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The Anatomy of Guilt

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It had been a few days since the forgetting spell. Since what happened between him and Anya. And Giles was still planning on leaving; it’s just that he hadn’t gotten around to rebooking the flight he had missed, what with the annoying fees and such. Or maybe that was a lie. He just had never felt right about shagging someone and then leaving town, no matter what magical spell had caused the sex to occur.

But Anya didn’t seem to want to talk about it. About why it was that when they woke together, not knowing who they were, that they both jumped to the conclusion that he was anything but her boss. It was the attraction, obviously. They both knew it. They’d been skating around the attraction for years, especially when they were alone. Hadn’t they? Or had it just been he who noticed?

Though they had done...what they had done...so it couldn’t just be him. He glanced at the table where the event had taken place, and felt his face get hot with a mix of embarrassment and arousal. He quickly looked up at Anya, to make sure she hadn’t noticed.

What he saw was her looking at the table with the same look on her face as he imagined was on his.

“Anya, we need to talk,” he said, finding all his bravery. He’s an adult. A man. He can have the difficult conversations.

Anya looked afraid for a moment and then dodged. “Yes we do. The spell of a month club isn’t doing as well as we projected, and I think...”

He was having none of that. “Not about that. About what happened between us.”

She looked down at her toes. “Well we were enspelled. None of it was our fault. We believed we were in love. That we were engaged. We thought we were in love.”

“Right. But we did, erm, act on those feelings of love.”

And she picked this exact moment to look him in the eyes. “You’re talking about the orgasms part.”

He didn’t break her gaze. He was a man. An honorable man. He could have this conversation. “Um, yes. I am.”

“You’re going to ask me if I told Xander about the fact that you gave me 7 rapid fire orgasms in a row with your hands, mouth, and...”

Christ, she needed to not finish that sentence for the sake of them both. “Something like that yes.”

Her eyes went back to her pumps. “Oh. I didn’t tell him, no.”

“Oh,” Giles said, not sure if he was relieved or dismayed. Though at least he knew that it would make things less awkward between him and Xander.

“Do you think I should?”

Giles had no idea how ancient eyes could look that young. “I suppose that’s up to you, Anya. I just thought I should know what is known,” he finished, kicking himself for his lack of suaveness.

“Because we were enspelled.”

“You already said that.”

“So I don’t have to feel guilty because it wasn’t real cheating. If anyone should feel guilty, it’s Willow.”

And while she had a point, all of this was, in fact, Willow’s fault, they needed to be honest with each other if they were going to move on from this. He couldn’t just fly back to England with this unsettled without it getting awkward. He had made those mistakes in his youth. He wasn’t going to make them now, not with Anya.

“You don’t feel...any guilt?” he said, hoping he was using the right word.

“The whole guilt thing is new to me. Do you think I should? Feel guilt?” She closed her eyes for a second, looking as she she were reprimanding herself. “Is this another thing that normal humans know to do and I’m failing at?”

“God no. Anya, I rather think it’s a thing that, er, those who have been consistently human do that you’re rather succeeding at. It wasn’t your fault. You shouldn’t feel guilty.”

“But you do.”

“I, er...” How could he explain to her that he did, and also felt guilty for feeling guilty. And guilty for wanting to not feel guilty. He was a mess.

“Because you have less of a reason to feel guilty about it than I do. You didn’t cheat on anyone. You’re completely alone.”

She was correct. She was completely correct. He hadn’t had anyone in a very long time. That didn’t stop him from flinching at her words.

“Aren’t you?” she said, as if she didn’t notice the flinch, or perhaps it was in reaction to the flinch, misreading the meaning of the flinch.

“No, no. No,” he stammered, visions of his exes flipping through this mind’s eye. “I’m utterly unencumbered. You’re quite right.”

“So why do you feel guilty?”

She still had no idea that her words were hurting him because she was just stating facts, trying to comfort him, in fact, completely unaware that she was poking at an open wound. A wound that he was unwilling to take care of. Why had he been alone for so long? Who was he holding off for?

He couldn’t say it. He just looked at her. “I can’t, Anya.”

She reached over and put her hand on his arm. It felt like it was burning, but he didn’t pull away. “I do feel guilty about one thing. If I tell you what I feel guilty about, will you tell me?”

