Disclaimer: I don't own or profit from BtVS. Everything is owned by Joss Whedon and all his affiliates. No copyright infringement intended.
Placed between Something Blue and Hush.
Warning: Explicit sexual content and blood play. But it's Spike so you should have saw that coming. Also there may be some flowery malarkey towards the end, but that's cause I'm an unrepentant romantic at heart.
A/N: The set up is pretty trite. But I serve up trite family style and hand out big honkin' spoons.
The statuesque, red-haired vamp cracked and snapped her bull whip like a pro on the lion taming circuit, while tottering on stilettos worn by pros of an entirely different kind. Buffy knew she shouldn't have cut through the cemetery on her way to the Bronze, but she was running late, as per the norm, and she thought to herself, 'hey self, if you're quick you can sneak on by without having to get your slay on.' Yah, right. Lady Luck freakin' hated her.
"Michele Pfeiffer called, she wants her cat suit back," Buffy snarked with a disgusted curl of her upper lip.
"You're one to talk. Sacrificial virgin was so last year."
"Hey, I'm not—" Buffy glanced at her attire. Her white cardigan covered the pale pink tank modestly, while her ivory challis skirt flared a little at her ankles. It did look a little virginal, and not so much with the slayage, but it wasn't like she was out looking for action. She was meeting up with Riley and after the whole 'I'm engaged, not engaged' debacle she wanted to come off as more church-girly and less ho-baggy.
"Sacrificial," Buffy finished lamely. Vampzilla –wow, she was really tall - cocked a thin, penciled brow, making Buffy blush. "My sexual experience isn't your concern, vamp." Especially, since it consisted of only two, and if Cosmo could be believed, inadequate experiences. Hence, the getting with Riley. Yah, he was pretty homegrown, but with a body like that, he had to have some moves. Please, have some moves.
"Oh, I don't know. I might be willing to educate you," the vamp purred. "A lick here," she cracked her whip. "A lick there." Another crack. "I could really make you scream for it."
Buffy wrinkled her nose. What was it with vamps and the innuendo? Did they go to a special school? An image of Spike standing at the head of a class filled with eager vamps taking notes floated through her mind. Disturbed, Buffy went on the offensive. "No, thanks. Not when you're about to be porno glitter blowing in the wind." Buffy flourished her stake, only to jump back as the bullwhip snatched the air at her cheek. Her hand flew to her face, her fingertips coming back bloody. After a few seconds the burn set in.
"Hey! Not the face, you bitch!" Buffy was furious. It was an unspoken rule, especially when fighting other women; the face was off limits. No one wanted to walk away with hideous facial scars. What a ho-bag.
"Everything's fair in lust and torture, sweetness." The vamp ran her tongue over her crimson lips, while flicking the nine-tailed flail she held in her other hand against her naked shoulders. Buffy eyed the barbs at the ends of the shorter whip. There was no way the vamp hadn't just sliced her back with that little maneuver. Great, she hated it when they were oodles of crazy.
Buffy straightened, readying herself. Her burning cheek, and the woman's actions, told her this wasn't a fledgling vamp fight. This one was gonna hurt a little. "Before we get started, what's our safe word? You know. So I can be sure to ignore it while I'm stomping your face into the ground." The vamp threw back her head, her laughter musical in the early evening shadows.
Buffy lunged, the vamp dodged. Around and around they went. Buffy dancing between ribbons of leather that were starting to look scarlet in the moonlight, while call-me-Trixxxie with three Xs was looking none the worse for wear. The nasty, leather-wearing, whip-wielding demon was really starting to get on her nerves. Buffy was kept at a distance with every flick of the vampire's wrist, her whip aimed with agonizing accuracy. Whenever Buffy braved the front lines, she was rewarded with fiery licks wrapping around her body that nearly incapacitated her, and if she did manage to bypass the bullwhip to get her stake on, she was beat back by the multiple barbed tails of the cat-o-nine. Her clothes were in tatters, her silky skirt stuck to her skin in a red plaster, and her top threatening to come undone completely. Great, the one day I don't wear a bra. And the pain. It was really starting to get bad. Like, curl up in a corner and pray to die kinda way. Buffy wondered if she had any skin left. It surely didn't feel like it. She was being flayed alive and she knew it, and that made her really, fucking pissy.
