Something Gray Chapter 23/26

This entry is part 23 of 26 in the series Something Gray
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Chapter 23

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A/N : Spoiler for X-Files episode “Je Souhaite (The Wish)” (s7, aired May 2000, just as “New Moon Rising” was airing on BtVS)

Willow was updating Buffy about her evening with Oz while letting her dormmate know that she would be moving out. “So Tara and I found this cute attic apartment in an old converted house. We think the landlady may be Wiccan too, so that could be a plus.”

“Wait, Oz is back and you’re moving in with Tara? What’s the scoop, or do I have to do my best Scully to get the 411?” Buffy had noticed how close her best friend had become to the shy girl who had literally rushed into their world only a short time before. She felt a pang of jealousy that made her ashamed because Tara really was nice. “Is Oz leaving again?”

“I don’t know.” Willow was a bit worried about Oz. She had called Devon earlier to talk to him and Devon had said Oz had never shown up at his place. “He found a cure. In Tibet of all places.”

“Cures are of the good… right?” Buffy was the picture of puzzlement.

“It’s complicated. Because of Tara.” Willow watched her best friend closely to see if she was going to have to go all Vanna White and turn over the lighted letters.

Buffy may not have aced trig, but she could add. “Oh! I mean…OH!” She began to pace around the small confines of their room. This was big. How had she managed to miss this?

“It’s complicated. I wasn’t looking for anyone and it snuck up on me. It’s just so powerful and so different from what I had with Oz.”

“I’ll bet.” Buffy couldn’t help the quip.

“Are we still good?” Willow had heard of friends and family deserting a person when they came out of the closet, but she had never expected her own friends to be like that.

“Of course!” Buffy rushed to embrace her dear friend. “Love happens and that’s what’s important, right? I mean, it’s all about how we love, not who.” Buffy nodded sagely. “I’m glad you told me. What did Oz say?”

“He kinda freaked… I think. It’s so hard to tell with him, Mr. Strong And Completely Silent and all, but judging by the snapped coffee cup, I’m thinkin’ he needs time to process.”

“It is a lot to take in.” Buffy was ready to stand by Willow no matter what, just as Willow had stood by Buffy through the whole ‘Angel is a vampire’ thing, but it was still a bit of a curve ball. “I like Tara. If I were attracted to girls, I can totally see why she’d be the one. I just, you know, I never knew…”

“I didn’t either,” Willow admitted. “Well, there was the gay vibe from Vamp Me from the hell dimension, but other than that I never really had any ‘ooh, she’s so hot’ moments to prepare me. It’s just…I don’t think it would matter if Tara were a guy or a demon even, I just know how I feel when I’m with her. Do you know what I mean?”

“Yeah, I think I do. I thought I had that with Angel.” Buffy rushed to explain when she saw Willow’s stricken face. “Not that I think you’re just all with the doomed, star-crossed lovers thing. I just meant I know how it feels–the emotions, you know? I want the real thing now and hope that’s what you’ve found with Tara.”

“Thanks, Buffy.” They embraced like sisters, taking strength in a friendship that was proving to be as unconditional as any love could be. “I told my mom. She said she had a girl crush in college, that it’s a part of experimenting! That’s not how it feels though. Tara isn’t an experiment. The love I feel for her is real and stronger than anything I ever imagined. Thanks for not blowing it off as something unimportant like mom did.”

