Liquidram - October 17 2001

October 2001

"I had to do this Shakespeare scene for my drama class. I totally suck at Shakespeare you know, and he helped me with the scene and he didn't even have to read the lines, because he already knew them, and you should have heard his voice. God, it was so amazing, all refined-like and not at all like he really sounds, and then when we were done he kept talking like that...." Dawn finished drying the last dish and tossed the towel on the counter.

Buffy grabbed it from the counter and handed it back to her. "Washer. Cleans clothes. Get acquainted. Now slow down, you're making my brain melt. I get it. You and Spike got closer, when..."

"No, you don't get it." Dawn folded the towel into squares, whipped it out and started again.

Buffy took the towel back from her. "Look, Dawn, I know it's great to have him around when he's on our side, and he's helped me a lot, but he can't control what he is and now ..."

"He can control it. I've seen him do it." Dawn yanked the towel back and walked out towards the laundry room. Buffy's voice followed.

"What do you mean, you've seen him do it?"

May 2001

"I don't see what's the big hoo-rah with this cookie dough stuff. It's unnatural not takin' it to the full biscuit potential. Never did take to this freezin' junk either." Spike tossed the waffle cone over his shoulder, hitting the garbage can dead center.

"Two points!" Dawn smacked his hand for a low five before raising her arms up in a mock crowd cheer. "Ice cream is the best thing ever invented, or didn't they have it in the dark ages when you were a kid?"

"I'll tell ya what was the best thing ever invente--- uh ... an whadya mean Dark Ages? I'll have ya know I'm not a day over ...."

He was interrupted by a strange voice. "Don't move."

The owner of the voice appeared out of the shadows, revealing a gun pointed at Spike's back. "How sweet, taking the cute little chickie out for a treat. She seems a bit young for you, but I can see why you're interested."

Dawn watched Spike, horrified, as his face began to change at the man's leering tone. "Spike." She mouthed his name, staring him in the eyes, trying to divert his attention. He can't fight this guy and he's going to get hurt. She shook her head at him, silently warning him to remain calm. Their assailant laughed, believing the headshake to be in fear of him. "Tell you what, you empty out your pockets, and I'll think about not giving Chickie a little kiss."

The last word was barely spoken when Spike spun around, in full game face and grabbed the man by the throat. The vampire screamed out in pain, but tightened his fingers. The gun clattered to the ground and Dawn ran over, grabbing Spike's arm trying to loosen his grip on the man's neck. Spike snarled at her, and pushed her none too gently away with his free arm.

"Threatening little girls a thrill for ya, mate?" Spike's voice was low and guttural, his fangs flashing in the neon light from a shop window. He leaned closer to the man's throat, blinking his eyes briefly and swallowing hard. He growled and shoved the attacker roughly away from him. The ridges on his forehead began to smooth and his eyes flickered blue before closing again. The man whimpered once, as both he and Spike fainted dead away.

Dawn moved toward the two, kicking the gun away. She hunkered down next to Spike, unsure what to do. She had seen him sleep lots of times. The first time had completely unnerved her to see him lay there, not breathing and looking dead. Okay, he is dead. This time was different.

She would deny it to anyone who asked, but she loved to watch Spike sleep. He would lay there, still as a statue, completely at rest. No matter what had happened, either during a patrol or an argument with the Scoobies, nothing reflected on his features while he slept. It seemed to be the only time he found peace after Buffy's death. If he dreamed, only the occasional brief flicker would cross his brow. He looked soft, sweet, and calm while sleeping. I can pretend he's really my big brother. My human big brother.

This time was different. He laid there, more pale than usual, with blue veins streaking angrily across his forehead and cheeks. His lips were slack and colored a pale shade of purple. His eyes were closed tightly causing a web of frown marks. He wasn't dust, which meant he wasn't dead, but he looks deader than dead. The chip had zapped him harshly and he looked badly hurt.

"Spike?" she whispered close to his ear, while unconsciously running her hand through his hair hoping to ease any residual pain he may be experiencing. He's unconscious, moron, he can't feel anything, she considered, praying that it was true. She had to get him off the street before anyone noticed. There was no way for her to lift him and she was afraid to leave him in case the other guy woke up and found Spike defenseless. She stood up, glancing around at the darkened storefronts and the empty street.

