Cross-posted from [info]summer_of_giles. Giles/Spike, set in and around season 4,after Pangs, but diverges from canon enough to have Giles re-evaluating old assumptions about vampires and Spike in particular.
Many thanks to [info]slaymesoftly who responded to my call for a beta. She gave excellent advice. All subsequent errors are my own.

Nominated for Best Slash Pairing, Round 12 at Bodice Ripper Awards



And No Birds Sing


by
Twilightofmagic


Bloody hell.” Giles stood up, looking in dismay at the pool of whisky spreading across his blotter and puddling on his desk. He dabbed at it ineffectively with a hanky, trying to prevent it from smearing the notes he’d been taking. Apart from the ruined blotter, it was a waste of obscenely expensive single malt he’d accidentally tipped over. A comic picture of himself wringing his hanky into his mouth flashed through his mind, followed by the realization that part of him was seriously considering it. And his trousers were damp. “Bloody hell,” he said again. A dark stain approximately the shape of Iceland was blooming on the fabric.

Things had been beyond irritating lately. In Giles’ experience, bad things happened in threes, at least they used to before he came to Sunnydale where they were more or less constant. But in his domestic life at least, there had been a clump of three what with hostile Chumash spirits crashing through his windows, Spike and Buffy making disgusting kissing noises—thank God for magical blindness—and an obstreperous vampire chained in his bathtub. Dribbling expensive whisky away was just par for the course.

Up in his bedroom, he stripped off his damp trousers and pulled a pair of faded jeans from his closet. And Olivia was due in a few days. She was a level-headed woman, but a demon in the house was a bit much. In any case, he had plans for that bathtub and though Spike was no longer sleeping in it, a bit of privacy would be nice. A few candles, some chilled wine and…oh God it had been so long since he had someone soft and fragrant in his bed. Spike had to go. First choice was shove him out the door at high noon, a plan with obvious appeal. He sighed. But not on. There might be some particle of useful information to be gained from him.

The slamming of a fridge door downstairs indicated Spike had come in, looking for food. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was just the pig’s blood, but the wretch pilfered everything he could get his hands on. Damn, the malt was out on the desk in plain sight. With a groan of frustration, Giles bounded down the stairs and came to a halt at the bottom. The living room was empty. He peered into the kitchen.

“Spike?”

The mantel clock ticked discreetly.

“Spike? Are you here? I’ve got something to say to you.”

A deep voice emerged from behind him.

“And I’m all ears. And fangs and a kick up the arse for good measure when I get this chip out.”

Giles looked over at his chesterfield where a pale hand arched like a graceful crane above the back, suspending a bag of blood. An IV tube led down to the invisible vampire.

“Get your boots off my furniture,” Giles said, as he knocked them down on his way past. “And, for God’s sake, don’t get blood on the cushions.”

Spike was reclining at leisure, one hand holding up the blood bag and the other flipping the pages of Q.

Giles snatched the magazine from his hand in exasperation. “Don’t touch my things. I haven’t read it yet.”

Spike stopped sucking on the tube, his cheeks hollowed, but one eyebrow arched high. It didn’t need the flash from the eyes to see where he was going.

“Your loss, mate. I’ll bet nobody’s touched your…”—he paused—“things for so long you don’t remember what they’re for.” He smiled nastily.

The sun hadn’t quite gone down yet. Still a chance to shove him out the door and remove one huge irritation in a satisfying burst of flame. Quick, tidy, final: a gloriously dead ex-Spike. The roses could do with some ash.

Spike slurped the last of his blood and slouched to the kitchen, tossing the empty bag in the rubbish bin. He left debris in his wake wherever he went, but at least cleaned up after eating. “Don’t want to be attracting flies,” he’d said the first time Giles saw him disposing of the empty bags. Giles had nodded, surprised. Without thinking about it closely, he’d assumed vampires weren’t too nice about personal hygiene and general cleanliness. Lord of the flies and all that. Though Spike turned out to be spotlessly clean, he couldn’t help noticing when he was leaning over him to secure the chains. Whiff of cigarette smoke, but also the light tang of soap.

“You can’t stay here.”

Spike was rummaging in the cupboards, but stopped to look at him.

“Well, I’m not moving. Got nowhere to go.” He resumed his search for whatever it was he wanted, pulling boxes out and tossing them back in.

