All About Spike - Plain Version
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Chapter: 1 2 3 4 Epilogue
Quick and Bitter, Slow and Sweet
By Miss Murchison
R, for romance. Menstrual play, so don't read or skim if that
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.
demon, the poet, and the fool struggled within him. The demon raged
briefly, but was hushed by the babblings of the fool, who was trying
to make sense of this incredible new development on a night already
full of marvels.
poet was even less coherent than the fool, of course. He was lost in
wonder at the vision before him, and it was the poet's admiration and
awe that held all three of them frozen in place.
was stretched out on the sheets beneath him, relaxed and open, one arm
still thrown out to the side, her eyes on that bright, shining object
in her palm.
a submissive posture, but she didn't look submissive. She looked like
a goddess who had just dropped to earth, someone too powerful to feel
fear, even as she lay naked and defenseless before a soulless demon.
knelt beside her, and the demon, the poet, and the fool all fought
again for words. Oddly enough, they agreed on the most important
aspect of what had just happened. "I hurt you," gasped Spike.
sat up, pulling away from him and sitting up, curling her legs under
her. Casually, she reached over and dropped the chip onto a small
tray on the bedside table, where it clinked down to rest, harmless and
useless, among some bits and pieces of cheap jewelry. She turned back
to him, smiling. "It doesn't matter, Spike. It
didn't hurt much." The smile turned mischievous, and she blushed.
"Not enough to put me off the idea of future experimentation."
why--?" He gestured towards the abandoned chip.
looked surprised. "I couldn't let it ruin that moment for you," she
said simply. "You were so happy."
fool escaped and blurted out the next words, "You cared enough about
that to turn me back into what I was?"
don't understand, Spike," she said. She was confused now, the serene
confidence of a few moments ago draining away and leaving her
hesitant and uncertain. "This doesn't change anything important about
you. It was just a dead thing in your head. It wasn't even magical."
kept me from killing," said the fool, his voice hoarse and rough.
only response was a bewildered, incredulous shake of her head.
demon escaped then. "You think I'm housebroken?" he demanded. "That
the Big Bad is tamed?"
He vamped out.
The poet and the fool protested, but they were so paralyzed by their
cold fear of losing her that they were powerless to stop the bit of
him that would surely drive her away.
as Tara stared up at him. He had never done this with Buffy, never
been this panicked, no matter how much the Slayer had goaded him, no
matter how violently she had cursed him, no matter how hard she had
beaten him. But, confronted with Tara's gentleness, his resolve had
fallen, and he had exposed his true face.
the steel that he knew existed behind his witch's shy exterior
showed. She didn't flinch, and her voice was even. "No, Spike, I
know you're dangerous. You have power, and power always has the
potential for danger." She looked away now, but her expression was
embarrassed, not disgusted or frightened. "Didn't you guess that's
one reason we're here together? You must have noticed by now that's
what attracts me." The self-deprecating smile he knew so well
appeared and she peeked at him through the veil of her hair. "Silly,
isn't it? A frightened little sheep like me, I can't help but fall in
love with strength and power. It's what I saw in Willow—that amazing
potential she had."
you left her when she abused it," he said hoarsely.
nodded, withdrawing into herself for a moment, leaning back against
the headboard. He saw she was reliving that pain, and the poet ached
with sympathy even as the demon howled with jealous rage. Then he saw
her follow his meaning, her expression changing to dismay and
concern. "You don't think that I'll—that because your chip is gone—?"
leaned forward then, reaching up to run her fingers along the ridges
on his brow, to trace the scar over his eye, to meet his amber stare
with her own wondering gaze. The fear and rejection he awaited did
not appear; instead she rose to her knees and brought her lips to
his. She pulled away after that first tentative touch, and he could
read only conjecture and anticipation in her expression. Her lips
came to his again, her mouth open, her tongue probing him, licking
deep inside as her fingers continued to play over his face. He could
sense her arousal, and felt the demon within him react with an ardor
echoed by the poet and the fool.
a long interval, she sat back on her heels and regarded him with one
of her serious, quiet expressions. "You're right. I left Willow
because she abused her power." For the first time, anger sparked in
her eyes. "She had everything, Spike. Brains, talent, people who
loved her, good teachers. And yet—" She shook her head and looked at
him. Her smile softened, and so did his heart. "But, you. You had
nothing. Nothing and no one. And, yet, look what you've done. For
Buffy, for Dawn, for all of us." Her capable fingers grasped his
hands warmly, as if she were remembering the tasks they'd performed in
the service of his ladies.
poet wanted to accept that admiration. To seize her, hold her, and
let her believe that he could be the man who lived in her
imagination. To take her heart and hold it for as long as the
illusion would last.
couldn't do it. She deserved more, and he would give her no less than
what she deserved. It was the fool who insisted on that.
