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
“Niblet,” Spike greeted as he entered the magic shop. A quick look around confirmed that the shop was empty except for Dawn, who was doing her homework at the research table. It was after sunset and the shop was closed and Spike felt a shaft of concern go through him - wondering if they were still dealing with the robot and Xander had thrown himself into the middle of things despite his promise not to.
“Where is everyone?” he asked.
“Downstairs, looking at the robot,” Dawn told him. “Buffy said I couldn’t watch until I finished my algebra homework.”
Hiding his relief, he pulled up a chair next to Dawn, spinning it around and straddling it, resting his arms comfortably on the wooden back and looked at the pages covered with scribbled problems curiously. “Can’t help you with that, luv. In my day, a bloke was pretty well off if he could add and subtract without using his fingers.” With careful casualness, he added, “Take it your sister was able to stop the robot from throwing any more people through windows, eh? Good on her. But why bring it back here?”
“Xander thinks they might be able to reprogram it to fight Glory,” Dawn told him, pushing the math book aside with a frustrated gesture.
Spike lifted an eyebrow. “A sexbot fighting a hellgod. That might be worth payin’ money for.” At Dawn’s look, he protested: “What? A good cat fight’s always worth the price of admission.” He smirked at her. “Can see why the witch might be interested, but what’s your sister doing down there? Decided to switch teams now her toy soldier’s left town?”
“No. And eeuw. Because it’s a robot, not because of the switching teams thing,” Dawn explained hastily. “Willow and Tara are cute together.”
“Glinda’s too good for her,” he said shortly.
Dawn frowned at him in a look copied from her mother. “Why can’t you even try and get along with Willow? What happened between her and Xander was almost three years ago and she’s really changed.” Her tone suggested that those three years were unimaginable stretches of time.
“Don’t care if it’s been 300 years, she hurt Xander. She’s alive because Xander didn’t want me to kill her. That’s more than she deserves. Not going to play nice with her.” Spike told her. It still rankled, and always would, that he hadn’t been able to exercise his rights as a Master Vampire to take vengeance against someone who’d harmed his Claimed. Having the witch back in town was rubbing salt in the wound every time he saw her. He listened carefully for a moment, confirming that everyone else was still down in the basement, then looked at Dawn seriously and said quietly: “Don’t you trust her either, Dawn. You be careful what you say around her. Don’t want her knowing you’re anythin’ but the Slayer’s little sister.”
“Spike, she already knows.”
“What?” He was going to fucking kill the Slayer.
“Well, duh. She’s Buffy’s best friend and is helping us try and figure out how to stop Glory. Kind of needs to know all the facts.” Dawn was looking at him with fond exasperation, like he was the one being unreasonable.
“Dawn, she’s a witch. She went of her trolley because she got power hungry. She used magic against Xander who she’s known since they were in nappies together. What makes you think she won’t turn on you?”
“She won’t. Xander’s forgiven her,” Dawn pointed out patiently, as if he didn’t already know.
“Xander’s soft that way. Love him, but he forgives too bloody many people for too many things.”
“Gee, thanks. Remind me not to forgive you the next time you use up all the hot water,” Xander said, emerging from the steps to the basement.
Knowing it was a lost cause, especially since the secret was already out, Spike sat back and looked over his shoulder at Xander. “Only use up the hot water when you’re in there with me,” Spike pointed out. “Remember two nights ago - ”
Xander’s hand covered his mouth, cutting off the rest of the sentence. “Dawn doesn’t need to hear about that.”
“Yes, she does,” Dawn said eagerly.
“No, you don’t. Because Xander doesn’t want to die horribly and Spike will be leaving in a dustpan if either of them tries corrupting my little sister with sordid sex tales,” Buffy said pleasantly, walking past on her way to Giles’ office.
Dawn gave her most put-upon sigh. “You never let me hear the good stuff.”
“Tell you what,” Spike said comfortingly. “I’ll videotape the good stuff and save it for you for when you’re older.”
“Yeah, that’ll happen,” Xander agreed sarcastically. “Sorry, Dawn, but there will be no Spike & Xander peep shows. Ever,” he told Spike sternly, though his eyes were sparkling with laughter.
Spike slid his arm around Xander’s waist as his boy leaned a hip against his shoulder. “Reprogramming the robot?” he asked, still amused by the idea.
