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 here
“Where are you going? The Magic Shop’s the other way.”
Once he was convinced they weren’t being followed, Xander had stopped driving like a crazy person and slowed to normal speeds, but his turn away from the business district had obviously caught Giles off guard.
“Between the evil hobbit in the trunk and the fact that the woman probably recognized you from her shopping trip this afternoon, I’m voting no on the magic shop, maybe for the foreseeable future,” Xander told him. “Any suggestions?” He looked automatically in the rear view miror and cursed when he saw nothing in Spike’s part of the seat. “Spike? Are you ok?”
Xander twisted partially around, trying to see behind him, not liking the pain threaded through Spike’s voice. Giles grabbed the wheel when the car swerved. “Xander, pay attention.”
Reluctantly he pulled his attention back to the road and inspiration struck. “The mansion. We can hole up there for awhile.” Before anyone had time to respond - either to agree or offer another suggestion, he had a sudden horrified thought and began frantically digging in his pocket for his cell phone.
“Tara!” he exclaimed. “She’s still at the shop.” He hauled the phone out and flipped it open, trying to remember what the number was.
“Allow me.” Giles tweaked the phone out of his hand and dialed quickly. “Tara? I need you to leave the shop immediately. Drop anything you’re doing and walk away. Yes, right now. We’ve stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest and the demon woman may come to the shop looking for us.”
He listened for a moment, then snapped the phone closed. “She’s leaving and will go back to the dorms and not leave her room tonight,” he reported. “She’ll call as soon as she’s there.”
Xander heaved a sigh of relief and concentrated on driving like a little old lady. Between the kidnap victim in the trunk and the weapons littering the passenger compartment, this was not a good time to get pulled over.
“Why is there an evil hobbit in the trunk?” Buffy asked after a moment. Like Spike, it was obvious from her tone that she was hurting and a quick glance in the rear view mirror showed she was holding one arm against the other, and her face was drawn tight with pain.
“Spot of question and answer would be my guess,” Spike told her. The anticipation in his tone was not a whole lot more reassuring than the pain had been.
The neighborhood was quiet as they pulled into the driveway at the mansion. Televisions sounded faintly in the closest houses and a dog was barking down the road, but the mansion was deserted and Spike climbed slowly out of the car, feeling like a tired human. It was not a sensation he enjoyed, or had experienced often in the last century. He didn’t have any injuries to speak of this time, but his whole body was stiff and sore in a way that just didn’t happen to vampires. Pain throbbed through him, seemingly everywhere at once, and it was difficult to hide that fact from Xander’s worried eyes.
The Slayer was moving even more slowly than he was, struggling to get out of the car without jarring her bad arm. Her ragged breathing audible, at least to vampire ears.
“Buffy, we need to get you to a hospital,” Giles said anxiously.
I don’t think we can risk that right now.” She winced as she maneuvered her way out of the back seat, face white with pain, cradling her dislocated arm to keep it from moving. Straightening up painfully, she looked at Spike. “Can you give me a hand?”
His eyebrows shot up, surprised, then he shrugged. “Got more experience with breakin’ than fixin’ but I’ll give it a go.”
He’d pulled enough limbs out of joint in his unlife to have a fair understanding of the muscles and tendons involved and was very familiar with the pain it caused. Some vampires did it for fun with captives, like human children pulling the wings off flies. It was an injury that caused a satisfying amount of pain and screaming, without wasting blood better used for feeding.
Putting one hand flat against Buffy’s side, he took hold of her arm with his other hand, and gently began first straightening it to line it up with the joint, then pulling with slow steady force. He concentrated on what her body was telling, trying to feel what was happening inside it as he worked. Finally, after long moments in which he could sense the muscles stretching to the brink of tearing and feel Buffy fighting the pain and the urge to struggle against him, the ball joint shifted and settled, moving back into the socket where it sweetly settled back into where it belong.
Buffy was breathing harshly by the time he was done, but relaxed almost immediately afterwards, gingerly testing her arm. “Thanks,” she said briefly and gave him a wan smile. “Not my best night.”
