LENGTH: 720 words
SUMMARY:Just a step off canon, sometime in the middle of Season Five.
Giles loves bookshops. So does someone else.
With a sense of homecoming, Giles walked out of the early evening and through the doors of Sunnydale’s only large bookshop. True, it was a chain, but he was far away from the favourite little bookshop near the Abbey in Bath, far from Foyles (and its mysterious underground annex with the arcane and occult titles, accessed only by password and with three personal references). He loved bookshops, even this Books-A-Lot.
And, to be honest, he rather liked the coffee in the shop’s little café. Since Buffy required him to be available for a midnight slaying session near the docks, the caffeine would be especially useful tonight.
He sauntered through Fiction – pausing to fondle the new LeCarre, which he was considering buying – on his way to Nonfiction, Business. At work Anya had mentioned a new volume on small-business best practices, which sounded rather useful.
At the thought of Anya, however, he stopped. He was at the corner of Romance and Mystery, he realized, which was uncomfortably appropriate.
She and Xander had dissolved their relationship some months previously. Giles had been alarmed how glad he’d been to hear of their breakup; more alarming still was how fascinating he found her, how he caught himself listening for the staccato of her footsteps as she hurried around the Magic Box, how he caught himself staring at her mouth when she talked.
She terrified him on some level he didn’t wish to examine. She captivated him on every other level there was. (Well, witness him searching for some bloody business book, no doubt jargon-rich and deeply stupid, just because she’d mentioned it.)
His fingers toyed with the virulently pink-and-teal cover of the nearest romance novel, playing with the embossed lettering, until he realized what he was doing and dropped his hand. Good God, he was lost.
Further evidence of which – he thought he could smell Anya’s perfume. It was rich and musky and yet somehow sweet and innocent at the same time… Seriously, he needed to get a grip on himself.
The book. Yes. It would be just around the corner –
As was Anya, he saw as soon as he’d taken two more steps.
She was curled up in one of the Books-A-Lot armchairs, her feet tucked under her as she had done last week when they’d had an after-work drink in his flat. A book – looked like a travel guide, he noted absently – was open in her lap.
“Anya,” he said.
She looked up. Her smile was ridiculously, beautifully bright. “Hi, Giles!”
“Er, yes. Hi.” For lack of anything more sensible to do, he put his hands in his pockets and rocked back and forth on his heels. “Just came to look at that book you recommended.”
“Oh, you can borrow mine. No need to waste money.” She looked down at the volume in her lap. “Which is why I’m checking out this book before purchase, because, well, because.”
She seemed to be hiding the title from him. He took a step closer, into perfume and warmth and an oddly pleasurable sense of danger. “What are you reading, then?”
Was she blushing? Anya never blushed. He’d have wagered a substantial sum on the certainty that she couldn’t. But no, her colour was higher than usual, as was her voice: “Just a little… Nothing. It’s not a very good book anyway.”
Silently he took it from her slackened grasp and inspected the cover. The West Country of England: A Green and Pleasant Place.
“I was talking about Bath this afternoon, wasn’t I,” he said cautiously.
“Yep! So I just thought, anyway, it doesn’t matter.” She reached out to grab the book back.
But he didn’t let her. Instead he covered her hand with his own, and held on. “Would you like to hear more about my home, Anya?”
“Are you… are you interested in seeing it someday?”
“Yes,” she said. “If you ever want me to see it, that is.”
The book fell to the floor, its pages fluttering on the way down. Anya’s fingers fluttered in his clasp, too, and then stilled, and then linked with his.
“Oh yes. Let’s discuss this over coffee,” he said. He pulled her to her feet and into him. He was prepared for the impact. He was, he realized, prepared for her.
Giles loved bookshops. One never knew what gifts one would find there.