Chapter 6

(following probably the longest introduction in the history of "No, I *shan't* re-write".)

Now, I would urge you to acquaint yourselves with the following song lyrics if you don't know them. And, mind, if I hear that you haven't read them properly and thereby lose all the subtle and magical nuances I wove with them, I'll send you a tape of my singing them. And if you're really naughty I'll play my guitar at you while I'm singing.

Oh, and OP means 'other people's'

Lyrics reproduced here, without permission, songs recorded by Mary Hopkin. (she sings 'em better than I do - take any chance to listen to a recording)

GOODBYE ( written by Sir Paul)
Please don't wake me until late tomorrow comes,
And I will not be late.
Late today when it becomes tomorrow.
I will leave to go away.
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye my love goodbye.

Songs that lingered on my lips excite me now
And linger on my mind.
Leave your flowers at my door
I'll leave them for the one who waits behind.

Far away my lover sings a lonely song
And calls me to his side.
When the song of lonely love
Invites me on I must go to his side.
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye my love goodbye.

Once upon a time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
And dreamed of all the great things we would do

Ch: Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.

Then the busy years went rushing by us
We lost our starry notions on the way
If by chance I'd see you in the tavern
We'd smile at one another and we'd say,

Ch: Those were the days my friend....

Just tonight I stood before the tavern
Nothing seemed the way it used to be
In the glass I saw a strange reflection
Was that lonely woman really me

Ch: Those were the days my friend...

Through the door there came familiar laughter
I saw your face and heard you call my name
Oh my friend we're older but no wiser
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end....
.... For we were young and sure to have our way.

'Single speech marks' indicate song lyrics (these lyrics are spoken or thought, not sung - I'm not that cheesy!) Oh, and a touch of Noel Coward - just because I could.

Later that same night:

Giles was working-out in the magic shop's back room. When sparring with Buffy he seemed almost comically vulnerable and fragile under the onslaught of her slayer force and speed; in normal human terms his strength and delivery were nothing less than remarkable. If he were still fighting other humans, rather than demons, his tally of concussions suffered would be around nil.

After getting his own back on all demon-kind and more than a few humans - who unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your point view, were presently out of his reach - Giles stepped away from the heavy punch-bag that had suffered his therapeutic berserk. Pulling his sweat-soaked T shirt over his head he slumped down, trembling arms sharing his weight with trembling legs as he leaned on the pommel-horse. It was while he was using his bunched-up shirt to wipe the sweat from his body that he heard an unexpected voice, "Nice to see you still keep in shape, Ripper."

Giles spun round to face the door, "You!"

His visitor paced deliberately and predatorily towards him, "I'm afraid so... but isn't it nice?"

Giles snorted at the quotation but refused to go further down that Rocky path. "What are you doing here and how did you get in?"

"Oh, sorry old boy, of course the door was locked wasn't it? Ah well, what's a locked door between old... friends? Time was, the securest of bank vaults couldn't have kept us from each other if one us were the other side of its door."

"And time was, not so very long ago, I'd have cheerfully locked you in said bank vault and sent the key spinning through several particle-absorbing dimensions."

"But, ultimately, it wouldn't have done you any good, would it?" They were now eye-to-eye and toe-to-toe and Giles found himself enclosed by a pair of arms which leaned on the horse behind him, mirroring his earlier position, "Face it, old man, ' When the song of lonely love invites me on, I must go to his side.' And you are, Ripper, aren't you? Lonely? Nothing's changed - we're neither of us complete without his other half are we? I'm tired of being lonely wherever I go and with whomever is there at the time."

Giles eyed his friend deliberatingly and, reaching his arms back, grasped the pommels behind him and slowly and effortlessly lifted himself up before sinking down to sit on the horse. The arms that were previously either side of him, now displaced by Giles's moving, came to rest on one hip and one thigh. "The gymnastics were always fun, weren't they Ripper?"

One hand pushed thighs apart; one pace forward brought his unbidden guest between Giles's legs, leaning closer until lips met.

Giles's hand came up to clutch the back of the other man's head and his legs wrapped around the body in front of him, pulling it closer, as the two men took the first steps in an old and familiar dance. Fingers played, lovingly and viciously, across skin and muscle, through hair and across scalp, as tongues stroked and battled against each other: a visceral metaphor for their haunted love/hate co-dependent relationship.

