Note: Thanks to my beta t_geyer for her unending patience, perseverance and support.
Monday, May 20th, 2002
Spike leaned over from his position in the driver's seat to unlock the door on the passenger side and push it ajar. He barely allowed the former watcher to get in the car before he let loose.
"You're a damned idiot, Rupert. You do know that, don't you?" Spike screeched out of the drive in reverse, barely sparing a glance over his shoulder and offering a two-fingered salute to a driver who dared sound his horn when the black classic suddenly appeared in front of him.
"I beg your pardon!" Giles fell back on chilly, upper crust politeness in face of the vampire's tirade.
"Oh, you can speak a dozen languages and if your IQ hits the double century, I wouldn't be entirely surprised but where it counts you're a right stupid bastard."
Giles' mouth opened as if to make some sort of rebuttal, but Spike hadn't finished, yet.
"So, what the hell did you think you were doing? An' don't tell me it was just 'cause of some hocus pocus as your old buddy did that set things off, or I will punch you into next week. Joyce was a damn lady. Whether she was actin' like Joyce at fifteen or Joyce at fifty she was not some bloody slapper like that bint Grandpa brought up from LA as would jump the bones of the first half decent lookin' bloke she happened to come across.
Now, maybe, if there hadn't been some 'Izzy Wizzy let's get busy' nonsense goin' on then the gits like Hank 'Total Fuckwit' Summers might have got her so far into 'Once bitten, twice shy' mode that they sucked the spontaneity out of her... Maybe, without your magic sweeties nothing would have happened, but did it never! bloody! occur! to you that someone like Joyce, even before that ex of hers stomped all over every romantic dream she ever had, would not have shagged anyone that she didn't bloody care about in some way?
Did you even try to see her afterwards? Send her some flowers, anything to say it wasn't just some stupid mistake? ...Or did you just retreat into your damn tweed armour and try to pretend it didn't happen?"
"Not that I see that it's any of your business, but I suspect that Joyce found my presence rather embarrassing after that, so I stayed out of her way as much as possible for a time."
"Alright, I take it back... You're not an idiot! You're just a total fucking git. Of course she was bloody embarrassed. You'd just shared the most intimate experience your average bloody couple can share. She laid herself open, made herself vulnerable and what does the great bloody watcher do? Treat her like it's a mistake. Treat her like it's no big deal ...like she's some fuckin' tart that shags a different bloke every day."
"It wouldn't have been right to pursue a relationship. As Buffy's watcher, I had to maintain my objectivity-."
"Balls to that! You haven't been objective about Buffy since the first second you laid eyes on her. It's an impossibility for anyone as has ever met her to be objective about her. You can love her. You can hate her guts. You can be driven insane by her. You can do all three at once but you cannot be objective about her.
Okay, so it might not have worked out and it could have got messy, but you damn well owed it to all three of them to give it a shot." As quickly as it had erupted the vampire's anger seemed to evaporate, leaving only sadness.
"You could have tried . You could have made some sort of bloody effort and maybe Joyce wouldn't have had to spend the last years of her life alone... and maybe the girls could have had a real father who was there when they got in at night and when they got up in the morning.
You had a chance with one of the most amazing women it has ever been my privilege and honour to know... and you let her go because you were embarrassed. Worse than that, you gave her one more reason to give up on men altogether...
Tell me that isn't stupid."
Giles, however, decided to keep his silence.
"Hey, stranger..." Buffy looked up from a rare moment of peace and quiet reading one of her bridal magazines to greet Tara when she surfaced from her room for long enough to have some lunch. "How's it going?"
"Slowly... but I think I'm getting there. I'll scrape through the semester."
Buffy frowned. "Anything any of us can do to help? Can't have you flunking out because of all the time you spend helping us."
"When I get to where I need someone to quiz me, I'll take you up on that, provided we don't have another crisis in the meantime... though there is something I need to talk to you about, something that needs setting straight."
"Sounds ominous... but shoot. I'm listening."
"I really fail to see what Buffy hopes to achieve from this. It's not as if we haven't spoken to each other. Perhaps not frequently, but on such occasions as it has been necessary to communicate, we have been able to be civil to each other."
Spike rolled his eyes and turned to the elder vampire. "I don't suppose you want to give the 'kiddies' a few bob and send them out to the pictures or something? They come with sound and everything these days, don't you know? And there's this big glass building in the middle of town. I know you probably thought it was some sort of greenhouse, but turns out it's full of shops... They call that one a mall. And what do you know, some of them even sell clothes in junior's size, 'cause judging by the ripeness of what he's wearing that cheerleader of yours didn't get around to spending all his birthday money before she did her vanishing act."
"Birthday money?" Angel asked looking blank.
"Cheerleader was supposed to be gettin' the kid some clothes. I know she bought some stuff for him that day she went out with Buffy, but I doubt even she spent a grand in one afternoon. Didn't you find any cash knockin' around after she did her Shergar impersonation?"
"There was about five hundred bucks, give or take, in the safe," Angel admitted. "...But we thought one of the clients must have coughed up so we stuck it in the business account."
