A bouquet of flowers trembled in one hand as Xander shakily ran the other through his hair.
Wait, he thought. Why am I trying to make my hair look good?
He began to feel a little silly, standing in front of his own front door as if he was a nervous teen about to ask a crush out on a date. He was a nervous teen, that much was true, but his frayed nerves were coming more from uncertainty about just how seriously Anya had taken their little mix up back at Giles' house. She had said she was going back to his place to pick up her things. Although he had been hot on her heels, Xander had stopped by a corner store as quickly as possible to pick up some flowers by way of apology once he caught up to her. Now that he was in standing on his front porch, Xander couldn't help wondering if she had left him already. Or if she was lying in wait to destroy him.
"Come on, Harris," he told himself as he tried to summon the willpower to take a step forward. "You're being ridiculous. Just a bunny boo boo, that's all that was!"
Seconds passed into minutes, but finally Xander summoned the courage to turn the knob.
Gently... slowly... can't make too much noise, just in case...
The door creaked open, and Xander stepped inside to look around. Almost immediately, he could tell his parents weren't home. That was a little strange. They had been there when he left early in the morning for construction, and his dad usually wasn't the type to move from the couch unless he had a pressing need to go to the bathroom, or – more rarely – somewhere else. Maybe Anya had stormed into the house and told them to scram. Maybe she had scared them off.
Maybe she had eaten them.
The thought made Xander let out a laugh which rang loudly through the quiet house. Sometimes his imagination just went crazy, no doubt about it. As he tiptoed through the house to make sure his parents weren't home, he felt all his conflicting feelings roiling around like a whirlpool in his stomach, tugging him down. Embarrassment at how badly he had miscalculated his April Fool's prank; worry over just how upset he had made her; fear that she might actually leave him. And, finally, fear that Anya might do something much worse.
It was strange that he was so afraid of confronting Anya. She had overreacted, sure, but it was ridiculous to think she would revert to her old, demonic ways, just because of a prank. Wasn't it? Maybe his fear was coming from somewhere else. He and Anya hadn't been going out for very long. To be honest, he wasn't quite sure what to think of their relationship yet - if it even was a relationship. He knew that was what she considered it to be. As he thought about it, he knew it was true; a big part of his fear was the fear that she might leave him. Somehow it surprised him.
The house was definitely empty, but Xander hadn't gone into the basement yet, which was where Anya would be if she was still around. The door leading to the basement stairway hung ajar; just as he reached it, he heard a shuffling sound coming from downstairs. He paused.
"Anya? Is that you?"
There was nothing left to do but face his fate. Xander gulped as he placed his foot on the first step, peering down into the dim light of his below-ground living space. He couldn't see anything, but he had definitely heard something.
Xander felt a stab of guilt about hesitating so much; he did like Anya, and he was liking her more and more as time went on, but he couldn't shake his doubts sometimes. It was hard to forget about her past, after all. And sometimes she didn't do the greatest job of convincing everyone that her days of vengeance were truly behind her. But he knew that, as a boyfriend, he had to take that leap of faith. He had to trust her; hopefully Anya had just reacted badly to the fake bunny gag, and they would work it out.
He didn't want to think about what the alternative might be.
Anya sat quietly on Xander's bed, where she had been sitting cross-legged for the last few minutes. She had gotten to her boyfriend's house not long ago, just as Xander's mother was dragging his drunken father out the door so they could go to one of those silly meetings people always had when they drank too much. Back when she was a vengeance demon, Anya had dealt with a lot of women with husbands who had the same problems Mr. Harris seemed to have. Mrs. Harris could easily have been one of Anya's old human clients if she hadn't quit the business of vengeance.
She remembered pulling off a few amusing curses involving alcohol on some deadbeat husbands in times long since past. One man had gotten a permanent hangover for his bad attitude and all his late night carousing. Not as flashy as burnt flesh or torn entrails, but even a permanent hangover was enough to drive someone insane, given enough time. Sometimes the wives were the ones with the alcohol and marital problems, of course, but as the Patron Saint of Scorned Women, scorned men weren't any of her concern. And personally, she thought it was usually the men causing the problems anyway.
A sound coming from upstairs interrupted Anya's reminiscing on past vengeance. Someone had entered the house. As she listened, footsteps traipsed their way through the first floor rooms for several moments, and she got off the bed to prepare herself when her boyfriend's voice floated down into the basement.
