Xander smiled at Daisy as he stepped into the Council house. He knew things had changed while he had been gone, but Daisy had not.
The next thing he knew, her skinny arms were around his middle. Several of the slayers who had been here before he left trotted up and were all trying to speak to him at the same time. It felt nice. He had not realized how much he had been missed. He had wanted to be here for Thanksgiving because Oz had said Buffy was cooking one of her manic holiday dinners. He didn’t plan on any syphilis this time, so hopefully it would be more enjoyable.
Anya was coming down the stairs, flipping through papers left on her desk by a slayer. They needed to go to Daisy, because they were for the front desk, but since Giles was out, she decided to stretch her legs. She was getting a bit bored sitting at the desk with nothing to do at the moment. At least at the Magic Box, she was about to move around.
There was a commotion when she got near the bottom. When she looked up, Anya was surprised to see Xander Harris in the middle of a female horde, trying to answer questions left and right.
“Xander!” she said loudly, not realizing exactly how loud her shout was.
His heart just about stopped. It was Anya. Just like he remembered her. The whispering among the slayers started and Xander then knew exactly how Charlton Heston had felt in that scene in Ten Commandments because the girls parted like the Red Sea. He felt like he ought to raise his hands and say ‘let my people go’ or something.
“Hey, Anya,” he said finally.
Daisy started shooing all the girls off as she eyed both him and Anya.
She cleared her throat and finished walking down the steps. She handed the files to Daisy as the remaining slayers made their slow exit. “These are for you. Someone left them on my desk by accident.”
Anya wished she hadn’t given the papers over. She didn’t have anything to do with her hands. “You look...rugged,” she said after an awkward silence.
“Oz said I looked like I’d lost the scissors, and Draco made some comment about me not owning a brush or a comb. You look... healthy.”
Someone made a groaning noise. Xander looked around but everyone was minding their own business. He knew it was lame too, but he was fighting for things to say. Maybe he should have asked Buffy what you said to and old lover who came back from the dead.
“Yes, it’s amazing what coming back to life does for the skin.” Someone coughed and Anya put her hands on her hips. “Next person to make a noise is going to be my assistant for a few days, notecards and all.”
Many of the slayers scattered and did so rather quickly. She didn’t think she was that
Xander started chuckling. “Good to know you haven’t lost your delicate touch, Ahn.”
This wasn’t painful like he had thought it would be. It was nice, like coming home. She was more herself than when they had first found her. Xander was glad. This made him more at ease and he felt more free to ask her what he needed to ask.
“Are you... did you...” Xander sighed and leaned in close. “Human or demon this time?”
“Think chipped Spike,” she replied. “But without the fangs and I don’t combust when I walk into the sun.”
“You’re a vampire?”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m a demon, but I don’t have the power of the wish.”
She gave him this look.
“I just... not that I have any say anymore, but I don’t like you having the power of the wish. In fact, I don’t like anyone having wish power. That way leads to vampire Xander and Buffy birthday shut-ins and underground dog-eating worm things. I’ll pass.”
“That doesn’t mean I don’t have supernatural perks. I just choose to use them for good and the occasional morally gray circumstances.” They stood there for a few more moments. “So, you’re back. Are you staying or are you just here because Willow went dark side again and tried her hand at puppet master?”
“Both,” he said. “That’s why I’m back, but I think I’m gonna stay. Unless they send me to go get slayers. I like doing that. I got to meet Kendra’s watcher Sam Zabuto. Now there’s a hardass. Kendra’s behavior makes so much sense to me now. Plus, I got a lecture from Oz. Oz. Let’s just stop to marvel at that. He said if he can be here with Willow then I can suck it up and work with you. He’s right. Plus, Buffy’s dating a necromancer? Sounds like someone needs to be monitoring the dating choices of you femmes.”
“Theo is very nice for a necromancer and a good healer. He’s healing my scars for free, even though I haven’t been to see him since the whole necromancer thing came out.”
Xander frowned. “You have a scar?”
She started taking her shirt off.
Xander threw up his hands. “Anya!”
Her shirt was getting tangled around her neck so she shoved the fabric down so she could speak. “What? I’m showing you my scar. It isn’t like you’ve never seen my breasts before and everyone here is girls. They’ve got their own.”
Xander was about to say something when Oz and Draco walked in.