"Well, you can have the love birds there unstick it and go get him enough clothes that he can actually put some in the wash now and then. I would have thought an old-fashioned type like Holtz would've been big on all that cleanliness is next to godliness stuff, but can't say he seems to have passed it on."
"Are you saying my son smells?" Angel demanded.
"Are you saying you didn't notice?"
The brunette vampire looked decidedly uncomfortable. "We haven't really had time for shopping. We've been busy trying to find Cordy."
"And that's entirely understandable, but you're not goin' to find her in Sunnyhell, so why not let the sidekicks show the kid some fun for a day? Apart from anything else, I kinda doubt you want him to hear what he's goin' to hear if he stays."
"Gunn, Fred, Faith, you heard him..."
"Not that I want to argue, boss," Faith argued, "but isn't wandering around a mall in Sunnydale like wearing a sign that says 'Come arrest me'?"
"Not if you actually do up enough buttons on those clothes to make it look a little less like you're open for business." Spike offered helpfully. "Sisko, there, 'll probably draw more attention than you will."
"Remind me again why I was supposed to be helping save your life yesterday," Faith argued back.
"How about you remind me about laying your mitts on Joyce first?"
"Joyce?" Angel sounded puzzled, and then just decided it was probably best not to know and shook his head. "Just go, Faith. If you wait for Spike to show gratitude, take my word for it, you'll die of old age. Buy a wig, or a baseball cap, get you hair bleached blonde or just sit in the cinema where no one will see you."
Both Gunn and Fred looked over as if they would also like to protest. "You don't want any of us to stick around?" the bald one asked.
"That's kinda irrelevant seein' as, if I need to, I'm like to revoke all your invites until we let you know that this here matter is well and truly settled," Spike told him.
"And that would make a difference how, seein' as we're not the ones who need inviting?"
Spike looked over at Angel, his head tilting slightly to one side and his eyebrow raised. "This guy really arrogant enough to think that if you needed help, with junior and superslut both standin' right here that he'd be the one? Or that if I want him out of here he has a hope in hell of staying?"
Lifting his own brows in a movement reminiscent of the shifting of tectonic plates, Angel raised his left shoulder in a lopsided shrug to the first question and almost cracked a smile at the second. "Gunn, this... is... well, it's private between me and Giles. Spike's only here because... Why are you here?"
"Hey, it's my name, well, one of them, on the rent book. Think I want the watcher here to finish off what he started back in the factory? I'm rather fond of my home not being burned down... An' a certain little lady asked rather nicely." The blond turned and gave Gunn and to a lesser extent Faith a glare that said he had done enough arguing. "So get your coats an' your wally mittens an' wrap up nice an' warm, 'cause if you don't hear from us by nightfall, you best find somewhere else to sleep."
Fred looked like she might ask for an American translation of at least some of what Spike had just said but Angel forestalled her with a single shake of his head.
It was still a full minute before Spike closed the front door of his apartment with an echoing thump mere inches behind the heels of the LA hangers on.
The vamp peered suspiciously to either side of his grandsire.
"What?" Angel asked irritatedly.
"Just checkin' they aren't all attached by bungee cords or something, goin' to come bouncin' back to protect the poor, defenceless vamp from the big, bad librarian as soon as I break out the whisky."
Angel gave him a scowl that somehow managed to convey irritation and a dry amusement at the same time. "I don't think it's the librarian that they're worried about."
"Don't see why not. Reckon Rupie-bear here's come as close to markin' your card..." There was a brief pause as Spike unloaded a bottle of spirits from both his right and left pockets and pulled out a box of half a dozen crystal tumblers from a cupboard under the counter that divided the kitchen area from the living room. He continued again as he peeled small gold labels from three of the glasses, opened the first bottle and ostentatiously threw the cap into a waste paper basket at the far side of the room before sloshing a generous measure of single malt into each. "...As I ever have, but seein' as he didn't quite manage it I'm guessin' we're goin' to have to do this the hard way."
Giles almost snatched his from the blond's hand. "If it wasn't for the fact I might spill some very good whisky, given the morning... actually, given the time I've had since I set foot in California, I would knock your 'platinum baby ' block off ...and, if I hear the words 'Rupie-bear' uttered from anyone's lips other than the owner of the cat to whom they refer, I still will. Are we clear?"
Spike smirked as tiredness and stress brought just a little bit of Ripper to the fore. "Crystal, mate. Crystal.
How about a toast to start us on our way? To the one woman who could get all three of us alone in a room without anyone getting dead or dusted..."
"To Buffy," the other two replied before all three knocked back the contents of their glasses as if it were the cheapest polymalt.
Angel frowned. "You could have got Irish whiskey."
"I could have... and I could have raised a toast to Oliver Cromwell an' all... but I didn't. Live with it."
"I'm done. Can I watch TV now?"
"You've caught up with all the assignments you missed while you were off... and read all the chapters and everything ?" Buffy asked.
"Good thing I called the school this morning and got a list of what you'd be missing today, then." Buffy passed a sheet of paper with a list of further work to her sister. "...But, you can have a one hour break before you start."
