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Wicked Ways
By jodyorjen

PAIRING: Spike/Tara
RATING: NC-17 overall
SPOILERS: Season 6 through "As You Were".
DISCLAIMER: All hail Joss Whedon, UPN, the WB, FOX, Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox Film Corporation. GO team! Theirs, not mine.
AUTHOR'S NOTE:
DISTRIBUTION: Please ask my permission first, just so I know where it's headed.
FEEDBACK: Sure, fire away to jodyorjen@yahoo.com



Chapter 1

I walked into the diner on the outskirts of Sunnydale and bought a pack of cigarettes. I opened my lighter and lit one, inhaling deeply.

"You can't smoke in here," said an amused voice. I looked up into Tara's face. She wore a light blue waitress' outfit, a little white cap on her head. She looked exhausted, with circles under her eyes and limp hair.

"What are you doing here?" I asked her.

"I work here," she said, indicating her outfit. She gestured at an empty booth. "Want some coffee?" I nodded. She put a coffee cup down and filled it, then sat down across from me.

I took a sip of coffee. "This stuff tastes like dirt," I said. I pulled a road map out of my pocket and opened it out between us.

"That's because it's fresh," she replied. "Otherwise it would just taste like mud." She grinned at me and I couldn't help but smile back. She looked down at the map on the table. "Are you going somewhere?"

"Sunnydale has seen the last kicking of my ass," I replied. "I'm done."

"What happened?" she said.

"Don't want to go into it." Talking wouldn't help this particular problem.

"Was it something with Buffy?" She looked at me intently, like she was trying to peer inside my head.

"What does Buffy have to do with me?" I said dryly, as I finished my coffee.

"You two aren't seeing each other?"

I looked up, surprised. "No, safe to say I'm done seeing any part of the Slayer now."

"So you're running away?" She looked dismayed.

"I'm not running away, I'm deciding to leave." That's a whole different vibe.

She looked at me disapprovingly. "Where are you planning on going?"

"Don't know yet," I said truthfully.

"Tara!" called a fat woman from behind the counter.

"I get off in fifteen minutes," she said. "Wait for me outside."

I sat on the roof of my car and smoked a cigarette. The lights blinked off in the restaurant and Tara walked out behind the other woman. "Goodnight, Marge," Tara called as the other woman got into her car and drove off.

"That one's a real charmer," I commented.

"She's just had a hard life, that's all." Tara rolled her shoulders and rubbed her eyes.

"Can I give you a lift somewhere?" I could at least offer her that.

She gave me a grateful smile. "That would be great. It's a long walk and it's not a great area."

We drove back into Sunnydale. The area we were heading for was the bad part of town; down by the docks. Tara directed me into the parking lot of a rundown motel. "This is where you're living?" I asked her.

"It's the best I can do," she explained. "I help clean the rooms and I can stay for free."

"I thought you lived at the college," I replied.

She shook her head. "There were no rooms available. I didn't apply at the beginning of the semester, since I was with Willow." She looked uncomfortable.

I stopped the car and got out. I opened her car door for her and followed her to her door. "Come inside," she said before I could remind her that I needed to be invited.

She turned on the lights and we heard bugs skittering for cover. A roach ran across my foot and I stomped it dead. "Lovely place you've got here," I observed.

"It's the best I can do," she said simply. She had made an effort to liven up the dreary room. An orange scarf was draped over the lamp and she had hung prints on the walls. A large afghan covered the bed with a riot of colors.

She slipped off her coat and hung it on a peg on the wall on her way into the bathroom. Shutting the door, she called, "So why don't you tell me what's going on?"

I sat down on the bed. "Nothing to tell, really."

"Why are you leaving town?" she asked over the sound of splashing water.

I shrugged. "There's nothing here for me now."

"What about Dawn?" That hurt.

"She doesn't need me anymore. She has the Slayer." I tried to keep my voice noncommittal.

Tara came out smelling fresh and clean, wearing a terry robe. She put her hand on my shoulder. "She does need you. She loves you, and she misses you." She looked into my eyes. "She'll be heartbroken if you leave her."

Someone tapped at the door. "Damn," whispered Tara. "I forgot to put the chair up." She crept across the room and grabbed a chair from under the desk.

"Open up sweetheart," said a drunken voice. "I know you're in there." She braced the chair under the doorknob.

"Go away, Mr. Nesbit," she said. "Go sleep it off." A key slid into the lock and the door opened. The chain on the door rattled and the chair banged.

"Let me in, sweetheart," the man wheedled. I looked over at Tara. She was biting her lip, her eyes full of misery and defeat.

"Let me get rid of him," I whispered.

She shook her head at me. "He'll leave in a minute." The door banged a few more times and then was silent.

"I'll be back," promised the voice. We heard footsteps walking away.

"You go through this every night?" I asked her.

"I'm trying to find another place to live," she explained. "It's not easy to find someplace to stay for nothing." She folded her arms around herself. She seemed so uncertain, so lost.

"I know the feeling," I said. "My crypt's gone. I've got no place to stay. That's part of the reason I'm leaving."

"It's a bad feeling," she said. "Having no real place to call your own." Her voice was throaty, as if she was holding back tears.

"You deserve better than this," I told her. "The Scoobies must not know. They'd never let you stay in a dump like this place."

Her chin rose. "I'm not going to ask my friends for charity. My family is out of the picture. I'm doing the best I can." She looked determined.

"I'm sorry, pet. I'm not trying to make you feel worse." The situation was bad enough without me rubbing it in.

"So about leaving town." She got up and grabbed a bag of Oreos. "I really think that you should reconsider." She handed me a handful and ate some herself.

"There's nothing here for me to stay for," I explained. "And I don't want to be near Buffy."

"She's not the only person in Sunnydale," she pointed out.

"I need a fresh start. I need to move on." I smirked. "Giles told me that a long time ago. It would have been better for me if I'd taken his advice."

"It's not easy for me either, having to see Willow. She's in a few of my classes; there's no getting around it. And I'm not running away."

"I'm not running away," I said defensively. "I just know when to pack it in is all."

"Where are you going to go?" she asked, the argument coming around full circle.

"Can I smoke in here?" She handed me an ashtray. "I don't know where I'm going to go. I just need to get away."

"I wish I could get away," she said. She flopped backwards on the bed. "Just for a little while." I stretched out next to her and we stared at the ceiling.

A rhythmic thumping smashed into the wall behind us. "Oh, yeah," crowed a woman enthusiastically. I looked over at Tara and she grinned. We both cracked up.

"Oh baby," growled a man.

"That's Beth," said Tara between giggles. " I have to listen to this every night. She works out of that room all the time. She does the worst fake orgasm you've ever heard."

"Excuse me, missy," I said indignantly. "I don't believe I ever have heard a fake orgasm." She cocked her eyebrow at me and we both laughed again.

"Harder, baby, harder," the man yelled. "Fuck me real hard." Tara bit her knuckles, her face growing red from laughter. I rolled onto my knees and grabbed the headboard in both hands, banging it into the wall hard. The vibrating action inside the bed kicked in, and it jiggled. Tara's giggling turned to hiccups.

"Oh, yeah!" I yelled at the top of my lungs. "Who's your daddy?" Tara rolled from side to side, her body shaking with laughter. I crashed the headboard into the wall rhythmically as I jumped on the bed. "Ride me like a bull!" The whole bed shook violently. "I'm coming! I'm coming! Oh yeah!" I let out my best growl, letting it go on long and loud. I stopped shaking the bed.

It was so quiet; you could hear the crickets chirping outside. Tara wiped tears from her cheeks. "That was really evil," she said. Her cheeks were pink and her eyes bright as she smiled at me. She looked like herself again, the sweet girl that I knew.

"Well, I'm an evil kind of guy," I smiled at her.

"I haven't laughed like that in a long time," she said. "My life's been kind of short on fun lately."

"Me too," I replied. "We could both use a little fun." She yawned. "I should get going."

Her face fell. "I wish that you would stay," she said.

"I really think it's time for me to move on." I stood up and went to the door.

"I'll miss you," she said. "I feel like I never really got a chance to know you and now you're leaving." I looked at her, and she seemed so sincere. Like it really hurt her that she and I weren't friends.

"Tell the Niblet that I said goodbye." She and I looked at each other awkwardly, and I patted her shoulder.

"Fuck you, motherfucker," said an angry voice.

"Fuck you, man," said another voice. A shot rang out.

All the blood drained from Tara's face. "Oh, that's it, love," I announced as I took off my duster. "You're not staying in this cesspool by yourself."

"I'll be fine," she said uncertainly. The sound of shattering glass rang out from the parking lot along with the squeal of tires.

"Tomorrow we'll find you something better than this," I told her firmly, "and tonight I am staying here to make sure you're alright."

"You want to leave," she said. "Don't let me hold you back."

"I'll leave tomorrow. Right now, you need me." The sound of sirens on the way emphasized my words.

I shoved the dresser in front of the door and took off my boots. I pillowed my duster on the floor and lay down. "What are you doing?" she asked.

"I'm going to sleep on the floor?" Where else would I sleep?

"Why don't you sleep in the bed?" she asked me. "It's a king size; there's plenty of room." I tilted my head curiously at her. "I won't molest you," she said seriously. "I only molest girls." Her eyes twinkled with merriment.

"Oh, well, that's alright then. I was concerned you were going to take advantage of me." She took off her robe. Underneath it she wore a thin slip of a nightgown. Her breasts were amazing, full, and ripe. I tried not to stare as she slipped under the covers. Who knew the shy Wicca had a gorgeous set of tits?

"You can take your clothes off," she said. "You don't have anything I haven't seen before. I draw nudes all the time for class." She leaned over and turned off the light.

I took off my clothes and piled them next to the bed. I slid under the sheets and rested my head on the pillow. I turned my head and looked at her. She was staring at me thoughtfully. "What?"

"It's kind of nice not to be alone in the bed," she replied. "Although it's not like being with Willow."

"No, I don't fancy you'll be confusing me with Red," I joked to hide my surprise.

She reached over and patted my chest. "You're not nearly squishy enough up here."

I flexed my muscles. "I sure hope not. I work hard to have a nice chest."

Tara rolled over and pulled the sheet down. She looked at my bare chest for a moment. "You have a really defined chest. Good muscles."

"Thanks," I replied. "You have really nice tits." She looked down at herself then looked at me oddly. "Well, I thought we were being all honest and sharing."

"No, it's okay," she said. "Thanks for the compliment. I just thought it was funny. I've never had a man notice my breasts before."

"I'm not surprised with the way you hide them under the granny sacks you wear," I told her. "They're really pretty. You should show them off a bit."

"Well, you hide your chest too," she pointed out.

"I'm a man, it's kind of hard to show it off. Can't walk around bare-chested all the time." I gave her a wicked grin. "I'm not Iggy Pop, love."

"I kind of figured you were just all scrawny and sticklike," she said. "You're really skinny."

"Hard to stay beefed up on pigs blood," I explained.

She yawned. "This is a weird conversation. And it's late. We should sleep." She patted my cheek. "Goodnight, Spike." She rolled over onto her side.

"Night." I watched the moonlight make her hair glow. It reminded me of the way Buffy's hair looked in the night. I had loved her hair, before she chopped it all off. I wished that we'd had one night like this, where we slept in bed together. I wished things had been different.

When I woke up in the morning, the room was filled with sunlight. Tara still slept, but she faced me now. She was so pretty, her lips so full and plump. Her eyes opened, and they were so huge, so blue. I'd never noticed them before, and I didn't see how. They were so fine.

"Morning, Spike," she said.

"Sleep well, pet?" I rolled over and propped myself on my elbow.

She stretched and let out a moan. "I had the weirdest dream," she said. "Elvis and James Dean were trying to sell me a Cadillac, and I was trying to explain that I don't need one, because I don't drive."

I laughed. "That's a pretty bizarre dream, pet."

"Did you have any dreams?" she asked.

"I don't remember any," I said. She arched her back as she stretched again. Her tits swelled and pressed against the satin of her gown. I felt a stirring of desire. "I have an idea," I ventured. "And we're getting along really well and all, so I hope you don't haul off and punch me."

"I promise not to punch you," she said with a smile. "Fire away."

"Have you ever thought about dancing for a living?"

She gave me a quizzical look. "I took ballet when I was a kid, but I don't think that I really counts as a viable career choice."

"I mean exotic dancing, pet." I hesitated for a moment. "Topless."

She blushed and crossed her arms over her chest. "I could never do that."

"Why not?" Shyness perhaps?

"Those women are gorgeous. They have perfect bodies. I couldn't compare," she said dismissively.

"Can I be really, really honest with you, pet?"

She seemed startled. "You can always be honest with me."

We'd see about that. "I'm desperately in love with another woman, and I know for a fact that you don't swing my way anyway, but just looking at your tits has me hard as a rock."

She peeked down at my crotch. "Really?"

"Really." She looked straight into my eyes, and there was no anger there. Only surprise and pleasure. "You're beautiful, Tara."

She looked thoughtful. "I don't think so, Spike. I'm really not."

"From what I can see, you really are." It wasn't idle flattery.

"But I could never take my clothes off in front of a bunch of people," she said doubtfully.

"Why not?" I asked again.

"I just couldn't." She blushed, thinking about it. "I would be too embarrassed."

"You're strong willed," I said to her. "If you put your mind to it, you could do it."

"I'm not that strong."

"You're strong enough to live here, strong enough to work at that diner," I reminded her. "And you could make in a night stripping what it takes two weeks to earn at the diner."

Her eyes widened. "Are you serious?"

"Dead serious." I nodded for emphasis. "I know this guy who owns a club downtown and some of the birds that work there. They make a really nice living. Couple of them are working their way through college doing it, and I guarantee they're living a lot better than you are now."

Hope flared in her eyes, then quickly died. "Even if I could take off my clothes, I can't dance."

"That's just not true, ducks. We danced at the party, and you have some damn fine moves." She gave me a lopsided smile. "Just think about it. It could solve some of your problems."

"This guy? The guy that owns the club? He wouldn't expect me to..." her voice trailed off.

"Hiram?" I laughed. "Hiram doesn't even like girls. He's a dirty old poofter is what he is. He's been trying to get me to switch teams since I met him. There's nothing to fear there."

"And the men? The customers?"

"Any of them try to touch you, they'd lose an arm. Literally. It's a nice class of demons that comes to the joint, but the bouncers are real bad-asses." I rummaged for my lighter and a cigarette. I lit up and leaned back against the headboard. "He's been after me to come and work for him as a bouncer. But I wouldn't do it. Buffy needs me to help her." The words hung in the air as I realized what I'd said. I took a deep drag. "Well, not anymore."

"So you could be there," she said. "You could look out for me while I was working, make sure nothing happened to me." She looked so pleased.

"Well, I could," I said. "I was planning on leaving town, but I could stay a while." Working in a bar, looking after Tara, it wasn't much of a life, but it beat what I had now. I looked around the room. I could at least get her out of this mess, into something better. She deserved so much more than this.

She lay back on the pillows, her face thoughtful. "I'm not sure that I could do it." She turned to look at me. "But I'm willing to try."

"If you give it a go, pet, I will too," I promised.

She patted my cheek affectionately. "You go to this bar a lot?"

"Yeah, a good bit," I admitted.

"So you know the kind of things the girls wear, the kind of music they dance to?" She really was thinking about it.

"Yeah. Every girl has her own style," I told her.

"I could get an outfit, practice a dance. If I could do it in front of you, I might be able to do it in front of other people." She got up and went into the bathroom. I rolled of bed and pulled on my clothes. I heard the water running, and her voice humming. I turned on the telly and watched cartoons until she came out, toweling her hair. "I need a favor," she said simply.

"Anything, ducks." Well, just about anything.

"Before I get my hopes up, before I think any more about this..." Her hands gripped the belt of her robe.

"Yeah?" I was a little puzzled now.

"Would you look at me naked?" She looked at me nervously.

I smothered a laugh. "It would be a real sacrifice to look at you naked, but I'm willing to give it a shot in the name of friendship."

"Thank you," she said sweetly, and pulled off her robe.

If I had thought her tits were heavenly all on their own, I was standing on a cloud right now. She was perfect. Her breasts were large, high and firm, the nipples a dusky pink. Her skin was pale and white, utterly flawless. A tuft of golden hair highlighted the cleft between her legs, and her legs were long and beautifully sculpted. My mouth dry, I signaled for her to turn around. She complied, and I looked at the gentle sweep of her shoulders, the long curve of her spine, and the lush curves of her ass. A dimple adorned each cheek. She turned back around and looked at me uncertainly. "You'll do, " I said hoarsely.

"Really? You're not just saying that?" She smiled, delighted.

"You're good. Put your robe back on." I stumbled to the bathroom and slammed the door. I gripped the sink hard, and grappled with my raging libido. Christ, she was exquisite. My erection taunted me as I struggled to purge images from my mind. I wanted to suck on those pert nipples, slip my tongue between those legs. I wanted to watch that perfect face flush with orgasm. I pounded my head into the sink. Buffy, Buffy, Buffy. Think about Buffy. Don't think about the gay girl with the body of a goddess. But the filmstrip in my head betrayed me. I thought about fastening handcuffs around Tara's small wrists, biting her neck, about pumping between her legs until I made her scream. My cock throbbed, and I desperately wanted to have a wank, to lose myself, to pretend it was real.

"Spike? Are you alright?" Tara tapped at the door, her voice filled with concern.

Guilt washed over me in a flood. Such a sweet, nice girl, and all I could do was think about fucking her, like she was just a toy, just some trollop. My disgust with myself did the trick. I opened the door. She was wearing one of her usual floaty things, the same old Tara. This girl I knew. This girl didn't make me feel like an animal. "Why don't we get you a bite to eat, and we'll figure out the next thing to do. I think we should try to find you a new place to live, first off. You shouldn't spend another night in this dump."

She sat down on the bed and looked defeated. "I have about twenty dollars, Spike." She looked at me sadly. "I don't have a deposit, or the first month's rent, or anything."

"I have plenty of money," I told her. "I just made some serious cash off a scheme of mine. I'll lend you whatever you need. You can pay me back when you're back on your feet."

"I couldn't just take money from you for nothing," she said.

"Then let me stay with you until I figure out what's what," I replied. "If the club thing works out, you can make the rent all on your own. And if you don't, I'll cover you until we get something else figured out."

"So it wouldn't be charity," she said. "I'd be helping you too." She shook my hand. "It's a deal."

"Making deals with demons, pet," I chided. "I'm surely leading you down the path of wickedness."

"If it'll put some money in the bank and get me a nice place to live, I'm willing to walk on the wild side," she teased.



PAIRING: Spike/Tara
RATING: NC-17 overall
SPOILERS: Season 6 through “As You Were”.
DISCLAIMER: All hail Joss Whedon, UPN, the WB, FOX, Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox Film Corporation. GO team! Theirs, not mine.
AUTHOR”S NOTE: Lyrics from “Rubber Ducky” from Sesame Street used without permission.
DISTRIBUTION: Please ask my permission first, just so I know where it’s headed.
FEEDBACK: Sure, fire away to jodyorjen@yahoo.com



Chapter 2

“So what kind of place did you kids have in mind?” The realtor tapped her talons on the desk and settled back in her chair. The scales on her draconian face rippled when she raised her eyebrows.

Tara and I exchanged glances. “Well, obviously, I’ll need something without a lot of sunlight,” I replied.

“Sweetie, I’ve been finding places for vampires to live longer than you’ve been on a liquid diet.“ She smiled at us, her snakelike tongue flickering against her lips. “I meant, what kind of budget are we looking at here?”

“You and I can talk money after we find something she likes,” I said.

Tara gave me a pointed glance. “Don’t treat me like I’m the little woman, Spike.”

“You don’t have to get all snippy about it,” I replied. “I’m just trying to be gentlemanly.”

“Well, just be your normal abrasive self. You sound like my father.” She turned to the realtor. “We need a two bedroom in a nice safe location. It doesn’t have to be anything special.”

****

I watched Tara walk around the small apartment. Her footsteps echoed on the wooden floor as she peered in the bedrooms and looked around. “What do you think?” I asked her.

She furrowed her brow as she walked past me. “It’s fine.” She stood in the doorway to the kitchen and stared inside. I walked up behind her, looking over her shoulder to see what she was looking at. It was a perfectly white kitchen, as sterile and cold as an operating room.

“Not very cozy, is it?”

She turned and looked at me. “It just doesn’t feel like a home.”

I turned to the realtor. “What else do you have?”

The next place she took us to was the basement of an old row house downtown. Completely underground, it had no windows. The realtor indicated a hatch in the floor in the utility room. “It has access to the tunnels,” she pointed out.

“Well, that’s a real plus,” said Tara. “That would make it easy for you to get around.”

“Do you mind the lack of sunlight?” I asked her.

She shook her head. “Not really. At least this way I wouldn’t have to worry about you accidentally burning to a crisp.”

We crammed ourselves into the tiny bathroom. “There’s no tub, only a shower,” Tara commented.

“I’d love a bathtub,” I said. “Soaking in steaming hot tub of water is a luxury I haven’t had for longer than I care to remember.”

“I bet you’re a bubble bath lover,” she answered with a grin.

I love bubbles, the more the better. “You’re off your gourd.”

“I bet you have a rubber ducky,” she said teasingly.

I’d had battleships too, back when it was me and Dru. “You’re nuts.”

“Rubber ducky, you’re the one,” she sang. “You make bathtime lots of fun…” I growled and lunged at her, and she giggled and ran away.

I followed her out to the main area of the basement. “One, one tiny living room, ha ha ha,” I said in my best Count von Count voice.

She laughed and looked around. “Boy, this is so small.”

“I don’t even think that we could fit more than a couch in here,” I said as I paced off the room. Unless I was totally wrong, it was about seven by six.

“I would like to have people over,” she said. “That was one of the things I liked about living at Buffy’s house. There were always people coming and going.” I’d liked it to, during the summer. Dropping by to hang out, watch a movie, or play cards.

We went into the small galley kitchen. We both couldn’t fit in it at the same time, and Tara couldn’t even stretch out her arms. She looked at the stove. “Electric range,” she said, and pulled a face.

The realtor stepped up behind us. “Okay, so we like the tunnel access, but we want a larger living room and kitchen area and a tub in the bathroom.”

Tara smiled. “Exactly.”

The next apartment we saw was incredible. It had a very high ceiling and marble floors. Tara and I walked into the dining room, which was decorated with intricate reliefs of angels on all four walls of the room and a pair of marble Corinthian columns at each end. “This would be sure to impress our guests,” I remarked.

Tara leaned her head back. “Oh, wow. Look up.”

We stared up at a beautiful rococo mural of angels on the dining room ceiling. Cherubs sang and played instruments, their smiling faces radiant. “I haven’t seen anything like that since Prague,” I commented.

“When were you in Prague?” Tara asked.

“Right before I came to Sunnydale,” I said. “Prague was where it all started to fall apart.”

She started to speak but Rhonda interrupted us. “So, do we love this or what?” She stared at us, her eyelids blinking fast.

“What do you think, Spike?” Tara asked.

“I think it’s beautiful,” I responded. “But I’d like something warmer, more intimate.”

Tara nodded at me, agreeing. “We want somewhere where we can relax and be ourselves,” she explained. “Somewhere welcoming to guests, and inviting.” We exchanged a smile.

“If you want to settle on a place today,” the realtor said, “you may want to consider being a little more flexible.”

Tara’s brow furrowed, and her expression became worried. “We don’t like being pressured,” I said roughly. “You’re trying to earn a commission here, so I’d back off if I were you.”

Tara rubbed my back soothingly. “Spike, just calm down.” She turned to the realtor. “We’ve had a long morning. We’ll have lunch and meet back at your office in an hour. We really appreciate you helping us on such short notice.” Rhonda smiled at her, appeased, and left us on the landing.

“You get really cranky when you go too long without eating,” Tara said. “We need to get you some blood.”

I pulled away, annoyed. “I do not get cranky.”

“Yes you do. When we used to patrol, you’d get all bitchy halfway through and start chain smoking. You’d get all shaky, and you always had a headache,” she said. She looked at me probingly. “I wonder if vampires can be hypoglycemic.”

The girl was stoned. “Oh, sod off.”

“Seriously. The same thing used to happen to my cousin Beth and we’d have to get her some juice or candy,” she explained earnestly.

“I’m fine, Wicca,” I said.

“No you’re not, your head is throbbing. Your aura is flaring up red all over.” She gestured her hands toward the crown of my head.

I batted at her hands. “Quit it, you silly bint.”

She laughed. “Let me just use some acupressure to make you feel better. Hold still.” She took my hand and pinched firmly into the web between my thumb and index finger. “Your chi is blocked at your Hegu point.” She stared into my eyes as she continued the pressure.

Her eyes were so blue. There were little speckles of green and gray in them, and flecks of white. I watched her eyes dilate as her breathing stepped up, and I realized how close together we were standing. My hand was warmed by hers, and I felt the heat spread throughout my body. “I don’t have chi,” I said stupidly. “I’m dead.” My gaze lowered to her mouth, and I wondered if a man had ever kissed her. I wondered what her lips would feel like, how she would taste.

“But your head feels better, now, doesn’t it?” she said breathily, her cheeks were flushed with color. I leaned forward instinctively and she dropped my hand and backed away. We stared at each other for a moment.

“Let’s go get lunch,” I said abruptly.

****

“Maybe we should have taken that last apartment,” said Tara. We sat on stools at the bar at Willy’s Place.

I sipped on a glass of O neg. ‘”It wasn’t the right place for us.”

She took a bite of her sandwich and looked distressed. “We don’t have anywhere to stay tonight. I couldn’t go back to the motel if I wanted to, not after you scared Mr. Nesbit.”

I got furious just hearing that scumbag’s name. “The bastard got off easy. If I didn’t have this chip in, I would have ripped the sick fuck’s throat out.”

She pushed away her plate. “Thanks, Spike. I feel much better now.”

She didn’t want to hear that sort of talk. “I’m sorry, pet. I didn’t mean to upset you.” I sipped my drink. “It just got me all brassed off. That dirty old man sniffing around you, thinking about you that way.” Unbidden, the image of her nude body sprang to mind. Jesus, I’m a bloody hypocrite. I looked over at her and she seemed lost and confused again, the mention of that crappy motel sinking her back into it. “Tell you what, ducks. If we don’t find a place that we like today, we’ll stay at the Hilton. We can order room service, wear those terry robes they have and take a nice hot bath.”

She turned and smiled. “That sounds nice.”

“We can stay there as long as you like, so don’t worry about finding someplace today. You’re never going to have to go back to that motel. I promised you that I’d help you, and I will.” I never wanted to see her look so scared and desperate again.

“I trust you,” she said simply. “I know you wouldn’t leave me in the lurch.” She looked at me dead on, and I felt a wave of protectiveness.

I pushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear. “Eat up. We’ll have a nice dinner tonight to make up for my bringing you here.”

“I don’t mind it. It’s kind of exotic.” She looked around at the incredibly tacky, lowlife décor of the dump.

I cocked my head at her and grinned. “How so?”

“I’m from Mount Cade, Washington, population 560,” she said with a smile. “Pretty much everything is exotic after growing up there.” She looked at me. “I’m in a bar, with my handsome vampire friend, who is bribing me with a night in a luxurious hotel. What would the ladies from back home think?”

“Probably that you should be breaking out the holy water and crucifixes about now?” I suggested wryly.

Her expression clouded. “They’d probably figure this was about par for the course for the town weirdo.”

“They thought you were weird?” Tara was the most normal of all the Scoobies. What the hell kind of place did she come from?

“The whole town hated me,” she said matter-of-factly. “I was always different. As a little girl, I used to talk about seeing things other kids couldn’t see. I’d tell people about things that hadn’t happened yet, or tell secrets no one else should know.” She sighed. “It scared people, and made them nervous. My father was furious with me all the time.”

My heart ached for her. “Same thing happened to Dru,” I replied. “Except back then, they called it being possessed by demons. Her mother took her to the priests, tried to exorcise her.”

“I t-thought I had a demon inside m-me. That’s what they said in my f- family,” she said, clearly upset.

I was the biggest moron that ever lived. I’d forgotten all about her idiot family. “I didn’t mean anything by it, love,” I said. “I’m sorry if I hurt you, bringing it up.” I reached out to her but she turned away.

She stood up and looked at her watch. “We’d better go,” she said. “We need to meet the realtor.”

****

The afternoon slipped away as we looked at apartment after apartment that didn’t suit us. Tara and I got the system down pretty well; we could tell within a minute whether or not someplace had possibilities. None of them did. “I’m getting a blister,” said Tara as she stopped and rubbed the heel of her foot. “Maybe we should call it a day.”

The realtor consulted her clipboard. “I only have one more listing. I don’t think it’s what you’re looking for, but we can give it a shot.”

We walked through the tunnels and emerged on the edge of a cemetery. Night had fallen and crickets chirped loudly. “Well, this is awfully familiar,” I said. “I wouldn’t feel at home without all the tombs.”

“I don’t have anything against dead people,” commented Tara, “But I’d really rather have the kind of neighbors that want to come over for a pot luck.”

“Some things in this cemetery would love to come over for dinner,” I said.

She looked over her shoulder and raised her eyebrows. “Yeah,” she said dryly. “With me as the main course.” She limped painfully.

“It hurts just watching you, pet.” I walked over and picked her up. “Let me give you a lift.”

“Put me down,” she said, batting at my arms. I knew she was still upset; she’d been distant ever since I stuck my foot in my mouth at lunch.

“I’ll put you down when we get there.” We moved through the night, and I enjoyed the weight of her in my arms, the sweet scent of her hair blowing in the breeze. “I really am sorry about what I said,” I told her softly. She stared up at me and placed her hand on my neck. I smiled down at her, and the tension that had been between us melted away.

We walked past the rows of gravestones and along a dirt track that led into a small clearing. In the middle of it sat a two-story house, built of gray stone with a white wooden door and shutters. “I don’t think that we could afford a whole house,” Tara said doubtfully.

The realtor fumbled with a ring of keys and opened the door. Our footsteps echoed on the stone floor as we walked inside. I set down Tara gently on her feet as the realtor flicked on a light switch. “It is rather rustic in feel, but it does have water and electricity,” she told us. A large fireplace took up one wall and a ladder in the middle of the room led to a large open loft above. The ceiling was high, and framed with large heavy beams. There was a door on the right-hand wall, and two on the left.

She brought us through the door on the right, which gave access to a small hallway. There were two small bedrooms, side to side, and a large bathroom with a claw footed tub. We followed her back into the main room and across to the other two doors. She opened one, which led to a one-car garage. The second door, revealed a flight of stairs, and we followed her down into a large, empty basement. There was a metal door in the wall, which she unbolted. “Tunnel access,” she informed us. We went back upstairs and stood in the middle.

“I like it, pet,” I said to Tara. “What do you think?”

“I love this room. It has enough space for a coven to have a circle. And a fireplace would be good for the spell casting.” She turned around and looked curiously. “Where is the kitchen?”

We looked around the room. There was definitely nothing resembling a kitchen to be seen. “Rhonda?” I called. The realtor scurried up the steps and looked at me. “Is there a kitchen, love?”

She flipped through the sheets of paper in her hands. “There’s supposed to be one off the hallway,” she told us. We walked up and down the hallway, but didn’t find anything until Tara closed the door to the main room. The missing entryway was cattycorner on the wall behind it. We stepped through it and down some stairs, into a spacious kitchen. Olive appliances and orange linoleum placed the decorating of the kitchen firmly in the seventies. “Looks like the Bradys have stepped out for dinner,” I commented. Tara chuckled. We turned the corner and entered a large dining room. A chandelier glittered from the low ceiling. Rhonda pulled off a cover, revealing a long walnut dining room table with matching chairs. Tara ran her hands over the back of a chair, tracing the carving that adorned it. She exuded warmth and happiness.

“You like it here, don’t you?” I asked her. I felt a strong feeling of déjà vu. This moment, this place, felt like home to me.

“I really do,” she said. She twirled around and her golden hair spun out in a cloud all around her. She laughed, and the rich, vibrant sound was so sweet to hear.

“We’ll take it.”

****

I pushed a shopping cart down the aisle of the Super Mart. It was piled high with food and household goods. Tara consulted a list that she’d made up in her swirly handwriting. “Pillows,” she said.

I looked around. “Over there, ducks.” We made our way to the aisle and stopped in front of a wall full of pillows and mattress covers.

“These pillows are only three dollars a piece,” said Tara, picking one up. She plumped it between her hands.

I grabbed it away from her. “That’s because it’s stuffed with lead. It’s like a brick.” I pulled a goose down pillow from a rack and handed it to her. “Soft, fluffy, comfy. All the things one could ask for in a pillow.”

“They’re too expensive.” She clutched the pillow in her hands and stared at the floor.

I clamped down a sigh of exasperation. “Stop obsessing about this. It’s only money. It doesn’t mean a thing to me.”

“It means a lot to me,” she said. “You’re spending all your cash. I feel guilty picking out so much stuff.”

I shut my eyes and tried not to yell. “We’ve had this discussion about every bloody thing in this cart. I want you to have the soft pillows, and the pretty dishes, and the plush towels, OK? This crap doesn’t matter to me.”

“It isn’t crap,” she volleyed back, annoyed. “It’s the little things that make a house a home.”

“Fine. I agree with you whole-heartedly. Whatever you need to be comfortable, to be content; buy whatever you want.”

She narrowed her eyes. “So I should just decorate the house in big, pink frills then? Please only myself and not even consider you?”

What the fuck was she going on about? “I spent a century living in one dollhouse after another. You’re the lady of the house. This is your domain. All I have to do is pay the bills.”

She stuck her chin in the air, and I knew she didn’t like that answer. “Why are you so Victorian about the house? You’re stuck in another era. Don’t you want to have some input on the way your own house looks or what’s in it?”

“No, pet. I just don’t give a bloody damn.” Someone would probably just come along and blow it up anyway.

She picked up four goose-down pillows and angrily tossed them in the cart. “Fine. I’m buying four of these, and they’re insanely expensive.”

“Go for it, love.” I crossed my arms and chuckled.

She pushed the cart down the aisle and picked up two gigantic plastic bags. “I‘m buying us each a goose-down comforter. Because they’re soft and warm and you’d like sleeping with one, you aggravating son of a bitch.” She stuffed them underneath the cart, and then put her hands on her hips, defiantly.

I tilted my head curiously at her. “So you’re punishing me for being a right bastard by forcing me to buy myself some nice things for my bed?”

She flushed, but didn’t look away. “Well, yes.”

“If I really piss you off, will you make me buy myself some silk sheets, pet?” I said saucily. Her eyes flashed as she tossed a wastebasket at my head and stalked off.

****

I stood outside the doorway of our new house and watched Tara sweep dirt out over the threshold. She propped the broom in a corner and lit a stick of incense. “Come on in, Spike,” she said as she waved her hand, filling the room with smoke.

“What are you doing, exactly?” I asked her.

“I told you, I’m cleansing the house of any lingering spirits and any negative energy. It’s important to do this before we settle into the house. We want to start off with a clean slate.”

“Won’t it kind of ruin the cleansing when if I come back in?” I mean, I am evil, after all.

She came outside and pulled me through the doorway. “You’re positive energy, Spike. It’s your house.” She handed me a dish of water. “Sprinkle it in the corners after I purify with the incense.” I followed her from room to room as she chanted and waved her smoke in the air, and I flicked droplets in each corner.

In my new bedroom, she did her chanting thing once again. A misty shape rose up from the floor and drifted over to us. I dropped my dish and wrapped my hands around Tara’s waist, pulling her away. A wraith formed, a pretty young woman holding a baby. My skin tingled uncomfortably as I regarded the shades. “Tara,” I said quietly, “Please make them go away.”

“They’re just lost,” she said. She stepped forward and I grabbed her hand, clenching it tight. “They won’t hurt you.” The ghost turned to stare at me, her image flickering. Tara reached out her other hand to the spirit. “Move on,” she said kindly. “Move on to a better place.”

“I was happy here,” said the shade, her voice thin and silvery. Her voice made me shiver and I held Tara’s hand tightly.

“I’m sure you were,” said Tara soothingly. “It’s a lovely home. It has wonderful energy. There is so much love here."

“I don’t want to go,” said the spirit. The baby in her arms turned and looked at Tara, and the witch stroked its cheek.

“It’s our turn now to be happy here,” said Tara. “It’s our time to make this our home.”

“I like it here,” said the ghost. “I don’t want to move on.”

“We all have to move on,” said Tara softly. She murmured a few words and with a wave of her hand, the ghosts disappeared.



PAIRING: Spike/Tara
RATING: NC-17 overall
SPOILERS: Season 6 through “As You Were”.
DISCLAIMER: All hail Joss Whedon, UPN, the WB, FOX, Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox Film Corporation. GO team! Theirs, not mine.
DEDICATION: For Mint Witch, who reminded me that it’s all about the journey, not the destination.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Lyrics to “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails used without permission.
DISTRIBUTION: Please ask my permission first, just so I know where it’s headed.
FEEDBACK: Sure, fire away to jodyorjen@yahoo.com



Chapter 3

Tara stood in front of the stove and peered into a brimming pot of tomato sauce. She dipped her finger in and tasted it. Satisfied, she pulled a colander from the dishwasher and set it in the sink. Plumes of fragrant steam furled up when she emptied the spaghetti into it to drain. I put down the place mats on the table and set out the dishes and silverware. “Where’s the corkscrew, love?”

She pulled it out from the drawer and tossed it carefully to me. I uncorked a bottle of merlot and poured us each a glass. Next, I placed a tall pair of silver candlesticks with beeswax tapers on the table and lit them carefully with my lighter, before sitting down to sip my wine and watch her putter around in the kitchen. She was smiling to herself, her hair pulled up in a clip. It seemed so surreal, this domestic scene that surrounded me. Tara walked over and handed me a plate of spaghetti. She set hers down as well and smiled at me. ”Thanks for dinner, pet,” I said with a grin.

“No big deal,” she said as she unfolded her napkin. “Anyone can make spaghetti.”

I raised my glass in a toast. “To Tara, without whom I’d mostly likely be driving drunk in the middle of the desert.”

“To Spike, for saving me from cockroaches and dirty old men,” she said with a smile. We clinked glasses.

I shook Parmesan all over my pasta and took a big bite. “This is unbelievable, Tara. God, I missed your cooking.”

“I liked it when you used to come over for dinner with Dawn and Will and I. I never understood why you didn’t come to the house any more after we brought Buffy back.” She took a bite of spaghetti. I shrugged, pretending to be very interested in my food. She gave me a serious look. “I wish that you would open up to me. I would really like to know why you were going to leave, what happened with Buffy.”

“The details aren’t important,” I said. I put down my fork and crossed my arms across my chest. “What I want to know is why you care.” She looked at me, startled. “Why would it even matter to you if I left or stayed?”

She toyed with her wineglass. “I could tell you, but I don’t think you want to hear it.”

“I’m a big, strong man. I can take it.” I tried to stare her down, unsuccessfully.

She looked at me with sadness in her eyes. “You’ve always seemed so sure of yourself, so strong. I’d never seen you look so lost, so aimless.”

I rose and pushed the chair away. “Since when do you care? Since when do any of the Scoobies give a fuck about me at all? You don’t need me around to fight, now that you’ve got your Slayer back.” I couldn’t keep the bitterness out of my voice.

“You didn’t come around any more either, Spike.” She just didn’t get it.

“Why? So you could ignore me or make fun of me?” I walked into the dining room and paced. “I’m just a joke to all of you,” I said. “The vampire that can’t feed, can’t fight humans, only gets the nutty, dizzy girls.”

She stood up and walked over to me. “I never thought you were a joke. I always thought you were a good fighter, and a loyal friend. You took such good care of Dawn.” She put her hand on my shoulder. “And you dated Buffy. She was with you, as a couple. Sometimes love just isn’t enough.”

“She didn’t love me,” I said bitterly. “I never touched her heart. She let me fuck her that was all. I was never more than a joke to her, either. I was just convenient; she said so, after the first time we made love. I should have believed her, instead of fooling myself.”

Tara’s eyes filled with tears. “Oh, Spike. I can’t believe she said that to you.” She cupped my cheek in her hand.

I jerked my head away. “Don’t pity me!” I said vehemently. I turned to go but she grabbed my hand.

“I don’t pity you,” she said. “I pity her. All that love wasted, when she needs it so much.”

“I thought she was falling in love with me. I thought I could make her happy.” My voice cracked. “She said that I was killing her. That being with me was killing her.”

She wrapped her arms around me and held me tightly. I sank into her embrace, her sweetness, and her comfort. It felt so good to be held. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “I know how much you love her. That must have been so awful for you.” She gently stroked my hair.

“It’s why I was leaving,” I said. “I’m afraid that if I stay in Sunnydale, I’ll be following her around, and staring up at her window. I’ll be just as pathetic as all of you think I am.”

“That’s not going to happen. You’ll get through this,” she said quietly. “Maybe one day, you’ll look at her, and it won’t tear your heart out to do it. If I can see Willow every day, and move on, then so can you.”

I pulled away and looked down at her. “I don’t know how. I don’t know what do with myself.”

“You need to learn to live without her. She’s been the center of your life for so long. You need to make a life for yourself.” She looked so sincere. She stood on tiptoe and kissed me gently on the mouth. My body tingled with it, and she tasted so sweet on my lips. She took my hand and led me back to the table. I sipped my wine and watched her, her hair gleaming in the candlelight.

****

I sank back into the tub, the water so hot the room was filled with steam. The antique tub was immense; I could stretch out my legs all the way. I lathered my hair with shampoo and plunged underneath the water. It was nice and comfortable, the heat relaxing muscles I hadn’t realized were tense. I closed my eyes and listened to the sound of the water, of the faint strains of music coming from Tara’s room. I thought about what she’d said. About moving on, getting a life. It cut like a knife to admit that I had come so close with Buffy, had every chance to win her love, and failed. When it came to the Slayer, I never could win. I’d forgotten that.

I got out of the tub and dried off, wrapping a towel around my waist. I opened the door and walked across the hall to Tara’s room. She rested on her stomach on her sleeping bag, looking through a pile of CD’s. Her boom box played a bouncy track I vaguely remembered from the early 80’s. She wore a tiny scrap of a nightgown, the plunging neckline barely covered her nipples and the skirt was twisted high on her thighs. I admired the view while she sang along, completely oblivious to my presence. She was achingly beautiful, and the fact that she was so unconscious of it only made it that much more appealing.

I knocked on the doorframe and she startled. “Hey there,” she greeted me. “How was your bath?”

“Brilliant. I haven’t been so warm in years.” I could almost mistake myself for a real boy.

“I’m trying to pick music for my audition,” she said. “You want to weigh in?” She patted the sleeping bag next to her and I sat down.

“You should pick something you like, something you feel comfortable with,” I said. “Something that feels good. A song that makes you want to move.”

She frowned and popped out the disk from the player. “Nothing seems right,” she said with a sigh.

“You need to get in the right frame of mind,” I told her. “Wait right here.” I went to the kitchen and grabbed the wine and the glasses. I went back to Tara’s room and poured her a glass. “Have some of this, it will help you relax.”

She rested back in the pillows and drank her wine as I looked through the CD’s. I selected one and put it in. A slow, pulsating beat played from the radio. She sat up and rubbed her foot, wincing as she rubbed the sole. “Fancy a foot rub?” I asked her.

“Sure, that would be great,” she replied. “Walking around all day wore them out.”

I settled myself at the end of her makeshift bed. I grabbed her ankle in my hands and firmly massaged the arch of her foot with both my thumbs. She took a large sip of wine as I kneaded her foot and watched her. “I love these little nightgowns of yours,” I told her.

She opened her eyes and smiled at me. “I love lingerie,” she said. “It makes me feel elegant and sexy.” She looked so beautiful, the midnight blue of her gown making her eyes look deep and dark. She’d freed her hair from its clip and it fell over her shoulders.

“I feel like one of those gents from a 1940’s movie,” I said to her. “He spends the whole picture bantering with the mousy librarian, and then she takes off her glasses and he realizes she’s a knockout.”

“I guess I’ll take that as a compliment,” she said with a grin. I dropped her foot and picked up the other one, continuing the massage. She bit her lip and put down her glass. “God, your hands are amazing,” she said. “You’re so strong.”

“Superhuman,” I said. “Perfect for working out all those tight muscles you weak little humans get.” I slid my hands up her ankle and rubbed her leg. I was very conscious of her other foot resting in my lap, brushing against my shaft and balls. She moaned slightly as I worked out a kink in her calf.

She closed her eyes and sank back in the pillows. “Oh, that’s so good,” she said faintly. My blood heated as I looked at her, all stretched out on the bed, pleasure washing over her face. I wanted her, badly. My hands slipped up her legs and I caressed her thighs. She arched her back and moaned again, her nipples hardening as I watched. I could hear her heart beat faster as I worked the muscles in her thigh. Her eyes opened, and she stared up at me, revealing her desire, her need.

I pulled away. “I should get dressed,” I said. I left her room and closed the door behind me. In my room, I lay down in the dark on my sleeping bag. My mind reeled. Tara wanted me. Shy, sweet, gentle, gay Tara wanted me. I thought I’d sensed something earlier that day, when she held my hand, when she kissed me in the kitchen. Now I knew, dead certain. I wondered why. After all, we’d been around each other for months, and we’d never even blinked an eye. But something had changed.

The radio next door blared louder. It was a sensual song with a heavy, pounding beat. “You let me violate you,” rasped a low male voice. “You let me desecrate you.” I heard a low moan under the noise of the song. “You let me penetrate you,” the song continued, and I heard it again. Tara moaning. Oh god. I pulled off the towel and stroked my cock, straining to hear the noises that she made under the noise of the music. I could hear her heavy breaths and pants. I closed my eyes and imagined her, her hair spread over the pillows, eyes shut. Her fingers working under the blue satin of her gown, her other hand clenched on her breast. I listened to her gasp and whimper and felt my orgasm build. The noises that she made were in conjunction with the beat of the music, and I imagined her fingers sliding in and out of her depths as she worked toward her climax. I pumped harder, nearing the edge. I heard her cry out loudly as she came, and it was all I needed to bring me over. It felt good, so good, so strong and intense and deep as I came. I lay on the bed, gasping.

She was right next door. She wanted me, quite obviously, and I sure as hell wanted her. All I had to do was go next door, and… and what? “Sorry, I know you’re a lesbian and all, but I heard you wank off and thought I’d offer you a hand.”

She’d turn to me and smile. “Why, yes, climb in the bed and take me now, you big strong man. The mere sight of your muscled chest has turned me straight.”

I was deluding myself, as usual. She was alone, had been for a while. It wasn’t about me. It was about being lonely. And me, wanting her, was just a rebound thing, because of Buffy. That’s all it was. I wiped myself off and lit a cigarette. My telly was propped on cardboard box in the corner. I flicked it on and stared at the screen. I smoked cigarette after cigarette, and tried to get Tara out of my mind. The room next door was quiet, and I figured she had fallen asleep. I had liked it last night, holding Tara close, sleeping with her. I’d felt so needed, so wanted. A knock sounded at my door. I threw my towel in a far corner and pulled on my jeans. “Come on in,” I said.

Tara stepped in, draped in her afghan, pulling her sleeping bag and pillow behind her. “I can’t sleep,” she said. “Can I watch TV with you?”

“Sure thing, sweetheart,” I said. I stood up and unzipped my bag and laid it flat, placing hers on top of it. We lay down together and she threw the afghan over both of us. We settled back on the pillows.

“Why are you watching a documentary on penguins?” she asked, as she looked over at me.

I had no idea. All I’d been doing was lying here, thinking about her. “Penguins are fascinating creatures,” I said. “Very large, and avian,” I said, grasping.

“What have you learned about them so far?” she asked curiously. I looked at the TV. A herd of penguins waddled about, squawking.

“Well, they’re not very graceful,” I replied. “And they don’t fly.” She laughed. I turned back to her and grinned. “Well, fuck, I don’t know. I wasn’t paying attention. I was woolgathering.”

“What were you thinking about?” she asked, and there was a glint in her eyes that told me that she knew.

I slid my hand up her thigh, over the silk of her nightgown, and she gasped. “I think you know what I was thinking about,” I said in a low voice.

She rolled away from me. “Earlier, in my room,” she spoke slowly, “you had an erection.”

Kind of hard to deny that one. “Yes.”

“Because of me?’ she asked.

“From looking at you, smelling you, touching you.” I wanted to touch her more. The strap of her nightgown was sliding down her shoulder, begging to be pulled off.

“Does that happen to you all the time?” she asked curiously.

“When I’m with a woman that I’m attracted to, yeah. I’ve got a pretty high libido. I love sex, I think about it a lot.” Sex, blood, fighting. That summed up my thought process, most days.

She looked at me seriously. “I liked the way that you were touching me.” She looked in my eyes. “I wanted more. I didn’t want you to stop.”

“Nothing wrong with that, love. Perfectly natural,” I reassured her.

She looked puzzled. “Not to me. I’ve never felt this way about a man, never wanted to experiment.”

“You’ve never even kissed a man?” That was a little hard to believe.

She shook her head. “Not romantically. I never wanted to. I never liked any of them that way.” She looked at me. “But I like you. I like the way you smell, I like the way you feel, I like looking at you.” She seemed really upset.

“It’s okay,” I said softly. “It’s just thoughts. You’re not hurting anybody, not doing anything wrong.”

“As long as it is just thoughts,” she said. “As long as we don’t act on them.” She looked at me hesitantly. I was very aware of her body, how good she had felt underneath my hands, how sweet she had tasted when her lips brushed mine.

“Are you telling me that you want to act on them?” I asked her.

She blushed. “I don’t know what I want.”

“Love and lust aren’t the same thing, pet. You don’t have to feel guilty, thinking about me when your heart’s with Willow. And the same goes for me.” I wanted so much for her to understand. “It’s just a bit of sparking. You like the way I look, I like the way you look.”

She wrinkled her brow. “Do you think that’s all it is? Just pheromones? Just meaningless need?”

“It means whatever you want it to mean. I wouldn’t try to make anything of it, if you wanted me," I said simply.

“Wouldn’t you want something more than that? Shouldn’t it be something more than that?” she asked.

“Sometimes it is. And often it isn’t. Just do whatever feels right,” I suggested. She put her head on my shoulder and I held her hand in mine. We watched the documentary in silence, listening to the narrator drone on about the penguins. It was better than a sleeping pill. Her body heat was wonderful, and I cuddled in closer to her. She smelled so nice, fresh and clean. She fell asleep, and I pulled the afghan up to her neck and turned off the TV. I kissed her gently on the forehead and listened to the sound of her heartbeat as I dozed off.

***

I woke up a few hours later. Tara was on top of me, her hair covering my chest. Her nightgown had ridden up all around her waist, and I could see all the way down. She was so gorgeous, her body so amazing. She stirred in her sleep, and her mouth rose closer to mine. I wanted to ravage her mouth, slip inside her and make love to her. My cock stirred, aroused by her nearness.

I quickly slid out of her embrace and dressed. I grabbed my duster from the hook next to the front door and left the house, carefully closing the door behind me. I lit a cigarette as I walked through the quiet cemetery. I heard a noise behind me, and turned around. It was Buffy, stake in hand.

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

“I live here,” I said.

“I saw that your stuff was gone from your crypt,” she said.

“Yeah, I took what was left of it.” The pathetic, charred bits of what passed for my life.

“So do you have a new crypt here?” She looked around, like I’d have a mailbox out front or a welcome mat out.

“No, I have a house.” I pointed. “Up over the hill.” She followed my gesture. “Do you want to see it?”

“Sure.” We walked through the cemetery, not talking. We went up the path and stood in front of my house. “This is really nice, Spike.”

“Thanks. It was a lot of work to find it.” I turned to her. “Would you like to see inside?”

She looked at me searchingly. “Sure.”

We walked inside and I showed her the living room and the loft. I opened the door that led to the bedrooms and kitchen. She followed behind me noiselessly into the kitchen. “Want a drink, or some ice cream?”

“What kind of ice cream do you have?” she asked.

I opened up the freezer. “Chunky Monkey and Cherry Garcia,” I said as I held out the pints.

She smiled. “We used to have those in the freezer all the time when Tara lived with us. They’re her favorite flavors.”

“They’re hers,” I said. “She lives here.”

She looked at me oddly. “Tara lives here? With you?”

“She’s my new roommate.” Blank stare from the Slayer. “Do you want one of these?”

“Chunky Monkey,” she said. I handed her the pint and a spoon. She took a big bite and looked thoughtful. “Why would Tara want to live with you?” she asked.

“She didn’t like her other place, and we get along well together.” A little too well.

“I didn’t think that you knew each other that well,” she replied.

“We worked together on patrol every day you were gone,” I told her quietly. “Giles, and she and I were a unit. I ate at her table every day. I slept on the couch more times that I can remember.”

“I never knew that,” she said.

“You never asked.” I opened the other pint of ice cream and took a bite. “You never asked about anything that happened when you were gone.”

“It was just too hard to think about.” I looked over at her, so somber and serious. I remembered the girl she was when we met, all fire and zest and bravado. That girl was gone, and I didn’t think she was ever coming back.

“I’m sorry if I made things worse for you, Slayer.” She looked at me. “I never wanted to hurt you. I just wanted to love you, to make you happy.”

“I know,” she said softly. “I knew how you felt. I never should have let things go so far.”

We sat for a moment in silence. “Why did you make love to me?” I asked her. “Did you ever mean for it to be anything more?”

“I’m not sure,” she said. “After the first time, I wished things were different, that I felt more than I did.” She frowned. “I just didn’t have anything to give you.”

“Do you wish that we’d never been together, that you’d never kissed me that first night?” I asked. I was afraid to hear the answer, but I needed to know.

“Yes.” She looked me straight in the eyes, and I knew it was true. It hurt as much as when she punched me. She got up and handed me the carton of ice cream. “I should go.” I walked her out and stood in the doorway as she walked away. Her head was bowed, her shoulders hunched, as if she walked against a strong wind. I shut the door and headed back to my room.

I opened the door and leaned against the frame. Tara slept; her body sprawled across the afghan. I knew her, better than I had thought I did. I’d seen her in love, seen how devoted she was to Red. I’d seen her fight, seen her use magic. She was a strong woman, and she gave everything she had when she believed in what she was doing. She never did anything casually, was never halfhearted.

If I touched her, she would be mine unconditionally. That was the way she loved, without limits or boundaries. She wasn’t the kind of woman who would give her body, and not her heart. She’d love me with all she had to give, holding back nothing. My heart was broken, my body dead, my soul long lost. I shut the door and walked away.



PAIRING: Spike/Tara
RATING: NC-17 overall
SPOILERS: Season 6 through “As You Were”.
DISCLAIMER: All hail Joss Whedon, UPN, the WB, FOX, Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox Film Corporation. GO team! Theirs, not mine.
DEDICATION: For Colleen, the ficlet queen, whose love for “Moulin Rouge” inspired me to buy the DVD and fall in love with it. The beautiful love story and rich imagery of the film inspired this series.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Kudos to “Clerks” for the inspiration for the Quick Stop conversation. Kevin Smith is God. ‘Hindi Sad Diamonds’ from the “Moulin Rouge” soundtrack is the music Tara strips to in this story, so listen as you read. Tip of the hat to Annie, for the Judge line.
DISTRIBUTION: Please ask my permission first, just so I know where it’s headed.
FEEDBACK: Sure, fire away to jodyorjen@yahoo.com



Chapter 4

“She must be a really good lay, man.” I looked up at the skinny blond clerk at the Quick Stop.

