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
The tension in the room faded at the sound of the bedroom door closing behind Buffy and Riley Finn. Oz slowly lowered himself back down on the couch with a stifled groan and Xander went into the kitchen to pick up the ice tray he had dropped on the counter when Buffy had walked in. He finished dumping the ice cubes into a plastic bag and carried the bag and a dishtowel back into the living room.
Oz’s arm was swollen and hot to the touch. Bruises were rapidly darkening along his jaw and forehead, spreading beyond the coverage of the icepack Oz had been holding pressed against his cheek with his good arm. As gently as he could, Xander spread the dishtowel over Oz’s arm and did his best to distribute the ice cubes along the length of the swelling. Oz breathed in sharply, his face going white, but made no sound.
“Hang on, Oz. I’ve got an idea,” Xander told him.
He picked up the phone and dialed a familiar number, waiting impatiently as the phone rang on the other end.
“Mrs. Olsen? It’s Xander. We’ve got a problem. Do you guys know a doctor who can handle Hellmouthy things unofficially?”
He breathed a sigh of relief as Mrs. Olsen assured him that there was a doctor the demon community had relied on for years.
“Umm, is it someone who can pass?” he asked. “We have kind of a situation here.”
He gave her a quick, bullet point summary: an injured werewolf who needed medical attention and an Initiative soldier on the premises, one probably going through drug withdrawals. As always, he was amazed by her calmness as she listened to his explanation without interruptions or comments. Mrs. Olsen was just as unflappable and practical as her husband and Xander was just grateful to have both of them on their side.
“Thanks, Mrs. Olsen. I owe you one.”
He hung up the phone and met Giles’ inquiring look. “She’s sending someone over. She says there’s a doctor in town they’ve been using for years to treat demons who can’t go to the hospital. The good news is, he’s human.” He gestured toward the stairs in silent reminder of their in-house problem in olive drab.
“Well done, Xander,” Giles said quietly. “Frankly, I really don’t feel capable of setting a broken arm.”
“You and me both,” Xander agreed wholeheartedly.
“While we’re waiting, why don’t you fill me in on what happened?”
Xander went back into the living room and sat down on the coffee table next to Oz. Oz’s eyes were closed but from the pinched look to his face, he was still conscious and hurting. Keeping his voice low, Xander described the setup in the caves and the Frankenstein monster they’d found. He found he was clenching his fists to keep them from shaking as he did his best to describe the monster seemingly pieced together from bits and pieces of demon, man and machine.
Giles looked deeply troubled as he finished. “I suspect you are correct in saying that the creature is the ‘314’ that Ethan warned us about. Most likely, it is also what the soldiers have been searching for so actively these last few days.”
“Which means the soldiers have probably known about that thing this whole time,” Xander said bitterly, remembering Riley’s vehement protests that the Initiative was just trying to do good. Funny, how he hadn’t mentioned they were playing Dr. Frankenstein in their spare time.
“It’s strong, Giles. It tossed Oz thirty feet without breaking a sweat.” He looked down at Oz, lying so still and battered on the worn couch. “It’s my fault he’s hurt. I talked him into following that thing into the caves.”
“My fault.” For a moment, Xander thought he’d imagined the soft disagreement, then Oz turned his head just enough to meet Xander’s eyes. “I lost control. Shouldn’t have attacked it.”
“Might I suggest that we place the blame where it belongs - on the creature that attacked you?” Giles suggested tartly.
“Works for me.” Oz closed his eyes again and Xander looked at the clock, willing the hands to move faster.
“The doctor should be here soon, Oz.”
Dr. Bradley was tall and heavy-set, with graying hair and a neatly trimmed beard. He introduced himself and shook hands with Giles and Xander. Maybe it was just relief that help had arrived, but Xander couldn’t help thinking he projected an air of competence that boded well. Not that he’d thought that Mrs. Olsen would send an incompetent idiot or anything but still, it was nice to know the guy didn’t come across as a quack.
Xander was vaguely disappointed that Dr. Bradley wasn’t carrying one of those little doctor bags that doctors who show up at the door on tv always seemed to have. Instead, he had an ordinary suitcase that he pulled into the apartment behind him, the wheels sounding loudly on the tile floor.
