All About Spike - Plain Version
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Chapter: 1 2 3 4 Epilogue
Quick and Bitter, Slow and Sweet
By Miss Murchison
All characters are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy,
etc. Only the lame plots and dialogue herein are mine.
for the beta, and
Piglet for the original idea.
sighed and picked up a textbook. She was trying to concentrate on her
homework, but the memory of an unfulfilled promise kept intervening.
She really should keep her word to Spike and start looking for
something to help him get over Buffy. She kept intending to—just as
soon as she could catch up on her schoolwork, stop being distracted by
the need to fight stray demons, and keep Dawn under sufficient control
to get a moment's rest.
She looked down
at the book in front of her, and her brows twitched in perplexity over
the words on the page. It was hard to concentrate on Romantic
Poetry. Spike loved this stuff, though. Maybe if she asked him to
help with her lit paper, she'd have more time to look into his
problem. She'd ask him when he came over later.
she remembered that there was no reason for him to visit her apartment
that night. Dawn had a thing at school, and Buffy would probably be
taking her. And maybe Xander. And most likely Willow, which was why
Tara had no intention of going herself. She didn't want to see
really don't want to see her.
was surprised by her own train of thought, but before she could think
through her feelings, her eye was caught by the light blinking on her
answering machine. She'd been too distracted to notice it when she'd
come in. Setting her book aside, she went to check her messages.
strode along the sidewalk, trying to ignore the voices in his head as
he made his way back to his crypt from downtown. It was depressingly
early in the evening for them to be this confused and angry.
Well, this is another fine mess you've gotten us into, said the
please, moaned the poet, before adding to the demon, I keep
telling you we shouldn't let him watch all those stupid comedy shows.
Yeah, said the demon, you're a good one to talk about where to
tune the dial. You cry every time we see "Random Harvest."
You're no better, said
the fool to the demon. If it were up to you, it would be all Sam
Peckinpah and Quentin Tarantino.
porn, said the demon.
Don't forget the porn.
Let's face it, the only things we all agree on are porn and
Kevin Smith films, said
the fool. But that's not the point. I want to know what we're
going to do about her.
All three voices were
silent, contemplating the her in question.
We're no better off than we were before, said the fool at last.
Worse, in fact. At least Buffy liked blokes.
Tara said she didn't think of herself as gay. Just as a woman who
fell in love with another woman,
said the poet. Such a beautiful thought. He sniffled a bit.
Makes me have beautiful thoughts,
said the fool in a very different tone, his mind slipping back towards
Yeah, but when did you ever see her look at us with a real awareness
of the hotness that is Spike?
said the demon resentfully. I'll tell you when. Never. Because I
asked the fool.
If she even starts having those feelings around us, she moves away and
starts doing her Statistics homework. She doesn't want to
think about us that way.
But if she's
resorting to maths not to, perhaps there's hope,
said the poet doubtfully.
said the fool eagerly. Statistics? That has to be avoidance.
Statistics, snapped the
demon. What are we going to do to get through this night?
made a start, said the
fool. Gone to the shops and all.
killed a whole half-hour,
said the demon. Now, find me something else to kill. Because
we've hours and hours ahead of us, and you lot keep telling me we need
to stay away from Dawn and that high school.
will be there? asked the
snarled the demon. And you know Tara will go. And—
happen, said the poet as
soothingly as he could manage. Tara is all honor and integrity.
She knows that Willow cannot and will not control her magical
powers. And Tara has too much common sense not to realize that if she
goes back to Willow it won't make the woman she loves stronger—just
reassuring, said the
said the poet. Because I'm afraid that she also has too much
integrity and common sense to fall in love with us.
There was a long
silence as all three of them contemplated this unpleasant truth.
It's not as
if we would be any good for her, anyway,
murmured the poet.
so bad, said the demon.
We make her laugh, make her smile. Could make her smile even more,
given the chance.
laughed. Yeah, we're just what a wise, beautiful, and powerful
white witch needs for a lover. A toothless, crazy vampire.
We are not
crazy! chimed the demon
and the poet in unison.
Then how do
you explain the Multiple Personality Disorder?
We are not
symptoms of Multiple Personality Disorder,
snapped the poet. We are merely a coping device Spike uses to work
out his issues.
device? Issues? mocked
the demon. We have issues now? I knew we shouldn't let a
certain someone watch Dr. Phil.
snarled at all three of them to shut up. He'd almost reached his
crypt, and he had reached a decision, at least for the short term.
The only advice he planned to take for the rest of the evening would
come from Jack Daniels.
his steps slowed, and he felt himself tense, had to stop himself from
slipping into game face. His plans for the evening were about to
Because she was here, and something was wrong.
"Spike!" Tara ran through the graveyard, almost stumbling over a
tombstone in her attempt to catch up with him.
turned, stepping forward to meet her, reaching out a hand to steady
her as she came up to him. "What's wrong, pet?"
