A Pink Dormouse Production
"Rupert! Come and take a look at this!" Anya's voice seemed to be coming from the living room.
"Give me a minute; I've only just got in." Muttering under his breath about ghosts not knowing what was best for them, Giles removed his boots and hung up his jacket. He should have known something was going on when Anya had announced she would stay at home and haunt the flat, rather than accompany him to the office as usual.
He walked into the living room and stopped, confused by the changes since that morning.
The antique typewriter, which had previously stood on the larger of his desks, now sat on the floor in a corner. In its place were a keyboard, mouse and monitor. Giles glanced down and saw the tower unit of the computer in the desk's foot-well.
"And where did that come from?"
"Dell," Anya said, matter-of-factly. "I ordered it last week. You have to see this."
"See what exactly?" Giles decided he would worry later how someone invisible, non-corporeal, and possibly even a figment of his imagination, could pay for, and take delivery of, expensive electrical goods.
"This." The monitor's screen-saver was replaced by an internet page. "Boothroyd's Grimoire for sale on eBay. It's either woefully under-priced, or someone's prepared to pay a lot for a fake."
"How much?" Giles pulled his glasses out of his pocket.
"Five hundred pounds so far." The cursor hovered over one of the two photographs of the book for sale, then the screen cleared, and that image was replaced by a larger version of the picture.
"It certainly looks genuine," Giles said, after studying it. "Are many people interested?"
"Let me see." The screen changed back, then changed again. "Two bidders in Cambridge, three in London, one in Oxford, one in Scotland." Anya paused before continuing. "And Ethan." Her tone implied that she had not quite forgiven Ethan either for having known Giles longer than anyone else, or for being the only person Giles had told of Anya's continued presence in his life. Neither of which were Ethan's fault, which was novel.
"And when does the... er... auction close?" Giles asked, knowing that the longer it went on, the more competitive Anya and Ethan were likely to become in their bidding. Maybe he should telephone Lorne and advise him to keep his partner under control.
"Thursday. But if you think it's genuine there's a 'buy it now' option for two thousand. Only," Anya continued, "you'll have to pay for it, because I've not got enough credit left on my card right now."
Giles decided not to ask how ghosts came to have credit cards in the first place, but instead dug out his wallet.
"I should really have this authorised by the Council first," he said. "But if we're agreed that it's more likely to be genuine than not..."
"Then we should really buy it now."
"I knew you'd agree with me," Anya said. "Now you sit down, and I'll bring you a glass of wine as soon as I've arranged payment."
Giles knew better than to argue with Anya in that mood. He did as he was told.
It had started in Cleveland. Just a stray thought here and there in an internal voice that sounded a hell of a lot like Anya. Giles was in London, and well on his way towards reforming the Council of Watchers, when he first realised that some of those stray thoughts were definitely Anya's opinions rather than his own. It took at least a month after that before he first answered back, and only when he was quite, quite certain that no one could possibly overhear.
"You aren't happy," she had pointed out one evening after he had been back in London for two months. "You should be out there fighting evil; not listening to arguments over whether Smith or Jones deserves the bigger office."
"It was Smythe and Browne." Giles sighed, and poured himself a large whisky. Maybe if he got drunk, she would shut up.
"You should take better care of yourself too," Anya continued. "If you drink yourself to death, I'll be allocated someone else to haunt. Someone less interesting, I expect."
"How do I know I'm not imagining you?" Giles crossed the room and took a book from his shelves at random. He could always read until Anya got bored and left him alone.
"You don't," Anya said, sounding as if she had stayed over by the drinks cabinet. "But you should probably assume that you're not. It will make the talking back easier to rationalise."
"Did you choose to haunt me?" 'And if so, why?' he almost added, as he sat down at his desk.
"Not choose, exactly," Anya said, right next to his ear. "But I'm glad I got you."
Giles considered researching the phenomenon. He liked having a familiar voice around. If he proved once and for all what Anya was, she might cease to be.
"Very Douglas Adams," he murmured to himself, savouring the first sip of whisky.
"The idea that if I prove you exist, then you won't."
"Do you believe that?"
"I don't know," Giles said. "I'm apparently being haunted by the ghost of my former business partner -- "
" -- That's Dickens, not Adams -- "
" -- Who now wants to argue literary trivia with me -- "
" -- You need something to take your mind off work -- "
" -- And is convinced she knows what's best for me," Giles said, relieved to have finally finished a sentence before Anya could interrupt.
"You don't want to run the Council."
"So tell them," Anya said. "Tell them you'd rather be out in the field, and they should start looking for a replacement for you as Head of the Council."
"So long as they don't replace me with another Travers."
"Tell them you want right of veto on your successor."
"Good suggestion." There was bound to be someone in the new council that was better suited to administration than to the day-to-day business of being a Watcher. Giles would happily act as a consultant if he had to, so long as he got out of London a little more frequently.
It had taken some months to delegate enough tasks to other Council members that Giles felt confident leaving them to it while he went out on field investigations. Several months after that, the night Giles returned from a trip to Manchester with Willow, he realised that Anya could now move objects around his flat and office.
