"To the sky!" Tara shrieked, wriggling fiercely in Willow's restraining arms. "Build it to the sky!"

Anya's pent-up energy burst, propelling her out of her chair. "I can't take this anymore, Xander! We have to do something!"

"Ahn, hon," Xander soothed. "We're doing the best we can..."

She rounded on him, hands clenching into fists. "Easy for you to say! You think I haven't noticed the pattern here? First Spike, then Tara? Who's next in the Scooby Auxillary Club? Why, that would be me! And I'm sorry, but I don't feel like waiting around to see whether she brain-sucks me or turns me into bruise pudding like Spike!"

"I don't believe she's intentionally following a pattern, Anya," Giles sighed.

"Oh no? You think not? Spike told us Glory said the Key was new in the world, someone in the Slayer's circle. The monks made sure Dawn didn't look new -- but y'know who does look pretty freakin' new? Chip-boy, Tara the Southern import, and -- oh yes! The former demon, with no documentation! You can see why I'm just a bit nervous!"

"Maybe we ought to let slip it's Soldier Boy," Spike suggested. "Make like Buffy sent him off for his own protection. She'd have a merry chase through the jungle tryin' to find him, right? Buy us some time."

Xander blinked. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but that's actually not a bad idea. I mean, in terms of new-ness, Riley beats out Spike and Anya..."

"I'm not aiming a hellgod at Riley," Buffy snapped, not skipping a beat in her pacing. "It's bad enough that all of you are involved."

"She's spent months tryin' to find the Key in tiny ol' Sunnyhell, pet. You really think she'd be able to locate Captain Cardboard on a covert ops mission with nothin' but 'somewhere in the jungle' to go by?"

Buffy's pacing grew more frantic. "I don't have any way to warn him... and we don't know if she'd even fall for it! We don't know how much Glory knows! Tara and Dawn are both female... they even sort of look alike! She could have a description!"

"You know what I don't understand?" Anya blurted. "Why didn't they make the Key someone like Riley? I mean... why'd they make Dawn... Dawn? I mean, yeah, they wanted the Slayer to protect her, but... why not make her a big strapping man with enormous muscles and martial arts expertise? Why on earth would they make her young and helpless?"

"Hey!" Dawn yelped in outrage.

"Well... I'm sorry, sweetie, but you are," Anya insisted. "They made you from Buffy, but didn't give you Slayer strength. They made you too young to drive a car or buy a gun or rent a hotel room in an anonymous city -- any of the things normal humans can do in self-defense. You're even too young to get a job and make money. It just doesn't make any sense."

Giles attempted to wrest the conversation back on topic. "Spike, what exactly did she say to you that indicated her knowledge of the Key's characteristics?"

"Said it was new in the world. Said it couldn't be me, 'cause I was impure. Don't think she knew she was lookin' for a female, otherwise her minions wouldn'ta nabbed me... main thing was the purity thing."

"Smart little monkeys," Tara whispered.

Willow stroked her hair. "Baby... ssh..."

"Smart little monkeys, making my Key a carpet-muncher..."

Willow flinched, trying to draw Tara's head down onto her chest. "Sorry, guys, she's... well, you know..."

"Hang on," Spike interrupted, rising from his seat with an upraised hand. "She's not rantin'... she's quotin'."

Xander snorted. "Oh yeah, like..."

Spike fixed him with a glare. "Over a century with Dru, mate. I do know the difference."

"What do you mean, she's quoting?"

Spike knelt in front of Tara, brushing back a lock of her hair and affecting the soothing tones he'd used with Drusilla. "Here now, Princess... you've got your nice Willow right here and you're perfectly safe... why don't you tell us just what that nasty blonde lady said to you? Might make you feel better, love..."

"Whatever, Spike, do you seriously think that..."

"Smart little monkeys, making my Key a carpet-muncher," Tara moaned. "Well -- one way to keep the Key pure, I guess. Oh, this is nice. Just hangin' out, just us girls. You like that sort of thing, don't you?"

