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Secrets and Lies
|Title:||Secrets and Lies - Part 5|
|Fandom:||Buffy the Vampire Slayer|
|Pairings:||Buffy Summers & Spike, Willow Rosenberg & Rupert Giles|
|Rating:||NC-17 (for graphic m/f sex)|
|Author's Disclaimer:||They don't belong to me...|
|Series/Sequel:||Part 5 of Story 6 in the Chains Series|
"Giles? I'm here," Willow called as she entered his apartment. They had agreed over the phone to meet there instead of at the library. It was easier for Giles, and all of his private papers were there anyway. Plus, Xander was more likely to walk in at the library, and they were having enough trouble keeping him out of the loop as it was.
"I'll be down in a minute," he answered from upstairs. "Make yourself comfortable. I believe there may be some soda in the icebox."
Willow tossed her backpack on the couch and set her laptop on the coffee table. She made her way into the kitchen and grabbed a can of soda out of the fridge. Her hand shook a little as she popped the top and took a drink. It felt strange, being here again so soon after...
As she moved into the living room, Willow was transported back to that night. The restless feeling beneath her skin, the cool mist above it. Giles' hot mouth and masculine scent, his hard body next to her, over her, inside her... the brief burst of unwanted pleasure and the welcome pain that followed...
No! Stop thinking about it, she silently scolded. She had promised herself that she wouldn't dwell on what had happened between them. It had served its purpose, driving away the nightmares and allowing her to move on. And that was all it ever could be. To think anything else was insanity. They had important things to do, important work to do. Buffy needed them; that was what she had to focus on. Nothing else mattered. She grabbed the journals off of the desk and stomped over to the couch, determined to put that night out of her mind.
When Giles came downstairs, Willow was curled comfortably on the couch, a notebook in her lap, the journals spread out in front of her. He stared for a moment as she brushed a lock of hair away from her face, remembering its clean, rainwater scent from the other night. How soft it had felt between his fingers, brushing across his face. Giles suppressed a groan, irritated at the direction of his thoughts, then lowered his eyes when she glanced up at him.
"Any luck?" she asked. There was nothing in her expression to indicate where her thoughts had been just moments before. Willow remembered when every feeling used to show clearly in her face, the archetypical "open book". Xander had always been able to take one look at her and know exactly what she was thinking. With very little effort, he could determine what she'd gotten him for his birthday and Christmas, how much money she had in her pocket, which cards she held in her hands...even the exact moment when PMS set in. Amazing how things had changed in just a few short weeks. Now she had a poker face so good she could take it to Vegas.
"Not as yet, no," Giles answered, careful to keep his gaze averted lest she see some telltale emotion in his eyes. He set down the box he was carrying and sighed. "Edwina loved being cryptic, damn her."
Willow grinned. "Kind of goes with the job, doesn't it?"
He gave her an exasperated look. "Yes, well, thank you very much, but that bit of truth does me absolutely no good."
"Not your fault." He ran a hand through his hair in frustration. "She and Damien were like little children, plotting intricate ways to outsmart the Council. Of course she would have wanted him to stay below their radar, to carry on his studies without interference. I just wish she'd thought to include me in her schemes." He placed the box on the coffee table and sat in the chair opposite her, rummaging through the box's contents.
Willow could see the hurt in his eyes. "Were you jealous of their relationship?" she asked softly.
Giles looked up sharply and automatically started to deny it, but her steady green gaze stopped him. "I... suppose I was a bit... envious... perhaps. After all, she was my grandmother. But I can't begrudge Damien the closeness they shared. I'm truly glad that he was there for her when I wasn't. It's my own bloody fault, I should have made an effort to keep in touch."
"It happens." Her eyes darkened for a moment as she thought of her own upbringing. "I don't know if you've noticed, but my parents and I aren't what you'd call close. My mother hardly notices me -- she never even bothered to meet Oz. Sometimes I think I was an experiment in childrearing gone wrong. Then the funding ran out and the scientists got bored and moved on to something else."
Giles was taken aback by her admission. He'd always assumed that a young woman as intelligent as Willow would have grown up in a nurturing environment. He knew that Xander's home life left quite a lot to be desired, but it had never occurred to him that Willow came from anything but a happy, well-adjusted family. She covered it well. Too well. "Willow, I'm sorry. I had no idea--" he began, only to be cut off.
"Not many people do. It's okay, really. I just don't like to talk about it. Can we change the subject, please?"
Giles watched her withdraw, that damnable 'resolve face' taking over. "Of course," he told her. "I didn't mean to upset you." Perhaps one day, she'd be able to confide in him. With everything else they had to deal with, now really wasn't the time to push.
He went back to looking through his files and Willow alternated between half-heartedly translating the journals and offering suggestions on where to search for information. It wasn't long, however, before Giles began looking at the clock and fidgeting. He'd get up every so often and make a pretense of stretching his muscles, but Willow wasn't fooled. She saw how he always drifted toward the window, gazing anxiously at the street below.
"She'll be here soon, you know," she told him, smiling at his look of surprise at being caught.
"What? I wasn't--" he started to protest.
"Yes, you were," she said firmly. "Buffy is fine, Giles. She sounded good on the phone -- happy, even. I know it's hard for you to accept, but she does love Spike. They've come this far in spite of their differences, doesn't that say something?"
"How do you do that?" he asked, clearly out of sorts.
"Sit there all calm and mature while I come off like a petulant five-year-old. It's damned annoying." He stomped over to the files and pretended to be engrossed in what he found there. He knew that he was only proving his own point, but he couldn't seem to help himself.
