Career Change

Two Ladies of Quality

3 Burdens

Angel had a soul, lived with the guilt of what he'd done over the centuries. The memory of what he'd done to Rupert Giles, who had been, if not a friend then a comrade, had been particulary sharp-edged. As sharp as the blades he'd used, whispered the demon reminiscently.

But Rupert Giles was no longer human, was a demon like Angel, and therefore well within the category of creature Angel could thrash with impunity.

"I don't enjoy remembering how I made you scream," Angel said with THAT smile, "but I have to admit that some part of me that I should really work harder on controlling wants to find out if you're still as stubborn now as you were then. And you're evil now. I'm supposed to do things to you. Let's play."


Giles sat upright in bed, still hearing that voice, that laugh. His eyes searched the shadows for the dark figure. Not trusting his sight, he jumped up and hurried to turn on the lights. He stood there, studying the empty room, old habits making his chest heave with panic.

Over in the bed, the covers rustled and Spike raised his head. "Same nightmare?"

"Yes," Giles said, not looking at him.

Spike sat up and rested his arms on his knees. "Most every day you have nightmares. You gonna tell me what it is or do I get to guess?"

"It's none of your business."

"Ah, the poof again. Most common star of your living nightmares, too."

"You have no idea what I have nightmares about. Do you dream?"

"Yeah. Was it Freud who said if we didn't dream we'd go mad?"

"I don't remember. But without a soul, who's dreaming? Why would the demon have nightmares using my memories?"

"Most recent stuff in your mind, maybe. Most of my dreams involve recent things." He pushed a pillow up to lean back against. "You'd have loved talking to a vamp I met in Memphis, Marianna. She loved wondering about the whys and wherefores of it all."

Giles barely listened, still hearing that taunting voice from the past. "As Drusilla's sire, does he have any hold on me?"

"If his demon were in charge and he made a point of it, he could put some pressure on you, but nothing somebody with your strength couldn't fight. I lived with him for decades, and he could have written books on manipulation and control, but he'd still have to be pretty direct with you." Spike brushed his hair out of his eyes. "Come back to bed, get some sleep."

"I--think I'd do best on my own for a bit. That was a hint, by the way," he added when Spike didn't move.

"Not throwin' me out of me own bed, Ripper. You wandered over my way tonight."

"Really?" Giles focused on his surroundings. "Oh, yes. How could I have missed the Victorian bordello effect? Not to mention the black satin sheets."

Spike made a show of settling in comfortably against his pillows. "You never complained about them before, Mr. Look, the Feel of Cotton."

"I'll leave you to your wallowing, then." Giles headed for the door.

"And get some sleep, dammit! If I find you've spent all day over those books--"

"Good night, mother."

Ignoring Spike on principle, Giles went to his library. He wasn't going to get any sleep for a couple of hours anyway, so he might as well do something productive. He found Leo di Modena's treatise on vampiric abilities and the notebook in which he jotted observations.

More hours later than he could be sure of, the phone on his desk rang, making him jump. He waited for the answering machine to pick up.

"This is Salvatore over at Mailboxes Etc., we got a package for an R. Bennett, C.O.D. I've got you marked down as one of our special delivery customers, so I'll hold it till Friday. We'll be open till midnight, thanks."

The books from his London broker, excellent. Giles made a note to transfer more money from his credit cards to his cash account. Also best see to the access to his trust fund. He started to make other notes, then saw the time. Nearly noon, no wonder he was exhausted. Off to bed, before Spike got up and found him in the library.

Not long after sunset, he drove over to the mail drop store to pick up his package. The place was busy, and half the clientele were night folk. But this was neutral ground, where everyone minded their own business. This didn't stop Giles from staring longingly at the throats of the mortals going about their business as he waited his turn at the counter.

"Good evening," he said to the man at the counter. "You're holding a package for an R. Bennett?"

The man checked a list. "Yeah, we got it. C.O.D. eighty-two dollars." He glanced at Giles a touch nervously. "I'll be right back with the package."

"Thank you," Giles said with just enough edge to his smile to confirm the need for respect. The man scurried off.

Giles looked around as he waited. Over at the wall of mailboxes, someone whose lack of humanity was betrayed by the fact that his knees bent both ways was sorting through a collection of ads and magazines. A man who reeked of vampire was buying stamps at the machine.

He picked up the paper on the counter to scan the headlines. The words Pre-Columbian exhibit caught his eye just as the man returned with his box.

"There," he said, dropping it on the counter heavily.

"Careful, man, those are rare books. Have some care."

The man swallowed. "Eighty-two dollars, please."

Giles counted out the money, accepted his receipt, then lightly picked up the box to take it away. He took the paper too.

Once the box was stashed in the trunk of his car, he read the item about the exhibition. A selection of Pre-Columbian artifacts would be on display for viewing and purchase at the Summers Gallery for the next two weeks. Giles frowned in disappointment. Joyce's gallery. Buffy's mother would certainly know that Giles was supposed to be in some sort of seclusion. Odds were he'd have to forego the exhibit.

Another paragraph caught him. "Paula Murphy, assistant manager of the gallery, said the show would go forward despite the recent illness of Ms. Summers."

Giles hadn't heard that she'd been sick. Then again, he was out of the loop. Spike showed up at the Magic Box every few days to gather news, but the last time was two days ago. Perhaps it wasn't serious.

He got in his car and headed for the gallery, following some obscure thread of uneasiness.

Lights were on in the pueblo style building that housed the gallery, but the sign said closed. He knocked on the door until someone came to answer.

The woman looked harried. "I'm sorry, we're closed," she said through the partially open door. "The show opens the day after tomorrow."

He had his glasses on for greatest harmless effect. "Yes, I know, and I'm sorry. But I'm Rupert Giles, a friend of Joyce's, and I just heard she was ill. How is she?"

"Oh, a friend of Joyce? I'm Paula. It's terrible, isn't it? She was supposed to be better."

"Dear God," he whispered. "Not--the tumor again."

Paula nodded. "She was standing right here, then she just stared at me and fell down."

"How bad?"

"They're not sure. She's in the hospital while they do tests. They're hoping the paralysis will ease off with time."

"Paralysis? It was a stroke, then?"

Paula nodded, reaching for a kleenex. "I'm really sorry, Mr. Giles, but I have so much work to do for the exhibition, and they say she's worrying about it--"

"Of course, I'm sorry. But thank you for telling me. I'll go see her."

"Tell her we're going to pull this off and not to worry."

"I'll do that. Good night."

"Good night."

Giles hurried to his car, started for the hospital, then took a hard turn towards Sunrise Grove to tell Spike.


Sunnydale General was a good hospital, especially talented at dealing with trauma cases. Several of the staff, though, were relieved to be dealing with something as non-weird as a brain tumor. The young age of the patient, though, added that Sunnydale-esque note of tragedy to the situation, especially as Joyce Summers was supposed to be healed.

