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Sufficient Champagne

by Cynthia Liskow

     Subject: FIC (BtVS) "Sufficient Champagne" by Cynthia Liskow
     Date: Monday, October 07, 2002 11:38 PM

     Title: Sufficient Champagne
     Author: Cynthia Liskow
     http://www.liquid2k.com/susannels/cynthia/cynthia.htm
     Summary: Anya and Giles contemplate love, loss, and
     lessons learned. 
     Rating: PG
     Author's Notes: I started this story fairly soon
     after the Season 6 finale, back when the "Giles and
     Anya have a talk" idea was slightly original--or at
     least slightly more topically relevant. But I got
     derailed by some other stories, and in the
     meantime, many people have plumbed these depths.
     But I still kind of like this...  
     Warnings: Spoilers for late Season 6, especially
     "Hell's Bells," "Seeing Red," and "Two to
     Go/Grave." No Season 7 spoilers, and yet I'm happy
     to say that it hasn't technically been Jossed,
     either.
     Feedback: Well, duh. cynthia_liskow@att.net
     THANKS: What a surprise... Thanks to Rachel for
     pointing out that this was Anya's story, not
     Giles's; to Laura for laughing and nudging me out
     to the ledge; and to Jen for thoughtful, funny
     comments that pushed me over.
     Disclaimer: I own a pretty purple spinny-rocky
     chair. I do not own Giles or Anya. But I'm happy to
     trade, Joss, if you're up for it. It's a really
     pretty chair.

"Inventory"

Four be the things I am wiser to know:
Idleness, sorrow, a friend, and a foe.

Four be the things I'd be better without: Love, curiosity, freckles, and doubt.

Three be the things I shall never attain: Envy, content, and sufficient champagne.

Three be the things I shall have till I die: Laughter and hope and a sock in the eye.

--Dorothy Parker


I'm very glad Giles did not die. I don't say that aloud, of course--it's the sort of statement that gets eyes rolled at me, no matter how true it is. Apparently it's inappropriate to express relief over a friend's survival. Their rules are very confusing and contradictory. It's annoying, and I resent it.

But back to Giles. He's alive, and only slightly concussed. We managed to hobble out of our ruined store to my car so that I could drive us to the hospital, but then the stupid man insisted that nothing was broken and that most of his aches and pains could be healed with aspirin and alcohol. I humored him, but fully expect to have to call the paramedics later.

So here we are, back in my old apartment. The one that came with human existence I'd created for myself when I came to Sunnydale. The one that I kept because it was paid for, even though I was practically living at the place the Xanders got for me last year.

I'll say this for Cordelia Chase: She screwed everything up with her stupid wish, that's true, but thank the gods that she was so rich back then, because otherwise I'd have been in much more trouble when I got caught in my human persona. I came out of the mess with a nice apartment and a very serviceable car, thanks to my make-believe Daddy's money. It didn't last forever, of course, but it certainly was a good start to keep me going until I discovered how to create money on my own, and the wardrobe alone made my human life much more bearable. Ugh. To think how close I came to being stuck as a homeless person, or a Communist. A French Communist!

Right, though. I was talking about Giles. He looks so tired. Much older than when he left last year. I hope the shower perks him up. I don't like to see him all stiff and limping and geriatric. And hurt. I hate to see any of them hurt. Almost as much as I hate to admit to hating to seeing them hurt.

I wish I didn't care. I didn't used to. I remember that. That was nice. And, frankly, that's part of the reason I came back to the demon life. That was part of the grand post-non-wedding plan. But I haven't been able to shed Anya and find my old, comfortable Anyanka self. I still love the Magic Box, and its customers who trade money for goods and services. I like shopping, especially for bras, and pajamas, and shoes. I like caramel mochas from the Espresso Pump.

And I lied to Spike that night. I like the Scoobies. They're funny, and loyal, mostly, and they save the world a lot. I miss them, the way things were before. Stupid Xander. And stupid Spike and stupid Buffy, and stupid, stupid Tara for going and getting killed and stupid Willow for loving her so much that she hates the world without her.

I can hear Giles bumping around in the bathroom. I need to blow my nose before he sees me like this. I hate that I still cry! What's the matter with me? I hurry into the living room with several bottles from my little liquor cabinet. I anticipate that Giles will want Scotch, so I pour a hefty serving over some ice in one of the tumblers I got on sale at the Pottery Barn. I like the Pottery Barn.

