orchidluv (orchidluv) wrote in bloodclaim,
orchidluv
orchidluv
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NTS Book 2, Ch. 13/?

Nothing the Same, Book 2
Chapter:  13/?
Pairing: Spike/Xander
Rating: PG13 - NC-17 Individual chapters will carry specific warnings.
Feedback & concrit: yes, please
Disclaimer: don't own them, never will, just playing with them
Spoilers: Anything from Season 1 on. 
Summary: sequel to Nothing the Same. 
Previous parts here

From Chapter 12:

“Question is,” he said finally, more to himself than to the creature in front of him. “What exactly are you? My Sire; the off-his-trolley version of Angelus you were last spring; or the souled poof who abandoned his family, breaking Dru’s heart? Or are you somethin’ else entirely?” He took another long drag, hoping to settle his churning thoughts. “More to the point, what am I going to do with you?”

Chapter 13

“Bugger this.” Making up his mind at long last, Spike flicked his cigarette away and stood, pulling a stake out of his duster as he did. He crossed to the exhausted vampire, who was hanging limply in the chains, head down, and grabbed a fistful of the unkempt hair, yanking Angelus’ head up so the dark eyes were facing him.

“You’re not my Sire,” he snarled, not for the first time. “You’re nothing. Just a mad dog that needs to be put down.” The vampire made a weak attempt at a growl and Spike shook his head like a terrier with a rat. “None of that, you pathetic half-wit. That little trip to hell did you in, didn’t it? Don’t got the brains of a soddin’ village idiot anymore. Nothin’ but a wild animal and I’m putting you out of everyone’s misery.”

Spike had been watching Angelus for well over an hour, talking to him, insulting him, and just sitting and studying him in silence. Perched on the sarcophagus, chain smoking, Spike had watched as Angelus struggled against the chains until he’d dropped, exhausted. In that entire time, Angelus had not spoken one coherent word. He’d growled and snarled and bared his human teeth at Spike, but mostly he’d been eerily silent.

Physically, he appeared unharmed. The toned muscular body was just as Spike remembered it - Angelus was wearing only a pair of pants and Spike wondered idly if the Slayer had put them on him; they were clearly not something that had been worn for long and Angelus wasn’t exactly up to his usual fussy dress sense. Wherever he’d been, Angelus had been feeding regularly, that was obvious, although it didn’t make much sense to Spike, unless Angelus had been feeding on other inhabitants. It all depended on what kind of a place he’d been and how long he’d been there. Maybe somebody running the place kept the inhabitants well fed so they would live for a long time while being tortured.

Mentally, Angelus was another story. The feral creature in chains had shown not the slightest indication he understood Spike, or anything else, for that matter. Flinching away from touch, finally simply hanging exhausted in the chains, the creature had ceased to give even token acknowledgement that Spike was in the room with him, and ignoring a potential threat was something Angelus would never do, except as a ploy.

Spike had given up expecting a response from the thing by the time he’d used his first cigarette to light his second. Staring at the creature wearing his Sire’s face and body, he’d let himself think about everything Angelus had meant to him: safety and terror, love and hate, rage and bitter jealousy, Angelus had meant all of those things to him and more. He’d been lover, companion and mentor, his Sire with all that relationship’s complicated layers of meaning. He’d loved and hated Angelus, mocked him, been bitterly jealous of him, had tried to kill him more than once. Angelus had once been nearly his entire world. Here in Sunndale, Spike had begun to form a tentative connection with Angel, almost coming to respect the difficult road his Sire had chosen, even as he ridiculed him for walking it. Then Angelus had returned, nearly as insane as this creature, and tried to use Xander against Spike. Spike had formed an alliance with a Slayer to take him down.

Almost made him wonder which of the two of them was the more insane.

He had more reasons to kill Angelus than he could count and he’d thought of them all as he sat there, reliving the bitter fury that had flavored so many of his encounters with his Sire. But he couldn’t help remembering the good times as well: traveling through Europe as a family, Angelus teaching him how to be a vampire when he was so overwhelmed by the change he was a danger to himself and everyone around him, even the more recent days, drinking peacefully with his Sire and struggling to find common ground with him.

