TITLE: It Never Happened (part 3 of 8)
LENGTH: 37,000 words
SUMMARY: It's the summer of 2001. Buffy is buried under a stone that says "She saved the world. A lot." Those she left behind are struggling to figure out how to live in a world without her, and how to continue to protect it.
WARNING: I wanted this story to fit perfectly into the gap between S5 and S6. So if you think about it, you already know how it ends.
FEEDBACK: Honestly? I crave it.
DISCLAIMER: The characters and the world belong to Joss, but he did say that we could play with them. This story was written for fun, not profit.
If you didn't catch chapter one, you can read it here.
Sometimes, when he had trouble sleeping, Giles would conjugate verbs in his head.
French tonight. The subjunctive case. Mourir: to die. Il faut que je meure, que tu meures, qu’il meure. It is needful, necessary, that I die. That you die, that he dies.
Every Watcher knows that his Slayer will die. Buffy had lasted longer than most.
Il faut qu’elle meure. It is necessary that she die.
Death was her gift, she had said. A puzzle, solved at the last possible moment.
Il faut que nous mourions, que vous mouriez, qu’ils meurent. It is necessary that we die, that you (plural) die, that they all die.
Spike had been murdered in 1880, and yet he lived. He had achieved, in a sense, the ancient dream of the alchemists—a youth impossibly extended. Giles wondered whether Spike now felt the weight of all those years. Perhaps that was why he had come so close to letting himself die.
He was asleep downstairs on the sofa now, having been finally discharged after four days in hospital. He was still weak as a kitten, mildly feverish, and suffering the effects of a terrible head cold besides. He’d need another week of bed rest, most likely. Giles was feeling uneasy about taking over as his caretaker. It was not a role in which he had much experience.
Any further thought was interrupted by a tremendous crash from downstairs. Giles sat up in bed, instantly wide awake thanks to the adrenaline. He grabbed his glasses from the nightstand and a sword from under the mattress, and ran down the steps three at a time not knowing what to expect. The crash had come from the living room—but had Spike done something, or had something attacked Spike?
He hit the light switch, his sword at the ready. Spike wasn’t on the sofa. The blankets were lying in a tangled mess on the floor. A wooden chair was lying in pieces, which explained the crash. And there was Spike, huddled against the far wall. Once Giles got closer he could see what he was doing: he had one of the chair legs, and he was trying to stake himself with it.
“Spike!” Giles said sharply, putting down the sword. “Stop that!” His hands twitched to grab the improvised stake, but he remembered the danger in time—if Spike were to fight him, the chip might go off.
Spike paused, fingers white on the chair leg, and blinked up at Giles. Tears were running freely down his cheeks. “Watcher?” His voice was hoarse, barely audible.
“Yes, it’s me.” Giles reached forward slowly, cautiously, and found that he was able to get a hand on the chair leg, but Spike didn’t let go of it. “You don’t need this,” he said, pitching his voice as though he were talking to a child.
Spike shuddered, releasing his grip on the chair leg. “Then, it ... it was only a dream.”
Giles moved the broken leg out of arm’s reach, keeping an eye on Spike. “Yes, I imagine it was.”
Spike closed his eyes. “I hurt them.”
“It was only a dream.” Giles wondered whether his assurances were false—perhaps Spike was remembering real victims? No matter. For the time being, the important thing was to get him back into bed—or rather, onto the sofa. He was shivering.
Giles helped him up, holding him under the shoulders, and guided him to the sofa. Spike sank heavily back against the cushions, still trembling. He seemed to be looking past Giles, rather than at him—Giles guessed that he was still preoccupied with the memory of his nightmare. Giles tucked the blanket around Spike’s legs and then went to unbutton his pajama top.
“What’re you doing?” Spike asked, bringing his focus finally to Giles.
“Checking to see if you’ve injured yourself.” Giles drew apart the halves of the pajama shirt, revealing the place on Spike’s chest where the chair leg had made its impact. The skin was reddened, but unbroken. At worst, he’d have a bruise. Giles closed up the shirt and began fastening the buttons.
