TITLE: Black
SERIES: Surfacing
STATUS: Incomplete (last modified 3/03/2001)
AUTHOR: n. bjelica
EMAIL: n_bjelica@hotmail.com
FEEDBACK: Yes, please.
CLASSIFICATION: B/S UST, angst. Features W/T as well
RATING: PG-13 (language)
SPOILERS: Season 5 up to and including "Checkpoint."
SUMMARY: Spike loves Buffy. Buffy no love Spike. Willow and Tara mediate. Chaos ensues.
DISTRIBUTION: Available at http://www.angelfire.com/weird/bjelica/. Please email me if you're interested in archiving my fic, I'll be stunned speechless.
DISCLAIMERS: All characters, locations, and such contained herein are the property of Joss Whedon and his band of merry men. The albums Surfacing and Solace, and all songs contained therein are the property of Sarah McLachlan and her label. Not for to sue the nice fanfic author!
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Second fic ever, despite the fact that this is third in a series. :)
NOTES FOR BETAS: I need help with Tara’s characterization and voice – does it really sound like her? She's the one I'm least confident in (though feedback is certainly desired for all of them :) Also—have we seen or heard anything canon about Willow and Tara's apartment? (I claim it's a second-floor unit in a three- flat.) r are they just in a dorm room? tAnd honestly, I think I'd pay money for an honest answer about using "e.g." and "i.e.," vs. "EG" and "IE," vs. just 'eg' and 'ie.' 4. Spike's crypt—it has stairs down to the door from ground level in the graveyard, right? (I have Buffy exiting and walking up stairs after she closes the door.) Oh, and 5: after reading Stephen King's On Writing, I now have a phobia about adverbs. Please weigh in on those "-ly" words that I have left unsacrificed. :)

"If you're not evil, then my whole life has been a lie."

"Don't you think I know that," he snarled, whirling around on her. Buffy shrank back in surprise. "You think I want to be like this—this half-thing? Half-man? I'm not the big bad anymore; I can't be even a mediocre bad guy anymore. There's a sodding microchip in my head that tries to lobotomize me every time I think anything less fluffy than 'what a beautiful sunny day it is today.' But I couldn't ever be one of your precious Scoobies either, I'm never going to be good enough for you. So what am I? What am I, then?"

"I don't know! If I knew that I wouldn't be sitting here. I'd be kicking your ass or something."

"Right, well, isn't that just like you – yelling at me that you're going to kick my ass and never believing anything but what your stupid Watcher told you or you read in their books or goddamned anything else they inculcated into your bloody empty head. Do you ever think for yourself?"

Buffy found her spine and stood up. "I think for myself every day when I'm out there! Do you think I made it to the grand old age of twenty by being stupid? No, you just expect me to be all 'oh, he says he has a crush on me so that means he /must/ be a good guy'? Well, screw you, Spike! It doesn't work like that! It was only a couple of weeks ago you were in my face saying you were just waiting for your chance to kill me. You're a liar, and I'd have to be crazier than Drusilla to believe you've all of a sudden decided that you've been in the wrong business for the last hundred years. You know what I think, Spike? I think you're just sneaky enough to think that as long as you can't physically hurt me, you'll settle for getting in my head and getting me all messed up so I can't fight and someone else kills me."

Spike stared at her for a long moment and said in a low tone, "Get out. Just get out, go away and leave me alone." He turned around and walked over to the corner, staring at a spot on the dirty stone wall. "Go cry on Red's shoulder about how mean and nasty old Spike was to you. Have the loverwiccas soothe you with chamomile tea and scones or something while you weep about how cruel fate is to you. Whatever it is you women do when you think you'll never find twoo wuv, or some man has mortally wounded you by thinking for himself. Just go away, and leave me alone."

"Fine. I don't know why I tried to talk to you about this, anyway. I should've known nohing would happen," Buffy spat, and stepped towards the door before changing her mind and executing a neat about- face to stride over to Spike. She poked him in the back with her index finger and he ignored her. "I should've known you'd—."

"What? What should you have known I would do? Kick you out on your sodding ass for being such a whiny bitch?" Spike remained standing with his back to her although he gestured with his arms a little bit as he spoke. "Well, you are, you know!" He mimicked her with a falsetto tone. "'Oh, poor me, my boyfriends always leave me all alone and whatever will I do now without a big, strong man? Oh, I could go kick a puppy, but no, Spike never learns to keep away like a puppy dog would, so I'll just go pick on him'! Just get away before I make you wish you had."