"I need to call Xander and Anya, or maybe Giles." She nervously chatted aloud to Spike's still form debating where she could find a phone since the stores nearby had closed for the night. Okay, cell phone on the Santa list. She swung around in a defensive crouch, fists clinched when a shaky voice interrupted her thoughts.

"You are not calling that Bob Villa wannabe. Just help me up." Spike was raising himself up slowly, holding his hand to the back of his head. He chuckled softly, wincing at the ache in his head, seeing Dawn's protective stance. "Or maybe yer just plannin' on layin' me out again?"

Dawn's fists instantly moved to her hips as she attempted a stern look in his direction When all I really wanna do is hug him for still being here.

"What were you thinking?" She scowled at him. "Did Mr. Master Vampire forget that getting all grrrr-like is a no-no? What if you dusted? What then? What if that guy woke up and there's me, little Dawn, and her pile o'dust escort? What if --- "

Dawn's tirade halted when Spike tried to get up, but his legs had other ideas and buckled under him. She grabbed for him and caught him under his arm, which only served to pull her down with him, resulting in a tumbled ballet of leather, denim and limbs.

"Get offa me, you mutt. Dammit 'Bit, it ain't normal for a kid to grow so bleedin' fast." Untangling himself as gracefully as possible, Spike's second attempt at regaining his feet was successful and he reached down and took Dawn's outstretched hand to help her up. Their assailant groaned and Spike reacted by raising his fist.

Dawn saw what was about to happen and stopped his hand before it could begin its intended arc. "Oh no you don't! Let me."

Before he could stop her, she slugged the man in the chin stopping the groan. Or at least Spike thought the groaning stopped. It was difficult to tell with the squealing and yelling coming from Dawn.

"Ow, ouch, OW!" She was holding her hand and creating new, clever dance steps trying to stop the intense pain shooting up her arm.

That was a lesson I was hopin' she wouldn't have to learn. Spike tried to take her hand, but got his slapped away for his efforts.

"Don't touch it. Oh God, I think I broke my hand. Ow, oh jeez, that hurts. How come you and Buffy can hit people and ..." At Buffy's name, she stopped her rant and burst into tears.

October 2001

"Telling me that he let you get hurt is supposed to soften me, how?" Buffy's snappish tone interrupted Dawn's story.

"Are you listening to me, or not?" Dawn snapped back. "He did not let me get hurt. I hit the guy myself cuz I was afraid he would get zapped again and I didn't think he could take it." How was I supposed to know it was gonna break my hand? "Do you really not understand what happened or are you just being stubborn like you always are about Spike?"

"I am not always stubborn about Spike. We've been getting along really well, which is why .... It doesn't matter how we've been getting along. Obviously he's got a problem now and I need to deal with it. Conversation over." Buffy began to leave the room, but was stopped short by Dawn's grasp on her arm. So when did little sis get so tough?

"I'm not finished." Dawn dropped Buffy's arm and motioned for her to sit on the sofa. "We weren't attacked by a demon, Buffy. It was a bloody human dirtbag and Spike chose to hurt himself instead of taking the chance that I would get hurt." She ignored Buffy's wince at her choice of adjectives.

"He told me lots of things after that."

May 2001

"Well, I'd take you out for more ice cream for bein' such a good girl at the hospital and all, but Diet Coke's gonna hafta do for now." Spike pulled a can from the fridge and started to toss it to her. Oops, one-handed. He gave Dawn the can, along with one of the pain pills the doctor had given them. "This one's gonna make you sleepy, so let's get you situated." He pulled pillows over for behind her head and under her arm and covered her with the comforter Willow kept for cooler nights. After making certain she was snug and tucked, he kissed her forehead and moved toward the front door.

"Don't go. You said we could talk." Dawn swallowed the pill with a slurp of her soda and yelled after him. "Besides, what if you get all dizzy or something, you know, delayed reaction? You should stay here tonight just in case."

"Shhhhh, keep it down." Spike hissed. He was not interested in another scene with Willow who had nearly gone hysterical when he brought Dawn home with the cast on her arm. After much cajoling and about a hundred hugs between the girls, Tara had been able to get Willow upstairs to their room. "I'll stay awhile, but when I see droopin' eyes, I'm outta here." He sat down on the floor, leaning against the sofa, and turned toward her as she spoke.

