Bruises

Chapter 40 – Trouble

"You can't be serious. I've spent the last few days teaching you how to defend yourself against the guy that's moving into your house later today?"

Spike nodded as Angel's car whizzed through the lunchtime traffic. "Yeah. The bloke that's made my life hell… well, my school life anyway… is gonna be one floor up. Isn't that grand?"

"Why'd you agree?"

Spike shrugged. "It's not my place to tell Mr. Giles who he's allowed to invite into his home. I'm just a guest there as well, and if I start makin' demands… tellin' him what he can and can't do with the house he's paid for… I might find myself out on my arse."

"They wouldn't kick you out for not wanting Riley under the same roof."

"Maybe not, but I'm not really in a position to be able to take that chance. My Mum's still in hospital and because I'm a minor I can't go home, not that I'd want to, and I don't start work for three more days, so it'll be a while 'fore I get my first paycheck… not that I could get my own flat anyway, what with the still bein' a minor and all. I'm stuck, Angel. My only other option is bein' locked up in a state run juvenile facility 'til I turn eighteen, and that means no Mum, no Buffy, and no you, so I can't do anythin' to wear out my welcome at Buffy's. I'll just have to put up with Finn bein' there and hope like hell he's not cracked enough to try to kill me in my sleep."

"I'd let you stay at my house, but since my Dad's prosecuting your case…"

"Yeah, it'd probably be a conflict of interest or something. Thanks, though."

Angel threw Spike a sideways glance. "You told Buffy about it, right?" Spike nodded. "And?"

"She was a bit… upset. Did you know that when she's extremely angry, her face turns a fetching shade of plum?"

Angel chuckled slightly and nodded. "Yeah, and so do all the people who were standing in the hallway the day I got suspended. I thought her head was gonna explode."

Spike smiled over at Angel then sighed. "Think I managed to get her calmed down 'fore I had to leave, though."

Angel chuckled again. "I'd hate to be in her way if you didn't." His car glided to a stop in the hospital parking lot and he turned it off. "You sure you want me to come with you?"

Spike nodded as he climbed out of the car. "Yeah. You're my best mate, Angel, of course I want you to meet my Mum. She's unconscious, though, so don't expect a lot of conversation."

Angel smirked and bumped Spike's arm as he fell into step beside him. "Like anybody can get a word in edgewise with you around anyway."

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Buffy burst through the door with a screeched, "How could you!? Have you gone completely crazy?!"

The two students sitting in front of Giles' desk startled and pressed back into their chairs at the furious plum color of their Head Cheerleader's face. Giles slowly removed his glasses and set them on the desktop then motioned toward the door. "Nathan, Tiffany, if you would please have a seat in the outer office, we will finish discussing what should NOT happen in the cleaning supplies closet during your lunch period after I've dealt with this. Thank you."

Nathan and Tiffany wasted no time scurrying out of the Principal's office. Nathan slowed his scurrying long enough to pull the door quietly shut as he fervently hoped that whatever was about to happen would distract Mr. Giles from the fact that the janitor had found him on his knees with his head beneath Tiffany's skirt. He'd be grounded until he was old enough to pick out a nursing home if Mr. Giles told his dad about this. He shuddered as he took a seat next to Tiffany and reached out to grasp her hand. 'Please let the crazy cheerleader make Mr. Giles forget all about us.'

Giles waited until the door was firmly shut before he stood and fixed Buffy with a baleful glare. "How dare you barge in here like this! What on earth has gotten into you?"

Buffy screeched again, "Gotten into me? What about you? You're going to let Riley Finn, the dickhead that's been beating the shit out of Spike since he moved here, stay at our house? Where Spike is? Have you lost your mind?"

Giles slammed his hand down on the desktop with a resounding crack. "I am of quite sound mind, young lady, but I'm beginning to believe you may not be. You will control yourself immediately. Sit down."

Buffy crossed her arms over her chest and shook her head. "I'll stand."

"You will sit down if you want to have any kind of discussion on this matter. Otherwise, you may remove yourself from my presence and we will discuss your deplorable behavior at home. We will also discuss your punishment for this display."

