Saturation - Chapter 3
written by Jane Davitt & WesleysGirl





"I hope he shows up before we go to bed," Xander said, slouching further down on the sofa and clicking the button on the remote control again.

"Well, we're hardly about to give him a key, are we?" Giles asked.

Xander shook his head and let his other hand drop onto Giles' thigh, patting it gently. "I know." He'd apologized at least twice for having snapped at Giles on the phone earlier, despite Giles' assurances that it wasn't necessary, and they'd had a peaceful dinner without Spike there to stir up trouble. They were currently indulging in their pre-bed ritual of watching mindless television for half an hour before going upstairs.

Giles captured Xander's hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. "I know he broke all records for being obnoxious today, but he's probably still feeling a little disorientated. He'll be less abrasive in a day or two, I'm sure." He considered the likelihood of that for a moment and then sighed. "Or he might get worse, if that's possible. Really, I can't believe he's stupid enough to be this antagonistic when he's got nowhere else to go."

"You can't?" Xander asked, grinning. "I can believe it. In fact, I think it's pretty much par for the course. The more threatened he feels, the more annoying he is." More seriously, he said, "So I think you're right -- he might get less irritating after a couple of days. Although I assume we're still planning to find somewhere else for him to live? Not to mention work."

"God, yes!" Giles said. "For the sake of our sex-life, if nothing else. I really can't say that I want a repeat of last night." He felt irritable just thinking about that. At the time, it'd surprised a laugh out of him, but in retrospect it stopped being at all amusing. The thought of Spike getting off on what Giles was doing with Xander was an unendurable invasion of their privacy. Forcing himself to be practical, he added, "I want him to stay here until I've finished looking into this Shanshu prophecy though; I've got two people researching it, so it shouldn't take long."

Xander was apparently ready to give up on the television, as he shut it off and leaned forward to drop the remote control onto the coffee table. He didn't get up, though, just leaned back again so that their shoulders were touching. "Maybe you can offer them time and a half," he suggested. "You know, to finish sooner."

"Perhaps I could," Giles said, turning slightly and running his hand slowly over Xander's chest. "And perhaps we could take advantage of the fact that we're alone at the moment?"

He didn't wait for Xander to do more than smile before leaning in and kissing him hard, feeling both unexpectedly possessive and in need of reassurance. With an impatience he didn't normally show, he tugged Xander's shirt out of his jeans and slipped his hand underneath it, stroking Xander's stomach and feeling the muscles tighten and shift under his hand.

Xander seemed just as eager as he, returning the kiss and shifting so that he could rub his hand along the length of Giles' sudden erection. "God, yeah," Xander breathed, fingers working at Giles' zip in a way that Giles felt certain was deliberately clumsy. "How long's it been since we had sex on the couch? Gotta be at least a month." His lips were warm and cooperative against Giles', his talented hand finally slipping inside Giles' boxers and touching him where he needed to be touched.

"It feels like a month since you did that," Giles said, hearing his voice roughen with arousal. He wasn't sure that counted as an exaggeration, either. Xander could make him feel a hunger he'd thought lay far behind him. And the couch was only one of the places they'd satisfied that hunger. In fact, he didn't think there was a room in the house they hadn't fucked in by now. Given that he'd long ago decided that a bed was the best place to have sex, no matter how mundane a choice, that was a testament to Xander's effect on him.

He reached down, dealing with Xander's zip quickly, deepening the kiss until Xander's tongue was warm against his. They moved until they were half-lying across the couch, clothes pushed out of the way just enough to allow their hands to reach each other, Giles' leg thrust between Xander's. Lost in the dual sensations of Xander's cock, hard and throbbing in his hand, and what Xander's hand was doing to his own erection, it took Giles a moment to realize that a slow, irregular thudding noise was someone knocking at the door.

He wrenched his mouth away from Xander's and sat up, listening. The thud came again, accompanied by his own name, yelled out at a volume that wasn't going to go down well with the neighbors at all.

"Spike," he said bitterly. "Of all the bloody times to pick to come back!"