"Well, well, the Watcher and his wanderin' Warlock. Find a wardrobe, you two could come out in proper style - you've got the witch already."

"Damn it, Spike, what is this, tonight, bloody open house? Don't tell me: the door was locked but that's never bothered you yet."

"I'm impressd - spot on, Watcher. Anyway, I'll go, um, don't let me interrupt the proceedings. I'll just go... over here."

Finding himself a place against the wall bars, close to the others, Spike sank cross-legged to the floor with a lithe strength and grace that put Giles in the shade. Retrieving cigarettes, he lit one, caught Giles's look, regarded the packet momentarily then threw it across. Giles caught it without taking his eyes off the vampire who was now lounging back against the wall bars one leg streched out, the other pulled up to support his arm - cigarette casually dangling from its hand. Reaching his other hand up and above his head lightly grasping one of the bars, Spike tilted his head to one side resting his face in the crook of his elbow. The hand carrying his cigarette to his mouth stopped as he saw Giles's expectant look. "Bloody hell, take advantage of a broken, broke vampire why don't you?" Snarling, cigarette between teeth, he dug through his pocket again then threw his lighter over. "Bloody OP smokers, they're the ones should carry the bleedin' health warning."

Giles lit a cigarette and put both pack and lighter down beside him. Ethan remained where he was, encircled by Giles's legs, one arm encircling Giles's body. His face was set in its typical expression of amused and interested irony as he regarded the figure draped provocatively against the wall bars; he took the cigarette from Giles, took a drag and returned it. He was getting more entertainment than he had expected, tonight. And the unexpected had long been one of Ethan's favourite entertainments.

Neither men was concerned by the interruption to their re-introduction. They had gone through the procedure many times before and would do so again; any novelty factor was to be appreciated rather than resented. And the vampire certainly was not the slightest bit concerned about their feelings either way. Ethan could only stand back in awe of the blond's complete disregard of the tradition of the interloper's self-consciousness in such a situation. Along with altruism, embarrassement was obviously nothing more than a word which started with a vowel in Spike's dictionary. Ethan mentally bowed his head to a true master of the art of unconsidered arrogance.

"What is it, precisely, that you want, Spike? It's obviously not your usual larceny or you'd have been in and gone without our knowing."

"Oi, watch with the larceny, Rupert. I'm the only one 'ere been robbed tonight. You should be supplying your own after- or instead-of- shag fags, not taking advantage of a serendipitous visitor. Bit of gratitude here? What'd you have done if I hadn't come along to enjoy the show, eh?"

"Spike and serendipity - two words unlikely to come together in a sentence of any thought of mine. Besides..." Giles raised an eyebrow at Ethan. Ethan, glancing over at the indignant vampire, obediently patted his back pocket, indicating the presence of a pack of cigarettes, and threw Spike a consolitary grin.

"Bloody hell, two scrounging bastards," Spike grumbled.

"So, Spike, are you here for a particular reason or just to annoy?"

"Well that's nice, innit? You're winning on the annoying front, today, pet. But, yeah, as a matter of fact I have got something special in mind. Came here to have a man-to-man chat with you about a certain young man and his man-to-man proposition... think I'd do as well to forget the talking, though, and just watch the action. Pick up on the practical. I did say not to let me interrupt." Spike leered at the two men.

"What is this sudden incapacity of the sexually active of Sunnydale to know what to do with hormone surges? Why is everyone coming to me? And you, why the hell should you want my advice? God, I must be getting old; I'll have to start looking for a condo in Florida or some sheltered housing, complete with potted palms and Merrie England, in Budleigh Salterton." Giles sank his head despairingly onto Ethan's shoulder and the vampire smirked.

"Yeah, 'Moonlight behind you', no doubt. Well, you know, like I said to our young Xan, you shouldn't believe all you read in your books, Rupert. Some vamps just need the voice of experience to guide them along the path of alternate sexuality.

"I'm a perfectionist, me; if I'm gonna do it I want to do it right. Wouldn't want to frighten the horses, would we?" Spike ground out his cigarette against the sole of his boot and looked cheerfully up at Giles, winking amiably at Ethan.

Giles's expression, as he raised his head, was wary. "Is there some subtle cultural implication I'm missing, here? Why do references concerning homosexuality in the Victorian age crop up in conversation with both you and Xander, on the same day?"