The long tongue of the bullwhip sailed out, wrapping around Buffy's wrist. Instead of retreating as she had every time the flame scorched her, she wrapped the leather tightly in her fist. She pirouetted towards her attacker, allowing the leather to bind around her torso just under her breasts. Dizzy from blood loss, she wasn't able to check herself and she collided hard with the vampire, knocking her backwards into above ground tomb. Buffy dropped the leather strap and made a quick grab for the vampire's wrist. Still off center she was a little surprised when her grasp was true. Immediately, she bashed the vamp's wrist against the sharp edge of the stone until the nasty, pain-inducing flail dropped to the ground. The Amazonian vampire towered over her by several inches, but Buffy was able to keep her off balance by bending her at an awkward angle over the low tomb. The leverage was all she needed to raise her stake overhead.
"Wait! If you stake me, you'll never—." The vamp exploded into a cloud of dust that instantly irritated Buffy's many wounds.
"I'll never? Cure cancer? End world hunger? Find the right lip gloss to match this cardigan?" Buffy glanced down, remembering her cardigan was long gone. Angered further, she kicked the stone in front of her, wincing as she stubbed her bare toes. Again, not dressed for slayage in strappy, flat-heeled sandals. As she turned to go, a wave of agony rolled over her. Woozy, she braced herself on the tomb, her free arm wrapping around her belly. As the adrenaline from the fight ebbed, she realized she was in serious trouble. She needed to get to Giles. He always knew what to do.
He smelled her before she reached the door. Hot, spicy slayer blood with hints of cloying, candy sweetness. He tensed, his entire body canting towards the door, a quivering anthropomorphism of hunger and desire. Barely containing the urge to vamp out, he slid his predatory gaze towards the Watcher, whose nose was shoved so far up a book's arse he failed to notice his unwelcome houseguest go on point like a hound on a fox's scent.
A thump at the door jerked the Watcher out of his reverie. Giles sharp eyes glanced to Spike, who shrugged in nonchalance. Let the Watcher find his little Slayer chippie bloody on the doormat. Made no never mind to him. He watched with interest from the couch as Giles opened the door, getting himself an armful of limp, bloody Slayer. Giles dragged her nearly unconscious body into the room, forced to lay her on the floor when it become clear she wouldn't be moving under her own steam anytime soon. Giles slammed the door shut and bent down to examine her. She was coated in blood, her tattered clothing sticking to her body like scarlet neoprene.
"Buffy, wake up." Giles cupped her cheek, fatherly concern etched into every line of his body.
"That's not goin'ta work, mate." Spike sipped his mug of blood. Any distraction to hide how excited he was from the Watcher. It wasn't just the blood. It was the singularly sweet candy smell.
"What do you mean?" Giles glared, the crease in his temple made whiter by his worry.
"It's Dulcis Agania. Sweet Agony. She's coated in it."
Giles examined his charge. The deep gouges littering her body leaked with a clear, viscous fluid.
"Sumthin' like that." Spike could barely contain his glee. "It's how some of the more vicious vampires train their minions to be exceptionally loyal to them." Buffy whimpered, and Spike wanted to rub his hands together in maniacal pleasure. He loved it when Lady Luck dropped into his lap like a horny sex kitten.
Giles frowned down at Buffy. Her face was mostly untouched by whip marks, except for a single slash on her cheek. She was flushed and her scalp was damp with fever, unconscious, but far from restful. She squirmed and whimpered in a manner speaking of untold agony. His slayer was hurting. Grunting, he gathered her up in his arms, struggling to stand.
"Go turn the bath on. We need to flush the poison out."
"Not a brilliant plan, mate." Spike made no move to get off the couch.
"Move your arse, you useless vampire."
"No," Spike spat back. "I'm tryin'ta tell you, Watcher. It'll make Sweet Agony worse. If you put your slayer in the bath, you'll jus' fry her nervous system.
Giles stood with his legs braced apart, his slayer laid across his arms. He glowered at the vamp lounging sardonically on his couch, smirking while Buffy moaned in agony.
For the first time the vampire looked uncomfortable. His eyes skittered away to look at anything, but the Watcher in the center of the room. He inhaled in a way that always dumbfounded Giles before turning his hardened gaze back to his.
