Title: Essential Truths
Author Email: email@example.com
Disclaimer: I own nobody who appears here, no surprise there. Just playing with 'em, no damage intended.
Spoilers: up to and including Season Four
Author's Note: Dedicated to Thea - zum Geburtstag. Ich liebe Dich!
Feedback: sure! My first stroll into the BtVS fandom, and I'd love to know if the characters come across in a halfway credible manner.
Summary: AU after Season Four: Spike has lost the chip and goes after Giles. Trouble ensues. Ugly truths, innuendo, blows, stakes, blood, spring water...
Rupert Giles put the guitar case down onto the steps before diving into his pockets for the keys. His eyes burned from the cigarette smoke and he felt a light headache creeping up behind his temples on smooth little cat's feet. It had been a long night at the Expresso Pump, but also a rewarding one, as it meant being paid - however little - for something he thoroughly enjoyed doing.
Yawning, he threw the door shut behind him and dumped the instrument and his leather jacket on a nearby chair. Without bothering to turn on the lights he walked over into the kitchen to fetch himself a nightcap. Drink in hand he returned to the living room and finally switched on the lights.
A cold smile greeted him from out of his favourite armchair. Giles jumped and dropped the glass in shock and surprise.
"In the undead flesh, Rupert. You still haven't revoked that invitation, you know. How often did I warn you - twice? Unemployment must be hell on your Watcher instincts."
The movement with which the blond vampire left the chair and crossed the two metres between him and his opponent was so quick and fluid that Giles didn't even have the time to take a step back. Spike's fist connected with his jaw and knocked him first into the standard lamp, then into unconsciousness.
An overwhelming, dull ache in the back of his head welcomed Giles back to the world. It somehow resembled a pseudo-Celtic musical troupe practising step dancing routines inside his skull. His jaw hurt, too, and someone had stuck a white-hot crocheting needle through his left wrist, or so at least it felt.
He warily opened his eyes and found himself tied to his most solid - and distinctly least comfortable - armchair. A deep, still bleeding cut ran over his left wrist, just above the cord that bound him to the armrest. Gazing across the room, he saw the vampire kneeling in front of the box in which he kept his records, filing through the contents and muttering disaffectedly to himself. The rest of the living room also looked as if Spike had rummaged through it for quite a while. The chest which contained his Watcher utensils - weapons, ritual tools and jewellery - had been thrown open, its contents scattered over the floor.
When he noticed Giles' stare, the vampire looked over his shoulder and frowned.
"Wondered when you'd wake up, mate. Constitution just isn't the same when you approach retirement age, right?"
He sauntered over to the coffee table and picked up Giles' 'Kiss the Librarian'-cup and a bottle of Scotch he had liberated from the Watcher's liquor cabinet. The cup was filled halfway with a thick, red fluid.
"You dropped my wine when you came in," he remarked casually and pointed on the shattered remains of Giles' glass on the floor. "Helped myself to a drink while you were out. Hope you don't mind."
Giles looked down at his torn wrist and felt a flush of anger creeping up his back. He had not the faintest inkling how their on-again-now-plainly- off-again ally had managed to get rid of the chip in his head that had prevented him from attacking human beings, but it was unmistakably gone. Now, he obviously intended to prove that he had not been... domesticated by his association with the Slayer and her friends.
"What do you want, Spike", he asked harshly as he watched the vampire dilute his blood with a liberal amount of Scotch.
"Hm... let me think." Spike put his chin into his hand in a mockingly contemplative gesture. "I thought I shouldn't leave Sunnyhell without thanking the Bunny Summers fan club for a couple of thoroughly humiliating months." He slowly circled the Watcher's chair, sipping from his cup, exuding menace like a caged leopard. "I was riddled with arrows, insulted by the Slayer and her assorted dimwits, tied into a bathtub, and fed fucking pig's blood on top of everything!"
"Yes, I quite agree. We should have saved you and ourselves the trouble and left you to the Initiative."
"Do you really think it's a bright idea to piss me off even more?"
"Well, Spike, why of all the people who have 'pissed you off' recently are you showing up at, at my place? Do I have to be flattered?"
"Not really, Rupert." Spike grinned down provocatively at his prisoner. "Maybe I'm planning to work my way from the bottom up and you're just the most pathetic loser of all."