“I forgot I was human,” Spike said very quietly. “Got a bit confused.”
“I assumed as much.” Having finished with the buttons, Giles pulled the blanket up to cover Spike’s chest, and then felt his forehead. He didn’t seem overly warm, but Giles decided he had better take his temperature anyway; the doctor had warned him that afternoon that if Spike’s fever rose again he would have to be readmitted.
The thermometer was close at hand, and Spike accepted it with a roll of his eyes. “When did you turn into such a bloody mother hen?”
“When I started paying your medical bills, I suppose,” Giles said dryly, glancing at his wrist to check the time and then realizing he wasn’t wearing his watch. Of course not; it was upstairs, on his bedside table. But there was a clock on the wall.
The thermometer was an old-style glass one, which required three minutes for a proper reading. Giles went and fetched a chair from the dining area—a replacement for the broken one—so that he could sit and wait more comfortably.
Spike was fidgeting. “Long enough?” he asked around the glass tube as Giles sat down.
Giles glanced back at the clock. “Not by half. Keep it under your tongue and don’t talk.”
Spike acquiesced, closing his eyes. Giles wondered whether he was falling back to sleep. It wouldn’t be a bad thing; he certainly needed the rest.
However, Spike opened his eyes when Giles finally took the thermometer away from him. “Is it all right?” he asked. He sounded a little bit afraid.
“Yes, it’s fine,” Giles assured him. The red line was just barely over ninety-nine degrees. “You should go back to sleep.”
Spike stared blankly at Giles for a moment, and Giles thought he could still see fear behind his eyes. It began to worry Giles, a little, and he was about to ask Spike what was wrong—not that he particularly expected a useful response—but Spike broke the silence first. “Can I have a drink of water?” he asked.
“Yes, of course.” Giles still wanted to know what was troubling Spike, but at least this request was easily dealt with. In fact, he realized, he should have made a glass of water available to Spike in the first place—it wasn’t as though he could walk to the sink and get one for himself.
Giles wasn’t very good at this. At taking care of someone. He lacked practice.
He filled a glass at the kitchen sink, and then retrieved a drinking straw from the back of the cutlery drawer. It was funny, really—the reason Giles had bought the straws in the first place was for feeding blood to Spike while he was chained up in the bathtub.
Spike’s eyes were closed when Giles returned with the water, and once again Giles wondered whether he’d fallen asleep. But then he coughed, weakly, and tugged the blanket a bit tighter.
“Spike,” Giles said, keeping his voice soft, “I brought you the water.”
Spike opened his eyes. “Right, give it here.” He reached for the glass, but his hand was shaking.
“Let me help,” Giles said. Spike didn’t look like he had even the strength to sit up at the moment, and if he spilled the water, it would be a whole new set of complications. Giles tucked an arm behind Spike’s shoulders and lifted him up, and held the glass so the straw touched his lips.
Spike didn’t object to Giles’ handling. He took a few sips of water and then stopped to cough again, which made Giles hold on tighter.
“Are you all right?” Giles asked.
“Yeah.” Spike rested his head against Giles’s shoulder for a moment, then went for another drink.
Spike was warm and heavy in Giles’s arms, and smelled faintly of sweat and antibiotic cream. Giles could hear him breathing—sniffling—and he could hear him swallowing.
A sense of familiarity tickled the back of Giles’s mind—he remembered doing this sort of thing before. Ethan. Christ, it came back to him all in a rush—nursing Ethan through his hangovers, holding him just like this while he sipped at weak tea and cursed the world.
Spike leaned back away from the straw, oblivious to the storm of memory now assaulting Giles. “That’s enough,” he said.
Giles pushed the memories away, deliberately, efficiently. He’d had enough practice, over the years. “I’ll leave the glass on the chair,” he said, lowering Spike back down as gently as he could. “You should be able to reach it all right if you want it.”
“Don’t,” Spike said. One word, sharp and out of place—almost panicky.
Giles stopped just short of placing the water glass on the seat of the chair. “All right,” he said, a bit confused. “If you’d rather I didn’t...”
