Chapter 24: Good Advice Returned

Challenge: partially to answer a forum request/challenge by DeepBlueJoy for a story with a 'person of color' as a main character – who doesn't die immediately.

Warning: none this time – unless you're a die-hard Spike fan who thinks he was the victim in all this…in which case, why are you still reading this story? Oh, and at least one bad word.

Thanks to my betas: none.

Disclaimer: BtVS and AtS characters belong to Joss Whedon / Mutant Enemy. I claim no rights to any copyrighted material. Please do not copy or take this story without my permission.

Buffy's hospital room

"Why'd you do that?" Buffy snapped when the door closed.

"Because I didn't want you to say anything you'd regret later," Wes replied calmly. "The way she did it was regretful, but Tara did the right thing in telling us about what Spike did last night and what led up to it."

Tara told them everything? Buffy started to get up so she could give her friend a piece of her mind. "How-"

Wes simply put a restraining hand on her shoulder, hoping she would listen to reason. "Before you get all worked up, let me explain," he requested.

If it weren't for the pain in her stomach, she might not have been so willing, but Buffy leaned back and said with an irritated pout, "Fine!"

Grateful for the chance, Wes decided that a little turnabout was fair play in this case. He smirked as he began, "I seem to recall a wiser-than-I-thought-she-was Slayer telling me just this morning that important concerns should be shared to avoid misunderstandings."

Buffy growled at the smirk on his face, "But that was-"

"…And if you want to fault Tara for anything, it should be that she didn't speak up as soon as she knew," Wes cut her off before she could make excuses. "She explained everything to me in private while we waited for you to wake up. As a friend, it was wrong to let you remain in a place where you…I'm not sure what you were doing with Spike, maybe punishing yourself for some strange reason?" he hypothesized. "As a Watcher, if I had known about this back then, I would point out that it wasn't just about you."

Seeing the confused and angry look on her face, Wes explained, "By letting a vampire who had the ability to hurt you get that close, you put everyone in grave danger. He could have killed or even turned you while you were distracted by the sex with him. A soul isn't a guarantee of being good, but it's a far better leash for a vampire than a chip in the brain. I would wager there were times when Spike seriously considered turning you into a vampire so you could be together 'forever'. When he got over the novelty of screwing a Slayer, he probably would have," he pointed out bluntly.

His last comment hit Buffy almost as hard as the bullet from earlier. When had she forgotten that Spike was that much of a danger? Yeah, he kind of reminded her with the egg incident, but even then…she still saw him mostly as a tame animal instead of a wild one.

Her only excuse – if she even had one – was that her mind was pretty fucked up when she came back and didn't the chance to really deal with it. She literally went from her grave to slaying to being Dawn's guardian again, all in the same night. While her body healed from her wounds that night, her mental wounds were just pushed back until a 'later' that never came.

Remembering one of those exposé shows on doctors, Buffy realized she was the equivalent of a surgeon operating while plastered. Sure, she might be able to do her job, but letting Spike control her like that for months proved she was putting innocents in harm's way until she got better.

She wasn't going to put the blame on Tara for that, though. She had enough to deal with back then with the magick thing and Willow. Quite honestly, the only person she really felt should have done something was Giles. Dawn was too young, and the others had their own issues/problems. Giles just left; supposedly so she could stand on her own two feet. Buffy still didn't agree with that line of crapola.

Looking up, she asked Wes, "Could you send Tara in so I can talk to her? I promise to remain calm."

A few minutes later…

Tara nervously entered the room, fully expecting to get yelled at.

"Don't worry," Buffy said, "…Wes talked me down from my moment of righteous anger. Then he reminded me that if anyone should be yelled at, it was me. I put myself into a position where a vampire could turn me. I was no better than Riley going to that suckhouse. Sorry for putting you in a position I shouldn't have. You were well within your rights to tell somebody about what happened with me and Spike, if only to keep them aware of the danger."

"I'm still sorry for blurting it out like that – especially since Spike's gone now and the danger he posed with him," Tara responded.

Buffy shrugged. "What's done is done." She grinned impishly at the other blonde. "Bet it caused quite a stir, huh? How did Xander manage to pull his jaw up from the ground?"

Giggling in relief, Tara answered, "Not sure. I was too busy being horrified that I betrayed your trust. I just wanted Dawn to understand that it wasn't your fault that Spike was gone. He was a monster and needed to be destroyed."

A/N: Next…Oi, not sure. We've had a rough…omg, it's only been a little over 24 hours since the story began? Would anyone mind if I gave the gang a couple days to relax before the next surprise?