"I guess I hoped everything would change," Dawn explained to Anya as
they redecorated the Magic Box. "That things would -- I don't know, lighten
up around here? That everyone would come back, and stick around, and just
be ... happier?"
"It takes time for people to change," Anya said from her stepstool
facing an open display case. "Will you hand me that eagle talon? The
green one, from the top of the box there?"
Dawn fished out and handed over the trinket.
"People are annoying that way," Anya continued as she placed the
talon on the top shelf.
"Yeah." Dawn sighed as she picked up a crystal ball.
"I just wish Tara was back and everything was different."
"You know, different doesn't always mean--" Anya was distracted by a
glow beneath her chin and the familiar sensation of her facial muscles
loosening and tightening again. "--better..." She turned to Dawn.
The crystal ball shattered on impact with the floor. "Oh! Oh!
Oh my god -- I didn't mean..."
"Dawn! You made a wish? How could you make a
"I'm sorry, it, it just slipped
out! And wait a minute -- you said you were turning in your vengeance card! For good!"
"I was! I just wanted to tidy up around here before I summoned my boss! I didn't think anyone would be stupid enough to go and make a wish before then!"
Dawn scoffed in exasperation.
"Well, can't you make it stop? I thought you had control over it!"
"No! I'm only the vessel through which your wish is granted!" A green
light swirled around her head. "Oh, great. See what you made me do?"
"Stop! No!" Dawn screamed as she rushed to grab Anya's glowing
pendant. Before she could snatch it away, the glowing and the swirling stopped,
and Anya's demon face receded.
"Hi, guys," Tara said, now standing in the middle of the Magic Box.
~ ~ ~
Frozen, Dawn and Anya stared at the apparition.
"Dawn? Anya?" Tara walked towards them warily. "Anybody
"T-tara?" Dawn let the pendant swing back in place.
"Is it you?" Dawn asked. "You're real?"
Tara's eyes slid from left to right as she waited for the punchline. "I... feel
Dawn ran to embrace her. "Oh, Tara!"
"Hi, Dawnie." She petted the girl's head. "What's going on?"
"You were dead," Anya informed her, and breathed in while she
mentally assessed the impending mayhem. "And now, along with a host of
terrifying consequences that should make themselves known any minute, you're
"I wasn't dead!" Tara insisted with a laugh. "I was--" She trailed
off when she realized she had no recollection of where she'd just been.
"Dead," Dawn said, nodding. "Shot. Warren. But he's dead. It's a
"Oh," Tara said, her face darkening. "When? How long?"
"Did Willow do this? Did -- did Willow bring me back?"
"No, no, it wasn't her," Dawn clarified. "It was me. And
Anya -- but it was a mistake, I swear." She attached herself to Tara once again. "I'm so
glad you're here!"
"Oh, sweetie..." Tara soothed.
"I can't wait 'til Willow sees you!" she squealed.
"Where is Willow? How's she--" Tara glanced at Anya, who was justifiably on
edge. "Anya? What is it?"
"Oh, nothing," she said thinly as she tried to remember exactly what
had popped into her head at the precise moment that Dawn had made her
ridiculously childish wish.
She hoped to the pestilent gods that it was anything but an enormous, sabre-toothed, red-eyed bunny.
A flash of pink caught her eye and she shouted, "OH god!"
"Hello, girls," Giles said casually as he entered from the training
room, wearing a pink tu-tu, leg warmers and a tiara. He sat down and propped his
toe shoe-clad tootsies on the table. "These things are murder on the feet. Absolute
murder." He stopped to look at the gawking trio. "What?"
"First of all," Dawn said, "You're back again. Second of all,
what are you wearing?"
He looked down at his ensemble. "You don't think it suits me? The shopgirl
at Capezio said it was a perfect fit."
"Um," Dawn hedged, and raised her brow at Anya.
Anya shrugged and whispered, "An image of him in a tu-tu came to mind! So
Dawn stifled a giggle. Well, nothing too horrible had come out of her wish. At least she had Tara back, and
Giles... to an extent. All he really needed was a change of clothing. "You
look great, Giles."
"Thank you, dear."
"I think you look nice too," Anya said. "Very sexy."
"Oh, well now..." Giles sputtered, a tad embarrassed.
Anya sighed and said to no one in particular, "I love men. They look
manly in anything, you know?"
"Um," Tara observed, "I don't think this is good."
The front door bells jingled and again Anya yelped in mortal terror.
"Hello," Buffy, also clad in pink, said cheerfully as she flounced
in. She paused to frown. "Anya? Why did you scream?"
"Oh, nothing." Anya caught her breath. "I thought
you might be a huge, demonic bunny is all."
