A/N: The song in this chapter is No More from "Into the Woods."
Chapter 16: Running Away
“Hello?” Dawn called, coming in the front door after school. “Anybody home?”
She got no response. Making her way into the kitchen, she noticed that her cereal bowl from that morning was still sitting in the kitchen sink, and the open cereal box was still on the counter where she’d left it. She had been in a rush – she’d overslept her alarm and no one had been around to wake her up.
Dawn could tell Willow hadn’t been downstairs all day; otherwise, she would’ve cleaned up. Buffy, on the other hand, would have left a terse note telling her to wash her dishes or she was grounded. Instead, it looked like nothing had been disturbed all day.
They can’t possibly still be sleeping, Dawn thought to herself, as she made a peanut butter and fluff sandwich. Of course, knowing Buffy, she probably wasn’t even there. I bet she didn’t come home again last night, she thought resentfully. It’s not like she’s been much with the caring lately.
But even when she was out all night, Buffy had still always made it back by morning. What if something happened to her?
Scarfing down her sandwich, Dawn dumped her dirty dishes in the sink on top of the cereal bowl and headed upstairs to find Willow. She’d been all weepy and mopey ever since the thing with Tara, but she was also the only adult in the house, and if something had happened to Buffy, well… Willow would just have to snap out of it.
The witch’s door was still closed, indicating that she hadn’t gotten up yet. Dawn let out an exasperated sigh, and was just about to knock on the door when something else down the hall caught her eye.
Buffy’s door was closed, too. That meant she was here – though God only knew what time she’d gotten in – and was probably still sleeping.
“Buffy,” Dawn said, barging in without knocking. Serves her right for making me worry. “If you don’t get your ass out of… bed…”
She trailed off in shock, faced with, in fact, an ass.
Spike’s, to be precise. Buffy was lying on her back, Spike on his stomach next to her, an arm and a leg draped possessively across her body, his face nestled in the crook of her neck. Both of them were naked, the covers tangled at their feet. While the position of Spike’s limbs concealed most of her sister, Dawn was still left with the unexpected sight of the vampire’s lily-white bottom. So, she did the only logical thing she could do, given the situation.
Buffy and Spike awoke with a start. Catching sight of Dawn in the doorway, they, too, screamed, as Buffy scrambled for the covers and Spike dove off the far side of the bed to avoid the younger girl’s eyes.
“Oh, my God…” Dawn managed, as she pointed a shaky finger at the bed. Her jaw continued to work, but no further sound could be forced from her throat.
“Dawnie – oh, God… what did you see?” Buffy asked, clutching the covers to her chest. “Don’t you knock?”
“Um… naked ass,” Dawn said, her eyes wide. “Naked Spike ass,” she clarified, prompting Spike to pop his head up sheepishly from behind the bed.
“Sorry, Bit,” he mumbled, before glancing at Buffy. “Told you we shoulda gone to my crypt.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Well, if you’d locked the door…”
“Oh, my God, Buffy!” Dawn’s voice took on a hysterical tone, but it seemed to be happy hysterical, rather than angry or frightened hysterical. “You and Spike… are you guys…? How long?” she demanded.
Buffy and Spike exchanged a look. “A few days. Since the night at the Bronze,” Buffy admitted.
Dawn’s expression suddenly changed to one of comprehension. “So, that’s where you’ve been all week… Oh, my God!” she squealed again.
“You’re not… mad?” Buffy asked her hesitantly.
“No! Probably scarred for life…” – she shot another glance at Spike – “but not mad.”
“Okay, then, could you, uh, go away now?” Buffy glared at her, her cheeks pink with embarrassment. “We’ll, um, be downstairs in a minute to talk about… things.”
Dawn nodded and left the room, but did a quick double take before she closed the door behind her. As scarring as it was to see her sister naked in bed with a guy, she had to admit…
Spike’s ass was pretty nice.
Giles looked up from the cash register as Xander came into the Magic Box.
“Hello, Xander,” he said, but the boy barely even acknowledged him. “Xander? Are you all right?”
Xander glanced distractedly at the Watcher. “Oh, uh, yeah. Fine.”
“If you’re looking for Anya, she’s not here,” Giles told him. “She had a meeting of some sort.”
“Yeah… Small Business Owners… something… Association.” Xander continued to wander aimlessly through the store, his eyes flicking over the merchandise as though his mind were preoccupied elsewhere.
“Xander… are you sure you’re all right?”
“I’m fine, Giles,” Xander said exasperatedly, pulling a small envelope out of his coat pocket and studying it. “I’m just…”
“Worried about Willow?”
Xander looked at him, surprised. “Oh. Yeah, I guess.”
