Contains spoilers for BtVS through mid-season five, goes AU after. We'll say NC-17 since there are some 'adult' situations, language and yes, teh sex!
Spike,Xander,Dawn friendship and S/X 'ship. The first few lines of dialogue are taken directly from a transcript of the episode 'Tough Love'.
Own nothing, claim nothing, all Joss's idea!





Little Runaway


by
Tabaqui



Part One

Dawn was crying, and Spike put his hand out to touch her hair - pulled back at the last minute because - would she really want him to do that?

"You wanna know what I'm scared of, Spike? Me. Right now, Glory thinks Tara's the key. But I'm the key, Spike. I am." Dawn pushed her hair back, her eyes wide and wet. Angry. "And anything that happens to Tara...is 'cause of me. Your bruises, your limp... that's all me too! I'm like a lightning rod for pain and hurt. And everyone around me suffers and - and dies. I must be something so horrible...to cause so much pain and evil." Her voice had died away to a miserable, sniffley whisper and she hugged herself.

"Rot," Spike said, as firmly as he could, and Dawn wiped angrily at her face, looking stubborn.

"What do you know?"

"I'm a vampire, Niblet. I know somethin' about evil. You're not evil." He sighed and sat down next to her - braved an awkward pat on her shoulder. She looked up at him hopefully, but then her expression fell again.

"Maybe...I'm not evil. But I don't think I can be good."

What's so bloody special 'bout bein' good, anyway? "Well, I'm not good, and I'm okay." That got a sort of choked laugh out of Dawn, and they sat in silence for a couple of minutes. Spike had just decided to reach for a cigarette when Dawn straightened and turned to him.

"Spike - you'd do anything for Buffy, wouldn't you? I mean - anything to help her. Right?" Spike looked consideringly at Dawn, pulling out his smokes and lighter.

"Well, yeah. 'Most anything."

"And you know - all she really wants right now - all she wants - is to keep me safe. Right?"

"Ye-aah..." Spike said slowly. He lit a cigarette - plumed smoke up and away from Dawn. What's she gettin' at, I wonder? About as subtle as a whore in church.

"Then - don't you think - the best thing for me to do would be to just - go away? I mean - if Glory can't find me, then she can't do the ritual, and if she can't do the ritual then she can't go home and she'll just - fade away, won't she?"

"I don't think anybody knows what'll happen to her if she doesn't go home, Niblet... But you're not goin' anywhere - you're gonna stay right here, safe and sound. Me and Big Sis, we'll take care of Glory." Spike put as much sarcasm as he could into that last - anything to hide the sinking feeling he got when he thought about the Hellgod. She was tough - he'd never felt such strength. Not even Buffy's hardest punches had done more than turn her head. Unless the Watcher came up with something - or Red found some spell - the Hellgod seemed invulnerable. Was invulnerable.

"But you can't!" Dawn jumped to her feet, agitated, and Spike twitched back a little. "Don't you understand? The only way for all this to stop - for all this - this pain and...hurting to stop is for me to go away!" Spike had a sudden, unwelcome thought and he grabbed Dawn's arm, ignoring her startled gasp and dropping his cigarette.

"You're not talkin' about - you're not asking me to -" Dawn gaped at him, and then shook her head wildly.

"No! No, I'm not - I don't want to kill myself! We should just run away, Spike! You take me - take me anywhere - take me down to Mexico or - or up to Canada - anywhere! If we leave right now we can get far enough away that she'll never find us!"

"What?" Spike roared, and Dawn started to cry again, trying to pull her arm out of his grip.

"It's the only way, Spike!"

"Bit, you're just upset -"

"Stop that!" Dawn screeched, and Spike let go in utter startlement, his ears ringing.

