The rain had stopped, but the sky overhead was still mantled with clouds that reflected the city lights and threw an eerie reddish glow over the midnight landscape of downtown Sunnydale. "Come on, you bloody bastard," Spike crooned. "I know you're out there. I can smell you." He hefted the battleaxe. "Come on, Daddy's got a lovely prezzie for you..."
The only answer was a soft, rumbling growl, so low that he felt more than heard it. He slunk noiselessly along the alley, axe at ready. Spike preferred hand-to-hand fights when he could get them, but his previous run-in with a Ghora demon had convinced him that a big hunk of metal would be a valuable asset in dealing with them in the future.
He hadn't expected to have to deal with Ghora demons ever again, actually, though he supposed that the eggs should have been a clue otherwise. Should have smashed the lot of them while we were down there the first time. Unlike their massive, sedentary mother, the young were quite mobile, and extremely hungry. This was the second one he'd tracked down tonight, and he was still limping from the damage the first one had done. Apparently their favored method of attack was to hamstring their prey. He halted, fingers tightening on the haft of the axe. He could see its eyes blinking redly down at the end of the alley now, reflecting the neon light from the run-down hotel across the street. A male, from the glimpses he'd gotten earlier of its coloring. About pony-sized. A lot smaller than its mother, a little smaller than the sister whose body was going to provide a big surprise for the opening crew at the gas station on the corner of Fourth and Main. Piece of...
The young Ghora exploded out of the pile of rubbish, all six taloned feet leaving gouges in the pavement. Faster than its sister, too. Cardboard boxes and wilted lettuce flew wildly across the alleyway. It covered the twenty yards between its nest and the vampire with the speed of an onrushing diesel engine, giving vent to a hair-raising bellow. "Oh, sh-!" Spike leaped back and to the side, swinging the axe in a vicious arc which intercepted the charging demon's path at about the level of its knees. The blade sank into demon-flesh with a thok!, embedding itself in bone. A spray of blue-violet blood spurted across the dank cement and the Ghora's left foreleg buckled, sending it lurching into Spike and driving the axe-handle into his stomach.
It hurt like hell; he could feel the bruise spreading, but he had no breath to get knocked out of him. Spike retained a death-grip on the axe as the demon's momentum barreled the two of them into the brick wall. He'd injured it badly; the left foreleg hung uselessly, and its blue-and-yellow-striped sides heaved in agony. Unfortunately, it still had five working legs left. He braced himself against the crumbling brickwork behind him, tearing the blade free of its mooring. The wounded Ghora stumbled away, then wheeled with astonishing agility and charged him again. One of the three blunt heads at the end of the long snaky necks opened its gaping maw and champed madly, displaying rows of serrated ivory teeth. The vampire crouched, snarling right back.
"I," he whipped the axe up, "am bloody sick," he flung himself sideways, not quite swiftly enough to avoid the razor-sharp teeth as they clamped down on his already wounded thigh, "and TIRED," he brought the blade of the axe slicing down with all his strength on the juncture of the Ghora's neck and primary shoulders, "of fighting things which're FASTER THAN I AM!" The demon bellowed again and Spike wrenched the axe free and hit it a third time. This time he felt bone crack beneath the impact, and the creature's bellow became a gurgle and then died away as it collapsed segment by segment onto the pavement.
Spike collapsed on top of it and lay there panting. He didn't really need to pant, but at times like this it seemed to be the right thing to do. After a bit he sat up and gingerly began to pry the Ghora's jaws out of his leg. Bloody hell, I go through more clothes this way... The teeth were loose in the cartilaginous jaw, like a shark's, and several of them remained embedded in the muscle of his thigh. Damn. He'd have to pry them out before he healed right over them.
He got to his feet, limping more than a little now, and raked one hand through his rain-wet hair. He bent over and began working the axe free of the Ghora's backbone. The adrenaline high of the kill was fading already. There wasn't much satisfaction in killing a Ghora; they were little more than animals. Big, dangerous animals who would eat a human, or a vampire for that matter, if they got the chance, but tackling one was like going after a mountain lion. You couldn't take it personally. Couldn't hate it. Very quickly the rush of violence drained away, leaving...
