Tara had been looking at Buffy oddly since she overheard the odd whisper about dust. Willow took the shaken girl to one side and tried to explain away Buffy’s comment.
"Buffy knows Spike and he gets in trouble like this all the time. He’s not dead, you’ll see. He has a real slow pulse is all. Yeah, and he’s a shallow breather,” she improvised.
Anya chimed in a bit too cheerily for the circumstances. "Yes, Spike is not easily killed. He can take all kinds of abuse, even likes it. It's like foreplay."
Tara raised a brow at that comment but still insisted, "We still need to get an ambulance for him quickly. He’s lost a lot of blood and I think they broke a lot of bones. He was really nice to me in there and made them let me go." Her lovely doe eyes filled with tears, "I just want him to be alright." She turned imploring eyes on the girl with the cell phone, silently begging her to make the needed call.
Buffy looked conflicted. “Spike’s not nice to anyone. There had to be something in it for him.” She didn’t see the shocked, reproving look on Tara’s face at the cold attitude being shown to the hurt man.
"Look, why don’t you let Willow walk you home and I’ll take care of this pest,” Buffy offered. "Looks like you’ve had a ratty night and standing in the rain worrying over him isn’t gonna improve it. He’ll be fine, I promise."
Tara felt weak-willed for agreeing to let this seemingly cold-hearted girl take charge of the situation. She would have stood her ground and made sure this man got the care he obviously needed if only it didn’t involve the possibility of getting her name in print. She really didn’t want her dad and Donny to come and pull her away from the only chance
she had for a life of her own, an end to her private hell. What if she became stubborn trying to save a man already dead only to lose her new life in the process?
"You’re sure he’ll be okay? Won’t I need to tell the police what happened?" Hoping to be reassured, she turned tear-filled eyes on Buffy.
"I really can’t see Spike wanting the police involved in this, believe me. No, he’ll be fine and the guys that did this will get what’s coming to them.” Buffy’s voice took a sharp tone with that promise. For some reason, the thought of a group of jackasses thumping on her vampire made Buffy’s blood boil. “Look, just go home and I’ll tell Spike how you helped. Maybe he’ll drop by and show you he’s okay in a day or two,” Buffy promised.
"Okay, but I really don’t feel right about this. It’s as if what was done to him doesn’t matter. There should be justice,” Tara replied. Tara was already wallowing in guilt over her agreement to hand the decisions over to a girl who seemed uncaring in the extreme.
"Justice is one thing Spike doesn’t want, believe me,” Buffy insisted.
Tara wondered if the helpful man in black was some sort of criminal for these otherwise seemingly nice girls not to want to involve the police. Maybe he was a troublemaker that the police would choose to blame for the problem no matter what Tara might tell them.
He had not seemed to be someone like that though, and she was usually a pretty good judge of character. She hadn’t yet tried to read his aura; right now it would mostly register pain unless he really was dead. Tara preferred to not judge people on anything but her own personal experience with them. So far, the poor beaten man had only done her a good turn. Actually, he was the only male in her short life to have ever done so. "Are you sure he’ll get the medical care he needs without the police getting involved?”
"Yeah, he’s a pain in the ass, but he seems to be my pain in the ass to deal with,” Buffy sighed. She was really uncomfortable feeling the concern she was feeling when looking at Spike in this condition. "I’ll make sure he lives to annoy another day. Anya, will you help me get Spike over to Giles’ while Willow walks--I’m sorry, what is your name?”
"My name is Tara Maclay. I’m new to Sunnydale University. Um, I..I..I’m a freshman,” the shy blonde replied.
Anya and Buffy pulled Spike up and began to drag him to his feet while the introductions took place among the young women.
Willow and Tara headed to the dorms of the university, with Willow giving advice to the newcomer about the areas in Sunnydale to avoid after dark.
"Great, he’s bleeding all over my new coat,” Buffy grumbled as the unconscious body of Spike pressed against her. "Geesh, wonder what he said to piss them off this much. He’s really thrashed! Well, he did say that vampires couldn’t bleed to
death, so he’ll be fine,” she reminded herself.
"Actually, he wasn’t completely correct,” supplied Anya. "I did know of a vampire that was completely exsanguinated. He began to look like a mummy and then his dust just blew away. It takes a lot because every single drop of blood has to be gone, but it can happen. I think Spike still has enough fluid in him to pull through,” she said reassuringly.
In spite of Anya’s words, it was clear from Buffy’s face that she was still concerned for the vampire they held between them.
"Anya, sometimes your stories scare me more than the vampires,” Buffy said with a nervous laugh. "Do you tell them to Xander too?"