Summary: Dawn’s not in a happy place, she's spiralling out of control because Buffy isn't in a healthy place either.
Sitting at the Bronze waiting… mid-week garage band currently up on stage, wrapping up their final set. Buffy so late again that Dawn was ready to head home. All her friends had gone home already. They had curfews, while Dawn was required to wait for Buffy to escort her home.
She used to be so jealous that Buffy and her friends got to go Bronzing on weeknights while she had to say home with mom. That was such a long time ago. Back when she had a home, instead of a house. Back when she had a mother to stay at home with. Back when she secretly admired her big sister, the chosen one.
So many things had changed in just a year.
Buffy seemingly had been given two gifts. Not only had she been chosen to rid the world of evil, but also to rid her life of people who cared.
First had been Spike. Buffy claimed she hadn’t done anything, but Dawn knew that was a lie. Buffy had wanted to know how Spike had killed the other slayers, and somehow had gotten him to talk. No one had seen him since.
Buffy had to have done something unforgivable. Spike would never have just left without saying good-bye to Dawn. It just wasn’t like him – he was all dramatic like that.
Next to fall was Riley, off to 'be all he could be'. He’d had enough of being pushed away, being punished because he wasn’t Angel.
Then there was Mom. Unfair to blame her demise on Buffy, but Dawn lumped that in anyway. Dawn blamed her spitefully for not being home in time. If she had been home sooner, they might have been able to save her.
Dawn always felt that she should have been next.
Up on the rickety tower, Dawn could feel the portal opening – calling to her. Her bindings became a blessing, instead of a curse, because she would have mindlessly jumped. For the first time, she could feel her duality; her key-ness at war with her humanity. One pulling her to fulfill her destiny, and one pulling her to live and survive.
The decision had been ripped out of her hands, or more appropriately ripped out from beneath her feet. Giles had been working covertly with an English coven, and on his mark, they generated a localized earthquake to disrupt Glory’s plans.
She, Tara and Anya, the Anti-Scoobies, had 8 broken bones between them.
She really never knew how she survived the fall when the tower collapsed. She didn’t remember her bones breaking, but she’d felt herself come within a hairsbreadth of her lock – she felt its glorious malevolent energy snake towards her, calling her home. Then everything went black.
Ben had died that night, taking Glory with him. Dawn had been thankful at the time, but now all she could think of was that she’d missed her chance.
After the tower, Buffy had gone downhill. She said she was grateful that Dawn had survived, but even then, Dawn could see the shadow of something in her sisters hazel eyes.
Her sister seemed to be withdrawing into her self, listening to something that only she could hear. She cycled through phases of suffocating Dawn with manic attention one day, then nearly total indifference the next.
On the increasingly infrequent times that Buffy was there when Dawn got home, she was equally likely to come home to a sister who baked cookies and wanted some quality time, get grounded for weeks because she was five minutes late getting home, or get a bored lecture about being responsible and not turning out like stinky old man Phillips that hung out at the laundromat 2 blocks down from the Magic Box.
As time wore on, the indifference increased. It was like her sister had died that day, and the shell that was left was going through the motions, like a poorly programmed robot. Dawn began to have difficulty remembering what things had been like before, when she’d only pretended to hate her sister, and really admired her and wanted to be just like her.
Giles bailed next, back to England. Buffy couldn’t manage things herself, so he’d left in a misguided attempt to force her to stand on her own two feet. It never occurred to him that she might collapse instead. Or maybe it did, and he didn't want to stick around to watch.
Anya was next. She had a tough recovery, and although Xander had been there every step of the way for her, she said she couldn't stay any longer. She was planning to open another magic shop in New Orleans. She had a few contacts there that assured her that business was booming. She hadn’t wanted Xander to come with her. He had been willing to go, but the Buffy effect was in full swing. Anya told him that he cared more for Buffy’s calling than Buffy did, and didn’t want to be around when the next apocalypse got him killed. He had been so hurt. Now he hardly ever came around.
