DAY 50 AH
Spike wasn’t entirely sure when he’d gone from being Buffy’s controversial boyfriend to one of the gang, but it was too late to back out now. Glinda was upstairs crying and, for who knows what reason, he wanted to do something about it.
Red had just left the house all in a huff, and Buffy had gone after her, leaving Dawn with him and Demon Girl. Dawn was half way through her summer school courses and they had all banned together to make sure she passed.
“Oi, Bit,” he said softly, she looked up from where Anya was looking over Dawn’s math homework, “I’m gonna check on Tara. Keep Anya busy, will you?”
Dawn glanced at Anya, and nodded dutifully. Truthfully, Spike didn’t need Demon Girl kept busy, he just knew Tara would clam up and try to act strong if Dawn came upstairs with him. And Dawn of course would want to come upstairs if she didn’t have any other way to be helpful. Tara may as well change her last name to Summers, because she was just as much Dawn’s family as Buffy.
He knocked quietly, but didn’t wait for permission to enter the master bedroom. He sniffed the air and was a little surprised to smell burning herbs under the scent of women and lesbian sex. He knew for a fact Buffy had outlawed magic in the house.
Tara sat on the bed, tears rolling down her face.
“‘Lo luv,” he said, and not knowing what else to do, sat at the foot of the bed, “need a listening ear.”
“Sp-spike,” she breathed, “it’s f-fine, I’m fine. S-somebody should go after W-Willow.”
“Buffy’s on it luv,” Spike said, “I’m here to check on you.”
Tara nodded and stared straight ahead, not saying a word. Spike fiddled with one of the rings on his fingers and tried to figure out what he was supposed to do. With Buffy and Dawn, a bit of physical comfort was usually called for, both sisters responded well to being hugged and coddled. But Tara was the shy sort and any comfort he could give with a hug would be negated by how self conscious she’d feel receiving it.
Why did he care about so many people now? It was a lot of bother.
Tara sniffed, opened her mouth to say something, then closed it. He decided he’d help her get started.
“Does it have anything to do with the smell of burning thistle in this room,” he asked and Tara gave a tiny little nod, “Red has always been a bit liberal with her magic. Perfectly reasonable that you’d be a bit worried about her.”
“She… she doesn’t think so,” Tara said quietly.
“How long has she been using magic in the house?”
“I-I don’t know,” Tara sighed, “she’s started hiding things from me.”
Spike sighed, “That’s never a good sign. It’s good of you, to say something.”
Tara looked at him for the first time, “I-I gave her an ultimatum. You’re not supposed to do that, r-right? In relationships?”
Spike shrugged and waved his hand in a “sorta” gesture, “Think it depends on the ultimatum, ‘Get rid of the cat or it’s over’ is quite a bit different than ‘Stop keeping secrets, breaking your friends rules, and using magic as a toy, or I won’t feel safe being with you’.”
Tara looked briefly startled, “Could you hear us? Downstairs?”
“Could have, but I wasn’t paying attention,” Spike said, “just making a guess ‘bout how the conversation went.”
“G-Good guess,” Tara nodded her understanding, then apparently felt the need to say, “Willow’s not a bad person, and I… I don’t think she would hurt me.”
“But you ain’t as sure as you used to be,” Spike said, “And that’s valid. Willow’s been a bit reckless lately. Don’t have to remind you that her summoning that song demon almost got me burned to a crisp.”
Tara flinched, “I-I’m sorry about that.”
“Not your fault.”
There was another break in the conversation. Tara stared forlornly at the ceiling while Spike closely examined the room around him. There wasn’t really anything of interest to look at, he just thought Glinda would like the illusion of privacy.
“I don’t want to break up with her,” Tara whispered.
Spike sighed, “Yeah.”
“She’s the love of my life.”
He looked at her and she swiped another tear from her cheek.
“You deserve to be happy. Besides, standing silent while she spirals ain’t going to help anything,” Spike said. She squeezed her eyes shut and a little sob slipped past her lips.
She bowed forward crying into her knees, and Spike couldn’t bear to leave her crying alone, so he set a hand on her shoulder. He’d been here before, forced to make a choice he knew would hurt Drusilla’s feelings in hopes of keeping her safe. It never got easier.
A noise in the backyard pricked his ears, the sound of the gate opening. Spike stood from the bed and walked to the window to make sure it wasn’t some beasty come to make things even worse. It wasn’t.
