The Great Advantage of Being Alive by Enigmaticblue

ReviewsRating: PG-13

Summary: What if the Initiative had found a way to transform Spike into a human, rather than giving him a chip?

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Chapter 5: Speaking in Tongues

“Well I sat down next to a photograph./Tried my best almost made her laugh./She was my toughest crowd./There in the way was a mountain up in the clouds./Well I can’t sleep and I’m not in love./I can’t speak without messing up./Eyes tell of what’s behind./And hers showed the way to a long and lonely climb,/But through failure I’ll proceed./And she’ll see how far I’ve come.” ~Nickel Creek, “Speak”

“You sure about this?” Spike asked Willow uncertainly. Somehow him showing up at Buffy’s birthday celebration didn’t seem like the best idea she’d ever had. He tugged at the hem of his sweater, uncomfortable in his new finery.

Willow waved his hands away from the sweater and gave him a once-over. It was definitely odd seeing Spike in something other than his usual black on black, though he was still wearing black pants. But the blue sweater brought out his eyes, and he’d bleached his hair again, which made him look like the old Spike as well as someone completely different. “Of course, I’m sure,” she replied. “Everybody is going to be there, even Giles. There’s no reason to leave you out.”

“Except for the fact that the Slayer hates me,” Spike pointed out rather glumly. Indeed, he had discovered that he didn’t enjoy being hated by anyone very much. At this point, he was getting along pretty well with everybody, including Xander. Somehow, that just didn’t hold any comfort for him.

“She doesn’t hate you,” Willow assured him. “She just needs to get to know you and she’ll warm up in no time. It’s not like you don’t have anything in common with her.”

Spike resisted the urge to roll his eyes as they walked into the dormitory. “Right. Because trying to kill someone gives you so much to talk about.”

Willow did roll her eyes. “Don’t be that way, Spike. It’ll be fine, I promise. Look, I’ve gotta go up and get her. You—you can just stay here and mingle. Until the surprise.”

Mingle. Yeah. He glanced around the room at the various college students. Mingle with who? It wasn’t like he actually knew anybody here. Times like these, he felt more like William than ever, only without the poetry. Probably a good thing. At this point. Spike caught sight of Giles and made his way over. “This your idea?”

“Hardly,” Giles murmured, feeling as out of place as Spike at the moment, and looking more so. At least Spike appeared to be the age of the rest of the young people surrounding them. “I wouldn’t have insisted it be a surprise.”

Spike gave a murmur of agreement. “’nough jumpin’ out at the Slayer as it is, yeah?” He sighed as Xander and Anya made shushing sounds and started flipping off the lights.

Willow came over to grab his arm as soon as the lights came back on, stating that she wanted him to meet some of her friends. Spike wasn’t too sure about that, but he gave Giles a helpless little shrug and let Willow take the lead. Surprisingly enough, he liked most of the people he met, in that “you seem cool” way you have time for at a party. A couple of times he glanced back over at Giles to see the older man looking a bit lost, but he would soon get called back into conversation again by one of the pretty girls that seemed bent on talking to him.

Spike lost track of Willow at some point and was beginning to genuinely enjoy himself. Laura, a sweet looking blonde, was hanging on his every word as he entertained her with stories about England and listened to her moan about her classes and professors. “You should come to our party tonight,” she said, smiling. “Since we’ll actually be able to have something decent to drink.”

He raised his eyebrows in question, and she giggled. “Well, not that the punch isn’t great, but you can’t bring alcohol into the dorms.”

“Suppose that might be alright,” he agreed.

“Unless you came with Willow,” Laura hastened on. “I mean, I wouldn’t want to cause any trouble or anything.”

Spike blinked, realizing that she was asking him if he was with Willow. The implication of the statement was that she wanted him to come to the party with her. “Uh, no,” he stammered just a bit. “’s more like we’re good friends.” He tried to figure out a polite way to say it and finally said, “She fancies someone else.”

Laura flashed him a bright smile. “That’s great! If you want, we could go now.”

He hesitated for a brief moment before deciding that her plan seemed like a good one. It wasn’t like Buffy had actually invited him to her party, and Willow seemed to be doing just fine on her own. “Let me just go let Red know.”

Weaving his way through the crowded rec room, Spike touched Willow tentatively on the shoulder. “You mind if I leave?” he asked. “Just got invited to a different party. One with alcohol.”

