Tara waited outside The Magic Box, hidden by a concealment spell, until Anya came sneaking up to open the store.
"What are you doing here?" Anya asked. "Aren't you supposed to be in college or something?"
"It doesn't start for another few weeks, if it starts at all. I need to talk to you Anya, do you have a couple of minutes?"
Anya shrugged and went in. Tara followed.
"I have to open up, but you can talk to me while I do."
"I haven't seen Willow in a week," Tara said, "or Xander, or Giles."
Anya went to the register and turned it on. She checked the paper roll and knelt to unlock the change safe.
"Anya, are you ignoring me?"
"No. I heard you. You haven't seen Alex, or Kendra, or Miss Down. That's a statement, not a question."
"Have you seen them?"
Anya rose and put the change tray in the register, slapping the drawer shut. "I haven't seen my ex-boyfriend Xander since you decided to sleep with him while he's a delightfully pretty lesbian. I haven't seen Willow since I had a one-night stand with her good-looking man-body at the cheapest motel she could find."
Tara drew in a sharp breath. Her hand shot to her mouth.
"Turnabout's a bitch, isn't it?" Anya picked up a feather duster and swooped away toward the bookshelves. "I've seen Giles, or Hermione Down, as you should call her, two days ago when she came in with her fiancé to tell me she's getting married."
"How about Buffy?"
"Mmm. Not so much. Why do you ask?"
Tara just looked at her.
Outside, demons of various types and sizes and temperaments roamed freely. Havoc erupted from place to place, wherever a demon encountered a human who expressed some dissatisfaction at the comportment of said demon.
"If you don't like the way I treat your wife," a beefy Farrago demon snarled, lifting a luckless man over his head, "why'd you bother to get married to 'er?"
With that he threw the man onto a parked Honda Civic. The windshield shattered and the man disappeared inside the car.
The Farrago demon threw back his head and laughed and then, taking on a serious look, he said, "Thirty mpg city, forty-five highway. What can I do to put you in this car today?"
There was no sign of life in the vehicle.
"That's right, I forgot!" the demon howled. "I already put you in it."
"That's not very funny."
The demon whipped around.
"Huh? Was that you said that?"
"A Welter demon stood leaning against a parking meter." "Yes I did. So what? You want to make something out of it?"
"No. I just thought you might be the slayer. I've been kind of waiting to hear some wisecrack, it's a typical prelude to slayer combat ."
"Yeah?" The Welter demon was bored.
"There is no need to fear the slayer any longer," Ethan Rayne intoned, walking imperiously up to them. "Her misguided ways are a thing of the past. I am the new being to fear in Sunnydale."
The two demons laughed at him.
Tara pointed to the outside. "Anya, if you didn't know what was going on out there, why did you sneak up under protection? I can feel a spell on the Magic Box itself."
"I should have put up a spell against nosey busybodies."
There was an explosion outside. The two women ran to the window and parted the blinds. Down the street, Ethan Rayne stood with his arms raised before a flaming Honda Civic, while two demons rotated above it, cooking evenly.
Anya took a deep breath and turned to Tara. "Buffy went to Vegas and married Spike and Xander's stripping at a club on the strip, Willow left in a rented car and Giles is shacking up at his place with that good-looking robot."
Tara's head spun. "Buffy married-Xander's stripping-did you say Giles and a robot?"
Anya nodded. "You guys can't tell, but I can." She smiled smugly. "I know things, too."
The door flew open. Tara and Anya retreated as Rayne floated in, ducking so as not to hit his head on the threshold. He saw the girls and de-levitated to the floor.
He wore royal colors, a purple ermine tunic with vermillion trim. A large medallion hung around his neck. His trousers were gray, silk damask leggings, with knee high boots of charcoal black leather.
Anya screwed up her face. "Ugh. What is that you're wearing?"
Rayne scowled and drew back his hand, as if about to strike out. Then, calming himself, he brought it down again.
"I am clad in the appointments accorded a god who is no man's servant."
"Right. So you answer to no one, but feel compelled to wear that fruity crap?"
"Anya," Tara shot her a warning look.
Anya leaned in close to her. "The source of his power is in the medallion. See if you can get it."
Rayne once again controlled his anger. "I have come to find Giles. I wish to share something with him." His eyes shot to and fro. "Is he here?"
