Sequel to Voices in the Dark; part of The Voicesverse
Summary: Months after his return from Africa, Spike takes in a stray and tries to consolidate what was with what is...
Spoilers: Season 7-ish, takes place after the fic, Voices in the Dark
Distribution: Just talk to me, I'm easy. Fanfiction.net (if it ever comes up and stays up again) and, thankfully, at Chris' site "Amare, Dare, Pardonare"
Disclaimers: All Joss, all ME, all the time...
Feedback: You betta, you betta, you bet!
Oooh, my little fingers ran away from me! Thanks to Chris, for putting up with the nits and seeing the point, and Colleen, for brushing away the nits that got away from the first betas.
God, this is fun! What a ride!
After a truly lame attempt at cleaning up the kitchen, Xander Harris grabbed the two open garbage bags and headed out to the dumpster. The reality that was a pizza box - or four - meant that there was more air in the sack than trash. And the same went for the Styrofoam containers that Doublemeat Doubletreats came in. He felt that the bag would pull a full-scale pop fly if a decent breeze got under it. Maybe he'd just toss it up there and watch the boxes scatter.
Xander spun around, slinging the bags wildly as he reached for a stake. And again... so not there. What was the deal with him and stakes lately? A figure crouched, wincing, as cardboard and Styrofoam flew.
In a breath, Xander was off the concrete and had the shadow pinned against the wall. He looked down.
"Jeez. And ow!" The shaky voice almost squeaked. "You called me, remember?"
Xander let out a huge relieved breath. "Oh, man, you were nearly dust," he said as he pushed back from the wall. "Well, not dust exactly, and I didn't happen to have a stake on me, but..." Xander's voice trailed off. "Scare a guy, okay? Where were you anyway? Across the street?"
The shadowy form looked down and straightened all-black clothes, cutting dark eyes up at Xander. "Decided to come in last night," he said in his own defense. "Wasn't so sure when I'd get here. And I had to get the stuff you wanted."
"But...I didn't say come back. I just said that I might want you to come back." Xander was confused.
The figure was still. The small voice sounded lost. "So...we're not gonna do it? I thought that maybe Buffy wouldn't be so mad and maybe I could come home. I really need to come home. And you know I never meant for it to go that far. You know I didn't. You told me so."
"I'm not sure I want you to do it," Xander said thoughtfully. "Think maybe the Xanman's sanity might be doing that returny thing after all." He brightened. "Maybe you could just say you're sorry. She's all with the forgiveness lately with ole 'good and gooder' bein' back on site."
"You think? That would be, like, great, cause I'm kinda out of practice with the whole magic thing lately."
"Well, come on in, anyway. You look terrible. And going inside is better than standing around waiting for something bad to bite you on the ass. Hellmouth, remember?"
"Thanks. Hey, got anything to eat? I'm starving."
"Just trashed it. But hey! Delivery okay?"
"He may not need it to breathe, but I think he needs it to talk. Air, Spike. Now." Buffy reached up and slowly peeled Spike's fingers one by one away from Daniel's throat. He'd tossed the boy across the room and fastened onto his neck with one hand as if he would take his head off. His other arm was pushed against his chest, holding him to the wall. Buffy was so relieved to see Spike slipping even a little toward gameface, she almost laughed.
"You know," she said conversationally as she eased the older vampire away from the fledgling, "some anger management courses might be a good idea, considering the changes we were discussing earlier."
Spike let her move him, but he never took his hot, narrowed eyes off the boy. Daniel looked at him in shock. The older vampire was a half-head shorter and less massive, but there was no doubt who had the sheer will to overcome those handicaps. Spike looked as dangerous as Buffy had ever seen him.
Taking a deep breath, she turned back to Daniel. "You," she said curtly. "Sit. And don't try anything either. I've got a stake with your name on it."
He nodded - although he was a lot less worried about the small woman than his recent benefactor. Spike's eyes were fixed on him as he backed away toward the chair. Sitting down, Daniel relaxed slightly and began rubbing his throat.
Slowly, Spike turned to the slayer, still as tightly wound as she had seen him since his return. She touched his arm, not a tender touch, but more of a 'welcome back.' "I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever see you again. The odds just hiked up in your favor, Big Bad."
He stared at her as her words hit home, eyes still narrowed and slightly gold at the edges of his irises. He was breathing heavily, pushing air in and out as he fought to overcome the shock and betrayal. She smiled. "Go. Sit. We're gonna sort this out. He's just a kid, remember?"
She walked over and hitched one leg over the table. Swinging it as she looked at them both, the slayer tried to decide what to ask first.
"Okay, so how do you know about Hostile 17?" Her leg never missed a swing. This was more like it. At least something was beginning to shake loose.
