Career Change Series
Part 1 - New Boy

written by Riani aka Two Ladies of Quality


Rating: FRAO
Spoilers: Through season 7.
Summary: Dru made some stops before leaving town after "Crush," and the fight against Glory takes some strange turns.
Feedback Author: Riani
Author's Website: Two Ladies Of Quality



When Giles opened his eyes, he was laying on the floor of Spike's crypt, wrapped in chains, and Spike was on the other side of the room with a loaded crossbow aimed at him.

"So, you're awake," Spike said.

"I feel very odd. Why are you pointing that at me? You can't use it on me."

"I will if you're not reasonable."

Giles looked at him curiously. "You act like you're worried about me. Good." He frowned. "My face feels odd."

"I'd show you a mirror, but it wouldn't help."

"What happened?"

"What happened is I have to have some very serious words with Dru about what she dumps into my crypt when I'm not home and she's in a pissy mood."

"I don't understand."

"You hungry?"

"Ravenous."

"What for?"

Giles paused, thinking about what he really wanted to eat. Steak came to mind, a very rare, juicy steak. He thought of burying his teeth into the meat, sucking up the juices, the taste of hot blood-- He started to lick his lips, and his tongue found fangs. "Oh, my god."

Spike relaxed slightly. "And the penny drops. Now we get to find out what the luck of the demon draw gave you."

"Oh, god. I'm--I've been--"

"Say the word, ex-Watcher."

"Vampire. I'm a vampire."

Horror, guilt, rage. Disgust that he was now one of the creatures he and his ancestors had pledged their lives to eradicate. He remembered now, hearing the swish of cloth in the Magic Box, turning to see the beautiful face of mad Drusilla, who was standing far too close to him. "Your soul burns," she whispered, gliding towards him. "Let me bathe in it." He'd been caught in the middle of the room, she closer to him than he was to any weapons. He knew the dangers of her eyes, tried to keep from looking, but she'd caught his wrist and he'd had some foolish idea that he could distract her with words. And maybe it was a little bit of arrogance. He was a Watcher, after all, and he'd been ganged up on and tortured before, when he fell for her.

Whatever, it had happened, he couldn't break her grip, he met her eyes, and something in him answered the wild chaos he saw in her. He hadn't even fought as she pulled him down.

Memories of his oaths told him to beg Spike to shoot, to finish this mockery of his existence. But. But. He realized he didn't hurt anywhere. A man who had taken as many injuries as he had did have a tendency to have aches and pains. And for the first time in years, his hands didn't hurt. The arthritis that had plagued him since Angelus had broken his fingers was gone. He flexed his hands and wrists--as well as he could with his arms bound so tightly--and the joints moved fluidly. He twisted his neck and didn't hear a single click in his spine. And he felt strong.

Spike put the crossbow--still cocked, still pointed in Giles' direction--carefully on the floor and reached for his cigarettes. "Starting to feel it, aren't you. The new you."

"I feel ..."

"Strong. Young. Powerful."

"Yes."

"I was younger than you when I was turned. I imagine it feels even better for you."

"I don't hurt."

"Feels good, doesn't it."

"I feel wonderful--no, this isn't right . . ."

"Don't fight it, mate. The old you is gone." There was more than a little sympathy in his voice. "She at least asked me if I was willing, and she was there when I woke up, to help me out. Well, her and Angelus--"

"Don't mention him."

"Sure thing. Hey, we could do a road trip to LA later when you feel up to it." He laughed at the cunning look that went across Giles' face.

Giles shifted position uncomfortably, chains clinking. "Get these off me."

"Not yet, mate."

He glared at Spike. "I'm not your type."

The grin made him nervous. "You have no idea what my type is, new boy. There may be all sorts of rituals involved in becoming a vamp that you Watchers know nothing of. Establishing a pecking order and all that."

"You're not *my* type."

"And you the product of the British public school system."

Giles stared at Spike, trying to read the amused look on the vampire--the other vampire's face. He sat there smoking peacefully, enjoying his captive's predicament. Nothing in any of the reports hinted at any really--exotic tastes on Spike's behalf, but Watchers could be a prudish bunch, and not many studies had been done on the sexual preferences of vampires--beyond knowing they tended toward the frequent. He shook himself, appalled that he was even thinking of such things. And he noticed that the appalled was more the knee-jerk of old thinking. Another part of his mind was just going "Hm ..."

"So what are the chains for?" he asked calmly. "Or is it just part of your normal technique for getting to know someone?"

The cigarette hit the wall in a shower of sparks. "Just what the hell did she tell you!"

"What? What are you talking about? What she?" he asked suspiciously.

"Never mind." Spike stood up to pace. "New vamps are unpredictable. Didn't know if you'd be nuts or violent or what. Might have tried for me."

"And so the crossbow."

"So the crossbow."

"Now you see I'm neither nuts nor violent. So get these off of me."

Spike lit another cigarette and smiled. "Now why would I want to do that? Got to figure out what to do about you, I do."

"*You* get to figure out? When did you get the right to do that?"

"Since Dru dropped your bled-out corpse at the foot of my bed, chum. How'd she get you to drink, anyway? Turn into Jenny again? Or did she use somebody else's face this time?"

Giles strained against his bonds. "When I'm loose from here . . ."

"And you wonder why I've got you tied up. You get hungry enough, you'll listen to Big Brother Spike."

An hour later--maybe an hour, maybe an eternity--Giles felt the air molecules banging against his hypersensitive skin, he heard the microfaults in the earth below grumbling, he could identify by smell all the types of booze spilled in the place in the past month and taste them from the air. His eyes were tightly closed against the insane detail in the crumbling walls around him. And mad urges screamed in his brain, the urge to hunt, rend, feed, the heavy desire to see, taste, and feel his victim's fear. Part of him still wept in despair. Most of him wanted to bathe in red.

The sound of a ding echoed through the crypt. Giles whimpered at the sound, then at the thud of Spike's boots coming across the floor. Then the smell reached him, rich, savory. Spike carried a thick mug and crouched down in front of the chained man. Giles stared lustfully at the thick red liquid, too starved to think.

"Unchain me," he growled.

"You made me eat in chains, you get to eat in chains. At least you're not parked in a bathtub." Spike plopped a straw into the mug and held it closer.

Giles didn't hesitate. He put his lips around the straw and began to drink.

The feel of the liquid on his tongue was better than the feel of a woman. The screams in his head quieted, murmured in pleasure, and his incisors stopped throbbing quite so badly. The straw slurped finally in the empty mug.

"Tsk," Spike said, "such manners."

"Is there more?" Giles asked anxiously.

The dinging sound came again, less painful than before. Giles recognized it this time as the sound of a microwave. Spike got to his feet. "Be right back."

Giles felt the anxiety ebbing, and he licked a few stray drops from his lips. One escaped to roll down his chin and drip onto his pant leg. A red drop. A blood red drop.

Disgust and shame punched him in the gut. Blood. He was drinking blood. Eagerly, thankfully. And he could smell the new mug Spike was bringing over and all he wanted was more.

Spike paused to look at the figure crouched on the floor, rocking back and forth. "You gonna eat this, or would you rather wallow in disgust for a while?" He took a sip from the mug. "It won't go to waste either way."

"Give it to me."

Spike smirked and settled onto his heels in front of Giles again. "My pleasure." He replaced the straw and let the man drink. "Slowly, Rupert. Taste your food."

He managed not to slurp so hungrily this time. His head was clearing, though he wasn't sure if that was a good thing. "Not enough."

"It'll hold you for now. I'll bring back more."

"You're going somewhere? You can't leave me chained up here like this!"

"I can and I will."

Giles fought against the chains, to no avail. "Let me go, damn you. I want--"

Spike dropped in front of him, face in full vamp mode. Giles blinked, but the start of horror didn't come this time. Now, it looked--right.

