DISCLAIMER: The Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters are the property of Mutant Enemy, Joss Whedon, and Fox Studios. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2002 by Djinn. This story is Rated R.


I Wish I May, I Wish I Might

by Djinn


The darkness of Arashmaharr settled around her. She could barely hear what D'Hoffryn was saying. It just hurt too much. She hadn't known heartbreak in a thousand years. And never like this. Didn't tears ever run out? She felt him come up to her, then he handed her a tissue. She took it silently.


"Are you okay?" Was that tenderness in his voice?


"I'm tired of crying. I'm just so tired, D'Hoffryn."


"Ah, Anyanka, I'm sorry. But you let him domesticate you. When you were a vengeance demon you were powerful, at the top of your game. You crushed men like him. It's time you got back to what you do best, don't you think?"


As she looked at him, she felt something die inside her. Something good.


He leaned in close. "Why not extract some vengeance?" His voice was honey.


"Still human," she whispered.


"And unfortunately you will remain that. But you don't need to be a demon to pay him back. Find something he loves and take it away from him."


"But I don't know what that is. I thought he loved me. I thought I knew him."


"He's a human, Anyanka. Who can know them?"


Her voice was very small. "I thought I did."


"Perhaps your other human friends can help you figure out what would hurt him?"


Anya laughed bitterly. "My human friends? You mean like Buffy? Who didn't even spend any time with me while I was getting ready for the biggest day of my life? Who spent time with my boyfriend?" Anya fell silent for a moment. "Maybe it was her fault? Maybe she said something to him?"


"Perhaps so. Slayers are unpredictable."


"And petty."




"And Willow. Willow never liked me. Always mocked me. And did she think I didn't know what was going on down there, at my feet, while they were fastening my dress? She didn't care about me; she just wanted to hit on Tara."


"Very selfish."


"She's a total bitch. Whining loser of a witch that won't practice magic because she got addicted."


"Yes, I remember Willow. Quite a disappointment." D'Hoffryn walked away. "I once imagined she could take your place, Anyanka."


"I tried to take their place." Anya stood and began to pace. "That's what it was all along. Just place holding. But I didn't know it then. Nobody told me. Nobody said, 'Hey, Anya, you know Xander's given his heart out so many times, there's nothing left.' Why didn't they tell me?" She swatted at the tears.


"You know how cruel humans are."


"Some aren't."


A new voice sounded from the doorway of mist. "Name one that isn't."


Anya turned as Halfrek walked in, her bridesmaid's dress covered in blood. "What happened to you?"


Halfrek smiled. "Just took time for a little side mission. Decided I'd take care of this one personally."


"Anybody I know?" Anya asked hopefully.


"No, Anyanka. Just a krafel demon that tried to eat his step kids."


"You and your children. It's a lost cause."


"At least I have one."


"And it's smelling up my dimension." D'Hoffryn wrinkled his nose. "Change those clothes, will you?"


"I like the smell." But Halfrek did as he asked.


Anya was relieved to see the ruined dress replaced with a black drapey thing. "They're not all bad." She didn't know why she felt the need to return to this subject, who she was trying to convince?


"Aren't they?"


"Tara's not."


Halfrek's smile was surprisingly gentle. "Was she the one with the long hair and the sweet smile?"


Anya nodded. "Did you like her?"


Halfrek waved that suggestion away with a cross gesture. "You think she isn't cruel? Isn't, at heart, as fickle and self-absorbed as any of these lesser beings?"


Anya shook her head.


"We'll see about that." Halfrek disappeared in a puff of smoke.


"What's she going to do?"


D'Hoffryn put his hand on her shoulder. "I wouldn't worry about her now. What are you going to do? How will you face them all?"


Anya didn't answer.


"By my own ruling, you must remain mortal, Anyanka. But I am fond of you." His hand brushed her cheek. "I want you to be avenged."


She didn't say anything. Just leaned into his hand.


"I was going to give you this as a wedding present. To save for a rainy day. But maybe you'll want to use it sooner?"


Part of her knew what was coming, wanted to protest as he leaned in till his mouth was against her ear, his voice a hot caress. The other part of her shivered in anticipation as his hand touched her shoulder again. She could feel the magic beginning. His voice rumbled like thunder inside her head. "I give you one wish, Anyanka."


A sudden burning accompanied his words. It started in her head and flowed down her neck into her chest, then expanded out to fill the rest of her body. It was pain and pleasure all at once. She remembered it well. It was how granting a wish had felt.


As it subsided, he backed away from her. "Use it however you want. On whomever you want." He looked at her sternly. "I suggest that you make Xander pay."


Anya didn't answer for a moment. Scenes with Xander ran through her mind. A hundred happy memories assailed her. Then they were overwritten with the remembrance of that tearful trip down the altar. Alone. He hadn't even helped her tell them all, hadn't been willing to share part of the burden. Xander had betrayed her so Xander would pay. But not right away. She needed time to think of something creative, and she needed some distance to let her own pain subside. If there was anything she'd learned as a vengeance demon it was that haste and hurt made for ill-conceived wishes. She wanted this to be good.


"Make him pay, Anyanka."


"Done," she said, her voice suddenly calm and serene.


D'Hoffryn nodded in approval.




She stayed with D'Hoffryn until she was ready to go back. Time meant nothing in Arashmaharr and she was glad of that. She found it soothing to surrender to the darkness and silence. She even stopped crying. Eventually.


"Are you leaving?" D'Hoffryn looked up from a scroll he was studying.


"It's time."


He nodded.


"Can you send me back to Xander's apartment?"


He smiled. "How easily you say that. A short time ago it was yours too."


"Things change."


"Indeed." He put down the scroll. "Keep in touch, Anyanka."


His hands moved and the world tilted crazily. Vertigo swept over her and she felt like vomiting. Finally the awful sensation stopped and in a small explosion of smoke she was home.


Home. It had been easy to pretend to D'Hoffryn that she didn't care. But now that she was back in the apartment, she couldn't fool herself. She looked around the living room. Touched a couch and thought, We made love here. Walked over to the table and remembered the meals they'd shared, and the sex they'd had there too. There was almost no spot in the apartment where she and Xander hadn't shared their bodies—shared their hearts, or so she had thought.


"This is not my home. It never was." Her whisper was lost in the silence of the room. "I never belonged here," she said louder.


No voice called out to disagree with her. The apartment was empty. Xander was gone, and so were the friends and relatives who had crowded it earlier. Good. Less distraction. She found the suitcases they had bought for their honeymoon and packed her favorite clothes into hers. She laid her engagement ring on the pillow. Let him find it. Let him worry, she thought bitterly.


Going into the closet again, she buried her face in his shirts, breathing in the scent of him. It was a scent she'd loved, one that had made her blood race with excitement. It still did. But not for the same reason. "Soon," she promised as she grabbed some more clothes and changed out of what was left of her wedding gown. "Soon, you'll pay." She looked around the room, pushing back memories of happier times. A sparkle caught her eye. Walking to the bed, she grabbed the ring and slipped it back on her finger. Did she really think he would worry after what he had done to her? The ring was hers. And she knew exactly what to do with it.


