orchidluv (orchidluv) wrote in bloodclaim,
orchidluv
orchidluv
bloodclaim

Nothing the Same, Book 3, Ch. 25

Nothing the Same, Book 3
Chapter:  25/?
Pairing: S/X
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


 

Chapter 25

The small hill overlooking the UC Sunnydale campus had a good view of the quadrangle where Spike had escaped from the Initiative. The area was well-lit and clearly visible from where he stood, although the metal hatch he’d climbed out of no longer existed. No trace of it remained; the grass that had been planted over the inconspicuous metal trapdoor looked as if it had been there as long as all the other grass in the courtyard. He suspected that, if he went down there and dug up the turf that now covered the spot, he would find that the access shaft had been filled in as well.

The bunker in the woods that Xander and Angel had discovered was the only entrance into the Initiative that they knew of now and that was sure to be heavily guarded. Spike narrowed his eyes as he stared down at Lowell House, wishing his gaze could penetrate brick and mortar and see what lay hidden inside. The fraternity was one of the buildings that bordered the open courtyard and its proximity to the access shaft was just one more reason to suspect that Lowell House wasn’t quite what it seemed.

Pulling the pack of smokes out of his shirt pocket, Spike felt a stab of renewed irritation at the loss of his duster. Above and beyond the trophy value, the coat had a multitude of pockets and was an excellent place to stash things. Lighting up, he tucked the cigarettes back into his pocket and considered what they knew about Lowell House.

According to Xander, the Slayer suspected that several of Maggie Walsh’s Teaching Assistant’s were soldiers in the Initiative and that they all lived in Lowell House. It made sense that the military would keep all their eggs in one basket. If Lowell House was the Initiative’s on-campus cover, then there should be a way into the base inside the fraternity. There had to be a damn big entrance somewhere for them to move their equipment in and out of and it wasn’t the bunker in the woods. That entrance was too inaccessible for anything but foot traffic. The fraternity would be perfect cover: trucks could go in and out all day and nobody would bat an eye. Slap a caterer’s label on the side of a van and no one would suspect it actually carried military equipment and supplies.

Xander had checked into the fraternity’s history but hadn’t found anything useful. Lowell House had been in the same spot long before the rest of the campus buildings. It had started out life as the Lowell Home for Children and been turned into a fraternity when the state built UC Sunnydale on the grounds of the former group home. From his position on top of the small hill, Spike could see the front of the building, the warm yellow light shining from the windows belying the secrets hidden inside. If Lowell House was the lid covering the underground base, the soldiers must have taken over the existing fraternity, chasing out the real students and filling it with their own people.

Once again, Spike found himself wondering how the base could have been built in such secrecy that no whisper of its existence had reached anyone in town - demon or human. They hadn’t carved the facility out of solid rock, Sunnydale was riddled with natural caves and sewer tunnels and underground passages and many of them were occupied. How could all those underground lairs and pathways have been taken over without the entire demon community being aware that something was going on?

It argued for magic and magic on an epic scale, not some two-bit practitioner who shopped for love-spell supplies at the magic store in town. Yet everything they had learned about the Initiative said they were completely oblivious to the mystic side of the demon world. The underground facility was white and sterile and filled with science, not an environment conducive to working mojo.

Frowning down at the fraternity, Spike took a deep drag of his cigarette, letting the warm smoke fill his lungs as he turned the problem over in his mind again, wondering if, in solving it, it would put him any closer to destroying the Initiative. If nothing else, it would be nice to know if the soldiers had some powerful witches on their side who could fry the bollocks off him before he got close enough to do any damage.

The only answer that made any sense was that the Mayor - ex-Mayor, he reminded himself with a smirk - was behind it. The timing was right, the Mayor had had enough power to work the necessary mojo to cover something this big, and the Mayor would undoubtedly have found the idea of helping set up a base for demon hunters in the very town he was about to destroy amusing. Hell, Spike appreciated the irony of the idea. Problem was, if the Mayor was the answer, then it was a useless one. The Mayor was dead and no longer a player on anyone’s side.

