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Author's note: When I came to re-examine this series, I didn't actually intend to rewrite my first draft of this episode, just extend it a little. However, after I wrote a new and better version of A Full Moon Rose High, I realised that this needed a different spin for the opening scene, which soon progressed into an entire fresh take on the episode. Some dialogue has been taken from the original, but a lot is new, rounding off the storyline created in A Full Moon Rose High, and revealing the mean theme of Season Four. It also has a slight cliffhanger ending. Enjoy.

THE INITIATIVE.

There were upsides and downsides to living a double life Xander came to realise. Of the former here were many he could name; it improved his standing with the Slayerettes, it brought more customers to his nightclub, it better prepared him for survival against the vampires and demons who roamed the hellmouth. Through his double life he gained access to the Sunnydale UCA from another avenue than that of just off-campus friend, and provided him with an excuse to live on said campus, allowing more of his profits earned from the Bronze to go towards his promise to help fund Cordelia's college education.

They may have split over the summer, but he was still her friend and he stilled cared about her too much to leave her in the lurch as her family had done since the IRS investigation. As for the downsides, the first was the secret, he lied to his new colleagues, to his boss and at the moment to his new girlfriend. The mere thought of Anya caused him to smile, even though he was going to be at odds with her sooner or later, no matter when he told her the truth, for they were frequently at odds with one another, over many things.

In a way this beginning was similar to the start of his relationship with Cordelia, but with Anya it had the added bonus of sex. He did not know why it felt so important to have a causal relationship right now, although if Anya were asked to assign a name to it, she would not use that word. Perhaps because everything else in his life was so serious, transitory and secretive, threatening on explosive when everything was discovered, probably apocalyptic. He needed something predictable, normal, to counterbalance the inevitable chaos. Something he could handle without thinking too much.

For his double life caused a great deal of thinking about, especially recently. Ever since the Veruca business, when they debated over their decision concerning what they should do with her, the one solution which they had resolved never to use, whatever the cost. As soon as the decision was made it left a sour taste in all of them, not just Willow, Oz and Buffy. Even now, barely a week later, he vividly recalled his friend shouting his name as he walked away from Giles and Jenny's apartment, asking him to come to a halt as she told him to do something for them. He hadn't asked her the obvious, for of course she knew what she was asking him to do.

And he was the only person who could, the only person who had the access right now, who could get in and out of the place without being questioned as to why. Thinking hadn't come into the deed either, a deliberate move on his part, for he knew one stray thought or emotion could cause him to hesitate, just as many would after the event. Oddly, the act felt of a darker nature to him than the ones which he had witnessed his new colleagues performing moments before. Guilt was a necessary and uncomfortable consequence of his double life, yet he found it more difficult to work through with every passing day.

He had never had a problem with dusting vampires, or helping to dust them, along with aiding to kill the demons which they found themselves dealing with, not until he volunteered for this double life he was now leading. Before they were just anonymous monsters, who had either killed a member of Sunnydale's human populous, or were just a general major disturbance to life in his home town. Now he knew enough to identify the species, recall to mind their aims in life, their chosen prey, their genetic makeup. Since Veruca, he had the additional ugly bonus of putting a name to one of them, before making sure they were put out of the misery the slayerettes' decision caused them.

Make that two names. For a day or so before Veruca's wolfy nature became known, he had encountered another less than anonymous demon. One which before he would not have minded being poked and prodded, but now, he rebelled against immediately. The question however, was what do with the demon in question, for not only was he known, but he was also a known annoyance, presenting the slayerettes with another potentially difficult decision.

In hindsight, he probably could have avoided the whole can of worms in the first place, for he had been in charge of the group responsible for capturing him. He had been the one who delayed the group long enough to arrive at the scene after the slayer had finished dealing with one vampire, and the one who gave the order to fire. On reflection, he should have deliberately lost track of the demon in question, pretending to chalk up the mistake to his inexperience, but he had worked so hard to cultivate this level of trust within the group that he could not afford to even partially destroy his position right now.

