By L.A. Ward and Sanguine
Chapter Eleven: Telling Secrets
Giles held up a hand, his mouth twitching with silent amusement. "No, you keep it."
"I appreciate you listening to me." Anya snuffled. "No one ever really bothers to ask how I'm feeling." She nodded towards the training room where, judging from the loud thuds, Buffy was pummeling a punching bag. "I'm just this big demonic nuisance to them, except when they need my help with research. Imagine," her voice rose indignantly, "they didn't even know what a Kermitis demon was."
"Really?" Giles felt sympathy for the poor girl. He had an unfortunate weakness for crying women, a weakness that had gotten him into trouble on more than one occasion. In this case, it would behoove him to remember the identity of the weeping female: Anya, once betrothed to Xander, former vengeance demon, terribly afraid of bunnies. Quite an irrational girl, really. Anya awkwardly adjusted her dress, then dried her eyes rather violently with the back of her hand. Giles half smiled. That was the charming thing about Anya. She didn't weigh every word, evaluate every action, think about propriety. She was completely natural. She simply did things. Giles envied that.
"I don't think you taught them anything about doing research, Rupert. Your former charges are completely incompetent. Or perhaps they're just stupid."
Giles was jolted back to earth. The familiar irritation rose within him, the irritation that always manifested itself in Anya's presence.
"But I told them." Anya said proudly. "I told them what to do. It's simple really, if you have a troll hammer."
"Buffy managed to kill them all?" Giles asked anxiously.
"As many as she could. But then the plague came. If there's any justice at all Xander will become horribly infected with an antibiotic resistant strain. Pustules everywhere. Now that's what I call vengeance." Anya smiled brightly at the thought.
"Why haven't you just cursed him yourself, Anya?" Giles cleared his throat uncomfortably. "You are a vengeance demon, after all."
Anya shook her head. "I can't do it myself. You should know that, Rupert. Vengeance demon code. Besides," she lowered her voice conspiratorially, "I've lost the passion for wreaking havoc." Absentmindedly, she took a chicken foot from the counter and made it hop a legless arrhythmic dance on the counter. "I'm a pathetic excuse for a vengeance demon. Soon D'Hoffryn won't want me either." Her eyes filled with tears.
Giles's irritation faded. He was back to wanting to protect her, to comfort her, to . . . What was it about this woman?
=Do vampires dream?=
A little metaphysical speculation was good for the soul, Lilah thought, even if your soul had been promised years ago to the senior partners. With vague enjoyment, she watched as the needles sucked the lifeblood from the ever-paler vampire. Poetic justice, if you asked her. A thing of beauty. This creature who violated, who killed, was now having the same thing done to him. What she wouldn't give to see Angel in the same position.
Now, that would be yummy. She got all tingly at the thought. Maybe she'd try it someday.
The vampire began to struggle, but he was so doped up, Lilah was fairly sure he couldn't feel a thing. A shame, really.
Hard iron bands encircled William's wrists. Writhing, trying desperately to move. Cold steel on his back. Soft hand over his mouth. "Shhh. It will all be over soon."
Smiling widely, the demon woman, the succubus, licked his face. "We've almost finished with you."
A blond man caressed him. Lewd. Defiling. Obscene. "That's right, sweet William. You've been very useful to me."
William Atherton awoke, panting. It was the dream again. Or nightmare. Rubbing his wrists, he noticed they were slightly bruised.
Yawning, he considered the clock on his bedside table. 8:30 a.m. He could afford to sleep just a few more minutes. Sinking down, he snuggled into bed and found a warm body next to him, inhaling, exhaling, making little noises in her sleep. The rational part of his mind--the part that was awake--knew something wasn't right. But feeling the warm cotton shift against his cheek, he found that he didn't particularly care. Gently he kissed her shoulder and inhaled her scent. Spicy, with a hint of vanilla.
Still half asleep, she turned and opened her green eyes. "Is it morning?"
She speaks! William smiled. He liked this fantasy. "Yes, love. Time to get up."
Luxuriously, she stretched. "Do we have to go?"
"I'm afraid so, love. I've got responsibilities, duties."
Her bottom lip extended in a charming pout. "Why does Matins have to be in the morning?"
"'Twas thus ever so, love."
"Thus endeth the lesson."
William closed the gilt-edged Bible. The congregation looked at him expectantly. A small group, but attentive. With his connections a modest parish was all he could secure.
"Good morning, Mrs. Jameson." William stood at the door of the church, shaking his parishioners' hands. So many hands. Grasping. Prodding.
