Chapter Four: Sacrifice
Dawn would never forget what happened with Jake, but with the help of Spike’s comforting presence, she began to put it behind her. For her seventeenth birthday he brought her flowers and took her out to dinner at a fancy restaurant. He said since her first date had been such a disaster she deserved to have a proper date to make up for it. Dawn thought it was the sweetest thing anyone had ever done for her. She debated whether or not she should dress up. She felt a little exposed when she wore anything she considered sexy, thanks to her encounter with the creep, but then she decided that going into hiding would be like letting him win and that was something Dawn would never allow. So she tried on dress after dress; finally finding exactly what she was looking for. She looked at her reflection, smiling in satisfaction.
“Perfect!” The skirt was long and fitted, riding low on her hips. A slit ran up each side stopping about mid-thigh, showing brief flashes of tanned leg. The top was fitted as well, ending at her waist, leaving her midriff bare. It was sleeveless, with wide straps that tied behind the neck. It left her back mostly exposed, except where the two sides met in the small of her back and fastened with three tiny buttons. The color of both was a rich hunter green. She paired the outfit with her Kenneth Cole ‘An-Toe-Nette’ boots in the same color and pulled her hair into a French braid. She thought about putting on some makeup, but then remembered what Spike had said about her not needing it and decided he was right.
She came out of her room to model her choice for Willow and Tara. Willow gasped in surprise when she saw her,
“Oh, Dawnie! That’s so beautiful. I’ve never seen that one before.” Dawn grinned happily.
“Anya took me to the mall last week. When I tried it on she said I had to have it, and bought it for me as a birthday present.”
“Wow, who knew Anya had such great taste?” Willow said jokingly.
“Hey! She chose me didn’t she?” Xander said as he appeared at the top of the stairs. “Just came to see the birthday girl before her big night out. And, wow, does she look amazing!” He grinned at the girls and said jokingly, “Our little girl is all growed up!”
“Xander!” Dawn groaned, blushing furiously. “You’re embarrassing me.”
“Oops, sorry. Unintentional. Seriously, though, you do look great.” Dawn gave a careless shrug before replying,
“Modest, too,” Tara pointed out as Dawn giggled. They were interrupted by a knock at the front door. Xander went to answer it with the other three trailing down the stairs after him. He opened the door to find Spike leaning against the doorframe, hands in his pockets.
“I’m here to pick up Dawn,” he said, grinning at their surprise. He was wearing a black three-piece suit, with the jacket left casually unbuttoned. He pushed himself away from the door to stand up straight and caught sight of Dawn. He gave a low whistle of appreciation. “That dress was made for you, sweet. You look delightful; very stylish.”
“Thanks. You’re looking alright yourself.” She walked over to give him a hug. “That was cute, knocking on the door like a real date.”
“Just trying to make it a good night for you. You deserve it.”
“It’s already the best night of my life,” she said sincerely.
At the restaurant they sat at a little table for two in the back. The food was wonderful, and they had fun commenting on the other patrons, most of them seemed to take themselves way too seriously.
“God!” Dawn said, leaning in close so she wouldn’t be overheard. “I never want to work here. I’m sure the tips are great since the clientele is mostly of the rich and moneyed variety, but they are so rude!”
“I know! That guy over there practically threw the bread at his waitress ‘cause it wasn’t warm enough!” Dawn giggled.
“Yeah, and his wife was shrieking that the ice in her drink had melted.” They laughed at the stupidity, and continued to make silly comments about the rudeness of the customers. On the ride home they discussed music as Dawn played various CDs. Spike told her she should sing for an audience because he thought she had real talent, and Dawn thought he was mocking her so she punched him lightly on the shoulder. When he had convinced her he was serious, she conceded that maybe she would someday.
Back at the house they walked slowly to the front door. Dawn took his hand as they talked,
“I had a really good time tonight.”
“Does it make up for…you know, the other?”
“Absolutely. I want to thank you for being here for me through everything. You always know how to make things right in my world. Nobody else does that for me. Nobody else can.”
“I’ll always be there when you need me. Always know that.”
“I do,” Dawn affirmed as they reached the door. They stood there for a moment, and then Dawn said jokingly, “So do I get a good-night kiss on this date?”
