Summary: Post-Chosen; Giles is reminded of his life in Sunnydale, and a certain ex-Vengeance Demon who brought out something new in him.
Rating: A Mild PG
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Spoilers: For all seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Original story: Can't Forget You, by secondalto. You can find her story Here.
Smooshy thanks to my betas married_n_mich and sunnyd_lite, who really had no clue she was my beta until this reveal. I also want to shout out to spiralleds, who literally spent hours holding my virtual hand throughout this process and who was the orchestrator for the Great Sunnyd_lite Switcherooni. She added a whole new dimension for this, my first Remix experience. I love all three of you sexy, smart women!
Perhaps it was the promise of springtime in the air, after what had been a particularly long and dreary winter. He needed something to look forward to, and the hints of fresh life were all around. Or maybe it was nothing more than simple loneliness that had turned his thoughts to her.
Giles closed and locked his office door after ensuring that he'd remembered to pick up his leather case and house keys. He'd learned the hard way that it didn't pay to lock one's necessities in the office after everyone else had already gone home. Staying late had become a habit, as had the long hours spent pouring over arcane tomes. The saying went that "Everything old is new again." It didn't really ring true. After the Sunnydale hellmouth had been closed they'd all spent a year moving around the world together, sometimes fighting whatever evil they encountered and sometimes simply living their lives. The year after that they began to follow different courses. Xander to Africa and Buffy with the other slayers. Giles had returned to London and begun working with the rebuilt Watchers Council. Newness was all around, but to him it all felt old.
Back in the day, life had been more exciting. Demons and youthful drama arrived concurrently, and a man with his experience was needed for guidance and the occasional helping hand on the battlefield. But teenagers had a way of growing into self-reliant adults, entirely capable of fighting off those ever-present monsters on their own. The sensible thing had been to relegate his supportive role even further to the background. "Watcher Emeritus" was his title now. It was a perfectly workable arrangement for him as well as for the slayers, and if he happened to feel forgotten as he sat in that office, new title inscribed on the door, at least it was all for the greater good.
The screeching of tires was a welcome interruption to his tiresome thoughts. Up the road a woman smacked her palm against the car that had nearly sent her off to an early grave. The irate male driver certainly had a comprehensive knowledge of obscenities, while the woman seemed to be awaiting an apology. Doubtless, she'd wait a while. Giles smiled to himself, admiring her temerity. She was, after all, attempting to cross in a non-pedestrian zone, a fact that the driver was emphatically letting her know. Other horns sounded as traffic backed up, and she gestured in a way that was reminiscent of... And just like that, he was thinking of her again.
All those years ago she shown up at his apartment in Sunnydale, distressed over Xander getting trapped inside a haunted house. Giles was wearing a sombrero and she a bunny suit. Pink. It was pink. He'd opened the door with a cheery, "Happy Halloween," but there had been nothing cheery about Anya, despite her fuzzy trappings.
"Xander is in trouble. We've got to do something, right now!"
He'd been so astounded that all he could manage was, "Anya."
"Are you listening? Xander is trapped!"
She was completely unaware of the impression she made with her costume and its ridiculous feet. "Where are Buffy and the others?"
The soft pink hand mitts had flailed around, distractedly fascinating him. "They're trapped, too, but we've got to save Xander!"
Oh yes, Buffy and Xander and the others trapped in a place that evidently excluded oversized pastel rodents. Anya, newly human, was once again on a single-minded mission, with no intention of letting even a brick fortress stop her. That was her way, and somehow, when the others had forged ahead with their new college lives, she'd remembered him when she needed somebody. Even his preposterous hat didn't deter her.
Another horn sounded, but it was simply normal traffic this time. The woman was gone and the world around him had resumed its natural course. He shook off his reverie and continued home.
Bunny suit. How could he ever forget that?
The apartment was exactly as he'd left it, and exactly as it always was. The flat was a convenient walking distance from his office at the newly constructed council, and really served no significant purpose apart from allowing him a place to sleep and cook breakfast. He'd moved in a few possessions from his country home to alleviate some of the starkness of the empty rooms. The entryway contained a nice antique table and a shelf to hold mail and his keys. An ornate runner led him to a small sitting area beside his kitchen. Next to that was his office, with a few watercolors adorning the walls. He'd brought a folding screen to separate a section of that room for his sleeping quarters. Small. Functional. All that he needed, really.
On a stand beside the bed was a figurine resembling an Egyptian cat. It was neither functional nor decorative, but he kept it with him. The Ramadan effigy. The few women who'd had occasion to see it there never failed to comment on it. He usually answered with a wordless smirk and then distracted them in pleasurable ways.
