Summary: Spike is being his usual irritating self, and Anya decides to put a stop to it. Follow-up to "Good Answer."

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters portrayed here, they remain the property of their respective owners/creators.

Rating: PG-13, for themes and language.

Time Frame: Between "Crush" and "I Was Made To Love You." (spoiler alert!)

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me (eilandesq@aol.com) to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.



CREDIBLE THREATS



Xander's cue struck the cue ball with a dull sound, and the white sphere spun off into a side pocket. He closed his eyes in irritation and anticipation, and sure enough he heard the sardonic chuckle and comment, "Nice work, Harris. . .for someone who makes his living using tools, you're not much with a stick in your hand, are you?"

Xander opened his eyes and directed a pointed glare at the blond, leather-clad vampire that was sitting at a nearby table, holding his seventh beer of the night loosely by the neck. Spike had been unbearable since Buffy had read him the riot act and uninvited him from her house, and he-much like his grandsire would have in his pre-soul days-was taking it out on Buffy's friends.

Spike had quickly learned that intentionally irritating two powerful witches was a very bad idea when Willow, with a glare, had tossed some powder on him that had caused his skin to turn bright blue and all of his body hair to fall out. The effects were gone in a day, but Spike took it as a warning and backed off. Later that day, Giles had seen him walk into the magic shop and had immediately pulled out a small crossbow and fired it, striking a support beam next to Spike at the height of his nether regions. Spike had immediately turned around and left, ignoring the smirking Watcher and the two customers staring at the scene.

Xander, on the other hand, had no magic and was not prone to pulling out a crossbow or other lethal weapons on short notice, making him perfect to torment. He could beat Spike up, but the vampire knew from past experience that Xander was disinclined to beat up someone who couldn't fight back, even under extreme provocation. Buffy had less qualms about administering a punitive beating, but Spike knew that Xander would rather chew his own arm off than admit he couldn't deal with Spike on his own, particularly when he knew that Buffy wanted nothing to do with Spike at that moment.

With Buffy, Tara, and Willow studying for midterms, Xander and Anya had come to the Bronze alone, and for three hours Spike had been doing his level best to irritate Xander as much as was inhumanly possible. The young man looked trapped and angry: if he stormed out, he would concede victory to Spike. If he walked over and beat the crap out of Spike, he could get banned from the Bronze and again Spike would win. Spike raised his beer to Xander in a toast and downed it, while Xander glared at Spike, shook his head, and retreated into the men's room.

Spike snickered and was about to order another beer when he heard a female throat being cleared. He turned and saw Anya standing there with a determined look on her face. He met her eyes and asked, "What can I do for you, luv?"

Anya wrinkled her nose in mild disgust at the vampire's visibly intoxicated state, then replied, "I want to talk to you outside for a minute, Spike."

Spike raised an eyebrow and considering ignoring the request, but he was curious: Anya was acting rather oddly. He stood and followed her out the back door into the alley, and watched as she stopped some distance away, her back turned to him. He waited for a moment, then prodded, "It's your dime, luv. . .let's hear it."

"I know you're mad about Buffy stomping all over you, Spike, but I'm not going to let you take it out on Xander. . .so cut it out, or else." Anya's voice was cold and even, with a hint of something that Spike could not identify.

The vampire laughed and replied, "Why should I? It's fun, and he can't do anything about it . . .and neither can you. . .and what do you mean, 'or else' ?" Spike laughed again, then reached for a cigarette as he watched her turn to him. His eyes widened, and the cigarette and lighter fell from his suddenly nerveless fingers as he stared at the other occupant of the alley.

Anyanka, demonic patron saint of scorned women, stood five feet away from Spike, an expression of utter icy malice on her distorted face. She smiled and responded, ". . .or else you don't even want to know what could happen to you, Spike. . .you think YOU'RE the Big Bad? I was terrorizing unfaithful men before the Master's grandsire was born."

Spike blinked, then regrouped. He laughed and commented, "So, you're a demon again. . .neat. How'd you pull that one off, and why are you still here with the snappy dresser instead of hacking some poor bloke's privates off with a machete? I hear that's in these days."

Anyanka sighed, and her face morphed back into Anya's as she replied, "Xander found a book with the ritual to get my necklace back and left it where I could find it. I got the necklace, then went back to his apartment to trick him into making a wish. . .I wanted to prove to myself that he was just another man, and a foolish wish would have done that."

