Part of The Shades of Grey Series
Summary: It is 2007, Buffy is dead, and Spike has an interesting offer for Giles.
Author Notes: Thanks to Matt and Emma for proof reading. I am a feedback junkie, please support my habbit!
Story Notes: Set post "The Gift". Season six never happened and Buffy stayed dead. Part 1 of 6
Disclaimer: I don't own any of them. Joss Whedon and co do.
Rain spattered against the bedroom window and Rupert Giles shivered slightly as he finally put his book aside for the night. The English autumn was beginning to show its true colours and for the last week or so the temperature had dropped a little lower with each passing night.
He was reaching for the bedside lamp when he heard two loud raps at the front door. He checked the clock - almost midnight.
Who the hell would be calling at this hour?
He hadn't even got out of bed before the visitor knocked again, this time louder and more insistently.
"Alright, alright," Giles mumbled as he hurried downstairs, putting his dressing gown on, glasses hanging loosely in his hand. He opened the door to find a solitary figure standing in the darkness of the porch. Berating himself for not having done so already, he switched on the porch light and put on his glasses.
It was a man, around mid twenties in age, light brown hair, with an almost alarmingly gaunt face. He was dripping wet, but still looked Giles up and down with a wry smile.
"Spike?" Giles stared at him in surprise for a long time before finally commenting, "You changed your hair."
Spike simply raised an eyebrow, an expression that clearly said, well done for spotting the bleeding obvious.
It had been over a year since the last time he had seen the vampire, but Giles noted that other than the unexpected lack of bleach, everything about him was still exactly the same. It was rather disconcerting, considering that Giles knew he himself was aging rather badly with each passing season.
Their quiet contemplation of each other ended when Giles prodded, impatiently, "What do you want?" He knew he sounded rather terse, but he reserved politeness for those who didn't call in the middle of the night.
Spike put a hand in his pocket to retrieve something, and then held it out to Giles, his hand stopping a fraction before it met the invisible barrier across the threshold. For an instant Giles thought it was a wooden stake, an absurd item for a vampire to be holding at any time. He glanced up to meet Spike's eyes, trying to judge if this was some kind of practical joke. Spike didn't meet his look and continued to gaze at the item with a look of deep concentration. Giles looked back more closely to see what the dead man had brought him this time.
It was a roll of parchment, so discoloured, cracked and wrinkled with age that in the dim light it had the appearance of the grain of wood.
"The Word of Bashkiri." Spike's voice was low, almost awed. Then he looked up to Giles with a tentative smile. "Do you want it?"
After what seemed like a long time in silent reverie Giles almost physically shook himself back to attention.
The Word of Bashkiri? It couldn't be. It was a myth, barely more than a rumour among those who knew their ancient texts, and virtually unknown to those who didn't. If it had ever existed in the first place it was believed to have been destroyed centuries ago. And of all the people to have found it, it was almost ironic that it should be Spike. It was even more astounding that Spike, knowing what the text was, would bring it to him. The Word of Bashkiri was rumoured to contain some of the most powerful anti-vampire magics ever known. There were tales of vampire crusades in ancient times, and again in the Middle Ages, dedicated to finding and destroying every last copy of the text. So this piece of paper in front of him couldn't be the Word of Bashkiri.
And yet, Giles knew that in the time since their rather bizarre arrangement had been going on, the vampire had never yet brought him anything that wasn't what he claimed it was. That fact, coupled with Spike's appearance at his house instead of the usual anonymous coffee shop, made him almost ready to believe. Still, Giles found himself wondering why Spike had brought it here. He knew that Spike's first instinct as a vampire must have been to destroy the text. Did he really need the money that badly, or was it down to Spike's own brand of sheer arrogance? Or, Giles wondered with more than a little surprise, did the vampire simply trust him enough to believe that he wouldn't use the knowledge contained in the text against him?
Giles reached out for the scroll.
"Might I, er...?" he hesitated for a moment, and when Spike didn't refuse he gently picked it up, holding the parchment at its very edges with his fingertips. If it was anywhere near as ancient as it appeared, he was afraid it might crumble to dust at any moment. With a somewhat reverent awe he took it back into the living room and laid it on the coffee table.
He wasn't even aware how long he stood staring at the scroll before his thoughts were interrupted by Spike's impatient voice from the porch.
