Paving Stones
Chapter One - Company In Hell

written by Mad Poetess & Wolfling


Rating: FRAO
Spoilers: Through BtVS Season 6. AU
Summary: Misery loves company. Maybe that's all it is.
Feedback Author: Mad Poetess & Wolfling
Mad Poetess' Website: Pointy Stakes
Wolfling's Website: Wolfling's Lair
Mad Poetess' LJ: The Good One
Wolfling's LJ: Wolfling



He waited until they were out of sight. Safely packed off home, the boy to his feathered nest with Anya by his side, Giles to that loft full of boxes that he never quite got round to completely packing, the witches and the Thing, home. To Her house. Where she wasn't. Then, as he did every night, when he was sure they were all safe -- and he *had* to be sure they were all safe, because they were all he had left of her -- he doubled back. To where she was.

In the woods. Willow had found the place, some kind of local psychic deadspot, that people Just Didn't Notice. Very pretty, all grassy and soft. A good place to rest. Spike was of the opinion that they could have buried her in the center of Main Street, though, and people in Sunnydale would just assume her tombstone was a pothole, and drive around. Still, it was a good place. Even if she wasn't really there, any more than she was home in her bed with wires sticking out of her body, staring at the ceiling.

He stepped out of the trees, and he knew someone was there, even before he rounded the big rock at the edge of the clearing. Nothing to smell from that distance, except grass and earth and the scent of death that had let him know the first time he'd followed them here, that she wouldn't be lying alone -- that the place was only unnoticed by those who didn't notice things. But he knew someone was here, could feel it the same way he could feel, when he sat on her grave of a night, that the only thing beneath him was earth and dust.

A second later Spike knew who it was. He was standing in front of her grave, a darker silhouette against the shadows of the night.

He never came here, as far as Spike knew, not since they’d laid her to rest here in the first place. Never came here, but couldn't bring himself to leave -- despite his repeated declarations that he was going. Kept away and held in place by his guilt and grief, feelings that Spike could relate to. They were, after all, the same reasons why he came here every night. He stood by the rock for as long as he could, watching -- which was an irony he was sure Giles would appreciate, when he finally figured out Spike was there.

Giles didn't speak. He stood at the grave and looked down, and whatever he had to say to her, it didn't pass his lips. Not like Spike -- when he was here alone with what wasn't there, he talked a blue streak. Told her what they'd slain that night. How Dawn didn't really believe she was beating him at rummy, but was too stubborn to accuse him of letting her win. How many days it had been. Giles, though, just stared silently at the headstone.

Finally, he straightened, but didn't look around. "I thought you had gone back to your crypt."

"I did. It's still there." Spike crossed his arms. Any of the others, he'd have stalked over, brazened them out of the space that they somehow silently accepted was his, at this time of the night. With Giles, he had the irritating feeling that he'd be in the wrong, if he intruded.

But Giles moved over, wordlessly making room for him. Taking the silent invitation, Spike came forward, joining him in staring at the tombstone.

"You're going, aren't you." He didn't know what put it in his head. Maybe the way Giles was standing, one foot already pointed towards the woods, as though he were already half gone. Or maybe just that he was here, finally, and why else would he come, except to say goodbye?

"It's time." Giles' breath left him in a long sigh. "Everywhere I look I see her. It's too much, too..." He broke off, voice rough with emotion. "I can't do this anymore."

"Funny." Spike reached into his coat for a cigarette. "That's the reason I stay."

Giles flashed a sharp look at him. "I thought you stayed for Dawn."

The brief flare of his lighter reflected in Giles' glasses. "You think I don't see her there?" He dragged hard on his cigarette, staring down at the orange glow.

Another sigh. "There, most of all." Giles gestured at Spike's cigarette. "May I borrow...?"

Raising an eyebrow, Spike pulled out the pack and held it out. "Didn't know you indulged."

"I used to." Giles took a cigarette and lit it with the proffered lighter. "Back when I indulged in all sorts of filthy habits."

He could imagine. It was too easy to imagine, actually. "And now you're free to go back to them?"

"A bout of self-destructive behavior seems rather appropriate. But..." Giles took a deep drag and stared at the tombstone. "It would be a poor way to honor her memory," he finished in a soft voice.

"Right. So you're not going home to get drunk, then." Spike sucked the smoke in and held it there, pretending he actually had the chance of dying from it, sooner or later.

"I didn't say that." Giles looked up, and gave one short, quiet laugh, without smiling. "I suppose you have a more exciting agenda? Charity bingo, perhaps?"

"This was pretty much my plan," Spike said, gesturing at the clearing. He didn't elaborate on what he usually did -- on the talking, the apologies, the reliving that night over and over, finding a dozen things he could've done to make it turn out differently. But then again, he suspected he didn't have to. Not to Giles at least. He didn't mention that there was a bottle of Jack Daniels with his name on it, back at the crypt. He rather figured Giles knew that too.

He looked... almost apologetic, for a moment, that his goodbyes had taken up Spike's allotted time for useless headwanking. "Of course. I'll..." His foot was one step closer to the forest. One step closer to gone. "I'll leave you to it."

"Don't." Spike took another drag, then threw his cigarette down, far enough away from the grave that she wouldn't grimace at him for it, like the little piles of them that he used to leave by the tree beneath her window. Don't -- and he'd thought he meant, ‘Don't leave me here alone with this hole that she isn't really in. Not tonight.’ But that wasn't it, not really. ‘Don't leave me here alone with *this* -- Sunnydale, her friends, her sister who no matter how much I love her, breaks my heart every time I look at her. Don't leave me here with all this, like she did.‘

Giles turned back, and studied Spike's face closely, his own expression curiously blank. "Would you like to come back to my place for a while?" he finally asked softly.

Spike looked at him for a moment, then laughed. "For what -- tea and sympathy?"

A brief...something...passed over Giles' face, like a ripple of the wind on a becalmed sea. "That's all my life is; isn't that what you said?"

It took him a moment to place it. Cuppa tea, cuppa tea, almost got shagged... Right. If only. If only all Giles did was sit about and provide refreshments, cheer on the troops, pretend to look the other way when the kiddies stuck their tongues down each others' throats. Then maybe Spike wouldn't have this itchy feeling that it was all going to go to shit when he left. Further to shit, rather, as if there were a continuum. A scale, from ‘Oh, I say, we seem to be in a bit of trouble here,’ to ‘Drop trou, bend over, and kiss your arse goodbye.’

