Disclaimer: All characters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy Productions. I do this for fun, not for profit.
Distribution: The Mystic Muse: http://mysticmuse.net
The End: http://www.asifyousaw.com/fiction/
Anywhere, but ask first
Feedback: Yes please.
Spoilers: Season 6.
Author's Note: Read Somewhere I Belong and If Forever Ends Tomorrow first or you won't know what the frilly heck is going on.
Summary: The day's repeating, and Tara's the only one who knows it. Can she break the time loop and protect her friends from a demon?
Tara smacked her hand down on the alarm clock and then remembered it didn't have a snooze button. Her digital clock had died the day before, and Dawn had loaned her a wind-up Hello Kitty clock. She smiled at the pink-bowed cat as she switched off the alarm.
She looked over at a picture of Willow from the first Christmas they spent together. The red-head was holding some ribbon from an unwrapped present for Miss Kitty Fantastico to play with. Sadly, Miss Kitty had disappeared a few months after Christmas. Then Tara corrected herself. She always had to. She was used to saying Christmas, but she and Willow, being Wiccans, had chosen to call it Winter Solstice, considering neither had been raised under the same holiday traditions.
"Good morning, Willow," she said as she slipped out of bed and headed out into the hall. She was almost to the bathroom when Dawn rushed past her.
"Coming through!" the younger Summers girl called out as she slammed the door behind her.
"Dawn," Tara sighed. She had become accustomed to the daily bathroom struggle. She just hoped she would beat Buffy to the shower before all the hot water was gone. If there was one thing the slayer indulged in on a daily basis, it was a long shower.
Having lost the bathroom to Dawn, she headed downstairs and resolved to make breakfast in time for Dawn to eat when she got downstairs. That would leave the bathroom open for her morning routine.
When Dawn got downstairs she smiled at the large pile of pancakes in the center of the kitchen island.
"You are the pancake queen," Dawn said. Then she noticed a bowl of scrambled eggs and a stack of toast. "Okay, what's with the super-sized breakfast?"
"It's your first day at the new high school," Tara said. "From what Willow tells me, it's not a good idea to learn over the Hellmouth on an empty stomach."
"That depends on how squeamish you are," Buffy said. She was showered and dressed and Tara sighed inwardly, knowing that her shower this morning would be short-lived. She hadn't realized that she had been downstairs that long. "Sometimes it's a better idea to have an empty stomach. I saw a dead body on my first day at Sunnydale High."
"Wow. Dead bodies and Hellmouths," Dawn said. "Something tells me homeroom won't be as boring as I think."
"Remember. I'm going with you into the school," Buffy said. "If I get any Hellmouth vibes, I'm yanking you out and sending you to the private school across town."
Dawn looked pleadingly to Tara. "Pray for no Hellmouth vibes. Demons are better than uniforms."
"Or maybe home schooling," Buffy mused. "Home schooling would be better. Cheaper."
Tara chuckled and placed the last pieces of toast with the rest. "Well, while you two debate education options for Dawn, I'm going to take a shower." She walked over to Dawn and gave her a hug. "Good luck today."
"Thanks," Dawn said. She grabbed a plate and started loading it with food. Buffy turned and followed Tara, catching her at the bottom of the stairs.
"Hey, Tara," she said. Tara turned and saw the concerned look on Buffy's face. "How are you doing? You haven't really said much about, you know, the lack of Warrens ever since your spell back-fired."
Tara sighed. Truth was she had become pretty good at keeping up a façade, but it was still hard to hide the guilt. The nightmare that had prompted her to change her mind had become a recurring one. Willow was the only person who knew that fact, but Tara hadn't had much opportunity to talk to Willow for a few days.
"I'm trying to move on," she said. Buffy nodded her head, getting the hint. Tara didn't want to talk about it. The slayer knew survivor guilt all too well.
"Well, I know I'm not Willow, but if you ever need to talk," she offered. She was about to go back to Dawn when she paused. "You kept a huge secret for me, with the whole Spike thing. I don't think I ever thanked you for that."
She smiled, and she realized it wasn't just an expression of gratitude. It was Buffy's way of saying that she would be there for her, not just as the slayer but also as a friend. She nodded her head in understanding and Buffy smiled before turning back to the kitchen, leaving Tara to salvage her shower with whatever was left of the hot water.
Anya sat in the diner and paid for the two drinks that the waitress set in front of her and her lunch companion. She had made a new friend. Her new friend had just been dumped by her boyfriend. He had commitment issues.
"Men like him deserve to be punished," Anya said.
"Yeah," Kari agreed, taking another drink. Then she smiled. "My only consolation is that he got hit by a car right after we broke up. Serves him right."
Anya smiled slightly. She could sense that this was going somewhere.
"I wish he could get hit by that car over and over," Kari said. Anya nodded her head.
Tara looked up when the bell above the shop door jingled and Dawn came in, a smile on her face as she tossed her book bag on the table.
"Hey, Dawnie," she said with a smile. "How was the first day at school?"
"Buffy was being so paranoid," Dawn said. "No Hellmouth stuff happened. It was kind of boring. No demons."
"Well, speaking of demons, we're going to have to wait for Anya to get back before we do the mocha thing," Tara said.
Suddenly, in a bright blue flash, a large robed demon appeared in the shop. Tara instinctively moved toward Dawn.
"I'm here for the key," the demon said, its deep voice resonating in the shop. Dawn's eyes widened in fear and Tara stepped in front of her.
