Chapter Eight: Hurt

"Are you sure you want to be doing this?" Michael questions Dawn as they climb down the stairs leading into the basement. She figures the only reason Dawn hadn't been here long before now was because this was the first day she wasn't occupying a small little room all by herself.

Of course her presence down here was almost like asking for a second suspension in as many weeks since she was skipping out on another class, American Literature. It didn't matter to Michael. There was no way she was going to let the brunette come down here by herself.

"You didn't have to tag along," Dawn tells Madison trying to sound confident only to hear the girl in front of her snort derisively.

"Right and let your sister find out I knew you were coming down here and didn't stop you," Michael gives her head a small shake. "No matter what I'm going to wind up getting my ass kicked. You do know that don't you?"

Dawn smiles lightly at Madison's comment. She didn't like to think of her sister beating people up, unless they happen to be demons or evil robots or some other form of insipid evil. But that the redhead guiding the way was willing to risk her sister's wrath for her. It made her happy in a strange sort of way. "If you're worried I'll talk to Buffy," she offers the younger girl.

"Right," Michael says softly. "I'm sure that will go over well," she finishes sarcastically as they come to an intersection. "Down this way," she adds with a small gesture down the narrow side passage. "You don't have to talk to Buffy. She's gonna think what she thinks no matter what you tell her."

Dawn chews on her bottom lip as she follows Madison through the tunnel. Normally from this vantage point her eyes would be focused in on the sway of the redhead's hips. Today however she had other things occupying her mind and while she appreciated the view, it wasn't enough to keep her from thinking about the upcoming confrontation she was going to have with Spike.

What was she going to say? What was she going to do? Should she stake him? Could she? Even if he didn't fight back could she bring herself to do it? Would it be easier if he did fight back?

She wasn't even sure what she was more upset about. His attempted rape of her sister, which was the easy thing to blame her anger on.

Only it wasn't the only reason she had.

He had abandoned her. After all his talk of never leaving her. He left just like everyone else. Her father, mother, Buffy, Giles, Tara. They had all left her and so hadn't he after promising her that he wouldn't.

If he had been there then she never would have found out about the attempted rape. Or at least she wouldn't have found out like she had. Wouldn't have had to learn about through Xander.

Buffy wasn't talking about it and, when push came to shove, she had still taken her to Spike. Why would she do that if what Xander says was true.

Again nobody was talking to her. Nobody was explaining these things to her. Nobody was telling her how these things were suppose to work and that, more then anything, was all that she wants.

Someone to tell her why if two people love each other, why all they do is hurt each other. Spike loved Buffy, Buffy loved Spike. Xander loved Anya, Anya loved Xander. Yet all any of them do is tear each other apart.

"Right here," Michael says coming to a stop in front of the thick metal door she had seen Buffy enter last time she had been down here.

Dawn snaps out of her trance like state at the sound of Madison's voice. She looks at the thick door, and with more then just a touch of trepidation burning in her voice she asks, "in there?"

Michael can almost feel the anxiety rolling off her. "You don't have to do this," he tells her. "Nobody's going to think any less of you if you walk away now."

Dawn shakes her head, a sharp, definitive jerk. "I need to do this," she tells the redhead.

"All right," Michael replies in defeat.

"Don't," Dawn orders as Madison raises her hand to bang on the door. Reaching out her own trembling hand she grabs hold of the handle. "If he's in there he already knows we're here," she tells her younger companion.

A few seconds later she pulls open the door. Both girls jump back, their hearts hammering in their chest, as Spike's haggard face glares at them from just the other side of the doorway. The pair land in ready fighting stances as they face off against the master vampire.

"Hear the two of you bumbling around down here just fine," Spike mumbles as he staggers back into the room.

"What..." Dawn begins in shock. She had never seen Spike like this. He had always been the larger then life hero that was coming to her rescue. Now he was... She didn't know what he was. He looks lost, like he doesn't know where he is, or even who he is.

"If you're coming in Niblet, then come in," he calls out. "Isn't a barn we're living in now is it. Bring your pretty little friend in too."

Michael steps through the door first. There was something in the vampire's voice that shouts at her that he wasn't playing with a full deck. Dawn follows her through the entrance almost in her hip pocket.

