Rating: FRT (PG-13)
Pairing: General, but slight Giles/OFC
Timeline: 1978, Two years after Randall’s death but before his return to the watcher’s council.
Summary: Two years after Eyghon, Rupert Giles avoids the ghosts of his past, by confronting someone else’s.
Word Count: 4087
Disclaimer: I own my car and… nope, I own my car. Nothing else.
Author’s Notes: This is my first non shippy fic I’ve published, so hopefully you all like the change of pace. It's also the longest Buffy fic I've published. And for those of you B/G shippers, I know you expect some serious B/G fluff from me, but hopefully this will do just as well. The banishment spell I found on the net, I’m not sure where it originally came from. Thanks to my wifey, TheHuffster, for the (very) quick beta.
“Yes, I’m aware of that, grandmother.” He said, the phone held between his shoulder and his ear as he unpacked his duffel. “He doesn’t want to speak with me any more than I want to speak with him.”
He took a seat on the bed as he continued listening to her. It had been two years since things with Eyghon had gotten out of hand.
The last time he’d been in the same room with his father was the day of the hearing six months ago, when the council had decided that he could return to the council if he so chose. He knew that a majority of the council didn’t want him back, it was written all over their faces. Edna Giles was not a woman people said no to, and as one of the most senior Watchers, she often got her way.
So naturally, as his family’s biggest disappointment, he declined. His grandmother had been disappointed, but his father was livid. His grandmother at least was still speaking with him.
“Hmm?” He asked, realizing that she’d asked him a question. She repeated it.
“I can’t come to dinner. I told you, I’m not in London.” He looked down at his feet, he always felt bad turning down her invitations. “Next week, I promise.” He told her.
After a few more minutes of pleasantries they said their goodbyes and he hung up the phone. He looked at his watch and stood up.
It was time.
He knelt down on the hardwood floor, opening his bag of supplies, a host of charms already dangling around his neck.
This is what his life was like now, for the last eighteen months. He lived out of a duffel bag, traveling from town to town. He usually stayed a week, depending on the job, but never more than two.
Being a watcher wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, he knew that. A select few did any fieldwork at all, those that were trusted with a slayer. His grandmother had been. For a short time his father had been.
It was his destiny, but with one swing of a blade, and a fallen friend, he’d ruined any chance he had of fulfilling it. Now he was destined for a stuffy job cataloguing artifacts, or translating ancient scrolls. He knew working for the council in any capacity would help tip his cosmic balance, but all that wouldn’t matter if he didn’t think he’d done any good.
He rifled through his bag until he came across the vial he was looking for, a cross etched onto the cap. This wasn’t his first haunting, not even the first one this year.
He’d scour the papers, looking for possible demons, or vampires, creatures that posed an immediate threat. Every once in a while, when he couldn’t find one, he’d start looking through local lore, signs of hauntings and the like.
At times it proved problematic. The stories people told didn’t always match reality. He’d lost count of how many places he’d been to where the building didn’t need an exorcist, but an electrician.
He sprinkled holy water around all the entryways, while chanting a few phrases in Latin. Having done this so many times, he didn’t even need to consult his books anymore.
He could sense that he wasn’t alone, that there were definitely some spirits lingering, making the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. He’d had a feeling before he came here that this wouldn’t be a false haunting. Three people had died in the last five years, and many before that as well. This Inn had been around since the twelfth century; a building that old is bound to rack up a spirit or two.
When he was finally done with the holy water he took a piece of chalk from his bag and drew a pentagram in the middle of the floor and lit a few candles. He cleared his throat and took a seat in the center of the pentagram. He took a deep breath and started chanting.
“Jam tibi impero et præcipio maligne spiritus! ut confestim allata et circulo discedas, absque omni strepito, terrore, clamore et foetore, asque sine omni damno mei tam animæ quam corporis, absque omni læsione cujuscunque creaturæ vel rei; et ad locum a justissimo tibi deputatum in momento et ictu oculi abeas; et hinc proripias.”
He felt a cool breeze pass along the back of his neck. A ghost to be sure, he’d made sure all the windows had been closed before the spell.
He opened his eyes, taking a look around. It looked the same. Which he found odd, most spirits usually put up some sort of a fight. Perhaps they’d wanted to go all along and all they needed was a nudge. He stood up, brushing dirt off the seat of his jeans.
He sighed with relief as he checked the last room on the upper floor for any sign of a ghost. It was clear. He let a smile creep onto his face, silently congratulating himself on a job well done.
It proved a bit premature, as he felt something push through him, with enough force to send him flying backwards.
“Bloody hell.” He wheezed, as he looked up at the second story window he’d just been thrown out. It took him a few minutes to catch his breath and stand back up, his back popped a few times as he tried to stand up straight.