“You love Tara; I’d never blow off love.” Buffy hoped Willow would be as understanding of her own fledgling feelings for Spike if they led where it seemed they might. “I just hope my next roommate isn’t another demon. At least not one with a serious Cher fixation!”

~~~

Oz woke disoriented in a white room with one clear glass side. He was back to his human guise and utterly naked. As far as the eye could see were cubicle after cubicle filled with demons of every size and shape. He saw soldiers patrolling the passageway and realized he must be in the underground compound the Scoobies had mentioned the day before. ‘Must have wolfed out,’ he realized to his horror and shame. It was the first time in months that he had let the demon loose and it couldn’t have been a worse time or place to have it happen.

He remembered unaccustomed anger and jealousy as Willow told him he had no chance with her because she had moved on to another, a girl at that. Didn’t do much for one’s ego to hear that. Still, he couldn’t blame Willow. He hadn’t left her with many options since he hadn’t even made it clear that he planned to return. No, he couldn’t blame Willow for not waiting for him. He had half expected her to be involved with Xander.

He wondered if the soldier he had met at Giles’ apartment might help him out of this mess. The fellow seemed to be working with Buffy and that had to mean he was a good guy. Deciding to take a gamble, Oz called out to some passing troops, “Please, there’s been a mistake! Can someone get Riley Finn? He knows me.” Oz hoped he had remembered the name correctly.

“We all know you, wolf boy,” quipped an armed guard. “Ri knows you’re here. The only mistake made was you coming to this town.” The guard moved on, closing the heavy metal doors at the end of the section and leaving Oz with nothing but the company of many screaming, cursing, growling demons in various states of distress.

“Won’t do you a bit of good askin’ for Finn,” a somewhat familiar voice rasped. “Bugger’s in it as deep as any. You’re nothing but a thing, a demon to the lot of them.” The voice spoke of pain even though Oz couldn’t see who was talking. “You Red’s dog?”

“Not hers now,” Oz admitted. “Do I know you?”

“Spike. Had a bit of a run-in here and in L.A. as I recall.” Spike went into a bit of a coughing fit at the end that sounded wet and painful.

“Man, they were wondering where you were,” Oz offered. “Been here long?”

“Don’t know. Feels like forever. Butchers like pokin’ and proddin’ a bloke.”

After another coughing fit, he continued. “Finn gave me up, even after sayin’ he’d keep his yap shut ‘bout me.”

Riley and another soldier came through the door and the conversation abruptly stopped. Instinctively, Oz knew it was best not to let anyone know he and Spike were acquainted. “Hello, Oz. Sorry about this. I know Buffy is your friend, Willow too, but even you have to admit you’re a threat to decent people.”

“Not normally.” Oz’s gaze was piercing and Riley had an unusual pang of unease.

“If you are the decent man they say you are, you’ll have to admit that you are dangerous–too dangerous–at least three nights of each month. You don’t want to hurt anyone, do you?”

“Never did. What about you?” Oz challenged him with a look.

“If you can’t be controlled, we’ll have no choice but to put you down. It’s the only right thing to do.” Riley looked sad but determined.

“I can control myself, thanks, just get me out of here.”

“You were out of control last night. The docs will do their best and if that doesn’t work, I promise to make it painless,” Riley said in an attempt at consolation. “Get some rest. Someone will be down for you in a while.”

The soldiers left through the same door they had recently entered. Oz noticed they had been tagging various cages including his own.

“What’s gonna happen to me now?” Oz had a very bad feeling he wasn’t going to like the answer.

“Don’t think they put any hardware in your noggin yet. You were pretty frisky last night.”

“Hardware?”

“Computer chip. Behavior modification chip, they call it. Hurts like a bleedin’ mother when it goes off,” Spike advised. “I’d recommend you pass on getting one.” His laugh was rueful.

“Love to,” Oz agreed. “Any way out of this place?”

“Yeah,” Spike replied. “Found it once. Got out, lived in the Watcher’s bathtub for a bit ‘til I found a nice crypt of my own. Finn just ambushed me a while back. Not sure how long ago, hard to tell.”

“Think you could find it again?” Oz wanted nothing more than to get out of this Wes Craven setting before anyone came near him with sharp objects. “You able to travel?”

“Plenty of incentive. Yeah, I’m good to go. You got a plan?”

“I was sort of hopin’ you might,” Oz admitted.

“Give us a mo and I’ll come up with somethin’. Not fancying another dance with this lot again.”

Spike tested his legs by standing and walking about slightly. “Given the choice, I’m up for leavin. Could use a bit of nosh, but not what they hand out here. Drug a body up right proper, next thing you know you’re back on the table with some knife happy bugger makin’ pretty patterns in your body. Yeah, I’ll make it out or dust trying.”

“Start thinking,” Oz encouraged. “Better if we do something before nightfall, because I don’t think the wolf will follow a plan well and I can’t be sure I can keep it under control .”

“There’s the rub. Daylight isn’t exactly my best time, if you get my drift.” Spike privately thought they were buggered good and proper but wasn’t going to let that stop them. “ Let me think a bit. Keep your eyes open for anything useful.”

“Right, MacGyver it is then.”

