Nothing the Same, Book 3
Rating: PG13 - NC-17 Individual chapters will carry specific warnings.
WARNING: This chapter contains a bit more swearing than usual.
Feedback & concrit: yes, please
Disclaimer: don't own them, never will, just playing with them
Spoilers: Primarily season 4, but anything from Season 1 on.
Summary: sequel to Nothing the Same & Nothing the Same, Book 2
Previous parts here
Xander spent the walk back to the factory thinking furiously. He was aware that Angel kept sliding sideways looks at him but he didn’t have the time or energy right now to worry about what Angel thought of him.
The soldiers were real. That was what he needed to deal with. After days of searching, he and Angel had proof that there was a group of soldiers operating out of a hidden base here in town. The local army unit didn’t know anything about them or Sergeant Morgan would have heard something. Whoever they were, they were sufficiently classified that the ranking officers at the local base didn’t know they existed. Which had to mean a seriously high level of secrecy.
He needed more information to know how to handle this. If Sergeant Morgan stood outside the entrance they’d found and ordered a soldier to talk to him, would that do any good? Xander suspected it wouldn’t. Undoubtedly they would say something like “need to know only” and walk off laughing. Well, maybe not laughing but certainly not giving up any information about what the hell they were doing and why they were capturing demons and holding them prisoner.
‘Hostile 17’. That’s what Angel had overheard them saying. What the fuck did that mean?
Xander found he was practically vibrating with tension. He kept nervously tapping one hand against his leg and it was beginning to drive himself crazy, never mind how Angel was reacting. He took a deep, steadying breath and shoved both hands in his pockets to still them. He had to stay calm and figure out what the next move was.
Break it down, Xander, he ordered himself. Think it through.
‘17’ had to mean there was Hostiles 1 through 16, didn’t it? Did that mean that the soldiers had at least 17 prisoners? Spike had heard about five or six disappearances for sure and there were undoubtedly others. And that wasn’t even counting any vampires - besides Spike. No one thought anything about vampires who disappeared because everyone assumed they were dead.
What the hell did the military want with a bunch of demons?
“What the hell does the military want with a bunch of demons?”
“What?” Xander realized he’d stopped abruptly and Angel was now walking the few steps back towards him.
“Why would the military want to keep demons prisoner?” he repeated.
“We don’t know that they are.”
“Then what do you think is going on?” Xander asked reasonably. If reasonably meant keeping his voice low while gritting the words out between his teeth.
“I just don’t want you to get your hopes up,” Angel said.
“Angel, we’ve got soldiers hunting for a particular demon, a secret base that no one knows about, and information that they have almost 20 prisoners.”
Angel shot him a dark look. “What we have is soldiers looking for someone or something they call ‘Hostile 17’, and a concealed entrance to something. That’s all we have.”
Xander glared at him. Angel was right, Xander was reading too much into the situation but that didn’t mean he wasn’t on the right track. Angel was being too cautious and cautious wasn’t going to get Spike back. “Fine, but you don’t call something ‘number 17’ unless you went through numbers 1 through 16 first, and those guys weren’t playing games. Plus,” he remembered suddenly, “they weren’t using that equipment to scan for humans. Whatever it is, they pointed it right at me and then walked away. They could tell I wasn’t what they were looking for from a couple of blocks away. There’s no way they’re looking for a human.”
Angel nodded. “Good point.” His brows drew together and he frowned. “The strangest thing about this is them hunting for a particular demon,” he glanced at Xander, obviously conceding the demon part of the equation. “If the military has learned about demons…” he broke off, looking thoughtful, then continued slowly. “I would expect them just to kill them. The secrecy doesn’t seem unusual, they wouldn’t want anyone else to know what they were doing. The military is always worried about civilians panicking. The disappearances could simply mean that they’ve been burying the bodies.”
“You don’t name things you’re just going to kill on sight,” Xander said confidently. “With kill on sight you just call them ‘the big, ugly thing over there’.”
That actually got a small smile out of Angel and Xander was surprised to find himself grinning at the vampire. Hope, so long absent, had been rising steadily in him ever since they found the bunker. Spike was alive, he was a prisoner, and they were going to rescue him. And no one was going to convince him otherwise.
“That actually makes sense in a peculiar way,” Angel said, after a moment. “But, Xander, the disappearances have occurred over several weeks. If they’re taking prisoners for some reason, they could be holding them…” Angel hesitated: “sequentially.”
Sequentially. Xander took a moment to digest that and felt sick. “You mean that prisoners 1 through 16 may be dead.”
Angel nodded grimly. “Plus, I don’t like the idea of the military holding demons prisoner because I can only think of one reason why they would do that: if they were experimenting on them.”
Xander fought back a wave of nausea. He’d been so focused on finding Spike that he hadn’t really had time to think about what might have been happening to him. He’d seen too many X-Files and Alien Autopsy shows not to have thought about the fact that there were a lot of people who would think nothing of cutting into something non-human to see what made them tick. Hell, there were a lot of people who’d done it to other people just because they could. The thought of someone experimenting of Spike made him sick to his stomach and he looked at Angel with stricken eyes.
