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
Spike signaled his Lieutenants as soon as he set foot in the Court, jerking his head slightly in the direction of the stairs. Without waiting for acknowledgement, he climbed the stairs to the second floor, ignoring the curious looks from the minions who were drifting back to the factory as dawn approached.
Four of the five Lieutenants were in the Court and they followed him into the conference room. Spike stood at the head of the table, facing them. “Hellgod in town,” he told them without preamble. “Looking to open some kind of portal. Followers are mostly short, scabby demons who wear brown robes. Any of you seen them around?”
“They’ve been all over town in the last few days,” Michael said immediately. “Asking questions, looking for the Slayer.”
“They getting any information?”
“The Slayer hasn’t been seen for the last several nights. She hasn’t been patrolling like usual, just those demons that sometimes cover for her,” Arkady told him.
Spike nodded, thinking quickly. He wasn’t going to sit in the mansion for days on end, not when they had the means now of kicking Glory’s overrated arse. They needed to end this. “Right. The five of you are going to track them down. Pass the word that the Slayer and her friends are hiding out in that deserted campground on the east side of town. Be subtle,” his gaze lingered on Anthony warningly. “Don’t talk to them directly. Let them overhear you gossiping or some such. But I want them to hear where the Slayer’s at as soon as possible. That means I want you in the tunnels and spreading out around town by noon. Take a minion with you, someone you can pretend to be bragging to, or giving instructions to, nice and loud so it can be overheard. Stake ’em afterwards. Jose, you find Mark and explain what I want.”
They all nodded, none of them troubled by the instructions. Michael and Anthony hiding their puzzlement, the other two just accepting that Spike wasn’t going to explain his reasons.
“When you’re through, that’s the end of it,” he finished. “No one else in the Court ever hears about this. Clear?”
He flung himself into a chair as the lieutenants filed out, satisfied that the word would get back to Glory this afternoon. If her minions were canvassing the town, the witch’s ravings were on the money and time was running out for Glory to use the Key. They could expect an attack within a few hours at most of Glory learning where they were hiding out.
He pushed himself to his feet and strode down to the factory floor. The sun was up and he noted with approval that Jose had pulled Mark to one side to bring him up to speed. Tempting as it was to just walk out the front door into the early morning sunlight, he dropped down instead through the opening to the tunnels. No point in letting anyone find out about the Gem until it was unavoidable. Sooner or later, he was going to have to fight for it but he didn’t need the distraction now. He had another errand to run.
He kicked in the rear door of the pawn shop. None of the businesses on the street were open yet, except the coffee shop three doors down, and the street was quiet enough that no one should notice him entering the pawn shop from the alley. As he entered the deserted building, a small red light began flashing behind the counter and he smirked. He’d be out of here long before the Sunnydale police put down their donuts and answered the alarm.
He crossed to the jewelry section and smashed the glass case, grabbing two trays of rings and tipping them into a plastic bag he snatched from behind the counter. Twenty or so rings tumbled into the bag and he figured that was enough to give him a decent assortment to choose from.
Turning to leave, he hesitated. There was something…
He couldn’t quite place it but there was a familiar smell in the air, something that tugged at his memory and put him on alert. Ignoring the rapidly approaching siren, he followed the faint scent to the racks of clothing, closing his eyes and following his other senses to the smell that was pricking at him.
He ran his hand along the rack, tracing its way along a line of leather coats until his hand stopped at one particular one. Pulling it off the rack, his jaw dropped and he laughed out loud, only remembering where he was as tires screeched outside the shop. His hand closed convulsively around the worn black leather and he sprinted for the back, just as Sunnydale’s finest kicked in the front door.
His duster hadn’t been lost after all in the burnt ruins of the Initiative. The faint reek of chemicals and the vaguely familiar scent of one of the guards who’d patrolled the corridor outside his cells still clung to the leather and Spike laughed again as he took to his heels, ignoring the shouts behind him. The soldier had pawned his duster and the beloved coat was his again.
Losing the police, Spike slowed his pace and shrugged into the coat. As the soft leather wrapped itself around him like they’d never been parted, he felt again the rush of winning the death match with the New York Slayer, drinking deep of her rich, hot blood spiced with adrenaline and that something extra that made Slayer blood the headiest drink of his life. Twice now he’d tasted that blood, the power of it intoxicating him like nothing else he’d ever drunk. Just wearing the black leather duster was enough to transport him back to that moment of unparalleled triumph: when he became the only living vampire to have killed two Slayers. Symbol of the toughest fight of his unlife, the coat had been part of his identity for more than two decades. Having it back again made him feel invincible in a way even the Gem couldn’t.
Spike lit a cigarette and stowed the pack in a pocket of the duster. Taking a long drag, he turned and strode down the street in the direction of the mansion, the smell of cigarette smoke and leather accompanying him like old friends, the faint sound of the coat billowing behind him as he walked and the unfamiliar sensation of being completely heedless of where the shadows were filling him with reckless glee.
Glory didn’t stand a chance.