Tonight, being alone, he simply changed into his bedclothes, removed his glasses, and turned off the lamp.
"Anya, this register report for January looks a bit off. Pull the files again."
"Are you mad at me?"
"Mad? No, I'm..."
"Well then why are you torturing me? You know, I used to punish people like this when I was a demon. I made them double-check spreadsheets for all eternity."
"I'm sorry if you resent my authority, but I won't feel comfortable leaving here until I know that absolutely everything-"
"You're taking the Ramadan effigy?!"
"It's not inventory, it's my personal collection."
"Oh, aren't you Mister Dicey Semantics? So, what, you think you can just take anything you want? Give it!"
"No, you give it!"
Giles awoke, clutching his figurine. He took a few deep breaths, reminding himself of what was real and what was not. Figurine: Real. Anya... Not. Not any longer. He reached out, placing the cold ceramic back in its place. The blankets were pulled up and he drifted off to sleep again, this time with a juvenile grin. Tug of war over that ugly effigy, plus hand smacking and even chastisement from Xander Harris, of all people. Ha! Even old fuddy duds could be juvenile from time to time.
His alarm rang at 5:55. The extra five minutes ensured that he was on his feet every morning by 6:00. A quick shower and shave, followed by a simple breakfast, and he was out the door by 6:45.
While he wouldn't say that he lived to work, he did find a lot of satisfaction in what he did. Dependability was his way of life. Of course that hadn't always been the way, now had it? Not in those younger years of experimentation and excesses. Most people who knew him now only had hints of that time and of the things he'd done. Even Buffy didn't know everything. Few people could understand what it was to have from such extremes in their lives, to have made such severe mistakes and to have to live with them. He coped through regimentation. Others seemed to find other sorts of outlets, other passions.
Again, she came to mind. Holding cash in her hands and dancing every night after a successful day of sales at the Magic Box. She didn't even know that he watched her or waited for her to do it. That the day was never complete until the Dance of Capitalist Superiority.
The woman had spent eons bringing destruction on anyone who'd caused enough pain to others to warrant vengeance. She spoke of exploding heads, not to mention other more delicate parts of anatomy, and of dining amidst the death and blood she'd fashioned out of her life's calling. Yet she found such joy in having a few more dollars at the end of the day. It was infectious. The one time the others had seen her ritual, Dawn had joined in, and then Xander... Well, Xander had made his announcement.
"I'm gonna marry that girl."
Buffy sputtered in that way of hers, and then Xander had made it official. "Hey, everybody, Anya and I wanna tell you something."
There had been congratulations from Tara and shock from Dawn. Willow was notably under whelmed. Then there had been his own reaction, which had gone unnoticed. He suspected it was really bewilderment due to the youth of the boy, but it felt more like devastation. He'd had to accept the truth of it when Anya threw the money. Anya never threw money.
Buffy had looked at him, and he'd made a show of polishing his glasses. Nice little deflection of attention, that. Besides, it had the added benefit of allowing him to not watch the kissing.
He excused himself to gather congratulatory refreshments for everyone. Buffy helped. He decided that night that he couldn't stay in Sunnydale, not even for his slayer.
The coffee house was located halfway between his flat and the council offices. The usual barrista stood behind counter and was already making his preferred blend. He picked up a newspaper and placed a few bills by the cash register. As the young girl counted his change, he couldn't help but remember Capitalist Supremacy.
"Pardon?" she said. She was slender and her eyes were brown.
"I'm sorry," Giles replied. "I... I didn't realize. Hadn't really meant to say that out loud."
She waved off his concern. "This time of day I hear a bit of everything."
He thanked her and set out again. The girl had passably resembled Anya, but the memory of her was so vivid here. There was a scent... Yes! That scent. Aside from the rich aromas of coffee there was a fragrance today, one that he associated with her. Woody and spicy and uniquely hers. Occasionally he detected a hint of it on women he encountered and he was always taken back to that day when he held her. That day when the rabbits were hopping around the magic shop from a spell gone dreadfully awry. It was the day he thought she was his and it had seemed right, until the magic ended and he realized that she couldn't have been more wrong for him.
"Come down, and we will go about fixing this in a sensible fashion!" She was going to break one of her lovely legs if she didn't calm down and get off that blasted table.
"Sensible? You think it's sensible for me to go down into that pit of cotton-top hell, and let them hippity-hop all over my vulnerable flesh?"