~~~

Buffy decided to accompany Giles on his return visit to the Coach to put an end to Steve’s new hobby of giving Tara the evil eye every chance he got.

She also planned to get some answers about the missing vampire in her life too. ‘If that little creep has so much as touched Spike again, I’ll have to pretend he’s a vamp and rip his head off.’ She wasn’t even the least guilty at the violence of her thoughts. She remembered well how badly Spike had been thrashed before and shuddered at the thought that this bully might have once more inflicted that kind of pain on him. If Spike was going to have to go through unlife with a computer chip in his head, he’d have to start protecting his sexy ass a bit better.

The coach assured Giles that he had steered clear of Tara and that Steve had as well. He promised to talk to the boy again about his bad attitude and tell him to just avoid the girl entirely. On a campus the size of Sunnydale U that shouldn’t be too hard. It wasn’t as if Steve were in any of the more intellectually inclined classes the Maclay girl would be in, nor did she strike the coach as a potential fan of college athletics.

“I don’t get the feeling they had anything to do with Spike’s disappearance.” Buffy kicked a rock in the path with more force than absolutely necessary. “I don’t get it. Where could he be?”

Buffy fought the fear that, by her extending the hand of friendship, she might have clued in the vampire to her interest. Guys always ran out on her. Maybe Spike headed for the hills at the thought that the Slayer was thinking about him staking her instead of the other way around.

“Perhaps he is merely lying low until we sort out the Initiative situation. I could sense he doesn’t trust Finn to keep his presence quiet.” Giles felt conflicted by the need to offer comfort without encouraging his charge’s emotional attachments. “Have you given any further thought to what I had to say the other day, Buffy?”

“No,” she answered honestly. “I’m sorry, Giles. I love you, but you can’t dictate who I care about. You also can’t let Angelus become the only model for a vampire you ever see. You are the one who taught me to size up my enemies. You said I had to treat each one as different and not get lazy. I know you meant that about how I would fight them, but it’s true in other ways too. Looks like a lot of the more intelligent demons are pretty individual, not all alike. Spike is different. He always has been. He loved Dru, you can’t deny that.”

“He obsessed over her, yes.” Giles began to dispute her comments with Council rhetoric.

“Blabity blabity blah… Council handbook, volume twelve, chapter fifty-four. God, Giles, THINK! Don’t just quote stuff you know is crap!” Buffy stopped and turned on him with blazing eyes. “You’re better than that. Those same books said Dru was dust and Spike was a couple hundred years old. Spike loved that whack job for a hundred years. God! When Ford was in town wanting to be turned, he handed me over to Spike and his minions. The way I stopped the idiot buffet was to threaten Drusilla. Spike made all the vamps let those stupid kids go and let ME go…just to save her. That’s not obsession, that’s love. If he can feel love for a nutcase like Dru, he can feel other positive things too. Look how he is with my mom!”

Giles sighed in frustration. “Spike may well have the best of intentions, Buffy, but in the end he is still a vampire and you are the Slayer.”

