Sequel to Shades of Grey 5: Reversion; part of The Shades of Grey Series
Summary: Even as they race to stop the apocalypse, Giles and Spike may still have some things to learn about each other.
Author Notes: Thanks to Matt and Emma for proof reading. I am a feedback junkie, please support my habit. Geographical note - while some of the places in this fic are real, all descriptions are entirely fictional.
Story Notes: Post "The Gift". Season six never happened and Buffy stayed dead. Part 6 of 6.
Disclaimer: I don't own them. Joss Whedon and co do.
Giles was upstairs when he heard the front door open and someone wander in. He came down to see Spike throw himself onto the couch, prop his feet up on the table and start to read Giles' newspaper.
"Do make yourself at home," Giles commented dryly as he came into the room. He shoved Spike's boots off the table and handed him David Hammond's notebook, already open at the relevant page.
Spike scanned it for a few moments, before giving up and passing it back.
"His handwriting's worse than yours, Giles. Give me the summary."
"The short version. Those creatures that I..." Murdered? Tore apart? Brutally massacred? "...Killed. They were the minions of a far greater demon by the name of Bezrathoth. They were preparing for his arrival. A summoning ritual to bring him into this dimension."
If Spike noticed his hesitant choice of words, he tactfully didn't comment on it. "So let me guess. This Bezrathoth's going to bring fire and brimstone and general death to humanity." He sounded less than impressed.
"Precisely. David wanted this information to be passed to the Slayer. But I've been on the phone to the Council all morning and they won't take me seriously. Incompetent pillocks. They at least took my message of the where and when, but I'm not even sure they will bother to pass it on to the Slayer."
Giles was having a difficult time keeping his temper in check, and Spike's rather blase attitude to being told the apocalypse was on the way was not helping in the slightest. He was almost constantly tired due to a general lack of sleep over the last few weeks, and the last day or so in particular had been especially draining.
"So what's the big deal? I mean, when it comes to apocalypses we've both been there and bought several T-shirts." Spike still didn't seem to be taking it too seriously. Or maybe it was just that levity was his way of dealing with such situations, Giles wondered. Unfortunately there wasn't time for levity.
Spike's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Oh."
"Given the Council's lack of action, I think the fate of the world may rest with the two of us." So, no pressure or anything, Giles mentally added.
Spike threw Giles a look as if to say exactly what Giles himself was thinking.
If the fate of the world lay with them, then the world was in very deep trouble.
"Where do we need to be?" Spike asked rather more soberly after a moment's thought.
"Cambridge. And for once this ritual seems to be timed to occur at dawn rather than midnight, so we do have some time to get there and find the exact location."
"And when we do find it, what then? Standard slice and dice, or is there a specific way to kill this thing?"
Giles shook his head. "If we do find ourselves fighting Bezrathoth then we have already failed. We can't fight it. It's simply too big and powerful. My plan involved getting there in time to stop the Crelons from completing the ritual."
Giles stopped as he saw the look on Spike's face change to one of fear and shame. Then he realised that the vampire must be thinking about Glory, another creature that they had been unable to fight, that they had planned to stop by preventing a ritual. And quite how horribly wrong that had gone. Quite how badly Spike had failed to stop it from happening.
Giles almost felt the need to reassure him that this time could be different. But that was another thing they didn't have time for.
"David had done his research well," Giles said, trying to distract Spike's attention back to the matter at hand, and to stop him from brooding on the past. "He narrowed the location down to a few probable sites, but couldn't be more specific than that so we might have to try them all to find it. So I suggest we get moving."
Spike stood up. "You know, I'm thinking of asking for danger money if you keep wanting me to do stuff in daylight. Good for you it's the wettest summer on record this year."
"I think it's set to clear up for tomorrow," Giles commented.
"Nice of them to schedule the apocalypse for a rainy day then. English weather finally gets it right. Let's go."
Giles reflected that it was lucky vampires had greater stamina than humans considering that Spike had driven all the way to Hereford and back the previous day, and was now driving to Cambridge and, hopefully, back again today. Although given the speed and aggression that accompanied his driving, Giles was quite glad that he couldn't see through the blacked-out windows. He was becoming used to the stale smell of cigarettes and beer that lingered in the car, but familiarity didn't make it any more palatable. Unfortunately, even with the cloud cover Spike was unwilling to have the windows down, so Giles took to breathing as shallowly as possible.
As they travelled Giles outlined the basics of what they were up against. The Crelons, those little goblin-like creatures that they had met the previous day, were going to summon Bezrathoth into this dimension by way of a summoning circle and the recitation of a magic ritual. Some specific magic items were also required, including the Ring of Greshal, which Giles believed must have been the 'ring thing' that the Crelons had been searching for at David's house. The ritual itself would take maybe ten minutes to perform, but rather longer to set up, so as long as they found the location in good time it shouldn't be too difficult to stop it. That, of course, depended on how many Crelons they had to fight, but given how easily they had gone down in yesterday's massacre Giles didn't think they would pose too much of a problem.
It was late afternoon by the time they arrived on the outskirts of Cambridge, and discovered how difficult it was to navigate the one-way system into the city centre, and then to find parking when they finally got there. They found a multi-storey car park and decided that, daylight or not, it would be easier to walk from there.
"Alright. Our objective is one of five possible locations. The archaeology museum, a church," he noticed Spike flinch at that, "The university physics department, or one of two abandoned warehouses. Which one feels lucky?"
Spike decided that the warehouses sounded easiest to start with. Then Giles realised that neither of them had much of an idea of their way round, so their first stop was actually a book shop to buy an A to Z of the city, and an umbrella after Giles realised he had forgotten his in their haste. New map in hand, they set off to start the search.
Cambridge was a remarkably pretty city with a great deal of old buildings and impressive architecture, particularly the college buildings, and Giles found himself admiring the sights as he walked. He noticed with interest that Spike was doing likewise, and that surprised him. Spike must have seen his look and appeared slightly embarrassed.
"I was just thinking, this place has changed a bit since the last time I was here in the seventies." Spike paused for effect before adding, "The eighteen seventies."
It took Giles a moment to process the information. "But that was before you..."
"Became an evil, soulless creature of the night undead. Yes."
Giles pondered this for another moment until the full meaning of what Spike was saying sunk in.
"Are you telling me you studied at Cambridge University?" Giles asked incredulously.
Spike broke into a grin. "Surprised?"
"A little," Giles admitted. But he realised as he said it that he wasn't surprised. Spike had once told Buffy a little of his history, and Giles had gained the information second-hand from Buffy some time later, so he knew that Spike's human origins were far removed from the projected image. Spike apparently worked quite hard to create the appearance of having grown up in the lowest possible strata of the London gutters. But the longer Giles had known him, the more frequently he noticed the facade falter, particularly in the ease with which literary quotes slipped into the vampire's speech. But Cambridge?
Partly to cover his surprised reaction, and partly to do something about the self-satisfied smirk on Spike's face, Giles commented with a slight air of superiority, "I was at Oxford."
"Smug git," Spike replied good-naturedly.
Irrelevant though the subject was, Giles found his interest had been piqued. Also, the conversation was a welcome distraction from the task ahead.
"So what did you study?"
Spike chuckled. "That, Giles, is a piece of information that you won't drag out of me until I'm significantly less sober than I am right now."
And for the next half hour Spike remained stubbornly silent on the subject, in spite of all Giles' cajoling.