She called for a cab then left the apartment. She didn't lock the door on her way out. Hoped somebody robbed him blind. She smiled at the thought as she dragged her suitcase down the stairs and to the sidewalk. The cab did not take long to arrive and she was soon on her way to the bus station. It was empty as she walked up to the ticket window.


"I'd like a one-way."


"To where?"


Anya tried to think of a place to go. Her mind refused. "Could you just pick someplace?"


"That's against company policy." The woman looked her up and down, her mouth tight. Something in Anya's face seemed to touch her because her expression softened. "Something happen to you?"


Anya nodded.


"Too much pride to say what, huh? I won't hold that against you. You need to make a new start?"




The woman laughed. "Well, I came here from New Orleans to do just that. How about we send you there. Even things out?"




"Okay, one ticket to the Big Easy. You'll have to transfer in Phoenix and Dallas. Bus leaves in six hours."


"Thanks. I need to store my bag for a while."


"No problem, honey." She handed over a key. "Number 33. Right over there. You take it easy, now, you hear?"


Why was it, Anya wondered as she dragged her suitcase to the locker, that strangers were so much nicer than the people who were supposed to love you? She found the right locker and stuffed her bag in. Then she locked it and put the key in her pocket then headed for the exit. It was time to close out the rest of her life in Sunnydale.


The pawnshop was a few doors down from the station. The clerk was watching TV when she entered. "Help you?"


"I want to sell this." She pulled the ring off her finger.


He reached for a loupe and studied the stone. "Average quality, nothing outstanding."


Why didn't that surprise her? "Just tell me what it's worth."


"I'll give you two fifty for it."


She knew what Xander had paid because she had snooped around until she'd found the receipt. Two fifty was well under that price. But this was a pawnshop. She couldn't hope to realize anywhere near purchase price, but she decided she wanted at least four. "I don't have time to haggle over this. Give me six and we'll call it a day."


"Six hundred? Are you insane, lady?" But he didn't hand it back to her.


"Five fifty then. Just hurry up."


He studied the ring. "I'll give you four."


"Fine." She waited as he counted out the money, then turned to go before he finished the receipt.


"Hey, you can't get it back without this."


"Don't want it back. Won't ever want it back." She let the door close on her words as she stuffed the cash in her pocket and hurried to the bank. She had never paid much attention to financial things while she was a demon. But once she'd become human, she'd learned she had a real knack with money. Her investments had netted her a tidy profit, and when the market had turned, she'd already moved her money to less risky ventures.


She'd been smart and lucky. Xander had liked to brag about her business sense. But he'd only seen the balance sheet of one of her accounts. He didn't know that she'd kept another one—with a significantly larger balance—in a separate account. The statement for that one had gone to the Magic Box and he had never realized it was about anything but shop business.


The bank manager was sorry to hear that she and her husband—Anya didn't disabuse him of that notion—were leaving, and even sorrier to have to transfer such a large sum of money out of his institution. As he wrote out the paperwork to close both her secret fund and their joint account, Anya imagined what would happen the next time Xander tried to get money out of an ATM. It was hard not to grin. "It's been a pleasure doing business with you," she told the manager as they finished. That at least wasn't a lie. Next to her shop, the bank was her favorite place.


She went to the Magic Box, opening the door and locking it behind her. A sign that Dawn had made for her hung on the glass in the front window. Green and blue calligraphy scrolled across the lacy paper: "Closed for two weeks. Best wishes to Anya and Xander." Anya ripped it off the glass, then tore it into shreds, letting the pieces scatter on the floor behind her as she walked to the counter. Picking up the phone, she placed an overseas call. "Yes"—the voice on the other end said—"the transfer did arrive safely. We've deposited it as you instructed." Anya smiled as she hung up. Her money was now in a financial institution that was a lot less mainstream and a lot more secure than anything a normal bank could offer.


She looked around the magic shop, then closed her eyes and just breathed in the smell of it. Incense was the strongest note, its intense sweetness masking less pleasant odors like eye of newt and valerian. She opened her eyes and realized she was starting to cry. She loved this place. Loved the crystals sparkling in the display, the statues of Shiva and Kali and other deities scattered over the space, the books new and old and all arcane that crowded the shelves. This was the place she had felt most comfortable. The place that had first seemed like home. The place that she'd made hers. And it was the last time she'd ever see it.


Taking a deep breath to steady herself, she destroyed the few artifacts that were powerful enough to stop the wish D'Hoffryn had given her. Her eyes lingered on the shelves of herbs but there was nothing there that she needed to fear. She went down to the storeroom and dug through the back stock. As she worked, she found a zuni fetish doll she'd been looking for, considered putting it out on the shelves, then tossed it back into the box. Let whoever ended up with the shop worry about it.


She moved down to the more fragile items. Finding two crystals that were old and powerful enough to cause her problems, she dropped them into a burlap sack and slammed it into the concrete floor until she heard the stones inside shatter. She dropped the sack into the trash. A little more searching revealed nothing more than an Orb of Thessala that she had ordered off the Internet, thinking to give it to Willow for her birthday. But that had been before she'd decided to give up magic.


Anya weighed the crystal in her hand. Such a delicate thing to do so much—transmit souls, imprison genies, trap memories. Humans had no idea all the uses it could be put to. She carried it upstairs. Pulled out a tag and wrote "To: Willow, From: Anya" and left it with the orb in a prominent place on the counter. It was a cruel joke, tempting Willow to use magic this way. Anya only wished she could see her face when she found it.


She scrawled out a new closed sign and hung it in the window, then left the shop, locking it securely and testing the door several times before turning away. Unlike her old apartment, she couldn't bear the thought of anyone violating this place. As she was walking back to the bus station she passed the Espresso Pump and heard someone call her name. It was Tara.


"Anya, where have you been? I was so worried."


Another woman stepped up behind her. "I've got to get to class, Tara. I'll see you later?" The woman leaned in to give Tara a quick hug, their dark blonde hair blending for a moment into a curtain of golden silk.


"See you, Allie."


Anya wondered at the strange look the woman gave her, then noticed the necklace she was wearing. Halfrek, you devil, she thought as amusement at the demon's methods warred with a strong protectiveness toward Tara.


"I won't hurt her," the demon whispered as she passed.


Tara waved, her eyes lingering on Halfrek's human form. Now that Anya had seen through the glamour, the woman who was walking away was no longer blonde or wearing the modern clothes of a college student. Anya turned as Tara touched her arm.


"Come sit down. Tell me how you are."


"I'm all right. "


"You don't look all right. You look like hell." The concern in Tara's voice took the sting out of the words. "Where were you? I tried to find you but I couldn't."


"I was with a friend." Anya saw Tara wince. "I'm sorry. That came out wrong. I was with D'Hoffryn. I just wanted to get away."


