By Devil Piglet
Disclaimer: All characters of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ are used without permission.
Author’s Notes: Spike and Dawn have some unfinished business.
Feedback: Reviews are welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org
Buffy apologizes to her, explaining that the job requires her to be on school premises until four. She says Dawn could stay with her in the cube, do her homework, but even as she offers Dawn senses the uneasiness behind her words; worry about anything that might jeopardize this delicate niche she’d unintentionally carved for herself. Would the principal frown disapprovingly at Dawn’s presence? Would other kids become intimidated or confused, thinking themselves interlopers between the two pretty Summers sisters?
So Dawn waves her off. She can amuse herself for an hour, she tells Buffy. The next evening over dinner she hands Buffy the Extracurricular Activities Release Form. “Drama club meets right after last period. It’ll give me something to do ‘til you’re ready.” Buffy is thrilled, and Dawn is struck anew by her sister’s genuine desire to see her happy. She’s trying. She’s trying so hard for me, Dawn thinks.
“It’s great you’ve found something you’ll like,” Buffy enthuses, as she handed the paper back to her sister.
Dawn just smiles.
When the final bell peals Dawn’s freedom, she walks with Kit to the lockers. She giggles and chats as the other girl loads up an enormous, silver-buckled black bag with books that will not be opened until the following morning.
“You’re not leaving?” Kit asks.
“Nah. Buffy’s still on ‘do the right thing’ duty, so I’m gonna hang for a while.”
Kit’s face gentles in concern. “Sucks.”
“No worries. I’ve got something to do.”
Dawn is grateful now for the janitor zombie and the rest of his psycho crew. Had they not terrorized her so thoroughly a few weeks ago, she wouldn’t be so sure-footed today as she prowls the basement.
Of course, his voice is her true north.
It beckons her, leads her on with its heartbroken yammering – the content of which Dawn ignores. The words aren’t important; all that matters is that the voice continues.
Then she rounds a shadowed corner, and he is there.
Well, not there there. More hovering at the edges of this musty storage room, pacing back and forth. Fevered mutterings escape him, and now the constant stream of nonsense grates her.
“Spike,” she says loudly. His head jerks up.
He stares at her, momentarily shocked into silence. Good. She sets her backpack down and begins to unload it. He doesn’t move, just stares at her like she’s some kind of slumming angel.
“Halfling,” he whispers finally. “Almost whole, you are. Every time I see you there’s a bit more.” He shakes his head almost angrily. “Everything’s different, in my head, and you – even you’re different, growing and glowing –"
Dawn looks up from where she’s kneeling beside her supplies. “Shut up,” she hisses.
And he does.
Keeps watching her – eyes bloodshot and wary, and there’s something behind them that Dawn hasn’t seen before. The madness she recognizes; it confronted her in the voracious gazes of Glory’s victims two years ago. She knows the crazies, Dawn thinks now. But there’s something else, something beyond those blue delusions…
Doesn’t matter, though. Dawn places the last of the items on the dirt-gritted floor, and stands again.
“I don’t want to hear another word,” she says. “I don’t want to hear anything you have to say, ever again. Do you understand me, Spike?”
A long pause. Then he nods.
She gestures with an imperious finger, and he slowly walks – slinks – toward her. You should slink, Dawn thinks fiercely. You should crawl on your belly after what you did to her. Bastard, lying worthless evil asshole…
“Sit,” she commands. Once he complies she crouches next to him.
“You stink,” she says contemptuously. “God, you’re disgusting.”
He flinches a little at that, looks almost ashamed. And if it were anyone else she’d apologize; hell, she wouldn’t have said it in the first place, but this is Spike and he attacked Buffy so screw him and his pathetic kicked-puppy expression.
Her knuckles are white where she grips the sponge like a weapon. She soaks it with lukewarm water from the thermos she brought, then soaps it liberally with the dry, cracked cake that she and Buffy have pushed around the bathroom for the last six months. They like the liquid kind.
She wets his hair perfunctorily and then assaults it, lathering up unruly curls while water drips down his face like tears. As if. As if.
“Look at you,” she sneers. “Hiding down here like a big coward. You’re not sorry for anyone but yourself.”
His chin raises a little at that, not in defiance, she realizes, but in acceptance. Bully for him.
“Xander says you’re loony tunes. A complete nutjob.” She rinses, soaps him up, rinses again. Over and over until she pulls back, satisfied. She surveys him critically, then starts on his face.
“I’m glad,” she goes on as the grime slowly disappears from his features. “I hope you go crazy down here, all alone. I hope you never leave, that you’re trapped down here for the rest of your miserable unlife. Are you listening to me?”
She grabs his chin in her hand, forces his gaze to hers. And a part of her protests that this is wrong, that she should not be manhandling him – because he could be dangerous; because he is clearly unwell; because he was once her friend.
But he was fine with Buffy yanking his chain for the last two years, wasn’t he? He must be used to this. She swallows and moves down to the hollow of his throat, where tendons strain against translucent skin.
When she is finished there she tosses the sponge down, then rises. “The rest is up to you. Naked vampires don’t do it for me.”
She waits, and then realizes that she is waiting to hear I bloody well hope not or Hey! I’m a beautiful man or even C’mere and let me explain why boys are nasty gits and you’re to stay far away from the lot of them.
But he doesn’t say anything. She told him not to, didn’t she? Instead he nearly cowers at her feet. She feels abruptly ill.
