Silver clouds scudded across the sky, hiding the moon for moments before moving onwards, chasing each other on their endless journey. The wind which pushed them was equally intent on beating up the trees in a small, neglected graveyard, not one where the popular demons hung out, but a grimy, tired-looking place visited by few self-respecting creatures of the night, or even the twilight.
The practical implications of the wind, the trees and the debris were far from lost on one of the few individuals bold, or stupid, enough to venture out into the boneyard that night. Too many bloody bits of sharp-ended wood flying about for one thing. Dust and grit in the eyes and mouth for another. And, by California standards it was sodding cold. Even an undead denizen of the underworld could feel that. He might be room temperature, but he had his preferences as to what temperature that room was, and this temperature was a long way away from it.
Cursing imaginatively, Spike thrust aside another tangled mass of foliage before halting in satisfaction before a small family tomb. The long-dead Busch family had not been able to afford the sort of ostentatious mausoleum that had provided Spike with shelter, but their neat little memorial had another advantage – it was badly-constructed, and the slabs forming its sides could be pushed aside easily to create access to a cache. It was the work of a moment to push his hand inside and grasp a wooden box. Checking that no-one and no thing was watching, Spike slid his property inside his coat and stood.
His planned swirl into the darkness was frustrated by a tree-root. "Buggering hell! Can't I do anything right?" He limped melodramatically to the closest stump and sat, rubbing absently at his ankle. Perhaps he could have just one little glance? It had been a long time, after all. He sniffed. No-one likely to be about to see anything here at least. Tentatively he began to lift the lid.
"Spike, what're you doing?"
Startled, he twisted, grabbed for purchase and collapsed into an undignified heap. "Sod it, Bit! What are you doing here? I've told you before about creatures of the night, inadvisability of stalking of. If you think I'm gonna explain to your sis when you get eaten, you have another think coming. Time for little girls to be safe in their beds."
"I saw you hanging about outside the house. I told you what I'd do if you hurt Buffy again. I just wanted to check you weren't planning anything."
"Even for you that's feeble, Platelet. You protect Big Sis by following the Big Bad into a deserted little cemetery. What were you gonna do if I did turn out evil? Whine me to death?"
Even as the words left his mouth he regretted them, and the look of pain in her eyes hurt almost as much as the hearty jab of her foot into his shin. "Don't be such a pig, Spike. Tell me what you're doing or I'll tell Buffy you left Xander's house."
"And that's filling me with fear because? Oh yes, it isn't. Slayer don't own me, pet, and you've made it quite plain what you feel about me now. Not that I didn't deserve it, but it means you don't have any sort of say in my movements. Now go home to bed."
"Not until I've seen what's in that box. Could be anything. It's my duty to protect my sister."
"Anyone tell you you're cute when you're self-righteous? 'Cos if they did they got it wrong. Piss off, Nibblet. This stuff's private."
Oh bollocks. That had hit home. And Summers women in tears had him bang to rights every time. He reached awkwardly towards her. "Look, don't cry. It's just – this stuff's private, you know? Carried it about with me a very long time. Not too sure I'm ready to share it yet."
He was clearly on the ropes. Big blue eyes, brimming with tears expertly applied the final twist of the knife. With barely a hint of a whine in her voice, Dawn pushed gently. "Private? You mean personal? Is it something for Buffy? Show me? Please?" And just to make sure she reached out, twitched the little casket from his fingers and flipped it open. He made a half-hearted gesture to retake the prize , but she delved deep into the box. –Her fingers would meet no jewels, no fabulous weapon, no sigil of power. Scraps of paper crinkled under her hand with that crispy sound only very old documents could make.
If a vampire could blush his face would be the colour of beetroot. As it was, the expression of his face was almost comic in its discomfort. "Just old papers, luv. Nothing would interest a scrap like you. Not even modern writing – too much bother to read it. Just give 'em back, right?"
He couldn't have signalled more clearly that these things mattered, to him at least. Just what sort of bleeding idiot was he? At least it was too dark for her to read just there. "Give 'em back, hey? You're chilly, need to be safe home in bed."
Dawn shivered ostentatiously. "A gentleman would lend me his duster."
"Not been a gentleman this century or more. Now give the box over, there's a good lass."
"Walk me home first? "
He gave up. A quick shrug and he swung round. They walked in companionable silence for a few minutes, both too busy thinking to talk. It couldn't last, though – this was a Summers woman and they were relentless when it came to shopping, fighting and information. Spike tried to get a story ready to satisfy the inevitable return of Miss Inquisitive.
Much to his surprise, though, they reached Revello without the subject rising again. Dawn chatted cheerily about school, her new friends, the amazing absence of suckiness in some of her teachers and other soothingly brainless teen topics. None of this needed more than an occasional grunt in reply, at most, "Is that so?" He couldn't help but feel she was planning something, but he was willing to let it go.
As they reached the house she turned and presented the box to him. "It's pretty. I had one like that for my things once, but Anya broke it." He resisted the obvious lure. "It's old, pet. Get Sis to give you a new one if you need something." Determined to avoid the pleading eyes, he fussed with the casket, putting it deep into an inside pocket. "How you getting in? Door, or need a hoist up?"
Eyeroll – predictable, really. "Door? And call out Honey, I'm home while I'm about it, I suppose? Window, of course. A lift-up would be good."
Later, much later, Spike saw how suspicious her docility was. At that point all he cared about was that the questions had stopped. He pushed her up till she was able to clamber onto the overhanging roof, waved and turned towards Maison Harris.