They managed to send her daughters home, with the help of that devoted coterie of friends. Many of the nurses knew them by name, having seen them in the hospital too often. The older girl, Buffy, looked particularly drawn, as if it would only take one more thing to crack whatever coping ability she had left.

The night nurse finished her rounds and headed back to the desk. After she passed, the door to the stairwell quickly opened and two men in dark clothes slipped through.

"Her room's down here," Spike said softly.

"I thought Buffy and the others would never leave," Giles complained.

This wasn't the floor for desperate cases, but the smell of misery lurked in the corners. Faint moans came from some of the rooms, nearly drowned out by the hiss of oxygen tubes.

Spike paused in the open doorway of one room. The man in the bed had multiple IVs and monitors. "This one's not going to make it."

Giles looked in. "How can you tell?"

"Sound of his heart, the smell. There's a feel. Dru taught me. We'd go down the street and she'd point out the ones who were going to die."

"How often did you make her prophecies come true?"

"Only once. The taste is wrong." He turned away. "And something about a bloke saying 'Thank you' just doesn't sit right."

"Let's find Joyce."

Her room was near the nurse's station but just out of sight around the corner. Giles paused, then nodded for Spike to go in first.

Her form lay still in the bed, oxygen hissing softly from the tube under her nose. Giles carefully closed the door as Spike went slowly to the bed.

Someone had brushed her hair and carefully arranged it around her face. Her features looked slack, and her breathing was so shallow it almost took vampire senses to hear it.

Spike pulled a chair to the bed and sat down. "Joyce?" he whispered.

Her eyes flickered open, but she didn't turn her head. "Who ..."

He took her hand. "It's me, Joyce. Spike."

She smiled as she tried to focus on him. "Spik ..."

"Yeah, love, me. Now, what do you mean by all this, then, hm?"

"Sor ... no hot chocolate ..."

Spike closed his eyes and swallowed hard. "It's all right, love. I'll treat you to some when you get out of here."

"If ..."

"No. No, Joyce, when."

"Can't feel my legs, Spike."

Giles moved to the end of the bed, reached down to one of her feet, and squeezed. Joyce didn't seem to notice.

Spike leaned closer. "Joyce, I had an organ and half a building fall on me. Damn near severed my spinal cord. I came back. Months in a wheelchair, but I came back. You'll come back from this."

" ... m'not a vampire ... just human. Cripple." Tears ran from her eyes. "Burden."

He reached up to wipe the tears away. "No burden, love. We'll take care of you."

She shook her head very slightly. "Too much for my girls. Dawn, Glor ..." She swallowed. "Can't even talk ..." She met Spike's eyes. "Don't want to live like this."

Spike shook his head mutely.

"Please ... kill me. Make it quick."

"God." He jumped out of the chair and to the far end of the room. Giles put a hand on his shoulder, then took the chair.

Joyce peered at him. "Giles? But ..."

"I'm supposed to have left, yes, I know. Never mind that now. What did the doctors say, do you recall?"

She frowned. "Not real ..."

"It's all right, never mind."

"Where have you been? Buffy so worried ..."

"I know, and I'm sorry. But it's for the best." He put his hand on hers.

She glanced down at his hand. "Cold." She studied his face a moment. "Oh." Tears escaped again. "Oh, no. Oh, Giles."

Spike snorted in the corner. "Always knew Slayer's brains didn't come from her old man."

Giles hesitated but left his hand where it was. "It's all right, Joyce. Really."

"No ... poor Buff ..."

"She doesn't know, Joyce. She thinks I've just gone away. Don't tell her."

"Won't." Her eyes sharpened. "No chip."

Giles tensed. He knew what she was about to ask.

"You could kill me."

"Yes, I could."

Spike turned quickly.

Giles studied Joyce, remembering her ferocious defense of her daughter, her initial refusal to accept the dangers Buffy lived with. Buffy would not be nearly the Slayer she was without this woman behind her, inspiring her. And for all he said that night was only a blur, he remembered the band candy episode very well.

He took her hand in both of his. "I will make you a promise, Joyce. In six months, if you're no better, if you have no hope, I'll come to you and you can ask me then. And I'll do whatever you say."

"You will not," Spike growled.

"Spike, is this really any of your decision?"

Joyce smiled fondly at Spike, then at Giles. "Thank you."

They stayed for another ten minutes, until Joyce became too tired to talk.

Spike kissed her on the cheek. "We'll get you through this, Joyce. You'll be swingin' an axe again in no time."

She smiled wearily and squeezed his hand, then looked at Giles.

"He's right," he said. "We'll do our damnedest for you. But I won't forget my promise."

"Thank you, Ripper," she whispered.

He couldn't help smiling and wondering how much she remembered herself from band candy night. He kissed her very briefly on the lips.

She frowned. "Be caref ... Buff ..."

"I'll try to avoid her. Don't worry about it." He saw she was still concerned. "Get some sleep. We'll try to see you later, all right?"

"All right. Bye bye."


Spike smiled from the door. "G'night, love."

"G'night, Spike."

The men slipped out and made their way to the stairs. They took a detour to the blood bank for take-out, then went on to the car.

Giles paused with his hand on the door handle. "I want to go hurt something. How about you?"

"Sounds a treat."

"Willy's, I think."

Spike raised an eyebrow. "You might be recognized."

Giles took off his glasses and carefully put them away. "I don't really care."

"You're driving, Ripper."


A busy night as usual at Willy's. A group of vampires were playing pool in the corner while several gnarled demons in biker gear sat in booths near the bar with succubus hookers in their laps. Willy stood behind the bar and wondered if he should hire some help or just keep all the profits for himself and work himself to death. Of course, with his clientele, if he worked himself to death that just meant he'd be taking a couple of days off before getting back to work.

He looked up as the front door opened. Spike strolled in and gave the barkeep a nod. Willy nodded back, then noticed the man who came in after. Vampire, from the way he moved, but fairly young from the faint touch of color still in the skin. The new guy scanned the room quickly, placing everyone and their threat potential. He lacked the swaggering bravado of a new vamp, and he and Spike had obviously worked together for a long time. Maybe an out of towner.

The pair took seats at the counter. The new guy smiled faintly. "Hello, Willy," he said in a tone of some familiarity.

"Hello, stranger."

Spike nodded at his friend. "This 'ere's Ripper. Give us a brace of B&Bs."

"Any particular flavor?"


Willy turned away and Giles leaned towards Spike. "B&B?"

"Blood 'n' bourbon."

"I don't like mixed drinks."

"Yeah, you're a straight whiskey man. You don't like it, I'll drink it."

Willy came back with the drinks. The new guy didn't look the blood and bourbon type, too collected and neatly dressed, even if it was basic vampire black. There was tension in the way he held his shoulders, though, and an angry glare in the eyes that told Willy he should put the expensive bottles of booze in a safe place.

Giles sipped his drink, then handed it to Spike, who grinned and drained it, then grabbed one of the olives on frilly toothpicks from a nearby bowl. "The salt makes a good chaser," he explained.

