All About Spike - Plain Version
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Chapter: 1 2 3 4 Epilogue
Quick and Bitter, Slow and Sweet
By Miss Murchison
PG-13 for this part, R overall.
All characters are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy,
etc. Only the lame plots and dialogue herein are mine.
Notes: Someone asked
me for Spike/Tara. At first I couldn't see my way to writing it,
then I sent her a brief fic that I never intended to post about
Tara and unsouled, vamp Spike as an established couple. But my
imagination kept worrying at the problem of how those two got
together--and another friend who read the story wanted to know as
well. Here's a Spike/Tara romance, in which they are assisted by
an unlikely, sneaky, and frequently whiny Cupid. The story is
complete, with an epilogue coming very soon.
Also, I was having a problem with
Spike's POV, so although this is set in late Season 6 BtVS, I used a
thought that struck me while watching Season 5 of AtS. It seemed
to me that Spike was suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder and
that for some strange reason, none of the other characters noticed.
I don't know if anyone else has written MPD Spike, but here goes . . and
trust me, it's not as goofy as it sounds!
This starts sometime after
"Normal Again" and partway through "Entropy," but the timeline is
scrambled as the story starts to go AU. Tara has been
interrupted on her way to see Willow. And she is in time to
interrupt someone else, who is on his way to perform a different
Vampires were hybrids; Spike knew that. So he assumed it was normal,
more or less, to have warring voices constantly battling in his
brain. But he suspected that in his case there was something extra
that didn't belong there. Something that didn't belong even in
something as fundamentally wrong and contrary to nature as a vampire.
demon's presence he understood. That monster made him what he was,
let him walk and talk and fight like a simulacrum of a man when he
should have rotted to dust over a century before. The demon was the
easiest part of himself to understand, if not always the easiest to
fool was understandable too. A brief, painful effort of memory was
all that was needed to tell Spike where the fool had come from.
Bloody useless William had been the fool incarnate.
the poet that confused him. The poet should have been a part of the
fool, should have shared that idiot's babblings, and most certainly
should have let himself be hushed by the demon. Because it was right
and proper that the demon should always have the last word. If not,
what was the point in being a sodding creature of the night?
there's a question to ponder, asked the poet. What is
the point of being evil? Or of doing good, for that matter? We've
done both, so we have a basis for discussion.
said the demon, that's not the right question. The question
to ponder is where did a silly ass like you come from in the first
I'm the silly ass,
said the fool, and what I want is for the two of you to stop the
damned philosophical debate and find a way to make all of us
Don't want much, do you?
sneered the demon.
We're in love. It's supposed to hurt, said the even less helpful
what do you expect I could do anyway? added the demon to the fool.
much, said the poet. You're the cause of most of our problems,
just how did you reach that brilliant conclusion?
Not even the demon liked being blamed for everything.
know the answer to that,
said the fool. You're the part of us that Buffy hates.
Bugger that, said the demon. The Slayer would never have
looked at you lot if I weren't about. Likes the monster, she does,
even though she won't admit it. Face it, mates, our precious little
Buffy is even more fucked up than we are.
Impossible, said the poet
sadly. Although her confusion and sadness pierces me to the depths
of our unbeating heart. It pains me as much as or more than her
rejection of us.
Just the mawkish nonsense I'd expect from a wanker like you,
mocked the demon. If she wasn't so fucked up, she'd never have
shagged us, so I say it's an ill wind that blew us . . .
Shut up, interrupted the
poet. Saying things like that helped drive her away. If you could
only have realized that and held your tongue . . .
Wasn't me, said the
demon. It was the fool, with his bright idea to get money for her,
but not bothering to ask if those eggs were dangerous.
my job to be clever,
muttered the fool. One of you two should have thought it through,
but all I remember hearing from you bright chaps was that it would be
fun, and that we had to rescue the lady . . .
rattled on, constantly and uselessly.
Buffy for most of his problems, but he couldn't blame her for the
poet. That third voice had become more vocal these past few years,
but it had always been there, whispering at inconvenient moments,
making him fuck up one evil plan after another in ways the fool never
through the cemetery, resisting the impulse to bash his brains against
one of the monuments until all three voices were silenced together.
He'd just wake up eventually in physical as well as psychic pain. He
needed a better solution. A permanent solution.
could only think of one place where he might find it. Only one place
that was open to him, that was. There were other places, but he
wasn't welcome there.
reached the sidewalk and was heading for downtown Sunnydale when he
sensed a familiar presence. He hesitated, but she wasn't anyone he
wanted to talk to just then—or ever, now that he let himself think
about her for a moment. It wasn't that he disliked her particularly,
although her surprisingly sharp tongue had needled him mercilessly the
last time they'd met. She just wasn't someone he bothered thinking
about at all. He was turning away, setting a course for his original
destination of the Magic Box, when she called his name.
"Spike?" Tara heard the question in her own voice. It wasn't that
she didn't recognize him—there weren't many people around who could be
confused with Spike, after all. The hesitation in her tone reflected
her own doubts about speaking to him.
wasn't afraid of him, of course. But she was in a hurry, and she
hadn't really thought this encounter through. She'd been on her way
to Buffy's when she saw him leaving the cemetery grounds, and it had
occurred to her that she could ask him for help. Halfway through
calling his name, she'd remembered that the last time they'd been in
the same house for an extended period, she'd made a point of giving
him a hard time whenever he'd tried to embarrass Buffy.
least he didn't look angry with her. On the other hand, he looked as
if he could barely remember who she was.
to meet his distracted gaze, she fumbled for words. "Something's gone
wrong," she explained at last. Well, Tara, that was lame.
