Disclaimer: I own nothing. Joss owns all.
Distribution: The Mystic Muse: http://mysticmuse.net
Ask and I shall approve.
Spoilers: Buffy Season 7, Angel Season 5.
Author's Note: I was drawn to this pairing for some reason and I really got into it after a while. Originally, this was only supposed to be one stand alone story, but I was encouraged to continue, so I did.
Summary: Who could Tara turn to for comfort?
Of Bullets and Souls
Tara remembers the feel of cold metal searing through her skin and tearing apart everything in its path. She doesn't remember anything else.
Even now, as she stares at her reflection and strains to remember, no memory comes. All she hears is the glass cracking and the dull thud of the bullet hitting her just under the shoulder.
The scar feels like a small crater in her skin. A permanent indentation, a permanent memory.
As much as it hurts to look at it, she cannot look away. It amazed her that something so small could destroy everything. She could not help but feel guilt. All of the people that Willow had killed were for her. If only they hadn't been standing in front of that window. If only…those were the magic words, weren't they?
She turned off the light as she left the bathroom. She lingered in her former bedroom for a moment, letting all of the good memories flow back before pushing them away again.
The house was active and overpopulated, which had become the norm as of late. She fought her way through a sea of potentials to pour a cup of tea. She knew Willow was watching her, but she didn't look up.
Trying not to spill scalding hot tea on the girls. Tara winded through them. When she was sure no one was watching, she slipped into the basement.
Spike wouldn't admit it, but when he saw a long skirt and a pair of boots coming down the stairs, he was excited. She was back.
The hot tea instantly warmed his cold hands. She smiled as he lifted an eyebrow inquisitively. "I thought you could use a break from blood."
He smirked at her. "And you thought you'd bring out the Englishman in me, huh?" he asked. Tara giggled, a sound that he had come to love.
"Just drink it."
Tara sat down next to him on the bed. He took slow drinks of the tea. He couldn't really taste it, but the warmth felt good.
"So, why are you bein' so nice to me lately?" he asked, glancing sideways. Tara smiled again.
"Maybe I like you." She replied.
Was she…,he thought. No, she can't be.
"Why Miss Maclay, are you flirting with me?" he laughed, trying to sound as innocent as possible. He knew it wasn't working when she laughed.
"Trying to take advantage of me, shirtless and chained up as I am. Shame on you."
Tara smirked at him, giving him a look that Spike could only describe as sultry. "You caught me."
"Why are you really here?" he asked, fearing that if they continued down this road, they would never stop.
"To flirt with you, what else?"
Spike leaned his arms on his knees, holding his cup of tea between his legs. He glanced over at her. "Tara." He used her name. He didn't do that often. He just used pet names. When he used her real name, she knew he was serious.
She shook her head and looked up at the ceiling of the basement. "I can't be up there. It's too…"
She stopped. Whenever she walked into a room, she felt like everyone was watching her. That's the girl that got shot. Willow nearly destroyed the world because of her. It was too much.
"So you came to spend time with the friendly neighborhood vampire who could easily snap and rip your head off."
Tara nodded. She reached for his tea and took a drink. "Pretty much." She replied. Spike frowned. There was something broken inside of her.
He sighed. The air in the room got heavy. They were both taken over by thoughts they did not want.
"I think I liked it better when we were flirting." Tara said sadly.
"…Then there was the guy with the flaming hands, oh and the bugs. Mustn't forget the bugs."
Tara smiled. She sat against the concrete wall across from Spike. Their legs were folded and she leaned forward with interest.
"'S not really as heroic as it sounds." He tried to shrug it off. Tara shook her head. He had done something that he hadn't had to do to be a better man. That was the essence of heroism.
"No, it is." She replied. "What you went through, how you suffered…that is heroic."
"What about you?" Tara gazed at him, confused. "Do you remember it?" He touched his chest, just below the shoulder, indicating her wound.
"No. Not really, anyway." She felt the memory coming back. She tired to push it away, but it was too strong. "I remember the window breaking, and a sharp pain, and then darkness until the hospital."
"How'd you figure out 'bout Red? What she'd done?"
"Dawn told me." She closed her eyes. "God, I thought I was dreaming. All of this just feels like a dream."
He nodded. "You're telling me."
"She killed someone; She killed someone because of me." Tara's voice broke slightly.
"And you think that's your fault?" Spike shook his head. "Red was walking a thin tightrope. This guy who shot you, Warren or whatever, just gave her a shove."
Tara knew he was right. She knew it, but the guilt still ate at her. She hated that she would never be able to look at Willow the same way again.
"Our lives kind of suck." Tara sulked. Spike laughed.
"Yeah, they really do."
Spike moved next to Tara, sitting as close to her as he could without invading her space.
He turned to her. "Were you really flirting with me?" he asked. Tara smiled, scooting closer to him and leaning on his shoulder.
"Yeah." She replied. She closed her eyes. She was so tired. "I was."
Spike reached around her, cautiously putting his arm around shoulders. She felt comfortable in his arms. She felt safe. She put her arm around his waist, holding him close. And for that moment all thought of bullets and souls were forgotten.
As Long as I Live
Night rolled into Sunnydale, misty and cool. Tara stood in the doorway of what had once been her bedroom, and looked down at the sleeping faces of the potential slayers that resided on the floor. She shook her head. They were so young, many of them too young.
Closing the door silently, she returned to the deserted hallway. She sighed in relief as she looked down at the floor. At least things hadn't become so desperate that the girls had to sleep in the hall.
Darkness surrounded her, making it difficult for her to navigate her way to the stairs. She felt for the railing, taking every step slowly until she reached the bottom. She steadied herself and tried to get her bearings back as she looked into the living room. The boarded up window held back all light, which didn't help Tara at all. She felt along the walls until they lead her into the kitchen.
Tara reached for the basement's doorknob, but stopped. Without thinking she straightened her shirt and smoothed back her hair. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door and entered the basement.
Fearing someone would hear her, Tara stepped lightly. The last step creaked as she left it. Her bare feet made contact with cold concrete. She closed her eyes tightly. She heard no footsteps above her, and assuming that she had not been heard, she opened her eyes again.
For the longest time, she stood, rooted in place. Spike was sleeping. She turned back, not wanting to wake him.