What finally decided him was the thought that Angelus wouldn’t want to be like this. Angel would like it even less.

A tiny part of him wanted to be sure his Sire understood why he was doing this. Tightening his grip in the dark hair, he made sure the creature was looking directly at him as he spoke, not caring that it wouldn’t understand his words. “Not doin’ this because I hate you. ‘m doin’ it because it’s what you would want if you still had two brain cells to rattle around together in that huge head of yours. Right?”

He stared down into the dark eyes, given Angelus the chance to look death in the eye, even if it didn’t mean anything to this pathetic thing. He raised the stake and started to bring it down, when the creature began working its mouth strangely. Curious, he stopped his motion in mid-air, head cocked to one side as he listened to the thing struggle to make a sound.

“S…sp…Spike?”

It was the hoarse whisper of a voice that hadn’t been used in a long time, barely audible even to vampiric hearing, but it hadn’t been his imagination. It was clearly his name and there was a glimmer of... something in the confused dark eyes locked on his. “Angelus?”

Swearing, Spike flung Angelus away from him, not caring that the motion caused the other vampire to smack hard into the wall. He spun away, beginning to pace in sheer frustration. He hated being indecisive, it reminded him too much of that pathetic fop William who couldn’t make his mind up about what cravat to wear, much less about anything significant. Spike preferred to make a decision and act on it. If his decision was wrong, so be it, at least he’d made one.

Clearly, something of Angel was still in there. He didn’t have time to re-think what to do, the Slayer could return at any moment. She wouldn’t leave her precious Angel alone long, not helpless like this. Probably planning to hand feed him blood and sooth his fevered brow until he recovered, he thought viciously.

“Right then.” Having made up his mind, Spike moved swiftly. Picking up the ax he’d brought with him while he hunted Angelus, he swung it against the metal bracket the chain had been threaded through. After several blows, it broke and the chain dropped.

Angelus watched him warily but made no move to attack or flee. “Come on,” Spike said impatiently. He tugged Angelus to his feet and pulled him outside the crypt, stopping in the doorway to check the surrounding area. Sensing nothing dangerous, he got Angelus moving again by the simple expedient of pulling him along by the chain still attached to the manacles on his wrists. “Let’s get you somewhere the Slayer won’t find you.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was getting dangerously close to dawn by the time Spike returned to the factory. He’d gotten Angelus settled in a crypt in a different cemetery; an old cemetery on the edge of town. It wasn’t used anymore, all the plots had long since been filled up. As a result, the Slayer didn’t patrol there often. It would do as a temporary place to stash Angelus until Spike decided what to do with him.

Angelus had been remarkably passive. He hadn’t spoken again, letting Spike lead him without protest as they had trotted through the deserted streets. Spike wasn’t sure if Angelus understood that he was expected to stay put, but he had taken the precaution of choosing a crypt with no tunnel access and wedging the door shut when he left. It would take a fair bit of effort to force it open and Angelus didn’t seem to be at full strength, despite the fact that he looked healthy. He’d been exhausted by the pace Spike set as they moved and had collapsed into the new crypt, panting like an unfit human after a morning jog. Spike had hesitated briefly, wondering again if he shouldn’t just stake Angelus and be done with it, but something inside wouldn’t let him do it.

Shaking his head in disgust at himself, Spike set to work on the manacles, finally prying them open with a combination of lock picking and brute force. Taking the chain with him as he left, he headed back to the original crypt, detouring to pick up a minion at one of the bars. He brought the minion back to the crypt with him - one of the advantages of being Master was not having to explain his actions. He’d simply pointed at a fledge and said: “You. Follow me,” and the minion had obediently dropped whatever it had been doing and followed without asking any questions. Idiot.

