Willow was agitated. A walk to Xander's house and back should take no more than twenty minutes, and an hour later, no Tara. She strode purposefully along the dark street feeling secure against any attackers, but not because she could use magics against them.
She was so irritated she would tear them limb from limb.
A couple out for a stroll passed her, and they said something like hi, but she ignored them.
Then she saw Anya running her way, across the street. Willow called her name. Either Anya didn't hear or else she just ignored her, so Willow cast up an arm and incanted, "Hold!"
Anya's forward motion stopped, as she bounced off a transparent force. She looked Willow's way and waved pettishly.
"Why are you running?" Willow demanded.
"Oh, hello, Mister Fimple," Anya returned. "Can you please keep your magic goo out of my way? I was running."
"Don't call me that."
"What, Fimple? It's your new name. Miss Down said we should use all your new names in public, so you'll get used to them. Can I call you Alex then? Calling you Xander would confuse everyone."
"Fine," Willow sighed. "I'm headed for Xander's house." She studied Anya's reaction. "Were you there just now?"
"You mean Kendra Hughes' house. Yes. I was there, and you don't want to go unless you want heartbreak. Kendra's in bed with Tara. I suppose I should have expected it, since I was holding out and all."
Willow's eyes turned to dark flints and she hurried past Anya without another word.
"Go get them," Anya urged. "I once turned my husband into a troll, so there are options."
Around the next corner she encountered Tara hurrying her way. As they locked eyes Tara slowed her gait. Her head declined like a naughty dog's, and Willow knew it was true. She did an about-face and wiped her eyes with a sleeve.
"Willow," Tara called diffidently. "I was just coming-"
"Right." Willow swung around, her eyes shining. "You were doing Xander. Did he, like … rub those sick thumbs all over you?"
"No," Tara protested. "It was something else, there-"
"So that's what you were looking for, something else?" Tara started to reply but Willow slashed the air and muttered a quick incantation. Tara's voice was gone.
"Isn't this different?" Willow indicated her body. "If you wanted to walk the wild side, honey, how is cheating with another woman so different? You just wanted to cheat, that's all. And I gave my heart to you, you stinking, whiney little butch, and you have the balls to bed down with my best friend. My best friend, and right now- tonight - when I can't miss finding out. I hate you.
"You're nothing to me. You're not a lover, you're not a friend. I don't want to know you, or what you do. You can pick up your stuff from my parents' and my dorm. Call in advance so I don't have to be there."
She grasped Tara's face in her hands and planted an angry kiss on her lips.
"You broke my heart, Tara. You broke my heart."
Willow pushed her away. With a dismissive fillip she released the gag, and Tara babbled excuses.
"Willow, you don't understand. I don't like Xander that way, it was something else. It was magic!"
Willow covered her ears and began to run. Magic, she called it. With all the magic she could give Tara, she had to seek the magical charms of her doofus pal. It had to be Xander. Really? Just 'cause he's encased in, like, that really hot body.
She caught up to Anya.
"Hey Mister Fimp-er, Alex. Did you see them together? You're back so quickly. You didn't see them, did you? I wanted them both to be trolls."
"They're already there," Willow retorted. "Anya," she went on casually," walking along with the ex-demon, "you like the way I look, right?"
"Yes, very much. You look like Colin Farrell, although you butchered your bushy eyebrows. You should let them grow in again."
"Why don't we go to your place. Better yet, let's get a motel room."
"Revenge." Willow's fists choked an invisible neck before her.
"We can't get revenge unless we're in a motel?"
"To sleep with each other, Anya."
"I can sleep at home. I'd rather have se-"
Anya smiled slyly. "You want to have sex with me?"
"Oh." Anya's smile faded. "My heart is broken, though. I don't think I can enjoy it so much."
"I'll pay for the room."
"Okay." Anya brightened. They turned in the direction of downtown.
"It's a great idea. I should've done something like this the first time, instead of turning Olaf into a troll. Of course, I'd've been stoned for sure by the townspeople. They looked harshly on adultery by women. But Olaf's heart would have shattered like mine. Instead, as a troll he goes around-"
Willow whispered a temporary deafness spell for herself, letting Anya chatter away happily until they reached the Motel 6.
Ethan Rayne sat sipping tea and glaring at Andrew, who stood uncomfortably before him. He smacked his lips and set the mug on a side table.
"What do you mean, you don't know?"
"Hey, I only followed them to her - I mean, the Giles guy's house. They went in. I can't see through walls, Mr. Rayne."
