Lovers Nots
written by Appomattoxco


Rating: FRT
Spoilers: Season six canon up to "Life Serial" Xander and Anya haven't told anyone they are engaged yet.
Summary: Anya and Giles attend [N]exus [O]ccult [T]rade [S]how: an inter-dimensional occult supply trade show. Hopefully wackiness will ensue.
Thanks: Thanks to TalesofSpike for the beta.
Feedback Author: Appomattoxco
Author's LJ: Tales From The Tourist Trap


Giles realized shortly after meeting Anya that her vivacity and outspokenness could be energizing and amusing -- or annoying as hell. Recently, much to his dismay, he found everything about her far too attractive. There was no sign that this was anything but one sided. If anything, Anya was more wrapped up in Xander than usual. "Would you stop fiddling Anya? You rearranged those shelves before closing last night," Giles said. His attempt at an annoyed glare was wasted on the round bottom that wiggled enticingly at eye level as Anya stood on the step ladder, moving some crystals around.

"If I weren't in a committed relationship with Xander I'd have sex with you."

Giles made a sound somewhere between a whimper and a groan. He was instantly grateful that Anya still had her back turned and took the noise as protest.

"Well, Buffy coming back from the dead hasn't made you happy. You obviously need something to improve your mood. If you're like this over the weekend, you'll scare all of our costumers away while I'm gone."

"You haven't said anything about a trip. Let me guess. Xander has finally decided to whisk you off to Vegas. I hear it's a nice place for a honeymoon. I'm sure he won't gamble away much of the community property." Anya got down from the ladder while Giles was speaking, and by the time he finished she was facing him so kept his tone light and lifted the corner of his mouth in a slight grin.

"You know Xander is actually very responsible with money. He doesn't have my flare for investment but he's very good about not spending foolishly. Aside from a comic now and then, he hardly ever buys anything frivolous."

"It was quite frugal of him to forgo buying you a birthday present this year."

"That's an example of British humor isn't it? Good for you! Keep trying to buck up!"

Anya's tone had been cheerful enough but she was giving a hard look that prompted Giles to change the subject or rather to get it back on track. "So, where are you going?"

"Oh, the NOTS. I' thought I could combine business with pleasure."

"Knots?"

"N.O.T.S. - the Nexus Occult Trade Show," Anya explained. "The portal is in L.A. this year. It's a wonderful opportunity to make some interdimensional contacts and see what new on the market."

"You're going to hop dimensions with Xander!"

"Don't get you panties in a knot - or whatever it is Spike says. It a perfectly stable dimensional nexus set up for business purposes. It's like a mystical Deep Space 5. Besides, the hotel suite I reserved has a hot tub and a fire place."

Giles did his best to banish the vision of Anya, lying in bed, the fire making her damp, naked skin glow. Instead, he focused on the thought of Xander treating a trade show full of witches and demons like a science-fiction convention. "Isn't that the show with the aliens that look like Cardassian Demons but speak like Watchers?"

"Yes, it is, I don't even think they bothered to change the name of aliens to something else. Of course Cardassians are really just dumb thugs like Fayrls only without the big horns and genitals. Giles, we've just made a pop-culture reference in casual conversation!" Anya looked around disappointed there were no witnesses.

"I am unutterably proud." Giles sighed. "My point is that, on that show, one alien is always spilling his beer on another in the pub and causing a war to break out."

Anya threw up her hands. "So? I'll pretend Xander is his father and keep him away from the bar."

The bell over the door jingled and any response Giles had to her words was left unsaid. The after-school crowd had finally shown up and the shop was too busy for the rest of the day for anything but their well practiced routine of customer service.

The trade show was forgotten until Xander showed up to drive Anya home. She greeted the boy with a warm smile that tied a hard knot, made of equal parts envy and guilt, in Giles' gut.

"Hi there, Giles. Is there an apocalypse we should know about or did the cash register come up short?" Xander asked then greeted Anya with a kiss.

"No, no – Everything's fine… Just wool gathering." Giles said while he cleaned his glasses to avoid the visual.

