Title: Time and Place
Rating/Warnings: PG13 - one tiny bit of bad language
Timeline/Spoilers: Set in a darker, more aware post-Gift summer for Anya
Length: 1,015 words
Disclaimer: Not mine. We all know that.
Inspired by: soundingsea , who fancied some angsty post-Gift Spanya
She hesitates at the door of his crypt. "I don't know why I come here," she says out loud, but she knows that's a lie. It's what the others would say if they found themselves in her position, and they'd probably mean it. So Anya tries the words on for size, just like she tries so much else of what she's told is normal human behaviour. Like most of it, this isn't a good fit. Apparently, normal human behaviour involves a lot of denial, delusion and deliberate ignorance. Anya's never been able to see the point; mortal life is so pitifully short, why on Earth would you want to waste time pretending that things aren't as they really are?
Xander talks about tact and consideration and appropriate timing, all things she seemingly has a great lack of, when he explains why she can't tell the others about their engagement. He holds her hand and smiles, and his voice resonates with a measured, calm rationality, but underneath it she can hear a different note. It's one that she recognises easily because she listened to it for over a thousand years: fear.
Soothing, placatory topnote poured like molasses over jagged, discordant vibrations of terror. He thinks she brushes him off because she doesn't understand what he's trying to say, but it's just that listening to that voice coming out of his mouth makes her nerves itch.
It's too soon, Anya, there's too much going on - what with the spell and everything. When things have calmed down, we can tell them.
I didn't mean it, Anyanka, I swear. I never meant to hurt her. Let me go, and I'll make it up to her. I'll make it all right.
Different words, same tone. Same lie. She always knew the truth then, and she knows it now. And she's obviously not grown human enough to be able to convince herself otherwise.
So why exactly is it that she comes here, then? To Spike? To a vampire, instead of to her friends, her lover, her fiancé? Because one thing Spike doesn't do is lie. Not to himself, and not to her. It's why the others don't come. They like their lies.
He acknowledges her with a half-hearted wave of his whisky bottle, and she sits down on the stone floor beside him. After a while, she accepts the offered bottle and takes a long swig. It burns, and that feels right.
"You were going to be married once, weren't you?" she says. "You and Buffy?"
He smiles then, a smile of such uncomplicated love that it's no wonder the others can't bear to look at it.
"Yeah, we were. One of Red's spells went arse-upwards, as usual. Fucking hilarious, that was. Never forgot the row we had over what the first song was going to be. Wind beneath my Wings, I ask you. Silly bint never had any taste, did she?"
His head lowers, and she knows he's crying. People cry at weddings, and she's never understood that. Aren't they supposed to be joyful? Aren't you supposed to be happy?
So much that she doesn't understand, but so much that she does.
She pulls Spike's unresisting body into her arms, and strokes his hair. He hasn't been eating properly, and feels almost fragile under her hands. This she definitely understands. Can't be what you were, don't really know what you are now. Wondering if kindness can ever be interchangeable with love and knowing the answer. Wishing you didn't. Grieving for what you lost, and what you never had.
Yeah, she understands that.
Pre-wedding nerves are normal; she's read that over and over and over again. Cold feet, second thoughts, stage fright - it's all normal. To be expected. It's a big day, a performance, a special occasion. Plans, details, arrangements - cakes and guests and songs and dresses and party favors and balloons and color schemes and flowers and none of that matters, not really. What matters is that you're making a life, not a day. Making a future. And Xander seems as scared of his future with her as Spike is of his without Buffy.
She shivers - the crypt is cold and her dress is thin - and Spike shifts, his arms going around her. They both tense slightly as the gesture is processed and queried - is this appropriate? Is this allowed? - then relax. A tiny, rueful smile tugs at her lips as they seem to come to the same conclusion; it doesn't matter any more.
They sit in silence for a long time; long enough for Xander to have finished his spell research party and start wondering where she is.
It's a good question: where, exactly, is she? The right place at the wrong time? Maybe. Probably. The hole she's currently filling is Buffy-shaped, and it won't hold her comfortably for very long.
She wonders what that makes her life with Xander - the wrong place at the right time?
He might not be as lost, as broken, as Spike is, but he's still grieving. She shouldn't forget that. He might not love her, not like she hoped he would, but he still needs her. It's not what she wanted, but it'll do. For now.
Spike's breathing has stopped; he's asleep. She wonders why he bothers to breathe anyway - to seem more human? To feel more human? If so, it's something else she understands. And it's time for her to go and do the same.
She shifts gently out of Spike's arms, and gets to her feet. Time for her to take her place at Xander's side, and do what she can. While she can.
She pulls Spike's duster around him, and walks to the door. She'll go home, and put all the bridal magazines away. Stop cruising the dress shops, stop practising her new signature. Stop secretly wearing a ring she doesn't have the right to.
Instead, she'll wait. There's a conversation she and Xander need to have, and she thinks that maybe when that time comes, she'll be ready.