Hello all! I’m very excited to be making my very first Seasonal Spuffy post! Thanks so much to the mods for keeping up this awesome community, and thanks to all the members who supply the awesome spuffyness. :)
Title: The Real Me
Setting: Season 6, Post “Doublemeat Palace”
Genre: Comedy with a gooey, wholesome center
Word Count: ~5,800
Summary: Dawn unknowingly sets off a spell to step into Buffy’s shoes for a day – literally and figuratively – and wakes up to find herself trapped in her sister’s body. Unwilling to go to the Scoobies, who wouldn’t be much use to her anyway, she seeks out Spike for help, and in the process ends up getting first-hand experience in what is an average day in Buffy’s life – including, and especially, the lusty vampire.
Author’s Note: Beta’d by musesinbasement
Dawn knew from the moment she woke up that something wasn’t right.
Startled awake by the slam of the front door – most likely Willow was late for class again – Dawn grumpily sat up, rubbing her eyes. In a sleepy haze, she couldn’t recall why she was so groggy, or what she’d done the night before. Maybe another late night movie and pizza fest, she thought.No doubt it was all alone. There was no way she’d have been hanging out with Willow, especially after all of her late-night antics egged on by her brief best friend, Amy the rat – aptly named if Dawn did say so herself. She had felt guilty about keeping Tara over a few nights earlier and then having her run into an awkward meeting with Willow and said rat, so she surely wouldn’t have put her in another situation like that again. And Buffy… No one knew where her head was these days, let alone her actual self.
Dawn blinked a few times then turned over to her nightstand. Wasn’t she supposed to be at school right now?
She stared and stared, but the sight before her eyes remained the same, and the same question flitted countless times across her mind: Where’s my nightstand?
She slowly turned, looked down at the bed, and then took a frantic, sweeping glance around the room.
She had fallen asleep in her sister’s room, and she didn’t remember the night before, let alone why she would have slept in Buffy’s room.
Dawn tried to calm her nerves. It was no big deal, she’d find her sister asleep downstairs or not even home yet, she tried to convince herself.
She got up off the bed and began to head across the hall, thinking that maybe she and her sister had switched rooms. But just as she landed her feet on the floor, a short blonde lock of hair fell into her face. Instinct made her begin to unconsciously brush it behind her ear, but she stopped mid-way, dread filling her stomach.
She rushed over to the mirror, staunchly refusing to look down at her body, her mind blossoming with a myriad of reasonable explanations for the blonde lock.
Maybe we had a sister day yesterday and Buffy let me dye my hair – and cut it too!
It was really sunny; people say the sun makes your hair blonder!
Maybe I went swimming; people say chlorine will make it blonde too!
The mirror squelched all of her denial like a sharp slap to the face. But it wasn’t her face. Dawn gaped at her reflection:
Blonde hair. Green eyes. Shortness.
She moved closer to the reflection, Buffy’s eyebrows scrunched in concern. Man, she thought, monster wrestling really had gotten the best of her lately.
Shrugging off the initial shock of seeing her reflection, Dawn continued the trek to her room, promptly halting after taking two steps inside. There, on her bed, lay her, sleeping as carefree as a kitten. She inched closer, doing her best to not wake Dawn, er, herself up. Hesitantly, she tapped her shoulder. No response; she just gave a short snort and snuggled closer to the pillow.
Dawn panicked. Who would know why she woke up suddenly in her sister’s body? She couldn’t ask Willow for help. For one, she wasn’t really on speaking terms with her at the moment. Number two, Willow was on a no-magic kick. She wouldn’t be able to help even if she wanted to. Dawn couldn’t go to Giles for help. He was an ocean away. And even if she did call him, he’d just freak out and fly over to Sunnydale and make a big worry stink and get mad at her and…
Her thoughts were interrupted by the shrill ringing of a phone. Dawn considered not answering it, but it could be her school calling about her absence; even if she hadn’t yet taken a glance at a clock, she was bound to have already missed one or two classes. She was Buffy though, so she could just tell them Dawn was sick, couldn’t she?