"Nope, just Buffy," she assured with a grin. "Dawn! My
Dawn scrutinized this overly perky version of her sister. "Buffy? Are
Buffy hugged her sister fiercely.
Dawn felt the telltale plastic lower-back panel of her sister's robotic clone.
"Oh, I'm not a robot," Buffybot said, smiling. "I'm Buffy!"
"Uh... right. But where's the other Buffy?"
"I don't know the answer to that," Buffybot said with a shrug.
"But Xander's parking the car. He's so good at parking." She turned
to Anya. "He's a construction worker!"
"Xander?" Anya gulped as she suddenly remembered one of her damning
thoughts in the 'everything different, and not necessarily better' stipulation:
Xander and Buffy... together. The Buffybot aspect was a surprise, but Anya was
often surprised by what materialized from her own imagination. Of course, it
was brilliant -- in a sickening sort of way...
"Hello Tara!" Buffybot said.
"Hi, um... Buffy..." Tara said, utterly confused. "I think I
need to sit down."
"I'll sit with you," Buffybot offered. "And then Xander can sit
beside me. I want him to love me!"
"Since... when?" Tara ventured.
"I don't remember!" Buffybot answered brightly, her lips shining.
"But I know I want him to love me -- as he's loved no one before!"
Dawn gestured to Anya helplessly.
"It's the wish," Anya explained.
"I didn't wish for this!" Dawn hissed. "And where's the real Buffy?"
"I'm not sure," Anya whispered back. "But I think she may have been replaced by the Bot."
"Well, we have to fix this!"
"Tell me something I don't know!"
"Ladies," Xander greeted as he strutted into the shop. "Tara. You're back."
Anya took a moment to swoon at her ex-fiancé. Alexander Harris was suddenly so
confident, so self-assured, so... sex-in-a-bottle that she could have sworn she
heard the theme to Shaft following him.
"Yeah, apparently," Tara replied while taking in the bizarre display.
"And that's not all that's new."
Xander cocked his head at Giles who was grasping a ladder rung for a deep plié.
With a shoot-point, he complimented, "Nice tu-tu."
"Why, thank you!" Giles said with a modest grin. "Toe shoes are
quite difficult to master, but they're a hell of a lot of fun." To
illustrate, he did a pirouette.
"That was very good!" Buffybot applauded, and Giles took a bow.
"Gah!" Dawn flailed in frustration, but Anya was too busy
watching her Shaft-that-got-away to notice.
Xander took a seat beside Buffybot and draped his arm over the back of her
chair. "Hey, sexy."
"Hello, Xander," the Bot said, smiling wide. "I love it when you
call me sexy. Would you like to make me feel good with your tongue again?"
"Here? In front of everyone?" He took a look around and flashed his
pearly whites. "Sure thing, my little robo-babe."
Dawn and Tara grimaced in disgust. Anya bristled in jealousy. Giles danced in
And there, in front of everyone, Xander and the Buffybot commenced their heavy
petting session, complete with groping, moaning and tongues.
"Um, you guys?" Tara peered over them to address Anya and Dawn.
"How much have I missed in a
"This was so not my
wish," Dawn insisted. "I only wished you back!"
"And that everything was
different!" Anya justified.
Dawn blinked in disbelief. "Not this
"So I filled in a few blanks, all right?" Anya admitted hurriedly.
"It's what vengeance demons do. Now my worst nightmare has come
true, and it's all your fault!"
"My fault? I'm not the one
who thought up all this crazy--"
"Salutation and greeting to you all!"
Everyone, with the exception of the groping gallery, turned toward
the well-projected voice that came from the basement stairs.
Dawn frowned. "Spike?"
A bespectacled Spike in renaissance theatre garb was followed by Clem and two
identical floppy-eared children.
Spike quickly made a beeline for Dawn, removed his feathered hat and sat on one
knee. "I am he that is so love-shaked: I pray you tell me your
"Huh?" Dawn peeped.
"As You Like It," Giles
identified as he swept an arm out, bending into another graceful plié.
"He's been speaking in Shakespeare since the Hamilton Street tunnel,"
Clem said with a nod, then admonished one of the children. "Ella? How
many times do I have to tell you: Hands off the Mongolian Monkey head?"
"Hi, Momma," the other child said, hugging Anya's knees.
"Oh perfect," Anya sighed. "I have offspring now. Clem's offspring, no less! And it's pawing at me! Dawn!"
"What do you want me to
do?" Dawn said, keeping an eye on the kneeling, Hamlet-reciting vampire in front of her.
"Say that you love me not," Spike emoted, hand over his heart.