“Stop that. You’re making a mess in there.”

“I’m still hungry. Got any Doritos?” Spike glanced at the window. “Never mind, sun’s down. Just give me some money. I’ll get something out.”

“I’m not giving you any money.” Bloody cheek.

“Fine. I’ll just stay here and get on your nerves.” He walked over to the record collection and began to riffle through.

Giles practically leapt across the room in his rush to get Spike away. Only yesterday he’d found a scratch on one of his favourites. He shoved twenty dollars into his hand and pushed him toward the door.

“Get out. And stay away as long as possible.”

“All right, all right.” Spike leaned against the pressure, but at the doorway, snatched his duster off the hook and opened the door.

“Don’t wait up.” He blew a kiss and left.

With a relieved sigh, Giles closed the door and went back to his desk. The smell of whisky was still in the air, but the blotter was almost dry. He sat down and shuffled his notes, trying to see where he’d left off.

As he leaned forward, a piece of paper peeking out from beneath the blotter caught his eye. He pulled it out and opened the sheet, flattening it to read the neat writing. It wasn’t his own, and had nothing to do with the notes he’d been working on before. His pen though. He recognized the ink and the luxurious trace of its nib. The writer was obviously used to writing with a good pen and had been taught penmanship, judging by the graceful cursives and elegant capitals.

He scanned the text. A fragment of poetry, Byron if he remembered correctly, from Manfred. Giles rubbed his forehead, trying to remember tucking the paper away. Was it something he’d come across and liked or thought important in some way? And why would he put it under his blotter where he was likely to forget it? He turned it over. On the other side was a list, a slightly wonky shopping list: cigarettes—all right, that was ordinary enough—but also cervat whiskers, wolfsbane, sage, amethyst and walnuts. Plus, a rough diagram. Giles turned the paper around in his hand, trying to recognize what it was. It was a crude drawing of something curved with string? cord? wound around it and the ends dangling. Turned sideways it looked like a bike lock. Or possibly a long horn bull. Most likely a doodle.

Giles sat back in his chair, puzzling over the odd combination of information. Poetry, ingredients for something and a drawing that could be practically anything. After a couple of minutes of fruitless thought, he put the paper aside. It didn’t make sense and he had more important things to get on with.

Things got busy for a while, and as far as being with Olivia again, wonderfully busy. It hadn’t taken long to recover the easy familiarity with each other’s bodies and he sank into hers with an almost prayerful gratitude borne of his long bout of celibacy and loneliness. But it didn’t last. By the end of her stay, after the Gentlemen and her apprehension for the first time of the realities of his life, she was gone, kissing him affectionately on his cheek. She’d hugged him for a long time and he knew it was a different kind of farewell than all the others.

When he got home from the airport, aimless and despondent, he lay down and stared at the ceiling. He might have fallen into a doze. At any rate, his thoughts became fluid, part dream and part drifting contemplation. And then, as if clouds cleared in a blue sky, he was wide awake. The list of ingredients were for a spell, a forgetting spell. And the drawing…Giles got up and went downstairs to his desk. He’d tucked the piece of paper in a book and as he unfolded it again, the image suddenly made sense. It looked like an electromagnet. A forgetting spell and a magnet. Why would these two things be on the same list? Thoroughly intrigued, Giles began to pace, staring down at the paper.

The forgetting spell was more or less self-explanatory. Someone wanted presumably to forget something or make someone else forget. But an electromagnet. What was that for? Giles stopped at his desk, throwing the paper down. Perhaps the more important question was whose list was this and, for that matter, how had it got under his blotter. The only people who ever came to his condo were Buffy, Willow and Xander. And Anya, of course. That must be it. The logical person of the four was Willow, though it was strange that she’d be wanting to do a forgetting spell and why would she need a magnet? Perhaps some plan she hadn’t shared with him yet.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Giles. You home?” Buffy was halfway into the living room before she spotted him in the kitchen. The rest of them trailed in, still in the midst of conversation. “Do you want to come with us to…” She stopped, noticing his frown.

He removed his glasses to give them the full force of his annoyance.

“Is knocking before entering not taught to children in North America?”

“What?” Buffy’s brow furrowed as she tried to catch up. “Oh, sorry.” She waved at Xander to close the door. “We just thought maybe you’d like to come to the Bronze, hang out for a while, unstress.”

