By D.M. Evans

Disclaimer - The only character I own here are Gabriel and Gavin and they earn me no cash. All others belong to Mr. Whedon et al.

Rating - PG-13

Time Line - Post Not Fade Away

Feedback - It helps me grow

Pairing - Dawn/Spike

Summary - Dawn, Willow and Faith, now operating out of Pittsburgh, where Dawn's going to school, get paid a holiday visit by some old friends

Author's Note #1 - this was written for Stars in Kristi's Dawn/Spike ficathon. Challenge requirements are listed at the end. Thanks to SJ for the beta!

Author's Note #2 - I loved the additional character Stars wanted and I couldn't help with that crew, sneaking in one more and having a subtext thread with one of my favored unconventional pairings so I hope she doesn't mind. Oh and I don't know how my incubus from Psychedelic Butterfly wormed his way into this but he did. While the stories have zero to do with each other, if you'd like to see Gavin's first appearance head here (this is historical and Spike/Dru, and yes the event Angel references happens here)


Dawn hiked to Grandview Avenue like she did every day. Granted, it wasn't much of a hike, living as she did in a house on Sweet Brier with Faith and Willow and Gabriel who actually owned the home. Technically, she lived in the dorms at the University of Pittsburgh, but Dawn didn't really like her roomie and only stayed if there was something cool to do late night at the school. Occasionally Faith or Willow would crash on her floor after having fun or work near campus.

Dawn's breath curled up around her as she shuddered her way to the top of the hill. She still wasn't acclimated to the bitter Pennsylvania cold, let alone the verticality of the streets. It reminded her of the time she went to San Francisco or was that another false memory? Regardless, she always expected to slide to her death whenever she had to come downhill the three blocks to their home perched mid-hill.

Dawn stood at one of the observation areas looking out over the view. Grandview was so named for its amazing command of the Pittsburgh skyline. The three rivers did make for an impressive sight and now, nearing Christmas, at night the city wore an extra coat of glittering light. She didn't expect to like it here so much because it was so different from California but it was nice, in spite of the cold. Dawn looked south, even though she couldn't see the Some Place Else, the good demon-friendly and gawking human club that Gabriel ran, but she liked to pretend she could see all the way to South Side.

Dawn spent a moment thinking about the handsome young Watcher, well, young in comparison to Giles. Gabe was thirty, after all. That didn't stop Dawn from looking at his olive skin, sculpted body and dark curly hair and eyes. She knew Faith had taken him for a drive, which should be a no-no since he was her Watcher but that was a loose relationship at best. They sort of inherited each other. Gabe had been in Pittsburgh most of his life, barring being sent to New York City to train with the Watcher branch there.

Faith had been in Cleveland until Kennedy got reassigned there after she broke up with Willow in Rio. Dawn hadn't been too surprised by that. After awhile Kennedy's bratty nature - which made even Dawn's pale in comparison - would take its toll on anyone. Faith and Kennedy had been completely incompatible and Faith willingly transplanted to Pittsburgh when Willow had had come to help Gabe with a sticky problem. Willow stayed on to help out and watch over Dawn, too, of that Dawn had no doubts. And while she grumbled about it, Willow was like having another big sister and Dawn liked having her around while Buffy was currently in Glasgow.

Dawn was also grateful that Faith and Willow, who didn't really like each other, had come to an uneasy truce sometime fighting the First. Mostly now they did their own things and shared Gabe's big house merely out of cost concerns. For the most part, it worked well and it almost felt like home.

"Hey, kid!"

Dawn and turned to see Faith coming up the hill as if unconcerned about the ice and snow. Of course, Faith was from Boston so she was used to it and usually didn't let a day go by without remarking how much more holiday-like this was compared the holidays in Sunnydale. "Hey, Faith. You're up early."

"Going to look for a tree. Think Willow will mind if we put one up in the living room? I asked and got mixed messages." Faith's face scrunched. "Which is she technically anyhow? Jewish or Wiccan?"

Dawn shrugged. "I never really see her practice either. Besides, Willow's always been cool with us celebrating. She used to sneak over to Xander's to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. It was worth it to see him do the Snoopy Dance."

Faith snorted. "Too bad he and Andrew are up in Sitka, Alaska, checking out that Yeti report. I'd love to see the Snoopy Dance."

