Title: Interlude Three -- Branching Out

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Disclaimer: All your Buffy are belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.

Pairing: None, really.

Rating: PG-13, to be safe.

Summary: Warren decides that he's in need of a little vengeance.

Spoilers: Begins mid B:tVS "Entropy" (6.18), slightly AU.

Series: This takes place after "Lesser Men" and Interludes 1 & 2.

Notes: I have a short series of these "Interludes" planned between "Lesser Men" and its sequel, from different perspectives. This is the third. Stay tuned.

Feedback: Yes, please! Be honest!

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"I control demons, Warren. I can't do magic. That's what Jonathan was for."

Warren sighed and gave his slightly-less-than-brilliant colleague an irritated look. "But he isn't here, is he? And how else do you summon demons, if you don't use magic?"

Andrew shrugged. "It's a family thing. A music thing. I don't know. But I can't do spells."

"Fine, fine." Warren tilted his head up and blew out a frustrated breath, then glanced back down at the map on the table. It looked like something out of Indiana Jones, a wide piece of tan parchment covered in hastily scribbled dark ink scrawls. Somewhere among the places those markings represented was the key to his next plan. They had the map, and they had the disc; all they were missing was someone to do the magic. If Jonathan wasn't there to do that for him, he'd just have to use someone else.

"Can you summon a demon that can do the spell for us?" he suggested.

"I wish." Andrew shook his head. "No. I can only control the lesser ranks of demons, you know, the ones that don't think for themselves. Minions. The stronger ones fight back."

Well, that was dead end number two. "Do we know anyone else who could do it?"

Andrew frowned. "Willow, or that other witch who used to live in Buffy's house."

Warren rolled his eyes. "Yeah. Two of Buffy's friends. Don't you think they'd be a little bit suspicious if we asked them for help?"

"Well, there has to be more, but I haven't met any. Um, maybe that Rack guy we heard about? He might do it."

"They also said he charges high. We can't afford him until *after* the robberies." Warren had been planning to use him as a last resort, anyway, in case things backfired badly later on. Which brought them back to the beginning of this argument. "Are you absolutely sure, I mean completely sure, that you don't know of any demons that can track Jonathan down?"

"I already told you, I ... Hey, wait. What's that?" Andrew broke off the conversation with a frown, pointing at a red light blinking on the bank of monitors.

Shit. It was the network defense alarm. "Someone's tapping into our camera feeds," Warren exclaimed, leaping into action. "We've got to shut it down! Shut it all down!"

Frantically, they flipped switches and punched buttons, working their way across the wall. Not all of the views were empty of movement, but that fact didn't register with Warren until he had his finger on the button for the Magic Box feed.

"Uh, Andrew?" Warren shot out an arm, preventing Andrew from hitting the master switch. "Check this out. That guy, that's Buffy's Watcher, isn't it?"

He touched a finger to the screen, indicating the greying man in the leather jacket. The clothing was atypical, but that profile was unmistakable, even if he'd only seen it a couple of times before. As a librarian, Mr. Giles had seemed rather harmless in his tweed and glasses, but in recent months Warren had heard a lot about the guy's true reputation. Enough, at least, to be happier with him out of town.

Andrew moved up close, leaning in over Warren's shoulder. "Yeah," he said, sounding puzzled. "But I thought he left. What's he doing back here?"

Warren frowned. "I hope it's just a brief vacation. I mean, we can take him, sure, but he's another ally for Buffy, and he won't be easy to get rid of. Now we *really* need to get our hands on the Orbs of Nezzla'khan."

"But what if we can't?" Andrew said with a sigh. "What if ... Whoa."

On the screen before them, the girl Mr. Giles had his arms around had suddenly stepped backward, and they could see more of her than just her dye-blond hair against the Watcher's shirt. It was Anya, not Buffy, and something really strange had just happened to her face. For a brief moment, it was all wrinkles and veins, definitely out of place on a human girl.

"What was that?" Warren asked, puzzled. He hadn't ever seen her do that before, and they had *lots* of footage of her working in the Magic Shop. "Isn't she just Xander's fiance? She never showed any powers before. We never even bothered to put a camera outside her apartment."

"I'd heard of them, but I never met one," Andrew said, sounding excited.

Warren gave him a look. His partner was grinning like he'd just found the last secret chamber in the latest Tomb Raider game, and it was more than a little irritating. "*What* haven't you met?"

"Vengeance demons," Andrew said. "I can't control them, but I've heard about them. Basically, anyone that's wronged can make a vengeance wish to them, and they make it come true. It's their job."

"Wait a minute. Are you telling me Xander's fiance is a demon?" Warren raised his eyebrows at Andrew.

"Well, they all used to be human. They get picked for the vengeance thing because they did some nasty vengeance of their own. Xander must have done something really stupid in the last week or two."