Willow watched him, realizing just how much their relationship had changed. They were no longer student and mentor, adult and child. She was much more his equal now, unafraid to voice her opinion, or to put him in his place if the situation warranted it. She'd grown up a lot in the last few weeks, lost the naivete that was once a large part of who she was. She wasn't quite sure that the loss had been a good thing.
Death had the knack of doing that to you, she supposed. Death and sex, the ultimate innocence killers.
"I'm not, you know," she said softly.
Giles looked up. "Not what?"
"Calm. Mature. I might look it on the outside, but inside I'm just as worried as you are, and I'm scared for Buffy. We don't know what we're dealing with, or if these journals are actually foretelling the future. We don't know what this pregnancy will do to her..." Willow bit her lip and fought back tears at the thought of losing her best friend. She took a deep breath and continued. "What I do know is that she needs Spike. And I think he needs her, too. I've seen how miserable they both are without each other, and I've seen how much he cares about her. We have to trust that, Giles. We don't have a choice."
"Trust?" He threw down the file and stood up. "What happened the last time we trusted a vampire, Willow? Are you so anxious to go through all that again?"
"Of course not!" she cried, surging to her feet. "How can you even say that to me?"
"And how can you advocate Buffy's relationship with that -- that thing!"
"I'm not advocating anything, I'm merely trying to be a good friend! I'm not going to presume to think I know what's best for Buffy, only she knows that. She's not a child, Giles, and there's no way you and I could possibly understand what she's going through."
Giles sighed. "I'm well aware of what the life of a Slayer entails."
"Oh yeah?" Willow asked indignantly. "And I suppose you have complete understanding of what it's like to be a seventeen-year-old female, too. Give me a break, Giles, you don't have the first clue what it's like! I can't imagine facing what Buffy has to face every single day, can you? Think of it... From the moment she was called, she never had a chance at a normal life. Why should her lovelife be any different? How could it?"
"Am I wrong for wanting her to fall in love with a human? Two vampires, Willow! Bloody hell, how can I not be upset? How can I not want her to make a better choice than this?"
Willow looked at him sadly. "Oh, Giles... haven't you learned yet that love isn't a choice? It's not something you can control, or plan, no matter how hard you try. Sometimes... sometimes someone just comes along when you least expect it. They might be the opposite of everything you ever dreamed of, seem completely wrong for you in every way..." Her voice trailed off as she looked up at him, and for a moment it was hard for her to breathe as all of her emotions fought to break free. Wrong, she thought, so very wrong for me. She trembled, and her voice grew throaty with repressed desire as she continued, willing him to understand. "...And somehow, against all logic, that person that you thought couldn't possibly fit into your life... ends up being exactly what you needed all along."
Any thought that Giles had of continuing the debate was driven away by the look in her eyes and the husky timbre of her voice. Was it that simple? Giles wondered. Need?
He stood there, caught by the simple truth flung at him by a girl less than half his age. Need was what drove the human race, wasn't it? You yearn and hunger for something and your mind and body automatically seek it out, no matter what common sense might dictate.
The other night, Willow had satisfied something within him that he had barely been aware of. And in doing so, she'd unwittingly released his pent-up urges. Now the hunger seemed to surge forth whenever she was near, and he was dangerously close to giving in -- giving in to the desire to taste her innocence again, to thrust into a body so young and firm and tight... It frightened him, the ease with which he could so readily slip back into destructive behavior. After all, Ripper was never far beneath the tightly buttoned facade that he so carefully cultivated.
That had always been his downfall, that thing that few people ever suspected about him. That underneath all that tweed and fatherly concern there was nothing more than a selfish bastard chasing after a glimmer of his youth. Always yearning for what he didn't have, and never quite strong enough to resist temptation.
Temptation like this.
So bloody easy, he thought, leaning forward slightly, lured by trembling, moist lips...
The moment was broken as they jumped, startled by the slamming of the door. Guilt and uncertainty marred their features as Willow and Giles struggled to regain their composure before facing the Slayer.
Buffy tossed her duffle bag on a chair and came forward, running fingers through her still-damp hair. "Sorry I'm so late, I just..." Her greeting trailed off as she noticed the tension in the room. "Am I interrupting something?"
Giles was the first to recover, turning toward her with a smile. "N-No, of course not," he stammered slightly. "We were just having a slight disagreement about research methods, is all." He gazed into her eyes, searching for signs of distress. "You told him? You're all right?"
Buffy nodded. "I'm fine, Giles." She turned away and headed for the kitchen to get a soda. "Of course, that doesn't mean he took it well. That whole soul thing?" she called out over her shoulder. "Wig city."
Soda in hand, she entered the living room, taking a sip. "He tried his level best to convince me that he's more evil than The Grinch, Attila the Hun, and Principal Snyder all rolled into one."
Giles turned sharply toward her, and she hurried to clarify. "Verbally, Giles," she told him, rolling her eyes. "I don't have a mark on me." None that I'd show you, anyway, she smirked to herself. "So, what's new on the research front?"
"Not so fast. What happened with Spike? What did he say?" The Watcher was curious about Spike's reaction to having a soul and being a father. He couldn't imagine that it was as non-violent as Buffy made it out to be.
Buffy threw her hands up in the air. "What do you think he said, Giles? He freaked, okay? He said things -- told me things I'd rather not know -- just to prove he's still a demon. It wasn't pretty." She ran a hand through her hair agitatedly. "I still don't think he believes me about his soul. It's going to take time for him to accept it."
"And your..." He cleared his throat. "Your condition? Did he believe you about that?"
She gave him a lopsided smile. "Yeah, for some reason, that was a little easier for him to swallow. After the initial shock and denial, which I suppose was just a typical kneejerk male reaction. After that he was fine, if a little... stunned. Anyway, he knows this is his child, I haven't been with anyone else."