The sound of people moving around upstairs roused Xander from sleep and he stirred, reaching for Spike sleepily. His groping hand found only an empty bed and he woke the rest of the way, feeling that instinctive flutter of panic at the realization that Spike hadn’t returned to their bed by dawn. After a moment, he smiled, remembering the Gem and rolled out of the bed. Spike would either be upstairs chatting with Joyce as she fixed breakfast, or even taking his time strolling home through the sunlight. Well, probably not that as they were all trying to avoid being seen outside the mansion. Pulling on jeans and a t-shirt, Xander hastily brushed his teeth and padded upstairs to see what was up.
Giles was in the dining room. From the notes scattered around him, it looked like he’d been up for several hours already, pouring over the book Ethan had obtained from the demon.
“How’s it going?” he asked.
Giles looked up but didn’t answer right away, pulling his glasses off and rubbing at his eyes. “Not well,” he said quietly. “Tara tells me Willow had another violent episode this morning. She didn’t say, but from the mark on her face, it appears Willow struck her. It’s not Willow’s fault, of course, but I am worried that she will become too much for us to handle. She is getting more and more agitated as time goes on.”
“I know. I think it’s going to keep getting worse until we stop Glory.”
“I suspect you are right. I’ve been reading the book Ethan brought and it contains more information about the ritual itself. It doesn’t give an exact timetable for when Glory can use the Key but it does tell us what the ritual involves.”
“So, how does it work?” Dawn asked, and Xander jumped at the sudden sound of her voice behind him. Looking around, Dawn was staring at Giles, who faltered under her steady gaze and looked down. “I want to know.”
“Dawn…” Joyce began, entering from the kitchen, wiping her hands on a dishcloth and looking worried.
“No,” Dawn insisted. “I need to know.”
Giles glanced helplessly at Joyce for guidance, who reluctantly nodded her permission. “Why don’t you tell us all, Rupert,” she said.
Everyone but Willow and Spike - who wasn’t back yet - gathered in the living room to hear what Giles had learned. Looking as if he wished he were anywhere but here, Giles sat in an armchair facing them all. Ethan leaned against the back of the chair, his face unusually shuttered. The rest of them had found seats around the room.
Xander couldn’t help noticing how defeated Giles looked, and he dreaded hearing what Giles had to say. Giles was avoiding everyone’s eyes, especially Dawn’s. He’d winced when Joyce had given her permission to tell Dawn but he hadn’t protested. Now, he squared his shoulders a little and shuffled through his notes, clearing his throat before beginning to speak.
“The book describes the ritual Glory must use to open the portal. Much of it is information that we already know, but there are passages that…”
He cleared his throat again and put on his glasses, picking up the book and turning to a marked passage. “The Key was living energy. It needed to be channeled, poured into a specific place at a specific time. The energy would flow into that spot, causing the walls between the dimensions to break down. It stops -- the energy is used up -- and the walls come back up. Glory uses that time to get back to her dimension, not caring that all manner of hell will be unleashed on Earth in the meantime.”
“But I’m not living energy anymore.” Dawn said before the rest of them could think of anything to say. She looked as fragile as porcelain as she sat there, pale and heartbreakingly young. Joyce had her arm around her as if she could shield Dawn from harm by the force of her love alone. “How… how is the energy released?”
Giles lifted his eyes for the first time, looking at Dawn as he answered as gently as he could. “Your blood, Dawn. If your blood is shed at a certain time and place, the fabric which separates all realities will be ripped apart. Dimensions will pour into one another with no barriers to stop them. Reality as we know it will be destroyed, and chaos will reign on Earth.”
“So how do we stop it?”
Buffy’s grim question broke the awful silence that had followed Giles’ explanation. He wrenched his gaze from Dawn with an almost physical effort and looked at Buffy, making a helpless little gesture.
“The portal will only close once the blood is stopped. And the only way for that to happen is… Buffy, the only way is …” His voice faltered, unable to put it into words with Buffy and Joyce both staring at him with horrified eyes.
“Is to kill me,” Dawn said with a horrible matter-of-factness. Despite her calm statement, her eyes were frightened.
“No!” Joyce pulled Dawn fully into her arms. “That’s not going to happen, baby.” Her eyes begged them to find another way.
“It’s only for a short time, right?” Buffy asked desperately. “Glory goes home and the walls come back up, no more hell on earth, right?” Her eyes pleaded with Giles. “Dawn survives and we can clean up the mess afterwards.”
Giles shook his head. “I wish that were true. But the portal won’t close until the energy is stopped.” He looked down at the book in his hands and read out loud: “‘The blood flows, the gates will open. The gates will close when it flows no more.’” He closed the book. “When….”
“When I’m dead.” Dawn’s voice was barely audible.
“I’m very much afraid so. According to everything I can find, the only way to close the portal once it’s opened is for you to die.”
Buffy’s quiet response was unwavering. “That’s not happening. If the portal is opened, then you are all going to have to look out for yourselves, because I will not let Dawn die, even to save the world.”