They reached the first warehouse on the edge of the city nearly an hour after they had started out, and stopped to observe from a distance. Giles was feeling rather uncomfortable by that time. The rain was still pouring out of the sky in a relentless deluge, and the umbrella didn't afford enough protection to keep him from being almost soaked through. He frequently had to stop and wipe water from his glasses just to be able to stand a chance of seeing where he was going, and despite the fact that it was June, he was cold. Still, he reasoned, the rain was actually making their job easier, because without it Spike wouldn't be able to get around in the open, and they didn't have time to search out the sewers or take a circuitous back route to stay in shadow.
"Doesn't look like it's seen any activity lately," Spike commented.
Giles replaced his newly dried glasses and agreed. Still, they approached cautiously and Spike scrambled halfway up a couple of drainpipes to get a look in through the high windows before he pronounced the all-clear. The main doors were large heavy affairs, but they found a fire exit secured with a padlock that put up surprisingly little resistance to Spike's boot. Spike took the lead as they crept in, and Giles was happy to let him, knowing that the vampire's senses were far sharper than his. A search of the ground floor revealed nothing apart from a few dusty pallets, and the offices were just as fruitless. Spike eventually kicked a discarded Coke can across the empty expanse of warehouse and watched it clatter against the far wall with a loud echo.
"Well, that was pointless," he muttered. "Scratch one location."
"Either that, or they simply aren't here yet. The ritual isn't until dawn, remember. That's over twelve hours from now."
"Oh, great. So if you think they might not set up till the last minute anyway then it's bloody pointless looking for them now, isn't it?" Spike was starting to shout.
"It isn't pointless," Giles remained calm. "It's more than likely that the location will be guarded and prepared already, it's just that we can't necessarily discount the ones which aren't. Demons don't always behave as one would expect."
Spike raised an eyebrow at the last comment. 'Who, me?' the look said.
"I don't think we should start to panic just yet," Giles continued. "Sunrise is at approximately half past four tomorrow morning, and it is currently four in the afternoon. We have plenty of time to search all the locations."
"So let's get going and stop yapping," Spike muttered as he turned and stalked out into the rain.
The other warehouse was on the opposite side of the city, so Giles suggested they hit the university building on the way across to save time. Unfortunately by the time they got there it was around five o'clock, and a few lectures and seminars seemed to have ended quite recently so the building was full of milling people.
"Perhaps we should come back later," Giles suggested.
"It'll be locked later, easier to get a look round now," Spike replied. "Relax. Just look like you're meant to be here and no one will ask any questions."
"That's easier said than done. 'Bluff your way in physics' wasn't exactly on the syllabus when I was a student." Giles was being reminded of the halls at Sunnydale High School, and how much he had hated the constant crush of pupils. The only difference was that these students were significantly taller than the school children had been.
"Fine, so just don't open your mouth and no one'll know the difference. Besides, you look like a lecturer, and I look like a student, so we'll blend right in."
Spike was surprisingly accurate in his assessment, to the point that one of the students even nodded a "Hello, sir" at Giles as he walked past. A quick sweep of the main building revealed a series of offices, classrooms and a couple of antiquated laboratories that had been converted into lecture rooms. All of it was obviously well used and there was no sign of any arcane rituals beyond those that were the norm in any university building. As the halls began to empty and people filtered away, Giles found access to the cellars. All they discovered down there, though, was a boiler room, a storeroom, and an annoyed janitor who shooed them back up to the main corridor with directions after Giles burbled an excuse about being a guest lecturer and getting lost.
"Scratch two," Spike said when they were stood outside in the rain again. "What's the time?"
"Almost six o'clock."
"Want to do the museum before it shuts?"
The problem with that idea was that it was already shut by the time they got there, and there were still too many people on the streets to attempt a break in. They agreed to come back after dark, and headed for the second warehouse after Spike pointed out that churches were open all day anyway.
Giles considered as they walked that Spike seemed to have changed a lot in just the last few days. For three weeks now he had been quiet, willing to follow Giles' lead for the most part. Since yesterday, however, he had suddenly started to regain a little of his focus, started making decisions, started to take the lead. Giles realised that had happened at the point when he, Giles, had been in no state to make decisions himself, when he had lost control. Despite the apocalypse currently occupying his attention, Giles was still quietly grieving his friend, and he suspected that Spike knew that and was compensating by taking the lead himself. It was, Giles realised, an integral part of Spike's character, and always had been. The vampire's best qualities came out when he was with someone who needed him, someone weaker who needed to be protected. Drusilla, Dawn, and Giles suddenly realised that in that moment yesterday he had started to fall into the same category, and Spike had reacted accordingly. Giles wasn't sure whether to be embarrassed or comforted by that thought.
The second warehouse was on an industrial estate some way out of town and it took rather longer than they had expected to get there. It was as empty as the first one had been.
Spike swore loudly and kicked a pallet into splinters. Giles stood back until the tirade had stopped, and then calmly asked, "Are you quite finished?"
Spike glared at him for a second. "Scratch bloody three, Giles. We don't have time for this."
"We have time," Giles reassured him. He glanced at his watch to convince himself of that claim. Eight o'clock. Giles was suddenly less than assured. He was also starting to wonder what they would do if they didn't find the correct location at any of the sites. David's notes were incomplete, and it was always possible that the true location was not even on his list. Although Giles had never been an advocate for sticking heads in the sand when faced with bad situations, he decided not to mention, or even think about this possibility right then. Besides, he had enough respect for the vampire's intelligence to know that Spike was already considering the same question, and mentioning it at this point would more than likely just result in raised tensions.
They waked in uncomfortable silence back through the rain to the city centre.
"Are you sure you'll be okay? If you want to stay outside and search the grounds I can go inside alone."
Spike stared up at the large double doors and gave a casual shrug. "It's just a church. Not like I haven't been in one before." But Giles thought he noticed a slight shake in the vampire's hand as he pulled the door open and walked inside.
The church of St Peter was actually surprisingly small, and contained pretty much the bare essentials for a place of worship and little else. The majority of the space was taken with rows of seats, and the raised area around a lectern at the front. A font stood off to one side, and Giles noticed Spike steering a particularly wide berth around it. Luckily there was nobody else around, and Giles quickly ascertained there was nothing out of the ordinary in the main body of the building. He checked the couple of doors that led off into side rooms, and after being forced to pick the lock on one of them he found a set of stairs leading down, but that only led to a boiler room. It was only when he had finished his search that he realised he had conducted most of it alone.
Giles found Spike still in the main church standing in front of a large crucifix. His hands were thrust deep into his pockets, and he was staring up at the statue with a wary expression.
"Are you alright?" Giles asked quietly as he approached. Please don't have another bloody epiphany, he silently pleaded. We really don't have time right now.
Spike jumped slightly and glanced around self-consciously until he saw Giles and relaxed.
"Yeah. Sorry I didn't help much. Got burnt a couple of times. Stopped touching things after that."
"There isn't anything here. Let's go." Giles set off to leave, but quickly realised Spike wasn't following. "Spike?"
"It's funny," the vampire commented in a voice that told Giles it wasn't funny in the slightest. "I can fight demons till the cows come home and not bat an eyelid. But two bits of wood stuck together in that shape stops me dead."
Giles tried to bite back his impatience. "So don't look at it then."