"Anya? Is that you?"
She almost answered him, but she wanted to keep the element of surprise. A few moments later, footsteps began to patter down the basement stairway, one after the other, as Anya waited for her boyfriend to come into view. When he did, she twisted her face into a grotesque mask of rage.
"Xander!" she screamed. "It's about time!"
Her boyfriend stood at the foot of the basement steps, looking at his girlfriend with a horrified expression. The bouquet of flowers he was holding in his hand flew up to his face, as if he was trying to shield himself from whatever he was anticipating. Anya smiled; it was exactly the reaction she was hoping for.
"Anya, look, I can explain-"
"There's no explaining, Xander Harris! I summoned D'Hoffryn and told him I wanted to get back into vengeance!"
"No," said Xander, his fear turning to horror. "No, you couldn't have!"
"I could and I did! Anyanka's back in business, baby. And now it's time for you to pay for that little stunt you pulled on me Giles' house. Say goodbye to Xander Junior," said Anya as she whipped her hands around in a theatrical fashion before pointing a finger straight at her boyfriend's crotch. "Reducto Phallosia!"
Xander screamed as he dropped his hands down, trying to protect his crotch with the flower bouquet, and Anya cackled gleefully as she cast her spell.
At least, she would have cast her spell, if she hadn't been making the whole thing up. She grinned as the two of them stood silently in the basement, Xander's mouth opened wide and frozen in a sort of silent scream. He was hunched over in a defensive posture, but after a moment, he began to straighten out.
"What... what the-"
Anya rushed forward to give her boyfriend a playful slap on the shoulder before grabbing the flower bouquet from his paralyzed hand. Xander seemed to be in shock, although he flinched for a second when she slapped him.
"That was all a joke?" he said. "Xander Junior is... he's okay?"
"Hopefully," said Anya. "You'd be much less fun if I actually cast that spell. But yes, it was all a joke! I think I'm getting much better at that."
Anya returned to her boyfriend's bed and sat down with a flop, smelling the flowers he had bought her. She felt herself bounce in the air again, just a little bit, as her boyfriend cooled down enough to come over and take a seat on the mattress beside her.
"What do you mean?" he asked. "That whole scene at Giles' house was a setup?"
Anya nodded cheerfully. "Willow told me yesterday that she heard you were going to play an April Fool's Day prank on me involving a bunny. Apparently she thought I might have some kind of overblown reaction to pranks, so she warned me ahead of time. You told Buffy, Buffy told Willow, Willow told me," she added after noting her boyfriend's confused stare. "So I thought I'd wait for you to pull your prank and then get you back!"
"So you weren't really upset about the fake bunny?"
"Oh no, I was upset. It terrified me. I tried to be ready for it, but the reaction was genuine. Please never do that again."
Xander breathed a sigh of relief and flopped down on the bed. Anya looked around for a vase where she could put the flowers, but she didn't see any in the basement. Still, she was happy to have them. It definitely seemed like something good boyfriends should give. She set them down over by the phone and then returned to the bed, flopping down beside her boyfriend with a sigh to match his own.
"You know," said Xander, "April Fool's pranks aren't supposed to terrify people."
Anya frowned at his claim. "Giles said something like that, too. But I don't understand – when I heard you were going to buy me a fake bunny and say it was a new pet we'd keep in the basement, wasn't that meant to be terrifying?"
"Uh, point taken. I probably shoulda seen that coming. But I guess I didn't realize you hated bunnies that much."
Anya shuddered at the thought. There had been entirely too much talk about bunnies lately. Other than that, however, it had been an interesting day. She felt like she had been learning at least a little. Feeling a little more comfortable in her new self, as restrictive as it could feel sometimes.
"I got an idea," said Xander. "How about, from now on, our April Fool's Day tradition can be that we don't play any pranks on each other at all. What do you say?"
Anya considered the proposal. It didn't seem like it fit with the spirit of the day, but if that was what her boyfriend wanted, she was happy to go along with it. As long as it made him happy. She nodded in agreement and drew herself a little closer to Xander, wrapping her arms around him. She also noted that Xander had talked about future April Fool's Days, which meant that he was anticipating a long relationship. That was good, she thought. Obviously, he was completely committed. As she lay close to her boyfriend, hands clutching at his warm body, Anya began to feel a few of those pesky human flickers of desire that had driven her back to Sunnydale to come find him.
