Author- dawnroberts

pairing- B/S A/X T/W

warning- Set after 'the gift' post Buffs death. :(

( ditto on all of the above for the rest of the chapters)


When The Dust Settled

Copyright- Hi Joss waves I know, I told them that the characters all belong to you and Mutant Enemy. Joss, why are there cops behind you? With their billy clubs out.... You get the picture ;)

Acknowledgments- I KNOW I spelled that wrong. But thanks, to Seb , my new Aussie buddy & partial Beta Reader.


Prologue

Spike sat cradling The Slayer's limp form. He touched his face to hers, willing her to wake up. His tears mingled with Buffy's, still fresh on her pale cheek. He sat rocking back in forth in the wreckage he recovered her from for what seemed like only minutes when her felt a small hand slip inside of his own and he looked up into they tiny face of a 14 year old who had lost her last little piece of the world.

"Come on Spike, the sun." She spoke softly, squeezing his hand almost to make sure he was even listening because he didn't seem to acknowledge her words.

Spike noticed for the first time the sun already creeping up behind Dawn, greedy fingers threatening to pry him away from his love. He bowed his head again but held onto Dawn's hand. He could no longer look her in the eyes. He had failed her, let The Doc get his scaly hands near her. It was his fault. He would sit here till the sun lapped at his leather and left him as dust, banished to the wind.

He didn't even look up when he felt the skin on the back of his neck sizzle and burn with searing heat. Suddenly Dawn's hands left his and latched around his lower arm, pulling him into the shadows. He jerked his head up when he was enveloped in the darkness, only to see Dawn's angry face and feel her kick his shin, making him wince, more in surprise than pain.

"How could you?" She growled, tears flowing endlessly down her face. Spike just looked at her, knowing good and well that she would never forgive him for letting Buffy die. He wouldn't have been surprised if she'd have left him in the sun's path. "You can't leave me too. You can't even think of leaving. Because...she's gone." Dawn flung her arms around the shocked vamp and sobbed into his chest. She was shaking so bad that although a small part of Spike told him to back away, he held onto her, stroking her hair and weeping silently. "Don't ever go away." She whimpered.

"Never, lit'l bit." He promised, in a tone only she could hear, although he didn't really acknowledge anyone else to be there. Dawn stayed nestled in his arms as violent sobs wracked her petite frame until Giles and the others pulled the bawling child from his grasp and left with Xander, unnoticed by Spike, carrying the lifeless body of the world's savior in his arms and looking down on her hauntingly peaceful face with the same remorse filled expression that played across Spike usually cocky features.

Spike slid down the wall that acted as his shield, and the only thing stopping him from running into the sunlight and putting and end to his misery was an affiance he had made with the only person he felt he had left. It was the thought of causing the small lady more grief, ( which he couldn't figure his death would do) that kept him alive that much longer.

"P-pretty Woman," Tara said with a shy smile,"be-because that's your favorite movie, right?"referring to her movie of choice for the evening.

"NO!" Dawn screamed inside her head."I despise this movie. I loathe every every particle of it."

"Yea-huh." She answered with fake earnest, switching into auto-Dawn mode. It was the only way she could take any of them anymore. Tuesday, she wondered where Xander was. They'd had the same schedule for months. Monday Willow stayed with her, Tuesday it was Xander, the next day promised a foolish ex-vengeance demon, Thursday Tara and Willow, Friday Xander and Anya, Saturday was luck of the draw, and Sunday meant quality time with the stuffy librarian. They kept her sheltered, shut out from the world where dark creatures lurked and big sisters died. And she just smiled, letting them shuttle her about and convince her that everything is okay.

Hearing a horn honk in the driveway, Tara gave Dawn a quick squeeze on the shoulder just before she hurried out of the door and past Xander to walk home. Dawn tried to smile at Xander as he rambled his usual "What's up, Dawnster?" but her grin faltered quickly and Xander layed a worried hand on her shoulder.

"You ok, kiddo?" he asked cautiously, seeing a look in Dawn's eyes that he couldn't really recognize.

"Peachy," Dawn replied, turning her back on him and going to put the movie into the VCR as Xander plopped down onto the couch, coffee table in front of him already pre-littered with junk food for his arrival. She sat down in the armchair across the room from Xander and hit "play" on the remote. After watching silently through the beginning of the movie, she peered over at Xander, who was laughing like a buffoon and covered in corn chip remains. Anger bubbled up inside of her and she couldn't control the need to scream at him. Scream the question that was on her lips every time she even looked at Xander, at any of them. So, standing up, she walked over and slapped him in the face.

"Why?" she growled angrily, her slap causing Xander to spew corn chip bits all around himself.

