Set at some point between Gone and Normal Again. Writen for rubywisp's Spander ficathon for gillards girl.
Thanks to serasempre for the beta.
Rubbing the Wrong Way
Xander looked at the papers and files that covered the Summers' dining room table and shook his head in disbelief. "I thought that I'd be getting away from lists and diagrams and pie charts when I came over to watch you."
"I don't need watching, I'm not a kid anymore." Dawn's comment was strictly pro-forma, they both knew that Buffy was the only person whose definition of 'old enough' mattered. "Is Anya driving you crazy with seating charts again?"
"Yeah. No." Xander rubbed his hands across his face. "Truth is, weddings are hard to plan; and research is boring. But that doesn't mean that we can blow them off and watch Kung-Fu movies all night."
They both looked toward the living room and its entertainment-giving television with longing.
"No. I guess we can't." Dawn's voice was wistful.
"No." Xander handed Dawn a random piece of paper. "I can't even focus anymore; what's the stupid information on this?"
"More vandalism. Stolen street signs."
"Fine. Which ones?"
"Head Street, Dix Crescent, Cox Street," Dawn paused long enough to shoot a dirty look at Xander, who immediately stifled his giggles, "I guess we can see what all of these have in common… Brest Road, Regina Road…"
Xander burst out in a fresh round of laughter; Dawn rolled her eyes. "RE-gina. It means Queen."
"Heh, heh … Queen."
"Christ, Harris, could you stop being a twelve year old for five minutes?" Xander sat up straight and glared at the new arrival who stood smoldering in the doorway.
"You know the rules, Spike, if you're going to smoke, go outside."
"I'm smoking because I've just been outside, you moron. It's the middle of the bloody afternoon."
"Buffy's not here." Dawn's face matched the coldness of her voice.
"Buffy's not the only reason I come around here, Niblet." Spike somehow managed to look simultaneously abashed and furious at the chorused 'Yeah, right' that followed. "Anyway, I'm here now, aren't I? And you're here, so let's hang out, you and me."
Dawn ignored Xander's muttered comment and looked cautiously optimistic for a moment before her face fell. "Willow needs us to look at these police reports."
"Where is Red, anyway?"
"She went to her Spellcasters Anonymous meeting."
"Load of bollocks, that."
"No one asked your opinion." Xander's loathing of Spike, never far from the surface, bubbled up; he hated agreeing with the vampire. "You can help or you can leave. I think you know what my preference is."
Spike sneered dismissively and addressed himself to Dawn. "What's all this about?"
"You know about the whole invisible thing?"
"Think I might be able to bring it to mind." Spike's reminiscent smile earned him a suspicious glare from Xander.
Dawn looked at them, sensing undercurrents that she couldn't understand, and continued her explanation. "Well, anyway, Willow thought that it would be a good idea to step up our investigation of the Dorky Trio. So she's got Buffy looking at newly rented spaces, and she got police reports of vandalism for us to go through."
"And it's been a particularly thrilling assignment," Xander said, tossing files toward Spike. "If you enjoy looking at graffiti extolling the virtues of Superman over Batman."
"That's ridiculous," Spike scoffed, "I mean, who doesn't prefer Batman? He's got the whole Dark Knight thing going on; rescuing the damsels, not afraid to kill the bad guys."
"Absolutely," Xander agreed. "Ambiguous morality and cloudy motives are much more compelling than Superman's more straightforward ethos. Plus which, dark clothes, cool car, the whole detective thing - it's an attractive package."
Dawn giggled, "You know who that sounds like?"
"Don't say it, Niblet." Spike looked pained.
"Say what?" Xander asked, confused.
Spike lifted a sardonic eyebrow. "Think about it."
Xander sat for a moment thinking; then comprehension and horror flooded his face. "Oh, dear god, no."
Spike snorted. "What else you got?"
Dawn held up the list she'd been going over. "Stolen street signs. There seems to be something of a theme."
"So I heard. We trying to figure out which sign they'll nick next?"
She nodded. "I think that we can come up with a list of possibilities, though I don't know how we'll narrow it down."
"Simple. We just see which ones Harris giggles at." Spike smiled sweetly at Xander. "Looks like you'll finally be useful, mate."
Xander stood up so quickly that his chair crashed to the floor behind him. Dawn spoke quickly, forestalling anything that Xander might have done. "It's the best idea we've got, Xander."
"Yeah, Harris. I'm the best you've got."
"I think that's what they call damning with faint praise. … Wait. … Just. … Shut up, Spike." Xander retrieved his chair and sat. "Dawn, let's start cross referencing street names."
Dawn typed into Willow's laptop. "Okay, I've got MapQuest up. Name me some vaguely dirty names."
"Sack." Xander said, overlapping with Spike's "Balls."
"Sackville, but no Sack. Oooh, there's a Ball Avenue." Dawn made a note. "Good one, Spike, let's hear some more."
Dawn clacked away. "Yep! Two for two, Spike."
Spike looked over at Xander, smug satisfaction radiating from him, with a look that said as clearly as words 'beat that'.
"You must love the ego massage being right gives you."
"Tell you what, puppy, there are parts of me that I enjoy getting massaged more than my ego."
"Jesus, do you have to be so crude, Spike? Dawn's right there."
The two men looked over at the girl. "There's a Neck Road," she explained.
"Right. Uhh, mound?"
"Yes! There's a Rim Road."
Xander looked over at Spike in triumph. "I got rim."
"Why is rim dirty?"
"Never mind." Two voices speaking as one.
"Slow down, you guys. I can only type so fast."
"Maybe you should go to bed, Dawn."
"It's, like, 5 o'clock. I haven't even had supper yet."
"Why don't you see if your friend Janice wants to go get a burger." Xander pulled out his wallet. "Here, my treat."
"Seriously? All right! Oh, there's still all of these street names to work on."
"I think that Harris and me can get a good grasp on things between us."
"You don't have to ask me twice! I'm out of here."
Dawn ran out of the front door and was halfway to Janice's before she realised that she didn't have her cell phone; Buffy would be upset enough about the unauthorised dinner, no need to further aggravate her. She snuck into the hall, leery of attracting attention lest Spike and Xander change their minds. She could hear them shouting out more street names, each one followed by a triumphant 'yes'.
She let herself back outside, smiling at their success; but she couldn't help but wonder where Frottage Street was.
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