“Well, of course!” Spike laughed. He put his hand on the side of her neck and they both grinned as he leaned forward and kissed her softly on the cheek. Spike pulled back, still smiling, and brushed his hand against her face tenderly. Their eyes met and their smiles faded as the look grew intense. Spike was slowly leaning toward her again when the door suddenly opened. They both jumped and looked to see Willow smiling at them.
“So how was it? Was the restaurant great? Why are you guys just standing out there? Get in here and tell us all about it!”
Later Spike lay on the bed in his darkened room, staring at the ceiling. What the hell was that? He asked himself. His brain issued him a warning; it’s Dawn, remember? Your friend, Dawn? Don’t even think about it, buddy! Spike shook his head; he couldn’t allow what happened on the porch to happen again. Dawn trusted him; he was there to protect her, not seduce her! She was far too young and innocent for him to be thinking of in that way. He loved her more than life; she was his dearest friend, and he would make damn sure he remembered that in the future. He would never abuse her trust in him by taking advantage of her. Never.
Spike and Dawn fell back into their easy camaraderie as though nothing unusual had almost happened. Dawn came to his room often in the middle of the night, usually for one of their late night talks, but sometimes to sleep after a bad dream about the night with Jake. The dreams occurred less and less frequently, but when they did, it would throw her into the familiar panic attacks she thought she had long since gotten over.
“You know, I think that’s what bugs me the most about the whole thing,” she told Spike one night.
“What’s that, luv?”
“During the day I’m strong. I’m living my life without letting what he did break me. I’m winning. But at night, when I dream, he always wins.” Dawn’s voice cracked slightly and Spike held her tight against him.
“I wish I could be there, in your dreams, to protect you.”
“In a way you are. You’re with me in my heart, and it helps me keep fighting.” She turned to face him, leaning her head against his chest. “And you’re here for me in the real world where I need you the most. You’re always here,” she yawned sleepily and her voice began to fade, “when I wake up.” Spike lifted his head from the pillow and looked down at her snuggled against his chest. She was asleep. Spike reached out and snapped off the lamp next to the bed. He settled down to sleep too, and as he drifted off he felt Dawn hug him just a little tighter against her and he smiled.
“So, where do you want to go tonight?” Dawn asked, as she sat with Spike on the couch a couple months later.
“I say we go play some pool. We haven’t done that in awhile, have we?”
“Yeah, but I always kick your ass, and then you sulk all the way home!” Dawn answered teasingly.
“No. I always let you beat me, and then I sit and contemplate what a braggart you are and how maybe I shouldn’t keep letting you win!”
“Braggart,” Dawn said, mimicking Spike’s accent. “I love when you say stuff like that. You sound so very British!” Spike looked at her mockingly.
“Luv, I am British. How else am I going to sound?” Dawn giggled and threw the TV Guide at him.
“I know you’re British, silly. I’m just saying, me likey!” Dawn wiggled her eyebrows suggestively and Spike burst out laughing before lunging for her. She let out a little shriek as he started tickling her. Tara peeked in from the other room to make sure everything was okay. When she saw them rolling around wrestling and tickling each other she just shook her head and smiled. She turned back and Willow looked up curiously.
“Are those two at it again?”
“Yeah, it’s a tickle fight this time.” Willow grinned and said,
“They’re so happy when they’re together. I’m glad he stayed.”
“Yeah, if he hadn’t, I think we really could have lost her, but to see her now, you’d never know.” Then they both watched as the two friends continued their playful struggle.
In the end, they decided to go dancing, but they went to the Bronze so they could play some pool as well. They both went casual; Spike in his black jeans and a dark blue t-shirt leaving his duster behind in favor of a stylish black leather blazer. Dawn also wore black jeans with a ruby red halter. She wore her hair down, and carried a sweater in case she got cold. They invited the others along and made it a group outing.
When they got there they discovered it was open mic night. As they found a table Spike leaned over to Dawn and gestured toward the stage.
“You should go sign up.” Dawn realized what he meant and her eyes widened.
“Oh, no way! I’d be too nervous.”
“You’d be great,” he argued. He turned to the others. “Don’t you think she should get up and sing?” The others all chimed in with their agreement, saying she’d blow everyone away, but she was still uncertain. She looked at Spike.
“Are you sure?”
“I’ll be right here cheering you on,” he promised. She smiled and went to see what she had to do. A few minutes later she came back. “Well?”