“Are we showing boobs today? Excellent,” Draco said, grinning.
Oz didn’t even look up from the file he had been reading while Draco chattered on. It was their pattern - Oz listened while Draco spoke. It was the same pattern he had with Hannah.
“I don’t have boobs,” Oz added.
Xander just gestured to the both of them dramatically.
Anya rolled her eyes and pulled down her shirt. “You have man boobs. Thank god you don’t have the kind that are on females. You’d be locked inside your own room playing with yourself and nothing would ever get done.”
“Actually I’m more of an ass man,” Oz said, again not looking up.
Draco started snickering. “I see you still haven’t located a comb, Harris.”
“It’s because I knew you wouldn’t like it. I live to annoy you, Malfoy. Had to let you see me all scruffy one more time.”
Draco rolled his eyes and nudged Oz in the arm. “Let’s go. Hannah’s probably waiting for us.”
Oz just nodded. “Glad to have you back, Xand.”
Draco leaned in to Anya and thumbed at Xander. “You’re not thinking of getting back together with Hagrid Junior, are you?”
Her brain hadn’t processed past Xander is back
, so Anya hadn’t considered the fact that people would want to know if they were going to try to rekindle their relationship. She didn’t know how to answer. After a year being dead and then another just trying to live again, Anya was still unsure of what her life entailed.
So she just gave Draco a big grin. “Don’t worry, Spike Junior. I’ll still go with you to the Three Broomsticks and get drunk with you.”
Draco sputtered and Oz let out a snort.
“It’s also none of Draco’s business, so we’ll be going now,” Oz said before walking off.
Draco glared at Anya before hurrying after the short werewolf.
“It’s nice to know he hasn’t changed,” Xander muttered.
Anya shrugged. “It’s nice to have someone else who speaks their mind all the time. Most of the time, he says what I’m thinking before I can even open my mouth, so he gets all the glares and looks.”
There was that awkward silence again. “So, no longer on the hunt for slayers. Will you become a watcher?”
“Probably,” Xander said. “I mean, have to be useful, right? And I think Sam can handle looking for them on his own. I guess I need to talk to Giles first, but I don’t know why he’d say no. We need watchers and it’s not like I didn’t pay attention in high school and the years following in Sunnydale. I know it looked like I wasn’t but...”
He trailed off just leaving that open.
“You just didn’t have the self-esteem to give suggestions and voice your opinion too often. I know, but you had good ideas. Giles will most certainly take you on as a watcher.” Anya looked up in thought. “I wonder who you would be assigned to? Maybe you could whip some of the troublemakers into shape.”
“We have troublemakers? And, Ahn, still very human. I won’t be whipping any slayers. It would totally be the other way around. They’d pulverize me.”
Anya scoffed. “Nonsense. Just put on that fat sumo suit. You won’t feel a thing. You did it for Buffy all the time.”
“Yes because Fat Sumo Watcher Xander is the image I want to portray in order to be taken seriously.”
They were just talking normally - like she hadn’t come back from the dead and he hadn’t taken off to avoid dealing with it. It was nice.
“Your only other viable option is Pirate Xander and we already have a man with a wooden leg walking around,” she replied. “Of course, since you look like Tom Hanks in Castaway--the five years later version--maybe you could work with that. Do you have a volleyball?”
“I think I have a pirate costume,” Xander said, considering. “And I already have the eye patch. Do we have any decks I can make my slayer swab?”
She shook her head. “They can sweep the courtyard and the greenhouses. That’s about it. Of course, I wouldn’t venture into the greenhouses to clean anything. Mac’s boyfriend might get a bit testy. A batch of something was ruined when a slayer cleaned the windows with a glass cleaner and it poisoned the plants. And when Mac’s boyfriend gets testy, she gets homicidal.”
“Mac has a boyfriend? I was only gone for ten months. She already has a boyfriend? And it’s the gardener?”
“The girls call him the ‘snake chopper’ or something like that. Apparently, he hacked off the head of a bad guy’s giant snake in school. Draco’s slayer works in his shop. He and Mac went to school and when they reconnected, they hit it off.”
Anya shrugged. “Mac likes him and so does Oz and his other slayer, Kasie. As long as he treats her well, I don’t have to call in any favors with my other-worldly friends.”