"Thank you so much, Martha Stewart."

The biker demons to the side had been nudging each other and muttering. Finally the biggest one shoved the succubus in its lap onto its neighbor and got to its feet. "Hey, Spike!"

"Fuck," muttered Spike, looking over his shoulder. "Grettor," he said, turning around.

"Where were you last night, Spike?"

"If you mean at 3 AM, I was at the Simpkins mausoleum in the Southside Memorial Park. Where were you?"

Grettor looked uncertain. "Uh, Simpkins mausoleum, Westside Memorial Gardens."

Spike pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and handed it to Willy. "What's that say?"

The barkeep turned the paper a couple of times. "Well, it's not your writing, Spike, I can read yours. Simpkins Mausoleum, Southside Memorial, 3 AM."

Grettor took the note, peered at it, then handed it to one of the succubi. "Izzat what it says?"

"Southside Memorial, honey horns."

The demon snarled and turned on Spike. "I paid you in advance!"

"And I was there. You blew it, and now you're going to have to wait eight months for another alignment."

Giles frowned at him. "What is this all about?"


Grettor snarled in its own language with its mates for a moment, then turned back. "I paid you, I want my stuff."

Spike eased to his feet. "Look, Grettor, it's no good to you now. You can throw all the herbs and amulets you want into that diagram, but without that configuration of the moon and Saturn, all you're going to get is a mess on the floor." He saw Giles looking at him suspiciously and grinned.

"I want my stuff!"

"OK, you paid for it, you should get it. When and where?"


"Do I look like I have a bag of magic junk on me? I'd have to go get it and bring it to you."

Giles accepted a beer from Willy. "And I wonder whose stock he'd be looting to get those supplies," he commented.

Spike glared at him but talked to Grettor. "Where do you want to meet?"

The demon growled with its comrades a moment. "Tonight. Here. We'll wait. And if you don't show up we'll kill you."

"Fair enough."

Giles turned on his stool to face the argument. "Of course, if you were wanting components for a spell incorporating an alignment of the moon and Saturn at this time of year, they won't do you a bit of good eight months from now. The change in the position of Jupiter alone will require a completely different formulary."

"Huh?" the demon blinked.

"The herbs and amulets you bought are useless to you. You'll need a different set. Which I imagine will cost more." He smiled at Spike.

Grettor had to think for several moments, but it eventually made a sort of sense out of it all. "Spike, you're a cheat!"

All traces of amusement washed out of the blond vampire's eyes. "Think real hard about this, Grettor," he growled.

"You're a cheat and a liar and a neutered bastard who's no good for anything more than being the Slayer's bitch!"

Spike's eyes flickered yellow very briefly, then he calmly turned, picked up his bourbon and blood and drained it. He reached for two more olives from the bowl, plucked them from their frilly toothpicks with his teeth and chewed. Then he spun on his toes and plunged the toothpicks into Grettor's eyes.

The demon roared and clutched its face. "Knife!" Spike demanded, holding his hand towards Giles. Giles blinked, then reached over the bar for the heavy knife Willy had been cutting onions with. He slapped the handle into Spike's hand.

Spike slammed a booted foot into Grettor's belly, dropping the demon to its knees. He raised the blade and stabbed it into the back of the demon's neck, severing the spine. Grettor fell, and Spike kicked the body over. The toothpicks stuck out of the eyes like grotesque hors d'oeuvres.

The vampire grinned at the rest of the demons, the knife in his hand dripping blue ichor. "Anybody else wanna make character assessments?"

The biker demons looked at each other, then roared and charged. Giles jumped to his feet, picked up his stool and waded in to meet them.

Two more dead demons--one each for Spike and Giles--and the rest severely damaged later, the two vampires found new seats at the counter.

"That was a bit of all right," Spike sighed contentedly. He fingered a rip in the leather duster and tsked. Another visit to the gnome tailor. "How's the knee, mate?"

Giles flexed his leg carefully. "It'll be fine in a few more minutes. I just hope I can salvage this shirt."

"Demon blood's a good look for you."

Willy slowly rose from behind the bar. "All done, guys?"

Giles finished the beer that was still on the counter. "I believe so, yes."

The barkeep looked at the battlefield, where the succubi were looting the bodies and the beaten demons were crawling for the door. The vampires playing pool had barely glanced up. "So, about the bodies ..."

"We just knock 'em down," Spike said. "Not our job to pick 'em up."

"They're oozing into my floor."

"Not our fault they're not as inherently tidy as vamps."

Willy sighed. "And that was one of my favorite knives."


"The knife your buddy snitched and gave to you. The one currently sitting in Bokto's throat over there. One of my best Henckels."

"Oh, dear," Giles winced. "I am sorry."

Spike shrugged. "I'll go get it, then."

Giles stopped him. "I'm sure it's corroded beyond repair by now." He handed Willy a pair of fifties. "For your new knife."

Willy took the money and grinned. "Very kind of you, Ripper. 'Nother beer?"

"Yes, thank you."

As Willy went over to argue with the succubi about whether he got a cut of the loot from the bodies, Spike looked at Giles. "Feel any better?"

"A little." Giles stared into his beer. "There's not a great deal we can do for her, is there."

"Nope, not really."

"Even turning wouldn't help."

"Turn Joyce! Oh, yes, let's just give the Slayer all kinds of happies this year. Lose her boy-toy, lose you, lose her mum, oh, yeah, she'd be such a pleasure to have about." He sipped at the whiskey he'd been given. "'Sides, if there's physical damage, it would carry over. Yours and my scars, any damage to her brain. And I like having her about to make hot chocolate."

"I've heard a great deal about that hot chocolate, I don't want to hear more."

"Fine. As much as I hate to say it, mate, I think we have to wait for nature and modern medicine to do their thing. But we can at least keep an eye on her. Slayer doesn't need all this grief on top of the whole Glory problem and figuring out what happened to you."

"No, she doesn't."

They sat in silence for a bit longer, and Giles was pleased to see Spike was lost in his own thoughts and was ignoring him.

He completely agreed that Buffy did not need the burden of caring for a possibly crippled mother on top of dealing with a hellgod who wanted to use her little artificial sister as a key to open a world-destroying dimensional portal. The Slayer shouldn't have to have a personal crisis on top of a mystic one, and he still believed enough in his personal oaths to want to take a hand in making things right. It looked like it was time for Plan A again, the best thing to simplify all their lives. He thoughtfully drank his beer as he mulled over various plans for killing Dawn.


The gymnasium at the Sunrise Grove community center boasted several large skylights for natural lighting. All but two of them had been boarded over. The remaining ones were in a corner far from the entrance, and the area of direct sunlight had been marked on the floor with paint. Inside that line were several tubs of dirt, with budding plants.

No one was gardening at the moment. In another part of the room several chairs clustered in front of a big screen TV. Tonight the chairs were turned to face the open center of the room. Sammy and Fred, both with young female vampires on their laps, watched the two masters of the house fence.

