All of BTVS is owned by Joss. Please don't sue. Denotes thoughts
"Well maybe we should take a break," Riley said through clenched teeth.
"You know, that's the first intelligent thing I've heard you say all day!" Buffy snapped. She threw her hands up in the air as she added, "I was just thinking that this is SO OVER!"
"God, you are such a head case!" Riley bellowed. Buffy cocked her hand back to slap him, barely able to stop herself in time.
"Leave, Riley. I wouldn't want to hurt you accidentally," she warned, her body trembling with effort as she fought for self-control.
Riley laughed derisively. "We've sparred –"
"And I always held back!"
"Yeah, that's something you're an expert in," he muttered under his breath. Buffy screamed in pure frustration and punched the wall – about an inch to the left of his head.
"Jee-ZUS!" he cried, scrambling outside the arc of her reach.
"Do you know why I hold back, Riley?" she asked in a surprisingly calm voice. He shook his head warily as he watched her for signs of sudden movement.
"You aren't worth the effort," she answered in a cold clip. "You aren't my future. My happily-ever-after is someone else… and now that you've figured it out, you want to blame me for your heart ache." She took a step forward, her stony features betraying no emotions. "I never offered or promised my heart – or my life." She leaned into his personal space, their noses centimeters apart. "Deal."
She stalked out of her dorm room to get as far away as possible, the murderous look on her face clearing her path for her effortlessly.
Spike leaned into his elbow as he held the dirty glass level, eyeing the dregs of his drink with a despondent frown.
The bleached-blonde vampire lifted his head to see who'd sat on the barstool to his left. He sniffed and shook his head as the dense musk of herbs, incense and cheap cologne invaded his nostrils.
"Where did you get it?" the stranger asked conversationally.
"Sod off, mate. Not in the mood," Spike replied miserably.
"Never heard of the place," the oily voice quipped. "Is it local?"
Spike snarled as he shook into Game Face and bared his fangs at the annoying stranger.
"I said: Sod. Off." Spike ran his tongue over his left canine suggestively. "Unless you'd like to join me as a tasty snack."
The sorcerer leaned in and flashed a lecherous smile before whispering, "You and I both know the only snack you'll be getting any time soon comes packaged in a handy, microwave-safe pouch."
The vampire slumped as his human façade slipped back into place. "Bloody soldiers… taking away a vampire's rights… can't even scare a bloody sorcerer," Spike grumbled. "I AM the Big Bad!" he growled in accusation, slamming his palm on the grimy bar in a futile act of irritation.
Ethan Rayne grinned. "Oh yes, I know all about you, Spike. I believe I have an offer you can't refuse… mate."
Giles turned the aged page carefully, reading the Latin phrases many times over as he transcribed them into a spiral notebook. His pencil snapped in two in his tense grasp when the phone rang on the corner of his desk, shattering his concentration.
"Buffy?" He sat up straighter and asked, "Are you alright? You're not wounded, are you?"
After a long pause, she sighed. "No, I…" She swallowed audibly into the phone.
"Giles, I… really need a friend right now," she said in a broken whimper. "Is it okay if I come over?"
"Of course," he said immediately.
"Is now okay?"
"Right now?" he asked. It's rather silly to call if she's outside the bloody door he thought acerbically.
"Yes. I mean – no, not right now," she sighed. "I'm at Mom's right now."
Giles' stomach tangled with dread. "Dear Lord, Buffy, is she –?"
"What? Oh, no! No… she's fine, Giles," she assured him quickly. "Thanks for asking, though." Her thanks was as much a surprise as the genuinely appreciative sound she used to deliver it.
"Y-you're welcome –"
"Actually, Giles," she interrupted, "how about I come by in about an hour?"
"I need to check on Mom and run a quick patrol," she cut in again. She paused for a moment and lowered her voice to a sincere hum. "But I really need to spend some time with you… If I get this other stuff done, I won't worry about it while I'm there, you know?" The casually desperate plea was progressively alarming to him.
"Yes… yes, quite," he said nonsensically. "H-have you eaten?"