"I..." Would he even see the man again, after tonight? Was Giles leaving tomorrow? The next day? How long before one more piece of the world as it was Supposed To Be broke away? "I wouldn't say no to that cuppa."

Giles looked at him for a long moment, then nodded. "I could use something stronger."

"I wasn't exactly looking for cream and two sugars, myself."

That earned a very small smile. "I believe I can accommodate you."

It wasn't a long walk. It never was, in Sunnydale. There were long *runs*, when something was trying to bite your arse off, or the world was about to end and you had to deliver that crucial bit of info that wouldn't make a blind bit of difference, but there weren't any long walks. They were at Giles' door in the space of another cigarette for each of them, with no more words than, "Ta," and "Mind the Zippo, I don't want it lost."

Giles unlocked the door and stepped inside. "Please, come in," he said formally, the words holding more import than mere politeness by dint of Spike's nature.

Spike stood on the threshold, watching Giles hang up his jacket. "You didn't have to invite me in, you know."

"I know," Giles replied, meeting his eyes steadily. A little too hard to look right at, that gaze. A little too understanding, and bugger if he needed understanding. Company, yeah. But he didn't need anybody thinking they knew what was living in Spike's head. That he'd wondered, just for a second, whether Giles had cast him out again, the way Buffy had, after they all knew.

He broke the line of sight, sweeping his eyes over the box-strewn living room. Bookless shelves, rolled up carpets. The sofa where he'd slept once Giles had decided he was house-trained enough to be let out of the bathtub was now strewn with papers and magical bric-a-brac, a pile of scrolls stacked up against one arm. Spike hung his duster absently on the coat rack, then turned round to blink at it. A little taken aback that he was so familiar with where it was that he didn't have to look. Irritated at himself for being relieved that it was still there, where it belonged.

Giles headed into the kitchen, returning almost immediately with two glasses and a bottle of scotch. "Oh, um, let me just..." He handed the scotch to Spike and cleared the couch enough that they both could sit down. "The place is a bit of a mess."

Spike crossed one boot over the other, and rested them both on the coffee table. Mostly just to see that little wince, when he tapped his toe against the stack of books on the edge of the table. "Yes, we'll definitely have to report you to the interior decorating police. It's a disgrace. Makes my place look positively palatial."

"Yes, well, I think packing and decorating tend to be mutually exclusive." He gestured for the scotch bottle.

"Which bit of the sarcasm did you miss, Rupert?" Spike handed him the bottle, and held out his own glass, expectantly. "You have *seen* my crypt."

Giles poured him a generous glassful, then poured himself one. "It's not that bad -- for a crypt."

"It's a pesthole, is what it is. Just happens to be the least pesty pesthole in this..." Spike took a drink, and was pleasantly unsurprised by the quality -- he'd raided Rupert's liquor cabinet on more than one occasion, and not just during his tenure as unwelcome houseguest. "This, the mother of all pestholes."

"Here, here," Giles said holding up his glass in a toast, before downing the contents. Spike regarded his own glass for a moment, then nodded, and drank it down. He wasn't sure if he should be more worried that he didn't feel the kick, or that Giles didn't particularly look like he did either. Spike could drink all he wanted, after all, and never get his liver even lightly salted, much less pickled. Giles should have at least grimaced, but he didn't. Just looked, as he had all the way here, a bit lost.

Spike gestured with his empty glass, towards the door. "You know, I'm supposed to like it here. It's a demon thing, pull of the Hellmouth."

"The pull isn't just a demon thing." Giles poured them both another glass. "Anyone who's ever touched or been touched by dark magic seems to end up here eventually. It draws us in, chews us up...And it's almost impossible to break free again." The words held a bitterness that was almost sharp enough to cut, a hopelessness that was almost smothering.

Spike shook his head, frowned even as he sipped at his scotch. "But see, I *don't* like this place. Oh, I felt it. Even got that great little rush from it, when Dru and I first got here. That feeling like it was home sweet home at last. Every time I come back, though..." There was something he didn't quite know how to verbalize, that itched at the tip of his tongue, made him want to scratch it on his teeth. "I never came here for the Hellmouth. It's always been for something else. Something that was here, or somebody." He ticked them off on his fingers. "Dru's cure. Angel's blood. Maybe revenge, too; dunno if you could say I ever got that, but damn if we didn't have fun trying. Then when she left me, I came back here for..."

What *had* he come back for? More tormenting of Angel, for making it all happen, over and over again? To see her, and flaunt his ‘no-Dru, so I don't have to stick to our bargain’ status in her face? Or maybe just to find out if Dru was right. If everything around him was ashes now, or if there was still *something* that made him burn.

"All right, so I don't know why I came back that time. But the others, I always had a reason. It wasn't about that hole in the ground." Though now it was. The hole under her headstone, not the one under the old high school library.

Giles was watching him with eyes that saw entirely too much. "There's always reasons. Reasons for coming, reasons for staying. You can only leave when the reasons aren't enough any more."

Or maybe they saw only what they wanted to. Spike shook his head. "Bullshit."

That earned him a look. "I beg your pardon?"

He pointed a finger. "You're not leaving because there's nothing here for you anymore. You might've done that a while ago, back when your lot were so tied up in knots over their own things that I didn't even have to break a sweat, getting you all separated. But now? She's *gone*, Rupert. It's just us. And you're not going because this place isn't enough for you anymore. You're going because it's too much."

Giles flinched under his words, his eyes dropping to the bottle of scotch again. His answer was a while in coming. "Perhaps, I'm not enough anymore."

Spike watched him for a moment, then nodded. "Yeah, wouldn't argue with that."

The glare he got in return showed a hint of feeling, a glimpse of a spark that had become rarer and rarer in the last months. But it faded almost immediately and Giles mutely reached for the bottle of scotch again.

