Rob - July 17, 2004
We don't own Anya or Oz, nor would we wish to. They should roam free range.
This tale by the wonderous Rob.
Coyote howls ricochet across the night desert— Owooooooooooooooo!!!—hitting sand, cactus, the dying embers of a pathetic little campfire, before shooting upwards, finally absorbed by the ghostly galleon moon and her millions of starry cohorts. Anya loves this part. The split second after the echo of one of those mournful wolves' discontent cries finally disperses into the chilly night air, and she can fool herself into thinking she might be able to fall asleep. Blink and you miss it.
Her eyelids flutter. She sighs and settles on the coarse rug laid out on the uneven ground, finally (after hours of squirming and shifting) finding the perfect position, where the small pebbles don't dig into her back quite so sharply and the twiggy bits of underbrush don't stick her quite so offensively. A small sigh, and her eyes close. She is peaceful. She is content. She feels herself slowly drifting to—
—"Oh, crap!" she says and sits up. "Well, this is not going to work."
She glares daggers of accusation at the beckoning moon, which beams with the kind of confidence that can only come from being completely unaware of (or ignoring) that all her brilliant light is merely reflected. The cold disk is full; complete; conceited. It mocks her with indifference and inspires the wolves to begin their song anew.
"Having trouble sleeping, sweetie?"
Anya looks at her dead friend indifferently. "Well, if you must know, yes. The coyotes are howling because, dumb animals that they are, they have nothing better to do, I have grains of sand up places even Xander's never been properly introduced to, and I have an intense desire to be at home in my apartment, curled up with a good book. And I don't even like to read! And come to think of it, I don't even have an apartment anymore, since D'Hoffryn's been sending his lackeys after me and you've been all intent on taking over the world."
"Hey, I'm the First. It's what I do!" Hallie innocently shrugs and smiles in that effortlessly charismatic way that she has. Had.
"Yeah, well, I wish you'd just get it over with already. I'm sick of all this waiting."
"That's my Anyanka! You never could sit still. Always raring to go and inflict some new grisly torture on some unsuspecting male."
Anya sees the familiar glint in Hallie's eye and almost wants to believe that the past had come undone, that she has never been the cause of her death, and she is inviting her over for tea, getting a vicarious, nostalgic thrill out of talks of evisceration and vengeance. But these feelings just arise out of habit. Suddenly uncomfortable in her own skin, she shudders thoughts of the grisly old days away.
"Why don't you do us both a favor, and save your lack-of-breath? We both know what's going to happen here. You are, once again, going to attempt to convince me that evil is the only way for me, and that if I continue to fight my inborn nature and side with the good guys, I will be chopped up into little pieces in a manner that is both surprising and painful, along with all the other girls and…Xander."
Hallie chuckles. "That sounds about right."
"And I, in turn, will muster up my strength and tell you that you will never win, that good is stronger than evil, and that you will never be able to defeat the Slayer, even while knowing inside that this whole battle is useless and it will only be a matter of time before we're all fodder for your Bringers and their unwieldy yet efficient weapons. That is if we're not first turned into appetizers by your indestructible vampires and their jagged teeth."
"I like the way you think, girl!"
"But, so there you have it," Anya says. "I have fully acknowledged the futility of this fight and expect to die fairly soon. You may go now." She smiles broadly.
"Not so fast—"
"What now?" Anya quickly cuts her off. "You have no reason to interrupt my precious moments of alone time. I'm nothing special or important, any more. Why don't you go do something productive, like bother that Faith girl Willow's bringing back from L.A.? She was evil for a while, too. Rogue slayer, just got out of two years in prison. Yes, she's much more suited for you to attempt to use for your own ends."
"All in good time, sweetie. For now, you're my main girl."
"Well, that's just doesn't make sense."
With eyes full of pity, Hallie watches Anya and responds, "Oh, Anyanka, what have they done to you? The once-great vengeance demon, reduced to a quivering mess of a girl, all alone in the world, with nothing but a dying fire and sand up her butt. It's really quite sad. You do not need to torture yourself like this—a Tony Robbins wannabe seminar in San Francisco, cheesy self-help tapes, a Casteneda-induced nightmare here in Nevada—when will you just realize once and for all that you needn't search for the real you? Embrace your past, Anyanka. That is who you are."