Spike's eyes grew wide in horror, and he turned to Willow. "Red, has Tara ever...?"

"Ever... what?"

"Ever... er... been with a bloke?"

"No, I don't think she ever..." Willow broke off, eyebrows soaring. "Oh God, that's not what she meant by 'pure', was it?"

"I thought she meant bein' a vamp n' all, but..."

"Well, that would explain why they made Dawn so young," Anya added smugly. "If they wanted to ensure that she would not have penetrative sexual intercourse."

"Ohmigod eeeew," Dawn shrieked.

"Glory said to Tara that the key needed to be kept pure," Giles said slowly. "Does that mean that Dawn could be, er... rendered unusable?"

"Giles, don't even go there," Buffy snapped.

"I assure you, Buffy, the topic is just as distasteful to me as it is to you. However..."

"Look, it doesn't matter whether Dawn is the Key or not! As long as Glory thinks the Key is someone I care about, we're all in danger!"

"I'd say in terms of what Glory wants to do with the Key, it matters a heck of a lot," Anya insisted. "Hellgod, mystical Key that opens something... I smell apocalypse."

"Protecting Dawn is, of course, our first priority," Giles said gently. "But preventing Glory from getting the Key is also of major importance."

"If Dawnie wasn't the Key anymore, none of Glory's key-sniffers would work on her, right?" Willow asked. "The snakes and things. We could all, like... go to Paris, and she wouldn't be able to find us."

"Oh, yeah? What are we supposed to do? Just pack up and move to France and never come back?"

"Runnin' out of time," Spike said under his breath.

Xander hit him on the shoulder. "What was that, Evil Dead?"

"Just remembered somethin' else the bint said. She said she was runnin' out of time to find the Key. Maybe that means whatever lock the Nibblet fits in isn't gonna be around forever. Maybe we wouldn't have to never come back... maybe we'd just have to stay gone until her deadline passes."

"What's this 'we' shit, Kemosabe?" Xander glared.

"Look, not sayin' I fancy a vacation with you lot, but if you think I'm stickin' around to be the only person who saw you last, you've miraculously managed to be dumber than you look."

Giles frowned. "She didn't, perhaps, give an idea of how short her window of opportunity was?"

"Seemed bloody frantic. I don't think it's long."

"If we could... deactivate Dawn, and escape until such time as Glory..."

"Giles!" Buffy shrieked. "Deactivate? Hello, that is my fourteen-year-old baby sister!"

"Who is sitting right here," Dawn protested. "Buffy... whatever Glory wants to do to me, I'm thinking it's probably a heck of a lot worse than sex."

"You're too young. It's disgusting. I won't allow..."

"Look what she did to Tara!" Dawn shrieked. "Look what she did to Spike! Anya's right -- she could be next! Any of you could be next! Do you have any idea how guilty I feel?"

"Dawnie, it's not your fault..."

"And if I could stop it by doing something simple that half the kids in my class are doing anyway, and I didn't? Then it would be my fault!"

"Half the children in your class -- good lord," Giles muttered.

"In my time, girls Dawn's age were already married and having babies," Anya said helpfully.

"In your time, people thought evil spirits gave them chicken pox," Buffy spat back.

Anya blinked and tried again. "Well, sometimes..."

"No," Buffy bellowed. "A vast reservoir of no! We'll find another way. End of discussion."

"Buffy..." Dawn tried.

"No, Dawn. I believe I said end of discussion. Now, let's go back to the going to Paris thing..."

"That's great," Dawn huffed, crossing her arms. "Run away. That's gonna work so well when you're carrying a homing beacon with you. Like playing hide-and-go-seek and leaving a map."

"You are not a homing beacon," Buffy insisted.

"Oh yeah? Crazy people can see me! Big snakes can see me! How long before Glory just makes another key-finder-thingie that takes her straight to me?"

"I'll kill it, like I killed the last one."