“Had better ones myself,” he admitted. He looked around and saw that the others hadn’t moved, the Watcher looking as if he’d only barely held himself back from interfering. Buffy gave them all a reassuring smile.
“I’m good, guys.” She tapped lightly on the trunk. “Shall we unload this guy?”
“Let him wait,” Rupert said calmly. “Let’s go inside and check you two out.” He held up a hand to stay her automatic protests. “I’m sure you are fine, but I would like to see for myself. And a bit of thinking before we question him might not be amiss. I’m sure he’ll stay put for a few minutes.”
Given that the little scabby minion wasn’t even pounding on the trunk lid, demanding to be let out, Spike figured he had a point. The minion was either thoroughly cowed or unconscious, in either case, not likely to cause trouble while they went inside and heated up some blood.
Xander pulled three bags of blood out of the freezer and put them in the microwave. While they were heating, he pulled out an ice cube tray and shook the cubes into a plastic bag. Handing it to Buffy, he apologized: “Sorry, this is the best I can do.” He supposed they really should keep some human medical supplies as well as vampire at the mansion, but this was where Spike came to heal, not himself, so it hadn’t been necessary until now.
Everyone but Giles settled onto the counter stools and Xander handed Spike a mug of heated blood. “You ok?” he asked quietly, for Spike’s ears only.
“Bit sore, nothing broken,” he answered, which was true, but only just. Being slammed repeatedly into walls ordinarily wasn’t a problem for him - mostly because it didn’t happen very frequently - but the demon woman, for all her lack of skill, had a level of strength he just wasn’t used to dealing with.
“Buffy, are you alright?” Giles asked again, hovering over her uncertainly.
“Not going dancing anytime soon, but I’m of the good, now that my arm is back in place,” she said reassuringly. Her color did look better as she sat there with the makeshift ice bag pressed to her shoulder. She was moving her arm only gingerly, but at least it no longer hurt her the way it had and she was able to move it. She looked at Spike. “You weren’t kidding about how strong she is.”
“Think she’s getting stronger,” Spike told her flatly. “Last time, she didn’t shrug things off quite so easily. Took her down once or twice. Tonight…,” he drained the mug and set it down on the counter. Xander quietly took it from him and refilled it. “She just seemed a little stronger.”
“I don’t like the implications of that,” Giles admitted. “If her strength is growing…” his voice trailed off. “I think perhaps it’s time to ask the fellow in my trunk a few questions.”
Spike perked up. He drained his second mug and absently handed it to Xander. “Good thinking, Rupert. A round or two of kick the minion is always a good time.”
Spike cocked his head curiously as Rupert and the Chaos Mage brought the minion in. The fleeting glimpse he’d caught of the thing at the zoo had left him with the impression that the demon was short, but now he saw that wasn’t actually true. The stocky build made the demon seem much shorter than he actually was, but he was certainly taller than the Slayer. Nearly Spike’s height and obviously not very strong, the two humans dragged him in without much difficulty and forced him into a chair, tying him up with a length of rope Xander had produced from somewhere.
Buffy set down the ice bag and joined him in studying the minion, her nose wrinkling as she took in the greasy hair, the scabby skin and the generally unkempt air. “Not much to look at, is he?”
“I imagine he thinks much the same of you,” Ethan observed. “However, perhaps we should ask him about his associate.”
The demon glared at him, seeming outraged by the remark. “I am merely a humble postulant to the glorious one. How dare you insult her by calling me her associate.”
“Tell us about your boss, then,” Xander suggested.
That just incited a haughty stare. “You will let me go if you do not wish to incur her anger,” the demon said. “I will not betray Glorificus. I will never talk, no matter what heinous torture…”
Actually, you’re talking quite a lot,” Giles interrupted, deadly menace in his quiet tone “Just not about the right things. Tell us why she’s here. What she wants.”
“No word shall pass my lips that would bring peril to Glorificus.,” the demon vowed. “I serve the god and I will never betray her.”
“A god?” Spike interjected, with scathing disbelief. “That skank? The god of what - bad home perms?”
