Chapter Rating: PG13
Chapter Notes: You know Anya would be this big of bitch in defense of
someone she cared about and who she knew cared about her.
Still, she IS being cruel. My fangirlishness has not
blinded me to this. ;)
Anya could hardly blame the two men for finally collapsing, bleary-eyed, onto
the two free beds in the house. Even so, there were certain things that had to
be done, whether or not one's eyes were bloodshot enough to look outright
painful. She methodically piled one item after another on a tray, only to bite
off a gasp as they nearly tumbled off. This was not something she was
practiced at. As with most things, she was resigned to learning as she fumbled
An unsteady journey up the stairs put her at the door to the master bedroom.
She bumped it open with one hip, then set the tray down on the bed next to
Giles. One eyelid slitted open as the Watcher's head turned infinitesimally
toward her, and a smile of similar strength curled his lips. She smiled back.
"I brought up the notes you wanted." They went in a neat stack on the
comforter. "And some tea." That went on the nightstand. "And you shouldn't
have your shoes on the bed."
He just raised an eyebrow at that. Anya frowned down at him, then promptly
walked to his other end and tugged off the offending footwear. He snorted a
laugh as she neatly arranged the loafers on the floor, their toes in perfect
parallel. Focusing on that was easier than eventually asking, "How did it go?"
"She's crying. At least, she did for a bit." One hand rubbed his closed
eyes, then fell back down to his chest. "I'm honestly not sure if that's good
or not. At least she's showing... something. Anything."
Crying was definitely of the good. That was something about humans; they
never seemed to be able to go through the pain without stopping halfway and
trying to pretend everything was all right. Crying was often the jump start
one needed to stop wallowing and start moving again. When Giles saw that, he
would be happier. She almost smiled at the prospect.
"I'm glad you're here to help, Anya."
Now she didn't hold back her smile. "I'm glad I can help both of you, too."
"Buffy needs all the help she can get-"
"Not Buffy." Anya stood and picked up the tray again. "You and Spike. I'm
helping you and Spike."
He just looked at her. She squeezed his shoulder and gently but firmly
ordered, "Drink your tea before it gets cold."
The incongruity of the next room and its occupant barely registered as she
crept in. A financial mind that had replaced too many bloodstained items was
glad he hadn't fallen asleep face down on Dawn's comforter even as her heart
wrenched at the sight. The tracks down his face made it look as if he'd been
weeping blood. She knew better, though.
Spike was coming to a slow stop. He'd been able to show emotion, bright and
dark alike. It seemed effortless for him. When they'd been off together the
emotions seemed brighter, so it pained her to see them turn so black. It was
worse, though, to see them slip away entirely. Especially if that girl would
be the one to make it through the bleakness and leave him in the middle of it
She gently sat on the edge of the bed and touched the damp washcloth to his
face, dabbing away crusted blood from a dozen wounds. He had to have known
they were there, with the scent of blood so close.
Spike stirred once as she gently worked. He didn't wake, and she wasn't
surprised. He was tired again. Anya pursed her lips. So short a time in this
town, and already he looked as strained and tired as he had when they'd left.
A wave of protectiveness surged within her, and she wished for the first time
in centuries that her own intent could shape reality. Then these two could
live unaware of the great pain the girl was putting them through right now,
just by existing as she was.
As well wish for hope to have never come out of its box, she snorted to
herself. Humans and those that lived among them always pointed to hope as
their one lifeline in the worst of situations. She knew better: hope was the
knife that twisted at the end of a fall and made it seem all the worse. Either
things would happen or they wouldn't, and you just had to work diligently to
give the possible outcome the best odds of occurring.
So now, she worked to help those she cared about fix someone she didn't. Oh,
it would be nice if Buffy got better. She could be nice, at times. But Anya
cared about Giles and Spike, and she wasn't going to let that girl drag them
down with her.
Anyanka knew about causing pain. Anya had learned about what it did to you.
It was time to put both to good use.
When she walked back down the stairs and into the kitchen, Buffy was waiting
* * * * *
"You dyed your hair," Buffy finally said after picking at her pajamas. Hunger
had finally driven her downstairs, and the idea of asking either of the men to
get her something had been unthinkable. Not when they'd finally fallen asleep.
The other woman looked her up and down, warily but without a hint of fear.
