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 EXPLICIT SEX
Previous parts here
The television was on when Xander opened the apartment door cautiously, checking as he always did to make sure Spike wasn’t standing anywhere the rays of the sun would reach when the door swung open. Spike was on the couch, watching a soap opera - something that always amazed Xander, no matter how many times he saw it. There was just something weird about a vampire being hooked on a cheesy soap opera that featured a witch and a talking doll. Even worse, Xander had been there the day Spike and Joyce Summers discovered they both watched the show. He’d listened with open mouthed incredulity as the two them had discussed plot twists and character relationships with the same serious interest with which they debated trends in art and theater.
And they had the nerve to make fun of his liking for Patsy Cline and classic science fiction.
He vaulted over the back of the couch, reaching casually for the remote as he landed on the cushions. Spike’s hand flashed down with that unfair vampire speed, snatching it away before he could get a grip on it and he grinned as Spike stuffed it underneath his far leg without ever taking his eyes off the screen.
“Not nice, luv.”
“Can’t blame a guy for trying.” Oh well, the show would be over soon anyway. Xander leaned against Spike’s shoulder staring in the direction of the TV without actually watching it, his brain still puzzling over the meaning of what Oz had discovered about the soldiers being drugged. Spike put an arm around him, pulling him in closer as he watched his show.
When the end credits rolled, Spike switched of the TV and shifted slightly so he could look at Xander. “What’s got you all worked up, luv?”
It was almost scary sometimes, how well Spike could read him. Of course, he had all those vampire senses going for him, which meant he could listen to Xander’s pulse and breathing and even smell some of his stronger emotions. Spike could always tell when Xander needed some time to collect his thoughts, as opposed to something he needed to talk about right away.
“Did you know that werewolves have an even better sense of smell than vampires?” he asked. Not really the point but, given how good Spike’s sense of smell was, it had blown him away when Oz told him that werewolves had an even better one.
“Everyone knows that,” Spike told him, cocking his head and studying Xander. “That really what you wanted to talk to me about?”
“No, I was just surprised.” And he had been. Although the research they’d done on werewolves back when Oz had first been bitten had mentioned that werewolves had a good sense of smell, they hadn’t said that their olfactory abilities put a vampire’s to shame - and vampires could smell a lot of things that humans couldn’t. Just one of those things that was common knowledge in the demon world that humans had no clue about, he thought.
Sitting up straight, he quickly filled Spike in on what Oz had learned at Lowell House. Spike’s eyebrows rose in disbelief when he heard that there were drugs in the soldiers’ food supply.
“Well, in’t that interesting,” Spike said after Xander finished, his eyes narrowing as he considered what the information meant.
“Oz is going to try and get a sample so we can test it.”
“Good thinking,” Spike said absently, his thoughts obviously still elsewhere. “Be nice to know what they’re taking, ‘specially if the wolf doesn’t think it’s steroids.”
“Buffy thinks they don’t know they’re being drugged.” Xander wasn’t as sure about that as Buffy, but she’d made a pretty strong case.
Spike made a scoffing sound. “Slayer would think that. Still wantin’ her toy soldier to be a good guy, isn’t she?”
“That’s part of it,” Xander agreed slowly, “because she doesn’t think he would take drugs voluntarily.”
“Surprising what people are willing to do if they’ve convinced themselves it’s for the greater good,” Spike said before he could finish. “If his bosses told him it was for truth, justice and the American way, soldier boy would probably open wide and swallow anything they gave him. Git.”
“Yeah, but they could just be telling them it’s vitamins and stuff,” Xander argued, not really sure why he was taking on the devil’s advocate role. Maybe Buffy wasn’t the only one who wanted the soldiers to be the good guys at heart. It would sure make things easier if it was true, no question. “If we can find out what they’re taking, we’ll have a better idea.”
“Don’t really care if it’s voluntary,” Spike said. “But what they’re takin’, that’s important. Need to know if it’s going to make them better fighters.” He looked at Xander’s steadily. “Lots of stuff out there to make you stronger, faster, tougher, even it most of it doesn’t last long. An army of drugged up soldiers feelin’ no pain is a whole different thing than fighting regular humans.”