"Sweet Agony 's a conditionin' agent. Vamps introduce it to their minion, usually through a good ol' fashioned whippin'." Spikes tongue curled behind his teeth in a manner that made the Watcher shudder. Pain was an aphrodisiac for vampires. He should never forget that. "The agent moves through the blood stream causin' the most exquisite sensation of agony. Once the pain crests to a certain level, the vamp replaces pain with pleasure, slowly transformin' it until the minion only associates their master with ultimate ecstasy. Conditionin' gratitude for the release from such sweet agony. The most loyal of minions are turned this-a-way. 'Course, if the vamp in question doesn't remove the poison, the agony increases 'til the victim's ticker gives out under the strain."
"So this is a way to turn humans into vampires?"
"Not precisely. It's a way to assure their loyalty before turnin'. Seen Darla do it plenty."
"So Angel knows this technique."
Spike saw the gleam of distrust in the Watcher's eyes. Didn't bother him none. Wasn't his Slayer that was writhing. And not in a good way. He eyed Buffy, shoving away the brief interlude of compassion floating through the empty space where his soul used to reside.
"Yeh. It takes a little too much finesse for him, but he's watch Darla. He always likes to watch," His voice trailed off, his eyes distant.
Giles absorbed the information with a patent frown, his eyes roving over Buffy's wounds, and the tight, white brackets around her mouth. Spike was looking at her mouth as well. The same mouth he'd been sucking on only a few days earlier. Spike suddenly found the buttons on the telly remote to be utterly fascinating.
"How do we cure it?" Giles asked tentatively. He was still looking at his slayer so he didn't see the grin that darkened more than lightened the vampire's features, but he heard the salacious growl in his words.
"Thought you'd never ask, Rupes. Takes a special kind of sauce." Giles looked up, disgust unfurling through his chest as Spike ran his tongue along the edge of his teeth. "Vamp spit is the only way to ease the burn. The combination of spit and poison turns the agony into pleasure with every swipe of the tongue. And might I say, you're extra lucky I'm the one sittin' here willin' to help you out."
Giles bristled. "And why is that, Spike?" he asked coldly.
Spike just grinned at the man's obvious aversion. "Well, you see. Some vamps can thrall, some can mist, but me? I got the magic tongue. Your slayer gets the added bonus of me healin' up her wounds while cleanin' out the poison." An image of Dru, burnt and raw from head to toe after the mob in Prague haunted him. Not one inch of her had been without pain, and he was the one who took it away from her with every swipe of his tongue. He couldn't restore her power, but he healed her wounds. He did that, not Angelus, not daddy. Him. And how did she repay him? Sodding Chaos Demon.
"What are you talking about?"
"Come on, mate. You know all about vampire traits. Genetic lineage and all that rot. Inherited it from my great grandmum, I did. 'ad a wicked lil' mouth, that one. Learned all my best techniques from her." Virgin until the bloody end, William didn't know a damned thing about women when he was turned. Dru, the glorious, evil sprite she was, wasn't the educating type, and Spike sure as hell wasn't going to take lessons from Angel. Darla though. A harlot to the bloody end she was. Taught him everything he knew, including how to use pain until it became pleasure. Damn her, sometimes he missed that strumpet. "Claimed it was some sort of amazing Aurelian gene. Me? I think it's 'cause she was a syphilitic whore before she got turned."
"I don't even know why I'm listening to you. There's no way in hell, I'm letting your-" The Watcher eyed his mouth like it was something straight from the devil, and if the chippies could be believed, it was. "Your sputum anywhere near, Buffy. Now move your arse so I can lay her down."
Spike vacated the couch so the Watcher could divest himself of his load. Buffy may be a thin little thing, but holding her for extended period took its toll.
"I'm calling, Angel."
Spike watched as the Giles turned away to pick up the phone.
"Right, then. Makes no never mind to me." Spike fidgeted. A prime opportunity and it was slipping through his fingers. "Jus'…" He looked meaningfully at Buffy.
"What?" Giles snapped.
"She's not doin' that whimperin' thing anymore. That's not so good. But you should call, Angel. See what he has to say, yeah?"