And for once the fool had enough wisdom not to let the others overrule
you didn't know me before—what I was—the evil I've done. If it hadn't
been for the chip, and now that it's gone—"
laughed at him. He was frozen with shock at the assurance behind her
amusement, at the way she leaned forward again and kissed his
monstrous countenance with easy affection, at the intimate way her
fingers stroked through his hair before she pulled away to say,
"Spike, that chip never kept you from doing evil."
once, he was left speechless. But his usually shy and quiet Tara
filled the void with her words. They tumbled over one another, as if
she'd thought them often, and they were eager to escape her lips and
meet his ear at last. "The chip was a catalyst; maybe it showed you
another way to be when you started fighting demons instead of killing
people. But it never stopped you from doing evil. When I first met
you, you could cause the Scoobies more pain and chaos just by the
things you said than most demons could with swords and battle axes.
Adam had to go to you to try to tear them apart, because even he
couldn't manage that. You had them hating each other in a few hours.
You nearly destroyed their friendship."
"Didn't succeed in the end though, did I?" muttered the fool, although
he was unsure of the significance of that fact.
Tara had thought it through. "Because they used to be stronger than
you," she said softly. "And because you switched sides."
out of the goodness of my heart, love. Because it was the only way to
save my skin." Both the poet and the demon raged at the fool for
blurting that out.
she agreed. "The goodness of your heart came later." Her hand was
against his bare chest. "You shouldn't be able to do the good things
you've done, Spike. The things you feel, they shouldn't be possible.
No chip, no magical force should have been able to make a soulless
creature into what you are today." Her eyes were puzzled but her tone
was confident. "I still don't understand how you've done it. But
it's real. It's what I love."
even the wonder of that final phrase could release him from his
misery. "Tara, maybe I have—maybe I want to—but you know I'm still a
monster. I'll always be a monster. Sooner or later—" Even the demon
could barely stand to hurt her with these words.
sadly. "I do know, Spike. You invited me in, remember? I saw out of
your eyes, felt what you felt, smelled—"
and he pulled away from her. He realized that she did understand,
Tara's voice was
quiet and even. "I felt your need, Spike. You can live on pigs'
blood from the butcher for weeks, or months, or even years, but sooner
or later, it's going to have to be human, isn't it? You crave it.
Fresh, human blood, from a warm body. And sooner or later, you won't
be able to deny that hunger."
nodded unwillingly, looking away for a moment before daring to meet
her unwavering, gentle gaze again. Amazingly, she was still smiling.
"But that's okay, Spike. Don't you see that it's okay? We can make
it okay together. We can each be what the other needs. Because, you
know, I am human. You proved that, remember? You made me see what I
am. What we both are."
"You—?" Before he could ask what she meant, Tara's eyes closed and she
began to murmur under her breath. He realized she was moving into a
light trance, and again he was lost in amazement that she could be so
unafraid of him, so assured of her own safety as she knelt naked and
defenseless in front of an unchained demon who had just acknowledged
the defenseless one, he knew then. By removing the chip, she had put
him more securely in her power than he had ever been. The demon was
now free of all restraints except those created by his need for her
good will, but those had become stronger than any material shackles or
confused too, realizing she had knowledge beyond his understanding.
Her eyes seemed so candid, but they held secrets. They always would.