Willow looked past him to see Laura waiting and smiled. She had known Spike would be a big hit if she could just get him out of Giles’ apartment. A little positive attention from members of the opposite sex was bound to perk him up. “Sure, go ahead, leave me,” she teased.

“Ta, luv,” he smiled. “Make it up to you one of these days.” Willow fake pouted, causing his smile to grow into a grin, and he turned to go, almost running directly into a broad chest.

Spike took an abrupt step back. “Excuse me,” he said, a little put out at almost being run over. Then he saw who it was he had bumped into, and all the color drained from his face. He knew this man, had seen him before in the underground laboratory. Spike felt a hand on his arm, and he looked into Willow’s face, just managing to keep himself from running in the opposite direction.

The taller man looked at Spike with a curious expression and the faint recognition reserved for a person whose face you remember, but not their name or where you know them from. “Do I know you?”

Spike wasn’t sure how to reply to that, or even if he could. His mouth was dry, his palms were wet, and the only thing he could think of was getting away. His eyes met Buffy’s, and he pleaded with her silently not to give him away.

Buffy was a little upset that Spike and Riley had managed to run into each other. There were enough people in the rec room that she should have been able to keep them apart. Seeing the panic on Spike’s face in that instant was enough to cause her to feel sympathy for him though. The fear in his eyes told her he didn’t completely trust her not to give him away. For that, she felt a pang of guilt.

Buffy laughed. “I doubt it, Riley. William is Giles’ nephew. He’s only been here for, what? A few weeks?” She looked over at Spike and was relieved to see a little color back in his cheeks as he realized that she was going to back him up.

“Yeah. ‘Bout a month, I s’pose.” Even with the cover story, Spike still was thinking fight or flight, and without some really big weapon, he was leaning towards flight.

Riley smiled warmly and held out his hand. “It’s nice to meet you. Buffy talks about Giles all the time. Your uncle must be a great guy.”

With more than a little hesitation, Spike shook Riley’s hand, trying not to let any of his nervousness show through the gesture. “He is.”

“So, what brings you to the States? Are you going to be here long?” They were perfectly polite questions to which Spike had no answers. He hadn’t even seriously thought about a cover story.

“Riley,” Buffy said, looking embarrassed and tugging gently on his arm. “I don’t think William really wants to talk about that right now.” Spike took his cue and put an appropriately somber look on his face. “His parents, you know—”

Buffy left it hanging there, and the effect was amazing. Riley’s face went red, and he started stammering his apologies. Apparently, he was concerned that Spike might break down right there; emotions were not something he was prepared to deal with.

“’s alright,” Spike replied magnanimously. “You couldn’t have known.” He looked back past Buffy and her boyfriend to Laura, who was beginning to look impatient. “I should go. Gotta meet a girl. You’ll tell Rupert?” he asked Willow.

“Sure.” He brushed past Buffy and her soldier, glancing back over his shoulder once to see Buffy looking back at him. For a moment, their eyes met and she gave him a small, kind smile. Spike could have sworn he felt his heart skip a beat, and his stomach did a quick flip-flop. In the next moment, he was berating himself for even being slightly attracted. Buffy had a boyfriend—one of the bloody soldier boys, no less—and he was beneath her. He swallowed and took a deep breath, coming to stand next to Laura. “Sorry, ‘bout that, luv.” Spike gave her the most charming smile he had in his arsenal. “Got caught by a couple old friends.”

The party was—interesting. Laura was a nice-enough girl, her friends were decent people, and there was beer a-plenty. (Even if it was the piss-poor American stuff.) There was only one real problem. Spike didn’t quite fit. He didn’t really feel as though he had a place with the Scoobies, not even now that he was human. At least among them, however, he didn’t have to pretend. There was no question of what he had been with them, but these—children had no idea. A few short weeks ago, he would have been looking at them like an all-you-can-eat buffet, and now he was supposed to be their friend? It seemed too great a leap.

He could tell people where he worked, that he lived with his uncle, that he’d come from England, but only part of it was true. If Spike really wanted to be friends, it would involve coming clean eventually, and who would believe him? Where could he go that his explanations wouldn’t have to be severely altered in order to pass muster? To whom could he speak the truth?

The gathering of teens and young adults merely made him feel old and tired. Spike felt more weighed down by his century and a half now than he ever had while a vampire. All he could see were innocent young faces, faces that had no concept of the things he had done, what he had perpetrated. How close they all were to death.