"Oh yeah? And what if it's like, seventy stories tall and all Godzilla?"

Buffy's lips compressed into a fine line. "Then it will take me a little bit longer to kill it."

"I don't need your permission. You're not mom. I'll find a boy at school..."

"Then you won't go to school!"

"Then I'll hit on the mailman," Dawn spat. "Or maybe I'll hit on Angel. He likes 'em underage... right?"

Spike managed to turn his burst of laughter into a coughing fit. Xander glared anyway.

"I was seventeen, Dawn," Buffy insisted. "It's a whole different thing."

"It was your seventeenth birthday," Dawn countered. "Which means you were pretty much sixteen. And I'm almost fifteen. One year, big diff."

"It is a... big diff!" Buffy exploded. "The answer is no and the answer is final."

"Dark," Tara moaned. "All dark... so much pain..."

"Buffy," Giles said gently. "You do realize that whatever Glory plans to do to Dawn will almost certainly result in Dawn's death, don't you?"

"I'll protect her," Buffy growled.

"Like you protected Tara?" Anya asked.

"Tara was alone. We'll be together. From here on out, we're completely buddy system."

"Yes, that makes me feel much better," Anya drawled. "We're protected from the unstoppable Hellgod by a means of preventing toddlers from getting lost in the mall. Why did I ever worry?"

"Shut up!" Buffy cried. "I do not need this... this..."

"Honesty?" Anya supplied.

"New plan," Buffy announced. "We're leaving. That suggestion, I like. Okay, we've got Xander's car, Giles' car, Mom's car and Spike's car..."

"If you want to stick together, love... I know of a camper I can... borrow."

"Good. Better. Spike, you do that." Buffy looked around the room, processing. "Willow, take Tara, get her medication and whatever you need to do lots of spells. Xander, Anya, you're on road trip patrol. Food, water, first aid, survival supplies. Giles -- weapons. Glory will be looking for me, so I'll go with Giles... Dawn, you go with Spike and get the camper-thing. Everybody clear? We'll meet back here in... let's say three hours? Will that give everyone enough time?"

She looked around at the nodding heads, and tipped her own. "All right then. Back here, three hours."

"Wow," Dawn said, hopping into the passenger seat and smiling at Spike. "When you said 'borrow', I was totally sure you meant 'steal'."

"Normally, that'd be a safe assumption, Nibblet." Spike grinned at her, turning on the headlights. "In this case, however, legal was faster. Clem loves his yearly trips to Mexico. Brought me back a blanket last year. Can't ever have too many blankets."

Dawn chewed her thumbnail. "I thought demons were supposed to be evil?"

"'Spose he is, by your sister's definition... soulless n' all." Spike peered at the dashboard clock. "Got two hours n' forty to kill... you wanna stop off an' get some clothes, maybe somethin' to read on the trip? Oughta foil these windows before sunup. Check an' see if that telly's got a player, would you? Maybe we could nick a Playstation..."

"Spike... you're evil, right?"

"Evil as they come, heart as black as tar, ruthless as..." Spike paused to light a cigarette.

"So you, like... don't have any morals, right?"

"Wouldn't say that. Just got evil ones." Spike blew smoke in Dawn's face. "See? Secondhand smoke, very wicked."

"Eww. No, I mean... you're a rule-breaker, right? A rebel? Don't do what society says?"

"Damn straight. Now put on your seatbelt."

Dawn complied. "And some rules are stupid, right? Or arbitrary. Like, in England, they drive on the left. Here, they drive on the right. No reason, just a decision."

"Sucks for us lefties, too."

"Exactly. And like... you can't be President unless you're thirty-five. Who picked that number? Like on your thirty-fifth birthday, all of a sudden you know stuff about foreign policy?"

Spike grinned. "Not shaggin' you, Bit. But nice lead-up."

"Why not? What kind of evil guy are you? C'mon, statutory rape... big evil fun!"