Stepping into the crypt, Spike had told the curious minion to stand against the wall. “Need to set up a scenario,” he’d explained truthfully. Being as dumb as he looked, the minion had obediently stood against the wall to be staked. Spike hung the chains back onto the broken metal bracket, propping it back up so it looked normal to the casual glance.

Finished, he’d headed back to the factory through the rapidly lightening dawn, still wondering why he hadn’t just staked Angelus.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It had been a long, anxious night. Xander usually enjoyed talking with Jose, but not when he was listening for Spike’s return, jumping at every sound and trying to ignore the fact that the vampire who still haunted his nightmares was back in town.

Shuffling the cards for about the millionth time that night, Xander began dealing a hand of Texas hold ‘em. He’d asked Jose to teach him some new variations since he really only knew how to play stud poker, hoping that concentrating on the rules would keep him from worrying. It had helped a little, as they’d worked their way through five- and seven- card stud, Manila and five-card draw. He was working on his bluffing skills because vampires had such unfair advantages with their ability to smell emotions and hear heartbeats, but it wasn’t really a good night for that. The variations in his heart rate and emotions all came from factors outside the game. Which actually meant he’d be cleaning up if they were playing for money but wasn’t of any use in the long term.

Still, the night had dragged on. At midnight, Xander had turned on the television for background noise, trying to forget that Spike had been gone for hours. By 5 a.m., Xander thought that Jose probably deserved to be nominated for sainthood for not killing him. Which led to weird speculation on whether the Catholic church could nominate a demon for sainthood or whether that would make the Vatican implode and the realization that he was really, really tired. This was the second night in a row he’d been up half the night and he was seriously short of sleep.

When he heard footsteps on the stairs at 5:30, Xander was up and running for the door. Jose stopped him before he got two steps. “Xander, please allow me to see who it is first.”

That made sense. Given that the apartment was actually Spike’s, vampires could enter it without an invitation. Apparently when a vampire and a human lived together, the invitation rule was waived. Xander frequently wondered just who made up these rules anyway.

Vibrating with nervous tension, Xander waited behind Jose as the door opened. It was Spike, looking tired but unhurt. Xander threw himself forward and flung his arms around Spike, clinging to him and relishing the feeling of Spike’s strong arms enfolding him in turn.

Spike pushed him back after a moment and smiled. Looking past Xander at Jose, he said: “Thanks for watching him. Owe you one.”

“It was my pleasure, Master Spike. Unless you need anything further, I will leave you two alone.”

“Nothing for now, Jose. Everything’s under control.”

Xander added, “Thanks, Jose. Sorry I was such lousy company.”

“Perfectly understandable, Xander.” Jose nodded to Spike and left by the back entrance to the factory.

“Did a good job when I picked that one,” Spike said as the door closed behind the other vampire, deliberately pitching his voice so that Jose could hear him.

“What happened, Spike? Are you all right?”

“’m fine, luv.” Spike tightened his hold, nuzzling into Xander’s neck, his tongue tasting the claim mark.

Ignoring the arousal that always accompanied Spike’s tongue on his mark, Xander asked: “You said things are under control, that means it was Angel, right?”

Spike stopped teasing at the claim mark and just rested his forehead in the juncture of Xander’s neck and shoulder. After a moment, he lifted his head again and stepped back half a step, his arms still loosely encircling Xander. “Not really either one of them, luv.”

Whatever Xander had been expecting, that wasn’t it. “Huh?”

“It’s not really Angel or Angelus,” Spike repeated somewhat unhelpfully. “More like a wild animal than a vampire right now.”

“Ok, that doesn’t sound good. Did…did you kill him?”

Spike looked away. “No.”

“I don’t want to sound bloodthirsty or anything, but why not? He doesn’t sound like something you want running around loose.” Xander kept his voice even with an effort but he knew his heartbeat was giving him away. He couldn’t help it. Angelus scared him spitless, the thought of the vampire so out of control Spike would describe him as a wild animal was terrifying.

Spike tightened his arm reassuringly. “Meant to. Was going to but I just couldn’t. Don’t know what’s wrong with me,” Spike scowled.