"Well, yes, Buffy, but I'm surprised that he was willing to just accept you telling him that. He's not the most trusting sort, and in truth, no man can ever really know for sure if a woman is faithful."
"Giles, hello? Vampire, heightened sense of smell? Trust me, he knows."
Giles blushed and turned away, uncomfortable with where the conversation was headed. He looked up to find Willow smirking at him, and threw her a dirty look of his own. "Yes, ahem, well, you were inquiring about research? Why don't we concentrate on that for the moment, all right? Safe, reliable, mundane research."
The two girls grinned at each other behind his back. Ruffling Giles had always been one of their favorite pastimes, and even though things were far from normal at the moment, they still found themselves able to derive pleasure from his visible discomfort. Childish, yes, but far too much fun for them to want to give it up. He made it way too easy for them.
Buffy sat down on the couch and motioned for Willow to join her. They clasped hands briefly, each giving a gentle squeeze, then Buffy looked up at her Watcher. "So, Giles, let's hear it. Have you found anything new?"
"Not information, no, but I may have a new possible source, or at least some form of help."
"Source?" she asked, eyebrows raised.
Giles sat down on one of the chairs. "There's an old friend of mine..." he began, and proceeded to tell her about Damien Carstairs, renegade demon expert. He spoke at length about their relationship, then informed Buffy that Damien had gone underground, so to speak. "I'm doing everything I can to try to track him down," he finished.
The Slayer nodded slowly. "And you think he can help?" she asked hopefully.
Giles wanted more than anything to be able to give her absolutes, but there was no way he could mislead her. "I'm not certain, Buffy. Right now, he's the only person connected with the Council that I trust. There is no one more knowledgeable about demons, and he is a doctor. At the very least, we'll need his medical skills."
The reminder of all of the uncertainties that Buffy faced cast a pall over the room. There was a moment of awkward silence as a variety of unpleasant, and sometimes downright terrifying possibilities occurred to each of them. Trying to drive off a feeling of utter helplessness, Willow suggested hitting the books again. She picked up her pen and continued translating, while Giles and Buffy grabbed more files and continued the search for Damien.
From the Diary of Lucien Aubry
10 August 1435
It appears that I must put aside my plan to follow Anne this evening. Claudine DeLacey's time has come and Marie-Thérèse is to act as midwife for her. It is far too close to nightfall for her to go alone, so I must accompany her. I shall have to take care of this business with Anne tomorrow.
From the Journal of Anne LeMaire
11 August 1435
Something has happened, something so terrible, I almost dare not speak of it. Marie-Thérèse is dead. Murdered. Viciously drained of her blood, right before Lucien's eyes.
And I was not there to stop it.
They were on their way to Claudine DeLacey's to help with the birth when they where set upon by vampires. Lucien's stake found two of them, but Marie-Thérèse was already held captive by the others. Her throat was nearly torn out, and Lucien would have been next if not for the arrival of a group of drunken English soldiers. The vampires ran off, and one of the soldiers was sober enough to go for help, but it was too late.
I should have been in the city, patrolling. Instead, I was lying in my lover's arms, oblivious to the sacred duty that I am entrusted with. I was wantonly sharing my body with a vampire -- a creature I am sworn to destroy.
What have I done? Guillaume swore to me that his clan is forbidden to hunt in the city. Such a large number of vampires hunting together -- they could only have been his. He had said that he'd kill anyone who tried to part us. Dear God... He would not, he could not... I do not know what to believe anymore. How could I have forsaken all that I am, all that I was born to be?
Lucien looked at me with such hatred, such contempt. I cannot fault him for it, for I hold myself in contempt as well. I failed them both. Marie-Thérèse was the only mother I have had for the past ten years. She was the dearest person in Lucien's life, and now she is gone.
12 August 1435
Another life lost, another death that ultimately was my fault. We received word today that Claudine died in childbirth. Without Marie-Thérèse and Lucien to help with the difficult labor, she bled profusely and could not be saved. She delivered a healthy babe, a boy. Motherless, due to my incompetence. Motherless -- just as I am.
Will my babe also be motherless? Will I die in childbirth? I have never felt so frightened, or so alone.
13 August 1435
Marie-Thérèse was cremated today. It is common practice to burn the victims of vampire attack, as a precaution against their rising. It is not possible unless there is an exchange of blood from the host, but the villagers will not risk it. I was reminded of Jehanne again, and so very thankful that Marie-Thérèse could not feel the flames devouring her body. Lucien is inconsolable, and speaks little. There is nothing I can say or do to comfort him.
I have not seen Guillaume since that night. I cannot face him in my present state, filled with such distrust. I fear what might happen if I saw him now.
Lucien raged at me to find the vampires and kill them. I searched, but could find no sign of a renegade band. I cannot go against all of Guillaume's clan by myself. There are far too many of them. And I have little enough strength in my condition.
15 August 1435
I have tried so hard to stay away from Guillaume. I can feel him lurking outside my window at night, but I resist his call. It is not easy. My body hungers for him and my soul cries out for his touch. And yet, I hate his kind for what they have done. And I hate myself for wanting him.
17 August 1435
Tonight, I stopped resisting and went to Guillaume. He was concerned, for he had heard about Marie-Thérèse. I would not let him touch me, and though I could see the hurt in his eyes, I railed at him for allowing his minions to hunt in the city. He denied involvement, saying that there had been a rebellion within the clan, and that he had destroyed those minions who disobeyed him. I screamed that it did not matter, that Marie-Thérèse was still dead, that I had still betrayed my calling by lying with him. I remember hitting him, crying, and I remember that he let me, that he held me until I had no tears left. He said that he would never do anything to hurt me. He said that I -- and the life that I carry -- are more precious to him than life's blood itself. He wants to take me away from here, but I cannot leave Lucien, not now. He has no one.