"Okay then." Rayne half-turned, then an idea struck him. "This is Giles' store, isn't it?"
Anya's face froze.
Tara said, "No, no, it used to be. But he sold it to Hawsnn volunn fffuffr."
"Who?" Rayne was becoming very annoyed.
Tara stepped closer to him. "I said, he sold it to-"
She grabbed the medallion and hauled away with her entire body weight. The medallion whipped off with ease and Tara flew back and hit the floor.
Anya clapped her hands together and burst into a relieved laugh. "So cool. Tara, you're fantastic. Whoo! Big shot, new god in town, eh?" She stepped toward Rayne with her shoulders squared back. "Crawl away, you sorry little man, you have no more power here. I was vengeance demon once, the best. I can still wreak a little bloody vengeance on you. You … tiny penis little boy."
"No, Anya, don't."
Anya scoffed. "Why? He's the one advertising, wearing those tights. My statement is accurate and insulting."
"No, that's not what I mean. It's this." Tara stood up and held out the medallion. Anya looked closely and read the inscription.
"Second prize Binghampton Waltz Contest?"
Rayne trembled with anger. He said in a tremulous voice, "I should've gotten first prize. Politics …"
He flung out his hands and a powerful jet of energy threw the women back. They tumbled into shelves, smashing wood and shattering glass. Talismans, beads, candles, books and other supplies scattered across the floor. Anya got immediately to her feet and glared defiantly at Rayne.
Tara sighed from her landing place, under a broken lowboy.
Rayne waved a disgusted hand at her. "I would fry you now, ex-vengeance demon, but I want you to find Giles and tell him. Tell him his old friend Ethan Rayne is the one who destroyed him and his friends. Tell him I will visit soon to take his very life!"
He proceeded regally to the door. A small blue cape feathered down his back.
"I will," Anya called, "if I can get him away from that robot."
Warren tiptoed into the bedroom, making no noise in his Traxx tennis shoes. Andrew lay supine on the floor, his voice providing the onomatopoeia for Obi Wan's and Luke Skywalker's lightsabers.
"You're finished, old man, I'm going with Daddy."
He sibilated a lightsaber parry.
"No Luke. Don't give in to the Darkside."
More lightsaber thrusts and blocks.
"I am the Darkside, you senile old fart!"
"Aw! Luke, don't cut that off, I beseech you."
Warren stepped onto Andrew's back. "Don't disrespect the trilogy, goatboy."
Andrew huffed as his breath was pressed out of him. He wheezed a faint protest. Warren did a small shuffle before stepping off. "Ow." Andrew rolled to a sitting position, wincing and rubbing. "You shouldn't do that. I could wind up paralyzed."
"Yeah. Then you couldn't lead a productive life. Look butthole, I want my 'bot back."
"Why? You weren't using him."
"After this long, you could've back engineered him and made your own. Well, not you, but some moron could."
"Okay, I'll see what I can do."
Warren dropped to the floor. "Not good enough. I need him now. For protection. It's getting crazy out there. Demons on every corner, smackin' the normals around. With Garnerbot, I can keep the number of atomic wedgies in the single digits."
Warren picked up the Obi Wan and Luke figures, determined to make things right between them.
"That wasn't me, Luke. Just a very lifelike droid, invented by a genius."
"Yeah. Well I'll-"
"You'll lose that attitude!"
Warren susurrated a slashing lightsaber blow, followed by a horrific cry.
"Ahh! My hand, you cut it off."
"Don't," Andrew whined, reaching for his action figures.
Warren held them away. "That's right Luke. Won't be the last time that happens to you. Now straighten up and fly right, boy."
"I will, Ben. I want to go with you to Alderaan and become a Jedi Knight like my father."
"Givit," Andrew demanded, climbing Warren's back.
"Then let's get to Alderaan," Warren said hurriedly, and threw the figures across the room.
"Hex," he said, "no matter what else they do, this really happened."
"Noooo," Andrew griped, falling back. "You're always messing with my stuff."
"Star Wars isn't yours, stupid. It's immutable. Like Garnerbot, and me, wanting him back. Like now."
"Okay, I'll get'm back."
Andrew sat up again. "Something else?"
Warren picked up Andrew's pair of K-Mart track shoes and tossed them to him.
"I don't want those. Give me that pair, under there, the cool ones." he pointed.
Warren retrieved the shoes from under the bed. They were Zits.