Tara nodded, but she still looked hurt.


"What about you? Who's the new girl?"


Tara looked embarrassed. "Allie's just a friend. She transferred into one of my classes and I've been helping her catch up."


"So you like her?"


Tara looked down. "It's not like that."


"It looked like that to me."


"It's complicated. You know. Because of Willow."


"You still love her?"


Tara nodded. "And I think I always will. But I don't know if I can go through this again with her. It's like something inside of me doesn't want to go back. Doesn't think it's healthy."


"Maybe it's not." Anya thought of Xander. "Maybe loving a Scooby is just plain stupid."


"Maybe." Tara seemed about to say more, then fell silent.


"What?" Anya asked.


"When Willow had to make a choice between Oz and me, I always wondered how she knew that she shouldn't be with him...and why she picked me. She told me I was her future. That what she felt for him was strong, and maybe even would last forever, but that it wasn't where she was supposed to be." Tara shook her head. "How do you know when that's true? How do you tell the difference between the right thing to do and the safe thing?"


Anya shook her head. "I'm the wrong one to ask about that."


"I didn't mean..."


"I know. I didn't mean you did." There was an uncomfortable silence for a moment. She laughed. "Great conversation."


Tara laughed softly too. "Yeah. So what now? What are you going to do?"


"I'm leaving town."


Tara looked stricken. "You can't. I mean, you shouldn't. There's more here than Xander. What about the shop?"


"The shop where I'll have to see Xander every time the Scoobies assemble? The shop that doesn't even belong to me?" She couldn't resist a look back at the Magic Box. It looked...sad, sitting there all closed up. She turned back to Tara. "Besides, Giles won't care. He may even be relieved that I'm gone. Now he can let Buffy run the shop. Right into the ground probably, but not my worry."


"But you love the shop."


Anya stood up. She didn't want to talk anymore. "I do love it. Sometimes you have to say goodbye to the things you love."


Tara stood up and gave her a fierce hug. "I guess. I'm not there yet, though."


"Well, get there. This town isn't kind. It isn't safe either. How many times have we been hurt here?"


"I'll be fine."


Anya wasn't sure she believed Tara would be, but she let it go. "Thank you," she whispered. "For being nice to me."


Tara tightened her hold. "Same here."


Anya was the first to pull away. "Bye," she said, turning resolutely and walking away.


Tara's voice barely reached her. "Good luck."




When Anya got back to the bus station, it was full of people, mostly men—large, sour-smelling men. After the sixth come-on, she got up and headed back outside. Maybe she should walk for a while? Until it was time to go.


Where was Xander? He wasn't at the apartment. Could he be at Buffy's? Would he be there? And if he did go there, what would Willow and Buffy do? Would they reproach him? Or would they circle the wagons and defend their own? Anya could guess which it would be. The Scoobies stuck together. Always. When she found herself walking up Revello Drive she wasn't surprised to see Xander's car parked outside Buffy's house. He was here. Whatever small part of her that still loved him, that still held out hope for a future with Xander, gave up...gave in to the darkness, to the vengeance.


It was a relief.


She watched the house. How long had he been there? Since the wedding? Why didn't he go back to the apartment? Maybe he had. Maybe he'd been right behind her today. The thought amused her. And angered her. Why couldn't he have been there when she appeared? She wanted that. She wanted to hear him say he was sorry. She wanted to know that he still loved her and still wanted her. And then she wanted to walk away. Leave him the way he had left her.


But she wasn't going to get that chance. He wouldn't have to pay. And he had to pay. He had to.


Anya saw Buffy leave the house and realized it had gotten dark. How long had she been standing here? Her bus was leaving soon. She should turn around and go back. She began to move, but only to settle more firmly into the shadows. Just in time to be hidden from Willow and Xander, who followed the Slayer out, then headed in another direction, toward where Anya was hiding, and then past her. Their voices carried easily to her as they spoke of everyday things, as they didn't speak of her. How could they be so normal? How could Xander just act like she never existed?


She followed them. They seemed to have no firm destination, just rambled around Sunnydale, finally ending up in the cemetery, eventually coming upon Buffy and Spike. She had to stay well back to avoid being seen. She couldn't hear what was being said but she saw Xander and Spike get into it. Saw Xander hit Spike. Saw him keep Spike away from an apparently ill Buffy. Saw how he and Willow helped Buffy walk away.


She should have followed them out. But she was riveted by Spike. Something in the set of his shoulders as he watched the three walk away called to her so she moved closer. She could make out the expression on his face as he turned and walked away, heard the tone of his voice when he said, "She likes that."


She felt his pain. Knew it, tasted it, loved it. It called out to her in a way she hadn't experienced since she'd stopped being a vengeance demon.


She waited a few minutes, then opened his door and followed the scent of smoke to the lower level. Watching from the ladder, she saw Spike leaning against the far wall, staring out at the burnt wreckage, bottle of whiskey in one hand, cigarette in the other. His eyes were red-rimmed.


"God, you're pathetic," Anya said as she climbed down into the room.


"Go away."




"Hell, for all I care." He peered at her through the gloom. "Or is that where you've been?"


"Thought you didn't care?"


He shrugged. "I heard about you. And that boy. What he did. Don't like it much."


"You stood up for me out there?"


Spike made a face. "Just picking at him, is all."


"He hit you."


"Yeah. That's good fun in these parts, or didn't you know?"


"Shouldn't be. Hitting someone who can't hit back, that's just wrong." She held out her hand. "Can I have some?"


"This?" He handed her the bottle. "Go easy, it's the good stuff." He smiled. "Course, I nicked it from your reception, so maybe if anyone has the right to knock it back, it's you."


She took the bottle and felt a pang at the thought of all the expensive things that had gone to waste that day. She'd watched Xander's father help himself to several bottles as he walked out. And cousin Rory had pocketed at least half a dozen pieces of silverware. She handed the bottle back to Spike and looked around the crypt. "Why's it so dark in here?"


He laughed; the sound split the air like a gunshot. "You didn't hear then? Buffy and that ass"—he took a long pull from the bottle— "that posturing bastard Riley blew it up." He flicked the cigarette into the wreckage. "Left me homeless, they did. Or tried to."


"This isn't your home."


"Well, no, not anymore."


"I mean Sunnydale. It's not mine, either."


"Very philosophical. Excuse me for not caring." He pushed himself away from the wall and looked like he was going to leave but at the last minute turned back to her. "What the hell happened to you two?"


"Xander couldn't go through with it."


"I know. But I don't get that." He moved closer.


"Join the club." She walked around the space, kicking up little piles of sooty dust. "He doesn't love me."


"Did he say that?"


"He didn't have to." Her foot caught on something, a piece of debris that was blocking her way. She worked at it with her boot for a moment, then lost interest. "Do they always fall out of love that fast?"


"Humans, you mean?"


She nodded.


"Beats me. I thought he had the look of a man in for the long haul."