Still, if the Mayor was the reason the Initiative had been able to build their base in such complete secrecy, it was doubtful the government knew he’d used mojo to achieve his ends: clearing out the demons from the area and making sure no one involved remembered anything. The Mayor had been a talkative git but not about anything useful and the military was arrogant enough to figure they’d kept the lid on their project themselves. Which meant that the Initiative was exactly what it appeared to be: a bunch of cocky amateurs who didn’t believe in magic and thought they knew what they were doing and the “chip” soldier-boy had referred to - Spike had been pleased to learn that he’d put two men in the hospital despite the “chip” - had to be technological, not magical. A computer chip undoubtedly. And the one thing Spike knew about computers was that they always seemed to be breaking down. He just needed to find a way to bollocks up the one in his head and he was back in business. And, bonus, it was unlikely they were going to have to deal with any mojo when they attacked the Initiative.

Flicking the butt of his cigarette away, Spike spun on his heels and left the area. It was past time he started readying the Court for war.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Meeting Oz and Buffy for lunch, Xander was surprised to see that Oz had a folder of information on UC Sunnydale with him. Oz hadn’t said anything about staying in town for long, certainly not long enough to enroll in classes. After they had ordered, he tapped the folder which Oz had set on the table.

“What’s going on?”

“Getting into the part,” Oz answered cryptically, which just left him even more puzzled.

Buffy filled him in: “Oz is going to check out Lowell House for us. He’s been talking to the registrar about signing up for classes and poking around the campus as a cover story.” She mock glared at Oz. “It’s a cover story because I haven’t been able to talk him into moving back for real.”

Oz gave her a slight shrug. “Got commitments.”

“Whoa!” Xander held up both hands. Oz and Buffy had gotten together yesterday but he’d assumed they were just catching up with each other, not making plans for taking on the Initiative. When Oz had offered to help, he’d sort of figured Oz was volunteering to help them in an attack on the Initiative, if it came down to that, not for recon into enemy territory. Sending someone not fully human into Lowell House to ask questions about where they were keeping the demons struck him as both unnecessarily reckless and dangerous. “Doesn’t anyone but me think that is a seriously bad idea? As far as we know, Lowell House is filled with people who don’t like demons - and let’s not forget, they don’t see a difference between werewolves and demons.”

Oz gave him an unreadable look. “Xander, we need information. I’m the best person for the job.”

“Hello? These people will lock you up and torture you. You need to stay away from them.”

“As long as I don’t change, they won’t know I’m a werewolf,” Oz said calmly.

Buffy put up a hand to stop him as he drew breath to argue the point. “Xander, he’s just going to wander into Lowell House and the other buildings in the area, just like any other prospective student.” She gave Oz a sideways, half skeptical look. “He says he can just smell things to check for anything unusual.”

“You’re going to walk around sniffing things?” Xander asked in disbelief.

“Werewolves have a really powerful sense of smell,” Oz told him.

“What exactly do you think you’re going to be able to smell? We’re talking underground base here. Asking for a tour of the cellars is going to raise eyebrows.”

“We’re looking for people who are in regular contact with demons and who frequently use weapons,” Oz pointed out. “I’ll be able to tell if Riley’s friends are soldiers too. And I’ll know if there’s a way into the Initiative without leaving the main floor.” Xander was surprised by his certainty and Oz shrugged. “Air circulates. If one of the buildings has access to the underground base, I should be able to smell the demons in the cells anywhere in the building.”

“It’ll be ok, Xander,” Buffy said reassuringly. “Oz and I talked about it. He won’t do anything to call attention to himself, he won’t even have to ask a single suspicious question.”

“I’ll just be another new student wandering around, checking out the campus,” Oz said with a hint of a smile.

Xander bit back his objections. He didn’t have the right to tell Oz what he could and couldn’t do and the two of them did sound convincing. “Ok,” he said reluctantly, “but either Buffy or I should be there as backup.”

It didn’t surprise him that Oz was insisting on being in the thick of things, despite the risk. Xander had spent well over an hour in the library yesterday, reading the accumulated emails Oz had sent over the last two months and it had shown just how much Oz had changed, even if he seemed the same calm, self-contained person on the surface. Oz had found a home and acceptance with the werewolf pack - people who’d been through the same struggles he had and who were teaching him how to not only live with being a werewolf but to embrace it as a gift. It was clear that Oz had begun to think of himself as a werewolf and as a member of the pack. Before he left town, Oz had always thought of himself as human, infected by a disease, but still human. Back then, Oz had been searching for a way to control or exorcise the wolf. Instead, he’d found something he hadn’t even known he wasn’t looking for.