Spike got there quicker. Vampiric reflexes were good for something, after all. He closed his eyes, hand clasped around the neck of the scotch bottle so tightly that he could hear the glass start to give that little squeak that would come before it shattered in his grip. Yeah. Vampiric reflexes. Good for getting to the bottle of high-class hooch, first. If Giles wasn't enough, then what the hell good was a vampire who couldn't even duck one little punch, from a crazy old demon who should've been dead already? One little punch that meant the difference between saving the girl, and watching her save the world. Again.

"You don't get it," he said, without opening his eyes. "It doesn't matter if we're enough. We're all there *is*."

"I know." So much pain and weariness in that soft voice. Giles' warm human hand covered his on the bottle.

Spike opened his eyes. Didn't know what was coming out of his mouth now, except that he'd had far too little for the scotch to be doing the talking, yet he couldn't shut up, no matter how hard he tried to bite it back. "Then why are you *leaving*?" It made his throat burn, the way the liquor couldn't, anymore.

Giles got to his feet and moved over to look out his window. "Because if I don't leave now, I never will."

If he were something other than what he was, Spike supposed, he might have said, ‘Go. Run, then. Get out while the getting's good, because one of us might as well, and it ain't gonna be me.’ Nor Harris; he'd be here 'til he died, and he knew it. His girl knew it too, s'why she was so clingy all over him; she knew she was going to lose him to Buffy's mission, some day, not to some other woman. Red, Tara, all Buffy's little groupies, Spike himself included -- they weren't going anywhere. Maybe Giles was right. Maybe the Hellmouth didn't let you go, once it touched you. Didn't take being a demon, or having tossed about with blood magic in your wild and reckless youth, though. It had the same pull on Xander, on Willow, on the ones who loved them. And what chance did Dawn have, innocent that she was, born of the magic in the first place?

If he'd been the man he once was, instead of the monster he was now, Spike might have said, ‘Go.’ But he was a monster, after all, standing up and looking at the back of a man. Seeing shoulders held almost painfully stiff beneath a grey pullover that had known better days, because wearing good clothes on vamp patrol was for Watchers who had a Slayer to do the job for them. Staring at a head bowed forward, thinning sandy-gray hair just grazing the top of his collar, and thinking -- fearing, he realized -- that he might be seeing it for the last time.

"So what makes you so special, that you get to escape, when the rest of us don't?"

Giles stiffened and looked back over his shoulder with a glare. "I can't be responsible for everyone else. Not after--" He broke off and looked away again.

Spike felt the gritty little flair of irritation, like the worn flintwheel of a lighter almost sparking, but not quite. "After what? After you failed Buffy? She's dead, Giles. We all failed. Don't think you managed to do it in some flashy, spectacular way that beats out the rest of us in the failing Buffy competition."

"I killed Ben." It was nothing like a confession. Just a statement. Short, matter of fact. Infinitely exhausted.

"You killed Ben. Ben is Glory is Glory is Ben, Ben."

"Yes." Same soft, weary voice. "After Buffy had beaten Glory down. He was helpless, but I couldn't risk Glory coming after Buffy again. He knew what was happening; he begged for his life. But I smothered him."

Right. So right, that Giles was what Spike had always known he was. Had recognized shimmering beneath the waves of whiskey and self-pity, last year. Felt raging back to life a year later, in fingers crushing his throat, heard in the growl that had scraped against his spine. ‘We are not your friends.’ And wrong. Wronger than all but one thing, that Giles was using this as an excuse to run.

"And what, you think you're too evil for the rest of us now?" Spike crossed his arms, and met Giles’ resulting glare with the most angelic look he possessed. It had swept nuns and whores into his arms and his mouth, in times past. Even saved him from a beating or twenty, if he could remember not to let Angelus hear him laughing under his breath when he did it.

It made Giles stare at him for a long moment. "You know, that is a truly frightening expression on you."

"Funny. When was the last time anybody thought I was scary?" Spike bared his teeth, snapping at air. "Dawn's right; she's badder than I am, now." When Giles gave him a blank look, he shook his head. "You think you're so... what, morally corrupt that you're going to taint the kiddies with it, if you stay? You killed some bloke with an insane god in his body, and now you're not fit to babysit the Nibblet?"

Giles shook his head. "I *can't* stay, not without losing myself. And what does it mean to you anyway?"

"Didn't you know? I'm a good guy now." Spike turned back to the sofa and reached for his drink. Smooth, again, and he wished it would burn. Wished it made some sort of an impression on his throat, could scorch away the words he'd been about to say. That if Giles went, if any of them went, there'd be that much less of her. Which meant that much less of Spike. "I care deeply about your emotional well-being."

That made Giles laugh bitterly. "Of course you do."

“Yeah, that didn't even sound convincing to me." Spike shrugged, and reached down. Bottle in hand, he dropped gracelessly back into his original position, feet up on the coffee table, just nudging the edge of that pile of books. "Wait, let me work up a bit of sincerity here." He skipped the glass, and took a swig directly from the bottle. Almost enough to burn, but not quite. "How's this, then?" Social worker face in place, he regarded Giles seriously. "I care deeply about *my* emotional well-being." Fuck if that sounded any more sincere, to Spike's ears.

Giles laughed again, this time the sound less sharp, more warm. "That, I can believe." He walked over and took the bottle from Spike, bringing it to his lips and taking a long drink.

"It's just practical," Spike said, watching Giles' adam's apple move as he swallowed, and swallowed again. "Man wants his creature comforts, doesn't he? Pesthole of a place to live in a pesthole of a place to die. Good booze. Somebody around to make him feel like he's not the only person on the planet born before they invented E-trading and boybands."

Lowering the bottle, Giles looked at him piercingly, as if trying to strip layers away and get down to his essence. "You're saying you're going to miss me."

"I'm saying we're living in Hell, in case you hadn't noticed. And misery loves company -- that's why hell *works*. Why you lot keep bringing more of your dripping, screaming brats into this world, when by rights you should be smart enough to know better -- or at least drown 'em at birth." Spike felt the tug of something like truth, and added, "It's why we make more vampires, too. We're predators, and we're immortal -- got no need to reproduce. We're just bringing more competition into the world. But we do, if we live long enough to get past the cannon fodder stage. We make more of us, because damn if we're going to be stuck in this pesthole alone."

"Heaven or hell, no one wants to be alone," Giles replied, still watching Spike with eyes that were too knowing.

