The Older Woman
by Doyle

Her second year in college, Joyce's roommate had been a Scandinavian exchange student called Agneta. She was very blonde, and very beautiful, and between the huge cerulean eyes and the baby-girl edge of innocence to her accent she had half the men on campus falling over each other to spend time with her.

Joyce, with her intelligence and her mousy brown Farrah hair, didn't get nearly so much attention. But by then she'd already met Hank, and they were going steady (what a strange saying, she'd thought at the time, and thought again twenty years later when she still sometimes forgot and moved to take off her ring before she started baking), and she didn't mind.

Really, she didn't.

"When you say spend time with her," Anya interjected.

"I mean they wanted to have orgasms with her, yes," she said, adding another cupful of flour to the bowl.

These Thursday night confessional and cupcake sessions were becoming a strange, wonderful kind of routine. It was surprising how quickly translating English-to-Anya could become second nature, and how she could say words like 'orgasm' to one of Buffy's friends without feeling like a monstrous corruptor of youth.

Except Anya wasn't young.

Oh, she looked it, and nobody had ever indicated to Joyce that she was anything other than the vivacious twenty-year-old she appeared to be, but some of the things she said...

Joyce had once mentioned a coffee shop in Sacramento she'd visited as a teenager, a place with customers' poems tacked on the walls and a stack of pencils and scrap paper by the door. She'd described the owner, an elderly woman draped in crimsons and mauves who would give you the coffee for free if you gave her a poem. And Anya's face had brightened, and she talked about doing a job there once. She even remembered the woman's name.

The year Buffy was born, Joyce had been back in the city, but the shop had closed down. She asked around, and found out there had been a fire, and the old lady had been killed trying to rescue the pages from the walls. In their hotel room Joyce couldn't make Hank understand why she was crying, and he had raised his voice and slammed the door, and Buffy had woken up cranky and wailing.

That year, when Joyce's marriage was quietly sliding into the critical condition in which it would linger for the next fifteen years, Anya should have been half a world away, a tiny wriggling scrap in her mother's arms. But she wasn't, and the day she worked that out was the day Joyce began to notice Anya's eyes.

She had pretty eyes. They were sharp, and inquisitive, and insightful.

And very, very old.

"Anya," Joyce asked, as she slid the cakes into the oven and set the timer, "how old are you?"

Anya snagged the empty mixing bowl and took a seat, delicately licking the mixture off the spoon. "Xander says that's something people aren't supposed to ask women. Like 'how much money do you earn?' or 'why don't you invest in some cleanser?' or 'which brand of vibrator do you prefer'?"

The part of Joyce that had stood at countless rallies (often right beside the gorgeous Agneta) and burned her bra fought with her inner Joyce Summers Investigates, and won. "Xander's a dear," she said, "and I'm very glad the two of you are together. But nobody has the right to tell you what you can and can't say."

She nodded, looking thoughtful. "You're right. I'm my own woman. And, by jolly, I'll ask whatever I want." She beamed. "Please, continue your story about your college lesbian love affair."

Joyce pulled open one of the cabinets, hunting through the tinned vegetables until her fingers brushed a bottle. Ah-ha. "I didn't say it was a lesbian love affair," she said. Just saying 'lesbian' aloud made her feel quite naughty.

Yes, she was definitely going to need something alcoholic for this discussion.

"You described her eyes as cerulean, not blue," Anya pointed out, as Joyce retrieved the corkscrew and two glasses. "That means you were having sex." She frowned. "Or that you painted her for an art class."

"I did paint her for an art class," she remembered, handing Anya one of the drinks and taking a healthy swig of her own. She giggled, thinking back and feeling positively wicked. "We spread a blanket on the dorm room floor and she posed nude. She had legs that went on for days." Her voice had dropped to a near-whisper, as though she was relating something utterly scandalous, though for all the reaction she was getting she could have been discussing her recipe for blueberry muffins.

"Women in this century are sexually repressed," Anya said. "Hundreds of years ago, all the men were off together having their homoerotic little wars. 'Look, my cannon is bigger than yours, you like that, don't you, you naughty soldier?' And all the women had was each other." She pursed her lips. "It was a bad time for business."

And Joyce knew that this wasn't something learned from the History Channel or passed down from some manytimesgreat-grandmother. Centuries, she thought, a tiny chill -- fear? Excitement? -- shooting up her spine. My God, the things she must have seen...

She was about to ask, again, the taboo question of age, but then Anya got up from the table and backed her against the counter and kissed her firmly on the lips. It wasn't the soft, tentative, blushing kiss she'd guiltily imagined with Agneta years ago -- and their relationship had never been anything beyond friendship, despite Anya's assumptions and twenty-year-old Joyce's sometime fantasies. Anya kissed with the sexuality and the confidence that Joyce admired and envied in her, as if there was no question of being turned down or pushed away.

Except, inevitably, there were questions.

"I can't," Joyce gasped, when she could muster the willpower to pull away. "Buffy... and, oh, Xander," she added, ashamed she hadn't thought of him first.

Anya dismissed it with a near-regal wave of her hand, and Joyce had the sudden, silly thought that maybe Anya was a witch, and that was how she had lived so long. "I asked Xander how he would feel if I had sex with someone else, and he got very upset. Then I asked, well, what if it was a woman, and he made me describe it and then we had lots of sex. And Buffy's probably sexually experimenting with Willow right now."

Joyce thought that, firstly, she doubted it, though she sometimes wondered what had happened when Faith had taken over her daughter's body, and secondly, everything Anya knew about college life she'd learned from Xander's pornography collection.

And thirdly, it had been years and years since someone looked at her and made her feel so desirable. Who had it been? Hank, maybe, back in the early days, when there was still some spark there, however dim and wavering.

Too little, too long ago, and she should have kissed that girl in college.

"I wish..." she began, but Anya frowned and shhed her, and kissed her again.

She could get used to this.

Anya stood on tiptoes, and Joyce was a little disappointed that she was craning for a view of the oven timer, and not her ass. Then there was a small hand on her lower back, and below her lower back, and maybe it was her ass she was looking at.

Their third kiss (more mutual, tongues, Joyce couldn't remember what one had to do to qualify for second base but the hand beneath her blouse was reminding her) was interrupted by the ding of the over timer. Anya reached behind her and switched it off.

"We should probably leave them to cool," Joyce suggested, proud at how even her voice was.

Hours later, when they'd worked up appetites, Anya padded downstairs naked and returned with a bottle of wine and a tray piled with cupcakes.

By then, Joyce had learned quite a lot about the benefits of sleeping with a much older woman.


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