“What?” I must be hearing things.

He gestured at the items he was ringing up. “Orange juice, donuts, Ben and Jerry’s, roses. Some chick has got you on a short leash.”

I bristled. “Bollocks.”

“Give it up. You’re out before the crack of dawn to fetch the little woman breakfast.” He leaned over the counter and grinned at me. “You’re whipped, dude.”

“I’m not whipped. We’re just friends,” I said lamely.

He cocked an eyebrow. “You’re not even getting any pussy? That’s pathetic, brah.”

“It’s not like that. She’s a really nice girl,” I said defensively.

“That’s what she’s got you thinking. But the nice ones, they’re the ones you have to look out for.” He leaned over the counter conspiratorially. “That’s the kind of girl, you get a few drinks in her, give her an excuse to get loose, she’ll be sucking you harder than a vacuum cleaner.”

I shook my head, half-appalled and half-aroused at the extremely X-rated image that had brought to mind. “It’s not like that. She’s my roommate.”

“She must be a real hottie then,” he smirked knowingly. ”Cause you don’t go to all that trouble for an ugly girl.”

“She’s really beautiful,” I admitted. “The nicest pair of tits you’ve ever seen, and a face like an angel.” I smiled just thinking about her.

“You’ve got it bad, man. If you’re not going to get in there, may as well pick up some lotion and tissues on aisle 3.” He pulled out some magazines from behind the counter. “I think the spread in Hot and Horny’s pretty smokin’ this month, but if you’re a tit man, Blonde and Buxom is going to get you going.”

“Throw them in the bag.” He bagged my stuff and handed me my change.

“Word of advice, dude. You may not have the balls to go after her yourself. But how are you going to feel when you have to listen to her getting a groove on with someone else while you’re alone holding your dick?” He sat back down in his chair, resting his feet on the counter. I grabbed my bag and left the store.

I lit a cigarette and set off for home. I thought about what that idiot clerk had said. Listening to someone else make Tara come. Hearing those sweet little hitching noises that she made, interspersed with someone else’s groans. Someone else touching her, tasting her. A snapping noise brought me back to myself. I had clenched the bag so tightly I’d crushed something inside. I stopped and peered inside the bag. The donut box was twisted. I looked up at the sky. Dawn was closing in fast, and I didn’t have time to go back and get more.

I jogged through the cemetery, making it to my house with just a few minutes to spare. I went into the kitchen and opened the freezer, replacing the pints that Buffy and I had eaten the night before. I got fresh place mats for the table and made it up, putting the flowers in a milk glass vase. Unpacking the donuts revealed that only one had been damaged. I ate that one as I laid out the rest on a platter. I looked at the Kit-Cat clock that hung on the wall, its eyes and tail wagging back and forth. She was an early riser; she’d be up soon.

I smoked and waited, tapping my fingers on the table. I kept peering at the hands of the clock. Ten, fifteen minutes ticked by, unbearably slowly. I could go in and wake her. That would be too much of a temptation though. I grew hard just thinking about her. It was torture, knowing she was in my room, warm and willing. But then again, I didn’t have to do anything sexual. I could just snuggle with her; give her a peck on the cheek. That was friendly, nothing wrong with it. I stubbed out my cigarette and left the kitchen.

I opened my bedroom door and found it empty. I opened Tara’s door and looked inside. She was sitting cross-legged in front of a small altar, meditating. She was fully dressed, her hair up in a crown of braids. She sat still for several minutes, and I watched her. She looked peaceful, a small smile on her face. She opened her eyes and extinguished the incense and candles that was burning.

She turned to me with a smile. “Good morning, Spike.”

“Do you do that every morning?” I asked curiously.

“I try to. It helps me keep focused, and keep in mind what’s important.” She looked at me searchingly. “You look horrible. Have you been up all night?”

“I was too keyed up to sleep,” I admitted. “I’m exhausted.”

She came to me and led me to my room. She pulled off my duster and boots and had me lie down on my sleeping bag. “Close your eyes.” I complied, and her gentle fingers massaged my brow. A sweet, heavy feeling overcame me. Her fingers ran over my face, and slid down my neck. I felt so good, and so calm. My head was filled with her scent, something delicate, slightly spicy. I tried to put my finger on it, but it kept slipping away.

I must have dozed, but I didn’t remember falling asleep. I wandered down the hallway and into the kitchen to find Tara sitting at the table. I looked at the clock in surprise. Nine in the morning. Apparently I had done a bit more than just doze. “Whatever you did, I feel amazing,” I told her. I grabbed a bag of blood from the fridge and sat down next to her. She sipped at a glass of juice as she flipped through a magazine.

She looked up at me, her eyes clear and wide. “Do you think this is sexy? Does this turn you on?” she said hesitantly, holding up the magazine.

I looked over at a picture of a bottle blond with a pair of gigantic fake breasts. She stared into the camera as she sucked on a monstrous, prominently veined dick. I snatched the magazine from Tara’s hands. “What the hell are you doing with that?”

“You left the bag on the table next to the flowers,” she said, gesturing to it. “I thought it was something for me.”

I grabbed the bag. “They’re mine.”

She looked at me shyly. “I thought that maybe you were trying to tell me something. That this was what you liked, what excited you.”

I stood up and tossed the bag into the wastebasket. “You weren’t supposed to see those.”

She followed me. “You don’t have to be embarrassed,” she said. “You’re a guy, that’s what guys like.”

“It’s not what I like,” I said through clenched teeth. “It’s-“

“You don’t have to explain,” she said. “You shouldn’t apologize for what arouses you.”

“You’re what arouses me,” I said roughly. Her eyes widened. We looked at each other for a minute, and-- I burned to kiss her, and I could tell that she wanted it. The heat between us was palpable, undeniable.

“Paint chips,” she blurted out.

“What?” My desire was tempered by confusion.

Tara went over to the table and picked up a stack of paint chips, arranging them on the table. “What do you think of this beige for the dining room?” she asked, her voice a little higher than usual.

She’d decided to ignore what I’d said. Smart girl. It was best not to go there; best thing for her. I played along. “I like it,” I replied.

She gestured to a blue chip. “I like this one for my room.”

“Very pretty,” I said, trying to sound friendly and non-threatening.

She took a doughnut from the platter and munched nervously. “Can we pick up the paint from the Super Mart tonight?”

“If I go to the mall I can do it during the day.” Underground parking garages made for a combustion free shopping experience. “Then we could go buy furniture tonight.”

“That would be great. After class I’m going to the costume shop you suggested to get something for my audition, so I won’t be back until after 4.”

“Do you want me to help you pick out a costume? Give you any advice on that?” Spending a few hours watching her try on skimpy costumes for stripping sounded like a very enjoyable form of torture.

“Thanks, but I think I’ll be nervous enough just looking at myself in them.” She stood up and put her backpack on. “Thanks for the breakfast and the roses.” She blushed. “Pink ones are my favorite. See you later,” she said and hurried out. She fascinated me, intrigued me. A beautiful mind in a beautiful body. I wanted to know everything about her, to understand what was important to her.

****

I stood in the Magic Shop browsing through the titles of the books on the shelf. “The Witches’ Way.” “The Spiral Dance.” “Positive Magic.” I pulled down them all and took them to Anya at the register.

“Are these good books? Would you recommend them?” I asked.

She looked at the titles. “These are excellent introductory books on Wicca, Spike. Who are they for?”

“They’re for me. I want to learn what Tara believes in, understand more about her.” She gave me an assessing look. “We’re roommates now,” I explained. “I just want to get to know her better.”

“When did you move in together?” Anya looked very interested in my news.

“Yesterday. We rented a house right outside Calverton Cemetery.” I described the house.

“Oh, yeah, that creepy one. When are you going to have the housewarming?” Anya asked.

“I hadn’t thought about having one.” But Tara would really enjoy that.

“We were all going to go to the Bronze tonight, but we do that almost every Friday. Why don’t you have a party tonight? Xander and I will invite all the Scoobies. We’ll bring wine.” She smiled.

“Come by at nine,” I said. “I’ll take all of these books. And can I get some of that incense that Tara really likes?”

“Night Queen, sure.” She rang me up and handed me the paper sack.

I handed her the money. “I have to get going. I need to go pick up some paint and brushes for the house and be home by four.”

“Why don’t you take Xander? His job got rained out so he’s just sitting around the house eating Cheetos. And he knows a lot about paint. He’ll tell you what to buy.”

I pulled the paint chips out of my duster pocket and handed them to her. “Tara told me to buy these. She liked these colors.”

“You don’t have to buy that brand of paint, Spike,” she explained. “They can tint any brand of paint to make these colors.”

“Oh.” What I knew about paint could be transcribed on…well, a paint chip.

“Just call Xander. He loves this handyman kind of stuff.” She smiled at me. “You, the man of the house. It’s very surreal.”

***

“Did you know they have paint that looks like leather?” I showed Xander the display. “Look at this.” I held out the brochure. “You use these little tools and things to give it texture.”

He looked at me quizzically. “Are you feeling alright?”

I raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, why?”

“You’re excited about paint,” he observed.

I wanted to deny it, but I couldn’t. “But it’s really cool paint. Just look at it.”

He rolled his eyes and looked. “Hey that’s neat. They even have a kit that makes a rippling effect, like satin.” I looked at the picture.

“We’re doing the dining room in this champagne color.” I pulled out the paint chip and showed it to him.

“That would look amazing in the satin texturing,” he said, becoming interested in spite of himself. We looked at each other. “OK, I’m feeling very womanly now, and I’m in the middle of Home Depot,” said Xander. “There is something seriously wrong with that.”

“Let’s go look at power tools,” I suggested.

“Nothing like a chain saw to make you feel like a real man,” Xander commented.

“I’ve always liked nail guns, myself.” He laughed and we headed for the tools department.

***

Xander and I carried in the last batch of stuff from our shopping excursion. “This is a really nice place you’ve got here,” he said as we walked into the kitchen. “Of course it would look better with furniture.”

“Tara and I are going out tonight to get some stuff.” He placed cans of beer into the refrigerator while I put bags of chips and pretzels into the pantry.

Xander looked at his watch. “We should go now. Better to have us lugging heavy boxes of furniture than Tara.”

“I’d be afraid to pick out something that she wouldn’t like.” I really wanted Tara to be happy here.

“You live here too, Spike. You shouldn’t let her make all the decisions,” Xander reminded me.

“Right. That’s why you really put your foot down with Anya,” I smirked at him.

“That’s different. Anya is the woman I love. Her happiness is the most important thing to me. Tara’s just your roommate.” He cracked open a beer and sat down at the table.

“I want to make Tara happy, too. I mean not that I love her, because of course, I don’t. But I just want to do everything I can to make sure that she likes it here, that she likes being with me.”

“Being roommates doesn’t mean she wants to spend time with you. We were roommates and it wasn’t exactly a bonding experience,” he reminded me sarcastically.

“This is totally different. Tara and I have a great time together. Even just doing nothing, sitting around and watching the telly.” How much did he know about the hurt Willow had caused her? “She’s had a really hard time lately, she’s been down. I make her smile, make her laugh.”

“It’s nice of you to be there for her, give her someone to lean on.” Xander nodded in agreement. “I know she’s had a hard time since the break up. But she’s going to get past this, and she’ll be back in the swing of things. She won’t need you anymore.”

“What I need isn’t important,” I said truthfully. “Making her happy is the only thing I care about right now.”

He looked at me accusingly. “Oh, no. No, Spike.”

“What?” I was a bit confused.

“I know this look. This look that you’re looking. You like her.” He looked dismayed.

“Of course I like her,” I said defensively. “She’s a wonderful person. Everyone likes her.”

He raised his eyebrows. “That’s not what I mean and you know it. You like her in a boy liking girl way. Like a wanting to kiss her way.”

“That’s ridiculous.” I was grateful that vampires didn’t blush.

“You do. I can see it in your face.” Xander looked very annoyed. “What is wrong with you, Spike? This is even crazier than your crush on Buffy. And that didn’t turn out very well, did it?”

“You don’t know the half of it,” I said dryly.

“Tara’s gay, Spike. She likes girls, not guys. And she loves Willow, our friend Willow. Even assuming that she ever did want to be with you, you couldn’t do that to Will.”

“Well, since it’s never going to happen anyway, no use worrying about it. I know I’ve got nothing to offer her. She’d have to be insane to love me.” I smiled bitterly.

Xander’s annoyance faded at my words. “You know this isn’t about Tara, Spike. This is about you being lonely. Isn’t there a nice vampire girl that you could date?” He looked at me quizzically. “Is there such a thing as a nice vampire girl?”

“I’m sure there are. I’ll take out a personal ad in the Vampire Weekly. Evil disgusting thing seeks same for kinky, debauched sex. Bad girls need not apply.” Xander snorted with laughter and I joined in.

The door to the hallway slammed open and Tara walked in. She was carrying an assortment of plastic bags. Her hair was newly tinted a brighter shade of blonde and rolled over her shoulders in gentle waves. “What did you do to your hair?” I asked. Xander gave me a dirty look. “Not that I don’t like it. It’s very pretty.”

“I just wanted something a little different, that’s all.” She smiled at Xander. “What do you think of the house?”

“It’s very nice. The location is a little creepy, though.” He finished off his beer and stood up. “I’m going to get going now.”

“Thanks for all your help today, Xander.” It really had been kind of fun.

“No problem. See you guys tonight at the party.” He waved at us and left the room.

Tara pulled a coke out of the fridge and sat down next to me. “What party?”

“We’re having a housewarming party tonight,” I told her.

Her face lit up. “That’s a great idea. Who’s coming?”

“All the Scoobies. I’m going to call and invite a few of my friends as well.” I gestured to the wall. “The phone is working now.”

“I think I’ll invite some of the girls from my Wicca group.” She smiled at me. “So should I go out and get food and drinks and stuff?”

“Taken care of.” I opened the now full refrigerator with a flourish. “Xander and I picked everything up.”

“We won’t be able to get the furniture though, not if we’re having a party,” she said a little ruefully. “I was sort of looking forward to a real mattress.”

I tried to banish the thought of Tara on a mattress from my mind. “It’s not until nine. We have between sundown and then to go get the furniture and bring it back.” I smiled at her. “So do you want to get started on the painting now?”

She held up her bags. “I have everything I need for my routine, so I should go practice. I’ll let you know when I’m ready to show you.”

“I eagerly await it,” I said. “I’ll be in my room reading.”

“I’ll let you know when I want you,” she said with a smile.

***

“I need a pep talk,” said Tara nervously. I sat on the floor of the loft next to the boom box and a stack of CD’s.

“You’ll be amazing and wonderful,” I reassured her. She climbed up the ladder and stood in front of me, wrapped in her afghan. Tall gold spike heels were on her feet, and a golden halo rested on her head.

“I’m embarrassed,” she admitted. “I feel ridiculous.”

“Just show me, pet. Don’t be afraid,” I said. She unclenched the blanket and let it fall. She wore a sheer bodysuit, with large feathery wings attached. “You look so beautiful.”

She stepped a few feet away from me and turned her back. “Okay, turn on the music.” I began the track she’d selected and leaned back to watch. The music began, a slow, plaintive tune with a Middle Eastern feel. Tara danced nervously, her eyes closed tightly shut. Her body language telegraphed how uncomfortable and awkward she felt.

I turned off the music. “Come here for a minute.” She walked over and looked down uncertainly. I took her hand and sat her down gently beside me. “You need to relax, or this isn’t going to work.” I handed her my flask. “Here, take a few sips.” She took a few gulps and handed it back. I scooted around behind her and rubbed her neck. She was locked with tension. I worked her neck with my hands until she was calm and relaxed. “Better?” She nodded, and turned around to face me. “I’m here for you, pet. You feel scared, just look in my eyes.”

Tara stood up. “I can do this,” she said determinedly. I turned on the player again, and she turned away. The song began, and she turned to look at me. She stared into my eyes and began her dance. She moved slowly and sensuously as the song began. Her hands drifted slowly through the air, her hips swaying with the movement. The music continued as she twirled, her hair flowing around behind her.

The song changed rhythm, and became a pulsing, throbbing beat. She gazed into my eyes, and I felt the hairs rise up on the back of my neck. She smiled sexily as she pulled the halo off her head and tossed it aside. With a shrug of her shoulders the angel’s wings fell away. She spun away quickly, and a blur of white flew away from her. She did a kick as the song pounded into high gear. She wore only a small golden thong now. She bent back her long neck and her breasts shone lightly with sweat.

I was overwhelmed by a wave of arousal as she made eye contact with me. My nipples and cock hardened in response, and my blood raged with desire. She spun wildly in circles, her eyes always on me, in me. It was like she looked straight inside me, stripping away everything, getting straight to the heart of what I wanted. She spun faster and faster, and my passion grew and grew, until I was right on the precipice, ready to burst, quivering with anticipation. Her eyes blazed with heat. I stood up and went to her, and she spun into my arms. She stared up into my eyes, her breath coming in fast gasps, and I was lost, swept under by her beauty, her power.

I claimed her mouth with mine, sinking my hands into the soft cloud of her hair. Her arms locked around my waist, and she pressed against me urgently. Our kiss was primal, raw, an elemental force that fired my body, made my blood burn. She pulled away and caught her breath, and I pressed my mouth to her throat, licking her, tasting the salt of her sweat and the sweetness of her skin. She moaned, and the sound went right to my cock, making my arousal painfully intense. I slid my mouth down her chest and gently licked her nipple. Her nails dug into my shoulder as I sucked lightly, scoring her gently with my teeth. I moved my mouth to her other breast. Our bodies were so right together. She felt so good, so perfect for me. My body was alive with lust, drenched in passion. I needed her, wanted her, more than I had ever wanted anything.

She pulled away from me. “Stop now, stop,” she said. “I c-can’t, please don’t.” My desire died as I saw her anguish, her fear.

“I wasn’t going to do this,” I gasped. “I’m so sorry.”

“This is too much, I feel like I’m drowning,” she said, shaking.

I was so angry with myself. I knew this would happen, I knew I’d hurt her. “This was stupid, so wrong,” I said. “I knew this would be a mistake.”

She looked at me with horror in her eyes, and backed away. She pulled her afghan around her and rushed down the ladder. I roared in frustration and pounded my fists into the stone wall. Stupid bastard. Horny, selfish git. I punched the wall over and over, furious with myself. I’d scared her silly, made her afraid.

I used to thrive on the fear, embrace the rush of seeing that look in a girl’s eyes. Now I just felt sick. I felt disgusted with myself.

I heard the front door slam. I hurried down the ladder and through the living room. I pulled open the door and ran outside. Sunlight hit my skin and I yelped and ran back inside. I stood in the doorway and watched Tara running down the path as fast as she could, her coat and skirt streaming out behind her. Fleeing as fast as she could, to get away from me.

****

I sat in my room, smoking cigarettes and watching the television. Dusk had fallen and the crickets had begun to sing outside. I wondered where she was; if I’d horrified her so much she didn’t ever want to see me again. What the hell had I been thinking, grabbing her when she was nearly naked, forcing myself on her? I heard the door slam and music began playing next door from her room. I stifled the urge to run to her immediately, to beg her to forgive me. I made myself smoke another cigarette and calm down a bit, then slowly stood up and went in the hall. Tara stood on a ladder in her room, rolling pale blue paint on the wall. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. “I was afraid that you’d decided not to come back,” I said. She hesitated a moment and came down the ladder. She leaned over and turned off the music.

“I will leave if you want me to,” she said. She looked up at me soberly. “I’m sorry that I led you on. I shouldn’t have started something with you that I didn’t intend to finish.” She fiddled with her paintbrush as she stared at the floor. “I got swept away, and I panicked. I felt so out of control, and it really scared me.”

“I took advantage of you,” I said. “You are so sweet and kind and good. I never should have touched you to begin with. It was a mistake. I wish I could take it back.”

She turned away and put her music back on. “Just forget it ever happened.”

“If that’s what you want.” She didn’t answer me, just kept painting the wall. “Do you still want to go buy furniture? We have a few hours left before the party.”

“Fine. I’ll just finish what I’m doing here.” She kept at her work, turned away so that I couldn’t see her face. I wanted to tell her how much it had meant to me, being with her. How what I felt for her was so rich, so deep that it frightened me. How much I wanted to know her, to learn her secrets, to share everything with her. But it felt too close to something I didn’t want to define, too close to the edge of something impossible. So I didn’t say anything.

****

We stood in a large furniture warehouse, in front of a display of coffee tables. “Do you like this one? The Danish modern looking one?” I asked her, pointing it out.

“It’s fine,” she replied.

I turned to look at her. She’d had the same bland expression on her face since we left the house to come here. I’d selected a couch and an entertainment center alone, with her readily agreeing to the first thing that I pointed out. “I’m showing an interest,” I pointed out. “I care about our house. I want it to look nice.”

“That’s great,” she said flatly.

“Is something wrong?” I asked her. “Why are you acting this way?”

“I’m not acting any way,” she replied. “I’m acting calm and rational.”

I pulled at the sleeve of her coat and turned her to face me. “Will you stop acting like a Vulcan? What is your problem?”

“I don’t have a problem,” she said. “There’s nothing to have a problem about, is there?” There was an edge to her voice that I didn’t understand.

“No, there’s no problem at all,” I said, confused. “So can you please be nice to me and help me pick out a coffee table?”

“I wouldn’t want to make a mistake,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to make a decision you’d regret later.”

“It’s just a coffee table, pet. It’s nothing, it doesn’t matter a bit in the grand scheme of things.” I tried to be reassuring.

“It does matter,” she said vehemently. “Things don’t lose meaning just because you say so.”

Bloody women, an eternal mystery. “If you don’t like it, we can just take it back,” I said in a soothing tone I hadn’t used since Dru. “We’ll get another table, one that suits you better.”

She looked so sad. “I don’t want another table. I chose the one I wanted.”

I looked around. “Which one did you want, sweetheart? I had no idea that you liked any of them.”

She gave me an angry glance and walked away. I fought the urge to turn around and smash all the tables to bits. My hands clenched. What the fuck was wrong with the girl? I spotted her standing in front of a display of beds. I came up behind her. “This looks like a nice, sturdy bed,” she said. I followed her gaze to a cast iron bed with a large headboard wrought like lilies.

“Yeah, looks like it would hold up well,” I said, happy to see her showing interest in something.

She walked over and yanked hard on the metal. “It seems strong,” she said. “Like it wouldn’t bend if you made it bang into the wall over and over.” She looked me straight in the eyes, and I saw something shimmer within them.

My blood heated. “Vampires are very strong,” I said in a low voice. “They’d have to be very careful not to break it.”

“Not a problem,” she said. “Only humans will be sleeping in my bed.” She met my gaze. “Or not sleeping.”

The image of some faceless person between Tara’s legs flared into my mind. I growled. “Don’t you tease me about fucking someone else, Tara. You’ll see a side of me that you don’t want to see.”

“What do you care? You don’t want me,” she said. How could she possibly think that?

“I burn for you. I want you, crave you with all that I am.” She turned and looked into my eyes.

“I don’t understand. You said what we did was stupid, you said it was a mistake,” she said painfully.

“The mistake was scaring you, making you run away,” I said. “Not what we did.”

“I wasn’t scared of you. I was scared of myself. I was scared of how I felt,” she said. “I’m not supposed to feel this way for you. Being with a man and not a woman was overwhelming. I’m still sorting it all out in my head.” Her eyes filled with tears. “I was devastated when you said it was a mistake.”

Everything clicked into place. “I’m sorry, pet. What happened with you today, it meant so much to me.”

She looked away. “I don’t know if I can believe that.”

I lifted her chin and looked into her big, sad eyes. “I’m so sorry I hurt you. Give me a chance to make it up to you.” My heart ached in my chest.

“I’ll think about it,” she said quietly. I ran my hand through her hair, and she smiled. Maybe I hadn’t blown it after all.

****

“Who writes these directions?” I asked as I threw down the sheet of paper. “I don’t think they speak English.”

“It’s Scandinavian furniture,” Tara pointed out. “It was written by a Swede.” Our living room was full of flat boxes of assemble it yourself furniture.

“Why exactly did we buy all our furniture from this place?” I asked.

“Because we could fit most of the boxes in the car and save money doing it ourselves,” she reminded me.

I looked at the pieces strewn everywhere. “This is pathetic. I used to be an evil mastermind and now I can’t even assemble a bloody sofa.” I sprawled backward on the floor. “Putting together the Judge was easier than this.”

Tara sat down next to me. “Cheer up, grumpy man,” she said. She tickled me lightly under my armpits.

“Vampires aren’t ticklish,” I informed her.

“You’re a big liar,” she countered. “Your jaw is twitching.” She dug her fingers mercilessly into my ribs. I grabbed her and pulled her on top of me.

I moved my hands to her ribs to tickle her, accidentally brushing against her breasts. “Sorry,” I said, dropping my hands. Her hands stilled on my chest and slid down, caressing me as she stared in my eyes. I saw it again, the fire, the desire for me.

“Kiss me?” she asked hesitantly. I raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Spike, please kiss me.” She sounded a bit surer of herself that time.

I pulled her down and pressed my lips gently against hers, lightly running my hands over her back. My face was enveloped in the curtain of her hair. I teased her lips apart with the tip of my tongue, flicking it inside her mouth briefly and then withdrawing it. She grabbed the back of my head and kissed me deeply. Her hands moved to my buttons. She pulled away and opened my shirt, bending her mouth to my chest and sucking on my nipple.

I moaned and resisted the temptation to grab her ass in both hands to press her against me. I had to let her explore my body at her own pace if I didn’t want her to get frightened again. “Sweetheart, you feel so good,” I said. She moved to the other nipple, nipping at me gently with her teeth. A knock rapped loudly on the front door.

She pulled away and looked at me, puzzled. “Bloody hell,” I said, remembering.

“The housewarming,” she said, her eyes wide. She got up and went out of the room. I walked to the door, adjusting my erection. I swung open the door and there stood Buffy and Willow.



PAIRING: Spike/Tara
RATING: NC-17 overall
SPOILERS: Season 6 through “As You Were”.
DISCLAIMER: All hail Joss Whedon, UPN, the WB, FOX, Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox Film Corporation. GO team! Theirs, not mine.
DEDICATION: To the fine folks at Milton Bradley.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Lyrics to “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen used without permission.
DISTRIBUTION: Please ask my permission first, just so I know where it’s headed.
FEEDBACK: Sure, fire away to jodyorjen@yahoo.com



Chapter 5

Willow smiled at me widely. “Hey, Spike.” She handed me a bottle of champagne with a red bow on it. “Congratulations on the new house.” She turned to Buffy. “You said it was spooky, but it has great energy.”

“Thanks,” I said. I opened the door and gestured for them to come in.

They stepped inside, and Dawn and Richard walked up behind them. “He’s kind of nervous about coming,” said Dawn. “But I promised him that we would all be able to leave this time.”

“And hopefully I won’t get stabbed,” he said nervously. He handed me a six- pack of beer.

“So what brings you here tonight, Richard?” I asked.

“He’s my date,” Buffy explained. She gave me the glare of death, daring me to say something.

“Well, nice to have you,” I said. “Good of you to come.”

“Kind of a casual atmosphere you’ve got going here,” Willow said teasingly. “Bare feet and unbuttoned shirt.” I looked down. Fuck. “So where’s Tara?” she asked, a little too casually. She shifted a beribboned box that she held in her hands.

“She should be right out. Feel free to take a look around while I see where she’s gotten off to.” I rushed out of the room and into the kitchen, putting the champagne and beer on the counter. I walked down the hallway.

Tara was in the bathroom, hastily pinning up her hair. “I’m so sorry, sweetheart. I totally forgot,” I said as I buttoned my shirt.

“It’s not your fault, I forgot too,” she said. “It’s just that they are the last two people in the world that I feel like seeing right now.” Her color was high and her jaw set.

“I know, love. I feel the same way.” I reached out to her and she shied away. “What’s the matter?”

“When I’m with you, I feel like something inside me opens up. I feel raw, and exposed, and utterly naked.” She met my eyes. “I’m trying to box up my feelings, and shove everything back down so no one will know.”

“Hiding from the Scoobies. Keeping secrets. How fucking unusual,” I said, my voice harsh as acid.

“Spike, don’t.” Tara put her arms around my waist. I stilled and looked into her face. “I’m not ashamed of you,” she said. “I’m not embarrassed by what I feel for you.“

“I’m tired of being on the outside looking in.” So tired of it.

“I want to let you in. But what we have is so new, so tenuous. I can’t deal with being psychoanalyzed by all my friends.”

This must be terrifying for her, even considering being in some kind of relationship with me. It wasn’t just the Scoobies; it was the Wiccans and her lesbian friends too. “I’m so sorry, pet. I’m a mean, rude man.”

“Maybe so. But I’m willing to see where it leads.” She kissed me gently, her fingers stroking the back of my neck. I melted into her embrace, soothed by her touch, her taste. Her arms closed more tightly around my waist and she hugged me close. I felt so content, so right, in her embrace. I kissed the side of her neck and nuzzled her shoulder.

“What are you guys doing?” Buffy asked curiously. We turned to see her standing in the doorway.

There was an awkward pause. “I felt dizzy,” Tara explained. “Spike was holding me up.”

“You should go lie down then,” said Buffy, worried.

“Great idea,” I said. “I’ll go tuck her in all nice and tight.”

Tara blushed. “I’m fine now. What I really need is something to eat—I’m so hungry I’m getting lightheaded!” A knock sounded at the front door. “Please go get that, Spike.”

I went down the hall and back out to the main room. Willow and Dawn were sitting on the floor in the living room, assembling the couch. They already had the legs on the thing. Willow looked up and smiled. “I love putting this stuff together. It’s like a great big puzzle.” Richard held up the end of the couch, looking vaguely bored.

I opened the front door. Anya walked in, carrying a grocery bag, while Xander followed behind her with a rocking chair adorned with a big white bow. Tara came up behind me. “Oh, Xander,“ Tara said, clapping her hands together. “Is that for me?”

“No, it’s for Spike. Because he’s such a rocking chair kind of guy.” She hugged him tightly and he smiled, pleased. “I actually made it for my mother for her birthday. But it seemed like such a perfect gift for you, and I know you guys need furniture.”

Anya handed me the bag. “We brought you two boxes of wine.”

“Boxes of wine?” Truly appalling.

She smiled. “Uh huh. One red and one blush.” She looked around. “Where are the food and beverages? You have to feed the guests. It’s mandatory.”

“We lost track of time trying to assemble the furniture, so we don’t have anything ready yet.” I led the way to the kitchen.

“Not a problem. You now have an experienced hostess at your disposal.” Anya opened up the pantry doors and looked inside. “Well, you have all the food right here. This should be easy.” She pulled down a can of spray cheese and a box of crackers. “Here, make these.”

I looked through the cupboard and found a platter. I set it down and arranged crackers on top of it, putting a little swirl of cheese on each one. I turned to see Anya mixing a can of orange juice with a bottle of soda in a large punch bowl, making a fizzing mess. Then she made little hors d'oeuvres, stacking circles of cheese and meat together and impaling them with toothpicks. I popped open a bag of cookies and put them on a shallow tray. We set out all of the food on the dining room table. I felt oddly satisfied looking at the table.

Anya patted me on the back. “Your first party in your new house. This will be lots of fun.” She smiled. “Now you need to put on music and organize social activities.” I followed her out to the living room.

Xander was putting the finishing touches on the entertainment center. “This is a really original way to get people to put together your furniture,” he commented as he screwed on a door. “Lead them down the primrose path with talk of fun and wham, hand them a screwdriver.” He was smiling—was the whelp actually joking with me?

“Well, that wasn’t my intention, but I really appreciate the help.” I admired his handiwork. “You did a great job putting it together. Thanks.”

“Buffy helped too, “ he said.

He smiled at me warmly and I thumped him on the shoulder. “Want to help me hook up the sound system?”

“Sure,” he said. I pulled around the boxes and we unpacked the components. Another knock sounded at the door and Dawn answered it, letting in Clem and Sophie, followed by a trio of girls in batik dresses, wearing pentacles and smelling like incense.

“You’re really good at this,” I commented as he strung stereo wire and set up the speakers.

“Years of experience,” he said. Shortly after it was put together. “All we need now is to try it out,” he said.

I opened up one of the boxes of CD’s that rested next to the unit, picking out a Queen album and putting it on. I went to work fitting the discs into the built in slots of the unit. “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy,” I sang along to the music.

Dawn came over and helped me put the discs into the entertainment center. “Social Distortion. Sex Pistols. Sarah McLachlan. Rob Zombie. James Taylor. Nine Inch Nails.” She arched her eyebrows. “Pretty weird combination of stuff you’ve got here, Spike.”

“They’re all Tara’s, actually,” I said. “Mine all melted into slag. She has a lot of my favorites already though, so I can listen to them.”

She looked at me. “I’m surprised you have anything in common. No offense, Spike, but I think it’s really weird, you two living together.”

“We’ve got plenty in common,” I said defensively.

“Name one thing,” she insisted.

We both wish you’d all clear out and leave us alone. “We both live here.”

“That doesn’t count.”

“We’re both alone in the world, making our own way. And now we don’t have to. We have each other.”

Dawn looked puzzled. “You’re not alone though. You have all of us.” She looked around. “I’m noticing other people have plates of food. I’m feeling left out.”

“Let’s get you fixed up, Bit,” I said, leading Dawn by the elbow. We walked into the kitchen. Willow and Tara stood next to the refrigerator. They were close together, speaking in low tones. Willow reached out and stroked her hair. Tara smiled at her, eyes bright. My stomach twisted as I watched the two of them.

“It’s so nice to see the two of you together again,” commented Dawn. The witches turned to look at us, startled by our intrusion. Tara looked at me, her face slightly pink.

I walked to the pantry and pulled out a bottle of whiskey. I cracked open the bottle and drank deep. Willow and Tara. I could understand it. I knew the pull of your old love, the comfort there. It’s why I went back to Dru, why we had a second go at it. But it hurt. I wanted her for myself.

I felt a tug at my sleeve. I turned to look into Tara’s face. “Please don’t do this,” she said.

“Don’t do what?” I asked, as I took a big swig.

“Get all drunk. It makes you sad or hostile,” she said seriously. “It’s a party. You’re supposed to be having a fun time.” She took the bottle out of my hand.

“So you and Willow seem to be getting along well,” I said.

“She brought me wind chimes,” Tara said. “Why don’t you help me hang them up?” She looked me deeply in the eyes. She picked up a box from the counter and I followed her out, leaving Dawn and Willow chatting in the kitchen while they fixed drinks.

She led me into my bedroom and shut the door. “Are you getting back together with her?” I said abruptly.

“Why would you think that?” she asked.

“I saw you together. You looked all fluffy and lovey,” I said bitterly.

She took my hand. “Spike, if Buffy came to you now and told you that she wanted to be with you, what would you say?”

I thought about how much Buffy meant to me, how long I had loved her. How happy she used to be, and how strong. I thought of making love to her, being inside of her, but never really touching her. How I’d hurt her by being with her. How sad she seemed. “No.”

“Why not?” Her voice was gentle.

“Because I don’t want to hurt her any more. And I don’t want to be hurt. I hope that she can be happy.“ I looked in her eyes. “I like what you and I have. I want to give it a chance.”

“That’s how I feel about Willow, too. I want only good things for her. But she also deserves to know that what we had really is over.” She smiled at me. “I told her that I’d met someone.”

She was so brave, so true. “I’m sorry that I doubted you. I should trust you, trust that we’re building something.” She smiled at me and tugged me down onto my sleeping bag. She covered my mouth with hers and slipped her hands under my shirt, running her hands over my stomach. I followed suit, cupping her breasts in my hands as we kissed hungrily, greedily. I ran my thumbs over her nipples and they hardened immediately under my touch.

She pulled away. “We should go back to the party,” she said breathily.

“Yeah,” I said, reluctantly moving my hands away.

“But you taste so good,” she said. Her eyes told me how much she wanted me. I brought her mouth down to mine again. She whimpered as I plumbed her mouth with my tongue. The taste of her was so addictive, so right. I ran my hand up her thigh and she pulled away.

“We have to go,” she said firmly, as she rose to her feet and straightened her clothes. I tried to cool my ardor, attempted to snap out of the erotic fog that clouded my brain. I rose to my feet.

She handed me the bottle of whiskey. “You can do the drunk, just not the disorderly.” She smiled wide.

“I don’t think that would be smart. I’d have my hands all over you.” We walked back out to the living room.

Anya came over and patted me on the shoulder. “We need to get the party going. This music sucks.” She looked through the CD’s, coming up with a compilation of 80’s dance music. “Put this on.” I did, and she smiled happily. She bent over and put down a box on the floor. “We need to break the ice a bit, get things rolling.” She pulled the top off the box on the floor and spread out a plastic mat covered in dots.

“What’s that for?” Sophie asked curiously.

“It’s a party game. You get to know people better by bending yourself into uncomfortable positions and getting inappropriately close to one another.”

“Is…is it a sex game?” Sophie asked nervously. She wheezed slightly and puffed on an inhaler.

“It can be,” Anya said brightly. “Xander and I-“

Xander came over. “Stop right there, An.” He looked at her with annoyance.

“I want to hear the sex story,” Dawn said.

“I’ll tell you later when no one is around,” said Anya. “Now we can play Twister.” Everyone gathered around the mat on the floor. Anya held a cardboard square in her hand with a plastic spinner.

“Twister!” Willow said gaily. “This is so much fun.”

Xander and I exchanged a look. “You’ve got a nice big fireplace,” he said. “We could go chop some wood.”

“You’re going to stay here and play,” Anya said firmly. She pointed her finger at me. “You, too. This will be fun. We’re going to play elimination Twister, so you’ll have to play in teams.” She pointed us out. “Spike and Buffy. Richard and Tara. Xander and Dawn. Sophie and Garnet. Willow and Daphne. Clem and Sloane. I’m the referee.”

“How do you play this?” Sophie asked Clem.

“You just do what Anya tells you to do,” he explained.

“That sounds like a bad idea,” I said.

“Okay, first round is Spike and Buffy versus Sloane and Clem,” announced Anya. I exchanged glances with Buffy and we stood over the mat.

“What’s our strategy, Slayer?” I asked her.

“Don’t fall,” she said helpfully.

“Right hand red,” announced Anya. The four of us leaned over and put our hands on red. “Right foot blue.” I crossed my leg over my hand. Sloane crouched over me, her hair in my face. “Sorry,” she said apologetically.

“No problem, pet,” I replied.

“Right hand green.” Clem moved over Buffy and slipped as he tried to put his hand on the dot.

Buffy stood up triumphantly. “We won!”

“Don’t gloat yet. We’re nowhere near done,” Anya said. “Willow and Daphne versus Dawn and Xander.” We watched the next few rounds, with teams being eliminated. “Okay, for the game we have Spike and Buffy versus Richard and Tara.”

“We are so going to kick your ass,” said Tara with a smile.

“Not a chance, love,” I taunted her.

“Right foot blue,” said Anya. We all moved into place. “Left foot yellow.” Tara moved very close to me, her ankle if front of my face. Buffy crossed her foot over my leg. “Right hand green.” We all adjusted into position. Buffy was across me, her chest pressing onto my back. Tara stretched across Richard, her skirt brushing across his legs.

“Right hand green,“ Anya instructed. Richard moved his hand, and his face dipped towards Tara, their mouths inches apart.

“Hey!” I barked. I stood up, knocking Buffy to the floor.

“Tara and Richard win,” said Anya. I advanced on Richard, ready to strangle him.

Xander grabbed my arm. “Hey there, pal,” he said. “Why don’t we move your mattress into your room now.” He looked at me seriously. Tara looked over at me, confusion clouding her features. I walked over to the back wall and Xander and I lifted the mattress and carried it down the hall. We set it in place. I pulled out a cigarette and lit it, inhaling sharply. “You need to chill out, Spike,” he said. “Even if she was your girlfriend, you can’t act like a Neanderthal.”

Buffy stormed in, all kinds of pissed off. “Can you excuse us for a minute?” she asked Xander. He looked at me and left. “I know why you’re acting this way,” she said.

“No, you don’t. I guarantee it.” I crossed my arms and glared at her.

She poked me in the chest with her finger, hard. “You’re jealous.”

“Here’s a novel thought, Miss Center of the Universe,” I said. “This has fuck all to do with you.”

“You’re such a liar,” she said vehemently. “You need to move on, Spike. I will never touch you again, not in a million years.”

“I don’t recall coming calling for your girlish charms, Slayer,” I said. “You were pretty clear when you gave me my walking papers.”

She frowned at me. “Then stop acting like a moron. Richard is a good guy, a decent guy-“

“And I wish him well. I wish him a world of luck in coping with the shades of boyfriends past,” I spat out. “In fact, I was thinking of buying him a luggage cart, so that he can properly cope with the tremendous amount of emotional baggage that you are carting around!”

She swung. I ducked. She stood in front of me, her hands fisted. I looked in her eyes and saw the pain within them. I’d hurt her, again. My anger died. “I’m sorry, Buffy. I didn’t mean it.” She turned her back, wrapping her arms around herself.

“You’re a jerk,” she said quietly.

“I am, and I’m sorry,” I admitted. “I want you to be happy. If that idiot makes you happy, I’ll be the first one to shake his hand and wish him well.”

She turned and looked at me. “He does make me happy,” she said. “I feel comfortable with him. I don’t feel pressured, or guilty, or wrong. When I’m with him, I feel good about myself.”

“I’m glad,” I told her. “I want to see a smile on your face. It doesn’t matter that it’s not me putting it there.”

She gave me a tentative grin. “Why don’t we go get a drink and go back to the party?” She walked out and followed me in the kitchen. She poured a punch while I grabbed a beer. We walked out to the living room. Everyone sat in a circle in front of the entertainment center.

“I never kissed a girl,” said Willow. Everyone drank except for Sophie and Dawn.

“I never cast a love spell,” said Garnet. All of the women in the circle drank, as well as Xander.

I sat down next to Tara. “What’s this game, sweetheart?”

“When it’s your turn, you say you’ve never done something. Anyone who has takes a drink, including you,” she explained.

“I never glued my fingers together with Crazy Glue,” said Xander. He and Clem drank.

“I never lit my hair on fire,” I said. Sloane and I drank.

“I never have stolen a car.” Willow and I drank.

“I never had sex in an elevator,” said Anya. Willow, Xander and Richard drank.

“I never called out the wrong person’s name during sex.” Xander, Anya, Buffy and I drank.

“We shouldn’t talk about this with Dawn here,” Tara said quietly in my ear. “It’s not right.” I nodded in agreement. She leaned over and whispered to the Wicca to her right. They exchanged a smile.

“Hey, I have a great idea. Do you guys want me to read palms?” offered Daphne. “I’m pretty good at it.”

“Do me,” said Dawn. She sat down next to the witch and offered her hand.

Daphne held Dawn’s hand in hers, tracing her palm. “You have a very deep love line,” she said. “And a nice long life line.”

“I don’t really believe that there’s anything to that,” said Xander. “It’s just lines on your hand.”

“You can tell a lot about someone from reading their palm,” retorted Sloane.

“Read mine,” said Buffy. “This should be interesting.”

Sloane looked at Buffy’s palm. “That’s weird,” she commented. “Your life line has two big breaks in it.” There was an awkward silence.

“Why don’t we do some scrying?” suggested Tara. “That’s fun and everyone can do it.” She went to kitchen and came back with a large deep brass bowl filled with water. “You just look into the depths of the water and empty your mind,” she explained. “Sometimes you can see visions. Or you can focus your energy on a particular question, and see if you get an answer.”

No one volunteered, and Tara looked a little disappointed. “I’ll do it, ducks,” I said. She smiled at me gratefully, her eyes warm. I sat cross- legged in the front of the bowl and stared down. I’d seen Dru do this hundreds of times, but I’d never tried it myself. I focused on the water, and the bowl underneath, until I felt myself getting relaxed, my mind a blank sheet. This was the way I felt with Tara, calm and peaceful. Suddenly, I wasn’t alone anymore. A blond figure held out an infant. It was a boy, and newly born, its hair matted with blood. I reached out towards it and the vision broke. I came back to myself.

“I want to try,” said Buffy. She sat down and stared at the mirror, her expression blank. She broke away after a few moments. “I think I saw a sword,” she said.

Tara sat down and looked at the mirror. She was focused and intent as minutes passed by. “Blood, a river of blood,” she said.

Sophie and Clem stood up. “I need to get going,” said Sophie. “My mom will be worried if I’m not home by midnight.”

“I should go patrol,” said Buffy. Richard stood and helped her up. Everyone began getting ready to leave, hugging and saying goodbye.

“Xander and I will help clean up,” offered Anya. We all gathered up stray cups and plates and took them to the kitchen. They helped put away the leftover food and drinks. I walked them to the front door.

“Thanks for all of your help, with the furniture and the party,” I said.

“No problem,” said Xander. “That’s what friends are for.” Anya kissed me on the cheek and they left. The house was empty, everyone gone. I walked down the hall and found Tara in my room.

“I’m so glad that we’re finally alone,” said Tara. She lay on my new bed, happily ensconced. She had made it up in my new sheets and comforter and piled it high with pillows. The lights were off, but she had lit candles all around the bed.

“So you’ve come to sleep in my bed, pet?” I smiled at her.

“My room smells like paint and my bed’s not been delivered. I figured you could make a sacrifice and let me stay with you.”

“You can do whatever you want,” I said, as I lay down next to her.

“I want to see you,” she said softly. She unbuttoned my shirt and pulled it off. Straddling my hips, she smiled down at me. “Isn’t this pretty much where we left off?”

“Pretty much,” I agreed. She leaned down and kissed me gently. I kissed her back, keeping it light, not wanting to pressure her. She slipped her tongue inside my mouth, exploring tentatively. She tasted so sweet, and felt so good in my arms. We kissed more deeply, more passionately, desire building in us both.

She broke away, and I thought we’d gone too far, made her scared again. But she leaned down and sucked on my nipple, biting it with her teeth. I forced myself to keep still, not to thrust against her. She made me feel so good. “Please,” I whispered. She sucked harder, and I couldn’t help but moan.

“Do you want to touch me?” she asked, breaking away.

“More than anything,” I answered.

She pulled her sweater over her head and unfastened her bra, baring her breasts. She closed her eyes and breathed hard as she pulled my head forward and brushed her nipple across my mouth. I sucked on it lightly, loving the texture of her in my mouth, the taste. Her fingers ran through my hair, and she gasped, pressing my head. I increased the pressure, and she began to rock against me, her warmth rubbing against my cock through her skirt and my pants. She stilled and pulled away. “We should take things slow,” she said breathlessly. “It’s a bad idea to rush things.”

“Tell me when to stop and I’ll stop,” I reassured her.

“That’s the problem,” she said. “I don’t want to stop. I want more.” I felt her pull my pants down my hips. She leaned forward and kissed me again. “Can I?” I nodded, willing to let her do anything she wanted. Her hands trailed over my thighs, brushed across my balls. She drifted her hand up and down my shaft, making me hiss with arousal. Her hand closed tentatively around my cock. “I’m afraid to hurt you,” she said.

I put my hand over hers and led her into a gentle rhythm, showing her what felt good. She stared at my face, and I closed my eyes. It was too intense, too raw. I wanted her so badly; I wanted to make love to her. “I want you,” I said, lost in pleasure. “I want to make you come. I want to feel it, hear it.”

She stilled. “You want me?”

“So, so badly,” I said, my voice raw with need. I opened my eyes and looked up at her. “You don’t need to do anything to me. I just want to touch you.” She looked at me for a minute and then slid off me, lying down next to me. She kissed me tentatively at first and then harder as I began to move my hands over her soft skin. She sighed against my mouth as I cupped her breasts, lightly pinching the nipples. I took my time, caressing her back and shoulders with feathery touches before returning to her breasts.

At first she lay there quietly with her eyes closed, simply absorbing the sensations, but when I stroked downward over her belly for the third time, she pulled away from the kiss and looked into my eyes. "Please," she whispered as she took my hand and moved it under her skirt.

I hiked it up around her waist and began exploring the curves of her buttocks and thighs. She pulled my head down for another kiss, arching against my hand as I lightly stroked her through her panties. She moaned as I slipped my hand under the waistband and stroked her clit. I moved my mouth to her breasts and lavished attention on her nipples.

She grew damp underneath my hand, and she was breathing rapidly. It felt so good, knowing that she liked it, knowing that I made her feel this way. She moved her hand to my cock and moved gently up and down. It was so good, the feel of her slippery nub between my fingers, the taste of her skin. I wanted to go on like this forever, so close to her, so near.

Her hand tightened around my cock and she pulled me forcefully, frantically. It was just on edge of pain and pleasure, a little too rough. Aroused even more, I bit down on her nipple, without thinking. She bucked up frantically and made a strangled noise. I took my mouth away from her nipple and looked into her face. She looked like she was in agony, her face locked with pain. “Oh, love. I’m sorry I hurt you,” I said, as I stilled my hand on her clit.

“More,” she said through clenched teeth. “Don’t stop.” Her hand on my cock pumped harder. She’d liked the pain, I realized. It turned her on, and that really turned me on. I stroked her clit again, firmer and faster. She rocked against my hand, and I knew she was close. I drew in a mouthful of her breast and sucked hard enough to mark her. She came, explosively. Her body shook around me and she sang out her release. I came with her, spurting all over her hand.

I nuzzled her neck as I came down from my high. “That was so good,” I said huskily. I kissed her softly on her neck. She had a large wet spot on her skirt, and her hand was covered with my come. I stood up and stripped off my pants, and fetched my towel from the corner of the room. I kneeled over her and wiped off her hand and dabbed at her skirt with the towel. She lifted herself up and pulled off her skirt and panties. “Sorry about the mess,” I said, as I lay down next to her.

“I made that mess,” she said. “I’m kind of proud of myself.” She cuddled close to me and kissed my neck. I leaned my head back, exposing my throat. She showered it with gentle kisses.

“You’re so good to me,” I said. She snuggled on my shoulder for a moment as I stroked her hair, then kissed me gently and got out of bed.

“Where are you going?” I asked her.

“To find my nightgown,” she said, as she rummaged in a box. She pulled out a long flannel nightgown decorated with blue flowers and slipped it on. She blew out all the candles and came back to bed, rolling next to me.

“What happened to the skimpy little numbers?” I asked her. “That thing covers you head to toe.”

“It’s cold tonight and you’re not warming me up,” she said. “I need to get warm.” She kissed my cheek. “It will be great sleeping with you when it gets hot outside. You’ll feel nice and cool.” I turned around and spooned with her, wrapping my arms around her waist. It was a nice thought, her sleeping in my bed, through winter, and spring, into summer.



PAIRING: Spike/Tara
RATING: NC-17 overall
SPOILERS: Season 6 through “As You Were”.
DISCLAIMER: All hail Joss Whedon, UPN, the WB, FOX, Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox Film Corporation. GO team! Theirs, not mine.
DISTRIBUTION: Please ask my permission first, just so I know where it’s headed.
FEEDBACK: Sure, fire away to jodyorjen@yahoo.com



Chapter 6

I woke up alone in my bed. I looked over at the rumpled sheets. The pillow still bore the indentation of her head, a lingering scent the only trace of Tara. I reached out and touched it, and it was still warm.

I didn’t bother to get dressed. When I walked into the hallway, I heard music and splashing in the bathroom. I lightly tapped on the door. ”Can I come in pet?” Once I heard her consent, I walked inside.

Tara was in bubbles up to her neck, resting against a bath pillow. “Want to join me?” she said with a smile. Didn’t have to ask me twice. I stepped up to the tub and leaned over for a kiss, then sat down, on the opposite side from her. There was a lot to be said for an old-fashioned bathtub.

“I’m trying to relax,” she said. “I woke up with my heart pounding, and realized that I had to go audition for the strip club tonight. The mere thought is terrifying.”

“You’ll be fantastic,” I assured her. “You are beautiful, graceful, and sexy as hell. They’re lucky to have you.” I noticed how red her face was, and the beads of sweat on her brow. “This is really hot,” I commented as I leaned back. “It feels great to me, but aren’t you uncomfortable?”

“I love a really hot bath. I love saunas, too. Have you ever been in one?” She leaned forward and shampooed her hair.

“Long time ago, in Finland. They really know how to have a steam there. Volcanic rocks, nice chilled vodka, buxom Scandinavian girls to rub you down.” I grabbed a bar of soap and rubbed down.

She smiled. “That sounds good. Especially the buxom girls part. I’ll have to try that.” Her eyes glinted with humor.

“Thought you gave that up for the appeal of the nice raw, sweaty male,” I teased.

She looked thoughtful. She grabbed my foot and soaped it up, then lathered up my leg. “I was just thinking about this actually. And I came up with an analogy. It’s like ice cream.”

I picked up her foot and massaged it. “Okay. I’m listening.”

“It’s as if strawberry ice cream was your favorite your whole life. You never wanted to try any other flavors, because that was the one you liked.” She dropped my leg into the water and picked up my other foot, soaping it up. “You heard other people talk about how much they liked vanilla, but it just didn’t work for you. One day, you wake up, and you have a craving for chocolate.” She lathered my other leg and then dropped it down. “And it is weird, and a little disconcerting, that you want chocolate today, when you never have before.”

She scooted towards me and lathered my arms. “But you can’t stop thinking about it, craving it. Not just any chocolate ice cream, but one particular kind. It has to be,” she looked thoughtful, “double chocolate chip.” She ran the bar of soap down my chest, her hands forming circles of suds on my body. “Darker, a little more unusual than plain old chocolate. You want that one. A great big scoop of that one, and nothing else will do.” She washed my stomach, and her hand brushed against my cock, bobbing in the water.

“So do you like the chocolate ice cream, now that you’ve tried it?” I asked her, my hand creeping up her thigh.

“I like the chocolate,” she said with a grin. “Of course, I still love the strawberry.” She cupped water in her hands, and rinsed my chest by pouring it over me.

“So you’ll throw over chocolate and go back to your old strawberry loving ways?” I asked as I brushed my hand across her curls, skimming across the bud of her clit.

She breathed in deeply and bit her lip. “Right now, I’m happy with the chocolate,” she said, her voice shaking. “But I’ve only had a little sample. I haven’t ordered the whole sundae yet.”

“You want another taste, love?” I circled her clit with my thumb and closed my hand on her neck, pulling her close for a kiss. She wrapped her arms around me and responded eagerly. She was so sweet to taste, so soft to touch. She moaned underneath my mouth as I rubbed her bud gently. She yielded to me, and her hard nipples brushed my chest. I closed my hand tightly in her hair and slipped a finger inside her.

She jerked away from me, a wave of water rolling up and splashing over the side of the tub. She backed up all the way to the opposite side of the tub, her eyes wide. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m sorry I scared you.” Her breath came in short gasps, and I could smell her panic, her fear. She looked ready to bolt. “Please don’t run away from me.”

“I’ve never,” she said brokenly. She took a deep breath. “I’ve never let anyone do that to me. Not anyone.”

I was shocked. I knew she’d never been with a man, but I never imagined she was still intact, a virgin in the literal sense. “Why not?” I blurted out.

“It hurts,” she said, looking away. “It hurts very much.”

“It hurts at first,” I explained. “It shouldn’t hurt after that.”

Her face was as red as a cherry. “I’ve tried before, a few times. By myself, and with other…” she broke off, embarrassed. She slid down in the water to her neck, looking miserable.

I thought about it for a moment. “Every woman is built a bit differently,” I explained. “Some women have no trouble at all, other women may bleed some, and a few will have great difficulty, a lot of pain and a great deal of blood.”

