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
Previous parts here
Because of the holiday, i won't be posting a chapter next week. The next one will be up December 6.
“Not complaining or anything because talking is a good thing but why am I talking?”
Great, his first words in two days and he sounded like a gibbering idiot. Maybe he was better off without his voice.
“Nice lungs, Slayer.” Spike raised a sardonic eyebrow in Buffy’s direction. “Thought my head was going to explode if you kept it up any longer.”
“Hey, so not my fault that those things can only be killed by screaming. I don’t make the rules,” Buffy defended herself.
Taleea, the half-Ferschiff demon, laughed. “Whatever works,” she said philosophically, her claws retracting as she relaxed from battle readiness. “I for one am grateful they are dead.”
There was a general murmur of agreement and, now that the tension had relaxed, those who had been splattered with the smelly yellow remains of The Gentlemen were making complaining noises and peeling off outer layers of clothes.
Spike drifted over to Xander. “Smell worse than a Groymin, pet. Gonna have to burn those.”
“I agree.” Xander gave a disgusted shiver as he looked down at himself. He tugged off his jacket and tossed it into an empty corner. “Buffy? How did you get your voice back?”
Buffy gestured towards the small table with the jars of hearts sitting on it. Xander fought back the nausea that rose at the sight of the bloody organs filling the jars and looked away hurriedly.
“Our voices were apparently stored in that box.”
Curious, Xander couldn’t resist taking a second look, letting his eyes flit quickly past the gory sample jars to a small, carved wooden box with the lid open. He boggled. “You just opened the lid…?”
“Yep, and hey presto, instant voice refund.” Buffy grinned, obviously pleased with herself.
“How did you know?” As far as Xander could tell, there was nothing about the box to suggest it was anything special.
Buffy gave him a wry look. “Remember the little girl in my dream? She was holding the box.”
Ok, maybe he was going to have to dial back on his complaints about the uselessness of visions and mystic dreams. “Not bad.” He looked around the group, relieved that there weren’t any obvious injuries. “Is everyone ok?”
All of them were going to be stiff and sore and limping tomorrow but, thankfully, no one was seriously hurt. Xander himself was thinking longingly of a long hot shower to get the smell off, followed by a long hot tub to soak his muscles in and he could tell the others were having similar thoughts.
He didn’t know what to say. Thanking them felt almost like an insult - like he was implying that the others were only there as a favor to them, the real fighters against evil. Like saying that their group were the real players and the others were just hobbyists and that hadn’t been true in a long time. The demon community had become an indispensable part of their group, filling a crucial role in the ongoing struggle to keep things under control in the town.
Unable to think of the right words, Xander mustered a weary grin and settled on: “Drinks on me at Tashi’s on Saturday,” he promised and got a laugh and a couple of mock cheers as the group began descending the staircase, all of them intent on going home, getting cleaned up and going to bed.
“Bloody hell, now what?”
Spike pulled a pillow over his head, annoyed at having been woken up and did his best to ignore the earthquake that was shaking the apartment. It wasn’t a serious quake, just a trembler that rattled the dishes and rocked the chairs for a minute. Still, he kept a wary ear out for structural damage - he wasn’t looking to spend the day hiding under the covers if the shutters broke loose.
Nothing so dramatic happened. The earth stopped shaking and Spike shut his eyes against the ungodly mid-morning hour, determined to go back to sleep again, out of sorts because he was alone in the bed.
Despite how tired he’d been last night, Xander had set the alarm and gone to work this morning. He’d given Spike an apologetic kiss, explaining that, after losing two days of work due to the enforced quarantine, his boss wouldn’t accept anything less than a notarized death certificate as an excuse for not being at the job site. He’d given Spike’s staying hands a playful smack and slipped out of bed, showering quickly before heading out the door with the sun still barely over the horizon.
He really hated Xander’s job. It took him away from Spike for too many hours every day.
‘Course, he had to admit that Xander never complained about Spike’s responsibilities at the Court. That was different though. He was Master of the Hellmouth. Xander was his Claimed and not a bleedin’ day laborer.
Spike pitched the pillow across the room and scowled at the world in general. How the hell had they’d gotten here anyway? When he and Xander were together, everything was right with his world. It was these separations that were the problem and he needed to put a stop to it.
A reluctant grin creased his face as he thought of Xander’s reaction to Spike laying down the law and insisting Xander behave like a normal Claimed human.