How strange that it was the Slayer and her friends that could make him feel most alive now. Spike thought perhaps it was because they danced with death nearly every day; there was no need to hide his past, or who he was. There was no need to pretend that he was merely William, on holiday with his uncle, trying to figure out where he was going with his life.

Sometime after midnight, he finally gave up. Weaving his way through the crowded living room, he touched Laura’s shoulder. “Takin’ off, pet,” Spike stated, raising his voice to be heard over the loud music.

“Are you sure you have to leave?” she asked. Her eyes locked with his, and Spike realized that he could have an easy lay tonight if he wanted it. A few weeks ago, he would have taken her in a heartbeat and then drained her dry. It made him realize how much things had changed that he wasn’t even tempted.

He gave her a small smile. “’m a bit tired tonight,” Spike explained, letting her down easy.

Laura, however, had more brains than he’d given her credit for, or at least more perception. “It’s okay if you’re not looking,” she said. “You just seemed like you could use a little fun.”

Spike stared at her for a moment, knowing that the girl had seen both everything and nothing. “Things are a bit unsettled for me right now.” He looked around the room. Everyone looked so happy, and it only made him more depressed.

The blonde nodded, told him to wait, and then disappeared again. “Here,” Laura said, handing him a slip of paper. “I know you’re not interested right now, but if you change your mind, give me a call.” She smiled at him. “Even if it’s just for coffee.”

He responded with a smile and a brief, chaste kiss on the lips. “Thanks, luv. I’ll remember that.” The small slip of paper tucked neatly away, Spike headed out into the cooler night air to his DeSoto. He paused and took a deep breath, realizing how much he liked the quiet, even if sometimes he couldn’t stand the company of his own thoughts.

~~~~~

At some point, Spike discovered the benefits of working. It was more than a paycheck, he’d realized. Stuck inside Giles’ apartment all day, there was little he could do to take his mind off the pathetic state of his life. The nightmares, paired with the lack of activity, made it difficult to sleep. The gallery required attention to a hundred different details, however, which made it impossible to brood. No, not brood. Spike didn’t brood. He might dwell, but he didn’t brood, mope, or in any other way resemble someone else he wouldn’t name.

When seven o’clock came and went, Joyce was getting ready to go home, while Spike was still trying to get the filing system straightened out. Her last assistant had been rather haphazard about things. Joyce paused at the office door, looking at Spike with concern. “Are you sure you want to stay?” she asked. “I feel bad about leaving you here.”

“’s alright,” Spike assured her. “It’s not like ‘m expected anywhere.”

Joyce gave him a smile. “Still, I appreciate you staying. It will be nice to make it to my book club for once.”

“I’m glad I can be of service then,” he replied. “No worries.”

“No, not while you’re here,” Joyce agreed, surprising him by leaning over and kissing his cheek. “Don’t work too hard.

“Never.” Spike gave her a rakish smile and then watched as she left, going back to the books and piles of invoices stacked in front of him. Thankfully, he didn’t have to spend another evening trying not to drive Giles crazy with his antsy presence. In fact, the Watcher was probably having a grand time.

~~~~~

Unfortunately, Giles was not having a grand time. He had felt out of place at Buffy’s birthday, not to mention out of the loop. Giles still couldn’t believe that Buffy was dating someone whom he knew nothing about. Willow had just confirmed his suspicions that it had been going on for a while. Moreover, this Riley chap was a part of the government program operating in Sunnydale. It didn’t sit well with him at all. He was simply grateful that Riley hadn’t recognized Spike, because that could have been quite bad.

Having Spike around had helped to keep his mind off of his own boredom, but the ex-vampire was spending a great deal of time at the gallery. Of course, Giles thought it was wonderful that Spike had been able to get a job and hopefully become a productive member of society, but—

But Spike had been his special project. Now he was at loose ends again. He’d called in favors and managed to find documentation that would cover the other man. Giles had even begun to recatalogue his personal files, something that he should have done months ago.

It was for all these reasons that he had a drink with Ethan Rayne: the suspicions and fears about the Initiative, his own disenchantment, the desire to spend some time in the company of adults.