"Does a bag of pretzels count?" she asked wryly. He could hear her teasing grin.
"Only if they were unsalted and accompanied by peanut butter," he replied with matching sarcasm.
"Darn the luck," Buffy giggled.
"Would you like to join me?" Silence. "Buffy?"
"Wha– Sorry, Giles. Yeah… I'd like that… very much," she said distantly. After another pause, her voice became heavier, darker. "I'm sorry, I kinda blanked out for a minute. There's so much…" she trailed off. "So, yeah. Thanks. See you in an hour?"
"Yes, an hour, then… and Buffy?"
"Be careful, please."
"Always, Watcher Man," she said through a warm smile. Hanging up, she tucked her hair into a pony tail and left for the hospital.
"So what's the bleedin' point?" Spike demanded with icy impatience.
"Oh, you know. Wreak a little mayhem. Cause a little havoc," Ethan replied in a sing-song cadence. "Life can be incredibly dull unless one entertains oneself."
"Riiiight… and while I'm getting knocked on my arse, you'll be…?" the vampire growled.
"Not that I think it'll come to that," Ethan declared with a smug grin, "but should you find yourself in that situation, I'd promptly laugh my knickers off."
Spike rolled his eyes and flicked his burning cigarette butt at Ethan's feet, hoping the thing would bounce and set the bastard aflame. It didn't.
"And the spell isn't permanent?" Spike inquired irritably. "Have an unlife to think 'bout, y'know."
"No, just a harmless few hours."
"Get this chip outta my head and I'll do it," Spike offered with finality.
"I only deal in magicks –" Ethan protested.
"So magic it out, or find another lackey," the vampire said as he shifted to walk away. "Time's a-wastin', Sorcerer."
"Alright!" Ethan said through his clench teeth. "Take this and go."
Spike pocketed the glowing crystal and offered a wolfish grin. "Pleasure doin' business." Leather duster billowing behind him, the vampire turned on his heels and stalked into the darkened street.
"Mom?" Buffy whispered, knocking lightly on the door as she entered the room. Joyce stirred and turned her head slowly – cautiously – towards Buffy. Her smile was warm and tired as she greeted her daughter.
Buffy stopped at the head of the hospital bed and leaned down, brushing a soft kiss on her mother's pale cheek. "How are you feeling?"
"I have a headache, but I hear that's normal when your head undergoes invasive surgery," Joyce replied quietly.
"I guess," Buffy agreed with a breathy laugh. Joyce noticed the strain on her daughter's face, but wisely opened an alternative – and therefore safe – topic.
"She's staying the night at Melinda's," Buffy replied with a satisfied sigh and sank into the hard plastic chair behind her. "They're going to the beach with Melinda's parents and a few friends."
"Did you –"
"I spoke with Mr. Tabbot when I dropped her off," Buffy said as her lips curled into a grin. "I don't trust her as far as I can… well, she's a Summers teen. No trust," she joked.
"What are you going to do with your day off?" Joyce asked, her amusement twitching at the corners of her mouth. Buffy shrugged and took hold of her mother's tube-infested hand.
"I need to train." She stared sightlessly at a spot on the cool sheet under her hands. "Gotta get in some quality Watcher-Slayer time, you know."
"What about Riley?" Joyce asked softly. "I'm sure he misses you, honey." She watched stony darkness tighten her daughter's features.
"We broke up," she replied flatly.
"Oh, sweetie," Joyce sighed, squeezing Buffy's hand. "I'm so sorry. Are you okay?" Buffy nodded with a mute jerk of her head. "Do you want to talk about it, sweetheart?"
"It was over a long time ago," she replied. Her eyes came to focus as she pulled them up. An impish smile brightened her face and she leaned in to whisper, "So when are you gonna bust outta here, Mom?"
Giles juggled the grocery bags as he fumbled the key into his locked door. Kicking it shut behind him, he set to putting the food away so he could change before Buffy arrived. With the last of the ingredients for dinner stowed, he was half-way up the staircase when a heavy knock landed on his door. Muttering curses under his breath, he strode to the door determined to give his unexpected guest a speedy dismissal.