“I’m quite ‘unstressed’ as you call it, thank you.” He ignored Xander’s skeptical look and came through to his desk, pulling out the book where he’d put the mystery shopping list. “Willow, does this belong to you?”

Willow took the paper from him and read it silently, moving her lips.

“This poem? No, it’s not mine. Not so good with the old similes and metaphors.” She gave a cheerful smile as she handed it back. “I’m with Xander, why can’t poets just say what they mean?” Xander gave a confirming grin.

Giles turned the paper. “No, not the poem, the list on the other side.” He showed her. “It’s the ingredients for a forgetting spell, I think.”

Willow looked at the paper again, reading the items aloud, considering.

“Well, it could be for forgetting, but I’m not sure about the walnuts. Might be a charm for…” Suddenly, she blushed.

At Giles’ enquiring eyebrow, she continued. “You know, when men can’t…” Her own eyebrows rose in embarrassment, eyes beseeching Xander who took up the baton.

“Impotence. Erectile dysfunction. Performing with Flacido Domingo. The Null Monte. Disappointing Miss Daisy…”

“Stop, I beg of you, cease right this minute.” Giles covered his eyes. “It’s not for that. I’ve checked. It’s a forgetting spell.”

After they’d left, Giles sat down to look at the poem more closely. Finding the identity of the writer had become a personal project and was beginning to occupy his mind at every spare moment. Whoever had written the list and drawn the magnet also knew Byron, a poet whose passionate spirit Giles had loved in his youth, but now thought self-indulgent. But still, there must have been something in the copied verse that appealed to the writer.

And on thy head I pour the vial
Which doth devote thee to this trial;
Nor to slumber, nor to die,
Shall be in thy destiny;
Though thy death shall still seem near
To thy wish, but as a fear;
Lo! the spell now works around thee,
And the clankless chain hath bound thee;
O'er thy heart and brain together
Hath the word been pass'd--now wither!


After reading it over several times, Giles gave up. Without some idea of how he’d come by the slip of paper, there was simply no context to provide a starting point. It was imagining shapes in clouds.

In the next few days, Spike showed up with some frequency, usually striding in through the front door, coat tails swinging, and generally helped himself to whatever he wanted despite Giles’ protestations. There were signs he came over when Giles wasn’t home, judging by books that had been moved from their usual places, record covers left lying on the floor, the falling level on the bottle of whisky. It was so disturbing to have his personal space invaded that Giles seriously considered changing the lock. Much overdue, considering that everyone simply barged in without a second thought.

Finally, Giles caught him at it. Giles had been at the public library, checking back issues of county newspapers and found his front door open, though he’d taken care to lock up before he left. Spike was sitting at his desk writing and when he saw Giles, quickly pocketed the bit of paper.

“What part of don’t touch my things do you not understand?” Giles said, reaching out to take his favourite pen from Spike’s fingers.

“How did you get in?” He capped it and put it in his top pocket.

Spike leaned back and flexed his fingers.

“Not a vampire worth his salt if he can’t pick a lock. It’s basic training for us lot.”

“You get trained to be a vampire?” Giles said, distracted by the notion and then shook his head. Of course, they weren’t. Spike was grinning broadly.

“Gotcha.”

Inspired by a sudden thought, Giles asked, “What were you writing when I came in.”

“Nothing.”

“Don’t lie. It was obviously something. Show me.” Giles held out his hand.

Spike stood and headed toward the door. “Nothing that you’d be interested in.” He shrugged on his coat. “Unless you follow the horses.”

“Follow the horses…” Giles said slowly. “Oh, racehorses. You’re betting…wait a minute, where did you get money to gamble?”

Spike threw his arms into the air in monster mode and made a growly face. Giles looked at him impassively.

“What’s that supposed to be? You can’t bite.”

“Wanker. The punters don’t know. Practically fall over themselves, trying to get money out of their pockets fast enough.”

“You…you..” Giles found himself spluttering. “I gave you money only because…” And now he found himself wondering exactly why he’d been shelling out.

“Because you’re a pillock. But don’t think I haven’t appreciated it.”

With a cocky smile, he was gone.

