Sequel to Voices in the Dark; part of The Voicesverse
Summary: Let's see. To make a long story short, the Initiative is making vampire soldiers and using Spike's ex to do it. Spike is back in Sunnydale, armed with a soul, but still with chip. Xander thinks he knows a way around it, but isn't being very cooperative. Spike has also taken in a stray, a vampire named Daniel, and is trying to deal with Daniel, his new soul, as well as his feelings for the slayer. Buffy is just trying to deal, period, with 'new and improved' Spike. And the hits just keep on coming...
Spoilers: Serious Season 7 AU, takes place after my 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! Would love to hear from you! firstname.lastname@example.org
Nothing worse than the old ISP going down. Of course, it did mean I got a little writing done.
Thank you, Chris and Colleen, for the very immediate betas! More soon, 'cause all I did this weekend was write!
"Xander!" Dark eyes went wide as the voice rose to a squeak on the last syllable. A shaky hand hit the light switch. Instead of plunging the room into darkness, the outside lamp flooded the porch with light.
Xander ran his hand through his hair. "Bathroom." he said urgently.
The other set of eyes looked wildly about for another clue. Xander pointed. When the scrambling noises ceased, he found himself alone in the room. He took a deep breath, put his beer down on the table, and walked to the door, accompanied by the loud sounds of new and even more persistent knocking. As he turned the knob, the door burst open, followed by a small white fist. He barely dodged it.
"Whoa! Uh, hey, Buffy..."
Buffy Summers had had just about enough. Enough of the Initiative and way more than enough of Xander Harris. "Don't 'hey, Buffy' me! Where is he?" Her tone left no room for doubt that she knew exactly who and what was going on.
Xander shrugged. "Bathroom." He knew when to cut his losses.
Her eyes narrowed as she took four long strides to the bathroom door. Twisting the knob until she disabled the lock, she heard a small "eep," as she reached in and hauled out a gulping and wincing figure that was no taller than she was.
Still holding him by the collar and shoulder of his shirt, she bodily spun him around to face her. "This better be good."
Jonathan gulped, taking a moment to glance at Xander. "Is it good?" When Xander made no indication of the correct answer, he looked at Buffy. "It's good," he said carefully.
"Uh, *real* good?"
"You're the elf," she concluded with a mighty sigh.
Jonathan frowned and in spite of himself began to bristle at the insult. "Hey!"
"The Keebler elf?" Buffy was getting impatient at the zero amount of information she was getting. She looked at Xander. "You are so dead."
Xander was most unhappy that she had remembered he was even in the room. "Buffy, I can explain."
She snorted. "Save it for the jury." She fixed Jonathan with cold, dark eyes. "So? What have you got?"
"Uh, everything?" he squeaked.
The word hung in the air with the promise of even more wincing and dissembling. It was going to be a long rest-of-the-night. Buffy let Jonathan go, shot Xander a dirty look, and sat down on the sofa, throwing an arm across the back of the couch.
With a hard glint in her eye, she settled in. "Give it to me. All of it. Now."
Clem opened the door. Xander gave him a sharp nod from Buffy's porch.
"Xander! Hi!" Clem seemed genuinely glad to see him.
The man smiled at the loose-skinned demon, in spite of his mood. "I'm here for Dawn patrol," he explained. Looking over his shoulder at the now pink sky, he nodded again. "In more ways than one." He gazed at Clem. "Buffy said 'thanks' and can you meet them at Spike's tomorrow...uh, tonight?"
"Tell the Slayer I sure can," Clem said agreeably. "Dawn's been asleep for hours," he informed Xander as the man entered the house. "But she really didn't want to go to bed. Had a bee in her bonnet over the Slayer and Spike."
"Who doesn't?" Xander muttered.
Clem's eyes dropped to his feet. Shuffling them in embarrassment, he didn't answer.
Xander pushed out a frustrated breath. "Sorry, Clem. I know he's your friend. It's just...well, Buffy and Spike! Jeez Louise, it's hurl-worthy! Believe me. I've known him a lot longer than you have."