"Of course I'm upset! You almost died because of me! Tara is - Tara lost her mind because of me! All these terrible things keep happening because of me! Buffy lays in bed at night and cries! I hear her! Do you know how that makes me feel? I'm not a stupid little kid, Spike! I'm this - this damn key that's making all these horrible things happen to the people I love and it has to stop!" Dawn ran out of breath and steam at the same time and collapsed onto Spike, sobbing noisily. Spike looked down at the sleek fall of brown hair buried in his t-shirt for one shocked moment and then he gathered her close, shushing her gently. He settled them carefully back on the rock ledge and continued to pet her hair - croon nonsense into her ear. It was eerily like Dru when she'd had a bad dream or a bad vision, and he gingerly rested his lips for one moment on Dawn's head.

After a bit Dawn sat up, wiping at her face and sniffling. Spike rummaged in a pocket and came up with a mostly-clean bandana and passed it to her. Dawn blew noisily - wiped her face - tried to hand it back.

"Just toss it, pet. Don't fancy havin' that in my pocket." Dawn tossed the bandana away then slumped, looking at her hands.

"You donít think it would work, do you," she mumbled, and Spike sighed.

"Listen, Bit - in theory - in theory, mind - it's a brilliant idea. Get you out of the way of the Goddess of Bad Home Perms; let the Slayer deal with her without any distractions... But -"

"But what, Spike?" Spike stood up - paced back and forth, wincing when he came down too hard on his hurt leg. He retrieved his cigarette and puffed on it.

"But, in practice, there's a bunch of stuff you've left out!"

"Like what?" Dawn folded her arms - got that look on her face that said 'Slayers Little Sister' and had sod-all to do with monks and mystical keys.

"Like - like runnin' away takes a car, yeah? An' - money. Lots of money -"

"I have almost three thousand dollars, Spike." Dawn said quietly, and Spike stopped dead and gaped at her.

"What?"

"I said - I have three thousand dollars. I - I've kinda been...stealing stuff and -"

"Stealing stuff? What in bloody hell have you been stealing worth three thousand dollars?" Spike glared at her and Dawn cringed away a little, then sat up and put her chin in the air.

"Me and Janice figured out a way to get those tag-things off of clothes. And she goes into the really ritzy places in the Mall and - and she wears this kind of disguise -"

"Bit -" Spike warned, flicking the burned-down cigarette away, and Dawn gulped.

"Anyway, she takes the most expensive stuff and gets the tag off and then, later, I come back and I pretend I got it for my birthday only I don't like it or it doesn't fit and they give me my money back. See? And we split the money. And - I took some stuff from the Magic Box, too, and sold it -"

"Sold it where?" Spike asked, a dread certainty in his stomach, and Dawn wet her lips nervously.

"Sold it at that -th-that pawn shop down on Rosera -"

"Christ! What in bloody hell were you thinking, Bit! That place is -"

"It's the only place to sell magical stuff! And I told them I was the Slayer's little sister and - and that you would come and kick their a-asses if they didn't give me a good price -"

"Oh fuck." Spike slumped to the stone ledge, head in hands. No bloody wonder I've been gettin' the damn evil eye in there! What the hell did she think she was DOING? Spike sat there for several minutes, thinking of all the horrible things Buffy would do to him when she found out. Thinking of all the horrible things that could have happened to Dawn. Thinking, after another minute or two in which Dawn shuffled nervously and coughed, that the plan wasn't half-bad, really. Three thousand bucks'd go a long way in Veracruz... Spike thought, remembering with a fond smile the three months he and Dru had stopped off there on their way to Brazil. Dawn saw the smile and sat down next to him, suddenly perky again.

"See! You think it's a good idea, too! I've got a route all planned, Spike - I got maps online at the library and I got a cell-phone from the guy at the pawn shop - he put it in somebody else's name -"

"'Cause it's stolen, Bit," Spike said absently, sitting up and lighting another cigarette. "Probably doesn't work."

"Yeah, it works - I called Janice on it and she called me. He said it would work no matter what. I just have to buy those cards that give you minutes, 'cause there's no place to send a bill to. And I've got my stuff packed - the stuff I'd really need and would m-miss, and I know where to get some - some blood for you..." She trailed off and looked at Spike, and Spike finally shook his head.