"Oh, he's just worried you'll set off an interstellar incident. Just promise not to spill beer on the aliens, Xander." Anya answered after ending the kiss and Giles' discomfort.

"Um, did Spike come in and accidentally ignite some of the more interesting herbs in here?" Xander asked, sniffing.

"No, silly, I'm talking about the trade show this weekend."

"Yeah, how dumb of me not to know that right off. Um, look, Ahn, about that…"

"Wait `til you see the hotel. It's so nice!"

"You'll have to take lots of pictures."

"What!" Anya shouted.

"I can't go. This job is way behind and we're so shorthanded they need to us work the weekends." Then Xander's voice inched dangerously close to a whine. "I'll get paid double overtime."

Anya crossed over her chest and her cheeks were angry red flags. "I paid the fee for two people, Xander. Why can't you just take off? You'd do it if Buffy needed help."

"This is a trade show we're talking about, not the end of the world," Xander reasoned.

Anya looked ready to explode and Giles decided to remind the couple that they weren't alone. "Perhaps you should finish this discussion at home?"

"Why don't you go with Giles? Tara could watch the shop and it's his business anyway," Xander offered.

"He's supposed to be the silent partner now. Besides, this was going to be a practice run for our honeymoon."

"Anya is the oldest person in this room, possibly this state. I'm sure she can take care of herself for one weekend away," Giles said.

"I thought we agreed to wait to make an announcement?" Xander complained.

"You…" Anya poked a finger at Xander chest as she spoke. "Can spend the weekend thinking about whether or not you want to announce our engagement at all. As for you, Giles, you're coming with me. I paid for two people and it's too late to get a refund." There was a lust for vengeance in her eyes that caused both Giles and Xander to swallow hard and nod meekly.

* * * * *

Anya got into the passenger side of the minivan Giles had rented, and took out her day planner. She had explained earlier that the nexus could interfere with electronics so they would need to rely on pen and paper, as if that were a hardship for her partner. "I've got a list of things we need to restock and things we've been looking for. I've also made a note of what we pay our current vendors for our more popular items. That way we won't need to rely on memory to get a better price."

"I really hate the thought of driving this for two hours."

"Stop grumbling. You drove a wreck for years. This is the first time I've been away from Sunnydale since graduation. I plan to enjoy it."

"You seem to be in a much better mood. You and Xander have settled your differences?"

"Yes, we did. We broke up," Anya said. Her voice was more subdued but not upset. "I went out last night to pick up a few things for the trip and when I got back he was on the sofa with Tito, a guy from work, playing Ratchett and Clank."

"What!" Giles stamped on the brakes at the corner and turned in shock to face Anya.

"It's a video game, Giles. I never realized you had such a good imagination."

Giles considered lying but there was no use in pretending he had known what she had been talking about. "I don't understand - You broke up because he had a friend over to play video games."

"I looked at him sitting there and I knew that he wasn't ready to get married and that marrying him would be a pretty rotten thing to do to the best friend I've ever had. I asked them if they wanted a fruit rollup or something to drink and Xander looked up and he knew too." What Anya didn't share was that Xander had answered, "Sure, mom." There were some things even she wouldn't share. "He told me he'd move out while I was gone."

"A lot of grown men find it relaxing to play video games. It's not really an indicator of maturity." Giles couldn't believe that he was defending Xander to Anya but he told himself he wouldn't take advantage of the situation.

"Don't mock my moment of clarity. My first thought when I saw him was, `What a sweet boy.' I should have been imagining him playing with our children."

They rode quietly for a while, both of them lost in their own thoughts. Giles was tempted to ask Anya what she thought when she looked at him. The answer would probably be along the lines of, `What a nice old man,' anyway. To avoid the potential humiliation he decided to bring up his worry over Buffy. "Yes, well, maybe the time away will be good for all of us. Buffy has gone back to slaying but she can't seem to settle in and take on her duties to Dawn or decide how to go on with her life. Maybe, if I'm not there to rely on, she'll stand on her own two feet."

"Now it's my turn to look ridiculously shocked. Too bad I can't slam on the brakes."

"What on earth did I say that was so shocking?"