He would never reach their depths, no matter how often he lost himself
in her gaze, simply because she was so wise and he was only love's
fool. No matter how much she revealed to him, how much she explained
carefully, stooping to the level of his poor understanding, there
would always be another layer of mystery, yet another Tara to be
And when she
opened those eyes to look at him now, he saw a Tara he had imagined
but never thought to encounter in this glorious flesh. A serene and
powerful goddess, she leaned forward to kiss his demon confidently,
her tongue flicking over his sharp incisors, her fingers tracing the
length of his arm. She was warm and so very beautiful, and he was
overwhelmed with the sight and scent of her—
He jerked away
suddenly, snarling in surprise and gut-wrenching desire as an
unmistakable aroma assaulted his senses.
She lay back on
the sheets, laughing up at him. He crouched over her like some
monstrous incubus, his fangs bared, an involuntary growl of hunger
crawling out of his throat. But she was welcoming, relaxed and open
as if she faced the gentlest of lovers and anticipated only the
lightest of touches. "You said once I was a clever girl, Spike. This
is just a little trick I learned to avoid inconvenience and
embarrassment. Not even magic, really, just a bit of biofeedback
combined with some advanced yoga. It was almost time for it to happen
can't—" The poet protested while the demon cried at the back of his
mind that he must. The fool was too confused and awestruck to even
try to make sense of it all.
not?" Those beautiful lips were twisted into the crooked smile he
loved. He felt as if it had twisted and wrung his heart. "Why not,
Spike? You need it, and it's not as if I have any other use for it."
The smile grew. She was a siren now, incredibly seductive. "And it's
not as if there's nothing in this arrangement for me."
stopped breathing, but it was no use. The intoxicating scent of her
was inside him, gnawing at him, demanding that he let the demon feed.
His body shuddered with the effort it took not to touch her.
She saw his
struggle and was serious at last, but the loving expression in her
eyes didn't waver. "I trust you, Spike," was all she said.
That was the
final bond, the last chain she wrapped around his heart and his will.
Demon, poet, and fool joined to worship her.
Spike bent his
head to hers, and his bestial lips were gentler than Tara's human ones
in the embrace that followed. As tenderly as possible for the rough
creature he was, he caressed her with his mouth and hands, careful not
to mark her flesh, marveling how she lay quietly beneath him even as
his fangs approached her throat, her breasts, and the softness of her
belly. The thud of her heart grew louder in his ears, but it throbbed
with desire instead of fear, until it seemed to hammer its way
directly into his skull, as if it were beating for them both, keeping
them both alive.
And so it
will. He kissed the soft
flesh on the inside of her thigh, his hands gentle against her, his
fingers seeking her clit, spreading those lovely pink lips, and then
he was inhaling the warm, moist scent of her arousal—and of something
stronger and even more enticing. Instinctively, he slipped back into
human face. As was right and proper. Because even though he was a
monster, this was the way he had approached every woman he cared for;
this was the face he had presented in the most intimate and loving
moments of his unlife.
This was an act
of love. For both of them. There was giving and taking on both
sides, and that aspect was so novel and heart-wrenching that it
overwhelmed every other thought and emotion. This was something new,
something Buffy had denied him even as she had indulged in every other
practice he had suggested in bed. But from this she had fled,
refusing to come to him on the days and nights when it would have been
He knew why
Buffy had refused. What he couldn't understand was how Tara had
offered so freely and joyously.
understand. But he could accept with equal joy. And, as he did so,
he felt a strange release that felt almost like freedom.
At the first
rush of her blood, her essence, he almost fainted away. It was too
much even for his jaded tastes. This was something richer and more
powerful than anything he had ever experienced. He had ripped blood
from the veins of a Slayer, stolen her life force, and even that did
not equal the power of this gift. Lapping at the thick, vital flow of
Tara's menses, he realized that for the first time he was savoring the
nectar of creation and not destruction.
He moved quickly
into a divine drunkenness, in which his world was centered on that
ruby elixir and yet he remained fully aware of Tara, not just as the
goddess who had granted him this boon, but as the woman whose body
quaked beneath his hands and lips. Her moans of pleasure echoed
in his ears, and he felt the blessed touch of her hands against his
hair as her fingers stroked him gently.
It was absurd,
but he thought her voice reflected wonder and disbelief as she gasped
in delight. He chuckled involuntarily at the foolishness of that
thought. Because how was it possible that a magical being like her
could imagine herself fortunate to have a poor, foolish servant like
She was awake.