Dawn," she gasped, unable to force out anything more as she struggled
to get her breath back.
know it's Dawn," he snarled, and she felt his grip tighten on her
arm. "It's always Dawn. What's the brat up to now? Do I have to
scare more cops away, or has she been kidnapped again, or—"
left a message on my machine," Tara spat out at last. "She's cutting
the dance recital at school tonight."
was a long silence. Tara noticed for the first time that Spike was
holding a grocery bag under one arm. He let go of her, shifted his
grip on the bag, turned to face her, and said, "Well, no wonder you've
got your knickers all in a twist. Here I was thinking she was only
about to be arrested or murdered by demons, as per usual for our
little bit of interdimensional juvenile delinquency. But now that I
know the fate of a bloody dance recital hangs in the balance,
well, I'm just all of a-twitter."
felt no inclination to back down in the face of this sarcasm. "Spike,
you know the principal made her help out with the kids in this stupid
recital as part of her detention for the business with the tennis
balls, the porcupine, and the fetal pigs. It's like she's on parole
or something, and the social workers are all watching her. We have to
track her down and make her go to this thing." Her tone grew more
impatient as she pointed out the train of logic that should have been
as obvious to him as it was to her. "If she doesn't show up tonight,
she'll get kicked out of school. If she gets kicked out of school,
they'll take her away from Buffy and send her to live with her
father. If they send her to live with her father—"
"—we'll never see her," he finished with a growl that showed how
little he liked that conclusion. "But where's Buffy? And W—and the
other Scoobies? I thought the Little Bit would have a posse escorting
her to this thing."
don't know," said Tara. "They're probably on patrol. From what Dawn
said on my machine, I don't think Buffy was planning on going." Which
was a surprise to me. And which means Dawn was left with no one at
all for moral support.
planning—?" He glared off into the distance for a moment, and a
muscle tightened in his jaw. "Right, Tara. Just let me drop my
smokes and blood at my place first." He turned away and began
striding between the tombstones.
hurry up," said Tara, in spite of the fact that she was already almost
breathless again trying to keep up with him. "We need to find her
be too hard," said Spike. He stopped suddenly and nodded in the
direction of his crypt. Tara saw a light gleaming within.
sense the presence of an evil, manipulative creature that feeds on
popcorn, atrocious pop music, and bad TV. Who else could it be?"
Shifting his grocery bag to one hip, he stalked over to the door and
shoved it wide, flinging it against the wall with a resounding crash.
pool of light was emanating from the crooked lamp that leaned in the
middle of the crypt, near the single comfortable chair. Dawn was
sprawled across the battered upholstery, one blue-jean clad leg
dangling over the just-slightly-broken arm of the recliner, her eyes
fixed on the flickering light from the television set. She flinched
only slightly at Spike's dramatic entry.
are you watching?" Tara demanded, momentarily distracted.
a video," said Dawn, reaching for the clicker and dragging herself
into a more upright position. She added, her words tumbling over each
other too quickly, "Just something that happened to be in the
lying little bint," said Spike without anger as he dropped the
groceries on top of his refrigerator. "I was not watching
own that movie?" Tara asked him, even more distracted.
muttered something that almost sounded like, "Probably hoped it would
help him figure out his next move," but that made no sense. Tara
stopped worrying about the contents of Spike's video collection as
certain scenes from the movie replayed themselves in her mind. Not
things she wanted Dawn watching or hearing. And definitely not things
she wanted Dawn asking her awkward questions about. "Dawn, you know
you're not supposed to watch R-rated movies unless you ask first!"
slunk further down into the chair.
the issue of the moment," said Spike. He pointed at Dawn. "You.
That scrawny butt of yours belongs in a flipping pink leotard, on the
stage, at the high school. Now."
howled Dawn. "It's not fair!"
it is fair. It is more than fair. It's a punishment you
deserve for putting me in a position to have to say what I just did!"
The only reason I'm stuck with those brats is those stupid monks
decided to put it in everyone's memories that I used to go Miss
Cherie's Twinkle Toes Academy when I was a little kid. But I was
never a little kid, and I don't think there even is something as dumb
as a Twinkle Toes Academy in LA, so it's just not fair and I'm
Spike showed no
sympathy. "You will wipe runny noses and tie on toe shoes for those
brats or your butt will be in San Diego permanently."
I'm pretty sure your dad will outlaw Kevin Smith movies entirely, but
we let you watch Dogma," pointed out Tara, moving into Good Cop
mode. It felt odd. Usually Spike was the one who bent to Dawn's will
while she stood firm.
sat up straight. "I will not go live with my father," she
announced, her nose in the air. "He didn't even come to mom's
go to the recital," said Tara coaxingly. "It's only an hour or so of
your time, and it will get the social workers off your back."
right, pet, you need to go," said Spike, also relaxing his tone. "It
may be stupid and mindless, but it's bloody important."
Dawn crossed her arms in front of her chest. "It's not
fair. And if it's so important, why isn't anyone coming to see
"Someone is," Tara said, before Spike could respond. "I'm going to go
watch you. And so is Spike."
settled down on a hard plastic chair, smiling to herself with the
satisfaction of one who has completed a difficult but essential
mission. In fact, she was enjoying the unusual sensation of feeling
proud of herself. She had somehow managed to nag both the vampire and
the teenager as far as the high school and into their appointed
places. It had seemed an insurmountable task for anyone, even a
Slayer, and yet, she, Tara, had somehow accomplished it, against
bitter resistance, and in time to meet the looming deadline of opening
curtain. Dawn and the bag containing her dancing gear had been safely
delivered backstage into the care of a harassed but determined-looking
teacher, and Spike had been prodded into the crowded auditorium and
maneuvered into a seating arrangement that placed Tara between him and
the aisle that marked his escape route.
elderly, grey-haired woman in a pink sweatshirt embroidered with the
words, "World's Best Grandma" turned to Spike with the air of Someone
Who Talks to Everyone. "This is so nice!" she announced in a voice
neither Tara nor anyone else within four or five noisy aisles could
help hearing. "It's very exciting, isn't it?"
get out a lot, do you, lady?" drawled Spike.
grasped him by the arm, hauled him back to his feet and plunked
herself in his chair before pulling him back down beside her. She
turned to smile at his erstwhile companion. "Sorry. He needs to be
by the aisle. In case—in case his beeper goes off and he has to
"Yeah," said Spike, reaching for his pocket and leaning forward.