"Well jeez, Dawn. I really don't know why he didn't choose that condom."Xander tried his best to use stupidity to calm Dawn down. It was the way he handled what he didn't understand.

Dawn was staring at him, tears sliding down her face, and Xander could tell she was mad, she was visibly shaking.

"Two months Xander, and nothing. Not a 'hey', not a visit under a flaming blanket, not even a 'just want to let you know I'm sorry you god damn sister died'! I know you made it happen." Dawn crossed her arms in front of herself protectively.

"Dawnie,"Xander reached out to touch Dawn's arm and she recoiled, backing away a step.

"NO!" she screamed, "Don't Dawnie me. I know it's your fault." she wiped at her eyes angrily, forcing back the tears she'd held in for so long. She wouldn't give Xander the chance to comfort her.

"What did you do to him?"

Xander finally realized what Dawn was getting at. She had figured out what he had tried so hard to keep from her and he wasn't about to let his secret slip. "Dawnster," he said tentatively,"I didn't do anything to Sp-"

"Lier."She cut him off coldly.And when he tried to argue his innocence further, she said the word again, hissing through her teeth like a snake."You." She growled, pointing a shaking finger at him,"All of you. Babying me, molly-coddling me. Treating me like I'm a porcelain doll, behind a wall of glass. For God's sake! You guys are planning my birthday party like I'm some 5 year old, mourning her pet hamster."

Xander sat in stunned silenced and Dawn couldn't help but smile in spite of herself. Was it possible she was actually getting through to him?

"I.Need.Spike. He's the only one that treats me like who I am. Not a child, not Buffy's Fragile Little Sister. Dawn Summers. 14 year old teenager who needs something real, something harsh to hold onto." Dawn saw tears gather in the corners of Xander's eyes and felt a pang of guilt. But she new what she did had to be done."Sorry." She whispered, half truthfully, turning to the stairs and pushing Xander off when he reached for her arm. "I'm going up stairs. Alone."

Xander sighed. "Possessed.." He thought silently, although he knew he was wrong. He closed his eyes in attempt to block the verbal bashing from his mind as he heard the familiar click of Dawn's CD player and the loud angst of a song he recognized to be from Nirvana. His thoughts slipped to the series of events with a certain blond blood-sucker that led to all of this "trauma" Dawn was experiencing.

He had walked out into the porch of Bu..Dawn's house to see Spike standing there with a pink teddy bear in his hand. Xander could remember feeling the need to chuckle before sombering.

"Spike what are you doing.Here?'' He asked coldy.

Spike grinned nervously."Sorry, Harris. Cuddles 'ere isn't for you." Xander didn't even bother to come back with something cocky so Spike continued. "I've come to say hello to bit, cheer her up a lit'l." He tried to advance up the porch but Xander cut him off.

"No, Spike." He stared at Spike determinedly, while Spike snorted loudly.

"Come of it, Harris. A lit'l big for your britches? The tiny miss is ruler of Revello Drive now, an' till my invite gets revoked-" He attempted to move past Xander but simply stood his ground.

"Spike," he asked almost impatiently.

"Harris?" Spike crossed his arm defiantly, 'Cuddles' dangling limply across his chest.

"Do you love Dawn, Spike?" Xander asked bluntly.

Spike glared at him, not sure what Harris was getting at, and not sure how to answer him. It figured he'd start with the truth."Well, yea. Course I care about Niblet." he lifted his scarred eyebrow questioningly.

"Fine." Xander said blankly. "Then leave."

"Bugger you! Why the bloody he-."

"Because, Spike. Dawn needs something now. She needs a normal life. Not normal by your standards. Or Buffy's, or the Hellmouth's. Normal by the rest of the world's. The world that doesn't include demons and hell dimension portals that you sister jumps through." Xander had to pause, his eyes were brimming with tears and he felt his throat clenching shut, but he forced himself on.

"Spike. If you feel for Dawn the way, the way Buffy knew you did, you'll walk away. Let her live a normal life." he stopped and look at the silent figure across from him.

Spike looked at Xander, his face solemn and expressionless. Since... that day, his world revolved around Dawn; calling her, bringing her home when she ran away, wiping her endless tears. The lit'l bit meant everything to him. And he had to prove it to everyone else. He figured this would be the way. Tossing 'Cuddles' to Xander, he turned away and walked off into the distance, and when Xander could see nothing more of him then his platinum hair Spike called back "Give Bit my best." And vanished.

While Xander was lost in thought, Dawn was busy upstairs. Nirvana turned up to full almost volume and Kurt Cobain chanting about how he doesn't have a gun oddly calmed her as she packed her pink duffel bag. This was the routine lately, her and enter name of any scooby-sitter here would watch a movie and she would go to her room for the rest of the night. Except the movie didn't usually end in her slapping Xander and running away. But whatever. She finished packing and put on her leather coat, tucking a stake in her belt for good measure. Then she turned her CD player up another notch , knowing that the eaves she climbed down on to get out her window creaked, and cambered out of the window, into the rainy night and to the cemetery.

