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The Essential Spike - 1

Spike didn't want to play poker that night; he had other more important things to do. Trouble was, he couldn't remember what they were when Clem turned up unexpectedly and invited him to a game.

Spike pouted slightly, as his friend tried to persuade him and gave in with the irrational thought that if some people thought he wasn't a man then he'd better be a proper demon for once. He gave Clem a lift on the bike, and they arrived to find two spaces left and a game just beginning.

Spike took his usual ragging for being the pretty-boy-with-a-chip-in-his-head-slayer's-pet and made his first bet. He was determined to enjoy himself despite that pillock, Rupert bloody Giles. Spike glanced nervously around the table to see if any of his unusual demon companions had heard him thinking about the watcher, saw from their faces that they hadn't, and laid a card.

He still could not believe that he had let an argument with the watcher upset him like this. He argued all the time with the wanker, and he was a bloody demon; he did not get 'upset' - ever - so, on both counts, Rupert bloody Giles Esq. could take a flying fuck.

He'd only gone there in the first place to see his new DVD. He had not asked the watcher to watch, nor had he wanted to get into a debate about the whereabouts of Jim Morrison -- well, all right, he had done the first, but definitely not the second -- fuck it, he'd done that as well -- but he had not asked to be insulted and kicked out!

Spike liked DVDs; they were easy to half-inch and looked glittery on his crypt shelf. Trouble was, he didn't have a player for them. So, when Giles had announced to Xander Harris that he'd just acquired one, and asked him to come over and 'tune it in', Spike had listened intently. The next night he'd turned up at the watcher's, claimed he had important vampire research to conduct, and asked to borrow the new machine.

Giles said he couldn't and shut the door in his face. Spike knocked once more and asked icily if, in that case, could he come in and do it there. So it had begun...

'Do what, Spike?'

'Research these fucking vampires.'

'Stop that ghastly swearing right away, and how can you research vampires with my DVD?'

'If you let me in, I'll show you!'

Giles had not been impressed by the opening credits of 'Lost Boys' as a piece of research material and stared in outrage at Spike's profile. Spike resolutely ignored him and put his feet up on the coffee table defiantly.

'And this is research how, Spike?'

'It's research for me, mate.'

'Get out, Spike, and take that rubbish with you.'

'It's not rubbish.'

'You'll be watching 'Interview with a Vampire' next. Spike... over there… wooden thing… sometimes referred to as a door... close it on the way out please.'

'Why don't you shut up, take a pew, and watch for a bit? Or are you afraid you might actually learn something or, even worse, bloody enjoy yourself. "Oh... I spent an evening with Spike, and I smiled once." Fucking lighten up, watcher.'


''K, but... look... this is a good bit. You'll like this... they can fly, see… over the ocean, but you don't know it's them 'til later... but I've told you now, so you do... look.'

'You've seen this before?'

'One hundred and seventeen time, yeah.'

'You jest!'

Spike flashed him a cheeky grin. 'Try me.'

'So, why do you need to see it again? I am quite at a loss, Spike.'

'Ah, but this is DVD... so shut up, and let me enjoy it!'

Giles sat down as far from Spike as he could and started to watch the film... or rather he watched Spike watching it. He'd rarely seen the unpleasant demon so animated and so... pleasant. He pointed out bits to watch; he explained things; he laughed, and he chatted as if they liked each other. Giles wasn't fooled for a minute, but he was slightly charmed and felt himself beginning to relax.

He made the first error of the evening by offering Spike a drink. His second was to take one himself; his third and last - for all subsequent mistakes followed catastrophically from this one - was to leave the open bottle in front of them.

The argument started innocently enough. Spike was rewinding the drinking of the blood scene to watch in slow motion when Giles asked why there was a large picture of Jim Morrison on the wall. Spike's jaw fell open in surprise, and he turned to face the amused watcher. 'You know who Jim is?'

'I should rather think so, Spike.'

'You're bullshitting me?'

'No... the Doors... been to his grave... added to the graffiti… left the flowers.'

'Jim is not dead.'

It was Giles' turn to look incredulous. 'He most certainly is.'

'He was turned, and 'e's living in a mountain retreat in Corsica.'

