Chapter Rating: PG13
Just like that.
Anya felt the wish roar through her, the magical energies granting it sticking to her being like sand on flypaper. It filled up all those tiny holes that had been etched in, plugging them nice and tight with anger, revenge, and hate. Because that's all she was. That's what she thrived on.
She was too tired to even sigh.
Weak like broth. That's how she felt and that's what she was. She wouldn't feel so bone-weary as soon as the magics really sank back in, there was no question of that. The chip might have been ultimately good, but that didn't make it any less of a terrible injustice. And so much anger had been there behind it. A better first wish couldn't be granted.
Was it so bad? This is what she was, designed to feed off dark emotions and bring them to physical life. It had been fun the first time through, before she learned guilt. Maybe she could forget the feeling. It seemed that if she didn't, she'd fade away.
A brave person would stick to their principles. Anya just kept her eyes closed and tried to make the world stay frozen in time until she could figure out what to do.
* * * * *
He couldn't move. After all this time, it couldn't be that simple.
One hesitant hand reached up to his temple. He prodded once, softly. It felt like a normal head, so Spike pushed harder. Still nothing more than head-like. When he lifted the other to test his left temple, Anya fell the two inches to the mattress. He didn't notice, just kept prodding.
Finally reaching the point where he had to know the answers his fingers couldn't give, he demanded, "That it? It's... really out? The bloody chip is really out?"
She didn't reply immediately. Brown eyes slitted open in a face that had faded back to human, and they rolled back and forth before focusing on him. "Done. Your wish is granted. Vengeance has been served."
Her chest rose and fell in a heavy sigh, but the sound didn't register. Spike could only hear the tuneless yet jubilant noise that had started to sound in his head, all hail the conquering hero. All fear the returning villain. ... Adversary. Anti-hero.
Damned semantics were ruining his victory march.
Then a new sound rose in counterpart to the wordless music, that of his own hysterical giggles. Third time had to be the charm for the thing really having gone dead. This was it, then. He was free, running out of the prison into a feeling as glorious as sunlight that didn't burn. "The chip's gone," he repeated through laughter and disbelief. Anya was pulled into a wet kiss before he pulled away and crowed, "It's gone!"
No more hiding from soldier boys and their ilk. No more cowering. No more letting overstuffed, overconfident construction workers plow their fist into his nose. Oh no. There'd be no more of that. All it'd taken was buddying up and then some to a vengeance demon. Brilliant plan, it was. Why hadn't he thought of it before?
"You are absolutely bloody amazing, Anyanka." He reached down and pulled her off the bed, into strong arms that supported her in an impromptu gleeful waltz around the room. "Temples and initiates-type amazing. Gonna start a new religion in your name, and we'll have a god that listens."
"Can we go somewhere else?" came the quiet voice from the limp girl in his arms.
"What? Oh, right." A wide grin spread, giddy and overwhelmed. "Gotta find somewhere better'n this to celebrate, right? A city. We need a city, I'll show you around, you help me get some more payback..."
Anya flinched. Spike didn't notice, he just dropped her back to the bed and started pacing. She landed with a soft thump, but remained sitting.
"Seattle! We'll try out a new state, see how it fits us. Got some friends there, I'm sure they won't mind sharing a flat for so long as we're around." He tossed clothes merrily into suitcases, heedless of volume or potential wrinkles. Anya quietly rose and followed behind, refolding her clothes. With her head down, she didn't notice Spike had stopped until she bumped into him.
He spun around at the impact, then grinned and said, "But first, I need to get something to eat. Nearly forgot in all this." A quick kiss on the cheek for continued thanks, then he was out the door. Had he turned around before he'd left, he would have seen Anya sitting on the edge of the bed, honey blonde hair hanging like a shield before a face cradled in shaking hands.
* * * * *
Two hours in the speeding car, and Anya had yet to work up the strength and courage for the question that had to be asked. Was the family of some innocent now going to be gunning for her, because she'd set loose the attack dogs? They'd find out somehow. Didn't have to be a Wicca to have the Rule of Three apply, that she'd learned.
"Why are you doing that?" was what finally fell from her mouth.
Spike paused long enough in singing and drumming on the steering wheel to ask, "Doing what?"
"You're not on the beat. It's annoying."
"Good. Punk's not about precision. C'mon, you figured out the words to this one about the time we crossed out of Oregon. Give it a try."
She didn't, and he didn't care that she didn't, so not another word of conversation happened for another seventy miles. At around mile fifty she started calculating time zones, and it was at the seventy marker that she reached over to turn down the volume.
"Hey! What's that all about?"
