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'Hey Buffy, you'll never believe what happened at school today.'
I bowled into the lounge and threw my bag into the armchair.
'Ouch,' Xander complained as it landed in his lap.
'Let me guess,' Buffy said. She was standing at the window, watching the street. Her favourite sword was in her hand. 'You were attacked by flying monkeys.'
'Well, that too,' I admitted. 'I'm guessing I wasn't the only one.'
Xander was in the armchair, Anya was on the couch and sitting next to her, was that
'The one and only,' the demon replied.
'I thought you'd left Sunnydale for good,' I said.
'Yeah,' Xander agreed. He seemed less than happy to see Trix back. Understandable really, but well, he'd had his chance.
'What can I say?' Trix remarked with a shrug. 'I came back.'
'Getting back to the point,' Buffy said, 'I was attacked by monkeys at the DMP. Had to drop one in the deep fat fryer so I wouldn't eat there for a while, if I were you.'
I pulled a face.
'Xander and Anya were attacked at the Magic Box,' Buffy continued, 'but they managed to fight them off.'
'With a bit of help from Trix,' Anya added.
'I just happened to be passing,' Trix said.
'Oh please,' he said. 'Can you believe this guy?'
'Xander 'this guy' saved my life,' Anya snapped. 'Or has that slipped your memory?'
'I could have handled them,' Xander replied. ''Sides, am I the only one who thinks it's a bit suspicious laughing boy showing up when he did?'
'Oh we're not going to start all this again, are we?' Anya complained.
'Trix is a friend,' Buffy told Xander. 'We can trust him.'
'Like we trusted Spike?' Xander asked.
'Xander!' I said.
'It's okay, Dawn,' Buffy said. 'Xander's entitled to his opinion. But Trix is part of the unit and if he can't deal with that he's more than welcome to leave.'
'No way,' Xander told her. 'Someone's got to stay and keep an eye on him.'
'Whatever,' Buffy said. 'We need to come up with some kind of plan.'
'We could always do research,' Anya suggested. 'Well, that's what we usually do, isn't it? If Willow were here, I bet she'd be hitting those books already.'
'Well, she isn't here, is she?' Xander remarked.
'I was only saying '
'Well don't, okay,' Xander snapped. 'A lot of things would be better if Willow was here. Being reminded of that doesn't change anything, 'cept to make it worse.'
'Leave her alone,' Trix said to Xander. 'Anya's only trying to help. I don't see you doing anything constructive. Unless you're planning to beat these monsters with self-pity.'
Xander got up.
'I'm just going to get some air,' he said.
'What's the matter?' Trix asked. 'Truth hurt?'
Xander slammed the door behind him.
'Trix,' Anya scolded him.
'What? He started it.'
'Enough already,' Buffy complained. 'We need to focus.'
'What's the point?' Anya asked. 'There's hardly a Scooby Gang left anymore?'
'There's us,' I said before Buffy had a chance to reply. 'That's enough.'
Trix grinned at me.
'I'm with her,' he said.
'Well that makes three,' Buffy said. 'What about you, Anya?'
'What do you want me to do?' she asked.
Buffy thought for a moment.
'How many books survived the Magic Box?' she inquired.
'Some,' Anya replied. 'They're all in boxes over at my apartment.
'Could you bring them over here?' Buffy said. 'I think you're right about the research angle. Know your enemy and all that.'
'Ill go get them now, if you like.'
Anya got to her feet.
'No, wait,' Buffy said. 'Now's not a good idea. I've got a shift at the DMP tonight. Could you bring them round in the morning? We can go through them tomorrow.'
* * *
Trix left with Anya.
'So,' he asked, 'how was the wedding?'
'It wasn't,' Anya replied, 'as if you didn't know. That is why you came back, isn't it?'
'What can I say?' Trix asked. 'Word gets around.'
'So now I'm a laughing stock, I suppose,' Anya complained. 'Not that I don't deserve it.'
'What? You think you're the first demon to fall for the wrong guy?' Trix replied. 'Love makes people do crazy things.'
'Is that you're excuse?' Anya asked.
'Well, crossing half a continent just to see how you are does seem kinda crazy, doesn't it?' Trix admitted.
'Trix ' Anya began.
'You don't have to say anything,' he said with a languid shrug. 'I'll understand if you're not interested.'
'It's not that,' Anya said, 'it's just that my life's really complicated at the moment, what with the Scoobies and the shop and the whole vengeance gig. And you coming back like that, well, it's thrown me and I honestly don't know what to think.'
