Nothing the Same, Book 4
Pairing: S/X, established relationship
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 5, but anything from Season 1 on.
Summary: sequel to Nothing the Same , Books 1 - 3
Previous parts hereChapter Four
Sitting out in the courtyard off Giles’ apartment, Xander smiled as he watched Giles working. He’d found Giles sitting at the table in the courtyard outside his apartment, escaping the heat inside, surrounded by books and notes, scribbling notes to himself from ideas he’d found in the Watcher Journals.
He hadn’t realized how quiet and depressed Giles had gotten until suddenly he wasn’t any more. Buffy’s decision to ask Giles to help her figure out what being a Slayer meant had lead the two of them to a decision to resume her training - something they hadn’t done formally since Buffy had started college. Ever since their talk, Giles had been drawing up plans and consulting other Watcher’s journals for ideas and generally looking like he was thoroughly enjoying himself. Xander just hoped Buffy realized what she’d gotten herself into. Giles looked like he had a scary amount of training planned.
He was continuing to organize his Slayer materials, but now it wasn’t just something he needed to do before he could leave town, to ensure he done the best he could by his Slayer. Now it was a convenience, something he recognized as being a good idea, in general, but no longer urgent.
“You should join us, Xander,” Giles told him, picking up the conversation from where hed stopped talking to jot down a note to himself about his latest idea. “Somehow we stopped our demon study sessions,” he frowned. “I’m not quite sure when that happened.”
“Neither am I,” Xander admitted. “Some crisis or other.” Graduation, he thought. He’d gotten so busy the summer after graduation that he’d stopped studying with Giles entirely. “You’re going to have a demon study night?” he asked curiously.
“Yes, Buffy and I are going to work together for an hour or two, five days a week. I’m planning on spending one of the sessions on demons. It’s something she should have been studying all along, but somehow I was never quite able to get her to deal with the subject systematically, instead of just as needed.”
“Demon of the week sessions.” Xander had gotten involved in some of them and they were great for in-depth knowledge of one particular species, but very different from the survey course of the kind Giles had been teaching him.
“Quite so. Would you be interested in continuing your studies?” Giles gave him a keen glance.
“Yeah, I’d like that.” He’d enjoyed his sessions with Giles and some of the information had ended up being very useful on the Hellmouth. Of course, learning about non-dangerous demons had been if anything even more interesting. A thought struck him. “You know, Giles, I bet some of the patrol volunteers would love to learn more about the demons they’re fighting. What do you think about making it an open class?”
Giles looked intrigued. “That’s a very interesting idea, Xander. Do you really think any of them would be interested?”
“Yeah. And frankly, we should think about including Riley and the other former Initiative soldiers. They need a serious crash course in the harmless demons.”
“I’d think twice about that, if I were you. They might just use the information to hunt down all your little friends.”
Xander started in surprise at the sudden voice behind him.
Giles closed his eyes for one brief second. “Hello, Ethan,” he said resignedly, looking over Xander’s shoulder towards the stairs leading down into the small courtyard.
Xander twisted around and saw Ethan Rayne - who couldn’t ever resist making an entrance - posed on the bottom step, a puckish smile on his lips.
“For your information, they have given their word that they will not interfere in Buffy’s work.”
“And you believe them?” Ethan was as good as Spike at conveying disbelief with nothing more than a single lifted eyebrow.
“Yes,” Giles said stiffly. “I do.”
Xander hid a grin. Giles didn’t trust the former Initiative soldiers still stationed in town at the army base further than he could throw them and only the fact that Sergeant Morgan was keeping tabs on them had reconciled him to their continued presence in town. It had to be killing him to vouch for them now, but he seemed to be making a point of taking the opposite side from Ethan on every subject.
Ethan sauntered over to the table and settled down in an empty chair, as comfortable as if Giles had effusively welcomed him instead of just looking irritated at the interruption. “Rather trusting of you, Ripper.”
“Is there some reason you’re here, Ethan?”
