Seven Years Later

Or, for Buffy, One Second Later

She woke in the big, cozy bed an instant later, and wept tears of frustration. She'd failed. Her identity had been compromised, and she'd been sent back home because of the paradox. All was lost. Kennedy would keep killing Slayers. The world was doomed to destruction. She couldn't open her eyes, couldn't face the desolation she'd wrought with her carelessness.

"Coffee?" a cheerful voice that had no business being in Willow's little cabin offered.

Buffy opened her eyes in the hopes that the mirage would go away. It didn't.

"I thought that you could use it," the mirage said. It frowned. "Wait. I did get my timing right, yes? You just got back? Because otherwise I wasted some perfectly good time I could have used for morning sex. It's best when Xander and use the syrup in foreplay, and-"

"How are you…?" She stared at Anya. "Are you real?"

Anya nodded vigorously. "Of course I am! Oh, right. You had that whole episode with the First Evil." She tapped the coffee mug to prove her corporeality. "Good friend of my old boss D'Hoffryn's, actually. I think he had a crush on it. It caused all sorts of trouble at home. His wife's a Polgara demon, you know, and they make the best wishes-"

"Anya," Buffy repeated disbelievingly. "But- you're dead."

"Not here I'm not," Anya informed her. "Those nasty little creatures of the First's never got to me in this timeline."

"But the paradox…past!Buffy realized that it was me…it was all supposed to revert to how it was…"

"Oh, that." Anya waved her hand. "Willow was wrong."

"Willow was wrong?" Buffy repeated numbly.

Anya shrugged. "What? Accidents happen. And it's not like she'd ever done a spell like that before, or that it had gone correctly in the first place." She tapped her head to remind Buffy of the original screw-up. "It was a good thing that you did get found out, because Giles is pretty sure that if you hadn't, you never would have returned to the present. And that would have really messed up some things for me." She made a face.

"Where were you?" Buffy asked. "How did you know about…?"

"The spell? Everything?" Anya finished. "It was only fair. You took my body. So I took your mind."

"My mind?" Buffy repeated dazedly.

"Speaking of which, you could have slept with Xander at least once," Anya said reprovingly. "I was half out of my mind in there with no sexual gratification. And it isn't cheating if he thought it was me." She grinned suddenly. "Or I wouldn't have said no to Spike. He's quite attractive, too, although he has smaller forearms than Xander."

Buffy held up a hand. "So let me get this straight. You were in my mind?"

Anya sat down next to her, frowning. "Are you going to drink this coffee? Because I put effort into making it for you, and you haven't even thanked me."

"Thank you, Anya," Buffy said automatically, unable to tear her eyes away from the woman next to her. She'd been the face in the mirror for months, and now she was herself once more, walking like Anya, talking like Anya…it took some getting used to.

"Oh, and yes, I was in your mind. We've established that," Anya said archly. "I spent months trying to communicate with you." She took the coffee from Buffy's hands. "Well, don't drink that now. It's probably cold. It's ironic, don't you think?" she continued without missing a beat. "You spent months of my life trying to persuade everyone to listen to me, while you were completely ignoring me in your head."

"I'm sorry," Buffy said apologetically. "I didn't mean to."

"Well, it couldn't be helped!" Anya said brightly. "And your attention grabbing worked out well in the end, since they all listened to me when I was set free and knew who Glory was."

"Ben!" Buffy smacked her head. "How did I not get that? It was Ben, all along!"

"Well, of course you didn't get it. You were under a spell." Anya shrugged. "I was unaffected, of course, since I was so well hidden in your mind. So I told Spike who it was, and we killed him together!" she finished happily.

"But the chip-"

"Oh, I did the actual killing," Anya said breezily. "Spike just obtained the poison." She looked askance at Buffy. "You don't want to kill me over that, do you? Because Giles and Xander had to talk you out of doing it last time. And it was a really long time ago."

"No," Buffy managed. "You did what had to be done. Dawn's okay?"

"Dawn's in graduate school in New York," Anya informed her. "Willow lives in LA and works with Angel now. Tara was still killed by the unpleasant nerd, even though I warned her to stay away from windows, and Willow is in a new gay relationship now. Apparently, she wasn't bisexual, after all, just confused. Xander and I live a few blocks away. He didn't leave me at the altar this time, although he waited an extra year to propose and I had his best man handcuff himself to him during the ceremony. He has been a considerably better boyfriend and husband since you withheld sex from him for an extended period of time."

"That wasn't what it was about," Buffy protested half-heartedly, knowing that it was a moot point. "Why don't I remember any of this?"