"Wouldn't work, Niblet. The minute Big Sis can't find you she's gonna come find me, and the minute she realizes you're gone with me she's..." Spike stood abruptly, pain wrenching through him. "She's gonna think the worst." And she will, too. Doesn't matter that I didn't sell the Bit out to Glory - all she sees is...the evil, soulless monster she hates and... She'll dust me before I have time to blink.

"But Buffy knows you wouldn't hurt me! I mean, you didn't tell Glory who - wh-what I am and -"

"Doesn't matter, platelet. She just...doesn't trust me."

"That's stupid, Spike. You love her." Spike laughed - smoked for a minute.

"Doesn't matter how I feel though, does it, Bit? All that matters is how she feels. And she doesn't love me. Never will." Spike stared at the glittering surface of the rock wall in front of him - tiny chips of quartz and mica catching the light of the torch he'd brought back there and shining like stars in the dimness.

Never will. She NEVER will. I've just been foolin' myself all along. Hell - maybe I only love her 'cause she WON'T love me. Who knows? It's crazy, to love the Slayer. All that crap Dru told me...havin' to be nice to her and her...gang 'cause of this damn CHIP... It's got me all - messed up in my head. Time to get straight. Spike dropped his cigarette - turned to look at Dawn.

"She'll just come after us and dust me, Little Bit, and that's one extra thing she doesn't need right now." Dawn looked at him for a moment, and then she smiled, slowly.

"But - she wouldn't come after me - us - if she thought I was with somebody she could - could trust, right? If she thought you were just being paid to bodyguard me and the real mastermind was - was somebody else, right?" Spike snorted.

"Right. What, you gonna talk the Watcher into comin' along for the ride? Never happen, Bit."

"No, not Mr. Giles." Dawn made that typical 'He's old and frumpy' teenager face, and Spike almost laughed.

"Who then, Niblet?"





Part Two

"Xander? Xander! Wake up!"

"Wakey-wakey, Harris! Time to rise and shine!" Xander felt like he was slowly surfacing from the bottom of a pool of syrup. Or maybe cement. His head felt too big, his mouth was dry and tasted absolutely awful, and there was a dull thudding behind his eyes.

I did NOT get drunk to dull the pain of Tara getting...brain sucked. I didn't fall and hit my head... I wasnít attacked on the way home... I wasn't attacked AT home. Or - wait... Xander tried hard to remember what had happened, but he was distracted by something cold and wet on his face.

"Stop that! What the hell -" He opened his eyes - immediately squinted them shut again.

"Oops, sorry."

"Gimmie the torch, Bit."

Dawn? SPIKE? Oh my god. Spike got the chip out and I've been kidnapped. He's gonna turn us over to Glory! Xander felt his heart start to pound and he flinched away from the cold thing that touched his face again.

"Relax, Harris. I'm not gonna turn you over to Glory. And I didn't get the chip out." Spike's voice was so frustrated and disconsolate on the last statement that Xander opened his eyes again.

He wouldn't be able to keep the smirk out of his voice if he really HAD got it out. So what the hell? He stared at Dawn, who was leaning over the front seat of the car, a wad of damp fast-food napkins in one hand and a bottle of water in the other. Spike was next to her, holding a flashlight.

"What the hell is going on?" Xander tried to yell but found he couldn't - his throat hurt, and he felt a little - dizzy. "What did you do to me! Don't you dare hurt Dawn, you undead freak!" Spike rolled his eyes - shot a look at Dawn.

"I told you, Niblet. You owe me five bucks."

"Xander, why do you have to be such a - such a jerk!" Dawn pouted, and Xander goggled at her.

"What? We've been kidnapped by Fangless and I'm being a jerk? What the hell -"

"We haven't been kidnapped - you have. We're running away." Once again Xander could do nothing but stare. His mind reeled - and boggled - and -

And I think it's shutting down. This is just - insane. Running away? What is this, an After School Special? Xander lifted his hand to wipe his face and realized he couldn't. There were manacles around his wrists, with chains that led down to his - Xander bent over a little, squinting. Yep, manacles around his ankles. And a short length of chain locking it all to the floor of the car via a sturdy stainless bolt.

"I'm chained to the fucking car."