The woman was completely hysterical. "Fine, then just stay up there and keep making bunnies! That's a capital plan!"
Naturally she reacted to any word that might hint of money. "What capital? I never know what you're talking about. Loo, shag, brolly, what the hell is all that?"
"What? There's no way that you could remember me saying any of those words."
"Oh, bugger off, you brolly."
When they'd made up afterward, though it wasn't real, he'd felt completely loved. He'd kissed her and the scent of her had stayed with him for all these years. He knew that somehow she'd been in the coffee shop. It was impossible, though, because they'd left her in Sunnydale. That unique, shimmering woman was dead.
She was speaking with his secretary. Giles felt as though he couldn't breathe. His chest was heavy and wouldn't move to allow any flow of air. Surely, it was impossible. Yet hadn't this happened before? Hadn't he seen Buffy dead and broken beneath Glory's tower? Hadn't Spike somehow survived being incinerated in the hellmouth?
Move, you old fool. Go over there and find out why she's here. Find out if she's here for...
Giles closed his eyes and forced himself to take in air. He was light-headed, that was all. In. Out. In. Out. There, that was much better. Breathing really was rather nice. Helpful for the maintenance of one's equilibrium. Now all that had to be done was a few steps forward. Ten meters at most. He'd say hello and ask about what she'd experienced. It was his job, after all, to investigate the paranormal. All in a days work.
The only drawback was that she was gone.
"Miss Porter," he called. His secretary greeted him with her normal professional smile. "Miss Porter-"
"Good morning, Mr. Giles. How are you this morning?"
"That woman," he said. "She was speaking with you."
"Yes, Miss Taylor, I believe she said."
"Where is she?" Giles asked.
Miss Porter didn't tend to react to the everyday oddities of working for the council, but Giles saw her eyes widen and he understood that his behavior was out of the norm. "Please, Miss Porter. I think I might... that is to say I'm certain I know her."
"She's in Mr. Wells' off--"
They'd all stumbled from the bus, exhausted and bewildered that they'd actually made it out. Xander found Andrew and asked what no one else had been willing to voice. "So, did you see?"
For once Andrew couldn't seem to talk. "I—I was scared. I'm sorry."
"Did you see what happened? I mean, was she..."
"She was incredible. She died saving my life."
Incredible. The boy had found the perfect word.
Giles turned the knob of Andrew's office door and went inside. The woman there was strikingly pretty, with a keen intelligence to her face. She was of medium height and slender, impeccably dressed. A woman he would have been attracted to in any situation. But she wasn't Anya.
"Hello," she said.
"Forgive me," Giles murmured. "I...uh. I was looking for Andrew."
"As was I," she said.
"He should be here soon. Very punctual."
"Good to know."
"Yes. Quite." Giles backed away from her, stopping abruptly when his heels collided with the door. "I'll say my hellos to him later. Good morning."
He caught a glimpse of her fingers waving at him as he slipped out of the room. Bloody fool was what he was. What had he been thinking? It was all idiotic, from his school boy mooning to wishing he could smell her and see her. And for what? Just so that he might not feel so alone or forgotten in his miniscule portion of this inane world?
What he needed to do was find his office and something absorbing in which to immerse himself. There was a treaty he'd been putting off looking into. Taranga demons. A dreadful lot. It would be perfect for the morning, and maybe he could forget some of his foolishness.
He settled into his big, leather chair and found the folder. The words of the treaty weren't flowing, though it was in a language he'd worked with several times. Maybe it would be more interesting to start in the middle and try to work forward. Anything had to be better than reading in circles.
The knock on the door was almost welcome.
Oh, Willow. He'd forgotten she'd be here this week. It was hard to keep track of her anymore, what with the rampant teleportation. He needed to speak with her about that one of these days. But not today. "Willow, I was right in the middle of translating an important treaty with the Taranga demons. What on earth could be so important...?"
And she was there.
His folder slid to the floor, unnoticed, papers scattering about his desk. She was there and she was real, and now he didn't feel foolish or old or forgotten. Not at all. They spoke a few pleasantries about how good it was to see each other again. Such small words for all the wonder he was feeling. Anya, alive. Miracles were possible and perhaps, just perhaps, the warmth spreading through him meant that he was coming alive too.
Original dialogue from the following episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
Fear Itself, by David Fury
Bargaining, Part 1, by Marti Noxon and David Fury
All the Way, by Stephen DeKnight
Tabula Rasa, by Rebecca Rand Kirschner and
Chosen, by Joss Whedon