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Giles watched as the fruit of his misspent youth and affection was led away by a contingent of Initiative soldiers. The day had been an absolute nightmare of unimaginable proportions. From the moment he had awakened as a Fyral demon up until his Slayer had mistakenly tried to kill him, he had burned with rage and frustration. Now it was galling to admit that his freedom and the resolution to his difficulties were in no small part courtesy of one chipped vampire.
Spike understood the grunts and babble that none of the others had. He had instantly recognized Giles, even in the hulking form of a horned demon. Not only had Spike recognized him, but he actively assisted Giles’ search for Rayne and evasion of the military prats that were even now seeking to congratulate themselves on capturing the conjurer.
All things considered, Giles was not regretting Ethan’s return. It had served to warn him of the Initiative’s true purposes. Perhaps his Slayer needed him yet!
“Happy to help, Buffy,” Finn whispered as he trailed the cuffed Rayne out of the motel room. “We take care of our own.”
Buffy dissolved into tears as soon as she was alone with Giles. “God, Giles, I nearly killed you!”
“There, there, dear, no harm done in the long run,” Giles hugged Buffy awkwardly. “That is, unless you consider this dreadful shirt I am forced to wear.”
Buffy sniffled and smiled at his small jest. She had spent a terrible day thinking her father figure was murdered and tearing around the town seeking revenge on the demon responsible. Riley had pushed his way into the final act of the farce and was at least useful in dealing with Ethan Rayne. Now all she wanted to do was sleep for about a year.
“Glad you knew where to find Ethan Rayne and really happy the furniture is too cheap to be real silver,” she sniffed.
“Actually, Spike assisted me in finding Ethan,” Giles told a surprised Buffy. “He even led the soldiers on a merry chase so I could escape becoming one of their caged exhibits.”
Buffy shivered at the close call. The thought of what might have happened to Giles in the bowels of hell called the Initiative made her blood run cold. She owed Spike big time for keeping that from happening.
“God, the thought of it there in that pit!” she sat on the end of the bed and tears began to escape unheeded as she began to describe the reality that was the Initiative. “I know they’re demons and all, but it’s awful, Giles. It’s like a scene from some terrible horror movie and the bad guys are the humans!
“I mean, a part of me says that what they’re doing isn’t wrong. Demons bad; okay to kill demons. But then part of me remembers Angel, and I think I know a couple of those demons from Willy’s. There was this one female and she was tragic, Giles. She was cradling her little girl and they looked so traumatized!”
“Buffy, you are right to be disturbed by this and it isn’t all right in the least,” he reassured his Slayer. “Just because you have a strong sense of right and wrong does not mean you are betraying your calling. Demons harming humans are quite rightly to be slain. This is a far cry from that, however. I remember reacting much as you are, less the unmanly tears, when I read of the Council’s own period of experimentation.” He smiled gently at the weeping girl.
“At least the Council has learned to leave certain demon species alone when they are harmless,” Giles said grimly. “This group doesn’t care a fig about that aspect. Buffy, there is something you need to know about the real plans they have for you there.”
An hour later, one much shaken Slayer emerged from the motel room, determined to bring down the group who had thought to make her exhibit B.
“Spike, please come in.” Willow stepped back to let the vampire enter the dorm room. “I’d like you to meet Tara Maclay.”
Tara looked at Spike, eyes wide in disbelief. He wasn’t even bruised! “You look fine! I-I mean I’m glad of course, but… um…how?”
“I heal pretty quick, little one, no need to worry,” Spike said gently. “Hear I have you to thank for sending this lot to the rescue.”
“Guess we’re even then, since you rescued me first,” Tara said with a wry grin. She couldn’t stop herself from taking a quick peek at this man’s aura. What she saw caused her to back up until her knees caught on the bed and she sat down hard. “No wonder they said you weren’t dead!”
Willow looked from one to the other in confusion. Spike tilted his head and looked more closely at this surprising girl. She was a knowing one. Funny how that was hidden under the shyness.