"I need to call Giles. I put it off and... I need to call Giles." She punched in the numbers known by memory. Some responsibility had to be filled. Not everything she'd grown to care about over the last three years would be ignored, and she had to make sure of that now. Four rings sounded in her ear before the other phone was picked up, separated by a continent and an ocean's worth of static.
"Hello?" he asked, sounding very awake. Good, she hadn't wanted to wake him. She would have, but didn't want to. When no response came to his greeting, he repeated it. It was the repetition that shook Anya out of her nervous stun.
"Oh, Anya! What a surprise, I didn't expect to hear from you for another week or so, what with dealing with the wedding aftermath and what not. You put off the honeymoon, then?"
Tears. She hadn't expected them to come, but they did. Even if they didn't touch her voice when she responded, she couldn't deny that her eyes had turned damp and reddened. "No, we didn't put it... well, I guess we did." How to say this? "We didn't get married."
"I... I'm sorry, I seem to have heard you wrong. This is a very poor connection."
She could see Spike watching her from the corner of blue eyes, flicking his attention between her and the road. His ebullience had, thank whoever was listening, somewhat faded. "We didn't get married." Saying it made it so very real, and she couldn't deny that her house of cards had fallen into a tank-like car driven by a vampire as stable as the Tacoma Narrows. It might hurt less than a week and a half prior, but it still hurt.
She swallowed her hurt and got straight to business. "I've left Sunnydale, and as I'd prefer to cut all ties with the town, I'd appreciate it if you put the shop up for sale. I'm sure you have business contacts there who can handle it."
"Dear heavens. You'll forgive me if this all seems a bit sudden."
It had been sudden for her, too. It shouldn't have been. She should have seen the signs. Taking Willow's side over hers, time and time again. Correcting her mistakes like an annoyed big brother rather than a lover. Not letting her share the news of their engagement for nearly six months after the fact. But that had been picking at the bandaid; the day of the wedding ripped off the scab.
What was she to say? Now it became so apparent to her that there was no excuse for leaving behind their mutual investment. The door had even been hanging open. Would there be any inventory left?
Having no answers, she just stared ahead and wondered why she found herself increasingly afflicted with the terrible malady of speechlessness. It was so foreign to her, and was as worrisome as her episode the previous night had been. So she barely noticed when the phone was plucked from her hand.
* * * * *
"Came as a shock to us too, Rupes. Not that I didn't know that Harris had a spine shortage, just thought it wasn't this severe."
Spike couldn't help but smirk at the silence that rang out like a bell across the staticky line. He'd been curious as to whether Anya'd mention her traveling partner, and had hoped she wouldn't. Just so he could do exactly this.
"What... what are you doing there, Spike?" Shock and bewilderment filled the Watcher's voice, but no anger or worry for the girl's safety. Now that was a pleasant surprise.
"Girl needed a ride out of Sunnyhell. I have a car. Pretty simple equation, really."
"That's not how it happened," Anya sullenly said. The words were just loud enough to make it through the headset. "He was the one who left, and I came along."
"All right, I'll give her that. She picked the route, though."
Could you hear glasses being cleaned? "I must admit," finally came the too-measured response, "I find it a surprise that you left. After staying around all last summer, I would have thought that you had, ah, settled."
The good mood that had settled in on Spike began to ebb away. "What can I say," he near-muttered as he fumbled for his lighter. "You've missed some high times back in sunny California. And before you start off on how this 'demonstrates my inherent capriciousness about which you are invariably concerned'--and update the language while you're at it, stop giving people fodder for stereotypes--you should know something."
"Spike," Anya hissed. Ah, so she knew where he was going. Well, if he didn't tell the Watcher this, then he'd be worried about his partner's safety, and he'd probably take the excuse to tell his cronies all about the vamp who'd finally fled his relative safe zone.
"I'm not traveling with Anya," he said over the hissed warning, "I'm traveling with Anyanka." He glanced to the right, covered the headset and asked, "What? Had to tell him, he probably thought I kidnapped you. 'No return of the girl until I receive ten thousand dollars and a gross of the slug candles.' You'd be surprised how the bloke's mind works."
"Well," came the eventual response. "I... am not entirely sure as what the proper response is in this circumstance. Please stay on the line, Spike, I need to ask if... is Xander... is he all right?"
So much worry in those words, and so much trust wrapped up around them. Trust that he'd tell the truth, because he couldn't trust Anyanka to. Better the devil you know. "Yeah. Much as it pains me to say it, the great doughy carpenter escaped unscathed. After all, he's the one safe and sound at home, not shooting down the freeway towards Sea-" Shit. Spike flexed his hand around the phone and heard it crack twice.
