Giles didn’t express any surprise when Spike showed up shortly after dark, simply opened the door and backed away.
“No Scooby meeting tonight?” Spike glanced around the empty room.
Giles shook his head. “Buffy called it off when she told Willow about her injury, and that she was going to be at her mother’s for another night,” He raised an inquisitive eyebrow at Spike. “She seemed quite sure that her patrolling duties wouldn’t be neglected....”
“Told her I’d handle it. She pulled that gash open again today just tryin’ to open the door to my crypt. Stupid bint.”
“Ah, so she did find you this afternoon?”
Spike nodded. “She did. Woke me up from a sound sleep wantin’ to know what the slayers I killed did wrong. Like there was one little thing she could do or not do that was gonna make the difference.”
“I’m assuming the answer was more complicated than that?” Giles tried hard not to show how desperately he wanted to know what Spike had told Buffy, but Spike’s knowing smirk said he hadn’t been successful.
“Was and wasn’t,” he said, then elaborated on his cryptic reply. “It’s not something she needs to worry about. I don’t know what went wrong last night, except maybe she’s so used to easy kills she got sloppy. If that was it, getting stabbed with her own stake should have been a wake-up call.”
“Not one I’m interested having her repeat,” Giles said.
“Nor am I, Watcher. And you well know it.”
Giles nodded and gestured to a chair. “I do,” he said as he pulled the scotch bottle from its cabinet and poured two glasses full. “The question is, does Buffy know it?”
Spike sighed and rested his head against the back of the chair. “She does. I as much as told her.” He sat up straight and took one of the glasses with a nod of thanks. “But that’s not what I came here to talk to you about.”
Giles sat on the sofa and sipped from his own glass. “No?”
“No.” Spike leaned forward. “Buffy’s probably the best of all the slayers I’ve ever faced—” He gave a small smile as Giles’s eyes widened just a little at the implication. “—better even than the one I killed in the 70s, and she was something special.” Before he could get lost in memories again, Spike went on. “Buffy’s so good I don’t think she gives staking vampires quite the attention she should. What’s a poor old vamp after she’s ripped the heart out of a cyborg’s chest? I’m not saying she’s not working hard, I just think she’s maybe the littlest bit over-confident. That confidence, a stronger-than-most vampire, and a bit of bad luck may have contributed to last night’s debacle.”
“Was he that strong? Buffy’s fought Angelus... and you... and even managed to slay the Cruciamentum vampire the Council tried to use to get rid of her.” Giles said the last part of his comment in a low mutter, but Spike’s ears had no trouble picking it up.
“Cruciamentum? You did that to her?” His eyes flared amber and his fangs dropped as he snarled. Giles flinched back, wondering briefly if Spike could overcome the pain from the chip if he was properly motivated.
“It wasn’t my finest moment,” Giles said, shaking his head and holding up his hands in a sign of peace. “And she was quite rightfully hurt and angry.” He took a long drink from his glass. “I thought Joyce would never forgive me.”
“I’m not sure I’m going to,” Spike growled, although he was wearing his human mien again. “What did they throw at her? Not the normal idiot fledge, I take it?”
Giles shook his head. “No. His name was Kralick. Some sort of serial killer before he was turned. Nasty piece of work.”
“I know who he was,” Spike said, his eyes flaring again. “But she did alright?”
Giles nodded. “She was very clever. She was able to remain out of his reach long enough to get him to swallow holy water. Buffy is very creative. As you no doubt know,” he added with a small smirk.
“She is, and I do. All the more reason for last night having not happened. She needs more training to keep her sharp.”
“She has long since surpassed anything I can give her. While Buffy may not be an academic star, she is quite intelligent and she absorbs whatever she is taught about fighting and weapon skills almost immediately. We train, but she is merely tolerating me.”
Spike nodded. “Got a plan for that.”
“You plan to watch her back twenty-four hours a day?”
