It had been two weeks since Dawn had visited, and a blanket of depression had fallen on Anya. Anya, Dawn and Rona had agreed that keeping in contact would be risky and could possibly anger the Powers. And despite the fact that none of them held any regard for the Powers, the punishment Anya and Xander would receive was too great. So once again, Anya was stuck, separated from those that knew her, alone with the truth of her past. She honestly didn't know how much longer she could keep going, knowing that Xander still missed her, still loved her. A part of her had been afraid that Xander would just get over her, forget her. But now that she knew that Xander still loved her and still missed her, she felt the distance more keenly than ever. Sitting in the bar's back room, she stared at the safe, filled with money. But even those neat, lovely stacks of cash couldn't make her smile.
In the front of the bar, a few customers milled about while Richie, Amanda, Duncan and Adam sat at a table, talking to Joe.
"So she's just been getting worse?" Duncan asked, frowning. Okay, so Anya did kind of weird him out, but she was nice enough and apparently not evil. She kind of grew on him after a while despite her occasional complaints regarding his financial planning and hair.
"Yeah." Joe nodded. "She doesn't even smile when she counts money anymore. Last week we got a bunch of doctors in from that OB/GYN conference. We made a ton of money, and she didn't even do her money dance. Or ask them awkward questions."
"Really?" Adam asked, wide eyed.
"Well, what do you think is bugging her?" Richie asked, frowning. His attentions had shifted from Anya to Dawn, but he still thought Anya was pretty great.
"Don't know. She was happy enough when Dawn left," Duncan recalled.
"Maybe she misses her friends," Richie said.
"Perhaps she finds herself saddened at the sudden downturn in the stock market," Adam suggested.
"Oh for God's sake," Amanda cried, rolling her eyes. "Remember her fiancée? Xander? The love of her life that she can't get in contact with?"
The four men nodded in sudden realization.
"Yeah, why is that? I mean, is it some government thing?" Richie asked.
Joe shook his head. "Nah, that seems too strange for even the government to do."
The door opened and another customer walked in. Joe looked up quickly before frowning. Damn it, he had conversation going on here! Okay, so it was more gossip than anything else, but still!
"Hey, Anya!" he yelled. "Customer out front!"
Adam spoke next as the door to the back room opened. "Maybe it's the Council; they have been known to keep a tight leash on their Slayers; perhaps those restrictions extend to all associates of the counsel."
"Wait, the Council?" a voice interrupted. The group turned to see the owner of the voice; it belonged to the customer, a young man with dark brown hair and an eye patch. The four immortals and Joe started at him, frowning.
"Okay, okay, I'm-." Anya's grouchy words were cut off by the sound of crashing glass. The occupants of the room looked over at the bar. Anya stood behind it, one hand paused in the process of moving shot glasses, the other hand hanging by her side.
"Anya?" the brunette whispered, his voice breaking.
Adam and company stared at this new development; it was better than watching a soap opera. Anya was pale as she slowly raised a shaking hand to her throat, fiddling with the necklace she wore.
"Xander? Go away. You can't be here," she whimpered, tears welling up in her eyes, anguish written into every line on her face.
Xander looked just as upset.
"Why not? I thought you'd be happy to see me."
"No, I am, but you have to go," she said, tears slipping down her face.
"I'm not leaving you."
"But Whistler said-."
"Whistler told me you were here, said it was time. Then Buffy broke his jaw," Xander interrupted, slowly walking closer to the bar. Anya's hand dropped from her neck and in a flurry of movement, she scrambled onto the counter and launched herself into Xander's arms, a host of glasses falling to the ground. Her arms wrapped around his neck, her legs around his waist. Xander's arms went around her, molding her tightly to his body. Their mouths met in a blatantly sexual kiss that spoke of yearning, claiming and desire. Adam raised an eyebrow while Richie was more obvious, staring at them with his mouth hanging open. Amanda simply looked impressed while Duncan and Joe were trying to watch without looking.
"You know," Joe finally interrupted, "this is a public place."
Anya tore her mouth from Xander's, sucking in lungfuls of air before lowering her legs. Xander released her, mournfully removing his hands from her ass.
"Stay right here," Anya ordered. Turning, she ran into the back room, returning thirty seconds later with her purse and coat.