"Though she's been down here enough to know the way around," he adds as they step through the doorway.

Michael shrugs giving Dawn a confused look. She had know idea what he was talking about.

"Course they're all down here," he points to a spot on the wall as he adds, "she's down here the most, but they all come sooner or later."

Dawn moves around Madison, edging her way around the tense redhead, bringing herself closer to Spike. "Who's down here Spike?"

He spins around to face her, his shirt falling open slightly as he says, "everyone." Dawn gasps at the cuts and scratches covering his chest. "Everyone I ever hurt. The more I hurt them the more they come," he chuckles softly as if he sees something funny. "You'd think it'd be a bit more crowded, standing room only and all that bollix, but there's always room for a couple more." He stares hard at Dawn for a second before going on saying, "first time you've been here. Never thought I'd hurt you," gives a slight shrug, "but I guess what they say is true."

"What happened to you?" Dawn asks softly as she stretches out her hand towards Spike's chest.

Spike looks down at her hand nervously before he suddenly whirls away from her touch. "Just shut the bloody hell up!" He shouts at something that isn't there. "You can't go around touching any old thing you like," he says turning back to face her. Leaning in closer he almost sneers, "didn't big sis teach you that? Leave me alone!" He yells suddenly as he moves towards the other side of the room. "I've tried to get it out," he whimpers suddenly. "I don't deserve it," he adds clamping his hands over his temple. "I'm not..." he growls at something.

Dawn puts a hand over her mouth. She can feel the hot tears running down her face but she isn't even aware of them. This wasn't her Spike. He was barely lucid hovering on the edge of insanity. Nothing he was saying was making any sense, only some of it was.

"I didn't mean to hurt the girl. I tried to make it better only its not, now they're all angry and mother won't stop, no matter what I do." He storms around the room shouting, "I've had enough of you! The next bloody word out of your mouth," he takes a swing at nothing and pulverizes the concrete wall. Michael grabs Dawn pulling the brunette out the door just as Spike punches the wall again.

"He wasn't always like that," Dawn says a short time later. The two girls having gone from the basement to the woods just beyond the school.

"Crazy?" Michael remarks as she plucks a blade of grass from the ground.

"Something had to have happened to make him act that way. He was always so strong, so resourceful. He gave off this entire air of invincibility. Like there was nothing in the world that could hurt him," she says as she bounces a small pebble off a nearby tree.

Michael nods in understanding. She knew the type well enough. After all, since before being trapped in the body of a fifteen year old girl she had been the same. Still was the same.

"He was tortured by a hell god once and didn't break. He's always done what everyone else said was impossible. The more they told him it couldn't be done the more determined he became to do it," the brunette says with pride.

"Sounds like you two were close," Michael prods hoping that Dawn would talk about what she was feeling. It was obvious that she wants to talk. More, that she needs to talk.

Dawn shrugs slightly while tossing another stone at the tree, "after Buffy died Tara and Spike were almost like surrogate parents, so. Yeah, we were close." She hurls another stone, again bouncing it off the same spot on the tree.

Michael grins at that. She knew there was no way Dawn would ever have her sister's natural skill when it came to fighting, but after months of training she was beginning to develop her own skill. It was skill she had been working hard to gain, not something that was handed down by some all powerful entity, but earned through spilling sweat and blood during long arduous hours of training.

"Even before that he was always there for me. Whenever I needed someone, Spike was there," she smiles slightly as her mind flips through all the times Spike has looked after her. "Kept me safe even when he didn't have to."

"And now you don't know what to do," Michael states causing Dawn to look over at her. "He was your hero, idol, icon who attempted to rape your sister and is now an insane lunatic living in the basement of your school."

"I should hate him," Dawn answers softly. "Only what happened to him? Why was he like that?"

"I don't know, but if I had to guess, from what he was saying. Guilt maybe," she says with an unsure shrug. "What you have to decide now is what you're going to do."

Buffy feels a large amount of satisfaction as her small fist slams into the side of Madison's head. The younger girl falls back, barely managing to avoid the follow up front kick by redirecting it fractionally. Buffy flows with the new direction as she jumps into the air throwing a spinning hook kick.

