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
The Court was mostly full when Spike returned from doing a sweep of his Territory, the minions straggling in from their night’s activities. As always, the main floor was noisy, the minions generally spent the last waning hour before dawn bragging to each other about their night’s activities. Like humans in a bar towards the end of the night, their feats obtained the status of legend in the retelling: each insisting they had had the most dangerous fight, the best kill. the blood of the sweetest virgin in town.
Sometimes he missed the company of older vampires, of his family in particular with a fierce longing that surprised and embarrassed him. He missed the years when, young and reckless, he had looked forward to nothing more than bringing his triumphs home to impress the elders of his clan, like the night he’d shared the news of killing his first Slayer - veins still tingling from his first taste of Slayer’s blood, Drusilla proud and loving, her slender body wrapped around his, sharing the taste of his kill, her agile tongue darting inside his mouth to taste the blood still staining his lips and teeth. Even Darla had been impressed for once by his kill of the Chinese Slayer. Hell of a night that had been, he thought now. The panic and chaos in the streets like the headiest wine, drunk on Slayer’s blood and victory, basking in Dru’s undivided attention and admiration.
It was Anthony, two minions in tow, who’d interrupted his thoughts.
“These two saw something tonight that I thought you should know about.”
The two minions were obviously torn between pride and fear. Pride that Anthony had thought the news they’d brought the Lieutenant was important enough for them to give Spike their account directly, and fear that Spike wouldn’t think their information was important enough to have bothered him. Spike hid a smirk. He liked the minions being afraid of him. That was how it should be. Screw the old days.
“Four bodies in the woods on the edge of town, Master Spike,” the taller one said, having been surreptitiously pushed forward by his short, skinny partner. Spike sighed inaudibly. What was it about minions turned in the 70’s - the 1970’s - that they clung to the eye-searing polyester shirts they’d worn as humans?
“Humans?” he asked impatiently.
“Yes, Master Spike. We were hunting in the woods east of town when we smelled the blood. The bodies were in armor and they carried swords. The real deal, it looked like, not movie props or recent knock-offs. From the position of the bodies, they didn’t kill each other, it looked like something else killed them.
The shorter one spoke up for the first time. “They had a mark,” he gestured towards the center of his own forehead. “A tattoo. A symbol of some kind.” He hesitantly proffered a piece of paper. Spike took it and frowned down at the sketch, surprised by the precise detail of the drawing. The symbol wasn’t anything he recognized. A central shield with lines radiating out that suggested wings. He looked up, meeting the shorter minion’s eyes. “You draw this?”
“Yes, Master Spike.”
“What’s your name?”
“Donald.” The minion bobbed his head nervously. Like many minions in their first decade, he obviously didn’t bathe frequently. His short-cropped hair was brown under the dirt and his plaid shirt was an embarrassment to vamps everywhere, but the sketch was the important thing. Angelus couldn’t have done a better job of it.
“Good work, both of you,” he said casually, knowing that Anthony would have noted his asking the minion his name and would pass the word on to his other Lieutenants that Donald was worth keeping an eye on.
He dismissed the two minions and signaled Anthony to stay. He studied the drawing for a moment longer, then looked at his Lieutenant. “They’re called the Knights of Byzantium. I want to know if there are any more of these gits in town and, if so, how many. Pass the word. I want everyone out tomorrow night in a search pattern. Organize it so we don’t miss anything. Comb the entire town and the outskirts for at least 20 miles around. I want reports by dawn tomorrow. Anyone finds them, they stay back and watch only. I want a solid estimate of their numbers but I do not want these people to know they’re being watched - not yet. Clear?”
“Understood, Master Spike.”
Spike nodded dismissal, looking down once more at the sketch in his hand. Up to a thousand Knights, they’d claimed. He doubted it was anything but bragging, but he didn’t want to take the risk. If there were that many of them, and they found out the Key was human, they could simply slaughter everyone in town in hopes of taking out the Key. He was probably overreacting, the Knights were human after all and few humans had the stomach for mass slaughter, but these were fanatics and he didn’t want to take any chances. The only humans he had ever cared about were all in this town.
“‘m not getting up in the middle of the day to talk about a bloody robot. The Slayer can handle it,” Spike said indifferently, blinking up at him with bleary eyes.
“Oh, come on,” Xander wheedled. “It’ll be fun.”
Spike gave him a look. “Not fighting a sexbot. It’s undignified.” He leered. “You need someone to shag her, give me a call.”
Xander glared at him. “Not shagging anyone but me, vampire mine. Got it?”
“That an offer?” Spike asked.