"This is not going to achieve anything..." Giles reiterated for around the sixth time.
Tossing the empty whisky bottle into the same receptacle that housed its cap, Spike almost agreed. "Aside from hammering our way through a bottle of whisky that deserved far more leisurely attention, I'm inclined to agree. Figure we need to up the stakes."
Spike pulled out a bottle of JD from one of the kitchen cupboards. Having passed out the last of the first bottle of whisky, he took out three half pint glasses from another cupboard and split the bottle of bourbon between them. "We're goin' to play truth or consequences. Anybody as chickens out of answering a question with complete honesty has to drink two fingers of bourbon down in one. Answer truthfully and you get to ask the next one. Fail to answer and the third guy gets to ask you something instead. Can't ask exactly the same thing twice over, but similar questions are allowed. My decision is final as to what's askin' the same thing. Let's start with caveman brow.
What colour's your underwear?"
"Spike! This is a ridiculous idea..."
"Well, I guess either that's a forfeit or I could take it that you want to skip the easy questions and go straight to 'Why do you think Buffy believes that Giles would be uncomfortable having you at the wedding?' What d'you say?"
Angel himself looked decidedly uncomfortable before he admitted, "Black." The elder vampire cast a glance in Giles' direction but was too embarrassed to question him so he turned to Spike instead. "Yours?"
"Commando. Satin or silk?"
"Knew it, ya great ponce."
"Doesn't that chafe?"
"Only in a good way." Spike turned his attention to Giles, his tone more serious. "You know I'll never hurt her, don't you?"
"I... I believe, now, that you care deeply for her. I think she seems to be happier than she has been since Willow and the others brought her back. In time, I might come to have more faith as to the ultimate outcome but for now I'm doing my best to trust Buffy's instincts over my own and accept the situation. You'll forgive me if I say that it all seems to have developed rather quickly and under extreme circumstances and I have to wonder how easily your feelings would turn to bitterness and anger if the relationship were to sour."
Spike gave the former watcher a rueful smile and a nod. "Just wanted to know where I stood. Guess if that's the lay of the land you might want to hang around for a bit to pick up the pieces if you're right."
"Buffy's more than capable of picking up a phone... and I believe under the rules as you described them it was actually my turn to ask a question."
"That wasn't a question it was a statement an', yeah, your go."
Giles turned his attention to Angel. He seemed to hesitate for a second and then the watcher in him won out over the man. "Why do you believe that you and Darla were able to conceive when to the best of my knowledge such a thing has never happened before in all history?"
Angel shrugged. "I don't know. Ask Wes. He's the one who spent all the time on prophecies and theories. I was too busy trying to look after my son. I guess it's got to be the soul."
Giles shook his head. "Convenient scapegoat as that might be, and even if we were to assume that there were so facile an explanation for your fertility, it doesn't explain how a dead woman was able to bear a child."
Spike sized up Angel, watching every reaction and eventually shrugged. "Don't reckon he's quite coming up with all the theories that might have crossed his mind, but I don't think he really knows anything else either, so no forfeit, but reckon the watcher gets another question."
All eyes turned once more to Giles who in turn still watched Angel. The watcher sipped at his 'good' whisky as he contemplated his next question taking several seconds before he finally spoke. "Did you ever really think when you walked out on Buffy that it was for her own good? Ever believe, deep down in that much vaunted soul of yours, that she could find a human lover who could take the place of the knight in shining armour that you had built yourself up to be in her eyes?" The watcher's gaze pinned the vampire in place as easily as an expert secures his Lepidoptera.
"That... that's not a fair question. I wanted her to have a normal life. I- Joyce came to me, said Buffy couldn't make the hard choices... that she was too young... that it was up to me to do it."
"You still haven't answered the man, 'Gelus. Did you really believe when you walked out on her that she would be able to find happiness with a human?"
Angel's eyes dropped to his glass but it was a simple yes or no and refusing to answer would be every bit as telling as the truth. "No, I didn't think she would find someone else, not someone who'd stick. I thought I could give her some space, a chance to grow, a chance to try a relationship with a guy her own age and then when we were both adults... I thought we were soulmates. I came back from hell for her... I thought we had all the time in the world... If I stayed away long enough for her to grow up a bit, there was always the hope that some day I'd find a way around the curse, but I had to let her think it was over for good, otherwise everyone would say that she never had her real chance at a normal life. Okay?"
Giles' face was cold as ice, but Spike's was a mask of fury and the glass of bourbon that he had happened to be drinking from shattered in his fist, leaving a trail of mixed blood and alcohol to drip unheeded from his hand as he tried to control the urge to free his demon.
"How the hell can you even ask that? You set out to deliberately break her heart, thinkin' you could just trot back when you felt like it and pick up the pieces. An' you're the one that's meant to have the soul?"
"Well," Giles said calmly as he fetched a clean dishtowel from the kitchen to stem the blood flow from Spike's hand. "I think, whatever doubts I may have regarding the longevity of your relationship with Buffy, I am at least grateful that she has been spared that fate."
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