“They’ll call me when it’s my turn,” she explained nervously. Spike took her hand.
“You are gonna be great!” About half an hour later, after some guy finished singing the blues, the host came out and introduced her. She stood shakily and started for the stage. “Knock ‘em dead!” Spike called to her. Dawn smiled back at him.
Her first song was one of her favorites by Joan Jett and he grinned. She became more confident as she sang the words that she had sung a million times in the car with Spike. She was a great performer and the audience loved her. By the time the song was over she had gotten over her stage fright. She segued into a slow bluesy number, and Spike, as always, was amazed at her range. After the third song she took a bow as the crowd cheered and whistled their appreciation. She rushed back to the table, dropping into Spike’s lap and bashfully ducking her head into his shoulder. He patted her back and whispered,
“See? I knew they’d love you!”
On the ride home Dawn could barely sit still.
“I can’t believe I actually got up there and sang in front of all those people!”
“Sounded bloody spectacular, too! Did you hear all that cheering? That was all for you, sweet,” Spike boasted proudly.
“I know! It felt amazing. My blood was pumping, my heart was pounding. I thought I was gonna throw up at first, but then I really got into it.”
“I could tell you were lovin’ every minute of it.”
“I wouldn’t have even gotten up there if it wasn’t for you. How do you always know exactly what I need?” She asked in amazement before sliding across the seat and raining kisses all over the side of his face. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Spike’s cigarette fell from his lips to land between his legs. He jerked in surprise and the car swerved. He nearly drove into the ditch before he was able to retrieve it and fling it out the window.
“Bloody hell!” he shouted. Dawn looked shocked for a moment and then burst out laughing. “Oh you think it’s funny? That damn near got us killed!” She continued to laugh uncontrollably and Spike’s lip started to twitch. “You know you’re going to be the death of me, don’t you?”
“The best part,” Dawn gasped breathlessly between fits of laughter, “was the look on your face.” He started to grin. “But then you topped it off with a ‘bloody hell!’” she giggled once. “And that totally sealed the deal.” Then she burst out laughing again.
“You know you’re gonna get it when we get home, right? Dawn? Dawn?” But she was too busy laughing to respond.
It was about four months later and they were sitting around the living room watching a movie when Dawn suddenly said,
“We should go to the beach.” Spike turned his head to look at her before replying,
“Yeah, ‘cause, you know, I really need to work on my tan. Then you know what we could do? We could head on over to Sunday mass, ask the preacher for a blessin’.”
“That’s some wonderful sarcasm you got workin’ for you. I didn’t mean during the day, dimwit, I meant right now. The sun’s down, but it’s still really warm; we could go for a little swim.” Spike thought about it.
“That might actually be kind of fun, but I don’t have any swim trunks.” Dawn waved her hand dismissively.
“Just wear underwear; it’s not a big deal.”
“I don’t wear un- or uh, maybe we could swing by the store, and I could pick some trunks up on the way.” Dawn whipped around to look at him.
“Sure. That would work, too,” she said with a big smile. Spike felt awkward for a moment.
“Well, then, I guess I’ll go tell Will and Tara so they’ll know where we are. In case they, uh, need us.” Dawn continued to grin.
“You do that,” she said teasingly. He got up to go, and as he left the room she found herself staring at the back of his jeans, and her grin grew even wider.
When they got to the beach Dawn kicked off her pants, already wearing her two-piece underneath and headed down to the water to wait for Spike. Once she was out of sight, he quickly changed into his trunks. A thought struck him, and he got a devilish look on his face. He snuck down till he was about five feet behind her. She didn’t seem to hear him so he charged down past her, scooping her up into his arms on his way to the water. She shrieked in surprise, and then when she realized what he planned she latched her arms tightly around his neck.
“Spike! Don’t you dare…” he ran full tilt into the water and dunked her, cutting off what she had been about to say. She came up sputtering and took him by surprise, sweeping his feet out from underneath him and tugging on his arm in one swift movement so that he tumbled in right after her. He pushed himself back up, wiping the water from his face.
“Where in hell did you learn how to do that?” he asked in shock. Dawn splashed water at him and replied sassily,
“You think you know all my moves?” Spike laughed in appreciation.
“Apparently you’ve got a few you’ve been saving.”
