"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
for today he that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother."
"Henry V", IV.iii.40, Shakespeare.
Your eyes meet over her bent head. It is a silent struggle...the tug-of-war your arms will not play with her body. He says to you 'Back off, you soddin' Watcher...I got her.' You say to him 'Leave her be, you pillock...she's better off without you.' Yet, even as you think it, and your infinitely darker gaze locks with the vampire's smoky blue one, you know that's not true.
He brought her home.
He didn't have to, but he did.
And she stumbles between you, head stuffed full with whiskey and exhaustion...unaware of the current...of the urge you have to yank her close and shove Spike out the door with a well-placed boot to his ass. "I can stand, Giles," she mumbles, poking you in the chest. "I can. I'm the Slayer. I stand good."
"Yes, of course you do, Darling," you reply, absently, patting her bare shoulder. Bare. When did it become bare? The strap of her black tank top has fallen aside, revealing the smooth golden skin beneath. She has no tan lines, you realize absurdly. She couldn't tan in a coffin. You choke on that hideous thought, glancing up, once more, at her erstwhile escort.
His pale lips are twisted with a combination of worry and cynicism. One is for her...the other is in regards to you. You've known him long enough to understand that. To accept it despite the fact that you hate it to the very core of your bones.
He would die for her.
He would protect her and all those she loves.
He would watch her till he's ash on water.
And that is your job. Damn it, that's *your* job.
"She needs fluids, Rupert. A good lot of 'em. Some aspirin," he tells you, sliding his arm around her waist to keep her from tripping as you both guide her over the threshold and into the house.
Buffy whips her head up, green gaze wounded, insulted. "I am not drunk!" she cries, rearing her heel back to stomp on Spike's boot. "You're the one that plays with kittens."
Kittens? You have no idea what that references. But the instant, private, smile on Spike's face tells you that it is yet another thing that has brought them closer. And your hear the growl rise in your throat before you can stop it. "I've got her, Spike. I'll take her upstairs. You can go," you snap, darkly.
"I can go," he agrees, tilting his head to the side as if he's sizing up how well you fit in your authoritarian britches. And then he gently pulls Buffy against his chest, disengaging her from your hands. You're left grasping for her as he swings her up in his embrace and heads for the stairs. "But I won't."
You step forward, fists clenching. "Spike..."
"Get the water, Rupert," he says, softly. "We'll get her fixed up."
It is the 'we' that makes you comply.
You hear the water running as she brushes her teeth vigorously. The cheap liquor has been expelled from her system the hard way..."I hate puking!" she'd yelped through the closed door.
"No one likes it, Baby," you'd advised, "But it's better than keeping that rot on the inside."
Dawn's door is closed, as is Willow and Tara's. Funny, but you remember when it used to be Joyce's room...you'd crept past it on many a night excursion, hoping not to wake the poor woman as you snagged a bit of muslin from the Slayer's drawer or rifled through the photo albums stuffed under her bed.
Now, Buffy has no mum to take care of her.
But she still has her Watcher.
A man who'd sooner gut you than shake your hand.
He comes up the stairs with a glass of water and a bottle of Advil, lined face awash with disapproval so palpable you have to jerk back. And you hit your head on the wall and wince. 'I didn't pour the stuff down her throat! I'm sorry!' you want to say, suddenly...but you don't. 'Cause what do you have to apologize for, right? It wasn't you. It was her choice. Her choice to come to you in the dark and find solace in your miserable company and your booze.
Her choice not to confide in him.
"How is she?" he asks, hoarsely.
"Spewing up her guts..." you shrug. "Fine."
You see the water dancing, just slightly, in the glass. The Watcher's hand is shaking. You remember his firm grip on the sword hilt as you all spread out from the Magic Box. The determination as you misquoted old Will Shakespeare and followed Buffy to what you didn't know would become her death.
*"Well, not exactly the St. Crispian's Day speech, was it?"*
*"We few, we happy few..."*
*"We band of buggered."*
His hand didn't tremble then, in the face of the ultimate horror, in the face of Glory. But his grip fails him now...in front of you. Because of you.
He moves past you into her bedroom, perhaps understanding that your eyes see too much, and you hear the gentle clink of water and pills being set down on the night table. Will he turn down the sheets? Will he fluff her pillow? Will he touch all the things you are still not allowed to touch as he prepares his Slayer's bed?
You know he will.
And he smiles at you when you enter a moment later. A thin, tight, victorious smile. You may see too much...but so does he. After all, it's his job.
His job to watch her. To guide her. To protect her.
You watch him pace around the room like a restless, caged, tiger. His coat makes a whip-whip sound as it swishes around his ankles, hits the edge of Buffy's dresser, her bed. You wonder if he'll ever stop moving. If he'll persist in this hyperactivity even as his heart dances on the tip of a stake.
Ripper would like to find out firsthand. Ripper would carve slowly.
But you'll not let Ripper out. You know better.
