We used to bounce ideas off each other; often we’d think of very similar things at the same time and it was a standing joke between us that we needed to wear tinfoil hats to stop our brainwaves mixing. For one particular fic, Present Perfect, she actively picked my brains.
In that story, a response to the same challenge as my fic It’s Got To Be Perfect, Buffy makes a wish shortly after the end of Tabula Rasa that changes the world. At first everything seems perfect; Joyce is alive (and married to Giles), Oz is still around, Riley never left her, and Spike is human. Bit by bit Buffy discovers that things aren’t as perfect as she’d thought. Angel was killed in 1900, Xander is a vampire, Willow is a werewolf, all of the Scooby Gang hate Riley with a burning passion and despise Buffy for dating him, and Spike – now theoretically an ideal partner, a human with a soul, and an integral part of the Scoobies – is Buffy’s stepbrother and regards the idea of dating her as incestuous and disgusting. Then Buffy finds out that history, in a world where Spike was never a vampire, went very differently and not for the better…
The big reveal, when Buffy sees a map of Europe and discovers just how different things are, was never written. theohara moved on to another story and abandoned Present Perfect. She gave me permission to finish it, if I wanted, but I could never have done it justice. Her style and her sparkling dialogue is impossible to replicate. I did a lot of work on the story at the time, helping her flesh out the details of the changes to the timeline that would have taken place, and it seems a shame to waste it.
The other day I saw a National Geographic documentary called Hitler’s Stealth Fighter and it reminded me of that research. I also read a story at the Pit of Voles parodying It’s A Wonderful Life with Spike as the central character; that author portrayed the world in which Spike had never existed as being absolutely identical to the standard Buffyverse world. Spike had made no difference whatsoever. I felt it was too ludicrous even to be funny (as anyone who has seen Becoming, Part 2 will no doubt agree) but the two events in conjunction stirred me to action.
This story doesn't use the same plot as Present Perfect; only the ‘Spike was never a vampire’ aspect, and the resultant changes to history, are used. It doesn’t feature quite the same version of alternate history but it’s another possible variation. I have made use of material from the aforementioned documentary, from a History Channel documentary called Luftwaffe ‘46, and from years of wargaming experience. Knowledge of AtS 5x13: Why We Fight is helpful. It starts during BtVS 6x19: Entropy. 5,400 words, complete. Rating R for multiple character deaths, slaughter on an epic scale, and massive destruction.
Went The Day Well?
Went the day well?
We died and never knew
But, well or ill.
Freedom, we died for you
Went the day well?
(John Maxwell Edmonds, Four Epitaphs, February 1918)
The Magic Box, Sunnydale, California, April 2002…
Anyanka poured Spike another shot of whiskey and continued her attempt to steer him into uttering a vengeance wish she could use against Xander. “Don’t you wish he had to pay in some horrible way?” she prompted.
“Absolutely,” Spike agreed. He sighed deeply. “But most of all, pet, I wish I’d never been born.”
Anyanka frowned and thought for a moment. There had been a couple of instances when Spike, despite his dislike of Xander, had saved his life; whereas, as far as she could remember, Spike had never directly saved her. She gave a feral grin and morphed into her demon visage. “Granted!”
Angel could hear a distant rattle of musketry from beyond the village as the warriors of the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists clashed with European soldiers. The Boxers killed Christian missionaries; he hoped that the group with whom he had left the baby would be okay. Angel walked on along the muddy street. It was time to rejoin Darla, Drusilla, and Drusilla’s thuggish companion George; so far Angel had been moderately successful in steering them into eating mainly criminals and low-life scoundrels but in his absence they could be up to absolutely anything. George might even have been stupid enough to go after the local Slayer.
His attention was jerked back to his immediate surroundings when a small object hurtled out of the shadows between the buildings and landed on the street in front of him. His mouth fell open as he stared at it. One of Drusilla’s dolls.
A Chinese girl stepped out into the street. She was wielding a sword. She spoke but the Chinese words were incomprehensible to Angel.
“Look, I don’t want to fight you,” Angel told her. “I have a soul. I don’t eat people. Well, only murderers and the like, that’s all.”
The girl spoke again, still in Chinese, raised her sword and advanced.