He remembered arriving at the scene just as his best friend did, ducking cautiously below the horizon of the bush line which bordered the campus grass from the woods which surrounded the college as he saw her and the vamp who was following her come to a sudden halt in the empty clearing. As yet he had not fully identified the thing he and his group were trailing, causing him to wait for the slayer to finish her dusting before he scanned the area once more and confirmed that the findings were not just the vampire she had staked.

He also did not want to let on to her that he was there too, for it would put an even bigger spanner in the works of their operation that the one which this demon in question could potentially cause, as well as breaking her focus and concentration. In silence he watched her fight the vampire, admiring once more the gracefulness of her agility, her skill, her beauty. He loved her as a friend, a sister even, no longer as a boyfriend would. Last year taught him to accept that Angel was that, and he was going nowhere for some time.

So now he watched her purely as another slayer might, admiring how well she performed in fulfilling the destiny of the chosen one. He watched as she staked the vampire, then gazed up at the sky, asking aloud the Powers that Be to send her a vamp who possessed better appreciation for her witty puns than the one which she had just staked.

He remembered thinking as she left that her wish would be granted, as he watched the demon in question which he and his group had been stalking for most of the night, emerge into the sheltered openness which that area of campus provided, finally allowing him to identify his species, albeit unconsciously as far as the demon itself was concerned. He remembered giving the order to fire without even thinking about it, which in hindsight is precisely not what he should have done.

Most of all however, he remembered asking himself what they were going to do with the demon in question, when he informed Buffy and the others that the vampire from whom Billy Idol stole his fashion sense was back in town.


As for the source of Billy Idol's inspiration, the vampire in question had been unconscious, and therefore ignorant, not only of the identity of the people who captured him, but also his current location and surroundings, ever since he was tasered. This allegedly blissful state had possessed him as he was taken from the place where he watched the slayer ask aloud the Powers that Be to send her a more witty demon than the one which she had just dusted, to the place hidden deep underground and unknown to all but a select few, then to the room, or rather containment cell, where his unconscious undead body was now slowly, ever so slowly, emerging from said stupor.

"Slayer..." he mumbled. "I'll kill you. Not so tough. I... Kill slayer."

And with that primitive, but devout vow voiced, he opened his eyes. Blinking until his pupils had adjusted to the light, he silently surveyed his surroundings with a sense of shock and rising anger. He was lying on a white floor, cold and ceramic to the touch, no visible joints to ease apart, with the distinct style of sanitary clinging to it, complete with the nauseating smell of bleach. The walls were also white, clean and free of joins, apart from the glass one in front of him.

Having established that he had no other injuries besides a loss as to how he arrived inside this prison, Spike rose up and walked to the glass door. He reached out with his hands and touched it. Barely a second later he jerked the hand back as he received an electric shock. Grimacing, he stepped forward cautiously to survey his surroundings.

To find other vampires and some demons in the same boat.

 




Xander stopped by the Mansion on Crawford street after his dark deed in the forest, not just to tell Buffy that he had done what she asked him to do, but to make her aware of the other problem which might need a similar solution.

"I thought we had got rid of him after the Amarra thing," Buffy said as she and Angel met with Xander in the double height living room.

"Evidently he doesn't think so," Xander replied, his tone laced with some of the frustration caused by his dark deed in the forest involving Veruca. "What are we gonna do about him?"

Buffy looked towards her boyfriend, whom she felt more qualified to answer the question, as he was Spike's grandsire. "I think we have no choice other than to make sure he escapes the facility. If he stays, he could recognise you, or Buffy when we reach that stage in the plan, which could potentially destroy everything we've spent the past summer planning."

"I agree," Buffy replied. "If you feel comfortable about doing that."

"More than what I had to do with Veruca," Xander admitted. "But what will we do once he's free? Do you think he'll just get out of Dodge?"

"Knowing Spike, he'll want revenge on whoever he thinks is responsible," Buffy replied, as Angel nodded in agreement. "We'll have to watch and wait."