He wouldn't ask again. Wouldn't say, ‘So why are you going, then?’ Because whatever the truth was, Giles wasn't going to tell, and Spike had some small shred of pride left. Somewhere. "True enough," he agreed quietly, and glanced out the window at whatever Giles had been seeing -- stars? Hell? The white cliffs of Dover? Was he already gone?

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Giles follow his line of sight. "Sometimes," Giles said very quietly, "you can be most alone in a crowd."

Spike looked back at him, and laughed, harshly. "Bloody hell, Rupert. *I* used to write better poetry than that."

Giles took another swallow. "I would be insulted if I had been trying to be poetic."

"What were you trying to be, then? Can't insult you properly if I've no idea what you're on about."

"Honest."

"Honest? You haven't said an honest word since, 'Please come in.' What d'you mean 'alone in a crowd'? That nobody here knows what you are? Bollocks. Harris knows. Anya knows. Reckon Red would know if she weren't too busy trying to hold the flood back by sticking her magic fingers in every little crack she can find. You're not leaving because those kids might find out you're not a Sunday School teacher." He watched as each statement made Giles flinch minutely. “They *need* a killer, now, and I sure as hell don’t count anymore.”

Giles clenched both fists, then with a terrible, silent grace, flung the bottle he was still holding across the room. The crash and shatter echoed for a second, before he spoke. "If you know so bloody much, why don't you tell me why I‘m leaving?"

"You're scared." Spike leaned back, and looked up at Giles, watching the tensed muscles in his throat, the way his eyes were just on the edge of blazing.

"Of what?" The question was spat at him too quickly, for all the scorn it came wrapped in. Too expectant that he'd say it. Almost...eager for an answer, as if Giles didn't know himself.

"Of everything. Anything." Spike wished that bottle were in his hand, instead of in pieces in the corner next to the box of fertility statues. "See, she thought you were her rock, and you let her think that, but it was the other way round. Long as you knew there was Buffy, you knew no matter how bad things got, she'd stop it, somehow. She'd save the world. Only this time, she didn't stick around to make it stay that way, and without her, anything can happen. Everything you were ever afraid of, the monsters in the closet, the voice in your head that says 'As long as she's here there's enough good in the world that I can stop myself from becoming one of them, but if she goes...' They’re all free now, and you're scared. And you're running like any mindless little squeaky thing does, thinking it's not going to follow you wherever you go. " His throat was starting to burn again, from the words, or the truth of them, and he had this insane feeling the scotch would cool it down, if the daft bugger hadn't wasted it all. "You're scared because now that she's gone, anything can happen -- except something good, because she took that part with her."

Giles had remained perfectly still during the whole recitation, as if held immobile by Spike's words. And when Spike was finished, he just let out a tiny weary sigh, his shoulders slumping like he was carrying a too-heavy weight he didn't have to pretend he could handle anymore. "Buffy once asked me why there were no detailed accounts of past Slayers' deaths in the Watcher archives. I told her that if their Watchers were anything like me, they would have found the subject too painful to dwell on." He shook his head. "The reality is so much worse than I had ever imagined."

"You can't do anything *but* dwell on it." Spike nodded. "Bet they did write it down, and your lovely Council of Watchers black-inked it out of the reprints. Who the hell would ever volunteer, if they knew, right?"

"I would've," Giles said quietly. "If not doing so meant I would never had known her. Buffy was..."

Spike stopped him, before he said it out loud, whatever they both already knew she was. Not tonight. He didn‘t want to hear it, tonight. "A royal pain in the arse? Yeah, you're right. The world should know."

Giles laughed, the sound sharp and bittersweet. "I can't argue with that. She drove me crazy on a regular basis."

"I don't doubt it. Never wanted to listen to a thing you said, right, once her mind was made up? And god help the poor bastard who ever tried to tell her anything she didn't want to hear about *herself*." Somewhere in his head, dulled a little by the scotch, but not much, he could hear himself giving another half-drunk speech, all about screaming blood. "Walked around with her hands over her ears, singin' la la la la at the top of her pretty little lungs."

"Yes, quite." Giles smiled, his gaze once again going to the window. Looking out into the darkness, his smile faded. "All she ever wanted was a normal life."

He didn’t bother hiding his disgusted snort. Normal life. Spike had wanted anything but, once. Something beautiful. Glorious. Transcendent. He'd have never had it, before his death, and though he'd thought he'd found it after, with Dru, Spike got the feeling the universe was pointing and laughing at him when he wasn't looking. But Buffy? She'd been handed everything his pathetic, poetic little soul had ever dreamed of. Beauty, art, those little hands made it every day, better than he ever had -- and all she'd wanted was a house in the suburbs.

After a moment Giles turned back and looked at him. "Can I ask you something? Why do you care so much about whether I stay or not?"

Spike shrugged, carefully. "None of the others are old enough to cadge booze off?"

Once again eyes that saw too much seemed to be looking right through him. "Of course."

"Screw you," Spike said slowly. Deliberately. He be damned if he owed Giles any sort of truth. Not that he wasn’t damned anyway, of course.

"I think it's a bit late for that." Giles almost smiled. "Unless it was a proposition, in which case..." Something bright flared in his eyes for a moment. A strange, lost, wild expression, accompanied by a mocking laugh. "In which case I'd say you've reached new levels of desperation."

Spike blinked. Slowly. Looked over at the shards of that bottle of scotch, and wondered idly who'd had more. "No. 'You want to shag?' is a proposition. 'Screw you' is an insult. I can see why your life's all about the cups of tea, if you can't tell the difference."

The odd twist of closed lips grew even stranger, and Spike realized it *was* a smile, of sorts. "I know the difference."

If Spike kept a list of the top ten things he never expected to happen during his continued existence, this wouldn't be on it. Only because he wouldn't have even considered the possibility seriously enough to mutter 'not in this century' and add it to the list. He did now, of course. Added it to the 'never happen, so I must be imagining it' list -- because he had to be misinterpreting *something*.

"Is *that* a proposition?" he managed to say, with no aplomb whatsoever, but at least he didn't stutter, or sound completely taken aback.

The bizarre smile got a bit wider. "I would think that someone whose life hadn't been about cups of tea would recognize one when he heard it."