Xander clung to him for a long minute. Underneath the bluster, Spike sounded so lost. “He’s contained, right?” Spike nodded, burying his face in the crook of Xander’s neck again. “Then let’s go to bed. We’ve both been up all night.”

Pulling Spike with him, Xander headed into the bedroom. He undressed and climbed into the bed, glad that Spike was quietly following suit. Xander piled up the pillows on his side of the bed and pulled Spike down so his head was on Xander’s chest, knowing that Spike liked to listen to his heartbeat while they slept.

When Spike had settled, his arms holding Xander fiercely, Xander freed one hand and began to rub soothing circles on Spike’s back. After a long time, Spike said quietly: “Was going to stake him but then he said my name. He’s changed, maybe truly insane this time, but he’s still my Sire. Should’ve killed him for you, luv, but I couldn’t do it.”

Surprised he wasn’t more upset, Xander just held Spike for a long time before answering. He could feel the tension in Spike’s body, knew the vampire was worried about his reaction but he needed to think about this new development. He’d spent the night thinking about Spike’s options, but it hadn’t crossed his mind that reality would be door number 3, instead of the more simple stake Angelus, let Angel live that he thought he’d be dealing with when Spike returned.

He’d hated Angelus and had wanted him dead. Angelus had made it personal, had hurt Spike, tortured Giles, kidnapped Xander and tried to use him against Spike. Xander had willingly abandoned his place on the fence and hopped on the kill Angelus bandwagon. Angel he was more ambiguous about. He didn’t like him, but there were a lot of people he didn’t like, and he didn’t want to kill any of them.

Angelus was Spike’s Sire. It had been easy for Spike that Angelus had been sucked into hell because Spike hadn’t had to deal with his issues about his Sire. Angelus was gone forever and Spike had pretty much opted out of dealing with the fall-out from the whole Angel/Angelus drama. Demons didn’t angst about things the way humans did but they weren’t immune to the kind of emotional upheavals and conflicted feelings that humans were prey to.

When he finally spoke, Xander was calm, his own roiling emotions settling down to one thing: he trusted Spike to protect him.

“You know how I feel about my Dad, Spike. It’s been a long time since he’s treated me with anything other than indifference. But I still remember what he was like when I was little. It’s not like he was ever a great parent, but there are some good memories. I guess what I’m saying is, no matter how much he’s disappointed me, he’s still my dad and I don’t want to see him hurt. Killing Angel when he was trying to kill you, trying to hurt you, is one thing. You were fighting to protect me and for your own life.”

Spike had lifted his head and was staring at Xander, the blue eyes wide as Xander continued. “Angelus has been punished for what he did, punished big time it sounds like. That leaves you remembering the better times and able to see him as your Sire again. You make the decision, Spike. Don’t leave it to Buffy or me or anyone else. You’ll make the right decision because he’s your family.” He smiled crookedly. “None of us get to choose our families but we know them better than anyone else.”

Spike surged up, kissing Xander hard. When he stopped, he lifted his head and stared at Xander. “Love you, Xander.”

“I love you, Spike. Don’t leave him where Buffy gets to make the decision about his fate.”

Spike looked shamefaced. “Already moved him to a crypt in a different cemetery.” He looked worriedly at Xander. “There’s no tunnel access and he can’t get out during the day. I promise, if I think for one second he’s going to be a danger to you, I’ll stake him.”

“I know, Spike”

Spike settled back down against his chest with an almost inaudible sigh. Xander slid a little lower in the bed, holding his vampire as they both fell asleep. He’d tell Giles what was going on this afternoon, but there was no way he was going to school today, not after being up for most of two nights in a row.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Of course, Giles wasn’t in the library when Xander arrived. A quick sweep through the school didn’t turn him up, but did allow Xander to grab a tray from the cafeteria as he realized belatedly how long it had been since he last ate. Against all the rules, he carried the tray to the library and settled down to eat and wait for Giles.

