Title: Truth & Possibilities1?

Author: Appomattoxco

Rating: FRT violence and some strong language

Pairings: It will be Giles/Anya with Spike and Dawn friendships.

Summary: Very AU Post the episode "The Gift" The summer after Buffy dies, Giles and Anya find out more about Dawn and the Key.

A/N: This story is dedicated to LJS and Zanthinegirl. It's beta by the wonderful JaneDavitt and Agilebrit is as usual an invaluable sounding board.

Anya had lain awake all night. Her mind had been too busy turning over possibilities she could only guess at now to sleep. What her life would be like if she hadn't pursued Xander, for instance. When they first got together, she'd wanted sex and friendship. She'd never earned the title of best friend, and lately they were trying too hard when they made love. How long before they stopped trying? Maybe things would've stayed all right between them if she hadn't gotten involved with his friends. When they weren't arguing over announcing their engagement, they were fighting about their friends. Xander didn't understand why she was worried about Giles or why Willow was making her nervous. According to Xander, Giles could take care of himself, and Willow could take care of Dawn and everything else. She rolled over. It was three in the morning. This wasn't the first night that the alarm clock by the bed looked like that big ol' relationship time bomb she'd once asked for.

It was a non-event when she did it. All those years as vengeance demon and she didn't realize that it ever happened this way -sad and quiet. She set the ring box down on the table next to his cornflakes. "You don't want me to keep this."

Xander sighed; it sounded like half sadness and half relief, "No, I can't marry you. I hate this, I hate giving up." He pushed away the cereal as if that was what he disliked. "I didn't lie to you. I thought it felt right but nothing at all feels right, now. Maybe we could move? Joe offered me that job in L.A.. If we got away from the Hellmouth?"

"It's not about the Hellmouth, though, is it? If we left now, we'd both feel guilty. It wouldn't fix things; it'd make them worse."

"Look, why don't you keep the ring- exchange it for a necklace or something. I'll just shut up now, because whatever I say is bound to be stupid, and get me turned into a toad like I deserve."

"I don't feel very scorned. Do you?" Anya asked. She was the one who'd given the ring back, after all.

Xander said, "No, just sad, I wi… No."

"Be careful today at work." Anya said, picking up the box because it seemed hurtful not to.

"You too... You be careful." There was more honest affection in that goodbye than either had heard since right after Buffy's death.

Just as she was about to go out the door, she got a call from an old friend asking for a lunch date. It wasn't a conventional phone call and the warning to be careful felt a little ominous now.

888

Anya studied Giles. At least she wasn't alone in her sadness. Grief was aging his handsome face so much that she just wanted to grab hold of him and tell him to cry and water it before it dried up completely. Sorrow made him seem like a stranger, and the shop had a foreign feel because of it. Giles worked and patrolled looking more like a robot than the fake Buffy, and he avoided Dawn as much as he could. Anya wasn't sure if that was because he blamed Dawn for her sister's death or because he blamed himself for the girl being orphaned. Anya would've asked him about it, but he might have given her that angry look that made her knees weak or finally given into his grief so that she would have had to comfort him. Both of those possibilities were too much, too soon. Instead of saying anything, she played with the ring box in her pocket and looked at the clock.

"You look tired; does your arm ache?" Giles asked.

Anya quickly took her hand out of her pocket to prove it hadn't been hurt on patrol the other night and the box fell out, landing with a soft thud and spilling the ring on to the floor. Just for a moment there was a naked look of pain on his face. He picked it up, snapped the box closed, and handed it to her. "We're slow on Mondays; Go on your lunch date, then take the rest of the day off."

All those times Giles had turned away and cleaned his glasses when she'd kissed Xander held new meaning. "It's not the way you think."

Giles said, "I'm not the clueless old man you think. You've been carrying that thing in your pocket for days. You were fiddling with it when you tripped on patrol last night. I don't think it's the way you think it is. If it were the ring it wouldn't be in the box."

Anya had been alive for over 1100 years and she'd seen and done a lot. Some of it stupid, because that's how the law of averages works. There was a lot she wanted to say to Giles, but all that came out of her mouth was, "I gave the ring back, but Xander told me to keep it. I don't want to take the day off." She wanted to add, I'm sad because my heart isn't broken.

Just then, four teenagers in Goth gear came in. Giles said, "Why don't you do something useful, then. Clean up under the checkout counter, Anya."

"Do you really mean it?" Under the counter was a huge mess, and Anya had been itching to organize it forever. It seemed everything there was no place for ended up there, but Giles always insisted he had a system.

"The pit, as you call it, needs to be put in order, doesn't it?" He sounded dismissive, as if he no longer cared about his system and was ready for something new. Walking away from her he picked up a rag and started to dust, humming quietly.

She said, "Well, stop cleaning the already spotless jars of toad tongue, and help me decide what to throw away."