“I can do my best,” he gulped.

“I don’t feel guilty about the sex, or the delightful kisses, or the many many orgasms,” she said with an almost blank, fully honest look on her face.

His heart sped up. “No?”

“No. I feel guilty because now, when I have sex with Xander, I keep, well inside my head, not out loud, never out loud... comparing his performance to yours.”

“Oh. Indeed.” His heart banged in his chest, and blood began to flow to places that it probably shouldn’t.

“Yes. Frequently.”

“And how does my, um, performance hold up?”

She gave him that incredulous look she has, that look that indicates the other person is an idiot. She always gives him that look. Like she can’t believe how daft he is. “You don’t know?”

He adjusted his glasses, resisting the temptation to pull them off and clean them. He awkwardly laughed, trying to lighten the mood. “Well I’ve clearly never slept with Xander.”

She laughed. Oh God, he loves that sound. He caused her to make that sound. “Are you looking for specifics or just generally?” she asked, not even with the voice of a temptress: just asking.

Oh the danger of her honesty. “Well you don’t have to...”

She put a finger to his lips to silence him, and he melted. “Specifically? Little things like how your muscles are so muscly. Xander’s arms are strong, but every muscle of yours is just so nice to touch. You wouldn’t think that, seeing you in clothes, but you are. And how you smell so manly. Like fresh and clean and a little spicy and male. Xander smells like, well, Xander. And his body wash. But you...” she shook her head, not having the words to describe that sense. “And how whenever Xander tries to pleasure me orally it doesn’t work very well. He doesn’t know that tongue flicking thing.”

Giles subconsciously licked his lips. He didn’t mean to. His face reddened when he realized he did it, but it was too late. She had seen it, and it had made her bolder.

“And how you do this little twist with your hips when you thrust that hits my pleasure spot every time, and how your cock is both slightly shorter and a lot thicker, so it’s both more pleasing to be penetrated by you, and you can pleasure me at more angles without hurting me. And of course how, even though Xander is a Viking at how many times he can perform in one night, a marathon to him is like 10 minutes, and, well...”

“10 minutes?” he exclaimed, thinking of how he’d apologized for the quickie that day, which had timed out at around a half hour, and promised that he’d make it up to her with hours of sex later, which of course had been unfulfilled when the spell was broken.

Anya looked at her toes for the first time since the beginning of the conversation. “Usually more like 5.”

“God. Anya,” he said, not sure if has sympathizing for Xander’s lack of stamina or just exclaiming at the wealth of compliments she’d given them.

“So in general, you’re pretty damn amazing,” she said, too afraid to look at his eyes, so she was looking more forward than anything.

“Thank you,” he said, wishing she weren’t blocking his exit so he could start cleaning up the shop or some such nonsense to diffuse the tension. “This is not how I, uh, intended for this conversation to go. I’m actually starting to feel rather guilty for bringing it up.”

“By guilty you mean fully erect, right?”

He had hoped she hadn’t noticed. He was trying to gain control over that, but she was just so close to him. And having her say it directly like that might have made him harder. He swallowed.

She looked away, showing an amount of modesty that was unfamiliar in her. “I’m sorry. To quote you once upon a time, that was probably the most appalling thing I could have said.”

“No. Not at all. I can think of another word that starts with the same phoneme that would make that sentence true but...wait when did I say that to you?”

“When I called Olivia your orgasm friend.”

Christ. Olivia. That was the last time a woman had made him feel like this, wasn’t it. But he didn’t recall being so cruel to Anya. Had he been? “I’m sorry. I don’t recall. I am sorry if I hurt you. How do you remember that?”

“I remember things you’ve said to me. But I shouldn’t have been shocked. You’re always too squeamish about sex talk.”

Now he had to laugh. God if she had ever met him when he was young, saying far more explicit things than she ever did just to get a rise out of people. “I’m really not though.”

She looked at him as if she didn’t believe him. Of course she didn’t. He’d always been so damned respectable around the children. Not that she was a child. He was a child compared to her.

She cut into his thoughts. “Whenever I talk about sex, you...”

He laughed again. She really didn’t get it. “Anya, think for a moment about why I don’t prefer to hear about your and Xander’s sex life.”

