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   “And you thought it was okay to just keep secrets from me?”

   The argument had been going on in not-at-all-hushed voices for the last hour. Spike knew better than to put his oar in again. His jaw still hurt from the last time he’d piped up. He sat quietly roped into his chair, too weak to tear the ropes (something he might have been able to do at full strength) and just listened. At least he wasn’t being tracked by those soldier jobbies, and he didn’t have to worry about his own kind getting him, and when the sun came up, he’d be safe under a roof. He’d never realized how truly vulnerable a vampire was until they took away his ability to hurt others.

   Buffy was having it out with just the watcher now. They were griping at each other in the watcher’s kitchen, shoving leftover Thanksgiving dinner into plastic bags and tupperware. The other Scoobies had left after her rage had started swelling, abandoning the chance at pumpkin pie. “Scoobies.” Spike always tried not to laugh whenever he heard this. The word had meant ‘clumsy’ back in the 70's, hence why the cartoon dog had been named for it. The way those dumb sods handled their hellmouth-guardian duties, the name actually fit perfectly. This was the clumsiest damn operation Spike had ever seen, and he still had the wounds in his torso to prove it.

   He was damned lucky none of those Indian-things had managed to pierce his heart.

   “You have to understand, Buffy, there were extenuating circumstances,” Giles said.

   “What, Angel had some bad feeling about me? So what else is new?”

   Or maybe not so lucky. At least if he’d been dusted, he’d be out of this. The scent of the slayer’s blood was starting to give him the jitters. It had been two weeks since he’d fed, and before that he’d only been on whatever those... commando buggers had laced up with drugs. He’d already gone through the worst withdrawal symptoms, complete with the shakes and the roaring, but the hunger was still gnawing at his belly, and god Buffy’s blood. It was just the one little puncture wound on her arm. It had hardly bled. As a slayer it would probably be healed up within one or two days.

   And Spike was clenching his teeth against the lust for it.

   Hunger aside, he had enjoyed the day for the most part. White hats were, he hated to admit it, amusing. He kept being torn between the desire to ruffle their hair and be patronizing, and sink his teeth in and drink in their childlike prattle. But the teeth-sinking was a thing of the past until he figured out this spell or whatever he was under that was keeping him from biting. Yeah, he was roped to a chair and still hungry (hungry, hungry, hungry!!! ) but he wasn’t alone.

   Spike wasn’t good at being alone. He’d been alone since he left off pursuing Angel in LA, after that Ring of Amara debacle. He’d have made himself some minions just for company if he could still bite. Someone to intimidate and slap around a bit. He rarely liked other vampires much, but any company was better than none.

   Buffy seemed to feel the same way, or she wouldn’t have surrounded herself with those idiots. Or... well, okay, the little witch had some redeeming qualities, but between Angel and the “Injuns” even she’d been playing the ninny this grand Thanksgiving.

   It had been a picnic to watch the slayer slither into white-hot fury when the little boy spilled the beans.

   “Angel was here? You mean Angel was here?

   They’d all gone quiet.

   “And you all knew? Willow?”

   Willow blushed (blood to her cheeks, dammit, that looked tasty...). “He... he said to keep it quiet, and... well... with Riley, and-and you, I thought....”

   “Xander?”

   He looked down when her glare turned to him. “I... only just saw him, Buffy. Right before dinner, that’s all.”

   “Anya?”

   Anya shrugged. “I don’t know what’s going on. I’m still trying to remember how menstruation works, let alone human social interactions. And I only saw him when Xander did.”

   Buffy rolled her eyes.

   “Giles, can you believe these guys?” Buffy said.

   Spike had already known where this was going to go. Buffy caught it from Giles’ face almost instantly.

   “You....” There it was. The Et tu, Brute . She stood up from the table in fury. “How long did you know he was here?”

   “Only a couple of days, Buffy.”

   “You’ve been lying to me for days about this?” she demanded.

