Without asking Spike for an explanation, Winston briefly fixed his gaze on Willow. He had already looked away by the time she flinched and reached into her pocket. Her muffled “What the hell?” halted all conversation as everyone paused to look at her.
“What is it, Willow?” Tara asked, her brow wrinkled in concern. “Are you okay?”
“Uh, yeah, sure. I’m fine. I just think I must have dropped something.” She bent down to search the floor under her chair.
Winston turned to Spike and held out his hand in which rested the missing crystal.
“Will you do the honors, or shall I?”
“I’m on it,” Spike said, taking the purloined object and putting it on the floor. “You watch for the drama.”
Spike brought his Doc Marten down smartly, then, to be sure, ground the shards under his heel. At the table, there was an audible gasp from Tara who shrank down in her seat, shaking her head in confusion. Then she turned tear-filled eyes on Willow. While everyone except Buffy looked puzzled, Tara took a deep breath and stood up, moving away from the girl she’d just been thinking how lucky she was to have in her life….
“I can’t believe you did that to me, Willow. I won’t be home tonight, and I’ll move my things out tomorrow.” She noticed Buffy’s sympathetic face and frowned at her. “Did you know?” she demanded.
Buffy shook her head. “I was starting to worry about it, but I wasn’t sure until just now. So it ended?”
“What ended? What’s going on?”
Xander stared around the table from Tara’s heartbroken expression to Willow’s equally unhappy one and then over to where Buffy was shaking her head with sad resignation.
“Willow did a spell to take away Tara’s memory of finding out about her visits to Rack and the fight they had about it. Isn’t that right, Willow?”
“How did you—oh, right. You know everything. How could I forget?” Willow snarled at Buffy who had moved to put a sympathetic arm around Tara.
“I’m sorry you did that to Tara again, but at least it’s over, and it didn’t affect all of us like it did in our time. It caused a lot more trouble for everyone then.”
Spike coughed loudly. Ended up with us fighting vampires together, and then snogging in the Bronze. Wasn’t all bad, was it, Joan?
Buffy glared at him, but her lips twitched. No, not all bad, Randy.
“What happened to us in your time?” Xander’s innocent curiosity reminded Buffy of all the confusion about who was dating who and she shook her head.
“Nothing anybody needs to hear about. There was some… confusion… for awhile, but we all survived it. The important thing is that Tara has her memories back now and it didn’t last very long.”
Willow glared around the table, then turned her glittering eyes upon Winston, who gazed back at her expressionlessly. Her tightened lips made it obvious she’d figured out what happened to her spell, but before she could say or do anything, Tara laid a gentle hand on her arm.
“Please don’t blame someone else for what you’ve done,” she said softly. “You know it was wrong, or you wouldn’t be so angry.” She dropped her hand and turned away. “I’m sorry, Willow, but this is no one else’s fault but yours.”
Willow stared around the table, only Xander’s confused frown didn’t contain at least some measure of dismay or condemnation, and she whirled with a final parting, “This is not my fault. I know exactly whose fault it is,” as she ran out the door.
Buffy and Spike exchanged worried glances, then turned to Winston who was also looking concerned.
“What don’t we know that we may need to know?” Giles asked. “Clearly you are all familiar with similar experiences in your own times.”
Spike and Winston joined the table as Buffy gave a sigh and sat down again. “You can stay with us tonight, Tara. Tomorrow we’ll help you get your stuff and find a place to live.”
Tara nodded and sat down also. “So, in your time she erased my memory too?”
“Yours and everyone else’s,” Spike growled. “Just lucky she didn’t get one of us killed before the spell broke and we sorted things out.”
Buffy ran through a quick recap of the forgetting spell and its results. Out of the corner of her eye she saw how Giles and Anya winced at being told they’d thought they were engaged, and how Xander frowned at being told he’d thought he was dating Willow. He cheered up when she explained that he’d been the one to smash the crystal and break the spell, and she quickly assured everybody that once the spell was broken, they were all fine. “Well, I guess except for Tara and Willow,” she admitted. “They broke up as soon as Tara realized what Willow’d been trying to do to her.”
“It was much the same in my time,” Winston said. “Although of course, I wasn’t there to see it. I learned about it much later after….” He trailed off, remembering that some of the events in his time were very different, including Xander’s accidental death. “Much later,” he finished.
“The question now is, why do Buffy and Spike seem so disturbed?” Xander asked, still not willing to accept that Willow was anything except being careless with magic.
“Because, as much as I want Warren stopped before he can really hurt someone, I don’t want Willow to be the one who stops him. I don’t want her to live with that.”
“Live with what? What did she do to him in your time?”