Not the raw, aching misery of the first week, when he would have let the sun take him without a whimper if the others hadn't taken it in turn to see that it didn't. Not the self-destructive rage of the weeks after that, when he'd gone out looking for death in less obvious forms. By now, four months after they'd lowered her into the ground, the pain was chronic rather than acute, a wound that would never completely heal but which had dulled enough to allow him to get up in the evenings and go through the motions.
He straightened up, turned to the brick wall, and very deliberately slammed his fist into it. Brick crumbled and chips of brick and mortar flew, and Spike doubled over with a hiss of agony. He didn't want to get over her, damn it. Time had no business healing some wounds.
"Hey," a voice said from the mouth of the alley. "Not bright."
He looked up. He couldn't remember the name of the vampire standing there, though he'd seen him around Sunnydale before--at Willy's, in the days back when he'd been welcome at Willy's, and before that at the Master's old digs. Not likely one of the Master's get. Old Bat-Nose, by all accounts, had been fussy about his progeny, turning only select individuals at certain propitious times. This fellow was dark and broad-shouldered and Byronic-looking, so he was probably one of Darla's. She was always turning chaps who reminded her of Angelus. Spike considered anyone reminiscent of Angelus a git of the first order. He wondered if he should try staking this particular git now or wait till his leg healed a bit. Lacking a heartbeat, he didn't bleed as profusely as a human would have from the same wound, but if the other vamp ran he might not be able to keep up just yet.
"Still carrying on the Slayer's good works, eh, Spike?"
Spike shrugged, yanked the axe free, and straightened up, slinging it over one shoulder. He flexed his injured hand. He'd probably broken a knuckle. A van drove by on the street behind the newcomer, tires humming on the wet asphalt. "A bloke's got to kill something," he said mildly. "Any reason it shouldn't be you?"
The dark vampire studied him. "Daniel never came back to the lair yesterday."
Who the hell was Daniel? He'd never known many of the Sunnydale vampires very well, even during the few months four years back when he'd been Master, before the Slayer had gone and dropped an organ on him. Christ, the Slayer dropping an organ on me now qualifies as a fond memory. He'd completely lost track of who was who in the last year. They were all interchangeable, anyway, a rabble of raw fledglings punch-drunk with bloodlust and not a thimble's worth of personality among the lot of them. "I think you've got me confused with someone who cares, mate."
"Oh, you've got reason to care, Spike," the dark vampire said softly. "Now that the Slayer's gone, it's normally your fault when one of us goes missing. Lissette and Trina disappeared tonight, and I decided I needed to have words with you."
Spike snorted. Was tall-dark-and-boring there what passed for a Master in Sunnydale these days? Couldn't have been more than a third Spike's age, and Spike was overweeningly proud of the fact that he was one of the youngest Masters on record. The dark vampire continued, "But..." he waved at the Ghora carcass, "You've got an alibi. I must say I'm surprised. But pleased." He smiled, showing his fangs. "If someone else in Sunnydale is taking out elder vampires, I can't imagine they won't get around to you sooner or later."
"As it's bloody definite you won't?" Spike sneered. "Note how I'm trembling in my boots. If the entire demon population of Sunnydale can't do me in, I'm not going to worry about some johnny-come-lately vampire hunter. Now if you don't mind..."
The van which had driven by a moment before rolled slowly back into view and came to a stop directly athwart the entrance to the alley. The rear doors opened and several men in dark coveralls hopped out. One of them was carrying what looked like a tranquilizer gun. For a moment Spike thought it was a set-up. But the dark vampire's face showed a flash of surprise, and more briefly, fear. The gun went off with a paff of compressed air, and the dark vampire flinched and staggered as the dart struck him, then came to a wobbly halt. He looked stupidly about him, swaying on his feet but not falling. Without circulating blood any drug took longer to diffuse through a vampire's body.