Fascinated as he was with everything that concerned her, and lying as
he was with his head resting on one lush, smooth thigh, he could
hardly miss the signs. He heard the change in her breathing, sensed
the slight change in temperature as her heartbeat sped up, and felt
her deliciously warm body shift slightly beneath him as consciousness
little enough sleeping this night, but he was glad she was waking
again now. Because his senses also told him that dawn was coming, and
he didn't want to creep away without a word. He needed to look into
her eyes again, to reassure himself that she didn't regret their
expected to be tormented by doubts at this moment, a wave of certainty
passed over him. He was sure that she had awakened as strangely
loving and pleased with him as she had been the night before.
The demon, the
poet, and the fool were of one accord about that. They seemed at
peace, not just with this beautiful woman he loved, but with each
other. This unanimity was unusual and astonishing. He didn't dare
hope it would last out the day, or even the hour, but he rejoiced that
it had happened at all.
He was happy.
The room was
still dark, but he could see her clearly. She was lying beneath him,
relaxed against the white sheets, more beautiful even than his
imagination had painted her. His fingers skimmed the curve of her
soft belly, the swell of her full breasts, the lovely line of her
And then he
found himself kissing those soft lips, still slightly swollen from his
attentions to them the night before. He could feel the corners of her
mouth curving up against his. She's happy, chorused the voices
in his mind.
she murmured. Her hand traced the length of his arm, touched his
cheek, and flitted down to rest against his chest, as if she were
reassuring herself that he was really there.
"Last night—" he
started to say, and stopped. Neither the demon, the fool, nor the
poet could find the words to describe last night.
She ducked her
head shyly for a moment, but then peeked back at him with more
bravery. Her fingers crept lower, to spread themselves across his
belly. "Not hungry any more?"
for you," he said hoarsely.
"I wasn't sure.
You didn't—" She blushed all over, the blood that was the essence of
her vitality rising even closer to the surface of her skin.
blurted out a sincere but tactless response. "Didn't seem polite,
like," he said. "Tucking into breakfast first thing without paying my
"Glad to hear
it. My mother brought me up to appreciate good table manners," she
said, laughter echoing in her voice.
thought that was funny,
gasped the poet, who had been a bit shocked by the comment himself.
Of course she
did, said the fool.
Not easily offended, our Tara. And she's not the sort to pretend at
dawn that she hates what she begged for at midnight.
agreed the poet after a
moment's reflection. She's too wise, too practical, to hide from
her own truth.
But all Spike
said was, "I have to leave soon. Sun's coming up."
The dismay with
which she greeted this was as reassuring as her laughter had been
earlier. "Do you really have to go?" Her eyes flicked around the
room, but he could tell from her unfocused gaze she could make out
only vague shapes in the dimness. "Can't you stay here? I mean, it's
a basement apartment, the blinds are closed, and the sun never reaches
as far as this bed anyway." Shyly, she teased him with some of the
poetry they'd discussed on one of those long evenings they'd spent
with Dawn. "'Why should we rise, because 'tis light? Did we lie
down, because 'twas night?'" Then she stretched a little, moving her
body against his, in a self-conscious attempt to be seductive. As if
she needed to try. He'd been seduced, utterly and completely, weeks
He was too
entranced by her eagerness to welcome him into her life to respond
immediately, and she grew serious, taking his face in her hands and
adding softly, "Don't leave to run back to your gloomy crypt, Spike.
Stay here instead, in my darkness, with me."
His hand stroked
her hair as he answered, his voice cracking on the words, "I'll stay.
You know I'll do anything you ask, love. But there's no darkness in
you, Tara." His lips brushed hers again. "If you could only see how
bright you are to my eyes. You're glowing."
Dawn had bounced
into Tara's apartment in a good mood, which got even better when she
discovered that dinner was going to consist of Chinese takeout that
Spike rushed out to get the minute the sun went down. He didn't
complain about being used as an errand boy, and he let Dawn
have the last pot-sticker without an argument. But when he dumped hot
mustard and about a quart of soy sauce on his own plate instead of
sullying the entire carton-full of Mongolian Beef with his choice of
condiments, Dawn started thinking things were too good to be true.