“How do you know?’ she said curiously. “Have you been with a lot of women?”

“Do you really want to know?” I looked at her seriously.

“Yes.” Her voice was firm.

“As a man, before I was turned, I never even kissed anyone.” She looked surprised. “To say I wasn’t a smash with the ladies was an appalling understatement. But after I was with Dru, I was with many women.”

“So you had sex with lots of women, and Dru didn’t mind?” She was finding it hard to believe.

“She had sex with them too, so it wasn’t really that way,” I explained. “It worked quite well actually, until she was hurt in Prague. We didn’t make love after that. She was too weak, then I was injured and she took up with Angel again.”

“Drusilla and Angel were involved?” she asked, wrinkling up her brow.

“Angelus made her a vampire, he was her sire. He was with Darla at the time. Drusilla was the third wheel in that scene, and that’s why she made me.” I shrugged. “Darla wanted her out of their bed. She was tired of sharing her toy, tired of Drusilla in general.”

“Who is Darla?” I guess none of the Scoobies had mentioned Darla.

“Angel’s sire. Buffy had a run in with her; you could ask her about it sometime. Anyway, they were what they call these days polyamorous; a three way couple. Darla and Dru were a couple, and Angel was with them both as well, together and apart,” I told her.

“And did you become the fourth part of the equation?” She gave me a wicked grin.

“No,” I shook my head. “Darla hated my guts, and Angel wasn’t about to share Drusilla with a whelp like me. So Dru and I found others to fill the place in our bed, to play out the game the way she liked it.”

She nodded. “So you were in a polyamorous relationship with Dru and other women?”

“More like a century’s worth of one night stands. I’d bring home a nice young thing, and we’d both take her, and then feed.” I looked at her closely for any sign of shock or disgust. “Sometimes we’d kill them,” Tara didn’t seem surprised by this, “but more often Dru wiped their minds and sent them on their way, especially if they looked like Darla. We both cultivated a bit of a preference for blondes. Usually they were virgins, at least until the nineteen fifties or so. I would bite them as I broke their hymen, because that way they didn’t feel the pain. Unlike Dru and Angel, I never liked hurting women unless they enjoyed it.”

“And biting them made it not hurt them?” She seemed interested in that.

“It hurts at first but then makes them feel great pleasure,” I explained. “Much like the first time one has sex.”

She sat still for a long time. “Would you do that to me?” she asked. She looked up, her eyes large and scared. “Would you bite me?”

“Only if you wanted it,” I said. “Only if you were absolutely certain it’s what you wanted.”

“And it doesn’t have to be fatal?” Hadn’t Willow explained any of this to her?

“I know how to control it,” I said. “I wouldn’t hurt you at all, other than two small holes in your neck.”

She stood up and wrapped her bathrobe around herself. “Well, you’ve given me a great deal of food for thought,” she said. “I need to do some studying for school this morning.” She smiled at me tentatively. “If you want, I’ll meet you back here at noon for lunch.”

“Where are you going?” I asked curiously.

“University computer lab,” she explained. “I don’t have a computer of my own.” She gave me a peck on the forehead and left. I sat in the water, wondering if I’d managed to blow things by being too honest and moving too fast.

***

I stood next to Anya in front of a display case at the Magic Box. “What kind of present were you thinking of?” said Anya.

An ‘I’m sorry I really want to shag you please don’t hate me now’ gift. “Something very, very nice.”

“How much money do you want to spend?” she asked.

“As much as it takes. I need something Tara would like, that she wouldn’t have been able to buy for herself,” I explained. “Is there something she’s really liked, that she’s admired?”

“Well, there’s the Orlansky tarot,” said Anya. “But I’m sure that you wouldn’t be able to afford it.”

“Try me.” She walked over to a drawer and pulled out a bundle wrapped in black silk. She laid it down carefully on the table and uncovered it. My throat tightened. It was identical to Dru’s, the one that I’d given to her in Prague. “She liked that deck?” I said in disbelief.

“She said that if she could have anything in the shop, she’d choose that.” She looked at me seriously. “But it’s six hundred dollars, Spike. There’s no way you could afford it.” I peeled six hundred dollar bills of my roll and handed them to her. She looked down at the money in her hand and her eyes widened. “Plus tax.”

I followed her over to the register. “Do you know anything about computers?”

“Not really,” she said as she rang me up. “If you want to talk to an expert, you should ask Willow.”

“I want to get Tara a computer for her schoolwork, “I said. “But I have no idea what would be good, what she would need.”

“Well, then you should definitely talk to Willow. She knows more about computers than anyone, and she probably has a good idea what Tara needs.” I hesitated, not really wanting to talk to Red. It seemed a little paranoid, but I worried that she could somehow tell what I was thinking, and would know how I felt about her ex-girlfriend. “Willow and Dawn watch cartoons on Saturday mornings,” Anya said. “They’ll be home until eleven-thirty at least.” She checked her watch. “It’s only eleven. You could stop by her house, pick her brain.”

“I’ll do that,” I replied.

“Oh, and we’re having a dinner party tomorrow night,” she said. “You and Tara are invited.”

“We’re not doing anything that I know of,” I replied. “We’d love to come.” If she’s speaking to me by then.

“Good. It’s nice to have couple friends to invite over. You and Tara, Buffy and Richard, Clem and Sophie.” She smiled widely and did a little twirl.

“Tara and I aren’t a couple,” I said lamely.

She leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially. “I know you have a crush on her.”

“That git! I can’t believe he told you,” I said, aggravated.

“I won’t tell anyone, I promise,” she said. “And I won’t tell him that you weren’t honest with him.”

“What do you mean?” I pretended to be confused.

“It’s a mutual thing, you and Tara. I’ve been around over a thousand years and I can tell when sex is in the air.”

“It’s not like that,” I pointed out.

“Not yet. But it will be. I saw the way you were looking at her, and the way she was looking at you.” She smiled again. “Those were sweaty, naked thoughts you both were having.”

***

I parked my car as close as I could get to the Slayer’s house and ran for it to the front porch. I rang the doorbell, trying to keep all my bits under the blanket. Dawn, dressed in pink pajamas, answered the door. “Hey Spike!” she said happily. “I have the juiciest gossip ever.”

I walked inside and tossed my blanket on the floor. “Come in the kitchen,” she said with a glint in her eyes. I followed behind her. Buffy and Richard stood in front of the stove. He was wearing his shirt and pants from last night, while Buffy wore a pair of white shortie pajamas. He held her tightly around the waist and whispered in her ear. She was smiling, her whole face lit from within.

“French toast is burning,” I said helpfully. The two of them broke apart.

“What the fu-“ she saw Dawn standing next to me and stopped. “Fun surprise to have you stop by,” she finished lamely.

“I’m here to see Willow,” I explained. I took a look at the platter of French toast sitting on the counter. “Although I wouldn’t mind a bit of food as well.”

Buffy put three pieces of toast on a plate and handed me a fork. “Here. Now go away.”

“What about syrup, pet?” She tossed the bottle at my head. I easily caught it and headed for the living room.

Willow sat on the couch, laughing at the television. “Hey, Spike,” she said. “You’ve got to watch this.” We sat and watched the Road Runner kick Wyle E. Coyote’s ass for the millionth time as I ate my breakfast.

“I came to ask for a favor,” I said.

She turned and smiled at me, her eyes bright. “What do you need?” She frowned. “Nothing magicky?”

“No, I know you’re on the wagon. And I’m quite proud of you, too.” She looked pleased. “Actually, I need help picking out a computer system for Tara.”

“Oh, that would be so nice for her,” she said. “It’s really generous of you. She told me that you’ve been taking really good care of her since you moved into the house.”

“I try,” I said.

“So, have you met her new love interest?” She leaned forward and sipped her juice. “I’m dying to find out the details.”

“What did she tell you?” I asked. This was entirely too delicious an opportunity to pass up.

“That she’d met someone wildly inappropriate, who she wasn’t sure she could trust but had a raging amount of attraction to,” she said.

“What?” I said, floored that Tara thought of me that way.

She looked at me seriously. “Gotcha.”

“What?” Words escaped me and I just sat there opening and closing my mouth.

“I couldn’t resist,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. “I know it’s you, Spike.”

“She told you?” She told Willow about me?

Willow shook her head. “She didn’t have to. She’s in love. It’s in her face when she looks at you, in her voice when she says your name.” She seemed fine, but I sensed that at least part of it was just keeping her chin up.

“You’re not angry?” I asked her. “I was afraid that it would upset you if you knew.”

“It hurt,” she admitted. “And I was angry at first. But I blew my chance with her when I manipulated her mind. I know there’s no way to get back what we had.” She smiled at me. “She loves you and I think you both deserve to be happy.”

“Tara loves Spike?” Dawn shrieked.

I got up and waved my arms. “Shut up, Dawn!”

“You’re joking, right?” she said. “You and Tara?” She turned to Willow. “You can’t be serious. Tara doesn’t like boys.”

“I dated Oz and crushed on Xander for a long time,” explained Red. “I can’t exactly be shocked that it could happen, although I was surprised.”

“But you two are living together,” said Dawn. “Does that mean that you guys are, you know, having sex?”

“Spike is having sex with who?” said Buffy. She stood in the doorway, Richard behind her.

“Spike and Tara,” said Dawn. “Isn’t that the most bizarre thing ever?”

“We are not having sex,” I said heatedly. “Don’t go around sullying her good name. She’s a nice girl.”

“No one is judging you,” said Willow. “You and Tara are both free and single.”

“I’m sure she’d hate knowing this got out,” I said. “I don’t want her hurt, or upset, having people know that we’re,” I stopped, attempting to classify the relationship.

“In love?” said Willow.

“Making love?” suggested Dawn.

“Nuts?” suggested Buffy. “You’re both nuts.”

“Don’t start on me, Slayer,” I said. “Please just back off.”

“She deserves better than you, Spike,” she said, “someone who can be honest, someone to build a future with.”

“I’ve never lied to her, not once,” I said. ”And I’ll do anything for her, take care of her the best way I know how.”

“He’s buying her a computer,” Willow said helpfully.

“You should go to Computer Town,” said Richard. “I have a buddy there. I could get you a discount.”

“So it’s okay for Tara to date Spike because he’s buying her a computer?” Buffy said sarcastically.

“That’s a big commitment kind of gift, Buff,” said Willow. “It means that you’re willing to stick around. Buy peripherals together, install software, discuss high speed options. It’s a stepping stone kind of gift. Definitely serious.”

“So next up in this scenario Spike would be calculating two month’s salary for a gift that would last forever?” Buffy said sardonically.

“I don’t think she’d be a diamond kind of girl,” I said thoughtfully. “Maybe an opal or a sapphire.” Everyone turned to look at me. “Not that I can get married,” I said hastily. “Being as how I’m dead and all.” I realized that Richard was there. “Dead British, I mean to say,” I backtracked. “Citizen of the United Kingdom and all. Can’t get married in the Colonies.”

“You could have a handfasting,” suggested Willow.

“What’s a handfasting?” I asked.

“It’s a Wiccan marriage. You pledge to each other for a specified period of time, like a year and a day. Traditionally, it’s a year and a day unless you have a child, then it sticks for good. But you could also marry for eternity. Reincarnate together and everything.”

“I can’t have children and I don’t have a soul, so fatherhood and reincarnation are both right out,” I pointed out.

“If you and Tara have a handfasting, can I be a bridesmaid?” said Dawn eagerly.

“I’m not marrying her,” I said loudly. “We’ve only lived together for two days. Just because I want to share my life with her, just because I can’t stop thinking about her, just because she makes me feel like the happiest man on earth doesn’t mean I love her.” They all stared at me. “Okay. Enough talk. I want to talk about computers, and nothing else. Got it?”

****

“If you and Tara were handfast, could I be the maid of honor?” asked Dawn. We walked through the aisles at Computer Town as I pushed a cart.

“I think I should be the maid of honor,” said Willow. “If it wasn’t for me, they wouldn’t be a couple.”

“I think it’s one of the rules of etiquette that those that have slept with the bride or groom should be excluded from the wedding party,” I said dryly.

“Wiccans aren’t all uptight about stuff like that,” Willow pointed out.

“Apparently I need to do some more reading in my Wicca books,” I said. “I haven’t hit on this handfasting stuff yet.”

“You’re reading about Wicca?” Willow raised an eyebrow.

“I got some books about it,” I said. “It’s very interesting. Wicca is a beautiful religion.”

“I miss it,” she said wistfully. “I miss practicing.”

“I don’t see why you can’t,” I said. “Wicca is not about all the spells and dark energies that you got yourself mixed up with. It’s about celebrating nature, not corrupting or twisting it.”

“It’s hard to tell where the good stuff ends and the bad stuff begins,” she said. “It would be too easy for me to slip over.“ She was quiet for a minute. “If you’re really serious about Wicca though, a priestess leads a Wicca 101 class at the community center every Tuesday. That would be a good place to meet some other people and ask questions. Although you can always talk to Tara about them. Why didn’t you tell her you wanted to learn more?”

“I don’t want her to think I’m just putting on some act for her,” I said. “I want to understand what she believes, what’s important to her. That’s all.”

Richard walked over to us, a store circular in his hand. “This system here has everything on the list that Willow made,” he said, waving the handwritten note.

Willow looked it over. “It’s a good one,” she said, “and it’s on sale.”

I looked it over. “Let’s do it.”

****

I walked into the house, carrying the computer box. Tara was in the living room, sitting on the sofa amidst piles of Xerox copies. “I thought you were coming to lunch,” she said quietly. “It’s almost four. My audition for the club is at seven.”

“I lost track of time,” I explained. “I was picking out a present for you.”

“What is that?” she asked curiously. I put down the box and opened it with my pocket knife.

“A computer for you, pet,“ I said.

“Are you serious?” she said.

“This way, you don’t have to rely on the computers at school,” I explained. “You can stay right here and do your work.”

“I can’t accept this,” she said in bewilderment. “This is too expensive.”

“It wasn’t that much, really,” I said. “Willow helped me pick it out, so it should suit you down to the ground.” I pulled everything out of the box. “We don’t have a desk, but I can set it up here on the floor for you.” I looked at the instructions Willow had written out explaining how to set it up. “Here’s Red’s note to you. She said that it was instructions on how to use the computer.”

I went to work setting up the power strip and plugging in cords and turned my back on her. “It doesn’t seem that hard to set it up,” I said. I heard a gasping noise and then the noise of running feet. I turned around and she was gone.

I went down the hallway to her room and knocked on the door. I heard her inside crying. “Tara?” She didn’t answer. I stood in the hall and listened to her harsh, painful sobs for a moment, then turned the doorknob. “Sweetheart?” She was lying face down on the bed. She rolled over and looked at me, trying to smile through her tears. I went in and lay down beside her, putting my arms around her. She wrapped herself around me tightly. I held her close and rocked her gently, doing my best to soothe her.

“I love you,” she said softly. I looked down at her, shocked beyond measure. She moved away from me for a moment. “Don’t say anything.” She pulled her dress over her head and slid out of her panties, then tugged off my clothes.

I lay there quietly, still stunned by her words, and she stretched out on top of me. For the first time, we lay together naked, nothing between us. I opened my mouth to speak and she pressed her finger to my lips. “Carpe diem,” she said with a smile. “Willow said that if I loved you, I should tell you, because you looked like you needed to hear it.” I felt like crying. I didn’t deserve Willow’s generosity or Tara’s love. I didn’t deserve anything near as good as this.

She bent her mouth to mine and kissed me. Slowly at first and then harder, she explored my mouth with her tongue. She brought my hands to her breasts and I cupped them gently, lightly rubbing her nipples with my fingers. We kissed until we were both fully aroused, my cock hard and ready and her moist against my thigh. I held her waist and nuzzled my face in her cleavage. She moaned as I licked up and down the passage between her breasts. “I adore you,” I said in her ear. “You are my beloved.” I pulled away and looked in her eyes.

“Don’t feel like you have to say anything,” she said softly.

“You need to know too,” I told her. “You need to know how much I care about you. You need to believe in me, in us. I want you to tell me everything, even the things that scare you, even the things you think I don’t want to know.”

“I want you, so bad I’m burning,” she said. “But I’m afraid that I can’t be what you need, that I’ll disappoint you. I don’t know what to do.”

“I’ll be anything, do anything for you.” Anything at all. “Whatever you want to do, everything or nothing. Just tell me what you want.”

“I can’t stop thinking about you,” she breathed. “I can’t stop the hunger.”

“When you think about me, what do you imagine?” I asked. “What do you really want? Not what you think I want, love. What do you fantasize about me doing?”

She looked into my eyes. “I want to feel your mouth on me. I want you to lick me.”

“Keep talking,” I said, as I rolled her on her back. “You tell me those thoughts you’ve been having. I’m going to make them all come true.”

I parted her thighs and pressed my mouth to her slit, gently slipping my tongue inside her. “Lick me up and down,” she said softly. I did what she asked. She tasted so sweet in my mouth. I couldn’t get enough. I lapped at her juices, filling my mouth with her essence. “Suck on my clit,” she said breathily. I worked my cock with my hand, incredibly turned on by her talking to me. “Harder,” she said. I gave it all I had, nibbling and licking and sucking until she came apart in a rush. “Spike,” she cried out. My mouth was filled with her, and I gulped it down greedily. I wiped my face with my hand and crawled up to her. She lay on the pillow panting, her face flushed.

“I like making you call out my name,” I said to her. I kissed her bare shoulder.

She smiled. “Please, make me do it as much as you like.” She ran her hands over my chest. “You are so beautiful,” she said. “I can’t believe that someone like you could want me.” Her hands slid across my stomach, and brushed across my cock. She took me in her hand and stroked. “Tell me how I make you feel,” she said.

“You make me feel strong, and powerful. Needed, and desired.” She slid her thumb across the head of my shaft, running up and down the slit there. “Jesus, girl. You make me want to lose control. I want to tie you up, to ride you until you scream.”

“You want to tie me up?” she said huskily.

“I want to cuff you to the bed and tease you until you can’t take it anymore,” I said, my head lolling back. “I want to make you crave me. I want to make you burn for me. I want to make you need me.” Her hand closed more firmly around me. “Oh that’s it,” I moaned. “I’m going to come. Don’t stop, don’t stop.” I cried out and she kissed me as I came, her tongue sliding inside my mouth. I rode out the rush, drowning in pleasure. She loves me, a voice sang in my head. She loves me.

***

I pulled up the DeSoto outside the warehouse. It was dark and quiet. “Are you sure this is the right place?” Tara asked nervously.

“This is it. Place isn’t open yet, that’s why it’s quiet.” We walked to the door and I pressed the bell. A red horned face poked out of the door. “Hey, Karl,” I greeted the demon.

“Oh, hey Spike. Heard you were coming with a new girl for Hiram.”

We walked into the club. It was very large and dimly lit. We followed Karl over to the bar. Hiram turned to meet us. He rose as we appeared. He was a frost giant, his skin white as snow and eyes like chips of ice. Seven feet tall, he towered over us all. “Miss Maclay,” he said warmly. “Thanks so much for coming.”

She blushed prettily. “Hello, sir.” They shook hands.

“Would you like a drink before you show me what you can do?” he asked.

She shook her head. “I’m good to go.” She smiled at me and followed Karl through the door to the dressing room.

“She’s very beautiful,” he said.

“And she’s amazing. The moves that she has, the way they make you feel. I’ve never seen anything like it,” I told him.

He gave me a probing look. “You’re not in love with her are you? If you’re both going to work here, I don’t need any complications.”

“We’re friends and roommates, nothing more,” I lied.

He smiled. “So there’s still hope for me then?” he said huskily.

“Hiram, the day I let myself be buggered is the day I ask nicely for a fat stake in the chest.” The old goat would never stop trying.

He laughed and slapped me on the back. “Same old Spike.” The lights came up on the stage and music came over the sound system. Tara came out, draped in red scarves. “Dance of the seven veils,” he said with surprise. “The girl’s a bit of a classicist. Interesting.”

She moved gracefully in a circle as she twitched her hips from side to side. She pulled off a scarf from her hip and tossed it aside. She peeked at me through the veil of her hair, and I could feel my blood begin to rise. I felt choked in my throat, agonized by jealousy. For the first time, it processed that Tara would be naked, on this stage, where anyone who paid the cover and the drink minimum could see her. “Good lord,” said Hiram.

She strode down to the catwalk and wrapped her leg around the pole. She spun, her long hair cascading over her bare back. She rolled her shoulder and another scarf drifted off. She swayed back toward the stage and revealed that her chest was totally bare. Her nipples were erect, and her breasts were full and flushed. She smiled beatifically as she tossed aside another wisp of crimson. I wanted her so badly. There was nothing I craved more than to taste her skin, feel the warmth of her body. I heard the sound of heavy breathing and turned to look at Hiram. He was breathing heavily, and his eyes were locked onto Tara. I wanted to beat him, rip his eyes out for daring to look at her. I turned back to watch her. She was bare now, only the smallest of the red scarves between her legs.

She reached out her hand and beckoned, and I rose out of the chair. Her eyes bored into me, and I knew that I was what she wanted, what she needed. I knew that I would be completed within her, that I would find untold bliss in her body. She smiled at me widely, and I felt scorched by desire, alight with flame. The song stopped. Tara bent and picked up her scarves. She smiled at me as she scurried behind the curtains.

I turned back to the bar. Hiram sipped at a Scotch, his hands shaking. He poured me one.

“I have to hand it to you, my boy. You surely know how to pick them.”

I sank back a large swig. “I told you she was amazing.” The rage was still there, as well as the arousal, warring with each other within me.

“Well, you also said she was human,” he observed. “And you were quite wrong on that front.”

I turned and looked at him. “She is human, Hiram.”

“That girl, “ he said, “is a demon. Do you think that she would affect us this way if she wasn’t?”

“But it’s impossible,” I said. “I mean, her family told us that she was one, but it wasn’t true.”

“It was more true than you knew, apparently.” He looked thoughtful for a moment. “She’s either pretty watered down in her bloodline, mostly human, or she hasn’t fully brought forth her demon yet. But there’s no doubt that she is a succubus. Nothing else can arouse a man so fiercely, without his consent or knowledge.” He laughed. “Not that it will be a problem here. I’ll make a fortune off of her.”

I watched Tara walk towards us, her face wreathed in smiles. How could she be a demon? And how could I tell her?



PAIRING: Spike/Tara
RATING: NC-17 overall
SPOILERS: Season 6 through “As You Were”.
DISCLAIMER: All hail Joss Whedon, UPN, the WB, FOX, Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox Film Corporation. GO team! Theirs, not mine.
DISTRIBUTION: Please ask my permission first, just so I know where it’s headed.
FEEDBACK: Sure, fire away to jodyorjen@yahoo.com



Chapter 7

Tara was glowing. I had never seen her more radiant, more beautiful. Her face was pensive, though, her eyes shadowed. She picked up her wineglass and drank deeply, staring into the fire.

“You look like you have something on your mind, pet,” I told her. I poured myself another glass of wine.

She turned my way, her face serious. “I could say the same thing. You’ve been really quiet since we came home and you’re putting quite a dent in that bottle.”

I looked at her, this girl who loved me. She meant the world to me. If I said what was on my mind, it was over. I knew it. She’d never be the same again. “I’m fine, baby,” I said to her. “Everything’s right as rain.” I tossed back the glass.

She looked at me searchingly. “You’re lying to me,” she said. “Why are you lying to me?”

I stood up abruptly. “I’m sorry, pet. I have to go.” I stood up from the couch and walked to the front door.

Tara came up behind me and grabbed my wrist. “Spike, don’t go.” She ran in front of me and stood there. “Please don’t go.”

“Just let me go,” I said. “I can’t be here now.”

“What did I do?” she asked, her eyes filling with tears. “What did I do wrong?”

“You didn’t do anything wrong, love,” I said. “Honestly.”

“Then why are you acting this way?” she asked. “Why are you running away from me?” I couldn’t answer her. I couldn’t break her heart; shatter her life, her sense of self. “Is it because I told you that I love you?” she said painfully. “I didn’t mean to pressure you, I didn’t mean to scare you away.” Her voice trailed off as tears ran down her cheeks.

I was hurting this gentle, kind girl. I was hurting her, because I was afraid of hurting her. “I don’t want to upset you, baby,” I said. “There’s something that I have to tell you, and I know you’ll hate me for it.”

“There’s nothing you could say that could make me hate you,” she said.

“Why did your father think that you’d become a demon when you turned twenty?” I asked.

“What does that have to do with anything?” she asked, genuinely perplexed. “It’s in the past, it doesn’t matter.”

“Please, Tara,” I said. “Please just tell me.”

“My m-mother was a succubus,” she said, upset. “That was the age my mother was when her demon came forth, when she mated with my father.” She looked at me searchingly. “I can’t tell you how afraid I was of becoming a demon. I was so relieved when you punched me, and it hurt you. My human blood had won out, and I was normal. My birthday came and went, and nothing happened. I wasn’t a demon. I was just a girl, just a regular person.”

“I’m sorry, Tara, but you’re not,” I told her quietly. “You’re a succubus.”

“What do you mean?” she asked me. “What are you talking about?”

“When you danced tonight, at the club,” I explained, “we could all feel your power. Hiram told me you were a succubus. And you just told me yourself that’s what your mother was.”

“But I don’t have a demon,” she said, bewildered. “I can’t feed off anyone. It’s not possible.”

“Your bloodline may be so watered down that you don’t have enough power to release your demon.” I paused. “Or, you do, and it’s there, just below the surface, waiting to be unleashed.”

“No,” she said, dismayed. “I don’t want to hear this.” She sank to the floor and rested her head on her knees. I sat down beside her and waited for her to regain her equilibrium. “I don’t want this to be part of me,” she said. “It can’t just be an illusion that there was nothing wrong with me, that I am just a regular person. I want so much for it to be the truth.”

“You don’t ever have to be ashamed. You need to accept what you are, embrace your demon.” I reached out to her but she shied away.

“I don’t want to,” she said. “I don’t want to hurt anyone.” She looked at me. “I don’t want to kill people to survive.”

Suddenly I realized what had her so upset. “Succubi feed off sexual energy the way that vampires feed off blood.”

She nodded. “Tonight, when I danced at the club, I could feel the energy. It felt as if I just focused, I could draw it within myself.” She looked at me. “I can feed, and if I accept the demon, I’ll have to.”

“But you’re not fully demon,” I said. “You couldn’t kill a human or seriously impair another demon. I’m not just saying that, Tara, Hiram said as much. And you may not need to feed to survive. You just don’t know.”

“I don’t understand why this is happening,” she said. “There is so much that I don’t understand.” She looked at me. “And if I really am a succubus, than there is something you need to know.”

“What’s that, love?”

“I’ve made you feel this way,” she said. “I made you want me.” She turned and looked at me, her face the picture of misery. “I manipulated you. You never would have chosen me of your own free will.”

“That’s just not true. I wanted you before I ever felt the succubus,” I said. “That first night in the motel, I wanted you, as a man. Because of you, just the human part of you. The next morning, I even told you, Tara. I told you how you made me feel.”

“I could have been manipulating you all along, without even trying,” she said.

It was too soon, too soon after Buffy, but there was no other way to make her understand. “I fell in love with you,” I said to her. “Not in lust. Love. The demon inside you, it can make me want you. But not love you. You did that all on your own.”

She closed her eyes and her face flooded with pain. “I don’t know what to believe. I have no idea what is real.” She wrapped her arms around herself and rested her head on her knees again. She rocked back and forth, and I let her alone. “I have to do some research and some meditation,” she said finally, looking up at me. “And I want to talk to Anya about all this.” She looked at me seriously. “I need to figure out what I am, and what it means.” She looked like she wanted to say something more, but she didn’t.

“Do you want me to go? Give you some space, let you have some peace to figure this out?” I offered.

“Just until I figure this out,” she said sadly. She gave me a weak smile. “If you stay, it will be too tempting to lean on you, to make you part of my decision. This needs to be something I do on my own.”

“I understand, really I do,” I said to her. She didn’t respond, just sat there on the floor. I went to my room and packed a few things into a bag. I slung it over my shoulder and grabbed my sleeping bag and an electric lantern from my closet.

When I came back out to the living room, she stood waiting for me. “I love you,” she said softly. “Please don’t doubt that.”

I cupped her face gently in my hands and kissed her. “I love you, Tara,” I told her. “You do what you need to do and I’ll be waiting for you, whatever happens.” She wrapped her arms around me tightly. “I’ll come back tomorrow night, and take you to the dinner party at Anya’s.” She looked up at me, and I saw flecks of purple in her eyes. The demon was breaking through, acknowledged at last. I could feel my own demon responding, and I knew that if I took her to bed now, it would be incredible, for both of us. It would make things so much easier. I knew she was thinking the same thing. She wanted me, just as much as I wanted her. “I’d better leave,” I said. I kissed her gently on the forehead and walked to the garage.

I drove through Sunnydale, thinking. I hated being noble. I hated leaving her. I wanted to be with her, in my nice comfortable bed, instead of prowling around in the dark. I parked the Desoto in the parking lot of the abandoned warehouse behind the cemetery and made my way along the familiar path I had trod for the last few years.

I stood in the doorway of my crypt and surveyed the wreck of my old home. It smelled burnt, even though the upper level looked the same way it always did. I looked at the sarcophagus where I had slept, where I’d made love with Buffy before Captain Cardboard fucked the whole thing up. I lit the candles that lined the walls of the crypt and made up my bed with the sleeping bag and my comforter. I’d forgotten a pillow, I realized. This was going to suck.

I uncorked a bottle of whiskey and settled into my makeshift bed. I rested the lantern between my knees and opened my Wicca book, taking an occasional swig from the bottle. I lost track of time as I read, intrigued by what I was learning.

The door to my crypt opened slowly. “Hello, Slayer,” I said, as I put down my book. “Come on in. Not like you’re waiting for an invite.”

She came in, beautiful as ever. She wore a jaunty little yellow beret and a bulky sweater. “I see Tara got sick of you and threw you out already,” she said. “Color me shocked.”

“Sorry to disappoint you,” I told her. “It’s not like that.”

“Why don’t you tell me what it is like then?” she said. She fidgeted with her stake, nervously tossing it back and forth between her hands.

“I was having a good time before you showed up,” I said impatiently. “Can’t you just toddle off and go kill something?”

She came over to me and sat down on the edge of my sarcophagus. “What are you reading?” she asked.

“Book about Wicca,” I said, holding it out to her.

She ignored it. “Trying to score brownie points with Tara?”

Time to change the subject. “Why are you here, exactly?” I asked her.

“I saw the lights on inside,” she said softly. “I thought you’d changed your mind, come home.” She looked down at her stake, tapping it into the stone.

“This isn’t my home any more,” I reminded her.

“You know this thing with Tara won’t last,” she said. She looked into my eyes. “You’ll only wind up hurting her.”

“I don’t want to discuss her with you,” I told her.

“The right thing for you to do would be to leave her alone,” she said. “She deserves better. You’ll only bring her pain.”

“She’s not you, Buffy.” This conversation was beginning to sound like a broken record. Evil thing, evil thing. It seemed to be her mantra.

“You’re pretending that she’s me, that isn’t fair to her,” she accused.

I sighed and put the book down. “I’m not using her because I can’t have you.”

“So if I told you we could have what we had that wouldn’t change anything?” She leaned towards me. She wanted me; I could see it, feel it. I felt the familiar pull, the old ache that never went away with her.

“And Richard? How would he fit into this little scenario?” I wondered out loud.

“This has nothing to do with Richard,” she snapped.

“So you’d be with him, still?” How generous of her.

“I like him,“ she said. “He makes me happy. I like spending time with him.”

“But you want to fuck me,” I said knowingly. She stood up, pissed. “Oh, just admit it. That’s what this is. Booty call. Nothing that hasn’t happened before.”

“You disgust me,” she said. “You’re a pervert.” I stood up and advanced on her, backing her against the wall.

“And you want to fuck me,” I said. “You know what I am, and you want me to fuck you until you scream, is that it, Buffy?”

She looked up at me. “Yes,” she said. I leaned in and trailed my finger across her collarbone, and she bit her lip.

“I’m the evil vampire, and you want me,” I said to her. “No one else can make you feel the way I do. Not Riley, not Richard. Just me.”

“Yes,” she said breathily.

“Too bad,” I said flatly. I pushed away from the wall. “I’m more than just a cock, and a mouth, and a pair of hands. You can’t have me piecemeal, sweetheart. If you don’t want all of me, then sod off.”

“I can’t love you,” she said. “I can’t do that to myself.”

“I’m not asking you to,” I told her. “Not anymore. So stop torturing yourself about it and leave me alone.”

“But I want you,” she said.

“I hate to rain on your parade, but this isn’t even about me. This is about you being scared, scared to try again.” I crossed my arms and glared at her. “You’re scared to open your heart, scared to love. You sabotage every chance of happiness you have, and damn you, Slayer, I’m not going to let you use me to do it.”

“That’s not true,” she said.

“Go to Richard, work through this with him,” I said in disgust. “This isn’t even about me. What we had, it was all about Angel and Riley. Riley was about Angel. Angel wasn’t even Angel, just some idealized creature that never even existed for anyone else. For Christ’s sake, try to have an authentic relationship with someone.”

“Like you’re having with Tara?” she said bitterly. “I’m sure you’re being open and honest with her about your hundred years as a homicidal maniac. She has no idea who you are, what you are without the chip in your head.”

“I’ve told her things about myself I’ve never shared with you,” I told her. “You never asked about my life before I came here, never asked about my life before I was turned. You never even saw me as a person. I was always just a thing.”

“You don’t have a soul,” she said. “You’re-“

“Get the fuck out,” I yelled. “I won’t take this shit any more. I’ve already lost you-- bloody hell, I never had you in the first place! You get the fuck out, and leave me alone. I’m tired of hearing what a monster I am. That’s all you’ll let me be. You don’t want me to be tender, or loving, or kind. You only want the monster.”

“What monster?” asked Willow brightly. She came into the crypt, bearing a plastic sack and a pillow.

“Big yucky demon that I’m tracking,” Buffy said hurriedly. The girl couldn’t open her mouth without lying. “Why are you here, Will?” she asked.

“Tara told me that Spike would probably be here,” said Red.

I smiled thinking of her. “The girl is a mind reader.”

“She asked me to bring you some blood and some soup,” she said. “She thought you’d like having something warm, and she said that you forgot your pillow. She was afraid that you wouldn’t be able to sleep without it.” She rummaged in the bag. “She gave me this, too.” She pulled out a long leather thong with a round sphere of rose quartz on it. She slipped it over my head, tucking it underneath my shirt so it rested against my skin. I felt the calm and peace that I felt with Tara, suffusing me.

“It’s like having a little piece of Tara with me,” I said in wonder. “I can feel her.” I smiled at Willow.

“If you don’t want to stay here,” she said. “You can come home with me. I made up the couch for you, with the Snoopy sheets you like.” She looked at me kindly. “It would be nice to have you with us for a couple of days. I promised Tara to take good care of you.”

“Isn’t anyone going to ask how I feel about this?” asked Buffy, visibly annoyed.

“Why would you mind?” said Willow, puzzled. “Spike’s slept over a million times. And we have people crash there all the time.”

“Whatever,” she said. She turned and left.

“She’s just being cranky,” Willow explained. “I think she and Richard had a fight. He seemed pretty upset when he left the house earlier.” She helped me gather up my stuff and we blew out the candles. We walked through the cemetery. “I hope they can work out whatever the problem is.”

“I do too,” I said. “I really hope they can.” We walked out of the trees into the lot where my car waited.

I opened the door for her and let her in. “Tara told me about her demon,” she said as I slid behind the wheel. She looked at me. “I’m really glad that she has you to support her in this. You understand what she is going through.” She fidgeted with the window knob. “I still can’t believe it’s true. But Tara told me about the things that her mother and father told her. It makes sense that they were telling the truth all along.”

“I wish it hadn’t been true,” I said. “It’s so hard on her, dealing with this.”

“She’s a really strong person,” Willow said. “If anyone can cope, it is Tara.” We pulled onto Revello Drive and stopped in front of Buffy’s house.

We walked inside and I put my things down next to the couch. “Do you feel like company, or do you want to be alone?”

“I think I’d like to be alone, if you don’t mind.” The phone rang and Willow ran to answer it.

“Spike, it’s for you,” she said.

Who would call me here? Probably the Slayer, wanting to continue her tirade. I walked to the phone. “Hello?” I said warily.

“Hey man,“ Xander said. “Tara told me you’d be over there.”

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Anya went over to your place. She and Tara are having a demon girl sleepover,” he said with a laugh. “So anyway, I heard about all this stuff going down and thought you might want to hang out, talk stuff over.”

“Actually, I was just going to settle in for the night, read a bit and go to bed. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment.”

“Would you want to go bowling with me in the morning?” he asked. “I can pick you up and we can go down to Barney’s. Good way to relieve some frustration, tossing a heavy ball at some pins.”

I thought about it. “That actually sounds like a good way to work off a bit of steam.”

“I’ll pick you up at eleven,” he said. I hung up the phone and thought for a minute, then punched in a number.

The phone was picked up after a couple of rings. “Hello?”

“I love you,” I said in a husky voice.

There was a brief pause. “Gee, Spike, I didn’t know you cared,” said Anya cheerily.

“Oh, balls. Why are you answering my phone?” I demanded, embarrassed.

“Tara’s got her hands full at the moment,” she informed me. “Hold on a sec.”

I waited impatiently, wishing that I could smoke in Buffy’s house. “Hi, honey,” said Tara.

I smiled at the sound of her voice. “I miss you,” I told her.

“I miss you too,” she said. “We’re making Rice Krispy treats. Have you ever had those?”

“No.” Wasn’t that a breakfast cereal? “What are they?”

“You mix cereal with melted butter and marshmallows and form a big square,” she explained.

‘”That sounds rather disgusting,” I said.

“Trust me. You’ll adore this.” I wasn’t too sure about that, but if it made her happy…” I’m saving you half the pan. I’m putting it in wax paper and I’ll give it to you tomorrow.”

“I can’t wait to see you,” I told her. “I feel miserable. I want to come home.” I realized that sounded really pathetic and selfish. “Of course, you should take all the time you need,” I backtracked. “I’m not trying to pressure you.”

“I wish you were here too,” she said. “But Anya is an excellent distraction. I picked her brain for everything she knew about succubi. She talked me into taking some time just to relax and not think about this. She brought over chick movies and we’re going to do our nails.” She sounded upbeat, even happy. I owed Anya a huge debt of gratitude.

“I’ll let you get back to it, sweets,” I told her. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” she said. “Don’t forget to eat your soup and drink your blood.”

“And I’ll put my Wellys on if it rains,” I teased. “Thanks for sending that stuff along, and for Willow. I hated being back in the crypt. It was horribly depressing.”

“You’re very welcome,” she said. “Goodnight.”

“Night,” I said, and hung up the phone. After I’d eaten my food, I tucked myself in on the couch and began reading my book. I felt warm and full, and I kept my hand on my pendant, feeling Tara’s energy. I drifted off to a peaceful sleep.

I had a strange dream. Something brushed my face, and I opened my eyes. Buffy leaned over me, dressed in a long white gown. She bent down and kissed my lips gently. It was so light, and sweet, and loving. “It’s just like after Glory,” I said. “Do you remember? Before you died?” She smiled and nodded, her eyes bright with tears. “You don’t have to stay in heaven anymore,” I told her. “They brought you back.” She kissed my forehead and brushed her hand along my jaw. I closed my eyes, and the dream ended.

****

“Hey, Evil Dead,” someone said loudly. “Wake up.” I opened my eyes, and Xander stood over me. “It’s eleven o clock, time to get going.”

I sat up and pulled on my boots. “Boy, I really nodded off,” I said. “I almost never sleep that well alone.” I tidied up the sofa and packed up my stuff. I pulled out my blanket and followed Xander out to his car, diving into his backseat as quickly as I could.

“I have to say, going somewhere with you is never dull,” he said dryly. It was a short drive and soon we pulled under the overhang for the bowling alley. I ran inside and he joined me a few minutes later. We went up to the counter to get our lane and pick up shoes.

We went to our lane. I took off my boots and laced up my ugly bowling shoes. “Why do they make you wear these things?” I asked. “The sport itself isn’t humiliating enough, without them?”

“Bowling is very cool,” he said. “And this is right up your alley.” I shot him a look. He grinned at me and I laughed despite myself.

“Yeah, we’re going to have a ball,” I shot back. I went over to the rack and picked up balls, trying to find the right size. I finally found one that felt right on my hand.

Xander pulled his ball from his bag. It was a marbleized orange and shone brightly. “That’s really cool,” I commented. I walked over to him. “Can I take a look at it?” He handed it to me and I tested the weight of it. “That’s a nice ball,” I told him.

“Thanks,” he said, pleased. “An bought it for me for Christmas. It even has my initials engraved on it.” He showed it to me.

“I’d like something like that myself,“ I said. “Maybe blue, though, instead of the orange.” I walked up to the line and rolled my ball down the alley. It hit the pins with a satisfying thud, knocking most of them down. It felt good, I realized, not as good as a fight, not as good as the kill. But satisfying nonetheless.

****

Xander dropped me back off at Buffy’s house. Willow and Anya were on the couch, watching television. “Hey, beautiful ladies,” I said with a smile.

“You’re in a good mood,” Willow commented.

“I beat the whelp,” I said happily. “I kept knocking all the pins down. He turned four shades of red. It was bloody fantastic.” The girls exchanged glances. “What?”

“We need to talk to you about something.” Anya said.

I felt panicked. “Is it Tara? Did something happen to her?”

“No, no,” said Red. “It’s nothing like that.” She smiled. “We want to make you over.”

”Make me over into what?” I asked.

“You’ve never gone on a date with Tara,” Anya pointed out. “You guys have skipped several steps in the courtship process. You need to do them.”

“Like what?” I asked.

“You’re taking her to the dinner at my house tonight,” Anya explained. “You need to get dressed up, smell good, bring her flowers and candy. You have to court her.”

“Do you think she’ll like that?” I asked. “Do you think that’s what she wants? Will it make her happy?”

“It certainly couldn’t hurt,” said Willow. “And Tara deserves to be romanced a little. Every woman deserves to feel special.”

“She is special,” I said. “No one else in the world is like her.”

“So you’ll let us do it?” Anya asked.

“If Tara will like it, I’ll do it,” I answered. “Just don’t do anything drastic.”

****

I sat in the empty bathtub, a towel around my waist. Anya wore a towel pinned around her neck, and she massaged shampoo in my hair. “That stuff smells bad,” I told her. “And I can wash my own hair, really.”

“Trust me on this,” she said. “Just close your eyes.” She picked up the spray head and rinsed my hair. I closed my eyes and relaxed while she massaged my scalp. It felt good, her hands and the warm water. She finished up and toweled off my head. “Okay, go over there,” she instructed. I sat down on the commode as she plugged in a blow dryer and brushed out my hair. Soon it was dry. “Wow,” she said. “You look totally different.”

“You have to smooth it down with gel,” I offered. “Otherwise it’s all wavy and puffs up.”

“Will,” said Anya excitedly. “Get Dawn and come here.” The two girls came and stood in the doorway.

“Spike?” said Dawn. “Oh my God.” She covered her mouth with her hand.

That wasn’t good. “What did you do, Anya?”

“I put temporary dye in your hair,” she said. “It will wash out in a few days.”

“What do I look like?” I asked, worried.

“Your hair is brown,” explained Willow. “Your eyes are so blue, and you have color in your face. It makes you look…” she paused.

“Alive,” said Anya cheerily. “You look much less dead now.”

I touched my hair cautiously. “Do you think Tara will like it?”

“Oh, yeah,” said Dawn. “Any woman with a pulse will.”

“And those that don’t, too,” quipped Willow.

****

I stood in the living room as Willow tied my tie. “Don’t forget the corsage,” she said, handing me the plastic box. “And don’t try to feel her up when you pin it on,” she teased.

“I came of age during the Victorian Era in England. We practically invented restraint.”

“Is that why you’re such a wild man?” she asked. “Still making up for lost time?”

“Probably has a bit to do with it,” I admitted.

She finished her work and stepped back. “You look wonderful, Spike. Really. Tara is going to faint.” She smiled at me affectionately.

“Thanks, Willow,” I said. “You’re such a good friend.”

She brushed lint off my shoulders. “I love you both,” she said softly. She looked up. “Be good to each other.”

The front door closed with a bang. I turned around to see Buffy shrugging off her coat. “I’m running horribly late,” she said. “Richard is going to be here any minute.” She stood in the foyer in her Doublemeat Palace uniform. She turned and looked at me, and then did a double take. “Spike?” she said, her eyes widening. I could see her taking it all in: the blue suit, the silk tie, and the shiny black shoes.

She stared at me for a long moment. “I have to go,” I said. I kissed Willow on the cheek. “I’ll see you after the party.” I turned to leave, and walked past Buffy. She still stood there, her hat in hand.

****

I’d never seen anything so beautiful. Tara stood in the living room, dressed in blue silk. Her dress was tight in the bodice and became long and full in the skirt. Her hair fell over her shoulders, pinned back at the temples with small clips decorated with blue stones. She wore tall heels on her feet, and held a small clutch purse in her hand. “You’re gorgeous,” I blurted out. I stared at her for a moment. “They told me to give you candy,” I said, as I handed her a box of chocolates.

“Is that for me, too?” she said with a smile, gesturing to the corsage.

“Yes,” I replied. She was wearing some subtle perfume that accentuated her own natural scent into something even more appealing and erotic.

“Can I have it?” she asked patiently.

I opened the box and pulled out the corsage. I tried to pin it to the strap on her shoulder, but my hands were shaking and I jabbed her with the pin. “Ouch,” she said. A drop of blood welled up on her shoulder.

“Sorry,” I said. I brushed the blood off her skin and sucked it into my mouth. Bad move. My blood heated instantly and my demon flared up within. The blood of a succubus was a powerful call that could not be denied. I vamped, and Tara’s eyes widened. She stared at me, and I could feel her need. I watched small bubbles of purple float to the surface of her eyes, and the bloodlust grew higher within me, flamed by a force beyond my control. She kissed me vigorously, her tongue sliding over my fangs. I’d missed her so much. My demon was clamoring for more blood, telling me to take her, take her now.

I pulled away with a tremendous effort. Tara and I were both panting, staring at each other. Her eyes were flaring with violet. “Rein it in, Tara,” I said breathlessly. “Your demon is more powerful than mine. I can’t hold back much longer.” She closed her eyes and I turned my back. I could hear the hammering of her heart, the surge of her blood. I wrestled with my demon, and was able to turn it back and make it recede. The taste of her blood was still strong in my mouth, burning me like strong whiskey.

“I found out why this is happening,” she said breathlessly. “Why my demon awakened. It felt your demon, and it chose it as its mate. You’re my locar.”

“What’s a locar?” I asked her.

“The first lover,” she said, embarrassed. “The one who sets free the demon.” She looked at me. “The unleashing of a succubus is enough to kill most men. It’s a sacrificial role, but there is always a demon who is the fated one, who appears when the time is right.”

Things became a lot clearer. “I’m the demon. Your demon. I unlock your demon when we have sex?”

Her eyes filled with tears. “Yes.”

“So that’s why you’re going through this now? This attraction between us awakened your demon?”

She nodded. “If I don’t unleash it, I might be able to control it. But it is so strong now.” she said. “I have to find a way to hold it in, even though I don’t know how. I love you. I don’t want you to die.”

“Sweetheart, I’m dead. You can’t kill me,” I reminded her.

“But my demon would drain all your energy,” she said doubtfully.

“It can drain all my energy, but that won’t affect me permanently. I’m immortal, unless you stake me or throw me in daylight. Sex with a succubus isn’t on the list.”

Her whole face lit up. “I can’t hurt you?”

“Oh, you can hurt me pet, however you like.” I ran my hand along her cheek. “But you can’t do me any real harm.”

She took a deep breath. “But how do you feel about my demon, knowing that I will need to feed off of sex to survive?” She took her hand in mine. Sparks flared out all around where her skin touched mine.

“Being forced to have lots of sex with the woman I love,” I said with a grin. “That’s the kind of burden I can deal with.”

“I’m serious, Spike,” she said, her brow furrowed. “Once I come into my powers, I can’t take it back.”

“Then think about it,” I said. “Don’t make any decision until you know for sure.” She looked at me, obviously torn. I bent and kissed her, and she began to glow, bathing us in a lilac light.

She pulled away. “I can’t touch you,” she said. “Not at all. Every time I do, the demon gets stronger and stronger and I can’t control it.”

She walked through the living room and opened the garage door, letting herself into the car. I got into the driver’s seat and put the key in the ignition, carefully avoiding touching her. We drove in silence to Xander’s apartment. We knocked on the door and Anya answered. Her hair was pinned up elegantly and she wore a long green dress. The low neckline and slit up the side accentuated her figure. “You put the duster on,” she said in disappointment. “I told you no duster.”

“I can’t totally submerge my identity, love,” I told her. She took my coat and hung it on a coat rack.

We walked into the dining room. Xander wore a navy suit with a striped tie and he was filling glasses with champagne all around the table. “This is really lovely,” I told Anya.

“I even made little place cards,” she said excitedly. “You’re sitting here,” she gestured, “And Tara is down here,” she said, indicating the other side of the table.

“Good,” we said simultaneously. Tara and I looked at each other and smiled.

“Do you need any help in the kitchen?” Tara offered. Anya accepted and the two of them walked into the kitchen, chattering.

“I like your hair, Spike,” Xander said, lighting the candles in the centerpiece. “You look like less of an albino.”

“Thanks,” I replied. “That suit makes you look less portly than usual.” He turned and looked at me angrily. “You started it,” I pointed out.

He paused, considering. “Habit.” A knock at the door sounded and Xander answered. It was Clem and Sophie. She wore a shiny pink dress with a huge bow at the waist and he was wearing a powder blue tux.

Clem looked at Xander and I. “Anya said to dress formally,” he said with dismay.

“You look great, man,” I assured him. “That’s a good color for you.”

He smiled widely. “Really?”

“Where is the powder room?” Sophie asked timidly. Xander showed her the way while Clem and I chatted and ate some cheese and crackers. Tara came out bearing a tray of cheese puffs.

“You look so handsome, Clem,” she said with a smile. He blushed and straightened his bowtie. She turned to me. “You do too,” she said. “I was so flustered I forgot to say anything.”

“I’m glad you like it,” I told her. “It was for your benefit.” She ran her hand along the lapel of my collar and I shivered. Being near her was torture, delicious but agonizing. A knock came at the door and Tara pulled away to answer it.

She let in Richard and Buffy. The Slayer wore a strapless dress, a rich red that was echoed in the choker that she wore around her neck. He wore a tuxedo also, with a collarless shirt. I walked over and shook hands. “Nice tuxedo,” I told him.

“Thanks,” he said with a smile. “I bought it for my brother’s wedding and I haven’t worn it since. Nice to get some use out of it.” He put his hand on Buffy’s waist. “Of course, no one is looking at me when I’m with such a pretty lady.”

“True enough,” I said. “You look beautiful, Buffy.”

“Thank you,” she said warmly, and smiled at me. An actual smile, a Buffy Summers megawatt special. I couldn’t even remember the last time she smiled that way. It reminded me uncomfortably of the Bot.

“Dinner is prepared,” Anya announced as she carried out a silver platter. We all sat down around the table. Richard was to my left and Anya at the foot of the table on my right. We passed around the food, making idle chatter as we served ourselves.

“So how is that computer working out?” Richard asked.

“I haven’t used it yet,” I said. “I’m not sure if Tara has. It was nice of you to help me with it.”

“I hear that you don’t have a desk,” he said. “I just bought a new one for myself. I’d be happy to give you the old one. It’s nothing fancy, but it will be better than the floor.”

“That would be very kind of you,” I said.

“I could bring it over tomorrow night,” he offered. “I know that days aren’t good for you.”

I looked at him. “I know about the vampire thing,” he told me. “Buffy told me.”

“What did she tell you?” I asked him.

“Everything, I think,” he said. “About the Slayer thing, monster fighting.” He smiled. “After meeting Clem, nothing had really surprised me. And I went to UC Sunnydale for five years. You can’t live in this town for long without realizing that there is something off here.”

“What made you stay here after you finished school?” I asked. I took a sip of champagne and ate some rare roast beef.

“Got a good offer from the construction company,” he said. “I’d worked my way though college doing it. And I was offered more money than I would make teaching. A hell of a lot more.”

“What did you want to teach?” I asked him.

“English,” he replied. “I’m working on my PHD now.”

“What’s your dissertation about?” I asked, interested.

“The classical background of Tennyson and its influence on his work,” he replied.

”Led upward by the God of ghosts and dreams, Who laid thee at Eleusis, dazed and dumb, With passing thro' at once from state to state, Until I brought thee hither, that the day, When here thy hands let fall the gather'd flower, Might break thro' clouded memories once again On thy lost self,” I quoted.

“Demeter and Persephone,” he said. “You know it by heart.”

“I’m a man of many talents,” I said, as I sipped my wine.

“The impression I got initially was that you were kind of a thug,” he said apologetically.

“I am a thug,” I replied, as I drained my glass. “But that’s not all that I am.”

“You’re a good boyfriend,” he commented. “You’re really devoted to Tara.” I looked over at her. She was talking to Xander, laughing.

“I am a lucky son of a bitch, no doubt about it,” I said.

Anya stood up. “Are you all ready for dessert?” We all gave her our assent. I stood up and helped her clear the dinner plates. I carried them into the kitchen and placed them in the sink. Anya followed me. “Would you mind carrying in the cake?” she asked.

I picked up a cake stand topped with an elegantly frosted cake. Ribbons of frosting were crisscrossed over the top of the cake, creating a basketweave affect. “This is a beautiful cake,” I said. “You did a wonderful job.”

“Tara made that,” she told me. “She brought it by earlier.“

I carried the cake to Tara and handed her the server. “Would you like to do the honors?” Her hand brushed mine as I handed her the silver utensil. She leaped back as if burned, and covered her eyes. “Are you alright?” I asked her. She moved aside her hands, and her eyes glowed brightly purple. My demon rose up in response and I struggled not to vamp. She was barely in control this time. I knew it from her eyes, from the way her scent was so strong in my nostrils, the way her hands had begun to tremble.

“You have to take me home right now,” she whispered. “Or we are going to put on quite a show.”

Anya hurried over and pulled Tara away from me. “Come with me,” she said firmly.

“I want Spike,” Tara said vehemently.

Anya turned to Xander. “Please, take Tara back to the bedroom to lie down.”

“What’s going on?” asked Buffy, perplexed. All of the other guests looked on, concerned.

“I don’t have time to explain,” said Anya. “Just have some dessert.” Xander gave me a sympathetic look and picked up a struggling Tara and took her down the hall.

She turned to me. “You’d better go. If she can smell you, sense you, nothing will be able to stop her.”

“I want to be with her,” I pleaded. “She needs me.”

“She’s not thinking right now, she’s overcome by her demon,” Anya said worriedly. “She shouldn’t be this affected by it when she hasn’t even unleashed it yet. We have to find out what’s going on.”

“I want to help,” I told her. “I want to be there for her.”

“Spike, I know that you mean well,” Anya said gently, ”but the only way you can help right now is to stay away from her until she can think clearly and understand what is happening to her.”

“Just tell her that I love her, and I‘ll be waiting for her.” I grabbed my duster and left. I drove back to Buffy’s and parked the car. I rested my head against the steering wheel. I wanted her, I’d missed her so much and I needed to be with her. I didn’t want to give her space, I didn’t care about her demon. I just wanted to go home, to be with her again.