"Wondered how long it would take you to notice." Spike's voice was definitely smirky this time, and Xander sat up and shot him an evil glare - looked around. The car had dark windows - really dark windows. And rather ratty leather seats and the handle of an ax sticking out from under the driver's seat. And it somehow looked...familiar.

"The DeSoto?" Xander asked, and Spike grinned.

"Yup. Willy had it in a lot for me - just had to go pick it up." Xander nodded - wrenched suddenly on the chains and glared when Spike laughed. "You can't break 'em, Harris. Those might not hold me but they'll hold you just fine."

"How do you feel, Xander?" Dawn looked concerned and Xander felt his mind boggling again.

"How do I feel? Dawn, pardon me very much, but that is the stupidest question you could ask me."

"Well pardon me for caring! Spike thought he might have given you too much of that stuff -"

"What stuff?" Xander asked, and his voice was deadly quiet. Spike widened his eyes at him in a parody of fear. He looked like a manga character when he did that and Xander suppressed a wildly inappropriate urge to laugh.

"Don't get all threatening, Harris. I just gave you a little shot of sleeping dust. Had to get you out of your place and into the car, didn't I? Didn't want to have to explain or listen to you squawk." Xander stared at him - at Dawn, who took a swig of the water.

This is insanity. This is...my life. Jesus. "Dawn? Could I have a drink?"

"Huh? Oh, sure." Dawn held the bottle out - winced a little when Xander rattled his chains at her and held it to his mouth for him. He drank several long swallows and felt the roughness of his throat ease a bit.

"Thanks, Dawn. Now - I would really, really like it if you two could explain to me why, exactly, I'm chained to the DeSoto." Dawn and Spike looked at each other, and Spike raised the scarred eyebrow, looking surprised.

"I told you he'd be reasonable."

"That you did, Bit. He probably won't stay reasonable, though."

"I'll be perfectly reasonable if you just explain," Xander snarled, and Spike grinned. Dawn shook her head.

"Okay. It's like this - I was telling Spike..." As Dawn outlined the plan - and his role in it - Xander grew increasingly calmer.

Right. Fine. We're, what - a couple hours out of Sunnydale? Buffy and Giles and Willow - well, maybe not Willow - will be along any time now. This car is easy to spot, and Willow can do a spell... I'll be home by lunch time. He relaxed and leaned back against the seat behind him and Spike looked surprised - then amused.

"What're you laughing at, Fangless?"

"Oh, nothin' much. Just the little thoughts whirlin' around in your head, is all."

"What's that mean?"

"Just that I can see what you're thinkin', plain as day. You're thinkin' we're still close to home, and that the Slayer and maybe the Watcher'll be here any minute, like the Lone Ranger or somethin', and whisk you off home." Xander felt himself pale a little at the amused tone Spike used, and looked at Dawn, who looked anxious.

"Well - it's true, though."

"Uh - Xander..." Dawn twisted the napkins in her hand - looked at Spike. Spike smirked.

"I gave you the sleeping dust on Wednesday night. We drove 'til the sun came up and hit a motel - then we drove again, and then we slept - and then we drove -" Spike's grin was as wide as Xander's eyes felt, and his stomach turned over in fear.

What the hell - it's been - two nights? Three? This is...

"It's almost dawn on Saturday, Xander. You've been asleep awhile." There were traces of fear and worry in Dawn's voice, and Xander looked over at her - saw the same thing in her eyes.

"I'm okay Dawn. No thanks to the evil undead. Jesus, Spike, I could have died!"

"Nah." Spike dug around in his coat and came up with a cigarette - cracked the drivers window open a bit and lit it. "I was pretty sure you'd be okay." He winked at Dawn, who smiled back, and Xander pulled at the chains again.

"Well, okay, so we're - we're further away than I thought. Doesn't mean that Buffy and Giles won't -" Spike was shaking his head, still grinning, and Xander wanted to punch him. "What now?"