"I know what you want," Spike snarled. "You want to go up there and wander through the crowds and be amazed at all the food there is walking around just waiting for you to reach out and take it. You want to grab somebody and laugh at them while they struggle. You want to stick your fangs in their throats and feel that scalding hot blood pour down your throat as they scream and try to fight and finally go limp in your hands and you feel the breath go out of them and their heart flutter to a stop under your lips. Don't you."

He swallowed hard against the lust and shame. "Yes," he whispered.

"I could undo those chains, unlock that door, let you go running out into the night to play. And you'd be dust within three days." He grabbed Giles' chin hard and forced him to meet his eyes. "Listen to me, Rupert. There is a very large fact of life about being a vampire in Sunnydale. Can we guess what that fact might be?"

He nodded. "Buf--" He couldn't bring himself to say her name.

Spike nodded solemnly. "The Slayer. Who's out there somewhere right now, in a very bad mood, looking for victims to take her frustrations out on. Until you can get your mind around the knowledge that you and her don't bat for the same team anymore, you're not going out there." He got to his feet. "Because you and I both know that she wouldn't hesitate a second if she saw you like this."

Giles wondered what he'd see on Buffy's face if she saw him now. Horror, pity, disgust? Or just sad resignation and determination to put an end to him? Maybe he could tell her it wasn't so bad, maybe she'd give him the same benefit of the doubt she gave Angel when she first realized what he was. He could get close to her, she'd hesitated when she'd realized that her Watcher lurked under that Fyarl demon's shell, he could get within reach . . .

"Oh, god, no," he gasped when he realized where his thoughts were going, of his hands on her golden hair, of her throat . . . "No, not her."

Spike gave a humorless laugh. "It's always easiest to go for the nearest and dearest first. They let us get close before they know they shouldn't."

"What do they think happened?"

"They're not sure. Not many signs of a struggle at the shop, you just disappeared. They've been scouring town. Slayer trashed Willy's place, Demon Girl's been calling in a lot of old favors from her demon buddies, Red and her squeeze have been running location spells."

"That would work," Giles frowned, distracted.

"They're looking for a person, they haven't had the nerve to look for a corpse. Might have to give 'em a fake body before long--unless you want them to know what's happened?"

"No! No. At least--not yet . . ."

"You think she's going to go 'Oh, poor Giles, what can we do for you?' That she'll gaze up at you with those baby blues and promise to make it all better?"

"Angel's curse--"

"Oh, get your soul back, hm? Doesn't get rid of the demon, you know, just makes it even more schizophrenic. From what I hear, Angel was just a big handsome lunk running through his daddy's money on drink and women. Nothing too complicated, average guy, meaning no real harm. But you, Rupert, what kind of soul would you be getting back? Average likeable lout? Or a sorcerer who's made a study of darkness, something more than a little hard and ruthless. Something comfortable in the company of a guy named Ripper." He nodded at the look on Giles face. "Your soul and your demon might have more to chat about than you want to think of, mate."

Giles closed his eyes, trying to blame his memories on the influence of the demon crouched in his mind. But the dark whispers got as far as they did because they were things he'd thought of before, things he'd contemplated in the bad old days when a spot of demon raising sounded like just the thing for an evening's entertainment.

He looked at Spike suspiciously. "What do you care? Why are you sparing an iota of concern on whether I survive like this? I picture you sitting back with a beer and a smoke, laughing at all this like one of your stupid soap operas."

"First off, I care because Dru dumped you on me. I'd rather not have the Slayer putting two and two together and getting Spike-krispies in the sunshine. But most of all," he grinned, "I have a plan."

"Oh, wonderful. I've seen your plans, Spike, they wouldn't challenge the Three Stooges."

Spike curled a lip at him. "There at Watcher boot camp, they ever talk about the possibility of a Watcher getting turned?"

Giles shuddered. "Yes, they did."

"What'd they say?"

"That there were probably more horrible fates but not really."

"Why?"

"Why? Because such a thing is the perversion of everything we believe in, the corruption of principles that have guided us for generations." He hesitated. "Them. Not us. Damn."

"They weren't telling you the whole story, mate."

"What could you possibly know of it?"

Spike smirked. "They're terrified of the idea, and not just because it would be like Mother Teresa pimping the starving children out for crack. They're terrified of what a vampire Watcher could do."

Giles paused, and the thought curled enticingly around possibilities. "What do you mean?"

"A lot of you are mages, you all know your arcane lore, and you're used to leading and training."

"And then there's Wesley," Giles couldn't help but say.

"Well, yes, Wesley's a wanker. But then there's you. You were an intimidating bugger before you died, mate. We talked about turning you, there at the mansion. Dru's wanted to do you since she first laid eyes on you." Spike glared momentarily. "Pissed me off at the time, too, the way her eyes lit up at the thought of it. But Angelus always voted it down. And I knew why. He knew you'd take him, if you turned. I knew you would too, that's why I voted for it."

"You wanted me turned? Why?"

"If the Mayor had had you backing him up, Sunnydale would be ruled by a giant snake demon right now. Your plans work. If you wanted, you could take this town." He smiled. "And that is something I would love to be a part of."

Giles stared at him for several moments. "You're mad."

Spike patted his knee as he straightened. "You'll learn to love it. But I better get off, the night's not getting any younger. Don't wait up."

"At least give me a hand free! My nose itches."

"I'll scratch your nose, you scratch--"

"Oh, stop." He glared around the crypt. "And where's this infamous TV of yours?"

"You? Watching the telly? You got a very blue-collar demon."

"If you've got any books that aren't pornographic or all pictures, I'll take that."

Spike glared at him a moment, then went to the night stand by his bed for the TV remote. "Be grateful, I've got cable. Somebody at Willy's got the bright idea of turning a cable installer who's doing a land office business in piracy."

He dropped the remote by Giles' knee and went behind him to get to the lock on the chains. Giles held very still, and at the instant his bonds loosened he jerked away, yanking his left arm free. Spike clamped onto Giles' wrist and twisted the arm hard around behind him, then he shoved the other man into the floor, pinning him down. Giles struggled until he realized it was useless.

"And if you think I didn't see that coming," Spike snarled into Giles' ear, "you must think I'm a complete idiot." He chuckled. "We'll have this dance, Rupert, but not yet. When you've got the last of the 'destroy me, I'm unclean' boggles out of your system, and you start settling into what you can be, then we'll see. Because here's a newsflash, Einstein--" He yanked on the arm, dragging a helpless gasp of pain out of Giles. "The chip doesn't give a good goddamn about you anymore."

He let go of the arm and wrapped the chains around Giles again, leaving him free to reach for the TV remote, but little else. They glared at each other for several moments, then Spike grinned. "Don't throw any wild parties while I'm gone."

Giles glared after him. "Bloody bastard," he muttered. "Oh, yes, we'll see, we'll see indeed."

***

It was hours before Spike came back, hours in which Giles re-discovered that he knew enough Hindi to follow the torrid soap opera on the International Channel and realized that Americans really did believe that you could cover bald spots with spray fuzz from an aerosol can. If his undead life was going to be an endless parade of bad television, he was going to track down Buffy and beg for a stake at the first opportunity.

The bastard was whistling--*whistling*--as he came down the steps to the lower level of the crypt, where Giles was still chained up next to the wall, shuttling through the channels on the TV.

"'Ello, ducks, I'm home!" Spike called.

"Rotten bastard, where the hell have you been!"

"Now, pet, you know I hate these fights when I come home--" He dropped one of the duffle bags he carried to catch the remote that Giles flung at him. "Be nice or I won't fix you up that bedtime snack."

"What?"

"Still hungry?"

"Yes! God, yes, my head is pounding." He focused on the bags Spike had brought in. "What did you do, go shopping?"

"In a manner of speaking."

"Those look like--they are, they're *my* duffle bags!"

"Stopped by your apartment, thought you might want a change of clothes and such."

