Sequel to Shades of Grey 3: Redefinition; part of The Shades of Grey Series
Summary: Spike asked Giles for help. This time, Giles might have an interesting offer for Spike.
Author Notes: Thanks to Matt and Emma for proof reading. I am a feedback junkie, please support my habit.
Story Notes: Post "The Gift". Season six never happened and Buffy stayed dead. Part 4 of 6.
Disclaimer: I don't own them. Joss Whedon and co do.
Giles put the kettle on to boil and glanced at the clock on the microwave. 6:13AM. The sun was already up and shining brightly on what was promising to be a good day, at least as far as the weather was concerned.
He took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. Giles was exhausted. He had been awake for almost twenty-four hours at this point, and had spent several of those hours patrolling Bath city centre during the night. Unfortunately he didn't expect he would be able to sleep any time soon. Since the previous evening a truly unforeseen situation had developed, and Giles had found himself right at the centre of it, firstly by accident, and then by choice. There had been actions and reactions, now was the time for resolution. But Giles wasn't quite ready to face the situation just yet, and remained in the kitchen until the kettle had boiled and he had made two cups of tea. Then, after a further moment of mental preparation, he went through to the living room, pausing slightly in the doorway to look in on the scene.
Spike was slumped on the sofa, staring silently at his burnt and blistered hands.
That's my fault, Giles thought with a guilty pang.
A little over half an hour earlier they had managed to evade the rising sun all the way back to Giles' car. From there Spike had huddled under his coat in the back seat, hiding from the light for the entire journey to Giles' house. All of this had occurred without a single word from the vampire. Giles had found this rather disconcerting, given his normal tendency to talk too much. Still, they had arrived back here, and Spike had raced to the front door holding his coat over his head, and run straight into the newly erected barrier across the threshold. And for a moment, Giles had hesitated. For a moment the memory of what had occurred the previous evening was too fresh, the bruises still too painful. And still Spike hadn't said a word. He had simply stopped on the porch, letting his hands, the only exposed skin, start to burn, with a look of total acceptance on his face. When flames finally erupted Giles had practically ordered the vampire to come in.
So here they were now. Still not saying a word to each other, both putting off the conversation that they both knew was needed. Giles put a cup of tea down on the table in front of the vampire and sat down in the chair opposite. When Spike still didn't respond Giles decided to press the issue.
"Spike?" he asked gently. "What has happened?"
Spike almost visibly winced at the sound of his own name, and refused to meet Giles' gaze. Eventually he shrugged.
"No," Giles said a little more firmly. "You have to talk to me. In the alleyway you seemed to be asking for my help. I can't help you if you don't tell me what happened."
Spike was still focusing very intently on his hands when he finally replied.
"Can I... Would it be okay if I just sleep for a while? I haven't... not for days. I can't think."
It was as if forcing just those few barely coherent words out was a completely exhausting task, and Giles noticed for the first time that he looked even more pale and sallow than usual. It wasn't quite the response that Giles had been looking for, but he reasoned that some speech was at least better than nothing.
"Of course. I'm afraid there isn't a spare room, just the couch. I can get a blanket if you want."
Spike mumbled something, but Giles was already heading towards the airing cupboard for spare bedding. When he returned Spike had taken his boots off and was already asleep, curled up on the sofa in an almost peaceful-looking posture. Unwilling to disturb his guest, Giles gently spread the blanket over him and sat back down.
This was not going according to plan. Well, as far as there ever could be a plan for understanding the psychology of a deeply confused vampire. Giles had expected rants, anger, and unreasonable demands that he provide the vampire with answers right away. He hadn't expected the silence, the absolute acceptance when Giles had let him burn, the attitude of a man who would have been quite happy if he simply stopped existing, right now.
He watched Spike for some time, wondering if he really was asleep. Giles wanted to sleep himself, but he was unwilling to do so with a potentially unpredictable, and definitely chip-free Spike in the house. So he watched.
