Chapter 1: The Curse
“These two blokes, right? I thought they were roommates,” blathered the girl in the punk haircut at the club Anyanka was at, looking for justice to dole out. It was 1973, and the band on stage could hardly hold together the four chords they knew, but used volume to make up for lack of practice. It was giving Anyanka a headache, but she knew this would be a great place to find wronged women.
“One of ‘em, called himself Ethan, had these chocolate brown eyes I thought I might drown in, but it was his mate with the cool hair and leather jacket who kept dancing with me, who kissed me and told me I was beautiful. I followed him home. Well them. And when I got there, turns out the fecking fruits were a couple! And I was meant to get it off with both of them. Well I’m not that way, you know? He made me feel like I was special. Like maybe he’d want to be my bloke. The pervert.”
“Which one was he?” said Anyanka, in her most sympathetic voice.
“Those two, over there. But the one in the leather was the real asshole. If either one hits on you, be careful. They’re gross, is what they are.”
Anyaka spotted the men she was pointing at. They were dancing near enough together that if you knew what to look for, you could see that they were more than just friends, but far enough away as to not draw unwanted attention to themselves. She watched their hips curve and the one in leather lick his lips and laugh as the brown eyed one leaned in to whispered something in his ear. They were sexy in a way she hadn’t seen in a while. This woman had a chance to be in the middle of that and turned it down? Anyanka wondered what it would take to get herself that chance. Probably not much. She was easily as attractive as the woman she was speaking to, if a little more conservatively styled.
“So anyhow, you know what I wish?”
Anyanka sprung to attention. Maybe she could find herself some pleasure moments later, but now it was time for work.
“What do you wish?” she asked, forced innocence in her voice.
“That him, that arsehole who calls himself Ripper, that everyone he loves will meet a bad end.”
“Done,” said Anyanka, her face going all demony. The woman screamed and ran, but it didn’t matter, since the deed had been done. She let her face return to the pleasant human version, and looked back for the men, but they had left the dance floor.
Pity. Anyanka felt a flush as she pictured being pressed between their writhing bodies, thinking of the combinations and possibilities of two gorgeous men wanting each other and her. But then she shrugged it off.
Back to work. So many wronged women to help. Even if some of them didn’t know what they had been offered.
Chapter 2: Brought Together
She hadn’t focused on his face 25 years ago. She’d noticed the hips, the lips, and how his body seemed perfectly in tune with his lover’s. So when he smashed her amulet, turning her human, she didn’t make the connection. Plus, she had cursed so many people, it was hard to remember all of them. There was paperwork on the incident, even demons insist on paperwork, she could have looked back at it, but she just didn’t make the connection. Why would she?
Chapter 3: Jenny
“Yes, Ahn?” Xander sounded less than thrilled to be dragged into a conversation while falling asleep in a post-coital haze.
“Why is Giles single?”
“Well he’s so manly and sexy. But he never seems to go on a date. That seems odd to me.”
“First off, ignoring the “manly and sexy” comment out of somehow both jealousy and yuckiness. But it’s probably because of Ms. Calendar.”
“She was our computer teacher in high school.”
“I don’t remember a computer teacher.”
“It was before you, uh, arrived. She and Giles had been seeing each other. And talk about sexy? That woman was...uh, anyhow, not only did the demon he had raised when he was our age come back and possess her body, but in the end, Angelus killed her and left her in his bed for Giles to find. That sort of thing can scar a man, I’m told.”
“That’s really sad. But she can’t be the only one.”
“Well with the band candy incident, where the candy made all the grown ups act like teenagers, we’re pretty sure he hooked up with Buffy’s mom.”
“Well that makes sense.”
“What? No it doesn’t. Ew.”
“Have you ever seen how the two of them look at each other sometimes? But I’m sure Buffy put a stop to that.”
“As well she should.”
“So her two parental figures shouldn’t be together? Isn’t that how most people’s parental figures are? Also, if you think about it, they’re kind of sexy together.”
“What? Gross. Anya, I’m going to fall asleep now and pretend none of this conversation happened.”
Chapter 4: The Realization
She had arrived early for a Scooby meeting. His door was unlocked, again, and she gave him crap about it, again. He offered her some tea, and she liked how he made it, so she said yes. It was always somewhat awkward when they were alone together, since she had the habit of asking intrusive questions, and he had the habit of getting all British and uptight when she did. But she liked his apartment. It was so him. So strong and comforting.
She was looking at the books on his bookshelf, trying to ascertain if he ever read anything for fun when she found the old picture. It was clearly London in the 1970s. She remembered what that had been like. She looked closer at the picture and gasped. A very young Rupert Giles, with cool hair and a leather jacket had a not perfectly friendly arm around a gorgeous man.
“Giles, is this you when you were young and cool?”
He ducked his head out of the kitchen. “Oh that old picture? I guess I was cool. I certainly was young.”
