Snuffed Out Like Candles
Willow’s been spending a lot of time with Tara lately and it’s nice – really nice – but it’s also… weird. As in confusing. Because she’s feeling stuff and it’s not bad stuff it’s just… different stuff.
You know, she loved – scratch that loves – Oz, as in still hurting and crying herself to sleep sometimes because he cheated on her and then abandoned her completely, and before Oz there was Xander and that crush on Giles… oh, and Malcolm, can’t forget him (even though she’d kind of like to). The point is that while each of them was different, they all had one thing in common.
They were guys.
Which Tara isn’t. Really isn’t. Her boobs are even bigger than Buffy’s. Not that Willow stares at them or anything, but…
Okay, yeah, maybe she does, and maybe it’s not just because her own are so small by comparison, and maybe she has sort of thought about what it would be like to kiss Tara, but that’s probably just because Tara’s gay, right?
Oh god. This is so discombobulating. Because if there’s one thing on which Willow has always prided herself, it’s knowing exactly who she is – every piece of her labeled, alphabetized, and categorized and nothing shoved into a folder labeled ‘miscellaneous’ out of laziness or lack of insight.
Except that now there’s something she doesn’t understand, something she can’t fit neatly into its proper place. Because the truth is that she’s thinking about Tara more and more. About holding her hand as they walk down the hall… about sharing secrets she’s never even shared with Xander or Buffy... about touching those soft breasts, and kissing those full, pink lips. And she doesn’t know what it means.
Is she gay?
But if she is, how can she still love Oz? How can she still feel a rush of heat when she thinks about the time they made love right before the Ascension? (Not the first time. The second time.)
Is she straight?
But if she is, how then can she want to know what it would be like to be with Tara? Wonder just what it is exactly that two girls can do together? (Oh sure, she’s seen stuff online and in Xander’s porn stash, but still…)
Why does she think about Tara the way she used to think only about Oz?
It’s precisely this crisis that led her to bow out of going to the Wicca gathering with Tara tonight and out of going to the Bronze with Buffy and Xander and Anya, to opt instead for some aimless wandering – well, aimless but protected since she’s carrying two stakes, holy water, and a cross so big and gaudy Helen Keller could probably see it.
All of which might be very useful since she’s somehow managed to wander into the cemetery.
Years spent patrolling have given her sort of a weak version of Buffy’s spider senses so when a little chill goes up her spine, she pulls out the cross, whips around and…
“Bloody hell! Watch where you point that thing!”
“Spike?” She hastily stuffs the cross back into her bag. “Sorry! I thought you were a vampire… I mean the kind that can bite… I mean…” The look on his face is so crestfallen and she instantly hates herself. “I’ll shut up now.”
“Good idea, that. Maybe you should do it more often,” he says with more than a little venom, which hurts her feelings, even though she kind of understands and possibly agrees she deserves it.
Then he surprises her. Just as she’s turning to leave, he puts his hand on her arm. “Where are you off to?” Okay, huh? Because she kind of had the impression that he didn’t like her and now he seems to want her to stay and…
Yes, she’ll take ‘Confusing Things’ for 500, Alex. That seems to be the category of the night on this special Willow Rosenberg edition of Jeopardy, huh?
“Umm… Not sure. I was just taking a walk and… I guess I’ll be getting back to it?” Why did she say that as if it were a question? Taking the Jeopardy thing a little far, huh.
“No plans with your little pals?”
This just keeps getting stranger. “No, not really. I mean, there could have been, I just…”
Spike interrupts her with a loud guffaw. “Finally got sick of Slutty and Doughnut Boy, eh? Good on you.” Then his look gets a bit shrewd and he knocks her back by asking, “What about that new little… friend of yours, eh? What’s ‘er name… Tara?” She’s totally reading something that isn’t there into his pause before the word ‘friend’, right? Right? “Come on, give ol’ Spike the details. What happened? Lovers’ quarrel?”
Oh no. She was reading exactly what was printed on the page. What’s worse, even though he’s technically wrong on every level – no quarrel, not lovers – she can feel herself reddening, which means he’ll totally think he’s right and next thing you know he’ll be telling Buffy and Xander and… oh god, she better get out of here.
