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
“Twice in one night is a record for me,” Dr. Bradley told him sternly. “Let’s try not to do this again.”
He wasn’t apologizing for the inconvenience of having called Dr. Bradley out to Giles’ apartment twice in the same night, Xander thought, so much as for the doctor having to treat a patient with a psychotically over-protective boyfriend hovering nearby, growling every time Xander flinched or even looked like he was in pain. For the doctor’s sake, Xander had tried really hard to act like the wound in his side wasn’t hurting him, and that having the torn strips of shirt that Spike had first bandaged him with removed didn’t hurt like hell. He was pretty sure, given the increasing loudness of Spike’s growls, that he hadn’t been able to hide the fact that it hurt like hell when the doctor had cleaned the matted blood out of his hair so he could examine the fast growing lump on his scalp.
Fortunately, it was obvious that Dr. Bradley was used to dealing with possessive demons, furious at the necessity of letting someone else touch their Claimed. He hadn’t batted an eye at Spike’s vampire features, serenely ignoring Spike as he went about his work, although Xander suspected that the reassuring running commentary he kept up the entire time was as much for Spike as it was for Xander.
“I can give you something for the pain,” Dr. Bradley said now, “but I’m afraid I can’t risk a sedative, not with the head injury.” He’d already told them that it didn’t appear to be anything more serious than a mild concussion.
They hadn’t dared risk going to their own apartment. With both Spike and Xander injured, it was just asking for trouble from the Court. So, once again, they had imposed on Giles, who was bandaging the cut on Buffy’s forehead with some of Dr. Bradley’s supplies.
Xander was lying on the couch in the living room, much to Spike’s dissatisfaction but Xander had refused to oust either Oz or Riley from their beds and Giles’ apartment just didn’t have any more rooms for stashing wounded bodies in. Giles really needed a bigger place at the rate this year was going. Spike had given in ungraciously rather than fight with Xander while he was injured but it was clear his lover resented that Xander wasn’t getting the best available accommodations and “that fucking soldier” was.
Getting to his feet, the doctor said: “As long as I’m here, I’ll check on my other patients.” He handed Spike a bottle of pills. “Give him two of these every 6 hours until they’re gone.”
Spike brought him a glass of water and Xander swallowed the pills gratefully. His head was throbbing and his side ached, but he ignored that as he peered up at Spike. “Are you ok?”
“Fine, luv. Nothing that won’t heal in a day or two.” Spike caressed his cheek gently, perching cautiously on the edge of the couch next to him. “Go to sleep, Xander. I’ll be right here.”
Either it was the medicine or exhaustion from the long hike back from the caves - he’d lost enough blood that he had been dizzy and weak, his muscles trembling with fatigue, Spike’s support the only thing keeping him upright during what should have been an easy 20-minute stroll, but Xander felt his eyelids drooping, even as he fought to stay awake for a little longer. “Giles?”
“You remember Angel’s mansion?”
“The one on Crawford street?” he could hear Giles’ surprise, feel it in the way Spike’s fingers stilled on his face.
“There’s blood in the freezer there. Would you get a dozen bags for Spike?”
“Of course, Xander.”
Satisfied, Xander let himself slump back down on the couch. Spike would ignore his own needs in favor of fretting over Xander’s injuries and Giles didn’t have any blood in the apartment. Spike needed blood, he thought, surrendering to the nearly overwhelming tiredness. His vampire shouldn’t look so bruised and battered.
“Don’t worry about me, luv. Just rest and get better.”
Xander fell asleep, Spike’s cool fingers entangled with his own.
The Slayer was giving her Watcher a report, and Spike spared just enough attention to listen in. He scowled as she bluntly described their complete failure, hating to hear the detail of their embarrassing defeat repeated. Looking down at Xander, his scowl faded at the sight of his Claimed’s bandages and felt the minute tremors that shook his muscles, even in sleep. He deserved to be humiliated for letting Xander come to harm.
“You mustn’t blame yourself, Buffy. You had no way of knowing…”
“Don’t make excuses, Watcher,” Spike growled softly, keeping his voice low so as not to disturb Xander. “We fucked up. Went in like a pair of bleedin’ amateurs, so sure of ourselves we didn’t do our homework. Deserved what we got.”