She hesitantly reached for the phone. “Hello?”
“Buffy Summers?” The voice was curt and serious, and suddenly Dawn found herself wondering if answering the phone was such a great idea.
“Y-yes?” She affirmed shakily.
“This is Lorraine from the Doublemeat Palace. I was surprised to see that you didn’t come in on time this morning.” Dawn’s eyes widened in fearful anticipation; answering the phone was definitely a bad idea.
“I – I’m sorry. Things have been really wacky lately,” Dawn rushed to explain, “I…” Dawn hurriedly moved over to her sleeping form on the bed, forgoing the hesitant taps and violently shaking her shoulder.
“Now, I know things are tough, Buffy, but I expect more from you. Like I told you, I want people who want to be here.” Lorraine emphasized, serious.
“I do,” Dawn affirmed, “I do want to. I – “
“Your shift started ten minutes ago. I expect you here in less, and I expect this will be the last time this happens, or I’m going to let you go.”
“Of course,” Dawn hurried to comply with Buffy’s boss. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“You’d better be.” The phone call ended with a sharp click and Dawn was left with nothing but a dial tone and the phone cradled in her hand.
She stared at the evil communication device, cursing it for shoving her into a situation way out of her league. Jobs? Fast food? Supervisors? That wouldn’t be in Dawn’s line of vision for a few years, and she was quite comfortable with being job-free for the time being. However, even if she had just woken up into a world not her own with absolutely no knowledge of how and why and with no idea how to go about fixing it, Lorraine had said Buffy would be fired if she wasn’t there – and soon. Knowing she couldn’t get Buffy fired – Dawn did have to eat and have a roof over her head – she sighed and searched for the god-awful orange polyester uniform before taking one last violent effort to wake “herself” up.
No such luck.
Fixing the problem would have to wait until after however many hours Buffy’s shift might be – and Dawn hoped it wouldn’t be too long. With one last glance at her sleeping self, she donned the uniform, and, tugging on her cow-chicken hybrid hat, she made her way out the door.
Eight hours later Dawn found herself half-running, half-limping home to wash the pounds of grease away. Internally being the pubescent teen she was, Dawn couldn’t help but imagine all the horrible things it was doing to Buffy’s pores. She couldn’t run away from Doublemeat Palace fast enough – but with Buffy’s super-speed it was pretty darn close. Not only had she been horrified to had to have come up with the lamest explanation for why she had all of a sudden forgotten how to use the machines – “You know, short-term memory loss is the most prevalent of all memory loss…” – she had had to deal with the sketchiest people, employees and customers, and listen to a lecture from Lorraine about being a team player and other cliché motivational crap. She just prayed no one was on to the strangeness that was Dawn sleeping all day; hopefully the note she quickly left in her room informing Willow that she was sick worked its charm.
As soon as she got home, however, Willow wasn’t there. So after making sure that Dawn was still sleeping, the recently Buffafied Dawn ran off to commence de-greasing. As she scrubbed Buffy’s skin as hard as she could, she considered her options. Getting Willow’s help was a definite no, Giles would have an aneurysm, Tara was occupied with her own set of problems and Dawn would feel awful for dragging her into another one, Xander wouldn’t have a clue what to do, and Anya…Anya would probably have a few ideas, but she wasn’t really the magic person in Magic Box, that was Giles’ thing.
Then again, she thought, there was always Spike. He would definitely help her – both because she was Buffy and because she was Dawn, he wouldn’t freak out like Giles would, he did know all about magic, and he could probably help fix her too. She smiled, relieved that her predicament might actually be fixed soon.
After giddily shutting off the water, Dawn raided her sister’s closet for something to wear.
Hopefully, she thought, the weirdness will all be over soon.
