"Some things you can feel coming. You don't fall in love because you fall in love; you fall in love because of the need, desperate, to fall in love."
-- Umberto Eco, "Foucault's Pendulum"
She rarely misses being a demon, though truthfully, it had been a great deal easier than being human. A demon does what it pleases. A human pleases others. Love had been a foreign concept, despite having to deal with it on a daily basis. And those dealings had certainly never made her want love in any shape or form.
She had seen the darkest kinds of love in the faces of women who summoned her, torn between wanting revenge and wanting their loved ones back. Wanting to own or be owned again. Possession did seem part of what was so addictive about love. Now, that she was human and in love, she often liked to refer to Xander as 'my husband'. Her. Hers. And marriage was certainly the closest thing you could ever get to owning someone. Calling them yours.
She buys romance novels, and reads about love described as something infinitely noble and precious. And understands, somewhat. The everyday magic of lying in bed together early in the morning before he went off to work, relishing the sensation of a warm body tightly pressed against hers. Watching him shave, how he put on his clothes -- pulling random items from the closet and mostly with socks of different colours. Knowing that he was a great cook because his mother never bothered to. That he was sweet and kind and gentle and better deserving than anything he had gotten out of life, and nothing like what most people thought.
"I'm happy," she says when people ask what it's like being married. And she is. Most of the time.
As all humans do, she has done a little bit of growing in the past year. And accepted that love was sometimes a struggle. Compromising. Keeping your mouth shut about the late night phone calls to Willow, hearing him cry over the phone and talk about when Buffy did this or that. How much he missed her.
She knew he loved her the most, and apparently enough to marry her -- yet sometimes it was damned hard to forget he had loved others before her and always would. Try as she might, she couldn't help resenting them for owning a piece of his heart when all pieces of him should only be hers.
A good wife is not jealous, she reminds herself.
And she tries hard to be a good wife.
It ended the way most relationships do, of course. Badly.
He's been sitting in the kitchen for the past two hours staring at a cold mug of tea, trying to piece it all together. It's not easy. He's barely twenty and getting a divorce. How's that for a successful love life?
He supposed it was many things that broke their marriage apart. Minor arguments. Making up by having sex, but never really forgetting what they argued about. Until one night when none of them really felt like kissing each other and he ended up sleeping on the couch instead.
Another argument and he moved into a cheap motel, leaving the apartment to her. He didn't think they would kiss and make up this time. He had been trying to fix everything as much as he could, but only succeeded in making things worse, as usual. Anya wasn't speaking to him and through Giles he found out she had been seeing a divorce lawyer.
He was nothing more than an abysmal failure, really. It's what his father used to tell him, and as much as he had spent a lifetime denying it, maybe it was time to face the truth. He wasn't sure in which way he had failed Anya, only that he had somewhere along while mourning Buffy. Too caught up in his own problems and turning a deaf ear to whatever she had been trying to tell him.
He is tired, he thinks. There's a bottle of Scotch in the left drawer, and he is itching to drink it. It would be easy. Pick it up, open the bottle and have a nice bit of blissful oblivion. But he doesn't move. A small stubborn piece of himself is refusing to resort to the same thing his father used to. To give him right. So he settles for the next best thing. Calling Willow.
"I just don't get it. I really don't. Why can't we make it work?"
Willow is silent for a moment. "Xander, do you know why Oz and I didn't get back together again when he came back?"
"Because he couldn't control the werewolf thing around you," Xander said, frowning.
"No, that's not it. I wouldn't have let him get away from me a second time, if I had wanted to be with him. I mean, I still love him. That's not really the issue here. I love him as much as I do Tara. But I'm not the same. I've changed, and grown. I've moved on."
"So what you're saying is that I should move on too? Even though I love her?"
"No, that's not what I'm saying. I'm just saying that love sometimes isn't enough for a relationship to work out. And that maybe you should give some thought as to whether you really want to stick with this marriage, or accept the divorce and move on."
He sighs. "I just... I don't want a divorce, Will. I really don't. I love her. A lot. But every time I try fixing things, I screw it up even more. I want to make things right again."
"Maybe you shouldn't be saying all this to me," Willow said carefully. "Maybe you should tell it to her."
There's a tightness in his chest and he is feeling oddly nervous about meeting a woman he's married and woken up with every morning for a year. When she finally shows up, he hesitates, unsure whether to greet her with a kiss as usual or not. He settles for a brief hug.
"You look good," he says softly.
And she does. Anya frowns a little and straightens her dress, smoothing imaginary crinkles. "I didn't dress up for your sake," she says stiffly.
"No. Of course not."
There's an awkward silence. She folds her hands and he notices she isn't wearing her wedding ring. He glances down nervously at its twin, still circling his own finger. For a fleeting moment he doubts, wondering if he's just going to make a fool out of himself trying to get back together with someone who's obviously moved on.
"Willow said you wanted to talk with me," she says finally.
Oh, well. It wasn't like he had that much dignity left anyway. "Yeah. I guess what I wanted to say was... I'm sorry for being a jerk. You've been great, and I... I've mostly been shutting you out."
Her mouth compresses into a thin line. "Maybe I'm not that good at understanding how everything works yet. But I'm not an idiot, Xander. You could have turned to me. I would have tried to help, at least."
"I know. Look... I can't change any of that. But I do promise that I will try my best to do better in the future. I don't want us to get a divorce. I miss you. And I want us to get back together. So how about it? Think we can work things out?"
Anya smiles a little, her eyes glistening. "I don't know. But I want us to try."
"Yeah. Me too." He hugs her then, tightly, breathing in the mild scent of apricot from her hair.
She sighs regretfully. "Maybe I shouldn't have cut your face out of all the pictures. But I did leave the wedding photo intact," she adds hurriedly.
Xander smiles. "It's okay. We can have a lot of fun pasting them in again." He kisses her cheek. "You know, we might even learn something from this. So that all this has brought some good."
She squeezes him a little tighter. "Not to solve problems with orgasms?"
He laughs, relieved. "Well, yeah... That too. Come on. Let's go home. We can still have the orgasms when the problems are solved."
Later, when Anya is asleep, he lies awake in bed. He's thinking about a lot of things that night. The nature of love, and why he is fortunate to have gotten the woman lying next to him back. He thinks about Buffy, too. It's not the usual thoughts of loss, or guilt. It's a quiet acceptance and a sense of gratitude to have had her as his best friend.
He would not lose another, he decides. Maybe love and their relationship wasn't as perfect as he had first imagined it would. Still didn't mean he would give up on it. In this, at least, he would not fail.