A tap on the glass startled me. I looked up and saw Willow standing there. I got out of the car and shut the door. “Anya told me what happened,” she said. “I’m sure you’re very upset right now. They’re going to do some more research, try to understand what is happening to her.” She was so sweet and kind that I couldn’t help it. I started to cry. I turned around so that she wouldn’t see. “It’s okay,” she said soothingly, stroking my back. “I understand, I do. You’re trying to do the right thing. I know it’s hard.”

“I love her so much,” I said. “I want to be with her.”

She took my hand and turned me around. “I know how you feel,” she said quietly. “I know exactly how you feel.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said, wiping my eyes. “I shouldn’t say these things to you.”

“I think I’m the perfect person, “ she said. “I love her just as much as you.”

“I’m so glad that you’re my friend, Willow,” I told her. “It’s so nice to have someone to talk to.”

She tightened her grasp on my hand and led me inside the house. “I have bubble bath,” she told me as we went up the stairs. “Tara told me how much you love a hot bath.” I stood in the doorway and watched her as she ran a bath, dumping in a whole bottle of bubbles. She went to her room and came back with a paper bag. “Anya picked out some pajamas for you,” she said. “You can get all clean and comfy, and then we can make s’mores.”

“That sounds nice,” I told her. Mindless, aimless, filling time until I could be with Tara again.

She put her hand to my cheek. “Just have faith, Spike,” she said. “Everything will work out.” She left me alone in the bathroom. I unknotted my tie and took off my clothes, carefully hanging the suit on the back of the door. I sank into the tub and let the water overtake me, washing away all my fears, my loneliness, my pain. I lay there with my eyes closed until the water cooled. I stepped out and dried off, putting on the black silk pajamas. They felt soothing against my skin, soft and smooth.

I walked into Willow’s room. She was lying in bed reading a textbook. She closed it and smiled when she saw me. “You look so cute in your jammies,” she said. She patted the bed next to her. “Come and watch this with me.”

I lay down next to her and looked at the television that was sitting upon her dresser. Gene Kelly was dancing in the rain, his arms outstretched and his face happy. “That’s how Tara makes me feel,” I told her. “Like I could sing and dance, and not even feel the rain.” Willow rested her head in my shoulder as we watched the movie flickering on the screen.



PAIRING: Spike/Tara, Spike/Willow, Spike/Buffy (Go, Spike!)
RATING: NC-17 overall
SPOILERS: Season 6 through “As You Were”.
DISCLAIMER: All hail Joss Whedon, UPN, the WB, FOX, Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox Film Corporation. GO team! Theirs, not mine.
AUTHOR”S NOTE: Ending scene was co-written with Zola, a wonderful writer who I am fortunate to have as a beta.
DISTRIBUTION: Please ask my permission first, just so I know where it’s headed.
FEEDBACK: Sure, fire away to jodyorjen@yahoo.com



Chapter 8

My face was buried in a soft cloud of sweet smelling hair. I breathed deeply. Raspberries. My hands were warm, and I realized I was cupping two small, pert breasts in my hands. I opened my eyes and my field of vision was filled with burnished strands of red and gold.

Willow turned to face me. Large green eyes peered into mine. She had gold flecks in her eyes, the same color as the gold in her hair. “You were feeling me up,” she said sternly.

I smiled at her. “I was sleeping, love. Doesn’t count.”

“I’ll be sure to tell Tara that when I see her,” she said seriously.

“So you’re going to tattle on me to my lady? That’s not very sporting of you. After all, you enticed me to your bed in the first place.”

She raised her eyebrows. “There was no enticing. It was perfectly innocent.”

“Oh, Spike,” I said in a falsetto. “Please come and lie down in my bed.”

She laughed. “That’s not how it went, you big liar guy.”

“I’m all alone,” I continued, imitating her. “And you look so hot in your silky pajamas.”

“You do look hot in your pajamas,” she said with a grin. “And you know it. You’re fishing for compliments.”

“It’s not my fault I’m a sexy thing. I’ve got no control over it. It’s a burden I must bear alone,” I said sorrowfully.

“You really are sexy,” she said thoughtfully. “I never really thought about it before.” She smiled. “I was envying you for having Tara and now I’m envying her for having you.”

“Too bad we didn’t think of it before,” I said. “All those months of celibacy when I could have been the meat in a nice Wicca sandwich.” I waggled my tongue at her.

“You’re a pervert,” she said, smacking me in the shoulder.

I laughed. “Yeah, I know. I get that a lot.”

She leaned her head on my shoulder. “I hate being third wheel girl,” she said sadly. “Everyone’s all couply except for me.”

“Well, you can get back out in the game,“ I suggested. “You’ve got a wide open dating pool out there. Girls and boys aplenty.”

“You make it sound like a menu,” she said. “Like I can just pick someone out and place an order.”

“Well, why not?” I asked her. “You’re a very beautiful girl, smart as a whip, funny as hell. Anyone would be lucky to date you.”

“You really think so?” she said.

“Course I do,” I told her. I gently ran my fingers through her hair.

“I don’t feel very appealing,” she said. “I feel like a total dork, like I’m back in high school.”

“That’s just because you can’t do your spells,” I said. “But you still have your magic in you. You need to tap back into it, get your confidence back.”

“I can’t do that,” she said. “I have to stay clean.”

“What could be cleaner than plumbing your depths, getting in touch with the root of who you are?” I asked her. “If you turn your back on it, you’re rejecting part of yourself. That’s why you’re feeling disconnected.”

“I’m afraid of opening up the door to the dark,” she said. “I don’t trust myself.”

I thought for a moment. “Why don’t you come with me to that Wicca group you told me about? I’ll ask Tara to come. We could ask Anya and Xander too, if you want. We can all be there to support you, to help you down the right path,” I said.

“You’d do that for me?” she asked, surprised.

“Of course I would,” I said, picking up her hand. I kissed her knuckles. “I want to see you out of this rut you’re in, and being happy again.”

“Hey guys,” said Dawn from the doorway. “You look all comfy.”

Willow blushed. She leaned over and grabbed the remote from the bedside table, switching on the TV. “We were just going to watch cartoons.”

“Can I join in too?” asked Dawn.

“Sure thing, niblet,” I said as I scooted over closer to Willow. Dawn sat down next to me. She was wearing a pink chenille robe and bedroom slippers shaped like pigs. “Aren’t you a bit old for animal slippers, pet?”

Dawn looked aghast. “I love Mr. And Mrs. Piggington,” she said.

“The Summers women have a little known pig fixation,” Willow explained. “Buffy loves Mr. Gordo so much.”

“It’s not the same thing,” Dawn said defensively. “Mr. Gordo is a stupid stuffed pig. My slippers are practical, functional.”

“And, may I point out, two stuffed pigs,” I said.

She struggled to find a comeback, and then gave up, settling for smashing me in the face with a pillow.

“Hey! None of that!” I yelled. I twisted around to grab the other pillow from Willow’s side of the bed, and instead was smacked in the face from the other side. “Willow! You traitor!”

“Girls against boys,” she said teasingly.

“Well, that’s bloody terrific,” I said, dodging blows. “Evil bints, catching a guy when his guard is down.” They bashed me with the pillows, giggling mercilessly.

“What the hell are you guys doing?” asked Xander. He stood in the door, holding a beverage tray and a plastic bag.

“Throw me a pillow,” I yelled at him. “Don’t just stand there like a big sodden lump.”

“My hands are full,” he replied. “I have donuts.”

Abruptly, the barrage of blows ended. I moved my hands away from my face. “You brought us donuts?” said Willow

“And coffee,” said Xander. He looked at me. “And I brought something for you, too, Spike.” He looked serious. Willow turned and looked at me, concerned. I went over to him. He pulled a letter out of his pocket and handed it to me. “Why don’t you go downstairs and wait for us?” he suggested to the girls. They turned and looked at me.

“Go on,” I said. “I’ll be down in a minute.” They left. “You know what this says, don’t you?” I asked Xander.

He looked me straight in the eyes. “I’m really sorry, Spike,” he said. His face was tight, his eyes full of sorrow and pity. He turned and left me alone.

I sat down on the bed. I held the letter in my hands, turning it over and over again. I held it up to my nose and smelled the sweet scent of Tara, filling my nostrils. I pulled my pendant from my shirt and held it, feeling her energy, her essence. With her smell, the feel of her, I felt like I was home again. I felt peaceful, and serene, and gloriously fucking happy. I reveled in the moment, trying to hold on to it, burn it into my heart forever.

I ripped open the letter and carefully unfolded it. Just the sight of her handwriting made my throat clench up.

*Dear Spike,

Writing this letter is the hardest thing I have ever had to do.*

My hands clenched the paper and it tore. I forced myself to still, to keep reading.

*Please believe that I never wanted to hurt you.*

It felt like someone was shoving a stake right into my heart.

*I can’t discern what is real and what is false, what is true and what is an illusion. But I fear that I know the truth.*

Please, no. Please, no. Please.

*The love that we shared, it came on too strongly, too suddenly. I can’t believe in it. I can’t believe in us.*

White noise, flaring in my brain. White heat, running through my bloodstream. White pain, tearing me apart.

*I’m sorry, William.*

Fury. Humiliation. Rage. I roared, tearing the letter into pieces. I tore off the pendant and threw it into the wall with all my strength, shattering it. I let my demon free. It felt glorious, delicious. I ripped a door off the armoire and smashed it into the wall. Wood splintered everywhere, flying into my hands, my face. I ripped off the other door and smashed it into the floor. I beat it into the ground over and over until there was nothing left of it.

“Stop, Spike, stop it!” a voice screamed.

I ripped off the top of the armoire and flung it across the room. A hand grabbed my shoulder and spun me around.

“Don’t do this,” Willow said earnestly.

“Get away from me,” I growled at her. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You need to stop this,” she said vehemently. “You’re hurting yourself. You’re bleeding everywhere.”

“It doesn’t matter anymore,” I told her. “Nothing matters anymore.” I turned my back on her and smashed my fists into the armoire. Shards of pine flew up, filling the air like snow.

“I’m sorry,” said Willow. “I don’t want to have to do this.”

I turned around. She held a large rifle, pointed at my chest. I felt a pinprick and looked down. There was a red fuzzy tuft, centered in the middle of my chest.

“You shot me through the heart,” I told her, as I fell to the floor.

****

I came to, looking at a blinding white ceiling. Back in the lab, at the Initiative. “You need to drink some blood,” a voice said.

“I can’t drink it,” I replied. “It’s drugged.”

“You need to drink,” the voice repeated.

“You’ll do experiments on me,” I said. “You’ll neuter me.”

“We love you, we’d never hurt you.” I turned my head. It was Dawn, holding out a mug of blood.

“Dawn? What’s going on?” I tried to shake my head free of the thick haze that filled it, that made everything dim and confusing.

“You got really upset,” she said. “We had to shoot you with the tranquilizer gun and chain you up in the bathtub.”

I blinked, trying to remember. “Did something happen to the Slayer? Or Joyce? Your mum is sickly. Is she alright?” She looked confused and left the room. I leaned over to reach the mug that she had set on the floor. My chains jingled and clanked as I tried to scoot myself over the side of the tub. I lost my balance and fell. I felt the mug shatter beneath my chest, the warm blood seeping into my shirt. My head hit the floor with a loud crack.

I lay there, stunned. A pair of feet came in and stood in front of my face. Black boots encased tiny feet. I rolled onto my back. “Are you okay?” asked Buffy. She leaned over and helped me up. I stood there, my ankles and wrists chained. I began to wobble, my head thick. She grabbed the chains and kept me from falling.

“I feel really strange,” I told her. I looked in her face. “What the hell happened to your hair?”

“I had it cut weeks ago,” she said, confused. “And Dawn said you asked about Mom?” She looked at me, her face worried.

“Where’s Joyce?” I asked her. “Has something happened to her?”

“My mother passed away, Spike,” she said. “Last year.”

The second that she said it, I knew it was true. It hurt to remember it. “You died as well,” I said. “Willow brought you back.” I remembered her falling from the tower. “I missed you so much,” I told her. “It was horrible when you were gone.”

She reached out and caressed my face. “I’m back now,” she said. She bent her mouth to mine and kissed me. I wanted to run my fingers through her hair, touch her, but all I could move was my head. She slipped her tongue inside my mouth and held me tightly, her body pressing up against mine. Her taste was so familiar.

I pulled away. “Take off the chains,” I told her breathlessly. She unlocked my shackles and set me free. I pulled her into my arms, running my hands over her. She moved her mouth to mine, and we kissed passionately.

“God, I’ve missed you,” she said as she broke away. She pulled off my shirt, buttons flying across the room. “I’ve missed this.” She ran her hands over my chest and sucked on my nipple. I gripped her shoulders, lost in the feeling of her touch. She pulled on the waistband of my pants. “You have to be quiet,” she said. “I don’t want anyone to hear you. I don’t want them to know.”

I pulled away from her, memories returning with a swift and brutal speed. “We’ve done this before,” I said. “Over and over again. And you lied to your friends. You dumped me flat. You broke my heart.”

“I’m sorry,” she said, shaken.

*I’m sorry, William.*

“Tara,” I whispered.

“It’s okay, Spike,” Buffy said. “I’m here.” I brushed past her and ran down the hall. “Spike! Stop!” yelled Buffy.

I ran down the stairs. Xander and Willow ran into the foyer. Willow stood in front of the door, the tranquilizer gun in her hands. “Let me past,” I told her. “I have to talk to her.”

“It’s daylight,” she said. “You can’t go.”

“The hell I can’t,” I said, as I advanced on her.

“She’s gone, Spike,” she said. “She left.” She looked at me, her eyes wide and sad.

“She wouldn’t leave me,” I told her. “You don’t understand. It’s all a misunderstanding. She thinks what we have isn’t real. But it is. I just have to see her, to show her.”

“She left town to get away from you, Spike,” Xander said. “She said that she can’t think clearly when she’s with you, and she couldn’t keep away from you if she stayed.”

“But she doesn’t have to stay away,” I argued. “I’ll give her space, I’ll let her alone.”

“It’s too late,” he said gently. “She left early this morning. Anya drove her to the bus station. She wouldn’t tell us where she was going or when she would be back.”

*You’re beneath me.*

*You taste like ashes.*

*It’s over.*

*I can’t believe in us.*

Frozen. I felt the numbness spread through my veins, sweep through my heart. “Let me through the door, Willow,” I said.

“I can’t do that,” she said. “I won’t let you go.”

I turned and walked down the hall to the kitchen. Dawn stood by the door, holding a stun gun. I walked past her into the living room. I began to run, picking up speed. “What are you doing?” called out Buffy. I leapt over the coffee table and vaulted off the couch, crashing through the picture window and falling out onto the lawn. I ran as fast as I could. I felt the sun flame on my skin as a needle exploded into my back and I fell to the ground. I struggled to get up, but was overwhelmed by pain and drugs. I gave up, and sank my face into the grass.

****

“You’re so damn stubborn.” Something dug into my hand. I tried to flinch away, but couldn’t. “That hurts you? Good.” I opened my eyes to see Willow sitting next to me. We were in her room, on her bed. She had strapped down my hand into a metal cradle, immobilizing it while she dug around with a pair of tweezers.

“Ow, that fucking hurts,” I said.

She looked up at me. Her eyes were red. “You deserve to suffer, you moron.”

“Why are you mad at me?” She narrowed her eyes at me and slapped me in the face, hard. “Christ! What did you do that for?”

“You tried to kill yourself,” she said angrily. “You made me shoot you with the tranq gun again. You were knocked out so long I thought I’d killed you myself.”

“I wasn’t trying to kill myself,” I told her. “I just wanted to get away from you lot.”

She looked up at me, surprised. “So you threw yourself out the window?”

“Well, you have no idea how annoying you can all be.” She looked at me and laughed, and I laughed too.

She hugged me tightly and kissed my cheek. “Please don’t do anything like that again,” she said. “I was afraid that I was going to lose you.”

“Nice to know that someone would give a damn if I was gone,” I said. I paused, and thought a moment. “Buffy would probably miss me. Just because she’d have to find another guy to fuck, dump and stalk.”

She looked at me, shocked. “You and Buffy?”

“Yeah.” Her eyes were wide and round, like Little Orphan Annie. “And ever since I got together with Tara, she’s been sniffing around, trying to get another go round.”

“But you were so in love with her,” she said, bewildered. “She just used you for sex and then broke up with you?”

“Yep.”

She looked horrified. “But that’s so mean!” She looked truly miffed. “And she was trying to break up you and Tara?”

“She was trying to spare Tara the pain of being used for sex,” I said dryly.

“I can’t believe Buffy would act that way,” she said.

“Well, she’s been a right pain in the ass, and I’m not taking it any more.”

“You shouldn’t,” Willow said vehemently. “If she can’t respect the way you feel, she should just leave you alone.”

“Right,” I said. “Just like I should leave Tara alone.” I sat glumly, thinking about her.

Willow looked at me, worried. “She’ll come back,” she said softly.

“Like she came back to you?” I said. She looked away, hurt. “I’m sorry, Willow. I shouldn’t have said that.”

“It’s the truth,” she said, fiddling with a bottle of antiseptic. “She never did come back to me.” Her face was so sad, and I knew that she was thinking of Tara, of what they had shared.

I reached out to hold her, and jerked my hand on the cradle. “Can you take this thing off, sweetheart?” She gently extricated my hand from the frame and I held her close, cradling her against my chest. She began crying, her face pressed against my bare chest. Her tears rolled down, leaving tracks on my skin. I rubbed her back, letting her have a good cry.

“Love sucks,” she hiccupped finally, pulling away and wiping her sleeve across her face.

“Indeed it does,” I replied. I lay down on the pillow, and she lay down next to me, spooning into my body. I wrapped my hands around her waist, and inhaled the fruity scent of her hair.

“Except when it’s wonderful,” she said.

“And then, it’s better than anything,“ I replied. I closed my eyes, and fell asleep.

****

I woke a little while later. Willow was curled around me, her hand pressed over my stomach. I slid out of the bed, careful not to wake her. I found my bag in the corner of her room and slipped on my clothes. Buffy sat at the kitchen table. She sipped at a glass of soda, her hair pulled back in two pigtails. She was so beautiful to look at, but as distant and unattainable as a goddess on a pedestal.

“I’m sorry I broke the window,” I said. I handed her a small stack of bills. She looked up at me in surprise as she took the money.

“Xander already came back with a piece of glass,” she replied. “He said it was easy to fix it.” She paused, and took a slow sip of her drink. “I’m sorry for the way I acted,” she said. She looked up at me, her face wary.

“Which time?” I asked her.

She gave me an angry look. “If you’re going to be a jerk, I won’t bother.”

“Who’s being a jerk?” I asked angrily. “Tara breaks up with me, and you kiss me because I’m all doped up and confused?”

“I shouldn’t have done that,” she admitted.

“No, you shouldn’t have. Just like you should have believed me when I told you that I didn’t want you back.”

“But things are different now,” she said. “You’re not with her anymore, and I want to be with you.”

“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “All we could ever have is sex. My relationship with Tara never even got that far, and it meant so much more to me.”

“But you loved me,” she said. “You told me so.”

“Tara loved me back, Buffy,” I replied. “That’s the difference. I’d forgotten how good it feels, to be loved.”

“If she loved you so much, then why did she leave you?” Her tone was mocking.

I smiled bitterly. “That’s what I’d like to know.” I went down the hallway and grabbed my blanket, walking unimpeded out into the sunlight.

****

I walked into my house from the garage. As soon as I stepped inside, I was surrounded by the scent of Tara, by the feel of her. I paused midstep, bowled over by how much I missed her. I put down my things and walked into the kitchen. I opened a bottle of brandy and took a healthy swig. The answering machine beeped insistently. I pushed the blinking button. “You have twelve messages,” intoned the electronic voice.

“Hi, Spike, it’s Anya,” said a cheery voice. “We’d like you to come to dinner tonight if you haven’t tried to kill yourself again.” There was a brief scuffling. “What?” she said, perturbed.

“Hi Spike, it’s Xander,” said an annoyed voice. “I’ll be at my apartment tonight, alone, if you’d like to come over and hang out.”

“Hi Spike, it’s Anya. I’ll be at my apartment tonight if you want to come over. I’m making brownies.”

“Hi Spike, it’s Xander. Anya and I will be over at my place tonight. We’ll order in some pizzas. Come on over.”

“Hi Spike, it’s Anya. Xander and I will be having make up sex, so don’t call and don’t come over.”

“Hi Spike, this is Xander. We’re here for you, buddy. Just disregard that last message.”

“Hi Spike, this is Anya. Seriously. Don’t come over.”

“Hi Spike, this is Xander. I’ll be at the Bronze by myself tonight after nine. Meet me there if you want to come.”

Hangup call.

“Hi Spike, this is Willow. If you feel like it, there’s a folksinger at the coffee house tonight at seven and I thought you might like to go. Call me and let me know if you want to.” She paused. “And call if you don’t, either, just so I know you’re okay.”

“This is Jerry Royce, the owner of Royce Furniture. It was a real pleasure meeting with you this afternoon. The armoire you selected will be delivered tomorrow by noon. Please call and let us know if we can be of any further service.”

“Hi,” Tara said. There was a long pause. “I can’t say any of the things that I’m thinking, because none of them are fair to you.” She paused again. “Just know that I believe in you, and I wish you well. I wish you every good thing.” There was a long pause, and then a dial tone.

I took my bottle to the couch and drank. I could drink until I passed out. That had worked for me in the past. I settled on that as a good plan and quickly ripped through that bottle. Torture, love spells, those hadn’t been very successful. I could find a vengeance demon. That would be helpful if I wanted to hurt her, make her suffer. But I didn’t want that. I just wanted her back. I was love’s bitch, once again. Maybe she’ll come back, I thought hopefully. Maybe she meant to. I opened the entertainment center and checked. All of her CD’s were gone.

I walked down the hallway and opened the door to her room. It was empty except for the furniture that I’d bought. All of her things were missing, her altar taken down, her clothes all gone. I walked into the bathroom. All her little potions and lotions, all the things that were hers, were gone. She was never coming back. I stopped off in the kitchen and picked up a second bottle of brandy, settling in on the sofa to work on that one.

I was halfway through when a knock sounded at the front door. I opened it up and there was Richard, backlit against the setting sun. He was breathing hard and sweating. “What are you doing here?” I asked.

“I came to bring you that desk for Tara,” he said.

It hurt just to hear her name. “Have you spoken to Buffy today?” I asked curiously.

“No,“ he asked, puzzled. “I’ll see her tonight. I’m taking her bowling.”

“You’re taking Buffy bowling?”

“She said that she’s never been. I thought it would be fun.” He wiped his brow. “So anyway, do you want the desk?”

He didn’t know. “Tara left me, Richard.”

His jaw gaped open. “Oh, man, I’m so sorry.”

“Thanks.” He really seemed to mean it. “You want to come on in and have a beer?”

“Sure, sure man.” He thumped me on the shoulder and we walked into the kitchen. I handed him a beer and we sat down at the table. He looked at me searchingly. “I’m really sorry, dude.”

“I’ll get over it,” I said, swigging my beer.

“Was it because of what happened last night? The glowing eyes and all that?” He looked curious.

I’d underestimated him. “Apparently so. She didn’t actually explain her logic. She wrote me a letter-“

“She didn’t even do it in person?” He looked dismayed. “Oh, that’s harsh.”

“Thank for reiterating that, Richard. It’s less painful when you point it out.” I couldn’t restrain the sarcastic reply.

“I didn’t mean it that way,” he said hurriedly.

I took a sip of beer and took a moment. “You know, you’re a really nice guy, Richard. It’s kind of a shame.”

“Why is that?” he asked curiously.

“Well, after I say what I’m going to say next, you’re not going to like me very much.” He deserved to know what he was getting into.

He looked puzzled. “What do you need to tell me?”

Show time. “You’re being played, Richard. Buffy is playing you like a violin.”

He stood up. “What are you talking about?”

“She used to be with me, Richard. She broke up with me and then she got together with you.” Because she couldn’t love me.

He shrugged. “And you’re jealous? That’s okay, I understand.”

“She asked me to sleep with her, while she was dating you,” I told him. “And she kissed me today. If I’d wanted her, I could have had her.”

“Stand up,” he said seriously. I stood up.

“Take it back, Spike,” he said angrily. “You take it back or you’ll be sorry.”

“I can’t take it back,” I told him. “It’s the truth.”

I knew he would hit me, and I let him do it. He gave me a good hard punch in the jaw. “I thought that maybe we would be friends,” he said, overwhelmed. “I thought that you liked me.”

“I do like you, Richard,” I told him seriously. “That’s why I told you the truth.” He looked me in the face for a long moment and then walked away. I drank my beer and finished his off for good measure. No use wasting good beer. I went back out to the living room and started working my way through the brandy.

The door knocked. Must be Richard, back again. I opened it up and there stood Willow. She wore one of her ridiculous sweaters and a purple hat that was shaped like a bell, the wide brim flaring out around her chin. “You have the worst fashion sense of anyone I ever met,” I said, laughing at her outfit.

“Really?” She looked surprised. “I thought I was funky yet stylish.”

I let her in and we went and sat down on the couch. “So what are you doing here, Red?”

“I was just in the neighborhood?” she said tentatively.

I raised my eyebrows. “You just happened to wander down a dirt track past the cemetery?”

“I was afraid that you’d done something stupid and I was checking up on you,” she admitted.

“I can take care of myself, really,” I told her. “You don’t have to worry about me.” I picked up my bottle and resumed drinking.

“I knew you’d be getting drunk,” she said, exasperated. “You are the most predictable being in the universe.” She took off her boots and rested her feet on the ottoman.

“Bet you can’t guess who I just talked to,” I told her. I held out the brandy. “Want a sip?”

She sniffed at it and took a small sip. “Richard,” she guessed, handing it back.

“Hey you’re good,” I told her, truly impressed.

She rolled her eyes. “I saw him drive by,” she said.

“I told him about Buffy,” I told her. “That she’d been putting the moves on me.”

“How de he take it?” she asked.

I mimicked a punch. She leaned forward. “Did you get hurt?” she asked, concerned. “You’ve already been banged up pretty bad today.”

“He just punched me in the jaw,” I told her. “No harm done.”

She put her hand on my chin and moved my head around, assessing the damage. “You look okay,” she said, her brow furrowed. She ran her fingers across my cheekbone. “I think I missed a few splinters, though.” She prodded gently at my skin.

“I can’t feel anything,” I told her.

She picked up my hands. “How are the hands?” she asked, gently turning them in hers.

“I can still feel splinters inside them,” I told her. She ran her fingers gently along my palms, looking for them. “Don’t worry about it. They’ll work themselves out.”

She put my hands down. “And your chest?” She rested her hands over my pectorals. She looked into my eyes, and I had a flash of sinking my fangs into her pretty white neck.

“What about my chest?” I asked. I shook my head and put down the brandy. It was definitely getting to me.

“Does it hurt?” she asked seriously. “From where I shot you?” She winced. “The punctures.”

I meant to lean away from her, but instead I found myself leaning in. “I feel just fine,” I murmured as I pulled off her hat with a flick of my wrist. I slipped my hands around her waist and buried my face in her shoulder.

“Spike?” she said uncertainly. I licked her neck, drawing my tongue slowly up and down, tracing the delicate blue of her vein.

“I want to bite you,” I said. I pulled her hair away from her neck and bit her gently with dull teeth.

She gasped and her fingers grappled at my shoulder. “I don’t really want you to do that, Spike,” she said in a strangled voice.

“You taste so sweet,” I told her. “You taste like mint.” I licked and nibbled along her neck, pulling her turtleneck aside so that I could reach more of her skin.

“Oh, God,” she said.

“Let me,” I said to her. “I’ll make you feel so good.”

“This is wrong,” she said. “We can’t do this.” I moved over her, straddling her lap.

“Why can’t we?” I asked her, my fingertips playing up and down her neck. “Who are we hurting?”

“Me,” she said. “This is definitely going to hurt me.”

“I told you, it’ll feel good,” I said, as I ran my hand through her hair.

“That’s not what I meant,” she said.

“I can make you want me,” I said softly. “If you want me, the chip won’t go off.”

She closed her eyes. “Will you kiss me first?” she asked.

“I’ll do anything you want, Red,” I told her. I nibbled at her throat and gently licked her jaw.

“Okay then,” she said, and she turned her lips to mine in an uncertain kiss. Her mouth tasted like mint as well, with a hint of brandy. I lightly teased her lips open with my tongue, claiming her in a deeper kiss that accelerated her heartbeat and left her soft and unyielding beneath me. I broke the kiss for a moment to roll us over and pulled the sweater over her head.

I looked down at her, enjoying the sight. Her beautiful red hair was fanned out over the cushion, her breasts heaving up and down, in time with her gasping breaths. Her nipples were hard, pressing against the pink lace of her bra. “Want me yet?” I asked her. I traced my fingers along the strap, giving her goosebumps.

She opened her eyes, and stared up into mine. “Yes,” she said distinctly.

I popped open the front clasp on her bra and morphed into my demon. Her breasts were beautiful, small and firm, with delicate pink nipples. I took one into my mouth and sank my fangs into her breast. She moaned loudly and clasped the back of my head. I pulled up her skirt and slipped my hand into the waistband of her panties, teasing her clit with my fingers. I drank her slowly, relishing an uninterrupted feeding from a warm, willing human woman.

She tugged at her skirt and I helped her slide it down over her legs, then pulled down her panties as well. She kicked them to the floor, then twisted and pulled at me until I was lying between her legs. I was so startled I released her breast. “Take me,” she said. “You feel so good and I’ve been so lonely. Please, please fuck me.”

She undid my jeans and pushed them down, freeing my cock. “Are you sure?” I asked her.

“We aren’t hurting anyone,” she said. “Please, I need you.” She spread her legs a little wider and guided me inside her. “Oh, Spike,” she gasped.

“Willow…” The sensation of her was almost enough to push me over the edge right then and there. She locked her ankles around the back of my thighs and moved with me as I stroked in and out of her. She was right; we weren’t hurting anyone at all. No one.

I moved my head to her neck and bit down again, savoring every drop of her warm blood, prolonging the moment for as long as I could. Her arms tightened around me convulsively and I pumped harder. "Spike...yes, just like that...yes...yes...oh god Spike, oh god!" She keened loudly, her voice breaking as she shattered into a thunderous orgasm. It was enough to send me over the edge and I spasmed inside her, shuddering and gasping.

I pulled my fangs from her neck and looked down at her. She was breathing shallowly, asleep or passed out. I picked her up and carried her to my room, staggering. I took off her bra and tucked the covers around her. I collapsed beside her, drunk on brandy and blood and sex, and fell asleep.



PAIRING: Spike/Willow. Spike/Tara & Spike/Buffy implied
RATING: NC-17 overall
SPOILERS: Season 6 through “As You Were”.
DISCLAIMER: All hail Joss Whedon, UPN, the WB, FOX, Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox Film Corporation. GO team! Theirs, not mine.
DISTRIBUTION: Please ask my permission first, just so I know where it’s headed.
FEEDBACK: Sure, fire away to jodyorjen@yahoo.com



Chapter 9

Someone was gently rubbing my back. It was a pleasant sensation. I rolled over, and abruptly the world tipped and churned. “Oh, bloody hell,” I yelled, grabbing my head.

“Can I get you some aspirin or water or something?” asked Willow.

“Blood,” I said, trying to keep my head as still as possible. “There are bags in the refrigerator.” I heard her walk away. My head was pounding, a throbbing drumbeat sounding between my ears.

“You need to stop drinking, Spike,” said Willow. “Or possibly dating. Women make you drink.” She slipped a bag of blood into my hand.

“Not all women,” I said as I ripped into the bag of blood. “I just need to pick ones that aren’t going to stomp on my heart and smash it to bits.”

“Unfortunately, there is no prescreening process to determine who is good for you and who is bad,” said Willow. “Sometimes it’s hard to tell.” I felt her slide under the covers beside me, resting just out of reach.

“Sometimes it’s pretty clear though,” I said. “Like vampire loves Slayer. That one was destined to end badly.” I drank my blood, sucking it down greedily.

“Girl falls for werewolf didn’t end well,” she said. “Neither did Wiccan girl falls for Wiccan girl, and that one looks good on paper.”

“Well, vampire falls for vampire didn’t pan out well for me,” I said. “Although, really, it was more vampire falls for human and then vamps him.”

“Ex-demon falls for normal guy seems to be working out pretty well,” she said.

I finished the bag and tossed it on the floor. “You should listen to my answering machine, then rethink your position.” I rolled over and looked over at her. “We’re kind of dancing around the issue, pet. Are you sorry that we shagged?” I brushed her hair away from her face so I could see her.

She blushed. “I’m not sorry about anything we did,” she said. I pulled down the sheet from her neck and took a look. The punctures in her neck were small and not very noticeable, but her breast looked horrible. Two large puncture wounds were surrounded by livid bruising.

“I can’t believe that you let me bite you, Willow.” I traced around the edges of the wounds and she winced. “Christ, this is savage. You were generous enough to let me feed and then I rip into you like an animal.”

“It’s okay,” she said. “I know you couldn’t help it.”

“If I hadn’t been drunk off my ass I would have done a better job of it,” I told her. “I should have been gentle with you, gone slow, not just taken you like some newly turned git.” I got out of bed. “Let me get you some ice for that.”

“It’s really okay, Spike,” she said. I ignored her and went to the kitchen, wrapping a handful of ice in a dish towel and coming back to bed. I turned on the light.

“Lie back and rest,” I told her, moving in close to her. I put the ice on her breast and she winced. She was so pale, and looked drawn. “We’re going to go out to dinner as soon as you’re feeling better. You need to build up your iron, have plenty of fluids. Or maybe I should just order something in, let you rest up.”

“You don’t need to go to any trouble,” she said.

I pulled the ice away from her breast, and the sight of the wound filled me with shame. “I don’t understand why you let me do this,” I said. “What the bleeding fuck were you thinking, Willow?” I got up and rummaged around in the closet, looking for the first aid kit that I’d bought to carry on patrol.

“I wasn’t really thinking right at that moment,” she said lamely. I found it and brought it back to the bed. I opened it up and dabbed antibiotic ointment on the wound. The bite was very deep and ragged, a real rip job.

“I could have killed you,” I told her. “How could I have been so stupid?” I pressed a gauze bandage over her wound and taped it into place.

She opened her eyes and looked at me sadly. “You seemed to really want me,” she said slowly, “and I liked the way that felt.”

I saw the yearning in her face, the need underneath her sadness. “Is that why you didn’t just ask me to make love with you?” I asked her. “What you really wanted was sex and you thought you had to let me bite you to get it?”

“Well…yes.” She turned away in embarrassment.

“I am the world’s worst dating option at the moment, love,” I told her. “I am the walking wounded.”

“Dating is not exactly what I want,” she said. “I want you, in a sexual way. In a big, want you bad kind of way.” She smiled. “More ‘91/2 Weeks’ than ‘Beauty and the Beast.’”

“Willow, you deserve someone who can give you something,” I told her. “As is abundantly clear, I have nothing to give anyone.”

“I haven’t had sex with a man for years,” she said slowly. “I haven’t wanted to. Since Tara and I broke up, she’s all I ever thought about.” She looked at me. “Until you.”

“I think this has more to do with getting back at Tara in some way than it does about me,” I told her honestly.

“And I think you fucked me because it would upset Buffy and Tara if they found out,” she countered. “And, to be really honest, biting me wasn’t about grabbing a snack. It’s sexual, and you know it. What we did didn’t start out innocently, on either side.”

“I’ve always fancied you,” I admitted. “Not that I ever thought it would amount to anything. Just attracted to your smell, the way you look, your charm.”

She bent her face close to mine. “You made me feel so good,” she said, her eyes fixed on my mouth.

I immediately got hard, just from the sound of her voice, the intensity of her gaze. “Ditto,” I said, aiming for blasé and failing miserably.

“Could we do it again?” she asked me. “Try it another way?”

“But that’s not really what you want,” I argued. “You want a companion, not a one night stand.”

She licked my ear gently, and then bit down hard on my earlobe. “You’re wrong,” she said, her tongue sliding down my neck.

I ran my hands down her sides, over the curves of her hips. “You don’t really want me,” I argued.

“I want you bad,” she said confidently. I hadn’t heard that tone since she was running the show over the summer.

“You deserve more than a quick, hard shag,” I told her.

“I think that what I need is a quick, hard shag,” she told me. She slipped her hands beneath the sheet, closing them around my erect cock. She smiled. I wanted her, just as much as she wanted me. I couldn’t deny it, not when she literally had the proof in her hands.

“There are a few conditions.” I didn’t want her to have any illusions about me.

“Name them,” she said, her hands sliding up and down on my hard length.

“No talking about it ever again, to anyone. Not even to each other.” I paused and bit my lip, trying not to react to the firm, even strokes she was giving me. ”This can’t screw up our friendship, or be used as revenge on anyone else. This is just shagging, nothing more or less, and just for tonight.” That’ll pretty much strip all the hearts and flowers off of it.

“Okay,” she said breathlessly. “Can we stop talking now?” She rolled on top of me and smiled down at me.

“You don’t want any foreplay, or kissing or-” She leaned over and kissed me as she slid down along my length. She was tight and so, so wet, her muscles clenched around my throbbing cock. She felt good, so fucking amazing, hitting just the right stride. I held tightly to her shoulder as I moved underneath her, moving in rhythm with her lithe twists of the hips. Her tongue was everywhere inside my mouth, licking and stroking and caressing. She broke away for tiny gasps of air, never fully breaking the kiss. I had never met a human with such exact breath control.

She pulled away and leaned back, adjusting the angle until it was unbearably intense. She took my hand and bit gently on my wrist. “Bite, yes, biting,” I managed, as I locked my hands on her hips and drove her down even faster on my cock. She bit harder and I moved faster, until she was moaning and whimpering and ripping down my chest with her nails and I was coming explosively, biting her hard on the forearm as I pumped uncontrollably inside her. I was totally blindsided by my orgasm, lost in pleasure.

I opened my eyes to see her looking down at me, totally still, looking very unhappy. “I’m fine,” she said as she rolled off of me. “Really, I don’t mind. We can just-“

I moved on top of her and slid back inside her, pumping away. She closed her eyes and threw her head back, writhing underneath me. “You like to bite, don’t you?” She nodded, her eyes firmly closed. “What else do you like?”

“Talking,” she whispered.

“Thought you didn’t want to talk,” I teased, as I slowed down my rhythm and moved in and out of her very slowly.

“Harder,” she said. “Harder, now.” She clenched her internal muscles around me, making me gasp.

I gripped her wrists in one hand and rubbed her clit with the other as I drove into her forcefully. “Is that what you want? Like that?” She started to fall apart, her color heightening, her pulse thundering. “You’re so damn amazing,” I told her. “You’re so beautiful, and sexy, and you make me feel fucking unbelievable.” She cried out and leaned forward, biting my shoulder. I dropped her wrists and held her closely as she came, losing control myself as she undulated around me. I sought out her mouth, and we gasped and moaned together as we kissed, immersed in one another.

We broke apart and lay there, panting. I rolled on my side and looked at her. “You really are amazing,” I told her.

“Really?” She was breathing hard still, and beautifully pink, her cheeks glowing. She rolled over to me, and rested her head on my shoulder.

“You seem so nice and innocent,” I told her, as I kissed her ear. “And you’re a total force of nature in bed.”

“You shouldn’t buy into stereotypes,” she said. “Nice girls can be bad in the bedroom, too.”

“I wouldn’t use the word bad, love,” I told her. “Very very good.”

She rolled on top of me. “You were okay,” she said, giving me a sisterly peck on the cheek.

What? “I was okay?” I said, taken aback.

Her eyes glittered merrily. “Yeah. I’m really glad we’re just going to be friends from now on. I’d hate to have to have more sex with you.”

“That’s not funny,” I said.

“Sure it is. You should see your face.” She kissed me on the end of the nose.

“You don‘t make fun of a man’s prowess,” I said. “It’s just not done.”

She looked down at me seriously. “You know you’re a wonderful lover,” she said softly. “What could I say that someone else hasn’t already said?”

“You’re the one I’m with, kitten,” I told her. “So your opinion would be the only one I care about right now.”

She leaned down and kissed me. I loved the taste of her mouth, the softness of her lips. “You’re even better than I thought you would be,” she said softly.

My body stirred at her touch. “I want you again,” I told her. We kissed more, and I could feel her desire for me rising as well.

Suddenly she pulled away. “Spike?” she said oddly. She wobbled and I caught her before she fell backwards.

“Willow!” I swore at myself. I was a stupid, stupid git.

Her eyes fluttered open and she smiled. “I’m a little dizzy,” she said. She looked clammy and pale.

“And I’m a selfish ass,” I told her. I pulled on a pair of sweatpants and pulled one of my black t-shirts over her head. I carried her down the hall to the kitchen.

“I’m okay,” she said weakly.

“No, you’re not,” I told her. “I bled you and then shagged you silly, twice over. Very considerate of me.”

I juggled a pitcher of juice and a glass in one hand as I sat down at the table with Willow in my lap. I poured a large glass. “Drink,” I told her.

“I don’t want to,” she said, pushing the glass away.

“Drink the sodding juice or I’ll take you to the hospital, Will. I’m not fucking around.”

She put her arm around my shoulders and I curled my arm around her waist as she drank the juice. I noticed that she had really nice legs, very long and white. She had polish on her toenails, green sparkles with little decals of flowers. She bent her head back and I caught a fresh whiff of her scent. She smelled stronger than usual, her flowery scent combined with a slight tang of sweat and the musk of sex. She polished off the glass and turned to me. She looked better, her cheeks tinged with pink and her eyes sparkling. “So, this whole one night stand thing,” I began.

“Mm hmm?” she said, as she kissed me gently on the neck.

“Can I have the whole night? You have any other plans?”

“I’d wanted to see Aurora Borealis at the coffeehouse,” she said. She looked at the clock. “But that started two hours ago.” She smiled at me. “We crashed out for three hours.”

“Xander had called and asked if I wanted to meet him at the Bronze,” I said. “It’s almost nine now. We could be fashionably late.”

“If we meet up with him we’ll have to put the sex thing under wraps,” she said.

“We may as well get used to that,” I pointed out. “We’ll be doing it from now on. Just acting like friends.”

She looked thoughtful. “Would you dance with me at the Bronze?”

“I’d love to dance with you, Will,” I told her. “And I’d like to buy you some dinner too.”

“We don’t have time if we’re going to meet Xander,” she pointed out.

“Then you’ll have to promise me that you’ll eat some appetizers and let me take you for a bite afterwards.”

She laughed. “No more biting, thanks.” I laughed too, realizing what I’d said.

“You liked it, didn’t you?”

“During, not after.” She winced. “The after part was definitely way too hurty.”

The phone rang and I leaned over precariously to answer it, avoiding dumping Willow on the floor. “Hey, Spike,” said Xander. “You want to meet up with Anya and I at the Bronze?”

“Yeah, Willow is here and we’d both like to come.” Willow snickered and I pinched her nose. “I’d like to take her to dinner though. Do you guys want to grab a bite to eat too?”

“Actually, that’s not a bad idea. Let me ask An.” I heard a brief exchange while they were talking amongst themselves and seized the opportunity to steal a quick kiss from Willow.

“How about Nikolos? It’s right by the Bronze and we can get in and out of there fast.”

“Greek food, pet?” I asked Willow. She nodded. “We’ll meet you in half an hour, Xander.”

“See you there,” he said.

Willow got up off my lap and wandered out of the room. “Where are you going?” I asked her.

“To get dressed,” she called over her shoulder.

“I could help,” I called after her. The sound of her laughter echoed down the hall. I smiled, enjoying her presence. I should feel guilty, I realized. I should be in misery: missing Tara, worrying about Buffy’s reaction to what I’d said to Richard, berating myself for taking advantage of Willow. Instead, I just felt good. Happy, even. My life had gotten really complicated, and much more interesting.

Willow walked out, fully dressed again. She’d brushed out her hair, and it was silky and shiny. Her clothes were straight and unwrinkled. She looked fresh as a daisy, not like someone who’d been tumbled less than twenty minutes ago. “Can I play Dress the Spike?” she asked, holding something behind her back.

“What?” I raised one eyebrow.

“Well, I dressed you last night for your date,” she said. “And, to be honest, I’d kind of wished that it was me. And this, tonight, this will be the closest thing to a date that we’ll have. So I was hoping you’d let me pick out your clothes.” She wrinkled her brow. “Is that stupid?”

I walked over to her and cupped her face, kissing her. I pulled away and smiled at her. “Tonight I’m yours,” I told her. “Do with me what you will.”

She handed me the clothes. My new suit pants, a black shirt with blue embroidered dragons, and a black t-shirt. “And the duster,” she said.

“Anya told me not to wear it last night,” I said.

“Well, I think it’s sexy,” she said with a smile. “By all means, wear the duster.”

“Red has a thing for leather,” I said with a smile.

“Not really,” she said. “It’s a pretty specific fetish. You. Leather. Duster. It’s a combo package.”

“I want to hear more about this later,” I told her.

“I’d really rather show you later,” she said. She kissed me, the feel of her lips making me hard and aching again. The girl had an amazing mouth. I melted the second her lips touched mine. I pulled her close, trying to deepen the embrace, but she pulled back. She reached out and trailed a nail down my neck, and I shuddered. “But now we have to get going.”

“You’re evil,” I pointed out. “Getting me started and leaving me hanging.”

“That’s me,” she said with a grin. “Evil Willow.”

****

“Who wants ouzo?” asked Anya. We sat at a booth in the Greek restaurant, underneath a large mural of the Parthenon.

“Not me,” I said. “I’ve had enough to drink for one day.”

“Never thought I’d hear you say that,” said Xander.

“Just three,” she said to the waiter, who nodded and walked away. “I actually figured that you’d be off somewhere drinking or trying to stake yourself, considering how Tara left,” said Anya.

“An!” said Xander angrily.

“She told me that it would be best if you never saw each other again, but I wish she’d taken some more time to think things through.” Anya broke off a piece of her baklava and ate it.

Xander cringed. Willow turned to stare at me. “She said what?” I asked.

“She said that she’d never felt her demon side before she started spending time with you, and if she never saw you again she would never release her demon. She wanted to pretend none of it had ever happened,” she said calmly. “Didn’t she tell you that in her note?”

I felt Willow’s hand slide across my leg and squeeze my fingers. I held onto her tightly, focusing on her warmth to distract med from the shock and pain of Anya’s words. “So,” Willow began, ”why don’t you tell us about the floral arrangements you decided on for the wedding?”

“Excuse me,” I said. I got up and went outside the restaurant. I lit a cigarette and pulled my collar up against the wind. She thought that I’d ruined her life. My mere presence had screwed up the life of a woman who was already having more than her fair share of suffering. I’d meant to save her from a life of toil and misery, and instead I’d managed to drive her away from everything and everyone that meant anything to her. First Buffy, then Tara. Maybe I should give up trying to save damsels in distress.

After I finished my smoke, I went back inside and sat down at the table. Willow was red in the face, wheezing. “Love, are you alright?” I asked her, concerned.

“Ouzo,” explained Anya.

“Gross,” squeaked out Willow. “Super gross.” She turned at me, her eyes tearing up. “It was like doing a shot of battery acid.” I poured her a glass of water and handed it to her, patting her lower back as she drank.

“So, anyway, I was explaining about the stephanotis,” explained Anya. “Our florist told me originally that it would have to be flown in from Argentina this time of year. But I found a wholesaler who has a source in Mexico.” She smiled widely. “I saved seventy five dollars.”

Xander smiled at his fiancée. “You’ve been doing a great job on this wedding planning, Anya.” He reached for the check.

I snagged it before he could take it. “It’s on me,” I said.

“You don’t have a job, Spike,” he said. “Let me take it.”

“I’ve got enough saved up to live here a good long time without doing a blasted thing,” I told him. “But I actually do have a job lined up. I’m supposed to start next week, but I haven’t decided if I’m going to do it.”

“Okay,” he said. “But drinks at the Bronze are on me.”

“Deal.” I pulled out some bills and paid the check.

“So what kind of a job were you offered?” asked Willow.

“A job as a bouncer at a demon club,” I said. “Not that many jobs that I can take.”

We walked outside and down the block. “What time are Richard and Buffy meeting us?” asked Anya.

“They said they would be there at ten,” Xander replied. “Unless Buffy got wrapped up with something on patrol. She was going to fit it in between bowling and the Bronze.”

Willow turned to me and handed me her bag. “Spike, I think that I left my bag at the restaurant. Will you go back with me to get it?” I held the purse behind my back.

“We’ll meet you there,” I told Xander and Anya. They walked off, his arm around her waist.

Willow grabbed my hand and pulled me down an alley. She turned to me. “Are you and Richard going to get along after your run in earlier?”

“I’m not worried about Richard,” I told her. “I’m more concerned about Buffy. We can’t get along for longer than five seconds these days. And she’s going to be furious that I told Richard.”

“She should have been the one to tell him,” Willow pointed out. “He’s her boyfriend. And she should have told us about you, way before that.”

“She never would have done that,” I explained. “She thinks you’ll all think worse of her, because of what I am. Because I’m evil.”

“You were evil,” Willow said. “I know that just as well as she does. But I can see that you’ve changed. I can see the good in you. Why can’t she?”

“Because she’s the Slayer,” I told her. “She’s supposed to think that way.” I took a deep breath. “I don’t want to talk about Buffy.”

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I thought we should take a minute because of-“

“Because it gave you an excuse to drag me into the alley,” I finished for her.

She blushed. “I wasn’t trying to-“

I cut her off with a kiss. She yielded to me, the sexual heat between us firing instantly. She slid her hands up under my shirt, caressing my chest as she kissed me passionately. I slipped my hands under her sweater and caressed the smooth flesh of her stomach.

“I want you,” I told her between kisses.

“I want you too, but we don’t have time,” she said, breaking away. “We don’t have anywhere to go.”

I pulled her down the alley and down a few steps that led to a basement. I reached my hands under her skirt and ripped off her panties. She giggled. “I could have just taken-“ I released my cock from my pants and shoved inside her. She wrapped her legs around my waist and held on tightly to my shoulders. I grabbed on tight to her ass as I thrust in and out of her.

“Tell me when,” I told her tightly. “I’m ready now. You get me so fucking hot, with your sweet smile and the way you smell and your tight little pussy, moving all around me,” I whispered in her ear. “I want to rip off your stupid little hat and sink my fangs into your neck right here, right now, while I fuck you against the wall.”

“Faster, faster, faster,” she said, as she shimmied up and down on me. I obliged, moving inside her until I just couldn’t hold on anymore. I bit down on her neck as I came, and she screamed, high and thin, as she followed along. We moved together, riding it out to the end. She turned and kissed me, enfolding my face in the brim of her hat.

We kissed for a few minutes, enjoying the feel of each other and the sweetness of the moment. “Witch,” I growled against her mouth. I wanted to grab on to the moment and make it last forever.

I pulled away and straightened my clothes while Willow did the same. I put my arm around her shoulders and held her close as we walked up the stairs and down the alley. “That was fun,” Willow said. She looked up at me and grinned. “That was the naughtiest sex thing that I’ve ever done in my entire life.”

“Really?” I laughed. “You have led a very sheltered life, my sweet.”

“Standing up, in the alley, with a vampire,” she said. She paused. “Sounds almost like something from Clue.”

“Lots more fun than Colonel Mustard with a pipe in the library,” I said with a chuckle. We rounded the corner and saw the bright lights and milling people in front of the Bronze. I took my arm back and we looked at each other.

“Showtime,” she said with a grin.

“Break a leg, pet,” I said, laughing. “Kiss for luck?” She pulled my mouth down to hers, and I sighed. She was so sweet, so damn sweet to touch. We kissed, lightly, and then she let me go. She traced her fingers along my cheekbone, and walked away without a backward glance. I watched with pleasure as she tottered along in her high-heeled boots, her long skirt swinging with the delicious sway of her hips.

Even on Sunday night, the Bronze was full of people. Not that there was much of a selection here in Sunnyhell. I followed Willow through the throng, finally spotting the table where the Scoobies lay in wait. Richard was holding a beer, telling an anecdote to Xander, Anya, and Buffy. “So I drop off Buffy and then go park the truck,” he said. “And I’m walking past the alley and I hear this woman scream. So I go to see what’s going on, and these two people are up against the wall, screwing like rabbits.”

Oh. Fuck. Willow turned to look at me, her eyes wide. I walked faster, trying to think of a way to get out of this one. Anya spied us and waved us over. “So they’re really going at it, and they’re totally lost to the world. And then they kiss, and all I can see is-“ I grab his arm and turn him around, spilling his beer. He looks at me and Willow and his eyes widen. “Her hat,” he whispers.

“All you can see is what?” Xander asks.

Richard looks in my eyes, and I can feel him thinking it through, weighing what to say. And then he looked over at Willow. She was staring at him, her brow furrowed.

“And it’s some guy that I went to high school with,” Richard says. “Can you believe that?”

“Some guy from Michigan was having sex in the alley?” Buffy asks. “That is really weird.” She paused. “It would have made more sense if it was someone you went to college with, since you went to Sunnydale.”

“Yeah, that would have made more sense,” he said lamely.

“Let me buy you another beer, Richard,” I said. “Didn’t mean to spill yours.” He followed me to the bar and we took our place in line. I turned to face him. “I know you don’t owe me any favors,” I told him. “But I would really appreciate it if you wouldn’t say anything to any of the Scoobies.”

“What the hell are you doing, man?” he asked. “Buffy told me that you went totally apeshit today and tried to kill yourself, and tonight you’re banging Willow in an alley?”

“It just happened,” I explained. “It was totally unexpected.”

“So this thing with her, it was just this one time.” He frowned.

“Well, no, actually, we were together earlier. But you know, I really shouldn’t talk about this. It makes it sound like something sordid, and it’s not.” I didn’t want him to think that I was just using Willow. “We really care about each other.”

“Were you with her when you and Tara were together?”

“No, no,” I told him. “Willow and I, we got together earlier tonight, first time.”

He seemed to believe me. “She came over after I left? Because you didn’t seem very upbeat then.”

“Yeah.” That was an understatement.

“You were pretty drunk and seemed miserable. I felt sorry for you myself.” He stopped and bit his lip.

I got his gist immediately. “You think this is all just a pity fuck?”

“I’m sure it’s not, Spike,” he reassured. “Maybe she really likes you, wants to date you.”

“She said that she didn’t,” I said out loud. She’d made it very clear, in fact, that sex was what she wanted, nothing more.

“Spike, man. I’m sorry.” He looked genuinely repentant. “I shouldn’t have said anything, it really isn’t any of my business anyway.”

“Quite alright. Truth hurts, that’s all.” We stood up in front of the bar and I bought us beers. I handed one to Richard and took a healthy swig of mine.

“Yeah, the truth does hurt.” He sipped at his beer and looked at me. “I asked Buffy about what you’d told me, and she said that it was true.”

“I’m surprised she admitted it,” I told him.

“She didn’t tell me the truth at first,” he said. “I don’t think that telling the truth is something that she’s used to any more. But she did explain it all to me, finally, and I think I understand now why she did it. And because I understand, I can forgive her and help her move on.”

“What did she say to you?” I asked curiously.

“That’s really private,” he said. “Something that the two of us are going to have to deal with together. But what she did tell me, that you should know, is that she loved you. She did.”

“Thank you,” I told him.

“If I can forgive her, maybe you can too. And maybe you can both stop hurting each other, and paying penance for things that weren’t your fault.” He patted me on the back and walked away.

