Janice grabbed the cigarette from her "boyfriend" Bob and took a puff. "You realize we're all just a complete cliche, right? At-risk youth in America." She started coughing at the smoke and glared at the others, daring them to laugh.
Tony sidled over to Dawn and tried to put his arm around her. Again. "Yeah, Janny, we're the wild ones." Dawn developed a sudden interest in botany and stepped away to look at a fascinating bush.
Dawn tried to decide between giggling, rolling her eyes, and nervously watching the shadows. At least it was only half a lie, she really was spending the night with Janice. She'd known that the boys were going to come over, she was cool with that, but then Bob suggested going for a walk, and they all called Dawn a coward when she suggested that might not be a really good idea, and, well, now here she was walking with her best friend--who she was supposed to be with--and two older boys--who she wasn't supposed to be with--through the city park, where nobody was supposed to be. If the vampires and demons didn't get her, Buffy probably would.
Bob pointed through the trees. "Let's go over there"
"What's over there?" Janice said, blithely following.
"The community swimming pool. There's supposed to be a hole in the fence." He grinned around. "Wanna go skinny dipping?"
"Yeah!" Tony said. Janice and Dawn looked at each other, both hoping the other would say no.
"Come on, Janice," Bob said, nudging her. "It's just a little swimming."
Dawn gave her a pleading look, then Janice shrugged. "OK"
The others headed up the slight hill towards the chain link fence. Dawn hesitated. "I will not live to be able to vote. I will not live to drink legally. I shall die young and tragically. Oh, well."
Half the security lights were burned out around the pool. Bob led the way around the perimeter, looking for a gap in the bedraggled bushes planted around the fence. Just as they found a gap near the corner farthest from the street, they heard splashing.
"Fuck, somebody's in there," Tony muttered.
"Or some thing," Dawn commented.
Bob shrugged. "Maybe a bird or an animal."
Dawn tried not to smile. "Maybe." So many other things wandering around town.
They all crept towards the fence for a view. "Dammit," muttered Tony. They could see someone swimming towards the far end of the pool.
"Hey." Bob pointed towards a pile of clothing on the deck on the near end of the pool. Heavy boots, a long leather duster, black jeans, black and red shirts .
"We should go," Dawn said, tugging on Janice's sleeve.
With a louder splash, the swimmer made the turn and started coming back down the pool.
"We should go now."
Tony started towards the hole in the fence. "I want that coat."
Dawn covered her face. "What do you want on your tombstone."
Bob made urgent hushing noises as the swimmer reached their end of the pool. The turn was made, then the swimmer stopped. Hands appeared on the rim of the pool and arms pulled the body up.
"Oh, my god," Janice said in possibly the most sincerely reverent voice Dawn had ever heard. Dawn parted the fingers of the hand over her eyes so she could see.
Spike hung halfway up on the edge of the pool, braced on his arms, water running off his torso as he peered curiously out into the dark. He tossed his head to get his wet hair out of his eyes.
"Mmph," Dawn said, grateful for her hands over her mouth.
"He's beautiful," Janice breathed.
"Hey," Bob glared.
Spike smirked and pushed against the pool deck. Dawn eeped and closed her fingers. Janice swallowed hard, Bob was silent, and Tony whispered, "Wow."
"Not gonna look, not gonna look," Dawn muttered to herself.
"Wasn't he on the cover of GQ a couple of months ago?" Tony said.
Dawn cracked her fingers very slightly, then slammed them shut, vowing to ask Willow if she'd ever found the bad mental image erasing spell everyone kept asking for. Not gonna keep that image of Spike standing by the pool, dripping, smirking, with his hands on his hips. Not just naked, not just naked naked, but really most sincerely naked. Nope, nope, nope.
"I can hear you, you know," the vampire called.
"Oh, my god!" Janice squeaked. "Run, run!"
The foursome scrambled to find a way out of the bushes, bumping into each other until they were in the clear. Behind them, Spike laughed, then it broke off. "DAWN SUMMERS!"
Dawn froze, wincing. The others slowly stared at her.
"What the hell do you think you're doing out here, girl!"