"If only it was that easy," Spike commented. "I could feel it before I even saw it. I could feel it the minute I walked in the door. This entire place. My skin is crawling. And you know the weird thing? I've been in churches before, when I actually still had some claim to being bad, and not one ever got to me like this."
"I'm not sure I understand," Giles said.
"Not sure I do either," Spike replied. "Maybe I just didn't care before. Or maybe it's the Powers' way of telling me I'm on the wrong team and they just decided to bat me around the head with the irony."
Giles tensed immediately. Oh god, no. Not now.
"Spike," he said slowly, keeping a discreet distance. "I'd really like us not to have to try to kill each other again. Not right now at any rate. It would get dreadfully messy."
Spike laughed and turned his back to the cross at last.
"Oh, don't get your knickers in a twist, Giles. I'm not going to switch sides. If the Powers that Be don't approve, stuff 'em. If I was doing this for the whole redemption thing then I might actually care, but I'm not, so I don't. I'm not living in some daydream Happy Land like Angel. I know redemption is impossible for someone like me."
He started to walk away, his entire demeanour suddenly screaming nonchalance. Giles stared in confusion until Spike stopped and looked back curiously.
"Again, I'm not sure I understand," Giles admitted.
"Oh, come on Giles. Redemption? All that bloody brooding? Not me, pal. Way I see it, the past is done, can't be changed. Not even sure I'd want to change it. And worrying over it now won't make a difference. What will make a difference is what we do now. It's tomorrow I care about, not yesterday." His casual tone of voice belied the gravity of his philosophy.
"If you really have so little interest in redemption, in the possibility of becoming someone better, then I feel I have to ask why you are doing this at all?" It wasn't a question that Giles had wanted to ask, but it slipped out before he could stop it.
Spike gave an exasperated snarl. "Giles. Update: I don't have a soul. If I've somehow developed a conscience then it's only affecting my actions now. It's not giving me retroactive guilt for stuff I did a hundred years ago. Am I sorry for everyone I killed? No. I don't care. Sorry if that bursts your happy little bubble, but I'm not going to lie to you about it. Back then I was an evil, murdering monster, and it felt right to kill, so that's why I killed. Now I've changed, and now it feels right to be here with you saving the bloody world, so that's why I'm here. That's the difference between me and Angel. He's doing it out of some noble ideal of redemption. I'm doing it because I want to." Spike advanced on Giles until they were practically nose to nose.
"I'm sorry if that doesn't mesh with your idea of the noble demon, Giles. If it sounds a bit selfish, yeah, I'm selfish. I'm a vampire. If that means I'm not 'good' enough for you then maybe you should find yourself a different sidekick. It's what I said before, Giles. Actions and intentions. That's what matters in the end. And if you are under any delusions about what I am, and why I'm doing this, then I think you need to know all that before you decide whether to face the apocalypse with me watching your back."
His blue eyes were full of unrestrained anger, although Giles wasn't certain exactly who or where that anger was aimed at. Not him, he realised, because even in spite of Spike's posturing and his own earlier doubts about where the vampire's loyalties lay, he didn't feel even slightly threatened.
Giles looked calmly back into the vampire's angry glare, and as he watched he thought he could see the anger begin to melt into something else. What, it was almost impossible to tell, but as Giles held his look without even the slightest flinch he saw a variety of emotions flicker in Spike's eyes. Anger. Fear. Hurt. Need.
And suddenly Giles got it. Finally he understood. All the comments, all the arguments, all the times Spike had taken offence, pretended or otherwise. Three weeks earlier he asked for Giles' help, but there had been another request buried deep within that which had been far more important to Spike than the need for a guide, a watcher if you will. And while Giles had given the help and accepted the vampire's companionship, even friendship, he had not allowed himself to let down the final guard and give him what he really wanted. Needed.
And wasn't that what this little tirade had really been about? Spike had started to become angry when Giles had so obviously questioned his allegiance. And his response to Giles' continued questioning had been to thrust his true nature into Giles' face, not threatening him, but testing him. Questioning his allegiance. Demanding to know whether, when the moment came, Giles would stand by the man or whether he would back away from the monster.
Giles was almost frightened by how easy it was to finally allow that last guard to drop.
"If I am going to face the apocalypse tonight, there is no one that I would rather have watching my back."
Spike looked genuinely startled, and almost imperceptibly relieved, but quickly covered it.
"Fine," he mumbled. "Then lets get the hell out of this place." He started to walk back to the exit.
Was it really that easy? No more questions, no more need for explanation?
Giles had started to follow Spike towards the doorway when he realised he had almost missed the self-mocking irony hidden amongst the anger. Something that he felt needed to be rectified at this point when their relationship was undergoing a new redefinition.
"Spike, there's something else you should know," Giles said. He finally caught up with him at the doorway. "You aren't my sidekick."
Spike threw Giles his most deliberately unconvincing wide-eyed innocent look.
"Holy apocalypse, Batman! You really think I could make it as a super hero on my own one day?"
The expression was right, the intonation was right, but Giles could tell that Spike was just going through the motions of taking the piss, because it was easier than letting his true thoughts and emotions show in those all too expressive blue eyes. Giles was no stranger to hiding himself behind a facade, and it was almost tempting to fall back into the roles they had established for themselves long before either of them had ever met, but after such a moment of profound truth for both of them Giles didn't want to play at that particular game any more.
"No, Spike. You could never be a super hero. And neither could I. So let's leave that ridiculous imagery to Angel, and just get on with saving the world, shall we?"
For the first time that day Spike's expression was unreadable, and he nodded mutely. No more posturing, no more piss taking. Just a quiet acceptance that while the nature of their relationship might have shifted a little in the last few minutes, they had more important things to worry about right then.
There was nothing at all uncomfortable about the silence as they walked to the final destination on the list.
The archaeology museum was a large old building around a courtyard. Twilight was starting by the time the improbable allies found themselves standing in front of it. The rain was starting to slacken, but hadn't stopped. Giles was miserably cold and soaked. Every item of clothing that he was wearing seemed to be wet, or at least that was how it felt by that point, and he only hoped that David's notebook was safe in his inside jacket pocket. If the rain was bothering Spike he didn't give any sign of it, but Giles wished he was feeling a little more comfortable if there was about to be a battle of truly apocalyptic importance.
"So, if your pal was right this should be it."
Giles nodded and tried to find something that was still dry enough to wipe his glasses on.
Spike gave the building a quick appraisal, and wandered round to the side away from the main street.
"Doesn't look like it'll be too hard to break in." He must have noticed Giles' dubious expression as the human eyed the high windows and solid doors. "Oh, come on, Giles. Between your misspent youth and my misspent death a little break and enter is child's play."
With a surprising burst of supernatural agility Spike scrambled up the wall to a first floor window and hung from a light bracket with one hand while he picked the lock with the other. Within a minute he had the window open, and he flashed Giles a grin and a thumbs up before he slid gracefully inside. A moment later he leaned back out and held a hand down to Giles. Giles pulled a dustbin over to stand on, took hold of the offered hand, and let Spike effortlessly pull him up to the window ledge.
Once inside Giles could see that they had come into a storage room of some sort. It was a small room filled with wall-to-wall filing cabinets and a table in the middle of the room. It was starting to get dark inside and Giles took a moment to let his eyes adjust. In that moment Spike was already in the corridor outside and waiting somewhat impatiently.
"We should have brought a torch," Giles muttered as he joined him.