Giles woke to the feeling that he was being watched. It took a moment to realise that he had actually fallen asleep where he was, and he mentally berated himself for the mistake. He looked up to see Spike lying in the same position he had been in when he fell asleep, only now, for the first time since they had left the alleyway, he was looking directly at Giles. His blue eyes held a look of uncertainty. Giles glanced at his watch, and noted that it was almost one o clock in the afternoon. He had been asleep for hours, and after taking another moment to wake up properly he realised he felt an awful lot better for it.
He pulled himself upright and held Spike's gaze.
"You've been watching me," Giles stated, rather defensively.
Spike immediately broke eye contact and an almost guilty expression crossed his face.
"Yeah," he mumbled quietly. Then he added, more as a question than as a statement, "You were watching me?"
Giles nodded. "Yes I was."
"You don't trust me?"
Giles thought he heard a slight hint of disappointment in the vampire's voice. He considered the question briefly and then said, "No. I never have."
Spike didn't reply for a long time, and Giles himself wasn't sure what to say. He suspected it was going to be extraordinarily difficult to persuade Spike to explain, or even talk about what had been happening to him, and he almost regretted his last statement. It wasn't going to help his cause in the slightest if he could so effortlessly hurt Spike's feelings. The vampire was obviously in a rather fragile mental state, but Giles still had a stubborn streak that railed against coddling him.
"You know I won't hurt you," Spike suddenly said.
Before Giles could stop himself from another rebuke he replied, "My black eye and almost broken nose say differently."
Spike visibly cringed, and if such a thing were possible he seemed to be trying to huddle even further under the blanket. He closed his eyes for a moment, and in a voice barely louder than a whisper he said, "I'm sorry."
Giles couldn't stand to watch him like that for any longer, and stood up. He noted the still full cup of tea on the table in front of Spike, now stone cold.
"If I make another cup of tea will you drink it this time?" he asked.
Spike shrugged and then nodded. Giles escaped to the kitchen where he finally allowed himself a sigh of relief.
Why him? If Spike had experienced some kind of epiphany then why the hell had the job of dealing with the emotional fallout come to him? Annoyed and unwilling as he was, Giles knew he had chosen to accept the job. He could have refused. He could have let it end when the sun rose over the alleyway. He could have let it end by denying Spike an invite when they got back to the house. The fact that he had not meant that in some way he had agreed to take on responsibility for what happened next.
The trouble was, he had no idea what would, or even should, happen next.
Giles had a vague memory of something he had told Buffy many years earlier. Something about forgiving a person not because they deserved it, but because they needed it. Right then, however, Giles had very little idea what it was that Spike needed. What he deserved was another matter entirely.
Eventually, when more tea was made, he regrouped his thoughts and returned to the living room. Spike was sitting up again, his elbows resting on his knees and his head in his hands. When Giles put the cup down in front of him, at least this time he picked it up. As Giles watched he noticed something odd.
"Your hands aren't healing," he commented.
Spike looked at the burns with surprise. Then he shrugged. "Takes blood to heal."
"How long has it been since you last fed?" This wasn't Giles' primary concern but if he could engage the vampire in conversation about this it might open the way for conversation about the real issues.
Spike shrugged again. "Week. Ten days. I dunno."
"Why?" Giles made a mental note to get to the nearest butcher as soon as circumstances allowed.
Spike sipped tea for a minute, looking thoughtful. "I was saving myself. Once the chip was off I was going to go back to feeding on humans. The taste is so much better. I could have got more pig's blood from a butcher, but I kept promising myself it would be better to wait until I started feeding on humans. Savour it more. Only, then I couldn't. Every time I tried to feed, I couldn't. And every time I promised myself that I should wait. That next time I'd do it. Only, I didn't."
"So what was the plan? You were starving yourself into a homicidal feeding frenzy? That's rational." Giles realised as soon as he had spoken that he may have been too glib, and wondered for a moment whether Spike was going to retreat back into silence again. Instead he actually looked up and met Giles' gaze, and held it.