As much as he didn’t want to go back in there, he was aware that all of his supplies, weapons, and his spell book were all still sitting on the floor inside. He turned the knob and pushed against the door. It didn’t budge. He tried again, putting his shoulder into it, which apparently hadn’t been a good idea after having been thrown out a window.
He hissed and brought his hand up to his shoulder, feeling something wet and sticky. “Brilliant.” He muttered, seeing the blood on his hand. He was bleeding and all his weapons and the one book that could possibly help him were in a building currently being barricaded by a spirit that had just thrown him out of said building. He knew there was nothing more to be done, not until daylight, when the spirits had calmed down.
He took a sip of his beer as he sat at the bar top, his eyes doing a casual sweep around the pub. It was a fairly quiet night, there was a small group playing darts, a handful of people eating.
After he’d finished patching himself up, he headed downstairs for a pint. He found it fairly convenient that the room he was staying in was just above the pub. One beer turned into two, then two into three.
“Mind if I have a seat?” He heard someone ask. He looked up to find an attractive blonde take a seat on the bar stool next to him.
“Not at all.” He replied, gesturing to the barman for another pint. “Can I buy you a drink?” He asked, turning slightly toward her.
She smiled and nodded. “My usual, Phil.” She told the man behind the bar, her eyes never leaving Rupert’s.
“My name is Rip—Rupert.” He said, catching his near slip.
She raised an eyebrow at the name, not quite expecting that to be his name. He was good looking, and he was wearing jeans and a leather jacket, not exactly clothes she associate with men with names like Rupert.
“It suited me once.” He said at her surprised look.
They sat there for a few moments, he sipped his drink, and she sipped hers. “So do I get to know you’re name?” He asked. “Or will I just have to come up with something myself?”
She laughed and told him, a smile on her face. “Rose.” She replied. “I haven’t seen you around before.”
“No, I’m just passing through.” He replied, gesturing upstairs. “I’m staying in one of the rooms upstairs for a few days.”
“What brings you to our little town? Business or pleasure?”
“Any reason the two should be mutually exclusive?” He countered, his gaze holding hers.
“I suppose not.” She said, her shoulder brushing against his, he let out an involuntary hiss. “Your hurt.” She said.
“I fell at work.” Not a total lie.
“Must’ve been a nasty fall, I barely touched you.”
“It’ll heal.” He smiled. “But if you feel like playing doctor…”
He sat on the edge of his bed, leaning over to tie his shoes. He felt the bed shift and he looked back, grinning as his companion scooted closer to him. He bent down, and kissed her. “I have to get to work.” He told her.
She pulled back after a moment and got up to grab her clothes. “Maybe I’ll see you later.” She said.
“Maybe you will.” He said with a grin. “You know where to find me.”
“Who says I want to?” She asked, pulling on her skirt, then her blouse.
“Well, doctor, you did say something about a follow up.” He teased.
She laughed. “That I did. Tonight then.” She said, stretching onto the tips of her toes, her hands on his chest so she could give him a languid kiss.
“Tonight.” He said as he watched her gather her things and walk out of his room.
He waited until Rose left before he picked up the phone, dialing a familiar number.
“Hello?” He heard a tired voice say on the other line. He looked at the clock, feeling slightly embarrassed when it said seven thirty; he hadn’t realized how early it was.
“Ethan? Sorry to call you at such an early hour.” He apologized.
“Ripper.” Ethan said, suddenly sounding more awake than he had a moment ago.
“I haven’t been Ripper for a long time.”
“You’ll always be Ripper to me.” He said. “It’s been a while.”
“It has.” Rupert agreed. “Unfortunately this isn’t a social call.” He said. “I have a question about something I’m working on.”
It had taken a while for him to call Ethan after the fatal night with Eyghon. And while it had scared him straight, and he no longer dabbled in the occult, Ethan’s devotion to Janus had only become more absolute. He knew things would never be like they were.
“Of course.” He said. He knew Ripper didn’t call just to catch up. He never did anymore. Not for almost two years.
“I’m working on a haunting.” He said. “The building dates back to the twelfth century. I went in, and I felt like my body was humming, there was a lot of energy in the room.” He explained. “I’ve never felt anything quite like it. So I did a standard banishing spell, I thought they were gone, but then I get upstairs, and I get sent flying backwards out the window. I didn’t sense anything until the moment I got pushed back.”
“Are you alright?” Ethan asked worriedly.
“Just a bruised ego and a few stitches in my shoulder.” He assured the other man. “Have you ever encountered anything like this?”
One of the reasons he and Ethan always made a great pair was Ethan’s mystical know-how, and his own experiences with demons growing up. He knew a bit about magic and spellcasting before he met Ethan, but it was very basic. Ethan had been practicing since he was very young; both of his parents were mages.
