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Nothing the Same, Book 4, Ch. 20 - Re-post

Nothing the Same, Book 4
Chapter:   20/?
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

This is a re-posting of Chapter 20.  The last paragraph has become 5 paragraphs, slightly changing how the chapter ends.  If you read the first post, you just need to read the last five paragraphs, everything else is the same.  This is done thanks to a wonderful feedback by disco_floozywho made me realize I had set myself up for a gaping plot hole. 



Chapter 20

If that bloody fucking bitch didn’t do something soon, Spike was going to go insane.

He ducked and spun, almost in the same movement, his foot snapping out in a kick that caught his opponent square in the knee, dropping him with the satisfying crunch of breaking bones.  Without stopping, he followed up with a vicious blow, crushing the windpipe of the last of his foes, and she staggered back, hands flying to her throat, gasping instinctively for unneeded oxygen.  He shook his head and finished the job by kicking her in the stomach, sending her flying backwards across the floor, to slam into the crowd of watching minions who hadn’t moved in time to avoid the limp body.

Spike looked around himself in satisfaction, unable to conceal his triumphant smirk at the sight of the five bodies littered around the floor.  With a careless wave of his hand, he signaled the watching minions to deal with his defeated opponents.  None of them were dust, but they would all need blood and a couple days healing before they were fit to hunt again.

It felt good to be able to thrash something.  After the tension of the last couple days, waiting for Glory to do something - anything - Spike had really needed the release of violence.  

It was just a bonus that easily defeating five minions simultaneously served as a reminder to anyone in the Court who might be feeling cocky that they weren’t likely to survive any challenge to Spike’s authority that they were foolish enough to contemplate.

Not wanting to lose the sense of relaxation that followed the release of the tension that had been with him since the night they fought Glory at the zoo, Spike abruptly strode out of the Court.  He’d make a sweep through his territory, maybe check out the bars and see if he could find any trace of Glory.

It was unbelievably frustrating that she disappeared off the face of the earth like this.  They still had no idea where she was living, or why she was lying low this way.  Rupert was optimistic, believing the absences were a sign of weakness.

“Perhaps a need to rebuild her energy after spending her strength fighting you and Buffy,” he’d theorized excitedly only last night.  “If that’s true, then the key to fighting her might be to attack on the day after she has expended a great deal of energy.”

Which was all well and good but, even if it proved true, it wouldn’t do them a blind bit of good.  So far, his own two encounters with Glory hadn’t left him in anything near fighting trim the next day.  If the only way to defeat her was to fight her successfully two days running, they were in a lot of trouble.

His good mood slipping away as he was reminded of the problems with Glory, Spike looked up at the last crimson streaks of sunset still painting the western sky.  

A quick patrol and then home again, he decided.  He’d hit the bars tomorrow.  Instead, he’d pick up Xander and they’d go to see Joyce.  Her doctors had allowed her to return to work this week, although half days only.  If all continued to go well, she would be cleared to go back to work full time next week.

It was almost a month since the surgery.  Joyce had been back to the clinic in LA twice for checkups and the doctors were pleased with her progress.  Joyce had been frustrated that they were being so cautious about letting her return to her regular schedule - she’d been advocating to return to work full time last week - but the doctor had been adamant that she take things slowly.  Given that everyone around her was on the doctor’s side, Joyce had bowed to their united front and agreed to follow the doctor’s orders.  The doctors wanted to see her at the clinic one more time before she went back to work full-time, so Xander was driving her to Los Angeles again on Saturday.  Joyce had protested that she could easily go to the hospital in Sunnydale but Xander had pointed out that she was depriving her daughters of the LA trip if she did that.