"Funny thing about you saying that just now. Because I'm feeling
these vibes that—"
said Tara loudly, whipping her head around to meet his eyes as
fiercely as she could, "we're both hoping that doesn't happen and he
sits here quietly and enjoys the whole show. Because if the
children can go to the trouble of putting this thing on, the least we
can do is watch them."
subsided and glowered at her.
lights went down just as the woman beside Tara launched into a
recitation of the names of her grandchildren and an explanation of
where the ballerina they were about to see had sprouted on the family
tree. She didn't moderate her voice, even as the tired-looking
teacher standing at the scarred podium begged for silence and good
behavior from the audience. The plea for quiet was further punctuated
by Spike's curses as the child seated behind him kicked the back of
his chair and screamed that he wanted to go home because Yu-Gi-Oh
was on and his sister was a creepy little show-off anyway. Tara
clamped her left hand down over Spike's arm to discourage any further
attempts at flight, but very carefully refused to look at him.
felt his muscles flinch under her fingers as a young man clad in an
elderly pale blue suit began to thump on an ancient, out-of-tune
piano. The first dancers paraded onto the stage, and Tara flinched
"Bugger this," muttered Spike.
needs you to be here," hissed Tara.
"Bugger," he repeated. But instead of leaving, he glanced over his
shoulder. Tara caught a flash of yellow from his eyes, heard a small
yelp from the aisle behind them, and then relaxed, as Spike slumped
back down in his chair and the child seated behind him subsided into
minutes later, they had been subjected to several vignettes starring
small troupes ranging in age from three to twelve and in skill levels
from non-existent to barely mediocre. The tinny music was giving Tara
a headache, and the costumes, which appeared to have been purchased
during a tag sale at the Liberace estate, were causing eye strain.
Some babies in the audience were crying, but instead of being
irritated by the wailing, Tara almost wished she could join them. The
only consolation was that the lighting was poor and their late arrival
had forced them into seats some distance from the stage.
could see the tap-dancers' lips moving as they muttered, "shuffle,
ball, change" to themselves and stumbled along at varying tempos that
seemed to take no cues from the music emanating from the tinny piano.
Still, they were an improvement on the "jazz dancer" who kept tripping
over her flowing robes and striking unimpressive poses.
Spike shifted in
his chair, and Tara tightened her grip on his arm again. Her muscles
were beginning to cramp from holding him so awkwardly, and she slid
her fingers down his leather sleeve to grasp his hand instead. She
felt him stiffen, but instead of pulling away, he grew still, and
after a moment his fingers returned the pressure of hers ever so
final group was announced, and Dawn appeared at last. She was in
charge of a class of some of the youngest dancers, a milling crowd of
kindergarteners dressed with stunning impropriety in sequin-studded
chorus girl outfits. Dawn, obviously mortified to be wearing a
similar costume, had been assigned the chore of standing in front of
the bewildered group and performing the routine that the children had
supposedly learned by heart for this recital. Since the girls had
clearly done no such thing, they watched Dawn and attempted to mimic
her, which put them several beats behind the music. Most of them
didn't know their left from their right, and one made no attempt to
dance at all but stared at the audience in dismay for a full minute
before bursting into tears.
All this would
have struck Tara as funny and adorable if it hadn't been for the
remaining member of the troupe, a blonde girl marginally more skilled
than the others. In contrast to the rest of the children, her makeup
and hair looked professionally done (apparently by someone accustomed
to coiffing hookers and beauty queens), and there was no hesitation in
her demeanor. She marched to the front of the stage, standing next to
Dawn instead of behind her, and performed her two-minute routine
inaccurately, but with an air that proclaimed her conviction that she
was worthy of prima ballerina status. Tara wanted to smack her
smirking face, and Dawn kept casting indignant glances in the girl's
direction. After one particularly pretentious pirouette, Tara heard
Spike growl ominously from deep in his throat.
dutifully performed the simple routine, followed by her inept
imitators, and finally, the torture ended. Apparently, the enthusiasm
of doting relatives was not dependent upon the quality of the
performance, because the audience stood and clapped wildly as the
lights came up. The tiny show-off ballerina stepped even closer to
the front of the stage and began performing curtseys that she seemed
to have practiced more carefully than the dance routine. A young
woman rushed to the stage and rescued the bawling child, and the rest
of the dancers stood as if stunned for a moment before making awkward
bows and shuffling off.
stood quietly, her eyes scanning the audience. She caught sight of
Tara, who was sitting in place with her hand still gripping Spike's.
The teenager's lips quirked upward for the first time since she had
appeared on stage. She gave a slight, bobbing bow and slipped away.
Eventually, the wholly inappropriate applause died down. Tara
released Spike at last, and they made their way to the foyer, followed
by the elderly woman, who was raving about her granddaughter's
performance in one of the first routines. Tara wasn't sure which of
the incompetent dancers had been pointed out to her by a wavering
finger, but she smiled and nodded agreement while keeping a close eye
on Spike. She gave him good marks for not fully vamping out yet, but
she feared his tolerance couldn't last much longer. Now the ordeal
was over, she was anxious to get him away from this particularly
hellish bit of the hellmouth.
looked over her shoulder to see Dawn coming towards them. It occurred
to Tara that the girl could win an award for speedy changes of
appearance when necessary; in her eagerness to escape, she had already
wiped off the excess makeup and donned a t-shirt and jeans instead of
her gaudy costume.
of something nice to say about the performance," hissed Tara, leaning
it was short," he suggested after a moment's thought.