"I've still got connections, Harris. I got us a spell - put it on the car, and on me and Niblet and you. If Red tries a locator spell it'll tell her we're someplace else - or it won't tell her anything - or it'll tell her we're still in Sunnydale. Warlock bloke I know, he likes the idea of scrambling the signal, like they do with the pay-channels on the telly." Spike puffed - tapped ash out the window. "He said it'd work a treat, and it does. Had another bloke I know test it, last rest stop." Spike was watching Xander closely and Xander tried hard not to let his feelings of panic and defeat show. He was pretty sure it didn't work.

"Fine then. You're running away from being the key, Dawn, and Spike is running away from being decent for once in his unlife and you decided to drag me along. Great."

"Get over it, Harris," Spike snapped, and fed his cigarette butt out through the window. "Dawn wants you here - you're gonna take care of her during the day and keep her company. I'm gonna keep the demons and other assorted nasties off 'a the both of you and provide money and whatnot. We're not goin' back until Glory's dead. Live with it."

"Sure, I'll live with it Spike. But did you guys think of how Buffy is gonna live with it? She's gonna be going crazy, Dawn! Do you have any idea how worried she must be? How could you do that to her?" Spike was scowling at him, and Dawn gulped.

"I - I know she'll be w-worried, Xander, but -"

"There's no but, Dawn! This is - this could kill her." Dawn stared at him, and her eyes got bigger and bigger and suddenly she was crying - hoarse sobbing that made Xander's heart constrict painfully in his chest. Spike looked murderous now, and he kicked his door open - got out. Xander tensed, expecting the back door to open and Spike to lean in and punch him chip, he's got the chip still! but nothing happened for a minute. Then Dawn's door opened and Spike was coaxing her out - talking in a low, soothing voice. Xander could just see them in the dim light of - wherever they were. Dawn had her head on Spike's chest and Spike was petting her hair, holding her gently. Xander frowned at that - tried to see where they were but he only got the impression of concrete and dirt and asphalt - under a bridge, maybe, or in a garage. He could hear traffic noise, but not much. After a few minutes Spike let Dawn go and she crawled back into the car, her face pink and splotchy and her nose running. She grabbed some dry napkins from the dash and blew her nose - wiped her face. Spike shut her door and came around again - got into his seat, still frowning.

"Don't do that again, Harris. You've got no right to make her feel that way. She's - we're both - doing what we think's best."

"I left a tape, Xander. We did. Spike sto - got a video camera and we made a tape. I explained the whole thing, and I even talked about some stuff that only me and Buffy know, so she'd know I wasn't being - forced to do it. And Spike - Spike promised, right on the tape to take care of me."

"Like that means anything," Xander mumbled, and Spike reached back and whacked him in the head - grimaced at whatever the chip did.

"Fuck you, Harris. I may be a vampire and I may be less than nothing to you, but I was an honorable man, and I still am honorable. I swore on my line and my unlife I'd keep Dawn safe, and I meant it. The Watcher'll understand even if the Slayer doesn't." Spike looked truly pissed and Xander stared at him for a minute.

Is he for real? He seems - sincere. Jesus Christ. This is all - this is nuts. But there's nothing I can do about it. Not now. Damnit. "Okay - fine. You promised, you left a tape - that's great. What the hell about me? Anya's gonna think -"

"We told them about you, Xander - we told them you agreed to come along to protect me. Anya will probably think you're a - a hero, or something." Dawn smiled nervously at him and Xander sighed.

"I doubt it. She'll probably think... Oh, fuck it. Sorry Dawn." Dawn rolled her eyes.

"You didn't hear Spike last night when we couldn't get out from behind this truck. Whole new set of words I hadn't even heard before." She grinned at him and Xander couldn't suppress a snort of laughter, and the tension in the car eased a bit.

"Oookay... So, I'm awake now. What's going on? And I gotta tell you - I really need to pee." As soon as he said it, Xander realized how truly uncomfortable he was down there, as it were, and he suddenly thought that if he didn't get out of the car they were all going to be sorry. "Uh - I mean it, Spike. I really, really need to -"

"Yeah - sleeping dust meant you were sleeping. Not doing anything else, thank fucking god." Spike opened his door and got out - opened the door on Xander's left and leaned in, key in hand. He unlocked the padlock that held the chain around the bolt on the floor and helped Xander get out by dragging on the chain. Xander stood slowly, his whole body cramping.