Anya looks up at her. "You actually think I would allow myself to be swayed by your flawed arguments and your just barely acceptable Halfrek impersonation? You obviously don't know me as well as you might think. D'Hoffryn came to me with the same arguments, and I turned him down."
"Yes, and in the process doomed your only friend to death."
Anya's eyes dart up at her; this wound hurts.
"These people, sweetie, they're not your friends. Xander is their friend; you're just his ex. They have no respect for you. I mean, Buffy—please, talk about a superiority complex! God's gift to herself, if you ask me. I'm the only one who knew you. I'm the only one who loved you. And you…you killed me."
Anya bites down on her trembling lip. "D'Hoffryn killed you."
"Hey, whatever helps you sleep at night." She pauses, innocently. "Oh, but wait, that's just it—you're not sleeping at night, are you?" Her laugh sounds like tinkling bells.
"You don't scare me."
"You're right," Hallie sighs. "But, look! There's something that does."
She points to a spot not five feet away, and there it is: snowy white. ethereal. terrifying. Its lower lip quivers, as if intently nibbling on invisible entrails. Its eyes glimmer with charcoal-colored malice. The delicate pink padding of its paws belie the jugular-slashing claws surrounding its feet. Anya shrieks.
"A bunny? You sent a bunny after me?"
She looks over, and Hallie is gone. Anya is alone with the creature.
"I've been here three days. I haven't seen a single bunny yet." It tentatively sidles a bit closer to her.
"No!" Another shriek. "Okay, Anya Christina Emanuelle Jenkins, you can handle this."
The eyes. The claws.
"It's just a tiny, fluffy little bunny."
The teeth. The fur.
"What can it do to you?" She laughs, full of false bravado. "Do ya hear me, Hopper? You're nothing. So, you turn your little bunny ass around, and—"
It looks up at her.
The eyes. The claws. The teeth. The fur.
Then, a deep, guttural growl—
A pounce. Anya stands frozen as she sees the bunny disappear under a whirling circle of fangs and black fur. Red splatters across its formerly white back as the rabbit seems to explode into chunks of meat and bone. Slash, slash, growl, growl. The floppy menace is devoured right before her, less tasty parts discarded in smelly, bloody lumps. Anya has no time to catch her breath before the wolf tosses to the ground the the last bits of what now looks like some of the more fortunate victims of Anyanka's wrathful thousand-year reign. Thick blood mats the fur around its mouth, but the virile beast's appetite is not sated. It regards Anya seductively, lewdly, hungrily.
She runs, as fast as her legs can move, and it takes up the chase, making an odd two-syllable growl all the way.
"Well, this is just great!" she yells as she runs, the rhythm of her words matching the rhythm of her movement. "I eat—almost—nothing—for—three days—I'm— getting—constant—visit—a—tions from—my dead—best friend—and—now a—wolf is—going to—eat me. Life can't get any—"
She trips and falls, quickly rubs her bruised left leg and jumps up again. The wolf is almost upon her. The strange two-syllable growl again.
"This is it," she cries, and squeezes her eyes shut, bracing herself.
"Anya? Is that you?"
"What?" She recognizes that voice.
She opens her eyes slowly.
"I didn't recognize you without your vaguely distracting highlighted hair and your tiny body."
"And you know, all werewolves do look alike. If you've seen one blood-drenched, furry back, you've seen them all, I always say." Her attempts at nonchalance leave much to be desired. "And, wait a minute, you just turned yourself back into a human."
"Looks like it."
"Well, that's remarkable!"
"How did you—You certainly don't talk very much, do you?"
She nods, waiting for him to continue. He doesn't.
She nods again, and he gives in: "Not when I can help it."
"I think I remember that about you. Although it's been such a long time! Last time we saw each other, Willow wasn't nearly as big a lesbian as she is now." She smiles broadly and sweetly, in her trying-too-hard way.
"Well," she laughs, "as much fun as it's been catching up, I think I'd best get back to my—"
She looks over at the scratchy blanket she's been using as a bed and the blackened twigs that aren't even sending off wisps of smoke any more.
"Fire?" he asks.
"Right, so um, I'm glad the werewolf thing's working out for you, and—"
"Yes?" she smiles innocently.
"How is Willow?"
"Well, she is…great. She's just great. As I said, still a lesbian, so don't you be getting any ideas, mister!"
"I know." He voice becomes somber. "I know about Tara, also."