She had taken the picture off the shelf and brought it over to him. “Who’s in the picture?”
“Ah,” he murmured, leaning over her to see the image better. He pointed as he named the group. “That’s Thomas, Deirdre, Randall, Phillip, that’s Ethan, and that’s, well, me.”
“Did they call you Giles?”
“No, surnames as names is a watcher tradition. These wonderful idiots were definitely not watchers. They called me Ripper, actually.”
Anya closed her eyes for a moment. The sad sexy manly man with the loved one who met a tragic end...that was her curse. What were the odds, you know? But she couldn’t tell him.
“What happened to them? Are you still friends?”
“Ah, well, we’d drifted apart, but other than Ethan, they’re all dead. It’s not really something I like to talk about.”
Everyone he loves will meet a bad end.
Anya held back her sigh. Ripper and Ethan. With the sexy hips. The picture put no question in her mind. She had cursed him. Anyone he loved would die, and it was her fault. The computer teacher Xander told her about. That was her doing just as much as it was Angel’s. And she had to find some way to make it up to him, without powers.
She opened her mouth to say something sympathetic, but Willow and Buffy arrived in a storm of chatter, and Giles slipped back to the tea, and Anya put the picture back on the shelf.
Chapter 5: Ethan
Sometimes she would show up to meetings on the early side on purpose, just to check in on him. Maybe to make sure no one else had died, but probably just to rid herself of the guilt she was feeling.
She wasn’t used to guilt. It was such a stupid human sensation. It wasn’t like she could go back and not talk to that girl in that club. She couldn’t do that any more than she could go back and not lose track of Ripper and Ethan that night and get to experience what that idiot girl turned down. Though Anya supposed that if she’d slept with them the night she cursed Giles, she probably would feel more guilt now, not to mention how awkward he would be around her, knowing him. And it’s not like she was interested now. He was her Giles, not some anonomous sexy 20 year old in a club. He was handsome and sexy, but he was Giles.
In the week after the destruction of the Initiative base and the distraction of Adam, Anya arrived at Giles’ apartment to find him on the phone. He waved her in, but kept focused on his conversation. His face was in very serious mode.
“So you’re saying that there’s no sign that the base ever existed or that it’s been destroyed? Well how can it be both? An implosion. I see. Are you telling me Maggie Walsh had the ability to implode it from California with all of her soldiers and prisoners inside? That just doesn’t seem very...no, no, I wouldn’t put it past her, it’s just...are there any records of what prisoners were still there at the time? I see. And he was still there? Though we can’t be certain...he was a very powerful sorcerer, you see. And you’re saying there are no remains?...Well if the remains are found, I would very much want to be informed so I can bury him...I see. Thank you for doing the inquiry. I appreciate it. Goodbye.”
Giles placed the phone in the receiver, and looked down at his lap. Soft tears began to fall from his face.
Anya quietly walked toward the door, thinking she should leave him alone to grieve. She was still bad at human things like comfort. But as she got to the door, her guilt in her part in this took over. Her fault. Her fault. She clicked the lock on his door, and slipped next to him on the couch and started to pat him on the leg.
“Oh, Anya. I forgot you were here. Pardon me.” Giles tried to straighten himself out, to stop his emotions, but Anya dove in suddenly and embraced him.
For a moment he was shocked, then alarmed. “Anya, I know you mean to comfort me, but really, I’m fine, plus how would it look to anyone who walked in on…”
“I locked the door. They can wait until you’ve had a little time to be sad. And I won’t tell them. Not that you loved him. Not everyone I’ve ever loved has been on the good guy side, either. Death is stupid. And mortal. And it’s stupid that someone with that much power can be mortal.”
Giles mildly chuckled at her phrasing and pulled out of her embrace. “How did you know? I mean, that I had loved him?”
Anya shrugged, knowing she couldn’t tell him that she remembered. “I’m not as clueless as I pretend to be.”
“No, you’re really not.”
“Do you want me to hug you again?” she asked him, hopefully. Hugging him made her feel less guilty. Also he was a nice shape for hugging.
“Can’t hurt, can it?” he asked, opening his arms so she could crawl inside of them and hold him. There was something about her embrace that reminded him of Ethan’s. Not in her size or shape, or in the intention, since this sweet girl was clearly just meaning to comfort him, but in the intensity and lack of holding back. Anya hugged like hugging him was the only thing she could imagine doing in that moment. He was a mess of stumbles and hesitations. And Anya was what Ethan had been: all in.
And it was nice to find comfort in a world where his loved ones, even the ones he was at odds with, kept dying.
Chapter 6: Hypocrisy
It was a lot easier for Anya to not feel guilt over what may or may not have been her fault when it came to Giles’ life when she thought about what a hypocrite he is. Disturbing sex talk her ass. All she wanted was to have sex with both versions of Xander at the same time before putting them back together. It wouldn’t have been cheating or even an open relationship.
