A rewrite on how Spike came back to the Scoobies after his encounter with the Initiative. The gang hasn't seen him since Buffy kicked him out of town in their deal over Angelus and the apocalypse, AKA the end of season 2. It is now towards season 4.
Warning: Blood and mentions of torture lie ahead.
"What is this place?"
Buffy's question seemed to silently echo throughout the dark place. A moment ago, she and Xander thought that they had discovered a nest of vampires crouching in a dingy old place on the outskirts of her normal patrol radius. But the fighting didn't feel right. They immediately attacked Buffy and Xander, as expected, but when Buffy injured one, she sensed the difference. They fought well, clearly trained, but they weren't even close to being as strong as vampires. She immediately yelled at Xander that they were human. They couldn't cross the same line that Faith had if they could help it.
The men fled. An order was barked out as quickly as Buffy had warned Xander. Soldier types again, she realized. But she was too taken aback by what she had uncovered. Demons. The demons that she had sensed would be in the building. None of which tried to attack them.
"They're leaving," Xander said, amazed as the soldier types quickly made themselves scarce. What amazed him just as much was the fact that Buffy wasn't going to chase after them, maybe beat the answers out of one. "Buffy, they're going to get away."
"Xander," Buffy said, in a more sharp tone, catching his attention. He looked at her, and followed her stare into the shadows, stopping at the sight of a large table covered in dismembered body parts and gritty demon blood.
Beyond the tables, further grisly images could scarcely be made out in the dim light. Strange, inhuman silhouettes hanging from chains. For the first time, Buffy fully realized the scene of carnage that filled the expanse of the abandoned building.
"Smoke," Xander barked, only an instant before a surge of flames lit up a piece of the far wall. The flames spread quickly... a little too quickly to be anything but pre-planned arson. "They're destroying the place. We have to leave, Buff."
"They're alive," Buffy stated, finally moving from her frozen spot and taking off in a dead bolt.
Xander covered his mouth and nose with a sleeve, taking a while longer to realize that Buffy was right. Many of the bodies that he mistook as dead were actually alive. Awake, but hardly moving. He jogged to catch up to her, where Buffy fought with the heavy iron doors of a cage, rattling the door against its lock. He peered inside, appalled by an indistinguishable mess of blood and flesh.
"Buffy, we can't save them all," Xander urged her, pushing her away from the cage. She seemed blinded by panic, too horrified to discern between what she could and couldn't save. He moved her further, forcing her to run to the next cage that still held a humanoid shape. Xander turned back to watch the flames while her heard Buffy kick the door so hard that it broke open. It was growing warm, and too many red-orange flames filled his vision.
"Hurry, Buff," Xander urged. She worked faster than it seemed like to him – a few demons and vampires fled as soon as they were set free, but many of them seemed too blinded by fear to budge from their opened restraints.
"Leave it, Buffy!" Xander finally yelled, pulling his friend away from a cage of frightened demons that wouldn't budge. He ignored the smudge of tears and soot on the Slayer's face, instead moving her along. The fire roared – there was no more waiting. No more time. He had to get Buffy out of there.
"Now," he urged, pulling on her shoulders. Buffy started to run with him, but then stopped short and pulled back towards the lines of tormented demons. Xander clung to her arm desperately, but against a Slayer, he was no use. "Buffy, they won't come!"
"Help me," she yelled over the roar of the inferno that was starting to engulf the building. Buffy grabbed hold of the chains that suspended a body from the ceiling. "Xander, help me!" she shrieked when he hesitated in the slightest. He went to her aid, immediately pulling on the chains to try to help. He hoped against hope that somehow the bolt in the ceiling would give easily. Instead, his chest pressed against the body of the captive, and he felt a wetness seep through his shirt. With horror, he realized that this victim had large sections of flesh stripped away on each side, from underarm to the jut of sharp hip bones.
"Let him go," Xander blurted out, prepared to drag Buffy away again.
"I know him!" Buffy screamed in return, growing beyond hysterical. "I know him, I know him," she repeated, blind to anything but the growing panic and the sturdy chains that she needed to break. "Xander..."
Xander anticipated her move, positioning himself to support the victim's weight. With a hard yank, the length of chains fell, and so did the body. She immediately stooped to help lift the weight, and was able to take the full grown man in her arms easily.
"Go, go," Buffy was the one to urge now, and Xander only hesitated enough to make sure that Buffy was actually leaving the scene of horror for good.
It was only when the night air hit him that Xander realized how unbearably hot the building had become, and he immediately choked on the clear air and started coughing violently.
Buffy was visibly shaken, with soot marking lines of tears that had otherwise dried on her cheeks. She moved a great distance from the building before setting down the person she had carried out and kneeling beside him. She simply stared, as if dazed.
Gasping, Xander stopped behind Buffy and waited for his breath to return. "You know him?" he asked between coughs, his eyes watering. From what he saw, he couldn't recognize who it might be. Of course, all he could think about were those enormous wounds where flesh had been stripped off down to raw muscle.
"I swear," Buffy said on a quiet breath, her eyes still riveted on the body. "I remember him." But he was... different now. She was trying to remember what she had seen back in the warehouse that had reminded her of someone.
Xander waited until he heard sirens in the distance. "Buff, unless you want to stay and explain this to the police, we have to go. I'm sorry. I'm really sorry, but no human can survive what they did to him."
Buffy shook her head slightly. No human... But his eyes had been open before. He'd been alive. Now he seemed unconscious, but his chest didn't move for breath. She looked closer at his face, and ran her fingers over a scarred eyebrow.