“See, don’t say things like that,” Xander said. “It makes me worry. Not the everyone liking the gardener part or the snake chopping - the calling in other-worldy favors.”
She rolled her eyes. The common argument about her choice of friends started to crop up again and it was like the last few years had never happened. “Xander, I have friends. Some of them may not be who you like, but I still have them. Not everyone is a murderous, child-eating, penis-cursing demon. I can ask for a little partner in mischief when I want.”
“Is that why you go out drinking with Draco Malfoy?”
He knew he was sounding a little like a jealous boyfriend, but he wanted Anya to stay on the right path. It had just about killed him when Anya had gone all vengeance again and Buffy thought she was going to have to put her down. After a lot of heartache, Anya had made the more human choice. She’d paid for it though. It had cost her Halfrek, her oldest friend.
Anya crossed her arms. She knew what jealousy sounded like, especially coming from Xander. “I go out drinking with Draco because he laughs at my jokes and we enjoy each other’s company. It doesn’t hurt that the proprietors of the pub we go to like him as well. It also doesn’t hurt that he doesn’t criticize the company I keep or the words that come out of my mouth, no matter how crude they made be. If you plan on coming here and judging me, then you can skip right out the door and back across the world, Xander Harris!”
As she pointed to the door, Anya felt a pain in her chest that she hadn’t felt in a long, long time. Her heart was hurting. Xander always had that ability, but rarely did it ever happen. When she came back, everyone gave her strange looks and made faces at her comments behind her back, but there was always an undertone of that’s just Anya
. Most of the time, the people giving her said looks would get misty-eyed and choke out that they were glad she was back. So far, Xander was only concerned that she wouldn’t go out and curse men or hang out with the wrong people. There was no that’s just Anya
, more of a that’s just not okay
“Anya, I don’t...” He could not even think of what he wanted to say. “I just... Am I allowed to worry about you? Because I do. I worry. I don’t know how to do this. And as always, I’m muddling along and getting it all wrong. I’m not judging you. I don’t have the right to do that. I just... I don’t want it to go back to you being a thing Buffy feels like she needs to slay. I can’t do that again. I can’t listen to someone else explain to me why you’re dead.”
Daisy was staring at them with her mouth hanging open. Everyone always forgot she was there.
“Trust me, I don’t want to be
dead again. Not that it would matter anymore because I’m sure Theo could just bring me back, but I don’t want to find out if his power works on demons or not.” Anya uncrossed her arms, letting go of her defensive stance. “You’ve been gone for a while, so you haven’t seen, but I’m helping, Xander. Hell, I’m not even a threat on the radar. I do paperwork at a desk.”
She sighed. “I know it’s not as glamorous as traipsing across the world, discovering slayers, but since there is a lack of a monetary establishment, it’s where I am. I get to glare at people who don’t make appointments or who have bad attitudes. When people are having good days, they smile and make small-talk.”
“I’m not doubting you help either,” Xander said, wondering how he was suddenly having to defend himself against his ex when things had been going so well. “I just... Buffy trying to slay you? That was bad. And trust me, I know how unglamourous being the ‘behind the scenes’ guy or girl is, but it’s necessary. And apparently Willow stands a better chance of going evil before you do, but I just worry. I know I’ve been away for a while. Oz made that perfectly clear. I mentioned he gave me a lecture, right?”
Anya bit her lip. “You did, and I’m sorry for snapping at you, but Xander...” She trailed off, feeling incredibly stupid because of what she was about to say. “You’re the only person who hasn’t said that you’re glad I’m back. I realize that things would be easier if I wasn’t, but...aren’t you just a little bit glad?”
He moved very slowly and hugged her. “Let me be clear. Things were not easier when you were gone. They were the opposite of easy with nightmares and what-ifs all over the place. I didn’t know what I felt about you being back at first, and yeah, it took me almost a year to figure that out, but I am glad. Make no mistake about that. Things are more interesting with you around. They always were.”
She was stiff for a moment but then wrapped her arms around him. It was like her arms just remembered where to go so they fit well. While she was unsure if she would ever want a relationship with Xander again, she had missed being comforted.
Anya took a deep breath after allowing herself a moment and stepped back. “Well,” she said loudly, “I’m glad that you’re back. Things will be more interesting with you
“Somehow with Draco here I doubt you have lacked for comedy. Although I don’t think he’d look near as dashing in an eyepatch as I do.”