"Your parents were here earlier," she said. "I told them that we'd probably have sex down here shortly, so they shouldn't interrupt us. But they went out anyway, so we'll have some private time."
Her boyfriend groaned, although Anya wasn't sure why.
"What's wrong? You don't want to have sex?"
"No, just that you told – nothing, never mind. Um, maybe later, Anya. Right now I'm still trying to get my heart rate back to normal. Maybe we could just lay here for now."
"Sure. And cuddle."
Anya was fine with that. She gave her boyfriend a little squeeze and sighed as she thought about her day. It had been an interesting day, although there were a lot of interesting days when Xander and his circle of friends were involved. She had seen a lot in her time as a vengeance demon, but most humans definitely didn't get involved with the kinds of things Xander and his friends did on a regular basis. Thanks to Buffy, she supposed.
"Do you think they like me, Xander?"
Xander looked up at the ceiling as he pondered the question.
"Why, are you worried about that?"
"I don't know. I worry that I'm not fitting in sometimes. I was trying to play along with this April Fool's Day thing you all do all the time, but you guys all told me I wasn't doing it right. And sometimes Willow gives me these suspicious looks after I say something, and I never know why!"
Xander chuckled. "Well, you have to give it time, sweetie. You were a vengeance demon for such a long time-"
"But I'm not anymore!"
"I know that. They just need some time to know that too. You're trying, and everyone can see that."
Anya smiled at her boyfriend's reassurance. She was trying.
"And besides, you know other people can feel the way you do sometimes. Tara's new to the gang, and I'm sure she feels a little nervous about being accepted into the group. And it's been hard for me, living here in the basement, when Buffy and Willow are both off doing the college thing. We just gotta make sure we don't drift apart, right? As long as we keep trying and stick together, things will work out."
Anya looked around at their unattractive surroundings and wrinkled her nose. "You do need to move out of this basement," she said.
"Right. Anyway, they'll warm up to you soon enough, just wait. And in the meantime, you've got me. I like you just the way you are. Okay?"
As her boyfriend drew closer to give her a reassuring hug, Anya felt herself squished by his arms a little, but she didn't mind. Xander did have a point; she had been noticing that his friends didn't always pay enough attention to him, just like they didn't with her. But that was okay. It meant she got more of his attention. She was definitely glad she had come back after Sunnydale High School was destroyed and used her feminine wiles to seduce him. It had been almost too easy. A lot easier than understanding April Fool's Day, anyway. They didn't have that back in Sweden, when she was still Aud.
Then again, Aud had changed into Anyanka so long ago, it was difficult to remember how anything worked as a human being, and that wasn't even considering all the ridiculous little details of human society that had changed since then. But that was okay. It came as a great surprise to her after her dealings with human males as a vengeance demon, but Xander was actually good for more than just sex. When it came to the whole human thing, he was there for her. She knew she could count on him to help her figure it all out.
Notes - That's it for this story, hope you guys liked it. This is my first Buffy story, but I do have a couple of Angel stories up in case anyone reading is interested in checking them out. Thanks for the reviews!
I suppose it's a little weird finishing an April Fool's Day story on April 4th. I meant to write the whole thing as a one-shot and post it on April 1st, but I first got the idea while I was at work that day, and I didn't get back until evening. I managed to write much of the story before midnight but realized it wouldn't be finished in time, and it felt wrong to post an April Fool's one-shot after the day in question, so I divided it into three chapters (although the third wasn't written yet) to make sure it at least started on the appropriate day. More than anyone wanted to know, I'm sure. :-p
It was fun to write Anya - I wanted to have at least one scene in the story from her perspective. One thing that slowed me down at first was trying to figure out exactly where people were in terms of relationships at the point I wanted to place the story in season 4, since I was placing it where April 1st actually occurred in the show. I was finding it hard to remember just where Willow and Tara were in their relationship, how public it was, whether Riley knew about Buffy's past relationship with Angel, etc, and for some reason they were a bit hard to look up. Weird how little details like that often end up being maddening, hehe. I should have just watched the episodes on DVD for "research", hehe.
Okay, these author's notes are getting ridiculous. Bye!