It was like he had shifted her perspective on everything. “Oh. You’re jealous. You like me.”

“I rather thought that’s what we were talking about.”

“Oh I thought we were talking about how guilty you feel for giving me mind blowing orgasms even though I’m engaged to Xander.”

She really did have a gift for summarizing, his Anya did. “It’s not so much that it happened, since you’re correct: we were enspelled.” And he took a moment to step just slightly closer to her, if that was possible, his voice getting husky. “It’s that I can’t stop thinking about doing it again.”

“Because you have feelings for me.”

“Yes.”

“Sexy feelings?”

He nodded. “But also...Anya, none of this was your fault. We were enspelled. But I’d done a terrific job of suppressing any of these fleeting feelings or urges, but now that I’ve experienced you, I can’t just seem to shut the images and urges off.”

“So you feel guilty about what you want to do with me.”

“Yes.” Oh God, why didn’t he just get on a plane to England and avoid all this. This is playing with fire, and he knew it.

“But if I...began sexual activity with you, you wouldn’t feel guilty enough to stop it.”

“No. That’s probably why I feel so guilty. I really don’t care about Xander’s feelings right now. Or any of our mutual friends. I only care if it would hurt you. I believe that if I ever did anything to hurt you, I would hurt as well.”

She looked away. Perhaps he’d said too much. “Because of the feelings,” she stated, trying to understand.

“Yes. And I should have just kept my bloody mouth shut. One time with you should be enough to keep an old man such as myself quite happy.”

She laughed. Oh God, why was she laughing? “You’re not even a half century old. I’m over 11 centuries. You can pretend to be old in front of someone else. If you’re old, what am I?”

And then he was laughing as well. “You’re positively ancient.” He felt the tension between them release. Including the tension he had been feeling where he shouldn’t. Where he couldn't. “Well. Now that we’ve had this conversation, we should probably just put it behind us. Move on with our lives. Maybe talking about it will make it easier.”

“Except now I know you have feelings for me.”

“Right, but I going to decide not to act on them, so you don’t have to worry about that. Not any more.” He was so glad they’d had this conversation. It was so wonderful to be able to talk like two adults and get the awkward things behind them.

“What if I left Xander?”

“Oh thank god.”

“I’m not saying that I will, or even that I know how. But if I left him, would you still vow to forget your feelings? The non-sexy ones. We know that all you can do is sublimate the sexy ones.”

He searched her face for any hint of reluctance, any notice that he should lie to her. But it was Anya. “Of course not. Anya, darling, I’d be so proud to have you on my arm.”

“So it’s not like, you’re into me because I’m hot and unobtainable, and we had mind blowing sex, but you already know that the reality of me would cramp your carefree style?”

“My carefree style?”

“Well I don’t know, Rupert, Xander’s always letting me know what a difficult girlfriend I am. Maybe you’d like the fantasy better than the reality.”

“First off, Xander should never make you feel that way. No man has the right to make you feel difficult. You’re charming, Anya.”

“You and I do argue a lot.”

“Well I don’t know, Anya, maybe I’m difficult. You ever think of that? And second off, you just called me Rupert.”

She looked like a schoolgirl called out on insolence. He hadn’t meant to make her feel like that. “I’m sorry, Giles. Should I not call you that?”

“No, it’s just what you called when we were enspelled and, I mean, I like it. Quite a bit, actually.”

“Okay, Rupert.” And they grinned at each other. Nothing solved, but everything changed in that change of name. “So what do we do now, Rupert?”

“Well I’ve stated my intentions.”

“Those aren’t intentions, Rupert, those are options.”

“Well I’ve stated my desires as options, then. I plan on having no guilt if you say you want me to take you home with me so you can...touch my muscly muscles again, and I’m willing to do that as many times as it takes to convince you that I’m the man for you. I suppose that sounds a bit desperate, but I don’t care. Or you can go and speak to Xander. Figure out if he’s the he that you desire or, my preference, that you desire to be with me instead. Or we can pretend this never happened and I can go back to very subtlety watching how your calves curve below your hemline as you work.” Or more realistically, go back to England, but he doesn’t want to let the threat linger over her choices.