As the meal went
on, she noticed that the smile hovering around Tara's mouth and the
self-satisfied gleam in Spike's eyes refused to go away, even when
Dawn used some forbidden words, mentioned her Algebra grades, and
dropped the news that she'd been invited to the Spring fling dance by
a Senior. Tara condemned the vocabulary and set up a study schedule
for math, and Spike threatened to eviscerate the boy in question, so
it wasn't as if they'd been replaced by pod people or anything. But
the smile and the gleam persisted.
grew as the evening went on without Spike making any rude remarks for
really long stretches of time—like five or ten minutes at once. And,
after dinner, instead of reading her fortune out to the others and
laughing over it, Tara just dropped the slip of paper on the table
while she chewed thoughtfully on bits of cookie. A minute or so
later, Spike picked up the fortune, read it silently, and smiled to
himself. By the time he stood up to carry the dirty dishes to the
sink without anyone having to get out a cattle prod first, Dawn was
wild to know what had happened between him and Tara.
Dawn was pretty
sure she knew when he stepped behind Tara and obviously felt her up,
one hand rubbing her butt. (Well, it was obvious to someone who was
pretending to go through the backpack she'd dropped on the floor, but
was in fact peering through the legs of the table with her neck craned
to see anything that happened in the kitchen.) Tara pushed Spike away
immediately, but not in a How dare you, you nasty monster! kind
of way. No, it was definitely a Not in front of the child!
shove. And Dawn was pretty sure the glance that went with the rebuke
said, Later! instead of No!
to look for a schoolbook, Dawn snuck the scrap of paper with Tara's
fortune on it off the table and read it. Your evenings will be
filled with romance.
Dawn sat to
attention when Spike came back to the table and put out his hand for
her schoolwork. Tara fussed around in the kitchen area for a few more
minutes and then went over to sit on the couch and pull out some of
her own books. Tara wasn't watching them, exactly. She was peeking
at them every once in a while, though, and chewing on a pencil
thoughtfully, the corners of her mouth still twisted upwards.
was taking his time reading through Dawn's paper. Much too much
time. She peered at him and realized he was sneaking long looks at
Tara, losing his place, and starting over. Dawn folded her arms and
tapped her foot on the floor. Spike ignored her, but, very
eventually, he reached the last page.
Dawn at last.
"You have a bit
more work here, Bit," Spike said dryly.
crinkled her nose. "I thought I did a pretty good job. What did I
"For one thing,
the Boxers didn't have anything to do with men's undies," he
commented, his gaze sliding sideways to catch Tara's reaction.
Dawn snatched at
the papers. "I did not say that!" she objected.
He laughed, but
fielded her hands away easily, smirking happily at Tara's snort of
laughter. "Maybe not, but this is almost as bad—"
Tara curled up
on the couch, watching Dawn's face crease with concentration and
annoyance as Spike marked up the draft of her paper. After his first
teasing jibe, Spike took the task nearly seriously, attacking both
grammar and content with ruthless efficiency.
He could be
very efficient, she knew, dropping her head so that the fall of
her hair would hide her reminiscent grin from the two sitting at the
have gotten takeout after promising Buffy she'd feed Dawn a good
meal. She could barely afford it, for one thing. But she'd kept
putting off the day's scheduled activities, deciding to skip one class
after another and postponing cooking, until she'd suddenly realized
that she had only a few minutes before Dawn arrived. Since Spike was
still there, it was easy to ask him to run out for the food. Well,
except for the part where he was out of her sight for a full twenty
minutes. That had been hard.
It was hard now
to sit across the room from him, watching his blond head bend over
Dawn's assignment, noting each twitch of his shoulder and every
movement of his strong hands, knowing she couldn't go over to touch
him. Even after spending an entire night and day in bed with him,
Tara could hardly wait until it was time to walk Dawn home so that she
could get him alone again afterwards. Those long hours had barely
been enough time for her to begin to realize what he was like as a
lover, and to enjoy the novelty of being with him. She didn't know if
it was the same being with him as it would be with a human man, and
she didn't care. It was Spike she wanted.