"Oh, and how do you propose to do that?" Buffy poked Spike again, and again got no reaction, though a muscle twitched in his left cheek. "Always with the empty, trite threats. Typical. Whatever, Spike. I'm leaving."

Before Buffy could take a step, Spike had whipped around and grabbed her arms, pinning them to her sides, and backed her up against the wall. "Not an empty threat," he said slowly, and leaned in towards her. She said nothing, just glared at him as trapped her and stared imposingly at her. "Bitch." She was immobile in his grip, and unresponsive to him as he leaned down and kissed her. After an eternity, Spike pulled back and whispered directly into her ear, "You know, I could do that all day. Not having to breathe and all. You wouldn’t have a chance."

She closed her eyes and answered him, "I hate you." Then his kissed her again, and this time she gave in and kissed him back. They broke for air and Spike said, calculatingly, "I’ll take hate, for now." He released her arms and stepped away from her, and watched as she ran for the door.


Two days later:

"I don't know, Buffy. I heard Dr. Vaddick is pretty harsh with essay questions. If you didn't read the Marx assignment, then I think maybe you'd better come over for a last minute cram session. Besides, Willow's worried about something. She started baking again. I need help getting these cookies out of the house before Mrs. Fields sues us for infringing on her territory."

Buffy laughed. "What is it this time? Chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin? Oatmeal raisin means she's worried about something to do with school. Chocolate chip is a wildcard."

Tara muttered something under her breath. "Worse. White chocolate macadamia nut. She brought home three whole cans of nuts and I had to help chop them. I haven't seen the kitchen table since noon."

"You're right. I think it's definitely time for a study session at your place. I'll be over in fifteen. Try and keep her away from the oven until I get there." Buffy smiled. "See ya in a few, Tara."

Buffy put down the phone and thought about cookies. White chocolate macadamia nut didn't sound like a familiar worry-cookie. She wondered briefly if Xander would know what those cookies meant, while she stuffed some texts in a battered backpack and slid it over her shoulders. She hit the stairs and jogged out of the house.

Ten minutes later Buffy arrived at the three-story brownstone. She mopped the dampness off her forehead before ringing their bell. Part of the fun of Slayer health and training was that she could really book when running while barely breaking a sweat. Tara buzzed her in and she jogged up the stairs to the second-floor apartment.

"Come on in." Tara said loudly, followed with a whisper. "Don’t let on you know about the cookies. I told her you needed sympathy study buddies."

Buffy cleared her throat ostentatiously before speaking. "Thanks for reminding me about the essay questions. I totally forgot and thought it was all multiple choice. Uggggh. Wake me when midterms are over."

Tara smiled as the two of them walked into the living room. "Tell me about it. You should be in my German I class. Do I really need to know the difference between nominative case and accusatory? Why couldn’t Germans just use one 'the' like we do in English?"

"Buffy!" Willow exclaimed, as she spotted the two of them. "Come over here! I just pulled these out of the oven. Ah, sit down over, um, there—" she waved her hand at a table mostly covered with cooling cookies in neat rows "—somewhere."

"Will, is there something you need to tell us? Sudden onset Betty Crocker envy?" Buffy chomped a cookie and then moaned. "Oh, my god, these are good. I am never leaving." She pushed a rack of cookies aside and plopped down a notebook. "I need serious help. Is it just me or does this Marx reading not make any sense at all?"

The trio studied and ate cookies for several hours before Tara caught Buffy's eye. "So Buffy, what happened when you went to talk to Spike the other day? I don't think I've seen him since then, and you know how he's usually everywhere." Willow choked on a cookie at hearing Spike's name, and they both turned to stare at her.

"Okay, Will, spill. What gives? We can tell you're upset about something, because that's the only reason you ever bake massive quantities of anything." Buffy tried to look stern.

"What? Nothing, I just felt like making some cookies. Better than the ones you get at the supermarket, you know!" Willow looked like a deer caught in a car's headlights, on the verge of bolting from the table.

"Yeah, but you don't usually try to put the grocery store out of business." Tara said gently.

"Um, I, uh—I just really wanted macadamia nuts?" Willow sounded desperate.

"Will, you know we know about the cookie nervousness thing. You're worried about something. And you're making us worried because you won't tell us what you're worried about. It's a whole big worry worry thing, and it's not of the good." Tara nodded agreement with Buffy.

"But I promised I wouldn't tell." Willow looked supremely anxious by this point. "You know, it's a friend thing, and someone needed someone to talk to and I, you know, I was just trying to help them out."

