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
WARNING: THIS CHAPTER CONTAINS VIOLENCE
Previous parts here
Buffy jumped down from the Winnebago and looked around the deserted campsite, her nose wrinkling a little in distaste. Clumps of grass sprouted through the cracked and broken pavement of the parking lot and the tent and picnic areas were week-choked and overgrown and it was obvious the place had been a popular spot for illegal garbage dumping for some time.
“Yeah, well, it’ll do. Not like Culloden Moor isn’t a bloody swamp,” Spike pointed out, stepping out of the camper into the bright afternoon light and wondering if he was ever going to get tired of just popping out casually into the sun. Not for a long time, he suspected, sternly repressing a smile that threatened to come down way too close to the giddy end of the scale.
Buffy gave him a blank look. “Do I even want to know what you’re talking about?” she asked.
“It’s no use, Spike. We’re among the heathen,” Giles told him, with a shared ‘damn colonials’ understanding, giving Tara a hand down from the camper’s step. “Over there,” he said, pointing towards where trees grew thickly at the east side of the parking area. “We should set up under the trees because that’s what Glory would expect, given your former allergy to sunlight, Spike. That also puts us far enough from the camper that hopefully Ethan and Tara will be able to work undisturbed.”
“Are you sure you guys shouldn’t be further away?” Buffy asked. “I was thinking you’d be out of sight entirely. And definitely further than a pissed-off hellgod can throw an ax.”
Ethan gave her a look that spoke volumes about his opinion of her intelligence.
“Unless you want to risk having your mind torn out by mistake, there a limit to how far away I can be,” he said impatiently. “I need to have Glory within sight in order to focus the spell properly. As soon as you fearless warriors” - his voice dripped sarcasm at the term - “have her attention, I’ll begin the spell. I trust you lot can keep her too busy to spend much time looking around for a few minutes,” he said, obviously dubious of their ability to do any such thing.
“Then why isn’t Willow here?” Buffy asked sharply. “Don’t you need her nearby to restore her?”
Ethan rolled his eyes. “No. The spell tears loose anything that doesn’t belong to Glory. Willow’s mind will be drawn back to where it belongs. Having her body here, screaming and thrashing about, isn’t necessary for the spell’s effectiveness and would certainly do nothing to assist with either our concentration or our ability to remain hidden.”
“Remember the Gentlemen, Buffy? Everyone in town regained their voice when you opened the box, not just those nearby,” Giles reminded her. “It’s quite comforting really,” he added innocently. “To think that order wins over chaos every time.”
Ethan glared at him, then shrugged and said: “There is a good chance that Glory will be momentarily disoriented at the very least, immediately after the spell. I suggest you use that to your advantage.”
Giles looked relieved. “That will be of great assistance, Ethan. Thank you. Anything that helps weaken Glory will make our task easier.”
Leaving the three magic workers to set up inside the camper, Spike and Buffy set out to check the perimeter. The campsite was a good mile off the freeway and had been constructed in the woods to offer campers cool relief from the summer’s heat. It had been deserted for years, closed for “maintenance” which somehow had never been completed. Too many mysterious disappearances and ‘accidental’ deaths had occurred over the handful of years it had been a state campground and the government had quietly and unofficially shut it down permanently. It hadn’t been used in twenty years and wasn’t even in the guidebooks any longer. From the looks of it, even vampires hadn’t wasted their time hunting here in a long time.
Spike had parked the camper in the center of the parking lot, leaving clear ground around the camper in every direction. No one could get closer than 100 feet to the magic workers without being seen.
He’d found the campground during his early days as Master of Sunnydale, when he’d explored every square foot of his Territory, familiarizing himself with the area under his protection and control. It hadn’t been on his patrol route since those early days and, now, visiting the place again for the first time in several years, he was pleased with his choice of battleground. Far enough outside town to be plausible as a hiding place for the Slayer to have taken her people, the long-deserted area wasn’t something anyone was likely to stumble across by accident. The extensive parking lot gave them a clear field to maneuver in, and the surrounding woods provided cover should the magic workers need to run for it.