If he was going to ridicule her for wanting the same experience he must have had countless times when he was the age she was pretending to be, then maybe he deserved to be cursed by one of the women who agreed with his current stuffy old self: that it was gross and perverted.
At least she was honest about who she was. Unlike Mr. Old Stuffy British Liar Man.
Chapter 7: Joyce
Giles hadn’t cried as he rode to the morgue with her body. He didn’t know who he was being strong for. Was it Joyce? Her lifeless body didn’t need his comfort. But no matter how many times he lost someone, it was still hard for him to break down. He knew he would need to be strong for Buffy, for Dawn. For everyone. If he broke down now, he might never get up again. If he thought about all that he’d lost, and with Joyce, all that he’d never had. They’d discussed giving it another chance when Dawn was out of school, when her primary focus wasn’t being a mother. Before her surgery she had expressed regret that she had pushed him away for Buffy’s sake after the incident, well, incidents...one doesn’t have handcuffed sex on the top of a police cruiser without falling into bed a few more times after, even if one was enspelled the first time...so he’d had hope that once things were back to normal that she’d initiate, well, something…
But now she was dead. And that’s all there was about that. The possibility was gone, and all there was room for was regret for what hadn’t been.
And her family to comfort. This wasn’t his tragedy. He wasn’t her lover. Not really. He was hardly even her friend, since temptation kept them from being alone together too often. He was nothing, really. But he could be there for Buffy and Dawn.
As long as he stayed strong.
And when everyone showed up at the morgue, it was easier to slip into the patriarch roll. Expressing words of regret, socially acceptable short embraces for all. He did almost break when Anya wrapped her arms around him with abandon, looking to actually comfort him and accepting he true comfort back after the initial shock wore off. That girl’s intensity matched something in him that he usually managed to repress. He had to let go of her before either of them were ready because he felt the tears welling up inside of him. And that wouldn’t do. Thank God the doctor arrived when he did, forcing him to extract himself to show care and concern. Before he lost control.
And thank God there was paperwork to be done. He could do that. Paperwork is something that came naturally to him. And he was starting to lose his ability to give comfort when what he knew he needed was comfort. So exiting the situation was necessary.
“Maybe Dawn could use a snack,” Buffy offered, giving Willow a way to help. Everyone needed a way to help.
Willow jumped to action. “I'll, I'll find something. Xander, do you have any money?”
“We'll come with,” Xander said. And Anya followed, but she was distracted with worry for Giles. She was worried he was crying over the paperwork. She was even more worried that he wasn’t. And she was worried that no one else seemed to notice that this was his tragedy, too. And that no one could know that it was all her fault.
“I’m going to go check on Giles,” she announced, as they hit the hallway. “I’ll be right back.”
“Honey, I’m sure he’s fine,” Xander said, condescendingly, knowing nothing about the situation. “He’s Giles.”
“His being Giles is why I need to check on him,” said Anya, hoping that people would understand what she meant, but knowing that they couldn’t. “I’ll be right back.”
She knew from the way he clung to her in her hug how broken he was. How much he must have secretly (secretly with Joyce or secretly from Joyce she may never know) felt about Joyce. Usually she was the one who clung in hugs. But he held her back the way he did when Ethan died. Joyce was part of the curse. The death might not have been supernatural. But it was preordained.
She walked down the hall to find Giles muttering over the forms. She quietly approached him from behind and lay a hand on his shoulder.
Giles jumped, but then, realizing who it was, he placed his hand on her hand. “Anya,” he stated.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” she said. “Can I help? With the forms?”
“It’s not my loss. It’s Buffy and Dawn’s loss.”
“Yes. I’m willing to also pretend that in front of everyone. But I’m not a child, Giles. Not like the rest of them. I have eyes. And 1000 years of being trained to notice the signs of heartbreak. And I’ve been told the phrase to say is ‘I’m sorry for your loss,’ so I’m saying it.”
“Anya, I need to get through these forms.”
“Okay. I need to go carry snacks no one is hungry for. But when we leave here, we need to pretend there’s something to be done at the shop. Because someone needs to take care of you with no one to watch you fall apart so you can take care of everyone else tomorrow. And I’m the only one who can. Plus, I’m tired of being around people who keep telling me I’ve said the wrong thing.”
Giles nodded. “I’ll let you make transport arrangements.” She patted his shoulder again, and went back to the snacks.
She took Xander’s car to drive Giles to the shop. No one questioned anything because no one had the energy to do anything other than what they were told. She parked the car on a quiet street, unbuckled herself, and turned toward him.
“You need to cry.”
“Anya, it doesn’t work that way. You can’t just order me to let my feelings out.”
“Yes, you’re far too repressed for that. I know.”
He chuckled a mirthless laugh.