The sight that greeted him when he swung open his apartment door brought a cold fury sweeping from the depths of his mind.
"What do you want?" he demanded.
"Hello to you, too," Spike replied cheekily. "Aren't you gonna invite –"
"Go away, Spike," Giles ordered, already closing the door. "Now."
"Fine, that's the thanks I get for trying to help the Slayer," the vampire spat over his shoulder as he turned to leave. A firm grip landed on his shoulder and shoved him face-first into the unforgiving wall outside the apartment door.
"Talk," Giles said darkly. A sharp stab of pain pressed hard into Spike's undead back. Bloody typical the vampire thought bitterly.
"I got information, Watcher." There was a blessed reprieve for Spike from the stake, only to feel Giles' fist slam into his right side, cracking a few ribs with the practiced blow. "Lemme go or the new Big Bad will get your girl," the blonde admonished breathily.
Giles reluctantly released him; Spike palmed the crystal and faced Giles as he waited for the man's next move.
"What's going on?" the ex-librarian sighed in resignation.
"I found this," Spike said mock-eagerly, turning his hand over and stretching out his open palm. "Got it from a nasty come to capture my crypt." Giles eyed the glowing rock warily, but made no move to touch it.
"And he was spoutin' the next big doom-n-gloom," Spike said with blatant irritation. "My master this and my master that." He sniffed contemptuously. " Ponce."
"Another master," Giles groaned. "There truly is no holiday on a bloody hellmouth."
Spike motioned for Giles to take the crystal. When the Watcher still wouldn't take it, Spike shuffled his feet. "Figured you'd wanna run a mojo trace or summat," he said self-consciously.
"Why are you helping?" Giles asked sharply, his instincts tying knots in his chest. Spike rolled his eyes and grabbed the other man's hand, crystal firmly tucked between their palms.
"What –" Giles began to say.
A bright purple light flared, nearly blinding them both. Then Spike finished "… are you doing, Spike?" He gasped and pulled away, his eyes wide and startled. Giles stared at himself, his mind racing as he watched his body – his face – laugh Spike's cold laugh and roll its shoulders. The crystal fell to the concrete, black as onyx and heavy as lead.
"What did you do?" he asked in Spike's higher-toned voice.
"Just takin' it for a spin, mate," Spike replied in Giles' smooth undertones.
Giles stared at himself for a moment before vowing "I will kill you."
"Not if I don't invite you in," he saw himself say with relish, stepping over the apartment's threshold without disturbance.
"You son of a –"
"Right, then. I'm off for a kip," Spike said with a delighted grin. "I'll be back before sun-up." Spike closed the apartment door, crossed to the back and exited into the night.
"Don't you ever die?" Buffy demanded in indignation
The looming demon bared a tight grin full of long, sharp fangs. She ducked a flailing limb and followed through with a full-force upper-cut into what she hoped was its crotch. It howled in pain and from that gaping mouth spewed a dark green slime that coated her shoulders and abdomen, splattering and dripping onto her jeans.
"You've gotta be kidding me," she growled as she stared down at her clothes. The beast snarled and swung its palm again, its talons gleaming. She twisted and grabbed the demon's forearm, using its own momentum to fling the thing over her shoulder and into the pond. Its agonized wail echoed into the night, but stopped abruptly when its vocal cords melted into the pond along with the rest of it.
The blonde pouted as she tucked Mr. Pointy into her pocket and surveyed the damage. Her black turtleneck sweater – a tight-knit number that she'd purchased just to make Gi Riley! les drool – was now soaked in demon slime. Her blue jeans were torn at the knees and splattered with the same slime. I don't wanna know what the slime is made from or for she thought as she groaned.
"I'm never buying clothes again," she whined aloud, only making a half-hearted attempt at actually meaning it this time. She pulled the sweater over her head carefully and kept it tucked inside-out as she held it away from her with disgust. "At least I wore a shirt this time," she added sulkily, tugging the black tank into place over her hips. She sopped most of the slime from her jeans with the dry sides of the sweater as she made her way out of the cemetery.