Giles closed his eyes tightly for a second and sighed. Somehow he was too tired to work up the state of panic his precarious situation seemed to call for.
"Spike, have you come back only because you think you haven't managed to sufficiently convince me that my life 'sucks' during our last conversation?"
"Ah, yes!" The vampire toasted him with the cup and smirked. "Drove you to drink, didn't I?"
"You?" Giles gave him one of the contemptuous looks he usually reserved for Ethan Rayne or particularly slimy demons. "Not bloody likely!"
The reply only seemed to amuse Spike even further.
"Oh, that reminds me - now, where did I see it..."
He walked over to Giles' desk, picked up a letter from under a crystal paperweight and triumphantly waved it in front of the Watcher's nose.
"Ripper, lover," he started do read, voice practically dripping with sarcasm, while completely ignoring the helpless fury on Giles' face. "I thought a lot about us since we last were together. I know I said I wanted to become a magical adept, but I'm afraid your world is a bit deeper than I wanted to get." Spike gave the watcher a lewd wink. "I wonder how deep you got there, old man. Anyway," he continued reading, "I'm egotistical enough to want you for myself alone, and you will always be your girl's Watcher first..." He looked up, grinning. "A John Dear letter, Rupert, and from such a hot item - what was her name again, Olive? You don't have much luck in the female company department, have you?"
"At least my women are mentally stable most of the time," Giles shot back.
It was a petty reaction to put the finger on Spike's relationship with Drusilla, but Spike had the tendency to bring out the very worst in him.
Not only petty, but dangerous as well, he realised immediately as he watched the vampire's expression change from amusement to cold fury in the split of a second. His fist shot out and hit Giles squarely across the jaw - again - hard enough to bang his head against the headrest and cut his lip on his teeth.
"Mention her again, Watcher, " Spike hissed, his features twisted into game face and his cold blue eyes blazing, "and there won't be enough left of you for your cronies to find to fit in a matchbox."
Giles slumped back and shook his head to clear the dizziness. Suddenly he was just tired and thoroughly fed up with his opponent.
"Why don't you just shut up and get on with whatever you have planned, Spike? I'm sure that being dead is better than listening to you prattle."
"Yes, let's, Rupert." The prospect seemed to cheer the vampire up considerably. "In fact, I have thought about what to do with you for quite a bit. Came up with two options. I'll even leave the choice to you. Now, I could turn you-"
"No!" The answer came immediately, emotional, and Giles was himself surprised about the strength of his reaction. He had obsessed about vampires for half his adult life, and while being killed by one was a prospect never far away in his line of work, *becoming* one of the monsters was a different matter.
"Why not?" Spike retorted with cheerful rationality. "It's not that you're that attached to life. You drink, you whine, you flirt with danger..."
"I don't flirt-" Giles started to protest, but Spike cut him off with a raised index finger.
"If getting pissing drunk with your worst enemy isn't courting death I don't know what is. In a less good mood your Ethan could just have poisoned you, or cut off your head, or thrown you into the Hellmouth instead of turning you into a Fyarl. So, you embrace the Dark Side and all your troubles will be over. Hell, I'm so altruistic here it's almost disgusting."
Something about the vampire's words had an unpleasant ring of truth to it, but Giles squashed the thought immediately.
"I'm already quite well acquainted with my dark side, thank you very much, and it's nothing I ever plan to let out again."
Spike threw his hands up in exasperation.
"You're as schizophrenic as my wanking sire. You summoned a couple of demons and offed one or two people back when you were young? That's really pathetic compared to Angelus, so why bother with the 'repentance in Tweed' business? I've heard from several of your geek friends how cool 'Ripper' was, so I guess he'll be entertaining company."
"I will not turn into that monster!"
"If you insist," Spike smirked. "Who am I to contradict you when you're all determination instead of stuttering insecurity for a change? So we'll decide on the second option: I'll ring your precious Slayer and tell her to come here alone and unarmed, or I'll cut her beloved Watcher to bloody rags. Either way, you'll help me destroy her."
Giles' throat constricted in sudden panic. This 'could' work...
"Alone and unarmed?" he sneered to cover up his apprehension. "You watch far too many bad serials on the telly. If Buffy comes here to kick your sorry... behind, it won't be alone and definitely not 'unarmed'." He projected all the conviction he did not feel into his voice as if to convince his opponent of the impossibility of his plan through sheer willpower. Of course, it didn't work.