"Yeah... 'til big sis crams a tree through my chest."

"I so totally wouldn't tell her..."

"Answer's still no, love. Be bloody weird. And you copped it back at Harris'... playin' with his veal was more Angelus' style than mine."

"You thought Buffy was all sexy when she was sixteen. I saw the way you stared at her."

"Technically, you did no such thing."

"You just don't think I'm pretty," Dawn pouted.

"Nibblet, you're bloody gorgeous an' gettin' more so by the day."

"But not as much as Buffy."

"You're prettier'n Buffy, which is somethin' you're never repeatin' to anyone."

"Really?" Dawn exclaimed in delight.

"Really really. Now check n' see if the telly's got a player, yeah? We'll rent some videos, never take 'em back." He shot her a leer. "See? Still evil."

"You rented movies," Buffy said in disbelief. "We're on the run from a god, and you went by Blockbuster."

"This is perfect!" Anya exclaimed. "Cause I brought popcorn."

Buffy whirled on her. "Anya, you were supposed to get survival food. Things with... protein, and stuff."

"And we did. But we already had the popcorn, so I brought it. And it all worked out, didn't it?"

"Ugh. Giles, hand me that bag of weapons, and..." Buffy stopped, blinking. "What are those?"

Giles clutched his armful of tomes protectively. "Just a few books..."

"Oh my God! We're on the run! We don't have time to... to read and eat popcorn and watch --"

"Inventing The Abbots," Dawn supplied helpfully.

"I don't care what movies you --" Buffy turned to look at Dawn. "Why'd you get that? That's so depressing."

"Spike got Monty Python..."

"Excellent!" Xander cried, then tried for stern. "I mean... irresponsible!" He leaned over the back of the driver's seat, lowering his voice. "Did you get Life of Brian?"

"Giles, we don't have time for..."

"These books all relate to the Key, Buffy," Giles said mildly. "I thought I could use our travel time to do additional research."

"Plus, nice big thick book like that?" Willow added. "Klunk, right over the head!"

Giles stroked the books as if to reassure them that they would be used for no such thing.

"Oh, for God's sake, get in," Buffy snapped. "Spike? Drive."

"Yes, Master," he drawled, cranking the engine.

"Oooh, look!" Anya exclaimed from behind them. "What a tiny yet efficient little bathroom!"

"Does it look too tiny for, say, my big head over the bowl?" Xander groaned.

"Xander! You've turned an unappetizing shade of green!" Anya reached out, taking him by the shoulder. "I will rub your back while you vomit, as an expression of my love. Then perhaps we can have sex and take your mind off your nausea."

"Dirty, dirty, disgusting," Tara moaned, clawing at the formica of the booth.

Giles opened his first book with a heavy sigh. "My thoughts exactly."

"I thought Slayers were supposed to be interesting," Dawn sighed, running a finger down the page of the weighty Watcher's Diary. "I mean, they fight stuff all the time. So why is this so boring?"

"Because Slayers are interesting, but Watchers are dull and tweedy," Buffy grinned.

"I'd test Willow's 'klunk' theory if I wasn't so glad to see you in a better mood," Giles replied. "To what do we owe this resurgence of cheer? Please don't say the Spam, my stomach is still infuriated with me."

"No, the Spam is really so not it. It's just... every mile between us and Glory, that's a little bit better that I feel. And as you know, Buffy spells relief with Watcher jokes."

"Don't know how 'tweedy' they can be when they're so freakin' homicidal," Dawn insisted. "Oops, this Slayer isn't behaving -- let's kill her and get another one!"

"You see, I'm really quite progressive in my thinking," Giles smiled. "Overindulgence in tea and constant migraines are a far more humane way of coping with a willful Slayer."

"Many thanks for not killing me," Buffy laughed. "Do they make that Hallmark card?"

"Check this out," Dawn said, scanning a passage. "They killed this chick in the twenties just 'cause she was dating a vampire. Guess you're lucky that guy wasn't your Watcher -- huh, Buffy?"

