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Dawn tromped along behind her sister, listening as Buffy ranted about Spike. Evil this and vampire that. Blah, blah, blah. For someone who claimed to know so much about vampires, she could be really dense sometimes. She acted like all vampires were the same, except for her oh-so-precious Angel. And now she was claiming Dawn had a crush on Spike, which was proof she didn’t really understand her own sister, either.

“He’s a killer, Dawn. You cannot have a crush on something that is… dead and, and evil, and a vampire.”

“Right, that’s why you were never with Angel for three years.”

Stupid, gross creeper Angel. Even with his soul, he’d been worse than Spike was these days. And without it…. Dawn shivered, not wanting to think too much about the things Angel had done without his soul. Spike was way less scary, even back before he’d gotten the chip.

“Angel’s different,” Buffy said quietly. “He has a soul.”

“Spike has a chip. Same diff.” Seemed that way to her, anyway.

Angel was still all evil and vampirey, but with a soul making it uncomfortable for him to do certain things. Same with Spike, but the chip kept him from doing more than Angel had. Buffy, of course, exploded at the idea.

“I, I can’t listen to this!” she yelled, all gestures and turning away and being totally overdramatic. Buffy sighed, then turned back to face her. “Spike is a monster, okay? A-and plus, you are only fourteen years old.”

“I like hanging out with him, is all.”

It was kind of like having a really cool older brother who actually treated her like she was smart and not some dumb kid who was also an alien. Besides, even if she had had a crush on him, Spike would never notice her. He was too into Buffy. Dawn eyed her sister. She could tell her about Spike’s feelings, or….

“You know, that chip doesn’t hold Spike back as much as you think it does.”

“Yes, it does,” Buffy insisted. “If not for the chip, he’d—”

“What?” Dawn interrupted. “Kill us all? He could totally still do that if he wanted to, chip or not.” Buffy looked like she was going to say something, but Dawn continued on before she could. “We made a list, you know. Me, Mom, and Spike. Of all the ways Spike could kill us.”

Buffy stopped dead in her tracks. “You did what?”

“We made a list. Top of the list, hire it done. Second, just come into the Magic Box when we’re all there and start firing a shotgun until the chip overwhelms him.”

A glance at Buffy showed her face was pretty pale, but she seemed to be listening. Good.

“He could cut the brake lines on all the cars. You don’t drive, but Mom does. And Giles and Xander.” Mom had been the one to point that one out. Buffy probably didn’t need to know that. “He could also poison the city water supply. It wouldn’t be guaranteed to take any of us out, but it’d cause a lot of death and mayhem. Putting poison in the sugar supply of the donut place Xander goes to would be more likely.”

“Stop,” Buffy said quietly.

“He could also lure everyone into a trap. Or put caches of ammonia and bleach in the Magic Box, all set to release at the same time, then block all the exits. Or block the exits and set a fire nearby.”

“Dawn, stop! Just… stop.”

Her sister looked disturbed and upset. Was it because of the list, or because of the fact that Spike had never acted on any of it? There were other things on the list. Some of them had gotten pretty silly, like using some kind of gas to knock them all unconscious, then tie them to the railroad tracks. Spike had laughed at that one, declaring, I haven’t the mustache for that one, bit. It had been pretty funny, watching him twirl an imaginary mustache while doing a hokey villain cackle.

There had been a couple of variations on that one. Honey and ant hills instead of the train tracks. Being forced to listen to recordings of Angel singing. That had been hilarious, though she doubted Buffy would have appreciated it.

“Fine,” Dawn finally said, turning away and starting towards home. “Let’s just go.”

Buffy followed her, not saying another word about Spike the rest of the walk home.

 

 

Everything had felt weird and off kilter the last couple of nights. Last night had been that creepy list Dawn had told her about. Then tonight, she’d found Spike in her house, like he hung out there all the time. Which he apparently did, making seriously freaky lists with her mom and little sister. Dawn’s words swirled around in her head.

What? Kill us all? Hire it done. Shotgun. Poison in the water. Poison in the sugar. Cut the brakes….

Buffy shivered and hugged herself. The thing was, as much as she didn’t want to admit it, Dawn had been right. Spike could have done all of that. He’d just chosen not to. And he’d been disturbingly helpful lately. Including a few hours ago, when he’d suggested the whole weird stakeout thing. If she was honest with herself, that had been kinda… fun. Sort of awkward and ultimately pointless, but fun. Which was all sorts of ooky and wrong, and there had been some weird vibes from Spike.

Then she’d ended things by yelling at him and calling him stupid when it had turned out they’d gone after the wrong vampires. She felt vaguely bad about it, which was almost as disturbing as that stupid list.

Why didn’t he do it? she wondered. Even when he was working with Adam, he didn’t really try anything to actually kill us.

She stopped in her tracks as she suddenly noticed where she was. Her feet had taken her to Spike’s crypt. Stupid feet. Stupid vampire. Stupid, stupid list. She was here, though, and his totally gross sniffing thing probably meant that he knew she was. It would be all kinds of weird for her to just stand outside his crypt and then just leave. She could go in and yell at him some more about being too dumb to realize that a clearly long-established nest of vamps wouldn’t have been on the train.