I cannot turn my back on my responsibility.
Willow passed the translated entries to Giles with a shaking hand. He scanned them quickly, then looked up at her pale face. "Willow..." He handed the papers to Buffy, then turned to the redhead, clasping her cold hands in his. "Are you all right?"
"It's the same, Giles," she whispered brokenly. "Just like Oz." Her face crumpled, and tears that she thought had long been shed came pouring out again. "I--I can't... I'm sorry, I can't... I can't read anymore..."
"Shh," he whispered, pulling her close. "Don't apologize." He glanced up, catching Buffy's pain-filled eyes with his own. "We'll continue this another time."
Willow rested her head on his shoulder and let the tears fall. After reading the entries, Buffy joined them on the couch and rubbed Willow's back as she cried, trying to sort out her own thoughts.
The journal entries were mirroring her own life so closely -- what else did they have in store for her, and for those around her? If the possibilities were anything like what she'd imagined so far, then she didn't want to find out. Ignorance was bliss, right?
After calming Willow, Giles urged the girls to go home and get some rest. He could easily work on the journals himself, and had several leads for places in which to try contacting Damien. All he had to do was send out messages and wait for at least one of them to be answered. Buffy and Willow gave token protests, but left just the same, each of them having their own reasons for wanting to leave the journals behind for one day.
There was always tomorrow. For now, anyway, there would still be a tomorrow.
As dawn broke through the apartment window, Giles put down his pen and stared blearily at the translated pages before him.
It was finished, all of it.
Every page revealed, every last word known... and not a bit of it was of any help to him. His first impulse was to destroy the lot of it, throw the journals and their translations into the fire and be done with it all. And then reason stepped in, scolding him as usual -- Ever the child, Ripper -- and all he could do was shove the offending pages away and stare at them broodingly.
And wonder what to do next.
Showing them to Buffy and Willow was out of the question. Neither girl needed any more stress in her life at this point in time, and since the journals hadn't given him the answers he sought, there was no reason to inflict the books' conclusions on them. He sighed and removed his glasses, rubbing his face with his hands. How ironic, that after blowing up at Buffy for keeping secrets, he was about to do the exact same thing. But then, the life of a Watcher was often filled with lies and hypocrisy, a fact that the pages in front of him only seemed to hammer home with great force.
If only Damien would contact him. Giles had left several messages all over the globe, even going so far as to call Meredith again to see if she had heard from him. She hadn't, but promised to pass along the information should Damien turn up. Now, all that was left was the waiting.
And the worrying.
Slowly, he pushed away from the table and stood, gathering the translated pages together. Knowing what they contained -- and what he was about to do -- made him feel sad, angry... dirty. But there was no way he was going to subject Buffy to the truth, not while she was still struggling to get her strength back. He needed her focused, and he needed his Slayer back, and in this case knowledge would only hurt his cause, not help it.
His eyes roamed over the bookshelves, finally settling on a title that sounded boring even to him. He pulled the book out and placed the journal translations inside, then returned it to the shelf, feeling fairly certain that no one would stumble upon it by accident. When the time was right, when the girls were feeling more... stable... then he'd show them what he'd found.
With a heavy sigh, and feeling far older than his years, Giles turned from the bookshelf and headed upstairs, desperate for a shower and several hours of undisturbed sleep.
And thirty minutes later, he realized that no amount of soap or scalding water could make him feel clean again. And undisturbed sleep proved to be an elusive thing, at best.
"Use your legs," Giles called out from across the room, "they need conditioning."
Buffy nodded and crouched down low before leaping back up into a perfectly timed kick that took the practice dummy's head clean off. Grinning from ear to ear, she turned to face Giles, only to find him scowling back at her. "What now?" she asked exasperatedly, returning his scowl with one of her own.
"Nothing, as long as the vampire stands perfectly still and waits for you to attack."
"Your responses need to be lightning fast -- no excuses! By now word has most likely leaked out about your... incapacitation... and we must be ready for whatever comes along to challenge you!"
Buffy grabbed a nearby towel and wiped the sweat off her face. "Don't you think I know that? I am getting stronger, I can feel it. The speed will come, don't worry."
"Don't worry, she says," he muttered, scooping the dummy's head from the floor. Straightening up, he faced her with a deadly serious look in his eyes. "Buffy, we don't have the luxury of time. Each day brings you further along in your--" he cut himself off, unable to say the word. "We have to get you back in fighting form before your form changes. And the forces of darkness will not step back and take a breather just because we're not ready!"
Her face softened, and she took a step toward him. "Giles, I do understand all of that. And I know that you're worried about me. All I can tell you is that I'm trying my best and that nothing is going to stand in the way of me doing my job. Not even being pregnant."
"All right, then," he nodded briskly, "get back to work. And this time, make every move so fast that I can't even see it."
Her ponytail bobbed as she gave him a smartass salute and then she was flying through different combat moves, a deadly blur in motion. Giles sighed and cautioned himself against being too obvious in his concern for her. If he overdid it, then she would start questioning just what had him so worked up, and there was no way he could possibly explain the mounting feeling that time was running out for all of them.
It had been four days since he'd translated the journals, and he considered himself lucky that neither Buffy nor Willow had mentioned them. Buffy's lack of interest came from her preoccupation with Spike, and as much as it made Giles ill to think of the vampire touching her, he was nonetheless grateful for the distraction.
Willow had become withdrawn again, as if she'd only had enough energy for a brief respite from the pain. It made him feel helpless, and only served to reinforce the guilt he still carried from their night together. The pang of longing he felt in her presence didn't help the situation any, either. His life was a mess, and if he couldn't help himself, how could he possibly help those around him?