"No way. Seriously?"

"Yes way." Dawn lifted the book, reading aloud. "Miranda Hollingsworth was terminated by the Council for being Claimed by a vampire, thus rendering her impure and unable to be the Slayer. Talk about your judgemental...! And then on the next page, they whack some chick for..."

"Whack?" Buffy said incredulously. "What have you been watching on TV?"

"Normal stuff!" Dawn blurted. "Not Cinemax!"

"Uh-huh," Buffy scoffed, eyes narrowed. "Sounds like someone's gonna..."

"Guys?" Willow interrupted, standing in the doorway to the bedroom. "I hate to break up the, um, fun fight over verbs, but Tara's doing that thing again... the babble that's not so much?"

Tara squirmed on the bed, sheets tangling around her, her head thrashing back and forth. "Coming for it... going to find it... coming to find it..."

"I was going to give her more meds," Willow said miserably, "But then I thought... maybe you should hear this first."

"Tara?" Giles said softly, taking her hand. "What's coming? Coming for what?"

"Pure green," Tara whispered. "Pure green energy. It wants it. It's coming for it. Coming so fast..."

"What's coming, Tara?" Buffy's voice cracked.

"Angry doggie. So angry. Big doggie. So many heads... so many teeth... faster and faster..."

"The Key is also susceptible to necromanced animal detection, particularly those of canine or serpent construct," Dawn whispered, tugging on Giles' sleeve. "Giles? Canine construct?"

"Cujo the Key-Sniffer," Xander said in horror.

"So many heads... so many teeth..."

"It sounds rather more like Cerebus the Key-Sniffer," Giles sighed. "Either way, it can't be good."

"C'mon, Giles..." Buffy tried, "We're in a moving vehicle. We can outrun a dog, right? Right?"

"Big doggie," Tara moaned. "Such a big, big doggie..."

Xander frowned. "Or maybe not."

Tara bolted upright suddenly, staring at Dawn. "Pure green energy..."

"Yeah, well," Dawn said bitterly, glaring at Buffy. "Maybe this green energy needs to be a little less pure."

"Hey, don't look at me," Buffy snapped.

"And definitely don't look at me," Xander yelped. "Why are you looking at me? Make her stop looking at me!"

"Yes," Anya said firmly. "Don't look at Xander like that. He's mine. Have intercourse with Spike or Giles. They're single."

"Anya," Giles stuttered, "That's hardly..."

"Giles?" Dawn asked, crossing her arms. "What's a vampire claim?"

"Er, it's a... why do you want to know?"

"That book said that Slayer who let the vampire Claim her became too impure to be a Slayer."

"Well yes, a Claim does involve both parties taking a small part of each other inside them... I suppose that would render a Slayer..."

"Do I have to spell it out with blocks?" Dawn snapped.

"No way," Buffy said. "No way are you doing some creepy mating ritual with Spike... Dawn, he's evil!"

"A Claim is not always a mating ritual, Buffy," Giles said. "It's not that well understood, but I believe it is merely a bond, a bond that can be..."

"You could ask the soddin' vampire these questions, y'know!" bellowed a voice from across the Winnebago.

"Am I going crazy?" Xander asked. "That's the second time today I've agreed with him."

"Doesn't have to be a romantic thing," Spike explained, peering out the windshield into the night. "It's a bond, yeah. A promise, a connection. An attachment, like."

"Spike and I are already attached," Dawn added. "He's my best friend."

A shocked, pleased smile spread across Spike's face before he remembered he was a badass. "That right, Bit?"

"So it wouldn't be that big of a deal... right?"

"What would it involve, and what exactly would it do to her?" Giles asked.

"I'd have to bite her, drink a little bit of her blood, n' vice versa. After that... I've never Claimed anyone before, all right, so this is all stuff I've heard..."

"Not even Drusilla?" Xander asked.