"Giles, do you honestly believe that any form of rational thought has gone into what I've been doing for the past fortnight?"
Giles conceded the point with a nod.
"So what have you been doing for the last few weeks?"
"You already know most of it."
Spike frowned, thoughtful for a moment before he began to speak.
"I went to Paris to meet with a demon, like I told you I was going to. He's a warlock, got some weird skills with using sorcery to manipulate electronics. He can do anything with machines and stuff, computers especially. When I went to him and offered to do a deal if he could do something about the chip, he pretty much saw it as a challenge. He wanted me to get a load of bits and pieces, like that crystal you helped with. I met up with him, he worked his magic on the chip, and hey presto, no migraines when I hurt humans."
"What exactly did this demon do?" Giles wondered if something had happened during the spell that might have affected Spike's mind. Mixing magic and technology was tricky at the best of times.
"I dunno. He just put his hands on my head and it was like lightning crackling for a moment out of his hands. The chip activated, even though I wasn't doing anything. It went off randomly a couple of times, then I think it activated constantly for about ten minutes. God that hurt for hours. At the time I remember thinking the little bastard had tricked me, or that maybe the magic had buggered up completely. But then it just suddenly stopped. Cut out. No more buzzing in my head, no more pain. I thought I was finally free."
Spike set the cup down and put his face into his hands again. "Should've known nothing ever works out like that for me."
Giles was intrigued, but not entirely surprised by the possibilities of manipulating technology with magic. It had been only a matter of time really before somebody saw the potential. But Spike's description hadn't helped in the slightest to identify what might have gone wrong, if indeed anything had gone wrong as such.
"So what happened next?" he gently prodded.
"Like what I said in the alleyway. I wanted to. I wanted to feed. Hell, I wanted to celebrate with a bloody massacre the like of which hasn't been seen since we were all still palling around with Angelus. I tried. The first time, it was a girl. A pretty little thing. Blonde. Cute, you know? I wanted her. But someone got there first. Some guy, a psycho knife wielding nutcase. So I got to him before he could touch her. Beat the crap out of him. I dunno how it happened, but he managed to get away. So I was going to kill the girl. Drain her. Looking forward to it so much."
Spike hesitated, and smiled a little as he remembered. "So, I was going to kill her. But then she said something. She said `thank you', for saving her I guess. And the look in her eyes, like I was this great hero or something. I couldn't do it."
He sighed deeply. Giles was at a loss to know how to explain any of what the vampire was saying. But it seemed he hadn't finished yet.
"So, after the first time I convinced myself I was just out of practise. Eight years is a long time to not feed properly. But then it was always the same. Like I said, I wanted to. Part of my mind was telling me to hunt and kill and feed. But I couldn't. It's not because I thought it was wrong or anything. I'm a bloody vampire. I don't give a damn about right and wrong. But it was kind of like part of me just couldn't bring myself to do it. Part of me didn't want to."
Giles considered this carefully for a while. He certainly understood Spike's recent suicidal tendencies now. The vampire probably considered his inability to revert to his nature to be a gross failure, so terrible he simply didn't want to live with it. But Giles wondered if it might not necessarily be a failure at all. From Spike's point of view, yes. But something undoubtedly remarkable had happened, and if Spike could be persuaded to see it from a different perspective then it could turn out to be a truly amazing success.
"You know," Giles said, choosing his words carefully, "Most people would refer to what you have just described as a conscience."
Spike's face furrowed into a confused frown.
"No. I'm a vampire, remember? Vampires don't have a conscience."
Giles wondered if he heard the tiniest hint of doubt in Spike's voice.
"So received wisdom would have us believe," Giles admitted. "But then, received wisdom would also have us believe that vampires are not capable of complex emotions such as love, loyalty, grief and remorse. I have seen you display all of those at one time or another."
Spike rested back into the sofa cushions and suddenly gave a self-conscious giggle.
"Wouldn't Angel just piss himself laughing if he could see me now?"
