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Wishful Thinking
By Ginmar

Part Five: Buffy and Anya

The pizza was pepperoni, the pajamas were silk, and the unexpected guest was Anya.

Buffy took them in more or less good grace, after a glance at the pepperoni and an eye roll at Giles’ PJs, which he’d carried in from the car. They were so awful that she wondered for a moment if he kept them in the car to scare away car thieves, and she briefly wondered about what sort of spell she’d need to protect her house from tacky sleepwear.  Anya was a little harder to deal with; they eyed each other cautiously, Anya’s lips compressing tighter and tighter with nervousness, before Dawn poked through the uncomfortable little group and grabbed the pizza for inspection.Giles followed, with a curious look back at Anya and Buffy, still standing in the doorway.

“There’s something to be said for an almost-apocalypse, isn’t there?” Anya said bravely. “Makes you forget all those stupid little rules about manners.”

“Yes, there is that.” Buffy said. She let out a big breath and stepped back, ushering her unexpected guest into the house and onto the couch, where they took up opposite ends and pillows, clutching them to their chests like shields. “Totally makes it easier to deal with smaller things.”

“Like being left at the altar.”

“Seeing your ex again.”

“Finding out you have to subcontract your own revenge.”

“Seeing the ex-boyfriend’s wife.”

“Having to deal with costly repairs.”

“Figuring out how bad your ex-boyfriend’s taste in women was.”

That got Anya’s attention. “Which ex?” She demanded suspiciously.

Buffy glanced up from staring pensively at the coffee table. “Huh?” Oh, hell.Riley, okay? I meant Riley and the Wonder Wife.”

“Oh, good, because….”

Crap.

“Because that had nothing to do with bad taste.” Buffy assured her. “I know.”

“Maybe a little revenge, though.” Anya said thoughtfully. “I’m glad it pissed Xander off.”Buffy glanced at her skeptically, eyebrows raised. “I was,” she insisted. She paused. “No, I was. I was…” She tried to take a deep breath but something trembled in the middle of it, and she swallowed hard. “I was glad it made him jealous. After I realized there was no way to turn his intestines into silly string, that is.”

“Okay, I’m keeping you away from the public.” Buffy said. “But how would you like it if I turned you loose on some local vampires?”

Anya smiled. “I could do with that.” She frowned, more forlorn than angry.

“I still miss him. I’ll be thinking of him when I kill something, but it’s not going to make the missing part go away. Even though everybody comes before me.”

“That’s not true.” Buffy said automatically.

“How would you know?”Anya said.“You’re one of the…bodies.”

“But I’m like a hobby.” Buffy said. “You’re…his life.”

Anya sniffed, wiping her nose on her sleeve. There was something childlike about the gesture that saved it from being vulgar. When she lowered her arm, though, she was back in charge. “So who dumped who?”

“Huh?”

“You and Spike. Who dumped who?”

“Me. I du---I told him I couldn’t see him any more.”

“Why?”

“Well…” Buffy said, regretting her candor. That was one of the problems with Anya; she was so new to the human business after a thousand years as a demon that she tended to get impatient with the niceties and charge right on through them.“It was me. He was…” The look on wonder on his face that first time, as he’d realized exactly what she was doing, sliding down on top of him…That look would haunt her till she died.

“Why? It’s not like he was bad in…Oh. Huh.” Anya assessed Buffy’s reaction.“That’s Xander’s look. That’s the look he always gives me when I say something like ‘orgasm’ or nipple’ in public.” Anya looked disgusted. “Like there’s an easy way around those terms. I suppose I could just make things up, like, ‘oh, that pointy thing on my breast’ or ‘that big---“

Buffy cleared her throat and Anya sighed explosively, wriggling down into the cushions of the couch. “I was dating a vampire.” Buffy said. “A Slayer and a vampire, dating.”

“You weren’t dating. You were having sex. We never saw you in public with him.”

“No, guess not.” Buffy had to agree with that one.

“Was he pissed?”

“What?”

“Well, I’d be pissed, you know. Actually, I was pissed.That’s what Xander used to do to me.”

“Huh?”

“Oh, you know, we’d have sex together, and then he’d try to ignore me. Didn’t work, either, did it?” She demanded proudly. “Till now, at least.” Her face fell, but then she sniffed ferociously, and squared her shoulders. “But I don’t care, either way.”

“He’s not ignoring you, he’s…”

“I don’t care, really.” Anya repeated, with more firmness. “He can do whatever he wants. It’s none of my business.”

“How is your business?” Buffy asked, rather too eagerly. Anything to get her off the whole subject of Spike, anything to steer her into less hurtful conversational waters.

