Title: Interlude Two -- Moral Lessons
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: All your Buffy are belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy & etc.
Summary: Anya gets someone to make a wish. But it's not what she was hoping for ...
Spoilers: Begins mid B:tVS "Entropy" (6.18). Veers into AU.
Series: 3rd of 12 in Lesser Men series.
Notes: Originally posted May 17, 2002. Caveat lector.
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The bell rang over the door of the Magic Box, interrupting Anya's conversation with Halfrek. Anya frowned, then brightened cautiously. Maybe it would be someone who could wish against Xander for her! That would be nice. Anyway, it would be a distraction. She turned towards the potential customer with a polite smile on her face, then froze as she recognized him.
"Giles?" she gasped.
What was he doing here? Wasn't he supposed to be England? What on earth was he wearing? And ... Wait a minute. *Giles* didn't have any patience with Xander. Maybe she could get *him* to make a wish.
Sure, he was male. As such, he didn't exactly fit her usual wish-granting profile, but she could ignore that just this once. After all, the wish was for *her*. This might be her chance! A genuine smile began to curve her lips up, and she took a step towards him.
"Anya," he answered, smiling pleasantly back, with a small puzzled line between his brows. "I didn't expect you'd be here. Weren't you meant to be on honeymoon?"
What a perfect opening! Anya burst into tears and rushed towards the Watcher. "Oh, Giles, it's awful!" she cried, burying her face in his shirt.
She heard Halfrek laugh softly behind her. "I'll just be going," the other vengeance demon said. "So, you know. Good luck. With that whole... thing."
Giles didn't seem to hear Halfrek; he dropped his luggage and put his arms awkwardly around Anya. "Whatever is the matter?" he asked, sounding distressed. "Did Xander ..."
He didn't seem to know how to finish that sentence, but that was okay. He was asking all the right questions! Anya smiled briefly against his muscular chest, sniffled a bit for effect, and lifted her tearstained face.
"Oh he did, all right," she said, her voice thick with emotion. "He made a fool of me, Giles. He left me at the altar."
"What?" he exclaimed. "Surely you don't mean ..."
Anya thought she could hear surprise and a little bit of outrage in his voice. Good. He wouldn't need much encouraging, then. She took a step back from Giles, letting a little of her anger show.
"I do mean. He had some stupid visions and decided to believe them. He said he wasn't ready. He said he didn't want to hurt me! And then he just left! Right in the middle of everything! I had to go back in and tell all the guests, and the musicians were playing 'Here Comes the Bride' ..." She trailed off, sniffling again, and wrapped her arms around herself. She didn't have to fake the tears that were falling now; just thinking about that moment made her miserable.
"Oh, Anya," Giles said. He pulled her back towards him, instantly protective. "I am so sorry. I knew the boy was not ready for marriage, but I thought he would adjust. I never imagined he would do something so hurtful."
"I just ... I just ... We were so happy," she said quietly.
"Mmm." Giles made a comforting noise, and Anya felt it rumble in his chest. The fabric of his shirt was warm and just the least bit rough against her skin; it tickled when he moved.
Absently, Anya rubbed her cheek against the shirt and took a deep breath. "How could Xander do this?"
"I don't know, Anya," Giles answered, rubbing one of his strong hands between her shoulder blades. "He has always had problems with maturity. Perhaps for understandable reasons. For your sake, however, I wish he would grow up."
Anya froze. She'd actually forgotten about the wishing, there for a second; she was all caught up in the refuge Giles presented. Damn! And what kind of a wish *was* that, anyway? She should have known he would be practical about it.
Giles frowned at her when she backed away from him again, and the little puzzled line on his forehead grew suspicious cousins around his eyes. Well, it couldn't be helped. It was too late now.
"Couldn't you have wished for something a little more painful?" she asked, wiping her tears away with the back of her hand.
"What do you ... Oh, dear Lord."
"Done," she whispered, shifting briefly into her demonic visage and then back again.
"Anya, why?" Giles shook his head, looking stunned.