"Right. Ok. Bathroom? Now?"

"Right." Spike looked around - jerked on the chain and Xander stumbled along after him. Fortunately there was enough slack that he could walk normally, but his legs felt like two big logs or something, and his calves were knotting up in some spectacular charley horses. It seemed they were in some sort of garage - abandoned by the look of it - with the dawn light coming in milky-blue through the soaped-over windows of the garage doors. Through a doorway there was a counter and some empty shelves and then a scratched red door that Spike kicked open. He reached in and pulled the string and a yellow bulb miraculously snapped on. The bathroom wasn't too awful, but there were no windows at all. Spike unlocked the manacle on Xander's right wrist - re-locked it around his left wrist and pushed him towards the bathroom.

"There you go, Harris." Xander shot him a dirty look and shuffled in - shut the door and locked it. He heard Spike laugh.

"Stupid vampire," he muttered.

When he was done, he cleaned up as best he could in the trickle of cold, gritty water that was all he could coax from the tap. He looked in the spotted mirror over the sink, grimacing. He was pale - dark-circled under his eyes - and his lips were chapped and cracked. His teeth felt - tasted - horrible. He unlocked the door and stuck his head out, and saw Dawn standing by the counter.

"Xander! Better now? Here - I got you your toothbrush." Dawn came over, holding out his own toothbrush and paste from home, and a new bottle of water. Xander took them - tried on a small smile.

"Thanks, Dawn. Look - I'm sorry. I - I didn't mean to make you cry, but don't you think -"

"Yeah, I do think, Xander! I think everybody kinda forgets that sometimes." Dawn's expression was fierce and totally serious. "This is gonna work. Glory can't find me - nobody can. And when the time for the...the ritual is over and Glory is all...messed up, Buffy'll be able to kick her butt, no problem. Or Willow will. It's better this way. Nobody else will get hurt and Buffy can just concentrate on Glory." Xander looked at her - at the hope and fear and exhaustion in her eyes, and he let whatever he'd been going to say just...die. She needed this - needed to think this was a good idea - a solution - a way to help, and Xander wasn't going to make her cry again.

But I'm not going to go easy on Spike. Even if Dawn doesn't know better, HE should.

"Oh...okay, Dawnie. Okay. I'm just - I just wish you'd - talked to me first." Xander turned back to the bathroom and got his brush ready - started on his teeth.

"It'll be okay Xander. You'll see." Xander looked at her reflection in the mirror - nodded and smiled a foamy smile, and Dawn smiled back. Xander spat into the sink and cracked the water bottle open - rinsed his mouth.

Hope it will be, Dawnie. I really do.





Part Three

Spike paced the empty garage - smoked two cigarettes in rapid succession and watched Dawn and Xander surreptitiously through the doorway into the 'shop' part of the garage. Despite his confident air in front of Xander, he was a little worried. He knew Red and the Watcher didn't have a chance in hell of finding them, but he wondered about Glory. She might be a couple bricks short, and she might have more interest in the Shopping Channel then any actual godly-stuff, but she was, at the very bottom, a god. That meant she could do things nobody else could do. And just because she hadn't been able to find her key before didn't mean she couldn't now. Spike knew - he knew -that the three of them disappearing might look funny, but he hoped that his torture and Xander's relative non-special status would just make her think they didn't want to get hurt. And that what she'd done to Glinda would seem like a good reason for the Slayer to get her little sister out of harm's way. He hoped.

Fuck this. No time for second guessing. We're - oh - halfway there maybe, if the roads hold out. It'll be fine. Just gotta get the call over with, get Harris checked out behind the wheel. Bastard had better not fuck up my car. Right. Spike flicked his cigarette butt away - sauntered over to where Xander and Dawn were talking, leaning on the counter.

"Powdered your nose then, Harris?" he asked, and smirked at Xander's baleful look. Xander held his left arm out, looking pointedly between the manacles and Spike. Spike looked back - raised his eyebrow.

