Chapter Seven: Bittersweet
Spike didn’t know how he made it through the next forty-eight hours without staking himself. He had no right to feel betrayed. What had he expected? He’d left her, without any promise of ever returning, and he thought she’d just wait around in case he decided to come back? She deserved to be happy; it was his fault that she had chosen to be happy with someone else. He’d had plenty of opportunities to find out where she was and get in touch with her, and he’d never done it. He had only himself to blame. He spent a couple days wallowing in heartbreak and self-pity before deciding that if they couldn’t be together he could at least make sure she was safe. He grabbed his jacket and headed for the club.
Dawn felt silly at having been afraid the other night. She knew she could defend herself, but more importantly, she had known in the club that she had nothing to fear. He had stared at her all night, but whoever he was she had known somehow that he meant her no harm. She didn’t know why she had gotten so nervous. She got up on stage at eight and as she began her first song she knew that he was there again. Watching her. She wished he would show himself; it was strange to have some nameless, faceless person lurking around. She felt him again when she was walking home, but this time she didn’t get nervous; she let him follow her and pretended that she didn’t notice. Every night for the next week she felt his invisible presence; both at the club and on the way home. It’s almost comforting, she thought as she lay in bed one night. As she began to drift off to sleep pieces of a conversation she’d had with Spike years ago floated through her mind.
“Predator like me knows how to keep to the shadows.”
“I still like to make sure she gets home safely.”
Dawn sat straight up in bed. Oh, my god! It was him. No wonder she had been able to feel him watching her all those times; she’d always been in tune with Spike. And, really, lurking was something he’d always done well. Did this mean he was going to come back to her soon? Maybe he was working up to it. She’d give him all the time in the world if it meant that they would eventually be together.
The next night Spike followed Dawn as she wandered all over the city. She did that a lot, Spike thought angrily. She was lucky she hadn’t become a meal. Just then, as she passed an alley, a man stepped out behind her and grabbed her roughly by the shoulder. Spike was about to charge to the rescue when Dawn kicked into action. In a blur of movement her elbow came up in a crushing blow to her attacker’s face. As he reached up to cradle his broken, bloodied nose Dawn spun around and delivered a roundhouse kick to the head. The guy crumpled to the ground; he didn’t get up. Spike froze in shock; apparently it wasn’t only luck that had kept her out of trouble all this time. She was incredible, her speed and strength phenomenal. She stood there for a moment, and he wondered what the hell she was doing.
“You can come out, Spike. I know you’re there.” He considered pretending he wasn’t, but only for a split second. Then he stepped out of the shadows to face her.
“How did you know?”
“I could feel you.” She looked at him; he looked just as wonderful as she remembered. It was as if time had stood still, and of course in a way it had, she realized. He would always look the same; he was timeless. She wished he would say something.
She’s probably worried that I’m here to try and reconcile, Spike thought. Probably trying to figure out how to let me down easy. He decided to help her out.
“I’m not here to try and win you back or anything,” he said.
“Oh.” And with that one word, Dawn’s heart shattered into a thousand pieces. He didn’t want her anymore!
“Just wanted to make sure you were safe.”
“Oh.” Dawn just stared at him, wishing she hadn’t told him to come out earlier. At least that way, she would still have the hope of a future with him. Instead, he was making it perfectly clear that he didn’t want that anymore. She had to get away from here before she lost it. “Well, as you can see, I’m fine. I’m not some helpless little girl who needs taking care of; I don’t need your “protection” anymore. So if that’s all you’re here for you can go back to wherever you came from.” Then she turned on her heel and walked off, hoping she could make it out of sight before the tears started.
Spike leaned sadly against the wall long after she’d gone. He shouldn’t have been following her; she didn’t need him. She was perfectly capable of taking care of herself, and she had the big guy for any other needs she might have. He pushed angrily away from the wall. As he turned to go he kicked the guy that had grabbed Dawn, then he winced. The chip might not jolt him anymore, but his conscience still did; wasn’t very sporting to kick a man when he was down. He needed go find a demon of some sort to take his anger out on.
“Then he told me he didn’t want to be with me, that he just wanted to make sure I was safe,” Dawn cried on the phone to Anya.
“What? But that doesn’t make any sense! He’s crazy in love with you; why wouldn’t he want to be with you?” Anya asked perplexed.
“Well, apparently you and Xander have been horribly mistaken.”
“Why would he be following you around if he wasn’t still in love with you?”
“I don’t know, but he made it clear in no uncertain terms that he wanted nothing to do with me. How did he know where I was? I thought he wouldn’t let Xander tell him.”
“No, I know Xander didn’t tell him; we were just talking about it the other day. Do you want Xander to talk to him?”
“No! It’s humiliating enough without Spike knowing that I’m all broken-hearted.”
“But, Dawn, it has to be some kind of misunderstanding! Maybe if you talked to him-”
“Anya, please! I didn’t misunderstand. He doesn’t want to be with me; it was very clear. Promise me you won’t talk to Xander about this,” Dawn pleaded.