"Me too." She went back to worrying at the thing on the floor. "Love's a funny thing."


"Yeah." He looked down.


"You love Buffy." She didn't phrase it as a question and he didn't bother to answer. "I saw what just happened. They wouldn't even let you touch her."


He looked up.


"I mean, you were talking to her first and then they came and ruined it all. And what was Xander's problem? He wouldn't let you talk to her, and then he wouldn't let you help her."


"Man doesn't like me. You know that."


"I know. But don't you think it's gotten worse? Now that Buffy is nicer to you."


He didn't answer.


"Spike, I saw you that night. At the Bronze. She went upstairs and you were there. I saw what you two did."


He looked surprised. "Did Xander?"


She shook her head. The scene was still clear to her. Buffy standing on the balcony, looking down at them. Spike appearing from behind her, standing so close, pushing against her rhythmically. Anya had stood breathless for a moment, watching them. Then Xander had noticed her expression, turned to find out what was causing it. She had distracted him before he could see. But what if she really hadn't? What if he had seen?


She hadn't been able to see his expression or Buffy's when he helped Buffy up. "Buffy didn't stop him out there, did she? Didn't tell him to let you come. Didn't ask for your help."


"She wouldn't. We're a secret."


"Why?" Anya moved close. "I wouldn't keep you a secret." She ran her hands over his arms. "I'd want the whole world to know." She moved away. "If I were Buffy, I mean."


"She's not like that." He looked down. "She's ashamed of me."




"Wants normal, I guess. Doesn't want the darkness."


"And I guess Xander's normal."


Spike looked up.


"They were together," she whispered.




"At the wedding. They were together the whole time he was getting ready. Don't you see? He was fine, and then they were together, and then he wasn't fine anymore."


He looked a little lost. "The two of them. You mean...?"


"Xander. And Buffy. Together." She thought of how sure Xander had seemed that morning when she'd talked to him on the phone. How in love with her he'd sounded, nervous about the wedding but excited to start their life together. Everything had been fine. Crazy and hectic and a little frightening. But fine. Until Buffy. "It has to be her."


He frowned.


"And you saw. He's with her now. He only cared about Buffy out there. Did he look like a confused man? Or a contrite one? What if...what if at the wedding they realized they were in love?"


"No. That can't be right." He shook his head. "No. He's not Buffy's type. He's too..."


"Normal? Not dark?"


They both fell silent.


"You really think?"


She nodded. "Doesn't it make sense? In a weird sort of way?"


"She was glowing!"




"She was glowing. She was happy. I thought it was for you two. But it wasn't." He slammed his fist against the wall. "I should have known it wasn't. The bint is too self-involved for that. She's—she's in love with him. Damn her! She can love him but not me? Some stupid boy?"


Anya nodded and walked to the ladder, brushing past him slightly as she did. "I shouldn't have told you. It was mean. I just wanted someone else to feel as bad as I do."


He reached out to stop her. "You damn well should have told me."


"No. It was wrong." She looked at him, had a hard time seeing him clearly. Tears again, she realized. She blinked. Blinked again. Still more tears. Was there a point in fighting them? She let them fall.


"Well, now. That's not good." He fumbled for something to give her to wipe her eyes. Came up with nothing and settled for pulling her towards him. "That's not good at all."


"I'm just so lonely, Spike. I'm so terribly, terribly lonely."


"I know, pet." He stroked her hair. "I know."


She looked up at him. "You do know, don't you? You've never been alone before."


He shook his head. "Not like this."


"I've always been alone." She reached up, ran a finger down his face. "But not like this. Alone never meant lonely before."


His eyes closed in response to her touch.


"It's their fault. And they don't even care."


"Mmm," was all he said as he pulled her closer.


"They should pay for what they've done."


His reply was muffled as his lips ran down her neck. "I'd help you, if I could."


She shivered. Every spot he touched tingled. "Just keep doing that."


He straightened and opened his eyes. "I mean I'd help you make them pay."


She studied his face. He seemed to mean it. "I have the means."




She nodded even as she rubbed her body against his. It felt good so she did it some more.


"Are you a demon again? One way to find out." His hand curled into a fist.


She grabbed his hand. "No. Not a demon." She pulled his captive arm around her, then let go of him and snaked her arms around his neck. "Just a human with a little tiny wish."


She watched as realization seemed to dawn. His smile was huge. "To wish he were dead?"




"Or hung over a pit of fire."


"That's good."


"To tear his innards out and make him eat them."


"Messy. But also good."


He pushed her up against the wall. "Make him watch us do this...for eternity."


She leaned in. "Make them both watch."


"Mmmmm." He kissed her deeply.


The wall was hard at her back as his hands wandered over her body. She let her own hands move freely over him, learning his body. She felt him pull off her jeans and underwear. Felt something else, something cold and hard and surprisingly comforting.


"Get them both," he whispered in her ear. "The whole bloody lot of them."


"Yes," she said as she grasped his shoulders more firmly.


"Well, except the little bit. I like her."


"Or Tara. She was nice to me."


He grabbed her face in his hands and kissed her, harder than before. "The two of them are left out."


"Yes," she agreed.


"We get the others." His voice was ragged. "Make them pay."


"Kill them all," she said. And then she could only make noise. Loud, energetic noise.


Spike was very noisy too. Then he was silent, his face burrowed in her neck.


"Kill them all." She ran her hands over his hair and down his neck.


He pulled away and met her eyes. His face shone with wicked delight. "No. Not kill them."


"Not kill them?"


"No. Turn him."


"Turn?" Then she got it. "Turn." She heard herself laugh, shrill, slightly hysterical laughter. "Turn him. Turn him and then the other two pay!"


"Now you're getting it."


"Buffy would have to kill him."


He nodded and pushed against her with his lower body.


She looked down in surprise. "And I thought Xander was a Viking."


"Oh, I've got lots of surprises for you." He grinned. "So, yeah, Buffy'll have to kill him. Kill her newfound love. Or there's another option."


She realized what that was, bounced up and down with excitement.


"Oh, god, keep doing that," Spike urged.


"Buffy won't have to kill him."


"And why not?"


"Because Willow could restore his soul." She thought of the Orb she'd left in the shop and laughed.


Spike grinned evilly. "But Willow doesn't do magic anymore, love. She's a big bad junkie."


"She'll have to if she's going to save him. But if she does, she risks losing control again."




"It's a choice. For all of them. Kill him and live with that. Save his soul and watch Willow turn evil."


Spike chuckled meanly. "Plus, Buffy would have to deal with a Xander who walked around all brooding and tormented like that poofter Angel."


"But if they do nothing, then Xander will kill a bunch of innocents. And not random ones either; I remember what he was like in that other universe." Anya nodded in satisfaction. "Whatever path they choose, they all suffer."


"It's brilliant," he panted as he moved against her repeatedly.


It got very noisy again. Then he backed away and let her down. "So you'll de-chip me?"


