DISCLAIMER: The Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel characters are the property of Mutant Enemy, Joss Whedon, and Fox Studios. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2001 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
The house at 1630 Revello Drive was dark; the inhabitants had finally gone to bed. Or pretended to go to bed. Every so often Buffy's silhouette fell across her bedroom window and Spike repressed a sigh.
"She seems nervous. And what did she hang in her windows?" Tara muttered to herself from the shadows across the street, not realizing he was there.
Spike circled around and came up behind her. "Garlic." His voice made her jump.
"S'what I said, isn't it?"
"But garlic keeps vampires away." She looked at him in surprise. "Oh."
"Yeah. Bloody, sodding oh."
"So when Buffy didn't come home the other night?"
He didn't answer.
"Are you being a gentleman?"
He laughed. It was a bitter sound. "If I were, you'd be the only one to believe it, duck."
"You and Buffy. That actually explains a lot." She glanced at him and seemed to see his anger. "You can't say. Or won't say. Did you promise her you wouldn't say?" She held a hand up to stop his irritated reply. "Never mind. Stupid question."
He shifted to get a better view of the house. "So, you come here often?"
"No. Well, maybe a few nights. You know, to check up on things."
He stared up at the windows. The slayer was pacing again. He saw her reach up to check the garlic.
Tara was watching him. "You're in love with her."
"Does she know that?"
"Yeah." He pulled out a cigarette. "Doesn't seem to care much though."
"Can I have one?"
"One of these?" He held out the pack, surprised when she reached for a cigarette. "Knock yourself out. Didn't know you smoked."
"Only when I'm really nervous."
"And you're really nervous now?"
She leaned in for a light, took a deep drag and coughed quietly. "I am."
"Then how come you're not stuttering?"
She smiled. "I stutter when the people I'm around make me nervous."
"I don't make you nervous?"
"Guess not." She pointed to the house with the cigarette. "That situation makes me nervous. Everything's wrong."
"You're telling me."
"I wish I could get Dawn out of there."
Anger filled him again. "Your girl almost killed her tonight."
Tara turned to him in dismay.
"She's messed up with Rack. You know him?"
Tara nodded. "I've heard things about him. Bad things. Willow went to him?"
"Took Dawn with her."
"Crashed a car beatin' it from some nasty that Red had conjured up. Damn thing wanted Dawn. Buffy barely kept him away. If your girl hadn't snapped to and made him disappear..." He stomped out his cigarette with rather more force than was necessary.
Tara trembled. "I didn't know."
"Damn magic. Trouble that's what it is. Just trouble."
"It's not the magic," Tara whispered.
"Then what the hell is it?"
"It's something else, Spike. I use magic. Giles did too. We're not like Willow."
"Well that former rat is, according to Buffy. Into the magic like a junkie in Needle Park is into her heroin."
"But it's not the magic." Tara frowned. "Magic isn't bad. Not when you use it right. But Willow isn't using it right anymore. Last year she crossed a line. Fighting for Dawn, for me. Fighting Glory. Willow crossed a really dangerous line. And she's been crossing it ever since."
"Like when she brought Buffy back."
Tara just looked down.
"I read up on the ritual of Osiris. You know what she had to do, don't you?"
"I know now. I didn't then."
He lost his temper with her. "Why didn't you? Why didn't any of you stop to ask yourself what the hell you were doing? And if you had any right to interfere in that?"
"We were caught up in the possibility. We thought we were helping Buffy."
"Well, you weren't. Should have left her where she was."
Tara frowned. "You don't like having her back?"
He pulled his coat more tightly around him. "What do you think? It ate me up inside that I couldn't save her." He looked up at the sky and didn't say anything for a moment. "But she's not right. She didn't come back right."
"What do you mean?"
He realized what he'd said. "I mean she's having a hard time of it, is all. And your girl and her magic aren't making it better."
"Spike, it really isn't the magic. It's something else. Something inside Willow. And inside Amy. Making them want something more than just the magic. Maybe the power, maybe something else. I don't understand it."
"Yeah, well, join the club." He lit another cigarette and offered her one.
"No, I'm good." She closed her eyes for a moment. "I don't know what to do. I can feel that she's hurting. But I don't know what to do."
"Get her to stop using the magic."
"That may be impossible. For me, and for Giles, magic is a tool. It's something we use to help us. For Willow it's become her identity. She's not happy if she's not proving she's the big, powerful witch. This has to do with a lot more than misusing magic. It has to do with how she feels about herself and how the magic lets her make others afraid so that she doesn't have to be."
"What's she afraid of?"
"Being alone. Being rejected."
"Oh great. So you go and leave her and just rub that in? Bloody brilliant."
She looked away for a moment. "I had to, Spike. She wasn't good for me. I wasn't good for her. And...I couldn't trust her anymore."
He looked up at Buffy's window. "Looks like you're not the only one who can't trust."
"It's not you she doesn't trust. It's herself."
"She hung garlic in the windows."
"But what did she do to the front door?" Tara smiled when he realized what she was saying. "Why don't you go see?"
"Yeah. I guess I could." He put out the cigarette. Then he took a deep breath and squared his shoulders and said, "I just want you to know that you're all right, Tara. I mean, in case she stakes me for this."
"Thanks. And I have a feeling I'll be seeing you again."
He grinned. "Hope so."
He heard her whispered, "Me too," as he walked across the street and up the front steps. He reached for the door. It wasn't even locked. Bloody women, what the hell was wrong with the lot of them? He opened the door quietly and stepped inside.
Instantly, Buffy was at the top of the stairs. For a moment, he thought he saw a welcome in her eyes, then all emotion died. "Oh. It's you."
"Yeah. Thought about coming through the window but decided on the more traditional approach."