"Oh," she says. "How?"
"She came to me."
"Came to you? Oh, I believe I know where you're going with this. Please," she pats him on the shoulder. "Continue!"
"I was just minding my business…and Tara appeared to me. But I knew it wasn't her."
"You didn't even hear she'd died. How could you tell it wasn't Tara?"
"Walked through her."
"Yes, well that would do it."
"I didn't know Tara very well—"
"No, I should think not," she laughs. "What with you almost turning her into Kibbles N' Bits, when you found out about her and Willow's sweet and affectionate girl-on-girl action. After you left, they had many pleasurable orgasms together."
"Good to know."
"I thought that might bring you comfort."
"So, what came to me? It definitely wasn't Tara's ghost. It was…mean. And not quiet."
"Ah, yes. You and Tara are very quiet. Hey, it's almost like she found a female version of you!" She thinks this will make him feel better.
"…it was being all temptationy. Tried to convince me to go back to Sunnydale and kill Willow. She said that Will needed to be punished for having a new girlfriend so soon after her death. That she was betraying her, just like she betrayed me. That she needed to be punished."
"That was The First."
"The First." He thinks for a moment. "Oh, you mean that Big Nasty that was tormenting Angel a few years back?"
"Wow, you have a great memory!"
"So, um, did The First get to you?"
"Get to me?"
"Yeah, you know—get to you. Was it able to use its powers of persuasion to have you feeling, even for a brief moment, how great it would feel to succumb to the Beast within, haul that furry ass of yours down to Sunnydale and wreak fiery vengeance on him for all the wrongs he did to you?!?"
"Yes?" she asks nonchalantly.
"I think you might be projecting."
"Oh, right," she laughs. Then stops. "I tend to do that sometimes."
"That's okay. So, has The First gotten to you?"
"Me?" she laughs even louder. "No! That's the most ridiculous—"
"So, you were talking to yourself back there?"
"Yes. Yes. I was talking to myself."
"Really? Because you looked like you were having quite the heated discussion."
"Well, I am…very angry at myself. Whenever I really piss myself off, I take myself to the desert and give myself a good talking to."
"Anya?" He rests his hand on her shoulder.
"You're a bad liar."
"Oh, crap. Okay, if you must know," she says, biting her lower lip and beginning to pace a little, "yes, I was just having a nice conversation with my dead friend, Halfrek."
"Send her my regards."
"Yes, that is indeed humorous."
"That must've been tough."
"Well, it's never easy when your deceased best friend comes to you, taunts you about all your deepest insecurities, and tempts you with something part of you wants to do very much even though you know it's wrong."
"I guess not."
"From your tone of voice, I'm assuming that The First didn't bother you."
"Well, I was disturbed. A little disarmed. But I never thought about harming Willow."
She laughs again, "Oh, come on, Werewolf Boy. Last time you left Sunnydale, you couldn't even look at Willow without sprouting fur and fangs."
He looks down. "True."
"And now you're telling me you harbor no ill feelings for the girl who stomped on your heart and threw it to the dogs. Um, sorry for the canine humor."
"Anya, what are you doing here, really?"
"Well," she sighs, "I was supposed to be out researching these primordial vampires The First conjured up from the Hellmouth, but I decided to take a brief detour and find myself. Now as good a time as any. The world is going to be taken over by The First and its minions very soon, you know. We're all going to die. And, me? No, I couldn't just be happy with my reinstated demon status and maintain my alliance with evil. No, I had to go all wimpy, get a conscience, and doom myself to death!
"And, now to top it all off, I've been wandering around the desert for the past three days, sweating to death in the day, freezing my ass off at night, completely starving. My head hurts, my back hurts, I haven't gotten one decent night of sleep…and I can't get a single friggin' moment of spiritual transcendence! How am I supposed to have a vision quest if I can't get one crappy vision?"
"That was a mouthful."
"Yes. It was," she responds, noting the irony that a werewolf of all things was saying these words to her. "You seem pretty sure and comfortable with yourself, I mean, not becoming a ferocious monster at a moment's notice."
"But that's just the thing."
"I am a ferocious monster."
"Oh, great. Leave it to me to run into another self-flagellating demon with a soul!"
"No, no flagellation of any kind."
"You mean, you don't even masturbate?" she whispers.
Ignoring that, he continues, "The thing is I went all the way to Tibet to control the wolf. That backfired."