She looked at him, completely enamored. “You really do have the most delightfully old fashioned ways of lusting, Rupert.”

“Anya, I’ll respect your choice, but if you choose the third option, I beg you to go back to calling me Giles. It’ll be easier for me that way.”

And that’s when the terror crossed her face. She had looked so relaxed and happy an instant ago.

“Anya why does your face look like it does when you’ve just seen a rabbit?”

“Because I don’t want to choose the wrong thing, Rupert. Giles. Rupert.”

“Darling, causing you pain causes me pain.”

“Well, this was all easier before, when we were just pretending nothing was happening. But we can’t really go back to that. Because if we go back, I’ll always we watching you to see if you’re watching me, and if I ever catch you, I’ll feel the way that I feel now, all turned on and itchy, like I want to simultaneously take your cock into ever orifice in my body but also run away.”

He studiously ignored the come on mixed in her panic and focused on her emotions. “Is that how you’re feeling?”

She nodded. She stared at his lips. “And I can’t just have you because it would be wrong. We’re not enspelled. I spent over a millennium getting vengeance on those who had been cheated upon. Cheating hurts people. In fact, I’m sure Xander would be hurt by just this conversation we’ve been having. He’s very trusting. But if he knew that right now all I wanted to do is....”

She trailed off, looking at where his trousers are straining against his bulge.

“All you want to do is what?”

“A blow job wouldn’t be cheating, would it? If I didn’t have a pleasure moment, then...”

He didn’t want to lie to her, but he didn’t care about morals and ethics in this particular instance, what with where her eyes were fixated. “It would be whatever you want it to be, darling. You’re the one driving here.”

“It’s just that you look so uncomfortable. And I could help.”

But she didn’t move. She stood completely frozen, staring at his zipper.

“Don’t tease darling. If you mean to put your mouth upon me, either do it or don’t, but please stop discussing it.”

And that’s when she fell to her knees.

* * *

There wasn’t going to be a Scooby meeting there that night. He never would have started the conversation if he knew anyone would happen by. But Xander, Buffy, and Willow were headed to the Espresso Pump, and Willow saw that Giles was still in the closed shop. She was about to bang on the window and wave hi when Buffy put her hand on her shoulder. Giles’s face was...captivated, and if you looked carefully behind the counter, you could see the top of a woman’s (it was a woman, right? There were rumors...) head bobbing up and down, thank god blocking the view to the street, but very much there. Xander exclaimed something about his virgin eyes, Willow swatted him and mocked him for being horrified, and they headed on to get their coffee.

* * *

It turned out that Anya was perfectly capable of feeling guilt. Who knew? As she headed home, she made a vow to stay away from Rupert from now on. Giles. Stay away from Giles. Well not away, he was still her business partner. But Rupert’s…Giles’s…delightful cock certainly needed to stay away from her. She was with Xander. And this was wrong. And oh he tasted so damn good. And the one kiss they shared after she finished, and how solemnly he thanked her, and how respectful he was of her boundaries and how she didn’t want to do anything else...and how she had wanted to throw him back down on that table and...

“Anya. You’ll never guess what we saw tonight. Willow and Buff and I walked by the Magic Box tonight and you’ll never believe it. Giles has a lady friend. Like a more than a friend lady. Like we saw him standing behind the counter, but there was a head bobbing up and down... Giles was getting a BJ.”

Well this was a sign, wasn’t it? She couldn’t let this fester. “Xander, we need to talk.”

“Yeah we need to talk about the mystery lady who was giving tweedy old crotchety Giles a hummer.”

And it was a sign, wasn’t it? Her guilt was a sign. His seeing it but not actually seeing it was a sign. And she looked at him for the first time in a long while, really looked. He was a sweet boy. No, actually, he wasn’t sweet. But he had been her boy. But the idea of touching him again after...she just didn’t want to do it. So she went with Rupert’s second option. “Yeah. Xander. We do.”

She takes off her ring and hands it to him.

“Huh? That’s your ring, honey. The ‘you’re gonna marry me’ ring that I bought you.”

“It is.”

“I thought we were talking about the funny thing about Giles and some mystery lady...” and he must have seen on her face. Because suddenly clueless Xander looked a lot less clueless. Well she at least could respect him for that. “When did this start, Ahn?”

