Title: In for a Penny [9c/?]
Authors: the_moonmoth & bewildered/bewilde
Length: ~7,100 words this chapter
Warnings: Sexual situations, bad language, violence, smut. Suicidal ideation. Temporary Spike/Other and Buffy/Other.
Summary: Spike travels back in time to change the future. It goes poorly.
Chapter 9 – part c
“Happy Ha– Hello, Buffy.”
Giles smiled. It was always a pleasure to see Buffy, though he’d rather expected her to be at college at this hour. Truth be told he’d finished his decorating some time ago, and had drifted rather aimlessly back to his books. He’d assumed the knock at his door was the first of the night’s sugar-seeking youth, though he now realised that it was still afternoon. Perhaps he had got ready just a tad on the early side.
Buffy gave his costume a somewhat disparaging look, which was disappointing, since he thought he looked quite fabulous.
“Oh. My. God.”
“It’s a sombrero,” Giles clarified, in case she was unfamiliar. His research had admittedly been less than thorough, but the clerk at the local Party City had assured him that this was an accurate and very dashing traditional Mexican costume.
Buffy merely looked perturbed. “And it’s on your head.”
“It seemed festive,” he explained — he’d read that there were lots of Mexicans in California, ergo, he considered this to be a fun and fitting homage to his adopted home — and was about to invite her in when a very unpleasant intrusion peeled itself away from the wall beside his door and came to stand in direct sunlight, just behind his slayer’s shoulder.
“Shame on you, Rupert,” Spike said, with a wide-eyed gravity that on him was, frankly, farcical. “Got one word for you: cultural appropriation.”
“That’s two words, you nitwit.” Though honestly, he hadn’t previously had the slightest inkling Spike knew any five syllable words. “What the devil are you doing back here? Buffy?” He turned to his charge for answers, holding up a finger to silence Spike’s nascent protest without bothering to look back. “And no, you still can’t come in.”
“Can I at least have some sweets?”
“I’d rather give you another arrow to the–”
“Okay, okay, time out,” Buffy cut in, slicing her hand through the air between them. “Spike, play nice. Giles…” she sighed. “Can you just let him in? He has info about tonight that you need to hear. I’ll guarantee your safety,” she added perkily at his look of disbelief.
“How, exactly, will you do that, when he decides to try to come and eat me in the middle of the night?”
“You mean you won’t be sitting up in your nighty with your crossbow over your knees, waiting to take another useless punt at the big bad?” Spike leered. “Shows a lack of commitment if you ask me. Besides, Slayer,” he fluttered his eyelashes mockingly, “I thought you were going to be my protector.”
“He’s given his word that he doesn’t eat humans any more,” Buffy said, as though the demon beside her hadn’t just insinuated to the contrary. Or that his word was worth more than an ant’s fart. “C’mon, Giles, Mrs. Hemmings in apartment C really doesn’t need to hear this.”
Sadly, that was the truth. That woman was far too interested for Giles’s own good.
“And you’re sure this is the right Spike?” he asked, turning his gaze back to scrutinise the vampire. On closer inspection, there did seem to be something different about him, although it was hard to pinpoint. He seemed somehow aged, though that was supposed to be impossible. Then again, they really had no idea from how far in the future this version of Spike had travelled back, and Buffy had reported that the Master’s face had been distorted by age. It was something to consider.
“Yes, I’m sure,” she confirmed. “I saw the two of them together, and believe me…” she trailed off, looking uncomfortable and unsure how to complete the observation. Then, she glanced at Spike, and a tense but silent kind of communication seemed to pass between them. Something being acknowledged, Giles felt, though he was uncertain as to what. “I’m sure,” she repeated.
Giles pinched the bridge of his nose. Inferring facts from Buffy’s omissions was a skill he prized almost as highly as his Buffy-to-English translations. It certainly looked likely to get a great deal of exercise this year, if these first few weeks of college were anything to go by. And what he was inferring right now was that she had been to wherever the Spike in front of him had stashed the Spike of their time without discussing it with Giles first. He felt torn between pride at her autonomy (he’d always been proud of that) and disquiet at her decreasing need of him, but in the end, as she’d so succinctly pointed out to him at their last meeting, Buffy was an adult now. He supposed he had to allow her to act as such.
“Fine, fine,” he said at last, but with studious bad grace, since it wouldn’t do to let Spike feel welcome at all. He gave him a glare full of stakes for good measure, though of course it did about as much good as the real thing would right now, presuming the little gobshite still had the Gem of Amara, which seemed a sad certainty. “Come in, Spike.”
Oddly, Spike looked taken aback, though he covered it quickly. Perhaps he had taken Giles’s hesitation as a lack of trust in Buffy’s judgement — of course a soulless demon wouldn’t be able to understand something so, so wholesome. But one of the first things Giles had realised upon finally parting ways with the Council’s damnable Watcher’s Handbook was that the greatest and most important part of his job was to trust and support his slayer. He hoped he would always endeavour to do so, no matter the circumstances. Besides, he would reluctantly admit under pain of casualwear that the thought of a time-travelling ally intrigued him.
“Well, then?” he prodded, once said supposed-ally was safely behind closed doors, the threat of Mrs. Hemmings contained. Spike gave him an insouciant smirk as he swaggered unhurriedly about the room, running his fingers along the spines of Giles’s books in a way that made his fists clench. Gratifyingly, he noted that Buffy was watching him like a hawk.