“Don’t leave.” He looked at Giles with naked pleading. His eyes were brimming with tears.
Giles felt a moment of embarrassment, seeing the tears—and then he remembered that twenty minutes ago, Spike had been out of his mind and trying to kill himself.
“I’m sorry,” Giles said. “I didn’t think.” He placed the water glass on the floor and sat down on the chair himself, drawing it as close as possible to the sofa. “Of course I’ll stay.” And then, because Spike’s eyes were still locked on him in barely-controlled panic, he reached out and took Spike’s hand. Squeezed it. “I won’t leave you alone.”
Morning light streamed through the east-facing windows, falling on the back of Spike’s neck and making his tousled hair fairly glow. It still gave Giles an odd feeling, seeing Spike in sunlight.
He finished tucking the second pillow behind Spike’s back, propping him up in preparation for breakfast. “Are you comfortable?” he asked.
Spike shrugged. “I’d give the service two stars. Maybe two and a half. Tell the maid there’s some cobwebs on the ceiling.”
Satisfied that Spike wasn’t going to topple over, Giles went to fetch the breakfast tray he’d prepared in the kitchen. Its legs unfolded over Spike’s lap to provide a stable surface for a bowl of Weetabix, a plate of peach slices, and two teacups. “Do you take milk and sugar?” he asked.
Spike gave the cups a quizzical look. “Dunno. Everything tastes different now.”
“Milk and sugar, then.” Giles poured the milk in first, and went back to the kitchen for the teapot.
Spike was already starting on the Weetabix when Giles returned. The spoon shook a bit on the way to his mouth, but he did seem perfectly capable of feeding himself, which was a relief.
With the tea served out and sugar cubes stirred in, Giles reclaimed his chair by the sofa and took his teacup in hand.
“Aren’t you eating, then?” Spike asked him, raising an eyebrow.
“Later,” Giles said. “I’ll just have the tea, for now.”
The tea was essential. The night had been difficult.
Spike’s sleep had been wracked with nightmares. Giles’s sleep had been non-existent. His back ached from the night in the chair, and his eyes felt gritty. He was too old for this.
And yet, he felt a certain lightness now, watching Spike carefully and with great attention eat a peach slice. They had made it through to morning. It was a start.
Spike, huddled on the sofa and well wrapped in blankets, glared across the room at the equally blanket-wrapped form that Xander had just balanced, awkwardly, against the wall. “This is fucking obscene,” he said.
“Says the guy who commissioned the thing in the first place,” Xander observed.
Which was true, of course, and Giles supposed that the intensity of Spike’s reaction was largely due to that fact. Facing the Buffybot now, under these circumstances, must be even more uncomfortable for Spike than for the rest of them. But he would just have to endure the experience; he knew more about the Bot’s original programming than any of them, and Willow might need his help.
“I know it’s weird,” Willow said, tugging the blankets down to reveal the Bot’s vacant powered-off smile. “But I think she can solve a lot of our problems. Xander, help me get her over to the table so I can connect her to my laptop.”
The plank-like stiffness of the Bot was comforting, in a way—a persistent reminder that she was a thing, and not in any way to be confused with the person whose face she shared. Xander and Willow carried her between them, and propped her up against the dining table where Willow had already set up her computer. Spike watched them over the back of the sofa, scowling. Tara had taken a seat at the table. It was only the five of them here for this trial; Anya was minding the shop, and Dawn was at school.
Willow pulled up the Bot’s shirt and opened a panel in her back. She plugged a wire in somewhere, connecting the Bot to her computer. The Bot stared straight ahead all the while, glassy-eyed.
And suddenly she blinked. Tara let out a little gasp, and Giles nearly jumped himself, though he didn’t think he gave any outward sign.
“I’m not giving her any motor control below the neck for now,” Willow said, tapping away at her keyboard. “I’ll open up the speech subroutines in just a second....”
The Bot looked at Willow and gave her a bright smile. “You’re Willow! You’re my best friend!”
The voice was Buffy’s, but with a level of chirpiness that Buffy herself would have affected only in jest. Tara and Xander both looked a little pained, but Willow was so busy with her laptop she hardly seemed to notice the Bot’s greeting.