“Spike?” Dawn called out, making rounds around his crypt. Hearing nothing, she found herself moving towards the lid to the “secret” lower level. It took some getting used to her newfound strength to not ruin the heavy stone, but Dawn managed to set it aside without injury, and then began to make her way down the shaky staircase. She should have felt guilty for invading his personal space, but it was an emergency, and besides, she was sure he would understand.
After landing her feet onto the cool stone floor, she strained her eyes in the dimly lit room, but came up with no Spike-shaped figures. She called his name a few more times, the last few sounding way too desperate for her liking, but heard only Buffy’s voice echo back to her. Her eagerness deflated, she slumped and kicked at a chunk of rock on the floor, deciding maybe she would have to get the Scoobies’ help after all. She reached for the ladder, raising a foot over the bottom rung.
“Oof!” Dawn suddenly found her back pressed against cool stone, kept in place by a dense weight. As she came back to her senses, blinking rapidly she saw Spike’s face looking down at her, smirking.
“Miss me, Slayer?” Buffy’s eyes grew to saucers at the brazen look in Spike’s eyes, full of lust. Dawn laid still, thoughts seemingly frozen in shock, and found herself unable to form the merest firing of nerves to move let alone form a basic sentence. The only thought escaping the confines of her mental lockdown was the fleeting “his eyes are really blue,” but it was promptly forgotten once Spike’s lukewarm hands trailed her sides and began to trek inward and down, and Dawn began to feel the strangest poking sensation against her thigh…
Realization sent her nerves firing, she had to admit not all in an unpleasant manner, yet Dawn lifted a leg, using her adopted strength to send Spike flying across the room.
“What are you doing?!” Buffy’s voice sounded shrill, but all insecurities Dawn felt about the way she sounded were now insignificant. She was thoroughly and utterly freaked.
“Why do you always have to play me so bloody hot and cold?” Spike fired back from where he lied on the floor. “You came to see me, Slayer, not the other way around.” Spike lifted himself up and dusted off his black tee, throwing Buffy spiteful glances, ones Dawn was unable to see in the still dimly-lit room. He stalked over to Dawn as she began to shakily stand and gripped Buffy’s left upper-arm roughly to pull her up the rest of the way. As close as she was to Spike now, Dawn could see his eyes were dark and clouded, no longer a dreamy blue.
“Geez,” she muttered, dusting off her jeans, “I was just coming over for help, not for my first experience getting manhandled.” Dawn winced as she flexed the arm Spike had roughly grabbed. “You’re gonna leave a…” she stopped, realizing with a horrible sense of clarity where Buffy’s bruises and marks, which were now her bruises and her marks, had really come from. Luckily he didn’t notice her attempts to stop the gagging sensation she was suddenly inflicted with.
“Figures you’re just here for hel – what you mean ‘first’?” Dawn watched as Spike’s eyebrows crinkled. Carefully and slowly, he leaned in and took a predatory sniff, rendering Dawn feeling once again violated, this time in an utterly and thoroughly awkward way.
“You smell like all kinds of dark magic…” he muttered, his voice trailing off. Spike drilled holes into her eyes, tipping her chin up to meet his sharp gaze. Abruptly, he released his hold, her chin slumping down. He backed away, seizing up her clothes: denim pedal pushers, a plain white tee, a zip-up blue cotton sweater, and matching blue Keds.
“You’re not Buffy.” He backed up further, full of suspicion.
“That’s kind of why I’m here.” Dawn rolled her eyes at Spike’s predatory stance, his arms braced at his sides, ready to move quickly if need be. “You know, for help?”
Spike stood stock still, maintaining his stance and trying to keep his face impassive. “…Dawn?” He said her name quietly; as if he were unsure it was her and was fearful he’d be wrong, yet hoping he was. At her nod, he backed up from her even further, his hands rising from his sides as if on fire, then shakily making their way to his hair, smoothing out the curled locks.
