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I don't think this is going to have very many chapters, but the chapters will probably be longer than I usually write. Also, I know it gets pretty confusing with the Buffy-Buffy situation, so I'll mostly be referring to past!Buffy as past!Buffy when we're in Buffy's point of view. And to everyone else, of course, she's Anya!
It took Buffy roughly five seconds to realize that Willow had screwed up.
It took her another five seconds to realize that Willow hadn’t actually screwed up. She was exactly when she was supposed to be, judging from the counter she was leaning against. She hadn’t seen the Magic Box in nearly five years, since the start of the First’s assault on Sunnydale. So Willow had definitely sent her to the past, and judging from the size of the girl hunched over at the table, it was when Dawn was still young. So she was willing to bet that this was around the beginning of the Glory fiasco.
But it didn’t make sense. Her hands had never looked like that, she noted, inspecting them. And she definitely hadn’t been this large up front, and she still wasn’t this tall. She ducked down, trying to find her proper height.
Dawn looked up, frowning. “What are you doing, Anya?”
Anya was here? Buffy twisted around to try to find the ex-demon. She’d actually missed her more than she would have expected after Sunnydale. There was something very refreshing about someone who never bothered with fabrication or diplomacy. Granted, it had gotten annoying pretty quickly, but Buffy suspected that they could have been more accepting of Anya. She’d probably also have been a valuable resource when she wasn’t babbling about eviscerations and castrating…
“Anya. I’m talking to you. Over here,” Dawn sounded annoyed.
Buffy frowned. “Where?” Then she heard the sound of her voice and sighed.
Yep, Willow had screwed up, alright.
One year after Sunnydale, the Slayers had been at full force, fighting in organized groups against evil that seemed only to get stronger. But they’d been doing well. By the end of the second year, the Slayers had been outed and were world-renowned for their power. By the third year’s close, three-quarters of the Slayers had joined that damned Kennedy and her Watcher in their little Slayer superiority camp, believing themselves above the law because the general populace let them think that.
And four years after Sunnydale, all hell broke loose. Kennedy’s army of Slayers and their slavish followers of both humans and demons had demanded political amnesty that soon led to political representation and eventually, rule over the nations that had conceded. Buffy’s Slayers didn’t agree. Tensions escalated, excuses were made, and full-fledged war broke out between the Slayers.
After Faith and her main two lieutenants had been brutally murdered by their sister Slayers, Buffy had had enough. She’d gone to find Willow, who’d long ago shuttered herself into a neutral coven in the far east, and begged her for help, only to discover that Willow had already anticipated her arrival.
The Potentials had to have been activated to defeat the First Evil, Willow had explained. Buffy had argued with that, pointing out that someone else had saved the day. Someone she didn’t like to think about. It was too painful. But Willow had told her that although he had stopped the Hellmouth from opening, the rise of the Slayers had stopped the First Evil from following them to their next base and attacking them there. They’d tipped the scales; then, they had thought that it was in favor of good, now, Buffy wasn’t so sure.
Anyway, the Potentials had to become Slayers because of the First. And the First had gained power because Buffy had been resurrected. So, Willow had told her, she’d spent months putting together a spell that would send Buffy back in time, to the start of their battle with Glory. Her goal? Not to die.
Of course, that wasn’t going to be helpful now, since Willow had screwed up.
She was in Anya’s body.
Struck by an idea, she peeked into the back room, where she could hear the banging and smashing that usually meant that she’d been training. After all, if she were in Anya’s body, then maybe Anya was in hers.
But the other Buffy just looked up at her with a quizzical look and said, “Hey, Anya. Is something wrong?”
She tried leaving the Magic Box, but then remembered that Anya worked there. Great. Because Buffy’d been so very good at it the one day that she’d worked there. So instead, she replaced items on shelves, groaning at how heavy they were without Slayer power. How was she supposed to save the other Buffy from Glory if she could barely even lift the Sword of Barendan and put it on the shelf?
And where was Anya, anyway? Was she in Buffy’s future body? Was Willow trying to fix this now? The spell had been set to return Buffy exactly one year from now, and Buffy wasn’t ready to botch up Anya’s brief stint as a human during the time allotted to her.
