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
“You should have called me,” Buffy repeated.
“Like I need your help to take care of a couple of fledges, especially ones so young they can’t tell a vampire from a human at twenty feet,” Spike scoffed.
“That’s not the point,” Buffy leaned back in her chair and gave Spike an exasperated glare. “There were witnesses. The last thing we need is a bunch of people telling the world that vampires are real.”
“Not like I’m the one sent those vampires into the church now, is it?” Spike pointed out.
Spike had been more than a little worried about the fact that Adam had apparently sent the vampires into the church. It infuriated him that Adam was recruiting vampires, even if his recruits were idiots and too young to be a threat to anyone other than humans, and Spike had been frustrated that he couldn’t find any reason for Adam wanting a church full of ordinary people killed by vampires in a public spectacle. If Spike had been able to convince himself that Adam had done it for kicks, that he would have understood but, as he’d pointed out to Xander, killing for the thrill of it was a hands-on business. Adam had had some other reason for setting up that little scenario and Spike had spent too much time already trying to puzzle out what Adam had been trying to prove.
However, that didn’t mean that Spike was going to share his uncertainty with the Slayer or let a little thing like that get in the way of a Buffy-Spike snark fest, Xander thought with a grin.
He pushed his chair back quietly and began to stack plates before carrying them out to the kitchen, biting his lip to stop himself from smirking - something neither Buffy nor Spike would appreciate.
Buffy and Spike had been sniping at each other all through dinner. The real problem, the one they weren’t actually talking about, was that they both thought of themselves as the town sheriff. Both of them had a more than healthy ego - which, to be fair, they had a right to, neither one of them was exactly your average, run of the mill person - and they both had a tendency to believe that they were solely responsible for keeping a lid on the town. Buffy had been more than a little annoyed that Spike hadn’t even bothered to let her know he was going to the church this morning. Spike telling her cheerfully that people who shagged their boyfriends into the wee hours tended to miss the early morning fights hadn’t helped.
Buffy had blushed crimson at Spike’s comment and hotly protested that she hadn’t even seen Riley last night. Joyce Summers had simply raised one eyebrow and told Spike firmly that there were some things a mother just didn’t want to know about her college-age daughter’s activities.
Anyone but Joyce would have gotten a sneering comeback but Spike had actually looked abashed and, to Xander’s relief, immediately dropped the subject of Buffy finally getting physical with Riley. Xander himself was still boggling over the fact that Spike had known instantly, as soon as Buffy opened the door to her mother’s house, that Buffy and Riley were sleeping together. Being Spike, he’d felt compelled to share his knowledge with Buffy, who had not taken it well. Fortunately, Joyce had been in the kitchen at the time and hadn’t heard the comment, as Buffy’s panicked look over her shoulder had confirmed, and Spike hadn’t mentioned it again.
The swinging door between the kitchen and dining room opened again and Joyce Summers came in with her own small stack of dishes. She met his eyes just as Buffy’s voice floated in from the dining room:
“You being all rescue-vamp didn’t exactly help with the low profile.”
Xander clapped a hand over his mouth to stifle his laugh as Joyce mouthed “rescue vamp?”, her own eyes sparkling with laughter.
“Please, like I needed to suit up to handle those wankers. All the humans know is that they were saved by a devilishly handsome mystery man.”
Xander’s shoulders were shaking with suppressed laughter as Buffy made a clearly audible gagging noise in the next room. An indelicate snort escaped Joyce as she struggled to control her own amusement.
“I can hear you two,” Spike said loudly.
“We both can,” Buffy added her own complaint.
Mrs. Summers just laughed and pitched her voice so it would be clearly audible in the dining room. “Xander, what do you think? Should we leave those two alone to continue their bickering or offer them pie if they will stop?”
“I vote we split the pie between us and leave them to it,” Xander answered immediately. Mrs. Summers made great pies.
Xander and Joyce exchanged grins as Buffy and Spike forgot their argument and joined forces in the face of imminent pie theft.
Sunday dinner at Joyce’s house happened at least once a month. Joyce always served what Xander thought of from television as a traditional holiday meal: a roast of some kind, potatoes, vegetables, desert; the whole sitcom family dinner scenario. From comments Buffy had made, Xander knew this wasn’t something Joyce had done when it was just her and Buffy eating and by now, he’d figured out that Joyce was doing it for Spike.
Spike didn’t like talking about his human family and, from the little he’d let slip in unguarded moments, there was something huge that had happened with his mother. It was clear that he’d loved his mother but Xander had enough family issues of his own to respect Spike not wanting to talk about his own. Still, something in the way Spike had gotten quiet the first time Joyce served them roast beef and Yorkshire pudding for Sunday dinner made Xander think that Joyce knew something he didn’t.
