Scars | Epilogue to Pangs

“But I don't want to go in the bathroom. Why can't I stay here, with the telly and the nice comfy couch?”

“Because I said so.”

“Oh that's a mature response to a civilized question.”

“Pillock.”

“Old fart.”

Giles finished untying the ropes and dragged the vampire to his feet. “Oh yes, well, that's certainly going to convince me to be civilized to a…literally…cold blooded killer who'd happily drain me and picnic on my face given half a chance.”

“On that face? Not bloody likely. I get 'eartburn just looking at it.”

Giles scowled and slapped the cuffs on the wrist he still had hold of, pushed his reluctant guest towards the bathroom

“I'm hungry,” Spike whined as Giles opened the bathroom door and stepped through. He paused to eye the room. “I'm not going any further until I get something to eat. And you can keep your face to yourself.”

“Oh, shut up,” Giles muttered and hauled on the loose end of the cuffs so that Spike was lifted off his feet, over balanced and stumbled into the room. “You'll get fed when I decide you're not a danger and not before.”

Spike snorted and drew himself up, vamped and snarling.

Giles let out a startled noise and jumped back, heart racing.

“Gotcha.” Spike's face transformed itself back into its handsome, human visage. He smirked when he realised Giles was still shaken and breathing hard. “Want me to call a doctor?”

“Oh, sod off,” Giles growled, turned to the tub, not willing to let the demon see any more than necessary, jerked the short chain hard, catching him off guard and pulling him a couple of feet closer.

“Hey! What the bloody hell…?” Spike tried to pull back from Giles' attempt to cuff him to the plumbing, but wasn't…quite…quick enough.

“It's the most solid anchor point in the house,” Giles pointed out matter-of-factly and indicated the antique tub. “Your bed.”

Spike, bent because of the short chain, stared indignantly at Giles, then the enamel 'bed.'

“Oh, you're enjoying this far too much.”

“Any reason why I shouldn't?” Giles inquired.

The vampire's eyes narrowed at the underlying tone in the Watcher's voice. “Look mate, you and I really don't have issues…well, except for the obvious…After all I've helped your Slayer before, and I saved your bloody life…!” he retorted, trying not to notice his stomach roiling with hunger.

The colour drained from Giles' face and he turned away. “Make yourself comfortable,” he muttered. “We'll get some longer chains tomorrow.”

“Hey, I'm suffering here. Even a criminal has rights, you know. And wot about the Geneva convention? If you took in a stray dog the first thing you'd do would be to give it water and food, right?”

“Stuff it,” Giles said without turning, and left.

Spike watched him go. The truth was, as far as humans went, the bloke was one of the few for whom he had more than a passing respect. Angelus had tried vainly to strip the man of every shred of Human dignity and had failed, impressive enough in itself, but he'd also had the balls to fight back, something even he, William the Bloody, would have thought twice about, even not tied up, when it came to the psychopathic Angelus.

He turned and hauled on the cuffs. Even with his strength he wasn't going to be able to tear out the plumbing. Nor was he going to get much sleep on such a short chain. His stomach heaved again. It had been a very long time since he'd been so hungry, perhaps not since he was alive. There were vague childhood memories of being poor, and relentlessly cold and hungry, but they were just shadows…and this was too bloody real…

Several miserable hours passed without anything to mark their passage except for the level of his discomfort. He'd dozed off several times, but never deeply or for long. There was no stretching out or even unkinking his neck or back properly. His stomach was a hard knot and for the first time in memory he was feeling really ill. He swallowed and opened his eyes, blinked at the harsh light. The Watcher had forgotten to put it out when he left.

Big bad nothing, that's me, he thought despondently and bashed his fist against the side of the tub, the cuffs clanking on the enamelled metal. A knackered vampire. Wonder if I'll get fatassuming I ever get fed again

He closed his eyes. Of course they were going to feed him…eventually. They couldn't help themselves, snivelling mob of bleeding-heart…

The door rattled. He opened his eyes just as it opened and Giles came in, resplendent in a carelessly tied blue robe and black pajama bottoms and looking like he'd just wakened from a particularly bad night.

“What time is it?”

“Two thirty in the bloody morning,” Giles snarled irritably, and handed him one of the glasses he was carrying in his right hand, ice tinkling as he held it out and put the bottle under his arm down next to the bath.

Spike blinked but took it without comment. He'd smelled the brandy and coveted it the moment the door opened.

Giles watched him drink silently before downing half of his own in one gulp and handing him the plate that was in his other hand. Spike looked at him speculatively.

“All right. You weren't fed, because, frankly, we had no way of getting any blood today. It is a holiday, after all,” he said flatly. “It's not much, but it should at least take the edge off until I can go to the butcher's tomorrow.”