"That's the best you can do?"
"Mercifully short," he amended.
mind. Don't say anything." Tara stepped forward to hug Dawn. "You
did great, honey," she said.
you didn't kill any of them or puke on the stage," said Spike,
ignoring Tara's injunction to silence.
glared at him, but Dawn smiled. "I know. I'm pretty proud of myself."
was standing close enough to Tara that she felt the movement when
someone pulled on the skirts of his duster. She looked down to see
the blonde ballerina who had disgusted her during Dawn's performance.
The child was staring up at Spike intently.
"What?" he demanded impatiently.
hair is stupid," said the little girl in an authoritative tone.
bent down, descending literally and figuratively to her level.
"Well," he said, his voice deceptively gentle, "you have stupid hair
too. In fact, you have big hair, which is the worst kind of stupid
hair. And, your mum is an ignorant cow who should be horsewhipped for
tarting you up like a two-dollar whore. And, you can't dance for
toffee. You dance worse than that stupid purple dinosaur."
drew in her breath, waiting for a wail of anger or dismay, but the
child merely stuck out her tongue and ran off as Spike stood up again.
sweet," announced the elderly woman who had been sitting next to
Tara. She had apparently heard Spike's tone, but not his words.
"It's always so nice to see a young man who's good with children. Is
that your little girl?"
asked Tara in dismay. "That kid?"
I was wondering which was your child. Such a lovely couple you make.
And I thought that little girl looked a bit like you."
Utterly speechless, Tara glanced at Spike and saw him about to open
his mouth. She grabbed him by the arm again and dragged him outside
as quickly as she could.
lighten up, Tara," said Dawn before Tara could begin to scold. "The
only thing that bothers me is that he didn't bite her. Everyone hates
haven't been the most lovable creature around yourself," said Spike.
"Bit, if you ever do anything to make me have to go through an
ordeal like that again, I will personally see to it you're dismembered
and fed to hungry baby Korash demons. While you're still alive."
was unimpressed. "If you hated it so much, you should have torn the
place up, the way Mom said you did once when Buffy had some stupid
thing going on at the old High School."
"I remember that
night." Spike's tone was nostalgic. "Busted me over the head with an
axe, your mum did."
"Mom was the
best," Dawn agreed. "But I guess she would have been glad we behaved
ourselves tonight. In fact, I bet she would have said we deserved a
reward. " Her tone turned coaxing. "Something better than the
Kool-Aid and cookies they're serving in the school cafeteria."
much are you planning on drinking?" asked Tara an hour later, as Spike
slipped back onto the love seat next to her, a glass in his left
slipped his right arm along the back of the couch, scanning the crowd
on the dance floor of the Bronze. He watched intently for a minute,
apparently decided that the pimply youth engaging in embarrassing
contortions a few feet away from Dawn was no danger to her virtue or
her safety, and relaxed back against the cushions. "As much as it
takes to make me forget that bloody horror show of Swan Lake on the
everyone has to start as a beginner," said Tara, mellowed by the
distance of time and a couple of beers. "They're just learning."
"Yeah. Just think how ghastly they'll be with a few years more
couldn't help smiling. As noisy and chaotic as the Bronze was, it was
an enormous improvement over the school auditorium. And she was
comfortable sitting next to him, watching the kids around them dance,
and seeing Dawn smiling and happy.
not too happy. Fortunately. Dawn didn't seem to be crushing on any
of the boys she was dancing with, which was good. Extricating her
from the last few boyfriends, especially the one who turned out to be
a demon, had aged Tara prematurely. She glanced at Spike, thinking
that even he had been a bit frazzled by that experience. But
Tara was extremely glad he'd been there the past few months, to help
her cope with Dawn's tears and tantrums, to rush to wild parties that
had gotten out of hand, to go into vamp face and scare off that cop
who'd been about to haul Dawn in for driving without a license and
breaking curfew, to . . .
had lost track of the number of times she and Spike had gone to Dawn's
rescue recently. They both recognized that the girl was acting up
deliberately, of course, begging for their attention. Probably
because she'd given up on getting Buffy to notice her. She was
behaving worse, crazier, than Tara had after her own mother's death.
between them, Spike and Tara had somehow gotten Dawn through mid-term
exams and bad dates. Tara had even shown up for parent-teacher
conferences when Dawn called one night, panic-stricken, to say that
Buffy was off killing something and the principal was expecting
someone to be there. Tara had rushed into the school building,
knowing she was late for the first appointment on the schedule, only
to find the Language Arts teacher chatting amicably about Victorian
poetry with Dawn's "stepbrother." Tara had introduced herself as a
cousin and made Buffy's apologies. She and Spike had somehow managed
to carry off the rest of the evening, although Tara was sure even a
vampire's toes would have to be sore from the number of times she had
stepped on his foot to shut him up. Tara had let him rage all he
wanted afterwards, while she trudged along beside him miserably. She
knew he was in agony not just because Dawn was being neglected, but
because he hated seeing Buffy so disconnected from the friends and
family that had once defined her unusual strengths as a Slayer.
relaxed now, though, smiling at Dawn's pleasure and sipping his drink
from time to time. Tara watched his profile, enjoying the way his
eyebrow quirked when he was amused, and smiling at his
exaggerated grimace of pain when the set ended and the sound system
dared to blare something by Britney.
slid onto the low table across from them, almost bouncing up and down
in her enthusiasm. "This is so cool! A lot of the kids I met in
detention are here, and we're having a great time. Thanks, guys!"
and Spike exchanged a horrified look, but by the time they faced the
table again, Dawn was gone, heading towards the bathrooms with a girl
in Goth gear.
too young to feel this old," grumbled Tara.
knew before she turned to look at him that he had tensed, and she was
unsurprised to see his hard-faced, steely-eyed expression, so at odds
with his relaxed pose of a moment before.
is it?" she asked.