"I plan too." Giles turned away and picked up the phone to dial. Spike didn't bother to listen to the conversation. The idea that time was running out was planted. All he had to do was sit back while Lady Luck titty danced in his lap. He glanced at Buffy. She was deathly still, her pale skin sticky with fever where it wasn't coated in blood. Her legs were curled up, her arms braced protectively over her stomach. She was hanging on by her fingernails, seeking asylum in the eye of the storm, the tiny oasis in the center of her subconscious not being buffeted by gale force winds of agony. Her world would be shrunk down to a small, dark island inside her head where she could hide from it all. He knew that place. Been there a time or two. Usually, courtesy of Angelus. He could tell she was in real bad shape. It was only going to get worse if her Watcher didn't get his head out of his arse.
Giles hung up the phone, the thin ridge of his nose pinched between his thumb and forefinger. Spike wasn't sure how the conversation went, but he was pretty sure by the angry line of the man's shoulders Angel confirmed everything he said.
"Angel, can't be here until tomorrow night."
Spike felt the first pangs of worry reverberate through him. Would Buffy's Watcher really let her die, before he'd let Spike touch her?
"Rupert, your Slayer's gonna be dead by then."
"I know that, Spike."
"Well, then." He motioned to the couch impatiently.
"Take her to my room," Giles ordered with a resigned sigh.
The dark room smelled of camphor and sage. Spike didn't bother with the light as he placed Buffy crossways on the queen bed. He thought about putting towels down to protect the green and burgundy coverlet, but he admittedly got off on ruining anything that was Rupert's. Anything. He gaze went predatory as he examined the Slayer. Ruined was exactly what the Slayer was going to be after this night. Spike had been upfront and honest with ol' Rupes. This was a conditioning ritual. The minion essentially became a slave to the vampire. Spike had no doubts the Slayer had more than enough fortitude to withstand a full conditioning. She might never be under his command, but she sure as hell wouldn't be forgetting this night anytime soon either. It would be the unreachable bar for her every sexual experience in the future. Given his currant circumstances, he couldn't have planned this better. The lingering feelings of gratitude she would be endowed with would hopefully give him plenty of leeway in not getting staked for bad behavior in the future.
As soon as he placed her, she curled up like road kill. He tried to remove her tank top, but she was rigid with agony. Impatient, he ripped her blouse and her skirt off. The crypt-like silence was commuted by the loud sound of rending fabric as Giles walked in to the room.
"What are you doing?" her Watcher snarled.
"I can't take care of business with her togs on, now can I?" Spike heard the threat in the Watcher's voice, but it wasn't until he looked up he realized the danger he was in. Giles positioned himself in the corner of the shadowy room, a loaded crossbow pointed with lethal intensity at Spike's heart. He stilled over the Slayer, cocking his head to the side.
"Wha'cha doin' there, Rupert?"
"If you think I am leaving you alone to molest my slayer as you see fit, then you are more deluded than your histories indicate."
Spike carefully slid from the bed to unclasp Buffy's sandals with casual sensuality. There was no way he was going to preform with Rupert in the room. Besides the very accurate accusation that he was up to something, there was a squick factor to the whole scenario that even unnerved Spike. Buffy was like the old man's daughter, and what was about to happen wasn't going to be anything less than NC-17 rated. "Never been one to say no to an audience. Makes no never mind to me if you watch." He curled his tongue behind the edge of his teeth. "That's what you do, innit? Watch? Watch your Slayer as she dusts all those baddies, her lil' titties bouncin' 'neath her frock."
Giles took a step out of the shadows, his eyes flashing in the moonlight streaming from the window. "Shut your mouth, vampire."
Spike backed away as if contrite, his hands lifted in pacification. He shelved the sing-song quality of his voice in favor of no nonsense business.
"You know what's gonna 'appen here, yeah?"
The Watcher's lips pressed into a tight white line, and Spike knew Angel had explained it to him. Probably raged in his great poncy way about the unfairness of it all. Probably even tried to lay the blame at Spike's feet. Like it was all his idea. In all honestly, he wished he had thought of it. Soddin' ingenious, it was.
"Your innocent lil' slayer is goin' to cum over and over on my tongue, and somehow I don't think she's gonna want you seein' it." Spike cocked his head to the side, as if he just had an epiphany. "But maybe you do, yeah? Maybe you wanna see your lil' girl flushed and moanin'. You want some fodder for your nightly wank. Her in one of her lil' itty bitty frocks, sittin' on your lap, callin' you daddy."
