The disc arced upwards, a gentle trajectory that took it up about seven meters before it lost momentum. Sunlight sparkled off its silvery surface as it hung, caught between two forces and then, gentle as rain, it began to fall.
"What did you do?"
Gaining speed the round, potentially murderous, thing's edge struck the asphalt.
"But... but it's his favourite."
"I know. He plays it all the time. Twenty-four hours a day. He has played it ever since... ever since. He has it playing in the car, in his apartment, in the store and on his answering machine."
The disc quivered, vibrating slightly, before shattering into dozens of pie shaped sections.
"It plays when he boots up Windows. The first two bars play when his pager goes off. The first verse plays when someone calls him on his cell phone. And not the real song but some tinny version that just grates."
"He has been playing it a lot."
The CD player cycled, drawer now closed and the machine reinitializing to four discs. Auto play kicked in.
"A lot! He plays it ARRRGGHH."
The small red convertible swerved across the oncoming lane, far shoulder and rubbed the scraggly grass before being wretched into its proper lane. Tara gripped the dash, seat belt and shoulder strap holding her firm as Anya physically ripped the CD player drawer out and flung disc after disc over her shoulder.
"What kind of person has five copies of the same CD in one machine?" Anya muttered.
"What exactly is it that we're doing", Tara asked finally, because it had seemed fairly straightforward when Anya had proposed it this morning.
"I am going on a quest. You're here in case Giles reported the car stolen. We two are bonding. We're letting those three wallow and get over it."
Tara considered. "You said a short ride out of the city to get away for a few hours."
"What can I say? I am good at multitasking. Once I managed to vengeance three guys at once. Mind you, it was tricky to get the goat from place to..."
"I really don't want to hear this," Tara said, stressing the word 'really' and raising her hands to her ears, preparing to manually stop the flow of too much information.
"Oh. Well, let's just say I'm really good at multitasking and animal handling."
Silence, the non-terror induced version, fell again.
"I think you'd better define short ride and few hours."
About ten hours there and ten hours back.
"Oh. And the stolen car thing?"
"Gosh, was that a road runner? It looks nothing like the cartoon."
Silence, the petulant and punishing kind, fell.
"Giles didn't actually say I couldn't take his precious car to Reno," Anya finally said.
"Giles didn't actually say you couldn't sacrifice virgins in the shop."
"Yes, he did," Anya said.
Silence, the semi companionable silence of two people who might some day be companions, fell.
"Xander asked me to marry him," Anya finally said when the silence had dragged on too long even for her. Two hours to be precise.
"When?" Tara asked, knowing it was while she was 'not herself' as Willow put it and 'bonkers' as she silently called it to herself.
"Just before we headed out to die. I told him to ask when we'd save the world."
"And did he?"
"Not exactly. He didn't take it back but he won't let us tell anyone. But he will. He's very honourable and persistent and he will ask."
Tara forbore pointing out how tentative this sounded.
"He's very good with his hands," Anya blurted out, obviously recognizing the tentativeness and leaping to fill it with noise.
"What?" Tara asked, against her will and knowing that she really didn't want to hear the answer.
"I said, he's good with his hands," she turned and smirked at Tara. "Xanderhand."
"What?" Tara asked, desperately trying to shut up and not encourage Anya.
"You know. Xanderhand. Sort of like Willowhand only with Xander's." She glared at Tara. "My Xanderhand."
"Trust me, Xanderhand is totally unappealing."
"Although, being denied double Xander and being as he and Willow are so chummy "
"No," Tara said. "I cannot stress the no firmly enough without causing the car to leave the road so, just, no."
"You could-- ahhhhh!"
"No," Tara said as the car returned to the roadway.
"Where are we going? Exactly going."
"What's in Reno? Specifically in Reno that we're going to."
"D'offryn. My old boss."
Silence resumed. Again.
"And we're doing this why?" Tara finally asked slowly.
"I want him to offer me my powers back."
Silence, of the stunned variety, occurred.
"And we're doing this why?" Tara finally repeated slowly.
"So I can turn him down. Tell him, D'offryn I've found something that fulfills me more than infesting the lower intestine of a cheating husband with Garthanian Dire Mites that eat him alive from the inside slowly so that... "
"Can we skip the details?"
"Fine. I was really good at my job."
"I'm sure you were."
"I posted fourth quarter totals that have yet to be matched. I was the best. There wasn't anything that I couldn't grant. I could twist the entire universe, warp reality, remove the letter J and turn flamingos pink."
"They are pink."
"They are now."
Silence, taken aback and turned ninety degrees in amazement, lingered a few seconds.
"You sound like you miss it."
"Cordelia, Xander's ex-girl friend, made a wish and I destroyed Sunnydale. No one, not the mayor or that Master fledgling or anyone, ever managed that."
"Willow told me."
"Did she tell you about her evil, leather clad, skanky, sexy domatrix counterpart?"
A look, a look of puerile curiosity flitted across Anya's face before being squashed flat by a stony look of Tara's.
"Right. I did that."
"You sound like you miss it."
"Well, of course I do! Are you still crazy? Of course I miss it! It was all the power of the universe and it was mine!"
"Are you sure you're going to turn him down?"
A silence, long and thoughtful and maybe a little petulant, fell.
"I think so," Anya finally said.
"What if he doesn't offer it back," Tara asked after four more hours and the dim glow of Reno could be seen.
"Then I'll always wonder if I'm just settling for second best."
"I mean, I faced two apocalypses, apocalypi, I faced the end of the universe twice for him and I still don't know."
"Because I didn't have my powers. Usually I spend an apocalypse drinking margaritas on some beach in the Nineteenth Dimension. I was stuck for the last two. But it was with Xander and it didn't seem as absolutely terrifying and horrifying as I thought it would be."
"Nothing is scary if Willow is there."
"Yeah," Anya said, slowing the car and pulling to the side of the road.
"What are we doing?"
"Tara?" Anya said after half an hour.
"I don't know if I... "
"Its just that it seems to me that if you prove this it will make it that much harder to prove the next thing."
"Doubtless that made sense to someone."
"A relationship is based on trust and faith. Not proof."
"Oh," Anya finally said. "Wanna go home?"
"Aren't you going to look up Dustin?"
"D'hoffryn. No. I don't think I need to."
"Okay. You sure?"
"He's not too bright. He's always sticking his foot in his mouth. He's weak and a lousy fighter and somewhat of a coward."
Tara smiled. "But?"
"He makes life less scary. Want to go home?"
The car turned, heading south and ten hours of companionable silence.