Willow and Tara had broken up over Willows use of magic. Buffy had sided with Willow and asked Tara to move out. She all but forbade Dawn to spend time with Tara because it upset Willow so badly. Dawn didn’t listen of course, but their visits were few and far between.
Tara was the only one who even said anything when she’d streaked her hair periwinkle and gotten her eyebrow pierced. She’d hugged her and said that finding out who you were was important, but to make sure that she did it because it was what she wanted, not just to impress others.
Buffy had rolled her eyes, and gone back to talking to Willow.
And so she waited, wondering who the next one to leave would be.
She started stealing things wherever she went. She really didn’t need the stuff, but it wasn’t as if Buffy was going to buy her anything.
Buffy had gotten a job at the Doublemeat Palace to make ends meet, and her indifference toward Dawn had magnified. Some days she never even checked to see if Dawn had eaten, or gone to school. Dawn vividly remembered one Saturday that Buffy had awakened her screaming that she was late for school. She hadn’t even apologized when she realized that she’d mixed up the days.
She’d taken up smoking. It killed the time when she was waiting around for Buffy, and it wasn’t as if anyone cared if she got lung cancer. She probably wouldn’t live long enough for it to develop anyway.
Of everyone who had gone, she missed Spike the most. She could talk to him and he really saw her, talked to her. He never treated her like a child. He didn’t even know she was a key, and he still let her hang out with him in his crypt and just be herself.
He taught her all sorts of cool stuff – like how to pick locks, how to deal from the bottom of the deck and how to pickpocket. She wished she’d been older, he could have taught her how to hotwire a car.
Dawn had taken to staying in Spike's old crypt on nights that Buffy didn't come home. She felt oddly comforted there, among his old things. Sleeping more soundly in his bed than she did even in her own.
She had gotten Tara to do a masking spell on it, so nothing wandering around the cemetery would sense she was there and bother her. She had tried to do it herself, but after she'd woken up with a fledgling who decided she would make a good snack, she had been forced to ask for help. There was still a greasy burn spot on the floor where he'd gone up in flames from the candle she'd thrown at him.
She’d stolen some spell books and supplies from the Magic Box and stored them in the crypt. Sometimes she came there in the afternoon after school and practiced spells. She was still having difficulty floating a pencil. She figured she could either learn magic, or start to do drugs. She chose the magic, not wanting to be a loser like the burn-outs at school. Recently though, she’d started eyeballing her mom’s old pain medication again anyway. Wondering if it would help take away that awful ache where family used to be.
She wanted to be gone, she just didn’t know how. In her deepest, most secret, fantasies, Spike would swoop in from out of nowhere and take her away from all this. Her dark knight. She thought about him constantly. She wondered if he was all right, if he’d gotten the chip out, if he even remembered her.
The band was gone now, and canned music was blaring over the sound system. She was ready to risk Buffy’s potential wrath and head out when she caught sight of a bright-white something out of the corner of her eye, over by the stairs. She craned her head to look, but it was gone. She felt her heart speed up, thudding in her chest. She could have sworn that it was Spike.
She got up and headed up the stairs herself, scanning the darkness. When she got up on the catwalk, she didn’t see anyone who even looked remotely like Spike. Just a few couples here and there, groping each other in the half-light.
She sighed, and leaned on the railing, looking down on everyone having a good time. She wondered, not for the first time, if the otherness she felt was normal because she was a teenager, or if it was because of her key-ness.
She wondered if when she was a bright ball of energy if she had ever felt this lonely, this sad, this lost.
Just when she was about ready to head back downstairs, she felt someone walk up behind her. She was startled when they blocked her in, pressing against her back pinning her to the railing so she couldn’t turn around. Then they were wrapping impossibly strong arms around her waist. She was beginning to seriously panic and start to struggle, when she smelt it; leather and smoke. Spike
“Hello, ‘Bit. Miss me?” he whispered in her ear.