“I’m thinkin’ I don’t need to explain or make up a lie, am I right?” Spike asked with a quirked eyebrow.
Tara swallowed hard, never taking her eyes off the man that Willow had invited in. “I know what you are, yes.”
“Thought as much. Right downy bird you’ve got here, Red.” Spike nodded in approval. “Met many of us, have you?”
“No, never. I mean, you’re the first I’ve met up close. My mother taught me lots of important things.” Tara looked more closely at Spike’s aura and furrowed her brow in confusion. “You’re different. I’ve never seen an aura like yours on a vampire. Usually it’s all black, maybe some red streaks when they’re angry. You’ve got all kinds of colors.” She stood and looked him squarely in the eye. “I’m not afraid of you, you know.” It was almost a challenge.
Spike had to smile and decided he liked this gentle woman with a core of iron. “Rather foolish then,” he tested her.
“No, not foolish. I don’t know why, but I know you won’t harm me…Or…or Willow.”
Willow was still struck dumb by the realization that Tara already knew about vampires. Finally, she blinked and noticed the comfortable attitude between her new friend and the vampire she had thought she knew pretty well. Nothing was like she expected. Spike was gentle, even kind towards Tara and Tara was not afraid in the least when faced with a creature that should have sent her screaming into the night.
“Well, that’s settled then. Heard you wanted to champion me, kitten. No one’s ever done that before. I appreciate that.” He smiled at the girl.
“I still want them to pay for what they did to you,” Tara said forcefully. She looked at Willow and said, “It doesn’t matter if you’re a vampire or not, it was wrong. You weren’t hurting anyone.”
“Hear not everybody’s bein’ so understandin ‘bout your opinion.” Spike saw the girl blanche. “Someone told me you had a visitor. Anything I can help with?”
Tara, surprisingly to Willow, opened up immediately. “It was their coach. He didn’t threaten me, not really. He dropped all these hints though, about how no one had a perfect past and had skeletons in their closet that would be messy if they got out. I think he was trying to make sure I didn’t talk about what happened.”
Spike was frowning and Willow had begun to pace angrily.
“That CREEP!” Willow was furious. Tara had a gentle soul and couldn’t possibly have anything to be ashamed of in her short life.
“Agreed,” Spike said, no less angry than Willow. “Got you worried though and no need. No one to tell, after all, since I’m already dead in all the ways that matter to you lot. Nothing for you to lose sleep over, kitten. If the wanker comes back, just agree to keep still and it’ll all blow over.”
“But that’s wrong too!” Tara couldn’t understand why the vampire wasn’t more interested in getting back at the boys who had inflicted so much pain for no reason. “They can’t just keep doing things like this and getting away with it!”
“Sooner or later they’ll pick on the wrong victim, don’t worry about that,” Spike promised. “That sort always comes to a bad end.”
“Are you going to kill them?” Tara looked as concerned for the bullies as she had been for Spike. “Because I wouldn’t want that either.” She looked earnestly into Spike’s eyes, as if she could read his non-existent soul there.
“Couldn’t even if I wanted to,” Spike admitted. “Got a piece of hardware in my noggin that’d send me to my knees if I tried. Like to, I’ll admit, but it’s not gonna happen. Least not until I get someone to pull the wires.”
A short but intense conversation followed where Tara was told about the Initiative and the chip.
“That’s just wrong too, not that I’m not glad you aren’t killing or anything,” Tara said with a slightly confused smile at the ethical dilemma posed by Spike.
“Not gonna argue that one,” Spike laughed. “Toothless lion here and mighty pissed that all I can do is roar.”
“You may not be able to do all the things a vampire normally does, but that’s not necessarily bad, Spike,” Tara consoled the vampire. “I mean, it lets you get back in touch with your human side. That’s what I see with your aura. And that can’t be all bad. Besides, you’re really smart, I can tell. You’ll blaze a whole new path with how a vampire can be. That’s not so bad, is it?”