“That was a threat. I know they get you all hot and bothered…”
Spike just gave him that low, sexy chuckle. The one that always made him forget whatever it was they’d been talking about and sent a shiver down his spine and a twitch of interest to his cock. Tempting as it was to lie back down, he had promised to meet the others at the magic shop this morning.
“Sure you won’t change your mind?” he asked.
Spike shook his head, looking a little less sleepy, and Xander smiled down at him. He loved the way Spike looked in the mornings, sleep rumpled, hair sticking up wildly, and he loved knowing he was the only one who got to see Spike this way.
“Somethin’s killin’ the Knights of Byzantium.”
“What?” Xander snapped his attention back to what Spike was saying.
“Couple minions stumbled over four bodies last night. I’m guessing Glory took ‘em out.” Spike told him what the minions had reported, showing him the little sketch of the tattoo which Xander looked at curiously.
“So much for possible reinforcements against Glory,” he said, disappointed. Ever since Buffy and Giles said that there might be a whole army of the Knights, he’d been toying with the idea of trying to form an alliance, despite what Buffy had said about not being able to work with them. They had a common enemy, after all, and Buffy wasn’t the most diplomatic person on the planet. Plus, it had sounded like she’d been dealing with a foot soldier, not someone with any authority to make deals. He sighed. If the bodies had been left where they fell, that probably meant that there was only a handful of the Knights after all. No army he’d ever heard of left the bodies of comrades behind if there were any survivors capable of burying them.
“Got the Court organized to look for ‘em tomorrow night,” Spike said casually. “We’ll know if there’s more of them by this time tomorrow.”
Xander nodded. “Good idea.” The Court had the manpower to do an extensive search. If there were more of the Knights in town, then they could figure out what to do about them. Turning over ideas in his head, he bent down to kiss Spike absently. “See you later.”
“Leave the robot to Buffy, got it?” Spike told him. “Let her deal with it.”
“Yes, mom,” he sighed.
He smiled as Spike raised two fingers in an obscene gesture before sliding back under the covers to go back to sleep.
Willow arrived at the Magic Box, excitedly waving a piece of paper. “I found him! Or, at least someone who seems like a good candidate,” she allowed. “Warren Mears. He went to Sunnydale with us for a semester, then transferred to the tech college in Dutton. So, I figured, tech school, robot… Did I mention there aren’t that many Warrens around?”
“Sounds like our guy. I’ll go talk to him.” Buffy had already explained the situation to Giles before Xander arrived and they’d just been waiting for Willow and Tara to get there with their computer smarts. Other than being intrigued, Giles hadn’t had much to offer, pointing out that the Watchers Council had inexplicably failed to provide him with a single reference book on robots.
Giles frowned. “That may not be wise, Buffy,” he said slowly. “We don’t know what you would be walking into. We have no idea what his motive is for building this thing.”
Ok, so Buffy had obviously not described the robot to Giles.
Tara looked surprised. “Um ... Don’t you think she’s just…” she trailed off, raising her eyebrows suggestively.
Willow had an identical expression on her face. “Yeah ... She’s just sort of a…”
“She’s a sexbot,” Xander said bluntly, enjoying the look on Giles’ face.
“Really, Ripper, you should have figured that out for yourself. After all, we were about their age when…”
Giles interrupted hurriedly. “Right. I see your point. Still, best to be on guard,” he said briskly.
“It’s kind of refreshing, actually. Dealing with something straightforward like a psychotic robot,” Buffy said cheerfully, getting to her feet.
“I’ve missed this,” Willow said. “Sitting around together, researching the evil creature of the week. Ok, so we didn’t actually open any books and we’ve never had to deal with a sexbot before…”
“Sure we have,” Xander interrupted her with a grin. “We just never tried to take them down. Don’t you remember the Cordettes?”
Buffy laughed. “You know, Cordelia would kill you if she heard you call her lackeys that.”
“Like I would ever be stupid enough to say that to her face,” Xander pointed out. His phone rang and he fished it out of his pocket. “Hello?”
“Xander? It’s Mr. Olsen. Sorry to bother you, are you by any chance free this morning?”
“Yeah, I’m good. What’s up?”
“You remember my wife volunteers at the hospital?”
Xander felt his heart lurch. “Have there been more deaths?” Out of the corner of his eye, he saw everyone stiffen and turn towards him.
“No, nothing of the kind. The mental ward has been filling up again, but there’s one patient there with a very strange tattoo on his forehead. It may be one of the Knights of Byzantium.”
“In the mental ward?” he asked, surprised.
“Yes, I was intending to go down there and talk to him. I wondered if you or Mr. Giles might like to come along.”
“Meet you there in about 20 minutes?” Xander suggested. “I’m at the magic shop now, I’ll see if Giles wants to come.”