It would do.
Xander snapped the phone shut. “Well, at least that’s something.” He couldn’t stop pacing restlessly around the courtyard, despite the fact that he knew it wasn’t helping Joyce or Dawn. He should be inside, sitting with Willow or talking to Dawn, something. Doing something useful instead of wasting all his energy worrying himself sick about what was happening across town.
Joyce stood in the doorway, gazing at him sympathetically.
“Sorry,” he told her. “I know I can’t do anything about Glory, she’s kind of a superheroes only fight, but…”
“But you’re worried about them. I am too.” She stepped through the French doors and crossed the courtyard, hugging herself a little as she stood gazing at the jasmine, tumbling down the wall in a profusion of white flowers. After a moment, she turned to look at him. “You know who else I’m worried about? The mental patients at the hospital. If the spell works and they get better as quickly as they got sick, they’re going to wake to find themselves strapped to beds, possibly with no memory of why they are there. We’re here for Willow, but…” she gestured helplessly.
“Mrs. Summers? Have I told you lately that I love you?”
She looked confused but pleased and Xander pulled out his cell again. “That’s something I can do something about.” He grinned at her. “I know someone who works in the psych ward. She can be there to keep an eye on things.” Now that she’d mentioned it, it would probably be a good idea to have someone there who could help cut through the bureaucratic red tape that would get in the way of the immediately release of people who had been raving lunatics only an hour earlier. Hopefully, the hospital would be so relieved to get rid of the mental patients that they would just accept the miracle cure the same way they accepted Sunnydale’s astounding number of barbeque fork accidents.
“Is Willow awake?”
“Maybe I’m just being stupid, but why don’t we bring her outside? I have this crazy picture in my head of her…” he hesitated, not sure what to call it. “umm, what Glory took from her, speeding towards us like a comet. Or a swarm of bees. My imagination can’t decide if it will destroy the house, or bounce off all this stone.” He gestured to the thick stone walls that made up the house’s exterior.
“That doesn’t sound like such a crazy idea to me. Even if it’s not necessary, it might be a nice change for her, out here in the sun.”
Joyce stepped back inside the mansion as Xander dialed the Olsen’s phone number.
“Something’s coming,” Spike said, twisting around at the sound of a car on the road leading in from the freeway.
It was mid afternoon and for hours they’d had nothing to do but wait. Rupert was the only one of them who appeared to have accepted the inevitable down time, sitting reading in a chair near the camper, an ax and a baseball bat lying casually on the ground near him, doing his best to look as if he was just enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun and not as if he was guarding anyone inside the camper. Tara and Rayne were quiet as well, fine-tuning their mojo, or whatever, and concealed from prying eyes by drawn curtains.
All three of them were doing a better job than the Slayer and himself, Spike admitted. He and Buffy had sparred somewhat listlessly for awhile but, not wanting to risk being tired out, there hadn’t been much point. They’d taken turns doing the rounds of the campground, ensuring that no one was sneaking up on them through the woods, but otherwise there was nothing to do but wait for Glory to show. And she was obviously taking her own sweet time, although he had to admit that she might not have even gotten the word yet that they were here. The worst part was the nagging fear that she might not be taking the bait at all.
Buffy and he rose to their feet, picking up their weapons as they did so and moved to the edge of the parking lot, Spike hanging back a few feet so he was in the dappled shade of the trees - close enough to true shade that he didn’t think anyone would notice that shafts of sunlight made it through the foliage as the breeze rustled in the leaves and tossed the upper branches about. Without the Ring, Spike would have had to be constantly on the alert and shifting position to avoid a fatal sunburn.
He frowned as a light blue sedan that had seen better days pulled into the lot and parked. Somehow, he hadn’t pictured Glory arriving in such a mundane fashion. The driver’s door opened and a familiar, bulky figure climbed out.
Sergeant Morgan gave them a genial wave as if he was just dropping by for a chat, then moved immediately to the trunk and began handing out weapons to the other who got out behind him.