Chucking the ruined material in one of the street bins, Buffy shoved her hands into her pockets and trudged along the sidewalk to Giles' apartment.
"Stupid demons with their stupid body fluids," she muttered.
Giles sank into one of the chairs on the patio and heaved a sigh. He rested Spike's face into the demon's cold fingers, wracking his mind for a solution to the impromptu switching of their bodies.
"God help me, that vampire is dust when this is over," he muttered angrily.
"What vampire?" Buffy asked as she approached the patio. Giles started and looked up into the tired eyes of his battle-worn Slayer.
"Rough night?" he asked, taking in the state of her clothes.
"Shut up, Spike," she ordered with her own heavy sigh. She walked past him and opened his apartment door, calling inside, "Giles?"
"What?" he replied automatically. He rolled his eyes and inwardly groaned. Buffy looked over her shoulder and scowled at him.
Giles sighed again and sat back, too tired and embarrassed to try to explain it all. "Not here." Short phrases seemed wise to prevent her suspecting anything was amiss.
Her face fell in abject disappointment. "Oh."
"We were gonna have dinner and… and hang out," she replied quietly, obviously hurting due to his absence (my absence!! Giles corrected himself). Her eyes hardened as she focused on him. "What are you doing here, anyway?"
"Waiting," he replied gruffly. "Said 'e'd be back."
Buffy closed the door and came back onto the patio, sinking into the seat nearest his apartment. "Oh," she said again.
They sat in depressing silence for a short time, neither willing to break into idle chat. After about twenty minutes, Buffy shifted restlessly.
She opened her mouth to speak but promptly snapped it shut. "Nothing."
"Am I…" she stopped herself again and looked away. "Never mind."
Giles shrugged Spike's shoulders, content to play the part as he silently considered his options for reversing the spell. He knew he could do it – had done when Faith had left Buffy to deal with the Counsel Special Unit – but he'd need supplies and the spell book… which sat conveniently out of his reach, upstairs in the bedroom, hidden to prevent anyone using it against his Slayer.
"Do you think I'm pretty?" she blurted.
His Spike's eyes swung to her face and stared. How do I answer? he wondered. If he angered her, she'd stake him without a fight. If he was too complimentary, she'd think Spike was coming on to her, which still held the threat of a dusty end. He tried for a compromise of noncommittal agreement. "Sure."
"Thanks," she said flatly, glaring at him. He shrugged again, hoping to end the uncomfortable exchange. She fell into a pensive silence once more, waiting for him me! to return.
"What?" he said with forced annoyance.
She looked up to him with big, vulnerable eyes and asked, "Do you think Giles thinks I'm pretty?"
"I know he does," he replied without hesitation. His certainty caught her attention. She perked and leaned in conspiratorially.
"Really?" she asked quietly. "Did he say something to you?"
Giles tore his gaze from hers, hiding his reaction to the hope he'd heard in her voice.
"Nice jacket," Ethan said through a smirk. "Where'd you get it?"
Spike rolled Giles' eyes and glared at the Englishman over the rim of his frosted glass.
"Bugger off," he grumbled. "I'm biding my time. Don't wanna spend it with the likes o' you."
"Why are you brooding?" Ethan asked in open curiosity. "You're in a human body! Get pissed! Get laid! Have fun!"
Spike sat a little straighter. "I haven't been able to get drunk since I was sired."
"Ah, well next round's on me, then," Ethan declared, taking a seat across from the face of his old friend. "Pick your poison," he added, gesturing to the nearing waitress.
Spike leered at the poor girl and said "I'll take a bit o' your top shelf scotch and a lap dance." The waitress flashed a tense smile as she stepped out of Spike's reach.
"Right away," she said sweetly, and looked at Ethan. "For you, sir?"
"Nothing for me, dear. I'm here to make sure he gets home okay." She nodded and slipped away to get Spike's order.
"Why aren't you drinkin'?" Spike asked through narrowed eyes.