It might be nothing more than the feeling of family that Joyce created through the magic of food and warmth and laughter. Xander just hoped that she got as much out of the dinners as the rest of them did. Both Spike and Buffy seemed to let down their guards more at Joyce’s house than anywhere else and Xander no longer envied people who had parents who loved them and gave a damn about them.
“So, you and Riley are back together?” Xander asked casually.
He and Buffy had settled on the living room couch, leaving the dishes to Joyce at her insistence. Xander could hear the low murmur of voices in the kitchen as she and Spike talked quietly over the sound of water running and china rattling. Oz had been invited to join them but he had taken Devon up on his offer to play with the band in Los Angeles this weekend and Xander suspected Oz had just needed some time away and the familiar solace of his music. The encounters with Adam had shaken all of them so it hadn’t been surprising that Oz needed some time to deal. Sometimes Xander thought that he was the only one of them who could handle being pummeled by something stronger than himself. It was an all too frequent occurrence in his life but it was always a shock for the stronger than human members of the group when something bigger and badder kicked their asses. He wasn’t worried. Oz’s way of dealing with things had always been to take off for awhile and Oz would be back tonight, or whenever he was ready.
Buffy shot him a measuring, sideways glance as she continued leafing through the magazine she’d picked up from the coffee table.
“Yeah. Riley’s had some time to think and he’s not as freaked out by my crazy life any more. He told me he trusted me and that was the bottom line for him.” Buffy sounded shyly pleased and like she was braced for disapproval.
Riley was still trying to find a middle ground between the Initiative and Buffy and Xander had to give the guy credit for keeping his word and sharing information about Adam. Riley seemed to be trying to walk a line between his duty to the military and helping them: like the way he’d given them the information from, but not actual copies of Adam’s schematics. Still, it was an improvement over how he’d first reacted to Buffy’s non-human and human-adjacent friends, but Xander would be happier if he was able to convince himself that Riley wasn’t just covering his bases. From what Xander could tell, Riley was boy scout enough to want to have a fallback plan for saving the world, just in case his team wasn’t successful in handling it themselves.
“So, he’s ok with you hanging out with me and Spike?” was all he said.
“Well, ok is probably a stretch but he has agreed not to tell his friends about you two unless Spike becomes a threat to them,” Buffy hedged.
Xander wondered if Spike training a hundred vampires to attack the Initiative would be considered a threat. Probably.
“What changed his mind?”
Buffy smiled ruefully. “It didn’t hurt that the blood sample Dr. Bradley took proved that there was a scary mix of drugs in his system. And Adam acknowledging Maggie as his ‘mother’ made denial pretty hard to hang on to.”
“Convinced him his superiors hadn’t exactly been upfront about what they were doing?”
“Something like that.” She hesitated, then said: “Riley hasn’t been talking much since the new commander arrived. Just said the guy was taking a look at the whole operation and would be making a report to his superiors.”
Xander sat up straight. “You mean they might be shutting the Initiative down?” he asked hopefully.
Buffy shook her head. “I didn’t get that feeling. More like cleaning house, getting rid of Maggie Walsh’s mad scientist bits or something. The government may be in the demon fighting business to stay.”
She didn’t sound any happier about that than Xander felt.
“Any chance cleaning house will mean they’re willing to listen to outside advice?” Xander wondered if there was any possibility that Sergeant Morgan could talk to the new commander. He was pretty low rank in the military but he was one of their own and well-respected, unlike Buffy, the outsider freak girlfriend of one of their own.
The phone rang before Buffy could answer and she got to her feet, heading for the hall phone, calling to her mother: “I got it.”
Xander’s understanding of politics was pretty much non-existent and he had no idea who the new commander of a covert army base would report to. Someone high up, probably back in Washington D.C., he supposed, wondering if there was any way they could send their own report to the same source. Riley wasn’t an ally that Xander put a lot of faith in but he was better than an unknown military type, especially one with delusions of making the Initiative a permanent fixture in Sunnydale. If the new guy shut down the science side of thing, that meant they’d be killing demons instead of imprisoning and experimenting on them and given the Initiative’s track record of not caring whether the demon was dangerous or not, that wasn’t really an improvement.
He thought about the harmless demons trapped in the cells and his demon friends in town and knew that Spike was right. Unless the Initiative shut down completely or left town, they would have to attack the base. Even a reformed Initiative was a danger to every non-violent demon in town.
In the hall, Buffy’s voice was rising as she became more and more upset and Xander got to his feet, eavesdropping shamelessly. Something had gone seriously wrong. The water shut off in the kitchen and Joyce and Spike came into the hall, listening as well.
