Summary: Angel comes to Sunnydale to see Xander, and ends up having a long talk with Anya. Sixth story in the "No More Be Grieved" series.

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.

Time Frame: Two and a half weeks after "The Body." (spoiler warning, folks).

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me ( 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.


Anya finished washing the dishes, and was preparing to settle down and watch TV for about an hour before calling it a night when she heard a soft knock at the door. She took a deep breath, remembering how a not so long ago late night visitor threatened the very core of her contentment, then walked to the door and opened it. She was shocked into silence for ten seconds, but the figure waiting on the other side of the threshold politely waited until she recovered and commented, "Well. . .didn't expect to see you standing there, Angel."

The ensouled vampire smiled and replied, "Yeah. . .and I wasn't really expecting to see you, Anya." Anya frowned at him, and Angel hastened to explain, "I mean. . .I knew you lived here, but Xander is pretty protective. . .I'd expect that he'd insist on answering the door himself at this time of night."

Anya smiled softly, then replied, "You're right, he does. . .and it's really sweet of him, though it's silly. . .anything that didn't need an invitation could just kick the door in and-" Anya saw the pained look on Angel's face, and she had learned enough in the past two years to know it was time to change the subject: "Anyway, Xander's working on a construction job in Oxnard, and he finished pretty late tonight. . .he's crashing there. He'll be back in the morning." Anya noted the disappointed look on Angel's face and asked, "Is something wrong?"

Angel frowned and replied, "No, no crisis this time. . .I just wanted to talk to Xander about something: I guess I can get a motel room and come back tomorrow night." Angel nodded politely to Anya and concluded, "Thanks, Anya, I'll see you around." He turned, preparing to go.

"Wait, Angel," Anya requested, thinking quickly. * When the others see someone who seems to be worried about something, they try to find out what it is and try to talk it through with them. . .maybe I should try that. After all, it's Angel. . .I can't very well make him more broody than he already is * As the vampire turned back with a quizzical expression, Anya asked, "Is it something you can talk to me about?"

Angel blinked, startled at the offer. He looked at Anya's face, and as usual there was little or no hint of subterfuge: Anya's lack of tact or pretense made Cordelia look like an ambassador by contrast. He smiled and responded, "I suppose I could talk about it with you. . .but I don't think Xander would like it if you invited me in while he was away."

Anya nodded, then reached for a sweater as she replied, "No, he wouldn't. . .but it's a nice night for a walk." Ignoring Angel's surprised expression, she stepped outside the door, closed and locked it, then called out, "Let's go," as she walked down the hallway toward the exit. Angel followed, bemusedly shaking his head.

* * * * *

They walked silently for a while, Angel carefully surveying their surroundings for potential hazards, while Anya ignored the scenery and watched Angel with some concern. He had been unable to attend Joyce's funeral because of the time of day it was held, but he had come to the Summers house that evening where family and friends had gathered and had done his best to be supportive. Anya had noted the helpless look on Angel's face when he thought no one was looking, and empathized with it, as she had felt pretty damned useless during the whole sad time. She coughed gently to get Angel's attention, then asked, "So what's going on, Angel?"

Angel sighed, then replied, "After Joyce's funeral, there was still one person who would have wanted to know about Joyce's death. . .Faith. I hadn't seen her in a while, and we had a lot of catching up to do: she's doing so well there, working on bettering herself. . .I knew she'd get down on herself over Joyce dying before she could make it up to her for what she did to her, not to mention what she did to Buffy." Angel looked down, then whispered, "I just couldn't tell her. . .I can be such a coward sometimes." He blinked, then continued, "Anyway, Xander went to see her a few days later, and he told her. Faith took it hard, but Xander knew just what to say to her to soften the blow. . .and he brought Buffy with him. From what Faith told me, apparently she and Buffy had a good long talk, and it helped both of them a lot."

"Xander always knows what to say." Anya commented, smiling softly at the visibly upset vampire. She saw him relax a bit, then she continued, "Yeah, he told me about it. . .cried a little, too. I'm still getting used to that. He was worried about both of them, but he thinks they will be better now. . .I hope he's right."

Angel blinked at Anya's response, then responded, "Me too. . .anyway, I just came by to say thanks to him. I haven't been there for Faith much lately, and I haven't been able to do much good for Buffy for a while now. . .I'm grateful for what he's done for both of them."

Anya looked at Angel and saw the ambivalence there: she commented, "That's not easy for you to say, is it Angel?" Angel looked at her, surprised, and Anya continued, "I've heard enough about the whole history of Buffy since she got to Sunnydale-hell, I rewrote it once-and one of the bigger themes is that you and Xander can't stand each other. . .I always wondered about that."