Xander struggled to a sitting position beside him, fumbling slowly at putting his clothes to rights, looking every bit as irritable and reluctant as Giles felt. "Figures," Xander muttered, standing and zipping up his trousers. Giles was still tucking himself away, so Xander went, presumably, to let Spike in.

Or at least that was what he hoped Xander had planned, as opposed to something like, for example, opening the door and punching Spike in the face, satisfying as that might be.

The front door slammed, and there was a scuffling sound as if Spike was resisting whatever Xander was doing to him. Which turned out to be pushing him through the door into the living room and forcing him into a wooden chair against the wall. Giles was fully dressed again, but Spike was, judging by the look of him, past noticing anything short of complete nudity anyway.

"Do you know how many houses on this road don't have anyone called Giles living in them?" Spike demanded, his words slurred enough to be verging on incomprehensible. "Knocked and knocked and you weren't behind any of the doors." He drew himself up and fixed Giles with an accusing glare. "You were hiding and that's cheating, Giles. 'Spected better of you. Not playing the game."

"Oh, good Lord," Giles said, staring at Spike with a fascinated disgust. "Three sheets to the wind and he's discovered a sense of honor. Delightful."

"He's really drunk." Xander seemed rather more pleased than the situation called for. He crouched down beside Spike and poked Spike's cheek, then whisked his hand out of the way as Spike swatted at him.

"Leave off!" Spike said. He didn't seem to be focusing his eyes properly, and Giles couldn't help but wonder if Spike had enough sense not to drink himself to death.

Xander poked him again. "I never saw him this drunk in Sunnydale."

"Lots of me you never saw in Sunnydale." Spike appeared to be attempting to leer at Xander, but very nearly fell out of his chair instead, and Xander had to reach out and steady him.

"And let me just emphasize how very, very happy that makes me," Xander said. He stood back up and looked at Giles. "What should we do, just put him to bed and let him sleep it off?"

Giles nodded resignedly. "With a bucket by the bed and a glass of water," he said. "We can try and get some water down him now, but -- no, let's not bother. He's going to wake up feeling terrible no matter what we do, and serve him right."

He walked over to Spike and hooked a hand under his arm. "You get his other arm," he said to Xander.

Between them, they hauled Spike up and started towards the study.

"You can't drink as much as you used to, Spike," Giles told him, although he doubted Spike was listening. "Human bodies can't deal with alcohol as effectively as vampires' can. And I would have thought you'd have learned that by now."

Spike turned his head and gave him a puzzled look. "'M not human, you plonker. I'm Spike." He made what Giles could only assume was an attempt to snarl and ran his tongue over his teeth. "What happened to my fangs? Did you take them? Did you?" He pulled out of their grip and stood there swaying, his fists clenched. "Give them back!"

Xander seemed to be trying not to laugh. "We don't have them," he said, taking half a step back and holding out his hands. "You stole Angel's humanity, or something... remember? Spikey's not a vampire anymore."

Still swaying, Spike looked at Xander and frowned, looking as if he were trying very hard to get his brain to function. Then his expression cleared, only to be replaced a moment later by a look of panic, his face going suddenly very pale.

"Bathroom," Giles said succinctly, having been in a condition not that far removed from Spike's too many times to miss the signs that someone was about to lose a bellyful of expensive -- or not -- drinks.

They got him there just in time and stood in silence watching him throw up into the toilet.

"I'll stay with him while you get the bucket," Giles murmured to Xander. "Probably won't need it after this, but best to be on the safe side."

Xander nodded, wrinkling his nose, and went out.

Giles waited until he was sure Spike had finished, and then reached over his head to flush the toilet.

"Get up," he said, not unkindly. There had been something rather touching about Spike's expression as the reality of his situation dawned on him; an unguarded moment of bewildered loss.

Spike stayed where he was, slumped against the toilet bowl, and Giles sighed. Going to the basin, he ran some cool water over the flannel there and wrung it out. Squatting beside Spike, he cleaned his face, and then rinsed out a slightly dusty glass on the shelf and filled it with water.