Giles seems a little less brittle when he emerges. He's able to stand up straight, which is a great comfort to me. I didn't like him looking so fragile. It makes me nervous.

"Here," I say, taking him by the arm and steering him toward the couch. "I have Scotch."

"Anya, you are a jewel," he says with a sigh. He smiles at me as he takes his glass from my hand and sinks back into the cushions. "Sit, please." He pats the seat next to him, and I perch on the edge.

"Are you sure you should be drinking?" I ask, remembering that he's gotten all frail on us. "You don't look well at all, and the dehydration and digestive disruptions caused by alcohol can be very unpleasant."

"I appreciate your concern, Anya," he says in that annoying more-British-than-thou voice that I missed so much, "but rest assured, I've been drowning my sorrows for some decades now, and I'm well aware of my own limits. Four fingers of Scotch will do very nicely against my current head and body aches, but will not add to the damage."

He skillfully drops some ice into the second glass and pushes it toward me. "Have one yourself?" he asks, and I notice that my knees and hands are shaking as I fill my glass with the Scotch.

Giles notices, too.

"You're trembling," he observes with kindness that makes my chest ache. His hand, warm from the shower, rests on my arm. "You've been extraordinarily brave, Anya, especially considering all you've been through lately."

The ice cubes shift in my glass as I raise it to my lips. The alcohol burns my sinuses, and I feel my eyes tearing. His hand moves on my arm, then slides away. I close my eyes against the sting and listen to Giles's tumbler jingle as he drinks. I gulp back the swallow that's been simmering against my lips and sniff past the fumes, but don't respond. What's to say? Yay me for not always being the evil kind of demon.

"I've been meaning to ask you," he says, tipping back another slug of the amber liquid and settling in against the cushions. "You've reverted to your demon incarnation, then?"

I shrug in assent and prepare myself to be berated.

"Mmm," he hums. "Buffy told me, albeit briefly, what happened. I'm terribly sorry, Anya."

"Oh," I reassure him, "being a demon's not so bad, especially if you--"

I stop speaking when I feel his hand back on my shoulder. He's very tactile tonight. It's not like him.

"I meant about Xander, of course," he says in an old, sad voice, "and the wedding."

I sigh heavily and examine the patterns on my ice cubes. "Oh. That." I've heard this before, but with a slightly different accent. Best to cut this one off at the pass.

"I'm not going to have sex with you," I tell Giles as kindly as I can while still being firm. He is silent for a few seconds, and then I can feel the couch shaking as he deals poorly with my rejection.

"Dear Giles," I say, trying to comfort him. "You're a very nice man, and quite attractive in an older-and-therefore-wiser-and-more-experienced way." He's hitching all over, turned away from me. "And I understand you're trying to make me feel better, which is very sweet, and I'm sure you would be a perfectly adequate sexual partner."

He's gasping for breath now, choking with grief, poor man. He's collapsed forward, face buried in his hands. I pat him gently on the shoulder, keeping my contact purely platonic. No need to rub his face in it, is there?

"But the problem is that I still love Xander, may he rot in one of the stickier dimensions of hell, and although alcohol and sex may feel good in the moment, afterwards it's just awkward and uncomfortable. And Xander was really angry last time, and he almost killed Spike, who's much more durable than you--no offense--and then Xander got all hurt and vindictive and horrid about people who have sex with dead things, and it was just bad all around."

He's taking this much harder than I'd anticipated.

"Oh..." Giles sobs, snorting and gasping. He certainly doesn't cry neatly, the way men do in the movies. It's very loud and embarrassing. "Oh, Lord, Anya. You... You and Spike?"

"Well, yes, and that's why I won't be having sex with you. You see, I've learned that--"

He howls. Howls like a dog, and the realization hits me.

He's laughing. At me.

"You're laughing!"

Giles collapses against the side of the couch, positively hooting with laughter. At me. I smack him on the arm, and he yelps, but the cackling doesn't slow even a little bit.

"You jerk! Why are you laughing at me?"

"Oh, oh God--I can't--I'm not..."

I feel like crying again. "You are! What exactly about my situation amuses you so much?" I can feel my nose and eyes plugging up with annoyingly human fluids. Meanwhile Giles is slowing down, but it's clearly a struggle. I take two big gulps of my drink before he's able to speak for real.

"It's just... Good Lord, is there anyone here who hasn't slept with Spike since I've gone home?"

