Dawn stood undecided at the bar’s door. Should she enter? This was not the kind of place she frequented. In fact, had she not needed Spike so desperately, she wouldn’t be here at all.
But Willow had said ‘whatever it takes’ and Tara had warned earnestly against coming back without him. They were really angry, and rightfully so. Any other day she’d have claimed defeat and gone back home but this time Dawn certainly didn’t want to face the witches’ wrath alone.
She’d already gone to his usual haunts; the crypt, a couple of graveyards, some bars. She’d even gone to Willy’s and peeked through the door to make sure Spike wasn’t there. Instead she had seen only the usual clientele; little furry demons at the counter, some big scaly thing playing pool with game-faced vamps. Dawn had checked twice that particular corner, aware that often Spike liked betting against the bigger player and then beating him out of his money anyway. But he wasn’t there.
One of the seediest bars on the outskirts of Sunnydale was where she finally found him. His voice could be heard from outside, loud and belligerent, throwing compliments at the waitress that made her blush. Spike never used that vocabulary in front of her.
Busy debating whether to go in and convince him to return with her or wait until he tired of harassing the other patrons, Dawn didn’t look up at the roar of a bike parking just beside her.
She should have.
A big man clapped his hand on her shoulder. Dawn shrieked. Following from the huge paw up to its owner’s face, she saw a lascivious grin directed at her. Buffy once swore she’d slay any man looking at her like that. Now Dawn understood her sister completely, only problem was that she didn’t have the Slayer’s strength.
“Want to go for a ride?”
The wink he gave her was enough to send her scrambling away through the bar’s door. Hearing the stranger’s loud steps behind her only made her look frantically across the room for Spike.
There he was. Damn the bastard. Why did he have to come to this dangerous place anyway? Wasn’t there enough alcohol in a more respectable place? Like say, Willy’s? Any demon was better than the stupid guy following her. Demons knew who she was, and didn’t bother her unless they were really dumb or suicidal.
After managing to lose the stranger in the crowd, which wasn’t so difficult considering her size and how packed the room was, Dawn walked straight to Spike. She touched his shoulder and when he didn’t respond with a melatonin håndkøb she just tugged harder. He finally turned around with a silly smile on his face. Oh crap, she thought in dismay, please don’t let him be drunk.
Of course, her prayers were not to be answered.
“Hi there, Dawnie,” he drawled, “you here for a coupla drinks?”
Dawn only stared at him in absolute shock. This wasn’t supposed to happen. She’d only wanted to find him and drag him home. She was searching for the right words when he pulled her by the arm and sat her beside him. Dawn immediately noticed that the seats weren’t just uncomfortable, they were very narrow. When she twitched to try to find a better position, Spike solved her problem by grabbing her waist and swiftly pulling her onto his lap.
Dawn nearly jumped away at the strange feeling of his body fully beneath hers. Even at their coziest, they’d never been so close. Squirming a bit, Dawn managed to push her body forwards just enough to not to have to rest on Spike’s chest. Of course, sitting stiffly wasn’t comfortable at all.
She tried leaning her hand against the table for purchase, but the diminutive space was already crowded. An ashtray big as a plate – and yet it just barely held the remains of Spike’s cigarettes – occupied a good portion of the surface. A couple glasses were there too, next to Spike’s bottle, making it impossible for her to find a place to lean on.
Someone should pick the glasses already, because Spike had apparently decided to ignore them and drink straight from his bottle. She managed to sit still for several minutes, aware of Spike alternatively drinking his beer and watching her approvingly. Finally defeated, she let her body slump against Spike’s. She was too tired to let modesty win and, besides, it wasn’t as if Spike would try anything.
It was weird.
They’d never been so close in public, much less had his arm ever rested so comfortably around her shoulders.
Spike didn’t seem to have noticed her uneasiness and after some moments Dawn was relaxed enough to shift her body until her head could lean on his shoulder. She smiled; this was nearly like a movie night where she would cuddle against Spike while he joked about her tastes. Dawn never reminded him that nearly always it was him who chose the movie.