“Worth a shot. Plus, who cares if she gets pulled apart. Willow’s poking around trying to see if she can open it up. Oh, Mr. Olsen called. One of the Knights of Byzantium got brain sucked by Glory. He’s at the hospital but we couldn’t get anything out of him.”
“Tough week for that lot,” Spike commented.
“What do you mean?” Dawn asked, looking between them.
“Four dead, one a gibbering idiot,” Spike told her.
“Dawn, aren’t you supposed to be doing homework?” Buffy said as she walked back into the room. “Spike, she doesn’t need to hear about this. And they’re mentally ill, not gibbering idiots.”
“Same thing. And why shouldn’t she know what’s happening? Concerns her more than any of us.”
“That’s what I’ve been telling her,” Dawn chimed in. At Buffy’s look, she sighed, “but I’m just doing my algebra. Go ahead and pretend I’m not here. You always do.” She pulled the book closer to her again and picked up her pencil.
Spike winked at her. ‘Tell you later,” he said, too quietly for Buffy to hear. Dawn smiled conspiratorially at him then bent conscientiously over her book.
“I’m off,” he announced, standing up. He’d only stopped by to make sure that Xander wasn’t getting involved in the fight with the robot. “Going to have a look around for the Knights myself. Back at dawn, luv,” he told Xander.
“Thanks, Spike. Let us know what you find,” Buffy said. “Because we so don’t need more of those nuts wandering around loose.”
Spike was about to answer flippantly, but saw the way her worried gaze lingered on Dawn and just nodded in agreement. Humans or not, he’d kill them all before letting them touch Dawn. He kissed Xander, then strode out of the shop.
Once outside, he didn’t head out on search. Instead, he circled the block and returned to the shop, moving with quiet stealth to outside the front windows and stretched out his senses. Buffy was sitting at the table, helping Dawn with her algebra. Xander had also remained upstairs and, from the sound of it, was prowling around checking for anything that needed repairing. Rupert was apparently off somewhere, because there had been no whisper of his presence in the shop. From inside, he’d been able to hear the witch muttering to herself in the basement. For a wonder, Glinda hadn’t been by her side.
Which meant she was downstairs alone.
Moving with silent steps, Spike circled the building and dropped down into the sewers from the alley behind the shop. Climbing up into the shop from the tunnels below, he grinned ferally as he punched in the code on the combination lock Xander had installed. Xander had worried about the tunnel access into the shop but wanted to leave it open for Spike and as an emergency retreat, if they ever needed one. His solution had been to install a heavy metal gate over the entrance with a lock that only they knew the combination to.
The gate swung open soundlessly, moving on well-oiled hinges, and Spike entered the shop’s basement. The witch was bent over a table, looking like a body snatcher from the middle ages doing a bit of clandestine dissection. The robot was more real-looking than Spike had thought it would be. It smelled of plastic and electricity but, except for the artificial stiffness of the body as it lay on the table, it looked like the real thing: a young, sweet looking girl, dark hair falling around its shoulders as it lay with open eyes staring at the ceiling.
He moved to a few feet behind her and planted his feet, folding his arms over his chest. “Need to talk, witch,” he said, not loudly.
The redhead jumped at the sound of his voice, spinning around, and for a moment her eyes widened with fear. Then she regained her composure and let out a long breath. “Spike. You startled me.”
With careful precision, she set down the screwdriver she’d been holding in a white-knuckled grip and rose slowly from her chair, facing him squarely. “Is this about Xander?” she asked.
“Already had that talk. Not planning on repeating myself.”
Her hand rose and rubbed at her throat absently. “Trust me. I still remember what you said.”
“Good, ’cause we’re going to have the same talk about Dawn.”
Her surprise showed. “Dawn? What about her?”
“Not a lot of humans I care about. Dawn’s one of the few. Hurt her and I’ll kill you. You get one warning and that was it. We clear?”
“Umm, yeah. Really clear. Spike, I would never hurt Dawn.”
“Once upon a time, you didn’t think you were hurting Xander when you used magic on him. Not using your definitions.”
