Dawn waited till she was sure Buffy had left before coming out of the bedroom.
She crossed to the kitchen and pulled a beer from the refrigerator. Then she walked to the window that lead to the fire escape, opened it and held out the beer bottle.
"You'd better put that out before you come in." She said. “She wondered about the smell last time. I managed to convince her it was past tenants but she may not believe me again.”
Spike tossed his cigarette, clambered in through the window and took the beer from her.
"Thanks pet." He said. "How'd you get her out?"
"I made fake sex noises." Dawn replied brightly.
Spike screwed up his face in revulsion.
"Yeah, the thought of you and Xander going at it would make me wanna leave too." He paused. "Actually, I'm not gonna think about it AT ALL."
"Hey, I thought you approved of us being a couple!" She protested.
"Approve’s a strong word. Understand, sort of, yeah. But approve’s not quite it."
“It’s not like we need your approval anyway…” Dawn huffed.
“Which would be why you asked me flat out if I approved last time I was here?” Spike scoffed.
“Yeah well…” She muttered.
At that moment Xander came out of the bedroom, dressed casually and with his hair still wet from the shower.
“Hey Spike.” He said, almost absently as he went to the fridge to get his own beer.
“Xander.” Spike acknowledged.
Xander came back into the room. He kissed Dawn as he sat down on the couch next to her. The kiss became a little passionate for a moment.
Spike turned away in disgust.
“Now I know how Giles felt.” He muttered under his breath. He flipped the top off the beer bottle in his hand and briefly saluted the sky with it. “Sorry Giles,” He said solemnly. “You old bugger.” He added sarcastically but it surprised him by coming out more fond than bitter.
After a minute more Dawn and Xander stopped kissing but settled close to each other on the couch. Spike settled in a chair, obviously still slightly uncomfortable seeing them be so close to each other.
“How are the Bugs?” Xander asked as he took a gulp of his beer.
Spike screwed up his face in disgust.
“Bug Three has a cold. It’s INCREDIBLY disgusting. The mucus gets into everything…”
“Ewww.” Dawn screwed up her face in disgust too, both because of her dislike of bugs and the even worse thought of one with a streaming cold.
“Are they still worshiping you as their king?” Xander scoffed.
“About time someone did.” Spike grinned at him.
“You so need to tell us that story one day.” Dawn cut in smiling.
“One day.” Spike agreed. He leant forward beaming. “I also need to tell you about my friend, the talking telepathic psychic fish.”
Dawn’s expression showed her disbelief. Xander scoffed outright and Spike sent him a withering glance.
“The guy whose best friend recently turned into a flying invulnerable superhuman is questioning my story about a telepathic fish?”
“That’s possibly a fair point.” Xander surprised him by agreeing, but his tone was suddenly laden with undertones of sadness and silence fell in the room as they couldn’t help but remember the all too recent past the offhand comment brought back to mind.
“So, the info on the latest Big Bad coming our way…” Dawn forcibly broke the silence. “You’ve been in touch with Faith, right?”
“Yeah, she’s hitting the books.” Spike replied, grateful for the subject change.
“Hmm,” Xander cut in. “Number 135 in ‘Phrases no one ever expected any one to say in connection with Faith.’” He paused. "Unless you mean she's LITERALLY hitting the books, in which case that sounds just like her."
Dawn and Spike acknowledged the joke with small twisted smiles.
“She’s got Andrew in trying to computerise Giles’ old library and filing systems. His records probably made sense to him but sadly not to anyone else on the planet.” Spike continued. “It may take a while before she has anything for us.”
“And Satsu and the others?” Xander asked, leaning forward concerned about the girls he’d come to feel very protective towards.
Some hours later...
Dawn yawned loudly.
“I’m off to bed.” She stated, standing up. “You better go Spike. Buffy’ll be back soon.”
Spike stood up and the two of them hugged warmly.
“Night, sweet bit.” He said.
“I’m so happy we’re friends again.” She said into his chest.
“Me too.” He replied.
They broke off the hug and Dawn trotted off to bed.
“Night Xander.” Spike said in his direction and headed off to the open window.
Xander cast a look towards the closed bedroom door Dawn had left through and followed Spike towards the window.
“Spike, can you stay a minute.”
Spike stopped and looked at him.
“Um,” Xander started. “I, um,” He bit his lip. “Well, you know how I feel about Buffy being in relationships with vampires.”
Spike lowered his head and smiled wryly.
“I think you’ve made that clear once or twice.” He looked up at Xander, the smile still place.
Xander surprised him by smiling back ruefully.
“I’ve been proven right more than once or twice.” The smile fell. “Especially now, given the situation with…”
“Yes, you have.” Spike cut in seriously before he could utter the name everyone had been avoiding saying lately. “I’m not saying you’re always right…” Spike pointed out and Xander laughed outright. “But sometimes you have been right about vampires.”
The smile was shared once more before Xander grew serious again.
“Do you still love her?” He asked.
Spike bit his lip and turned away slightly. He sighed heavily before looking back over at Xander.
“I do,” Spike replied seriously. “I always will.”
Xander sighed too; his shoulders slumping with the weight of it. He looked at the floor.
“She missed you.” He said as his head came back up and he took in Spike’s shocked expression. It really wasn’t what Spike had expected Xander to say. Xander knew that. “She never said anything. You know Buffy. She never says anything when she’s hurting.” Spike smiled wryly at that and nodded agreement. “But she missed you. It was obvious.”
“Xander…” Spike started but Xander held up a hand because he wasn’t finished.
“Then she found out that you were back, and you never came back to her.”
It came out sounding exactly like the accusation it was and it shut Spike right up for a long moment.
“I thought I was doing the right thing.” Spike finally said, softly, on a gulp.
“At the time I did too.” Xander said firmly and Spike met his eyes again. Xander’s expression softened. “We were both wrong.” He said simply. “I think there was a point when she needed you. A point where no one else could get through to her the way you seem to be able to, but you weren’t there." He then jumped to add. "I'm not blaming you for anything that's happened but she shut everyone out, as she always does. For some reason, the only person she seems to really let in is you. I don't know if that's love, but... don't give up on her just yet.”
They held each other’s eyes for a long moment. Xander’s expression was resolute but not angry. His intent was obviously part accusation for Spike letting down Buffy by not coming back, but it was also obvious he was saying this with an acknowledgment that Spike should be part of their world. Spike’s expression started out as incredulous but gradually changed to a small rueful smile as he realised that he was actually being invited in somewhere that he hadn't been before. Where exactly that was neither man was quite sure.
“You better go.” Xander said at last, breaking the silence. He made a slightly strangled choking noise. “It’s twilight already.” He said flatly.
Spike nodded and turned to the window. Xander held it open for him. They shared a final exchange of manly nods before he left. Xander closed the window.
Xander sighed loudly into the room, but then looked over towards the bedroom door. He smiled fondly, thinking of his own Dawn, and went to be with her.