“That’s a little harsh…”
“He’s right. You and Xander both tried to warn us.” The Slayer looked at her Watcher helplessly, “I could barely fight him, Giles. It’s like the Initiative designed that thing to be the ultimate warrior. It's unbelievably strong. It’s fast and smart. I don’t know how we’re going to take it down.”
“It’s just that you were unprepared,” the Watcher said reassuringly, though Spike could tell from the way his eyes shifted away that he didn’t believe his own comforting words. “We just need to find out more about this thing. I’m sure there must be some vulnerability we can exploit, some flaw in the design.”
“I think the part where it’s pure evil and kills randomly may have been an oversight,” the Slayer said wryly.
“We need the design schematics,” Spike interjected harshly. “Need to know what makes that thing tick. And your boy better be prepared to get them for us,” he glared at the Slayer. The time for pussyfooting around was over. It was past time the soldier either proved he was useful or stopped being a distraction.
Looking down at Xander’s battered features, Spike made a silent promise, to himself and to Xander.
The taser rifle was surprisingly small, an ugly, graceless weapon, completely lacking the elegant beauty of a good sword or ax. Which was beside the point because Spike’s sole interest in it was learning its limitations.
“Good work,” he told Anthony and Arkady, not looking up from the weapon they’d delivered proudly the moment he’d descended the stairs into the Court. Much as he’d hated leaving Xander alone, he’d known he couldn’t be absent from the Court for two nights in a row without causing problems he wasn’t in a mood to deal with. Xander was still tucked away safely at the Watcher’s, after spending all day yesterday drowsing on the couch, watching tv, and trying to hide from Spike the fact that he was hurting.
With the blood the Watcher had fetched from the mansion for him, Spike was almost fully healed. The Slayer healed almost as quickly as a vampire and she had taken her soldier back to the campus, so at least they hadn’t had to put up with him all day. Extracting a promise from Xander that he wouldn’t set foot outside the Watcher’s until Spike returned, Spike had left shortly after sunset, heading for the Court.
The mechanism on the weapon was easy enough to figure out, safety here, trigger there, no sign of anything to regulate the intensity of the electricity. Either one jolt fits all or tied to the trigger mechanism. “Were you able to get it without raising an alarm.” He looked up for the first time since Anthony had approached him, with the weapon in his hands, fixing his Lieutenants with a piercing look.
“Yes, Master Spike,” Anthony answered proudly. “The soldier carrying this lost his footing and ‘accidentally’ fell into the ravine, dropping his weapon somewhere on the slope,” Anthony reported. “He may suspect he was pushed, but I am positive he didn’t see us.”
“Good.” Spike rose, the gun in his hands, tempted to try it out on the minions but, although amusing, it would serve no purpose. “Gonna take this thing out and see what it can do. You two can come along, if you like,” he added generously. The two had done good work and had earned a reward. He suppressed a grin. Of course, they might not like what he had in mind as a reward.
He signaled to Jose and Mark that he was leaving and that they should keep the minions training in his absence, then jerked his head at Anthony and Arkady to follow him, leading them out into the night, heading for the DeSoto.
Giles slammed down the phone in irritation and stood with his back to the living room for a moment, obviously struggling to get his anger under control before he turned to face them.
“No help?” Xander took a wild stab at the problem.
“Bloody, useless idiots,” Giles snarled. “Can’t see danger when it’s standing in front of their faces.”
“Who’re we talking about?” Oz asked from the hallway.
“The Council,” Giles answered bitterly. “They aren’t willing to help because ‘the creature you describe isn’t a natural demon’” he quoted sarcastically. “Berks!”
“How’re you feeling?” Xander asked him, changing the subject quickly as he saw the question on Oz’s lips and realized that Oz had already left town and wasn’t aware of the huge problem between Giles and the Council.
