Holding On
written by Head Rush

Rating: FRC
Spoilers: Through "Grave".
Summary: Written for the Gilesficathon on LiveJournal. Assignment called for Giles/Anya; Schmoopy fluff perhaps following `Grave' or `Tabula Rasa'; No Buffy bashing, no sad ending; and a mention of Turkish coffee.
Thanks: To Lori for the betas, and Vatwoman and KathyP for the read throughs!
Feedback Author: Head Rush

Anya blinked. Willow had obviously injured Giles' brain. "Xander?"

He continued to look at her as if it all made perfect sense. "Yes. It was he who got to her in time. He saved us all." Giles smiled at her, a smile of pure happiness that they were alive, together, here.

"No, Giles. You saved us," she explained patiently. "Remember, with the stern looks and the `I'd like to test that theory?' And the series of unfortunate events which followed?" She sure as hell wouldn't be forgetting them anytime soon.

He was still gazing at her with that look of such… joy, and then there was no wordy, Gilesy way to express the surge of feeling that stopped brain and heart simultaneously. She seized the dusty lapels of his overcoat in a firm but friendly grip, and kissed him long and hard so he'd know she meant it. After a few moments she didn't even need to restrain him.

As she pulled away, slightly stunned, she said, "Thank you." It was only polite, and she was sorry she hadn't thought to say it when he'd first arrived. The shock of it, the fact that he'd looked sexier than ever, and the overwhelming sense of relief simply that he had come to save her… and everyone… had combined to make her forget her manners.

Giles still looked happy, fortunately, but now he was clearly confused as well. "Er, pleasure."

"Giles, I'm so sorry!" she blurted. "It was my fault you almost died! Not entirely of course, but still, I feel bad."

He laughed softly, then winced and wrapped his arms around his middle. "Don't be daft. It wasn't your fault. No one could've bested Willow at that point. I certainly couldn't. It took the mystical energy of eleven people to overpower her last night. I could hardly expect you to match her." He reached out and clasped her hand warmly, strongly, in his.

She had a flashback to the moment he'd taken her hand the first time, a few hours ago, when he was dying and still trying to comfort her; telling her it wasn't over, there was still hope, he still believed they could all come through this and everything would be all right. Still concerned about her feelings, even then.

His free hand came up to rub his temple. "I should never have left you alone with her. I thought you'd died." His eyes closed on the memory, then opened, and the look he gave her was so full of concern that she could have cried. It had been a long time since anyone had looked at her that way. "Are you all right? You were unconscious, then I was unconscious, and I don't know what happened after that."

"I'm okay," she nodded, sucking in her bottom lip. His stare seemed to reach into her, weighing her up in case she still needed saving but wouldn't…couldn't... say so.

"Sure?" he pressed.

Just as she was about to reassure him, a beam torn loose from its joist cracked and fell, becoming entangled with wires that sent sparks dancing across the floor.

Giles hissed, and gave her a rueful look.

She'd forgotten that she still had a death grip on his hand. Reluctantly, she released him. "Sorry."

He stroked that hand down her upper arm, and she was glad she'd freed him after all. "Let's get out of here," he said.

She pulled his arm across her shoulders and, with much puffing and groaning, got him to his feet. They stood among the ruins for a minute, surveying the wreckage of their livelihoods, before he allowed her to steer him around the assorted obstacles between them and the front door. They had to stop a couple of times when his pain got too bad.

They emerged, squinting, into the morning sunlight that neither of them had thought they'd see, and grinned at one another. Anya locked up the store with a due sense of irony, and turned to move to the right.

Giles tugged at her. "Buffy's house is the other way."

"We're going to my apartment. You'll never make it to Buffy's. You can call her when we get there."

He shook his head. "No. Willow – "

"If she hasn't killed them by now, she isn't going to."

"I meant – "

"It's okay, Giles. They'll take care of her for a few hours. Let someone take care of you, for a change." She started them stumbling forward again, hoping that right now he couldn't talk and walk at the same time.

Her apartment was only a couple of blocks away, and she kept him moving as fast as she dared. When they finally reached her place, she raced through the counter-wards and opened the door. "Go and sit on the couch. Try not to bleed or drool on it."

He shrugged out of his coat and let it fall to the floor. "Understood."

He obeyed without further comment, so she went to rummage through the bathroom cabinet. Band-aids, Q-tips, Midol – he wouldn't want that – what else, what else… aspirin, he'd definitely want that... antiseptic cream. She grabbed a clean facecloth and filled a bowl with water. Buffy had half a hospital supply room under her bathroom sink, and she had nothing unless the patient had cramps and/or a paper cut. Maybe it hadn't been such a great idea to drag him back to her lair. She stuck her head out of the bathroom and looked down the hall to make sure he was still there. He was.

She gathered up everything that might be remotely useful, and went back out to the living room. Giles lay sprawled on the couch, a long streak of dirt on the white linen upholstery mapping the path one of his boots had taken as he'd fallen asleep. At least, she hoped he was asleep, and not…

"Giles?" Nothing. "Giles!" She knelt, grabbed handfuls of his sweater, and shook him. He yelped. He wasn't dead. "Don't do that! I have some stuff to put on you." She indicated the pile on the coffee table, and he eyed it with suspicion.

"The contents of a vengeance demon's bathroom cabinet."

"Yes. Can you sit up?"

He moved slightly, and winced. "No."

"Okay, we'll do it right here."