Penance. I hadn’t heard the word in decades. It made me think of my mother, on her knees, praying to a God that neither knew nor cared, only stripped away everything she had ever loved. What did penance have to do with me, or Buffy?

A warm hand slid across the back of my neck. I turned my head to see Willow, smiling up at me. “Crisis averted?” she asked.

“Have no fear, sweetheart. Your little acts of kindness will never be revealed.” I turned my back on her and drank my beer.

She stepped in front of me, her brow knitted. “What are you talking about?”

“No need to play games, pet.” I smiled at her. “It was quite a sacrifice you made, being with someone like me.”

“That isn’t true,” she said, shocked. I turned and walked away, fed up with women, fed up with lies. She grabbed my wrist and turned me around. “Why are you acting like this?”

“Just leave me alone. I don’t need any more of your pity,” I spat out.

Her nails dug into the flesh of my wrist. “You think that I slept with you because I felt sorry for you?”

My anger splintered away, leaving only humiliation. “Why the hell else would you, Will?”

“Because I think you’re gorgeous,” she said. “Because you make me feel good, you make me feel whole. When I’m with you, I don’t feel so pathetic.”

“I don’t think you’re pathetic, Willow. I think you’re incredible.” I smiled at her. “In every way.” She looked up at me, clearly not believing me. I shook her hold off my wrist and closed my hand around hers. “I’m sorry for what I said. I’m feeling a bit raw at the moment.”

“You have issues,” she said, giving me a weak smile. “You have serious emotional issues.”

“So do you,” I countered. “So do all of our friends. We should all chip in for therapy, get a group rate.” She smiled and I led her out to the dance floor, finding a dark corner in the shadows. It was a slow song, and I pulled her into my arms, holding her close. We moved together for several minutes, until the tension had left. “Do you hate me now?” I asked her.

She was quiet for a long moment. “No, that would not describe the emotion that I am feeling.” She looked up, and her eyes were full of desire.

“I thought I’d pretty much stifled any thoughts you had in that direction since my little outburst,” I said.

“My brain and my sex drive are currently operating independently,” she said. “And my body is throwing a tickertape parade celebrating the end of celibacy.” She ran her hand over my stomach. “Being pressed against these abs isn’t really helping.”

“You like my body?” I asked her, as I leaned over and kissed her ear.

“I fucking love your body,” she said softly.

“I want to fuck you with this body, love.” I smiled down at her and she laughed.

“I wish you would kiss me,” she said.

“Aren’t you afraid of getting caught?” I asked, pulling her closer to me.

“I’m not ashamed of you,” she said, looking into my eyes. “I don’t care what anyone thinks. I would be proud if people thought we were together.” I bent my head down, and kissed her lips. She held tightly to the back of my neck and kissed me adamantly, holding nothing back. There was no fear, no guilt, no hesitation. Just passion.

“Willow?” said a shocked voice. We stiffened, preparing for the wrath of Scoobykind. We turned and I looked at two completely unfamiliar faces. A tall redhead stood next to a shorter man with a heavy beard and a very sour expression.

“Mom? Dad?” Willow said, her face stricken. “What are you doing here?”

“We came with the Harrises,” Mrs. Rosenberg explained. “We were going out to dinner together when they received an emergency call from the hall where the wedding was going to be. They came to give Xander and his fiancée the bad news.”

“What bad news?” I asked.

“It burned down tonight,” Mr. Rosenberg said. “It’s a real shonda.” He picked up on my expression. “A tragedy,” he translated. “Of course you don’t understand Yiddish.”

“I speak a little German,” I said helpfully.

“You’re German?” he said, obviously not pleased.

“I’m English, actually,” I corrected.

“And you’re not Jewish, I’m guessing?” he said.

“I’m an agnostic,” I supplied. He looked very unimpressed.

Willow looked at me. “Well, Mom, Dad, it’s great to see you, but we should go talk to Xander and Anya, see what we can do,” she said. She took my hand and turned away.

“Not so fast,” her father said. She winced. “Next week is Pesach,” he said. “We’ll expect you and your little Gentile boyfriend to come for the seder Wednesday night.”

“It’s not what you think, Dad,” she said lamely.

“If it’s not what I think, than it’s the other thing I could think, and then your friend here is going to get a nice fist in the face,” he said seriously.

Getting my ass kicked by Willow’s father on the dance floor didn’t sound like fun. “We’ll be there,” I said, and held out my hand. He made a noise and turned away.

“Have fun, kids,” Mrs. Rosenberg said brightly, and she followed her husband out.

“Well, they seem nice,” I said.

"You didn't have to do that," Willow said. "You didn't have to pretend for them. I know you want no strings or commitments."

"I don't mind, really," I told her. "It was kind of fun to play the bad boyfriend. Never had a chance to do it before." She smiled wanly. I lifted her chin and kissed her. She relaxed under my hands, until she was happy again. I hugged her tightly. “Let’s go deal with the latest drama." I gave her a peck on the forehead and we walked back to join the Scoobies.

Anya was crying hysterically, while Buffy was trying to comfort her. Xander argued angrily with his father while Richard hovered behind him. “I told you the Moose Lodge was falling apart,” Xander yelled. “I told you the place was a firetrap.”

“It was the cheapest thing I could find,” yelled his father. “You and your little orphan are bleeding me dry.”

Willow ran over. “Hi, Mr. Harris,” she said brightly. “I just saw Mom and Dad and they’re waiting for you outside.”

He turned to look at her. “Hey there, Carrots.” He pinched her cheek, hard, and she winced. “Still as freckled as ever, I see.”

She smiled painfully. “Yeah, same old freckly Carrots.”

Mr. Harris turned back to his son. “So you can just take it like a man and figure something out. We’ve done our part. You just need to get off your ass and be resourceful for once.” He turned around and left, pulling his wife behind him.

Xander turned and punched the wall. “It’ll be all right,” Willow said. “We’ll figure something else out.”

Xander looked like he was about to cry. “The wedding is in less than a week. We can’t find anything on such short notice and we don’t have any money to pay for it.”

“Don’t worry, Xan,” Buffy said reassuringly. “We’ll take care of it.”

“We could pitch a tent in a park, I know the permit guy. Or I could ask about the parish hall at my church,” Richard suggested.

“I’m on Spring Break for the next two weeks, “ said Willow. “I can call all the guests. I can help coordinate with the caterer and everything. I’ll help do whatever you need.”

“And I have money,” I offered. “I’ll fill in the gaps, cover whatever you need. It’ll be my wedding gift.”

Anya looked up, her face red and puffy. “You’d do that for us?”

“Of course we would,” Buffy said. “We all want you to have a nice wedding.” She looked over at me.

“We did deal with the Apocalypse, we can handle a wedding,” I said.

“More than one Apocalypse, even,” Willow pointed out.

Xander kissed his fiancée and wiped away her tears. “They’re right, An. There’s nothing we can’t do, if we stick together.”

She nodded. “You’re right, I know you’re right.“ She blew her nose. “Let’s just have a good time tonight, and we’ll deal with all of this in the morning,” she said.

“That’s the spirit,” said Buffy.

“Well, I’m up for a round of drinks,” said Xander. He asked what we wanted and then went off to the bar.

“Would you do me the honor?” Richard asked Anya. He held out his hand to her. She smiled and followed him to the dance floor.

Willow and I sat down at the table across from Buffy. “He is a real sweetie,” Buffy said with a smile.

“You’re lucky he didn’t dump you on your ass,” said Willow. Buffy turned to her, surprised. “I know about Spike,” she said. “The whole thing.”

Buffy whipped around to face me. “You told her?”

“Guilty.” I gave her a wolfish grin.

She narrowed her eyes. “You’re sure having a banner day of running your mouth.”

“Doesn’t it feel good to be telling the truth, instead of lying?” I asked her.

She closed her mouth. “It felt good to get everything out in the open with Richard,” she said. “He really cares about me and now I know just how much.”

“It hurts to lie,” said Willow softly. “Hiding things from the people that you love.” I looked at her, and saw a shadow in her eyes. I slid my hand under the table and held her hand. She looked into my eyes. I’d done to her what Buffy had done to me, I realized. Taken the power out of her hands. Told her not to tell anyone, that it was just a one night stand. Made her think that what we had didn’t mean anything. She deserved better than that. She was my friend.

“Truth hurts, Slayer,” I told her. “Some truths sting a bit more than others.”

“What are you talking about, Spike?”

“I’m dating Willow,” I told her. “I’m over you, and I wish you and Richard the best of luck. It would be a lot easier for all of us if you could say the same.” Willow turned to me, her face lighting up with a smile.

“I thought you wanted to be with Tara,” she said.

“Tara left me,” I pointed out. “She didn’t seem to be that concerned with what I wanted.”

She turned to Willow. “Why would you want to date Spike?”

Willow looked her straight in the eyes. “I think you know why,” she said. “You’ve known him as long as I have.”

“But the two of you together,” said Buffy, horrified. “That’s just wrong.”

“Two wrongs make a right, this time,” said Willow. She leaned over and kissed Buffy. “I hope you can wish us well. I know, deep down inside, you want what’s best for us.” She stood up from the table. “And now, I want to dance with Spike.” She took my hands and we went out to the dance floor, close to the stage. We held each other, and swayed to the music. She smiled up at me, and kissed me under the bright lights, surrounded by the crowd, where anyone could see.



PAIRING: Spike/Willow. Spike/Buffy, Spike/Tara implied
RATING: NC-17 overall
SPOILERS: Season 6 through “As You Were”.
DISCLAIMER: All hail Joss Whedon, UPN, the WB, FOX, Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox Film Corporation. GO team! Theirs, not mine.
DISTRIBUTION: Please ask my permission first, just so I know where it’s headed.
FEEDBACK: Sure, fire away to jodyorjen@yahoo.com



Chapter 10

The flames from the fire crackled and sparked as we sank down in front of the hearth. I’d lain down my duster on the stone floor. “This isn’t very comfortable, kitten,” I said as I licked her collarbone. “We could put the coat on the bed, get the same effect without the bruising.”

“We have to be in front of the fire,” Willow said. “That’s the fantasy. On the coat, in front of a nice big fire.” She scratched her nails down my spine, and I bit down on her shoulder, making her moan.

“What’s the point of the fire, really?” I asked as I gently kissed her jaw. “If I’m not up to snuff, you throw me in the fire, and burn me to cinders?” She put her lips to mine, shutting me up. I slid inside her, and she closed her eyes and lay back against the duster. She was glorious in the firelight, all shadow and flame. She grabbed my hips in her hands and guided me faster, forcing me to thrust her into the floor with each stroke. I stopped. “We can’t do this here, Red. You’re going to look like I beat you with a stick if keep fucking you into the stones.”

“If I feel like I’m getting banged up too much, I’ll roll over and you can be on the bottom, “ she said, laughing.

“Very considerate to your lover,” I teased. “Doesn’t matter if I batter myself black and blue, as long as I bring you off, is that it?”

“You’re resilient. You can take a little damage,” she said, as she sank her teeth into my nipple. I wrapped my arms around her and held her close, cradling her to my chest as I moved within her. I took all the stress of the movement on my elbows, keeping the brunt off of her. She was starting to come already, I could feel her muscles tightening, see it in her face. She was the most orgasmic partner I’d ever had, popping off nearly as soon as I touched her. It was gratifying, to be wanted so badly.

I licked her neck, running my tongue over the holes that I’d left when I’d bitten her. “Bite,” she cried, and I bit her carefully, barely nipping her. She turned her head towards me as she came, and I gently kissed her, as she held me tightly. She pulled away, gasping, and I kissed her eyelids, her forehead, and her lips. I kept moving inside her, keeping a slow pace, waiting for her to wind down from her orgasm. “So good,” she said, and tears rolled out of the corners of her eyes. I licked one into my mouth, savoring the salty taste.

“I’m going to roll you on top now,” I told her, “but I don’t want you to move. Just let me.” I carefully spun us around, so that she was on top of me, my cock still firmly within her. I held her hips in my hands and lifted her up, moving her up and down my shaft. Her head was thrown back, her eyes still shut, and her breasts thrust forward as she rose and fell. I increased the pace steadily, and soon we were rocking together wildly as she stared down at me, her eyes blazing green as she came again, crying out my name. I broke my control and let loose my orgasm, coming in a series of sharp crests before crashing down, breathless.

Willow had collapsed on my chest, her red hair spilling over my skin. I ran my hands through it, and she looked up and smiled. “You going to tell me that I was okay again? Or do I rate adequate, or satisfactory this time?” I asked.

“Spine tingling,” she said. “Smashing.” She put on a horrible Giles-y accent. “A jolly good time.”

“One day I’m hoping for excellent, or amazing,” I told her.

“Practice makes perfect,” she said with a grin. I leaned down and kissed her, savoring the taste of her mouth, and the feel of her hair in my hands.

“Come to bed with me,” I told her huskily. “We can practice some more.” I kissed down her neck. “You can be my tutor, and help me bone up on my education.” I thrust my pelvis at her and we both laughed.

“I have to go home,” she said as she pulled away. She stood up and pulled on her skirt.

“You can stay with me,” I said. “I don’t snore. I’ll make you breakfast in the morning.”

She fastened her bra and pulled her sweater over her head. “I don’t have pajamas here, or a robe, or a toothbrush,” she said. “I need to go home.”

“You can sleep naked,” I suggested. “More fun anyway.”

She sat down on the ottoman and pulled a sock on. It was rainbow striped and had toes. I sat up and took the other one away from her. “Your socks have toes,” I said in wonderment. “What’s the point?”

“They’re fun,” she said, wriggling her multicolored toes at me.

I slipped the other sock on my hand and wiggled it at her. “Stay the night,” I said in a silly voice.

“I can’t, Mr. Sock,” she said solemnly. “I have to go home.”

“There are evil beasties outside,” said the sock puppet. “You should stay inside where it’s safe and warm.”

“Good thinking, sock. Stay inside with the nice, cuddly vampire.” She took the sock off my hand and put it on her foot.

“I can be cuddly,” I told her. “I may be evil, but I can still fancy a snuggle after a shag, you know?”

“Not tonight,” she said firmly.

“Is this some modern girl rule that I’m not clued in on?” I asked. “I slept in your bed last night, all platonic and friendly and now we’ve had sex, I’m not good enough to sleep with?”

“Maybe another time,” she said. She put on her boots and crossed her legs.

“Is there going to be another time?” I asked her. “Because you seem to be pretty fixated on getting the hell away from me about now.”

She knelt down on the floor and grazed my lips with hers. “Spike, we’ve had sex four times tonight.” She kissed me gently. “You bit me twice.” She kissed me more firmly, her tongue licking inside my mouth. “You outed us to my best friend after my parents caught us sucking face.” She kissed me yet again, thrusting with her tongue. “I think you’re sweet, and wonderful, and you’re absolutely amazing in bed.” We kissed ardently, with her gripping my shoulders and my holding her just as tightly. “But right now I want to relax, and think things through, and sleep. If I stay the night with you, I won’t be able to do that.” She kissed me once more on the lips and stood up.

I gave in to the inevitable and pulled on my clothes and boots. I lifted my duster from the floor and pulled it on. I took her hand and we walked out to the garage. I let her in the car and slid behind the wheel. By the time we reached Buffy’s house, she was asleep. She was totally crashed out, her mouth slightly open, sleeping with the depth of true exhaustion.

I walked around the car and pulled her out, carrying her in my arms up to the house. The door was unlocked so I went on inside. There was a light on in the kitchen but the rest of the house was dark. I made my way up the stairs to Willow’s room. I took off her boots and hat and tucked her into bed, leaning over to kiss her on the forehead.

I closed the door gently behind me and turned around to find Buffy standing behind me. “You’re not staying the night?” she whispered. I shook my head no. “Do you want to have a cup of tea?” I nodded and followed her down the stairs.

We went into the kitchen and she put on a kettle of water and pulled two mugs out of the cabinet. “Do you want Earl Grey, Sleepytime or Lemon Zinger?” she asked.

“Sleepytime,” I told her. She was wearing a long white nightgown, her hair back in a ponytail. She looked very fragile, and innocent, stripped of her usual attitude and armor.

She sat down at the counter and looked at me thoughtfully. “I want to talk to you about Willow.”

“What a surprise. I should have known you couldn’t be around me for more than a minute without busting my balls.” It came out more sharply than I intended, and she looked taken aback. “I’m sorry. That was rude.” I took a deep breath. “I’m trying to remember how to have a civil conversation with you. We were able to do it, once upon a time.”

“It would be nice, if we could get back to that point,” she said. “I used to really enjoy our talks.”

“Let’s try this again, shall we?” She smiled at me, and I smiled back. “Thanks for asking me to tea, Buffy. What did you want to talk about? Can I hazard a guess and say Willow?”

She laughed quietly. “I’m trying very hard to be rational about this,” she said. “And I can understand why she’d want to date you. Willow is a lover. She has a heart as big as the world, and no one to share it with. I think for her it’s like finding a stray dog in the street and loving it because no one else will.”

“That’s a very flattering analogy, Buffy,” I said wryly. “But what we have, it’s not love. It’s barely anything yet. It’s just-“ I waved my hands in the air, searching for the right words.

“Sex?” said Buffy. I looked at her oddly. “We’re adults. We can use the word sex.”

I shook my head. “That’s just a part of it,” I told her. “I was with you, and we had lots of sex, but we didn’t do anything else. No dinner and a movie, no holding hands walking in the park, you know? And Tara and I, we set up house together. That was like getting married, without the sex or arguments. And Willow and I-“ I stopped.

“And you and Willow?” she asked.

“We’re friends, first of all. We can talk to each other, and tell the truth about everything. We had sex and it didn’t change that. We can still talk to each other, still be honest. It didn’t kill the friendship. She wants to spend time with me, and is willing to be seen with me. I can take her out in public, and kiss her, and hold her hand. And I can take her home, and we can sleep together, and it’s not about fear or guilt or pain. It’s about sex and pleasure. That’s dating. The liking and the shagging and the doing things, all together.”

“But why Willow, Spike? Couldn’t you date someone else?”

“I like her, and she likes me. I don’t see what’s so wrong about it.”

“Well, for starters, you’re both still in love with another woman,” Buffy pointed out. “The same woman.”

“So we should both just pine alone, miserable and suffering, instead of being with the one other person in the world that understands?”

“Sex should mean something,” she said. “It’s not a recreational activity, like playing bingo or shuffleboard. It’s about feelings, about being with someone on a deeper level.”

“That’s pretty hypocritical, coming from you.” I was suddenly furious. “I know first hand that you have no problem operating sexually on a very shallow level.”

“That’s just not true,” she said angrily. “What we had meant something to me.”

“That’s the first I’ve heard of it, Buffy, “ I yelled. “That’s the merest glimmer you’ve ever given me that I was more to you than a good fuck.”

She cupped her hand over her face. I went to her, patting her shoulders. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m so sorry.” She started to cry, and I picked her up and sat down on the floor, cradling her. She cried for a long time, and I just held her tightly and hoped she would tell me why.

“I loved you,” she said finally.

“You don’t have to say it, love,” I said, stroking her hair. “I don’t need to hear it if it hurts you so.”

“You remember when you told me that every Slayer has a death wish?” she whispered.

“Of course I do, sweetheart,” I answered.

“It was true,” she said. “After my mom died, all I wanted to do was let go. I didn’t want to deal with my life, with any of it. Being a Slayer, caring for Dawn, being strong for all the Scoobies. I just wanted some peace. I just wanted to sleep, sleep forever.” I felt sick, just hearing her say it. “When I jumped off the tower, I didn’t want to save the world. I was thinking of Dawn, of saving her. But mainly, I just wanted to stop the pain.”

“I didn’t know,” I told her, stunned. “None of us knew.”

“I didn’t want you to know,” she said. “I was supposed to be the hero. I’m supposed to be the one everyone else can count on.”

“Buffy, no one expects you to be perfect,” I said firmly.

“I have to be perfect,” she said. “If I’m not, then people die.” She paused. “I hated everyone so much, when they brought me back. I wanted to kill them all. I thought about it, about snapping Willow’s neck, smothering Xander,” she said flatly.

“Stop it, Buffy,” I said to her. “Don’t dwell on this. This will only hurt you.”

She ignored me and continued, ”You, and Giles, and Dawn. You were the only innocents.”

“They brought you back because they love you,” I told her. “None of us would ever have imagined that you wouldn’t want to come back.”

“I loved death,” she said. “It was the happiest I’ve ever been.” She looked into my face. “And when I looked at you, when I made love with you, it was close. I could feel it in you. It was as close as I could get to dying, and the only time I felt happy.” She pressed her hand over my heart. “I don’t have to deal with life when I’m with you. You’re not part of life, you’re something apart from it.”

I shuddered. “You meant it literally,” I said. “When you said I was killing you. I made you turn your back on life.”

“You said I’d crave you, like you craved blood,” she said. “You were right.”

“I didn’t mean it that way,” I told her. “I wanted you in the shadows with me, embracing your own power as a Slayer, acknowledging that there is something primal within you. I never wanted you to hope for death, or to see it in me.”

“I used to love it when you bit me,” she said. “I used to imagine that you’d change, and sink your teeth into my neck, and I would die.”

“I would never kill you, Slayer,” I told her. “I’d sooner stake myself.”

“I know that now,” she said. “I know you’d never hurt me. And I need to stop craving death, if I’m going to live. It’s hurting all of you,” she said. “Especially Dawn. And I really want to feel good again, to be myself again.”

“We all want that for you,” I told her. “We all love you so much.”

She rested her head on my shoulder, and lay there for a minute, letting me pat her back. “After I spoke to Richard yesterday, I called Giles.” She paused. “He gave me the name of a psychiatrist here in Sunnydale who wouldn’t lock me up if I told the truth. Richard waited for me in the waiting room for three hours, while I spoke to Dr. Locklet.”

“Richard’s a very good guy, Buffy,” I told her. “He really cares for you.”

“I’m going to go see Dr. Locklet twice a week, and I’m taking medication now,” she said. “She said that I’m not insane. I’m suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, and I’m going to be alright.”

Thank God. Thank God she’d figured it out, and finally wanted to be herself again. “If there is anything that I can for you,” I told her, “I want to know. I want to help you.”

“I’ll let you know,” she said. “I can’t be the hero anymore, not by myself. I need some help.”

“I’ve got your back, Slayer,” I told her. “Always.” She put her arms around me, and hugged me tightly, for the first time.

****

I woke before dawn, alone in my bed. I felt tired and restless, like I hadn’t slept at all. Since the night that I’d found Tara at the diner, this was the first night that I’d spent alone. I wished I’d been able to convince Willow to stay the night. I thought about Red and smiled. I loved being with her, the way that she made me laugh, her sense of fun. It was good to see her out of her doldrums. And her being with me, wanting me, was something I hadn’t seen coming.

I got out of bed and turned the water on in the bathroom. I went to the linen closet and pulled it open. It was filled with things that reminded me of Tara. I ran my hands along the bottles and towels, imagining I could feel her touch on them. I pulled down a bottle of shampoo and a towel.

I leaned over the tub and wet my hair. I filled my hands with shampoo and rubbed it into my scalp. It smelled like Tara, the chamomile scent of her hair. I rubbed my hair vigorously, feeling it foam up under my hands. I rinsed out my hair, watching the brown dye run down the drain. Posing as a real boy, with a nice blue suit and a corsage in a box. I’d made a mockery of myself. No wonder Tara had left.

I washed my hair over and over until the water ran clear. I put the stopper in the tub and filled it, the tap twisted all the way to hot. I went to the kitchen and got a plastic bag and the dishwashing soap. I went to the linen closet and threw out everything that reminded me of her. In the bathroom, I tossed out the soap in the dish, the soap that had slid over her body. I threw the bag in the hallway, so that I wouldn’t have to smell the scent of Tara.

I got in the tub with the dishwashing soap. I rinsed my hair with it, dunking my head under the water until all I could smell was lemons. I washed my body and slid under the water. Soothing, peaceful, tranquil. Like Tara. Why had she done this to me? Four days with her, and she’d given me a life that had some meaning, and then taken it away. I understood that she was afraid to let out her demon. But we would have been together, and happy. Why would she rather be alone and miserable?

I’d liked having someone to take care of, someone who needed me. I’d taken care of Dawn when Buffy was gone, and then I hadn’t been needed by anyone, unless you counted my stint as Buffy’s personal sexbot. I wanted someone of my own to love. I’d taken care of Drusilla for all those years, and it had been good. Better than anything. If I hadn’t chosen Buffy over her, I could be with her now. I never would have gone through any of this. But then I thought of Angel. I’d always been the runner up there, always known that Dru’s heart really belonged to Daddy, as much as she seemed to love me.

Was it so much to ask for love? Was there something wrong with me, which all these women could sense, that I didn’t know about? Something inside me that made me unworthy, made me undeserving of love? It wasn’t just my demon. My whole human life, the only one who had ever loved me was my mother.

I’d never been enough to make her happy, either. I could never make her happy, no matter what I tried. I understood that she was afraid, lived cowering in fear that I’d die, too, like my father and my brothers had. All her hours of prayer, her devotion to God, and all she had to show for it was one weak, sickly boy. The only time she ever smiled was when she was remembering the good days, before I was born, or when I read her my poetry.

“You’re a good boy, William,” she’d say with a smile. “Someday you’ll be a great poet, like your father.”

She was wrong. I wasn’t a good boy and I’d never become a great poet. And given a century more to exist on this earth, I had done nothing with my life, left no legacy. Save that of William the Bloody, and that name had been made before I’d been dead a year. Lapdog. That’s all I’d been. Willing slave to women, always begging for a crumb, always left starving in the end.

I wanted to be in love, and be loved. Just like any other man. Buffy had only loved the silence she found in me. Dru had loved the hardness in me, and Tara had loved the gentleness. But none of them had stayed. I didn’t know what I could be, how I could change, to be the kind of man that made a woman stay.

****

The Scoobie invasion began just after nine. Anya and Xander were the first to arrive. Anya carried a large binder covered in white fabric and ribbons and Xander held a large umbrella over their heads. “Good morning,” I said. “I’m making omelets.”

Xander looked at me angrily. “I don’t want an omelet, buddy. I want to talk to you.” He shook out the umbrella, scattering water everywhere.

“I’d like one,” Anya said, as she put down her binder on the ottoman and took off her raincoat.

“Ham and cheese alright, or peppers and onions?” I asked, as I hung up her coat.

“Ham and cheese would be nice,” she said. “And don’t even go there, Xander. Just let it lie.”

“This thing with Willow,” he said, ignoring her. “What the hell are you thinking?”

“If you want to bitch me out, you can do it while I’m cooking.” I walked into the kitchen and he followed behind me. I opened the refrigerator and set the eggs on the counter, adding a stick of butter and the ham and cheese. I turned the stove on low flame and put the skillet on the burner. I cracked open the eggs in a bowl and whipped them with a whisk.

“I didn’t know you knew how to cook,” he commented.

“Tara bought me a cookbook,” I explained. “With pictures and everything.”

“That’s a good lead in for what I wanted to talk about,” he said. “Tara left you yesterday morning and last night you’re with Willow? What the hell are you thinking?”

“I already had the Grand Inquisition about this from Buffy,” I told him. “And I’m really tired of discussing my personal life.”

“Well, I’m sorry if you’re all talked out,” he said sarcastically, “but we are going to have a conversation about this because there are some things that are very important that you understand, okay?” I turned and looked at him. He was really trying to keep his temper. “I have loved Willow since she was three years old. I have the right to be worried about this.”

“Fair enough,” I said. “Say what you have to say.”

“First of all, she told me that what you have is nothing serious, that you’re just dating. But I’m not buying that.” He looked at me. “I saw her neck, Spike. She let you bite her. That indicates to me a level of trust that is way more than casual. Secondly, she slept with you. Willow doesn’t just have sex. It’s not something that she would ever do lightly. Whatever she told you about it being a fling or just for fun, I’m betting that’s bullshit. And thirdly, she’s battling an addiction.”

“I don’t buy that,” I said. “What she has is a problem discerning black, white and gray magic. Magic isn’t bad, her judgment is bad.”

“Precisely,” he said. “Her judgments right now totally suck. Her being with you, is just another example of that. She’s starting to get better, get back to her old self again, and you’re not going to screw that up for her, Spike. You can’t do that to her.”

“I don’t think you understand what she’s going through,” I said, as I took out a knife and cutting board and chopped the ham and cheese into small cubes. “She is sad and lonely and the only things she really cares about have been taken from her. She can’t have magic and she can’t have Tara.”

“And you’re going to make up for that?” he said. “You’re going to fill the void?”

“I’m going to help her get back into Wicca and I’m going to be there for her any way she needs,” I said. “That’s something no one else can do.” I put a pat of butter in the pan and moved it around in the skillet, waiting for it to turn golden and bubble, like the picture in the book.

“You need to stop trying to save everyone else and just worry about yourself,” he said. “You tried to fix Tara’s life and now you’re trying to fix Willow’s. You need to get a life of your own.”

“That’s what Tara said to me,” I told him. “Right before I felt her demon for the first time, before things began to change between us.” I poured the eggs in the skillet, tossing in the ham and cheese.

“You’re on the rebound,” he said distinctly. “Twice over. Willow told me about Buffy. That puts an even worse slant on things. You used Tara to get past Buffy and now you’re using Willow to get past Tara. It’s just layer upon layer of distraction so that you’re not feeling what’s really going on.”

“I’m making my peace with Buffy,” I said. “And Willow knows the score. She knows that Tara leaving scraped away whatever finer feelings I might have had to give. I haven’t promised her anything, haven’t given her any reason to think that what we have will become something more than it is.”

“Then stop sleeping with her,” he said vehemently. “Because I know Willow, and I guarantee you that when you tell her that you want her, or you need her, she’s hoping that’s just the start of something more. You’re getting laid. She’s making love.”

Anya walked into the kitchen, followed by Richard and Willow. “I hear you’re making omelets,” Richard said with a smile.

“I have a ham and cheese one ready,” I told him. “I have peppers and onions too if you’d rather have that.”

“Ham and cheese is good,” he said.

I flipped the omelet onto a platter and handed it to him. “You and Anya share that, and if you want more there’s plenty of eggs,” I told him. “There’s clean plates and silverware in the dishwasher.” Anya took Xander’s hand and led him to the table. I grabbed glasses from the cabinet and brought them over to the table with a pitcher of orange juice.

“Do you want an omelet?” I asked Willow.

She shook her head. “I’m not in an eggy mood this morning.”

I walked over to the pantry and poked around inside. “I have Weetabix, and Trix, and Captain Crunch.”

“But Trix are for kids, Spike,” she said with a grin, slipping her hand around my waist.

“They were fresh out of Count Chocula,” I told her seriously. “I had to settle.” She giggled and I leaned over to kiss her. She smelled fresh and clean and tasted strongly of mint.

“People are eating here,” Xander pointed out. We broke off the kiss and Willow took the box of Captain Crunch.

“You’re not eating,” she said. “Do you want some cereal?”

“Yeah, alright,” he said. She got a bowl and a spoon for each of them and the gallon of milk, and sat down at the table.

I pulled out a container of fruit salad from the refrigerator and fixed myself a bowl. I leaned against the counter as I ate sections of grapefruit and orange. “I brought the desk back over for you today,” said Richard. “I don’t need it and it’s no use having that computer sitting on the floor. And I brought a chair for it too.”

“I’m going to return the computer,” I told him. “There’s no point in keeping it now.”

“I can think of a whole lot of things you could do with it,” said Willow. “For starters, there are thousands of web sites about Wicca and Paganism. There’s tons of stuff you could read, so you don’t have to spend lots of money on basic books. And if you really get into it, you could meet pagans all over the world online and chat with them.” She bounced in her seat, obviously keyed up at the prospect.

“You’re still interested in Wicca?” asked Anya. “I thought that was mainly a Tara thing.”

“She sparked my interest in it,” I told her. “But it’s more than that now. I’m going to a Wicca class tomorrow night, and so is Willow.”

Xander looked up sharply. “You’re taking Will to a group with a bunch of witches?”

“It’s really sweet,” Willow said. “He’s helping me get back to Wicca. Not magick and spells, just back to basics.”

“I told her that we could invite you all to come,” I said, looking at Xander. “Make sure she stays on the straight and narrow, so no one would have to worry.” He made eye contact with me and nodded.

“Anya and I will come,” he said decisively. “We’ll be there.”

Richard looked thoughtful. “I don’t know anything about Wicca,” he said. “I’m Catholic. But I’d like to go, learn more about what you believe in. And I bet Dawn would like to, from some of the things she’s said.”

Willow looked delighted. “That would be really great if we could all go together. We don’t do enough stuff together anymore.”

Anya finished off her juice and pushed away her plate. “Okay, we’ve wasted enough time on the chit chat and the eating. We need to fix my wedding, now.”

“It’s just past nine,” Willow said. “We have the whole day to come up with something. You have Spike, Richard and I at your disposal.”

“And Buffy and Dawn will be here after school is out,” Richard pointed out.

Anya left the room and came back with her binder. “These are all the hotels and banquet halls in Sunnydale,” she said, handing me a list.

I grabbed a pen from a drawer and flipped over the paper, taking notes. “How many people are coming to the wedding?”

“People people or demon people?” Anya asked.

“All together,” I said patiently.

“One hundred and twenty five,” she said.

“What time is the minister supposed to come?” I asked.

“Two o’clock, Saturday,” she said.

Next question. “And you have a caterer arranged?”

“I’ve ordered a few platters from the caterer,” she said. “We’re only serving high tea, to save money.”

“And the cake?” I hoped she had ordered it in advance.

“I’m going to make it this week,” she said. “I bought a book.” Scary thought. Order cake, I wrote on the sheet.

“Just out of curiosity, Anya, what place did you really have you heart set on for the wedding?”

“The Pierre,” she said. “But I had to get over it pretty quickly once we got the quote. Way out of our price range.”

“I have a few ideas,” I told her. “I’m going to get going, see what I can drum up.”

“Won’t you go poof, running around outside?” Willow said worriedly.

“Not in the rain,” I said with a smile. I took her hand and pulled her out of her chair. “Walk me out?” She nodded and we went through the house to the garage. I shut the door behind us, and we moved to each other at the same time. I leaned down and kissed her, and she wrapped her arms around my waist, holding me close. She tasted like milk, her mouth sweet and cold. “I missed you,” I said, as I kissed her on the neck.

She smiled. “I had a really fun time last night.”

“I did too,” I said to her. “If you don’t have any plans tonight, would you like to go to dinner with me?” She looked up at me. “I was thinking Indian food,” I told her. “There’s a really good place downtown. We could go there, maybe catch a movie after?”

“I’d like that,” she said.

There was an awkward pause. “I’d like you to come home with me tonight,” I said. “I want to take you to bed. Maybe this time you’ll stay the night?” I said hopefully.

She laughed. “You’re a little rusty, Spike. You don’t usually tell your date up front that you expect to get lucky.”

“Well, I want to have sex with you now, but I’m willing to wait until later,” I told her.

“That’s big of you,” she said with a grin. “You’re a model of restraint.”

“Not really,” I said. “If there wasn’t a house full of people in there, I’d be in you already.”

“You’re pretty confident that I’d be up for it,” she said with a smile.

“Playing it cool would be a little more convincing if you weren’t standing there with nipples hard as gumdrops,” I told her.

“It’s just cold out here,” she parried. “It’s too early in the morning for me to be interested in sex.” I edged in closer to her.

“I could change your mind,” I told her, cupping her breast. I ran my fingers over her nipple.

“I don’t think it’s possible. I’m barely conscious,” she said, not giving an inch. “I haven’t even had my coffee yet.”

“I’m more stimulating than coffee,” I said, running my hands along the waistband of her pants. She shut her eyes and bit her lip. “I’m pretty sure that you’d choose me over a hot cup of java any day.” I had her pants unzipped and two fingers inside her before she could blink her eyes.

“I’d choose you over any beverage,” she said faintly. “Even a Frappucino, and I really like those.” I covered her mouth with mine, and she was frantic, kissing me fervently. I pumped my fingers in and out of her, skimming her clit with my thumb. She came, surging around my fingers as I held her up so she wouldn’t fall. She went limp, resting against me as she panted. I pulled my fingers out of her and zipped up her pants. She looked up at me, her face flooded with color. “Gee whiz,” she said softly.

I sucked on my fingers, savoring the taste of her on my hand. “Gee whiz? Is that higher on the scale than okay? Am I moving up beyond average now?”

“You really, really need to learn when to shut up,” she said. She shoved me, and sprawled me backwards on the hood of my car.

“Hey!” I said. “What are you doing that for?” She pulled open my belt and pulled down my zipper, encasing her mouth around my cock. I moaned and she slapped her hand over my mouth. She sucked hard, and swirled her tongue around the head, just the right pressure, just the right timing. I closed my eyes and saw stars as I came, thrusting forcefully into her mouth.

I lay on the car, totally stunned, as she zipped up my pants and fastened my belt. She bent over my face and kissed me lightly on the lips. “More stimulating than coffee,” she said with a grin, as she turned and walked back into the house.

****

I walked into the lobby of the Pierre Hotel. It must have been really opulent once, but the furnishings were outdated, the carpets and wallpaper beginning to lose their luster. I walked to the front desk, where a thin elderly man waited, dressed in a flawless suit and tie. “Where could I find someone to assist me with planning a wedding?”

“That would be Laura in Special Events,” he said with a smile. “Shall I call her down for you?”

“That would be very kind of you,” I told him.

A few minutes later a young woman wearing a black jacket and pants with a brass nameplate came around the corner, plastic smile on her face. “I’m Laura,” she said chirpily. “How may I help you?” I gave her a smile and she smiled back, genuinely this time.

“I need to plan a wedding,” I told her.

Her face fell. “Oh, a wedding.” She put her plastic smile back on. “Come to my office and I’ll show you what the Pierre can offer you on your special day.” I followed her down the hallway through a set of doors, passing by small windowless offices. “And when were you and your bride thinking of having the wedding?” she asked as she led me into an office and sat behind her desk, a computer to one side.

“I’m not the groom,” I told her, “and they want the wedding to be Saturday.”

“So, you’re single?” she said brightly, and then blushed. “I mean..” She shook her head slightly. “Saturday? This Saturday? That’s not possible.” She crossed her hands and looked straight at me.

“They want the wedding to begin at two,” I said patiently. I pulled my paper out of my pocket. “And they’re having a hundred and twenty five guests.”

“I’m sorry, Mr-” She waited for me to tell her.

“Spike,” I answered.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Spike, but we are holding a luncheon for the Order of the Beloved Bison on Saturday at two. We aren’t available.”

“How many Bisons are you expecting?” I asked.

“One hundred and fifty,” she said. “But-“

“And what will they be eating?” I asked patiently.

“Chicken Diane or Salmon Florentine,” she said. “But-“

“Well, that sounds quite nice. Just tell the Bisons that you’ve double booked them, and book the Emerson/Harris wedding instead.” She looked at me blankly. “Do you want me to spell it for you? The bride’s name is A-N-Y-“

“Sir,” she said, flustered. “I am sorry, but there is no way that I can do that. It wouldn’t be ethical. It would be wrong.”

I leaned forward and looked deeply into her eyes. “You know what I think is wrong, pet?”

She swallowed. “No,” she said, her eyes locked on mine.

“A beautiful woman like you, stuffed away in an airless room, hiding her charms in a fussy little uniform.”

She blinked. “Ah-“ She said, and opened her mouth.

I reached out a fingertip and brushed over her lower lip. “I think,” I said to her. “That you deserve something better than this, something nicer. I think a lovely girl like you should be off lying out on a beach, or walking through Paris, or-“

“Sitting on a terrace in Tuscany, painting a vista,” she said, her eyes far away.

“Exactly,” I said. I reached into my pocket and counted out a stack of bills. “So why don’t you go live your dream, instead of being stuck here?”

She looked down at the money. “I couldn’t possibly,” she said, her hand trembling as she reached out towards the cash.

“What’s more important, love?” I asked her. “Following your heart and giving a pair of sweethearts a wedding they’ll always remember, or making sure some silly old men have a boring lunch?” She held my eyes for a moment, thinking, and then closed her hand around the money.

****

I stood in a phone booth, trying to keep my body out of the rain. The door wouldn’t close all the way and water kept sloshing inside the booth. I dialed the phone. “Hello?” said Anya.

“Hello, sweets,” I said. “I’ve booked your wedding and you can now return to your normal state of hyperactivity.”

“Where did you book us? I’ve called all over and they told me they couldn’t help me,” she said.

“Hotel Pierre had an opening,” I told her. “They had a cancellation and they’re thrilled to have you. I cut them down to the bone on the price, and drove a hard bargain. They’re even throwing in luncheon and a lovely wedding cake.”

“That’s the most amazing thing I ever heard of,” she said, crying now. “I’m so happy. You’ve made me so happy.”

“Glad to hear it, love,” I told her. Glad I could make someone feel that way.



PAIRING: Spike/Willow. Spike/Buffy, Spike/Tara implied
RATING: NC-17 overall
SPOILERS: Season 6 through “As You Were”.
DISCLAIMER: All hail Joss Whedon, UPN, the WB, FOX, Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox Film Corporation. GO team! Theirs, not mine.
AUTHOR”S NOTE: Quotes are used from the script to “Intervention” by Jane Espenson.
DISTRIBUTION: Please ask my permission first, just so I know where it’s headed.
FEEDBACK: Sure, fire away to jodyorjen@yahoo.com



Chapter 11

I walked into the house, carrying a bag and a box. Richard and Willow were sitting at the computer, printing out something. Willow pulled off a flyer and showed it to Xander. “How does that look?” she asked. It was a large graphic of wedding bells, with the new hotel information printed underneath.

“That’s perfect, Will,” he said. “Now we just need to get these in the mail as soon as we can.”

“We’ll print out the mailing labels next,” she said. “We should definitely be able to get these to the post office before noon.” She turned and saw me standing there, and her whole face lit up. “Hey,” she said, happily. “You’re back.” She ran over and hugged me tightly. “What do you have?” she asked, looking at my packages.

“Presents for you,” I said in a low voice, as I grabbed her hand and walked her to the kitchen. I put the box on the counter and put the bag behind me.

“I want to see the presents,” she said, trying to peek around me.

“After we have dinner, and you come back here with me, then you can have them,” I said. I leaned down and kissed her, running my hands over the curves of her body. She looked really amazing today, her skin glowing, her eyes bright. She wore a black scarf around her neck. I thought of the reason why, of the bite marks that she was covering, and was filled with a wave of longing. I wanted to be alone with her.

“After you tell me that you’ll spend the night with me.”

“You brought me bribes to get me to sleep over?” she said incredulously.

“Yep.” I raised my eyebrows. “Think it will work?”

Xander and Anya came in the room. He came over and slapped my back. “I can’t tell you how happy we are,” he said with a smile. “What you did, making the wedding happen, we are just so grateful.”

I was a little overwhelmed by all the attention. “It wasn’t that big a deal, really,” I told them.

“We want to take you out tonight to thank you,” said Anya.

“I have plans with Red,” I said. “We were going out for curry.” Richard came in and helped himself to a beer.

“Indian food!” said Anya. “That’s a great idea. We can go to the Jewel of India. It’s really good. It’s downtown, near the Sun.”

“That’s where I was going to take her,” I said. For our first date, alone.

“Well, that works out nicely then,” said Anya. “Richard, maybe you and Buffy could come too?”

“I’ll ask her when she gets here,” he said. “I’d love to go. That’s one of my favorite restaurants.”

“We had really wanted to be alone,” Willow said apologetically. “It was supposed to be our first date.”

“You’re orgasm friends,” Anya said. “It’s not like it’s a real date, with you sitting there holding hands and whispering love poetry. You’re just two people who hang out and get together all naked and sweaty sometimes. It doesn’t really mean anything.”

Willow looked like she’d been punched in the gut. “I should go check on the flyers,” she said hurriedly, and left the room.

“You shouldn’t have said that,” I said angrily.

“Why not?” she asked, confused. “Isn’t it the truth?” No, I wanted to say. It’s not. But it was, sort of, although it sounded wrong that way. It didn’t begin to explain how much she meant to me.

I walked out to the living room and Willow was sitting on the floor, folding flyers. “Red?” I said, walking over to her. She startled, dropping a stack of papers in a flurry. I sat down next to her and helped put them back into a pile. She folded each paper into thirds and sealed it shut, putting a mailing label on each one.

“This is really frustrating,” she said. “I used to be able to wiggle my nose and make them fold and seal themselves. Now I just have to sit here, slow as molasses.”

“Oh, don’t be that way, Red,” I said to her. “You’ve got two hands, same as any of us.”

“That’s about all I have to offer,” she said. “Two little hands.”

I lifted one of her hands to my mouth and turned it over, gently kissing her wrist. “I love these hands,” I told her. “I love the things they do to me.” I bit her gently on her soft skin, and pressed a kiss into her palm.

She shuddered. “How can you do that?” she asked me, her eyes wide.

“Do what, kitten?” I asked as I sucked her fingertips into my mouth.

“Make nonsexy parts seem so sexy,” she said, closing her eyes.

“You’re a sexual muse,” I told her as I kissed her fingers. “You inspire me to new heights.”

She smiled at me. “You have a way of making me feel so beautiful,” she said.

“That’s because you are,” I told her. “Beautiful inside and out, mind, heart and soul.” I pulled her into my lap, and kissed her thoroughly as I stroked her back. I pulled away and smiled down at her. “Do we have a happy Willow again?”

She smiled back. “One happy Willow coming right up.” She kissed me again, and I cupped her face gently, savoring the taste and feel of her. We broke the kiss and she hugged me tightly around the neck. “Flyers,” she said, scrambling out of my lap. “I have to finish these up and get them to the post office.”

“Let me help you with them,” I said. “I’ll drive you down there.” I followed her lead, folding the flyers and preparing them for the mail.

She shook her head. “I’m going home after that. I have some things to do.”

Richard and Anya came out. “All the calls have been made,” Anya announced. “We have officially notified everyone of the change in plans.”

They sat down and helped fold the flyers, Xander joining us a few minutes later. I helped Willow stack them into a box and she stood up, pulling her brightly colored hemp tote over her shoulder. “Let me carry this for you,” I offered. “I’ll just help you with this and drop you home.”

“I’ll drop her off and take the flyers to the post office,” said Anya. “I’m leaving now anyway to open up the Magic Box.”

Xander looked at me. “I noticed that the paint for the dining room is still sitting in the cans. Richard and I have the day off. With the three of us working, we can get it done pretty quickly.”

I thought of Tara, sitting at the table, tapping on the paint chips. “I’m not sure I want to paint it anymore,” I told them.

Richard looked puzzled. “It will look much better in there without the flat white paint,” he said. “And you already bought all the stuff that you need.”

I was being stupid. Paint wasn’t an emotional issue. It was just paint. “You’re right, it will. I’d appreciate it if you would help.”

“We should get going,” said Anya. “We’ll leave you three to your manly home improvement stuff.”

“We’ll meet you at the restaurant at seven?” asked Xander. She nodded and he kissed her. He picked up the box and walked her out.

”Should I come by the house and pick you up?” I asked Willow.

She shook her head. “I’ll meet you here at five,” she said. She turned to leave.

“Aren’t you going to kiss me goodbye?” I asked her. She looked over her shoulder and blew me a kiss, closing the door behind her.

“I don’t understand women,” I said. “She’ll sleep with me, but won’t stay the night. I kissed her five minutes ago, but she won’t kiss me goodbye.”

“They don’t think the way we do,” said Richard. “They’re not wired the same way we are.” We walked into the kitchen and I grabbed a bag of blood from the fridge while he peeled an orange. I morphed into my demon and tore into the bag.

“That is one ugly mug you’ve got there, man,” he said, watching me feed.

I pulled my mouth away from the bag. “What do you mean?”

He looked at me oddly. “The fangs, the face,” he said, gesturing at his forehead. “Kind of scary.”

“That’s the whole point,” I told him. “Vampires are supposed to be frightening. We’re predators.”

“Wouldn’t it make more sense to look like humans?” he asked. “I mean, something like that comes up to me in an alley, it’s a pretty big hint that something bad is going to happen.”

He had a point. “True enough, “ I said. “It definitely doesn’t help us to blend. Makes it easier for the Slayer to tell who to stake, though.” I polished off the bag of blood and tossed it in the trash, and my demon receded.

Xander came in, running his hands through his badly mussed hair. “You have lipstick on your mouth,” Richard pointed out. Xander swiped it away with the back of his hand.

“And a hickey on your neck,” I said. I laughed. “Scooby girls are an oral lot, aren’t they? They all like to bite.” Xander looked at me oddly. “Not that I would know about Anya first hand,” I said hurriedly. “I mean, we only had that one date, and we didn’t even get that far.”

“Didn’t get far?” he said. “Exactly how far did you get?”

Whoops. “Nowhere,” I told him. “Got nowhere with her. Still all kinds of hung up on you, she was. And it all worked out in the end, didn’t it? You’re in love and you’re getting married. All’s well that ends well.”

“Let’s get started on the painting,” Richard suggested. We walked into the dining room and pushed the table and chairs out into the hallway, laying down drop cloths on the floor.

“I’ll go get the ladder,” I offered. I walked down the hallway and opened the door to Tara’s room. My heart ached as I stood in the doorway, smelling the traces of her scent. Her bed was made in the sheets and blankets that she’d picked out. I remembered our fight in the Super Mart, her tossing the wastebasket at my head. I pulled down the ladder and carried it from the room.

Richard and Xander had already set up the trays of paint and were taping around the baseboards. They finished up and we began to paint, each taking a wall and rolling it on. “You know,” Xander said. “Anya and I weren’t planning on having a very fancy wedding. Money is tight, we couldn’t afford what we really wanted.” He paused. “We weren’t going to have any attendants, but now that we have the Pierre, we want to make some changes. I know it’s not much notice, but I would really like for the two of you to be part of the wedding party, now that it’s more of a formal occasion.”

“I’d be honored,” Richard said. “Thank you.”

“Thanks,” I said to Xander. “I would really like that.”

“Do we need to rent tuxedoes?” asked Richard.

Xander shook his head. “We’re going to have a theme wedding,” he said. “You’ll need to get costumes.”

****

We stood back and admired our handiwork. The dining room glowed faintly, the walls beautifully painted champagne satin. “We kick ass,” Xander said proudly. “Seriously, we could do this professionally.” We walked into the kitchen and popped open some beers, sitting around the table.

“That was hard work,” I said. “Painting around that chandelier was a real bitch.”

“Not to mention whoever built the house apparently didn’t own a level,” said Richard. “There isn’t a plumb angle anywhere in that room.”

“I think that it was added onto in stages,” I commented. “I think that the house started with just the main living room and then was built out and up, adding on what was needed.”

“I think that you should put in a Jacuzzi,” said Xander, rubbing his shoulder. “That’s what this house really needs.”

I swigged my beer. “I put one in,” I said. “It’s in the basement.”

“No shit?” said Richard.

“No shit,” I said. “I’ll show you.”

They followed me down the stairs. The previously unfinished basement was now paneled in wood, the only exception the wall that held the metal access door to the tunnels. Wooden decking comprised a series of low stairs, with a cover over the hot tub. I pulled it off to reveal the green fiberglass eight-person tub, and turned on the controls. “You put in hot tub in a house you’re renting?” Xander said incredulously.

“Bought the house. The owner was eager to sell. It wasn’t difficult; she hadn’t been able to get it off her hands because it was haunted. I didn’t tell her the spooks had moved on,” I said. “Myself, I’m done moving on. I’m settling in.” I laughed. “And this place is fully covered for fire. Buffy can go ahead and burn this one out.”

Richard wandered over to a wooden structure in the corner. “What is this?”

“Sauna,” I told him. “Tara loved the heat, so I ordered a sauna. She never even saw it, or the hot tub.”

”Well, I think we should try the thing out,” said Xander. “My back is killing me and this is too good to be true.” He stripped down to his boxers and jumped in. Richard and I followed suit. We relaxed in the hot water, the bubbles massaging away the stress of painting.

“If we had beer, this would be heaven,” said Richard. I leaned over and flipped open the built in cooler, tossing each guy a beer.

“I’m never leaving here again,” said Xander. “I’m moving in.” I drank a few beers, until the warmth of the water and the alcohol had the edges of the world roughed down into a nice, hazy blur.

“Hello? Is anyone home?” Buffy called out upstairs.

“We’re in the basement,” called Richard.

Buffy walked down the stairs. “Wow, it’s a hot tub,” she said.

“Way to be observy, Buff,” said Xander.

“Why are you all naked in a hot tub?” asked Buffy.

“We’re not naked, we’re wearing underwear,” said Richard.

“Come on in. It’s very nice,” I said.

“I don’t have a suit,” she said.

“Strip down to your bra and panties,” suggested Xander.

“You guys sound like the beginning of a bad porno,” she said. Richard looked at her. “From what I’ve heard,” she said lamely.

“If you’re going to be a sissy about it, you can put one of my shirts on,” I suggested. “Upstairs in my room, dresser has a bunch of them.”

She came back shortly after, black t-shirt covering her to her knees. She had a Diet Coke in her hand and had pinned her hair up with a plastic clip. She maneuvered herself into the tub, sitting gingerly down next to Richard without a splash. She opened her Coke and took a sip. “This is really nice,” she said, leaning back against Richard. “This feels so good.”

“Did you see the dining room?” asked Xander. “We painted it.”

“I’ll pop my head in when I go upstairs,” she said. “So aren’t we supposed to be running around, getting the wedding stuff fixed?”

“All is now well, thanks to Spike,” said Xander.

“I don’t recall hearing that phrase before,” she said, smiling at me.

“What can I say,” I said. “I’m the man of the hour.”

“We’re going to be in the wedding,” said Richard. “I get to escort you.”

“Who are you going to be?” said Buffy excitedly. “I’m going to be-“

“Hello?” called out a voice from upstairs.

“That’s Dawn,” said Buffy. She struggled to get up. “We should get out.”

“It’s a hot tub, not a Roman orgy,” Xander said. “It’s not going to corrupt her.”

”Come on downstairs, Niblet,” I called.

Dawn came downstairs. “Hey, hot tub,” she said. She smiled. “Buffy’s in a hot tub with three naked guys. Mom would be so proud.”

“They’re not naked,” Buffy said. “They’re wearing underwear.”

“Go put on one of Spike’s t-shirts and come back,” said Xander. Dawn left.

“You didn’t tell her to strip down to her bra and panties and hop in,” I said.

“I’m not a pervert,” said Xander. “I don’t want to see little Dawnie in her bra.”

“But you wanted to see me in mine?” Buffy asked.

Xander paused. “Is there a right answer to that question?” We all laughed.

Dawn came back and sat down in the tub, draped in my t-shirt. I pulled a Coke from the cooler and handed it to her. “This feels great,” she said with a smile. “I had a totally suck day at school and this is so nice.”

“What happened at school, pet?” I asked her.

“The strap broke on my sandal and I had to tape it down,” she said. “The tape kept pulling up and the strap kept flapping around. People made fun of me all day.”

“That does suck,” said Buffy. “We’ll have to buy you a new pair. And hopefully some more new stuff for school too.” She looked at her sister. “I quit DP today.”

Dawn looked conflicted. “Should I be, yay, because that job totally sucked for you, or boo, because now we’re going to starve?”

“Richard has a friend that owns a temp agency,” she said. “I went there today and they’re going to pay me to train, to learn how to type and use Word and Excel. In a few weeks I’ll be able to get a job making a lot more than I made at fast food, and I won’t smell like grease any more.” She smiled looking thrilled to bits.