“You know, these are some amazing electronics,” she said absently as she clicked on something or other, and the Bot went silent and still again. “I wonder if there’s something about the Hellmouth that makes people better at engineering?” She clicked something else, and the Bot turned her head.
“Spike!” said the Bot. “Are you in bed? Would you like to play a game?”
Spike shuddered. “Bloody hell Red, shut that fucking thing up.”
Willow was clicking through menus just a little bit frantically. “I tried to remove all the, um, special programs. But I couldn’t get everything—it’s how she’s programmed to react to you.”
Xander shot a disgusted look in Spike’s direction. “Nice toy, Spike.”
Spots of color had risen in Willow’s cheeks. “If he hadn’t made Warren build her, we wouldn’t have her now,” she pointed out, tapping once, twice more at the keyboard without looking in Xander’s direction. “Okay, there. That should work better.”
The Bot blinked and then turned to look at Xander. “Xander! You’re my best friend-who’s-a-boy, and you’re good with tools. But you’re a bit dense.”
“Hey!” Xander looked affronted.
“That part can stay in,” Spike said, not quite smirking.
“Tara!” the Bot continued her perky roll call. “You’re Willow’s girlfriend and you’re very quiet.”
Tara looked slightly amused. “I guess I am,” she said, with a sidelong glance at Spike.
“Giles, could you just move over a bit so she can see you?” Willow asked. “I need to make sure we’re all registering.”
Giles did as she asked, but with a sense of trepidation. He wasn’t terribly eager to know what Spike had wanted the Buffybot to think about him.
“Giles!” the Bot greeted him with all of her plastic enthusiasm. “You’re my Watcher! I’d like to hug you, but I can’t move my arms!”
Giles felt the need, suddenly, to clean his glasses. “It seems she recognizes all of us,” he said a bit stiffly. “Perhaps you should proceed to the next step.”
“Right.” Willow bent her head to her work and went into a flurry of typing, at the end of which the Bot closed her eyes and almost seemed to hold her breath. Then Willow unplugged the laptop cord and looked around at everyone who was watching. “When I wake her up again she’ll have her full range of movement,” she said. “And she’ll want to talk to us. We should talk to her as though she’s, well, a person, okay? She’ll want instructions from us, and reassurance. She should understand that she’s a robot, and that there used to be another Buffy, but she believes that she’s Buffy, too.”
There was a palpable tension in the room as Willow fiddled directly with the Bot’s wiring, and then closed the access panel and smoothed the robot’s camisole down over her belly.
This time, when the Bot opened her eyes, her whole body moved. She straightened up from her awkward lean against the table, and looked around the room—lively, vibrant.
A Watcher is meticulously schooled against illusion. But for just a moment, Giles felt his throat tighten painfully. Even knowing the truth, the likeness was ... unnerving.
“Bloody hell,” he heard Spike murmur from his place on the sofa. Glancing in that direction, he saw that Spike had hunched over, hiding his face in his hands.
Tara stood up and held out a hand towards the Bot. “H-hi, Buffy. How are you feeling?”
“I’m feeling very well!” the Bot replied, flashing Tara a bright smile. “Thank you for asking.”
Willow shot her girlfriend a grateful look, then touched the Bot’s arm. “Buffy, I need you to run a full systems check now.”
The Bot’s gaze seemed to go inward, and she stood up very very straight. “Checking systems,” she said, still pleasantly but with a bit more of a mechanical twang. Then, only a few seconds later, “I’m in perfect working order!”
“You can thank Willow for that,” Xander said. He sounded as though he might have something caught in his throat. “Do you remember getting mangled by hobbits with leprosy?”
“I don’t understand that question,” the Bot said, her smile unwavering. “But I remember being disabled in a battle. There were many short demons with bad skin and very unattractive clothes. Oh!” She looked suddenly worried. “We were rescuing Spike. Did we rescue Spike?”
“Didn’t she just notice him a minute ago?” Xander asked. “Is her memory all wonky?”