Buffy's mouth dropped open and she shrieked, "You're going to punish me for protecting my boyfriend!?"

Eyes full of ice settled on the small blonde woman. "No, I'm going to punish you for your blatant disrespect not only of my position as head of this school, but also my position as your father. You were not raised to treat me like this, Buffy, and I won't stand for it. I realize that you're upset, but had you come to me without the shouting and hysterics we might have been able to have an adult discussion. As it stands, you will leave. You will finish out your classes for the day then go straight home where you will await my arrival alone in your room."

Buffy opened her mouth to apologize – she'd never seen Giles this angry before and she suddenly realized where the nickname 'Ripper' had come from – but Giles held up his hand. "Not another word. Get out."

Buffy nodded silently and turned, stopping with her hand on the knob when Giles spoke quietly. "Even though I am quite angry with you right now, Buffy, I still love you." Buffy squeezed her eyes shut, a lone tear dripping down her cheek as she pulled the door open and fled.

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Spike stepped through the front door and hung up his duster before walking into the living room. No Buffy. He checked the dining room and kitchen then bounded up the stairs. "Buffy? You up here?" He poked his head into his room, frowning when he found it empty.

A small noise drew his attention and he looked at the closed door to Buffy's room. There it was again; a muffled sob. He stepped quietly to the door and knocked lightly. "Buffy? Are you all right? Can I come in?"

The door opened a few inches and Buffy's tear stained face appeared as she shook her head. "No and no."

Spike's face fell and he backed up. "Oh. Um… I'll just leave you alone then. 'M sorry to have bothered you."

He turned to leave and her arm shot through the opening, her fingers grasping his sleeve. "Spike, it's not you. I… I did something and now I'm in trouble. I'm supposed to stay in my room by myself until Dad gets home to discuss my punishment."

Spike turned back around with a barely concealed flinch at the word punishment. "What did you do, Buffy?"

Her hand fell away and she leaned heavily on the door frame. "After you left, I went to Dad's office and yelled at him and called him crazy and there were other kids in there and… I was just so mad, Spike. How can he do this to you? After all you've been through?"

"I'm sure I'll be fine, pet. He won't be here that long, so I'll just stay in my room as much as I can. Does my bedroom door have a lock on it?"

"Yeah, it does, but that's not the point. Riley shouldn't be here at all. You shouldn't have to be afraid here, Spike. You feeling safe is the whole point of you being here, so Riley can just go somewhere else."

Spike sighed and looked down at his boots. "He's got the same right to be here as I do, Buffy. We've both paid the price of admission, and actually, he's paid a bit more than I have."

Buffy opened her door fully and stepped into the hallway. "What do you mean, he's paid more?"

Spike swallowed hard. "His father did worse things to him than mine did to me and for a lot longer. I just got beaten… he got beaten and…"

Buffy gasped and her hand flew to her mouth as she whispered, "Molested."

Spike nodded, still looking at his boots. "Yeah. I've been thinkin' 'bout this all afternoon and even though he's the wanker that's been poundin' on me for as long as he's known me… and I should hate him and think he deserves everythin' that's happened to him, but… God, Buffy, nobody deserves that, not even Finn."

Buffy reached out and gently lifted Spike's chin. "So what are you saying? You're okay with him being here?"

Spike shrugged. "Maybe… not really… I don't know, pet, but I do know what he's going through right now. I should, considerin' it happened to me just last week. His whole life has gone arse over tit just like mine did, but I have somethin' he doesn't… you, Angel, my Mum… who does he have? Anybody? At all?"

Just then the front door banged open and Dawn barreled through, tossing her backpack on the dining room table then veering sharply toward the living room. "Spike? Buffy? It's time for Firefly!"

Buffy frowned at the stairs. "Crap. Dad's home. You should go down and watch with Dawn. He'll be even madder if he finds you up here and me out of my room. I'm already getting punished for screaming at him at school and I don't want to make it any worse."

