Lovers and Lies by Lilachigh
Chapter Four: “Who’s Anya?”
“What’s happened? Willow, is it Buffy? Is she OK?” Dawn’s voice rose to an agonized squeal.
“Buffy? She’s fine. Well, I suppose she’s fine. It’s Tara. And no, she’s OK, not hurt,” she rushed the words out as everyone began to ask questions at once. “But Giles, listen, everything’s my fault. You’re all wrong, everyone and everything is wrong and I’m sorry but I didn’t mean it and I don’t know how to put it right!”
Twenty minutes later, Giles stared round the table at the horrified face of his young friend - the appalled face of his lover. “Let me get this correct, Willow. You cast a spell that’s made Buffy and Spike get engaged, Tara become some sort of slut witch and Xander and I to - ”
“Willow,” Xander leapt to his face and paced round the room. “OK, I get the Buffy/Spike thing because, hey, why would she want to have any sort of relationship with a vampire, especially that one. And I’ll even accept what you say about Tara, although I reckon you’re exaggerating, but Giles and me - we love each other. We’ve always loved each other. We're married. You were there at the ceremony! This - “ he waved his hand round their kitchen - “this isn’t because of some silly spell.”
“I’m sorry, Xander, but it is. There was no ceremony. It's all in your mind and your mind has been altered by the spell. I know I shouldn’t have done it, but I just wanted....I wanted...”
Giles threw his glasses down on the table. In his heart of hearts he'd always wondered why a young, good-looking boy like Xander would want to marry an middle-aged man like himself. He remembered being thankful beyond reason when it had happened, but there had always been that small nugget of doubt, a voice that said 'one day he'll leave you.' And now that day had come and he was sad beyond belief. But he did believe her: that was the trouble. Willow had wanted, so Willow had made it come true. That was a problem he would have to deal with in the future, but for now - “So you need to reverse it. Surely that’s not impossible. Most spells work both ways, don’t they?”
The red-head nodded. “Yes, sure. But I’ve tried and tried and nothing happens. You and Xander are still.....well still here. Tara’s propping up a demon bar and flirting with some dreadful creature and Anya - “
“Who’s Anya?” Three voices questioned her as one.
A mile away in the depth of Spike’s crypt, Buffy stretched like a cat and wriggled herself closer to her lover who was sleeping, exhausted on the black silk sheets that were now a tangled mess at the bottom of the bed. A single candle still guttered alight and by the flickering flame, the Slayer admired the gleaming ruby ring on her left hand. It was big and shiny and Spike had stolen it especially for her. Of course, she was well aware that he’d stolen it, even if he swore he hadn’t. But as it had belonged to a really skanky demon girl, Buffy didn’t feel it counted as theft. More like getting the ring to its rightful owner.
“Any idea what powers it might hold, pet?” His voice was drowsy and low, his lips tickling her ear. He still couldn’t believe that the Slayer was his. All the slim, strong length of her - steel under silk - his to hold forever. That someone so strong could give herself to him so utterly, so completely still shook him to his very dead heart. The bright, confident Slayer facade just dissolved away when they were making love and left her just a girl, his girl. And he knew he would kill anyone who tried to take her away from him.
“No, not yet. Kind of weird - not knowing. I mean, I could point my finger at some demon or vamp and turn them into a duck or a frog or a tiger! I’ve always wanted a tiger. Just a little one.”
“Ducks and frogs, OK, pet. I draw the line at tigers in the crypt, even little ones. But, you know, I don’t think this is a witchy sort of ring. Doesn’t smell like that to me.”
With a flicker, the final candle burnt out. In the dark, his cold body cooling her fevered flesh, Buffy found the courage to say what she’d been thinking for hours. “Spike - this getting married - ”
The skin under her fingers turned even colder. “You want to call it off?”
“No! No, jeez, no. A hundred times no. It’s just - look - do you think we could just go off somewhere and - do it. Get married. I know Xander said congratulations, but I still think he's going to be all big puppy-dog eyes about it and Giles will go Watchery on me and Willow - well, I just don’t want Will to think she’s got some sort of given to do any of her mojo on us and stop it, somehow.”
"I thought most girls want a big wedding. The fancy dress, flowers, music, people laughing, people crying."
He knew that was how Dru had described her wedding plans once, although there had been more crying than laughing - and blood. But luckily, some hundred year old sense of self-preservation stopped him telling Buffy this interesting fact. "Most blokes would be only too glad to skip the fuss and flowers, pet. If that's what you want, that's what we'll do. But I still think it's weird."