Angel backed away. “I don’t want to fight,” he repeated. “I take it you’ve dusted Dru and probably that idiot George. Well, good for you. I couldn’t have killed Drusilla myself, I felt so guilty about what I did to her before I got the soul, but if you’ve sent her to her eternal rest it’s for the best. But, really, you don’t need to kill me. I’m good now.”
Her face didn’t change. She accelerated the pace of her advance and then leapt straight at him. The sword flashed red in the light from burning buildings as she struck for his neck.
Angel dodged away. He ducked under a second swing and blocked a fist strike aimed at his collar-bone. “Stop!” he called out. “There’s no need for us to fight.”
The girl spun on her heel and her other foot came up in a kick to his head. Angel staggered back. He narrowly avoided another slash from the sword and caught the girl’s long braided queue with his left hand. He tugged, intending to pull her into a punch; if he could knock her out, and leave her otherwise unharmed, perhaps she would accept that his intentions were not hostile and would not come after him again. Angel cocked his fist for the decisive blow.
Pain shot through his hand. He yelped and released her queue. His palm was gashed open, streaming with blood, and lines of blood marred his fingers. He barely had time to realize that the girl had something woven into the strands of hair, something metal and viciously spiked, before she hit him under the nose with the heel of her palm and knocked him from his feet.
The sword swept down. Angel tried to block but the blade sliced through his arm and severed it just below the elbow. Angel screamed out in agony and stared, horrified, at the bleeding stump.
The girl spoke once more, her tone one of triumph, and Angel raised his gaze to see her drawing back the sword for a finishing stroke. The sword blurred. Angel’s last sight was of Darla, hurling herself upon the Chinese Slayer’s back with her fangs bared, but the intervention was too late. The blade sliced through his neck and Angel was dust.
Tirpitzhafen Naval Base, Kiel, Germany, April 1943…
Oberleutnant zur See Wolfgang Hauser stood rigidly to attention in front of Admiral Dönitz. “After that we regained control of the boat,” he concluded his report, “and returned to base. We successfully evaded four Allied destroyers on the way.”
The Admiral pursed his lips. “Your conduct was satisfactory,” he declared. “Kapitänleutnant Schacht’s death was regrettable but the blame is not yours. Nothing goes well for honest sailors when the schemes of the Gestapo are involved.” He turned away from the officer and stared out of the window to where the five surviving American sailors were being led away under guard. A separate group of soldiers were loading the crates containing Nostroyev and the Prince of Lies into the back of a truck. “Vampires. No good will come of associating with such creatures. Still, it is not my concern. Tell me of the boat. How did it perform?”
The Oberleutnant’s grave expression lightened. “Magnificently, Herr Admiral,” he said. “We attained seventeen knots submerged! At low speeds the battery endurance was amazing and, after the Americans boarded us, we lay on the bottom for a full forty-two hours and the air remained breathable. The new model radar detector made avoiding enemy aircraft a simple task. This boat makes the Type IX look like something from the last war.”
“Excellent, excellent,” Admiral Dönitz said. He turned back to face Hauser. “I must admit that I had my doubts about this design but your mission has dispelled them. I will recommend to the OKM that the Type XXI should go into immediate full production. We have taken heavy losses in the Atlantic this month but with this we can turn the tide once more. Germany shall be victorious!”
There was only one reply Oberleutnant Hauser could make to that. “Heil Hitler!”
The skies above Belgium, July 1946…
The formation had broken up into a chaotic whirl of individual dogfights. Flying Officer Edward Giles straightened out of a turn and saw a plane ahead. The black crosses on its wings marked it as German, its unique pushmi-pullyu propeller configuration showed it to be a Dornier Do 335, and Giles aimed his De Havilland Vampire at the enemy aircraft.
The Dornier was the fastest piston-engined fighter in the world and it would have been a formidable opponent for a Mustang, a Spitfire, or a Tempest. Even a Gloster Meteor jet would have found it to be no pushover but for a Vampire it was easy prey. Giles caught up with the German plane in moments and gave it a short burst with his cannon. The Dornier burst into flames and spiraled down through the clouds. The pilot was propelled forth from the cockpit by the ejector seat, a new innovation recently introduced by the Germans in some of their most advanced planes, and his parachute opened.
Giles felt a wave of elation. Not for the first time he reflected on the irony of his situation. For most of his life he had been training to fight against vampires, with his aim being to become a Watcher and hopefully to guide and mentor a Vampire Slayer; now he was flying a Vampire against the Nazis. He couldn’t afford to spend more than a moment on this reverie; he brought his mind back to the task at hand and scanned the sky for more of the enemy.