"You can say that again!"
"But there's a reason it backfired."
Anya is all ears.
"I am the werewolf. The werewolf is me. I spent such a long time denying the wolf—locking myself up in a cage, suppressing my nature. The fact is the wolf inside me is an animal. He's ferocious and dangerous. But he's not evil. I'm not evil. Visiting Willow really helped me put that in perspective. I realized that sometimes the wolf needs to get out, and if I don't let that side of myself out willingly, it will happen by itself."
"That's why you're out here, isn't it?"
"Yes. Each full moon, I take myself away from civilization, away from people, and I let myself go. I live on small animals. I roam. I howl at the moon."
"You were the one keeping me up?"
"There are a lot of coyotes out here. Anyway, once I gave that part of myself free reign, I realized I could turn back and forth any time. The wolf and I are completely integrated now."
"So, you found yourself. That's really great. But I don't see how I'm going to be able to. You have an identity. You're a wolf. But who am I? I'm not a vengeance demon. Not anymore. I'm not really a girl."
"You're whoever you want to be."
Anya takes this in, pauses. "Listen, Oz, I think I'd like to talk a walk by myself for a little while, think a bit."
"Sure," he says. "Would you like me to hang around a while? I can build you a new fire while you're gone."
"That would be really nice," she says. "I won't be gone long."
She walks and waits, walks and waits, surveying the vista, desperate for some sort of sign.
I am the werewolf. The werewolf is me.
"But it isn't so simple for me," she says. "I can't just embrace my dark side, like Oz does."
"Sure, ya can!"
"Buzz off, Halfrek!"
"Well," she perks up. "That gave me a great deal of satisfaction." She sighs again. "Maybe I should dig out those tapes again."
"Now, why would you go and do that?"
Without even looking her way, Anya crossly says, "Halfrek—"
"No, not Halfrek."
"What?" Anya asks confused. She looks all around her, and can't find the source of the voice. "Who are you?"
"That is unimportant. Well, okay, not unimportant. Let's say more a cloaked-in-mystery type deal."
"Wait a minute…You're my vision guide, aren't you?"
"Okay, ya caught me!"
"It's about time! I've been waiting forever for you! I didn't think you were coming."
"Hey, doll, my name ain't Godot."
"Oh, great," she says. "Absurdist humor. So, tell me, who am I?"
"I have been both patient and reasonable, and now I am ready. I came here to find myself. I have completed my portion of the job, and now it is your responsibility to give me a swift answer so I can go back home, where it is less sandy but infinitely more dangerous."
"No? What do you mean ‘no'?"
"There will be no swift answers here. All answers will be slow in coming and difficult to decipher once they do."
"What? What's the point?"
"It's a vision guide prerequisite—we must be cryptic."
"You've got to be kidding me. I'm in sort of a rush here."
A sigh. "Okay, here's the lesson. Look down."
She laughs, "What?"
"C'mon, just look down."
"Okay," she says, "Not sure what you expect me to—"
And she lets out an ear-shattering scream.
"You're a…you're a…"
"Hey, would you mind quieting down a little?"
"I do not take orders from a bunny!" she screams.
"You have to face your deepest fear, Anya, to find yourself." His shifty, rabbit eyes fix her in their stare. "You must…"
"You must pet me."
"No! Are you out of your mind?"
"Am I out of my mind? You're the one who thinks she's talking to a bunny."
"Okay, I've had enough. This vision quest is over. It's over."
"Wait! Wait! Don't you understand? It's the only way."
"Okay, listen here, Little Buffy Foo Foo, if you don't—"
He snickers, his big, buck teeth sticking out of his pink mouth.
Insulted, Anya asks, "Are you laughing at me?"
"You just called me ‘Little Buffy Foo Foo.'"
"I did not."
"Yes, you did."
"Did, too. Freudian slip much?"
She's had it. "You have to choose an accent and stick with it. One moment, you're a retro pastiche gangster circa 1930s, the next you're talking like you graduated from Sunnydale High!"
"Are you mad at me?"
"Yes!" she cries, exasperated.
"Not scared any longer, though, are ya?"
"Oh, no, you're not going to fool me with your devious, carrot-munching ways and your cotton- tailed tricks! You're not a real bunny. You think that by getting me to succumb to your fluffy charms that I will therefore feel less apprehensive about approaching a real Cadbury- laying menace. But it's not going to work. I don't trust you pad-legged freaks. Give you a pat on the head, and the next moment I'll be in the hospital, trying to remove your jagged little teeth from my bloodied wrists. No, thank you very much."
