Note: Thanks to my beta t_geyer for her unending patience, perseverance and support.
Monday, May 20th, 2002
"Does she know?" Angel asked.
"Harm? Hell, no. She might not be the sharpest tool in the box but she at least had enough 'nous' to work out that if she didn't have a real 'Big Bad' at her back she'd last about as long in Sunnydale as an ice cube in a sauna. She never stayed around long enough to know the difference between vamps in general and her sire in particular. An' I wasn't about to tell her."
The blond shook his head. "An' on the off chance you run into her, I'd keep your damn mouth shut. Right now, so far as Buffy's concerned Harm was a casualty of war, regrettable, but, under the circumstances, unavoidable. Buffy finds out where you fit into the story an' she's gonna feel as responsible for the littlest vampire as she does for my resident computer genius... An' if Harm finds out, sooner or later, that mouth of hers will flap in front of Buffy. So..."
Giles looked puzzled. "I can understand your reluctance to mention it now. What I don't understand is why you were so restrained when you and she were an item."
Spike's thoughts slipped back to a cantina in Mexico. Dru had left him, for the second and final time, scant weeks before, and he had spent most of those weeks trying to drown himself in a bottle. He had been propping up the bar, and before he even saw her, her scent had been wafted across the room by the draught from the open door. It was the scent of family, the scent of the only home he'd known in over a century, and if he closed his eyes and tried really hard he could almost make himself believe it was the scent of his beloved Dru. So instead of tequila, he had drowned himself in her. He hadn't wooed her or courted her. He had simply taken possession of her. He'd swept her from that place back to the house where he had been staying and for four long days he had done nothing other than take brutal comfort in her body and more than anything in that glorious scent. Even drunk as he'd been when Harmony pushed open that swing door, he'd known if she had realised that he only wanted her because she reminded him of Dru he would have been making a rod for his own back.
It was only when he felt the wave of sympathy from Jenny, partly for him but even more for the blonde of whom he had taken advantage, that he realised he wasn't the only one who had been party to the memories. He was quick to cover his embarrassment with bravado. "Think I wanted her thinkin' she had any more claim on me than she already did?"
"But, as you pointed out, you bear no direct responsibility for her."
"Let's just say my life was easier with her not knowin'. Besides with Harm around she could do plenty talking for the both of us... if you didn't keep her mouth otherwise occupied," he added with a wicked grin.
Giles grimaced. "Would you please bear in mind that you are talking about one of my former pupils? Harmony may never actually have visited the library, so far as I know, but still I feel an element of responsibility toward her and I really do not want to consider the sort of images that you appear to wish to conjure up."
"Try being in here with your former and then talk to me about unwanted images. I only hope she's just rememberin' stuff, 'cause if she's makin' plans for later, she damn well better find another body first. An' speaking of your lady, why don't you two get on with it so that I can have my body back sometime in the not too distant?"
Giles watched as a softness seemed to come into Spike's eyes before his lips moved again. "I've missed you, Rupert, sort of... It's hard to explain. I checked in on you once in a while, too."
"I missed you, too." The watcher looked uncomfortably over to where Angel still sat on the carpet. "I wonder if perhaps we could go somewhere more private."
Spike's lip twisted downward at one side. "Not without leaving the flat. At least, he'll be able to hear you anywhere in the flat. You can get to where he can't see but that's about it, an' I suspect he's gonna have to take part in this thing somewhere along the line."
Jenny sent a thought Spike's way and an evil grin decorated his face for a fraction of a second. "Come with us, watcher," Spike said and then headed for the bathroom once more, where he began to run a bath from the cold water tap.
"Is that enough noise to cover up what we're saying?" Giles asked.
"I thought you watchers were meant to know all about vampires? Course it isn't, but that's not what it's for. The lady pointed out that if we get him sobered up and deal with his part in this business, then we can give him the orbs and send him to find his playmates while you an' her get some peace an' quiet... but, first, we need him sober." Spike dipped a fingertip in the bathtub. "Could use a little something..."
The blond fairly obviously wanted to leave the room, but something seemed to hold him back until some sort of deal was struck between him and the soul with whom he was co-habiting. His hand reached out slowly toward Giles' face and the warmth in his eyes left no doubt in Giles' mind that, even if the fingers that ran over his cheekbones had been toughened by years of fighting, the spirit that made them move over his skin, tenderly tracing the crow's feet at the corner of his eye and lifting his hair to gauge how the grey strands had spread from just a smattering to become the predominant colouring, was all Jenny.