“Always was a rebel,” Spike agreed. “Still like to have my fangs back though. ‘S not natural.”
The visit somehow turned into the very tea party that Willow had told herself wasn’t possible with this meeting. Tara even knew how to ‘fix a proper cuppa’, as Spike complimented her. “Need to introduce you to the Watcher. He’ll be bowled over at the thought of a decent bit of Earl Grey.”
It turned out that Tara knew about the demon world but not about Slayers. That led to another long discussion about the warriors involved in the battle between good and evil.
“So will you start to fight on the side of light now, Spike?” Tara ventured. “Because I think you’d make a powerful warrior.”
“No soul here,” Spike reminded her. “Demon. Evil.”
“Demons don’t have to be evil,” Tara’s vehemence startled the others. “I mean you can choose; you have free will just like anyone.”
“Suppose I do. Never thought about it much. Been evil a long time, pet, not easy to change.” Spike was gobsmacked at this girl. She had a lot in common with Joyce Summers and he readily added her to the short list of those who would never feel his fangs when he got them back.
“You’re a good one,” Spike nodded in approval. “Pure good, you are.”
Tara blushed prettily and ducked her head. Willow couldn’t help but agree with Spike’s assessment.
“Best be on my way home. Thanks again and ta for now,” Spike said as he exited the dorm room.
Willow turned to her temporary roommate and felt a strange shiver of desire that made no sense to her. Tara was a girl, after all. Willow decided to file the feelings in the ‘look at it later’ cabinet of her mind and just enjoy the company of this remarkable young woman. Still, the urge to run her hands through the blonde tresses that framed Tara’s sweet face was hard to deny.
Willow blushed at the thoughts and felt as awkward as in her worst high school moments. “Wow. You know all about demons and even grew up with magic. I didn’t find out about any of it until I met Buffy. You’re really lucky to have grown up like you did.”
“Not that lucky,” Tara whispered. “My mom was wonderful, that’s true. My dad, not so much. That’s my skeleton. I don’t want my family to know where I am. They had…plans…for me that didn’t include college or a career. I feel terribly selfish, but I was dying there. I had to try to get away. Live.”
“Now you don’t have to worry about them finding you. Spike’s okay and there’s nothing those poopheads can do to you.” Willow hoped her reassurances were true and that this girl would be safe. She determined to make certain of that.
Spike was nearing Restfield and his new home when he felt the stab of pain in his shoulder. Looking behind him he spotted the black-suited soldiers and took off in a dead run. “Bloody bastards! Not going there again!”
He began to run in a confusing pattern, trying to lose the soldiers trailing him. No matter how often he changed course or doubled back, they were still there. He could nearly taste the smugness.
‘Must be tracking me some way,’ he decided. ‘Gotta get some help.’ Without hesitation, his mind snapped, ‘Watcher!’ and he dropped to the sewers headed for Giles’ flat. “Bloke owes me one anyway.”
Willow had only been gone for five minutes when there was a knock on the door. Tara headed for the door without hesitation, “Did you forget something?”
“Never forget a pretty little thing like you.” Steve undressed the girl with his eyes and it wasn’t pleasant. “Miss me, wallflower?”
Spike let out a sigh of relief as the homing device rushed through the city’s sewage system. The Watcher had come through perfectly and, one minor surgery later, Spike was once more safe from his personal Inspector Javert. He was starting to hate this whole Jean Valjean lifestyle with a passion he used to reserve for Angelus alone.
Buffy came in looking as tired as Spike felt. “Hey, guys.” Just then, she noticed Spike shirtless and draped over Giles’ breakfast table. “What’s happening? Are we going to start eating the vampires now?”
Xander’s mind went to a bad scary place as he paled. “NO, no eating of vampires! Not here or anywhere else!”
Anya looked at her boyfriend in amusement. “I thought I was the one who shouldn’t talk in public!”
Buffy blushed brightly, especially when she caught sight of Spike’s smirk.
