Part 16. Buffalo Soldier
Now I'm invited back in the house. Why? Because Giles might think the worst of her if I'm not invited, after helping, and getting battered to prove it? Because Willow was supposed to be my friend, like she is? Mm...nasty little comments - check; despising looks - check; not listening to a word I say, 'coz what does the ex-demon know about anything - check; failing to do their jobs at my wedding - big check in the debit column. By the Scooby definition of friendship, 'to those that are not us', Willow must have been my friend. If I was able to sell short on how loved they made me feel, I'd be able to pay for the destruction of my shop.
I keep thinking of my last wish, before I came to Sunnydale. It was in Jamaica. It took hours of listening to the woman, in bars that blared out Bob Marley on repeat, before the woman made a wish, on the man that beat her. It was one of my most original. I'm still proud of that one. Every time he hit her he broke one of his own bones. Payback's a bitch, and that was a doozy. I don't have music in my head. I don't hum old rock songs in the shop, like Giles, when he thinks he's alone. I loathe the music of pain Xander inflicted on me, when he brooded about Buffy. But I've got 'Buffalo Soldier' stuck in my head, and I can't get seem to get rid of it, and I hate that. I hate knowing I'm the Buffalo Soldier - or I was for my last human years. Not wanted for me: something to be used, not a real person. I don't like that feeling. It hurt as a mortal. It hurts as me. Something to be used is all I'll ever be to them. I can see that now.
I'm currently being used to bring, and pay for, the liquor.
I'm supposed to forget all about the destruction of my property, the bruises, the unconsciousness, the pain, having my brain manipulated - again. It's a wake, I'm told. I'm supposed be sad, and mourn. It's official. Ppfftt! Humans! It's strange though, I'm still sad for Joyce. She was nice to me, and I miss her, and I still don't understand why she had to die. It hurt so much when I thought Giles was going to die, and he's human, and these things happen. I can still feel that pain, even though I'm me again. I have all these queasy feelings in my stomach, about Spike and Giles arriving. But I don't feel sad about Willow. I have all this baggage from the last few years, saying I should; but I don't. Is this human? Am I a bad demon? I don't understand why it's all still so complicated. It's supposed to be simple. I'm supposed be happy. I was for centuries. It didn't hurt, and I had fun. What have they done to me?
I tried to be Willow's friend. I didn't like her: not after all those little comments. Who would? Helen Keller? But I tried, because I loved him, and it was what he wanted. I always did what he wanted. She never wanted my friendship, or to be my friend. She'd use me; that's true. I tried to ignore it: for him. Why did I waste my breath - that's valuable, and would have been irreplaceable, if I weren't me again. I could have spent my whole mortal existence being insulted, ignored, and put down, if he'd been man enough to go through with the wedding. Why was I willing to do that? Fear? Fear of living, and dying, alone and unwanted? I wish I knew - but I can't grant my own wishes, even if I forgot for a while. Being reminded of the rules by Hallie - now that's embarrassing.
The only ones who really were my friends were Giles, and Spike.
Giles gave me a purpose in life, even if he destroyed my old one, with my necklace. Spike gave me solace, and understanding, even if we couldn't help each other. I've missed them. I'm glad they're coming home - even if it will be awkward, for others, who aren't me. I also don't trust her to look after Giles, after what she let happen to him in the shop, let alone trust her anywhere near Spike. It's why I'm putting the three of them up. After the last time I saw Spike, I want him somewhere I can make sure there's no flying axes anywhere near him. He's my friend. I don't love him. The orgasm was good, considering we were both drunk, and miserable, but we're not going there again. He's the other Buffalo soldier, and we've got to look after each other - right?
I've got the room. Thank D'Hoffryn for that short sale on WorldCom, and that lovely profit, which funded my new apartment. It's big enough for guests too. It had to be, to take the surviving stock from my shop. I couldn't take it all to Arashmahar anyway. D'Hoffryn wouldn't approve of the explosions taking some of the amulets would cause, and I'm still trying to make it up to everyone over the wedding presents thing, as it is. It's not as if my family could send their presents back to Macy's. Besides, after last time, I feel happier having a place for me, and my possessions, outside Arashmahar - something I can't lose, something that's mine.
Xander, of course, was big with not allowing me to have my friends stay in my own home. Well it's my property, and he gave up the right to interfere when he dumped me. He was so full of jealous garbage. "I couldn't have a rapist in my home". I know better. I told Spike to stop, and he did. I'm the one that had sex with Spike, and knows what he's like, not Xander - though from all he says anyone would think it were the other way round. "Giles place is with Buffy". Yes, and being at her beck and call does him so much good. He's my friend, and I'm taking care of him, and any baggage he's bringing with him, even if it's Wesley.