"Oh, I think she'll come," Spike announced merrily. "After all, you're her surrogate father figure, if you're not busy sticking poisoned needles into her, that is." The Watcher flinched. It seemed as if their blond nemesis had spent the last months grilling the Slayerettes for information, and was now firing it at him like verbal bullets.
"Though I'm not sure if needles are the only things you'd like to stick into her," the vampire continued in the same vein. "The way you freaked over that Walshe bint was pretty spectacular. I guess we're dealing with a suppressed Lolita syndrome here..."
"That's bloody *enough*, Spike!" Giles blew up finally. He had always hated being taunted, a reaction which had led to frequent bloodshed his younger years. "Why don't you shut the fuck up and get your arse over to the phone?" The vampire chuckled triumphantly.
"Language, Rupes! This is so absolutely not you. But I got you there, right? You love the silly bitch. On second thought maybe she won't come after all... too busy shagging her glorified piece of cannon fodder. Maybe she'll be glad to have you out of her life?"
*Bugger, Giles, don't let him rile you like this,* he admonished himself when his heart almost stopped with shock at the words. *He only wants to hurt you, and you're playing right into his hands.* Or did he? Giles shook his head to banish the anger, and studied the vampire's twisted expression attentively. Oh yes, it was there, if you looked carefully enough. It had been there all along, most blatantly when Buffy and the vampire had snogged under Willow's spell. And it could be turned into a weapon - if you were crazy enough.
Or had nothing to lose...
"Ah, yes," he retorted, an infuriating, Ripperish smile dancing across his face that made the vampire frown slightly. "Unrequited love... Now that's a common ailment around here, right? One that you - unlike me - are not at all suffering from, right?"
*Two can play that game, Spike,* he thought maliciously.
"I may be all you say, inefficient, pathetic and in denial, but I'm not blind. You love her. Ever since Drusilla left you, maybe even before. That's why you're still creeping around here like an alley cat 'round the rubbish bins, right?"
The blow came so fast he never saw the actual movement. The headrest exploded in a cloud of shards and sawdust under the impact of unrestrained vamipirc fury. The whole chair creaked pitifully before coming to bits and dissolving into assorted pieces of wooden splinters on the floor, taking Giles down with them. He hissed in pain as several of the splinters embedded themselves in parts of his anatomy. His glasses were gone, probably shattered beyond repair somewhere among the debris, and he blindly fumbled to free his hands from the now loose cords. He managed to get one hand lose just in time before the vampire lunged for him again. Giles grabbed the first thing his hand could reach and took a blind swipe at the incoming menace with all the strength he could muster.
A strangled scream, and the body of the vampire crashed into his side painfully, only to roll away and come to rest crunched up against the wall.
For some seconds, Giles just sat there. He hurt all over, but none of the scratches seemed particularly serious. A slightly aggravated version of his usual 'knocked unconscious by the villain of the day'-feeling. He rose to his feet unsteadily and stumbled over to the small telephone table, the top drawer of which held his oldest pair of reserve glasses - the very pair Jenny Calendar had fought a protracted battle to remove permanently from his nose, claiming they made him look like a 'myopic British barn owl'.
He put on the glasses before glancing gingerly at the body on his rug. It hadn't moved - so far. Either Spike was hurt - seriously hurt - or he was dissembling. Giles easily considered him childish enough to pull a horror- movie shock effect on him once he came closer. Still, he had to make sure.
He picked up a vicious shard of wood from the floor and clasped it hard before leaning over the prone form. He put a hand on the shoulder of the vampire's trademark leather duster and pulled him over on his back.
Protruding from the centre of his chest was the twin of the stick Giles held in his hand, a jagged piece of armrest. Spike's eyes were closed, his face strangely expressionless and peaceful. The view was eerie, to say the least. Giles stared for a second, waiting for the vampire to either leap at his throat or explode into dust like a crumbling sand puzzle. It didn't happen. He looked closer and noticed why. The makeshift stake was lodged a little too far to the right to have hit the heart directly. Still, it had probably grazed it partially, judging from the vampire's comatose state and the spreading blotch of dark red that soaked Spike's shirt around the splinter.
He didn't even have to use his own weapon, Giles realised. It would be enough just to push the stick a little deeper and to the left, and Buffy would be safe. They would all be safe.