"Give me a minute to get it all organized and to marvel at the fact that I'm the one defending Buffy's actions."

"Very funny, Anya. I thought I could have an adult conversation with you about my concerns. Maybe it would be best if we just listened to the radio for the rest of the drive."

"I'm sorry. I like that you want to talk about what you has worried. Don't turn on the radio unless you don't really want to hear my honest opinion."

"If I ask you anything, you can be sure I'm only looking for the unvarnished truth."

"Ok, then. She's a girl who's barely out of her teens and barely out of her grave. Unless hell dimensions are nicer than they used to be, she hasn't finished going through the seven stages of grief for her mother. I don't even think Dawn has yet. Do you honestly think she should be over it already? At Buffy's age, you might have been ready to take care of a baby with the mother's help but would you have been a good single parent to a sibling only five years younger than you? Slayers are supposed to save the world Giles. You're expecting Buffy to carry it around."

Giles didn't respond to any of this until he pulled into a gas station some time later. Then, he switched off the engine. He turned in his seat to face her and said, "I would've made a horrible parent to anyone at Buffy's age. I was a selfish idiot and apparently I haven't changed as much as I thought."

"Don't be so hard on yourself. You're chromosome-ally challenged. Men, even ones as smart as you, often behave like idiots without meaning to. I'm just grateful you aren't angry with me. Maybe it was all those years as demon but I can't seem to resist taking that last step into the land of too far."

"There are times when it's very necessary for someone to go there. Today was one of them. And today is my day to overcome the handicaps of my gender. Somewhere along way I made a wrong turn and I need to go in and ask for directions."

Anya laughed and said "Admitting the need is a huge victory in itself. I need to use the restroom anyway. I'll go in and ask. Would you like me pick up a drink or a snack while I'm at it?"

"We shouldn't be that far from the hotel, dear. I'll wait until we can have dinner there." Giles had a moment of mild panic over the endearment and tried to think. He'd called Anya dear before, hadn't he? In a purely casual way. Anya made no comment on it and he convinced himself that the extra bounce in her step as she walked away was all in his head.

Once they sorted out the directions, Anya slipped a CD into the stereo. The familiar sound of an old standard, not something Giles had ever heard Anya listen to, filled the dark vehicle. She would occasionally play new age crap very low in the shop for `atmosphere' but for the most part she listened to bouncy pop. "What's this Anya? That's not Sinatra."

"I had this picked out when I thought Xander was coming."

"Surely, this isn't his sort of music."

"Aren't you a little old to still look at your parents' music with disdain?" Anya teased with a smile in her voice. "This was picked out because it goes with the space station TV show metaphor. The singer is James Darren. He was on Deep Space 5. I have some Klingon opera, too, but I like this better. Besides, you would probably complain about the faulty pronunciation."

"Klingon? No, on second thoughts, I don't want to know. We'll listen to this." A while later he was occasionally humming along with Anya. When they pulled into the hotel lot All the Way began to play. The song brought back happy memories of his parents dancing together and fitted his own feelings so well that he couldn't bring himself to turn the key and end it.

"Xander loves me – but not enough, not all the way," Anya confessed when the song ended, then sniffled a little and asked, "Are we there yet?"

* * * * *

Anya came out of the bathroom wearing pink cotton pajamas that looked like a feminine version of navy pair he had in his hands. He hadn't been living like a monk but it had been a while since he'd had this kind of domestic intimacy with a woman. Giles hadn't even realized he missed it, but it was possible that he simply craved any kind of intimacy at all with this particular woman.

"You're frowning again, Giles. It's not very flattering that you were so angry about having to share a room with me. All the rooms reserved for the show have two beds. There's no need to go all Claudette Colbert on me. It's not like I'm going to take one look at you in your nightshirt and jump your bones."

Giles flushed as the words. `I wish,' flashed through his brain before he began cleaning his glasses on his pajamas and started on the cover up. It was the fact that Anya was so blasé about sharing a room that had him upset. "Nightshirt! Who do you think I am? Scrooge?"

`I might as well find myself a good vet when we get back to Sunnydale and have myself seen to,' Giles thought. `Obviously, I'm about as sexually stimulating as sharing the room with her maiden aunt.'