“Well, this is unexpected,” Spike commented. Buffy and he exchanged puzzled looks, then shrugged and went to greet the newcomers. Rupert was already at the car, shaking hands and asking questions.
There were five of them, all familiar faces. Sergeant Morgan lifted a club the size of a small tree out of the car’s trunk and rested it on his shoulder, giving them a shit-eating grin at their surprise. “Xander said you could use some back up.”
“Xander was right,” Giles said firmly. “Thank you all for coming.”
Xander had done well. Sizing up their unexpected help, Spike realized that all of them were either stronger and healed faster than humans. Sergeant Morgan was Kobarien, human-normal as far as strength went - although at the high end of the scale, but able to absorb a lot of damage without being rendered unable to fight. Tiirpok was full-blood Inajii, his frail looking body was deceptively strong and Spike wasn’t sure Inajii’s could even be injured. The half-Ferschiff demon had been with them in the battles at the Mayor’s Ascension and the Initiative. Not as strong as the other two, she healed quickly and had the speed and agility to avoid most killing blows. He didn’t know the other two very well - a half E’tofskoni demon who often took a patrol shift and one of Xander’s old customers. Lrtokk blood, Spike guessed, from the faint smell of rotting flesh that clung to him and the hint of dark green shadowing the prominent veins of his neck. Lrtokk weren’t fighters by choice but they were strong as the proverbial bull and their skin was a leathery armor, protecting them from anything but major damage.
As far as distractions for a pissy hellgod went, they’d do as well as anyone in town.
Buffy was eyeing the Inajii demon dubiously and Spike wondered if they had time for a demonstration. Do the Slayer a world of good to have her arse kicked by something that looked like a stiff wind could blow him over.
“Xander tell you the drill?” he asked.
Sergeant Morgan nodded. “You have point, we’re just the relief. Between all of us,” his gesture included Buffy and Spike as well as the demons with him, “we should be able to keep her here and fighting until she tires enough to turn human.” He looked enquiringly at Giles. “Xander said you had no idea how long it would take for her to tire?”
“I’m afraid not.” Rupert grimaced apologetically. “So far, we haven’t been able to keep fighting her for more than a few minutes. We could conceivably be talking hours, although hopefully that is a pessimistic estimate.”
Sergeant Morgan just shrugged his massive shoulders. “I guess we’ll find out the hard way.”
One moment they were alone, their recently arrived backup already having difficulty with the pace or relax dilemma. Then the E’tofskoni hybrid was racing back in from his turn patrolling the woods, signaling for them to be ready. He skidded to a halt near them, panting from his run.
“Ten or more demons coming in. They match your description of Glory’s minions: short, brown robes, carrying weapons, mostly swords,” he reported crisply as Sergeant Morgan had taught all the patrol demons.
“That’s them,” Buffy said. “Any sign of Glory?”
The E’tofskoni shook his head and they spread out in a defensive line facing the woods.
The minions weren’t trying to be quiet, crashing through the underbrush with careless disregard of stealth and it was Buffy who first realized that there was method to their amateur approach.
“Coming in from the side,” she warned.
Spike cursed and swung around, trying to listen above what he now realized was a deliberate cover of noise. “Both sides, and the front,” he confirmed.
There were at least twenty of them, Spike saw in an instant, maybe as many as thirty, all of them carrying swords or axes. Coming in from all sides, trying to encircle the defenders. Their own response was initially ragged as they hadn’t expected this but all of them were too experienced to be caught off guard for long, and they moved into a defensive circle, facing outwards.
Glory wasn’t visible and Spike wasted a moment hanging back, trying to find her. What he saw instead was Rupert, on his feet, weapon in hand, hurrying in their direction. Impatiently, he signaled the man to stay back by the camper and guard the two magic workers. They didn’t need one slightly-over-the-hill Watcher to help with this band of misfits.
“Keep an eye out for Glory,” Buffy said tensely as they waited for the minions to come.
