by backfromspace

"I'm going to give you six chances," offered the angel, "to relive something. Anything at all. Any moment in your life, I'll put you there and you can change it."

Anya eyed it cautiously. "Why?" she asked.

"Because you died in the war on the First. It's some kind of standard hero clause. Really quite sickening, toying with time, but the PTB are quite adamant about it."

"Why six?"

The angel just looked at her. "Why not?"

"Well, that sounds good. What's the catch?"

"You get a week. After that, you'll lose all memory of the future and will live your life through to the end without remembering that this ever happened."

"Okay," she responded, simply. "Wait - you said I get five chances?"

"If you don't like the result, you have until the end of one week to wish yourself back here."

"Aha!" Anya declared. "I know all about those wish things. There's always some way to twist them around."

"Yes," answered the angel. "Which is you were a demon, while I'm an angel. Are we doing this or not?"

"All right," Anya said. "But don't expect me to... pay you or something."

The angel rolled its eyes. "Where am I sending you first?"

Anya considered for a long moment. She got five chances - why not have a little fun with the first one?


"Excellent work. What did he do?" D'Hoffryn asked.

"Bar matron. A load-bearing bar matron," Aud replied.

D'Hoffryn clucked sympathetically.

"I'm not going to work for you," Aud continued, unfolding her arms and staring straight at him.

"I beg your pardon?" D'Hoffryn replied, genuinely surprised.

"I said I'm not going to work for you," Aud repeated. "It's a shame eye doctors haven't been invented yet, because you really should get that cyst looked at before that thing with the movanic demon."

D'Hoffryn blinked. Off in the distance, villagers screamed in extremely uncolloquial early German. Olaf was really wrecking the place. He would've been enjoying it immensely, but the girl was giving him a headache. "You're giving me a headache," he said. "Goodbye." He disappeared in a puff of smoke.

Well, Aud thought. This should be interesting.

She went home and killed all the bunnies.


It wasn't. Interesting, that is. She'd really quite forgotton just how dull the middle ages were.

And of course there was the thing with the torches and the villagers and the house. But she'd forgotton how small that damn place was and how much it smelled like troll god. It was really quite surprising how much of that smell was Olaf and how little was Troll.

She rubbed at the bloody gash in her thigh and considered 880 AD. No television, no lipstick, no pretty little halter tops with flared sleeves or perms for her hair. And, of course, no money. There were a few bits of stamped metal, of course, but they just weren't the same thing as cashiers full of little green dollar bills.

The demons weren't all that interesting, either. She hadn't been able to find any of the top-notch demon bars, and the full extent had been a brief visit to one of Grendel's children, who just kind of bubbled malevolantly.

"All right, angel guy," she finally said. "I'm done. I want my second try."

The angel appeared immediately. "Why?" he asked. "Is there something wrong with the Baltic?"

"Well, no," she admitted. "I don't think it can help being so... boring."

"And where would milady like to go next?"

Anya didn't have to think for long.


"You do understand the cost? The life and soul of a vengeance demon?"

"Hold it," Anya snapped. "I said before the thing with the spider."

"I beg your pardon?" D'Hoffryn asked.

Anya sighed and grumbled. She knew there was always a loophole to wishes. Fortunately, new information gave her a chance even this far down the chain of events. "Look, D'Hoffryn, the cost's all well and good, but I'll give you orgasms if you take care of it."

D'Hoffryn raised an eyebrow. He already had the summoning for Halfric ready, and he hated to leave loose ends, and Anyanka was leaving the fold again and asking for something extremely expensive. "Oh, what the hellmouth," he said.

Anya grinned brainlessly. "Right in here, if you please."


Anya rocked back on her heels and wiped her mouth. "D'Hoffryn, you are large and foul-smelling, but I thank you anyway."

"Oh, the pleasure was all mine," D'Hoffryn chuckled. "But I'm afraid you still haven't learned my most important lesson." He stood up and pulled his robe around him, eyes glinting red in the lamplight, and moments later Halfric appeared in a wisp of yellow smoke. Anya didn't gasp this time, she just rolled her eyes and looked away. Not only did it appear that there was no way to save her best friend, but she'd just given head to a big purple demon. Dammit.

She didn't wait for Hally to be damned, though. She didn't think she could take it for a second time. "Angel man? I'm done. Get here now."

"What's the matter with this one?" asked the angel, in the same tone of voice a patient father might use while shopping for a prom dress with his daughter.

Anya just glared unconvincingly.


Third try. This time she tried something bigger.

"Andrew," Anya said, slyly, "why don't you go check on Willow? The principal's office is a good place for dictating justice to the teeming masses, but not for awesomely powerful, potentially apocalyptic spells."

Andrew looked at her for a long time.

"Go on! I'll be fine," she insisted. "They're just like little bunnies!" she tried, at last. "I mean, sure they're vampires, but they're all furry and twitchy and what is with all the carrots, anyway?"

Andrew ran away very, very quickly. "Willow! Willow! I think Anya's gone craaaaaaaaazeeeeeeeeeeeee..."


She still died, though. She didn't get hacked in half, and that was something, but she still died.

Xander found her trapped under a big piece of debris and cried a lot. "I love you!" he confessed, over and over, and she nodded and smiled through the pain.

"I never loved anyone else," she admitted, fingertips weakly brushing his face. He cried more, and she wondered if he could still cry with the dead eye. After all, it was just the ball that got gouged out, right? Shouldn't the tear duct or whatever still work?

"Anya, Anya, Anya, Anya," Xander mumbled, fumbling with the support beam or locker or whatever it was that had her quite conveniently pinned. "You can't die! Don't die on me! We were... we were just..."

"Shh," Anya sighed. "Just kiss me."