He saw another Vampire with a Me 262 coming up behind it. He moved to assist his fellow 247 Squadron pilot but there was no need. The Vampire out-maneuvered the Messerschmitt, reversed their positions, and blew it apart. Giles headed in that direction, intending to take up formation on the other Vampire’s wing until he could locate the other members of his own flight, but it dived away sharply and he lost sight of it. He went back to seeking out targets.
There. A slim single-engine jet fighter. A Heinkel He 162. As fast or faster than his Vampire, very maneuverable in the hands of a skilled pilot, but reportedly somewhat fragile. Giles closed in, keeping one eye peeled for other enemy planes, and threw the Vampire into a tight turn as the He 162 took evasive action. He managed to centre the German jet in the crosshairs of his sights and opened fire.
The Heinkel’s tail broke off and it plummeted earthwards. Another victory. This time there was no ejection by the pilot.
Giles leveled out and began once more to scan the skies. He caught a brief glimpse of something coming up fast from behind, something vaguely bat-shaped, and then his cockpit canopy starred and he felt a hammer-blow striking his shoulder. His left arm went numb and fell limply to his side.
He struggled with the controls, one-handed, and threw the Vampire into a rolling turn. The unknown enemy matched his turn and fired again. Suddenly the Vampire was spinning uncontrollably as one of the twin tail-booms snapped under the impact of cannon shells. Bailing out was his only chance of survival. Unfortunately the recently-developed British version of the ejector seat had not yet been fitted to Vampires and Giles could only fumble for the canopy release lever, fighting against the g-forces from the spin, desperately trying to get out of the doomed plane.
The canopy came free; too late. He had lost too much altitude. Giles was still in the plane when it smashed into the ground and exploded. He died without knowing that the Horten Ho 229 that had attacked him had lost speed as its cannons’ recoil acted as a brake, had come into the sights of another Vampire, and had been blown apart. Its wreckage landed only a hundred yards from the shattered remnants of the Vampire that was Giles’ coffin.
Berlin, July 1946…
The mood at OKW, the German equivalent of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was somber. The situation maps on the walls conveyed a grim picture.
“We no longer have air superiority over the Western Front,” Luftwaffe Generaloberst Ritter von Greim confessed. “The RAF’s Vampire jet fighters are only marginally inferior to the best of our aircraft. Too many of our pilots are young and inexperienced and there is no time to train them before we must throw them into the fray. With our technological edge gone there is no way that we can cope with the vastly greater numbers of the RAF and the Americans.”
“What you need is a Vampire Slayer,” Generaloberst Jodl, the OKW Chief of Staff, commented. He laughed. No-one else even cracked a smile and Jodl fell silent.
“The Focke-Wulf Ta 183 is more than a match for the Vampire, the Meteor, and the Shooting Star,” von Greim said, “but it will be at least three months before it is ready to enter squadron service. Can we hold out that long?”
“Without air superiority we cannot stop their ground forces,” Generalfeldmarschall Günther von Kluge said. “The British have entered Antwerp. If they take the port it will shorten their supply lines considerably. We will lose Belgium and the Netherlands altogether and they will be at our very gates.”
“The Soviets have crossed the Vistula in two places,” Generalfeldmarschall Schörner, commander of the army of the Eastern Front, put in. “They are attacking with enormous numbers of their Stalin heavy tanks. We desperately need more air support.”
“Our planes cannot be in two places at once,” von Greim replied. “Three, that is, as air defense of the Reich remains a priority.” He sighed. “I can perform some slight reorganization. Aircraft which no longer stand any chance of survival on the Western front may still achieve something against the Soviets. I shall transfer all the remaining squadrons of the Fw 190G to support Army Group East, and all the Bf 109s that are not already allocated to bomber interception.” He frowned. “In fact, I may as well take the 109s away from air defense altogether. Now that the Amis are employing their Superfortresses against us, with strong escort formations of Mustangs, the 109s are of limited use. They would be better employed against the Soviet planes.”
“It will help,” Schörner conceded, “but it will not be enough. The British have an expression ‘rearranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic’. The Allies simply have too many men, too many machines, and too much in the way of war materials for us to prevail indefinitely. Whatever changes we make to our organization and our tactics will not change that undeniable fact. Our advantage in quality is disappearing and their quantitative edge is becoming decisive.”