Dawn had been ecstatic when she realized Spike was behind her. She’d spun around in his arms and hugged him as tight as she could.
When she pulled back she fired a million questions at him at once, which he halted with a finger to her lips.
“Just wanted to let you know I’m back,” he said “Keep it quiet, huh?”
Dawn nodded, and blurted out, “Are you okay though?”
“Never better, kitten,” he brushed a piece of hair from her face.
“Your crypt’s the way you left it. I’ve been…” She broke off, blushing and feeling foolish, unsure how to finish. Everything sounded lame in her head.
“That your stuff I saw?” he said smiling.
She nodded, “I’m sorry, I just… sometimes I just go there to hang out.”
“’s okay. I appreciate it. Been taking good care of the place – it looks right nice.”
“So you’re back living there now?” she was excited and disappointed. She didn’t think he’d appreciate her being underfoot all the time.
“Nah, I’ve got a different place for a bit. You keep looking after it though. Doing a good job.”
Suddenly he stepped back into the shadows, “Big sis’ is coming. I’ll be seein’ you soon.”
And like smoke he was gone.
“God, Dawn, how hard is it to just sit there and wait for me? I said I’d be there,” Buffy complained as they were walking home.
Part of Dawn wanted to argue – she had been like fifty feet away from where Buffy said to meet. And Buffy was two hours late. She was so tired of it. No matter what she did it was wrong. “Sorry,” she said flatly.
“And what were you doing upstairs?” Buffy continued, and then stopped, pulling Dawn around to look at her. “You weren’t up there with a boy were you? Please tell me you were not up there with some boy.”
Dawn heart froze for a second. She hadn’t come up with a reason for being upstairs. Buffy had stormed up there and started yelling, and before Dawn knew it she had been pulled outside.
Dawn prayed her sister could be distracted. “You know, that’s kinda un-PC. I could have been making out with a girl up there.”
Now it was Buffy’s turn to freeze, her jaw dropped for a second, and then she started to babble, “You’re not…I mean…you know it’s totally ok if you are.” Her eyes were a bit panicked and her voice was falsely cheerful, “Do you need to talk to Willow? I mean you can talk to me, you can totally talk to me, but … you know Willow’s all big with the gay-ness and …”
It was kinda fun watching Buffy flail, but finally Dawn cut her a break, “No girl. No guy either, just needed some air.”
“Oh, good, good,” Buffy said distractedly, still recovering. Then her gaze turned serious, and she looked at Dawn – really looked for the first time in forever and said, “I just don’t want you vamp food, that’s all. They hunt up there all the time.”
“Okay, I got it. No vamp chow,” for a second, things felt like old times, Dawn felt like they were connecting again. Like her sister was still in there. Then she watched Buffy’s eyes glaze over with distraction again. Before she would have difficulty speaking around the thick lump that was fast forming in her throat, Dawn said dejectedly, “Can we get home now, I’m tired?”
They walked the rest of the way in silence. Buffy retreating to that other place in her head and Dawn lost in thought about what Spike’s return might mean.
Neither girl noticed their shadow.
Days later, and still no sign of Spike, Dawn was thinking that she must have imagined him.
After school, before going home, she headed over to the Magic Box. Buffy was working until at least eight, and then she was going out for patrol. There was no telling when she’d get home, and Dawn didn’t feel like facing an empty house just yet.
Willow was running the store with that scary Amy chick. The two of them were always together. If she hadn’t seen Amy flirting with a guy just the other day, she would have sworn the two of them were dating. It seemed like every time Dawn walked in they were whispering together, and then they’d stop when they saw her.
She normally would have headed over to Spikes crypt on an afternoon like today, but she felt weird going over there now, knowing he was in town. Even though he said she was welcome to keep using it, she just felt like she was trespassing.