“Sort of during Willow’s spell, I mean, it definitely happened then, but we were enspelled, so it was no one’s fault. So mostly tonight. I’m really sorry, Xander. On the plus side, I think I’m human enough to understand guilt. I’m really sorry, Xander. Did I mention I was sorry? But I have to go.”

“Go? No. Where? To Giles? Tweedy nose-stuck-in-a-book Giles? Ahn!”

“He hasn’t worn tweed in years.” And she walked back out the door.

Xander picked up the phone and hit his speed dial. “Buff? I’ve made a development in the mystery woman mystery. And on a completely related subject, I think Anya just left me.”

“The mystery woman was Anya?”

“Looks like.”

“I’m gonna kill him. How could he do that to you?”

“Buff, I think we’re mad at Anya. I don’t think this is Giles’s fault.”

“I could kill him if I wanted to.”

“I know.”

“You want to come over?”

“I really do.”

* * *

Giles was on his third scotch when he felt the wards tingle around his apartment, letting someone through. Anya opened the unlocked door and walked right in.

“You still need to start locking your door.”

“I do have wards set up around the place.”

“Then how did I get through?”

“I guess I was rather hoping you’d come over while I was setting them tonight.”

“Oh.” She awkwardly stood and looked at him, her energy completely different than when last he saw her.

“Would you care for a drink? I’m on my third.”

“A drink would be good. Yes. On the rocks, please.”

So he poured her a glass of scotch, and then walks into the kitchen to get ice from the freezer. He returned and handed her the glass. She was still standing awkwardly, tapping her toes a little.

“Would you care to sit?” Giles said, walking over to the couch.

“I broke up with Xander.” Anya awkwardly shows him her left hand, flashing around the lack of a ring on it.

“Are you...are you all right?”

“You really are a ridiculously annoyingly wonderful man, aren’t you? I just told you I did the thing you were hoping I would do, and instead of launching yourself at my body, you’re asking me if I’m okay.”

“Are you mad at me for that?” Giles readjusted his glasses and placed his scotch down on the end table. He was well aware that he was walking through a potential minefield, and needed all the wits he had left about him.

“No. I’m mad at myself for…all these years...I’m mad at all women for not wanting to be with you.”

“Well I’m not sure I have the time for all the women. Plus, I’m rather taken with you.” He took her hand in his, trying to get her to look at him. “Anya, darling, what happened?”

“They saw. Well, they didn’t know what they saw. But they saw you behind the counter and they saw the top of my head and...”

“We should have moved to the back room.”

“Probably. But Xander was laughing about it. He couldn’t believe that anyone would actually...He called you crotchety. And tweedy. And said your nose was stuck in a book.”

Giles snickered. “While I do read quite a bit, can’t see how that’s a proper insult, though.”

“You haven’t worn tweed in years.”

“Darling, you don’t have to defend me against Xander’s puerile insults. I don’t care what he thinks of me.”

“I care. I couldn’t kiss someone who insulted you with the same lips.”

“So he called me tweedy and you gave him his ring back?”

Anya paused for a second. Was that how it had happened? Her brain went over the conversation. That was sort of what happened.

Giles laughed. “Anya, is that really what happened?”

She found herself laughing with him. “I mean, obviously it’s more complicated than that, and involved feelings and sexual urges and all the things I want out of life. But from Xander’s point of view, yes. I think he called you tweedy and I gave his ring back.”

Giles began to full-out giggle, the sort he only does when he’s had a little too much to drink. “‘Giles is tweedy!’ ‘Take your ring back!’”

“The last thing I said as I walked out was, ‘He hasn’t worn tweed in years.’”

“Christ, really?”

The two of them melted into a pile of giggles, and it all the tension between them broke. When they exhausted their giggles, they found themselves quite close to each other’s faces.

“May I kiss you?” Giles asked, holding her cheek in his hand.

“Please.”

It started out slowly, her lips parted slightly, recalibrating to their new situation. The illicitness was gone, and the pressure for this to work was in the back of both of their minds. But as the kiss deepened, all of this was forgotten. At first it was lovely. Then passionate. And as he picked her up and carried her up the stairs and into his bed, and payed her back for earlier by nestling his face between her thighs, it returned to hot as hell.