Exactly when had Giles gone off his nut? More importantly, when had Spike, that he was still sitting here, having this conversation, when he knew damned well the sad little road it was leading down? "What is this? I imply that I *might* miss you if you bugger off and leave the rest of us to patch up the holes, and you think that means I'm desperate for it?"

"Well, if you're not interested," Giles began with a half shrug, turning away.

'I'm not interested in a pity shag, so poor Spike can have some happy memory to hold onto when all hell breaks loose and you're on the other side of an ocean hiding with your nose in a book, trying to pretend you got away,' he wanted to say. But he didn't, for some reason he couldn't quite pin down -- it wasn't as if he had any moral scruples about lying his arse off.

He found himself standing, walking up to Giles, and looking into his face. Searching for something that would explain why he was doing this, offering this. Or possibly just a remnant of sanity, in one of them. "I didn't say I wasn't interested. We're a little old for that game. I just want to know what you're playing at."

Giles' face was surprisingly far above him, when he wasn't pinning Spike up against a wall to hiss threats in his ear. Not as far above as Special Forces Boy's had been, when he'd showed up at Spike's crypt to practice his looming skills, and chat about monsters and men. But Giles was tall enough that Spike had to look up, from this close, to watch what was going on behind those eyes.

"What do you get out of it?"

"I'll tell you in the morning. At the moment it's rather all potential."

Spike stepped back, Just one step, but enough that he didn't have to crane his neck to look distrustfully up at Giles. "You know -- and I realize I'm letting down the side by not living up to the hype that vamps'll shag anything that moves -- but I don't know if that's good enough."

Giles sighed. "I don't want to be alone, tonight. Neither do you. Isn't that good enough?"

Despite the rush of traitorous ephemeral blood to his groin, Spike felt the bile begin to build in his throat as he stepped back further. The contrary need to spit at any comfort being offered him, because he wasn't supposed to need it. "What, you'll stick around another night because you found somebody lonely enough to be an easy lay? They grow 'em in England, too. Did last time I was there, anyway. Pubs were full of them."

"If an easy lay was all I wanted, I'd be there now," Giles retorted sharply. "Spike, there's nothing easy about you." There was a frustrated wince, and enough gravel in that normally smooth voice to almost sound like a growl. "You are possibly the second most irritating person I've ever met."

Spike found himself grinning, just slightly. "I resent that! Who's more irritating than me?"

"Buffy." The growl was gone, the name as always when Giles said it, holding affection and reverence. And, as he'd said, more than a little irritation.

Only Giles could manage to do that. Mix admiration and exasperation equally, when he talked about her. The rest of them seemed to have forgotten the bitch in her; death had turned her into Saint Buffy, martyr to the cause. The only one who didn't talk about her that way was Dawn, and even she was forgetting. Talking to the Bot every so often as if it was really her sister, playacting when she thought no one was looking, because the truth was so much harder to deal with. That the real Buffy had been good, and stupid, and selfish and angry and beautiful and in the end, even when she was falling like an angel, she was still human.

Spike stood there, listening to the echo of her name, and waited for something to happen. Anything, really. With her gone, anything could happen. The world could end, again.

Instead, Giles stepped forward and laid his palm against Spike's chin, fingers wrapping around to cup his cheek, and leaned down to kiss him. His lips were soft but insistent, and he tasted of grief and hope and the scotch that he'd drunk, then wasted. He slid his tongue into Spike's mouth, exploring its confines gently but thoroughly.

Giles pulled back after a moment and searched Spike's eyes. "Stay?" he asked in a quiet voice.

In honour of his second-most-irritating status, Spike pretended he had to think about it. That he was capable of thinking. "Sure you wouldn't rather go back to my place?" he asked, when Giles almost began to look worried. "It's not bad, for a crypt."

"It's a pesthole." Giles' tone was light, but his eyes were anything but, seeming to darken like a sky covered with storm clouds, the lightning flashing way off in the distance.

"Oh, right." Spike stepped close again, put his hands flat on Giles' chest, feeling worn, soft wool beneath his fingers. "Best be here, then."

Giles kissed him again, swiftly, triumphantly. "Upstairs."

As Spike walked towards the stairs to the loft, it occurred to him, and he had to bite back a laugh. *He* was being seduced. Letting himself be seduced. He couldn't remember the last time somebody'd had to seduce him. Not even Harmony, though he'd had a good laugh at watching her give it an unneeded try. And here he was now, suddenly dragging his feet on the way up the stairs to another man's bed.

Well, not dragging, but walking slowly, sure of what he was about to do, but not what it meant, or why the hell it should matter what it meant, to any self-respecting doer of evil and shagger of anything that moved. He had to look like some kind of breathless virgin, he realized, and couldn't help chuckling, as he neared the top of the stairs.

Giles, two steps below, raised an eyebrow at him. "What?"

"Trying to remember that I'm older than you."

That bought him a half smile. "Second thoughts?"

"That would imply first thoughts, right?"

"You don't have to--"

"Don't be an ass." He stepped forward and took Giles' face in his hands. Drinking the taste of scotch from his lips, seeking it out inside that warm, wet mouth. If he closed his eyes and *didn't* think, he could almost pretend this wasn't ridiculous. That they weren't two grown men who knew damned well that nothing would change in the morning except that they'd both have the memory of having done something incredibly stupid, before they went their separate ways. Before Giles went *his* separate way, and Spike was left to be what he'd been all summer, unwanted ally and emergency babysitter.

If he didn't think, there could be just large hands on his back, body pushing him against the banister, then tugging him up the last few steps. Taste of liquor in his mouth, soft sweater rubbing against his arm. Reminded again of just how much taller than him Giles really was, when he had to tilt his head up, like some swooning chit. And while he might be the stronger, Spike was having a hard time remembering that, as Giles' hands moved over his body possessively, almost roughly.

His shirt was removed and tossed aside before he truly registered it, then the busy fingers were working on his jeans. Spike was experienced enough at this thing not to bother trying to reciprocate; you just ended up in a tangle, all arms and elbows, took twice as long. So he let Giles undress him. It was... nice, just being attended to, hands sweeping over his body, fingers at his fly again, tugging his jeans down. Then Giles knelt to remove his boots.