"Damn, I never did uninvite you, did I? What did you bring?"

"Everything that wasn't tweed. You know, you're supposed to get rid of blue jeans when they start wearing out in the seat."

Giles suddenly imagined Spike rummaging through his dresser drawers--Lord God, had he found those pictures Olivia had asked him to take of her "to remember her by"? The other duffle bag, though, had corners, and he heard clinking noises. "What else did you bring?"

"Contents of your liquor cabinet, a cd player--mine always gets broken for some reason--and a bunch of CDs. Do you have everything the Beatles did?"

"Yes, I do." He stared at Spike thoughtfully as the blond put the contents of another sack--several bags of blood--into a small refrigerator.

"Oh, and that pile of books that was on your night stand. They all had bookmarks, so I didn't know which one you'd left off on. By the way, someone's been picking up your mail and tucking it very neatly on the kitchen counter. Who has a key?"

"Buffy does--how did you get in?"

"Picked the lock."

Spike put two bags of blood into the microwave, set the timer, then walked over to Giles. "Now, if I undo those chains, are you going to try to break my head open?"

"Probably."

He grinned and pulled out the key. "Good, I wouldn't have believed you if you said no."

This time Giles didn't try to make a run for it as the lock was undone. Spike left him to untangle himself from the lengths of chain. Giles straightened gratefully, then looked around.

The microwave dinged, and Spike filled two mugs, never turning his back on Giles. He put one mug on a table halfway to Giles, then retreated back to the microwave. Hunger drove Giles over to drink.

"If I tried to leave, what would you do?" he said to Spike.

"Try to stop you. You're not ready. Besides, where would you go?"

"The apartment--"

"Isn't sunproofed. Besides, sun will be up in an hour, you'd be stuck there, and if Slayer's got a key she could wander in. And you're going to be asleep real soon."

"You've been up and about during daytime."

"I have a hundred years on you at this, it counts for something. When I was new, sun came up, bam, it was like someone took a board to my skull. If you were found there this soon, they'd probably try to drag you to a hospital, and wouldn't they be surprised when they pulled you into the sun."

Giles frowned. "I never knew age had anything to do with sleeping during the day."

"Really? It's rumored in vamp circles that the Council of Watchers has a little brood of vampires they keep around for testing purposes."

"If we do, I never heard of it." He caught himself. "I keep doing that, saying we. They." He blinked and felt the oddest impulse to yawn. "Lord, I'm tired."

"First night as a vamp, it's like being an infant, sleep a lot till you get used to it. You'll get over it soon enough." Spike drained his mug. "Stopped by your shop. Whole gang was there."

Giles went still. "And?"

"Very depressed bunch of Scoobies. Current thinking is that you've run off to do private research on the Glory problem."

"Oh, that. Simplest answer in the world for that, all we have to do is kill Dawn."

"What?"

Giles never noticed Spike's tone of voice. "Of course. Dawn is the Key, Glory needs Dawn, kill Dawn, the energy of the Key is dispersed and Glory can't open the portal. No apocalypse, happy ending. And it's not like Dawn is even a real person, after all, it's perfectly possible that if Dawn is dead it will be as if she was never here."

"That's your plan to deal with the hellgod? Kill Dawn?"

"One artificial girl vs. the whole world? I'm surprised there's any question."

Spike moved in slowly, but his hand around Giles' throat left no doubt about his opinion. "Nothing happens to the niblet, you understand?"

Giles glared at him, reaching for a grip on Spike's fingers. "Or what?"

"Is it time for that little dance, ex-Watcher? Where you try to find out if you can take me? If you think so, bring it on."

Giles pulled against the fingers wrapped around his throat, using all the considerable new strength at his command. But Spike didn't seem to notice. There was a look in the blond vampire's eyes Giles had never seen before, an implacable willingness to commit bloody mayhem, with none of the wariness the ex-Watcher was used to seeing. Now that Giles was no longer human, Spike wasn't walking so carefully around him.

"All this for Dawn?" Giles sneered. "I thought it was Buffy you were after. Or is this just a holdover of the Victorian taste for barely pubescent girls--"

Spike's hand squeezed. "You can heal from a broken neck, you know," he snarled.

"What about--your plan?" Giles managed through his half-crushed vocal chords.

"I've got time. Took me months to get over bashed legs. I could break your neck, wait for you to heal. Makes no never mind to me. But do you really want to be helpless with me?"

The Watcher in Giles' mind observed that this was likely just part of some brutal vampire dominance ritual establishing the parameters of power. But the vertebrae in his neck felt the twisting begin, felt the strength in Spike's fingers.

"Wait," he gasped.

"Why?"

It took an act of will to say the word to Spike of all people. "Please."

Spike eased his grip but didn't let go. "Kittens are tougher than you are right now, Rupert old dear. No fun beating the shit out of you just yet. Watch your mouth." He let go, then ostentatiously turned his back and walked away.

Giles thought about it, about grabbing the nearby chair and smashing it over Spike's head. But he could tell Spike was waiting for him to try something like that. And the older vampire was right, Giles did feel weak, even though the new strength ran through this body. He could feel the dawn approaching, with the weight of the sun pushing on his mind. Tomorrow night would be different.

"So do I get to sleep on the floor again?" he snapped.

Spike pulled out his cigarettes. "Nope, you can sleep on something softer." He nodded in the direction of the bed.

"If you think for one moment that I'm sharing--" He broke off, trying to read the glint in Spike's eyes. Snide amusement, yes, but maybe just a touch of offense. For thinking that Spike might want to share the bed with Giles--or for Giles being automatically upset at the idea?

Spike hid behind the smoke from the cigarette. "I'm going to be up for awhile yet. You're wrung out. Don't worry about it, get some sleep." He headed up the steps to the upper level, leaving Giles to make what arrangements he cared to.

Eventually, the grinding weariness made the final decision. Everything stank of cigarette smoke, and whatever Spike put on his hair tainted the pillows. Giles didn't care. An old set of sweats was part of the loot Spike had brought from his apartment, and he changed into them before collapsing on the bed.

His entire body ached. Fretfully he ran his tongue across the fangs--his fangs--still barely believing that he, Rupert Giles, Watcher to the third generation, could have fallen so. And not for the grand plan of some master vampire but from a madwoman's twisted revenge on her former lover. How . . . tawdry. Now what the hell was he supposed to do with himself? Aside from rend and feed and bathe in hot blood and make his victims crawl and plead for mercy--

There was still human enough left to him to see the shortsightedness of that program, seductive though it was. Spike's plan came back to him, and he remembered how often he and his old comrades had reassured themselves that the world was safe because the vampires were so bloody disorganized and at odds with each other. If they should ever find a leader . . .

Potential leaders were prime targets for Slayers. As he drifted into oblivion, he wondered if some dusty prophecy spoke of this.

***

Voices woke him many hours later from blissful dreams of wailing women and weeping men. Spike and a girl on the upper level of the crypt, the door closed at the top of the stairs. Giles sat up, the blanket he knew he hadn't pulled over himself when he went to sleep falling from him. He looked at the other side of the bed. It had been slept in.

The girl's voice rose angrily. Some human remnant where his soul used to be caught painfully. Buffy came here to Spike sometimes, searching either for obscure comfort or an easy target. But this girl's voice was higher than the Slayer's, and Giles wasn't sure if he was relieved or disappointed.

"And I KNOW things are bad, what with Mom being sick and Giles missing, but God damn it--"

"Watch your language!"

"Huh?"

Giles got to his feet and moved towards the stairs. Dawn. Dawn was here.

"You're not too big to have your mouth washed out with soap, missy," Spike went on. Dawn snickered. "And what's so damned funny?"

"You. You sound like Grandpa. And as if you haven't said worse."

"Not where you could hear me. And you may be suffering from what is laughably called an education in this country, but you're going to learn something about being a lady if I have to beat it into you."

