Shades of Grey 5: Reversion
Sequel to Shades of Grey 4: Resolution; part of The Shades of Grey Series
Summary: Trust, willpower, self-control, duty. Events force Giles to contemplate the nature of such things, and lead him to a terrible discovery.
Author Notes: Thanks to Matt and Emma for proof reading. I am a feedback junkie, please support my habit.
Story Notes: Post "The Gift". Season six never happened and Buffy stayed dead. Part 5 of 6.
Disclaimer: I don't own them. Joss Whedon and co do.
"Well, it's um..." Giles searched his extensive mental vocabulary for a word that would truthfully sum up his thoughts without putting a dent in Spike's all too fragile ego. "...Small."
They were standing in the middle of what could laughingly be described as the living room of Spike's new flat. It was a basement flat, for obvious reasons, and Giles reflected that he had seen wardrobes with more space. The living room was barely big enough to fit two chairs and a television. The kitchen was tacked as an afterthought onto the side of the main room, and consisted of a tiny sink, less than a square foot of worktop, and a couple of decrepit appliances that might at one time have been described as a cooker and a fridge. Next to it was the tiniest bathroom in history, and Giles was forced to wonder if the bedroom actually possessed Tardis like qualities, since extra dimensional space was the only possible explanation for getting everything that had been shoved into it to fit in such a box.
"It's cosy," Spike amended. He looked surprisingly pleased with his new home. "It's not like I need a lot of room anyway. And no offence to your furniture, mate, but after three weeks on your sofa I think we'll both be glad I've got my own place."
True, Giles admitted. But he was worried. Spike wasn't the most welcome of houseguests, but as long as he had been living under the same roof Giles had been able to keep an eye on him. It wasn't that he doubted the sincerity behind Spike's decision to join the white hats in the fight against the forces of darkness. What he did doubt was the vampire's willpower to stick with that decision in the face of temptation.
"And look," Spike indicated with a surprising air of enthusiasm. "There's a phone, you know, in case of emergency."
Giles wasn't entirely certain which of them might be the one having the emergency, but didn't ask for clarification.
"Are you sure you're going to be alright here?" he asked tentatively.
"Yeah, it's not so..." Spike stopped and stared hard at Giles, anger slowly seeping into his expression. "That wasn't: 'are you going to be alright?' was it? That was: 'are you going to turn back into a psychopathic murderer if you're left on your own?' I don't bloody believe this."
"Spike, that wasn't..." Giles didn't finish, because he knew damn well that was what he had meant. This job of watching over Spike's conversion wasn't nearly as easy as Giles had hoped it might be. And every time they had one of these conversations he knew he was skirting dangerously close to failing.
"You don't trust me." A statement filled with accusation. And disappointment.
"If I didn't trust you do you really think that I would have fought side by side with you on patrols for the last three weeks?" Giles' voice had dropped and taken on a low, threatening edge. Experience had taught him that killing the topic as quickly as possible was the only sure way of averting Spike's alarmingly regular crises of confidence.
"That wasn't trust. That was watching over my shoulder with a stake in your hand." Spike's temper was gaining momentum with every word. "Three bloody weeks. And you still don't think I can do it. What do I have to do that will prove to you I'm serious about this?"
"It's not about proving anything." But it was, and they both knew it. "I'm just concerned."
Spike glared at him for a long moment, and Giles thought he almost saw a flicker of yellow in his eyes.
"Get out," Spike said.
Giles was unused to defiance from the vampire. Since his rather dramatic conversion Spike had been more inclined to follow Giles' lead and defer to the human's opinion.
Giles sighed, and bit back the urge to hit his wayward student. Then he left.
Giles was quite surprised when he found a large bulky envelope on the mat the following morning. It was postmarked Hereford, and he wondered who on earth might be sending him a parcel from there. He knew only one person in Hereford, but why would it be him?
He sat down with his morning cup of tea and plate of toast, and opened the envelope carefully. It contained a large, well-worn notebook, and a note.
I am in danger. The Crelons know that I am onto their plan, and I don't think I can evade them for long. Keep this notebook safe, and act on the information contained in it. If anything happens to me you must get this information to the Slayer. I don't trust those idiots at the Council, but I do trust you.