"Don't." She stopped, slightly startled. Spike quickly amended his previous statement, trying not to sound desperate, "You don't have to go."
Tara didn't respond, instead walking to the cot where he was lying. He watched her closely as she came nearer, staring into her eyes. He found himself captivated by her. He didn't know why. It was possible that it was because of the kindness that she showed him, or maybe he saw something special in her that made him lov…
An understanding seemed to pass before her eyes, as if she knew what he was thinking. He wouldn't be surprised if she did.
The world slowed around them. He saw her leaning toward him. He felt her grip his hand in hers. Inside of himself, he knew he should stop her but he couldn't. He didn't want to.
She kissed him. It was slow, but small. She did not linger on his lips, instead brushing against them softly, then pulling away. Sweet, like her.
"What'd you do that for?"
Tara smirked. "I wanted to."
She stood up from her crouched position and sat down on the edge of his bed. She smiled.
"No one should be alone all the time." She told him. She reached out slowly, cautiously, running her hand though his hair. She had half expected him to pull away, or reach out to stop her, but he didn't. Instead he closed his eyes, drinking in her touch.
"I don't mind." He tried to regain his focus; however Tara's fingers massaging his skull made that quite impossible.
He reached up and held the hand that stroked his hair. She curled her fingers into his, as she looked deeply into his crystal blue eyes. "You're not alone."
Spike tried to hold her gaze, but found it incredibly difficult. He didn't want to look away, but he was afraid that her intense gaze would burn through him.
"Not now." He evaded her.
Tara tightened her grip on his hand. "Not ever." She dropped her eyes from his. They hurt her so to look at. All of Spike's suffering, pain, and scars that had faded shone clear as day through his eyes. Instead, she focused on the hand that held hers, something real. "As long as I live, you will never be alone."
"Why are you doing this?"
A broad smile spread across Tara's previously somber face. "Because I care about you doofus."
Spike laughed earnestly and pulled the blonde into his arms. He found himself unexpectedly amazed by everything about her. She was kind, compassionate, and understanding. She never judged him by the man that he had been, but by the man that he was.
"You should probably go to bed." He said, though he did not want her to leave.
"Looks to me that I already am." She giggled.
Tara nodded and smiled. "Oh yeah."
At three in the morning, Spike awoke again. He tried to turn over, but was blocked by the sleeping form of a blonde witch.
When she felt eyes on her back, Tara woke up. She rolled over and looked up at Spike. He continued to regard her quizzically, until she laughed and said, "What?"
He searched for the words to tell her what her continued presence meant to him. His mind was full of so much thought that he could find no meaningful words at all. Instead, he simply said, "You're still here."
Tara smiled, settling back into the bed. "I told you I wasn't going anywhere." She replied sleepily. She snuggled into his chest, yawning and closing her eyes. "Goodnight Spike."
Staring down at her, Spike seemed confused at first. He smiled, pulling her into his arms and closing his eyes. "Goodnight love."
Full of Grace
The winter here's cold and bitter,
It's chilled us to the bone.
We haven't seen the sun for weeks,
Too long, too far from home.
Tara sat in his bed even though he wasn't there. She slept there without his body against her. Silently, she made it every morning for when he came back. He'd never been particularly orderly, but she wanted to make it nice for him.
She walked numbly through the kitchen. Breakfast was in full swing, but everything was a blur before her eyes. She vaguely heard someone speak to her but she ignored it, instead picking up a cup and pouring herself some tea.
She reached out and pulled open the basement door. She walked down the stairs as she always did. The emptiness she found there was like a knife to her heart. Without his good natured teasing and patient understanding, the basement was just a cold, hollow, concrete room.
Carefully, Tara walked to the bed. It was still immaculately made. She stared at it as if she'd expected something else. Emotion overwhelmed her senses. She dropped the cup and it shattered against the concrete floor. Within seconds she was ripping the sheets from the mattress, tossing them onto the bed in a messy heap. She choked back sob after sob until she fell onto the now unmade bed in a ball. She cried into the pillow and cursed herself for not being there.
I feel just like I'm sinking,
And I claw for solid ground.
I'm pulled down by the undertow,
I never thought I could feel so low,
And, oh, darkness, I feel like letting go.
"I promised him." She said into the pillow, though she was talking to no one. "I promised I'd be there."
If all of the strength and all of the courage
Come and lift me from this place.
I know I can love you much better than this
Full of grace
Eventually, her empty broken screams would carry up the basement stairs. Potential slayers would gather at the door and mumble about "flashbacks" and "mental breakdowns". Willow would come and help Tara to the couch, where the blonde would sit and say nothing.
"Can I get you anything?" Willow asked. Tara smiled weakly at her. She was thankful that Willow was trying to help her, but the truth was, nothing could. She stared blankly at nothing.
"No." she replied, shaking her head. Fatigue filled her body and she wished that she could crawl into Spike's arms. The thought of him nearly brought her to tears again. She pushed it away. She could let Willow see it; Willow of all people.
Willow sat down next to Tara. They did not look at one another. Tara cast her eyes across the room, looking for something, anything, to focus on. Willow studied her hands as if they had changed in the last few moments.
"Buffy will be back soon." Willow told her. Tara turned to her, stunned. She knew. How did she know? Willow gazed at Tara, smiling slightly. Tara's face crumbled and she fell against her former lover's shoulder. She shook against Willow as the red head rubbed her back and whispered comforts into her ear.
If all of the strength and all of the courage
Come and lift me from this place
I know I can love you much better than this
Full of grace, full of grace.
When Tara had regained her strength, Willow draped a blanket over her shoulders and left her. Tara leaned back against the couch and waited. It was all that she could do now.
It was early when Spike came home. The world seemed to suddenly blur and move in slow motion. The door opened and Buffy walked inside the house. Spike's arm was draped over her shoulder, supporting him, for he was badly bruised and beaten. Tara rose from her seat. The suddenly forgotten blanket fell to the floor as the blonde mustered all the courage in her body and threw her arms around Spike's neck.
Buffy was knocked a few feet to the side as Spike held onto Tara. They cried into each other's bodies, both ignoring the wounds that should have been throbbing. Tara looked into his crystal blue eyes, and shook her head.
"I'm sorry." She said, beginning to cry once more. "I'm so sorry."