Oz’s emails hadn’t been the only surprise waiting for him in cyberspace. Willow had continued to email him regularly despite not having gotten any response from him in weeks. His inbox had held a dozen or so messages from Oz and nearly twice as many from Willow, the most recent having been sent yesterday. Scrolling through the messages, Xander had been ashamed that he’d let himself get so overwhelmed that he’d completely stopped checking in with both of them. Some friend he was.

After reading Oz’s emails, he’d tackled the ones from Willow and, skimming through them, Xander had felt his stomach tying itself in knots. Buffy had kept Willow abreast of what was happening in Sunnydale, including what the Initiative had done to Spike and Xander had been furious that Buffy had shared that with someone Spike despised.

Reading through Willow’s emails, he’d felt most of the anger drain out of him. Willow’s messages ran the gamut from worry over Spike’s disappearance to relief at his return and what seemed like genuine sympathy for his suffering. Reading them, Xander could tell that Willow had chosen her words carefully, trying to convey her feelings.

She’d done a better job than she probably intended. It was clear she was hurting for Xander’s pain, not for Spike. She may have brought herself to accept his and Spike’s relationship, especially from 5,000 miles away, but reading between the lines, he could tell she was no more fond of Spike now than when she’d left. Not surprising, given that she thought Spike was going to hurt Xander, even turn him one day, and Spike had made no secret of his hatred and contempt for Willow. He supposed it was too much to ask that they would ever get along.

Of course, Buffy and Spike had started out with a negotiated, mutual no-kill pact as their only point of agreement and they were almost friends now. Certainly they had long since arrived at mutual respect and were able to work together even if they only ever hung out together for Xander’s sake.

Willow’s last email, sent yesterday, was a summary of her research into Professor Walsh. He’d skimmed over that part as Willow was talking about Maggie Walsh’s brilliant reputation and her expertise in operant conditioning - which they already knew. Willow speculated that her involvement with the Initiative meant that they were trying to control demons psychologically. She reminded Xander how difficult it was to work magic on vampires and emphasized strongly that Maggie Walsh would be seeking a scientific control system - one that could be implemented on a broad scale. In addition to what was in the public record, Willow had somehow gotten her hands on some classified articles written by Professor Walsh that talked about the benefits of using operant conditioning on military personnel.

I’ve sent this all to Buffy as well, Willow had written.

Based on what we know about Maggie Walsh and how Buffy described Spike’s reaction to hitting someone, my guess would be that Prof. Walsh has found a way to put her theories into practice. The problem with behavior modification is that it wears off and it can be overcome, especially if the person knows what’s been done to them. It sounds like she’s found a way to make the negative stimulus that punishes the undesirable behavior permanent. Sorry - I know that sounds clinical.

The theory behind behavior modification is that you are punished or rewarded for good and bad behavior. You spank a child for stealing cookies so they won’t steal them again. But the child knows if you aren’t home, or if they can blame the dog or their sister, then they won’t get spanked. If the child knows they would be spanked EVERY TIME, without exception, they probably wouldn’t dare risk stealing the cookies ever again.

There are only two ways I can think of that would make that work: either magic or computers. Magic isn’t likely because scientists mostly don’t even believe in it. That leaves computers. It would take a really sophisticated program but a computer has the automatic response that seems to be happening to Spike. I can’t figure out how they could program a computer chip so it would recognize actions and respond properly but, if they’ve figured out that problem, they could wire it directly into the pain centers of the brain so that the chip causes pain without physical damage to the body.

If that’s what they’ve done, Xander, I don’t know how it can be fixed other than by the surgeon who implanted the chip to begin with. I’ll check with the coven but magic and vampires generally don’t mix well. They’re hard to affect magically, either to help or hurt them, and generally you can only use magic against them indirectly. For example: you can use magic to create sunlight and the sunlight will kill them but you can’t just use magic to make a vampire turn to dust.

Xander, I won’t lie and tell you that my first reaction wasn’t: good, he can’t hurt Xander now, but I want you to know I’m not thinking that anymore. I’ve thought a lot about Oz and Sgt. Morgan and Mr. Olsen and where you draw the line between human and demon. And I’ve been thinking about all those demons who came to help us against the Mayor. Some of them died trying to help us. They didn’t care that we were humans. Maybe most demons in Sunnydale are the kind that Buffy needs to kill, but they aren’t all that way and it sounds like these Initiative people don’t understand that. I might feel different about the chip they put in Spike if I could make myself believe that he was the only one it was going to happen to, but that just isn’t possible. Whatever their intentions, I don’t see their long term goals as being anything good.