"Vampire," he said. His eyes were tracking a sultry brunette who was
slinking along the edge of the crowd.
gone, slipping through the crowd towards his prey before Tara could
respond. She looked at his empty glass and reached down to the floor
for the old backpack she carried, pawing through its tumbled
contents. She was sure she had brought something with her that would
help in a fight with a vampire. In spite of his Big Bad aura, Spike
had several drinks under his belt, and Tara had no way of knowing how
old or how dangerous this particular vamp was. She had no intention
of letting him fight alone.
found a vial with some ingredients she could easily infuse with magic
to make a nice bolt of vampire-disintegrating fire, and stood up just
in time to see Spike slink out the back door, trailing the female vamp
and someone else who was obviously her intended prey. Tara was about
to follow when Dawn ran up and grabbed her hand.
not fair!" cried the teenager. "Tara, tell her she can't!"
who she can't what?" asked Tara impatiently, tearing her gaze
reluctantly from that closing door. "Oh," she added in understanding
a moment later. "Hi, Buffy." She looked over the Slayer's shoulder.
"Okay," said Buffy in an impatient tone. "So, you did tell the truth,
Dawn." She folded her arms across her chest. "You're here with Tara.
But I still didn't give you permission to come." Her glance at Tara
was cold. "You shouldn't have brought her here. The only place she
was supposed to be dancing tonight was at the high school."
know," said Tara quietly. "The recital thing. She went. So did I.
We—I brought her here afterwards to celebrate because she did a good
job. I was keeping an eye on her." She glanced at the door again,
and started to edge away. "Buffy, can we talk about this later?
need to talk about this now," said Buffy. "I can't be tracking a
vampire and then get distracted because I find my sister is out
partying all over town, instead of being where I expect her to be."
said Dawn in a cold voice. "So, you didn't come here looking for me?"
would I be looking for you?" said Buffy. "I thought you were at
school. Although why I'm still going with the concept that you'll be
where you're supposed to—"
recital was only, like, a half-hour long." Dawn erupted in rage. "It
was over a long time ago. How did you think I'd get home?"
thought you'd get a ride," said Buffy, backing down a bit in the face
of this logic. "Dawn, you know I had a double shift tonight, and I
couldn't take you—"
our house isn't filled with the safest drivers," said Dawn nastily,
with a glance at Willow.
saw Willow flinch, but she couldn't focus on the argument. She was
distracted by the thought of Spike, three sheets to the wind on Jack
Daniels, out fighting a very voluptuous and possibly dangerous
vampire, while she listened to the Summers girls snark at each other.
"I have to—" she started to say, and stopped. The back door opened
and a black-clad figure slipped inside. She met Spike's eyes, saw him
smile, and felt her lips relax into an involuntary grin when he
brushed his hands together, as if removing dust from his palms.
"Tara!" Dawn pulled on her arm.
"Sorry," said Tara. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Spike's
smile fade as he took in her companions. She moved to shield him from
Buffy and Willow's gaze. His presence could only make this scene
"Dawn," said Buffy impatiently, "I know it's hard on you that I have
to work a lot—"
you?" interrupted Dawn. "Then why do you do it? Because I don't
think it's even about the money any more, Buffy. You could get a
better job, sell the house, move us to a small apartment where you
wouldn't have big mortgage payments and repair bills, but then maybe
you wouldn't have quite so many things that aren't Dawn to worry
have no idea," said Buffy, "just how much it costs—"
I know. A lot. Especially when magic-addicted friends stay for free
and get to hang out with you every night, while I 'm supposed to sit
at home and do my homework."
gaze flew to Willow, and she saw the other witch look away and step
back, her expression hurt and angry.
"That's it," said Buffy to Dawn. "I'm taking you home now.
And you're staying there. You're grounded for the rest of the week.
I don't want you going anywhere else after school."
"But—but Tara and—Tara was going to help me with my history project,"
"Please, Buffy," said Tara, acutely aware that she had no real
standing in Dawn's life. "I was helping her with the project. And
I'll make sure she gets home early after a good meal each night. No
more visits to clubs, I swear."
"Okay," said Buffy, visibly relaxing at the thought of not having to
plan an evening meal on top of her other chores. "But Dawn isn't
researching the history of the Bronze, so I'm taking her home now."
She looked around resentfully. "I've lost track of that vamp anyway."
gave Tara a pathetic backwards glance as she was dragged away, still
protesting that it wasn't fair.
for a minute, and Tara noticed for the first time how pale and quiet
the other witch seemed.
you okay, Tara?" asked Willow in a near whisper.
fine," said Tara, and sought for words to express her worry about
Dawn, about all the residents of the Revello Drive house. She
couldn't find any. "Are you?" she asked weakly.
nodded weakly, as if she couldn't force out the polite response. "I'd
better catch up with Buffy," she muttered, and faded away.
"Bloody hell," said a voice behind Tara a moment later.
"Yeah," she agreed. She looked over her shoulder at Spike. "Buffy
was tracking that vamp you got."
instead she's caught the Little Bit and is going to make the rest of
her evening a misery," he said.
saved the rest of the week, though," said Tara. "She can come to my
place after school."
my name didn't come up, then?"
glanced at him, but instead of looking bitter, he seemed almost
amused. "No," she agreed, "I didn't mention that you were the one
helping her understand the Boxer Rebellion."