Buffy reached out and put her hand on Willow's. "But it's driving you nuts. You can't study for midterms in between 15 minute long breaks from cookiemaking. You don't have to tell us names or details. Just tell us what's bothering you."

Willow sighed and looked down at her hands. "I don't know, Buffy. I kinda promised this friend. You know, this friend has a friend that isn't a friend really, but this friend wants the friend to be a friend, only the not-friend doesn't want to be a friend, and it's all a really big mess."

Tara asked, "Is either of the not-friends anyone we know?"

"No! No, I don't think so. Someone from my psych class, last semester, you know, you wouldn't really know him. Them." Willow blinked guiltily. "Definitely no, you don't know them. Not at all."

Buffy grinned. "Then you can tell us, Will, and get it off your chest without worrying about us being all weirded about someone we know. And Tara and I can benefit from a break from trying to decipher exactly what the heck 'the private property of the people is not public to the people' means, and how we're going to come up with two pages defending one way or the other."

Willow sighed, clearly trapped. "Okay. But you can't tell anyone I told you this. In case, you know, someone you know knows the not-friends, or something like that."

"Deal."

"Okay. This guy, um, he's from my psych class, you know, that's how I know him. He's really cute. And he doesn't have any trouble getting girls, you know. He's, um, from the South, and has this sexy drawling accent. And this kind of James Dean-esque attitude. So he's pretty drool-worthy." Willow caught Tara looking at her. "No, no, I don't have a crush on him!" Buffy snickered and she flushed. "Okay, maybe I used to, once, a long time ago, but not anymore. But that's not the problem. Now I'm all 'shoulder to cry on' to him. 'Cause, you know, he could get girls, but not the one he likes. Really likes. She thinks he's a big jerk. Like a total loser. I think it's kind of like he never got over the whole 'boys only pick on the girls they like' phase at age 6. He says every time he gets near her all he can say is mean stuff, and so she thinks he's a total jerk."

Buffy nodded. "You just described half the population of mankind, Will. I know—I've met them at frat parties." Tara smiled and said, "go on."

"Well. So he wants to ask her out, but he doesn't know how. He's had it really bad for her for ages. Months going on, well, years maybe. One of those you never see whoever's right in front of you things, I guess. So he tried talking to her and admitting that he, uh, wanted to date her, right? Only she got mad. Like really, incredibly mad. Almost slapping him across the face-mad, I mean. 'Cause she thought they were totally, completely, all wrong for each other. And he got mad back, 'cause he thought she was treating him like he was, hmm, how did he say it – like he was a roach on the floor, she was wearing Doc Martens, and she was gleefully counting down to the big squish. Anyway, she really hurt his feelings with his reaction and he couldn't deal with it. He was totally depressed and didn't know what to do so he kind of came to me, sympathy girl, and, well, went splah."

"Wow," Tara murmured. "Poor guy."

Buffy munched another cookie. "Sounds like he said this chick was a real bitch to him."

"Well, uh, that's, you know, just his side of the story. I'm sure she probably feels differently." Willow looked uncomfortable again. "But I know her, she was in the same class, you know, and I feel really bad for him, and I kinda think they would be a cute couple, but I can't really talk to her even though I want to, 'cause then she'd figure out he talked to me, and she'd be even more mad at him. And he'd be mad at me too, and it would be all messed up even worse than it is now. Anyway, he's really angry with her, and angry with himself, and he's pretty sure that it's a lost cause now. 'Cause even if she wasn't totally dismissive of him, he tried to kiss her and she ran away. So, being a typically logical kind of guy, he ran away too. Hasn't, um, hasn't gone to class in days. I usually see him around, campus, you know, and I haven't. Seen him, I mean."

"Oh," Tara said, eyes wide. "Oh, oh, oh. Oh, I think I know who you're talking about. Was this the guy we, uh, we saw last week at the, the one place, when we went out for dinner, with the music, and the dancing?"

Willow shot a look at Buffy, who had suddenly discovered how interesting the pattern on the Formica table was and was intent on memorizing it, and then nodded. "Uh-huh."

"Oh. Ohhh. That puts a whole new spin on things." Tara looked thoughtful.

"Look." Willow looked startled as Buffy spoke up. "Maybe the girl, the girl I don't know, wasn't really trying to be a bitch. Maybe she was just scared and didn't know what to do when the guy said he wanted to date her, and she kinda did the first thing that came to mind, and maybe, maybe the first thing that came to mind was being as big a jerk to him as he usually is to her!" Her tone was defensive.