The two matched blades in Spike's weapon chest were old Toledo longswords, narrow-bladed, double-edged. They only came out when Spike got tired of Giles bragging about how good a swordsman he was.

"Foils, toys for people who've seen too many Three Musketeers movies," he'd said. "All swishy poke, no cut. Give me an axe for real work, but if it's swordplay you're after, it ought to be something with an edge."

Being vampires, neither pulled their blows. Spike wore only his jeans and boots while Giles wore sweats and training shoes. Any bare skin was a valid target and both of them bore cuts. Spike was coming out slightly ahead, but only because Giles wasn't completely acclimated to the agility and strength of his new body.

They faced each other, ten feet apart, swords leveled, eyes locked on each other.

"Where'd you learn your swordwork, Spike?" Giles asked.

"Angelus believed in a classical education. Did you learn in that interesting little academy you attended, or were you the precocious sort?"

"I knew what I was going to be doing, so I started young."

Before he finished speaking, Spike charged with a yell. Giles parried and stepped to one side, turning to face Spike, but not before he collected a slice in the arm. Sammy winced as blood hit the floor. Odds were he was going to have to clean this up later.

The girl on Fred's lap watched Giles curiously. "What did Ripper do before he was turned? He's got a lot of scars."

"He's a wizard, Angie," Fred said. "Maybe something he summoned got away from him."

"I didn't know wizards used swords."

Giles kicked Spike in the hip, then swung one-handed. Spike barely knocked the blow out of the way, but he was laughing the whole time. Giles spun and got the blade around fast enough to cut Spike across the chest.

"Damn it!" Spike laughed.

Giles backed away and lowered his sword. "I assume you're swearing for effect."

"Oh, yeah, I'm fine. My turn."

Giles put a hand up. "Take your turn later, please, I'm tired."

"You can't be tired, you're a vampire."

"Well, my brain's tired. It wants a drink."

"I like your brain."

They went to a table near the chairs, put down the swords, and pulled beers from the cooler. Giles glanced at the wound on Spike's chest. The cut had already closed, but a thin line of red still trickled down. He regretted Sammy and Fred and the bimbos' presence.

Spike saw his interest. "You can clean me up later," he said with a grin.

The girl on Sammy's lap looked like she wanted to volunteer. "So, um, Spike?"


"I heard you can hunt again."

Only then did Spike bother to look at her. "And where did you hear that?"

She suddenly looked less comfortable. "Uh--there was a guy at Willy's, said he saw you at the park, you were hunting together."

Spike sneered. "Together. Right."

"I wonder how long Floyd will be dining out on that story," Giles mused as he cleaned his sword.

"Isn't it true?" Angie on Fred's lap blinked.

Spike drained his beer. "It's true. But I wasn't hunting with Floyd, he just happened to be around."

"So what happened?" Angie asked. "Did you get that chip out?"

Spike shrugged, and Fred tugged the girl around. "It was really cool. Ripper here--"

"Fred," Giles said quietly.

"--I told you he's a wizard, and --"

"Be quiet, Fred."

The room went still as Fred realized that Ripper's tone of voice was angry, not modest. "Yes ... sir?"

"I will thank you not to tell tales out of school," Giles said calmly. But his eyes were not calm.

Fred glanced at Spike, but the blond vampire was cleaning his own sword and only paying marginal attention. This was Ripper's play, and Fred had been a vampire long enough to know that one master wasn't going to get in the way of another master's discipline.

But wait, Ripper was new, barely a month if anything. Why the hell should Fred acknowledge him as a master?

He started to bristle, then met Ripper's eyes. The man wasn't even in game face, but Fred saw cold ruthlessness and just a hint of anticipation. Ripper and Spike had been short-tempered since the night of the brawl at Willy's, and Fred wondered if Ripper had just decided on a way to work off some frustration. Fred thought a couple of moments more, then dropped his eyes. "Sorry."

Ripper smiled very faintly. "Meet me downstairs, I have some spells I need to test." He raised an eyebrow as Fred began to protest, then Fred subsided.

Sammy shifted the girl on his lap. "But--"

"Sammy," Spike said, not looking up from his sword, "best to keep your mouth shut if you don't want to be used for spell testing too."

"I just wanted to know what we can talk about," he said meekly.

Spike looked for Giles' opinion before explaining. "Don't care if you tell people I've got my bite back. The hows and whys, though, are nobody's business." He caught Sammy's girl's eyes, and she stared back, properly cowed. Angie, though, looked unconvinced. "There a problem, luv?"

"I just wanted to know," she sulked. But Fred was keeping his eyes down and his mouth shut.

Spike took Giles' sword and put it with his own. "Oh, I don't mind telling you what you need to know, pet. Fred's going to be busy anyway for the next few hours. Aren't you, Fred?"

Fred looked up anxiously, then pushed Angie off his lap. "Go on, Ang. I'll--see you later." He glanced hopefully at Ripper for some sign that he would be seeing anyone later, but got no answer.

"I'll be down in just a few minutes," Giles said, sounding very reasonable and not at all as frightening as he should. Fred nodded and hurried off. "You'll take care of everything up here?" Giles said to Spike, who was watching Angie thoughtfully.

"We're fine. Go have fun. Don't blow yourself up or summon anything you can't kill by yourself."

"I'll yell if I need anything."

"Tah." Spike's smile at Angie made sure she didn't go anywhere. "Sammy, you and--what's your name, luv?"

"Pamela," she smiled, though not without a glare at Angie.

"Pamela. You and Sammy clean up in here, then go amuse yourselves. I'm sure Angie's got all sorts of things she wants to know about. C'mon, pet."

Angie looked like she wanted to smirk, but something in Spike's smile said there might be a bit more of "How to learn to mind your own business" and less of "Let me show you something interesting" ahead.

Sammy waited till he and Pamela were alone. "Well, remind me not to open my mouth when I shouldn't."

Pamela went with him to find some rags to clean up the blood while it was still wet. "What's Ripper going to do?"

"You want to go down there and find out?"


"I knew you were the smart one."

Down in the workroom, Fred looked around anxiously. Nobody had told him he wasn't supposed to talk about Ripper turning off the chip. Wasn't like he was going to run after the Slayer and babble everything.

He wondered what kind of spell Ripper planned on testing. Keeping an eye on the door, he crept towards the work table. The papers there were covered with diagrams and lettering he couldn't read. A few words in English referred to portal keys and the binding of energy.

Vampire hearing or simple self-preservation made him step away from the table just as Ripper came through the door. Fred tried not to fidget.

"You never said we couldn't talk about it," he said.

"True," Ripper agreed. "But I didn't think I needed to."

"It's only Angie."

"Angie and whomever Angie babbles to, and so on and so on. If people don't know how, they can't figure out ways around it."

"Who's going to care?"

