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"Spike?" Willow stepped closer to the vampire and began to reach out to him.
He whimpered and pulled back from her as if he thought she was going to hurt him.
"Spike, it's ok. It's me, Willow."
"Red?" He carefully lifted his head to examine the person standing before him.
"Yes, Spike it's me. Did someone hurt you?"
Spike suddenly stood up so abruptly that it startled Willow enough to make her take a few steps backward. He tried to wipe the tears from his eyes fast enough so that she wouldn't realize that he was actually crying, but after hearing his whimpers there was just no hiding it.
"I'm all right Red. I'm fine...Really. I'll see you around ok."
"Spike! Wait! What's wrong with you? What happened? Something obviously had you spooked. Just tell me what it is."
"It's nothing. I'm fine. It's something you couldn't possibly understand." Spike started to walk away but stopped when Willow yelled out again.
Spike stopped then turned to face her. "You've been good all your life. Sure, you've made your mistakes as humans often do but you've never tasted my side of evil. You'd be clueless to what I feel."
Spike started to walk away again but Willow quickly caught up with him and grabbed his arm to stop him.
"What now?" he growled. "I told you I can't talk to you about this."
"Geez Spike, I knew you left town but I didn't think that you would have been completely clueless."
"What are you talking about?"
"Spike, I know we've never really talked but I've done some things...evil things. A lot happened after you left. I have tasted your side of evil. So I may be able to understand what it is that's going on with you better than you think."
"All right. I'll bite." Spike sauntered over to a nearby park bench and sat down. Willow followed and took a seat beside him. "You tell me what you've done that you think is so evil and I'll consider telling you what had me so spooked."
Willow noticed that the entire time they had talked so far, that he had not once looked her in the eye. He avoided it at all costs as if there were something in his eyes he didn't want anyone to see.
She began by telling him about Warren coming after Buffy in the backyard with a gun. She explained how she was shot but assured him that she was all right before he could even get the question in. He listened while she described in gruesome detail the way that she was forced to watch Tara die and how, even though she tried, there was no way of getting her back. She paused quite a few times during her story to take a deep breath and try to stop her voice from shaking.
Spike sat there, listening to her, trying to take in this huge load of information that she was giving him. She told him about the rage and despair she felt when she decided to go after Warren and the others. She winced as she described the look on Warren's face when she pierced his chest with a bullet and how he plead for his life. She described the feeling of satisfaction she had felt when she had peeled off his skin so easily with her black magicks and watched him burn up into nothingness in front of her and her friends and the horrid smell that filled the air afterwards. She then told him about the months she had just spent with Giles in England where she tried to get her life back together, describing the endless therapy sessions and how she would lock herself away for days at a time to just cry and scream and wish all of these memories away. The only thing that kept her even remotely sane during that entire time was the thought of Tara. She knew that it would break her heart to see her like this and each and every day that she lived, she lived for Tara. She tried not to fall apart because she knew in her heart that even though Tara was gone that she was still out there somewhere, watching over her and she wanted to make sure not to disappoint Tara by letting her watch her life fall apart.
Spike was stunned speechless. He was still avoiding her gaze and looked down toward the grass as he tried to soak in everything he had just heard. He couldn't believe that Willow was capable of something like that. She was always so sweet and good but he understood all too well what losing someone you loved could make you do.
"I'm sorry luv...about Tara." He finally spoke. "I know how much you loved her. She was a sweet girl. I liked her a lot." His voice cracked as he spoke those last words and Willow saw him wipe his eyes with the back of his hand.
She looked at him but didn't say anything. Was he crying? Crying for her? Crying for Tara? She had only seen him like this once before. When Buffy died he was a total wreck. That's when she realized how very deeply he loved her. She always doubted his love for her because she just couldn't imagine a vampire feeling true emotion for anyone but he had always seemed different in that way. But this time something was off. She could understand his emotional breakdown over Buffy but this was different. Seeing him whimpering on the ground like a scared puppy. Seeing him empathize with her. She knew that something had changed. She put her hand on top of his and he turned his head toward her but he still avoided her eyes.
