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Gross Things

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"How come you don't rot?"

"Excuse me?" Spike slapped down the ten of spades.

"Dawn rearranged the cards in her hand. "You're dead. No circulation. So how come you don't have those blue bruises like dead bodies? Lividity." She drew a card, then discarded it.

"You're thinking of zombies, not vampires. We--" he looked down his nose at her, "stay young and beautiful forever." Spike pushed a poker chip into the middle of the coffee table.

Dawn took a sip from her Mountain Dew and matched his chip. "Uh-uh. Faith told me when vampires get really old, their faces freeze in vamp-face. And their hands turn into cloven hooves. You," She tossed in two more chips. "won't even be able to hold your cards."

Spike huffed. He laid his cards on the coffee table; a full house.

Dawn sagged. She tossed her hand face-up on top of the chips. "Three of a kind." Spike smirked, scooping the chips to his side of the table and gathering the cards for another shuffle.

"What's the sudden interest in dead things?"

Dawn fidgeted, avoiding his eyes. "I think Willow's planning something."

Spike raised an eyebrow.

"I heard her talking with Tara. They were trying to keep quiet, but Tara was getting mad at her -- you know, the way she does when Willow uses too much magic?"

"Will's stronger than you lot give her credit for."

"Strong, sure, but sometimes she doesn't look before crossing the street. Look, it's not like I'm the poster kid for caution, but... remember when you helped me get those Ghora eggs?"

"I do." Spike busied himself dealing a new hand.

"You never asked me what happened."

"Figured you'd thought better of trying to bring your Mum back. I was right proud of you, Bit. Necromancy's dangerous stuff, and there's always a price to pay."

"I did try it." He looked up sharply. "Well, I changed my mind at the last minute," she blurted. "Ripped up Mom's photo. I wanted her back so bad, but once I'd done the spell I got really scared. Like, w-what if Mom came back a zombie? What if she tried to eat our brains, and Buffy needed her so much she couldn't kill her? What if--"

Spike reached across the coffee table to wipe a tear from her cheek. "I'd have done it." Dawn looked at him, stricken. "Your Mum was my friend. A good lady, stood up for the two of you and still gave me a chance, made me welcome." He set the deck down and gripped Dawn's shoulders with both hands. "But I'd have put her back in the ground if that's what it took to protect you. Your sis, too-- she shouldn't have to face that. I'd do it, if I had to."

"But what if it was Buffy?"

Spike jerked his hands back as if he were burned. "What are you talking about?"

Dawn swiped at her cheek. "I think Willow's planning to bring Buffy back to life. She stays at the Magic Box doing research all night, and she's keeping secrets, and yesterday when I told her not to use all the orange juice she snapped at me and for a second her eyes were all black."

Spike ran his hands over his hair.

"What if Buffy comes back a zombie?" Dawn babbled. "A- a Slayer zombie, and nobody can stop her? What if she's all gross and rotten and we still can't kill her because we love her so much?"

Spike unfolded his legs and stood, stalking to the window. Outside the night was black. There were no stars, no sound but distant traffic.

"I'll take you away," he said so softly Dawn almost couldn't hear him. "'F it comes to that, we'll leave Sunnydale. I've lived on the run before." He glanced over his shoulder, flashing her a weak grin. "Never done it with a breathing girl, but we'd find a way."

"And if Willow's spell works?"

He came back to where she sat on the couch. Sat beside her, put his arm around her.

"Don't get your hopes up, Dawn. You could be wrong about what Will is planning. Could be she won't pull it off. A lot of things could happen."

"Are you getting your hopes up?" She snuffled into his shoulder. Probably getting snot on his shirt, but he wouldn't care. Spike didn't mind gross things.

He didn't answer. She didn't really expect him to.