   “Just... two. Well. Three nights, including tonight. But—”

   Buffy slammed her hand onto the table, which would have been simply a dramatic gesture for anyone else, but of course Buffy being a slayer, half the table tipped, glasses toppled, and three plates landed on the floor before she pulled her hand back up and the table fell back onto all four legs. The witch had used the opportunity to start bustling around and clean, dragging Buffy into helping her.

   There had been a little more discussion about it, but the mild destruction had effectively changed the subject. Xander and his new bird skittered off to shag. The witch helped clean a bit, but Spike did catch her sort of apologizing at one point, saying she just didn’t want to get Buffy conflicted about Riley. It was the most reasonable explanation any of them gave her. She’d gone back to the dorm after that, and that left Buffy to clean up the leftovers with Giles.

   And of course Spike. Whose commentary on the subject — “Of course he’s skulking around. Old habits die hard,” had resulted in being punched in the face. He’d shut up after that.

   “It wasn’t just a bad feeling, Buffy,” Giles tried to explain with a patient sigh. “Angel had received some kind of prophecy. It... sounded legitimate.”

   “Since when is Angel a prophet?”

   “He isn’t. But Angel claims the Powers That Be are involved in this. That it’s important what happens between you two, and he’s apparently now on a mission, on their behalf.”

   Buffy stared at him, incredulous. “The Powers That Be?” She asked, sarcasm dripping from her voice. “And who exactly are they, some indy band?”

   Giles chuckled, in a way that Spike thought sounded really condescending. “No, Buffy. The Powers That Be is one term given to the authors of fate. The... source of most prophecies, the architects of destiny. They would have been the ones to Choose you as the Slayer, for instance, rather than some other potential girl.”

   “I thought I got called as the Slayer because some elder vamp called Lothos decided to set up shop in the basement of my high school.”

   “And the patterns of destiny caused that to happen,” Giles said. “Imagine the Powers as some kind of force for good, the decision makers, a kind of....”

   “God,” Buffy said. “You’re talking god, right?”

   “I think it’s a little less concrete than that. I–”

   “Wait. Are these the assholes who sent that Whistler guy to Angel, trying to balance the score between good and evil?”

   “Who?”

   “That guy who stole all your liquor, before the whole, you know, Acathla thing?”

   “Well... um. I presume. I don’t really know much about that, truly. You only mentioned it the once. But from what Angel says, there is a destiny in play, and this man – ah, Doyle – has been sent to direct him on his path.”

   “His path to what?

   Giles looked up at Buffy with intense gravity. “His redemption.”

   Buffy looked stricken, but her jaw was tight. “And why do you care about his redemption, Giles? Why does Angel’s redemption mean so much to you that you’d — you’d lie to me, trusting him before you trust me?”

   Giles shuddered, and took another sip of his drink. He’d been drinking rather a lot of that brandy left over after Buffy had pulled it down for the yams or whatever it was she needed it for. “I know that you’ve been wounded by your break up, Buffy,” Giles said, and Spike rolled his eyes as the watcher changed the subject. “But Angel was absolutely correct there, it was not the most... functional relationship—”

   “This isn’t about my dating Angel!” Buffy snapped. “This is about him coming in here and you all agreeing to lie for him! Why?”

   “He assured me it was for the best, Buffy.”

   “But why couldn’t you have checked with me about what was best for me? How is every one of my friends sneaking behind my back and betraying me best for me?

   “It-it wasn’t a betrayal, Buffy. We’re all still standing for you and your well-being.”

   “But being unable to trust my friends isn’t good for me, or my well-being! And you decided to believe Angel on this? If you had warned me that there was some kind of prophecy, I could have protected myself better!”

   “But the prophecy wasn’t strictly about you, Buffy. It was sent to Angel. It was something he was destined to handle.”

   “But why does his destiny mean you have to toe the line on everything he says? And, god, why even believe it! I was supposed to die once, remember? So much for destiny!”

   “You did die, Buffy.”