"That's what they tell me."
"Anya, what's really bothering you?"
"What do you mean?"
"You say you want to find yourself. Why?"
She sits down in the sand. Not close to the bunny, though. Oh, no. Not close at all.
"Because I have spent my entire life following other people and ideas: Olaf, D'Hoffryn, socialism, Xander, capitalism and all its monetary goodness. I've always been a follower. It's—Hey, you're my spirit guide. Aren't you supposed to know this stuff?"
"Yes. Now, please go on."
"I have done…terrible things. I can't go back to that life, and yet I miss the power. I don't know what to do. I can't just get a primal high, reveling in my powers like Wolf Boy. For a vengeance demon, it's either follow D'Hoffryn, or face the flames. There's no free use of the powers."
"I'm not so sure about that, Anya. I think that one day, you will be able to follow in Oz's footsteps. To surpass them, even. He thinks he's found himself, and that's all well and fine, but what good do his wolf powers do for others? At the most you can say he helps people by avoiding them a few days a month. But whereas his power is for him alone, yours can help others. Yours can inspire others. One day, Anya, you will find yourself, and oh, how glorious that day will be. The power is not for him alone to wield, Anya, it is for you."
"What do you mean?"
"Remember what I said about the cryptic prerequisite?"
"Now, go back to your friend, Anya. He begins to worry."
"But how am I supposed to know…"
"All in good time, Anya. All in good time."
"You know, repeating it twice doesn't make it any more resonant. These stock responses are growing quite tiresome."
"Well, luckily for you, it is time for me to take my leave."
She turns to leave.
She pauses, stops.
"Sure you don't want to give me one pat on the head?"
"Not on your life."
He tentatively approaches her, and she screams.
"Okay, alright, I'm off."
Anya walks back to the camp, where a fire is roaring and a wolf is wolfing down a small animal.
"Lovely," she says.
He quickly turns. "Sorry. My bad."
"Quite alright," she says. "Don't let me stop your natural albeit slightly nauseating habits."
Back in wolf form, he quickly finishes the last twitching remains of the animal, and in a flourish of fur and teeth, he is once again Oz-shaped. His metamorphoses have become quite beautiful. No longer the slow, painful process as before, he can now slip in and out of it like a warm, inviting coat; the thick fur swiftly rise upwards like hair under a brush full of static when he wills the change upon himself, and disappears just as suddenly as that same hair dropping lifelessly once the brush is taken away. It really is quite beautiful.
"You have a nice walk?"
"Yes, it was quite rewarding, actually."
"I didn't find myself, nothing like that, but I, well let's just say, I think everything is going to be alright."
"Yeah, it is, isn't it? Of course, I can't say for sure. You know those desert visions."
"Being cryptic is like a prerequisite."
"Yeah!" she says. "Exactly!"
"Hey, Anya, I asked you earlier, but we kind of got sidetracked…"
"Willow, she's happy, right?"
"Oh, sure, she's happy," she says. "I think she really likes this new girl, Kennedy."
"That's good." He smiles.
"You know, she could be the next Slayer."
"Really?" He is impressed. "Willow and a potential Slayer? Wow."
"She was really crushed by Tara's death, though. It took her a long time to get her life back to normal."
He nods, empathetically. "I can imagine. I felt awful for her."
"It really is a good thing she has a new girlfriend now, too."
"Oh, I'm sorry," she says. "It must suck for you, your one true love being a big lesbian and all."
"Kennedy really is the best thing for her now, though. She was getting so desperate for a while back there. Earlier this year, when she first got back from England, she was hitting on me! I had to tell her, Willow, sorry, but I am just not interested in you that way."
He smiles, uncomfortably.
"Might I ask you what that animal you ate a little while ago was?"
"I think it was a bunny. Funny, you never see them around here, but this is the third I've caught tonight."
"Funny," she laughs, and darts her eyes around quickly, worried that an errant bunny might fall on top of her at any moment and rub its soft, squirming body across her lap.
"Are you…afraid of bunnies?"
She laughs, shaking her head. Then stops. "Just a little bit."
"Well, don't worry. Between you and me—"
"Never trusted bunnies myself."
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