By Anne Hedonia
Sequel to Done to Death
SUMMARY: "They get knocked down / and they get up again / and you’re never gonna keep them down..."
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW (if you haven't read Done to Death) Let's see...after a long, strange personal trip together, Tara and Spike have become inseparable friends, and lovers. Also, in this universe, Tara survived her gunshot wound - though Willow didn’t realize and rampaged anyway – and Spike never went to get his soul, though he did make a significant apology to Buffy. Spike and Tara have been isolated from the Scoobies for most of this time, so no one really knows they’re a couple...yet.
DISCLAIMER: "This twisted genius loves to torture his fans, and owns the characters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Don't forget, your answer must be in the form of a question. (I didn’t write "Tubthumping" either.)
ARCHIVE: anywhere. Just let me know where I can visit.
SPOILERS: Season 7 in general, "Same Time, Same Place" in specific.
FEEDBACK: *crooked grin* Ho yeah. firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Battle-weary and soul-scarred, there was an almost delirious quality to their relief. The relief of something to believe in, for now, the relief of nothing wrong as far as they could see, the relief of whole-heartedness...
...the relief of another.
If one were to weave through the tables and the haze of this obscure Sunnydale demon bar, following the call of faint, sporadic music and quiet, private laughter, they would find the couple sitting at the battered, forgotten piano in the back, Tara across Spike's lap, his arms around her to reach the keys.
Spike was demonstrating a surprising, serviceable talent for playing piano, plunking out songs and making Tara laugh at his choices. From time to time she would make requests, along the lines of "Play that one we heard that time at that place..." blanking on the name of everything and then laughing at Spike’s pretend outrage over her impossible demands.
Adherence to impossible demands was not cheap – it cost kisses or copped feels, some discreet and some not so. Occasionally his too-overt groping of a breast or roam of hands inside her clothing would cause a small squeal of outrage, which pleased Spike, or the retaliation of a vixen’s glare and her hand darting to squeeze at something private of his, which pleased him more.
And then, properly reimbursed, he would declare "Right," and play the vaguely-requested song unerringly, usually singing the lyrics as well, and she would laugh in amazed recognition and nuzzle closer. Spike was used to the sharp highs and lows of his own emotions, and tonight was definitely a high, but behind that, the soft thrill of the quiet, steady, sure-footed love filling him was so new and overwhelming as to cause him dizzy spells.
He distracted himself with the intricacies of playing "Tubthumping", plunking along in a silly way that accented his ridiculously dogged, low-voiced vocal delivery:
"I get knocked down / and I get up again / and you’re never gonna keep me down / I get knocked down..."
Tara watched the muscles in his face move as he sang, watched his eyes flit along with his fingers over the keys. It didn’t seem possible that those sharp, blue predator’s eyes could also look so soft, and behave like this. She felt a wash of serious affection as the thought also hit her that this should be Spike’s theme song.
Elsewhere in the tiny club, another young man and woman were also in close sync, but for a much different purpose.
A small, dirty door opened and they exited an even more hidden back room, in a place already full of them.
They headed silently for the exit, but the man seemed reluctant to leave. He stopped. "I don’t know, do you think he was lying?"
The young woman shook her head. "I can’t say for sure, but I doubt it. I was laying on the intimidation pretty thick." She sighed. "I think he genuinely doesn't know."
The man's eyes were anguished. "What if we can’t find her, Buff?"
The woman laid her hand on the man’s arm with practiced calm. "Not an option. We will. And I’m sure she’s fine."
The man took from this as much comfort as he could, nodded and started walking...but stopped again after a few steps. Because of something he saw.
Buffy followed Xander’s caught gaze, and her face blanched equally, but in a slightly different way. At the end of both their stares were Spike and Tara sitting across the piano bench, kissing as though the rest of the world did not exist.
Xander would not have thought it possible for his stomach to sink any further than it already had that night, but he marveled grimly at the unwelcome new record it was setting. He watched for what seemed like a small, stretched eternity, until the liplock reached its natural end and Tara’s eyes found him first, widening. Spike noted the change immediately and whipped his head to find the source of her concern, his own eyes narrowing when he located it.
It was only natural for both Spike and Tara to think about getting up or separating, to ease the discomfort of their obviously-disapproving new audience. A look passed between them, and after a while Tara tightened her arms around Spike’s shoulders. Spike let one corner of his mouth curl up in thanks, and did a corresponding squeeze around her waist.
Tara looked up at Buffy and Xander, seeming strengthened and resigned. "What are you two doing here?" she asked simply.
Despite Tara’s non-accusing tone, Xander’s righteous indignation flared a touch. Buffy instead realized the news that needed to be broken. Her face fell with her responsibility for yet another set of feelings.
She readied herself, and spoke. "We’re looking for Willow," she said, practiced compassion already in place. "She was supposed to have flown in yesterday night. Giles says he put her on the plane, but we were there at the gate and...and we didn’t see her." Xander, though sobered, still held the slight air of being satisfied at having this news to sling.
Tara stood up almost immediately. Spike let her disentangle and tried to stay stoic, to trust in what Tara had told him and done for him – done *with* him – but nonetheless felt the worry beginning to climb.