Oz is pleasant, though it's difficult not to be when you just say, "Hey, good to see you," after more than two years. His friend makes up for it though. He babbles like Willow. Since Dawn can't leave Mike alone, I hope, for her sake, Oz hasn't turned gay too. Dawn's a little young for vengeance. I'm pretty sure Mike's not gay though. I saw him eyeing my breasts. At least I have some; unlike some people who shall remain unemployable.
Speaking of vengeance, I don't feel a thirst for it from Buffy. She's much the same as when I got back - a padded cell, compared to Willow's scream. But that's appropriate, I suppose, when she thought she was in a padded cell she didn't try to kill me - I didn't qualify as a friend. Not that I was there, of course, but it's the thought that counts - it's what fuels vengeance. Why would a Slayer need, or want, my services anyway, she can destroy anyone, or anything, she wants. I've seen her do it.
Xander's been sent to Super Food World to get more snacks, since he ate all the existing ones. At least I won't have to see him eat with his mouth open anymore. I mean, a vampire eats with better manners, and they prefer their prey alive and screaming. But if he lingers in the chips aisle, at least there's a chance, Giles and Spike will get here before he can start raving again.
We arranged to meet here at Buffy's. It's not like they're using a cab, and having it wait outside with the luggage costing money. I'm not sure a cab would take human remains anyway.
Sound of a car stopping outside the house, and a door shutting. Heavy steps walking up to the door. A knock on that door. Everyone freezes. They're all such drama queens. I opened the door.
It was Giles and Wesley. Synchronised exhaling from Buffy and Dawn.
I pulled Giles into a quick hug. Well, if I didn't I wouldn't get the chance once Miss Everything's About Me got her hooks into him. Giles hugged me back, and said, "Thank you Anya. Your hair looks lovely brown." I didn't even have to mention it this time. Yay me!
Wesley looked ashen, and just stood there. I didn't know him as a demon, and didn't care to know him as a human. But now I'm me I can see such pain, and such suffering. I can see a child locked into a dark cupboard; a thin woman dumping a teapot on a floor; a bald black man shutting a door; a snarling, spitting, vampire with a pillow. So much pain I can't believe Hallie didn't help. But maybe a watcher child was warded against us, and there are so many abused children in the world, and even we can't be in two places at once. Such agony, such guilt, and I keep seeing pillows, children whose faces change, and pillows.
Buffy did at least wait until Giles finished talking to me before coming up. Her eyes looked huge, and scared. The lower lip came out in a pout and, more apprehensively than I've seen from her before, she looked up at him and said, "Giles?"
He hugged her too, for a long time. More than I got, but she is his slayer I suppose, and I 'm just the business partner, in a destroyed business.
Dawn sat across the room looking bewildered, and confused. Oz observed, and Mike went into the kitchen to make tea.
Buffy unburied her head from Giles jacket, and said, "You don't hate me?"
He smiled, sniffed and said, "Never."
She swallowed, and said, "No Spike?"
Loud snort from Dawn. Buffy let go of Giles, stroked Dawn's hair, and said to her, "We talked about this. It's right he's here, for Willow's sake, and I...I need to talk to him. So...we're ok with this, right?" She nodded, her face buried in her long hair.
Giles let her talk to Dawn. When she'd finished he said, "I wanted to come in first, and see how you are. I also didn't want you to have to re-invite him in person. Making things easier on everyone, and all that."
Tears glimmering from her eyes, or lint from Giles jacket, with a cracked voice she said, "There's no dis-invite, Giles. I know...I know. But there isn't. So..."
Wesley said, "I'll get him. Be useful and all that."
He returned with Spike, in a black woollen suit jacket, that swam on his thin form. He was thin before, well I do know exactly what he's like under all that leather. He's dreadfully thin now. I'm gonna need more blood in the cooler.
She's not looking him in the face.
Spike looks sick, looking at Buffy. I didn't think a vampire could look that ill.
But, there's something else about him, about his smell. He smelt wonderful before, now there's something else - something fattening the veins on my face. Such beautiful pain. A girl that looks strangely familiar; a dark haired girl covered in slime and fungus; Buffy pounding his face to mush - screaming obscenities at him. All that pain and scorn, filling me with the power and pleasures of vengeance, and pulling my veins out in my face. His pain was a siren before; now it's irresistible. I would have given him a wish before, now my legs have turned to jello, as every fibre of my demon screams to grant vengeance to such pain.
But there's such a stench of guilt - the reek of guilt over crimes committed; horrors done with joy; and such self-loathing. Guilt that forces down my demon; that denies the right to vengeance. Guilt that believes the pain to be deserved, that denies any right to justice. The stink of the soul that forces my veins back into my skin.
"You've got a soul."
Continued in Part 17. Walls Come Tumbling Down