Lessee... Sorry 'bout the doubles to those who get them. Thank you to the Horsechicks for commentary, especially Kiki, Dee, and Val for beta comments. It's all Kiki's fault.
And by the way, this one *isn't* *evil*. For a change, I wrote a vignette--and no one dies, gets tortured, or even has major emotional trauma. Goddess only knows how that happened (aside from egging on by a certain easily-traumatized Valkyrie Butterfly I know...)
Oh, disclaimer: Joss, Mutant Enemy, etc. They own them. I don't. That out of the way, let it also be said that I haven't seen "Doublemeat Palace" or whatever it's called yet, so if I got Jossed, I'll find out about it this weekend when I get my dub from Perri.
Commentary *always* appreciated.
"Look, Witchygirl, I don't see why you can't do it for me!" Stupid bloody little girl, always trying to do the right thing. All that witchy power. More than she ever thought, talking about how Red was the more powerful witch, like she wasn't worth anything, and she was selfish enough not to use her power to help out good old Spike. "I bet Red would help me out if I asked her.
"I--I'm not casting a spell for you, Spike," stuttered Tara. "And bringing up Willow i-isn't going to make me change my mind."
Spike snorted. "Fine! Fine then! You can just bloody well sit here and feel guilty when I get myself killed because I can't defend myself against things that go bump in the night."
Tara glared at him. "You can defend yourself against demons," she said, turning away to stir a pot she had boiling on the stove. "And people wouldn't want to hurt you."
"You sure, Witchygirl?" he asked her. "You really sure about that? I'm Spike. The Big Bad. I hurt a lotta people in my time. Maybe some of 'em are coming back for revenge." Well, maybe they were. You never knew. Of course, he'd always made a point of killing his enemies, not that he'd tell the girl that. It was bad business, leaving someone alive once you left town. It was why he kept coming back to bleeding Sunnyhell after the Slayer in the first place. Well, at first.
"You're not a Big Bad any more, Spike," said Tara. "I'm sorry, b-but that's the way it is. I'm not casting a spell that's going to let you hurt people."
"You wouldn't be casting a spell that would let me hurt people, love," said Spike. "You'd just be sending me back in time a bit."
"Which would let you stop the Initiative from putting the behavior modification chip in your brain." Tara stopped stirring and turned back to him. "I--I like that you can't hurt people, Spike." She just stood there calmly, staring at him and talking in that quiet way she had. Like she'd be able to do that if he didn't have that chip in his head. "I like that you're not hurting Willow, or Buffy, or any of the other people in Sunnydale."
Spike bet she especially liked that he couldn't hurt Red. If he hadn't had the chip, he'd have killed Red before she decided she didn't like boys and the two of them never would have met. He wondered if she knew that.
"I'd never hurt the Sunnyhell crowd," said Spike. Maybe he could wheedle her into it. She was sharper than Red sometimes, or at least she wasn't so determined to be able to cast every spell in the book--and some that weren't. If Red weren't on her stupid no-magic kick, he'd've gone straight to her. "You know that, don't you?"
She gave him one of those you're-not-fooling-me looks. "I've heard the stories," she said. "A-about you, and Drusilla, and Angel and what you did to Buffy."
"So what's that you're brewing up, Witchygirl?" he asked her, changing the subject from topics he didn't want to talk about. "Love potion? A little eye of newt and all that?"
"It's spaghetti," said Tara. "I-I have some leftover sauce from last night and I want to use it up before it goes bad."
"Oh," said Spike, blinking.
"I--" She took a deep breath. "I have some extra spaghetti if you want some?"
Spike. Spike was in her apartment, and she was offering him dinner? Not herself as dinner, of course, but who ever thought that a vampire would want spaghetti? But there he was, accepting her offer, *and* in a better mood than she'd ever seen him in.
*And* he was setting the table. "Joyce," said Spike, rolling his eyes. "Buffy's mum had me over for dinner once or twice. Well, not that she'd called me or anything, but after the first time I stopped by around dinnertime and she invited me in for a bite." He looked almost bashful. Like he was embarrassed about Mrs. Summers. "I took to comin' round every once in a while, when I knew Buffy wouldn't be home. Didn't want to get between her and her mum."
Tara couldn't help but giggle at him. He'd tried to kill Buffy how many times and he was worried about making Buffy and Mrs. Summers fight?
Spike gave her a half-grin. "She always made me set the table. Said if I was gonna eat her cooking, I could at least put forth a bit of effort for it."
"Mrs. Summers seemed to like to have help around the house," said Tara. "It made it a bit easier, I think, what with Buffy being gone all the time."
"And Niblet wasn't in the mood to set the table. Ever," said Spike. "Said something about housework being for geeks. Do I look like a geek?" he asked, putting a plate down on the table and trying to pose for her.
Tara smiled. "No," she said. "But no teenager likes to do their chores. When I was a teenager, I once didn't sweep the floor for a week."
"And what then?" asked Spike.
Tara looked down. Then her brother had scuffed his boots on the kitchen floor. And then... "N-never mind," she said, turning up the heat on the sauce and stirring it a little. "I j-just meant that k-kids haven't learned how to keep things clean yet."
"Niblet'd argue with you," said Spike. "Tell you she's not a kid." He smiled. "She likes to think she's all grown up. That she's the type of Big Bad no one wants to mess with."
Tara nodded. "Being the Key is special," she said. "But not in a way that lets you defend yourself. Buffy wants Dawn to have a normal life."