He had finished eating and was drinking the cup of soda when he heard footsteps approaching in the hall. He hopped off the table, hoping it was Giles returning.

Buffy blew through the library doors like a hurricane. Xander had barely even registered that it was Buffy and not Giles when he was slammed backwards into the table, the cup of soda he’d been holding flipping into the air, spraying its remaining contents over both himself and Buffy. His body reacted instinctively, kicking out hard at his attacker while his fingers clawed at the hand gripping his throat and cutting off his oxygen.

His kick landed and the grip on his throat slackened enough for him to breathe. He kicked again and rolled clear, managing to get to his feet, still gasping with shock, unable to believe it was Buffy who’d attacked him. “What the hell are you doing?” he asked hoarsely, cautiously moving further away from her. Willow was standing at the door, having followed Buffy inside but her presence didn’t make Xander feel any safer. He really wanted it to be Giles standing there because Giles would do something if Buffy attacked him again.

“Where is he?”

“Where’s who?” Xander wondered wildly if he’d missed something.

“Spike.” He’d never seen Buffy so angry and that was saying something.

“What’s going on?”

“Like you don’t know. He killed Angel.”

“What?”

“Don’t lie to me. There were cigarettes everywhere in the crypt where Angel was hidden. It had to have been Spike.”

Xander shook his head. Even if he knew where Angel was, he wouldn’t tell her. Spike was probably with Angel right now and, while it might calm Buffy down to know Angel wasn’t dead, learning that Spike was still trying to decide whether or not to stake Angel would be badness on a whole new level. This was not a good time for Spike and Buffy to cross paths.

“Where. Is. He?”

Xander shook his head again stubbornly and opened his mouth to tell her what she could do with herself when he found himself saying: “He’s probably at the factory, he was still asleep when I left.”

What the hell? He hadn’t meant to tell her that, even if it was obvious that Spike was unlikely to be brisking around in the sunshine. He shook his head to clear it, wondering if the buzzing in his head that was making his thoughts jumble was because he was still tired, he missed most of what Buffy said next, just hearing one word.

“…Angel?”

“Spike didn’t kill him. He moved Angel to a different cemetery.”

He slapped a hand over his mouth, but it was too late, the words had already escaped. He couldn’t believe he’d just said that. He stared at Buffy, appalled at the words that had somehow come out of his mouth and found her staring back at him with shock and the beginning of joy.

“Angel’s still alive?”

“Yes,” he said unwillingly. This time, he was aware of the external pressure to speak, to tell the truth. He could feel something prickling inside his mind, tiny sparks of something alien, something not him, forcing him to answer. He tried. Oh god, he tried to stop the words from coming, keep them locked inside.

Behind Buffy, he could see Willow, her eyes fixed on him, huge and unnaturally dark in her pale face as she chanted something quietly, almost under her breath. “Spike hasn’t decided what to do yet.” The words were dragged out of him unwillingly, slurred and distorted as he struggled unsuccessfully to keep his jaw clenched and his mouth shut.

WILLOW!” Giles’ outraged roar had all of them jerking around to face him and Xander felt the prickling die away as Willow spun to face Giles. “What are you doing?!” Giles’ voice was horrified, as if he’d found Willow in the midst of an obscene act. Relief swamped Xander that Giles was here and handling the situation and he sagged back against the table, his whole body shaking with reaction.

“Just a truth spell,” Willow said meekly, dropping her hands and looking down. She was facing Giles and her performance was for an audience of one. From his viewpoint in the wings, Xander could see the unrepentant look on her face that she was hiding from Giles behind the swing of her hair.

“Just a truth spell,” Giles repeated with deceptive mildness. Xander suspected he wasn’t fooled at all by Willow’s contrite act and the arctic cold in Giles’ voice when he continued confirmed that. “Miss Rosenburg, truth spells are black magic, coercive by their very nature. Their sole purpose is to compel obedience to the spell-caster’s will. What have you been doing?”

