My offering this time was inspired by a comment moscow_watcher made on my story for the previous seasonal_spuffy round, La Meilleure Revanche. It starts out the same as that one, and then goes wildly AU. So if you start reading and think, "hey, I've read this before," there's a good reason for that. (I've included a second cut-tag to right before it starts to be different, and marked the spot thus: ***.)
It's kind of like a Choose Your Own Adventure. Either story works on its own. If you prefer your angst unadulterated, you might want to stick to the original. If you don't mind stepping out on the angst a bit, read on.
Thank you to enigmaticblues, and to rabid1st for her quick beta.
Timeline: during "Entropy"
Other pairings: a hint of Spike/Anya
Standard disclaimer: The characters aren't mine, just the story.
Feedback: I wish you would.
Through his increasing inebriation, a small part of Spike's mind gradually began to register an oddity. Anya kept asking him what he wished would happen to Xander.
What the flying fuck did he care what happened to him?
There was some animosity there, sure. Only so much bullying and insults he could take from a human he had no interest in shagging. The primary reason he'd object to seeing Harris wrapped in bacon and thrown to hungry wolverines was that Buffy wouldn't like it. But any resentment he felt towards Xander was dull and fallow compared to the piercing agony caused by his beloved's rejection.
Anya had to know that. And if she were just being self-centered, why would she keep asking him what he wanted?
He leaned closer flirtatiously, as if he were trying to sneak a peek down her shirt. He knew she wouldn't mind. And he was sneaking a peek, just not at what she thought.
In the hollow of her cleavage, he spotted the muddy green and tell-tale glint of a demonically-charged pendant.
One brief glance at her admittedly luscious bosom, and he sat back give her an assessing look.
He hadn't given much thought to what had happened directly after the non-wedding. He'd assumed that Buffy or Tara would have sat with Anya, with Willow put in charge of Xander. He'd have thought they would have rallied together -- or, well, separately -- to look after their friends in a crisis.
And now that he knew the score, he couldn't make the bacon and wolverines wish. The thought of how he could have been prompted to make a wish that would've hurt Xander -- hurt Buffy -- sobered him up a little.
"What good does it do," he wondered aloud, trailing his fingertips past her temple, "to take revenge on Xander?"
"I'll be revenged," Anya pointed out in that tone she used when she felt the humans were missing something obvious.
He noted she didn't waste his time trying to deny it. He wondered if she expected him to make a wish anyway. "His intestines bleed out his ears... and... what? You'll feel better?"
"Yes," Anya insisted, true to her creed.
He shook his head. He used to think that sort of thing worked. He used to be a big believer in vengeance. Still was, when it came to those he truly hated; just ask Doc. Or you could, if you could find a piece of him. Problem was, he didn't see it working so well when you still loved the person who'd hurt you. He could imagine, briefly, hitting Buffy until she bled, but on the heels of any image of her suffering came the impulse to make it better.
He didn't want to cause her pain. He just wanted to stop his own.
And despite Anya's desire for vengeance, which her return to demon-hood had transformed into an instinctive lust, he didn't believe she really wanted to kill Xander. It wasn't just wounded pride or love of commerce keeping her in this dinky little Hellmouth backwater; not when the entire world was hers for the teleporting. And once her fury was quenched, the loss of Xander would hurt her worse than his betrayal.
He wondered how many of the women Anyanka had supposedly done her vengeance for had suffered just as much as their men from their wishes... and not because their villages burnt down, but because they'd still loved the bastards who'd done them wrong.
Such thoughts were a sure indication of far too much incipient sobriety. He took a long drink, direct from the bottle this time. "His grisly demise will magically stop your pain?"
The look she shot him was nasty; an uncomfortable reminder that she could liquefy his innards too, were she motivated to find someone who'd wish that. And he was sure she could find such a person. "It would work better than drinking and moping," she retorted, conveniently ignoring the fact that she'd been the source of the booze. "Better than looking for 'make my poor heart feel better' spells which don't exist."
"Yeah." He took another swig.
