This is my alternative to the botched resurrection spell post The Body. First of two loosely connected posts.
Rating: PG-13. Maybe R, but only for swearing.
Beta’d by: slackerace
Not Quite Forever
My first ficathon, infact my first ever -athon of any kind. That doesn’t mean you have to be gentle. Feedback’s the drug, but concrit’s the really good shit.
Spike only wasted a couple of minutes hollering at the Summers’ front door before heading out to the cemetery. He’d hardly expected to find Dawn there; if she’d given the grown-ups the slip it was for more purpose than getting the house to herself.
He had dutifully avoided Buffy in the weeks since her mother’s death, focused (self-absorbed?) as he was, even a vampire could see now was not a good time to pester her with his suit. So he’d not offered his condolences, just watched her patrol from a safe distance and taken out demons where he could, for the sake of doing something. And watched her house, and the wayward little sister who regularly snuck out after lights out.
The first time he’d spotted her shinnying down the drainpipe and out into the night he’d followed, feeling unpleasantly voyeuristic as she’d walked to the graveyard, laid flowers for her mother.
But every night since she’d stayed out longer, playing chicken with Sunnydale’s less pleasant inhabitants. Not that Spike was watching her, at first anyway. Happened to still be standing around, ’cause where else would he be with Buffy in bed and the sun not yet up, but a couple of nights spent tracking her increasingly aimless nocturnal wanderings and he was starting to grow suspicious.
Now Spike knew he could never really get a handle on human grief, and it was a long time since he’d been a hormonal adolescent himself, but on creatures of the night he was undoubtedly an expert and for whatever reason his little girl was dicing with death. So far – he flattered himself – his continued hovering presence had been enough to scare away the vampires at least. Either that or her life was charmed; tasty morsels stupid enough to wander after dark in Sunnydale were fewer and further between these days.
Without being fully aware of it, and certainly without questioning his motives, the vampire had fallen into a nightly pattern of Dawn watching, but tonight she had changed her routine and given him the slip and now she was touring the deadly open spaces of SunnyD without the big bad backup.
A scream narrowed down the search considerably and Spike raced in the direction of Resthaven.
Hy-ulab demons were fast and more than a match for your average human girl, but Spike took down the creature without breaking stride and flung the corpse away as he knelt by Dawn’s side, checking for serious injury.
“You okay, Bit?”
Was obvious she wasn’t, blood seeping through torn jeans and she was shaking like a leaf. But not too much blood, he decided, more shaken than damaged and she seemed to pull herself together as she recognised Spike.
“Where did you come from?” she asked abruptly as she sat up, and Spike narrowed his eyes.
“You’re welcome. As it happens you’re in my neighbourhood. Any particular reason you’re picking fights with Hy-ulab demons?”
The barely concealed hostility was replaced by confusion. “Um… I was taking a shortcut… It was there… D’you think my leg’s broken?”
He frowned at the lie and change of subject but let it go as he bent to examine her leg.
“Scrape and a sprain, I’d say. We’ll get you home for the expert medical advice.”
Spike was lifting Dawn to her feet when he felt the glare on the back of his head, turned to see the Slayer tapping a stake against her folded arms with dangerous impatience.
“You want to tell me why she needs medical advice?” asked Buffy icily.
“It’s not my fault!”
Buffy raised a sceptical eyebrow and Spike gave it up before he’d even started. “Hy-ulab demon. I killed it. She’s banged her leg up a tad, nothing serious.”
The Slayer stalked over, taking a firm hold of her sister. “Do I have to explain to you again why sneaking off to Spike’s crypt is a bad idea?”
Uh-oh. He really should know better than to stick his head above the parapet.
“Just stay out of it, Spike. You think it’s a big game? Playing rescue the damsel in distress? What will happen the time you’re not fast enough?”
Despite for once being innocent of any wrongdoing, Spike flinched under the force of her glare. He knew she was terrified of losing her sister right after her mother and a scared Slayer was a dangerous creature indeed, so he thought better of contradicting her. But they really needed to talk, because she was right; one time he wouldn’t be fast enough and for all her overprotectiveness, Buffy was blind to the problem.