Even Buffy was silenced by the fury in his voice. Xander couldn’t have spoken if his life depended on it. Willow had done a spell on him without his knowledge or consent? A spell that had forced him to betray Spike? How could she do that to anyone, let alone him?

“I was just helping Buffy,” Willow began defensively and Giles cut her off in scathing tones:

“Miss Rosenburg, I would think that after our review this summer of the ethical boundaries of witchcraft that you would never consider raising a defense of the ends justifying the means. You used a magical compulsion against a human. Unless you can honestly tell me that you felt the fate of the world hung on the information you sought to obtain through that spell, you had no right to use it.”

The silence following his reprimand was deafening. Willow looked away, her cheeks burning, her eyes filled with tears. Xander just wished he could tell if it was shame or anger causing the reaction.

“Where did you learn that spell?”

Willow answered reluctantly, unable to resist Giles’ thundering tones. “When you wouldn’t teach me, I found someone who would.”

“Who?”

“I won’t get someone else in trouble.” Squirming under Giles’ glare, she finally said: “I found the truth spell in one of your books.”

“And just how did you obtain that book?”

“I… borrowed it from your apartment this summer.”

“You stole it.”

Willow tried for a casual shrug. She didn’t carry it off well. “It’s not like I did anything Xander didn’t do.” She shot Xander a look he couldn’t read as she said it.

“While I do not condone Xander’s actions in pilfering my books last year, I must point out that he reached that point only after I had refused to answer his questions about vampires. You, on the other hand, were freely offered my knowledge and decided to steal books you had specifically been told you were not yet ready to use.”

“It’s the same thing,” Willow said stubbornly. “We were both just trying to get information that you refused to give us.”

“It is not the same. Your intentions were quite different. Xander sought information only, you were looking for power you are not yet ready to handle, as you have clearly demonstrated today.”

“Giles…”

“No, Buffy. I will not have you defending her. You have no idea of the risks inherent in what Willow has done. Willow, however, does understand the ramifications. She has deliberately chosen to ignore my warnings about playing with magical forces she is not prepared to handle or even comprehend.”

“I understand more than you think, Giles.”

“That statement, Willow, tells me more clearly than you can imagine how little you have heeded anything I have said to you on the subject.” Turning to Buffy, he asked: “What, exactly, did Willow feel she was ‘helping’ you with?”

Buffy didn’t answer for a long moment. Her lips parted several times as if searching for words, before finally she said simply: “Angel’s back. Spike’s hiding him from me.”

Shocked, Giles rocked backwards, almost as if he’d received a physical blow. “What?!”

“It’s true,” Xander confirmed quietly, worried about how still and pale Giles had gotten at the mention of Angel’s name. “Spike found signs that Angel was back and tracked down where Buffy had hidden him.” His eyes accused Buffy and she met his look stubbornly. “Spike couldn’t decide whether or not to kill him, so he moved him where Buffy couldn’t find him. Willow,” he faltered as he said her name, then cleared his throat and continued, “used her little spell to try and force me to tell where Spike hid Angel. Fortunately, Spike didn’t tell me.”

“Spike doesn’t have the right to kill Angel,” Buffy said furiously.

“Then who does? If Angel is dangerous, we all know you’re not going to do a damn thing about it. Spike is the only family Angel has, he’ll decide whether Angel is safe to be at large or if he should be killed.”

“Buffy, how did you know Angel was back?” Giles’ question was deceptively mild and Buffy looked away.

“I found him at the mansion, I just wanted to see if he was better before telling anyone.”

Xander suddenly found himself adding up several seemingly unrelated facts and he swore loudly, furious at himself for not having figured it out sooner. As everyone looked at him in surprise, he forced himself to look straight at Willow, despite the sickness that roiled in his gut at the sight of her. “You did it, didn’t you? That’s why you were so…” he couldn’t find an adequate description but it was just an extreme version the high Willow had always gotten when she had solved a difficult problem, especially something she’d worked on for a long time. “You’ve been trying to find a way to bring Angel back for a long time now and you found one, didn’t you?”