"No," Tara said. She held out her right hand. "Incindere."
A flash of fire burst in front of the demon and Tara turned to Dawn, pushing her toward the door of the shop.
"Let's get out of here," Tara said. Dawn turned and rushed to the door, but she stopped when she realized Tara wasn't behind her. When she turned she saw the demon holding Tara a foot off the ground by her neck. Tara was clawing at his wrist and trying to say a spell in her defense, but he was gripping her neck tight enough so that she couldn't speak.
"Tara!" Dawn shouted.
"I'm here for the key," the demon said. "It's here. I know it."
Dawn picked up a sword and moved toward the demon.
"You want your key? Let her go and I'll give it to you," Dawn said, holding the sword up defensively.
The demon threw Tara aside, sending her crashing into the display case. She fell to the floor amidst the broken glass, gasping for breath. She watched in horror as Dawn charged the demon with the sword and the demon grabbed it away from her. Dawn fell to the floor and the demon jabbed the sword downward, stabbing down into her chest. He watched as her eyes fluttered closed and she collapsed.
"Dawn," she said, trying to shout but only managing a whisper. The demon approached her with the sword and raised it in a back swing, ready to chop off her head. But suddenly he cried out and dropped the sword. He fell over onto his side and then disappeared in a blue flash. Tara looked up to see Anya standing there with an axe.
"I'm sorry I was gone so long," Anya said as she knelt beside Tara. "Are you okay?"
"Dawn," Tara said, her voice beginning to return. She crawled over to Dawn and Anya followed her. Anya reached over and checked for a pulse on Dawn's neck. Her eyes were filled with sadness and sympathy when she looked up to Tara.
Tara switched off the Hello Kitty alarm clock when it rang at 6:30 and picked it up, staring at the cartoon cat. A lump formed in her throat as she focused on the pink bow, thinking about Dawn. She didn't even think about the fact that she didn't remember getting ready for bed the previous night or setting the alarm. The last thing she remembered was comforting Buffy.
She had only seen Buffy cry twice before, and it wasn't for her mother's funeral. When Joyce died, Buffy had been cold, almost robotic. It was only later, when she was alone with Dawn, that Buffy had finally broke down. But Tara didn't witness that. She witnessed the slayer's tears under very unexpected circumstances. Buffy's admission that she was sleeping with Spike and that Spike could hurt her had caught Tara very much off guard. And when Buffy broke down into tears, crying in Tara's lap, she had been even more confused.
The previous night, there was no confusion, only pure sorrow. Everyone had gathered at the Summers' home. Of course, 'everyone' was only comprised of four people now, with Giles and Willow in England. Buffy had cried longer than Tara had seen anyone cry before. Tara cried with her. Even Xander cried. Anya hadn't cried, but Tara didn't find that suspicious. She just assumed with Anya being a demon again that kind of stopped the tears. She wasn't really sure, and she didn't have time to think about it. All she knew was that Dawn was dead, and there was no way to bring her back. She had failed in protecting Dawn at the Magic Box. She felt there had to have been something else she could have done. Now she had to make up for it. She would look after Buffy, and she would be there for Buffy. That's what she would do.
She forced herself out of bed, ready to make her way down the hall to check on Buffy. She glanced at the picture of Willow. God, I wish you were here.
She assumed Buffy had eventually made her way to her bedroom. Her memory of the events of the previous evening was fuzzy at best. She assumed that was because of her emotional state at the time.
As she was just about to pass the bathroom door, she felt someone push past her.
"Coming through!" Dawn said as she rushed into the bathroom and closed the door. Tara froze in her place.
"Dawn?" she whispered, now thoroughly confused. She stood there for a moment, trying to decide if she really had just seen and heard what she just saw and heard. She knocked on the door lightly. "Dawnie?"
"Yeah, I know," Dawn called through the door. "I'll be fifteen minutes tops."
Was that a ghost? Tara wondered. She had heard of ghosts being able to touch things, but never this soon after death. She couldn't understand what had just happened. It was definitely Dawn. She just had to figure out how. She moved toward Buffy's room and knocked on the door before opening it.
She stepped into the room to see Buffy sitting up sleepily. When she saw Tara she offered a slight smile.
"Good morning," Buffy said. "What's up? Did I oversleep?"
"Oversleep?" Tara asked. Buffy didn't seem sad at all. It was like her sister had never died. That certainly seemed to be the case, but Tara wasn't sure how. "No, you didn't, but Dawn…"
Tara trailed off and Buffy stood, stretching her arms above her head. "She got to the bathroom first, didn't she?" Buffy noticed the confused expression on Tara's face and her smile faded. "Are you okay?"
"I just…I guess I had a nightmare," Tara finally said. That was the only thing that could explain it. Perhaps it was just a really vivid nightmare. It would explain why she couldn't remember the events of the previous night after a certain time. "It felt really real."
"Was it the Warrens?" Buffy asked, thinking that was the most plausible nightmare for Tara to have.
"Uh, no. It was something else," she replied. "It's not important I guess. It was just a nightmare."
"Are you sure?" Buffy asked. "What was it about? Sometimes my nightmares come true."
"It was just this thing…with Dawn. It's not important," she replied. She shrugged off the uneasy feeling she had and forced a smile. "I'll go make breakfast."
