With thanks, as ever to mabel_marsters for her patience and help.
There’s A First Time for Everyone
“You OK, Buffy?”
Tara slowly approached the shell-shocked girl. “Buffy, were you hurt?”
She looked at Buffy where she sat slumped against the wall, her head in her hands, slowly settled down next to her, and tentatively put out her hand to touch the slayer’s arm. As there was still no response she tentatively put out her hand to stroke Buffy’s arm. She didn’t want to startle the slayer by doing anything too suddenly, but wanted to comfort her.
“They were my promise,” Buffy said. “I told him that, you know, only a few hours ago.”
“What do you mean?”
“When I saw Xander while you were helping Anya to dress, I told him that they were my hope, and the proof that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
Buffy began to gather her thoughts and realised that although today’s events had shocked her, that for others - and one in particular - their lives had irrevocably changed.
“Did you see where she went?” Buffy asked.
“I think she went with Hallie and D’Hoffryn. If so, at least she is being looked after, although I wonder if we’ll ever see her again.”
With her emotions running wild, Buffy began to understand what an amazing, compassionate woman Tara was. She had never really taken the time to get to know her, because soon after she had become involved with Willow, they had all been fighting The Initiative, and for their lives. Then gaining her sister, losing her mom, and the fight against Glory had taken over. Buffy suddenly understood how narrow she had allowed herself to become.
“Tara, I’m sorry.”
Tara looked almost as shocked as Buffy had done only minutes before.
“What have you got to apologise for?”
“You’ve always been there, and I’m only just realising how special a person you are.”
The smile on Tara’s face, combined with the tears in her eyes reminded Buffy that the Maclay family had rejected their daughter. Buffy leant forward to hug Tara and found that comforting embrace being returned. The two stayed like that for many moments, and anyone who looked at them might think it was an uncomfortable position for the two girls to be in. Yet for them, the peace and love they shared, brought about more healing than either of them could imagine.
They slowly untangled their arms and relaxed against the wall, continuing to enjoy the harmony they had discovered, and been in need of for some time.
“So, Buffy, why did you think I needed to be apologised to?”
“I realised you have supported us all, yet no one ever thanks you for that love.”
Tara simply smiled. Her shyness not allowing her to know how to answer, yet they both understood that Buffy’s message had touched Tara’s heart.
“So,” Tara said. “Are you OK? I mean, not just physically after the fight today, but overall.”
“Oh, things are fine.” Buffy dismissed the deeper thoughts that such an innocent question posed. “Dawn and I are getting along well, and I’m getting used to the smell of fries on my clothes.”
“And, Spike?” Tara was determined to ask the question that had been lingering in her mind for some time now. She knew Riley had blown up the crypt, but had never managed to discover the complete story.
“Spike’s fine. Didn’t you see him here today with a ho ... ummm girl.”
“Come on, Buffy. That isn’t what I mean, and you know it.”
As Buffy didn’t answer Tara’s unasked question, she decided she ought to be a bit more direct.
“Why was he here with a girl, when he loves you?”
Still no answer, but when Tara looked sideways she saw that Buffy was silently weeping. Although her first instinct was to take the girl back in her arms, Tara realised that Buffy had to come to terms with her feelings. When a few weeks ago, Buffy had admitted that she and Spike were having a violent relationship, Tara had hoped that Buffy would end things, for both their sakes. Yet, as she watched the tears falling, Tara understood that it had been more than physical release for the couple.
Tara tried again to get an answer, and this time she was successful.
“I told him that I didn’t want to be with him,” Buffy muttered.
“When was that?”
“When Riley was here. He knew that Spike was trouble, and reminded me that I shouldn’t see a demon as anything more than something that’s wrong.”
“What!” For a quiet girl, Tara could be determined when she wanted to be. “You listened to Riley? This the guy, who turns up married, having left you by going to those same demons to suit his purposes.”
“But it’s wrong,” Buffy said quietly, although whether she was trying to assure herself or Tara, was debatable.
“Just because Riley said so?” .
“No. It just is.” Buffy shook her head. “Look at Angel. I was with him, and people died.”
“Did you get on with Riley’s friends?” Tara asked a few moments later.
“Would you have gone out with them?”
“Don’t you see, Buffy? They were similar, yet you went out with Riley for a reason. I know it fell apart, but at first things were good. So, back to the question of the day. Angel and Spike are both vampires, but they are different people, aren’t they?”
“But ... Um ...” Buffy stumbled to think out a reply.
“But, what? Come on, there’s only the two of us here. Talk to me. You know I don’t gossip.”