Right. That’s how they’d gotten here. He wasn’t willing to force Xander to do things that would make him miserable. Stalemate.
He put the issue aside, shoving it to the back of his mind. He’d be bored silly in a week by a typical Claimed human anyway. Xander’s stubbornness and loyalty and misplaced bravery kept Spike on his toes. Arguing with Xander, training with him, laughing with him, watching him mature and develop had brought more joy to Spike’s unlife than he would have ever believed possible a few short years ago and that far outweighed the desire to keep Xander with him every minute like he was a typical Claimed human. Xander was as unique a Claimed as Spike was among Master Vampires. They suited each other.
The Court was quiet, the vampires long since asleep. Spike had gone downstairs and lifted the lock down last night, shortly after he and Xander had gotten home, warning the minions sternly to keep a low profile for the next couple of nights.
The town was still crawling with police and soldiers, both the ones from the town and outsiders sent in to enforce the quarantine, bad enough that the more obvious demons among the fighters had ended up taking the tunnels back to their homes. There had been a few sightings of the soldiers in the tunnel systems in the past weeks but they were relatively rare. Like most humans, the soldiers apparently disliked the tunnel systems with their perpetual dampness and the myriad foul odors. Spike wasn’t fond of them himself but he wasn’t human squeamish, having the advantage of not having to breathe and therefore being able to avoid the worst of the smells that permeated the tunnels.
After two nights of idleness, the Court minions had poured out of the doors of the factory like school kids at recess. Spike had met briefly with his Lieutenants, pleased to learn that there had been no problems in his absence. He’d told them little more than that he’d dealt with the problem, which they’d assumed anyway since their voices had returned. He hadn’t felt it necessary to mention that he’d had help in killing The Gentlemen. None of the others who’d helped him cared what the Court thought and it was better for his image as Master not to share the credit.
Returning to the apartment after dismissing his Lieutenants, letting them know they’d done well, he’d found Xander, clean and still damp, sound asleep in their bed. Spike hadn’t been tired and had considered waking Xander up, preferably in a way that would leave his boy aroused and eager for more, but, on second thought, had let Xander sleep, knowing he was exhausted and sore from the fight. Wrapping himself around the warm body, Spike drank in the smell of his boy, grateful that the yellow pus had washed out without leaving its stink behind. Head pressed against Xander’s back, he’d let the steady rhythm of his Claimed’s heartbeat lull him into sleep.
“Come on, it’ll be fun,” Buffy coaxed. “Porter Dorm is THE party dorm on campus. Besides, I want you to meet Riley.”
“Who?” Xander asked absently, most of his attention on his lunch. Buffy had called during his lunch break and he was trying to both eat and talk without being incredibly rude about it. He suspected he wasn’t pulling it off but he didn’t want to hang up, he was enjoying talking with Buffy instead of exchanging notes like they had for the last couple of days.
“Riley. I told you about him at Thanksgiving,” she reminded him.
“Oh. right.” Xander didn’t want to admit he’d just labeled the man Buffy had talked about as ‘New Guy’ in his head, waiting to see evidence that the relationship would last longer than a week before bothering to learn his name. Buffy’s track record with men sucked. “Aren’t you patrolling tonight?” he asked, taking a bite of his sandwich.
“No, Ramon’s got it. I checked with Giles and he’s sure it was just an earthquake, nothing portent-y, so I’m free to party. You’ll come, right?”
“Not tonight. We’re working late cleaning up, the quake did some damage at the site.” Nothing major but it was a handy, and mostly true, excuse.
He could see Buffy’s mock scowl over the phone. “One of these days, you’re going to have to stop making excuses, Xander. Dorm parties are fun.”
Xander couldn’t resist. “Tell you what, bring Riley to Tashi’s bar on Saturday. You can introduce him to the whole gang at once.”
“Yeah, that’s going to happen. It took a ‘laryngitis outbreak’ to get him to kiss me, he’s so not ready for a crash course in welcome to my life.”
“Finally got some action out of him, did you?” He vaguely remembered Buffy complaining that she and the new guy hadn’t seemed to be able to get past the talking stage. Although, he couldn’t help thinking that if the new guy had bought the authorities’ laryngitis explanation, he wasn’t very bright.