His eyes glazed over for a moment, probably from the terrible injuries that he had sustained saving the world.

"Lift up your shirt."

His face went from horribly pale to pink. "I don't think so."

Maybe it hurt too much. "Do you want me to do it for you?"

And now his face was well and truly red. She stared at him, waiting for him to overcome his Britishness.

"There's nothing you can do."

"I can call an ambulance if you need one. Come on, Giles, let me see."

He did. It looked bad enough, but she'd seen and done worse.

He needed more help than she could give him, but right now she'd do all she could, starting him off easy until the others arrived with Xander's car and they could get him to the hospital. She wet the facecloth and dabbed gently at the gash on his temple.

He made a soft noise of pain, and said, "You're into vengeance again."

Smooth, how he'd made that connection. For the first time, she felt almost embarrassed about it. "Uh-huh."

He considered for a moment. "I suppose, as Buffy once said to me, it's a valid choice, lifestyle-wise." His mouth quirked, but there was something in his smile that definitely didn't signal amusement.

"I didn't think you'd approve, seeing as how alternate-dimensional you made me mortal and stuff," she reminded him.

"I don't. But I'm hardly in a position to judge the choices you… or anyone else… has made. I was a watcher; then I wasn't; then everything went to hell, and now, it seems, I am again. I need to try and clear up some of the messes I've made."

Anya paused in what she was doing as the beautiful synchronicity of their lives was revealed. "I was a vengeance demon; then I wasn't, then everything went to hell, and now I am again." She had a feeling she still had some more messes to create, but the whole thing with Willow had dampened her enthusiasm, no denying that. Willow had ruined it for everybody.

He reached up and briefly closed his hand around hers. "We're a fine pair."

She beamed. Actually, they were. He was smart, and kind, and brave, and hot, and had excellent business sense, if not math skills – but she had those. Why hadn't she seen it before? And here he was, nobly wounded, lying helpless on her couch. This was her chance to do something right for a change. Suddenly she realised that she had been staring at him with a stupid grin on her face. She blinked, and registered the equally stupid grin on his face. Was that love, or a concussion? And now she was almost as scared as she'd been last night.

His forehead was all clean now, so she blotted it dry with some kitchen towels and slathered it with antiseptic cream, then covered it with a big band-aid. She repeated the process with his battered knuckles.

He let her work, and when she had finished, he said, "Thank you. You are an angel among vengeance demons."

She smiled. Trust Giles to come up with a line she hadn't heard in eleven hundred years.

He lifted an arm and tucked an unruly strand of hair behind her ear. He'd never done that before. "You said last night that there were things you wanted to tell me."

"There are. But it's harder to tell you when you're conscious." She frowned. "I thought you were dead when I said that."

"Well then, you left it a bit late, didn't you?" he said dryly. When she opened her mouth but, for once, no words came out, he nodded. "There are things I want to tell you, too."

There were? "There are?"

He did that thing that was halfway between a smile and a laugh. "Yes."

That was a good sign, but she needed a minute. "Okay, you go first."

He tried to sit up, and made it halfway. "I…I don't really know how to say this," he began. He smiled helplessly, shook his head, took her face in his hands, and kissed her. There was a lot less ambiguity that time.

As he leaned forward, he gave a moan… not a good one… and she disengaged. "Oh honey," she said, and as one, they blinked at the endearment. She broke the silence. "Let's get you to bed."

He protested, but not too much. She helped him down the hall and onto the bed, then undid his boots – Doc Martens, very nice, but not what she wanted smeared across her very expensive pure silk sheets – and hovered as he lay down, then stood back to survey her handiwork. He looked fairly comfortable, and must have been, because he was asleep in seconds.

Last night he'd shown them a side of himself they hadn't seen before; caring, but closed off and incredibly masterful, not to mention self-sacrificing. He came over expecting to die, yet he had still noticed that she was blonde. Again. Giles noticed the little things other people missed. Maybe he'd been trained to do that. No, probably, it was just him. He had an eye for detail. How much was there about him that they had missed?

She went into the kitchen and brewed a pot of Turkish coffee, which, she knew, would have her awake for the rest of the day, and probably through another night as well. Long enough to make sure Giles was going to be okay, anyway. She poured a generous splash into the mug, then left a message on Buffy's machine and went back to the bedroom. She was so tired it felt like the floor was rolling under her feet. It was like being back on Olaf's damned fishing boat. She had to stay awake for Giles. She took a sip of the coffee; it was warm and strong and sweet and deep like him.

Anya hadn't been able to protect him before, but she could now. She wouldn't leave him alone again. Stealthily, so as not to alarm him, she got on the bed and lay down beside him. When he didn't react, she inched a little closer, in a manner not unlike that of a hunter stalking a bunny.

She snuggled in for the kill, leaning against him and resting her hand lightly on his chest, just so that she could feel his heartbeat.

He opened his eyes and gave her a sleepy grin. "Erm, hello."

"Hello. I thought it would be nice if we slept together." She gave him her brightest smile, and let the interpretation fall where it would; not that anything would happen until he was all – or at least mostly – healed. She was not quite as strangely literal as she had once been, and she very much hoped that was one of the other things he might have noticed.

He laughed, carefully, so as not to hurt himself. "For today, how about we just rest together?"

He got it. Giles always got it. She wriggled happily. "That's good too."

He pulled her closer, and into a soft, deep, perfect kiss. When they surfaced he said, "You don't need to hold me so hard. I'm not going anywhere."