That sent her gaze to fluttering around the room, not resting on any object
overly long for fear it might tie her to unpleasant reality. Finally she
reached a hand up to the greasy strands and forced herself to look at the hank
she'd clutched. At the upper edge of her vision was a stripe of dirt brown.
For her to see it must mean that the roots lay inches across at the part.
The afternoon sun backlit Anya's glossy hair, turning the strands at the edge
of the rich mahogany to a halo of red and gold. Buffy dropped her handful and
looked back down at the floor.
"Here." A glass of water was shoved under her nose, breaking the protective
trance that was developing as she traced the lines of the floor tiles. Buffy
took it hesitantly, then the pills that followed after an even greater wait.
Vitamins of all sorts were in her palm, brightly colored capsules and chewable
"You need to get better," Anya said brusquely. A plate of toast, burnt but
scraped, clattered to the counter in front of her. "So I'm going to help you
when they're asleep, at least until you don't need supervision."
It was cold, and the butter had congealed into a oily mass on top of the char.
Buffy sat down and forced herself to nibble at the edges. She didn't want to
be in this room with this woman, but she was hungry, and Anya hadn't managed to
burn the crusts. Not this woman; this demon. She'd been able to sense it,
back when she was running on nothing but Slayer strength and focus. Unbidden,
the memory of Giles chiding her six years ago for not being able to sense
demons floated up.
She'd finally pulled it off, and had the skill promptly removed. Yay her.
Sound the victory bells. Only black toast was left, now, so she let it fall
back to the plate.
Silence finally grew too oppressive, even as Buffy tried to keep herself
interested in the patterns on her family's place settings. Taking her pills
put it off a little longer, but she finally found herself asking, "So you're
being a... caretaker?" Buffy's brows furrowed slightly. "That doesn't seem
Anya's face was expressionless over the rim of her cup, as blank as Buffy had
once thought her mind to be. "I suppose it depends on what your definition is."
Not seeing any answer that could possibly lead to anything good, Buffy made a
noncommittal noise and dropped her attention back to her drink.
"So, what are you going to do now?"
"I don't know." Buffy tugged at her hair again. She desperately wanted to
shower. "Not kill myself, don't worry. They were worried about that for a
while, but Giles wouldn't let me." Not even she found the attempt at a joke
funny; Anya obviously didn't. "You shouldn't have come."
"I wasn't going to let Spike deal with all this alone. He's my friend."
A slideshow flashed across her brain, of the two "friends" entangled in each
other in the Magic Box. She wasn't sure if she would yell, laugh, or cry at
the absurdity of the word, so she instead tackled the first point. "I meant
both of you. You shouldn't have come."
"I know." She smiled, but her eyes were now a barely contained firestorm.
"He didn't want to. Giles forced him ."
Her heart sank lower than she thought possible; you couldn't go any lower than
the bottom, right? No, said another memory. Here's a lower place. "Giles had
"You did a good job of chasing us off. You and Xander. I certainly didn't
want to come back. If you could get out of Sunnydale and be happy, would you
ever come back to it?"
Buffy's heart seemed to be thudding from somewhere in her lower intestine. It
was all true. Betrayals. They could never forgive her. How was it that she'd
managed to push Spike, of all people, away so completely?
Anya's palms flattened against the counter as she leaned forward and put her
weight on them. Then, as her eyes hooded and her smile grew cruel, her hands
arched back up, moving against the slick surface like she was working at
stroking something. Or someone. "You know, if you're not going to admit to
enjoying being with someone, you don't deserve them. And you don't seem to be
very good at admitting that about anyone."
Her smile widened and thinned, like a snake's. Like a demon's. "I saw what
you did. Everything."
Buffy's breath caught in her throat.
Anya leaned forward, her shirt collar dropping enough to hint at breasts
larger than she'd left with. Everyone had looked drawn and weak, and everyone
here still did. Anya, though... she might be slender, but now she was somehow
lush, as well. "Everything you wanted to do." Condescension entered her
voice, dripping like honey left out so long it had turned sickly sweet.
"Everything you said you couldn't help."
