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Eternity's Bright Promise - 1

Boredom squatted on them, making them all tetchy and restless - wanting to do something, unable to settle on anything. Even Giles, normally self-contained and placid, was irritable and ready to snap if anyone could be bothered to annoy him. It was the heat, really. A blistering, Sunnydale, over-hot day had driven them all inside to wait for the cooler evening. The night had arrived, but then they realised their day had only been a prelude for the night. It was so hot their clothes stuck to them even though, still and listless, they didn't move. Only Spike seemed comfortable. He stretched out on the ladder of the magic shop with an amused and laconic expression at the humans' discomfort. Ostensibly reading, Giles watched him covertly out of the corner of one eye. He blamed this watching on his discomfort and boredom. Spike would not normally have occupied one cell of Giles' rather extensive brain. Now he began to think of nothing else. The vampire looked so… damned superior and cool. It was extremely annoying thinking this, and Giles enjoyed letting it annoy him. Spike's composure didn't slip until later that night. Dawn had gone home; Willow and Tara had gone to do some… "research"; and Buffy was patrolling. Only Giles, Xander, Anya, and Spike were left.

All was well until Xander, reaching for a book, touched Anya's hand. Anya felt an orgasm coming on so responded to this accidental touch by seizing Xan's face, straddling his lap and proceeding to check his tonsils with her tongue. Giles looked mildly amused, carried on with his research and watched the annoying vampire until, with a shiver of interest, he saw that Spike was no longer so amused, ironic, cool, and bloody irritating: he was fuming, tense and … was that envious?

Giles didn't deny that Spike had emotions: dogs had emotions. Hell, even slugs, he allowed, might have the occasional flicker of emotion…. "Oh, fuck! Bird!" That Spike could look wistful and envious, and that these odd emotions should cross his face watching the teenagers on their pre-shag ritual snog, intrigued Giles.

This was William the Bloody… this was Spike… his sexual prowess was … was … not much heard about since he'd arrived on a certain Hellmouth with the love of his unlife… Drusilla. Giles leant back in his chair, sucking thoughtfully on his pencil. What had happened? Spike and Drusilla… then Spike… alone.

Chipped and alone… something nagged at his mind.

The memory was extremely painful and made him groan a little.

The watching was suddenly reciprocated.

He felt cool blue eyes on him, although he was not looking now in that direction, and still the painful, unbidden thoughts washed over him, too fast for any one in particular to stick, until a particularly unpleasant surge left some silt behind in a back-eddy of his mind.

"Spike can't get it u-up. Spike can't get it u-up."

The lilting, evil, singsong voice tormented him as its possessor broke him with large Irish hands.

"Spike can't get it u-up."

Angelus had crooned that refrain repeatedly as he had enjoyed his first human victim in over ninety years and, wheeled in to watch and to listen, Spike had… Giles looked up suddenly and caught Spike's intense stare; Spike had cried at his impotence - in front of a human. Angelus had tortured them both in different ways, but in his pain, Giles had not registered or remembered the other's suffering.

He looked down quickly and resumed the non-reading of his book. Xander and Anya were becoming too intense to remain in public, but before they could leave, Spike did. He flung himself off the stairs and stormed out, slamming the door almost off its hinges as he went. The lovers departed, too, and Giles was left blissfully alone with his new and intriguing thoughts.

What had happened to Spike when he had recovered the use of his legs? He'd gone; he'd come back… alone… and he'd been alone ever since. Giles thought there might have been a brief liaison with some friend of Cordelia's, but he remembered that petering out… when? He got up; he wanted to go home and consult his diaries.

He didn't question why he had this sudden desire to find out about Spike's love life - "Cup of tea, cup of tea, nearly had a shag…."

How many times had he heard that recently? Oh, how delicious life was sometimes. Just when it all seemed so boring he was even contemplating returning to England - and that in Giles' mind was his "this is too boring to now continue with" barometer - here was a delicious twist: an intriguing curve; a little slant in life's ironies. Giles had the distinct impression now that Spike's jibes at his woeful love life had a much darker provenance than making sport of a human's loneliness. As he walked through the blistering Sunnydale night, he began to allow the uplifting and suitably ironic thought that Spike might be impotent in more than just his feeding habits.