"Good morning . . . Mother! So pleased you could make it." Enthusiastically he took his mother's hands in his and warmly kissed her cheek. He could feel the bones beneath. She hadn't been well.
"I wouldn't miss this, my dear. Your first service. You did a wonderful job, son."
"Dearest, could you take care of Mother?" William beamed at the woman, the strange and beautiful woman who was somehow his companion.
The golden-haired goddess smiled gently. "It would be my pleasure." Her expression hardened and her smile turned malicious as she withdrew a stake from her sleeve and plunged it into his heart. "I like taking care of things."
"Give him some blood."
"Why don't we just kill him?"
"Do as I say."
The voices picked at the edges of Spike's consciousness.
Excruciating pain shot through him as they removed the needles and unbound his arms. His body was dry, dusty. His tongue felt swollen in his mouth. And the hunger was unbearable. Looking up, he saw the blond man, Gabriel. Muzzily, through the drug-induced fog, he watched Gabriel's face change as the demon emerged. Spike knew that somehow this was his fault. Vaguely he remembered--his blood, the doctor, some scientific mumbo-jumbo about a low evil sperm count. Obviously, they'd fixed that problem. Gabriel looked plenty evil.
Lilah languidly sauntered to Spike's side and smiled sardonically, applying a band-aid to one of the fresh wounds on his arms, giving his marred flesh a playful kiss. "All better," she sing-songed. Unbidden, Spike's fangs extended. Lilah laughed and thrust a blood packet against his waiting mouth. "My, aren't we a hungry boy?" She'd never understand why they needed to keep this pathetic excuse for a vampire around. But she had her orders.
Spike ripped the packet open desperately, wanting only one thing--the feeling of blood running down his parched throat.
"Sorry we had to take such drastic measures, Spike. But, you know, ancient prophecies--we couldn't take the chance that you'd say no, especially as you used to work for the Slayer." Lilah continued to smile, sphinx-like, unreadable as she watched him feed.
Spike tried to collect his scattered thoughts, as he licked a trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth. =Why was he still alive? It made no sense. They'd planned to kill him. But he was still something other than dead and if was going to save the world, he needed to stay that way.= Finishing his blood packet, he managed to squeak out a response. "That bitch fucked me five ways till Sunday, then left me. I'd like to see her dead."
"Still lovesick, William?" Gabriel considered his sire with interest, his blue eyes piercing, skeptical, patient.
"I was the Slayer's pet. Gave her everything and she threw it in my face."
"So you truly hate the Slayer?" Gabriel looked suspicious. "Why don't I believe you?"
"Love and hate, two sides of the same coin." Spike's jaw muscle clenched before he continued, his eyes blazing with suppressed rage. He flashed a predatory smile. "Time to show the little bitch what the big bad can really do."
"What can you do, William, besides being the Slayer's lapdog?" Gabriel asked.
"Look, I don't have much to live for these days," Spike spat, his anger at the Master's words giving him the energy to sit up and swing his legs over the side of the gurney. "Bringing about the End of Days seems as good a death as any." He shrugged nonchalantly, but his eyes were fierce. "Used to like the world. Not anymore."
Gabriel shifted into gameface and stalked towards him. Almost seductively he stroked Spike's cheek. "Are you sure that won't trouble your soul?"
"I. Am. Not. A. Bitch." Buffy punctuated her rage with her fists. Violence always made her feel better . . . at least for a little while.
"I'm glad to hear that." Giles carefully closed the door behind him. Anya had stopped crying (thankfully) and now he could turn to his other problem: salving the bruised ego of his Slayer. Why did saving the world require so much diplomacy? "Where's Dawn?"
"She took off." Buffy shrugged. "Teenagers."
Giles nodded. "Yes, I remember. Vividly."
Buffy continued to slam her fists into the punching bag.
"Would you like to talk about it?"
"It seems that Anya has hit a nerve."
"I used Spike, I admit it. But he wanted to be used."
"Used in what way?"
"In every way. The sex part, that was for fun." Buffy hit the bag a little more viciously. "Let's face it, Spike is easy on the eyes."
Giles recoiled inwardly. He didn't want to know this. He didn't want to hear about Buffy's sordid liaison with Spike. He sat down heavily on a nearby bench and observed his Slayer fruitlessly punching the bag, an opponent she would never defeat. This was much, much worse than he'd thought.
Buffy half smiled. "Guess I was in sucky place after you left, huh?"
Giles sighed. "Sleeping with Spike would certainly qualify as being in a 'sucky place', as you so eloquently put it."
"Yeah, I know. Evil, soulless thing," Buffy retorted. "I kill his kind."
"But not him," Giles observed.