Giles had never been officially reinstated as Buffy’s Watcher by the Watcher’s Council and he understandably resented it. They used him as Buffy’s Watcher, giving information when he called, but refused to pay him or give him the respect he deserved, treating him like a petitioner every time he contacted them. Privately, Xander suspected they knew Giles would never abandon Buffy and were getting a little petty payback for Giles’ part in Buffy’s increasing independence and Wesley’s defection. They really were a heartless bunch of unbelievably cold fish.
He’d fill Oz in later, when Giles was out of the room. Giles didn’t need to hear it being talked about, no matter how much he dismissed it as politics, it had been a severe blow to his pride that the Council refused to reinstate him.
Oz took the cue from him. “I’m good.” He graciously refrained from mentioning his faster-than-human healing abilities to the one fully-human, injured party.
Having already spent most of the day, lying on the couch, not trying very hard to suppress his resentment of the fact that Oz, Buffy and Spike all had an unfair advantage in the healing department, Xander wished he hadn’t promised Spike he wouldn’t go home. He wasn’t up for much, it still hurt to change position and Xander had been wistfully thinking of the big tv and unlimited channels at their apartment. You could only sleep so long and Giles’ tv just wasn’t worth watching - small and hidden away in a cabinet like a shameful secret, it was too much trouble to pull it out, not to mention the man didn’t have cable, which limited the choices. Without Spike to provide commentary and play with his toes as they watched, it just wasn’t worth turning on and, now that Spike had left for the night, Xander was bored.
Oz, on the other hand, was in heaven ever since he’d discovered Giles’ record collection late in the afternoon, and promptly began putting one album after another on Giles’ surprisingly good stereo. Xander didn’t know enough about any of the bands to participate in Oz and Giles’ discussion about the glory days of rock and roll, and Giles’ enthusiastic - almost rapturous - descriptions of concerts he’d attended 20-some years ago was reminding Xander of Band Candy Giles - a night which Xander worked hard at repressing because of his own embarrassing conduct.
It hadn’t gotten any better when Spike woke up not long before sunset and added his opinions to the ones already being bandied about the room. Xander had ended up simply lying on the couch, his head in Spike’s lap, feigning sleep, letting the voices wash over him and feeling Spike’s fingers running through his hair. Thanks to the blood packets that Giles had brought over from the mansion, Spike was almost completely healed and, at sunset, he’d extracted the promise from Xander not to leave Giles’ apartment until Spike returned, and had left to check on the Court.
Oz had also decided to spend one more night, saying something about how Devon had a party going more nights than not. Oz’s ribs were already giving him a lot less trouble and his bruises looked like they’d been healing for a week, not just over a day.
Buffy had called and let them know she would be spending the night in her dorm room, so it was a surprise when the door pushed open and she walked in just as Giles was serving dinner, with Riley Finn trailing behind her.
Riley looked better - physically anyway - than when he’d left this morning. Buffy had walked with him back to the campus and Xander had taken it as a good sign that Riley hadn’t said anything about Spike, who’d finally let himself fall asleep after the sun was up and he resigned himself to being imprisoned at the Watcher’s all day. He’d given Spike, who was sprawled on one end of the couch, Xander’s feet on his lap, his arms resting on Xander’s legs, one sharp glance on his way out the door but, other than his jaw tightening a bit with disapproval, he hadn’t said anything. Xander had decided to take it as homophobia rather than demonphobia and had ignored him. He was in full uniform and clearly still on an emotional roller-coaster, but his face no longer had the flushed, feverish look and he looked steady on his feet and grimly determined.
Standing immediately inside the door, Riley looked distinctly uncomfortable about being there and Xander didn’t miss his quick glance around the room, obviously checking for Spike. He reminded himself firmly that they were trying to get Riley on their side and bit back the rude comment that rose to his lips at the soldier’s obvious relief that Spike wasn’t there.
“You guys were right, the Initiative created that thing.”
Riley’s opening remark surprised Xander and he exchanged a hopeful look with Giles and Oz. “Does that mean you found the Initiative’s files on it?”
Riley shook his head, looking grim. “No. It means it came ‘home’,” Xander could hear the distasteful quote marks. “To the Initiative.”
Xander’s lips formed a silent ‘oh’ and Giles set the pot back down on the stove. Wiping his hands absently on a dishtowel, he moved into the dining room to join them. “What happened?”