He stopped on his way home to treat himself to some muffins for breakfast. He started to pick at the hot, chocolaty cakes as he walked along, and almost choked when an amused voice slithered over him.

'You'll get even fatter than you already are, doing that.'

Normally, Giles would have felt a frisson of fear at Spike's voice: not from the thought he could be hurt but from the fear that never leaves you that the school bully might finally find the one crack in your defences which will split you open so wide you can't reform as you once were. Now, however, a soft Irish chant crept into his head as he replied, 'Hello, Spike. So bored you have to lurk outside food-you-can't-eat shops?'

Spike shrugged off the wall he was leaning on smoking; chucked his cigarette into an open top car and tagged along beside Giles.

'I can eat…. So give us one, hey?'

'Buy your own, Spike. I would think you'd have to buy lots of things these days that you used to get for free.'

'Uh huh, what's that cryptic shit supposed to mean? And what's with the staring at me for a bleedin' hour solid back there? You started to fancy me or something?'

Thinking his words to be nothing more than his usual, relatively meaningless, passing-the-time-until-eternity-lives-up-to-its-promise nonsense, Spike was surprised, and somewhat disconcerted, when Giles appeared totally unruffled.

'I'd be wasting my time a little then, Spike, wouldn't I? Probably get more sexual thrill from eating these tomorrow with a nice cup of tea.' Lifting his bag of muffins to show Spike visibly what he suspected to be the extent of his libido, Giles opened his front door, bade the vampire a cheeky goodnight, and shut it in his face.

Spike stood there; his jaw almost dropped open, so he clamped it shut tight. He fished urgently for his cigarettes and lit one, but drew in a little too rapidly. Coughing slightly didn't help his image at all, and afraid the human would hear, he spun on his heel and left.

He strode purposefully and angrily through the night, unaware of the heat or the disbelieving stares he got dressed in his full-length leather coat, and slammed furiously into his crypt. He always particularly enjoyed slamming his door: it made an echoing noise that usually suited his mood.

How dare he - how dare that git stare at him all night? That's what he did! He sat nonchalantly, disconcerting people. He didn't have much… but he thought he had the copyright on irritating, ironic nonchalance. That the old, bumbling, mumbling, couldn't-even-shag-a-Sheltie human had just out-done him drove him to an impotent fury. He needed to relieve that fury by feeding; unravelling in the exertion of the hunt, immersing his anger in blood, drowning the sound of his passion in the screaming, and soothing his demon with someone else's pain.

He stripped off angrily and stretched in the dark warmth of his crypt. He desperately needed the physicality of his old life: he missed it unbelievably - the coming home bloodied, curling up with his family, snuffling and licking, penetrating and playing.

What had become of the bright promise of his eternity?

Where was the endless flowing red, the crimson of Drusilla's dresses? Where was the dark blood endlessly pouring? Where were Angelus' red passions? All gone: it was all gone. All was impotence, darkness, cold, and he was always alone.

A battle began to rage within him. Half of him wanted to give into the pain all alone: the other half wanted someone else to share it with. He dressed and flung out of his crypt, the second option drawing him with its seductive siren call.

Giles did not examine too closely why he found Spike's plight so amusing. He hummed to himself happily all evening and pottered. Occasionally, he sniggered and replayed the moment when he'd shut the door in Spike's face. Oh, that expression! One more time - he tipped his head back, chuckled, and replayed the scene again - delicious.

It was still insufferably hot, and he eyed the air-conditioner warily, refusing to succumb to the weakness. When it was hot, you undid your top button, loosened your tie and, if casual dress was allowed, rolled up your sleeves. Forty years of ingrained habits were the only things keeping him sane sometimes.

Sometimes, even forty years were not enough. He uncharacteristically didn't put on pyjamas as he readied for bed, but slid naked under one cool cotton sheet. He spread-eagled, smiled, forced himself to wait to add to the deliciousness of the moment… and then thought about it again. Spike, impotent - it was just too good to be true. Giles chuckled and wriggled slightly to a new, cool spot - and that's when he made a huge, catastrophic error. He idly thought how cool Spike would feel lying alongside him.