It’s not a secret that I have a hard time accepting you and Spike, and I worry that things will end badly for you, but I haven’t forgotten that Spike was one of the demons who fought with us at Graduation. Even if he was just doing it for you, he risked his life to help keep a bunch of high school kids alive. For that reason alone, he deserves our help now.

I’ll keep looking and see if there’s anything else I can find that might help. If the coven has any ideas, I’ll let you and Buffy know right away. I hope to hear from you soon,

- Willow

Staring at the computer screen, the letters blurring in front of his unseeing eyes, Xander had turned her words over and over in his head, examining them from every angle. He and Willow had been trying to reconnect and Spike had remained the stumbling block they couldn’t seem to get past. Their electronic exchanges had grown more and more comfortable as they cautiously got to know each other again. Willow had trusted him with some big stuff: her relationship with Amy, sharing her exchanges with Buffy when she thought Buffy was losing it over her roommate, but they had both tiptoed around the existence of Spike, which meant they weren’t really communicating at all. Willow just couldn’t let go of her concern that Spike was going to turn Xander one day, even if she seemed to grudgingly accept that Spike wouldn’t hurt him for now. This was the first time that Willow had really been honest about her feelings about Spike and Xander couldn’t help but believe in her sincerity. It sounded like Willow had been thinking about the Initiative for a long time, cycling through a lot of the same worries that Xander had about what their ultimate purpose was.

Finally, he’d shut down the computer without answering, needing time to think about what to say, wanting to be as honest with Willow as she had been with him. It had given him a lot of hope for their future.

In the meantime, Willow might not be able to do much from England, but it was nice to know she was on their side.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“How many members of the Court have gone missing in the last couple months?” Spike asked.

His Lieutenants looked at each other and, not surprisingly, deferred to Jose, who took a moment to think.

Spike gave him the time he needed. He hadn’t given his Lieutenants any warning about this meeting, or Jose would have the information ready.

“Nearly a dozen,” Jose said finally. “The Slayer and her helpers probably accounted for at least half of them, but that’s more than they would usually kill in that time. The members of the Court generally know where she hunts and only cross her path when they are hunting her.” He frowned, looking at Spike thoughtfully. “Most of the vampires killed by the Slayer are not members of the Court.” He dipped his head respectfully. “More and more, the Court is following your lead, Master Spike, and hunting humans for sustenance and demons for sport.”

Spike nodded curtly. “There’s more demons than vampires in town, ever since we took out the ones working for the Mayor.” He let a smug grin cross his face, remembering how smoothly that fight had gone, but didn’t mention that the fact that he’d forbidden the members of the Court to create fledges was the primary reason for the decrease in the number of vampires. “Got some quality in the Court now and that’s too many gone missing to be the work of the Slayer.”

“The soldiers?” Anthony suggested. His Lieutenants all knew there was a group of soldiers in town hunting demons. They’d passed the word on to the Court, along with instructions to bring any sightings to their attention. Spike had put Michael in charge of tracking the information, looking for patterns, but the soldiers didn’t seem to patrol to any regular pattern. Instead, they acted with frustrating randomness. There would be no sightings for four or five days, then they’d be spotted three nights in a row. Sometimes they seemed to be following a specific target, other times they appeared to be just roaming around town hoping to stumble across demons.

“Most likely.” With an effort, Spike kept his fingers from tapping restlessly against his leg, showing nothing but outward calm to his Lieutenants despite the frustration roiling inside. “Right. ‘bout time we did somethin’ about these wankers. Been lettin’ ‘em have free run in our town for too long.”

He smirked as his Lieutenants exchanged shocked looks. “Master Spike,” Marc said hesitantly, “we will, of course, follow your orders but are you suggesting we take on the army?” His tone strove for neutral but the suggestion that Spike had lost his mind was clear and Spike let his displeasure show.

“Not talkin’ about the army, now are we? Just a small, self-contained base that the rest of the army doesn’t even know exists.” Marc sat straight in his seat, accepting the blistering reprimand in Spike’s tone without flinching. “Not talkin’ about a suicide mission, so you can stop pissin’ yourself.” He let his gaze scan the faces of his five Lieutenants. “Not goin’ into this half-cocked. I want you to start preparing the Court. From now on, every member of the Court trains every day. Pick the best with every type of weapon and have them work with anyone who’s not an expert with that weapon. Have them trade off: teaching one day and learning the next. Don’t care if they’re the best knife fighter in the world,” his glance lingered on Arkady, who relied exclusively on her expertise with knives, “have them learn the crossbow and using an ax as well. I want every member of this Court up to speed on every weapon we have.”