"There's a shocker," he said, confirming the lameness. But he reached
out a hand to steady her. His touch was surprisingly gentle as he led
her away from the sidewalk and the glow of the streetlamp. They
walked into the cemetery and over to a low monument. She sank down on
it gratefully, suddenly realizing how fast she'd been running and how
out of breath she was. Spike sat down next to her, his expression
unreadable in the darkness.
gulped down more oxygen and tried to explain as quickly as she could
without leaving out any important facts. "This friend of mine—she's
kind of a witch, but she doesn't know many spells yet—she said she saw
something scary out by that park just past the old high school. She
didn't want to admit it, but I'm sure she made it happen, because she
and this other guy, who's kind of a warlock, were asking me yesterday
about portals and stuff. I think they were trying to find a way to
stretch time, on account of it being midterm and there being lots of
papers due and exams coming up, so—"
it's spells gone wrong time again?" asked Spike. "And I'm betting
they pissed themselves, turned tail, and ran as soon as they knew
they'd bitten off something that was likely to bite them back."
think so too," said Tara. "It was their first real brush with
something this bad. Coherent isn't the way I'd describe them." She
fumbled in her pocket and displayed a piece of paper. "Danae gave me
the spell she found, and I'm sure I know how to reverse it. But I'm
worried about the Scheite."
what Danae said, I think one was released."
"One of what,
She was mildly surprised he didn't already know. She had the
impression his demon-knowledge was encyclopedic, but now that she
thought about it Scheites weren't just rare, they were from a
metaphysical plane much removed from vampires and other more mundane
demons. If demons could ever be said to be mundane.
an explanation. "A Scheite is a pan-dimensional manifestation of the
demonic energy that was released when Danae and Jess created a crack
in the temporal matrix. And it really can bite. And do worse
course it can," he said dryly. "What with that demonic energy and
all. Well, what do you expect me to do, pet? This is Sunnydale.
laughed, but quickly became serious again. "Spike, it's probably
still hanging out by the portal now, drawing energy from its dimension
of origin, but it will be raising hell all over town by morning if
something isn't done right away."
"Okay," he said in his most annoying drawl. "Any clue what that
should be? A pan-dimensional being, you said? Doesn't sound like
something you can stake or stab."
"Actually, it is," she said in a rush. She stopped, took another deep
breath, and tried to state her conclusions calmly. She was trying not
to seem insecure in her opinions, but it was hard, especially with
someone like Spike who could be so sarcastic and biting. You know
this, Tara, she told herself. Just take your time and explain
to him. He's annoying, but not stupid. He'll get it.
"Scheites are the physical manifestation of the demon in this
reality. Which means they adhere to some of our physical laws, and
can be fought—at least at first."
"That's good," he said.
"What's bad is they can fight back," she said. "And I'm not good at
the bam-bam-pow stuff." She mimicked throwing a few punches, but
realized when he gave an amused bark of laughter that she had done so
very awkwardly. Embarrassed, she dropped her hands back into her
lap. "I was going to Buffy's to see if there was anyone there who
could fight this thing while I close the portal. But I'm not sure
there's even anyone at the house, and I'm kind of in a hurry.
Besides—" She stopped.
didn't ask besides what? Spike knew that the residents of 1630
Revello Drive were still trying to recover emotionally from the last
demon attack, which had left Buffy so confused she'd tried to kill her
friends and her sister. Tara knew that was something she didn't need
to spell out to him.
you could just hold the Scheite back while I do a spell . . . " said
Tara, her hopeful tone trailing off. She didn't know why she should
feel so strange asking Spike for help. The Scoobies had done it all
the time the summer Buffy had been gone. Of course, things had
changed a lot since then. Tara knew that Spike and Buffy had become,
well, intimate, and she thought that would make him anxious both to
help and to spare Buffy pain. But suddenly she was her old insecure
self, out of her depth and not knowing if she'd said something
terribly wrong. She looked down at her hands.
silent for a long time before muttering, "She bloody well
doesn't need more to worry about. But neither do we." He seemed to
be talking to himself, and Tara didn't know how to respond. A moment
later he said, in a louder voice, "I'll do it, but on one condition."
looked up at him suspiciously, but couldn't make out his features.
"What?" she demanded suspiciously. Tara might be naïve about some
things, but she knew better than to promise Spike anything before
finding out exactly what she was getting herself into.
"Afterwards, you make me forget Buffy."
"What?" Tara gasped in astonishment. "Why?"
"Why?" She was astonished at the anguish she heard in his voice.
"Because I can't keep on like I am. It's all wrong—I'm all wrong. I
know that. I need something to make this stop."
what stop?" she asked, although she was sure she knew. When he didn't
respond, she said reluctantly, "Loving Buffy?"
course. That's my disease, isn't it? Caring about her."
wouldn't call it a disease, Spike. I've seen it change you. And—you
did a lot of good things because of it."
tone became even more vehement. "But, see, that's what's all wrong.
Because I shouldn't. I'm a vampire. I shouldn't be like
this. I shouldn't care about these things, and I bloody well
shouldn't be tearing myself up inside because I'm not good enough to
instinct was to reassure, although she wasn't sure how to manage that
with a demon agonizing over his desire to do good. "Maybe that's not
true. You've changed a lot, Spike. I've seen it. Maybe you can
become what she needs. Because she needs something or someone." She
said that in all sincerity. Tara had spent a lot of time worrying
about Buffy these past few months.
know. She's only half-alive, and it kills me all over again to see
it. But I can't fix her, Tara. I've tried. But I'll never be good
enough. She's made that clear. Walked away from me. Won't use me
for anything at all any more—not even a sex toy." He paused, as if
waiting for a response. When she made none, he said, "You knew,
didn't you? That she and I were shagging like minks?"
told me," admitted Tara. "Not in those words." Actually, Buffy's
description had been more disturbing than his. "But she told me."