One thought - it was just one idle thought, but the thought implanted and could not be … unthought… however hard he tried. No good insisting that he not think about it; Spike was now there beside him, cool, pale, and silent. To be fair, Spike was not doing anything, but this only served to intrigue Giles more. Why had he conjured up Spike at all, let alone a Spike that was silent? Giles knew that rationalising everything was his worst fault; spontaneity not his most obvious trait; so why, just when he desperately needed to rationalise this silent Spike manifestation, had this critical ability deserted him? Fortunately, he didn't want to think it through; he didn't want to analyse it; he wanted to… a slight groan escaped him as he fondled his swelling penis. This was unexpected… unexpected but welcome. He closed his eyes the better to enjoy the brief swift orgasm and ejaculation, but like an after-image burnt onto his retina, Spike's pale form followed him into his personal darkness.

He was not coming to thoughts of Spike. He was not shuddering in orgasm over Spike's naked body. Rationalisation aside, that was just bloody ridiculous. Furious, he got up to take a shower. When he returned to bed, he willed himself to sleep, but he could have cursed when he woke to the realisation that he'd slept to one side of the bed all night, the other side being unrumpled, cool and … empty.

Spike had not slept at all: he'd hunted all night, taking his fury and impotence out on the demon population of Sunnydale. He was tired and scratchy when the sun came up, still not wanting to sleep, but exhausted nonetheless. He had done some shocking things - uncharacteristically violent, even for him - and he wondered when the news would reach the do-gooders.

They wanted the doggy to bite but not enjoy the crunch.

He was losing it, and he knew it.

He wanted to be there when the news filtered through so he made his way to the shop just as the demon was opening up. She was the only one he could stand, so he accepted the offered drink while she made ready for the day. The watcher arrived. Spike went into the training room to get away from his watchful eyes and disconcerting comments. He had no need to worry: Giles took one look at his retreating back and made himself busy in the basement, checking stocks…. Rationalisation and avoidance were excellent English traits. Only Buffy's entrance brought them together as she shouted for both of them, and hands on hips, eyes fixed intently on Spike, she told Giles of the demon killings overnight.

Spike did not let one flicker of guilt, interest, or knowledge cross his face, but stared back at her frankly. Eventually, she shrugged and turned to Giles to complete her story. Spike sat on the ladder and lit a cigarette.

Buffy sat at the table, waiting for the others to arrive. She watched Giles for a while, and then said, 'What's up?'

Giles could hardly reply, "I'm trying not to look at Spike," so he only said, with commendable English reserve, 'Oh… nothing. Suffice to say, it's going to be even hotter today, and I didn't sleep well.'

She shrugged her agreement, not hearing the underlying tension in his voice. Spike heard it though. He leant back against the rail, watching Giles with interest through a pall of smoke. He pulled his coat closer around his cold body and almost laughed when both humans winced.

It was an ordinary day. It was hot. It got hotter… very hot by the time the night fell… and still nothing happened… a boring day… tempers rose and fell, flared and subdued…. They parted gratefully, each to their own nighttime activities.

Giles went to an art house and watched a French film. He sank gratefully into the air-conditioned luxury and weakened in the resolution not to use, deciding to turn it on when he got home: cool bodies would not then be needed or thought about.

That thought - another error; he cursed softly. His thoughts unravelled, and the unravelling took them straight back to Spike. He was well aware Spike spoke fluent French and wondered what he would think of the film; whether he had seen it? Would he be interested? What would he say? Spike now shifted seamlessly, subtly, and seductively from lying alongside him, keeping him cool and arousing him, to going to the pictures with him, and keeping him company - so much more dangerous a seduction for an educated man.