"Oh yeah, you promised Dawn pancakes for her first day at the new school," Buffy said. "I'm still not comfy with her going to school on the Hellmouth. Do you think she'd object to going to that private school across town?"
"First day? That was yesterday," Tara said, the confusion returning.
"Yesterday was Sunday," Buffy said. She was really concerned about Tara now. She could tell something wasn't right. "Today's Monday. Are you sure that nightmare wasn't important? You seem…lost."
Tara shook her head. "I don't know. I guess it was just so real."
"Maybe you'll feel better as the day goes on," Buffy suggested. "If anything from your nightmare starts happening, give me a call. Better safe than sorry."
"Sure," Tara said absently. She walked out of the room and headed downstairs, trying to understand what was going on and coming up empty.
That night, Buffy sat on the sofa with Xander, who had his arm wrapped around her. He was trying to comfort her when he knew it was impossible. Her sister was dead. There was no comfort in that. He looked up at Tara who was pacing behind the armchair where Anya was sitting. He could tell Anya felt uncomfortable. She had felt uncomfortable around everybody after Joyce died, too.
"This makes no sense," Tara said suddenly. Xander nodded his head.
"Death never makes sense in Sunnydale," he said. "I thought you got that by now. You've been here long enough."
"No, that's not what I mean," she responded, shaking her head. "This happened before. I know it did. The demon attacked before. Dawn died before. Then I woke up and it was Monday again."
Buffy looked up suddenly. She sniffed and wiped at her tears. She knew what Tara was talking about.
"This happened in your nightmare," she said. She stood and Tara noticed there was anger starting to spread across Buffy's features. "You knew this was going to happen and you didn't tell me. You stood in my room this morning and told me it wasn't important. I think Dawn's death is pretty damn important. I could've stopped this."
"No, Buffy. I didn't know. I m-mean, I didn't understand it," she replied. "I just th-thought it was a nightmare. A really weird and vivid nightmare."
"Weird and vivid nightmares tend to come true here," Xander commented. "Especially around Buffy."
"You could have told me. Or you could've told Dawn. You could've told her to stay away from the Magic Box," Buffy said. Her anger wasn't subsiding. It appeared to be getting worse. "You know the rules in this house. Better safe than sorry. If something weird happens, we tell each other. Why the hell didn't you tell us?"
Tara knew Buffy was right. She had just been so confused that morning. She truly hadn't known. But that didn't change the fact that she could've told them. She closed her eyes, feeling fresh tears stinging her eyes.
"I'm sorry, Buffy."
"Sorry doesn't bring Dawn back," the slayer said sharply. Tara made eye contact with Buffy and knew she couldn't stay there. Buffy hated her at the moment. It probably wouldn't last, but it wasn't a good idea to be around the slayer when she was the object of her anger.
"It doesn't. If I could, I would start the day over and warn you, but I can't," Tara said, her voice wavering. "I'll go back to live in the dorm. I'm sorry."
She turned and walked out the door, wiping at her tears as she made her way down Revello Drive. She could come back for her things tomorrow. She just had to get away from Buffy and the guilt that resulted from being around her.
The ringing of the Hello Kitty alarm clock startled Tara out of her sleep. She sat up immediately in bed, grabbed the clock and shut off the alarm. She stared at the clock and looked around in confusion.
"What the hell is going on?" she asked aloud. Even though she couldn't remember going to bed the previous night, she knew she hadn't come back to the house. She had gone straight to the dorm. She knew that. But somehow she was back in the Summers' home. She threw back the covers and rushed out of the room. She hurried into Dawn's room. Dawn turned and squeaked in surprise. She offered Tara a grin.
"Hey, Tara. Knock much?"
"Dawn, you're alive," Tara said. Dawn looked confused.
"Uh, yeah. That makes the whole living thing a lot easier," she commented. "What's up?"
"What day is it?" Tara asked frantically.
"What? Tara – "
"What day is it?"
"It's Monday. First day of school over the Hellmouth. Buffy's all wigged. Remember?"
"It's Monday," she repeated. She ran her hand through her hair and then she looked to Dawn and spoke with urgency in her voice. "Dawn, promise me you won't go to the Magic Box after school today."
"But the plan was for me to meet you there and we'd go grab some mochas before heading home," Dawn said. "No mochas? How about milkshakes?"
"No, we can still do mochas. I-I just remembered Anya wanted to do inventory today," Tara lied. She was about to tell the truth when she realized what would happen. If she told Dawn that she was going to die in the Magic Box, there was a very strong possibility that Dawn would go to the Magic Box anyway. She wouldn't want Tara there alone when a demon showed up. "It might take a while. I'll call you when we're done and we can meet up at the Espresso Pump."
"Maybe I could help with the inventory," Dawn said. "Three heads are better than two, or something like that."
"No, that's okay," Tara said. "We'll handle it. And Anya's got this system…"
"Why don't you want me at the Magic Box?" Dawn asked suspiciously.
"No, it's-it's not that," Tara said. "I just figured you've got better things to do than inventory. And you could work on your homework, if you have any."
"Is Anya doing her vengeance demon stuff out of the Magic Box? Is that why you don't want me there?"
"Dawnie, I promise, I'd be perfectly happy if you were there," Tara said. "I just figured the whole meet at the Espresso Pump plan would be better."
"Okay, but if school over the Hellmouth is as harsh as Buffy says it is, I'm going to need a mocha fast," Dawn said. She pointed at Tara with a mock serious look on her face. "I get to blame you if I'm cranky."