Spike's eyes were wide and frightened when he turned back from looking at the stairs to face Buffy. "He won't… hurt you… will he? 'Cause I'll not leave you alone with him if…"

Buffy stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Spike, burying her face in his chest. "No, he won't hurt me. I'll probably be grounded and put on dishes or bathroom cleaning duty or something, but that's it, Spike. Giles has never raised a hand to me, Mom, or Dawn, so don't worry, I'll be fine. I'll be dishpan hands can't go anywhere but school for a month or so Buffy, but I'll be fine." She pulled back and leaned up for a quick kiss. "You'd better go. If Dad lets me, I'll be down in a little while. I love you."

Spike searched her face as he backed tentatively toward the top of the stairs. "Okay, pet, if you're sure?"

Buffy gave him a watery smile, "I am. When I was ten I spilled Pepsi all over a first edition signed copy of some book he'd paid a ton of money for and all he did was talk to me for hours then ground me from the TV for two months. He won't hurt me, Spike, I promise, unless you count not being able to go to the mall for a month. That's gonna hurt."

Spike nodded with a small smile. "Okay then. Hopefully I'll see you later. Love you." He turned and started for the stairs, hearing Buffy's door close softly behind him. The opening theme of Firefly drifted to him as he stepped off the bottom stair and met Giles stepping out of the living room. Spike cleared his throat and asked quietly, "Is Buffy in very much trouble, sir?"

Giles stopped and considered the young man standing at the foot of the stairs with his head bowed and his eyes glued to the toes of his boots. "Some, yes, but not as much as she has been in the past. We will discuss her behavior and then I'll decide on an appropriate punishment." He noticed Spike's flinch and reached out to gently grasp his arm. "Spike, I'm not going to hurt her, you have my word."

"She told me that…" Spike looked up quickly then dropped his gaze. "I know she's not meant to see me just now, but that's my fault, sir. She was trying to explain… and I didn't leave like she asked me to… so please don't…"

"It's all right, Spike, I understand, and she isn't in any more trouble because you were talking to her."

Spike whispered, "But it's because of me that she's in trouble at all."

"Spike! You're missing it! Come on!"

Spike raised his head and looked toward the living room. "Be there in a moment, Niblet." His eyes found the eyes of the older man still grasping his arm. "I'm sorry, sir, and whatever…" he swallowed hard, "p..punishment you deem appropriate for Buffy I'll serve as well, since this wouldn't have happened had it not been for me."

Giles shook his head. "Buffy's behavior is her responsibility, Spike, not yours. She is understandably upset, but that does not excuse her actions. She is a young woman, nearly an adult, and as such, needs to learn to control her impulses and try to handle things calmly and rationally instead of allowing her anger to overtake her. We had this same discussion after the incident with Mr. O'Connor in the corridor."

Spike closed his eyes and dropped his head. "That was my fault as well."

Giles tightened his grip slightly on Spike's arm. "It most certainly was not. Mr. O'Connor was at fault for attacking you and Buffy was at fault for how she reacted to it, but nothing in that scenario was your doing. One has no control over the actions of others; one can only control their own reactions, and Buffy needs to learn a bit of control, that's all. She's quite hotheaded."

Spike smiled slightly and nodded. "That she is, sir."

Giles let go of his arm and turned toward the stairs. "Dawn is waiting for you and I must speak with Buffy before I drive you to your appointment with Miss Maclay. Please be prepared to leave in…" he looked at his watch, "forty-five minutes."

"Yes, sir." Spike watched Giles walk up the stairs then turned and plodded toward the living room. "Balls. Hope Miss Maclay doesn't mind me not talkin' much today 'cause I will not break down in front of Mr. Giles."

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I want to sincerely thank everyone who is still following this story. And to all of you who have commented and sent me messages with ideas… you guys so totally rock! I was going to list everyone at the end of one of the upcoming chapters, but I think I'll wait and list everyone who has helped me along the way (because I'm sure a few of you will shoot me more awesome ideas) in a hopefully well written, tear jerking acknowledgement at the end of the story. :-)

I've got a bit of a path to follow now and I'm working on this story when I have time, it's just been a bit difficult to get the words to travel from my brain to the keyboard. They seem to be getting stuck somewhere around my elbows, but I persist and hopefully I'll be posting another chapter soon.