“This way, Doctor,” Giles said, leading him toward the couch. “We suspect a broken arm, but hopefully that is the worst of the damage.”
“How old is he?” Dr. Bradley asked, setting the suitcase flat on the floor and unzipping it to reveal a wide variety of medical equipment.
“Twenty-one,” Xander answered, exchanging a puzzled look with Giles, wondering why that had been the doctor’s first question.
“Sorry, I should have been clearer. How long has he been a werewolf?”
“Oh. Uh, a little over two years.”
Dr. Bradley looked up sharply. “Then why didn’t you take him to a hospital? Even a two-year old wolf shouldn’t have problems with shifting during medical treatment.”
“He’s afraid of being found by the thing that hurt him,” Xander explained briefly.
Dr. Bradley accepted that without comment, continuing to examine Oz as Xander and Giles hovered somewhat uselessly in the background, Xander answering the doctor’s questions about how Oz was hurt. After a few minutes, the doctor looked up from his patient.
“The arm is broken but it’s just a simple fracture and I can set it here. Three of his ribs are cracked but there isn’t any displacement and, so long as he is careful, they should heal without any difficulty. It’s likely he has a concussion and someone will need to monitor him for the next twenty-four hours. The rest is essentially just extensive bruising. It’s painful but not life-threatening. I’d be happier with x-rays and a CAT scan but I’ve gotten used to doing without.” He smiled reassuringly at Oz, who had opened his eyes to hear the verdict. “You are by far not my first patient with concerns about going to the hospital. I’m afraid you are going to be quite stiff and sore for the next few days, but as you know, you will heal more quickly than a human.”
With unhurried competence, he set Oz’s broken arm and put a light-weight removable cast over the bandages, telling Oz it would have to be adjusted as the swelling went down. He advised ice, rest, and for Oz to stay off his feet, and handed Oz a bottle of pain pills.
“Now,” he said, standing up and stretching to ease the crick in his back. “I believe there is a second patient?”
“That’s… tricky,” Xander said.
Dr. Bradley simply waited, his eyebrows raised interrogatively.
“Doctor, the young man in question is a soldier in the Initiative - are you familiar with them?”
The doctor nodded, his expression unreadable. “Yes.”
“While it is possible he is simply ill, we believe the soldiers have been drugged and we are concerned that Riley is going through some sort of withdrawal. He was acting quite paranoid and hostile when he arrived.”
“It might not be safe,” Xander said bluntly. “He was accusing us all of being demons and waving a gun around.”
Dr. Bradley just nodded again. “I will keep that in mind. Where is he?”
Xander stayed downstairs with Oz while Giles took the doctor up to see Riley. Helping Oz swallow two of the pills, Xander wondered if it would be better to move Oz. If Riley flipped out again or called his buddies to come get him, Oz needed to be elsewhere. On the other hand, Oz looked like he was already three-quarters asleep and the doctor had said not to move him. Given the lack of shouting and furniture breaking upstairs, he decided to wait and see for now.
Not long after, Giles and Dr. Bradley came back down the stairs, talking quietly.
“Until I get a blood test done, I can’t say for sure, but he does appear to be suffering from classic withdrawal symptoms. Until we know what drugs are in his system, I’m afraid the safest thing is to continue giving him nothing but water or juice in hopes of flushing his system. Once I’m sure it won’t due any harm, I may be able to give him a sedative, if he still needs one.”
Dr. Bradley headed for the door and Giles hastily wrote his number down. “Please call if you learn anything from the blood tests.”
Dr. Bradley took the number and handed Giles a business card. “I will. And call me anytime if either of them takes a turn for the worse.”
He collected his suitcase, shook hands, reminded them to wake Oz every 4 hours to check that he wasn’t experiencing any increased symptoms, and left before Xander could find words to thank him.
“How did it go with Riley?”
“Surprisingly well. The blood sample was the only tricky part and Dr. Bradley managed to convince Riley it was necessary with a minimum of fuss. I expect it helped that Riley is feeling sick enough that seeing a doctor made sense to him.” Giles rubbed at his eyes tiredly. “We should perhaps move Oz to my bedroom,” he suggested. “I can tell you from personal experience that the couch is not the most comfortable place to spend the night.”