"Here," he said, putting the glass to Spike's mouth. "Rinse and spit."

Spike obeyed shakily, taking the glass in a trembling hand and sipping the water, then spitting it out again. This immediately earned him a case of the dry heaves -- apparently there was nothing left to come up -- and Giles sighed and took the glass away again. "Feel terrible," Spike managed to mumble.

Giles debated giving him some aspirin, but decided that the chances of it staying down weren't good. He'd leave some beside Spike's bed with the water.

"I'm sure you do." He studied Spike's face, seeing the strain on it now that Spike wasn't able to hide behind an arrogance that, no matter how abrasive, had to have been assumed rather than real. Spike's skin was clammy, and there were shadows under his bleary, blood-shot eyes. Prompted by pity, Giles patted Spike's shoulder. "You'll be fine. You'll wish you were dead tomorrow, but you don't need me to tell you that it'll pass."

Xander appeared in the doorway, staring down at them, and Giles got to his feet.

"Let's get him to bed," Giles said.

Spike seemed incapable of walking on his own, and they had to half carry him into the bedroom, where Xander had put a bucket by the bed as well as turned down the sheets. As soon as they'd got Spike's jacket and shoes off him, he collapsed onto the mattress, curling up into a miserable ball around a pillow and hiding his face with his arm. "M'dying and nobody cares."

"You're not dying," Xander told him, pulling up the covers over Spike's slight form.

There was a muttered reply that neither of them could understand. Giles frowned. "What?"

Spike groaned and shifted position. "Go away and leave me to die in peace if you can't show proper sympathy," he slurred. Giles didn't think that was what he'd said before, though, and the thought that Spike might actually prefer being dead to living out his life as a human concerned him, little as he might like the man.

"We'll leave you to sleep it off," Giles said, "but tomorrow we'll talk about this." Spike grunted and hunched up his shoulder. "In the afternoon, perhaps," Giles said, wincing as he pictured the hangover Spike was going to wake up to. A new body that hadn't built up a tolerance to any of the hazards of living wasn't an unmixed blessing. It crossed his mind to wonder if Spike would be vulnerable to a dozen illnesses. He wouldn't have been inoculated as a child, after all.

Deciding to get Spike to a doctor at some point for a check-up, Giles left the room with Xander, switching off the light and closing the door quietly.

"Is it soft-hearted of me to admit that I feel kind of bad for him?" Xander asked as they finished their routine of shutting off the lights and checking to see that the front door was locked and went upstairs.

"If it is, it's an emotion I share," Giles admitted, starting to get undressed. "He's so adrift right now that it's hard not to feel sorry for him, even if he is going out of his way to make us hate him." He tossed the last of his clothes onto a chair near the bed. "Idiot," he muttered, reaching for his robe. He wouldn't normally have bothered with it just to go to the bathroom, but with Spike around he had a feeling a lot of his habits were going to change.

"Was Anya like this?" he asked when they were both in bed. "Frightened and angry at becoming human unexpectedly? I know we worked together, but we never really talked about anything personal." He grinned at Xander before reaching out to turn off the bedside lamp. "I tended to discourage that, as she usually ended up talking about you and I found it a little embarrassing, to be honest."

Xander seemed to consider the question before answering. "Yeah, she was. The thing was, she'd just come right out and say it, not pretend that it wasn't happening and only admit it when she was drunk. Um, not that she ever really got drunk." He sighed and resettled himself on his side facing Giles. "So what do we do tomorrow? Make him come to work with me again even though he's miserable?"

"I don't think he'll be up to doing much," Giles said. "And I dread to think what he'll be like with a hangover. I think you've suffered enough. Besides, it just occurred to me that he should really get a medical. He's been given a body, yes, but what state of health is he in?" He turned and put his arm around Xander's waist, resting his hand on Xander's back, and feeling an uncomplicated surge of happiness when Xander moved closer, slipping his arm around Giles. "I've got work I can do here until he's up to leaving the house, and I'll take him to see Dr Simpson. He's used to coping with wounds infected by demon slime; I imagine he'll take a vampire resurrected into a human body in his stride."