She pulled her body back to his and he spoke into her neck, "You didn't do anything." She shook her head as if to tell him that she didn't believe him. "There was nothing you could have done."
Buffy watched from a safe distance at the display in front of her. Her first instinct was to be angry at being so quickly forgotten, but as she watched more closely she felt herself soften and begin to understand.
She cautiously approached them, laying a hand on Tara's shoulder. She smiled at the other blonde. Tara smiled back and said, "Thank you."
The slayer nodded, turned, and let them. Spike watched her go, wondering why she hadn't been upset. Obviously she knew. He turned back to Tara, who continued to cry. But there was a happiness in her tears. She reached out and held his hand.
"How are you?" she asked.
"Been better. Been worse, though."
Tara nodded, and pulled him toward the kitchen. "Let's get you cleaned up."
I know I can love you much better than this.
Tara stood in the backyard, smoking. It was a filthy habit that she'd thought she'd finally kicked. Until she tasted the sweet familiar nicotine on Spike's breath every night. She didn't tell anyone about it, mostly out of shame.
The blonde leaned tiredly against the wall of the house and watched the moon move across the sky. She imagined what it would be like to travel the world, mostly because she believed that she never would. She'd been having a lot of thoughts like that lately. She wondered what she would be missing if she didn't make it to the end of this battle.
"You smoke love?"
She turned and saw Spike standing in the doorway. She smiled, casting an embarrassed glance at the ground. "It's your fault." She tossed the cigarette to the ground and smashed it underneath her boot.
"Sorry." He apologized.
Tara shook her head. "No problem." She said. "I figure, with the little time we have left, why not be happy?"
"In that case," he reached into his pocket and produced a pack of cigarettes. She laughed as he handed it to her. "Smoke up."
She seriously contemplated pulling another cigarette from the pack, but instead placed it porch's railing. "How're you feeling?" she asked him, running her fingers lightly against the cut still healing on his forehead.
"No worse for the wear I suppose." He replied nervously. She pulled her hand away, thinking she'd hurt him. He reached up and held it in place.
"I thought I lost you." Tara confided. She wondered why she'd taken so long to tell him. It wasn't like her to keep things from him. But fear does strange things to people.
He shook his head. "You could never lose me."
She nodded. Part of her believed him. Part of her didn't. She turned back to the moon and leaned against the railing. "What do you suppose we're going to do when this is all over?" she asked.
He leaned next to her. "I don't know love." He replied. "Kind of depends."
Tara frowned. "What about me?"
He turned to her. He looked into her eyes even though he was afraid of what she would see when she looked back into his. "Are you still going to want me when this is all over?"
Tara reached out and touched his cheek. She held his gaze level, managing to look scared and angry at the same time. "I will always want you." She said forcefully.
"If I don't make it-"
She pulled her eyes away from his. He pulled them back. "If I don't make it, I want you to know..." He stopped abruptly. Her eyes, heavy with confusion, seemed to bare some kind of expectation. He feared that most of all. He would give her anything she asked him for, but he was afraid of the things that he could never give her.
"Know what?" she asked.
"What you mean to me, I could never tell you." He replied, pulling her against him. He spoke to her eyes, her gentle blue eyes that had never judged him, only loved him. He needed courage now, and he found it in her eyes. "All that I can tell you is that I have never felt this way about anyone. Ever. I love everything that you are." He leaned his forehead against hers. "And I'm afraid of not being with you."
Tara reached behind his head, locking her hand together behind his neck. She closed her eyes to stop her tears. "Baby, that will never happen." She pulled one hand away, placing it on his chest. "I'm in your heart." She pulled his hand to her chest. "And you're in my soul."
He kissed her then, throwing away his fear. He couldn't think of words to tell her what she meant to him. Maybe they didn't exist. All that he knew was that kissing her, holding her close to his body, and feeling her heart beat against his chest was the happiest that he had ever been. And that he was so lucky to be loved by her.
There's a Hole in the World:
It's interesting how all things become suddenly clear when one is about to die. The first time he'd died, Spike hadn't really understood what was happening, even as it happened. But as he burned, from the inside out, he thought only of her. His blonde haired witch, who'd loved him and stood by him for so long.
Just as he began to wish that she would know that his last thoughts were of her, Tara came into view. She was running, as if from death itself.
As she ran, Tara suddenly wished she hadn't chosen to wear a skirt. True, she didn't think she'd be doing any fighting, or running for that matter, but when she saw Spike, she no longer cared.
"Spike, wha-" she said when she reached him. He stared into her, wanting to memorize everything about her while he still could.
"Gotta move, lamb. I think it's fair to say, school's out for the bloody summer."
"Spike!" Tara shouted and shook her head, annoyed with him that he was being so flip even as he was dying. She wanted to cry, or scream, or jump into his arms and burn right along with him.
"I mean it!" he replied, as if reading her mind. She shook her head again. She didn't want to listen. "I gotta do this."
His words sunk into her, and she realized that he was right. This was what he had to do. A Champion's work. As she looked into his eyes for the last time, she thought back on how the day could have possibly lead them to this place.
Tara stood next to a hanging punching bag, arms crossed over her chest. She looked up and a bit above her head was taped a drawing of a head with spiky hair and two Xs for eyes.
She almost laughed. "Mature." She commented as she walked over to his bed and sat down next to him.
He offered no explanation, instead smiling proudly at his work. Tara shook her head. There were moments that Spike was so childish that he was down right cute. She'd never tell him that, of course. It'd bruise his fragile ego. Instead she smiled back, simply content to be next to him, juvenile though his actions were.
"It's okay you know." She said as she leaned back against the wall. Spike handed her a cigarette and lit it for her.
"What's okay?" he asked, leaning back next to her.
"To be jealous."
He choked on cigarette smoke, and this time Tara did laugh. She watched, amused, as he cleared his throat and stared at her. "Have you gone completely sack of hammers?" he asked, still coughing. He gave her a glare that she was sure he meant to be intense, but which only served to make her laugh more. "I am not jealous."
"You want to be her Champion." Tara commented, without a hint of jealousy. Because she wasn't jealous. Buffy and Spike shared a connection. Maybe it was love, maybe not. But Spike hated Angel because he knew that, despite whatever connection he shared with Buffy, it would never be like the one she shared with Angel.
"I do not." He insisted adamantly.
