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Destroying Entropy – Chapter 9
Anya was alone in the Magic Box, as was usual these days. She had always idly wondered what her status was with the Scoobies, but now it seemed painfully obvious. Xander had gotten custody of the friends in the breakup, and Anya was on the outside looking in. Oh sure, Tara and Willow came by to use the books, and Tara at least was trying to be understanding. But Willow seemed unable to let go of her vision of Xander the Ideal Friend. Willow avoided the subject of the wedding, or somehow tried to deflect the blame onto Xander’s upbringing or the demon that had tricked him or the phase of the moon or whatever. Couldn’t possibly be that Xander is a stunted little adolescent. Oh no. Devil made him do it, obviously. Anya slammed the register drawer in frustration and picked up a bottle of cleaner and some paper towels to get the handprints off the display cases.
Just as she started on the first case, she heard a tapping at the door. She looked up and saw Xander’s dark eyes and shaggy hair framed in the small window. Anya debated just ignoring him, but then decided that it would just lead to more aggravation down the line. Rolling her eyes she stalked over and unlocked the door. They stood there for a second, Anya with her hand on the doorknob and Xander staring down at her. “What do you want, Xander?” Anya said at last.
“Please, can I come in? Can we just talk?” he pleaded.
Anya hesitated. She could smell beer on his breath. “How much have you had to drink?” she asked warily.
“I only had a beer or two at the bar with the guys after work,” he said. Ok, it was a while after work, but there were guys there. Somewhere. “I just want to talk, ok?”
Anya sighed and stepped back. “Come in then.” She made her way back to the cleaning supplies and went on with her work. “I need to get this done. You talk, I’ll clean.”
Xander already didn’t like how this was going. He was hoping for a heartfelt reconciliation, and here he was being barely tolerated. But he sat down on a stool behind the counter and watched her work for a moment or two. “I just wanted to apologize for the other night. I was… upset. Shocked. I said the first things that came to my head.”
Anya kept cleaning without making eye contact. “I understand that it was a surprise. Wasn’t meant to be broadcast to the world. Doesn’t give you the right to treat me that way.”
“I know,” Xander sighed, running a hand through his hair. “It’s just that… I still care about you, Anya. I feel like something is missing now that you’re gone.”
“Yeah, regular orgasms and someone to feel superior to,” Anya muttered bitterly as she moved on to the next case.
“Is that what you think I felt for you?” he asked. He got up and came up behind her. He moved his hand as if to touch her hair, then dropped it with a sigh. “Anya, I loved you. I still love you. I made some mistakes but…”
“Mistakes? Is that what you call it?” She spun to face him angrily. “You broke my heart, Xander. You used that demon as an excuse to keep acting like the immature permanent teenager you are.” She turned her back to him and continued scrubbing the counter.
“So, what, that’s it? I get no chance to make it up to you? No chance to make amends?”
Anya leaned on the display case and hung her head. “I don’t have any more chances to give you, Xander.” She turned once more to face him. “I still care about you. I do. But I can’t bounce back from this right away. I don’t know if I can ever bounce back from this. You’re just not the man I hoped you’d be.”
Xander felt a hot ember of anger growing in the back of his brain. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to go. She was supposed to notice how contrite he was, and they were supposed to come to some new understanding, a fresh start. Instead she was yelling at him and insinuating that he wasn’t even a man. “So what do you do now? Stay around and just screw every demon who comes through the door?” he spat out.
“Fuck you, Xander!” Anya cried, slamming down the bottle of cleaner with a bang. “Like I told you the other night, it was all about solace. At least Spike is honest! He didn’t say he loved me and then dump me like a pair of old shoes! He just wanted to forget his pain for a few minutes. So did I. That would have been the end of it if you hadn’t come barging in where you had no business being!”
Xander grabbed her upper arms. “You are my business, Anya! What part of ‘I still love you’ do you not understand? How the hell can I stand by and watch you screw that animal and not step in?”
“You’re hurting me,” Anya said. Xander let go and stepped back a fraction. “And for the record, Spike is not an animal. He’s a man and he’s…”
“He. Is. Not. A. Person!” roared Xander. “What the fuck does it take for all you stupid bitches to realize that he is nothing but a monster that should have been destroyed years ago?”
A small knot of fear bloomed in Anya’s gut. Xander was growing belligerent, and she wasn’t entirely sure how much the alcohol had blunted his self control. But she swallowed her fear and retorted, “Monster or not, he kept Buffy from dancing herself to death when you called down that demon! He saved our asses a dozen times over the summer! And Buffy definitely considers him to be an ally. So who are you to say he should be destroyed?”
Xander ground his teeth in fury. He grabbed Anya’s arms again in blind rage, shook her, and shoved her to the side, causing her to land in a heap on the floor. She scrambled back from him with wide, frightened eyes. “You and Buffy are blind. As soon as he’s removed from the equation, you’ll both see how wrong you were.” With that he stormed out, slamming the shop door behind him. Anya stared at the door for a moment, then covered her face, shuddering.
Behind her, unseen, a dark curly haired figure came into view. I think it’s time to give William the Bloody Awful Poet a hand if I can, Halfrek thought as she faded away again.
Buffy managed to get herself back under control after a few long minutes, while Dawn held her tight and Tara and Willow stood, staring and shellshocked. She pulled away from Dawn and stood up, pushing her hair back and wiping her eyes. Tara went over to the cabinets and found another cup, plastic this time, and filled it with water. “Thanks,” said Buffy as she drank it down.
