Notes and disclaimers: mutant enemy and kuzui owns, not me. No profit garnered here ever. Thanks to Mosca and Dine for beta magic. Title from Tanya Donnelly.
"I'm happy to help," Tara said, "but I'm not, not sure why you called me."
Anya checked her rearview mirror and then the other mirrors for the approach of any other cars or signs that the cars she could see might be about to do something insane or capricious. She'd learned to do that in her defensive driving class and she made sure to check every two minutes. You never knew when something would just come out of nowhere and smack your bumper, causing a serious accident. When she'd finished with the mirrors, she was ready to answer Tara. Again. Nice girl, handsome bust and all that, but sometimes she was a little slow.
"I asked you because there's no one else," Anya said. "Murtat demons are a nasty lot. We don't one setting up a shop in Sunnydale. So you're going to do your magic spells and I'm going to help you and we're going to drive Orlo out. Possibly kill him."
"But, but, isn't this usually Buffy's job?"
"Of course. And it would be helpful to have her and the smashing power and making puns and all that. But Murtats spread despair. It's their big trick. Get everyone depressed and then eat their pancreas. Lately, Buffy seems like she'd be offering her pancreas up with just a little push."
Tara nodded. Anya said, "And I'd ask Willow to do the magic part, but she swears she's not using."
Tara said, "And I, I guess Xander isn't, well."
"We broke up, yes. It's been horrible. I kept the ring," Anya said. "But I'm not on the verge of cutting open my stomach and reaching in for my pancreas, don't worry about that."
"No," Tara said. "I'm sorry."
"Me, too," Anya said. She sighed. "We had a number of very intense arguments and I threw the ring and he didn't go to get it and now the wedding's off and I've had to find my own apartment again and I'm just a girl, out in the world, alone. I've been watching a lot of movies featuring Sandra Bullock and Julia Roberts. Are you familiar with them?"
"Sure," Tara said. "I like Sandra Bullock. I'd do her." She even blushed.
"I would, too," Anya said. She wanted Tara to feel comfortable because they had a job to do together, but she did really think Sandra Bullock had a pleasing look to her. Anya had been thinking a lot lately about romance and sex. She'd pretty much just stuck with Xander and boy shaped sex since she'd become human. Maybe she should try something new. She certainly wasn't going to succumb to stupid despair. "She doesn't sit around eating ice cream, listening to sad girl music and getting fat. Sandra Bullock takes action."
"In her movies," Tara said.
"I know," Anya said. "She's just an actress. But she's had heartbreak. I've started reading a magazine called People, do you know it?" Tara nodded. Anya said, "Anyway, in People, they said she's broken up with men she loved. Clearly, she hasn't been eating ice cream all those times."
"Well, she can't. Actresses have to be pretty thin," Tara said.
"Thin is attractive," Anya said. "I've picked that up from People. Thank goodness I'm naturally slender. You're very attractive, too, of course." She really felt that which made it easier to remember to say it.
"Thanks," Tara said. She was blushing, again, Anya noted when she did her mirror check. "So, how do you know this Murtat is in town?"
"He's not in town. He's three miles outside of town in the foothills. Pay attention, Tara. But he's come into town to buy supplies. I didn't recognize him, but I recognized the supplies. Murtats love their slug candles. And troll skin and warthog mucus."
"Did you, did you say his name? Do you know him? From, uh, before?"
Anya said, "Yes. Orlo. Back in the day, as a vengeance demon, of course, wielding a little despair and pancreas eating was pretty useful. But things have changed." Anya nodded. "Now I don't want despair. Or pancreases."
"That's good," Tara said. "I like my pancreas." She laughed. "It's a funny word, isn't it? When you say it over and over again."
Anya thought. "Yes. But not as funny as gluteus maximus."
Tara laughed at that. Anya could make people laugh intentionally. No matter what Xander said. She sighed. He'd said nice things, too. But they weren't meant to be. "I'm glad we have this time together," Anya said. "We're just two girls, alone in the world. You with your crazy backwards family of women-oppressing hicks, me with no family at all and history of being a demon. We should do things together more."
"Sure," Tara said. "Maybe not the demon killing thing, next time."
"We should really leave that to Buffy. And I would here, but," Anya said.
"No, you're right. Buffy needs more time."
"She's had tons of time. It's been months." Anya frowned. "I get her pain, of course, but look at me. Xander and I were going to be married. I have nothing without him. And I'm already making friends and rebuilding my life and it's only been a month."
"You're making friends?" Tara had a sweet smile on her face, like a proud mother.
"I'm counting you. We were friends before, but I feel like we're closer now. Just from this car trip."
"I agree," Tara said.