She wandered back to the back of the shop, where they kept some of the spell books. She set her book bag down on the floor, and started flipping through some of the ones they had out on a display table. Nothing looked interesting, although some of the subjects made her smile. She had no idea there was a market for gay love spells, or spells for your pets. The strangest one was a collection of spells to affect the outcome of court cases by a guy named W. Ramhart. She wondered who ordered that one.
Near the back of the pile one caught her eye. It was a small black book, much older than the others. She reached out and picked it up. The leather cover was embossed with a picture of what looked like a withering rose, with the title Niger Pectus Pectoris above it. She opened it and noticed that inside the front cover was the handwritten inscription ‘Egendom av Aud’. She started to flip through the pages. It wasn’t a spell book at all, it was full of curses. Some of them were insanely complicated, and had scary titles like ‘Blood Summoning’. Others promised to shrivel body parts on cheating lovers. That one had illustrations. Ick.
She was about to put it back when the title of one of the chapters caught her eye, Revenge.
She swiftly glanced around the shop. Willow had run out for something earlier and Amy was talking to the only customer. She quickly slipped the book into her bag, and slung it over her shoulder. Then she glanced around again. No one had noticed. She knew she shouldn’t steal, that it was wrong, but she couldn’t seem to help herself. Besides, if it didn’t turn out to be interesting, she could always bring it back.
“Hey! Dawn?” Amy sounding closer than Dawn expected.
Dawn’s heart began to pound, “Yeah?” she answered turning around. Amy was walking toward her, with a box in her hands. Dawn hooked her thumb in the shoulder strap of her bag, and used her elbow to wedge her book bag against her body. She hoped that the move looked natural, like she was trying to keep the bag from sliding off her shoulder.
“Make yourself useful and drop this off downstairs,” Amy said rudely, shoving the box at her.
Dawn fumbled with it, barely catching hold of it before it fell. Amy was already walking off. “God, were you this rude before you were a rat?” Dawn muttered toward Amy’s retreating back, and headed toward the stockroom.
When she got to the bottom of the stairs, she was really tempted to hold the box at arms length and drop it. In the end she just set it down less-than-gently at the base of the staircase.
She was surprised to see Xander down there. He hardly ever came around anymore. It looked like he was getting ready to start building more shelving.
“Hey, Dawnie,” he said, grinning. The smile didn’t touch his eyes, but she could see he was trying.
“Hey, yourself, stranger,” she said, giving him a big hug. He flinched, and she pulled back. “Are you ok?” she asked, concerned.
“What? Oh, yeah! Fine,” he said unconvincingly.
She looked skeptically at him.
“Really, I’m fine,” he assured her “I just got a sunburn at work, that’s all, it stings. How’re things with you?”
She decided to let it go, he obviously didn’t want to talk to her about it. “Good, you know? School sucks but …” she started.
He cut her off, saying, “That’s great,” his voice cheerfully overenthusiastic. Then he added distractedly, “Did Buffy come here with you?”
“Huh? Buffy?” his sudden question threw her off.
“Yeah, I was just wondering if she came in with you?” He fidgeted, nervously.
Dawn frowned, a bit freaked by the sudden change in Xander, “Um, no – she’s working late” she answered carefully.
“Oh, that’s right,” he said vaguely. “Well it’s good to see you, Dawnster. Glad to hear everything’s going well. Catch you later,” and with that, he was gone.
“Nice to see you too, Xander,” she murmured.
“For someone so tense, you’d think that carpenter boy’s no longer getting nailed,” she heard a voice dryly observe.
“Spike,” she hissed, as he came out of the shadows, “What are you doing here? Anyone could see you.” She fretfully looked around in case someone heard them.
“Came looking for you. You haven’t been to the crypt.”
She frowned, “I didn’t think you were staying there.”
“I’m not, but I was hoping to catch you there.”
“Why?” the word slipped out before she could stop it.
“What, I can’t want to spend time with you?”