"Is that another one?" one of the overalled men called, pointing in Spike's direction. Spike considered pretending to be an innocent tourist, though the axe, the dead Ghora, and the fact that he was standing on a leg injury that would have had a human fainting on the pavement from blood loss might possibly poke a few holes in his web of deception.
The second overalled man, who'd led the now-docile dark vampire over to the van and was scribbling notes onto a clipboard, shrugged. "He's a witness. Take him down."
The man with the trank gun began fitting another dart into it. Spike flashed on a memory of coming to strapped to a cot in a plain white room, and the impersonally curious faces of military doctors bending over him. No. Not that. Not that, never, ever, ever, die first-- The men in coveralls were advancing on him confidently. The man with the trank gun raised it and braced the stock against his shoulder, taking careful aim.
Spike flung the axe at him. It cartwheeled into the gun and took a slice out of the man's forearm; he screamed, dropped the gun, and grabbed his wrist. Spike screamed at the same time as the chip embedded in his skull went off, sending punishing shockwaves of electricity through his brain. The lovely rich scent of the wounded man's blood hit him at the same time and his stomach cramped with a mixture of nausea and hunger. He stumbled forward, bowling the second man over and getting another shock for his trouble. He kept his feet through sheer willpower, and by the time he reached the mouth of the alley he was running all out, heedless of the pain that ripped through his leg at every step.
The dark vampire lunged drunkenly for him, fangs bared and eyes flaring yellow. Spike smashed him in the face with his good fist, all the fury and terror in him fueling the blow, and felt bones breaking. The other vampire went down, out cold. Still at a dead run, black leather duster billowing behind him, Spike dodged around the rear of the van as the driver gunned the engine. The rear doors of the van were open, and in the dark interior he caught a glimpse of two huddled, unbreathing forms. Lissette and Trina, most likely. He spared one glance at the license plate, and took off down the deserted street.
A vampire could move across a room almost faster than the human eye could follow, but he couldn't keep that up level of speed for any great distance. After a block or so he was reduced to a pace any merely-human Olympic sprinter could have kept up with. He could hear the roar of the van's engine behind him, and took a sharp left into another alley. Wheels skidded on the slick film of oil and rainwater, and brakes gave a banshee squeal as the van rounded the corner. A chain-link fence blocked the end of the alley; beyond was a vacant lot full of weeds and rain-soaked trash. Spike put on another desperate burst of speed and launched himself upward, grabbing the top rail of the fence with both hands, kicking off of the chain-link with his good leg, and vaulting over the top with, dare it be said, supernatural grace.
He landed less impressively, his injured leg buckling beneath him, and clamped his teeth shut on another scream. The van roared fit to beat the late Ghora demon. It wasn't slowing down. Spike hauled himself to his feet and took off again. Behind him there was a spectacular crash as the van barreled into the fence and ripped it right out of the ground. Shearing, grinding metal noises ensued. Spike turned round and saw the van shudder to a halt, front end smashed in and dragging a tattered cocoon of chain-link.
"I wouldn't try that again with a car built after 1975, ducks!" he yelled, waving at the driver, who was pinned to his seat by the expanded airbag and struggling futilely. Spike gave him a two-fingered salute, turned his back, and sauntered off, limping as little as inhumanly possible until he was out of sight.
He had a few people to talk to before sunrise.
She woke at any little thing these days, so when something rattled at her window Dawn's eyes snapped open. She lay there in bed listening tensely for another noise. It was around five in the morning, and the eastern sky was starting to grow pale. After a moment she heard another urgent tapping, and then someone said "Bloody hell."
At the sound of that familiar North London growl, Dawn relaxed and rolled out of bed, grabbed a robe, and tiptoed over to the window. She fumbled with the catch in the dark for a moment and pulled the window open, glancing nervously in the direction of her father's room as it screeched. He'd always liked to sleep in on weekends, so maybe he'd sleep through this.
