Love The Pain
by Gabe

It's two minutes to nine. She's always on time. Prizes punctuality, that girl does. Or perhaps it has more to do with the fact that the third time she had come over I noted she was walking down the ladder at exactly nine sharp. She saw the fact it amused me, I think, so she makes sure she's walking down that ladder at nine every Saturday night now. I guess she just waits at the trap door every night until the clock I have down here starts dinging the hour.

Speaking of, I see that lime green skirt heading down to my bedroom. Lime green. And shimmery. Only this girl would wear such a bloody awful shade. And only this girl could make such a bloody awful shade actually look... Not so bloody awful. She continues down the ladder, a plastic bag on her arm filled with the night's supplies. She looks over to where I'm sitting-where I'm always sitting-and smiles at me. It's soft, and still a little shy, and happy to see me. It makes me smile by default.

Tara's so cute it's almost sickening. I don't know how Red could have possibly let the adorable creature go. How could magic be better than that smile, with a little love and affection thrown into the deal? Willow's pretty damaged right about now though, in the head region, that's for sure. Always suspected it, myself. It's the quiet ones you got to look out for. The meek shall inherit, and all that.

After all, I should know-I was meek and shy once, and look what I turned into?

Tara hops off the last rung of the ladder and turns to greet me properly, bringing me out of my internal monologue. Thank God, I was beginning to feel like the Grand Poofer, himself. "Hi, Spike." Her tone's so sodding cheerful. This sort of thing used to make my stomach turn, and now I find it endearing. I must be reverting to meek. "Here's the stuff-sift on through it, take the presents."

"Thanks, kitten." I take the bag almost eagerly, wondering what the blonde Wicca's decided to bring over. The usual's in there-carton of ice cream and a couple of spoons. It's double fudge-that makes me frown a little. Means she's had a rough week. I set those things aside on the bed and pull out the other object in the bag. It's a pack of cigarettes... With a package of chocolate mints attached to it.

I stare at the supposed gift for a long moment. I know she's watching me, waiting for my reaction while she's hanging up her coat. I look up at her and arch my scarred brow, smirking. "Quirky sense of humor, luv. You trying to tell me something?"

Tara giggles slightly; naturally ducking her head in shyness almost as if she's afraid I'm actually mad. Yeah, right. Even before we started this weekly ritual I liked the chit. Could never figure out why, really. Maybe because she's kind of how I imagined Dru would have been when she was human. Maybe because she reminded me of myself as a human.

Just-without the gay thing. I was a regular pansy, right, but not because I felt all soft and fuzzy for the blokes. Give me a little bleeding credit.

"Well, even you admitted you have blood breath sometimes," Tara tells me, her fingers reaching around her neck to unclasp the tiny silver cross and push it into the pocket of her coat. The first few times she came, she wore the cross-I guess a bit of self-assurance, even though I couldn't hurt her if I wanted to. Not that I ever would. Then, the fourth visit, she caught me staring at it. Well, all right, at her cleavage that the cross was resting in, but, bloody hell; I'd never seen cleavage on her before! She misinterpreted and took the cross off and gave me a little speech about how she trusted me now, chip or no chip. She stammered over it a little, which is just so damned cute when she does it, and I actually felt rather moved by it. It made me realize that I have a friend now.

It's been a long time since I've had a friend. Dalton and I were almost friends-he was a challenge on the chess board, and I admit, I indulged in a game or two to keep the old noggin sharp-but, he was a minion and there was that whole mind consuming terror he had of me now and again. So, not really friends. When Grandpoof was still "Angelus" he was like an annoying father figure, in a way. Darla never liked me and Dru... Well, Dru was Dru. Nope, no friends on the list.

I missed having a friend, and I feel the need to hold onto this one for dear life. Bugger, I'm such a pansy again.


Damn it all, the internal monologue got to me again. I shake my head to get out of it, smile reassuringly, and pat the place beside me on the bed. I'm stretched out, back resting on the headboard, the slightly melting ice cream and spoons sitting beside me. We work like regular clockwork. I think that's what comforts her, though. These things that can help us to pretend we're both normal, in a normal life, with normal problems. She smiles back at me before crawling up onto the bed, settling down in a similar position beside me.

"So, I was wondering-I-I caught you looking at those Tolkien books and I thought maybe... Y'know, that movie that's out..."

"Hold on a second, kitten," I cut in, making her look up from opening the ice cream. She looks quizzical and I smile mysteriously, just to torture her more. A part of me realizes she's catching onto the fact I'm still a bit of a geek deep down, bringing up the fantasy and all, but I can't bring myself to care-there's something I just have this urge to do, right now. I reach over to the nightstand on my side of the bed, and pull out the present I have for her. "I've had this for a while for you, but I wasn't really sure when to pull it out-the double fudge is prolly the best sign I'll get though, so..." I'm suddenly rather awkward. I forgot how hard it is, being this bloody normal. So I just hold it out, turning my head slightly away, mentally bracing myself incase she laughs. "Here," I end lamely.

I hear her gasp slightly in surprise. It's soft enough a human man wouldn't pick up on it, but I do, and I'm not sure if its good or bad. I feel her hands, those naturally tender fingers, take the object and I release it, chancing a look up at her. She isn't laughing. She's... I think she's touched.