Rayne rose quickly and marched to the end of the room to a stack of iron bars lay. Picking one up, he bent it in his hands, his breath hiccupping with effort. He threw it down with a clatter. Gathering momentum, he leapt forward and up, and completed nearly an entire flip. He landed on his tailbone and grimaced with the pain. After rocking his body for a moment, he recovered and got up.
"This is still too difficult," he snarled. "I have more energy, more strength, but not near enough. They couldn't have all caved in yet. Giles must not have succumbed.
"I paid you!" he shouted, leveling a finger at Andrew. "I paid you quite handsomely for a simple love curse on Rupert Giles. How can he be in love if I can't do this?"
Rayne essayed a cartwheel, turned it into a somersault and a gainer and smashed upside-down into the wall. He grunted in pain, and got up, presenting himself to Andrew expectantly.
"Mr. Rayne, my man got into Giles' apartment the same night they met. I don't know this Giles at all, but does that sound like something he would do if he weren't under a love spell?"
Rayne pulled at his chin thoughtfully. You're right," he announced, going back to his tea. "He was never one for shagging, except for one all-to-brief, glorious period when he was the Ripper." He grinned at the memory. "Oh, Ripper was all for the birds, let me tell you. For a while there, he exhibited true magnetism."
His grin disappeared, and he jabbed his finger accusingly at Andrew. "I had better get their powers, I mean all of them. Or I will make your sorry life such a burden you'll beg me for death."
Andrew recoiled. "Dude, you've been hanging with the bad boy too much."
Rayne stepped toward him. "What's that you say, boy?"
"I'm on your side, Mister Rayne." Andrew retreated until his back was to the wall. "I did the spell. You have to give it more than just one day."
Rayne thought about that. He gulped the last of his tea and threw the mug to shatter on the pile of iron bars. "You're right, boy. The magics I have summoned are playing with my ego. Trying to make me mad with power. Yes, you've done your job. You're to be commended."
He pulled a wad of money from his hip pocket. "Here's another five thousand. I want you to keep an eye on Giles, tell me when you think the time has come.
"You should have stayed!" he thundered disjointedly. "You could have given me a more complete report."
He unclenched his fists and laughed. "Whoo. Look at me. Here, Andrew, take the money."
Andrew reached way out with wary fingers.
"I should have had you place the spell on yourself."
Andrew's face pinched in distaste.
"Or in fact on me, myself. Yes. I could have disguised myself. He would fall in love with me … then I could lord it over him as soon as the act was complete. The double agony of Rupert Giles' fall from grace, to find out the man he loved…"
Andrew backed toward the door, slowly pocketing the money. He nodded encouragement as Rayne's eyes bulged his way. He got the door open and with a final wave, closed it and ran for all he was worth.
Giles whistled the chorus to Rule Britannia as he opened up The Magic Shop. He was surprised not to see Anya already there, but then again she had put in late hours the day before.
He observed the heavy pile of books on the table and wondered why he had left such a frightful mess. That was an eyesore to his customers. It took him forty minutes to restore all the books to their rightful berths on the shelves. All part of the Dewey Decimal System that had yet to fail him.
A goth wannabe wiccan trundled in, buying a slurry of nonsense for whatnot. She paid in mostly coins, but instead of being annoyed, Giles chuckled and told her he was short on change, so this worked out nicely. It was a lie, of course, he always started the day with a full complement of coins in the register, but he wished to ease her embarrassment.
"Good day now, come again," he singsonged as she left. She gave him a sarcastic eye roll.
Something tugged at his mind, then. He frowned, trying to remember it. It was probably James he wished to think about. Ah yes, James. The image of his handsome face made him smile.
Giles clenched his fists. This was disastrous. He was Rupert Giles, not Hermione … whatever. He surveyed the research table, not recalling why there was a dearth of books there.
I must have put them away.
He went over the scene with the goth girl, recalling his fawning obsequiousness.
"This is not me," he cried aloud, grabbing his head in his hands. He felt his hair go askew, and tried to straighten it. "Goodness," he breathed, reaching for his clasp and hairpin. His chestnut brown hair fell over his shoulders, and he set down the hardware and began gathering his locks. He paused, thinking, this isn't right, and let the hair drop back down. Jim would probably love to see him with his hair down. He remembered their long goodbye, exchanging niceties at the door. Did he want a kiss? Certainly. maybe one kiss would have been … no, no. Men are more interested if a woman holds back.
The door opened and a pair of teenagers came in. The girl had studs piercing her lip, her eyebrow and her nose. The boy wore pants that sagged so low, he hobbled like a prisoner on a chain gang.
"Well, good afternoon," Giles greeted them, smiling warmly.