"Sounds good," Xander said. "And I swear I'm not only saying that because it gets him out of my hair for the day." His fingers traced idly up and down along Giles' spine. "It's gotta suck, you know? Thinking you're going to live forever -- well, be undead forever -- and then waking up and finding out you're going to die just like everyone else." He sounded a bit sad, Giles thought.

"On the other hand, he had just been turned to dust and might have still been heading for hell, so perhaps he's not that much to be pitied," Giles pointed out. "This is a fresh start for him with, I assume, an unsullied soul." He was in the perfect position to kiss Xander's neck just below his jaw, and he took advantage of that, brushing his lips across the hidden skin. "And I'm willing to make allowances for him, but if he keeps on insinuating that I'm corrupting your innocence I'm going to thump him," he said, pulling back and feeling ridiculously grumpy.

"He's only been insinuating?" Xander asked. "That's probably restrained as far as he's concerned." Giles found himself being pulled on top of Xander, slightly calloused hands running over his skin in the most distracting manner. "Now, can we please stop talking about Spike and focus on what's really important?"

"Finishing what we started on the couch?" Giles murmured, supporting himself on one elbow and leaning over to kiss Xander. "I think I'd class that as being of the highest importance, wouldn't you?"

"Definitely," Xander agreed, nodding. "Hugely important." He slid a hand between them and stroked Giles' cock, his touch so perfect that Giles gasped, and then neither of them said anything for rather a long time.

*****


"Could've asked him to give me an IV to cut this hangover short," Spike muttered as he slid into the passenger seat of Giles' car just after noon the next day. "Since he was already giving me the pincushion treatment."

"Baby," Giles said, glancing over his shoulder, and then taking advantage of a gap in the traffic and pulling out. "Children as young as two -- younger -- have those injections and get no more than a lollipop afterwards." He was slightly hazy on the details, but that sounded about right. And he was damn sure when he was a child the lollipop hadn't been involved at all. "You're in the best of health, the hangover's entirely your own doing, and I suggest you drink that bottle of water he gave you and cancel the pity-party."

Spike grunted noncommittally, but Giles noted that a few moments later he did twist the cap off the bottle of water he was holding and take a sip. "You're getting a real kick out of this, aren't you?" Spike asked.

"Which part?" Giles asked. "Watching you suffer because you drank too much? Hardly. I've been in a similar state too often to cast stones." He gave Spike a sidelong look. "Although I tend to retreat into a dark corner and mope rather than wake up half the neighborhood. Next time -- and I suppose it's too much to hope for that there isn't a next time -- do try and remember we live at number 35."

Spike sighed and looked out the window, falling silent for once. He still looked pale under the odd hint of tan that was his souvenir from his few weeks in L.A. as a human, and the moment before's snark was his first truly normal behavior all day. He'd been strangely subdued the entire morning, going along with Giles' plan without comment, and now his silence left Giles wondering what on earth was going through his head.

By design, not chance, the doctor's office was situated close to the new Council building. Giles pulled into his parking space and switched off the engine before turning to Spike. "I owe you an apology," he said, watching a small spark of interest flare in Spike's eyes.

"Yeah? Told Doc to use the blunt needles, did you?"

Giles shook his head. "No. It's just that -- you came to us for help. You were unexpected and uninvited, but that shouldn't have mattered. If it'd been Buffy or Willow, we'd have made them welcome and really, after what we all went through in Sunnydale, the same should have held good for you." Giles unfastened his seat belt and met Spike's gaze. "You're welcome to stay with us until you decide what you want to do, Spike." Before Spike could answer, he leaned forward a little, resting his arm on the back of his car seat. "But you lose the attitude, you understand me? If you want to talk about what's happened to you, we'll listen, and not unsympathetically either, but I'll not have you going out of your way to upset Xander. He's gone through enough."