It was a fair cop. What did he do when his heart was broken? Drink like a fish, look for someone to blame, try to find slant rhymes for 'devastation', and decide magic was the answer. Not necessarily in that order.
"Be brilliant if we could just get over it. Living well is the best revenge, and all that."
Anya wrested the bottle from his grasp and took her own hearty slug. "Living forever is supposed to be the best revenge, but look where it gets us." She slumped over the table, vengeful mood turning maudlin, hand holding the bottle cast to the side. "Eleven hundred years and I'm right back where I started: pining over a man."
It sounded all too familiar to Spike. Maybe that's why he said what he said next. "I wish that you and I -- we both -- were no longer hurting over our lovers leaving us."
A strange mix of horror and yearning filled Anya's eyes before her face lit up, then erupted into corrugated grey. "Done."
Even as he'd said it, he'd had misgivings. He was hurting because of his love for Buffy, and what would he be without that? He braced himself for the loss, and felt... nothing. Nothing but the familiar throb of heartache. In his mind, memories of Buffy were still accompanied by their usual soundtrack of longing, resentment, and lust.
He cocked a brow at Anya. "Done?"
Instead of looking sheepish or defensive at the ineffective wish-granting, Anya inexplicably seemed to be on the verge of tears. "I didn't, I didn't want..."
"What?" he demanded.
"I didn't want to lose him."
Spike turned away, raking his fingers through his hair. Here he'd finally sacked up and made a wish to free himself, and he'd made it to a vengeance demon too sentimental to wish her own heartache away.
It really was just typical.
For the next quarter hour, Spike sucked swigs from the bottle, mentally cursing womankind in general and two bottle blondes in particular. He paused in working up a good sulk only to cast sullen glares at Anya. She, meanwhile, apparently entirely recovered and not a bit mad, flittered off into the back to make phone calls of which he heard only giddy chatter, before disappearing to primp in the we-have-no-public-bathroom.
Hair smoothed and lipstick replenished, Anya perched upright and expectant on a chair turned round to face the door. If Spike had made it a habit to hang around the store before the time the mail arrived, he would have recognized it as the posture with which she habitually awaited her tax return. It had just dawned on him that Anya's restored demon status meant he could chuck the bottle at the back of her head without repercussions from the chip when the door to the Magic Box burst open.
"Anya!" A jubilant, relieved Xander rushed down the steps to enfold a beaming Anya into his arms. He was followed through the door by a shyly smiling Buffy.
Spike was soon in the bewilderingly improbable position of assuring a remorseful Buffy that getting dumped had not altered his affections; that he would indeed take her back; that he did, very much, want to make a go at being 'together, really together.' It was everything he might have wished for; except he hadn't wished for it, so, for a moment, he allowed himself the indulgence of believing that it might be real. But aside from the blinding unlikelihood of Buffy ever smiling so softly at him even if she did take up with him again, there was the other reunited couple a scant two metres away.
Spike might not have been the world's leading expert on women -- vampire, human, or demon -- but he was pretty damn sure they didn't go from simmering, flesh-incinerating rage to cooing like bloody turtledoves in the space of an hour unless some serious whammy had taken place.
Anyanka had done this. He just wasn't sure what she'd done.
Summoning willpower he didn't knew he had, he extracted himself from the Slayer's tender though tenacious embrace, then seized Anya's wrist to drag her away from her 'snuggle-bear'. Ignoring her loud "Hey!", he dragged her into the training room insisting, "We have to talk."
As he shut the door, he heard Xander's saccharine tones turn hostile as he demanded to know from Buffy why she had been "making kissy-face with the evil undead." As usual, the dimwit's judgments were far down his list of priorities.
To Anya, he said, "I don't understand."
Anya shrugged carelessly, looking every inch the demon now that she was out of Xander's sight, despite her smooth face. "You wished for us not be hurting over our beloveds leaving us. I granted what was necessary for us to have them back."
Spike waited for some elaboration. When none was forthcoming, he demanded, "And just what was necessary?"