It's a necklace that I gave her. A piece of rose quartz cut and smoothed into a tear drop shape, attached to a soft black leather cord. I shift uncomfortably on the bed at her expression-it makes me feel that stupid kind of proud. Like a little kid that got a cookie for cleaning up his toys. "The place I got it from... They said something about the stone supposedly having healing properties or something..." I let out a bit of a snort at myself. "Something we both need, right?"

I look back over at her, and she's holding the stone lovingly in her hands, tears welling up in those large, beautiful eyes of hers. Suddenly my heart plummets. Is it reminding her of Red? Fuck, what did I just do to her? I open my mouth; start to let out an apology, when the blonde little witch throws herself into my arms, hanging onto me for dear life. If I needed to breath, I'd probably be wheezing with the grip she's got on me. Surprising strength in this girl.

I honestly don't know what to say, because I'm not sure what's going on in her head. So I hold her, rubbing her back in a soothing kind of way, mumbling incoherently, because that's what you're supposed to do when someone you care about is in pain and crying in your arms. Even if what I am mumbling is the words to a Dr. Suess book, the point is there's sound, and you make it comforting and soft. And, well, with Dru, she just really liked Dr. Suess.

One of my hand's come around, gently pulling the girl into my lap and settling her against me comfortably. Compared to me, she is just a girl. She's a girl that cares for a demon, that trusts one, and that makes my heart melt. I keep on holding her even as the crying fades to sniffles, and then to silence, and that doesn't really take long at all, because, like I said, this girl is strong. But I like the feeling of holding her, because unlike Buffy or Dru or Dawnie, Tara isn't a sickly stick of a person, and it reassures me that there are still women in this world that eat more than a cornflake and a tic-tac a day. She has some weight on her and it's bloody lovely on that frame because it gives her these curves and...

... Oh, fucking hell, Spike, don't you bloody go there.

Luckily I don't have a chance to, because her voice is filling my ears and explaining to me why she cracked. "...So I went over... I've missed her, Spike, even though I don't want to and try not to. She was so proud of herself, it being over a month, and I was proud too, but I just couldn't... Willow got angry when I wouldn't come back and pretend it was all better now. I-I tried to say we could work things up, I wanted so desperately to try and work up to a good relationship again, Spike, I did... But she didn't want to-s-she said she was tired of work an-and wanted more than work and s-she started to do a spell..." I'm appalled when I heard that tumble from Tara's lips, because I know now what's happened-Red's blown any chance she had left with this blonde beauty, because she was fucking selfish.

"Sh-Sh-She stopped... She did... But, Spike.... Goddess, I don't even understand what I'm doing anymore..." Tara's pulled her head back now, looking at me with those teary eyes and those trembling lips and that blonde hair falling around her face and I'm struck with a feeling I don't think I've ever really felt before. I can't name it for a minute, as I sit there, shushing her, brushing her hair from her face and the tears from her cheeks. The ice cream's melting all over my bed by now, I'm sure, but sod it, I don't care. Because this bundle of warmth and affection and energy is sitting in my lap, looking so lost and innocent and I have the overwhelming desire to protect her from anything.

I can't deny it anymore. I'm falling for this girl. And yes, I have finally rounded out my collection of Unattainable Loves. First there was Drusilla, who I could touch but never really have, because she didn't even have herself, her mind was so shattered. Then there was Buffy, the Slayer who will shag me and beat me and taunt me but never do more than that. And now, Tara... Who's gay. Well, I've gone after every other kind of chit, why not a gay one?

But, who am I kidding... I'm not going to go after her. I'm not going to do anything about this emotion that grows with every pretty bat of her lashes or soft breath she pulls in and expels, because she's my friend, and the only one I got, and I can't stand the thought of losing that.

"You went, Tara..." I start slowly, using her name purposefully, because I know she feels special when I don't call her one of my thousand generic nicknames. "Because-because you're in love with the pain," I finally murmur, remembered with a hard swallow that night in the crumbling house with Buffy. "Because feeling the pain with Willow is better than feeling nothing at all."

Tara takes is this "pearl of wisdom" and ingests it slowly. I can see the emotions and thoughts expressed openly on her face as she works through this idea. Finally, she nods slowly. "Y-You understand me better than I do," she says with a nervous, weak chuckle. That chuckle makes me smile; it means she's getting over it all ready.

"I just took something about myself and prayed it applied to you," I assure her with an amused but sheepish look that makes her laugh. And now everything's okay again. I can feel it. And they only get better as she slips the necklace on her neck and gives me a small, radiant smile as her thanks.

"Oh my gosh... Spike, why did you let the ice cream melt!?" I hear the laughter in her voice, and while it makes me want to smile again, I mock glare at her instead.

"I bloody well did not let the ice cream do anything. It melted without my permission, I'll tell you that. I'll never get it out the bed, oh, bugger..."

She's moving out of my lap now, shooing me off of the bed and starting to clean up. She's talking about a trip to the nearest laundry mat, and I'm chuckling at a story she's telling me about when she and the ex-demon were in the laundry mat and I'm smiling and nodding and helping her peel off the sheets. The moment's gone now, we're just friends again, though my heart twists a little painfully in the hope for more. But, I'm all right with that... Like the Slayer told me-I'm in love with pain.


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