"Sea... Sea... Seattle?"
"Uh, Sea of, uh, Mediterranean." The disbelieving look Anya was giving him nearly made Spike cringe. That had been pathetic, hadn't it?
After a short pause, he heard, "Well, you're still quite a pathetic liar."
Spike made a face at the phone. Yeah, the Watcher could just sod right off.
"May I ask what you're planning to do?"
"Well, as you sussed out our real destination, seems pretty obvious to me. Gonna drink coffee and listen to music sung by people who don't use shampoo." The sigh he got in response to that made him smile again. It was really too easy to irritate this man.
"Don't play dumb with me, Spike. As much as I hate to admit it, I've realized it is just playing. What are your intentions now that you're away from Sunnydale?"
Tell him about the chip or not? Spike snorted. Walk into the midday sun or not? "Since you asked so nice, then. Gonna keep fighting the good fight, all that. Only now, I won't have to deal with you lot looking at me like something you stepped in when I stop on by." Oh yes, he reveled in the silence that greeted that. Rupert knew it was true, and now he was being told that all those times they'd informed him he couldn't change were being proved wrong.
It settled oddly on him at first, as he'd seldom been up there before. But damn if the moral high ground didn't feel good.
"That said, I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell the other tweeds where we're headed to. I don't think they'd have the same trust in my self-control that Anya here's shown. Oh, didja need to talk more to her?" Even as he asked the question, he saw her wave the phone off. He frowned, then turned his attention back to the receiver. "Uh, she fell asleep. Just put the shop up for sale like she asked, then. You have her number, ring us when you have news on buyers."
Giles was barely able to sputter out a confused farewell before Spike pressed "end" and let the phone fall with a thump to the seat between them. "All right," he asked, "what's wrong?"
"Giles asked you if I killed Xander, didn't he." It didn't come out as a question, but as a simple statement of fact. She was facing out the window, and it was with a flash of panic that Spike realized she'd opened the window. Northern exposure, though, and the dawning sun just fell halfway across her lap.
"Yeah, but he knows Harris is fine. That's all I let on."
"But I did try to kill him," Anya monotoned. Before, her tone had been like that because of words chosen too precisely; now, they were flat from visible depression. "I just got distracted."
"Well, yeah, okay. But you didn't, no matter how much the whelp deserved it. A fair amount, if you ask me. And you swore off the vengeance, right?"
"Don't you get it?" She'd finally looked away from the window. Anger and sadness were mixed in equal amounts in pained brown eyes, at least from what Spike could tell when he glanced away from the windshield. "I tried to kill Xander."
"Yeah, we just covered that-"
"And when I swore I was done, I still had to grant you your wish! I'm not going to be able to stop granting wishes, Spike. It's what I am. I have to." A soft tug on his arm, whisper-soft, made him look back over. "Did you... did you kill someone to feed?"
He looked incredulously over at her. Had the stretch of freeway been anything but razor-edge straight, their demonic pain tolerances would have been put to a sudden test. "What?"
"You went out to eat right after I took your chip out. Did you eat a person?"
All Spike could do for a good ten seconds was clench and unclench his jaw. Perfect. Just bloody perfect. The one person in this world he expected to sympathize with him, give just the slightest whisper of encouragement, and now she'd slapped on a label of "evil vampire, not to be trusted" just like all the rest. Why the hell had he even tried?
"I... I just have to know. I can't let anyone else be hurt from my wishes. It may happen anyway, but I just... want to put it off."
There was something in her words, some reflection of his own pain that broke through the anger building around an unbeating heart. No matter how hard she tried, she wasn't going to be able to deny her nature. He'd been told that enough times when he thought it was cruel insults that he could overcome; now she'd been shown it for the simple truth.
Slumping a bit from where he'd tensed, Spike turned back to her and very clearly said, "No. No, pet, I didn't kill anyone."
"Really." He let a smile slip through his guard. "Might need blood, but I'm sticking to what we said earlier. You'll find a way to get wishes without doing the four horsemen bit, Anya. Keep yourself going without raining destruction down upon the masses."
"Really?" she asked again, with more hope and considerably less wobble to her voice.
"Really," he repeated, a real grin starting to break through.
"Really?" Now she was grinning, too. That slight bit of hope was being bounced back and forth between them, gaining in strength with each rebound. No matter how often they fell, it seemed to come springing back up.
Spike eyed her, then turned his attention back to the road. "Really."
"Now stop that." But a smile was on his face as he said it.
Continued in Chapter 8