A few days after the episode Family

"N-no, no, you go on ahead, I'll go back and get it and catch up," Tara told Willow. "Please. You're cold."

"We could do a spell for warmth," Willow suggested brightly.

Tara smiled gently. "Maybe later," she said. "When I have the book back, I'm worried that someone will..."

Willow pouted.

"I won't be long," Tara said. "I promise."

"I'll get everything ready," Willow said. Tara turned back.

"For our spell," Willow explained with an appealing smile. "You said later, and I just had the best idea for a spell-"

Tara's mouth quirked; she almost laughed. "I said...I can't resist you whatever you want to do."

"In that case..."

Tara did laugh a little tiny laugh then. "I'll hurry," she said. Willow smirked and turned away.

The night seemed darker as Tara hurried back toward the library, but also more peaceful - right up until the bushes in front of her rustled and then parted to reveal a threatening shape in a long black coat. Tara flinched, and then relaxed as she recognized Spike.

"Hate it when you lot do that," Spike said.

"D-d-do what?" Tara said.

"You see me and you think to yourself, oh it's Spike, he's safe," Spike said. "Bloody cheek, that's what it is."

"I d-don't think y-you're-"

"Yeah, right mouse you are," Spike agreed. "But you're more than you think you are." He drew his fist back and punched her in the nose. She didn't duck until too late.

"Thought so," Spike said calmly.

"What was that for?" Tara asked, clutching her nose, so outraged she didn't even stammer. "You— Why aren't you—"

"You really believed me," Spike marvelled.

"I-I-I—" Tara stammered. "Oh, god."

"Not exactly," Spike said. "Try the devil. You're one of us, Satan's demonic brood."

"But you— When you hit me in front of everyone— Y-you said it hurt—"

"Easy to fake," Spike said.

"But why?"

"I was bored."

Tara's shoulders hunched.

"And I liked your dad. I liked fooling him and thwarting him and making him look small. It's the little pleasure, you know. I was in the mood to screw someone over."

"Y-y-you saved m-me because—"

"Hey, I didn't save anyone. Last time I looked it was Buffy who did the saving. I just helped things along a little."

"Th-th-thank—" Tara looked at Spike with despairing eyes, her mouth working and no sound coming out for a couple of second. She took a shallow breath and tried again. "Thank y-you," she managed to get out. "Anyway."

She tucked her head down and tried to back away, but Spike reached out and grabbed her arm. "Not so fast," he said.

His grip was hard enough to bring tears to Tara's eyes. "But y-you..." Her breath caught. "Y-you were in the m-mood, were you screwing him or me? I m-mean..."

"That's the beauty of it love, I didn't have to pick."

Tara tried half heartedly to pull away from Spike. "B-b-b-b-buffy won't let you—"

"You're no better than me," Spike said in a low, intense voice. "Don't pretend like the Slayer really cares."

"She s-s-said...f-family..." Tara mumbled, barely audible through the curtain of her hair.

"Yeah, that's why she looks at you with the same protective passion as her little sis. Buffy'll save anyone, once or twice."

"Willow—" Tara began in a stronger voice, much more sure of her ground. Spike's grip tightened, and Tara ducked her head.

"You might not have noticed, but the witch doesn't like even ex-demons."

"B-but W-willow and Anya— There's more t-to it than..."

"What I'm trying to say is that you don't want them to find out you're a demon. Do you?" Spike said. He let go of Tara, deceptively gentle. When Tara moved he was behind her, keeping her contained, whispering in her ear. "Keep things simple."

"I-I-I I trust—" Tara said angrily. "A-and even you, the gang puts up—"

"They use me, love," Spike said, strolling back around to stand in front of Tara. "There's a difference. And I use them, which is the matter under discussion."

Tara's eyes opened wide. "Y-you—" She couldn't manage to say anything more.

"I'm giving you the chance to save yourself," Spike said.

Tara made a tiny noise of protest.

"Right, you don't have that in you, so I'll put it another way. I'm blackmailing you."

Tara looked up, meeting Spike's eyes and then immediately looking away. Her hair screened her face as she mumbled, "I-I don't h-have anyth-thing—"

"You owe me, little witch. A favour, a spell, whatever I need. If not, I can make them see the demon in you, don't think I can't. And after that, it'll never be the same."

"I-I-I... I don't do f-favours for vampires," Tara said, and flinched when Spike moved toward her.

"I think you will," Spike said, with extra menace. "When you've thought about it."

He punched her again, in the stomach, and she doubled up. When she could breath, when she could finally look up, he was gone. Or maybe he was in the bushes, watching her.

She didn't know. Every bush and every tree was a menace, every breeze let loose a million new threats.

She scurried away, flinching at every shadow.