"Please don't," Buffy managed to choke out as she turned away. "Not right
"Did you ever have him bite you? No, because that would have been dark." Now
her voice was sing-song, mocking. "And very very bad. And you're a good girl,
who was just fumbling along without a clue of what you were doing." Her palms
flattened again, but with a sharp crack against the counter. "Who you were
"Did you know, if you time it just right, a bite can make you come for a
minute straight?" Anya's eyes glittered like chips of glass, endlessly deep
and sharp. "Right on the inner thigh. Every time he'd drink, it was like I'd
fall all over again. Vampires have very skilled mouths." Now her head was
tilted to the side. Before she'd left, it had looked like a confused child.
Now, like a cat playing with a mouse. "You'd know that if you'd ever let
yourself enjoy it. But now, you never will."
Buffy raised the glass of water to her mouth with unsteady hands, focusing on
the coolness of the liquid against lips that had gone paper dry. Maybe when
she lowered it, this wouldn't be happening. Anya wouldn't be attacking her
outright, not right now.
"We had fun. For two months. Whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. We
didn't care who saw us. When was the last time you woke up in someone's arms,
because you didn't run off after you were done with them?" Her eyes narrowed.
"You're not eating your toast."
Buffy brought the bread to her mouth without conscious thought. She didn't
dare argue. The first swallowed bit sent bile to churning in her stomach,
which only grew worse as Anya kept on.
"We went out on dates, every night of the week. We talked to each other. We
understood each other. We helped each other climb out of a dark place that we
thought we were trapped in. He can do all that. I saw it. So that means that
you could have had everything you said couldn't happen, you were just too big a
coward to step outside your comfort zone." A fork bent in her hand. "And I
also saw what you did to people who dared to breach it." The fork was mangled
further as she hissed, "Want to guess what you leaving him to burn in the alley
felt like from his end?"
"Please!" Buffy begged, her voice shrill. "God, please, just stop! You have
no idea, okay? You have no idea what sort of nightmares I've been having or
how I can't eat or...." She broke off into heaving, choking sobs. Her chest
felt fragile enough to shatter like glass. "You don't know. I don't know. I
can't, but I do. I know how wrong I've been, but not why, and it's all...."
She had to stop to fight down the urge to heave up what little food she'd
The sound of the clock ticking in the next room was all that could be heard
for nearly a minute.
Anya's face was absolutely unreadable. "Do you hate me right now?"
It took every effort she had to gather enough to strength to raise her chin
and bite off, "Yes."
"Good." She smiled, even if her eyes were still stony. "Hate's a big
feeling. Don't make the same mistake you did before and think that just
because something big and strong and scary is dark, you can't use it to make
"You did that to me on purpose?" Buffy demanded, the conscious effort of
forming words now fading against very real outrage. "You bitch."
"Good." Another glass of water was shoved at her. "Keep that going. You're
going to need that kind of anger to get your sister back." Buffy knew she had
to be gaping openly, but Anya didn't miss a beat. "I talked to that boy Giles
left on the porch and filled in all the blanks we'd been missing."
"I can't believe that you...." Buffy shook her head. The emotional pathways
that she'd methodically shut down were opening now, faster than before, and it
"I'm sure you have all sorts of names for me." Anya sipped at her water.
"And I'm equally sure I could return them all, and more. There are some very
interesting insults I've heard over a thousand years."
"So." Buffy laughed. It was a giddy, crazy sound. "Didn't take you long to
fall right back into that demon mold, did it?"
Anya just looked at her, like a curious scientist. Then she turned on her
heel, grabbed the loaf of bread, and put in some new toast. Only after she'd
adjusted the timer she did turn and say, "Everyone here has their own ideas how
to fix you. I've seen a lot of women that need fixing, and one thing was in
common with all of them."
Buffy narrowed her eyes. "And what's that?"
"It helped if they had something to be angry over. Depression doesn't solve
anything." She poked a butter knife at the air. "If you need someone to hate,
it had better be me. Spike and Giles are helping you the nice way. If that
doesn't work, then look to me if you want to get mad."
The pause was long enough for Buffy's new breakfast to pop up. Only after
she'd buttered it did Anya explain, "I don't trust you getting mad around him
Like she didn't know that. Like she didn't know that she broke everyone
around her like toys. Anya didn't have to say it, she already knew it and that
was hard enough. Some tiny part of her flickered to life, wanting to shut the
damnable woman up.
She glared at Anya across the island even as her golden brown toast slid
before her. As her mind began thinking of a thousand different ways to prove
her wrong, she nearly devoured breakfast.
Continued in Chapter 21