Spike rolled his eyes. “Thanks, Slayer. Because none of us would have remembered that.” He hefted the heavy iron bar he’d brought to fight Glory, thinking the length and weight would serve him well for an opponent who was impervious to cutting and stabbing weapons, wishing he’d brought an ax instead. He hadn’t counted on having to deal with Glory’s scabby little minions.
The minions attacking saved him from her reply. They came in a wave, as if hoping to overrun them by sheer numbers. Either they didn’t recognize an Inajii demon or were so gung ho about serving Glory that they didn’t care. Tiirpok moved with the fluid grace of his kind, ducking a sword swipe aimed at his neck. His return kick was powerful enough to send the minion flying backwards ten feet, landing so hard his body formed a small crater in the concrete. Granted the concrete was old and split with cracks, but it was still an impressive move and Spike saw Buffy - who was running to defend the frail looking demon - stop cold, her jaw dropping in shock. Shaking her head, she moved back into position, obviously deciding that Tiirpok could handle himself.
All the demons could. Sergeant Morgan was laying about him with his enormous club, calm as if occupied with nothing more than batting practice at a girl’s softball game. The Ferschiff demon had dropped her claws out and was attacking with her natural weapons, the three-inch claws having already disemboweled her first opponent, who lay screaming at her feet, clutching his shredded guts. The young E’tofskoni was handling himself well, putting a two-handed axe to good use. Xander’s customer was swinging a baseball bat clumsily but with such force that Glory’s minions were hanging back, waiting for an opening.
His distraction cost him as an ax bit deeply into his side. The wound healed the moment the blade was jerked free, but the force of the blow staggered him to the side and he had to drop and roll to avoid a second blow. He bounced back to his feet and slammed the end of the iron bar into the minion’s stomach. The bar slid into soft flesh and out the other side and Spike braced his foot against the screaming minion’s chest to push him away as he yanked the bar out and swung at another opponent as the first dropped to the ground, already coughing up blood.
He risked a quick glance at the camper as the second minion jumped back to avoid the first one’s fate. Rupert was standing on the steps, watching the battle anxiously, but still keeping an eye out for danger to his charges. Nothing moved in that area, the minions were ignoring the camper entirely and their was still no sign of Glory.
Something was wrong. Glory had never hung back from a fight. Never let her minions do her work for her. Spike spun to avoid a sword thrust, the shining metal slipping past him as he dodged, bringing the heavy iron bar around in a vicious swing at the minions head. He cursed as the minion ducked, the bar humming as it parted the air just over the short demon’s head. He kicked the minion in the chest before it could stab at him again and snatched the sword out of its grip. He tested the edge on the minion and it proved to be serviceably sharp, biting deeply into flesh before it jarred on bone. He yanked it out and the minion crumpled to the ground in a pool of blood-stained brown robes.
Spike checked the others quickly. The Slayer was fighting in deadly earnest, taking out days of frustration on two very battered looking minions, punching and kicking them with a vengeful fury that Spike could relate to. The others were holding their own with ease, and nearly half of the minions were already on the ground, dead or out of commission for a good long time.
Bending down, he grabbed the minion at his feet by the robes and dragged him into the center of their circle, noting with approval that Sergeant Morgan and the Ferschiff demon automatically moved to close the gap in their lines. Spike dropped his sword and shook the minion violently.
“Where the fuck is Glory?” he demanded. “Too good to do her own dirty work?”
The minion smiled, despite the gaping wound in his abdomen. “It is an honor to die in the service of Glorificus.”
Spike snarled. “Don’t give yourself airs. You aren’t going to die for a long time. And every moment you live is going to be screaming agony.”
“Her magnificent splendidness will remember my sacrifice as she returns home.”
“And when is that?” Spike growled, shaking the minion like a terrier with a rat.
“Too soon for you to stop it,” the minion gasped when Spike stopped shaking him. “The preparations are complete.” Despite his obvious pain and the blood pouring out from between his fingers, the minion looked triumphant.