"No," Buffy stopped punching. "Not him. He was . . . different." Buffy sank down on the bench next to Giles. "He really did love me. Does the Council have that in their books? That soulless vampires can really love? He would have done anything I asked, you know."
Giles studied her face. It was pinched and hard. He remembered when it had been soft and open. But that was before she'd known what it was to die. What it was to kill what she loved. "What did you ask of him, Buffy?"
Buffy's eyes darted to the side, avoiding Giles's gaze. "To hurt me."
"Not as much as I hurt him."
"How did you hurt him?"
Buffy nervously picked at a ragged cuticle. "Do you really want to know?"
"Will you still love me if I tell you?"
Giles shook his head. "Of course, Buffy. We all make mistakes."
Buffy laughed, and the joyless sound echoed, brittle and harsh against the polished wood of the training room. "Spike was a big mistake from the get go. I should have known that Buffy and vampires are non-mixy. It should never have started in the first place. But he was there. And he challenged me. And he made me forget," her voice broke, "forget how hard and violent my life is. The pain made me forget. Giving pain and receiving it." Angrily, she swiped at an errant tear. "True confessions time, huh Giles? Am I the kind of girl who should be saving the world?"
Giles smiled wanly. "I wouldn't trust it to anyone else."
"I beat him Giles. Viciously beat him. He wanted to help me, in his own twisted way, and I beat him so hard that he couldn't get up. I beat him until he almost choked on his own blood and then I left him there for the sun. Stupid Spike. He was trying to save me. 'That's my girl,' he said and I just kept hitting and hitting until there was no face left. And I kept telling him that he was evil, that there was nothing good in him, that I would never be his girl. I kept telling him that it was over, that I didn't want him. But I kept coming back. I couldn't stop."
"I gave him no reason to be better, to try to be good. And still he loved me, worshipped me. All he wanted in his pathetic life was me." Buffy wiped a tear from her eye, remembering. "Usually when he tried to tell me he loved me, I'd just yell at him to shut up. But one time, I asked him to tell me. I needed to hear it. He knew he'd never hear it in return, but it made him happy to say it. It made him happy, Giles." Buffy stopped punching for a moment. "And then I dumped him." Her expression turned hard, remote. "Why? Because I could. I had power over him and I liked it. Part of me liked destroying him."
Giles cringed. What had happened to her, his Slayer? What had made her so . . . hard?
Buffy's words came out in a rush. "But that power, all those games I played ,came with a big old price tag. I'd screwed with him so much that when it was really over, he didn't believe me. You see, I'd told him it was over before--like every time I saw him. I'd said no and hadn't meant it." Buffy met Giles's gaze.
Giles knew. The tremble in her voice, the pain in her eyes. He knew. "What did he do?"
When the reply finally came, it was barely a whisper. "He was confused. Lost. He wanted to have that connection again. He couldn't hear me say no."
"Why am I still alive?" the words rasped through his dry throat, ragged, disbelieving.
"Because I wanted to have a chat with you, William." Gabriel smiled benignly at the others in the room. "Would you mind giving us some privacy? We have much to discuss."
Lilah rolled her eyes. "Do you think that's wise, Gabriel? Spike's still playing for Team Slayer. He might try something."
Gabriel continued to smile, supremely confident, watching Spike's emaciated features. Suddenly, he turned his powerful gaze on the group. "That's rather doubtful."
Gavin was the first to acquiesce, victim to Gabriel's mind tricks. "We'll go. I'm sure you can handle yourself."
Gabriel nodded cordially towards their retreating backs. "Thank you."
"Ah, finally alone." Turning his attention towards Spike, Gabriel extended a hand to the trembling vampire. "Can you stand?"
"Just a mo'." Spike drew a useless breath, then, through sheer determination managed to stand up of his own volition, eschewing Gabriel's help. His legs wobbled treacherously beneath him, threatening to give out at any moment. Leaning against a wall for support, he considered the creature in front of him, the evil thing he had created, the Master. "You used to look like Bat Boy. You have some work done?"
Soundly, Gabriel's palm--white, cold, and unforgiving--met Spike's cheek. "Insolent fool. Don't you realize the Sword of Damocles is hanging over your head? One more misstep, my dear, and I shall release that sword."
Spike shrugged. "Do what you want."
"You have no desire to live? No concern for your own pathetic life?" Gabriel's eyebrow arched with interest. "Is the weight of that abomination, that soul, so heavy?"