The sound of his name brought him out of the brooding spell. "Yes... er, what?"
Buffy was staring at him, trying to catch her breath. "What's with you today, Giles? One minute you're all over my ass, the next you're a million miles away. Is there something I should know about?"
"N-No, of course not. I just feel so damn helpless, sitting here waiting for Damien to call. And I have to admit that I'm worried about Willow. Have you talked to her?"
"This morning." Buffy grabbed a towel and wiped her face. "She sounded better, but still a little distant. I had hoped... she seemed so strong a few days ago, and now it's like Oz died all over again." Her eyes were troubled. "I know what you mean about feeling helpless. It sucks."
"I couldn't agree more."
He began gathering up the equipment while Buffy drank from her water bottle, both of them lost in thought until she broke the silence. "I think I'm ready to patrol again."
Giles stopped suddenly and turned. "Really? You've only been training for a couple of days."
"I know," she shrugged, "but I have to start again sometime. I can't sit around waiting for something to happen, and I can't let you and Xander continue to do my job. I need to get back out there."
"And you think you're strong enough to handle whatever comes along? You were out of commission for a long time."
"I'm feeling better, Giles. Well enough to stake a vampire or two, anyway. Besides, the numbers are still down, right? I'll start patrolling tomorrow night."
"All right, as long as you're sure." He started to say something, then stopped, as if he'd changed his mind. "I'll finish cleaning up here... why don't you head on home? If I hear from Damien, I'll call you."
"Okay. If I'm not at home, I'll be at the mansion."
Giles gritted his teeth, fighting off the images that automatically invaded his head. She's going over there to play gin rummy, he told himself as his hands tightened around a fighting staff. Teeth clenched, he bit out a "Goodbye" and watched as Buffy grabbed her duffle bag and practically skipped out the door.
The library door had barely closed when he whirled and slammed the staff into the training dummy with enough force to snap the stick in two. And as he stood there, breathing heavily from anger and exertion, his only regret at the childish display of violence was that Spike hadn't been on the receiving end.
Buffy lay in Spike's arms, flushed and drowsy, her left leg slung comfortably over his. It had been a long day and she was exhausted, both from the training session earlier and the strenuous lovemaking a few moments ago. And she'd never felt more blissful in her life.
In just four short days, everything had turned around. Her appetite had returned with a vengeance, and now that there was food in her stomach, her strength was increasing at a rapid pace. The face that stared back at her in the mirror was no longer frightening, and she could almost swear that it held a sort of... glow. Physically, she felt like her old self, with a little something extra thrown into the mix. In that respect, everything was just fine.
With Giles, though... Giles still seemed distant. Buffy supposed she couldn't blame him after everything that had happened, but it still hurt. Perhaps when she started her slaying routine again, he'd come around. After all, he couldn't stay mad forever.
Spike nudged her. "You're awfully deep in thought. Or did I render you unconscious?"
"Not quite," she answered drily. "Blondes are capable of deep thought now and then, you know."
"Yeah, right," he snorted. "Pull the other one." With a smirk, Buffy let her hand drift lazily over his stomach, across his hip, and down one thigh, finally coming to rest on his spent cock. She wrapped her fingers around him and gave a gentle tug. "Pull what?" she asked with a grin.
Spike felt himself twitch, and groaned. "Christ, you're insatiable. Vampire or not, I am old, luv. I need my rest."
"Liar," she retorted as she felt him swell under her hand. She stroked him for a moment, laughing at his automatice response. Before he could roll on top of her, she stopped, laughing again as he growled in frustration. "Don't worry, I was only teasing. I wouldn't dream of disturbing your 'rest'."
"Oooh, points for using a "w" instead of a "b". He pinched her, and she squealed, swatting him back hard enough to leave a mark on his pale skin. "Ow! Bastard."
In self-defense, he rolled her, pinning her to the bed. "Violence will get you everywhere, pet," he murmured, nuzzling her neck until she was writhing helplessly beneath him.
"S-Stop, Spike, please," she whimpered.
"Stop? Really? That's a new one," he chuckled in her ear. "You mean you don't want me to do this?" He slid two fingers into her and slowly stroked them back and forth, manipulating her clitoris with his thumb. Her back arched and he smiled at the flush that traveled across her skin. "God, I love watching you," he murmured. She was so responsive; he found it easy to read her body, to make it dance under him as if she had been created for exactly that purpose.
And easier still to make her lose all sense of time and place. "Dooon't," she moaned, then gave a frustrated cry when he paused. "Don't stop, please don't stop..."
Her babbling made him grin and pick up the pace. "Wouldn't dream of stopping, love," he whispered against her skin. His mouth moved over her throat, sucking lightly, feeling the pulse throb against his tongue. Salty and fragrant, her taste and scent were heady enough to make his head swim, almost enough to make him forget himself and take a bite. His tongue followed a drop of sweat into the hollow between her breasts before sweeping up to capture the pert nipple that begged for attention.
Buffy's body grew taut like a bowstring, her hands twisting in his hair, urging him to suck harder, rub harder, please, please, please...
A sharp tug with his teeth and she was hurtling over the edge, crying out his name as she went. Her nerve endings were still sensitive from her previous orgasms, twitchy, even, making the pleasure seem frightfully close to pain, but Spike didn't back off. Instead, he kept on kissing and touching her lightly until she gradually came down in a breathless, boneless heap on the bed.
"I can't... move," Buffy managed squeak out, "I-I... think... I... died." Spike's smile was wide and full of conceit as he stared down at her. "I've always believed that the only job worth doing was a job worth doing well." He lay back against the pillows and pulled her close.
Her nose wrinkled in distaste as she peered up at him. "Okay, stop -- that sounded a little too much like Giles for comfort."