"You really got lucky, eh?" Giles jumped a mile at the words and retreated a step just in case. "Offed by the old, discharged watcher. How bloody embarrassing!"
The vampire kept his eyes closed, but a small trickle of blood ran out of the corner of his mouth as he spoke. He coughed on it, face contorting in pain. When the icy eyes opened, they showed not a shred of emotion.
"What are you waiting for, Rupert? Wanna take it slowly? Get some of your own back?"
"Don't judge me by your standards," Giles snapped back.
Spike curled his bloody lip contemptuously.
"Having second thoughts, then?"
"No," Giles replied, projecting absolute conviction. "You're a killer. After all we did for you, you backstabbed us! You betrayed us to Adam. You tried to kill me, and Buffy. You deserve to die."
"Oooh, yes, just put all the blame on me and pretend I didn't tell you - all of you - a billion times over that I *wasn't* your friend. Bloody hypocrites!" Spike coughed again, obviously fed up, and glared at Giles angrily.
"How did you get rid of the chip?" Giles interrupted the tirade.
"Got a letter from some lawyers in LA." Spike shrugged, wincing at the movement. "Wanted me to go after Angel in exchange for neutralising the chip. Dumb buggers. Don't owe them anything." He glared at Giles, an unholy glint in his eyes. "But you, Watcher, you owe *me*!"
Giles stared back in outrage.
"What for? We saved you from the Initiative. I *paid* you for helping out when I was a Fyarl."
"Angelus," Spike clarified, unruffled.
Giles flinched visibly. He cursed himself for reacting so vehemently to the mere name, but instinct overrode reason. The name conjured up images of abject terror, pain and humiliation, the memory of being faced, helplessly, with a monster that was the embodiment of cruelty, impervious to human emotions, utterly beyond reasoning with, and wearing the face of a friend. A creature that had eclipsed the horror of Eyghon in Giles' mind. For a split second the impulse to shove the stake right through Spike's heart was overwhelming - not for anything he'd done today, but for throwing him back into the abyss of terror that the name conjured up.
"Your deal with Buffy was to destroy Angel in exchange for Drusilla's life," he spat. "It had nothing to do with me!"
The blood loss slowly turned the vampire's skin into an almost translucent white drawn over bones as sharp as marble shards, and a dark pool was forming under his body. And still, his voice cut like a knife.
"I'm not talking about rescuing you, Rupert. I'm talking about the chainsaws. I stopped Angelus from taking you apart body and soul, and believe me, what he actually did to you was nothing compared to what he could've done! I was with him for decades, I know what he's capable of. I saved far more than your sorry life that night."
Giles closed his eyes for a second, shivering, and rubbed the bridge of his nose above the glasses.
"Would you have done that if there had been no deal with Buffy?" he asked tiredly.
"Does it matter?"
Giles stared down at his hands contemplatively before admitting quietly, "No." He looked up to meet Spike's gaze calmly. "You're right, I owe you. And if I were a honourable man, I'd let you go. But I'm not, Spike. And if you think I'd let a murderous menace like you back out on the streets to go after my Slayer and her friends, you're out of your mind."
To Giles' amazement the vampire laughed, a wet sound that quickly turned into a violent cough.
"I always knew you were a ruthless bastard, Rupert. You'd make a marvellous vampire, really. But come on, give me a break here. I'll leave town, for a while at least, and you have my word I won't attack the Slayer or any of your little ones."
"Why should I believe you?"
"Have I ever lied to you? Maybe I usually don't tell you what you want to hear, but it's always the truth. And face the facts, sooner or later you'll run into another one of these tight spots where you need me to save your sorry arses so you can save the world."
Which, Giles reflected sadly, was probably the truth. And yet, he would have to be mad to trust the vampire. He was a notorious demon after all, and now that the chip was gone he'd revert to his known evil ways. Then again, even as a demon he had truly loved Drusilla, and Giles was keenly aware - and not just from his spectacular reaction to his words earlier - that he loved Buffy. Hated her almost as much and himself on top of it, likely, but a honest emotion nonetheless. Moreover - and Giles mentally kicked himself for it - the vampire had wormed his way into their circle like a hideously effective parasite, despite his manic personality and sarcastic ways. What it essentially came down to was that he didn't *want* to kill Spike, especially not like this.