"Thought so. Thought so when you kept snarking at me during her
birthday party. Knew it just now when you didn't scream at the
notion." There was bitterness in his voice now along with the pain.
"Already had your chance to squeal in horror when Buffy spilled her
girlish confidences. Makes it a bit easier on me."
"Actually," said Tara slowly, "I told Buffy it was okay."
felt him move next to her in the darkness and sensed his gaze on her
face. She remembered that he could see much more clearly than she
could, and flushed. "I told her it was okay," she reiterated
bravely. "I said it was okay if she loved you."
she doesn't think it's okay," he said. "It's not all right
with our Buffy. And, now I've had her, I can't let go of the thought
of her. It's worse than when she was dead. She's with me, every
second, even when I'm alone, and all I can think about is that I'll
never really have her. Because I'm just a dead thing. No good in me
anywhere, she said, and it's the truth. Hard thing to fight, the
you've done a lot of good," said Tara again, deciding not to mention
she'd pointed this out to Buffy as well. She took a deep breath.
"Spike, I'd like to help you. But there's just no way I'll do a
forgetting spell. Not for you. Not for anyone. Maybe I can help,
but not that way."
silent for a long time, and she knew they were both remembering a long
night without memories followed by a dawn of grief and partings.
"Something else, then," he said at last. "You'll work it out. You're
the clever girl. Willow's all flash and sparkle, but you're the one
who thinks things through."
Finally, he had said something that did shock her. "Oh, no. Willow
is able to do the most amazing things, things I'd never even dare
because you've too much sense," he spat out. "One of the reasons I'm
asking you and not her. You've done a couple of foolish things—that
spell to hide demons when you thought you were one, and backing Red
when she decided to bring back the Slayer for another. But you learn
from your mistakes. I don't think you'll solve my problems by
accidentally turning me into a toad."
promised Tara hurriedly. "I won't do that. But—Spike, I don't know
just yet what I can do. I'll need to research, think about
it. It may take a while." She added firmly, "but the Scheite needs
to be taken care of right now. So I need to know if you'll help me.
If you'll take my word for it that I'll try to help you later."
was surprise in his voice when he said, "Never occurred to me not to
trust you, pet." He stood up. "All right then, where is this bugger
you want me to fight?"
turned out to be buggers. Plural. As in four or five Scheites. They
were hard to count because they were not entirely corporeal,
which was something else Tara hadn't expected. And something that
caused Spike to curse long and loudly.
didn't abandon her, though. He waded into the crowd of
not-quite-transparent things, trying to avoid their long claws and
sharp teeth, waving the axe he'd gotten from his crypt and snarling
with his fangs bared. The Scheites fought back, hissing and biting,
their long blue tails waving over their heads as they darted in,
ignoring Tara as they concentrated on attacking him.
gasped as a Scheite's claws raked the side of Spike's head, drawing
blood and even louder curses from him, but the vampire lashed back
with his weapon and was soon holding the other demons at bay. He
spared a glance for Tara as his axe crashed into a wavering body,
causing no permanent damage that she could observe, but making the
thing howl with pain and draw back.
witch, do your bloody spell!" he called. "I don't fancy being at this
nodded and turned towards the garish orange-red vortex that swirled
over a picnic table. It wasn't a happy pan-dimensional rift—it was
emitting raucous blasts that sounded like cries of pain.
some text books and a backpack lying near the table—apparently Danae
and Jess hadn't taken all their belongings with them when they fled
the scene of their crime. Ducking her head and beginning to mutter
under her breath, Tara prepared to undo the damage they'd caused.
counterspell would create a magical patch that would close that space,
like threads darning a hole in a sock. If she could weave her charm
fast enough. She dropped into a light trance, her lips moving
rapidly. Slowly, the mystical energy she generated began to form
itself into the warp and woof of the solution she had chosen.
her chant, a shout penetrated Tara's consciousness. She glanced at
Spike and blinked in astonishment. With the words of her counterspell
creating protoplasmic eddies around her, she could see the Scheites
more clearly. Their shapes were similar to creatures from this plane,
but—"Spike!" she called out urgently.
couldn't hear her. There was too much noise, from the vortex beside
her and from the Scheites' howling. Spike! she called again,
using her mind to reach his.
staggered back, but recovered quickly as he lashed out at two swirling
shapes. Balls, he thought back. I thought only Red could
Willow taught me. Spike, go for their tails.
Tails? his mind demanded incredulously.
Tails, she repeated firmly, trying to hold onto the threads of her
counterspell even as she directed the information to him. Look.
showed him what she was seeing—that the Scheites were drawing their
energy from the vortex, and the tails, so useless in the corporeal
world, were actually the conduits for their strength—
got the message immediately. The sound of Scheites' pained screaming
echoed in Tara's ears as she finished weaving the counterspell and
drawing the vortex almost closed. Its mouth narrowed, first to the
size of a human, then to a shape like a small dog, then to a space
even a cat would have trouble squeezing through.
just yet, pet.
gulped to hear Spike's voice in her mind. She hadn't realized the
channel she'd opened to him was still clear. But a moment later, she
knew why he'd asked her to pause. A Scheite flew by her, dragged back
into the vortex like a thread drawn by a needle. The creature thinned
and stretched out, becoming fully transparent as it was swallowed,
screaming, by the swirling mass beyond the opening. Two or three more
demons followed so quickly Tara could not be sure of their numbers.
Just. One. More.
turned and saw Spike, axe raised above his head, blood running down
his face and across his chest, aim for the last squirming, hissing
Scheite. The creature backed away from him and slid towards the
vortex, spreading its thinning claws.
impossibly long arm raked towards Tara as the Scheite went by, and she
cringed away from it.