“The new British Centurion tank is superior to our Panther II, and in some ways better even than the King Tiger,” von Kluge remarked. “Who would have thought it possible? Their tanks have always been considerably inferior to ours. No longer.”
“Huh. You should think yourself lucky,” Schörner snorted. “You do not have to face the Stalin II, or worse, the Stalin III. That is a true terror machine.”
“Enough, both of you,” snapped Generalfeldmarschall Keitel, Head of the General Staff. “I want ideas, constructive ones, not pointless bickering about who faces the worse odds.”
“General Böhme has four hundred thousand men occupying Norway,” Generalfeldmarschall Model reminded the meeting. “I suggest that they no longer serve any useful purpose there. If they were evacuated and used to reinforce Army Group East…”
“If we abandon Norway we lose our best submarine bases,” Admiral Dönitz protested.
“Your U-boats are almost all gone,” Model retorted. “The American carriers have swept them from the seas.”
“My wolf-packs delayed the Allied invasion build-up for months,” Dönitz said. “It was only when Japan surrendered and the Allied carrier fleets were moved to the Atlantic that we began to suffer unsustainable losses.”
“And now we must guard our coastal cities against attack by carrier-borne aircraft,” von Greim added. “We are simply fighting on too many fronts. We must win a respite to build up our forces and I cannot see where such a respite can be achieved. If we are pushed back any further in the West then the V-1 flying bombs will no longer be able to reach England. The English will be free to unleash their Meteor jets, and the American Shooting Stars, for use in offensive operations. The situation over our skies will become even more critical.”
“Wait. I have an idea,” Generaloberst Jodl declared. “If we attack America directly they will pull back their aircraft for home defense. That will solve many of our problems at a stroke.”
“Surely the Americans would not be so stupid,” von Greim said. “Theirs is a vast country. We could not inflict enough damage with our few long-range bombers to cause them to change their entire strategy. A few squadrons, perhaps, but their resources are so great that it will make little impact.”
“Not if we use an atomic bomb,” Jodl said. “If we destroy New York I am sure that they will react by lining their East Coast with every fighter in their arsenal.”
“You may have a point, Alfred,” Keitel agreed, “but remember that they have atomic bombs too. Will they not retaliate?”
“They have not used their bombs on us thus far,” Jodl said. “I believe that they have very few. The Japanese were not capable of intercepting the American bombers. We can certainly destroy a single Superfortress, can we not, General von Greim?”
“Assuming they do not hide it within an entire formation,” von Greim replied. “It is my understanding that they used individual aircraft against the Japanese but they could use different tactics against us.” He raised a hand and adjusted the position of his cap. “I must confess I would like to see if the Amerika Bomber can perform as the Horten brothers have promised; yet I am also filled with a deathly fear of the consequences.”
“It may be the only way out of the dilemma in which we find ourselves,” Keitel said. “I shall take your proposition to the Fuhrer, Alfred. It is a decision that only he can make.”
Bedford-Stuyvesant, Borough of Brooklyn, New York, September 1946…
Nine-year-old Joshua Wood looked up into the sky as he made his way to school in the early morning. His father worked in the Sperry Gyroscope factory, an industry crucial to the war effort, manufacturers of gyrocompasses, bomb sights, and airborne radar systems. Young Joshua, however, was unaware of its importance. He wanted to be a fighter pilot when he grew up, in the 322nd Fighter Group, and to shoot down evil Nazi planes.
He could hear a strange noise from somewhere up above. It could only be an airplane but it didn’t sound like any plane he’d ever heard before. He searched the sky for it but saw nothing. He was looking in the wrong place; the Horten Ho XVIIIB Amerika Bomber was making its attack run at over six hundred miles an hour and was well ahead of where he looked. Joshua didn’t see the bomb falling from the plane; only the sudden light, brighter than the sun, as it detonated about quarter of a mile from its intended target, his father’s workplace.
He was rubbing his eyes, trying to clear them of the after-image that was completely blocking out his vision, when the blast wave hit him and smashed him into a bloody smear against a concrete wall.
Two hundred and eighteen thousand of Brooklyn’s inhabitants died with him, either vaporized in the fireball or else killed by the blast wave, burns, falling masonry, or radiation. Another sixty-two thousand died of their injuries or of radiation poisoning over the next week.