Spike stared at the very expensive steak, obviously defrosted, and very likely the Watcher's next meal, and felt his stomach leap at the sight of the blood that had seeped from it.

“Always did like steak tartare, especially without the tartare,” he said jauntily and looked up slowly, so disgustingly grateful that he was actually contemplating a thank you, but paused when he actually noticed Giles' face.

“You all right, mate? You look like shit.”

“You're welcome,” Giles retorted dryly and downed the rest of his drink.

“Nah, I'm serious, sport,” he said pausing to savour his drink. “You look bad. What've you done to yourself?”

Giles looked away. “Eat your steak,” he muttered.

Spike looked at it, and then at the haggard, rumpled looking Watcher, who still hadn't made any attempt to leave, his eyes narrowing.

“Nightmares…?” he asked quietly.

Giles' head snapped around, his eyes startled, then he looked away again. “Mind your own business.”

“Got a feeling it is my business,” he observed with his usual perspicacity. “I know you can't stand me…and I know why, which is fine…because I can't stand you or that bloody slayer of yours either…but you weren't dreaming about cowboys and Indians, now were you…?”

Giles snorted.

“I saw what he did to you. And I know what it feels like. I've handed out more than my share and I've been on the receiving end more than once. Now, one can be a hell of a lot of fun…but the other…well, that's about as much fun as getting my arse kicked by your slayer.”

Spike watched as the big man brought the empty glass to his lips, realised it was empty and thrust it back down to his side again.

“Do any of them know?”

After a beat Giles finally turned back. He shook his head slowly. “They know about the fingers,” he whispered. “The arm. I never wanted them to know any more than that. They suffered enough after Jenny…after she was killed. It was better they thought I healed along with the wounds they could see.”

For a long moment Spike didn't say anything. He hadn't expected the older man to answer at all...but then he hadn't expected steak and brandy, either…

“You're a fool,” he said finally. “You've got a family, you daft prick. I haven't had one of those since Dru dumped me…again. The little witch would listen in a heartbeat. She might be bloody hopeless with her own problems but she'd be there for you…or any of your lot. Slu…er…Buffy, well she's another story.”

Giles looked at him then, the green eyes flashing.

“Not that she doesn't care,” Spike said quickly. “I mean she was quite serious about killing Dru if I didn't keep you alive…I just meant, well, she's not exactly…” He cleared his throat. “Anyway, that other streak of duck shit…what's his name?”

Giles lifted an eyebrow, one corner of his mouth twitching. “Xander?”

“Yeah, him, he worships you, same as little Willow. So I don't see why you had to keep it all to yourself like some kind of sainted bloody martyr.”

Giles' eyes lost even the hint of amusement that was in them and grew haunted again.

“I wanted them to enjoy the last of their childhoods, not spend it having nightmares about me being…” He stopped, released a long sigh and turned away again. “It's over and done with. Leave it alone.”

Spike bit into his thick-cut porterhouse, unable to resist it any longer, savoured it and swallowed with all the pleasure of a starving man.

“So you're here, talking to yours truly about it, why?

Giles' back stiffened, but he didn't reply.

“Are there any scars?” Spike asked, half curious and half intent on just keeping the other man talking.

Giles brought the glass to his lips again, swore and thrust it away once more. “What do you think?” he asked at length, torment woven into each word.

Spike grunted. “My personal favorite was the poker. Bloody stupid, having a fire in July, I thought, but what did I know. Angelus might be a mad bastard but he knows his stuff. Bloody inspired, some of that was. Except that you didn't play the game right. Half the fun of torture is in the atmosphere and there isn't any if you don't make a noise.”

The empty glass fell to the tiled floor and smashed.

Spike looked at Giles' white face, the haunted eyes, then, when they closed, down at the finger of brandy left in his glass. It should have been fun, but it wasn't.

“You know you won, don't you?” he said quietly.

Giles didn't move.

“You drove the poor sod to contemplating a bloody chainsaw, for pity's sake. A chainsaw. All that mess and nothing to show for it except a lot of screaming if you're lucky, and possibly a feast later…” He stirred from the enticing visual place he'd drifted to and pulled an annoyed face at himself. “Uh… forget I said that,” he muttered, swiftly stuffing another piece of steak into his mouth. “You made him crazy…Angelus, arsehole extraordinaire, reviled even among other demons…and you got fair up his nose, mate. Give yourself some credit.”

Giles finally looked up, the green eyes glittering. They burned into his. “For what?” he hissed. “Letting myself be hypnotized by your whore of a girlfriend? For giving Angel the information he needed to destroy the world?”