"Spike -"

"What? Oh - oh, right." Laughing inwardly, Spike dug the key out and unlocked the right manacle - in a quick move re-locked it around Xander's right wrist. Harris gaped at him for a moment and then scowled furiously at him.

"What the hell do you think - Spike! Get these off me!"

"Not on your life, Harris. They're stayin' on 'til we get to where we're goin'. You'll live."

"You - you -" Xander spluttered, unable to find the words, and Spike just grinned at him. Dawn looked uncomfortable.

"Spike, don't you think -"

"Now Bit, we agreed; I'd handle Harris - do what I thought best. You know I can't hurt him, and we don't want him runnin' to the nearest cop or phone and makin' a call, do we?" Dawn bit her lip - looked at Xander, who was ready to explode, then at Spike who did his best to look reasonable. She sighed.

"Yeah. Okay. We did. You're right." She looked over at Xander and shrugged - wandered away towards the car - and Xander did his best to throw his hands up in frustration, making a growling noise.

"Arrrgh! Spike, this is some sort of - some sort of twisted -"

"Revenge? That what you're thinkin'?" Spike leaned in close - flicked a glance at Dawn who was going through the boot of the DeSoto, looking for something. He dropped his voice to a hiss. "Well, you're right. Chained me in that fuckin' tub, tied me in your fuckin' chair - get used to it Harris - I might just lose the key for a while." Spike hadn't intended for there to be quite so much venom in his voice, but it got away from him a little bit and Xander went white and stared at him, his mouth a little open.

Stupid bastard. Now just shut up. He straightened up - reached and brushed imaginary lint from Xander's shirt.

"Now - you probably need something to eat, hey? And then we'll see if you can drive my car without wrecking it." Spike turned on his heel and went over to the car - pulled a baggie of blood from 'his' cooler and drained it. He heard Xander heave a sigh - shuffle over to the car.

"What's there to eat, Dawn?" he asked, and Spike fought a smile - hid it by rooting out more blood.

Only a dozen bags left. But - plenty of livestock around where we're going. And some...Houses of Ill Repute, if I remember correctly. Spike grinned to himself. Riley had discovered what a lot of humans before him had - it felt good to get bitten by a vampire. And Spike knew of a few places along the way that catered to that. He could get a fresh meal and some extra cash, if he was right. He'd been subtly testing the limits of the chip - trying a few things. It was...interesting. He was pretty sure he could bite a willing human and the chip would do nothing at all. Mind over matter, perhaps. Or - pheromones. Something. He didn't know, really, but discovering he could circumvent it, even a little, was exciting. Not the same, not the same at ALL but it's better than nothing and it is NOT gonna be in there forever.

Xander had assembled a huge, sloppy sandwich from the stuff they'd gotten in Tucson and was wolfing it down. He looked to have actually dropped a couple of pounds during his magic sleep, and the planes of his face were a little more defined - a little sharper. His hair was tangled over his head - more fly-away than usual, hanging in his eyes and curling softly around the nape of his neck. Xander glanced up and saw him - made a sort of 'what' face.

"Just makin' sure you're all fit to travel, Harris," Spike lied, and went back to his blood. Nothin' wrong with havin' a look-see. Who knows, he might turn out to be...entertaining. If he manages to get the stick out of his ass. Xander shook his head and finished off his sandwich - awkwardly helped Dawn re-pack 'her' cooler and slammed the boot shut.

"What time is it? Is it time, Spike?" Spike looked at Dawn - looked contemplatively at the light coming through the windows.

"Yeah, I guess. Go ahead and get it over with, Bit."

"Get what over with?" Xander asked, his voice thick with suspicion. Dawn pulled her cell phone out of her jacket pocket.

"I'm gonna call Mr. Giles, and then I'm gonna call B-buffy. Spike said I should call Mr. Giles first because he'll probably be a lot calmer." Xander looked over at Spike and Spike shifted a little against the fender of the DeSoto.