"Not Dru. She didn't want to." Spike's sneer didn't quite hide the pain in his eyes. "First loyalty was always to 'Daddy' Angelus."

"I've seen vampires Claim people who weren't mates before," Anya said. "I knew this vampire in the 1500's. You would have liked him, Giles. He read a lot of books."

"Yes, I automatically adore the literate," Giles muttered.

"Anyway, he was all devoted to his sister. She died, and asked him to take care of her children. So he Claimed them. Gave them a bond, helped him keep track of them."

"I thought vampires always killed their entire families?" Buffy asked, confused.

"No," Spike snapped, "Wankers named Angelus kill their entire families. And sometimes, hypothetically speakin', one might turn a particular family member... if they were, say, very ill with oh, tuberculosis or somethin', an' you weren't yet familiar with the vampin' process. I didn't kill mine... Angelus killed Dru's before she was ever turned... hell, Harm still does holidays with hers. Kills store clerks to buy presents, of course, but..."

"I think that's officially enough information on that topic," Xander interrupted.

Giles frowned. "Keep track of them...? Anya, what did you mean by that?"

"Apparently there's a sort of spidey-sense. Like... I mean... Spike, when you went to go find Drusilla after the chaos demon thing, how'd you know where to look?"

"Just knew. Like I know when the sun's comin' up... can't really explain it. Wasn't like 'oh, she's havin' a quad-mocha at the Starbucks in SoHo', y'know? More like, 'Go west, young vamp'."

"Well," Giles said. "That could be... tremendously helpful."

"Spike would be like that thing where you clap and it beeps to tell you where your keys are?" Xander asked.

"A rather different Key, but... it would seem, yes."

"Hey," Buffy protested. "Evil, soulless, Master Vampire with a radar for my little sister? Have to vote no."

"Geez, Buffy," Dawn groaned. "You make him babysit me all the time! Now he's suddenly scary?"

"I'm always scary," Spike protested.

"Shut up. You are so not."

"Am too."

"Are not."

"Am too!"

"Are not!"

"Stop," Giles begged. "Buffy, Glory seeks to kidnap Dawn. If she succeeds, Spike having a sense of her location... even a vague one... is a potential tool I don't believe we should pass up."

"Hello, Vampire Slayer here! Just really not on board with feeding my sister to one."

"You fed yourself to Angel to save him," Xander pointed out. "And you were gonna kill Faith and feed her to Angel..."

"Could you not be memory boy right now?"

"Well, I'm sorry!" Xander snapped. "I'm not exactly kicking up my heels at the thought of Spike getting fangy with Dawn either, okay? But I don't think the bigass, necromanced puppy chasing us wants to play fetch, and as ways of dirtying up the pure green Dawn go, I'm liking this better than the whole Lolita option."

"It's one bite, Buffy," Dawn added. "You've been bitten, like, three times! And geez, how many times did Riley get bitten? For fun?"

"Look, you're all forgetting something," Willow chimed in. "Spike can't bite her. Chip, remember? He wanted to bite me, and he couldn't..."

"Chip won't go off if I don't mean to hurt her," Spike murmured. "Meant to hurt you, Red."

Xander's eyes narrowed. "How in the hell are you gonna sink your big fat fangs into her shoulder and not hurt her?"

"My fangs aren't fat."

"Sorry. Your slender, toned, attractive, cellulite-free fangs. Still."

"Spike," Giles raised his voice. "Could you, or could you not, do it?"

"I could do it, if Dawn were willing," Spike said carefully, eyes on Buffy.

"Dawn is willing," Dawn said, Resolve Face in place.

"Buffy?" Spike asked. "Won't do this if you say no, love."

"It's this or fight the helldog?" Buffy sighed. "Fine. Fine. But Spike? You take one more drop of blood than you need to take, and..."

"Dusty, stakey death. Got it, Slayer." Spike pulled off on the side of the road, turning the engine off. "Someone else wanna drive?"