“It overrode our security and got into the facility somehow.” Riley looked angry and helpless and grief-stricken. “It killed two of my men and wounded another.”
Buffy put a sympathetic hand on his arm and Giles said quietly: “I’m very sorry to hear that.”
Riley nodded and continued. “It calls itself ‘Adam’.”
“It has a name?” Xander interrupted. Ok, that wasn’t really the issue but, for some reason, that surprised him.
“Apparently Maggie Walsh named him.” Riley’s jaw tightened as he said the name, though his voice remained emotionless, a soldier giving a report.
“Adam - as in Adam and Eve?” Oz suggested quietly.
“Maybe,” Riley’s formal tone relaxed slightly. “It was apparently intended to be a prototype. Except no one figured it would go rogue.”
Buffy gave him a quick glance and stepped in, summarizing crisply: “It killed Dr. Engleman, the scientist who was second in seniority behind Professor Walsh. And Riley says it had some computer disks from the Initiative. It was plugging the disks directly into its body.”
“That doesn’t sound good,” Oz said.
“If he can do that, why does he need computers in his home cave?” Xander asked. Granted, computers weren’t his strong suit, but if ’Adam’ was a walking laptop, why did it need other computers?
“It’s one thing to read a disc,” Oz told him. “He was downloading an awful lot of information on those computers. He’s probably using the computers to store the data until he can process it. There’s a lot of useless information on security feeds, the excess can really clutter up a database.”
“I took an ax to the computers in the caves,” Xander told him, having forgotten to mention it earlier.
Oz lifted an eyebrow and Xander gave him a small grin. “Seemed like a good idea at the time. I didn’t like what you’d said about how those computers were hooked into so many places,” he explained. Sunnydale had far too many secrets for him to be comfortable with the idea of big brother watching. Especially when big brother was a six-foot-four Frankenstein monster with psychotic tendencies.
“Oz, from what you saw, could those computers have been hooked into the Initiative?” Xander asked, as a thought suddenly struck him. “Enough to open doors?”
Oz thought back. “Maybe. It was all encrypted, so I don’t know exactly what he was getting in to, but it’s possible.”
“The Initiative isn’t accessible from outside,” Riley told them.
“Except Adam was built inside the Initiative and given computer bits,” Buffy reminded him. “That might have given him a way around your security.”
“I thought you destroyed the computers,” Riley asked Xander. It didn’t sound hostile, and Riley was frowning thoughtfully.
“Trust me, those computers aren’t doing anything for anyone,” Xander answered confidently. “Problem is, he’s had almost 24 hours to set up new ones.” Although where Adam would shop for computers even in Sunnydale was an interesting question. The guy wasn’t exactly inconspicuous.
“If this Adam has access to the Initiative’s computers, it is even more vital that we get any information on him immediately,” Giles said. “Otherwise we run the risk of the data being erased.”
Xander smiled fondly at him, remembering a time not so long ago when Giles regarded computers with fear and willful ignorance. Now he was even familiar with the terminology.
“I agree.” Xander’s gaze swung back to Riley in surprise.
“Washington is sending in a team to do an internal investigation of the Initiative, but I’m still in charge until they get here. I’ve got people going through every file in the place, computer or paper, and compiling every scrap of information they can find about Adam and Project 314.” He glanced briefly at Buffy. “We have men with taser rifles guarding the caves’ entrance but their orders are not to engage unless Adam tries to leave the caves. Given Buffy’s lack of success against Adam, we’re going to try and find out what its vulnerabilities are before we take it on.”
“You may need help,” Giles said and Riley shook his head firmly.
“As Xander pointed out, we created this problem, it’s up to us to deal with it.”
Ok, that hadn’t been what he’d meant, Xander thought with a sigh but let it alone for now. Maybe the Initiative had weapons that would work against that thing, he thought optimistically.
The taser rifle was effective at close range only, Spike discovered immediately. He driven 10 miles outside town, into the coastal hills and pulled over in a day-use picnic area. The level clearing was perfect for his purposes and Spike let loose a few experimental shots, finding that the weapon was limited to one intensity. All or nothing, no way to ramp up the voltage on the electricity.