Even so, she
knew that it was going to take her some time just to figure out who
Spike was. She'd already discovered he could be wild, romantic, and
just plain silly in turns, as if she'd gotten herself three lovers
instead of one. She almost purred to herself in satisfaction at the
thought. Not a bad deal, if that was the case.
There was so
much she wanted to do with and to him that her fingers itched with the
desire to trace themselves over his white flesh, to experiment again
with the reactions she could draw from him with hands and lips. A
snatch of the poetry he'd quoted the night before came to mind. My
America, my new-found land. He was like a new world for her to
discover, and she wanted to embark on the next voyage.
Because he was a
very delightful and responsive new world. All night and all day, he'd
been loving, gentler than usual in word, and more forceful, but still
considerate, in deed. She wrapped her arms around her torso,
remembering the way he'd made her feel, as if she mattered more than
anything else in the universe. The only thing that had distracted him
from her was the realization that Dawn was on her way over—then he'd
been quick to help her prepare for the evening. And, except for that
moment in the kitchen, he'd been pretty careful not to give things
away in front of the teenager.
pleasant train of thought ground to a halt. She stared at the two
sitting at her kitchen table, working on Dawn's homework, just as they
had on many nights over the past few months. As if nothing had
changed. Because, of course, neither Tara nor Spike had dropped any
hints about what had changed to Dawn.
course?" Why don't I want Dawn to know?
Tara thought. Dawn loves him. She loves both of us, I think. Why
can't I let her know we love each other?
The answer was
obvious. Because he was a soulless demon, and good girls didn't admit
to sleeping with bad boys.
Buffy had thought. She had kept her affair with Spike a secret. And
Tara had done the same thing, without thinking about it.
And Spike had
assumed that's the way it would be. He hadn't complained, or even
asked. He just assumed that he would have to pretend in front of
Dawn. And when Tara had called her friend Rachel and said she wasn't
feeling up to getting out of bed today and would she be able to borrow
Rachel's class notes, he'd lain at her side and listened quietly, not
doing anything that would make her giggle or moan to betray her. He
certainly didn't ask Tara when or if he'd be allowed to meet Rachel.
He expected to
be kept a secret.
clenched as she remembered how Willow had once kept her a secret. How
Willow hadn't introduced Tara to the Scoobies for the longest time,
how she'd come to visit Tara only when her friends had stood her up.
And how much that had hurt. Of course, Willow had explained after a
while that she had done it because she wanted to keep Tara all to
herself. That had helped a little.
To be completely
honest with herself at last, Tara had to admit that it had still
hurt. That the memory of it hurt even now. But, at the time, she
hadn't thought she deserved anything better. So she'd never
Tara dropped her
book on the coffee table and walked across the room to the
refrigerator. Spike and Dawn stopped arguing about a semicolon, and
Tara felt their eyes on her as she opened the freezer door. "I'm
ready for dessert," she said. "Does anyone else want something?"
Spike, and she looked over her shoulder to see him turned towards
her. With Dawn safely behind him, he smirked at her, one eyebrow
mock-sternly. "I meant, from the fridge," she said, and had the
satisfaction of seeing his jaw drop in surprise at her flirtatious
tone. His head snapped around, checking to see if Dawn had noticed.
Tara noted with satisfaction that the girl most certainly had. She
was looking much too prim and proper to have mistaken Tara's meaning.
Tara pulled out
a container of ice cream. "Chunky Monkey," she said. "I was saving
it for a special occasion, and I've decided tonight qualifies. Who
"I do," said
Dawn. "Chocolate, walnuts, and bananas, yum. Weird, but yum."
some too, so Tara took down three bowls and filled them while Dawn
asked Spike questions about some Empress or other.
absently, and Tara was conscious of his gaze as she picked up two of
the bowls and carried them to the table. She dropped one in front of
Dawn, giving the girl a quick, one-armed hug as she did so. Dawn
smiled, surprised but pleased at the attention.
Tara gave Spike
the other bowl, meeting his puzzled blue eyes with a reassuring smile
before bending down and dropping an awkward, lopsided kiss that she
aimed at the top of his head. She caught him on his scarred eyebrow
instead, but that was all right. She rested her hand on his shoulder
for a moment before brushing his hair with gentle fingers and turning
back to the kitchen counter.