“I’ve never encountered anything like that personally.” He said, giving it some thought. “But I’ve heard of this sort of thing. The spirits could be bound to the building.”
“What do you mean? Even though I banished them they could still be there?”
“If someone has bound them to the land, then they can certainly still be there. Think of them as being attached to a rubber band, your spell let them go a little ways, but they could only go so far before the binding spell would snap them back into the building. The only way to get rid of them would be to break the binding spell, then repeat the banishment spell.”
Rupert thought about it for a few minutes, considering the implications. “You’re saying that someone is keeping them here?” He asked. “A witch?”
“Possibly.” Ethan replied.
“Power.” He said. “Spirits are energy, as you well know.”
“This building has been around for centuries, there’s bound to be quite a few lingering spirits.”
“A veritable powerhouse.” Ethan agreed. “If they have that much power you’re not going to be able to break the spell through mystical means.” He said. “Nor would I for that matter.”
“So the only way to stop it would be to convince whoever is binding them to release them or…” He trailed off; not wanting to admit what he knew would probably be his only option.
“Kill them.” He finished needlessly.
He sighed. “Alright.” He said. “Do you know how I could find them?”
“Tracking has always been your area of expertise.” He reminded him, smiling slightly. “I’m more concerned with what’s right in front of me.”
“That you are.” He agreed. “Thank you, Ethan.” He said. “This will definitely help.”
“Anytime, Rip.” He said. “Call me next time you’re in London, we can have a conversation over a pint, yeah?”
“Of course.” He agreed. He knew that wasn’t going to happen, and he knew Ethan didn’t really expect him to keep that promise. Maybe in another life, or another universe, they’d get that beer, but they both knew that from here on out their friendship would consist of phone calls and false promises.
He’d had to stop by the Inn on his way to the library, the window he’d been thrown out of had somehow been repaired, and it barely being eight on a Saturday meant someone didn’t want to draw attention to the place, in a small town like this there was no way there would be a glass shop open on the weekend, especially not this early in the morning.
Luckily the door opened easily this time and he was able to retrieve his bag, though it was noticeably lighter. Upon further inspection he found the cause, his book was gone.
With that minor setback he made his way to the library. He figured if he looked into the local history and lore pertaining to the Inn, even look at the local paper to see if there were any incidents that may point him to the spellcaster.
Over the eight century long life of the building he’d found everything from accounts of pagan sacrifice to accidental deaths, to death from natural causes. There were very few deaths that seemed to be attributed to a malevolent spirit, and none of the deaths mimicked a past incident. It seemed the souls trapped inside the house were more interested in being noticed.
It made sense. If someone was collecting and binding souls in that building then even those that were ready to move on would be stuck there. So he knew about the souls trapped inside, but he still didn’t know anything about the one doing the trapping.
When he looked at his watch, it was a little after noon. He knew that the library would be closing soon, so he started to gather the books together so he could get them back on the shelves. He stopped cold when he looked at one of the books that had been off to his right. He hadn’t noticed it before. The whole time and the answer was staring at him right in the face.
He knew he couldn’t do anything until later. There was a reason it was called the witching hour. There was no way he wasn’t expected; after all, he needed to get his spell book back. His retrieval of his bag earlier in the afternoon was a clear sign that his little trip out the window didn’t scare him off.
So he bided his time. He went to a local apothecary to pick up some herbs to use in some protection charms. He knew his biggest vulnerability against this particular foe would be magic. He had some, and he could use it effectively, but with the number of spirits bound, and the amount of mystical energy it would take to even attempt such an endeavor greatly exceeded him. If there were five of him he still wouldn’t have that sort of power.
So he made several charms, to ward against several types of mystical attacks. He held little hope that the issue would be solved with words alone.
When it was finally time, he walked up to the door quietly. He tried to calm his nerves as the door opened on its own. So much for stealth, they knew he was here. He stepped inside and looked around, the pentagram he drew on the floor was still there; stark white contrasting with the wood floor, and in the center sat his spell book.
He didn’t pick it up. He knew it wouldn’t be that easy.
“Clever.” He said, loud enough so that whoever was there, if they were watching, could hear him. “I’d have thought that after our time together you’d know I’m not that easy.” He said. “Rose.”
“So you figured it out.” She said, appearing on the opposite side of the pentagram, seemingly out of nowhere. It took all his strength not to flinch when she did so, she’d use any apparent weakness to her advantage. “I’ll give you credit, you’re smarter than any of the others that have come before you. Tell me, how did you figure it out?” She asked.
“Did you really think the first woman executed in the county on charges of witchcraft wouldn’t make the history books? They may not have had cameras in 1489, Rose, but the likeness is uncanny.” He told her. “How did you survive?”
“Funny thing about those witch hunts, the ones who didn’t survive the executions were the ones without enough power to boil water.” She said.