"You don't need my help for that. You're perfectly capable of deciding what to toss in the bin, you just said so."

"That doesn't mean I want to do all the work by myself. I might want a partner someday." If he could talk in code, so could she.

Lunch time came without giving them a chance to speak alone. Anya didn't want to spend the time with Halfrek but she knew Hallie would just keep on pestering her. When she said she would hurry back, Giles said there was no rush, to take her time and get her head together. And if she wanted to go shopping, he'd be here. Anya really didn't want to window shop; she had her own store, after all.

888

When she got to the Espresso Pump, Anya tried to project an air of being pleased with the world in general. An hour ago it would've been a lot harder. This morning, she had put on a bright yellow retro sundress to boost her confidence. She didn't know what Halfrek wanted, but there were problems, and Hallie could only make them worse. Anya had a non-engagement ring in her pocket. The Hellmouth didn't have a Slayer and a robot was doing the job. The more Willow used magic to help on patrol the spookier she got and just about everyone was having nightmares. Giles was a bright spot, but it was a very new and tentative one.

Anya went over in her head the way she would get a wish from a woman in the old days and decided on simple yes or no answers. Direct eye contact and no use of the 'w' word. Just like a witness on Law & Order. She always tried her best to see the possibilities, but live with what was true. It was a holdover from her past life; the dimensional travelers' version of living in the now, but this called for fabrication. The least unpleasant result of Halfrek finding out just how far from the best possible world she was in would be gloating.

"Hallie!" Anya got up from the table to hug her old friend, but Halfrek sat before she had a chance. "What are you doing in town? You look… famous?" Anya said, because it was the only nice thing she could think of to say. Her normally elegant friend was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt with dark glasses and a ball cap. She looked like a star trying to avoid the paparazzi and succeeding in only being obvious.

Halfrek pulled her baseball cap lower. "Not so loud, Anya. This is an unauthorized teleport, I don't have long."

Hallie had Anya's attention now; breaking rules like that got people dead. Anya should've remembered the other axiom; the past always comes back angry. "You came here without D'Hoffryn's permission? What's so important?" Anya asked.

"I don't work for him anymore, but that's not important. You do still work for the Watcher, right?" Anya nodded, suddenly afraid for Giles, and Halfrek continued, "Don't let him leave town. If he does go, go with him. Stick close to Rupert Giles and his family; the Hellmouth gets very unpleasant without him."

Anya tried to sound cool and unconcerned. "The Hellmouth is always unpleasant; don't tell me you suddenly care about that."

"No offence, sweetie, but I really don't, or I wouldn't if your fate weren't all tangled up with mine."

"I don't think you understand the situation. Giles is my employer; he tells me what to do, not the other way around. Besides, he wants to go back to England, and Buffy wants him to go back," Anya hated to lie but even if Hallie had the purest motives in the world, mentioning the Slayer seemed like a good idea. Hallie was a terrible gossip, besides it wasn't too far from the truth; Willow and Xander had been hinting Giles should go home. "I don't get much of a vote. And, besides, I doubt saying that a vengeance demon told me he needed to stay would matter much to Giles."

"Then maybe you should think about changing the relationship. Don't look so shocked, I've seen lots of possibilities, and the only good ones for either of us are tied to the Watcher and you. Stick with him and his kin, and we won't end up dead. See the possibilities and live the truth," Halfrek said, and was gone before Anya could complain that she didn't think Giles had any family.

When she returned, Anya was worried. On the surface it seemed as if fate were bringing her and Giles together. Her friend had told her that it would be a good thing, but Anya would've been more optimistic without the encouragement; Halfrek was her friend but she had never been a trusted friend. She started tossing out old catalogs, grateful and annoyed that Giles seemed to be just as contemplative. Beneath a free calendar and some flyers from the chamber of commerce there was a heavy, padded envelope dated a month ago that had never been opened. It was addressed to Giles and marked 'Private' with a red stamp. It had an English postmark so it was probably a gift from some relative that Giles had chosen to ignore. Xander always said it was best to ignore your relatives, but it had her curious. It could be something important that had been pushed aside in the aftermath of death and then swallowed by junk mail. Besides, this could be a way to recapture the earlier banter.

"See! I do need your help. I can't even open this to decide what to do with it." Not seeing where things might lead with Giles just because in case it benefited a friend who might be evil was silly.

Giles looked at the return address and his smile slipped. "Just toss it."

"But you haven't even opened it yet! How do you know you don't need whatever it is?" For just a moment, Anya wondered if this meant he thought they were a bad idea.

"I know what it is, Anya; it's too little and too late."

"Oh… It's information on Glory," It wasn't a question; Anya could tell by the flat look on Giles' face she was right. It made her happy and sad at the same time.

"Hobson had information on the Key, but it's of no importance now."

"Maybe it is. I mean, just because there's no lock anymore doesn't mean that it's not important to know. Dawn might have questions." Anya thought that this could be the way to get Giles to face Dawn. Even with the others always fawning over her Anya had caught a look of pain on Dawn's face when Giles avoided her.