He left at a suitable interval and went home angrily. Spike followed him, accompanying him into the house. Good-Company-Spike was much more difficult to shake off than Cool-Spike had been, so Giles put on some music and poured himself a glass of red wine. That was worse: the music and wine mocked him in his loneliness, and Spike swelled in his mind to fill the gap. So much in common under the exterior: given the opportunity, how they could talk. Somewhere under that… vampire exterior… Spike was a.… Giles slammed down his glass, spilling the wine and snapping the stem. What was he thinking? Spike was a vampire, and did not have social evenings with humans over music and fine wine.

Spike sipped his drink and turned on the music: ludicrous, 1950's rock and roll music jingled out of the jukebox. He looked around the demon bar and sucked in the fear, rolled it around his lungs, and blew it slowly out with the smoke of his cigarette. 'Come on, fuckers. Decide! Whose gonna get gutted first? Cus I ain't got all night like and… I've all of you to do!'

Some fled to the exits but found them barred from the outside. Some attacked in a kind of desperate defence. Spike took those first, but made it quick so he could concentrate on the stragglers and the would-be escapees, making their deaths long, slow and torturous but… oh, so inventive. He even impressed himself and surveyed his handiwork with detached fascination. It was all red at last; it was all power; it was… utterly passionless, and he left with the same gaping maw he'd had before the killing.

Buffy made no pretence of accusing Spike the next day. She stormed into the shop and slapped him a vicious backhander before even speaking. Giles came over, concerned, and laid a hand on her arm. Again, without looking at him, she said angrily, 'Whole bar of demons slaughtered last night.'

Giles looked puzzled. 'And that's good, yes?'

Buffy continued to stare at Spike, her arms folded. 'They'd been tortured for hours, and then strung up like trophies. Giles - it was obscene.'

'Ah. And you're looking at Spike because…?'

Spike stared back at them for a moment, and then examined his nails, unconcerned. 'Dead, ain't they?'

Giles looked thoughtfully at the vampire.

This was not good.

This was bad.

This was very bad.

Pent up aggression spilling out, fury uncontrolled - what had started as an amusing whimsy, and become a joke on him, had now become deadly serious for them all.

Buffy pushed past Spike to go to the training room, paused, hit him once more, and then stormed furiously off. Spike gritted his teeth for a moment, made to sit back down, but suddenly picked up a chair and hurled it to the ground, smashing it into fragments. He stormed off silently.

Giles watched him go with increasing concern. That evening, he went round to Buffy's house. She was getting ready to patrol. He hesitated for a moment then walked with her for a while. Never one to procrastinate, Buffy said pointedly, ''Fess, Giles. What's the prob?'

'Spike. Spike seems to be the problem. I don't think you should patrol with him tonight.'

'Relax. I can handle Spike. 'Sides, I've got a biggie on tonight, and I need him. Can't say I liked the tactics, but he was right - much as I hate to admit this - they are dead.'

Giles nodded. He had no real basis for his concern, just a nagging feeling. 'Be careful?'

Buffy smiled. 'Always am. Careful-Girl here. See ya!'

She swung off towards the cemetery to collect Spike. Giles returned home, worried, but trying not to be.

He did an hour or so more research. He listened to some more music. He continued to get more and more worried and, eventually, grabbed a couple of trusted weapons and went to the cemetery himself.

He heard the sounds of a fight and began to run, surprised the vampires were actually located so close. He rounded the corner of a mausoleum and skidded to a shocked halt. Buffy was beating down on Spike - viciously and without mercy. Unable to defend himself, Spike scrambled away and eventually tried to run. She brought him down in a flying tackle and turned punches into furious kicks.

Giles waded in, effectively preventing Buffy's attack by the simple expedient of standing between them. Buffy glared at him. Spike stood up, trying to find his dignity as if it had fallen among the gravestones. 'He nearly got me killed!'

Her words sent a chill through the watcher.

'Didn't.' Giles turned incredulously to Spike at this childish retort, hesitated, then punched the vampire himself, wincing as his hand connected with the preternatural nose.

Spike glared at him, then held both hands over his nose as it began to bleed. 'Fuck you both.' He started to storm off, but Buffy grabbed his arm and twisted it up behind his back.

'Tell him, Spike. Tell him what you did.'

