Buffy sneaked out of the house after her mother was asleep, excited and a little scared with it. She had a date... sort of. Stake in her back pocket, cross around her neck, heading down to meet the vampire she already knew was waiting in the darkness for her. He was standing in the shadows by the cemetery, but slid beneath a street lamp when he heard her coming, his own stake in his hand, spinning it artfully. He looked up as she approached, ran his hand through his hair, making his muscles ripple and his face catch the light. Angel. He looked gorgeous, absolutely dishy, and his eyes were like matches, redbrown like smoldering embers. The breath caught in her throat, but she didn’t dare run forward and embrace him like she wanted to. He’d put her aside if she did that. Like he always did. Usually did. Sometimes did. She couldn’t just show affection like that. She wasn’t supposed to. She was only just sixteen. Things were... already... too difficult between them. But he kept coming to help her fight. He was always with her.
Dawn snuck out of the house when she thought the witches were asleep, scared by her daring, but excited by it, too. She shouldn’t be doing this, sneaking out after midnight. She was only fifteen. But she had a date. She knew there was a vampire in the darkness waiting to meet her – already there, actually, waiting in the front yard beneath his favorite tree. He was smoking a cigarette which he snuffed out as soon as he saw her. She barely waited for the cigarette to leave his hand before she jumped up and hugged him. He chuckled. “Snuck out, I see,” he said low. “You bring the stuff?”
“Yeah, it’s in my backpack. You got a good place?”
“Always know the best night spots, little bit,” Spike said.
As Dawn sneaked off ahead of him, Spike glanced up at the window of Joyce’s old room. The window twitch in the curtain told him that the witches caught the trade-off. Dawn thought she was sneaking away, but after the first time the niblet did this, Spike cleared her midnight rambles with her keepers, and agreed to play watchdog. She never knew it, but they always knew when she snuck off.
They knew he’d always be with her.
Buffy twirled and rounded on the newborn vampire, staking him expertly, while Angel took on the two by the gate. Slaying always got Buffy’s blood up, but she didn’t dare tell Angel that. She enjoyed watching him too much. He always dressed so nicely, his shirt collar unbuttoned, revealing his chest, and his hair so nice, and the excited look he got on his face. He always knew where the vampires were to be found, too, and could track blood so easily. He worked so hard to be good, to help her slay his own brethren. But he was always so cryptic. She was never sure where she stood. One day, he’d kiss her, and the next, say he couldn’t see her again. It was agony being near him... agony she’d never give up. It was too sweet.
Dawn twirled her ice-cream cone against her tongue and grinned at Spike. “Do you never think we should pay for these?”
“It’s a buck fifty ice-cream cone,” Spike said, sliding the door closed on the ice-cream van and politely locking it again. “Harris used to snitch them when he worked for ‘em. They’ll never notice.” He slid the key back into his pocket.
“I still can’t believe you palmed his key.”
“Evil,” Spike reminded her, again. “I was pretty much trapped in his basement from dawn til dusk, what else was I supposed to do? Went through all his stuff. Did you know he has Care Bear underpants?”
Dawn burst into laughter. It was so easy being with Spike. Dawn didn’t have to pretend, or try to be perfect, or toe the line. And he was funny, and it was easy to laugh around him, and she could sneak out at night and do bad things like steal stuff. She licked at her ice cream.
Angel was awkward, as always, as he walked her home – as he insisted on walking her home. They never really talked much. It was as if everything they were going to say fell into all the things they weren’t going to say, or do, or want, and killed every possible conversation. As they walked his hand would casually touch hers, and then slide away. Touch her, and then slide away. Teasing, tempting, always with the dark undercurrent we shouldn’t. It made the hunger for it so much stronger. By the time they made it to her own street, Buffy’s breath was coming like a freight train, and the kiss was inevitable. As always he tried to make it chaste. Except when he didn’t. It wouldn’t be so horrible if she always knew where she stood! Tonight, though, tonight he was passion. He caught her and held her and pressed his lips to hers, the anguish in his kiss as potent as the pain in his eyes. “We shouldn’t...” he breathed against her lips.
“No... no... we shouldn’t.”
They did anyway.
Spike and Dawn sat in the park by the river, at a picnic table under a street light. Spike looked awkwardly at the sheets of paper. “Now, tell me what these wankers want to know again?”
“The report is on the atrocities of Fascism,” Dawn said. She pulled the source book she had out of her backpack. “Like Nazi Germany.”
Spike looked at the book like it was a dead fish, and tossed it aside. “Which ones you interested in? Gas chambers, tooth extractions, stuff like that?”
“Well, what was the worst stuff that they did? I want to get an A.”
“Well, the Nazi’s didn’t do the worst stuff you know, bit. No, you need to go to the Ustaše, in Croatia. They cut off body parts, slaughtered whole villages, impaled little kids. In Jadovno they wired their victims together in groups of twenty, led them to a cliff, and killed the first one in the line, to watch the whole string of them topple to their deaths like dominos.”
Dawn was making notes avidly, but she stopped. “You’re making that up.”