A hundred and twenty miles away a second Amerika Bomber made a bombing run over East Hartford, Connecticut, site of the Pratt & Whitney aero-engine factory and the Hamilton Standard airplane propeller manufacturing works. Ninety thousand people died there; including the crew of the Horten, which lost control when it was struck by the blast wave and fell out of the sky.
Two other planned bombings, to have been carried out by Junkers Ju 390 long-range piston engined bombers, failed. The planes never made it across the Atlantic; both were intercepted by carrier-borne fighters. One was shot down by Hawker Sea Furies of the Fleet Air Arm and the other was sent spiraling into the ocean by Grumman F8F Bearcats of the US Navy.
The naval pilots believed that they had shot down mere reconnaissance missions and never realized that they had saved hundreds of thousands of lives. They, like everyone else in the Allied armed forces, heard the news of the atomic bombs on America with grief and horror; like everyone else in the Allied armed forces, they were consumed with the desire for vengeance.
RAF Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, October 1946…
Ground crews worked, in the twilight before dawn, fueling and arming the B-29 Superfortress bombers of the 94th Bombardment Group (Heavy). Eight of the bombers had been fitted with modifications to their bomb bays and release mechanisms known by the designation of ‘Silverplate’. These were loaded with special bombs that were guarded by stone-faced men with M3 sub-machine guns. The guards stood in close attendance right until the moment when the planes began to taxi out for their take-off runs.
In the air the group linked up with the other groups belonging to the same bomber wing. The assembled formation was joined by the heaviest escort force of P-51D Mustangs and P-82B Twin Mustangs ever allocated to a single operation. The combined force set course for Berlin.
Berlin, October 1946…
Fifteen of the Superfortresses had been shot down and two had been forced to abort the mission with engine problems. One of those shot down had been carrying an atomic bomb. The one hundred and twenty-seven surviving planes, including seven nuclear-armed bombers, released their loads over Berlin.
Seven mushroom clouds, hundreds of yards apart, rose into the sky and merged into one maelstrom of destruction. Fifteen square miles of the city ceased to exist. Half a million Berliners died at once. Another two hundred thousand were trapped in air-raid shelters and underground railway stations, their exits blocked by pulverized concrete and mangled steel, dying slowly in the dark.
Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, October 1946…
A six-hundred bomber raid on Munich acted as a diversion to lure away the night-fighters. 617 Squadron of RAF Bomber Command peeled away from the main group well short of the target, passed south of the city, and made their way to Hitler’s alpine retreat.
One of their six-ton Tallboy deep penetration bombs had been fitted with an atomic warhead. When it went off it brought down the entire mountain and wiped Berchtesgaden from the face of the Earth.
Unfortunately Hitler had not been either in Berlin or at Berchtesgaden that day…
London, October 1946
There was no warning of an approaching V2. Faster than sound, in view too briefly to be seen unless you were already looking in the right direction, the first sign of an attack was the explosion of the one-ton warhead.
This time the explosion carried the power of twenty thousand tons of TNT. Eighty-six thousand Londoners were incinerated. An hour later a second nuclear-tipped V2 landed, three miles from the first, and another forty-eight thousand were added to the death toll.
Germany, November-December 1946
Mushroom clouds rose over Bremen, Dortmund, Hamburg, Frankfurt-am-Main, Hannover, Düsseldorf, Köln, and Leipzig. Three and a half million Germans died.
Generaloberst Alfred Jodl, once he was released from the hospital where he had been treated for injuries received in the A-bombing of Berlin, retired to his quarters with a bottle of schnapps and a Luger. He was buried with full military honors.
With the battle fronts stripped of fighters, all allocated to a desperate attempt to stop the bombers, the Allied ground attack aircraft ran riot. Shturmoviks in the East, Tempests and Thunderbolts in the West, smashed German tank formations and defensive positions. The Russians pushed from the Vistula to the Oder and overran East Prussia, Pomerania, and Silesia. Vienna fell. The British and Americans reached, and then crossed, the Rhine. A nuclear V2 obliterated the port of Antwerp, killing thirty thousand civilians and fifteen thousand Allied servicemen; it slowed the Allied advance only slightly.
The attempted withdrawal of the German army from Norway was intercepted by carrier fleets and turned into a massacre. Quarter of a million German troops drowned. Carrier-borne attack aircraft, as von Greim had predicted, ravaged German coastal towns.
