was easier talking to her by letter than in person, but he still tended to think more about what he was saying, not just dashing off a two word reply like he sometimes did with Oz. He wasn’t worried about misunderstandings with Oz, who was taciturn by nature and had bailing on uncomfortable situations down to an art form, the was he was with Willow. His emails with Willow sometimes went through several drafts, trying to make sure there were no careless words that would hurt or be misunderstood.
For now, he logged off without saying anything about his thought to talk to Mr. Olsen, not wanting to get Oz’s hopes up in case nothing came of it. Oz’s emails tended to come in clusters, as if he was staying several days at a time in places, before moving on. Chances were, he would get a message from Xander tomorrow if Xander had any news for him.
Mr. Olsen had gone one better and taken Xander to meet the half-Teer’ah demon who had been so helpful about the Ascension.
Mr. Okolo had been a surprise. If you’d asked him beforehand what he was expecting, Xander would probably have guessed someone small and wrinkled and frail. Mr. Okolo was tall and spare, his erect bearing and deep voice commanding respect effortlessly. He was gracious and welcoming, ushering Xander into his home and serving refreshments with an old-fashioned courtesy that reminded Xander vaguely of movies about the pre-civil war south. At the same time, Mr. Okolo seemed… distant somehow, like he wasn’t really part of this century. Given that he had to have outlived everyone he knew except his own family, that made sense.
And he’d had information. Mr. Olsen had called ahead and explained the problem and Mr. Okolo had contacted his full Teer’ah mother, who was over a thousand years old. She had given him a name which he passed on to Xander.
“Your friend may not like the answers he receives,” he said as Xander looked at the piece of paper with a name and address, “but my mother assures me this woman can help him.”
Leaving the house a little while later, Xander asked Mr. Olsen why he’d taken him there instead of just talking to Mr. Okolo himself. Mr. Olsen was unusually serious as he answered. “He’s almost unique, Xander, because of how long he’s lived and the resources he can access through his family. If he decides he likes you, he’s a good friend to have.” His tone becoming lighter, Mr. Olsen added with a gleam of mischief in his eyes: “Besides, I figure you’ll stop thinking of me as being so old now that you’ve met someone nearly six times my age.”