A few minutes later, Spike was beginning to feel claustrophobic. He had paced the limits of the room countless times, and still found no solution as to how to free himself from this cage. His anger was rising with every turn, contemplating revenge on who he deemed responsible for holding him here, his imagined end for them more intricately gruesome with each new level of anger attained inside him.

Suddenly a transparent gel packet fell to the floor as if from nowhere. Spike looked at it, identifying the contents instantly. His demon reminded him how long it had been since his hunger was sated, and this weakness was allowed to conquered him now absolutely. He dashed to spot and picked up the red sachet full of blood.

"Don't drink it," a voice said abruptly. "It's drugged."

Spike sniffed the packet to confirm that this was indeed the case, then threw it down in disgust. Silently he looked around to determine the source of the voice, before voicing his response. "Thanks. And who are you, mate?"

"I'm a lab rat, just like the others," the vampire replied by way of introduction. "They're gonna kill us, you know."

"And how are they gonna do that?" Spike asked sceptically.

"They starve you," the vampire replied. "When you're ready to bite your own arm, they shoot out one of those packets. You drink, and the next thing, you're gone. And that's when they do the experiments."

"And, uh, they are?" Spike asked. "The government? Nazis? A major cosmetics company?"

"Who cares?" the vampire countered. "All I know is, one minute I'm running from the slayer, And the next thing, I'm here."

"The slayer!" Spike echoed, his anger returning full throttle. "I knew it!"

"Yeah," his faceless cell-mate confirmed, "she took apart my crew, and led me straight to these guys."

"She set me up, too," Spike realised, as his mind recalled the aftermath of his defeat in keeping the gem of Amarra; hiding out until the sun came down, stalking the slayer, until he was tasered and unconsciousness took him. "I always worried what would happen when that bitch got some funding. She's wised up a bit. Fine! I'll take her apart. I don't care how brilliant she is."


Xander heard the voice of one his fellow colleagues as he and his closest frat buddies came upon the briefing area, where all of them were summoned to convene a few minutes ago. He knew well who he was talking about, for the boy had no poker face, despite his double life, and he had been seen by Buffy and the slayerettes whenever they gathered on campus or at the Bronze. Hiding his amusement, for he knew better that than his boss that he would never stand a chance with a girl like Buffy, he listened to the conversation, waiting for their ultimate boss to call them to order so the briefing could begin.

"The problem is," Riley continued to whine to his friends as they walked further into the complex, "what kind of girl is gonna go out with a guy who's acting all Joe Regular by day and then turns all demon-hunter by night?"

"Maybe a peculiar one," Graham suggested.

"Thank you, Graham," Riley replied. "You see, Forrest? You don't have to be so negative all the time." He turned then and instantly became business like as he caught sight of his impatient superior. "Didn't see you there, Ma'am."

"That was evident," Professor Walsh replied. "Now, as everybody's here, let's begin. We have a new hostile; number seventeen."

The video cameras above her flashed to the hostile in question, showing a white haired vampire pacing his cage. Xander watched the surveillance closely, wondering if Spike had figured out a plan of escape yet.

"As you can see this hostile is older than any of our other captures," Walsh continued. "This shall be our first chance to see the differences in age with regards to strength and endurance, testing the hypothesis that the older a vampire becomes, the harder they are to eliminate."

While the professor was speaking the vampire had glanced briefly in the direction of the camera, then walked over to where the packet of blood lay. He picked it up and turned with his back to the camera while he drank. Xander watched, half inkling the agenda behind that subtle glance at the camera, and the positioning of Spike as he appeared to consume the contents of the blood sachet.

By the time Professor Walsh had turned back to the camera, the vampire had collapsed to the floor unconscious. "Ah, now we can test him." She turned to a passing lab tech. "Go and fetch Hostile 17 for testing."

"Ma'am," Xander spoke up, "shouldn't one of us go with them? Being older, the hostile may be tricking us into believing that he is cooperating."