"I didn't see anything too wrong with Spike before he went away," Clem said in the vampire's defense. "Other than the fact that he drank too much and he spent way too much time thinking about the Slayer. Broody, you know? He needed to get out more. Meet people. But he was always a good friend to me. Listened when I needed to talk. Gave me advice when it would help, and even when it wouldn't," Clem said. "And it seems to me anybody who changes who they are to try to be 'good' enough for someone else deserves a break."
Xander's eyes went out of focus as Anya's face flashed across his vision. With lightening speed, he remembered her ability to see right into the heart of a problem. And the times she'd embarrassed him in front of his friends with her honesty.
"Hey?" An extremely wrinkled hand appeared on his arm. "You all right?" Clem was looking at him in concern.
"Yeah." He shook his head to clear her face from his vision. "Yeah. Go on home, Clem. I'll take over - get Dawn off to school when it's time. You get some sleep."
Clem looked at Xander, still puzzled by the abrupt change in his manner. He walked over and picked up the canvas tote bag beside the couch. "Don't forget to tell the slayer I'll be there."
Xander nodded, staring blankly at the wall. The click of the front door as it closed barely registered.
Spike had been lost in his own thoughts for hours. Under careful questioning, Daniel had admitted that the Dark Lady was being held, not in one of the cells, but in a whole suite of rooms equipped with lab equipment and massive security. Even so, Spike couldn't imagine anyone or thing keeping Dru prisoner - unless for her own reasons, she wanted it that way. Of the two of them, Dru, at her full mental capacities (such as they were) was far more dangerous than Spike. She never did the expected, so she was impossible to predict. Even living with her for over a hundred years had done nothing to change that. And her sense of self-preservation was uncanny. If her visions didn't virtually incapacitate her - sometimes for days after - she'd be completely unstoppable.
Buffy had no idea who she could be dealing with, and until he was certain, he wasn't telling her. However, Daniel's stammering description of a dark, Stevie-Nicks dress alike had pretty much pushed Spike into the "I Believe" camp.
As if his thoughts had summoned her, the door opened and washed the room with light from the imminent sunrise. Buffy pushed Jonathan into the crypt. Spike looked up in surprise, getting warily out of his chair. Now she was bringing strange men to his place?
"The Chip-meister," she said in explanation. "You might remember Jonathan?" She gave her burden a distasteful look. "Or not."
Finally, he nodded, recalling the short, dark haired man from his visit to Warren's. "Yeah. Yeah, I do."
"He's got the read-outs on the chip - all of Warren's information," Buffy said briskly. "Notes, even.
"No honor among thieves, then. Good," Spike said approvingly.
The small man gathered himself up, trying to get up the nerve to look at Spike, rather than the floor of the room. Daniel slipped back into the shadows toward the stairs he'd just taken two at a time.
"Uh, hi, Spike." Jonathan thought that a little courtesy was overdue, considering they'd just burst right in. Of course, since Spike had burst into Warren's that time, it might just be something these people did to each other. They didn't seem to be much for polite knocking. Maybe it had something to do with their 'save the world' mentality.
Spike looked at Buffy. "This is who Harris has been talking to?"
"Yep." Buffy nodded tightly. She looked at Jonathan in disgust. "Oh, for God's sake, stop shaking like that! Spike's not gonna bite you."
"Not worried about him," Jonathan mumbled. Buffy shot him a look and opened her mouth to speak, but thought better of it. The silence loomed.
"Well, get on with it, then," Spike finally said in frustration. "Short version will do. Don't have to get all Star Trekkie."
"That's Trekker," Jonathan mumbled in a miffed tone. Spike gave him a dark look, as Buffy cleared her throat. He took a deep breath. "The chip is connected to the parts of your brain that control pain and your behavior. There's a signal that comes in on a pulse. It keeps you from harming humans..."
Spike made a noise, something between 'rude' and 'impatient.' "Tell me something I don't know."
"Well, I can't remove it surgically. I don't have that kind of knowledge. And with the scar tissue involved, I doubt anyone could."
"Vampires don't scar, dimwit."