The insult shook the minion out of his calm and he began struggling wildly. “She is the epitome of grace and beauty. When she enters a room, all eyes turn towards her…”
“Right,” Giles said impatiently, cutting him off in mid-flow. “More to the point, why is she doing a transmogrification spell?”
“I will tell you nothing,” the demon spat, giving up the futile struggle against the ropes.
Giles shot out a hand and grabbed him by the throat, squeezing until the minion began struggling for air. “You will tell me anything I wish to know, or I will tear you apart, piece by piece.” His voice was terrifyingly cold and frightening in its intensity.
The minion obviously felt it too. Giles released him just before he fell unconscious, and he sucked in a loud desperate breath, staring at Giles as if shocked by the sudden tearing away of his mild persona, revealing him as something far more dangerous than he appeared.
“Don’t hurt me,” he whimpered.
“We’ll not only hurt you,” Ethan told him with a feral smile. “We’ll enjoy it.” He was suddenly every inch the Chaos Mage, dangerous, deadly and, above all, wild.
Spike shifted to his true face. “And they’re rank amateurs compared to me,” he pointed out cheerfully. “I’ve had a century of practice torturing people and I don’t even care if you talk. I just like torturing things.” His lips twisted up in a grin and he ran his tongue over his fangs as if already tasting the minion’s blood.
The stared wild-eyed at the two men, then at Spike, with a look of stark terror in his eyes and Giles punched him, hard, his fist slamming into the minion’s face without having given any warning at all that the blow was coming.
“I believe we asked you a question,” he reminded with deceptive mildness.
“The spell was to locate the Key,” the minion told them, his words spilling over each other in his haste, even as a trickle of blood began running down his face from his split lip. “The transformed snake would be able to find its hiding place.”
Xander held himself immobile with an effort, struggling not to react, and felt Buffy stiffen beside him. Giles’ face might have been carved from stone. “The Key? What’s that? And why is Glory looking for it?”
“It belongs to her, that’s all I know,” the minion said frantically, looking around the circle of disbelieving faces. “It was stolen from her and she wants it back.”
“I believe he’s lying to us,” Ethan said, almost in a sing-song, like he was really hoping the minion was lying and he would get to do something about it.
“I am only a humble servant of the god. She does not share her secrets with me,” the minion told them desperately.
Twenty minutes later, they were sure they knew everything the minion knew about the demon woman.
Her name was Glorificus, or Glory, and the minion claimed she was a god. As they had feared, she was looking for the Key. The demon claimed she was from another dimension where she ruled as a god, and that the Key opened a mystical portal between dimensions that Glory would use to return home. There was only a limited time to find and use the Key, and opening the portal involved a ritual the minion didn’t know any of the details of.
Xander was feeling sick, having stood by and watched impassively as the demon was tortured, without uttering one word of protest. He’d simply bit his lip and let it happen, justifying it to himself because they needed the information for Dawn’s sake. He tried to be grateful that the minion needed so little persuasion to talk - a couple of punches and one broken bone had convinced him to spill everything he knew. Still, he knew he wouldn’t have stopped it if it had taken more than that, so he couldn’t give himself any credit. They’d been lucky, not virtuous.
The others - well, Buffy and Giles, were grim faced and silent when they all left the minion to discuss what they’d learned and Xander knew they were as disgusted with themselves as he was. Ethan, on the other hand, seemed as untroubled as Spike by what they had done.
With an inward sigh, he put it behind him. He’d made the choice to participate and he was just going to have to live with it. And if he didn’t like knowing what he was capable of, well that was just too damn bad.
With an effort, he focused on the most worrisome piece of information. “There’s no way she’s an actual mightier-than-thou god. Right?”
“She does seem a bit lacking in the smiting department,” Ethan observed. He just smirked at Buffy’s muttered “easy for you to say”. “This Glorificus can’t even find her misplaced Key without help, how godlike does that sound?” His flippant tone was at odds with the way his eyes watched them intently.
Giles cleared his throat uncomfortably. “To answer your question, Xander, it’s not completely impossible, although I would say that it’s highly unlikely that she’s actually a god.”
“On what planet is it not impossible?” Buffy asked, sounding as stunned as Xander felt.