I truly hope I will see you again, but unfortunately I doubt it.
Giles felt a cold dread begin to settle. This was like something from the start of a bad horror film, or some noir detective novel. David Hammond was an old friend and if he was in trouble, which he undoubtedly was, then Giles wasn't going to sit idly by and do nothing.
He started to read the notebook.
Within three pages he stopped reading, ran to get his coat, and was out of the door and in his car in seconds. The tea and toast were left to go cold.
He needed to get to Hereford, needed to find David, needed to... Giles finally stopped and thought about what he was doing. He needed a plan, and since he had practically no idea what he was walking into he also needed backup. There was only one person qualified for that job. He turned the car round and went to Spike's flat.
It occurred to Giles on the way that he didn't know whether Spike would help him. Especially considering their last conversation, and considering the fact that since they had left Sunnydale so many years ago Giles had never asked for the vampire's help. It had always been Spike who had come to him with deals or requests. Giles found himself hoping that Spike's resolution was stronger than his temper.
When he finally got there he banged on the door and waited. There was no answer. It was daylight, so Spike couldn't be out. Although that wasn't strictly true, Giles realised. It was heavily overcast, and already starting to rain. He banged on the door again and heard movement from within. Eventually Spike opened the door, half dressed and looking rather wary. His expression changed to annoyance when he saw who it was.
"What?" he snapped. Without waiting for Giles to speak he continued. "Oh, let me guess, you came to check up on me. Guess what? Nearly twenty-four hours unsupervised and no massacres yet. Check out my complete lack of drained corpses." He opened the door wider and gestured to the emptiness of his flat.
"Spike," Giles interrupted before he could get any further with his rant. "I need your help."
Spike looked suitably surprised and didn't reply for a moment.
"Wasn't expecting that," he commented. He stood aside and let Giles in. "What's up?"
"I'll make it quick because there isn't much time. A friend of mine is in trouble. He's somewhere in Hereford, and something called Crelons are after him. I want to get to him before they do. But I have no idea what a Crelon is, and only a limited knowledge of what is going on with him. I need backup. Are you in?" It came out rather terser than Giles had been intending, but he was becoming more and more worried the more time they wasted.
Spike hesitated for a moment, and then nodded. "Yeah, I'll help. But if you want to go right this minute I've got a bit of a sunlight problem."
Giles glanced back outside. "It's set to rain all day, there is no sun."
"Right then," Spike said, matter of factly. "Be with you in five."
Spike was ready to go in less than five, in fact. They set off in Spike's car, primarily because the windows were blacked out, and Spike didn't want to take any chances that the weather forecast had been wrong. Also, Giles remembered, there was a stash of weaponry in the back of the car already, which was always useful.
"So what's the story?" Spike asked as he drove.
Giles was flipping through David's notebook, trying to pick out any more relevant details. "I received this in the post this morning. It was postmarked yesterday, which is why I believe there may still be a chance of finding him. It's from David Hammond, an old friend. We trained as Watchers together." Giles stopped for a moment as he realised how long ago that seemed.
"So what's he got himself into?"
"I haven't read all of this, but it seems he stumbled upon a group of creatures, possibly demons, which he refers to as Crelons. You don't happen to have heard of such a creature, have you?"
"Nope. Not ringing a bell."
"Right. Well, David seemed to believe that they were preparing for some big ritual, although he doesn't say what it was. Or I possibly just haven't found that part yet. Whatever it was he didn't like it, he was planning to try to stop them somehow."
"And these Crelons took offence to that, no doubt?"
"Apparently so. The note didn't say much, just that he wanted me to ensure the information in this book got to the Slayer."
"So shouldn't you have given it to the Council or something? If your mate couldn't handle it what makes you think you can?"
In other circumstances Giles might have taken that statement as an insult, but he could tell that Spike was genuinely worried.
"I have no intention of trying to deal with this situation. At least, not yet. What I want to do is ensure David's safety. Then we can talk about stopping this ritual. And David was quite clear about giving it to me and not to the Watchers Council. He became just as disillusioned with all the bureaucracy and traditionalism as I did. The only difference is he had the sense not to say it out loud, so he didn't get himself fired."