“What about Riley?”
“He’s sleeping.” Buffy came down the stairs, looking as tired as they all felt.
“What exactly are we supposed to do with him now?” Xander asked, his anger rising again at Buffy’s idiocy in bringing him here. “Spike’s going to be here shortly and do you remember the plan to keep Oz off his radar?”
“I didn’t have a choice.”
“Of course you did.”
“You don’t understand…” Buffy began heatedly, then looked in Oz’s direction, somewhat guiltily.
Xander reined in his own anger, realizing a loud argument wouldn’t help Oz. “Sorry,” he muttered. “Let’s get Oz into the bedroom first.”
Buffy and Xander were able to move Oz without waking him, Giles hurrying into his bedroom ahead of them to hastily clear off the bed and yank the covers on straight. Between them, they got Oz settled on the bed and they returned to the living room, collapsing into chairs and onto the couch.
“I went to Willy’s bar to see if he’d heard anything about the thing that killed that boy,” Buffy told them. “Riley came in while I was there. He was acting half-crazy: accusing me of socializing with demons and Willy of harboring them, threatening to take Willy back to the lab to find out what kind of demon he was.”
“And that made you think it was a good idea to bring him here?” Xander asked in disbelief.
“What was I supposed to do?“ Buffy flared back at him. “Call his friends and let them pump more drugs in him? You saw how sick he is, Xander. It’s the drugs making him act this way.”
“It doesn’t make him any less dangerous,” Xander pointed out, but with a little less heat. He really didn’t like the thought of the Initiative hauling off demon-sympathizers just because they could. He thought Buffy was giving Riley too much credit, but he had to admit it probably wasn’t fair to hold things said under the influence against someone. He just wished he was a bit more convinced that Riley wouldn’t say the same thing sober.
“He’s better now,” she offered quietly. “He was rambling on upstairs about not knowing who the good guys were anymore, saying maybe he was a bad guy.” She looked at both of them and Xander saw the shock and mixed emotions in her eyes. “Maggie Walsh is dead.”
“What? When did that happen?”
“Three days ago,” Buffy said. She looked away for a moment and Xander was reminded that Professor Walsh was - had been - Buffy’s Psych professor and Buffy had practically had a crush on her she admired her so much. Despite what they suspected about Walsh’s activities, learning that she was dead had obviously been a blow. Buffy shook her head impatiently and continued: “That’s why the Initiative has been out in force these last few days. Apparently something got loose and killed her - probably the polgara demon that killed the little kid yesterday. The soldiers have been hunting for it since they found her body in the labs.”
“It’s not the polgara,” Xander said slowly, wondering what it meant that the lead scientist in the Initiative had been killed. “It’s something else entirely.”
“If Maggie Walsh is dead, and Riley, at least, is clearly not receiving the drugs anymore, then it would seem likely the soldiers do not know they are being drugged.” Giles was frowning at the ceiling, thinking out loud. “If they are hunting for an unknown demon, then perhaps they don’t know about the creature you found.” Giles slipped his glasses back on, his eyes becoming sharp and focused once more. “It would appear there are secrets within secrets inside the Initiative.” A slight, self-mocking smile crossed his lips as he looked at Xander. “Spike once pointed out to me that people belonging to a secret society always believe they are privy to all the secrets of that group. I believe the soldiers may in fact be ignorant of what Maggie Walsh was doing.”
“No.” Xander’s head snapped around at the sound of Riley’s hoarse voice at the top of the stairs and they all shot to their feet, Xander desperately hoping Buffy had remembered to throw Riley’s gun out the window. He really wasn’t up for another round of stare down the barrel. “You’re making her sound like some kind of psychopath. She wasn’t like that! She was a brilliant woman, a scientist.”
“From everything I’ve heard, she was an extremely intelligent woman,” Giles said soothingly. “Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for scientists to get caught up in their work….”
“All she was doing was trying to help people . . . You admired her! This is the way you want them to remember her?!” he said accusingly to Buffy.
