She felt… numb. Kind of floaty and numb. Like nothing was quite real. Like maybe she wasn’t quite real….
Dawn stared at her ghostly reflection in the car window. She was real. It didn’t matter what she used to be. She was a person now. She reached out, drawing random patterns on the window with her fingers as she thought back to when Buffy and Spike had sat her down to talk to her about it. Giles and Mom had been there, too, told only an hour before. They’d said that it wasn’t just Buffy. That she was special, too. Even more special, because there was just one of her, and there had been lots of slayers over the years.
Or, well, Spike had told her all that. Buffy had just kept babbling about how they were sisters no matter what, which had been kind of freaky. Dawn had been half convinced she was going to be told she was adopted….
But, nope. She’d been a cuckoo stuck in the nest. A blob of energy turned into a real human girl. I definitely hurt too much to not be real, she thought as the numbness started to fade, and all of the bumps, scrapes, and bruises started complaining louder. She shivered, suddenly cold as her thoughts turned to what had just happened.
She remembered it in bits and pieces. The semi-truck coming right for them. Giles grabbing her and the bag they’d packed up in case they had to leave the RV in a hurry. Things were fuzzy after that, only really coming into focus again with them outside, on the ground with bits of metal flying all around them. Bits and pieces. Fuzzy images of being up on her feet again, Giles saying something to her while a man staggered out of the smashed cab of the semi.
The man had been clutching at his neck. She remembered that clearly. It had looked like something had taken a huge bite out of him. His eyes had been all filmy and white as he’d lurched towards them…. Then there’d been a loud sound from beside her, and the man had fallen. Giles. With a gun. He’d gone from nerdy watcher guy to scary badass Giles. He’d even hotwired a car.
Another public service announcement blared over some kind of area wide speakers, telling everyone to go to the police station for food and medicine. “Do you think they made it there?” she asked, glancing towards the driver’s seat.
“Most likely,” Giles answered, not taking his eyes from the road. There were cars everywhere, leaving barely enough room for the car to squeeze through. “Both of their dreams indicated they’d end up in the police station. Your sister is very resourceful, and she has Spike watching her back.”
She nodded and gazed down at her arm. Bruises and scratches. And a scar. A reminder that Spike looked after those he cared about. Buffy wasn’t alone in this nightmare. She was the slayer, and she had Spike as backup. They’d be alright.
And once Dawn and Giles caught up with them, they’d all be safe.
Dawn stared at her neatly bandaged wound. A large telfa pad hidden from sight under the gauze wrapped around her arm. She’d waited until after Mom was in bed, and Buffy had gone off for a solo patrol. Then she’d snagged one of Buffy’s knives before slipping into the bathroom. She’d held the knife in one hand. Held it, and….
The mirror had only shown her own face — pale, with eyes that seemed too big — even when someone else had come in behind her. She’d stared into that partially empty mirror while Spike had quietly dressed the wound. She’d watched the gauze magically wind itself around her arm.
After that she’d been herded into Buffy’s room and helped out the window and up onto the roof. Spike had finally said something at that point, telling her to stay put and that he’d be back in a minute. I should go, she thought vaguely. Just climb down and run off into the darkness.
Before she could, there was a sound, followed by Spike appearing and sitting down beside her. He pulled a bottle of something out of his coat and took a long drink from it.
“I wasn’t trying to kill myself,” she said quietly, hugging her knees to her chest. He didn’t say anything. Just sat there, staring up at the stars. She almost wished he would yell at her or something. Tell her she was a stupid kid. “I just…. I needed to see. You know? If I bled human blood.”
He shifted beside her, raising up his arm like he was going to hug her or something. She tensed. She didn’t want that. To be hugged and coddled like a baby or a pet. That’s what she was prepared for. Instead, she got a smack across the back of her head.
“Ow! What the he—” She started to glare at him, then froze. The hand he’d hit her with was clutching at his own head while the other kept a death grip on his bottle of booze. He’d triggered the chip. On purpose. “Dumbass,” she grumbled.
His lips twitched into a slight smile. “Just a bit,” he agreed. “Proved the point, though, yeah? Don’t matter what you started as, chip confirms you’re human now.” He took another drink, then added, “Smell of your blood proves it, too.”
She glanced down at her arm. “Is that why you came up? You smelled my blood all the way from the basement?”
That was… kind of cool. She knew Buffy thought the smelling thing was creepy, but Dawn thought it was a pretty good superpower. Well, unless you spent a lot of time in a gym locker room, or something.
“Living room, actually. I figured somethin’ like this would happen. Teenage bundle of hormones and insecurity, and then all this? Tried to break it to you easy, but that doesn’t change the fact that your entire world just got flipped arse over teakettle.”
“Oh.” She took a deep breath and slowly let it out. It was all confusing. She remembered all kinds of stuff that had never actually happened. A life she hadn’t really lived. And she was tired of thinking about it. She glanced at Spike out of the corner of her eye, watching as he brought the bottle back up for another drink. “So, if you can smell blood from that far, how come you never come charging in to check on us during our periods?”
He choked. She’d meant to embarrass him a little and, yeah, to maybe make him spit out his drink, but he was wheezing and making all kinds of weird sounds.
He wasn’t going to have a stroke, was he? She didn’t think vampires could do that, what with the whole being dead thing. Riley probably would have, if she’d said it to him. And if he wasn’t a more dead kind of dead.
“Good god, Bit, give me a smidge more credit than that,” he gasped out, and she suddenly realized he was laughing. “What, you thought I’d spent the last century or so as a cloistered monk or somesuch? Only hanging about with other men and wrinkled old nuns past menopause? Vampire here, little bit. I can tell the difference between what’s pulsing through your veins and a bird on the rag.”