"Well, we have to be careful. This wishing is tricky business. If I wish you had never been chipped in the first place, I could find myself dead. And all of them too. Or even you."


"Hmm. I guess."


"Plus, you wouldn't have been in love with Buffy and none of this would work."


"I'd still be with Drusilla."


Anya felt herself pouting.


"Oh, now." He leaned in. "Didn't say I wanted to be with her, just that I probably would be."


"Oh. Okay then." She let him kiss her for a while, still thinking of all the ways this would hurt Buffy and Willow. She almost hoped that they would restore Xander's soul so that he would suffer longer too. But in the end it didn't really matter. The Xander she'd loved would be gone as soon as Spike killed him.


A sudden pinch made her yelp.


"Are you thinking while I'm kissing you?"


"Maybe a little."


"Cut it out," he said, as his head moved lower. When he touched her again she had no difficulty complying. She was soon unable to do anything more than make helpless noises.


Spike rose, a big grin on his face. He kissed her gently, then lit a cigarette. "So I guess there's some problem with just wishing that the chip were out or that it stopped working?"


"We don't know what else it does. What if your brain is tied into it now? Or some other vital function?" She looked down.


He followed her eyes. "Hmmm. Good point. Well, I can hurt Buffy since she came back. So make Xander the same way." At Anya's puzzled look, he explained. "She came back different somehow. Not sure how exactly."


"Nobody tells me anything." It was typical, really. She was the last to know anything, even something as crucial as a Slayer who hadn't come back quite normal from the dead. But then she'd been saying that since they did the ritual. They probably didn't want to give her the satisfaction of knowing that she'd been right all along. "So, we just make Xander a demon and then you can attack him."


He shook his head. "Won't work, though. I can't turn a demon. He'll just be dead. Plus they taste like shit."


Sighing, she leaned into his arms. She remembered a lecture D'Hoffryn had given. He'd said, "Humans have one simple failing. They always make everything so complicated. You'll see it time and time again in this business."


Of course! The excitement she felt leaked into her voice; it shook slightly as she said, "I wish that Xander wasn't safe from Spike."


A thousand whispered replies filled the tomb. "Done," they said.




They were still making love when someone came running into the crypt upstairs. They both looked up.


"What in the bloody hell—" Spike's question was cut off by a yell from Xander.


"Spike? You here?"


"I'll be right up. Keep your shirt on."


Anya found that funny. She was pretty sure that even if he were shirtless, Xander would still have more clothes on than Spike did. She could hear Xander as he walked to the ladder. "I need your help."


"Oh, well in that case, I think I'll stay down here. Nice of you to drop by and all." Spike shouted, then winked at her as he leaned in to nuzzle her neck. "Do I take him now?" he murmured.


"Yes," she said without hesitation.


Spike pulled back and stood up, taking the clothes she handed him. "Consider it done."


"It's for Buffy." Xander's voice sounded desperate. "She's really sick. We have to catch the demon that made her that way."


Spike looked at Anya. "Plan doesn't work if she's not alive."


Vengeance could wait a little longer. "Then you help him."


"Right." He moved to the ladder. "Buffy's ill?" His voice sounded full of concern, even a bit anxious.


For a moment, Anya worried that Spike was serious. Then he turned back and, winking at her again, put his hands up, fingers spread into claws, and pantomimed stalking something. She giggled and waved him upstairs. Waiting until she heard him leave with Xander, she got dressed and hurried upstairs and out the door. They were well ahead, but she didn't have any problem keeping them in sight. They seemed to be arguing. She imagined Xander taunting Spike as he always did. She also imagined how good Spike must be feeling, knowing that this time he could rip Xander's' throat open if he wanted to.


It took several hours, but they finally caught the demon and dragged it to Buffy's house. She didn't go in; made her way to the crypt and waited for Spike to come back.


Hours later he came in. Alone. She climbed up the ladder and he was waiting for her.


"God, that was fun." He had her clothes half off before she could reply.


She laughed as he lifted her onto him. "He didn't suspect?"


"None of them did. Got a good dig in on Buffy, too. Told her to tell her friends about us or I would."


Anya laughed again. "What did she say?"


"Didn't say anything. Just sat there with that forlorn look she sports lately. The one that used to really get to me, made me weak. Made me feel sorry for her."


"Doesn't now?" she asked, tightening her grip on Spike's shoulders as he began to thrust harder. She smiled as she felt the pleasure beginning and grabbed his hair as she rode him.


"Not anymore. Not with you to remind me that it's okay to enjoy sex." His movements changed, became more deliberate. "She...never...seemed...to," he said as he relaxed against her.


Anya opened her eyes.


Spike was watching her, his face aglow with satisfaction. "She never let herself. Made me crazy. I'd try harder. Do more. Like if I could just make her feel something, she'd like me, she'd like having sex with me. Wouldn't want to leave me so fast."


Anya ran her fingers through his hair. "She's an idiot."


"So's Xander."


"Let's not talk about them now. How long before she's well again?"


"Give them a day or two." He smiled wickedly. "I've got an idea or two of how we can fill the time."


"I bet you do."


He leaned in to kiss her but his lips never reached hers. The movement was interrupted by a flash of light. Smoke filled the room and Halfrek appeared.


Anya felt Spike's arms drop and looked at her friend in annoyance. "What are you doing here, Hallie?"


"Oh, just thought I'd catch up. Let you know how it's going with Tara." She looked at the two of them. "Did I catch you at a bad time?"


"Cecily?" Spike's voice was incredulous.


Halfrek smiled slightly. "Hello, William."


"But how?"


Anya watched as he walked toward Halfrek. "You two do know each other!"


His expression was one of utter confusion. He seemed not to hear Anya's question. "I went back for you. When I'd been turned. But you were gone. I couldn't find you."


Halfrek nodded. "I never got the chance to say how sorry I was for what I said."


"No, you were right. I was a sodding weakling. I was beneath you."


She shook her head. "You were a sweet boy. Unfortunately, you said all the wrong things to me that day." Her look became distant. "That awful day. For both of us."


"I don't understand."


"That poem you gave me? It reminded me of how I liked to write poetry. How, just that morning, in my journal, I had written a poem about freedom, about escape. My father found it. He didn't think much of it. Do you remember my father, William? What did you think of him?"


Spike grimaced. "He made my skin crawl."


"An excellent choice of words. He made my skin crawl too. Every inch of it he ever touched. Every inch of it I ever had." She turned to Anya. "Issues."


Anya looked down. How many decades had she ribbed Halfrek over her lost cause? "I'm sorry," she whispered.


Halfrek looked back at Spike. "You were never beneath me, William. I just needed someone who could protect me from him. You were so soft and gentle." She touched his arm. "Now look at you. All because of me."


"I would have killed you that night."