"Now, there's a frightening thought. How is the Tweedy One, anyway? Still got a stake with my name on it?"
"Probably. He still seems kind of angry, although he hasn't come right out and said anything. Mostly, he just acts British and broods a lot." She snuggled against him, breathing in his familiar scent. God, she'd missed him so much. Sometimes being together still felt a little unreal, like a dream. Every once in awhile she pinched herself, just to be sure it wasn't. "I think Giles will thaw out once I start with the slaying again. I'm sure it'll be a relief to have things back to normal, at least in one sense."
For a second, Spike didn't register what she was saying. Then it sunk in. "You're thinking of going back on patrol?" It took every ounce of control to keep his muscles from tensing up at the thought of her putting herself in danger again. "When?"
Struggling to keep his voice casual, he said, "Are you sure that's wise, pet? You've only been back in training for a few days."
Buffy yawned, exhaustion finally catching up with her. "It'll be fine. I'm getting stronger every day, and I need to get back out there. If I wait any longer, word will leak out and I'll have chaos on my hands when every Tom, Dick and Demon shows up to challenge me." She squirmed for a second, trying to get comfortable. "Sleep now, okay? I'm dead tired -- we can talk about it later."
Preparing for some kind of macho argument, she raised up to look him in the eye, and her face softened at the concern she saw there. Her hand reached up to touch his cheek. "I'm the Slayer, Spike. It's not only my job, it's who I am... it's in my blood. I don't know what will happen when I'm further along, but for now, I have to keep Sunnydale safe. Or at least try to. Understood?"
He stared at her for a moment, then nodded, giving her a quick, hard kiss. "Understood." But I bloody well don't have to like it, he thought to himself.
Buffy gave him a luminous smile, then settled back down beside him. Spike began threading his fingers through her hair, something he usually did to help her wind down. She sighed, burrowing against him contentedly. "Don't forget to wake me up later."
"I won't, baby. Just go to sleep."
"Mmmm, sleep," she murmured. "Sleep is good."
Buffy's breathing grew deep and even, and Spike wished that he could drop off just as easily, but it was still night, and now he had a new worry to contend with. The Slayer being back in business so soon was something he hadn't bargained on. He'd only just gotten her back, and he'd be damned if he was going to lose her to some fledgling vampire or transient demon. Hell, he was damned anyway, but there had to be something he could do about this, some way to stop her without driving her away again. He lay there listening to the beat of her heart, feeling her breath on his skin, and realized that there was only one course of action that would allow him to keep her safe.
And unfortunately, that course of action led to the one person he'd rather not face.
Giles dropped the books on the table and wondered for the tenth time in just as many minutes why he didn't have a life beyond this blasted library and the several thousand musty volumes it contained. True, most of the time he loved what he did, and he loved the smell of five hundred year old books even more, but the events of the past few months had taken their toll. Spike showing up in Sunnydale, Angelus resurfacing and killing Jenny, Oz's murder, Giles' own impulsive deflowering of Willow, Buffy having sex with two vampires -- although, thankfully, not at the same time -- and now ending up pregnant beyond all the laws of physiology... well, there was only so much a man could take.
It was enough to make him long for the drug-induced haze of his youth.
He sighed and turned his attention to the book in front of him. It didn't look any more promising than the last twenty or so volumes he'd already scanned. There didn't seem to be any other recorded instances of a human, Slayer or otherwise, becoming pregnant by a vampire. It wasn't supposed to be possible. Period.
So how did he account for Anne and Buffy?
And when the hell was Damien going to return his calls?
The sound in the stacks behind him was almost imperceptible, but he'd been expecting it. In one fluid motion, Giles had the crossbow in his hand and was swinging it up to face the intruder. "Don't come any closer," he ordered.
Spike stood before him with an insolent grin plastered on his face, hands raised up in a mocking gesture of surrender. "Ease up, old man. I didn't come here to eat." He stared at Giles appraisingly, his lip curling with disdain. "Even if I did... you're a bit past prime for my tastes."
Giles glared, keeping the crossbow trained on Spike's chest. "Forgive me if I don't find that the least bit comforting," he returned drily.
Spike shrugged. "Can't say I really give a shit about your comfort level." Did the Watcher really intend to take him out? Spike knew he had more than the required balls for the job, but would he risk the Slayer's happiness? "You plannin' on pullin' that trigger? Or aren't you even the least bit curious about why I'm here?"
"I think I have a pretty good idea of why you're here, and who sent you. I'm sure that Buffy means well, but--"
"The Slayer doesn't know I'm here," Spike interrupted. "And I'd rather she didn't find out, either."
"Well, when she finds my drained corpse in the morning, she might get a bit suspicious, don't you think?"
Spike laughed. "Don't think too highly of your own slaying skills, do you, Watcher? You are the one with the crossbow, after all." He leaned back against the table and crossed his arms. "Look, if I'd wanted you dead -- any of you -- you would be. I've had ample opportunity, not to mention getting up close and personal with the Slayer on a regular basis. I mean, let's face it, I've had her in some pretty vulnerable positions--"
Giles' face went purple with rage. Before Spike knew what was happening, the Watcher had him by the throat and slammed him up against the wall, crossbow bolt pressed into his chest. "Shut. Your. Bleedin'. Gob," Giles gritted out, "or I'll make you wish I'd pulled the trigger."
Gone was the well-bred, uptight librarian, and in his place was a thoroughly pissed off Eastend brawler. The strength in the other man's hands caught Spike by surprise. There was a lot of muscle hiding underneath all that tweed. And a lot of rage. Any doubts he had about the Watcher's ability or inclination to dust him had gone the way of the mild-mannered librarian, leaving only one coherent thought.
His ass was perilously close to being annihilated.