Spike approved, even though daylight would prevent him from going with them.  He had little faith in the Sunnydale doctors and preferred the ones that Watcher Junior had found for them.  Joyce would spend a couple hours at the clinic and Xander had arranged for the Cheerleader to take the girls shopping again.  Spike smirked at the thought.  Little Bit was being thoroughly indoctrinated by the Cheerleader, absorbing fashion tips at the knee of the master.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Xander knocked on the door and waited to see if there would be an answer.  Mr. Okolo had given him permission to drop by any time, but the elderly demon didn’t have a phone to check if he was home or arrange a time to visit ahead of time.  Xander hadn’t quite dared to ask why the ancient demon didn’t have one.  Mr. Okolo wasn’t someone he felt comfortable asking personal questions of, but he suspected it had something to do with the nearly immortal demon not liking modern conveniences.  Xander was beginning to understand that Mr. Okolo simply felt that, if you wanted to talk to him, the courteous thing to do was come to the house in person.  It didn’t really make sense to him not to call ahead, but it was an easy enough thing to do and it wasn’t like Mr. Okolo went out much.   

The door swung open and Mr. Okolo gave him a shallow bow in greeting.  “Welcome, Mr. Harris.  Your arrival is fortuitous.”

“It is?’  He was there to see if Mr. Okolo would ask his family if the information they’d gotten from the monks was enough to let them identify Glorificus, and he didn’t think his request had been expected.

“Yes.  I have company and we were just discussing a problem that you and your friends should be aware of.”

Xander followed Mr. Okolo into the living room and saw the Olsens sitting on the loveseat.  They both rose to their feet as he entered and Xander broke into a smile, forgetting his errand for the moment.  He hadn’t seen the Olsens much recently and he’d missed the elderly couple.  He shook the hand Mr. Olsen extended and gave Mrs. Olsen a quick hug.  

“How are you two?”

“Well.  And glad to see you,” Mr. Olsen told him, smiling widely.  “Any news?”  Giles had filled the demon community in on what they knew about Glory, but that hadn’t been much to go on.

“Nothing new, which is probably good.”  Once again, Glory had disappeared off the face of the earth, which was frustrating Spike and Buffy no end, but Xander was more inclined to take Giles’ view that the disappearance meant some kind of weakness that they might be able to use against her.  

Ok, call him an optimistic idiot, but at least he wasn’t taking out his frustration on defenseless punching bags like some Slayers he could name.  They’d kept an eye on the Magic Box for a day, but, when Glory had showed no interest in the store, Giles had reopened the shop, pointing out that all their resources were there.

Mr. Okolo gestured for them all to be seated and inclined his head towards Mrs. Olsen.  “Please tell Mr. Harris what you have told me.  If you will excuse me momentarily, I will bring refreshments.”  He slipped out of the room as Xander turned expectantly towards the white-haired woman.

Mrs. Olsen’s face clouded over and she unconsciously reached for her husband’s hand as she looked at Xander.  “You know that I do volunteer work at the hospital, right?”  

Xander nodded.

“There has been a disturbing increase in the number of mentally ill patients in the last few weeks,” she told him.  “All the patients have the same history, none of them have ever shown signs of mental illness before and the symptoms showed up overnight, with no warning.  One day they were perfectly normal and the next they were found wandering the streets, delusional and unable to explain what had happened to them.  They can’t speak rationally and don’t recognize their family and friends.”  She shook her head sadly.  “The doctors are baffled.  Mental illness doesn’t just appear overnight like this.”

Mr. Okolo returned, carrying a tray with cups and a pitcher of something that steamed gently.  Setting the tray down on the table, he poured and handed around the china cups filled with a warm, slightly muddy looking drink.  Xander sniffed at it curiously but the aroma was unfamiliar, neither tea nor coffee.

“It is rashta,” Mr. Okolo told him.  

Xander took a cautious sip.  The drink had a heavy, smoky flavor that wasn’t unpleasant, although it took some getting used to.  He sipped again and smiled.  “It’s good,” he said, mostly truthfully.

“My wife thinks that the symptoms are unnatural,” Mr. Olsen said, after taking a courteous sip from his own cup.  “That something has caused this.  That we need to look for a non-medical reason.”

“I have been thinking about what you have told us,” Mr. Okolo told Mrs. Olsen.  “I seem to remember hearing something when I was young about plagues of insanity sweeping Europe during the middle ages.”  His lips quirked up ever so slightly.  “Before my time, of course.”  

Xander smiled.  He was fuzzy about the dates of the middle ages but Mr. Okolo was around 400 years old and he was pretty sure that was after the middle ages.  