“But, everyone will be upset, “ Buffy at long last muttered her answer.
“Everyone? Who? I won’t be,” Tara assured her. “But, even if I was, it’s nothing to do with me. I’m a lesbian and not everyone accepts that, do they?”
The silence again stretched between them, but this time it seemed more peaceful. Tara knew that Buffy had a lot to think about, and they both knew that Tara would listen to anything that she needed to say.
“Spike has helped me, he’s been there.” Buffy broke the silence.
“I can believe that. He was there for us all, but especially Dawn, over the summer.” Tara nodded.
“He taken what I’ve given, and accepted when I wouldn’t give him what he wanted.”
“Spike is a very real person, isn’t he? He loves with his whole heart and body.”
Tara deliberately ignored the smile that softened Buffy’s lips at the reminder of the vampire’s loving body.
“Do you think ...” Buffy trailed off.
“Do I think what?”
“Do you think he would forgive me?” Eventually the quiet question crossed Buffy’s lips.
“I’m sure he already has.” Tara sounded so positive, that the broken girl began to hope. Maybe Spike would listen, maybe she had a chance.
They sat for a bit longer, and then Buffy decided that if she didn’t pluck up the courage now, she would never risk herself again, possibly with anyone.
“Tara.” Buffy sounded more her usual self, to Tara’s pleasure. “Would you do me a favour?”
“Could you ask Spike to go to The Bronze tomorrow night? Use any excuse, even arrange to meet him there, or something,” Buffy’s voice began to peter out again.
“OK. I’ll tell him eight o’clock,” Tara said, and stood up before her companion panicked. “I’ll go there now.”
“Oh, OK.” As Tara guessed, Buffy was already worrying, but she was heading out of the building before the slayer had a chance to completely chicken out.
Tara had guessed that Spike’s date was nothing more than a shield for him to protect his heart. So she headed to his home with assurance that he would, indeed, be there by himself.
As she approached she saw the door was ajar, but on peeping inside she saw, both the signs of the damage that had been inflicted ... as well as one very quiet man. Spike was sprawled on the chair, with some empty bottles scattered around him. He didn’t move as she slowly walked in, and even as Tara spoke his name, he didn’t respond.
Tara touched him on the shoulder, repeating his name as she increased the pressure of her grip.
“Spike. Come on, I know you’re awake at the very least. I need to talk to you.”
Still no response.
“Buffy needs help!”
She finally yelled at him, and was pleased to see his instinctive response, before he clenched his fists, screwed up his eyes and said, “Tell someone who cares.”
“Well, at least you’re letting me know that you’re alive.” Tara smiled softly, as she met his glare straight on.
“OK, undead. But, at least you are now listening to me, aren’t you?” Spike decided that maybe Tara was picking up the resolve look from her girlfriend, so struggled to sit up slightly, and tried to get his brain in gear.
“So, everything’s alright now?”
“Well, yes. Buffy killed the demon. The wedding didn’t take place, but it’s stopped raining.”
Spike just stared at Tara.
“Can you say that again?”
Tara responded with a laugh. “You heard right. The wedding didn’t go as planned, but no one was hurt, so that’s the main thing.”
Tara settled down on the arm of the chair, as she watched Spike struggle to take in the events of the last few hours.
“I presume your friend has gone home?”
Spike grinned at Tara. “What would you do if I said she was waiting downstairs for me?”
“I’d say she was silly to sit in the remains of a large bonfire.” Tara grinned back.
“OK, you got me there. But maybe she’s been and gone. After all we did leave the party a while ago.” Spike smirked.
“Yes, maybe she had to leave as you couldn’t ... mmm ... perform, after all that alcohol.” Tara blushed out her answer.
By now Spike had sobered enough to sit up and leer at his companion, “And what would you know about that?”
“Only what I read.”
Tara let Spike settle before returning to the reason for her visit.
“What are you doing tomorrow evening?”
“Oh, I’ll out and about,” Spike said. “Why’d you ask?”
“I was wondering if you would be able to go to The Bronze at about eight?”
When Spike didn’t reply, Tara asked him again, and added how important it was for him to be there. When she still received no answer, she tried one more time –
“Please, Spike. I’m not teasing you. It’s for a special reason that I’m asking you to be there. Will you come?”
“OK, I’ll pop in, but I’m not saying I’ll stay, so whatever you want me to do, you’d better be ready.”
“Fine. I’ll leave you to your beauty sleep, then.”
Tara patted his shoulder, before getting to her feet and making her way to the door.
“It’ll be fine, you’ll see,” she said, before slipping back out into the night, and back to tell Buffy that the message had been passed on.