“And how,” Buffy answered. Xander could almost hear her licking the cream off her whiskers. Fortunately, she remembered that she was talking to a guy and left it at that. She’d learned the hard way that too many girly details about her love life just caused Xander to retaliate by describing his and Spike’s activities. Buffy claimed she wasn’t old enough to hear about their ‘escapades’ as she put it.
He must have lost track of the conversation for a minute because Buffy sighed. “I should let you go, I can tell you’re busy.”
“Sorry, you caught me at lunch. But have I thanked you for the fact that I’m talking today?”
She laughed. “My pleasure. Tell you what, I’ll let you off the hook about the party this time, mister, but you are going to come to the next party I invite you to.”
“I will,” Xander promised although he didn’t really want to go to the campus parties Buffy had been inviting him to. He suspected he wouldn’t fit in and, while he didn’t really care what a bunch of college students he didn’t know thought of him, he didn’t particularly want to spend an evening getting drunk and defending himself for not going to college.
Hanging up, he stared into space, chewing thoughtfully on his sandwich. He’d met several of Buffy’s friends and they were ok, but they all seemed to start out talking down to him unconsciously, as if he had to be stupid because he was a townie and not a student. Most of them got over it when they learned he could string a coherent sentence together but mostly they talked about classes and assignments and dorm life, topics he couldn’t really contribute to. Probably he should just be grateful that he and Buffy had remained friends but then there were a lot of things she could talk to Xander about that she couldn’t discuss with any of the other students.
“Thanks, Mr. Olsen, I’ll head over there and see what’s up. Keep looking.”
Xander hung up the phone and looked at Spike. “Turns out the Word of Valios isn’t a book after all. Mr. Okolo had heard of it. He says it’s a talisman. Last he knew, it was owned by a sorcerer in England.” Once again, Mr. Okolo had come through for them. It was great having a nearly immortal demon on their side.
Giles had called this morning to fill them in. At the Porter dorm party Xander hadn’t gone to, a student had been killed. His blood had been drained and mystical symbol carved into his chest. Giles had found a reference to the symbol and the ritual, which required a sacrifice and three ingredients: the blood of a man, the bones of a child, and something called the Word of Valios. Giles had been seriously freaked, saying that the ritual was intended to open the Hellmouth. Xander was completely on board with stopping that from happening - he still had nightmares from the last time he’d seen it open.
“Well, that puts it nicely out of reach. Sounds like we can knock off and stop worrying about this ritual.”
“Unless it was the first thing they picked up before coming to town,” Xander pointed out gloomily. “Mr. Olsen said he couldn’t reach Giles or Buffy.”
“And you want to head over and see if he’s alright,” Spike guessed.
“Want to come?” The sun had set not long ago.
“Sure. Need to give the Watcher a piece of my mind for sending you on a wild goose chase looking for a book that isn’t a book.”
“It’s possible I might mention it myself.” Giles had asked Xander to check out the museum book archives on the off chance the Word of Valios was there. Granted, it wasn’t an unreasonable assumption that something with that name was a book but it had apparently been a complete waste of four hours in a room filled with musty, really dull books.
“Wait up, luv.”
Spike put a staying hand on Xander’s arm and Xander obediently halted, knowing Spike had sensed something. Spike was listening intently, his whole body tense as he tried to pin down what had alerted him.
“Watcher’s hurt,” he reported. “Something’s been and gone. Can’t quite place the smell but it’s familiar.”
Xander tried to hurry forward and Spike tightened his grip, keeping Xander at his side as they cautiously approached the sunken courtyard to the Watcher’s ground floor flat. As they got closer, Spike was positive the attackers were gone and let Xander run ahead of him.
Typically, Xander sprinted ahead anxiously, barely remembering to check that the flat was clear before entering through the kicked open door. Spike shook his head. He would never be able to convince Xander to be cautious when someone he cared about was hurt.
The Watcher was lying on the floor of the living room, books and knick-knacks scattered around him, the furniture tossed about, a few of the chairs broken. It looked like the Watcher had put up a good fight and Xander was already kneeling by his side, checking him carefully for injuries.
“Spike, call 911. He’s hurt.”
“It’s my fault.” The Watcher stirred and tried to sit up, blood covering the side of his face and dripping steadily onto the ground from the claw marks that had sunk deeply into his cheek and shoulder.
“Don’t move, Giles. An ambulance is on the way.” Xander looked around at Spike impatiently and saw that the phone had been torn out of the wall. He yanked his cell phone out and tossed it to Spike who fielded it neatly, using it to call 911 as instructed, feeling vaguely embarrassed as he did so. Calling 911 was something that vampires simply didn’t do.