"Joe, I'm leaving for orgasms and cuddling. No one had better interrupt me, or they'll wake up missing parts of their anatomy that won't grow back," she said, glaring at Joe and the others. Grabbing Xander's hand, she led him out of the bar.
No one said anything, but simply stared. Finally, Adam broke the still silence as he raised his beer in a toast.
"To Xander: let us hope he's eaten a great many oysters today."
* * * * * * * * * *
The next afternoon, Joe went through the daily tasks of preparing the bar for the night. The four immortals were once again occupying a table, theorizing about Anya while waiting for her to reappear. Though truth be told, Adam was mostly just drinking beer while listening to the younger immortals gossip. The door opened again to admit a group of five people. This group was comprised of four women and one man, most of whom were bickering loudly.
"I still think you should have told us, at least," a blonde woman argued. "We wouldn't have said anything to him."
"Well I would have if you didn't suck so much at keeping secrets," another female voice said.
"She does make an excellent point; you never did hold any talent for deception or stealth," a British man pointed out.
"Hey, I'm stealthy; I can totally be secret-keepy girl!" the blonde whined.
"Look, B, she was just following orders. Not that the PTB ever give us clear instructions," a brunette woman added.
"Yeah, I mean it could have messed something up and then they would have taken her back and then he'd still be all sad and mopey and, you know, I did kind of miss her, especially since she always made him smile and laugh and blush, which was kinda funny and she did come up with good ideas sometimes," a redhead babbled. "Especially about the hammer."
It was Richie who recognized the familiar face first.
"Hi, Dawn!" Richie cried out, standing quickly. He winced as his hasty movement sent his chair clattering on its side noisily.
Dawn smiled broadly in return before walking over and pulling him into a hug.
"Hi, Richie, nice to see you," she replied, smiling gently.
"Hey, who's this?" the short blonde demanded, marching over with a frown. She glared at Richie, her gaze sharp and holding a degree of danger.
"God, chill, Buffy. Richie, this is my well-meaning yet overprotective sister, Buffy. Buffy, this is Richie, a guy so nice he makes Riley look like an evil puppy-kicker."
Buffy's gaze remained cold and shrewd as she shook Richie's hand, her body tense, restrained. Dawn rolled her eyes before speaking again.
"Anyways, let me introduce you to the others; the guy with the beer is Adam, the woman is Amanda, and the other guy Duncan. Don't look at him funny or he might challenge you to a duel."
"Oh, a fighter, huh?"
The group turned and studied the brunette at her comment. She leered at Duncan, her full lips twisted in a smile that could only be described as naughty.
Dawn rolled her eyes again before continuing. "Whatever. Guys, this is my sister, Buffy, my friend Willow, that's Faith, and Giles, my boss. Oh, and the guy behind the counter is Joe, Anya's boss."
"So, do you guys know where Xander and Anya are?" Buffy asked.
Amanda and Adam snickered as Richie answered.
"The two of them left yesterday. Anya said it was for orgasms and cuddling."
"Damn, it's a good thing Xan takes his vitamins," Faith snickered.
"Well shoot," Willow pouted. "Now we won't see them for a few days."
"Yes, I imagine we won't," Giles explained, cleaning his glasses.
"Ah, you could call. I mean, do you really think Anya will be that mad if you interrupt?" Richie broke in.
The five visitors turned and pinned him with stares that conveyed amusement, incredulity and varying degrees of apprehension.
"Boy, I know I could take her in a fight, but I've gotten drunk with her and I know what she's done to people. No way I'm messing with something as important to her as sex with Xan," Faith explained, smirking.
"Yeah," Willow added, "I heard what she was talking about on prom night, and that didn't even include the funny syphilis. We didn't learn about that until Thanksgiving."
"Funny syphilis?" Amanda echoed, frowning. "I'm intrigued, yet terrified."
"Yes, well, changing the subject, I suppose we should contact Rona about locating some housing for the next few days," Giles said.
"You all work for the Watcher's Council?" Duncan asked.
"Well, yes. In a manner of speaking," Giles explained, explaining nothing.
"Oh no, they just run the Council." The assembled persons turned to find Anya and Xander walking in from the back room. Anya smiled brightly as she and Xander were suddenly inundated with hugs and tearful greetings. Finally, when the urge to hug had been temporarily sated, the group calmed down.