He stood, signaling the end of the meeting. “Don’t care how many questions they ask, no one but us knows what they’re training for.” He stared at Marc for emphasis, “don’t want the Court scarin’ themselves, thinking they’re in over their heads. We’ll lose half the Court to desertion. I’ll tell them what I’m planning just before we attack. They don’t need to know until then.”

“Master Spike? How long to prepare?”

Trust Jose to ask the sensible question. “Not sure,” he admitted. “Depends on when the Court is ready.” And when he had a workable plan, but they didn’t need to know that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Lowell House is Initiative Central,” Oz reported when they all met up at Devon’s apartment.

Oz was the last to arrive, he and Buffy having taken different routes from the campus to Devon’s place. Buffy had hung out in the quadrangle while Oz was checking out the buildings, making sure that Oz actually came out of every building he entered, while ostensibly having an outdoor study date with her friend Eddie as her own reason for hanging out in the area. Xander was just grateful that his paranoia was catching as the other two hadn’t balked at taking what felt a little like spy movie precautions but they had all agreed that it was better if Oz wasn’t associated with either Xander or Buffy. Xander was worried about the Initiative taking an interest in Oz, afraid that Oz might show some sign that he wasn’t quite human at the wrong moment.

Staying with Devon was the next best option to Oz leaving town - which Oz had already refused to do. Devon didn’t know that Oz was a werewolf and was one of the few people in their graduating class who had missed graduation. Not because he’d been scared, but because he’d been stoned and had slept through the ceremony. He’d also managed to miss the planning meeting where Buffy, Giles and Sgt Morgan had explained the facts of Hellmouth life to the senior class and, as a result, was one of the few people in their graduating class who was still mostly ignorant about what went on in Sunnydale after dark. Devon was as safe as it got from the soldiers. He wasn’t interested in anything but music and getting stoned and any one who tried to question him would figure out immediately that he wasn’t smart enough to be hiding anything.

“I checked every building around the area where Spike escaped,” Oz told them. “Lowell House is the only one that smells of demons. The smell is faint but it’s pretty much everywhere in the building. Either the underground base is ventilated through the House or there’s regular traffic in and out. I didn’t see any signs of an entrance but I was limited to the public areas on the ground floor.”

“Ok,” Xander said, feeling like they were finally making some progress. “So, is everyone in the House part of the Initiative, or just some of them?” He looked at both of them questioningly: “Can we get a list of everyone in the House? Sgt. Morgan found Riley’s army records, maybe he can check out the rest of them for us.”

“There ought to be some kind of a list somewhere,” Buffy agreed, chewing on her lip thoughtfully. “Sure would help if…” she stopped abruptly and glanced apologetically at both Oz and Xander. It was obvious she’d been wishing that Willow and her computer skills were here and had only remembered at the last second that it was less than tactful to say so in front of Willow’s ex-boyfriend and Xander with his uneasy, semi-relationship with Willow. “It would help to know how many of them are just college students, if we have to storm the place,” Buffy finished, trying to cover her slip. Xander gave her a reassuring smile.

“There’s another problem,” Oz said grimly.


“Great, because the ones we’ve already got are such piddling little things I was getting bored,” Xander said sarcastically.


“There’s something… off about Lowell House.”

“You mean besides being filled with soldiers instead of students?” Xander asked.


“There’s a chemical smell in the house. It’s not coming from the labs downstairs. It’s in the food, on their breath, in their sweat. It’s everywhere.” Oz’s voice had grown a little more sure as he spoke, like things were falling into place in his own mind while he was explaining it to them and he finished with quiet certainty: “Best guess: they're taking some kind of drugs.”

Buffy reacted first. “No way. Riley's like Mr. Corn-Fed Iowa Boy, no way is he taking drugs.”

Oz lifted an eyebrow. “Not that kind of drugs,” he said flatly and Buffy looked a little less positive.


“You mean like steroids or something?” Xander asked, remembering how Buffy had described Riley’s friends as all being big and buff.


Oz hesitated. “Maybe, but I doubt it's that simple. The smell was strongest in the kitchen. I think the drugs are in their food.”