"I don't doubt that. I was cruel." She sighed. "But didn't you notice how stiffly I sat that day? That each time I took a breath I was in pain? He beat me with my journal and then he hurt me in the more usual way. He never marked me where it would show. But every other spot on my body hurt." She looked down. "And when I got home from the party, he was at me again. He'd never done that. Before, he'd always shown a reluctance to be near me. He'd stay away from me for weeks, as if somehow shamed by what he'd done. But that night he wanted more. I broke, William. I just snapped. I vowed that I would serve any dark power that would help me.


"And that's when D'Hoffryn appeared. My savior. We disappeared just as you came up the stairs. I take it you convinced the maid to let you in?"


"She always liked me. Don't suppose she liked me half as much after I killed her. I killed him too."


"I know. I'm glad. He was in many ways responsible for what happened to you." Halfrek turned to Anya. "Tara understands that. She was ill used by her father too."


"You told her?"


Halfrek nodded. "Last night. I showed her my true face. First my human one, then this less smooth one."


"And she didn't run screaming?" Spike eyed her critically. " I'm usually a big fan of veins, but I can't say this is your best look. "


"You're as domesticated as Anyanka," Halfrek had a teasing tone. "But that's changing, I think. I smell vengeance." She rubbed her hands together, then scowled slightly. "And don't distract me, I want to finish talking about me."


Spike gestured for her to continue.


"So, I told her I'd fallen for her at the wedding."


"You did like her. I knew it." Anya smiled.


"Yes, I thought she was cute. But she was also human. I was determined to prove to you that they couldn't be trusted. That like all humans, she was a cruel and useless creature."


"But she isn't. I told you that."


"Yes." Halfrek sighed, looking almost moony. "She's so nice."


"I think I'm going to be sick," Spike muttered. "So, what, you stole her from the witch?"


"Tara and I have much in common. Especially when I told her I had to pretend to be something else because I was afraid if she found out I was a demon she wouldn't want anything to do with me."


"Not very fair, using that against her." Spike shrugged. "Not that I care."


"You won't hurt her, will you, Hallie?"


"No, Anyanka. I won't."


"So she's really going to leave Red?" Spike seemed unconvinced.


"She's afraid here, William. All the time. She didn't even realize it, but I helped her see. She loves the red witch, but she's afraid of that love. I can give her peace."


Spike chortled.


"You don't believe that?"


"Well, there's the whole vengeance demon gig. How peaceful is that?"


"You think I can't leave my work at the office?"


"I'm just saying I'll believe it when I see it."


"She's on her way to tell Willow now. To say goodbye." Halfrek suddenly winced. "Something is wrong. She's using magic...she's very afraid. I must go." She disappeared in a puff of smoke.


Spike lit a cigarette. "Should we be worried? Rush to the rescue?"


"No. Halfrek will protect her." She took the cigarette from his hand, dropped it on the floor and ground it out with her boot. "I believe we were in the middle of something?"


"Not sure I remember where though." He grinned.


She pulled his head down to hers. "Let me refresh your memory."


They were just coming up for air when another puff of smoke heralded the return of Halfrek. This time with Tara and Dawn, both looking slightly green.


"That'll get easier, right?" Tara asked uncertainly.


"No." Anya said, remembering her own ride to and back from Arashmaharr.


"Great." Dawn said as she coughed and waved the smoke away. She wandered over to the ladder and looked down the hole. "What happened down there?"


"Well, I'm glad I'm not the only one they keep in the dark."


Dawn turned back to Spike. "Were you two going to kiss? 'Cause it so looked like it."


They didn't answer her.


"I mean it's cool if you're together. It's just that I wanted Spike and Buffy to be together."


"I know you did, pet." Spike shook his head. "Gotta let go of that."


"'Cause it isn't going to happen, is it? She's never going to notice that you've changed, or that you took care of me all those months, or that you're funny and really sweet a lot of the time. She treats you like crap and you're just supposed to take it? Just like she ignores me."


"She doesn't mean to."


"She doesn't even know I exist. In fact, she doesn't want me to exist. In her 'normal' world, her perfect world, I don't exist. I never happened. My sister wishes that I'd never been born. Or created. Or however it was I came to be." She trailed off, then very softly said, "Who am I really?"


"You're our daughter now, Dawn. And we love you and want you." Halfrek looked at the girl, then at Tara, affection clear in her gaze. She turned to Anya and Spike. "She was going to run away."


Dawn nodded. "I was packing when Buffy found me. When she tried to kill me."


"She didn't." Spike looked pissed.


"She so did."


"I'm afraid she did let a demon loose on Dawn, and Willow and Xander too," Tara said. "But Buffy killed the demon before it could harm them. She seemed really out of it, though. If I hadn't come in when I did..."


Halfrek reached over and squeezed Tara's hand. "It was meant to be."


Tara continued, "I guess Buffy wasn't herself. She was sick or something. I wasn't really clear on that."


"Didn't stick around for the cleanup?" Spike asked.


"She went after me when I ran out," Dawn explained. "I just wanted to get away from there. Didn't stop for my stuff, didn't stop when Buffy yelled for me. Didn't stop till Halfrek and Tara appeared in front of me." Dawn wiped tears away. "I don't want to go back there. She doesn't want me there. And I just weigh her down. Only..." She trailed off.


"Only what, honey?" Tara's voice was gentle.


"Only how can I leave her? She gave her life for me."


"Bollocks!" Spike took her by the shoulders. "Yeah, she died. Died for us all, I guess. But you don't owe her anything. I know what happened up there. You told me enough times when she was dead. Told me how it should have been you. How you were ready to jump, standing on the edge when she pulled you away. And haven't you figured out by now why she did that? Why she wanted to be the one leaping to oblivion?"


Dawn looked away.


"Buffy died for you because she wanted to die. Did she even stop to think what kind of life you would have if she were dead? Does she care now what you've been through? You pretended for months that a sodding robot was your sister and did it well enough that Buffy could step back into her life no questions asked. You don't owe her for that. Seems to me she owes you."




"But nothing. You deserve a home where you can be happy. And maybe it will be better for her if you're gone. Besides, how long do you think it will be before the family services people come beating down your door again? Do you really want to end up with complete strangers?"


Dawn started to cry. Halfrek gently pulled her away from Spike. "I'll take you where it's safe, Dawn. You and Tara and me—we'll be a family."


Tara joined them. "She's right, Dawnie. Sunnydale isn't our home. Let's go find out where it really is?"


Dawn nodded, then looked at Spike. "Is that the right thing to do?"


He smiled at her. "Some folks might say I'm not the one to ask. But yeah, I think it is. You know how much Tara loves you. She and CecHalfrek will take good care of you."


Dawn pulled away from the two women and launched herself at Spike. "I love you. I can't believe I'll never see you again."


"Well, I wouldn't say never. After all, Anya and Halfrek are best friends."


Anya felt Halfrek's hand touch hers. Best friends. She'd thought Xander was her best friend.


"Best be going now," Halfrek said, as if she was reading her mind. "Anya and Spike have lots to do tonight."


There were hugs and smiles and a few more tears. And then Halfrek, Tara, and Dawn were gone in another puff of smoke.


