And the Winner Is….
"Dammit," Giles snapped when he spotted Bobby Singer entering the room. He stopped mid-stride, causing Anya to walk right into the back of him.
"Ow!" she exclaimed as she smacked him in the shoulder. "What are you doing? I stubbed my toe on your stupid heel," she groaned.
"I'm Sorry," Giles said. "I'm just a bit taken aback. I didn't expect certain competitors to be here. This is a rather exclusive auction house, after all."
Anya looked past Giles to the 'competitor' he was obviously referring to. He did stand out among the other potential bidders who'd come to the pre-auction viewing. He was dressed in jeans and flannel and wore a trucker's cap advertising 'Wally's Tire World'.
"That's a hunter," she stated simply.
Giles shot the girl a surprised look. "How do you know that?"
Anya shrugged. "If you spend a thousand years in the Vengeance Demon business, you're bound to run across a few. Most non-humans can spot one from a mile away. It's an important survival strategy. I even cursed a few in my day. A lot of those guys can't keep it in their pants," she confided in a matter-of-fact tone. "This one time, in sixteen century France, I turned an unfaithful hunter's penis into a poisonous snake. It was one of my more amusing curses," Anya added with a grin. She was completely oblivious to the look of horror on Giles' face. "Of course the snake's venom eventually killed the guy," she continued cheerfully, "but it was very humorous while it lasted."
"Dear Lord," Giles remarked as he gave his glasses an obligatory polish. "I thought I'd made it clear that I wasn't interested in tales of your prior misadventures."
"Sorry," she said unapologetically. "I thought my story was appropriate to the topic. So why – aside from the misplaced attire –are you angry with the hunter guy?"
"The 'hunter guy' is named Robert 'Bobby' Singer and he's always interested in the exact same items I am. I've outbid him the last two times, but he's not above trying something sneaky. He's been known to engage in under-the-table dealings and the like. It's all terribly unfair."
"Well I'll be damned," Bobby grumbled to himself when he spotted Rupert Giles standing across the room. He'd be willing to bet every dime he had that the man was after the exact same item he was. Well, he wasn't going to lose out to the Watcher's deeper pockets this time around. The auction wasn't until the next day, so he had plenty of time to be inventive. He pulled out his cell and hit the first number on his speed dial.
"Hey Bobby," a familiar voice answered from across the line. "What's up?"
"I need a favor. I'm at a mystical items auction and there's this Watcher here that keeps out biddin' me… and if he don't outbid me, he gets his fancy Council buddies to pull some sorta behind-the-scenes hoodoo. It ain't fair. I hate those damn Watchers."
"I'm pretty sure they call themselves 'voyeurs', not 'watchers'."
"Dammit Dean, that's not what I'm talkin' about. Get your mind outta the gutter and listen for once. I can't let this sonuvabitch get the best of me again. I need you to come down here and help me crush him."
"Jeez Bobby. I get that dude's some kind of pervert, but I'm not gonna shoot him. Not if he's human anyway."
"I'm not askin' you to shoot him, idjit. I'm askin' you to help me out."
"Man, no offense, but it sounds like somebody didn't get their beauty sleep. You're extra grumpy today."
Bobby sighed and scratched at his beard. "Sorry," he said. "This guy just royally chaps my ass. Can you come? I'm in Eerie PA."
"Yeah, I can come. I'm only a couple hours out."
The next day…
"Do I still get to do the bidding? You know, with the money?" Anya asked anxiously as the two of them found their seats. "I'm very frugal," she reminded Giles. "I assure you I won't purchase anything unless I'm assured a high return on our investment."
"Yes Anya," Giles replied absently. His attention was focused on his rival, who was sitting in the row of seats across the aisle from him. An unfamiliar young man was standing behind him. He was leaning over and they appeared to be whispering to one another. Mr. Singer looked extremely pleased with what he was hearing too. It was very unsettling.
"Ooh, another hunter," Anya observed as she followed Giles' gaze. "I like that one. Most of them aren't terribly attractive, but he's very sexy."
Giles turned and raised his eyebrows at his business partner. "I'm not sure Xander would appreciate your enthusiasm," he remarked dryly.
"Why not?" she asked innocently. "I'm only looking. Besides, it gives me an idea. Xander and I enjoy role-play and we've never done the hunter/hunted thing before. I could pretend to be evil again and he could pretend to hunt me. I'll probably let him catch me too," she grinned as she ribbed Giles with her elbow.
"Anya, for heaven's sake, please stop. Why do you insist on placing disturbing images in my mind?"
Bobby put on his best poker face when the auctioneer announced that the 'Idol of Ka' was the next item up for bid. The idol was a small, carved-ivory statue of a bull, which had the power to pierce the veil between the mortal and spirit worlds. Any ghost within its vicinity would be forced to show itself. It would be a damn handy thing for a hunter to have. Bobby didn't know for certain that the Watcher was after the statue too, but if history had taught him anything - it was one hell of a safe bet.
He knew he had to play his cards right if he wanted to pull his scam off. He'd let Giles bid first and bide his time before pursuing his end game. It looked like good ole Rupert was playing it cool too. The pretty girl he had with him had been doing all the bidding and she was damn shrewd. He was impressed. The girl seemed to have a knack for this kind of thing. She never overbid and she didn't allow herself to get caught up in the fever of competition. The little lady wasn't easily ruffled, so Bobby was hoping Giles would take the reins now that the disputed item was in question.
Bobby began to doubt himself when the girl took the lead once again. Several other bidders appeared to be interested as well, but she kept topping their bids. It was never by an extravagant amount, however, and she didn't seem desperate. It was time to test the waters.
"Fifteen-hundred," Bobby said as he raised his hand (that topped Giles' companion's bid by two-fifty).
"Sixteen-hundred," Giles countered quickly. The girl beside him didn't appear too pleased. It was on.
By the time they'd gotten up around fifteen big ones, Bobby decided it was time to bow out gracefully. He sure as hell didn't want to be stuck with the winning bid and he and the Watcher were the only two still in the game. He made an effort to look appropriately disappointed when his final bid was topped and Rupert Giles was declared the winning bidder.
When the auction was concluded, Bobby casually made his way over to where Giles and the girl were standing.
"Congratulations," he said as he extended his hand. "Looks like you got me this time."
Giles shook Bobby's hand graciously. He appeared surprised by the friendly gesture. "Yes, well… win some lose some. It is the nature of the game. I'm sure you'll have better luck next go around."
"Yeah, hope so," he said as he nodded at the girl beside Giles, who was wearing a very sour expression. Obviously, she didn't think $15K was a good bargain (just wait until she knew the full story). "See ya next time," Bobby said as he tipped his cap and walked away.
"Yeah - 'win some lose some' - Bobby thought with a grin as he quickly made his way to his car. He planned on being a few miles down the road before Mr. Giles discovered exactly what he'd 'won'. He had a sneaking suspicion that the sacred 'Idol of Ka' had been mysteriously swapped with a much less valuable and much less mystical statue of a bull. Technically, Giles' new treasure was called a Chia Pet.
A/N: Yes I know, poor Giles. I do love them both. I imagine that next time he'll bring along some backup, possibly in the form of a tiny, but unusually strong blond.