“You don’t know the half of it.” Spike looked at her strangely.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Dawn smiled and said,
“Maybe I’ll tell you someday.” Then she turned and swam off, kicking water in his face.
When they were through swimming they headed back to the car. Spike grabbed the towels and tossed one to Dawn, and they began to dry off. Dawn was muttering to herself as she tried to dry her hair. Spike smirked.
“Problems?” Dawn shot him a look.
“I can never get my hair dry enough.”
“Want some help?”
“Sure.” Spike wrapped his towel around his waist and moved to take her towel from her. He moved around behind her and, starting at the ends, he worked his way up to the crown. He carefully dried her hair, his hands gently massaging her scalp. Her head tilted back and he slowly stopped, his hands coming to rest on her shoulders. She shifted slightly, turning her head to look at him. She lifted her face to his and he whispered huskily,
“I think it’s dry enough now.” She has beautiful eyes. He cleared his throat suddenly and handed her the towel as he stepped away. “We should get going.” Dawn took the towel and smiled.
“Sure you don’t want to try and catch the sunrise?” Spike chuckled.
“That would be exciting, what with me being all aflame.” Dawn laughed.
“I don’t think I’m up for that much excitement. I guess we should get going.” They got in the car and drove home laughing and teasing each other. And once again, Spike pushed what had almost happened to the back of his mind and tried to forget.
The months passed and Dawn and Spike grew closer. They went everywhere together; at least after the sun went down. When it was light out Dawn was either at school or at home with Spike. They would watch movies and talk; occasionally they would read a good book together all snuggled up on the couch or on the bed. Sometimes, if she got home and he was still sleeping, she would curl up beside him and lie there wide awake just holding on to him.
It was getting closer and closer to graduation, and Dawn had gotten acceptance letters from several colleges. She didn’t even want to go to those colleges, but Spike had told her she should apply so she could ‘keep her options open’ as he put it. Whatever that meant. She already knew where she wanted to go, and she dreaded talking to him about it because she knew he would try to change her mind.
A couple weeks before graduation, and shortly after her birthday party, Spike found the acceptance letters. She was lying down in his room when he came in with them in his hand.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked as he hugged her, pride shining in his eyes. It was here, the moment she had been dreading. Time to tell him, she thought.
“I didn’t tell you because I’m not going.” There. She’d said it.
“What do you mean? You’re not going to college? What about all your plans? Weren’t you going to be a doctor or a psychiatrist?” he asked lightly trying not to get angry. “Can’t do that without college.”
“Don’t worry. I’m still planning on going to college. Just not those places.”
“Well, where else did you apply? I thought this was all of them.”
“I’m gonna go to UC Sunnydale.” Spike looked puzzled.
“Why would you want to do that when you got accepted to all these places?”
“I’d just rather stay here. And UC Sunnydale is a good school.”
“Yeah, but these other schools are better. There isn’t anything you would get here that you couldn’t get there.”
“You’re here,” Dawn said quietly, not looking at him. “That’s one thing they don’t have.”
“Nibblet,” Spike said gently. “You can’t skip out on an opportunity like this just to stay near me.”
“Why not?” she demanded. “It’s my decision, and I decided I’d rather be here with you.” Spike shook his head.
“Look, I’ll miss you too, but you can always visit.”
“No, I’m staying.”
“I won’t let you give up your whole life for me!” he said in a flat, angry voice.
“It’s not your decision to make!” Dawn’s voice rose angrily, and Spike lifted up his hands in surrender.
“Okay, look, let’s not fight about it. I know it’s your decision, just promise me you’ll think about it. That’s all I ask.” Dawn sat down beside him, and he took her in his arms.
“I promise I’ll think about it.” Spike kissed her forehead.
“Don’t mention it.” Yes, she’d think about it, but her heart had already decided for her, and she wasn’t going to leave Sunnydale. She couldn’t leave Spike.
Graduation came and went and they didn’t discuss colleges again, much to Dawn’s relief. She didn’t want to lie about it, but she also didn’t want to get into an argument. It was her choice to make and she had already made it.