Anya couldn't help but feel a little sorry for him. She'd hated him once, when his alter-self had broken her power center and left her human; she'd also loved him once, when Willow's amnesia spell had left them here together. And now she'd used him to get revenge. A pretty poor kind of revenge in her opinion, but there it was.
"Well," she said, matter-of-factly. "I'm the patron saint of scorned women, aren't I? Was I supposed to let *myself* be scorned without doing something about it?"
He sighed and shook his head at her, then picked up his luggage again and walked slowly over to the table, where he took a seat. He looked old again. Anya didn't like that look on him. He'd worn it too often last summer, before Willow brought Buffy back, and sometimes even after.
She didn't like that he wasn't answering. Why did she have to defend herself anyway? "Honestly, Giles, I don't see why everyone is on Xander's side. I mean, *he* left *me*! He did a bad thing! Why shouldn't he be punished?"
"What if I had wished something horrible, Anya?" Giles finally asked. "Xander may have hurt you badly, but pain is part of the human condition. You should know that by now. If you tortured everyone who had ever hurt another person, no one would be left untouched."
Anya raised her chin. What was this, a moral lesson? She didn't need to hear it. "And maybe everyone deserves it. So I give it to them, one person at a time."
Giles took off his glasses and began to clean them, frowning as he did so and muttering to himself. "Of course. Demon. No soul, no conscience."
"Hey!" Anya exclaimed, offended. "I resent that. What does it matter if I have a soul? Spike doesn't, and he's still part of your precious Scooby Gang."
"Only because of the chip, Anya. And even so, we do not trust him. You had so much more potential."
Anya was about to try another line of argument when the bell over the door rang again. "Now what?" she muttered.
It was Spike himself. "'Allo, pet," he said with a small smile, stepping into the shop. Then his eyes slid over to the table, and he froze, startled. "Watcher? What are you doing here? Have you found what's wrong with Buffy, then?"
"Wrong with Buffy?" Giles rose to his feet, focused entirely on the blond vampire, and Anya knew she'd lost control of the conversation.
Damn! She didn't know why it bothered her so much what Giles thought of her, anyway. He was just another human. She'd seen dozens of generations of them come and go, and she'd see many more, now. Resolutely, she turned away from the two Englishmen and looked for something else to do.
The bell rang a third time as her fingers closed around the handle of the feather duster. She sighed. "Who now?"
"Anya ..." Just great. It was Xander.
"Giles ...?" There was only one person that tremulous voice could belong to. Xander had brought Buffy with him!
Personally, at the moment Anya would be perfectly happy in the no-Buffy universe Cordelia's wish had created three years ago. At least some of this Xander-issue was *her* fault, Anya was certain. He had always paid far too much attention to Buffy for Anya's peace of mind.
"Anya," Xander said again, and she heard his footsteps approaching. "We saw it on the video feed. Warren put a camera in the Magic Box, and Willow tapped into it. We saw you do it. We saw the demon face."
Anya turned to face him. There were more voices in the background, Giles and Spike and Buffy all talking at once, but Anya paid them no attention. Xander was the more immediate threat to her equilibrium.
She squared her shoulders defiantly. "Yeah? What about it?"
"When did you ...?" His voice was softer than she'd expected, but the disappointment was plain to see on his face. Of course. Good old judgemental Xander.
"When do you think?" she replied, bitterly.
Xander blinked, then sighed. "All right. I was hoping to work something out, to explain to you what happened ... but it's your choice. I'm not happy about the vengeance thing, but it's not my business anymore. I wouldn't blame you if you never wanted to speak to me again." He swallowed, and looked away.
"Oh, God," Anya said, suddenly depressed. "Now I can't even yell at you properly. Thanks a lot, Giles."
That got Xander's attention again. "Actually, I was wondering about that. I knew you must have granted a wish, and I felt a little strange for a second, but nothing bad happened. What was the wish?"
Anya rolled her eyes. "Giles wished for you to grow up."
He blinked. "Say what?" He froze there for a moment with disbelief written all over his features, then grinned. "I take it back. That's just cruel and unusual."
He thought about it another minute, his smile widening as Anya watched, then shook his head and began laughing.