Anya soon discovered that she could either haunt Giles, or she could haunt his flat. After that she spent most days when they were in London going to work with him, but occasionally stayed at home doing whatever it was ghosts did by themselves. Giles supposed that the computer would at least make the afterlife less tedious for Anya; she often complained at the length of time it took the Council members to reach even the simplest decisions. Perhaps she would spend more time in the flat, if she had something more entertaining than daytime television to distract her.
"We're collecting the book on Sunday." A glass of white wine hovered by Giles' hand.
"Collecting?" He took the glass from Anya, and took a sip. "I don't remember buying this."
"You didn't," Anya said. "I did. And we're collecting the book because the seller's in North London, and I think we should find out what else he's got hidden away." Her voice was right by Giles' ear now.
"Good thinking." As he continued to drink his wine, Giles stroked the air where he assumed Anya's head would be.
"This seems to be the place." Giles parked the Saab outside a large Victorian terrace house that looked more 'in need of improvement' than either of its neighbours.
He studied the street as he locked the car door. This might be the better end of Tottenham, but one could never be too careful. Children of varying ethnicities were playing together further up the hill, and a pair of legs were poking out from under a taxi up on blocks across the street. Otherwise all was peaceful as Giles pushed open the rusting gate of Number Forty-Four, and walked up the cracked path to a front door that needed a lick of paint at the very least.
"You should buy something like this," Anya said, as Giles pressed the doorbell. "I see you as far more of a suburban man than an inner-city apartment-dweller."
Giles could see a figure approaching, as he looked through the door's stained glass panels.
"If you need any advice on restoration," Anya continued. "You could always ask Xander. Some of us have exes with useful skills."
Giles was about to tell Anya to shut up, when the door opened.
"Hi," a floppy-haired boy said. "Can I help you?"
Giles explained his purpose, and was admitted, with a warning to mind the loose floorboard on his way in.
"You'd better wait here," Terry, the floppy-haired boy said. "The library's very much 'under construction'.
"On second thoughts," Anya said. "I think somewhere already restored would be better for you."
Giles looked through the doorway that Terry had disappeared through. The boy was making his way across the room by jumping from beam to beam, there being no floorboards.
By either luck or experience Terry reached the other side of the room unscathed, and reached up to lift a book off one on the shelves on the wall. He then made his way back in the same mountain goat style.
"There you go," he said, handing the book to Giles. "How did you want to pay? I hope you brought cash: there's a furniture auction I want to go to tomorrow, and Steve -- my boyfriend -- won't be impressed if I take money out of the joint account on spec."
"Did he pause for breath at all then?" Anya said.
"It's a genuine first edition," Giles said reverently.
"So it is," Anya said. "Go us."
"Is it? I don't know much about books. Steve's got some really old medical textbooks -- he's a doctor and collects that sort of stuff. I'm a freelance gardener, but I'm thinking of getting into furniture restoration."
"You should ask him to take a look at that awful chair that you still refuse to throw out," Anya said helpfully. "Maybe he'd take it away, and lose it down a hole in the floor."
One of the worse drawbacks to being haunted by Anya, Giles thought once again, was that he could not tell her to shut up when in company. Not that he objected to being haunted by her in general, of course.
"I'll just go and look, shall I?"
"I said I might have some other books you might be interested in," Terry said. "They're in a box under the bed -- we found a lot of junk in the attic when we moved in. It's about time we got rid of it all."
"Yes," Giles said. "You go and look."
"You did bring extra money, didn't you?" Anya said. "If he's got one first edition, he might well have more."
"Of course I brought extra money," Giles said, having checked that Terry was out of earshot. "You saw me take it out of the bank."
"I was reading about investments," Anya said. "Now if you just let me take care of your savings I could -- "
"Here you go," Terry said, bouncing down the stairs with three more books in his hands. "I've no idea what they're worth. We found a picture of that other one on the net, but -- "
" -- I might as well take all of them," Giles said, not wanting to sound too enthusiastic. He had spotted that the top book was one that several Council members would kill for. "Would you accept six thousand for the first one and those three?"
"Sure," Terry said. "There's still parts of the attic I haven't been into yet. If I find any more books, shall I just phone you first?"
Back at the flat, Giles stowed the books safely in a lockable cabinet. He would leave a closer inspection of them until tomorrow. His first cursory look had convinced him that all three of the additional books were perfectly acceptable replacements for copies destroyed when the old Council Headquarters had been blown up.
"Anya, dear," he said, stretching out on the settee. "I don't suppose you feel like searching for more books on eBay?"
"So you're not going to complain about the computer displacing your typewriter now?"
"No, I'm not," Giles said. "Because tomorrow we're going to that furniture auction, and I'm going to find a table to put the typewriter on."
"And then next week you're going to buy a new house," Anya said. "This place is cluttered enough: where exactly are you going to put another piece of furniture?"
"We'll talk about it later." If he bought a house, he could give Anya her own office, and get the computer out of his living room. Questions would be asked, but Giles was certain that he could find an excuse that did not mention being haunted by his eBay-obsessed former business partner. That, of course, was not a rational explanation at all.
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