   “I got better! God, Giles, just tell me why you even believed this?”

   “Prophecies have a way of coming true.”

   “Not just on Angel’s say so!” Buffy snapped. “And on this... flimsy little so-called vision, you’ve basically turned on me, and I need to know why. So why? Why!”

   Spike couldn’t take it anymore. “He’s got to!” Spike called out.

   “You stay out of this!” Buffy snapped over Giles’s counter.

   “Well he’s not answering you, is he?” Spike pointed out. “The watcher’s got to believe Angel has some magical destiny for good, or his little teacher bird died for nothing. In’ that right?”

   Giles looked like he’d been slapped, and he went pale. “I... I wouldn’t have put it that way,” he said. He swallowed what was left of his snifter of brandy and dug out a bottle of scotch. Spike nearly groaned at the sight of it. He wanted a drink almost as much as he wanted some blood.

   Buffy stared at Giles, and then looked back at Spike. “I don’t see what they have to do with each other.”

   Spike rolled his eyes.  “If Angel is redeemed,” Spike said, talking as if he was explaining to one of his idiot minions, “if he’s destined to do some kind of awesome good for the benefit of all, then the really nasty bits of his past are just unpleasant stepping stones on the way toward saving the world or some such bollocks. Which means the bird had to die, so the world could continue. Gives the dumb-ass gag-gift Angel bragged over a fitting conclusion.” Spike gestured up to Giles’ bed loft with his chin. “So in the watcher’s soft head, if Angel has a destiny, Jenny Calendar saved the world.

   Buffy frowned over this for a long moment. “But does Angel have a destiny?”

   “He was brought back for some reason,” Giles said quietly, “and it wasn’t, apparently, to be your partner. Even by having this... guide sent to him, there is some indication that he must have a destiny for something. And if it is for the ultimate good, then — then... well, I haven’t heard anything specific—”

   Buffy threw up her hands. “Yeah, well, I’m supposed to have a destiny too, Giles!” she said. “You know, the Slayer? Chosen one? All that stuff? I’m supposed to fight monsters! If Angel’s supposed to help me, then he’s supposed to tell me , isn’t he?”

   “I... don’t think it works like that.”

   Buffy glared. “If any great big fate-monster-destiny-powers think that lying to me is the best way to go, they’re full of it!”

   “That would have been Angel’s take on it,” Spike said. “Not them Powers.”

   Giles looked over to him. “Excuse me?”

   “He got a prophecy about your bloody Indians showin’ up. That’s all. No great power said, Oh, and lie to the bird, Angelbaby, there’s the plan, yeah? ” Spike shook his head. “Angel doesn’t think his little blonde girlies need to be included in his great schemes. He’s above it all, and they shouldn’t worry their pretty heads.”

   “I’m a slayer ,” Buffy snapped. “Angel likes strong women.”

   “Teenage girls aren’t strong women,” Spike snapped back.

   “Oh, and crazy bitch hos like Drusilla are powerhouses?”

   Spike raised his eyebrow. “Took out your other slayer chit, didn’ she? Which is more than I can say for Darla. Angel likes his ladies to think they’re tough, but defer to him when the chips are down, and, oh, let’s see, i’n’ that just what you’re doing?”

   Buffy’s face was hard as stone. “I am not.”

   “Well, you’re bitching out your watcher, you’re bitching out your friends,” Spike said. “I don’t see you bitching out Angel.”

   “He’s not here.”

   Spike tilted his head sardonically, and even Buffy realized that sounded lame. She frowned, marched over to Giles' phone, and dialed a number.

   “Yeah, hi, Dad,” she said after a minute. “It’s Buffy. I was wondering if I could come over for— No, I’m not in town.” She turned away. “No, I don’t mean tonight. I won’t interrupt your dinner, I....” She swallowed. “I know she doesn’t want that kind of complic— Dad.... Dad! I was just wondering if you wanted to see me this weekend.”