"Because I want to make sure you get completely schnockered," Ethan admitted without pause. "If I succeed, poor Ripper'll be hung over for a week." He leaned in and added, "I tend to lose sight of my goals when I drink."
"Light-weight," Spike accused with a smug grin.
"Ah, but a light-weight on a mission," Ethan amended with wagging brows. "Just enjoy my generosity while you can."
Buffy's features contorted into a scowl once again as the silence stretched between them. Spike seemed unwilling to talk about Giles, and consistently failed to look her in the eye. Something's fishy in the state of Delaware… no, wait… wasn't there something in there about Denmark? Buffy gave herself a mental shake and kept her glare focused on the vampire.
"Spike, did Giles say something to you?" she asked again.
"Not as such," he replied uncertainly.
She sat back in her chair and stared moodily at the sky above. Giles covertly stole a glance her way, only to find himself staring.
If not for becoming a demon and mass murderer, I would gladly accept an offer to be a vampire right now he mused with wonder. His enhanced night-vision allowed him to drink in all of her in the light of the moon, glowing like some other-worldly being. A goddess of night he decided. An avatar of light in a world of darkness.
"Stop staring at me," she grumbled without looking at him. "…or I'll be the last thing you ever see."
"Sorry," he muttered, guiltily turning his head skyward as well. Internally, he was proud of her deadly tone and threat. Good to know she doesn't run to Spike for any kind of… support.
Hearing Spike apologize – sincerely – balled a knot of anxiety in her gut, and all of her attention focused on him, taking him in fully for the first time in a long while. As she watched from under her lashes, still pretending to recline and star-gaze, she witnessed a startling sight. That's a Giles move! her mind echoed.
Spike reached up his pale left hand, his fingers twitching as if to grab at something near the corner of his eye. This action changed into an awkward combing of his hair as he cursed under his breath.
Why is he acting like Giles? It's like he's got all of Giles nervous tics. Oh… God… what if… what if he somehow IS Giles?! She closed her eyes and panic set in, her mind spinning out of control at the thought of what she'd almost talked about with him. How could this happen? I'm going to die. No, I'm not that lucky. Please, Hellmouthy people, if you can hear me, open it up and swallow me right now. She cracked open an eye and saw him mirroring her – totally fake – relaxed posture. She closed her eye again as her brain wailed Just when I WANT it to happen… Okay, get a grip, Buff! You can figure this out…
"D'you know, the Slayer has me twisted 'round tha' lil finger of… of… hers, a-… and…" Spike's face paled and he stood slowly, swaying as he made his retreat to the bathroom. "Back in a mo'" Spike called over his shoulder.
Ethan chuckled and shook his head. The tab was outrageous, but well worth it if Ripper had half the hang-over Ethan expected Spike had created for his old friend.
"Poor Ripper," he chuckled again.
"I'm afraid we're going to have to cut your friend off," the tiny waitress said at his side. Ethan shrugged as he met her eyes with an amused smile. "I have a strict vomit policy myself."
She graced him with the first real smile he'd seen on her face all night. She leaned in and said in a whisper, "Is he gonna be alright?"
"Yes, dear girl, he's just been…liberated from a particularly difficult position. He's usually a gentleman when he's sober."
The petit brunette worried her bottom lip, her pity for the other man evident. She slipped a napkin from her apron and laid it upside-down on the table as she pushed it towards him. "Don't let him see I gave that to you," she said softly. "I don't wanna hurt his feelings."
He lifted the napkin and read a curly, handwritten name and phone number on the other side. His brow quirked as he looked over it to her. "I don't usually –"
"Not to worry, Stacey," he assured her with his best smile. He tucked the napkin into his shirt pocket with a pat. She smiled shyly and reached to begin clearing the table of beer bottles and shot glasses. He gently took her hand and brushed his lips over her knuckles. She blushed prettily and he grinned as he released her. "I may come back after I've taken him home."
"I'd like that," she said warmly, her face washed in red as she avoided his eyes and wiped the table clear of any spilled drink.