“We were not in Europe during that period,” he continued, “but I will ask my family if they have any information.  Perhaps Mr. Giles might also check his sources.”

“Not to change the subject, but would you be willing to ask them if the name ‘Glorificus’ or ‘Glory’ means anything to them?”

After a moment, Mr. Okolo asked quietly:  “You have learned the name of the demon woman?”

Xander nodded.  “Yes.  And a bit more.”  He described the attempt to transmogrify that snake, Spike’s opinion that Glory was getting stronger, Glory’s minion, and the information they had learned from the minion about Glory’s possible god-ness and that she might have come from another dimension.  The others didn’t interrupt with questions, just listened silently until he finished.

Mr. Olsen shook his head.  “The name doesn’t ring any bells, but I will have our group begin checking the name as well.”

“I will see if my family knows anything about either problem that can help,” Mr. Okolo promised.

~~~~~~~

Xander and the Olsens left together, walking towards the Olsens’ house along the quiet residential streets.  

“Xander,” Mr. Olsen began after they’d walked in uncomfortable silence for awhile.  “Did I ever tell you that I served in the Korean War?”

Xander had been looking down at the sidewalk, struggling with his guilt.  He hadn’t mentioned how they’d persuaded the minion to talk but suspected the others had all guessed.  Now he turned his head to look at Mr. Olsen.  “No.”

“It was a difficult war.”  Mrs. Olsen reached for her husband’s hand, to give support this time, rather than receive it.  “Civil wars always are.  And there were times that we had to question the local population about an area our troops were moving through.”  The eyes holding Xander’s were dark with old memories.  “There were times when we had to choose between getting answers and putting our unit at risk.”  

He didn’t say anything more but Xander saw the understanding in his eyes.  Mr. Olsen knew what they had done and was prepared to forgive him.  “You were at war,” he said, offering his own understanding in turn.  “But we aren’t.”

“You were fighting an enemy who is stronger than you and who was planning to become even stronger.  You did what you had to, to prevent that enemy from obtaining a powerful weapon.  You may have saved many lives by doing so.”

“We don’t know that for sure.”  That was the heart of it, that they didn’t know what Glory was up to.  They suspected she was evil and trying to take over the town or something but they didn’t know.  They’d killed the minion acting on the suspicion.  And if they were wrong…

“No, you don’t,” Mr. Olsen acknowledged.  “Just as we didn’t know if the people we questioned had the information we needed.  Sometimes you just have to make the best decision you can and learn to live with it.”

Xander wrapped his arms around himself, taking a long, deep breath.  Part of him had hoped that Mr. Olsen would just tell him they’d done the right thing.  But then, if the old man was inclined to give false comfort, Xander wouldn’t respect his opinion nearly as much as he did.  He’d known for a long time now that there weren’t simple answers to the big questions and Mr. Olsen was right.  He was just going to have to learn to live with it, like he’d finally learned to live with killing Jesse.

Being a grown-up sucked sometimes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Spike studied the building through narrowed eyes.  

It was an old boarding house, abandoned for decades from the looks of it.  The windows were boarded up and the front liberally decorated with graffiti.  This close to the docks, there was a pervasive smell of fish in the air, which was almost enough to cover the faint odor of blood and arousal that clung to the walls of the decaying building.

He tossed his cigarette butt away and rose to his feet, crossing the street and climbing the short flight of steps to the front door.  The solid oak door with its heavy brass knob was from another time and the knob turned easily, indicating recent use, despite all appearances.

Spike entered the lair and looked around in disgust.  The squalor and the filth weren’t unusual for a vampire lair - no vampire would clean up after themselves so those without minions to do it for them had lairs that looked like an animal’s den:  filthy blankets, ratty furniture and the occasional corpse do not make for the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.  But this particular house was low class all the way.  

China - now their suck houses had some class, he mused, as his eyes took in the battered armchair in the front hall with a customer being serviced in full view of the front door.  Chinese vamps often set up suck houses next door to opium dens.  Spike kicked a ragged blanket out of his way and headed for the stairs, a reminiscent grin crossing his face.  A bloke could feed and get high all at the same time in China.  Not that he’d ever used the suck houses, he just snatched the addicts as they staggered out the back door of the opium parlors.  