   The tension faded a bit from her shoulders as her father’s pretty obvious unwelcome shifted to something more accepting. “Yeah. That was what I thought. Just you and me, maybe go out for lunch or something. I mean, Mom’s out of town, so I was all alone for Thanksgiving this year.... No.... No, it would have been nice if she’d been willing, but.... It’s okay, Dad, it’s not like I was hurt or anything. But I thought I could see you.... Yeah. Is tomorrow too soon?” Her voice went properly bright then. “Okay. I’ll get a bus down to LA tomorrow morning. You can pick me up? Great. I’ll see you then!”

   Spike had hated listening to that phone call. It had sounded like when he was still human, chasing after an invite from people who didn’t really want him in their social circle. Made him almost sick to think it was the Slayer’s own father pulling that bollocks. Huh. He’d never been one for Angel’s game of killing the family before you kill the target, but maybe he could make an exception. Maybe he should eat the bastard, then bring his head back to present to the Slayer before he finally sank his teeth into her sweet, creamy throat and claimed her as his third....

   Of course, he couldn’t do any of that with piercing pains shooting through his head every time he tried to eat someone. Bugger.

   “I hope you’re not planning on doing anything rash, Buffy,” Giles said.

   “I’m gonna tell Angel to stay the hell out of my life,” Buffy snapped. “If he’s gonna leave, he needs to leave. He can’t leave, but still claim control over me. It doesn’t work like that.” She went up to Giles. “You agree, right?”

   “Buffy—”

   “Don’t Buffy me. I need you to promise me. If Angel comes back, you tell me. If anything bad is gonna happen, you tell me. I’m sick of being lied to by the people I’m supposed to trust!”

   Giles had the grace to look ashamed. He also looked pretty drunk, if Spike was any judge. “Well. Of course you are my first priority, Buffy.” He waited until she stopped glaring at him, and then swallowed the rest of his drink.

   Buffy looked unsatisfied, and rightly so. As far as Spike could see, the watcher had just thrown over Buffy’s destiny in favor of Angel’s, for very selfish and somewhat sketchy reasons. Unfortunately for Spike, the only other piece of unfinished business now, though, was…. “So. What do we do about Spike?”

   “Oh, just leave me here, I’ll be fine,” he said lightly. He had been yanking a bit on the chair. He was pretty sure he could break it if he just had a little bit more time....

   “I don’t know,” Giles said. “I’m not sure I trust that chair. I’m fine with it so long as we’re awake, but if I’m going to get some sleep, I’d need him more firmly imprisoned.”

   “Don’t need to be imprisoned,” Spike said.

   “Don’t you have some chains?” Buffy said, going over to a weapons trunk.

   “We don’t need to break out the chains, pet. I’m not that into you.”

   Giles shifted. “I think so, but there’s nothing I could chain them to that a vampire couldn’t break.”

   “I’m telling you, I’m safe,” Spike said. “Do you think I’d have come crawling to you wankers for pig blood if I could eat people?”

   “The railings, maybe?” Buffy asked.

   “Just the chair, if you insist on chains,” Spike said.

   “I think they could break, and I don’t fancy his company as I prepare for bed.”

   “You think I’d be staring at your skivvies?” Spike asked. “I’d rather burn my eyes out with a cattle prod.”

   “That can be arranged,” Buffy snapped. Hey. One of them noticed him. “Maybe we should just interrogate him real quick, and then send him on his way. I mean, we gave him shelter from the sun for a day, that’s really all we owe him.”

   Spike had other things he could have said to that, but he was suddenly scared. It wasn’t safe out there. It wasn’t just the sun he was hiding from, it was everything, the soldiers and the other demons and even sodding Harmony wanted to kill him. He couldn’t defend himself. He’d fallen on Buffy’s mercy, and with a casual dismissal, she was just about to rescind it....