"I think they're more holed up playing Dungeons and Dragons and freezing their butts off than anything else," Dawn said. "Besides they're going to try and make it here for the holidays."

Faith nodded, turning her gaze out over the city. "You have class or something?"

"Had my last history final yesterday and all I have left is to turn in my art project, 'Girls in non-feminine roles,' and my paper for that dumb English class, and I'm done for the semester."

"The art project is all that video you shot of me working out, right?"

Dawn nodded. "And me working out with you and some of Willow doing the book thing which I guess could be considered feminine. It's a dumb project, embedding a player inside of an art piece and running a tape? Not my style of art but when you have no choice..."

"Gotcha." Faith smirked. "Want to help me find the right tree?"

Dawn smiled, happy to be included. "Sure, real or artificial?"

"Real," Faith said, staunchly. "Potted because Willow was having kittens over killing a tree and Gabe said his artificial one was falling apart."

"Sounds like fun. Where do we find a potted tree in the city?" Dawn asked.

"We don't. Gabe suggested a place out near Bulger. It's a little over twenty miles away." Faith jangled the keys to Gabe's truck. "I'll drive."

Dawn smiled weakly. While Faith drove better than Buffy or Willow, it wasn't by very much and she had a massive lead foot. "Okay."

Dawn didn't have to help Faith with the tree other than to call out where to step up on the uneven cement stairs then up onto the wooden porch as the Slayer muscled the tree inside the house. Faith plopped the tree down in the living room.

"Ho, ho ho."

Dawn brightened at the decidedly English tint to that 'ho-ho-ho'. She looked around the tree as Faith started shoving it toward the corner and saw Spike, Angel and a young man she didn't know but assumed to be Connor. She knew about him from when Angel had called Willow to find out how to completely undo the effects of an Orlon Window. Dawn had never seen even a picture but Connor was way skinnier and shorter than she expected. He made Spike look big, not that she had anything against Spike's looks. The opposite, really. Spike and Angel looked the same as always, married to their black clothes. Connor had on a Stamford sweatshirt and could use a hair cut if Dawn were to be asked.

"Spike, Angel!" Dawn squealed, hugging both vampires in turn. "And you must be Connor."

He nodded then stuck out his hand. "Dawn, right?"

"Yep. Nice to meet you finally." She shook his calloused hand.

"What are you boys doing here?" Faith asked, taking a few steps back to assess the tree placement in the corner of the room. She picked it up and put it on the wooly rug. That seemed to make her happy.

"Got word there might be something ugly hiding out at the university. Called Willow and told her we'd be on the way to help and she thought that would be good," Angel said, leaning on the wall near the old marble hearth. Dawn liked that fireplace and the walls too as silly as that sounded to her. Gabe had painted them antique blue with crackle trim.

"When did this happen?" Dawn asked, eyes wide. "I go to school there."

"This morning. Truth be told, 'Bit, we were already at the airport when we called," Spike admitted sheepishly as he flopped down on the black Corthinian leather couch.

"Figures." Faith snorted. "Well, I'm not going to turn down help."

"Where are Willow and Gabe?" Dawn asked.

"Gabe headed into work. He took your car, Faith," Spike said. "Willow's making hot chocolate."

"With extra marshmallows," Connor chimed in, trying to snuggle into Dawn's beanbag chair, failing to look comfortable.

"Sounds yummy," Dawn said. "You guys can help trim the tree, right? Or do you have to leave right away? Where are you even staying?"

"They'll be here with us," Willow said, coming in with a big tray of mugs. Angel went over to help her. "Connor's taking the last spare room. For obvious reasons, Angel and Spike will be staying in the basement. Right now we only have one blow-up bed, though."

"We're not sharing," the vampires chorused.

"I'll call Gabe and have him stop at Wal-Mart for another one." Willow gave them a 'grow up' look. "Relax, like you two haven't been two to a bed before."

"Willow, you dirty girl!" Faith said approvingly.

"Hey, virgin ears over here," Connor said, covering his with his hands and wincing. "Don't need to be hearing that kind of talk."

"That'll be the only virgin thing on you," Spike said, eyeing the boy.

"Maybe so but I'm not ready to picture Dad batting for both sides," Connor said and Dawn tried to force the image of Spike and Angel from her brain.