"Did you really break Whistler's jaw?" Anya asked Buffy hopefully.
"Yeah, but it healed right away," Buffy answered with a pout.
"Who is Whistler?" Adam asked, starting on another pint. "I take it he isn't the one who painted his mother."
"Why would he paint his mother? Does he paint?" Buffy asked, scrunching her nose up.
Giles pinched the bridge of his nose. "Buffy, Whistler was an American painter who-."
"He was the artist who the painting Mr. Bean that ruined in the first Mr. Bean movie," Dawn interrupted.
"Whistler is a balance demon who speaks on behalf of the Powers that Be," Giles explained tiredly.
"He never has good news, either," Willow added. "It's always the same stuff: the world is ending,you weren't supposed to do that, blah blah blah."
"Wait, do these guys even know about about demons?" Faith asked.
"Totally; they're immortal. They'd have to be pretty stupid to live for centuries and not notice the oogy-boogys," Dawn explained.
The room went silent as the four immortals stared at Dawn, slack-jawed.
"What- how?" Amanda stuttered.
"Eh, it's this whole thing," Dawn shrugged. "I was born kind of different, so when Willow did this spell activating all the slayers, the magic mixed with the energy and made me immortal, sort of. Then I did a spell to create a portal that used my blood which must have tied everything together. Anyways, I died a couple months ago for the first time but I didn't stay dead, so now I can tell when someone else is immortal, but I'm not really like you guys. I'm totally exempt from your guillotine game."
Joe stared at the group, trying to maintain some semblance of decorum. "So what happened, Anya? Why did you end up here in Seacouver, hiding from Xander?"
"Stupid Powers that Blow decided I would distract Xander from his immediate duties, so they had me die on the Hellmouth. Then they resurrected me several months later as Xander's reward," she explained, smiling. "So they brought me here to get settled again. But I couldn't tell Xander I was alive; it had to be a secret or else they'd kill me again."
"So have we actually met before?" Duncan asked.
"Have you met any of them before?" Xander asked.
"Not Richie. But they're the reason I knew the Chumash spirit gave you funny syphilis," Anya explained, smiling.
"Wait, so you're an immortal?" Richie asked. "You don't feel immortal.'
"Hey pal, you'd better not have been feeling her," Xander warned, stepping forward. Anya grasped one bicep, holding him beside her.
"He was referring to the buzzing sensation immortals feel around each other," Dawn explained.
"I was sort of immortal for a while, but I'm not anymore," Anya explained. "I was a vengeance demon, which is how I met the other three."
Suddenly, understanding dawned on Duncan's face, followed by a murderous rage. Beside him, Amanda paled considerably.
"You!" he yelled. He moved toward Anya, only to be held back by Adam and Richie.
"What? It's not like it's my fault you pissed a woman off enough to make her wish that you'd die of syphilis," Anya shot back.
"It took me two years to die!" Duncan yelled.
"Oh stop whining and just be happy I didn't make it so you kept dying of syphilis."
"So who wished it upon me?" Duncan asked, barely able to rein in his temper.
"I'm sorry, but that's confidential," Anya explained with a delicate sniff.
"What, there are demonic confidentiality laws?" Adam snorted, shaking his head.
"Hell, maybe there are. You should ask your friend about it, though," Faith said.
"What?" Duncan frowned at her in confusion.
"You're friend," Faith said, indicating Amanda with a nod of her head. "Last person I saw go white like that was a girl who accidentally unleashed hell in her basement."
"Amanda, what do you know about this?" Duncan asked, slowly turning to fix a cold gaze on Amanda.
"Nothing," Amanda said breezily. Duncan glared at her until she finally rolled her eyes." Okay, fine, you pissed me off so I wished that you'd die a slow, painful death. I didn't really mean it, I didn't know she was a vengeance demon."
"It's true," Anya confirmed. "Only very rarely was I summoned to enact revenge. Most of my job was just being in the right place at the right time, and then getting people to wish horrid things upon someone."
"So is that how we met? Did you kill me?" Adam asked.
"What, you don't remember if she killed you?" Richie asked, his eyes wide.
Adam shrugged. "Well, I was drunk a lot of the time."
"I never actually took vengeance on you. I would just drop in from time to time to see if anyone was ready to wish something truly vile upon you."
"So no one ever wanted to hurt him?" Duncan asked. "I find that hard to believe."