When she got to the center of the cemetery where the too familiar crypt was, she realized she was drenched. It was pouring rain and she was freezing. She figured Spike was asleep, since if he sensed her arrival, he probably would have came out. Unless... unless he didn't care. He probably didn't want anything more to do with her than Xander did. Discouraged, and feeling rather homeless, Dawn settled down on the step in front of Spike's door and sobbed, her anguish being partially masked by the wind.

Spike felt worse for the wear. Tonight he had killed 1 Kamas demon, 6 vamps, and 2 bottles of tequila, and felt like he was about to go ass over teakettle. He wasn't drunk, or anywhere near that honestly, he was just exhausted, lost. He flopped onto his bed, glad that he had come across this mattress, it made sleeping in a crypt much more bearable. As he struggled to drift into sleep, he heard noises and movement outside, but he simply assumed they were from the storm a'brewin. No one would be dumb enough to leave their house in this weather.

20 minutes later, when she was so cold she almost couldn't remember where she was or how she got there, Dawn gave in. Maybe Spike didn't want anything to do with her, but he wouldn't turn her away, she hoped. She pushed through the stone door and stumbled into the ill lit cavern that was the top level of the crypt. Glad to see lights on down below where Spike's actual 'home' was, she slid her duffel bag up to rest at her elbow securely, and traveled down the ladder, slipping a few times, because her water logged sneakers didn't exactly have that much traction. When she got to the bottom, she saw Spike on his bed, fast asleep. Kinda dead looking, because the only breaths he took were occasional, and she assumed they were more habitual and needless then anything. She walked over to his bedside, and just as she neared the very edge of the bed, his eyes flickered open and she jumped.

"Niblet?" He asked worriedly, sitting up and rubbing his eyes almost like a child. Even with her being rain soaked, Spike could see her crying. It ate at his heart and at the same time made him wish he could rip Xander's out. Two months he hadn't even seen her. She looked a world different. Older, but more helpless than ever. He stood up, looking at the smaller figure.

"I hate him!" Dawn said shakily . Her words were bunched up and jumbled, but Spike could make out most of what was troubling her."I hate them all. Willow, Anya, and, Giles too. Oh, and Tara. They think they know what's best for me. They cart me around, planning every single thing so that they can be right next to me, Dawn The Helpless Toddler or something. Normal teenager my ass! Why..."she was forced to pause her next complaint as tears emptied from her eyes and down her face, and sobs threatened to choke her. She sank onto Spike's bed, and silently, he sat next to her, knowing from experience that more than anything she needed someone to listen."They don't get it, Spike. I need it. The pain. The fighting, cursing, swearing. Harshness. Why don't they understand?"

Spike spoke her name softly, but she continued. "I mean, what's wrong with me? Why isn't anyone willing to be close to me? They all go away. Mom, Buffy. I mean sure, the gang is there now, but I see it in everyone's eyes. They don't want to be there. You..." she trailed off, afraid to accuse him of anything."Why did you leave Spike?''

Spike stood nervously. He was trying to think of a way to put his absence that wasn't a lie, but didn't incriminate Harris."Screw it." he thought to himself after a moment. He got to his knees infront of Dawn and looked into her tear-filled eyes." Dawn. It had nothing to do with something being the matter with you. It. Was Xander. The bloody ponce told me that if I cared about you I'd leave."

Dawn snorted indignantly."Thats a little half ass backwards, ain't it? Everyday, Spike. I'm herded about. Soothing words, empty promises. The whole nine yards. Nothing.Is.Real.But every night. You'd call. And I'd hear someone who cared. Not just because they thought I had no one else. Because they cared about me." She fought at her tears again. Spike, still kneeling infront of her, shook her head angrily.

"Dawn, listen." He cupped her cheek with his hand and rubbed his thumb along her face slowly. "They all care about you. Every.One.Of.Them. Yeah, maybe they need to. But they do anyway. Regardless. Because they're your bloody friends, your bloody family."

"If they care about me, why did Xander force you to leave?" She looked at him, no longer bothering to stop her tears.

"Because, Bit. He's right for once. You need a normal life. Without me." he tried to smile.

"I can't. I can't lose one more person. She's dead Spike. Not coming back. Ever." Dawn was now sobbing and shaking so hard she struggled to breathe.

"There, there, Luv. Shhhh. S'ok." He wrapped his arms around her shoulders and held her as she broke down.

A/N- Teary, yes I know. But it had to be written. It will hopefully get happier with time, Chapter 2 in the makes. Please R&R!!!!