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: Primarily season 4, but anything from Season 1 on.
Summary: sequel to Nothing the Same & Nothing the Same, Book 2
WARNING: This Chapter contains violence
Previous parts here
Spike cursed silently as he stared down at the note Xander had just handed him and braced himself for an argument. A really frustrating argument in pantomime. He was going to tear those things limb from limb tonight for making him go through this. A written argument had to be the most ridiculous thing he’d ever gotten himself involved in. Maybe sign language would work on his stubborn Claimed.
Standing up abruptly, he tore the note in half and let the two halves drift to the floor of the apartment, folding his arms over his chest and shaking his head emphatically. No way in hell was Xander coming along when they were fighting something that, from Spike’s experience last night, wasn’t able to be killed or even damaged permanently. No, Spike was recruiting the Slayer and a couple of the better fighters among the demons into this fight and that was it. Xander was bloody well going to stay put at the Watcher’s place and continue doing research into how to get their voices back so Spike could yell at him for wanting to put himself in danger.
Xander didn’t have the decency to look even slightly impressed. He glanced down at the torn up note for a second, then looked back up at Spike. Little bastard looked like he was suppressing an indulgent smile - like he was thinking that Spike was doing that cute overprotective thing again. “I’m going,” he mouthed silently, repeating his now torn up written declaration and to Spike’s annoyance, Xander simply got up, stepped around Spike and headed for the living room, acting as if the discussion was over. Which it bloody well wasn’t.
He never should have told Xander what he was planning for tonight. But he’d hoped a description of the things hanging out in the clock tower at the old courthouse would give the Watcher some guidance in his research. Spike intended to take along a couple good fighters for backup and put to rest his curiosity about whether the things would stay down after they’d been hacked to pieces. At the very least, it ought to make them a bit slower to get back up.
Xander had read Spike’s description of the creatures and the difficulty in killing them, his speculation that they were not the actual cause of the silence that enveloped the town but that they were related to it in some way, and the request to pass the information on to Giles so he could focus his research while Spike took some fighters with him to take on the things. Instead of following the plan, Xander had taken a long minute to digest the information, then, like it was the most obvious thing in the world, had picked up a piece of paper and written matter-of-factly that he would go to the clock tower with Spike.
It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Xander to watch his back - his boy could hold his own in any fight and had proven it more times than Spike liked to think about. It was just that he didn’t want Xander risking his neck in a fight with something they had no idea how to kill. It drove him nuts that Xander insisted on putting himself on the front lines of every major battle. Sure, he was content to stay home and miss out on all the little stuff, Xander had no interest in the day-to-day patrolling, but let some unstoppable, unkillable demon show its ugly face in town and suddenly Xander was demanding to be in the thick of things with no concern for the risk to himself.
One of these days, Spike was going to remember to chain him to the bed before he let Xander know about the latest pack of invulnerable demons.
He followed Xander into the living room, determined for once to talk some sense into his Claimed and found him kneeling beside the weapons chest, pulling out a selection of axes and swords and placing them carefully in the duffle bag they used to carry weapons across town inconspicuously. He completely ignored Spike’s agitated presence, examining the weapons and making selections that Spike had to approve. Give Xander the smallest amount of information about a situation and he seemed to have an instinct for how to approach it. Tell him there were demons in town who couldn’t be killed by normal means and Xander calmly pulled out the heavy axes and the weighted broadswords, clearly channeling Spike’s ideas about simply hacking the things to pieces and seeing if they could reassemble themselves.
Watching his boy, Spike lost track of his original plan to shake some sense into him and was caught off guard when Xander turned to look up at him. He mouthed a question that Spike didn’t catch and Xander looked as frustrated by the on-going silence as Spike felt. Xander pulled out the pad of paper he had taken to carrying in his back pocket and scribbled a quick note.
Do you have any chains downstairs?
Caught completely off guard by the nonsequitor, Spike gave him a raised eyebrow smirk and Xander snatched the pad back with mock huffiness. Later, maybe, he wrote with his own salacious look, then added: If we can’t cut them to pieces, maybe we can chain them to a wall or something.
Spike gave him a feral grin and a quick hard kiss. He pulled back just enough to see his boy’s face, close enough to still feel Xander’s warm breath, and he stared into his Claimed’s brown eyes, his hands buried in the thick waves of his hair, holding him steady. “Be careful,” he mouthed, shaking him just a little for emphasis, and Xander nodded.
“Chains?” he reminded Spike silently and Spike nodded, swooping in for another kiss, this one as slow and tender as the first had been quick and hard.
Oh, hell, he couldn’t talk sense into Xander when he had his voice. Not like he was going to be able to do it now.