Dawn's eyes flew wide. "You, um... gonna bite me now?"

"No time like the present, considerin' the canine. Let's go in the back."

"Uh-uh, Evil Dead." Xander put a restraining hand on Spike's chest. "We all watch."

"I'd... kinda rather be alone with Spike for this," Dawn said. "I mean... I don't know if I can drink blood with everybody staring at me. Besides, I mean... we're gonna be, like, five feet away behind a paper-thin door. It's just... privacy. Y'know."

"Privacy. Right." Xander removed his hand. "If I hear one whimper..."

Dawn and Spike walked into the back room, and Spike slid the panel closed behind them. "You nervous, Nibblet?"

"Kinda. But I mean, Buffy's done this before. I'm way tougher than her."

"Right," Spike grinned awkwardly. "So, er... how you wanna do this? Ought to get comfortable an' all that..."

"Well... I need to reach your neck, right? I can't reach your neck."

"Kay." Spike sat down on the edge of the bed, pulling Dawn into his lap. "This all right?"

"Yeah. The sitting, I mean. This is... weird."

"You said it. Look, pidge... you're probably gonna make noise, an' I don't want Harris comin' in here and stakin' me, so... you feel the need to get vocal, you just bite down on my hand, all right?"

Tears sprang to Dawn's eyes. "It's gonna hurt that bad?"

"Different ways to bite someone, Sweet Bit." He brushed a lock of hair back from her face. "Only gonna be able to do one of those an' not set the bleedin' chip off. You might make a bit of noise, but... s'not gonna be from pain."

"Oh," Dawn nodded, and then her eyes flew wide: "Oh! I didn't... oh."

"Might be less scary if you don't look at my face, love," Spike said gently. "You ready?"

Dawn took a deep breath, then pulled her hair back from the side of her neck. "Yeah."

Spike turned her face away from him, resting his forehead on her collarbone, breathing deeply, bringing his game face forward. He sucked gently on Dawn's jugular, not sinking his fangs in yet; Dawn let out a startled little gasp at the contact and grabbed for his hand.

That feels... wow. So not bad.

"One," Spike murmured against her throat, tickling her ear and sending little shivers everywhere.

He never got to two, burying his fangs into her vein before she could tense up.

Ow, ow... oh... oh wow... oh wow...

This was so not what she expected, this was... oh God, it was so warm, heat flooding into her stomach, every part of her suddenly waking up, her heartbeat echoing, mirrored in a much lower place, and when had she run her fingers into Spike's hair and pulled him closer, why was she squirming wildly in his lap in frantic need of some unexplained something, why was her heartbeat getting louder and louder and why was it so hard to think and her back was arching and it was hard to breathe and

oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh oh oh OH OH OH...

Dawn's head snapped back, her mouth opening in a gasp of surprised pleasure, her fingers clawing into Spike's scalp and bicep, and she felt the moan burbling up from inside her and bite down she needed to bite down he'd said to bite down and she pulled roughly at his t-shirt, pulling it away from his neck...

When had she? Biting and blood and blood and oh God oh God...

And she broke inside, shattering, his arms tightening around her as she thrashed and oh my God, nothing was this good, not chocolate not ice cream not...

Thought returned, the flares of red and gold slowly fading from behind her eyes, and Dawn realized she was drinking, swallowing... that her teeth were firmly clamped on Spike's neck, skin broken and sucking for all that she was worth. That was blood in her mouth, Spike's blood, and it actually didn't taste all that bad, it...

For that matter, the whisper-soft moaning noises Spike was making against her throat? Didn't sound too much like pain. She withdrew her teeth; after a moment, he followed suit, gasping.

"That was..." she whispered.

"Yeah," he chuckled softly. "Bit unexpected, huh?"

She bit her lip, then licked the blood from it; Spike quickly looked away. "You said I'd make noise..."

"Thought you wouldn't hate it. Didn't expect you to... yeah."

What do you know? Vampires can blush, even in game face.