Angelus had explained suck houses to him, telling him that only weak vampires used them, threatening to beat Spike bloody if he ever caught the smell of one on him.  He snorted.  Wasn’t until years later that he’d realized that that’s how Angelus had been feeding, back when he’d first gotten cursed with the soul.  First thieves and murderers, then suck houses, then rats.  A step-by-step descent into ignominy and disgrace in his attempts to reconcile the soul with the blood lust.  Gave himself such airs nowadays over that bloody soul.  Didn’t like to remember the early years, before pig’s blood and refrigeration was his salvation from rats.

A hand closed on his shoulder, jerking him out of his memories and turning him to face the house bouncer.  A tall, beefy vampire with a crew cut, his massive biceps exposed by the sleeveless leather vest he was wearing.  “What are you doing?”

In favor of discretion, Spike decided to not rip the vampire to pieces.  “Just havin’ a look, mate,” he said mildly, shrugging off the hold and turning back towards the stairs.  “Keep it down.”

“You can’t go up there.”  The bouncer compounded his sin by repeating it, grabbing Spike’s arm this time and yanking him around again.  

Spike went with the motion, turning into it and shot out a hand, grabbing the bouncer by the throat.  His fingers closed harshly around the jugular, digging deeply into the throat, as the bouncer clawed desperately at his hands, trying to break the implacable grip.  “My town, you moron,” he said with deadly calm.  “Can do anything I like.”

He shoved the bouncer, hard, sending him reeling backwards to fall full length on the floor and turned towards the stairs again.  His sense of smell had already told him most of what he needed to know but he wanted to see it for himself.  

The second floor had a couple of rooms with two or three vamps and their customers each.  Not even a separate room for each client, as was standard in even human brothels.  

Pushing open the first door, he saw two more battered armchairs with humans sprawled in them, vampire trulls crouched beside them.  The female was feeding off the fleshy part of a young human’s forearm, a small dark-haired man who’s scent was clouded with the smell of drugs and fear and lust.  The second vampire was drinking from the wrist of a middle aged man in a dress shirt.  Tie tugged loose, graying head flung back in ecstasy, Spike figured the man was getting his money’s worth, judging by the stain on his pants.  The vamp drinking from him was a scrawny towhead, the faint stolen flush to his skin saying he’d tended more than one customer that night.  None of them looked up as Spike moved on, as silently as he’d entered.

He pushed open the door to the second room, and stopped in the doorway as he took in the scene.

A stained mattress lay on the floor, one end bent up and resting against the wall to form a makeshift couch.  Riley Finn sat on the mattress, upper torso bare, his left arm resting on his raised knee, eyes intent on the whore drinking from the veins in the crook of his elbow.  Unlike the humans in the next room, Finn looked in control, watching the dark haired woman drinking from his arm with hard, emotionless eyes.  He didn’t look up to see Spike standing in the doorway, concentrating on the whore bent over him.  “Harder,” he ordered, closing his fist to send more blood pumping down the arm.  

Spike leaned against the jamb and fished out his smokes.  He lit one up, seeing Finn’s eyes snap towards the doorway at the sudden flicker of light in the dim room.  Tucking his lighter away, Spike took a deep drag, enjoying the way the human had frozen in shocked surprise.

“Know it’s a bit dark in here for humans,” he said casually, “but I think you might have noticed that that’s not your girlfriend you’re snuggled up to,” he pointed out.

Finn snapped out of his paralysis, shoving the trollop away and rolling to his feet, grabbing his shirt and shrugging into it hastily.  “What are you doing here?” he demanded.

Spike raised his scarred eyebrow.  “I’m patrolling my Territory.  Unless this is your idea of a coffee break, you can hardly have the same reason for being here.”

“I don’t owe you an explanation for anything I do,” Finn told him, fingers fumbling over the buttons in a way that said he was down at least a pint and feeling it.

“Never said you did.  Think you owe the Slayer one.”  Spike didn’t shift from his relaxed pose that coincidentally happened to block the room’s only exit.  The woman had faded back against the wall, clearly intending to stay out of anything that happened.  Pathetic.