"I'm okay," Spike commented as if it had never occurred to him that Giles would have more difficulty seeing in the dark than a vampire with enhanced senses.
Unwilling to turn on lights and alert anyone either inside or out of their presence, Giles found himself sticking very close behind Spike as they searched what turned out to be a rather large building. Most of the upper floors contained offices, storage and archive rooms, and some that seemed to be set up for research or reading rooms. The museum proper was on the ground floor, and as they wandered round it Giles wished that he had more time to look at the displays. He promised himself that he would come back during actual opening hours sometime. If, of course, this building still existed after tomorrow morning.
The cellar, when they eventually found it, contained a vast array of shelves and stacked boxes all precisely labelled and organised into types of artefact and provenance. There was no sign of the Crelons, or of any summoning rituals.
Giles jumped at a loud crack behind him. He turned to see a new, slightly bloody, fist sized hole in the wall. Spike was snarling and wiping plaster dust from his knuckles.
"Yes, destroying the masonry is really incredibly helpful," Giles snapped.
"What the hell do we do now?" Spike demanded. "We've got maybe six hours to avert the apocalypse and we can't even bloody well find it. At least in Sunnydale you always knew where to look."
Giles sat down on a stack of boxes and rested his head against the wall, exhaustion finally getting the better of him. "I don't know," he admitted.
He had been trying to avoid thinking about this scenario for some hours now, but here they were, and Spike had rather accurately summed up their dilemma. David's research had been incomplete, and now they were working blind to a rapidly diminishing deadline.
"Think, Giles," Spike said, obviously restraining his temper with the greatest effort of will. "There must be something else in that notebook. Something you missed."
"There isn't. I've read and reread it. These were the only locations that David specifically identified."
"Read it again."
"You read the bloody thing," Giles snapped, suddenly pulling the notebook from his pocket and hurling it at the vampire. It bounced off his chest and dropped to the floor. Spike hesitated before he picked it up and started to flick through to the pages that Giles had bookmarked with scraps of paper. Giles closed his eyes and breathed deeply to regain his equilibrium. If his word had still carried any weight with the Council they might have been able to avoid this. With all the knowledge and resources at the Council's disposal they could have identified any mystical hotspots in the area, local operatives might have noticed odd occurrences, someone might have known something.
"Giles. I think I've got something."
Giles opened his eyes and looked at Spike in surprise. "I'm sorry?"
Spike handed the notebook back and indicated the page it was opened to. "Why did he pick out the sites he did? Why those sites specifically?"
Giles scanned the page in front of him. "He says they are all sites of ancient burial activity."
Spike nodded. "That's what I thought it said. Just wasn't sure about the handwriting." He started to pace, his expression one of deep concentration.
Giles gave him a minute before he prodded. "What are you thinking?"
Spike stopped and jabbed a finger at one of the boxes stacked in the aisle next to him. Giles could see from where he was that it was labelled as prehistoric pottery of some sort.
"He missed one."
Giles digested that slowly, wondering absently if it was just his imagination, or if Spike's heavily affected accent was slipping towards a more refined sound. He waited for him to continue.
"I don't remember exactly," Spike said speaking slowly, choosing words carefully. "But I think I might know another place with an ancient burial site. One that he didn't identify. When I was here, when I was human, I had a friend who was studying ancient history, and he had a side interest in archaeology. He told me one time about a site that he helped to dig right here in the city. They were going to build new housing and they found an ancient burial mound or something. Some wealthy antiquarian on the university board of directors bought the builders off for a bit so their people could dig it quick before they built the houses."
For a moment Giles was too dumbfounded by the fact that Spike possessed academic information to actually act on it. Eventually he asked the sixty four thousand dollar question.
Spike closed his eyes in the appearance of intense concentration.
"I don't know."
"Spike. Think." Giles threw the vampire's unreasonable demand back at him.
"I don't remember. It was over one hundred and thirty years ago. It was a different life, literally. And I wasn't even paying that much attention at the time. It all seemed a bit morbid, digging up old graves."
"Try. This is important."
"I know," Spike shot back, finally getting irritated. "I. Don't. Remember."
Giles sighed and stood up. "Alright. We have work to do. I think it's time we found out whether or not you are even half of the closet academic that you seem to be."
"Eh?" Spike looked genuinely confused.
Giles led the way out of the cellar and back to the window they had entered through.
"I told you, I can't remember where it is," Spike protested as they walked.
"So where are we going?"
"Where else? To the library."
The university archaeology department was only a couple of buildings over from the museum, but was rather better protected against break-ins. Still, that only held them up for ten minutes, and by half past eleven they had notched up their fourth illegal entry that day. Giles wondered if Spike was perhaps becoming a bad influence on him, but reasoned that exceptions could always be made for apocalypse scenarios.
Eventually they found the department library and Giles surveyed the shelves of books, journals and papers with an increasing sense of urgency.
"Eighteen seventies, you say?"
"That narrows it down a little at least. You take the local archaeological journals, I'll get the occasional papers and general sources."
The look of apprehension on Spike's face was more reminiscent of a man about to go into battle than someone intending to read a few books.
Giles paused long enough to offer a few words of encouragement.
"If it helps at all, I won't tell anyone that you're actually as big a book geek as I am." He couldn't resist the smile.
Spike sighed. "Once more unto the breach, dear friends," he said under his breath as he marched into the arrayed wall of knowledge with a look of resigned determination.
Within half an hour Giles' eyes were sore from trying to read in the light from two desk lamps that they had liberated from a nearby office. He was so amused by the sight of Spike hunched over a pile of books that he almost spent more time glancing up and suppressing a chuckle than he did actually researching. The only response from Spike was the occasional growl when Giles didn't suppress it well enough.
"You know, even if we find it, it still might not be the right site," Spike commented after a while.
"True," Giles said as he closed one book and started on a stack of collected notes by a local antiquarian. "But if it were then it would be a coincidence of such improbable proportions as to indicate predestiny, don't you think?"
Spike looked baffled. "In English?"
"Well, you having only recently allied yourself with our side, and you being probably the only person currently alive who could possibly recall that particular piece of information at exactly the time when we needed it. If this were an epic novel it would be as if this were the moment that your entire life had been leading to."
"Yeah, well. Problem with epic predestiny type novels is that the hero usually dies at the destiny moment." He paused briefly. "Which means I'm safe because I'm not a hero."
"Not necessarily. If we are still talking novels, it more normally heralds a change for the better. Often it is a life changing event."
"Already had more than enough of those for one immortal lifetime," Spike said bluntly.
"Still," Giles tried to continue, but Spike suddenly cut him off.
"Look," he hissed. "Let's just call it coincidence and be done with it, alright? I'm not the sodding chosen one. There aren't any prophesies about me. And I don't believe in destiny." He slammed the journal shut and walked back to the shelves where he stayed for some time. When he returned with another armful of books Giles didn't press the issue.
It had gone three in the morning when Giles finally resorted to searching out an office with a kettle and coffee supplies in order to remain awake. He briefly regretted stealing some poorly paid academic's caffeine, and dropped a few coins into what looked like the milk fund jar.
The unexpected yell sliced through the silent darkness of the department and Giles nearly dropped the mug he had borrowed. He ran back to the library to find Spike rapidly scanning the pages of a journal with a look that could only be described as excited glee.
"I was right," he said with unconcealed surprise. "It's here. 1874. Bronze Age burial mound. One primary burial in the middle of the mound and lots of skeletons buried in the outer edges and the ground around it."