Spike's axe rose and fell. The Scheite wailed, abandoned its attack
on Tara, and fled into the hole.
that bloody door!" howled Spike, and Tara, crouched on the ground at
his feet, muttered the final words of the counterspell. As if pulled
closed by the final stitch of a needle, the vortex blinked out of
gone," she whispered, staring up into Spike's yellow eyes. "They're
stared back down at her, fangs bared, covered in blood, his axe still
upraised threateningly. Then his pose wavered, and his eyes dulled
from gleaming amber to fading blue sparks.
was bloody brilliant," he said as he dropped the axe and collapsed at
helped him back to his crypt, surprised at first that he consented to
lean on her strength during the trip, his arm thrown over her
shoulders as he staggered along. She had never been in such prolonged
physical contact with him before, but his scent—mostly cigarette smoke
and old leather—was familiar, and he wasn't leaning on her enough to
make his weight overwhelming. After the initial shock of touching
him, she didn't mind helping him at all. But she was surprised that
he was so exhausted from this battle, when she'd seen him smiling and
energetic after far worse encounters.
Slowly, she became aware of the faint light streaking the eastern
sky. She realized that there must have been a lot of temporal
distortion coming from the portal; it was almost dawn already. No
wonder Spike was so tired—while she'd been muttering a few words of a
spell, caught in a timeless trance, he'd been fighting for hours.
badly hurt. After they reached the crypt, she managed to peel the
black leather duster off his back, and she discovered that in addition
to the head wound, he'd taken a lashing across the stomach from a
Scheite's claw. It wasn't exactly bleeding freely, but it did look
found some first aid supplies in a corner. She supposed even someone
as careless as Spike must have figured out he'd need them from time to
time and planned accordingly.
"Bloody hell. My shirt's a goner, and a few hours ago these were my
best jeans. What about my coat?" was all he asked as she dabbed at
his stomach. His flesh wasn't as cold as she anticipated. No colder
than anyone's would be if they were lying shirtless in this chilly old
crypt. What was strange was that he didn't seem to mind the cold in
the air around him. He wasn't shivering, and no goose bumps marred
his fair skin.
coat's fine," she said, and heard the exasperation in her own voice.
"At least, it's no worse than it was a few hours ago."
"That's all right then," he said, sprawling across the top of the big
sarcophagus that squatted near his refrigerator. "Except you need to
have a serious chat with this Danae bint about setting loose
pan-dimensional beings without learning first how to put them through
planning on it," said Tara as she wiped blood off his belly. The
wound underneath was healing already. "Do you want a bandage on
struggled up to a half-sitting position, leaning on his elbows. "Ta,
but no," he said, glancing at the wound. "It'll be almost gone by
tonight. Not bad enough to scar, that one." He met her eyes. "So,
you're dating another public menace of a witch who can't say 'no' to a
good spell? Or a bad one either?"
Tara was shocked. "I'm not involved with Danae. I'm not involved with
anyone new. I didn't really break up with Willow, you know."
The firm skin under her fingers was amazingly clear of scars,
considering the beatings he'd taken just since she'd known him. But
here and there along his flat belly, she could see the relics of some
wound that had been bad enough to leave a permanent mark. There were
more on his chest and shoulders; on his face she could see nothing
except the white slash across one eyebrow.
next words dragged her thoughts back to Willow. "Oh, so that was just
pretend moving out of the house and refusing to talk to Red for
months, was it?"
had reopened her wounds. She responded as calmly as she could, "We're
talking again. Sometimes. I was even going—"
cocked his head on one side and regarded her intently. "Going to
mind," said Tara. "I'm not going to do it anyway." She looked at the
rag in her hand and grimaced at the blood. "You're right. Doing
spells without considering consequences is really dangerous,
and—and—" She sat miserably, wringing the cloth in her hands until
they were covered with his blood.
hand came up to cover hers and still her anxious fingers. "Didn't
mean to rub it in, pet," he said softly.
looked down at him and tried to smile. "It's okay, Spike." She
dropped the rag in a bowl and wiped her fingers on a marginally
cleaner one. "I'm going to go home now, unless you need something
else. I've still got midterms and a paper to worry about. And other
don't need anything," he said. "It's getting light out. Bedtime for
good little vampires. But you be careful."
will," she said, almost absently.
want you getting yourself killed before you do what you promised. You
won't forget?" he called as she opened the door to his crypt.
won't," she said. "I'll do something to make you stop feeling so bad
Only I have no idea what, she thought worriedly as she scurried
out into the early morning mist. I'll just have to hope I can come
up with something. Something that can change the way he thinks and
feels without tampering with his free will. Because that would be
wrong on so many levels. Except, using magic to change the way
someone thinks and feels is pretty much the definition of taking their
free will, isn't it?
perplexing as that dilemma was, she was oddly grateful to him for
asking for help. Because working on his problem would distract her
from her own. And she needed something to keep her from running back
to Willow, from abandoning all common sense, from telling the woman
she loved that they didn't really need more time before they could get
back together again. This conundrum would be something to keep Tara
from forgetting the evidence of all those hidden magic supplies that
had turned up on Buffy's birthday, to keep her from convincing herself
that it was safe to trust Willow again. Because Tara knew in her
heart that it wasn't safe. Not at all.
I almost did it, tonight. I was on my way to see Willow, to throw
myself into her arms, when Danae showed up. Helping a vampire fall
out of love with a Slayer should be as good a distraction from Willow
as the need to close a magical portal. Shouldn't it?
Well, as diversions go, at least it should be more interesting than
Intro to Statistics or Inorganic Chem.
is helping you move?" Dawn stood in the doorway of Tara's new
apartment, staring incredulously as she watched Spike thump a box down
on the counter in the tiny kitchen area.