Giles. On his knees. No, it wasn't going to happen that way, not Rupert Giles kneeling before William the Bloody. But it was worth the brief flash, looking down at ash-and-sand hair, imagining he mightn't get smacked silly if he buried his hands in it while Giles was down there, and encouraged him to stay.

There was warm breath on his thigh, and Giles was standing up. He leaned in to take Spike's mouth in another kiss, then nudged him away from the stairs. Back, past a sea of half-packed boxes, to wash up at the soft shore of the double bed. Gently, as if Giles were the one who had to worry about a chip in his brain, Spike was pushed backwards, a hand on his chest, to land flat on his back. Spike frowned, and hoped Giles didn't take it as a cue to stop. Just, human-faced, he didn't see as well as with his other eyes, and all of a sudden, he wanted to look at Giles' face. See if he was... what? Not thinking as hard as Spike wasn't?

If he was not-thinking, it was obviously about different things, because he didn't pause, but continued kissing Spike, pinning him to the mattress, hands holding tight to his wrists. Spike could get into that. Pretending Giles needed to hold him down, that Spike might bite or scratch or run, if he didn't. It was an old comfort, being bound. Why else would he have ever put up with the ropes, chains, prisoner of war games, when he'd first come to them? Not saving up for the chance of this, that he'd never expected would happen. Just for the thing itself, the feeling of being trapped, held, chained. Like somebody wanted to make sure *he* didn't leave.

Giles' mouth left his, but the abandonment was too brief to protest, as those lips reappeared to focus their attention on Spike's neck. Oh yeah. Watcher would know a vampire's weaknesses. Weak, light touches, like a kitten. Soft rasping tongue. Spike let his head fall back as kitten licks turned sharp, turned to something dangerous and achingly familiar that wasn't catlike at all -- and Giles closed his teeth very softly on the flesh of Spike's throat. Hard enough to sting, but not hard enough to break the flesh. Giles knew exactly what he was doing, knew that licking here would make him squirm, that biting just *there* would make Spike shift his hips and thrust up against the clothed body above him, utterly out of his own control. Where had he learned... Spike almost wanted to know. Almost cared.

Then Giles was pulling back , looking down at Spike with something in his eyes that was demanding and needy. Something that made Spike suspect he was seeing a better mirror of himself than any unreflecting piece of glass he'd ever stared into. He just lay there, watching. Not like he was going anywhere. He knew he was on display, like this, propped on his elbows as he gazed up, wanton sprawl of open legs that probably looked relaxed, from where Giles was standing. It would have made him smirk, another time, another face looking back at him.

Giles continued to look down at Spike as he undressed, face obscured for only a second when he pulled his sweater over his head to reveal a silver-fuzzed chest. His gaze was captivating, almost a physical touch. It held Spike in place as securely as more physical restraints would -- more secure, actually, since he could escape most of those with ease. Always could have, no matter which of them had locked the chains or tied the ropes.

Watcher was a good description of the man. Spike tried to think of something, anything, to say. Words, sharp as fangs, to slice through the invisible bonds of that look. There was nothing, though. Nothing he could say, to make this any less real. A second after the first quiet panic when he realized he couldn't talk, he knew he didn't want to.

The rest of Giles' clothes followed his shirt, cast aside carelessly. Then, naked, he covered Spike's body with his own, once again devouring his mouth. And again, the pressure of lips against his own, hands on him, body pushing him down, made Spike push upward. Predictable reaction for every action. A bite at his lip and his hands were clutching at Giles' back, trying so hard not to scratch, not to do anything to set off the painful little monster in his head.

Once again, Giles relinquished his mouth only to drift down and nip at Spike's jawline, throat, chest. Lingering here and there, seeming to have an uncanny knack of discovering Spike's hot spots. Unfair, that -- how Giles could nip and bite, could reach beneath him, and with a feral sort of grin, pinch, and Spike could do nothing. He was used to giving as hard as he got -- hell, he was used to giving, period. Lying back and taking was something he hadn't done in more years than he could count.

Then, as Giles slid down and took Spike's cock in his mouth, his ability to think at all, much less pretend he wasn't, quickly dwindled. Lips as rough on the head of his cock as they'd been against his mouth, but then there was warm, moist, pressure sucking at him. Expert tongue swiping over his skin. Spike reached for hair as a matter of habit, grabbed sheets, instead, only at the last second, and condemned them to everlasting wrinkles in his hands.

Giles tortured him, deep-throating him one moment, the next pulling back and fluttering his tongue against the head. His hands were busy as well, sliding over Spike's thighs and pushing them back, exposing him even more. Spike let it happen. Just moved where Giles pushed him, thrust when Giles' movements so obviously requested that from him. Waited for it to be done unto him, whatever was going to be done. He felt surprise, at that, that he could accept it so easily; then that emotion was drowned in another wave of pleasure. Giles brought him to the brink several times before finally pressing just a bit harder, scraping teeth along his length.

Spike felt the muscles in his legs shudder first, before anything else. Then with no further warning, he was letting go, shuddering, only vaguely aware that he'd slipped from Giles' mouth and was shooting onto his own stomach, a hand suddenly tight around his length and jerking the final spasms of release from him. Giles continued to stroke him until he began to soften, then let go, leaning over him to search for something in the nightstand.

He could feel the heat of the other man inches from him, and Spike wanted to reach out and touch -- but it felt wrong, like any move he made that wasn't in reaction to a touch or a word, would end it here and now. Like, if he did the wrong thing, he would break the spell. Open his eyes to find himself sitting by her grave alone, and discover he'd been dreaming.

Giles pulled back and Spike caught a glimpse of what was in his hand. He felt arousal surge down his spine all over again. "Tell me to stop and I will," Giles said, voice low and textured, more than half growl. Spike wasn't sure if it was a promise or a threat. He opened his mouth, then when he realized he had nothing to say, nothing that would make any sense, shut it again. There was a trace of amusement, very faint, in the blue-gray eyes above him. "You *can* speak, you know."

Spike blinked, then moved his head enough to be accepted for a nod. "Doin' fine."

He got a brief inclination of Giles' head in return, also more of a hint of a nod than the actual thing. Then Giles was opening the lube and coating his fingers, Spike watching all the time. A light stroke on the back of his thigh, from dry fingers, coaxing him to lift his legs, pull them back.