“That is really great news, Buffy,” said Xander.

“I’m really proud of you,” said Dawn. She hugged her sister tightly, both of them smiling widely.

“So we’re going out tonight to celebrate the wedding fixage,” said Xander. “We hoping you and Richard would come. We’re going to Jewel of India.”

“Sure,” she said. “I’m definitely in a mood to celebrate.” She turned to Dawn. “Do you mind if I go out?”

“Janice’s mom invited me to dinner,” she said. “I was going to ask if I could go.”

“You’re welcome to bring Janice to dinner if you want,” offered Xander.

Dawn shook her head. “Indian food is yuck,” she said. “And Janice’s mom is making lasagna. It’s the best thing in the whole world.”

“I don’t blame you for wanting a real meal,” said Buffy. “I’ve been feeding you fast food for weeks.” She looked guilty. “I wish I’d paid attention in Skills for Living in eighth grade. The sewing and cooking would come in handy about now.”

“I have a cookbook,” I told her. “It has pictures, shows you just what to do. It’s simple really. I’ll show you.”

“You’re learning to cook?” she said. “Why?”

“It’s fun,” I said. “And it’s nice to make food for all you human types. Can’t exactly ask you to come by my house for a nice goblet of blood, can I?”

She smiled. “Yeah, but the idea of you in an apron hovering over the stove is too funny.”

“I don’t wear an apron,” I said, offended.

“The guy makes a mean omelet,” said Richard.

“I’m expanding my repertoire,” I told him. “There’s a recipe for Chicken Kiev that I want to try. I want to make dinner for Willow, but I need to practice making it before I use her as a guinea pig.”

“So what’s going on with you and Willow?” asked Dawn. “I stopped by the house and she was going through all the boxes of magic stuff that we put away. I asked her what she was doing and she said she was bringing some of it over here.”

“First I’ve heard of it,” I said.

“It was supposed to be a surprise,” Buffy said admonishingly. “Spike is interested in Wicca and Willow is bringing things over to get him started with.” I smiled, thinking of how sweet that was.

“Did Red tell you about the Wicca class?” I asked her.

“Yep,” said Buffy. “All systems go. We’ll all be there to support her.” She looked thoughtful. “And I think that what you’re doing is right, Spike. I think that Wicca is a really important part of her life and she’ll be much happier when she can get back into it.”

“But she could get mixed up in the dark stuff,” said Xander. “It’s really dangerous.”

“The dark stuff that she got into isn’t part of Wicca. It was a wrong turn that she took. That’s why we’ll be there to help her,” I told him. “Not breathing down her neck, just supportive of her.”

“She seemed really excited,” said Dawn. “She was humming and smiling. I haven’t seen her look like that in months.”

Richard stood up from the tub. “If we’re going to go out to dinner, I should get home and clean up,” he said.

He helped Buffy up. “We’ll get going too,” she said. “I should help Dawn with her homework before we both go out for the night.”

Xander stood up. “So we’ll meet there at seven?”

“Seven works,” I said. I got up and handed out towels from the rack next to the tub.

A small hand closed around my wrist and I turned to look in Dawn’s eyes. “I know I’m just a kid and I’m not supposed to understand,” she said quietly. “But I do.”

“What do you mean?” I asked her.

“This thing with you and Willow,” she said. “Be careful. You’ve both had to go through so much pain. Try not to hurt her, and don’t let her hurt you.”

“You don’t understand, pet,” I said. “It’s not-“

“Wild crazy sex thing?” she said. “Dumped boy gets it on with dumped girl?” I looked at her, stunned. “Just be careful. Things that look simple on the outside can turn out to be more complicated than you think.”

****

I answered the door. Willow stood outside. She wore a long black cloak and carried a bag over her shoulders. I opened the door wide and let her in. She pulled a ribbon at her throat and the cloak fell to the floor. She turned to look at me, an enigmatic smile on her face. Her hair was straight and sleek, falling around her bare shoulders. She wore a black leather bustier and a long black skirt, her neck circled with twisted strands of jet. Her lips were painted red, her eyes lined with kohl. She was all flame and darkness, and I flashed back to her hair against my coat, the red strands sliding over the leather. “You’re unusually quiet,” she said with a grin.

“Come to bed,” I said, and grabbed her hand. The bag that she was carrying dropped to the floor.

“No bed,” she said, laughing. “It’s not bed time.”

“It is now,” I said, sweeping her into my arms and carrying her down the hall.

She looked up at me, her eyes dancing with humor. “Haven’t you ever heard that good things come to those who wait?”

“He who hesitates is lost,” I declared, as I dumped her on my bed.

“Slow and steady wins the race,” she countered.

“In delay there lies no plenty,” I said as I pulled off her tall leather boot.

“What’s that from?” she asked.

“Shakespeare,” I replied. “Sonnet twenty-six.” I threw her other boot across the room.

“You really need to show off more of that big brain of yours,” she said. “Smart men are sexy.”

I pulled off her skirt; revealing that she was naked underneath, save for two filmy stockings that covered her legs, ending at the thigh in a wide band of black lace. “Look at you,” I said admiringly.

She smiled up at me. “I’m exploring my naughty side.”

“Good thing I’m dead,” I said. “This get up would stop the heart of a lesser man.” I unfastened her bodice and slid it from underneath her. The large bite on her breast had scabbed over, contrasting sharply with the pale skin surrounding it. I bent my head and covered the wound with delicate kisses. She caressed the back of my neck, making soft mewling noises that made me hard as a rock. I licked her, tracing over the edges of the scab, drifting over to her nipple, licking her until she was hard in my mouth.

I moved my mouth to her other breast and nipped at it, licking and sucking her nipple until she was pulling at my pants and biting at my neck. “Please,” she said. “Now.”

“No,” I said. I pulled off her stocking and tied her wrists together. “Good things come to those who wait,” I told her seriously. “Slow and steady wins the race.”

She slid her leg around mine, pulling me close to her. “You’re evil,” she said breathily.

I grinned. “You don’t know the half of it, love,” I said as I trailed kisses down her chest. I licked her navel, laving her with my tongue while my hands slid down her sides, exploring the soft skin of her ribs, hips, the sides of her ass. I moved my mouth down to her clit, and licked her once, long and slow. She cried out, and I did it again. Even more gently, even more slowly, until she was writhing and squirming and begging me, and all I was doing was blowing a gentle stream of air across the surface of her swollen bud.

I rolled over next to her and looked at her. “Sleeping over tonight?” I asked casually. She rolled on top of me, struggling to loosen her hands. I grabbed her wrists with my hand and rubbed her clit with my other hand. “Tell me,” I said.

“No,” she said through clenched teeth. “I won’t.” I rubbed harder and licked her neck, working her up until she was ready to explode, and then I stopped. “Bastard,” she said.

“I’m a right bastard, “ I said, as I nuzzled her shoulder. “But you want me, don’t you?”

“Yes,” she said, melting in my arms.

“Tell me you’ll stay the night and you’ll be coming in seconds,” I told her, lightly biting along her collarbone.

“Undo my hands,” she said, grinding against me.

“Tell me you’ll stay,” I told her, my fingers circling her nipples.

She looked down at me and her eyes glowed with golden sparkles. “Bind,” she said. My hands locked together, bound by an invisible force. “Unbind,” she said, and her stocking untwisted, freeing her hands.

“No fair using the mojo, Red,” I told her. ”You’re supposed to be using your powers for good, not evil.”

“There’s a long, fine history of sex magic,” she said, as she pulled off my pants. “The goddess approves, trust me.” She smiled down at me. “An it harm none, do what thou wilt,” she said. She leaned over and kissed me, her hands sliding down my body. Everywhere that she touched, my body burned. I was scorched by desire, totally enflamed by this woman. “Do you like the way I make you feel?” she whispered against my lips.

“More than anything,” I told her. She licked my eyebrow, my collarbone, my jaw, and I moved my head, trying to gain her mouth, but she kept just out of reach. “Please, Willow,” I said to her.

“Tell me that you need me,” she whispered in my ear.

“I need you,” I told her. Her hand stroked my cock, sliding up and down, harder and harder, while her other hand swept over my chest, my nipples and my throat, like liquid fire on my skin.

“Tell me that you want me,” she whispered, looking down at me.

“I want you so badly,” I told her, staring in her eyes. “Have mercy.” She guided me inside her, and I closed my eyes, feeling the heat of her slick walls around me. She held my hands in hers as she thrust on me, and I trembled with frustration, wanting to touch her, and being forced to submit to her will. I bucked underneath her, moving my hips, and with every thrust she stilled, only moving again when I stopped. I closed my eyes and I was lost, seized by her need, her desire, and I surrendered willingly. I gave myself up to her utterly, eclipsed within her, gladly lost within her.

***

We walked hand in hand down the street, and Willow whistled happily. “Something put you in a good mood, pet?” I asked her.

She turned to smile at me. “Something.”

I ran my thumb over her fingers. “Someone?” I teased.

“Maybe,” she said, smiling softly.

“You’re a real piece of work,” I said. “Can’t give an inch on anything, can you?”

“You’re no pushover yourself,” she said, looking over at me. “You give as good as you get.”

“I’ll get down on bended knee in the street if I have to,” I told her. “Just say you’ll spend the night.”

“I’ll think about it,” she said with a grin, and kissed me. We reached the restaurant and I opened the door for her.

We were overwhelmed with the scent of curry. A petite woman in a sari smiled at me. “Can I help you sir?” I looked past her, and saw the Scoobies gathered around the table.

“That’s our party over there,” said Willow with a smile. We walked over to the table and I pulled out her chair. She smiled up at me and we sat down.

“Sorry we’re late,” I said with a smirk. “Car wouldn’t start.” Xander gave me a dirty look.

“Look at you,” said Buffy, admiring Willow. “All sexy and leathery and all.”

Xander looked over his menu. “You didn’t turn her, did you Spike?” he asked. “Last time she had a changing of the look, she was an evil vampire who wanted to kill all of us.”

“Don’t think I’ve heard that story, pet,” I said, putting my arm around Willow.

“Please change the subject,” said Anya. “Because we’ll have to get into the whole blame conversation again, and fingers will be pointing at me, and I really hate that.”

The waiter came over to our table. “What would you all like to order?” Richard leafed through the menu, ordering for himself and Buffy.

“How spicy do you like your curry?” I asked Willow.

“Spicy, the hotter the better,” she replied.

I smiled at her. “Girl after my own heart. Now, do you trust me to order for you, or are you going to fight with me over that as well?”

“I submit to your expertise,” she said with a grin. “But just this once.”

“Sir?” the waiter said to me.

“We’ll start with Vegetable Samosa and follow with Chicken Vindaloo and Lamb Korma, very spicy,” I said. “And lots of paratha, please.”

“And to drink?” he asked, writing down the order.

“Double gin on the rocks for me and a Coke for the lady,” I replied.

“I’m the lady,” said Willow gaily. “I didn’t think men talked like that anymore.”

“I have a full complement of manners at my disposal,” I told her. “I can be as courtly as the next man.”

“Spike the elegant and courteous date,” she said with a smile. “You are just full of surprises.”

“I am a man of many hidden talents,” I said.

“Like what?” she said.

“If you spend the night with me I’ll show you,” I said, as I kissed her cheek.

“You have a one track mind,” she said, caressing my face.

“You’re the one who laid the track,” I told her. “Dressing all delicious, smelling so nice, having such soft skin.” I trailed my hand over her exposed shoulder. She leaned over and brushed my lips with hers.

“Can you two stop being all smiling and cuddly?” asked Buffy. “It’s just so- weird.”

“And for the love of God, stop touching each other,” said Xander.

Willow looked miffed. “I’ve had to watch Riley kissage, and even Cordelia kissage. I was never PDA girl with Oz or Tara. It’s your turn to deal with watching the smoochies.”

The waiter returned, bearing a tray of drinks and passing them out. I took a large sip of my gin. “What does that taste like?” asked Willow. I held out the glass. She took a tiny sip. “It’s very strong,” she said.

“You’d probably like it with a bit of tonic and some lime,” I told her. “And it really is the perfect complement to the curries we’ll be having. It accentuates the flavor.”

“He’s right,” said Richard. “Gin and tonic is the only way to go with Indian food.”

“I think cold beer is perfect,” argued Xander. “Takes the bite off the curry, but it’s smooth. None of that aftertaste that you get from hard liquor.”

“But that’s part of the experience,” said Richard. “The aftertaste works with the curry. The flavors mingle.”

“Just try it, Xander,” I told him. The waiter came back, bearing loaves of paratha and the appetizers. I tore off a piece of the flat bread and fed it to Willow. “This is my absolute favorite thing,” I told her.

She munched appreciatively. “This is really good.” We both dug in, eating bread and the vegetable turnovers. The table was quiet as we all ate.

“I absolutely love this place,” said Richard. “When my folks came out her from Ann Arbor, this was where I brought them to dinner.”

“We should have booked this restaurant for the rehearsal dinner,” said Anya. “This food is so incredible.”

“Just wait until you try the curries,” I said. The waiter brought out the entrees, filling the table with platters of steaming food. We all shared, sampling a bit of everything.

“I don’t think that I can eat anymore,” said Buffy. “I am so full.”

“That’s the most that I have ever seen you eat,” said Richard. “I’m glad that you’re getting your appetite back.” She smiled at him and gave him a peck on the cheek.

Anya checked her watch. “There is a double feature at the Sun in twenty minutes,” she said. “Xander and I are going to go. ”

“What’s playing?” asked Buffy.

“’Jean de Florette’ and ‘Manon of the Spring’,” I told her. “French films, subtitles.”

“That sounds kind of boring,” said Buffy.

“They’re really brilliant films,” said Willow. “Masterpieces, really. Although I don’t think the subtitles are very good. I don’t like the way that they translated the dialogue.”

“That’s the nice thing about speaking the language,” I said. “You can just ignore the subtitles and immerse yourself in the story.”

“I think we’ll pass on the frog filmfest,” said Buffy. Richard laughed.

“I’d like to pass too, but I can’t get out of it,” said Xander. “It is but one of the sacrifices that I make for love.”

“If you really don’t want to see them, then we can do something else,” said Anya, disappointed.

“We’re going to go,” said Willow. “You can come with us.”

“I’ll take her,” said Xander. “I’d rather be with her and bored than apart from her and having fun.” He frowned. “That didn’t come out right.”

We paid the check and said our goodbyes to Richard and Buffy. We walked down the street to the movie theater, buying our tickets and going inside. The lobby was decorated in Art Deco style, the refreshment counter a sweeping curve of shining chrome. “Do you want any candy or popcorn?” I asked Willow.

“I’d like a box of bonbons,” she said.

“I can’t believe that you have room for anything,” said Anya. “I don’t think that I’ll ever eat again.”

“I always get bonbons at the Sun,” she said. “It’s part of the whole experience.”

We paid for our refreshments and Willow took my hand as we walked up the wide carpeted stairs to the balcony. We sat down in the faded velvet seats and looked down onto the screen below. Anya sat on my left with Willow on my right.

Willow sank down in her seat and leaned her head back, contemplating the ceiling. I looked up, seeing the gigantic mural that covered the arched roof, a sun, brightly gilded, on a clear blue sky. “Do you ever miss the sun?” she asked.

I leaned back in my seat so that we were looking from the same perspective. “It’s been such a long time, I don’t even think about it anymore,” I told her.

Willow looked thoughtful. “If you’d had a choice, to never see the sun or never see the moon, which would you have chosen?”

I thought about it. “I was very different when I was alive, and I hadn’t seen much of the world. I probably would have chosen the sun.”

“But you’re glad that you live in the dark?” she asked, turning to look at me.

“I like the dark,” I told her. “I like the peace in it, the anonymity of it. You can hide, and change, and be whoever you want to be.”

****

“Do you think that what Manon did was wrong?” asked Willow. We were walking down the street towards the car.

“I think that she was justified in getting revenge for her father’s death,” I said. “The Soubeyrans destroyed her life, her father’s life. They deserved to be destroyed in turn.”

“Revenge is wrong,” she said. “I know that, intellectually. But when it happens to you, it suddenly becomes personal. It’s hard to stay objective, to keep your focus.”

“Like when you fought Glory,” I said. “I still can’t believe that you did that. Hubris. You’re the only mortal I’ve ever known who has gone toe to toe with a god and survived.”

“Buffy,” she said.

“Buffy didn’t survive, did she? And she’s the Slayer.”

“You think it was stupid, what I did, don’t you?” she asked me.

“It was stupid. But I understand why you did it. The real question is, do you understand why it was wrong?”

“Because revenge is wrong?” she said.

“No. Because we could have lost you, too. You would have been dead, Tara lost forever and Buffy as well, in the end.” I stopped her. “Would you do it again? If you had to go back and do it again?”

“I would,” she said, unwavering. “I’d do it in a heartbeat.”

Something shoved me hard from behind, slamming me into a wall. I heard Willow scream, a high-pitched yelp that was quickly smothered. I turned around, enraged, to find two tall figures carrying Willow along, down the alley. They shimmered, their appearances altered by magic, and I didn’t know who or what they were.

I snarled, my demon in full force as I lunged at the back of the one nearest me. He turned and kicked, and I dodged it, cuffing him soundly across the head. The chip didn’t go off. You’re dead, motherfucker. I smashed his head into the wall repeatedly, sending bits of masonry flying into the air. Soon he fell down and stopped moving.

I turned around and ran down the alley, but I didn’t see anyone. “Willow!” I screamed, beginning to panic. I couldn’t catch her scent or get a feel for where she was. Someone was cloaking her, so I wouldn’t find her. “Willow!” I ran down the street, but it was deserted, nowhere in sight. “Willow!” I yelled.

*Spike.* I could have sworn that I heard her voice.

“Willow?” I said aloud.

*Spike, can you hear me?*

“I can hear you, Red,” I answered. “Tell me where you are. I’m coming for you.”

*They threw something over my head, I can’t see anything,* she said.

“They’re cloaking you,” I told her. “I can’t smell you or sense you.”

*Breadcrumbs,* she said simply.

“Breadcrumbs?” I could have sworn there was a hint of laughter in her mental “voice” at the question.

*I’m dropping little glowing specks behind me. Follow them to find me,* she instructed.

“I don’t know where to start,” I told her.

*We took a left, a right, than a left again* I followed her directions and was soon rewarded by a spot of glitter lying on the floor.

“I’m coming baby,” I said. “I’m coming.” I ran down the alleyway, following the trail of glitter.

*Spike! Hurry! They’re putting me inside something and it’s really small and dark* She sounded scared, and I dug down deep and ran as fast as I could. *Ouch! Something sharp poked my arm* I rounded the corner just in time to see a shimmering figure slam a trunk closed on a large sedan.

I leapt on him, pounding him into the ground. Something shot out from his hand and rolled across the pavement. He turned on his stomach and tried to punch me, but I grabbed his fist and squeezed with all my might. I heard bones shatter as he screamed. I grabbed his head and twisted swiftly, a loud crunch signaling that I’d broken his neck.

I stood up. “Willow?” She didn’t answer me, but I knew she had to be there. I rifled through the corpse’s pocket, finding the keys. I tried all of them in on the trunk, but none of them fit. I began to panic, worried that she couldn’t breathe, worried that she was hurt. “Willow, answer me,” I said. I still couldn’t feel her or sense her.

I finally just punched out the lock on the trunk and opened it up. There was a pile of papers and trash bags, and I moved them aside to find Willow underneath. She was pale, her lips tinged with blue, and she wasn’t moving. I leaned over and saw the faint rise of her chest, felt warm breath coming from her mouth. She had a puncture on her forearm.

I went back over to the side of the car and crept along, searching for what the other demon had dropped. My hand closed on a syringe. I picked it up and smelled it. Cardiolis. A powerful tranquilizer for demons, even more so for humans. Not fatal, but enough to knock out a little thing like Willow for hours. The demon was revealed, the cloaking undone by its death. A Fyarl demon. Someone had spent a lot of money getting some serious muscle for this job.

I picked up Willow and carried her in my arms. I walked back to my car and gently settled her in the backseat. I drove home carefully, watching her in my mirror. Soon we arrived at the house, and I picked her up and carried her to my bed. I undressed us both, and tucked us in together. I lay on her breast, soothed by the strong sound of her heartbeat.

All through the night, I held her hand and listened to the sound of her heart. As dawn neared, she began to stir. She opened her eyes and looked up at me with a smile. “I knew you’d save me,” she said.

“You helped,” I told her. “You are quite the resourceful little witch.”

She closed her eyes again and stretched. “I feel really sluggish,” she said. She looked over at me. “They injected me with something. A tranquilizer?”

“Cardiolis,” I told her. “Knocked you out for a good six hours.”

“Do you know who they were?” she asked. “Do you know what they wanted?”

“All I know is that they were Fyarl demons and they won’t be bothering you again,” I told her.

She looked at me searchingly. “Did you interrogate them ,to find out who sent them?”

“I wasn’t really thinking that clearly,” I admitted. “I was enraged and scared and I killed them both.”

“Why were you scared?” she asked. “I’ve seen you fight much bigger-“

“I wasn’t scared of the demons, pet. I was scared that you’d been hurt, or worse,” I said. “Just the thought of losing you-“ my voice thickened with tears that I refused to shed, and I turned away.

“I’m fine,” she said, caressing my back. “No harm, no bad. I’m still here.” She kissed my shoulders, then the back of my neck, and I turned and covered her lips with mine, holding her tightly.

She pulled away and kissed my cheek, backing away. “If you’re thinking of leaving, you’d best get over it pretty damn quickly,” I told her.

“It’s nearly morning,” she said. “I should go home.”

“I want you here with me,” I told her. “You belong here with me.”

She was quiet for a moment. “No, I don’t,” she said, and pulled on her stocking.

“Just wait a minute, Red.” She ignored me and continued to dress. I turned on the light and went to the closet, returning with the bag I had bought for her. I handed it to her. She looked at me questioningly. “The presents,” I told her. “The bribes to make you stay.”

She pulled out the contents and lay them down on the bed. A silk nightgown, ivory with pink flowers embroidered on it, and a robe to match. An emerald satin bra and matching panties. Jeans and a green angora sweater. A clear toothbrush, wrapped in plastic. A set of perfume, complete with soap and lotion and dusting powder. A boar bristle hairbrush. A pair of socks, complete with toes. She looked up at me and smiled. “What is all this?”

“Everything I could think of that you would use as an excuse for why you wouldn’t stay,” I explained.

“You really didn’t have to do this,” she said. “You don’t owe me anything.” She reached out and stroked the nightgown.

“I owe you so much, and I have no idea how to make it up to you. I don’t know how to make this right.” She looked at me. “You being in danger tonight, Will, that was my fault. Those were demons, love, not humans.”

“You don’t know that it had anything to do with you,” she said.

“I’m pretty sure that two Fyarl demons weren’t wandering the streets of Sunnydale cruising for cute redheads,” I told her. “I’ve made enemies in this town, and word has probably gotten out that I’m flush at the moment. Kidnap my girl, squeeze me for a few quid, that was probably the plan.”

“I’m not your girl,” she said quietly.

“You are now,” I told her. “Unless you tell me that’s not what you want.”

She looked at me seriously. “You’re the one I want,” she said quietly. “That’s why I can’t stay with you.”

She stood up and began to dress. “I don’t understand you,” I told her. “Why are you always running away?” She ignored me, lacing up her bodice. “Fuck this, Red.” I snatched her hands away, grabbing her wrists. “You want me,” I told her. “You like being with me. Why won’t you stay?”

“Because I’m trying to be smart,” she said angrily. “I’m keeping some distance, keeping a little perspective.” She shrugged off my hold.

“I don’t want you to push me away, I want you to open up to me,” I said as she slid on her skirt. “I’m sick of being on the outside looking in, feeling like I’m getting somewhere with a woman only to have her take off and leave me.”

“I’m not leaving you,” she said as she pulled on her boot. “I’ll be back.”

“But that’s not what I want,” I told her. “I want-“

“I know what you want, I know exactly what you want.” She turned away. “And that’s why I have to go.”

“Please, Willow.” I hated the pleading sound of my own voice.

“I know what’s in your heart, Spike,” she said. “I know exactly what you want to hear, the way you like to be touched, what gets you hot, what turns you off.” She bit her lip. “You handed me the blueprint to being what you want, and I’m trying my best, but I can’t keep up the pretense.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked her.

“I’m helpless against you, you fiend,” she recited. “I want you to bite me and devour me until there’s nothing left.” I felt horrified. The Bot. She’d reprogrammed the Buffybot. She had seen all the information that I’d given Warren, positions, dialogue, everything. “You like a woman who’ll be dominant in bed but who submits to you when you wish,” she said. “You want her to be feminine and needy, but strong and feisty too. You want to bite her, and you want her to like it. You like the thrill of having sex in public. You like leather and long flowing skirts-“

“Stop, please.” I held up my hand.

“I can try,” she said earnestly. “But I’m not a robot. I have feelings, messy complicated feelings. And the second that you understand that, what we have will be done.”

“I don’t want you to be like the bot,” I told her. “I just want you to be yourself, to be Willow.”

She turned and looked at me. “That’s really not what you want.”

“Try me, Willow. Give me a chance.”

“I want something more,” she said. “I want you to hold me, and whisper sweet nothings in my ear. I want to have sex that actually means something, on both sides. I want to wake up in the morning, and look over at you, and know that you belong to me.”

“Oh, Will.”

“Don’t look at me like you feel sorry for me.” She turned away. “I knew what I was getting into, when I asked you to have sex. I knew, then, and you made it clear later, with your list of rules and regulations, that I was just a fuck.”

“I shouldn’t have done that,” I said. “I was a total asshole to even say those things to you.”

“You tried to be nice about it,” she said. “You tried to make it something more than meaningless sex. But that’s all it was, all it is, and all it will be. I know that, in my brain. I just have to get it through my heart.”

“You do mean something to me, Will,” I told her. “Tonight, when I lost you, I was panicked. I don’t want to lose you again.” She turned to leave. “Don’t turn your back on me.” I grabbed her shoulder and pulled her around.

“Don’t make this harder,” she said. “I won’t be coming around for a little while. It’s just going to be too painful.” She smiled weakly. “Playing with fire, bound to be burnt.”

“You’re the only thing in my excuse for a life that is keeping me going,” I told her. “If you care for me at all, you’ll stay. Don’t shut me out. I need you, and I care for you so much, as much as I can let myself care for anyone.”

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m sorry.” Not another woman, telling me how sorry she was.

I picked her up and tossed her on the bed, pinning her down. “Don’t tell me you’re sorry,” I said. “I don’t want to hear how sorry you are.” I jerked her chin to force her to look in my eyes. “Don’t tell me you’re sorry,” I said. “Tell me the truth.”

“I can’t help myself,” she said. “I can’t help feeling the way I do.” I let her go, and she turned her mouth to mine, and I wrapped my arms around her. She held my head in her hands as we embraced, long and slow and gentle.

“I’ll give you as much as I can,” I told her as she broke the kiss. “I won’t turn you away. I want all of you, all you have to give.” I kissed her all over, marking her, claiming her. I sucked on her nipples, nipping and biting her, making her come over and over as I worked her with my fingers. I entered her forcefully, and she cried out. I ran my hand over her face as I stroked within her, mesmerized by the curve of her jaw, the arch of her brow. We kissed as I moved over her, making love slowly, savoring the moment and each other. She stroked my shoulders, her hands running softly over my skin. I slid my hands down her arms, locking our hands together. She gripped me hard, and tilted her head back. I came with her, both of us consumed by the exquisite sensations that we had made together.

I rested my head on her chest and she kissed my ear. She held me close and kissed my forehead. I began to drift off, filled with peace, satiated and content, when I felt her slip away. “Please stay, love,” I said. The covers pulled and twisted underneath me, and then covered me in their warmth.



PAIRING: Spike/Willow. Spike/Buffy, Spike/Tara implied
RATING: NC-17 overall
SPOILERS: Season 6 through “As You Were”.
DISCLAIMER: All hail Joss Whedon, UPN, the WB, FOX, Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox Film Corporation. GO team! Theirs, not mine.
DEDICATION: For the real Branwenn, priestess and friend.
AUTHOR”S NOTE: This is in no way intended to be a thorough introduction to Wicca. If you’d like one, feel free to drop me a line and I’ll point you to some resources. All the Wicca 101 material was written by me and reflects my own viewpoint on the subject matter. Your mileage may vary.
DISTRIBUTION: Please ask my permission first, just so I know where it’s headed.
FEEDBACK: Sure, fire away to jodyorjen@yahoo.com



Chapter 12

I woke up alone, hearing the front door slam. Damned stubborn Wicca. I pulled the comforter off the bed and wrapped it around me as I ran through the house. Opening the front door, I saw Willow walking away, swathed in her cloak. “Willow!” She looked at me, and she was crying, tears rolling down her face. “Come back!” She turned away and kept going as I ran outside in the sunshine, yelling her name.

“Go back inside!” she yelled at me. “You’re going to burn to a crisp.”

“Come back with me or I’ll throw off the blanket and do so gladly,” I said as I reached her and blocked her way.

“You’re starting to smoke,” Willow said, swiping her hands across her cheeks.

“Then you’d best drag me back inside before I’m a big pile of dust, right?”

She looked at me, conflicted. I felt the sunlight burning my skin, even through the blanket. She grabbed my hand underneath the comforter and we ran back into the house. She slammed the door shut and I tossed off the comforter.

“You’re not leaving,” I growled, as I pulled her down to the floor.

“Don’t make this harder,” she cried, her eyelashes damp with tears.

“I’ll make it very easy,” I replied, tearing off her skirt. “You’re not leaving. You belong here, with me.”

“I told you, I think it’s best if I stayed away for a while,” she said uncertainly.

“That was before we made love, Willow. That was before I knew the truth.” I ripped the laces from her bodice, leaving her naked underneath me, wearing only her boots.

“You’re making it very hard to be reasonable,” she said. “The smart thing to do is to stay away from each other until the feelings die down. It’s just hormones, it’s not logical-“

I slipped my fingers inside her and stroked as I bit her neck. She arched up and I kissed her passionately, until she was slick and warm around my hand. “Tell me you want me, Red,” I whispered into her ear.

“You know I do,” she replied. I entered her and she pulled tightly on my hips, driving me into her hard and deep.

“Tell me you love me,” I demanded, as I moved within her.

She turned her head away. “I-.”

“Say it. I know you do. Might as well admit it.”

Her shoulders trembled. “I can’t.”

“I’ll say it, then,” I whispered. “I love your smile, your nose, your silliness, your hands, your hair, your spirit. I love being inside you, making you mine. But most of all, I love the way you look at me, with your heart in your eyes.”

She came violently, her nails scratching up my neck and catching the lobe of my ear. I held on to her tightly, as she seized and spasmed, muscles clenching hard around my body. “You’re mine,” I gasped against her ear. Her breath calmed and I kissed her delicately before I withdrew from her and carried her to my bed. She lay back on the pillows, her eyes closed and a smile on her face. I grabbed my handcuffs from under the bed, snapping one cuff around her wrist. Her eyes popped open as I closed the other one around mine. I grinned at her and sat down on the bed. “I’m not running away, and neither are you. Not anymore.”

She looked down at her wrist in disbelief. “You didn’t just do that.”

I kissed her forehead. “Done fucking around, pet. We’re going to talk this out, and neither of us are going anywhere until we’re done.”

“This is ridiculous,” she said angrily. “You can’t make me-“

“I can make you do any number of things, love,” I told her.

“I can make them go away,” Willow retorted. “With magick.”

“Or you can leave it on and we can suss this out. You can go back to crying over me or we can work something out and we can be together.”

“You don’t need to make this so hard,” she said. “It’s already hard. When I’m lying in my bed at night and thinking of you, I’ll know exactly what I’m missing.”

“So you won’t see me anymore?”

“Yes.”

“You’d rather be alone and miserable than with me?”

“Yes.”

“Well, what the fuck sense does that make?” I roared. “I don’t understand what the hell you’re playing at. You love me, you maddening bint. I can’t believe that you’ll walk out on what we have now, and what we could become.”

“I’d rather stay with you,” Willow stated. “But it’s not that simple. It’s not your fault that you’re still in love with Tara. It’s not my fault that- “ she stopped abruptly.

“You fell in love with me?” I supplied.

“Just stop,” she said. “Just let me go.”

“You’re not leaving until we get this worked out, Willow,” I disagreed, angrily. “And not having you any more, that isn’t a choice. I need you, and you want to be with me. There’s no reason for this to be so difficult.”

“It’s easy for you to be impartial,” she said. “You’re not emotionally invested in this. I’m the one who’s going to get hurt, not you.”

“It hurts me when you leave, Willow,” I told her. “It stings like hell when you keep running away from me.”

“I wish I could stay, you have no idea,” she said. “But I just can’t do this.”

“Tell me you don’t love me, and I’ll let you go,” I looked at her hard, grabbing her chin in my fingers.

“I don’t love you,” she said flatly, pulling away from me.

“Well, I love you,” I told her. “You’re my friend, and my lover. You make me laugh, and you make me think, and you make me happy, Will.”

“You’re not in love with me,” she retorted.

“I want to be, I could be. There’s really nothing I’d like more.”

“I just don’t know.” Willow faced me again. “It’ll be easier to stop being with you, now, then it would be to break it off later.”

“What do you need me to say, or do?” I asked her. “What can I do to make you stay with me?”

“That you won’t break my heart. And you can’t promise me that.”

“I won’t ever leave you, as long as you want me to stay,” I assured her. “I’ll be with you as long as you live, and I’ll turn you so that you never die, if that’s what you want.”

“Why?” Willow’s eyes begged me for an answer. “Why me?”

“I know how you love, with your whole heart. If you can love me that way, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to keep you,” I replied, hoping that she would hear the truth in my voice.

“But how do you know you won’t change your mind?”

“I’ve only ever offered to turn two people.” Entwining my fingers with hers, I tried to make her understand, “not many I would want to keep around, for the long haul.”

“I don’t think this could work,” she looked away, her voice soft. “I just don’t think we could make this last.”

“Just give me a week,” I asked her. “Give me a week to show you how good it can be between us. Come live with me, or I’ll take you away, somewhere we can be alone.”

“This is just insane, Spike. We would never-“

“One week. Seven days, out of the whole rest of your life. We’ll do anything you want, go anywhere,” I told her. I took out the key to the cuffs and unlocked her. “I’ll do whatever it takes, just to keep you with me.”

She took the key from me and unlocked my cuff. “You make it so hard to resist you,” she teased, playing with the handcuffs. She wrapped her arms around my neck, and I kissed her, sliding my hands across her back, along the smooth expanse of her skin. She closed her eyes and raised her wrists over us, fastening one cuff closed. She tilted back her head, and the key slipped from her fingers onto the sheets. I closed the other cuff and traced her lips with the tip of my tongue. She opened her mouth, and I kissed her deeply. I slipped back inside her, and I pumped in, out, and back again, my hands tracing the cuffs on her wrists. I needed to make her mine, to take her, every way I could.

“Willow,” I pleaded, licking her neck. “Please.” She wrapped her legs around my waist, and I bit down with blunt, human teeth.

“Change,” she whispered. “Bite.”

“I’ll be careful,” I promised, as I released my demon. I lightly pricked her neck with my fangs, and a slow trickle of her blood ran into my mouth. She shuddered and came, and I held her tightly, thrusting harder within her as I drank, my mouth filled with the delicate taste of her life. I retracted my fangs and pulled away from her neck, and she bit my shoulder hard as she scratched down my spine. My orgasm overtook me like a thunderbolt, leaving me panting and gasping and overwhelmed by emotion.

****

“That time was much more enjoyable,” said Willow. “Nothing strips off the post-coital glow like a little medical emergency.”

I dabbed at her neck with a bit of gauze, smearing ointment over the tiny pinpricks I had made. “This shouldn’t even show at all in a day or so,” I reassured her. “And a good thing too. Buffy sees you looking like a pincushion, I’m going to get a stake shoved up my ass.”

“I don’t think she’ll mind if I’m willing,” she mused. “It’s not like you’re jumping me in an alley or something.”

“I don’t think that she’d really welcome a discussion on the finer points of sex with a vampire,” I argued. “Riley getting his jollies with the trulls proved she has a real intolerance for blood-play, even if it is consensual.”

“You’d think that she’d understand,” said Willow. “I know for a fact that Angel‘s bite was a sexual experience for her, although he didn’t bite her when they made love. She said he wasn’t interested, that it never came up.”

I looked at her. “I’d be lying if I said that it hasn’t been part of my repertoire, Willow. But you know that I don’t need to bite you to enjoy the sex, right? It’s a definite bonus, but you don’t have to let me do it.”

“It feels amazing,” she smiled. “I don’t mind it, although I don’t think I’d let you do it again when you were drunk.”

I ran my fingers over the scab on her breast. “That, I’m afraid, is definitely going to leave a scar.”

“Fortunately, it won’t be where many people will see it.” The wound was right above and below her nipple.

I looked at her sharply, feeling decidedly jealous. She laughed. “Gotcha.”

“That wasn’t funny, Willow,” I told her. “I don’t want other people looking at you naked.”

“Okay,” she said brightly, kissing my cheek. “I’ll cancel my plans for the nudist colony then.” I moved my head, capturing her mouth with mine. She grabbed my shoulder, desire blazing up between us as I lay her down on the bed and moved over her. “No,” she stopped me, grasping my waist.

“You don’t want me?” I asked, surprised.

She blushed. “I’m sore,” she admitted. “Regular human girl here. I’m not built for the all sex all the time Spike experience.”

“I should have been more gentle,” I moaned, feeling like an ass. “But you seem to like it when I get rough with you.”

“I do,” she said. “I really do. But I guess I need a little less hard rock and a little more soft jazz right now, you know?”

“I can make you feel better,” I stood up “I can make you good as new.” I went to the kitchen and came back with a bowl of ice.

“I don’t think I’ll like anything that you can do with the ice, Spike,” she warned.

“Just trust me.” I put a few ice cubes in my mouth and waited until my mouth was very cold. I morphed into my demon and crunched them into bits, swallowing most of the remains. Shifting back to my normal face, I pulled her thighs apart. Slowly sweeping over her puffy outer lips with my tongue, I licked her inside and out. She squirmed, and I held her down, careful not to hurt her. I took another ice cube between my lips and ran it over her chafed thighs. Stretching my tongue as long and hard as I could, I slid the ice cube inside her, then fucked her with my tongue, moving hard within her. She screamed and grabbed the back of my head. I slipped another cube inside her, and moved my mouth to her clit. I surrounded her bud with my mouth, probing and licking with the tip of my tongue as I sucked. Willow tugged at my head, her hands scratching my shoulder. “Oh, God,” she said. I sucked harder, and slid the last ice cube inside her. “God, god, yes, god, I love you,” she cried out as she came. I worked her with my mouth until she couldn’t take anymore. Pulling away, I spooned into her and kissed her shoulder.

“You can’t trust anything that is said during sex,” she crooned drowsily, her eyes fluttering shut.

“True enough, pet,” I replied, pulling the sheets over us.

“Especially something like I love you,” she yawned. “That’s definitely a big thing, a big deal thing that you don’t just blurt out because the person you’re with is amazing.”

“Point taken, Red,” I told her as I rested my head against her shoulder. “I won’t hold it against you.”

“Good,” she said faintly. “Wouldn’t want to feed your big ego or anything.”

“Love you, baby,” I whispered as I held her tightly.

“Love you, Spike.”

****

My phone ringing shrilly in my ear woke me. I reached out and fumbled for it. “You’re late, dude,” Richard’s voice accused me.

“Late for what?” I asked, rubbing my eyes.

“It’s six-fifteen. You’re supposed to be here, at the mall, for the costume fitting.”

Oh, yeah. Right. “Okay, I’m on my way,” I said.

“And if you happen to know where Willow is, she’s supposed to be here too.”

“I think I can figure that one out,” I told him, as she rolled onto me, her arm sprawling across my chest.

“Hurry up before Anya has kittens, OK?” he said. “She’s talking about smiting people if the wedding gets ruined.”

“Tell her not to get her knickers in a twist,” I answered. “We’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”

I leaned over and kissed Willow lightly. “Hey, sweetheart, we have to get up now.”

“Don’t want to,” she said sleepily.

“We have to go play dress up now,” I coaxed her awake, kissing her nose. “And after that, we have the Wicca group. We have to get going.”

She sat up and stretched. “You ripped off all my clothes,” she said accusingly.

“Yes, guilty as charged. But you have the presents that I bought for you, and there is one you haven’t seen yet. Big box on the kitchen counter.”

She came back a few minutes later, clad in the outfit I had picked out for her. It was a soft suede jacket and matching long skirt, in a deep forest green, with a black gauze blouse and a black wool hat. “I really like this,” she preened for me. “It is a very Willow outfit.”

“High praise indeed,” I said, as I buckled my belt and pulled on my boots. I grabbed a necklace from the top of my dresser.

“Don’t wear that.” I looked at her, surprised. “I hope that this doesn’t hurt your feelings, but you look kind of pimpy in jewelry.”

“You don’t like it?” I asked, disappointed.

“You’re pretty imposing already, with the hair and the coat and the attitude,” she reassured me. “It’s kind of overkill.”

“Least you like the coat,” I said, pulling it on.

“Absolutely adore the coat,” she answered, smiling.

****

I walked out of the dressing room, strutting along. I stopped suddenly, making my cape swirl. “I feel very evil in this outfit,” I told Xander. “This is great.”

“Well, stamp down on the instinct to create a little chaos,” he said seriously. “The wedding will be an evil free occasion.”

Clem walked out of a dressing booth, wearing his normal street clothes. “I’m really sorry, Xander, but there is no way that I’m wearing that costume.”

“Everyone’s wearing one,” said Richard, tugging at the hem of his tunic. “We all feel stupid. We’re united in lameness.”

“Well at least you both get to have light sabers,” Clem pointed out. “I’m the only guy in the wedding party that doesn’t get one.”

“I have a blaster,” answered Xander. “I don’t get a light saber.”

“Well, can I be someone that does have one?” asked Clem.

“He’s really tall,” commented Richard. “And we don’t have a Chewbacca.”

“I never thought I’d be clamoring for a big hairy costume,” said Clem. “But anything is better than being Jar Jar Binks.”

“I still don’t know how you’re going to convince Giles to wear his costume,” I told Xander. “I don’t think he’ll be thrilled.”

“Well, at least he gets a light saber,” Clem muttered.

“He faxed his measurements to the shop from England,” said Xander, “and he said he’ll do whatever is necessary to help pull off the wedding. His reward is a light saber, okay?”

“I don’t see why he can’t stay in a hotel,” I complained. “And it wasn’t very nice of Anya to volunteer me. He’s staying at my house, and I got roped into picking him up from the airport tomorrow.”

“He’s already spending a fortune to come back here for the wedding, and he’s really tight on money since he gave his nest egg to Buffy,” Xander explained. “You’re doing a good deed.”

“What do you mean he gave up his nest egg?” I asked.

“He gave Buffy all of his savings before he went home,” replied Xander. “And it didn’t really make a dent in the debt that Buffy has. The mortgage on the house is bleeding her dry. It’s taking every penny she’s making at the Doublemeat just to pay it, and she’s still charging groceries and paying utility bills on plastic.”

“What?” Richard and I said in unison.

Xander looked uncomfortable. “Maybe she didn’t want the two of you to know how bad it was. Don’t tell her that I said anything.”

“Do you know how much debt she’s in?” Richard asked him.

“With her student loans, I think about thirty thousand,” confessed Xander.

“She has to sell the house,” Richard declared. “Even with her new job, she’s not going to make enough to put a hole in that kind of debt.”

“We told her that, but she wouldn’t hear of it,” explained Xander. “She didn’t want to uproot Dawn and Willow would have to find another place to live.”

Richard looked concerned. “I’ll have to talk to her, and see what we can come up with.”

“And I’m going to talk to Red,” I said.

I walked out of the dressing room and out into the store. “Which way to the Death Star?” asked a pimple-faced teenager.

“Sod off.”

Spotting a clerk, I asked, “Excuse me, but where is the ladies dressing room?”

“It’s over there, but you can’t go in there, sir.” She laughed. “Even if you use the Force.”

“Well, have you seen any ladies dressed like Princess Leia around?”

She pointed. “Princess Leia’s over that way.” I headed for the girl in the long flowing white robe. She was too short to be Anya. “Red, that you?”

The girl spun around. It was Buffy. “Hey, dad,” she said with a grin. “How’s the evil thing working out for you?”

I took off my helmet. “Where’s Willow?”

“Quite a bit of stunt casting using you as Vader. They should have made you be C3PO.”

“Do you know where she is or not?” I asked impatiently.

“She’s in the dressing room,” Buffy replied. “She’s not very happy with her costume.”

“She’s another Leia, right?” I asked.

Buffy shook her head. “No, she and Sophie are the only two that aren’t.” She looked over my shoulder. “Here comes Willow, now.”

Willow arrived wearing a beautiful red silk kimono, an ornate obi around her waist. “You look lovely,” I told her.

“I don’t get to be Leia,” she said sadly. “I have to be Queen Amidala and no one will even know who she is. They’ll think that I just wandered in from a Japanese wedding.”

“With the wig and makeup on, you’ll look perfect,” I promised her. “It could be worse. Anya could have made you be Yoda.”

“Put your helmet on. I want to get the full effect.” I put on the helmet. “Say a line,” she said.

“You are powerless to resist the force of the Dark Side,” I intoned in a theatrical voice.

Willow clapped her hands. “Wow, that’s good.” Buffy rolled her eyes and walked away. “Say another one.”

“Luke, I am your father.”

She giggled. “That is so cool,” she said. “And really sexy.”

“Really?” I looked at her, surprised.

“Very,” she cooed to me. Willow looked thoughtful. “You get to take that home tonight, right?”

“Yeah, why?”

“We could play a fun game later,” she spoke in a low voice, caressing my chest.

“I’ll be sure to bring my light saber,” I said with a grin.

****

“I can’t believe that we’re eating here,” complained Willow as we sat down at a table at the Doublemeat Palace.

“We don’t have time to eat anywhere else, and the community center is right across the street,” Richard pointed out.

“I refuse on principle. Don’t eat anywhere you’ve killed a big phallic monster in the kitchen, that’s my new policy.” She sipped on a milkshake.

“We’ll go out afterwards,” I offered. “You’re going to need more than that for dinner.”

“Can I come too?” Dawn asked brightly.

“Don’t invite yourself along, Dawn, its rude,” said Buffy, munching on French fries.

“We’re going to try to eat by ourselves this time,” I told her. “We still haven’t had a date alone.”

“And tomorrow night is Passover at my parent’s house,” Willow said glumly. “That’s bound to be a real laugh riot.”

“Willow’s taking you home to meet the parents?” inquired Richard.

“I already met them,” I replied. “They invited me to their seder.”

Xander and Anya sat down, bearing their tray of food. “You’re going to a seder with the Rosenbergs?” asked Xander. “Willow, they’re going to grill him to death.” He paused. “Or deader than dead.”

“I’m sure Spike can handle it. Or maybe I’ll just wipe all their minds afterwards if it goes really badly.” We all turned to look at her. “Bad joke,” she said lamely.

“They’re going to want to know things that you don’t even have answers for,” Xander warned. “Like your SAT scores, and where you grew up, and how much money you make to support their lovely daughter with.” He shook his head. “Ira is going to eat you alive.”

“What are SAT scores?” I asked to Willow’s obvious dismay.

“What are you going to tell them if they ask how old you are?” inquired Dawn.

”Twenty five?” That’s how old I was when I was turned.

“That makes you too old for Willow,” said Buffy.

“Twenty one?” I asked.

“You don’t look twenty one,” Willow observed. “You look older than us.”

“Just tell me the right answer, and I’ll go with that,” I told her.

“Twenty three,” suggested Richard. “Older, but not too old.”

“What about if they ask you about where you went to school, or where you work?” asked Buffy.

“I went to university in Britain and I’m independently wealthy.” I sipped at a Coke. “What more should I do, bring along my bank statement to show how much money I have?”

“Ira would probably like that,” Xander said. “You’re dating his little girl, his only child.” He shook his head. “I feel sorry for you.”

“What could I tell them that would make them happy? I don’t want them giving Willow a hard time.”

“You could give her a very large diamond ring, tell them that you want to convert, and talk about how you want to give them lots of grandchildren,” commented Xander. “That would work pretty well.”

Willow looked sad and I turned to her. “I really am just an incredibly horrible choice for you, aren’t I? I can’t give you any of those things.”

“We should get going,” she changed the subject. “We’re going to be late for the class.”

****

A tall woman dressed in a black turtleneck and jeans with a large pentacle necklace stood in front of the room. About a dozen people sat on the floor in front of her, plus all of the Scoobies. “Welcome to Wicca 101,” she addressed the class. “My name is Branwenn, and I will be leading the class this evening. I am the high priestess of a Wiccan coven here in Sunnydale. Our discussion tonight will be presented from the Gardnerian viewpoint, as I was initiated in that tradition to the third degree.” She walked over and handed me a stack of papers. “Please form a circle, and pass these handouts around.” We all scooted around on the floor, forming a circle. Willow sat on my right, with Richard on my left. I took a paper and handed the rest to Richard.

“Just to be clear,” said the priestess, “Wicca is a pantheistic religion that is centered around worshipping the God and the Goddess in their many forms. Although spells may be used by some Wiccans, the root of Wicca is attuning oneself to the cycle of nature. It is not about manipulating reality, but rather fully joining with reality. Those who are primarily interested in performing spells to control the actions of others, or to gain for oneself, are in the wrong place. One of the tenets of Wicca is the Wiccan Rede: -An it harm none, do what thou wilt.- We also believe in the notion of karma- negative actions sow negative consequences. If you do evil, you will bring it back upon yourself threefold.”

I thought about that for a moment. If that was true, and the evil I had done in my life would come back at me threefold, I was in for a serious karmic beating. I raised my hand. “Yes?” asked Branwenn.

“Does that mean that if you’ve done evil things, if you’ve been evil, you’re just fucked, karmically speaking?”

“No,” she said. “The choices that we make are like pebbles in a pool. The ripples that are created can go off into the future, causing events that were never what we intended. All we can do is control the choices that we make now, and let go of the past, of the things that we have no control over. The karmic debt to be paid will still be there, but it may be repaid in ways that can’t be foreseen, in this incarnation or in a future one.”

“So karma isn’t a punishment?” asked Richard. “It’s not like sin, where you do something that displeases God and have to repent and make amends?”

“Karma is about healing, not pain,” clarified the Wicca. “It’s a process of growth and learning. Karma lets you become someone better than you were. Giving to the world, and not just taking away.” I looked over at Willow, and her eyes were filled with tears. I wondered what she was thinking. I took her hand in mine and she smiled.

“The core of Wicca is the belief in the God and the Goddess. Some Dianic Wiccans worship only the Goddess, but what we are discussing tonight is the Gardnerian view. The God and the Goddess are a duality, each dependent on the other for balance. They are the yin and the yang, balancing light and darkness. Just as in nature, where day follows night in an endless cycle, so the God and the Goddess go through a cycle of ritual death and rebirth. This is the wheel of the year.” She held up a drawing of a large circle. “This is the front page of your packet.”

I looked down at my chart. Drawings of plants surrounded a large circle, with cardinal points marked at north, south, east and west, and names written around the rim. “We are currently at the eastern point of the wheel of the year,” said Branwenn. “Each point on the wheel of the year is celebrated with a ritual called a Sabbat. Wiccans recently celebrated Ostara, which is a celebration of the return of spring and the end of winter. The next Sabbat that we celebrate will be Beltane, which signifies the mating of the God and Goddess and is celebrated as a fertility festival, an unabashed celebration of sexuality.” She circled round the diagram, explaining each of the Sabbats in turn.

“Wiccan ritual is comprised of several basic elements that are repeated throughout the year. We will learn more about Wiccan ritual by participating in one together. If anyone is more comfortable observing than participating, please have a seat against the back wall.” Several people got up, including Richard. “The first step in any ritual is purification.” She lit a stick of incense and waved it in the air. Night Queen. The scent immediately brought Tara to mind, following her from room to room as she purified the house. “Burning incense or sage is most commonly used to cleanse a sacred space for use in the ritual.”

She walked over to a tape player and pressed a button. The melodic sound of bells filled the room. “The next step is grounding, preparing for work in the circle by letting go of all stress and distraction, and tapping into natural energy. Close your eyes and breathe deeply while you relax your muscles.” Willow dropped my hand, and I set down my paper down on the floor. I closed my eyes, focusing on the sound of the bells. I began to feel light and calm, the same sense of peace as the time I tried scrying.

“Please rise and form a circle.” We all gathered around. I took Willow’s hand and turned to find Xander on my left. He looked at my hand and then moved aside, leaving Anya in his place. She took my hand in hers. “Within the boundaries of our hands we form a sacred space,” chanted Branwenn. “By the bones of the earth, by the currents of air, by the flame of the fire, by the waves of the water, by the spirit that surrounds us, the circle is cast. So mote it be.” I felt a tingling feeling run through me, like an electrical current. I turned to look at Willow and she looked at me. She could feel it too. I turned to look at Anya. She looked bored, her eyes a bit glazed.

“We invoke thee, Goddess Sophia,” Branwenn intoned. “Grace us with your presence, your wisdom and serenity, as we seek to find the path to knowledge. Help us to integrate our bodies and souls, to reconcile our desire for spirituality with the demands of our daily lives.” The air in the room grew heavy, building a feeling of anticipation. “Close your eyes and focus within,” the priestess instructed. “Look within yourself for the path you are searching for, and trust in the wisdom of the goddess to show the way.” I closed my eyes, and let myself go.

I was walking in a forest, during the day. The leaves were russet and gold, in the full splendor of autumn. There was a small track that I was following, but it was hard to make it out, buried under shifting leaves and twining roots. I came into a small clearing, and there was a woman standing there. She was veiled from head to toe, swathed in layers of black. She turned and smiled at me. It was Buffy.

“It’s been a long journey,” she greeted me. “The way has been hard.”

“Not especially,” I replied. “Easy enough if you see through to what is underneath.”

“You need to stop following the path,” she said. “The time has come for you to make a new trail of your own.”

“The way is cut and made,” I told her. “I didn’t choose it, but I’m forced to follow it.”

“You need to let go,” responded Buffy. “If you surrender, you’ll gain everything. If you fight the current, it will pull you under.”

“I can’t help what I am. I can’t deny what I am.”

The figure moved closer to me, and placed her hand on my shoulder. Tara’s blue eyes shone brightly beneath the veil. “Do you want the gift that I have for you?” she asked.

“I don’t want your gift. I can’t trust you. You gave me love and took it away.”

“I can give it back and make it live forever, “ she said. “I can give you love that will never end.”

“I can’t believe in you,” I replied. “I can’t believe in us.”

She turned away. “When the time is right, you’ll believe.” She turned back to look at me, and I saw she was Willow. ”When the time comes, you’ll have to forgive, and take the gift.”

I came back to myself with a rush. I felt Willow’s and Anya’s hand in mine. I smelled the incense and heard the chimes. “Open your eyes and focus outward,” said the priestess. “Take with you the lessons that you have learned and trust in the wisdom of the goddess that has been revealed to you. We thank you for your wisdom, Sophia, and the blessing of your presence. We beg thee depart, so that you may share your insights with others who have need of you.” The feeling of electricity dissipated, leaving only a sense of calm. “The circle is open, but unbroken. May the peace of the Goddess go in our hearts. Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again.”