Willow didn’t look concerned. “She was in diagnostic mode then. Her memory circuits weren’t engaged, that’s all.”
“Yes, I have recently been run in diagnostic mode,” the Bot confirmed in her usual cheery tone. “Where is Spike?”
Nobody said anything, but they all looked over at the sofa, and the Bot was apparently sophisticated enough to interpret non-verbal cues. Which must, indeed, have been important for her original purpose—Good Lord, don’t think about that.
“Spike!” she exclaimed happily.
Spike sat up again, but looked at Willow rather than the Bot. “Can’t you just write me out of its programming?”
“Spike?” the Bot repeated, less certain this time. “Are you hurt?”
“Yes,” Tara said, “He’s been hurt. But don’t worry, he’s getting better now.” She looked to Willow. “Can we explain it to her?”
“I’m not a vampire,” Spike said quite abruptly, looking straight at the Bot for the first time. “All right? I’m not the bloke you remember, so you might as well clear him right out of your pretty plastic head.”
She frowned. “No, you’re Spike. I’m sure. The pattern match is 99.7%” Then her expression cleared. “Oh! Is this a game? I will pretend not to know you’re a vampire, and I will let you get close to me.”
“Kill me now,” Xander muttered to no one in particular.
Spike looked as though he was thinking along the same lines as Xander. “It’s not a game,” he said, and it was hard to say whether his voice was shaking from anger or shame or sheer weariness. He had been sitting up for rather a long time, much longer than he probably should have attempted. “I’m human now.”
The Bot looked puzzled. “But a vampire can’t turn human.”
“Normally no, but in this case he did,” Giles said. He turned to Willow. “She seems to be functioning as well as can be expected, socially. Perhaps you should take her to the Magic Box and put her through her paces in the training room.”
“Right,” Willow nodded. “Yes. Let’s do that.”
Tara looked at Giles. “Are you going to come with us?”
Giles hesitated. Certainly he was the one best able to test the Bot physically, but he wasn’t sure how much longer he could stand to be in the same room as her. And then there was Spike—his exhaustion was evident, and he was still only a day out of hospital. He shouldn’t be left alone. “I think I had best stay here,” Giles said. “I need to take care of—” He stopped himself just short of saying Spike, thinking that Spike wouldn’t appreciate being talked about as an invalid even if he presently was one. “Of this and that,” he finished feebly.
Weak as Giles’s excuse had been, no one questioned it. “We’ll let you know how it goes!” Willow promised, sliding her laptop into its case. “Come on, Buffy. We’re going for a drive. And you don’t have to ride in the trunk this time!”
With the Buffybot gone and Spike resting quietly, Giles decided to write a report to the Council.
These short weekly reports used to flow so easily, being a matter of long habit. Now he acted like a delinquent schoolboy, putting each one off until the last possible moment. It was bloody difficult hiding truths of such great magnitude. One had to find just the right tone of detached banality to get across the most important unspoken message: There is nothing happening here that requires your attention. “Buffy,” he wrote, “has been taking several weeks’ holiday, as is her custom in the summer. Demonic activity always ebbs during these months of arid heat, which makes it the ideal season for the Slayer to rest, and recover her energies.”
He had to stop for a moment. His pen was not sufficiently steady on the paper.
The ruse could not last forever. The Council’s own auguries would eventually alert them to the truth. And yet he would forestall them for as long as possible. Faith had never been his Slayer, and yet he felt a responsibility for her now, for protecting her and respecting the penance she had chosen. He feared the decision-makers of the Council would think her beyond redemption. And the Slayer line rested in her; there would be no other called until the moment of her death.
It did not bear thinking about.
Returning to his letter, he considered for a moment whether it would be safe to report the recent events with Spike. He decided that it would not. Certain members of the Council might find the transformation intriguing enough to warrant a trip to California. Besides, it was difficult to think of a way to tell the story that didn’t begin with “Our vampire ally...”
Giles’s train of thought was interrupted by sounds of distress from the sofa. He put down his pen and went around to see what was the matter. Spike had worked the blanket into a tangle again and he was twitching, mumbling unintelligible words in a desperate tone.