“If you have something interestin’ in mind, I’d rather not have the whelp in the audience, pet. But if you insist…,” he taunted.
“Oink!” he agreed affably.
“Can we please change the subject immediately, if not sooner?” begged the beleaguered Watcher. He would never get used to the sexual banter from this group.
“Where’s Will?” Buffy placated Giles.
To everyone’s surprise, it was Spike with the answer. “Left her with her new girlfriend at her dorm. Right lovely bird, that. Makes a fine cuppa too.”
“Wait!” Buffy said in amazement, “You had TEA with Willow and her friend in MY dorm room?”
“Invited right and proper, I was too. Ask the Watcher.”
“Actually, that is the case. Willow wished to reassure her friend that Spike had recovered nicely from his ordeal.”
“Smart as a whip too. Knew I was a vamp right off,” Spike said approvingly. “Make a right fine mate for the witch, keep her on the straight and narrow.”
Only Giles seemed to get the implications of what Spike was saying. It wasn’t his place to educate the children, so he kept to his own counsel, merely offering a warning look at Spike.
“Well, my day sucked beyond the telling of it,” Buffy grumbled. “I had to go back to that house of horrors and act like it was all okay with me.” Her shoulders slumped in weariness.
“Charm of the pretty uniforms wear off?” Spike sneered.
“Shut up, Spike,” Buffy replied, but without the force of her usual irritation. She had seen too much suffering to begrudge the vampire a bit of snark involving the Initiative.
“It’s like those films about the Nazi camps. I feel like a decent German citizen caught up in a nightmare.” She was fighting the tears that seemed ever present since her eyes had been opened to the evils under their feet.
“Got that right. Bastards nearly had me back in the war,” Spike nodded. “Long story about what yours truly did during the Big One. Had some vamps headed for slice-and-dice back then, but made my first heroic escape from a submarine.”
“Right,” a skeptical Xander snorted.
“Damn strait, it’s right. Buggers sig heiling all over the bloody boat. Sang ‘em a chorus of ‘God Save the King’ before burning their paperwork and draining the bastards,” Spike insisted. He had no intention of bringing the Poof into it, but it rankled that he was not being believed. ‘Bet they’d believe the Gelled Wonder.’
Giles could sense the truth of Spike’s story and asked for more details. Spike kept it to the Nazi angle and avoided mentioning Angel, even though he was tempted to let the cat out of the bag about Peaches siring that hapless sailor. ‘Wouldn’t be such a perfect hero then, Slayer. Knock the bugger right off that pedestal you’ve got him on.’ In the end he couldn’t bring himself to add to the girl’s burden, not tonight anyway.
“Never forgot though. Ran into their boss in ’48, goin’ by the name Fritz Hollman and farmin’ in Bavaria. Nearly caught him too, but he slipped away to Argentina before I could show him what a vampire really is.” Spike gave a wolf-like grin and his eyes gleamed gold as he completed his tale, “Finally did get the bastard though. Was down in Brazil in 1979 and I couldn’t believe my eyes at first. Every Nazi hunter in the world looking for the dastard and there he was doin’ the breast stroke in the ocean. Death certificate said he had a stroke, but I know what caused it!”
“You’re talking about Josef Mengele!” Giles exploded in excitement. “Are you saying you are responsible for his accidental death?”
“No accident about it. I wanted that bastard from the time I saw his name on the damned orders for our capture. Got my own back, didn’t I? Will again in time.”
“Fascinating,” Giles muttered. He had no doubt of the truth of Spike’s assertion nor of the vampire’s resolve to avenge his recent capture in a like manner.
“So how do we get these guys?” Buffy asked.
“Which ‘guys’ are we talking about, Buff?” clueless Xander asked. He still didn’t quite get the idea that Riley and his buddies weren’t the good guys in this story.
“All of them. The Initiative, the idiots that thrashed Spike, the human monsters.” She looked imploringly at Giles. “How do we get the bad guys?”
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/199924.html