“Do you want to talk about it?” she asked, carefully.
“Not really. Christ. I don’t even know how to react to any of this. She was cold, Anya. I saw her there on the floor, and Buffy was just standing there, and I didn’t understand that I’d missed the paramedics, that she’d already been pronounced...so I ran to her, I clutched her cold body before Buffy screamed at me that they said not to...not to touch the body. She was cold, Anya. That woman was so full of...warmth. She was so caring. And I’d...I’d never had the chance to...we had spoken about perhaps seeing, Buffy be damned, seeing what was between us after the surgery, after time had passed...and she was cold. Cold. Goddammit.” And he began to cry. Quiet tears falling from his eyes, like he had that day when he found out Ethan had died. He felt Anya nestle her head into his chest and wrap her arm around his body, a bit awkwardly due to the the car, but easy and comforting. He wove her hair into his hand, letting the silky strands through his fingers, watching his tears wet the top of her head. And he cried.
After a long while, she felt him sigh and relax. She pulled her head up and looked him in the face. She could never tell him that it was his love that triggered the curse and killed Joyce, but she could tell him the other side of the truth. “Giles, Joyce was a kind lady. And I’m sure she appreciated just knowing that a handsome, sexy, and kind man desired her and cared for her, whether or not you ever got your timing right. Feel bad for yourself and the potential you lost, sure. But don’t feel bad for her. After her horrible husband, I’m sure you were a treat.”
“Thank you, Anya. I don’t know what I ever did to deserve your friendship.”
“You take care of everyone else. Because you’re older than them. So it’s my job to take care of you. Because I’m older than you. That leaves no one to take care of me, but that’s all right. It’s expected.”
“But Xander ought to…”
Anya rolled her eyes. “Giles. That’s not how that works. Xander takes care of Willow.”
“Right. Well. Anya, when you need someone to take care of you, well I might not be older than you, but you can think of me.”
She couldn’t answer this, since all her guilt over her part in his pain bubbled up in her chest again. But she nodded. Since refusing his offer would only hurt him more. And she had already hurt him enough.
Chapter 8: Buffy
Everyone you love will meet a bad end.
Anya was injured, she was resting in Xander’s arm, but as she watched Giles begin to fall apart over Buffy’s body, she realized how badly worded the curse was. She didn’t say “done” to everyone you’re in love with will meet a bad end. Just love. Anyone he loves. She realized that his dead friends from when he was young might all be her fault. And Buffy. This was probably her fault. And she was too injured to comfort him. And honestly, too much of a liar. How could she keep lying to him like that?
It couldn’t be that, though. Anya was sure he loved plenty of people platonically, and not everyone is dead. He loved Willow. She was certain of that. And Dawn. And Dawn wasn’t dead. Was it the spirit of the wish or the wording of the wish that took effect?
How many people was Giles going to lose before she broke down and told him?
A few days later she showed up at his apartment unannounced. It wasn’t like they didn’t work together, but they were both like ghosts in the shop, and never sure when they’d be interrupted. She told Xander she was going out to get a drink. He didn’t question this. They were all so broken.
She found him sitting on his sofa with a glass of scotch, staring off into the middle distance the same way he had when it had just happened. She shouldn’t have wanted so long to come take care of him.
“I was wondering when you would come make me confront my feelings,” he murmured, so quietly that she wasn’t sure she’d heard him.
“Do you want to confront your feelings?” She slid past around him, and settled in next to him, taking the scotch from his hand and having a sip of it.
He looked at her, warmly through the haze of alcohol. “Of course not. If I’d wanted to, I would have done it myself. But I’m going to, aren’t I?”
“It’s not your fault, Giles.”
“Who’s fault is it, then?” He took his glass back, and finished his drink.
“Glory. You idiot. It’s Glory’s fault. It’s the bad guy’s fault,” Anya said, definitively, while holding back about the part about it being her fault, the former bad guy.
“No. Giles, I’m tired of everyone sitting around blaming themselves. Even Dawn needs to stop, and she’s the most direct cause, since Buffy died in her place. But no one knocked Buffy off that tower. She didn’t go down a blaze of whoops. She ran and jumped to save her mystical sister. She made a choice. Stop taking away from her sacrifice by blaming yourself. It’s not fair to Buffy. And stupid.”
“So your comforting advice is to stop being stupid?”
“Yes. You’re too smart to be so stupid.”
Giles laughed. Just a little, but he laughed.
“How are you dealing with this?” Giles asked, reaching for his glass and finding it empty.