"Sure," Tara said with a smile. Blame me all you want, as long as you're alive to do it.
"Oh! The bathroom!" Dawn exclaimed suddenly. She rushed past Tara and banged on the door, grunting in defeat. Buffy had beat both of them. "Buffy, come on. I have to look good for my first day. Cold showers don't make me look good."
Tara sat at the table in the Magic Box poring over books about time loops in relation to the demon that killed Dawn the last two times this day had passed. So far she hadn't found the demon and she wasn't having as much luck on time loops as she had hoped. She found plenty of facts about time loops but nothing telling her how to break one. She looked up from her research when she heard the bell over the shop door clang. Her eyes widened and she stood quickly when she saw Dawn walk in.
"Dawn, I told you not to come here today," she said. Then she saw Buffy behind Dawn. "I-I mean, we were going to meet at the Espresso Pump."
"You were acting weird this morning," Dawn said. She looked around to see that there was no Anya and no signs of an inventory taking place. "And I knew you were lying about that inventory thing."
"Tara, what's going on?" Buffy asked. She noticed the books on the table. "You're in research mode by yourself. That can't be good."
"I don't know what's going on," Tara said. "All I know is that I've lived this day twice already and both times Dawn was killed here in the Magic Box by a demon. That's why – "
Tara's explanation was interrupted when the same blue flash announced the presence of the demon.
"I'm here for the key," he said. Buffy pushed Dawn back and immediately went on the attack.
"You guys get out of here," she said as she charged the demon, throwing punches that he easily blocked. Tara pushed Dawn toward the door of the shop, but they both fell in a heap as Buffy crashed into them, having been thrown by the demon.
"I'm not leaving until I get it," the demon said.
"Well, you'll have to go through me first," Buffy said as she stood. She grabbed a sword from nearby. She swung at the demon, but he grabbed the sword and rammed it backward, causing the hilt to catch Buffy in the jaw. He took the sword from her and stabbed her in the stomach, running her through to the hilt. Then he picked her up and flung her off the sword, launching her across the shop toward the training room.
"Buffy!" Dawn cried as she stood, rushing toward the demon.
"No! Dawn!" Tara called, trying to hold her back. But Dawn slipped away and Tara watched as the demon ran Dawn through just like her sister. He pushed Dawn to the side and Tara held out her hand.
"Projectus incindere!" she shouted. A stream of fire shot from her hand and hit the demon in the chest. He screamed in rage and pain as the fire engulfed him until he disappeared.
She hurried over to Dawn, checked for a pulse and couldn't stop the tears from falling as she found no pulse. She stood and nearly ran smack into Anya.
"Buffy's dead, too," Anya said quietly. Tara looked from Dawn to Buffy and then wiped away her tears.
"I'll figure out how to stop this," she said confidently as she moved over to the books on the table. Anya looked confused.
"What are you talking about? It already happened," she said, joining Tara at the table. "You can't bring them back. Willow did that once with Buffy and that got her all addicted to magic. Plus it looked really painful with the whole snake out of the mouth thing."
"No, I'm not going to bring them back. I'm going to stop them from being killed," Tara said as she flipped through the pages of one book. "The day's repeating itself, Anya. It's going to reset, and when it does I'll have another chance. They'll have another chance."
Anya looked confused but she decided to trust Tara. She sat at the table and helped Tara look up any information they could find on time loops.
Without fail, the day reset and Tara awoke to the jangling of the Hello Kitty alarm clock. She got up and immediately went to Dawn's room. She told Dawn to get dressed and ready to go to the Magic Box. Then she did the same with Buffy. All she told them was that it was a Scooby emergency. They were confused, but they did as she asked. Then she called Xander. She knew by the time they all got to the Magic Box, Anya would already be there.
"The day's repeating?" Buffy asked once they were all at the shop and Tara had explained the situation. Tara nodded her head and Buffy sighed. "I'm glad I can't remember it. I had to clean the grease vats today at Doublemeat. Really not something I want to live on a consecutive daily basis."
"Any idea what's causing the repeat-o day?" Dawn asked.
"All I know is that you've died every time and that demon has come every time. Last time it killed you too, Buffy."
"So you think the demon has something to do with the day repeating," Xander said.
"I'm hoping that maybe if the demon doesn't kill anybody that will break the loop," Tara said. "I really don't know yet."
"So we should all leave the shop then," Xander said. "If nobody's here, there's no chance of the demon killing anybody."
"The demon can leave the shop. There's nothing stopping it from doing that," Anya said. "Then it can kill people outside the shop instead of just the people inside the shop."
"Oh right," Xander said. "Okay, so new plan."
"I was planning on killing it," Buffy said.
"You tried that before," Tara said. "It killed you and then it killed Dawn."
"But you said I didn't know it was coming that time," Buffy said. "This time I can be prepared. We find everything on this thing and I kill it."
"I like that plan," Xander said enthusiastically. He stood. "It's proactive. It's inspired. Who wants doughnuts?"
Everyone smiled and raised their hands. While Xander went on a doughnut run, the others hit the books to find their demon or the cause of their time loop.
That afternoon the group was still at work. Buffy stretched and stood, gathering the empty pizza boxes from lunch.
"Okay, I think I've gained three pounds from the doughnuts and pizza, but we still don't have this demon," she said.