"But say not so in bitterness."
Tara stood and stepped past the groping couple to approach Anya. "What
else did you imagine, Anya?"
"What?" Anya asked, shooing away the child at her legs.
"What else did you imagine when she made her wish?" Tara articulated
soberly. "Is there anything else we can expect?"
"Well," Anya said as she checked off the happenings in the room.
"I think that's everything... Oh!
Except for the--"
Suddenly, something dropped from the sky, ripping through the roof and landing
right in front of them with a crash.
"...naked guy in the shower," Anya finished sheepishly as they all
regarded the new addition to the room.
Tara shielded Dawn's eyes and whispered, "Who is that?"
"I don't know," Anya said with a grin, thoroughly enjoying the view.
"Look," Tara said. "We have to figure out how to--"
"Momma!" the little boy interrupted, tugging at Anya's hemline.
"Trace, leave your mom some room," Clem said, ushering the boy to the
back of the store. "You know how much she loves the naked guys.
Look -- Satan the Bunny coloring books! Your favorite!"
"Yay!" the twins cheered in stereo.
As Anya watched the three of them sit on the floor with books and crayons,
another spectacle caught her eye.
Making up her mind to stop this madness, she marched over to Buffybot and peeled her off of Xander. "That's enough
of your lips on my man!"
"But honey," came a voice from the back of the room. "What
"Shut up, Clem!" She pulled Buffybot by the elbow to the cash
register and told her, "You stay back here."
Buffybot smiled vapidly.
Anya marched up to Xander and poked his chest. "I love you. You're
mine. Got it?"
"Sure, sweet thing," he said with that winning, confident,
so-unlike-the-regular-Xander smile. "Wanna make out?"
Anya beamed, and brought her hands to her chest. "Okay!"
"Whoa, whoa!" Dawn intercepted. "Anya! We have to do something!"
"We really do," Tara concurred.
Giles jetéd past them, and Spike put a hand to his ear. "Hark, I hear the
footing of a man!"
"Everyone!" Tara shouted, having finally had enough. "QUIET!"
The room hushed to a few murmurs and the trickle of
water from a showerhead.
"Wow," Dawn marveled. "Was that magic?"
"No," Tara explained. "That was my 'loud' voice."
"Oh," Dawn said. "Neat."
Tara got Anya's attention. "There must be something we can do to reverse
this. Something you can do."
Anya looked down. "It's complicated."
Anya didn't answer.
"Ooh! Ooh! Me in the back!" Clem called out, waving his hand like an
idiot, arm skin a-flapping. "Me in the back!"
"It's her pendant," Dawn said. "We just have to destroy her
pendant. But then--"
"But then what?" Tara asked her.
"Then... then you'd go away."
"Dawnie," Tara said, smoothing a strand of hair from the younger girl's forehead.
"I know you're happy to see me -- but look around."
Dawn took in the scene -- the prancing Giles, the sonnet-spewing Spike, the
Buffybot/Xander sex show now heavy into Act II, the Clem with Anya-offspring,
the naked guy in the shower... wow, he was really naked...
Dawn refocused. No real Buffy in sight. And no Willow, either. "I know you're right, Tara, but--"
"If I go back, it'll be for the best. And you both know it."
"You're not destroying my pendant," Anya said, clasping the gem and
backing up. "This is a priceless heirloom, for one thing, and you people
have already destroyed one so far! This could really get me in deep with --"
"Anya," Tara said, taking her by the arms and shaking her gently.
Their eyes met, and it occurred to Anya that Tara was one of the good ones.
"Okay," she relented, and unclasped the necklace. She held
it out before her. "But I can't do it myself."
"Dawn, can you?"
"What? Kill you?" Arms crossed, fresh tears streaking her
cheeks, she said, "I won't do it!"
"Then I'll do it," Tara resolved, and bent down to rummage through a box
of novelty rocks. She selected a large stone that was etched with the word
"Tara," Dawn sobbed.
Tara beckoned her close, and let the girl hug her tightly.
Letting go of her fear of mortality, Anya rushed to Tara's side as well.
"Tell Willow I love her," Tara said to the two women in her embrace. "And take care of each other, okay?"
"We will," Dawn said.
"I promise," Anya said with a sniffle.
Tara finally broke away.
Dawn and Anya held hands and watched, teary-eyed, as without ceremony, Tara placed the pendant on the
floor... and smashed it to bits.
~ ~ ~
"I just wish Tara was back," Dawn said with a sigh, weighing a
crystal ball in her hands. "And everything was different."
"Yeah," Anya agreed with a bittersweet smile, fingers brushing
against her newly bare collarbone. "Me too."