It wasn’t until Anya was gone on her honeymoon with Xander, leaving Giles to run the Magic Box by himself, that Giles truly appreciated what an asset she was to have around. While he knew business wasn’t slow, he never realized how busy things actually were until he was left to deal with things on his own. He thought he would have plenty of time to keep on top of research and his own pursuits, but he was having trouble just keeping up with the till. It occurred to him that Anya may have known something he didn’t and picked the date she did on purpose. But as business savvy and money loving as the girl was, he doubted she would do anything to jeopardize either business or money.
So he made do the best he could, counting the days until she returned, tanned and eager to see how much they had made.
Not only had he developed a new appreciation for Anya, but Giles also realized why he’d found comfort in libraries and museums all these years. There were few people, and those who were there kept a respectable distance and were very quiet.
“No, madam, we just sold out of the fetish stones last week and won’t be getting any in until next month. There has been a shortage,” he said, straining to hold onto his last nerve. Only two hours to go. He’d survived how many apocalypses? What was this compared to saving the world?
Somehow saving the world seemed much easier.
There was a queue at the cash register again. At least he could leave this dreadful woman behind.
And to make a great day even better, who should come in, smoking blanket in tow? He saw the vampire take in the scene, but instead of the snarky remark or smirk Giles expected, Spike made his way over with determination.
“Looks like you could use a bit of help,” he said, his eyes dancing, but the offer genuine.
Too tired to protest or care, fully expecting to pay for this well into the future, Giles replied, “Know anything about ringing customers up?”
“Watched Anya a time or two, should be able to hold my own,” Spike said, taking his station behind the register. “Now then, what have we here…”
Giles left him to go attend to the customers in the shop and attempt to restock the shelves as best he could. Anya was highly organized, but the system she used was one of her own making and understood only by her.
Finally, at twelve minutes past six, the last customer left and Giles locked the door behind her with a relieved sigh.
“So, how long until the lovebirds return?” Spike grinned as he counted out the day’s earnings.
“Too long,” Giles groaned as he sat down at the table, closing his eyes in relief, his mind already across town at Ethan’s where skilled hands promised to work out the day’s tensions.
“I could be robbing you blind and you wouldn’t know the difference.”
Giles blinked his eyes open and stared blearily at Spike. “At this point, if you wanted to take the whole bloody store, I wouldn’t complain.’
“Careful, Rupes, may take you up on that,” his companion chuckled, closing the cash box with a bang.
And then Giles said something he never thought he’d say, “Thank you, Spike.”
He shrugged it off. “Wouldn’t wish that lot on my worst enemy. Which—well, guess this proves it true, eh?”
Giles smiled faintly. “I don’t think we’ve been enemies for quite some time now.”
Spike snorted. “Shows what you know. Would sell the lot of you out if the price was right.”
The vampire didn’t say anything to that.
“You really do care for her, don’t you?” he asked, studying Spike closely.
Spike stood up and went over to inspect one of the shelves. “More than I have any right to,” he said quietly.
Giles was surprised at his lack of bluster. Not that he hadn’t suspected as much, with all that Spike had sacrificed and endured over the last year. Obsession had its limits.
“Do any of us deserve those we love?” Giles said pointedly. “Or that love us back?”
“She doesn’t love me.” The words were barely audible.
Giles should have wanted to cheer at the words, but it wasn’t in him anymore. Not after all he had been through himself. “Some people can’t admit how they really feel.”
“I think you’ve hit your head one too many times, Watcher. The girl will never love me. Doesn’t matter what I do. She’s been hurt too much. And let’s not forget, vampire here. Still soulless,” he said bitterly. “Just a bit of plastic between me and a good staking.”
“You could have left after she died,” Giles countered. “But you didn’t. You stuck around. Watching out for Dawn. Helping the rest of us out. You didn’t have to. And I’m certain we made you far from welcome.”
“Wouldn’t ‘ve been right,” was all he said. “Made a promise.”
“People break promises all the time, Spike.”
“I think it does matter,” Giles said firmly, walking over to join Spike.
“Shouldn’t you be trying to convince me to give it all up?” he sneered.
“Probably,” he shrugged. “But I see things a bit differently than I used to.”
“Maybe. But you lot actually do care for each other. None of this one-sided business,” Spike said. “Buffy’s with me because I help her forget, not for any other reason. There have been moments recently when it almost seemed like . . . Then it’s back to normal. It’s wrong. I’m wrong for her.”
“Have you tried talking to her?”
“More times than you can count, mate. But she won’t listen. And maybe she’s just not ready. Time I realized that.”
“Maybe it’s time you stopped talking,” Giles stated.
“Tried that too, mate. Makes no difference,” Spike replied tonelessly, toying with a pewter candlestick.
“How far would you go for her?”
“How far? Getting my insides rearranged by the harlot god who made Dru look sane and keeping the Bit safe should be an indication,” he said wryly.
“She’s still young, Spike.”
“Yeah, she is. Easy to forget that, what with all she’s seen and done,” he frowned. “Has certain ideas about things that I don’t think she’ll ever get past. Regardless of how much she’s shown to the contrary.”
Curious, “Do you know what she wants?”
“Like she’d come out and tell me that. Peaches is still her ideal. The hero in every way. Got the complex and the brooding and the tortured soul . . .” Spike trailed off.
He was so quiet, Giles had to interrupt, “Spike?”
Spike looked at him as if coming back from far way. “You think she’d take me seriously if it wasn’t the chip keeping me in check?”
“If you got rid of it, you mean?” When Spike didn’t meet his gaze, Giles started to get a little worried. “What are you thinking, Spike?”
“Don’t get your knickers in a twist, Watcher. I was just thinking out loud,” he smiled, but it looked forced. “Doubt I’ll be rid of the thing until I’m dust, anyway. So, no worries.”
But there seemed to be more to it than that. Giles wanted to press the issue further, especially considering Spike’s history of rash acts; however, the vampire was notoriously stubborn when he set his mind toward said rash acts. Still, he should at least try and—but Spike didn’t give him the chance, making his way to the door with determination. The blanket he’d discarded when he came in was retrieved as an afterthought.
Stopping, he looked back, a hint of sadness that he tried to mask with a light tone, “Might want to think about asking Joyce or the sorcerer for a bit of help. If the rest of the week is anything like today, you won’t be of much use to them.”
“Spike, wait,” Giles called out, starting after him. He had a bad feeling about this.
Spike had the door open and was on his way out when he turned one last time, “You’re a lucky man, Rupert,” he said. And with that, Spike headed out into the night.