“Where am I?” Giles found that his eyes were fuzzy. The last thing he recalled was Anya propping him up as best as she could (what with the height difference) as they evacuated the collapsing Magic Box.
“The hospital. You’re at the hospital. You were in a lot of pain. You passed out in my car,” said Anya.
He looked through the blurriness caused by lack of glasses and saw her looking at him with her nervous pout, ponytail still perfect, but her black blouses covered in a fine coating of dust.
“How long have I been here? I’m sorry, are my glasses somewhere?” he said, reaching out to find them, but moaning in pain from moving his ribs.
“About five hours. You weren’t wearing glasses. They had to remove your contact lenses for because they figured you would sleep off the unconsciousness and drugs.”
“Have you been here this whole time?”
Anya nodded. He noticed that her hands were clasped in her lap, holding onto herself for comfort.
He considered asking her if she’d like to hold his hand, but then he wondered why he thought she would ever want that. So instead, he pushed her away. “Don’t you want to go to Xander?”
“Why?” she asked, genuinely confused.
“Because he saved the day. And you love him. And you should, I don’t know, be with him. Make sure he’s okay.”
“I’m sure he’s fine,” she said, as casually as she could manage. He was a little blind without his glasses, and he couldn’t be sure if she fiddled with her left ring finger, where the ring had been. “Giles I know we threw a lot of information at you when you first got here, but did you miss the part where he left me at the altar, and I became a vengeance demon?”
“No, Anya, I heard that part. I don’t recall everything that happened at the shop, but I remember your smile when I said he had saved the day. I just figured...”
And she cut him off. “I can be happy that he was the one who saved the day. Because usually it’s Buffy who saves the day. Or you. Or Willow, except this time, when it was her who almost ruined the day. But it’s never Xander. And this time it was. So I’m happy for him. But he’s with Willow. And I’m here with you. I’m here to be with you. This is the here that I want to be.”
“…Whyever would you...?”
He needed to stop asking stupid questions so she could talk. So she interrupted him. “Giles. You went away. And then you came back. And then you went away again. And then you came back and almost died when I was helpless to stop it. I could hear everything that was happening to you. And the whole time I was thinking, ‘Giles is in trouble. You need to move and help Giles.’ But I couldn’t. I was enspelled, but not in that good way that made us lose our memories and kiss, though I guess maybe that was a bad thing because you left after that happened, and we never spoke about it. But this was much worse, since I could hear Willow being all evil. And if you had died, if you had died while I was frozen and unable to help, well, I can’t do vengeance spells to help myself, only other people, so I don’t know what I would have done. If you’d died.”
“Thank you, Anya,” he said as he reached out his hand to hers, and she took it. “Though if I had, I wouldn’t have wanted vengeance done in my name.”
“I know that. I probably wouldn’t have even if I could have because I would have thought, ‘Giles wouldn’t like that.’ And so I wouldn’t have. I had a lot of time to think when I thought you were dead.”
“I’m sorry you went through that, Anya,” he said, squeezing her hand.
“Your hand is quite pleasing to hold. But it’s not your fault. Willow almost killed you.”
“I can be sorry about things that aren’t my fault.” And here he paused, unsure if he should keep speaking. “You said you had things you wanted to tell me. That I couldn’t die because there are things you had to say.”
“I didn’t know you were conscious when I said that.” Anya pulled her hand away from his, and he felt the loss. The rejection.
“You don’t have to say anything, Anya. I just wanted to give you to space to do so. To let you know that I’m listening.”
“You’re on quite a few drugs right now. For the considerable pain.”
“Yes, I believe I am, but I was on quite a few drugs through much of the 1970s, so I am capable of being drugged up and listening to anything you want to say. Unless you don’t want to say what you had wanted to say.” Giles paused for a moment, taking stock. “How about I say something instead?”
“I want to say I’m sorry. Again. I want to say I’m sorry for leaving. Both times. But especially the second time. Especially since we never sat down and spoke about…what had happened between us. I had meant to leave, and I guess I rationalized that since it was a spell, and you were with Xander, that you wouldn’t want an old man reminding you, confusing you, but of course now I realize that I must have caused you pain, and Anya, I can’t abide causing you pain. It breaks my heart. The look on your face when you had thought that I had died this afternoon…” And here Giles felt tears start slipping down his face. “My heart shattered into a million pieces just looking at your face. I am so sorry for scaring you like that.”
Anya stood and found him a tissue, and dabbed at his tears for him. It was somehow simultaneously efficient and intimate. “You were hurt. It wasn’t your fault that…”
He caught her wrist in his hand. “I’m allowed to apologize for things that aren’t my fault.”
“And, Anya, probably most importantly, I’m sorry for not coming to your wedding. I had my reasons. They all feel stupid now, knowing that you were basically alone when it all went sideways, and you only had your vengeance colleagues to lean on. I would like to think that I could have been there for you, though I can’t be sure of my, well, motivations, and dear Christ these drugs are making me say far too much, but I am sorry. That I wasn’t there. Not being there was selfish of me, and especially if it had gone off as planned, I want you to know that I wasn’t not there because I didn’t care. About you. Quite the opposite. And now I’ve said too much. And I’m about to apologize for that.”
Anya creased her brow in confusion. “Giles, you’ve said too little. I don’t know what you’re trying to say to me. I think it’s the drugs. Maybe we should talk when...”