As his mind drifted that night in bed, Giles thought about the writer of the list and the poem. There was one obvious person who had access to his condo, so obvious it hadn’t occurred to him that Spike had as much opportunity to write something and leave it under the blotter as anyone else. Why he might want a forgetting spell was wasn’t clear. But there were any number of ways a spell like that would be useful, especially for someone of a larcenous disposition. And electromagnets disrupted electrical systems. Who was desperate to get a chip out of his head, or at least disable it? With a growing sense of the pieces falling into place, Giles reviewed the evidence. It all fit. And then it fell apart again. Byron. Poetry. There was no way a lout like Spike would appreciate literature. Racing forms and pornography, but not 19th century poetry. With a deep sigh, Giles turned over and fell asleep.

An unhappy spell as a Fyarl demon interrupted any further investigation. Bloody Ethan. How could he have forgotten what a bastard he was? Giles still had disturbing images of blood and mayhem in his head, though thankfully not anything he’d actually done, much as he wanted to. And, for once in his evil life, Spike was actually quite useful, even though he’d extorted yet more money. He would be sent the bill for car repairs. So, the next time Giles found him stretched out on his chesterfield, he wasn’t as annoyed as usual. In fact, it gave an opportunity to question him.

“Spike, is this yours? I found it under my blotter.”

Spike extended a languid arm and took the slip of paper from him, opening it with his thumb. He stared at it for a long time and then handed it back.

“Nope. Not mine.” He sat up and stretched, his muscles flexing as he rotated his arms. “Do I look like the type to be writing poncy poems wherever I go? Got any beer?”

He bounced up and headed toward the kitchen.

“Yes. No. Not for you.” Giles followed him.

“Look at it again. The other side.” Giles thrust the paper at him.

Spike looked at it and then brushed past, tossing it on the counter.

“Told you. It’s not mine.” He grabbed his coat. “By the way, I left the pieces in the rubbish bin outside.”

“What pieces? Pieces of what?” By the time Giles had got to the door, Spike was gone.

The discovery of a second poem deepened the mystery. Where on earth were they coming from? Giles was careful with his paperwork and kept his research notes and other materials organized, everything filed away for ease of access. He began to worry about his memory. Was this the subtle beginnings of mental decline? He’d always taken a quiet pride in his ability to recall the most obscure bits of information and now he was forgetting things.

This one had fallen between the cushions of the chesterfield and he’d found it when he was searching for a magazine he’d laid aside. Sometimes they slipped down the back. The magazine turned out to be there, and as he pulled it out, the paper came too. It was the beginning of Coleridge’s Kubla Khan.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the secret river, ran
Down to a sunless sea.


The next line was broken off in the middle and the ink smeared as if the writer had been interrupted and tucked the poem away quickly.

Giles sat down, holding the paper in his hand and staring at the sweeping curve of the letters, fascinated. The handwriting was simply not the meandering scrawl one saw nowadays. He’d stood once, completely befuddled, looking at a note Xander had left on his front door. It appeared nothing more than a random doodle and he peered at it, trying to discern words. The signature was legible, but the rest was incomprehensible. He thought there might be the word ‘dolly’ and perhaps ‘pickle’, but it really could have been anything. Evidently, years of reading ancient languages was of no help in interpreting modernese. The mystery was resolved when Xander arrived with a pizza and soft drinks, followed by the rest of the crew. Apparently he’d offered to supply dinner for that night’s research party.

Once again, he was stumped. The old fashioned handwriting pointed to Spike, unlikely as he was, but the only one old enough to have learned such an ornate style. And the poem did refer to a ‘demon lover’. Giles rubbed his eyes in frustration. It just would not come together. No one with Spike’s accent would write in such a fashion. It was too mannered, polished, clearly belonging to a different class than Spike’s rough beginnings. Unable to make anything of the puzzle, Giles put the paper away with the other and went to bed.

The usual events of Sunnydale life took over and the nagging mystery of the hidden notes fell into the background. Giles had no time for anything other than trying to catch up. The discovery that no one had bothered to tell him about the Initiative and his encounter with the insufferable Maggie Walsh had left him in a black mood and, to tell the truth, alienated from the youngsters. Apparently, he’d become so negligible in their lives that they ‘forgot’ to bring him key information.