Spike looked at him for a long moment, searching his eyes as if waiting, perhaps, for the other shoe to fall. When it didn't, he nodded slowly. "Okay." His voice was rough, and he cleared his throat before continuing. "But if you're expecting me to go on about my feelings, I think you spent a bit too much time in California, mate. I might not know who I am anymore, but I know it's not that."

Giles couldn't help laughing. "I didn't spend that long in California," he said. "Not enough to overcome forty-odd years of being properly reticent when it comes to emotions."

He couldn't help wishing that wasn't the case sometimes, especially where Xander was concerned, but there didn't seem to be much he could do about it.

"I have some work to do," he said. "Why don't you come up to my office?" He smiled. "We lost a lot of our records when Caleb destroyed the original headquarters, but many were in storage facilities designed to withstand more than an explosion. If you like, I could show you your file. There are some gaps in it that you might be able to fill in. Just for the sake of accuracy, of course."

"Not sure I like the idea of a bunch of people I don't know having even more detail about my life," Spike said, but he didn't sound particularly annoyed, and he got out of the car as though he were amicable enough about joining Giles in his office.

"Well, if that doesn't appeal," Giles said, as he led the way through the main reception area and to the stairs, which he made a point of using as his office was on the sixth floor and he rarely had time to exercise, good intentions notwithstanding, "perhaps you'd like to earn some cash by doing a spot of translating? We contract that out sometimes if we get overloaded, and that's certainly the case at the moment, judging by the memos I've been getting from Sarah, who's in charge of that department. You read Greek, I believe? And I daresay when it comes to the demon languages you might have the edge on some of our translators." He paused to catch his breath, making a silent promise to get to the gym in the basement at least once a week. "Pays quite well."

Annoyingly, Spike seemed to be breathing as easily as if he'd just got up from a long nap. "Paid work that doesn't involve sweeping sawdust and cleaning windows? Point me at it."

"Oh," Giles said, a little surprised by Spike's apparent willingness to get started. He'd expected to be told that sitting behind a desk wasn't something Spike was prepared to do, or at best an 'I'll think about it'. "Well, that's good. I'll introduce you to Sarah later and she can give you something to get started on."

They began to climb the stairs again, with Spike soon getting a few steps ahead of Giles. Spike really was in good shape, Giles thought absently, trying not to let the gap between them get too large.

It wasn't until they reached the top that he realized he'd been staring at Spike's backside the whole way.

Spike didn't fail to notice Giles' slightly labored breathing, stopping at the landing and turning around. "I'd think what you get up to with Xander in the evenings'd be enough to keep you in shape," he said fairly pleasantly, leaving Giles to wonder for a moment if he and Xander had been overheard last night as well as the previous one. But no, Spike had been nearly unconscious with drink. It had to be a good guess and nothing more.

Determined not to rise to every taunt of Spike's -- and he hadn't accompanied that one with a leer which meant, for Spike, it ranked more as an observation -- Giles settled for a noncommittal shrug. "I'm sure it helps." He couldn't resist adding, "And it's not an activity confined to the evenings. Or at least it wasn't."

Spike nodded and shrugged a little bit himself, the shoulders of his leather jacket creaking. "Right," he said. "Well, any time the two of you want some privacy, feel free to slip me a tenner and send me out to the pub." It seemed an absurd suggestion considering Spike still hadn't recovered from the previous evening, and when Giles blinked at him in mild astonishment, Spike said, "You don't seriously think one night of a few too many's going to put a halt to my fun, do you?"

"I don't expect you to sign the pledge, no, but I hope you're not planning to waste every penny you earn on beer and cigarettes," Giles snapped, as the hope that Spike was becoming more responsible faded. He pushed open the door at the top of the stairs and walked through it, holding it open for Spike. "And while we're on the subject, if you want to smoke when you're at home, go into the garden, please."

"Brilliant," Spike muttered, following him, but when Giles let the remark pass without comment, simply staring at him coldly, Spike backtracked quickly. "Right. Smoke in the garden. Can do."

