Summary: Post-"Chosen". Dawn reflects on her relationship with Spike. Dawn/Spike friendship, Dawn/Andrew friendship.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
A/N: Written for octopedingenue in the Dawnficathon, December, 2003. A very big thank you goes to magarettt for her brilliant beta reading and encouragement.
A layer of dust and stones stuck to the outside of Dawn's orange soda can. She twisted and pressed the can into the gravel until she felt its satisfying scrape on the cement below. Dawn flicked a bit of ash from her cigarette end and stared out over the city.
It was almost like a fairy city, she thought, with its lights twinkling in the night sky. A fairy city with smog and a car alarm blaring down the block.
Dallas in August. What had Buffy been thinking? They were still looking for the fabled hellmouth ? Buffy and the other Slayers, that was. Sometimes Dawn pretended to be keeping an eye on things from the roof, but mostly she just sat and smoked her illicit cigarettes. Rarely did they notice her absence, anyway.
Sitting up here, she often thought about what had become of their old life. People didn't talk about it; they had all lost someone or something. Their burden was shared and thus unspoken.
But Dawn remembered. She could still picture her room (well, hers and six others') just as it had appeared that last morning. Her practical shoes had lain haphazardly near the door. She had meant to wear them, but she liked the stiletto heels better, and she had figured that she was going to die no matter what shoes she wore. Later, feet aching, she regretted leaving those well-worn sneakers at home.
And then there were the dead. While the occasional slip occurred when someone realized that their favorite earrings were at the bottom of a chasm, no one ever mentioned the dead. They had perished saving the world. They were sorely missed, but discussion only brought back the pain.
Dawn heard the heavy door creak open, and she turned to see Andrew step out onto the roof. He handed her a cellophane-wrapped packet.
"Thanks." Dawn stubbed out her smoldering butt and unwrapped the new pack.
"Aren't you afraid those things are going to kill you, or, um, make you sound like Darth Vader or something?"
Dawn remembered a time when she would have laughed at such a question. She took another drag and looked at her feet. "They remind me of Spike."
Andrew shifted toward the door. "We're ordering pizza in an hour. Come down if you're hungry."
She heard the door creak again as it closed behind him.
Living in that house with so many other girls, she supposed the feeling she missed the most was that sensation of warmth in the belly that she got whenever she was with Spike. It wasn't the typical teenage butterflies-in-the-stomach; it was just the absolute feeling that in that particular moment, she was safe.
But she had ruined all that. Spike tried to rape her sister. It was a huge betrayal, the end of her trust in him, the instant termination of their friendship. Or so she had felt that day in the living room. At the time, her vow to kill him had seemed real, even feasible.
Much as she had wanted to tell him the truth, it never quite happened. In a house full of teenage girls, time alone with Spike was a rare commodity. And passing him in the hallway, Dawn could never get her nerve up in time to say the words.
They coexisted. She feigned indifference toward him, and he spoke to her as though one stray word could bring the fulfillment of her promise, as though he thought she could carry it out.
The door squealed again, and Andrew appeared bearing two paper plates full of pizza.
"I figured you weren't coming down." Andrew flashed her a nervous smile.
"Thanks," Dawn replied, accepting a plate.
They sat in silence for a time, listening to the sounds of traffic below and to the gentle whistle of each drag on Dawn's cigarette.
Dawn tugged at the straps of her tank top. "It's hotter than hell."
"Actually, Hell is supposed to be much hotter than this. More like the center of the earth."
"It's a figure of speech."
"Yeah." Andrew drew his knees to his chest. "Do you ever think about it?"
"I try not to."
"I think about it sometimes. I mean, I'm pretty sure Warren is there. And maybe Spike, and Anya, too. And maybe even Jonathan." He twisted the plate in his hands. "I'll probably end up there."
Dawn exhaled. "No, you won't. You changed, same as the others. Warren's the only one that could really end up there."
"Yeah, maybe you're right." Andrew kicked some gravel over the edge of the roof as he stood up. "Wanna go watch TV?"
She was standing in the corridor, toeing the floor with those ridiculous boots. She would never admit it, but the weight of the sword was already making her arm ache. If only she'd had more training, like the other girls.
"Spike!" She'd caught a glimpse of him at the intersection of the halls.
He stopped and turned to her. "Got everything you need?"
"Yes. Well, no." Cautiously, she approached him.
He just looked at her. They were eye-level when she wore these shoes. His expression wasn't hostile; it expected little, but it seemed ready to offer much more.
"I wanted to say ? good luck." Dawn searched his eyes for response. "I know this is dangerous. I might not live. And if I don't, I just want to say goodbye." She looked at her hands. "And that I'm sorry ? that things haven't been ? what they could have."
Hot tears were streaming down her cheeks. She was sure the mascara she had applied (God knows why!) was streaking her face. And there she was, standing in the chilly hall, showing Spike just how much she hadn't grown up.
Suddenly, his arms were around her. He crossed his arms behind her back, squeezing her shoulders in his hands and compressing her in a tight embrace. She rested her head in his collarbone, and they rocked back and forth, ever so slightly.
Once more, that soft, dry click of "safe" had rung in her head. For a few seconds, the puzzle of her heart was complete. And then, in an instant, it was over. Spike placed a chaste kiss on her forehead, turned, and walked away.
She was no longer safe. Or rather, he had been no longer safe. And never again could she feel the security of him.
The westerly wind shifted and cooled a bit, and Dawn stood to allow the welcome chill to smooth across her skin.
Then she felt it. It wasn't complete, not by any means. But it was palpable. She felt it in her chest, a slight loosening of the fist that had been holding her tightly for so long.
The word came to her lips. "Safe."
He was alive.