"As normal a life as you can have when you were a green, glowing bit of energy from the start of time," said Spike.
"Well, yes," she said, adding a bit more basil to the sauce. It should be ready in just a few minutes. "But since she was called to be the Slayer, Buffy hasn't had a normal life. And she wants Dawn to have what she didn't."
"And you would know that how?" asked Spike. "Seeing as how you weren't in town back then."
"I-I've heard," said Tara.
"But you weren't there," said Spike.
"No," said Tara. "I wasn't. I wasn't a part of Buffy's friends in high school, and I only m-met them when I met Willow. And I may not be anyone's friend now that Willow and I aren't t-together any more, but that doesn't mean I don't know anything about them." She was very disappointed with Spike.
"I know what it's like, you know," said Spike.
"Know what what's like?" asked Tara. The spaghetti should be about done. She pulled out a colander and turned off the heat.
"Being on the outside." Spike had suddenly stopped being mean and needling her. And his voice had gotten softer. It was almost like he was being sympathetic. To her? "You're not the only one, you know."
"I-it's where I b-belong," murmured Tara, bending her head down over the pot so no one would see her face.
"That's not true, and you know it," said Spike. "No one would have even seen that Red was having a problem if you hadn't pointed it out."
"Mr. Giles s-saw," said Tara.
"And the good old Watcher up and left, didn't he?" asked Spike. "Because he knew you were around to keep an eye on her."
Tara shook her head. "I--" She took a deep breath. She was stuttering too much. She had to stop stuttering. She had to sound strong, even if she really wasn't. "I didn't do so good a job, now did I?" she asked.
"You did what you could," said Spike. "S'all anyone could've asked of you. You made it possible for the rest of the little Scooby Gang kids to see what Red was up to."
"I should have been able to stop her," said Tara, taking the pot off the stove and carrying it over to the sink. "I should have been able to make her listen to me." She'd already put the colander in the sink and now she started pouring the water from the pot through the colander, straining the pasta out of it.
"You can't make anyone who doesn't want to listen do it," said Spike, taking the pot from her after she'd emptied it. "Here, lemme get that." Why was he being so nice, to her even? Vampires weren't supposed to be nice. "And Red's on her no-magic kick. She's listened. You helped. You should be all happy. And why am I trying to make you feel better? You shouldn't be feeling bad in the first place, and I'm a bad guy." He shrugged. "Let's eat."
Spike hated this town. He bloody well hated it. You'd think with a Hellmouth around, a bloke wouldn't have to worry about sodding microchips in his brain. He'd be able to enjoy a good poker game without worrying about any demons that thought he'd gotten soft trying to take a piece out of him. And you would *especially* bloody think well that a proper vampire wouldn't be having spaghetti with the Slayer's best friend's ex-girlfriend.
Of course, there he was, helping her set the table and watching her try not to sob her heart out over some little redheaded wicca that hadn't yet been able to recognize love when it was knocking her over the head. There was a reason he liked Red, and it sure as hell wasn't because he was soft. She was running headlong down a dark path, and he wanted to see where it was going to take her.
"Do you like it?" asked Tara softly.
Oh, yeah. He liked where Red was going. But she was talking about the food. "S'good," said Spike, taking another bite. "I don't think I've had a home-cooked meal since Joyce kicked the bucket."
She smiled at him weakly. "I'm glad you think it's good."
"You don't seem all broken up about Joyce's death," said Spike. "Mention it around anyone else and they're all mopey and glum, but not you. Why not?"
"I'm very sad that she's dead," said Tara. "But I didn't know her as well as anyone else did."
"Least you're honest about it," said Spike. "And you don't live in the past. Seems like everyone else around here does." And when he got the chip out of his brain, he'd remind everyone who he really was, and he'd damn well kill every single do-gooder in this hellhole. Including the people he liked, which included blond witchy girls who treated him like none of the other idiots in this town did since Joyce died and fed him home-cooked meals like no one else even thought to do.
"Oh," said Tara quietly. "I'm sorry."
"S'not your fault," said Spike, shrugging. "You just won't help a bloke out, that's all."
"I thought we already went through this, Spike," said Tara. "I won't help you be able to kill people again."
"I know," said Spike. "But I thought I'd try."
She smiled at him for real then. That was nice, even if she shouldn't be smiling like he made a joke. He'd been serious. "So what now?" asked Spike, finishing off his food. "You gonna kick me out alone into the cold night?"
"You belong in the night," said Tara. "You're a vampire."
"Well, yeah," said Spike. "So? You got any dessert?"
Tara shook her head.
"Right, then," said Spike, tossing the napkin off his lap and onto the table. He paused, and frowned. Why the hell had he put a frilly little lacy napkin on his lap like he was at some fancy dinner party for poofs and nancy boys? You'd think he was some bloody idiot or something. "I'll just be getting on home."
"O-okay," said Tara, standing up too. Girl was way too bloody polite. She was walking him to the door and everything.
"You should watch yourself," said Spike, leaning in towards Tara. "Revoke that invite in, maybe. I ever get this chip out, I'm gonna remember you wouldn't help me." He grinned at her, breaking the mood. "Hey, you got any plans for Valentine's Day?"
"I--" The girl looked confused. She shook her head. "No. No plans."
"You and me, if we're still all lovelorn and lonely and all that, maybe I'll be showing up for dinner. If you've got an extra space at the table, Witchygirl." And with that he was out the door, down the bloody stairs, and off into the night, looking for some moron to give him a hand with a harmless little time-travel spell.
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