Wait a minute, she thought with a frown as she shoved the door open, why didn’t he realize? Despite what she often said and thought, Spike wasn’t actually stupid. He was actually pretty clever. So, why would he—

“Buffy? What are you…? What…?”

Spike jumped up out of his chair like someone had shoved an electric eel in his pants, looking nervous. Why would he be nervous? Something wasn’t right here. The random new clothes when he’d tried to sit with her at the Bronze a few days ago for whatever bizarre reason. Clearly changing the ending to the story he’d been telling Dawn. How awkward he’d been in the car. And now this. Puzzle pieces were starting to click into place, and she so didn’t like the picture they were forming.

Before she could say anything, there was a sound from behind her. Spike glanced that way, his eyes going wide. Not with fear. With something…. Buffy whirled around to find Drusilla gliding towards them, scowling.

“Gone all cockeyed, it has,” she said, pointing accusingly at Buffy. “The sixes and sevens all strewn about.” The crazy vamp ho suddenly gazed off into the distance and hissed. “Someone’s got their dirty, meddling little fingers all over the keyboard.”

“Dru—”

“Hsst!” Drusilla cut Spike off, stepping back just as he took a hesitant step forward. “Stay silent, my pretty Spike. What has been rewritten can be unwritten.”

Buffy’s first thought was that this was what all the weirdness had been about. Spike had been trying to distract her from Drusilla being in town. Except he seemed just as surprised as Buffy herself. There wasn’t time for a second thought, and even taking the time for the first had been a bad idea. Dru was looking right at her, and there was something… about… her…ey….

Everything was so peaceful and calm. No worries. No responsibilities. There were things she needed to…. No. No, there was nothing she needed to do. She could just relax and take it easy. She could finally res—

A grunt of pain intruded on the peace, along with someone shaking her. Buffy blinked and found herself staring into a pair of vivid blue eyes. Spike nodded once, then turned to face Drusilla, keeping himself between them.

The back of his shirt had four slashes across it. So did the back of Spike. Buffy stared at the blood for a moment, trying to process what she was seeing. Spike had blocked Dru’s attack. She’d nearly gone down the same way Kendra had, but Spike had stopped it. Why would he do that? It didn’t make any sense.

Maybe… maybe he wants Dru to get the chip out, and then he wants to kill me himself? That made more sense. Or would have, if not for that damn list.

“You need to go,” he said quietly, and at first, Buffy thought he was talking to her, even though his gaze was locked on the other woman. “There’s noth—” His voice caught in his throat, and he took a deep, shuddering breath. “There’s nothing here for you, Dru.” She could see him trembling as he said the words, like each one hurt him more than the slices along his back.

“Oh, my poor, sweet William.” Sadness radiated from the other vampire as she slowly shook her head. “The stars said there might be a chance I could save you, but the fingers dance as they will, and the path has changed. The slayer has her claws sunk too deep, without the spurning to jostle them loose for a time.”

Buffy stared down at her hands, flexing her fingers. Claws sunk too deep? What was that even supposed to mean? She wasn’t the one going around slashing people with her gnarly fingernails. She doesn’t mean it literally. She shied away from that thought. She didn’t want to think about it. Didn’t want….

“Go on, Dru,” Spike said. “You need to leave, or I’ll… I’ll…”

“Stake me?” Drusilla finished gently. “Could you, I wonder? Miss Edith says no, but the stars say yes.” She scowled suddenly and hissed. “But the stars are filthy liars. They change with the tippy-tap of dancing fingers. And now there is no place for me to crawl inside, for the fingers have closed all the doors.”

She turned then and glided away. Buffy knew she needed to go after her, but she couldn’t seem to make herself move. She just stood there, staring at Spike’s back. The puzzle pieces were clicking again, making that picture she didn’t want to see. The awkwardness in the car. The flask of bourbon. A set up for fighting some vampires together. Putting himself between her and Drusilla. Protecting her instead of the other woman.

“I need to go,” she said, feeling numb.

Spike turned to face her, his expression mostly unreadable for once. He opened his mouth to say something, then closed it and just nodded.

Buffy left the crypt, heading home on autopilot. Spike was in…. Spike thought he…. Another vampire was…. Memories of Angel swirled through her mind as she walked. Of when he’d lost his soul and had terrorized her friends and family. When he’d killed….

Disinvite, she thought. She needed to call Willow and have her do a disinvite. Except…. There was that list. None of the things on it really required an invitation to her home. Some involved the Magic Box, but that was a public business. And he’d been in and out of her house all the time, apparently, making creepy lists with her mom and sister.

He’d protected her. And, yeah, he’d spent most of the fight knocked unconscious, but he had helped against Glory. And he’d been keeping an eye out for Dawn. Dawn…. With Glory on the loose, someone needed to be able to keep Mom and Dawn safe. Mom had been afraid when it was just Giles, but she’d been laughing and having a great time when Spike had been there.

Maybe… maybe a disinvite wasn’t the best idea. At least not right away. She suddenly felt exhausted by it all. She’d sleep on it. And then tomorrow…. Well, tomorrow was a whole other day, with all kinds of possibilities.


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