"Oh, yes," Giles turned back with a start. He had almost forgotten the vampire was there. He wandered back to the door, absentmindedly polishing his glasses on the edge of his dressing gown. He suspected he knew what was coming next, and had an idea.
"Can I come in?" Spike obviously hated having to ask, but Giles wasn't yet in the mood to be polite to him. Not yet, anyway.
Giles' fist flashed out and hit Spike in the face. On a reflex Spike hit out and Giles' head rocked back when the vampire made contact with his jaw. That was nothing to Spike's reaction - he was suddenly yelling, clutching his head in a rather familiar manner. Excellent. Nice to know the chip was still working. Now he could be polite, if he so chose. There was still the little fact that it was gone midnight, but at least he now knew that the man on his doorstep wasn't dangerous. Well, at least not to humans. Spike's yell quickly became an angry snarl.
"Bloody hell, Giles! What was that for?"
Giles felt the corners of his mouth turn up into the tiniest of smiles as he rubbed his jaw.
"Oh, please Spike. Credit me with some intelligence," he said disdainfully. "You didn't really think I was going to invite you into my house without knowing if your chip was still active, did you? I wasn't exactly going to ask, now was I? If it weren't you would only lie anyway. I'm afraid that was the only way to be certain of getting a genuine response."
He turned and wandered back into the living room, still with a vague look of amusement. Almost as an afterthought he added over his shoulder, "Come in, Spike."
"Bastard," Spike muttered as he stepped over the now unprotected threshold. Giles saw him cuff the spot of blood from his nose, and in a childish gesture he ignored the mat inside the doorway and shook the rain off his coat onto the carpet.
"Tea?" Giles asked, wondering if he ought to go and get dressed before they got much further with whatever business the vampire had brought this time.
"Got anything stronger?"
Giles sighed and went to the cabinet to retrieve a shot glass and a bottle of scotch. Leaving Spike to settle onto the sofa with the drink, he himself went to the kitchen and put the kettle on. He wanted to be awake and alert.
"So," Giles said as he came back in. "The Word of Bashkiri? Might I ask where you found this?"
Spike was looking around the room with something that might have been interest, or might have been a cursory check for stealable items. There wasn't much to look at, to be fair. A sofa and two armchairs clustered around a coffee table in front of an open fire, a large mahogany cabinet, and a couple of bookcases that had overflowed into the living room when he could no longer fit them all into the study upstairs.
"Why on earth were you in Iraq? I can't imagine the Middle East is a particularly practical or convenient place for vampires. All that sun."
"I was in Iraq because I heard this might be there," he indicated the scroll with a hint of impatience. "Look, you don't need the back story. I heard rumour that it was out in a tomb in the desert, I went looking, got a bit Indiana Jones, found it. End of story. If you want to check it's authentic, be my guest, but trust me, as far as I can tell, that's the only surviving copy of the Word of Bashkiri on the entire planet."
Giles sat down in a chair opposite the sofa and examined the scroll as closely as he dared without actually touching it. It would take some time to translate from the ancient Arabic language it was written in, but Giles was actually beginning to suspect that it really was what Spike said it was.
He was still looking at it when the kettle boiled, and Giles could barely tear himself away for the few moments that it took to make tea. A question occurred to him as he came back into the living room.
"Spike, how did you know where to find my house?"
Giles knew that the vampire had his phone number, but he had been careful not to give the address. Whenever they met for these deals in the past Spike had always called and they had arranged to meet somewhere in Bath city centre, usually the same all night coffee bar. Over the last four years this had happened on a fairly irregular basis; sometimes Giles wouldn't hear from him for a year or more, other times Spike would show up three times in a month. He always had with him some text, or artefact of mystical significance, and there had only been one occasion that Giles had refused to buy what he had brought, and on that occasion even Spike himself admitted it had been a long shot. As for the items themselves, Giles would keep the ones he considered to be most useful or potent, and he had a contact in the Watchers Council who would usually buy any of the other things in a strictly under the counter arrangement.
"I still know people who know stuff," Spike replied, smiling conspiratorially.
Giles guessed immediately who he meant. "Dawn."
"Yeah. I called and asked, she told."
"I really must be more careful who I give these details out to in future," Giles commented. "So how is Dawn?"
"Sounded okay. Still with that Ryan kid. Looks like it might actually last this time, two years and they're still together." Spike looked a little disgruntled at the thought, as if Dawn dating was still a concept he found difficult to accept.