"That's a good thing, pet," he said somberly. "A very good thing."
Spike offered to
walk Tara home, and she accepted, even though she was probably as
capable as he of fighting off any random demons that might attack on
the way. The two of them slouched along, side by side, gloomily
staring at the ground as they contemplated Dawn's situation.
This is like
some scene from a Lifetime movie,
thought Tara. The tale of the non-custodial relatives glumping
along after the Bad Mother has asserted her legal rights to the Baby.
Except the Baby is a holy terror of a teenager with possible
inter-dimensional travel abilities. And the Bad Mother is her very
seriously depressed but heroic older sister, who's saved the world a
And who are
we to assume we can do better for Dawn than Buffy can? An
impoverished witch and a drunken vampire.
She looked at Spike. He didn't seem
very drunk now, but he did look depressed. She sought for words to
cheer him up.
was good of you to go to the recital," she told him. "Dawn liked it
that you were there."
lips twitched. "Didn't know I had a choice, pet. Had the impression
someone was going to turn me into a toad if I turned tail and ran."
Suddenly, she felt herself smiling too. "Sorry if I nagged and
stuff," she said.
you're not. Not sorry, I mean. You loved ruling the roost. You let
the Little Bit and me ride roughshod over you too much. We don't mind
it when you lay down the law, you know." He stopped, and she realized
they were standing in front of the shabby apartment house where she
lived. "I'll wait until you get inside, get the lights on," he said,
shuffling back a few steps and thrusting his hands in his pockets.
then do what, Spike?" she asked. "Go back to your crypt and worry
about Dawn?" She saw a flash of blue in the light from the
streetlamps as he glanced at her in surprise. "Why don't you come
inside and we can worry about her together? Over popcorn and bad
TV." She grimaced. "You know what they say about misery and
hesitated for a few seconds before saying, "Thanks, pet," and
following her through the door.
minutes later, she was scrounging through the fridge while he
channel-surfed. "I'm out of blood," she called across the one-room
apartment. "Plenty of coffee, though."
looked up from the small sofa on the opposite end of the room.
"Coffee and popcorn will do," he said.
you sure?" she asked, frowning. "You were bringing blood back from
the store earlier."
doing my weekly shopping for staples. Smokes, Jack Daniels, Cheetos,
Weetabix, peanut butter, and blood. Got any peanut butter?"
can ask a college student that question?" she said, finding a box of
crackers. "Once the Pell Grant funds run out the first semester, we
all discover it's possible to live indefinitely on PB&J and ramen
noodles." A few minutes later, she brought the food over to the small
coffee table that, like the bedside table and the four-foot silver
candlestick, had appeared outside her door one morning with no note or
cloisonné umbrella stand had been the last straw. She didn't even
know anyone else who owned an umbrella stand, and the thing certainly
had no place in an efficiency apartment. So she'd pointed out to
Spike that she was running out of space for furniture. Since then,
she'd been deluged with small statues and various knickknacks that she
hadn't wanted to hurt his feelings by refusing. She was going to have
to say something soon, though. Her place was starting to look like
one of those cluttered Victorian sitting rooms she'd seen in old
settled down beside him, she shoved aside a fertility goddess and a
blood-red crystal vase to make space for the tray of coffee and
decided on a channel, but when she dropped down beside him on the
couch and looked at the screen, Tara felt her stomach lurch. "No,
Spike, not Alien!"
"Sigourney," he pointed out. "A very sexy lady."
very disgusting monster popping out of people's stomachs. Not while
sighed dramatically, but flipped through a few more stations, before
muttering, "Brilliant," and settling back on the couch.
stopped with a cracker halfway to her mouth. "An Affair to
Remember? Spike, this is the sappiest movie ever made."
looked offended. "Cary Grant!" he said, getting a wealth of
indignation into the retort.
rolled her eyes, but didn't ask him to change the channel again,
concentrating instead on her food.
licked a stray glob of jelly off the side of one finger, she noticed
him watching her intently. She raised one eyebrow, silently
wondering," he said, accurately interpreting her expression. "Why
you're spending the night watching a three-hanky weeper with me, when
you could have gone back home with Buffy and Dawn. Buffy doesn't mind
you being part of the Little Bit's life."
know," said Tara. "But Willow would be there too." She leaned
forward, fumbling for more crackers and the jar of peanut butter,
letting her hair fall forward in front of her face, hiding her
expression from him.
"Sorry, pet," he said. "Forgot. Forgot how hard it is for you." She
couldn't see his face, but she thought his tone was harsh. "I know
you want to see her—"
she interrupted him. She stopped pretending to herself that she was
still hungry and faced him. "I don't."
stopped breathing. She'd noticed a long time ago that his chest rose
and fell regularly, and she'd come to the conclusion that he chattered
so much that he'd gotten into the habit of drawing in air so he'd
always be prepared to speak. But at this moment he was completely
immobile; his gaze was unblinkingly bright and piercing.
eyes locked on his. "I was thinking about it tonight, when I thought
Willow and Buffy were going to the recital, and I realized that I
didn't want to run into Willow. I really, really didn't. All that
hoping, praying, that she would get better so we could be together—now
I just want her to get better." She looked away now, fumbling for
words, "I love her, I want her to be strong and happy. But—I don't
want to be with her again."
stopped, then, shuddering with shock as she realized what she did
and Spike were sitting side by side, thighs touching even though that
proximity wasn't strictly necessary, since for once Dawn wasn't also
present on her other side. She'd moved closer to him instinctively,
seeking comfort from his touch without wondering why, without thinking
through the effect it might be having on him.