Angel looked like he was having similar thoughts and he laid a sympathetic hand on Xander’s shoulder. “We’ll find out what’s going on, Xander. I promise.”
Xander just nodded and looked away for a long moment, struggling for control. Angel waited silently while Xander pushed his fears aside and deliberately let his anger taken over. When his eyes met Angel’s again, they were full of the stubborn determination that had gotten him through Graduation. “Let’s get back to the factory and figure out our next move,” he said. Without waiting for an answer, he strode off.
If the soldiers had hurt Spike, they were going to seriously regret it, he vowed.
He needed information. He needed to know what had been happening in his Territory since he’d been gone. He needed to know the status of the Court and, above all, he needed to know if Xander was ok.
The problem was, he didn’t know how to get information when he couldn’t back up his demands with threats.
Pacing the mansion, Spike considered the problem. He hated the fact that he was having to figure out ways to hide the fact that he was as helpless as a day-old fledge. Even if he could hide his reaction to the crippling pain, he couldn’t count on being able to deliver more than one blow in a fight. The pain had literally driven him to his knees, blinding him to everything around him during the fight with the lab coats. The only reason he’d been able to escape was because they were humans and could be taken out with one blow.
Fine. He’d just bluff his way through. He’d told Xander once that if you walked into a room as if you owned it, you were halfway to owning it. He needed to pull himself together. Very few demons challenged him because he had a well-deserved reputation for having a short fuse and extremely violent ways of dealing with people who didn’t do exactly as he said.
Spike went to the weapons chest Xander had made for him. If he had only one shot at it in a fight, he was going to make sure it was a good one. At the sight of the deceptively simple chest with its inlaid design of dark and light strips, he smiled involuntarily. Running his hands lovingly over the polished wood, he could almost feel Xander’s presence in the painstaking workmanship. He needed to do this right, for Xander’s sake.
Opening the lid, he selected several stakes and a small battle-axe, once more cursing the theft of his duster. In addition to everything else, it had been a great place to stash weapons. Sighing, he reluctantly went to the closet to grab an old coat that Angel had left there and shrugged into it to hide the weapons.
Leaving the sanctuary of the mansion, which had begun to feel like almost as much of a prison as the white celled one he’d just escaped from, Spike headed for the factory.
They were nearly home when Xander put a hand on Angel’s arm, stopping him. “I’m sorry I’ve been such a jerk about all this. I really appreciate everything you’re doing to help.”
Angel just looked steadily back at him. “I meant it when I said that I hope Spike’s alive. We’ve had our problems but he’s my Childe.”
“Am I making it harder for you by staying in the apartment?” Much as he hated the idea of moving out, making Angel’s job harder wouldn’t help Spike. “I can go to the mansion if that would make things easier.” His lips twitched slightly in amusement. “If that’s ok with you,” he added somewhat belatedly, the smile escaping as he remembered that technically the mansion was Angel’s despite Spike having pretty much taken it over.
“It’s dangerous,” Angel answered flatly. “The Court’s a powder keg and you’re sitting on top of it. It’s always been dangerous and I’m surprised Spike ever thought it was a good place for a human to live, much less his Claimed. But now…,” he shook his head pessimistically. “There’s a reason I told you to get out.”
Xander’s reply was drowned out by an inarticulate roar of fury. He jerked around, hand going automatically to the stake in his back pocket, and saw Spike running towards them with a look of uncontrolled rage on his face and his hand dropped nervelessly to his side in shock.
Bastard! Goddamn interfering know-it-all prick was at it again - criticizing him, belittling him, ordering Xander out of his own home and telling his Claimed that Spike had been putting him in danger all along.
No more. He was not putting up with it ever again.
He’d stopped short at his first sight of his Claimed, walking beside Angelus, clearly headed for the factory. His eyes drank in the sight of his boy for a moment. Xander was alive and well, and the crushing worry lifted a bit at the sight before his brows drew together in a frown as Xander put a hand on his Sire’s arm and stopped him.
What the hell was his Sire doing here? Spike shifted to his demon face, anger growing in him as Angelus stepped close to his Claimed and they talked quietly and earnestly. Bloody, fucking hell, he’d kill Angelus for poaching on his territory. Not to mention for being so human-blind and deaf as to not notice another vampire within hearing distance. Angelus still hadn’t regained his predatory edge and that was dangerous for Xander. Bloody idiot couldn’t protect Xander if he didn’t hear danger when it was standing beside him.
His eyes narrowed and he glared balefully. His Sire had no right to be standing so close to his Claimed and he stretched out his hearing to hear what they were saying.
Fury tore through him and he was closing the distance between them in a sprint before he’d even realized he was moving. Xander and Angelus both turned to face him, their expressions equally stunned but, caught up in a wave of out of control rage, Spike couldn’t think beyond tearing his Sire limb from limb.
Angelus really had lost his touch, he thought in triumphant satisfaction as Angelus made no move to defend himself in the critical second before Spike was on him, his fist connecting solidly with his Sire’s smug face and sending Angelus reeling backwards from the force of the blow. Blood spattered and Spike followed up instantly, raining blow after blow down on Angelus who was off-balance and on the defensive when he belatedly moved to defend himself.