The glow that had lit Willow yesterday returned. Her smile would have been beautiful if it hadn’t been just a little smug. “You said it couldn’t be done, Giles, but I did it. I found a way to fix things and bring Angel back.” She smiled triumphantly at Buffy, who couldn’t help smiling back, even though Buffy at least looked troubled by second thoughts.

“You arrogant child. You could have damaged the boundaries between dimensions and destroyed this world.” If Giles had been pale before, it was nothing compared to the whiteness of his face now. He stared at Willow like he’d never seen her before.

“I knew what I was doing. I worked on that spell for weeks.”

“Then you will have the privilege of sharing your work with me so that I can ensure that you have not permanently damaged the walls between dimensions and that nothing will follow Angel through the hole you so foolishly created.” Giles looked pointedly at his watch. “I will expect you back here in one hour with every scrap of material you used in fashioning the spell, as well as any books of mine you still have.” His voice softened a little. “By the time you return, Willow, I hope you will have taken the opportunity to think seriously about what it is you have chosen to do with the magic you have learned. You have tampered with a human’s soul, recklessly opened a portal to a hell dimension, and turned your power against a friend.”

Willow stared back at Giles, wide-eyed, the glow and the smugness dying at Giles’ words. After a long moment, she nodded and ducked her head, hurrying quickly out the door of the library.

Her silent acquiescence didn’t surprise Xander. Giles’ anger was terrifying. He wouldn’t cross Giles in this mood, he’d just nod and agree to he said. He’d never known the librarian was capable of this kind of rage and Giles’ disappointment would have burned Xander like acid if it had been aimed in his direction.

Buffy obviously had similar thoughts as she said quietly, “I’ll go, too.”

She edged towards the door and flinched as Giles turned his arctic glare in her direction. “After I am sure that Willow has not released unimaginable catastrophe on us, you and I will be having a talk about the responsibilities of a Slayer. Bringing Angel back was a foolish risk, especially considering that you agreed to let a witch with less than three months experience tamper with the very fabric of our reality. A reality, I remind you, that you are sworn to protect.”

Buffy bit her lip and nodded contritely. She had just reached the door of the library when Giles’ voice stopped her in her tracks. “Buffy, you will stay here at school until your last class and then you will go directly home and stay there until I arrive.”

“But…”

“You will not spend the evening attempting to find Angel. There are far more serious issues in front of us. It is quite possible that we may all spend the next days fighting for our lives because of what Willow has done. You will go home and wait for me.”

Buffy’s shoulders slumped and Xander could tell she would obey. He let out his breath in a long, silent breath of relief that Buffy would not be hunting Spike, at least for tonight. In the silence that followed, the only sound was the banging of the swinging door behind Buffy.

“Is it really that bad?”

Giles had his glasses off and he looked tired and beat down out by the scene that had just taken place. “I hope not. Willow is very intelligent but she is reckless. She seems to have no grasp of the dangers inherent in magic. I had hoped that she had lost interest when she stopped studying with me. Obviously, that was foolish of me.”

Xander didn’t know how to respond and silence fell again before Giles shook his head as if banishing disturbing thoughts. Slipping his glasses back on and gathering himself up, Giles looked at him carefully. “Xander, are you all right? Truth spells can have some rather disturbing side effects.”

“Side effects?” Xander echoed faintly. He had been trying not to think about what had happened. The idea that Willow had used a spell against him made him almost physically ill and he couldn’t think about it without wanting to scream and throw things.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have mentioned it. I’m almost certain both of us would already know if there were any lingering effects.” He sighed. “I wasn’t exaggerating when I said that such spells should be used on humans only under the direst of circumstances.” He looked lost in thought again and Xander started mentally check himself, trying to see if anything felt differently, prodding at the corners of his mind like someone stretching their limbs carefully to check for broken bones. The truly frightening part was not knowing if he would even be able to tell if something was different.

“Your hair’s blue,” he said firmly, trying the obvious first.

