Disclaimer: Joss is God. The characters are his. I'm merely having fun with them.
Notes: Post "Gone"
"I don't love you, Spike! I could never love a monster like you!" Buffy hissed at Spike in the kitchen, conscious of her sister and friends in the next room.
Dawn's birthday party had gone from bad to worse with Xander's sudden surprise Buffy date--a handsome, if a bit shy, construction worker named Tim. Spike had spent the evening harassing the poor guy with bawdy jokes and innuendo until his face was a bright red. That is until Buffy dug her fingernails into Spike's arm and dragged him into the kitchen.
"Hey! Watch it, sunshine!" Spike complained, her nails biting deeply into his flesh.
"Get this through your head, Spike! We're over! Done! Finished! I don't want anything to do with you," Buffy said in a low but intense voice.
"Com'on pet! What did you expect, prancing about with Mr. Red there? You think he's got what it takes, love?" Spike said, running his fingers along Buffy's thigh. She slapped his hand away in annoyance. But before she could speak he had both arms around her waist and was looking intently into her eyes.
"Tell me you don't fancy someone like that, pet. He wouldn't last five minutes..." Buffy ripped from his grasp and shoved him away.
"Who I fancy is none of your business, Spike!" She said hotly. Spike gave her a hard look.
"I think it sodding well is my business. I love you," he retorted.
That's when she said it. She could never love a monster like him. Sure she could screw him, let him screw her--screw together until the sun came up, but she still didn't love him. Would never love him. Spike retreated into the basement once Buffy had returned to the party.
He couldn't leave yet. He had the sinking feeling that if he left he would never be able to come back. He sat on a short bench and lit a cigarette.
She doesn't mean it, he thought. She's just mad because I embarrassed that boy who was pretending to be good enough for her.
Spike sighed. He knew he shouldn't have messed with Tim, but what was he supposed to do? Let her laugh at his stupid jokes and flirt right in front of him while he just sat there like...like some bleed'n ponce! She wanted a man, not a simpering whelp, and he'd show her just that...
It was stupid. Bloody stupid.
Spike was so lost in thought that he didn't hear the basement door slowly open and a figure descend.
Maybe if I apologized. Gave her a right good snog, Spike thought. He jerked up in surprise finally seeing the person in front of him.
"What do you want?" Spike growled.
"Noth...nothing! I just came to s..see if you were okay," Tara said.
"Me? Bloody fine, couldn't be better," Spike muttered, taking a long drag on his cig.
Let the witch tell me not to smoke in here, Spike thought defiantly. He was more than a bit surprised when Tara sat down right next to him. He gave her a sidelong glance.
"She's mean sometimes?" Tara asked, her voice full of sympathy. Spike looked at her for a second and then slowly nodded.
"She wasn't like that before," Spike began. "She used to treat me...well better than I deserved. Like I was just like anyone else. Another chum in the mix. I loved her for that. Told her so even..."Spike trailed off, his voice strangely wistful. He didn't realize how much he missed it, like it was before.
"Then you brought her back," Spike said accusingly. Tara blinked.
"You didn't w..want...?" Tara asked, confused.
"What the hell does it matter now? She's back...only different. You and the precious Scoobies did that," he said angrily. "I didn't know, remember? Couldn't bother telling Spike about it, could you? He's just a monster..." Spike trailed off again, choked by tears and frustration. He hated this. Being weak in front of one of *them*. She'd go run and tell the others now. William the Bloody bawling like a child.
But Tara didn't leave. He felt a soft, warm hand on his shoulder. He risked a glance at her and saw her face stricken with grief.
"I'm sorry, Spike. You...you're right we should ha..have told you. I'm so sorry." Spike was shocked. He wasn't expecting sympathy, especially not from her.
"Yeah well, forget about it," Spike muttered, but Tara shook her head fiercely.
"No! Let's not forget...no more forgetting, okay?" Tara said, smiling at him. Spike managed a smile.
"Don't want to be that ponce 'Randy' anyway," Spike joked weakly. Tara laughed. It was a pleasant sound, Spike thought. Something he hadn't heard in a long time. He wished *she* would laugh like that. But that thought brought of wave of pain to his features and Tara stopped, a look of concern on her face.
"You shouldn't let her treat you like that," Tara said seriously, her eyes holding his for a moment. He shook his head and looked away.
"She's hurting, that's all. Coming back like she did. It's got to be hard on her," Spike mumbled.
"It's been hard on all of us," she said quietly. "She still doesn't have the right to treat you like that, Spike." As the words sank in the tears began to fall from his eyes. He no longer bothered hiding them from Tara.
"I love her," Spike said, his voice barely above a whisper. Tara put her arms around him and hugged him.
"I know," she said, her voice full of sorrow.
"I wish she would love me..."
"It never used to hurt like this..."
Tara left the basement, wiping her eyes, letting Spike collect himself.
I've been neglecting things, she thought. It shouldn't have gotten this bad.
"Tara?" Buffy asked, throwing the last of the paper plates and plastic forks they had used for Dawn's birthday cake in the trash.
Tara was aghast at the concern in Buffy's voice. Concern for her. How can she? she thought. How can she speak to me with that much compassion and yet...
Tara grew angry. She marched up to Buffy, ignoring her shocked look. And she told her. She told her in a way that left chills running down Buffy's spine.
"You hurt Spike again and you'll answer to me." Tara's voice was deadly serious and her eyes blazed with unmistakable power. Buffy took a step backwards, mouth open, dumbfounded. But before Buffy could reply, Tara abruptly turned and walked into the living room, finding Dawn happily modeling her new outfit for everyone.
"You look fantastic," Tara told her as she entered, smiling warmly. Dawn smiled back then laughed as Xander pretended to hit on her in a horrible french accent, which Anya promptly told him was all wrong and that he shouldn't hit on little girls anyway.
I'll have to get them to understand too, Tara thought. They'll understand. Willow for sure. Anya wouldn't be hard. Xander would be tricky, but with all three of them, he didn't stand a chance.
"Spike needs our help," Tara whispered to herself, smiling as Xander chased a squealing Dawn around the room.
"And so does Buffy," she added, sighing.
Continued in Tara Part 2: The Decision