Giles gave him a disappointed look. "Oh, anyone who doesn't want Spike to be an effective threat? The Slayer, perhaps?"

Fred swallowed nervously. Ripper didn't like talking about the Slayer. He started to defend himself, then decided that being quiet was a good idea.

"Stand over there, please," Giles said, nodding to a section of the floor among some lines.

"Uh ... what are you going to do?"

Ripper hadn't bothered with the glasses tonight. There was no one around to fall for the air of harmlessness the glasses bestowed. Without them, though, there was no shield for the calculating menace in the eyes.

"I could tell you," he said softly, "but what would you do if you didn't like it?"

And that was as blatant a tug on the leash as Fred had ever felt. Ripper was offering him a chance to make a challenge. Fred hadn't been much of a fighter before he was turned, and he'd only picked up basic brawling since. Spike and Ripper had sparred several times, with a variety of weapons and empty handed. Spike had a brutal reputation as a fighter, and Ripper made him work. Fred only had nearly ten years as a vampire to his credit, and that wasn't enough.

He dropped his eyes and sighed. "Over there, you said?"


Fred went. Maybe it wouldn't hurt too much.

Once Fred was in position, Giles drew a final line into the diagram with a piece of chalk. He went to his table for his dagger, sliced his arm, then let his blood drip onto the line he'd just drawn. Fred licked his lips, eyes flickering yellow.

As the blood seeped into the chalk line, Giles stared at the middle of the pattern of lines.

"By blood and bonds, I conjure thee. By fire quenched and passions spent, I summon thee. Master of the underways, come forth and hear me."

Fred tensed, but except for a tremble in the floor, nothing happened.

"That's it?" he couldn't help saying.

Giles licked his lips. "I need to talk to you."

"About what?"

A deep rumbling voice laughed behind Fred. "I don't think he was talking to you, youngster."

Fred looked over his shoulder, and his lungs froze before he could scream.

Hooved feet, two sets of knees that bent in opposite directions, skin the color of leather, four arms, heavy boned face with horns curling from the forehead and nearly brushing the ceiling. And it stood inside the same set of lines that Fred did.

Orange eyes regarded Giles. "Bless me, Ripper, but this is an interesting look for you. Quite the surprise. Who did the honors?"

"Never mind that," Giles said firmly. "I have a proposition for you."

The creature chuckled, showing long fangs. Fred debated whimpering. "Just like that, Ripper? Without even the offer of payment? I know you're good for it, but trading on past relationships is bad business." It looked at Fred. "Or would this little morsel be the payment?"

Fred looked anxiously at his boss. "Sir ..."

Giles studied him for several moments. "Yes, he is the payment, but not a large one. I need him."

A claw fell on Fred's shoulder. "Don't worry, boy. Some people like it." The claw tightened until skin broke.

Giles stood and watched.

Two hours later, Spike wandered downstairs. The door to the workroom was open and he peeked in.

Fred sat hunched over in a chair in the corner while Giles swept the floor in the open area. Must be one of those ritual things mages were supposed to do for themselves.

"How'd it go?" Spike asked, lounging in the doorway.

"Well enough," Giles said. He didn't look up from his work. "Fred was very helpful."

Spike walked over to the dazed looking vampire. "Oi, Fred. How ya feeling?"

"Um ..." Fred blinked and had trouble focusing. "I'm not sure. I don't remember a lot. It smelled weird."

He didn't look damaged. "You look like you should be in bed. If Ripper's done with you, that is."

Giles came over. "Oh, yes, we're done. Thank you, Fred. Here, let me take that." He took a mug with a wash of red in the bottom from Fred's uncertain hands.

"Thanks." He thought for several moments, then levered himself out of the chair. "Good night, Ripper, Spike."

"Night, Fred."

"Good night, Fred."

Spike waited till he was out of earshot. "Did you break him or just ding him?"

"He's just dinged," Giles said. "He'll be fine after a day's sleep. And Angie?"

"She'll behave. Was perfectly willing to be told what she should and shouldn't talk about, and anxious to show me how much she appreciated me taking the time out to tell her. Girl's not slow about seeing where the wind blows. She's in Fred's room, waiting for him." He wandered over to the work table to look over the objects. "What did you do to him?"

"Just a minor summoning, something to impress him."

Spike sniffed at the air in the room. It had tickled his memory when he came in. "Sulfur, brimstone. Some sort of imp, was it?"


The curt answer made Spike curious. "Imps like to get paid. Was that what you needed Fred for?"

"It was a useful side effect. I've found imps to be impressive."

"Have to agree with you on that." He took a deeper sniff. Other things--hot metal, old blood. Cherries, oddly enough. "The lesser fiends are even more impressive."

"True enough."

"You summoned one of them, didn't you. With everybody in the place, blissfully unaware of what you were doing, you summoned a fiend."

Giles finished cleaning his dagger and put it away, ignoring Spike.

"You don't summon a fiend just to scare the uppitiness out of a minion." Spike had heard some of the tales of Eyghon and a not-so-immortal Ripper. "Giles, what are you doing?"

Giles gave him an unfriendly look. "Please don't call me that, William."

"The look you gave the Scoobies doesn't mean anything to me, Rupert You making deals with fiends does. What are you dickering with when you don't have a soul of your own to make deals with?"

"Not every demon yearns to get its claws into a human soul. There are other things."

"How much of Fred did you feed it?"

"Not as much as I could have."

Spike studied him closely. "Handy you having a minion that needed impressing when you went to chat with one of the lower beings. Or that there were all the tools you needed for a summoning handy when you wanted something for Fred. How long were you planning this little At Home evening for your demonic acquaintances?"

"I believe I have, despite your age, a bit more experience than you in handling such creatures."

"Oh, yeah, throw a party, lend your body to a demon, have a gay old time. Forgive me if I'm not reassured."

Giles glared at him. "I'm not that stupid. It's a simple deal, and I know better than to promise anything that I can't deliver."

"Which is?"

"Don't worry, I'm not going to ask anything of you."

"Gonna feed it the rest of Fred?"

"Not at all. Fred was just the refreshments one should always offer guests who drop by."

"And what if Fred hadn't pissed you off?"

Giles smiled slightly. "I'd simply have convinced him that I needed him to perform a very important service for me."

Spike was simultaneously impressed and chilled by the ex-Watcher's matter-of-factness. He found himself checking his own and Giles' stances and checking to see if any spellcasting materials were particularly close to Giles' hands. "If not what, then why? Why did you call whatever it was? Just to see if you could?"

"Good lord, no." Giles seemed honestly affronted. "That at least I got out of my system when I was young and stupid. I was thinking of Glory, actually."

"Asking for advice, huh? Not a stupid idea. Scoobies have practically exhausted all the mortal resources that won't suck out your soul, makes sense to consult with sources that would know a hellgod best. Learn anything?"

"A few things. It will need some research to see how we can implement it."