Michael just ducks under the kick, she was fairly certain would have removed her head from her shoulders, but can't avoid the back kick that follows. It was easy for her to tell the slayer was holding back, but only marginally. The redhead doubles over just as Buffy's other fist crashes into her jaw dropping her to the ground.

Michael had known telling the blonde had been a mistake, but there hadn't really been a choice considering Wood had caught them. "Enough," she calls out with a glare at the tiny woman. A moment later she spits a mouthful of blood onto the back lawn.

"I thought you could take anything I could dish out," Buffy replies in a cocky tone as she watches Madison stand back up. "At least I thought that was what you said?"

Michael spits out another mouthful of blood. "If this was just about training then I'd tell you to bring it on," she growls at her. She had taken worse beatings during her years of training and she doubts if there was anything Buffy could do to her that hadn't already been done years before.

"Unless I'm confusing this kicking of your ass with something else then this is still training," Buffy replies indignantly.

"She was going to down there no matter what and you know it," she spits out at her.

The tiny slayer breathes in deeply as her scowl at Madison deepens. "It wasn't up to you to take her down there."

"Oh, I should've just let Dawn go down there all by herself to say hi to the raving lunatic that attempted to rape you?" She demands making no attempt to cover up her sarcasm.

"You should've come to me," Buffy growls.

Michael snorts at her statement as she asks, "and what would you have done? Nothing."

Buffy's right hook comes out of nowhere dropping the young girl to the ground.

By the time Michael rolls over to her back, with a slight groan, the blonde was already gone. "Got a hell of a way with the ladies," she mumbles to herself as she lies on the ground staring up at the sky.

"As you brush your shoes. Stand before the mirror. And you comb your hair. Grab your coat and hat. And you walk, wet streets trying to remember." Michael sings, her voice almost slurring the words to the Van Morrison's classic Wild Night as she leans against the wall next to the window. Every so often her eyes would drift up from the floor to glance at the brunette sitting Indian style at the head of her bed as she leans over her books diligently doing her home work.

The dark purple bruise decorating Madison's jaw continues to draw Dawn's eyes pulling them away from what she was suppose to be doing. She couldn't believe her sister would blatantly beat on the young girl just because she had taken her down to see Spike. It had been her idea in the first place, Madison had only been along to protect her. If anyone should have gotten hit over the incident, not that she thought either of them should have, it was her.

Worst yet was the redhead's refusal to admit that the blow had been anything other then accidental. Each time she asks her Madison simply maintains that their sparring session had simply gotten out of hand. Dawn hadn't bothered telling the redhead that she had witnessed everything from her sister's bedroom window.

"All the wild night breezes in your memory ever. And everything looks so complete. When you're walking out on the street. And the wind catches your feet. Sends you flying. Crying. Ooh-wee! Wild night is calling. Ooh-wee! Wild night is calling."

The young brunette found the sound of Madison's soft, slurring voice as she sang the lyrics to be almost hypnotic. Listening to her sing was soothing and was actually helping her concentrate on her homework. Or perhaps that was Madison herself.

"All the girls walk by, dressed up for each other. And the boys do the boogie woogie, on the corner of the street. And the people passing by, just stare in wild wonder. And on the inside jukebox roars out just like thunder. And everything looks so complete. When you're walking out on the..."

At least it would have been if her sister hadn't blackened her eye. Or if Madison wasn't so close mouthed about the subject. "I saw what happened," she finally blurts out.

"So what?" Michael asks with stopping her playing.

Dawn growls silently as she drops her pencil onto the smooth pages of her geometry book. "Buffy hit you," she answers clearly aggravated.

"Things got rough, weaved when I should've bobbed," she responds without breaking rhythm.

"You were standing still," Dawn snaps.

"Like I said, should've bobbed," she murmurs softly.

Dawn bounces off the bed snapping, "would you stop covering it up?"

Michael glares slightly as she glances up at the brunette as she stops strumming the guitar. Dropping the pick from between her fingers she begins picking at individual strings while the fingers of her left hand shift smoothly from position to position as she switches to Alanis Morissette's Utopia. "what would you like me to tell, that your sister has anger management problems, or that she over protective when it comes to the people she cares about?"

