Author's Note: I'm crazy sorry I made you wait a year and a half for this last chapter. I honestly had no idea that it had been that long since I updated until I checked the dates just now. Seriously, where did the time go? Anyway, so I got held up on this chapter because I kept waiting for a better resolution to come to be, but now it's time to accept that this is the way it needs to end. Hope it was worth the wait.
When Anya awoke in the morning, Buffy and Willow were there, and Anya could tell that something was wrong. Still. Always.
Xander took her hand with a concerned look in his eyes. Nothing was ever easy. She hated that about being human. The universe couldn't even give her one more day to recover from major surgery. She pushed herself up into more of a seated position, which took some effort. "What is it now?"
Everyone exchanged a look. "Do you remember after the frat house?" Willow started. "D'Hoffryn sent demons?"
Xander shook his head. "She doesn't even have to remember that." He turned to address Anya. "The first night you came back, when you were still insisting you were Christina Emmanuel, he sent a demon then too."
Anya remembered all of it. She especially remembered those demons from her days of being a good vengeance demon. She knew of what they were capable better than anyone else in the room. "So there was another attack?" If she didn't ask, it would take them forever to get to the point.
Xander nodded. "So we just have to figure out how to stop that, and we're good."
"He's not going to stop." Anya felt that on some level they all already knew this, and any optimism they offered would be a big fat lie. "This is what he does. If he wants me dead, he won't give up until it happens."
"No," Xander said firmly, in a way that was a little startling. "I just got you back. You're alive, you're healing, and you are sticking around this time. So I don't care what D'Hoffryn wants, you are not going to die."
Anya was not exactly resigned to death either. Now that she remembered what was waiting for her on the other side, she was in no hurry to return. "Okay."
"Okay," Xander repeated, sounding a little relieved. "So is there something he wants? Something we could do for him in exchange for leaving you alone?"
Buffy looked unsure about this approach. "We can't start making deals with demons. It's like negotiating with terrorists."
He was undeterred. "So we negotiate with this one terrorist. It's Anya."
Anya shook her head. This whole discussion was moot anyway. "There's nothing he wants from you. He just wants me punished. I disappointed him, and now I have to pay."
Xander gave a one word response. "Unacceptable."
Anya looked at the way he was still holding her hand. He loved her. The others were there as friends with a vested interest in stopping demon attacks, but Xander's vested interest was in her. She felt a happy swelling in her heart. That was one thing she kinda really liked about being human. She just had to figure this out, and she and Xander could live happily ever after.
She knew a lot about vengeance and the demons who exacted it. After a thousand years, she was pretty much an expert on the subject. If anyone would be able to find a way out, it would be her. And yet she was drawing a very frustrating blank. She supposed Buffy could try to kill D'Hoffryn, but that wouldn't end it. There would just be a new head demon with an even bigger vendetta. She sighed heavily. "There's only one thing we can do."
Xander squeezed her hand in his excitement at the possibility of a solution, and Buffy leaned in closer. "What?" she asked.
"Make it hurt too much." Anya knew this was not going to be the cure-all they were looking for, but it was all she had. "Those hitmen, he doesn't have an endless supply. There will always be angry witches ready to be corrupted, but his enforcers need to be grown. And that type of demon has a very long gestation period. He'll keep sending them, and you have to keep killing them, until I'm just not worth it anymore."
Willow was not enthusiastic about this plan. "Okay, but killing his pets? Won't that just make him angrier?"
Yeah, it probably would, but the alternative to Anya's solution was to despair. Basically, the only other option was for Anya to die, and there were at least two people in the room who found that unacceptable. She revised her previous statement. "Until none of us are worth it anymore. Honestly, with your vast network of Slayers, you're too dangerous an adversary. It might not even take too long for him to realize that."
Buffy understood what she was saying. "There's nothing to do but keep fighting. That's all we do anyway." She looked around the room at each of the faces. Anya recognized the beginnings of a stirring speech. Buffy had given a lot of those in the last few weeks before Anya died. "We fight demons. And if it wasn't these demons, it'd be others. Anya is right; we can hurt him just as much as he can hurt us. Everything is going to be okay."
As Anya examined Willow and Xander's expressions, it seemed that Buffy's words had the desired effect. Anya tried to match the conviction in Buffy's voice as she repeated the sentiment. "Yeah, everything is going to be okay."
Author's Note: So if you want to know why it took so long, it's because I was hoping not to end on quite this depressing a note. But Anya's right, and it totally works. I wouldn't bring her back just to kill her. Anyway, thanks to all my readers, especially the ones who came back after a year and a half hiatus. You've all been great! (Again, so sorry.)