"Don't you lot get tired of the special effects?"


"Hey, we work hard to master that trick. Believe me, once you learn it, you want to use it as often as possible."


"Right." Spike said. "Now we just have to find Xander when he's not with the other two."


"Well, it's not like he's going to just walk in here alone again."


The front door opened. Xander walked in. "Spike, Dawn's missing and...An?" He stared at her.


"Hello, Xander."


"What are you...are you all right?"


"A little late to be asking me that." She looked at Spike, but he was already moving toward the door. The sun was just going down. He stepped into the dying light for a quick look. "He's alone."


Xander never took his eyes off Anya, even as he explained, "Yeah, I'm alone. Buffy's trying to follow Dawn and Willow's calling her friends. I thought you could help me look for her. You know her pretty well. Where would she go?"


"Help you?" Spike shut the door.


"Help Dawn."


"Dawn doesn't need any help," Anya said.


Spike moved up behind Xander. "But you do."


"What is this?" Xander turned. "What? Do you want to rumble now, Spike? Cuz maybe later, okay? When I need to get my jollies. Right now, I need to find Dawn."


"Didn't you hear what Anya said? Dawn's fine." Spike pulled the hair away from Xander's neck.


"Hey! Knock that off." He pushed Spike.


Spike just laughed. Touched him again.


Xander pushed him harder.


"You just left me," Anya said. "There at the church...all alone. How could you do that?"


"I didn't mean to. I mean, I did, but I still love you."


"Still love her? Funny way of showing it." Spike reached for Xander, only to be swatted away again.


"You left me to deal with all of them. How could you?"


"That was...wrong. But I still love you, An." He held out his hands to her. "I still want to see you."


Spike laughed. "You left her at the altar, but you still want to date her?"


"Why does everyone keep saying it that way? Anya, you're the best thing I've ever had in my life. You know that."


"I do know that." She walked up to him and pulled his head down. His lips were warm against hers. She pushed him away before the touch turned into a kiss. "But it's too late."




"You hurt her too bad, boy. Broke something." Spike looked at Anya. "Pushed her into the dark."


"And you know that cuz you and Anya are so tight?"


Anya walked over to Spike. "We are now, Xander." She kissed Spike. A long, hot kiss. "Thanks to you. And Buffy."


"Buffy?" Xander looked at Spike. "That's what this is all about? You're kissing Anya, but you're still thinking about Buffy, aren't you? Still hoping she'll break and give you what you want someday? You think the Slayer is going to fall in love with you?"


"No, actually, I've given that up. And I've gotten her out of my system. Shagging can do that for a person. Bring clarity." He grinned at Anya.


Xander looked horrified. And confused. "You two? Or you and Buffy?"


"Both." Spike smirked.


"Baby, this isn't the way. I mean it, I'm sorry. Don't do this. Don't choose this dirtbag. He's nothing. He's a monster."


"Maybe we're all monsters?" She looked up at Spike, then back at Xander. "But that's okay."


Xander looked confused. "It is?"


She nodded and looked at Spike, who reached out for Xander.


Xander punched his arm away. Spike reached again. Xander's expression turned mean. "You son of a bitch, I've wanted to do this for a long time now." He punched Spike hard in the face. Spike punched him back harder, knocking Xander off his feet.


"You're not in pain." Xander got up slowly, realization finally appearing to dawn. "The chip. You're chipless."


"Actually, the chip works great. We just have a small technicality working in my favor. A little wish thing. Rule number one, never piss off an ex-vengeance demon."


Xander turned to her. "An?"


"Don't call me that." She turned her back on him, then spun around again. "Who am I kidding? I want to watch this."


Spike moved so fast that Xander didn't even have a chance to scream as the life was sucked out of him. And she noted with satisfaction that he didn't even try to resist when Spike slashed his own wrist and held it near Xander's face. Xander sought the blood greedily.


"Goodbye, Xander," she whispered as his eyes closed. "See you in hell."




Xander woke with a roar. He lunged forward at Anya, but the shackles encircling his wrists held fast.


"Not worth trying," Spike said.


Xander hissed. His face transformed, the smooth skin giving way to the thicker, bumpier skin of a vampire. He hissed again.


"Oh, knock it off. Language. Use it."


"Spike." Xander looked at him with his normal disdain as his face returned to human. Then his expression changed to one of dismay. "And my sire."


"That's right." Spike ripped the top off a bag of blood and held it to Xander's mouth. "This'll take the edge off. For a while."


Xander drank. "You're my sire," he said again, as if trying to come to grips with the fact.


"Bites, I know. To hate me as much as you do, and now to owe me. Can't get around it. Not yet, anyway. Takes time to work off that kind of emotional linkage. Even that poof Angelus got more than his fair share of fealty from me before I finally broke free."


Anya studied Xander. He looked perfectly normal now that his bumps were gone. She tried to find some regret inside her and failed utterly. The only emotion she felt when she looked at him was a slight thrill of anticipation. "How do you feel?"


"Good enough to eat you."


Spike's response was immediate. He clouted Xander. "She's mine. You don't touch her."


"Hey! She's my fiancée."


"Ex-fiancée," Anya said.


Xander gave her his softest look. "Ah, baby. You still holding a grudge?"


She walked up to him. Fished into her pocket as she smiled. "No, baby," she said as she slammed a cross onto his bare chest. "No grudges."


He screamed.


Spike just watched, a smile playing at the corner of his mouth.


Anya pulled the cross away and stuffed it back into her pocket. "Okay, well, time for us to go."


Spike nodded and followed her out.


"Hey! What about me?" Xander's voice was desperate. "I'm your child or whatever."


They turned around. Spike smiled. "Oh, you'll be fine. You just keep working those shackles and they'll last half an hour tops."


"And then what?"


"Well, go out and start killing things. Start with someone you hate if you want. Or hey, if you like this life, you probably want to get rid of the slayer. She can put a real crimp in your style, you know."


"Buffy." Xander's face was thoughtful.


"Buffy. You remember where she lives or do you want me to draw a map?"


"I remember."


"Good. Let's go, Anya."


Xander started struggling in earnest. "Hey, am I ever going to see you again?"


Spike shrugged. "I'm on the hoping not side. You?" He turned to Anya.


"I could live without that." She gave Xander a mocking look. "I'd say that you're just not the most popular vampire around. Good luck with those chains. Oh, and thanks for your car."


"My car?"


"Yeah, you're giving it to us." Spike laughed. "I gave you eternal life. Least you can do is let us have that pile of junk."


Xander didn't seem to agree, but his protests got fainter as they climbed to the upper level. Spike pulled the ladder up behind them.


"Won't he need that?"


"No. But he doesn't know that. Not having it will really piss him off for a while." He grinned at her.


"So you only had it around for the humans."


"Yeah, stupid me." They walked in silence to Xander's car and drove the short distance to Buffy's house. Parking on the street behind hers, they walked around the block and up the porch stairs. He rang the bell a few quick times in succession.