Tears sprang up instantly in her eyes. Spike was in her face before she could will them away. “Hey, now, none of that.” He put a hand to the side of her face, and stroked her cheek with his thumb. “They notice if you left?” he asked, jerking his head indicating the people upstairs in the shop.
“Probably not,” God, she sounded pathetic even to herself.
“Come on then,” he said, taking her hand.
“Don’t even think about it, Nibblet,” Spike said without turning around.
Dawn froze, caught in the act of sliding her lighter out of her pocket with one hand, and an illicit cigarette between the fingers of the other, “What, you’re the Surgeon General now?”
Spike stopped and turned around, taking a drag off his own cigarette, “You arguing with me?”
“You smoke. What do you care if I do?” she grumbled, but she made no move to light up.
He just looked at her.
“Fine!” she sighed exasperatedly.
Spike held his hand out to her, “Give ‘em up.” She sighed again, and dropped the unlit cigarette from her hand. Sliding the rest of the pack out of her book bag, she handed it to him.
They walked in silence for a few moments, then Spike said, “Sorry to hear about your mum. She was a fine lady.”
Dawn’s throat tightened and she barely squeaked out the word, “Thanks.”
“That why you’re channeling your inner Courtney Love?”
“What? No! Well, I don’t know, maybe,” she answered, then said indignantly, “Wait, you think I look skanky?” She was mortified. “Please tell me that you did not just call me skanky.”
He laughed, “No, just meant you got your wild on, ‘s all.” He stopped and looked at her appraisingly, “Wild’s a good look for you.”
She felt her skin flush at the compliment, but she couldn’t help grinning like an idiot.
“Okay, Kitten, this is our stop,” and he flicked his cigarette down the tunnel impossibly far. Turning sideways he slipped through a large fissure in the concrete wall.
Dawn was still smiling when she squeezed through herself.
She sat cross-legged on Spike’s bed, staring intently at the pencil. It twitched a bit, but wouldn’t rise.
“See, I’m just not very good,” she said dejectedly. He’d asked about her spell books, and how she was doing with her casting.
Spike was lying on his side across from her, the impudent pencil between them.
“You’re too tense. Come here,” he said rising, motioning her to sit in front of him.
She nervously picked up the pencil and shifted so she was sitting with her back to him. “Here?” she asked.
“Scoot back a bit,” he instructed, so she squirmed back some more.
His back was now resting against the headboard. He had his legs splayed out and she was now firmly wedged between them. She had no idea how this was going to make her relax. Her heart was pounding, and her palms were starting to sweat. She really hoped Spike didn’t notice as she tried to wipe them off discreetly on her jeans.
She crossed her legs again and put the pencil down in front of her.
“Interesting color choice,” he said fingering her hair. Then he gathered it into a bunch and draped it over her shoulder so it now hung down her front. “Why’d you pick it?”
She hesitated, “When I was little, my mom used to read me stories about these fairies. They’d go around the forest and rescue the little animals and have adventures. Periwinkle was my favorite; she was the smallest one, but she had the best powers, she could talk to the flowers and trees and make them grow because she loved them so much. Anyway…” she broke off, shrugging.
“What happened to your mum? Vampires?” he asked.
“No. It was stupid. Just a stupid tumor, then complications,” she shrugged miserably.
“It gets easier over time,” he said “but it will always hurt.”
“Did your mom die, you know, before you?” she asked. With her back to him, she missed the strange look that skittered across his face.
“No, it was after. But I still think about her sometimes,” he said. Then he put his hands on her shoulders, and started rubbing them gently. She inhaled sharply, and felt herself tense. “Relax, ‘Bit, I’m not going to hurt you.”
She tried to relax, she really did, but he was right there and touching her. She knew he didn’t mean anything by it, that he was just trying to help, but it was unnerving having him this intimate. She was getting all kinds of knots in her stomach and tingles even lower.
“Don’t think about me, just think about your pencil,” he said softly.
At least he hadn’t seemed to notice she was totally crushing on him. She took a deep breath and tried to concentrate on the pencil. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Not even a wiggle.