Unfortunately Dawn chose this moment to add her two cents in his defence. “He just saved my life, you know. Is that why you’re mad at him? Would you rather I’d been eaten?”
Spike could see a muscle in Buffy’s jaw twitch as she tried to reason with the tearful girl. “You shouldn’t be in danger in the first place. He’s not your friend, Dawnie, he’s a vampire, and you can’t… hang out with him.”
Dawn shook off Buffy’s supporting arm and half limped, half stomped towards the gate. “Fine. You worry about Spike, I’ll just take my not-dead self home.”
Buffy made to start after her; Spike took his chance and grabbed her arm. “Don’t think you’re really seeing the big picture here, love,” he tried softly, but she shook him off angrily.
“I’m seeing you, and I really don’t want to,” she spat. “Which part of ‘stay out of my life’ did you not get? Never mind that you’re a seriously twisted influence on impressionable minds. Now get out of my way, I’m going to go and make sure nothing else tries to eat her tonight.”
Despite his best intentions Spike was starting to lose his temper, for once he had the sense to leave it alone, rather than erupt. “You and me need words about that girl,” he said with forced calm.
“Oh we do,” said Buffy dangerously, eyes flashing in a way that made Spike glad he was at a distance. “And here they are. Stay the hell away from my sister, you sick freak.”
Dawn lowered herself down from the guttering and landed lightly, turning round to see… a T-shirt. She took a step back in alarm, raising startled eyes to meet a cold blue gaze.
“Might wanna be getting back inside, Niblet. There’s vampires about.”
“Jeez Spike, lurk much?”
Spike remained impassive, looking right into her. “Not lurking, spying on you. Can’t have my nummy snacklette running into something nasty, another something nasty. Now do you want a leg up or are you going in the back door?”
Dawn recovered her poise after her fright and set her expression to fully pissed off teenager as she tried to walk past him. It was, to Spike’s mind at least, an improvement on the perpetually miserable teen of the last fortnight but it seemed an actual brush with death hadn’t put her off the idea, just strengthened her resolve.
Without seeming to move he was in front of her again.
“I’m going out!” snapped Dawn angrily.
“At eleven o’clock at night through your bedroom window,” stated the vampire with the barest hint of sarcasm. “You get a note from your big sis?”
“God!” She poured an awful lot of scorn into one short word, backed up by an eye roll and a sneer. “Who died and made you hall monitor? D’you think maybe she’ll sleep with you if you rat me out?”
Spike contrived to look hurt, though he’d seriously considered the ratting out option. ‘Cause what was a creature of the night supposed to do with a grieving adolescent? He’d happily rat her out to anyone who’d listen, but the Slayer had made it clear his observations were unwanted at best and now was hardly the time to be laying additional worries on her overburdened shoulders.
Stalking Dawn hadn’t turned out to be a foolproof option and he was getting a little tired of playing both guard dog and punching bag.
“‘Cause that’s all I ever think about, of course,” he complained. “Getting laid. There’s not a single solitary thought running round in my head ‘cept ‘shag Buffy.’ You’re not my friend, you’re just a tool for levering off your sister’s knickers and the only reason I don’t particularly want to see you eaten is so I can murder you all in your beds the second I get this chip out. Have I covered everything? You got any more displaced bitchiness for me?”
Dawn waved away his rant and made a bid for the moral high ground with an accusation. “Friends don’t grass up other friends when they want to sneak out for a drink.”
Would have been too much to hope that she’d just trot back inside, but he’d play along if it kept her safe. After all, if nearly being ripped to shreds a mere twenty-four hours earlier hadn’t put the wind up the lass what could he do? Did humans have guide books for this sort of thing?
“Drinking, is it?” Spike gave her his cheesiest grin. “Could do with a shot or two myself.”
If he expected her to be pleased he was again doomed to disappointment.