"Spike," she said, spitting out the name before it escaped her again. Was it really? He didn't look anything like... but that scar...
"Impossible. You drove him out of town over a year ago. There's no way-"
"Trust me. We have to go," Buffy said, once again pulling the limp form into her arms.
"Buff, leave him," Xander said. "Evil, remember?"
"You wanna leave the evil vampire to wake up on the street?" Buffy asked. But that wasn't really what she had in mind. Whatever had happened in that building... that was evil.
"Giles' place is nearest," Xander said, sparing no time for argument. "Let's please get the hell out of here."
A pounding at the door roused Giles from his chair. He immediately expected the children to be seeking his advice, but he wasn't prepared to open the door to find Buffy and Xander covered in blood, and... soot? He cleared the way for them, smelling foul smoke clinging to their clothes, and the ghastly body that Buffy clung to.
"What in God's name-?"
"It's the Initiative," Buffy said, her voice a little tight. "I think it was. They looked like those soldiers again."
"Are you hurt?"
"I'm fine," Buffy said, but her voice was more pleading than self-assured.
"She's not fine," Xander said to Giles. "The Initiative was running a full-out Spanish Inquisition. We need rope or something, Giles."
"Rope," Giles repeated questioningly.
"Vampire," Xander said, indicating the unconscious form that Buffy held.
"Put him on the table," Giles said, as he went to fetch something that would restrain a vampire.
They laid him on his back, and Giles eventually secured him to the table with ropes across his legs as well as tying the end of the chains still attached to his wrists.
"How did the Initiative manage to capture Spike?" Giles asked when the vampire was finally bound.
"You're sure it's Spike?" Xander asked, amazed by Giles' immediate identification.
"Of course. Only his hair has changed. It's not that awful bleached color anymore. Somehow I doubt that it was his own choice to go back to his natural color. They must have had him for quite a while. Now could you please explain what it was you found?"
"A chop shop," Xander said, "so to speak. It looked like they had captured all sorts of demons and vampires, and... they were just cutting them apart. I mean pieces, Giles. And some of them weren't even dead yet."
"We couldn't save them all," Buffy said.
Giles looked at his Slayer, acknowledging the strangeness to her and the haunted look in her eyes. "Forgive me, Buffy," he said, "but remember that it isn't your burden to save the undead. The compassion you're feeling is misplaced. These were not innocents."
Buffy furrowed her brow with annoyance. "It's still horrible."
"Yes," Giles agreed, leaving the "perhaps" silent. "Maybe this will be a clue yet as to what the Initiative is up to, and where to find them."
Xander nodded. "When he comes to, we can make him talk."
"He's already told me quite a lot," Giles said, his eyes running over the visible wounds on the vampire. "Although it doesn't make much sense for why. They clearly wanted to inflict as much pain as possible. See, the way his finger is crooked... broken bones. And these scars... not to mention the fresh cuts." There was no telling what else they might have done that wouldn't even leave a mark.
"I need some air," Buffy said, and quickly left the apartment.
Xander lingered with Giles, watching the older man take note of all the marks on the bare torso. "I should make sure she's okay," he said. "I'll be right back."
Giles nodded absently and continued his examination. He half wondered if he should fetch a pad and take notes of everything he found. They'd left Spike in a terrible state. There were the chains still stuck to his wrists, and a black collar that looked like it was made of metal as well. His jeans were worse for wear, but still completely intact. Boots were missing, however. Perhaps too much kicking, Giles theorized. His head had been shaved a bit haphazardly, judging by a few uneven spots.
Immediately, Giles wondered if the Initiative had been up to old tricks again. He went to stand by Spike's head, and began to run his thumbs over the short layer of hair, slowly turning the vampire's head until he found what he was looking for.
The door opened and shut quietly, and Giles could sense Xander staring at him. "Whatcha doing, G-man?"
"There are surgical marks on his head," Giles said. They were almost faint, and seemed to be slow-healing, but the evidence was there.
"Another chipped vampire?"
"Indeed," Giles nodded. Months ago, they had encountered a vampire who claimed to have escaped from some underground military facility. According to his story, he couldn't bite humans anymore without excruciating pain. He ranted about some sort of microchip implanted in his brain. The only thing that seemed to confirm his wild theory was a square of gauze on the back of his head. Buffy was the least bit sympathetic, of course, and didn't believe him until he struck back as they fought, only to double over and scream in agony. This was all related to him second-hand, of course, because the vampire didn't live a minute longer after that. As Buffy put it, the vampire had seemed to actually impale himself on her stake on purpose. He found it all hard to believe until now.
"Wow. So he can't bite people, huh?"
"Well, yes," Giles said hesitantly. "If the Initiative did the same procedure. There's no telling until he comes to."
"Hah. William the Bloody, chipped and harmless. Seems appropriate, huh?"
Giles didn't respond, but asked Xander to place a few calls and bring the others up to speed with the situation. When Buffy finally returned, he excused himself to go get supplies from the bathroom, and begin the process of bandaging wounds... only to make the vampire less gruesome to look at, of course.
"I'm surprised he's still out," Buffy commented when Giles finally finished his lengthy task.
"It's rather late," Giles said. "I suppose we'll have to think of what else to do with him until morning."
"We can't leave him on the table?" Xander pouted.
"I should think not! This is hardly secure... or sightly, for that matter. I refuse to have a half-naked vampire restrained in the middle of my living space."
"Alright, relax," Xander said. "I can think of a better place to put him."