"Post time-travel temporary amnesia," Anya explained. "Your memories will return over the next few hours, as your mind adjusts to the new information. Alcohol speeds up the process," she added helpfully. "Would you like some?"

"I'd rather stay sober," Buffy assured her hastily. "What else happened? Where's everyone else?"

"We have three daughters right now," Anya continued. "Xander keeps trying to make babies in the hopes that we'll have a son. You two like to say that it's because he has no Y chromosome, but I-"

"Wait," Buffy interrupted before things got very unpleasant. "Which two? Who else lives here?"

Anya gave her an odd look. "You and Giles tied the knot four years ago."


She nodded. "Xander was right. That was very amusing."


Anya gave her a genuine smile. "Giles is in England. The Hellmouth was never closed. You still live in Sunnydale, with…" Her voice trailed off as she gestured around the room. Buffy followed her gaze.

Heavy curtains, drawn tightly shut so no light could come through. A single mirror in the corner, over which was written in drippy red lipstick, "I'M RIGHT BEHIND YOU." A mug reading "Kiss the Librarian" sitting on the nightstand on the other side of the bed, and a dagger she'd never seen before was beside it, a stone in the center of the hilt glowing blue. "Spike?" she whispered, hardly believing it.

"Yes, him," Anya confirmed.

"Where is he?" Buffy asked breathlessly.

"Spike?" Anya checked her watch. "It's past sunset, so he should be back soon. He's on a buyer's trip for the Magic Box- we're very successful. We have outlet stores near every Hellmouth," she said proudly. "You and Spike work for me, but you decided to stay home for this one, since I thought that you might come back from the past today. I've taken off from work for this, you know," she said primly. "I left Andrew in charge of the shop, and he's incompetent." She studied Buffy critically. "You look very sexually unsatisfied. I should leave you to Spike."

"We're still together," Buffy said wonderingly. "After all this time…"

"Well, there was that rather ugly breakup when Riley came back to town and framed Spike," Anya said cheerfully. "But you two worked it out eventually. And, of course, the month when you decided to find someone else to have your babies, and when Angel tried to persuade Spike to work with him instead of you."

"Angel and I fought for Spike rights?" Buffy said doubtfully.

"Yes, it was very erotic," Anya said blandly. "But now you and Spike are happily and very noisily together. I thought that you'd be happy to hear that." She headed for the door. "I'll leave you to that. He generally jumps you when he walks in, and I've heard that often enough."

She opened the door and made to leave before Buffy called, "Wait!"

"Yes?" Anya said, confused. "Why are you delaying orgasms with your skilled vampire to talk to me?"

Buffy laughed hard, tears springing to her eyes both from laughter and from joy. "It's just…" she managed through her mirth, "I missed you."

Anya gave her an awkward hug. "I've been told that this is the convention," she explained.

"You haven't changed at all," Buffy marveled. "Seven years, and you're still the same."

Anya shrugged. "My unusual speech and sexual openness have been there since I was a human the first time. Why, did you think that it was because I was a demon? How many other demons talk like this?"

And Buffy couldn't remember a single one.

She rested against the bed, peeking past the curtains every few minutes to see if her lover had returned. Finally, she closed her eyes and tried to remember.

It came back to her in bits and pieces.

"You're me, aren't you?" she demanded, gaping at not-Anya. "You're me from the future!"

"No, I'm Anya," Anya said, wiggling her fingers experimentally. "Future!Buffy has left my body. About time!"

"What? Now?" Buffy asked skeptically. "How convenient."

"There was a spell. You couldn't know about her, or she'd be flung into the future and everything would be reversed." She looked around thoughtfully. "Apparently, she was wrong about that last part." Anya shook her head. "Witches. You can never count on them. One of them made a wish to my old friend Shuno that her lover would never know pleasure again. So she castrated him, of course," Anya said conversationally. "The witch was so furious that she turned Shuno into a toad. We haven't seen her since."

"Oh, my god," Buffy said, staring at her. "You really are Anya, aren't you?"

"Yes," Anya nodded enthusiastically. "I'm back."

A set of lips pressed softly against her eyelids, kissing them open. "I'm back," Spike murmured.

Buffy pulled him down to her, feverishly covering his face with kisses and yanking desperately at his clothes. "I love you," she whispered, pulling at his lower lip with her teeth.

He steadied her hands. "I love you, too, kitten. But what's wrong? I was only gone a day…"

She kissed him with all her pent-up passion and love, borne from months of working forthis. And this was completely worth it. "You got it wrong, Spike. I'm back."

It was just as well that Willow had screwed up.