Xander met his gaze, not flinching from the summation. He still clung to the hope that they could avoid an all-out war but Spike was right - they needed to know what they were facing, either way.
“Oz is pretty sure he can get a sample,” was all he said. “But, Spike, if they’re being drugged without knowing about it, and we can prove it, maybe we can get through to them.”
Spike didn’t even try and rein in his skepticism. “Xander, whatever they’re taking, it’s not the reason they’re doing what they’re doing. Telling them about the drugs isn’t going to make them feel bad about what they’ve done and release all the demons they’re holding.” He held up a staying hand and Xander bit back his response and let him finish.
“The drugs aren’t stopping them from living their lives, teaching classes, handling weapons, obeying orders. We’re not talkin’ about dribbling idiots in padded cells. Their brains are clear enough that you and the Slayer didn’t suspect anything and the Slayer’s known soldier boy for months.”
Spike waited, his scarred eyebrow raised in silent question and Xander nodded reluctantly, Spike’s logic having silenced his arguments.
“Not saying that some of them aren’t going to be pissed as hell, luv. But don’t count on it making a difference. If they’re drugging soldiers without them knowin’ about it, their superiors would be dumb as posts if they didn’t have a plausible explanation all ready to trot out in case they need to bring their boys back in line.”
“I suppose. Still, maybe enough of them will be pissed off to at least start to ask question.”
“Long as you’re careful, feel free to start any insurrections you can, luv.” Spike smirked at him and Xander had the depressing feeling that Spike was humoring him. He sighed, feeling like they had stepped one step closer to war, not one step further away, like he’d hoped since Oz told him about the drugs.
“Something I need to tell you, luv.” Spike’s voice interrupted his gloomy thoughts. He ran his hand down Xander’s thigh, caressing him absently as Xander looked at him inquiringly. “Gonna have to spend more time downstairs for at least the next few nights, probably longer.”
“Is everything ok?”
For a minute, he thought Spike was going to duck the question, then Spike pulled him in for a one armed hug. “Getting the Court ready, luv. I’ve given orders that everyone is to train every night.” He shrugged. “Don’t need to be there, the boys will see my orders are carried out, but things will go better if I’m around to supervise.”
Xander felt new fear curling inside him and he licked suddenly dry lips. “You’re getting them ready to attack the Initiative, aren’t you?”
“Not going to let things go on like this indefinitely, Xander. This is my Territory and I’m going to take back control, one way or another.”
He’d known it was coming a long time, Xander thought. It wasn’t a surprise even if he’d been trying to avoid thinking about it. Vampires were about power and status and Spike liked being top dog. The Initiative weren’t just a threat, they were a challenge to his status and that was the reason that Spike wouldn’t agree to just leave town. Spike had accepted the chip as a temporary setback only because he viewed it as temporary. He wasn’t willing to ride out the Initiative’s presence in his territory because they were a rival claimant to his control and it wasn’t likely they were going to just fold their tents and leave.
Bottom line, even if it came to a war, he knew which side he was on. Spike had kept the number of vampires down lower than they had been at any time since the Master had artificially built up their numbers. Fewer humans were being turned and more were surviving vampire attacks due to Spike’s subtle encouragement for the vampires of his Court to go after more difficult prey. Sunnydale was safer under Spike’s control and the Initiative was the one endangering harmless beings. The Initiative was the one stirring things up to the point where war was beginning to seem inevitable. Even without Spike, the demons in town would eventually turn on their attackers.
None of which made it anymore likely that Spike would survive the attack. Unable to fight humans, the chances that Spike would both make it through the attack unscathed and survive the aftermath were slim to non-existent. It was all too likely that some of the vampires would figure out that Spike was crippled and try to take over the Court. As Spike had pointed out once, not all vampires were above hiring a human to take Spike out.
Without a word, Xander practically threw himself at Spike, pushing him back down into the cushions and kissing him hungrily. His mouth devoured Spike’s, desperate to hold onto him for as long as possible.