“I think you’re making a big mistake, but I promise. I won’t tell Xander.”
A few nights later Spike was at the club, but this time he wasn’t hiding. When Dawn was through on stage she got a drink from the bar then she went over to see what he wanted. He was so familiar to her, and yet he seemed like a stranger.
“Hello, Spike. Can I help you with something?”
“Can we talk?” he asked beseechingly.
“Of course,” she said and they settled in at a table.
“I wanted to apologize.”
“For what?” If this was about what she had told Anya, Dawn was gonna kill her.
“I shouldn’t have been following you. I should have just come right out and told you I was here.”
“Spike, it’s okay. You were just concerned. I guess old habits die hard.” She smiled at him and he smiled back.
“Yeah, I guess so. But you don’t need my help anymore; the way you took that guy down, that was just incredible!”
“I’ve been working out,” she said with pride.
“That became apparent very quickly the other night. I was suitably impressed. But you didn’t learn how to do that just from working out; what else have you been doing?”
“Ahh, you’re very good.”
“Thanks. Spike, how did you find me; I know Xander didn’t tell you so how did you know where I was?”
“I didn’t know. I live here, in the city. I’ve lived here for the past five years. I came to this club for the first time a few nights ago, and there you were onstage; it was quite a shock. I’m sorry if I scared you that first night.”
“It’s okay.” So it had been an accident; he hadn’t even been looking for her! Dawn gazed at Spike, wishing things were different.
“I’d like us to be friends,” he said suddenly. She was looking at him very strangely. He’d have said longingly, but he knew that wasn’t possible.
“We’ll always be friends.” Dawn reached over to hold his hand. “Don’t you know yet that I could never stop caring about you?”
“It’s been so long, sometimes feelings change.” Dawn looked as if he’d slapped her.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Just that it’s okay if you don’t feel the same way about me as you used too.” Dawn didn’t say anything so Spike figured she didn’t want to talk about it. “Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I’ll be around if you want to, I don’t know, get together or talk or anything.”
“That would be fun. I’ve got tomorrow off; why don’t you come over and we’ll do something. I know you know where I live,” she joked. Spike looked slightly embarrassed.
“Again. Could not be more sorry about the stalking.” Dawn laughed.
“It’s alright. I was only nervous the first night, after that it was almost comforting. Then I figured out it was you.”
“I guess I need to work on being stealthier.”
“Oh, no, you were very stealthy. I never saw you once. I guess I just know when you’re around. I always have.”
“How?” Spike looked curious.
“I don’t know really; the energy in the room changes somehow, I think. It’s like everything is supercharged.” Spike watched her as she spoke; she was describing exactly how he felt every time she was around. Amazing. He wished he could just take her into his arms and tell her how much he loved her. Snap out of it, he thought, angrily. She’s with someone else. She’s not yours to hold anymore. “Spike? Are you okay? You looked upset all of a sudden.”
“No, I’m fine. I just- it’s almost time for your next set. You’d better get ready.” She looked at her watch.
“I guess you’re right. I had better wrap this up. Will I see you tomorrow?”
“I’d like that.”
“Okay. Come on over once the sun sets.”
“So he’s coming over there tonight?” Anya said as they talked the next day.
“Yeah, he says he wants to be friends. I guess we’ll watch a movie or something,” Dawn said as she looked in the fridge for something to eat.
“You think you’ll have sex?”
“ANYA! Of course not!” Dawn shut the refrigerator with a bang.
“What? You haven’t seen him in five years. Five years in which you never stopped loving him; you’re telling me it never crossed your mind?” Anya asked in disbelief. Dawn sank down onto the sofa.
“You’re forgetting the fact that he doesn’t want to be with me, An.”
“Yeah, well. I still say you’re wrong about that. If he’s not in love with you I’ll, I’ll kiss a bunny!” Dawn started laughing.
“That’s very brave of you to make such a sacrifice in the name of love.”
“Hey, don’t mock. That was hard for me to even say. Now listen, are you honestly trying to tell me you haven’t thought about it? Not once?”
“I’m hanging up now, Anya.”
“No, wait, hold on,” Anya pleaded.
“Be careful. I don’t want you to get hurt again.”
Dawn stood in front of the mirror and tried to figure out if she was dressed too sexy. She was wearing her black wash low-rise boot-cut jeans by Seven and a red, scoop neck tank from Theory. It certainly is…snug, she thought as she turned around to check it out from the back. She had never noticed before how formfitting all her clothes were. Maybe I should change. She headed toward the closet, but then the bell rang and she realized it was too late. She’d just have to wear what she had on.
Spike glanced around as he waited for Dawn to open the door. She lived in a pretty nice place; she must be making good money with her singing. The door swung open and he turned to face her and almost dropped the bottle of wine he’d brought. She looked unbelievable. She smiled at him and he thought he might have forgotten how to speak.
“Oh, good, you brought some wine! I hope you haven’t eaten yet 'cause I ordered in some Chinese. The place down the street has incredible dim sum.” She turned and headed for the kitchen, and Spike found himself staring at her denim encased behind. Without thinking, he tried to follow her and rammed into an invisible barrier.
