"Right then. Let's get a few things straight right off the bat. First, you ever tell anyone about this and I'll make sure your mum finds out. Got it?"
"Yeah. Mouth sealed."
"Second, you put the tiniest scratch in my baby, I'll..." he paused to think of something the chip would actually permit him to do that she would find unspeakably terrifying, "I'll run your training bra up Sunnydale High's flagpole."
Her eyes widened in horror. Chip or no chip, he thought smugly, he still had it.
"Okay, okay, no dings."
"Finally, you do exactly what I say. Don't give me any lip. Clear?"
"Fine. Let's get started before your list lasts until sun up."
He rolled his eyes. How on earth had he ever gotten himself into this? The Slayer, he thought glumly. She'd asked, he'd jumped at the chance to impress her, and that had wound him up right where he was now: giving Dawn her first driving lesson.
"'Kay. Put the key in the ignition," he coached her. Inside, he whispered a silent prayer to whomever or whatever might be willing to protect his precious De Soto. Please, he internally begged, don't let this child turn my pride and joy into a pretzel.
"Little one next to your thumb."
"What are all these other ones for?" she asked, examining the dozens of keys that jingled from the ring.
"They're the keys to the rooms where I left the bodies of annoying little adolescent girls who pried into my private business. Now stick the bloody key in the bloody ignition!"
"All right, all right, don't get your knickers in a twist," she said, unaware she was starting to talk like the blond vampire. She shoved the key into the ignition and turned it, making the huge black car growl into life. Wow. She'd done that. Cool.
"This concludes our lesson," he said as he attempted to take the keys back.
"You learned to start the engine. Good enough for day one. Tomorrow, if you're lucky, you learn how to work the windshield wipers."
Dawn stared at him in disbelief. "The windows are all painted black. What would washing them even do?"
"Now that you mention it, not a lot. On second thought, no lesson tomorrow."
That did it. Her glare made her look almost as demonic as Angelus in a full rage.
"We. Are. Going. To. Drive." She said, enunciating each word so clearly that they were like stakes in the vampire's ears.
"Oh, all right! Don't get all psychotic on me." Spike looked around the vacant lot he had chosen as the safest possible place to entrust his De Soto to a fifteen year old. There were no buildings, no trees, no other cars… in fact, nothing at all, considering he had driven her out to the middle of nowhere. What trouble could she possibly get into? "Step on the brake and shift from park to drive."
Dawn promptly hit the gas and switched to reverse, earning an angry groan from the car and a surprisingly high-pitched scream from Spike.
"Not that one! The other one, you nitwit!"
Panicking, she threw the car into neutral.
"Hit the brake when you wanna change gears. The brake! THE BRAKE! THE OTHER BLEEDING PEDAL!"
"Ooops," she mumbled. "How was I supposed to know which was which?"
"Any idiot knows where the brake is!"
"Well this one doesn't," she said, starting to tear up. "I'm doing the best I can!"
Spike sighed. Yeah, that's exactly what you want to do, mate: give the Slayer's kid sister an inferiority complex while she's behind the wheel of your car.
"Look, I'm sorry I snapped, nibblet. Let's try this again. What do you know already about driving?" he said in what he hoped was a reassuring tone.
"That's the headlights, right?" she said, pointing tentatively.
"No," he said as gently as he could, considering his teeth were gritted. "That's the cruise control."
"Oh. Well then, is this the headlights?"
"You're getting warmer. That's the windshield wipers we were talking about earlier," Spike intoned, wishing like mad that he'd managed to get the keys away from her the first time.
"Yes, that's them. Go ahead, turn 'em on."
She nervously flicked the lights on.
"There you go! You're startin to get the hang of it already. Dru was with me for over twenty years in this car and she never figured out how to do that." She beamed happily. Spike suddenly remembered something and made a mental note that he needed to remove some of Dru's more colorful mementos of past victories from under the seat. He'd been wondering what that smell was.
"Okay, since you've figured out the brake and the gas and the headlights and windshield wipers and the cruise control, what do you reckon that is?" he asked, indicating something to her left.
"Uh, turn signal?" she ventured.
"Got it in one that time. Push down for left, up for right." Maybe if I just keep introducing her to all the gadgets, she'll forget about making the car actually move, he thought hopefully. "Now the radio's over here..."
"Spike, I can turn on a radio. I want to drive."
So much for that theory.
"Just take it very, very slow. Now, step on the wider pedal. Good. Now move the lever to D for drive. Right. Now ease off the brake and..."
"And hit the gas," she said happily. Her foot stomped on the accelerator, making the car lurch forward at almost sixty miles an hour.
"WHOA! WHOA!" Spike had automatically slipped back to his years as a mortal, yelping at the car like a horse that had shied and was starting to bolt. "Easy there! Let up on the gas and press the brake down slow.." she practically put her foot through the floor in her attempt to stop. The car lurched to a halt violently, making a series of offended noises and throwing the occupants forward. "...ly." For once, he was glad he was actually wearing a seatbelt. His head going through the windshield couldn't kill him, but he was thrilled that the glass hadn't shattered.