'Err... are you delusional, Spike, as well as stupid?'

The bottle was half empty by now, and Giles felt the slight slur of the final word did not do his wit justice.

Spike almost made as if to hit him, but retracted his hand, pretending to run his fingers through his hair. 'Why do you have to be so fucking right all the time, watcher? Can't you allow some people might actually know more than you sometimes?'

'Oh, I have no problem with that concept, Spike; most people probably do. You, however, are not most people... you are not in fact 'people' at all. You are a dead body, and I don't give a great deal of credence to anything said by something that ought to crawl back into its grave.'

Carried away on the inebriated flood of his own eloquence, Giles did not initially notice the effect his words had on Spike. He did notice when Spike stood up, tense and defensive.

'Thank you for the hospitality, watcher, but I've obviously outstayed me welcome.' He didn't even wait to retrieve his film; he just gathered up his coat and left quietly.

Giles stayed still, and the music mocked him. 'Thou shalt not die....' He didn't hear or understand much else, for his head reeled with unanswered questions. Had Spike actually been hurt? Had his words hurt Spike's feelings? Did Spike, therefore, have feelings? Giles replayed the whole strange evening in his mind and came to the conclusion that he must be a very blinkered, very stupid man. A transformation had been taking place under his very nose over the last year, but he had not seen it... not taken the time to see it. The creature he had fought, hated, dismissed, and disliked was no more… it had changed.

Giles watched to the end of the film as if, somehow, that small gesture could make up for his rudeness to Spike. He knew it couldn't, and the whole evening upset him more than he cared to admit.

It had upset Spike, too, but he cared to admit it even less... refused to admit it in fact - hence the poker game with fellow dead things and the 'fuck you, Giles' attitude.

Spike knew he was dead; he knew he wasn't a man; he didn't need bloody reminding every time he put out a hand.

He cast another sly glance around the table, embarrassed by the visual image that had sprung into his mind - his hand outstretched, Giles taking it in his. Fuck, he was being a wuss tonight. He drew a card, raised two tabbies, and promised to give himself a thorough flagellation later. He grinned at this thought, and everyone immediately folded.

'Hey! What!'

'Good hand, Spike?'

'Oh, no... I weren't smiling at that... honest.'

He'd won four kittens. He didn't want four kittens... he didn't want any kittens... well, the small ginger one was cute but... fucking wuss, stop it!

'I don't want 'em. Swap you for something?'

He looked despairingly around the table. No one volunteered at first, but then, with an expression that went for a grin with Xol demons, one player got up, and fished for something in a box behind him.

He stretched over the table and deposited a small puppy in Spike's lap.

'For all four, plus their legs.'

'Hey! No bloody animals... I don't want bleedin' cats, and I don't want....' Spike suddenly picked the puppy up under its front legs and stared closely at it. 'Where'd'ya get it?'

The answer was slightly forced, but Spike did not notice, intent as he was on the puppy. 'Stray, why?'

'It's a vampire hellhound.'

He'd have been taken more seriously if said hellhound had not taken that exact moment to relieve itself rather copiously over Spike's lap.

He fell back, cursing; the others fell over, laughing.

Clem recovered first and felt beholden to defend his best friend. 'Why'd'ya think that then, Spike?'

'Its eyes glowed red when I picked it up.' Spike came back to the table holding the puppy with one hand. What was a little accident between friends? At least one of them could pee.

Clem looked at the animal. 'Err... that was just a tail light from the window behind you, Spike.'

'No... I saw his eyes glow. And look, he's licking me fingers... he recognises his vampire master.'

'You've been eating barbeque flavour chips all night, Spike.'

Spike was unimpressed. He'd seen a flash of recognition from the puppy that he was someone important, someone it was the dog's role to guard with its life. Spike held him up to Clem. 'See, he's just like Thorn.'

Clem knew exactly what he was claiming; he'd been forced to watch at least ten of Spike's reruns of his beloved film. He couldn't see the resemblance, but he liked the way Spike's face softened when he looked at the puppy, and held his tongue.

'What ya gonna call him, Spike?'

Spike laughed. 'Fang, what else?'