“Um, Dawn?” he said, amused at his mistake. She turned around and looked at him funny so he put his hand up and touched the barrier again.
“Oh, my god! I’m such an idiot; come in. I can’t believe I did that.” She shook her head in amazement as he walked in.
“Guess you haven’t had any vampires over lately,” he joked.
“You’re the only vampire I’ve ever wanted.” She looked up quickly. “Here. In my home, I mean.” God, I’m such a moron! “So, I have a couple movies we can watch, or we can go for a drive later if you want.”
“I have to take you up on that drive; it’s been a long time since we’ve done that. We could watch a movie before or after though, if you’d like.”
“Sounds good,” Dawn said. Then she walked over to him. “Look, I know this feels awkward right now, but if we just try to relax I’m sure it’ll work itself out. I really want for us to be okay; I’ve missed you so much,” she said as she hugged him. Spike slowly wrapped his arms around her. Holding her made his chest hurt. He closed his eyes and breathed in the scent of her then whispered,
“I missed you, too.”
Dinner was wonderful. They ate in the living room and after their initial awkwardness they began to slip back into their easy friendship. Spike teased her about how the delivery guy hit on her, but Dawn just brushed it aside, scoffing,
“He was just trying to flatter his way into a bigger tip.” Spike snorted,
“Yeah. I’m sure it had nothing whatsoever to do with the fit of your pants.” Dawn looked down at herself in confusion.
“What’s wrong with the fit of my pants?”
“Nothing, Dawn. I’m saying he liked the fit of your pants.” Spike rolled his eyes in exasperation, eliciting a chuckle from Dawn. They talked and laughed as they ate and when they finished eating they went for a drive. Dawn tossed him the keys, and he looked over at her with a smile. Riding around together, joking and listening to music, it was almost as though they had never been apart. “You still like Joan Jett?” Spike asked. Dawn reached down to open the glove compartment, and pulled out the old, familiar CD.
“You know I can’t live without this.”
“Is that the same CD you used to listen to?”
“The very one. It’s practically worn out.”
“You should buy a new one,” Spike said.
“I don’t know; I find it comforting to have familiar things around.” Spike looked up to find her watching him as she continued, “Things I’ve grown fond of.”
“I know exactly what you mean.”
After the drive, they snuggled up on the couch to watch a movie. It was one of their favorites, and they’d seen it a hundred times. Dawn fell asleep before the movie was over so Spike carried her into her room. As he laid her down on the bed she stirred slightly. He had started to straighten up when she opened her eyes. She smiled at him sleepily and whispered,
“Please don’t go.” He was pretty sure she was still half asleep and unaware of what she was saying. He started to leave, but she held tight to his hand even in her sleep. He looked down at her, his face filled with anguish. She was probably dreaming of that guy he’d seen her with. He knew he should go, but he couldn’t resist holding her, just for a little while.
Dawn slept better than she had in a long time. She’d dreamt that Spike was there, in her bed, holding her. His embrace had been so comforting and she’d felt so loved. But when she woke in the morning she was alone. She figured he must have put her to bed when she fell asleep during the movie and then gone home. She wondered when she would see him again, and realized that she didn’t know where he lived or how to contact him.
“So? What happened?” Anya asked as they talked later.
“We had a good time. We had dinner, went for a drive, then we watched a movie.”
“And?” she demanded.
“Was there touching.”
“Anya. Would you quit it! It was just two friends having a good time.”
“A good time or a “good” time?”
“Anya! I’m serious. Nothing happened; I fell asleep during the movie, and he left.”
“Oh. Well, that’s disappointing.”
“No, it was actually really great. We’re friends again, and I’m just glad to have him back in my life.”
“I’m glad that you’re happy. I’m happy for you.”
“Thanks, sweetie. I’d better let you go.”
“Not even a little touching?”
Dawn and Spike got together often, falling into their old familiar routine. Dawn was so happy to have her best friend back, but there was sadness beneath her joy because she knew he wasn’t in love with her anymore. She longed for him to hold her close, to touch her, and make love to her, but she knew he never would. She dreamt about him every night, and it was getting harder and harder to spend time with him and not confess how she felt.
Spike noticed that Dawn was often distracted when they were together and assumed she was thinking of her boyfriend. He always wondered if she was wishing she was with him instead of Spike. His jaw clenched at the thought of the two of them together; she probably went to see the bastard after she got through hanging out with good old familiar Spike, her friend.
He lay down on his bed and threw his arm over his eyes; he had that pain in his chest again. He was getting it more and more often. No big deal, he thought, bitterly. Probably just my heart breaking. He didn’t know how much longer he could take it. He probably could’ve handled her not loving him, but thinking about her with someone else was just about more than he could take. During the day he couldn’t sleep because his brain tortured him with images of Dawn making love to some other guy, and it made him physically ill to think of it. He didn’t think he could stay here as her friend and pretend he was happy about her relationship with someone else when he wanted her for himself. It was too painful; he just didn’t have it in him.