Spike heard reticence in the other vampire's voice, but just because they were somewhat-partners and lovers did not mean they were going to reveal all their secrets to each other. He made a note to keep an eye on Fred, though. He may be one of the low men on the totem pole, but sidekicks with useful brains were too rare to just splurge as hors d'oeuvres for visiting hell beasts. "How are we doing on a time frame?"

"We should have something definite in a couple of days." Giles pointedly turned to his work table and re-organized items.

Spike nodded to himself. "Right-o, then. I'm for bed. See you later."

"Good night, Spike."


Giles waited till he heard the door to Spike's room close, then he went to the door to make sure Spike wasn't lurking about anyway. When he saw the coast was clear, he went to his desk, unlocked a drawer, and pulled out a pile of papers. He began making notes on a chart, checking an ephemeris for the positions of the planets on the night of the full moon, two days hence. He would have to time it carefully, catching the point where the moon passed full and began its waning cycle. It was a good time for spells that involved closure, pulling in, dying away. A good time for a spell to pull something from one dimension to another, pulling it along with the fading brightness of the moon.

The fiend had argued strenuously, finally agreeing that the potential prize was worth the possibility that the entire scheme could fall through. Giles had learned long ago not to make megalomaniacal ironclad promises to beings that could devour one's very identity.

The morsel on the table was worth the possibility of failure. The Key, a being created of potent mystic energy. Killing Dawn might only release that energy into a form Glory could acquire. The best bet was to put the Key out of Glory's reach. The guardians of the various hell dimensions were jealous creatures, and there were those who were no more anxious to allow Glory to return to her place of power than the soldiers of good were to allow her to rip open a portal and destroy the world. The only problem had been to find a dimension that Giles could count on making sure of the job. Killing Dawn near Glory was fraught with unacceptable risks. Killing her in another dimension, though, should work fine.

Giles went over his notes and figures. He would need time to work before the moment came. There were only two problems, that he would not be able to get his hands on Dawn and whether a girl formed of energy had a soul, never mind one of sufficient sweetness to feed a lesser fiend.

He pondered that a moment, whether Dawn had a soul or not, if the monks who had created her had had sufficient power to form that essential of humanity into the mortal form of the Key. Finally he shrugged. A minor point, he'd know for sure soon enough. He went back to work, pausing only to track down a new pen when his old one ran out of ink.


The night of the full moon, though the exact time of the full moon wouldn't be for hours yet. Giles wandered towards the garage of the community center, doing his best to look like a man with no plans for the evening. The sound of a revving engine caught his attention.

"I don't know, Sammy," Spike said, "It still sounds awful rough."

"It's supposed to sound rough, dude, it's wanting to sound like a Harley."

Spike made a rude noise. "Best bike I ever rode was an Indian. 'Course, it only had a top speed of about 30 miles an hour, but in 1902 that was saying something."

Giles found the two wrestling with the guts of the big Honda motorcycle Spike had acquired off last night's meal. Sammy was bent over the engine with tools while Spike straddled the bike and worked the throttle and gears at command.

Giles shook his head. "You do know that smoking while working on a gasoline engine is generally considered a foolish thing."

"Yep," Sammy muttered around the cigarette clenched between his teeth. Spike merely grinned.

Giles waited till the two were busy with some detail of the engine before he walked to his car and dropped the small leather satchel he carried onto the passenger seat. He walked around the car, ostensibly checking its condition.

"It's fine, Ripper," Sammy said, not looking up from the motorcycle's engine. "Nobody's driven it but you."

"Glad to get my own transport again," Spike said.

"Whatever happened to the DeSoto?" Giles asked.

Spike snarled. "Towed away whilst I was the guest of the Initiative. Sold at auction to some car collector."

"What's stopping you getting her back?" Sammy asked.

"Well, there's the damned chip ..." Spike paused, then grinned. "Oh, right. I keep forgetting that."

Giles leaned against the fender of his car. "An enclosed car does make more sense for someone in our situation."

"Big talk, Mr. Convertible."

"At least mine has a roof, as opposed to the lack of cover on a motorcycle."

Spike saluted him with two fingers. "Dru adored motorcycles. You blokes who grew up with the internal combustion engine have no idea what it was like to suddenly be able to go that fast. Horses have nothing on it."

"Drusilla on a motorcycle," Giles mused. "Not a reassuring thought."

"It was a screaming advertisement for disaster. Silly bit kept trying to take off and fly. Still, some nights it was the only thing that would help, put her up behind me on the bike and ride as fast as we could. Outrun the voices for a few hours."

Giles contemplated the woman who was his Sire for a few moments. In the part of his mind where the demon dwelled, there was always a sense of abandonment when he thought of Drusilla. Vampires were pack creatures. She should have been there when he awoke, to welcome him and teach him. Instead she'd left it to Spike, and Giles didn't know if she'd meant he and Spike to bond or if she'd only meant to leave her former lover with a very awkward mess to deal with. Giles very much resented being saddled with parental abandonment issues at this stage of his life.

Suddenly the motorcycle's engine roared smoothly. "That's got it, Sammy," Spike yelled over the noise. He revved the engine and laughed at the blast of sound.

Sammy stood and wiped his hands on a rag. "Only way to be sure is to take it on a test ride."

"Sounds lovely." Spike left it idling while he went to get his duster from the corner.

Giles kept his smile muted as he watched. "Do try not to smash your head open on anything. I don't fancy scooping your brains back into your cranium and taking bets on how long it takes you to blink under your own power."

Spike grinned and flipped him off again. "I've been riding motorbikes since they were invented, mate. Needn't wait up to see if I've taken a header." He straddled the machine, flipped the tails of his duster out comfortably, then gunned the motor and peeled rubber out of the garage.

Sammy put away the tools. "Maybe he'll let me ride it later."

"You could get your own, you know."

"You'd let me?" Sammy blinked.

"Why not?"

The other vampire looked nervous. "Don't take this wrong, OK? We can tell you're still a bit new to this, even though you've got the power. You don't know all the ways things are done. Masters tend to keep the fun toys for themselves."

Giles looked at him thoughtfully. "And I'm considered a master?"

"A master is the one who acts like a master and gets away with it and defends his right to do it." Sammy shrugged and said no more.

"I've always thought that a leader who allowed himself to be guided by petty whims was a very poor leader. I have far more pressing matters to concern myself with than who has a motorcycle or not." He reminded himself that, his own personal power notwithstanding, Spike had the age and experience on everyone here. "I have no idea what Spike's opinion might be."

Sammy smiled. "At least I can mention it to him without being afraid he'd take my throat out just for being uppity. I'm glad I fell in with you guys."

Giles took a moment to enjoy the feeling of power, to contemplate the growing web of influence. It was a small start, but it was a start.

"I have some errands to run. I may not be back till quite late."


As Giles drove away from Sunrise Grove, he glanced through the satchel to make sure he had everything: herbs, chalk, a length of rope, his dagger. Perhaps he should have brought something to use as a gag as well. He knew how piercing Dawn's voice could be. Well, he'd dealt with worse in his day.