“You don’t want to know,” Spike growled. He turned his attention to Buffy. “I told you I’m more than willin’ to take that particular burden off her.”
Buffy shook her head. “I know.” She looked at Giles. “Weren’t we going to go to see Warren tonight? Maybe we need to stick with that plan.”
“Perhaps. But it’s getting late. I doubt Willow will do anything tonight. I’d suggest we not worry about Spike’s attempt to appear to be a normal vampire and we approach Warren tomorrow during the day.”
Buffy shrugged. “Okay. I guess he won’t do anything terrible between now and tomorrow morning. Just give us some time to do a quick patrol, and then if one of you can drop Tara off at our place?”
“Maybe you could skip patrol?” Anya said.
“Not tonight. There were a lot of funerals in the last two days. At least some of those have to be vamp-related. It won’t take too long. Most of them were buried in the same two cemeteries.” Buffy glanced at Tara. “You don’t mind waiting for us, do you? It’s early enough, Max might still be up and he can let you into the apartment.”
“I… I don’t want…to…to… be any trouble,” Tara stammered. Her face, what was visible through her hair, was red with embarrassment. “I can go to a hotel.”
“Don’t be daft,” Spike growled. “You’re more than welcome at our place.”
“I’ll drop her by,” Winston said. “I’d like to speak with Max again, anyway.”
“‘K then, we’ll see you tomorrow. What time do you want to go after Warren? We’ll need to help Tara get her stuff sometime during the day.”
“I’ll call you in the morning and we can decide the best time then.”
With another reassurance that Tara was not going to be a problem, Buffy and Spike waved their good-nights and went out into the night.
After a longer than expected patrol through the two cemeteries, they were finally heading home.
“It’s late, isn’t it?”
“Not if you’re a vampire,” Spike snorted. “It’s just mid-evening. Besides, we did for almost a dozen new vamps tonight, so it was time well spent.”
“You are so full of it,” she said. “You know as well as I do that what took so long was stopping at your crypt for a quickie that wasn’t actually quick.”
“Just trying to take the edge off so we don’t embarrass our guest,” he said, pulling her close to his side. “I’m considerate like that.”
“Just so you know, I wasn’t planning to do anything that might embarrass a guest in our tiny little apartment.” She elbowed him in the ribs, forcing him to let go.
“And that’s why I knew we needed to visit our vacation home first,” he said, dancing away from the swat she took at his head.
“And you love it,” he said. “Admit it. You’d be worried if I wasn’t always… interested.”
“Well, I’d definitely think there was something wrong with you,” she agreed, laughing.
To their surprise, they got home to find a note from Tara on the kitchen counter saying that Max had invited her to stay with him as he had a guest room to offer rather than a couch.
“Well, that was nice of him.”
“She’ll be safer with him,” Spike said. “Probably would have been safe here too, but in the same apartment with Max… Red can chant until she’s blue in the face, but she won’t be able to mojo Tara out of here.”
“You think she’s going to keep trying?” Buffy looked at him with dismay. “She didn’t do that in our time. She tried to use less magic so she could get Tara back.”
“This isn’t our time—or Winston’s for that matter—she hasn’t done any of those things that she felt guilty about then. She’s still thinkin’ she’s too smart and clever to need advice from Max or Winston.” He stared back at her. “And you know as well as I do that she’s got plans for Meers that aren’t going to be good for his health.”
“I know,” Buffy sighed. “I wish I knew what to do. He has to be stopped, but killing him is just… it plays into the hands of the First.”
“The miserable old whatever-it-is doesn’t have as much to work with now, does it? You didn’t die and come back to life, I’m not hidin’ in the school basement goin’ crazy from getting my soul back. There’s no way it can try to rise now.”
Buffy stared at him, eyes wide and fearful. “Did you just totally jinx us?”
“I s’pose I may have at that. Bloody hell, I’m stupid!” He gulped, then shouted at the ceiling, “I didn’t mean it! You hear me, Powers That Mess With Us? I wasn’t issuing a challenge.”
Buffy snickered. “Let’s hope that works. Never has for me, but who knows….”
“Was worth a shot,” he said with an abashed grin as he pulled her closer. “If it doesn’t work, we’ll just have to kick his arse again.”
“In the meantime, we need to get to Warren tomorrow before Willow does and convince him he needs to leave Sunnydale or change his ways.”
“Not holdin’ out a lot of hope for either of those things, love. If he leaves, he’ll just pick up doing evil nerdy things somewhere else. And if he doesn’t, I don’t see him changing his ways here either.” He raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Remind me what happened after you shut him down the last time?”
Buffy glared at him. “He got a gun and shot me,” she said. “And he killed Tara.”