In spite of all that, or maybe even because of it, a chuckle of appreciation snuck out. He tugged at the Watcher's arm, trying to keep his larynx from being crushed. "Easy, mate," he managed before the hand tightened even more.
"I'm not your mate," Giles growled dangerously. "Buffy thinks you're worth saving... that you've got a soul. Trust me when I say that I don't suffer from the same delusion."
"That makes... two of us... then," Spike choked out. "But what... we think... doesn't... really... matter... does it?"
Giles stared hard at him, struggling with his intense desire to destroy the vampire once and for all. It would be so easy; just press the bolt into cold, dead flesh and feel it evaporate under his hand. He felt himself lean in closer, just a fraction of an inch, almost giving in to the temptation before Spike's words make him pull back. As much as he hated to admit it, the vampire was right. What they thought -- what they wanted -- didn't matter at all.
The only thing that mattered was Buffy... and Buffy was in love with Spike.
Cursing, Giles shoved the vampire away from him. Spike stumbled, then righted himself, his laughter turning to a cough as he rubbed the imprint of Giles' hand on his throat. "Gotta... hand it to you, Watcher," he said hoarsely, "you hide your inner demon well."
"I've had a lot of practice. You would do well to remember that. Now," Giles set the crossbow down on the table, and leaned against the edge, crossing his arms, "as much as I've enjoyed our repartée so far, it still begs the question... why are you here?"
Spike looked away, feeling suddenly awkward, like a schoolboy being grilled by his date's father. A date he'd knocked up, no less. He took a deep, unneeded breath and plunged in. "I'm worried about the Slayer." Looking up, he found Giles staring at him impassively. "She told me she's going to start patrolling again tomorrow. It's too soon, I don't want her out there."
Giles cocked an eyebrow. "I really don't see how it's any of your business."
Spike's temper flared. "It bloody well is my business! She's not up to her full strength yet, and I'm not about to let my woman get herself torn up while protecting this shithole town."
"Your woman? Buffy is not your property, Spike, she's the Slayer. She understands that, and moreover, she takes pride in it. Perhaps your concern lies less with her well-being than with the preservation of your own kind."
The vampire snarled with frustration as he picked up a book and threw it across the room. "I don't give a fuck about the preservation of my kind!" He stalked toward the Watcher, who stood up straight, letting his hand rest on the crossbow. "You know she's not ready... and you know that her condition throws everything for a soddin' loop. Are you really that much of a heartless prick that you'd send her off to get killed? Oh, wait, I forgot -- anything for the bleedin' Council, right?"
"Buffy is, and always has been, my first and only concern," Giles muttered through clenched teeth. "Patrolling tomorrow was her decision -- I had nothing to do with it. If you're so bloody worried about her, why don't you watch her back the way that Angel used to? Or don't you care enough to put yourself on the line for her?"
Spike's eyes narrowed at the mention of Angel. Clever ploy, that -- throwing the ex-lover in his face. Surprising coming from the Watcher, though, considering that Angelus had murdered the man's girlfriend and left her splayed out on his bed like some macabre present the cat dragged in. "Angel wasn't quite the paragon that you think he was, even before Angelus showed up. Like you, he hid his inner demon well."
"Unlike you, I suppose, who makes no effort to hide yours at all."
Spike spread his arms. "Hey, I'm exactly what you see. I don't make excuses for what I am. I'm a vampire, I drink blood, and I get my rocks off by smashing things." And banging Slayers, he thought, but figured it was prudent not to add that little fact to the list.
He started pacing around the main floor of the library in a nervous fit of energy. "I'm not exactly complicated, you know? Before Angelus came back, my unlife was pretty simple. Drain the general population, shag Dru, try to kill the Slayer... world by the ass, right?" he shrugged. "Only I couldn't seem to kill the chit, could I? All I got was an organ dropped on me for my trouble. And then he showed up... and Dru changed... and there I was, stuck in that fucking wheelchair..." His eyes met Giles' unwavering stare. "I just wanted it all back the way it was. So I came up with that stupid plan -- I never thought she'd go for it. Never thought she'd actually..." The memory of her screaming his name that first time caused him to shake his head ruefully. "An hour after we fu--" He broke off as the Watcher's eyes narrowed. "An hour later, I was helping her kill Drusilla.
"I did more than lay myself on the line for your Slayer. To save her life, I sacrificed my whole world."
"You seem to have recovered admirably, trading one woman for another."
With a deadly snarl, Spike's face shifted. He stopped just short of grabbing the other man, and pointed a finger. "You don't know a thing about it! What Dru meant to me, what losing her meant... And I bloody well didn't plan what happened with the Slayer -- I fought it with everything I had! But just like I couldn't kill her... I couldn't seem to walk away, either." The admission seemed to deflate him, and he shifted back. "She was under my skin before I knew what hit me."
Giles was silent as he contemplated the vampire before him. Spike seemed sincere enough, but demons were notoriously adept liars. Still, both Anne and Buffy had put their trust in one, enough to fall in love with him and defy every part of their calling. And as much as he hated vampires in general and Spike in particular, what was done was done, and Buffy needed every bit of support they all could give her. "Do you love her?" he asked.
"What, you mean you actually think a demon like me is capable of it?"
"At this point, Spike, I don't know what I think. But I suppose that if a vampire can get a Slayer... pregnant... then anything is possible. So, I'll ask you again -- do you love her?"
Spike wished he could lie. More than that, he wished he'd never even come to the bloody library in the first place. But he'd already placed himself in the line of fire, and the only way out was the simple, unvarnished truth.
He leveled a steady gaze at the Watcher and replied, "More than I ever wanted to kill her." He laughed bitterly. "Ain't that a kick in the nads? Spike, once sidekick of the Scourge of Europe, killer of two Slayers -- now pansy-ass in love with one. I can't even bloody drain my victims when I feed!" he shouted in disgust.
