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One Tin Soldier


Part Twenty-Three

"Bloody stupid, if ya ask me," Spike muttered angrily.

"Nobody asked you, Spike," Xander retorted, not bothering to look back at the vampire stalking behind him.

"Stubborn, obstinate, pig-headed, thick-skulled..."

"I can hear you, Spike," Xander carolled in a sing-song voice.

Spike sped up and managed to catch Xander by the shoulder, but the vampire was very gentle when he turned Xander to face him. "Of course you could hear me. Meant you to, now didn't I? It's nothing I haven't said before." Spike shook his head, not knowing how to get through to Xander. "Listen, Xander, there's no need for you to watch those bloody disks. I watched them. All of them. Leave it be," Spike urged him.

Xander shook his head, a mulish look on his face. "I have to see for myself, Spike. This is too important."

Spike took his hand from Xander's shoulder and stepped back. "So, you're saying you don't trust me, is that it?"

Xander's eyes went wide with shock. "What? Hell, no. Of course I trust you, it's just that ..." Xander closed his eyes and let his head thump against the wall, "A military tribunal has been called, Spike."

Spike nudged his friend, "Yeah? So? Is this a bad thing?"

Xander opened his eyes and Spike could see the pain in them. "Bad is one way to put it. Catastrophic would be another. Normal rules don't apply at a tribunal. There is no such thing as innocent until proven guilty. It's the other way around. And since Willow is a civilian it'll be even worse. I'm going to have to watch the disks and so will the General. Then we're going to have to find a military lawyer that we can trust to keep their mouths shuts. This situation is too sensitive to trust to a civilian attorney. And since we don't have a whole lot of fucking time, I'm going to have to watch them now."

Spike growled under his breath at the thought of what Xander was going to see, but at the same time he felt better about his place in the command and with Xander. Knowing that the other man trusted him meant a lot, not that he'd ever admit it. And now that his little temper tantrum was over, his brain started working again. "Rupert should watch too."

Xander shook his head emphatically, "No. Uh, uh. No way. It'd kill Giles to know what had happened to Willow and Tara."

"Rupert is a lot tougher than you think. I know he has that whole 'Dad' thing going on for you lot, but we're going to need some help. Red is all messed up, you can trust me on that one, mate. I know crazy after spending all that time with Dru. We don't know what kind of mojo Red used on the Slayer and Rupes. We have to know what she did before we can get them taken off."

Xander thumped his head against the wall again, "there are days when I really hate my job, Spike."

"I hear that, mate. I hear that."


General Marshall had seen some fairly horrific things during his long career, but this took the cake. The sour taste of vomit still clung to his tongue, making him long for a drink. Several drinks.

And from the looks of Mr. Giles, he'd be sharing that bottle. The Watcher was sitting on the floor, curled into as small a form as a man his size could assume. When the Englishman finally raised his head from his knees, Marshall started to revise his opinion of the soft-spoken man.

There was death in those eyes, Marshall had no doubt of that. Should Mr. Giles manage to get his hands on the animals responsible, there would be no mercy. Now the allusions to a character called 'Ripper' began to make sense.

But Xander was the real cause for worry. Marshall's protege had watched the disks without flinching once. Even during the worst of the torture, the placid expression on the young man's face had never waivered.

Marshall had seen Xander react like this before. Once to be exact. The day Xander had come out of his coma to discover Chris had died. The quack who'd been in charge of Xander's case had told the young man of his lover's death before anyone else had had a chance to say a word. It had taken three orderlies to pry Xander's hands from around the bastard's throat.

Then the moron had the balls to try to have Xander court martialed for assault. Marshall had enjoyed nipping that little plan in the bud.

He'd tried, really, really tried, to help Xander in the horrible days that followed, but there was little he could do. That's when he'd called Maggie, and thank God for that woman. To this day, Marshall was convinced that Maggie McGlumphy was the only reason that Xander was still alive.