"Yes, Professor Higgins."

Spike snickered, and Dawn began singing--badly--"The Rain in Spain."

Giles put a foot on the stairs. Dawn was the Key, the central piece to the entire problem of Glory. Even in his changed state he knew that apocalypses were to be avoided, and the solution to this one was so simple. She'd be amazed to see him, might even run to him, putting herself in his hands. And a quick twist would see it all over. Rather like wringing the neck of a goose. Or even breakfast, he thought, seeing the foolishness of waste. He wondered how the blood of a magically created being would taste.

His foot on the next step nudged an empty whiskey bottle. He reached down to stop it before it rolled more than an inch, but was too late to keep it from making a small noise.

Spike's voice cut off in mid-plea for Dawn to stop singing. He'd heard. Dawn continued singing to the end of the verse, oblivious.

"Does the Slayer know you're here, niblet?" Spike asked before she could draw breath for another chorus.

"Um . . ."

"Oh, lovely, then how long before I can expect my front door to get kicked down again? And you shouldn't be wandering around alone anyway, pet. You know as well as anyone what's out there. Let me get my coat and I'll take you home."

"But--"

"Enough."

There might still be time to finish it, Giles decided. If he could get his hands on Dawn, Spike would hesitate, and then it would be too late. Afterwards, they could see which of the two of them were tougher, but the hard part would be done. He gathered himself, then a new voice stopped him.

"Dawn, if you're in there, I am so going to lock you in your room and nail the windows shut--!"

"Bloody hell," Spike sighed, but his heart obviously wasn't in it this time. "Evenin', Slayer, don't kick, it's open."

"I ought to kick it to pieces anyway, maybe a splinter would land in a useful place. Dawn, how many times have I told you not to come here!"

As the argument commenced, Giles stared up at the closed door. The Slayer, his Slayer. The center of his life for years now, and the largest threat to his continued existence. He remembered spontaneous hugs and impish grins and passionate arguments and her unyielding courage. So much asked of her, and always she had more to give. Maybe Spike was wrong, maybe Buffy would forgive him for what had been forced upon him, her heart was surely large enough to see beyond the obvious.

Beyond the demon that even now thought of how easy it would be to lull her into turning her back on him. He could call out to her, claim Spike was holding him prisoner, beg her to free him. She would come to him, throw her arms around him and cry with joy that she had found him safe. And he would put his arms around her, bend his head over hers, close to her unprotected throat. With the Slayer gone and the Key destroyed, Sunnydale would be at his feet . . .

He sat down heavily on the stairs, part of his mind intrigued to discover that vampires could weep.

"What was that?" Buffy asked above.

"Rats," Spike said easily. "Cheaper than a fridge, and I don't have to heat the blood."

"Euw!" Dawn protested. "That's gross!"

"At least you don't have to listen to them squeak and pick fur from between your teeth."

Buffy and Dawn gave identical noises of disgust and made their escape. After several moments, Spike opened the door. Giles didn't look up. Spike came down the steps past him and went to the refrigerator, pulled out breakfast and headed for the microwave.

"She might not hate me on sight," Giles said.

"Maybe." Spike lit a cigarette.

"She's let you and Angel live. She doesn't slay every vampire she sees."

"She'd say she was doing you a favor, mate, not letting you live like this. On some long night of patrolling you must have mentioned what you wanted done in this situation."

Giles smiled wryly. "We promised each other, if the death was at all suspicious, full cremation. And no hesitation if it was too late to stop one of us from coming back."

The microwave dinged, and Spike filled a mug and a tall glass, topping off the glass with whiskey. He brought the mug over to Giles, who took it without thinking. "And despite all that," Spike said, "you think she'd think twice because it was you."

"I can hope." He drank from the mug, savoring the warmth and flavor.

Spike tossed back a quarter of the glass. "Men who drink blood shouldn't expect mercy from Slayers."

Giles stared at the mug in his hands for several moments, at the thick red liquid. "No, I suppose not." He drained the mug.

"How do you feel tonight?" Spike asked.

"Better. Not quite so desperate. But I still want to go out."

"Course you do. Slayer's likely to be back in this neighborhood later, though. She generally comes by after Dawn's been here to take her frustrations out."

Giles glared at him. "If you're trying to make me think that involves anything more than bashing you, don't bother."

Spike drained his glass. "She can't bring herself to admit she wants more, so she smacks me around. Kick me or kiss me, she'll work it out eventually."

"That's disgusting."

"You trained her, mate. What she thinks of vampires she got from you."

Giles went to the refrigerator himself for a refill. Spike had a disturbing ability to read people and twist motivations, and Giles didn't want to get pulled into a debate on why Buffy behaved the way she did. Besides, she was none of his concern anymore.

Spike poured a shot of whiskey into his glass, swirled it around to catch the remnants of the blood, and drank it down. He put the glass in a niche cut into the wall where a trickle of water ran down, among other glassware and dishes. "Put your mug in here when you're done."

"Please tell me that doesn't come from the sewer."

"City water, leaky pipe. Rather clever dishwasher, I thought."

Giles shook his head. "I've never thought about the amenities. Didn't imagine you had any."

"Nope, live like rats, we do, huddled in corners, no taste for the comforts of living. Just ravening beasts wreaking havoc until the Slayer catches up with us. Least, that's how we're described."

"For most of you, the description fits."

Spike shrugged. "P'raps. Me, I like my comforts. You're a 21st century vampire, Rupert, you plan on living by firelight and sleeping on a pile of rags and bones?"

"Not hardly." Sleeping arrangements, more things he didn't want to talk about. Though Spike had a posh setup here, a nice split level with running water, as it were. Palatial for one, even two on intimate terms. Two who weren't on good terms, though . . . "How long are you going to force me to stay here?"

"Force you? Oh, well, the chains, yeah, that was force. Convince me you're in what passes for a right mind, you can leave whenever. It's safest if you're with someone, though. Most vamps live in groups."

"You live alone."

"Not by choice. This god-damned chip . . . Only thing keepin' me from being the whippin' boy for any vamp thinks he's tough is that I'm the most vicious son of a bitch out there. They're not going to welcome you with open arms, either, mate. The ones who don't see you as fair game will see you as a chance to get to the Slayer."

Giles busied himself with the microwave and blood as he thought. There were probably dozens of monsters out there who would love a spot of revenge on the Watcher who had helped hunt them. And the smart ones would see him as the ideal bait for a trap for Buffy.

"If I'm going to be such an outsider, how do you suppose I'm going to take over the city, as you think I'm going to?"

"Once you finish integrating the new parts with the old parts, you'll be ready to start kickin' ass. Vamps respect strength. Break some bones, lop some heads, you'll soon have a bunch of blokes willin' to say, 'Yes, sir, Mr. Giles, sir, how high, sir?'"

It made sense, and Giles' respect for Spike's intelligence went up another grudging notch. New vampires were so distracted by their hellish urges and powers that they didn't think. The so-called parental bond between sire and progeny was necessary to bring the offspring to what passed for maturity.

He laughed at himself. As fascinating as a study of vampiric maturation would be, he didn't think he'd find any journals willing to publish his findings. But reading the paper before the Council could be amusing.

"What's so funny?" Spike asked.

"Just imagining the Council of Watchers' reaction as they listened to my study of vampiric development from the inside. Incredibly useful information, but I doubt they'd be an appreciative audience."

"I don't know. I've always found that being in immediate fear for your life does wonders for the attention span. Could be fun to see."

Giles barely paid attention to his second helping of blood as he pictured the Council at his mercy. He rinsed out the mug and put it with the others, then thought of other things that needed washed.

"I want a shower. How do you work that, another leaky pipe?"

"20 gallon electric water heater just down the sewer. And it don't smell that bad, so don't make that face."

"It'll do, I suppose."

"You get yourself a shower, then we'll go out."

"Out? As in outside into the world?"