“Now, Ripper, you’re going to make me think you aren’t happy to see me.”
Xander thought Ethan would do better with Giles if he would stop calling him by his teenage nickname. Giles reacted to it every time the way Angel did when Spike called him ‘Angelus’. Which was probably the point, now that he thought about it. Ethan might be annoying the hell out of Giles but wasn’t being ignored.
Xander had expected Ethan to return to town immediately after the fight with the Initiative and begin trying to get Giles to date him - he was so not thinking about them doing anything but sipping tea together at the Espresso Pump. Instead, they hadn’t seen or heard anything from the chaos mage for nearly two months. Giles hadn’t acted surprised or upset by the disappearing act, or as if he’d even noticed that Ethan hadn’t followed through, except for the occasional, overly-casual question about the spell Ethan had done to short out the chip and Ethan’s agreement with Spike, allowing him to return to Sunnydale without Spike killing him.
By the time Ethan did start stopping by, Giles was on the defensive, no longer quite so sure about Ethan’s motives for wanting to return to Sunnydale and regarding his one-time friend with wary eyes. Remembering the almost smug certainty Giles had shown when he first learned what favor Ethan had asked Spike for in exchange for remove the chip, Xander couldn’t help admiring the man’s strategy. He suspected Ethan would have had a much harder time with Giles if he hadn’t prudently absented himself over the summer.
As far as he knew, Ethan still hadn’t brought up the subject of dating to Giles, but watching the two men verbally jousting, Xander could tell it was only a matter of time. Spike was right, the two of them were so obvious, they might as well be carrying signs that read “former lovers”.
Carrying a stack of boxes up the dormitory stairs, Xander suspected that the fall and spring moving parties were going to be a part of his life for awhile. Riley was helping as well, but the two of them were being carefully polite to each other, which didn’t make for a happy work crew. Riley was apparently still upset about Spike hitting Buffy the other night.
Actually, Xander had been ticked off about that too - not that he intended to admit that to Riley - but for completely different reasons. Spike had promised him he wouldn’t attack Buffy and Buffy had set Spike’s healing ribs back a day when she defended herself. Oh, he understood why Spike had been upset, but he and Buffy really needed to figure out another way to communicate when they were angry at each other.
Riley was mad because he couldn’t stop thinking about Buffy as being a girl, which was just stupid. Spike hitting Buffy and Buffy hitting Spike wasn’t the same as two normal humans hitting each other. For Riley to still be holding a grudge days later and thinking Spike was dangerous and out of control was beyond stupid. Well, ok, Spike was dangerous, but not to Buffy and it was past time Riley learned to accept that.
Shaking off his thoughts about things he couldn’t change, Xander set his boxes down inside the room and looked around. Buffy was in a different room this year, a single, not a double and she was staring pensively out the window, not unpacking the first load of boxes. Crossing the room, Xander looked out over her shoulder and saw she had a view of the parking lot and Riley, gathering up a second load of boxes out of the back of the truck he’d borrowed.
“How’s it going with you two?”
Buffy glanced around and smiled. “We’ve decided to try being just Buffy and Riley for awhile, and see how it goes.”
“As opposed to being two other people?”
Buffy gave him a look that said he was being dense. “No Slayers or commandoes allowed on dates,” she explained. “No patrolling together, no training together, no nothing involving death or danger. We’re going to go to movies, and out to eat, and skip hand in hand through the park…” she scowled and smacked him as he made a gagging sound. “Work with me, Xander, that was a metaphor.”
“Hey,” he protested. “It’s not my fault that the image of Riley skipping is now permanently stuck in my head.” He was going to have a really hard time not giggling when Riley got back with his second load of boxes.
“Speaking of which - the dating part, not the skipping which I am now seriously regretting ever saying - can you babysit Dawn tonight?”
“Who?” Xander asked blankly.
“Earth to Xander. Dawn - my terminally annoying kid sister.”