"Spike, be careful with that," said Tara, who was on her knees in
front of a box of books on the other side of the room. "There are
plates and things in there, and I don't have enough of them to afford
breakage." She smiled up at Dawn. "Hi, honey. Spike came over to—to
ask me about something. My friends had to leave for their evening
classes, so he offered to stay and help me sort some stuff out."
looked at Spike in surprise, but he just shrugged. "Found the witch
standing like Dido amid the ruins of Carthage. Felt like I should
give her a hand."
did Dido perform in Carthage?" asked Dawn. "Isn't that, like, in the
said Spike emphatically, ripping open his box, taking out a spatula,
and staring at it as if he were trying to decide what to do with it.
He turned to Tara. "Trade you this lot for a chance to sort through
rolled her eyes. "Put all that down, and help me with the bookcase,
"Why do I always
let you females order me around?" he grumbled. "And I meant a
different Dido, Bit. That school of yours isn't just boring you to
tears, you're learning bugger all."
that's what I think," said Dawn, dumping her backpack on the floor and
a bag of fast food on the tiny table that looked as if it was
pre-pre-pre-owned. "No purpose in going at all. But I can't convince
Buffy. Anyway, I'm going to help unpack too. Tara said yesterday
that if I came over after school, she'd give me money to pick up
dinner on my way." She held up her haul. "Look what I brought!"
Bell?" Tara looked horrified. "Dawn, do you have any idea how many
rolled her eyes and plunked the bag down on the kitchen table. She
started unpacking items. "Oh, come on, Tara. It's not fair
that I never get any fast food except that gross Doublemeat Palace
stuff Buffy brings home. And I'm having another growth spurt. I must
need calories or something. Otherwise, I wouldn't crave them, right?
And look at you, doing all this running around, and carrying, and
unpacking. You need something solid to keep you going."
solid all right," said Tara, coming over to the table and staring at
the supersized tray that held about a dozen tacos. "Solid saturated
fat. I can feel my arteries stiffening already."
Spike doesn't mind having tacos for dinner," said Dawn. She had no
fears about asking Spike to back her up on her food choice. This was
the guy who thought the three greatest culinary inventions of the
twentieth century were Cheez Whiz, Cheetos, and those bags the Red
Cross used to collect blood. There was no way he'd turn down a
plastic plate of salty chips covered with yellow, red, and white goop
that might or might not be real cheese, tomatoes, and sour cream.
enough, he was already peeling off the cover of the Nachos Bell Grande
and sorting through the salsa packets looking for the extra hot
sauce. "Your arteries are pumping brilliantly," he told Tara. "I can
hear them chugging along just lovely. And so are the Bit's. But if
you don't want to stun them with a Mexican pizza, I'll eat your
way," said Dawn. "You are not eating the whole thing. You
don't even need real people food." Realizing that the nachos were
already half-gone and that she hadn't had a bite yet, she slapped his
hand away from the plate and snatched it back. He grinned at her,
pulled Tara's desk chair over next to the scruffy kitchen chairs, and
helped himself to a taco instead.
since I can't have real people, or that even that stupid dog on their
like that little dog," said Tara.
licked a streak of hot sauce off the side of his little finger. "For your sake, witch, the dog can live. But only
if you let the Bit and me have our nachos."
sat down next to him, admitting defeat. "Okay," she said, picking up
a taco and staring at it with intense suspicion. "But you have to
promise me that sometime today—"
eat something green," interrupted Dawn around a mouthful of chips.
"You always say that. But look—I already am. I paid extra for the
guacamole. And there's lettuce in those tacos."
"Iceberg lettuce," said Tara. "No nutritional value."
"Yeah," said Spike. "Just the way I like my people food." He took
another bite, showering lettuce and crumbled bits of ground beef over
the table as the taco crunched between his teeth. "You know what else
is brilliant, Dawn? That new pizza they have at the place two doors
down from the magic shop."
deep dish, double-stuffed one with everything on it? The one where
they finally use enough anchovies?" asked Dawn. "Janice and I had
that last week, and then we went over to the ice cream shop for banana
splits." She caught Tara's horrified eye and pointed out, "There was
fruit! Bananas. And, like, peppers and pineapple and stuff on the
know what's even better," Spike went on, "those potato skins with the
cheese all over them. And they make this garlic butter for their
bread that's amazing. They use elephant garlic, I think."
don't know which of you two has worse eating habits." Tara looked
worried. "Spike, I'm no expert on vampire nutrition, but I don't see
how garlic butter can be good for you."
not like I drink holy water," protested Spike. Dawn couldn't tell if
he were amused or touched that Tara had bothered to fret over him. He
certainly didn't look offended.
"Garlic is only a mild repellant to vampires," said Dawn. "And it
loses most of its efficacy once cooked."
was a direct quote from Rupert, wasn't it?" said Spike.
"Yeah," admitted Dawn. "I guess the 'efficacy' part gave that away,
spot on, Bit. Cooked garlic is to vampires as habañeros are to
humans. If you've got the stones to stand it, it's a wild rush to the
guess I learn something new every day," said Tara, who, in spite of
her protests, was already on her third taco. "I just wish some of it
was the stuff I'm racking up huge student loans to learn." She looked
at Dawn. "Speaking of learning, do you have any homework, honey?"
"Nothing that matters," said Dawn.
doesn't it matter?" asked Tara.
"Because I don't know how to do it." She beamed at Tara. "And
neither do you. It's French, and I know you took Spanish."
pis. Donne-moi le livre, Petit Morceau," said Spike around
a mouthful of Mexican pizza.
said Dawn, trying to act surprised and annoyed. "Oh, crap."
as she finished unpacking some clothes and stowing them in the room's
one, inadequate closet, Tara watched Dawn and Spike settle down again
at the tiny kitchen table she'd bought at the local thrift shop. She
felt a pleasant sense of familiarity sweep over her. She'd seen them
like this many times during that long summer when Buffy'd been gone.