"For a little bit anyway. See how you handle it."

"I'll be fine."

"We'll see."

On seeing the shower, Giles once again missed his comfortable apartment. But it sufficed for his needs at the moment. He mused on the differences between the common minion vampires and the more socially adept ones he knew. Was it merely age, or were they different from the moment they were turned? Another article he'd never get the chance to publish.

Giles picked through his clothes thoughtfully. Really, how boring his wardrobe was. At least he had his leather jacket and some blue jeans that didn't look too horribly new. It would do for now.

He paused on the steps to make sure no one was waiting above, then opened the door and went upstairs to a new part of the world. Spike stood near the open outer door, observing the landscape outside.

"You ready?" he asked.

"Why wouldn't I be?"

Spike shrugged. "Stay alert, Slayer moves quiet." He led the way out into the dark and moving night.

After only two steps, Giles froze, overwhelmed. The wind in the trees and bushes shrieked messages at him, the city smells fought with the scent of growing things. He smelled the old blood from some dark ritual performed days ago several graves over. Who else was playing those kinds of games in Sunnydale?

Pounding footsteps and heavy breathing came into hearing on the road nearby. But not desperate sounds, an even rhythm. Someone running, but not for their life. Giles felt the urge to give chase burn in his brain.

"Easy, mate," Spike said. "Can't go hunting joggers, even if they are stupid enough to go through the cemeteries. They tend to scream, and that attracts Slayers."

"She can't be everywhere."

"Doesn't have to be, she only has to be where you are."

"If whoever that is is so stupid to come running here, they deserve to be hunted."

"Didn't figure you for a Darwinist. Trust me, I'd like a nice endorphin-charged drink myself, but it's not worth it. Besides, where would you dump the body?"

Giles started to shrug that off as not being anything to worry about, then remembered how hunting sloppy vampires was made easy by tracking where they left their victims. The jogger was going past just on the other side of some bushes. Male, deep into the trance of movement, not paying attention to his surroundings, confident that he was the match for any would-be muggers. Giles took a few steps after him despite himself.

"And why shouldn't I?" he mused. "What are humans other than herd creatures to be fed upon?"

Spike shook his head. "And this is how you think when you've eaten. You'd really be Mr.Responsible on an empty stomach, wouldn't you, Ripper." He grabbed Giles' arm and pulled him deeper into the cemetery. "First rule, don't hunt right outside your front door. Hunt outside somebody else's front door. And pick your prey, don't just grab the first thing that wanders by screaming 'Eat me, I'm stupid.'"

Giles nodded reluctantly. "All right, so there's a great deal I don't know about this. But I very much dislike being beholden to you for teaching me."

"Feeling's mutual. Makes me wonder if my princess wasn't being more subtle than I give her credit for, throwing the two of us together."

"Your 'princess' is a mad, sadistic killer."

Spike smiled fondly. "I know, bless her dear, dead heart. But there it is, I'm not going to throw you out into the night to get yourself staked, and you're not stupid enough to think that being quick with the fangs is enough to keep you alive. So we're stuck together."

"Damn it all."

"So are you going to be Felix or Oscar?"

"Felix, naturally."

"Figures."

They strolled for another hour before Giles finally admitted that the world was beginning to overwhelm him. The number of idiots in Sunnydale was truly astounding, lovers strolling along dark streets, people taking shortcuts through alleys.

"Don't they know we're out here?" Giles asked in amazement. He wanted to grab some of the idiots and just shake sense into them, never mind eating.

"Oh, something's out here, but they refuse to admit what it is. But it's like this everywhere. You want a city that's great for hunting in, go to New York. Subways and underground access to major buildings and millions of people not keeping track of each other. Decades Dru and I hunted there. But, you know, you get bored, time to see new things."

They headed back to the crypt. "I need more smokes," Spike said. "You want anything?"

"Thank you, no. What are you going to use for money?"

Spike grinned. "If I'm lucky, nothing. If Dead Bob's on duty, though, he's on to me. But don't worry, you've still got your credit cards."

Giles reached for his wallet to check. "You stole my money! Damn you. Why did you leave the credit cards?" he asked suspiciously.

"Red's keeping an eye on the computers, waiting for someone to access your bank accounts. Have to do something about that soon. Be back soon."

Spike wandered off into the night, and Giles retreated back into the crypt. He headed downstairs, as far from the night as he could get. So many distractions out in the world, his demon yammered at the walls of his mind, aching to go out and play. He was going to have to find some way to appease those urges without turning into a mindless monster. He was amazed, though, that he was able to impose any will onto the demon. All his training told him that the demon ruled the remnants of the human mind, that without the soul there was no willpower to control the dark urges. Apparently something else that Watcher training didn't quite cover. There were some theories that said there were as many types as vampiric demons as there were people, that the dark forces didn't waste garden variety ravening beasts on remarkable humans. If that were so, then the dark powers weren't going to pass by the opportunity to use a former Watcher to best effect.

Manipulated by the Council, manipulated by whatever powers lay behind the demons. He was getting bloody sick of it.

He wandered the crypt, looking for distractions. One by one he looked at the books Spike had brought from his apartment, discarding each of them. He missed the library at the Magic Box, he wanted to do some research on the underpinnings of vampiric lore. There was obviously more than was being said, and he should have realized by now that the Council was not above twisting matters to their own ends.

He looked at a pair of chests shoved against one wall, thought briefly on the ethics of snooping, and went to explore. One chest was unlocked and full of weapons. Spike tended towards axes, but Giles was surprised to find a shotgun in good working order with a box of shells. Two good swords, matched blades. And, wrapped in an old cloth near the bottom, several railroad spikes with dark, crusty stains. Mementos, perhaps.

The other chest was locked, but it took Giles longer to find a length of wire than it did to pick the thing. The chest was full of books, old books. He pulled one out at random and discovered a copy of "Leviathan" by Thomas Hobbes. On the flyleaf in front was the inscription in flowing copperplate handwriting, "William Seymour Bennett, Pembroke College." A Cambridge man, hm. He shook himself. More likely Bennett was some poor sod who had the bad luck to be killed by Spike. Except why would Spike steal a battered copy of a 17th century philosophical treatise? A copy of Rousseau's "The Social Contract", in French, also had Bennett's inscription. The other books as well were the kind someone reading Classics would study in the late 19th century.

In the bottom of the chest was a small wooden box, also locked. That lock proved no more challenging. Inside was another book, an old copy of "Oliver Twist." There was a bookplate on the inside front cover for a Sir Richard Foxleigh. On the flyleaf was an inscription in another hand:

"To my dearest Wills on his tenth birthday. This was my father's favourite book, and I know you'll love it too. And your father need never know. Mother."

Beneath the book was a heavy folder, the sort old photographs were displayed in. Giles opened it, careful of the worn leather binding. Half a photo was inside, a woman in Victorian garb standing next to someone in a chair, but the seated person had been carefully sliced away. The woman was no stunning beauty, but she had a good face, with a warm, patient smile. There was something of Spike in the chin, and Giles wondered what the person in the chair looked like.

Long fingers wrapped around his wrist and squeezed. His fingers went numb, and Spike very carefully took the photograph away. Then, with a twist, he snapped one of the bones in Giles' arm.

"Do this again," Spike said softly, "and you're dust." He let go, and Giles sagged away.

Through the haze of pain, Giles saw Spike close the photograph's cover, put it back in the wooden box with the book, and replace it in the chest of books. Everything was locked again and the chest shoved back against the wall. Spike headed up the stairs, never looking back.

He set his own arm, cursing himself for getting distracted and not realizing Spike had come back. Vampires healed quickly, but he'd really been hoping not to have empirical evidence quite so soon. At least it wasn't a head injury.

Spike disappeared for two days--or nights. Giles stayed in the crypt, nursing his arm, drinking the blood in the refrigerator, and watching TV. Spike had sprung for the full cable package, and there were a great many interesting things on the BBC channels. "Changing Rooms" and "Ground Force" were especially fun.