As Spike's eyes impaled him, the boy cleared his throat and looked straight at Buffy. She could understand why. Spike was very, very threatening. "I didn't know it was him. The records are gone. There was a fire, I think. His chip - it was a prototype - and the only one that really worked."
Buffy shot a look at Spike and saw that he was beginning to come down some, eyes not glinting as fiercely, as the flecks of gold disappeared. Good! "As opposed to... what?" she continued, turning her attention back to Daniel as if it had never strayed. "The ones that don't?"
The young vampire nodded quickly. "All of Professor Walsh's schematics disappeared. So they went into a redesign. But the new chips kill. At least they do when they put 'em in a vampire that's already... fed. The chip fires, but it's too subtle or not subtle enough, so it either doesn't work or it kills them. White coats don't even bother to pick up vampires for experiments anymore. Just make their own."
Her stomach began to clench in nausea, as she anticipated the answer to her next question. "Make their..."
Daniel looked nervously at the slayer as he stole a glance at Spike. "Vampires."
Spike came off the chair, fingers clenching. "Lived here for days," he said in a harsh growl. "And not a word! Nothing. Like you were some amnesiac on a soap opera!"
"I didn't know..." Daniel protested guiltily.
"Spike?" Buffy said sweetly. "Sit." She turned back to Daniel, not even waiting to see if he did it. "Okay, who's doing this?"
"Military op. Well, quasi-military, because there are some civilians involved."
Spike leaned toward the boy with a menacing coolness that Buffy found strangely comforting. "How do you know all this?"
The boy recoiled slightly, but laughed wryly at the irony. "I'm AWOL. Very, very absent without leave. As in dead. Wrong place, wrong time."
Spike threw himself back in his chair, as the slayer pursed her lips, considering her next question. They'd return to Daniel's origins later. "How?"
The fledgling didn't pretend to misunderstand. The words tumbled out as if they'd been buried for a long time. "They recruit from the hospitals. Terminal patients. Very terminal. Full blown AIDS. Leukemia. Rejected kidney transplants. They get releases from the families for organ donation." Buffy almost sighed with relief that the recruitment process wasn't worse than it was. Then, she recognized the sheer audacity and arrogance of it. And she thought of her old friend Ford.
"So it's an army experiment," she nodded. "Another one." She looked at Spike angrily. "And this one is so far on the side of bad, I can't believe I'm hearing it. Why in the hell would they be making vampires?"
Spike spat the answer into the room where it lay coiled like a snake.
"Soldier boys, Slayer. They're makin' soldier boys."
Dawn turned off the television and stretched. Buffy was in for it. It was late and she was tired of waiting.
Clem looked up from his bowl of popcorn (Orville Reddenbacher, of course) with a grin. "That was a good one, Dawnie. Don't go for horror movies much, but..."
"That is *so* not a horror movie," she said archly. "That was 'Scream'. And it's all about the parody. Just one big sillyball, rolled up and thrown right at you." She looked at him, suddenly concerned. "You thought it was silly, right?"
Clem looked down in embarrassment. "Well, at the end, I did. But the first? Whoo-boy! Had to tell myself it was a movie to keep from turning it off. That sweet little girl from ET trying to get away? Well, that was just sad!"
"Buffy's late." Dawn's pronouncement was definitely off topic movie-wise, but on target otherwise.
Clem looked a little embarrassed for the slayer. "I'm sure she just got hung up slaying something," he muttered.
"Oh, yeah, right. Slaying, or maybe lay..." Dawn stopped when she saw Clem's shocked face.
"I don't think that's a very nice thought you're having, Dawnie."
The girl tossed her hair, but had the grace to look abashed. "Sorry. But I saw 'em in the kitchen and it was hot, Clem. I mean, really hot. So excuse me if I wonder just what they're doing right now!"
Clem jumped up and started gathering empty bowls and glasses. He crumpled a still partially full bag of potato chips in his haste to get out of the room. Dawn reached for it, quickly looking inside and smoothing it.
Looking up, the demon set his chins and gave Dawn a reproving look. "Your sister and Spike are having a talk tonight. When she called and asked me to stay, she said it was important. All serious sounding, too. So I don't think there's much kissy-face goin' on, if you get my meaning."
Dawn looked at him craftily. "What kind of talk?"
"Didn't ask. Sounded like slayer business to me. You know how her voice gets when it's slayer stuff. All firm."
The girl sighed. "I was hoping... Well, not hoping. But... just thinking, that maybe everything would just be okay again. And he could come over and watch movies with me again. And talk. Uh, with us. You, too, Clem. You're always invited."
Clem threw up his hand and laughed self-deprecatingly. "Well, I know I'm no Spike, Dawn, but that's nice of you to say. You're quite a young lady."