Giles allowed himself to smile at the mental image that conjured.
"So what are you going to do now?"
"Buggered if I know," Spike said, his tone beginning to return to normal finally.
"Well, if I might make a suggestion," Giles said tentatively, testing the water a little. "You could continue to do what you have been doing so far. Fight demons. Help us to protect the world from the forces of darkness."
Spike raised his eyebrows in a questioning gesture.
"I don't count as part of the forces of darkness any more?"
Giles knew he was close to destroying Spike's morale entirely. But then, he reasoned, the point of this talk was not to prop up the collapsing edifice of the old Spike, but to aid in the construction of the new.
"I think that rather depends on what you choose to do now, doesn't it?"
Spike shrugged, and Giles saw another retreat into silent contemplation becoming imminent. He knew he needed to prevent that, and had an idea. A possibly very bad idea. But if he could try to get Spike a little drunk it might be enough to make him open up a little more. On the other hand, it might make him lose what little self-control he still had and bring on a full-blown reversion to the old Spike. But Giles was becoming convinced that one way or another there would be a resolution today.
He also suspected it was going to be a very long day.
A couple of hours later Giles had managed to get Spike only slightly intoxicated, while making sure that he remained stone cold sober of course. Spike had become a little more relaxed, but any attempts to prod a decision about a new path were met with indecision and avoidance, no matter what angle Giles approached the subject from. He was beginning to run out of plausible options, and quite frankly out of patience. Eventually he opted for a new approach, one that would undoubtedly not be agreed to, but might at least get a definitive response.
"Spike, given your current predicament, have you considered the possibility of purposefully regaining your soul? Hard as it may be to believe, it might actually help."
Spike gave him a look of utter disbelief.
"A soul? What the bloody hell would I want one of those for?"
The fact that Spike hadn't thrown the suggestion out of the window immediately seemed almost promising. "If I understand correctly, your main problem at the moment is an inability to really understand your actions and desires. A soul is the seat of conscience, it provides a moral and emotional guide to help govern our actions."
"Yeah, but you've already ascribed a conscience and complex emotions to me, even without a soul. And besides," he became a little indignant, almost angry. "Why the hell is a soul the be all and end all with you people anyway?"
"I'm not sure what you mean." This was the most in the way of emotional response that Giles had seen in the man since they had come back to the house. Could this be progress at last?
"When you saw me in the alleyway the first thing, the very first conclusion that you jumped to was that I had a soul. You couldn't believe that I'd be capable of changing so much without one." Spike stood up and went round behind the sofa where there was more room, and started to pace. "A soul is your answer, and your excuse for everything. Take Angel for example. He went bad, and he tried to kill Buffy, and he tried to kill Willow and Xander, and he did kill your girlfriend, and he tortured you for hours. Then he gets his soul back again and suddenly you all welcome him back with open arms, and you trust him again."
"It wasn't quite like that," Giles said quietly.
"Looked like it from where I was standing," Spike commented, still pacing. "And Anya. Another case in point. Vengeance demon for a thousand years. Punished men in horrible ways on the slightest whim of a wronged woman. And as soon as she gets turned into a human, with a soul, you all conveniently forget that and welcome her in. You all think in a completely two-dimensional way. Soul is good, no soul is bad. It doesn't work like that. I mean, Hitler was human. He had a soul. But you try telling that to a million Jews."
Reluctant as he was to admit it, Giles knew there was some truth in what Spike was saying. It hadn't been quite so clear cut as Spike was implying, but they had, eventually, accepted Angel and Anya into the group in spite of their past actions. And what had they done for Spike?
It seemed both their trains of thought had led them to the same point when Spike started to speak again.
"Me, on the other hand. All that year with Glory I proved myself again and again and again, and not a single damn one of you ever let me in. Why? Because I didn't have a soul. It's not about souls, Giles. It's about actions and intentions. Or it should be. But that was never good enough for you. Because in the end with you lot it always comes down to whether or not you've got a soul. And I don't count, because I haven't."
