Summary: Set some weeks after “The Gift,” Spike and Tara share a quiet moment over tea.
Disclaimer: The characters are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No profit is gained from my writerly endeavors and no copyright infringement is intended.
The house was silent. Had been silent for some time, excluding the days when Dawn went from one room to another, slamming doors and howling. Those were far and few between now.
Spike sat at the dining room table, his fingers wrapped around a mug of blood. Have to remember to drink. He kept forgetting the first few weeks.
The absence of sound in the house – sound that would have been produced by Joyce and Buffy – made his skin crawl. As a vampire, he was haunted by their presence, ghostly scents clinging to seat cushions, bedspreads, rugs, and tablecloths. Though the smells slowly dissipated and were replaced by Glinda and Red’s, they still niggled his senses, making it so he could never forget. Not for one second.
A hushed swishing of skirts heralded Tara’s quiet entrance. It was just them and the Bit tonight. Willow had flown the coop two days past to drive to Los Angeles on errand for a few choice ingredients for a spell. She had been vague about how long she would be gone, and no one had pressed her for details. There was no point, not when everything was in shambles.
“Tea for two, is it?” Spike’s eyes rose from where they were fixed on the table. He tried to summon up a smile as Tara approached, balancing a tray holding a teapot and two cups.
“I thought you could use some company,” she offered. Seating herself two chairs down from him, she arranged her skirt and idly fussed with the crockery. There was solace in their routine, a companionable quiet that he could nestle himself into. Tara seemed to feel the same, as it was always she that sought him out during these lulls in the evening.
“Thanks, pet.” The warmth of his smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. “How’s Niblet?” he asked, slouching into his chair.
Her eyes darted away. The gesture was almost bashful, but he knew better. “She’s sleeping, but you might have to go up if - ”
“I know.” His eyes dropped back down resignedly. Some things just didn’t need saying. “’S what the blood is for. Need my strength to contend with the nightmares.” Most nights, it wasn’t just Dawn’s he had to contend with.
Tara nodded and pushed a saucer toward him, a hopeful expression on her face. The liquid was near-black. He could see bits of leaf floating at the bottom. None of that Yank teabag swill. She knew what was what.
“But h-how are you doing?” She pushed a few strands of hair behind her ears and looked at him worriedly, taking in his gaunt cheekbones, unkempt hair.
He waved her off. “Me? Don’t worry yourself.”
She wasn’t convinced.
“You should sleep. I can watch Dawn tonight.” He was about to protest, to say that it was a two person job, but she cut him off, her voice laced with genuine sincerity. “You’ve done so much for Dawn, for us, already.”
She slid her hand across the table and gently took his in her own. It was warmed from palming the tea.
“You’re a good girl,” Spike murmured, affection beginning to breathe life into his extremities. A tentative smile formed at the comment.
Looking away from her, he bit his lip, unwelcome tears pricking at his eyes. It had been so hard. He knew what it was to care for someone, had done so willingly for over a century, but it was nothing like this, the dense grief, the unending tears, the halting guilt. He felt like an accomplice, somehow causative of the absence in their lives. He had no frame of reference to process these feelings. How could he guide Dawn if he could barely keep it together himself? He had promised to care for her, swore that he…
He was drawn back to the now when a set of fingers came up to rest on his sharp cheekbone. Tara’s touch lingered there for some moments until she turned his face to her.
“She’s proud of you, you know. Wherever she is,” Tara whispered, lightly cupping his face. “It’s a fight to get through everyday, but you do it. For her, for Dawnie. You’re strong. She knew you would be.”
A tiny choked cry escaped his lips at the words, the pain passing through him in quiet sobs. There would be plenty more where that came from. It only took her coming to him in his sleep for fresh tears to fall.
Rising to stand at his side, Tara’s hands gently slid into the loose curls of his unattended hair. He jerked back at the unexpected contact, but at Tara’s hushed coo, he settled into her touch. She smelled of thyme and sage, subtle and unobtrusive. Everything about her was tempered, patient.
When she stayed her hand, he felt a surprising calm wash over him. Light ripples slid through him and around him, hugging him close. The soothing energy and its ethereal embrace emanated from her, he realized.
He reached for words, tried to offer her something, but her voice brushed the silence first. “Sometimes you have to get it out. It’s good, not holding it in.”
Twisting loose strands of Spike’s hair in her hands she smiled crookedly, a few dimples forming at the corners of her mouth. “Come on. I’ll bleach your hair for you.”
He quirked an eyebrow at her unexpected offer, searching her face for an explanation. Her eyes glinted playfully.
“It’s st-starting to look a little p-poncey,” she got out. Withdrawing her fingers, she tried to keep her grin from bursting through.
Although joyous moments were few and far between in the Summers household, Spike realized mirth hadn’t abandoned them yet, and let out an amused bark of laughter, his shoulders shaking with release.