Giles smiled at her in a strange peaceful but intense way that she had never seen on his face before. Must be the drugs. He stroked her wrist as he held her hand, and that was quite pleasing. “Anya I’m trying to say that I have feelings for you.”
“Feelings?” Anya wondered why her wrist felt like it was on fire, but in a good way.
“Romantic in nature. It started, God, some point after we started working together. I can’t pinpoint the moment because it snuck up on me. But by the time of that spell...no, before that, when Xander announced your engagement...I knew by then. I recall even making an attempt to talk him out of marrying you, saying that I didn’t think he was adult enough for a wife, but knowing the vast selfishness of the act as I did it, and that’s another thing I’m sorry for, dear Anya. I’ve put a lot of energy into repression. But I’m on far too many painkillers, and you look far too lovely to my blurry drugged out eyes for me to stay silent any longer.”
Anya didn’t say anything. She looked down at where he was holding her hand. “I need to sit down,” she said, sitting. And was silent.
“Please, say something, Anya, even if it’s to tell me that I’m a feeble old man and...”
And suddenly she wasn’t sitting any more, she was standing and leaning over him. She kissed him gently on the lips.
“Oh my darling Anya,” he breathed out.
He leaned up and went for a deeper kiss. He managed it for a second and then fell back into the pillow. “Ouch. Ow. Still quite broken. I’m sorry. Were you just kissing me or was my brain...”
“I was kissing you, you feeble old man. And stop apologizing. That is just so perfectly fitting, though. That you’d be too broken for more than a chaste kiss when we finally, I mean, I’ve been waiting three years. Giles.”
“That was why you couldn’t die. I had to tell you that...and I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but, well, I love you.”
“You love me?”
“Yes you stupid man!” she yelled. “Sorry. It’s not romantic if I yell it at you. But I’ve been waiting for so long...and you were away. When Xander left me. At my wedding. And I thought, ‘Oh, Giles doesn’t want to hear about your stupid emotions, Anya, he didn’t even bother to come to your wedding.’”
“Anya, oh dear God, please bend down and kiss me right now.” And she did. Three soft kisses on his lips. He smiled. Then frowned. He looked at her. “I couldn’t.”
She shrugged. “Right there were demons in...”
“Didn’t you understand me earlier? I’ve never been less cogent in my life in a time where it mattered the most. Anya, I couldn’t be at your wedding because I couldn’t bear to watch you marry another man.”
“Well I didn’t,” she said, awkwardly patting his arm.
“I’m glad of it. Not that I wouldn’t have learned to support your marriage if you had stayed with him, but you can’t imagine how glad I am that you didn’t.” And she leaned down and kissed him before he could say sorry for selfishly being thrilled she was left at the altar.
“Giles, I think we’re going to be okay. Once your broken ribs mend, that is.”
“I have broken ribs? Well that explains a lot of the pain, doesn’t it.”
“It does. But after you heal, and this whole Willow mess gets sorted out, after that...you and I...we can have sex, right? Like, lots and lots of sex? Interesting and varied in position and location?”
Giles began to laugh. He laughed so hard that he ended up jostling a rib, and moaned in pain.
“Don’t hurt yourself laughing at me, Giles. Everyone always laughs at me.” Anya took a step back, putting her guard up again.
“Darling, I wasn’t laughing at you. I was laughing because I’m gleeful. Happy. Of course we’ll have a multitude of sex, anywhere and any way that you want. And I think that you’ll find that experience does have its benefits.” And he smiled at her, making sure she understood his meaning. “I’m just so happy to be hearing you speak too frankly about sex with me, and not Xander.”
“Yeah, that was a mistake. Oh no, do you not want me now that you know I’ve been with Spike?”
“Christ, of course not, but Spike? That berk?”
“It was rebound sex. It could have been you if you’d been there.”
“I’m glad it was Spike, then,” Giles said, smiling like the devil.
And his devil smile turned to an angel. “I wouldn’t want your rebound. I want to keep you.”
“Well, good. Because I also want to keep you.” And she sat back down, but not before pulling her chair so that she could lean as close to his body as possible without disturbing him.
“May I apologize for one last thing?” Giles asks, as if she could prevent him.
“I’ll let you know after you do so,” she said, smiling primly at him.
“I’m also sorry that I focused on Buffy when I arrived earlier today. I saw you there. And I’m just so accustomed to sublimating my desires to touch you that I frankly forgot that it would have been appropriate to do so. And Buffy’s...well she’s like a daughter to me. But I shouldn’t have only zeroed in on her, and I shouldn’t have forced you to be the one to come to me, to force me to notice you. I did notice your hair. You look lovely. I never want you to feel like you’re second best, and I’m afraid I did that. Did I?” he asked, looking at her with fear in his eyes.
Anya paused for longer than he could bear because she wanted to investigate the human feelings within her demon body before she answered, but he knew he deserved it. “Yes. You did. But I don’t any more, and that’s what matters. Giles, I just need to make sure that you understood that I’m back to vengeance. And I’m an independent woman, and I’m not stopping my career for a man.”
“That might be a conversation, Darling, but for later, all right? I’m afraid I’m about to fall...” And his mouth gaped open as he fell asleep. She patted his hand, and sat back in her chair, watching him sleep. She would stay here and watch him sleep until she knew he was all right.