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
Xander rolled his eyes. “Tell you what, Spike,” he said patiently. “I won’t play the ‘I’m fine’ game if you don’t.”
Spike’s head snapped around, affronted, and he glared at Xander. Xander sighed.
“Spike. The least trustworthy person on the planet has just offered to give you the thing you want most in the world. You can’t tell me you don’t have some mixed feelings about that. I sure as hell do.” He stepped forward, blocking Spike’s pacing and grabbing him by both upper arms when the vampire tried to swerve around him, pulling him around so they were face to face.
They’d arranged to meet Ethan at 9:00 tomorrow night to do the spell. Spike had been silent on the walk home, his face unreadable, his strides long and agitated. Xander hadn’t tried to get him to talk then, too busy with his own racing thoughts to even begin helping Spike with his, but now that they were home, they were going to talk about this.
“Ethan’s magic could kill you and I wouldn’t know the difference until it’s too damn late. Are you sure we shouldn’t try to find a better way? Ethan can’t be the only Chaos Mage out there, maybe they aren’t all as completely unreliable as Ethan.”
That brought a hint of a smile to Spike’s face. “Comes with the territory, pet. Never met a Chaos Mage who wasn’t untrustworthy and out to stir up trouble.” The smile faded almost immediately and Spike met his eyes squarely for the first time. “Gotta try this, luv. Can’t go on forever with this thing inside me.”
Spike pulled him in for a hug, and Xander clung to him desperately, wrapping his arms around his lover as if he could stop the world from hurting him as long as Spike was inside the circle of his arms.
“This is our best shot, Xander,” Spike said quietly. “There’s risks any way we go. We don’t even know if the bloody chip can be removed physically. If the choice is between a human with a scalpel and a Chaos Mage with a spell, I’ll take the mage.”
He pushed back just far enough so he could look at Xander, his hands coming up to bury themselves in Xander’s hair, holding him as blue eyes stared into brown, letting Xander in, letting him see Spike’s hope, his determination, even his fear and desperation.
Xander kissed him. Pulling their mouths together, his lips moved hungrily over Spike’s, his own hands coming up to frame Spike’s face, thumbs stroking tenderly over the sharp planes of his cheeks.
For a long moment, their mouths moved together, letting lips and tongues and teeth express their fear, their worry, and their love.
“Be all right, Xander,” Spike said after they’d pulled apart. “If nothing else, we can trust the mage to act in his own self interest. He may be working with Adam but I don’t think it’s by choice.” Spike flashed him an amused look. “Doesn’t hurt that he’s got you to deal with if he mucks this up. Nearly pissed himself when you threatened him, luv.”
“Good. Because I meant every word.”
Giles opened the door at his knock. While his sleep-mussed hair, bathrobe and bare feet looked as if he’d just rolled out of bed, his eyes were clear and he looked as if he’d been up for awhile. Despite the early hour, he didn’t seem surprised to see Xander at his door.
Xander stepped inside, just far enough to let the door swing closed behind him, feeling for the first time like Giles’ apartment was hostile territory. He didn’t bother with pleasantries, blurting out the question that had been nagging at him since the previous night: “Why didn’t you guys talk to me first? Give me some warning, maybe even a little time to deal before having to make that kind of decision? What the hell were you thinking, just dumping that on me in front of everyone?”
“For what it’s worth, I am truly sorry, Xander.” Giles stood facing him awkwardly, looking regretful and very tired all of a sudden. “The coven was worried that Spike would forbid it, would possibly even take you out of town to avoid the situation if you were given any advance warning.” He sighed, removing his glasses and polishing them absently with the belt of his robe. “I’m sorry,” he repeated. “Knowing how protective Spike is, I was afraid they might be right. It wasn’t about you, I knew that you would be willing to help.” He pushed his glasses back on and met Xander’s eyes squarely and Xander was surprised to see the approval and respect in Giles’ eyes.