"Where?" Giles was practically holding his breath.
Spike scanned the pages, flipping them over faster and faster. "Where, where," he muttered under his breath. Giles resisted the urge to take the book for himself and find the information. It didn't seem right to steal this minor triumph away from him.
"In advance of new development... printing press... looks like I was wrong about the housing bit... Robinson Street."
Giles pulled the rather damp A to Z from his jacket pocket and quickly searched for Robinson Street.
"Got it. But I don't see a printing press."
Spike pulled the modern A to Z over and compared it with a sketched map he had found in the old report.
"That's because at some point between 1874 and now it got turned into a car park." He paused, and suddenly dropped face first into the open book. "Giles," he wailed. "It's where we parked the bloody car this afternoon."
Giles stared at him for a moment before he suddenly burst out laughing. Of course that was where it was. Where else would it be?
With only an hour and a half left to save the world, the sound of laughter echoed through the halls of academia.
"It's stopped raining," Giles commented with surprise when they returned to the car. Not only had it stopped raining, but a few stars were starting to appear from behind the clouds.
"Great," Spike commented absently as he tucked a dagger into one pocket, a stake into another, hung an axe at his belt, and then picked up a crossbow and handful of bolts. At some point he must have replaced the crossbow that was broken in Nottingham, Giles noted.
"Sure you have enough weapons there?" Giles asked as he picked out a short sword.
Spike grinned. "You should know to be a better Boy Scout, Giles."
Giles wondered why they were arming so heavily at all. They had no proof that this would even be the right place after all this. But it felt right. And given their earlier conversation, this was simply too much of a coincidence to be ignored.
They headed straight down to the ground level and searched until they found a corner that had been heavily coned and taped off. The tarmac floor had apparently subsided slightly, and a crack had appeared, wide enough to at least get a Crelon down. Spike ducked under the tape and edged closer to it.
"Goes down a bit," he commented. "Think we've hit jackpot."
Giles glanced at his watch. Three forty five. He followed Spike under the tape and watched the vampire climb down and drop into whatever space lay below the car park. Giles couldn't see in the darkness below what he was going into, but when Spike called up an impatient, "Come on," he gently lowered himself over the edge and down. When he was hanging at the extent of his reach he suddenly felt Spike's steadying hand on his leg, and dropped the rest of the way down. His landing was a little less graceful and he stumbled slightly, but quickly regained his footing and let his eyes adjust to the darkness.
They were in a large cellar, obviously of much older construction than the car park above. It was so wide that there were concrete and brick columns at regular intervals supporting the roof. Whatever had been here before the car park, they had obviously just levelled the surface buildings and built straight over the top of the old cellar system without bothering to fill it in. Spike suddenly grabbed Giles and dragged him back against the wall.
"Sshh," he hissed quietly when Giles opened his mouth to protest. The vampire was staring intently at the crack they had entered through. They waited in silence until a small, light figure dropped through into the cellar and bounced quickly past them towards the far wall. Giles recognised it immediately. It was a Crelon. Seeing the creature reminded him all too vividly of the events at David's house two days earlier, and he felt his anger rising and started to go after it. Spike's hand was on his arm, holding him back the moment that he moved.
"Not yet," Spike cautioned in a low whisper. "Let it lead us to the rest of them."
Giles was fighting to keep his cool, but nodded, again struck by the strangeness of Spike being the calm, rational one. He drew his sword as quietly as possible and they moved after it at as far a distance as they dared. Giles could barely see it, but knew that Spike wouldn't lose sight of it until it was much further away.
Giles heard the noise behind them a fraction too late to react to it. Something flew out of the darkness and Spike was thrown bodily forwards. He hit the ground and rolled instantly, but stopped dead when he saw what it was. Giles spun round and likewise froze.
A girl, maybe sixteen or seventeen, was standing in a frighteningly familiar combat posture with a stake raised in her right hand.
"Slayer," Spike gasped, still sprawled on the ground.
"I come for the end of the world, and what do I get? Run of the mill vampires," she replied coolly. Then she darted at Spike.
Giles reacted without thinking and threw himself into her path.
"Wait," he commanded in his most authoritative tone.
The Slayer pulled up with the stake bare millimetres from Giles' chest. She grabbed the front of his shirt with her free hand and hesitated.
"You're human," she stated. "Do you know what that is?" she nodded in Spike's direction.
"Yes. A-And I know what you are. You are the Chosen One, the Vampire Slayer. And if you are here then it means that you got my message after all. I am Rupert Giles. I'm the one who tipped off the Council about the impending situation right here, and I have to say I'm glad that you have shown up. And believe it or not the vampire is on our side." It all came out in rather a breathless rush, but Giles was desperately trying to keep her attention long enough to explain why she shouldn't stake Spike first and ask questions later.
She paused and a curious look crossed her face for a second. She let go of his shirt.
Giles was suddenly less than certain that admitting his identity was necessarily the best plan, but it was done now. He stood up to his full height and straightened his shirt.
The Slayer took a step back and suddenly grinned broadly.
"Wow! Rupert Giles? The Rupert Giles? As in, Watcher of Buffy Summers? No way!"
Giles was becoming slightly confused. He only hoped that Spike had the sense to stay down and keep his mouth shut for the time being.
"You... you've heard of me?"
"Heard of you? You're only the most famous Watcher ever. I mean, the Watcher of the longest-lived and most successful Slayer in recent history. I've read all your journals. Well, all the ones stored in the Council archive in London anyway. You really did all that stuff? Wow!"
"I... uh... um..." Giles suddenly wondered if this was how boy band pop stars felt when they were unfortunate enough to meet fans while on a day off.
The Slayer gave him an appraising look up and down. She was apparently pleased with what she saw, and Giles took the opportunity to fully take in her appearance for himself. She was a slim, surprisingly delicate looking redhead, dressed in jeans and a light cotton blouse. Her hair was tied back in a ponytail that swung between her shoulder blades when she moved. Her hazel eyes sparkled with the exuberance of youth, still too fresh to her calling for the experience to have hardened her. She was so frighteningly reminiscent of Buffy when he had first met her that for a moment Giles couldn't speak.
The Slayer tensed again suddenly and sidestepped to keep Spike within her line of sight.
"Why are you with a vampire?"
Before Giles could formulate an answer a harsh female voice cut through the darkness.
"Katie? What is going on here?"
Giles saw the Slayer roll her eyes before a middle-aged woman caught up with her and stopped a little way behind the young girl. Giles quickly surveyed the newcomer. Tweed. Unarmed except for a stake. Practical shoes at least.
Heaven save us from rookie Watchers in the field, he thought to himself.
"It's okay Mrs Rawlings. He's Rupert Giles. He was the one who gave the information to the Council about what was going on."
Rawlings glanced at Giles with a barely concealed sneer, and then peered over the Slayer's shoulder at Spike.
"And that, I believe, would be William the Bloody."
"He goes by Spike these days," Giles interjected, almost offended on Spike's behalf by the disdain in the woman's voice.
"Oh yes," she said dismissively. "We're quite safe. I believe he was rendered impotent some years ago."
"Hey!" Spike finally protested.
Giles quickly cut in to stop Spike's pride from getting him staked. "Uh, yes. The behaviour modification chip is still active. So, yes we are quite safe. But the point is that he is working with me. Um, rather, we are working together. To stop this summoning ritual from taking place. So there is no need to stake him, I assure you."