They walked into an outer office, with a door leading to Giles' own office on the far wall, and Giles braced himself as his secretary glanced up, her face showing a faint surprise. Miss MacAlister was one of the Council employees who had survived the blast, thanks to a dentist's appointment which had taken her out of the building a scant three minutes before it was destroyed. She had a tendency to treat him as if he was filling in until the real head of the Council returned, and greeted any proposed changes from the way things used to be done with primmed-up lips, but she was mellowing slightly as the weeks went by.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Giles," she said, with an emphasis on 'afternoon' that wasn't lost on him. If he arrived even a minute past nine she made him feel as if he was in disgrace; taking the morning off at a moment's notice hadn't gone down well at all. Her eyes scanned Spike with a detached disapproval. "You've had some phone calls; I've placed the messages on your desk. And I've rearranged your ten o'clock appointment to three, subject to your approval, of course."

"Yes, that's fine, Miss MacAlister," Giles said hastily. Her name was Jean, but somehow he'd never managed to use it. "If you could just bring us two coffees, please. Oh, and get hold of Sarah from Translations for me, would you?" He indicated Spike with a nod of his head. "I've found someone to help her out."

"How nice," Miss MacAlister said, although the look she gave Spike with his slightly slumped shoulders and his heavily bleached hair was doubtful and, it had to admitted, disdainful. Giles could almost feel Spike reacting to her easy dismissal of him and quickly turned toward him, gesturing that he should go ahead into his office and hoping that he'd have the sense to keep his mouth shut until he had.

Fortunately, Spike managed it, waiting until Giles had ushered him inside and closed the door before rolling his eyes. "What the bloody hell is her problem?"

Giles waved him to the visitor's chair, walking around his desk and sitting down. The room was large enough that he didn't bother lowering his voice; Miss MacAlister couldn't hear them unless they shouted, and truthfully he didn't care if she did.

"If it's any consolation, she was equally unfriendly when she met Xander. Still glares at him on the odd occasion he comes here and really isn't happy that he's living with me, although she's stopped short of being as frank about it as you were." Spike crossed one leg over the other, still looking a little ruffled.

Giles went on, oddly anxious to reassure Spike. "Her problem's not with either of you though; she was very fond of my predecessor -- God knows why -- and she knows exactly how much he'd have detested the idea of me taking over. She's too loyal to the Council to be actively hostile, and I do think she's getting used to me, but –" Giles shrugged helplessly and reached for the sheaf of messages placed in the center of his desk.

"If you're the one in charge, can't you sack her?" Spike asked bluntly.

"Sack her?" Giles shook his head, starting to read the messages. "She knows more about how the Council operates than anyone living; she's worked here for nearly 40 years. Getting rid of her because she never lets me forget I'm considered to be a failure as a Watcher, and in her eyes morally unsound, is... well, it's tempting, yes, but she's too valuable. I'd be doing the Council a disservice if I did."

"You're doing yourself a disservice if you let her keep giving you attitude," Spike said, apparently unwilling to let the matter drop. "Bad for morale. Not just yours, but everyone's."

Giles stared at him, feeling slightly lost for words. "Coming from you, Spike, I find that advice rather surprising, although you're probably correct." He gave him a puzzled smile. "Shouldn't you approve of her being a thorn in my side? Or do you resent the competition?"

"You're all right," Spike said grudgingly, surprising Giles further. Then he added, "Assuming you're not hatching another plan to have me killed, that is."

"Ah." They'd never really discussed that, Giles reflected, staring down at his hands, linked and resting on the polished wood. Perhaps they should have, but in that crowded house there hadn't really been the opportunity, and afterwards Spike wasn't there to be apologized to. "I did believe you posed a very real threat, Spike." He glanced up. "And you did. If Robin's actions hadn't allowed you to break through the trigger – " Spike rolled his eyes again, and Giles kept hold of his temper because he couldn't really blame him. "I'm sorry for what I did, because it undermined Buffy's authority. I lost her trust that night and I don't think she's ever entirely forgiven me." He gave Spike a level look. "I was glad you survived though, and not just because it meant you were there to close the Hellmouth. It's up to you if you believe that."