“Stupid fucking bastard, I’ll show you,” Spike snarled savagely. “You ever touch my Claimed again and you’ll beg for final death. I’m Master here, not you. Never you.”
Xander’s voice finally penetrated the rage that filled his entire being, his repeated calls cutting through the pent up fury and frustration that had suddenly found an outlet, reaching him when nothing else could.
His Claimed’s voice called to him and he let the longed for sound of his boy’s voice override the nearly overwhelming need to crush his opponent. He finally registered the urgent hands pulling him away from his victim and he stepped back from his prostrate Sire and looked around.
Xander’s face was stunned and disbelieving as Spike turned to face him, the disbelief transforming slowly to relief and pure joy. “Spike!” he said again, his voice barely a whisper now as he reached for Spike with shaking hands.
Taking a step forward, Spike flung his arms around his Claimed and hugged him close, dropping his head to bury his face in the crook of Xander’s neck, inhaling deeply and filling his senses with the sounds and scents and tastes of his Claimed.
Xander clung to Spike, hiding his face against Spike’s shoulder as he slowly absorbed the reality of feeling the lean, wiry body against his own. This was real, he gradually realized. It wasn’t a dream. Spike was here and whole and everything was going to be all right. There was nothing they couldn’t deal with now that Spike was back.
He was vaguely aware of Angel lurching to his feet beside them, but Angel could have been singing and dancing and he wouldn’t have moved or so much as batted an eye. Spike was all that mattered.
Eventually, spurred on by Angel’s increasingly impatient noises, Xander lifted his head. “We should go inside,” he said, not moving to separate himself from Spike. “Sun’s almost up.”
“What the hell was that about?” Angel asked crankily, not without cause, Xander admitted to himself, biting back a near-hysterical giggle. Spike was back! Was all he could think. Why Spike had decided to beat Angel up was way too complicated an idea for a brain that was totally occupied with repeating giddily: “Spike’s here!” over and over.
Spike turned just enough to look at Angel, not letting Xander go for an instant. Not that he had a chance. Xander’s arms were wound so tightly around the familiar slim, muscular body that he was pretty sure they were fused together. “Teach you…” Spike began, then broke off sharply with what sounded like a shocked gasp. Except Spike never gasped like that.
“Spike? Are you ok?” he asked worriedly, leaning back an inch or two to see his face.
Spike looked like he’d been struck dumb, like he’d just been given his own personal guarantee of life-long bliss and he was suddenly laughing out loud: a triumphant, joyful sound such as Xander had never heard from him before and Xander’s own more than a little giddy laugh joined Spike’s. He had no idea what was so funny but the happiness and relief at Spike’s sudden, miraculous return made him want to dance and sing. Laughter was probably safe compared to the reaction if he suddenly started turning cartwheels and handsprings in the street like he felt like doing.
“Better than ok, luv. I’m back. I’m the Big Bad and I’m a bloody animal!”
Spike’s triumphant roar set him laughing again even as Spike lifted him off his feet and spun them around in a whoop of delighted laughter.
Xander heard Angel’s booted feet stomping off and ignored the older vampire’s snort of disgust at their antics. “Love you, Spike. Missed you so much,” he whispered, knowing Spike would hear him.
“Love you too, Xander. Never leave you.”
“What the hell was that about?”
Typical. His Sire was putting on the innocent act, like he had no idea what he could possibly have done to piss Spike off. Used to pull that same shite with Dru: be standing there, trousers around his ankles, his seed dripping off her flesh and asking what Spike’s problem was.
“Teach you…” Spike began furiously and then reality hit and the world screeched to a halt.
Angel was climbing to his feet, blood dripping from a split lip, one eye already going puffy and swollen from damage that Spike had inflicted and there had been no pain.
Elation filled him. The bastards had failed. Whatever they’d done to him had worn off, or broken down, or just plain stopped working. Hell, maybe it had been the blood. Whether chemical, electrical, or psychological, whatever they’d done wasn’t working any more and he was whole again.
He was dimly aware of Xander asking him anxiously if he was ok and Spike laughed out loud at his sudden, unexpected victory. His boy never needed to know about his humiliation. Xander would never find out about how they’d crippled him. How he’d been reduced him to a pathetic, sniveling wreck. It was over. He was better now and could take back his life, his Claimed, his Territory…, and his revenge.
He was laughing like a maniac as he swept Xander into a hug, holding his boy in his arms as he’d feared he might never have the chance to again. He felt like partying, like going to a bar and thrashing every demon in the place, just because he could, like shagging his boy ‘til Xander couldn’t stand up. But that would all happen soon enough. For now, he settled for lifting Xander off his feet and spinning him around in sheer exuberance, loving the sound of his Claimed’s laughter and the feel of Xander’s warm body in his arms again where he belonged.
It was over. He was back and the soldiers were going to pay in ways they couldn’t even begin to imagine for what they’d done. They were going to learn the hard way just how badly they’d screwed up by fucking with William the Bloody, Master of the Hellmouth.
*A/N - Snippet of dialogue borrowed from the episode ‘Doomed’