“You’re right. I hurt Xander and I am grateful every day that he has forgiven me.” Her eyes were bright with unshed tears as she spoke. “I know how lucky I am. A lot of people wouldn’t have forgiven me, but Xander’s…. Xander. In England, when it got hard, when I would be tempted to do something with magic because it was easy and not because it was necessary, I just had to remember the look on his face when he found out about the memory spell. He’s a big part of the reason that I’m still me. I’m not going to risk losing his friendship ever again.”
Spike nodded, acknowledging her words. He could read the truth in them - or at least that she believed they were true. He didn’t know how well she’d handle a crisis, but they could only wait and see. He done what he could without simply snapping her neck, and Xander didn’t see her mere presence in town as a threat justifying that.
“Long as we understand each other.”
“We do.” She turned back to the table and Spike had to give her points for having the nerve to turn her back on him. Stupid, really, but gutsy. Having given his warning, he turned to leave, as silently as he came.
He turned to see the witch looking at him.
“If I do anything to harm Xander or Dawn, or anyone else here, I hope you kill me before I do it, not after.” Her eyes met his unflinchingly for a long moment before she turned her head back to the robot on the table.
Surprised by her declaration, he stared at the back of her head for a long time before slowly turning to leave.
Spike slid under the covers, wrapping himself around Xander’s warm body as he spooned up behind him. Long accustomed to Spike’s early morning returns, he usually slept through them, but this time he stirred sleepily. “Spike?”
“Expectin’ someone else?” Spike purred into his ear.
He grinned as the sarcastic response was cut off by a yawn. Then Xander half turned in his arms to look at him. “Are there more of them in town?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Spike admitted. “’Bout thirty of them encamped on the edge of town. Got the whole deal: tents, horses, stacks of armor.”
“Hmmm. I’ll tell Buffy tomorrow,” Xander said, rolling over again.
Spike listened as his breathing slowed back into the rhythm of sleep, the familiar sounds and scents of his Claimed surrounding him. He’d visit the camp site tomorrow evening. See it for himself. If necessary, thirty of the buggers wouldn’t pose much of a problem. His own inclination would be to simply swoop in with twenty or so vampires and kill them all. A proactive strike would solve the problem neatly. He didn’t like what he’d heard about the Knights. A bit too keen on destroying the Key first and foremost and he didn’t think they’d change their mind if they found out the Key was now a human girl.
‘Course, they’d been searching for the Key for a thousand years. What were the chances of them finding it in the next few days?
With that reassuring thought, Spike rested his head against Xander’s back and let the comforting familiarity of his Claimed’s heartbeat lull him into sleep.
“What can you tell me about the Knights of Byzantium?” Xander asked when the formalities were done. He set down his teacup and regarded Mr. Okolo steadily. He’d stopped by the house after work and Mr. Okolo had welcomed him in with no sign that he thought Xander was becoming a pest.
“Not much, I’m afraid. They have always held themselves apart, not sharing their secrets with anyone.” Mr. Okolo took a sip of his tea and considered. “They have been in existence for over a thousand years,” he said finally. “Their sole purpose appears to be finding the location of the Key. Rumor has it that they recruit their members as young children and raise them with this single purpose in mind. If that is true, it is likely they are deeply indoctrinated and will not waiver in their purpose.”
“Yeah, Giles thought they were like that as well. I guess what I’m getting at is, are they basically good guys?”
“From their own point of view, I am sure that they are,” Mr. Okolo said, with a slight smile. “They are an ancient order of warrior priests the likes of which no longer exist in the modern world. They are dedicated to their creed and prepared to do violence in its name. If necessary, they will kill women, children, anyone who stands in their way. They possess many honorable qualities: courage, loyalty, dedication to an ideal, but one must always remember that their belief in the righteousness of their cause overrides every other consideration. I would not want to come between them and their goal.”
Xander nodded thoughtfully. He finished his tea and then rose. “Thanks, Mr. Okolo. I’m really grateful for your help.”
Mr. Okolo inclined his head. “The threat posed by Glorificus affects us all. I am glad if my small store of knowledge has been of assistance.”
As Xander reached the door, he heard Mr. Okolo call his name. Turning, he saw Mr. Okolo watching him. His deep-set eyes appeared to be reading Xander with uncanny accuracy. “Xander, please keep in mind that it is not a recent development for religious fanatics to be capable of committing unthinkable evil in the name of their god. The Christian knights who participated in the Crusades slaughtered whole towns of innocent people simply because they worshipped the divine by another name. In doing so, they believed themselves to be acting honorably and that they were following their god’s will.”
