Title: Who I Am

Rating: PG                                                      Spoilers: Season 7, through First Date

Summary: Anya reflects. Set in the night after First Date.

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From Selfless: Xander, you can't help me. I'm not even sure there's a me to help.

From Him: I need to figure out who I am.

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After years of faithful service, most employees receive gold watches etched with words of thanks and best wishes for the future.

Anya wonders what D'Hoffryn would have had engraved on her dead flesh had the slayer not been there to stop his demon.

She's curious to know if he'll leave her alone now. She suspects he will. He's the one who taught her to never go for the kill when you can go for the pain.

It turns out he's given her the most memorable of retirement presents, after all. Guilt—the gift that keeps on giving.

She flashes on a century of Halfrek. Hallie was never stuffy like so many of her Victorian contemporaries. From the very moment Hallie became a Vengeance Demon—oh, sorry, Justice Demon—she knew how to have fun. And she taught Anya. They raised hell together—well, perhaps not hell literally, that was kind of a get-in-line thing in the demon world, and she and Hallie never swung that way. But there had been good times.

And now she's gone.

Anya sniffs, wipes surreptitiously at the dampness threatening to mar her meticulously applied CoverGirl eyeliner.

There's a mirror over the bar. In it, she can see her reflection, the reflections of the other patrons. They're all there. Not that she cares. Anya knows some very nice demons. Even dated some of them, and Grekafj the Xtorsax treated her far better than Xander had. Grekafj wouldn't have left her at the altar. Of course, his people didn't believe in marriage—since the male's penis broke off during the sex act, they were pretty much good only for one-night stands—but she was certain Grekafj would have been a long-term kinda guy if biology hadn't been working against him.

She's never understood that whole Scooby obsession with souls. But then, they had never understood her, either. Small surprise. She's never fit in.

She looks into the mirror again. "Who am I?"

Anya doesn't realize she has asked this question aloud until the bartender grunts and turns her way.

"Dunno, sweetheart, but I hope you're older than you look. Drinking age is twenty-one round these parts."

She stares at him with a mixture of irritation and weariness before rummaging in her handbag and pulling out her fake i.d.

Anya Christina Emanuella Jenkins. Mrs. Anya Lame-Ass-Made-Up-Maiden-Name Harris.

The bartender gives it a cursory glance, passes it back. The man seated on the stool beside her catches sight of the card before it disappears back into her capacious-yet-practical purse. "Pretty name."

"Thanks," she says, meaning it. Because for all of her thousand years of life, that name, that existence, that fantasy, is the only thing that has ever truly belonged to her.

She had a husband, once, the philandering troll. But he never was hers.

She had a name, Anyanka, and a calling, Vengeance Demon. But those were from D'Hoffryn. And he took them back.

She had a fiancé. But she shared him with two other women. And she couldn't pretend to want that. Not anymore.

She had friends. A gang. With a stupid gang name and everything. But they never liked her, never felt comfortable with her, not really. They had never known her. Never even tried.

It was true. Xander, for all his professed love, had never appreciated her. The others certainly hadn't. They thought she was greedy, penny pinching, money grubbing, parsimonious. They hadn't understood that it wasn't the wealth itself she wanted; she needed something concrete, something that belonged to her.

Anya slants a glance at the man on the stool. He has dark hair and a slightly stocky build. He in no way reminds her of Xander Harris. In no way at all. He's eyeing her, too. Thinks she doesn't notice.

"When you offer to buy me a drink, I'll ask for a bourbon, rocks."

He seems startled by her bluntness, but takes it in his stride. "Make that two." He smiles at her, white teeth and a confident grin. "So, Anya, come here often?"

She shakes her head. "No. I'm trying to drink myself into a stupor. But the last time I did that I slept with my ex-fiance's crush's secret lover." She bites her lip. Anya, do be specific and tell a fellow just exactly what you're doing here.

The man laughs. "I'm Peter."