"I don't," Angel grated. "Willow failed to mention there was usually two women in that bed...uh, forget that. I didn't say that."

"Money for therapy better be in my Christmas stocking," Connor griped, eyeing his father sourly.

"Mine, too," Dawn shuddered, stirring her cocoa with the peppermint sticks Willow had put in each mug. She sucked the candy cane dry until she noticed Spike and Connor staring. Dawn blushed. "Do you know what type of demon is running around by the college? I haven't heard about any killings." She scowled. "I don't watch the news and Pitt is big so I guess I could have missed it."

"It might be an incubus," Angel said.

"All in all not a bad way to go," Spike said. "The gals usually go with a smile."

"You're being a pig," Dawn said, swatting at him. Spike just smirked, obviously unrepentant.

"That's natural for him," Angel said, giving Spike a dim eye. "All kidding aside, we're thinking it's an incubus, possibly posing as a frat boy."

"So how dangerous are they?" Faith asked. "The incubus, I mean. I know how dangerous frat boys are."

"They don't like to fight. They prefer to seduce women and take their life forces," Angel replied, sitting on the couch next to Spike.

"They don't sound too dangerous. What? You thought I couldn't resist him long enough to slay him?" Faith smirked.

"Well, in this case, the victims are all male," Angel said, cupping his big hands around his knees as if at a loss as to what to do with them.

"Wouldn't we be looking for a succubus then?" Willow glanced over quizzically.

"It's killing shirt lifters," Spike said, and Dawn and Faith both looked at him funny, not familiar with the English slur.

"We're not sure if the victims were actually homosexual. An incubus can override your inhibitions," Angel said. "And Spike thinks he might even know who we're looking for."

"Fun guy, used to be a running buddy. Went by the name of Gavin in the 70's," Spike said, and Dawn rolled her eyes. Even if Spike was good now, he couldn't resist being proud of some of the bad stuff he used to do.

"So you have batted for both sides," Faith said, batting faux-innocent eyes at him.

"I was with Dru," Spike snapped, getting to his feet. Angel yanked him back down.

"And you were female at the time, a bit of bad magic. I would have killed to see that," Angel snorted. Spike's jaw practically bounced off his belt buckle. Faith laughed and even Willow was hiding a giggle at the idea of a female Spike. Dawn was practically swallowing her tongue so not to laugh.

Spike's jaw snapped closed. "When did Dru tell you that?"

"While we were laughing at you in your wheelchair."

"Spike as a woman, the mind boggles." Willow couldn't hide the giggle any longer.

"Thanks, Peaches." Spike glared. "I was a hot as a woman, too, just for the record."

"Sure you were. You've got those high cheeks and big expressive eyes," Faith said. "You already look a lot like a girl."

Dawn wanted to kick Faith but figured Spike might just do it himself. "So, I still don't get why Faith couldn't handle this by herself. She's good," Dawn said, feeling protective even if Faith was taunting Spike.

"The vampires didn't want to spend Christmas alone," Connor said and Dawn saw the sadness there even though he was trying to be flippant. She knew how lousy Angel and Spike had to be feeling with so many of their friends dead. "They were looking for any excuse."

"So much for our cover story," Spike groaned, tossing a couch pillow at Connor.

"We're happy to have you. You should have just asked." Faith popped both of the vampires on the back of the head. "So, what brings you along, kid? Don't you have that family that'll miss you?"

"When Dad did that spell thing Willow told him about, we also told my parents the truth, that I'm a cuckoo. They didn't take it as kindly as we'd hope," he said, pain in his eyes. "I'm pretty much living with my very old man now."

"Besides, we needed gay bait for Gavin." Spike jerked a thumb at Connor. "Girlie boy got tagged."

Connor gave him the finger and Dawn scooted closer to Willow figuring Angel was likely to decapitate Spike at any moment, or maybe Connor would beat him to it.

"We're hoping Li'l Bit could take us to some college clubs before everyone goes home for the holidays," Spike said.

"So you're planning to be here how long? All three weeks until Christmas?" Willow smiled softly at them.

"If you don't toss us out first," Angel admitted sheepishly.

"Yeah, so you better put the twig boy on the blow-up bed and let Peaches have the real bed. He'll flatten the air bed in a heartbeat." Spike waggled his eyebrows at Angel.

"Why don't I flatten you?" Angel growled.

