Chapter Two: Healing
Dawn and Spike gradually settled into a routine. Spike slept and worked on things around the house during the day, sometimes venturing out through the tunnels to get groceries and whatever else was needed. When Dawn came home from school she went straight up and worked on her homework. When she was finished they would have dinner. Willow and Tara had taken up residence in the Summers home as well, so they all switched off on the cooking. Spike patrolled often with the others, but still made sure he was home whenever he thought Dawn might need him. It was the picture of a happy home, but most nights Dawn would wake up in the middle of the night with panic attacks, and she and Spike would sit in her room till all hours just talking. Talking about school, Buffy, that last awful day, anything and everything. Sometimes they would just talk about where they saw themselves in the future. Dawn would often kick it off with silliness.
“Psychiatrist. You just know you’d be making the big bucks in a place as screwed up as Sunnydale.” To which Spike replied,
“The Post Traumatic Stress cases alone would have you raking in the millions.” Dawn let loose with a giggle. Eventually they managed to get serious. Dawn was thoughtful for a moment before deciding,
“It might be nice to be a doctor. I think I’d like to help people. You know, in a non-supernatural way? And I guess it’d be cool to meet the man of my dreams someday and have a family, but I think I’d survive if that never happened.”
“I see. ‘I-don’t-need-a-man’ and all that rot, huh?” Spike said casually, waiting for the inevitable reaction.
“It is not ‘rot’. A lot of girls define themselves by the guy they’re with, and I don’t want to be like that. I want to be strong on my own; so yeah, I don’t need a man! And I can’t believe you just called that rot!” Spike lifted his hands up in surrender as he began to laugh.
“Settle down, nibblet. I just love to get you all riled up!” Dawn started whacking him with her pillow, and then they were both laughing and tossing stuff at each other, enjoying the lighthearted moment. As they settled back down, out of breath from the tussle, Dawn lightly punched Spike in the arm one last time and said,
“You’re terrible!” Spike laughed.
“Just enjoy seeing that spark in your eyes again, sweet. Didn’t know if you’d get it back.” Dawn looked at him affectionately for a moment.
“I don’t know what I would have done without you these past months. I mean, the others are great. I love them and I know they try, but I don’t think any of them realizes that it’s not just grief that I’ve been dealing with.”
“You could tell them, you know.” Dawn looked down sheepishly.
“I’m a little afraid to bring it up. They might realize that I am to blame and start to resent me.” Spike didn’t even hesitate.
“Never happen. Don’t you get it, yet? It was never your fault; they would never resent you because they would never blame you. I thought you had started to believe me about all this?”
“I do. I get it, I do. It’s just hard, that’s all. Sometimes believing is hard. Can’t I just talk to you about this stuff?” She looked like she had suddenly thought of something horrible. “Or are you wishing you could get out of here and get back to your life?” Dawn’s eyes glittered with unshed tears as she looked at him.
“Dawn,” he said gently. “This is my life. There is nowhere I’d rather be. I’m not trying to ‘get out of here’. I just want to make sure you’re okay. If you don’t want to talk to them, you bloody well don’t have to. I’ll be here as long as you need me.”
“Thank you. You’re a life saver.” Spike looked at her and thought bitterly, I wish. “So Spike, it’s your turn. What’s your future?”
“Let’s see. Late at night. I see a woman leaving work to go home. I follow her, but she doesn’t see me, of course. Predator like me knows how to keep to the shadows. I follow her all the way home, waiting for just the right moment to approach her.” He had a decidedly wicked gleam in his eye as he turned to see Dawn’s shocked expression. “She’s a self-sufficient doctor now, but I still like to make sure she gets home safely.” It took a second, but Dawn realized what he had done and began whacking him again.
“That was awful! I thought- you jerk, I thought you were planning a murder! Don’t do that to me!” Spike laughed again at having tricked her. They began the scuffle anew and for the moment all was right with their world.
A few more months went by and Dawn’s panic attacks began to decrease in frequency. She still enjoyed her nightly discussions with Spike, and it was even better than before because she didn’t wake up in a cold sweat beforehand. He told her about his childhood, when he was still human. It always amazed her how different he was now compared to how he described his human self, but she could still see William’s tenderness in the way he was with her. Spike seemed ashamed of the man he used to be; he thought he had been a wimp, but Dawn figured that William’s amazing heart and ability to love so unconditionally was why Spike was different from other vamps. She thought he was lucky that his human self had been so special, even if he had gone unappreciated when he was alive. That Cecily chick sounded like such a bitch. She knew girls like Cecily at school; she had hated them even more after hearing that story.