"Oh, damn." Willow jumped up and ran out of the room, spilling cookies in her wake.

"Oh.... damn," Tara echoed. "D-don't go anywhere, okay?" she asked in a plaintive voice, shooting Buffy a look before running after Willow.


Willow ran into the bedroom and slammed the door shut behind her. She started pacing in a tight loop along one side of the bed. "Damn. I'm so dumb! Why did I do that? God!" She muttered self- incriminations as she paced. A knock on the door sounded behind her and she stopped mid-pace. "Go away, Tara. Go tell Buffy she's not a bitch. And, tell her I am, okay? Argh!" She resumed pacing.

The door snicked open. "I'm not going to go away," Tara answered. "You're not dumb, you're not a bitch, and you are a fabulous cookie cook." She walked up to Willow and hugged her tightly. "I can't believe Spike went splah on you about Buffy and you had to keep it quiet. No wonder you were going nuts. Uh, no pun intended, what with the cookies and all." Willow snickered, the sound muffled against the taller girl's shoulder. "You should come back out. I think Buffy's kind of, well, shell-shocked? I don't think she quite buys the whole Spike-as-good-guy thing. For that matter, I don't know that I buy the Spike-as-good-guy thing, either."

"Oh, gosh, Tara, I don't know." Willow started pacing again, keeping her head down and watching her feet. "I probably ruined everything. I didn't mean to tell, I didn't. I shouldn't have said anything." She waved her arms in gesticulation. "I told Spike that I wouldn't tell anyone, that he could trust me, 'cause, you know, it's not like he has any friends he can talk to. Even us, none of us really like him; we just kind of tolerate him. I felt bad for the guy."

"I felt bad for him too," Buffy said quietly, standing in the doorway. Willow started and looked guiltily at her. "But I don't know whether to believe him or not. Is he a good guy, a redeemed ex-evil bloodsucker? Or is he just a really good actor, who has a total hard-on for hurting me, and now, because of the chip, emotionally is the only way he can get to me at all? Do you see what I'm getting at here? It's hard. I don't know what to do. I don't know what to think." She walked down along the foot of the bed and started pacing herself. Surprised, Willow stopped and stood next to her partner. Buffy continued talking. "Yes, he's a hottie. But he's obnoxious. And he's a killer. You know what happened when I went to ask him about the two Slayers he's killed, he taunted me and said he was just waiting for his chance to slip in behind my defenses and kill me. And then—and then--and then he had the utter gall to try to kiss me!" Now Buffy sounded affronted. "I mean, you know, I'm modern and liberal and all, but I don't know how many people find discussions about the desirousness of their murder a turn-on." She waved a hand. "And so then I went to talk to him the other day about Glory and how to get the power-sapping thingie Anya mentioned. Somehow he turns the conversation over to 'us.' I say, 'there is no us, Spike, and there never will be.' And he's like—"


Two days before:

"There is an us. This is us right here, now, fighting. You're just too damned stubborn to see what's in front of your nose when you don't want to see it."

"No. It's exactly the opposite," Buffy snapped. "There's nothing to see. You wish there were, and so in your own private reality, that's what you see. What is reality for everybody else, Spike, is that you are a probably-temporarily-neutered vampire who can't drink people's blood, for now, but still likes to reminisce about the good ol' days when you got to rape, maim, and pillage the humans, and I am, as Giles will happily tell you because he doesn't get to use this speech often enough to suit himself, the one girl Chosen from all humanity to save people from vampires. I.e., you. You vampire, me Slayer. If there's tension between us, it's because I'm supposed to be killing you but I feel sorry for you because you're chipped, not because I want to throw you on the ground and have my way with you!"

"Mmm. Tempting image, that." Spike 'hmmmed' a note. "I think you've got it bad for me, Slayer, you just can't admit it, so you slip in little comments like that to keep me panting after you like a little high-school crush."

Buffy threw up her hands. "You see! You are making this out to be whatever you want it to be, regardless of what is real."

Spike pinned her with his gaze as he spoke. "Tell me more about what is real, then. Tell me what you think everyone in the entire bloody world but me is aware of. Tell me how evil I am, of what evil I've done lately, of why I'm incapable of change. Frankly, what I'm really interested in hearing right now is how you are not being a hypocritical little twit by saying I'm utterly evil and will always be evil because I was once evil in the past despite the fact that I'm incapable of being evil now, when you boffed my damn sire and nearly sent the world to hell because you thought he was reformed!" He folded his arms across his chest.