He knows. He
knows what I'm feeling, what I want from him right now. He can't help
knowing, because of what he is.
It's not just
fear that vampires can scent.
should have felt embarrassment that he could read her emotions so
clearly, but there was none. Because she was suddenly certain he
wanted her as much as she wanted him.
staring intently at the television screen now, refusing to glance in
her direction even though he had to be aware she was looking at him. She reminded herself that they were both lonely and a
bit tipsy, and that anything that happened between them could affect
their relationship with Dawn. Oddly enough, she didn't think of Buffy
or Willow at all. Perhaps she was too caught up in examining the
graceful line of Spike's cheekbones. Or maybe her attention was
wholly caught by the way a muscle twitched in his cheek, and how the
corner of his mouth drooped slightly. A few weeks ago, she wouldn't
have read those signs. Now his need for her seemed perfectly obvious
in spite of his current effort to appear indifferent. She had come to
understand him a little bit, perhaps. And, at last, she admitted to
herself that with understanding had come desire.
wondered what she would say next, but the sound of her own voice
echoed in her ears and she realized her tone had said everything for
and deliberately, he switched off the television and set down the
remote before turning to her. She watched every fluid motion of those
strong, clever hands with fascination, knowing that in a moment they
would reach out for her. As his arms came around her, she looked up
into his face and saw the same tentative wonder in his eyes that she
was very, very good at this, she realized. He knew just how to hold
her, just how to use his lips and tongue to make her mouth open
against his, just where to run his fingers along her exposed flesh to
make her move closer to him, how to make her whole body react to a
simple touch like a piece of kindling licked by a scorching flame.
Encouraged by her enthusiastic reaction to his first efforts, he
pulled her onto his lap, settling her astride him, one hand at the
nape of her neck to guide her lips and the other against the small of
her back, pulling her closer until her hips ground against his.
against something that wasn't his hips. Tara gave a little gasp at
the sensation, at the very prominent evidence of his arousal. Had she
thought about it, she might have pulled away, but she wasn't thinking
this encounter through at all, and instead she rubbed herself against
him experimentally, enjoying the sensation.
growled approval, and his tongue probed her mouth more deeply. The
hand that had been against her back began to wander, not the least bit
aimlessly, finding nerve-endings whose existence Tara had forgotten
during her long stint of celibacy. She realized that her fingers were
entangled in the short, curly locks of his hair, and she disengaged
them to send them on their own expedition, seeking more interesting
"That's my girl," he muttered in encouragement, as his lips released
her mouth in order to seek the softness of her neck. "That's my
these, the first words uttered since this bizarre embrace had begun,
Tara pulled back, her hands on his shoulders, gulping back something
between a horrified sob and an ecstatic moan.
froze, quiet and still as no human could be, only his
eyes seeming alive as he tried to read her expression.
"Spike," she said hoarsely, "if this is about you pretending I'm
someone else, please let me go. Because if you're thinking about
Buffy while we—"
hand came up to stroke her cheek, but his expression remained still,
his eyes profound but unreadable. "Difference between you and me,
pet. I'd want this no matter what—no matter who or what you were
thinking about while you were in my arms. It would hurt, but I'd
still want it. I want it that much."
pulled away from him completely then, standing up and taking a step
backwards, almost upsetting the coffee table before she stumbled to
one side, uncertain how to take this, wanting to ask exactly what he
meant, but unable to form a thought rational enough to put into words.
didn't have to. He opened his mind to her.
gasped, first because she had no idea he knew how to initiate this
form of communication. Then she found herself struggling for breath
as she realized this contact was far more intimate than any mind-touch
she had experienced before.
had learned how to send her thoughts to someone else's mind, and Tara
had used that skill to talk to Spike in emergencies. But he wasn't
just sending her his thoughts now. In fact, she couldn't distinguish a
single, coherent word in the onrush of emotions that struck her like a
blow. At first, she thought she heard a murmur of competing voices
muttering indistinguishably. But they fell silent almost immediately,
leaving her with only the stark evidence of his senses.
was inside his head, seeing herself, experiencing all the passion that
lurked behind that blue gaze. She could taste herself in his mouth,
feel the sensory memory of the touch of her soft skin against his
finger tips, hear the sound of her own ragged breathing and the
agitated, rapid thud of her own heart, smell the rich and erotic scent
of her arousal, so strong it almost masked the salty aroma of her
blood pounding just under her skin, and—
jerked her mind away from his and stepped backwards again, hovering on
the verge of flight. Her first impulse was to run to the bathroom,
flick on the light switch and stare into the mirror. She wanted to
reassure herself that only a plain, nervous creature with dirty-blonde
hair and a shy expression stood there. For the first seconds after
she looked into Spike's mind, the only thing that held her in place
was the fear that she would see the beautiful, glorious creature who
had stood before her as she looked out of his eyes, a woman vibrantly
alive with passion and wholly desirable.
midnight gaze was focused on her again. It was tentative and
questioning now. He was afraid he had terrified her, lost everything
he'd sought to gain by opening himself to her completely.
Yeah, Spike, you've scared me all right. Scared me the way you never
could by going into vamp face, or with the crazy way you throw
yourself into a fight without thinking twice, or with your stories
about your evil past. Because you've suddenly made this about what I
am, not who you are.
woman Spike saw was no one Tara recognized. She was strong, wild, and
fearless. She was—
was what I always wanted to be, but was sure I never could become.