They talked about all the incredible things he had witnessed over the years. It was so much more interesting to hear about history from someone who was actually there rather than reading a book or listening to her teacher’s dry interpretation of the text. She lived for the nights; they were what helped her begin to put the guilt behind her and start doing what Buffy had wanted her to do – live.
Dawn had also begun to realize that Spike was carrying around his own special brand of guilt. He never came right out and talked about it, but after awhile she had picked up on it. She tried to draw him out so they could discuss it, but he remained closemouthed. So she tried to reassure him in little ways; he had helped her so much she couldn’t resist the desire to see him let go of his guilt. She didn’t know if she was doing any good or not, but she had to try. She threw the covers back and climbed out of bed. Time to face the day; she’d worry about what to do later. She pulled on her black mini, along with her knee high boots, and topped it off with her burgundy sweater. She pulled her hair back into a braid, put on some lip gloss, and she was ready to go. Tara was making breakfast and glanced up as Dawn came in.
“Hey, sweetie! Feel like something to eat?”
“What’s on the menu this morning?” Tara tilted the pan on the stove slightly.
“We’ve got pancakes going on here, some fresh fruit on the counter, and I can whip up some eggs, if you so desire.” Tara grinned happily. Dawn wished she felt as good as Tara apparently did this morning. She plastered a big fake smile on for Tara’s benefit.
“Just some fruit for me. I have to get going soon.” Sometimes Dawn wished she could just skip talking to the others. It was silly, but she didn’t want them to worry about how badly she had suffered since Buffy’s death. She had been feeling better lately, but there were occasional spots of real badness, and sometimes she just got so sick of pretending. She knew she should just tell them, but everyone else seemed to be slowly healing and moving on and she just wasn’t ready to burden them all with her problems.
Spike had understood since the beginning, and she got the impression that helping her deal somehow lightened his burden rather than adding to it. He seemed to be healing too. At least he had begun to smile regularly, real smiles, not the ones he had displayed in the early days to make her feel better. And the other day he had said Buffy’s name without getting that grief-stricken look in his eyes. Improvement all around. She popped a piece of honeydew in her mouth, and watched as Willow came in all sleepy eyes and tousled hair. Willow grinned as she came up behind Tara and gave her a hug. Tara smiled sweetly.
“Mornin’, sleepy head. Good dreams?” Willow snuggled closer, smiled a silly smile, and said,
“Hmmm, Tara dreams!” Tara turned around and kissed Willow on the forehead before bringing the pancakes over and stacking them on a plate. Dawn envied their obvious contentment. She stood up to gather her things for school. Before she left she went into Spike’s room to say good-bye. She watched him sleep for a moment before crossing to sit down.
“Hey, Spike,” she whispered as she lay down next to him, nudging him in the ribs with her elbow. “Gotta go to school now.” Spike barely opened his eyes as he curled his arm gently around her throat and pulled her back to his chest in a casual hug.
“Bye, sweet. Be a good girl today,” he said sleepily. Dawn gave him one last snuggle before she got up.
“You’ll be here when I get home?” she asked hesitantly. Spike’s eyes opened wide, clear and alert.
“Always. Be here as long as you need me, and I’d never leave without saying good-bye. Understand?” Dawn nodded and left silently. Spike lay there for a moment, thinking. “Bloody hell,” he said wearily. “Too sodding early for deep thoughts.” Then he burrowed back under the covers and went to sleep.
When Dawn’s sixteenth birthday rolled around Spike surprised her with a car. He had been working on it for months. It had been a junker, but now it was a fairly sweet ride. He had completely rebuilt the engine, and there had been a lot of body and interior work as well, but the look on Dawn’s face was worth every second. She went outside in the morning and saw it sitting there. The card stuck under the windshield wiper said it was for her, and she came tearing back inside with a happy little shriek. Spike was waiting for her with a grin, and she threw herself into his arms.
“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” she shouted as she showered his face with kisses. Tara and Willow laughed at the joyful display. Even after she let him go she kind of bounced around in place, filled with excitement.
“Well?” Spike demanded. “Aren’t you going to try it out?” Dawn just grinned at him.
“Nope!” Spike was puzzled.
