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
Consciousness returned slowly, grudgingly, sending complaining bursts of pain through his system. Every sense was screaming at him that the environment was hostile. Even through closed lids he could sense the overly bright light surrounding him, not the deadly yellow of sunlight but a cold, sterile white that felt as dangerous, even if not as instantly fatal. The air was antiseptic and recycled, far removed from anything natural. Sound battered him: metal clanging, the soft whimpering of a child in pain, snarls and growls and harshly barked orders sounding faintly in the far distance.
None of the noises were coming from his immediate proximity and he cracked his eyes open warily, hoping to glimpse his surroundings and gauge the threat level. Even with his eyes open mere slits, he was nearly blinded by the harsh light that seemed to come from all directions. He slammed his lids shut and swore involuntarily. Knowing he’d blown any pretense of continued unconsciousness, he rolled quickly onto his side and pushed himself to his feet, slitting his eyes open cautiously until they adjusted to the light.
What the fuck?
He was in a small room. The floor, the ceiling and three walls were covered in white tiles. The fourth wall was glass, a floor-to-ceiling panel looking out onto an equally white hallway. Moving forward, Spike pressed his hands against the glass, trying to see down the hall, and lightning crackled in the air and he was jolted with enough electricity to throw him back a step or two. Bloody fucking hell, someone wasn’t playing games. That amount of electricity could’ve killed a human.
Electricity. Spike frowned as memory returned.
He’d been doing a sweep of the college campus when he’d heard humans approaching. A small group, three or four, wearing boots and carrying weapons - he could smell the oil they used on the mechanisms. Before he’d even had time to turn around, he’d been hit from behind by something that had sent electricity tearing through his body, dropping him instantly, muscles twitching uncontrollably as he fought unsuccessfully to stay on his feet. Unconsciousness had swamped him but he thought he’d heard approaching footsteps. Booted feet and a voice saying: “bag and tag it”.
Waking up here. Wherever the hell that was.
He moved forward again, careful not to come into contact with the glass this time, and looked outside, seeing nothing but the white tiled corridor and a row of identical cells across the wide hall. The cells across the hall were empty but he could hear faints sounds on either side of him: pacing footsteps and a quiet muttering, the soft whimpering he’d heard as he woke up. Cautiously edging closer to the glass, he attempted to see down the length of the hall but he could feel the electricity prickling against his skin and he wasn’t keen on being hit with the full effect again.
He passed one hand cautiously over the glass, experimenting. He could move his hand to within about an eighth of an inch from the glass and then he could feel the static charge building. He stepped away from the glass, backing up three steps until his shoulders made contact with the rear wall. He took one moment to brace himself, then charged forward, leaping up and delivering a two-footed kick at the glass that had the weight of his entire body behind it.
Pain crashed over him as he was thrown backwards by the electrical field, crashing to the floor and sliding along the cool tiles. Rolling slowly to his feet, he swore bitterly when he saw the glass wall hadn’t even been scratched by his attempt.
There was nothing. No furniture, nothing on the walls, nothing that could be used as a weapon or tool. Not even a bucket for waste - which either meant they knew he wasn’t human or they didn’t expect to keep him here long enough to make a mess.
Whoever ‘they’ were.
Restlessly prowling the limits of the cell, Spike thought furiously. This setup smacked of humans. Demons who were into imprisonment and torture tended to have lairs like Dr. Frankenstein: medieval equipment and lots of old-fashioned cutting implements, or herbs and potions and bubbling cauldrons over open fires. This antiseptic, sterile environment said mad scientist of the human variety. Even from what little he could see he could tell it was huge and probably only recently open for business given the number of empty cells. Everything had the untouched, unused look of a new building. Nothing scratched or dented or worn. No inmates carving their names into the white tiles, no sign of wear from restless pacing.
A line of empty cells across the way, and a half-full facility. Spike suspected he’d just stumbled across the solution to the demon disappearances in town. He could handle anything the demon world threw at him, but this setup made him cautious and, for now, he settled himself to wait, pacing the confines of his cell. He wanted more information about what was going on before he did anything to call attention to himself.
Angel returned as promised as the night was waning, just shaking his head in response to Xander’s anxious inquiry about whether he’d found anything.
“I’ll go down to the Court from here,” Angel said, not looking enthusiastic. “You should leave, just to be safe.” When Xander just looked at him blankly, he explained: “This could go very badly. I don’t want you getting caught in the middle if it turns into a fight.”
Xander felt a pang of guilt for having pretty much forced Angel to do this and opened his mouth to say something - he wasn’t sure what, but Angel cut him off with an upraised hand.
“You were right. Something has to be done about the Court and I’m probably the only one who can. I’m not looking forward to this but it’s not anything I can’t handle.”
Xander let himself accept that, he needed Angel’s help too badly to second guess himself now. “Thanks, Angel. I’ll be back in a couple of hours. There’s human blood in the frig.” He stood there awkwardly for a moment, not sure what to say. Angel looked equally uncomfortable and Xander finally just nodded his head, snagged the keys to Spike’s car and left the apartment.