"Don't be silly. The ghosts killed him long before you were born."

Ignoring another crushed holiday tradition, Giles asked, "Did you even try to get another room when you decided I was coming?"

"Now who's calling whom a Scrooge? The desk clerk told you the hotel's been fully booked for months."

"I'm sorry. Aren't you even a little upset about the false advertising?"

"So there's only one hot tub down by the pool and the fireplace is in the lobby. The pleasure part of the trip has been canceled anyway."

`On second thoughts, no need to visit the vet. A few more comments like that and they'll shrivel up and drop off on their own,' snarked the watcher's inner voice.

"I thought dinner was very pleasant. I didn't bore you, did I?"

"If you had, you know I would've complained. Dinner was nice. I talked as much as you did and you're a good listener. I liked learning stuff about you."

"Things like living with Olivia for a year before I came Sunnydale and owning a beagle named Hush when I was twelve are hardly deep dark secrets."

"I like knowing the light stuff, too. I want the whole Rupert Giles…"

`Giles can't be getting ready to kiss me,' Anya thought. `He's Giles. His eyes are always intense and everyone licks their lips.'

"Do you?" Giles asked. `Ah, not your Auntie after all.'

"Picture! I want to get to know you. Right now, you should get into bed- I mean ready for bed. We need our sleep. We'll be doing a lot of walking around tomorrow. Stop trying to frustr… fluster me. I've been around a long time and it won't work, no matter how intense and sexy your gaze gets." Giles went into the bathroom, laughing, and Anya threw a pillow at his back. After he was done, she filled a glass of water for the night and was gratified to see the mirror hadn't steamed up at all.

* * * * *

"Here's your ID tag, Giles. Whatever you do, do not lose it. It's the only way you can get into and out of the nexus. Without it that floor of the hotel will just look like a bunch of empty conference rooms being renovated."

"Yes, Anya." They stepped though the door together and felt a shimmer of magic that Xander would have found satisfyingly Star Trek like.

"And you can pick out the books but I do the negotiating on price." Anya continued laying the ground rules without pause, "You get emotional about the moldy old things and the dealers can spot it a mile off."

"Anything else?" Giles asked. The place was huge and crowded with humans and demons of every description. There must have been an acoustics spell in place because, while they could clearly hear everyone talking, it didn't seem noisy.

"We're not here to buy weapons for Buffy. We're here to buy for the shop."

"Agreed."

"Why are your eyes sparkling like that?"

"Sparkling?" Giles asked, a little alarmed, and looked around for a mirror.

"Relax! I meant sparkling mischievously not mystically."

"I've lived on the Hellmouth far too long," Giles said, looking at the tag on Anya's shirt. "What do the numbers next to the names mean?"

"Oh, that's to say which Giles and Anya we are. The first three numbers indicate the dimension. See, we're from 147 and the fourth number is for the show records. I have a number three so I'm the third me to enter the nexus."

"There are other versions of us here? That could be disconcerting."

"Not necessarily. We could just be the third version of me and the fifth version of you to ever attend or there could be a dozen of us and we were the third and fifth to book, but look around at all of these people. The odds are against running into yourself," Anya answered while sniffing a candle.

The person running the candle stall, a woman with a thick, black braid down her back, wearing a heavily embroidered purple dress, finished a transaction on the other side of the aisle and turned to them. She smiled at Anya and was about to start her sales pitch when she saw Giles and her smile became warmer. "Rupert!"

"Amanda, is that you?" Giles asked as he tried to read her name tag.

"Yes, Amanda Tolley, 147 vendor. I'm your Manda. Confusing keeping track here sometimes, isn't it?"

"Well, to be honest, I haven't had a chance to be confused, yet. We just got here. How have you been? Are you still living in Exeter?" Giles said.

"I'm just fine and I can tell by looking at you, you're doing very well. I'm still in Devon. This is part of how the coven raises funds. I've got a peach of a spot for us this year. You practically need to sign away your soul for a place near the entrance."

"That wouldn't be literally, would it? My Giles can be picky about that sometimes, you know?