"This is all the same stuff I looked at yesterday…or, I mean, the last time this day happened," Tara said. "There's nothing new here."
"We're just not looking in the right books," Xander said. "These are the same books you used before. We need different books."
"Giles took the different books with him back to England," Anya said. "These are all the books we've got."
"Giles! We should call Giles," Dawn said. "I bet he'd know what's going on."
Tara looked at her watch and shook her head. "There's no time. The demon will be here soon."
Buffy stood and went to grab a sword. When she returned she looked to Tara.
"Okay, where does he appear?" she asked.
"Right here," Tara said, pointing to a spot on the floor. "He was facing the front of the shop."
The others moved off to the side and Buffy stood in position, ready to take out the demon before it had a chance to do anything. It arrived just as Tara said it would. It started to speak, but Buffy thrust the sword forward. The demon screamed in pain and shock before disappearing in a blue flash.
"Well, that was easy," Dawn said. "Did it work?"
"I guess we'll find out," Tara said, hoping that when she woke up in the morning it would be Tuesday.
Buffy and Dawn rushed into Tara's room in the morning when they heard a loud crash. When they arrived they found Tara sitting in bed, glaring across the room at the shattered remains of Dawn's Hello Kitty alarm clock.
"It's Monday," she said in a frustrated tone.
"Yeah," Dawn said, confused.
"Either you really don't like Hello Kitty or you're taking hating Mondays to an all new level," Buffy said. Dawn picked up the pieces of her clock.
"I don't hate all Mondays," Tara said as she threw back the covers. "Just this one."
After she explained to the group what was going on, Tara paced in the Magic Box, not sure what to do. They had begun researching time loops again, but as she expected, they were getting nowhere. She called Giles, but he didn't answer.
"There's something I'm missing. There's gotta be something about this demon…" She stopped when she saw the book Dawn was looking in. She waved at her to stop looking. "I already looked in that one yesterday…before, I mean."
"So you've looked up time loops and you've tried looking for this demon," Xander said. "Have we tried looking up stuff about the Key? You know, stuff about Dawn. Maybe we were wrong in thinking she could only be used once. Maybe she's like a skeleton key and she opens more than one lock."
"I think we read everything we had about the Key before," Buffy said. "And that really wasn't much. I think the only options are Giles and the Council. Giles is Mr. Unreachable right now and the only reason I wanna reach out and touch the Council isn't something I can do over the phone."
"Anya, there's gotta be something you know that could help," Tara said. "You've, you know, been around for 1100 years. Haven't you ever run into a time loopy situation?"
"Nope. Never," she said simply.
"Could somebody wish for the day to repeat?" Dawn asked, remembering the incident from Buffy's birthday the previous year. Anya was their resident authority on wishes. She knew what could happen if someone made a wish. There was always a catch. "I mean, they could, right? I wished for people not to leave and we all got trapped in the house. Maybe somebody wished for something that made the day repeat and they don't know they did it."
"I suppose they could," Anya muttered. She moved away from the table and started absently straightening some books. Xander was the first to notice her discomfort.
"Granted any wishes lately?" he asked her. She didn't respond and she didn't face any of them.
"You were gone this morning for like an hour," Tara said. "Were you doing vengeance? Why didn't you tell me? This solves everything."
"You told me not to tell you when I was going to go do vengeance," Anya said, turning finally. "I was just following your request."
"Well, next time the day starts repeating, you can stop doing what I ask you to do," Tara said. "If anything it would break up the monotony."
"It's not like I wanted to live this day over and over again," she said. "It was the only way I could work it to make the guy get hit by the car repeatedly."
"What guy?" Buffy asked.
"Derek. He broke up with his girlfriend because he had commitment issues. Obviously, I sympathized with her," Anya said, glaring at Xander, who looked down uncomfortably. "She wished that he get hit by the car over and over."
"So you went all Groundhog Day on us," Xander commented. "Not the most vicious vengeance you've ever done."
"You can undo it, though," Tara said. "You told us that only a vengeance demon can undo a wish."
"I can't undo it. If I undo it, D'Hoffryn will take away my powers," she said.
"Can't you quit being a vengeance demon?" Dawn asked. "It doesn't seem like you really like it so much anymore."
"It's not that simple," Anya said agitatedly as she paced by the register. "I'm Anyanka. I've reaped vengeance on thousands of men on behalf of thousands of women for over a thousand years. If I'm not a vengeance demon, then who am I?"
"You're Anya," Tara said. "You shouldn't let being a vengeance demon define who you are. Your job isn't who you are. I don't go around saying I'm a sales clerk."
"But you say you're a lesbian," Anya said.
"That's different," Tara shot back. She looked slightly embarrassed. "And I don't really just say I'm a lesbian. Subtle hints."
"When I was human, I had Xander," Anya said. She glared over at him. "Now I don't have him. If I quit vengeance, then what's left?"
"You have the Magic Box," Dawn said. "And you have friends."
"And you had those things when you were human, too. You didn't just have Xander. He didn't define who you were either," Tara said. "He's just a lousy guy."
"Hey! The lousy guy is sitting right here," he said defensively, shooting a glare at Tara. "I thought you weren't one of those 'I hate men' kind of lesbians."
"Sorry," she apologized. "Helping Anya here."
"But I was still unhappy without Xander," Anya said. "Tara, you know what I'm talking about. You were all kinds of unhappy without Willow when you left her. Both of you were miserable."