Evenings seemed longer nowadays and Giles was beset with a sense of aimlessness. He found himself wandering around the condo, vaguely looking for something to fill the hours. One after another, he’d put records on the turntable, listen for a few minutes and then decide he wasn’t in the mood for that particular album. He’d put on another, lie down, try to get into the music and find his mind wandering and the music faded into the background. Eventually he gave up and made himself some tea, drinking it moodily, staring into the empty fireplace. He didn’t usually dwell on his inner life, but as he gazed around him at the things he’d accumulated in his new life in California, they all seemed meaningless. Just objects. The books obviously were necessary, but why the artifacts and the pictures on the wall, chosen for reasons that seemed elusive now?

This inability to focus was unlike him and similarly, the vague sense of depression. Rising from the chesterfield, he strolled over to the bookshelf, tilting his head to look at titles. Metaphysics, philosophy, ancient languages, magic, history, religion. Finally, his eyes stopped at a large book covered in burgundy leather. The Romantic Poets. It was a text from university days. As a young man, he’d loved the Romantics—the idealism, passion, their sheer exuberance for life. But he hadn’t read them for years, eventually finding them too self-indulgent, cloying.

Pulling the book off the shelf, he returned to the chesterfield and began to read poems he remembered enjoying so many years ago. Christabel, Ozymandias, Ode on a Grecian Urn, Don Juan. They all appealed to a part of him he’d almost forgotten, perhaps should never have let go. As he turned the pages, Ethan’s mocking face rose in his imagination. Ethan hated the Romantics and whenever he found Giles reading, he’d mince about, flicking his hair back and striking grandiose poses until Giles threw his empty beer can at him to make him shut up. And then wrestle him onto the bed or the nearest flat surface and allow himself to be distracted in ways that only Ethan knew how.

As he turned the next page, something fluttered down onto the carpet. Giles stooped to retrieve it. Another folded slip of paper covered with the same elegant writing as the first, and yet another poem, this time complete, La Belle Dame Sans Merci by Keats. The writer had taken some care in transcribing it; there were no cross outs and the lines flowed beautifully over the page. Reading through the stanzas, Giles found himself entering the delicate atmosphere of the poem and the deep sense of a world lost, of the pale knight, the faery lover and their brief time together. When he got to the last stanza, he fully remembered why he’d loved these poets.

And this is why I sojourn here,
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.


He let the paper fall onto the open book and sat back, resting his head on the back of the couch and staring into the shadows crowding the room. The poem moved him, stirred feelings too indefinite to name, a sense of melancholy, yearning for something just beyond the grasp of reason. And as he deepened into a reverie, the realization came to him that he was half in love with the person who cared about these poems and wrote them down so lovingly. He’d felt it before, this infatuation with a mind revealed only through words on a page, as if one mind called out to another, resonated to the same frequency.

Which is why it couldn’t be Spike, regardless of the spell and the diagram on the first sheet of paper that seemed attempts to deal with his plight. There was no way a person like Spike had the sensibilities to appreciate poetry in the first place and certainly not this particular poem. He was raw and undisciplined, filled with savage appetites. And evil. Not to mention soulless. It was inconceivable.

Which is also why the next morning, he was standing in the kitchen in shock. It had been staring him in the face all the time, the note stuck to the fridge door with a large wad of pink gum: Buy beer. And Weetabix while you’re about it. It had been there so long, he simply didn’t see it any more. It was in the same handwriting. Now that he was looking at it clearly, he realized when he’d seen it the first time, he’d been surprised that a note from Spike was written in such beautiful script. It simply didn’t fit the foul-mouthed punk he knew. But something had interrupted him before he had chance to think any more about it, a phone call or someone at his door.

So gobsmacked was not too strong a word. He strode through to the living room to find the other pieces of paper and laid them side by side, comparing individual letters. But it had been obvious from the first moment: it was the same writer. For the first time, he could hardly wait for Spike’s arrival and he would arrive before long. He clearly regarded Giles’ house as an extension of his own digs, a local pantry and liquor store, not to mention warehouse of objects that could be pawned.

But he didn’t show up that day, or the next. In the interim, Giles found himself mulling over the tantalizing picture of Spike that had emerged from the evidence in the poems he’d chosen. The first note contained only a fragment from Byron’s long poem Manfred, and Giles had to go back to his Romantics book to find the full text. Why had this particular poem appealed to Spike, spoken to him enough that he wanted to copy that particular stanza?