He never expected to wake up as a demon.

~~~~~

“William?”

Spike woke slowly, with a feeling of not having slept well paired with a rather large knot in his neck. “Huh?”

“You know, when I asked you to straighten up the files, I wasn’t expecting you to stay all night.” Joyce stepped back from the desk and put her hands on her hips.

Spike picked his head up and stretched fully. “Must have lost track of time,” he mumbled. “Wasn’t plannin’ on spendin’ the night.”

“You don’t need to work so hard,” she admonished him.

“It’s easier,” he replied, almost shortly. It was easier, oddly enough. He had slept better on the hard desk than he had on Giles’ couch, comfortable as it was. The comfort of exhaustion, he supposed.

Joyce’s eyes softened at that. “Fine, Spike. But go home.”

Spike opened his mouth to protest, but she interrupted him. “I’m serious. Go home, get something to eat, get some rest. You can come back tomorrow.”

“Are you certain?” he asked. “If you need me, I can come back later.”

“Go,” Joyce responded more firmly yet. When he stood reluctantly, she gave him a gentle shove towards the door. “Go do something fun.”

Spike thought of Laura’s phone number, still tucked away in his pocket. Perhaps she was in the mood for a cup of coffee. “Alright then,” he said, the beginnings of a smile on his lips. “I’ll see you tomorrow, mum.”

The ex-vampire paused at the door to Giles’ apartment, feeling a mixture of guilt and alarm. Guilt because he hadn’t called or left a note to let Giles know where he was. Alarm because the door was slightly open, and that was never a good sign.

He entered slowly, tension settling in his muscles, a familiar sensation. It was the zinging of the blood that pumped, like right before he’d go on the hunt, or make a spectacular kill. Spike looked around the living room, noting the broken phone. The banister had been broken as well, and there was a hole in the wall that hadn’t been there the day before.

Guilt flared again as he realized that he hadn’t been there for whatever had happened to the Watcher. Maybe he wouldn’t have been able to do anything, but he could have tried. Spike rubbed a hand over his face and then looked over at the demolished phone. It looked like he would have to find help the old fashioned way.

He was just locking up when he heard someone calling him. “Spike!” He turned to see Willow, Buffy, Xander and Anya coming through the courtyard. “Is Giles home?” Willow asked.

Spike shook his head, the grim look on his face making the Slayer and her friends falter. “Was lookin’ for you,” he replied. “Rupert’s missin’.”

“Missing?” Buffy demanded. “Are you sure?”

Spike unlocked the door and waved the others inside. “When I got in this mornin’, Rupert wasn’t here an’ the place was a mess. Phone was demolished, an’ the banister was broken.”

“I think it ate him up,” Anya stated, picking up a torn shirt from the floor.

Buffy frowned. “Wait a minute, Spike. When was the last time you saw Giles?”

Spike ran a hand through his hair. “Yesterday morning, ‘fore I left for the gallery.”

“You didn’t come back last night?” Buffy asked. She wasn’t sure how she felt about that. Really, it shouldn’t matter at all. This was Spike, after all. But for some, strange reason, she cared. At least a little.

He looked sheepish. “I was goin’ over the books an’ lost track of time,” he confessed. “Your mum found me this morning. Probably a good thing I’d already locked up.”

Buffy felt a surge of relief, though she couldn’t have said why. “Okay. It looks like the same demon that paid a visit to Xander was here too. We’ll just have to figure out what kind of demon it was and kill it.”

They were still looking through books a few hours later with the same lack of luck. Willow held out one book to Xander who gave her a look. “Okay, that’s a giant vulture. I would have mentioned it if it was a giant vulture.”

Spike slammed his book shut. “We’re not getting anywhere,” he complained.

“Keep looking,” Buffy snapped.

Spike stood up, looking sullen. “’m goin’ to take a shower,” he announced. “Been in these bloody clothes all day.” He stomped off, and Buffy glared at his back as he walked away.

“Stupid, stubborn—”

“Buffy,” Willow murmured. “Spike cares too.”

The Slayer looked at her, but whatever she was going to say was interrupted by a sound from outside. She swung the door open to find Riley. “Riley?”

Spike pulled on a pair of blue jeans and a red t-shirt. He was angry. He was more than angry, actually. What were they thinking? Just sitting around, doing nothing, when who knows what was happening to Giles. He needed to do something.

