"Oh yeah," Spike thought down in the basement of the Magic Box while Giles clattered around overhead, Anya not far behind yattering something or other about markup percentages with Dawnie right behind Anya yattering something or other about getting to wear high heels to the dance, "I thought up something all right..."

...it wasn't much of a plan, not really – he managed to re-hotwire the DeSoto and spent the next hour or so jouncing wildly on it's over-worked suspension with a catacalysmicaly carsick Dawn complaining at his side until the little car managed to limp onto the Interstate.

Finally, exhaust smoking and three hours out of Sunnydale, they pulled into a small, cash-only family-owned motel that didn't ask questions. Dawn had fallen asleep against Spike as he drove, abused stomach thoroughly empty of S'Mores and cherry Kool-Aid (aka. bug juice) and was cross when he woke her up, but was obedient when he handed her a roll of bills, telling her to get them two adjoining rooms because his feet hurt too much to stand around arguing over prices with the naga night clerk.

Rooms obtained, he'd handed Dawn a key and ordered her to lock herself in and take a shower or six while he shoveled out the DeSoto behind the building. Dawn had bitched that even if she wanted to, all her stuff had probably been burned up back at the camp and if she had her way, what she was wearing at the moment would join it – so what was she supposed to wear?

Which meant a trip to the nearby exit ramp truck plaza in the spare pair of boots he found buried under tire irons, tarps, and Clem's empty Cheetos bags in the trunk of the DeSoto.

Once there, all he could find was a XXXL black shirt that read "Truck Driver - Because Badass Mother F*cker is not an Official Job Title".

Dawn had whined from behind her closed bathroom door after he tossed it in at her. "Look, pet, it was either that or "Running Drops Pounds. Carpenters Drop Panties".


At least the truck plaza shop was holding a special on Febreeze by the gallon, which he drenched the entire interior of the DeSoto with sometime around midnight after running it through a pressure wash designed more for the exterior of semis than the interior of a small, disreputable vintage muscle car.

Two A.M. found Spike on the musty bed in his own barren little room, damp hair like an angry albino Brill-O pad after his third shower, drinking tepid beer and O+ from a stadium cup and watching the desert burn on the local news channel while pulling thorns, broken glass, sand burrs and cactus spines from the soles of his feet with a pair of cheap tweezers from the truck plaza which he hadn't exactly paid for.

Dawn knocked at the door between their rooms and entered, all but smothered by the Bad Ass t-shirt – "Did you really set Camp Wa-Sha-Shu on fire?" Her eyes widened at his hair as it shot out in all directions, but she said nothing, just giggled.

Annoyed, Spike paused in the middle of pulling out a really deeply embedded spine before sheepishly admitting, "Nah, it was your friend's old man what did it." He gritted his teeth, counted to three, and yanked, gasping, "Bloody Hell, that soddin' hurt!"

Hair forgotten and totally grossed-out, Dawn dumped half a bottle of peroxide, also liberated from the nearby truck plaza store – on his foot, which though painful was better than what Dru would have done in the same situation.

And it had also been a little bit of all right once he dug out the last hooked sandburr before switching the telly over to some old movie channel, the two of them eating junk from the vending machine out in the hall while one or another dead actor gesticulated on the fingerprint smeared screen until sunrise, finding them both asleep.

Luckily news of the wildfire hadn't reached either Buffy or her mother when Spike cautiously dropped Dawn off at the house in yesterday's camping clothes, which had taken two trips through the motel's coin-op washer and dryer plus a helluva lot of Febreeze to be rendered even remotely wearable.

Trouble didn't really start until Joyce got a call from the Scout Council office around lunch time, wanting to let her know that she needed to call the county sheriff's office because Dawn and her older brother, William, had disappeared during the previous night's wildfire…

Only Buffy picked up, not Joyce. ("Fire? Oh my God, what fire?! Her older WHAT?")

Dawn was by then, sleeping it off in her room. This didn't last long.

The story came out that, yes, dad had blown her off - again. But she'd reallyreallyREALLY wanted to go camping… And well… ummmm… that guy, you know, ummmm, Spike?"