He shook his head and actually wiped tears from his eyes. Then he held his bottle out to her. “Here. This’ll calm your nerves and help you get some sleep tonight.”
She hesitantly took the bottle and brought it up to her lips. It burned. Liquid heat that seemed to sear her tongue. Nasty, but she kind of liked it, too, especially once she’d swallowed, letting that heat settle down into her core. She hadn’t realized how cold she’d felt until that feeling of warmth.
“Not too much, now,” Spike cautioned, taking the bottle back and downing a swig. “Just enough to get you nicely fuzzed, not drunk.”
“Worried about what Buffy would do if you got her little sister drunk?”
He snorted at that and passed her the bottle. “Nah. If big sis found out, she’d kick my arse from here to next Tuesday, but she’d get over it. Your mum on the other hand….” He shuddered and took the bottle back after she’d had another small sip. “She’d chain me up here right before sunrise and bloody well watch my dust blow away in the wind.”
She giggled at that, feeling loose and easy and warm. She remembered back when her mom had gone after him with that ax…. Except, she didn’t. She hadn’t really been there that night. The giggle died away, and some of the warmth seemed to go with it. She hadn’t been there, but she remembered it. Remembered all kinds of things.
“Buffy always says you aren’t her boyfriend,” she said quietly, “but you feel more like it than Angel or Riley ever did. Angel acted like we were in the way, and Riley just sort of tolerated us. But you actually care. About me and Mom.”
He was silent for a bit, staring up at the sky and drinking. Then he sighed. “Don’t need a soul to care. Or a conscience. I like you and Joyce. You both treat me fair. But even if you didn’t, I’d look out for you. Your sis…. I’d cut my own heart out and offer it to her on a silver platter, if it would please her. Taking care of her loved ones, when I already like ‘em? Easy, that.” He looked at her then, eyes intense. “No matter what, you can count on me. Promise.”
She slowly nodded, then looked away, unable to keep staring into those bright blue eyes. “Okay… big brother.”
He laughed softly, then closed his bottle and stood up. “Come on, pidge.” He held his hand out to her. “Let’s get you tucked in before Buffy comes back.”
He got her back into the house through the window, and then escorted her to her own room, leaving her to change into her jammies and climb into bed on her own. She fell asleep feeling safe and loved.
Hungry. So… hungry. Red. Wet and glistening in the light. Trails and pools, dripping from fresh bits of meat. Itchy. Skitter, skitter. Scratch, scratch… scratch. Ants crawling about under his skin. Biting and crawling, and so, so hungry. The red. The red would help. Make the skitter scatter ants go away. No more itch. No more hunger.
Closer. Closer. Just right there. Red and glistening. Burst of flavor along his tongue. Life and death and…hungry. Lap, lap, lap. Drink it down. Follow the trail. Fresh meat. Raw meat. Just right there. He could rip and tear and….
The itching faded. A voice. A woman. Fresh meat. No. A voice inside. Firm. Insistent. No! Who…? The woman wasn’t meat. Wasn’t food. She was…. Spike. He was Spike, and she was….
He was on the floor, nose only millimeters from the dead man’s bloody entrails. His mouth was open, pressed to the ground, sucking in the precious drops of red. Why was…? What had…?
He shoved himself up onto his hands and knees, scrambling away until his back slammed into the wall. Oh, god. What had he…? What was…? Where…?
Buffy. She suddenly came into focus, crouched near the dead body. He could hear something, but it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered but the stricken look in her eyes.
Oh god. Oh god, what had he done? What had…? He looked away, down at his wrist. Swollen and red. A greenish tinge that was fading even as he watched. Fading as his thoughts continued to clear. He looked back towards Buffy. At the gun now in her hand.
Buffy watched in sick horror as Spike flopped bonelessly forward from his knees onto his belly, wriggling forward like some kind of mindless… thing. His mouth was open as he sucked and lapped at the blood, sort of shoveling it into his mouth as he kept writhing up towards the dead man’s body. Wriggle. Twitch. Horrible, jerky movements that propelled him closer to the body.
Any minute, and he’d start pulling out organs, cramming them into his mouth with the same kind of mindless hunger as the rest of the zombies. The rest of the zombies…. Oh god. She was going to be sick. If he started eating the cop, she knew she was going to be sick. But not until after she’d….
“Spike?” she whispered. “Come on, don’t do this to me. Please.”
Was she imagining things, or was there a flicker of… something on his face? No. It was there. She could see it in his eyes as confusion fought with mindless hunger. But was it real? She’d thought she’d seen hints of the Angel she’d known after….
He made a strange little distressed noise as he shoved himself away from the body, scrambling back until he ran into the wall.
He looked confused and disoriented, but it was damn well Spike staring at her from those eyes. Oh, thank God, she thought, feeling weak with relief. She wouldn’t have to—
There was a sound from the security door as one of the zombies started to wriggle under. Shit. She’d forgotten about them. She drew her gun, barely aware of Spike flinching at the sight of it, then stood up and fired.
The sound was nearly deafening, but she’d expected it, and her aim was true. She’d practiced a little after Giles had picked up the weapons. She didn’t like guns, but using them had come as easily to her as any other weapon. She got a head shot on both the first zombie and the one that had started coming in beside it.
Damn it. She hadn’t brought any of the extra ammo with her. They needed to get out of there. Head back to the lobby with the rest of the ammo and weapons.
She reached down to grab the book out of the cop’s hand and stuff it into her pocket, then glanced over at Spike. He was on his feet, wiping the blood off his face, head tilted as he studied the situation.
“Time to fall back,” he said, voice rough and shaky.
Then he moved, and she suddenly found herself in the air, tossed over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes as he rushed out into the dark hallway they’d come from.
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