Summer turned into autumn and autumn into winter and the dreams
changed over time, like the color of the leaves. At first, every time
he closed his eyes the same make-believe scene played out before him:
walking to the rectangle of freshly turned earth, placing down a
flower of deepest crimson, color of blood (dammit, he knew full well
the poet in him was dead because he'd been there when it had happened,
so why the deep need for the flower to be that shade?). A small strong
hand, a girl's hand even though Spike had never known Buffy when she'd
simply been a girl (always Slayer, always more), rising out of the
dark brown ground and grabbing his wrist. Then, he would be in a long
dark hallway, running towards a ghostly figure far ahead of him. Pale
hair, like sunshine on sand, a bright halo he reached out to touch.
Buffy turned to face him, exclaimed 'Spike!' happily, and then as they
kissed, he would wake up.
But as that rectangle of freshly turned earth grew over with grass and
the seeds Dawn threw onto it bloomed into flowers (in, it seemed to
him, every shade but red), the dream changed. Now he put the red
flower down and hit his fist against the headstone, not a futile punch
like he'd done the first time he'd visited it but like a friend might
lightly knock the shoulder of a departing companion. So long, and
thanks for all the laughs.
First time he'd had that particular variation on the dream, he'd sat
up in bed muttering 'no' under his breath over and over. He slept in
what had once been Dawn's room, she'd demanded it that first horrible,
empty day when nobody had had the heart or energy to say no. Now he
slept there because it was becoming a way of life. They were building
a new world, readjusting to life and learning simple things like how
to talk all over again.
Dawn went to school, then fell asleep soon as she got home. Spike got
up around five-thirty and made dinner for the chit (always '-it'
nicknames. Chit. Lil Bit. Niblet. She'd once asked him why, but he
didn't know) and for Willow and Tara, who came over for a few hours
every night to keep Spike and Dawn from collapsing into a mutually
parasitic existence. Dawn herself would wake again at around eight,
and the four of them would eat. Willow and Tara would go home at
eleven forty-five, sharp, and Spike would try and help Dawn with her
homework (except creative writing, because his suggestions always made
her laughing out loud or blush, so she'd asked him to stop). Then
they'd have another meal, usually some horribly un-nutritious cereal
with more sugar than grain, and watch the infomercials on at one in
the morning. They'd talk or read or watch videos, and then Dawn would
go to bed at fourish, and Spike would go on patrol for an hour or two
until the sun rose and he went to bed. Dawn would get up and go to
school and a few hours later Spike would wake again, tormented by
dreams that were getting steadily more suggestive of Life Going On.
The fridge had a couple of school papers stuck on it, Dawn was doing
well again. Social Services had checked up on them for the first few
months but it had been half a year since the older sister's death now,
and the girl's cousin William seemed to be doing a very good job of
looking after her, so they didn't worry much anymore.
Spike sighed, opened the fridge and tossed a few blood bags in, closed
it again, and headed upstairs to bed. Dawn's alarm would go off in
ninety minutes, but she kept it low enough that it wouldn't wake him.
Her door was slightly open, spilling the faint golden glow of her
nightlight into the hall. She'd asked if she could have Buffy's room,
and had turned it into a sunny, yellow space, no shadows at any hour
of the day. Her now very-dark hair, growing long again after the
severe cut she'd gotten four months ago, was a dark smudge on the
pillow as she turned over in her sleep, clutching a stuffed pig close
to her chest.
"Night Lil Bit." Spike said softly, turning to his own room. The dream
swallowed him whole, gulping him down until the softness of his bed
and the retina-burn from Dawn's bedside lamp faded under the crunch of
graveyard branches under his boots and a thorny rose between his cool
"Spike?" Wham. Awake again. Dawn standing in the doorframe,
silhouetted by the light from her bedlamp that made the thin fabric of
her nightgown almost sheer, almost translucent. Angel. Ghost.
"What's up? What time is it?" Daylight peeking through the edges of
his painted-over windows. Sitting up, Dawn ducking her head down as
she noticed his lack of shirt.
"After eleven. I slept in. I'll go in late, say I had a dentist's
appointment." Dawn waved her hand dismissively. Her voice dropped into
a low whisper, confessional. "I had a nightmare."
"Not surprised." Spike swung his legs over the edge of the bed and
pulled a shirt over his head. His room was an utter mess, good thing
Social Services didn't know. "As far as young women go, Niblet, you're
more haunted than most."
"Young women?" Dawn smiled in proud surprise for a moment. "You think
I'm a woman?"
Spike shrugged, yawning and motioning for the two of them to go
"So what was the dream?" Spike got out the ingredients for their
patented Nightmare Cure, which experience and trial and error had
perfected. Milk, strawberry syrup for Dawn and B positive for him.
Overly flavored milkshakes, drunk in good company, could kill most
Dawn shrugged in the way only teenagers with more limb than body can
shrug, a loosely jointed puppet whose strings have been jerked sharply
for a moment. "It wasn't really a nightmare I guess. Just scary." she
sat down at the kitchen counter, fiddling with a ballpoint pen.
"What was it?" Spike loved looking after people. Sometimes, when she
wore her hair pulled off her face and a long dress, and the light was
dim, Dawn could almost look like Dru for a moment. It was enough to
make him love her even more.
"I was a grownup. A for-real grownup, not a student like Willow or
something, but a proper adult. I had a big house and a little girl who
had long hair in that light honey color, like Buffy used to have when
she was a kid." Dawn looked up, a smile creeping onto her expression.
Spike put down the milkshake paraphenalia and listened. "And you
called her Gidget, which she pretended she hated but secretly liked,
and I called her Annie. It was really... nice."
"Doesn't sound much like a nightmare to me, pet." Spike commented with
raised eyebrows, getting the blender out.
"But it was!" Dawn's eyes were wide and filled with a pale, empty sort
of pain that Spike was all too familiar with. "Can't you see?"
"Um, 'fraid I can't." Milk and strawberry in first, the one time he'd
made his milkshake before Dawn's she'd made it very clear that in
future he was to make her's first. He still thought she'd overreacted,
it wasn't like he hadn't washed the blood out first.
"I was happy." the last word was a wail. Spike moved around the
counter to hug her, a reaction he didn't even have to think about.
Maybe he was more like the 'cousin William' that he claimed to be than
he'd like to admit. "I still missed Buffy and Mom but I was happy. I
don't want to forget them like that."
"Now, hold on." Spike held her out at arm's length, watching her try
to control the sniffles she'd suddenly gotten an attack of. "You just
said you were still missing 'em in the dream, right?" Dawn nodded. "So
you hadn't forgotten them, had you?"
Dawn didn't answer, her gaze sliding away sullenly.
"Niblet, I know it's hard to face, but life goes on." Friendly goodbye
punch at the gravestone in his dreams. Buffy's never going to climb
out of her coffin like you wish she would. Dru's not coming back
again. Get over it, you bloody ponce. Brooding's for self-indulgent
wankers with stupid hair. "And they'll always be around, so long as
you remember them."
"In the midst of death, we are life." Dawn muttered. Spike nodded.
"Yeah, exactly. That's just it."
"I was gonna write that on a card, for Xander and Anya's wedding.
Thought they'd like it." Dawn admitted. "I read it in a book."
"You better get a whole lot neater at writing if you're planning to
weasel out of buyin' them a real present like that." Spike's voice was
"Hey!" Dawn laughed. "I'm not that bad!"
Spike smiled. Gidget. He'd have to remember that as a nickname for the
"Weren't we having milkshakes?" Dawn asked after a minute. Spike
nodded, and picked up the blender again.