Like a Birthday, by LJS
TITLE: Like a Birthday
LENGTH: 630 words
SUMMARY: It's Season 7 (diverging from canon just after "Bring On the Night"). Giles has a suggestion. Anya responds.
“Sunset Limited,” Giles said, and slid the computer printout in front of Anya. She didn't know what surprised her more – the gesture, or the fact that he'd conned Willow or a Potential into an internet search.
No, okay, what surprised her most was his warm hand on her shoulder.
She'd been worried about him even before he'd shown up two days ago with a herd of young wannabe Slayers, spouting his usual stuff about apocalypse. But the Council was gone now, and his (remarkably attractive) lines of care around his eyes and mouth looked like they'd been dug out with a painful sharp implement, and he'd been wrapped around himself and cold and... separate.
She knew about being separate, yes she did. And it was awful.
So, anyway, here he was seeking her out, and touching her so sweetly, except – “What's the train between Los Angeles and New Orleans got to do with me?”
He sat down at the Summers dining room table where she'd been balancing Buffy's checkbook, pulled his chair close, leaned in. “I didn't want to tell the others yet, but there's a Potential in San Antonio I need to pick up. And, er, well--”
She couldn't help herself. She put her hand on his strong jean-clad thigh, and squeezed in what she figured he'd take – in his repressed British way –as comfort. (And it did comfort her, actually, to caress him. She'd been missing his touch since that day Willow had destroyed their business and hurt him so badly, since that day he'd held onto her in the rubble as if she mattered, since that day she'd realized just how stupid her return to D'Hoffryn had been – and even more since the night she'd lost Hallie and her vengeance-self and her illusions about her own really horrible choices.) Before she could get lost in the useless ache, she said, “Finish your sentence.”
He smiled, a painful curve of his well-cut lips, as if he'd almost forgotten how. “There's also a coven in San Antonio who've contacted the Westbury witches. They say they have information, but they'll only talk to me, and, er, a companion.”
She felt an upswelling of joy, warmth, gratification – none of which she'd felt in a while. But, because she was trying to be better than she'd been, and also because let's face it, she was significantly more practical than he: “If it's witches, shouldn't you take Willow?”
“I could. But....” He looked down, coughed, and with his big hand covered hers where it rested on his leg. “I've enjoyed our, well, conversations in the past few months, the phone calls and such, and it's been so bloody horrible the past few weeks, and....” Seemingly absently, his thumb stroked her wrist. She tried very hard not to melt right there and then: he had extremely talented fingers. “Er, Grace Harkness recommended that I take the slow route – some seer-thing, she didn't clarify. And--” Finally he looked up, and gods, gods, his eyes, light and dark mixed, pain and pleasure and magic – “I'd really rather travel with someone who isn't, er, in my care. Who isn't a responsibility but a... I don't know, free choice.”
The joy and warmth and gratification almost stole her breath. Except Anya Christina Emmanuella Jenkins, nee Anyanka, nee Aud, was stronger than that. She linked fingers and beamed at him. “Giles! It's like it's my birthday!”
His eyebrows raised. “Er, did I miss something?”
“Nope. It's just that you've given me a gift. And that I feel like this is a brand new start!” With the hand that wasn't holding onto him, she pulled the informational sheet closer to them both. “So when do we leave?”
To be continued Monday. :)