"She shouldn't have done it," Dawn replies angrily.

"It's nothing," Michael responds.

"Yes it is."

"Just drop it," Michael growls turning her back on Dawn. Starting from the beginning she picks up the lyrics of the soft hauntingly melodic tune. Her voice resonates with a wash of pain filled hopefulness.

"We'd gather around. All in a room. Fasten our belts, engage in dialogue. We'd all slow down. Rest without guilt. Not lie without fear. Disagree sans judgment.

"We would stay and respond and expand and include and allow and forgive and
enjoy and evolve and discern and inquire and accept and admit and divulge and
open and reach out and speak up.

"This is utopia, this is my utopia, this is my ideal, my end in sight. Utopia, this is my utopia, this is my nirvana, my ultimate.

"We'd open our arms. We'd all jump in. We'd all coast down, into safety nets.

"We would share and listen and support and welcome, be propelled by passion not invest in outcomes, we would breathe and be charmed and amused by difference,
be gentle and make room for every emotion.

"This is utopia, this is my utopia, this is my ideal, my end in sight. Utopia, this is my utopia, this is my nirvana, my ultimate.

"We'd provide forums. We'd all speak out. We'd all be heard. We'd all feel seen.

"We'd rise post-obstacle more defined more grateful, we would heal be humbled and be unstoppable, we'd hold close and let go and know when to do which, we'd release and disarm and stand up and..."

A soft knock at the door comes a moment before Buffy calls out, "Dawn, Madison. Meeting downstairs," and then she's gone.

"...whatever it was, it was big and strong. Stronger than.... I mean, I don't know how it's possible. You hear things in this town, living here in Sunnydale, but nobody actually believes them. You know, you'd have to be crazy, and... You guys think that I'm crazy, don't you?" Nancy finishes looking around at the young people around her.

Xander scoffs saying, "I don't."

Michael had to give the guy some credit. He actually seemed to have a calming influence on the woman.

"We've all seen things, too, Nancy," Buffy informs her. The sincerity practically dripping from her words.

"And we're going to take care of this," Xander adds puffing his chest out slightly. "It's your lucky night... Considering, you know, your dog just got all ate up and stuff," he looks slightly embarrassed mentioning her dog. Then he tries to cover it by inanely asking, "hey, can I freshen up your tea?"

Nancy shakes her head slightly as she says, "no. That's okay, thanks."

Xander shakes his head in disgust while Michael smirks at him. Xander sees the young woman grinning at him and glowers back at her. He had heard about her encounter with Buffy's fist and the reason for it and had his own words to add about bringing Dawn down to see Spike. He was going to use words since Madison had made it painfully obvious early on that she could kick his butt whenever she chose.

Dawn ignores the by-play going on between Xander and Madison irritated with both of them. Instead she concentrates on helping Buffy figure out this case. "So, you say this thing just came up out of the ground without any warnings or signs or anything?"

Nancy shrugs slightly, "just this kind of rumbling, you know. Like just before an earthquake."

"From beneath you, it devours," Buffy mumbles to softly to be heard clearly unless you knew what she was saying to begin with.

"What?" Nancy asks having heard Buffy's murmur.

Buffy shakes her head saying, "nothing."

"Nothing good," Dawn adds causing Michael to give the brunette a questioning look that she deftly ignores.

"Sounding monsterific all right," Xander supplies pulling Nancy's eyes off the two sisters.

"Should we round up the gang?" Dawn asks enthusiastically.

"Good thinking. Except," he gestures around the room, "this is the gang."

Her voice full of confidence as she begins Buffy says, "Look, Nancy, we're going to get into this. And I promise you, if your dog is alive, we're going to find him. The only thing that I need is a little..."

"What you need is help. Fortunately. You've got me," Spike comments cockily from the foyer pulling all eyes to him. Seconds seem to drag by as everyone stares at the bleach blonde vampire.

"Well he looks a lot better then this morning," Michael mutters taking in the fresh clothes, the slick back hair, and the sane look in his eyes.

"Buffy," Spike greets solemnly.

"Spike," Buffy replies as she stands up. With a stiff back she walks away from him towards the window that she stares out without really seeing anything.