Mrs. Olsen greeted him at the door with a warm smile but the strain that was beginning to tell on all of them as the town-wide silence stretched on had left its mark in the shadows under her eyes. Unable to say anything to reassure her, Xander impulsively gave her a hug. Mrs. Olsen gave him a surprisingly strong hug in return before stepping back so he could enter the house.
Xander quickly wrote a note. How are you holding up?
Mrs. Olsen shrugged, making a waggling motion with her hand.
Well, so-so was about the best any of them could claim today. It was surprising how quickly the silence had become oppressive, weighing on everyone’s nerves. It seemed like everyone in town was either so depressed they’d retreated to their beds or else their nerves were jangling until they just wanted to fight someone, anyone. Of course, from the line outside the liquor store before the police had forced the store to close, some were choosing a third option for dealing.
Fortunately, Xander was at the Olsens’ house as the bearer of good news. Sort of.
We think we know what’s causing this, he wrote. Where’s Mr. Olsen? We’re gonna need help.
Giles had found the answer this morning. When Xander had arrived at his apartment with Spike’s information, he learned that Giles had found the answer in, of all the crazy places, a book of fairy tales. Granted, the fairy tales in Giles’ book weren’t the modern, Disney-ized stories. The book he had shown Xander had been seriously old and conspicuously lacking in cute, talking animals. The stories were heavy on blood and guts and people getting their just deserts in really gruesome ways. The Gentlemen were an old story about monsters who come to a town and steal everyone’s voices, then collect the living hearts from seven people. In the fairy tale, a young princess - Xander had wondered idly as he read why it was always a princess and never the princess’ scullery maid who saved the day - screams and kills the monsters.
Given the headlines in the newspaper this morning and what Olivia had seen outside the window last night, the story fit all too well. According to the paper, their had been two murders in town last night and both victims had had their hearts removed. If the fairy tale was right and The Gentlemen needed to collect seven hearts, they would most likely be out again tonight looking for more victims. Unfortunately, the book was seriously lacking in details like how The Gentlemen managed to steal the voices and why the princess had apparently conveniently not lost hers. Not to mention what they wanted with seven hearts.
Giles hadn’t been sure where Spike’s “half-mummy, half-lunatic” creatures fit in to the picture but had agreed that it was unlikely that two unconnected groups of monsters were in town at the same time, both unable to be hurt by any conventional means. Which was why Xander was currently in charge of rounding up a posse to deal with the things.
With Giles’ warning that the stories said that The Gentlemen couldn’t be killed except by a human scream, Xander had a feeling the bag of axes and swords he’d carried over to Giles’ this morning was going to prove useless. They would have to rely on the ropes and chains he’d brought in the second bag, using them to restrain the things until they could find a way to get their voices back. Actually, he was hoping that with the new information, either Giles of Mr. Olsen’s researchers would be able to come up with some way to get their voices back. Killing someone by screaming at the top of his lungs sounded like a really satisfying plan right now.
The humans and able-to-pass for humans met up at Giles’ apartment an hour before sunset. Spike and the more obvious demons were traveling through the tunnels and would meet them at sunset in the park two blocks from the old Courthouse. Mr. Olsen had arranged for a couple of people to keep an eye on the building during the day but based on the last two nights, The Gentlemen didn’t move until well after midnight and they were hoping to be able to contain them inside the old Courthouse until they could figure out how to kill them. So far, it seemed they’d been right. The people watching had been instructed to call to alert them with a pre-arranged number of rings and their phones had remained silent throughout the day.
Despite knowing who was responsible, they were no closer to finding a solution to getting their voices back than they had ever been. Still, they had almost 20 fighters and Xander was fairly confident that they would outnumber The Gentlemen and their lunatic sidekicks.
Looking around the group in Giles’ living room, Xander couldn’t help being reminded of graduation. Most of the people there had been at graduation, which was both reassuring and worrisome. Not everyone had survived graduation and he prayed that they wouldn’t lose anyone tonight. He really missed Sgt. Morgan’s calm presence but the military base was under strict quarantine and Sgt. Morgan hadn’t been able to leave.
Giles’ had been keeping watch out the window and now signaled that it was time. The sun was almost down and they needed to leave now to rendezvous with Spike and the others. Taking a deep, steadying breath, Xander picked up his bag and headed out behind Giles, hearing the whisper of cloth and the muffled clank of weapons behind him as the others followed suit.