“The Word of Valios is the name of a talisman, not a book,” Giles told them, fighting back the pain. “I had it here.”
“We know…,” Xander began then stopped short as the Watcher’s words sank in. “You had it here?” Despite his surprise, his hands remained steady, supporting the Watcher as he struggled to sit up,
“I bought it at a sorcerer's estate sale. I really only glanced at it once. I thought it was a knock off.” Giles’ faltering voice was full of self-recrimination.
Spike had been looking around as he listened and now he bent down to scoop up a book off the floor, looking at the marked page. There was a drawing of the demon the Slayer had seen on patrol last night. The one collecting the bones of a child from a crypt, sending the Watcher into a tizzy, saying the end of the world was near and the demon was planning on opening the Hellmouth.
“Vahrall demon, eh?” he commented. “Nasty buggers. Big on religious mumbo-jumbo. Always chanting rituals and sacrificing things, trying to bring back the good old days. Dead boring really.”
“The good old days?” Xander asked, leaving Giles propped up against the couch and heading for the kitchen.
“When demons outnumbered humans 10 billion to, well, none really.” Spike grinned cheerfully at Xander’s appalled expression.
“Spike’s right,” Giles said faintly. “They're on their way to perform the sacrifice now.”
“With all the ingredients to open the Hellmouth,” Xander finished for him, returning to his side with a couple of dishtowels and an ice tray.
“Then we stop them.”
Buffy’s voice came from the open doorway. She had obviously overheard enough to know what had happened and was looking grimly determined. “We should be able to get there before they finish the ritual. Are you guys in?” Her harsh look softened as her worried glance went to Giles. “Will you be ok?”
“Yes. Go, stop them.” Giles reached up and took the makeshift icepack from Xander’s hand. “Go,” he insisted. “The ambulance will be here in a minute.”
Spike strode over to Giles’ weapons chest and selected an axe which he tossed to Xander, who caught it easily. “We’re in.” Ordinarily, he loved a good apocalypse but they were hard on humans. Plus, he hadn’t forgotten what had tried to come out of the Hellmouth when the Sisterhood of Jhe had opened it. He had a score to settle with that little beastie.
“That’s it, we’re out of here.”
Spike grabbed Xander’s arm and began pulling him bodily from the shaking ruins of the old high school. The second demon had just fought clear and made a run for it, dropping into the Hellmouth with the talisman clutched firmly in one clawed hand. The earthquake was exponentially stronger this time than when the first one had dived into the hole. Beams were crashing down and the building didn’t look like it was going to remain standing much longer.
“Spike! What about Buffy?”
“She’ll be fine,” Spike answered brusquely. “But the sooner we get their little toys away from the great bloody hole in the ground, the less chance there is of something going wrong.” He hefted the little sack containing the child’s bones that they’d taken from the third demon, the one Buffy was now fighting. The first demon had had a little jar of blood and his self-sacrifice had clued them in to what the “Sacrifice of the Three” really meant. Not three others but the demons themselves.
“Right.” Reluctantly, Xander realized there was nothing they could do. Buffy’s boyfriend had better be up to the task of getting her out of here. He stopped resisting the pull of Spike’s grip on his arm and started running, jumping over fallen beams and ducking as plaster and wood broke free from the collapsing ceiling, raining down around them.
The town really needed to condemn this place, he thought. The whole building is going to come down sooner rather than later. Besides, covering the Hellmouth with a nice thick layer of concrete seemed like a good plan to him, especially after this week’s shenanigans.
They waited anxiously near the front entrance. At least Xander did. Spike wasn’t particularly worried. The Slayer was a survivor, she’d be fine.
It wasn’t long before he heard the sound of two sets of footsteps approaching. “Told you, luv,” he said comfortably to Xander. “Here she comes.” He cocked his head, listening. “Someone’s with her.”
“Her new boyfriend,” Xander filled in and Spike made a noncommittal noise. He’d been peripherally aware that someone else had entered the ruined library and joined in the fight, but it had obviously not been an ally of the demons they were fighting and Spike’s attention had remained on demons. The man hadn’t really registered.
As the Slayer approached, Spike stood up from where he had been idly leaning against the wall. Xander had point-blank refused to leave the building once the shaking had stopped until he learned if Buffy was ok. Spike had refused to let him return to the unstable library so they had compromised by waiting in a more stable area not far from the front doors. “Something’s up,” he told Xander. “Slayer’s got her knickers in a knot over something.”