For a while Hitler seemed to lead a charmed life. He traveled the country, always being somewhere else when the nuclear bombs fell, haranguing the people and assuring them that victory was at hand. Then, as he was addressing a meeting of the few survivors of the OKW staff and the new members brought in to replace the dead, Generalmajor Rudolf Christoph von Gersdorff shot him twice through the head with a Walther P-38.
Göring had died in Berlin, Himmler in Hamburg, and it was Generalfeldmarschall Keitel who grasped the reins of power and ordered Germany’s immediate unconditional surrender.
At last the war was over.
Sunnydale, California, June 1997
The Master drank from Buffy Summers’ neck. “Oh, God, the power!” he exclaimed. He tossed her aside, sending her face down into a pool of water, and stepped toward the invisible barrier that had kept him imprisoned for sixty years. “And, by the way, I like your dress,” he commented over his shoulder. Buffy, unconscious, did not hear his quip. Water covered her nose and mouth.
The Master reached the barrier, put his hands against it, and pushed. It gave way. He contorted his deformed face into something approximating a smile and walked out into the world.
A world in which the man who would have fathered Rupert Giles had died seven years before Rupert was due to be born. A world in which Buffy Summers had still been Chosen, despite the variation in the Slayer line due to Nikki Wood never having existed, but where Buffy drowned and stayed dead.
In the High School library Xander Harris was arguing with Buffy’s Watcher Lydia Chalmers. “You can’t just...” he was saying. He broke off as Cordelia and Willow burst in, fleeing in mad panic, with a horde of vampires at their heels.
The fight that followed was brief. Xander died quickly, his neck broken by a vampire, and another vampire ripped out Lydia’s throat. The two girls were seized and held helpless.
“Damn,” the Master said, entering the library through the skylight and jumping down to the floor. “I had planned on turning that boy. Oh, well, the girl will make a satisfactory substitute. You can’t have too many attractive female minions.”
He took hold of Cordelia’s chin, ignoring her vehement protests, tilted her head to one side and plunged home his fangs. “Not bad,” he commented. He drank again, until Cordelia sagged weakly in his grasp, and then he used a fingernail to slit open one of the veins of his wrist. He placed the bleeding wound against her lips, clamped the fingers of his other hand over her nose, and forced her to open her mouth. She resisted for a minute but eventually she swallowed. Once some of the blood had gone down her throat her struggles ceased and she sucked, seemingly willingly, on the vein.
“Excellent,” the Master said. “I sense that this one could be a possible replacement for the sadly deceased Darla.” He cocked his head and stared at Willow. “This girl, too, has more potential than is evident at first sight,” he said. He relinquished his hold on Cordelia, leaving her to his minion, and went to Willow. The Master bit deep, drank, and then repeated the procedure he had followed with Cordelia.
“And now,” he said, dropping Willow’s dying form to the floor, “I think it’s about time we opened the Hellmouth.”
Sunnydale, California, April 2002
The light in the Magic Box was dim. Heavy shutters covered the windows, the door was barred, and the light bulbs were of ridiculously low wattage.
“What on...?” Anyanka exclaimed, and then the memories of the revised time-line sank in and she realized what had happened. She glanced around the room and her nose wrinkled. It was quite obvious, from the unsatisfactory way in which the goods for sale were arranged, that in this reality she had no connection with the management of the Magic Box.
“Bravo!” D’Hoffryn popped into existence beside her, the borders of his portal leaving a circular scorch mark on the floor, and clapped his hands. “Absolutely magnificent. Nine million extra deaths in World War 2, four million more when the Korean War went nuclear, the Hellmouth open and the Master ruling California as his own personal domain. Misery on an almost unprecedented scale. I do think you’ve set the new record.”
“I’ve broken Dracaena Poine’s record?” Anyanka’s eyes widened.
“Indeed so,” D’Hoffryn confirmed. “Not the record for the sheer number of violent deaths, the twenty-three million she clocked up when she started the Taiping Rebellion will take some beating, but radiation poisoning is such a horrible way to die that I have to give you the title. And, of course, the chaos and despair from the opening of the Hellmouth has to be taken into consideration. Well done. Superb work, Anyanka, truly superb.”
“So Willow is, presumably, a psychotic bitch in black leather who gets bored easily,” Anyanka mused, “and Xander is dead. Dead without ever even meeting me, never knowing what he had done wrong, and without any chance to feel remorse.”