He froze when he came out of the bathroom. Buffy’s soldier-boy was standing there, and for one second Spike feared that they had come for him. He forced himself to relax even as Buffy turned to look at him. “Riley and I are going to go see what we can find,” she announced. “Willow’s going to go back to the dorm, and Xander and Anya are going back to his place. Just in case Giles or the demon shows up.”

“And what about me?” Spike asked, with a sardonic tilt of his eyebrow.

“You stay here,” Buffy ordered. “Just in case Giles or the demon comes back. We’ll call if we hear anything.”

“Right,” Spike said, looking towards the remains of the phone. “That’ll work.”

Buffy matched his look with one of her own. “Fine, Spike. We’ll come by. Return—” she paused, suddenly remembering the cover story for their audience. “—your uncle safe and sound.”

Spike watched as they all trooped out, waiting for a full ten minutes until he was certain they were long gone. He grabbed his jacket, another Tara-special from the sales’ rack, and then realized that he would need weapons. At least one, if not more.

He rummaged through Giles’ weapons trunk, snatching a stake and shoving it into his waistband. Spike found a small ax and picked it up, finding his grip easily enough. It felt both old and new, and he felt a dawning anticipation that only a good hunt can give. He was off to find himself a Watcher.

Anticipation slowly gave way to anxiety as Spike wandered the streets and cemeteries, however. He had no idea what exactly he was looking for, but he certainly wasn’t going to stay inside waiting for Buffy. He owed Giles. Owed him everything. He heard fumbling and banging, as well as some muttered words in—Fyarl?

“You can come out an’ not get beat, or I can come find you,” Spike threatened, knowing that it was probably an empty promise.

“Spike?” The Fyarl came out from behind a mausoleum. Spike would have known something was up immediately if only for the fact that the demon was wearing pants and a flannel blanket. “Please, don’t be afraid. I know that—”

“Rupert? What the bloody hell happened to you?” Spike demanded. “Come over all demon this morning?”

The ex-Watcher, now Fyarl, stared at him. “You understand me?”

“Yeah,” Spike replied. “You’re speakin’ Fyarl. I speak Fyarl. Actually, I understand it. It’s absolutely impossible to get your tongue around the gutterals if you’re human. Not that you have to worry about that anymore.”

“Spike!” Giles glared at him. Spike had to say that he was definitely scarier when he was green. “We have to fix this.”

Spike shook himself out of his bemusement. “Right. You know what did this then?”

Giles shook his horned head. “No, not exactly. But I certainly know who.”

The ex-vampire nodded, and then with a sinking feeling remembered Buffy and her soldier-boy. “We should find the Slayer,” he said slowly. “Her boyfriend’s got the Initiative out lookin’ for you in force.”

Giles shook his head. “No. I will get myself out of this mess. There’s no need for Buffy to ever  know.” He gave Spike a hard look, and he shrugged.

“Fine, but let’s get somewhere we’re not as visible,” Spike muttered. “Last thing we need right now are soldiers on our heels.”

The first place they headed, tucked neatly inside Giles’ old Citroen, was the bar he and Ethan had patronized the night before. (There was one quick stop to allow Giles to terrorize a middle-aged woman. Spike made a note to himself to ask for the back-story at a later date when there was more time.) They might have taken Spike’s DeSoto, but it was low on gas, and Spike wanted to be ready for anything. Anything included risking Giles’ car and not his own, as he wanted to have the freedom to ditch the car to save their skins if need be.

Charming the waitress at the bar was easy enough. An easy grin and a twenty persuaded the woman to tell him that the slippery magician was ensconced at the Sunnydale Motor Inn. It should have been the work of a few moments to drive over and watch Fyarl-Giles beat the bloody hell out of Rayne. Unfortunately, the Initiative had spotted them at some point, and Spike was hard-pressed to shake their tail. The grinding gears of the ancient car weren’t helping either.

“I thought you told me you knew how to drive a manual transmission,” Giles accused, growling as the gears made a rough barking noise. “If you can’t find third, don’t try for it!”

Spike was concentrating too hard on driving to give Giles the glare he deserved. “I do bloody well know how to drive a stick,” he replied angrily, fear and adrenaline making him short. “If you had a real soddin’ car, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“This car is perfectly servicable.”

Spike snorted. “Funny hearin’ that word comin’ out of a Fyarl’s mouth,” he said, checking the rear-view again for the location of the hum-vees. “They’re usually all ‘crush, kill, destroy.’ Not big on brains, but good in a fight.” The headlights were gaining on them. “Which we might be facing here in a minute.” He was trying to fight down the fear. At this point, of course, Giles was in more danger from the soldiers than he was. At least he could pass for human, but the other man was bound to be on their “shoot first, ask questions later” list.