Spike returned the kiss with enthusiasm, opening his mouth under Xander’s, as Xander’s tongue darted in aggressively, tasting, exploring. Spike’s fingers curled in his hair, holding him firmly as they kissed until Xander pulled back a little, eyes almost black with arousal, breath coming in short pants as he stared down into Spike’s eyes.
“I love you, Spike.”
He didn’t give Spike time to answer, his mouth closing the narrow gap as he kissed Spike again, softly, nibbling and licking and memorizing the tastes and textures of his lover. Spike’s hands slid from his hair down to his back, stroking, tracing the outlines of his shoulder blades and dropping to his waist, holding him firmly and tenderly as they kissed, tongues dueling lazily, advancing and retreating, lips sliding against each other, both lost in sensation.
Only gradually did Xander become aware of a competing sensation and he shifted slightly to better align their erections, never breaking the contact of mouth on mouth as he began rocking their hips together in a slow maddening rhythm that was guaranteed to drive them both out of their minds before long.
Spike’s hands slid to his ass, cupping him and encouraging the rocking motion, even as he sucked on Xander’s tongue and groaned into his mouth. Xander felt himself speeding up, hips jerking against Spike’s narrow hips, even as he tried to stop their accelerating rush towards orgasm, wanting this to last as long as possible as if he could stave off the outside world as long as they remained in the magic circle of their love and desire for each other.
With a harsh cry that was as much defeat as relief, he lost the battle and came, his cock jerking inside his jeans, spurting his release all over himself, feeling Spike buck up beneath him as he also reached orgasm.
Oz answered Xander’s knock in worn sweat pants that hung low on his hips and a faded t-shirt, which had surprised Xander. They weren’t clothes Oz would have worn to the fraternity, not in his role of a prospective student wanting to make a good impression, which implied that Oz had been back for awhile. Which didn’t bode well for the success of their plans.
Oz lead the way to the messy living room, taking the one open spot on the couch and picking up the guitar he’d obviously just put down to answer the door.
“Clear off a chair and have a seat,” he said, his fingers already fitting themselves to the strings.
It was like revisiting their senior year, when he would sit in the studio behind Oz’s house and listen to Oz practice and for a short space, outside time and their looming problems, Xander relaxed and just watched Oz’s fingers shaping chords and let the music wash over him. Buffy would be there in a little while and that was soon enough to find out what had happened at Lowell House.
He sighed when he heard the knock on the door, and reluctantly went to answer it. Buffy came in with a smile and the smell of cookies and coffee and they moved to the folding table that served as Devon’s kitchen table and settled down for caffeine and chocolate chips and news.
“Something big is going down at the frat,” Oz told them. “The place is deserted, just a couple of guys keeping an eye on things and they aren’t really hiding the fact that they’re guarding the place.” He gave them a moment to let that sink in before going on. “Something’s made them take the gloves off. I was stopped at the door by two guys who were so obvious they might as well have been wearing uniforms, demanding to know what I was doing there.”
“Did they suspect anything?” Buffy asked worriedly, frowning at that news, setting her third cookie down untasted.
Oz shook his head. “I just told them I’d been invited to lunch by Graham and they said to come back another day. Made up some excuse about the kitchen being closed because of a problem.” He shrugged. “They weren’t the best ad-libbers, couldn’t come up with what the problem was on short notice.”
“Graham?” Xander asked.
“One of the guys at the fraternity,” Oz explained. “He’s the one who invited me to eat with them.”
“He’s a friend of Riley’s,” Buffy added. Her lips quirked up in an impish smile as she glanced at him. “He’s really cute, Xander. You might like him.”
“Oh, yeah. ‘Cause the military is definitely a safe place to troll for dates,” Xander answered flippantly.
“The guys at the door weren’t big with the welcome mat.” Oz looked at them soberly. “They were upset and worried, but mostly, they were angry. Fists-clenched, teeth-gritted, barely-holding-it-together angry. And not at me. So, no luck on the food samples. I bailed.”
“Good,” Xander told him.
“What could make them so angry?” Buffy asked. “And where do you think everyone was.”
“Down in the basement?” Xander suggested, only somewhat facetiously.
