A fan fiction story by Melpomene based on the characters and backstory of "Buffy: the Vampire Slayer" and composed without permission. No copyright infringement is intended and no monies have been earned.
"I don't understand."
Xander sat at the kitchen table listlessly spooning pre-sweetened cereal into his mouth and watching Roadrunner once again outsmart and completely flatten Wylie Coyote. You'd think that mangy old dog would get a clue after dying so many times, and so un-creatively...
They'd been in the apartment for the better part of the weekend, Xander vegetating and Anya valiantly trying to ignore the doctor's orders for her to relax and try to take it easy for a while. No one knew how to react to Buffy's departure from their lives; there had been too many deaths in too little time.
Dawn, safely ensconced for the time being at Giles' apartment, had called earlier that morning to talk to Xander and ask about Anya. Her inquiry had surprised him, but then again, everyone was trying to think about anything that didn't directly relate to the most recent toll of demonic realms and portals. He was waiting for a similar call from Willow and Tara. Even a visit from Spike wouldn't surprise him; nothing could surprise him, not anymore.
"I don't understand," Anya repeated, throwing the front page of the newspaper down on the table and nearly capsizing Xander's milky brunch.
"What, Ahn?" He loved her, he was sure of that, he wouldn't have asked her to marry him if there had been even the vaguest doubt in his mind, but loving her didn't mean she still didn't irritate the hell out of him upon occasion.
"This!" She waved her hand stiffly at the offending pages of smudged newsprint, a frown wrinkling her brow and her eyes clearly relaying exactly the emotion she had vocalized, twice: utter confusion.
He reached out to turn the paper around so that he wouldn't have to struggle to read the headlines upside down. 'Cheney receives implant', that couldn't be it; who really cared about pacemakers and the vice president? 'Deregulation proving a mixed bag', somehow he didn't think Anya's confusion stemmed from California's problems with deregulating electricity either. 'Pets OK'd for public housing', still not a big emotional conflict for the woman who stood beside the table, glaring at the paper at his fingertips. 'Mother of five to stand trial for children's deaths', bingo.
He had heard something about the story when he'd flipped through channels the night before. A woman drowned her five kids in the bathtub while her husband was away at work and then laid them all out in their beds as if they were just sleeping. Pretty creepy. No, strike that, really disturbing of the gigawat variety.
Captioned photographs of a half dozen other women who had similarly killed their own children accompanied the story. And he thought his home life had been less than spectacular when he was a kid; at least his mom had managed to not kill him.
"Why would someone do that?!" she demanded. "I mean, yeah... some demons devour their offspring, who wouldn't, but hey, they're demons! These women were... are... human. Mothers were supposed to protect their children. They're like all the military training you persist on referencing. Mothers are the last line of defense." Anya watched Xander, waiting for him to say something, to say anything that would at least try to explain what she had read.
"You shouldn't read the newspaper, Ahn. Depressing stuff is all that makes the front page these days."
That was it? She stared at him, waiting for more. She waited as minutes ticked by and Wylie Coyote was blown to bits by his own rocket; she waited as her head began to pound and her feet grew numb from standing in one place for too long; she waited as Xander picked his spoon up again and turned his attention away from the headlines.
As she waited she tried to remember her own mother. Would she have done something like that? Could she have done something like that? Anya honestly couldn't remember, she couldn't clearly recall what she had even looked like. All she could grasp was the fleeting image of a woman with pale hair and gaunt features, the flash of a disapproving frown, the scent of savory and lavender. That was all that was left to her of the woman who had given birth to her.
Xander rose from his chair and carried his bowl and spoon to the sink.
"How could anyone do that? I spent a thousand years eviscerating men, but they had all done something to deserve vengeance. They were bad and evil. These children... I didn't eviscerate children. I wouldn't want to eviscerate children, especially not mine."
"They didn't do anything, Ahn, these kids... they were just kids. I guess they just drew the short straw when it came to getting parents." Xander set his rinsed dish in the sink, listening to the clatter the stoneware made against the porcelain. How was he supposed to explain things that made no sense to him to begin with?
"There is no why. There's no reason, not really. I guess some people just don't see any other way out, or they're sick or something... I don't know."
She still hadn't moved. "They need tests. Tests for people who want to copulate and create life. Like for a driver's license, they don't let just anyone drive around, they make you take a stupid test first. And it's not an easy test either, you have to remember all these... these pointless little facts about how many people died because of drunk drivers and stuff."
She just stared at him across the room, the unappeased distress resting heavily in her expression. "Then what's the point?"
"Why did Buffy die? Who would want to save a world that just does awful things to itself?"
"It's not the whole world, Ahn..."
She cut off his argument, unconvinced. "In that story... it talks about fifteen different women who all did the same thing. And what about the other humans? The ones who kill, or rape, or do horrible things to other people?"
"Yeah..." he drew in a long breath. "But, Anya, for every person who does these things, there's a dozen-- no, a hundred, who don't. They do protect their children and make sure their tucked into bed every night with a kiss and a story, they watch out for their neighbors and donate food to the shelters, they recycle and worry about ozone and endangered species. They're the ones Buffy died for. They're the reason we all do what we do when we slay the demons, or stop the Ascensions, or drive the hellgods just a little closer to the brink of insanity."
Xander watched her, the sound of another foiled Acme-backed attack softly resonating from the television. She was still worried; he could see it in her troubled eyes. Worried about what, he wasn't sure.
"Do you think they knew? Before they did it, do you think they knew they'd do it?"
Understanding slowly dawned. She was worried about them, or rather about herself. "It's not gonna happen, Anya. You could never do that... what those women did."
"But that's what their families and their friends all said about them. They said they were devoted and perfect and outstanding. How can you be sure? I spent a long time combusting and eviscerating men, how do you know I wouldn't do it to my children. How can I know I wouldn't do it?"
Finally, she'd given him an angle he could work with. "Anya, given the chance, would you combust or eviscerate me?"
"No! I would never do that. I'm not a demon anymore. And even if I were... no, I love you." Her vehemence cut through her worry enough that she was able to move to the chair he had vacated and sit down, moving a little unsteadily as she crossed the short distance.
Noticing the toll their discussion was taking on her already taxed body, Xander's own concern grew. She needed to be in bed still, propped up on pillows and sipping sodas and reading the romance novels she thought he didn't know about.
"Then there's your answer. You wouldn't do it because of how you are, Anya, because of who you are. I don't know why those women did what they did. I don't think anyone will ever understand, not even them. But you wouldn't do it because of who you've been and who you've become."
She seemed to mull his comment over while a fully dressed and armed pig chased through an animated forest in search of 'dat wascaly wabbit'. When she raised a hand to massage her temple, he decided to take a more aggressive approach to getting her back into bed.
"I know you, Anya, better than I've ever known anyone in my whole life. I know that you'd cut off your own hands before you hurt someone you loved. I love you and I trust you. But if you don't go lie down I'm gonna have to carry you into the bedroom and if I do that I'll probably end up whacking your head into the doorframe and give you another concussion. Then you might reconsider the whole 'no eviscerating Xander' idea." He knelt down next to her and offered her a lopsided grin. "Come on, I'll lie down too and show you just how much I love and trust you."
She smiled weakly at him, allowing him to pull her to her feet. "My head does hurt."
"Come on then," he said, flipping off the television just before the gun blew up in the unfortunate pig's face, "you'll feel better after a nap."
"Maybe, but I still won't understand."
He led her through the living room. "Me either, but when you're human there's some things you just never understand."