Giles could tell from his reaction that it was more than Willow that was concerning him. “Anxious about the wedding planning, perhaps?”
“No. No, not at all.” This time, Xander avoided his eyes, turning the envelope over and over in his hands.
Giles came out from behind the counter, concerned about the young man’s behavior. “It’s quite understandable. A wedding can be a terribly stressful time. I know that Anya has been quite –”
“I don’t want to talk about it, okay?” Xander interrupted.
“Of course,” the Watcher conceded. “I just thought… with so many women around, you might want another male perspective.”
Xander stood silently, avoiding the other man’s eyes for a long moment, torn between wanting to keep his problems a secret and feeling the need to confide in someone. Finally, he said quietly, “There’s not going to be a wedding.”
Giles’ mouth dropped open in shock. “What… I don’t understand. What do you mean?” He took off his glasses and began polishing them with a handkerchief. “Have you and Anya called it off?”
Xander shook his head. “Not yet. I – I’m leaving her.”
The older man’s expression softened with sympathy. “Xander…”
“I don’t wanna talk about it!” he snapped, before breaking into song.
“No more questions
No more tests
Comes the day you say, ‘What for?’
Please – no more”
Giles let out a sigh. “They disappoint, they disappear, they die but they don’t.”
“What?” Xander asked, confused.
“They disappoint in turn, I fear,” Giles sang. “Forgive, though, they won’t.”
Xander shook his head in frustration, sinking down in a chair at the research table.
“No more riddles
No more jests
No more curses you can’t undo
Left by fathers who hated you
No more quests
No more feelings
Time to shut the door
Just – no more”
Nodding in understanding, Giles put his glasses back on. “You’re afraid of turning out like your father.”
“He was a drunk,” Xander said bitterly. “And an abusive husband and a lousy father.”
“And you think leaving Anya is the solution?”
“Only way to protect her,” he replied with regret. “What if I turn out…?” Xander shook his head. “I can’t take that chance.”
“Ah,” Giles said knowingly. Leaning on the table across from Xander, he began to sing again.
“Running away – let’s do it
Free from the ties that bind
No more despair
Or burdens to bear
Out there in the yonder”
The last line was accompanied by a fluttering hand motion as Giles gestured off to the side.
“No, I get this,” Xander interrupted, tapping the edge of the envelope on the table nervously. “This is like reverse psychology or something.”
“It’s just advice, Xander,” Giles assured him. “You might do well to listen.
“Running away – go to it
Where did you have in mind?
Have to take care
Unless there’s a ‘where’
You’ll only be wandering blind
Just more questions
Xander studied the older man, as though giving the words some serious thought. Then, he glanced at the note in his hand, his cowardly escape. He didn’t have a plan beyond leaving the note in the Magic Box for Anya to find. He hadn’t thought about leaving Sunnydale, though of course, it’d be terribly awkward to stay. Anya pretty much lived with him now – would he make her move out? Would he leave?
“Where are we to go?” Giles went on, echoing his thoughts. “Where are we ever to go?
“Running away – we’ll do it
Why sit around, resigned?
Trouble is, son
The farther you run
The more you feel undefined
For what you’ve left undone
And, more, what you’ve left behind”
Now lost in his own thoughts, Giles reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his plane ticket, studying it intently.
“What’s that?” Xander asked. “What…” He trailed off, catching sight of the BA logo. “You’re leaving. You can’t leave! Buffy needs you! We all need you.”
“You don’t, really,” said the Watcher sadly. “Not anymore.”
Xander’s face fell, only to see Giles rip up the ticket in the next moment.
“But I don’t think I’m ready to give up what I’d be leaving behind.”
Xander breathed a sigh of relief, and then his eyes widened with amusement. “You reverse psychologied yourself, didn’t you?”
“No, I…” Giles’ protest died on his lips, a small smile creeping onto his face. “Well, yes, I suppose so.” He looked at the young man across the table. “And you?”
Xander glanced down at his hands and silently ripped up the envelope he was holding. Giles nodded.
“We disappoint, we leave a mess, we die but we don’t,” the Watcher sang.
“We disappoint in turn, I guess,” Xander picked up the melody. “Forget, though, we won’t.”
They locked eyes and sang together, “Like father, like son.”
With a sigh, Xander rose from the table, hands shoved in his pockets as he wandered to the front of the store and gazed out the window.
“No more demons
Can’t we just pursue our lives
With our children and our wives?
’Til that happy day arrives
How do you ignore
All the witches
All the curses
All the wolves, all the lies
The false hopes, the goodbyes
All the wondering what even worse is
Still in store?
“All the children...
All the demons...
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