Spike’s hands curled behind his own knees, because where else would he put them, without being tempted to destroy his host's bed linens, and what kind of guest would he be then? He was willing to accept the accusation that he might be babbling, should anyone who could hear his thoughts bother to call him on it, but he didn't think he could be blamed. Fingers trailed over his balls and the skin behind them. Slowly, teasingly. He'd be holding his breath if he still needed to breathe; as it was he went totally absolutely still waiting for those fingers to push against him, into him.

Being tortured wasn't nice, he decided. Sometimes good, but never nice. Not that this was a decision he was just coming to -- he'd reached it a number of times, most recently at the hands of a pissed-off goddess. He just always forgot, in between. When he felt slickness tracing a circle around his hole, but not quite going in, Spike gave up, and made the tiny, gasping noise that he'd been holding back for he wasn't sure what reason. No one's life depended on him keeping silent, now.

He was rewarded with a small, approving smile and the finger finally pushing inside. He grimaced, lips skinning back to bare his teeth at the intrusion, welcome as it was. Instinct told him to fight it; he was the superior animal, the creature of the night, and this was a human, breaching him. Another vampire, yes, there were alphas and betas in every pack, and Spike wasn't ashamed to take that position, had reveled in it, once. But submit to a mortal?

Spike was more than instinct, though, and he had control of the growl that was trying to build in his throat. He held tight to his own legs, and waited. Giles' gaze was fastened on his face, eyes still holding Spike in place more efficiently than any chains. He added another finger, unerringly pressing against Spike's prostate.

Though he wanted to squirm, wanted to push himself down against those fingers, Spike held himself still. Just trying to relax into the stretch, letting the fire flash through his brain, the other end of the spectrum from what might happen if he tried something like this on Giles. So this feeling was what -- the anti-chip? His reward for good behavior? Well, he hadn't killed anyone in at least a month.

The fingers inside him were spreading him, regularly sending more sparks of pleasure up Spike's spine. Then the two fingers became three. He drew a breath, and then another, and for all that they didn't do a damn thing for keeping oxygen flowing to his brain, he didn't consider them unnecessary. They stopped him from mewling like a cat in heat, which he was about to do, any minute. Now that he had a clue what was happening. He could see the intent in Giles' eyes, knew that he planned to take Spike completely. Taking the matter in hand, he thought and had to stifle a rather hysterical urge to giggle. Until Giles added a fourth finger.

He was beginning to feel the burn of the stretching now, and it forced a grunt from him before he could stop it. The soft stroking at his prostate, the pulsing pressure of fingers that were very slightly *moving* within him, stilled. The gaze on him turned sharp and questioning. "Let you know..." Spike choked out, "if I want you to stop."

"Make sure you do," Giles told him, moving his fingers as if to punctuate his statement.

Spike managed a small moan that sounded as little like 'stop' as he could possibly make it. It wasn't difficult; in fact, he suspected that if things did reach a point where it was all too much, he wouldn't be coherent enough to say anything. He'd have to trust to Giles -- and there was that hysterical laugh almost bubbling out again, because what was he doing now, if not giving his trust completely to someone who could have killed him a thousand times over since he'd stumbled to the door downstairs, begging for sanctuary? Someone who'd trusted Spike tonight, without question, to save him from the vampire at his back.

It hurt his head, to think about it. He'd much rather think about the soft, steady pain that was wound around with ribbons of pleasure, emanating from Giles' moving fingers. As before, Giles seemed to have an uncanny sense of just what exactly Spike wanted, needed. Which was -- and he was willing to admit that it *always* was -- more. The way he was built. Vampire. Created never to be quite satisfied, the gift of a hunger as sweet as the one he was feeling now, the curse that there was never quite enough.

He made a noise, which sounded no more like 'more,' than it sounded like 'stop.' Regardless of what it sounded like, it did seem to convey his meaning, because Giles slowly began to push the rest of his hand inside. Spike was positive, suddenly, that he could feel every line, every whorl on every finger. He could certainly feel the knobs of knuckles, introducing themselves. Hard, where before there had only been softness, though much of it. He drew in another raspy breath, and let it out.

Giles didn't pause this time, not until his hand was all the way in. The pressure was steady, inexorable, inescapable, the pain building to a blinding pinnacle as the widest part of Giles' hand breached Spike’s body. The anti-chip, again, this pain filling his head in a way that the wracking, punishing electricity never could. This was constant, strong, pushing at him from within like a bubble in his skull that, any second, would burst, and everything would be perfectly clear -- and yet he could teeter on that moment, before it broke, forever.

Then it did break, Giles now inside him up to the wrist. The human held perfectly still, watching him. Spike did the only thing he could do, when everything in his head had shattered into little bits. He smiled.

There was a sudden heat that flared in Giles' eyes at that and he began to wriggle his fingers in tiny barely perceptible movements that caused sensations all out of proportion. Spike would have feared letting go, ruining it all, if he weren't frozen in place. Nothing to push against, feet in the air. Nothing to grab but the backs of his own muscle-strained thighs. All he had to do, he realized, was accept what he was being given. Let his body react as it would, with a spasming of muscles around Giles' hand, pain flaring then sinking into dullness, only to spark again to something else, more than pain. Better than pain.

Then Giles' other hand closed around his length, and it was splitting him down the middle. Dividing his attention between the burning inside, and the matching heat of Giles' fingers on his cock. Spike felt a shudder run up through every muscle in his body, ending in his face. He closed his eyes.

Immediately Giles let go of his cock and stilled his other hand. "I want you to watch."

He wasn't sure he *could* open his eyes. Wasn't sure he had the strength to lift the lids, and definitely wasn't sure he had the control not to reveal everything in his head, if he let Giles look into them now. There was enough in there already, without letting in a middle-aged shopkeeper who was planning on buggering off in the morning.

"Do you want me to stop?" This time it was most definitely a threat, delivered in quiet, cultured London tones, with a hint of a growl underneath.

Spike's eyes flew open, and despite himself, he growled back.

Giles gave him an approving smile. "Good." He wriggled his fingers, bringing more sounds from deep within Spike. "Now keep them open."