“A minor flaw, I suppose, at least from your point of view,” D’Hoffryn said, “but it doesn’t spoil the overall result. Congratulations, Anyanka. Now it is time for us to return to Arash’mahaar. There is an awards ceremony for you to attend.”
“I never wanted any of this,” Anyanka said. She pulled the talisman from around her neck. “I’m not going back to Arash’mahaar. I’m sorry, Lord D’Hoffryn.” She dropped the talisman on the floor and stamped on it. There was a flash and suddenly the room was brightly illuminated again. The shutters were gone from the windows and Spike was, once more, sitting facing her and nursing a glass of Jack Daniels.
“But most of all, pet,” Spike said, “I wish – mmmph!” Anya clamped her hand over his mouth and cut him off short.
“Don’t say it!” Anya hissed. She jerked her chin to the left. Spike turned his eyes in that direction and saw D’Hoffryn. He nodded and Anya took her hand away.
“Bloody hell, where did you come from?” Spike exclaimed.
“Arash’mahaar, of course,” D’Hoffryn replied. “Anyanka, I’m very disappointed in you. You won’t get another chance.”
“I don’t care,” Anya said. “It’s not what I wanted. I just intended to get vengeance on Xander; not on millions of people I’ve never met, and who’ve never done anything to me.”
“That’s what the business is all about... Anya,” D’Hoffryn said. “Had you forgotten?”
“Yes,” Anya said. “I had forgotten. Now I remember and I don’t want anything to do with it. Go away.”
D’Hoffryn shook his head. “You will regret this,” he said, and then he disappeared in the traditional cloud of smoke.
Spike’s eyebrows went up and down. He reached for the whiskey and took another drink. “So, pet,” he said, “Mind telling me just what all that was about?”
“You made a wish,” Anya replied. “I granted it. It... didn’t go well.”
Spike looked down at the shattered pieces of talisman on the floor. “Hadn’t realized that you’d gone back to being a demon. S’ppose that was a bit slow of me. Now I look back on what you were saying it should have been bloody obvious you were angling for a wish.” His forehead creased up. “What did I wish for?”
“That you’d never been born,” Anya answered.
“Oh, yeah, I remember,” Spike said. “Wouldn’t have thought it would have made all that much difference to things. ‘S not like I matter.”
“You’d be surprised,” Anya said. “The world was a whole lot worse without you in it.”
Spike’s eyebrows climbed high. “Dunno if anyone’s ever told me that before. Hang on. Acathla, right? Did the world get sucked into Hell?”
“Not exactly,” Anya told him. “Just a couple of nuclear wars and the Hellmouth opened.”
“Oh.” Spike’s eyebrows rose still higher. “You’re kidding me, right?”
“No,” Anya said, “I’m really not.” She poured out another glass of whiskey, contemplated it for a moment, and then took a small sip. “I’m not clear on all the details but I gather it had something to do with U-boats.”
“Well, I was on one once, so I s’ppose that makes some sort of sense,” Spike said. “Ate the crew – sodding Nazi bastards – Angel turned up, and he handed the sub over to the Yanks. Might not have happened without me.”
Anya nodded. “Angel was dead long before then, in the other reality,” she said. “That’s probably it.” She pursed her lips and frowned at Spike. “Why did you have to make such a stupid wish anyway? I thought that, even if I couldn’t talk you into wishing for something bad to happen to Xander, at least you’d have wished for Buffy to love you. That would have made Xander very upset and given me some degree of vengeance.”
“Wouldn’t have been right,” Spike said. “Can’t just make someone love you. Learnt that with the Bot. Wouldn’t have wished for anything like that.”
“Then what? Apart from wishing you hadn’t been born, of course, which I guess was just because you were feeling depressed at how Buffy had been treating you.”
“Yeah, that’s the truth,” Spike confirmed. “What I really wish is that Buffy would understand how I feel about her. Not just bloody take it for granted that I can’t love, and I must be delusional, but know how it really is.” He tilted his head to one side and smiled at Anya. “And that Donut Boy would understand how much of an absolute sodding pillock he was to walk out on a bloody gorgeous and smart piece like you.”
The training room door swung open and Halfrek, in demon face rather than her human form, stepped through into the shop. She grinned at Spike and winked to Anya. “Granted!”