“Is something wrong with it? You don’t like the color! I knew I should’ve made it red! I can change it; it’ll be simple…”
“Spike!” Dawn interrupted in exasperation. “There is NOTHING wrong with the car. It’s perfectly wonderful. I just want to wait till dark so you can come with me.” Then she hugged him again. “You’re so sweet! I think you’re my best friend. Not because of the car, although that’s just, I mean – wow, a car, but that’s not the reason.” Spike smiled at her exuberance.
“Well, don’t leave me hanging here, bit! What is this magnificent reason for my new ‘best friend’ status?” Dawn looked at him adoringly and said simply,
“You.” Spike turned his head slightly so the two witches wouldn’t see the tears shining in his eyes.
Later, while Dawn and Spike went for their joyride, the group sat around and discussed Dawn’s progress.
“I can’t believe how much he’s helped her.” Willow’s voice was tinged with awe. “I mean she hasn’t had a panic attack in weeks, and today! You should have seen her! She was like her old self.” Tara was nodding along in agreement.
“I know. It was unbelievable!” Xander, however, wasn’t convinced.
“Come on, guys. Don’t you think it’s all a part of the natural healing process? I mean, I’m sure we’ve probably helped her just as much as, if not more than, he has!” The others looked at him incredulously.
“Are you serious?” Willow demanded. “Did you lose an eye awhile back, or are you just in denial?”
“What?” Xander looked taken aback.
“Good God, man! You’ve seen them together,” Giles exclaimed. “She responds to him more than any of us. I know it’s painful to admit, but he’s done something for her, given her something, that apparently none of the rest of us is capable of doing. I think she’s been good for him, too.” Giles leaned back in his chair. “I find myself disliking him far less these days. I think she has a calming influence on him.”
“Yes,” Anya interjected. “He hasn’t insulted Xander’s appearance or manhood in weeks.” They all grinned and Xander shook his head.
“Hell is probably freezing over as we speak!”
“What’s this about hell, now?” Spike said as he walked in and caught the tail end of the conversation. They all jumped and looked guilty.
“No-nothing!” Willow stammered. “Just idle chit-chat.”
“About hell?” Spike looked puzzled.
“Yes, just, uh, idle hell chit-chat. It’s really none of your business, you know!” Willow stated indignantly.
“Fine! Sorry I bloody asked!” Spike’s voice faded as he walked off into the kitchen.
“Smooth recovery, Rosenberg!” Xander whispered sarcastically.
“Well, I didn’t see you coming up with anything!” she hissed back. Giles, ever the rational one, stepped in.
“We were saying ‘nice’ things about him, children. It’s okay if someone catches you saying good things about them behind their backs! I doubt there was even any need for prevarication.” Then he gathered his coat and keys, said good-bye to Dawn and with a jaunty wave he left. They were all silent. Finally, Xander spoke up,
“Yeah, right. Like I’m gonna say ‘Hey, man we were just extolling your virtues! Keep up the good work.’” He made a ‘two thumbs up’ gesture as he said the last part then continued. “I think Willow’s ‘idle hell’ speech was probably the better way to go.”
“Yes, honey,” Anya agreed. “I’m sure you’re right.”
It was getting late so Anya and Xander gave Dawn a good-bye hug and headed home. Willow and Tara decided to head for bed. Tara hugged Dawn and reminded, “Don’t forget about your party tomorrow! Make sure you get a little sleep.”
“I will. Night, guys!” After they had gone Spike settled down on one end of the couch while Dawn sprawled over the rest of it. “Sixteen. My own car. Key ingredients in the recipe for fun!” Spike snorted.
“Recipe for trouble maybe. You’ll be off parking with some git and lose track of time. Come rolling in an hour past curfew causing me to give him my ‘Don’t-make-me-break-your-arm’ speech, all big-brotherly and scary, chasing off all your prospects. Remind me again. Why did I give you a car?” Dawn laughed and shoved his knee with her foot.
“You ever give that speech to a date of mine; I’ll break your arm!”
“Huh! That’ll be the day. Besides a gentleman must protect a ladies virtue!” Spike’s tone of was all old-fashioned English chivalry and Dawn burst out laughing again.
“Good thing neither one of us falls into one of those categories!” she giggled. Spike gave her a look of mock-affront.
“Well! I don’t know about you, but I am always a lady!” Dawn tossed a throw pillow at his head and rolled onto the floor, laughing.
“Quit it! We’re gonna wake up Will and Tara.”
“I’m not the one making the ruckus!”
“Yeah, but you’re the cause.” She crawled back up onto the couch next to Spike and grabbed the remote. “Alright, lady, let’s see what’s on the tube.” This time they were both laughing as they started to wrestle for control of the remote.