Dawn tapped her foot, annoyed. Sure, the awkwardness had been majorly awkward, and she internally was still reeling from Spike’s touch, but the problem that had prompted said awkwardness was still there, and as the day wore on she found herself wanting to return to her own body with an increasing sense of urgency.
She watched as Spike paced and let out a litany of curses, most of which were way too British for Dawn to even begin to comprehend, then awkwardly made his way towards her, still keeping a great distance. “I’m so sorry, Dawn,” he apologized, his expression overwrought with regret.
At first Dawn was thrown by an apology actually leaving Spike’s lips – an honest apology, but she shrugged it off. “Don’t mention it – literally, never mention this ever, especially now that the cat’s out of the bag that you’re boinking Buffy. She’d kill you if she found out about this. Actually,” she thought, “she’d probably quarter you and send your individual limbs’ ashes to the four corners of the earth – she’s protective like that – about meand her boyfriends,” she said with a smirk.
Spike, less shaken, whipped his head up at “boyfriend,” but kept silent.
“So… what’s with that?” Dawn pried, curious.
“With what?” Spike replied, feigning obliviousness.
Dawn sighed. “You and Buffy? I’m guessing there’s trouble in paradise?”
Spike exhaled, drawing his fingers through his hair. “Look, Bit, you can’t go blabbing about this to the Scoobies, alright?
“Actually,” he paused, and then angrily poked a finger through the air, “go ahead and tell them,” he exclaimed haughtily. “It’d do her right.”
“Okay…” Dawn treaded lightly, “sensing my assessment, despite the fact that I very much lack in credibility in relationships, is accurate.” And I won’t go blabbing, she added silently. She hadn’t ever been the gossip-y type, for one, and there were clearly too many issues already in their relationship for her to add more fuel to the fire. Besides, right now she couldn’t afford to pay any attention outside of her current predicament. “Look, are we going to get to the ‘getting me into my body’ now, or are we going to keep brooding?”
“I do not brood!” Spike asserted, indignant.
“Sure you don’t,” Dawn coddled. Then, wasting no time, she launched into the story of the start of her day.
“So, what’re we looking for, again?” Dawn trailed alongside Spike, the both of them making their way across the cemetery.
“We are going to your house where I will be looking for any traces of clues around you, or Buffy, or whatever or whoever you are now,” he complained, rubbing his temples.
“Well, this is getting horribly confusing,” she whined.
“Very,” he agreed.
Reaching the sidewalk in front of the house, Dawn watched as Spike began to tense. “Why don’t we go through the back, Bit?” he suggested. “You might not fancy running into the Scoobies in your state, yeah?”
“Mhm,” Dawn mocked, circling him, “and this has nothing to do with the whole ‘don’t go blabbing ‘bout this, Bit’ bit, huh?” Dawn smirked.
“Absolutely bloody not!” Spike exclaimed, livid.
“Face it – you’re so whipped.” Dawn couldn’t damper the giggles erupting from her belly.
Spike glared at her, and then walked towards her, his eyes serious. “Just think they’d impede me helping you, is all. And we both know they wouldn’t be able to help you, what with Red being off the magicks for good.”
Dawn sobered. “Fine,” she acquiesced, “the kitchen door it is.”
Quietly they made their way inside and up the stairs, shutting the door once they were inside Dawn’s room.
Carefully Spike leaned over Dawn’s bed and repeated his earlier assessment of “Buffy” with Dawn’s still-sleeping form, this time taking more care in being gentle.
“Well?” Dawn asked, nervous.
“It’s the same,” he reported. “She reeks of dark magic.”
“And?” Dawn prodded, anxious.
“I can’t be sure, but – “ The sound of a slamming door cut him off. Rising, Spike tuned his ears to the downstairs foyer. “It’s Red and Xander, and his girl.”
“How can you…?” She scrunched Buffy’s nose in disgust. “Oh, ew, is it the smell thing?”
“Shush,” he instructed, and kept his ears tuned. “They’re coming up he – “
He was too late; the three of them were already coming through the door.