"So where do we start?"
"His house. If he isn't there then we might find some clue about where he is now."
Spike threw him a sideways glance. "You really don't have anything even vaguely resembling a plan, do you? I think you'd better slow down and get one before we walk headlong into this."
Giles had to admit; no he didn't have a plan. He had been acting on instinct since he had read the note that morning. It struck him as highly ironic that Spike should suddenly have become the level headed one. He was more used to being the rational restraint on Spike's impulsive reactions. But then, Spike didn't have a personal stake in this. He hadn't known David for over thirty years.
Giles continued to read the notebook as they travelled. The key to a successful plan was always information, and this was currently his only source. Most of it was generally unhelpful, however. David was rather prone to rambling in his notes, supplying an overabundance of information about only vaguely relevant subjects, and Giles was having some difficulty teasing out what he needed. About half way through he suddenly discovered an interesting fact that he couldn't help commenting on.
"A new Slayer was called a couple of weeks ago. Right here in England apparently."
"Where's she based, so I know to avoid it? I doubt they got the memo about my change of perspective."
"It doesn't say."
They both lapsed into silence, and Giles realised they were both probably having the same thought - that for a new Slayer to have been called meant that another had died recently. Giles thought briefly about the Watcher of that Slayer, remembering his own feelings so many years ago. He wondered what Spike was thinking about. Giles had surmised a while ago that Spike had been offering him all those deals for items of mystical significance in order that they might help the current Slayer, mostly out of a feeling of guilt over Buffy's death. Was he feeling guilty now that even that little help had not prevented the death of another Slayer? Giles had never tried to dispel Spike's feeling of guilt. He thought it might have been one of the factors stopping Spike from turning evil again.
When they finally got to Hereford, Giles directed Spike to the house and they parked a little way down the street. It was a particularly affluent part of the suburbs, in fact, and Spike's battered car stood out a mile. Giles didn't care. They had more important things to do, and failing to blend in was only a slight concern.
Spike checked that the rain clouds were still present and then they both got out of the car.
"Pick your weapon," Spike said, grabbing a large dagger from the weapon stash on the backseat of the car. Giles went for a small axe, and rather regretted it when he realised how difficult it was to conceal under his coat as they headed for David's house.
The house itself was set back from the road with a large garden out front surrounded by tall hedges. Excellent cover. They ducked into the driveway and crept up alongside the house keeping close to the hedge.
"Look there, top window," Spike pointed, whispering even out here.
Giles looked up and saw movement in the window of one of the upstairs rooms.
"Well somebody is in at least. And I believe that is David's car in the drive," Giles indicated further up the long drive.
"Looks good so far, then. Back door?"
Giles nodded assent and they continued round the house, keeping low, trying to see anything through the windows and straining to hear any sounds from within as they went. They reached the back door and Giles was preparing to the pick the lock when he tried it and realised it was unlocked. He crept inside and noted that it led into the kitchen.
"Giles, I think your mate's still alive."
"How do you know?" Giles was still searching for anything out of the ordinary before he proceeded further into the house.
"I can't get in."
He looked round to see Spike still standing outside the back door. That was good news about David, but it left him doing this alone. Fine.
Giles nodded tersely. "When I find him I'll see if I can get you an invite. Stay here."
As he slid silently through the door into the hallway he heard Spike mutter sarcastically, "Like I have an option."
There was a noise from upstairs, like a thud of something falling. And muffled voices. Then he briefly thought he heard something else from a room at the front of the house, just down the corridor. He crept towards it, hardly daring to breathe, and stopped beside the door. It was slightly ajar.
A high, squeaky voice from within suddenly said, "Where the ring thing? You tell. You give."
Then he heard a human voice say, "Not bloody likely, you skanky excuse for a pixie." David.
There was the sound of something solid hitting flesh, and Giles had to physically restrain himself from barging in. He realised with momentary surprise that he wished Spike were here with him. He slid the door a fraction more open, moving excruciatingly slowly. The squeaky voice seemed to be ranting, although any form of coherence was lost in the high pitch noise. Eventually he adjusted his position to get a look into the room. He could see David sat on the floor, his hands apparently tied behind his back to the leg of the large desk that occupied the centre of the room. Bizarrely, Giles' first thought was that his friend had lost weight since they had last met. His greying hair was unusually messy, and his narrow face had the look of someone who hadn't slept in some time. There was fresh blood staining his shirt collar and face. Giles could feel his anger rising with every passing second.