But she might just do that anyway, she realized with a shudder as Xander slipped into the chair next to her. An Anya that didn’t want to have sex with him every moment of every day was going to be a very suspiciously acting Anya, indeed. And Buffy drew the line at Xander-sex.
At least he hadn’t tried to kiss her or anything yet.
“Ah, good.” Giles and the younger Buffy exited the training room together. “You’re here. Where’s Willow?”
Right on cue, Willow walked into the Magic Box. “Hey. Am I late? Did I miss any exposition?”
Giles began droning on about safety procedures concerning the “creature” they’d encountered (read: annoying hellgod with a bad perm), her younger self piping up with additional commentary. Buffy zoned out. She didn’t even remember this conversation the first time around.
How to stop Glory? That was really the main issue. She reviewed the previous events that had led up to Dawn on that tower. Tara’d been brain-sucked, she’d shown Glory the Key, they’d run, Glory had caught up to them…
Buffy frowned. How had that happened? It was a little fuzzy. She remembered Giles getting hurt and Ben coming to help, but then Glory had… Glory had…
Huh. Whatever. It didn’t matter. Glory had gotten to them, grabbed Dawn, and the rest was history with a very bad ending for the acrophobic. So the trick would be to keep Tara from getting hurt, and maybe then Glory wouldn’t be able to activate the Key. Oh! And that Doc guy. Buffy would pull some strings and convince the others to count on her for a plan. How hard could it be?”
“…We’ll need to find her weakness and Buffy will be able to defeat her,” Giles concluded.
Four pairs of eyes turned to her. “Got something to say, Anya?” the other Buffy asked, frowning.
Buffy shrugged. “I just don’t think that this is going to be that easy. It might be a job for all of us.” There. Now’d they’d talk before they acted, and Buffy could steer them right.
Xander patted her on the shoulder. “Ahn, leave the Slaying to the experts, okay?”
“What?” Buffy scowled. “I’m just saying, this thing beat Buffy before. She didn’t have a chance. How do we know that she’ll be able to do anything next time?”
Willow turned to Giles. “I’m going to do some research on humanoid demons now. Anything else I should keep in mind?”
The other Buffy wandered off to train, and Xander engaged Dawn in some inane conversation. Buffy was left at the table, openmouthed.
It was like she didn’t exist at all, for all the attention she’d gotten. They hadn’t even bothered to respond to her argument.
Right. She smacked her head. I’m Anya.
How the hell am I going to convince anyone to listen to me?
“Something’s in here!” younger Buffy called from the next room.
Instinctively, Buffy raced in, searching for a threat.
“Get out of here, Anya!” the other Buffy snapped. “Get Giles!”
Invisible monsters. She remembered this. This was Tara’s spell, when she had thought she was becoming a demon. Just after her first encounter with Glory. Nice timing, Will.
Buffy darted forward, attacking past Buffy’s invisible demon with all her strength. But she miscalculated her own weight and speed and was hit instead. She turned blindly to grab the demon, but it was gone again.
“They’re invisible!” she cried out.
Younger Buffy gave her a look. “Yeah, I got that. Mind leaving the slaying to the experts?”
“Only if you leave the demons to the expert!” Buffy retorted, feeling oddly protective of the body she was inhabiting.
“Anya, now’s really not the time,” past!Buffy jogged into the main shop and madness.
“It’s over there!” Xander was shouting, pointing in one direction.
“How many are there?” Giles asked desperately.
“Shut up!” past!Buffy shut her eyes, trying to concentrate.
And finally, Tara walked in. “Buffy, behind you!” she called, and past!Buffy was able to block an attack.
“Tara, where is it? Can you see it?” past!Buffy demanded.
Buffy breathed a sigh of relief as Tara undid the spell and the demons were defeated.
Mr. Maclay and his entourage came in just as past!Buffy killed the last demon. “What in god’s name is that?”
And then, from the back of the room, Buffy heard a voice that made her freeze.
“Le-ach demon,” Spike informed them. “Fun little buggers. Big with the marrow-sucking.”
After Sunnydale, he’d somehow ended up with Angel. Buffy wasn’t sure of the details. But he’d never contacted her, never said a thing. She didn’t know how, after the year before that, he could have just given up on them. Not after she’d said she loved him.