She walked down the stairs. "Give me one good reason not to kill you right here in the living room."
"You hate to dust?" He sat down on the couch and tried not to look too satisfied at the way she almost smiled at his joke.
"Give me another."
"Fresh out. Think of one yourself." He leaned back.
"If you think something's going to happen here..."
"I don't." He kept his voice even. No teasing, no joking, no taunting. Just talking.
"Then why are you here?"
"Garlic, Buffy? Bit melodramatic, isn't it?"
"I don't think so."
He smiled at the embarrassed look on her face. "Sure you don't."
"Spike, you're bad for me. I can't keep doing this. Someone is going to get hurt."
"You're not Willow. And I'm not magic."
"No. But it's the same thing."
He shook his head. "No. It's really not. Because according to an expert I know, magic is neutral and Willow made it bad. I, on the other hand, am bad." He smiled up at her. "Incorrigible even. And you make me good."
She didn't move. Looked like she was buying it for a minute. Then she shook it off. "You're not just bad, Spike. You're evil."
"Well, sure I am. I've never claimed to be anything but evil. So?"
"You're a mass murderer."
"So are you. Guess it depends on who you ask, eh?"
"You think because you love me that makes it all okay?"
"I think because I love you that it makes it all horrible. I wish I didn't love you, but I do. And because I love you, I find this annoying need to be good. And tell me, Buffy, if an evil creature does good, should he get any points for that?"
"You're only good to impress me. You're not good because you want to be. Or because you feel bad and want to atone. You're not even sorry for what you've done in your unlife, are you?"
"Not really. No."
He shrugged. "I may be evil, but I'm the one that you've turned to ever since you came back from wherever you were. And I'm the one that's been there for you, even when you weren't ready to turn to anyone. I'm the one you can count on here...and I'm evil. That's a turn of events nobody would ever have predicted. But that's the way things are."
"You forgot to mention that I'm not right."
"Didn't forget. Chose not to."
"Don't really feel like hurting you."
"Well, that's a first."
"No, it's not. And the day you realize that will be a red-letter day on my crypt calendar."
"Whatever. Well, let's get it out there. You think I came back wrong. Maybe a demon, huh? That'd be swell, wouldn't it, Spike? You're very own Buffy demon."
"I never said you were a demon. Just said you came back wrong."
"Well what's more wrong than a demon on earth?"
"Maybe something good. Something meant to be where you were. Wrong doesn't have to mean evil."
She just stared at him.
"Last night, while you were sleeping...I wasn't. I was watching you sleep. And you did sleep, Buffy. All through the night. Have you done that since you've been back?" He waited for her to answer, finally continued when it was clear she wasn't going to. "I watched you and I thought about things. Well and I did a lot of reliving." He gave her an evil smirk, then turned it down to something more gentle. "I thought about how you came back, and where you might have been, and what you really are. The chip doesn't lie about you not being human. But I know evil when I see it. And you're not it."
Her voice was so soft he barely heard her when she said, "If I'm not evil, why are you the only one I want to be with? Why am I so drawn to you?"
He shrugged. "Dunno. Why am I so drawn to you when you're everything I should hate? It's not just the slayer thing for me. And for you, it's not just that vampires get you hot."
"But you said..."
"I know what I said. And now I'm saying something different. I don't know what you are. And I don't know why I should want to be with you. To help you. To protect you. I'm evil. I haven't been anything but evil for over a hundred years. I can't explain why I'd give my life to keep you safe. Or Dawn. But I would. It's a big joke on us, Buffy. Only we can't see who's doing the laughing."
"Do you believe in the devil?"
"No. People got enough evil in them without adding a big bad devil to the mix." He got up slowly. "Do you believe in God?"
She looked at him in surprise.
"If there is a God, Buffy. He—or she—let you be yanked out of heaven. Not very fair, is it?"
She looked stricken.
"Don't look so glum. I'm sure we'll understand this eventually. Higher purpose and everything. In the meantime, I'll be off to my crypt and you can go back to your garlic-infested room and try to get some sleep."
"I may sleep down here. The smell's kind of strong."
"You know it doesn't work, right?"
He shook his head.
"Then why didn't you crawl through the window?"
"Why didn't you hang any on the door?"
She glared at him. He glared back then headed for the door.
As he opened it, he turned back to Buffy and warned, "You'd better watch Willow. This isn't just about magic. It's about fear. She could be a real danger to herself and to Dawn."
She nodded. "I'm going to call Giles in the morning. See if he has any ideas."
"Sort of a magical detox?"
"Something like that." She looked down. "Maybe he'll have one for me too."
He laughed. "This addiction is a bit different. You'll be back. It's attraction, Buffy. Yeah, it may seem wrong. Hell, it may even be wrong. But if it's really wrong, why does it feel right?"
She didn't have an answer for him
"Take care of Dawn."
She nodded. "Thank you. For helping with her."
"You know I'd do anything for her. Or for you."
"Anything except leave me alone."
"Anything but that." Their eyes met and held for a long moment. Then he smiled and turned to go. "Dream of me."
"Nightmares are more like it."
"You wish," he said with a laugh as he closed the door behind him. He gave Tara a jaunty wave as he walked down the steps and headed to his crypt. His thoughts were chaotic but happy. He and Buffy were total opposites. They made no sense. Yet he loved her. She thought she despised him, but he knew something had happened when they'd been together. Something momentous. Something real. It was just going to take her a bit longer to catch up. A lot longer probably, knowing how stubborn she was. But that would just make the victory sweeter.
He started to whistle an old tune he had always used after a particularly good night of hunting. The irony was not lost on him. Nor, he suspected, would it be lost on her. Total opposites and two of a kind—in a twisted, Sunnydale kind of way. He found he was perfectly comfortable with that.