Driving away without any of Spike’s flair for burning rubber, Xander caught himself wondering if anything would ever be the same again. Hastily shoving that thought away, he signaled and spun the wheel to the left, heading for the Summers’ house. Mrs. Summers would let him park Spike’s car there for awhile, he was sure. He’d figure out what to do next on the way.
Spike was going out of his mind with boredom. The stark white cell offered nothing to distract him from endless fruitless speculation about his captors and their purpose. Humans just didn’t handle vampires this way. Disbelief and denial were the usual reactions. When they gave way to unwilling belief, fear and disgust followed. Humans in the know killed vampires, even if for most it was a one-time thing before they gladly sank back into their comfortable world of denial. Yeah, a few became obsessed, turned themselves into professional demon hunters and tracked down demonic prey for a few years until they in turn were killed by something bigger and badder than themselves. But demon hunters killed, they didn’t take prisoners.
He’d spent some time wondering if the Watchers’ Council was behind this but, on the whole, he was inclined to rule them out. Not their style. When Watchers’ imprisoned vampires, he’d seen first hand that they did it in the old-fashioned way: chains and dungeons and boarded up manor houses - or as close as they could come. That vampire they’d planned to use to kill the Slayer had been kept in a bricked-up closet in an abandoned building. This high tech, laboratory sterility didn’t fit with what he knew of them.
There was a faint mechanical sound and Spike looked up. A small hatch in the ceiling was swinging down and he ducked instinctively as something dropped. It was a bag of blood.
Spike stared at it in disbelief for a moment, then looked back up at the closing door. Stretching up with both hands, he pulled down hard. There was a moment of struggle, and the smooth movement ground to a halt, the mechanism whining in protest as Spike strained against it, trying to force it back open. He couldn’t get a good grip on it and was forced to let go, dropping back down off his toes as he watched it snap closed. It had been far too small an opening for escape but right now even property damage would have felt good.
He glanced down at the bag of blood, surprised again to see it was human blood, then shrugged and picked it up. If they were going to feed him, least he could do was keep up his strength so he was ready to kill them when they showed their faces.
“Don't drink it. It's drugged.”
The hoarse whisper came from the cell on his left and Spike dropped the bag in disgust, not even questioning the information. He should’ve known.
“Wonderful. And who are you, mate?”
“I'm a rat. I'm a lab rat, just like the others. They're gonna kill us, you know.” The voice grew a little stronger, but the owner was no less frightened sounding.
“And how are they gonna do that?”
“They starve you. Then when you're ready to bite your own arm, they shoot out one of those packets. You drink, and the next thing, you're gone. And that's when they do the experiments.
“And ‘they’ are? The government? Nazis? A major cosmetics company?” Spike asked absently, his thought racing.
“I don’t know. I’ve been lucky, they haven’t come for me yet.”
“Got a brain still, don’t you? What do they look like?” he asked sharply. More than anything, he needed information. If he could get this vampire to pull his head out of his arse, he might be able to learn something useful.
A hand on his shoulder gave him a gentle shake and he startled awake. He was on the sofa on the Summers’ front porch and the sun was well above the horizon. He must have fallen asleep as he was waiting for Mrs. Summers to wake up. The neighborhood was beginning to stir and Mrs. Summers looked worried as she studied him with concerned eyes. She was wearing a bathrobe and had a folded newspaper held absently in one hand; she must have stepped outside to pick up the paper and seen him there.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, seeing he was awake. “Why didn’t you knock?”
“Didn’t want to wake you up.” He shrugged, managing a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry, I got here at dawn. I didn’t spend the night out here or anything.” He got to his feet, taking a moment to stretch the kinks out, then asked: “Do you have a few minutes? I don’t want to make you late for work or anything.”
“It’s Sunday,” she pointed out, her eyebrows going up.
“Oh yeah.” He felt stupid for missing the obvious but he was tired.
“What’s wrong, Xander?” she repeated.
His eyes dropped from her steady scrutiny. “Can I leave Spike’s car here for a few days?” he asked, avoiding the issue as if not putting it into words would make it go away. Which was stupid, given how many times he’d said it over the last two days.
“Of course.” Mrs. Summers apparently decided not to push. “Come inside, I was just fixing breakfast.”
He followed her inside, grateful she was letting him off the hook for the moment, and sat down at the kitchen island as she moved from refrigerator to cupboard to stove, beating eggs and frying bacon. The smells awakened his appetite and he realized how long it had been since he’d eaten. As she worked, Mrs. Summers talked lightly about the show she was working on for the gallery and the trip she was taking over Thanksgiving, avoiding any serious topics and carefully not asking any questions. He was grateful that she was willing to wait until he was ready to talk.
