Taking Steps

Tara's not sure why she's here. Walking through Sunnydale's most active cemetery late at night and all alone? If the Scoobies knew she was doing this, they'd think she was suicidal because of the break from Willow.

No, she isn't, but it's not like they see her as a person in her own right. Well, Dawn does – at least she likes to think so – but the rest of them… even Buffy… no, they don't. She wonders if they think she does anything except sit around waiting for Willow to get a handle on her addiction. It's why Buffy confided in her – the Willow thing. Buffy barely knows her, but since Tara's nothing but a piece of Willow, it's safe for her to share her secrets with her, right?

At first, she'd been sort of flattered, thinking it meant something, but then… then she got it and it's insulting. She can still remember the day Buffy 'defended' her from her family. Even then it was all about Willow… and all about Buffy.

She drank three beers and some of whatever the brown stuff in the glass the girl at the dorm handed her was – Jack Daniels, maybe? She doesn't know enough about alcohol to tell – to bolster her courage so she could make this journey and maybe it's the reason she's so bitter, but maybe all it did was clear away the nice, good girl excuses from her brain so she could see the way the world really looks.

It doesn't look good.

Here she is, though – Spike's crypt. Why is she here again? Oh yeah. She's here because Buffy's using him and he needs to know. He has a right to know. So she knocks on the door and waits. It doesn't take long before a voice booms, "Who the bloody hell is it?" and she can tell by the slurred accent that she's not the only one who went looking inside bottles for something that was missing tonight.

"It's me. Tara."

She waits. And she waits. But just as she's about to leave and hope she makes it back to the dorms without getting drained, the door opens. The place is surprisingly well-lit and she can see that Spike is buttoning his shirt and… his jeans aren't buttoned all the way either. The part where he smells like he swam in the same stuff she drank earlier kind of gets lost in her embarrassment. She's blushing, isn't she?

"What do you want, Glinda?"

That's a good question. It takes her a few seconds to remember and at the same time she thinks maybe she drank just a little too much. Stopping at the three beers might have been smart… or maybe at only two. Did she mention the inexperience with alcohol? "I… umm… I… I talked to Buffy tonight."

He's… oh god… he's preening. Why is he preening?

Then she gets it and she wishes she'd actually drunk more. Because then maybe she wouldn't know and her heart wouldn't be breaking.

Spike thinks Buffy told her about them – in the 'he's my boyfriend and I love him' way.

"She doesn't love you, Spike." As hard as she tries to make her voice gentle, the words are harsh and nothing can change that.

Looking into Spike's eyes… it's like watching a puppy be kicked.

"I'm sorry," she says, desperately trying to undo the damage. Her hand reaches for his arm and he lets her touch him. "I meant to say it better, but…"

"You're drunk." He shrugs. "Can't fault ya for that seein' as how I've imbibed a bit myself."

Is she drunk? Probably, huh. It suddenly occurs to her that she hasn't stuttered once. "You deserve better," she says and it means – it means everything. It means better than some drunk girl he barely knows telling him the truth about a girl who shouldn't be using him.

There's a hardness and tension in him now and he pushes her hand from his arm. "Yeah, well, thanks for that. Now I better walk ya home."

Wait. What did she do? "I'm sorry," she says for a second time. "I really am." There are tears in her eyes and she's more desperate than ever to fix this. How she wishes she knew him better. Guess the Scoobies aren't the only jerks who don't bother.

As suddenly as he'd changed, he changes again. Now he walks over to a ratty couch and all but falls to a seat on it. "Might as well join me then, eh?" he says as he pulls a bottle from underneath. Jack Daniels. She joins him. Now she'll have something to compare to that stuff from the dorms.

When he hands her the bottle, she takes a swig. Nope. Not the same as the stuff from before. This is better. A lot better. Spike downs a huge draught and she realizes he's staring at her. "Didn't know you drank."

She takes another sip. "I don't. I mean, not usually."

"But tonight?"

"I needed courage." She feels herself blushing again.