“You are not coming. I don’t want a babysitter. I want to have fun, meet boys. You know, without you.”
“Meet a lot of boys in graveyards?”
“It’s none of your business what I do.”
“True. But I ain’t playing ‘let’s fucking pretend’ with you either. Met hundreds like you back in the day; poor little lost girls, looking for a quick death or a reason to live. Ones that met me didn’t get either. You’d have been a real treat, wandering all alone, tasty little virgin…” he trailed off, distracted by a happy memory. “Wouldn’t kill ’em straight off, of course. Take a little time, introduce them into the ways of the world. Or take them home, new playthings for my dark princess.”
His attention snapped back to Dawn with a frightening intensity. “Them the kind of kicks you’re looking for, Sweet Bit?”
“You’re disgusting,” she rejoined automatically, but she took an involuntary step back and her voice was quivering.
Bugger, he’d gone too far. Even if he’d had a handbook it probably wouldn’t cover the hazards of bringing up your sadistic serial killer past. “Yeah, well. It’s not me looking for death in all the painful places. And I’m getting tired of following you, so get back inside with a bottle of pills and do it the old fashioned way.”
“You… asshole!” From fear to violence in nought point nought seconds, must be genetic, thought Spike as he calmly blocked her angry swing.
“You’re sounding more like your sister every day.”
“That why you’re stalking me too?”
Was obvious the anger was only just holding back tears so Spike let that one go over his head, took her shoulders, and tried to answer gently.
“Not everything’s about the Slayer. Don’t want to see you dead any more than she does but I can’t stop you if you want to bedead. Just pointing out there’s easier ways. What if you meet something that needs a nice live girl to hatch its young in? Not like you can call next please and wait for the demon that just wants to eat you. Or what if you died like I did? Think Buffy’d appreciate having to stake you?”
“It would be a relief!” said Dawn vehemently. “Something to kill, problem solved. She wouldn’t even have to bother with my funeral.”
Spike stared at her, open mouthed. “She loves you, Niblet. She’s trying to keep you safe.”
“To save the world from a hellgod, ’cause monks made her. She doesn’t like me or anyone. She acts like mom dying is this big chore she has to sort out, and as long as I’m locked up safely it doesn’t matter how I feel. Like last night, she didn’t care that I was bleeding as long as she got to blame you and go back to her nice quiet life. She doesn’t care about anything.”
“Balderdash! And pretty fucking callous with it, Niblet; ashamed of you.”
“Yeah?” sneered Dawn defensively, “‘Cause she can do no wrong. She yells at you for no reason and you just take it. Buffy’s always right.”
“She was right,” Spike insisted patiently. “Was bloody stupid, being out there, should have been yelling at you is all.”
“She didn’t have to yell at all, she could have asked.”
“Girl’s just lost her mother,” reproved Spike. “Think you’d understand a thing or two about that.”
“She never talks about her, she doesn’t miss her.”
Spike was starting to feel really worried. He knew Buffy didn’t realise what Dawn had been up to but he had no idea there was such a rift between the sisters. Seemed plain daft to the vampire that two people who loved each other so much could misunderstand each other so badly; suicidal thoughts might be a common part of grief but he was starting to suspect her troubles went deeper even than losing her mother.
“That’s enough of that. When an evil thing tells you you’re being callous, think it’s time to take stock a little. She’s trying to protect you, Bit. Thinks it’ll upset you if you see her crying, doesn’t want to talk about your mum in case she makes things worse for you. And she’s wrong, and ever so slightly stupid, but you can’t fault her motivation. Never known anyone who cares as much as your sister; worries about everyone in the whole damn world and loves you more than anything. It would destroy her if she lost you.
“She doesn’t know you want to talk? Because you haven’t told her. You don’t know how to deal with it all? She doesn’t either. Don’t think sharing the pain comes naturally to her, it’s just who she is and you love her anyway and cut her a bit of slack sometimes if she’s not perfect and doesn’t always get it. Don’t think you’re the only one that’s suffering – you’re a better person than that. Talk to her.”