"Oh, right." Giles sipped his tea, wondering how he had managed to not know about Dawn's current boyfriend if they had been together for so long. When was the last time he had called to talk to her? He seemed to remember phoning on her last birthday. Or was it the birthday before? Yes, it was the one before, because he remembered he had forgotten the last birthday, and then never got around to calling and apologising for forgetting. It was, at least, more than he had managed for the others of the Sunnydale group. He couldn't remember at all the last time he had spoken to Xander or Willow, and he only ever exchanged business faxes or brief calls with Anya to discuss Magic Box issues, and that had been with less frequency of late.
Giles suddenly felt slightly ashamed that Spike, Spike seemed to have managed to keep in touch with old friends better than he had.
His eyes travelled to the empty place on the mantelpiece where their picture should be. There had been two pictures originally. One was of Buffy and Dawn, taken in a happier time shortly before Joyce, their mother, had died. The other photograph had been of Buffy, Willow and Xander, the core group, the original gang, the ones who Giles had come to count among his most respected and cared for friends. Both of those pictures were now lying face down in a drawer, along with his only photograph of Jenny Calendar. He had hoped the pictures would remind him of his time in America, but after a while the good memories had faded, leaving only the painful, and he had been forced to take them down.
Giles turned his attention back to the scroll, determinedly not thinking about absent friends.
He dared to wonder again if this really was the most powerful tool in their arsenal against the forces of darkness, with the possible exception of the Slayer herself. And more to the point, it had found its way into the hands of the good guys for a change. That was a truly remarkable fact, given who had retrieved it. Giles knew that only a decade or so ago Spike would have no doubt used the scroll for his own purposes, attempted to make himself into some kind of vampire master and gain as much power as he could possibly hang onto. Now, he was willingly seeking it out with the express purpose of giving it to the people who stood against everything that he was.
When Giles had first been told about the Watchers Council as a small boy, his father had explained things in terms of good and evil, black and white. With time, experience had taught him that very few things could genuinely claim to be black or white, but were really just varying shades of grey. Giles himself had dabbled with darkness on more than one occasion, and he had been witness to supposedly evil demons doing good things when the moment called for it. And over the last ten years Spike had more than proven himself to be a shade of grey.
Giles hadn't realised he had spoken aloud, but he must have because Spike raised a slightly amused eyebrow and chuckled.
"Hate to break this to you, but you aren't exactly whiter than white yourself, pal. Just so happens your shade of grey is a little bit lighter then mine."
"Only a little bit?" Giles was intrigued by whether the vampire was implying that he was erring towards the good, or that he, Giles, was rather darker than the popular image he projected.
Spike only smiled enigmatically, and poured himself another drink.
"Spike, can I ask you something?"
He shrugged. "You can ask. Doesn't mean I'll answer."
"If you know what this is, and what it contains, why have you brought it to me? You know I pass things on to the Council occasionally. If they get to hear of this, there's no telling what they could do."
Spike shrugged again. "I know it's all about magic to kill vampires. I know it's supposed to be the most powerful anti-vampire stuff on the face of the planet if you know how to use it properly. But after all this time I have to assume you aren't going to use it against me. And the Council have known about me having the chip for years. They haven't come after me yet. No reason to think having this would make them do it now."
Giles chuckled. "Rather confident, aren't you? Just because they know about the chip, doesn't mean the Council won't try to take you on anyway. They knew about Angel having a soul and fighting on our side, more or less, but it didn't stop them from sending a special ops team to try and kill him on a couple of occasions."
Spike shrugged again, not with self-confident arrogance, which Giles would have expected from him, but with the air of someone who really didn't care.
Giles considered the matter a little more closely, and not for the first time since Spike had approached him with the offer of a deal four years ago, Giles wondered at the vampire's motivation.
"Why do you bring any of these things to me?" he prodded further. "Money, I presume, is the main factor, but there must be others out there who can and would pay a great deal more than I do for these things. So why me?"
Spike shuffled uncomfortably. "I know you won't double-cross me. Decent money that comes guaranteed is better than the promise of a lot of money that never materialises."
Giles guessed that wasn't strictly a lie, but there was certainly more to Spike's reasons than that.
Spike drained his shot glass, still looking a little uncomfortable. "Do you want it or not?" he asked with an impatient edge to his voice.
"I haven't verified its authenticity yet," Giles pointed out.