"It's okay Spike." She rose. As she paced through the basement a look of nostalgia passed before her eyes. "I remember, not long ago, we sat in this very basement and talked all night. And you couldn't believe that I would actually flirt with you."
"Didn't exactly think you swung my way love." He commented. She ignored him. She was getting better at that. Her mother used to say, 'If you don't have anything useful to say, don't say anything at all.' She'd learned that Spike often said a lot of useless things. But that was part of his charm.
"It's those moments that I remember most Spike. I know that you still love Buffy, but it doesn't matter. Because I still love Willow." He choked on smoke again. Tara rushed to his side and put her hand on his knee.
"You what?!" he rasped.
"Okay, that came out wrong." Tara mentally kicked herself for choosing her words wrong. Spike was tough as nails on the outside, but inside he would always be the same fragile poet seeking the love of the girl he adored. To hear that she loved someone else was like a knife to the heart.
"I'd say it did!" Spike said, realizing that the words had come out more gruff than he'd intended. Tara didn't seem to notice. She just smiled, like she always did, and held his hand.
"A part of me will always love Willow." She told him. "Just like a part of you will always love Buffy."
Spike nodded, seeming to accept this, but only a moment later he leaned back against the wall and folded his arms over his chest. Then the basement got very, very quiet.
"Oh I don't believe this!" Tara's voice echoed throughout the silent expanse. "Now you're jealous of Angel and Willow. Make up your mind!"
Spike reached up and grabbed Tara's hand, pulling her down to the bed next to him. " 'M not jealous of Red." He told her. She leaned her head against his cheek.
"Yeah, sure you aren't." she said as she closed her eyes and breathed him in. He kissed her forehead and sat her back up.
"Okay," he admitted, holding both of her hands in his. "Maybe a little bit. But you're right. It's just left over feelings. What matters now is that…you're mine."
Tara laughed again. "Me Tarzan, you Jane." She said, leaning closer to him. "I never knew you were this possessive."
Spike pulled away from her and stood. At first she thought she'd hurt his feelings. After all, he did take himself a little too seriously sometimes. But as he turned his face from her she caught a glimpse of a smile and possibly a laugh. Serious my ass, Tara though as she rose from the bed. She turned him to face her. He regained his composure for maybe a second before breaking down laughing. Obviously it was infectious because seconds later she was laughing right along with him.
Still laughing, Spike pulled Tara against him and hugged her. He missed simple moments like that, before life somehow crushed them under its weight. He missed simply being able to laugh with her. He missed just holding her out of love, instead of holding her in fear.
Tara leaned her soft body against his, resting her head on his shoulder. She closed her eyes tight and muttered a swear under her breath when she heard someone walk down the stairs. When Spike laughed softly, she knew she'd been heard.
She leaned slightly out of Spike's arms to see a blonde slayer in a jean jacket standing at the bottom of the stairs. Buffy smiled good-naturedly and waited for Tara to detach herself from Spike. However, when the Wiccan tried, two strong arms held her fast in place. She caught a look in his eyes that Buffy obviously missed. It screamed: Don't leave me. She stood in his arms, her hands held together in the small of his back.
"Can we help you pet?" Spike asked Buffy. He was delighted by the fact that she no longer scared him. He enjoyed that he no longer had to hide his feelings for Tara like something he was ashamed of. In truth, it was just the opposite. He'd held back jumping on the rooftop and screaming his feelings to everyone with ears out of respect for Tara and her apprehensions. He'd never expected it to feel so good, standing in the arms of the woman that he loved, and staring into the eyes of the woman that he used to love.
"Can I talk to Spike?" Buffy directed her question to Tara. The soft-eyed blonde glanced up to her bleach-haired vampire and smiled. She squeezed him closer to her, lifting her body as high as she could to kiss his lips. Spike kept his eyes open as he kissed her, drinking in the sight of her, for once, displaying the kind of power he'd always known she possessed.
"I'll be back." She told him, eyes closed, as if the very thought of leaving him physically hurt her. Spike slowly let her out of his arms as if the though of letting her go physically hurt him.
He nodded, but didn't answer. He watched her go until her boots disappeared from view and she returned into the house.
Tara paced the basement, this time worried instead of on the entangled in excited flirtation. She'd listened to Buffy outline her plan and when she'd looked at Willow, she'd seen the same emotion in her eyes that Tara was feeling run through her entire body. They both looked like they were going to be ill.
When she'd explained it to Spike, he'd thought it was brilliant. At first. Then he'd worried for Tara's safety. She'd spent the next half an hour explaining to him that she would be fine. That a spell never decapitated anyone…unless of course it was meant to, and that she would most certainly not go all black and veiny and try to destroy the world.
"Are you sure you can do this?" Spike inquired, still watching her pace. Tara shook her head. She wanted to put on a brave face. She wanted to believe that she had the kind of power to suddenly change every potential slayer in the world to a complete, full-blown slayer, but something inside of her told her that she didn't. But the more she tried to silence her self-critic, the louder it became.
"I'm more worried about Willow." Tara thought of what the red-head had been through and suddenly became worried about what she'd have to do if regular ol' Willow suddenly became Darth Rosenberg again. Probably pee my pants, she thought. "This is bigger than anything we've ever…" She stopped, trying to block out her negative thoughts. Instead, she sat on the bed next to Spike and cast a glance at the medallion he'd been staring at off and on as she talked. "What about you?"
" 'M okay." He replied, continuing to stare. He squinted at the necklace, as if looking at it differently would give him more insight into what it actually was. "It is an awful gaudy lookin' thing, isn't it?"
"Now that you mention it," she replied with a smile. "Guess there's no accounting for taste, huh?"
Spike tore his gaze from the piece of jewelry he held and instead fixed his sights on the wonderful blonde girl that sat next to him. His gaze must have been intense, because after a few moments she blushed and looked down at her lap. There was a kind of innocence that she possessed, that Spike hadn't been close to in a long time. Dru was never innocent, not after Angelus got to her, and when Spike was through with her, neither was Buffy. But Tara, despite all the times they had kissed and held each other, and made love, still held the same virtue that she'd always had. Spike had once told Soldier Boy that Buffy needed a monster in her men, but not Tara. Tara needed someone that she could shelter. Tara needed a man to love her so much that he forsook everything he should have been just to touch her, just to love her. Tara needed a man that rose above what he was, for her.