She supposed her ego had been bruised when Spike hadn’t come to her like the good little lapdog he’d been. That must have been why she’d decided not to go visit him after Andrew had returned from LA and told her everything. That, and a bit of selfishness. There’d been a nasty little part of her that had been relieved that he hadn’t contacted her. She knew that her friends wouldn’t have accepted him, just like before, and she hadn’t been ready for the complications that Spike would bring.
So she’d pushed off seeing him or talking to him every day, up until the moment that she’d gotten word from Giles that Angel had fought some huge battle in LA. Only a few had survived. Spike had not been one of them.
She had half-expected him to be raised from the dead yet again. Nothing had ever stopped Spike before. But he’d never come, not to her, not to Angel. She’d even had Drusilla tracked in a fit of paranoia to be sure that he hadn’t been returned without his soul or learned morals.
Finally, she’d been forced to concede defeat. Spike wasn’t coming back. And then she’d been assailed by recriminations. First, the guilt that she’d been too annoyed by his snub to be honest with him post-Sunnydale. He’d probably died believing that she hadn’t cared about him. Again. Then, the memories of what she’d done wrong, what she could have changed. And her memories slowly shifted in his favor.
First, He spent the past few years trying to kill me became I was the Slayer. We were essentially at war.
Then He tried to rape me! became I emotionally abused him for a full year, bringing him to that explosion.
Finally, He never bothered to contact me, even after I told him I loved him became I made out with Angel two days before he died, and never really told him how much he’d helped me. He’d probably thought that he was doing her a favor by not telling her that he was alive. And then, she would have agreed with him.
With the newfound maturity that came from recognizing her own failings, she’d chosen not to dwell on the mistakes she’d made with Spike. Instead, she’d remembered the good. The way that he’d always given her what she’d needed, the way he’d made her feel alive. The way he’d given her solace and the courage to fight. The way he’d made her laugh, and cry, and love.
Love. She had loved Spike, after all. But she hadn’t realized it until it was too late. And that had hurt more than anything else. She hadn’t spoken about him much after her epiphanies, but she’d measured every man she’d dated against his pedestal. It had ruined a lot of prospective relationships. Hell, it had even ruined her second try at a relationship with a human Angel, post-Shanshu.
“I’m sick of being the third wheel to you and Spike!” he’d exploded. “He’s not coming back, and if you don’t move on, you’re going to be alone forever.”
And she had been, after that. She’d spent almost three years alone and lonely, never moving into an emotional relationship. She’d given up.
But now, she realized with a burst of clarity, she had a second chance. Granted, it wouldn’t be for her. Willow was pretty sure that if she changed the past, her future self would be instantly altered the moment she returned to the future. Another year with Spike would be a dream come true, but then she’d have to cope with life without him.
And besides, she didn’t want him to be in love with Anya.
She beamed. I can do this! All she had to do was push her old self and Spike together into a loving, healthy relationship.
That is, if either of them would listen to her.
Anya was acting weird.
Xander had been getting that sense all night, when she had barely afforded him a glance and tried to get involved in Buffy’s fights. Especially after Tara’s family left and she kept staring at Spike with an odd little smile on her face. But it was the look she normally got when she sensed profit, so that was easily understandable. Spike was always involved in some scheme or another.
What wasn’t understandable was her decision not to have sex that night. Or for a while, if what she said was true.
“I just want to understand how relationships are built without sexual contact,” she insisted. “Our relationship began with sex. I want to make sure that we can pull it off in case you, uh…ever become a vampire and have to be cursed and can’t have sex.”
He shook his head. “I told you, I don’t want to roleplay Buffy and Angel again.”
Her face contorted. “Eww!”
“Hey, you weren’t complaining then!” Xander remembered. “In fact, you said-“
“Let’s-” Anya cut him off, “-Not rehash it, okay?” She looked a little sick. “I just want to try this.”
“If you really loved me, you’d be able to be with me regardless of the lack of sex,” she said swiftly.
“I-“ Xander said, a little dazed. Since when did they talk about love?
“Great!” She smiled winningly. “I’ll take the couch. It’s only fair, since this was my idea.”
And that’s when Xander had known that something was wrong with Anya.
After all, when had she ever put someone else’s comfort before her own?
He had a bad feeling about this. Please don’t let her be pregnant, he prayed, staring at the ceiling. He’d give her some more time, and then speak to Willow.
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