“I’d guess that one of the demons killed someone,” Oz said, “except, I didn’t get a grief smell, just anger.”
Xander considered that, tapping a finger nervously against the table. Out of control anger and lots of weapons were a really bad mix. “The brotherhood in blue?” he suggested.
“Could be,” Ox answered, looking thoughtful.
“I hate it when you guys do the cryptic thing,” Buffy complained.
“When a cop gets shot, every cop in the area reacts, even if they never met the guy who was killed,” Xander explained.
“You think the Initiative is reacting to someone being killed, because it’s a member of their group.” Buffy’s lips tightened and she looked stricken.
“Someone like one of the scientists,” Xander hastened to reassure her. “All the soldiers probably know each other, so Oz would have sensed grief too. But if one of their captives killed someone in the labs, that would be enough to set them all off.”
“In which case, we better lay low for awhile,” Buffy said after a moment. “You, especially, should stay clear of them, Oz.”
Xander was relieved to see Oz nod. If the Initiative had lost one of their own, they were likely looking for revenge. He looked grimly at the other two. “I’m going to call Mr. Olsen and tell him to warn everyone to stay off the streets tonight.”
“Good idea. I’ll take patrol, I think Pyotr’s scheduled.” Pyotr was half E’tofskoni. He could pass for human from a distance but the shape of his ears and the color of his eyes gave him away up close.
“Let it go for tonight,” Oz suggested and, after a moment, Buffy nodded.
“I can use the study time. I’ll call Giles and Pyotr.”
Lounging in the high backed seat that he so rarely used because it was so bloody pretentious, Spike watched the minions sparring with critical eyes. He’d spent at least half the night in the Court over each of the last few nights, watching, sparring, and receiving reports from his Lieutenants on the Court’s state of readiness.
With Spike’s frowning regard on them, grumbling about the training he was insisting on had been almost non-existent. Most vampires didn’t see any need to improve their skills, minions were reborn arrogant and sure of themselves. It generally took a few decades of unlife before they realized that there were things in the world that could kick their ass without breaking a sweat. Not humans, of course, but Slayers and older vampires, and some demons. One good scare and, if they survived, the smarter ones re-thought their assumption of invincibility and started training. Spike had “demonstrated” moves to some of the less enthusiastic minions over the last few nights that had given them that scare - a stake in their chest, stopping barely an inch from their heart, an ax buried two inches deep in the side of their neck before it was jerked back, and suddenly the minions were putting some effort into it and actually listening to the vampires assigned to train them.
He estimated the Court would be ready in another two or three weeks. Target practice just couldn’t be hurried - aim improved with practice and repetition. It was easy enough to be good when you were standing in a well-lit area with a stationary target, but he needed his troops to be good against moving targets who were shooting back at them and that took a bit more work
Which reminded him of another problem he needed to deal with.
He stood up abruptly and paced to the edge of the small platform that allowed him to be seen by the entire Court, his eyes seeking out Anthony and Arkady among the shifting bodies on the factory floor. He’d prefer to use Jose, but Jose’s strengths were his loyalty and his intelligence, not his fighting ability. Arkady’s nearly unmatched skill with knives and Anthony’s steadiness and experience were the best combination for this assignment. He signaled them to follow him and jumped down from the platform, stalking out of the factory into the quiet street outside.
They followed him silently, although he could feel their curious looks behind him as he strode through the poorly lit area until they were well clear of the factory and not at risk of being overheard. He stopped and, under cover of lighting a cigarette, made a quick scan of the area, listening for any sound that didn’t belong in the deserted business district.
“Got a job for you two.” He kept his voice casual, like he was asking for nothing more than a beer run, studying them through the smoke of his cigarette as they stood before him.
“The soldiers have been out in force the last few nights. Looks like they’re hunting something in particular and they’re angry. Angry enough that they don’t seem to care too much what they’re hunting. Angry enough to be making mistakes.” He grinned at them, his fangs gleaming in the light of the crescent moon, eyes glowing yellow in a way that even humans could have seen. “I want one of their weapons - a tazer rifle. You two are going to get it.”