Giles felt a flash of guilt about the lie. He was also somewhat concerned that the extremely annoying woman might provoke Spike into doing something that would prove the statement false. However, on the spur of the moment and with limited time for explanations it had seemed like the easiest option. He didn't relish the idea of persuading anybody else about Spike's recent changes.
The Slayer relaxed slightly, but Rawlings looked even more unimpressed, if it were possible for her to do so.
"I see. Well, after the Wyndam-Pryce fiasco I suppose we shouldn't expect any better. Apparently it's quite the fashionable thing for rogue Watchers to ally themselves with vampires these days."
"Rogue Watcher?" Giles threw back, his voice finally rising in incredulous anger. The nerve of this woman. "I never went rogue. I was fired."
"Yes. After which you flouted direct Council orders and continued to fraternise with the Slayer and her associates. Who, I might add, should never have been allowed to participate in the first place. And you allowed the Slayer to accept help from not one but two vampires," she nodded in Spike's direction without even looking at him. "You broke every rule in the book, Mr Giles."
Giles was trying to splutter out a retort when Spike's voice cut through the rising tensions.
"When you two have quite finished your little Watcher's pissing contest, aren't you forgetting something slightly more important? We're all here for the same bloody reason, so if you can stop trying to out-bitch each other for a minute or two, we have an apocalypse to avert." He caught Giles' eye. "Again."
There was a tense silence for a moment. Then the Slayer spoke.
"He's right. If the information you passed to the Council was accurate then we don't have much time."
"But..." Rawlings tried to interrupt but the girl cut her off.
"If Mr Giles provided the information then he knows what is going on. He is far more experienced in dealing with this level of supernatural activity than either of us. And don't you always teach me that with experience comes wisdom?" She directed the last comment at Rawlings with an air of someone who knew they had just used the other's argument against them most effectively.
"And that?" Rawlings indicated Spike with a look of disdain still apparent on her face.
The Slayer gave Spike the same appraising look she had given Giles, and then looked to Giles for some sort of confirmation.
"If Mr Giles says he is okay, then I think we should trust him. Besides, it's not like he hasn't helped Slayers in the past."
Rawlings sniffed. "If you would care to read history written by someone other than Mr Giles, then you should also know that he has killed more Slayers than he has helped."
Spike stood up slowly, making sure to keep his hands visible and appear as non-threatening as it was ever possible for Spike to appear.
"Yeah well, tonight I'm looking to balance that particular statistic a bit."
The two groups eyed each other warily for another moment or two before the Slayer offered her hand to Giles.
Giles shook her hand and offered her his most charming smile. The more he knew about this Slayer, the more he liked her.
"Would you care to lead the way?" he asked politely.
Katie eyed Spike for a second. Spike caught the look and diplomatically interjected before Katie decided.
"Tell you what. I'll go ahead, then you can all see where I am and that I'm not doing anything devious. Alright?"
Giles wondered how the vampire hadn't completely lost his temper with them yet. Rawlings nodded curtly at Spike's proposal and he turned and set off in the direction that the Crelon had long since vanished in. Giles fell into step beside Katie a little way behind him. Rawlings followed, muttering something that he couldn't quite hear, but which sounded derogatory, under her breath.
"Why did you bring your Watcher?" Giles pitched his voice low enough that only the Slayer could hear. He realised as soon as he had said it that he shouldn't be surprised. The fact that Council doctrine stated that Watchers should, well, watch, had never stopped him from participating when he felt that his Slayer needed him, and yet he was still surprised that there were at least some other Watchers out there who felt the same.
Katie gave him a helpless shrug. "Not my idea. She insisted. Said I was too new to face something this big on my own."
Giles remembered that this Slayer had only been called a couple of weeks earlier. Bloody hell. Two weeks and already she was dealing with an apocalyptic event. Poor girl.
Something occurred to Giles and he had to ask. "How did you find this place? It wasn't on David's list that I told the Council about. It took us several hours and a stroke of extreme luck to find it."
"Oh, it was easy," Katie said. "We saw one of the Crelons and followed it."
Bloody typical, was all Giles could think.
Spike waved a hand to silence them, and Giles saw they were approaching the far wall. A ragged hole had been knocked through the brickwork and Spike was cautiously peering round the edge of the opening. He waved them over and they all gathered around.
"This is it, kids." Spike's face was set in a surprisingly grim expression. Giles noticed Rawlings' face pull into another rather offended look at being referred to in such a manner, but she remained silent. Katie also caught the look and hid a slight smirk as she met Giles' eye.
Giles looked through into the next room. It was another cellar like the one they were currently in, although it was bigger, over twice the height. That height was gained not by a taller ceiling but a lower floor, the ground being ten or twelve feet below their current position. A set of stone steps led down to the ground, but there were heaps of mostly unidentifiable rubbish piled around the lower half of the steps that were going to make getting up and down tricky. Two rows of brick and concrete columns ran down the length of the room, supporting the roof.
And right in the centre of the room there was a large circle drawn out and surrounded by Crelons already chanting.
"They started early," Giles complained quietly in an offended tone.
"Well let's make sure they don't finish early as well," Spike muttered. He hefted the axe, and noticed Rawlings back away a fraction. Spike briefly surveyed the two ladies, and pulled out the crossbow.
"You any good with one of these?" he asked Rawlings.
"Of course. I am proficient with..."
"Good." He tossed it to her. "Stay up here and cover us. This is the best vantage point for an overview."
Rawlings looked like she was going to argue, but Katie quickly added, "It's a good idea. You can keep an eye on the whole field of battle. Advise where necessary. And you are a great shot with those things."
With apparently their least combat capable person diplomatically kept out of the way, Spike turned to Katie and gestured to the opening.
"Still want me to go first?"
Katie took a deep breath. "No. I'm the Slayer. It's my job. But you'll all be watching my back, right?"
Watchers and vampire alike nodded. Giles felt a swell of pride that was tinged with infinite sadness. She was so like Buffy that it hurt.
"Let's go kick some demon ass."
Katie ducked through the opening and leapt down the steps three at a time. Spike followed, and Giles was moments behind him. Slayer and vampire were already hitting the ground and running by the time Giles was halfway down, not trusting himself not to fall and break something in the jumble at the bottom. He glanced behind to see Rawlings take up a firing position on the top step.
The place was swarming with Crelons. The ones that were not part of the chanting moved to intercept Spike and Katie as soon as they saw them. The Slayer knocked the first one out with a roundhouse kick, and was then mobbed by three at once. Spike hacked another one down with the axe before pausing to pull one of the creatures off Katie. By that time Giles had joined the fray and blocked another two from completely outnumbering Spike and Katie. He need not have worried, since Spike was already demon free and at his side by the time Giles had taken down his two with three efficient sword blows. Together they waded into the mass that had congregated in front of the summoning circle, and started to hack their way through.
Giles had not appreciated quite how many Crelons there were in the room. His estimate certainly ran into tens at this point, and still there were the same ones surrounding the circle and chanting. He glanced around to see more streaming out of a hole in the wall that had been concealed from their viewpoint at the top of the stairs, and he realised a moment before it happened that they were about to be overwhelmed. As fast as he cut them down more took their place, and he was aware of them crawling on his back and shoulders, clawing, biting, tearing at him. One grabbed onto his sword and started swinging on it to dislodge his grip. Giles punched it away with an enraged snarl, and then caught the look of surprise, and worry, that Spike threw in his direction. Then the vampire was mobbed by three jumping at his face, and they became separated in the crowd.