   God damn it. He’d thrown his whole life into disarray trying to help her with that same damn Acathla thing she’d just mentioned. And this was what he got. Okay, so he had been trying to kill her not a month ago, also, but, you know. That was how the game was played, wasn’t it? But this wasn’t the game. Throwing him out to the mercy of the elements when he couldn’t defend himself wasn’t playing by the rules. This wasn’t part of the dance of good and evil, this wasn’t how it worked, this wasn’t... the game... anymore.

   The game was over.

   It was over, wasn’t it. It was all bloody over, and he’d lost.... His head sank.

   “I don’t think he’s likely to tell us the truth,” Giles said. “And I don’t feel comfortable just letting him go unless we’re sure he’s harmless.”

    Twist the knife, watcher boy, Spike thought.

   “Maybe I should just....”

   She let herself trail off, and didn’t say it, only looking at Giles. And Giles looked at her, and Spike heard it as loud as if they were shouting it. Just dust him and have an end on it. And he bit his pride and whispered something he hoped only Buffy heard, because his humiliation was already at an all time low. “Please.”

   Buffy didn’t acknowledge that she’d heard him, but she glanced down at him, frowning. “I can always shove the chair in the bathroom and lock him in.”

   “I don’t trust the door, either, not with a vampire,” Giles said, getting up to get another drink. “Though now that you mention it, the plumbing in this flat is excellent. If we chain him to the pipe fittings, that could contain him.”

   “Oh, bloody hell!” Spike muttered.

   “Sounds perfect. I guess we can put the filth in the bathtub.”

   Spike would have protested being called that ten minutes ago. After that moment of doubt on both of their parts a second ago, all he could do was look away.

   He wished he felt fury. All he felt now was despair.

 

***

 

   Spike was surprisingly weak. Buffy had noticed it while she was tying him up, but he hadn’t actually been fighting then. As she was shifting him from the chair into the bathtub, he got pissed off. “Get off, slayer, I can walk myself!” He’d tried to wrestle her off him, and... he didn’t feel like a vampire. He certainly didn’t feel like Spike, the intimidating fighter who had nearly won against her a couple times. No, he felt like a plain human being, and a slow one at that. She shoved him roughly into the bathtub, but she was holding back.

    Why are you holding back? she demanded of herself. She had to keep reminding herself that Spike was a killer. He was an evil, backstabbing murderer who had slaughtered thousands. He was not the wacky neighbor who had just been visiting for Thanksgiving.

   He was also the person who had taken Drusilla out of the picture, and told Buffy where Angel was hiding when he was about to destroy the world. He’d actively saved Giles that day.

    It was all self-serving, said the logical part of Buffy’s mind. He was about to kill you last month.

   But he didn’t.

   Spike glared up at her from the bathtub. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” he sneered. “The Big Bad brought low.”

   “Well, it does provide me with a certain level of satisfaction.”

   “Oh, yeah. You and Angelus, can totally see it. You’re just the same. Go for the humiliation and torture rather than the kill.”

   Buffy slipped the chain around the plumbing fixtures, testing it with her arms. She would have had a hard time breaking them, and would probably have needed significant leverage. Spike wouldn’t be able to free himself.

    Particularly not with how weak he is, came that voice again.

    He could be completely faking the whole thing, came that sensible one in Buffy’s defense.

   “That’s not who I am,” Buffy snapped.

   “Isn’t it?” Spike demanded. “Then where’s my blood?”

   “I’m not your caterer, Spike.”

   “No, I’m your prisoner. Surrendered to you fair and square. Ever read the Geneva Conventions, slayer?” Spike demanded. “No prisoner of war shall be subjected to inhumane treatment. Prisoners of war are entitled in all circumstances to respect for their persons and their honor.”

   “I’m showing you exactly as much respect as you deserve, Spike,” Buffy snapped.

   “Basic daily food rations shall be sufficient in quantity, quality and variety to keep prisoners of war in good health and to prevent loss of weight or the development of nutritional deficiencies. Account shall also be taken of the habitual diet of the prisoners.” He glared. “In other words, blood. Not lumpy turkey gravy and leftover cranberry sauce!”