“The old place hasn’t changed much,” Spike said, still smirking. “Or should that be new place? Tell me, where do you keep the chains and manacles? I never could wangle that out of–”
“Spike,” Buffy said warningly, hitting him on the arm presumably to get his attention. It hadn’t been a very strong blow, though. More like a good-natured shove, how disappointing. And frankly the smile did nothing to reinforce her authority. He would have to have a word with her about going too easy on her adversaries. ”He, uh, knows something that should confirm his story about the future-ness that is him,” she explained. Spike had the nerve to share her smile for a moment — an insincere expression if ever there was one — and nodded.
“Fear demon,” he said. “Tiny little bugger, or so I heard. Bunch of frat boys’ll summon him tonight, some spooky stuff goes down, and then…” he waggled his little finger at Giles, tonguing his teeth. “You all get a reminder that size really does matter.”
Giles cleared his throat, and stalwartly ignored the childish attempt at provocation, not to mention Buffy’s blushes. He supposed it was nice, if a little surprising, that she had still retained some of her innocence. “Or so you heard? You didn’t see this happen in person?”
“No, mate. Was off at the spa getting my nails done.”
Confused, Giles glanced at Buffy again, who seemed to be trying to suppress another smile, like they’d just shared an in-joke. The thought was disturbing enough for him to dismiss out of hand. He forged on valiantly.
“Be that as it may, do you have any evidence that you haven’t simply set this up yourself, to provide spurious proof?”
“Er. Well, no,” Spike said, looking caught short, much to Giles’s satisfaction — finally, it seemed, he had his attention.
“Well then,” Giles pressed. “Who told you about it? Perhaps if we knew it was a reliable source…”
Spike snorted. “The niblet’s about as reliable as it comes with you lot.”
“Who?” Was this some nickname for one of Buffy’s friends? Or a new group member they hadn’t met yet?
Spike gave him a look like he was an idiot. “D–” he started to say, and then cut himself off with an odd expression, both faltering and guilty. Giles frowned, and Buffy too was giving him a searching look. Spike’s eyes darted between them for a moment, apparently cornered, before raising his chin stubbornly. “Can’t say.”
“Can’t, or won’t?”
“Sorry, Rupert. Already sang this song with the slayer,” Spike said, glancing at Buffy for confirmation. “Not looking for an encore.”
Buffy gave Giles an apologetic shrug. “It’s true. He can’t and he won’t. It’s a time-travel thing. We’re just going to have to trust him.”
That was too much. Giles put his hands on his hips and deployed parental sigh number six: frustrated but forbearing. “I’m sorry, Buffy, but we don’t have to do anything of the sort. Yes, you’ve confirmed that there are two of him, but it doesn’t follow that one can be trusted! What evidence do we actually have?”
“Aside from that letter you burned?” Buffy asked, surprising him with how snippy she sounded.
“Yes, well, I really don’t think–”
“Or, here’s an original bloody thought,” Spike interrupted. “You could trust your slayer’s instincts.”
Giles noticed for the first time that they were standing side by side, and quite close, too. Buffy, arms crossed over her chest, had set her jaw in a way that he recognised meant she wouldn’t be coming to his defense. Were they… were they ganging up on him? He really did feel under attack all of a sudden. It had to be the serape — Giles didn’t get this kind of backchat in his corduroys and tweed. And just what precisely did Spike mean by implying Giles didn’t trust Buffy’s instincts? What an outrageous statement! That bleach-headed twirp would still be outside if it weren’t for–! The very notion–!
“Now see here,” he began, wagging a stern finger at the vampire.
“Look, Giles,” Buffy interrupted, taking a step towards him with hands held out placatingly. It broke the illusion of unity between the two, and Giles felt himself relax. “I get it, you’ve got reservations, but I’ve interrogated both Spikes. Thoroughly.” She paused to clear her throat. Strange — why would such a statement bring up a flush like that? Ah, she must have resorted to torture. Order was restored to Giles’s world. “I believe he wants to help, but if you want hard proof, after tonight? We’ll know for sure one way or another about at least one part of his story.”
“Will we?” he insisted, but much to his consternation, Buffy merely rolled her eyes.
“For pete’s sake, Giles, it’s Spike. Not exactly the master of the long con.”
Giles squinted at Spike, scrutinising him for his reaction, but the vamp just shoved his hands in his pockets and shrugged agreeably. “I get bored.”
“See? He gets bored. But if it’ll make you happy, I’ll stick to him like glue this evening so that we’ll know it isn’t him doing the demon summoning.” Spike shifted his weight, looking strangely uncomfortable all of a sudden, wrapping his duster more tightly around his waist. It was downright suspicious in Giles’s opinion, but Buffy missed it completely, staring wide-eyed at her watch. “Oh, except I’m supposed to go meet Mom for a costume fitting, like, five minutes ago. You can bring him over once you’re done here, right?”
Giles drew himself up, ready to protest the loss of his only real protection, and irritated by her blase attitude, but then he caught sight of Spike’s face. The vampire was looking at him, eyebrow raised in what seemed to be an amused sort of challenge. So much for original bloody thoughts, he seemed to be saying. Trust your slayer’s instincts like hell. And Giles refused to be shown up by a sodding vampire of all things, and so he girded himself, sighed, and waved her off. “Fine. Go. But if he tries to bite me in your absence I would like it noted that I told you so.”
She patted his arm consolingly. “If I’m wrong, both you and your poncho can gloat as much as you like.” And then she flashed him one of those blinding smiles that always made him melt, just a little. Or, well, she flashed the smile, but in her haste to get going, it was directed more into the room than at him. A minor detail. Besides which, Giles didn’t point out that if she was wrong, he’d be gloating from beyond the grave.
Oh well, at least he’d leave a well-dressed corpse.
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/609541.html