Reading it again after so many years, he found it pretentious. All that maundering on about the superior man, so far above others in understanding and intellectual powers. Alienated from the rest of the human race, but harboring a hidden guilt; in Manfred’s case, a lost love, leaving him seeking nothing but the end to his suffering. His was a life lived too long and rendered ashes through loneliness, pain and suffering. To a modern taste, it was all a bit much, so much forehead slapping and slouching around despondently in swirling cloaks. And yet, the fragment from Manfred and La Belle Dame Sans Merci had similarities: both centred on a great love that became lost to the protagonist and both spoke of a deep loneliness.

And the ending, where the Abbott comes to Manfred’s tower to stop him from committing suicide.

This should have been a noble creature: he
Hath all the energy which would have made
A goodly frame of glorious elements,
Had they been wisely mingled; as it is,
It is an awful chaos-- light and darkness,
And mind and dust-- and passions and pure thoughts,
Mix'd, and contending without end or order,
All dormant or destructive. He will perish,
And yet he must not.


He should see Spike as a ‘noble creature’? Chaotic, yes, but someone with ‘pure thoughts’? Hardly likely. Still, it was conceivable that Spike was lonely. With the chip in his head, he was outcast from his own kind and certainly only tolerated at best by the youngsters and himself. Xander especially never lost an opportunity to tell Spike how much he was despised. And Buffy threatened him almost daily, taunting him with his helplessness. For a once powerful man--and when had he started to think of him as a man?--nothing could be more demeaning. None of it seemed to penetrate though. Spike gave as good as he got. Grudgingly, Giles thought he had to give him that much. One could almost admire his spirit.

On the third evening, Giles realized he’d become obsessed. He stood in the kitchen, tea in his hand, his mind a grey fog of swirling thoughts. Everything he’d learned about vampires was in question as he tried to make the two pictures slide over each other and lock: the man who loved poetry and the soulless demon. A vampire had the body of a man, but the demon hollowed out everything he’d been. Didn’t it require a soul to have a sense of beauty or even to feel the sensations of love, loneliness, loss? And quite apart from that, nothing about the Spike he knew fit the man who copied the poems in that beautiful handwriting. The Spike who terrorized a school with his thugs, who made lewd comments at every opportunity, who drank, caroused, stole and generally acted the complete hooligan was not a person who appreciated poetry.

And speak of the devil, Giles smiled to himself, there was the front door slamming and the sound of boots on hardwood.

By the time Spike had cleared the opening to the kitchen, Giles was leaning against the counter, arms folded.

Spike paused in his tracks, caught off guard. Clearly he’d thought the condo was empty.

“Oh, hello.” He opened the fridge door and looked inside. “You waiting for someone?” he said from his stooped position.

“There’s no blood in there, if that’s what you’re after. You drank it all.”

Spike continued to search, moving things around as if there might be a bag of blood lurking behind the milk jug. Finally, he stood up and closed the door.

“What’s up with you? You’re looking broody.” He gave Giles an appraising look. “Nasty cast to your skin. You constipated? Ill effects of never getting shagged?”

Giles straightened up, holding out the paper with the poem on it.

“You surprise me, Spike. I had no idea you liked poetry. In fact, I wasn’t even sure you could read.”

Spike scowled and turned to leave and then he turned back. “You Watchers are arrogant pricks. Always have been and you’re just as bad the rest.”

“Then you admit that these papers are yours. This is your writing.”

Spike stared at them, saying nothing and for the first time, Giles felt a flash of sympathy. It suddenly seemed an invasion of privacy to have read what clearly was intended to be hidden.

“Oh.” He was at a loss for words. The urge to confront Spike with his discovery faded away, leaving him anxious for the moment to end. “I’m sorry. Here.” He thrust the paper at him. “Take them.”

Spike’s eyes rose to meet his. Giles couldn’t read the expression in them, as they were flat and hard, but a faint tightening of the mouth said enough.

“I just wondered who’d left them here. And, you know, figured out it must be…”

“What? Must be some pitiful sod who can’t get it up to feed himself? Rip the liver out of arseholes like you and stuff it down your gullet?”

He snatched the papers out of Giles’ hands and crumpled them, flinging them to the floor in disgust. And then the fury seemed to go out of him, replaced by bitterness.