Angel shook his head and replied, "Believe me, I would have liked to get along with Xander. . .he's been by Buffy's side since she came to Sunnydale, and he's put his life on the line for her more times than I can easily count, including during the time my soul was gone." He sighed and continued, "Being constantly despised by someone even during the times that I wasn't doing anything wrong wore on me over time, though. Considering one of his best friends was turned by Darla just after Buffy hit town, not to mention Angelus' reign of terror, I suppose I can understand it, but I certainly never liked it." He shook his head again and concluded, "But Buffy would be dead now if it wasn't for him, and I think he may have saved her again. . .Buffy can't afford to be a mess right now, and Xander may have made the difference in getting her out of her depression. . .I owe him thanks for that, however I've felt about him in the past."

Anya nodded and replied, "He loves her."

Angel flinched, then turned to Anya and asked, "How did you know-I mean, what makes you think that?"

Anya smiled serenely and replied, "I know I'm out of practice with the whole being human thing, but I do know a little something about reading people. . .he's loved her from almost the moment he met her, and he's never stopped. . .occasionally being pissed off at her over you aside." Anya saw Angel's expression and elaborated, "Oh, he doesn't want to be with her. . .he's had a couple of clean shots at her, including around the time Buffy started college. . .it just didn't seem right to him, I guess. He's tried to look out for her, but he's moved on-to me." She smiled softly, and looked away from Angel nonchalantly as she looked out at some nearby trees.

Angel arched an eyebrow and looked suspiciously at Anya before commenting, "You have remarkable insight for someone who hasn't known Xander and Buffy for all that long."

Anya shrugged, and they walked for a while before Angel broke the silence again by asking, "Anya. . .how do you deal with it?"

Anya turned to him and replied, "I'm not sure what you mean, Angel."

The ensouled vampire stopped, and Anya turned to face him as he explained, "You're human again: you have a soul. How do you live with the guilt of what you did when you were a demon? I almost went mad when I was cursed for the first time, and I was far from being stable for the next hundred years. . .how do you cope?"

Anya nodded thoughtfully at the question, then replied, "Becoming a vengeance demon is different from becoming a vampire. . .you don't lose your soul." Angel's eyes widened in surprise, and Anya continued, "You've been dealing with those evil lawyers in L.A. long enough to know that a human can sink to depths that would make most demons cringe. . .a corrupt soul can be capable of things that are unimaginable. During the whole time I was a vengeance demon, that little voice inside of my head. . .like the one in yours that tells you all the time that what you did as Angelus made you a monster. . .that voice was cheering me on and telling me that all men were scum, and they deserved everything my powers did to them. . .it gave me a certainty about what I did that merely losing my soul never would have done."

Angel nodded quietly, though his expression was visibly appalled as Anya continued, "That feeling didn't come from nowhere, Angel. . .it was part of my conscience all along, which was why D'Hoffryn recruited me in the first place. . .considering he also tried to recruit Willow, it might be good to have this talk with her. . .she probably won't believe it if she hears it from me." Anya looked at Angel and concluded, "The change gave that part of my soul the driver's seat, and it stayed that way until my amulet was destroyed."

Angel nodded, then asked, "I can understand that, but your soul is back to normal, right? Why don't you feel the guilt?"

Anya frowned, then responded, "Well, Angel, I'd been the way I was for over a thousand years, and I was rather used to it by then. . .plus in the early days after I became human I was so obsessed with getting my powers back that nothing else really meant anything." She paused, then sighed and continued, "When I did start to notice it. . .I still felt largely the same: when you see only the worst of a group of people for a thousand years, it takes a lot to make you change your way of thinking." She smiled, then concluded, "Then I noticed him."

Angel smiled softly and stated flatly: "You noticed Xander."

Anya nodded, then elaborated, "We had classes together, and I saw him around campus a lot. I was just annoyed about being drawn to him at first, but I liked watching him around Buffy and Willow, how he would always joke with them and stood next to them with a look that said that anyone who tried to harm them would have him to answer to. By that time Buffy's status was pretty much an open secret at school, and I asked questions about Xander. . .Cordelia's old crowd still held him in contempt, but talking to most of the other girls made it pretty clear that they found him interesting. . .by the time I asked him to the Prom, I had decided that while I was still pretty sure that men were scum. . .Xander wasn't."

Angel took that in, then nodded for Anya to continue. "I still didn't like other people much, though I kept it to myself. . .I had to blend in. When I found out about the Ascension, I was scared to death. . .the last one I had seen was one of the few things I had seen as a demon that really terrified me. When Xander refused to leave with me, I thought I would never see him again. . .that he would be dead, and that bothered me more than anything had before or after my time as a demon."