Meanwhile, Spike had finished his beer and waved his free hand around in the universal sign for ‘More.’ He turned around and didn’t seem surprised to find her cosily lying against him. “So, what will you have, Nibblet?” he asked
Dawn looked at him in shock. “Nothing!” Then she noticed his empty bottle. She tried to stand up. “We really should go now. Wil-”
Tugging her shoulder, Spike kept her still. “Aw, come on!” Dawn nearly jumped when he patted her hip in easy camaraderie. “I won’t tell anybody you’re not of age,” he whispered in conspiracy. Then he chuckled, “Not that they’d mind.”
“You’re drinking too much,”
Dawn looked up to see a waitress standing in front of their table. The redhead – and that couldn’t possibly be a natural colour – had an unopened bottle in her hand.
Spike snorted and held his hand out.
The waitress sighed and lifted the cap. Her eyes widened when she saw Dawn. “Isn’t she a bit young for you, Spike?”
“Sod off, Nella,” Spike answered gruffly, taking a long gulp from the cool beer.
Nella laughed. “Of course, I get it. First I’m the most beautiful redhead on earth but let a girl half my age wander under your nose and suddenly I’m old news, aren’t I?”
Spike sniggered and Dawn’s eyebrows shot up when she realised that he really liked the waitress. “You got it in one, precious.” His hand moved to Dawn’s shoulder and brought her closer. “Now bring something for Dawn.”
The redhead’s eyes turned to her. “What will you have, Dawn?”
Dawn looked around. This certainly was not an establishment where she could ask for Cola or lemonade. “Water?”
Nella and Spike laughed. He nudged her. “Come on, pet, I won’t tell a soul.”
Dawn shook her head.
“Leave her alone, Spike.” The waitress rolled her eyes. She smiled at the girl on her favourite customer’s lap. “He’s a heartbreaker, girl. Don’t let him smooth-talk you too.”
Dawn shook her head. “We’re not-”
But the redhead interrupted her. “Didn’t know you had a girlfriend.” She winked at him. “Finally settling down, Spike?” Nella gave Dawn a once over. Dawn blushed when her gaze stopped at the spot where Spike’s hand was stroking her shoulder. “You certainly like them young, don’t you?” The waitress didn’t stop studying her and Dawn was beginning to feel uncomfortable under the scrutiny.
“Nella, precious, you know there’s nobody like you.”
He winked playfully back.
Noticing the redhead’s body language, Dawn was surprised to discover that obviously Nella wasn’t aware that she was talking to a former menace of humanity. Spike seemed content and, Dawn realised, at ease with the redhead. She watched curiously. So far she’d never know any friend of Spike’s – if this woman qualified as ‘friend’ – that was neither evil nor wanted revenge on the vampire.
“Besides,” His grip on her shoulders tightened slightly. “Dawn here is not only a girlfriend, she is my favourite girl of this decade, aren’t you, Dawnie?”
Dawn didn’t quite know how to answer to that goofy smile. She only nodded carefully and didn’t say a word as Spike pecked her cheek affectionately.
“Not your girlfriend?” Nella looked at the couple embracing for a moment; his arms protectively around her frame. So far she’d never seen Spike act like that around any woman. “Should have guessed, you treat her too respectfully.”
Both laughed again.
The sound of a fight made its way from outside. Dawn squirmed, unconsciously trying to hide under Spike’s arms.
Nella noticed the fearful movement. She narrowed her eyes at the vampire. “Fool! What were you thinking when you brought her here? She looks like she should be in bed already!” She couldn’t help but laugh when Dawn stared angrily at her from her hiding place. “Just kidding, girl.” She tapped her notebook and scribbled on it. “A glass of water it is.” She turned on her heels and let them alone.
Spike’s fingers played on the bottle’s neck, Dawn could almost swear that his other hand was mirroring the movement on her own. “Really Dawn, maybe you should be at home,” he said after several moments. “This isn’t a place for you.”
Dawn nearly rolled her eyes at that statement.
He took a swig from his bottle, all the while staring at her closely. “You look beautiful, you know?” Dawn frowned. He’d never called her beautiful before. “Too beautiful for this hole. Anyway, what are you doing here?”