'Hold on, back up,' Trix said. 'Did you say that you were back on the whole vengeance deal.'
'Uh huh,' Anya agreed. 'D'Hoffryn offered me my old job back.'
'That's great news,' Trix said. 'How are you finding it?'
'Pretty much how I left it,' Anya replied, 'but it seems so much tougher than I'm used to. Everything used to seem so simple.'
'That's because you're still thinking like a human,' Trix told her. 'Take a leaf out of my book and stop worrying about it.'
'Maybe,' Anya mused. 'Are you really as laid back as you pretend to be?'
'Give me something to get worked up about,' Trix told her, eyes sparkling in the moonlight.
'No, Trix, not tonight,' Anya said.
'Then when?' he asked.
'I don't know,' Anya protested. 'I need time to process all of this. Figure out where I stand. Right now, what I need most is some alone time.'
'Whatever you want,' Trix said, melting away into the shadows so only his sparkling grin remained. 'Just remember I'm here if you need me.'
Then his grin, too, evaporated.
* * *
Carl McIntyre rang the bell to what oh-so-recently had been his own house.
Trudie, his wife, opened the door to him.
'What do you want?' she asked.
'I just came to pick up some things,' Carl replied.
'So you can go running back to her?' Trudie snapped. 'My mother?'
'I'm staying with a friend from work,' Carl told her. He kept his voice level. He had not come here to argue. 'A male friend, before you ask. It's over between Wanda and me. It should never have started.'
'You've got that right,' Trudie told him. She did want an argument.
Mark came trundling along the hallway on stumpy legs.
'Hello, junior,' Carl said, squatting down so that he was on eye level with his son.
'Mark, go back inside,' Trudie told him.
Mark put a finger in his mouth and shifted his weight from one foot to the other, unsure of what to do.
'Mark, go inside,' his mother repeated.
'Yes, Mommy,' Mark said, reluctantly waddling indoors.
'You can't keep him from me,' Carl insisted.
'You don't deserve him,' Trudie shot back.
Carl hung his head.
'Can I at least get my stuff?'
'I'll post it to you,' Trudie told him. 'Now get lost.'
'Trudie, I '
'Go already, Carl,' Trudie shouted. 'Just go.'
Carl turned to leave, but whirled around when he heard a popping sound coming from inside the house. An attractive blonde had appeared beside his wife.
'I think you had a wish,' the blonde said to Trudie.
'Yes,' Trudie said without hesitation. 'I wish he'd drop dead.'
'Wish granted,' Anya said.
* * *
I found Xander sitting outside in the garden.
'You okay?' I asked.
'I'll be fine,' Xander said. 'Guess I acted pretty stupid in there, huh?'
'I've seen worse,' I told him.
'Not as comforting as I might have liked,' Xander told me.
I plonked myself down next to him on the bench.
'What's gotten into you, Xander?' I sighed.
'I don't know,' Xander admitted. 'It's just, well, like no one can say anything without reminding me of Will, you know. In the good old days, she would have been the one who came out here to find me, to use a little bit of that Willow magic to cheer me up. That was what was really special about her. She was magic even without all the witchy stuff.'
'I know,' I agreed.
'Things used to be so simple,' Xander continued. 'Giles was always wise and grown-up, Buffy was responsible, I was the clown and you were just annoying.'
'Hey,' I protested, digging him in the ribs with my elbow.
'Sorry,' Xander said. 'Just trying out a little levity. See if I've still got it.'
'Needs a little work,' I told him, 'but I miss funny Xander.'
'I miss him too,' Xander said. 'Him and sweet, innocent, caring Willow. What happened to her, Dawnie? What happened to change her like that? Was it us? Did all the monsters and the demons and the evil whatchamahows rub off on her? Hmmph, Giles would have a quote for that, but damned if I can think of it.'
''Battle not with
monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into
'I guess we did at that,' Buffy said, joining us outside. 'I just never imagined we were creating a mini Giles.'
'Will the world ever forgive us?' Xander joked, ruffling my hair with his hand.
'Hey,' I complained. 'Not the hair.'
'Is this a private party?' Buffy asked and I shuffled up to make room for her. She turned to Xander. 'You were a bit hard on Trix back there. He only wants to help.'
'I know, I know,' Xander said. 'It's just '
'You don't like seeing him with Anya,' I deduced. 'We kinda noticed that.'