Spike was slightly embarrassed to discover that his new vampire hellhound could fit snugly into his duster pocket, but he didn't betray this emotion to his poker buddies. He bid them a gracious farewell with an English gesture he knew they would, nevertheless, understand, ignored their hoots of laughter about the dog, and rode back to his crypt. He stood outside in the moonlight for a while smoking and giving Fang time to do hellhound business in the proper place. Then he held the dog up to the moon, feeling that some sort of ritual gesture was required. 'Behold... Fang - Vampire Hellhound!' Fang seemed suitably impressed for he gave a small yelp.

Pleased, Spike carried him inside and rummaged around for an old box for the dog to sleep in. He undressed and started to outline Fang's new duties. He knew that guarding him while he slept, warning him of all comers and assisting in the dismemberment and killing of unwanted humans was a little ambitious for a small puppy just yet, but when he'd grown.... When he'd been suitably trained.... As Spike climbed into bed he cast a few evil thoughts in the direction of Rupert bloody Giles. He pictured the watcher being torn apart by the hellhound, heard him cry out for mercy and for Spike to save him.… Spike then cursed long and hard when, utterly beyond his volition, he actually called Fang off and saved the git. He turned on his stomach and started the fantasy again.

He fell asleep before he could resolve it satisfactorily one way or the other. He did not get to sleep for long though, for the whimpering soon began. Spike thought he was a master of manipulation; he'd met his match.

It didn't matter that he pointed out to Fang that he was a hellhound and therefore, by definition, not a bleedin' nancy-boy lap dog. It didn't help; the pathetic whimpering continued. Then the shivers began. That was worse. Spike could actually hear Fang shivering - even though he seemed to be trying to do it quietly, and without any bother to anyone.

He ignored the whimpering, and he ignored the shivering. It was the silence that undid him. He peered cautiously over the edge of the bed to see if the puppy was still alive. At the glazed, sightless, lifeless look that greeted him, he sprung up and swept the puppy up in his arms, stuffed him under the sheet, and allowed him to snuggle into the crook of his neck.

'I'm fucking cold, and me heart don't beat. Sorry, mate. I'm not much of a bed companion.'

The puppy didn't seem to mind Spike's inadequacies and, having successfully and quite efficiently achieved his goal, he bravely stopped shivering and went to sleep. Spike smiled and tried to return to his fantasies of the watcher... the watcher being shredded... no other watcher fantasies… he wanted that understood by anyone who might be listening in to his thoughts… dismemberment, disembowelment, dis-any-other-fucking-thing that would hurt a lot. He'd show him who was a man… no, a demon… no, a man… fucking shut up and just start it, hey?

He wanted to get to the bit where he put his hand out in a sweeping gesture to set Fang onto the unsuspecting human, but however many times he tried out the scenario, it always became the exact moment when he found the watcher's hand being extended to capture his in a tight, reassuring hold. Spike didn't want anything from Rupert bloody Giles, and he especially didn't want reassurance. Rupert bloody Giles was a fucking git, and it served him right if Spike had not come over that evening to watch his TV again. Spike was glad he'd gone to the poker game and hoped the watcher was bored, sad, and lonely. He then thought that this was, again, too wussy for a proper demon and went back to trying to think of more painful things to do to him that began with 'dis'.

Engrossed in his thoughts, Spike suddenly realised he'd been petting the puppy, so stopped, horrified. Master vampires did not pet their hellhounds. He sighed unnecessarily but satisfactorily… they had an awful lot of work to do together.

The next day Spike did not wake until midday. He wouldn't have woken then if it hadn't have been for the puppy whining to go out and scratching on the floor. Pleased the dog was already so well trained, Spike wandered naked to the door and, keeping out of the direct sunshine, let him out. He waited… unconcernedly - completely unconcernedly - as the puppy got further and further away. He attempted to whistle him back, but had forgotten how. He shouted instead, but his voice faltered as he heard 'Fang, Fang' sounding ludicrous in the otherwise silent cemetery. Cursing, he dived back downstairs, grabbed a blanket, and performed an impressive hot extraction on the disobedient puppy.