"He said if I told everybody he was my big brother…"

"Oh. My. God. Oh my God! MOOOOOOOOOM!"

"…(in a very tiny voice, really, really fast) …he'd take me and itwouldbeallrightbecausewe'dalreadyspentthemoney AND ifIdidn'tsayanythingit'dallbeo.k.'K?"

"O.K.? O.K.? Dawn… how could you be so…moooooooooooooom!"

...down in the basement of the Magic Box, the eavesdropping Spike pocketed another box or six of expensive imported incense, laughing quietly to himself – the Slayer kicked in the door to his crypt before throwing him around like a ragdoll and hurling his telly out into the cemetery lawn, where it blew up on impact in a rather spectacular manner, broken glass everywhere – now THAT'S entertainment!

Right in the middle of Passions, just when it was gettin' good – bugger.

Still, worth it, worth it!

Alyana never came to help clean up the DeSoto, but a damp pair of Doc Martins all sticky and stained with what suspiciously resembled Skittles with a Barbie head stuffed down into one toe showed up on Joyce's back porch a few nights later. As he'd nicked them from Joey Ramone himself, Spike had spent an afternoon hosing them out to dry on the roof of his crypt. One bottle of neetsfoot oil later, they were almost as good as new even if on hot nights they still gave off the smell of artificial fruit flavoring.

Hank Summers had yet to be waylaid on his way to the crapper, but only because Spike had spent all of his available cash on getting the suspension of the DeSoto repaired and needed a bit of time to come up with an amount of cash large enough to pay for the magnitude of revenge he felt that Dawn's dad deserved.

Joyce received a polite but firm letter from the local Girl Scout Council office informing her that Dawn was welcome at all Girl Scout events but Dawn's older brother, William, was not. Joyce never learned about this because Spike intercepted the notice directly from the Summers mailbox before she or Buffy could read it. He also scored a free sample packet of lavender scented Tide while tampering with the U.S. Mail, but left the sample tampon laying on the Summers front porch where he'd dropped it as if burned– some federal crimes just aren't worth it.

Spike made a point of switching laundry night, which was every Wednesday after sundown at Joyce's house, to Thursday night to avoid further entanglements with any form of Scouting whatsoever, except perhaps, cookies... which is a story best told later.

Speaking of laundry, upon reaching Afghanistan a week later, Ayawamat found a very, very dead opossum in his duffle bag. Nobody had any idea how it got there.

Xander never did figure out why his missing favorite pair of cargo pants smelled like cigarettes and lake water. Or showed up one morning in the middle of the street in front of the Harris residence.

Spike's telly was replaced by something considerably nicer than what Buffy had hurled. Willy's Bar had to replace their suddenly missing one that very same evening.

500 acres of bone dry California desert had been burned to the roots along with Camp Wa-Sha-Shu's boathouse and dock – the girls and their escorts had been airlifted unharmed. A team of biologists from the National Fish and Wildlife Service were scouring the ashes for evidence of two extinct California Grizzlies rumored to have been seen prior to the conflagration. Word was, they were still looking...

"Giles, thanks for being my date! I know you'll have a good time at the dance with me – we'll have red punch and little heart-shaped cookies we bake ourselves!" The thumping was Dawnie, gleefully jumping up and down at having procured yet another unsuspecting victim. "I get to wear heels! I get to wear heels!"

"How very lovely." Giles groused. "I suppose you'll insist that I wear a red tie?"

"Heh, better you than me, me old son!" Spike, duster pockets loaded down with stolen occult boodle, swaggered towards the discreet manhole cover in a corner of the Magic Box's basement and lifted it. Pausing before climbing back down into the sewer, he smirkingly poured an entire $50/ounce bottle of organic honey labeled as having been blessed by the Dalai Llama himself on the pile of spare stakes and other weapons that Buffy stored there, "Oh yeah, old man, better you than me!" before pulling the heavy iron cover shut behind him.

Had anybody been paying attention upstairs, they would have heard the last dying echoes of Spike's laughter and a whiff of mentholated cigarette smoke coming up at them through the drainpipe hole of the "employees only" lavatory sink.

But they weren't.

So they didn't.