“This isn’t working,” he stated abruptly.

Giles growled at him. “We have to find Rayne,” he said, his voice even more gruff. “I’m going to rip his arms off when I find him.”

“That sounds like a Fyarl,” Spike muttered. Looking back over his shoulder, he cursed his bad luck to be in a tin can of a car. He might have tried playing chicken, but the military tanks behind him would run right over them without a second thought. And his frail, mortal body wouldn’t take that kind of punishment. That left precisely one option.

“You’re goin’ to have to jump,” he said. “Head to the hotel, I’ll meet you there, soon’s I can. Just got to ditch the military boys.”

Even through the fog of blood lust that was starting to permeate his brain, Giles realized how much it took for Spike to make the offer of being bait. Without the ex-vampire to run interference, Giles knew he had little chance of making it to the motel to find Rayne. “I’ll owe you.”

“We’ll be even,” Spike corrected him. “When I say, you jump.” Thinking quickly, he jerked the steering wheel to the left, sending the Citroen careening around the corner. The larger hum-vees struggled to keep up, fish-tailing as they tried to make the turn. “Now!”

He watched as Giles rolled out the passenger door. The forward velocity caused the door to swing shut and half-latch as the chase continued. But Spike had seen a Fyarl-shaped shadow lurch away, and he gave a sigh of relief. Giles would be safe for the time being. Now he just needed to ditch his hunters.

Spike swung the car around another corner, cursing when they still followed. This was getting bloody ridiculous. He didn’t trust them enough to stop the car and ask why they were following him. It would be just his luck that one of them would recognize the Initiative’s pet lab rat, and then where would he be?

He sped by a park, and then got an idea. Spike needed to leave the soldiers behind, and to do that, he needed to do something unexpected, then ditch the car. What better way to do that than take the vehicle off-roading?

Spike was surprised when the little car obediently went up and over the sidewalk. He was even more surprised at how well it handled as he drove over the well-manicured park, around the merry-go-round, and towards a small stand of trees. Thanking whatever power it might be that looked over ex-vampires, he gave the car a little more gas and aimed it towards the trunk of a large oak.

Then, with a deep breath, and a muttered oath, he tumbled himself out of the door, rolling as best he could with the impact. Spike didn’t give himself any time to breathe or recover; he simply ran for the Sunnydale Motor Inn with every ounce of speed he had.

There was something to be said for running. Spike might have stopped to appreciate it if he hadn’t been in such a hurry. The rhythm of his footfalls, the feel of blood pumping through his veins, the surge of epinephrine that came as he reached his second wind—it was like being on the hunt again. No guilt there though, only the feeling of movement, of scenes flashing by. His lungs, miraculously enough, were free of tobacco, even after a century of smoking. Spike was breathing heavily, but it felt good, cleansing.

Or, at least it would have if he wasn’t so desperate to get to Giles in time. Any number of things could happen before he reached the hotel—Ethan might escape, Giles might kill him before effecting the change, the soldiers might catch up to the both of them.

It turned out his fears were well-founded. Spike skidded to a stop at the door of the hotel room only to glimpse Buffy holding a silver letter-opener above Giles’ chest. “Slayer! No!” he cried out. He watched in horror as she plunged the knife down anyway, only to see it stop, hoving mere milimeters from Giles’ chest.

Buffy’s eyes widened. “Giles?” she whispered, horrified at what she’d almost done. Quickly scrambling off his chest, she tossed the letter-opener away hurriedly. “Are you okay?”

The Fyarl muttered something she couldn’t understand, and the Slayer turned to see Spike standing in the doorway, bent over, hands on knees, trying to get his breath back. “Might want to call off the troops, Slayer,” he said between gasps.

Riley pulled out a cell phone, still watching a disappointed Ethan Rayne warily. “I’m on it.”

Buffy looked over at Spike. “How did you know it was Giles?”

“I speak Fyarl,” he replied, slightly bemused. “But how did you?”

Buffy glanced over at Fyarl-Giles with a look of affection. “Only Giles can ever give me that look.” She turned to Rayne, her eyes going diamond-hard. “Fix it. Now.”