Giles crossed the room, faster than he would have given the old man credit for. He could have dodged of course, but he didn't. The crunch of his nosebone under the butt of the crossbow was necessary to his plans. Spike collapsed on the floor, cupping his gushing nose. His icy blue eyes flashing upwards to take in the Watcher's snarl of hate and disgust.
In a cold voice that froze Spike's already unbeating heart Giles delivered a threat. "If you lay one untoward hand on Buffy, I'll cut out your tongue and personally use it myself to swathe her wounds. Do I make myself clear?"
"Chrystal, mate." Spike scowled at the man towering over him. That hadn't gone at all how he planned. The lily-white, book-learned Watcher was supposed to storm out of the room in in a quivering, snit of disgust. Looks like Lady Luck took a smoke break.
"Rest assured, Spike. If Buffy comes out of this anything less than a glowing picture of health, I will stake you spread eagle out in the early morning's light to burn." Apparently the Watcher had untold depths Spike didn't know about. It made Spike respect him a fraction. It made Spike think he might be a worthy kill. They faced off. Vampire and Watcher, natural born enemies, hankering for a kill. Buffy's tiny whimper was gun-shot loud in the silent room, dispersing the eddies of testosterone. Giles eyes flickered to his charge, then back to the vampire.
"Get to work," he ordered as he backed away into the shadowy corner.
"Aye, aye, mate," Spike spat. He rose with graceful fluidity, reminding the Watcher he was dealing with an experienced master, not a fledgling to be bullied. Grateful his nosebone was already mending, he wiped the blood from his face. Carefully, he positioned Buffy on her stomach so the lithe expanse of her back could be seen in the moonlight. Time to play nice. He didn't want to get dusted before he tasted some of that sweet slayer blood that was laid out ala Buffy in front of him. He climbed onto the bed, his predatory eyes tracking the Watcher as he planted his knees on either side of her hips. He placed his hands near her shoulders, fisting his fingers in the coverlet to stop himself from either stroking her or himself while he feasted. Her arousal was guaranteed. His was inevitable. Acting on it would definitely end with him being filter food.
He leaned closer, whispering into her hair. "Slayer." She remained unresponsive, her eyes still beneath the paper thinness of her lids. This was not a good thing. His gaze lingered on the loaded crossbow the Watcher held. "Slayer," he hissed. He was rewarded with a low moan. "I need you to natter on like ya do. Make sure there's no muddle in your noggin' while I work."
"Can't. Hurts," she gasped. Her pain was a tangible beast in the room that couldn't be easily slain. Spike moved to nuzzle the back of her neck in comfort, but quickly caught himself before the Watcher noticed.
"'S okay. I know it hurts, luv. Jus' need ya to tell me what you're feelin', yeah?"
"Hurts so bad."
Spike examined the wickedest gash on her back. There was a lot of blood. It washed her golden skin pale red. An inch wide stripe slanted down from her shoulder to wrap around her opposite hip. He would start there. Except for the narrowest tip of his tongue, no part of his body touched hers. A tiny little sip. Just a taste. The ecstasy of it exploded in his mouth. Fuck, she was sweet. The clear poison was a cotton candy glaze mingled with the sharp, spicy tang of her blood. It was like liquid sunshine coursing through her veins. It took every ounce of his physical mastery not to vamp out. Watcher or no, he couldn't stop the deep, erotic groan that reverberated through his chest at his first taste. The unconscious, primal monster in him knew when the Watcher moved, the awareness of it the only thing stopping him from sinking his fangs in the delectable banquet set before him. That was a sure fire way to end up a layer of sprinkles over delicious Slayer Surprise. He extended his torso away from hers, all his weight supported by shaking arms. He hung his head, taking deep unneeded breaths to steady his raging instincts.
"Don't shoot, Watcher. Your precious Slayer's still safe." Spike didn't bother to check to see if Giles retreated. He wasn't dust. That was answer enough. He watched as the healing enzymes in his saliva, combined with her natural slayer abilities worked quickly to knit the shallowest edges of the wound together. There was a lot more work to be done, and he needed every ounce of his self-control to do it.
"Talk to me, slayer," he breathed onto her neck before he took another swipe at her wound. The initial shock of her taste faded, but the richness of her blood was still intense. He held himself still with predatory control, only allowing his tongue to sweep across her flesh. The sensory overload of touching her any other way would be too much. Her whimpers of pain gave way to sighs of pleasure as he dipped his tongue into the deepest trench of the gash.