“You know nothing about me or my kind. All your much vaunted Watcher training and its centuries of ‘research’ on vampires. A bunch of gelded eunuchs poncing about in tweed suits, that’s what you are. What a steaming pile of crap.”

Stung by his words, Giles felt his anger rising. “Honourable men have died in the service, killed in the line of duty by ‘your kind’, trying to hold the line against the darkness. Don’t you impugn...”

He wanted to go on, but didn’t have the force of conviction any more. Too much of his old certainties had been displaced and he felt his indignation leak away.

“Look, I said I’m sorry and I mean it.” All of a sudden, the memory of how he’d felt when he was reading La Belle Dame Sans Merci came flooding back, the sense of something missing in his life, something lost that perhaps he’d never had. But the poems, filled with loneliness and despair, weren’t about his loss.

“Drusilla. You’re mourning Drusilla.”

At the sound of the name, Spike froze, his face paler, if possible, than it already was.

He stared at Giles, eyes wide and haunted. It was as if the ground had fallen away under him and there was nothing left but to fall. Giles’ stomach lurched. He’d stepped in too far.

Suddenly Spike lunged, pushing Giles back against the counter, hands around his throat, and then he howled, holding his head in both hands, back arched in agony.

Instinctively, Giles reached for him, wanting to pull him in close until the spasm passed, but he was shrugged off. For a long time, Spike stood there, one hand still at his temple. He was shaking, as if holding himself together with a great effort of will. Finally, the tremors stopped and the hand dropped to his side.

“Spike, I’m so sorry.” Giles couldn’t seem to stop saying it, but his regret kept coming at him in waves as he remembered all the times he’d treated him as less than nothing. He was about to say more when once again Spike lunged at him, but this time grabbing the sides of his face with his hands and crushing his lips under a furious kiss. It was aggressive and raw, just short of biting. One hand dropped to Giles’ groin and squeezed hard, making Giles grunt in pain and surprise. He struggled to free himself, even as he felt his response come up hard and demanding, all the old appetites roused by the violence. It was the only thing holding back the chip’s firing. But this wasn’t it, not where things were any more.

Finally, he succeeded in pushing Spike back, holding him by the shoulders.

“Fight or fuck. It’s what you do all the time. Come on. Give me more. I know that’s not all you’ve got.”

Spike imperceptibly relaxed, shifting into a different mood in that mercurial way he had. He stepped back, and leaned against the counter across from Giles, hands in pockets.

“So, what is it you want? You’ve got my attention.”

“Nothing. I don’t want anything from you.” Giles paused, realizing what he’d said moments before. “You don’t have to give me anything of yourself if you don’t want to.”

Spike was staring at him impassively and then stirred.

“Let me get this straight. Are you talking about sex? You want to fuck me? With cuddles and all that?” His mouth gave a wry twist.

“No!” Giles was appalled. This couldn’t be going more wrong. And it was made worse by the fact that he didn’t know what he meant. He was simply impelled by the new sympathy he’d discovered in the last few days for someone who had been nothing more than a degraded monster to him.

Spike was looking at him skeptically. “Well, I’m not an expert on the sex life of Watchers…”

Giles smiled for the first time. “I think, if you recall your standard jibe, we don’t have one.”

“But something in your trousers wasn’t sayin’ no.”

Giles shook his head, still smiling. “Well, I can’t say the…um…energy you brought to the situation wasn’t quite exciting…” He broke off. This was ridiculous. He was flirting with Spike. He tried again to get on track.

“You know, I used to like the Romantic poets. Actually, to tell you the truth, I used to keep a skull in my room at university as a wine cup.”

Spike grinned suddenly, caught by surprise and for once, it had no trace of sarcasm or irony.

“No shit. Byron used to do that.”

Giles allowed a droll smile to cross his face. “I know. Anything to shock the first years. But I drew the line at a bear in the quad. He had one of those too, you know. Or so they say.”

He gestured toward the living room. “Feel like a drink?”

He should have expected the eyebrow, the one that said, “Have you forgotten who I am?” But it didn’t matter. He didn’t entirely know who Spike was and planned to find out. There was an evening stretching out in front of them, good booze, music and perhaps more. Time enough to see what they might have in common and put to rest old scores.




The End



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