Sadly, after that, they didn't have much to talk about. Tara babbled on about her classes, Anya pretended to pay attention, no other drivers acted in a way that was threatening to Anya's car. Anya parked in the dirt and grabbed her bag of small weapons and spell supplies. Always be prepared, you learned that being a Scooby. Or a Scooby by proxy of dating one of them, maybe Anya hadn't really earned the title with all her helping and everything she'd done. She squared her shoulders and started marching towards the nearest cave.
"Here we go," Tara said. "Do we have a plan or is it just, um, talking and then killing?"
"I don't really have a plan," Anya said. "Buffy doesn't either, most of the time, have you noticed?"
"But she heals really fast," Tara said. She was still walking behind Anya, despite the cowardly tone in her voice.
Orlo was squatting in the corner of his cave. He looked about the same with the putrefying and the purple antennae all over his back. It wasn't attractive at all, and Anya felt she'd finally become fully human. She no longer responded to the same things she'd liked as a demon. Good to know.
"Orlo," Anya said. "You have to leave town. Go somewhere else. Sunnydale is a big no no for you. There's a Slayer here, you know. She doesn´t like demons in her town. Not at all."
"She sent us," Tara said, her voice surprisingly strong. None of that stuttering she sometimes did. "She sent us to tell you, go away."
"Anyanka?" Orlo blinked three of his five eyes. "Is that you? You have so much skin now."
"I do. It's very nice skin," Anya said. "And I think you'd want to keep your skin. With all its sores and mold. But you won't if the Slayer has to come out here."
"Come on, why would the Slayer send you two? I hear she's falling down on the job," Orlo said.
"We can do a lot," Anya said. She glanced at Tara. "Well, show him."
Tara grimaced and said a quick spell that caused the ground in front of Orlo to sprout flowers. "Flowers?" Anya mouthed. Tara shrugged.
"Flowers," Orlo hissed. "You know my weakness." Then he giggled. "Who'd be afraid of flowers? There a lot of sweet pancreases in that town. I think I'm going to stay."
Tara muttered and the flowers exploded in Orlo's face. Anya seized the moment and threw her cheapest axe towards Orlo's large stomach-like area. Orlo screamed and bled and then stopped, falling over.
"Is he dead?" Tara wisely kept back.
"No, just stunned. When he's dead he'll release a noxious gas."
"A toxic gas," Tara said, backing up quickly. "That's mean. It's not like he can eat your pancreas after you die. Right?"
"No, the gas is just smelly." Anya grabbed her shortest and cheapest sword and poked at Orlo. It took a few times but she finally got the swamp gas smell that said he was truly dead. She gagged and ran out, Tara a few steps in front of her.
"Well, that was very good," Anya said. She was panting a little. "That was kind of exciting, wasn't it?"
"Mostly scary," Tara said. She was leaning against the car and looking very flushed. It was a good look for Tara. "The smell comes from eating pancreases, huh?"
"I have no idea. I certainly never dated him when I was a Vengeance demon what with him being so incredibly ugly and putrefying," Anya said. She patted Tara's shoulder. "You did very well."
Tara smiled. "Thanks. So did you."
Flush with adrenaline from successfully killing a very bad demon, Anya leaned in and kissed Tara on the lips. She stepped back and said, "That was nice. It would be better with use of tongue."
"Kissing is better with use of tongue, it's more kissy and feels better. Don't you think so?" Anya smiled and patted Tara's shoulder again. She was very warm and soft. Like Xander, like people.
"I meant, why did you kiss me?" Tara looked puzzled, not angry.
"Because we killed a demon. Without any help from Willow or Buffy. We accomplished something very good here, today. I wanted to celebrate." Anya moved closer. "Let's kiss again. This time, we'll open our mouths and do it right. We're very attractive single girls who deserve very attractive partners in kissing and possibly sex."
Tara smiled. "You think?"
"I do," Anya said. "At the very least we should give it a try. It's much less fattening than ice cream and after we kiss and possibly make out in the back of my car, we can go to the movies. It could be our first date."
"It's a little sudden," Tara said. She was still smiling so Anya decided to keep trying. It was the only way to get anything, after all.
"Yes. But sudden works, too. Jump right over arranging meetings and batting my eyelashes at you and talking about all the things we have in common like magic and demons and all our friends and how very frustrating it can be to part of the group but not completely a part and you can rest assured, I won't let magic go to my head and use it to solve every little problem. And we won't have the same problems I had with Xander. We'll have new ones. That'll be exciting to discover, won't it?"
"The problems we're going to have," Tara said. She smiled. "You think that's exciting?"
"I think the sex part will be more exciting, but it's foolish to walk into something without expecting problems. It can't all be orgasms and sweaty nights." Anya rubbed at her jeans. "So let's get to it. Start with a good kiss."
Tara looked at Anya's hands and then looked up at the sky. "This has been a crazy day. But. Okay," she said. She leaned forward and kissed Anya, with her mouth open.
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