"Even if it isn't the real Word, it must have something you Watcher types can use. Give you an edge. I mean, you can use all the help you can get right? Being on the front line of the fight against evil. Well, the second line really, 'cos she's on the front line. Whoever she is now."
Giles had a sudden flash of memory, the heartbreaking sight of Buffy, his Slayer, his girl, lying dead on a construction site. He closed his eyes for a moment, but that only made the image stronger, and he blinked back tears that he had believed were all cried out many years ago. In that moment he understood fully what Spike's real motivation for bringing the items had been. Giles knew the vampire had always blamed himself for Buffy's death. He thought that his failure to save Dawn was the reason Buffy had had to die. To be fair, there were not many among the gang, other than Dawn, who had done much to dissuade him of this idea, and Giles wondered if that was partly why Spike had left Sunnydale not very long after Giles himself. Did he perhaps believe that by offering these things to Giles, and by implication therefore, to the Watchers Council, he could somehow atone for that act? That in helping the current Slayer, however indirectly, he could absolve some of that guilt?
Bloody hell, Giles thought. The poor bastard's even more screwed up than I am.
"What?" Spike questioned at the look Giles hadn't even realised he was giving the vampire.
"It's because of Buffy isn't it? That's why you bring these things to me first."
Spike spluttered, apparently horrified at the mere suggestion. But Giles had seen the look of guilt and pain that flashed across his face before he covered it with denial and anger.
"What are you on about? Don't be so stupid. She's got nothing to do with it. It's just business."
"Of course it is," Giles reassured him knowingly. Spike's emotions had given away the truth behind his denial, and they both knew it.
"Stuff this," Spike muttered, suddenly standing up. He strode over to where he had hung his coat, and was halfway out of the door before Giles called after him.
Spike paused, not looking back.
"I didn't mean..." Giles wasn't sure what he had or hadn't meant, and suspected that one wrong word would have the vampire storming off into the night, possibly never to be heard from again. Giles wondered for a moment why he cared if that was the case, but in that instant realised he did care, even if only a little.
Eventually, in a low, not quite steady voice, Giles said, "I still miss her, too."
Spike hung his head for a moment, and in an even quieter voice he said, "Yeah. Still. Always."
Neither of them spoke again for a long time, but Spike didn't leave, and Giles didn't give him back the scroll. The rain drummed heavily on the windows and the porch roof. Eventually Giles cleared his throat and said, "So, um, what is the going rate for a unique, priceless, ancient document? You haven't told me what you want for it."
Giles expected this to follow the same pattern as always. Spike would name a truly exorbitant price, he would retaliate with an absurdly low counter offer, they would haggle until they reached a point that neither of them was truly happy with, but both could live with. That was how it always worked. It had become as much a part of their meetings as the initial awkward suspicion between them until they slipped back into the old roles.
Spike looked back at him for the first time since his outburst, and appeared thoughtful for a moment or two. Giles expected a ridiculous price. So he was surprised when Spike said, "Owe me a favour."
Spike shoved his hands into his pockets and looked as if he was thinking it over again. Then he repeated, "Owe me a favour." In response to Giles' confused expression, he elaborated, "I don't need money right now. I'm good for a while. But I might need help sometime. I want to know I can call on someone. I know if you owe me, you'll honour it."
It occurred to Giles that for the second time that night Spike had almost admitted that he trusted him. He knew that for a vampire, admitting to placing trust in a human was no small matter. But he was wary of the deal himself. A favour was simply too nebulous, there were too many things that Spike could ask for, that he, Giles, might not be able to do in all good conscience. He considered it himself for a minute before he replied.
"With some qualifications."
Spike raised a curious eyebrow.
"I will not honour a favour that asks me to do anything illegal, or that endangers innocent lives." Giles knew that still left a multitude of sins uncovered, but if he placed too many restrictions Spike would probably retract the entire offer.
Spike looked thoughtful again, and nodded. "Alright. Qualifications accepted. You owe me one favour that doesn't involve you doing anything illegal or endangering innocents." He put his leather coat on and looked out into the night for a moment. Then he turned back to Giles and simply nodded a farewell before he walked out into the darkness.
Giles stared after him, stunned by the abrupt exit. After a few seconds he went quickly to the door and looked out, across the garden and up and down the street. But Spike was already gone. There was no sign of him anywhere, as if he had never been here at all. The only things Giles had left of him were a priceless scroll, and a rather frightening feeling that he had just agreed to something very, very bad.