Unconsciously Dawn huddled next to Spike, fearing what was to come. Would they know she wasn’t really Buffy? Would they kick Spike out, leaving her with no hope for a cure? Dawn whimpered, imagining being stuck in Buffy’s body forever, confined to a life of long nights slaying and long days at the Doublemeat Palace.
Xander and Willow stopped in their tracks as they caught sight of Spike and Buffy, Anya following suit after bumping into Xander. Xander looked angry and suspicious, Willow confused and concerned, and Anya unfazed, sporting a smile, the only one to speak up.
“Hi.” She glanced at her fiancé and Willow, then to Spike and Buffy. Feeling the tension in the room, she broke the silence, leaning towards the latter two as if giving an aside. “We all seem to be awfully suspicious as to why you’re both here alone in a closed room with Dawn sleeping a couple feet away.
“Seems kinda kinky,” she tacked on.
“Anya!” Xander looked horrified.
“What? It does,” she grumbled.
“Buffy?” Willow looked to Dawn, showing more concern and much less anger than Xander, but seemingly still wanting confirmation from Buffy that she was not getting her kink on with Spike. Dawn sighed and rolled her eyes. They were always concerned with the most banal things, but for Buffy’s sake, she wasn’t going to spill her secrets for the fleeting pleasure of the shock factor. “No, I’m not having weird kinky sex with Spike. And besides, what are you guys doing up here?” She then noticed the white paper bag gripped in Willow’s hands. She pointed. “What is that?”
“This?” Willow held up the bag.
Xander cut in, “Willow got your note about Dawn being sick, and she told us about it, so we all chipped in for soup and movie rentals. She’s been getting a little too much of the short end of the stick lately, so we thought we’d throw her a night of pure, unadulterated fun.”
Dawn couldn’t help Buffy’s eyes from getting misty, despite Xander’s low jab at Spike and the fact that he was totally too late on preventing her adulterated night. She hadn’t been feeling very appreciated lately, and it was gratifying to know that the Scoobies, even Willow – who she hadn’t been making nice with lately – didn’t need much provoking to consider doing something special for her.
“Buffy? Are you alright?” Dawn blinked a few times to clear her vision.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” she reassured Willow.
“Um, Buffy?” Spike looked to her, annoyed. “Why don’t we tell your buddies that we were just checking up on ‘ol sick Dawnie and we’re gonna be on our merry way, ya’ know, out to patrol?” Spike nudged his head towards the door, raising his scarred brow.
Dawn opened her mouth to speak, but Anya beat her to it, “You guys are acting awfully strange. And Buffy… what the hell are you wearing?”
“Anya! Rude!” Willow exclaimed.
“No, Willow, it’s true – something seems fishy here,” Xander interjected, suspicious, “And not just Buffy’s tween look. What’s going on?”
“Body swapping?” Anya asked excitedly, bubbling with confidence.
“What? That’s ridiculous.” Willow face was scrunched in distaste, annoyed.
“Not necessarily,” Anya replied, “It’s cliché, actually,” she added, shaking her head. “Though I always did enjoy a body swap or two; they never ceased to get some laughs.”
Dawn looked to Spike, who continued to feign boredom, and then sighed. They would have found out soon enough that her knocked out form on the bed wouldn’t wake up, and they did always have Buffy’s best intentions in mind, if not oftentimes misguided ones. Seeing no imminent harm in informing them of the situation, she launched into her story for the second time that day – omitting the details to how Spike really found out she wasn’t Buffy.
“Did you come across any shiny stones?”
“Did you come across any shiny necklaces that invoke singing hell demons? – ‘Cause, you know, that never ends well.”
“No and no, for the millionth time.” After she had finished her edited story, Dawn was bombarded by questions from Willow and Xander, each scenario posed for how she got into her predicament more implausible than the next.