Spike looked away, shifting a bit in his chair as thought the direct scrutiny made him uncomfortable. "She said she loved me," Spike said, still not meeting Giles' eyes. "Right before. I told her I didn't believe her."

It didn't surprise Giles to hear that Buffy had said or felt that particular emotion for Spike, not considering how furious she'd been with Giles when she'd discovered what he'd tried to do. "Did you?" Giles asked.

"'Course not," Spike said. He glanced up at Giles, hands fidgeting in his lap. "How could she? Having a soul didn't make me any less a monster."

"I don't think she thought of you that way by then," Giles told him. "None of us did. You were -- you were mourned, as much as any of those who died." By some of them more than others, but he saw no reason to go into details about that. You couldn't really expect Robin or the new Slayers to feel quite the same way about Spike as the rest of them had. "And when Andrew blurted out that you were alive on his return from L.A. -- which he did almost immediately -- I was... pleased to hear it."

"Wasn't alive though, was I," Spike said, a bit bleakly. His expression reminded Giles of the expressions he'd seen on the faces of people who'd just lost someone or something very dear to them before the realization had really sunk in. Shock.

"I don't know about that," Giles said slowly. Spike's personality had always been forceful enough to make it easy to forget that he was, as Xander would say, the evil undead. "It must have been an improvement on being a ghost, surely?" He frowned, distracted from their conversation by a sudden thought. "Where on earth is that coffee?"

He stabbed his finger at the intercom and said testily, "Miss MacAlister?" just as she opened the door -- without knocking -- and bustled in carrying a tray. Snatching his hand back guiltily, he gave her a weak smile. "Thank you. Did you manage to get hold of Sarah?"

"I can't make coffee and telephone calls at the same time," she said, punctuating her remark with a sniff. Her eyes slid to Spike. "You didn't say how he wanted his so I left it black."

Which would have been fine, had she placed milk and sugar on the tray, Giles reflected.

"'He' likes it black just fine," Spike said, leaning forward and snagging the mug off the tray then sitting back in his chair again, legs spread wide in a way that appeared casual, but which Giles strongly suspected was deliberately provocative. He took a sip of the coffee and ran his tongue along his lower lip, looking directly at Miss MacAlister as he did it.

Suddenly, she seemed to find the atmosphere in the room more uncomfortable than she had. She moved forward to set the tray on Giles' desk, looking everywhere but at Spike.

"Miss MacAlister," Giles said as she turned away.

"Yes?"

Spike's eyes narrowed at her tone, which verged on dismissive, and he gave Giles a look that was less challenging than expectant. Giles turned his head and stared at Miss MacAlister, waiting in silence.

"Yes?" she repeated impatiently.

Giles lifted his eyebrow and continued to wait. A dull flush rose in her cheeks.

"Yes, sir?" she said grudgingly.

"If two simple requests are beyond your capability to execute within a time I deem reasonable, Miss MacAlister, might I suggest you consider taking advantage of the excellent retirement package on offer... rather than my rapidly fading good nature?"

Spike snorted, his eyes sparkling with a wicked amusement, and the flush on Miss MacAlister's face deepened.

"I'm sorry, sir," she said stiffly. "It won't happen again."

"No," Giles said gently. "It won't."

"I'll... I'll go make that phone call right now," Miss MacAlister said, and left the room gratifyingly quickly, although that might just have been to escape the situation for all Giles knew.

He looked over at Spike, who seemed pleased. "There you go," Spike said. "Knew you had it in you."

Giles gave him a self-deprecating smile. "Hardly ranks as one of my most memorable victories, but thank you." He felt his smile fade a little. "God, look at me," he said suddenly. "Feeling a glow of pride at putting my secretary in her place. I used to get that from stopping an apocalypse at the very least." He picked up his coffee and took a sip. "D'you know the last time I fought anything that fought back was the day we closed the Hellmouth? I'm getting soft."