Spike gritted his teeth and rose to the very tips of his toes to take some of the pressure off his shoulder joint. 'I killed a load of hairy-arsed demons for you and contributed to your fucking mission to save the world.'

Buffy made the noise of a buzzer. 'Wrong answer!' She dislocated his shoulder. Spike howled.

Giles winced. 'Buffy…'

'Tell him, Spike!'

'I told you there'd only be half a dozen of 'em…. I lied, okay? Bleedin' hell, weren't that much out.'

Buffy's eyes widened, and she dropped him to the ground. 'Not that much out? Not that much out… more than twenty, Giles. There were more than twenty vampires, partying, and he… that cretin there, lead me right to them.'

'Dead, ain't they?'

'Change the record, Spike.' She kicked him for good measure and stomped off.

Spike put his forehead to the ground for a moment, then sat back on his heels and began to attempt the relocation of his shoulder. He was surprised when he felt a pair of hands, holding the forearm. He looked questioningly at Giles, but then gave him a grateful nod and suddenly jerked back with a small gasp of pain.

Giles pulled him to his feet, looked at him with a small shake of his head, and punched him once more on the nose. He spun on his heel and left the vampire, bleeding in the cemetery.

Giles did not go directly home. He sat for a while on a bench at the edge of the cemetery, thinking. He had not appreciated before the amount of aggression Spike had released through sex and feeding. Unable now to do either, he was a powder keg, waiting for the right spark.

Far from enjoying Spike's condition, Giles now worried that he ought to attempt to alleviate it. If Spike continued to be a danger to Buffy, then chip or no chip, he might have to be….

… Giles did not allow himself to ponder why he found the thought of staking Spike disturbing: it just was.

The next morning, he got to the shop early and spent an hour or so searching for references to vampire physiology.

He got a stack of books prepared and sat down with a cup of tea, ready to start his favourite activity: research.

He felt a presence in the shop and turned to find Spike, watching him warily from the direction of the basement.

'Am I welcome, or you gonna smack me nose again?'

Giles frowned at him. 'You're pushing your luck, Spike, coming here. But seeing you are….' He turned back to his books. Spike pursed his lips for a moment, stabbed his toe into a small chip in one floor tile, then pulled a chair somewhat away from the table, and sat quietly down.

Giles sensed Spike was not on his usual form, but after a few minutes, the vampire shrugged as if to say, "fuck this", and lit a cigarette, putting his feet up on the table.

He watched the human; he chain-smoked; he tipped his chair back and swung it on two legs. His gaze never faltered, and it disconcerted Giles and made him hotter than ever. He let Giles read through a few books; he watched him making some notes; he was silent and thoughtful until Giles paused to polish his glasses.


Giles didn't look up. 'Just the usual. Nothing interesting.'

'Uh huh.'

It got quiet in the shop once more. Whether satisfied by Giles' response, or merely not bothered enough to enquire further, Spike contented himself by seeing how far he could tip his chair back before it began to lose its balance, then snatching it back at the last moment. Attempting to be engrossed in the books, Giles found this intensely irritating, and was about to tell the vampire so, when he was foiled by a soft question. 'Why the sleeplessness then, mate?'

Giles looked up, disconcerted by the off-the-wall comment, but covered by removing his glasses once more and polishing them furiously. 'Just the heat….' He thought about the empty shop and knew he would not have a better opportunity. 'And… well, to be truthful? I was a little concerned about you.'

Giles lied effectively only by timescale: the first night, sleeplessness had been from arousal; the second, his need for companionship; only now was he concerned… but Giles felt Spike would not unravel the subtle lie.

The vampire smiled at this reply but with very little humour. 'I'm touched.' He dropped his chair noisily to the floor. 'And you're worried… because?'

'Well, I'm concerned that the chip may be causing… what's the best way to put this? Emotional problems.' Giles saw Spike's face, debated stopping, but instead shot out, 'Not helped of course by your other physical difficulties.'

Spike had begun to light another cigarette, but he put it back into the packet very carefully.

'I think you should shut up now, Watcher.'

