Part Six: Differences
“C’mon in.” Buffy patted the bed next to her.
That was all she needed; Dawn plopped down agreeably next to her sister and stared at the bathroom door, too. “So…”
“So.” Buffy repeated.
“You…you don’t have to give me your camisole.” Dawn blurted out. “It’s okay.”
“No, it’s okay.” Buffy said. “I can’t fit into it any more.”
“You don’t mind?”
“Okay.” Dawn looked again at the bathroom door, trying to figure out what it had done to annoy her sister, but it looked blameless to her, and besides, Buffy was now eyeing the carpet. “So…Kind of unexpected, Anya, huh?”
“Yep.” Buffy said. She caught the tone of Dawn’s voice, and shrugged an arm around her sister’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Dawnie, I’m just….pizza’d out.”
“That’s it?” Dawn squeaked.
“Yes, fraid so. No melodrama here.” Unless you count those flashbacks, she thought.
“Oh. ‘Cause I heard you saying to Giles you wanted to talk. Not good. Never good. Mom and Dad always had lots of those talks, remember?” Conscious, suddenly, of the flow of words gushing from her own mouth, Dawn shut her mouth with a snap, and laid her head with some difficulty on her sister’s shoulder.She counted to ten before she spoke again. “Was it about Spike?”
“Yes.” Buffy said quietly.
“Was it about….what he tried to almost do?”
Buffy hesitated, but took a breath and answered. “Yes.” Abruptly, she turned and looked at her sister, or more correctly, the part in Dawn’s hair.“What did Xander tell you?”
“He said…something about ‘after Spike almost raped your sister’.” Dawn said in a small voice.
Oh, God, Buffy thought. “I don’t know what to say, Dawn.” Except…that did sound like Xander was responding to something. “What did you say just before he said that?”
“Something about Spike.” She mumbled. “Something about how Spike would know
what to do or something. You know, and then Xander….”
And then Xander had to get his shot at Spike in.It’s not like Dawn needs to know this stuff, she thought. It’s not something she should have heard from anybody but me, especially when I’m still trying to deal with it. “Damn.” She muttered. “Damn, damn, damn.” Dawn’s lost Mom and Tara, if it’s going to Spike next, it’s not Xander’s job, dammit. She tried to stamp down the anger, but it wasn’t subsiding the way it should “It’s not like Xander can criticize,” Buffy exclaimed before she’d thought about it. “He—“tried to rape me himself.
And then, stunned, she sat there with her mouth open and her eyes wide.
She’d forgotten. Or made herself forget. Spells, possessions, stuff like that. Always something else. Xander had been possessed by a hyena or some other creature at the time, and then he’d said he had amnesia afterward. He had tried to bewitch into making her love him again, but he had hated being on the receiving end of Willow’s de-lusting spell later on, and she had thought that he had learned his lesson. Of course, she had been proven wrong when she’d discovered he’d been the one to summon the dancing demon---and the deaths that came with that spell. Then again, neither had Willow, she thought.She got chills just thinking about it. My friends. The friends that brought me back.
After Spike almost raped your sister. He used what Spike tried to do to me to make Dawn hate him, too. Gotta take advantage of that Spike-hating opportunity. Shouldn’t he hate Spike because of what he tried to do? Shouldn’t he? Wasn’t that fair? After all, he himself had been under a spell the other time.
Which other time? If she had forgotten that one, what else was there?You always forget what your friends do, she thought sadly, and remember your enemies’ actions forever.
Dawn waited for the talking to resume, then finally looked uncomfortably at her sister. “You know, you’re supposed to talk now.”
“Sorry. Brain fart.”
“Oh, okay.” Dawn accepted the explanation. “Your brain farts are quiet; mine are so noisy.” She bounced on the bed a moment. “Uh…Did Xander have a brain fart when he said that?” She asked in a small voice.
“Kind of.” Dawn lit up instantly, her mouth opening wide. “You mean, Spike didn’t…” One look at Buffy’s face and she quieted down. “No such luck, huh?”