Xander's temper was something of a legend around the base. When Xander was yelling and hitting things, Marshall didn't really worry. But when Xander got calm, well, then the proverbial shit was about to hit the fan. And this time Maggie would be right there to help Xander wreck havoc.

Then Marshall witnessed something that gave him hope. Spike, who'd been standing at the back of the room, came forward and knelt down next to Xander's chair and began talking quietly to the troubled young man. Marshall couldn't hear what was said, but a small smile crossed Xander's face at the vampire's words. Of course, if Marshall had heard what Spike had said, he wouldn't have been feeling quite so cheerful.


"Chin up, mate. We'll find them. And when we do, I'll teach you everything I know about pain. I'll even get you some railroad spikes of your very own to use on the bastards. We can make it last for days. Maybe even weeks."

Xander's lips quirked up into something resembling a smile. "I was thinking that disemboweling them with a dull spoon would be good."

Spike's eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas. That was the only way Xander could think of to describe the expression on the vampire's face. Then the vampire's gleeful expression fell. "Nah, that's messy. Really, really messy. Stinks too."

Xander, after years of practice, had finally managed the Spock eyebrow. He used it now. "Messy? Stinks? And this bothers you why, exactly?"

"They go into shock and die too quick. Then all you have is a great bloody mess and no one to play with," Spike said sorrowfully.

Xander almost laughed. Almost.

Their planning was interrupted when Giles forced himself to his feet. The Watcher's voice was cold, but his eyes were anything but. The fire of pure hatred glittered there, easily discernible in the dim light cast from the monitor. "I shall need several items to defeat the spell cast on Ms. Summers."

The General stepped forward, pleased to be able to do anything other than think about what he'd just seen. "Give me a list. I'll make sure you have everything you need right away."

Giles nodded, "That would be most helpful, thank you. Nothing on the list will be too esoteric."

"Giles? What about the spell on you? Can you break it?" Xander asked quietly, not wanting to rile the other man.

"That won't be necessary. Merely knowing of it's presence was enough for me to break it's hold."

"What about Red's witch? Can you fix her?" Spike wanted to know.

The anger drained from Giles' face, leaving only pain and sorrow in it's wake. "I'm afraid that won't be possible. Willow didn't simply block Tara's memories of the events. She removed them from the very cells where they resided and embedded them into her own mind. That's what she meant when she said she would remember so Tara could forget. Willow is living not only with her own trauma and guilt, but Tara's too. Quite frankly, I'm surprised she lasted this long without breaking."

Xander's mind was sorting through details much faster than anyone who'd known him in high school would have believed. His gift of seeing the 'big picture' kept locking onto one small detail. Tara's memories of her torture no longer existed. "Giles, can you do that spell? The one Willow did?"

"I don't believe so. It's more of an effort of will than an actual spell," Giles informed them regretfully.

"Could Tara do it?" Xander wanted to know.

Giles' eyes narrowed in concentration, "I believe so, if her motivation were strong enough."

Spike snorted, then nodded at the monitor, "I think we have all the motivation she'd need."

Giles sighed, "I don't think we want Tara to have to suffer those events again. And that's exactly what would happen if she took Willow's memories. Plus the added guilt of what Willow had done to spare her."

Xander chuckled, it wasn't a nice sound. "I don't want Tara to have them, I want her to put them back where they belong. With the assholes who created them in the first place."

Giles was shocked by the sheer menace in Xander's voice. Ripper, however, was more than pleased with the young man's suggestion.

General Marshall chose that particular moment to interrupt. "I'm afraid that will be out of the question." General Marshall became the recipient of three incredibly similar glares. He quickly raised a hand to hold off the virulent comments he could see coming his way. "Let me finish, please. I'm afraid nothing can be done for Ms. Rosenberg until after the tribunal. To alter her memories now would put her case in jeopardy."

"What are we going to do about that, anyway?" Xander asked.

The General smiled, "I have an old friend who just happens to be in charge of the Navy's Judge Advocate. AJ has always been more than eager to get into the sticky stuff. I think this case would be right up his alley."

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