=Yes,= Spike silently replied. =Yes, God help me, it is.=
Spike drew a deep breath. "The soul is heavy. In fact, the only thing that keeps me alive is the thought of ending all this pain, all this," he gestured around him dismissively, "suffering. Ending the world would be a blessing." Spike smiled murderously. "Just because I'm all soul-having doesn't mean I'm a champion like Angel. In fact, I think a little apocalypse can be cleansing, particularly if that bitch Buffy buys it in the process."
Gabriel returned Spike's smile, the very image of benevolence, his golden hair glowing like a halo around his perfectly shaped face. "I hoped you'd see things my way." Languidly, with inhuman grace, he approached Spike, pinning his sire to the wall with his icy gaze. "I've done some reading about you, sweet William."
"Yeah?" Spike arched an eyebrow suspiciously. "Good for you. I've always been a fan of literacy."
"So I've heard. You were quite the poet in your day."
Spike's eyes widened slightly with surprise, but he quickly recovered. "Pathetic, I was."
"I would have to agree, William. Really dreadful stuff, from all accounts. Of course, you didn't leave many witnesses to your incompetence after you were turned, did you?" Gabriel studied Spike's face carefully.
A small muscle by his eye twitched, but otherwise Spike displayed no sign of emotion. "That's what vampires do," Spike replied, his voice perfectly steady. "We kill."
"Yes," Gabriel said, tracing his finger along the brickwork of the wall that supported Spike, almost touching the other vampire's angular face, "it's our nature. We're predators. But you weren't always a predator, were you, William? You didn't come by killing naturally. In fact, your God specifically forbade such acts."
Spike couldn't disguise his surprise any longer. "What are you talking about?"
"I know about you, William. The Cambridge education, studying theology and the classics. The position in a small parish."
Spike opened his mouth and softly asked, "How?"
Gabriel shrugged. "Wolfram and Hart have a spectacular research library. A man of your education would enjoy it." Gabriel smiled wolfishly. "Now I've got your attention, don't I? But enough chit-chat, William. Here's the bottom line. I know you. I know your skills." A cold finger finally met Spike's flesh. Spike recoiled involuntarily from its cold probing. "And I know you are the perfect man," Gabriel emphasized the last word, "to help me."
"Bastard!" Giles spat. "I can't believe he did that to you. How could he, with the chip?"
Buffy bent down to tie her shoe, carefully avoiding Giles's eyes. "The chip hasn't worked on me since I came back."
"You mean you were intimate with that creature and he could have killed you at any time? Buffy," Giles considered her with a mixture of concern and disappointment, "I thought you were wiser than that."
"He loved me, Giles."
Giles stood up. "Rather destructive love. Twisted, corrupt . . ."
"Buffy, he tried to rape you." Giles wearily sat down again, taking one of her hands in his. "Buffy . . ."
"No, Giles, let me explain. Spike left Sunnydale because of what happened. You should have seen him when he realized what he'd almost done."
"That's no excuse. It doesn't exonerate him just because he regretted his actions."
Buffy shook her head. "Of course it doesn't. I don't know why he's all evil-ed up now but he wasn't like that before."
Giles suddenly felt terribly guilty. What must Spike's current behavior be doing to Buffy? Perhaps he should tell her the truth, tell her everything. But if he did reveal the plan then Buffy might rekindle her alliance with Spike . . . or worse. Perhaps it was better if they were antagonists. Perhaps it was better if their relationship played out to its natural conclusion. She was the Slayer; he was a vampire. Natural enemies. Mortal enemies. "Buffy, if you see him again, you do realize you may have to . . ."
"Kill him?" Buffy suddenly looked much older than her twenty-one years. "I know, Giles." Her mouth drew tight with resolve. "I'll do my duty."
Spike staggered into his old crypt--the designated meeting point. The two packets of blood Lilah and Gabriel had given him had done little to assuage the overwhelming hunger and weakness. His head was spinning. He found his thoughts drifting towards images and sensations his soul found distasteful, but his demon found tremendously appealing. Pulsating arteries. The feeling of his fangs plunging into a tender neck and drinking . . .
In response to these profoundly naughty thoughts, Spike felt his fangs extend. If he didn't get some blood soon, he might eat Rupes instead of having a nice chit-chat.
And Spike didn't relish their upcoming tete-a-tete. "Yeah, Rupert." Spike lit a cigarette and mockingly addressed the old mannequin head, the one who'd stood in for Buffy in more imagined conversations than he cared to admit. "I have a knack for evil and a big yen to end it all." He inhaled the smoke deeply into his lungs and then exhaled in an angry burst.
"You want death? Let me help."
Giles stood in the doorway of the crypt, stake in hand, dangerous glint in his eye.