He only went outside once, very carefully. The cemetery was empty, but he twitched at every shifting leaf, every swaying branch. He heard voices once, voices that might have been familiar, and he ran back to the crypt. Once back inside, he scolded himself. He was a fearsome demon of the night, he should be terrorizing the frail mortals, not running from them. But the memories, at least, of his pride refused to give in to blind ravening. Plus there were all the other denizens of the night to be concerned about. He knew most of them by reputation, but Spike knew them on sight, knew which individuals were dangerous and which could be useful. And Spike knew the sanctuaries and how to gain entry. Giles knew he could simply embrace his vampireness and melt into the underworld, but if he wanted to keep his individuality he was going to need Spike's aid.

For a little while, anyway, whispered the demon.

On the third night, Spike came back. Giles actually heard him upstairs, tripping and swearing drunkenly. Giles went to put some blood in the microwave.

Spike stumbled down the stairs and stopped halfway. "You're still here," he muttered.

"Yes, I am."

"My place. Oughta throw ya out."

"Up to you, of course."

The microwave dinged, making Spike wince. Giles filled a mug and handed it over silently. Spike drained it in two gulps and leaned against the wall as he looked around. The place smelled better, and some of the piles of junk had been tidied up.

"Felix," he muttered.

Giles smiled faintly. "Well, yes, sorry, couldn't help myself. I hope the pile of rat carcasses wasn't being saved for anything important. They were too far gone for any spellwork I know of."

"What carcasses?"

"Ah, never mind then. You want another?" he asked, gesturing at the mug.

"Yeah."

Spike wobbled down the rest of the stairs and into an overstuffed chair he didn't remember. There was a small table with a lamp, and on the table was a book, one of the books he'd brought from Giles' apartment. He watched Giles from bleary eyes.

"How's the arm?"

Giles wiggled his fingers but didn't turn around. "Sore but functional. Should be fine."

Spike grunted but didn't say more. He took the new mug without comment, but got out of what was obviously Giles' chair to flop onto the bed. Giles sat down, picked up his book and returned to reading.

***

Spike was sober the next night, and nothing more was said on the subject of Giles' arm or the things he'd found in the locked chest. Giles woke up alone again, but this time with a vague memory of a sharp elbow in the ribs and a slurred voice saying, "Shove over, and stop hoggin' the pillows, dammit." And he remembered a feeling of relief that he wasn't alone in this strange world.

At the sounds of movement, Spike came down the stairs. "Don't fill up," he said when he saw Giles at the microwave.

"What do you mean?"

He grinned. "Be a shame to have a full stomach when you go out to celebrate your birthday."

"What? My birthday's not for months yet."

"It's been a week since Dru dumped you here. Yeah, a week's not much of a birthday, but hey, any excuse for a bash-up."

"A week. I've been a vampire for a week." He no longer noticed the blood as blood as he drank. "And a celebration, you say? What did you have in mind?"

"A little trip out in the world, find some people, see what happens. The Bronze is nice if you like them young and stupid."

Giles frowned. "Buffy and the others--"

"Don't go bar crawlin' very often anymore. And there are other bars in this town if you'd rather. There's a trucker's bar out near the highway that's always good for some laughs." Spike sighed. "Haven't been there since the chip, it's a good place for a brawl."

"Forgive me if sweaty truckers don't sound appealing. The Bronze, I think." He looked at Spike thoughtfully. "When you say 'see what happens', do you mean . . ."

"I mean, bars are good places to hunt in, no one's surprised if two people are real close to each other in dark corners. There's a lot to be said for al fresco in an alley or in the bushes, but vampires are urban creatures, crowds make it easier."

Giles' demon stirred anxiously, murmuring in anticipation. He frowned, though, wondering if he could do this without losing control. It might be simpler to waylay someone in an alley, fewer chances of witnesses. He was mildly surprised to be able to consider this at all rationally, remembering how he felt the first night he awoke. Spike had been right, after all, to keep him confined until the first bloodlust was controlled. Not that he was going to admit that, of course.

"I'm not sure I'll be able to . . ."

"Restrain yourself when you see the buffet? 'S'why I'm going with you, if it gets too much for you we'll just grab some take-out and have supper somewhere else."

Giles chuckled at the idea of take-out. "Well, let me get a shower, and we can go."

Clothes presented a brief concern. "Wear the worn-out jeans," Spike suggested. "You'll be scraping the birds off."

"There are some nearly indecent holes in those jeans, I can't go out in public in those."

"Like I said . . ."

"As if you're any great guide to fashion. Do you own any other clothes than a couple of t-shirts and those jeans?"

"I won't embarrass you."

They changed on opposite ends of the crypt, though Spike smirked a bit at Giles' attempts at modesty. Giles glanced up once and saw Spike, stark naked, facing away and considering the contents of a curtained alcove full of clothes. He looked away very quickly, but not before he wondered how on earth Spike managed to stay in that kind of shape. He distracted himself by trying to remember if he'd ever seen a fat vampire and considering the metabolic changes of the vampiric state.

"You ready yet?" Spike asked.

Giles looked up carefully, then turned when he didn't see large expanses of skin. "Good lord. Are you trying for a career as a men's fetishware model?"

Spike finished tucking the red silk shirt into the waistband of the very tight black leather pants and grinned. "Seen a lot of 'em, have you?"

He blushed. "Anya gets some very odd catalogs. I think she's trying to downgrade Xander's wardrobe."

"And you just happen to flip through 'em on slow days at the shop?"

"She asks everyone's opinion of what she should get him."

"Hmph. She's never asked me."

"I'm sure she'll get around to it."

"Don't know what you're upset by, though, Slayer's got pants as tight as these."

"Trust me, I know."

"Yeah."

They both paused thoughtfully, then shook themselves. Spike considered Giles. "Jeans shrunk in the wash, did they?"

"It was a question of tight versus indecent holes. I'm sure I own clothes a bit less embarrassing, but you don't seem to have brought them back with you. An oversight, I'm sure."

"Of course." The green shirt passed muster, then Spike considered Giles' hair. "Ever thought of bleaching your hair?"

"No. Get some shoes on and let's go."

The sewer brought them up in an alley near the Bronze. Giles paused at the alley mouth.

The crowd filtering in and out of the bar was noisy, but the sound was more than just chattering. There was a strange throbbing, an almost mechanical thumping. A couple walked by, accompanied by two different rhythms. Heartbeats, he realized. He was hearing the crowd's heartbeats.

"How do you stand it?" he asked, amazed.

"You get used to it or you go mad. How you holdin' up?"

"I can smell them, but . . . I think I'll be all right. Let's go in."

No one paid much attention to the pair--no one they needed to worry about at any rate. A woman paused to admire Giles' ass, then noticed her boyfriend doing the same. An argument soon broke out.

Beautiful girls in little clothing, all of them available to the right approach. A tipsy girl stumbled against Giles and giggled an apology. He caught her arms to help hold her up, felt the heat of her skin, the pulse of her blood. She sagged against him, grinning, and his groin stirred. The researcher in the back of his mind observed the phenomenon curiously, wondering how a being without a pulse could have an erection. The science could wait for later, the demon protested, all that mattered was this soft, warm bundle of dinner and a show in his arms.

"Stacey, stop throwing yourself at all the cute guys," a girl said, appearing at Giles' elbow. She tugged Stacey away.

"Oh, no problem," he smiled. The girl dithered and blushed, but she propelled Stacey to another part of the room.

Spike appeared with two glasses, handing one to Giles. "Got away, did she?"

"Her friend came to rescue her and they left."

"Too bad, twosomes are fun." Spike grimaced. "Damned chip."

Giles sipped the whiskey and looked over the crowd. "Up there," he said, nodding at the balcony.