Dawn had had to retake two courses to be eligible to go to high school
in the fall, and Spike had helped her with both History and Language
Arts, giving her an accurate, if bloodcurdling, grounding in Twentieth
Century history, and then picking over the grammar and logic in her
term paper on Emily Dickinson. His knowledge of history had been no
surprise; he'd lived it, after all. His knowledge of
poetry—especially Dickinson—had stunned them all, but Spike had
ignored even Xander's heckling because Dawn needed his help.
really had needed him, and not only because Willow had been too busy
researching magic to help with homework, or because Xander had seemed
to spend most of his time arguing with and reassuring Anya, or because
Giles had retreated into himself in an agony of grief. Tara had tried
to step in at first, but she had quickly realized how much Spike's
presence meant to Dawn, so she'd pulled back, watching the blond and
dark heads bent together over the books spread over Joyce's dining
room table. Tara was good at effacing herself, and she suspected that
those two had no idea she'd kept an eye on them during those long, hot
months. She wondered if she was the only one who suspected how deep
the bond between them ran.
Tara knew just what Dawn was up to now. Instead of being repaired,
the girl's family had been fragmented by Buffy's return. Giles was
gone, Tara had moved out, Spike never visited, Anya and Xander were
caught up in their own little melodrama, and most of the time Willow
and Buffy looked more like the walking dead than Spike did. So now
Dawn was seizing the chance to draw Spike back into her life for a few
worked for Tara. She didn't think that Spike was good, but she was
certain he was good for Dawn.
had no illusions that Spike was "reformed." Giles had used that word
once in a puzzled, wondering tone, but Tara had rejected the
description. There was nothing in Spike to reform or redeem. He was
a demon, not a human, and it was absurd to talk about him as if he'd
consciously rejected human values and was somehow coming to accept
had nothing resembling a human conscience. He didn't care about
people in general, and Tara could see no reason why he should, any
more than she should care about vampires as a species. But for the
few people that Spike had inexplicably come to love, there was nothing
he wouldn't do, from letting himself be tortured by a hell god, to
risking his life in battle, to keeping his promise not to smoke
indoors, to apologizing for a sarcastic comment about a sensitive
teenager's new outfit. And Tara suspected that it was those small
courtesies that cost him the most. He adored making grand gestures;
petty annoyances drove him mad.
when Dawn was providing those annoyances, as she was now, with her
stubborn inability to mimic his pronunciation of a phrase. He was
grumbling at her, but with anyone else he would have long since
seemed to Tara that when Spike was with Dawn he was calmer, different,
closer to whatever it was he was becoming than what he had been.
Because Tara was sure that although Spike wasn't redeemed or reformed,
he was changing. He was almost as far now from an ordinary vampire as
he was from a human. She wondered what he would turn into if he
didn't wind up as dust after some wild battle or relapse into savagery
out of frustration and despair.
'j'ai faim,' not 'j'ai femme.'" Spike's coaching was
sounds just the same to me," complained Dawn. "What's the diff?"
one means I'm hungry, the other that I've got a woman," said Spike.
I guess that could cause some confusion in a restaurant," snickered
Dawn. "Although, being a vamp, it could work if it meant you
wanted a woman. But, you know what, Spike, that kind of sounds
like a line you'd use in one of those businesses that we don't
practice dialogues for in French class." She was grinning now. "Hey,
that would be cool! I have to write my own conversation for the
final, and this sadist of a teacher wants it to actually be in French,
and it has to use numbers and stuff. Want to help me do one about
figuring out the prices at a whorehouse?"
was about to protest. There was no telling with Spike—he just might
not understand that this not-so-brilliant idea would be a direct route
to detention and failure for Dawn. But his expression was suddenly
serious, even wounded, and for a moment she thought he really had been
offended by Dawn's comment. Then she heard the knock on the door. As
she stood up to answer it, she saw him pick up his coat and slip
behind the screen that she had found at a garage sale to separate the
dingy sink area from the main living space.
"Hello, Buffy." Tara smiled awkwardly at the Slayer, who stood in the
dark hallway outside her apartment door.
Tara," said Buffy, stepping inside. She was moving slowly, her
clothes were rumpled, and her hair and makeup obviously hadn't seen
any attention for several hours. She saw Dawn sitting at the table
with her books spread in front of her and smiled wearily. "Hi, Dawn."
Dawn's tone was tight, resentful. She cast a glance at the screen and
her lips tightened. She slammed her books shut and started shoving
them in her backpack. "Let's go."
looked dismayed. "We don't have to leave right away. I haven't seen
all of Tara's apartment yet." She stared around the room. Tara, who
had barely begun to brighten its drabness with touches like the
intricately patterned Chinese screen, knew Buffy was finding it hard
to think of something positive to say.
you have," said Dawn before Buffy summoned any words. "This is it.
Now, let's go."
"Dawn!" Buffy gave Tara an apologetic glance. "I'm sorry. I—"
okay," said Tara. "I think she's tired. She was fine, really."
"Thanks for taking care of her," said Buffy, and Dawn grimaced in
annoyance at the implication she needed a babysitter.
took good care of me," Tara hastened to say. "Bringing over
dinner, helping to unpack, and stuff." She hesitated. "How are you,
"Good. I had to pull a long shift and then kill a short demon."
Buffy tried to smile at her own joke and stood uncertainly for another
minute, obviously still searching for something to say. "This is a
nice place," she commented at last.
it's not," said Dawn. "It's a hole. But Tara will make it nice."