Peter. Peter probably has a wife sitting back at home. Anya smiles at him and sips at her drink. She hadn't yet decided whether she will sleep with him, but it's nice to have the option. Especially after that embarrassing scene with Torg.

"Why's a beautiful lady like you is drinking alone tonight? Seems a crime."

The bartender rolls his eyes and moves down to the other end of the bar. Anya doesn't notice; she's thrilled to be asked this question.

"Well, my ex-fiancé's date stuck a knife in his stomach and tried to bleed him to death. Then he came home and announced he's tired of dating demon women and wants to be gay. With me standing right there! In front of all his friends! I mean, I should have known—the really bigoted ones always have the most to hide, but I don't have to put up with those kinds of insults, you know?"

"Uh, yeah."

She picks up steam. "Of course, the man I cuckolded him with was there, too, but Xander left me alone with Spike when we thought he was a vicious killer, so I thought things were pretty square between us."

"You know someone named Spike who's a vicious killer? What is he, a convict or something?" The man looks intrigued. Probably fantasizes about meeting convict-loving tough girls in California roadhouses on a regular basis.

"Spike?" She can't contain her laugh. "He's a killer, sure, but he's not vicious anymore. It's a pity, actually." She leans forward confidingly. "He's got a fantastic body, but he's so wrapped up in Her Royal Buffiness that he'd never even notice another woman." She frowns. "Except for those ones he killed recently, of course."

She's got Spike on her mind now, so she continues, "It's funny, you know. We probably would have made good friends. I mean, non-sexy friends, of course. I was in love with Xander, after all."

She chases this thought, wonders why she and Spike never connected. His obsession with Buffy was reason number one (she had her hands full with Xander's Buffy obsession, thanks very much), and the fact that he was a vampire—so self-centred and there was that oral fixation thing—but they did have much in common. They'd both been thrown out of their exciting old lives and into boring new ones against their will; they were both caught at the fringes of the stupid Scoobies—ah, there it was.

"I was accepted and he wasn't," she says aloud. "And I didn't want to risk that. Xander hated Spike. I was afraid that Xander would hate me if he saw that Spike and me weren't so different after all."

"You let your fiancé dictate who you'd be friends with?" Peter asks. "Sounds like a real jerk, honey."

She sighs. "Xander always goes on about how evil Spike is," she says. "Sure, he's killed a lot people, but I'll bet he's never sent a ship full of innocents into an iceberg just because the engineer was always at the docks and never home and his wife was lonely." She snickers a little at the memory, can't help it; Lloyd was so impressed. "Unsinkable, my ass," she says. She comes back to the present. "I mean, Xander's one to talk. He might not suck actual blood, but he's definitely an emotional vampire. Drains the life right out of you!"

"So you and your fiancé are having problems?" Peter slurs. She can tell he likes the idea of a woman on the rebound.

"Hah!" she proclaims, startling him. "Ex-fiancé, who apparently, despite the break up being about him, not me, is at the dating stage. First there was this idiot girl with a dog, only the dog got eaten by her ugly worm of a boyfriend and Xander had the nerve to blame me!"

"Uh huh." Peter downs his drink and motions for the bartender to bring them both another.

"Then there was this girl last night, and I already told you how well that turned out. At least he can't say I had anything to do with that one."

"But what about you? Do you still want to be with him?"

"I don't know," she says, admitting it aloud. "There's kinda another guy, but technically he's my boss, and British, so the chances of me sleeping with him are, well, next to zero. I've thought about climbing naked into bed with him, but at this point, I'm not that keen on more rejection. Plus, we thought he was incorporeal for a while, and while I'm open to just about anything, I do regard touching as a basic part of the sexual act, don't you? Do you like my hair?"

"It's very nice."

She preens. They drink. He tries again. "So, Anya, what do you do?"

She opens her mouth, then shuts it. "You really want to hear about me? Don't you just want to sleep with me?" It is not my fault they don't take kindly to you. You speak your mind, and are annoying.