"That's a good point," the Professor acknowledged. "As you suggested it, Harris, you get to go. The rest of you, come with me."


Sure enough, as the lab technicians tried to get the allegedly unconscious vampire on to the gurney, said vampire woke up and proceeded to punch the living daylights out of them. Unprepared for this escape plan, it did not take long for either of the technicians to succumb to unconsciousness. When he had done with them, he turned to the commando, and halted his punch midway in total shock as he recognised him.

"You!?!" Spike growled. "I knew it! I knew the slayer was at the bottom of this. What the bloody hell is all of this?"

"Shut up, Spike," Xander uttered, looking about him and making sure there was no one else conscious or living around. "I'm here to help you, believe it or not."

"You're here to help me?" Spike echoed. "The slayer's not behind this?"

"Never in a million years," Xander replied. "Now, I don't know how much time I've got, so just shut up and listen. Go out into the corridor, turn right, and you'll find a door. Open it, and you'll find a passage which leads to one of the exits, which you will get you back on campus grounds. After that, its up to you."

"Really?" Spike uttered. Then he threw his punch, knocking Xander to the floor. "Thanks, mate. I owe you one. And I know just the way to repay you."

He ran out of the cell, following the directions.

Xander opened his eyes and slowly got up from the floor. A deft twist of the device on his wrist and the imprison cell surveillance reverted to normal picture, editing his conversation with the Hostile. With deliberate slowness to exaggerate his injuries, he walked out of the cell and round the corner to the left, where no closed circuit surveillance cameras were positioned. Once out of sight from any who might question his actions, he reached into his pocket and retrieved his cell phone.

"Its me," he began after the number he had dialled picked up, putting the device to his ear. "I just let him out of the base. He did think you were behind this until I explained." He paused for the reply. "Yeah, I'm on my way."


The first place Spike headed for was his old crypt, where he was amazed to find Harmony still playing house. He thought that after trying to stake her in disgust- which would have killed her had it not been for the gem of Amarra resting on her finger -that the girl would get the message that she was rebound from Druscilla. But then again, senseless as she was- at she had that similarity with Dru, although hers tended more to the asylum variety of insanity -she was useful for other things.

"Spike?" She turned round as she heard his entrance. "Spike, is that really you?"

He tried to affect a winning smile. "It's me, baby. Your man is...." Harmony slapped his face, causing a lengthy pause before the final word, "back."

"Bastard," she declared angrily. "You dumped me and staked me and hurt me and then left me."

"I know, sugar," Spike replied in what he hoped was a saccharine tone, "but you're forgetting one other thing I did." Deliberately he paused. "I missed you."

"Really?" Harmony asked hopefully.

Spike held out his arms for her, causing a smile in return.

"Oh." She cried, hugging him briefly. "Just don't ever do that to me again."

"Oh, never, my little foam latte," Spike vowed. "Your blondie bear is here to stay."

"Well, where have you been?" Harmony asked after he let go of her to explore the rest of the crypt. "No, wait. Don't tell me. I'm just glad you're back. And this time, it's for good, right?"

"Oh, forever and ever, mon petite creme brulee," Spike promised. "Get used to it. Big daddy's home. We're gonna go wherever you want, do whatever you want, kill whoever you want. Starting with the slayer. And after that, it's all you and me, my little mentholated pack of smokes."

Harmony frowned as she heard her boy's avowal to kill the slayer was aired aloud once more. "Spikey. Let's leave the slayer alone. You know she'll only slap you around, and I can do that."

"Relax, I'm not going to kill her," Spike replied. "No, I need to see her, warn her about the joint I've just been in."

"Joint?" Harmony echoed with another frown. "You smoking weed now?"

Spike refrained from rolling his eyes. "Joint as in prison. Didn't you wonder why I never called?"

"I just figured you were too into killing the slayer to worry about me," Harmony replied forlornly.

"I was captured, Harm, by these guys in black," Spike replied.