“Well, it rather depends on your definition, I’m afraid.”
“Huh?” Buffy said blankly.
“And so say we all,” Xander agreed. “For future reference, I was kind of hoping I’d get a firm ‘no’, possibly even a ‘hell, no’ to my question.” he told Giles.
“Terribly sorry,” Giles said, with a hint of a smile. “What I meant was, that it’s extremely unlikely that this Glorificus is what we would think of as a god, but that doesn’t mean her minions don’t regard her as such.”
“Makes sense to me,” Spike said with a smirk. “Prefer my minions to treat me like a god.”
Giles ignored that. “It is remotely possible that she really is a god, or at least that she is one in her own dimension. Depending on how old she is, and how long she’s been in this dimension, it’s even possible that she was regarded as a god here at one time.” Xander couldn’t help noticing that Giles was beginning to look intrigued with the possibilities. “There are a number of theories that the legends of the Greek and Norse gods have a core of truth to them. That they are based on racial memories of extremely powerful beings that existed at one time.”
“Like that Star Trek episode where they found the god Apollo on another planet,” Xander said. There was a moment of blank silence and he realized they were all looking at him with disbelief. “Never mind.” At times like this, he really missed Oz. Oz would have understood his reference.
“Something like that,” Giles said dubiously. “However, I believe it is far more likely that we are dealing with someone who has merely convinced some rather pathetic creatures that she is a god. This woman, Glorificus, is powerful, of course, but she has not shown any extraordinary abilities other than unusual strength such as many demons possess.”
Buffy looked a little happier at that reasoning. “You’re right. She’s strong - really strong, but it’s not like she’s throwing bolts of lightning around or anything.”
“Moving on to the next topic,” Ethan prompted. “What do you know about the Key that you haven’t been telling me?” When no one answered immediately, he pinned Giles with a look. “Please, it was obvious you all hated the idea that Glory is looking for the Key.”
Buffy and Giles exchanged glances. “Of course, we hated the idea. All we know about the Key is that it’s supposed to be immensely powerful. We don’t need something as strong as this Glory going after it.”
“Uh huh.” Ethan didn’t even try and hide his disbelief but, to everyone’s relief, let it go. “Who’s on cleanup duty?” he asked, gesturing towards the room with the tied up, unconscious minion.
“What do you mean?” Buffy asked.
“I mean, who’s going to dispose of the body?” Ethan answered bluntly.
“Body? Uh - he’s not dead,” Xander pointed out uneasily.
“Are you planning on letting him waltz home to his mistress and let him spill all your little secrets?” Ethan asked in disbelief.
“That you lot know a great deal more than you’re saying about this mysterious Key, for one.”
“But we don’t…”
“Don’t even start.” Ethan withered her with a look. “You aren’t very good liars. Your reaction had to be as obvious to him as it was to me.”
“We can’t just kill him in cold blood,” Xander protested.
“’course we can,” Spike said. “Xander, he was helping create a monster. He’s a minion to something he thinks is a god, knows all of us by sight, and Glory knows about the shop. Not fancying having him toddle on home to tell his god we tied him up and tortured him.”
“Spike’s right,” Giles told him quietly. “We can’t risk him running back to his mistress and telling her we’re interested in the Key.” His eyes shifted towards Ethan for a fraction of a second but didn’t say anything. “So far, she doesn’t know much about us other than that Spike is a vampire and Buffy is the Slayer,” he flicked a disapproving glance at Spike, who shrugged unrepentantly. “While she may very well assume that the Slayer is the logical one to be protecting the Key, she doesn’t know that, and the longer we can keep her guessing, the better.”
“Xander, I don’t like it any better than you do, but we don’t have a choice. He knows too much.” Buffy stared at him, obviously willing him to remember who the Key was and he reluctantly nodded. In a choice between Dawn and a demon who was helping Glory find Dawn, there was no choice. He nodded, hating himself but not seeing any other option.
“We done with him?” Spike asked. Everyone nodded and Spike turned on his heel and headed back into the living room. There was the sharp sound of bones cracking as Spike broke his neck with casual ease and Xander tried not to think about lines being crossed.