Last time she had seen Spike she had been ecstatic, but she could blame that on the stress of the moment. Dawn being in trouble and everything else that was going on down in the basement. There hadn't actually been any joy in finding him down in the basement. She could convince herself of that, if she tries really hard.

She was upset about what Spike had tried to do, more then upset, but she was just as angry about what she had done to him last year. Allowing herself to sink down to his level. Worse she had enjoy it, and despised herself more then anything every single second because she had, because it was Spike that was actually reaching her. She was the slayer, she was suppose to be stronger then that. Have more self control and not give into the temptation that was in front of her.

Now after almost a week of Xander constantly pushing her to stake Spike, or if she couldn't bring herself to do it then he'd be more then willing to take care of the problem. She was just beginning to realize how difficult her life had become with Spike being back. She had already loved one vampire and didn't think her friends could survive a repeat of the experience if she were to allow herself to fall in love second one. Not that she'd have any friends left if that did happen.

Then today Madison taking Dawn down to see him. She had expected more from the reckless but mature fifteen year old. It was almost like everyone was conspiring against her. She could hear the people in the room talking behind her. Everybody but Madison. The girl was being unusually quite, or she was being disquietingly observant. For a fifteen year old she had an alarmingly accurate, if highly cynical way of interpreting the motives and actions of the people around her.

Turning back around she keeps her voice as emotionless as possible as she says, "you've changed."

"I have," Spike agrees.

"New clothing. Better hair. Not so much with the crazy. I like it. Now what do you want?" She demands feeling everyone's eyes on her.

Spike's face shows signs of his discomfort as he responds saying, "easy. If you think I like putting myself here, surrounded by people who don't particularly like me, you'd be wrong."

Xander stands scowling at the vampire. He makes no attempt to keep hold of his temper as he threatens him saying, "if you're uncomfortable, we can make you leave."

Spike ignores Xander. After spending years around the man it was an easy task, almost as easy as forgetting he didn't need to breathe. "I'll be quick. We need to talk. Want to do that here, or privately?"

"I'm thinking here. In the company of good friends and pointy weapons," Xander replies if possible with even more anger coloring his voice.

Buffy's glare flickers slightly between Xander and Spike. Right now her life would be so much easier if neither one of them were in it. But both of them were in it and she really didn't want either one out of it, but it would be nice if they could, just for once, get along without her or someone else playing referee. "You said something about quick?"

Spike nods as he begins, "I did. Before I start, and for the record, the last you saw me. The last any of you saw me," he adds with a meaningful look towards Dawn. "I was a mess... out of my head, admitted. This last week, living in the school basement, well, you saw me. And well... if I said anything upsetting then my apologizes."

"That's it?" Xander growls angrily.

"Xander," Buffy begins as she turns to face her long time friend. "Just leave it?" She pleads with her long time friend. She lets out a soft sigh as Xander nods reluctantly. Turning towards Spike she follows him out of the pallor.

Dawn stands up from the couch, turning to look out the window into the night. Buffy had been gone for a while now. Her, Xander, Spike, along with Nancy. They had all left at the same time and so far nobody had checked in yet. It was getting to the point where she was seriously thinking about going out and looking for them.

With a slight peek over her shoulder at Madison she amends her last thought. If she could somehow slip away from the ever watchful redhead Buffy had set as her keeper she'd go out and look for them. She found it amazing that the two could set aside their ire for each other so quickly to agree on this one subject. Not really set aside since the two hadn't mended fences, they barely talked about it, they just teamed up to keep her out of harm's way.

"I could be a help to them," she tells the younger girl.

"Maybe," Michael agrees glancing up from the thick book she was reading to look at Dawn. "But I got the feeling they need some time to work things out."

"What if they shouldn't work things out?" Dawn demands icily.

Michael sighs slightly as she rubs her thumb and first finger over her closed eyes. Standing up she walks over to look out the window on Dawn's right side, almost at her shoulder. "Look, I know you probably don't want to hear this," she draws in a deep breath before continuing, "but I don't think Buffy was entirely blameless in her relationship with Spike."