Her gestures had
been casual, but they carried the clear and deliberate implication of
intimacy. She was sure that even a self-absorbed teen would be able
to read their meaning. Her back to the others, Tara waited for
reaction, but heard only silence. Utter, complete, and very unusual
silence. She turned around.
Dawn had frozen
in the action of licking her spoon, her eyes wide. Tara realized that
the girl's expression was less astonished than triumphant, as if she'd
had a suspicion confirmed.
Spike was almost
completely still, his mouth slightly open, his eyes flicking back and
forth between Tara and Dawn. They came to rest at last on Dawn, and
Tara saw his shoulders tense anxiously.
"So," said Dawn
slowly, "Special occasion, huh?" She swallowed a mouthful of ice
cream and grinned.
Tara picked up
her own bowl and went back to the couch, reaching for her textbook.
Spike had turned
in his chair now to stare at her, something like awe in his face.
There was a long silence.
at last. "Spike, if you're not going to eat that ice cream, can I have
"No, brat, you
may not," said Spike levelly. "And don't think I've forgotten that
Dawn rolled her
eyes, "I think—"
"Not a matter
for opinion. Start a war over commas if you like, but you don't have
a bloody debate about a semicolon. Either you need one or you don't."
Dawn opened her
mouth, shut it again, and finally replied grudgingly, "Okay, that's
Tara blinked in
surprise at this response. It really was a day for new experiences.
She turned to Chapter 12 of her Statistics text. For once, she was
smiling as she picked up her notebook and tackled the problems on the
night, Spike and Tara watched Dawn walk up the path to 1630 Revello
Drive. They stood on the sidewalk, just outside the pool of light cast
by the streetlamp, waiting until the Little Bit was safe inside.
Neither of them had any
place in that house any more.
holding hands! burbled
the fool. She held our hand all the way over here.
said the demon sarcastically. And if she had any books with her,
she'd probably have let you carry them too.
The poet rushed
to the fool's defense. You know why he's excited. It's
symbolic. Like the kiss with the ice cream. She's really, truly
invited us in. Into every part of her, into every part of her life.
And she's not ashamed of us.
demon would have fired back with some cutting, pessimistic retort.
But even the demon was feeling calmer and happier than ever before,
and he held his peace, rejoicing with the others at the sensation of
Tara's hand in his, breathing in the intoxicating scent of her, and
savoring the anticipation of what he knew the rest of the night would
The front door
opened as Dawn approached it, and Buffy stepped outside. The demon's
quick ear picked up the sharp tones with which the Slayer questioned
her sister about the night's events. Dawn gestured over her shoulder
as she assured Buffy she'd had an escort home, and the Bit disappeared
inside the house.
lingered on the porch, staring blankly down the street, her gaze
wandering. She was obviously unable to make out Spike and Tara's
figures in the murky shadows, but she had to know they were out there
somewhere. After a moment, she crossed her arms, hugging herself, as
if she feared some strange menace that paraded only before her blank
stare. She turned to follow her sister into the house.
ashamed, said the fool.
said the poet. Heartrendingly sad.
inside, said the demon.
aware that Tara was watching him. "I didn't do what I promised, did
I?" she said sorrowfully. "I never made you feel better about Buffy."
"No, love," the
poet said, still staring at the house. "But I release you from that
promise. It was my bloody stupid idea, and only your sweet caution
saved us. Because you couldn't have done it, and you shouldn't even
try, any more than I should try to make you feel better about
Willow." He turned to face her, and the sadness ebbed. "But you did
heal me. In a way I never expected."
would be screaming out of jealousy right now,
said the fool nervously.
Not our Tara,
said the poet with confidence. She understands.
She more than
just sodding understands,
said the astonished demon. Don't
know how you did it, mate, but you just made her want us even more.
Tara's eyes were
sparkling with tears, but she broke into a smile. "I think I healed
myself too," she said in an awestruck tone. "I guess you were right
about something, Spike. I am a clever girl, after all." She
slipped her arm around his waist, pulling him close. They set off
down the street in the traditional lovers' pose, his arm around her
shoulder, heads bent toward each other. Anyone seeing them would know
she was his clever girl.
Spike. Let's go home."
(Except for the
Continued in Epilogue
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