Disclaimers: Not mine. Belong to ME and JW and UPN and WB and all those guys.
The minute hand was going backwards now. Anya was counting crystals with the swift efficiency of, well, a very efficient person. Xander was reading the paper, still in his work clothes, waiting for Anya to close up. Dawn put the glass jar on the scale, adjusted the tare weight and wrote 23 ounces on the sheet next to motherwort. Her eyes scanned the shelves, hands itching for something interesting to tuck in her pocket when suddenly the bell over the door jangled. It was an almost furious jangle. When she saw Spike’s face, she amended the almost to definitely. She had a sudden urge to slip down behind the counter and crawl to the backroom. But alas—
He looked straight at her, his jaw doing that muscle-twitchy thing, then his lips pulled away from his perfectly normal teeth in what should have been a smile, if he were a shark say or maybe a bear. “Lucy. You got some ‘splainin’ to do.” Dawn gulped, accidentally swallowing her gum. “Grab your coat, little girl. We need to have ourselves a private chat.”
“She can’t leave now,” Anya stated emphatically. “She has two more shelves to inventory.”
“Whatever you need to say to Dawn, you can do it right here, Dead Boy Slim,” Xander said. He’d stood up and was managing to look effectively macho.
“Sure. No problem,” Spike said, still smiling in that very unfunny way. He opened his mouth.
“It’s okay, Xander,” Dawn exclaimed, hauling ass to get to the door. She avoided a direct gaze into the pits of hell and damnation that were currently Spike’s eyes and took her jacket from the coat rack. “I’ll be right back.”
“I wouldn’t count on it,” Spike muttered, giving her a not so tender shove between the shoulder blades to propel her outside. The door shut behind them with an ominous snick, and pissed off jangle of bell.
Okay, right. Play it cool. She started strolling towards the Baskin-Robbin’s like, oooh, wasn’t it nice Spike stopped by to spend a little one on one with her, buy her a chocolate chip cookie dough milkshake, and wasn’t that jolly he might say, if he ever said things like that, instead of doing what he was doing now, which was jerking her in the opposite direction and saying “Not bloody likely.”
Dawn decided to go with a combination of clueless and chipper. “So, what’s up, oh fang-ed one?”
“You know goddamned well what’s up you little shit.”
“You kiss my sister with that mouth?”
Score! That threw him off his game for a sec. “What makes you think I—?” He grinned. “Oh, you’re good. You’re very good, but I’m better. Here’s the skinny: You wanna steal from other people that’s your business. You start nickin’ my stuff then we’ve got ourselves a situation.”
“What?” she sputtered. “I can’t believe this! You’re accusing me of stealing? God, that is so rich coming from Wal-Mart’s great liberator!“
“Can the crap. You’ve got nimble little fingers I’ll grant you, but you’re not me. You’ll get caught, and it’s going to be mighty embarrassing sitting in a dingy office with Duane the security guy looking down his nose at you as he dials up big sis. Shame the hell out of her, which, you know, is something I’d pay to see right now, but do you really want all the Scooby Snacks discussing your problem?” He put air quotes around the word problem. “Dawn’s acting out. She’s depressed. No, she’s lonely. It’s because she missed so much school what with her being the key to a dimensional portal all last year and her mum dying, and her bint of a sister coming back from the grave like a cross between a zombie and Joan of Arc in dominatrix gear—“ His mind wandered off for a moment with a happy little smile attached, then he was all serious face again. “Poor little Dawnie must not feel wuved. We haven’t been giving her enough attention. Oh, the guilt, the horror. You won’t have an unsupervised moment for the next three years. Me? I don’t give a fuck why you’re doing it. I just want my goddamned stuff back.”
Foolishly, she decided to brazen it out. Thrust out the chin. “Why would I want your nasty old stuff anyway?”
“Well, let’s see. Hhhmm… Oh look everybody, Dawn Summers brought vodka. Let the revels begin.”
“You don’t have any proof.”
“Clutching at straws, Corpuscle. I’ll bet we find plenty of damning evidence once we start shovelling the shit out of that sty you call a room – like, for example, eighty proof bottle of vodka, couple of packs of smokes, and my freaking lighter!”
“All right! Fine!” She stuck a fist into her coat pocket and pulled out the Zippo lighter and a full, unopened pack of cigarettes. “Here. Jeez, maybe you should start chewing that nicotine gum or something. You’re awfully tense.”
“That’s because I’m this close to taking a belt to your tender little arse!”
“Buffy would kill you. Anyway you couldn’t, cuz of the chip.”
“I could get in a few good licks before my pain became too crippling. Where’d you stash the vodka?”
“It’s under the bed,” she muttered and threw in a pout for good measure.
“I’ll drop by later then. You can toss it to me out the window, right? She won’t have to know. Now what else do you have in your pockets that belongs to me?”
With a noisy sigh, she rifled around, then slapped a ring in his outstretched palm with as much force as she could put behind the gesture. “You know the whole Goth thing with the skulls? So totally dead.”
“And my CD’s? Where will I find those?”
She gave a nervous half-hearted laugh. “Oh, did you listen to those ones?”
She hissed in a breath through her teeth. “Atomic Records Buy Sell Trade.”
“How much did you get for them?”
“That’s all? I can’t replace ‘em for that.”
“Oh right, like you paid cash money.”
“Not the point.”
“You’re not a very good role model you know.”
“Don’t have to be. I’m evil. And being evil, I think it’s only fitting that I use my power for the purpose of extortion and blackmail.”
“Great. Whatever. Will you buy me a milkshake first?”
“Please? It’s forever til supper and you know Buffy can’t cook and—”
“Yeah. All right. But just a small one ‘cos you’ve been bad.”
“Wow. I guess we should all go ice-skating,” Willow said, plopping her basket of laundry on the floor.
Dawn jumped at the sound, but didn’t turn around. She was busy trying to block Willow’s view while hurriedly shoving the wet, very black clothes into the dryer. “Non sequitur much?”
“Well, you’re doing laundry without being asked, so hell must have frozen over—oh hey, whose clothes are…? These aren’t…are these Spike’s clothes?”
“Yes. Ssshh. Buffy’ll hear you.”
“Lose a bet?”
“Something like that.” She added a dryer sheet and set the timer. He’d made it very clear he wanted his clothes back neatly folded and smelling April fresh. Still, it wasn’t all pain and torture. She’d scored four bucks in change from the pockets, and a matchbook from the Inn and Out Motel with a mysterious phone number written inside.
Blackmail is a double-edged sword, my friend, she thought as she pressed the start button. A few minutes later she was out the door to buy a Cherry-Coke Slurpee from the 7-Eleven.