"It's not that surprising, actually. It's just that most of his enemies wanted to be the ones inflicting torment on him, " Anya explained, grinning broadly. "They wanted a hands-on experience, especially Cassandra."
Adam raised his eyebrows before smiling. "You know, that actually makes a great deal of sense. Rather flattering, actually."
"Yeah, that's sounds pretty fair for people that want to kill you," Buffy added. "I mean, most of the people that want to kill me hire assassins or set vampires after me or turn me invisible when they try to kill me with a death ray."
"So, Anya, should I be expecting a resignation?" Joe asked.
"No. Xander will be moving here to be the local watcher. I'll help, but I'd like to keep working here. Tell me, have you ever considered taking on a business partner?"
* * * * *
Six Months Later....
The door of the building burst open as Richie hurried inside. Adam, Duncan and Joe followed close behind, but Richie didn't slow down, cradling his burden against his chest as he bolted up the stairs. He moved through the halls until he reached the room. He knocked and waited, and barely two seconds later, the door was yanked open. Dawn stood before him, a vision of beauty. Her hair was neatly piled on her head, some tendrils free and brushing her neck. Swathed in lavender silk, she was stunning.
Dawn smiled gratefully at him. "Thank god. Please tell me you found the orchids," she begged.
Richie could only nod, staring dumbly at her. Dawn frowned as she took the plastic container from Richie.
"Wow, you look fantastic," he finally muttered.
"Thanks," she answered, blushing. "These dresses are a lot better than the ones Anya chose the last time she almost married Xander. Speaking of Xander, how's he doing?"
"Good. He's nervous, but really excited and happy."
"Yeah; and it probably helps that Willow, Buffy and Andrew are his 'groomsmen.' Last time, Giles wasn't here, and Buffy and Wills were Anya's bridesmaids. And Andrew kept trying to kill Buffy."
"Andrew? Annoying sci-fi nut Andrew?"
"Dawn, I need my flowers or else everything will be ruined!" Anya wailed from inside the dressing room.
Dawn grinned and rolled her eyes before shutting the door.
* * * * * *
The wedding was held in the garden of an old mansion outside Seacouver. A harp played as the bridesmaids, Amanda, Dawn and Faith, walked down the aisle, all of them beautiful in the dresses. Xander stood in the front with Willow, Buffy and Andrew, along with Giles who would serve as officiate. Given the fact that it was a wedding being attended by witches, watchers, slayers, immortals and a demon named Clem, no one commented on oddity of two women dressed in suits serving as groomsmen. When the wedding party was finally in place, the harp fell silent. Seconds later, the wedding march began and Anya appeared, escorted up the aisle by Joe, who leaned on a cane as they slowly walked. As she moved down the aisle, a full smile broke across Xander's face and he began to bounce in place. And Anya looked perfect, her blonde curls pinned back, orchids nestled in her hair.
But while the attendees found nothing odd to the wedding, to outsiders, the entire gathering would have seemed bizarre. Especially considering that a group of young girls were serving as security. And the strangers would have thought it a joke when Rona handed Buffy the scythe when Giles asked for objections.
But no one thought it odd when Xander promised that he would love her beyond death, and that he would spend the rest of his life being the husband Anya deserved. Only the couple's friends understood the importance of it when Anya promised to stand by Xander in good times and poor, in peace and in battle, no matter what the world threw at them... including bunnies. It was those close to them knew how much it meant when Anya said she loved Xander more than money, to which he replied that he loved her more than junk-food and science fiction combined. And only those assembled understood the importance of the gesture when Willow stepped forward and clasped their hands together, blessing their union. As she spoke, a warm glow seemed to emanate from Willow before surrounding the couple, though others might have thought it just a trick of the light.
As Giles uttered the words, "you may now kiss the bride," Anya handed her bouquet off to Amanda, then pulled her husband into a fierce embrace. After a rather long embrace that endured despite Giles repeatedly clearing his throat, the couple let each other go. Smiling, they faced their friends as cheers sounded from all around them before dashing down the aisle and into a side garden.
Giles stepped forward and announced "all guests are welcome to adjourn to the ballroom inside while we take pictures." As the guest stood and prepared to move inside, Anya ran back over.
"Remember, this isn't an open bar, so don't go crazy and pay for you own booze!"