"Rupert, welcome to my very humble abode." Spike gestured expansively, using precious strength. "Hope you checked for spies. Don't want to blow my Big Bad cover."
Giles considered him coldly. "If they were watching, I'm sure they'd see that I'm not your friend. Nor will I ever be your friend."
Spike lowered his eyes, stung by Giles's words. "Right. It's business. I know that."
"I've just learned some very interesting things, Spike. I had a little discussion with Buffy." Giles gripped his stake a little harder. "Care to tell me the real reason you left Sunnydale?"
Spike shrugged in defeat. "I'm sure Buffy told you. I'm a monster. That's why I left town." He met Giles's eyes. "I would never hurt her. Not now."
"How can I be sure?"
"Nothing's sure, Rupert, but here's one thing I know: the end of the world is coming, and apparently I'm the right 'man' to help it along."
"What a surprise," Giles replied warily.
"Yeah, you weren't the only one to learn interesting things tonight. It was all fun and games for old Spike. Got up close and personal with victimhood." Spike half-smiled. "Violated so many over the years--old men, girls in coal-bins, those who were just too scared to run away. But I hadn't felt it--not since Dru. Since she took something from me that wasn't hers." Spike sat down in his battered green chair. "Tonight they took my blood. They brought back the Master. It's gonna be a bloody carnival."
"What?" Giles's brow furrowed in confusion. "The Master? That can't be. Buffy killed him years ago."
"Wasn't really the Master, not at first. It was Gabriel. Human bloke. Good looking in a Ralph Fiennes sort of way. And no fruit-punch mouth."
"Spike, you're babbling."
"Am I, Rupes? Blood and science. That's all it took to bring him back." Spike's hand shook as he brought the cigarette to his mouth. Slowly, painfully, he removed his jacket, revealing the numerous puncture wounds and bruises on his bare arms. "Been a long night."
"Bloody hell. What did they do to you?" Giles removed his glasses, avoiding the sight of Spike's mangled flesh.
"Told you. Took my blood, resurrected a monster. The Master's back, and he's eager for apocalypse. Always was a grandiose wanker."
"So the Master thinks he can help it along? With his re-vamping we are one step closer to the magic number seven."
"Apparently, the Master has a hard-on for ancient mystical artifacts. Thinks I can help him find them, seeing as I know a few dead languages."
Giles considered Spike with suspicion. Something wasn't ringing true. "Is that all? Why would the Master trust you with this task, the known lover of the Slayer . . ."
"Former lover, Rupes," Spike shuffled his feet uncomfortably.
"Former lover," Giles gladly corrected his statement. "But it still doesn't make sense."
Spike inhaled deeply on the last bit of his cigarette, then extinguished it beneath a heavy black heel. "I guess I play despair pretty well. Convinced him that I was ready for the end. This is the end, my only friend." Spike half-smiled, remembering Jim, remembering Emma, remembering those he hadn't saved. Maybe this time would be different.
Giles looked at Spike closely. "Besides your knowledge of Greek and Latin and your witty repartee, what else qualifies you for this apocalyptic task? Care to enlighten me?" Giles pressed forward with his interrogation, scrutinizing the vampire's features.
Spike rose unsteadily from his chair, turning his back on Giles. Absentmindedly, he began toying with the mannequin head. "Has to do with that ponce--the man I was before Dru changed me. He had certain skills. The Master did his homework, gotta give him that."
"What skills? Were you an amateur archeologist?"
"Look, is this twenty questions?" Spike spat defiantly, still avoiding Giles's gaze. "I told you what you need to know. Let me finish this. Trust me, just a little."
"Why should we trust you, Spike? You've promised to change on more than one occasion and each attempt ends in recidivism. The incident with Buffy is only the latest in a long string of moral failures."
Spike pulled himself up to his full height and swaggered towards Giles, every inch the Big Bad, crystal blue eyes bearing down on the renegade Watcher. "I may not be a righteous man, but I'm all you've got, Rupert. I'm your only chance to stop this."
"Not bloody good enough." Giles's steely gaze was unrelenting. "What are you hiding, Spike? What does the Master know about you?"
Spike sank heavily to the floor of the crypt, his strength finally giving out. "You want to know the awful truth, Rupert? You want to know who I was? Will it give you your jollies to know my deep, dark, secret?"
Giles crouched down beside him. "I need to know, Spike," he said gravely.
The last flicker of defiance extinguished from Spike's eyes. Sighing deeply, he finally spoke. "William was a vicar. And the Master is back among the Order of Aurelius. And it's all my fault." A note of desperation entered Spike's voice. "Let me make it right."
Continued in Chapter Twelve: Magical Mystery Tour