Spike was hanging off her windowsill, his pale face pressed against the screen. "Be a love and let us in, Niblet," he whispered. "Sun's up in half a mo'."
Shit. She'd forgotten he didn't have an invite to her father's apartment yet. "Come in, come in, come in!" she whispered, struggling with the screen. It hadn't been intended to open. Spike, having less compunction than she... make that no compunction... about casual vandalism, took the expedient route of ripping it out of the frame entirely, and heaved himself over the sill and into the room like a salmon fighting its way upstream.
"Curtains!" he hissed.
"Stop spazzing!" Dawn hissed back. "It's not even over the horizon yet." She pulled the curtains tight anyway. "Hey. Are you all right?"
Spike was fairly obviously not all right; he stood there in the middle of her room clutching his left hand to his chest, looking even paler than usual. There were a couple of big ragged tears in the right leg of his jeans, and she could see the trembling in the muscles of his thigh when he put weight on it. "What happened to you?" Dawn whispered furiously. She didn't really have to ask--he'd gone out and gotten into another fight, pissed off some creature far higher up in the demonic hierarchy than a mere vampire, and gotten beat up. Again. As if any of that would bring Buffy back, as if her being gone in the first place was his fault and not hers. Damn him. He'd been better the last two months. She'd thought they were through this part. At least this time he hadn't been keeping company with Jack Daniels on top of it. "Don't tell me. Sit down and I'll get the first aid kit."
The vampire collapsed onto her bed and Dawn shook her head once, angrily, and stomped out into the hall towards the bathroom. Suddenly she didn't care if her father woke up. Let him, she thought viciously, yanking open the medicine cabinet and pulling the little kit out. I'll just tell him the strange guy in my room was Buffy's boyfriend, hah, no, MY boyfriend, a hundred and forty-some year old punker boyfriend named Spike, that'll teach him-
Spike was lying flat on his back on her bed when she returned with the first aid kit. "You're such a fucking IDIOT!" Dawn snarled, slamming the kit down on the bedside table and pulling out a roll of bandages and iodine and Neosporin. She didn't know if vampires could get infections, but it never hurt to take precautions. "And you're getting blue demon-goo all over my bedspread."
"Language, Niblet. I'll front you a quarter for the laundrette," Spike mumbled without opening his eyes. Dawn bit her lip. She had perforce become an expert in vampire first aid over the last few months; Spike's normal impulsive-to-the-point-of-self-destruction streak didn't mix well with grief and guilt. She swabbed out the big wound in his thigh first, using tweezers to pull the remaining Ghora-teeth out of the already-healing flesh, then went to work on his hand.
"I can say fuck if I fuckin' want to," Dawn snapped. "And you deserve the idiot. What did you do, punch a brick wall?"
"Would I do something that stupid?" Spike said, wincing as she wrapped the bandage around his swollen hand. Broken bones took a while to heal, even for him. Only a matter of days for something this minor, but... Dawn glared at him and ripped off a piece of adhesive tape with her teeth. She was getting the snarl down pretty well, too. But when she looked at him again the expression on his lean face was so utterly lost that she had to blink back tears.
"I thought you were over trying to get yourself killed," she said huskily.
Spike managed a grin. "Sorry, pet, suicidal tendencies are essential to my charm. But I wasn't trying this time, honestly. Some blighters tried to trank me and shove me in a van, and I objected. Oh, and a couple of baby Ghora tried to nibble on me, but I don't hold it against them."
Dawn gave him a long, sharp look. She could generally see right through him. Spike didn't look good; his face was all drawn and he had dark circles under his eyes and his cheeks were too hollow. But the despair that had lurked in the depths of those blue, blue eyes since Buffy's death was... not gone, but not near enough the surface to really worry her. She nodded grudgingly. She tossed her long brown hair back over her shoulder and began stuffing Band-Aids and scissors back onto the first aid kit. "Is your leg gonna be all right?"