Giles looked at him in surprise, then smiled. “The side effects tend to be a bit more subtle than that, Xander.” His smile turned into a chuckle and, despite his disgruntlement at being laughed at, Xander was relieved to see the tension disappear from Giles’ face. Giles’ laughter died but the smile lingered in his eyes, banishing the fatigue. “I apologize, Xander. I know it’s not funny. The effects are more a… shift internally, a slight loss of autonomy to the spell-caster, rather than an inability to lie at all.” The smile faded and his voice turned serious again. “If you find you are more inclined to do what Willow says, even in small ways, let me know immediately. However, given your anger and lack of defending her just now, I am confident you have suffered no ill effects.”

That was a creepy thought, that Willow could bend him to her will, even as a side effect, through magic. A shiver ran through him as he considered the possibilities of that when he realized Giles was speaking again.

“I owe you an apology, Xander. I have tended to think you were being too hard on Willow, that you should forgive her for her part in what happened with Acathla and move on. Now, I’m afraid that perhaps you have been right all along and the rest of us have been blind.” There was bitter self-recrimination in his voice. “Certainly I should have known better. I warned Willow before the re-souling spell that those kinds of magics can unlock doors inside you that you cannot close again. Magic that powerful is almost a living thing and it can change the person who wields it. That is particularly true on the Hellmouth, which tends to influence the environment around it, and not in a good way.”

Xander thought about that for a long moment. “Oz saw her doing the re-souling spell, he said she was almost alien looking. It freaked him out, big time. I think I got a glimpse of what he was talking about back then, but today…” He looked unhappily at Giles. “When she was using the spell on me, her eyes were black. It was terrifying. Willow and I have been drifting apart for a long time, but she’s always still been Willow.” He shivered again, convulsively. Giles looked shocked speechless, like his worst nightmare had just come true.

“I’ve been thinking that if Willow could just accept Spike and not want to kill him, we could find our way back to being friends,” Xander said slowly when Giles didn’t say anything. “But after today…” he shook his head. “I don’t think I want to be friends with someone who could do that to me.” He got to his feet. “And it doesn’t help that I don’t think she thinks she did anything wrong.”

“That is the question,” Giles murmured, almost to himself. “Rest assured, I shall be monitoring Willow closely from now on.”

“How are you doing?” Xander wanted to leave before Willow came back but he needed to ask. Giles had looked so shaken by the news of Angel’s return and he hadn’t had even a second to deal with the idea. “Angel’s return has to be hardest for you.”

Giles kept his eyes on the bookshelves. “It was a decided shock,” he said dryly.

Xander persisted. “I know I said that Spike was the one who had the right to decide what happened to Angel, but you have to be number two in line right behind him after what Angel did to you.”

Giles glanced at him. “What about yourself? Angel put you in hospital as well.”

Xander shrugged. “I was wigged when Spike told me Angel was back, but I trust Spike. If Angel is a danger to me, Spike will kill him.”

Giles smiled at the certainty in his voice. “That’s very reassuring as I suspect that Angel is either a danger to both of us - to all of us - or else he isn’t a threat to any of us. I’m willing to let Spike judge, since he will err on the side of caution where you are concerned.”

“Thanks for not letting Buffy go hunting tonight. I’m not looking forward to her next meeting with Spike, especially if Spike decides Angel needs to be killed.”

“I am going to have a serious talk tonight with Buffy about letting her feelings for Angel overrule her common sense. I will make sure she does not seek revenge against Spike regardless of what happens with Angel.”

“Thanks, Giles.” Xander glanced anxiously at the clock. “I’m just going home, I don’t want to risk running into either Buffy or Willow.” Hesitating again, he asked: “Ummm, are you ok if I take off?”

“Probably a wise choice,” Giles said with a faint smile. “Run along, I’ll be fine.”

Halfway to the door, Xander stopped and looked back. “Giles? I just… thank you,” he said inadequately. “For everything.”

Giles smiled. “Be careful on the way home,” was all he said.

TBC

 

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