“Dawn….” Buffy reached down and grabbed her hand. “You know…I want to explain that to you.”
“Why? He, what, he tried to, to…?” She sniffed.
“It’s not like that.”
“Was it, like, a mistake?”
Buffy stared at the bathroom door for a long time. ”Yeah, it was.” She ran her hands through her hair.
“Do you think…”Dawn tucker her legs under herself nervously. “Do you think he could…be like that…with anybody else? I mean, Anya…?”
“That was different, Dawnie.” Buffy said quietly. “I broke up with him, and I, uh, I, well…He loved me.” She muttered. “And he wanted to believe that I loved him.”
“No.” Buffy said firmly.
“But you and he…And then Anya.I saw you. You were all upset. I mean, you got all…all quiet and stuff, the way you do. How can you, you know---“ Dawn grimaced. “You guys were, you know, ugh, having sex, right?”
“Yeah.” Buffy muttered again.
“Well…” Dawn grumbled. “That’s a big deal, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, yeah, it is.” Buffy said. “But how was I supposed to tell anybody after I came back?”
“You could have told me.” Dawn whispered. “I would have loved to know. I would have listened.”
“I couldn’t.” Buffy tried hard not to sniff. “I was supposed to protect you.”
“From what?” Dawn’s voice broke. “From you? You’re my sister, it’s supposed to go both ways. You protect me and I protect you.”
“You know…”Buffy took a deep and shaky breath. “There’s some things you can’t protect people from.”
“But you have to let them try. No, wait, let me guess. I’m only sixteen, I shouldn’t be dealing with stuff like that. You know, Buffy, just because you’re the Slayer doesn’t mean you have to do everything.” She got up and sat down at Buffy’s vanity, turning the chair sideways so she could look at her. “I mean, is that what you did with Spike?”
Buffy stared at her. Actually, yes, was the thought that she had, but she couldn’t say that. “You know, Dawn, you make it sound like, like, it’s understandable….”
“No!” Dawn jumped up and flopped down beside her, hugging her fiercely. “No, not that. No. But, I want to know what’s wrong. I was so happy to have you back, I wanted to---well, I’m not exactly sure, but I wanted to…do stuff. Be supportive and stuff. Whatever that means. I’m not exactly sure what that means, really, but I’ll go look it up. I want to know. I was so lonely without you, but then you came back, and it’s like you still weren’t here. I could see you, but you weren’t really here.”
“That was…” Buffy’s voice dropped to a breath. “That was all I could do.”
“If I’d have helped you, you could have done more.” Dawn hesitated, then reached out and grabbed Buffy’s hand. “If…if….things had been better….Do you…think….Do you think it would have been the same?”
“The same?” Buffy looked at her blankly.
The question startled her. “What do you mean..?”
“Well, you and him…?”
She tried to think back, back to the beginning of the year, something she tried to avoid doing, because it all seeped together into one big mess. Sometimes she woke up from peaceful dreams of the refuge where she’d been, and it was just as awful as waking up in her coffin. I couldn’t tell them, she thought, because that would have made them feel bad. And they knew it, too. She couldn’t get over that impression, that they had known, and it had been too much for them to bear. She hadn’t had the strength to force the issue, not against all of them. Only Spike was safe. The only person she could tell was him, and in some way she had known that part of it was because he loved her so, and part of it was because the rest of the Scoobies were eyeing them uneasily, unwilling to say something about the time they spent together.To say something would have given the idea a force it couldn’t have as a mere suspicion. By the time she’d actually told them about where she’d been, it had been too late. Spike had become her refuge, and what she escaped from with him were her friends. If they had been there from the get-go, what would it have been like?
What would it have been like?