Even as a human, Spike hadn’t done a lot of brooding over the state of his soul and the value of life. William the poet had spent his days dreaming futilely of love, not pondering the value of life. Once Drusilla turned him, taking life had been not only a necessity but something he’d reveled in. He hadn’t stopped killing humans because he thought there was anything wrong with it, but for Xander’s sake. And he hadn’t stopped killing, just turned his violence on demons exclusively. He killed for fun, to protect his Territory and his Claimed, and breaking the neck of one worthless, scabby demon had been nothing more than a moment’s effort, forgotten as soon as it was accomplished.
Except for the effect on his Claimed.
Xander hadn’t argued, hadn’t complained, hadn’t said so much as a word about it once the decision was made. But he was lying awake now, staring soundlessly into the dark, and Spike ached for him.
He had very little comprehension of Xander’s belief that killing in general was bad. He got that Xander felt guilty about killing the demon, and that the guilt was eating away at his Claimed, robbing him of sleep, but he didn’t really understand why he felt that way.
All he could do was hold his boy and offer the mute solace of his presence, because he didn’t know the words to say to comfort him.
“Need to talk to you, Xander,” Spike said quietly in his boy’s ear.
Xander turned to face him. He looked tired, after the long night lying awake, but didn’t say anything about what he’d been thinking. “What’s up?”
“Glory. Need you to be extra careful until we figure out how to deal with her.”
Thick brows swooped together in a puzzled frown. “Why? She didn’t see me in the shop and doesn’t know my name. You, Buffy and Giles are the ones who need to be careful.”
“You’re on her radar now, luv. Not sure she even noticed the rest of us.”
Xander opened his mouth to object but Spike’s look stopped him before he got a word out.
“She’s not the slightest bit worried about the Slayer and me,” he admitted. Much as he hated to admit it, the bitch hadn’t seemed to be anything more than slightly annoyed by their combined best efforts. “You’re the only one of the whole bloody lot of us who managed to piss her off.” Despite his concern, his face creased in a proud grin for his Claimed.
“Giles kidnapped her minion,” Xander reminded him.
Spike just lifted his scarred eyebrow. “Didn’t seem to care that much about him, now did she? Maybe a bit upset that we touched her property, but she wasn’t crying over the minion himself.”
He hated how helpless Glory made him feel. Weapons couldn’t touch her and nothing he had done had harmed her at all. It was humiliating that, despite his best efforts, the most damage he’d been able to do was leave a hole in her dress. Bloody embarrassing is what it was.
“Gonna have to find a way to fight her. Find some kind of weakness, and that may take awhile. Don’t want her hurting you while we’re still spinning our wheels.”
“We’ve got something to go on now,” Xander said after a moment.
Spike made a scoffing noise. “Her name. Might not mean anything, luv. Could have changed it a hundred times already.”
Xander cupped his face in both hands, his palms warm and reassuring against Spike”s skin. “Still, it’s more than we had yesterday. Mr. Okolo will help us check it out.”
“Not losing you Xander,” Spike told him sternly. “Want your word you’ll be careful.”
“I’m always careful,” Xander told him. Spike just looked at him. “Well, almost always.” Xander shook his head with patient amusement. “You worry too much, Spike. I promise you, I won’t do anything stupid like try to fight her. I know I wouldn’t be able to touch her.”
Spike relaxed slightly, despite the fact that Xander wasn’t good about keeping this kind of promise. He gotten better about it, but he still tended to throw himself into the middle of things when others were in danger.
“Good work with the snake,” he said, meaning it. Xander killing the snake and smashing the amulet meant Glory wouldn’t be able to try the spell again, which meant she was that much further from learning that Dawn was the Key.
And that just got him back into his own cycle of worry. If they couldn’t find a way to deal with Glory, she was going to be able to do anything she wanted to Dawn and they wouldn’t be able to stop her.
And that wasn’t going to happen. One way or another, he’d find a way to protect Dawn.
*A/N - Bits of dialog borrowed from the episodes ’Intervention’, ‘Blood Ties’ and ’Tough Love’