"Was it so very hard?" she asked.
Giles shrugged. "A lot has happened. It... well..."
"Four years shouldn't have made that much difference. You should have found someone else, Rupert. Being strong is fine but you can't be strong all of the time. You need someone who can be strong for you now and again. Someone to share the burden."
"I- There- Em, there is someone else. We, well, we're trying for a family. I think you would like her."
"Me liking her isn't the problem. You liking her is..." Spike slid around the edge of the door with a grace far more feminine than his own, returning a minute or two later with a bag of ice cubes large enough to fill almost a full drawer of the freezer section of his fridge-freezer.
"I'm not even going to ask why you feel the need to keep that much ice on hand," Giles said dryly as Spike emptied the ice into the rapidly filling bath.
"An' I won't say nothin' about the Foreign Languages section," Spike replied, smirking when Giles turned a livid pink.
"Well, I guess unless I want some very pissed off downstairs neighbours that's about as much water as we need. If we need to carry him you can get his feet." Spike began to unbutton his shirt as he walked back through to the living room, taking it off to avoid the inevitable soaking.
"Why thank you," the former librarian muttered sarcastically under his breath. "I just love being kicked by supernaturally strong drunks."
Perhaps it had been the shock of discovering the latest addition to the family or more likely the half pint of bourbon he had downed when he found out, but this time it looked like Angel really had passed out. In fact, this time Spike was certain he wasn't faking, otherwise he would have started struggling before he hit the ice-laden water instead of waiting until afterwards. Spike held the larger vamp under while he snarled and struggled, the blond's arm locked at the elbow, pressing all his upper body weight onto Angel's chest to keep him down. He made sure he kept the brunette under for a slow count of twenty before he released his grip and stepped quickly back.
He waited until the other vamp had sat up in the tub, his face an angry mask, and then tossed him a towel.
"Gee thanks, Spike. You couldn't even take my shoes off first? And no doubt it never even crossed your mind that these trousers might be 'Dry Clean Only'?"
"Well... It wouldn't have been fair on Rupert to expect him to deal with your socks... an' the other did occur but then I thought it served you right for bein' a poncy git." Spike leaned backwards to evade the grasping hand that reached towards him, no doubt believing that he too could benefit from some time in the tub. "Ah-Ah-Ah! No manhandling your host. Besides I think you an' the lady have enough scores to settle without you dumping her in there." In an instant Angel's expression switched from anger to contrition, not that anyone without Spike's twenty years of experience would have been able to spot the difference. "Get yourself dried off. I'll find you some clothes an' stick the kettle on." The blond left the room, only to stick his head back round the door seconds later when he recognised a familiar scent in the air. "An' try not to use all my hair gel."
By the time Spike had rummaged around enough to find some clothes sufficiently oversized on him to accommodate Angel, Giles had put on a pot of extra strength coffee. In the end, Spike's choices had been rather limited. It was patently obvious that none of his jeans were going to stretch to cover Angel's larger... almost everything. Spike had visions of his grandsire struggling with the tight pants stuck halfway up his thighs and tempting as the prospect was he decided to skip it. Since all his older, less fitted shirts had gone the same way as his album collection, he couldn't even manage anything in that respect. So, all that was left was a pair of black satin pyjama bottoms, which, instead of being loose, stretched across Angel's thighs like a second skin and a black T-shirt which fitted equally snugly around his gut until it left a one inch gap between it and the pyjama bottoms.
Angel kept his fingers crossed as he loaded his wet clothes into Spike's tumble dryer, showing a not inconsiderable amount of cleavage as he bent over. "Don't you even have a robe?"
"For what? To keep me warm when I get out the bath? ...Like I'm not just going to end up at room temperature, anyway. Count yourself lucky. A month ago, I didn't own any pyjamas. Do you even own a pair of jeans?" Spike countered. "Or do you have to pose twenty four hours of every day?"
"Like you buy jeans that tight for any other reason."