Giles shook him gently by the shoulder. “Wake up, Spike.”
Spike opened his eyes with a gasp, and stared at Giles for a long moment before he seemed to recognize him. Then he sank back into his pillow, breathing as though he’d been running. A light sheen of sweat stood out on his face.
“I believe you were dreaming again,” Giles said, to help him orient himself.
“Yeah,” Spike said. And that was all. He didn’t volunteer any details, nor did Giles ask.
“It’s about time for tea,” Giles said after a moment. “And your antibiotics. Would you like to visit the toilet first?”
This was one of the reasons Spike couldn’t yet be left alone—he wasn’t sufficiently steady on his feet to make it safely across the room. He was, however, at least strong enough to take care of matters himself once they reached the toilet, and Giles gave him his privacy, thanking the Lord for small favors, as it were.
Once Spike was back on the sofa, Giles fetched their tea: nothing complicated, just toasted raisin bread with butter and jam.
“I can’t believe how often humans have to fucking eat,” Spike said, taking his share. “Dunno how you find time for anything else.”
Giles didn’t bother to correct the ‘you,’ nor to question whether Spike could really have forgotten so much about his own early life. “The crocodile requires only one or two good feedings per year,” he said instead. “From his point of view, the vampire’s average of two victims per week is quite excessive.”
Spike rolled his eyes. “Trust you to know the average.”
“I did get my O-levels in Vampire Biology,” Giles said mildly, reaching for his teacup.
Spike looked at him suspiciously. “You’re having me on, right?”
Giles allowed himself a hint of a smile. “Only a little.”
Giles couldn’t say what woke him up this time. Instinct, perhaps, or simple unease. He put on his glasses and noted the hour—2:37 a.m.—and went downstairs to check on Spike.
The sofa was unoccupied, and the front door was ajar.
“Bloody hell,” Giles sighed.
Spike couldn’t have gone far, at any rate—at least, not moving under his own power. If someone or something had broken in and abducted him—but who would want to abduct Spike?
Giles fetched a dagger and a stake from his writing desk before going out, just to be on the safe side. He needn’t have bothered. Spike was only a few feet from the door, huddled against the base of the fountain. His arms were hugged tight around his knees and his face was hidden. He was rocking back and forth, muttering to himself.
“Spike?” Giles said, crouching down next to him. “Can you hear me?”
The answer seemed to be no, at least for the moment. Giles felt at a loss as to how to proceed. He wanted to shake Spike back to his senses, but he couldn’t forget the danger—a startled violent reaction on Spike’s part could set off the chip. So he settled for sitting on the fountain’s low wall, a couple of feet away from Spike, and waiting.
The stones were chilly under Giles’s bare feet—the sun’s warmth had worn off hours ago. The night air was cool, as well. Spike was wearing lightweight pajamas. Giles wondered how long he’d been outside. He’d been fast asleep on the sofa when Giles had checked on him at half ten.
“I’ve been thinking about the runes,” Giles said. Lightly, conversationally—as though Spike were listening to him, and perhaps standing in front of him rather than huddled on the flagstones near his feet. “It occurred to me that they might have come from a parallel dimension, in which the Vikings settled California and interbred with the local demons.” The content of what he said didn’t matter. “An alternate timeline, perhaps.”
After a minute or two, Spike fell silent.
“Are you awake?” Giles asked. It seemed the politest way to put it.
“Yeah.” Spike raised his head. “What are we doing in the sodding front garden?” His face was blotchy from crying, and he was badly in need of a tissue; unfortunately there were none to hand.
“I suppose you were dreaming again,” Giles said.
Spike’s gaze dropped to his knees. “Yeah,” he agreed, barely audible.
“Would you, er, like to talk about it?” Giles offered.
Spike let out a sharp laugh. “You’ve been in California too long, mate. You’re starting to sound like them.”
“Come inside,” Giles said. “You must be cold.”
Spike wasn’t successful in standing up. Even with Giles’s help, his legs were unequal to the task of supporting him; he was trembling quite badly. Finally Giles picked him up entirely and carried him inside. He set him down on the sofa, feeling rather pleased with himself for managing it.