Gun or no gun, it was time for Riley to have a reality check. Overriding Buffy’s attempts to calm Riley down, Xander said harshly: “Stand down, soldier.” He bit back a grin, silently blessing the drill sergeants of afternoon television as Riley snapped his mouth shut, unconsciously straightening to attention before he shot Xander a glare as he became aware of his automatic response.
“Riley. I’m sorry, I know Professor Walsh was important to you. But we can prove she was drugging you and your friends,” Xander told him flatly, hoping it was true and the drug test would come up positive. “I don’t know if she was under orders or what, but if you will listen to us for just one minute, we can prove what we’re saying.”
The silence stretched out for a long, tense minute before Riley nodded curtly. “Fine. I’ll hear you out.”
To give Riley credit, he did listen. Not with a particularly open mind, but he heard them out without interrupting as they told him what they knew, guessed, and had pieced together about the Initiative, Maggie Walsh, and the Frankenstein monster in the caves.
Buffy was as shocked as Riley to learn about the thing in the caves and Xander realized belatedly that he hadn’t actually told her about it yet. Under other circumstances, he might have pointed out that that’s what happened when you dragged the enemy into a status conference but it turned out that her obvious surprise at hearing about the monster helped convince Riley that they weren’t all conspiring against him. Buffy just wasn’t that good an actress and Riley obviously knew her well enough to know that. The suspicion and hostility he’d been radiating cranked down a few notches and Riley actually uncrossed his arms and looked like he was finally really listening to what they were saying.
“The thing in the caves isn’t natural,” Xander summed up. “Something - someone - created it.”
“And you just assume Professor Walsh was playing Dr. Frankenstein, creating monsters in her secret laboratory?”
Ok, maybe he’d overestimated the lowering of the hostility levels.
“How do you know it isn’t just some demon you’ve never seen before?” Riley challenged. “Demons aren’t natural. Some of the things I’ve seen…”
“Don’t flatter yourself, mate. Demons are more natural than humans - we’ve sure been here for a hell of a lot longer than you lot.”
Xander cursed himself silently for losing track of the time. He turned with the others, seeing Spike leaning casually against the doorjamb, arms folded, wearing his usual tight black t-shirt and black jeans, looking predatory and dangerous and unbelievably sexy. Although outwardly he seemed completely at ease, Xander could tell Spike was tense and wary and practically vibrating with suppressed anger.
“Well, well, the gang’s all here.” Spike smirked, sauntering inside, pleased at having caught both the Slayer and her toy soldier off guard.
He’d been standing at the door long enough to overhear Xander’s description of what he and the wolf had found in the caves in the hills. The only thing that had kept him from exploding was the fact that Xander was obviously unhurt but they were going to talk about this as soon as they were alone. From what he’d overheard, Xander hadn’t been satisfied with staying at the nice, safe crime scene. Instead, he’d followed the bloody werewolf into the woods without bothering to tell anyone what they were up to or even taking the time to pick up a weapon.
Eavesdropping in the open doorway, Spike had barely been able to control his anger at both the wolf and himself - he hadn’t thought about the fact that the wolf’s sense of smell would let him track what they found at the murder scene. Of course, Spike had assumed it was a human that had done the killing. Most demons didn’t artistically mutilate corpses unless it was part of some ritual and this clearly hadn’t been - demons doing a ritual sacrifice generally didn’t dump the body by the side of the road for humans to stumble over once they were done. No, he’d assumed it was a human doing the killing and, as a result, he’d let Xander walk unprotected into a situation in which he could have been killed.
They were definitely going to have a talk about that.
“So, you think something put together out of bits and pieces is just a new type of demon, eh?” he asked. “Just how thick are you? Demons got better things to do than play in laboratories. Your Professor Walsh, on the other hand, that sounds right up her alley.”
“She wasn’t like that,” the soldier insisted, jaw set stubbornly.
Spike watched how slowly he moved as he rose to his feet, gripping the back of his chair to keep from swaying, his face going pasty white under the flush of fever and knew the soldier wasn’t a threat. His holster was empty and right now, soldier boy wasn’t fit to go two rounds with a kitten. Spike could take him out with one punch, assuming the Slayer didn’t stop him. Which was good, he thought bitterly, since that was all he would get before the chip incapacitated him.
