Rating: NC-17 overall
A/N: This section is, I'll admit up front, a little slow. It's mostly moving the plot along, so if you're just reading for the naughty Spander lovin', feel free to skip this chapter. I'm feeling motivated, so the next chapter should be done in a day or so... :)
Spike snorted, lifting blue eyes to stare sardonically at the young girl. She stuck out her tongue and continued.
“Seriously, Spike. I mean, look at these poems. They just seem a little… weird.”
“Why’s that, Bit?”
“Love poems to a man AND a woman? What, he couldn’t make up his mind?”
“Love’s like that,” Spike shrugged philosophically. “Shakespeare was a right smart bloke. Didn’t care about the packaging, just the contents.”
Dawn giggled, shooting a curious glance at the blonde sitting next to her. Should she or shouldn’t she? On the one hand, it was nice to have things back to normal. On the other, she knew a crushalicious Spike when she saw one. If Spike didn’t have a thing for Xander, she’d wear stripes with plaids.
“You mean like you,” she said, taking the plunge.
“Hmm,” Spike said non-committally. “Like me, eh?”
“Spiiiike,” she groaned. “I know you. You’ve got a big fat crush on Xander and can I just say how unfair that is? I had a crush on him first. If anyone should get Xander smoochies, it’s me!”
“Not getting any ‘smoochies’ from anyone,” Spike replied, raising an eyebrow. “An’ even if I was, wouldn’t be any of your business.”
“I g-g-guess that means it’s not m-my business either,” the soft hesitant voice proclaimed.
“Glinda,” Spike answered warmly. “S’pose it’s not.”
“D-dawn asked me to h-help her,” Tara told him quietly. “S-she said that you and Xander w-were fighting.”
“Were,” Spike agreed. “Aren’t now. Just a small dust-up. Doesn’t signify.”
“D-dawn,” Tara addressed the teenager,” c-could you give m-me a minute with Spike?”
Dawn squealed, gathering her books up and bouncing out of the room. Spike stared at her retreating form, confused. His Nibblet exiting an “adult” conversation without so much as a whine? Was the world ending?
Tara, seeing Spike’s befuddlement, smiled conspiratorially and told him, “She’s planning on listening in. The ductwork in this house is a great sound conductor.”
Spike nodded thoughtfully, and huffed in irritation. Well, so much for asking the little witch’s advice. No point in giving Dawn any ammunition.
Tara, still smiling, twirled her fingers and whispered a low incantation. “Cone of silence,” she explained.
“Ah,” Spike answered. “So, Bite Size asked for an intervention, eh?”
“She’s concerned,” Tara acknowledged. “Y-you and Xander are her f-family now. W-when you t-two were f-fighting…”
Interesting how the little mouse’s stutter came and went with the topic. Talking about Dawn didn’t make her anxious, but he did? Well, was only natural, he figured. Giving a vampire love advice wasn’t exactly normal, was it?
“Was my fault,” Spike confessed. “Xander and I…well, let’s just say there was a bit of an incident between us. I took it wrong. Bloody hell, I’ve taken everything wrong, Glinda. Just feel..felt,” he corrected, “like I wasn’t welcomed.”
“Spike,” Tara said gently, “maybe you weren’t before, but you are now. I k-know that things have happened in the p-past, b-bad things. You’re a v-vampire and…”
“Some vampire,” he snorted derisively. “Chipped within an inch of my unlife, playing nursemaid for the Slayer’s sister, and bloody patrolling for the Scoobies. Yeah, watch out for the Big Bad Nancy Boy!”
“Stop,” Tara told him firmly. “I m-may not be as p-powerful as Willow, b-but I am s-still a witch. Your aura h-has changed. You’ve ch-changed.”
“I know,” Spike whispered, deflating. “Just not sure what I’ve changed into. Used to be the biggest loser, Glinda. Becoming a vampire was the first time I ever felt strong, you know? Whole in ways I hadn’t even dreamed of. If I’m not the Big Bad, what am I? Who am I?”
“A good man,” Tara informed him. “Our friend. Dawn’s protector and teacher.”
“Can’t be a man,” Spike replied sadly. “Not a vampire anymore, leastways not a proper one. But I can’t be a man.”
“Yes, you can,” she murmured. “What you are is governed by your nature. But who you are is determined by your actions. Helping us, caring for Dawn…” she hesitated and than continued doggedly, “loving Xander…those are the actions of a good man.”
Spike smiled softly, softening his hard features. “Maybe you’re right.”
“I know I am,” Tara smiled back. “As for Xander…”
“Nah,” Spike shook his head. “Nothing to talk about there. We’re friends and that’s enough.”
“Will have to be, won’t it? He’s hurting over his girls. No room left for me right now, is there? So, we’ll just be chums. ‘S more than I’ve gotten from anyone before, and I’m grateful for it.” Spike’s words hinted at old pain, but his face was impassive.
“Tell him,” Tara urged.
“Tell him what,” Spike asked. “That I’ve got feelings for him? Not rightly sure what I feel. Maybe I am a good man but I’m still a demon, little witch. Got a demon’s sensibilities and everything is all wrapped up in want and possession and blood. Not words likely to impress.”
Tara sighed, shaking her head. Spike called himself love’s bitch, but really? He was more like a martyr. She started to speak, but then subsided as Spike stood.
“Xander’s home,” he hissed. “Better drop your spell or he’ll get anxious.”
Tara nodded, fingers unweaving the spell. The shimmering feel of magic disappeared as Xander walked into the room. She waved, and smiled.
“Honey, I’m home,” Xander snickered. “What’s going on?”
“S-spike wanted some help,” Tara offered. “D-dawn wants to learn m-magic and…”
“You think that’s a bad idea,” Xander asked.
“N-no,” Tara answered. “I’m j-just not sure how it would work. She’s n-not exactly h-human.”
Spike stared at Tara in amazement. Little witch was telling a bold-faced lie. Not doing half-bad at it, either. Still, it was nice to see her covering for him. Made him believe her words about him being a good man.
“Not something we have to decide today,” Spike decreed. “We can do some research, see how it might play out.”
“Yeah,” Xander agreed thoughtfully. “It’d probably be a good idea to do research in any case. We don’t really know how this Key thing works. Who knows what other little fun surprises we might run into? I don’t want to have to save Dawnie from a band of demonic locksmiths in desperate need of a few dozen copies.”
“Demonic locksmiths,” Spike echoed. “You know, pet, you really are something else.”
Xander smiled again, brown eyes full of mischief. That wicked gaze, so full of promise and fire, hit Spike like a punch in the gut. He hurried out of the room, muttering something about Dawn and homework. Friends, he reminded himself as he ran up the stairs. You and Xander are friends. Yeah, and if he hadn’t fled, Spike knew he’d have ended up doing something very friendly indeed.
Xander blinked, and than turned to Tara. “Was it something I said?”