"Mr Giles!" he heard Katie yell from somewhere to his right. He looked up to see one bouncing over the heads of the others with a metal crowbar coming straight at him. He had one hanging off each arm and couldn't possible defend himself against it.
The crowbar-wielding Crelon toppled backwards into the mass with a crossbow bolt in the centre of its chest. Giles used the distraction to shake one off his arm and stab it in the head. He elbowed one out of the way, and head butted another. Still they swarmed. Still he struggled to make any headway forwards.
"Just disrupt the circle," he yelled. If he couldn't force his way through, then surely Spike or Katie with their supernatural strength would be able to. He could see a frenzied pile of activity somewhere over his left shoulder that he thought might mark Spike's position in the crowd. A Crelon slashed at his face and Giles lost his glasses. Three leapt at his chest at once and he overbalanced and fell backwards. Suddenly he was on the ground and they were all over him, biting, clawing, grabbing, tearing. Giles lost his grip on the sword and started blindly kicking and punching, struggling in any direction that offered the tiniest opening. Every time he tried to stand he was viciously shoved down by weight of numbers. He suddenly saw a human hand thrust into his field of view and grabbed at it. He felt himself being pulled upright and continued to struggle against the creatures as his rescuer hauled him clear. He slammed a Crelon down with his elbow, and looked up, expecting to see Spike. It was Katie. She was already looking a little worse for wear, but even as Giles punched one out he saw her take three down with a rapid fire combo of kicks and punches. That, he reflected, was why she was the Slayer and he was just the Watcher.
"Katie, don't worry about me. Just get to the circle and disrupt it before they summon the demon."
Katie looked less than happy with the idea of abandoning him in the fight, but took off towards the circle immediately. She was instantly swamped by a hoard, and even with Slayer strength she slowed to a crawl through the mass. Giles was held at a standstill, but he managed to retrieve his sword when a Crelon made the mistake of trying to attack him with it. From that point he simply hacked, trying to kill as many as he could, as quickly as possible. If he couldn't get to the circle, then he could at least make sure that he distracted enough of the little goblin creatures from stopping Katie or Spike from having a chance.
Katie had fought her way to the circle finally and kicked at the head of one of the chanting Crelons. At the same moment blue fire suddenly burst from the marked line of the circle and spread rapidly around the edge. Katie leapt away to avoid being burnt, and as one the Crelons stopped chanting and stepped backwards. The flame raced around the circle in both directions and met at the far side, and there was a blinding flash. For a moment the Crelons all appeared to fall into some kind of stupor, and Giles was only a second behind Spike to take advantage of that fact with a vicious flurry of blade work.
"Look," Rawlings called from behind them all. Giles looked up to see the beginnings of an outline start to form within the circle. An outline that was over ten feet tall and almost half as wide. Giles heard his voice merge with Spike's as they both uttered the same expletive. His attention was dragged right back when the Crelons started attacking again, but the brief reprieve had allowed them to thin the crowd considerably and Giles found it was becoming easier to fight. Katie kicked and punched. Spike swung and hacked with the axe. Giles stabbed and slashed with the sword. The fight had become purely mechanical for Giles and he trained his mind beyond the strain in his muscles and the stabbing pain from a multitude of cuts and gashes. Within minutes every Crelon in the room was dead.
But they had already failed. Because Bezrathoth was coming.
Giles, Spike and Katie gathered in a rather ragged group in front of the ring of fire. Bezrathoth was slowly solidifying within it, still hazy, but getting stronger by the second. It was huge in bulk as well as height, a deep red colour, and armoured spikes jutted from all over its body. Its eyes burned crimson.
"Giles? What do we do now?"
The plea came from Spike. The vampire was trailing the axe one-handed, his right arm hanging limp at his side. At some point in the fight he had vamped out, and the mess of blood on his face might have suggested to someone who didn't know better that he had been feeding.
Giles didn't reply. There was nothing they could do now.
"Isn't there a binding spell? Or something that will send it back to wherever it's coming from?" asked Katie, the same tone of desperation in her tired voice. She was covered in bruises, but didn't seem to have been hurt as badly as Spike and Giles had.
"Yes." Giles replied. "There undoubtedly is. And given a couple of weeks' solid research time I could no doubt perform said spell. But right now we have sod all."
They were quiet for a moment.
"So what happens now?" Katie asked in a quiet voice.
"When the fire goes out he will be fully in this plane of existence. Until then he will be trapped within the confines of the circle. If we want to throw our lives away we can attempt to attack him within the circle before he is completely materialised, but until he is solid enough to hit we will accomplish nothing, and once we can hit him, it stands to reason he can hit us. See above comment about throwing one's life away."
"Stuff that," Spike suddenly spat. He leapt over the fire, strode up to the demon and swung his axe one-handed at it. The axe arced through the demon's body, passing as if through a hologram. Undeterred, Spike swung again, and again.
After the fourth swing Katie reached for Giles' sword.
Giles handed it to her, and she jumped after the vampire and interspersed his swings with her own. All passed straight through the demon.
Until one finally didn't
Katie's sword suddenly struck solid flesh, and she was so surprised by the blow that she failed to put much force behind it. Spike saw the change immediately and swung viciously with the axe. He too impacted on solid armoured flesh, and the axe embedded briefly before he yanked it out and raised it to swing again.
Bezrathoth batted Spike out of the circle with one hand and the vampire flew through the air and crashed into the far wall. Katie quickly retaliated with a flurry of sword blows, and managed to dodge Bezrathoth's counter-strikes with a series of acrobatic leaps and rolls. A crossbow bolt flew out from behind to bounce off the demon's armour, and was quickly followed by more. Spike staggered to his feet and limped back to the circle, paused for unneeded breath, and waded back into the fray. Giles looked down at the ring of fire. It was burning lower and lower. Then he noticed the crowbar that he had been threatened with earlier.
"To coin a phrase, stuff this," he muttered. He picked up the crowbar and followed Spike.
It was immediately obvious that their blows were having little effect. Some effect, no doubt, but not enough. Katie was still ducking and dodging. Spike was moving too sluggishly to do the same, and was instead simply taking whatever damage the demon sent in his direction, and then getting up and coming back. He was becoming more and more bloodstained every time, but Giles had seen that determined look before and knew that nothing short of total physical incapacitation was going to stop him from getting up and coming right back every single time. Giles himself was trying desperately to not get hit at all. He knew he was too fragile to be able to withstand such an impact, and was staying out of reach until he saw an opening, darting in for a blow, and jumping back out before the demon recovered in time to reach him. Crossbow bolts flew. The fire burned lower.
Suddenly Bezrathoth grabbed Katie in one huge hand, and with a deafening roar it flung her across the room. Giles turned to see her land in a crumpled, unmoving heap.
His inattention cost him dearly.
He heard Spike yell his name and turned back in time to see Bezrathoth's fist swing at him. He couldn't move fast enough, and the blow impacted his chest, cracking ribs, and hurled him through the air and into one of the concrete columns. Giles heard the sound of bone breaking in his knee and hit the ground with a scream. He heard another cracking sound and looked up. Bezrathoth had smashed its fist into one of the two columns that lay within the circle, and it started to shake. The roof above it did likewise, and suddenly parts of the ceiling crumbled and crashed down. New light poured diagonally into the room, highlighting the demon and encompassing the circle, and Spike screamed. Sunlight. The vampire dropped the axe and staggered out of the circle as fast as he could, already starting to smoulder. He collapsed to the ground in a swearing, smoking heap at the edge of the pool of light.