Spike swung his axe, using the back side of the weapon, slamming it sideways against the creature’s side. Experience had quickly proved that blunt instruments were more effective than blades against the things and Spike had reluctantly given up his plan to hack the things to bits. Their flesh was resistant to blades but they could be knocked off their feet and temporarily put out of the fight with blunt instruments. All of the fighters with them had quickly grasped that fact and an all-out battle was currently raging inside the old building, as bodies were slammed into walls and thrown across rooms. Despite the racket of splintering wood and of blows connecting with flesh, the fight was eerily silent, completely devoid of the typical yells and grunts that normally accompanied battle.
They outnumbered the things and Xander’s plan to neutralize them was slowly working. Three or four fighters would gang up on a single creature until they were able to pin it down through sheer numbers and wrap sufficient lengths of rope and chain around it to restrain it. Even then, the damn things proved remarkably resilient, flopping about and getting into everyone’s way as they struggled to get free. The first one had gotten free but they had learned from their mistake, and now they were wrapping them in a ludicrous number of restraints and taking the time to drag the tied up creature to the wall where the wound the excess lengths of chains through sufficient nails and boards to hold the thing in place.
The Gentlemen themselves had hovered - literally - on the edges of the fight. The damn things were a menace, gliding up behind fighters occupied by their minions and stabbing them with the razor sharp scalpels they had produced from old fashioned doctor’s bags. The perpetually grinning skeletons would then drift back, leaving their minions to follow up with the wounded fighter. Fortunately, the scalpels were too small to kill with a single blow and for the most part, the fighters were ignoring The Gentlemen. They’d learned the hard way that the well-dressed skeletons were too quick, gliding away from attacks and making their attackers chase them around the room in a futile dance as their minions redoubled their efforts to keep the fighters away from their masters. Despite the way they seemed to drift, their feet hovering a few inches above the floor, they could move remarkably quickly out of danger. Having learned the uselessness of trying to attack the Gentlemen while the minions were active, the fighters were now concentrating their efforts on the remaining minions and doing their best to avoid the skeletal figures.
It was hard to adjust strategy in the middle of battle when you couldn’t yell orders and suggestions to your allies. Bad enough he couldn’t taunt his opponents in his usual fashion but they were taking too many casualties, too many of the fighters were going down, at least temporarily, as the Gentlemen moved up unseen behind them. They couldn’t keep on ignoring them like this, they needed to do something about the drifting figures with their little scalpels that slid so easily into flesh.
Spike nearly lost it when he realized that Xander had seen the problem and apparently decided to appoint himself the defender of the other fighters, stationing himself between the Gentlemen and the groups of fighters and doing his level best to ward them off. Xander had long since abandoned his axe in favor of a length of pipe he’d picked up inside the building. He was swiping at the Gentlemen with it now, concentrating more on keeping them back than on actually connecting with them, the metal splitting the air as over and over again Xander flung himself between one of the shining scalpels and the unprotected back of a fighter, leaving himself open as he defended everyone else.
When this was over, Spike was going to kill him.
As more and more of the minions were successfully restrained, the fight began turning in their favor and other fighters joined Xander, forming a line of defense between the knots of struggling fighters and the Gentlemen, using baseball bats, axes, and lengths of pipe and wood to fend off the grinning skeletons.
Spike finished wrapping a length of chain around a wildly struggling minion, restraining the flopping arms with the thick links while another fighter used the rags of a dustsheet to gag the thing. They’d learned the hard way that the damn things bit. He turned the thing over to the rest of their group and looked around. The line of defenders was thick enough by now that they’d been able to herd the Gentlemen away from the action. Only one minion was still being restrained and Spike was moving towards Xander, wondering where they were going to get enough chain to restrain the floating skeletons when a sudden scream split the air.
It shredded the unnatural silence, slicing through it like a knife, and Spike whirled instinctively, seeing the Slayer standing by the window, screaming herself hoarse.
Something brushed past him and he spun back to face the Gentlemen, cursing himself for the lapse, and was surprised to realize he could hear the words coming out of his mouth. The Gentlemen were no threat to anyone right now. They were rigid in pain, hands raised to cover their ears, as their bodies stiffened and jerked. A quick glance at the minions showed them similarly affected, their bodies convulsing as the piercing scream went on and on. Suddenly, unbelievably, the Gentlemen’s heads began literally exploding. Everyone ducked instinctively as the heads splattered a stinking yellow pus around the room, coating the nearest fighters with gobs of the disgusting stuff. The Gentlemen’s bodies toppled like nine-pins, their minions simply collapsing like broken dolls as the Slayer let her scream die away.
There was a stunned silence. Even the splattered fighters seemed too shocked to move. Spike shook himself, glad he had been out of the range of the yellow goo, and said calmly: “Well, that was interesting.”