"Right as rain in no time." He patted the blood-stiffened black denim. The wound had been closing, slowly but surely, even as she worked on it. Beneath the bandage there would be a jagged six-inch weal standing out lividly against the pale flesh. By tomorrow night it would be gone as if it had never been. Spike ran a hand over his forehead wearily. "Probably ought to let Will and the others know about this lot. They don't show enough discrimination in victims for my taste."
"I'll give them a call later this morning," Dawn said. She yawned. "You'd better stay here today in case those guys are still looking for you."
"What about..." Spike cocked his head meaningfully at the door. Dawn glanced in the same direction, her mouth hardening.
"I'll take care of Dad. You get some rest. You can probably wash up some without waking Dad up if you're fast. There's blood in the fridge if you're hungry. I told Dad it was a science project."
His look of surprised gratitude was almost too much to bear. "I'll kip on the couch, then. Best not put more nasty thoughts in your dad's head than we can help." He gave her that devilish grin and got up, limping out of the room and down the hall.
Buffy was so an idiot, Dawn thought, and then wiped her eyes furiously. Which had made her sister pretty much even with Spike. They were both idiots. They'd deserved each other.
Which made it even worse that they'd never gotten each other, except for that dumb spell of Willow's last year.
She crawled back into bed and burrowed under the covers, wondering what she was going to tell her father. Spike's appearance didn't exactly inspire confidence in the best of circumstances, and his attitude sucked, and... Hey, Dad, this is my best pal Spike, and he's a vampire and if I really asked him to, he'd probably kill you in a hot second, even if it did make his head explode. Well, no, he probably wouldn't kill her father without permission from Buffy, and since that wasn't likely to be forthcoming any time soon... OK, Dad, you're safe.
Dawn shivered a little, though the room was warm enough. The fact that she could think up stuff like this, even as a joke, made her uneasy. Am I supposed to be Spike's conscience now Buffy's gone? I don't even know if I can be my own conscience. No more jokes like that, she decided. She couldn't deny there was a certain secret satisfaction in pondering whether such total be-atches as Shawna Finney in geography would have quite so many cutting things to say about last year's nail polish with Spike's fangs buried in their throats, but what made the thrill a marginally acceptable one was a reasonable certainty that Spike wouldn't go through with it, not all the way, not really, and not just because of the chip.
And it didn't matter if he would or not, he deserved way better of her than to think of him as some sort of personal attack pit bull.
Dawn sighed and glanced at her clock. Almost six, and she wasn't going to get any more sleep this morning. She flung the covers off, crawled out of bed and began getting dressed.
Spike was fast asleep on the couch, curled up under his duster, when she came out into the living room an hour or so later. From the condition of the bathroom sink it looked as if he'd cleaned off most of the demon goo first, and he'd left one of those super-sized plastic soda cups with a congealing film of blood in the bottom on the coffee table. That was about half the supply she'd had on hand, but he always needed more when he was injured, and pig's blood, while apparently providing the minimum daily requirements of whatever it was vampires needed, wasn't exactly what they throve best on. He'd also helped himself to the jelly donuts and the last of the milk. And left the near-empty milk jug in the fridge to fake people out, naturally. "Pig," she muttered fondly, settling for a shredded coconut donut and orange juice. Buffy would wind up hanging out with the only vampire in creation who still liked human food.
Since it was past seven and technically not too early any longer, she called Willow and relayed what little she knew about Spike's midnight adventures. The witch promised to come over as soon as she could.
Dawn was just hanging up the phone when her father emerged from his bedroom, weekend-scruffy in the old plaid bathrobe he'd owned for as long as she could remember. Mom had told her once that it had been the first Christmas present Buffy had gotten him with saved-up allowance money when she was seven. It made her feel funny to realize how worn it looked. He hadn't noticed the immobile Spike-shaped lump on the couch yet. He came over and smiled at her, tousling her hair with one hand. "Da-aad," she complained, twisting away from his hand.
"All right, you're far too old for displays of parental affection. Who're you calling at this hour, Sweetie?"