“Of course, sorry,” Xander shook his head to clear it. “I guess I’m more in need of coffee than I realized.” It wasn’t even the first time Buffy had asked him to babysit for her sister. The image of Riley skipping was clearly messing with his mental processes. “What time and for how long?” he asked.
He didn’t think Spike would mind. Spike adored Dawn even if he hated for people to know that. Buffy didn’t even call him on it - not since she’d discovered that Xander could babysit Dawn in her place far more frequently when Spike wasn’t trying to prove to her how little he cared and objecting to Xander’s “wasting his time with the little brat” for show.
Spike thought Dawn had spunk - which she did, sometimes almost too much. He supposed it came from growing up as kid sister to the Slayer. Even if she hadn’t known what was going on, she’d known a long time before Joyce did that Buffy snuck out at night. Xander grinned, remembering Buffy’s relief that years of blackmail had come to an end after he and Spike spilled the beans to Joyce. He suspected it was the reason she had eventually forgiven them for telling Joyce she was the Slayer.
“Mom has a date tonight and I was supposed to be going out with Riley. Have you ever tried to get some quality nookie in with Dawn around?”
Xander grinned. He’d gotten some extremely high-quality nookie during babysitting duty, on the Summers’ couch after Dawn had gone to bed, but he wasn’t about to admit that. He settled for the safer option.
“Your mom has a date? With who?”
“Joyce has a date? With who?”
“Some guy she meet at the gallery. Buffy didn’t know his name. That’s why we’re babysitting.”
“Slayer’s letting her mum go out on a date with a stranger?” Spike asked, looking absolutely outraged at the idea.
“Well, first dates are usually with people you don’t know. That’s kind of the point.”
“Slayer going with them?”
“Hello, Mr. Victorian age, we don’t use chaperones any more. Well, except at school dances,” he conceded, “and I don’t think those count.” He and Spike certainly hadn’t had anyone interrupt them in the corners of the school gym on prom night. Of course, that could have been because Giles and Wesley had been two of the chaperones that night.
“Give me the phone,” Spike demanded. “Going to give the Slayer a piece of my mind. First Dracula and now this…”
Xander straddled Spike’s lap, stopping him as he started to get up off the couch to look for the phone himself. “Spike, calm down. Joyce is allowed to date. You’re going to have to let her grow up some time,” he said kindly, eyes shining with laughter.
Spike glared at him. “I am calm.” Xander just looked at him, eyebrows raised. Spike subsided into sulky silence.
“Not helpin’ babysit the kid,” he announced after a brief silence.
“No problem. I’m sure I can handle it on my own,” Xander answered cheerfully, deciding it would be safer not to be caught rolling his eyes.
“Where’s Spike?” Dawn demanded immediately, looking extremely put out when Xander walked into the house alone. Dawn had a huge crush on Spike. She used to have one on Xander but it had died a quick death shortly after she met Spike. Xander had been amused and sympathetic when Dawn had switched her crush from him to Spike. What wasn’t to crush on? Handsome, dangerous, mouth-wateringly sexy, Xander couldn’t fault Dawn’s taste.
Xander gave her a conspiratorial grin. “Found out your mom was on a date. She’s being stalked even as we speak.”
Dawn giggled. “That’s cute.”
“Well, given that your mom’s last date was with a wife-killing robot, it’s also not a bad idea.” It had actually been Dawn who’d told him about that incident, long after it happened, since he hadn’t been friends with Buffy and hadn’t even met Dawn yet at the time. He’d thought she was kidding but Willow had confirmed it.
Dawn made a face. “Ted was creepy even when I thought he was human.”
“So you say now.”
“I so knew it at the time,” Dawn insisted, following him into the living room. “What videos did you bring?”
It was a standing tradition that Xander brought movies with him on nights he babysat. Dawn liked the the sci-fi movies Xander usually brought over, saying that the romances her mom and Buffy liked to watch were “so lame”.