“I suck,” she sighed exasperatedly. “I should just give up.”
“Don’t say that. You’re just not properly motivated. Do you have to use the pencil?” he asked.
“No. It’s just what Willow started with. I guess I thought that’s where I should start.”
“You’re not Willow,” he said flatly.
She was crushed. He thought she sucked too. She was glad that her back was to him, so he couldn't see the misery that she knew was evident on her face.
He still must have noticed a change in her, because he squeezed her shoulders and said. “I bollixed that up. Just meant you need something that suits you, not Willow. Wait a mo’.” He released her shoulders, and leaned his upper body over to the table next to the bed. He rummaged inside the drawer for something.
His maneuver caused him to crush his legs up against her so he could keep his balance and made her flush again. Then he was righting himself again.
“How ‘bout you practice with this. If you float it, you can have it,” he reached around her and held out a necklace with a pendant almost the size of a silver dollar.
It was beautiful, and obviously very old. The pendant was four clear, teardrop shaped stones, surely not diamonds, with their points centered around a circular blue stone in a cross pattern. Not a cross cross pattern, because obviously no flame-age, but like an x tipped up on one leg.
“I can’t take this, Spike. It’s too…” nice for someone like me, was what she wanted to say.
“Not like I’m giving it to you. You gotta earn it,” she felt him shrug. “If you can’t, no loss, I can pawn it for a few quid.”
The thing was, she did want it, no matter what she told him. If she’d seen it in a shop, she’d have pocketed it. She took it from his hand and placed it on the bed, tossing that stupid pencil off the side of the bed.
“Now, close your eyes,” Spike said, “and breathe.” He brought his hands up and began rubbing her shoulders again.
And so she did. She lost herself in the swish-in, swish-out of her own breath, and the gentle soothing pressure of his strong hands. She felt herself in a state of relaxation she had been unable to attain before. She was no longer worried if she could cast the spell, in fact it seemed almost childishly easy. She relaxed into the spell, instead of concentrating on it and opened her eyes. The pendant was floating about a foot in front of her face – chain swaying gently beneath it.
“Knew you could do it,” Spike murmured softly.
His words almost broke her concentration; the pendant dipped for a second, then righted itself. She practiced moving around a bit, tentatively at first, then using more dramatic movements, until she brought it gently back to the bed.
She picked it up with her hand, marveling that she had actually moved it. “I did it,” she whispered wonderingly to herself.
“Here, let me,” Spike took the necklace out of her hand, and undid the clasp. Then he was reaching around her and affixing it around her neck. He gently arranged her hair so it was back to normal, hanging down her back . Every touch of his hand in her hair gave her goose bumps. When he finished, he said, “Let's see it.”
She scooted off the end of the bed and stood up.
“Beautiful,” he said, and even though she knew he didn’t think of her that way, the way he said it made her feel beautiful.
She walked over to the cheap wall mirror she’d placed in the corner months ago, and admired the necklace. It really was beautiful.
Spike walked up and placed a hand on her lower back for just a second. She tried to ignore the way it made her skin almost sizzle, even though his skin was so much cooler. She didn't know what she wanted more, for him to stop touching her so much, or to never stop touching her. He made her dizzy.
“Sun’s set by now, want me to walk you?” he said softly much too close to her ear.
“Um, yeah…” she said, coming out of her daze, turning to look at him. She smiled, “Thanks.”
“Nothing to thank me for,” he said giving her a half smile.
“No, really, thanks. For today. For everything.” It was the first really good day she could remember.
They took the tunnels until she was only a couple of blocks from home. She wouldn’t let him walk with her the rest of the way, even though he offered. She was afraid that Buffy or someone might see him.
She felt amazing. Even Buffy’s absence from the house, hours after she was supposed to be home, wasn’t enough to bring her down. She fell asleep with the weight of the pendant comforting beneath her night shirt.
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