He is always making excuses for her. (Anya after The Body.)
Dawn and Buffy come out of the metal room. They appear tired, which is no different from the people surrounding her. She isn't, though. Every cell in her body is humming -- what are they going to do next? Xander? What will she do next? And why? How long is long enough to stand here all silent and sad? How is all this standing around helping anyone, anyway?
"I think we're going to go home now," Buffy says quietly, and gives them all a tight-lipped smile. Xander and Willow hug her; Tara touches her hand. Giles' hand hovers on the small of her back as he leads the sisters outside.
Anya stands back and watches.
She moves to Xander's side -- his hand looks silly with bandages all over it, and not strong like normal, she notices -- and tugs gently at his sleeve. "Is this where we leave?" she whispers, feeling Willow's unapproving eyes on her.
Xander's voice doesn't reach her ears until a few long seconds later. "Yeah," he tells her, but his eyes are still trained on the door to the metal room. She takes a deep breath.
"Well, let's go then." Even she hears how unnaturally perky her tone is, and she feels a small stab of guilt. This is not a day to be perky, she has learned. It's also not one on which her mouth and mind are functioning properly. Xander looks apologetically at Willow and Tara as she drags him away -- he is always making excuses for her -- and follows her out into the parking lot.
In the car they are silent again, and she hates it. She wants to scream and bang her fists, break the windshield, maybe, just so one of them will talk. She won't even mind if they yell at her. The white noise is driving her crazy.
Instead she settles for another question. "What will they do now?"
Xander glances at her before turning his gaze back to the road. "What will who do, Ahn?"
She knows that Willow doesn't like her questions, and this makes her somewhat nervous, but she answers anyway. "Buffy...Dawn."
Xander's mouth moves for a moment, but he doesn't make a noise. She hates it when that happens. Xander always has something to say, and it makes her feel uncomfortable when he doesn't. Like they're living in one of those alternate universes. Willow is staring out the window, pretending not to have heard her. It's just as well, since all she'd say anyway is how horrible Anya is for wanting to know, for not understanding. Finally Tara's soothing voice answers her.
Sometimes Anya wonders if Tara is really human. She always knows the right things to say and do. Anya is human now, too, but so far the point of humanity seems to be that knowing these things is impossible.
Xander heads straight for the television when they reach the apartment. Her mind races back to that morning, when they'd been watching cartoons and eating popcorn and juice. The phone had rung, and she hadn't wanted to get it, because the coyote was finally going to catch the damn bird this time, and so Xander had gotten it; he had come back crying.
She sits beside him on the sofa, folding her hands carefully in her lap. She doesn't really care what the president is saying, and she doesn't think Xander does either, but if it makes him feel better she won't ask him to change the channel.
The tv noise hurts her ears.
"What will they do with Joyce's room?"
He sighs. He sounds tired.
They're all very, very tired.
"I don't know, Ahn. Storage, maybe. Maybe nothing."
The television has captured his attention again, and she knows he doesn't want her to speak anymore. But she has to.
"/What/?" The word is harsh. She sees the flash of regret in his eyes -- he didn't mean to sound angry. His fingers come to rest on her arm gently. "I'm sorry, Anya. What...?"
She looks back at the president for a few moments. The sick, overwhelming feeling rises to a lump in her throat again, and she hopes this isn't something that will happen often now that she's known death.
"Is this what I did to people?"
It takes him a few moments to understand what she means. He forgets sometimes who she was, who she is, and this worries her.
"Oh, Ahn..." His arms are a little less warm than usual, and a little tighter. She lets him hold her for a while, and pretends not to notice when his tears drip onto her sweater. He is quiet; he's not making excuses this time.
There are none to be made.