"I don't think I'm like most girls," Buffy said wistfully and his dead heart twisted so hard in his chest with pity that he could have sworn he was still alive. And straight behind the pity came roaring anger that his lover could ever be unhappy. And before he could stop himself, he was wishing he could kill, maim, destroy something, someone, anything - and he groaned silently and waited for the chip in his head to fire - and it didn't. There was just a slight tingle on the other side of his skull. Not even pain, more a reminder of what pain had been like. And deep inside him, he felt a surge of pure joy - he could kill again!
In Giles' apartment, Xander was staring at Willow; annoyed and confused. "So, you're telling us that I don't love Giles -" he reached out a hand to touch the older man's arm - "who means more to me than life itself - but have a demon girlfriend called Anya who is hundreds of years old. She annoys you so as part of this spell you cast, you sent her far, far away."
"Pretty much, yes. And I'm so sorry. She was being so irritating and - "
"But Willow - even if we believe half of what you say, why can't you just reverse the spell." Giles could feel his heart breaking - Xander, his lover, didn't love him, not really. It was all a spell. He couldn't remember when he'd been so angry before. What right had Willow to play with peoples' lives like this?
"I'm not sure. I've tried and tried but nothing happens. I want Tara to help me. I think I need the extra power to do the reverse. But she won't. She says she likes being who she is now."
Dawn, who'd stood silently, trying to make sense of what Willow had said now broke in - "But everyone seems to like what they're doing now. Buffy and Spike are happy, Giles and Xander, even Tara. I don't remember this Anya - " She hesitated, there had been that voice - had it been a girl? She pushed the thought away. Everyone is OK, so why not let everything stay as it is?"
Giles sighed. It all sounded so sensible, the way Dawn thought, but of course it was impossible. "Spells are unreliable, Dawn. Big spells like this one, where lots of different people are involved, could cause all sorts of problems if we can't reverse it."
"Should we go and find Buffy, then? She and Spike will have to know."
Giles shook his head. "No, there's no point until we get Tara to agree to help. Willow, go and ask her again - or at least ask her to come to The Magic Box and speak to me. I know I have a book on one of the upstairs shelves that goes into spell reversal in some depth. If she won't help, then that might give us a clue."
"You don't have to sound so enthusiastic." Xander had his back to the room, staring out of the window into the dark. "I thought we were happy together."
"We were - we are….." Giles faltered to a stop.
"Xander, it's not real," Willow said, trying to sound sympathetic. "You love Anya. She loves you. You're fond of Giles, we all are, of course, but this…." She waved her hand round the cosy apartment. "It's all false."
"Lies, you mean. We're living a lie? It doesn't feel like that. It feels good, right. Even Buffy being with Spike seemed, well mega weird but OK."
"I can't keep on saying sorry." Willow realised her contrition was beginning to wear a little thin. How many more times did they want her to apologise?
"When you reverse the spell, will we all remember that things were different?" Dawn asked. She liked Buffy and Spike being happy, being together. It made her feel warm inside. But on the other hand, it would be lovely to have Tara home again because no one else seemed to bother about what she was eating, or where she was going or even if her school-work was done on time. And OK, she was practically grown-up now and didn't need looking after, but it was still nice to come home to hot chocolate and cookies and Tara asking how she'd done in the maths test.
Willow shook her head. "No, we won't remember any of it. Life will just go back to normal." Except she knew she was lying. Her life hadn't been put under a spell, so she would remember everything. And she was glad of that. Even if this spell hadn't worked exactly how she'd hoped, she now knew how to cast a bigger, better one in the future.
Giles walked across to Xander, started to reach out to touch him, then pulled his hand back and turned away. "Right - let's go and find Tara and see if we can persuade her to help."
"I'm coming, too." Dawn stated firmly. "I'm not staying here on my own."
"OK, but stay close and don't wander off."
"I can't believe you are willing to throw us aside." Xander's words were laced with hurt.
"There is no us," Giles said wearily. "It's all lies, Xander. We're not married. We've never been married. You love a demon girl called Anya and we have to deal with that and get everyone back to their own reality. It hurts now but - "
"But we won't remember. I get that." He pulled off his wedding ring and threw it onto the floor. "I won't be needing that any more."
"Everything will go back to as it was," Willow said cheerfully as they left the apartment. "And Buffy and Spike need never know they were once engaged because no one will remember. Every part of the spell I cast can be reversed. With Tara's help there's no reason at all why it shouldn't work. You have to persuade her, Giles. You have to!"