To Spike’s surprise he found himself with an armful of sobbing girl.
“It’s hard, Spike.”
The vampire patted her awkwardly, suddenly aware that Buffy might take it into her head to do a second patrol before bed and this was not going to look good so soon after the ‘stay away from my sister’ speech.
“Sure it is. But you’re not on your own. She’d miss you terribly, Bit, you’re her whole life. And I’d miss you.”
Dawn snickered a little. “Aren’t you supposed to be evil?”
Spike shrugged easily. “I’m out of practice.” Gently he peeled Dawn off his duster and wiped at her snotty face with his sleeve. “Now get back to bed before your sis comes out and stakes me.”
Dawn picked at one varnished nail and hesitantly asked one last question.
“When you were saying earlier, about… what you did… you know. Playthings for your dark princess?”
Spike narrowed his eyes. “Let’s not go there, Bit.”
“Because Buffy wouldn’t like it?” she challenged.
“‘Cause you wouldn’t.” he answered shortly, warning in his voice.
“But I want to know. You used to tell me that stuff.”
He shook his head. “Scary bedtime stories are one thing, Bit. If you heard about what I’ve done to chits no different to you, for no better reason than I liked hearing their screams then you’d hate me, as rightly you should. And you’d be afraid of me, which you shouldn’t, cause I’d never hurt you or yours. So let’s not go there.”
“Is that who you are, without the chip?”
“Hell, I don’t know. They teach you how to ask difficult questions when the zits start erupting? You are my friend, with or without the chip, and I can’t say as I’d want to go back to who I used to be. Now get back in that window.”
Spike lit his second cigarette and settled himself on the porch steps. Didn’t think the littlest Summers would be creeping out into the night again but he’d learnt just recently nothing was as unpredictable as a teenager and he was damned if he’d get another scare like last night. Oh yeah… already damned. Besides, he wasn’t averse to making himself at home in the backyard; it was something to know both his girls were safe inside though a far cry from knowing them both happy.
Then the kitchen door opened, flooding the porch with light for the Slayer to step into. Backlit as she was, even a vampire couldn’t see the lines and shadows that had marked her face recently and Spike was momentarily transfixed by her curvy silhouette.
“Whatcha doin’?” Buffy asked casually.
“Nuthin’.” Spike answered quickly, of course immediately sounding guilty of something. He waved a rueful hand. “Well just stalking you, mostly. Not in an evil way.”
“Okay.” Buffy shrugged and padded over to join him on the steps. Spike watched her movements suspiciously. Not that the Slayer was often subtle when she was displeased with him but last time he’d checked she hadn’t been schizophrenic either so he was going to stay on his guard till the other shoe dropped.
“Nice night for it,” she added, sitting herself down neatly beside Spike and smoothing out her skirt.
“They finally put you on the happy pills, love?”
“No.” More unnecessary straightening of clothing then Buffy turned those big hazel eyes to the vampire. “So… Um… Who were you stalking, again?”
Uh-oh, busted. Her expression was perfectly innocent as she asked the question but Spike knew he was being played, she must have caught the Niblet on re-entry.
“‘Fore you do that magically appearing stake trick, I was only trying to look out for her.” He stopped short of edging further away but the impulse was there. “S’not like I enticed her-”
Shit. Heard him reminiscing about the good old days with her sister in the middle of the night or heard him calling her stupid? He waited for her to continue but she didn’t seem inclined to get specific and Spike certainly wasn’t going to put his foot in it by apologising for something she didn’t already know about.
“Thanks,” Buffy added.
Well that was unexpected. Spike gave her a long searching look, as if he couldn’t quite believe she wasn’t a cleverly constructed Doppelganger of his Slayer.
“What for, love?”
She gave him a look in return that plainly said duh. “Oh I don’t know. For rescuing my sister. Yesterday and today and any other times I don’t know about. Trying to help me out even though I’m such a bitch. Little things.”