The house on Revello Drive was dark. If Dawn were home, the place would be lit up and noisy. Buffy would more than likely have left her sister with the rest of the Scoobies. Giles wondered if he should check the hospital to see if the girls were with Joyce, but at this hour, with their mother stable and even improving, they would most likely have left Joyce to rest.

He drove to the Magic Box and parked in the alley a block away. He approached from the street and saw both Xander's and Buffy's cars out front. Vampiric hearing let him pause out of range of the light coming out of the front window and scout the situation.

Willow was talking about something she'd found in the books about when Glory would make her move. Only Tara made any comments in return, but by the sound of breathing and heartbeats, all the Scoobies were present. Giles moved enough to see in.

Buffy paced at the back of the shop, eyes on Willow as she listened. Xander sat near Dawn in a corner, not looking very interested but keeping an eye on everyone. He seemed to be taking his job as Man of the House seriously. Anya was in her position behind the counter, part of the group yet isolated.

"What about all the crazy people?" Buffy asked.

"The books do say that Glory's presence can cause mental instability rates to rise," Willow answered.

Tara smiled slightly. "Though it's usually phrased, 'And the winds and imps of madness did oppress the people, causing them to fall into fits and curse the heavens.'"

"Full points for the colorful writing," Xander commented. He poked at a nearby doughnut box, then offered it to Dawn, who smiled tiredly and refused.

Buffy barely noticed. "So the more crazy people around, the more power Glory has? And how the heck do we find her?"

Willow shuffled some papers. "The books all say she'll be imprisoned until she can open the portal and go home, but we've seen her out and about. Quite the weekend furlough plan on this prison."

Anya shrugged. "Iron bars do not a prison make. What?" she added as the others blinked at her.

"I think I read that in school," Dawn said. "English lit or something."

"A millennium and a half of existence, you're going to crack a book sometime. TV wasn't around for the longest time."

Buffy waved a dismissing hand. "Doesn't matter. We have a specific time frame. Glory knows as well as we do that if she doesn't get the Key she doesn't get home." She tried to smile at Dawn. "And she's not getting the Key, so no biggie there. How much longer do we have to hold on, do we know yet?"

Willow and Tara looked at each other, then shook their heads apologetically. Buffy muttered something and kept pacing.

Dawn cleared her throat. "Maybe Giles has found something."

"It doesn't matter if he has," Buffy snapped, "because he's not here, is he?"

Dawn dropped her eyes and shook her head.

Buffy looked very tired, Giles saw. He knew she didn't need as much sleep as most people, but he wondered if she got any rest these days. And he saw that Anya's evaluation of the situation was correct, the children were not nearly as comfortable around each other as they used to be. Too much to deal with all at once. He had no control over Joyce's illness or his own changed condition, but be damned if he was going to let the Glory situation go on any longer.

Inside the shop, Buffy looked at her watch. "I'd better get out and patrol. Willow, will you and Tara take Dawnie home?"

Dawn started to object automatically but didn't even need her sister's glare to stay quiet. The witches agreed, and the group broke up. Xander stayed behind to help Anya close up the store.

Giles faded back into the shadows as the foursome came out the front door. Tara and Dawn headed for the car, but Willow stayed with Buffy on the sidewalk for a moment. "Are you going to be out very late?" Willow asked.

"Probably not. The fanged set have been laying low. I just need ..."

"Something to distract you, I know. Be careful."

Buffy shrugged, looking off into the night, scanning for Slayer business. She frowned suddenly and looked down the street.

"What is it?" Willow asked, looking around herself.

"Vampire close by. It's probably just Spike doing his stalker thing."

"Buffy, he'll hear you."

"He can just hear me, the little hiding-out weasel. I'd better get going. See you later."


Buffy glared once more towards where the vampire lurked, then jogged off towards the park. Willow looked around cautiously, then headed for the car.

Giles waited till everyone was out of sight, then left his cover to go back to his car. Both witches with Dawn put a small crimp in his plan, but no plan on the Hellmouth ever went as designed. He could deal, as they said, and in a very few hours everything would be settled.


Buffy found herself almost whistling for vampires to appear out of the darkness. She longed for the old days, when a fanged menace popped up behind every tree and tombstone and when quiet nights just meant that some hot vampiric party was going on somewhere, not that there was a new apocalypse gathering strength.

Up ahead, a motorcycle engine revved and coughed. The attendant British cursing made Buffy debate taking another route. Instead she sighed and continued on.

"You made good time," she said to Spike, who straddled a motorcycle parked on the roadside.

He barely glanced up from where he was bent over trying to adjust something in the engine. "I have no idea what you're talking about, Slayer."

Buffy watched him a while. "Maybe it's out of gas?"

"It is bloody well not out of gas. It's just this damned wire keeps slipping off--there!" He revved the engine and grinned at the smooth noise.

"When did you learn about automotive mechanics?"

"You get stranded ten miles from shelter and dawn's less than an hour away, you learn pretty fast to take care of your motor." He revved it one more time, then shut it down. "Park patrol tonight, is it?"

"Yeah. It's quiet, though. Don't suppose there are any hot creature of the night shindigs going on that everyone's attending?"

"Why, you wanting an invitation? Want to stroll in on the Big Bad's arm and get friendly with your prey?"

The snappy comeback was more trouble than it was worth. "No, I was just hoping there was a nice normal reason for everything to be quiet instead of what I know is going on."

Spike nodded. "Everybody's waiting for the glory day. How's your mum, by the way?"

Buffy glared at him, annoyed all over again that Spike and her Mom had managed to bond. "She's doing better. Her speech is almost all the way back, but she's still having trouble getting her legs to work right. They did an MRI on her head and found where the aneurysm blew out. But it doesn't look like there's any danger of another one."

Spike's grin looked sincere. "Good news, then. I'm glad. You've got enough to worry about."

"Is that why you came by the shop earlier, to ask about Mom?"

He gave her a perplexed look. "Wasn't by the shop tonight. Been playing with my new toy. Fancy a ride?"

She actually thought about it for a moment that surprised both of them. Then she shook her head. "Slayer's work is never done. Best get back to the patrolling."

"Hang about a sec, pet. Why'd you ask if I was around earlier?"

"I felt a vampire around at the store. Somebody spying on me, I guess."

"You got the Niblet under lock and key?"

"Of course." Buffy frowned at him. "Why?"

Spike gave her a disappointed look. "Everybody's looking for the Key, whoever brings her in will make the hellbitch happy. And I know there's blokes out there who have their own ideas of how to handle matters."

For the first time in a long time, Buffy actually felt Spike could be dangerous. He seemed a lot more comfortable inside his own skin as he lounged on his motorcycle, one leg curled over the gas tank. He wasn't keeping a wary eye out on the night, like he used to. Instead, he looked more like the confident William the Bloody she'd first met, certain that he was master of the night and anything he might meet therein.