Suddenly something else hopped into view. About four feet tall, with pointy ears and gnarled brownish skin, it did indeed look like 'a skanky excuse for a pixie'. Or, Giles thought, a goblin was a more appropriate analogy. Either way, it was hopping about in a rather agitated manner, and Giles noted with some concern that it was holding a knife that it kept gesturing at David with.
There only seems to be one, Giles thought to himself. From upstairs there was the sound of what he now realised to be multiple moving individuals, possibly more of these goblin things. Were these the Crelons?
He was about to dive in and tackle the creature when he suddenly heard the sound of something coming down the stairs at speed. He ducked back into the kitchen doorway, holding a hand out to silence Spike. Another of the goblins bounced down the stairs and into the room with David and the other one.
"We got. We got," the new one squeaked. "We find ring thing. Not need human now. Gek say kill it."
He crashed through the door into the room in seconds, axe at the ready. All three of the room's occupants turned to stare at him and he swung the axe at the newest goblin. It moved surprisingly fast and leapt out of the way. With a shriek it bounced off the desk and flew at Giles even as he recovered from the first swing. It latched onto his arm with an alarmingly tight grip and sank its teeth in. Giles yelled and punched it. Hard. It leapt off and bounced back immediately, but this time Giles was ready for it. He swung the axe again and neatly decapitated the creature in mid air. He turned to the other one, and stopped.
David was already dead.
In the moment it had taken for him to kill the creature, its associate had slit his friend's throat. Giles roared a cry of fury and pain, and launched himself at the remaining goblin. It moved, but not fast enough. Giles was upon it and plunged the axe into its chest so hard the blade embedded itself in the wall behind the creature, pinning it there.
Giles turned to his friend, quickly untied his hands, and gently cradled him in his arms. He could tell there wasn't even any point in trying to stem the flow of blood. It was already too late. He vaguely realised that he was talking. He wasn't sure what he was saying, possibly an explanation for his lateness, possibly an apology. It didn't really matter. The words seemed rather disconnected, as if they weren't really coming from him at all. His mind was racing furiously, and yet standing still, frozen in time. He suspected there was something that he should be doing, but it could wait for a moment longer.
He heard movement in the doorway, but didn't react to it. The footfalls were heavy, not the light bouncing of these bastard creatures.
"Oh, shit," he heard Spike say in a quiet voice.
Neither of them spoke for a while. Giles concentrated very hard on breathing. Then, he laid the body down, adjusted his glasses slightly, and stood up. He walked over to the wall and pulled his axe out of the goblin's chest. It made a wet, sucking noise as it came out. The goblin's body fell to the floor in a boneless heap. Giles started to leave the room, but Spike was still standing in the doorway, blocking his path.
"Giles?" he asked quietly with a look of fear and silent empathy that could never be put into words between them.
Giles wondered briefly what he looked like, what sight had generated such an expression of concern on Spike's face.
"There are more of them upstairs. Please, get out of my way," he said calmly.
Spike hesitated momentarily, and then stepped aside.
"Giles?" He looked like he was about to say something else, but Giles silenced him with a look.
Giles walked upstairs with an utterly clear-headed purpose. He noted movement within the room at the end of the corridor, and moved towards it. He paused briefly outside the slightly ajar door, and breathed deeply. Once. Twice.
He kicked the door in and stepped into the room. The first goblin that ran at him was cut in two before it even got close. The second managed to latch its teeth onto his shoulder. Giles reached round with his free hand and tore it off, taking a large chunk of his shoulder with it. He turned in one fluid movement and slammed the creature into the wall, his hand tight around its throat. It choked, and he slammed its head backwards a second time. It left a splash of blood on the wall and on Giles' hand. The creature went limp, and he dropped it.