"What was it like?"

Spike considered his response. How much to tell her? He shrugged his shoulders and nabbed a swig from her can. "Ack, how do you drink this swill?"

"Oh yeah, Blood Breath. You're quite the connoisseur." She laughed aloud at his grimace, earning herself a stern look and a glance at the stairs. They snickered softly for a few seconds before Spike answered her question.

"All I could think of was that guy was gonna try to harm you." He absently picked up the can for another sip. "Couldn't allow that. Knew it was gonna hurt. Made the choice."

Dawn took the can and finished the drink. "You fight all the time, but this time, you changed. Why?" Recognizing his stricken look as he remembered her witnessing the exchange, she quickly added, "I really like you much better like this, by the way. Much purdier." Spike didn't rise to the tease.

"Look Bit. It coulda gone much worse. Nuthin' is gonna happen to you on my watch. I didn't wanna just nail the guy, I wanted to rip his throat out."

Dawn swiped her free hand down, trying to dispel his concern. "Nuh-uh, Spike. You would never have done that no matter what, even if I hadn't been there. You can't hurt humans anymore remember?"

Spike caught her hand in mid-swipe and squeezed just enough to cause her a twinge of pain, not unlike the matching twinge resulting in his own head. "It's not that I can't, Dawn."

She made no move to pull her hand from his, but squeezed back as hard as she could to emphasize her point. "But the chip will hurt you if you do. I thought you were going to die tonight. I mean really die." Her squeeze became gentle as she idly caressed the rough knuckle of his thumb. "I don't think I could bear that. You're my family now, ya know." Um, sharing a bit more than intended here. Embarrassed, she lifted his thumb up close to her face. "And you have got to quit biting your nails."

"It's important, Dawn." She dropped his hand in order to stifle a yawn. He hesitated and took her chin in his hand, forcing her to look directly at him. "No ... it's imperative that you understand. If I had allowed it to happen, if I had killed that assss ... jerk, I may not have been able to control what I did next and that would have put you in equal danger. And if that day comes ....."

"You would never hurt me!" Dawn cried out, not caring if she woke the entire house, just wanting him to shut up. He didn't.

"And if that day comes," he repeated, his voice steel, "then you will need to take me down." Before she could comment, he cocked his head in that annoying, endearing way he had and whispered conspiratorially into her ear. "And I'm gonna teach you how."

Don't want to even think about that. Dawn, determined not to cry, responded with sarcasm. "Well I guess we don't have to worry about it, do we, since the chip would knock you on your knocked-out butt before I could get a stake." She sniffed loudly and tried to cover the next yawn with a cough.

He began to rise, relieved that she had calmed down, but she held on to his arm again to keep him in place. "Not done with you," she mumbled through her fingers. Her eyelids were growing quite heavy and it was getting a bit hard to focus. Flashing him a fair imitation of his trademark smirk, she added, "either of you." Sighing heavily, she let go of his arm and fell back into the pillow.

Spike stood and grinned down at her. "I'm leavin' and no argument from you young lady. Want I should help you up to yer room?"

Dawn yawned again, not even trying to hide this one. "Nah, comfy, gonna sleep here tonight."

"Alright then, g'night Sweepie."

"Love ya, Fang."

He stood a moment watching until her eyes finally closed. Love you too, Little One. Opening the door as quietly as possible, he heard her call out softly to him. "Promise we'll talk more tomorrow night?"

He turned back to her, but her eyes were still closed.

"I promise."

October 2001

Buffy closed the door to Dawn's room after checking to make sure she was safely in bed. Willow and Tara's door was closed and the house was quiet. She walked outside and sat on the porch.

She was still reeling with what Dawn had told her. Spike had taught Dawn to defend herself from him in case the chip had malfunctioned or he had overcome it. He had guarded her with his life and then had shown her how to take it if necessary.

The usual comfort of her retreat was missing this night. He was the only person who always knew what she needed, either words or companionable silence to release the stress of the day and night. But he wouldn't show up here tonight, littering her stoop with countless cigarette butts. And when did I start thinking of him as a person? Buffy covered her face with her hands and cried.

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