Angel nodded, then smiled as he commented, "But you came back."

Anya nodded, then continued, "When I heard the news about the school blowing up, I knew that the Ascension had been stopped, but I figured that I had left there for good, and that he wouldn't want to see me again. . .for all I knew, he had met someone over the summer. I tried to stay away, but I couldn't." She smiled and commented, "He was pretty surprised to see me."

Angel chuckled involuntarily, and Anya laughed herself as she recounted the major events in her relationship with Xander, finishing with Drusilla's visit to Sunnydale. The ensouled vampire listened with interest. * That boy is growing up fast * He nodded as Anya finished and commented, "It sounds like you and Xander are doing well together. . .but I'm still wondering about your soul. How do you feel about what you did as a vengeance demon. . .does it bother you at all?"

Anya frowned, then hesitated for a moment before replying, "Angel. . .that part of my soul that ran things for a thousand years is still there, and it still tells me that everything I did was justified. As for the rest of it. . .it's not sure. I think that the best way to describe my feelings is that I don't want to go back to wreaking vengeance, but I can live with what I did as a demon. I just want to make a life for myself, and be with Xander." She frowned again, then concluded, "I'm sorry if I wasn't any more help, Angel. . .our experiences were just very different."

Angel nodded, then cursed as his keen senses detected several nearby lurkers. He turned to see three vampires bearing down on him, apparently not recognizing him, as they came at him with only fangs and fists. Angel quickly sized them up as newbies (and rather dumb ones at that) and began attacking them coldly and mercilessly, hoping that no more would come along while he was unable to protect Anya. . .he damned well didn't want to have to explain Anya getting hurt to Xander when he returned.

One of the other vampires burst into dust as Angel performed a quick stake thrust, and he shifted his position to try to see what was happening with Anya. To his horror, another vampire was walking up to her, game face on along with an arrogant expression on his face. Angel fought harder, realizing that he might be too late to help her. * Anya's not stupid. . .she has to have holy water, or a cross, or something to be out in Sunnydale at night. . .she knows better than most how dangerous it is *

Anya stood perfectly still, her back turned to Angel as the confident vampire approached her. Abruptly, the vampire stopped dead in its tracks, and Angel would have sworn that it turned several shades paler as it gasped, then turned and sprinted away.

Stunned, Angel finished off his two opponents and turned his attention back to Anya, who seemed perfectly calm. She walked over to him and commented, "That vampire must have recognized you. . .knowing when to run is a survival trait here for vampires and for humans."

Angel frowned: he wasn't buying that explanation. A faint scent tickled his nostrils, and he put two and two together as he looked at her intently and asked, "How long, Anyanka?"

She blinked, and her voice was small as she replied, "Almost three months now." She looked at him and commented, "That was stupid of me. . .I could have run around and done the girly scream thing until you finished the other ones off. . .I don't know why I did it."

Angel looked at her, then replied, "I think I would have figured it out eventually, Anya. . .you don't smell quite right for a human: if Oz were still around, he probably would have outed you right away." He called her by her assumed name without even thinking about it, then continued, "Maybe you wanted me to know. . .keeping a secret like that from everyone can't be easy."

Anya shrugged and replied, "Maybe I did. . .it hasn't been easy at times." She grinned wickedly and commented, "Spike knows. . .he was picking on Xander after the whole thing with Buffy blew up-" Angel winced, not really wanting to know about his grandchilde's obsession with Buffy, and listened as Anya continued, "-and I revealed myself and told him that if he didn't leave Xander alone and keep my secret, I'd be paying Harmony or Drusilla a visit. For some reason, he found that a good enough reason to lay low."

Angel wasn't sure whether he wanted to laugh or shudder at Spike's plight, and settled for asking, "How did it happen?"

Anya sighed, and told him of finding the book in the Magic Store, and what had followed, right up to the point where she had maneuvered Xander into making his wish: "Angel. . .I was my old self again at that moment. I never had a doubt that he would make some stupid wish that would blow up in his face." She paused and swallowed, then whispered, "Then he wished that I knew with every fiber of my being just how much he loved and respected me. . .how much he needed and wanted me. . .and at that moment I found out."

Angel looked at the once-again demon, and saw the depth of joy in her eyes as she contemplated her wish-fueled epiphany, and understood what had happened. He smiled, then stated: "You didn't just gain the knowledge. . .the wish changed you."