"Ladies, please keep me if you toss the suckers out. I can't deal with dumb and dumber by myself," Connor said.

"We'll keep you," Faith assured him, going over, ruffling his hair.

"Which am I? Dumb or dumber?" Angel moaned.

"Depends," Connor replied.

"We can take you guys to clubs," Faith said then clamped a hand on Connor's shoulder. "And I'll make sure you don't get too seduced by the incubus, kiddo."

Connor looked up at Faith with a wide smile that Dawn figured was big enough to be carried onto the next person.

"And we can get Gabe in on this. He'll know gay clubs," Willow said. "And he's beautiful bait since well, not only is he handsome, he's bi."

"He is?" Dawn asked, startled. "Do I even live here or am I just blind?"

"You're just busy with school," Willow said soothingly but that didn't make Dawn feel better.

"So we done with business? This tree ain't gonna trim itself," Faith said.

"I think we could do a little tree trimming," Willow said.

Dawn and Spike took one side of the tree, Connor and Faith the other while Willow and Angel handed out lights and ornaments and supervised. Angel only tried to strangle Spike once with lights and Spike only held Angel down and shoved tinsel icicles down the vampire's pants once. In the end, the tree was very lopsided and all the more adorable for it. Dawn insisted on pictures though it was necessary for Faith and Connor to pin the camera-shy Angel in place.

There was nothing shy about Spike. Backlit with holiday lights and normalcy, he looked innocent and amazingly hot. Dawn flushed at the sudden resurgence of her high school crush. She hoped no one noticed.

She hadn't thought much about her attraction to Spike in a long while not, she wouldn't think about those last years in Sunnydale. But there had been good things, even then, the way Spike was with her, even before his soul. He had protected her with his very life. He allowed himself to be tortured for her. Would have sacrificed his life for her on that tower if he could have, there was something between them and always had been. She loved him for it.

Dawn went quiet, letting the activity swirl around her. Love? No, that can't be. It had been just a crush, right? She was being a silly kid. She looked out the window seeing nothing but frost on the panes. The house was big and old and the windows were drafty. They looked so pretty with frost though. It was just getting dark outside and all the Christmas lights were coming on. "I'm going for a walk," she said. "I want to look at the lights."

Dawn hurried as much as she could. Pulling on winter gear, as she was learning, wasn't something one could do quickly. She escaped out into the cold dusk. The one thing she could say for Pittsburgh, it really got into 'Sparkle Season.' She hated that stupid politically correct term but there was a ring of truth to it. Pittsburgh sparkled.

She trudged back up to the top of Grandview and looked down the strip. All the high-class bars were starting to wake up. The over-priced restaurants were in full swing. She thought about the isolated town they got their tree from today. Both she and Faith had been uneasy without the bustle of a city around them - they belonged here.

A hand touched her shoulder. Dawn yelped, startled, and turned with a sharp punch. Spike barely dodged it. "Damn it, Spike! You scared me. I didn't hear you coming."

"You usually don't when it's vampires. Sorry, Bit. I should know better and so should you." He wagged a finger at her. "Doesn't pay to lose track of your surroundings."

She pulled the hat down tighter over her frozen ears. "I get so tired of being vigilant, you know?"

He smiled thinly, lipping a cigarette out of the pack. "Yeah. What's wrong?"

She couldn't tell him she had run off because being around him again reminded her just how much she liked being around him. She was not supposed to have a crush on a vampire, especially not Spike. She remembered having a crush on Angel when she was like thirteen but she was fairly sure that was a monk-woven memory and not a real one. Spike was real. "Nothing's wrong. I walk up here at least once a day. I love the view." She gestured towards the Point but it was too cold for the signature fountain to be going.

"Should take you to London some day. Talk about views." His face softened as he remembered his home.

Dawn sighed. "I loved it there. Would have loved it better if Giles would have taken his eyes of me for a second. He would have except for Buffy. She made sure he never let me out of his sight."

"I'll take you someday, Bit. We'll send Buffy a postcard after the fact." Spike smirked.

"You suddenly come into a ton of money that you're flying me to England?" Dawn grinned, tugging her wool hat down further over her ears.

"Actually, Angel had Wes and Gunn do some funny business with the Wolfram and Hart accounts before it all went to hell. We do have disposable income. Granted, Nancy Boy has a lot of it earmarked for Junior."