Since Spike was shivering, Giles went and fetched an extra blanket. He wondered again how long Spike had been outside.
“If you tell Harris about any of this I’ll fucking kill you,” Spike said as Giles laid the second blanket over him.
“Yes,” Giles agreed. He understood that the emptiness of the threat was not the point. He set a box of tissues on Spike’s chest so he could reach them. “I’ll be back in a moment.”
When he returned, it was with warm water in a mixing bowl, and a washcloth. “I thought you might like to wash your face,” he explained, wringing out the cloth and offering it to Spike.
“Oh. Uh, cheers.” Spike took the cloth, gave his face a barely token swipe, and let his hand fall back to his chest as though it were very heavy. He closed his eyes.
“Here, let me.” Giles reclaimed the washcloth and started gently cleaning Spike’s face. As he did so, he felt an intense flash of déjà vu—although he couldn’t think when he had ever done this for someone before. Was it Ethan? He couldn’t remember.
Spike opened his eyes as soon as Giles had finished. He gazed at him in silence for a long moment before he asked, “Why are you doing this?”
Giles looked down at the washcloth in his hands. He couldn’t exactly say. It did seem strange, now that he considered it. “I thought it would make you more comfortable.”
Spike looked skeptical. “Not just that, I mean the whole bloody thing. Playing nursemaid. Doesn’t add up—you don’t like me, and you don’t owe me anything.”
“What did you think I would do, turn you out on the street?”
A barest twitch of an eyebrow was sufficient to show Spike’s scorn for the idea. “You’re too much of a white hat for that.”
“There is self interest, obviously.” Giles put the washcloth and bowl aside, and rubbed his neck. He was quite tired himself; Spike must be considerably more so. This interview needed to end very soon. “We need your help defending Sunnydale. We need all the help we can get.”
Spike regarded him steadily. “I made a promise.”
“Yes.” Spike had told them as much after Buffy died, when they had expected him to disappear. Giles had not believed a vampire would keep a promise—had not trusted in it. But now Spike was human... “I suppose I feel that I do owe you,” he said. “Not in the sense of a debt, but more ... the universal obligation of one human being to help another in need.”
Spike snorted. “Don’t make yourself out to be Mother bloody Teresa, Rupert. You’d look silly...,” he interrupted himself with a yawn, and then finished, “in the robes.”
Giles felt his lips twitching, but he didn’t let himself smile. Spike had no business making fun of him. “You must be exhausted,” Giles said, standing up. “I’ll let you get back to sleep.”
Spike forced his eyes wide open. “I’m not tired. Stay and watch the telly awhile?”
Giles stopped, still resting one hand on the back of the chair. “The nightmares,” he said—not looking directly at Spike. “They happen every time you sleep, don’t they.”
Spike was silent, but Giles knew the answer. Last night he had thought perhaps it was only because of the fever, but the truth was really quite apparent. One doesn’t make the transition from monster to man without certain psychological consequences.
The situation was obviously untenable. Spike was ill and very weak; he needed proper rest in order to recover, and the nightmares not only prevented rest but also seemed to provoke him to harm himself. Giles could hardly tie him to the sofa to protect him. There had to be another solution.
There was, in fact.
“Hang on,” Giles said. “I’ll be right back.”
He had obtained a prescription for sleeping pills in the week after Buffy died, but in the end he had never taken a single one. He fetched the bottle and brought it out to Spike.
He started to offer the bottle itself, but thought better of it at the last moment, remembering who he was dealing with. “Here,” he said, shaking out a single pill and handing it to Spike. “It’s a sedative. It might help you rest easier. I’ll get you a glass of water--“
“Don’t bother,” Spike interrupted. He popped the pill in his mouth and swallowed it dry. “Cheers.”
“Right.” Giles cleared his throat. “If you’d like me to, er, stay awhile...”
“Sod off,” Spike replied, without real force. “I’m not a bloody infant.”
“Quite right.” Giles nodded. “Good night, then.”