   “My gravy wasn’t lumpy!” Buffy insisted, to cover up the annoyance, because… he had a point there. And that had sounded verbatim. “And why the hell should a vampire know the Geneva Conventions, anyway?”

   “You learn the important bits, when you travel a lot,” Spike said.

   “Like you ever followed them.”

   Spike glared up at her. “Not my war.” He shook his head. “If the Powers That Be are waging a war, Slayer, I’m not on their side, no. But I’m not on the side of whoever’s fighting them, either. They conscripted you as their soldier, I’m just trying to get by. I’m a civilian. Was never like Angelus, out to destroy the world, was I.” He grabbed her wrist. She could tell it was meant to be intimidating, but all it did was illustrate how weak he really was. “And don’t you know it.”

   She did know it. Everything Spike did was for himself, not for some Power, good or evil. And sometimes... or at least once... that thing he did for himself was very good. She knew she’d never have survived Angelus if Spike hadn’t been there to help and take down Drusilla. And save Giles....

   “The butchers was closed, Spike,” she said. “I’ll get you your blood in the morning, before I hit the bus station.”

   Spike closed his eyes and let his head fall back, with such a look of sheer relief that Buffy felt guilty all over again. It made her want to get up, break into the butchers, and see if there was any leftover blood lying around. But she sort of thought butchers usually washed that stuff down the drains unless they were asked before the slaughter to save it, didn’t they? She... really didn’t know. When she’d brought blood for Angel, she’d called the butcher, and they’d said, “Oh, yeah, Angel,” and apparently it was a whole thing he’d set up. All she had to do was show up and get it and pay a little. And she could always....

   She went back to chaining Spike up, leaning across the bathtub to screw the chains tight to the pipes, and she felt something cool and moist on her arm. She looked down. Spike was kissing her arm, he was — “Ugh!” Buffy jerked her arm back, smacking him in the face. She felt his teeth against her flesh, and they scratched her, and Spike grunted, wincing, as if she’d hit him twice.

   “Bloody hell,” Spike said. He looked up. “I wasn’t even biting her!” he said to some invisible power.

   Buffy looked down. That arrow puncture she’d gotten earlier. She’d had her arm right in front of his mouth, and he’d gone for the wound. Now she was bleeding again. She looked up at him, his eyes were fixed on her, his breath coming fast.

   “Oh, god, stop,” he said, either to her or his own head or whatever power he claimed he was under that kept him from hurting people. “Please.”

   That was the second time he’d said please to her this evening, desperately meaning it both times. Buffy caught up some toilet paper, pressing a pad of it over the wound.

   Spike winced at what she could only assume was the waste, but the sharp look faded from his eyes.

   “You just tried to eat me,” she snapped.

   “You dangled that wound in front of my nose,” Spike snapped back. “What did you expect me to do?”

   “Try not to bite the hand that’s gonna feed you.”

   Spike sighed. Then he got a very prim and proper and incredibly sarcastic look over his face. “I’m sorry,” he said formally, in a slightly high voice.

   It was patently obvious he didn’t mean it.

   Buffy scoffed as she tossed her toilet paper onto the sink counter. “Sounds as real as any other apology I’ve got tonight,” she muttered.

   “Dissension in the ranks, I saw,” Spike said. “Angel excels at stirring the muck.”

   “Yeah. And since everyone but you and me knew he was in town.” She rolled her eyes. Quite a lot of muck had just been stirred.

   “Oh, I knew he was here.”

   Buffy stopped, and then glared at him. “He tell you to keep your mouth shut, too?”

   “I knew better than to talk to him. I’m... helpless, aren’t I. I’d be dust in a half-second if Angelus got hold of me.”

   “Angel.”

   Spike rolled his eyes. “Whatever. Point is, no, unlike the rest of your sodding team here, I don’t follow his orders anymore, no matter what side he pretends to be on today.”