Some parental affection, Dawn thought mutinously, clenching her teeth. You couldn't even get home for Mom's funeral. Or Buffy's. "Willow," she said with all the indifference she could muster. "She's coming over later."
Her father pursed his lips and began dumping spoonfuls of instant coffee into a mug. "Willow seems like a very nice girl," he said carefully, "though I'd always been under the impression that she was more one of Buffy's friends."
"She was." Dawn didn't elaborate. "Is this a 'you should have friends your own age' speech? Because I do, you know. You've just never met them because you're never here." She could hear her own voice going all sullen and bitter and didn't particularly care. The Scoobies weren't just friends, they were... blood brothers. Or sisters. Friends were for sleepovers and talking about the Backstreet Boys.
"Dawn..." Her father came over and sat down at the little Formica-topped table and sipped at his scalding coffee. Dawn stared at the tabletop and silently hated it the way she hated all the rest of the tacky furniture in the temporary apartment. Nothing here was right. She wanted to go home. But home was closed up with a 'For Sale' sign pounded into the front lawn. Her father gazed at her, perplexed, uncertain. Faded hazel eyes, lines in his face she didn't remember from six years ago, flyaway brown hair starting to go grey. Starting to get old. Only human. She didn't care. "Dawn, I know this has been very hard on you, but your sister..." He stopped in the face of his younger daughter's hostile glare. "Your sister had a very troubled few years. I'd thought... I'd hoped... she'd turned her life around since college..."
The worst part of it was, of course, that there was a catch in his voice and the hint of tears in his eyes, and if she were even halfway honest with herself Dawn would have to admit that her father had loved Buffy too, and loved her even now, even if he hadn't shown it very well sometimes. But she didn't want to be honest and she didn't want to admit there were any points on his side; she just wanted to hate him with a clean conscience. So she just sat there in contemptuous-teenage-lump mode, watching him flail.
"...I just think that it might be best for you to make a clean separation. We'll be moving back to L.A. soon--"
"What!?" Dawn didn't even try to hide the edge of panic in her voice. She gripped the edge of the table, feeling the ridged aluminum biting into her fingers. "Move to L.A.? Why?!"
Her father rubbed his eyes. Obviously this wasn't a discussion he'd wanted to get into at this point. "Hon, don't tell me this is a big surprise. You know I have to go back to work soon."
"But... but all my friends are here!"
Her father was acquiring the adult-assailed-by-twisted-teenage-logic look. "Sweetie, you'll make new friends."
"JASON'S here!" she wailed. Not that Jason knew she existed at the moment, but he was going to any day now. And there was the Scooby Gang and they were just starting to see her as something other than Buffy's bratty kid sister and there was Spike whom she had to take care of. He was her responsibility, damn it!
"I can't move here, sweetie. And I can't just leave you here..."
"Why not?" Dawn raged, leaping to her feet. "You did it before! You left all of us and Mom's dead and Buffy's dead and I wish I was dead too!"
Hank looked helpless. "Hon..."
She jerked away and strode into the living room. "Don't call me hon! You just waltz in here and ruin my life, you don't get to call me hon."
He got up to follow her and maybe it was the coffee kicking in at last, or maybe it was that Spike was sleep-breathing and starting to snore slightly, but for the first time his gaze lit on the couch and registered that there was someone lying on it. He froze, coffee-cup in hand. "Dawn, honey," Hank Summers said through his teeth, "Who is this, and why is he sleeping on our couch?"
Dawn tossed a casual glance in the direction of the couch. "Spike. He's a friend of Buffy's," she said dismissively. "He ran into some trouble last night and needed to crash, and I told him he could stay here."
Hank looked at the limp figure on the couch, taking in the unruly shock of bleached-blond hair, ripped clothes, and general air of dissolution. "A friend of Buffy's," he repeated. He reached for the curtain-pull.
"DON'T OPEN THOSE!" Dawn shrieked, leaping after him and grabbing his hand. Her father stared at her as if she'd gone insane.