“Oh, well, Buffy and I always had a complicated relationship. She never showed me outright hatred like Willow does-”
“Yes she does, Giles. I’m complaining. I’m just stating facts. Just because Willow is kind to you doesn’t mean that she isn’t horrible to me. But Buffy...she didn’t like me. Or bother to understand me. So losing her...well we’ve lost the center of our wheel, our way of keeping the town safe, Dawn’s legal guardian, which makes everything complicated, and everyone else is really really sad, and I don’t know how to fix any of it. And personally, I made a really big decision a few days ago, and I’m not sure it was the right decision. And I can’t tell you more than that. I’m worried about Xander, since he doesn't even seem to want to have sex anymore, much less go to work. He cringes when I touch him. Which makes me feel bad. And I’m worried about you. Since your whole identity...you were her Watcher...and I don’t know how to make that better.”
“I don’t think it’s your job to make it better, Anya.”
“Then whose job it is? Because I don’t think there’s anyone else who even notices that you’re broken. But Giles, I don’t know how to fix you this time.”
Her eyes were so big and open and young and ancient, all at the same time. “My daring Anya,” he said, wrapping her into his arms. “You can’t. No one can. Time. Myself. Perhaps a change of scene.”
She pulled out of his arms. “Don’t go to England. Giles, if you go, I think everyone else will get worse.”
“I thought you wanted to run the shop all on your own,” he smirked.
“I do. The shop would do much better if you weren’t there. But then I wouldn’t have any friends. And I would miss you.”
“Settle back in. I’m not leaving presently,” Giles said, opening his arms so she can cuddle him again.
They were silent for a few minutes, and still other than the few times he stroked her hair. It was a quiet, easy silence, the sort that two people who probably generally talk to much can share by choice.
“Do you sleep? Since it happened?” Anya interrupted the silence.
“Pass out more like. I’m not proud. I haven’t had this much to drink in a period of days since...well since I...since my friend Randall died when I was, well the age you’re pretending to be.”
“Do you need me to go so you can drink more?” Anya asked, without judgement.
“No. I’d rather not drink until I pass out. I’m too old for that, and I’m not positive it was a healthy coping method in the first place. And your being here is wonderfully distracting.”
“Okay,” said Anya, making a decision only understood to her.
“I’m going to stay the night. That’s how I can help you. I’ll sleep next to you and then you won’t have to drink yourself to sleep.”
“Anya, I can’t ask that of you. Xander…”
“Xander has been sleeping on the couch because he can’t bear to touch me. I’ll call him and tell him I’m sleeping at my place so he can have the bed. I just want to help.”
“It’s inappropriate. I’m your boss, and…”
“Are you planning on doing anything inappropriate?” Anya asked, raising her eyebrow at him.
“God no. That’s the last thing on my mind. I just can’t bear to be alone.”
Anya didn’t even think about the curse. She wasn’t motivated by guilt. She just wanted to be there for him. It was something she was good at, somehow.
And after a little bit of awkwardness of what would be appropriate pajamas (Anya settled into a clean pair of his boxers and an undershirt after berating him with the fact that her wearing nothing would be more inappropriate than her seeing underpants that he sometimes wore), they settled into his bed easily. She lay her head on his chest (he usually slept shirtless, but he was also wearing an undershirt for propriety's sake), and they were able to slip off to sleep.
Their bodies were still nestled together when they woke in the morning.
Chapter 9: Willow
“Giles? Giles! Don't die. Not yet, there-there are things I wanna tell you.”
While she was frozen by Willow’s spell and unable to stop Willow from smashing Giles into the ceiling and floor, Anya had become very repentant about what she had done so many years ago. Willow was going to die. Or kill everyone. Giles loved Willow, and Giles loved all the people Willow was set to hurt, hell Giles probably had loved Tara and Tara was dead. All of this was probably her fault. It was too much. She couldn’t go on with his thinking that she was this sweet person who comforted him after losses from the goodness of her heart. She wasn’t even a person any more. She was a demon, the same demon she had been when she set all of this in motion. It was time to tell him.
Except he was unconscious. And what would be the point? Everyone he loved was going to meet a bad end. The whole earth might meet a bad end. So she just held him. And said sorry in her head over and over.
She cradled his head and looked at his handsome face. She saw the young man from that club that she hadn’t put a second thought to cursing hidden under all the worry lines, some of which she was probably responsible for.
What if instead of honoring that prude teenager’s wish she had found her way to him and Ethan, dragged them home, had her fun, and not brought about all these things? Some of them might have happened. Buffy was going to die at some point. But maybe he would have been happy with Jenny Calendar when she returned to his life. Maybe Randall would have never died, and, okay well, then he might not have become a Watcher at all, so maybe that was an important death in his timeline. But maybe he’d be happy without being a watcher. Maybe he and Ethan could have just done magic together for the rest of their lives.
It seemed selfish that her actions were the reason he needed her so much, that he relied on her in a way he wouldn’t allow himself to rely on anyone else. She was the reason he was so broken. She was glad he was unconscious. What point would telling him serve? It would just make him more alone. It wasn’t like she could undo it. Though she was a vengeance demon again. Maybe she could appeal...no, she was already on rocky ground with Arashmahar.