“What do you care what I owe her?”

“Don’t really.  But you see, this is my Territory.  Like to keep tabs on what’s happening in it.  And right now, what’s happening is that rumors are going round that the Slayer’s boy toy is frequenting the local suck house.”

“You want me to believe that demons care about what I do?”  Finn said disbelievingly, tucking his shirt in and obviously regaining some sense of moral superiority now that he was dressed and not in bed with his whore.  “Get out of my way.”

Spike shifted into his true face.  “You’ll listen to whatever I bloody well feel like saying and you leave when I let you leave,” he snarled.  

Finn glared at him and launched a roundhouse punch that a blind man would have seen coming.  Spike didn’t bother ducking.  Instead, his hand flashed out and caught the fist in mid-air, squeezing hard enough to make the human gasp and holding on until his knees began to buckle.  Spike dropped his cigarette and fisted both hands in the human’s shirt.

“Demons aren’t interested in you, you pathetic twit.  They’re interested in the fact that the Slayer’s boyfriend is paying to have vampires feed off him.  It’s not going to take very long for someone to get the oh so clever idea that all they have to do is come here and turn you and then point you at the Slayer and her family.”  Finn’s eyes widened like the idea had never occurred to him and Spike shook him, hard.  

“Which means that one day soon, the Slayer’s going to come home after a hard day, put her feet up on the couch and be offed by her mum and sis before she knows she’s in danger.”  He shook Finn again to make sure his message was getting through.  “Now, personally, I’d like it if you were turned, because then I’d get to kill you.  But I like Joyce and I don’t want to see her hurt.”  He shoved Finn away from himself so hard he slammed back into the floor, hitting his head against the wall with a crack.  “So you will get up off your arse and get the fuck out of here, now.  And if I ever hear about you coming back here, I’ll kill you.”

Finn sat up slowly, his hand going to the back of his head and wincing as he explored.  Spike could smell the fresh blood scent adding to that already in the room.  “Thought you didn’t kill humans.”

“When it comes to you, I’ll make an exception.”

Finn looked away, obviously hearing the deadly seriousness in his voice.  He staggered to his feet, using the wall for support, and began walking unsteadily towards Spike.  This time, Spike stepped aside and let him leave.  

He stayed one minute longer, eyeing the two-bit trull who was still trembling in the corner, feeling nothing but scorn from the emaciated woman who someone should stake on general principles.  “One word,” he said quietly.  “I hear one word about this on the street and you will beg for death before I dust you.  We clear?”

He barely waited for her hasty nod, spinning on his heel and stalking out.  Once outside, he hesitated, watching Finn walking down the street.  Every vampire in the house would have heard what he said to Finn and he wondered whether he should burn the place down to prevent anyone from acting on any ideas he’d put into their heads.  He smirked, picturing it.  He hadn’t burned anything down since he torched the Initiative base.  

“Bloody hell!” he exclaimed, suddenly realizing what Finn had said to him inside where prying vampire ears were almost certain to have heard them.  “Thought you didn’t kill humans,” and like a complete idiot, he’d gone and confirmed it.

No choice now and nothing random like a fire would do.  It was too easy for rats to flee a burning building and there were too many exits to seal them all.  Spike stood still for a moment longer, stretching out his senses and making sure of the location of every vampire in the building.  There were seven of them, and four human heartbeats.  Nothing to it.

Spike pulled a stake out of his waistband, sadly missing his duster with its multitude of pockets, and shifted to his true face.  This beat the hell out of babysitting Finn on his way back to his apartment, he thought gleefully, which had been his first impulse.  Not because he gave a damn if Finn made it home alive or not, but because he was worried about the safety of the humans under his protection that Finn was endangering by making himself a target for every demon in town who heard what the Slayer’s boyfriend  was doing.   

Maybe it was time the Slayer learned what her boyfriend was getting up to, he thought as he climbed the steps up to the front door on silent feet.  Wouldn’t do for her to be the last to know, he thought virtuously.

~~~~~~~~~~

*A/N - Bits of dialog borrowed from the episodes ‘Into the Woods’  


TBC
 
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