'I love her,' Xander explained.
'Then maybe you should be telling her that,' Buffy suggested.
'I would, but well, everything's different now,' Xander said.
'Different how?' I asked.
'She's a demon,' Xander replied, 'and I don't know what that's supposed to mean. It used to be that we killed demons. Wasn't that our job? But now we're friends with them. Heck, I even think I'm in love with one. When did everything get so complicated? I just wish things were back the way they were.'
'We all do,' Buffy told him. 'We all do.'
'Anyway, enough with the maudlin,' Xander announced with forced cheerfulness. 'Someone here has some news for us that doesn't involve airborne primates. Am I right, Dawn, or am I right?'
'Well?' Buffy prompted.
'I'm playing the lead in the school play,' I told them.
Buffy scooped me up in a hug.
'That's great news, Dawn,' she said.
'Yeah,' Xander agreed. 'What is it? Dracula? The Bride of Frankenstein. The Rocky Horror Picture Show?'
Buffy scowled at him.
'Still experimenting with the levity thing,' he confessed.
'It's the Wizard of Oz,' I said. 'I'm going to be Dorothy.'
'I would not be just a nothin' my head all full of stuffin', my heart all full of pain,' Xander sung softly. 'I would dance and be merry, life would be a ding-a-derry, if I only had a brain.'
'My, my, Xander,' Buffy chuckled, 'you have hidden talents.'
'Yeah, well,' he muttered, coughing, 'just don't tell the guys at work, okay?'
''Kay,' I said. 'Just promise you'll be there on opening night.'
'Wouldn't miss it,' Xander promised.
'I can't believe my little sister's going to be a star,' Buffy said.
'I wouldn't go that far,' I said.
'Hey,' Buffy said. 'Allow me some big sisterly excitement here.'
We both started giggling.
Xander cleared his throat.
'Hate to spoil the Hallmark moment,' he said, 'but I really should be going.'
'Sure,' Buffy said, 'but we'll see you tomorrow morning, right?'
'Bright and early?' I added.
'Don't know about bright and early,' Xander replied, 'but some good old-fashioned Scooby monster mashing? Wouldn't miss it. See you tomorrow, Dorothy.'
* * *
Carl clutched at his chest. His mouth was open, but the only sound that would emerge was a thin, rattling gurgle. His eyes rolled back in their sockets and he fell to his knees. Then he collapsed on to his side and tumbled down the steps leading up to the door.
'Wh-what did you do?' Trudie asked Anya, her hands at her mouth.
'What you asked for,' Anya replied. 'I killed him.'
'You killed him,' Trudie said.
'Well, technically,' Anya agreed, 'but if we really want to get into it - and it's not as if you've got anything better to do, though I would much rather be a thousand other places than with a widow and a corpse - if you really want to get into it, all I did was grant you your wish. That's what I do, you see. Grant wishes. You wished him dead and Bam!, deader than the Bronze on a Monday night.'
'But you '
'Oh, get over it already,' Anya said. 'You hated him. You told me so. You wanted him dead.'
'No I didn't,' Trudie said. 'Not really.'
'But you said '
'I know what I said,' Trudie snapped, 'but I never thought '
Mark had waddled up behind his mother.
'Oh god, Mark,' Trudie wailed, doing her best to shield her son from the corpse sprawled across the drive.
'What have I done?' she asked herself.
'I would have thought you would be happy,' Anya said.
'Happy?' Trudie replied. 'Are you nuts? I loved the bastard. He hurt me, hurt me so bad I wanted him to suffer for it, but not this. Nothing like this.'
'Well you should have thought of that before you started wishing people off this mortal coil,' Anya retorted. 'Really. The naivete of some people.'
'Can't you can't you bring him back?' Trudie asked.
'Doesn't work like that, I'm afraid,' Anya explained. 'I only have the power to grant wishes.'
'In that case,' Trudie said, tears streaming down her face, 'I wish Carl was still alive.'
Sirens wailed as an ambulance screeched round the corner and skidded to a halt before disgorging paramedics who immediately set to work on reviving Carl.
* * *
'And that was that,' Anya said.
She and Halfrek were back at their table in the Espresso Pump.
'Isn't that a little like cheating?' Halfrek asked her.
'Hey, he was clinically dead for at least ten seconds,' Anya insisted. 'Do you really think I'm stupid enough to try to cheat the powers involved in this.'
'Well, there was that whole Xander thing,' Halfrek commented.