"Thought you could go in?"


"I can." He rang the bell again. "I just know it annoys her when people do this."


The door flew open. "This better be...Spike?" Buffy looked at him in confusion, then seemed to notice who was with him. "Anya?"


"Surprised to see me?"


"Well, yeah. How are you? Where did you go? We couldn't find you." Buffy stepped aside. "Come in."


"Thanks." Anya stepped in. Willow was sitting at the dining room table, working on her computer. "Where's Dawn?"


"Missing." Buffy's face fell. "We've looked everywhere. Even Xan..."


"It's ok, you can say his name. I won't freak out." Anya let Spike brush past her, toward the back door. "Even Xander what?"


"He went after her. And now he's missing too."


"I'm sure he'll turn up."


"Have you seen him?"


Anya ignored Buffy. "He's been staying here, hasn't he?"


Buffy just nodded but she looked faintly guilty. "He's my friend. I couldn't turn him away."


"Even if what he did was wrong?"


"Even then. He knows he was a jerk. We all know that. He shouldn't have left you that way, you're right."


"He's a bastard. Deserves to suffer."


Willow took a deep breath. "Xander has issues. You know, family issues. Sometimes those haunt you." Her defense of Xander didn't surprise Anya. She was always doing that. And she had to give them credit. The real Scoobies knew how to stick together.


"We all have family issues. Xander's not unique. He can choose not to act like his family. He's not his father."


Buffy shook her head. "Sometimes it's not that easy."


"He chose not to go through with the wedding. He could have chosen the other path just as easily."


Willow got up. "But if he wasn't sure, if this wasn't what he wanted, then you can't expect him to have gone through with it."


"Why not? How did he know what he wanted? Look at the state he was in, after what that demon showed him. How did he know his own mind?"


Buffy looked skeptical. "So, you think he should have just gone through with it?"




"And then gotten a divorce when it didn't work out?" Willow asked, her voice the snidely patronizing one Anya hated.


"If it didn't work out, you mean?"


"Anya, you two had a really volatile relationship. Odds are it might not have lasted. I mean, sometimes it's easy to get lost in really great sex." Buffy looked over at Spike guiltily, then with suspicion. "Why are you here?"


"Just watching."


"Watching what?"


"All of it."


"Oh." Buffy looked even more suspicious. Then she seemed to realize that Anya was glaring at her. "Is something wrong?"


"Nothing was, until you came along."




"What did you say to him?"


"Who? When?"


This was going nowhere. Anya looked at Spike in frustration.


He raised an eyebrow and said, "Got about ten minutes, love. You probably want to move on to the good part."


"What good part?" Willow looked at Spike warily. "Buffy, something's wrong."


"Score one for the witch. Oh, sorry, ex-witch. Or recovering witch. Or whatever the hell you are." Anya went to stand beside Spike.


He draped his arm over her shoulders in an easy movement.


Buffy's eyebrows rose. "You two are together?"


"We are. And we're leaving town. Had enough of you and Xander to last a lifetime."


"Look, just because someone doesn't love someone else doesn't make them a bad person," Buffy said.


"If he didn't love me, he shouldn't have let me believe he did. How could he let me plan a wedding?"


"It was a mistake, Anya. He didn't mean to hurt you." Willow almost sounded like she cared.


"Well, he did hurt me. He hurt me way too much to just forgive."


"So you go off with Spike? That's your big solution?" Buffy looked at the two of them, then focused on Spike. "Why are you doing this? You and"—her voice caught as she tried not to laugh—"Anya?"


"You jealous, love?"


Her amusement seemed to evaporate. Anya thought she saw real emotion in Buffy's expression. "No. I'm not. But what about all your big declarations? I thought you loved me."


"Loved you? How can you even ask that? I did whatever you wanted, Buffy. I became whatever you needed. And when what you needed changed from encounter to encounter, I became that too. You wanted me to be noble. I was noble. Sacrifice myself for the little bit, no problem. Help you fight a god, then bring her on. Work with people I hate, who hate me too, will do."


He sneered at her. "You wanted me to not break during torture for love of you and Dawn, I didn't break. Wanted to get rid of the Eagle Scout, I gave you a reason. Needed an ear to wail into when they brought you back against your will, I gave you mine. Called out for someone to stop you from dying on a sodding dance floor, I did it." His voice rose. "You wanted me to shag you till you couldn't think, I did. Touch you till you forgot every last thing you hated about your sad little life, I gave you that. What didn't I give you, Buffy, that I could give? When did I ever say no?"


She looked down.


"Loved you? You're beneath me." He turned to Anya. "Ready, love?"


She could hear Xander outside the house. The bell rang and Buffy answered it. Saw Buffy break into a smile at the sight of Xander.


Anya laughed. Perfect timing. "Oh, look, speak of the devil."


"Will. Buff. Let me in." Xander's voice was more seductive than Anya had ever heard it. His eyes were soulful, pleading.


Anya took in Buffy's face. Then Willow's. They knew. They understood. And they were in hell. Good.


"Stake him or give him back his soul. That's your choice."


"I'll stake you," Buffy said. Before she could act on that threat, Xander grabbed her and yanked her out the door. The sound of fighting erupted. Willow rushed outside.


"That's our cue to leave," Spike said cheerily as he led her out the back door and through the neighbor's yard.


"Ever been to New Orleans?" she asked him.


"Ugh, too many vampire wannabe's running around. All that Rice woman's fault."


"Really? I like that kind of weather though. Hot and sticky. Sexy. How about Rio?"


"Love Rio."


"Yeah, me too. It's where D'Hoffryn assigns new demons. I think there might be a market for someone with my background. You know, someone who knows the demon world and knows what it's like to be human too."


He laughed. "What? You're going to open up a little consulting firm?"


"Why not? Maybe a magic shop, too," she said wistfully as she took the hand he held out for her. "And I'm sure we can find something for you to do."


"Oh, plenty to do there. For starters, teach your kind some combat skills. Some of you really don't know much about fighting. If you'd been better trained, Giles wouldn't have gotten the jump on you in that alternate universe you keep talking about."


"Good point. Okay then, we're set. Think Xander's car can make it?"


"Dunno. If we have to, we'll trade his tools for repairs. Or trade it for another car. Might be smart to start muddying up the trail. Buffy and Willow will be out for blood if they survive this...and each other."


"Whatever you say," she said settling into the seat, finally relaxing. As they drove to the train station to get her suitcase, she saw a shooting star. Centuries ago, her mother had told her to make a wish every time she saw one. But now she didn't have to—there were no wishes left in her. She thought of Xander's face, realized that it would be a long time before she didn't think of him. Xander happy, Xander in love, Xander in pain, Xander dying, Xander rising again. So many Xanders that would haunt her. A price she'd have to pay.


Oh well, she thought with a mental shrug as she reached over and stuck her favorite tape in the player. Payback's a bitch.