Dawn sighed and almost stomped her foot. That's right, Clem, make with the guilt! She hoped Buffy never found out that killing her with kindness would make her cave every time.
Buffy had finally left Spike with Daniel, hoping that the young vampire had the good sense and enough training to obey orders and stay downstairs out of Spike's immediate vicinity. He couldn't say she hadn't warned him. Swinging her arms, she blazed out of the cemetery and into the dimly lit streets.
Although most of her attention was on the scenery - and whatever glint of Kevlar might be lurking behind it, the night was on replay in her head. Unfortunately, Spike's display of anger wasn't the only display she was thinking about. She smiled softly and then shook herself out of that little fantasy and back to reality.
Spike had actually moved like Spike tonight. He'd vaulted over the chair and slammed Daniel to the wall like some feline predator. The sight of it had been enough to make her cheer. In fact, it had shocked and pleased her so much, she almost forgot to help Daniel.
Help Daniel. And what was up with that? She groaned. Black and white had been so much easier. Demon, human, stake and go. Spike had changed all that - long before he'd gotten that soul of his.
And she had to admit that Souled Spike had been bothering the hell out of her more and more over the last Riley-wordless weeks. She needed him fighting beside her if it came down to it. Not getting all soulful in a corner somewhere. She realized she really hadn't been worried about what he'd do with the chip out - she'd been more worried that he'd get it out and get staked anyway.
The chip. For a moment she hesitated about going on to Xander's apartment. It was late - and to be honest, the thought of drunken Anya-angst was not on her list of favorite things to end her night. But the sooner she got this over with, the better she'd feel. She and Spike had made real progress tonight with Daniel. They had some information, something to go on. She wished she knew what they were going to do with it.
This whole Initiative thing was scary. The chip had been one thing - one less big bad to deal with. But this? She couldn't even comprehend the sick mind that had lain awake nights hatching this plot. Making vampire soldiers! It was like some D- horror movie.
Finally arriving at Xander's apartment, she noticed that the lights were on. She stood there, chewing on her lip, trying to decide if tomorrow was better.
In a bit, she walked around to a window and peered into the living room to see if he was up. He was. He was sitting in a chair, talking to himself, a beer in his hand. Talking to himself? She snorted as a second, much smaller figure walked into view. Her eyes widened. She ran back to the door and pounded hard. This was *so* not happening!
Daniel came upstairs and saw Spike sitting in front of the television with the sound muted. He wasn't sure if Spike even knew he was there. Eyes glassy, he stared at the far wall.
"Daniel, this is not the safest place for you to be right now." Spike's voice was calm, even though he spoke without looking his way.
The fledgling came closer. "I'm sorry, okay? I needed you to understand that I really didn't know."
Spike sighed. "Didn't you? And what part of 'safe' didn't you understand?"
"I knew you were different. The pig's blood, this place - looks like you've been here a while. You said humans were...food... for vampires. But you weren't eating. I just thought...well, I figured it was because of her. I never thought about Hostile 17."
"You know my name," Spike said gruffly. "Use it.
Daniel laughed softly in spite of the chill in the room. "A lot of the guys don't think you're real," he said, shaking his head. "Nobody's around from when it happened. Bunch of 'em died, I think. Rest got reassigned. The new guys think you're a myth."
"One of the 'guys' knows I'm not," Spike retorted. The thought of Captain Cardboard and his holier than thou self made his stomach turn. Suddenly, he turned to look at the boy with a calculated interest. "Tell me, Daniel. Have you met a soldier boy name of Riley Finn? Officer maybe. Big, beefy looking git. All about obeying orders without any thoughts of his own?"
"Finn?" he echoed. "No. I don't... I don't think so. Don't remember anybody named Finn. And I pretty much know the officers."
Spike slumped back.
The chair creaked as Spike sat up slowly. "Unless what?" A catch in his voice was the only betrayer of his excitement.
"Unless he's the one who brought her. From South America."
Spike let the words sink in. "Brought who?"
"'Her.' The dark lady. The guys call her that. They laugh at her. Well, some of them do. I don't - a lot of the guys don't. She's scary."
"She's the one makin' vampires." Spike nodded once as he relaxed back into his chair.
Daniel nodded. "She's the one - the only one now. Killed the other one. And nobody seemed to mind. That was so weird." He shivered slightly, then shrugged, embarrassed. "I've seen her a couple of times. She's pretty, but strange. You can tell she's evil, but in a sad way. She's supposed to make the new ones, but sometimes she won't. Just lets them die. They say she sees things she doesn't like about 'em. Sees it in their eyes," he said, almost whispering in remembrance.
Daniel's voice dropped away and he shook off the eerie memory. With surprise, he noticed Spike staring at him, mouth open, in shock. Daniel watched silently as the older vampire's face twisted in pain and he buried his head in his hands.
Continued in Part 10