Xander had dropped the axe back in the library when they’d figured out the Vahrall demons weren’t interested in fighting and their goal had changed from killing the demons to taking their trophies away and preventing them from jumping into the open crack in the floor that was the Hellmouth. Now he straightened up and readied himself in case there was a problem. The Slayer wasn’t running or fighting, but Spike could smell her nervousness and her voice sounded tense as she talked to the man with her.
The Slayer appeared around the corner, a large sandy-haired man at her side, and Spike found himself growling almost before he registerd that he recognized the uniform the man was wearing.
“Riley, this is Xander and Spike,” the Slayer began nervously but Spike was beyond listening.
Spike was on the man before any of them saw him move and the force of the impact sent them both crashing to the ground. Pain seared across his consciousness as they tumbled over in a tangle of limbs and he screamed involuntarily, rolling away from the soldier as the familiar pain tore through him, leaving him helpless on the ground, unable to see, unable to fight, unable to do anything but suffer the punishing agony.
When the pain retreated enough to allow him awareness of his surroundings again, the first thing he heard was Xander’s anxious voice.
“Spike! Are you ok? Talk to me.”
He sat up with Xander’s assistance, then climbed slowly to his feet. Despite the trembling in his muscles from the debilitating pain he was not going to stay down like a dog in front of the enemy.
“What’s going on?” Buffy was helping the soldier to his feet and he was staring wide-eyed at Spike.
Soldier-boy sounded stunned. Xander’s head snapped around and he stared in shock at the Slayer’s boy toy. “You’re one of them,” he whispered, barely audibly.
Xander moved so quickly he left Spike staggering at the sudden loss of support. His fist connected with the man’s face and the soldier stumbled backwards, caught completely off guard, knocked off his feet for a second time by the force of the blow. Xander pounced on top of him, holding him with one hand fisted in the front of his vest and punching the man over and over again until the Slayer finally broke out of her frozen shock and grabbed his arm as he lifted it to strike yet another blow.
Xander snarled at her and jerked free but the distraction had already done its damage. As he turned back the soldier blocked his next blow, then threw himself forward, grappling with Xander. The two wrestled, muscles straining as each tried to gain advantage over the other, then the soldier succeeded in shoving Xander back and off him. Xander rolled with the force of the shove as Spike had taught him, using the momentum to disengage and regain his feet.
“Knock it off, both of you!” the Slayer yelled, just as the soldier aimed a solid punch at Xander’s head, which Xander barely avoided by dodging backwards.
Spike roared in fury and charged the soldier, beyond caring about the consequences as the man attacked his Claimed. The crunch of their bodies slamming into the wall was completely overwritten by the agony that flared instantly, sending him crumpling helplessly to the ground, unaware that he was screaming and mindlessly clutching his head in a desperate attempt to contain the pain.
The pain faded and Spike found himself held in Xander’s arms. The Slayer’s angry voice sounded in the background, arguing with her soldier boy. He could smell Xander’s anger and fear and feel the tenseness in his muscles, even as he cradled Spike protectively.
“They’re nothing but dangerous animals,” the soldier was saying in clipped, angry tones. “Hostile 17 is an escaped government prisoner and I am taking him back into custody.”
Before Spike could tell him exactly how unlikely that was, Xander’s furious voice sounded over his head: “You’ll take him over my dead body.” His arms tightened around Spike and, obviously sensing that Spike had recovered, he pulled them both to their feet, using the wall for support as they rose. “We’re leaving and if you make one move to follow us, I swear to God I will kill you.”
“Xander, go. I’ll handle this,” the Slayer said, blocking the move the soldier made towards some kind of weapon. “Riley, we need to talk. Now.”
It went against every instinct he had but Spike let Xander pull him away, backing them slowly down the corridor towards the doors, keeping a wary eye on soldier-boy the entire time. The Slayer moved to stand between them and the frustrated soldier, blocking him from pursuing and Xander picked up the pace of their retreat.
What Spike wouldn’t give for the chance to tie soldier-boy up and torture him until he told Spike exactly what had been done to him and how to fix it. For now, no matter how much he hated it, he was going to have to wait and see how the Slayer handled things.
*A/N - Bits of dialogue borrowed from the episode ‘Doomed’