“Did you make any wishes?” Anya asked, blasé. “Meet any new people lately with whom you had strangely deep conversations about very personal current life-issues, despite the fact you only just met?” They all turned to look towards Anya, who sat at the foot of Dawn’s bed, casually checking out her nails, then to Dawn.
“Um,” Dawn thought hard, coming up blank. “Maybe? I don’t know; it’s hard to keep track of every little thing I say,” she said, annoyed with the litany of stupid questions she figured were designed solely to make her feel like a lesser being with the memory of a termite.
“You think this was one of your vengeance demons?” Spike finally spoke up, unable to keep the belligerent tone of accusation out of his voice.
“Hey, there’s no need to get hostile, Dead Boy,” Xander defended his fiancé with more than a little hostility for the peroxide blond. “Whatever it is, we’ll fix it, and we’ll get Buffy back.”
“Oh, because we all know how great you lot are at doing that without any problems.” Spike spat, dripping with sarcasm.
“Hey now, all this male posturing is not helping!” Willow stepped between the two men.
“Oh, for crying out loud!” Anya got off the bed. “Halfrek!” She yelled toward the ceiling.
The group ceased their heated arguing and stared at Anya, confused.
“What’s a Halfrek?” Dawn asked, crossing her arms.
“Halfrek’s a vengeance demon, and an old friend of mine, who has a penchant for taking vengeance on the behalf of whiny, depressed children. I’m not sure if it was her that caused this mess, but I’m sick of hearing you all argue, and I’d rather be home watching television. Halfrek!” she yelled again at the ceiling, immune to Dawn’s shout of protest at being called “whiny.”
Suddenly the room was invaded by smoke, and the group jumped at the demon that appeared at the center.
“You rang?” it asked in a deep voice, glancing around the room at the three shocked faces of Xander, Willow, and Dawn.
Glancing upon Anya, it froze, and then beamed. “Anyanka!” the apparently she exclaimed, running over to embrace her. Anya returned the gesture, smiling. “How have you been?” Halfrek asked. “How’s human life treating you?”
Anya shrugged, throwing a hand in the air. “Oh, you know, partaking in the free market, being engaged.”
“Oh! Really?” Halfrek exclaimed. Anya excitedly showed off her ring, giggling with her long-time friend.
“Oh, bloody hell! Can we get on with fixing this?” Spike yelled, trudging up to Anya and Halfrek in the center of the room.
“William…?” Halfrek asked dazedly. She stared at him, her face contorting, unsure.
“Hey…” Spike replied awkwardly, scrunching his eyebrows. Dawn quirked a brow in amusement.
“As much as I hate to agree with the guy,” Xander interrupted, “can we please get on with fixing Buffy, er, Dawn, I mean, both of them?”
Halfrek looked around the room, then stopped upon Dawn, her gaze boring into her. “You desire to take back your wish?”
Dawn cleared her throat, nervous. “Well, yes. But I don’t even remember making a wish,” she said lamely. “I made a wish?” she asked, hating how meek Buffy’s voice sounded to her ears.
“Why, yes, you did,” Halfrek affirmed. She cleared her throat dramatically. “‘I wish… I could feel what she was feeling, like be in her shoes for a day?” she recited, emulating Dawn’s voice. “’Then maybe I could understand what it feels like for her. Then it wouldn’t be so hard.’”
“Hey!” Dawn protested. “I said that to my school couns…” Her voice trailed off as Halfrek transformed into her human visage. “That’s totally cheating!” she exclaimed. “And – and rude! And mean!” she tacked on, livid. How dare she twist her words and shove her into Buffy’s body! And what about Buffy? Where was she now while Dawn was occupying her body?
“That’s how you get ‘em, Dawn. It’s really Vengeance Demon 101,” Anya explained. “It’s like a basic transaction. You desire the wish, we can make it happen; supply and demand. Capitalism at its finest.” She smiled, her eyes staring off into the distance.