Buffy sucked in a breath. "You sleaze. I knew you would throw that in my face. There's one gigantic difference between you and he—you're a soulless, unrepentant beast and he was a soulful, repentant non- beast. See? No similarity other than allergies to crosses holy water, and sunlight. And to well-placed stakes, one of which I'm mentally fitting you for now!"

"I hear you talking but I don't hear you actually answering my question," Spike retorted, his airy tone not disguising the anger in his voice. "Tell me why you think I'm a lost cause."

"You're evil because you like to kill people, you moron. Or you used to like to kill and now you just wish you could."

"Do I? Are you sure?" Spike asked in silken tones.

"Of course I'm sure!" Buffy threw up her hands in disgust. "Were you or weren't you the same bleached- blonde Billy Idol lookalike—"

"Sid Vicious!"

"—Whatever—who told me he was waiting for 'one good day' when you would finally get rid of me? And came to my house with a double-barreled shotgun afterwards?"

Spike's eyes narrowed to thin blue slits. "You're conveniently forgetting a few details there, pet. Like when you cried on my shoulder because your mum's got that head problem, and I tried to talk to you. Like when I didn't goddamn shoot you!"

"Vampires are inherently evil. Bunnies are cute, the Pope is Catholic, shiny light-blue eyeshadow is utterly dead, and vampires are evil. They are evil because they are demonic and have no souls. No matter how sneakily they try to get you to fall into liking them." Buffy crossed her arms and stared at the wall of the crypt. "This is the way of the world. I kill vampires because they can't be anything but evil. And—," she took a breath and continued.

"If you're not evil, then my whole life has been a lie."

"Don't you think I know that," he snarled, whirling around on her. Buffy shrank back in surprise. "You think I want to be like this—this half-thing? Half-man? I'm not the big bad anymore; I can't be even a mediocre bad guy anymore. There's a sodding microchip in my head that tries to lobotomize me every time I think anything less fluffy than 'what a beautiful sunny day it is today.' But I couldn't ever be one of your precious Scoobies either, I'm never going to be good enough for you. So what am I? What am I, then?"

"I don't know! If I knew that I wouldn't be sitting here. I'd be kicking your ass or something."

"Right, well, isn't that just like you – yelling at me that you're going to kick my ass and never believing anything but what your stupid Watcher told you or you read in their books or goddamned anything else they inculcated into your bloody empty head. Do you ever think for yourself?"

Buffy found her spine and stood up. "I think for myself every day when I'm out there! Do you think I made it to the grand old age of twenty by being stupid? No, you just expect me to be all 'oh, he says he has a crush on me so that means he must be a good guy'? Well, screw you, Spike! It doesn't work like that! It was only a couple of weeks ago you were in my face saying you were just waiting for your chance to kill me. You're a liar, and I'd have to be crazier than Drusilla to believe you've all of a sudden decided that you've been in the wrong business for the last hundred years. You know what I think, Spike? I think you're just sneaky enough to think that as long as you can't physically hurt me, you'll settle for getting in my head and getting me all messed up so I can't fight and someone else kills me."

Spike stared at her for a long moment and said in a low tone, "Get out. Just get out, go away and leave me alone." He turned around and walked over to the corner, staring at a spot on the dirty stone wall. "Go cry on Red's shoulder about how mean and nasty old Spike was to you. Have the loverwiccas soothe you with chamomile tea and scones or something while you weep about how cruel fate is to you. Whatever it is you women do when you think you'll never find twoo wuv, or some man has mortally wounded you by thinking for himself. Just go away, and leave me alone."

"Fine. I don't know why I tried to talk to you about this, anyway. I should've known nothing would happen," Buffy spat out and stepped towards the door before changing her mind and executing a neat about-face to stride over to Spike. She poked him in the back with her index finger and he ignored her. "I should've known you'd—."

"What? What should you have known I would do? Kick you out on your sodding ass for being such a whiny bitch?" Spike remained standing with his back to her although he gestured with his arms a little bit as he spoke. "Well, you are, you know!" He mimicked her with a falsetto tone. "'Oh, poor me, my boyfriends always leave me all alone and whatever will I do now without a big, strong man? Oh, I could go kick a puppy, but no, Spike never learns to keep away like a puppy dog would, so I'll just go pick on him'! Just get away before I make you wish you had."

"Oh, and how do you propose to do that?" Buffy poked Spike again, and again got no reaction, though a muscle twitched in his left cheek. "Always with the empty, trite threats. Typical. Whatever, Spike. I'm leaving."