• * *

“Before we have our meeting, I have something I want to announce.”

“Anya, what are you even doing here? You broke up with me,” Xander said, a little like a petulant child.

“I work here. At the shop.”

“So go...work,” he said, gesturing that she go away.

“Okay, but first I have an announcement to make to everyone. So they know. Ahem. Xander and I are no longer engaged or living together. And while I look for a new place to live, I’ll be staying with Giles. In his bedroom. Because we have sex now.”

Everyone feigned shock, but Xander had already told them, so everyone had already gotten over their shock. Other than Xander, apparently.

“Anya, you can’t just announce things like that in front of the group.”

Giles started giggling again. “I rather think she can. She just did.”

Anya didn’t join his laugher this time, since she was currently wearing her very serious face. “Xander you don’t get to tell me what I can and can’t do any more. In fact, that was never your job.”

“Tweedy!” Giles exclaimed, still giggling uncontrollable.

“Are you drunk?” Buffy asked Giles, very sharply and judgmentally, which honestly made him giggle even more. Her judgmental face was quiet funny.

“No, just relaxed. Very well shagged, actually.”

Anya grinned at the compliment. “Thank you.”

“You’re very very welcome.” And they gave each other a look with a certain get a roominess about it.

Buffy looked like she might be ill. “Ewww.”

Spike, who had up to this point been watching the whole thing as if it were a sweeps week episode of Passions, smacks Buffy in the arm. “Oy chill out, Slayer. Demon Girl’s got the old man oversharing like she does. How often do we get drama like this? Go on, Rupes. How long has this been going on?”

“Spike,” Anya sighed, “The reason I announced it was so that everyone didn’t even up gossiping about it. But the answer is last night.”

Willow had been looking around nervously at all the players involved up to this point, and tried to intervene. “I don’t think any of these are appropriate discussion topics...”

Giles cut in as if Willow hadn’t spoken. “Though initially it began during Willow’s forgetting spell. As all of us, ironically, should recall.”

Anya grinned at Giles, so proud that her man was able to cut Willow’s pomposity down to size that easily. She grinned at Willow with her best bright smile. “So thanks Willow. You allowed this to happen.”

Willow’s face fell. “Oh.”

And then Giles’s face became all business. “Is the announcement done, Darling? Can we get to the part of the meeting where we discuss demons and such?”

Anya nodded, and took her seat at the table. She still deserved a seat at the table. Even if Xander didn’t want her there.

* * *

After the meeting, Xander watched Anya and Giles getting ready to leave.

“Anya, do you need your sweater tonight, or shall I leave it at the shop for tomorrow?”

“Will you keep me warm on the way home?”

“So leave the sweater here. Night, all. Lock up when you’re through.”

And the door jangled on the way out.

Buffy stood next to Xander, trying to decide if she should say something. She decided to try to make him laugh. “I could still make him hurt.”

Xander sighed. “Why? They’re so happy.” And he gave a pained smile.

“Are you okay? Why are you acting so...”

“Relieved? Happy for them? Honestly Buff, Anya’s right. I spent most of our relationship telling her what she was doing wrong. And here old Giles is, laughing his merry head off when she says something that still makes me embarrassed to be around her, and I’m not even with her now.”

“He seemed drunk,” said Buffy.

“Drunk on her. Did you see the way they looked at each other? The old man is...I don’t know what the right Britshy word is for it, but obsessed would be the American.”

“Besotted?” suggested Willow, coming up behind them.

“They look like they’ve been together for years,” Xander remarked. “And I’m not angry at that. I’m happy for her. I guess I must love her, since I’m happy she’s happy, and I don’t think I ever made her truly happy. It’s just...where does that leave me?”

“With us.” Willow put her arm around Xander, and Buffy did the same.

“Oy, Slayer, is the feel good moment of this very special episode over so we can go patrolling?” Spike called over from the door, waiting to go.

“Spike, you’re a jerk,” said Buffy.

“‘s what you love about me.”

“Shut up.”

“Make me.”

And before Spike and Buffy became the new center of the drama, Willow grabbed Xander completely around the back and headed him toward the door. “Okay, you’re with me. So what are those of us with broken hearts going to do tonight?”