So all she could do was hold him, hope he didn’t die, and hope no one else that he loved died. Because of her. Because of her.
And when he coughed himself conscious and she knew she wasn’t dead, she clutched him too hard, almost to prove to herself that he was alive. Because it turned out she was pretty attached to him, too.
Chapter 10: Cursing Herself
But of course, he left, again. She worried about him when he was gone, but it wasn’t like their closeness ever became an everyday thing. It was something that happened when he was broken, and she needed to put him back together. It was something they didn’t really talk about when he was only partially broken, when he was pretending to be whole.
And when he would leave, when the shop existed, they would correspond about that, but he kept a professional distance. It was only when tragedy struck that he expected her, that he broke down and admitted to needing her.
And when he left with Willow, there wasn’t even a shop for them to discuss. They finalized some insurance forms, but mostly he was gone.
It shook Anya when she realized that she hadn’t touched him since he returned. That he could, in fact, have been the one to meet a bad end this time, since he hadn’t found her to even throw himself into a hug since he got back. That he’d kept himself so busy that she hadn’t found a quiet moment to check in with him, to make sure he was whole. And now that he didn’t have his own space, it had proved impossible to find him alone. And looking back, she had always been the one to find him, not the other way around. She had her own apartment. He knew where it was. But even when he would leave town to come back without the potential he had tried to rescue, he never showed up to cry in her arms or sleep in her bed.
And she missed him.
That might be why she grabbed onto the theory that he was The First so quickly. It was terrifying, sure, but it would explain why he had been so distant from her. Not that she could have explained that to anyone else. ‘Oh, by the way, Giles has been acting strangely because he hasn’t needed to quietly cry in my arms since he came back. Yes, that’s a thing we do. No, Xander, it wasn’t like that. Not that it couldn’t have been, since Giles isn’t the sexless creature you all have decided he is, but it wasn’t. It was pure and innocent and important.’ That wasn’t something she could explain to someone like Xander.
When they found him at the campsite and collapsed on him, touching him, knowing he was real, she realized that the lack of Giles was what had been making her feel so alone and unsettled. It wasn’t becoming human again. It wasn’t watching someone she had deeply loved meet a bad end in her place. It was the fact that the person who understood her the best in her life had pulled away from her, and she didn’t understand why.
Was that why she had chosen to touch him a little too low on his abdomen when they tackled him? Inappropriately low. She supposed she was trying to get his attention.
So when he showed up at her apartment a few days later, just standing in her doorway, his mouth parted like he had rehearsed something so say but it had been snuck from his mouth like he’d encountered The Gentlemen and couldn’t speak a word, it all got really confusing.
She meant to just fling herself into his arms, drag him somewhere soft and comfortable, and just hold him for as long as they had, but she found herself kissing him. It surprised him as much as it did her, but they both recovered perhaps a little too quickly for two people who didn’t mean to be changing the tone of their interactions. And instead of his stroking her hair while she petted his chest, as was their unspoken rule, they found themselves tearing off each other’s clothing.
They barely gave themselves a chance to breathe, lips to lips, lips to skin, hands everywhere. No time to think this through. Only sensation and feeling. As he tossed her onto her bed, not even giving her a heartbeat to recover before she felt his weight back on her, flashes of that young man he had been flooded Anya’s brain as those lips she had focused on years ago were claiming hers, trailing down her breasts, finding their way between her legs.
They both knew if that if they stopped to talk about any of this, they’d manage to talk themselves out of it. And they didn’t have the ability to sort between what was practical, what was helpful, and what was necessary. This was neither practical or helpful, but it was necessary. She had a crazy thought in her head that if she couldn’t indulge in every part of Giles’ body, she would cease to exist, somehow. That his skin was her lifeline tying her to this world.
After multiple pleasure moments for her and one for him, they settled in beside each other to sleep. Still no words, no breaking of the spell they felt they were under. But the sleep was just as it had been two years earlier, but much more naked.
In the morning, he woke her with a kiss, asking if they should talk about what happened. She shook her head no, and kissed him again, harder. She wanted to be that mature adult who knew what was going on, what was happening between them, and what she wanted to happen next. But she wanted his skin more, and was terrified that one of them would express regret if they acted like adults, and she wanted the feeling of wholeness sex had given her the night before at least one more time before she lost him. If she was about to lose him.
Four mindblowing orgasms later, she lay next to him, worn out for the start of the day.
“So what is this, between us?” Giles asked, propping himself up on an arm and facing her.
“I don’t know. I didn’t plan this,” Anya said. “Not that it wasn’t amazing. You’re very good. At sex. I just...I didn’t plan this.”
Giles chuckled. Ask Anya an honest question, get an honest answer. He was just glad that it had been as good for her as he’d thought it had been. Her honesty would be a bit awkward if she hadn’t enjoyed herself.