"What good would knowing how Dawn was made do? It's better just to let it lie, to believe the fiction now that the danger's over."

"It's your job to know the truth."

Giles stood closer. His eyes didn't look flat or distant anymore and the skin on Anya's arms took on the texture of orange peel. "I quit. If you want to open the damn thing go ahead," he said.

"I can't; it's addressed to you. It would be a federal offence."

"Oh, for God's sake!" Giles said, snatching it from her hand. When he took the envelope and removed the leather bound book inside, years of training took over, though, and he opened the book carefully. He settled at the research table and Anya went to make him tea, even though it wasn't her job. When she returned to the task of cleaning she felt a little more at ease.

Anya had finished cleaning and was reminding a costumer to return soon with more money when Giles stood up. He looked very pale and when he took off his glasses he dropped them without noticing that they slid off the table to the floor. This seemed worse to her than the 'Dear Lord!' of impending doom. She hurried over to him, stepping on his glasses in the process.

"Darn, I'm sorry! Are you all right, Giles? What's happened?"

"You've smashed my glasses."

"I know that, Giles. Sit down, I think you might be in some kind of shock. What in the world was in that book?"

"Buffy was convinced Dawn was made of her, but the first Slayer was created using the Key. It was the mystical similarities between them that closed the rift when Buffy… jumped."

"That makes sense; Dawn looks much more like a half-sister than a clone."

"Perceptive, as usual," Giles muttered.

"I don't get it, why would you be so upset over this? The monks didn't screw up and use Graclore DNA did they? I always thought Dawn's screech was inhuman- Oh, God, now we have to incinerate her, after all this trouble we went to keeping her alive! I think she actually likes me, Giles, I don't think I can do it," Anya said, close to tears.

"Dawn isn't a Graclore, and she's no danger to anyone. I was right; it's best if we leave this be. It's better for everyone to go on as if the monks' fiction were true. It's close enough to it."

"No, Giles, tell me who I am," Dawn said. She was standing by the back door of the shop looking like her sister did before a battle.

Giles slowly walked over to Dawn. "You're Buffy's sister, and Joyce's daughter, as well as the Key: the source of the Slayer," he answered, in a low gentle voice that attempted to soothe. When he took hold of her hands Dawn folded them across her chest defiantly.

"That's where I came in. Tell me the punch line to the cosmic joke that's my life. What got you so afraid?"

Giles said gravely, "Dawn, I am your father."

Anya and Dawn burst out laughing. "Giles, I don't think Dawn really wanted you to tell a joke," Anya said, wiping tears of laughter from her eyes.

"He doesn't look like he's joking, Anya."

"Well, he's English, they never do," Anya said.

"I know this is a lot to take in, and I suppose we can do a blood test to be sure. It took years to construct the spell and all those false memories. The monks needed actual- They took a fetus from your mother in 1998. It was shortly after..."

"Ick, after you had 'chocolate' with mom? I'm going to need therapy! I came downstairs that night and saw you guys on the sofa --"

"You saw us kissing and ran back upstairs," Giles said dryly. "I hardly think you're scarred for life."

Anya said, "You had me very scared when you found out, Giles; you've looked less traumatized over the end of the world." There was a voice in Anya's head that sounded a lot like Xander, or possibly Willow, telling her that was the wrong thing to say. She always wondered why those damn voices always waited until afterwards to speak up.

"It's all right, the guy with a head full of stuff like teaching me to ride a bike doesn't call or leave a note with the child support, and I'm okay. We can just forget it, I mean it -- I know you think it's my fault, what happened, and it was. So just do what you want; get rid of the book."

The brittle sound of Dawn's voice made the hair on the back of Anya's neck prickle. If she were still in the business her veins would be humming. Dawn was rejected and heartbroken. Hopefully Halfrek wasn't still lurking around.

Giles reached up for his glasses, before recalling that they were broken, then tried to comfort Dawn. "Your sister's death was inevitable; I don't blame you for it."

"Then why were you so un-thrilled that you just wanted to forget about me?"

"I know that your sister and the others have seen me as a parental figure of sorts, but I'm not fit for it. I never believed I was meant to have family. You have someone you remember as your father, and my first thought was that it was better to leave it that way."

"What was your second thought?" Dawn asked hoarsely.

Anya said, "His second thought was, 'Wow! I have an intelligent and beautiful daughter and I never once had to change a diaper.' Isn't that right, Giles?"

"That's very close to what I'm thinking right now," he said, almost to himself, studying Dawn's face. "I can see Joyce in your eyes, and my mother in the shape of your smile."

The way Giles said this made the back of Anya's eyes prickle; like watching a Lifetime movie at that time of the month. Dawn must've heard it, too, because she made a little sobbing sound and threw herself into Giles' arms.