“Buffy…” Dawn began, her voice shaking.
“No! I won’t. I can’t. You’re my sister. I won’t let you die.”
“If I don’t, then you and mom and everyone else will die too,” Dawn said quietly, but with steel in her voice. “I don’t want that.”
“I killed Angel to save the world,” Buffy told them all. “I can’t go through that again. I won’t kill someone else I love to save the world. I’m sorry, but I can’t do it.”
“Then we have to find another way,” Tara said softly.
“We have to take out Glory before she starts her ritual.” It seemed obvious to Xander. Obvious, and maybe impossible, but it was their only shot.
“That’s what we’re going to do,” Spike said flatly. “Today.”
Xander wasn’t the only one startled by Spike’s sudden appearance. They all turned to look at him, standing in the doorway, hands clasping his belt, whipcord lean and dangerous in black t-shirt and jeans, the familiar black leather duster hanging off his shoulders. His eyes were fixed on Dawn and she straightened slightly, seeming to take comfort from the certainty of his voice.
Xander blinked, not sure he was seeing correctly. The duster had been lost last year, vanished inside the Initiative, but now, impossibly, Spike was wearing it again, looking just as he had the first time Xander ever saw him.
Spike overrode Buffy’s hesitant beginning. “Sent word to Glory where we’ve been staying, she’ll come for us.”
“You what?!” Giles exclaimed angrily, rising to his feet.
Spike just looked at him. “Don’t be stupid, Watcher. I didn’t tell her about the mansion, just where we’ve supposedly been staying. The place where we’re going to kill her.”
Giles relaxed. “Oh.” He sat back down slowly. “Perhaps you should fill us in on what you’re planning,” he suggested.
Spike told them about the arrangements he’d made, not caring if any of them thought he should’ve consulted with them. Xander wasn’t upset and that was all he cared about. Dawn needed them to end this and so did the rest of them. They couldn’t just continue to wait for Glory to make a move, tension ratcheting up until it crackled in the air like static electricity, tempers fraying, and nerves stretching to the snapping point. None of the humans were going to be fit to fight soon unless they stopped waiting and dealt with Glory now.
For a wonder, none of them made more than token protests and most of those were actually practical concerns: who went and who stayed, the lay of the land, and whatnot.
“Won’t Glory know this is a trap? We don’t have tents or anything and don’t have time to set anything up. She’ll know we haven’t been staying there and that’s what your Lieutenants are telling her, right? That we’ve been hiding out there for awhile now?” Buffy asked.
“Not to worry, Slayer,” he told her. “Already got that covered.”
“A Winnebago?” Buffy asked in disbelief. “Where on earth…? And where did you get the money…?” She bit off the rest of her question at Spike’s look. “Oh. Never mind.”
“Well done, Spike,” Rupert said. “This won’t arouse her suspicion. We could very well have been camping out in this the entire time. Ethan and Tara can remain safely inside the camper while they do the spell, while the rest of us wait outside for Glory.”
“Ridiculous tin can, but it ought to do the trick.” Spike had been pleased when he’d thought of the camper, even though it had been embarrassing to nick something so… human. “Told the Lieutenants to head out at noon,” he reminded them. A glance up at the sun told him it was nearly that. “We need to pack up and head out. My guess is she’ll be coming sooner rather than later.”
“Agreed.” Buffy turned back to the house. “Weapons all around then, and whatever ingredients and books you guys need for the spell.”
Everyone scrambled to get what they needed and Spike caught Xander’s arm, keeping him by his side as the others went back inside the mansion. “You’re staying here, luv,” he reminded Xander. “Watch over Dawn and Joyce until we get back. And the witch,” he added belatedly. He didn’t care about the witch himself, but she was important to Xander and he was prepared to use anything he had to, to keep Xander out of this fight.
Xander nodded reluctantly and then threw his arms around Spike, hugging him tightly. “Be careful,” he said.
“Invulnerable, remember?” Spike reminded him cockily. “We’ll take Glory out and be back in time for supper.”
“You do that,” Xander said grimly, giving him a quick, hard kiss. “Because if you let Glory kill you, I’m never going to forgive you.”
He turned on his heel but Spike pulled him back, burying a hand in his hair and kissing him slowly and thoroughly. “Thank you.”
Xander’s brows quirked and then he nodded, understanding that Spike was thanking him for being willing to sit this one out.
“Just don’t get used to it.”
Spike let out a short bark of laughter. “Love you, Xander,” he said quietly
“Love you, Spike.”
Xander turned and walked into the mansion without looking back and Spike let him go this time. He knew how hard it was for Xander to let him go into this fight without insisting on being by his side. He heard the others coming and swung himself up into the camper, settling into the driver’s seat and turning on the engine.
“Let’s move it, kiddies,” he called to the others as they climbed into the vehicle with weapons, books and a small box of magic supplies. “Got us a hellgod to kill.”
*A/N - bits of slightly altered dialog borrowed from ‘The Weight of the World’