Something solid hit the back of his head. He turned back round. A book. This was the library, he suddenly realised. The little bastard creatures had been raiding the library. There were still four of them, and one was sitting on a bookshelf hurling books at him. Giles batted one out of the air with his arm as he started to walk towards it. Another book hit his leg. He swung the axe at one of the creatures as it tried to rush him. It caught the flat of the blade, and was swatted sideways. Giles raised the axe as he walked, and swung as soon as he was within reach of the bookcase. The creature fell in two bloody halves.
One of the goblins appeared to be squeaking orders at the remaining two. The two jumped him as one, and Giles noted with a slight concern that the other was holding something, and appeared to be about to jump out of the window. Giles ignored the other two and went for it. He got three steps before one of the two leapt at his face and caught hold. The other tackled around his middle. Giles grabbed at the one attached to his face and tried to tear it off. It was stronger than it looked. But not as strong as him. Taking a handful of hair as it went, the creature was thrown viciously against the corner of a table. Giles turned his attention to the other. It was practically hugging his waist and scrabbling at his legs. It was trying to slow him down. Giles dropped the axe and grabbed it in both hands. With a swift movement, Giles snapped its neck.
When he looked up, the remaining goblin had gone.
Giles swore loudly. He ran to the window, but there was no sign of it, or of the thing it had been carrying. He heard movement and turned round to see the one that had grabbed his face was still moving. He strode back, picked up the axe, and buried it in the goblin's face. Ignoring the squealing sound of metal on bone, he pulled it out, and hacked back down at the creature's chest.
"Bastard," he yelled at it. In a suddenly blind rage, he continued to slash at the creature, dismembering limbs, tearing its body apart and spraying blood across the floor, walls, himself.
The axe suddenly stopped in mid swing and Giles looked up. Spike's hand was on the haft of the axe. The vampire was staring at him with a look of incredulous fear. Not fear of him, Giles realised. Fear for him.
"Giles. Stop. It's over."
Giles stared back at him, for a moment failing to understand quite where he was or what he was doing. He realised that there was a spot of blood on one of his spectacle lenses. He found himself focusing on it, as if surprised by its presence.
Spike was speaking to him, he realised. He hadn't heard a word of it.
"I'm sorry?" he finally said, realising that he sounded rather more confused than he felt.
"We have to go," Spike said in a low, steady, calming voice.
"Yes. We have to go now."
"No," Giles heard himself say. "One of them got away. They got what they came for. We have to find it."
There was flash of anger in Spike's face for a second. Then it was expertly covered over with a calm resolve.
"We can't do anything about that now. We have to leave." He carefully tugged the axe out of Giles' grip and held onto his arm. Giles felt himself being pulled gently towards the door. "Come on."
"No. We have to find out what they took." Giles' mouth still seemed to be working independently of his brain. The ability to form a coherent thought was almost completely shut down, shock, grief and mind numbing fury coalescing into an incomprehensible blur.
"No, we don't." Why was Spike talking so slowly and quietly, picking his words like someone who was dealing with a dangerous lunatic? "We have to leave. There was noise. Someone might have called the police. We have to be somewhere else if they come here."
Giles stopped abruptly on the landing corridor. He saw a brief flash of impatience on the vampire's face, and then it was covered again.
"The police? We should stay. Tell them what happened. How it happened."
"No." Spike was still being profoundly insistent. "We cannot be here if they come. Stay with me Giles. Think. I am dead. I don't legally exist. You are covered in blood from a variety of sources, including your friend. This isn't Sunnydale. The police won't sweep this under the carpet and ignore it. And they damn sure won't believe that a bunch of demon hobgoblins did it. Even in spite of all the evidence to the contrary." He waved a hand at the library full of bodies. "Do you understand? We have to go."
Giles processed this more slowly that he normally would have. Then he nodded, and allowed Spike to walk him downstairs, quickly past the study with the other bodies in it, and out of the back. They returned to the car without being challenged by anyone. Spike made sure Giles was seated and belted into the passenger seat, and closed the door for him, before he got in the driver's side and set off.
They travelled in silence for an indeterminate time.
After a while Spike said, "I'm sorry about your friend."