Spike felt as sorry for the dog as he did for himself having to stay inside all day. He determined to make the most of their enforced confinement and started some training. He'd watched a hellhound being trained once. It was a rather… unforgettable experience. Angelus had taken them all to visit one of his less pleasant acquaintances - which was saying something, given Angelus was the Scourge of Europe - and Spike had watched as captive humans had been forced to torture the hellhound puppies until the very smell of approaching human would send them into a frenzy of killing lust. He'd enjoyed the part where the humans had to test the grown-up hellhounds' reactions, but the earlier parts of the training had not… impressed him much. He eyed the puppy balefully, illogically blaming it for his own state of demonic patheticness. Torturing Fang having been ruled out, Spike was rather at a loss how to proceed. He lit a cigarette and started to pace around the crypt. The dog followed him. Spike smiled and dodged out of site behind one of the tombs. Fang yapped in delight and tore around trying to find him. It was a good game for all of about three minutes; then they both got bored with it. Spike sighed and went down to get dressed. He was rummaging for something clean to put on when he heard a high-pitched squeal that sent a shiver up his spine. He turned to find the puppy writhing at the bottom of the steps where he'd clearly slipped and fallen. Spike cursed and picked him up gently - the puppy needed to be able to savage humans; Spike didn't want anything defective with his new demonic guardian… there was absolutely no other reason he was concerned.

He felt the puppy over carefully and, with his somewhat considerable experience of injuries, concluded that he'd broken a leg. He flung back his head in disbelief at his own bad luck and made the dog as comfortable as he could on the bed. He finished dressing and ran through his options. He thought the slayer or the littl' bit would be good bets for some money for an injured puppy, but he'd rather break both his own legs than admit to them what he needed it for. He wondered briefly if the witch would fix the leg for free, but remembered her self-imposed abstinence. He dismissed Harris as a useless fat lump, which only left the wanker. He wasn't about to admit to Rupert bloody Giles that he had a puppy… a vicious hellhound… and that he'd been so careless that the pu… hellhound had sustained a serious injury in his care in less than twelve hours. It was a dilemma. The puppy started to cry piteously. Spike stomped his feet at the fates. He did not want to have to do this. Shivering came into play again. He covered the puppy with a blanket, looked down for a brief moment to compose himself, and then turned to make his way to the magic shop.

He came up through a convenient sewer and dashed into the back of the shop under his blanket. Giles was cleaning some of the training equipment and looked up in annoyance when Spike entered.

'To what do I owe this thrill and delight, Spike?'

Spike hovered and hesitated, which was so unusual for him that Giles immediately became suspicious. 'What, Spike?'

'I need some money.'

'Ah… get a job then maybe?'

Spike gritted his teeth and persevered. 'As you so politely reminded me, wanker, I'm dead. I'd find it a bit difficult to pass an interview, don't you think?'

As Spike had no idea of Giles' thoughts about the previous night, he had merely meant this to explain why he needed to beg for money. He had not intended it to remind Giles of his rudeness, nor to remind him of him how he thought Spike had changed.

It did both though. Giles looked down, ashamed. He fiddled with a sword he was cleaning; he took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose wearily with one hand. Finally he looked up. 'How much?'

Spike was surprised and pleased. 'Thanks… err… I don't know.' He saw the watcher's bemused face and quickly added, 'Two hundred should cover it. For now.'

'Two hundred dollars! Spike! I was thinking more along the lines of ten!'

Spike squared his shoulders and looked Giles straight in the eye. 'A loan then. I'll pay you back. I promise.' This last was said with teeth so gritted that it hardly sounded like English at all, but Giles heard the stunning declaration nevertheless. He could not recall Spike ever using the word 'promise' before, nor could he recall him ever looking so sincere about anything.

'All right, Spike, a loan. I'll expect regular payments, and I'll decide on a rate of interest that is quite fair to both of us.'


'You don't expect to borrow money for free, do you, Spike?'

Spike turned away slightly. 'I don't expect anything from anyone, watcher. Interest it is.'

Giles had now passed beyond intrigued and had moved into extremely alarmed. He could not imagine what Spike needed money for so badly that he was willing to prostrate himself like this. He determined to monitor the vampire closely and discover his secret. He led the way to the till and took out the agreed sum. Before he handed it over to Spike, he noted Spike's anxious and distracted air. 'Spike. Does this have anything to do with Buffy? Can this hurt Buffy or any of her friends in anyway.'