She stormed out the door, and Buffy, after another helpless glance in
Tara's direction, followed her.
was still staring at the closed door when Spike stepped out from
behind the screen. He was pulling on his coat. "I'd better go.
You're all moved in now," he said in a hollow tone. He glanced around
again as Buffy had done, as if he were really noticing the place for
the first time. "Except for not having anywhere to sleep, that is."
looked around. That was literally true. The apartment consisted of
one biggish room and a bathroom. It wouldn't take much furniture to
fill it up. But right now, she had only a small bookcase that sat
atop a tiny desk, a table, a few straight-backed chairs, and a couch.
know someone who's leaving school and wants to sell a decent bed," she
said. "I can buy it from her really cheap, but I have to wait a
week. In the meantime, I can sleep on—" she looked at the couch,
which seemed both smaller and uglier here than at Goodwill— "on the
floor in my sleeping bag."
rich Americans," drawled Spike. "No wonder you're the envy of the
rest of the world."
flushed. "I'm trying to make it through school without getting into
too much debt," she said. "This place is fine. It's extra cheap
because it's a basement apartment, and it shouldn’t cost much for
with me," he said, leaning against the wall and reaching in his pocket
for a cigarette. She caught his eye and he stopped, stowing the pack
away with an exasperated sigh. "Look, pet, it's been lovely helping
you unpack your bits and pieces, and I admit I was glad for the chance
to see the Bit again. But that's not why I came here, and you know
it. I came—" and he stared at the doorway where Buffy had stood—"I
came for you to fix things for me. I've been waiting over a week
"Spike, I want to," said Tara. She heard the doubt and fear in her
own voice and tried to sound more assured. "I think I can find
something. But what I've come across so far, I just don't like the
me judge that." His voice was harsh. "What consequences?"
one thing might backlash on Buffy—" she started to say.
His voice was even colder and more emphatic.
the other, well, that could be uncomfortable for you. There's a
possibility of—" She peeked at him nervously.
stood up straighter. "Of what?"
"Impotence," she confessed.
"Impotence?" He looked outraged. "Me? Bloody hell, no! Bad enough I
can't eat anyone, if I can't shag them either—"
said I didn't think you'd like the consequences." Tara tried to keep
any laughter out of her voice, but it was hard. The truth was that
she was smiling as much from relief that he was adamantly against any
harm coming to Buffy as from his reaction to the other option. "And
that I was going to look for some other way."
hurry," he said, and Tara lost all desire to snigger when she saw the
depths of despair in his face. He sagged back against the wall and
grimaced as if in physical pain. "You don't know what this is like.
You can go back to your girl any time. You walk into that house, and
Red will welcome you with open legs. If I so much as knock on the
door, I risk finding I've been disinvited—or worse."
"Worse?" What could be worse? Staking? Surely not. However twisted
Buffy's feelings for Spike had become, she was too aware of how much
she owed him to do that. Suddenly, Tara knew. "Buffy did it, didn't
she? Those bruises you had at her birthday party. That was her."
Tara turned away, sickened. "If that's what she was doing, she was
right to stop seeing you, Spike."
for you to say, isn't it?"
Spike, it isn't easy for me to say, and I know it wasn't easy for her
to do. Not if she cares anything at all about you, and I know she
must. Do you have any idea how hard it is for me not to run back to
that house and go back to Willow? The night I met you by the
cemetery, I was going there. I thought I'd just tell her we could
skip all the waiting and seeing if she was really getting better,
and—" Tara forced herself to meet his eyes and speak firmly. "It was
a good thing Danae called and told me about the vortex. Because it
wouldn't have worked if I'd done it, Spike. I know things would have
gone bad. As bad as one of Willow's worst spells."
but at least you'd have the memory of a few more good shagging
sessions—" He stopped, apparently struck by her expression and rushed
to add, "Sorry, pet. Didn't mean to make you cry." He crossed the
room with a few quick steps, returned with one of the Taco Bell
napkins, and held it out to her, careful to keep an arm's length away
from a crying female. "Keep forgetting, it's harder for you. You
have a conscience and a soul and all. Must be a bitch, that."
had a soul once yourself, Spike," said Tara, dabbing carefully at her
cheeks to avoid smearing them with salsa from the napkin.
time ago. Remember it was inconvenient, though. Do remember that."
Tara tried to imagine what he had been like. A street tough, perhaps,
struggling for a position in some gang in spite of his slight build
and too-pretty appearance? "What did it keep you from doing?"
"Pretty much bugger all," he admitted. "Didn't do much in the way of
enjoying myself until I was turned."
"Really?" She stared at him in astonishment.
eyebrow quirked up wryly, and he grimaced. "Ruining my image, am I?"
didn't press for details. From his expression, he'd just revealed his
darkest secret, and she wondered if even Buffy knew. "It's just—it's
hard to imagine you not finding some way to enjoy yourself. I
mean—even when Buffy was dead, you used to love going on patrol and
killing things, and playing cards and watching TV with Dawn, and
arguing with Xander."
"Yeah." He thought about this. "You know, it was easier to find ways
to be happy when she was dead."
thought this was the saddest thing she'd ever heard him say. "'I'll
find a way to help you, Spike. I don't know what I'll do, yet, but
I'll do something."
looked up at her and added, "Sorry I said you didn't understand." He
reached out carefully and wiped a tear off her cheek with one finger,
then backed away. Before she could think of anything else to say, he
sat down on the ugly little couch and tried to think about how long it
would be before she could afford to buy a pretty throw to cover it
up. But she couldn't stop worrying about Spike instead.
It is harder for him than me. He doesn't have a conscience, and he's
fighting instincts that I can't begin to understand. That chip keeps
him from killing, but it never forced him to do good. He really won't
be able to go on like this without some help.