Buffy hung up the phone and stayed facing the wall for a long moment, shoulders tense, hands curled into fists on the telephone table as if she was forcibly restraining herself from punching through the wall.
“Buffy?” Joyce moved forward, putting her hand on Buffy’s shoulder. “What is it? What’s happened?”
Buffy turned to face them, moving slowly with a tight control in which Xander read both anger and misery. “That was Riley. The Initiative attacked Adam in the caves.”
“Idiots!” Spike exclaimed contemptuously. Xander’s only slightly more diplomatic:
“Are they crazy?” came at the same time.
“They had a theory that Adam wasn’t fully charged up yet, that that’s why he hasn’t really done much of anything up ‘til now. They went in with tasers and hit him with multiple blasts at the same time.” A muscle jerked in Buffy’s jaw and she closed her eyes for a second, folding her arms around herself tightly as she continued. “Riley said Adam seemed to feed off the taser energy, absorbing it and growing even stronger. He killed almost half the soldiers before the rest could retreat.”
“Serves them right. Bloody amateurs,” Spike said. Joyce laid a staying hand on his arm and he continued, less abrasively: “Walsh was building a perfect soldier, stands to reason she’d make it invulnerable to weapons her own side is using.”
“Why didn’t Riley talk to us first?” Xander couldn’t help asking, even though he knew the answer.
“He’s a soldier, Xander. He’s been trained not to question orders. The only reason he called is because he’s worried about what his superiors will do now.” Buffy fixed Xander with a challenging stare. “He risked a lot to call me and give us a heads up. If anyone finds out, his career is over and he’d probably be court martialed.”
“He won’t find out from any of us,” Joyce reassured her and Xander smiled inwardly at her inclusion of Spike in that, knowing Spike would have thoroughly enjoyed the idea of Riley in a prison cell. Joyce had effectively stopped Spike from even joking about it by her serene confidence that he wouldn’t do something like that.
“What does Riley think his superior are going to do?” Xander asked, not liking the idea of something that worried Mr. By-the-Book so much he was willing to break orders to contact them.
“Gonna want to save face now they’ve botched the mission so badly, yeah?” Spike answered for Buffy. “Soldier boy’s worried about escalation, isn’t he?”
“Something like a rocket launcher, maybe?” Xander wondered if that would be enough to stop Adam and if it was, where they could get their hands on one.
“Think bigger, luv. Adam’s got that nuclear power core, remember? I’m guessing Finn is worried about them fighting fire with fire.” Despite his outward calm, Xander could see sparks of demonic gold flickering in Spike’s blue eyes and knew that Spike was a lot more edgy about the possibility than he was letting on.
“Hitting Adam with a nuke? No way. Sure, it might kill Adam but it’s going to leave a big smoking crater where Sunnydale is.” Xander was appalled.
Buffy looked at them with worried eyes. “It all depends on how dangerous they think Adam is. If they think he’s going to destroy the town anyway, they might think it’s worth the risk.”
“Plus, getting rid of all us demons in one fell swoop might seem worth a little radioactive fallout.”
“But people would know,” Joyce protested. “They couldn’t hide something like that.”
Spike shrugged. “Accidents happen. Oops, an explosion caused by an unknown gas pocket set off a nuke in an underground silo. Lot of fingers pointed, a few million paid in damages, and the government moves on.”
The three humans stared at Spike, appalled, all the more so because he’d made the unthinkable sound so plausible. Given some of the things the government was known to have covered up, Xander could easily see things playing out exactly as Spike had described. After all, who would ever believe the government had authorized extreme measures against an out of control demon? Especially a demon the government had created themselves.
Walking Xander home a short time later, Spike considered the latest stupidity on the part of the soldiers and what it would mean for him. He wasn’t about to let the soldiers destroy his Territory, if that’s what they were planning. Despite what he’d said back at Joyce’s, the possibility of the soldiers using nuclear weapons was fairly unlikely. The government might get that desperate eventually, but not until they’d exhausted all other possibilities and had had time to cover their arses in twelve different layers of paperwork. Still, there were a lot of conventional weapons that could do enough damage that there wouldn’t be a whole lot left of the town afterwards.
Sunnydale was on the map now in a way it hadn’t been before. The fucking Gentlemen and their ‘laryngitis epidemic’ had made Sunnydale headline news across the nation. The government, or at least the portion of it behind the Initiative, had to be worried about something like that getting out again. And Adam had their serial numbers on him. Now that they’d realized that Adam wasn’t going to be an easy target, they might get to the point where taking out the entire town and all its problems in one strike had a certain appeal. One big disaster instead of a series of small ones.