Some of his irritation with the coven drained away at the explanation but conversely, his annoyance with Giles grew into full-blown anger. “I thought you knew me well enough by now to know that Spike doesn’t control me,” he said, keeping his tone level with an effort. “I make my own decisions, I don’t have to have Spike’s permission to act. And frankly, I’m insulted that you think that Spike has a snowball’s chance in hell of dragging me out of town when I don’t want to go. Yes, Spike is a demon, and sometimes it’s hard for him, but he has bent over backwards to let me live my own life when his every instinct tells him that isn’t the way his Claimed human is supposed to behave. After everything we’ve done to help this town, how can you have so little faith in both of us?”
There was a long pause, during which his eyes continued to bore into Giles’, before Giles looked away, pulling out a chair and sitting down heavily.
“You’re quite right. If you were the type of person to let Spike drag you out of town, you wouldn’t have risked your life fighting zombies, or the Mayor, or any one of a dozen other threats. I really am sorry, Xander. I allowed my fears to override my common sense.”
His remorse and regret were obviously sincere and Xander let his confrontational stance slide, enough to let him pull out a chair for himself and settle into it stiffly. He supposed even really smart people could be incredibly stupid sometimes.
“So, tell me about this spell,” he asked, trying to pretend like they were starting at the beginning, the way they should have in the first place.
“The coven might be better for that,” Giles began and Xander interrupted.
“I’m asking you. Because until last night, I would have said I could trust you completely. I don’t know them as well as I do you.”
Giles nodded, accepting the rebuke. “What do you want to know?”
“When Willow did the soul-restoring spell, you said the magic would change her. I think we all saw the results of that. Is this going to do the same thing to me?”
That was his biggest fear, the concern Spike had mentioned, that letting them do this spell would change him. Giles was already shaking his head firmly.
“The magic that Willow channeled to do the soul restoring spell was very old, very powerful and very dark. And you are correct, I believe that spell was a significant factor in her behavior last year. The magic we are talking about here is also very old and powerful, but it is profoundly light magic. Unlike the gypsies’ soul-restoring spell, which compelled the return of a soul into an unwilling body, this spell channels freely given power into a willing recipient. That is why your consent is essential and why only volunteers will be invited to participate in the spell.”
Giles gave him a long, steady look. “What you should know is that, while you are by far the best candidate to be the vessel for the reasons explained last night, you are not the only option. If you are not comfortable with this, it will be possible, although considerably more difficult, to do the spell using another person as the vessel.”
Xander took a deep, shaky breath, feeling the weight that had been pressing down on him since Maggie had asked him to agree to the spell ease up a little. “Buffy?”
“Only as a last resort.” Giles said slowly, looking like he was choosing his words carefully. “As a Slayer, Buffy’s first instinct is to hold on to power. Buffy may be willing to return the borrowed power to its rightful owner, but the Slayer will instinctively try to hold on to that power because it makes the Slayer a stronger warrior. I suspect that is at least part of the reason that tapping into the power of the Slayer line is so dangerous, because the power resents being given to another, even temporarily and in a good cause,” Giles finished, with a quick smile.
“Oh.” That made sense to him in a weird way, especially the part about the soul spell being dark magic. The whole idea of forcing a soul back into a demon-inhabited corpse had always creeped him out. If it wasn’t the magic itself but the fact that it was dark that caused Willow to change so much, then he should be ok. And grimaced inwardly even as he thought it. Despite what he’d said to Spike last night, despite the fact that he’d come here to ask questions and make up his mind, obviously he’d already decided he was going to do the spell.
“Do you think the spell will change me? Or will the spell end, the power go back to where it belongs and I’ll just be the same old me?”
Giles hesitated and Xander’s heart sank. “That’s a more difficult question, Xander. I believe that you will remain unchanged but it is possible that the amount of power we’re talking about could change you in some way. You will be using abilities you don’t naturally possess, it is possible that there could be some residual effects. If there were any changes, I suspect they would be very minor.”
Giles made a helpless gesture. “As far as the coven’s research shows, the last use of this spell was over a century ago. I’m afraid the records don’t say much about what happened afterwards, just that the vessel returned to his home and lived a long and honored life.”
“Sounds like a fairy tale,” Xander complained.
“Exactly. For all we know, it may be true but it does have a bit of ‘and they all lived happily ever after’ about it.”