"I've heard rumours about them," Harmony revealed. "And you think the slayer's involved?"

"At first I did, but then Xander helped me escape, so now I'm wondering how much info I can wrangle from her about them. Then I'll kill her."

Harmony exhaled a noise of disgust. "That's it, I've had it. Slayer this, slayer that. You have to choose, Spike, Me or her. Which is it to be?"

Spike looked at her, wondering how long he should leave it before he walked out. About five seconds, he decided.


In one of the apartment complexes situated on the outskirts of the campus, Willow was getting ready to go to the Bronze with Oz. Since Veruca's departure, they had managed to close the distance between them which seemed to appear whenever Shy performed, or the band's lead vocal was around. Willow still regretted that they had to choose a fate for the female werewolf which they had resolved never to do, even now Xander had informed her what happened afterwards. There were moments when she wondered if her regret spawned from disgust at what Veruca had driven them to, or her sense of moral outrage concerning what lay behind the location of Veruca's 'disappearance.' But the decision had taken place, rendering the regret moot. She and Oz were recommitted to each other, and his own werewolf status was as resolved as Angel's before the souled vampire received half of his humanity. She smiled as she remembered his reaction to her gift, untainted by his decision to leave only moments before. After they had talked, she led him outside into a night lit by the full moon, watching as his body remained unchanged, showing the success of the talisman she and Jenny had enchanted. Even though it had been only two years since his last three night around the full moon as a human, he had told her that the break felt like a life time of a scar, now healed thanks to her magic. It was another sign of how much her wiccan skills had progressed, and Willow wondered what new heights of magic this would now lead to.

A knock on the door sounded, breaking her from her pleasant recollections.

"Come in," Willow uttered, thinking it was Oz who had yet to return from his last class. She looked up as the door shut and gasped, backing away towards the window, her nearest escape from the vampire she had just accidentally invited inside. "Spike! Wh-what do you want? Uh, a spell? I can do that."

She tried to run past him, but he threw her against the dresser.

"I'll give you a choice," he remarked as he pinned her between the piece of furniture and himself. "Now I'm gonna kill you. No choice in that. But... I can let you stay dead... Or... Bring you back, to be like me."

Neither choice was preferable to staying alive, so Willow offered another inducement, hoping he would change his mind. "I-I'll scream."

Spike merely grinned. "Bonus."

Grabbing her by her clothes, he lifted her off the floor and threw her on to the bed, before joining her there, looming over her as he pinned her atop the mattress, his lips seeming to drift slowly towards her neck. He changed his face, opened his mouth......

Then leapt back as a shot of pain darted through his nerves inside his head.

"Oww!" Spike sat at the edge of the bed, rubbing his forehead until some of the pain subsided. "What the hell just happened!?!"

"You tried to bite me," Willow uttered nervously.

"That I did," Spike agreed. "Let me try again."

He pounced on her just as he finished speaking, his fangs moving to neck once more. Even before the elongated teeth touched her skin, the sharp pain travelled through his mind once more, causing him to leap away from her.

"Arggh!" He cried, rubbing his forehead. "Is this something you lot stole from those guys in black? A vampire repelling device?"

Willow frowned. "What do you mean?"

Spike shook his head as the pain continued to fade away. "I don't understand. This sort of thing's never happened to me before."

"Maybe you were nervous," Willow suggested.

"I felt all right when I started. Let's try again." He leapt on her, only for the pain to return. "Ow! Oh! Ow! Damn it!"

Willow watched him as he rose from her bed to kick her dresser and began to pace the room, her mind searching for the right thing to say which would assure her survival without her blood being drained.

"Maybe you're trying too hard," she offered. "Doesn't this happen to every vampire?"

"Not to me, it doesn't!" Spike growled.

"It's me, isn't it?" Willow uttered softly.

Spike came to a halt and turned to her in surprise. "What are you talking about?"

"Well, you came here looking for Buffy, then settled," Willow replied. "You didn't want to bite me. I just happened to be around."