He put the medallion down. "Come here." He said. Tara leaned back in his arms, falling to the bed with him. She laid her head to rest on his shoulder and he ran his hands lightly through her cornflower hair.
"I'm scared Spike." She confessed.
He leaned down and kissed her forehead. "I know love." He replied. He turned his body toward her, wanting all of her. She turned too, reaching around his head and pulling his lips against hers. She kissed him like it was the last time that she ever would. She held him as if she feared he would slip through her fingers. They made love as if it was their last night on earth, and in the dark of the Sunnydale night, when Tara's naked body heaved with sobs, Spike held his girl as she cried and kissed her tears, taking them into his body so that he would always have a part of her inside of him.
"They should be in place." Tara vaguely heard Kennedy speak. She wasn't paying attention. Leaving Spike, seeing the forlorn, frightened look in his eyes, had been more than she could bear. And it haunted her as she waited for the spell to begin.
"Good. Fun. Great." Willow replied, nervously. She looked up at Tara. "You okay?"
Tara tore her mind from her guilt and offered Willow a very fake smile. "Right as rain." She replied, though there was no emotion behind it. Her emotions were all off in a cave somewhere, along with the man that she loved.
Willow smiled, though she didn't believe Tara. She was jealous as hell that Tara's spirit was off with a certain shiny haired vampire, but in the end, she only wanted Tara to be happy. Even if it wasn't with her.
She placed her hands on top of the scythe. She still didn't sense its power, but she had a feeling she was going to. Tara reached down as well, running her hands over the steel. She wondered what was going to happen. She wondered if she was going to survive it.
"Brace yourself." Willow said to no one in particular. Tara smiled at her, good naturedly and as a show of confidence. She was glad that Willow didn't have to do this alone.
"Come on, Red. Make it happen." The brunette slayer said enthusiastically. Tara laughed inside of her head, knowing that Kennedy was still put off at Willow's rejections. It did give her a certain amount of satisfaction however, but she would never admit to it.
Willow reached out and took Tara's hands in hers. They closed their eyes and chanted quietly together as Kennedy looked on. She watched the two witches as their power coursed through their bodies. Their heads jerked to the heavens and they whispered together, "Oh… my… goddess!"
White light enveloped the room. It spread over everything and everyone, until the two Wicca's were bathed with it. Their hair was white and their eyes were open wide, excited by the sudden rush of power.
"Willow?" Kennedy asked in a small voice. She looked to Tara. "Tara?"
The two former lovers sat across from each other, sharing so much power that it caused a white aura to radiate all around them. A smile spread over Kennedy's face as she watched in awe.
"You…are goddesses." She said. Willow smiled at her.
"And you're a slayer." She handed the scythe to Kennedy. "Get this to Buffy."
Kennedy leaped to her feet, running off with the weapon as fast as her new strength would carry her. Willow fell over in complete exhaustion. "That was nifty." She said, fighting her body as it urged her to pass out.
When Tara finally regained feeling in her body she sprung to her feet. "Spike." She said, leaving Willow laying on the ground and running out of the room as fast as she could.
So that was it. Everything that they had been through together, all of the things that they'd shared…dissolved in an instant. As she looked at him, as he died before her eyes, she was aware but did not understand. She only understood that this is what he was meant to do. This is where he was meant to be. She understood it, but she did not accept it. Because accepting it meant accepting that she was going to lose him.
"Tara, go!" Spike told her. She didn't move. Faith called to her above her head but she did not hear. She wanted his face as she reached out and held his hand as it caught fire. It did not burn her. It could not hurt her.
She held onto his gaze, fighting to be brave, fighting to hold on. "I love you." She said.
He stared at her. The world that crumbled around them slowed down, moving at a snail's pace. All that was left around him was her. She was the only thing that mattered.
"I love you." He said back to her, before the ground shook, wrenching her hand out of his in a cruel gesture of power.
"Tara!" Buffy shouted over the crumbling wreckage. She grabbed hold of Tara's hand, for Tara's legs had forgotten how to move. Her world was ending. Why shouldn't she end right along with it? Buffy would have none of it. She pulled Tara up the stairs. The witch's eyes only left Spike when he was cut out of her view.
The last thing that Spike saw in this earthly world was the woman that he loved. So he laughed as he went out and the Hellmouth collapsed on top of him.
Tara watched from her window on the bus as the town that had moments ago been Sunnydale disintegrated block by block. When it was all over, and the bus was safely away, Giles grinded it to a stop.
She wrapped her arms around her own body as she looked at her town, reduced to a giant pot-hole in one grand gesture of heroism and love. Her body collapsed under its own weight and Willow was by her side in an instant.
"Tara." She was worried. Tara looked up at her and smiled.
"We won." She said weakly, realizing for the first time that she was sitting in the middle of a dirty, dusty road in her favorite black skirt.
"Yeah." Willow nodded, feeling a sense of pride unlike any she'd ever felt before. "We did."
The blonde cast her eyes to her friends as they looked at the town that they'd lived in for so long, some all of their lives. She watched them react to its sudden nonexistence, some with shock and others with pride. She watched Buffy finally smile as she saw the remains of the town she had literally died to protect.
But Tara could not smile. She could not be happy. She could not feel joyful that she was alive because she felt dead inside. She simply laid her head on Willow's arm, there in the middle of the street, and cried loudly for all to hear. She cried tears of joy for her friends' safety, she cried tears of sadness for those lost, but most of all she cried in agony for underneath that pot-hole lay the ashes of the man that she loved. His eternal resting place. His last peace.
They say that it takes a minute to find something special in a person, an hour to appreciate them, and a day to love them. But it takes an entire life to forget them.
Tara tossed and turned as she laid in bed. Alone. She turned over to the empty space beside her and sighed.
She hadn't been sleeping well lately. In fact, her students swore that she had nodded off once during a spell. She denied it, of course, but she later admitted to herself that it was a definite possibility.
It had been easier to adjust to life at the new Council than she would have expected. Giles had immediately put her in charge of her own coven, and Tara found that she was catching on pretty quickly. It was nice to be around so many young people, eager to learn. When Giles had asked her to take on a history course, she'd gladly accepted. Not only did she enjoy teaching, but she desperately needed to keep her mind occupied.