A voice interrupted before she could explain.
Dawn raised her head just to see the man who had followed her. His angry features were not a good omen. Instinctively, she pressed a little closer to her friend. Spike followed her gaze.
“Yes, you! I saw her first, man!”
Spike furrowed his eyebrows, as if trying to decide what kind of danger the man represented. Obviously he didn’t deem the stranger worthy of further attention because he turned back and decided to ignore him in favour of his bottle.
Dawn watched in dread as the man stalked closer to them until she could see his hungry eyes again. She tugged at Spike’s shoulder lightly. “We need to leave,” she urged him in a whisper.
“Haven’t finished yet,” he whispered back, his lips brushing against her ear. Then he calmly took his bottle again, showing how completely he disregarded the man.
The brute stood beside Dawn and she shrank against Spike.
“I said, I saw her first, pal. Now give the whore over.”
Dawn gasped in outrage. She wanted to stand up and slap the man, no matter how intimidating he was. But Spike’s arm tightened around her body and blocked any possible movement. Dawn turned around to glare daggers at the blonde, how did he dare? She wasn’t a little girl who couldn’t defend herself!
“She’s mine,” Spike said clearly, his eyes flashing gold for a second. Surprised, Dawn stopped her squirming. “Now leave.”
Obviously the other man wasn’t about to be ordered around by someone clearly smaller. “Yours?” he laughed. “I found the little slut parading herself at the door, if she’s yours she certainly doesn’t behave like she is.” He lowered his gaze to Dawn’s legs. She swore to burn the tight pants as soon as she could. “You know the rules, pal. Finders, keepers. Now come here, girly.” With no warning his arm shot to grab Dawn’s shoulder. She screeched in fear.
Suddenly Dawn was falling as Spike pushed her out of danger. Spike’s angry roar was followed by the sound of a glass breaking against the man’s neck. Dawn automatically closed her eyes and ducked. She heard heavy punches and finally the groans and the sounds of two men falling.
The chip! She remembered belatedly.
When she opened her eyes, she found Spike leaning against the table, standing only by sheer will. He was sneering viciously down at the man’s body, and Dawn wasn’t too surprised when she saw him licking his lips. Indeed, she could see little spots of blood appearing on the stranger’s neckline. With a quick glance at the fallen stranger, Dawn decided that he’d be out of commission for a few minutes. They needed to leave now.
Taking a look around the crowded bar, she quickly assessed the situation, while nobody was prepared to interfere, she still needed to get Spike out of there. He was too heavy for her to manhandle alone, but at least he was still conscious,
he mumbled, lifting a hand to his aching head.
Dawn nodded, still trying to figure out a solution.
“Good.” He laughed softly. “I don’t think I could do that again.”
“You stupid vampire,” she hissed, despairing because the man was already moving. “That stunt could have killed you!”
This time the laugh was louder. “Kill me? You’re exaggerating. It’s nothing a couple aspirins can’t help, Nibblet.”
Dawn spied the man moving back to his feet. Grabbing the first thing at hand – which happened to be the heavy ashtray – she threw it at the man’s head. His body made a loud thud as it fell again. She sighed in relief, thanking God for having spied on Buffy’s training. Her sister always knew where to hit someone to knock them down.
“Summers blood alright.”
Spike chuckled behind her. “Didn’t know you had it in you, Dawn.”
For a fleeting second, before the gravity of their situation returned, Dawn smiled at the obvious pride in his words. The dark looks in their direction brought her back to the task at hand. “Let’s get out of here,” she mumbled to herself. Dawn thought fleetingly of calling the Scoobies, but she doubted they’d forgive Spike for getting her involved in a bar brawl. Not even if Willow and Tara had been so adamant about her finding the vampire.
“Can I help?”
It was the waitress Spike had been chatting with before. Dawn nodded wordlessly.
Nella put the glass of water down on the table and stuck her notebook and pencil into her bosom. With her free hands she helped Dawn to put Spike’s arms around their shoulders. It wasn’t comfortable, since they were much more petite than him, but somehow it worked. Some patrons laughed, but Dawn just advanced and reminded herself it’d be over soon. She threw a last look at the man on the floor. He was still out. Dawn hoped never to see him – or this place – again.
