"Oh. It's you," Spike sneered, taking a step back from the doorway and shoving the knife he'd wielded at the door back into his belt. "Should have known it wasn't the bloody Slayer; bitch never knocks."

"I c..." Tara seemed to be scooping the rest of the word out with her chin. "Came to t-thank you."

"For punchin' you in the face?" Spike laughed. "Now I know you're too bloody polite."

"You... s-shut my dad up? F-figured out w-what he was... t-trying to do? I w-wanted..."

Spike reached into the duster slung over the sarcophagus, pulling out his cigarette pack. "This isn't Jeopardy, pet. Don't have to phrase everything in the form of a question, y'know."

Tara pulled a cookie tin from behind her back. "I m-made you brownies? I know v-vampires don't usually, um, eat, but D-Dawn said you liked chocolate, so..."

"Other Scoobies know you're here?" Spike asked, eyebrow soaring.

"I'm nuh..." Tara's jaw clenched, eyes closing as she forced it out, "... not a Scooby."

"Damn straight you're not. Too many manners." The Zippo rasped, and Spike inhaled deeply. "Don't fret; they'll beat it out of you soon enough. Give you a peek at the manual, love... proper Scooby way of thankin' me is a nice punch in the nose."

"W-well I s-suck at fighting," Tara insisted, setting the tin of cookies down. "S-so you g-get brownies."

Admiration flickered through Spike's eyes, and his tongue went reflexively to the back of his teeth. "You've got more stones than you give off, don't you, pet?"

Without the cookie tin to cling to, Tara's hands twisted around each other, her eyes on the floor.

"Yeah..." Spike turned a speculative look on her, walking around her, sizing her up from different angles. "Got hidden depths, eh? Be bloody fearsome, I'd wager, once you come into your own."

"N-no! No... f-fearsome! I'm human, I'm normal, I'm not going to... c-come into a-anything!"

Spike grinned savagely, hopping up onto the sarcophagus. "Used to know a bloke, wicca. Had a right bastard of a father, just like you. Timid little poet type, bleedin' for his art, afraid of himself... afraid of the dark he could feel inside. Squashed it all down. Wouldn't hurt a fly, this fellow, didn't even want to talk about violence... but on the inside? Rollin' n' boilin' in his own pressure cooker... an' one day? He exploded."

"W-what happened to him?"

"Got offered somethin'. An' this fellow, oh, he'd have denied it to the rafters at the time, but he knew exactly what it was. Opportunity to have that itchy, tight little superego ripped right off, yeah? Get rid of all that guilt bindin' him, makin' him small, less than he was. An' he took that offer."

Spike cocked his head. "Now tell me, pet... when you found out you weren't a demon... weren't you just the tiniest bit disappointed?"

Tara gaped in horror. "N-no! I d-don't, I d-don't w-want..."

"Come off it, love. Think I didn't see the way that cousin of yours looked at you? That Little-House-On-The-Prairie veneer over a core of solid bitch? Think I didn't see the way you flinched whenever your brother raised a hand in your direction? The way your father thinks of you like another piece of soddin' farm equipment? Don't know exactly what they did to you, pet, but I've got a fair guess, and you can't tell me that you didn't lie in bed at night thinkin' ah, when I'm a demon, they're gonna get what's comin' to 'em?"

The deathly pallor of Tara's face told Spike everything he wanted to know. "Look, love. You're talkin' to William the Bloody here. If you're wantin' judgement on your teeny little sins, go somewhere else. Or... you could talk to me. Know a bit about the demon thing."

"W-why? W-why would you w-want to..."

Spike shrugged. "Harm's gone out, nothin' on telly at this hour, read all m'books... I'm bloody bored. And, for the moment, you interest me. Don't expect it to last, can't say as I'll care enough to even remember this later. Functional equivalent of tellin' your teddy, only much better-lookin' and far more likely to offer you a beer. What do you say?"

"You're... evil."

"And now, you're startin' to bore me." Spike hopped off the sarcophagus, turning his back on her and heading for the fridge.

"Well... I... I mean, um, I..."

"Let's see if we can get you back on a more interesting topic, eh?" Spike grinned nastily... then suddenly turned, punching a wall and screaming in pain.

Tara's eyes flew wide. "W-what did you j-just d-do?"

"Punched a wall. Only... imagined it was Harris' face. Made the chip go off." He tipped his head to the side, leering. "Reconsider that beer?"