As she tossed and turned in bed, Tara wondered what it would be like to have a warm body in bed next to her, or any body for that matter. She felt so lonely sometimes that it was hard to be alone. However, she'd slowly realized that she didn't want just anyone. And the one she wanted was…gone.
She found that she could not say the word "dead". Whenever anyone mentioned Spike she would politely excuse herself. Buffy would look away awkwardly, but eventually smile and understand. It was hard for her to talk about Spike herself.
The free time Tara had was spent in the library, planning her course schedules and assignments. Willow would drop by sometimes and they would talk. They would talk about magic and Sunnydale and the good old days before they'd had so much responsibility. But they wouldn't talk about their relationship and they wouldn't talk about Spike.
Tara threw aside her blankets and pulled on her robe. She exited her room and wandered the empty halls of the teacher's dorms. She stood at the top of the stairs that lead down into the lobby and stared out the enormous window that stretched across the wall. She looked at the moon and started to cry. Her hand partly muffled her agonized sobs, but the sound that escaped echoed through the empty expanse.
It took her a moment to regain her composure, but she eventually managed to choke back her tears. She stood straight and took a deep breath before shaking her head and returning to her room.
She laid her head back to the pillow and closed her eyes. She ran her fingers lightly over the empty side of the bed and whispered, "I love you Spike." She pulled her hand back to her chest. "Goodnight. Where ever you are."
Spike stared at the phone. He picked it up, then quickly put it back down. He picked it up again, then angrily slammed it back down.
"That's not good for the phone." Wesley commented, reading from an enormous, and kind of smelly, old book.
"Yeah, yeah." Spike replied, though he was not paying attention. He was having a staring contest with Angel's phone.
"What are you doing anyway?"
Spike shook his head. "Sod off." He said, annoyed. Wesley rolled his eyes and returned to his book.
After a few moments Spike looked away from the phone. He stood up and walked out of the room, leaving Wesley alone with his book. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and muttered to himself, "Shit."
When night settled in over Los Angeles, Spike was staring at the phone again. Angel had thrown him, nearly literally, out of his office around sunset, so he sat, begrudgingly, behind Harmony's desk, looking at the telephone.
He must have picked it up long enough to dial three numbers, then put it back down. Gunn had passed by, asked what he was doing, then given up when his question was met with no reply. Slowly but surely, everyone left. At midnight, Spike was the only one in the building, and he was still looking at Harmony's telephone.
He picked it up and put it down one last time before sighing to himself and standing up. "She's better off." He muttered to no one, before he turned and left.
We Meet in Dreams
It was interesting to Tara how literal her dreams were becoming. Dreams were abstract and symbolic, which meant to teach something. But as she sat on the surf, watching the sun set, she knew clearly that she was dreaming.
Even as the water hit her bare feet and a small wind blew back her slightly darkened blonde hair, she felt nothing. It was as if she was living in an old black and white movie. Color was there, but she didn't recognize it.
She sat for hours, closing her eyes and feeling that if the wind picked up, it would blow her away. She leaned her head back, drinking in the sound of the ocean, a sound that she had loved since childhood. She remembered when she was little, before her innocence had been tainted by her father's outdated beliefs about women and their place in the world, her family would drive to the beach during the summer. She would stand in the surf, up to her ankles, close her eyes, and reach out her arms wide, as if she could fly. Once, Donny had come up behind her and pushed her down. It was the first time she ever saw her father so mad he looked like he might hit the boy.
When she opened her eyes, someone was sitting next to her. She didn't even have to ask who.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?" she asked, turning her gaze back to the sunset, which was curiously hanging in the same place it had been for hours. The wind blew, and the surf washed back and forth, but the sun remained in place. Tara was thankful for that. She didn't need any more darkness in her life.
Spike looked at her, not the sunset. He'd never had the pleasure, inside the realm of the conscious world, to ever see his girl in a bathing suit. But now he had to force himself to avoid certain areas of her that his eyes desperately wanted to focus on. He smiled, and said, "Sure is."
Tara turned to him and smiled. "Why are you here?" she asked. She looked to the sun, then back at him. "I thought you'd burn up."
"Already done that love." He said. He looked at the sun. "That thing can't hurt me now."
Tara shook her head. "I never want to leave here." She said. "It's so quiet, and peaceful. Everything in the real world is noise, noise, noise." She shook her head sadly. "And you're here."
"I've always been there." Spike looked away. Even in dreams, looking at her sometimes hurt him. He'd never been honest with anyone the way he was with her, and the truth could hurt a lot sometimes.
"Not really." She replied. "Every night I go to bed alone. I get up alone. I am alone."
"Now stop right there." He forced her eyes to his, taking her by the shoulders and turning her to face him. She tried to look away but he put his finger under her chin and her eyes found their way back to his. "As long as I live, you will never be alone."
She shook him off of her. "But you're not alive. You're gone, and I…I'm not with you." She looked away, drawing her knees to her chest and staring out into the ocean. "I couldn't help. I couldn't save you. I just watched you die." She shook her head and pushed her hair out of her face. She bit her tongue, hard. "It's my fault."
"Is that what you think?" Spike asked softly.
Tara whispered, "Yes."
"Was my choice love. It was what I had to do."
She shook her head again. "Still," she said. "I should have-"
"Done what? Jumped into my arms and burned right along with me?" he asked. Tara closed her eyes. " 'S not what I wanted. Tara, listen to me. There was nothing that you could have done. It wasn't in your control."
"Then why do I feel so guilty?"
Spike thought about it for a moment, but soon realized he had no answer. If anything he felt guilty for making her feel guilty. What a mess this whole thing was.
"I don't know." He replied quietly. "But you shouldn't."
Tara looked back at him again, seeing him dressed head to toe in his usual black clothing. She smiled. "Isn't that a little warm?" she asked.
"Quiet comfortable actually." He replied. He finally allowed his eyes to roam over the whole of Tara's body. She caught them lingering on certain parts of her and blushed. "You look a tad warm yourself love."
She smiled. "I'm comfortable too." She said. "I don't worry much here. No one's around to see me. Not anyone I mind terribly seeing me, anyway."
Spike smiled. "Well in that case, I'll have to come back soon." He replied.
She nodded. "Please do."
He reached out and touched her face. "We're good then?" he asked, hoping he'd calmed her nerves even slightly.