Ever since that first night at the Bronze, Dawn had continued to sing at open mic night. Spike was glad to go with her and the rest of the gang always came to watch her perform. This night wasn’t any different from the rest, except for the sickening nervousness Dawn was feeling. She didn’t know if she could go through with what she was about to do, but she figured it was the only way to make him understand. Maybe then he would accept her decision to stay. Finally, it was her turn; she gave Spike a hug, and he smiled encouragingly. Then she went up on stage.
“This first song has always been one of my favorites and tonight I’d like to dedicate it to my best friend, who has stood by me through some really tough times.” She smiled in Spike’s direction. The others grinned at him and Xander reached forward and patted him on the back. The music started up, and Dawn began a haunting melody,
“There you are in
the early light of day. There you are in the quiet words I pray.
I’ve been blessed by the simple happiness of the perfect love we’ve
The song ended and Dawn went into her second number, but Spike couldn’t move. He could barely think. Was she saying what he thought she was saying? His mind was spinning. He looked up to find the rest of the group looking at him uncertainly.
“Are you okay, man?” Xander asked quietly. Spike shook his head; he couldn’t think. He had to think.
“Yeah. No.” Spike looked at them. “I’ve got to take a walk. Tell Dawn… tell her the song was great. I’ll talk to her back at the house. I – I gotta go; I think…” Willow interrupted him,
“It’s okay. Go. Tara and I will bring her home.” Spike muttered,
“Thanks.” Then headed for the door. The rest of the gang exchanged worried looks. They had all seen this coming, but they didn’t know what Spike would do, or what would happen now.
Spike drove aimlessly through town. Dawn was in love with him, or at least she thought she was. He’d known it might come to this, all those times. He had known, and he had pushed it away choosing to ignore it instead of dealing with it. What now? he thought. He drove for hours, thinking. Finally, he came to a decision. He knew what he had to do.
Dawn heard him come in several hours after she had gone to bed. She hadn’t been able to sleep. The others hadn’t been able to tell her much about why he had gone, but she knew it was the song. Was he angry? Maybe he didn’t know how to tell her he didn’t feel the same. Maybe she should go find out. She got up and headed for his room; she could hear him moving around. The door was open a little bit so she started to go in, but she stopped as soon as she saw what he was doing.
“What is this? You’re packing?” Spike glanced at her briefly, but then looked away.
“I have to leave. I was going to tell you once I got my things together.” Dawn rushed towards him.
“You can’t go! I need you!”
“No. You don’t. Not anymore.”
“Yes. I do!” Dawn pleaded desperately. “Didn’t you get it? That was for you; I was singing to you! I love you.” She put her hands on his chest sliding them up around his neck, threading her fingers into his hair. Before he could move she leaned up and kissed him. She put everything she felt for him into that kiss; the tenderness, the passion, her desperation, everything she had and everything she was. He pulled her tight against him, returning the kiss, greedy for the taste of her. He held on, afraid to let go, running his hands hungrily up and down her back. Finally, he pulled away and she whispered, “I’m so in love with you.” He rested his forehead against hers.
“I know. I got it, the song. I understood. That’s why I have to go,” he replied bleakly, his voice breaking. Dawn jerked away from him.
“Because I love you. More than I ever thought possible. I want what you’re offering so badly it hurts.” Spike’s eyes filled with tears.
“Then why won’t you take it?” she pleaded. Spike’s face was filled with anguish.
“I’ve become a substitute for you; a substitute for a real life, a real relationship. You say you’re in love with me, but you’ve grown so dependant on me that I can’t be sure you’re not just confusing that dependency with love. I could never live with myself if I let you do that. You once told me you wanted to be strong on your own, that you didn’t want to define yourself by a man. I want that for you too. I swore I would protect you and now I’m protecting you the only way I know how. By leaving. By protecting you from me.”
“I could never need protection from you,” Dawn said with certainty, silent tears running down her face.
“You’re wrong. More wrong than you know.” He pulled her to him again, and she went willingly, clinging to his arms. He kissed her hungrily, with an all-consuming passion that shook her to the core. He pulled away reluctantly, looking into her dazed eyes longingly. Then she followed him as he left the room and watched silently as he walked quickly down the stairs and out the door. She heard a noise behind her and turned to find Willow watching her sadly.
“Are you okay, sweetie?” Dawn shook her head wordlessly, and Willow rushed forward to catch her as she finally broke down. Dawn just held onto Willow, sobbing because she knew in her heart he was never coming back.