Xander stared back at him for a long moment, then nodded understanding and left without saying anything.
“How’s it coming?”
Willow had been downstairs in the basement all day, fiddling with the robot and trying to figure out what made her work. It would be easier, she’d said, if she could charge the batteries and test things, but Buffy had pointed out that she wouldn’t get much done with the robot trying to kill her and Willow had agreed.
She looked up now, pushing her hair back behind her ears and smiled at him. “I’ve found the main systems and I think I can download her program files without having to power her up fully, which eliminates the she may try and kill us problem, so, I think I’m making progress.” Seeing Xander’s blank look, she explained: “If I can download the program files onto my laptop, then I can work with them safely and find out if its possible to reprogram her.”
She pushed back from the table and stretched, rolling her shoulders and neck as she sought to get the kinks out. “But this isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight. We’re talking days, maybe weeks, depending on what I find.”
“I’m glad you’re here,” he told her, moving behind her and massaging her shoulders gently. “And not just because none of the rest of us would even begin to know what to do with her.”
Willow turned her head and smiled at him gratefully, relaxing into the shoulder massage with a sigh. “I’m glad I’m here too. It wouldn’t be right to be anywhere else for an apocalypse.”
“Have I mentioned that only crazy people run into a burning building?” he said, giving her shoulders a little squeeze.
“Well, we’re all crazy to some extent. Or why else would we still be here?”
He thought about objecting, then remembered his plans for later that afternoon. “True. At least we’re in good company.”
Xander approached the encampment, wondering if he should be carrying a white flag or something. Of course, he didn’t know if that would even mean anything to these guys. How far back did it go for a white flag to mean surrender? These guys appeared to be living in the past in a big way.
He’d left the magic shop without telling anyone where he was headed, sure they would object. He didn’t think what he was planning was dangerous, but he suspected some of the others might disagree. Bottom line, he knew Spike would have someone watching the camp through the nights and, if anything went wrong, word would get back to Spike quickly. He’d thought about leaving a note, but hadn’t come up with any place he could leave it where it wouldn’t be found for a couple hours, but would be found in the next 12 hours or so. He’d just have to rely on the fact that Spike would either be watching the camp himself come nightfall, or would send a minion to keep an eye on things. A minion seeing Xander in the middle of the camp would be sure to notify Spike immediately. They all knew that Spike tended to get cranky and blame everyone in arm’s reach when Xander was in trouble.
He was familiar with the clearing the Knights were using from hiking in the woods with Jesse in past years, so it was easy to time his arrival for two hours before sunset. There was plenty of cover for him to keep an eye on things and, if everything went according to plan, he intended to be out of the area by the time the sun went down.
He watched the camp for nearly an hour before walking down into it, watching for patterns that would tell him who was in charge and what they were up to. The Knights moved about the clearing like they were campers on holiday. Campfires burned and the smell of cooking stew drifted through the woods to his position. Tents and a rope enclosure for horses completed a scene that seemed more like a movie set than real life but he wasn’t learning anything useful from his vantage point.
Finally, there was nothing else to do but either go forward or retreat. Steeling himself, he rose to his feet and walked down the hill into the clearing, making sure to walk openly so no one would think he was trying to sneak up on them. He kept a wary eye out for sentries but the first hint he had that he’d been seen came when a sharp point pressed hard into the side of his neck. He stopped immediately, raising his hands in surrender and didn’t move.
“Who are you?”
The voice came from behind him and off to one side and he suspected that the man was far enough away that he couldn’t be reached with a sudden kick. Which was fine, he wasn’t intending to fight these guys anyway.
“My name is Xander. I’d like to speak to your leader.”
“Why should he waste time with you?” The point of what appeared to be a very large sword traveled around his neck as the speaker circled around to face him, still holding the sword pressed uncomfortably hard against Xander’s neck. He found himself instinctively arching his neck backwards, trying to relieve the pressure a little.
“I’m here to negotiate a truce,” he said as calmly as he could, although his heart was pounding madly in his chest.
When he got back, he really hoped that Spike would let him explain before killing him.