When Joyce first began inviting them over for dinner, the summer Buffy had run away to Los Angeles, Dawn had always “coincidentally” been out of the house spending the night at a friends’ house. It wasn’t until Joyce had known Spike for almost two months that she first allowed him to meet Dawn. It had been just one more thing that Buffy had gotten upset about that fall and she had threatened Spike with unbelievably graphic violence if he hurt or upset Dawn in any way. She’d argued furiously with her mother that Spike couldn’t be trusted around Dawn but Joyce had put her foot down. Spike had been astonished and touched that Joyce trusted him that much - Buffy was the Slayer and could take care of herself but letting Spike be around her 12-year old younger daughter? Spike had frankly had no interest in meeting the Slayer’s kid sister at the time, but the combination of a new opportunity to piss Buffy off and Joyce’s trust had been irresistible.
Joyce had trusted Spike, but only so far. It was only after the craziness caused by the Hansel-and-Gretel demon that Joyce had finally allowed Dawn to be around Spike without someone else there: herself or Xander or Buffy. Knowing that Spike hadn’t done anything to hurt her family, even after Joyce had thrown him out of the house and called him a “monster” and a “thing”, had cemented the trust between her and Spike. Joyce had told Spike that she’d been wrong not to trust him and, without making a production of it, she simply stopped worrying about making sure that someone else was around.
Dawn had been ecstatic. Her crush on Spike had been full-blown by then and she’d been pestering her mom for a long time about limiting her Spike time to supervised visits.
Spike, up to that point, had pretty much just tolerated Dawn - who, admittedly could
be annoyingly immature and bratty at times. Somehow, being quietly granted Xander’s unofficial big brother status with Dawn had changed his amused tolerance into genuine affection. He’d always approved of her fearless spunk and he’d gradually gotten the chance to know the quieter Dawn, who liked school and asked him to help her with her homework. Watching Spike patiently correcting her English and History papers always brought a smile to Xander’s face.
The sound that woke him was so unusual that it took Spike a moment to place it.
Someone was knocking, loudly and impatiently, on the apartment door.
It couldn’t be later than noon, from the feel of it, and a quick glance at the clock on Xander’s side of the bed confirmed it. Bloody fucking hell. It this was a solicitor, he was pretty sure Xander would forgive him for eating them.
Spike rolled to his feet in one smooth motion and walked quickly into the living room, feeling a jolt of worry that Xander was hurt or in need of help. Stretching his senses out, he listened for some clue as to who was outside the door, hearing the annoyed muttering just before the hammering began again.
He cursed fluently and reached out to snatch the door open, then hesitated. Xander would kill him if he opened the door naked. Swearing out loud, he retreated to the bedroom and rapidly yanked on a pair of pants and a t-shirt. He pulled on his boots and took an extra second to grab the oilskin tarp he kept in the closet for emergencies and shook it out, already wrapping it around himself as he returned to the front door, where the knocking had gotten louder and even more impatient.
He undid the locks that Xander insisted on fastening whenever he left and yanked the door open. Dawn squeaked in surprise, her fist still raised. “Spike!” she exclaimed happily.
“You’re leaving,” he told her. Not giving her time to argue, he simply pulled the oilskin over his head and grabbed Dawn’s hand, hurrying her down the stairs and towards the car. Dawn protested the whole way, but didn’t struggle, for which Spike was grateful. Bits of his fingers were exposed and he could feel the heat of the sun blistering his skin as he struggled to keep the cloth securely wrapped around him while towing a reluctant teenager towards his car.
“In the car,” he snapped, sliding in behind the wheel and waiting impatiently for Dawn to climb in beside him.
“Spike, what’s wrong? I just wanted to talk to you.” Dawn sounded a little scared and she stared at him through the open passenger door.
Spike gritted his teeth against the urge to yell at her and reached across to pull her inside, ignoring the deadly sun as the tarp slipped back from his hand as it closed around her arm, tugging her gently inside. Dawn realized what was happening and scrambled inside, slamming the door with its blacked-out window closed and shutting out the sun.