It's funny. This creature lived in your home. Used your shower. Slept on your couch. You watched footie together and reminisced about the golden years of Manchester U and argued about who had better hair--Queen E. or Maggie T. A repayment, albeit chained and guarded, for when he saved your life...when he kept Angelus from finishing you off.
You didn't hate him then. You just found him to be an annoyance. Sort of like Ethan in the old days. *Now* you think you hate him.
Because he has as much right to be here, in this flowered, moon-lit bedroom, as you do. Because of the longing in his eyes when he saw you set out her pajamas and smooth out the creases in her pillowcase.
"You're not her father." The words come just as suddenly as the vampire's stillness. Framed in the window, he acquires a striking glow...almost like a halo around his silver-blond head. "You pretend you are, Rupert...her father, her rakish uncle...but you're none of it."
You are too surprised to do anything but nod. "Y-yes," you hear yourself stammer as you remove your glasses, reflexively beginning to clean them. "I suppose you're right about that."
"Thought so." And he resumes pacing...checking over your shoulder to see if Buffy is done with her brushing and flossing and washing and moisturizing. Possibly exfoliating, too.
You slide your glasses into your trousers pocket, glancing out in the hallway yourself. The bathroom door is still closed. And then you turn...offering your matching observation. "You're not her friend, Spike. You pretend you are...her confidante, her devoted pet vampire...but you're none of it."
"You're wrong about that." An elegant shake of the head. "I AM devoted. What I'm not...is Angel. Or Angelus." His eyes go from blue to gray. From angry to earnest as he stares at you long and hard. "I'm not going to hurt her. I'm not going to hurt *you*."
Old bones, once broken, twinge with the reminder. You close your eyes, breathe in, sharply, as you flex your now-healed fingers and remember a rose strewn path up candle-lined stairs. "You *can't* hurt me," you whisper. "You have the chip."
He searches for cigarettes...and then stops...as if remembering, suddenly, that he's inside a home. "There are a million and a half ways to fuck a bloke up without laying one finger on him. You and I both know that. And I'm telling you that I'm not planning a single one."
You can't help but scoff, skeptically. "And I'll ask you why not?"
Suddenly, he is right before you. In your space. About to box your nose like an Etonian schoolboy...or kiss it. "'Cause she loves you. And that means, some day, she might love me," he confides, voice flowing like smooth bourbon over your skin. "That means hope."
You laugh, bitterly. "She can't...she can't love us that way," you choke out, regretfully... knowing that, in this, at least, you are both equal. You are no more lucky than he...he no more fortunate than you. "She'll...she'll never see us...never..."
And you don't know how it happens. But all of a sudden his face is caught between your thumb and your index finger. The sharp line of his jaw etches his name against your palm. And his lips taste like a first winter's snow...the fine points of his canines like icicles. They sink into your mouth, draw coppery blood and you gasp. Not pain...not pain...only pleasure. Sucking the bittersweet taste from your tongue and his tongue and feeling it all freeze together because a vampire's kiss is so cold...so gorgeously cold.
"Oh. Oh...uh...wow. I can come back later. I can, uh... puke again ... really." You glance up, realizing, vaguely, that Buffy has walked in...turned around...and then walked back in again. "Nope," she mutters, eyes huge and skin still tinged faintly green. "Giles still kissing Spike."
"And doing a right good job of it, too, Love..." the vampire sighs against your lips, husky as a whore. "You should give him a go 'round yourself...don't take my word for it."
"N-no...no, that's quite all right," your traitorous voice box assures as your legs conspire with it and drive you backwards. "Just a fluke. Overtired. Overwrought. Jetlag and such."
But Spike doesn't let you go. His fingers have somehow found their way to your belt loops and they hang on. "Drink your water, Slayer," he says, for once not even looking in his object of affection's direction. He keeps his eyes on you...and they make you flinch, like being caught in headlights. "And take two of the pills. You'll thank us for it tomorrow."
She makes no move towards the nightstand. "Is there something you two want to tell me?" she asks, arching an eyebrow.
*No...yes...no.* You wrap your hand around Spike's narrow wrist and wrench yourself free. "We're just concerned for you, Buffy," you say, dragging fingers through your hair and trying your best not to look tumbled and mortified. "W-we were discussing what we can do to help."
She brushes past you both, grabbing up her pajamas and hugging them, protectively, to her chest for a moment before letting them go. Does she know? Does she feel the echo of your hungry, dirty hands on that soft flannel? "You're concerned...that's why you're playing Seven Minutes in Heaven in my BEDROOM?" she demands.
Spike brushes his thumb across his lower lip...and you are enthralled by the tiny gesture. Is there anything he does without finesse, without grace? You have to blink, remember that you hate him. "One and a half minutes, Pet," he corrects, throatily. "A spot less than the time you spent there."
*'The time you spent there...'*????? "What????"
"Damn." You know your own stupidity even as the sentence leaves your throat. Rupert looks pale, thunderstruck...probably wondering if he's heard you right. And Buffy no longer looks shocked. She looks...sad.
"Spike..." Your name on her lips has never sounded so resigned, so unbelievably helpless.