"There is scar tissue. Or something," Jonathan insisted. "The chip was inserted deep in your cerebral cortex and it's become a part of your brain. In fact, I don't think anyone could have taken it out even six months after it went in. Not without serious impairment."
So the doctor had been telling the truth after all. "Well, then what the bloody hell are you doing here?" Spike said loudly. He fixed Buffy with an exasperated glance, ignoring Jonathan for a moment. "What the bloody hell is he doing here?" he asked in the same tone.
Buffy put up a hand to forestall the coming storm. She looked at Jonathan.
"Now I can't take it out with a scalpel or lasers or anything like that, but..."
"But what?" Spike began to feel a twinge of nervousness.
"I can majick it out," Jonathan said with an assurance he really didn't feel. "I don't have everything I need and there's still a little research I need to do, but I can do it." He took a deep breath and rushed through the next words. "But there's more you need to know before you decide." Stuff Buffy doesn't know yet, he thought as he glanced at the silent slayer.
Spike sighed complacently. "Of course." He walked over to the chair and sat down heavily. "Let's have it then. All of it."
"The 'harming humans' part is one thing. But that's not all. The chip's also got connections that go to the parts of the brain that deal in behavior."
"In English, please," Spike drawled with a nonchalance he didn't feel. "American will do."
"It helps modify your behavior - changes the way you react to things. Makes you a little different," Jonathan explained. "And there seems to be some kind of on-going program in place, because the signal changes from time to time."
Spike's hands tightened imperceptively on the arm of the chair. This was far worse than knowing there was a chip in his head that was simply keeping him from the killing.
Jonathan's voice became more certain, as he continued. "Now it's only on very simple levels, but Warren did some checking. Wanted to figure out what it was, how it worked." He looked down at his feet. "Intercept it, change it, feed it in to your brain with his own programming." Jonathan winced as Spike jumped out of the chair and began silently pacing the room. "He actually started monitoring the signal. Got lots of data on it. What you saw was just the start."
Jonathan hurried on, thinking it might be time to look like the good guy. Cause chip or not, it looked like Spike was ready to kill something - anything - him. "Then, Warren got busy trying to take over the world and put it on the back burner. I stole everything, screwed up the computer, and locked it up in a safety deposit box."
"Why?" Spike chose that question at that time? Buffy looked at him in surprise.
"He wanted to see if he could use you against the Slayer some way. Because you and Buffy were..." Jonathan's voice stopped in mid-sentence as the slayer reddened, remembering the cameras they'd found. She wondered how many more there were, and just what the Trio had seen. She and Spike had been in a lot of compromising and very intimate positions when the Three had been working toward world domination. About sixty of those positions came to mind without thinking much about it. There was a tightening in her stomach that was definitely an inappropriate response to this conversation.
Spike wasn't letting either of them off the hook, Buffy saw. She cleared her throat. "I'm gonna go see about Daniel," she said, heading down the stairs. Spike lifted an eyebrow, waiting for Jonathan's answer.
"I just didn't think it was fair to go after her like that," Jonathan stated bluntly. "Not right. Not *that* way."
The vampire nodded. "Thank you for that much. The chip changes me how?"
"On a simple level. Slowly. Nothing your thought processes can't assimilate. It's brilliant, really. Uh, elegant, if I can use that word?"
"Looks like you bloody well did. And it does what? For instance?" Spike sounded pretty cavalier. As if he already knew the answer.
"Makes you a little less aggressive toward humans. A little more, um, receptive."
Spike looked at Jonathan in shock. "To what?" His voice was suddenly harsh. "Buffy?"
"What?" Jonathan looked at Spike questioningly. He'd had his spiel pretty well outlined and now this very scary vampire was deviating from the carefully scripted scene. "What do you..." Jonathan's eyes popped out of his head as he realized what Spike was implying. "Oh, no! No, no, no. It doesn't do that. It can't make you..."
"Fall in love?" Spike's world for the last three years had been his love for the golden slayer. He'd gone to Africa and fought for a soul so he could be worthy of her. Now the world as he knew it was shattering around him. "You sure?"