"Yeah, but we're not anymore."
"Because you got back together and had tons of wild sex," Anya commented.
"W-well, uh…" Tara stammered.
"You can take back the wish, Anya," Buffy said, saving Tara from the embarrassment. "Then you can stop being a vengeance demon. If you're not happy, you shouldn't keep doing it."
"You're not happy at your job," Anya said. "You work at that degrading fast food restaurant wearing a ridiculous uniform and peddling disgusting processed hamburgers."
"Yes, but the money it gives me that I require for living makes me happy, so the ends justify the means," Buffy explained.
"An, what are you afraid of?" Xander asked, for once being the most serious one in the conversation. "What harm is there in taking back the wish?"
"D'Hoffryn won't let me undo my own vengeance. I can't take back the wish," she explained finally. "And he said if I tried, he would punish me severely. If he knew I had told any of you about the wish, he would already be here. He's very fond of evisceration. So sorry. I'd love to take the wish back, but survival instinct is a strong motivator."
The others paused, thinking about that information. Then Dawn spoke up.
"Isn't there some way that we can break the wish?" she asked. "There's gotta be a way."
"Only a vengeance demon can undo a vengeance wish," Anya repeated.
"Yeah, yeah," Dawn responded.
"There's gotta be a way we can break it," Buffy said, jumping on Dawn's hope train. "The girl's wish was that her ex be hit by a car over and over again, right?"
Anya nodded her head. "Yes, so the wish creates the time loop that causes him to relive the accident where he's hit by a car. When he dies in the hospital, the day resets."
"So, if we break the cycle of the wish, we should be able to break the time loop," Tara said. The others waited for her to elaborate. "If we save the guy's life, then time won't loop."
"We have to keep him from dying? We're not doctors," Dawn said.
"No," Xander said, realizing what Tara was saying. "We have to keep him from breaking up with his girlfriend. Every time the day repeats, Anya has to re-grant the wish, right?" Anya nodded her head.
"So if the guy and girl don't break up, the girl never wants vengeance and Anya never meets her," Buffy finished the thought.
"Plus, he won't be storming out after breaking up with her so he won't get hit by the car either," Tara added.
Xander smiled proudly. "I knew there was a reason to watch Star Trek."
"You'll have to wait for the day to reset," Anya said. "I've already granted the wish today. He's already been hit by the car. When he dies in the hospital, the day will reset."
"Okay, Anya, tell me everything about this guy and where I'll be able to find him," Tara said. Anya sighed and relayed every bit of information she had about Kari's boyfriend, Derek.
When the Hello Kitty alarm clock jangled her awake, Tara almost didn't shut it off. She quickly slipped on a pair of jeans, a t-shirt and black boots, twisting her hair up in a loose knot before grabbing her jacket and heading out the door. She made it to the campus in record time and hurried up the stairs to the fourth floor of Stevenson Hall. As she walked down the hall, she saw the young man she was looking for leaving room 423.
"Derek Mitchell," she called. He turned and appeared to be searching his memory for how he possibly might know her. "You don't know me, but I need to talk to you."
"Who are you?" he asked, not really in the mood to talk to some girl he had never met before. He had bigger problems to deal with that day.
"My name's Tara, and I'm here to help you…with your girlfriend, Kari," she said.
"Oh, so you're a friend of Kari's, huh?" he asked, rolling his eyes. "Typical of her. She sent you here, didn't she?"
"No, she didn't," Tara said. "I don't even know Kari. What I do know is that you're going to meet her today, she's going to press the marriage issue and you're going to break up with her because you have problems with commitment."
"How the hell could you know that?" he asked, starting to walk away. Tara stepped in front of him.
"I really, um, can't explain that, but you can't break up with Kari," she said. "You need to stay with her."
"I'd love to, but she wants a wedding ring," he said. "I don't want that."
"Don't you?" Tara asked. "You're scared of-of commitment because your parents got divorced. Your issue isn't with Kari."
"What are you? A psychiatrist?"
"No, just a-a concerned citizen," she said. "Just answer one question for me. Why did your parents get divorced?" Derek scowled at her and didn't answer her. "Come on. Tell me why."
"My mom was a junkie," he said sharply. He turned to go back to his room, but Tara stepped in his way again. "This is none of your business. I don't even know you."
"Are you or Kari junkies?" Tara asked.
"No, but – "
"And do you love her?" she continued her questioning. Derek sighed and the angered expression on his face faded. "Do you love her?"
"Of course I love her," he admitted.
"So much you'd do anything for her?" Tara continued, her urgent tone softening a little. He was opening up and she was prepared for that.
"Yeah," he said quietly, a small smile curling his lips.
"Then stop being scared," she said. "Go out right now and buy her a ring…a nice ring. Then when you see her at lunch, ask her to marry you. Don't even let her say anything. Just ask her."
"I can't," he said, a little bit of his insecurity surfacing.
"You are not your parents. Nobody is their parents. God help me, if I was my parents…" She trailed off and shook her head. "But that's not important. Just because your parents got divorced doesn't mean you will. So marry that girl. If you want to be with her, marry her."
Derek gave Tara a confused look. He had no idea how this girl knew so much about him or why she was so concerned about what happened between him and Kari. But she had a point. His parents were the reason for his commitment issues, and he wasn't them.
"How do you know all this stuff about me? I mean, why do you even care?" he asked.