I clack my drink down, pleased to notice that it's sloshed out of the glass and stained his stupid pants. "Well, I'm fairly sure Dawn is still a virgin, considering the continued fascination with her among the demon community, and as far as I know Willow and Tara were inactive during their separation. And Spike hates Xander too much to--besides, neither of them appears to be homosexual--so I think it's just me and Buffy..."

Giles re-dissolves into giggles, and I snatch my glass up again, consider draining it, but decide it's time to take action. I make an embarrassingly girly frustration noise, sort of a scream and a growl at the same time, and throw my drink onto the side of Giles' head.

"Ow!"

At least he's stopped laughing. Giles sits up straight and mops at his face with his sleeve.

"Here, now! That was uncalled for, really."

I give him my very steeliest, you-shoplifter-take-that-incense-out-of-your-pants-do-you-think-I'm-stupid? glare, and, as all men do, he crumbles.

"All right," he concedes, pulling a handkerchief out of his pocket and cleaning the whiskey from his glasses, "perhaps it was called for." He squints at his spectacles, rubs at them some more, and then puts them back on. "But really, I've just showered and now I'm all sticky again."

"Why were you laughing at me?" I demand. "Is it so unlikely that someone would want me? Someone besides Xander? Look at me!" I stand up and smooth out the blouse that clings in all the right places. "I'm very attractive. I know I am! That was the whole point of picking this stupid body that I've gotten all used to, even though it's stupid and human and I have a perfectly good demon form that I used to love. I was one of the most beautiful of all of D'Hoffryn's girls, and now I don't even like to spend time in that body because it wasn't the one that Xander smooshed with."

I flop back to the couch, fully aware of the patheticness that I've somehow personified, and all the more unhappy for it.

"It must've been dreadful for you."

I hate it when they're nice to me, when they put their stupid mortal years of experience with being human and turn it into empathy that kicks in right when you're ready to make them start hiccuping frogs. It takes the wind right out of my sails.

I turn to face him and see that Giles smile that shows he knows we're about to start bawling. The one that's about to make me start bawling.

"It was," I state firmly. "It was the worst thing I ever felt, ever, and I ..." I have to stop because I'm going to cry again, and I'm tired of crying, did I mention that?

A pretty, slender hand flutters up over my chest and then presses against it, and I realize it's mine. It's Anya's. "I hurt Giles."

He smiles kindly, exactly like he would have at the wedding that wasn't. He's Giles.

"Of course you do. It's natural."

"No, you don't understand," I insist, because he wasn't there, he can't possibly know.

He didn't see the gown, or Buffy and Dawn and Willow and poor dead Tara looking so beautiful in their dresses, and if he'd been there then maybe he could have talked to Xander, talked some sense into his stupid block-of-wood head, and I wouldn't be feeling this way right now. I lean over a little, clutching my glass tightly in the hand that isn't pressed against my heart.

"I've felt pain before. I've been both concussed and contused, beaten about the head and neck, had my bones snapped." I look to him for something. Affirmation? He should know. He's lived on the Hellmouth longer than I have. He knows about the bodily damage.

Giles presses his lips together and "Mmm hmmm"s seriously, so I continue.

"I've even felt emotional pain, enough to know the difference between it and the more common physical sort. When Joyce died, for example, and then when Buffy died, too. And there was the time that Xander didn't want to have sex with me, and we broke up for that night. Believe me," I drawl, stretching the words to make my point very, very clear, "I am no stranger to pain."

"I should say not," Giles agrees and take another sip of his Scotch.

"But this," my fist is thumping against my breast now, for emphasis, I realize. It sounds like an overripe watermelon--hollow and squishy inside. "This is unbearable. It's as if someone had taken a ... a really big spoon and dug a hole in me, and taken out my heart--which I had always considered to be a purely physical organ, none of that silly namby-pamby organ-of-love nonsense--and plucked it from my chest, and, you know..."

My hand stops thumping and I find myself sketching vaguely violent signs in the air, my broken but still polished fingernails suddenly flashing in the lamplight. I'm having an epiphany, I think. I have a terrible, disgusting vision of guts, which usually don't bother me, but they're mine this time, and it's unnerving.

"... And picking it to shreds and then squishing the little bits of it until they're all beaten and flat, and all that's left is a bunch of bloody, pulpy stuff that somehow still hurts even if it's not in you anymore, and now there's a big, sucking hole where your life used to be and..." I look up from the floor, where my heart seems to have been stomped upon.

I hear him snort. He's snorting again! "You're laughing at me again!" I accuse.

"No," Giles corrects me, and his face is serious. "No, I'm most assuredly not."