Spike shook his head impatiently, letting that worry go for now. The army wasn‘t going to nuke the town tonight or tomorrow. Which brought him back to his own problems. Tempting as it was, Spike couldn’t hit the Initiative now while so many of their people were in hospital. He wasn’t ready. He needed a workable plan for getting in, his minions needed more training, and he needed a way to get the fucking chip out.
Which brought him back to Adam and what he was planning.
The vampires in the church had said they were working for Adam. None of them had been members of the Court, but the fact that Adam was recruiting vampires was worrisome. Adam knew Spike had been chipped and he had access to the Initiative’s files. Even if Adam hadn’t figured out by now that the chip only prevented Spike from hurting humans, he could do a lot of damage by spreading the word that Spike had been imprisoned for nearly a week and experimented on. Having that spread around would lead to stupidity on the part of vampires in the Court, thinking Spike was vulnerable to challenge. He needed to find out as soon as possible if Adam had just recruited a couple of vampires he’d stumbled across or if he was deliberately undermining Spike’s status as Master.
“Everything ok?” Xander asked and Spike realized he’d been growling quietly to himself.
“Yeah, just a bit tired of dealing with morons.”
“What do you think about having Sergeant Morgan meet with the Initiative’s new commander?”
“Thought you gave up that idea?” Spike countered, surprised by the non-sequitor.
Xander waved a dismissive hand. “This is something entirely different. I’m not talking about kidnapping soldiers, I’m thinking about a one-on-one with an army Sergeant.” He grinned at Spike. “You know, with an appointment and everything.”
“Have Morgan tell him he knows all about demons and has never reported it to his superiors?” Spike raised an eyebrow, amused by Xander’s persistent optimism that somehow the Initiative could be made to see reason. “Can’t think of a quicker way to make them suspicious, luv. The Sergeant probably doesn’t deserve to be dissected,” he said judiciously.
Xander’s shoulders slumped and Spike laughed, putting his arm around his boy and pulling him close. “We’ll figure it out, luv. We always do,” he told Xander with more confidence than he was really feeling at the moment.
The evening practice session was wrapping up as Spike went downstairs to the Court to have a talk with his Lieutenants. Xander was already headed for bed as Spike left and, knowing his boy would be leaving for work at dawn, Spike couldn’t help feeling frustrated and annoyed that their schedules were so out of kilter again. It was as good a reason as any for killing Adam, he thought as he descended the steps to the factory floor.
He stopped a moment on the balcony overlooking the factory floor, watching the sparring matches going on below. He could tell instantly which minions were aware of his presence and which weren’t and made note of the ones so caught up in their individual fights that they were oblivious to their surroundings. He signaled Michael to approach and pointed out the minions in question, telling Michael to arrange to have another minion attack the careless ones from the side during their next sparring session.
“Toss a knife at them,” he ordered. “If they get hit by it three times, make the fourth one a stake. Can’t afford to put all your focus on the person in front of you.”
That taken care of, he left Michael fixing faces and names in his memory and strolled over to join Jose who was circling the edges of the factory floor, occasionally making comments to the minions.
“How’s it going?”
“Well enough. I estimate another week before they are ready.”
“I make it two, at least,” Spike said disparagingly, although progress had definitely been made and the minions were improving rapidly. That wasn’t what he wanted to talk about right now though and he told Jose to follow him upstairs to the deserted third floor, where he led the way into one of the empty rooms and closed the door.
“Heard anything about a new player in town?” he asked. Jose generally had a good feel for what was happening in the Court and was by far the most reliable of his Lieutenants and the safest to bring a tricky problem to.
Jose shook his head. “No, Master Spike. The training has kept the minions in the Court more than usual so there is less gossip about the town.”
That made sense. Spike’s thoughts raced, considering the implications of several courses of action, then made a quick decision. “Want you, Anthony and Marc to head out. Spend the rest of the night checking out the bars and other hangouts. Let me know if you hear anything about a demon recruiting other demons - especially vampires.”
Jose dipped his head, acknowledging the order. “Is there any information in particular you seek about this demon?”
“Anything and everything. Goes by the name of Adam. Doubt you’ll see him in person but I want to know if he’s recruiting and, if so, who he’s after and what his pitch is.”
“Understood. The three of us should be able to check every gathering place in town before sunrise.”
“See that you do,” Spike told him.
Jose bowed in acknowledgement of Spike’s orders and left to collect the other two lieutenants. Spike was confident that he would know soon whether or not Adam was actively recruiting vampires.
He just wished he knew what the hell Adam was up to and whether it was a threat to Spike or his Territory.