Again, though, there’s a hand on her arm just as she’s about to make her getaway and Spike looks contrite, though Willow’s not gullible enough to believe it… not really. Okay, maybe a little; because deep down she wants to believe people are who they say they are, and even finding out that her first sort-of-kind-of boyfriend was actually an evil demon intent on world conquest hasn’t really changed that. “Sorry,” he says and it sounds really sincere. “Just teasin’ ya.”
She’s still trying to figure out what the heck is going on when it suddenly dawns on her that… gosh, is Spike lonely? Is that what this is? She never really thought about a vampire wanting company before. Angel always went out of his way to avoid spending time with anyone but Buffy, never even playing pool with them at the Bronze or anything. Heck, he’s never even thanked her for giving him back his soul – not that she needs that or anything, because she didn’t do it looking for gratitude, it’s just… But back on topic, guess she’d never considered that… Spike’s not Angel, though, is he? “It’s okay,” she says, and maybe it is.
“Wanna come by my place? Let me know what ya think of the décor?”
Just when she thought this night could not possibly get any weirder. The weirdest part? That would be the part where she says, “Okay.”
So yes, she follows him back to his place. It’s a crypt and it’s dark, but he immediately lights a whole bunch of candles and it helps, although maybe she’d be happier about sitting on the very dingy and dilapidated couch if she hadn’t seen it first. But she sits because it would be rude not to and she’s not the type of girl who behaves impolitely when invited to someone else’s home. “It’s nice,” she says, trying hard for sincerity.
Her answer is a short bark of laughter. “I’ll say one thing for you: You’re a better liar than they half give you credit for. It’s a bloody dump, pet, but it beats being tied up in the bathtub or listening to the moron and his bint go at it.”
Eww. Xander and Anya…? She can’t stop herself from blurting out, “They did it in front of you?”
Again, Spike laughs. “They blindfolded me, but I caught the audio. Nothing I haven’t heard before, though your boy does seem to be a bit more skilled than I would have given him credit for… either that or Anya’s just pathetically easy to… please.”
Every bit of that falls under the category of ‘Things She Never Wanted to Know’, and Willow is longing for Final Jeopardy so this whole wacky game show will be over.
She’s blushing again, but any hope that the dim light has concealed it from Spike is dashed when he chuckles ruefully and says, “Yeah, I’m right there with ya. Never wanted to picture that boy naked, m’self.” Great. Because for some reason the words ‘picture’ and ‘naked’ bring a vision of Tara to her mind. This is so not good timing. “What are you thinking about, little Red?” he asks as he sits down heavily beside her.
“N-nothing,” she says, wincing inwardly as the pitch of her voice rises to the ‘sucking on a helium balloon after drinking three mochas’ range.
Patting her knee, he chuckles again. “C’mon, tell your Uncle Spike what’s got you so worked up.” He pauses, and his eyes lock with hers. It’s as if a wall has been demolished or actually more like curtains have been opened, but whatever has happened, she sees… something. She’s not sure what it is, but it’s something honest and she knows she’s not gullible this time if she trusts it. As if to back up what he’s just shown her, he adds, “Not like your mates would believe me for a moment if I told them anything you shared with me in confidence. I think we both know in what sort of regard they hold me.”
The offer is unbelievably tempting, because all her uncertainty is tearing her apart and she could use… advice, maybe? Or at least someone who won’t judge her or freak out the way she knows Buffy or Xander would if she shared any of this with them. So she closes her eyes for a second and takes a deep breath before taking one last look into Spike’s eyes just as the curtains close. It’s enough, and she blurts out, “It’s Tara.”
“Kind of knew that, didn’t I?”
She can see the beginnings of a leer. Oh great. This is not going the way she wanted and she hastens to correct him. “We’re not… like that, okay?” Pausing, she struggles to find the right words. “I mean, yeah, Tara’s… you know… gay, but we’re not… it’s just…”
Spike’s expression has changed and now he seems much more concerned and understanding. He squeezes her knee gently. “I get it. Sorry about a minute ago. Can’t blame a bloke for enjoying the thought of two young lovelies… But you’re really not shaggin’ her, are ya?” Willow blushes more furiously than ever, but Spike pays it no heed and continues. “So what is it? She make a pass and you don’t quite know how to let her down gently?” She shakes her head ever so slightly. “Ah… so you’re thinkin’ about it, but you’re not sure, eh? That it?” Now she nods. “She the first girl you’ve ever fancied?” Again, Willow nods. “And I’m guessing it’s got you a bit confused.”