"Needed it to face the Big Bad?" She's about to deny that, but something in his eyes… she's not so drunk that she doesn't get it. He needs to be feared.

"Yeah, well, you're kind of imposing." He 's preening a bit and that's a good thing. She smiles and declines when he hands her the bottle again. "I'd better keep my wits about me."

He winks at her and… oh gosh. He thinks she's flirting, doesn't he? What if she was? Has she ever flirted with a guy? No, not that she remembers, but maybe she should. Maybe it would make him feel better.

Maybe it would make her feel better.

"You're dangerous," she says from beneath half-lidded eyes.

Obviously, her inexperience shows. "What's your game, little girl?" The stare is growing sharp and acute.

"N-nothing." Oh god. She's stuttering again. Taking the bottle from Spike, she downs some more whiskey.

He leans in. "Have you ever kissed a man?"

What? "N-no." Why did she say that? She knows she should have said yes, but then he leans in even closer and…

Wow. She's kissing a boy – a man – a vampire.

It's not nearly as awful as she always thought it would be. It' s nice, actually. A lot nicer than it should be. "Willow," she whimpers when Spike's lips leave hers.

"If you think I'm your bird, then I'm doin' this wrong." Before she can explain that the name was uttered out of guilt, Spike's lips are on hers again – harder this time and much more passionate.

For someone who's never been interested in a trip to Boystown, she's enjoying the unexpected visit, not that she understands it. "Why?" she asks when the kiss ends.

"Why not?"

"What about Buffy?" It's a good question, right? And you know, they haven't even really talked about what she came here to talk about. Oh sure, she'd blurted out that Buffy didn't love him, but…

"She's not here."

So what is he saying? That she's a warm body and she'll do in a pinch? The words are like a slap in the face and she's almost as hurt as she was by… No, what Willow did was worse, but this is still painful.

"I didn't mean it like that," and she wonders if she spoke aloud. "Your eyes. Dr- someone I used to know would have said they're like a poem or something. You can read 'em too easily. Might want to watch that."

"Okay." She should be offended, but something in the way he says it… It's advice and it's meant kindly. She leans towards him to kiss his cheek, but he turns his head and…

They're kissing again.

She moves closer, so does he, and now their arms are around each other. Has it been forever since someone touched her like this? It feels like it has. Willow seems far away and somewhere else. Guilt should be consuming her and she can feel it waiting for daylight in order to pounce, but it's not here yet. She moans, learning the sensation of masculine hands on her body. It's a strange thing and she's not sure how she feels about it. Not that it's bad or unpleasant; quite the contrary. It's just… why now? Why Spike?

Is it pity?

No, she doesn't think so.

It's empathy, isn't it? They're both outsiders and they've both been done wrong… and they're both expected to be good boys and girls and forgive and forget and come back for more. It's enough to bridge the gender gap and tighten Tara's hold on the man - man- she's kissing.

He lets her up for some air and asks, "You ever been with a bloke before?" She shakes her head; not that she figures it was anything but a rhetorical question anyway. "You still…? Or do you have… toys that took care of that?"

She can feel her face flame even as she wonders how they got this far this fast. "Horseback riding," she says softly. Is she really going to do this?

"Relax, luv. I can be gentle."

He's as good as his word, his fingers ghosting beneath the fabric of her t-shirt before pulling it over her head, unhooking her bra with practiced ease. She can feel her whole body blushing as he gives her breasts a more than appreciative look. "You're a stunner," and before she can duck her head, he has his hand under her chin, forcing her to look into his eyes. "I'm looking at you, just you. And I like what I see."

The way he says it makes her heart soar and ache at the same time. "Thanks." She starts unbuttoning his shirt, touching the marble flesh she finds beneath. He's cool under her fingers; cool and hard and nothing like the women she's known.

Nothing like Willow.

She explores. The newness of him is… she wants to say intriguing, to make it smaller and less important. But it's more than that.

It's exciting.

She's attracted to him. Very. Too much. And if she had stopped at three beers and not shared that Jack Daniels, she'd be running from this crypt like the timid rabbit she usually is, but now? Now her fingers move to those half-buttoned jeans.