“Under construction.” Anya muttered. “Wouldn’t you know it, too. I bet Xander would have given me a discount. A good one, too. At least until the Spike thing…”

“Uh..”

“He was so hurt, you know.” Anya said, while Buffy had to look abruptly. “I’m a thousand years old, I know men. They always say stupid things when they’re hurt, no matter how old they are. Five years old? ‘I didn’t want that red pen.’ Fifty years old? It’s, ‘I don’t want that red Ferrari anyway.’

“He said…He didn’t want me?”

“No. He said…He said….’she was so raw.’ And other things I’ve forgotten. So why did you dump him again?”

“Because…”Buffy stared up at her, seeing Anya’s face, but when she looked down at her hands, all she saw was a blur.I was raw, and no one else saw it. “Because I just couldn’t keep doing that to him.”

“What, boinking him? I’m sure he minded.”

“No, being dishonest.” Buffy looked down again, trying to avoid that bright clear gaze. “I didn’t love him.”

“So?”

“But he loved me.”

“That’s not your fault.”

“No, I shouldn’t have…”

“Well, it’s over, right? Besides, how do you know you didn’t love him? I didn’t think I loved Xander, at least I didn’t want to think that I did. But it turns out, I did. I just thought it was indigestion.” She examined Buffy with a critical eye. “Has your stomach been upset lately?”

Giles’ big concession toward not spoiling the ambiance of the slumber party was to loosen his tie, eat his pizza with his hands, and toss back a tumbler of Scotch with every piece of pizza. After the second slice and the second glass, he removed his tie entirely, leaned back on the couch, and rubbed his eyes wearily.Dawn, sitting on the floor and munching on pizza, caught him blinking slowly with weariness and cleared her throat. “Huh. I ate so much I’m going to explode. Pajama time.”Buffy and Anya, working their way through the pizza with thoroughness if not enthusiasm, glanced up, then at each other. They all exchanged glances again, and Buffy, as hostess, took the lead. “Well, then, it’s pajama time.” She tried to stare sternly at Giles but he gave her a weary look that contained so much skepticism that she slunk away, abashed. It was a relief to troop upstairs with the other girls, even if Anya going along, puppy-like, was unexpected. Guess she’s staying the night, Buffy thought, but it wasn’t as disturbing as it might have been. Bigger fish to fry, bigger disturbing things to worry about.  Even in a Slayer’s life, having your best friend try to end the world was…not in the handbook. Of course, having friends had never been in the handbook. And then there was Xander going off to England with Willow. Xander, in a foreign country? She couldn’t understand why, but it was somehow comforting to have Anya around, even though she kept, well, wondering….

Wondering what he was like with Anya.

Nope, not gonna go there.

Boy, Riley and Spike both got over me reeeeeeaaaaaaaaallllll fast.

Not that fast, she thought, stepping into the bathroom to grab her big old terrycloth bathrobe. Not that fast at all.

She had to look at herself in the mirror to make sure she was still Buffy on the outside, when her insides felt like they’d vanished. All composed, that was her. She slept with his memory these nights, remembering all the things she’d refused to allow herself to acknowledge before, but her days were haunted by flashes of things seen out of the corner of her eye, sudden whispers at her ear.  A bright blonde head of hair on a man might make her whip around on the street, just before she regained enough control to scoff, Ha. A vampire in the day. Yeah, right. But then, five minutes later, she’d find herself catching glimpses of a certain style of movement, the curve of a face... She heard voices now that she’d never bothered to listen to before, her ears catching sound of every tenor voice that came to the cash register. At night she found herself remembering the kisses at her ear, the way his hand curved around her waist, her face, and her shoulder…. Should have paid attention. Now it was possible to look back and recognize those gestures for what they’d been, and realize exactly what her obliviousness meant. If you don’t let yourself see what you’re doing, it doesn’t happen. She’d kissed him before, before all the sex, but that stopped once they slept together, along with the intimacy they’d had. She’d never noticed, never allowed herself to notice, how it changed after the first time they had sex, but she kept finding herself in her dreams beneath the stair at the Bronze, kissing a man who kissed like a boy, eager and anxious and sweet. That was where it started, she thought. And then, looking at herself in the mirror, she saw him again at her feet in the alley, more wounded than she’d ever seen him, and thought, and that was where it ended. This is me, and I did that. Having sex with an evil, soulless thing was not as bad as doing that to someone who loved me. I did that. I really did that.

I just wanted it to stop…

She turned and glanced past her shoulder, half expecting to see him. Another fun trip to the bathroom, she thought. Dawn had become very appreciative about how Buffy had suddenly stopped taking those last days of Pompeii type baths that lasted for hours.

