“It’s a tradition, Spike. You always cook out for Fourth of July.”
“Forgive me, Bit, for not always celebrating your Independence Day. Granted, the whole thing was done and overwith before I was born, but I am British.”
“Whatever. You live in California now. So buck up and join in on the fun.”
Fun, she’d said. And Christ, was Dawn always full of enthusiasm when there was going to be a party. It was a nice break from the teenaged angsty-emo-woe-is-me that she generally exhibited, so Spike was trying to just enjoy the moment.
It was only for his sake, he knew, that they’d waited to have their little red-white-and-blue decorated barbecue until well after dark. The least he could do was try getting into the spirit of things.
But there was Xander, manning a charcoal grill. Not twenty feet away, pouring lighter fluid on it and producing a large flame that had him instinctively wanting to run for cover. Getting hold of himself for a minute, Spike calmed down. In a bit, the grill would produce delicious burgers, so he could stand a safe distance from the source and wait for the reward.
Giles found his way around to Spike after a while, and put in his two cents. “Oh, the joys of Independence Day for Americans…celebrating getting out from underneath the iron fist of British rule.” If Spike didn’t know better, he’d swear Giles had done a perfect impression of Buffy’s infamous eye-roll. Maybe the Slayer had more influence on her Watcher than any of them had realized.
Once the cooking part of it was done, Spike was able to relax a little. He sat cross-legged on the grass with a paper plate in his lap, enjoying his burger (which Xander had handed him more than a bit reluctantly), baked beans (which he had obviously had many times before and enjoyed greatly) and potato salad (which Willow had made and good Lord, he was already plotting what he’d have to do to get her to make more).
Everyone was a bit on the quiet side, just a few interjections here and there about how good the food tasted and what a beautiful night it was. And a beautiful night it surely was, in Spike’s measure. Accepted (mostly) by a group of people who’d previously wanted to kill him (and right, he’d wanted to kill them too, fine); enjoying the company and the meal.
He hoped no one was going to start singing that Star Spangled Banner rubbish.
And then he would have given anything for someone to place their hand over their heart and belt out a verse about the perilous fight. Because here was Dawn, back again.
“Gimme your lighter, Spike, it’s time for the fireworks!”
“Fireworks? Are you insane? We’re in the middle of a neighborhood!”
“Quit being so…so…grown up. It’s Fourth of July, fireworks are a requirement.”
“I’m not being grown up, Bit.” Met by a questioning look, he expanded. “Dawn. Who are you talking to? Spike. Vampire. Sparks. Fire. Maybe it would occur to you that I wouldn’t love that?”
Dawn looked a little guilty. “Sh- Darn, Spike, I’m sorry, that was totally insensitive. We’ll keep them over there, and I swear no one will hand you a sparkler.”
“You think I didn’t catch that, girl? Watch the language. And you can’t promise me that Xander won’t hand me one of those godforsaken death sticks.”
“Death sticks? Like the ones you suck on twenty times a day?”
Spike was getting a little indignant now. “That’s different. Controlled. Not that I’d expect you to know that since you would never light a cigarette yourself”, adding a bit of glower at that point, “but it’s not the same.”
“Fine, look, I am telling you, and you will just have to believe me, no one is going to get near you with any of this. Just enjoy the show. It’s pretty. Honest.”
And fuck if he just didn’t ever have it in him to counter that look Dawn got when she was trying to convince him of something. He handed over his lighter with a gruff, “I want it back after you’re done.”
After he’d moved to the farthest edge of the backyard, he saw Dawn hand his lighter over to Buffy, and caught the Slayer smiling at him across the grass. He just nodded and waved his hand in a ‘carry on, now’ gesture.
If he was being honest with himself, he’d have to admit that the Bit was right.
They were really pretty lights.