Spike thought briefly of Fang ripping guts out when he was better and lied. 'No.'

Giles heard the lie and committed himself to the discovery of Spike's latest, devious plan. He handed Spike the money, telling himself that it was better the enemy you know…

Spike took the bundle without any further thanks and left in an obvious hurry.

Spike had never been to a vet before, not for himself, and certainly not for a pet… hellhound. He quite enjoyed the experience. He liked sitting in the waiting room watching the dogs terrorising the cats. Fang, he was pleased to see, ignored everyone and kept a low profile as befitted a hellhound caught in a compromising situation. It was only a small break, and a light cast was applied. With x-rays and painkillers there was little left over from the borrowed money. Little could go a long way in cheep booze, and Spike treated himself to a large bottle of something mind numbing, stripped, and snuggled in with his drugged-up puppy for a drink-induced sleep. In a few hours they were both comatose on the bed… so deeply asleep in fact that the hellhound failed miserably in his duty to guard his sleeping master, and Spike did not sense the presence of a human in his crypt.

Giles had never visited the lower regions of Spike's lair. There was something profoundly disturbing and slightly Freudian in his mind about any lower region of Spike's being explored. This was an emergency however. He went cautiously down the stairs with a stake tucked reassuringly into the back of his waistband. He saw the pale feet first as he rounded the corner. He saw pale legs. He saw all the pale flesh spread out on the bed; he saw the muscles perfectly formed; he saw a relaxed, human expression on the face, and he acknowledged the beauty he saw there. Lastly, he saw the small grey ball of fur with the obviously new red cast that Spike had possessively tucked under his arm. Giles took a deep, thoughtful breath. He looked down at his feet for a while then looked back up at the beautiful vampire and knew that he had reached another crossroad in his long and interesting life. Being seduced by the dark arts had been his first: relinquishing them the second. Buffy being called was a sharp right hand bend; Jenny a soft curve he had tried to explore - attraction for a female not something he had ever thought to want - Angelus had set him back on his habitual straight and lonely road, and now this. Now a slim, naked vampire on a bed, who had proved himself to be so much more than the apparent sum of his dead parts, was standing firmly in his path.

He had chained Spike in his bathtub for weeks. He'd fought alongside him for over a year, but he had never once seen past what he had taken to be nothing more than a slick veneer. After all, he could have held a conversation with any vampire equally well: Darla or Harmony - well, all right, possibly not a long conversation there or one with any actual thought involved - either would have appeared just as rational and attractive for a short time. Veneer, however; it was all façade and illusion, and Giles had assumed that Spike was just that, too. No feelings: couldn't be hurt: treat him like a dead thing - worse, encourage the teenagers to deride and belittle him. 'Hey, the day's got a 'y' in it - must be a bait Spike day!' Giles wondered what Spike - from his perspective of one hundred and thirty years - felt about being tormented by American teenagers. Giles felt old compared to them (old and wise); what must this ancient being feel?

Giles sat down alongside the unconscious figure and laid a hand extremely cautiously on one cool flank. He wanted to get to know Spike, and he wanted to know what he knew; know what he felt, and what he thought.

He needed a new focus and a new study. He decided that Spike was going to be it. He had a perfect opportunity now, for Spike owed him.

Giles suddenly withdrew his hand from Spike's thigh, as long-repressed desires peeked out of their locked trunk at the contemplation of the ways that Spike could pay his debt. He slammed the lid firmly closed on all thoughts of paying in kind and, somewhat disturbed, quietly left the crypt.