She nodded, holding his hand. "Always."
When Spike slowly faded away, Tara felt the wind pick up, tossing her hair back. The sun sank over the ocean and the world around her was cast into darkness. She looked around at the empty blackness, suddenly very cold.
She woke up in bed covered in sweat. She looked around her empty room and sighed. Slowly, Tara pulled her body out of bed. It objected at first, but she bent her back to the side to relieve the pressure that a night of tossing and turning in her sleep had built up.
For a moment, she examined her reflection in the mirror, but turned from it suddenly and turned on her shower. After a moment she held her hand under the faucet to check the temperature. She turned the knob severely to the left and said, "Better make it cold."
It's amazing how innocently a day can begin and how dismal it can end up becoming. When Tara had gotten out of bed that Monday morning, the thought that was foremost in her mind was how she was going to balance her classes with the next coven duties that she'd taken on recently. And by the end of the day she was scrambling to find a substitute for the rest of the week, while shoving clothes into her bag and running to the air strip that her plane was taking off from.
"You're a godsend Rowena." She said to the newest teacher/watcher that had been recruited to join the council. She slung her duffel bag over her shoulder with one hand while balancing her new cell phone in the other.
"We'll take off in a moment Miss Maclay." The pilot told her as he approached her and took her bag.
"Thank you." Tara replied, thankful that she was finally able to pay attention to one thing at a time. As she walked up the steps of the Watchers Council's private jet, she turned her attention back to the watcher on the other end of the line.
"The lesson plans are all on my desk. Don't worry. You'll be fine. And keep Willow busy. Thanks for this Ro."
"Miss," the pilot addressed Tara. "We're taking off."
"Thanks Arnie. And I told you, call me Tara." She spoke to Rowena once more, "Ro, I've got to go now. Okay, see you then. Bye."
After an hour in the air, and an hour of staring out into the darkness that surrounded the plane, Tara realized how angry she was. She'd temporarily forgotten, in all of her haste, but the longer she sat and thought about it, the angrier she got. She hadn't had the feeling many times in her life, but when she did, it was extremely powerful.
She fidgeted with everything in sight while recalling how the day had started, and how much had changed from then to where she was now.
At just about eight o'clock in the morning, Tara had been in the employee lounge, grading papers and mapping out her newly revised lesson plan. After about a half an hour of sitting alone, Buffy joined Tara, deeply engaged in a hunt for a fresh pot of coffee.
"You just getting up?" Tara asked, smiling as she reached for another paper. Buffy yawned, grabbed an empty cup from the cupboard, and stretched.
"Long night." She replied, sitting down next to Tara. "I think the girls are getting better though. They're hitting each other a lot less."
Tara nodded. "Good." Her attempt at a smile was not lost on Buffy.
"How about you?" she asked. "How're you doing?"
Tara shrugged, but tried to keep a smile on her face. "Better." She slumped a little. "Sometimes."
Guilt awakening in Buffy once more. She wished she could tell Tara about Spike. If it were her place, and he hadn't specifically asked her not to, she would. So she kept her mouth closed and prayed that Spike would do the right thing in the end.
Both blonde turned when the door was opened, and saw a much shorter, less feminine blonde standing in the doorway.
"Well, how'd it go?" Buffy asked, eager to get her mind off all things Spike. And a newly activated, mentally disturbed slayer was defiantly good for that.
"She was touch and go for a minute, but she's here." Andrew replied, with a touch of pride, as if he'd subdued her all by himself.
"Sedated at the moment." He replied. "Angel was royally pissed, but in the end, I think he saw things my way." Buffy crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him. "Our way, er, your way."
Tara smiled, amused by Andrew's awkwardness. She couldn't believe that, once upon a time, she'd probably been just as bad. Nevertheless, Andrew was coming along, slowly but surely.
"I just hope Spike's okay."
The very mention of his name jerked Tara from her thoughts. She dropped her pen, marking a student's paper. She sat, mouth agape, staring at Andrew.
"Spike?" she asked, in a very small voice. Air left her, as if she had been kicked in the stomach. She didn't feel like she could form words. "He's…alive?"
Buffy broke away from glaring at Andrew, and his abnormally large mouth, and glanced at Tara. She looked so lost, so small, as if her entire world had been turned upside down and rearranged. Which, it had.
"In a manner of speaking." Buffy replied. Now that the cat was out of the bag, there was nothing she could do but tell the truth, and hope that Tara would forgive her.
"You have to take me to him." Tara said, both impulsively and decidedly. Buffy glanced around, obviously reluctant.
"I don't know if that's such a good idea." She said.
"You did it for Andrew." Tara replied stubbornly. "You can do it for me."
Buffy stopped to consider this. Tara was right. She'd just found out that the man she loved was alive and hadn't told her. She should be allowed the opportunity to punch him right in his selfish, lying face.
"I'll see the jet is ready." Buffy nodded, picking up the phone and dialing Arnie.
Tara rifled through her clothes, looking at them in the mirror, throwing the occasional shirt or skirt or pair of pants into her bag. She found it so childish that, even though she was furious with him, she still wanted to look pretty when she saw him. She was annoyed by how nervous she was, how much she wanted to see him and to be seen by him. It was like being in high school again. Only, Spike was a boy.
Tara turned and saw Buffy standing in her doorway. "I'm so sorry Tara." She repeated.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Tara asked, stuffing a pair of socking into her already bloated bag.
"It wasn't my place." Buffy replied earnestly, looking down at her hands. "And I promised him that I wouldn't."
Tara nodded and began attempting to zip up her bag. "That sounds like him." She replied bitterly.
"If it helps," Buffy walked farther into the room, until she was standing by Tara's bed. The blonde witch could see how hard this was on her. "I wanted to. It wasn't fair, what he was asking, especially since I can see how much this is hurting you."
"I'm sure he had a good reason." Tara defended Spike even though she didn't know why. Reflex, she suspected. She finally managed to zip up her bag. She sighed and tossed it over her shoulder. "How, I've just got to go find out what that is."
Buffy smiled and hugged her friend. She'd come so far, grown so much. And she knew that part of that was because of Spike and the connection that they shared.
Tara closed her window and leaned back in her chair. She checked her watch and saw that she still had nine hours before the plane was to land.