We're finished, Giles thought.
He had faced death before and wasn't afraid for himself. He was sorry mostly for Katie, two weeks into her heritage and already beaten. He was sorry for Spike, who had not been given enough time to prove himself fully. And he felt sorry for the world, because they had failed, and now Bezrathoth was going to rampage through humankind like a wolf though a flock of sheep, and no one was going to be able to stop it. He didn't feel sorry for himself, because Giles knew he would be one of the first to die, and his death would be soon, and his death would probably be quick. So he didn't fear it.
The fire burned lower.
Giles was pulled out of his thoughts by a hand on his shoulder.
"Spike?" he muttered, trying to focus on the figure above him. It wasn't only the loss of his glasses that was making his vision blurred, and he tried to anchor himself onto Spike's presence as a way of staying conscious.
"Yeah. Can you walk?"
Giles finally got a decent look at the vampire, and wondered quite where he had found the energy reserves to still be standing in spite of the blood and the burns and the obviously broken bones. The vamp face had gone, and now he looked as much like a scared, hurting human as Giles suspected he himself did. He absently wondered if he might have had much in common with William if they had known each other in life.
"Giles? Talk to me. Can you walk?" he was more insistent now, and Giles snapped himself back to fully conscious reality.
"Walk?" He tried, and his left knee crumpled as soon as he tried to put any weight on it. "No."
Spike looked up and around. Giles saw that Rawlings had ventured down the steps and was trying to pull Katie's body back out.
"Stay here," Spike said, and limped over to the Watcher.
"Go help Giles," he ordered her.
"Don't you dare tell me what to do, vampire," she snapped at him.
Spike grabbed her shoulder and spun her round to face him.
"Listen to me you stupid bitch. Giles can't walk without help. You can't carry Katie on your own. I can. Let me take her. You get Giles."
They faced off for a moment, and then Rawlings ran over to where Giles was trying to stand, leaning heavily against the column. She slipped his arm over her shoulder and they started slowly back to the steps, careful to avoid tripping over the bodies of Crelons.
Why are we even bothering? Giles wondered, as he saw Spike carrying Katie in his arms, the wonder of vampire healing apparently returning strength to his legs with every stride. Bezrathoth roared again, prowling within the confines of the circle as they congregated on the wide top step and Rawlings pulled Katie through the opening. The Slayer was starting to regain consciousness, but she was in no shape to fight any more. None of them were.
The fire burned lower.
"Giles." Spike caught hold of his arm, and his suddenly forceful voice made Giles turn to look at him.
"Two things," Spike said, holding Giles' gaze rigid with his intense blue eyes. "First thing, do me a favour: remember what I want. Second thing," a broad grin inexplicably appeared on Spike's blood streaked face. "English literature."
Then he turned and vaulted over the rim of their refuge, propelling himself into the air before Giles could even think to stop him. Giles crawled to the edge to see Spike crash land rather ungracefully in the rubble pile. His legs buckled but instead of falling Spike managed to tuck into a roll that carried him to the ground where he executed an almost perfect summersault and used the momentum from the roll to propel him into an even faster run.
He was charging straight at Bezrathoth.
"Spike!" Giles yelled his name, knowing it was a futile effort as the vampire passed from the shadow into the light.
Bezrathoth saw him coming and turned to meet him with a roar. Spike answered in kind with a bellowed war cry, still accelerating even as the smoke that was pouring from him gave way to flame.
Spike bodily rammed into Bezrathoth, and sheer force of strength, momentum and fire pushed the demon backwards. For a second Giles thought the giant would fall, but he staggered back into the other concrete column and stopped.
Giles swore desperately as their last chance, if it ever had been a chance, looked wasted. Until he noticed something. There was a large crack partway up the column, and under the sudden weight of the demon it started to grow, tiny cracks radiating out from the main like a myriad of tributaries from a river in a monsoon. With a groan that became a thunder the column snapped, and all that remained of the roof came crashing down upon the circle, and the two figures within it.
When Giles finally dared to look up he glanced behind to see that both Watcher and Slayer were still alive, safe in the other room. Katie was conscious again, and both were staring back at him in disbelief. Giles turned his attention quickly back to the main room.
Beams of sunlight lanced diagonally across the space, highlighting a scene of devastation. Bezrathoth, what little of it was visible, was dead, crushed beneath the rubble. Giles strained hard to see through the debris, searching for any sign that Spike might have survived.
In the place where the vampire had last been, sparkling slightly as each particle caught the light, a fine scattering of dust began to settle.
Giles got halfway through the number before he put the phone down. His address book lay open at Dawn's number, and he knew he had to call eventually, but somehow it was still too soon. She should know. Dawn would want to know. It occurred to Giles that Angel ought to be told as well. But today was still too soon.
The immediate aftermath had passed by in a blur of hospital and painkillers for two days. Then Rawlings, whose name, it turned out, was Margaret, had driven him back to Bath personally. Katie had insisted on accompanying them and had helped him navigate the house with crutches and his leg in plaster. To her credit, it was Katie who had insisted that everything should be reported accurately in her Watcher's report of the entire incident, including the actions of all involved. Rawlings had somewhat reluctantly agreed, and Giles suspected that even with that agreement she might embellish the truth a little to show her Slayer in a more flattering light. He knew what that was like because he had done the same enough times himself to mitigate some of Buffy's more questionable decisions.
But soon enough they had left him alone, and now Giles was lonely again. He was surprised to realise how much he had begun to rely on the simple fact of his friendship with Spike, and it honestly hadn't occurred to him that he needed it until it was gone. Sometimes, when he had just woken from a painkiller-induced doze, he wondered when Spike might next walk in and start treating the place like he lived there. Sometimes it took as much as five minutes to remember that was never going to happen again.
More often than not his mind drifted to their last exchange. English literature. Of course, that was why he would never have admitted it while sober. Or unless he knew he was about to die. But the other. That confused Giles.
Remember what I want.
What the hell was that? As last requests went it was kind of vague. It took Giles nearly a week to figure it out, and only then when he thought right back to the day that had changed everything.
What do you want, Spike?
To have fun and live forever.
Well, he certainly hadn't managed either of those. But that wasn't it. It wasn't quite what he meant. There had been a second option, hadn't there? The next best thing.
What do you want, Spike?
To be remembered forever.
Well, Giles knew he was never going to forget. But then, he was an old man already, and having the memory die with him had certainly not been what the vampire had meant.
Giles slowly hobbled to his feet and shuffled to the cabinet cupboard. Inside he found a stack of books that he hadn't had cause to use in over seven years. Not since Buffy had died. Eventually settled again with a drink and a book and a pen, he hesitated. How could he do this? How could he begin to put into words what all of this meant? Where would he even start?
Begin at the beginning, his rational academic mind told him. But there was nothing detached or academic about doing this. Not now.
With a deep, slightly shaking breath, Giles put pen to paper and began to honour the memory, and the last wish of a man who had been his most unlikely friend.
Journal of Rupert Giles, June 2008
This historical report begins, in a manner of speaking, in 1880 with a man named William.