“It’s not safe for you here, Dawn.” he managed to say, fairly calmly and threw the car into gear, sending up a spray of gravel as he spun it around and headed for the Summers house. “We’ll talk about it when I get you home.”
Xander hadn’t trusted himself to speak to Dawn calmly for days.
He sat with her now on the porch swing of her house, three days after she gone to the apartment. What had angered him the most was that Dawn knew she wasn’t supposed to go to their apartment, but she’d had an argument with Buffy over something - a sweater she’d borrowed and ruined or something equally stupid - and had wanted Spike to make her feel better. Admittedly, Spike could always be counted on for colorful Buffy insults, which made Dawn laugh, but still…
Spike had told him he’d taken care of it, but Xander wanted to be sure. Both Buffy and Joyce had called to apologize, and Dawn had called practically non-stop, leaving tearful, apologetic messages, promising never to do that again, which Xander, who’d deliberately not answered the phone, had listened to with a grim face. He believed her, he just wasn’t sure she really understood.
Granted, the combination of Spike throwing a blanket over himself and hustling her out of the apartment immediately, not even waiting to call someone to come and get her, just dragging her down to the deSoto with its blacked out windows and driving her home, and the burns he’d gotten from the sun doing that, had been enough to rattle Dawn completely.
Once they were safely inside Joyce’s house, Spike had explained to her exactly why it was so dangerous for both her and Xander to have a human visiting them in their apartment. From Spike’s description, Dawn had been in tears, trying desperately to soothe the blistered skin on Spike’s hands with a cold washcloth - which Spike had born patiently despite the fact that it did nothing to either heal him or ease the pain, and she had promised she would never come over to the apartment again, that she would call Xander’s cell phone if she needed to get ahold of them during the day.
Now that he was sure he could talk to her without yelling at her, Xander had gone to the house and quietly asked if he could talk to Dawn alone. Joyce had sent Dawn out to the porch to talk to him, although Xander was sure she was listening from inside the living room. Which was fine.
Dawn had come out hesitantly and Xander wished he hadn’t waited so long, because Dawn was obviously feeling guilty and a little scared and probably a little resentful that he hadn’t returned any of her calls. She sat down stiffly on the old couch on the porch, hands clasped tightly, and Xander quietly handed her a slip of paper. She glanced at it.
“It’s the number for Spike’s cell phone,” he told her calmly. “You’re the only one but me that has it now. Spike asked me to give it to you.”
Dawn’s tense posture eased and she took the piece of paper with hands that trembled slightly. “Why are you giving it to me?”
“Because Spike wants you to have it. Don’t use it at night but you can call him anytime during the day. If you need to see him, Spike can get here through the tunnels. There’s an entrance less than half a block from here and a lot of trees on this block.”
At the oblique reminder that Spike had gotten burned bringing her home, tears welled up in Dawn’s eyes.
“Ahh, honey,” Xander took her in his arms, stroking her hair and whispering in her ear that they both forgave her. “But Dawn, you need to understand that you are the reason Spike got hurt. I know you didn’t mean to, but you did. I was really angry with you, that’s why it took me so long to come see you. I know you love Spike and wouldn’t hurt him for the world, but both he and Buffy have responsibilities and problems that you and I don’t have. And we always have to remember that.”
“But you live with Spike,” Dawn had sniffed, not quite willing to let it go and Xander thought that he’d probably made a tactical error mentioning Buffy. Dawn was going through a phase where she absolutely refused to admit that Buffy’s role as the Slayer was any big deal.
“Because the vampires accept that I’m Spike’s property.” he explained patiently, knowing she needed to understand this more than superficially. “I’m the only human who can safely be upstairs without the vampires wondering if Spike’s gone soft or is betraying them in some way.” He remembered guiltily when he’d invited Giles over for the Watcher’s one and only visit to the apartment a few weeks after they’d moved in. He hadn’t really known himself then how much of a problem he was creating for Spike by doing that. Fortunately, at the time there had only been a handful of vampires in the Court.