"Wouldn't know 'bout Harris but genuine Victorian here, don't forget. Got lots of cultural memories, from lots of times, packed away inside," Spike patted his head with one long finger and chuckled. "Lots of nasty fates doled out, in the form of legal justice, to a load of stupid, if possibly pleasant, geezers back then. Wankers. Me, I got more sympathy with the horses."

The other two were left to guess whether 'wankers' referred to the judiciary or its victims. Stretching both arms up straight, Spike grasped the highest rail he could reach and pulled, lifting himself out of his seated position to thrust his hips up and forward for maximum stretch along his body, arms and legs.

"At least you'd never suggest that Oscar Wilde was a founder member of Frankie Goes to Hollywood," muttered the beleaguered Watcher handing the stub of his cigarette to Ethan, to step on. Ethan and Spike exchanged bemused and amused looks before turning to Giles for an explanation. "And, no, I am not going to expand on that. It was painful enough the first time round."

"One of Harris's little gems, eh? So, he came to you for a similar chat, then Watcher? The whelp's certainly grown a pair; at least he did between talking to you and - talking - to me." Balancing his weight on his heels, the blond grabbed a higher rail then lifted his lower body up so his legs were straight out in front of him, his back flush against the bars. "So, here we are - little innocent ol' me and you two.... hands-on experts." Spike quirked an eyebrow, folded his body in half so that his feet were level with his hands, then simultaneously released his grasp, pushed with his feet, flipped, somersaulted and landed lightly and perfectly-balanced on his hands. Another flip and he was on his feet again looking encouragingly at the two men. Both ignored his silent urging to continue the conversation and stared at him from twin expressions of reluctant and pissed-off admiration heavily tinted with envy green.

"Hmm, what? Oh, just a vampire thing," he shrugged. "Dynamic tension and all that, s'easy enough to do, all you need's supranormal strength and muscle control and excessive natural coordination and anyone could do it." He noticed that one of the men watching him had yet another emotion building in him and Spike held his look for just a little longer than necessary.

"Now, Watcher, about that man-to-man, man-on-man talk..."

As they left the gym for the kitchen's greater comfort and convenient liquid refreshment, Ethan fell back a few paces. Watching the vampire walk in front of him, he pondered the opportunities that might present themselves in the next few weeks after the talking was over and this new re-union with Ripper was getting old.

still later:

"...So then, after all these weeks of gormless staring and slaverin', out of the blue, he grabs hold of me, kisses me - bloody good kiss, too, give 'im that - lands me with a stiffy as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar and sits there calmly drinking my beer as I try to frighten him off. Hah, I'll make a poker player of him yet..."

"And you really want my words of wisdom on what to do and how to do it? I'm still surprised at your coming to me for advice. I am getting to be the father figure."

"Yeah, summat like that, don't get carried away on the paternal theme, really doesn't suit you, Sweet-cheeks. So - you know him, do you reckon he's serious about all this?"

"From what he's said I'd have to say that he appears to be quite serious. I would also say that as he's made his move, it's time for you make yours. Just, whichever... whatever you decide to do... nothing harsh, hmm? He's rather vulnerable at the moment. More so than usual. I really would not like to see him hurt. Just remember that, Spike - for your own benefit as well as his."

Later again - so late that it has become now:

Giles, whisky in hand, standing in the darkened window of his sitting room, looking out at stars disdainfully painting infinity. He grips the arms wrapped around him and pushes back, more tightly, against his once-again re-discovered lover. How many times over the years have they parted, only for one or the other to find his way back again? Pop-song references aside, it has always been thus: as their being together has a finite survival time, so their separating cannot overcome the constant bond pulling them back, each to the other, again and again.

Giles smiles nostalgically. He is hearing in his mind a song that reminds him of the time when he and Ethan were first discovering their hunger for the power that dwells in the shadows. He is hearing the pure and plaintive voice of a young, blonde girl - from a little town called Pontardawe in a small but ancient land called Cymru - who sings to each succeeding generation that is willing to hear it, the bitter-sweet pathos of human ephemera. He looks at, rather than through, the window before him and sees '... a strange reflection'. His lover's lips caress his neck and murmur his name. He sighs. 'Oh my friend, we're older but no wiser, for in our hearts the dreams are still the same.'

He is remembering occasions, in a packed and overburdened life, and situations similar to the one he had been discussing today. 'Leave your flowers at my door, I'll leave them for the one who waits behind.'

He is wondering if he has said the right things today, to the right people.

Chapter 5
Chapter 7