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One Tin Soldier


Part Eighteen

Xander opened his eyes and blinked sleepily, but his vision didn't clear. His eyes felt gummy and he rubbed them with clumsy hands. His arms felt like limp noodles and even that small effort exhausted him.

He closed his eyes again and let himself drift. He was warm, comfortable and the nagging pain in his chest had faded to a distant ache. He swallowed roughly then coughed. His throat felt like it had been sand blasted. It was a minor annoyance, but enough to force him into total consciousness.

Xander let his eyes open and stared fuzzily at the ceiling over his head. A small, faint sound caught his attention and he turned his head slightly. Smiling when his eyes met worried blue eyes staring back at him. "Xander? Mate? You awake?"

It took a couple of tries, but he finally got a word out, "Spike."

The vampire let out a sigh of relief, "Yeah, mate. Spike. Nice to see you back among the living."

Xander's memories drifted in and out, but he remembered the battle at the command post. "How many?"

Spike shook his head, "We got most of them out alive, Xander. Lots of injuries, but it could have been a lot worse. Marshall and his crew showed up just in time."

Xander glared at him and Spike shook his head, "Stubborn, aren't you?" Xander made a rude gesture and Spike laughed, "All right, all right. Don't get you knickers in a twist." Then the vampire's face went still and Xander braced himself for the bad news. "We lost twelve all together. Rom tried to turn three others, but it didn't take."

Spike shrugged, "I don't understand all of it. That child of mine can explain it to you better. Basically, the blood he gave them put them in a kind of coma. Kept them alive long enough to get them to hospital. They're already awake and doing a sight better than you right now."

Leaning back in his chair, Spike counted the rest off on his fingers. "So. Twelve dead. Eighty-eight injured. Fourty-five of them seriously. The Nexus is doin' all right. Couple of Narcas demons tried to get through and got cut into little, itty bitty pieces. Bloody thing works like a charm. Giles, Mags and Oz are fine. Met Oz's wife and cubs, they're staying at the house with Mags." Arching an insolent brow, Spike asked snidely, "Anything else you want to know, mate?"

Xander grinned weakly, "I meant, how many days have I been out of it? But thanks for the update. Is everything taken care of?"

Spike sputtered at him, "Bloody cheek. And yes, everything's been taken care of. Spoke to the families myself, did all the bloody paperwork and have generally made an ass out of myself playing 'Officer and a Gentleman'. Rupes was impressed, I'll tell you that. And you've been out of it for three weeks now."

Xander's grin faded when he realized just how much time had passed. Then he shrugged it off. It was too late to do anything about it now. "When can I get out of here?"

Spike smirked at him, "What's wrong, mate? Don't like the decor?"

"Not really, no. I sleep better in my own bed."

"Sure you do. Wilson was in this morning. Said if you keep improving, you'll be out of here by the end of the week. It's Tuesday, by the way."

Exhaustion crept up on Xander and slammed into him with the force of a freight train. The last thing he heard before he fell asleep was Spike saying, "Sleep, mate. I'll stand watch."


Special Agent Mike Owens knocked on General Marshall's door and waited impatiently for the man to answer. His entire operation had gone to shit and he'd spent the last couple of weeks trying to salvage something from it.

None of his higher ups actually knew about Operation Snake in the Grass, as he liked to call it. It had been surprisingly easy to recruit members of the now defunct Initiative. After years of following orders and working without acknowledgment, they never thought to question the validity of Owens or his operation.

And the intel they'd gathered for him had done wonders for his career. He had, of course, taken every bit of credit for the information he'd fed to the Army and Harris' Death Squad. And now those self-same men, who'd earned him promotions and commendations at the cost of their own blood, were going to save his ass from prosecution. He'd give them up and they'd take the heat that was about to rain down on his head.

It'd be easy to deny all knowledge of their actions. His name wasn't on any paperwork, and there were no official orders. This little fiasco might hurt his career, but he was sure he could get back on track easily enough.

Owens finally heard the General's voice and he opened the door, schooling his face into an expression of sad resignation. Yes, this could work. He'd make it work.