"Ladies..." Giles pushed a mug of coffee, the liquid itself completely obscured beneath a raft of thick cream swirls, into Spike's hand and a black coffee into Angel's. Spike scowled as he felt Jenny eagerly anticipate the taste of the creamy beverage, knowing full well that the watcher was aware that he drank his black. "If the two of you can put your handbags away for just a few minutes maybe we can get a little closer to getting this sorted out. Time is moving on, and Buffy will be here soon. I think, just in case, it would be prudent to resolve as much as possible before she gets here, since Spike is quite possibly so besotted that her mere presence might make him lose Jenny's soul."
Spike cleared his throat, or rather Jenny did it for him. "Actually, Rupert, it's me who has to experience perfect happiness..."
There was barely space for a breath before the same lips spat out an expletive. "Oh balls!"
Then, Jenny switched back into the attack. "So... Angel... What do you have to say?"
"Em, well, I'm sorry... obviously. I mean you- you can't know how awful I felt once I got my soul back and I realised what I had done."
"Worse than being dead? Worse than knowing that the guy I love was hurting because we put off saying all the things that had to be said and now he couldn't say them. That sort of awful?"
Angel stared down at his satin-bound thighs unable to look either Jenny or Giles in the face. "I'm sorry," he mumbled. "Really, truly sorry. I'd do anything if it meant you could forgive me."
Only Spike or Jenny could have told you which one was responsible for the snort of disbelief. "You're asking me, someone raised from infancy to seek revenge for the wrongs you did to my people, to forgive you? You want me to absolve you for killing another child of the tribe and all her family... even if that was just one uncle?"
Angel took a deep breath and steeled himself to look into her cold dark eyes, only when he did they were by no means as cold as he expected. "It's all I can do. If I could take back time, then, I would-."
Spike's normal gruff tone interrupted. "Don't even think about it. Red tryin' is quite enough."
Angel stared at the other vampire for a second, wondering if he could possibly have heard correctly, but eventually realising that that was a story for another time. "Tell me how I can make amends."
"You want to know what you can do? You can take responsibility for your actions. You can never say again, 'but I didn't have my soul when I did that.' Then, you can ask for forgiveness."
"But-." Instinctively, Angel began to protest but only for a second before he gave a resigned sigh. "If that is the price of your forgiveness then..."
Spike's face split into a grin. "Heck, no!" Jenny's gesture of dismissal came out undeniably camp when transposed into Spike's body. "Even I know that would be like expecting a shark to swim backwards, but you should at least try... If nothing else, it just sounds so pathetic when you keep trotting it back out. You don't even believe that it's an excuse. If you really did, you wouldn't need my forgiveness. If you really believed you weren't responsible for the things you did without the soul, you wouldn't feel guilty for any of it, which would pretty much make the whole curse thing totally pointless."
"So where does that leave us? Does that mean you can't forgive me?" Angel asked.
"Angel, I forgave you long ago. If I hadn't, I would have spent the last few years... and believe me, to me, it seems like a lot more than four, in a far less pleasant place... but you do need to take responsibility for the things you've done."
"Just like that?"
"What? Too easy? It doesn't seem real because you haven't earned it? That's your problem, not mine. I can't help you... and it was anything but easy. It took me a long time to stop resenting you, to stop hating you for what you did to him, even more than for what you did to me. My torment was over quickly. What you took from Rupert..." Spike's shoulders shrugged and Jenny shook his head before she continued.
"If you feel you need to earn forgiveness, then, you keep right on trying to earn it, but the fact is, forgiveness has nothing to do with whether someone earns it or not. Justice is where you have to try to balance the scales. Justice is about apportioning blame and responsibility and trying to atone for your actions. Guilt, forgiveness, even vengeance aren't like that. We give forgiveness to others because they need it or because to refuse it lessens us. To carry around a burden of bitterness, to pursue unrelenting vengeance... that demeans us all. That is why I forgive you. That is why I hope Rupert will be able to forgive you, not for you, but because he shouldn't have to carry that weight around any more. I don't know if he'll ever be free from the consequences of what happened, but for him to even have a chance to regain what you took from him then forgiving you is just a step along the way. It doesn't matter whether you deserve it or not."
Jenny formed Spike's lips into a wicked smile as she turned to Giles. "I always did get a kick out of going for that shell-shocked look."
Giles recovered enough to pull off his glasses and start polishing them. "As I recall," he told her with a wry smile, "you never had much problem getting it either."
"No, I never did," she agreed, "but, then... I always said you were a fuddy duddy." She grinned mischievously as the librarian coloured once more, remembering that wasn't quite her complete description of him.
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