Short and sweet Spike/Tara fluff - definitely no romance! I make no apologies for the fluffiness of it - I like fluff. If you want angst, go somewhere else! ;)

I don't own the characters, I just like playing with them.

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The timid knock on the crypt door startled Spike. It surprised him to see Tara standing there. She looked awkwardly at him, stammering nervously. "Hi. I, um, I just came to thank you. For earlier."

He raised a scarred eyebrow at her. "For hitting you? Interesting."

"N-no, I m-mean-"

He touched the side of her face gently, where he'd hit her. "I know what you mean," he said softly. "But I'm still sorry I had to hurt you to do it. If there'd been any other way, I-"

"I-it's okay," she stuttered.

He smiled and stood aside for her to enter. "Care for a drink?"

"Oh, no, really, I only came-"

"To say thank you. Well, I'm guessing your folks have gone and you've made your peace with Willow. Let me make my peace with you." She smiled at him nervously and edged into the crypt, clutching her bag in a death-grip, and jumping as the door slammed closed behind her. He noticed her discomfort, and smiled slowly. "'S all right, Glinda, not gonna hurt you."

She smiled nervously back at him. "S-sorry. I'm not really used to vampires."

"Well - I'm not used to witches, really, apart from Willow. Scotch?"

"N-no, thanks, I don't drink."

He shrugged and poured himself a glass. "Gotta drink something," he said gravely. "Even water's a drink."

"Yes, but-" she realised he was teasing her and blushed nervously. "Why would a vampire have water?"

"Or scotch for that matter," he pointed out. "But I do. As a matter of fact, I like to have a well-stocked bar. Orange juice do you?"

She nodded, and he handed her a glass. "Thanks."

"'S your birthday, isn't it?" Tara nodded. He smiled and went to a box in the corner, where he'd squirreled away treasures from the past for future use. After rummaging around for a while, he sat back on his heels. "Found it!" He stood up and walked back to her, holding something in his hand.

He handed her the box he'd found. "What is it?"

"Birthday present. Open it."

She flicked the box open. Inside was a little silver charm on a chain, set with a moonstone in the centre. He flinched as she held it up to admire it. "What's it for?"

"Magic. It's a protection charm. See, the sigil includes a cross. That's why I flinched, and why I kept it in its box. Not sure if it protects against families, but it does protect against ill-will."

She smiled, touched. "Thank you," she whispered.

He shrugged, trying to look nonchalant. "So. Friends?" He held out his hand to her.

She smiled, laying her own warm hand in his cold one. "Friends." Then, to the surprise of them both, she hugged him fiercely. "Thank you. For showing me what I am. I believed for so long I was a demon, I was so afraid I'd lose my friends. Thank you so much!"

"Hey," he laughed. "They'd love you just the same if you were a demon. I mean, I'm a demon, and Anya used to be. So, no big deal. They like you for what you are. Though I guess it's nice not to have to worry about it."

She nodded, a little shamefaced at her impetuous gesture. "It's good - to know that. To be free of it. To be free of my family. Though it's hard, knowing they were just trying to use me, keep me under control. I can't help wondering if it would have been easier not to have known. But then I'd never have had a chance to be happy, I'd have lost my friends-"

"Truth hurts, love," he said, gently for a vampire. "But you need it to move on. You can do that now. Lead your own life, make your own friends, find love - make the most of it."

Tara looked at him in wonder. It was rare to see the gentler side of Spike. 'At this moment, it's hard to believe he was ever a ruthless killer,' she thought. She nodded slowly. "It's a great gift. And - and the charm, too."

"Just a trinket," he said, trying to shrug it off. 'Man, I'm a vampire. How can I be such a blithering idiot? I'm no agony aunt!'

Tara smiled and shook her head, knowing what it meant - by giving her a protective charm, it was as though he'd said that she was under his protection - even from himself if need be. And that although Willow might be the one she loved - Spike would be her champion. "I should go back," she said eventually. "Willow will wonder where I am."

"I'll walk you back."

"I have the charm, I'll be okay!"

He shook his head. "Maybe. Maybe not. I'd still like to make sure."

"Okay." It surprised her, there was no denying it. She could sense his fondness for her, and felt strangely comforted by it. She wondered why-

"You remind me of my sister," he said bluntly, as if reading her thoughts. "She was a lot like you, little Lizzy. Lovely blonde hair, really pretty. Shy, too, like a deer," he said as he walked beside her.

"What happened?" She regretted asking immediately at the look of pain on his face.

"She was killed," he said shortly.

"Oh. I'm sorry." She suddenly understood about the charm, and about his protectiveness. Maybe he wanted her to have the chances his sister never had? 'Well, who knows?' "Is that why you gave me the charm?"

He nodded. "I saw my sister die. And you - looking so like her - it would be like seeing that all over again. Utterly selfish, of course. But then, I'm a vampire, we're not into the whole altruism thing, like you humans. But we do have feelings and we do love," he grimaced at a thought, "though not always sensibly, perhaps. And I did love my little sister-"

"You were turned before she died?"

He nodded. "Even as a newly-fledged vampire, I still loved her. I adored her. She was my bright star-" he sighed. "She never got much of a chance in life. She was seventeen when she was killed."


He hesitated for a while. "Darla. Angel's sire. He held me back while Darla drained her. Reason number one for hating him so much. He was responsible for my bright star going out. If it wasn't for him, I might have saved her." He walked silently for a little while, lost in thought, face contorted with anguish at the memory. "I can protect you, though. Make sure you get a life to live. You're so like her - it's almost like having her back again." His voice was wistful.

Tara was lost for words. She'd never expected to hear this kind of emotion, this amount of emotion, being expressed by Spike, of all people. He was supposed to be a killer, a monster - yet he was still capable of great love. And being capable of great love meant he was also capable of great grief, and probably many other things besides. She wondered briefly if it had been his sister's death that had pushed him towards the violence he was known for.

He stopped at the door, trying to defy his feelings and look nonchalant, failing utterly. The light peck on the cheek from Tara didn't help. He put his arms round her tentatively, closing his eyes and remembering. 'So like my Lizzy,' he thought, resting his cheek against the crown of her head, inhaling the light, floral perfume that Tara always wore. 'Even smells like her,' he thought wryly. It took quite an effort to make himself let go of her. "Night, then, love," he said, with the slightest of tremors in his voice.

"Goodnight," she smiled softly at him as he turned away.

Willow murmured softly in her sleep, exhausted from partying at the Bronze, when Tara shut the door. "Tara?"

"I'm here, Willow," she whispered as Willow blinked up drowsily, half asleep. "I've spoken to Spike."

"Everything okay?"

"Fine. He was cool about it."

"Good." Willow drifted back off to sleep as Tara changed into her pyjamas. She felt suddenly happy - if a little sorry for Spike. She had loyal friends, a wonderful girlfriend, and now - she'd found a champion in the unlikely person of Spike.

More than that - she'd found a brother. A brother who didn't want to use her - but wanted to protect her. A smile shone on her face as she fell asleep.