The rose doesn't always smell as sweet. Anya-centric.
"Vengeance," Aud says, liking the way the word slips off her tongue. Vengeance.
"But only to those who deserve it," the demon reminds her. He is tall and blue and odd-looking, but she is unafraid.
"They all deserve it."
He smiles slightly, and for the first time in their impromptu meeting she feels somewhat uncomfortable. This creature has power unimaginable, she realizes, and he wishes to share it. With her; with Aud, the strange girl, the outcast, the freak, the dabbler of dark arts. "That's where I was going with that, yeah."
She turns from him and sees Olaf in the distance, thundering towards the river, dozens of villagers trailing behind him. It could be anyone. She could make it anyone.
"The girls are all very helpful," D'Hoffryn is saying. "They'll get you into the swing of things. They're a bit competitive at times, but you show great promise -"
His voice drops off at her interruption. They are silent for a moment. Echoes of footsteps and war cries reach her ears. "I see."
She feels when he is gone; the air beside her grows warm again.
In time the people return. Aud watches them from her dirty window. Night falls, and there is no sign of Olaf.
Under the shroud of darkness she steps out of her home, dew dampening her rabbit-skin shoes. It does not take long to find the path of crushed cabbages and bent grass. A broken pitchfork lays beneath a tree, and she quickens her pace.
She finds him on the far side of a hill, past the river and through a field of wheat. She sits beside the body on her knees, tangling her small fingers in it's beard, and closes her eyes. Her voice feels ancient and cracks as she speaks.
"Now anytime he goes near a woman under the age of fifty, he gets a rash on his you-know-where!" The table erupts into polite laughter. Halfrek's smile shines with pride and malice; her amber-tinted eyes settle on the woman beside her. Anyanka drinks her tea slowly.
"Anyanka, dear, you've been positively silent this entire night." Halfrek's voice oozes from her throat like bitter melted chocolate. "I refuse to believe that you've got nothing to brag about. You've been D'Hoffryn's favorite for years."
Yengral leans forward in interest, tilting her head to the side. "Do tell, Anyanka. I haven't heard a story from you in ages."
Anyanka places her teacup gently on its saucer. She settles her eyes on the far wall, where a painting of a woman in black rests in a golden frame, leaves of sculpted ivy encroaching upon the corners. She sighs delicately and meets Halfrek's gaze.
"I suppose I've just lost the drive for justice lately," she says lightly, mindful of their newly-christened title: 'justice demons'. Justice, vengeance, they all know that it's nothing more than a means to elevate themselves above the more common demons -- dignified words to mask the bloodlust that it is. Bits and pieces of their souls still tangle within their consciences, begging for justification every now and then.
There is silence, and Anyanka knows she won't be attending any more tea parties in the near future.
She doesn't really mind, she realizes, as she gazes out the window to the barren streets of Sunnydale. They'd never believe her if she told them she created this entire universe, anyway.
III. Mrs. Anya Christina Emanuella Jenkins Harris
"Xander, I'm pregnant."
She wipes away some of the condensation from the bathroom mirror; just enough to see herself. Her finger loops around the edge, drawing a little vine to match the border where the walls meet the ceiling.
Anya clears her throat and squares her shoulders. "Well, that's wonderful, honey." Her husky tone sounds nothing like her husband, but it's the best that she can do.
Water is still pounding in the shower.
"Okay." Back to her regular voice, but maybe a shade sweeter. "Good. So, did you know that interest rates went up again today? I think -"
There is a sudden pounding on the door. "Anya!"
She flushes, though she knows Xander can't hear her; as far as he knows, she's just in the middle of a shower. "Yes?"
"Can you hurry it up in there? Mike and Hank are over and they -" She hears someone interject, and then laughing. She can't hear their words over the showerhead. "They want to use the bathroom," Xander finally says.
"Of course," she answers, and this time he can't hear her. She peels off her underwear and steps into the shower. Just to get wet, she thinks. Not to wash away the water already clouding her eyes.
Blood shines on the tip of the sword, and she lets it fall from her hand.
Xander's back is pressed against the wall. His face is white, his breathing labored. She feels a sudden surge of loathing wash over her body.
"Don't call me that," she warns him hoarsely. The body lies on the wooden floor and nauseau tightens in her belly as she runs her eyes from the perfect hair to the dainty feet. Soon, she knows, the blood will spread from beneath the punctured chest. She looks away.
She breathes sharply as she bends, grasping the wrists together in her hands. There is no familiar rush of blood beneath her fingertips. The skin is smooth and cool. "I'm not Anya."
A shiny, wet trail follows her as she drags her destruction towards the closet. Blood doesn't really look like blood when it's on a dark floor like that.
It still smells like it, though.
"You can take it back," he says, in the panicky tone he adopts when there's trouble. She hears it now and realizes that she hates it, that she's always hated it, that she will always hate it and him and this life she's chosen for the past three years. "You can - reverse this sort of thing, can't you?"
"Wasn't a wish," she murmurs tightly, pushing the body on top of the others. The head lolls to one side like a rag doll, and her fingers twitch in a sudden desire to push the eyelids closed.
She shuts the closet door quickly.
"But you can take it back." She ignores him, pulling the cheap sofa over the scarlet puddle on the ground. "Anya."
Suddenly her body is on autopilot and he is thrown to the ground, a shaking mess in the doorway. "Anya," he gasps, "I love you."
She stops her next punch; she knows his words for what they are: a poor attempt, a scramble for the right words, a mistake. "I'm not Anya," she says quietly. "And I'm not Willow."
It's not until later that she wonders if she is the first ex-ex-vengeance demon to ever kill a Slayer.
What surprises her the most is that Andrew, of all people, is the one by her side on the bus, wrapping bloodied limbs in cloth, (almost) completely unflinching. "Impressive, doughboy," she remarks, and is rewarded (not that she'd admit it's a reward) with a nervous almost-smile.
That night they are all still on the bus, still driving, still tending to the wounded, but most importantly - still alive. Anya is in the back, alone. Willow is dabbing at Xander's temple with an already-dirty cloth. His gaze falls on Anya, and he smiles, flinching when Willow hits a sensitive spot. Anya smiles back.
"He loves you a lot."
So much for being alone. Anya peers over the back of her seat and sees Andrew hunched in his seat, his forehead pressed against the window.
She glances back at Xander, who is giggling now with Willow. "I know."
"That's it?" Andrew looks up at her. "You know? Don't you love him, too?"
She shrugs. "I feel a lot of things for Xander, love being one of them," she admits.
Andrew looks like he wants to say something, but he remains quiet.
For a moment. "I've never been out of Sunnydale, you know."
"I've been everywhere. It doesn't feel like it sometimes, though." Anya can't see Andrew anymore; she's slipped down and put her feet up on the seat, ready to sleep for the first time in what feels like a decade.
"You could show me around," he says hopefully. Anya smiles, closing her eyes.