"Scout the herd, good call." He followed Giles up the stairs. "Dru killed somebody up here for me, first chance to use my fangs properly in months. She can be such a sweetheart when she wants, why'd she have to go and wreck everything?"

"Because you're obsessed with Buffy, and don't you dare start in on that where I can hear you."

Giles went to the railing and looked over the young, oblivious crowd. All these people looking for action of one sort or another. The way some of them were dancing, they'd be willing to finish matters on the dance floor. His enhanced vision saw movement in a far dark corner, a man sitting with a woman on his lap, two people who'd obviously decided that even going to the car would take too long. He thought of going over and joining them. The librarian in him blinked. The demon urged yes, but Ripper looked for better meat.

"Oh, my," he said softly.

Spike glanced at him. "What?"

"At the bar."

"Oh, Nefertiti's sister there? Good eye, Rupert."

The woman was dark, tall, graceful, her black hair cornrowed tight around her perfect skull. The long neck and elegant carriage echoed the famous statue of Nefertiti. Her gold jewelry was perfect against her skin, and while the soft sweater covered far more than the clothes of most of the girls in the place, it hugged every curve fondly.

The demon approved, but then the demon yearned towards anything with a pulse. Giles tossed back the rest of his whiskey.

"I'll see you later," he told Spike as he headed downstairs.

Spike smiled. "I'm so proud. But let's not be stupid." He stayed on the balcony to observe.

Giles waited for a spot to open up at the bar next to the girl. He had to stare down an inbound football player to do it, but he managed to reach her side.

The bartender glanced up. "Single malt, if you have it, please."

"Be right up, sir."

Out of the corner of his eye he saw her glance at him. He looked over and smiled. "Your glass is empty. May I get you a refill?"

"Thank you," she said in a charming light voice.

"And another of what the lady is having."

The football player signaled over Giles' head. "Dude, another six Miller Lights."

"Be right there."

The girl leaned towards Giles. "Do you think they're all for him?"

"Light beer, you know, it's less filling."

She held out her hand. "I'm Bethany."

"Rupert." He took her hand, paused a fraction of a moment to enjoy the heat of her skin, then kissed her fingers. Her smile showed dimples, and he knew he had her.

They chatted over their drinks. Bethany was a senior at UC Sunnydale, studying political science. Giles told her he was on sabbatical from the British Museum. They discussed Clinton and Monica, Giles taking the position that world leaders throughout history have always had mistresses and Bethany pointing out that in terms of realpolitik one had to be a hypocrite in order to be elected.

"Democrats always have juicier scandals," she said. "Republicans only get in trouble over money. The Democrats ought to recruit candidates that way, 'Join our party, at least you'll get laid.'"

Giles laughed. "It makes as much sense as any other reason to go into politics."

The band took the stage to the cheers of the crowd.

Bethany frowned. "I finally find someone to have a decent conversation with, and now I can't hear myself think."

"Perhaps . . ." Giles said carefully.

"We could go somewhere else?" She smiled. "That would be nice. Where do you live?"

He managed not to smirk. "I'm afraid I have a rather appalling roommate who appears at very inopportune moments."

"My roommate's out of town. I have an apartment a couple of blocks over."

"Bethany, you hardly know me. You don't even know my last name."

"Well, then?"

"Bennett."

"Rupert Bennett, how very Austin. I, unfortunately, am Bethany Krupowski."

"Oh, dear. Well, then, Ms. Krupowski, if you don't mind letting a near stranger into your home. I would be glad to come over." He could hear her excited heartbeat, feel the heightened body temperature. She intended to be in bed with him before the night was over, but she enjoyed the chase. So did he, for that matter.

He took her jacket from her and helped her put it on. The courtesy made her blush and distracted her further from the foolishness of what she was doing. After at least four years in Sunnydale, you'd think people would know better. Just as well they didn't, of course.

They strolled out of the Bronze and down the street. Giles took her arm and asked a question about the Electoral College. Bethany didn't notice the figure in the duster following them, but Giles did. He debated being annoyed, but if Spike only wanted to keep watch, they could argue about it later.

Bethany fumbled with her keys when they reached her door. Giles took them from her, unlocked the door, and opened it for her. She smiled at his courtliness and went in.

"Come in, please," she smiled.

What magic was there in a simple invitation that could break such a barrier? Something else to be investigated. For now, he stepped into her apartment and closed the door. "Thank you, Bethany."

She seemed a little flustered as she took off her coat. "Aren't you cold without a coat?"

"Not really. After England, California can never seem cold."

"All I have is some cheap beer, but would you like some?"

"No, thank you, more alcohol might make me do something foolish."

Her smile was faintly naughty. "Well, we can't have that." She sat on her couch. "Won't you join me?"

The demon tried to leap, but Giles took the long way towards the couch. Her book shelves were happily full, with political theory and biography and history. She had a new edition of "Leviathan." Giles wondered if Spike would like talking to her--but the thought was swiftly followed by the demon's snarl that the girl was his and he wasn't sharing.

He settled on the far end of the couch from Bethany. "It's so nice to see someone with books in their house, especially books that have been read."

"Do you have a lot of books?"

"Yes, but they're still in storage."

"The appalling roommate doesn't let you have room?"

"Well, I did just move in."

She curled her legs under her and faced him. "So what brought you from England to boring old Sunnydale?"

"Boring? Oh, I've never thought Sunnydale was boring." He caught her eyes and smiled, making sure she thought she was the reason the town wasn't boring.

She dropped her eyes and grinned. "But why did you come here?"

"There was the opportunity to do research in some obscure areas of history and mythology."

"In Sunnydale?"

"Surprisingly so. I've seen some amazing things since I got here."

She scooted a little close. "Like what?"

"Oh, what could I say that you'd believe? Demons and angels, a little heaven, more hell. Pain, courage, betrayal--" He shook himself. "Just the usual that makes life seem like a poorly plotted soap opera."

Bethany blinked, but said nothing. People in Sunnydale didn't talk about things like that much. She reached out carefully and touched his arm. "Life just sometimes sucks, doesn't it?"

"Yes, it does." Her hand was warm through his sleeve. Enough talk. He took her hand and raised it to his lips, keeping his eyes on hers. She blushed and tightened her fingers.

She bit her lip, hesitant, then scooted a little closer. He smiled and nibbled very lightly on a fingertip. The fangs itched, but he managed to restrain himself. For now. He reached over to touch her face, feeling the heat in her cheeks, then ran a finger down to her lips. Her breath caught; when he leaned in to kiss her, she met him more than halfway.

Sweet, soft fire. The thought of Olivia, the last woman to grace his bed, crossed his mind. The bitch. She couldn't handle his world, couldn't deal with the real him. Wait till she saw him now. But plans for her could wait, Bethany was the matter at hand.

He drew back and smiled at her look of disappointment. "Is there perhaps somewhere with a bit more room than this, Bethany?" he asked softly.

He expected her to blush and dither, but she only smiled. "If you mean the bedroom, that's over there." She stood up, and he followed.

Her tastes were surprisingly sophisticated, no posters of musicians, no frills, only one stuffed animal, a battered stuffed cat with pride of place on the pillow of the twin bed. More books, a computer on the desk next to a pile of papers.

"How hard you must work," Giles said, looking at the desk.

Bethany ran a tentative hand down the buttons of his shirt. "Which is why I deserve a chance to have some fun."

"Oh, indeed." He reached up to his face, then laughed faintly.

"What?"

"I'm used to wearing glasses. I was going to take them off."

She studied his face. "You'd look good with glasses, all studious and intent. But you look very nice without them."

"Thank you, my dear." He touched her chin and leaned down to kiss her again.

She rested her hands on his chest, then started on the buttons of his shirt so she could touch the skin underneath. "You did take a chill. You should wear a coat."

"I'm fine. It's being English, you know, we're all a little cold-blooded."

"I'll have to see what I can do to help." She pressed her body against his, kissing him again.