“And now?” He asked. “You’re over five hundred years old, saying you look good for your age would be a gross understatement.” He pointed out.
“Who has time for aging when you have as much power as I do?”
He looked at her for a moment, understanding finally dawning on him. “The souls?” He asked. “You’re binding these souls here to keep you alive?”
“You make me sound like a monster.” She said, frowning. “I’m just trying to survive.”
“These are innocent people.” He said. “You’re trapping them here, feeding off of them, preventing them from moving on, and resting in peace. I’ve met monsters, most of them aren’t as twisted as you.” He told her honestly.
Her eyes flashed black as anger overcame her. “You’d best be careful, Ripper, the next time I throw you out the window I’ll make sure you don’t get up.”
His jaw clenched. “You knew last night, who I was, at the pub.” He’d thought he’d been the one doing the seducing, but it seemed she’d had her sights on him all along. It also hadn’t escaped his notice that she’d called him Ripper either. He’d been careful about not bringing up Ripper, not after the near slip at the beginning of their conversation.
“Of course I knew. I had to know who I was dealing with.” She told him. “Now that you’re here, I think we can come up with some sort of arrangement. I’m thinking something along the lines of, you let me live in peace, and I let you keep your skin.”
He reached down, his hand wrapping around the handle of his knife. “Interesting offer, but I have a counter offer. You let these souls go, and I won’t kill you.”
She laughed darkly. “You think you can kill me?”
“You’re still a human.” He said calmly. “Five hundred year old witch or not, you’re still human. Which means you can still die.”
She stared at him for a moment, looking for any sign that he might be joking, or any fear she could use to her advantage. There was none. Finally she spoke. “I let them go, I die anyway.”
“It would seem we’re at an impasse.”
“So it would seem.” She said. Her hands came up quicker than he could react, she didn’t even have to mutter a syllable before what looked like lightning shot out her hands.
His eyes widened in surprise, he’d actually never seen anything like that. He didn’t know what surprised him more, the sudden electrical storm being directed at him or the charm around his neck glowing bright green and surrounding him, absorbing the impact of her spell. He’d been expecting protection from certain mind control spells, maybe even flying objects.
She tried a few more times. He even heard her mutter something under her breath, presumably an incantation. Nothing worked; she couldn’t penetrate the protection charm. He knew if given enough time, with as much power as she had, she would eventually break through.
He didn’t even have time to finish his thought before she came after him, tackling him to the ground and wrapping her hands around his neck. He tried pushing her off, but she seemed to have more than human strength. Not that it surprised him, there was a lot of magic coursing through her.
He was finally able to roll them over so he was on top of her, then she rolled them again. This entire time she’d never let up on his windpipe. He didn’t know when it had happened; he’d managed to get his knife between them. Suddenly as she was above him, her grip loosened. He could feel something warm and sticky on his hands, and saturating through his shirt. Her body was slack, her eyes still open.
When he rolled her off of him he saw his knife, hilt deep in her gut, her blood all over both of them. He knelt down next to her as she gasped, her hands moving down to her stomach. He met her frightened gaze. “I’m sorry.” He said softly, his hand grasping hers.
This wasn’t what he had wanted. He knew that this was what it would always come down to, but he hated that it had to end this way. In those last moments he could see who she was, the person she probably was before her community had tried to burn her at the stake. He could see through her eyes the woman she was before the power of human souls had corrupted her.
He could feel the energy buzzing around him, most of the spirits didn’t need help to move on. The few that stayed could be dealt with later.
As justified as he was, he had taken her life, just as he’d taken Randall’s. She squeezed his hand one last time before she went completely limp. He sat with her; he didn’t know how long he stayed, holding her hand, giving her the compassion in death, she hadn’t known in life.
It had only been a couple of days, but he couldn’t get out of that town fast enough. A lot of feelings had surfaced, old wounds reopened. It definitely turned into more than the simple haunting he’d been expecting.
Rose had, at times, during their brief acquaintance seemed like a normal girl. But the ghosts she hid turned out to be her undoing. It certainly opened his eyes to his own life.
He'd spent the last year chasing demons and ghosts, so he could avoid facing his own. It was time to take a step in that direction. He wasn't ready to go back to the council yet. He was going to take a small step, not leap off a cliff, head first, into shallow water and jutting rocks. He knew just what that small step would be.
He waited on the stoop, staring at the large door in front of him. On the other side of that door was his past, his future, the inescapable. Just as he was about to leave, the door opened and a once familiar figure greeted him. They stood in silence for a few moments, the air tense with emotion.
The door opened slightly wider, allowing him entrance into his childhood home.
In that moment, nothing more needed to be said. The rest could wait. Small steps.
Author's Note 2: Please read and review. Who knows, I might turn it into a series.