Peter looks startled, recovers. "You're so refreshing, Anya. Not like other women." He takes her by the arm and leads her from the bar to a more intimate table. He leans across and touches her hand. "I'm so glad I met you. I want to know all about you."

Anya knows this is part of his act—even knows how his intestines would feel sliding through her hands if some woman called him on it—but she lets it go. Talking to this man was better than doing the Slayer's laundry. Anya gazes at Peter in wonder. He may be a drunken lech, but he's interested in her.

"I used to be in debt collection,"—she's very proud of this euphemism—"but now I'm in retail."

"Debt collection? A delicate little thing like you?"

"Oh," she says brightly. "You'd be surprised at how little force is needed to eviscerate a man." Her smile fades a few watts when she realizes what she's just said. "I mean, to emasculate a man." No, still wrong.

"Huh." Peter wants to sleep with her, so he lets it go. Though if Anya were in his shoes, she wouldn't want to sleep with a stranger who used the "e" words as casually as she. Idly, she wonders about Peter's wife, then sternly tells herself off. She's out of the game now and has her shiny, new humanity to prove it.

They move on to talk about business, and the stock market, and the Internet as an international marketplace. Seems Peter knows quite a bit about e-commerce. They talk shop. He gives her advice about how to avoid expensive tariffs on dangerous substances entering the States. She gives him hope that he'll get laid tonight.

"Another?" He motions to the bartender. He's getting drunker; probably isn't really hearing a word she's saying. Men. Never listen, never learn. Tomorrow he won't even remember meeting her.

"Please."

Anya is more of a wine girl, though she's converted since taking up with the beer-or-ginger ale Scoobies. She's drinking bourbon tonight though, because it has no memories for her. Champagne is reminiscent of Hallie, and she doesn't want to cry again. Beer makes her think of Xander, and the Bronze, and all the humiliation of trying to fit into his little world. Scotch reminds her of Giles, and his many kindnesses, the frustration of something just out of reach. Jack Daniels and Spike will be forever connected, and wasn't that a disaster?

She thinks she might go to New York when all this First Evil stuff is over. She's tired. Of the Hellmouth, of the Scoobies, of small town USA.

She figures she'll set up shop there—another Magic Box. Become her own franchisee. She's considered making a clean break, but the first rule of business is to do what you know. She has contacts and a thousand years padding her resumé. She may as well stay in the biz.

Buffy and her little friends balk at charging for their services, but look at Angel. He's doing very well for himself, thank you very much. Anya has a vision of herself as head of a profitable preternatural consulting venture.

Anya Jenkins

Expert in Demonology, Magicks, Ancient Weaponry, and Evisceration Techniques

Reasonable Rates

Apocalypses Extra

Maybe gold embossing on linen-textured business cards?

The thought comes suddenly, though she's had it before: My whole life, I've just clung to whatever came along.

She remembers struggling against the inevitable.

For a thousand years I wielded the powers of The Wish. I brought ruin to the heads of unfaithful men. I brought forth destruction and chaos for the pleasure of the lower beings. I was feared and worshipped across the mortal globe. And now I'm stuck at Sunnydale High. Mortal. Child. And I'm flunking math.

She remembers blaming everyone but herself.

I had the whole package until something fell apart. What could that be, Xander?

But now, she remembers that "Anya" is a construct. One that she can make herself, from the sum of her parts. In exactly the way she wants to. And she can choose the colour of her business cards.

Anya may be mortal, but she'll never again be truly human. Aud gave that up a long, long time ago. But truth be told, Anya doesn't want to forget who she'd been, who she is. She's earned this freedom; paid for it in blood and tears and pain and countless tubes of hair dye.

She becomes aware of the man opposite her. His face bears the look of someone who has seen opportunity pass him by.

"Thank you for the drinks," she tells him. "You seem like a very nice person and I feel certain you would have given me many orgasms."

Anya collects her purse and stands. She looks at him again, at his pleasant, not-Xander face, and says, "I wish—"

Then she stops herself.

"No," she says, and her mouth curves with an ironic smile. "That's not who I am."