Branwenn smiled. “We will now have cakes and ale to celebrate the end of the ritual. If you are interested in learning more about Wicca, the flyer for a study group is on the refreshment table.” The group dropped hands and wandered to a table in the corner, which was loaded with plates of oatmeal cookies and jugs of cider.

“That was really intense,” said Willow. She looked ecstatic. “I had some real insights into some of the mistakes I made. I feel like I’m on a good path, heading in the right direction.”

Richard came up and patted us on the back. “So, how did the ritual go?” he asked. “It must have been a lot more interesting than watching you all stand around with your eyes shut,” he laughed.

“I think I fell asleep standing up,” said Buffy, putting her arm around Dawn’s shoulders. “I’m ready to head home. I want to get in a full night’s rest before my first day of training tomorrow.” We said our good-byes and they left.

Willow and I walked over to Xander and Anya. They were talking animatedly, eating cookies. “Do you guys want to go and get something to eat?” Willow asked. “I’m starving.”

“We need to go home,” Xander refused for both of them. “I have to be at the site at six in the morning tomorrow.”

I helped Willow into her coat and we wandered out to the parking lot. “What a bunch of party poopers,” said Willow. “They’re all boring, with the early to bediness.”

“They didn’t stay until bed until six,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, I guess we’re in nocturnal mode.” She smiled, then yawned. “Or maybe not.”

“Why don’t you come back to my house, and I can make you a bite to eat?” I invited. “And you can sleep over.”

She looked at me and smiled again. “Okay.” She kissed my cheek as I helped her into the car. We drove down the street, and she waved her hands in the air. “I almost forgot!” she said excitedly.

“Forgot what, pet?” I asked her.

“At your house, there’s a whole bag of stuff I brought over last night. We can set up your altar together.”

“I don’t really know how to do it,” I admitted.

“It will be fun,” she assured me. “We can do it together.” We turned into the driveway behind the house and pulled into the garage. I helped her out, shutting the car door behind her.

I heard a noise, a large thunk around the side of the house. “Get inside, Red.” I pulled a kukris out of the backseat and unsheathed it.

“What is it?” she asked worriedly.

“There’s someone on the other side of the house,” I told her quietly. “It might be another demon, like the ones we ran into last night.” I kissed her swiftly. “You lock yourself in my room, Willow. If anything comes near you, use your worst mojo and fry it. Fuck karma, use your blackest magic. I won’t risk losing you, not again.”

“I’ll be waiting,” she said. I opened the trunk and handed her an axe. She took it and slipped quietly inside. I walked around the side of the house. There was a figure lurking in the shadow by the door, his features hidden by the collar of his coat. I swung at him, only to be zapped fiercely by the chip. Crying out, I sank to my knees.

Giles turned around and looked down at me. “Bloody nutter,” he said, irritated. “Is that any way to treat a houseguest?”



PAIRING: Spike/Willow. Spike/Buffy, Spike/Tara implied
RATING: NC-17 overall
SPOILERS: Season 6 through “As You Were”.
DISCLAIMER: All hail Joss Whedon, UPN, the WB, FOX, Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox Film Corporation. GO team! Theirs, not mine.
DEDICATION: For Annie, Mint Witch, Moose Loose Goose & Zola, my own “team beta.”
AUTHOR”S NOTE:
DISTRIBUTION: Please ask my permission first, just so I know where it’s headed.
FEEDBACK: Sure, fire away to jodyorjen@yahoo.com



Chapter 13

“What the hell are you doing here?” I asked Giles as I struggled to my feet.

“Where the hell have you been?” he countered. “It’s bad enough that you don’t even bother picking me up at the airport, but I show up here and the damn cab leaves me here, stranded in the middle of nowhere.”

“You’re supposed to be coming in tomorrow night,” I said to him. “Xander gave me the flight information.”

He glared at me. “Oh, quite right. I must be mistaken. I just spent two bloody days traveling to get here. I must have slipped through a temporal hole and magically arrived one day ahead of time.” He picked up his suitcases as I opened the front door and turned on the light.

“It’s just Giles, Willow,” I yelled loudly. “Everything’s alright.”

After a moment she came running out of the hallway into the living room, waving her axe. “Giles!” she said merrily. I grabbed the axe from her hand as she threw herself at him in a hug.

“Willow,” he exclaimed, surprised. “What are you doing here?”

She smiled at him. “I’m dating Spike,” she announced happily. “I’m going to be living here, at least while I’m on my spring break.”

He looked confused. “Why don’t I show you your room,” I suggested. He followed us down the hall. I opened the door to Tara’s room. The guestroom, I corrected myself. “This is it,” I informed Giles. “Bath’s right across the hall.”

He set down his bags next to the closet and looked around, taking in the blue walls and light pine furniture. “This is very nice, Spike,” he complimented me, as he took off his tweed jacket. “It’s a pleasant room.”

“Do you want to have some tea?” asked Willow. “Or something to eat? Spike and I were just going to have a snack before bed.”

He took off his glasses and rubbed his nose. “If you don’t mind, I’m a bit jet lagged. I think I’ll just do some reading and get some sleep.”

“There’s clean towels in the hall closet if you’d like to take a bath,” I offered. “We’ll see you in the morning.”

I followed Willow into the kitchen. “So you decided that you’re going to stay with me, then?” I asked, as I ran my hand along the back of her neck.

She shivered. “I want to see how we get along,” she said. “I’m willing to throw myself from the frying pan into the fire.” She cupped my face in her hands and we kissed. She held me for a moment and then stepped back with a sigh. “Time for food, think about food. I feel like something light.” She went into the pantry and came out with a box of Pop Tarts. “Do you want some of these?”

“No thanks,” I declined. She ripped open the silver bag that held the pastries and sat down at the table. I joined her, sitting down with a bottle of beer.

“Do you mind if we set up your altar in the morning?” she asked me. “I really just want to get to bed.” She yawned and rubbed her nose.

“We can do whatever you like tomorrow,” I told her. “If you’re going to stay with me, we should go to Buffy’s and pick up some of your things.”

“Do you have room for my stuff here? All I really need to bring is some clothes and my books.” Willow broke off pieces of the pop tart and ate it, making little noises of appreciation.

“I’ve got space in my closet and a few empty drawers,” I informed her. “I think we can manage.”

“You picked the best kind,” she said. “Strawberry frosted ones are my favorite.”

“Tara picked them out,” I responded.

She looked thoughtful. “Can I just come right out and say that this feels weird? Staying here, with you, when I know that you wanted to live here with Tara?”

“I wish things had worked out differently with Tara, but I can’t regret it leading me to this moment.”

She looked at me. “I want to be with you,” she said. “And maybe it’s selfish of me, but I’m glad that things happened the way they did.”

I reached out and stroked her cheek. “Me too, pet.”

She finished her food and yawned again. “Sleepy time for me.” We turned off the lights and went back down the hall to our room. “You finally got me where you wanted me. I really couldn’t resist your sinister attraction.” She laughed, and I did as well.

“You won’t be sorry,” I told her. “I’m going to make you happy to be here.”

She pulled me into a hard hug. “You won’t be making me that happy, not with Giles right next door,” she said.

“That sounds like a challenge, sweetheart,” I whispered, kissing her ear.

She pulled away. “Well, it wasn’t,” she said, sweeping her lips across my cheek. She then picked up her nightgown and the toiletries that I’d bought her. “I’m going to get ready for bed.”

I took off my clothes and slid between the sheets. Comfortably resting against the pillow, I turned on the television, channel surfing until I finally settled on a murder mystery from the 1940’s. Willow came back into the room and shut the door behind her, turning off the light. She joined me in bed, smelling of toothpaste and soap. I put my arm around her and she settled her head on my chest. “I can’t tell you how much I wanted this,” I told her.

She looked up at me, her eyes shining in the dim light. “I was so tired of being alone,” she said. “And being with you, it’s not just having someone to be with. It’s having the right one to be with. You’re the one.”

****

Early in the morning, my sleep was disturbed by something brushing across my thighs. Willows’ hair was sliding across my belly as she took me in her mouth, licking and sucking my cock. I reached down and stroked the back of her head, running the silken strands of her hair through my fingers. She was moving slowly and gently this time. The sensations of the heat of her mouth, the sleek feel of her tongue, and the small puffs of her breath were indescribable.

She pulled away and slid up my body, her lips grazing mine. I rolled us both over, sliding her satin nightgown up over her thighs. She pressed her face to my neck as I took her, and I held her close to me as we moved together silently. She moved her mouth to my ear and gently kissed it, as my fingers trailed over her shoulders. We slid together, skin over skin, a smooth flowing like water over rock.

****

Giles sat at the table in a plaid bathrobe, smearing butter onto a toasted crumpet. “Good morning,” I greeted the Watcher, as I went to the refrigerator and helped myself to a bag of blood. “See you found yourself a bit of breakfast.”

“I hope you don’t mind,” he said. “I certainly didn’t want to disturb the two of you.” He peered at me over his glasses. I ignored him.

“So how long are you staying for?” I asked. “When will you be heading back to merry old England?”

“I’m not entirely certain,” he replied. “I need to discuss a few things with Anya.”

“Well, I’m hoping to convince Willow to take a little trip with me after the wedding,” I commented. “You’re welcome to stay here while we’re gone. I owe you one in the guest department. Although to be fair, I should tie you to a chair or chain you up in the tub.”

Willow came in the kitchen, wearing the silk robe that I had bought her. “Good morning,” she sang as she entered the room. “How did you sleep, Giles?”

“Very well, thank you,” he said. “Obviously you did too. You look nice and refreshed.” I chuckled, and he glared at me.

She sat down with a banana and a glass of milk. “So, I think we should hit the mall this morning,” she said. “Get you a new shirt and tie for your suit. And I should pick up a dress. My usual clothes aren’t going to pass muster for tonight.”

“The seder will be a formal dinner?” I asked her.

She nodded. “All of my relatives will be there, it’s a big dressy deal. If we came in our usual clothes, we wouldn’t really blend.”

“Not that I will blend very well as it is,” I said, winking at her.

She frowned and took a bite of her banana. ”True.”

I wanted to talk to her about this, but not in front of Giles. “And how about you?” I asked him. “Lots of plans today? Going to toddle off soon?”

“I’m meeting Anya at the Magic Box. Then I have some other business to attend to before I see Buffy this evening. I’m going to dinner with her and Dawn and meeting her new boyfriend.”

“You’ll like Richard,” Willow said brightly. “He is definitely the kind of guy to pass parental type approval. Nice, stable, good job, smart. He’s a keeper.”

I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. “Unlike your pick, hmm? Not nice, not stable, no job.”

“I didn’t mean it to sound like that,” Willow apologized.

“And you are smart,” remarked Giles. “You’re perfectly intelligent. However, you lack common sense.” He looked thoughtful. “And of course, you lack a soul. You’re simply not capable of making moral distinctions.”

Were it not for the chip, I would have gladly eaten Giles. Seeing my expression, Willow changed the subject. “So, are you looking forward to the wedding?” she asked.

“Not especially,” said Giles. “For one thing, I am certainly not looking forward to spending the day walking around in a bathrobe clutching a plastic wand.”

“You get to be Obi Wan,” Willow argued. “He’s a cool character, not a johnny-come-lately from Episode One.”

“You’ll look great as Amidala,” I tried to reassure her, again. “I don’t know why you’re all riled up about it.” I turned to Giles. “And if you’re really unhappy about being Obi Wan, then you can be Chewbacca instead. Clem would be delighted.”

“Clem has saber envy,” agreed Willow sagely. She took a sip of milk. “Anya is torturing us with these costumes. She picked stuff that we would hate just to be vengeful.”

“The girl has to get her kicks somewhere,” I pointed out. “Seeing as she’s out of the actual torture business now.”

Giles looked at his watch. “I’d better get going if I’m going to meet Anya. I have to walk a mile just to get to the shop.”

I stood and pulled a key ring out of the drawer. “Here’s the spare key, so you can come and go as you please.”

“Thank you,” he said. He looked at me. “I really appreciate your hospitality, Spike. It’s good of you to let me stay.” There was an awkward silence between us, and then he walked out of the room.

“What is up with the two of you?” asked Willow. “You used to get along. You worked together all summer. I thought you were getting to be friends.”

“All he sees in me is a demon,” I said harshly. “He thinks I’m no better than a rabid Rottweiler on a chain.”

“Have you ever bothered to show him the other side of you?” she inquired thoughtfully. “You saved the soft stuff for Dawnie and Tara and I.” Willow paused. “Did Buffy ever get to see that part of you?”

“She wasn’t interested,” I retorted, finishing off my breakfast.

She came and sat in my lap, putting her arms around my neck. “Her loss,” she said softly. She bent her head and pressed her lips to mine. I loved her taste, the sweetness of her mouth. I loved her, I realized. I’d fallen in love with Willow.

“I like this so much,” I said, as she pulled away. “You in my bed at night. Seeing you in the morning. My very own girl.”

“Well, I’m all yours until I go back to school,” she announced as she rose off my lap and pulled me up. If you didn’t count the wedding, the gatherings before it, and dinner with her entire family, she was all mine.

****

“I like that one,” I told Willow. She wore a black dress with small cap sleeves, and looked at herself critically in the large triple mirror.

“I think I look fat,” she protested, wrinkling up her nose.

“I think you’re losing your mind,” I said gently as I lightly kneaded her shoulders. “You’ve been trying on dresses for hours. I think you’ve lost your tether on reality.”

“It’s just that no matter what I wear it will be the wrong thing,” she lamented.

“Then just wear something that you like and be done with it,” I told her. “I like this dress, but it’s not you. Pick something that is you. Get a big feather boa, or a dress that looks like it was made out of a Muppet. Pick out an insane hat. Be yourself.”

She turned and looked at me. “They don’t want me to be me. They want a smarter, prettier, more successful me.”

“Then they’re idiots.”

“They’re my family,” she argued.

“Well, they’re both then,” I smiled at her.

She smiled back. “Being around them makes me feel like a total loser,” she admitted. “They’re all so successful, and together. I’m just a huge disappointment to my parents.”

“It’s been a while, but I recall the feeling,” I told her. “I never lived up to my mother’s expectations, no matter how hard I tried.”

“How did you deal with it?” she asked.

“I disappointed her until the day I died. I never did redeem myself to her. I died before I had a chance to show her that I could amount to anything.”

She looked at me seriously for a moment, then grinned. “I feel much better now. Thanks for the pep talk.” She laughed and rested her head against my chest.

“I never claimed to be a font of wisdom. I’m more a man of action,” I replied, nuzzling her neck. She hummed with pleasure at my touch, and I growled for her, making her giggle.

“I think I’ll just buy this dress,” she decided. “If I spend any more time in the mall, my head will explode.” She put her hands on her head and demonstrated, complete with sound effects.

“I want to take you somewhere first.”

****

Willow stared down at the glass counter, her face blank. “Is this some kind of joke?” she asked, her voice cracking. “Because I’m not laughing.”

“I’m perfectly serious,” I answered her.

“These are engagement rings,” she said oddly.

The clerk looked at me uncertainly, clearly not used to this particular reaction to their solitaire inventory. I took her hand and turned her around. “Xander said that your parents would be happy if I bought you a big diamond. Well, we’re here, at the jewelry store. Pick a sparkly and be done with it.”

She looked at me, aghast. “Do you know one single thing about women?”

“Well, I thought I did.” I looked at her face, anger and pain warring in her features. “I’m not feeling very sure about that now.”

“Are you asking me to marry you or are you asking me if I want a diamond ring?” she said. “There is a relationship between these two questions, but that seems to have somehow been lost on you.”

“Would you want to marry me?” I asked her. “Is that something that you would want to do?”

She covered her face in her hands. “It’s like you’re selectively retarded,” she said in a muffled voice. “Or you’re an alien from another planet who doesn’t understand our earth ways.”

“You lost me,” I complained to her.

She pulled her hands away from her face. “Spike, this isn’t funny. You don’t bring up the whole marriage and diamond bit to a girl who is in love with you. It’s mean. It’s cruel to jerk me around like this.”

“I’m willing to marry you. I’m not quite sure how we’d actually do that, maybe I could get a forged birth certificate or something. Not a big deal.”

She spun away from me and walked out of the store. I watched her walk away, her hair bouncing around her shoulders as she stalked off. I turned and looked at the clerk. “I guess we need a minute,” I told him.

“Take your time,” he said with a smile.

I walked briskly out of the store, and saw Willow sitting on a wooden bench, clutching her shopping bags. “Go away,” she protested when I got near her.

“We need to talk.” I sat down next to her. “Maybe I didn’t explain myself very well.” She didn’t answer, just stared into space. “I told you that I was willing to turn you so that we would be together always. Did that not indicate a commitment to you?”

“But that was hypothetical,” she said, puzzled. “Shiny diamond rings are very- thetical.”

“I’ve spent a century looking for the next thrill. I was never content, never satisfied,” I said slowly, looking for the right words. “The way I feel with you, it’s deeper than desire, it’s like you’re what I needed to be whole. I can relax with you, and just be myself” I paused as everything suddenly fell into place. “I think that’s what real love is, I just never realized it. I was chasing the wrong thing, all this time. I never knew.”

“You’re saying that you love me,” she said wonderingly.

“I love you, and I want to make you mine, to be with you forever. From now until the end of everything.” I took her hand.

She looked back at me seriously. “If we have forever, there’s no hurry then,” she said. “If you love me, we can take the time to see if this can work. Not the love part, the getting along. Sharing our lives. Working in sync.”

I couldn’t risk losing her, not when she kept walking away. “Live with me and be my love. Let me buy you a ring. Pretend that what we have is forever. Act like it’s the truth, and maybe it will become it.”

****

I pulled in front of Buffy’s house and pulled my blanket from the back seat. We got out of the car and ran together to the house. Willow opened the door and we walked up the stairs. The house was empty and quiet. “Do you think I should leave a note?” Willow asked. “It seems a little rude to just take my stuff and then disappear for a week.”

We went into her room and I lay down on her bed. She went into her closet, pulling down clothes and making a stack on the chair. “We’ll see Buffy on Friday, if not before,” I responded. “But maybe we should stay here and wait until Dawn comes home, tell her in person. That way she won’t feel left out of the loop.”

“I think you’re right,” she agreed, standing on tiptoe and pulling down a hatbox. “I’m sure she hates being the last to know.”

She walked into the recesses of her closet. I turned and looked at the bedside table, inspecting a porcelain dish filled with little objects. I picked it up and looked through it. There were marbles, small polished rocks, a tiny metal key painted black with nail polish, and a doll, small as a thumbnail.

I dropped the marble on the floor and it rolled under the bed. I got down on my knees and slid underneath into the darkness. It didn’t take too long before I found it. It was resting against a small metal box that was shoved far up at the head of the bed. Curious, I pulled out the box as I retrieved the marble. It was a lockbox, I saw, and there was a symbol painted on the top of it in black nail polish. It was a magical glyph, although I didn’t know what it was for.

I picked it up and walked over to Willow. “Does this belong to you?” I asked her, holding out the box.

She looked at it and paled. “Where did you get that from?” She anxiously pulled the box out of my hands.

“Under the bed,” I answered. “It’s got some kind of ward on it. What for?”

“It’s private,” she evaded, sliding the box on the top shelf of her closet.

“Keeping secrets already?” I asked her with a grin. “Aren’t we supposed to be all sharing now that we’re together?”

“Some things shouldn’t be shared,” she maintained, not meeting my eyes as she fussed with a scarf.

It wasn’t like her to shut me out. “It’s magical,” I said. “Is it black magick, is that why you’re hiding it?”

“It’s nothing like that,” she denied.

“Then what’s got you all spooked, pet?” I asked, turning her to look at me. “You know that you can trust me with anything, don’t you?”

“If you saw what was in the box, you’d think less of me,” she whispered.

I tilted up her chin. “I love you. That’s just not possible.”

“It’s personal,” she reiterated quietly. “And it’s about you, and it’s very embarrassing, especially now, and I wish you would just let it go.”

“It’s about me?” I asked, confused. “What could you have that would have to do with me?”

She picked up the box and set it on the floor. She reached out her finger, and her eyes began to spark. I grabbed it before she could do anything with it and ran over to the bed. I held up the tiny key and waved it at her. “If it’s got you this riled up it has to be really good,” I declared.

“I told you, it’s embarrassing and it’s a secret,” she said firmly.

“About me?” Her refusal only served to intrigue me further.

“Yes,” she admitted reluctantly.

“Well now I’m dying to know.” She lunged for the box and I held it high, out of her reach. “I’ll tell you a secret of mine, if you let me open the box.”

“No,” she said, jumping and trying to grab the box.

“I’ll tell you two,” I promised her. “Two juicy secrets.” I grabbed her waist and pulled her close.

“Tell me that you love me again,” she demanded, her eyes shut. She pressed her head against my shoulder and held tight to my arm.

“I love you, Willow,” I reassured her.

She looked up at me seriously. “Promise me that you won’t be angry.”

“I promise.”

“I’m going to go downstairs and get my things from the dining room.” she said. “And when I come back, you’ll put the box back where you found it.”

“Alright.” She left the room and closed the door, and I opened the box. The first thing I noticed was the smell. My smell, mingled with Willows. I pulled out a small black bundle and unwrapped it. It was one of my shirts, ripped at the shoulder and again in the chest.

I remembered that fight; it had been a bad one. Giles and I had both gotten our asses kicked, and Willow had pulled off my shirt later and patched me up. The shirt smelled strongly of Willow, and was soft to the touch.

I pulled out a handful of Polaroids and looked at them, one by one. The first was me standing up against the wall at Dawn’s birthday party, holding a beer and chatting with Xander. Next was me kissing Dawn on the cheek that same night, her birthday crown on her head. Another showed Giles and Tara and I caught on our way out the door to patrol. Giles and I were laughing, and Tara was smiling up at us. There was one of the Bot talking to me, while I stood there with my arms crossed, looking away. I put that one on the bottom quickly.

I smiled at the next one. Anya and I stood, holding sparklers. That must have been from the Fourth of July barbecue. The most dog-eared one was Willow and me. I had my arm around her shoulders and her whole face was lit up with a smile. I was smiling too, as we looked down at the sign in her hands: The Boss of Us.

The box was crammed full. It held ticket stubs from the places we’d all gone together over the summer, a ripped piece of leather from the hem of my duster, a scribbled IOU that I’d given her one night at the Bronze, cigarette butts, and two rings that I’d long forgotten owning. I unfolded a small red silk square. It was my old shirt, the one I’d shrunk in the wash at Xander’s, years ago.

There were two velvet bags at the bottom of the box. I opened one, and there was a wax impression of teeth, complete with fangs, and a hinge at the back. In the other bag was a small black vibrator. I opened and shut the teeth a few times, wondering.

I heard her coming back up the stairs and put the things in the box, shutting it. I slid it under the bed and sat down. She sat down next to me, and I kissed her cheek. “So when you said that you’d never thought of me that way, never thought I was sexy-”

“I lied,” she admitted, her face sad. “I’m sorry, Spike. I was afraid that if you knew how much I wanted you, it would scare you away. It scares me, too, and it’s in *my* head.”

“Can I ask you one question?”

“Yes,” she replied warily, her eyes scanning my face.

“How long?” How long had she kept it a secret?

“Since the first time you came back, when you wanted the love spell,” she confessed. “I used to think about you sometimes, about how scary you’d been, and how thrilling it was, when you smelled my neck, and wanted to bite me. And then you came back again, and you did try to bite me. That was when it really started. The imagining.”

She took my hand and I pulled her down, so that we were spooned together on her bed. I kissed her neck and rubbed my hand up her leg. “What did you imagine, love?”

“You on top of me, pinning me down, biting me,” she said faintly. “Only this time, you didn’t stop, just kept going. You’d drink from me, and you’d pull off my pants, and fuck me, hard.” She began to breathe faster as she described the fantasy, clearly becoming aroused.

I rolled over her and straddled her. Her pupils were dilated, her chest falling and rising. “You thought about it for years,” I marveled, running my hands along the neckline of her sweater. “You’d lie in your bed, late at night, with your little vibrator, holding my shirt.”

“I tried to stop doing it, after Tara and I were living together,” she continued softly. “I knew I shouldn’t be thinking about you that way, that it wasn’t right. But I’d still do it, every chance I could, when I knew she’d be away.” She shut her eyes, guilt washing over her features.

I pulled out her vibrator from my pocket and turned it on. Her eyes widened as I pulled up her skirt. I ran the vibrator along the length of her thigh, and she moaned. “Tell me about it,” I urged her, as I watched her writhe.

“I would draw it out as long as I could,” she whispered, her voice shaking. “I’d lie there, thinking about the way you looked, the way you moved, the sound of your voice.” I slid the vibrator up and down her thighs, making her shiver. “I would pretend that you were running your hands over my body, touching me.”

I unbuttoned her sweater and popped open her bra, rolling her nipples in my fingers as I moved the vibrator closer and closer to her slit. “I would imagine your head between my legs, feeling you licking me, sucking on me.” She gasped as I slid the vibrator underneath the edge of her panties, barely slipping the tip inside her.

She closed her eyes. “I imagined that you were touching yourself, jacking off hard, while you licked me,” she said, her hands unbuttoning my jeans and freeing my cock. She began to stroke me, and I pulled her panties off and began to move the vibrator inside her more forcefully, sliding it deeply within her and pulling out again. I was breathing hard now too, turned on by her revelation. “When I got close to the edge,” she panted faintly, “I’d pinch down hard on my neck, pretending I was feeling the fangs scratch at my neck, thinking of you, inside me, plunging inside me, taking me, my blood, my sex, all of me.”

I rammed myself inside her, moving the vibrator to her clit, rubbing it against her as I pulsed in and out of her body. She was wild, her hands twisting in my hair as I pounded against her. I released my demon, and the whole bed shook as I thrust in and out, rocking with the force of my movements. She screamed, and I tossed the vibrator aside, pinning her to the bed with both my hands as I sank my fangs into her shoulder. She came, and I pulled my fangs away so that I could see her face as she surrendered to her orgasm. She made the most amazing noises, gasping and crying out as she rocked. I buried my face in her hair as I exploded within her, grunting with the force of my release.

I heard the front door slam and Dawn’s voice. “Hello,” she called out, the sound of her voice clear through the open door. Willow and I scrambled away from each other, both still breathing hard from our lovemaking. The Niblet’s footsteps rang out as she dashed up the stairs. I buttoned up my pants and ran out into the hall, slamming the door behind me.

She turned the corner and saw me standing there. “Spike!” she squeaked, startled. She giggled nervously. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong,” I said casually. “Everything’s peachy.”

She looked at me oddly. “Peachy?”

“Uh huh,” I said, smoothing down my hair.

“So why are you all vampy then?” she asked curiously. I’d forgotten. I shook my head, and returned to my human visage.

My mind was a blank, still swirling from my orgasm. “Willow is moving out.”

“Really?” she said, puzzled. “When?”

“In a few minutes, I think,” I replied.

Dawn tilted her head and looked at me, then leaned in and smelled my breath. “Are you-- drunk?” she asked. “You’re acting really weird.”

“I need a drink,” I told her, and I led her back down the stairs. We went into the kitchen and I helped myself to a soda from the refrigerator.

“So you have to tell me all about this,” she demanded excitedly. “I want to know all the details.”

I took a big gulp of my drink. “She’s moving in with me. I think that’s all that we’ve really hammered out so far.”

“Wow,” said Dawn. “Good for you guys. I’m really glad that things worked out for her.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, curious.

“She didn’t tell you? About her crush on you?” she asked innocently.

Whoa. “How did you know about it?”

“She has a box in her room,” she informed me. “I was borrowing her clogs one day and I felt the edges of it, but I couldn’t see it. It’s invisible. So I figured that it must have something good inside, something cool. So I picked the lock and opened it. She had all these pictures of you inside, and one of your shirts. Tara nearly caught me with it; I didn’t see what else was in there. But I can put two and two together. There was a reason that she was hiding it.” She smiled shyly. “And I could understand how she felt, liking you, keeping it a secret.”

“Please don’t say anything to her about the box,” I asked her. “She would be really upset.”

“Well, she has you now,” she replied. “She would probably think it was funny-“

“Dawn, please. Don’t say anything about it.” I thought of how vulnerable Willow had been about the box, how afraid she’d been of showing it to me.

“Okay, if it’s important to you,” she agreed. “So, can I help Willow pack or anything?”

Willow walked into the kitchen. “Hi Dawnie,” she said, blushing slightly. “How was school?”

“It was fine,” answered Dawnie, smiling. “So, are you going to tell me your news?”

Willow looked at me. “I was thinking of moving in with Spike until my vacation is over.”

“I thought you were moving in. We’d agreed. It was settled.” She looked away.

Dawn looked between the two of us, confused. “Well, I’m going to go study now.” She left the room and I looked at Willow. She had turned away from me, and was fiddling with the spices on the rack near the stove.

“What did I do?” I asked her. “What did I do wrong?”

“You don’t understand,” she said softly. “The things that I’ve done. You’d hate me, if you knew. I’ve been pretending that it didn’t matter, but it does.”

“I could never hate you,” I protested. “I never would.”

She turned and looked at me. “You were in this house, grieving for my best friend. The woman you loved. And I was watching you, thinking sexual things about you. It was sick, and wrong.”

“You didn’t hurt anyone with your thoughts,” I argued. “No one knew.”

“I felt so guilty,” she cried. “I tried to focus on bringing back Buffy, to giving her back to you. I tried to think of Tara, to show her how much she meant to me. I loved Tara, but I wasn’t faithful to her. Not in my mind.”

“You didn’t hurt anyone,” I told her. “Nothing happened between us, not until we were both free. You have nothing to be ashamed of, Willow.”

“I pretended to be your friend, but I wasn’t, not really. You were in misery, and I was glad, because it brought you to me.” She looked down at the floor. “When you came back that night, crying over Tara, I was so thrilled. You came to me, and I got to hold your hand, to be near you. You fell asleep in my bed, and I watched you all night long. Wishing that you were mine. Hoping that maybe you’d notice me, see me in a different way.”

“And I did, Red. It was meant to be,” I reassured, as I walked over to her. “Maybe all of the crap that we’ve been through, it was just so that we would appreciate the real thing when we found it. If that’s true, we’ve both paid a price for love.”

“I’ve done so many things wrong,” said Willow. “I don’t deserve to have you.”

I kissed her, and she returned the embrace. It was sweet and light and full of hope and promise. “I’m a vampire,” I said quietly. “I’m not a good guy. I’ll never be a white hat. Maybe we don’t deserve it, either of us. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t seize this chance.”

She kissed me, and it became something fierce and naked: I truly felt her love and passion for me, unleashed. She tightened her hold around me, and I picked her up. She wrapped her legs around my waist as we kissed, and we staggered together up the stairs. I opened the door to her room and we fell together onto her bed. We pulled apart, and Willow waved her hand, the door slamming shut and locking. She whispered something under her breath and the room became completely quiet, all noise from the outside blocked out. I fumbled at my pants as she took off her sweater, leaving her bare. I pulled off her skirt as she slid my shirt off my arms. I entered her swiftly, both of us moaning as we joined together. She bit down on my earlobe, and her voice hissed in my ear, “Talk, talk now.”

I grabbed her ass in both hands and increased the rhythm, knowing what she needed. “You’re mine, baby,” I whispered. “I’m going to take you home and keep you there, in my bed until you can’t move a muscle. I’m going to take you every way that I want, in ways that haven’t even crossed your mind. You’re my woman now, and I’m never letting you go.” She bit down hard on my neck and shoulders, her hands grasping the muscles of my back. She matched every thrust, moving with me in perfect syncopation. “You wanted me all this time. Is this what you wanted, what you needed?”

“Yes, yes,” she cried brokenly.

“I’ll fight any battle to keep you, I’ll do anything. Nothing can tear us apart, not now.” I seized her head in my hands and we kissed as we came, melting into each other, becoming one.

****

“That’s the last of it,” announced Willow, as she stacked sweaters into my dresser drawer and pulled it shut. “Your male domain has now been thoroughly compromised.”

“Happy to hear it, pet.” I stretched out my arms. “Now come and lie down with me, take a little rest before we go to your parents house.”

She smiled at me. “Lying down in bed with you never winds up being restful. Napping does not include touching.” She came and sat down on the bed next to me.

I trailed my hand over her knee. “I like touching you. And you like it.” I put my head in her lap and looked up at her. “I’ll behave,” I said honestly. “I’ll be good, promise.”

“Okay,” she assented. I sat up and pulled off her sweater.

“It’s not good to sleep in your clothes,” I informed her. “I hear it’s unhealthy.”

“Really?” she said, arching her eyebrows.

“Bad for the circulation,” I assured her, pulling off her skirt. I pulled back the covers and slipped her underneath, taking off my clothes and joining her. I kissed her neck and brushed my hand across her stomach, twining my hand in the curls between her legs.

“You said that you’d be good,” she argued.

“I’ll be good,” I told her, as I moved my mouth to hers. She slid her arms around my neck, and her nipples pressed against me, already hard. “You want me, too, don’t bother denying it,” I said, kissing her neck.

“I can’t seem to stop,” she admitted.

“Works for me.” I cupped her hand around my cock, letting her feel how hard I was.

“Shouldn’t we pace ourselves? I mean, is it normal to have this much sex?”

“You have something else that you’d rather be doing?” I asked her, as I nibbled at her ear.

“I have some reading that I should do for class,” she said. “And we were going to set up your altar. I wanted to show you how to use your computer. We need to make reservations if we’re going away next week.”

“Would you rather be with me, or doing one of those things?” I suckled at her nipple, teasing the delicate flesh with my tongue.

“With you,” she answered. “But-“

I slid down her body and slipped my tongue inside her. I made her come, twice, three times, becoming more and more aroused by her moans. I loved the way she tasted, the way she moved underneath me. “Take me now,” she gasped. “Oh, fuck. Please, now, now. Spike.”

I moved up and over her, pulling her hands over her head. “Mine,” I hissed. “You’re mine.” I punctuated each word with a thrust of my hips, penetrating her deeply. “Mine, mine, mine,” I chanted. “I’ve got you. You’re mine.” I stopped. “Say it.”

She opened her eyes, and looked up at me. “I’m yours.”

“Tell me you love me,” I commanded.

“I love you,” she promised me, her eyes full of warmth.

I began to move again, filling her with my cock as if I could fill her with my self. “I love you. I love you so much.”

“I love you too,” she said earnestly. “Spike, I love you, I do.”

“I’m coming,” I cried out, arching my back. “God, yes.”

Willow grasped my hands hard, and throbbed around me, both of us splintering apart, falling together. She kissed my forehead, my cheeks, and rolled away. She looked at me, and brushed the hair out of my eyes. “You are a very possessive lover,” she observed softly. “And a little insecure. You don’t need to be.”

“I can’t seem to hold onto anything,” I responded. “I just don’t want to lose you too.”

“I want you as much as you want me. You don’t have to knock my socks off with your stamina in bed or make big commitments to hold onto me. You don’t need to prove yourself, not to me.”

I held her in my arms. “I’m just afraid of fucking things up,” I told her. “I don’t know how to make you want to stay with me.”

She kissed my lips. “I told you I’d stay,” she said. “I’ll stay with you until I have to go back to school.”

“I don’t want you to go.” I held her more tightly in my embrace. “I want you to make your home with me.”

She looked at me thoughtfully. “You wanted me to stay the night, then you wanted me to stay a week, now you don’t ever want me to leave. You need to relax, and enjoy what we have, not push so hard to make it last.”

I thought about it. “I’m not good at casual,” I replied. “I don’t think that I can pretend that I want less than I do. Because when it comes to you, I want it all. I don’t want to settle.”

“You have me, you do,” she assured me. She held up her hand and looked at me solemnly. “Scouts honor. I absolutely worship your insecure, needy self. I’ll even admit that it feels good to know that I can make you feel that way.” She smiled. “But you don’t need to be. Really.”

****

We walked into the Rosenberg’s house, and I shook her father’s hand. “Nice to see you again,” I told him.

“Good of you to come,” he replied.

“You shouldn’t wear black,” criticized Mrs. Rosenberg, plucking at the sleeve of Willow’s dress. “It makes you look washed out.”

“I think she looks beautiful,” I disagreed, and Willow smiled at me widely.

“We’re still waiting for the rest of the guests to arrive,” said Mrs. Rosenberg. “You can have a seat in the living room. Help yourself to a drink.”

“I think I’ll take him upstairs and show him my old room,” Willow announced, holding tightly to my hand.

“None of your things are in there anymore,” her mother said. “I cleared it out when you went to live with Bunny. No use wasting the space when I needed a home office. Your boxes are in the garage if you want to take them with you.”

Willow looked stricken. “Oh. Well, sure. I’ll do that.”

“Why don’t you help me in the kitchen and let the men get to know each other?” said Mrs. Rosenberg. She took Willow’s arm and pulled her away. She turned and looked at me, unhappily.

I followed her father into the living room. “So how long have you been dating my daughter?” he asked, sitting down on the couch.

I sat in an armchair across from him. “Just a few days,” I replied. “But we’ve been friends for a long time.”

“You seemed pretty intimate, when I saw you two together at the Bronze,” he observed. “I got the feeling you’d been doing a lot more together than dancing.”

Apparently, the polite getting to know you segment was over. “I love your daughter, Mr. Rosenberg.”

“And what are your intentions?” he said.

“I want to marry her,” I answered him. “I’m doing everything I can to get her to say yes.” I fumbled in my pocket. “I even have the ring,” I said, holding up the box.

“Why do you want to marry her? What kind of life could you give her?”

“A good one,” I defended myself. “She’d never have to work, if she didn’t want to. I respect her, and I’d treat her well.”

“You’re not Jewish,” he argued. “How would you raise the children? Would you convert?”

“I can’t have children,” I responded.

“So you don’t share her heritage and you can’t give her children,” he said flatly. “And your family? Have they met her?”

“I don’t have any family.”

“You’re a real prize,” he drawled sarcastically. “You’ve got a ridiculous name, and you don’t seem to bring anything to her life.”

My temper flared. “I make her feel loved,” I snapped. “That’s one up on you. She can’t even be herself around her own family. You don’t even know who she is or what matters to her.”

He stood up angrily, just as the front door opened. “Hello, hello,” called a female voice. “We’re here.”

We went into the foyer. A middle-aged woman who looked like a heavy version of Mrs. Rosenberg was holding the arm of an elderly woman in a lilac suit. “Who’s this?” asked the old woman.

“I’m Spike,” I greeted her, extending my hand. “I’m Willow’s boyfriend.”

She kissed both my cheeks and took my hands. “So nice to meet you,” she said with a warm smile. “I’ve never met one of her beaus before.” She smelled powdery and old, but she had Willow’s eyes, all green and gold. She patted my hands. “Och, you’re all cold.” She turned to her daughter. “Get Sheila to make him a cup of hot water and lemon. His hands are like ice.” She took my arm and led me to the living room. “We can get away from the draft. It’s no good, sitting near the front door.”

“I’m Linda, by the way,” Willow’s aunt introduced herself. “Nice to meet you.” She and Mr. Rosenberg hung up coats and walked into the kitchen.

“I’m Esther,” the older woman informed me, as I sat her down gently on the couch. “Willow’s grandma on the Klein side.”

“She looks like you,” I told her with a smile. “She has your eyes.”

She patted her hair. “She got the hair, too. I was quite popular with the boys, when I was young. Of course, poor Willow never was.”

“She does all right for herself,” I defended Willow. “She got me after all.” The old woman laughed and slapped my knee.

Willow came into the room. “Hello, Grandma,” she said with a big smile. She kissed her grandmother and sat down next to her. “How have you been?”

“Well, you know, my heart isn’t what it used to be,” she complained gently. “And my hip still bothers me since the transplant.” Willow nodded sympathetically.

The doorbell rang and Mrs. Rosenberg came out to get it. Several couples walked in, pulling off coats and talking loudly. “Everyone go in the dining room,” she ordered. “We’re running late.” She turned to Willow. “I need you in the kitchen.”

I helped Willow’s grandmother up and followed the crowd into the dining room, helping Mrs. Klein into her seat. I sat down at the far end of the table, while everyone else filed into their seats. A dozen pairs of eyes turned to stare at me. I straightened my tie and resisted the urge to look away.

“So,” said an elderly man. “You’re Willow’s date?”

“Yes,” I replied, sipping at my wine.

“What do you do?” asked another man who resembled Mr. Rosenberg.

“I’m independently wealthy,” I told him.

He raised his eyebrows. “How nice for you. And how do you spend your days, since you lead a life of leisure?”

I took a sip of wine. “I watch a lot of television.” He frowned. “And I read a lot.”

“What do you like reading?” he grilled me.

“Poetry, fiction, history. Bit of everything, really.”

Mrs. Rosenberg walked in. “We need to get the Seder started.” She set down a plate on the table that was already laden with several small dishes. Willow followed her out, carrying a bowl of hardboiled eggs. She smiled at me uncertainly and sat down next to me.

All along the table, everyone picked up the small books that lay on their plates. I picked up mine as well and opened it. The text was in both Hebrew and English, with woodcut illustrations. Ira began to read, his deep voice rolling out the rounded syllables of Hebrew. Each person read one section from the haggadah, some of them reading more fluently than others. Willow read her section clearly and distinctly. Everyone turned and looked at me as she finished.

“You can read the English,” she whispered to me.

“That’s alright,” I assured her. I began to read, faltering over some of the words, but doing as good a job as some of the other readers. I finished my section and looked up.

“Willow’s shaygetz reads Hebrew,” said her aunt in disbelief. Several people shushed her.

“My mother wanted me to become a priest,” I told them. “I can read Greek and Latin as well.”

After an uncomfortable pause, the cousin on my left began to read. We ended the readings and began the meal. Everyone chattered amongst themselves, talking over each other as people passed around platters and bowls of food. Willow handed me a casserole dish of sweet potatoes and pineapple, and then a platter of beef brisket. More food kept coming, until my plate was piled high. “Just keep eating,” Willow whispered in my ear. “You can’t talk if your mouth is full.”

I ate. I ate more than I had eaten in years. Willow kept refilling my glass, and I drank quite a bit of rich blackberry wine. I started to feel a bit sleepy, lulled by the alcohol. “So, Spike, how long have you and Willow been seeing each other?” asked an aunt.

“A few days,” I answered. “We’ve known each other for years though.”

“So you aren’t really serious?” inquired her mother.

“Well, I’m serious,” I told her. “It’s Willow who’s dragging her feet.” She kicked my leg, and I yelped.

“If you got married, would you convert?” fired back her grandmother.

“I’d do whatever Willow wanted to do,” I replied. “I just want to make her happy.”

“What if you had kids?” asked someone else. “Would you raise them Jewish?”

“I can’t have children,” I answered. There was an awkward silence, and then the sounds of people eating.

“You could always adopt,” Willow’s aunt said brightly. “And it’s probably better for Willow. She has such delicate little hips.”

I laughed and turned to look at Willow. She was bright red, and obviously very uncomfortable. “I like her hips,” I began, and she smashed her heel into my toes.

The phone rang, and Mr. Rosenberg got up to answer it. “Ignore it, Ira, its Pesach,” commanded his wife.

“It could be important,” he argued, walking over and answering the phone.

“Are you mad at me?” I whispered in Willow’s ear.

She shook her head. “No. I just feel like one of those animals that’s willing to chew off its own foot to get out of the trap it’s in.”

“Willow Danielle,” her father said angrily. Her head shot up, and I could hear her heart begin to pound faster. He shook the phone at her. “Xander is on the telephone. I told him that you weren’t available, but he insists on talking to you.”

She looked at me worriedly. We both got up and she took the phone. “What’s wrong?” she asked. She listened for a minute. “We’re on our way.” She hung up the phone and took my hand. “We have to go,” she said urgently.

“What’s wrong?” I asked her.

She turned to her family. “Spike and I have to leave,” she informed the crowd. “There’s an emergency we have to deal with.”

“You can’t leave now,” her mother protested.

“I’m sorry,” Willow apologized to her.

“Now just wait a minute,” her father said. “Whatever problem Xander is having, you can wait. You always did run after him when he called, like a trained dog.”

Willow’s eyes blazed green. “I really don’t have time to argue with you. So you’re just going to have to get over it.”

“But it’s Passover,” objected Mrs. Rosenberg. “It’s important that you’re here.”

“It’s important to you, not me,” Willow asserted herself. “I’m a witch, Mom, remember? You tried to burn me at the stake?”

Her father turned to her mother. “What?” he yelled.

“Let’s get out of here,” Willow said. We ran out the door and up to my car. “Give me the keys, you’ve had too much to drink.”

I handed them to her. “Want to clue me in on what’s going on, Red?”

“Anya’s missing,” she replied, turning the key in the ignition. “Someone knocked out Giles. He didn’t see who took her, but he found something at the shop.” She turned on the headlights and peeled out from the curb. “A syringe of cardiolis.”



PAIRING: Spike/Willow. Spike/Buffy, Spike/Tara implied
RATING: NC-17 overall
SPOILERS: Season 6 through “As You Were”.
DISCLAIMER: All hail Joss Whedon, UPN, the WB, FOX, Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox Film Corporation. GO team! Theirs, not mine.
DEDICATION:
AUTHOR”S NOTE:
DISTRIBUTION: Please ask my permission first, just so I know where it’s headed.
FEEDBACK: Sure, fire away to jodyorjen@yahoo.com



Chapter 14

We walked into the Magic Shop, and were immediately swept into a maelstrom. Giles was clutching a bloodstained cloth to the back of his head as he argued furiously with Xander. Buffy was between them, trying to reason with them both, but they were totally lost in their yelling match. I didn’t catch what started it, but Xander threw a punch, accidentally knocking down Buffy and smashing Giles in the jaw. He tossed his bandage aside and lunged at the younger man, grappling with him until they both smashed into a bookcase, sending a cascade of texts to the floor.

“Stop it, stop it,” said a horrified Dawn, who stood in the corner with Richard. Giles grabbed Xander by the throat and slammed his head into the wall as Xander kicked him hard in the shin.

“Separate,” said Willow. The two men flew apart, landing on opposite sides of the store.

“I like that trick much better when I’m not on the receiving end of it, love,” I told her.

“You’re using magic again,” yelled Xander, advancing on Willow. “I knew Spike was wrong. I knew getting you back into Wicca would be a mistake.”

“Don’t attack me,” Willow said adamantly. “I’m sure you’re upset about Anya, but you have no right taking it out on me, or on Giles.”

“It’s Giles’ fault that Anya’s gone,” said Xander. “He was here, he should have protected her.”

“And you should have been here,” countered Giles. “You should have been here to walk her home. She told me that you don’t even bother, that you don’t have the time. How could you let her walk through Sunnydale alone at night?”

They started screaming again, walking back towards each other. “Hold up,” yelled Buffy. “Just shut up.” They continued to argue, and Buffy and Willow exchanged a look. Red whispered under her breath and the room became quiet, their mouths working but no sound coming out. They stopped and turned to look at her.

“Even if you’d both been here,” said Willow, “they still would have taken Anya. Even the two of you together wouldn’t have been able to stop a Fyarl demon. Much less a pair of them.”

“How do you know it was Fyarl demons?” asked Buffy.

“Two of them tried to kidnap Willow the other night,” I explained. “They shot her up with cardiolis.”

“Why didn’t you tell us about it?” said Buffy.

“We thought it was just some demons trying to shake me down,” I said. “It didn’t occur to me it had anything to do with the Scoobies.”

Xander stepped forward and asked a question, his mouth moving silently. Willow waved her hand. “-check out the demon haunts?” he finished.

“Yeah, definitely,” said Buffy. “Spike and I will go see what we can find out.”

“And I’ll call Clem, get him to head out with me,” said Xander. “We’ll be able to cover more ground that way.” He headed for the telephone.

“And Giles and Willow can stay here and do research,” said Buffy.

“No,” said Giles abruptly. “I know what a Fyarl demon looks like. I was one. I’m not sitting around the shop twiddling my thumbs.” He turned away and began to replace the books in the shelf that had toppled over, his hands shaking slightly.

“We can analyze the syringe, see if we can trace the source,” said Willow. “And we have the other one back at the house to compare it to.”

“Good plan,” said Buffy. “Spike, come with me.”

Willow turned to me. “Do you mind if I take your car?”

I kissed her forehead. “Fine by me, love,” I told her. “Be careful.” I turned away.

“Wait,” she said. “You should change your clothes. I don’t want you to mess up your suit.”

“I’ve got some stuff in the trunk,” I told her. I turned to Buffy. “I’ll be back in a minute.” She nodded and turned back, talking to Richard.

Willow and I walked outside to my car. I opened up the trunk and sorted through it, finding a crumpled shirt and a pair of jeans. I sat down on the curb and untied my dress shoes. I undid my belt and took off my suit pants, handing them to Willow. “Aren’t you afraid that someone will see you?” she asked with a smile, as I slid my jeans up my bare legs.

I buttoned up the fly and turned to her. “I’ve found people in this town turn a blind eye to pretty much anything out of the ordinary.”

I handed her my suit jacket and unbuttoned my shirt, tossing it in the trunk. I slid the t-shirt on over my head. I sat back down and put my shoes on. “I hope I don’t have to do any running tonight in these sodding dress shoes,” I told her. “And I’m really regretting not wearing my duster.” I stood up and took the clothes from her, setting the suit down carefully in the back seat. I took the ring box out of the pocket of my pants and handed it to her. “You’d better keep hold of this,” I said softly. “Wouldn’t want it to get misplaced.”

She cracked it open and looked inside. She looked at me, her expression conflicted. “I said no, Spike,” she said. “So why did you buy a ring anyway?”

“You said not now,” I corrected her. “Not the same as no. Not now implies maybe later.”

“You’re arguing semantics,” she replied.

“I’m notorious for having my big plans fall apart,” I said. “I’m not about to let it happen this time. Got the ring, got the girl, just waiting for the right moment.” I grabbed her and nuzzled her neck, making her laugh.

“So I’m part of a big Spike plan?” she asked, cupping her hand around the back of my hand and gently kissing my lips.

“The only plan that I care about now,” I told her, as I claimed her mouth. She moaned softly as I put my hands on her waist and pulled her into me, so our bodies were pressed together. We were interrupted by Xander walking out of the shop. Giles followed behind, his expression grim. “Clem’s meeting us at Spike’s in fifteen minutes,” Xander said. “We’re going to check out the tunnels.”

She kissed me quickly on the lips. “I love you,” she said in my ear. “Be careful.” I watched her drive away, and went back into the shop.

Buffy was pacing impatiently. “Let’s get going,” she said. I followed her out the back door through the alley.

“Where’s the niblet?” I asked her.

“Richard’s taking her back to his house,” she said. “He’ll take care of her.”

“I’m glad that he’s around to be there for you and Dawn,” I told her. “He’s a good guy.”

“Well, I was hoping that Giles would get to know him a little tonight over dinner,” she said. She gestured to her pink dress and high heels. “But obviously Chez Francois is out.”

“You look very pretty,” I told her. She smiled at me.

“And I feel guilty for even complaining about my dinner plans when Anya is missing,” she said.

“We’ll find her,” I said. “What was the row all about, with Xander and Giles getting all physical?”

She shook her head. “Giles was really furious with Xander. I don’t know why. It’s not his fault that this happened.”

“He’s in a bit of a mood,” I told her. “I figured he’d blow his stack over Willow and I, but he didn’t even say anything. Broody Giles is a new one on me.”

We walked into her house and she headed for the weapons chest. “Don’t go for anything too noticeable,” I told her. “No one is going to be very forthcoming if you shove a crossbow in their chest.”

“It’s worked well for me in the past,” said Buffy, picking one up and driving a bolt home.

***

I was following Buffy down an alley when I heard Willow’s voice in my head. *Spike?*

“Hey baby,” I said. Buffy turned and gave me a dirty look. “Not hey baby you, hey baby Willow,” I explained. “In my head.”

*Hi Buffy,* said Willow.

Buffy startled. “Jesus!” She cried out.

“Little odd, isn’t it?” I asked her. “Took some time for the rest of us to get used to it.”

*Clem wants you to meet him at the Old Brogue,* said Willow.

“How do you know?” asked Buffy. “What did you do, read his mind?”

*No, he called, * said Willow. *You know, on the phone.*

We changed direction and headed back down to the docks. “Hopefully Clem’s got a good lead,” said Buffy. “The longer we go without finding Anya the more worried I get.”

“Clem’s got different contacts that I do,” I said. “The supernaturals are comfortable working with him. They’re not crazy about vampires.”

“Who are the supernaturals?” asked Buffy.

“Trolls, fairies, elves, leprechauns,” I explained. “The folk and fable crowd.”

“Like Olaf?” she said.

“Well, yeah. But he was turned into a troll, not born one. The supernaturals keep to themselves. They don’t come looking for action.”

“I don’t think I’ve run into any of them before,” she said.

“Well, you’re going to meet a whole lot of them now,” I said.

I knocked on the door of The Old Brogue. A porthole opened up and an eye peered through the hole. “Clem sent us,” I told him. The door swung open and we walked in. It was an Irish bar, with Guinness banners on the wall and maps of Ireland. A folksinger sat on an elevated stage, boisterously singing “Black Velvet Band.” The patrons sang along, merrily drinking big tankards of beer. “Looks pretty normal to me,” said Buffy. “I don’t think we’re in the right place.”

A good looking man walked over. “Hey guys,” he said happily. “Willow got in touch with you pretty quickly.”

“Clem?” said Buffy warily.

“Oh, right, the glamour.” He went over to the bar and came back with a small glass jar. “I’ll just put a bit of ointment on your eyes and then you can see,” he said.

I closed my eyes and a cool sensation covered my lid. I opened my eyes. The bar was filled with fairies, trolls, and other creatures. I opened my eyes and saw Clem putting the ointment on Buffy’s lids. She opened her eyes and did a double taking, looking all around.

“Xander’s talking to a fairy in the back,” he said. We followed him through the crowd, turning into a smaller room that was filled with small tables. Xander sat at one, talking to a translucent blue figure. An elf sat on the other side of him, munching on a handful of pretzels. We walked over and sat down.

“This is Thyla,” said Xander. We all introduced ourselves to the fairy. “And this is Euan,” he said, indicating the elf.

“I heard something that might help you,” she said. “I’m not sure that it will help.”

“Anything that you have to share would be a big help,” I told her.

“A friend of mine works at a bar here in town,” she said. “She says that she’s been seeing Fyarl demons coming and going lately.” She took a sip of her beer.

“What’s the name of the bar?” I asked her. A waitress came by and put a beer in front of Xander. He drank deeply, tilting back the large mug until it was empty.

“Diamond Bar,” Thyla replied. “It’s close by the Bronze.”

Clem turned to the elf. “Tell them what you told me,” he said.

“I’m an apothecary,” said the elf. “I had a robbery the other night. It was a Fyarl demon and two manticores. They stole my entire stock of cardiolis.”

Abruptly, Xander leaned over and grabbed Thyla, pulling her into a deep, intimate kiss. She stiffened and then settled into it, wrapping her arm around his neck. Her wings fluttered back and forth, creating a breeze.

“Xander!” exclaimed Buffy, horrified. “What are you doing?”

He broke the kiss and turned to Buffy. “I love this girl. I want to stay here with her forever.” His face was lit with happiness, his smile wide.

“What about Anya?” Buffy hissed. “Remember her? Your missing fiancée?”

“She is but a paltry mortal,” he responded, his eyes fixed once more on Thyla. He gently caressed a lock of her hair. “Faerie is where I belong. Where I can love, and dance, and feast for all eternity.”