Spike woke some hours later to the instant realisation that something had been in his lair as he slept. A quiet contemplation of the subtle shifts in scents told him that it had been the watcher, apparently watching him naked on the bed. Spike was intrigued - for all of one second - then he became angry… furious… he was sick of the double standards they all applied to him. If he walked in unannounced and stood watching them sleep, they'd probably stake him, but he was fair game anytime they felt like it. Spike refused to acknowledge the annoying thought that his anger at Rupert bloody Giles was a convenient way of deflecting anger at himself for being caught cuddling a puppy. Spike dressed and took the offending dog out for a few minutes while he had a cigarette then, leaving Fang to practice getting around with his fetching new cast, Spike made his way purposefully towards the magic shop. Rupert bloody Giles was not there, he was having a 'night off', so Spike made his way to the apartment. He'd half sworn never to come back here again after his previous treatment, but this was different. He had a metaphorical bone all ready to be picked over with the watcher - not as good as picking over his dead bones, but chipped beggars couldn't be choosers… and he must remember to stop and get Fang a bone from the butcher… hellhound training and all that.

Giles opened the door and immediately invited Spike in, which, in its turn, immediately put Spike on his guard. 'I wondered if you might show up again.'

Giles went to his desk and casually covered over one or two papers lying there.

'Why? Cus this is open house day or summit? Let's all go bleedin' visit each other… unannounced and unwelcome?'

Giles knew exactly what Spike was complaining about, but totally deflected his wrath by saying calmly, 'You're not unwelcome, Spike.'

Spike took a step back, and narrowed his eyes suspiciously. He resisted the almost overwhelming temptation to turn around and see what big, ugly nasties the watcher had in store for him - he could see no other reason why his presence would be welcome - and resolutely faced him down instead. 'Uh huh.' It was lame; he knew it, but speech seemed to have temporarily departed for cooler climes.

'Yes, in fact.…' Giles went into the kitchen and poured them both a large drink. 'I wanted to apologise for the other night. It's why I came over… rather difficult to knock at a crypt, so I just went in. Sorry.'

Spike perched disbelievingly on the arm of the couch.

'Two apologies, watcher. You have a bleedin' epiphany, mate? Or just going through the menopause maybe?'

Giles ignored the jibe and, with raised eyebrows, offered Spike the drink. He smiled a small, evil smile. 'I also wanted to discuss the terms of your repayment schedule.'

'Oh, yeah, fucking screw a poor man, why don't you?' Spike's expression subtly changed. 'So, what did you think?'

For one brief moment, Giles thought that Spike was asking what he thought of his naked body draped on the bed. He opened his mouth, hesitated for the first time that evening, but saw from Spike's look that he'd mistaken what the vampire had meant. Worse, he saw that Spike knew he'd thought first about those naked limbs, and that Spike was not disturbed by this realisation. He actually saw Spike filing the knowledge away with an intrigued look.

Giles turned away to gain some recovery space then turned back and realised, with a trickle of anticipation down his spine, that some balance had fundamentally changed between them. He couldn't have said how, but he knew that they were both aware of it. Spike didn't look quite so cocky now, as if he, too, was puzzled by the shift in their relationship.

Spike recovered first though and with a friendly, amused smile, quietly repeated his question. 'So, what did you think?'

'I think he'll make a sweet pet for you, Spike.'

Spike's eyes flew open in outrage, and he stood up angrily, poking Giles in the chest as he spoke. 'It is not a pet. It is a vampire hellhound… get that straight, now!'

Giles caught his hand and stilled it. 'Ah, my mistake then, Spike. Now I think on it, I can see that it was a hellhound. Yes, of course, must have been the size and general fluffiness that confused me.'

Spike gave a small grin, knowing he'd been rumbled. 'Yeah, well, give 'im a few months and the taste of human blood. He's a work in progress.' Spike noted, with amusement, that his hand was still held by Giles and couldn't resist a tiny jibe. 'Surprised you saw him at all… given you were looking at something else.'

Giles didn't fluster at this as Spike had expected him to. He tipped his head on one side and said calmly, 'It was rather difficult not to see you, Spike. You were quite blatant. And no harm ever came of looking.'

Only now did Spike ease his hand out of the watcher's. Giles looked down, surprised, as if he had genuinely not noticed he was holding it still.

'Funny that, watcher, I'd have thought looking was always the first stage. I always find looking sets me to wanting and wanting to needing and needing to…'

'…to getting your behind royally kicked on a regular basis?'

Spike laughed and ruefully shook his head. 'Yeah, that it does.' He suddenly looked Giles directly in the eye. 'Maybe I've been looking in the wrong direction then.'