“Buffy, please,” Willow was chasing after his slayer, desperation clear in her voice.
“Willow, I love you,” was all Buffy managed to say at first, she was about as angry as he’d ever seen her and instead of entering the house she paced by the bushes, “you know I love you! But, but, you lied to me! You promised!”
“I know Buffy, I know,” Willow said, “please, let me fix this!”
“You promised me you wouldn’t do any spells in the house,” Buffy continued, and he could hear the hurt welling up under the anger, “you said you understood why!”
“Then why did you break your promise?!” Buffy asked, then with a bit of her own desperation, “Look, just tell me that it was life and death. Tell me it was something important!”
Red hesitated just a moment too long, “I-it was.”
“Was it?” Buffy hissed, “What was the spell?!”
Red flinched, “I… I w-wanted… I wanted Tara t-to forget about an argument we w-were having.”
Spike took in a sharp breath, he looked over his shoulder at Glinda, who was slowly climbing out of bed to see what was happening. He hoped for her sake her human ears wouldn’t be able to pick up the argument happening at the back of the yard.
Outside, Buffy was staring at her best friend, shocked, “You- you used magic… to mess with Tara’s head? Willow! You get how that’s wrong, right?! Tell me you get why that isn’t ok?”
Red hung her head. Buffy turned away to pace a little bit more, then she pinched the bridge of her nose.
“I don’t know exactly how old I am, y’know, when you factor in heaven. But there is no way I’m old enough to deal with this,” she sighed, sounding defeated, “I’m trying Willow, I’m trying so hard to be the person everybody needs me to be. I’m trying to be the slayer, and your friend, and a responsible adult. But you know what my first priority is? What it has to be?! Dawn. I died for her! And if she didn’t need me, I don’t think I’d have the strength to-. Willow, I need to keep her safe, I need her to have someplace where she feels safe and that’s a lot harder to do if I can’t be sure… Have you ever used your magic to make me forget? Or Dawn? H-How many times have you done this?”
“Buffy? I- no, please just listen-,” Willow shook her head.
“Can I trust you?”
“Of course,” Willow rushed to say but Buffy held up a hand.
“I know I can trust you to help me in the big moments, but what about the little ones,” Buffy said, “Can I trust you to keep little promises? Can I trust that you won’t do this again?”
Red tried to come up with something to say to that, but there was no denying the truth, “I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, me too,” Buffy sighed, “I… this is Dawn’s home, and what’s best for her has to come first. When you can truthfully promise me that you won’t be doing any spells in this house, that- that you’ll stay out of people’s heads, you can come back. But until then-.”
Buffy faltered, she took in a shaky breath and had to collect herself. It likely wasn’t made any easier by Willow’s own sobs.
“Until then you should probably stay somewhere else.”
Spike turned to look at Tara, she was the perceptive sort, and apparently capable of reading auras. Even if she couldn’t hear, she likely had some idea of what was happening. She looked grim, and a little sick.
“You uh, don’t have to stay here for what comes next,” he said at length.
“Th-this must be so hard on her,” Tara whispered, and as they watched Willow broke down completely. Buffy rushed forward and began promising to help Willow through this, and that her love for the little witch could never be shaken.
Tara squirmed and twitched, Spike had a feeling that she was seconds away from promising to move out with Willow. He didn’t like the idea, it wouldn’t be good for Glinda, and it’d be worse for the Bit.
“Hey, uh, got a big favor to ask,” he interrupted her thoughts, “since the suns about down, could you come to the Magic Box with Anya and I? She says there’s a ritual that’ll tell me whether or not I’ve had a wish granted.”
Tara looked at him, and clearly wasn’t fooled by what he was trying to do. She smiled quietly, and nodded.
“Thank you, Spike,” she said.
“Don’t know what you’re thanking me for,” Spike grinned at her gently, “you’re the one that’ll be doing me a favor.”
Spike went downstairs and discovered that Anya and Dawn were sitting at the kitchen table where he left them, homework completed, both trying in vain to pretend they were unaware of the drama going on outside. When he announced his and Tara’s plans they immediately hopped on the opportunity to make themselves scarce.
“Yes! The Magic Box will be a whole lot less tense and uncomfortable right now,” was Anya’s conclusion.