by Princess Twilite

Giles paraded an endless entourage of faces around them, had done so for years. No one else seemed to notice, content to be oblivious of the play he put on for each of them. Maybe it took an outsider to really see his ever-shifting, accommodating foundation, that he would be anything they needed him to be. And Anya had never been anything BUT an outsider. Because of that, she could see past the words of wisdom and into his loneliness. She wondered who he really was sometimes, when no one was paying attention to either of them, and she could watch him unhindered.

Beneath the faces that Anya had begun to learn so well were his eyes. Those eyes said he'd never truly been happy. Revealed that he'd give anything to wake up with something more to hold onto than a handful of young adults, no matter how much he loved them.

He was Anya's newest obsession. She wanted to learn what it meant to be Rupert Giles, ex-Watcher, mentor, and self-repressed human being. Of all people, she knew that he'd be the first one to teach her what it meant to have a self. After all, he'd given himself UP, so that meant he'd had one in the first place. He must know something.

"You're still awake?" Anya asked from the doorway of the kitchen. Giles startled in his seat, turning to stare at her, wide-eyed for a moment before he relaxed. A cup of coffee steamed at his elbow and his glasses were halfway down his nose.

"Yes, I couldn't sleep." Giles smiled at her, but his face was weary. "Why are you up, Anya?"

She shrugged, took another step into the room, eyeing the books he had opened and left across the table. "The same reason you are. I'm afraid."

Giles blinked owlishly at her and then reached up to take his glasses off, pinching the bridge of his nose. Anya didn't wait for him to speak, moving to take a seat beside him at the table.

"There's good reason to be afraid," Giles replied when she sat down, placing his glasses on the book he was reading. "We've never faced something like this before. And we've been through a great deal."

We. He'd said: `We.' Anya smiled a little, but sadly. Things were so different now. Not a year ago, she'd been happy. He'd been in his homeland. Everything had seemed as good as it could get. It had been. And now it was as bad as it could be.

"What are you afraid of, Anya?" Giles inquired curiously, intently watching her expression. Anya briefly felt like a book, open for him to read. She turned her gaze away from his, unsure.

Giles could teach her things. But at what cost?

"Dying," she said bluntly. Anya frowned in frustration when a string of hair fell down over her eyes, shoving it back behind her ear. "I've avoided dying for an entire millennium. And now it seems so inevitable."

When she looked back at him, his gaze was steady on her face. "That's not all you're afraid of though, is it?" Giles asked, leaning back in his chair in such a way that his wrinkled button-up shirt fit tightly against his chest. Anya's eyes flickered down, away.

"I don't want to die not knowing who I am," Anya whispered, feeling her throat burn with tears. Things had been so much easier as a vengeance demon, but she knew now, once and for all, that she didn't belong there. If she ever had. "You know what I'm talking about, don't you?" Anya all but glared at his face, trying to reach out to him but not sure how she could. "You act like this person, but you're really someone else. How can you be so many people when I'm no one at all?"

Giles' face flinched, as if the words were too harsh. Anya pulled back from her urgency, sure that she had done it again. Said something to ruin a moment, been too honest when she should have been kind. She was about to apologize when he gave a small shake of his head, holding up a large palm to ward her off.

"It's okay, Anya. I was just surprised that you were looking so closely. You'd think I would have learned by now to expect the unexpected from you, but I haven't." Gingerly, he leant forward, resting his elbows on the table, measuring her with an honest glance. "You're a very special woman, Anya. Someone who's hungry for life and, I'm sure, is a little afraid of love now. That's who you are."

Anya swallowed hard, struggling to maintain eye contact. After a moment in which they just looked at each other, Giles broke the tension by moving back and reaching for his coffee cup, taking a long drink as if to waken himself. Anya watched his throat, uncertain.

"Giles," she began, hesitantly. Her voice caught. He looked at her quizzically, serious as ever. Another face he wore, one that made her sad just to look at him. "Do you ever wish you had friends rather than stray children?"

Giles chuckled, an abrupt laugh that burst from his throat. The serious look on his face faded into one of quiet contemplation. His eyes were soft as they looked at her.

"I like to think I'm their friend as well as their mentor," Giles said, taking another sip of his coffee, studying her over the rim. "But that's not what you mean, is it?"

"No," Anya admitted, holding her fingers tightly in her lap. About to make a leap. "I've never had a friend Giles. The other day, with all the dying and the... dying, I began to think about whom I could see myself being a friend with. There's been too much between Xander and I for us to be friends. And the same goes for Buffy, though in not a lesbian way. Willow, she's hard to even get close to these days, and Dawn's too young. I'm not about to start on the `potentials'. And then there's you."

"And then there's me," Giles repeated around a soft smile. "How is that?"

She tilted her head toward him conspiratorially, her hair falling into her eyes again. Anya didn't bother to brush it back this time. "You're always there. Even when you're not, you're somewhere in the background, making us all feel safe. You're smart. I think you're the only one besides me who's really an adult. I'd like us to be friends, Giles. I tried to learn with Xander, but that didn't work out. I've never been very good with people, because they didn't like how I spoke, but I think we both need someone. At least right now."

"Slow down," Giles interrupted her, bemused. Anya felt her skin flush so quickly that it made the sides of her face itch. He was looking at her as if she was a silly child. "You don't have to prove your point to me. I'd be happy to be your friend. I'm flattered you'd think to ask me."

Anya let out a sharp breath that tossed up her hair, smiling pleasantly at him. "I thought you'd turn me down. Well, not completely, because I'm me after all, but I thought you'd be a little resistant at first. After all, we didn't exactly get along when we worked together."

"I liked you," he argued quietly, reaching out to place the strand of fallen hair back in place. "I've always liked you. You're honest and that's hard to come by today, even in the people closest to me."

"You'll teach me things?" she asked, facing him head on like a woman finding her first steps. "I never really bothered to find myself when I was with Xander. I was going to be his Mrs. That's what I had planned. I think I need help this time around, figuring out what it really means to be human."

"You know more than you think," Giles replied. Smiled again. "Yes, I'll teach you what I can. It won't be in books, but friendship holds lessons in itself."

"That I know," Anya said. She yawned, and then shaking it off, stood up and gave him a brief, stiff hug. She couldn't see his face anymore, but he gave an odd sigh and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, very careful, ever the gentleman. "Friends hug," she explained, when she'd let go of him and stepped away. Giles said nothing, just looked up at her. Waiting. "I'm going to go and try to sleep again."

He swallowed with apparent difficulty, still looking at her.

"You'll go to bed, soon?" Anya inquired, a knot of worry bunching between her eyebrows. "You look like you've been hit by a very large vehicle."

"I'll wrap this up in a few minutes. There's been a new variable introduced that I'd like to spend some time figuring out." Giles cleared his throat after speaking. "Sleep well."

"Thank you," Anya replied as she turned, heading toward the stairs.

"Anya?" Giles called, voice somewhere between hesitant and sure. She pivoted so that she could look back at him, seated at the table, wearing a face she didn't recognize as one of his many. He didn't speak for a long moment and Anya raised her eyebrows as if to say: `Well, get on with it.' Giles shook his head at last, as if he'd lost his train of thought. "Goodnight."

"Goodnight, Giles." Anya watched him for a short moment, as he put his glasses back onto his nose, bending over his books. Serious again. She was beginning to think he had more faces than even she would ever know. And Anya had seen a great many faces in her lifetime.


Silverlake: Authors / Mediums / Titles / Links / List / About / Plain Style / Fancy Style