"I have my ways," she said. "And as for why I care…let's just say I have a special appreciation of the future and I value happy endings."
"So I need to get a ring," he said. He started walking down the hall and this time Tara let him, walking alongside him. "I know you said you don't know Kari, but maybe you could help me pick one out. I don't have a whole lot of girl friends who would know what she might like."
"Sure. I'll help. As long as you promise to propose," she said.
"If I'm laying down the money for a ring, I'm definitely proposing," he commented. He looked over at her, still confused about her involvement here. "You're a very strange person."
Tara smiled and decided to take that in a good way. "Thanks."
She helped him pick out a very nice ring, and he even asked her if she wanted to watch the proposal. She sat at a corner table in the diner at lunch as he got down on one knee. Kari squealed her answer so loudly and with such delight, the entire diner stopped what they were doing and stared. She and Derek hugged, and Tara decided her work was done. She left the diner and headed to the Magic Box to work her shift for that day for what she hoped would be the last time.
Tara and Buffy sat at the counter in the Magic Box while Tara told the story of Derek, Kari and the time loop. The slayer was confused to say the least. But she was glad that everything had already been resolved. The two of them looked over when Anya entered the shop through the back door.
"You used the door," Tara observed. "No teleporting?"
"I no longer have that ability," Anya said. Tara offered her a confused look. "I quit. I just came from a meeting with D'Hoffryn."
"Well, you're still alive and you don't look hurt," she said. "How did D'Hoffryn take it?"
"Rather well, actually," Anya said, a tone of surprise in her voice. "I think when I came back he was being sentimental. He said that after my first few vengeance jobs even he realized my heart wasn't in it."
"How do you feel?" Tara asked. She was happy that Anya was no longer a vengeance demon, but she knew it had been a big part of Anya's life. It was hard to deal with giving something like that up.
"Relieved," Anya replied. "I had lots of guilt. When D'Hoffryn gave me my job back, I thought everything would be like before. But the guilt didn't go away like before. It stuck around like a leech. A big, sucking leech."
"Stinks, huh?" Buffy asked with a smirk.
"It does. But I'm done with that. I'm moving on," Anya said with a resilient smile plastered on her face. Tara returned the smile, glad to hear that. Then she got a curious look.
"There's one thing I still don't get, though," Tara said. "Why didn't the wish work on me? Why was I the only one who knew the day was repeating itself?"
"Because I set it up that way," Anya confessed. Tara and Buffy were visibly surprised. "I set all of this up. I needed a way out. I was too afraid to go to D'Hoffryn directly. I thought if a human managed to undo one of my vengeance curses, he would see that failure as a good enough reason to let me go. Hopefully, without disemboweling me in the process. I didn't tell you about my plan before because I was afraid D'Hoffryn might hear something."
"So once the day stopped repeating, he'd let you go," Buffy said. "Pretty good plan."
"D'Hoffryn didn't know the day was repeating. So he wouldn't have realized it if the day stopped repeating. But he would know if I intentionally tried to reverse a vengeance spell. That's why you had to keep the guy and girl from breaking up thus keeping the girl from wanting vengeance."
"But why me?" Tara asked. "Why just me?"
"For one thing, D'Hoffryn would have noticed it if I let you all realize what was going on. You're very smart and logical, and you're good with magicks. You were the best choice. I don't trust the rest of them," she explained. She saw the glare Buffy was giving her. "No offense."
"Some taken," Buffy said.
"Xander broke my heart, Dawn stole from me and Buffy tried to kill all of you last year."
"I was under the effects of demon poison," Buffy said defensively. Anya shrugged her off.
Then she looked down, appearing slightly embarrassed. "And quite frankly, Tara, you're the best friend I've got in this crazy mortal world I've chosen to live in. If I can't trust you, then I'm just screwed now aren't I?"
Tara didn't know what to say. She was touched that Anya felt that way, and even more proud that Anya had managed to express her feelings in a way that wasn't her typical jarring, abrupt way. Anya noticed the look on Tara's face and scowled.
"Say something. You look like you're going to cry," she said sharply. Buffy and Tara smiled.
"No, I'm not," Tara said with a chuckle. "I'm just…happy to hear you feel that way. I'm glad you trusted me with something so important."
"Well, you've taken very good care of the shop during times I've been away," Anya said, trying play it off. "I figured I could trust you with this as well."
"I'd say you picked the right person," Buffy said, shooting a proud smile at Tara. She always found it satisfying when someone other than herself saved the day. Tara noticed Buffy's proud smile and knew exactly what the slayer was thinking. Buffy hopped off the stool she was sitting on and grabbed her bag. "On that note, no more instant replay day means I have to go to work now. If the day was going to repeat, I'd skip."
Buffy left Anya and Tara to go about their usual shop business. Mid-afternoon rolled around and Dawn entered. She tossed her backpack on the table.
"Hey, Dawnie," Tara said with a smile. "How was the first day at school?"
"Buffy was being so paranoid," Dawn said. "No Hellmouth stuff happened. It was kind of boring. No demons."
"No demons," Tara repeated. Then she looked at Anya with a look of remembrance. The word demon had triggered an important memory in both of them.
"Oh no, I forgot about him," Anya said. Tara turned fearfully to Dawn.
"Dawn, you have to get out of here now. Go through the training room," she said, grabbing Dawn's arm and trying to lead her out.
"What do you mean? What's going on? Forgot about who?" Dawn asked, confused and concerned by the alarm in Tara's voice.