“It’s not why I came over here, either, to be honest. Not that I haven’t...considered...you...before...but everything’s been such a mess. I was trying to suppress all that. Any attraction I might feel. But I don’t even know which of us initiated last night, do you?”
Anya shook her head no. “I’m glad it did, though. This was a lot better than not touching at all.”
“I am sorry about that. I didn’t even...it wasn’t a conscious choice. I wasn’t consciously pushing you away, though I’m sure it must have felt like that. But after the loss of the Council headquarters, I think, I’ve been a bit broken. And when I’ve been broken, you’ve always been the one to come to me. Not that I’m blaming you for not...I’m saying this all wrong. I’ve been starved for your touch since getting back, but the house has been so crowded, and I’d never really learned how to tell you that I needed you, so I didn’t. But then, a few nights ago in the desert, feeling your hands upon me, I realized how starved I was for touch. So starved for platonic touch that I might have...well…” And to this he gestured at their current situation.
“So are you saying you...didn’t want to…”
“Oh God no. I mean, clearly I wanted to. Twice, in fact. And you were...you are...I mean, Christ. You’re amazing. But I’d never gotten the sense that you saw me in that way. As more than a friend and confidant.”
“I didn’t used to. I mean, empirically you are handsome and sexy, and I’m sure I’ve mentioned that before.”
“Thank you. Yes. You have. I have noticed.”
“Well, that’s nothing to thank me for. That’s just a fact that you should notice whenever you’re near a mirror. But for so long I was with Xander. And…” And here she cut herself off. Because the main reason she never let herself see Giles in that way had everything to do with guilt over ruining his life. Was this the moment to confess to this? It couldn’t be. It would destroy him. And then who would he have to put him back together? So she just stopped talking.
“And…” Giles offered, trying to get her to continue.
“And I’m not any more,” she smiled, and she kissed him. Kissing him was very useful for when she had nothing to say, not to mention terrifically pleasurable.
After the kissing subsided, Giles smiled at her. “So going forward, you propose…”
“So tonight you should sleep here again. I don’t know about you, but I sleep better in a proper bed, which I don’t think you have at Buffy’s, and I also sleep better when I’m with you. I only have two nights proof of this thesis, but I’m pretty sure I’m right on this point.”
“So should we tell the others?” Giles looked a little frightened by this possibility. “Not that I’m ashamed in any way, and knowing that you were forced to keep your engagement a secret for months makes me not want to do that sort of thing to you ever, it’s just that between Xander’s jealous streak and Buffy’s inability to see me as anything more than a neutered father figure, it might get awkward for both of us.”
“Let’s take it one step at a time?” asked Anya. “Meanwhile, join me in my shower. Both of us need to get clean, and I want your hands all over me again.”
Chapter 11: Trying to Save Him
It was only a few nights later that, during another enthusiastic round of love making (Anya’s phrasing, not Giles’), that he, in a post-coital haze confessed that he believed he was falling in love with her. Anya wasn’t proud of the way she froze at this.
Everyone you love will meet a bad end.
If he didn’t love her yet, she won’t be at risk. It wasn’t just that she didn’t want to die, though she didn’t. To be taken down by her own curse would be particularly cruelly ironic. But if he loved her and she died, possibly in this upcoming apocalypse, he would have no one to take care of him in that. She couldn’t abandon him like that.
Everyone you love will meet a bad end.
“You shouldn’t love me. I have 1000 years of bad things I’ve done. Giles, you’re a good man. You can’t...I mean, we can have sex, but you shouldn’t...don’t love me.”
The look of hurt on his face probably hurt her more to see than it hurt him for her to say those horrible untrue words. Well somewhat untrue. She did have 1000 years of bad things that she’d done. But if she was honest with herself, and she usually was, she had loved him for a very long time, and all the kissing was very easily transferring love into ‘in love.’ But she could love him all she wanted without destroying them both. He couldn’t be allowed. She would stop this before it started.
“We can’t be doing this. We need to stop The First. This isn’t the time for falling in love. We can’t. I can’t. I just can’t.” And she got out of bed, and went into her bathroom, the only other room in the apartment. And when she went back out a few minutes later, he was gone.
And the next day when he blew up at everyone over fun and games and going out on dates, she knew that it was her fault that he was blowing up. But she had to protect him. And herself. She couldn’t protect anyone if he was in love with her.
Chapter 12: Anya
After the D&D campaign in the early morning hours before the Battle of Sunnydale, Giles was cleaning up the kitchen table as Anya slept on it. She found herself waking up to feel him running his fingers through her hair. It would have honestly been creepy and inappropriate if it hadn’t felt so damn nice. And unexpected. She thought that her sleeping with Xander in such a public way would seal the deal and make sure Giles couldn’t love her. But here he was, petting her like he first did years ago, one of the first times he let down his guard around her.