“Better than that. I plan to make her so good that her back will never need watchin’ — not that I’m not planning to be there,” he added quickly. “I am. Just in case. But we both know I can’t be there all the time. And the Slayer would be brassed off at me if she thought I was trying to. Not everything she faces has to hide in the dark like I do.”
“Unfortunately quite true,” Giles agreed. “So you are planning to take over her training?”
“Don’t get your knickers in a twist there, Watcher,” Spike said, grinning at Giles’s disgruntled expression. “Not gonna try to replace you, but I am going to see that she works out with somebody who can match her speed and strength and who has another hundred plus years of experience fighting vamps and demons... and humans... to share with her. If I can teach her some things she doesn’t know, and help her understand that she can’t be casual about even a simple one-vamp slay, maybe I won’t have to spend my days worryin’ that she’s taking on something she shouldn’t while I’m not around for back up.”
“Welcome to my world,” Giles said wryly, holding up his glass in a toast. “I will worry every night, and you can handle the daytime worrying.”
Spike lifted his own glass in return, then took a long swallow from it. He cocked his head at Giles.
“I know a bit about what Joyce goes through – although Buffy keeps her in the dark about most of what she does – but never gave that much thought to you. Most watchers are unfeeling wankers that treat their slayers like cannon fodder.”
Giles winced, but shook his head. “It may appear so to you, and no doubt that is the Council’s view of the girls they send out into the world, but I can assure you that very few watchers who’ve been in the field take such a cavalier attitude toward their charges. Many of them have raised their slayers from childhood, and I’m sure their feelings would have been every bit as... parental... as mine are. The difference is, their slayers did not live long enough for the Council to have to suffer the consequences of those feelings.”
“Slayer says they fired you.”
“They did. Or I quit. Hard to say which came first. The bottom line is that I no longer report to them everything Buffy does, and they leave us alone because they don’t want to leave the Hellmouth unprotected.”
“Wankers,” Spike growled.
“Indeed. But a good source of information when we need it. They are not so foolish as to pretend Buffy isn’t doing an excellent job of preventing apocalypses, and they offer support as needed.”
“Gonna help her out with that bitch that cleaned her clock?”
“They are looking into it for us,” Giles responded stiffly. “At this point, we still don’t know why she/it is here and what she wants. Our hope is that she didn’t find it and will go elsewhere to seek it.”
Spike shrugged. “Good luck with that. Hope always makes bad things go away. ”
“It’s what we’ve got,” Giles said with a sigh. He finished his drink and held his hand out for Spike’s empty glass. “If you have nothing better to do, I’d like to hear more about these other slayers you faced.”
Spike shrugged. “With the right amount of persuasion....”
Giles snorted and refilled their glasses. He handed Spike’s back to him, then walked to his desk and picked up a notebook and pen.
“Let us begin with the Chinese girl,” he said. “How did you find her? And why were you, a relatively young vampire at the time, able to kill her? Did you have assistance from Angelus or—”
Spike’s snarl made him cringe, but his voice was steady as he jotted something in the notebook. “I’ll just take that as a no, then.”
Buffy had just finished explaining to Joyce that she was going to be fine, but that Giles and Spike had insisted she not patrol until she was completely healed. She hadn’t said much when she arrived home late the previous afternoon, other than she was too tired to patrol and was going to bed right after dinner. Which she did. Now that she was awake, and apparently ravenous again, Joyce’s questions about what was going on had become more pointed.
“It’s not a big deal, Mom. I mean, it was kind of a big deal at the time, but Spike did the first aid thing and carried me to Giles and he finished the patching up and gave me stuff to drink—”
“He gave you a drink?” Joyce looked at the phone as if planning to give Giles an earful about giving her underage daughter alcohol.
Buffy laughed, holding her side as he did, which did nothing to take the frown off Joyce’s face. “Relax. I meant he was giving me fluids to replace the blood I lost and....I’m not making this any better, am I?”
Joyce had gone from frowning to looking as if she might be sick. “Blood loss?” she said weakly.
“Uh, yeah. I was... kind of... stabbed, you know? So, yeah, bleeding. But Spike stopped it, so it was okay.” She gave Joyce her best “I’m fine” smile.
