|Dawn waited all week to see what Buffy's reaction would be when she discovered Spike had been transformed, but without luck. Whatever their mutual schedules, they seemed always to prevent a casual encounter. Of course, this only served to increase Buffy's suspicion about his activities. She claimed that only the fact that she was overwhelmed with work and now the added task of finding a place for Willow and Giles before they returned kept her from setting up a vigil in his crypt to catch him unawares.
To herself, Dawn thought that her sister was simply reluctant to encounter him again and was trying to fool herself with these excuses. Not that I can really blame her, I suppose. Even if she was never in any real physical danger, he still hurt her badly. She sighed, and settled more deeply into the couch with her mother's old copy of The Joy of Cooking, waiting for the object of her thoughts to appear for his first lesson - and hers. Funny how I never thought of him as dangerous, even when I first met him. I think we all got used to him hanging around, mooning over Buffy and helping out just for the fun of beating things up. We all forgot that he was still a vampire underneath it all. All of us except Xander, that is. Combine that with a crush on Buffy that isn't anywhere near as secret as he thinks it is, and I see why he was so eager to tell me that Spike had tried to rape her. We're all just fumbling along trying to do what we think is best - sometimes I wonder how we manage to communicate at all. Look at me, before Dr. Chambers turned me on to that psychology course.
But if any of them had any idea of how much pain he's in now over everything he's done... She exhaled heavily. Some of them still wouldn't care. So I'll be his friend, because it's now that he really needs one.
She slipped one last bookmark into a recipe she thought might be easy enough for Spike to start with, and set the book down on the table, exchanging it in favour of some of the research notes that she had made on the blood theft from the hospital. She had found several instances of blood shortages across the southern part of the state. A company called Incruentus was said to be gearing up for emergency production of their artificial blood substitute to temporarily take up some of the demand, and as a result their stock price was soaring. Medical technology stocks had always been one of the darlings of the market, but the crisis was driving Incruentus into realms previously only occupied by dot-coms. A sharp knock on the front door dislodged a niggling thought and sent it skittering off lost into the back of her brain. Dawn got up to let Spike in.
"Afternoon, Platelet," he said affably as he entered.
"Y'know, Spike," she said, "You really might want to rethink the whole vampire nickname thing... because it so doesn't suit you any more."
He blinked owlishly. "Ah. Never thought of that... Dawnie, then."
"If that's the best you can do," she said sternly, "you'll have to stick with 'Platelet'. I hate being called Dawnie." Only Tara could really get away with it. She swallowed hard against the sudden lump in her throat, forcing her thoughts back to matters at hand. "Come on back to the kitchen, I've got some recipes for you to look at."
Dawn surveyed their results with a critical eye. "I dunno... it doesn't really look like the picture, does it?"
"I told you we should have stirred it more, Bit. Maybe it will look better if we let it cook a while longer." He shrugged. "I thought it tasted okay."
"Yeah, if your favourite snack for the last hundred years has been O negative, it probably tastes great," she retorted. "We'll give it another half hour. Now, how about we make with some of those cool martial arts moves that all you vampires seem to know? Uh - I mean ex-vamp... oh, you know."
"How about we eat first, then fight? I'll need all my energy to keep you from doing me hurt," he smiled. He was having more than a little trouble reclassifying himself, too.
"No way. If we do that, you'll just end up getting all sleepy in front of the TV like my dad always used to do after dinner. Teach me now, eat later." Her eyes twinkled. "I've got ice cream for dessert, after."
"Right then. After you." Spike swept her a courtly bow and directed her out the kitchen door to the back yard.
"I don't know what hurts more," Dawn complained much later. "My arms or my stomach." She lay back into the couch cushions and pressed her hands to her swollen midriff.
"There's no one to blame for your stomach but you," Spike replied from where he sprawled at the other end of the sofa. "I think you ate more than I did. And I did warn you about trying to break that hold."
She tilted her head forward until she could see him again. "You know, Buffy's got afternoon shifts all this week. You could come over for a while before you have to go to work."
"And let you get a chance at a rematch?"
"Well, yeah. That was kind of the idea. How about tomorrow and Thursday? - oh, but not Friday. We have to pick up Giles and Willow from the airport."
A band tightened painfully around Spike's heart. "So the prodigal's back, is she?" And welcomed with open arms, like as not. "Hugs and puppies all around?" Quit your whining, you git. You've already received more than you deserve.
"Buffy said that Giles said..." --he couldn't help but smile at how much like school gossip she made it sound-- "that the magic was gone, but that Willow was still having trouble dealing with the guilt over killing Rack and Warren."
Oh, I know that song. "Just give her time, Bit. She'll come back eventually." Though it might take years.
Dawn's face clouded. "I don't know if I want to. She tried to kill me too - turn me back into mystical glowy Key energy."
"It's not like I didn't try, back in the day," Spike observed. "Yet here I am. You don't hold it against me."
"I know. It's still just... different, somehow. It doesn't make any sense, really - but with you it just never seemed... personal, you know? Maybe it's because we only have the memories, but it never really happened. Seeing as how I only met you two years ago."
"But it's what I would have done."
"Don't beat yourself up about it." She sighed and let her head fall back to the cushions. "Forget it. I don't have the strength left to analyze either one of us tonight."
He willingly let the subject drop, but had to venture the question he'd been wanting to ask all night. "Dawn? Would you give me some information about Buffy, if I asked? It's nothing personal," he added quickly, afraid she might misunderstand his motive.
She eyed him warily. "I suppose that would depend on what you want to know."
"Well, I've..." Suddenly he didn't know how to begin, and started over. "Since I've been working, I've put away a bit of cash, and I thought... I don't really need all that much to keep me, and..." Why is this so bloody difficult? "I'd like to give it to the two of you. Can you tell me where she banks and give me the account number so I can go deposit it?"
Dawn was silent for so long that he was afraid she was going to refuse him. "You can't just give it to her? No, I suppose she'd be all weird about it," she said, answering her own question. "I don't suppose there's anything wrong with letting you know." She went to the writing desk by the wall and rummaged through bank statements from the previous months, finally copying the necessary information onto a slip of writing paper that she handed to him.
"Here you go. Maybe I can get you to do something for me in exchange."
"Anything Buffy wouldn't end up having to kill me for, Niblet, you know I'll try to do for you," he said as he got to his feet again.
"You've probably heard about the blood theft from the hospital." He nodded, and she continued. "Can you ask around and see what's being said about it?"
"I'll do what I can," he promised. "Ear to the ground, like - though I don't think my new associates have quite the same connections as the old ones did."
"Any information would help." She followed him to the front door and held it when he opened it. "Same time tomorrow, then?"
"I'll be here."
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