Nella helped them until they were lucky enough to find one of the few taxis in the town. “Thank you,” Dawn said as they poured Spike in the backseat. His swearing about being manhandled assured the girls he was feeling better already.
The redhead said. Nella watched as Dawn opened the co-pilot door. “Hey, girl.”
Dawn turned around, securing her seatbelt. She ignored the driver furrowing his nose in clear distaste.
“He’s a good man, you know?”
Dawn cocked an eyebrow. She didn’t hear those words about Spike every day. “Yes, he is,” she finally agreed. Because it was true, at least for her. Willow and Xander would reason that Spike had never taken her hostage and Giles would frown at her, but Dawn was sure that he’d never hurt her. After all, she was his ‘favourite girl’, wasn’t she?
Nella shifted on her feet. “I’ve seen him around a lot. He’s seemed so sad in the last while…” she stopped, not sure what to say next.
“Oh.” Dawn gulped and fiddled with the belt. She looked back at the unmoving figure in the backseat. Sometimes she almost forgot that Spike was mourning for Buffy too. “Someone… close… to us died,” she explained.
The taxi driver started the engine.
“I’ve never seen him so worried for anybody,” Nella rushed to say. “It is good to see some fire in him again.” She smiled. “What you have must be special.”
Dawn blushed. “We don’t—”
“Sod off and drive already!”
Both girls giggled. Dawn shrugged and waved Goodbye to Nella. She watched as the redhead disappeared into the locale they’d just left. Dawn couldn’t help but realise how lucky they’d been tonight. Well, they’d been lucky but the girls would freak when they saw the state Spike was in and -God forbid- smelled the beer and smoke on her clothes
She sighed. This wouldn’t have happened if Spike hadn’t wanted to play a prank on the witches.
“It’s just a game,” he’d told her as he tampered with the tubes in the basement. Chuckling at her lame plumber jokes, he’d finished setting the icy-cold water for when they wanted it hot and scalding-hot if they wanted cold water.
“This is only for their bathroom, isn’t it?”
She’d asked. At his nod she’d continued. “Are you sure this will work?”
Spike had turned toward her with a smirk on his lips. “I can see no reason for it to fail.” He winked at her and sauntered up the stairs in search for his beloved A+.
He had been wrong, of course. Oh, his work on the plumbing had been masterful and she had laughed until her sides hurt when Willow yelped and swore un-Willow-likely in the morning. But, how could they have guessed that Spike was not the only expert in their gang? There was no way of knowing ahead that, in her time alone, Tara had learned many tricks about running a household.
After a few minutes in the basement, while Dawn bit her nails upstairs and wished for a miracle, Tara had spotted Spike’s work. Of course, they had immediately nailed her for the prank too. Well, she had to admit it was too obvious. Spike wouldn’t do something so elaborate if he couldn’t enjoy the effects personally except if his partner-in-crime told him every detail. After reading her a list of punishments – and she hoped Spike had some money for the taxi because her allowance had been the first thing to disappear – they had sent her in the vampire’s search.
Dawn nodded decisively; it had been his entire fault. True, she had clapped and laughed merrily at his idea but, wasn’t he decades older than her? Who exactly was supposed to be the mature one there?
“Where to, miss?”
The driver asked, interrupting her reverie.
“To Revell—” Dawn stopped and looked at a half-asleep Spike. He was in no shape to face the girls. Besides, they would ask too many questions if they saw him like that. “To Sunnydale Graveyard.”
The man’s eyebrows raised in disapproval.
“We…” She bit her lip, no excuse occurred to her.
“We’re meeting our friends there, alright?” came Spike’s impatient voice. Dawn decided to ignore the string of curses that followed. “Now drive on!”
The older man shook his head but drove anyway.
Dawn closed her eyes and thought of the witches at home. Then she realised that she’d have to help Spike to his crypt on her own.
She sighed loudly.
The night wasn’t over yet.