You duck your head, kick the carpet with the toe of your boot. "I'm sorry." And you can still taste bergamot on your mouth. Earl Grey. The taste of a home you haven't seen in a long time. Blood. Sweet, hot, blood. You never thought old Rupert would be so delicious.
You never thought breaking a confidence would be so easy.
"H-heaven? You were in Heaven, Buffy?" he wonders, stumbling to her bed, sinking down. "All this time?"
She chews on her bottom lip. You can see the temptation to lie flickering on and off her face. You cross to the door and close it, lock it, lean on it. Part of you wants to scream for her to keep silent...for it to be your little secret. 'Take that, Watcher.' And the other part of you remembers being kissed just moments before. The slick-sweet flavor of mutual desperation, shared longing, for someone so far above you both. Even the most treasured secret couldn't bring you all that much closer to the woman you've worshipped for years. You know that.
She drops down before him, on her knees, taking his clenched hands from his lap and raising them to her cheek. "Giles..." she cries, softly. "I...I just don't know. I can't be sure...you know? I mean...I don't remember much..."
"Don't. Don't protect me. Or *them*." He shakes his head, curtly...and, suddenly, you feel like an interloper...like a voyeur. Soiled, filthy, mired in passion and devotion that does not belong to you. "We've been through too much together."
You hear the exhausted, grief-stricken sob...watch the tears slide down her cheeks...and you want to crawl to her, wrap your arms 'round her from behind like you did, earlier, when she was thrashed and stumbling. And you do it. You push off from the door and give in to the instinct.
"Yes..." she hisses, bowing her head, curling back against you instead of pushing you away like you expect. She's trembling...soft and hard and weak and strong...smells like pear body wash and minty toothpaste and regrets. "I was happy, Giles. I was so happy."
This time, when your eyes lock over her head, there is no struggle...no violent territoriality. You say to him 'She needs us. She needs us now more than ever.' He says to you 'I know.'
He strokes her face with the backs of his fingers. You brush the barest of kisses against the nape of her neck. A muscle in his cheek jumps with barely checked rage...and you know exactly what he's feeling. The wild desire to yank Red from her comfy little bed down the hall and tear her apart. But you won't do that. No, you won't. Not when you have this precious girl between you, here and now.
Nothing in the world could make you give up this armful of Slayer.
A low, keening, tone escapes from her throat and you nuzzle the translucent skin between her throat and shoulder blade. Back and forth, back and forth. "Shhhh...it's all right."
"We're here," Giles tells her, slipping down to the floor, cupping her jaw in his palms. "We're here as long as you need us to be." He glances back at you, gaze verdant and heavy with a hundred definitions of compassion. "*Both* of us."
She gasps as you hit a tender spot...her pulse...the faded scar...and there must be such sweet agony on her face. "Forever?" she demands, child-like. "How's forever?"
"Forever's fine." And, just as effortlessly as he leaned into you...as he took your mouth...he takes hers. Does she taste the blood your fangs left behind? Does she taste the dark, forbidden lust of the man who lives beneath her Watcher's skin? Does she care? Does she fight it?
Her bones melt and reform into the cradle of yours. You can feel her heartbeat accelerate as Rupert kisses her long and slow and gentle. She could push him away. She could break you both in half. But, no, she pulls you closer and closer. You bury your face in her neck, inhale the scent of Slayer skin and Slayer hair and Slayer arousal. You fold your fingertips into the hollows above her hipbones and the tantalizing curve of her ass finds itself situated against the nearing painful rise in the fly of your jeans. She arches, clutching your thigh with one small hand...tight enough to bruise...you wonder if Rupert feels the same pleasure/pain as she grips his chest and kisses him back, making soft, sultry, sex noises.
You've dreamed of this. All right...not quite this...but how many nights did you lie awake in the crypt, wishing for her to rise from the grave and come to you? For her to turn to you and swallow you up whole and dust you with her body and her want? How many times have you brought yourself off imagining these sounds, these sights, these sensations?
And now it's real.
And so is the rough, large hand that links with yours underneath her tight little shirt and skims the flat expanse of her belly. Do you guide him? Does he guide you? Or is it something else entirely? The way her body tightens...the way her breath comes, ragged, from her throat? Hoarse little cries, begging to be let back into Heaven...begging to be taken back to where it is safe and warm and nothing can ever hurt her again?
She says your name like it is the only thing that stands between her and complete oblivion. Mayhap she does taste you on her Watcher's mouth. And he pulls back. She twists her head just slightly, seeking you out. Her lips are pink and glistening, ravished and wanting more of the same and you can do nothing but comply.
You kiss her.
You're tasting something sacred, something holy.
And you burn.
You lean your head on her shoulder, listening to the beautifully erotic sound of her lips against a vampire's. Gentle moans and whimpers. Fierce but tentative...that is how your Slayer kisses. Your mind is swimming with recriminations, with a hundred conflicting emotions, with the passionate certainty that you will never let anyone decide this girl's fate for her again.
Not even you.
*Especially* not you.
It must be her choice.
And you think it is.
*Yes*, it finally is.
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