"Xander wanted to get back together. I missed him, but I was too angry and hurt over how he'd humiliated me. Those feelings were keeping us apart, so," she fluttered her fingers in a 'fly away' motion, "I took them away."
"Touching. What the hell did you do to Buffy?"
"I made her realize that she wanted to be with you," she stated breezily, matter-of-factly, as if it were just that simple.
"And did she?"
Anya's furtive sideways glance was all the answer he needed.
"Bloody hell!" He began to pace furiously. If Anya wanted to zap away her own entirely justified feelings about what Xander had done to her -- sacrifice that bit of herself that said she deserved better on the altar of her relationship with that berk -- that was her own affair. But changing Buffy's mind...
"It's not like she wasn't tempted," Anya told him. "A part of her missed you. Wanted you."
"But she wouldn't have come back to me on her own." A dwindling part of Spike still desperately hoped she'd disagree.
"No. I made that happen."
Anya's smug satisfaction made him want to scream. Instead he shifted to his demonic features. "Undo it."
Ordinarily, Spike would have threatened and postured some more, taunted his opponent about the damage he meant to inflict. But this was Buffy's mind on the line, and his chances of setting this right were better if he had the element of surprise.
His pacing shifted to more of a prowl. He began to angle his path so that it brought him closer to the vengeance demon. "Must be quite a coup for you," he commented acidly. "Making a Slayer fall in love with a demon. They'll love that in Arashmahar. It might even get you off the hook for coming over all pathetic on your own account."
Stung, Anya retorted, "What do you care? You want it. I can tell you do."
"I do." He couldn't deny it. He wanted Buffy. But he wanted her to love him. Really love him. Not think she did because some demon pulled a wish over her eyes.
The Buffy who'd been making cow-eyes at him out front was no more real than the Buffy who'd agreed to marry him two years ago; no more real, in the end, than the 'bot. Both had been programmed to love him, and for precisely that reason, neither truly could.
His stride had brought him right up next to Anyanka now. "Too bad there's something else I want more." He lunged.
This was Spike's second fight over magical jewelry. Who'd decided it was a good idea to invest all-important protection spells and power centers in easily removed personal ornaments, he didn't know. In this instance, it worked in his favor. Before Anya remembered that she was capable of teleportation, her power center was off her neck and in his hand and she was flying across the room from a front thrust kick.
Spike held up the stone in his hand for a second, considering it.
Anyanka started to claw her way to her feet.
Spike turned and flung the pendant at the wall with all his might. On impact, it shattered into dozens of beer-bottle green shards, and then... nothing.
But he knew it had worked when he heard Buffy's loud "What the hell!" from the shop.
Robbed of her powers a second time, Anya took a final bit of vengeance. "She won't come back to you. You'll never be loved."
Spike's expression was a gaping wound. "I know."
He endured the ensuing interrogations and recriminations with a sort of grim hopelessness. Buffy's outrage, Anya's bitterness, Xander's confusion, they faded into the background, registering as little more than distractions to him.
Buffy didn't love him. She wouldn't have come back to him. This had been the closest he'd get to the real thing, and he'd thrown it away. Worse yet, he'd do it again.
He really needed a drink.
This resolved, he set out for the back door. A surprisingly light touch on his arm halted him before he got there. He turned back to find Buffy peering at him with the sort of annoyed/befuddled look she got when trying to make sense of him.
She hadn't looked at him that way in awhile.
"You took back your wish. Even though it got you me."
Spike waved this away. "Don't go making it out to be nobler than it was. I was being selfish. I wanted to be loved," he added, voice loaded with self-derision.
"Maybe you will be." Buffy offered softly. "Someday."
He looked away, not wanting her to see the moisture gathering in his eyes. "Yeah. Someday." But his eyes were drawn inexorably back to her, meaning he saw when her face reflected something other than pity -- conflict and -- tenderness?
Note: "La Meilleure Revanche" means "The Best Revenge"; "Meilleur Encore" means "Even Better."