Spike shrugged. “It was a diversion. I thought it was rather clever, actually. Would you have preferred the bloody chainsaw? I don't know what you were seeing, but at least you were enjoying yourself.”

Giles sobbed very softly, then swallowed hard and clamped his mouth into a straight, angry line.

“I hate you,” he whispered.

“I know,” Spike said, then tilted his head to one side. “So, what did you see? She's very good, is our Dru, when she's not dropping her draws for any likely looking demon that comes along.”

“Just…shut up.”

“Well, from the way you were going at it we can probably say safely that it wasn't the Harris git, or wolf-boy. That leaves Slutty the vampire slayer, Willow the witch or that other one…what was her name?”

“Jenny…” Giles whispered brokenly.

“Nah…the skirt who works for Angel now…Cordelia, that's her…” Spike looked up, and frowned. “Oh…”

After a beat he handed the other man his drink and watched him take it with a trembling hand.

Giles blinked hard several times and downed the fiery liquid without looking at him, picked up the bottle and refilled the glass.

“Bad form, that was,” Spike said quietly, chewing the last chunk of raw steak. “Much as I like a nice bit of torture to liven up a slow day, I'm not into mind games. Mad bastard. I told him he shouldn't have pissed you off. I mean did you really have to burn the bloody place down? It would have been a lot more fun if you'd actually killed the son of a bitch back then…except that the slayer probably would never have forgiven you.”

“Bad form…” Giles repeated softly. “Is that what it was…?”

“Almost as bad as me having this conversation with you,” Spike muttered under his breath, then raised his voice to an audible level. “Don't you think you should think about going back to bed? You're the colour of…well, me. It doesn't suit you.”

Giles looked down his nose. “Why us?” he asked. “Why did you come here, instead of simply enlisting the help of your vampire friends?”

Spike shrugged. “They can't help me get rid of this bloody implant, can they? Besides vampires are a bit like wolves. The weak don't last very long.” He smirked. “Whereas I knew I could count on you lot…you just can't help yourselves…helping the helpless, all that puking morality…as predictable as clockwork.”

All of a sudden a hand shot out and Spike found himself slammed up against the side of the tub, fingers tightening around his throat in a vice like grip. He tried to speak, but there was no air to work his larynx, so he rolled his eyes instead. There was no point in struggling while he was trussed up and of course he was in no danger of suffocating.

“Take nothing for granted,” the Watcher hissed and tightened his grip even more.

Spike looked up into the glittering green eyes and his own widened in mute surprise at the depth of the violence in them.

“I will see none of them hurt on your account, do you hear? You can't hurt me. There is nothing you can do that hasn't already been done to me,” Giles warned in a voice threaded with menace, despite the tremor in it.

The half-closed bathroom door creaked open then, startling both of them. Giles released Spike roughly and straightened.

“Giles, what's going on?”

“Buffy, what in God's name are you doing here at this hour?”

“Patrol,” she said simply.

“At this hour?” Giles repeated.

Buffy looked at him warily. Somehow, on a level she didn't quite understand, he was frightening her. There was something strange about his voice and his eyes were almost…menacing…

“Well, I did plan on being home by midnight but my coach turned into a pumpkin down by the old industrial estate. Ran into some weird-assed vamps I thought you should know about,” she explained, pretending not to be intimidated.

“Been here long, ducks?” Spike asked croakily.

“Long enough,” she replied, still watching Giles, who refused to meet her gaze.

“I…I'll get something to clean up the broken glass,” he said suddenly, and was gone.

“What did you do to him?” she demanded, almost as menacingly as the Watcher.

“Gave him my drink actually,” Spike retorted sarkily.

“Spike—!”

“Oh, give it a rest. If you must know we were reminiscing about Angelus.”

“I heard,” Buffy said through her teeth. “What I don't understand is why he was talking to you about it…not to mention drinking with you.”

Spike stared at her, wondering just how blind she was, or how stupid. “Grow up, slayer. Why do you think he was talkin' to me? Where were you?

“Out patr—” Buffy started to retort, then stopped dead as comprehension slowly dawned. Spike watched her with a combination of amusement and speculation. She looked down at him. “I hate you,” she hissed, turned on her heel and left.

He stared after her for a second, then chuckled wryly to himself and picked up his empty plate. “That's right Slayer. Now do him a favour and grow up a bit more,” he mused aloud and began licking it clean.


*******

“Giles?”

He was hunkered down going through the hall cupboard. “Can't remember where I left the dustpan,” he muttered.

“It's in the kitchen,” Buffy said softly. “Xander dropped a plate when we were washing up. I kind of tickled him at the wrong time.”

Giles closed the cupboard slowly but didn't get up immediately. “How long were you there, Buffy?”