Rom parked his car in the lowest level of the garage and locked the doors before heading for the elevator. The new sunscreen built into the glass worked like a charm, giving him the ability to move about at will. If it hadn't been for his family's reaction to his new circumstances, being a vampire wouldn't be all that bad.

Drinking blood was kinda gross, but he still got to eat real food. Even if it didn't do anything to appease his hunger. And the one nice side benefit of drinking blood was that he built a connection to his suppliers. Now he could monitor his friends' overall medical condition without the use of instruments or tests.

And none of his friends treated him any differently than before. He got teased more, but it was all in fun. Yesterday, Jamison had scared him half to death by popping up in front of him with a mouth full of fangs. He'd been so startled that he'd jumped back and Jamison had lost it, laughing so hard he couldn't breathe. Rom grinned as he remembered his revenge.

After Jamison had finally calmed down a little, Rom had leapt over his desk in a move so fast he was a blur. Then he'd grabbed Jamison and pulled him up close so he could show him what real fangs looked like. It hadn't taken Jamison long to promise not to do that again.

Coffey, who'd been lounging around the office trying to avoid actually doing any of her paperwork, had just rolled her eyes saying, "It's hard to believe that you two are considered to be some of the Army's finest."

Rom shook his head as he remembered, being a vampire wasn't anything like he'd expected. Spike went out of his way to make sure that Rom knew that he was wanted and that his Sire was proud of him. And then Spike, along with Maggie, made sure that he knew that he had a family. Not the one who'd raised him, but one that loved him nonetheless. Even now, Maggie was organizing a party so he and Spike could meet the family.

The elevator slid to a halt and Rom exited as soon as the doors opened. He walked into the research lab he'd been using and stopped just inside the door. Someone was in the lab. Rom shifted into his gameface without even thinking about it. Sniffing the air, he started to growl. He recognized that scent. One of the people who'd taken him from the hospital was here, along with another that he didn't recognize.

Plastering himself to the back wall, Rom reached out to the connection he held with his Sire. It took only a second for a Spike to send a wave of support, letting Rom know he was on his way. Rom grinned, now to find out exactly who his two visitors were.


Graham stared at Riley while the other man paced nervously. "Riley? Are you sure about this?"

Riley stopped in his tracks, "Yes! Of course I'm sure. None of this ever should have happened! Sgt. Montoya is one of the good guys! We're supposed to be helping them!"

Graham stood up and grabbed his friend by the shoulders, "Calm down, Riley. This wasn't your fault. You didn't know what Buffy and Willow were going to do. And you were under orders to keep the operation a secret. There wasn't anything you could have done."

Riley shrugged the hands off his shoulders and started pacing again. "Screw the orders. I should have been able to stop this from happening." Haunted eyes stared out of Riley's anxious face, "She tortured him, Graham. And I couldn't stop her. Not to mention the fact that Spike is now working for the Army. What if that programmer couldn't have fixed the chip? What then? This is so screwed. Dammit, Owens should have told us about that."

Graham shook his head, "Riley, we've done a lot of good in the last couple of years. We've managed to get some great intel to Harris and saved a lot of lives. I know it sucks, but we can't save everyone."

Riley slumped down in the chair behind the desk, "I know, Graham. But it still isn't right. Harris should have been brought into this a long time ago."

Graham shrugged, "I'm sure Owens has his reasons for keeping this quiet. Look at that McIntyre asshole. He's M.I., but if he had his way, Harris and his entire squad would be court martialed. No. The fewer people who know about this the better."

Riley ran his hand through his hair, "Yeah. I understand it. I just don't like it." With a suddenly fierce expression on his usually cheerful face, Riley said, "But I'm still apologizing to Montoya. None of this is his fault, and if we'd been allowed to tell Harris, he'd still be human, instead of a vampire."

"Actually, being a vampire isn't all that bad. But I'd still like an apology. And to know exactly what you assholes are talking about."

Graham and Riley whirled as soon as they heard the voice and were stunned when they saw Sgt. Montoya standing in the doorway, with a fully vamped out Spike at his side.

"Oh shit," was all Riley had time to say before the vampires were on them.

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