“Well… how’re we gonna undo the transaction? We need Dawn back as Dawn and Buffy back as Buffy,” Willow interjected.
“Course you’re thinking about needing Buffy…” Spike scoffed, then coughed roughly after being shoved in the gut with Buffy’s elbow.
“Look,” Dawn said tiredly, “I just want the spell lifted. I don’t want to be Buffy, I never did, and I don’t want to be any longer.”
“Well,” Halfrek started, nonchalant, “the spell was on a set duration of twenty-four hours, you did say ‘for a day…’”
“Just release it!” Dawn exclaimed.
“Fine!” Halfrek yelled, throwing her arms into the air.
Dawn felt hit with a blow to the chest, then found herself on a downy, soft surface. Her bed. She glanced down at her hands, her blue chipped nail polish giving her a confirmation that she, indeed, was back to normal. She smiled. Despite the pressure she still felt on her chest from being forced back into her body, she was fine. How was Buffy?
She forced herself to sit up and look towards her sister, who was slumped against Spike’s arm, the hand of his other arm balanced on her lower back to keep her steady. She smirked, and her impish grin grew as she noticed Xander’s displeased face at the pair.
“Buffy?” Willow flew to her side. “How do you feel?”
“Um…” she began shakily, looking around the room. “Fine,” she assured them. “What the hell happened? Who’s she?” she pointed to Halfrek, who remained at her position in the center of the room. Buffy finally seemed to notice Spike next to her, keeping her up and balanced. She shrugged him off, stepping away. Spike, miffed, scoffed and stalked out of the room, while Buffy avidly avoided looking toward him. Dawn frowned; things were definitely not peachy keen between the pair.
Anya made quick with a detailed explanation, no doubt looking to be done with the fiasco and hurry home. Buffy seemed overwhelmed, and none too pleased, but kept a steady face.
Hoping to erase some of the tension in the room, and possibly gain some brownie points with her sister, Dawn got up from her bed and asked Buffy where she had been the entire day.
“I’m not exactly sure,” she began, slightly uncomfortable. “I just remember…” she scrunched her nose in thought, “it was Wednesday.”
“Ooo, the land of perpetual Wednesday?” Anya asked excitedly, forgetting her desire to rush home.
“Uh, I guess…” Buffy remarked, perturbed.
“Well.” Xander clapped his hands. “Buffy’s back being Buffy and Dawn’s back being Dawn. All is well!” he proclaimed with a nervous smile, then added awkwardly, “And your friend can go now.”
Anya started at that, throwing Xander a hurt glare, but said her goodbyes to her friend regardless, promising a mailed invitation to her wedding soon. Halfrek was off, throwing her arms in the air with dramatic flare, a poof of smoke signaling her departure.
Wishing Buffy and Dawn a good – and safe – night, Willow retreated to her room and Xander and Anya left for their apartment. Anya, though miffed at Xander’s rudeness to Halfrek, was pleased to finally be on the way home.
Left alone with Buffy, Dawn hung back, staring at her sister with wide, regretful eyes in hopes that she wouldn’t blow up now that her friends left.
She didn’t. Bidding Dawn goodnight and making an off-hand remark that she was exhausted, Buffy made a move to walk across the hall to her room. If Dawn wasn’t mistaken, she would say Buffy was being avoid-y. She’d been assuming that position too often lately, Dawn thought, and Dawn had some things to get off her chest before Buffy clamed up for good. She wouldn’t let her avoid the issue this time.
“Wait.” Dawn stepped in front of her. She twisted her hands around, nervous, but she forced herself to stand firm and speak. “I’m sorry, Buffy, I didn’t mean…”
Buffy cut her off tiredly, “Dawn, you don’t have to. You didn’t mean for it to happen.”
“No, I should. I mean, now I know to never, ever use the ‘W’ word,” she stressed, “but I sent you off to some Wednesday world and I should apologize.”
“Apology accepted,” Buffy smiled meekly, then made a move to walk past her sister.