Wow. He totally understands. “I just… I like guys, you know? I mean, I always thought I did, but now… I don’t know what to think. Does this mean I’m gay? Were Oz and Xander like some unconscious closet thing, or…”
“Maybe it’s just that you don’t have limits, pet. Did ya ever think about that?”
Now there’s the faintest trace of frustrated tears she’s managing to hold back as she shakes her head, because – okay – bisexuality, but she’s always seen that as a cop-out. She’s an either/or, pick-a-team-and-play kind of girl. She’s all about boundaries and order, and bisexuality? It’s messy and undecided as far as she’s always been concerned.
What if she’s wrong, though? Or worse, what if she’s right, but she’s bisexual anyway?
“Nothin’ wrong with takin’ your pleasure with both, ya know. Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.” He winks broadly and…
Oh god. He is. He so is.
She flashes back to her own vampire double… her ‘kinda gay’ vampire double. Buffy and Angel had said that a vampire’s personality had nothing to do with… but maybe they were lying, huh? “Spike?” she asks, her voice tentative. “Can I ask you something?” He looks curious, but he nods and she continues. “Were you, you know, bi when you were human?”
He laughs, but it’s soft and gentle and she can tell he’s not mocking her. “Don’t right know. I was a…” He stops and whatever he was going to say, he clears his throat and doesn’t say it. Instead he starts another sentence. “In my day, that sort of thing was illegal. Wasn’t even spoken of in polite company. Can’t say I knew such things were ever done.” He looks into her eyes again, and puts his hand under her chin. “But I might have been. Hell, I prob’ly was. Sure took to it after I was turned, so something had to be left over from my human self. Not all vampires enjoy shagging both sexes. Darla… don’t recall her having a real yen for the ladies, though she’d put on a bit of a show for Angelus’s sake.” He laughs again, this time heartily. “Wonder what your Slayer would say if she were to find out what an enthusiastic sodomite her precious Angel is.” At that, however, he looks away and she can tell he’s afraid he’s said too much.
Putting aside her shock at what she’s just learned about Angel, this time she’s the one who reaches out with a comforting hand; hers comes to rest on his shoulder. “I’m not gonna say anything, okay? I mean, your… stuff isn’t anyone else’s business.”
“Ta, love,” he says and she can tell he believes her. Then he goes serious, the curtains parting again as he looks at her intently. “You should follow your heart, wherever it leads.”
“You’ve always done that, huh?” she says, realizing her tone is half-accusatory, but with kind of good reason.
This time there’s no chuckle and he’s still looking at her intently. “I’ve never regretted it, no matter what the cost. Love – it’s all that matters. Everything else is just… filler.” Now his hand is on her cheek. “If this girl is the one, then you go to her, tell her how ya feel. Don’t worry about the labels and the nonsense people say. And if your precious chums have a problem with her, then they’ve never been your friends anyway and you’re better off without ‘em.”
Of course, at that very moment, just as she’s about to do exactly as he said, he confuses everything more than ever… by kissing her.
It’s… wow. Very probably her best kiss ever. There is something to be said for experience, which he clearly has even though she doesn’t, and she can’t stop herself from moaning into his mouth.
So. Yeah. Okay. She’s not gay.
But she still thinks… she thinks that she’s falling in love with Tara.
The kiss ends and she says softly, “Thank you, Spike.” He winks and she blushes before she clarifies her statement. “I meant for everything.”
“I know.” She starts to get up and he follows, taking her arm for a moment. “Your Tara… she’s a lucky girl.” He’s not going to walk her home, and she’s okay with that, what with the Initiative still prowling around. “If you ever want a threesome…” At that, she blushes and he amends his offer. “Or you could just let me watch.”
They’re at the door and she’s about to leave when she turns and steps back inside for a moment. This time, she kisses him. It’s sweet instead of passionate – it’s farewell to what will never be.
“That’s my girl,” he says.
The words echo in her ears for a long time.