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Story Notes: For the purposes of this story, Buffy’s assertion that Spike was alive at the end of the episode was a statement of fact, slapping Giles in the face with the truth, not an attempt at imparting information that Giles already had.

    Buffy’s eyes were cold when she stepped into the house. “Giles,” she said evenly. “Come on in, Spike.”

    The invitation was unnecessary – Spike’s invite was still valid – but the gesture was obvious. Spike walked in behind her, and Buffy headed up the stairs without another word to her watcher.

    The look on Giles’ face when Spike walked in with Buffy was only a shade below horrified.

    “Buffy –” Giles began, but she was already rounding the top of the stairs. He turned back to the door. “Spike,” Giles said.

    One look at Spike told Giles that Spike knew all. He swallowed, and stepped back, waiting for him to pass. Spike considered just letting it lie, but no. Best to have it out quick. Spike continued as if he intended to walk by him, but when he was almost past him, Spike’s hand shot out. He took hold of the watcher by the throat and pushed him against the wall. It wasn’t a real attack – Spike wasn’t trying to throttle the life out of him – but Giles wasn’t going anywhere.

    For a long moment, Spike just stared at him, as the older man’s eyes gazed at him in horror and fear. “You’re a hypocritical piece of work, watcher. You think I’m too dangerous to have around? You’ve lied to her, abandoned her, poisoned her, endangered her, and worked behind her back to undermine her,” Spike said, “and you think I’m the one who’s bad for her.” Spike shook his head in contempt. “You’ve got real presumption.” Spike realized he was going to have to let it go at that, because he was fighting not to kill him. Killing was still such an easy impulse, and the list of truths he’d just stated infuriated him. He let the watcher go and stepped away, heading off into the dining room.

    Giles followed – brave despite his fear, which Spike admired, but was too angry to really appreciate at the moment. “You dare to pass judgement on me?” he demanded. “Xander has told me what you’ve done to her.”

    Spike rounded on him. “I lost control,” he said, cool and composed. “Once. And I’ve nearly died to pay for it. And not to get anything in return, because I expect nothing. You play these mind games with your eyes open and your head clear. At counsel’s orders, through your own warped judgement, you decide to hurt her, to lie to her, to abandon her. Like her father, like Angel, like everyone she’s ever dared to trust. And you claim you love her? How many times have you betrayed her, watcher? I’m no saint, god knows I’m not, but I don’t presume to know what’s best for her without asking her opinion on it. Whether she trusts me or not, I trust her. And that’s a damn sight more than I can say for you.”

    “You trust her because you need her,” Giles said. “You’re still a vampire. You’re feeding off her affection and her misplaced reliance, because it makes you feel redeemed. But you and I both know the truth of it. You’re a killer.”

    “Who among us isn’t?” Spike countered.

    “You’re standing there, steeped in blood, with the First Evil controlling you at the flick of a song, and you claim to be an asset?”

    “Trigger’s gone,” Spike said with contempt. “If you’d left me alone for a few days, I’d have sorted it on my own. Like anyone could have sorted out anything personal with the bloody third degree down there, chained up before the packed committee of people who already bloody hate me. At least two of whom actively wanted to kill me. I’m here for Buffy. I’ve offered to leave, weeks ago. She said no.” The surprise on Giles’ face was enough to tell Spike he hadn’t realized that. “Yeah. She left you out of the loop on that, and you never asked. It was personal. And it was her choice. I trust her judgement. You, you get her to trust you, and then work against her. And don’t tell me you’ve got a lily white soul yourself, because I know for a fact you’ve killed. And never turned yourself in for it, either. Human justice means much less to you than it does to Buffy.”

    “I do not claim to be perfect,” Giles said. “But I care for her.”

    “You’ve got a funny way of showing it. You lie to her. You manipulate her. You undermine her. You try to slaughter her friends. No, you know, maybe you do care for her, you and Angel seem to be about on par for showing affection.”

    The watcher’s face darkened, as Spike had guessed it would. The dead teacher Angel had bragged to him about was supposedly Giles’ lover. “Don’t compare me to him.”

    “Plan on leaving gag-gifts in her bed next?”

    “I said don’t,” Giles growled, fury and rage boiling in his eyes.

     “There it is,” Spike said, slow, his finger lifted ever so slightly. Spike had known invoking Angel and comparing them would enrage the man. He'd been tortured by Angel, after all. “There’s the demon. The one all men are born with. Their own tortured souls. I’ve saved your life a dozen times, Rupert, and you turn on me now. Now that I regret the things I’ve done.” He shook his head. “You hate me for your own reasons, watcher. They have nothing to do with what I’ve done, or who I am.”