“Wait!” Dawn stopped her again, placing her hand in front of her chest. She hadn’t even begun to start what she was really aiming to say. “I…” she began weakly, then toughed, strengthening her resolve, “I was mad, at first. That Anya’s friend went and shoved me into your body. But Buffy… now? I think… I think it did work; I do get it, at least a little. I get how hard it is for you. I don’t… I don’t know what it was like, where you were… and coming back, and I don’t know how it felt. But I think I have an idea how it is, now. I think now I should be grateful to Halfrek; she gave me some insight. And… I know about Spike, Buffy.”
Buffy let slip a quick gasp, her eyes growing with fear.
“And I know things aren’t nearly perfect, and you aren’t exactly gunning to tell the world about you two; I can respect that,” she rushed to clarify. “And I don’t wanna know all the intimate details. Or actually, I don’t want to know any details,” she emphasized. “But Buffy… I do know that throughout the whole fiasco, Spike was protective, of me and you. I know how much he cares about you; it was obvious.
“And even if things aren’t great,” she continued, “Even if you aren’t jumping head over heels for him, and even if you drive each other up the wall… Buffy, he’s there for you, and if he’s the only one you can talk to, who understands, you know,” she implied uneasily, “about what happened, then there’s nothing wrong with that.” A thought occurred to her, “If there’s one thing I learned this past year, the past summer, it’s that you don’t take the ones who care about you for granted, and you don’t take what they’ll do for you lightly.” Surprising herself with her own advice, Dawn made a quick mental note to follow it herself; she’d have a chat with the Scoobies – and Willow and Anya especially – later. It was high time she stopped being petty with Willow. She’d proven how remorseful she was for all she’d done recently. As for Anya, she had saved the day. She deserved some gratitude, even though she hadn’t been very sympathetic to Dawn’s feelings; but had she ever been the picture of sensitivity?
In response to Dawn’s advice, Buffy looked away, seemingly feeling guilty.
“Don’t forget that,” Dawn concluded, “And don’t take it all for granted.” Dawn moved forward to envelope her sister in a quick bear-hug, then she left for her room. It was up to Buffy how she was going to take Dawn’s advice; if at all.
Hearing the front door creak open and shut, Dawn sat up from bed, rubbing her eyes. For a split second, she panicked, and rushed to look around the room to reassure herself nothing had gone wrong for the second time that day. Glancing at the nightstand, her nightstand, she sighed with relief, and saw that it was three A.M. The door was probably Buffy back from patrol, Dawn thought, or hopefully, from following my advice. Curious, and concerned, Dawn got up from bed and tiptoed through the hallway and down the stairs, commanding her ears to listen for any noise.
Spotting Buffy seated at the kitchen island, her face turned to study the countertop, Dawn pressed against the wall, out of her sister’s line of vision. From her position, she could hear her sister’s voice, quiet enough to not reach past the stairs, but not quiet enough to prevent Dawn from catching a word or two. She couldn’t quite catch the gist of what she was saying, however, or who she was speaking to. Maybe she’s on the phone with Giles, she thought. It’d be late morning where he was, if Dawn was thinking correctly.
A pale hand came into Dawn’s line of vision, lying on top of the island countertop. All questions of who Buffy was speaking to were gone, and Dawn held her breath as she waited for her sister’s reaction.
She watched as Buffy slowly raised her head to glance straight across the counter. Hesitantly, her face unsure, Buffy brought her hand to lay on top of Spike’s. At the last second, however, Spike pulled his hand back. Buffy’s face was shocked, then indignant, until she heard a low-pitched chuckle. Smiling, she playfully raised her hand again, this time for a well-deserved smack. Her hand was forced off its intended course, however, as Spike’s hand grabbed her wrist and then pulled her to meet him halfway across the counter for a chaste kiss.
Slowly moving towards to the stairs, Dawn quietly retreated back to her room, content.
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.dreamwidth.org/319691.html