"Yeah, he's probably right." Dawn nodded and carefully tapped in the number - waited nervously. The Watcher picked up on the second ring, and Spike could hear him quite clearly, although it was obvious Xander couldn't.

"Hello?"

"M-mr. Giles? It's me - it's Dawn." Sharp intake of breath, and then:

"Dawn? Oh good Lord - are you all right? Where are you?"

"I'm fine, Mr. Giles. I'm - I'm not telling you where I am. I'm safe, though. I'm not hurt."

"Dawn - please - you have to come home. If you're not - if what you said on the video tape was true, then please - just come home." Dawn was silent for a moment, and she looked at Spike when she spoke next.

"No - I won't. I'm sorry, Mr. Giles, I really am, but - this is the best way. I'm sure it is."

"You don't sound sure."

"I am. Xander's here - do you want to talk to him?"

"Well, yes, all right. Dawn - please be careful."

"I will - I am. Hang on." Dawn held the phone out to Xander who reached for it and then stopped - held his manacled hand up in frustration. He'd have to hunch to use the phone. Spike just shrugged and Xander took the phone with a scowl.

"Hello? Giles?"

"Xander - are you all right?"

"I'm fine, Giles, really -" Spike tuned them out - went to pace the edges of the garage - look under the counter and in the corners for anything interesting. He found a newspaper that was a few months old and picked it up - scanned the headlines and then tossed it back down. Xander seemed to be finishing what he was saying and he walked back out. Xander held the phone out to him.

"He wants to talk to you." Spike raised an eyebrow - took the phone.

"Hullo, Rupert."

"Spike." There was a moment's silence, and then Giles took a hard breath. "Spike, if you dare - dare - to harm one hair -"

"You'll do what - mentally beat me? Give it a rest, Rupert. I wouldn't hurt Dawn for anything, and you know that. Or you bloody well should by now. And I can't hurt Harris, much as I might like to. They're both safe as houses."

"If they're in your company they're anything but. I really am having a hard time crediting Dawn with this hare-brained scheme. I can't imagine what inducements you used -"

"Watcher -" Spike said, and the chill in his voice silenced the other man - made Xander look up from where he was surreptitiously fiddling with the manacles. "You can imagine all you like. I'm going to keep Dawn safe no matter what. I promised I would - you saw that I did. Use that brain of yours and figure it out." Spike jabbed the off button hard - resisted the urge to throw the phone across the garage. Instead he handed it silently to Dawn, who turned it back on to call her sister. Spike had no desire to listen to Buffy, and he went to the far side of the garage where there were some lengths of old chain hanging down the wall. He distracted himself by pulling them apart, link by link, and was startled when Xander approached, phone once again held out.

"Buffy," he said, and glanced back over his shoulder at Dawn, who was hugging herself, leaning against the car and looking like she was crying. Spike compressed his mouth to a thin line - took the phone and nodded over at Dawn. Xander nodded back and went over to her, leaning close and talking quietly to her. Spike hesitated another moment, but he could hear Buffy's voice, calling him, and he finally lifted the phone to his ear.

"Spike? Are you there? Answer me, damnit!"

"Slayer."

"Spike, I - " Silence, and a sharply in-drawn breath. "You'd better not hurt her. Or let her get hurt."

"You know I won't. Didn't give her up, did I? I promised, Slayer. She's safe." Another moment of silence - soft breaths.

"Keep her that way, Spike, or I swear - you'll beg for me to dust you."

"Yeah." Spike hesitated - almost added something else, although what, he had no idea. Instead he just turned the phone off.

So. Slayer. I...it wasn't so bad. Her voice... Spike sighed. Her voice had made him cringe - made him melt, just a little. Don't want to do this. I don't - I WON'T love her. Not anymore. Not now. Doing this for the Bit - for me. Show them...I can do it right. He decided to not examine the reasons why he'd want to show the Scoobies anything. Spike scrubbed his hand over his face - back through his hair. Time to show Xander how to work the DeSoto - give him a proper warning so he'd drive carefully. Spike was tired, and he wanted to curl up and sleep for the next eight hours or so. But he kind of doubted he would.




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