“Don’t got her precious Key, does she? Can’t do the sodding ritual without that.”
“She will return home and her followers will be rewarded a thousand fold.” the minion said faintly, almost like a prayer.
Spike felt the shock of sudden understand go through him. His hand tightened on the minion’s robes as he cursed viciously. “She’s gone to fetch the Key herself. That’s why she’s not here, innit?”
The minion’s smile was all the answer he needed and Spike reached down and snapped his neck, dropping the body before it had ceased breathing and yelling across to Buffy: “Slayer! Let’s go - Glory’s at the mansion.”
Buffy froze, then jerked around to face him, her face going white. Forgetting everything else, she turned and sprinted across the battlefield, heading for the mansion. Spike hesitated just long enough to snap to Sergeant Morgan: “You guys finish off this lot. Glory’s somewhere else.” before turning and running after the Slayer.
The camper they’d arrived in was too slow by far. Glory had played them for fools and their ambush had been turned against them. Her minions were nothing more than expendable diversions to keep them away from Glory’s real intention - stealing the Key.
The two of them raced through the woods, the Slayer’s harsh panting loud even against the sound of their pounding feet as they took the most direct route to the mansion. Branches slashed across their faces as they dodged tree trunks, hurdling bushes and fallen tree trunks. The woods were thinning in front of them and the ground rose rapidly. At the top of the hill, Spike caught a glimpse of open ground. If he was right, it was the road leading back to town. Their shortcut through the woods had cut over a mile off the distance and, from here, the road was the shortest route.
They scrambled up the steep bank together, the Slayer keeping pace with him. Which was good, useful against Glory or not, he wasn’t waiting for her. He cursed as his feet sank into the soft ground near the top and he caught at the metal barrier that lined the road, using it to drag himself free and onto the road. A second later, he was running down the road, the Slayer at his heels.
There was a horn blaring behind them and the sound of a racing engine. As much as he didn’t have time for anything but reaching Xander, Spike couldn’t ignore a potential danger at his flank. He threw a hasty glance over his shoulder and his pace slackened slightly in surprise. The motor home was barely 50 feet behind them and, as he automatically slowed, it pulled up beside them with a screech of brakes and the door was shoved open from inside.
“Get in the bloody car, you idiots!” Rupert yelled at them.
Spike glared at him furiously. “My grandmother could outrun that thing,” he snarled.
Rupert gave him a fierce smile, something reckless and wild burning in his eyes. “Not with me driving she couldn’t.”
Spike believed him. He and Buffy scrambled on board and Rupert put his foot down, sending the Winnebago careening down the road like a sports car. Under other circumstances, Spike would have enjoyed this ride and even now, he couldn’t help but be reluctantly impressed. Rupert had the camper going three times the speed limit, swaying dangerously as he recklessly took curves without slowing, sideswiping parked cars and blaring the horn to chase pedestrians out of their path, all without so much as a flicker of apology crossing his face.
Buffy dropped to a seat, her harsh panting the only sound as Spike realized that, in addition to Tara and Rayne, Morgan and Tiirpak were in the back of the camper with them.
“The other three can handle Glory’s minions,” Sergeant Morgan told him, the worry in his eyes belying his habitual calm.
Spike nodded, bracing himself against the wild swaying of the camper as Rupert took a curve at speeds the lumbering vehicle was never designed for, then: “Bloody fucking hell!” he swore sharply as he remembered he had a way to reach Xander. Cursing himself for an idiot, he hastily fumbled in his pockets, coming up with his cell phone a moment later. The plastic was cracked and flipping it open just sent the top spinning across the camper. He swore again and pitched the useless thing violently away from him, finishing the job that landing on top of it during the battle had started.
“Any of you lot got a cell phone?” he asked and was met with shaking heads. Spike forced himself to calm down. It would only be a couple of minutes until they reached the mansion.