"Wouldn't know it by the sounds I heard coming out of your bedroom the other night," Spike said, smirking over the rim of his mug before taking a sip of coffee.

"Will you stop –" Giles took a deep breath, narrowing his eyes. The malice of Spike's earlier jibes had been missing from this latest one, and the embarrassment Giles had felt had faded. Spike had heard them having sex. Fine. If he was going to stay with them, he probably would again. "Why does it intrigue you so much?" he asked mildly, leaning back and giving Spike a pleasant smile. "My sex-life, that is? You surely didn't think I was incapable? Far from it, especially with a partner like Xander." He allowed a concerned expression to pass over his face. "Or is this a cry for help of some sort? Dear me, Spike, if you were having difficulties performing, you should have mentioned it to the doctor. They have these pills these days, you know." Spike opened his mouth, looking indignant, and Giles added, "Although judging by what I heard from your bedroom the other night, you're getting the hang of it. Or was that a cry of frustration, not release?"

"Nothing wrong with me," Spike said, slouching down in his chair a bit further as if aware that this made it impossible for anyone looking at him's eyes not to zero in on his crotch. "Just didn't figure on the two of you ending up together, s'all."

"Well, we did," Giles said matter-of-factly. "And we're very happy. So get used to it, please. We'll try not to offend your delicate sensibilities, but I can't promise I'll never kiss him when you're in the room and I'm damned if we're moving back into separate bedrooms." He smiled slowly. "And if Xander's sharing my bed I can guarantee there will be... sounds, but we'll do our best to keep you from hearing us."

"Guess it'll be easier now that the vamp hearing's gone," Spike said a bit morosely, picking at the inner seam of his jeans, which Giles realized were the same ones he'd worn the day before. He made a mental note to sort out a way to get some more clothes for Spike if he needed them, although how he'd ask without sending Spike into another unpleasant mood was a mystery.

The phone rang, and Giles picked it up. "Yes?"

"Sarah in Translations says you can send your..." Miss MacAlister fumbled, and then recovered, "The new employee down any time and she'll get him started."

"I'll walk him down myself," Giles said, ignoring the implication that Spike was his -– well, he didn't know what she'd assumed, but it probably wasn't to his credit. Stupid woman. "Thank you."

He hung up and raised his eyebrows. "Sounds as if Sarah's eager to meet you." He ran his eyes over Spike and smiled, enjoying the thought of Sarah's reaction to him, which was going to verge on ecstatic given her workload and her current lack of a boyfriend. "And unlike my secretary, I think once she sees you, that won't change. Pretty girl, and very bright. Once I've introduced you I'll take you over to the wages department and get the paperwork started." He frowned. "You won't have a National Insurance number, will you? Damn."

Spike was looking a little lost. "Don't know. Never done this before, have I?"

"I'll sort it out," Giles said hastily. Leaving Spike to deal with the inevitable red-tape involved in becoming a member of the work force would be cruel and unusual punishment. And the Council was influential enough that it wasn't needed. By the end of the week, his name would be just where it should be on a score of files and records and he'd have all the documentation he needed. "Just give me the documents you have and I'll see to it all."

Getting to his feet, Spike set down his mug and fumbled a small pile of papers and what looked to be a passport from the inside pocket of his jacket. He looked through them with a rather bewildered expression on his face, then shrugged and offered the whole mess to Giles. "You sure you want to do this?"

Giles took them from him and slid them inside an envelope from his desk. "It's no trouble," he said. "And to be honest, it won't be me doing it exactly; I'll pass it on to the right people and make a phone call or two, that's all." He tucked the envelope under his arm and went to the door. As he opened it, he saw Miss MacAlister glance up, her face still set in grim lines. "But if you feel you owe me a favor, I'm sure I can come up with something you can do for me," he said.

The sniff Miss MacAlister gave as he ushered Spike past her, his hand resting briefly on Spike's shoulder, was enough to make him grin all the way to the stairs.


Read: Chapter 4