Giles held his look and saw, once more, a crossroads in front of him. He was about to reply when Spike cheerfully spun on his heel and said, 'Oh, I've gotta get me film - left it here the other night.'

Giles now suspected that he was being played. Everything Spike did or said seemed carefully calculated to cause a reaction of some sort in a complex game of his own devising. Behind Spike's back, Giles grinned. He, too, was a master of strategy, and he hadn't had a worthy opponent for years.

'I err… bought you some things, Spike.'

Spike turned, surprised. He'd expected his ambiguous comment and sudden changing of the subject to throw the watcher. He knew their relationship had subtlety shifted since his arrival, but he thought himself an expert on the nuances of human reaction, and felt confident he could play the game to whatever interesting conclusion it led. Giles' total immunity to his tactics rather threw him.

Spike looked over to the counter where Giles was indicating a small stack of tins. He wandered over and picked one up. 'Chummy - For the Healthy, Happy Puppy'.

'Do hellhounds eat dog food, Spike? You seemed a little out of supplies when I visited.'

With his back to Giles, Spike grinned, but by the time he'd turned around he had a scornful expression on his face. 'I can fucking feed me own dog… hound, mate.'

'Fine, I'll return them then.'

Spike hesitated, then grinned openly and shrugged. 'Sure… be a while 'for he can digest human meat… Chummy'll do 'til then.'

Giles smiled, too, and indicated the bottle. 'Another?'

Spike laughed. 'You gonna get drunk and insult me again?'

'I don't need to be drunk to do that, Spike. You are very insultable when I'm sober.'

'Yeah, I'd noticed.'

Giles refilled his glass. 'So, let's discuss repayment terms.'

'Oh, bloody hell, what'd'ya want, watcher? Free bloody patrolling for a week? Vampires staked - ten dollars off the loan a vamp?'

'No, I was thinking along the lines of more… personal services.'

'Eh?' Spike actually looked up nervously, and Giles reigned in his gleeful laugh. Spike wasn't the only one who could step up the pressure and disconcert his prey… and had he just called Spike prey?

'I've been doing a collection of portraits of people here in Sunnydale. I've done most of the gang… here, look.' Giles uncovered the papers he had hidden earlier. Spike came nearer hesitantly and saw a series of charcoal sketches, mainly of Buffy and Willow, but also some of Xander and Dawn, and one of Angel. Spike picked that one up and studied it closely. Like all the others, it was excellent. It seemed to capture the essential demonic nature of the subject whilst also showing the newer, overlaying soul.

'It's good.'

'Thank you. That one was done from memory.'

'So… you want what?'

'I want you to pose for me.'

'Uh huh. Now you know that's not gonna bloody happen.'

'Fine. Only it seemed an easy way for you to work off your debt - a few sessions, you could watch TV while I sketched - but I fully understand. Well, it had better be shelf stacking at the shop then.' Giles turned away with his most unconcerned look. He left Spike looking at the pictures.

'How would I have to pose? I'm not taking anything off.'

'I should jolly well think not! No, I'd want to capture the essential you… duster and docs, I was thinking.'

'The essential me, hey?' Spike laughed. 'I didn't know there was one of those. Okay then, if I can keep all me threads on, I'll do it.'

'Good. We'll start tomorrow evening. Bring over some more films if you want. It does take a while, and I don't want you to get bored and fidget.'

'I'll be still as the dead.'

Spike started to leave. Giles' quiet voice made him stop and turn. 'You can bring the dog, too, if you want, Spike. I might do one of you both. Vampire master with his hellhound… what do you say?' Spike screwed up his eyes and pursed his lips, trying to imagine the picture. Called like this on his pretence, he could not make Fang anything more in his mind than a small fluffy puppy with a bad leg. Giles smiled inwardly at Spike's obvious dilemma, but kept his face utterly passive.

Suddenly Spike brightened. 'Oh! He's a bit small to sit still… but I'll bring him over… he needs to start his human aversion training, and he won't meet any stuck in me crypt.'

'Quite. Good thinking, Spike.'

Spike sighed in relief that he would not go into immortality on canvas cuddling a puppy, and stomped out, relieved his Big Bad persona was still in tact.

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