“Clean yourself up,” she tells him, and then quickly grabs her bag and runs.
The next afternoon she brings him clothes.
His clothes, in fact. The single pair of black jeans and – surprise! – black shirt he stowed long ago at the Summers house, during that season of death that she refused to remember now. Buffy was gone, and Xander and Anya were happy, and Tara was alive and Spike was her protector. That, all of that, is over now. So it doesn’t bear thinking of.
When Buffy came back, Spike stopped spending time at the house. He asked Dawn a couple of times about the return of his outfit, but she just shrugged and said she couldn’t find it. She understood what was going on, she wasn’t stupid. He wouldn’t be hanging around Buffy’s little sister any more now that he had the real thing. So she’d blown him off and eventually he gave up, as she knew he would.
She stares at him now, his abortive, frantic movements and the despair that shows so plainly on his face. Spike’s emotions had never been hard to fathom; he wore them openly, proudly.
Except that there is no pride now. He is bent under the weight of his sins. Which is exactly how it should be, Dawn tells herself.
“Here.” She tosses the garments at him. He lets them bounce lightly off his chest and fall to the floor. Dawn sighs.
“You’re, like, useless,” she snaps. “Do I have to do everything for you?” She almost winces, but catches herself. She does not care how she sounds; she does not care how pitiful he looks.
She hears his muffled mumbling start again, and interrupts. “I told you to shut up. Be crazy on your own time.”
She steps closer, eyes narrowing. Grabbing his hand, she turns it over, inspecting the fingernails. “I guess you still remember how to clean up,” she says crossly, then flings his arm away.
She retrieves the clothes and then moves to him, advancing until she’s right under his nose. “I’m not doing this to help you,” she whispers. “I’m doing this so you’ll stay down here. I don’t want you to come out. You’re going to have a long, long death in this basement, and I’m going to make sure that it happens.”
He shakes slightly as she speaks; she’s sure that there’s a fountain of meaningless ravings caught in his throat but he manages to hold them back.
“You know I’m right, don’t you,” she presses. “You know this is what you deserve.”
He nods. She steps back, satisfied for the moment, then thrusts the clothes into his grasp. He takes them and backs away, chagrined. Dawn’s gaze drifts down to where he grips the fabric desperately. His hands…his hands are as large and capable as they ever were. She remembers how one of them easily covered the top of her head, awkwardly stroking her hair as he made gravelly promises that everything would be all right; things would get better. Someday.
She wonders if she will ever see those hands move again with purpose and intent. Then, unbidden, she pictures them reaching out for Buffy, for Dawn…the faces blend and bleed as he pins a smaller body beneath his, oblivious even as shrieks of NoNoNo rend the air –
She wrests herself back to reality; reality is Spike, feeble-minded and wretched and no threat to anything but the rats that skitter around the edges of the room.
“You can’t hurt me,” she chokes out. “Even if you want to, you can’t.”
His brow furrows in confusion, and a split-second later something akin to horror. The old Spike would tell her I could string you up by your entrails and munch on your spleen, and Dawn would know he meant Never hurt you, Bit. Never.
He’s dismayed enough to attempt a protest. “D – Dawn –"
He subsides into silence.
She folds her arms and turns her back on him. When it becomes clear to even Spike’s addled brain that she is not leaving any time soon, he retreats to a corner and she hears the rustle of cloth as he changes. She waits until the faint noise has stopped, then risks a swift glance at him.
Clean, and marginally tidy, he resembles an ordinary man now. No one she recognizes, though. Not with the unfamiliar brown locks and the loss of weight that has ravaged his already slender frame and God, the look in his eyes --!
Maybe not an ordinary man, after all.
Enough. She’s had enough. She roots around in her backpack and finally finds the mason jars of blood she’s been uneasily carting around all day. “I got this at Willy’s,” she taunts him. “You never would take me there so I finally went by myself. It’s not so scary.”
Her legs had wobbled from the moment she set foot into The Alibi Room; Willy announced her loudly as the Slayer’s kid sis but that hadn’t been able to stop the stares as she waited nervously for him to ring up her purchase. She’d been okay with the demons who’d wanted to eat her whole and spit out the bones. This was the Hellmouth, after all. But she’d gotten other looks, too, and she couldn’t defend herself against the thoughts she knew were behind them.
“Clem asked about you,” she continues. “I told him you were dead.”
This doesn’t seem to penetrate; he has withdrawn once more into his poisoned mental maunderings. Just as well, Dawn figures. She sets the jars on the floor with a defiant clink and leaves.
And so it goes.
She visits him almost every day, bringing him sustenance and meager amenities and her own special brand of malice.
“Buffy hates you,” she murmurs, as he curls up like a child and she settles herself next to him. “Buffy hates you, and I hate you, and the whole entire world despises you. You’re a parasite. Even the people who try to care about you, you abuse. You’re nothing, Spike. You’re less than nothing, and I hate you, hate you, hate you…” Still, though, for reasons she can’t fathom and refuses to examine, her arms snake around him and she nestles close. She takes comfort in his cold flesh and hard muscles while she torments him with her words.
So she lies beside him and murmurs filth into his ears, dulcet cruelties that make him weep and writhe. That is when she knows she has been successful; when the tears course down his face and he squeezes his eyes shut in agony. Only then does she rise and walk away, until the next time.
Continued in Chapter 2: Dig Ophelia