He gave them a moment, taking another drag then flicking the cigarette away in a glowing arc before looking back at them. “Don’t want it to be obvious that a vampire took the weapon. If you can make it look like an accident, even better. They’ve searched the town from one end to the other in the last two nights and yesterday they moved further out into the woods. Push one of them down a hill, if that’s what it takes. Arkady, if you have to use your knives, try and make the wounds look like they were caused by somethin’ else. Don‘t want ‘em knowing we’ve got one of their weapons, or they may start using something’ else.”
Anthony and Arkady exchanged looks then Anthony said: “We’ll take care of it, Master Spike.” Arkady nodded in agreement and Spike was pleased that both of them looked grimly serious about the assignment. There was no glory and nothing to boast about with this job, just a necessary task and he emphasized that now.
“Careful is better than fast, but we can’t count on them being out in force forever. Even that bunch of wankers is bound to stumble across whatever it is their looking for sooner or later.”
The Slayer’s reports coincided with his own observations. Something had the soldiers spitting mad and it was making them careless about being seen. At least a dozen of them had been out prowling the cemeteries for the last two nights and early this morning, he’d seen unmistakable signs that they had shifted their search to the woods. He was the only one patrolling the territory right now, the Slayer wasn’t patrolling so much as venturing out for a short while to keep an eye on the soldiers. The volunteers who’d been helping the Slayer were staying home - with the soldiers on a rampage, it wasn’t safe for them.
Wasn’t particularly safe for him either, Spike admitted to himself, but he wasn’t willing to surrender his town to the bastards, even for however long it took for them to find whatever it was that had them so riled up these past couple days.
He needed to know the range of the tazer rifles if they were to have any chance in an attack. His vampires had to be accurate with a crossbow and throwing weapons from outside the range of those damn tazers or the soldiers could take them down before they ever got close enough to do anything. He’d been desperate enough to even consider guns, but the theft of enough guns to make a difference would likely tip their hand. Plus, guns were best for the center of a target - shooting a person in the head was Hollywood bollocks. You aimed for the center of the body and the soldiers wore vests. Which was going to be a problem for crossbows as well, but he was willing to bet that a hand axe thrown with vampire speed and power would do a lot of damage, vest or no vest.
“You two are relieved of any other responsibilities until this is done. There’s a lot of them out now, which gives you a choice of targets. If the soldiers go back to their regular numbers, stick with them until you can get one of those weapons. If you can’t make it look like an accident, break their necks or stab them, or fucking beat them to death. No feeding. Don’t leave any clear sign that a vampire is responsible. If others see you, stay in human guise. Clear?”
“Yes, Master Spike,” they said in unison.
“Good.” He started to walk off, then turned back. “And do keep in mind I need the weapon undamaged. I won’t be happy if you bring me one that’s broken.”
He could sense’s Xander’s agitation from the second the apartment door opened. Spike was off the couch and halfway to the door by the time Xander had crossed the threshold.
Xander thrust a newspaper at him in answer and Spike hastily scanned the headline as Xander went to the sink and splashed some water on his face. ‘Local Boy Brutally Murdered’ and Spike frowned, skimming the article quickly, wondering why Xander was so upset by something so mundane.
After a moment, he looked up. Xander was watching him, drying his face on a towel, droplets of water clinging to his hair and dripping onto his shirt.
“Says the boy was skewered,” he commented. “You thinkin’ there’s another polgara around?”
“Or the Initiative let the one they caught escape,” Xander answered. He balled up the dishtowel and threw it onto the counter with unnecessary force. “Fucking idiots. They can’t even manage to hang on to the one dangerous demon they did manage to catch.”
Spike looked down at the newspaper again. “Dunno, luv. Paper says the boy was mutilated. Doesn’t sound like a polgara.” He shrugged, “‘less by ‘mutilated’ they mean half-eaten. Polgara’s don’t generally play with their food, but if it was interrupted while eating, it could have left a fairly messy body behind.”
Xander looked sick and Spike could have kicked himself. Humans were so bloody squeamish about other humans being eaten and Xander had been vibrating with tension for days now. “Want me to check it out tonight?” he offered, not really interested but wanting to make it up to Xander.