Spike, fascinated in spite of himself, asked, "So what did he wish for?"

Anyanka looked sad, then whispered, "He wished that I could know just how he felt about me. . .and now I do." She looked up at Spike and continued in a more normal tone, "Anyway, I went into the bathroom and was going to destroy the necklace. . .but I couldn't do it. I was afraid I would lose the memories that Xander's wish gave to me. . .besides, being a demon isn't so bad in Sunnydale if you want to have a decent life expectancy, as long as you don't attract the Slayer's attention."

Spike nodded in agreement, then smiled wickedly as he commented, "Well. . .it seems to me that now I've got some dirt on you, princess. . .I can blab your little secret to the Slayer and your boyfriend and watch the sparks fly, or-" He stepped up next to her, intentionally menacing her with his greater size, then continued, "-I could just dish out a bit of punishment directly, seeing how you're a demon and I can kill you now."

Anyanka nodded, then in the next instant she was standing twenty feet away. Spike turned in bewilderment, then turned back to see Anyanka standing in her former spot as she replied, "On the other hand, it might not be that easy." She looked up at Spike, then continued, "Or, I could let you beat me up a bit, just in time for Buffy to show up and assume your chip isn't working any more. . .what do you figure, ten seconds or less before you're dust?"

Spike swallowed hard, then listened as Anyanka continued, "Or I could just make your life even more unpleasant. . ." She reached into a pocket and pulled out a daisy, from which she started pulling petals as she spoke in a sing-song voice, "Drusilla. . .Harmony. . .Drusilla. . .Har-"

Spike turned even paler than usual and slapped the offending flower away. There was genuine fear in his voice as he snapped, "Stop that!"

Anyanka looked up innocently at Spike and asked playfully, "What's wrong, Spike? Surely you're not afraid of what one of those lovely women might wish for, given the opportunity?" She laughed, then whispered, "Which one do you fear more, William. . .the crazy and vengeful one, or the foolish and vengeful one? You'd be amazed at how often young maidens without the sense God gave a rabbit came up with the most deliciously cruel wishes over the years. . ."

Spike shuddered, and his voice was that of a beaten man as he interrupted: "All right. . .you win. I'll leave him alone, and not spill the beans about you." He turned to leave, but a sudden burst of curiosity caused him to turn back and ask, "So, what. . .now you're Vengeance Gal again. . .what are you going to do, pack up and take Xander with you while frying the unfaithful?"

Anyanka shook her head and replied, "I'm retired. . .at least for now. I like it here, and I was making a good go of it before I got my powers back, so there's no need not to continue." She looked up at Spike and smiled evilly as she concluded, "But if I ever do come out of retirement, Spike. . .I have a feeling you'll be hearing from me rather quickly."

Spike gave her a quick nod and fled down the alley, deciding that a few days alone in his crypt would be rather crucial to his long-term survival.

Anyanka watched him go, then turned as the door opened behind her, revealing Xander. "Hey, I got out of the bathroom and Spike was gone-which was good-and you were gone-which was bad. Then the bartender told me you two had gone out here. . .where is tall, blond, and annoying, anyway?"

Xander saw his girlfriend's expression flicker briefly with hidden amusement before she looked up at him with an innocent expression and replied, "He had to go. . .he said he wouldn't be bugging you any more, by the way."

Xander grinned broadly and commented, "Well, what do you know? Miracles can happen." He looked at her suspiciously and asked, "Wait a minute. . .what did you do to get him to quit?"

Xander watched her ponder the question for a moment, then heard her reply, "I told him I had my powers back, and that if he didn't lay off I'd grant Drusilla and Harmony wishes to get him with."

Xander's face went totally blank, and Anyanka watched as Xander stood there and stared at her. . .then began chuckling. He leaned over and kissed her on the forehead, commenting, "OK, OK. . .far be it from me to expect a straight answer from you when you've done me such a big favor." He helped her put her coat on, and they walked back to his car. Anyanka pondered the terrified reaction she had elicited from Spike, and for a moment the siren call of her old way of life beckoned to her. She blinked, then turned to the rumpled figure walking next to her with a lopsided smile on his face, and the impulse to return to her old life melted away. She nestled close to him as they got into his car and drove off.

For now, this was enough.






As before, comments are welcome and desired.