Setting two plate down on the island, Mrs. Summers took the chair beside him and Xander ate hungrily. Finally, though, the dishes were stacked in the sink and he couldn’t put off reality any longer. “Spike’s missing,” he told her quietly, turning to face her. “He didn’t come home Friday morning and I haven’t been able to find him.”
Mrs. Summers put a hand to her chest in shock. “Oh, Xander, I’m so sorry. What can I do?”
“I’m not sure what any of us can do,” he said helplessly. “A bunch of us searched all the demon parts of town all night and didn’t find any sign of him. I went out again last night and so did Angel. There’s no sign of him and no sign that anything happened to him, he’s just… gone.”
His voice broke on the last word and Mrs. Summers’ arms were suddenly around him, holding him close. He leaned into her embrace, hugging her back. After a long moment, he pushed back, looking up at her apologetically. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier but I was sure we’d find him and Spike would kill both of us if you’d gone out with the search parties.”
“We’ll talk about you coddling me when we find Spike,” she said, giving him a level look that told him how serious she was. “Now,” she said, “tell me why you think he’s still alive.”
Surprisingly, her brisk tone steadied him. “If he’d been killed by another vampire or demon, the news would be all over town. Anything strong enough to kill him would have to know he’s Master of the Hellmouth and they would be bragging about taking him down. A young, inexperienced demon that didn’t know who he is wouldn’t have been able to kill him. Same with a human hunter: if they’re good enough to kill Spike, we should have heard about them being in town.”
“That makes sense,” Mrs. Summers said thoughtfully. “So, what’s your theory?”
“Spike’s been trying to track down some rumors that have been floating around town about demons going missing. He hasn’t had any success but he thought there was something to them. It wasn’t just talk, an unusual number of demons have disappeared without explanation recently. If something’s happening to other demons, why not vampires? You can’t tell if a vampire’s disappeared because…” he faltered to a stop, unable to complete the sentence.
“Because vampires don’t leave a body,” Mrs. Summers finished for him quietly. “Do you have any idea of what’s behind the disappearances? Has Buffy seen anything unusual?”
“The only thing unusual anyone’s reported is there are a bunch of soldiers who’ve been seen around town a couple of times. A friend on the army base says they aren’t local troops.”
“You know him?” he asked in surprise.
Mrs. Summers’ smile had more than a touch of mischief. “Buffy has gotten a little better about telling me some of what goes on with her job as the Slayer.” The laugh lines at the corners of her eyes deepened as she continued. “Don’t worry, I suspect she still leaves a lot out.”
“Well, then, yeah, Sergeant Morgan says that none of their soldiers are patrolling the town and definitely not out in force and armed. Buffy said the soldiers looked like they were hunting for something.”
“You think the government is behind the disappearances?” To Xander’s surprise, Mrs. Summers didn’t instantly dismiss the idea. “It’s possible, I suppose. Heaven knows the government has been involved in a lot of shady and downright unethical projects over the years.” She bit her lip and looked at Xander, her eyes darkening with concern. “But, Xander, you have to know that if the government has learned about demons, they have the resources to make sure any bodies aren’t found.”
“I know,” he said grimly. He was achingly aware that that was the most logical answer, if the government was involved: that they were killing demons and then disposing the bodies to keep the general public happily ignorant. “But the soldiers Buffy saw have been armed with human weapons - guns and tazer rifles and stuff that doesn’t kill vampires.”
It was weak but it was all he had to go on - bullets didn’t kill vampires and Buffy hadn’t seen any of the soldiers carrying vampire-type weapons: swords or axes or crossbows.
“So, what do we do now?”
He smiled, grateful for the ‘we’, even if he had no intention of letting Mrs. Summers get involved in anything crazy. “The only idea I’ve got right now is to try and find the soldiers and follow them to their base. They have to be stationed somewhere and then the question is: are they bringing prisoners back with them? If so, that’s where Spike is.”
Mrs. Summers looked unhappy. “That sounds dangerous.”
“If it was just soldiers on maneuvers, it’s not a problem and we can forget about them. If they’re based here, something’s up because otherwise the local base would know about them.”
“Wouldn’t Sergeant Morgan know if there was an army unit using Sunnydale as their base, even for temporary maneuvers?”
“He should. That means the mystery soldiers are the only unusual thing anyone’s seen and the most likely cause of the disappearances.” Selfish as it was, reminding himself that other demons had also disappeared was comforting and gave him hope that Spike had also disappeared, not been killed.
“There’s no chance you’ll let me go with you is there?”
“No. This has to be done at night and I won’t risk you getting hurt. That’s the only time the soldiers have been seen.”
“Be careful, Xander. I’ll expect regular calls telling me that you’re ok and what’s happening.”
“Promise.” Xander stood to leave, then hesitated. “Thanks, for everything,” he said inadequately, giving her an impulsive hug. She’d helped him figure out his next step by talking his way through the situation and he was no longer floundering and spinning his wheels. He had a plan now and could hardly wait for nightfall to put it into action.
*A/N - Bits of dialogue borrowed from the episode 'The Initiative'