Andrew was still grinning. Warren stared at him; he had a feeling that he was missing the punchline. He didn't like that feeling much. "So, that means ..." he began, trying to look smug and all-knowing.

"We can go to Anya and make a wish!" Andrew gleefully filled in the rest of the sentence. "Jonathan wronged us, didn't he? He was our partner, and he left without doing what he was supposed to. I'm pretty sure that counts."

Warren liked the sound of that. He looked down at the map again, tracing his fingertips across the inked surface. "So, we can wish for anything? We can wish that we had the Orbs already?"

"No." Andrew shook his head. "It has to be about the person who wronged you. Maybe we could wish to find him, though, so you can make him do the spell."

"And you're sure she wouldn't just turn us over to Buffy?" That was the biggest question. The last thing they needed was to run into the Slayer again before they had the Orbs. They'd been lucky that Jonathan had been the only one injured thus far. That luck couldn't hold.

Andrew snorted. "She's a demon now, Warren. When do demons ever do anything to help Buffy? She's probably about to do something nasty to the Watcher."

Warren thought it over, then nodded. "That makes sense. Okay. Let's do this."

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Warren figured that they had a little time before the Magic Box cleared out and Anya went home for the day. He shut down the rest of the monitor system, then set Andrew to packing a few necessities while he boxed up the gear Jonathan had said he needed for the spell.

It was, of course, possible that the person who hacked the camera network wasn't a friend of the Slayer's, but Warren didn't want to bet his future on it. It was time to clear out of yet another lair. They didn't have a new place picked out yet, but that was okay. They could wing it. In a few days, they'd have the money to live wherever they pleased.

Finally, there was only one thing left to do. Warren sent Andrew out, then wrote "Too Late" on the white board, in case the Slayer did come. Then he turned it up at an angle and carefully rigged it to switch on the booby trap. If they were lucky, she'd end up sliced and diced and they'd have one less obstacle on the road to power. If not? They'd take care of her later.

"Never piss off an engineer," Warren said, smiling grimly, then ran up the stairs after Andrew.

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When they got to the Magic Box, all the lights were out, and the door was locked. That was unexpected. It wasn't closing time yet.

"She must have gone home," Warren said, shrugging. "We'll have to find her. Do you remember where her apartment is?"

"No, but look," Andrew said, tugging on his sleeve. "Over there. Think it's her? She must have just left."

Sure enough, Warren could see the demoness about a block and a half away. "Anya!" he called, hurrying after her. "Anya!"

She turned around and fixed him with an irritated look. "You're those guys, aren't you," she said, when he'd reached her. "The ones that are trying to kill Buffy? I thought there were three of you."

"Well, that's just the thing," Warren replied, eagerly. "You're a vengeance demon, right? We want to make a wish."

She looked startled. "But you're a guy."

"And ...?" Warren blinked at her. "That matters?"

"I'm not that kind of vengeance demon," she said, indignantly. "If you found out that I'm Anyanka, then you should know I only avenge scorned women."

Warren's heart sank, and he glared at his partner. "Oh, gee, thanks Andrew."

"Vengeance demons have specialties?" Andrew blurted, shrinking back. "I didn't know that."

"Honestly, what kind of villains are you?" Anya threw her hands up and started marching away from them again.

"I thought you had to answer *any* vengeance wish," Warren said, stepping quickly around in front of her. What could it hurt to keep trying?

"Well ..." she said, and stopped still, biting her lip. Then she looked at him again, forehead scrunched up in thought. "I usually destroy men who summon me, before they get to the wishing part. But Halfrek keeps telling me I could do with a little branching out."

Destroy men? Warren blinked. "Branching out is good," he said, hurrying through the words. "I wish that ..."

"Wait a minute." Anya raised her hands, interrupting him. "There are rules. It has to be a real vengeance wish, you know, not just a wish because you want to get rid of Buffy. I'm not in the business of answering everybody's hate mail."

Warren shook his head. He didn't want to get into details in case she talked to anyone, but he could assure her it wasn't a *direct* attack on Buffy. "It's not that. It's about Jonathan. He ran out on us last week and really messed up a lot of our plans."

Anya looked back and forth between Warren and Andrew, wrinkling her nose. "Well. I hadn't pictured *that*. But, it's none of my business. Wish away."

Andrew started snickering behind Warren.

Warren ignored him. "Okay then," he said to Anya. "I wish Jonathan was here."

"That's all?" she objected, and her face fell. "That's the second boring wish today. Has everyone lost their imaginations?" Then she sighed, and shifted into her demonic aspect. "Done."

There was a flash of light in front of them, and Jonathan appeared. He stumbled backwards, caught off guard, and hit the pavement with a thud.

"Hello, Short Round," Warren gloated. "Did you forget about the map?"