“Tara, I need you!”
At that precise moment of the day, Tara didn’t want to feel wanted. She had been woken, after a late night, and now one of the culprits for her lack of sleep was waking her up with an early morning phone call.
“OK, but I need to get dressed, and have breakfast.”
“No time for that. You’ve gotta come now.”
“Fine, Spike. But I’ll stop and get something to eat on the way and then get to you as soon as I can.”
When Tara arrived at the crypt she was surprised not to see Spike pacing, instead she heard what sounded like a fight going on. She peered through the opening to the lower level to watch the battle that was happening. If she hadn’t just spoken to him, she would have wondered what was happening. The whole of the crypt looked in absolute chaos, with Spike pacing up and down through the middle.
“No. No. No,” Spike kept muttering, interspersed with words that Tara didn’t know, and decided she didn’t want to learn.
“Spike, I’m here.”
At the sound of her voice he jumped. He had been so focussed on his problems that he hadn’t been listening for intruders.
“It’s ’bout time,” Spike mumbled to her, to cover his embarrassment.
“So, what’s the emergency?”
Tara couldn’t catch his answer. In fact he spoke so quietly she doubted even another vampire would have heard Spike’s reply.
“What was that, Spike?”
“I can’t find anything to wear.” At least Tara heard his soft answer this time.
Hiding a grin, she said, “OK. Do you want me to get you something?”
As Spike shyly raised his eyes to her, she understood another part of why Buffy had opened her heart to him. He looked like the cross between a bashful teenager and a toddler. She moved back as he headed towards the space down to the lower level.
Once he was back with her, he started pacing and muttering again. Slowly Tara realised that as well as losing his home, Spike had lost most of his processions in the explosion that Riley had caused. And like a kid on a first date, he wanted to look his best. Well, Tara thought, technically it was “their” first date, even if Spike didn’t fully know that yet.
“Spike?” Tara touched his arm to stop the pacing and make him focus on the task in hand. “What do you need? Let me know your size and I’ll go and get something for you.”
Spike studied her and then turned to the sarcophagus that appeared to be acting as a table at present. He started wring on a sheet of paper in a battered notebook, and after tearing the sheet out, he reached into his pocket for his wallet and handed them both over to Tara.
“I’m sorry to ask this, Tara, but it’s a bit bright out there for me to popping off to the shops this morning.”
Tara read the piece of paper and noticed he hadn’t put what colour he wanted her to buy, so she asked him, and her reply was just a raise of his eyebrow.
At this Tara grinned back and headed off into the daylight to spend Spike’s money.
As Tara walked around Sunnydale doing Spike’s shopping for him she was aware that she was finding clothes that he would like, but that Buffy would love. She didn’t get much that wasn’t his basic black, but also bought a tailored black silky shirt that she knew they would both adore. While walking round, Tara had one worry, and that was how Buffy was spending her day.
So, once the shopping was done, Tara dropped the clothes off at Spike’s and after confirming that she would see him later, she headed off towards Revello Drive.
Remembering Spike’s panic that had been her alarm call that morning she dreaded to imagine what was going through Buffy’s head. However, when she arrived it was to find Buffy sitting watching television, with all the outward appearance of calm. Although Tara wasn’t fooled, when she saw it was a cooking programme that was showing.
“Hi, Buffy. How are you? Has anyone heard from Anya or Xander?”
On hearing her friend’s names Buffy seemed to wake from her stupor and become aware that she wasn’t alone.
“Hi, Tara. No. I hope they’re OK. What are you doing?”
Tara wasn’t fooled by Buffy’s apparent calm. She may not have known Buffy as long as some people, but she was aware of her attempt to ignore things that she didn’t want to cope with.
“I just thought I’d come round and see if you have everything organised for this evening. Are you just going to stay at The Bronze, or have you planned to go somewhere else?” Tara hid a grin as she nudged Buffy towards thinking of her impending date.
“Don’t panic, I don’t want details.” Tara laughed at the look of shock on her companion’s face. “I only wondered if you had checked what was showing at the cinema or something like that.”
“Oh, OK. I was hoping Spike would sort it out.”
“Umm, Buffy, how can he, as he doesn’t know that he is going out with you this evening? He thinks he is meeting all of us for a general post-wedding get-together.”
When Buffy failed to continue this train of thought, Tara walked into the kitchen to make them both some coffee, as she had a feeling it would be necessary. Once the drinks were made, she carried them back to where Buffy was sitting. Tara set the drink down in front of Buffy and then readied herself to cope with the following few hours.