And that's what he thinks I already am.
her body trembled with the need to run from him, to run from this
alien vision of herself. Because she wasn't that woman, she could
Yes, you can. Tara gulped in shock. This time that voice,
speaking with such certainty, came from her mind, not his. He had
pulled back entirely into himself. He was waiting, wondering, afraid.
is afraid of losing me. Me, Tara. No, not me. That other Tara, that
goddess he sees in his mind. He wants her so much.
I understand why Buffy ran from him. I've come to realize the past
few months that it couldn't be just because she believed he would do
evil again. Everyone, human and demon, is capable of good and evil.
No, it was something much more frightening than that.
because this is what he does to the women he loves. He makes them
into princesses, divine beings, something far greater than they are.
That is enough to terrify even a Slayer.
saw her choice clearly now. She could run, hide, retreat back into
the girl she saw in the mirror. But, then, I will always
Or, she could risk
becoming the creature in Spike's mind. Because she had no doubt that
if she risked now, she would have to risk again and again, playing at
being Spike's Tara until that girl became indistinguishable from the
real one, until perhaps even she would see that incredible woman in
took a third step back. She saw Spike's face begin to close off in
disappointment. He stirred, very slightly, as if in anticipation of
his rejection, of receiving orders to leave her, to return to the
long have we been standing here, without words? I have no idea how to
break this silence. I can find no words. Not even words of
hadn't needed words to show her his feelings, and she felt her face
relax into a warm, secure smile as her stronger self took charge,
assuring her it was all very simple.
reached her hands down to her waist and pulled off her shirt, tossing
it aside quickly. Her bra followed a moment later. Then she was
sliding her jeans down over her hips, stepping out of them and
standing before him naked. She'd been inside his head, felt his
overwhelming desire to see her like this, and the expression on his
face told her that so far, at least, she had not disillusioned him.
was in his embrace before she realized he had begun to move. If their
kisses had been passionate before, now they were overwhelming in their
urgency. She began to tug at his shirt. Then she felt his arms shift
around her, and he was holding her easily in his arms.
been swept off my feet!" she said, realizing with astonishment that
she was laughing. Her head was spinning, but not from the speed with
which he had swung her into the air. She was giddy with the courage
of her decision; she felt as if she had released some wild avatar of
herself into the real world.
a name like Tara, it had to happen sooner or later, love," he said,
carrying her to the bed and laying her down there before quickly
stripping off his own clothes.
discovered then how goddesses were treated. She learned that a touch
of hands or lips could be insistent and worshipful at the same time,
and that a true believer was willing to dedicate much time and effort
to his orisons. And Spike was clever as well as devoted, translating
his idol's every move and utterance into instructions on how to
increase her pleasure.
between kisses, amazing words rolled off his lips, words that were as
arousing as the kisses. "'You are mine, mine woman with the sweet
lips, and in your life my infinite dreams live . . . Huntress of the
depths of my eyes . . . your eyes of mourning . . .in your eyes of
mourning the land of my dreams begins . . .'"
came at last, not in sweet release, but in a crescendo of passion,
crying aloud as Spike's hands, lips and tongue continued to worship
called his name. That seemed to surprise him; he looked up at her,
then brought his lips to hers quickly, his skin gliding smoothly
against hers as he moved above her, his eyes darker even than when he
had opened himself to her.
Turnabout is fair play.
it's your turn to come inside," she whispered, opening her legs wider,
reaching up to touch the smooth muscles of his arms, enjoying the
novelty of that hard flesh under her fingertips.
Suddenly, he was tentative again. "Are you sure?" he asked hoarsely.
"You said once that you'd never—I want this night to be perfect for
smiled, and watched his eyes lighten at the sight. "Then don't argue
with me," she said, trying for a stern tone, but collapsing into quiet
laughter. She couldn't help it, she was so happy. "Come on, Spike,
I'm inviting you in."
breathed more thrilling words against her lips. "'She is wild and
innocent, pledged to love through all disaster.'" He accepted her
invitation without further argument, sliding into her smoothly but not
deeply, supporting himself on his hands, at first carefully reading
her expression, but then closing into himself in concentration.
He's holding back. Tara felt a surge of irrational anger at
this. How dare he let her feel just how fierce and dangerous he could
be and then pull away from her now, when she wanted him to release
that part of him? Didn't he understand this night was as much about
him as it was about her? She bent her knees, pressing the soles of
her feet into the mattress and thrusting her hips upwards, flinging
herself into this new experience, heedless of the knowledge that
giving him pleasure could cause her pain.
Except—she had forgotten something. The memory came rushing back as
she felt his body begin to tense against hers and saw the reserve on
his face contort into astonished and overwhelming happiness. He was
too overwhelmed with delight to realize what was happening, and she
reached up, gripping her right hand fiercely against his temple, her
mind and talent racing to complete a sudden, urgent task.
he was collapsed against her, panting in total release.
gaze took in his contentment, and she smiled blissfully. If she could
make him look like this, perhaps that vision of herself had not been
so far wrong.
raised himself on his elbows, staring at her wonderingly. "My love,"
he muttered. Puzzlement crept into his gaze. "Something just
so, you noticed, did you?" she said.
eyebrow acknowledged her teasing. "I think the neighbors noticed
that," he said. He shifted his weight to one hand and the other
reached up to touch hers, which was still pressed against his temple.
she said. "Yes, there was that, too." She dropped her arm,
and it fell almost languorously to the mattress, outstretched along
the white expanse of the sheet. Slowly, her fingers opened and
revealed the small, bright object in her palm.
is it?" he asked hoarsely.
Continued in Part Four
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