Disclaimer — Buffy the Vampire Slayer is property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and The WB/UPN. Lines of dialogue are taken from "Selfless", written by Drew Goddard. I sadly make no profit from this work of fiction.
Notes — Great thanks again to the fabulous ArjetLuna for betaing this fic for me!
"I want to take it back."
Her voice is barely a whisper, but her words ring through his head, sharp and clear, as if she has just shouted at him. He stands in stunned silence for a moment before recovering. "I'm sorry. What was that?" he asks, hoping, wishing that he has misheard her.
She advances toward him slowly, her human visage wrought with sadness, guilt, and pain, and he knows that he is not mistaken. "I want to take it back," she repeats. "I want to undo what I did."
He's known for months that this day was coming, yet his non-existent heart still breaks in his chest at her words. He claims that he loves all of his demons equally, that he has no favorites, but this is a pretty lie that he tells to prevent internal strife. Anyanka was always the brightest, the cruelest, the most innovative of his girls; he's cared for her with an intensity unmatched by his feelings for any other creature.
One thousand twenty-two years later, he still remembers vividly the day that her piercing cry for vengeance first drew him to her. She had watched the effects of her spell from afar, the perfect picture of a woman hardened by betrayal. Yet D'Hoffryn had seen through her stony expression. Despite her impressive magical ability, she had been but a child, perhaps sixteen or seventeen, and the loss of her lover had left her utterly alone in the world. Her mother was long dead, she felt no affection for her father or brothers, and she had borne no children that had survived for more than a few weeks. Aud had clung to her vengeance spell; Olaf's trollish form was her only source of comfort in a world that had betrayed her.
He remembers, too, how he'd held her pale, fragile hand as the transformation ritual began. At the zenith of the spell she'd collapsed to the ground, so far from salvation, as poor, unappreciated Aud Gunnvarssdóttir of Sjornjost had died, and Anyanka, Patron Saint of Scorned Women had been born in her place. He remembers, too, the beautiful smile on her demonic face as she embraced him following the granting of her first wish. He remembers sitting together, just the two of them, her eyes wide and attentive as she listened to him impart his wisdom and share valuable lessons. "Never go for the kill when you can go for the pain," was his favorite, although it was one lesson that she'd never needed repeated.
And he remembers the incredible loss he'd felt when her power center was destroyed and realities shifted around him. He'd never intended to leave her as a human forever; just for a few years, a time-out until the lesson had sunk in and she had learned to be more careful with her necklace. Her debacle of a wedding had provided him with the perfect opportunity to welcome her back into the vengeance fold.
Or so he had thought, because the woman who stands before him now, begging for the lives of a dozen boorish frat boys, is not the same demon who exacted vengeance with such single-minded delight. Young Aud had come from the vastly different world of medieval Scandinavia, where death was a fact of everyday life. If it was not brought by disease, then it came via famine, or with the Viking raids. Death struck so much more frequently and indiscriminately then that Aud could not afford to spare too much concern for her fellow humans.
Anya, however, had inhabited a much more morally complex world, and in three short years it — and the boy — had ruined her. Even now, after all that has happened, she is still in love with her former groom. D'Hoffryn knows that, sadly, she will continue to love him until the day that she dies. She is no longer his. He is no longer the most important — the only — male in her life. He looks at her, so weak and so infected with humanity, and a thousand years of memories are tarnished in his mind.
He should kill her for this betrayal. The reversal of deaths caused by a vengeance demon's wish requires the life and soul of a vengeance demon. He should take hers, and watch the flames incinerate her. Or, he thinks quickly, he could just cut off her head, leave another body to decorate the house. He could destroy her power center and then wrap his fingers around her fragile, human neck, and squeeze—
Something inside of him flinches at this thought. He stares at her, seething with rage, and he makes his choice: Halfrek burns before them, and tears of misery spill down Anya's fair cheeks. "Never go for the kill when you can go for the pain," he reminds her, ignoring the throbbing ache in his own chest. He instead takes delight at the destruction wrought in her pretty features, the vengeance he has reaped. He will send assassins for her later, he tells himself, once the pain of Halfrek's death has begun to fade. It is an end he thinks that she richly deserves.
She stares back at him with wide eyes, as if she is looking at him for the first time. He remembers, suddenly, those wide eyes from some eight centuries ago, after she returned from the Urals with trembling hands. He remembers stroking her hair as he soothed her, reassuring her that she was safe.
He glares at her. Yes, an impersonal assassination is what she deserves. She is not worth the trouble, not important enough to warrant dying at his hands. This way is best.
He teleports away, the pain in his chest still sharp and searing.