"Piffle!" Spike cried. "I was gonna use you to get her attention."

Willow sat up on the bed. ""Exactly. I know I'm not the kind of girl vamps like to sink their teeth into. It's always like, 'ooh, you're like a sister to me,' or, 'oh, you're such a good friend.' I was your means to an end."

"Don't be ridiculous," Spike replied. "I'd bite you in a heartbeat."

Willow looked up at him. "Really?"

Spike shrugged as he sat on the bed next to her. "Thought about it."

"When?" Willow asked him, intrigued despite herself.

"Remember the year before last, you had on that fuzzy pink number with the lilac underneath?" He remarked.

"I never would have guessed," Willow replied, strangely touched by the odd compliment. "You played the bloodlust kinda cool."

Spike nodded in agreement. "Mmm. I hate being obvious. All fang-y and 'rrrr!' Takes the mystery out."

"But if you could...." Willow prompted.

He inclined his head toward her. "If I could, yeah."

Willow smiled. "You know, this doesn't make you any less terrifying."

Spike looked at her in disbelief. "I'll bet."

"I'm serious!" Willow protested. "You've always had that evil sort of look about you. Even without the vamp face."

"Hmm." Spike sighed. "I still can't believe this happened. I'm only a hundred and twenty-six." He turned to her. "I wonder if its inherited. Is Angel like this?"

"I don't think so," Willow uttered. "He was still able to last year. Buffy lives with him now at the mansion on Crawford Street. Why don't you ask him?"

Spike looked at her, surprised. "Really?"

"Yeah, I'm meant to be heading over there now. Why don't you come with me?"

"Okay," Spike agreed. "There's something I have to tell them anyway."


"Did anyone see you?" Buffy asked her friend.

Xander shook his head. "No, they were all too busy worrying about the escape of Spike to notice me slipping away."

"Did you clean the surveillance?" Giles asked.

"Yeah, its wiped," Xander assured them.

"You really think we can trust Spike?" Angel asked aloud.

"I don't think we've got a choice," his soulmate said as she sat down next to him. Angel nodded reluctantly, then put his arm around her shoulders.

"I agree," her watcher added from his place by the large stone fireplace which thanks to the double height of the living room ceiling, did not dominate the room they were meeting in. "This is an opportunity to find out what exactly they have done, and what it's limits are."

"And seeing what they do when something escapes," Buffy pointed out.

"And if the thing actually works," Anya added.

"It works alright," Cordelia asserted.

"You're sure?" Anya asked.

"Hey, a vampire committing suicide right in front of you is not something you tend to forget," Doyle remarked.

"Really?" Anya queried curiously.

"Yeah," Cordelia replied. "I've never seen a vampire who looked so happy to be confronted with a stake. He grabbed it off us and put it through his chest."

"Fair point," Anya conceded. "Certainly haven't seen that in my life time."

A knock sounded on the door.

"I'll get that," Jenny remarked, rising from her chair to walk to the door. She opened the device and froze as she saw who was with her fellow wiccan. "Hi.... Willow."

"Hey," Willow replied. "I've brought a friend," she added, placing her hand on Spike's back. The vampire himself remained silent, relying on his companion to assure his access into one of the slayer's houses. "He's requesting to speak to Buffy."

Jenny glanced at Buffy and Angel, waiting for them to nod before she spoke. "He can come in," She stood back to let them walk inside.

"Could have done so anyway," Spike muttered as he followed Willow inside.

"How?" Cordelia asked.

"Demons can enter any place other demons own," Angel explained.

"What do you want, Spike?" Buffy asked.

"Your help, and to tell you that......" he trailed off as his eyes settled on someone in combat gear. "What are you doing here?"

"Debriefing about your escape," Xander replied.

Spike stood stunned. Then he groaned. "Oh bloody hell. I was right. You guys have known about them from the beginning, haven't you?"

"William, welcome to the headquarters of Operation 314," his grandsire said.

The End.
To Be Continued In

OPERATION 314.