But Buffy hadn't
looked capable of helping anyone tonight.
stalked through the streets of Sunnydale, running the events of his
very unusual evening over in his mind as he made his way back to the
cemetery. When he'd left his crypt, he'd thought he'd wind up
spending the night chasing down a runaway witch. The last thing he'd
anticipated was working as a furniture mover and a French tutor.
told you two she wasn't lying, said the poet. You made me look
like I was the fool, especially since I'd told her we trusted
Couldn't help being suspicious, muttered the demon.
Yeah, agreed the fool. Leaving a note in our crypt saying she
was moving and giving an address. Sounded like she was skipping town
maybe, and trying to throw us off the scent.
Tara's sort doesn't skip town,
said the poet severely. She's the kind that's so conscientious she
lets a soulless demon know she's moving so he won't think she's
forgotten a promise.
may not have forgotten,
said the demon, but she hasn't helped us either.
will, asserted the poet.
I can feel it.
wants to, the fool
agreed. But she has no idea how to.
Sure she does, said the
demon. You heard her. Castration! That's what she's come up
with! We'll wind up a eunuch if we keep depending on her. I'd like
to keep Spike's balls safer than we did his head, with this sodding
Tara isn't a careless person,
said the poet firmly. Our balls are safe in her hands. He
hesitated, dismayed by his own choice of words. Er—
Now, that I wouldn't mind,
snickered the fool.
the poet and the demon met this comment with stony silence.
Well, I wouldn't,
insisted the fool.
What about Buffy? demanded the poet in outrage.
haven't forgotten Buffy,
muttered the fool. It's just—Tara's not half bad.
Great knockers, agreed
the demon. But she's less than half bad. She's too bloody good.
Never look at us, her kind. Even if she did give us an accidental
sex-change first. So give up thinking about her.
Okay, muttered the fool,
adding rebelliously, But at least she's nice to Dawn. Nicer than
Buffy died for Dawn!
howled the demon and the poet in unison.
Yeah, agreed the fool. But what the Bit needs now is someone
who wants to live for her.
lurked near the entrance to the graveyard, waiting until it was almost
dark. It wouldn't do at all to march into Spike's crypt in broad
daylight, when she needed no escort to travel around Sunnydale. She
didn't want to be tossed back out into the safe sunlight.
few more minutes, the sun's rays would be only a faint, rosy glow on
the horizon, and lots of nasty things would start to stir. No one who
bothered to take the time to worry about Dawn and what she was up to
would let her wander around alone then.
wouldn't. Neither would Tara.
the umpteenth time, Dawn sulked over the fact that it had been Tara
who moved out when she and Willow broke up. It just wasn't fair.
had been miserable when Tara left Willow, and for a time, she'd lain
awake at night hoping the two would get back together. But her rage
at Willow for putting her in danger and making her suffer the pain and
inconvenience of a broken arm had settled into cold anger. With the
absolute certainty of someone too young to perceive shades of gray,
she'd decided that Willow wasn't good enough for Tara.
had reminded her of something, and it had taken a while before she'd
identified the false memory of Joyce and Hank's divorce. She
remembered resenting Joyce for moving them to a strange town and
taking them far away from Hank. But, slowly, she'd come to realize
her father was becoming more distant and had begun to suspect that his
cheating had precipitated the divorce. She would have been indignant
on Joyce's behalf, if her pseudo-mother had ever said a nasty word
about Hank. But, being Joyce, she hadn't.
in this new situation, Dawn's sympathies had swung to Tara. Tara
never said anything bad about Willow either. But Willow had been out
of control, and Tara had been right to leave. Besides, Willow was
gloomy and self-absorbed, while Tara was sensible and friendly. These
days, Tara's apartment felt more like the home Joyce had made than the
house on Revello Drive.
And one of the
things that made it feel like home was the fact that Spike was welcome
had liked Spike, and Dawn was pleased to realize that Tara did too.
No one else did. Except for Dawn herself, of course. Buffy used to
tolerate him, but now she looked at him with an unfathomable
expression that was close to hatred. Dawn couldn't understand that.
Spike had done everything he could to save her on the tower, and he
loved Buffy like crazy. He didn't deserve hatred. Not any more.
used to think that Willow hadn't minded Spike much, but Willow wasn't
liking much of anything these days. She was running Buffy a close
second for the gloom and doom award. And the only other visitor they
ever seemed to have, except for the occasional social worker, was
Xander. Since the wedding that hadn't happened, it hurt Dawn to look
at the constant pain in Xander's eyes.
she'd found Spike helping Tara move into that apartment, Dawn had felt
a surge of hope for the first time in weeks. Here were two of the
people she loved, actually working kind of together and snarking at
each other in a friendly way. She'd pitched in happily, and been
thrilled when she'd successfully manipulated Spike into staying and
helping her with her homework.
months back, Spike had forbidden her to visit him in his crypt any
more. That had caused lots of tears at the time, but now it gave her
a great idea how to lure him into a friendlier environment.
bad Tara's gay. This was a new thought, and Dawn considered it
carefully. Spike needed to stop brooding over Buffy, and it would be
cool if he liked Tara instead. Or it would be if Tara wouldn't be
almost as wigged out about it as Buffy had been. Dawn couldn't decide
if Tara would be wigged or pleased. So she needed to be cautious.
She didn't want to cause trouble. Not really, even though it usually
worked out that way.
just want to be around people who are happy some of the time.
had enjoyed teasing Tara while he helped her move in. And Tara had
been smiling and having a good time too. So it was clearly a public
service or something to get Spike to visit Tara again. Dawn
decided she'd risk it.
streetlight above her head clicked on. Dawn threw her shoulders back
and marched across the cemetery grounds to Spike's crypt.
Continued in Part Two
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