Before Buffy could take a step, Spike had whipped around and grabbed her arms, pinning them to her sides, and backed her up against the wall. "Not an empty threat," he said slowly, and leaned in towards her. She said nothing, just glared at him as trapped her and stared imposingly at her. "Bitch." She was immobile in his grip, and unresponsive to him as he leaned down and kissed her. After an eternity, Spike pulled back and whispered directly into her ear, "You know, I could do that all day. Not having to breathe and all. You wouldn’t have a chance."

She closed her eyes and answered him, "I hate you." Then he kissed her again, less in anger than in desire, and this time she gave in and kissed him back. They broke for air and Spike said, calculatingly, "I’ll take hate, for now." He released her arms and stepped away from her, and watched as she ran for the door.

Buffy slammed the crypt door shut and leaned against it, her heart racing. She listened to the quiet graveyard, tuning her ears to find audible sounds of life – or unlife – aboveground before venturing out to head home. Instead, what she heard was the sound of breakage from inside the crypt. Breakage punctuated by loud, angry shouts in a very familiar Cockney accent. She smiled grimly and headed up the stairs.


"I ran out of there and slammed the door as hard as I could. I hope I broke something. I stayed there for a minute trying to hear if anybody was outside already in the graveyard but all I could hear was him, inside, swearing like a sailor and throwing stuff around. Breaking it. So I just split." She sighed and sat down on the bed. "And now you know my side of the story."

"Wow." Willow said, and flopped down on the bed next to Buffy. "Just... wow."

Tara sat down next to Willow. "So, what are you going to do now? Just leave it like that until you go insane, Spike drinks himself to un-death, and Willow bakes enough cookies that there's no more room left in our house?" Her smile removed any sting from her words.

"I don't know. What can I do? I mean, it's not like I can make him take a lie detector test to find out if he's telling the truth about not being evil anymore."

Willow blinked. "Why not? I—I mean, maybe not a real polygraph, but we could probably find something spell-ly to work on him."

"I don't know, Will. That seems kind of, you know, invasion of privacy?" Buffy gave a lopsided smile. "Besides, he'd never agree to it."

"But he wouldn't even have to know about it! I mean, we don't have to do something that requires him to sit down and take a multiple-choice exam. We could do something on a smaller scale." Willow resumed pacing as she thought about the possibilities, with Tara and Buffy still sitting on the bed. "Like, what about a little truth spell, Buffy, you could go to talk to him and cast it on him and then ask him if he's still evil. Or something. Hmm."

Tara weighed in with her opinion. "Will, I don't know. Truth spells don't always have the expected outcome, y'know?"

"But Tara, this is about the only way I can think of that Buffy could find out for sure what Spike's feelings really are."

Buffy grimaced and murmured, "I can't believe I'm saying this but, what sort of spells can we dig up?"


"Okay," Willow announced. "I think I found one."

"Yeah?" Buffy asked through a mouthful of cookie. "Did I mention yet these are really yummy cookies, Will? You are definitely on dessert duty for the next all-Scooby dinner."

Smiling, Tara replied, "You're just saying that because you can go home when you're sick of cookies. I don't think I'll ever want to see a macadamia nut can ever again."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Look at what I found, here." Willow pushed the book across the table so that Buffy could read it. "It's easy, and hopefully inconspicuous, to cast, and it makes the subject answer any arbitrary question about himself truthfully."

Buffy wrinkled her nose. "I guess. But what question do I ask? I think that needs as much thought as finding the spell."

Tara suggested, "Well, why not do something pretty basic? 'Spike, do you really want to return to being a murderous vampire, or are you truly interested in working with humans to stop the evil demons?' Or, something like 'Spike, will you agree to give up feeding on humans if it means you have a shot at smoochies with me?'"

Buffy looked amused. "C'mon, I don't know that I want to even imply that he has a chance at smoochies with me. Beyond the whole murdering evilness thing, there are whole realms of other issues. What if – what if Spike secretly likes country-western music or something?"

Willow burst out laughing. "Oh, I can see it now. Harmony's 'platinum baby' in a ten-gallon hat and leather chaps. And singing along to some song about how his best friend ran off with his wife in his favorite pickup with the brand-new gun rack."

Even Tara collapsed into giggles then. Willow was the first to sober up. "But really, Buffy, I think this could work. It's even relatively cheap, the ingredients, I mean, so Anya won't complain at me like she did last time."

"Okay. Well," Buffy pushed her chair back from the table and stood up, "let's get to it. What do we need first?"