    “You’re a selfish murderer.”

    “I’m selfish,” Spike said with a bit of a smile. He seemed almost amused. “You flew across the pond to your precious mother England while she was nearly dying, and you claim I’m selfish. She needed help, and you turned your back, leaving me to clean up the mess.”

    “Or make it worse,” Giles snapped. “Adding your sick fantasies to it. I was trying to help her. You used her vulnerability –”

    “You’re the one who made her more vulnerable,” Spike retorted. “She turned to me the very night you left, told me flat out it was because of you. She needed someone to stand with her, and you left her standing alone.”

    “My being here was only standing in the way of her standing for herself.”

    “She was grieving!” Spike snarled. “Grieving for a life she’d lost and a heaven that had been stolen. You don’t tough-love away depression. Grief doesn’t end because you say she needs to stand up. You take her by the arm and you stand with her, till she’s strong enough to stand on her own. She needed time and support to get through it, and you walked off.” Spike came in close to him. “And you know what?  I don’t think you did it to make her stronger. I think it was ‘cause you just wanted to go home. How many times did you choose to leave, and she pulled you back? What, twice? You just didn’t want to be here anymore, and she was no longer strong enough to hold you. You left the moment – the moment – when she was at her most vulnerable. You were weak, and pathetic, and you wanted to run home to Mama England, ‘cause you couldn’t face the dark inside her.”

    The guilt in Giles’ eyes told Spike he hadn’t hit far off the mark, but the watcher was too controlled to acknowledge it. “You’re a monster. You see darkness everywhere you look.”

    “I held her through it,” Spike said. “As much as she’d let me. I didn’t even mind when she needed to tear me apart because of it. You just left her cold and lonely. If you thought I was so bad for her, you shouldn’t have left her with me as her only way out.”

    “And you think you were a way out?”

    “I was. For a while. She didn’t want to need me, but she did, and I was there for her. Which is a lot more than I can say for you.”

    “I didn’t want to leave.”

    “Then why did you?”

    “I told you why! She needed to stand strong.”

    “Well, it didn’t make her stronger, it nearly broke her.”

    “I can’t believe that.”

    “That’s because you only ever listen to yourself, you arrogant knob.” Spike glared at him. “Try listening to Buffy. She’s worth a hundred of you. She told you not to leave. She told you why. You still walked off. And the joke is, she did need you. She needed you there. You and the Scoobies and her family, you were the only reason she was still alive, and she knew it. Hell, you could have asked me; I knew it, the first time I tried to kill her. Her family and friends were the only reason I didn’t succeed. Every slayer has a death wish, hers only kept at bay by all of you. And you left when hers was at her deepest and most foul.” He glared at Giles. “You left her to die, and deep down, you knew it. Some part of you was okay with that.” Spike shook his head. “Maybe you just wanted Willow’s folly undone, and didn’t want to be there to watch it.”

    “You don’t know me,” Giles said.

    “You’re right,” Spike told him. “Maybe I’m wrong about you. Maybe you’re not manipulative, egotistical, and malevolent, maybe you’re just stupid. ‘Cause if you meant well, you were a complete twat over it. But if you wanted to break her, you made a real good crack at it. You’ve done your best again tonight. You try it once more, even if it’s not over me, and I will kill you.”

    “Like you killed Wood?” Giles said, as if Spike must have.

    Spike laughed his contempt. “You really think the worst of me, don’t you? That wanker gets a pass, too. Once.” He gave a little bow. “Which leaves me the only one among you who hasn’t attempted murder this evening. I feel rather proud of myself.” He headed for his basement. “Soothe your own soul, watcher,” Spike said. “Leave me to guide mine.”

    “At Buffy’s expense?”

    Spike gazed at him. “Of the two of us,” Spike said, “I’m the one who’s asked her to kill me. If she needed me dead, I’m pretty sure she’d have done it herself.” More surprise on Giles’ face. He had never bothered to get to know what Spike was really like. “She’s not a child, watcher. She’s a slayer. And I know slayers.” Spike shook his head. “I don’t think you even know yourself.”

    Spike retreated to his basement, leaving Giles to wonder how great a rift there was now between himself and Buffy. It was, as Spike had pointed out, larger than he’d realized it was.