She remembered that first kiss, after the spell, outside the Bronze. Oh, it was sweet. What if she could have admitted to her friends what was developing between them? She couldn’t admit anything to them, much less to Spike. What would it have been like if she could have? She wouldn’t have had to end that kiss for fear of being found out, she wouldn’t have had to hide. The kiss could have gone on and on till it found a natural end, whether the Scoobies observed it or not. No rush when it abruptly ended, no desperation to find that feeling again, that connection.After all, someone who’s been pulled out of Heaven should be allowed to kiss whoever she wanted. There would have been a conversation, like all the conversations she had been having since she came back.Because of course, that’s what your friends are for, helping you with your worries, not ignoring them. A troublesome kiss that made you feel alive when everything else seemed deadening? No hiding it, just time to deal with it. Maybe they would have argued a little about it, her friends, but the point is, it would have been dealt with. Couldn’t do that when you couldn’t even admit something was wrong in the first place, could you?
Was he just a substitute for her friends? Was that all? She stopped trusting them and started trusting him instead?
She thought back to his arms around her, the way he kissed her, the way he moved. No, Spike was no substitute. She thought about it. Dating Spike in front of her friends? If she had had time to get used to the idea? Given them time?
She squeezed Dawn’s hand. “Things would have been different, Dawnie.” She sighed. “I think they would have been lots different.”
“Uh…different good or different bad?” Dawn asked cautiously.
No abrupt sex after a fight, she thought. What could it have been like? Had she really been that pissed off at him? Or was it them, the people she couldn’t get pissed off at, the people who were supposed to be her friends? I started treating him like a vampire again, after I treated him like a man, she thought. A good man.
“Different better.” She said softly. “I did stuff I shouldn’t have. And so did he.”
“You make it sound like…?”
“Well, like, I don’t know.” Dawn shrugged. “This is real complicated for me.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, Xander said he tried to rape you. So, I just, thought, you know…I have this idea what it was like. Like the way he said it, it was like, almost….” She chewed her lip for a moment. “Like, well, he wanted to have sex with you or something. And that was all. I don’t know. I can’t explain it.”
Like he wanted to have sex with you or something.
I wish that were all he wanted.
Buffy swallowed. “Xander was wrong, Dawn.” She looked down at their hands. God, I’ve messed up every other relationship, please don’t let me mess this up. “He wanted me to love him. And he kept thinking that I did, that I just didn’t want to admit it.”
“I don’t know.” She shrugged at Dawn’s skeptical look. “It’s not like I’m any good at it.” She chose her next words carefully. “He loved me, and he thought, well, he thought, that…Oh, God, you know, I thought I could say this, but I just can’t.”
“Was I right?”
Buffy thought about it. “And Xander was wrong?”
“I think so.” She closed her eyes, the sound of her voice echoing off the tile ringing in her ears. He was so desperate. So was I. How do you tell a sixteen-year-old stuff that twenty-one-year-olds can’t deal with?
“Xander shouldn’t have told you.” Buffy said quietly. “That was none of his business.”
“But what if…Should I be afraid of him? Of Spike?”
Buffy thought about it. “No, Dawn.” She smoothed Dawn’s hair with one finger. “I don’t think so.” She took a deep breath. “He didn’t want to hurt me.He wasn’t trying to hurt me.” She sighed, but it shook, somewhere in the middle. “But he did anyway.He wasn’t trying to….but he did…” She sighed. “If he had, I mean, that would have been different.” She sighed again. “I wish I were better at this stuff. I wish I could explain it. I just can’t.I…trusted him. Even though he was a vampire, I trusted him. I never thought… Oh, God, Dawnie…I don’t know how to explain this….I do the best I can, but the only thing I’m really good at is killing things. I just have to sort of feel my way around, Dawn, and it’s hard. So don’t look at me for a really good role model, okay?”
“That’s okay.” Dawn said reassuringly. “I mean, I stopped asking you for fashion advice a long time ago.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Well,” came Giles’ voice from the doorway. “It means that both of us have an excuse for our haute couture faux pas.” He looked down at both of them, and Buffy felt her nerve shrivel. Oh, God. How much did he hear? How much did he hear?
Continued in Part Seven: And then