Xander pushed himself to his feet, suddenly unwilling to sit here and discuss this any longer. “Fine. You can tell them I’ll do it. Spike and I will meet you all at Mr. Olsen’s tonight at sunset. We’ll talk about plans then.”
Spike came alert, hearing the sound of feet climbing to outside stairs to the apartment. Given their location above the factory, visitors were almost non-existent and he stretched out his senses, relaxing slightly as he identified the two people ascending the steps.
It was only late afternoon, which made opening the door a bit less than an impressive performance, given that he had to hide behind it to avoid being disintegrated. He nudged Xander, who had fallen asleep during the early scenes that were supposed to make you care about the characters the monsters were about to eat, leaving Spike free to channel surf.
“Wake up, luv. Got company.”
“Get the door, will you? Sun’s still up.”
Amused, Spike watched his half-asleep boy shuffle to the door, only seeming to recall this was an unusual occurrence when his hand actually closed around the knob. He snapped awake then, shooting Spike a questioning look. Spike smirked at him and nodded for him to open it as he took a position well clear of the path the late afternoon sun’s rays would take as the door swung open.
Still puzzled, but trusting him, Xander swung the door open in response to the knock, blinking for a moment in surprise at the sudden brightness and the identity of their visitors.
The wolf stayed behind his pack-leader, giving Xander a nod but remaining silent. The pack-leader’s eyes sought out Spike in the dim interior and for a long moment they stared at each other.
“I think we need to talk,” Dean said.
Spike nodded, “Yeah. Think we do at that.” He kept his face expressionless but felt a surge of reckless glee at what he sensed. The werewolves weren’t happy. The pack-leader smelled of anger and bitter disappointment and Spike guessed the meeting hadn’t gone well after they’d stormed out last night.
Xander invited them in and Spike was pleased to hear the wolf quietly asking his boy if he was all right. Good to know the wolf recognized that the coven had been way off base in how they’d handled things. Xander assured him he was fine and Spike could tell that both the werewolves took that with the skepticism it deserved.
They settled down in the living room, Spike and Xander on the couch, the werewolves across from them in the two armchairs.
“We’ve located Adam, or at least close,” Dean said without preliminaries. “Oz took us to Adam’s old lair and we spent the afternoon tracking him.” He gestured for Oz to take over.
“There’s a tunnel, about half a mile from the campus, that dead ends in a concrete wall with a really sophisticated door in it. It looks new, like something built in that last year or two. It’s got to be the Initiative. And Adam’s smell is all over it. My guess, his new base is behind that door.”
“Remember what the coven said? That there was a single weird demon signature near the Initiative but off by itself? You said that Adam was built inside the Initiative. I’m betting he knows a back door no one else knows about.”
Xander and Spike exchanged glances.
“Got some new information last night,” Spike told the werewolves casually. “Seems Adam’s got a bit more on his mind than just destroying the place. Turns out, he wants the demons and humans to kill each other and use the bodies to make more things like him.”
Dean whistled. “That’s a scary thought.” He shot Oz a look. “This town is as weird as you said.”
Oz just shrugged. “That’s Sunnydale.”
Xander grinned, thinking that, even for Sunnydale natives, Oz had blasé down to an art form. “You think Adam making more of his kind is the weirdest it gets?” he asked Dean. “Didn’t Oz tell you about our Mayor, Mr. I-Want-to-be-a-Big-Snake Wilkins? Or the swim team?”
“Forgot about the swim team,” Oz said, looking amused.
Dean held up his hands. “Let’s keep focused for now. I have a feeling you three could tell stories about this town all night and barely scratch the surface.”
“Right. Sorry,” Xander said apologetically and immediately got back to business. “Oz, remember how Adam was wired in to everything?” He barely waited for Oz’s confirming nod before continuing. “The good news is, he’s waiting for us to act before he makes his move. He wants Buffy and Spike there when he sets the demon loose, so they’ll make sure as many demons as humans are killed.”
Dean’s brows drew together in a frown. “That’s pretty specific information,” he said slowly. “You got someone in Adam’s camp?”