'Normally, I would Spike. I've spent the last four years of our acquaintance, doing anything else but thinking about you… believe me! But your problems are beginning to endanger Buffy, and that is my concern. It's very much my concern.'

'My problems?'

'Yes. Inhibited, prevented from feeding and being true to your demonic heritage, and of course… impotent, you…'

Giles knew Spike could move fast: he'd witnessed it a hundred times. He'd never been on the receiving end of one of his blurs of violence. He was flattened against the shelf with a hand around his throat before he could take a breath after speaking.

Spike held the throat like you would hold a baby - delicately, giving no pain… but that's where the resemblance ended. The threat was there: it was implicit in his expression.

Giles stayed calm and looked into the deeply troubled blue eyes. 'You need help, Spike.'

'I need nothing, Watcher, 'cept this bloody chip out. You gonna do that for me?'

'No. I'm not. Frankly, from my point of view, it's the best thing that's ever happened to you…. I was referring to your… impotence.'

'If I could punch through your belly and out the other side now, I would.'

Giles nodded thoughtfully, or as well as he could with a vampire threatening his windpipe. 'If I were in your position, and you'd just said that to me, I think I'd feel much the same. I don't blame you.'

Spike seemed to recall where he was and what he was doing; Giles saw the vampire recoil suddenly, as if he had only then remembered that he was unable to carry through on any threat. He released his hold and stepped back, then sat rather defeated at the table, picking up a pencil and drumming it on the arm of his chair in an agitated manner.

'I don't know what you're talking 'bout.'

'I was there, remember Spike? I didn't remember about you: I think I'd repressed it somewhat. Jenny and then….' He shuddered as he said the name. 'Angelus. But you saw me… well - without putting too fine a point on it - having things done to me I wish I could forget… and you've never mentioned it. I'm grateful for that; I've never said it, but thank you.'

Spike looked up, uncomfortable at the frankness of this conversation. ''S okay. Ain't the sort of thing you discuss with those who ain't experienced it like - torture and… you know… what else 'e did to you.'

'But I've been so engrossed remembering what happened to me, I genuinely - until yesterday - forgot about you. To be honest, I don't think I cared too much. Before.'

Spike didn't respond.

Giles sat alongside him. 'Nothing to say?'

Spike gave a small smile. 'I was debating between uh huh, ah, oh, and fuck.'

Giles twitched his lips. 'Go with fuck, Spike - it's so you.'

Spike twitched up his lip fractionally - which an acute observer might have allowed to be a smile - and seemed to relax a little. Giles wandered over behind the till to give him some personal space.

After what seemed like an age, Spike said, 'So, if you ain't gonna help with this chip, what are you gonna do like?'

Giles took a deep breath. 'I thought I might take you to a doctor.'

Spike looked at him incredulously. 'A doctor.'

'One that specialises in vampire physiology, yes.'

Spike laughed. 'You're taking the piss, mate. Ain't such a thing. Why the fuck would anyone want to fix up vampires?'

Giles paused, gauged his audience, then said frankly, 'They aren't in it to… fix them up.'

Spike pursed his lips for a moment then twitched up one eyebrow. 'You've got some weird friends, Watcher.'

Giles came over. 'Make no mistake, Spike, they are no friends of mine. I abhor them and their experiments, but what they've learnt through… unsavoury interest in vampires, may help us… err… you, now.'

'So, he's gonna… what?'

'I don't know.' Giles sat down and examined a book unnecessarily in an embarrassed manner. 'I won't help with your chip, but the other matter… well… if you can…. God, how embarrassing.'

' "Shag" the word you're looking for?'

'Yes. If you could… do that… then you could release some of that pent-up aggression, and I could trust you to help Buffy once more.'

'Shag twenty not slot 'em then?' Giles looked up, surprised by the ironic, dry tone.

'You seem to find this oddly amusing.'

Spike looked at him and blinked incredibly slowly. 'No, not really.' He stood up and strode back towards the basement.

Giles said quietly to the retreating back, 'Tonight. My place. About ten.'

Spike paused, nodded without turning around, and continued on his way.

Giles glanced down at the small card he held in his hand and made a telephone call.

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