She sighed and closed her eyes, figuring that she should try to get some sleep.
The wonder of the world is gone,
I know for sure.
All the wonder that I want,
I've found in her.
As the hole becomes apart I strike to burn,
And no flame returns.
Spike'd had a hell of a week. So far he'd had his arms whacked off by a psycho slayer, had nightmares every time he went to sleep, and failed to have the balls to call the girl that he loved another thousand times.
What was he supposed to say? "Hi Tara. By the way, I'm alive again, not burnt to a crisp underneath a big pothole like you though for the last three months. Want to have a drink some time?"
In truth, he'd never wanted to do anything more. Since he'd come back, all he'd thought about was her. He wondered if she'd thought about him. No, probably not. The human spirit was a resilient thing. And with it came the great capacity to move on.
Spike was following Angel around in a desperate attempt to annoy him, which he'd found his mere presence did more than adequately.
Angel sat behind his desk, reading a file and trying to ignore Spike. He sat on the arm of the couch, looking out the window at the sun that never ceased to amaze him. He saw a plane land in the distance and thought, for the millionth time, how easy it would be to just hop on a plane, fly away to marry old England, and sweep Tara off her feet. Of course, when it came to that point in his nightmares he always found her in bed with Red. No, something was keeping him there, at Wolfram & Hart, dreaming about things he would never do.
Every intuition fails to find its way.
One more table turned around and back again.
Finding I'm more lost than found,
When she's not around.
When she's not around,
I feel it coming down.
Tara came off of the plane with a renewed sense of anger swirling about her. An older gentlemen approached her on the airstrip.
"Miss Maclay," he said, shaking her hand. "It's an honor to serve you and the council."
Tara nodded and he began to follow her away from the noise of the plane. "I need you to take me to Wolfram & Hart." She said.
The old man nearly tripped over his own two feet.
Give me what I could never ask for.
Just when Spike and Angel were settling into their uncomfortable silence, the intercom on Angel's desk beeped. He stabbed the button, annoyed already.
"What is it Harmony?"
"There's someone here for Spike." She replied. The blonde vampire turned at the mention on his name and found that Angel shared his confusion.
"This isn't Spike's office." Angel replied shortly.
"Yeah, well, he's there like ninety percent of the time anyway." Harmony said. Angel glared at Spike, who looked quite smug at the fact that he was successfully annoying Angel.
"Fine." Angel replied, defeated. "Send them in."
Angel hung up the phone. Spike was about to make a comment, most likely rude, when the door of Angel's office slammed violently against the wall.
As Spike struggled to get his bearings, he saw her. His girl, his Tara, in all her radiant glory. Angel watched in confusion as the two stared at each other, as if amazed by the very sight.
Angel took a moment to study this woman, who's name he did not know. She was very beautiful, her hair pulled back in a pony-tail, her face soft and delicate, like a doll. She stood barely 5' 5" in her tall black boots, shorter than Spike, but in Angel's opinion, not by much. But most striking about her was her long black coat, which much resembled Spike's.
"Tara." Spike whispered. And suddenly Angel understood. This was the girl.
Tara felt frozen in place. She couldn't more, or think, or speak. It had taken her so long to reconcile within herself that Spike was dead, and seeing his standing right in front of her with her own two eyes was almost more than she could handle.
Words were useless now. They both understood that. All that they could do was act on instinct. She ran to him, throwing her arms around his neck and burying her head in his shoulder. She cried. He cried. Neither of them knew what to say or do next, but it didn't matter. Angel took advantage of the moment, slipping through the door and closing it behind him.
Spike released the blonde from his arms, smiling like he never had before. He expected to see the same smile on her, but he found her eyes fierce and angry. Before he saw it coming, she slapped him, hard.
"Bastard!" she screamed, her voice echoing through the room. Spike ran a hand over his face. Tara could hit a lot harder then he ever would have guessed. He looked up, into her eyes, and saw that she was crying again. He tried to comfort her, but she backed away.
"How could you not tell me?" she asked, her voice suddenly steady, and mad as hell. "All this time, I thought you were dead, and here you are." She met his eyes, trying to hold them without melting into his arms again. "You didn't think I was even important enough to mention it to."
He shook his head. "That's not it at all pet." He told her. She shook her head. She didn't believe him. What reason did she have to? She'd been stewing in her anger for twelve long hours and she wasn't going to give it up so easily.
"Spike," she said. "I am tired. This is morning, I was fine. I was grading papers, I was a paper-grading machine. Then Andrew comes in and mentions something about hoping you were okay." She reached out suddenly and shoved him. "I had to hear it from Andrew!" She glared at him, supposing that this was the angriest that she had ever been. "I should have heard it from you!"
"I know." He said. "I thought about it ever day."
"So why didn't you?" Tara asked, feeling slightly dizzy. She found the nearest chair and sat down. Spike wasn't far behind.
"You had a life pet. I didn't want to disturb it." He replied.
"You're part of my life." She insisted.
"It's not that simple Tara. I didn't know what you'd been doing all this time, if you'd moved on. And I wasn't going to mess up your life once you'd put it back again."
Tara studied him for a long time. She knew he meant what he was saying, she could see it in his eyes. She sat up straight in her chair and said, "You're stupid."
"I was miserable." She said, with a small laugh. "Every day. I do have a life Spike, a great life in fact. But you were still part of it. And I hate that you thought you wouldn't be."
"A man can't go out in a blaze of glory, save the world, then just stumble off of a plane three months later." He cast his eyes down to the floor. "No matter how much he wants to."
She shook her head. A part of her understood that. The other part thought it was some stupid male pride thing. "You still should have told me." She said.
He sat on the chair's arm above her. "I know." He said. She looked up at him. "I'm sorry."
"How's your face?" she asked, moving so that he could sit next to her. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders.
"Healing just fine." He replied.
She leaned her head on his shoulder. "I'm sorry I hit you." She said.
" 'S okay."
"But you deserved it."
Tara closed her eyes, finding it next to impossible how tired she was. Maybe it was jet lag. Or maybe it was that she'd flown across the ocean just to yell and hit the man that she loved.
"What do we do now Spike?"
He shook his head. "I have no idea."
"We'll figure something out." Tara said.
"Yeah pet." He said into her hair, closing his eyes as well. "We'll figure something out."
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