Giles was dutifully keeping Spike's eyes skyward when a plethora of stimuli overloaded his senses. His vampiric ears picked up Buffy's staccato heart beat as it hammered in her chest. He could smell a fresh, musky scent from her that brought Spike's demon features out automatically. When he peeked at her in half-lidded reconnaissance, the demon's eyes tinted and brightened everything in a golden, sharpened view. His vision had a startling new level of clarity he'd never seen through before. He could see her skin throbbing with heightened blood flow… could taste her perspiration fear? …and… sex!? What the devil!? as it floated on the air to him.
It was a buffet of sensory delights.
Very funny, old man… a Buffy buffet… that's bloody priceless… good thing you didn't try your hand at poetry, he berated himself.
"Buffy, wha's wrong?" he lisped around his fangs. He concentrated as best he could and was relieved to feel the human visage morph back into place.
"I can smell you," he insisted. "Every nasty in Sunnydale probably can." Great, ever the Watcher, you git he thought bitterly. She's going to know something's wrong if you don't shape up.
She didn't respond, but her hazel eyes dilated as she stared at him in the darkness. Dropping the pretense, he brought his chin down and openly regarded her, waiting for her explanation.
"I told you –"
"What are you afraid of?" he interrupted her. Reasoning out loud, he added, "I still have the chip in my head."
Buffy stood with such force the patio chair crashed into the wall behind her – very near the door of his neighbor's door. She retrieved the chair quickly and sat back down. When the very irate Mrs. Harrington opened her door, they were the picture of innocent nonchalance. The old buzzard gave them a half-confused, half-warning glare, then slammed the door shut, leaving them alone once more.
"How much longer am I stuck in here, for?" Spike whined as he leaned against Ethan. The two mean staggered as Spike's human stomach roiled and he lurched forward. Rather than vomit unattractively on the sidewalk, however, he simply made an awful, dry retching sound. "Bloody hell, I'm glad I'm not going to be in here in the mornin'. It's a soddin' miracle he's still kickin'! Sorry bastard can't see a thing!"
"The spell should finish up in about thirty minutes," Ethan said brightly. "Just in time to get you two back together for the swap."
Spike stopped and attempted to scowl at the Englishmen. …man Spike corrected himself. "We have to be in the same place?" he asked blearily.
"Well, yes, this doesn't work well across distances," Ethan said simply, as if this was the easiest thing in the world to understand. Spike grabbed for the wrong Ethan and nearly tumbled into the street. The solid Ethan managed to get a hold of him and helped him regain his balance.
"Get me a cab quick. If I'm still Giles in the morning, I'll gut you with his hands," Spike said dourly. Ethan paled as he added, "And who knows how painful that will be without my vamp strength." Ethan stepped out and raised his hand, thanking Chaos that a taxi was driving past at that moment. They got in and Ethan offered double-fare if the cabbie could get them to their destination in ten minutes.
"Good idea," Spike whispered with an evil grin. "Wouldn't wanna chance it, would you, mate?"
Buffy looked everywhere but him, and her anxiety was transferring to him. She was upset about something, and he couldn't calm her because he still wore Spike's face. He reminded himself again and again that when all was said and done, the vampire would be dust. A cheery image of himself, back in his own body, dragging his broom across the concrete tiles with obvious glee made him smile with satisfaction.
"I hope he comes back soon," Buffy said meekly.
"He'll be here soon," he replied, unsure of what else to say.
Buffy eyed him again, as if she could see into his very core, but looked away again. She jumped when her stomach growled and broke the awkward silence they shared.
"Giles…?" she asked in her begging tone, the one that usually accompanied a pout.
As was his habit these last four years, he replied, "Yes, Buffy?" Then he closed his eyes in resignation. That was what she was upset about. She'd figured him out. When he opened his eyes, she was staring at him, fear on her lovely face, and her chest was heaving with each trembling breath she took.
"I knew it," she whispered. Then, louder, "I knew it. What happened?"
Giles looked at the black rock he'd been rolling in his fingers for the last two hours. "Spike."