“Even worse, if the vampires get your scent, they can find you around town. Someone Spike cares about can be used as a hostage against him to make him do things he doesn’t want to.” Dawn looked less than impressed and Xander held her shoulders lightly, staring intently at her as he explained.
“I’m Spike’s Claimed Human, Dawn. A vampire is going to think long and hard before touching me, because they know that Spike will kill them” - big understatement there, but hey, Dawn was only fourteen so he was giving her the G-rated version - “you don’t have that protection.”
“But Dracula threatened you.”
Xander froze. He hadn’t been aware that Dawn knew anything about what had happened with Dracula. “Yes, he did,” he said carefully, “but even Dracula didn’t dare hurt me without making sure who had Claimed me. And Spike killed him for threatening me.”
“Yeah, Buffy was really mad about that.” Dawn managed a watery smile, which Xander returned, remembering how furious Buffy had been that Spike had stolen her trophy kill.
“Just remember, Dawn, vampires have a really good sense of smell. And hearing. If you were in the apartment for any length of time, some of them would hear your heartbeat and be able to recognize your smell. Then they would start to ask questions. Spike can take any of them on one at a time, and even two or three at a time, but if thirty of them stormed the apartment, Spike would probably be killed. Especially if he was trying to protect you before defending himself.”
Dawn looked at him wide-eyed and Xander wondered if he was going to have Joyce on the front porch at any moment, telling him he’d gone too far.
“You and I have a big responsibility, Dawn. We have to think before putting ourselves in danger because Spike won’t think before rescuing us. If Spike had been thinking about anything other than getting you out of the apartment as fast as he could, he would have called someone to come get you. I could have been there in five minutes, and so could your mom, Giles and Buffy. Spike was so worried about you being in danger that he just ran out into the sun.”
“I know. I’m really sorry.”
Xander hugged her tighter. “I know you are, Dawn. And I know you won’t do it again. Just remember, you are one of the very few people in this world that Spike loves. And Spike will do anything for the people he loves. So you and I have to remember that before we do something stupid.”
“Mom too.” Dawn looked at him. “He loves mom, too.”
“Well, yeah, but she doesn’t usually do anything more dangerous than going out on dates.”
Dawn managed a half-hearted giggle at that and Xander threw an arm around her, pleased when she put her head on his shoulder, leaning against him. “Is it hard, being with Spike?” she asked after a long time.
“There’s some things I wish we could do: afternoons at the beach, that kind of thing, but no, it’s not hard. Spike’s worth it.”
Dawn didn’t say anything else for a long time, and Xander kept his eyes on the front lawn, remembering the summer he’d met Dawn. It had been the summer that Buffy ran away. Dawn had caught him when he’d come over to do yard work for Buffy’s mother while she was at work. He could still see her, a skinny, not quite 12-year old, arms crossed, telling him she was going to call the police on him because he was obviously some kind of weirdo, breaking into their shed just to do their yard work. He hadn’t even known Buffy had a kid sister before then.
After that first meeting, he’d seen her several times over the summer. Unlike her mother, who when she found him in the yard, would simply pull on a pair of gloves and go to work beside him in comfortable silence, Dawn would sit on the porch steps and watch him work, talking to him non-stop. Hearing her complain about Buffy and rattle on about movies and books, he’d let her voice wash over him, filling that part of him that had been aching for the loss of Willow’s prattling voice in his life.
Dawn had become the kid sister he’d never had and he knew the same fear as Spike that something would happen to her, that she would become another victim of the Hellmouth.
Both of them were determined not to let that happen. If that meant that Dawn had to grow up a little faster than she might otherwise, well, at least she would live to grow up.
I wonder if the monk's spell caused a "disturbance in the Force" which is what brought chaos-worshipper Ethan back to Sunnydale at this time.