Tara and Rayne were clinging to handholds, trying to avoid being flung about the interior. Tara was white-faced and panicked - not by the ride but the danger to the witch, while Rayne looked like he was thoroughly enjoying himself, staring at Rupert lecherously as if he was thinking about telling him to pull over and shag. Rupert on the other hand had lost that fleeting expression of wildness and his expression was grimly determined as he drove, intent on getting back to the mansion in time to save the ones they’d left behind.
Buffy had said nothing about the utter recklessness of the way Rupert was driving, instead urging him to go faster, as terrified as Spike about what they were going to find at the mansion. They’d left behind their most vulnerable and most precious people, in their arrogant certainty that they were safe behind the wards that Tara and Ethan had erected. Now, they all feared the same thing: that they would return to lifeless bodies and Dawn missing.
Dawn screamed as they burst through the front door of the mansion, slamming through it with enough force to send the door banging into the wall, pieces of plaster falling in a spatter onto the stone floor. A second scream followed hers, trailing off into a burse of gibberish. The sounds came from the patio garden and Spike sprinted across to the French doors and flung them wide.
He skidded to a halt at the sight confronting him, feeling Buffy slam into him from behind, but his attention never wavered from the courtyard.
Xander, Dawn and Joyce were all staring at him, wide-eyed with surprise and the beginning of fear, Xander was between the women and the doors, having obviously thrown himself, weaponless, in front of them to protect them from whatever was entering the mansion. Joyce and Dawn had their hands full, trying to quiet and comfort the witch despite their own obvious fear at the abrupt entrance.
“What is it?” Xander asked sharply. Spike’s eyes swept the room, seeing nothing out of place. From the scattered plates and glasses, it looked like they’d been having a late lunch.
“Is everyone ok?” Buffy asked. Like Spike, she was scanning the courtyard for signs of trouble, frowning a bit as nothing but their own entrance seemed to be disturbing the mansion.
“Of course, Buffy. Why wouldn’t we be?” Joyce asked, then was forced to turn back to the witch who was crying out about needing to be somewhere. Tara hurried across the flagstones to gather the witch in her arms, rocking her and shushing her quietly, trying to calm her down.
“You haven’t seen any sign of Glory?” Spike was beginning to get a bad feeling about this. Like they had been played for fools. If the minions had been telling the truth, Glory should have been and gone. And Glory wasn’t subtle. Not exactly the sneaking around quietly type. You knew when she’d been there.
“No, of course not.” Xander shook his head emphatically as Buffy hurried past him to hug her mother, her body shaking with relief. Xander’s eyes took in the dust and blood on their clothing and the unmistakable signs of battle. “She didn’t show?”
“Just her minions.” Spike’s sense that something was wrong was too intense to ignore. “Come on, all of you, we’re getting out of here.”
The Slayer looked back at him from her mother’s arms. “Why?” she asked sharply. “What do you know?”
“Got a bad feeling,” was all Spike could tell her, but it was enough. Buffy started moving immediately, herding her mother and Dawn into the mansion. “Everyone, grab some food and anything you need for the next couple of days. We’re leaving in five minutes,” she ordered and everyone scrambled to obey. Xander grabbed the stack of grocery bags and began shoveling the contents of the refrigerator and freezer into them, while the others scattered for the bedrooms. Spike moved to secure their weapons, while Rupert and Rayne began hastily packing up the books.
Four minutes later, they were all gathered in the living room again, arms full of hastily packed supplies. “Let’s go!” Spike said sharply. The mansion no longer felt like a safe haven. It felt like a trap, just waiting to snap shut on them.
The others were picking up on his sense of urgency and they all moved quickly towards the front door and the dubious safety of the Winnebago waiting outside. Before they could finish crossing the room, the French doors to the garden were jerked open with such force they were torn from their hinges, the two glass-paned doors tossed backwards into the courtyard in a cacophony of shattering glass. Glory stood framed in the opening, smiling in that perky, psychotic cheerleader way of hers. She settled her hands on her hips and tilted her head.
“Looks like the gang’s all here,” she said, her chipper tones more frightening than any menacing growl. “Now we just have to sort out which one of you is my Key.”