“And you don’t think he’s going to be just as brassed off at you this time when you tell him you’re not gonna let him do any of the things we know he’s planning?”
“I think we have a couple of weapons I didn’t have back then. You, for instance. And Giles and Winston. He can’t shoot all of us.”
“He isn’t going to shoot any of us,” Spike snarled, then shook his head when she stared at him, her disapproval obvious. “Look, love. All I’m sayin’ is we know what he’s capable of. He killed his ex-girlfriend, after he kidnapped and raped her, and he tried to kill you. More than once. And he did kill Tara, which is what made Willow go all black magic woman on you… and on him. You need to be prepared to let somebody do what needs doin’ if it comes to that.”
Buffy sighed and nodded. “I know. And I know that in both our time and Winston’s he died, so maybe it’s one of those things we can’t prevent… but it doesn’t have to be Willow who does it!” She glared at him fiercely. “And it doesn’t have to be you!”
“So, you’d rather Rupert or Winston had the guilt this time?” he said mildly as he walked into the bedroom and began shedding clothes.
She stared after him, then walked around the apartment, checking the door and turning off the lights before entering the dark bedroom and going into the bathroom to brush her teeth and prepare to sleep.
Which didn’t happen after she slid into bed but remained out of touching distance of Spike’s still back. She waited for the slight movement that would indicate he was asleep and, as he always did, inhaling and exhaling occasionally, but he remained as still as the dead man she knew he was.
When sleep didn’t come for her either, she eventually moved marginally closer and whispered, “Are we having a fight?”
“I’m sleeping,” he mumbled back. “Don’t know what you’re doin’ all the way over there.”
“You’re not sleeping, you liar. You’re just laying there being mad at me because I don’t want you to kill anybody.”
His shoulders heaved as he sighed, then turned to face her. She couldn’t see his face in the dark room, but she could feel him staring at her.
If I was really brassed off at you, you’d be able to feel it.”
Well, if you aren’t mad, then why—
I just need to accept that your idea of a solution to a problem isn’t always the first one I think of, that’s all. We’re usually going up against non-human evil and we’re thinkin’ the same thing when it comes to how to handle it. I forget that you’re going to see it differently when the evil has a heartbeat. Needed to have a little talk with my demon, is all, sweetheart.
She felt the emotion coming through their bond, as his hand drifted over her face, and she reached up to hold it against her cheek.
And I need to remember that you and your demon will do anything to protect the people you love, and that’s one of the things I love about you.
“You know, back in our time, we could have turned this into something that kept us apart for weeks,” he said, pulling her closer and nuzzling her neck where he’d marked her.
“Yay us for being all mature about our little disagreements now,” she said, arching her neck to give him better access. “And mmmm, that feels really good,” she added as he began to suck lightly on his mark.
“You know what else would feel really good?” he purred, kissing his way down her body to where she’d already let her legs drop open.
Not one to ignore an invitation, he licked until she was panting and tilting her hips up, then pulled her clit into his mouth and sucked her into a quick orgasm. While she was still recovering, he rolled onto her and nudged his way into her familiar warmth. Buffy’s legs came up around his hips and she began moving under him before he was even fully seated.
“In a hurry, are you, love?” he said with an audible smile in his voice.
“I want to be sure you’re tired and satisfied before we go to sleep,” she mumbled as they fell into a familiar rhythm that built into something that had her biting his shoulder and digging her nails into his back. Not to be outdone, Spike pounded into her, knowing she could take it and give back as good as she got. Between Buffy’s muffled shrieks and gasps, and his growls, an onlooker might have been hard put to say if they were having sex or trying kill each other.
Not having that problem themselves, they allowed their pleasure to build until they mutually sank their teeth into the nearest flesh while their bodies shook with the force of their release. They came down slowly, licking each other’s wounds and relaxing tense muscles. Buffy’s arms fell to her sides and her legs dropped from where they’d pinned him in place. With a lingering kiss, Spike rolled just far enough off that he didn’t have his whole weight on her, but was still draped across her body.
“Make up sex is the best sex,” Buffy said with a happy sigh. “We should fight more often.”
“Wasn’t a fight,” he muttered, nibbling on her shoulder. “Was a misunderstanding.”
“Fine. We should misunderstand each other more often.” She rolled her eyes, knowing he would be able to see it if he was looking at her face.
“Probably not going to be a problem, love,” he said with a soft laugh she could feel shaking his chest. “If I know us, we’ll be feeling the need for more make up sex in no time.”
“Um huh,” she murmured. “Sadly true. But let’s save it for after we take care of Warren tomorrow. I want to sleep now.”
“Whatever you want.” I love you, Buffy.
Love you too, Spike. Night.
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