“You really going to try and tell me that your little group doesn’t do the mad scientist bit?” he asked incredulously.
“How?” Xander demanded. “How is what you people did to Spike different from creating that thing in the caves?”
“He’s a vampire,” Riley answered, as if that answered everything. For him, it probably did.
“Yeah, I’m a vampire. It’s you bloody lot that tried to turn me into something else.”
“They made you incapable of hurting humans,” Riley shot back. “I don’t see you convincing me that’s a bad thing.”
“Stop it, all of you,” the Slayer snapped loudly. “We’ve been over this before.” More quietly, she said: “Riley, sit down before you fall down. Spike, you’re not helping.”
“Wasn’t trying to,” he pointed out. But he reluctantly gave in to Xander’s silent plea and crossed to join Xander, as far from the soldier as he could get and still be in the same room. He threw himself with seeming casualness into the chair Xander had been sitting in, not surprised when Xander immediately perched next to him on the arm. With an effort, Spike stopped himself from touching Xander, not wanting to display where his weakness lay more than he had to. If they were going to learn anything from the soldier, it would be now while Finn was weak and sick and off balance. He reeked of chemicals and grief, and a blind Fhiovar demon could see the man’s confusion and uncertainty.
“Riley,” the Watcher had waited until the soldier sat down, now he stepped into the center of the group and everyone’s eyes turned to him. “You must admit that all the evidence points to the Initiative not being quite what it seems. I’ve heard rumors that secretly they’re working towards some darker purpose. Something that might harm us all.”
“No, that’s not what we’re about.” Spike smirked at the automatic denial, thinking the soldier sounded like he was fighting a rear guard action and one he was losing.
“Then what is 314?” Xander asked.
“I don’t know.” More’s the pity, that one sounded like the truth.
“Riley, think about it for a minute. They told you some unknown demon had escaped and killed Professor Walsh.” Oh, bloody hell, the Slayer was holding her soldier boy’s hand, giving him wide-eyed concerned looks as she tried to reason with him. She really had gone soft over the git. “They couldn’t describe what killed her, or give you any idea how it got out of the lab. Does that sound right to you? Don’t they have security cameras? Doesn’t she have lab assistants? How could something have killed her without anyone seeing it, or having it on film?”
Good point, Spike thought grudgingly. “Certainly had cameras everywhere I turned when you had me down in your little shop of horrors.”
Finn looked slightly rattled by that argument and didn’t answer.
“Riley, most demons have a fairly medieval level of technology. They aren’t interested in computers or sophisticated machines. Xander said he found the creature in a makeshift office, with a sophisticated computer system set up.” Giles shook his head. “I can’t even begin to tell you how unusual that is for a demon.”
Spike rolled his eyes. Lots of demons used computers and kept up with modern technology. They were just the boring ones who didn’t cross the Watchers’ radar. They were going to be here all night at this rate. He was beginning to think this overgrown farm boy was too bloody stupid to be of any use to them. “Look, you unbelievable twit, Xander said the thing was grafted together from bits of human, demon and machine,” he glanced up at Xander. “Right?”
Shifting his gaze back to Finn, Spike continued: “Demons don’t want human parts. We don’t need ‘em. We’re stronger, faster, and frequently smarter than humans. Why would we want to muck about adding human qualities? Not like you lot got much to offer.”
“Gee, thanks,” Xander muttered and Spike grinned up at him unrepentantly.
“Despite Spike’s lack of tact,” the Watcher said with a sigh. “He is essentially correct - although not about demon superiority, of course. You must know that something with machine parts grafted onto its body can’t possibly be born that way. Someone must have manufactured it. Do you honestly believe there is another sophisticated laboratory capable of creating something like that in a town this size? Or anywhere else for that matter? You must recognize that the only possible place that creature could have come from is the Initiative.”
“Which means the Initiative created it.” Xander said when Finn’s shoulders slumped and he looked unwillingly convinced. “In that case, don’t you think you owe it to the people of this town to help stop it?”
*A/N - Bits of dialogue borrowed from the Episode ‘Goodbye Iowa’