Thyla gave him a delicate peck on the lips. She turned to us reluctantly. “It’s the beer,” she said wistfully. “It makes them crave the touch of a fairy.” She smiled at Xander warmly. “Not that I really mind.”

They leaned toward each other again, eyes locked, and Clem grabbed Xander by the collar. “I need to talk to Darby,” said Clem. “He’ll know how to get a hold of some other manticores.” He held tightly to Xander as the smaller man tried to break the hold.

“And I speak Fyarl, so the Slayer and I will scout them out,” I said.

“I’ll take Xander home before he does something even more stupid,” said Clem. He cuffed Xander hard in the head and flung his unconscious body over his shoulder, walking out of the room.

“Let’s roll,” said Buffy.

****

We walked into the Diamond Bar. “Just try to chill out and let me handle this,” I asked her. “I know it’s contrary to your nature, but it’s worth a shot.”

The place was crowded, and a blue fairy flew back and forth behind the bar, busily pouring drinks. I spotted a Fyarl demon hunched over a barstool and sidled over to him. “Hey mate,” I said in Fyarl. “I’ve got a bit of a proposition for you.”

He swiped at me with his free hand. “Go away,” he grunted, swigging his beer.

“Anyone been asking around for a few Fyarls to do a bit of business for them?”

He turned and looked at me. “Maybe.”

I slipped him a few bills. “Care to enlighten me a bit?”

He chugged his beer. “Giant wants find girl,” said the demon. “Thinks girls know where is.”

I turned to Buffy. “Some giant’s trying to find a girl,” I told her.

“What does that have to do with Anya?” she asked. “Or Willow?”

“I don’t know,” I told her. “But there aren’t that many giants in Sunnydale. It should be fairly easy to narrow it down.” I turned back to the Fyarl demon. “Do you know where the giant is?” I asked him.

He shook his head. “Giant sent bone boy.”

“Bone boy?” I repeated.

“Giant sent bone boy,” he confirmed.

“Giant sent bone boy,” I told Buffy.

“What does that mean?” she asked.

“Hell if I know,” I told her. “Let’s go ask some giants.”

****

We rang the bell at the door of the warehouse. “Come on in,” said a rumbling voice. We opened up the door and walked into the cavernous space. Curls of wood and sawdust were swept into tidy piles on the floor. In the middle of the room, a huge figure worked carefully, chiseling the surface of an immense wooden sculpture.

“Hey, Harvey,” I said. “How’s it going?”

He put down his chisel and leaned over. “Hey Spike,” he said. “Congratulations on the new house.”

“How’d you hear about that?” I asked.

“Clem told me,” he said. “I made you a little present.” He picked up an ornately carved sculpture with the tips of his fingers and handed it to me.

It was about the size of my forearm, all sweeping angles and curves. “This is a nice piece, Harvey,” I said. “Thanks. I’ll have to bring it home another time though. Need to keep my hands free.” He took it back from me and set it carefully on a tall shelf.

“So what can I do for you?” he asked. “I’m guessing it’s not a social call, since you’ve brought the Slayer with you.”

He looked at Buffy. “Pleasure to meet you, Miss Slayer,” he said.

“Just Buffy,” she said. They shook hands, Buffy’s small one the size of one of his fingernails.

“We’ve got a friend who’s gone missing,” I told him. “Apparently a giant had something to do with it.”

He looked at me thoughtfully. “Not a timber giant,” he said firmly. “We’re pacifists. We don’t have any interest in stirring up trouble.”

“No, I know it’s not your kind of gig,” I told him. “But you know more giants than I do. Apparently this one’s got someone working for him, goes by bone boy or looks like he’s made of bone. My source wasn’t the most verbal fellow on the block.”

“Hiram’s got a new hired gun, looks like a skeleton,” he said. “And I’m hearing that he’s got a bug up his ass. Something about finding a succubus.”

****

We pulled up in front of the club and I rang the bell. A red horned face poked out the door. A dagger flew through the air and landed in the middle of his forehead with a meaty thunk, and he fell down.

“Not feeling chatty tonight, are you Slayer?” I asked her.

“Definitely feeling a bit testy,” she said. “I was looking forward to having a little chocolate mousse or a napoleon about now.”

“Don’t get between a girl and her chocolate,” I commented as we stepped inside the club.

Two manticores came out from the door that led to the back office and Buffy dispatched them both, one with a throwing star to the neck and the other with a knife through the heart. “Are you going to let me get a little action here?” I asked her.

“I’m in the moment,” she said.

We walked through the doors to the back office. The first thing I heard was Anya screaming. Buffy and I looked at each other and took off at a run. We went through the door of the back office. It was empty, but there was a hidden door that was ajar. Anya screamed again, a horrifying noise that ended in a weak gurgling. We passed through the hidden door.

Anya was strapped to a table, and Hiram was bent over her. He made a shoving gesture with his arm, and she made a faint noise. Buffy took off her crossbow and shot him in the back. He turned around. His hand had morphed into a cluster of thin icicles, each one tipped with her blood.

“What the fuck are you doing, Hiram?” I asked him. “You’ve lost your mind.”

“No,” he said. “I’m seizing an opportunity.” He snapped the arrow out of his back, seemingly unfazed.

“Whatever your bright idea was,” Buffy said angrily, “It’s going to be the last one you’ll ever have.” She advanced on him, pulling a butane torch out of her coat and setting him afire. He waved his arms, the fire quickly burning out on his frozen body.

“It’ll take more than that to kill me,” he said. He turned around and thrust his hand into Anya, and she screamed again. I tackled him, pulling his arm away. We fell to the floor, and he slammed me in the face with his head, leaving me dizzy.

“Roll, Spike!” Buffy yelled. I rolled to the side, and she blasted him with a flamethrower. He screamed, and his head and body began to melt. He hurled himself through a door in the wall, and it closed behind him. I ran to the door and scrabbled to find the opening, to follow him. “God, Spike, help me,” Buffy said brokenly.

I turned to her. Anya was naked, pale and bleeding. The bones of her face were shattered, and she was barely recognizable. Her body was covered with small holes, and she lay in a puddle of blood. Thick trails of blood coursed down her thighs, trailing down to her feet. “She’s dying, Buffy,” I told her. “She’s fading.”

I picked up the phone and dialed. “Hello?” said Willow.

“I need you here with me, now,” I told her. “Just do it, Red.”

I put the phone down, and I felt her presence in my mind, tracking me, placing me. I heard a great pop, and she appeared before me, clutching her head. “Ouch,” she said, falling to her knees and retching. “Oh, that made me so nauseous.”

I pulled her up. “Anya’s dying,” I said. “If we take her to the hospital, she won’t make it in time. You have to fix her.”

“I don’t think I can,” she said. “I don’t think I have the energy.” She looked at me. “I could use you, tap into you like a battery.”

I heard the sound of Anya’s heartbeat winding down, slowing. “Do it now,” I said, “or she’ll die.” She took my hands in hers. “I love you,” she said, looking at me deeply.

“I love you too,” I told her, and then I was sucked into a vortex of blackness and pain.

****

“Spike?” said Buffy. I opened my eyes and I was lying in my bed. “Oh, there you are.”

“Where’s Willow?” I asked her, struggling to sit up. “How is Anya?”

“Willow’s still out,” she said. “Anya’s fine.”

“Tara,” I said. “We have to find Tara. That’s what Hiram was after, finding out where she was.”

“Anya told us where she went,” she said. “Richard is going to get her, to bring her back.”

“She shouldn’t come back here,” I said. “It’s too dangerous.”

“It’s more dangerous to have her out there with no one to defend her,” she said. “Here we can protect her.”

“She was trying to get away from me,” I told her. “She left so that she could be free of her demon.”

“Well, it doesn’t look like there’s any getting around it,” she said. “Giles said succubae are rare and valuable demons. They’re shape shifters, and they can tap into any man’s fantasies and fulfill them. They’ve been captured and sold as sex slaves for centuries.”

“That’s bloody terrific,” I said, putting my head in my hands. “I handed her to Hiram on a silver platter. God, I’m an idiot.”

“What do you mean?” asked Buffy.

“I took her to him,” I told her. “I took her to him to get a job at his club. He’s the one who told me she was a succubus. That’s how the whole thing got started in the first place.”

“You were going to help Tara get a job as a stripper?” said Buffy, aghast.

“Oh, please don’t get on your moralistic high horse, Slayer,” I said. “I feel horribly guilty right now, you don’t need to rub salt in the wound.” I stood up. “Where is Willow?” I asked her.

“She’s at my house, with Giles,” she said.

“Why isn’t she here with me?” I asked.

She looked uncomfortable. “Giles thought it would be best if you stayed away from Willow.”

“Who the fuck does he think he is?” I asked her, getting up.

She stood up and blocked my way. “Willow wiped Anya’s mind, Spike,” she said. “She doesn’t remember anything after Hiram hit her the first time.”

“Good,” I said. “The girl is getting married in three days time. It’s best if she doesn’t remember being raped, tortured and beaten, don’t you think? How long do you think it would take her to get past that?”

“Willow had no right to do that to her, Spike,” said Buffy. “She had no right to manipulate her memory that way. It’s not natural.”

“It was a kindness, Buffy,” I said to her. “If you can’t understand that, you really are barely human.” I tried to step around her and she stepped in front of me.

“Willow was doing better, Spike,” said Buffy. “And now she’s using magic as much as before, and making the same mistakes.”

“And you all blame me?” I said. “The evil vampire is leading the innocent down the path of wickedness, is that right?” She looked straight in my face. “If not for Willow, Anya would be dead. You know that better than anyone.”

“I’m not arguing that-“ she said.

“So it’s okay to save her life, or your life, for that matter, but not to purge Anya of a horrifying experience that will scar her for life? Who the hell do you think you all are? Choosing at whim what’s acceptable and what’s not? She’s not your pet, to be used when you see fit.”

“You don’t get it,” she said. “You can’t comprehend-“

“She has been blessed with amazing gifts that we can’t begin to understand,” I told her. “Her magick is as much of a gift as yours, Slayer. Could you stop being the Slayer? Would that be more natural, to deny who you are? What you are?” I walked around her, and she followed behind me.

The garage door opened and in walked Willow with Giles close behind. “Spike!” She ran into my arms, and I picked her up and spun her around. She wrapped her arms around my neck and held on tight. I ran my hands over her back, through her hair, relishing her presence.

“Are you okay, sweetheart?” I asked her worriedly. She looked pale and drawn.

“Big headache and a bad nosebleed,” she said. “I just want you to take me to bed,” she said softly. I lifted up her legs and cradled her in my arms.

Buffy and Giles stood together, watching us. “Either of you got a problem with me, or a problem with her, get the fuck out of our house and don’t come back,” I told them. I turned my back on them and took her down the hall. “What can I do for you, baby?” I asked her. I helped her out of her dress and into a soft flannel nightgown from her drawer, and tucked her into bed.

“I want some water and some aspirin,” she said. “And maybe you could rub my back. Tara used to rub my back when I felt like this and it made me feel better.” She seemed so tired, and I could tell she was in agony.

“I’ll be right back, kitten,” I said as I kissed the tip of her nose. I walked down the hall to the kitchen. Giles and Buffy sat at the table, talking softly. I ignored them and pulled a bottle of water out of the refrigerator, and filled a tall plastic cup with ice. I rummaged through the drawers, finding the bendy straws Tara had bought.

“Spike,” said Giles.

“I have to take care of Willow now,” I said without looking up. “You want to fight, we can do it when she’s not wracked with pain, waiting for me to come back with some pills.” I pulled down a huge bottle of Tylenol, which sat in the cupboard next to the vitamins and herbs Tara had picked out.

“I just wanted to say that I’m sorry,” he said. I turned to look at him. “I think that I misjudged you,” he said. “I don’t think that you are using Willow. I think you really do love her, even without a soul.” Buffy looked at me, her eyes shadowed.

“Glad that I finally met your approval,” I said. “So glad that you could figure out that maybe everything in your books isn’t written in stone, Watcher.”

“She asked for you, as soon as she woke,” he said. “All she wanted was to come home to you. That’s what she said, that she wanted to go home.” I walked away, and went back to Willow. She rested on the bed, her hands pressed to her head.

“Baby, are you okay?” She tried to sit up and smile, but she cried out and blood began to pour from her nose. I grabbed a T-shirt from the drawer and sat down, tilting her head back and trying to staunch the flow. It continued to pour, seemingly without end. She made a weak noise and her eyes fluttered shut. “Willow!” I said, frightened.

She opened her eyes a bit and looked up at me. “I’m so tired,” she whispered.

“You rest, love,” I told her. “I’ll be right here.”

“You won’t leave me?” she said. “You won’t let me go?”

“I’ll never let you go,” I promised her. Reassured, she fell asleep. I cleaned off the blood from her face and neck, and leaned her head back against the pillow. She was so pale, her face nearly as white as the sheets. I turned off the lights and slipped into bed beside her, gently resting my arm around her waist.

****

I woke in the middle of the night, being kicked and punched by flailing limbs. Willow was having a seizure. I backed away and carefully turned her on her side so she wouldn’t choke. She arched several times more, and then lay still. I heard her faintly begin to cry. I turned on the light. Her face and pillow were covered with blood. She must have had another nosebleed during the night. “It’s okay, Will,” I said to her soothingly. “You’re alright.” She held out her arms and I pulled her to me, rocking her as I smoothed her hair. She was shaking, absolutely electric with fear, and her nightgown was soaked through with sweat. She held onto me desperately as she cried. Soon she stilled.

“Let’s get you cleaned up, love,” I told her. I helped her out of her nightgown and lay her down on my pillow. I took off her soiled pillowcase and put on a fresh one. In the bathroom, I moistened several washcloths and brought them back to her. I cleaned off her face and body, and she shivered. I put a clean nightgown on her, and settled us back into bed. I shook out some pills and helped her to swallow them, holding the glass of water for her. She drank the water, greedily, and I poured her another glass. She drank it down and then collapsed against me.

“I’m dying,” she said faintly. “I can feel death crawling over me, burrowing beneath my skin.”

A chill ran through me. “Let’s go to the hospital,” I said. “Let’s get you to a doctor.”

“It’s magick,” she said. “I have to pay the price. There’s nothing they could do to save me.”

“I won’t let you,” I told her. “I won’t lose you.”

“Don’t let me die,” she said, and fell back asleep. I listened to her heartbeat, wondering if I would have to turn her, to keep her by my side.

****

I woke up in the morning and looked over at Willow. She had good color, her breathing normal, her heartbeat strong. I kissed her cheek and she smiled in her sleep. “Spike,” she said sleepily.

“You got him,” I told her, smiling at her as she opened her eyes.

She rolled over and we embraced each other tightly. I kissed her hair, and lifted her chin and kissed her mouth. “You terrified me,” I told her quietly. “Seeing you like that, in so much pain.”

“It wasn’t really fun for me either,” she said. “It feels like every time it gets worse. The more powerful the magick, the bigger the price.”

“This was all my fault,” I told her, clenching my hands around her shoulders. “I asked you to save Anya. There’s always consequences for magick. I knew that.”

“You couldn’t have just let Anya die,” she said. “If you hadn’t called me, she wouldn’t have survived.”

I knew it was true. “But what you went through last night. I was afraid that I was going to lose you. I couldn’t bear it.”

“I didn’t want to leave you,” she said. “That was the worst part. I’ve wanted to be with you so long, and we’ve barely begun.” We kissed gently, and she pulled away. She held my eyes for a long moment. “Can you bring me my bag?” she asked. I brought it to her, and she rummaged through the contents, finally pulling out the ring box.

She handed it to me and looked at me with her wide green eyes. “Will you be mine?” I asked her solemnly. “Will you marry me?”

“Yes,” she said seriously.

My heart leapt. I pulled out the ring from the box, and I dropped it. It slipped into the sheets, and we both searched for it for a minute before I held it up triumphantly. I laughed, and she laughed, and I slipped the ring on her finger. She looked down at it. “That is one gaudy, ostentatious rock,” she said with a smile.

“You don’t like it?” I asked, concerned.

“I love it,” she said. “Call me material girl. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”

“When can we get married?” I asked her. “I want to make you mine, the sooner the better.”

“I’m already yours,” she said seriously. “But we can do a handfasting, as soon as you like.”

“Now,” I said.

“Right here? In bed?”

“Now. I don’t want to wait any longer.”

She unbelted my robe and slid it off, and then pulled off her gown. We faced each other, nude, and held hands. “Within the boundaries of this room we form a sacred space,” chanted Willow. “By the bones of the earth, by the currents of air, by the flame of the fire, by the waves of the water, by the spirit that surrounds us, the circle is cast. So mote it be.” I felt the rush of power run through me. Willow smiled at me and I smiled back.

“Lady, we invoke thee,” she intoned. “Give to us your abiding love and unconditional protection.” I felt a presence surrounding me and Willow. We linked our arms together, clasping hands.

“With all I am, with all I have, I pledge myself to you. For a year and a day, we are as one,” she intoned.

“With all I am, with all I have, I pledge myself to you. For a year and a day, we are as one,” I repeated.

“So mote it be,” she said. We leaned in to each other, meeting in a warm embrace. She pulled away and smiled. “And now I’m yours,” she said softly, her eyes full of love. ”And you are mine.”

“Mine,” I said, hearing the truth in it. “I need you so badly, Willow, in every way. But you’re still weak-” She closed her mouth around my nipple and moved over me. “Oh, my love,” I sighed, pulling her mouth up to meet mine. Her hands moved on my length, stroking me until I was hard. We locked together, joining our bodies.

“I love you,” she whispered. “I never want to let you go.” She moved up and down on me, slow and easy. She felt so warm and slick around me, her tongue moving in my mouth, her breasts sliding over my chest. I came, holding her waist tightly. “Please, please,” she cried out, pulling away from my mouth. “Please.” I rubbed her clit lightly with my thumb as I increased the pace. I was afraid to hurt her, afraid to be to rough with her. I picked up the pace slightly, and she started her release. She held tight to my shoulders as she came, her breath catching loudly as she shuddered.

****

I went to the kitchen to get Willow some more pills. Giles and Anya sat at the table, looking over some papers. “How are you feeling?” I asked Anya. She looked radiantly beautiful, seemingly untouched by her ordeal.

She smiled at me. “A little tired,” she said. “And a little freaked out. I’m trying not to think about it too much.”

“We need to talk to you,” said Giles.

I heard a key turn in the front door and footsteps walking down the hall. A figure appeared in the doorway. It was Tara. We stared at each other for a long moment. “Why are you here?” I asked her. She had dyed her hair a bluish black, and it was jarring against her pale face.

“Richard came to get me,” she began. “Then Buffy told me-“

“Why are you in my home?” I asked, as I poured a large glass of orange juice and put a banana and a cup of yogurt on a tray. “You don’t live here anymore. I’d appreciate you leaving your key on the table.”

“I came to see Willow,” she said. “I wanted to make sure she’s okay.”

“She’s fine,” I said. “Now you can go.” I picked up the tray and turned to leave.

She moved around me and looked up at me, her eyes shining clear blue. “I’m sorry that I hurt you,” she began, and reached out to touch my arm. I jerked away from her, spilling the juice. I turned back to the counter and cleaned up the tray, pouring a new glass of juice. I turned around to see her standing behind me. I sidestepped her and walked out of the room.

I went back into the bedroom. Willow was dressed in a sweat suit, leaning back against the headboard with a throw over her feet. She was waving her hand in the air, admiring her ring. She saw me and smiled. “Breakfast in bed,” she said happily. “What’s wrong?” she asked, taking in my expression. I set down the tray on the bed next to her.

“Tara is here to see you,” I told her.

She looked sick. “Tara is here? Now?” She twisted the ring on her finger.

“She’s in the kitchen. She was worried about you, and she’d like to see you. Do you want me to let her in?”

She looked down and her eyes filled with tears. “I can’t believe that she came back, now,” she said softly. She looked up at me. “You must be kicking yourself,” she said. “If you’d known-“

“It wouldn’t have changed anything,” I told her, taking her hand in mine. “Whatever Tara and I had, it ended the second she left. There’s no going back. That’s not what I want, Willow.”

She looked at me searchingly. “It doesn’t change how you feel about me, about us?” she asked.

“No,” I told her. “I love you, I do. I’m in love with you.” I kissed her, hoping that I had reassured her. She was still so frail, the last thing she needed was more stress. She needed rest, and peace. “Shall I ask her to leave?”

She was quiet for a moment. “I think I should talk to her. Would that upset you?”

“Yes,” I told her honestly. “But I’ll get over it. The two of you, you mean something to each other. I have no right to tell you not to see her.”

“But you wish she wasn’t here?” she asked.

“I wish I never had to see her again,” I told her.

“Ask her to come back here,” she said. She kissed me gently.

“You need your rest,” I told her. “Don’t let her stay too long.”

I walked out to the kitchen. Tara turned to look at me. “She’ll see you,” I told her.

“We need to talk,” she said, “You and I.”

“I have nothing to say to you,” I told her. “You said everything that I needed to hear in your note. I don’t care about anything else you have to say.”

“You can’t just shut me out,” she said adamantly. “We-“

“I married Willow,” I told her bluntly. “We’re handfasted. Whatever we were or had, it’s irrelevant now. Move on.”

She reeled back as if I had slapped her. “You can go talk to my wife,” I said to her. “Because she loves you and she wants you here. I don’t share her feelings, either way.” She looked at me, and turned away.

I turned to look at Giles and Anya. “Questions? Comments?” I asked, my voice harsh.

Giles stared into my eyes, his brow furrowed. “Actually, I have a business proposition for you,” he said.

I sat down at the table. “What kind of proposition?” she said.

“I’ve decided that it’s best if I no longer have any ties to Sunnydale,” said Giles calmly. “I’m selling my share of the Magic Box. I would like to offer it to you.”

I was shocked. “Why me?”

He looked at me closely. “You have the capital, as I understand,” he said. “You certainly have the time.“ He paused. “And if you have a wife to take care of, you should be thinking of the future.”

Anya looked upset. “I don’t understand why you need to do this, Giles,” she said. “Everything was fine yesterday and now today you can’t wait to leave.”

“I have unexpected business back in England,” he said, looking away. “I want to leave this evening. I need to get any loose ends wrapped up before I go.”

“But you were going to give me away,” she said, upset. She put her hand on his arm. “Can’t whatever it is wait?” she said plaintively. “I really want you to be there for me on my wedding day.”

He looked at her, his expression blank. “I’m sorry,” he said. “There are certain things in life one can’t change.” He shuffled through some papers. “No matter how much one might wish to.”

“If Willow wants me to, I’ll buy your share of the shop,” I told him. “Red might fancy having part of the place to herself.”

“But I don’t want to run the store with Willow,” said Anya. “I just want your money and you to stay out of my way.”

“I’m not the silent type, pet,” I told her. “You want my money, I get a say in things as well.”

“Could you give me the money today?” asked Giles.

“We could do it now,” I said. “Let me just ask Willow what she thinks of all this.” I walked back down the hall and knocked on the open bedroom door. The two women sat close on the bed, talking in low tones.

“Sorry to interrupt, pet,” I said. Willow looked up at me with a smile. “Want to own half of the Magic Box?”

“Could I boss around Anya?” she said with a chuckle.

“You and I against demon girl and the whelp,” I said. “I’m pretty sure we’d come out on top.”

She looked thoughtful. “I have a lot of ideas,” she said. “It would be really cool, actually, to own the shop.”

“I’ll go cut Giles a great big check then,” I said. “Will you be all right, for a half hour or so? I’m just going to sign some papers and go to the bank.”

“Tara will keep me company,” she said. I looked at the two witches, the one that I loved and one I had lost, and left.



PAIRING: Spike/Willow. Spike/Buffy, Spike/Tara implied
RATING: NC-17 overall
SPOILERS: Season 6 through “As You Were”.
DISCLAIMER: All hail Joss Whedon, UPN, the WB, FOX, Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox Film Corporation. GO team! Theirs, not mine.
DISTRIBUTION: Please ask my permission first, just so I know where it’s headed.
FEEDBACK: Sure, fire away to jodyorjen@yahoo.com



Chapter 15

I went to the kitchen and sipped a mug of blood as I dialed the phone. “Hello?” answered a cheerful voice.

“Hey, Clem. Hope I didn’t wake you up,” I said.

“No problem,” he replied. “I should get up soon anyway.”

“Can you do me a favor?” I asked him. “I need you to act as muscle for me for a bit. Tara and Willow need someone to look after them while I go take care of a few things. I don’t want Willow to feel like I’ve got a bodyguard on her, so just act like you’re here to visit Tara.”

“Tara’s there? With you and Willow?” he said, surprised. “Your love life is worse than ‘Dawson’s Creek.’”

I sighed. “Tell me about it.”

“I can be there in ten,” he said. “I’ll just grab a few things and head over on the bike.”

“Thanks,” I replied, and hung up. “As soon as Clem gets here we can get going,” I told Giles.

The phone rang and I answered it. “Spike?” whispered Buffy.

“Why are you whispering?” I questioned her.

“I’m at work,” she explained. “I don’t want to get in trouble.”

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“I need you to look after Tara,” she said. “I have to work, and so do Xander and Richard. Willow can’t do magick right now, and that leaves you.”

“Clem is coming to look after both of the Wiccas,” I explained. “I have to go out for a while.”

“Whatever it is can wait,” she said firmly. “There are big scary demons gunning for Tara. I’m telling you to stay put, Spike.”

My days of being at Buffy’s beck and call were over. “Piss off,” I replied. “I’m not your errand boy, Slayer.”

“I know that you must be upset with her,” she said. “But you must still have feelings for her. You can’t let anyone hurt her. You’re not that evil.”

I laughed bitterly. “I’m not that evil. That’s rich. Remind me to write that one down.”

“Just because she broke up with you is no reason to-“ she began.

“Look here, Miss Three Time Loser. Can the Dear Abby crap, will you?” I snarled.

There was a pause. “Don’t call me a loser,” she hissed. “You’re the king of the losers. Everyone who ever loved you dumped you as soon as they came to their senses.”

“Shows how much you know,” I said angrily. “I found someone who loved me enough to marry me, you patronizing, castrating, bloody slag!” I slammed down the receiver, and the handset disintegrated, scattering bits of plastic over the counter. “Fuck!”

“You really should work on your temper,” said Anya. “Maybe you should take up yoga.” I glared at her.

“She’s right,” agreed Giles. “You should find a constructive outlet for all your anger.”

“I think killing Hiram will be a nice start,” I said. “Smashing him into tiny splinters of ice should make me feel good and proper.”

There was a knock at the front door and I answered it, letting in Clem. “I called Dart, Lex and Reed,” he reported. “Dart and Lex are chasing down Hiram and Reed’s after bone boy.”

“You need to hire more muscle, you do it,” I instructed him. “And I want a couple of guys keeping an eye on the Magic Box. I don’t want anything else happening to Anya.”

“I’m on it, man,” he said, slapping me on the shoulder reassuringly.

“Willow and I got married,” I told him. “I need you to take care of her, Clem. She’s everything to me.”

He smiled. “Good for you, Spike. You deserve to be happy. Although, you settling down with a nice girl is bound to be one of the signs of the Apocalypse.”

“Hopefully not,” I said dryly.

We went into the kitchen. Giles and Anya were arguing bitterly. “My decision is made, Anya,” said Giles firmly. “There will be no further discussion of it.”

“I need you,” she said plaintively. “You’re the one that I can call and ask obscure questions. You’re the one who has the good contacts with the distributors. You can’t just abandon me.”

“I’m not abandoning you,” he said angrily. “None of you are children anymore. You don’t need me to lean on. I’m sick of playing everyone’s father, of being the port you call on in a storm. I’m tired of being depended upon.”

She looked hurt. “I never thought of you that way, Giles. I thought we were friends. I thought you cared about me.”

“I do care about you,” he said softly.

“Then don’t do this,” she said. “I like the way things are now. I don’t want them to change.”

He held her eyes for a moment. “I’m sorry,” he replied. “There is just nothing more I can say.”

Anya turned her back on him, her face tight with pain. She put on a smile when she saw us standing there. “I’m just going to talk to Willow and Tara before I go open the shop.”

“If you see anything suspicious, or feel like you’re not safe, you call me,” I told her. “I’ll have a few blokes looking after you, but you need anything, you let me know.”

She bit her lip nervously. “Usually I would say that I can take care of myself, but I guess I’ve been proven wrong on that one.”

****

Giles and I sat in an empty conference room at my bank. He regarded the cashier’s check in his hands, staring at it blankly. “What are you going to do with the money?” I inquired.

He looked up. “Go back to Bath and live on it frugally.”

“What a surprise,” I said. “Live a little. When was the last time that you went on holiday? Do you even remember how to have fun?”

He smiled. “It’s been a while.” He sobered. “But really, I can’t. I’m not in a position now to waste any of this money. I spent the last of my savings just to come back here.”

“What are you going to do in England?” I asked.

“Look in vain for another job, same as before,” he replied. “There aren’t many openings for librarians in Bath.”

“If you’re unemployed, what’s the emergency back in England that you have to get back to?”

“The what?” he said, puzzled. “Oh, right, the emergency. Family business.” He was lying, I could see it on his face. What had he said to Anya? *There are certain things in life one can’t change. No matter how much one might wish to.* He sighed. “Just let it rest, Spike. I can’t stay in Sunnydale. I have my reasons.”

I began to think that I knew what those reasons were. “I’m surprised you came,” I said. “I didn’t think you cared that much for Xander. You smashing him in the face kind of reinforced that opinion.” He took off his glasses and polished them on his sleeve. “What the hell was that about anyway? From the way you were talking you would have thought you were the fiancé.“ His eyes met mine, and I knew I was right. “You’re in love with Anya. You’re totally besotted with her, and it’s killing you to see her marry someone else.”

“Don’t be an idiot,” he said, putting his glasses on. “Absurd notion.”

“Does she know?” I asked. “Or are you just planning on standing by stoically while she marries Xander?”

There was a long pause and then he sighed. “There’s no point,” he confessed. “It’s just not meant to be. There’s no point embarrassing myself or her with these ridiculous feelings.”

“But she might return them,” I pointed out. “She and Xander have as much chemistry these days as a lump of bread. It’s all rote and routine between them now.”

“She loves him, and he makes her happy,” he said. “Just drop it, Spike.”

“But-“ I began.

“Shut the buggering fuck up about it, alright?” he said sharply, his face flushing with anger. “I’m at wit’s end already. I don’t need any more aggravation, I’ve been torturing myself quite well without your help.”

He looked away and composed himself. I handed him a second check, and he looked at it. “What is this for?” he asked, confused.

“I want you to give that money to Buffy,” I told him. “She’ll never take it from me, and I know she will from you. If she accepts it, she’ll be able to square away her debts and pay off the mortgage. If she doesn’t get that money, she and Dawn are going to lose the house.”

“Are you sure that it’s come to that?” he asked. I nodded. “What will I tell her, if she asks who it is from?”

“If she asks, just tell her it was something of Joyce’s that you discovered as her executor,” I told him. “Please just do this for me, Giles. For Joyce, and her girls. She would have wanted them to stay in the house. You know that.”

“You’re right, that is what she intended,” he said, pocketing it.

“I miss Joyce,” I revealed. “I loved her. She was so kind to me, when no one else bothered.”

“I loved her as well,” he said softy. “I wish I’d told her, but there never was a good time.” He looked down. “We dated briefly, you know. She was a truly wonderful person, but we didn’t pursue it. We were both so wrapped up in our lives, and we just let it slip away.”

“Well, think about that a bit before you decide not to tell Anya,” I said. “This time around, maybe it could work out differently.”

****

Giles and I walked down the street, sharing an umbrella as the rain poured down in sheets. “I thought it wasn’t supposed to rain in Southern California,” I said. “Lately it rains all the time.”

“It’s the Hellmouth,” he commented. “We should be grateful that it’s not raining down brimstone.” We walked past the Expresso Pump and in front of the Magic Box. The storefront was dark, the sign flipped to Closed. “Something’s not right. Anya should be here.”

Giles and I shared a look and we raced down the street, bolting into the car. I stomped the accelerator into the floor and drove home. We pulled into the garage and ran into the house. The front door was blown inwards, lying on the floor. Clem was lying near the sofa, unconscious. His wounds were bad, deep defensive cuts on his lower arms and hands. I gingerly felt the back of his head, and found a big lump that confirmed my suspicions. “Fucking Fyarl demons are a predictable bunch. Knock out the guy, steal the girl,” I said to Giles.

I went to the bathroom and returned with the first aid kit and a glass of water. I waved the smelling salts under Clem’s nose. He startled, and then sat up, moaning. “I’m so sorry,” he apologized. He looked at me, his eyes full of tears. “I let you down.”

“I’m sure you did the best you could,” I reassured him. “Did they take Willow?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I had Race and Lort in the woods out back, and Trevor out front. They must have killed him. But it wasn’t just the Fyarls; Hiram was here with bone boy too. His name is Largos.” I handed him two painkillers and a glass of water. “They broke in here and went for Tara. She threw some balls of energy at them. Hiram went for Anya.“ He shuddered. “He said some awful things to her and started strangling her, and she passed out. Then he started ripping my arms up with his icicles, right before he punched me in the head. I don’t remember anything after that.”

“God, we have to find them,” I said, trying not to panic. “I can’t believe that fucking bastard got his hands on the girls. He already raped Anya and tortured her.”

“Hiram was the one who raped her?” asked Giles in a deadly voice.

“Yes,” I replied. “The bastard got away before I could kill him. We have to find him.”

****

I strode through the doors of the posh office. Buffy sat behind a wide mahogany desk. She looked unbelievably perky in a blue suit, a headset perched on her hair. “Kelly, Rourke and Dunn, how may I help you?” she said cheerfully. “One moment please.” She pressed a button on the phone on her desk.

“Buffy,” I said as I stood in front of her.

She looked up at me, her eyes opened wide. “Spike, what are you doing here?”

“Hiram has Tara, Willow and Anya,” I explained. “You have to come with me now.”

She took off her headset and grabbed a bag from under her desk. “Just one second.” She ran into an office and came back out. “OK, let’s go.”

“I hope you don’t get fired from this job. I know how much you need this to work out,” I said as we walked to the down the hallway. “I wouldn’t have come if it wasn’t an emergency.”

“My boss is a friend of Richard’s,” she told me. “He’s totally cool about the flexible hours thing.” We stepped into the elevator. She began unbuttoning her suit jacket, revealing the silk tank underneath. As soon as the doors shut she slid the shirt over her head, leaving her covered only in her lace bra.

“Is there a reason that you’re getting naked?” I asked.

She glared at me as she pulled a black sweater from her bag and over her head. “I was afraid that this would happen,” she explained. “I brought a change of clothes, because I never want to fight a demon while wearing a suit ever again.”

Her skirt fell to the floor with a swish and Buffy stood there in a tiny thong, thigh high stockings covering her legs. I realized that I was staring, so I turned around. “Oh, please, Spike,” she teased. “I know you’re not shy.”

“Just got married this morning,” I said. “Shouldn’t be ogling another woman before I even have my wedding night.” She didn’t answer, so I just listened to the sounds of zipping and snapping.

“I’m dressed,” she said quietly. I turned around and she was wearing a leather jacket and boots and blue jeans, a large gold cross around her neck.

“Haven’t seen you wear one of those in a long time,” I said, gesturing to her necklace.

“It was a present from Richard,” she explained. “So you weren’t kidding earlier about being married?”

“Willow and I are handfasted. It’s not legal, but it’s a very real commitment to be man and wife for a year and a day. But if I have my way, we’ll have a legal wedding before very long as well.” I was seized by a wave of pain. What if we never got that far? What if Hiram had killed her, done to Willow what he’d tried to do with Anya?

“We’ll get her back, Spike,” Buffy assured me, patting my shoulder. “It’ll be okay.” She smiled at me, but it didn’t reach her eyes.

“You told me not to leave her,” I reminded her. “If I’d listened to you, this never would have happened.”

“Don’t blame yourself,” she said. “Just focus on the fight. We’ll kill them, a lot. It’ll be fine.” The elevator doors opened and we walked through the lobby. Giles was double-parked outside, smoking one of my cigarettes as he sat behind the wheel of the DeSoto. Clem rode shotgun, staring out the window. Buffy and I ran through the rain and into the car, barely getting the doors shut before the Wztcher peeled out and sped away.

****

“I really don’t like guns,” said Buffy, covering her ears.

Clem kicked the body of the Fyarl out of the way. “I’m done with hand to hand action for the day. I’m in the mood to blow big holes in things.” He slid fresh shells in the shotgun and cocked it.

We walked through the back door of the club past the office where Hiram had tortured Anya. The sound of screaming rang out loudly from upstairs, and the thuds and groans of a raging fight were straight ahead in the main part of the club. “You take the upstairs, I’ll take the big noise,” directed Buffy. Giles and Buffy ran ahead while Clem and I took the stairs.

A manticore popped around the corner and Clem shot his head off, a spurt of purple blood splashing on the wall behind him. The screaming got louder as we went down the hallway. I heard a grunt of pain, and turned to see Clem take a bat to the head from a brawny human. Clem wobbled. “Take him down, Clem,” I yelled, “I can’t hurt the bloody bastard.”

Clem pivoted and plunged a dagger in the man’s chest. Stunned, he fell to the floor, taking Clem with him. I leaned over. “Clem? You okay?” He groaned faintly in response.

The screaming began again. I ran down the hallway and through the door, stopping abruptly at the sight in front of me. A dozen bodies were scattered around the room, shriveled corpses of demons and humans. Tara crackled with purple energy, her eyes and mouth swirling as she sucked the life from the demon that she held in her grasp. He withered and shrank upon himself, his body becoming nothing more than a bloodless husk. A human man was huddled in the corner, frozen with panic, reeking of fear. She advanced upon him, the cloud of energy around her flaring even brighter as she drained him.

She turned to face me, and she was unearthly beautiful, her body glowing with the pulsing haze that surrounded her. She was the pinnacle of femininity, the apex of lust. I fought my body’s response, the thick haze of desire for her that was suffocating me. “I hunger,” she said clearly. “I must feed. I am not satisfied.”

“Leash your demon, Tara,” I told her. “You don’t want to do this. You don’t want to hurt people. That isn’t what you want.”

“I must feed!” she screamed. The nimbus of violet around her flickered wildly, growing stronger as she became more agitated. ”You are my locar! You must release me so that I may feed.”

“I can’t be your lover,” I said. “I can’t be that for you.” I trembled, my body bludgeoned with the sheer force of her will.

“You are my destiny. You are my fated one. You belong to me.” Her voice hummed oddly, a sizzling like electricity building underneath her words.

“I love Willow,” I told her. “And releasing your demon, that’s your worst fear. You’re too lost in impulse to think.” I struggled to stay in control and not go to her, tried to cast out the sexual images that flooded my brain as she beckoned to me.

“What my vessel wants is not important,” purred Tara, her words vibrating. “What the locar’s vessel wants is not important. There is only the hunger, and the feed.”

She rushed me, and I backed away, trying to stay out of the reach of her blazing hands. I let loose my demon, and her energy exploded, surrounding me in a firestorm. My demon left my body, becoming a separate entity, a misty creature of blood red. The impact was staggering, as the force that animated my body left me, leaving me paralyzed. A similar figure withdrew from Tara, leaving her unconscious as she toppled to the ground. I fought to stay alert as I watched the demons entwine above my head. “Joined,” they hissed as they coupled. “Mated.” Red and violet, they swirled together, flaring before my eyes as I slipped into oblivion.

****

I woke up to a gentle tapping on my shoulder. “Are you okay?” asked Tara, looking down at me worriedly.

“I’m fine,” I assured her. “Are you alright?”

She frowned and sat down next to me. “I feel really odd. Decidedly different.” She sighed. “It’s like some kind of horrible nightmare, and I’m just waking up.” Her eyes were glazed, her breath coming in short spurts.

“We survived,” I told her. “That’s the only important thing, pet.”

She started to cry. “I killed those people. I couldn’t help it, I couldn’t stop.” She wrapped her arms around herself as she sobbed.

“It’s not your fault,” I told her, rubbing her shoulders. “It’s your nature. You have no control over it, love.”

“Please promise you won’t tell anyone,” she wept. “Please don’t tell anyone that I’m evil.”

“I won’t, I promise. But you’re not evil,” I soothed her. “Your demon isn’t evil either. You’re doing what you have to do to survive.”

“I can’t live like this. I had all these feelings and thoughts, and they weren’t me,” she said. “Something else had taken over, and I wasn’t able to control what I was doing, what I was feeling.”

“The demon was in control,” I explained. “You have to learn to accept it, you can’t change what you’ve become.”

She shook her head. “There has to be a way. That other thing, that’s not me, not any me I recognize.” She wiped her eyes. “What I did to you, the things we did together-“ Her face clenched with pain.

“It wasn’t you, I understand that now,” I said quietly. “It was never really you, not after we kissed for the first time. My wanting you, desiring you, that’s what awakened your demon.” I pulled her into a tight hug and she rested her head on my shoulder. “I’m so sorry that I caused this, baby. If I could undo it, I would.”

“I would never do anything to hurt you,” she said. “I value your friendship, I really do.” She pulled away and looked at me earnestly. “I wanted so much for you to be happy, and all I gave you was pain.”

A loud boom resounded through the building. “Willow,” said Tara. “Willow summoned something.” Her eyes widened. “Something very powerful.” We rose to our feet and hurried into the hallway. Clem was headed towards us, his head marred with a large bruise. “I was just –“ he began, but we spun him around and went down the stairs. The three of us burst through the double doors into the main room of the club.

Willow stood side by side with a tall horned demon, his large eyes dark and serious. Her throat was bruised and her bottom lip was split and swollen. They stared straight ahead, looking grim. I went to her and took her hand. She turned to the demon. “D’Hoffryn, this is my husband Spike,” she introduced us. “Spike, this is D’Hoffryn, from the realm of Arashmaharr. I summoned him to give Anya back her powers. It was our only chance to survive this.”

The demon smiled at me. “You’re a lucky man to have such a powerful witch as your bride,” he said. “Although she really didn’t have to summon me with the amulet. I’m right here in town at the Sunnydale Motel. We have a group rate, for the wedding.”

I looked around, taking in the sight of demon corpses scattered everywhere. “Did you do this?” Tara asked Willow.

“Those two were my handiwork,” said D’Hoffryn, gesturing at two eviscerated bodies. “Really, there is nothing more offensive then men trying to intimidate women through pain and sexual threats.” His lips curled in disgust.

“Buffy killed the rest,” explained Willow. “She left to chase after Hiram. He slipped out right before Giles began conjuring.” She pointed up at the stage.

Anya and Giles stood in the midst of a circle of ash, both of them coated with a layer of gray soot. “You had no right to kill Largos,” screamed Anya. A cut on her forehead oozed blood, matting into her blonde hair.

“I had every right,” he yelled back.

“I have the right to seek vengeance,” replied Anya. “He violated me. He raped me while that fucking giant tortured me. They were bragging about it, Giles! He told me what they did.”

“And he paid,” responded Giles. “I blasted him off the face of the earth for having dared to touch you.”

She stamped her foot. “He was mine to punish, Giles! Willow summoned D’Hoffryn so that I could become a vengeance demon again. I want my revenge, and you took that away from me.”

“I did this for you,” insisted Giles. “You’ve moved beyond vengeance, you have a human life and the hope of an eternity of happiness. My soul is already stained with blood, Anya. Let me bear this burden, please.”

“Hiram is still out there somewhere,” hissed Anya. “I am going to make him pay, and pay, and pay for what he did to me.” She turned away and he grabbed her hand. She turned back to look at him.

“Please don’t do this, Anya,” he pleaded. “Please. I promise I will find him, and I will make him suffer.”

“What do you care?” she asked him. “Why would you do that?”

“Because I love you,” he said vehemently. ”I love you enough to want what’s best for you, and that’s not vengeance.”

She stared at him, stunned. “You love me? You’re in love, with me?” she said hesitantly.

“With every fiber of my being, “ he revealed. “I have never loved anyone the way that I love you, and I loved you enough to keep it to myself, until now.”

She looked at him for a moment, and then moved in close to him, resting her hands upon his waist. His hands clenched in her hair as he kissed her passionately, all of the emotion he’d been holding in rising to the surface. They held each other tightly and then broke apart, staring at each other. “It’s just too late,” she said. “Too late for everything.”

She turned her back and walked over to Willow and the demon. “Dearest D’Hoffryn, father of my heart, you who know me like no other,” she said seriously. “Grant me my dearest wish.”

He bent his head and kissed her gently on the forehead. “You shall have your vengeance, my child,” he promised. “Go forth, Anyanka, and do your will.” She bowed her head and he placed a pendant around her neck, the dark stone sparkling with fiery glints.

“Thank you,” she said, and raised her head.

“Once you are wed,” he said seriously, “then you may have your vengeance. At least leave your human life with the happy memory of one night in the arms of your true love.”

“But I have to find Hiram,” she insisted. “Buffy might not find him-“

He placed his finger on her chin. “I promise you that he will suffer at your hands,” he vowed. “Vengeance can wait.”

She looked at him seriously and then walked out. Giles watched her leave, his eyes hard. His jaw clenched and he moved to follow her. “Get in her way and she’ll destroy you, Mr. Rupert Giles, “ D’Hoffyn warned him. The Watcher nodded gravely and ran after her.

****

“I had the talisman D’Hoffryn gave me,” explained Willow, “And as soon as I could, I gave him a chant.” She rested her head against my shoulder as she took a big swig of beer. The hot water of the jacuzzi bubbled up all around us.

“It’s a good thing that the talisman was magickal,” I said. “If you’d done any spells when you were still so weak from last night, I would have kicked your ass.”

“Now that you married him he thinks he’s in charge,” teased Clem. He leaned back against the wall, resting his bandaged arms above the water.

“No harm in letting him think it,” said Willow. “We know the truth.” I dunked her head and she came up sputtering, wiping the water from her eyes.

“You’ve got your work cut out for you, Spike,” warned Tara, sipping a soda. “She likes being a bossy pants.”

Giles and Anya came downstairs, Buffy close behind. The girls both wore my t-shirts, and Giles wore a pair of boxers. “I always thought that you were a boxers guy,” commented Willow. She paused. “Not that I wondered about it much. I mean, not lately.” She smiled up at me, and I kissed her head.

They got in to the hot tub and Anya leaned against Giles’ shoulder. They both closed their eyes, looking exhausted. “Did you find Hiram?” I asked Buffy.

“No, I lost him,” she said. “But we’ll find him.” She looked over at Anya. “It’ll all work out, really.” Anya turned her head completely into Giles’ shoulder and began to cry. He rubbed her back, and rested his cheek on her head. “The bachelorette party awaits at my house later. You need to focus on the wedding and not on all this mess.”

Anya turned around and wiped her face. “You’re right, Buffy,” she said. “I should just focus on the wedding and forget about all this other stuff.”

“I hope you’re not upset that I took away your memories,” Willow said. “I really just wanted to spare you from going through all of this.”

Anya smiled. “You were trying to keep me from pain, because that’s what human friends do, and I appreciate that. I know you meant well.” She looked down at the bubbling water. “I’m going to head back to my apartment and unwind before the slumber party. I’ll see you girls later.” She paused and turned to Giles. “And I’ll see the rest of you at the rehearsal dinner,” she said brightly. “It will be lovely. We’re having a very nice salmon.” Giles stared at her and opened his mouth to speak. She stood up abruptly. “So I’ll just get going now.” She climbed out of the tub and rushed upstairs, with Giles following her, fast on her heels.

“We have to get them away from each other,” said Buffy decidedly. “There’s a whole vibe there that is really weirding me out.”

“He’s in love with her,” I explained. “He told her at the club, after he summoned the fire demon and took out Largos.”

The Slayer’s eyes widened. “Giles summoned a fire demon?”

“With the incantation and the protective circle and everything,” informed Willow. ”His technique was impeccable.”

“Giles summoning demons and in love with Anya,” Buffy said. “Wow. That really distorts my perception of reality, and not in a fun way.”

“Have a beer,” suggested Clem. “Everything is a little easier to deal with after a few beers.”

“I’m not a big drinker,” said Buffy, “but today has brought suckage to a whole new level.” Tara handed her a beer and she cracked it open, drinking deeply.

There was a loud banging upstairs, followed by two raised voices. “Wow, Giles is yelling,” remarked Willow. “He hasn’t yelled twice in one day since ever.”

“Do you think that we should tell Xander about all this?” asked Buffy.

“It really isn’t our business,” Tara pointed out. “I’m sure that he wouldn’t have said anything except for the circumstances.”

“He was going to head back to England without saying a word,” I commented. “The man takes a stiff upper lip to a whole new level.”

The argument upstairs kicked up a notch. Something smashed into the floor, hard. “Bloody well doesn’t respect you!” roared Giles, and we heard a resounding smack.

“That sounded painful,” said Clem, wincing.

“I appreciate that they need to get things out in the open,“ said Willow. “But I hope they’re not breaking anything. I don’t want to redecorate the living room.”

I smiled down at her. “It’s our living room now, isn’t it, pet?” I leaned down, gently kissing her upper lip.

”Get out!” screamed Anya. “Get out, get out, get out!”

“Sounds like Dawn,” Willow commented. “Only less high pitched.”

“Don’t know why she’s telling him to get out, though,” I said. “He’s the one that’s staying here.”

“She’s not really working in logic mode,” pointed out Tara.

There were loud footsteps upstairs and the slamming of a door. “I should pull myself together and go back to the office,” said Buffy, as she exited the hot tub.

“It’s already afternoon,” said Willow. “You may as well just chill out, take a little relaxing time. You’re always running around doing something.”

“I’ll have time to relax tonight,” replied the Slayer. “I have a lot to learn at work. I should get back to it.”

Tara looked thoughtful. “I need to take some time to think about what happened today. I think I’d like just to be alone and meditate.” She looked at me, and I smiled at her reassuringly. All of the Scoobies thought I’d killed the scum who’d taken Tara away.

“I can drop you at Buffy’s,” offered Clem. “I’m heading that way anyway.”

“Are you sure you don’t want us to drive you home?” asked Willow.

Clem shook his head. “Arms are healing up already. If I go home and take a nap, I’ll be good as new by tonight.”

I picked up Willow and stepped out of the tub. “You should get some rest too,” I said. “You were supposed to spend the day recovering from last night.”

“I’m fine, really,” she insisted.

“I’ll see you guys later,” said Buffy. “Will, don’t forget to pick up the cake on the way there.”

“I won’t forget,” she promised.

“Don’t forget to call and confirm the strippers, Clem,” I reminded my friend.

“Did we decide on the blonde twins or the redhead with the snake act?” asked Clem.

“We went with both.” I snapped my fingers. “Oh, and that Irish vampire who can do the trick with the bottle.”

Buffy and Willow stared at us. “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that,” said Willow.

I walked up the stairs. The living room was a mess, the front door still lying on the ground and smashed glass and ceramic on the floor. “I think we’re short one vase and one ashtray now, love,” I told my wife.

She focused for a moment, and I could feel her gather magick into herself and then rapidly expel it as she whispered a word. In a flash, all the damage was repaired. “Couldn’t leave the door like that,” she said.

I decided to let it lie and carried her down the hall to our room. I could hear the low murmur of conversation coming from Giles’ room, and then the sound of shared laughter, his rich and deep and hers high and clear. I closed the door behind us and took off our wet clothes, drying us off with a towel. We settled into bed and curled around each other, and I kissed the hollow of her neck as she stroked my hair.

“I am so happy that you belong to me now, “ she whispered. “Even when things were really awful, and I was so scared, I could feel you, and I knew it would be all right.”

“I’ll always be there,” I promised her. “My love.” I kissed her, and she moved her hands over my stomach, caressing my skin. I covered her chest with kisses, running my tongue over her nipples and in the delicate grooves beneath each breast.

“I want you so much,” she said, as she nipped at my neck and shoulders. I moved my head between her thighs and gently slid my fingers in and out of her warmth as I tongued her clit. She moaned and hummed underneath me as I coaxed her into a string of shuddering climaxes. Soon my cock was rock hard and weeping with arousal, and she was calling my name, pleading with me to take her.

I put my hands on her hips and sank into her, slowly taking her inch by inch. She sighed happily when I was in her completely, and wrapped her arms and legs around me. Our eyes locked as we made love, and the bond that we shared was so strong that it seemed nearly tangible, as real as the sky or the sea. She closed her eyes and shuddered as she came powerfully. Green eyes shined as she smiled, her face flushed and happy. Her hand moved across my lips, and then pressed my face to her neck. I changed and sank my fangs into her delicate flesh, sipping her blood as we thrust and moved together primally. A second release rocked her and I growled fiercely as I broke my control, pumping into her. The demon slid away and she kissed me, claiming my mouth as fiercely as I had taken her body.

****

The bachelor party was hopping. The strippers had arrived, and the guys from Xander’s crew were whooping appreciatively. Richard manned the keg in the corner, chatting with a dark haired vampiress in a tiny gold bikini. The only thing missing was the guest of honor. “Did you call his apartment?” I asked Clem.

“About a dozen times,” he replied. “I have no idea where he is.”

Giles walked over, beer in hand. “Do you think that Xander’s run into trouble?” he asked. “With Hiram on the loose, it’s a possibility.”

“I don’t think he’d go after Xander,” I replied. “But maybe we should go looking for him.” I called Buffy’s house and Dawn answered. “Hey, Niblet,” I greeted her. “Can you put my wife on the phone please?”

“I could,” she said. “If I wasn’t so mad at you for not letting me be in your wedding.”

“Handfasting was just Red and I, love,” I reassured her. “When we do the big fluffy thing, you’ll be part of the wedding party, promise.”

“Okay,” she said brightly, setting the phone down. A minute later, Willow came on the line. “What’s up?” she asked.

“Have you seen Xander anywhere, perchance?”

“No,” she replied. “Is something wrong?”

“Not yet. I may have to leave the house just to check up on him. If you can’t reach me here, you call Clem’s cell.”

“Okay,” she agreed. “Love you.”

“Love you too.” I hung up and walked over to Clem and Giles. “Looks like we’d best go looking.”

A shout arose as the front door slammed behind Xander. He walked in the room and his friends banged him on the back, teasing him about the wedding. He headed to the keg and got a cup of beer, then walked over to us. He was flushed, his hair mussed. “Christ, you’ve been shagging your brains out,” I said. “You reek of it.”

“No, I haven’t,” he denied, not making eye contact.

“Don’t bother lying,” I told him. “What the hell are you thinking, Xander? Demon girl is going to strip your skin off if she finds you’ve been stepping out on her.”

He smiled widely. “It would be worth it. I’ve never had such amazing sex in my life. I was with Thyla, the fairy from that Irish bar. She is phenomenal in bed, you can’t even imagine.”

“I took you home,” Clem said angrily. “You were supposed to sleep off the fairy beer.”

Xander shrugged. “I came to and went back,” he said. “She was still there, we went back to her place, it was fantastic.” He chugged his beer. “I don’t regret it for a second.”

“You are such a dumbass!” exclaimed Clem. “I told you not to eat or drink anything while we were at the bar. You’re faerie struck, and it would have faded quickly if you hadn’t acted on it.”

“When the enchantment wears off, you are going to hate yourself,” I informed Xander.

“Did you just forget about Anya?” asked Giles. “She was in mortal danger, missing, and you were off with another woman?”

“What can I say?” said Xander simply. “I couldn’t help the way that I felt.”

Giles made a fist and advanced on him, then abruptly turned and left. “You idiot,” said Clem. “He’s going to go tell Anya, and she’ll cancel the wedding.”

“She loves me,” he assured us. “She’ll understand.”