Spike slowly considered the idea that violence wasn’t imminent, and that maybe for once when he tried to do the right thing someone was going to appreciate him. Not just someone. Buffy. He tried not to smile too much. “You’re welcome. Right fond of your little sis.”
“Considering the recent chains-and-ex-girlfriend incident, not so reassuring.”
Spike winced. “Don’t think about her that way,” he muttered, then realised he was missing a rather big point. “Not that I’d… chains are bad, I know that now. I wouldn’t…”
Buffy was watching him closely and Spike got the distinct impression she was enjoying his stammering. “They put a chip in my head,” he said defensively. “I don’t think so good now.”
“Whereas your evil pre chip plans all went so well,” Buffy deadpanned. “You can tell from how often you killed me.”
No doubt about it, Spike realised, she was laughing at him. He was so ridiculously pleased that it took him minutes to notice he was grinning at her like an idiot. “Sorry,” he said, without quite knowing if he was apologising for the chains or the killing or the smiling.
“That was quite a big speech back there.”
“Meant every word.”
“So I’m stupid, am I?”
Spike opened his mouth to try and claw his way back out of that hole but Buffy forestalled him. “I guess you’re right.”
“Only a little bit, in this one particular instance and if you tell anyone I said that I’ll… lie,” Buffy qualified hastily. She took a deep breath and went on more seriously. “I’ve forgotten what it was like, to be fifteen. It sounds stupid because it was only, like, four years ago but it seems… a lot longer. Too far away to even imagine what it’s like, y’know?”
Spike shrugged, further surprised by this confidence. “For me that’s literal. And she’s a girl,” he offered her a slight smile. “No-one ever understands them.”
“I’m sorry I yelled at you yesterday.”
The vampire could do nothing but shrug again. “If you’d picked any other moment I probably would have been doing something evil. Bad timing was all.”
“Yeah yeah, you’re the big bad.”
“Don’t mock me, I’ll tear your throat out.”
And he was so unscary she didn’t even bother looking at him – was staring up at her sister’s window until her eyes grew vacant.
“So how you holding up, pet?”
Jolted out of her reverie, the Slayer stood up and stepped towards the porch door. “I really don’t know,” she said softly, hand on the door handle. “I guess I’m just… holding. Goodnight, Spike.”
“You’re going to school today?” Buffy’s heart sank as she took in Dawn’s backpack and slightly mutinous expression. She’d planned a day of sororal reconnecting and sorting of mementoes.
“You said I should, remember?” said Dawn coldly. “Routine is important, blah dee blah I talk like a guidance counsellor’s handbook.”
“Oh yeah, routine. Is it okay if I just change my mind for no good reason?”
Dawn frowned, wrong footed. “I guess.” She dumped her bag on the kitchen island and picked up a pop tart. “You’re all weird this morning.”
Buffy shrugged. “I don’t think I’m ready to spend a whole day by myself.”
There was an instant softening; by way of conciliation, Dawn tossed her sister a spare pop tart. “I get that.”
“And your leg must still be sore. You should probably rest it.”
Thinking, now a little guiltily, of climbing out the window the night before, Dawn didn’t play the sympathy card. “I’ll mend. Lucky Spike was there,” she said pointedly.
Buffy took a deep breath. No matter how important it was, no matter that she knew her sister was going through the same, words would never come easy to her. “I’m sorry about the other night, sorry I was so angry. I heard you scream, knew I was too far away, I wouldn’t be able to get there in time. I can’t lose you too, Dawnie.”
It was hard to stay sulking in the face of that apology but the teen was playing it cool.
“Spike got there in time, it’s him you should be apologising to.”
“I did,” said Buffy calmly.
“Oh.” The last breath of wind taken out of her sails, Dawn slipped her ar round her sister. But she was still a teenager, there were always more boundaries to be pushed at, and it could be said she owed Spike a favour. “Maybe you could invite him over this evening, show there’s no hard feelings. We could rent a movie.”
Buffy eyed her sister suspiciously, then suddenly she smiled. “Okay.”
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/129387.html