"A demon's going to be here any minute and he'll kill you if you're here," Tara tried to explain quickly. "It happened other times but the day repeated so you were safe. Please go."
But it was too late. As Tara moved Dawn toward the training room door, a blue flash appeared in their path, causing them to jump back and shield their eyes. When they could see again, a tall, robed figure stood in front of them. When it spoke, its voice was deep and resonated in the shop.
"I've come for the key," it said. Dawn's eyes widened.
"Key?" Dawn asked. Tara stepped between the demon and Dawn, ready to do whatever she had to in order to keep him from hurting Dawn.
"We don't have any keys," Anya said nervously. "There's a locksmith just down the block."
"Locksmith!" the demon repeated angrily, his voice causing the windows to rattle. "This is a special key. No locksmith has it. I know you do."
He reached into the pocket of his robe. Tara turned to push Dawn out of the way, thinking the demon was about to pull a weapon. Anya grabbed the nearest heavy object, a large marble statue. She moved toward the demon, ready to bludgeon him to death, when he pulled the contents of his pocket out for them to see. Anya stopped moving, and when Tara and Dawn both realized they were still alive, they turned back to face the demon.
In his large dark hand, the demon held a small wooden box. It was about three inches square in size and was made out of light wood. Designs were etched all over the surface. Anya recognized the designs and was noticeably both relieved and surprised.
"That's a Box of Marachek," she said. The demon nodded its head.
"Yes, I was told this shop had a key that would open the box," he said. His deep voice had taken on a very cordial tone. Tara and Dawn glanced at each other, still somewhat nervous. "I would like to purchase the key."
"Um, yes, of course," Anya said, finding her bearings and moving across the shop to a cabinet behind the sales counter. She unlocked the doors to the cabinet to reveal various items. She looked through them all, pulled out a key and handed it to the demon. "I believe this is what you're looking for."
"Yes, precisely," the demon said. They couldn't see his face within the hood, but his smile of satisfaction could be heard in the tone of his voice. He produced a wad of cash from his other pocket and handed it over to Anya. "I believe that is exact."
Anya quickly counted the money and nodded her head. "Yes, exact change. Thank you for shopping the Magic Box."
The demon gave one nod to her, pocketed the key and the box, and then he disappeared in a similar blue flash to the one he had arrived in. Anya put the money in the cash register and then looked to Tara.
"So, when he said he was here for the key, I automatically assumed it was Dawn he had come for," Tara said. "If I hadn't used that spell on him the first time, he wouldn't have killed her and we would've, um, known that from the beginning."
"Yes, looks like it," Anya replied. "Good thing the day was repeating or Dawn's death would've been all your fault."
"Gee, thanks," Tara said. "How was I supposed to know he was a friendly demon?"
"You could've asked what he wanted," Anya said. "A good salesperson always seeks to help the customer."
"I didn't know he was a customer," Tara said. "Most of our customers use the door."
"Let that be a lesson to you then," Anya said. "Everyone who enters this shop should be considered a customer. Even demons."
"You know, Buffy was all worried about sending me to the high school, but she's not the least bit worried about me coming here," Dawn said. "I think maybe she needs to re-evaluate her logic there."
"We can bring that up to her tonight," Tara said with a smile. She sighed. "So I've lived this day about six times. I think I'm in desperate need of a mocha. What do you say?"
"I say yay," Dawn commented with a smile. She and Tara collected their things and Tara turned to Anya.
"I'll see you tomorrow, Anya."
Anya nodded her head, but just as Tara was going to leave she grabbed her arm. When the witch looked at the ex-ex-ex-demon, there was sincerity in her eyes that was rarely seen.
"Thank you," she said. Tara smiled, nodded her head and then left the shop with Dawn, satisfied with the connection she and Anya had just made.
The Hello Kitty alarm clock jangled at 6:30 and Tara quickly switched it off. She threw her covers back and rushed down the stairs, hurrying out the front door to retrieve the newspaper without any concern for the fact that she was wearing only the red, satin nightgown Willow had given her for their anniversary. She read the date on the paper.
"It's Tuesday!" she cried out happily. She didn't notice the weird look she got from Mrs. Henderson, the next door neighbor. She turned back to the house to see Buffy and Dawn standing in the front door, which she had left wide open. They both still looked a little sleepy. "You guys, it's Tuesday!"
"We noticed," Buffy said with a smirk. "We also noticed your modesty kind of flew out the window."
"What?" Tara asked. Dawn pointed casually to Mr. Henderson, who had joined his wife in staring at Tara. His stare wasn't one of disgust like his wife's. Tara suddenly realized what she was wearing and hurried back into the house. "Oops."
"At least if things don't work out with Willow, you know Mr. Henderson's interested," Dawn joked as Buffy closed the door.
"Ew," Buffy and Tara said at the same time.
"Okay, well, I call shower," Dawn said, turning toward the stairs.
"Hey! No!" Tara yelled, following after Dawn. "I had to take a cold shower yesterday. And I lived it six times. So that's six cold showers in a row."
Buffy watched as the two of them went upstairs and smiled. She knew Tara hadn't completely forgotten about the Warrens. She doubted she ever would, but the situation with the repeating day had given Tara a distraction, something to help her get back to her normal life. As normal as a repeating day could be in their world. It was enough to help her cope, and Buffy knew that was the most important thing.
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