I set my glass on the table in front of us, wipe my nose as discretely as possible, and tuck one foot under the other knee so I can turn to face Giles more directly, see into his eyes.

"Dear Anya," he say in his most soothing voice, the same one he was using on Evil Willow earlier today. "You have the most direct insights into the human condition of any being I've ever known. It strikes one off guard, that's all."

I flop my face into my hands in defeat, and when I speak, my voice is whinier than Dawn's at her very worst. "I'm not even human anymore."

I feel him shrug. I know he'd be shrugging, and then I feel his arm across my back, and he pulls gently and I settle against his chest. "You're more human than most people I know," he says, and that just makes me cry all over again.

"What good's that to anyone?" I croak, and drop my head into my hands again.

"There, there," he murmurs.

I feel his hand on the base of my skull, kneading gently, and although I'm still not entirely convinced he isn't trying to get me to have sex with him, it feels too good to tell him to stop. I let myself sag against Giles' side and sob embarrassingly for several minutes, and the whole time his fingers move against my head.

When I stop crying, I rest against his chest, catching my breath. Giles shifts awkwardly and before I can ask what the matter is, he settles back and presses a soft piece of white cotton that smells slightly of alcohol into my hand.

"There, wipe your nose, love." His hand stays on my shoulder as I sit up and wipe my face dry with his handkerchief, then blow my nose as politely as I can with all this stupid snot built up in me. Honestly, humans are so gross. Where does it all come from?

"Thank you," I say, remembering my manners. I wish I hadn't thrown my drink on him. I could use the rest of it now. I start to reach for the bottle, to pour myself another, but my hands are all stupid and shaky and not working.

Giles makes a question noise at me.

"Can I please have another drink?" I ask, and he smiles.

"Wonderful idea," he says and extracts his arm from between me and the sofa. "Mine could use freshening as well."

I blow my nose again while he pours our drinks.

"So," Giles says as he sinks back down next to me and hands me my glass. "What are you going to do?"

"Drink this one," I reply, "instead of wasting it on you."

He chuckles and sips. "I meant with yourself."

The Scotch is bracing, and it helps clear some of the built-up snot from my head.

"I don't know, Giles," I answer simply. "I don't know what to do, about any of it. You tell me. What should I do?"

He laughs again, but I understand that it's not because he thinks it's funny.

"Well, first I have to suggest for your own safety, and just on general principles, you should avoid wreaking vengeance upon Xander. Especially by having sex with Spike."

"That's very helpful, Giles," I say sarcastically. Sarcasm is one subtlety of human communication, at least, that I have mastered with relative ease. "Besides, I can't curse him, it turns out. Not myself, and no one else will do it for me. And..."

"And?"

I sniff and take another warming drink. "It's terrible, because this is my calling, you know? It's something I've excelled at and taken great pride in... But I don't think... I don't think I want to curse him anymore."

Giles's voice is soft and comforting, like the alcohol. "What do you want?"

My chin is wobbling again, but I stop it. I'm done crying for today. "I want it back the way it was, before he left me. I want him to love me again."

He pulls me to him, sighing heavily. "Oh, Anya..." His voice is thick, and I wonder if he's going to start with the crying, and what did I say to make that happen? "I'm quite sure that he does love you. But you've probably begun to work out that it isn't always as simple as whether you love each other."

"Why not?" I ask petulantly. "It should be that simple. The only reason it isn't is because men are evil, horrible creatures. Hence the career in vengeance. Which, by the way, I think I might suck at now, thank you all over again, Xander Harris."

This time, when Giles laughs, I give up and laugh with him. It's all so stupid.

"Well, what about you?" I ask, turning the tables, I hope. "What are you going to do?"

"Ahhh," Giles laughs, nodding. "Yet another excellent question." He takes a deep breath. "Well, I imagine I'll start by finding Willow, now that she has not ended the world, and see what's to be done with her. What sort of state she's in. Contain her, though I suspect she won't need any sort of restraints, and take her to people who can help her."

I'm glad he answered that way. It gives me an opportunity to make fun, and that always makes a person feel better.

"No," I parrot, "I meant with yourself."

It worked. He smiles at me, eyes twinkling, and I feel much better.

"I've no idea," he admits. "Work out an arrangement for Willow. See if Buffy needs me here. But," he lowers his voice and tips his head conspiratorially, and I lean in, intrigued, "and this is a secret I'm sharing only with you for the moment, so mum's the word... But I seem to've happened upon a life back home. I met a perfectly charming woman--a scholar who owns a lovely tea room in Bath--and I'm actually quite smitten with her."

