“And just where the bloody hell have you been!”

Spike quietly closed the door behind him.  “Go on upstairs, li’l bit,” he said.  “I’ll have Tara come by and check on you later.”  Dawn, now a pale, wraith-like figure, darted a look between the two men before silently nodding.  “There’s a girl.  Sleep tight.”

Humans couldn’t actually growl, lacked the whole second set of vocal-chords to do it properly, but a decent attempt was being made from the living room.

Kissing Dawn briefly on her forehead, Spike watched her hurry up the stairs.  Then he turned around and left.

He’d gone half a block before he was yanked back, a fist slamming into his jaw.  “You disgusting, perverted pillock,” his attacker spat, alcohol fumes bathing Spike’s face and making him feel light-headed.  “Just waitin’ for the chance, aren’t you?  Can’t have her so you—”

Spike squirmed out of the hold, jogging until he reached the relative safety of the park.  Lumbering foot-steps echoed through the stillness of early evening, his attacker following him as quickly as a tired, aging body allowed.  Spike slowed to a trot when he passed the swings, just waiting.  It was quieter, here.  No one in the neat row of houses nearby would be able to hear them and the only things that might want to force the issue—wouldn’t dare come near him.

“Stop moving, you wanker!  I’m not through with you!”  Breathing loudly and just starting to sweat, the half-stooped man followed him into the small clearing before leaning against a tree.  “How dare you?”

The smirk glimmered briefly in the moonlight.  “Sorry, Rupes, what was that?  Couldn’t hear you through the booze you’re wheezin’ out.  Or did we try somethin’ else tonight?”

The kick in the gut wasn’t unexpected, but it hurt worse than he’d figured it would.  “I don’t have to answer to you, vampire.  Or were you about to lecture me on what the poor human shouldn’t do?”

The accent was different.  Harsher, sharper, and Spike found it very odd to hear his own guttersnipe abrasiveness coming from someone usually so proper.  The gait wanted to change but couldn’t, time having taken too strong a hold.  The gestures and mannerisms were off, too, but those were smaller things.  Mostly it was in the eyes: totally black from pain-driven magic.

“Just wanted to know what you took,” Spike said, almost placatingly.  “Moved past the normal drugs, have we?  Needed something a bit more. . . esoteric?”

A quick combination had Spike bent over and gasping, never raising a hand to ward off the blows.  The chip would allow that—but the guilt seething inside him wouldn’t.  He welcomed the pain.  Craved it.  “Found a spell,” he was told while he slowly clambered to his feet.  “Did you know that redheaded bint has confiscated some of my books? My books!  Arrogant little bint.  She doesn’t know about all of them, though.”  Sharp look in the darkness.  “And some things you never really forget.”

Slammed up against a tree, knee to the groin, and the pain was exquisite.  Bruises were forming on his cheek and jaw, a favored spot to punch, but like the pain, they’d be gone soon.  He’d never look broken.

“So, you decided to unleash it, hm?” Spike gasped out when he was given a short reprieve.  “Magic yourself up that good old teenage angst, then find something to beat the crap out of?”

“Yeah, sounds like fun.”  A sharp crack accompanied the latest punch to his ribs and Spike groaned.  Dawn would figure out he’d broken a rib and then she’d start asking questions no one wanted to answer.  Her grief meant tears and long bouts of silence, punctuated with frantic fussing over Spike who allowed it with the weary patience of a pet pony.

His grief—their grief—wasn’t alleviated by the innocent things she craved.  Because neither of them were innocent.

“Are you ever going to fight back?”  The artlessness of the question made Spike open his eyes.  “S’no fun if your not gonna fight back.”

“Just hit me,” he croaked out, slumping forward in preparation for the next attack.  He needed this, the fury in human fists crashing into him, each bruise a badge of pain he wished he could offer up as proof of I’m sorry and I wish it had been me.  The same phrases that drove Giles into a bottle and finally, into the magic he’d long given up.

“Well you’re no fun at all,” Giles commented, trying hard not to lose the easy confidence and safety of Ripper.  Releasing Spike, he patted his own arms and pants pockets in hopes of finding a pack of the cigarettes he hadn’t smoked in nearly as long.  “Thought a vampire like you—”

“We done?” Spike interrupted.  He felt old.  He’d always needed someone else to act like the adult so he didn’t have to, Rupert usually taking the role without prompting.  Lacking that constant nagging, Spike couldn’t maintain his own mask of indifference.

“Nah.  Not quite yet.”  Warm hands cupped him through his jeans, teasing cruelly.  “You wanna be punished, Spike?  Still pretty worked up from whaling on you before.  You can take care of it.”

And then he was on his knees, face held against open pants, a hard cock pressing against his lips.

“This what you want?” he heard as he opened his mouth, head already wet and slippery on his tongue.  “Does this make you feel better?  Can you forget what we failed to do now?”

Spike didn’t ask if Giles could.  Just watched as the blackness left the man’s eyes, leaving weary pain in its wake.


He wondered if Giles knew how much Spike preferred Ripper sometimes.

Ripper wouldn’t have hauled Spike to his feet and jacked him with rough, hard strokes.  Ripper wouldn’t have helped him clean up and get back home, wouldn’t have patched him up with experienced efficiency.

Ripper wouldn’t have apologized.

That Giles did. . . made it worse.