Anya nodded, then elaborated: "The knowledge alone wouldn't have meant anything to me as a vengeance demon with a corrupted soul, even one who had enough unresolved feelings to want to close accounts with Xander before departing. I don't think even as a human still learning what feelings meant again I would have gotten it. I had run into the bathroom and was about to destroy the amulet when I realized it: the idea of resuming my existence as a vengeance demon revolted me, not just because I knew Xander wouldn't approve of it, but because my entire outlook on life had been changed. To truly know and understand what he felt about me, I had to be changed. . .and I was." She smiled again, then concluded, "But since the wish would be undone if the amulet was destroyed, the only way to keep things the way they were was to keep the amulet. . .and as I told Spike, being a demon in Sunnydale has its advantages."

Angel looked at her, and remembered an old saying about divine forgiveness: "To understand all is to forgive all." He shook his head, then commented, "The wish allowed you to understand Xander completely."

Anya nodded, pleased that Angel had cut to the heart of the matter. . .she wasn't sure she could have easily explained what had happened herself. "Xander's made a life for himself here. . .he has a job he's good at, friends who care about him, and a cause to fight for. Buffy is his hero, Giles is the father figure he's never really had before, Willow is his best friend, and Tara makes Willow happy. . .but he needs someone to be at his side, someone he can be with who struggles with some of the same things that he does, someone who really needs the things about him that Buffy and the others don't. . .and that's where I fit in." She smiled, remembering a fragment from Xander's memory, then concluded, "I'm Key Girl."

Angel laughed, and the sound was rueful as he remembered the last time he had heard that term in its original form. He shook his head, then sobered as he asked, "Anya. . .you don't have to tell me if you don't want to. . .but what's my place in Xander's psyche?"

Anya smiled softly, and then replied, "He counts on you to be Buffy's last ditch defense when everything has gone to hell and it looks like the end if someone doesn't come charging over the hill to save the day."

Angel smirked and commented, "In other words, the guy who stays out of town except when things couldn't possibly get worse."

Anya nodded, deadpan expression on her face, then replied, "Exactly." The two looked at each other, then began laughing. After a few moments, they stopped, and began walking back to the apartment.

As they approached the building, Angel turned to Anya and asked, "What did you do to make that vampire run off, anyway?"

Anya shrugged and replied, "I recognized him from Sunnydale High. . .I told him telepathically who I was and repeated the names of his last three girlfriends. . .all of whom he cheated on before he broke up with them. Funny how effective that is, really."

Angel laughed, then shuddered as they walked back into the building. Angel accompanied Anya back to the apartment, then waited until Anya had opened the door and stepped inside before commenting, "Well, it was certainly interesting, Anya. . .tell Xander I'll be by tomorrow evening. If he'd rather not see me, call my cell phone-" He handed her a card with the number on it, then continued, "-and let me know. . .you can fill him in on why I came."

Angel nodded at Anya, and was preparing to go when she asked, "Angel. . .are you going to tell anyone what you found out tonight?"

The vampire frowned, then replied, "From what I can tell, you're no longer a threat, Anya, and the fact that you're powerful in your own right will make you less of a target and a potential ally for Buffy. . .I don't see any need to reveal your secret." Angel paused, then continued, "I will ask two things of you, though."

Anya nodded, and Angel began, "First, I want you to swear on your amulet in the name of D'Hoffryn that if you decide to resume your career as a vengeance demon, you will not seek vengeance on anyone's behalf against anyone currently living in Sunnydale."

Anya hesitated, then swore the oath, placing her hand on her breast where the amulet rested. She finished, then asked, "And the second request?"

Angel winced, then replied, "I want you to swear that you will never seek out Darla or Drusilla under any circumstances." He shuddered, and noticed the irritated look on her face before concluding, "You'll just have to make do with Harmony if you still want to get Spike. . .all right?"

Anya frowned at him and grumbled, "Sure. . .wreck all my fun," but went ahead and swore the oath anyway. Angel relaxed and commented, "For your sake, Anya, I hope that those oaths never get tested. . .and I wish you all the happiness in the world."

Anya smiled and replied, "I'd wish the same for you, except for the whole curse thing." Angel winced at Anya's characteristic lack of tact, and she chuckled at the reaction and concluded, "But I will wish you good luck, and safe journeys."

Angel nodded and left, and Anya watched him go. . .her evening had not gone according to plan, but it was good to know that someone else understood, and she felt that she had succeeded in lifting some of the vampire's own burden from him. She sighed and closed the door, locking it and heading for the bedroom. . .even without Xander, a soft bed and pillow sounded good about then.

As always, comments are welcomed and desired