I elbow him, very gently, of course, because I know that at least some of his ribs must be cracked, and shake my head with a smile.

"You! Look at you, all blushing and dopey. No wonder you wouldn't have sex with me! A girlfriend!"

The phone rings, and I stand up, still pointing and grinning. I don't know why this makes me so happy. He's male, after all, and human to boot, so it will surely end badly. But for now, it makes me happy to think of Giles in love.

I pick up the phone, knowing full well who it will be.

"Ahn," Xander says when I answer. "Thank God. Are you okay? Is Giles with you?"

"I'm all right," I say. "And Giles is, too. Is anyone else dead?"

He has his smiling voice on. "No, we're all okay, Willow, Dawn, Buffy. We all made it."

I feel Giles waiting to hear the news, so I smile at him and give a thumbs up. He tips his head briefly, sighs loudly enough for me to hear him from across the room, and tilts back the rest of his drink.

"Good," I say to Xander, and then there's a pause that makes me wonder if I've broken some telephone etiquette rule. Right, don't express relief that people haven't died.

"Listen," he says, and I can practically hear him breathing. I want to hear him breathing. "Can I see you later?"

"Why?" I ask, and this time I know I'm being rude. But I don't care. It's a perfectly legitimate question.

"I... I just need to talk to you. Tell you some things, ask you some things."

I've heard this before.

"I'm not going to have sex with you. Giles is here for one, and I'm still very angry at you." There's a snorting noise from the couch, and I scowl at Giles and wave a hand to shut him up.

"Okay," says phone-Xander.

"And, just so you don't come with an axe or anything, you should know that I'm not having sex with Giles, either. Although he is attractive and has been very nice to me today." I say that last for Giles's benefit, because I don't want to hurt his feelings, new girlfriend or not.

"And again I say, okay." Xander lowers his voice, to his serious stuff conversation tone. "I just need to see you, talk to you. Is that all right?"

I feel a weird fluttering high in my stomach. "Yes."

"Okay, I'll be over in a couple of hours, then. Gotta get some stuff done here, get Willow to Buffy's. But then I'll be over."

"Okay." I hang up before I say anything stupid, and I turn to Giles.

"Everyone is alive, Xander's got Willow and is taking her to Buffy's, and then he's coming over here. Giles, what do I do?"

He pushes off the sofa and comes over to me, putting his hand on my shoulder again. "Do you love him?"

"Unfortunately," I answer.

"Then listen to him," he says gently. "Talk to him. See if you can work things out. They may not be the way they were, but they may still work."

"Okay," I say, though I hear doubt in my voice.

"And Anya," he says, and his voice is soft and kind. "A bit of advice, if I may..."

I nod eagerly. I hope this is good.

"Whatever you choose to do, remember that while friends and lovers come and go, enemies tend to last a lifetime. Be careful that you don't make the wrong enemies. I would be very sad if you were to be slain."

I feel my eyes narrow. He's made the statement in a friendly enough manner, but I can hear the warning undeneath the gentle voice, and I nod, tucking that one way to think about later.

Our gazes lock for a moment, and then Giles raises his eyebrows and nods sharply, indicating that he has finished dispensing advice.

"Good" he says with authority as he starts for the guest room. "I, for one, am exhausted and am going to sleep, if you don't mind."

He's almost at the door when I grab him from behind and hug him fiercely. "Thank you, Giles," I say into his back while he twists to put his arms around me. "You are the nicest human being I've ever known."

"Well, thank you, Anya," he replies, and kisses my forehead. "You're the most lovely demon I've known."

It seems an appropriate time to end the hug, so I step back. He smiles at me and turns to the door again, but then turns back.

"Oh, one more thing... Stick to your guns. Don't have sex with him. It would be confusing for both of you. And besides, I'm just in the next room, and I think I should very likely die if I were forced to hear."

"Okay," I agree. He has a point. Plus, I've already wrested him back from the arms of death once today. I don't need to do that again any time soon.

The door to the guest room clicks shut, and I hover uncertainly in place, trying to arrange things in my mind. I'm not successful, so I set about arranging my apartment instead. It's a much simpler task--the clearing of used glasses to the dishwasher, the wiping down of dusty surfaces--and I hope it will keep me occupied and calm until Xander arrives.

I hope he gets here soon. Lemon Pledge makes me sneeze.

--end--


Feed me? cynthia_liskow@att.net


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