What was the big surprise? Evil soulless thing and all….Except what was her excuse? I came back from the dead. Well, he was dead. Are we even?

His face, afterward.

Her feeling, afterward. It’s over. I can say it’s over now. Everything I thought you were, you finally turned into. What a relief.

Except it’s not over.

It’s not as if it’s the first time, her subconscious whispered, coming out to play when her defenses were down.

What?

Not as if it’s the first time somebody tried, her brain teased. You can’t even remember it. You won’t remember it.

No. Not a chance. Just…him.

That’s what you think.

I’m the Slayer. I get attacked all the time.

Not like this.

“Hey! Bathroom hog!” Dawn pounded on the door. “Open up or I’m coming in. Put down that Tiger Beat.”

“Why,” Buffy asked, “Is it okay for you to read it but not for me to monitor your reading material?”

“Because it’s such a realistic excuse.” Dawn said. “I know you like ‘N’Sync.”

“They’re a sign of the next Apocalypse.” Buffy washed her hands, and took far too time much doing it, while Dawn crossed her arms and sighed impatiently.Buffy then flicked drops of water at her, and she scrunched up her face in order to obey the guidelines for obnoxious sister interaction, but bounced, because they hadn’t had a water fight in ages. Dawn happily stuck out her tongue at her, then grabbed her around the waist to shove around her and grab her toothbrush. All too vividly, the gesture slipped into someone else’s, intimate and sudden.

“I’ll make you feel it…”

“Buffy?”

“Oh..” Buffy shook herself free. “It’s just, well, I’m gaining weight again.”

“Looks good.” Dawn spit into the sink between vigorous tooth brushings. “Does that mean your lavender camisole is too small and I can have it now?”

“Sure.”

She slipped out of the room before Dawn could notice anything, say anything.

Anya was puttering around the other room, evidently bumping over furniture while she changed. Good. Just good. Not now. She sat down weakly on the bed, staring at the bathroom door, expecting it to open and see him there. Afraid to see that face, afraid to see him the way she was accustomed to. Because who knew when he would change?

He hadn’t been angry, hadn’t been hateful. He’d been desperate. That was the thing that clutched at her. He’d been so, so desperate, so frightened, so…..lost…..and that was what she wondered about. It was an unknown state for him.It was so human. For the time of their relationship, she’d been the vampire, not him. And then everything had gotten switched back. That was what made her thoughts circle around in her brain like water circling a drain, except she couldn’t get them past some central dam, some block that she couldn’t see. Had that possibility, that action, been lurking within him the whole time, waiting for the right-or wrong- time? Had she really been right all along? How much danger had she been in? What about Dawn?

No, she thought. No, she would never believe that. He’d almost died defending her, not once, but twice.

He wanted to die for me, too.

Different, that was different.

How?

Because you were the one who changed things.

She saw again his face, as she maneuvered, as he realized what she was doing.After the fight, the words, the kiss, there had no place for all her emotions to go….except him. Oh, God, that kiss….There had been no moment where she could stopped it, would have stopped it.Naked, with him, she had felt…almost innocent. Except afterward. She kept coming back to that moment. I shouldn’t have done that. He thought it meant love, but for her it was something else.

She was whipped back to the alley, staring down at a face she couldn’t allow herself to see. Why hadn’t it happened, then, after she’d beaten him so badly? Why hadn’t he been so frightened then? Why hadn’t he reacted? Why hadn’t he reacted that way then? What had done it?

Unless he was used to it.

Unless it was normal.

Unless being beaten by her didn’t scare him.

Her leaving? That scared him.

What had she done to him?What had he done to her?

He was a vampire; he wasn’t a man, however much he acted like it. But that? Why hadn’t he reacted when she’d beaten him? He hadn’t even resisted, she realized, before a mental wince pulled her back from the scene. What if he had? What would she had done?

Nausea made the blood in her veins feel thin. Would I have staked him? She thought. No, I wouldn’t have. I couldn’t have. I’m not that bad a person.

But what did I do afterward?She’d left him in the alley to tend to himself. It would have been braver to just stake him. But she had taken the easy way, not doing anything bad, but not doing anything good, either. Or honorable. Just…

Nothing.

Was that why he hadn’t come back after what he’d tried to do?

Was that why she wanted him to?

“Buffy….”

She turned and looked up at Giles in her doorway, Scotch in hand. “There’s pizza left, and I’ve eaten all I possibly can, for this year at least.”

“Giles…”She took a deep breath. “Drink some more. We have to talk.”


Continued in Part Six: Differences


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