Giles felt an almost guilty pang. Had they really treated him so unfairly, or was Spike simply putting a skewed spin on events? If that was how he had felt by the end of that dreadful year, it was a wonder that Spike had stayed around to watch over Dawn for as long as he had.
"I understand what you're saying, but I'm not sure I see the point."
"The point?" Spike gave a wry chuckle. "Rupert, it's a rant. There is no point."
Giles' mood lightened almost imperceptibly when he noted the sudden change in Spike's humour. Perhaps there was more hope than he had allowed himself to believe.
He smiled at the comment, and suddenly they were both laughing. When Giles finally got his breath back a question popped into his head from nowhere.
"What do you want, Spike?"
"Right now? Another drink." Spike came back round and crashed down onto the sofa before pouring himself another.
Giles narrowed the field a little. "What do you want out of life?"
Spike shrugged. "Same thing everybody wants. To have fun and live forever. If I can't have that I'll settle for the next best thing."
"To be remembered forever."
Interesting, Giles thought. It wasn't a philosophy he ever would have attributed to the vampire. But then, until today he never would have attributed many things to him, things that were becoming obvious the more they talked.
"You already are remembered," Giles pointed out. "Your name has already gone into the history books."
"Yeah," Spike replied with a distasteful edge to his voice. "Spike, scourge of Europe, killer of Slayers. That's what the history books say about me. Thing is, that's not me any more. That's not what I want to be remembered for. Besides, I used to have a reputation in the demon world, my name was known and feared. That all changed the second the Initiative gave me that chip. Now the demon world is just going to remember me as the traitor, the one who turned on his own kind and became just another Slayer groupie." He pulled a rather disgusted face and downed his drink.
"And the human world? They'll just remember me as a bad guy. It doesn't matter what good I did helping you lot fight Glory, that part will just be a footnote in the Slayer history books, if it gets mentioned at all. I'm just going to disappear into the oblivion of history, just another name."
Giles was surprised at the depth of feeling the issue seemed to arouse in the vampire. It might be something that he could use to his advantage.
"Without wanting to get my head bitten off for the merest suggestion, all this sounds rather similar to the situation that Angel found himself in a little over a decade ago. He had a fearsome reputation as Angelus, but when he had his soul restored he disappeared for almost a century. Then, with a little help from the Powers That Be, he changed, he became somebody. Now he's an avatar for the Powers That Be, and whatever else you care to say about him he will be remembered by both good and evil alike."
"Avatar?" Spike snorted. "He's not an avatar for the Powers That Be, he's their bloody pawn. I'm not Angel. And I'm nobody's pawn."
Another dead end conversation topic? Giles was getting sick of this.
"Fine, so what do you want to do?"
Another non-committal shrug. "I dunno. To do something. To be somebody. Be remembered."
Maybe not so dead end after all. "If that's what you want, Spike, then all you have to do is make a choice."
Spike looked like he was going to shrug it off again, but then he hesitated and looked thoughtful. Eventually he breathed a deep, unneeded sigh.
"You really think the forces of good will have me?" Spike stared at his hands, apparently unable to meet Giles' look as he spoke.
Giles knew that the forces of good were so completely outnumbered that they would accept pretty much anybody who was willing to fight the fight. He decided for the sake of Spike's self-confidence that this was a piece of information he didn't need.
"I expect they will. If that is what you want." Giles again chose his words carefully. This, he realised, was finally the point of resolution.
Spike looked up and met Giles' eyes. He was afraid, certainly, but there was no trace of uncertainty in his face.
"I might be needing a bit of help to get it right." Less a statement than a request.
Giles realised at last the enormity of what Spike had just agreed to, and knew that some concession was needed from his quarter as well. Maybe it was time to extend the same chance that they had given to Angel and Anya. Maybe it was time to let Spike in, with or without a soul. He nodded slowly, smiling a little.
"I'm sure that can be arranged."