She followed his gaze down to the crystal and then looked back at Spike's blue eyes. They held Giles' stoic expression expertly. Well DUH, Giles has been making that face since forever…
"Why didn't you tell me?" she asked quietly, watching his features as he shifted uncomfortably in the chair.
"I was embarrassed that I'd been duped by him," he replied. "I was hoping to just figure it out –"
"What do you need?" she asked, ignoring the exasperation she felt at being excluded. "I can get whatever you need and you can do the spell and go back to normal."
Giles looked at her in surprise, obviously expecting a very different reaction. "W-well, I'll need the spell book, first," he said, his mind slipping into Watcher-mode, even if his current body never had been. "I can get the ingredients –"
"Oi! Watch your hands, soddin – Bugger, my skull's already hurting!" came Giles' normally smooth voice from the front of the apartment complex. "How the bleedin' hell did he ever handle all that scotch? Christ, I can't see my feet –"
He ambled into view, Ethan Rayne directly behind him when he came to a halt. Ethan wasn't expecting the stop, however, and nearly knocked him over. Spike rounded on the sorcerer and shoved him childishly.
"Spike!" Buffy barked at Giles' body, standing quickly.
"What have you done?" Giles asked as he surveyed his body for damage.
"Just had a bit o' fun," Spike said with a lopsided grin. "Rupes… mate, you have got to –"
"Yes, thank you, Spike," the vampire saw himself say. "Ethan!" Spike's body shot out of the chair and bolted towards the sorcerer. The dark crystal that lay unheeded on the patio table flickered to life and began to glow a faint purple.
"Hallo, Rip-" He didn't finish his greeting. Giles slammed Spike's iron fist into the sorcerer's head. Giles screamed as his brain threatened to explode with searing, white-hot pain.
"Shouldn't do that, mate," Spike said smugly. "Have a chip in there."
"Oh… my… Dear… GOD!" Giles bellowed from his knees on the ground. "Spike, why didn't you just kill yourself?! Would have saved everyone so much trouble..." He groaned and rubbed the cold temples beneath his fingers.
Ethan wiped blood from his split lip and spotted the discarded crystal, its radiating glow intensified into a pulsing rhythm. "Um, Ripper, I –"
"Shut. Up." Giles ordered. He stood and shook his head, Game Face slipping back into place as he smelled the blood on Ethan's fingers. He stepped forward menacingly and grabbed the other man's shirt, enjoying the utter power he felt when he smelled the fear rolling off the sorcerer. He cocked his fist back and swung.
Instead of feeling the blinding pain again, he blinked and watched as Spike punched Ethan's face… and howl as the pain enveloped the vampire from the base of his skull. Giles gasped – pulling air into his very human lungs – and stumbled to the nearest chair. I can't believe I got used to not breathing so quickly his dizzied mind whirled.
"Dear Lord!" he gasped again, his breath ragged. "What –?"
Buffy rushed to Giles – to Giles' body – and crouched to study his eyes. She cupped his face and he stilled, avoiding her scrutiny as he steadied back into a steady breathing rhythm.
"Giles, are you back?" she whispered, stroking his cheeks. He nodded, unable to speak.
"I need to know for sure," she said quietly. He looked into her eyes, and she could see all of him there.
"I don't think you're pretty," he murmured, mirroring her strokes with his fingers down her cheeks. "Your beauty… it can't be described."
"Thanks a lot, Watcher!" Spike called behind them. "I hope you enjoy your hang over!" The vampire spun and stalked off behind a fleeing Ethan. Buffy was up and tackling him within seconds. She straddled his stomach, her knees squeezing his sides, and pulled the stake out of her pocket, poised to end him.
"Buffy, come on! I didn't –" he began to plead. She stared down at him, her fury plain on her face.
"Leave and don't ever come back," she said, her tone reaching deadly lows for the second time in one day. "You're dust if you're not out by morning."
"That's not long off!" he spat, squirming to roll her from his torso. She tightened her knees and he grunted as they took him over the edge on a new wave of pain.
