“Tara,” Dawn asked one night, “do you think Buffy can see the stars?”
“She’s in them,” Tara answered, wrapping a warm arm around Dawn’s too-thin shoulders.
They sat like that for another hour, watching airplanes blink and convincing themselves that they were shooting stars. When Dawn’s strawberry scented head lay heavily on Tara’s shoulder, Tara just shifted under the weight and took a deep breath. It wouldn’t be long before Dawn woke up, trembling and whispering about knives and towers and fat red drops that destroyed the world.
After a few minutes, a black shape passed across the yard and approached her.
“She’s fallen asleep, then.” Spike crouched down to look at Dawn’s face. “Maybe it’s getting better.”
“We’ll just see if it lasts till morning.”
“It’s getting chilly out here, we should get her inside.” Spike gently leaned Dawn away from Tara and hoisted her into his arms in one smooth motion.
Tara blew out the candles, picked them up, and followed Spike into the house. It was good to have him here. She trailed the vampire and the sleeping girl up the stairs and into Dawn’s room.
Spike peeled back the covers and carefully arranged Dawn on the blue and white sheets. After he had placed Mr. Gordo in his charge’s arms, he turned to Tara.
“You need some blood?” Tara asked in a hushed voice.
Spike chuckled softly as he rubbed the back of his neck. “Oh, whatever you’ve got.”
Tara tiptoed out of the room. When she returned with the warm mug, Spike had already drawn the curtains, removed his duster, and unrolled Dawn’s old Muppet Babies sleeping bag beside the bed.
The woman moved toward him and tentatively touched his forearm. “Willow and I really appreciate all you’ve done these past few weeks. I – I know Dawn can be kind of – demanding sometimes.”
“Whatever I can do for the Nibblet,” Spike replied.
“Oh, do you want pancakes or scrambled eggs for breakfast?” Tara asked.
“Pancakes. Funny shapes, of course.”
“Of course.” She smiled. “Goodnight.” Tara moved to the door and put her hand on the lightswitch.
As soon as the room was dark and quiet, the girl in the bed stirred. She kicked the neatly tucked covers onto the floor and grasped the stuffed pig.
“No! Buff … I … it’s my … I’m bleeding … I didn’t mean to … Spike!”
In the old worn routine, Spike stroked Dawn’s hand and whispered, “I’m here. It’s okay, I’m here." Another long night of this. She wouldn’t remember in the morning, but it was better that way.