He hung up and found everyone still staring at him with varying degrees of concern. “That was Mr. Olsen. There’s a guy in the hospital crazy wing that he thinks might be one of the Knights of Byzantium. Giles, you up for checking it out?”
“It’s certainly worth a try, although it’s doubtful he’ll be able to tell us anything useful.”
“We could go too,” Willow offered.
“Best to keep the numbers down, I suspect,” Giles told her. “It is a closed wing in a hospital, after all. Not something they’re happy with too many people wandering about in.” Seeing her disappointed face, he added: “But if you and Tara wouldn’t mind tending the shop, we should only be gone for about an hour.”
“Of course, Mr. Giles,” Tara assured him.
The mental ward at the hospital wasn’t any less disturbing this time. Which was weird, considering that at least this time all the patients were alive. But they were pity-inducing wrecks, staring hollow-eyed at things no one else could see, muttering restlessly, their grey faces and wild eyes reflecting a lack of stability, rather than a lack of care.
Mrs. Olsen was waiting for them at the entrance to the wing, easily getting them through security with a glib story about looking for a missing relative. From the hopeful expression on the nurse’s face, it was clear that the hospital would be really happy to have any of the patients claimed by relatives.
Mrs. Olsen led them to the same room where they had examined the corpses only a few weeks ago and Xander was relieved to see that it wasn’t Ben on duty inside the room. He didn’t think they could come up with a reasonable explanation for being here a second time. The bodies on the beds weren’t still this time. Instead, they were stirring restlessly, pulling at the leather restraints that limited their movements.
The Knight lay on the third bed. Under other circumstances, he would have been a good looking man: dark hair and eyes, darkly tanned skin, and a lean muscular body. The large tattoo on his forehead matched the sketch Spike had shown him. Back in the hospital lobby, he’d told Giles and Mr. Olsen about the dead Knights and Spike directing the Court to search for more of them tonight.
Mrs. Olsen gently patted the man’s hand to get his attention. “I’ve brought some visitors,” she said, her voice projecting nothing but soothing calm despite the pity in her eyes. “Do you mind if they talk to you for a minute?”
The man seemed aware of her presence on some level, turning his eyes from the ceiling to look at her. “It won't stick,” he complained. “The birds have been pecking too hard.”
“That doesn’t bode well,” Xander muttered.
Giles had been examining the tattoo on the man’s forehead but stepped back into the man’s field of vision. “What’s your name?” he asked gently.
“They find you. They find you no matter where you hide,” the man said, then suddenly twisted wildly in his restraints. “It hurts!” he sobbed. “Make it stop. Please!”
Giles exchanged a grim look with Xander, then leaned a little closer to the Knight. “Can you tell us where your friends are?” he asked, as soothingly as if he was reassuring a small child. “We can bring them to see you, if you’d like. But we don’t know where they are.”
“It’s poisoned. It, it has to be checked, though.”
Mrs. Olsen said apologetically. “I’m afraid you won’t be able to get anything sensible out of him. Or any of the others. It’s not like a normal mental illness. None of them seem able to connect with anyone at all, even for brief periods.” As she spoke, her hands were gently straightening the Knight’s blankets, trying to straighten the covers that had been disturbed by his restless movements. “They aren’t responding to any of the usual medications. It’s like..,” her voice broke and Mr. Olsen moved quickly to put an arm around her in support. “like they’re trapped inside their minds, and their minds have become a terrible, frightening place for them. Many of them talk about being dirty.” She leaned her head tiredly against her husband. “Nothing we do seems to help them at all.”
Looking around the room, Xander swallowed hard. The people in the room were just average schmoes. Young, old, attractive, plain, they seemed to have nothing in common other than the fact that they had just been ordinary people once. Ordinary people who had had the misfortune to encounter Glory.
“Let’s go,” he said quietly. “We aren’t going to learn anything by harassing this poor guy.”
Mr. Olsen and Giles nodded, and Mrs. Olsen led them back outside, past security, and out into the lobby.
Xander took a deep breath, trying to get the taste of despair and helpless suffering out of his lungs. “We’ve got to find some way to stop Glory,” he said. “She’s killing these people just as much as if she was stabbing them in the heart.”
“I agree,” Giles said quietly, looking almost unbearably tired. “I just don’t know how we can stand against her. Neither Buffy nor Spike is strong enough. None of us are.”
“We’ve got to think of something,” Xander said.
“Yes, we do,” Mr. Olsen said. “It’s time for desperate measures.” He gave a wry, half-smile and dropped a kiss into Mrs. Olsen’s hair. “However, that’s as far as my thinking goes at the moment.”