"Well, I'd love to go, maybe in the summer if you're serious," Dawn said before she knew what her mouth was doing. She just told Spike she'd go to England with him in a couply way. What was wrong with her?

"We'll see what comes. Why don't we walk, Li'l Bit? You're going to get cold just standing here," Spike said.

"I've gotten used to it. The snow gives everything a holiday feel." Dawn started towards the clubs.

"Lots of limos around here," Spike observed.

"Grandview is date-central." She waved her hands around. "All kinds of really romantic, really expensive restaurants."

"They any good?"

Dawn sighed. " I wouldn't know. The guys I meet at school can barely afford to take me for O Fries."

"Dare I ask?"

"The O is like a big student hang-out near campus. Cheap, good food, decent police presence, which sadly is needed down there."

"Your sister know about that, Bit?" A worried look came across his face.

Dawn shrugged. "She knows I'm going to an urban school. There's always that kind of danger with urban schools, right?

"Guess so," Spike said, watching her giving the places on Grandview an over the shoulder longing glance. "Doesn't mean I like it. Couldn't you go to a nice country college?"

"I was in the country today. It drove me nuts. And you're a bigger worry wart than my sister." Dawn shoved him lightly. "At least Pitt doesn't have a Hellmouth."

"With street gangs, you don't need one," Spike said, looping an arm around her, pulling her close. "And I'm worried about you. Not a crime is it?"

"It's sweet." She kissed his cold cheek. "And I'm thankful for it. And for that matter, I'm glad you guys will be around for the holidays."

"It's been so long since I've really had a family-like holiday...mostly it was me and Dru and you don't want to know what we decked the halls with."

Dawn threw up her hands, wishing Spike would at least look a little repentant. "Don't go there."

He sighed. "I think that Thanksgiving you guys tied me to the chair came the closest."

"That was kind of funny," Dawn said, trying to figure out if that was a real memory or an implanted one and decided it was funny enough she didn't care.

"It bloody well was not. I had how many arrows sticking out of me!" he huffed.

"Guess it's a matter of perspective," Dawn said, angling back towards Sweet Brier.

"Uh-huh. Do me a favor, Bit, don't tell Peaches that story. I mean, I know he saw some of it when he was there but I don't think he knows it all. He'll enjoy it too much," Spike said.

"My silence can be bought," Dawn said, beaming broadly.

"Oh-ho, it's like that is it." He grinned.

"You bet."

Spike sighed. "Name your price."

"I think a bag of those Hershey candies with the caramel inside will do it," Dawn said.

"That I can manage," he said as she climbed the steps to her home. The motion lights had been disabled so not to overpower the ga-billion lights she, Gabe, and Faith had strung all over the place. The snow was splashed with rainbow light. Spike caught her, tipping up her chin. "You know, I think I need to find a new name for you, Bit. You're not so little any more."

"Thanks for noticing."

For a moment Dawn thought he was going to kiss her. He took a step back, hit some black ice and the next thing she knew he was down in a drift. The look on his face was so startled she couldn't help laughing loudly. The snow threatened to swallow him whole and Dawn laughed that much harder. The door to the house opened and Willow looked out.

"What's so funny?" she asked.

Dawn, holding her side with one hand, pointed with the other.

"Making snow devils, Spike?" Willow grinned at him.

"This isn't funny." Spike floundered, trying to get up.

"Sure it is. Better hurry and get up. Faith lives for snow. She'll take you lying there as an invite for a snow fight. I think she's gearing Connor and Angel up for one as I speak," Willow said.

"This is so undignified," Spike grumbled, getting up. He stomped to the house, dropping snow as he went.

"A good snowball fight is fun," Dawn protested as Willow stepped back so Spike could get through. "You have snow in your hair, Spike."

"I have snow everywhere," he moaned.

"Don't be a spoil sport," Dawn said, snagging his arm and dragging him to a halt.

Before Spike knew what was happening, he found himself fighting alongside Dawn against the teams of Angel, Willow, and Gabriel and Connor and Faith. Eventually the teams broke up as Connor and Spike ganged up on Angel until Dawn and Faith bowled them over and Willow helped bury them in the snow. By the end, the yard looked like a herd of rampaging elephants had plowed through and they all collapsed in wet-haired, red-faced piles in front of the fireplace.