How much a piece for these and what's your minimum order? On second thoughts, we'll wait and pick something up on the way out," Anya said in her `professional' voice.

"Oh, yes, I can definitely see that you are doing well, Rupert." Amanda laughed, gave Giles a kiss on the cheek and then said, "Blessings to you both," as they walked on.

"Don't touch that!" Anya said. Giles dropped the bone he'd been about to examine more closely and dropped it on the table filled with relics and daggers where he'd found it.

"Why? What is it?"

"It's an intercostals clavicle bone of a proto-demon. It's known to trigger a series of unlikely events."

"What sort of unlikely events?"

"Oh you know large cats, small dogs, romantic entanglements…" Anya smiled and actually winked. "Basically the same sort problems the McGuffin Stone causes."

"You're kidding me!"

"Yes, that's just the plot of an old movie." Anya laughed. "I don't know what the bone really does but did you see the price on that moldy, old thing? I just didn't want you to break it."

Giles' hand truck filled slowly but surely over the next few hours and Anya's notebook was getting thicker, filling up with order forms and brochures. The next dealer to gain their attention did so by force. He had the face of a Shar Pei and the voice of a used car salesman. His fast, well-practiced sales pitch touted the benefits of his beginner potion kits. They didn't buy anything from him but Giles could see Anya's wheels turning. She was thinking that they could make up something like this on their own.

They agreed that the next stop would be the last before lunch. It was a real relief that the owner of Babel Spell Books and Prophetic Scrolls let them browse on their own for a while. Giles found a few books he'd been looking for for years, and a scroll that looked like it might have something of interest in it. The book dealer was an older man with very thick, black-rimmed glasses and a kind face. His nametag said Harold Smith 148 vendor.

"Excellent choice, Rupert. I'm glad you and Anya could make it again this year. You do realize that scroll is only partially relevant to your friends, Spike and Buffy. Because of it's origin in that dimension it's more likely to really pertain to the next dimension over, you know, 147." Giles tried to correct Mr. Smith's misconception but he wasn't given a chance to speak. "Anya, dear, how is that little one of yours? Christina must be walking by now and getting into everything. I remember when mine were that age. I know godparents with superpowers would have come in mighty handy. Don't you worry. Buffy won't let Spike spoil the girl too badly and the two of you can use the time away to work on a baby brother for Christina."

"It's not fair," Anya declared, picking at her salad while the server offered Giles more tea. "You meet an old orgasm friend the minute we arrive. Here I am single for the first time in… ever, and what do I get? An old man asking after my baby. I know I said this weekend was supposed to have a Star Trek theme but I didn't mean you should turn into Captain Kirk."

"I suppose I should let you go on being jealous but Amanda's really only a friend of a friend. I needed the name tag to remind me who she was." Then after bite or two, looking thoughtful, he asked, "What do you think she looks like? She must be lovely?"

"Your friend, Amanda?

"Don't be ridiculous. I mean the little girl. Christina's a pretty name, don't you think?" Giles answered a tender smile on his face.

"But, Giles, you went so pale while Harold was talking I thought you were horrified! And believe me I should know horrified when I see it."

"I think it's safe to say I was horrified. Can you imagine Spike caring for a toddler?"

"He would be far too indulgent but it probably just fills in for the lack of grandparents."

Giles suppressed a shudder. "Yes, I can see him now letting her have all the sweets she wants and teaching her to dunk them in blood to boot, maybe winning her a kitten at poker. Good Lord, what are you doing to my mind Anya? That actually sounds cute."

* * * * *

"Anya, come here. Hold this sword for me. I want to see if it's as good a fit as I think."

"Thank you for the thought but I prefer jewelry, with or without charms of protection or power attached."

"Yes, I know that, Anya." Giles smiled and strained for charming rather than wheedling. "It's for Buffy. I thought I'd put it away for her birthday. Your hands are about the same size."

"We agreed you wouldn't be buying stuff for Buffy today." Anya was working at being angry but it was clear she was in a good mood and didn't really want to spoil it.

"I already picked up something for you when you weren't looking."