"She...she came home? Giles thought she was ready? What did he say about her?" Tara realized how far behind she was on Willow Info, and tried to stuff the shame and anger it caused her.
"He said...she wasn’t completely done studying with the coven, but..." Buffy chose her words so carefully it was hard to talk at a normal speed. "...he felt it was important that she come home now."
This was not enough guarantee for Tara, not at all. "But...he wouldn’t send her back if she wasn’t ready...wasn’t...*okay*..."
"No. No, he wouldn’t." Buffy shook her head adamantly.
Tara’s brain moved slowly to the next emergency. "You really can’t find her?" she asked plaintively. Spike’s teeth ground together, unbidden. /Steady, mate./
Buffy’s face felt the weight of sympathy for Tara, heavy and barely tolerable. "I’m sure she’s okay," she repeated. "Just another one of our usual wacky mix-ups. We’ll get to the bottom of it. We always do."
Tara nodded, reassured by Buffy’s last factoid. The moment stretched.
"I’m sorry we didn’t tell you about it sooner," Buffy added, as the reality of their negligence hit her full force. "We – I guess we were trying to protect you, but we just ended up leaving you out of the loop." Their usual modus operandi, she thought sourly, always slapping each other with news when it was too late. "I’m sorry."
Buffy’s look met Spike’s for a moment, then drifted away, leaving Spike’s soul just the tiniest bit lighter for the trip.
Tara's brain was a
She turned and looked to Spike, and found his face controlled, and long-suffering. The comfort of him washed through her like rain. He was a haven. He'd do anything for her. He loved her. And she loved him, regardless of who else might share that honor – or want to.
For now, she knew this.
She tried to send this knowledge to him with her eyes. He got at least some of it, for his face relaxed into a weary smile.
Xander found himself back at Square One. "Yeah, we’re on the case. So for now, just sit back, relax, get a room."
Discomfort tweaked the moment once more. Spike’s eyes sought out Buffy's, looking to see what they held at this juncture. He looked for a break, maybe a little credit, perhaps something to get the Whelp off his case and leave him and Tara in peace. But Buffy merely stood, impassive, neither giving nor taking. He felt a flash of disappointment, but not surprise.
Tara realized that, unlike the last time he’d seen them together, this time Xander's contempt was not just for Spike. This time she stood implicated, too – though of what, she thought grimly, she wasn't sure.
Xander ‘s jaw clenched, along with one hand. "Really, what do you think you’re doing?"
"Tubthumping," shot back Spike.
"I’m serious, I really want to know." Xander dimly realized that his next words were crying out not just for what he saw in front of him, but for everything he’d recently lost, the man without a country he’d so quickly and unexpectedly become. "I want to know what kind of relationship you two could *possibly* be having, what you could *possibly* see in him..." His finger shot accusingly toward Tara, and then toward her hated lover. "I want to know, WHY HIM?!" The moment was too tense for it, but Spike wanted to smile smugly at the obvious jealousy.
Tara’s face was tight and grim. The need to rebuke Xander was strong in her, but the futility of a shouting match and indignity of stooping to explain stood firmly in the way.
She thought for a minute, and was rewarded with a glorious something that washed visibly over her face. She turned to the vampire behind her. "Spike?"
A flicker of relief to be addressing her. "Yes, Pet?"
Tara's eyes were mischievous. "Play 'Funnybutt'."
Spike blinked at her, empty-eyed, and she nodded at him – go ahead.
Spike's look of incomprehension – and slight panic – showed clearly that this was not something they both already knew. It was a look that searched for the reassurance she knew what she was doing. Even through his cloud of anger, Xander noted this, and wondered at its reason.
Tara’s look told Spike: /I know you can find what I'm telling you./
It said: /I trust you./
/I trust us./
Spike turned slowly back to the piano, brain working. /Okay, then./ He stared at the keys a moment, fingers tappity-tapping lightly against their surfaces. Buffy looked on in a kind of numb interest. Xander shifted his weight to his other foot, folded his arms.
Chords rang from the piano, as Spike began to croon theatrically: "I'm in the mood for luuuuve..."
Tara was beaming. Xander looked confused. Buffy just watched.
Spike continued: "Simply becuuuz, you're near me..." He turned to Tara and addressed her directly, sweetly, extravagantly. "'Funnybutt, when you're near me..."
Tara started to laugh. Xander made an exasperated face. Buffy cracked a faint, wan smile.
Spike finished with a flourish. "...I'm in the mooooood...for love."
Tara clapped and laughed louder, her happiness showing no sign of stopping. Xander scowled disgustedly, but knew there was no making his point just then. Spike just soaked up Tara's joy.
And if he'd been paying attention, he would have seen Buffy looking small, and forlorn.
Buffy and Xander left quietly, without the notice of either Tara or Spike. Spike was too busy welcoming Tara back into his arms, claiming her proudly with his lips and hands. He smoothed her brow when the recent Willow news surfaced there and creased it, tacitly pledging his support, no matter what it would do to his heart.
Tara knew what this meant for him, that it was no small feat. She was grateful. She showed it.
She led Spike home and took him at his musical word.