“Yeah, well, maybe those workplace romances aren’t such a bad idea after all,” Buffy tossed over her shoulder as she stomped off.

~~~

Anya was thrilled to help decorate the attic room for the girls. It was nice being asked for her opinions instead of just being dismissed as a rather pretty fribble. “I’ve had a talk with an old friend of mine,” she hinted to Tara.

“That’s nice. Is it someone from your demon years?”

“Yes. Hallie is my oldest friend. She’s D’Hoffryn’s new favorite now that I’m no longer the best vengeance demon in his harem. She specializes in children. I told her about your family and she’s all fired up. I told her to drop by so I could introduce you. I think you’ll like her.”

“Whoa!” Willow was as nervous as a cat at a dog show thinking of the danger that could come of that meeting. Much as she wanted Tara’s family to pay for their ill treatment of her, Willow knew that there could be no good outcome in dealing with a vengeance demon. “Didn’t you watch the X-Files episode last night with the genie and the wishes? A vengeance demon granting wishes is even worse. You won’t just wind up invisible or with a yacht in your trailer park or even the only person left on earth, you could wind up in a hell dimension with everybody you love a vampire or worse!”

Tara grinned at Willow and teased, “Or just with a bag eternally filled with turnips.”

Anya had not bothered to watch the show that kept Xander away from their bed and her orgasms, so she had no clue what they were talking about. “Genies are different. They grant wishes without a purpose. Vengeance demons are all about the purpose.”

“There are genies?” Tara was wide-eyed.

“Of course there are. King Solomon himself sealed them up. Nasty, mean-spirited sons of Lillith! Gave wish-granting a bad name!” Anya shook her head in disgust. “Meet Hallie. I promise nothing bad will happen–not to you anyway.”

Willow decided to warn Tara further when Anya had safely gone home. “I think I’ll dial in and try to crack that password problem if you guys want to finish deciding what color the kitchenette should be. I still vote for royal blue flowers on the wallpaper.”

Tara looked at her new lover’s choice of clothing and grimaced at the garish colors likely to be chosen for the bedroom. Love accepted all, however.

Willow plugged in the laptop and began typing furiously. “Hmm… not exactly the ‘top secret’ files, but I got in one data bank. Looks like a list of… Oh, God!” Willow had grown pale.

“What is it, sweetie?” Tara could see that Willow had found something that terrified her.

“It looks like they’ve recaptured Spike and unless there’s another short werewolf in town, they have Oz too!” Willow turned stricken eyes on Tara. Somehow she felt it had to be her fault for upsetting Oz so badly that he wolfed out and was captured. “We have to do something.”

“Call Buffy,” Tara instantly suggested. “She’s been worried about Spike and she cares about Oz too. She’ll know what to do.”

~~~

The cave was large, but there were many crevices and smaller openings that a vamp could hide in while waiting for the sun to go down and the agony to stop. At least he hadn’t left a blood trail. Not enough in him to bleed properly at this point. Spike would have to feed soon or he’d look more like a mummy than a vampire.

“Don’t hold back on my account, dog boy. You getting out before you change is the goal. I’ll hide here ‘til I can move again. You need to get to the Watcher before all you can do is howl,” Spike encouraged Oz.

The escape had taxed what little strength Spike had left. It hadn’t been too difficult to get the drop on the guard once he and Oz had both found themselves in the hallway being led to the operating theaters. Oz did the dropping since he had no chip as yet, while Spike provided the distraction. The race to get out of the underground facility had been the hardest part. If it hadn’t been for the ruckus caused by the two other demons also lined up for a procedure, they would never have outrun the soldiers pursuing them. As it was, Spike was barely able to lead Oz to the vents that led to the caverns connected to the Initiative.

His only hope was that Willow’s mongrel had a sense of honor about him and would send help once he got to safety. The place would be crawling with soldiers before the night was out and Spike didn’t know how long he could hold out if Oz didn’t get a move on.

“Better have the white hats bring along a bit of A Pos if they decide to lend a vamp a hand. Don’t have enough of the red in me to remember what it’s like.” Spike turned hopeful eyes on the werewolf and pushed himself deeper into the partially hidden crevice. “You’re only about a mile from the Watcher’s place if you head due south. Best get a move on.”

“We’ll be back,” Oz promised and rushed from the cave entrance. He only hoped he could keep the wolf at bay this night.

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/201108.html

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