"Well, alright, but only because you'd pay way too much if you got it retail. You haven't charmed me with your boyish grin and non-mystical sparkly eyes."

"No, of c-." Something soft hitting his shin, followed by small human-sounding `grrr argh', interrupted Giles. When he looked down, he discovered a toy leopard. Kneeling, Giles looked right into the green eyes of the owner of the furry missile and felt his heart melt.

"I'm sorry," Anya 148 said as Giles stood up slowly. "It's her latest game. Her Uncle Spike was watching her yesterday and he taught her to make Baby `attack' people. I've been picking this thing up and apologizing to his victims all morning. I should be glad everyone else was busy and that William got the chicken pox so Spike and Buffy couldn't baby-sit for us or who knows what he'd be teaching her." The two Anyas laughed at the sounds the toddler was making and her mother explained. "I think she's getting a little frustrated that she can't growl as well as Spike."

"She's… beautiful. Doesn't … I'm sorry. I just don't have the words…"

"That's just what her father said the first time he saw her and she was no where near as pretty then."

Giles 148 had come over to stand beside his family and both Giles avoided looking at each other. This broke the moment and the Anyas shared a misty smile before taking their respective partners away in opposite directions. The vendors had begun to pack up and it was time to go home.

* * * * *

"You've made a wrong turn."

"I know, Anya. I thought it would be nice to take the scenic route. Are we in a rush to get home?"

"You remember we have a book of prophecies in the backseat that have to do with Buffy?"

"Of course I remember!" Giles said, even though he really hadn't given it much thought.

"And you still want to take the `scenic route' home?" Anya said, shock and wonder making her voice a little shaky. "Giles you're in love with me!"

"I thought it would be nice to spend a little more time alone. Haven't I made it pretty clear that I want to change our relationship?"

"Yes, but wanting me to be your orgasm friend is a lot different from saying you love me," Anya accused.

"I haven't said I love you." Because you're not ready to hear it yet. "You're the one who's said it!" Giles pulled to the side of the road. This wasn't how he wanted things to go with Anya. He wanted to take it slow and be sure he was more than just a replacement for Xander.

"You might as well have. Xander would never take the long way home with a prophecy about Buffy in the backseat."

"Well, it's a good thing I'm not bloody Xander then!"

"No, you sound more like Spike."

"For information `bloody' is an expletive, not the bloody birthday song. I don't need to pay Spike, or anyone else, royalties to use it!"

"Why are we arguing? We just admitted we love each other. Aren't we supposed to be kissing now?" Anya asked.

"Maybe that's because neither of us has actually said it yet." Giles laughed in relief. It may be happening faster than he had planned but Anya returned his feelings.

"Well, it's obvious you love me with all your heart," Anya said smugly. "You acted mushier than English peas over seeing Christina and, as I mentioned, you're ignoring Buffy."

"Christina was amazing." Giles gave Anya a look that dared her to argue.

"Of course she was. Some things are constants in all dimensions. We have excellent genes."

"Do you really want us to rush home and translate the prophecies?" Giles asked.

"Only if you have to. I wouldn't want the world to end right now. Things are just getting interesting. What I really want is for you to tell me how you feel."

"I feel like this is too important to rush. I feel like I don't have the time to waste waiting to be sure I'm not just the – What's the phrase? The rebound guy."

"Giles, you can't be the rebound guy. Xander was the rebound guy. You'd have to be the ricochet guy and that's silly."

"I don't understand."

"Xander was my safety net after I lost my powers, not that D'Hoffryn and I had that kind of relationship. That would be like you and Buffy…" They both shuddered a bit and Anya continued. "So I kind of push Xander into being together because I didn't want to be alone." Her voice got smaller as she said this and she looked like she might be sick.

"You could never push me into something I didn't want, love. And I've never been called `safe' in my life."

"So Spike doesn't hold a patent on `love' either?"

"No, he most certainly doesn't and it's a good thing, too, because I love you and you love me."

"Yes." Anya laughed and said, "And there might be giant purple dinosaurs in our future!"

"What?"

"Never mind! I believe he changed law firms and was replaced by a couple of hamsters. I think we're supposed to be kissing now."

END