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Chains and Bonds and Keys

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“You’re shopping for Buffy, aren’t you?” Dawn says.

“What? Why’d I do that?” He shoves away from the jewelry counter, but there’s no other possible excuse for Spike turning shades of red and green under the Seasons Greetings display.

“You could try the smashed chocolates again. I liked that last year.” Back when they actually hung out. If by ‘hang out’ you mean pick locks and hide from hell-gods, but still.

“Yeah, ‘cause you got to eat it,” he says, but his heart isn’t in his jeer. Or in anything else, lately. Dawn figures it’s Buffy; she trails weariness after her like exhaust, and everybody’s choking on it. Maybe Spike figures jewelry will help? Optimist, Dawn thinks, and feels very grown up about it. Also depressed.

She leans over the counter, her shopping bag hanging all plasticky and fluttery against her hip. “Well, don’t get that one.”

He leans in to see what she’s pointing at. “I liked that one! Classic. Black and roses.”

“Angel thought so, too.”

It’s funny, watching Spike wheel backward so fast. Less funny to see him turn away, sneering as if it’d keep his shoulders from sagging, which it doesn’t. “Nothing here she’d want, anyway,” he said. “Not from me.” The sneer drops; he glances at her, worried, like he’s said too much. Like everyone doesn’t already know what Buffy thinks of him. Stupid sister.

“You could get me something.” Because hey, if it’ll make him feel better...

“Yeah?”

“What would you pick?” She follows his glances across the golds and the sparkles and the gems. She’s not serious; she can’t take Spike’s money for something expensive and shiny when Buffy’s earning a quarter above minimum. It’d be... wrong, somehow. She’s not sure how, exactly, but it would.

Another thing about Buffy being back: it means Dawn has to be the responsible one. Which she totally is. Sometimes.

“This one,” Spike says, lifting a necklace from among pendents of feathers and the skulls-and-crossbones. She asks for fantasy jewelry and Spike takes it off the cheap rack? Stupidly, Dawn feels a little let down.

He lays it in her hand: a lock, made of some dark gray metal – pewter. A tiny molded padlock, the size of the one she used to put in her diary. There’s a second chain attached to the first with a skeleton key dangling from it, but as she reaches for it Spike snaps the binding between the chains.

“Spike! Now they’ll want you to pay for it!” And now that she’s yelled across half the store, him sliding it out of sight is going to be a lot more difficult. Smooth, Dawn.

“Well, yeah.” He drops the key-and-chain (with pricetag) onto the counter. A ten dollar bill follows, and the frazzled-looking jewelry counter woman waves vaguely in their direction.

“Oh. Okay. Uh, thanks.” She’s grateful, she really is, but also still a little... confused?

He rolls his eyes. “It’s a lock,” he says.

“Yeah...”

“To, you know, a person’s heart.” he says, scowling.

“To your heart? Oh my God, Spike, you are such a sap.”

“Or to the world, or the future, or whatever.” Now he won’t look at her anymore and his hands are deep in his duster pockets, in fists, she’s pretty sure. “Point is, you don’t need a key, do you? You open the locks all on your own. All the doors.”

“Oh.” She folds her fingers around the lock. Oh.

Well, that’s not tacky or stupid at all. Still sappy, but...

She throws her arms around him and buries her face in his leather-ash-dirt smell. After a staggering step backwards he pulls her in and squeezes. He’s not as tall as Dad was, but he’s so solid; all those vampire muscles, maybe. Like no one can ever break her, if he’s there. “I miss you,” she whispers against his t-shirt.

“Miss you, too,” he says. “Sorry I haven’t been around of late, but-”

“It’s Buffy. I know.” He stiffens, and she pulls back long enough to say, “It’s okay. No one else comes around much, either.” Except Willow, who won’t leave. “I can’t really blame you.”

“Well, I am sorry,” he says, stepping back.

The hug is over; Dawn can accept that. Almost. “But maybe you could come around when Buffy’s not home, like for pizza? Especially if you bring the pizza.”

He looks less tired now than he has all night, like he might smile if he’s tricked into it. “Might, at that.”

That’s better than she’s heard in a really long time. She hugs him again – he’s expecting it this time – and then, lock clutched in hand, she goes to to meet Willow in the parking lot. By the time they get home, the shape of it’s pressed into her skin. Or her heart. Whichever.

Finis