Dawn raised her hand, wiping the blood from Spike's mouth with her thumb... then trailing her fingers over his brow ridges in wonder.

"Sorry 'bout that, Nibblet. Didn't mean for you to see me like..." Spike took a deep breath. "Should have realized you'd have Slayer's blood. Does things to a fella."

"I can tell," Dawn laughed, bumping her hip against the hardness beneath her.

"Right." Spike looked mortified, lifting her off his lap and setting her on the bed next to him. "None of that. Bloody inappropriate."

"Y'know, your face changes back when you get all prim and proper," Dawn teased.

"M'not prim n' proper, I'm just... that wasn't supposed to happen."

"Well... you didn't hurt me. That's good, right?"

"Didn't mean to not hurt you quite that much," Spike grumbled.

"So... I belong to you now, right? And you belong to me?"

Spike relaxed a fraction. "Looks like."

"Well... let's go parade me in front of Tara, see what she sees. Oh... wait." Dawn used her sleeve to get a drop of blood off Spike's chin. "Don't want Scooby squick."

The collective sigh of relief when they walked back into the main room of the camper was lost on neither of them; Buffy rushed up to Dawn, yanking her head to the side to examine the bite marks.

Buffy glared at Spike. "This is going to scar."

"It's supposed to," he glared right back, sliding a finger down his own neck. "Got one that matches, don't I?"

"Geez, Dawnie," Willow said, examining the bite-marks on Spike. "You got him good."

"Pretty," Tara sighed, oblivious of seven heads whipping towards her in dismay.

"Oh no," Willow cried, "It didn't work?"

"Both of them," Tara smiled wistfully. "Pretty, pretty. Dark green and black, all swirly. Both of them."

"Dear lord," Giles muttered.

"Wait a minute," Xander's head swivelled between Spike and Dawn. "They've both got green Key stuff in them now?"

Spike processed this a moment. "Let me off at the next exit."

"You're running away?" Buffy challenged. "Get a little green in you and you turn tail? Some Big Bad you are."

"Nooo," Spike said slowly, looking like not hitting her took massive effort. "Gonna nick a car, drive back towards the angry puppy. If he's trackin' the Key energy, he'll follow me, an' I'll lead him away from where you lot are goin'. Long as you're further away than I am, he ought to head for me, yeah?"

"That's the third time today he's made a hell of a lot of sense," Xander sighed. "Slap me."

"Glad to," Spike glared.

Buffy paused, making a decision. "You heard him, Giles. Pull off at the next exit."

"You're gonna fight the evil dog all by yourself?" Dawn asked, lip trembling.

"Not plannin' to fight him so much as lead a merry chase, love," Spike said gently. "I'll be all right."

The Winnebago lurched to a stop at the edge of an Exxon station, and Spike grabbed his duster from the back of the driver's seat, marching out the door with Dawn tumbling after.

"Spike!" she snapped, grabbing him by the bicep. "You weren't even gonna say goodbye?"

He rubbed the back of his neck nervously. "Didn't quite know what to say, pidge."

"You could give me a hug or something, you big doof." Dawn flung her arms around him, and Spike patted her tentatively. "I'm gonna see you again, right?"

"Sure you are," Spike replied, not sounding entirely convinced.


"Er... well, suppose you'll be in France or whatnot, and..."

"You're mine, right? Promise me I'll see you again."

"Can't make that kind of promise, Nibblet. I can promise to try."

Dawn hugged him tighter. "I guess I can live with that."

"Dawn?" Buffy called. "Come on!"

Dawn squeezed Spike's hand quickly, then turned back towards the Winnebago. Buffy herded her back on, shutting the door behind them and turning towards the driver's seat.

"Giles? Airport. As quickly as possible."

Spike stood in the parking lot, watching the Winnebago recede until it was a tiny dot on the horizon... then gone.

Right. Car-theft; then bumper cars with Hell-Puppy.

This should be a slap and a tickle.