"If you had the chance to get in good with Glory ..." She broke off at the disgusted look Spike gave her.

"Nothing's laying unfriendly hands on Niblet while I'm around. Thought you believed that."

She shrugged uncomfortably. "Lots of people would think it was stupid, trusting a dangerous creature with Dawn."

"Best kind of guardian you could hope for, your own personal dangerous creature."

The undertones in his voice reminded her of that wretched time in his crypt, when he'd tried to convince her he loved her. "I'll trust you with her, but not with anything else."

There was a flicker of hurt in his eyes, but it was followed with acceptance. "She home alone?"

"Willow and Tara took her home."

"Are they staying?"

"I don't know. But they've put all sorts of wards on the house."

"Still ..."

Buffy stared at him, undecided. She couldn't bring herself to ask him outright, put herself in his debt. Evil creature of the night, sworn enemy etc. Depending on him was nine hundred kinds of stupid.

He smiled suddenly, making her stomach hurt. "Won't hurt if I take a swing down Revello Drive, annoy your neighbors by revving the engine in front of your house, make 'em think you've got a wicked boyfriend."

"Thanks," she said very quietly.

"Did it hurt that much to say it?" he grimaced. "Never mind." He swung his leg over the bike and turned on the engine.

"I had a boyfriend once who had a motorcycle," she said thoughtfully.

Spike glanced at her. "Did you like it?"

"Uh ... yeah."

He only looked at her a few moments more, then rode away. Buffy told herself she only watched the way his duster flapped in the wind to make sure it didn't catch in the rear wheel, snap his head right off, and deprive her of a useful tool.


Tara pulled the car into the Summers driveway and turned off the engine.

"Are you guys staying?" Dawn asked as she got out.

Willow glanced at her lover. "Just till Buffy gets back. She said she wouldn't be out long."


They headed for the house, where Willow unlocked the front door as Dawn sorted the mail.

"Bill, bill, ad--hey, Buffy's Vogue, and I get it first!"

Tara followed Willow into the house. "Come on, Dawnie, you can look at it inside."

"Yeah, and you'll peek over my shoulder and say all the models look like skinny boys again."

"Well, they do."

Dawn looked towards the street as a car pulled up at the curb. A red convertible, with a familiar figure climbing out from behind the wheel. "Oh, my god. Giles?"

"Willow!" Tara yelled. "Honey, come here, it's Giles!"

Dawn walked slowly down the steps. "Giles, is that you?" It sure didn't look like the dork guy Buffy had started hanging out with so much when they'd moved to Sunnydale and who had given Dawn barely-disguised looks of impatience and uncertainty. This man in the all-black looked--almost--cool.

The smile only touched Giles' lips. "Hello, Dawn, yes, it's me." He walked towards her, glancing towards Tara on the porch and frowning slightly. "Dawn, I have to ask you to trust me. You have to come with me, you're in terrible danger." He reached out to take her arm.

Unconsciously Dawn moved out of reach. "What kind of danger?"

"We don't have time to discuss it." The smile was gone, and his eyes were hard.

Tara came down the walk towards them. "Mr. Giles, we've been so worried ..." She slowed and stopped, the smile fading. "Mr. Giles? Dawnie, come here."

Dawn turned to stare at her quizzically, and Giles reached out again.

A horn blared and light flashed as Spike roared the motorcycle over the curb and through the hedge. Dawn jumped back, away from Giles. The motorcycle went between them, then Spike yanked it around, ripping a long swatch of grass and flowers.

"Get in the house, Dawn!" he snapped.

Willow ran down the steps to Tara's side. "What's going on--Giles?"

Giles spared only a glance for the two witches. "*Prohibeo*", he murmured, gesturing.

Willow tried to move forward but found she couldn't.

"*Silentium*," he added for good measure.

Dawn gaped at the two women, then turned to Giles, "What did you do to them?"

Giles started towards her, but Spike jumped the bike towards him a few feet. "Dawn, do as I say, get in the house. He can't get to you there." She backed up to Tara and Willow, who were staring at each other, mouths moving but no sound coming out.

Giles glared at him. "Stay out of this, Spike."

"You know I won't do that, Ripper."

Dawn clutched Tara's arm. "What's going on?" Tara could only look at her helplessly, all her movements slowed.

Giles glanced thoughtfully at Dawn, then at Spike. "Over my incapacitated and quite possibly gone to dust body," the blond vampire said. "You finally decided it's time to dance, Rupert?"

"There's no need for that."

As he raised his hand to cast a spell, Spike throttled the bike wide open and headed forward. Giles had to break off and dive out of the way. Spike leaped from the seat as he went past, grappling with Giles. The former Watcher took a breath for another spell, and Spike backhanded him as hard as he could, knocking Giles to the ground.

"Can't cast if you can't talk."

Giles put a hand briefly to his jaw, which looked broken, then charged into Spike.

"But--the chip," Dawn gasped. "And that should have broken Giles' neck ..."

Willow and Tara looked at each other, then stared into each other's eyes and began silently chanting.

Spike went down on top of his bike, laying on its side on the lawn. Giles pulled back and kicked him full force in the ribs. Spike howled, and the demon's face appeared. He twisted around and grabbed Giles' foot as it came in for another kick. The snap of the bone was audible. Giles landed hard on the grass, and when he came up his own eyes were yellow and the demon grinned.

"That's it, Ripper!" Spike yelled. "Bring it on!"

"No, no," Dawn whimpered, hugging tight to Tara's back.

The two demons grappled with each other. Giles twisted around for a hard punch to Spike's groin, which Spike didn't quite dodge. Snarling, Spike grabbed a fistful of Giles' shirt and threw him face first into the frame of the motorcycle. Blood ran down the sharp angles of Giles' changed face, and his grin was horrible as he got hold of the motorcycle and started to lift.

"The *hell* you say!" Spike yelled. "Not my new bike!" He high-kicked Giles in the side of the head, knocking him down. Spike jumped over the bike, grabbed Giles and slammed his head into the sidewalk twice. Giles still tried to get up, but a kick to the ribs convinced him to stay down. Spike went to one knee beside him, swearing in pain.

"God, I hope we don't have to do that again," he muttered.

Dawn took a cautious step away from the witches. "Spike?"

"Get in the fucking house, Dawn! He's not going to stay down forever!"

She backed up a little. "He's--he's been--"

With an effort, Spike forced his human face back on. "Yeah, Niblet," he said with a painful sigh, "he's a vamp." He looked at the witches. "You two just about got that figured out?"

Willow was moving a little faster, and she nodded at Spike. She looked almost ready to cry as she glanced at Giles.

"Yeah." He got to his feet, wincing, then he reached down to pull Giles up and over his shoulders. "I'll take care of him." He carried Giles to the convertible and dumped him in the backseat. He gave the three humans a sympathetic look. "Tell Slayer I'll be in touch. We need to talk." He climbed painfully behind the wheel of the car and drove away.

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