She could almost feel the tension in him. “I didn't know where you were. When I got to the door, I heard you guys talking. He called you a 'daft prick,'” she quoted, trying not to think about what else Spike had said, particularly about her. “Translation?”

“He was calling me a fool,” Giles obliged. “Would you like some supper?”

She shook her head as he rose and dusted off his hands…then watched the long, manicured fingers curl up afterward, remembering their strength during their training, and their touch when she was hurt. They could also be seriously gentle hands…

Buffy's eyes grew very bright. “What did he mean by scars, Giles?”

His head dropped. “It's not important.”

“What did he mean?” she repeated.

“Please…Just let it go, Buffy.”

For a split second she was tempted to leave, before the sudden surge of resentment at the idea that he would confide in a vampire but not her was overwhelmed by her need to know.

She went to him and took his hands in hers, inspecting the fingers that still hurt him so much in the wintertime, but there were no noticeable scars. She looked up at him slowly.

“What did he do?”

Giles looked down at her, found his gaze captured by her intense blue one. “You don't want to know,” he whispered.

“No?” she said softly and continued to stare into his eyes as she let go of his hands and pulled at the loosely tied robe sash. His chest and stomach were unmarked above the black satin pyjama bottoms.

“Buffy—” he objected half-heartedly.

She shook her head and pushed the robe off his shoulders, surprised that he didn't resist further.

Giles closed his eyes as it fell to the floor. He didn't move as she moved behind him, nor when she suddenly sobbed and swiftly choked it off. Neither did he move when moisture pushed under his lashes and tracked down the sides of his face as her trembling fingers traced the outline of one of the deepest scars, below his right shoulder blade.

Moments later Buffy lifted her hand when she realised she was shaking, but couldn't tear her gaze from the evidence of the extent of Angelus' cruelty; of the loneliness of his suffering…the breadth of her own failure, both as the Slayer…and as his friend.

The magnitude of that realisation almost choked her, and left her utterly bereft of words, or even the ability to put coherent thoughts together. Instead she put her arms around him, laid her cheek against the worst of the scars, and wept.

Giles tilted his head back, his brow furrowing and his mouth clamping in a straight line.

Buffy felt him tense, but took a few more moments to collect herself. He still didn't move when she withdrew, except to bow his head. Deliberately, she moved around to face him, reached up and touched the averted face.

It lifted just enough for ravaged, damp green eyes to find and search hers, a hint of a twinkle flickering to life when they saw the equally ravaged blue ones.

Buffy opened her mouth to speak, closed it again, let her hand rest unconsciously on his chest as she turned toward the growing racket coming from the bathroom.

“What the…?” Giles closed his eyes exasperatedly and shook his head. “I left the bottle in the bathroom.”

“….REGRETS, I've had a f-e-e-w…”

The wail grew louder and more off key, cheerfully murdering the lyrics as it went.

“…Each charted course ALONG THE B-Y-Y-W-A-A-YS…”

“Do you want me to kill him?”

Giles' chest shook beneath her hand, telling her that he was chuckling silently.

”It may become a necessity,” he said hoarsely.

“…For WHAT IS A MAN, what has HE GOT…?”

Buffy giggled and turned back to him, renewed hurt immediately chasing the amusement away when she looked up into the wan, haggard face, despite the twinkle in the soft green eyes looking down at her.

“…To say the things HE TRULY FE-E-E-LS…”

”Giles…” she whispered tremulously, her eyes filling again.

He nodded. “I know,” he said softly, bending to retrieve his robe, only to have Buffy take it the moment he straightened. She held it up for him.

“….AND DID IT M-Y-Y W-A-A-A-A-A-Y…”

For a beat he didn't move, then he was turning to put his arms in the sleeves, the soft fabric sliding back over the smooth skin and the old scars, and covering the wide shoulders before Buffy let go.

He turned slowly, tying the sash, and half smiled, a weary, tender smile.

Buffy smiled back, but her face was troubled.

“Will you…will you tell me…please?” she asked softly, afraid, but certain.

Giles' eyes grew far too bright again. “One day…” he promised.

Buffy nodded just as the sound of glass smashing made them both jump.

“BUGGER…!”

“Supper?” Giles said softly.

Buffy grinned damply and nodded her head.

When he smiled back, she turned and put her arm around his waist, leaning into him when, after a fraction of a pause, his arm slid around her shoulders and squeezed as they headed for the kitchen together.

“Hey! Watcher! You wouldn't happen to have any more brandy, would you…?

Watcher…?

Uh, Wa-a-t-cher…?

Bollocks!

…AND NOW the end IS NEAR; And SO I FACE the final cur-TAIN…”


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