She let out a small moan to let him know that she was awake, just to see what he’d do. But he didn’t back off.
“Anya, are you awake?” he asked, caressing her cheek.
“That feels nice,” she said, since yes sounded too abrupt, and she wasn’t actually fully awake.
“It’s Giles, by the way. Not…”
“I can tell by your accent and by your sexy hands,” she said, lifting her head off the table and gazing at him.
“Right. Well. We’ve only got a few hours before...and I was planning on just letting this go, trying to talk some sense into you after we survive the battle, but I can’t be sure we both will. So I need to say my piece, since I, in the past, well I haven’t, and I’ve regretted it. I know you’re back with Xander, and frankly I don’t care. I’m going to say what I’m going to say. Because I have to say it.”
“No, just let me say it.”
“I’m not with Xander. It was rebound sex. After this is all over...I don’t want to be with him.”
“Well good. This makes this less awkward. Though there is the possibility that you don’t want to be with me, but I’m still going to say my piece. So be quiet and listen. Or else, or else I’ll panic, and you may never know what I was going to say. So. When this is over, Anya, and everything has been dealt with, I’m going back to England. And I would very much like to ask you to come with me. WIth the shop gone, you don’t have any ties, well anywhere, as far as I know, other than hopefully to me. I have a small country estate that belonged to my grandmother that I’ve been leasing out. I’d like to bring you there. For a start. A new start. There are plenty of bedrooms, so if it takes me time to court you, to win your heart, I wouldn’t pressure you. But I would hope...I would eventually very much like to marry you. Not right away. Just...I love you. I haven’t honestly felt this way about another person since I was young. Since Ethan. I just love you, and whether or not you love me back doesn’t factor into that. Now here’s the information you’ll need just in case...well if I don’t survive. I’ve changed my will. The estate is yours if I die. I want to provide for you to make up for...for all you’ve given me over these years. I have no close family left, other than some relations who already own much more than my paltry estate. And I can’t imagine Buffy and Dawn living in the countryside of England, can you? If I die, it’s yours. Though I hope not to die. I hope...I hope to love you. For the rest of our lives, no matter how much time that turns out to be.”
Anya blinked at him. That was a lot of words, a lot of information, and she had to handle this just right.
Everyone you love will meet a bad end.
But the curse didn’t say when she would meet her bad end. It didn’t mean today. They could have years together before her bad end. And now that he loved her, she couldn’t stop him. She couldn’t prevent what she had set in motion so many years ago. So the only kind thing she could do is love him back for as long as they had together.
“Anya, you’re rather torturing me right now by not saying anything,” Giles pleaded.
So she kissed him. Pulled his face into hers, and found him. “Yes,” she said. “Yes to all of it, other than the part where you die, and I end up your sad pretend widow making ghost noises all by myself in your Grandmother’s house. You’re not allowed to die, Giles. That’s a rule.”
“I’ll do my best, Anya. So am I fair to assume that you might…”
“Love you? What are you stupid? Of course I love you. It’s just all a mess, and I probably made it worse by trying to make it better.”
“I think we both did.”
“What time is it?” Anya asked, frantically.
“Around 5 AM, I believe. It’s two hours before we’re meant to initiate the battle.”
“That’s enough time for sex,” she said, resolutely.
“And where would you have me, erm, have you? The house is full up, and people will be waking up and wanting their breakfast in here.”
And for a moment he was going to say no, to worry about people seeing, to worry about all the things he’d spent his life worrying about, but instead he picked her up, grabbed a blanket to lay out on the way, and carried her outside to promise her with his body what he had promised with his words.
And as she felt the blade cut into her body and the life start to slip out of her, she knew that it had all been her fault. He loved her. She was meeting her bad end. Her need to take care of him to apologize for the curse she had given to him 25 years ago had been what doomed her. If she had just left him alone, he wouldn't be losing another woman he loved. He wouldn’t be setting off to be that rattling widow in his country estate, mourning her and missing the life he had promised them both. At least she never told him that it was his fault she had died, his fault for loving her, and her fault she had died, her fault for cursing him. She was not just the cause of the curse, but her death was a result of the curse.
Giles was left without her, now. He couldn’t court her. He couldn’t prove to her that he was the man she should have been all along. He couldn't be her man. She was the reason he was still available in the first place. But he’d never know that. He would continue to go about his life, blaming the danger of it for the deaths of everyone he loved, blaming himself, never knowing that it was her fault.
And as he later stood over the wreck of Sunnydale alone, he had no idea why any of this came to pass. But everyone he has ever loved has met a bad end. And despite only spending a few nights in her bed with her, she was the closest he had ever gotten to something that would last. He promised himself that he would keep her in his memory, and never love again.
And so the curse never hurt him again. Or it hurt him each day until he died alone.
Both of these two statements are true.