"Dawn, I've had about enough of you this morning," he said, very firmly. "We're going to wake... Spike... up and he's going to leave now." He reached down and took hold of the nearest leather-covered shoulder and shook it. A moment later his determined expression became one of uncertainty, perhaps even a little fear, at the stillness of the body, the lack of human warmth. His hand twitched slightly. Then he moved to shake Spike's shoulder again, harder. No response. Dawn began to feel a little uneasy herself. She knew first-hand that the thing about vampires being comatose in the daytime was a myth; sleepy and snarkier than usual, yeah, but...
Her father's fingers tentatively brushed against Spike's now-motionless chest. "Dawn," he said, very quietly, "Call 911."
A set of hard cold fingers clamped immovably around his wrist. Dawn bit her lip nervously, but it had to be OK; the chip hadn't gone off so Spike wasn't intending to cause any damage. One winter-blue eye flicked open. "Bit premature," the vampire said. "And mind the coat."
Her father jerked back and Spike sat up in one boneless motion, making no attempt to keep hold of Hank's wrist. He smiled up at her father. Not one of his more endearing smiles, Dawn noted, but a far piece from his 'you're about to die in the most painful way I can think of on short notice' one. Seeing the two of them there together, the living man and the undead one, brought home just how accustomed she'd grown to Spike, how much she took him for granted. He was the most human vampire she'd ever met, even more so than Angel in some ways, sitting there sleep- ruffled and chipped-harmless, with powdered sugar from the purloined donuts all over the front of his shirt. Yet something in that nowhere- near-his-nastiest smile made her father start back, breathing hard.
To his credit, he did no more than that. "I'm afraid you'll have to leave," Hank said firmly. "Dawn's got a busy day ahead."
"Ah?" Spike began his usual automatic rummage through his coat pockets for cigarettes. "You'd be the prat who walked out on Joyce, then? Can't say I'm pleased to meet you." He pulled a not-too-crumpled pack out, shook his head sadly, and straightened it out, eyeing Hank up and down with the air of someone sizing up a steak and finding it wanting. "What was she thinking?" he murmured. "Well, don't let me keep you. I could do with a bit more shuteye." He leaned back with both hands laced behind his head, still smiling serenely. "Got a light, mate?"
Her father blinked. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to call the police."
I should tell Dad he was MOM's boyfriend. "Dad, stop it!" Dawn stamped one foot. "He can't go outside now!"
"He most certainly--"
"Dad, he's a vampire! He'll burn up!"
There was a long pause wherein Spike finally found his lighter and puffed his slightly damaged cigarette to life. Dawn favored him with a disgusted glare; she hated it when he smoked but it was sure to annoy her father, which was a plus. Mom had never let him smoke in the house, maybe she could put her foot down about it later. "Dawn..." her father said at last.
"Are you going to claim Mom never told you about the vampires, or Buffy being the Slayer?" Dawn exploded. "We've known for years! Why do you think they put all those crosses up in the house, huh? Sunnydale's on a Hellmouth, it's crawling with vampires, and he's one of them!" She waved furiously at Spike. "Check his pulse, Dad! You thought he was dead, didn't you?"
"No need for Daddikins to get that personal, pet," Spike observed, blowing a smoke ring. His brows knit in concentration for a moment, and he shifted into game face and bared his fangs. "Grr," he said. He didn't sound awfully enthusiastic about it and Dawn was suddenly struck by the fact that she couldn't remember the last time she'd seen him do that. The next moment he was human-looking again. "Convincing, innit?"
What had she felt the first time she'd seen a vampire do that? Scared, she was sure, but the exact flavor of the emotion was long gone. Dawn watched emotions cascade across her father's face: shock, fear, disbelief. But his immanent explosion--or possibly collapse--was averted by a knock on the door. With one last confused look at Spike, he went to open the door. Willow and Tara were standing there on the landing, laptop in tow.
"Hello, Mr. Summers," Willow said, sounding apprehensive. She peered round his shoulder. Tara, standing behind her, waved at Dawn. "Dawn said--Oh, hi, Spike. Is this a bad time?"