Dawn eyes turn cold as she stares at the girl standing next to her. "Are you saying she asked for it?" She growls darkly.

"Of course not," Michael snaps angrily as she turns to face Dawn. "No woman asks to go through that. I was talking about their relationship, whatever it was."

"And how would you know anything about that? You weren't even here," she points out.

Michael sighs again, a slight exhalation before saying, "didn't need to be here then to read her body language tonight." Turning back towards the window she stares back into the darkness that was broken by tiny pinpricks of light from other houses. "If you know what you're looking at Buffy can be a very easy person to read. After Spike showed up there was as much guilt as there was anger."

Dawn reaches out her hand towards the bruise on Madison's cheek as she says, "maybe she was feeling guilty about hitting you."

As much as she would love to melt into the young girl's touch she just can't bring herself to do it. Dawn doesn't need to get involved with someone like her, someone that used to be an almost thirty year old man.

Barking a short laugh Michael spins away from Dawn's touch. "Right," she begins, "your sister feeling guilty about clocking me upside the head. What do you think the chances for that are? About as good as me ever apologizing for taking you down to see Spike," she finishes just an instant before throwing herself back into the chair she had stood from.

The door swings open slowly from Buffy pushing it inward as she staggers into the foyer. She doesn't even pause to push it close as she climbs the stairs. The only word that Michael could use to describe Buffy as she crosses her field of vision was; crushed, devastated, despondent. She looks like an emotional train wreck.

Dawn moves forward at the same time Michael rises from the chair. "She looks..."

"Like she did when mom died," Dawn interjects as she heads towards the stairs.

Michael grabs hold of her arm pulling her up short. As the brunette turns toward she asks, "what are you going to do?"

"Talk to her, find out what happened," she answers.

Michael nods as she lets go of Dawn's arm. The brunette quickly rushes up the stairs once she's free. Michael goes back to the chair she's been hopping in and out of and plops back down and settles in as she waits for Dawn to return.

Dawn stops just inside the pallor doorway. She had left her sister sleeping in her room, she had actually cried herself to sleep. Once Dawn found out why, or as much as Buffy was willing to tell her, she could understand why. To say that Buffy was emotionally shattered would have been like saying fire was hot or ice was cold. She felt responsible for causing it to happen in the first place.

It hadn't taken her long to get Buffy to tell her what had happened between her and Spike tonight. The gist of it anyway. That after leaving Sunnydale Spike had somehow gotten his soul restored because he thought it was what Buffy would want.

That was why he was acting insane. The guilt, the remorse. They were tearing him apart.

Spike had confessed everything to Buffy, in of all places, a church. Then in keeping with normal Buffy fashion she ran away leaving Spike alone.

After listening to Buffy she knows what she has to do. She wasn't going to do the same things her sister did. She wasn't going to run away. Dawn had made her decision and nothing was going to stop her from carrying it out. "Do you remember when you said if I needed help with anything all I had to was ask?"

At the first sound of Dawn's desperate, pleading voice Michael turns toward the brunette. Seeing her moist eyes she's at her side a short moment later. "Of course I do," she replies softly. She would do just about anything to remove that desolate look from Dawn's normally pristine face.

"Did you mean it?"

"Just name it," Michael answers solemnly as she runs a gentle thumb across Dawn's cheek wiping away the tears.

"We need to go get Spike, bring him back here, get him a motel room. Something, anything. We just can't leave him there," she pleads.

Michael grabs hold of Dawn's shoulders rubbing them soothingly. "Hey, its gonna be okay. We'll go get him, if Buffy has a problem with him staying here then I'll get him an apartment," she promises the young brunette.

________________________________________________________________________

Hurt - Johnny Cash

I hurt myself today
to see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
the only thing that's real
the needle tears a hole
the old familiar sting
try to kill it all away
but I remember everything
what have I become?
my sweetest friend
everyone I know
goes away in the end
you could have it all
my empire of dirt

I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of thorns
on my liar's chair
full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
beneath the stain of time
the feelings disappear
you are someone else
I am still right here
what have I become?
my sweetest friend
everyone I know
goes away in the end
you could have it all
my empire of dirt

I will let you down
I will make you hurt

if I could start again
a million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way