"I do know how you feel, pet. When I lost Buffy it was like the world had come to a screeching halt. I was just about to ask one of you scoobies to stake me good and proper until I remembered a promise I made to her. I told her I would look after Dawn and that's what I did. My every moment was spent looking after that girl and when I wasn't doing that I would come visit Buffy at her grave and talk to her. I told her that I was trying to do right by her, and every time, I would try to explain that while searching for her in the stars. Then I would cry and tell her how very sorry I was that I couldn't save her and how much I wish she were there with me, even if she was just beating me up. I wouldn't have cared if she had risen in her grave just to stake me as long as I got to see her one last time. Everything I did after that was for her. I wanted to be noble and good and everything she would want me to be. That's what you have to do, pet. Be the girl that Tara fell in love with and just do right by her and then someday you can be together again."
"Thanks Spike." Willow smiled "As strange as it may be, you've actually made me feel a lot better about Tara. You're right. I just have to continue to be all the things she saw in me that she found to be so special. If I can do that, then she'll always be in my heart."
Spike finally looked into her eyes and she felt a jolt. She took in a quick breath as she searched to find what it was that was different in his eyes. He noticed her shocked expression and quickly looked away.
"Spike, What happened to you? Something is different. I can see it. I can feel it."
Spike sighed and locked eyes with her once again. She searched his face for answers but only saw a blank stare. He looked off past her shoulder as if he were contemplating how much he should actually tell her.
"When I left, I went to Africa."
"Africa? What for?"
"I don't know if you know about this but I did something really stupid toward Buffy and that's why I left."
"What did you do?" She looked panicked and feared his answer.
"I was just so desperate for her to love me. For a while I thought she might but I guess I was wrong and now she'll never trust me again." He sighed and ran his hand through his hair. "I was trying to force her to admit she loved me and things kind of got out of hand."
"How out of hand?" She asked.
"I thought if we were together again that she would feel something for me again. I was so stupid."
"Did you rape her?" Willow asked his horror filled eyes.
"No." he said, his voice raised. "But the truth is, I was so crazed that if she hadn't of kicked me away, I don't know what I might have done. So I left for Africa. I left so I could be the man she wanted me to me, the kind of guy she deserves. I went through tests. I fought to the death a couple times and I had insects crawling through my insides. I was strong enough to pass every test he threw at me. I would have done anything to get what I wanted. I would have done anything to win."
"Well, what did you win?" She asked still looking confused.
"My soul. I got my sould back."
Willow's jaw dropped. She was speechless. She finally knew what it was that she saw in his eyes. For the first time in months she completely forgot about all her troubles and surrounded herself with his.
"She probably won't ever love me with or without a soul, but I had to try. I had to do everything I could to try to be with her. All I want in the world is for her to love me back. In the end I'll probably realize that I did this for nothing because I know deep down that she could never feel for me what I want her to. But I'd never be able to go on if I didn't at least try."
"You have to tell her, Spike, you have to let her know. Does she even know that you're here?"
"No. She doesn't know yet. I haven't seen her. I'm afraid to. After I got my soul back I've had these constant reminders of the horrible things I've done. I'll have nightmares about it or they'll just pop into my head all of a sudden. I see in graphic detail all the poor innocent people that I've slain and my mind just can't handle it. I'll have breakdowns out of nowhere. They are the same every time. I'll end up crouched down in a corner somewhere screaming and crying and trying to push the images away. That's what was happening when you found me and that's why I have to keep my distance. I don't want her to see me like that."
"But you have to tell her. You can't keep this from her. How do you expect her to be able to trust you again if you keep hiding things from her? You've come this far, you can't turn back now. You did all of this for her and life is too short to let fear stop you. Trust me, I know."
"I'll tell her." Spike said in all seriousness. "When the time is right, I'll tell her everything."
To Be Continued...