“Spike. Who is a vampire. Stopped the bleeding.”
“Yeah. Turns out he carries a hanky. A clean hanky. Who knew, right?”
“He had a handkerchief and he made a bandage out of it. And then he tore his shirt in half and wrapped it around me to hold the handkerchief in place, and then... and then I think I fainted, cause when I woke up I was on Giles’ couch and he was yelling at Spike for not taking me to the ER.”
“Which would have been my first choice.”
“You know we can’t do that, Mom. I mean, if I’m dying, yeah, but I wasn’t. I just needed a safe place to hang out until Slayer healing kicked in, and some juice or something.”
“He could have brought you here.”
“You would have wigged. And anyway, Giles has all the Buffy-patching stuff, and—” Joyce held up her hand.
“I’ve changed my mind, I really don’t want to know.” She shook her head as if to clear it. “So Spike saved your life last night.” It wasn’t a question, and Buffy didn’t reply except to nod.
“I will have to thank him the next time I see him. As much as I like Spike, I never expected to be thanking him for saving you.”
“I never expected you’d have to do that,” Buffy said with a wry smile. “He’s just full of surprises.”
Joyce smiled at Buffy, smothering what looked like it might be a grin.
“Nothing. It’s just that some of these things that are surprising you, I could have told you about some time ago.”
Buffy narrowed her eyes at her mother. “Just how many times has Spike dropped in on you in last couple of years? I only caught him at it once.”
Joyce laughed. “That was actually the first time since... since you tried to convince me you and Spike were in a band.” She scoffed and shook her head. “Like I couldn’t read the guilt all over both of you. If I hadn’t seen you make that vampire go poof, I’d have been sure you two were having some sort of sordid affair.”
Joyce nodded. “Well, yes. Now that I understand more about that time and what you were facing, I realize that something as simple as being in a relationship with a somewhat older and less than clean-cut man would have been preferable to what was really going on. And that, at the time, you and Spike had been enemies until that other vampire—” Buffy rolled her eyes at Joyce’s refusal to use Angel’s name. “—made it necessary for you to join forces.”
They exchanged rueful grimaces, recalling the time it had taken for them to rebuild their relationship after Joyce had essentially told Buffy not to come home if she was going to insist on being the Slayer. They were silent for several minutes while Buffy wandered into the kitchen to pour herself a glass of ice water.
She turned around to smile at Joyce. “And now you and Spike are best buddies.”
Joyce laughed and shook her head. “I would hardly say that.” She sighed deeply. “Although I have to admit, if I were a few years younger....”
Buffy spit water all over the counter in front of her. “Mom!”
“What? I’m not a nun, you know. And now that I know him better, I can see that Spike is quite an attractive man... er, vampire.”
“In the first place,” Buffy spoke in a modified shriek. “He is over 100 years old! And... and... you’re my mother! You can’t like Spike!”
Joyce held her mildly curious expression for a full minute before collapsing in giggles.
“I’m just teasing you, Buffy. But Spike has been here for hot chocolate and female companionship several times. I think he’s been a bit lonely without Dru and with being unable to behave like a true vampire.” She gave Buffy a shrewd glance. “And, if I’m honest, I’d guess he was hoping you would be here many of those times.”
Buffy sighed and refilled her glass. “I suppose he was – but how did you...?”
“The way he talks about you... all the time... and just... I don’t know. Call it a mother’s intuition. I take it my intuition is correct?”
Buffy sighed again. “Yes. It is. But I didn’t know that until yesterday.”
“And nothing. I don’t know. I can’t worry about it now. I need to take a nap and try to get healed up so I can get back to work. Just in case that crazy skank shows up again and I have to fight her.”
“All right, honey. I have to go to the gallery for a while, but if you need anything, call me. Okay?”
“I’ll be fine. And if I need something, I’ll just make Dawn get it for me.”
“She won’t be home for a while. I believe she said she was going home with Janice after school.”
“Oh. Well, that’s okay. I’ll be fine.”
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