He leaned over and kissed her, tears dripping down onto her face, trailing little furrows in the dust on her cheeks. She wondered why there wasn't any pain and tried to kiss back.

Xander howled when she went still, clawing at his face and beating the ground. The hellmouth swallowed them both and it was all very dramatic.

"No, I don't think so," she told the angel. "I mean, sure, it was dramatic and epic and all, but if we're going to die like that I demand some theme music."

The angel looked harassed.

"Okay, fourth one. This is one I've been wondering about for quite some time."


"I wish Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale!" Cordelia spat.

Anya nodded sympathetically and disappeared.


It really was a shame she wasn't the only vengeance demon in the world. It didn't end so well with a demon whose power didn't actually require an amulet. She tried to remember just how many apocalypses they'd averted since high school, but was sure she missed a few. Hell, even Sweet could have made everyone dance to death, assuming he even bothered with the factory-hellmouth town the Mayor built. Interestingly enough, significantly fewer of the vampires died this time around.

She considered using her vengeance demon power to find a way into an alternate universe, but who wanted to live in a world with no shrimp?


"All right," the angel said. "Last chance. Make it count."

Anya sighed and thought for a long time.


"Let's elope," she said to Xander, after the orgasms were over.

He rolled onto his side and stroked her hair, a sleepy smile on his face. "I thought you wanted to do the whole wedding thing," he murmured.

"Well, yeah, but it occurs to me that demons don't make the best guests. Especially congregating in large groups."

Xander chuckled. "Well, sure," he answered, "but they'll behave for the wedding, right?"

Anya snuggled closer to him. "I don't really think so. Let's just elope! It'll be like that book from english class back in high school. We'll go out in the woods, eat some weeds, and grow anuses on our heads."

Xander blinked and thought for a second. Sometimes Anya didn't make a whole lot of sense. "Oh, right," he finally said. "Midsummer Night's Dream. That was a donkey, actually."

"The donkey grew an anus? Well, I suppose the eating weeds part makes sense, but-"

"No, I mean that's what he grew."

"A donkey? Well, I don't understand. It must be awfully hard to move with livestock growing out of your forehead."

Xander sighed and couldn't decide if he was happy or annoyed. "An, you want to elope? Okay. When?"

"How about tomorrow?" Anya answered. "We can get married somewhere romantic. Like Cleveland!" Even she had no idea why she picked Cleveland. She'd always found excuses to go to Cleveland back when she was a demon, but she inevitably ended up bored and confused. Not all hellmouths were as interesting as Sunnydale.

"Okay," Xander mumbled.


They got married five days later. In Cleveland. Xander simply didn't ask.

She admired her shiny gold ring every few minutes, turning it around and around in the sunlight so the diamond caught the sun. Anya Harris. This was the chance she'd always regretted. They loved each other. She knew that without any kind of inflated ego or pride or literalness. They loved each other. This time around they wouldn't need to spend months rebuilding what they had too late to go anywhere with it.

Xander wore sunglasses and a tiki shirt just to be wierd. They lounged around a dinky pool in a dingy motel like movie stars on hiatus and did silly things like laser tag - Anya won - and blowing bubbles in subway cars. They were the happiest five days she'd ever known, especially knowing how things might have been. They didn't worry about the future, or trailer homes, or kids, or pot bellies. They went to see Harry Potter but saw Shrek instead. "Ogres are much less friendly in person," Anya told Xander loudly halfway through. "They're a lot like trolls, actually. Did you know that ogres explode when you put them in water? Like sponges!" Afterwards, she asked him why there were so many crying children in a movie about demons.

She almost forgot about the future, and the First, and the botched wedding. For the first time possibly ever, she felt like a real person.


"So," the angel said. "You seem pleased with yourself."

"Insufferably so!" Anya gleefully confessed. "This worked out perfectly. You're not as bad as I thought you were."

"Oh, well, thanks, then," the angel sardonically replied. "So you want to stay here?"

"Yes," she said, simply.

He sighed. "I'm not supposed to tell you this," he confessed, "but you'll still die."

"Well, yes, most humans do," she answered, narrowing her eyes.

"No, I mean you'll still die. At the same time. A year from this May. Only in this universe, a few things don't happen. You with me?"

"Yes," she answered, trying hard not to follow the train of thought.

"Well. Andrew doesn't live without you, specifically, there protecting him. And no one would dream of seperating a married couple at a time like that unless it was absolutely necessary."

Anya stared past him, eyes unfocused, and fingered her wedding ring. She could feel tears coming to her eyes already.

"I'll tell you right now, if you choose to stay here, it won't affect your afterlife. You won't even remember having made the choice. You can live a full and happy life with Xander and have lots of fat little babies. There's no guilt, and no reckoning, for this choice. So tell me, Anya Harris, putting aside all morality. What is more important to you - you and Xander being happy, or the life of a guy who didn't really expect or want to survive?"

Anya squeezed her eyes shut, forcing back tears of what might have been. She looked at Xander, snoring gently on the big king-sized bed. She looked at her wedding ring.

"This is the part where you make a choice," Buffy's voice came to her, from far away.

Very slowly, she pulled it off her finger and turned it over in her hands.

"Is this what it means to be a person?" she asked, brushing the tears from her eyelashes with her other hand.

"There is no meaning to being a person," answered the angel. "People do whatever they feel like. But this is what it means to be a hero."

Anya nodded. "I wish to be back in the same time, place, and situation as you found me. And I'm taking the ring."

She sliced her way through a dozen of the vampires, and pulled at least two off Andrew. She was the wind of death, hacking ungracefully through demon after demon after demon after demon after demon. Death caught her by surprise, but even as she fell she managed to hold the ring up one last time, sighing her life out onto it.

And in the end, who can say if it was the right choice?


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