   “You are not on my team,” Buffy snapped, tightening the chains, but she was disgruntled. “So why’d you decide to keep him secret?”

   “I didn’t know he was supposed to be,” Spike said. “Din’t even occur to me you didn’t know. Thought sure you were the one pulling his bloody strings, sending him out and about the town. I mean, aren’t you s’posed to be all in charge?”

   “I thought I was,” Buffy said, annoyed.

   Spike was eyeing her thoughtfully. “Why do you think the others don’t agree?”

   “They do!”

   Spike scoffed. “Gimme a break. They don’t even respect you enough to tell the truth. Any of my minions treated me like that, I’d have dusted ‘em.”

   He was right. And it was Angel who had done that. “Well. Apparently Angel has a destiny, ” Buffy said. She shifted to attach the final link to the chains.

   “We all have a destiny, ” Spike said. “You got one, your Scoobies have their own, I know I’m already destiny’s bitch.” He lifted up his hands in their chains in silent eloquence. “Most of us don’t need to shout about it and make it everyone else’s business. If destiny’s really destiny, it can work itself out, right? Doesn’t need a slew of bells and whistles.” He shook his head. “But I guess Angel’s destiny is special, eh? Needs help and coaxing and lots of praise? Not like us poor ordinary sods.”

   “Hey. I’m the One, here! I’m the guy, the Chosen Guy!”

   “According to Angel, you’re his sidekick,” Spike said. “Or maybe just the love interest.”

   “I’m the hero,” Buffy snapped.

   “He’s the hero. You’re the leftovers,” he said. “Whatever part of his past destiny he left behind in order to pursue the rest of it.”

    Buffy tested Spike’s chains, a bit harder than she needed to, and Spike was yanked forward. “Shut up.”

   “‘S what he thinks,” Spike said. “And what your whole team seems to think, too. Your destiny is all second to his.”

   “I make my own damn destiny!” Buffy snarled.

   “You tell ‘em, goldilocks,” he said, in a teasingly patronizing tone. “You walk right away from that sacred calling, you do what you want.”

   “Shut up, Spike.” She dropped his chains, and he fell back. “Sleep.”

   “It’s nighttime!”

   “Yeah, it is!” Buffy said, snapping off the light.

   “I sleep in the day!”

   “Then you can see in the dark,” she snapped. She walked away, leaving the door partially open.

    That probably isn’t in the Geneva Conventions, either, said that little voice. In fact, Buffy was pretty sure if she looked at the Geneva Conventions, she wouldn’t be matching any of them in her treatment of Spike. So... what did that make her?

    Still a thousand times less evil than Spike, said the hard voice.

    Less evil wasn’t good, though, was it.

   Her head was whirling. Maybe she should go talk to Giles about this some more. Either about Spike, or about Angel, or... just... you know. Good and evil and destiny. She went back into the living room, and....

   Giles had gone to bed. She could hear him snoring up there, pretty heavily, and he’d left the bottle of scotch out. And most of the dishes....

   Buffy didn’t want to go back to the dorm and face Willow, so she pulled up her sleeves to wash a load of them.

    Angel has a destiny, came those voices in her head. Angel has a destiny which apparently involved coming up here to stalk you, but not talk to you. That didn’t even make sense.... And these Chumash weren’t actually that hard to kill, once she’d figured out how. What did the Powers think she needed Angel for? She’d killed much harder foes without Angel’s help, at least one of them being Angel himself! What...?

   She hadn’t wanted him here. She’d sort of sensed something was up. She hadn’t realized it was Angel, but she’d felt like she was being watched… dammit. Watched, lied to, manipulated… doubted. That was it, they all, every single one of them, doubted her.

   Except Spike. He had made the assumption that she knew all and knew what she was doing.

   The phone rang. Buffy ignored it, and Giles’s answering machine picked up. “This is Rupert Giles. I am unavailable now. Leave a detailed message, and I will return your call.” Most boring answering message ever.