Giles didn't reply. Couldn't reply. He was wondering what path his life might have taken if he had chosen to walk away from his calling as a Watcher so many years ago. If he might not have had to lose so many people that he cared about. Rationally speaking, he knew he had done so much good, saved so many people over the years. But was the cost really worth it? What did it matter that he had saved the lives of a hundred people that he didn't know and would never see again? What was that in comparison to seeing Buffy die? Jenny? David?
And Spike, a man who had murdered countless hundreds, was trying to offer him sympathy? In a cold, warped world, it almost seemed normal.
They arrived at Giles' house without another word passing between them. Once there, Giles found himself gently propelled into a chair, and was struck with the surreal realisation that Spike had wordlessly wandered into the kitchen and made tea. Then there was a rather awkward few minutes when Spike tried to patch up the cuts on Giles' shoulder, and Giles was still too numb to do anything other than unbutton his shirt and let the vampire get on with it. Some time later another two cups of undrunk, cold tea had joined the one Giles had left this morning with his toast. Eventually Spike snagged the stack of post-it notes from the mantelpiece, scribbled something on the top sheet, and finally left Giles alone.
Only when the vampire had left did Giles allow himself to drop his stoic facade, and start to deal with the day's events.
The irony was not lost on him that only the day before he had been worried about Spike losing his self-control under pressure. Nor did he fail to understand the bizarre juxtaposition of their characters. Grief and guilt were what fuelled Spike's calling to the good. Grief and guilt were the things most capable of making Giles doubt his calling. Normally the simple desire to protect the innocent was enough. When it wasn't, revenge was a powerful motivator. And when all else failed, when there seemed no other reason to fight the fight, then duty took over. Thankless, ingrained, automated duty.
In the end, he wondered, did it really matter the reason behind the actions? As long as the fight was fought, did the reason for participation have any bearing at all? Was there really so much difference between a Slayer chosen by arbitrary selection, a vampire with a soul in search of redemption, a vampire without a soul in search of a raison d'etre, and a disillusioned Watcher with no other purpose than because he could?
Suddenly curious, Giles got up and went to the notepad to see what Spike had written. There were just two things on the pad. His name, and his new phone number. Simple, effective, and telling Giles all he needed to know right then about the vampire's conviction. In that moment Giles' decision, if there ever had been one to make, was made. Desire to fight would return. It always had in the past. Until then, duty would govern his actions, and allow him to do what had to be done in the coming days.
Duty always did.
Over the next few hours Giles acted in an automated haze. He phoned the Council of Watchers to inform them of David Hammond's death, and very briefly the circumstances surrounding it. He tried to tell them that he had information that should be passed onto the Slayer, but he got the feeling that he was being brushed off when the clerk told him that someone might be round later to pick it up.
By the following morning no one had been from the Council. Late the previous night, however, Giles had already started reading the notebook himself, drawn to it by a combination of his own natural curiosity and a need to understand why his friend had died. By lunchtime he could think only one thing.
No bloody wonder David had wanted this to get to the Slayer.
Giles spent the next hour trying to speak to someone in authority at Council headquarters in London. Retired and disgraced as he was from the Council, Giles had hoped that his name might still carry some weight. Apparently not enough, however. After the clerk had hung up on him twice, and then simply refused to answer the phone any more, Giles had had enough.
He called Spike's new number.
It rang a few times, and Giles remembered that daytime calls were likely to catch the vampire sleeping. Eventually it was picked up.
"Hello?" Suspicious voice. He probably wasn't used to actually receiving calls, Giles guessed. Not yet, anyway.
"Spike, it's me. How quickly can you get over here?" Giles suddenly realised as he spoke that his car was still parked at Spike's flat from the previous day.
There was a brief hesitation, and the sound of movement from the other end of the line. Then he replied, "Looks like it's still raining. Right now if you want. Are you okay?"
Giles considered his reply carefully. In the last twenty-four hours he had lost a good friend, he had so completely lost control that he had allowed his alternate persona to emerge, he had been ignored by those who should have acted on his word, and he had discovered something frighteningly reminiscent of his days on the Hellmouth. Of course he wasn't okay. They were all so far from being okay that it was absurd to pretend otherwise.
"Yes. I'm fine," he said.
"So what's up?" Slightly more relaxed, almost relieved sounding.
Giles hesitated to consider for a moment.