*Oh great*, he thought bitterly. *I should send the Watchers' Council a note of congratulation for firing me. I've definitely gone out of my frigging mind.*
He gave Spike a stern look.
"You give me your solemn word that you won't hurt Buffy, no matter what?"
The vampire let his eyes fall close, visibly drained, and shook his head weakly.
"No. I can't promise that. I won't stay away from her, I can't. I won't kill her - well, unless she asks me to. You never know. But even *you* could hardly promise never to hurt her, right?"
Giles sighed. Spike was right, and being more honest than he'd expected in his position. He'd have to take what he could get.
"Probably not." He grabbed the makeshift stake and put his other hand against Spike's shoulder to pull it out. The vampire let out a strangled sound as the splintered wood dislocated from his chest and pressed both hands against the gaping hole. He curled into a ball, trying to stop himself from bleeding out further. Giles looked down at the wood and flung it away in disgust. When Spike hadn't moved from his fetal position after several minutes, he put a hand on his arm gingerly.
"Are you going to be all right?"
He got a furious, pained hiss in return.
"No! Fuck!" And then, "Won't heal without blood. Same with Dru, in Prague."
"You've got to be kidding," Giles snapped.
"What?" The vampire mumbled, petulantly. "It's your fault that I'm like this, and you won't even lend a hand? Or a vein?"
The Watcher shook his head in amazement.
"I really should have staked you!"
"Nah, it'd look like jealousy. By the way, you like me because I remind you of your younger self, Rupes."
"If you reminded me of Ripper, I'd have staked you in a heartbeat and trampled on the ashes just to make sure you were gone," Giles retorted, but more softly than before.
Aware that he was giving in to the very same devil-may-care impulse that had got him into high water with Ethan, he kneeled next to Spike, and, after another moment's hesitation, put out his left wrist.
"Well, since you've already gnawed on it earlier... chalk it up to a severe case of Florence Nightingale Syndrome and general madness," he muttered.
The vampire grabbed his hand in a vice grip that terrified Giles in its greedy intensity.
"Don't panic, Watcher," Spike hissed, eyes gleaming hungrily below the ridges of his game face, teeth bared. "You'll live."
He buried his fangs in Giles' already torn wrist, requiring only a touch of pressure to reopen the wounds and make the blood flow again. While it was drawn out of his veins, he heard the vampire sigh contentedly over the wound as his severe injury slowly started to heal. Pain shot through Giles' arm, travelling up all the way to his shoulder and emanating from there through the whole left side of his body. It was soon numbed by a comfortable calm that descended like a layer of cotton wool over Giles' mind and blanketed off the outside world. A dull roar in his ears told him that he was slipping towards unconsciousness.
*You are a bleeding idiot, Giles,* his inner Watcher reprimanded him sternly, and then, quite irrationally, *Spike, if this kills me I'm gonna come back as a ghost and haunt you to perdition.*
Giles woke up with a headache from hell, feeling hurt all over. *Ethan*, was his first, unfocussed thought. *Poison? Hangover?*
Reality asserted itself until it came back to him that the real answer was 'de-chipped vampire on the war path'. He groaned and opened his eyes.
He was laying on his living room couch, a blanket thrown over him carelessly. Sunlight streamed through the windows and stabbed into his eyes with a vengeance. He closed them quickly and moaned again. His throat was parched, blood pounding an atonal rhythm against his temples, and his arm felt as if it had been ripped off and reattached in clumsy Frankenstein manner. Well, at least he was alive. He suspected being dead wouldn't feel remotely as bad.
He sat up and surveyed the remains of his living room with bleary eyes. Spike was gone, but a large, almost dry stain of blood disfigured his rug where he had lain. No dust outline, however. Pity! The vampire must have recovered enough to make it out before dawn.
He got up, swerving dangerously, and stumbled along to the kitchen to get something to drink. Grabbing a large pitcher of spring water out of the refrigerator, he noticed a hand-written note taped to the fridge door.
'You don't like to flirt with danger? Like hell, Rupes!'
He gave the paper a wry grin and toasted it with the pitcher before taking several deep gulps. Then he went out into the corridor with his prize and picked up the phone. It was time to inform the Slayerettes about the latest developments.
Buffy would take his head off, and deservedly so. But apart from being in pain and the fact that he had just aided and abetted one of their worst enemies and generally behaved in a way that would have made Ethan Rayne pale with envy, he felt pretty good about himself.