   “Hello, Mr. Giles, is it?” came an accented voice over the machine. Buffy couldn’t place it, something foreign. Maybe Scottish? “You don’t know me, my name is Doyle, and I’m an associate of Angel’s. I understand that Angel came up to help the Slayer with a bit of a bother up there. I’d had a vision — he explained all that to you? — of your Slayer being in a spot of trouble she wasn’t equipped to handle, so the Powers had wanted Angel to take care of it. Well, trouble is, Angel came back, and was talking about vengeful spirits. He said he took care of it, and he’s all convinced that was it, but... I don’t know. I suppose it might have been. But the vision that I had, I’m fairly certain the trouble Angel was supposed to be handling was some kind of vampire.”

   Buffy put down the dish in her hand and walked over to the answering machine. She was debating answering it.

   “So, I don’t know, but I wanted to ask you. If there’s any sort of vampire that’s entered into your circumstances lately, something that might influence the Slayer in a way the Powers wouldn’t want? Because killing the vampire was probably Angel’s real mission, not those spirits he was just on about. Anyhow, if you could give myself or Angel a call if there’s any dangerous vampires in the area you might have missed. After all, Angel can always head back up, if you think there’s something the Slayer can’t handle. In any case, that was all. Keep a heads up. Thank you, Mr. Giles.”

   Buffy stared at the machine for a long, long moment.

   A vampire. Killing the vampire was Angel’s real mission. Your slayer in a spot of trouble she’s not equipped to handle.

    Not equipped to handle?

   “Do you guys really think I can’t kill Spike on my own?” she demanded of the now still answering machine.

   Well... the truth was... the Powers were probably right. She could kill Spike. But she didn’t want to, that was the whole point. This guy had come to her for help, surrendered to her, he was starving to death. And he’d helped her once when no one else was capable, or willing. Helped her defeat Angel, when Whistler claimed the damn Powers had just let Angelus happen….

   Those same Powers that wanted Spike killed.

   But they’d also sent Angel to do the job. Didn’t they usually give her slayer visions when something was important to her destiny?

   They did, though. And she’d had no visions. None. But they’d apparently sent special visions to Angel’s messenger, because she and Spike were important to his destiny....

   Well, god damn it, Angel’s destiny was no longer any concern of hers! He’d made that perfectly clear when he left for LA!

   There was a stake right by the answering machine. All she had to do was pick it up, walk in, dust Spike, and Angel’s destiny was clear. His destiny in regards to her. The Powers wanted Spike out of her life… for the sake of Angel’s destiny.

   “I’m the one who gets to decide that,” she muttered.  Not Doyle. Not Angel. Not the Powers. And not Giles, or the Scoobies, either! They hadn’t believed her about her evil soul-sucking roommate, they hadn’t been any help to her lately, and apparently they were perfectly content to lie to her at her ex-boyfriend’s random request!

   If Angel had come and talked to her. If he had been honest. If he hadn’t spent the last two and a half days stalking her (again!) and undermining Buffy’s trust and faith in her own damn team, she might have been more open to worrying about what the Powers thought about Spike entering into the picture. Now?

   Well. Spike was here. Dusting him seemed cruel, and was probably against the Geneva Conventions. She had accepted him as a prisoner of war-ish. That meant he was in her life, now, for better or worse, and he did have information, and he could help her deal with the commandos, and he wasn’t any kind of real threat (she was all but certain of that). And Angel was out of her life, through his own damn choices. Spike was in. Angel was out.

   She stabbed at the delete button on the phone message. Within moments, there was no longer any trace of Doyle’s concerned phone call on behalf of Angel and the god damned Powers That Be. She wasn’t going to live her life as part of Angel’s leftovers. She had her own damn destiny. She wasn’t going to see Spike dead unless she wanted it to happen.

   Destiny could just work itself out.

 

 

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Now that you've read this, read bewildered's companion piece, and unofficial sequel, Served Cold. (Things get hot!)