“No, I’m not.”
“You gotta be!”
“You think every vampire in the world wasn’t bloody jealous they hadn’t thought of it first?” Spike shook his head. “I coulda sworn Angelus was behind it, I was kinda disappointed to find out it was just a bunch of sodding humans.” He said it with disgust.
“You don’t sound impressed.”
“Well, the death, sure, but the waste! All that blood? Coulda been a feast!”
Dawn laughed again, but it was her nervous one. Spike didn’t pull any punches. He didn’t ever pretend to be good. “I think I’ll stick to the Nazis,” she said. “I don’t think my teacher’s even heard of Croatia.”
“Ah, hell, do him good to learn a thing.” Spike grunted. “What are you doing in English class?”
“Tess of the d'Urbervilles.”
“Uh! Are they still reading that tripe? It’s like dragging your brain through sodding concrete! Hardy was an ass – and I think he was an Andras demon. We should burn that thing before it ever poisons the mind of another impressionable high school student.”
“You’re right. We should!”
Sometimes Buffy got the feeling Angel just hung out outside her house until dawn. Sometimes she woke up early in the morning feeling as if he were right outside her window. Usually he wasn’t. Usually. Sometimes... he actually was. There was no talking to him about the future... there was no future. There was no hope for a future, not with them. Giles said it was poetic, how Angel had fallen in love with her. She was sixteen years old. She wanted to be able to make out with her boyfriend, and hang out with him at lunch, and laugh with him, and joke with him, and dream about their wedding day.
Instead there was only pain, and longing, and things he kept telling her they’d never have... before he gave her heated tastes of them, and then snatched them away. She never knew what was coming next. She never knew what he wanted of her. She always wanted him. He kept her too unbalanced to do otherwise. It was intoxicating. She could never, ever be sure of him. Not for a moment.
“So there any decent prospects in Teenage Wasteland?”
“Nah. Well, there’s this guy Justin. I’ve seen him around a little. Never really gotten up the courage to talk to him.”
“Good plan, that.”
“Talking to him?”
“Nope. Sitting aside and letting things just kinda happen. Telling someone you’re sweet on them is the surest way of getting the brush off.”
“That’s not true.”
Spike shook his head. “If it’s real, it’ll happen without pushing it. If not...” he shrugged. “You’ll avoid humiliation and heartache a lot better with my method.”
“That’s not your method, though. I’ve seen you get all sexy on people.”
Spike narrowed his eyes. “None of them mattered, bit.”
“But what if they do matter? I mean, isn’t it better to be honest?
Spike looked at Dawn with sardonic blue eyes. “You think I meant to tell Buffy?”
“Well... eventually, didn’t you?”
Spike looked away, up at the moon for long moments. Dawn almost expected it but... no. He’d held the tears in this time. He was getting a little better at that. Those first few months, they’d both been crying almost all the time. Now... well. It was better. A little better. Sad. But a little better. They walked on in silence for a moment.
“You can let me walk home from here,” Dawn said suddenly.
“No,” Spike said.
“It’s just a block. I can walk it. It’ll be fine. You don’t need to follow me around.”
“No.” Spike said.
“I’m not a kid, Spike. I can sneak back into the house, I’m perfectly safe.”
“Niblet, there are way too many nasties in this town. Big Bad’s at your back. End of story. Now march!”
Dawn smiled secretly to herself as Spike refused to leave her alone. It was totally great. She could always count on him. Always.
Buffy was in bed when Angel snuck in, opening her window so quietly. She lay there, quiet and peaceful, fast asleep. He couldn’t stay away. She was so beautiful... so perfect... so innocent and pure. His destiny. His blood rose. The things he wanted to do to her... hold her down... claim her body... bite her throat... drain her blood. He knew how wrong it was, the things he wanted to do to this teenage girl. He couldn’t help it. His soul burned in him, dragging cruel talons of guilt and shame for what he wanted to do – what he had done to countless women and girls over the centuries. But this girl... this girl he loved with all his soul. He was never going to let anything keep him away from her. This teenage girl... she was his.
Spike waited outside until he was sure Dawn had gone to sleep, and then went around the outside of Buffy’s house, checking all the windows and doors. None of them gave at his push. He even checked the ones on the second floor, the ones that were easy to reach from the porch, anyway. Dawn’s room, and Buffy’s room. Dawn was out. Her curtains were closed, but he could hear her breathing, smell her blood. Sweet veal. Yep. That was a teenage girl all right. The curtains to Buffy’s room were open, the robot lying there in a grotesque mockery of the slayer. Spike refused to look at it, and slipped back down to the ground. God, he needed a drink. He’d made himself stay sober for his “date” with the little bit, but he’d be damned if he was going to try and get any sleep like this. The dreams were too potent. The ones where he lost Buffy – the ones where he didn’t – and worst of all, the ones where he lost Dawn. I’m counting on you... to protect her. “Don’t you worry, slayer. Nothing’s gonna get to her.” Nothing was ever, ever, going to get to Dawn. That teenage girl was safe. She was Buffy’s.