"Don't stop. Please," she begged in a tiny, insubstantial voice. It made something unrecognizable clench in his chest.
"I'm not goin' to stop, kitten. Not ever." He wasn't sure if he could, even if sunlight were to suddenly burst through the window. The words whispered across her skin were unbidden, and the Watcher shifted his weight, the wooden butt of the crossbow cracking menacingly under his steely grip.
Buffy's eyes shot open, her blurry gaze trying to focus. "Giles?"
"I'm here, Buffy. You're safe."
"Giles, please," she whimpered.
Her watcher swiftly ducked down next to the bed so he was eye level with her. Spike fought back the territorial growl that rose up in his chest. He had no right to her. Not yet. She still belonged to the Watcher. Giles brushed Buffy's hair from her face with ease that made Spike jealous.
"It's alright, Buffy. I won't let anything happen to you."
A near imperceptible shudder ran through her body that only Spike detected. It was a shudder of pleasure. Of disgust. The wound on her back was nearly clean, the thinnest edges already knitting. Beneath him, her muscles were tensing, and he could feel the vibration of her thighs though they were inches from his. His little slayer was about to breach the first circle of her conditioning, and her Watcher was about to witness something he'll never be able to burn out of his brain for all the brandy in the free world.
The pain was receding under the onslaught of pleasure building inside her, but coherent thought was still difficult. Her distress ratcheted up as she realized Giles was in the room with them. Watching them. Watching her as she got off on Spike's tongue dipping in and out of her wounds. She wasn't clear on exactly what was happening, but she knew it was personal. Intimate. The only thing her pain-drenched brain could process was that Spike was taking the agony away. Lovely, wonderful Spike and his miraculous tongue. What he was doing was wrong and dirty on so many levels, but she didn't want him to stop. Couldn't have him stop. If he did, she was afraid she would fly off this tilt-a-whirl called life and end up floating in a sea of darkness and agony. Heat was building between her thighs, soaking her cotton panties and soon she would be doing more than moaning beneath Spike's tongue. She'd be writhing.
"Get out!" she snapped. Direct and desperate.
"Buffy?" Giles drew back, stunned at her vehemence.
Spike stopped. Lifting his head to peer over Buffy's shoulder at the watcher.
"Don't stop," she growled, her pain-darkened eyes flashing back at him. He lowered his mouth, his self-satisfied smirk ghosting over her skin. She shivered beneath him as he lapped along the edges of her cut. She closed her eyes to absorb the pleasure of it, before redirecting her gaze towards Giles. His expression was stricken and disgusted. Buffy wanted to bury her face in her arms and hide away in shame. She didn't want Giles to look at her like that. More importantly she didn't want that look to deepen into revulsion. And she really didn't want Giles to know what her 'O' face looked like. Lethargic and pain laden, she shifted until her fingers wrapped around Giles' arm just below the rolled cuff of his shirt. Her skin was so sensitive she could feel each individual hair under her fingertips. She needed him to leave. Now.
"Please, Giles. Go."
"Buffy, you aren't safe. You are too weak to protect yourself from Spike if he attempts to harm you."
"You can't. What he's doing is working. I can't have you here…I can't have you see," she choked. Spike's magic tongue took away the pain long enough for her to be able to think, but her mind was quickly becoming clouded with pleasure. "Please, we have to trust that Spike won't hurt me."
"We can't ever trust him, Buffy. He could do something terrible. He could…" Turn you was left unspoken between them. She tightened her grip on his wrist. It was meant to be reassuring, but it only underscored her weakness.
"It takes two to tango, right? He can't turn me unless I drink. I won't do that. Not ever. If you can't trust him, then trust me." The pressure was beginning to build, pressing insistently at the base of her belly, her clit pulsing to the rhythm of the ceaseless swipes of Spike's tongue. "Get out. Get out now," she ground out with as much force as she could.
Her words were filled with such desperate panic that Giles couldn't help, but be spurred on by them. As much as he worried for her safety there were some things he never, ever wanted to see, despite Spike's outlandish accusations. At the threshold of his bedroom he glanced back. The vampire hunched over Buffy watched him go with gleeful victory glittering in his dark eyes as he lapped up Slayer blood. Giles closed the door, griping his belly to try and curb the slick twist of despair in his gut.