Spike had made up his mind some time earlier. He trusted the pack-leader, Dean had a good head on his shoulders and had a right to know what he was facing, so he answered frankly. “Got the word from an untrustworthy git that Adam’s trying to use against us. Don’t think the man wanted to be working for Adam but he’ll go with whichever side he thinks is going to win.” He smirked. “Right now, he’s more scared of us than Adam.” He shrugged. “Enough of his information fits with what we already know that I think he’s telling the truth.”
“He’s the one who first warned us about 314,” Xander filled in, then glanced at Oz. “It’s Ethan Rayne.”
The wolf frowned, obviously trying to recall the name.
“Halloween costumes?” Xander prompted. “Band candy?”
The pack-leader could obviously read his wolf. From the long steady look he sent the younger man, Spike could tell the wolf would be telling at least those stories tonight.
“Like we said, not exactly a reliable source. Man’s a Chaos Mage,” he clarified voluntarily, and saw the frown as the pack-leader assimilated that little tidbit. “But he doesn’t like the government mucking about on his turf, and he doesn’t want Adam takin’ over either.”
There didn’t seem to be much more to say on that topic and for a long minute, they all fell silent. Spike idly traced the vein on Xander’s neck, feeling the blood pumping so close to the surface, and he fiercely suppressed the hope surging in him that he would soon be able to taste that blood again, be able to Mark his Claimed, be a vampire again.
Xander turned his head to look at him, and Spike could see the desire simmering in the brown depths. Xander wanted him whole as much as he did and he rejoiced that his boy accepted him for who and what he was. Any other human would have been glad for the chip, glad that Spike wasn’t able to hurt humans, wouldn’t have seen the need to remove the chip.
Xander cleared his throat suddenly, dragging his gaze away with an effort as he remembered they weren’t alone, and shifted back to face their guests.
“So, what happened after we left last night?” he asked them. Spike looked at them as well, curious despite himself about how the group had handled their best hope walking out.
“Lot of useless talk, some arguing, a few pointed comments about how unfair they’d been to you,” Dean summarized. “They hadn’t told any of us what they were up to,” he said, shaking his head in disapproval. “Shitty thing to do to you.”
“I wasn’t thrilled to have that just dumped on me, but Spike and I have talked about it.” Spike scowled but let Xander finish, knowing it was inevitable. “I told Giles this morning that I’ll do it.” Xander smiled wryly. “It sounds like our best, maybe our only shot against Adam., so we should probably listen to the experts we called in.”
“I thought that would be your answer,” Dean said and his gaze shifted back to Spike. “Everyone else pretty much thought that too. That you’d be back and would agree to do the spell.”
Spike scowled at that, wishing Xander wasn’t so predictable, especially when it came to putting himself in danger. Would have been nice if the coven had had to sweat for a bit, thinking they’d muffed things up.
“Problem is, they’re still mostly focused on Adam and he’s only half the problem. After you left, they came up with a plan to have everyone sneak into the Initiative, locate Adam, and then find a quiet place nearby to do the spell and take him out. Everyone not actively involved in the spell will be guarding the magic workers.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” Spike burst out. He flung himself to his feet and began pacing up and down in front of the couch. “Let me guess who came up with that plan.”
“Buffy, mostly,” Oz confirmed quietly.
Spike swore, wishing they had time for him to fully express his opinion of the Slayer’s ability to plan battles. Show up and hope everything goes your way was about the extent of her strategic thinking. Never mind that that type of planning was what got Angelus sent to hell and Spike left with a sword in his gut, just to name one example. His agitated pacing slowed a bit when he saw the pack-leader grinning at him.
“Glad you agree with me that the plan needs a bit of work,” he said with a lot more restraint than Spike was capable of right now.
“Needs to be thrown out with the trash and burned is what that plan needs,” he snapped.
The fact that the wolves recognized how idiotic and incomplete the Slayer’s plan was calmed Spike enough that he resumed his seat beside Xander, letting Xander’s warm hand on his thigh steady him, even as his Claimed’s amused voice said:
“Buffy’s always been a bit seat-of-the-pants with her planning. I think maybe we should tweak that one a bit.”