"You like me?" she nods but he asks, "Me, not just this." She gets it.

"I want you, Spike. Not just… I want you." She knows fully and completely that she means it. After all, never once in her whole life has she even considered being with a man. Just Spike. Only Spike.

Something about the way she says it, or she guesses that's what it is, and Spike is kissing her as passionately as before – maybe more. How they both finish getting naked, she doesn't know. She only realizes that it's happened when she's on her back beneath him… his fingers between her legs. He smiles and she blushes again, knowing that he's totally aware of how much she wants this. But the smile… it's not a smirk. No, it's like… it's like he's happy. Really happy.

No time to think though because he's…

He's inside her – or he's getting there – slow and gentle just like he said he would be. She gasps. Sure, she's used those toys he alluded to earlier, but it's so different when it's flesh – when there's a man attached to what's inside her. It's almost hard to breathe, the enormity… Oh gosh, did she just think that word? Because it fits… and she's sort of surprised because… yeah, enormity.

It's the fullest feeling. "Wow," she says and she gazes up into Spike's eyes. He doesn't say anything, he just keeps moving inside her, and then his fingers find…

This is so much more than wow. Instinct kicks in and she begins to find his rhythm, meeting his thrusts and caressing him. He moans, "Yeah, luv, like that," and she feels powerful and womanly and probably a lot better at this than she actually is. She wishes she was good at this as he is.

"Oh god!" There's that tightness in her belly, only it's bigger and more intense than she remembers and she wants it to be over, but she wants this to never, ever stop. "Spike! I'm… I'm…" And then it happens – this big, bright, shiny explosion and there are colours bursting behind her eyelids and it's… incredible. A moment later, she hears him cry out and then she feels his release inside her. It's cool and strange and she thinks she'd hate it if it was anyone but him. Now it feels like a connection.

He stays inside her for a moment and their eyes lock. He's the first to look away, then he pulls out and sits on the arm of the sofa. She sits up and makes room for him, but he stays where he is, so she moves closer. "You're special," she says because those are the first words that come to her.

"Yeah, well, guess I know my way around the female form."

It hurts – that he's diminishing this – and a part of her wants to say something biting, but then she realizes… how could he be anything but scared and insecure after Buffy? So she tries to forget that she's naked - that they're both naked – and reaches over to take his hand. "That's not what I meant. I meant that you're kind and considerate and… sweet."

"Sweet? Those are fighting words." Still playing it off. Can she really blame him though?

"Look. I know… I kn-know" – Damn it, she's stuttering again – "that you still l-love her. That you… you were just looking for… b-but you were good to me. It just… just shows…" There are tears forming and she can't finish what she's trying to say.

He sits beside her now and puts his arm around her. "There, there, luv. Just tried to treat you the way you deserve, that's all. You're… you're special yourself, y'know. And I know your witch did you wrong, but she shouldn't have. Because anyone would be lucky to have a girl like you." He pauses and the next words are so soft she's not sure he means for her to hear them. "If I had any bloody sense…"

What should she say? She knows what she probably shouldn't say, but her blood alcohol level is still high enough to make her brave. "She doesn't deserve you, you know – Buffy. She's selfish and she's mean."

He chuckles – ruefully – and pulls her head down to his shoulder. "Think they have meetings for folks like us? You know, with a bunch of steps and wankers standing up at the front and telling tales of woe?"

"I don't think so." She's silent for a moment and then the courage swells again and she adds, "Maybe we could have our own, you know?"

He chuckles, but this time it's not rueful at all, and he kisses the top of her head. "We could at that." His fingers are soft against her arm as he caresses it. "What sort of steps would we do, I wonder?" That hand moves and he's no longer caressing her arm… Tara feels herself responding.

Okay, she's sore, but not so sore that… "I think maybe I have an idea…" She lifts her head from his shoulder and winks.

Then their mouths meet again and there are no tales of woe or testimonies of any kind. But it's a very, very good meeting.

The End.