It was no use arguing that he really couldn't control them -- else he wouldn't have opened them again, for all he wanted the touch of Giles' fingers to never stop. Couldn't control anything his body was doing right now, but no use trying to say it, because he didn't have any particular influence over his tongue, beyond having managed to avoid biting it, so far. But somehow he succeeded in keeping his eyes open, in watching, even after Giles once again closed his free hand over Spike's length. The fact that Giles' gaze never left his face made it both easier and harder -- easier because it created a connection between them, harder for the same reason. He was sure he was revealing more than he wanted to.

But -- there was something. This connection went two ways, and as Spike stared, he saw something there, in Giles' gaze. Something more than just satisfaction, more than control. He couldn't suss out exactly what it was, but it made him feel safe, somehow. Held him as firmly as Giles' hands were both holding him. If he could think clearly, he was sure he'd find this alarming and know the reasons why, but at that moment he was too caught up in the web of sensation that he was captured in.

Giles smiled, almost kindly, then squeezed. Both hands.

Pain/pleasure/pain enveloped Spike, forcing a scream from him as everything disappeared but Giles' hands and the eyes still watching him. In the silence that followed, Spike could hear Giles' heart beating. His own uncontrollable slow, deep breathing. He could see the little flecks of silver in Giles' eyes now, even in the dim loft bedroom. He could also taste blood, because he'd bitten his lip when his fangs came down.

There was another brief nova bright pain as Giles pulled his hand out, but before Spike's over-stimulated nerves could react, Giles had shifted and entered him in one hard thrust.

He felt the loss like an echo -- emptied then filled so fast that he'd not had the chance to really know it, then the jolt against his prostate made him growl again. He sucked at his lip, the taste of his own blood providing something familiar, amid this overwhelming strangeness. It took Giles' now-free hand, gently stroking the back of his thigh, before Spike realized he could let go, and rest his legs against his partner. It felt like they would creak, as he finally relaxed them, but Spike didn't hear anything except that steady human heartbeat.

For a long moment they remained motionless like that, Giles again studying Spike's face as if searching for...what? But before he could even begin to try and figure it out, Giles began to move, fucking him with slow steady thrusts.

In what was definitely not the moment of most extreme absurdity in his extremely absurd life, Spike was struck with the knowledge that he had absolutely no idea what to do with his hands, now. He fidgeted with them, first clutching at the sheets underneath him, then reaching up and skittering over Giles' skin, wanting to grab hold but unable to keep them still long enough to. Giles continued his steady pace, only smiling briefly when Spike touched his arm. When Spike reached again, helplessly, the hand holding his shaft began to pump it in time with Giles' thrusts, and Spike's fingers found a home deep within twin fistfuls of crumpled sheets.

He could hear Giles' heartbeat speeding up, almost as if it was deliberately keeping in time with his thrusts. Giles' eyes were still focused on Spike's face, but they had begun to take on a distant look, as if he was gazing inward as much as outwardly. Spike could feel it coming -- the tightening in his own muscles, the tightening of Giles' grip. Jerkiness, in his thrusting, just that close to wildness, but not quite, and again, Spike wondered mindlessly where he'd learned this control. What he hid behind it, in his mild-mannered bookkeeper moments.

Just as he was sure they were about to fall over the edge, the distance disappeared totally from Giles' gaze and Spike had the impression that he was truly being seen, every secret, every part, human, demon, poet, killer, William, Spike. Everything that he'd never said in the Bronze, over spicy barbecue wings, never dared reveal to Buffy, and she hadn't seen it hiding behind his eyes.

The last time somebody had looked at him that knowingly, he'd been convinced she was a thief, and then an angel, until Dru buried her fangs in his throat. He'd woken to discover she was both, and neither, and he had six feet of earth to claw his way through before he'd see her, or the sky, again. That time he had lost his life, his heart, his soul. As his climax crashed down on him, he had just enough brain power to be afraid of what he would lose this time.

Oddly enough, he didn't close his eyes. He was about to, but for some reason, he fought the pull of his eyelids, the need to scrunch them shut and not *see* what was in front of him, and he won. So he saw, when Giles came. The tiny, tiny frown, and the split second of terror, when he lost control, and made his lips form Spike's name. Then Giles was pulling out and away, collapsing on the bed beside Spike, panting hard, head turned away.

Spike felt like moving any part of his body would be something akin to lifting a Studebaker with his now softened cock -- impossible to the point of being ludicrous. So how he managed to move one hand, to rest it against Giles' cheek, he wasn't sure.

Giles turned to face him at the touch, the remnants of passion warring with fear, bemusement and a bittersweet wonder. Spike waited, for just a moment, for the right words to come. When they finally did, it was only one word. The word that had led him up here, the word that he hadn't been able to say all night, though he'd danced around it in so many circles of blame and despair that Giles had to have heard it anyway. This time, though, he said it out loud. "Stay?"

A shadow welled from behind the clouds of uncertainty in Giles' eyes, and his reply was short. Sharper than Spike would have thought he had the strength for. "Why?"

"Screw you." Utterly spent, almost melting into the mattress through sheer exhaustion, Spike couldn't manage to put any venom in it this time.

Then, there was the warm weight of a hand on his chest, sliding over his skin appreciatively. "I wish that were enough. I do. It's so very close." The heavy body next to him, dipping the mattress, was suddenly the heavy body on top of him, pinning him down like a living sandbag with both flesh and gaze. "Tell me." The grip on his shoulders wasn't commanding, anymore. Something else, something desperate and sinking as much as Spike had been, as Spike still was. "Give me something, Spike. Make me believe it's right. Tell me why I should stay."

This close, Spike could see the lines in his irises clearly, the cloudy folds where blue shaded into gray, the bright silver sparks. The reflection of an empty, wrinkled pillow instead of a still-wrinkled face, and yellow, inhuman eyes staring back. "Because I need you," he whispered, selling the soul he didn't have, for company in hell.

Giles was silent for so long that Spike would have done the answering, would have run down the stairs and out the door himself -- possibly stopping to pick up his trousers -- if there weren't a human body on top of him, holding him in place. Making him stay, for good or ill.

Then Giles lowered his head to Spike's shoulder, and the word buzzed its way through his skin. "Yes."

Read the next chapter: Good Intentions