"Then I suggest you go quickly," she ground out. From nowhere she back-handed him, her knuckles nearly shattering his cheek bone and nose. She stood and yanked him into a standing position as he gripped his face. He moved to step away and she wrapped a vice-like grip on his arm. Dragging him back over to Giles, who was watching through blurrier-than-normal green eyes with surprise, she held him before her and nodded towards the drunken version of her Watcher.
"Apologize," she ordered. Giles and Spike both stared at her in shock. Taking in their looks, she added, "For the upcoming hang over and agreeing to swap in the first place."
"You've got to be –" Her elbow shot out and gave further bruising to his aching ribs. He bent and hugged his arms over his abdomen, glaring at her. "Go ahead and stake me. I'm not apologizing to anyone, pet."
Buffy shrugged and kicked his feet from beneath him. His back and sides screamed at the fresh pain, but the only thing that passed his lips was a broken grunt. She knelt down by his head and planted her knees on either side.
"What're you doing?" Giles asked in alarm.
"Venting," she said absently, inching forward until the vampire's shoulders were pinned under her knees as well.
"Watcher, you gonna let her lose her humanity over me?" Spike yelled with growing terror in his eyes.
"Don't worry, Spike, I just wanna make sure you never forget what the price of a little fun is when it comes to me and my Watcher," Buffy said sweetly. Her face melted into a stony stare as she added, "The only way you're leaving is if you say you're sorry and you mean it."
"What?!" he yelled, squirming to throw her off him. Her advantage allowed her to clamp his head between her knees and she grinned. "What are you gonna do?"
Buffy pulled her stake from her jeans pocket and twirled it playfully as she cocked her head to the side, her cheerful façade shining down at him. She clutched Mr. Pointy – sharp-end down – and slowly traced his jaw line.
"I'm thinking if I take one of your eyes, you can always keep an eye on us and see what you're missing," she replied in a low whisper, sure that only he would hear her. "Then you'll never be tempted to come back and fuck with the man I love."
"I'm sorry!" he crowed, his lower half twisting frantically. "I mean it, Slayer! I've seen the light!" he growled. Buffy stood abruptly and pocketed her stake.
"Now was that so hard?" she asked sweetly, stepping behind Giles and placing a hand on his shoulder. "We accept his apology, right, Giles?"
The older man nodded silently, eyeing her as if she'd grown a second head.
"Great!" she said with her usual Buffy cheer. "Bye, Spike!"
The blonde vampire stood slowly and backed away from the pair, aware that he appeared to be a coward and not caring one bit. When he was outside their field of vision, he spun and left without looking back.
"What would you have done if he hadn't apologized?" Giles asked quietly, looking at his hands.
"I'd have staked him," she said simply. "But it was an unfair fight, seeing as how he's neutered an' all." She walked around to face him and smiled. "Besides, I think a heart-felt apology from a vampire is way more delicious than tasting his dust."
Giles grunted in agreement, a rueful grin pulling at his lips. "I think that may be the last we've seen of him for a while."
"We can only hope!" she agreed. "Well, how about dinner?" she asked with a bright smile. The thought of food sent Giles' stomach into anarchy and he groaned as nausea settled on him. Her smile faltered and she helped him up, letting him lean on her as she guided him into his apartment. "Come on, let's get you cleaned up," she said softly, barely containing her sound of disgust as the foul odors of alcohol and puke wafted into her nose. "And just so you know, I'm burning this sweater as soon as you take it off."
"Quite," he agreed on another moan.
Ethan watched his old friend and the young blonde girl enter the apartment, their arms wrapped around each other amicably. He grinned as he turned and strolled down the sidewalk. "Good for you, Ripper," the old sorcerer said. He shoved his hands in his pockets and contemplated the best story he could give Stacey to explain away his busted lip. Something noble he decided. Something sweet and fetching to such a pretty little thing. He grinned and crossed the street, his thoughts on the slight brunette who'd offered her number to him in the bar. Should prove entertaining he mused with anticipatory relish.