They were silent for a moment, thinking that over. After a moment, Xander said quietly:
“That doesn't sound like something people do to themselves. Not unless you also smelled brownies.”

“No on the brownies,” Oz confirmed.

“Okay,” Buffy asked slowly. “What does that mean?”

“You’re asking us?” Xander shook his head. “Try asking the mad scientists with the hidden agenda instead.”

“It says everyone in the House is in on it, for one, including the kitchen staff,” Oz pointed out, staying on track, which was more than Xander was managing to do.

It felt like there were a thousand questions swirling around in his head and they didn’t have answers to any of them. “When you have eliminated all other possibilities, the remaining answer, no matter how illogical, is the right one,” he muttered to himself.

Oz gave him a fleeting grin. “Mr. Spock,” he identified, “but I think he said: ‘if you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’”

Xander couldn’t resist: “That was from one of the movies. I was thinking the shuttle episode where Spock logically decides it’s time for desperate measures.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Guys? This isn’t Star Trek. Captain Kirk isn’t just going to beam the Initiative out of our lives.”

“That would violate the prime directive,” Oz pointed out and Xander laughed at Buffy’s disgusted look.

“Is there a point to any of this or is this your way of saying we should take a break?” she asked impatiently.

“Sorry, Buffy.” Xander’s grinned faded as he continued. “What I was thinking was kind of a ‘what do we know’ thing, trying to figure out if any of this adds up.” He started ticking points off on his fingers, more thinking out loud than anything.

“One - the Initiative is experimenting on demons. Two - the scientist in charge is an expert on behavior modification. Three -” he faltered, then cleared his throat and continued: “Three - their experiments seem aimed at controlling demons, making them unable to hurt humans. Four - it looks like they may be drugging their own people.”

He looked at the other two. “And that’s it, right?” Which was unbelievably depressing. That that was all they knew after weeks of trying.

Buffy frowned, obviously trying to think of whether they knew anything else significant. “Five, the soldiers at least, don’t seem to know the ultimate purpose behind the Initiative.” She scrunched up her face, looking doubtful, “which may be something called 314.” Buffy had been highly skeptical of Ethan Rayne’s information, pointing out sarcastically to Giles that a man who poisoned candy and magicked Halloween costumes was obviously a man you could trust.

They mulled that over for a minute. Xander spoke first. “I come up with two theories about the drugging. Either it’s a steroid-type thing, and the soldier’s are doing it voluntarily to help them go up against things that are stronger than humans, or it’s involuntary, in which case there’s something else going on.” He shrugged helplessly. “And that’s all I’ve got. How about you two?”

“None of this makes any sense. Riley and the others seem totally on board with what the Initiative is doing, drugging them makes no sense at all.” Buffy looked angry and frustrated and completely thrown by this new piece of information.

Oz said thoughtfully: “I think the fact that Professor Walsh’s specialty is behavior modification is key. The question is: what are they doing with what they’re learning from these experiments?”

“And who are they intending to use it on,” Xander added darkly. “Can we get a sample of their food and get it tested?” he asked. Seeing their blank looks, he added defensively: “They do it all the time on tv, how hard can it be to find a lab? If we know what’s in the food, maybe that’ll tell us what they’re doing.”

“And whether the soldiers’ know about it,” Buffy added, perking up a bit. “If they don’t, that may give us a way to get through to them.”

“Yeah, because drugged-up, brainwashed soldiers are likely to be so reasonable,” Xander muttered.

Buffy’s lips tightened. “I’d be pissed as hell if I found out someone was drugging me…” her voice trailed off and she looked away and Xander winced, remembering that last year she had been drugged without knowing about it.

“Sorry,” he said quietly.

Buffy shook her head. “Old news.” She got to her feet, putting an abrupt end to the meeting. “I’ll call Giles about getting a lab test done. Oz, can you get yourself invited to lunch at Lowell House?”

Oz nodded. “Yeah. I think so.”

“Can’t you just make friends with a cute cook or something?” Xander suggested. “Invitations to lunch usually involve eating.”

“Have you seen the cafeteria cooks on campus?” Buffy shuddered. “They make the high school lunch lady look good.”

“I’ll think of something,” Oz promised.

“Be careful.”

Oz’s smile had a hint of the wolf in it. “Always.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*A/N - slightly mangled quotes borrowed from the Start Trek episode: The Galileo Seven and STAR TREK VI: The Undiscovered Country

TBC

 

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