'You promised you weren't going to mention that.'
'Sorry, guess it just slipped out,' Halfrek apologised. 'Anyway, wasn't that all a bit dangerous. If you'd left him any longer he would have suffered permanent brain damage.'
'But I didn't,' Anya said. 'I had this whole thing planned down to the last second. I've become quite the organiser over the past few years.'
'That you have,' Halfrek agreed. 'But what if she hadn't wished him back?'
'Then I'd have looked a little silly when that ambulance came round the corner.' Anya pointed at Halfrek's frappacino. 'Are you going to drink that?'
'Yes, actually,' Halfrek replied, taking a sip. 'Seems like you went to an awful lot of trouble to save one man's life.'
'But it was the right thing to do, Hallie,' Anya said. 'Isn't that the point of being a Justice Demon?'
'And who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?' Halfrek remarked.
'Less of the old,' Anya said. 'I doubt you'll look anything like this good when you reach my age.'
'Miaow,' Halfrek said, making claws in the air with her hands. 'But I'll forgive you. It's the senility talking.' She took another sip of her drink. 'And what about him? Do you think he's learned his lesson?'
'He'd better have,' Anya replied. 'Otherwise I told him I was going back to finish the job.'
'And would you?' Halfrek asked.
'You know,' Halfrek remarked, 'you could always give this up. Go back to being a mortal.'
'I don't think so,' Anya replied.
'Don't want to give up the immortality,' Halfrek deduced.
'Well, that's part of it,' Anya agreed with a smile, 'but it's more than that. I'm the Patron Saint of Scorned Women.'
'Self-styled,' Halfrek muttered into her drink.
'Whatever,' Anya continued. 'The point is I have responsibilities and, after a thousand years, I think I'm finally starting to realise what that means. And I kind of like it.'
* * *
Anya pulled her coat tighter around her as she hurried back to her apartment. The warm glow she was feeling wasn't quite warm enough.
She rounded the corner and almost collided with the figure leaning against a wall.
'Well, well, well,' said the figure, taking a long drag on his cigarette. 'What's a nice demon like you doing out alone on a night like this? You never know what disreputable types you might bump into.'
'You?' Anya said.
'Yeah, me,' the figure agreed.
He reached out and cupped her cheek in his hand. She flinched away.
'Now, don't be like that,' he said. 'I thought we had something special, you and me.'
'That was before '
'Why does everyone keep harping on about that. It's ancient bloody history. A lot's changed since then.' He reached out and grabbed Anya again. 'A lot. Now, we can do this the easy way or I can set my new friends on you first.'
The monkey at his feet chittered eagerly.
* * *
We all gathered at our place the next morning. Well, by all I mean me, Buffy and Xander.
Buffy checked her watch.
'What's keeping Anya?' she muttered.
'Do you want me to go and look for her?' Xander suggested.
'I'm not sure if that'd be a very good idea,' I said. There was a knock on the door. 'Besides, I bet that's her now.'
'Is Anya here?' Trix asked after we had let him in. 'She's not home.'
'You were at her apartment?' Xander said.
'She's not here, either,' Buffy told Trix.
Trix began pacing.
'I'm worried about her,' he said.
'You're worried,' Xander commented.
'She's probably just forgotten,' I suggested.
'Yeah, because that's likely,' Xander replied.
'What's that?' Trix shouted.
A flying monkey smashed through the front window.
'Get down!' Xander shouted at me as he shoved me to the ground.
Buffy picked up her sword, which was resting by the window, and swung, but the monkey had already sped out of reach.
Then Trix sprung, powerful legs carrying him halfway across the room in a single leap. He clamped his hands around the creature, pinning its wings to its sides while he opened his mouth. His jaw seemed to dislocate, creating far more space than should have been possible and revealing row upon row of teeth. And then he snapped those teeth closed around the monkey's neck and tore out its throat.
'Nasty,' Xander said.
'You're telling me,' Trix replied, spitting bits of monkey onto the carpet. Then he seemed to realise what he was doing and turned to Buffy. 'Sorry. I'll clean all this up for you.'
But Buffy wasn't listening. She had stooped to examine something held in one of the monkey's talons.
It was a note.
As she unfolded the note, something fell out from inside of it. Xander snapped it up before it could hit the floor.
It was a lock of dyed blonde hair.
'Anya,' he breathed.
Buffy was examining the signature on the note.
'Spike,' she said.
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