Giles looked at him with interest. "Buffy mentioned that... it's really true? You eat, but don't kill?"
"I haven't killed anyone in over two months. Not that I can remember, anyway."
"Is it because you feel some sort of remorse for what you've done?" Giles inquired.
Spike shrugged. "I don't feel anything, I just... stop feeding. It's as if the desire for the kill just isn't there anymore. 'Cept when I went after Angel's boys, but I was plenty pissed off, you know? And they were vampires, not human."
"Interesting," Giles began excitedly. "Do you think--" He realized what he was doing and stopped, shaking his head. "This conversation is wrong on so many levels, I can't even begin to count them."
"Tell me about it, mate," Spike replied. "How the fuck did this happen?" He walked over to the stack of books on the table and picked one up. "You're the one with all the answers, what do the bloody books say?"
Giles followed him and took the book out of his hand. "They say exactly nothing. There has never been a mention in any of the standard texts, not that I can find, anyway. Our only resource so far has been the journals, and they..." His eyes became hooded and he turned away.
"They what?" Spike grabbed the Watcher's arm. "What do the journals say? Are you telling me you finished the translations?"
"This morning. I--I haven't told Buffy. Or Willow. They have enough to worry about without--"
"Blast it all, Watcher! What do the fucking things say?"
Giles pulled away and walked over to the cage, retrieving a large book. He handed it to Spike. "Here, inside... I don't even know why I brought it with me tonight. Habit, I suppose. I didn't think I could read them again, but I just keep hoping that they'll shed some light our situation -- give us something, anything to go on. Or maybe I keep hoping that each time I read them, it all ends differently, somehow. Never does, though."
Spike cocked an eyebrow and stared at the pages as if they were going to leap up and bite him. "This is it, then? The final act in all of this?"
Giles nodded. "Hmm. Fitting turn of phrase, by the way."
All of a sudden, Spike didn't want to know. But he could no more look away from the pages than he could walk away from the Slayer. He had to know.
Quickly, his eyes skimmed over the Watcher's shaky hand, trying to decipher some of the words. The handwriting contrasted sharply with Willow's even script, and as he continued to read, he understood why it deteriorated with each line. The feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach grew, and the room receeded as he was transported back five hundred years to the place of his dreams. Every vivid image came back to him, only now, he knew what each moment had been leading up to. When he reached the last line, he stared up at the Watcher with a look of horror that he quickly masked.
"Yeah, so?" he shrugged. "None of us figured on a happy ending anyway, right?"
"And you're not bothered by what you just read? Not the least bit concerned about what it might mean for you and Buffy?"
"This--" Spike shook the papers in his hand, "this all happened centuries ago! It's got fuck-all to do with me and the Slayer. You would never do what that other Watcher did, so none of it matters."
"I wish I could believe that, Spike. I really do." Giles sighed and removed his glasses, cleaning them more out of habit than out of any real need. "But there are too many parallels to ignore."
"Well, what are you doing about it, then? Not like you can ask those pillocks in the Council, either. So where do we go from here?"
Giles blinked at the "we", then realized that he'd have to get used to Spike being part of the equation. "I've been trying to contact an old friend, someone I believe has already seen the journals. He's an expert in demons, and demon physiology for starters, and a medical doctor. I haven't been able to locate him as yet."
"Well, you'd better, because time isn't standing still for any of us." He ran a hand through his hair, then looked up with bleak eyes. "Another thing... the Slayer is scared. She puts up a brave front and all, but underneath she's just a frightened little girl. We're talking about someone who faces death on a daily basis, and never runs, so to me, a scared Slayer is far more disturbing than anything written in those soddin' journals." He pierced Giles with his gaze. "If you let her down, I'll make Angelus look like an amateur in the torture department."
"I have no intention of letting her down, and I don't need you to remind me of what Buffy needs. Perhaps you'd be better off looking in the mirror -- oh, wait, you can't. You're not human."
"I might not be human, but I'm what she wants. Get used to it, mate."
"I'll never get used to it, but that doesn't mean I can't work around it. And this petty fighting is getting us nowhere. Can I count on you to shadow her on patrol?"
Spike nodded. "I hadn't planned on doing anything else. Do you really think she's ready?"
"As ready as she'll ever be. You'll have to keep out of sight. If anyone, Buffy included, finds out what you're doing, there'll be hell to pay, both with the Council and with the demon community, I'm sure. Willow is the only one besides myself who knows, yes?"
"And Willy," Spike replied, "but I think we've got him covered. He's scared shitless of us."
"Until someone with a bigger wallet or fist comes along. I would wager our time frame has become even shorter, then, the journals notwithstanding."
"Yeah, well... that's life on the Hellmouth, innit? Good times for all."
Giles sighed. "I hear war-torn Beirut is lovely this time of year," he said wistfully.
"Slightly better mortality rate, anyway," Spike reasoned. He stared at the Watcher. "So, we're clear, then? I don't get in your way and you don't get in mine?"
"Agreed," Giles nodded, "but if Buffy even stubs her little toe, then all bets are off."
"Right. And I want to know anything you turn up first hand. No leaving me out of the loop."
When Giles nodded again, Spike turned and headed toward the stacks, leaving the Watcher to stare after him pensively. The meeting hadn't quite turned out as Giles had expected. Far less bloodshed, for one thing.
Spike paused at the top of the stairs. "Watcher..." he called without turning around, "if anything happens to me, you'll -- "
"I'll look out for her, Spike. You don't even have to ask."
The vampire nodded, and left without a sound.
No, Giles thought tiredly, not as he'd expected at all.
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