Dawn staggered to the top of the stairs. "Buffy! I think I need some coffee! Clem kept me up!" She continued down carefully, holding onto the rail as she mumbled, "So what if it stunts my growth. Stunted is of the good. 'Stunted' means no 'tall' shop. 'Stunted' means I can keep wearing these jeans..."
Dawn stopped and stared at Xander. "What are you doing here?"
"Your sister asked me to stay over until she gets back. Get you to school if she doesn't make it back in time."
"She's with Spike? And you aren't beating your breast and wailing?" Suspiciously, she gave him a closer look. "What have you done with Xander Harris, evil demon? Or on second thought, what did you do with Clem?"
Chuckling, Xander rubbed tired eyes. "Sent him home to get real sleep in his own bed. That is if he sleeps in a bed. I'm not real clear on the sleeping habits of demons - at least not that particular demon. And the whole 'Buffy's with Spike' thing? No big. Slayer stuff. Really."
"What stuff?" She sat down beside Xander on the sofa with a small sigh and pulled her knees up to her chest, surveying her bright metallic blue toe nails.
He smiled. It had been so long since she'd done something like that - just sat down beside him like she used to, he wanted to keep her there for a while. "How much do you know about the chip?"
"I know it keeps Spike from walloping the hell out of you when you need it," she grinned, taking the sting out of her words. Her smile faded. "Obviously, not as much as you do, or you wouldn't be asking. Is there new stuff?"
Xander nodded, taking the reproof in good grace. "Jonathan's back with a way to get the chip out. So no more leash for big bad Spike." The last part of the sentence came out a little more sarcastically than he meant.
"Well, now that he's got a soul, the whole chip thing is redundant anyway."
"Redundant? You kiss your sister with that mouth?" Xander grinned sickly, thinking of the names of several serial killers that he was pretty sure still had souls. "Still. No more leash."
Dawn laughed. "Spike doesn't need a 'leash.' He's saved your butt plenty of times. And mine, too. Even Buffy's. The chip doesn't make him do that. *He* just does it. Cause he cares about us."
The man opened his mouth. Dawn was certain he was about to say something condescending, like it was 'complicated,' or 'she didn't understand.' Something all grown-uppy and maddening. And she was sick of it.
"Anya's a vengence demon again. Does that mean she doesn't love you anymore? Does that mean you can't love her anymore? She looks and sounds like the same old Anya to me - when I see her anyway, which isn't much, because you keep driving her away with your big time angst and your puppy dog eyes."
"Leave Anya out of this, Dawn," Xander growled.
"Why? She's a demon and she loves you. You love her. Spike's a vampire and he loves Buffy. And she could just give it up and maybe be with him, if you'd get off it and leave them alone."
She took a deep breath. "See, I love Buffy. And I love Spike. I can even love you - although it's hard right now, because you drink way too much and you don't have a clue and you're beginning to sound and act just like your father, who isn't the greatest role model in the world, and are you getting any of this?"
Xander felt her words enter him like tiny wooden stakes. He shook his head and tried to speak - to explain. Dawn was having none of it. She let out a furious breath and jumped up, turning on her heel, hair flying and feet flashing as she ran up the steps, her final words echoing in his brain.
"I love you, Xander, but I don't like you very much right now."
It was dark where Clem was. Then, he realized his eyes were closed. He opened them, and shut them again in response to the bright light. His head hurt and his hand automatically came up to touch a sore spot on his chest. A small dart came away in his hand.
He sat up slowly, cradling his head. Didn't know how he'd gotten here and he didn't care. He just wanted to go home. He needed real sleep, so he'd be ready for...what? Oh, tonight. The Slayer needed him. Or did she? Had he dreamed the whole thing? Xander and leaving and the pain in his chest and falling. He looked around the small room, squinting his eyes to minimize the flash of the light bouncing off the white floor, the ceiling, the walls.
Well, three walls anyway. The fourth was... transparent? No, there was a blue light there. A force field? This was very sci-fi and not his usual type dream at all.
He wished he'd hurry and wake up.
Continued in Part 12