Xander shook his head. “Oz called me before I left the job site. I’m going to meet him at the crime scene in an hour to see what we can find out.”
“Why isn’t the Slayer doing this?” Spike demanded. “It’s her job, not yours.”
“She’s got two mid-terms,” Xander explained and Spike grumbled under his breath. Bloody Slayer needed to be a whole lot less part-time about doing her job. “Oz is doing all the work, I’m just going to watch his back.”
“Wolf can take care of himself.”
It didn’t help that Xander just smiled at him indulgently and ignored that. “She’s meeting us at Giles’ afterwards. Meet me there?”
Spike hesitated, his first reaction was to forbid Xander to go. But it was daylight and the killing had been hours ago and there was no reason to think whatever had killed the boy would return. The soldiers had not been making a nuisance of themselves during the day, and weren’t likely to be at the crime scene. A meeting at the Watcher’s was bound to be a waste of time, rehashing stuff he already knew, and he needed to be at the Court. Anthony and Arkady hadn’t had any luck last night and would be going out through the sewer entrance just before sunset, hoping to get a jump on any patrols by going out early in the evening instead of later. Still, Xander sounded like he wanted Spike’s company and Spike could tell Jose and the others that he was patrolling during the early part of the night and would be in the Court afterwards.
“Want you away from the area well before dark, luv,” he said, the brief hesitation going almost unnoticed. “I’ll meet you at the Watcher’s right after sunset.” By taking to the sewers, he could get within a block of the Watcher’s apartment and be there within minutes after the sun was done. He was glad for the decision as Xander’s face lightened at bit.
“I’ll be there by sunset,” Xander promised.
“It wasn’t a demon attack,” Oz said quietly as soon as he and Xander were out of earshot of the police, reporters, and onlookers still milling around the crime scene.
Xander stopped short. “What?!” He twisted around to look over his shoulder back at the hillside closed off with yellow tape, incongruously cheerful given what it marked. “A human did this?” It almost made him physically ill to think of a person could have done something so sick to a little kid. Oz tugged him back around and Xander remembered belatedly that they were trying to be inconspicuous. There weren’t any soldiers obviously at the scene, but they still didn’t want to draw attention to themselves.
Oz was shaking his head. “I don’t know what it was, the smell was… wrong.”
“What do you mean?” On the way here, Xander had relayed Spike’s opinion that the killing was not typical for a polgara, but Spike had also pointed out that there wasn’t a lot of information on how polgara would behave after being held prisoner and probably starved. Polgara had to eat every two hours and it was highly unlikely the Initiative would have fed it that frequently.
Oz was silent for a moment, his brows furrowed and his eyes a little darker than usual. Xander blinked, wondering if he was imagining that Oz’s sideburns were longer and bushier than they had been a minute ago.
“Oz?” he prompted after a minute.
“Either someone’s laying a false trail, or… Or, I don’t know what.” Oz looked puzzled and a little uneasy. “I smelled faint traces of a couple different types of demons, a human, and something metallic, almost like a computer.”
“Computers have a smell?” Xander couldn’t help asking.
“Everything has a smell,” Oz said flatly.
“Could it have been a bunch of things working together?” And wasn’t that a fun thought.
Oz looked unsure, glancing back at the taped-off crime scene. “Maybe, but I didn’t get a sense of different trails, just the same mixed scents all over the area. Even walking close together, a group that big will leave different scent trails.”
“Oz, don’t take this the wrong way, but can you track the scents well enough to follow them?” Xander really didn’t want to make Oz sound like a bloodhound.
This time, Oz’s eyes were definitely black and a feral grin curled his lips, showing teeth that were a bit longer and pointier than human. “Why do you think we’re circling around? The crowd has tracked over any scent near the scene but I’m hoping I can pick something up further out.”
Xander nodded and let Oz do his thing without any further comments. If they could find where this thing was holed up, they’d have something useful for Buffy and Spike when they met up at Giles’.
Hell, to stop something that would do that to a little kid, he’d go to the damn soldiers themselves and tell them to clean up their mess or he’d blow their cover to the entire world.