“Well, we’ve got a chaos mage and a Master Vampire on our team,” Xander pointed out. “They’re both outside the box kind of guys. Maybe they can come up with something just insane enough to work.”
Giles looked appalled, opening his mouth, but then closed it with a sigh and didn’t say anything, which told Xander that, against his better judgment, Giles was prepared to do whatever it took, even if it meant unleashing Ethan and Spike.
“That may be what it takes to stop her,” Mrs. Olsen said, unexpectedly. “As for the demons in town, we are conservative by nature, perhaps too much so. We have always favored concealment over action, afraid to risk being exposed to the population at large.” She squared her shoulders, meeting her husband’s eyes in a long, steady look. “I think we need to remind some of our people that there are worse things than having our true nature revealed.” She looked at Giles and Xander and smiled. “Perhaps some of us can come up with crazy ideas to add to the mix.”
“Kind of a poetic justice there,” Xander said with a grin. “Have I ever told you two how glad I am that we met?”
“Not nearly often enough, young man,” Mr. Olsen said severely, then let his eyes do the green and gold sparkly thing that Xander loved to see. “However, as we have been equally remiss in the exact same area, we’ll let it pass.”
“So, let’s go back to our respective groups and tell them to stop being rational,” Giles said. Underneath the gloomy tone was a hint of something in his eyes that Xander only ever remembered seeing on the night Giles had been stoned on band candy.
“Robot crisis is over,” Buffy told reported, as they returned to the shop.
“Oh, well done,” Giles said, pleased. “Are you alright?” he asked, seeing Buffy favoring her right leg slightly.
“Fine, she got a couple good shots in is all.”
“But you were able to defeat her?”
“Yep.” Buffy sighed. “Ok, she was busily kicking my ass and her batteries ran down, but, hey, I was the one who ended up still standing, so that means I beat her, right?”
“Absolutely,” Willow said stoutly. “So what if it was only because Warren had given her sufficient back up battery power…” She stopped abruptly, looking embarrassed. “Clearly you would have regrouped anyway,” she finished brightly. “I can’t believe that Warren sicked her on you.”
“I thought I mentioned the part where he was a real creep,” Buffy reminded her.
“Well, he built a sex-bot. I think creep kinda goes without saying,” Xander pointed out.
“No, I mean, he made this perfect girlfriend-bot, then decided she was so perfect she was boring, then he just walked off and left her without one word of explanation.”
Xander was puzzled. “Buffy, she’s a robot. Why would he need to explain anything to her?”
“She loved him. And he just left her without explaining anything. She just sat there and waited for him to come back before finally going to look for him.” Buffy looked depressed. “Ok, I’m probably getting a bit transfer-y about this, aren’t I?”
“You think?” Buffy scowled at him and Xander changed the subject quickly. “What happened to her?”
She sighed. “Her batteries ran down and she couldn’t move, but she was still talking and, I know it sounds crazy, but I started to feel sorry for her.”
“Actually, I meant, after her batteries ran down?”
“She’s in the basement. I figured we could melt her down or something.”
Xander looked at Giles and saw he was thinking the same thing. “How good a fighter was she?”
Buffy looked puzzled, then shrugged. “She was strong but pretty much limited to throwing and pushing. Warran obviously didn’t program in self-defense skills. Creep.”
“Can we use her against Glory?”
“Maybe, if we convince her Glory is Warren’s new girlfriend.” Buffy shrugged. “She wouldn’t last long.”
“Who cares? I rather Glory beat up a robot than one of us. Maybe we can re-program her with some fighting skills and a serious hatred for Glory.” Buffy looked thoughtful and Xander added hastily: “And by ‘we’, I obviously mean anyone but me. ‘Cause re-programming a computer is not on my list of job skills, much less a robot.”
“Mine either. But Willow was really intrigued with the Ted robot. Maybe she can give re-programming April a try.” Buffy switched her gaze to Giles. “Are you ok with this?”
“Yes. If she’s stronger than you, maybe she’s strong enough to do some damage to Glory.”
“I don’t think she’s that much stronger than me,” Buffy muttered crossly, obviously hurt that they would think a sex-bot could beat her in a fight. “Willow, are you game?”
“You bet. I mean, you didn’t let me play with the Ted-bot…” she made a face. “And that came out a bit differently than I meant it to. I mean, I won’t know until I look inside her if there’s anything I can do, but it’s always easier to reverse engineer than to invent something, so probably I can get her up and running again.”
“Just make sure you re-program her so she doesn’t keep trailing around after Warren like a psychotic, love-sick puppy,” Buffy sighed.
*A/N - Bits of dialog borrowed from the episode ‘I Was Made to Love You’ and ‘Tough Love’