An amazingly short time later, considering all the damage that had been done, Giles was back to his normal self. Although, Spike mused as he watched, Ethan’s clothing did not suit him at all. The silk shirt he was pulling on was particularly hideous.

It looked to Spike as though the Slayer and Giles were renewing their bond, which was at it should be. The Watcher had been feeling left out. “We can give you a ride back to your place,” Riley offered.

Giles and Spike shared a look, equally uncomfortable with placing themselves at the mercy of the Initiative. Sure, Riley seemed nice enough, but neither was ready to trust him or the organization he was working for, even to accept a ride home.

“Thank you, Riley, but I think I’d like to walk,” Giles said with dignity. “It really is a rather nice evening.”

There were protests that it wasn’t safe for either of them to be out at night, on their own, but they were fairly weak and easily ignored. As they exited the motel room, Giles threw a look over at Spike. “Dare I ask what happened to my car?”

Spike sighed. He had been half-hoping that the Watcher would just forget about it but knew the chances of that weren’t good. “I can show you.”

They walked to where Spike had left the car in silence, both of them deep in thought, reflecting on  the near-misses each had had. The sight of the Citroen, its remains wrapped around a tree, gave Giles even more to think about. Spike had risked his skin playing bait for the soldiers in order to save his life. And when Giles thought about what he knew of Spike’s experience with the Initiative, he had to marvel at the fact that Spike would risk getting tangled up with them again at all.

Looking at the totalled vehicle, there were a thousand things Giles could say. Not for the first time since Spike had shown up on his doorstep, he wished he could be more expressive, wished he could say what he felt. But it was too late to teach an old dog new tricks now. If Buffy hadn’t changed him, Spike certainly wouldn’t. “It’s a miracle you’re even alive,” he finally stated.

Spike relaxed next to Giles. He’d been afraid that the other man would take the car’s destruction out of his hide. Not that he was afraid of Giles, but he didn’t relish seeing disappointment in his eyes. He finally met hazel eyes with his blue ones and smiled, cocking his head to one side thoughtfully. “Who was that woman you had to chase down?”

Giles’ lips formed a smile that was more than a little reminiscent of Ripper. “Maggie Walsh.” At Spike’s look of vague recognition, he continued his explanation. “That—harridan runs the Initiative.”

Spike stiffened and his eyes flashed an unholy fire. Giles was thankful that Spike hadn’t known her identity while he’d been behind the wheel of the car; he had no doubt but that she’d be flattened otherwise. “You sure you’re not still feelin’ a little Fyarl in you?” he almost begged. “We could still chase her down an’ rip her arms off.”

Giles passed off the strong temptation as a left-over bit from Ethan’s spell. “Tempting, but no. You’ll have to settle for a strong hatred, I’m afraid.”

Spike sighed. “Too bad I didn’t know before,” he muttered, confirming Giles’ opinion. “You sure you don’t know where she lives?”

Feeling the need to get the ex-vampire’s mind onto different things, Giles suggested, “Do you want a drink? I could certainly stand one, though I certainly will not be drinking with someone I do not trust again.”

The implication was clear, and Spike gaped at him for a moment. It wasn’t that he thought himself untrustworthy, it was just that it was the first time someone had suggested that he was a friend. The idea that Giles might be keeping him around, helping him, for a reason other than pity took root and began to grow in that instant.

Shrugging it off, Spike smiled. “Only if you’ll put one of your records on.”

“Have you been snooping in my collection?” Giles turned from the wreckage, grasping Spike’s shoulder in a firm grip.

“A bit. ‘s a bloody good one. I was surprised you even knew what good music was. Figured tweed pants didn’t allow a bloke to fully appreciate the beauty of rock ‘n roll.”

Giles tried to be offended, but couldn’t quite manage it. It was nice to joke with someone like this. It made him feel—wanted. Needed. “I have never worn tweed pants,” he corrected. “I’ll have you know I am quite hip in my own way.”

“Sure, grandpa,” Spike smirked.

“This from a man born before the turn of the century.”

“Unlike some people, I don’t look my age.”

Eyes met, and twin grins formed. “Pillock.”

“Wanker.”

It is an odd fact, but sometimes the greatest happiness can be found in insults. Sometimes, it’s a different way of saying “I love you.” Just much more manly.

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