“So, what happens now?” Willow said quietly. Her head was spinning. Xander, who had been her onetime secret make out partner, who had comforted and shielded her since kindergarten, had raped Buffy. No more ambiguity, no more ‘big misunderstanding’. It was a bald, stated fact, and Willow had no earthly idea what to do with that fact.
Dawn spoke up indignantly. “We should call the cops on his ass!”
“Dawn! Language!” said Buffy, but without much force. “There’s no point in calling the police. There’s no evidence or anything. I came home and scrubbed myself down to the third layer of skin, and I told the hospital I didn’t want to talk to the authorities.”
“So he just gets away with this?” Dawn yelled.
“She didn’t say that,” said Tara. “Buffy? How do you want to handle this?”
Buffy bit her lip and leaned back against the counter. “I don’t think I can be around him anymore. I don’t want him in my house ever again.”
“But Buffy, he’s… one of the Scoobies,” said Willow. “How can we just cast him out forever? I know you’re angry, and you have every right to be, but there has to be some way to fix this!” Willow’s stomach churned in knots as she thought about having to break off all contact with Xander. He had been a constant in her life for so long, she just couldn’t conceive of him not being there.
Buffy stared at Willow, appalled at her obtuse behavior. She struggled to find the words to make the witch understand. “Remember high school chemistry, Willow? We mixed something with something else and got some new color, or a puff of smoke or whatever?”
“Yes,” said Willow with a puzzled expression. She was frankly amazed that Buffy remembered anything of high school chemistry, given the lack of effort she had put into it.
“But you couldn’t make it go in reverse, could you?” Buffy went on. “It’s not like you could pour whatever was left into two different containers and have it magically go back to the start. Once the reaction happened, that was it. You were left with something new. And if you did it wrong, you were left with something you didn’t want, but there was nothing you could do about it.”
“But this isn’t an acid-base reaction!” said Willow. “These are relationships, with real people who care about you. Don’t you remember how we used to be a team? Don’t you want to work to get that back?”
“We weren’t a team before,” Buffy sighed. “Before I had Giles telling me what to do and second guessing me, and I had you all staging ‘interventions’ whenever I did something you thought was wrong, regardless of what I thought. You dragged me back from the grave, erased my memory, spent all my money while I was dead – I didn’t ask for my ‘team’ to do any of that. There is no more ‘way it was’. There’s no way to reverse this or wipe it out.” Buffy closed her eyes and rubbed her temples, exhausted with the effort of continuing the debate.
Willow was hurt at Buffy throwing her sins back into her face in the midst of all this, and couldn’t stop herself from saying, “How many times can I apologize for the magic? I know it was wrong – I’ve tried to change. And how can you bring up the money? We used it to care for Dawn!”
“Which, yeah, I appreciate,” said Buffy. “But since then, you’ve been living here, rent free, while I sling burgers!”
“But I never…” Willow began.
“Willow, she’s right,” Tara interrupted, quietly but firmly. Willow turned to look at Tara, who had kept more or less silent during this whole argument. “When’s the last time we actually listened to what Buffy needs? We’ve been telling her how she should feel, and what she should do, and she’s just been too messed up to stop us. We’ve dumped all this stuff on her nonstop, and it’s got to end.” Tara turned to Buffy with sincere, sad eyes. “I’m sorry Buffy. I kept my mouth shut when I shouldn’t have. You’re absolutely right. We should be helping with the bills, and we shouldn’t be telling you what to do.”
Buffy was absolutely stunned by Tara’s heartfelt apology. She stepped forward and hugged Tara, whispering, “Thank you” with a deep sense of gratitude.
Buffy turned back to Willow. “I know you and Xander have been friends for a long time. I won’t tell you what to do. But I do not want him near me.” Having drawn the line in the sand, Buffy could feel her strength and control returning, a little at a time. She straightened up and faced her friend square on. “If that means you can’t be near me either, then so be it. But there is no way I can forgive this.”
Willow grew pale at the quiet menace in Buffy’s voice. Buffy meant every single word. But Willow found herself still unable to process the fact that Xander was no longer going to be part of the everyday routine. No more sending him for donuts, or listening to his bad jokes, or his geeky science fiction references. “I don’t know what to do,” she said after a long pause. “I think that…”
Her words were interrupted by the telephone. Dawn grabbed it and said, “Hello?” After listening for a moment she handed it to Buffy. “It’s Anya.”
“Anya? What’s going on?” said Buffy.
Anya’s voice was shaky as she said, “Xander was here. He’s been drinking. We argued. He says…” she paused then continued, “He says he’s going to remove Spike from the equation.”
“Remove… He’s going after Spike?”
“Yes. He just completely flipped out.”
Buffy recognized the tone of Anya’s voice. It sounded a lot like hers had the last few days. “Did he hurt you?” Buffy demanded.
“No… not much. But you’ve got to go warn Spike.”
“I will. Thanks, Anya.” She hung up and turned back to the others. “Xander just got done flipping out on Anya after a few drinks. He’s going after Spike.”
Dawn gasped, “Buffy, you’ve got to stop him!”
Buffy was already shrugging into her jacket and putting on her shoes. She stood up, and the others could see that the Slayer was in the building by the fire in her green eyes. She locked her gaze on Willow. “If he dusts Spike, I’ll kill him.” That statement was left hanging in the air as she turned and dashed out the door.
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