The discharge lit the clearing like tamed lightning, lashing out and fizzling into nothing when it didn’t find a target. It wasn’t very accurate either, Spike learned, aiming at a clump of decorative boulders and finding he had to be within 10 feet before he could reliably hit a specific spot. Accuracy didn’t really matter that much, he supposed. If the electricity hit any part of the target, the lightening spread out instantly, enveloping the entire body. Twenty feet was the furthest he could stretch the range, beyond that, the blue lightning just fizzled out uselessly, leaving nothing but a lingering smell of ozone.
“Right,” he said after a few minutes, turning to his Lieutenants with a feral grin. “Let’s have some fun with this.” His grin widened at their uneasy looks. “The enemy is armed with these things. Let’s have a bit of target practice, shall we? Don’t worry,” he threw them a disgusted glance, “it won’t kill. Just hurts like hell, which gives you a bit of incentive not to let me hit you,” he informed them cheerfully.
“Need to know how fast this thing is and how well we can dodge it.” He let the grin slip, wanting them to know this was serous business. “If you two can’t avoid it, then for damn sure minions won’t be able to, and we’ll have to plan accordingly. Ready?”
Give them credit, they didn’t look happy, but they nodded willingly enough. “Remember, you’re attacking, not running away. Start about 50 yards out and see if you can take me.” He didn’t need to warn them to give it their best effort. Every vampire in the Court knew that holding back was a sure was to get themselves dusted.
He hefted the gun as Anthony and Arkady moved out, curious as to how they would handle this.
Driving back to the factory an hour later, his Lieutenants’ unconscious bodies dumped carelessly in the back seat, Spike frowned to himself.
Anthony in particular had acquitted himself well: ducking, weaving, dropping to a sudden roll before springing upright again, he had avoided three shots from the weapon, the electrical discharge burning scorch marks into the grass where he’d been a second earlier, but when he’d gotten within ten feet of Spike, he was simply too close to miss. Arkady hadn’t done nearly as well and Spike had dropped her five times before she got within 15 feet of him.
It would have be different if they’d been armed. Arkady could stand 30 feet away and take out a half-dozen soldiers with her knives while staying out of range of the tasers. And it was good to know that vampires could withstand multiple hits from the tasers - something he hadn’t been entirely sure of before tonight. The recovery time was too slow though. It took five to ten minutes for a vampire to shake off the effects - longer after repeated hits - and that meant they were effectively out of the battle at the first shot.
He’d need to work out covering fire, concentrate on crossbow training with the minions, he thought. Get at least 30, preferably 50 or so, up to acceptable accuracy levels and use them to cover for a wave of shock troops. Right now, he had probably ten minions who were any use with a crossbow. Most minions trained with axes and knives and other hand weapons - it was a lot more satisfying to do your killing within arm’s reach of your victim. Crossbows put you too far away, so most minions didn’t like them. Plus, they took more skill and inexperience showed in a way that was difficult to hide.
Fucking hell, he thought, furious with himself. He’d forgotten the damn vests the soldiers wore. Crossbow bolts wouldn’t penetrate vests designed to repel bullets. Could he get enough minions good at throwing a hand-ax from a distance with sufficient force and accuracy to keep the soldiers busy? Throwing an ax accurately was more difficult than throwing a knife. Axes made a better distraction than knives though. An airborne ax, spinning as it flew, made a visible threat, the blade catching any light and shining in a deadly arc, cutting the air with an audible sound, as it flew towards the target. Knives were much less conspicuous in the air, which meant they had a better chance of actually hitting the target, but a soldier ducking an ax was just as unable to fire a weapon accurately as one actually taken out by a knife.
A combination attack? Knives and crossbows aimed at the vulnerable head and neck by a handful of actual marksmen, paired with a group of minions throwing axes as fast as they could?
Drumming his fingers impatiently on the steering wheel, lips mouthing the lyrics of the music pounding from the speakers, Spike considered the options as he drove back to Sunnydale with his usual reckless disregard for the niceties of human speed limits.
*A/N - Bits of dialog borrowed from ‘Goodbye Iowa’