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The Net Result
non-existent motorway service stations
by Raven

PG, gen, crossover. A man named Spike visits Giles.

At one time, it had been part of his personal philosophy. A Watcher, bound to protect and serve, never locked his door. It didn’t have to be locked to keep the vampires out, and everything else got in whether it was locked or not. But some time after the funeral, Dawn was safely in the care of Willow and Tara, Anya was running the Magic Box, and Spike had finally stopped crying, and the feeling of not being needed was too intoxicating not to act upon. Rupert Giles locked his door, stopped washing dishes after he used them, started staying awake into the small hours of the morning and considered taking up smoking again.

It was liberating, in a way, to be himself for the first time since he was ten, and if one of his internal voices insisted on telling him he was acting like the classic stereotype of self-destructive Watcher, he chose to pay no attention to it. Instead, he carefully finished off his diaries, added his signature in the way he had always known he would have to, and went back to re-learning the chords for The Beatles’ Long And Winding Road.

The music followed him into his dreams. If he stayed awake until the sunrise, he tended to fall asleep in the middle of the afternoon, and one evening found him on the couch, one hand trailing the floor.

Knock, knock.

“Piss off, Ethan,” he murmured, before abruptly remembering it wasn’t 1974 and sitting up with a start. The knocking came again, more urgent this time, and half-afraid, he called out, “Who is it?”


There didn’t seem to be any way out of it. Sighing, he got to his feet and unlatched the door. “Spike, go away.”

The man’s brow furrowed. “I only just got here!”

Giles blinked. “Spike?”

“Yes, Rupert,” said Spike in the tones of one dealing with the mentally incompetent. “I did mention it. You said, who is it, I said Spike, which was my name the last time I checked and can I come in?”

“What? Yes, of course.” Giles stood back to let him in. “I do apologise for the confusion. I have a lot of dealings with a local vampire who also answers to the name.”

Spike blinked. “That’s ironic.”

“Yes, it is rather. How are you, Spike?”

“Busy,” Spike said, settling himself down on the chair by the desk. “Always busy. Heard this place was some sort of magnet for vampires, so I thought I’d check in. Tell me, Rupert” – and his eyes were sincere – “it’s me. I’ve known you for years. What did you do?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know perfectly well what I mean. Last I heard, you were half-Watcher, half-curator, no demonic possession at the British Museum on your watch, et cetera, et cetera. Next thing I hear you’re in some godforsaken little town in California, of all places, doing something not so much vague as entirely unspecified. Tell me, whom did you piss off this time?”

“No-one specific. Possibly the Powers That Be.” Giles sighed. “Spike, amazing as it may seem, I was actually doing good work here.”

Spike leaned back. “Go on, surprise me.”

“I was Watcher to an active Slayer.”

“Ah. Consider me surprised.” Spike leaned back. “You know, I think I need a drink.”

“Right.” Giles picked up a glass off the table, stared at it and put it back down. He tossed Spike the bottle instead.

Spike tipped his head back and seemingly inhaled the liquid. “Now that,” he said, “is a good gig, and I’m not just talking about the Scotch. Dear old Ripper as active Watcher, it does have a certain poetic ring to it.”

“This from a man who calls his department the Suckers and Biters?”

“From what I hear you get plenty of both round here.” Spike grinned for a moment. “At least, plenty of the former. Any werewolves?”

Giles took the bottle off him for a moment. “One,” he said. “Actually, make that two. Both have since left the area and I can’t say I blame them. How’s your wife?”


“Have a drink.”

A moment of practised choreography later, the bottle had been passed from hand to hand and they were staring at each other again. “So,” Spike said at last. “You were an active Watcher. Past tense?”

Giles nodded. “As of forty-two days ago. She died saving her sister and saved the entire world while she was at it. Very heroic. I was never prouder of her.”

Spike nodded. “You poor bastard.”

“Likewise. What happened to Cindy?”

For the first time, Spike hesitated. “It involved time dilation, the Swindon croquet team, a non-existent motorway service station and an old friend named Thursday Next. The net result was she died.”


“Yes. Does it make a difference?”

“Of course not.” Giles sat back. “All Slayers die heroically. All Watchers drink themselves to death.”

“I don’t think I should be helping you do that, Rupert,” said Spike thoughtfully. “You know, I never pictured you ending up like this.”

“How are you here, anyway?” Giles asked, letting a smidgen of interest tinge his voice. “Timestream fiddling?”

“Sort of. Lavoisier owes me a favour. It’s a mere five-year jump, something like that?”

“More like fifteen.” Giles groaned, putting his head in his hands. “God, fifteen years. I’ve half a mind to go back with you, give Ethan and Ripper a shock.”

“There are rules against that kind of thing,” Spike protested. “You can’t walk in on yourself. In fact, I wouldn’t walk in on Ethan and Ripper no matter the circumstances. Am I embarrassing you? Good.”

Giles laughed suddenly. “Spike, you’ve actually done me some good. Now tell me why you’re here.”

“Just a flying visit, nothing more.” Spike was still looking thoughtful. “I wouldn’t want you to do anything stupid, if you get my meaning.”

“Right. Don’t do something stupid. Check. Spike, what are you not telling me?”

Spike grabbed the bottle back from him. “Nothing. What, a friend and fellow vampire-hunter can’t have a look in?” He paused, looking round the apartment with its unwashed dishes, papers on every surface and battered sheet music hanging off the back of the chairs. “So what are you doing, if not something stupid?”

Giles merely stared. “I’m tired, Spike. I’m sick of being pulled in every direction by lovelorn vampires and distraught witches and ex-vengeance demons dancing the Dance of Capitalist Supremacy.”

“And we have an admission, finally. I can’t say I really get this twelve-step shit, but I’m just doing my job. Go on.”

“And I think I’m not needed any more, because quite frankly I’ll never be able to face doing this again, and the children are no longer children, and....”


“And I miss her.”

There was a pause, then Spike nodded. “Well done, Rupert! You miss her. What next?”

That, at least, was obvious. “I keep on missing her.”

“Give the man a cigar. That’s how it goes. I won’t tell you to stop drinking, or give up smoking...”

“I hadn’t restarted yet.”

“Well, that’s something. Tell me, how can someone with an IQ as allegedly high as yours be capable of such incredible stupidity?”

“I’m a Watcher. Highly refined product of generations of inbreeding.”

“True enough.” Spike stood up then, his gait entirely too steady considering the amount of whiskey in his bloodstream. “You know, I thought she was a librarian for the longest time.” It took Giles a moment to realise he was talking about Cindy. “Made me think of you. There’s hope for you yet, Rupert.” He leaned over and dropped a kiss on Giles’s head. “Trust me.”

“I always have.”

“Good, good.” Spike wandered across the room and opened the front door. “I’m off, then. Mission accomplished and thanks for the drink. Should I give your love to Ripper?”

“Tell him to stop making such an arse of himself.”

Spike nodded. “Sure thing.”

“Spike?” Giles had joined him by the doorway. “Before you go, I would be obliged if you stopped by the cemetery. There’s a vampire living in a crypt down there. Don’t kill him!” he added quickly. “But a pep talk wouldn’t go amiss. The man has cried to the point of dehydration.”

Spike nodded again. “What’s his name?”

“One guess.”

“Right.” Spike smiled. “Be seeing you, Rupert.” He walked quickly through the courtyard and disappeared into the relative darkness.

Giles closed the door, but he didn’t lock it.

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