"You'll need to work on being a bit more delicate, pet. You don't have to jab your foot down to the pavement like Fred Flintstone to get her to stop. Just take it slow and easy."
"Since when do you watch the Flintstones?"
"What'd you think I do all day long? Don't need as much sleep as humans do. Just think about not wanting to dirty your shoes on the grunge on the floor of my car."
"What is that stuff anyway," she asked warily, looking at the filthy floor.
"Whatever you're thinking, you're probably right."
"Eew," she whined, wrinkling her nose up in disgust.
Spike grinned. Honestly all he'd done was spill a cup of coffee a few weeks ago, but he was happy that he'd finally found a way to get her to ease up.
"Alright then, you're going to try making a right turn. Ease off the brake, there's a girl. Now put your turn signal on." Good, she'd remembered where it was at. "Now, remembering all the nasty stuff under your tootsies, give her a bit of speed."
With surprising delicacy, she managed to give his darling just the proper amount of gas to get her moving.
"Now, start to turn the wheel to the right."
What happened next took a few moments to recover from.
"Okay," he said in a very shaken voice. "You made three mistakes there. First, you turned left."
"But the bottom of the wheel was going to the right..."
"Pay attention to the top of the wheel only. Second, you don't have to spin the wheel like you're a contestant on The Price is Right shooting for the ruddy dollar spot."
"Check. Little movement better than big movement. Gotcha."
"Finally, you once again hit the gas as though your foot was made of iron and the pedal was a magnet. Remember, icky, eewy floor."
Dawn had, in fact, almost succeeded in getting them airborne, tearing the car in half, and yanking the wheel out of the steering column in one fell swoop. What she had actually accomplished was driving completely in a circle and tearing massive amounts of turf out underneath the wheels.
"Spike, I hope you don't think I'm a wimp or anything, but would you mind if we called it a night? I don't think I'm up for this just now."
He was about to literally stand up and cheer when he suddenly realized something. The tone of her voice told him she was extremely discouraged and very possibly would never be getting into the driver's seat of any vehicle ever again. Come on, he told himself, the kid's had it. Get out of here, ditch the demonic driver, and take your car back to the safety of your garage. Unfortunately, that tiny little voice that had been causing him so much trouble lately wouldn't stop its yammering.
"Fine, little one. But before that, I just want to see you drive once, in a straight line from here to," he looked around desperately for a landmark, "to that tall bit of grass over there."
She looked at him in shock. "Really?"
"Yeah. Give it one more go." When her gaze shifted back to the windshield, he quickly crossed all his fingers, his arms, his legs, and as many of his toes as his Doc Martins permitted.
With a look of determination, Dawn gently lifted her foot from the brake, tapped lightly on the gas, and steered the car forward with tremendous concentration. Another twenty feet... fifteen... ten... five...
"I did it!" she shrieked gleefully as she pressed on the brake and shifted back to park.
Her wild triumph didn't quite cover the other sound from Spike's vampiric hearing. It was a low, soft, hissing noise. Practically ripping the car door off its hinges, he collapsed onto his belly to survey the damage.
"What'd I do? What'd I do?" Dawn kept repeating in a terrified whisper.
Spike's eyes rolled up in his head. Nails. There were at least five rusty nails imbedded in the right front tire. They'd been hidden in the high grass when he'd scouted out the site for any possible problems earlier that night. He sighed and patted the car's fender sympathetically before returning to Dawn.
"Not your fault, pet. We've got a puncture."
"Can you fix it?"
"Got a spare in the boot."
"The trunk. You'll have to get out a second."
His strength meant a jack was unnecessary, and within moments he had replaced the tire. He wondered blandly if he could get the Slayer to pay for a replacement, then decided he shouldn't push his luck. He threw the already nearly airless tire into the trunk, then turned his attention back to Dawn.
"Hop in. Let's go home."
"I'm sorry," she managed to squeak out before completely dissolving into tears.
"Now, now, none of that," he said awkwardly. Oh, why not. It wouldn't be the first lie he'd even told. "You didn't do so horrible."
"I didn't know where the brake was, I didn't know right from left, and I made
your tire blow up!" she sobbed miserably.
"Yeah, well, still not as bad as my first time out." She looked up in curiosity. "Don't ask. There were farm animals. It wasn't pretty." He neglected to mention that he was referring to his first time riding a horse. There had indeed been farm animals, but they had merely gazed at him stupidly while he tried to make the old mare do something other than stand there like a very large, rather smelly rock.
"Really?" she sniffled.
"You'll get better. Just takes practice is all. Now come on; let's get you home before that sister of yours puts a bounty out on my head for kidnapping."
Twenty minutes later, the car pulled up in front of Buffy's home. Dawn scurried out the door and around to the driver's window.
"Thanks, Spike. You're the greatest!" she gushed before dashing up the front steps.
"Yeah, tell the Slayer that, will you?" he muttered under his breath after she was safely out of earshot. Then he turned his attentions back to the car. "Come on, precious, let's get you back to the crypt. I'm so sorry, baby. Did she hurt you? Can you ever forgive me?"
He continued to apologize to his car the entire way home and wound up sleeping on the floor next to it in the garage out of pure, mind-numbing guilt.