He wrapped his arms around her, holding her close, then slid his hands under her sweater. She jumped a little, then laughed against his lips.

"Cold hands, warm heart," she whispered.

"You'll have to be the judge of that."

One hand slid up her back while the other traced the lines of the cornrows of her hair, wrapping around her skull. Her lips opened to his, and her warm tongue explored his. Her busy fingers finished with his shirt buttons and slid the shirt off his shoulders. He had just discovered she didn't wear a bra when her hands slid down his back to his ass. The cloth of the jeans was so thin he could feel each finger. He tugged on her sweater, and she obligingly lifted her arms to let him pull it off.

He could only look at her for a moment, the perfection of the dark pink nipples and the proportion of her lightly muscled ribcage to her narrow waist. "Lord, you're beautiful."

"So are you," she smiled. She leaned against him and ran her hands down his ass. "These are some very tight jeans. And I don't feel anything under them but you. Aren't you afraid of something catching?"

"One just has to be very careful with the zipper."

"Let me."

He kept his hands on her smooth shoulders as she gently unfastened his jeans and slid down the zipper. But he couldn't help gasping as warm fingers slid in and around him. He felt his face start to shift but fought it down, wanting her warm and alive against his body before anything else.

When he had control of himself again he pulled her face up to kiss her again, more insistently this time. She gave a small moan of pleasure. The zipper of her pants slid down easily, and she helped him push them down her hips, then kicked free of them and her shoes. She smiled proudly as she leaned against him to slide her hands inside the tight jeans and help him get them off. His shoes followed, then he held her tight against him to feel her heat.

"Come on,"she whispered, and he followed her tug towards the bed more than willingly.

She stretched out for him, and he was very happy to look at her, but more willing to touch her. He felt the pulse on the inside of her leg, and she gasped softly as his fingers continued upwards. He wondered if the chill of his touch in the heat of her opening felt good or only different. Blast that researcher in his mind. She threw her head back as he moved up to fondle her clitoris. So very, very warm and wet and welcoming.

He continued to explore as he slid up to kiss her. Her arms slid around his shoulders eagerly, and she gasped as his fingers went inside.

Her pulse pounded at his mind, battering his control. She didn't seem to feel he was hurrying matters, though, when he nudged her legs apart and settled against her. She was every warm and welcoming thing he'd ever felt as his cock found its way in. He went slow because the alternative was to lose everything to the demon, and the memories of the man wanted the feel of a woman.

Bethany gasped in pleasure and moved against him till he was buried in her. He found her mouth and muffled her cries. She moaned as he thrust, a little surprised at the force but not at all disconcerted. She wrapped her legs around his waist in encouragement.

He pulled away to watch her face. "So close," she whimpered. "Just a little more." He leaned down to suck on a nipple. Her hands went to his ass, pulling him against her as she thrust up to meet him. With a long moan, she spasmed around him, the muscles of her vagina squeezing hard. His cry was as loud as hers as he came, and the man lost to the demon.

His fangs emerged, as hungry as his cock. Her head was back, the pulse in her throat visible. He had no thought beyond feeding, grabbed her hair to hold her still, and sank his fangs into her throat.

Her first gasp was of pleasure, the next was of pain, and he put a hand hard over her mouth to keep her quiet. And he eagerly drank.

Why hadn't those so-called experts said how GOOD this felt? Hot, live, full of lust and passion and fear. She struggled desperately against him, whimpering, which only fueled his pleasure. Her heartbeat fluttered, and he tasted despair. She went limp in his arms, her pulse faltered against his lips, then went still.

Panting, he rested against her for several moments, feeling complete and sated and utterly content. Finally he pushed himself up and stared down at the body beneath him.

His first kill. Well, his first kill as a vampire.

He closed his eyes at a sudden shriek where his memories lay, the memories of fighting vampires, of protecting the innocent, of preventing the very thing that had just happened. Until this moment, some secret part of him had hoped to find a way out of this. But now the blood of a living person swirled in him, warming him, caressing his mind. He had killed this beautiful girl, eagerly, passionately, ripping away her future, tearing her life from those of the people who loved her.

He opened his eyes to look at her again, seeing the ashen color that disfigured her face, the staring eyes, the gaping mouth. Her smile was gone, her mind was still.

Blood still ran sluggishly down from the punctures in her neck.

He leaned down to lick it off, not wanting to miss a drop.

***

He took a deep, decadent, blissful breath of the crisp night air as he stepped out of Bethany's building. Cigarette smoke heralded Spike stepping out of a nearby alley. Giles felt too good to be annoyed at the chaperonage.

Spike looked him up and down and grinned. "Bloody bastard."

Giles glanced down at himself, checking for stains. "I take it you mean that figuratively."

"I spend my evening beating up a Devinian demon while you're in bed with a beautiful girl. 'Tisn't fair."

"Why were you beating up Devinian demons?"

"Silly sod tried to mug me. Something about needing money for his Girl Scout cookie habit." He held out a cardboard box. "Trefoil?"

"Oh, thank you."

They munched cookies as they strolled. "Where'd you leave her?" Spike asked.

"Tucked into her own bed with her stuffed kitty. Her roommate's out of town."

"Any trouble?"

"None to speak of." Giles glanced at him. "Do you plan to keep chaperoning me?"

"Nah, you'll probably do all right by yourself from now on." He sighed angrily. "Dammit, I can smell her on you."

"I'll try to stand downwind. By the way, listen carefully because I'll likely say this only once, but thank you for keeping me from making an utter ass of myself while I got my head around all this."

Spike waved a hand graciously. "Glad to help. Did she have any good loot?"

"I'm not a thief, I didn't look."

"Oh, Rupert."

"Besides, I'm fairly sure my fingerprints are on file somewhere, I was very careful."

"Should've gone with you, my fingerprints aren't anywhere."

"I was tempted by her library, though, lots of history and political theory."

"Beautiful and smart. I do hate you. Fuckin' chip."

Giles was silent in thought for a bit. "I need my books. Especially my diaries."

"What for?"

"I think I can turn off that chip."

Spike spun on his heel. "What?"

"I was very intrigued by what they did to you, spoke with Riley--"

"Stupid wanker. Slayer's brains were in her knickers on him."

"I agree, but do you mind? As I was saying, I spoke with the stupid wanker at length about what he knew about the chip. Which wasn't that much. Perhaps I should have used dog biscuits as encouragement."

Spike snickered, but looked impatient. "Get to the point, Rupert."

"To wit, I wanted to know various ways the chip could be bypassed, in case we needed to counter them. The idea of you being a creditable threat again was not pleasant."

"Very intelligent of you."

Giles grabbed several cookies. "I came to the conclusion that the odds of getting it out were slim--unless you want to have a flip top skull as you keep looking for a competent surgeon."

"Just fuckin' amusin', you are. So what did you come up with?"

"Magic. I know a lovely spell that disrupts cellular phones and other small electronics. Very useful in restaurants and theatres. I should be able to modify it for that chip."

Spike bit into another cookie. "I know it's popular to think of Spike as pathetic and stupid, but I know that the nervous system is based on electrical impulses. So you're looking for a spell to disrupt my brain's electrical fields."

"I have never thought of you as stupid. An obsessive homicidal maniac, yes, but not stupid. Magic deals with intent as much as anything, and it will be quite easy to target the spell against artificial electrical impulses as opposed to organic ones. The only problem is making it permanent. All my notes are in my diaries."

"Where are they?"

"The shop."

Spike pulled a pocket watch out of a pocket of his duster. "Pushing one. Will the dear little Scoobies still be there?"

"Worth a walkby to see." Giles took the last of the cookies and tossed the box into the gutter. "If you say anything about this being the start of a beautiful friendship, I shall stake you."

"Wouldn't dream of it, Rupert."

"Call me Ripper."

Read the next chapter: Loose Ends