"Geez, Spike!" she yelled back. "Yell louder, why don't you, I think maybe somebody on Main Street didn't hear you!"
Spike took a breath to yell more, then glanced down at himself. "Fuck!" He yanked his jeans out of the pile of clothes, pulling them on and swearing.
Janice stared at Dawn. "You know him?" She sounded both disbelieving and impressed.
Jeans securely in place, Spike pushed through the fence. "I swear to god, girl, you don't have the brains of a blue-green algae."
"HOW do you know him?" Tony asked.
"Uh, him and my sister, well, I think they--"
Janice's eyes went even bigger. "Your stick-in-the-mud sister and that--"
Spike strode up and glared at all of them. "So, quite the happy little group of sneakers about we've got here."
Dawn took a deep breath and went for bravado. Spike respected bravado. "I didn't know you could swim, Spike."
"No reason you should, bit." The words were calm enough, but his voice wasn't. "So, what brings you out and about at 2 am in the bloody middle of the sodding Sunnyhell night?"
Tony stepped up and put a protective arm around Dawn. "You can't talk to her like that!" He gulped as the vicious blue eyes locked on his, then slid down to the arm around Dawn's shoulders. Carefully he stepped away from the girl.
Dawn gave Spike her second-best pout. "It's not like I'm alon.e"
"Uh huh." The look Spike gave the two boys was not one of confidence.
"Bob's strong, he plays football," Janice said, trying not to squeak again. Spike looked at her, and she squeaked in spite of herself.
The corner of Spike's mouth twitched. "I'm sure he does, pet." He looked back at Dawn. "So what brought you out to the pool? Gonna have a swim?"
Spike's gaze drifted to the two boys again. "I remember being your age." His quick glare at Dawn stopped her snicker, then his attention went back to the boys. "Watching the pretty girls go by, wondering things a good boy wasn't supposed to wonder, trying not to think of ways to get a look at things I shouldn't." Tony and Bob fidgeted and tried not to grin. "Course," he added softly, "lads these days, you want more than a look."
"Spike, it's not like that," Dawn said quickly. "It was just a little fun. Stop being so Victorian." She thought that might get a laugh, but the glare she got had a flash of yellow in it. "God, you're really pissed, aren't you."
"Whatever makes you think that?" His voice was all different, soft and growly, but not vampire growly.
Tony took a deep breath and stepped forward. "Look, I get it that you're her sister's boyfriend and you're supposed to look out after her and all that, but I resent what you're suggesting. I mean, yeah, play in the pool a little, splash each other a lot, get each other's clothes wet, but that's all--and you're going to kill me now, aren't you." He swallowed hard but didn't step back.
Dawn held her breath.
Spike held his glare a moment longer, then looked away. His shoulders relaxed and he didn't look quite so ready to leap. Dawn sighed in relief, but cut it off at she got another look. The vampire turned back to Tony, a smidgen of respect in his eyes. "Relax, boy, you get to live another day. Be glad you caught me in a good mood."
Tony glanced at Dawn. "This is a good mood?" he whispered.
"He's had worse days."
"And your sister likes him."
Spike snickered as he patted his pockets. "Smokes, smokes--oh, yeah." He turned back towards the fence, then looked back over his shoulder. "You lot should get home, it's not safe out here at this hour." Tony reached for Dawn's hand, then dropped it as the older man's eyes flickered towards him. "I'll see Dawn home. She'll talk to you later." Dawn started to object, then crossed her arms with a hmph.
Tony only took one step away. "You OK, Dawn."
She couldn't help smiling at him. "I'm fine, Tony. See you later."
"I'll call you."
"OK. Janice, I'll call you tomorrow."
Janice tried to walk backwards as Bob towed her off. "I'll call you!"
"We'll call each other!"
Spike shook his head. "Sweet Moses and all the prophets. Silly chits. Come on, niblet."
Dawn followed him through the fence into the pool area. "That was embarrassing."
"Good." He started pulling on his shirts.
"Sorry about interrupting your swim."
"There's other nights."
Dawn walked over to the pool and squatted down to run her fingers through the water. "You don't have to be this mad at me."
He sat down on a bench to yank his boots on. "Wandering around the middle of the night knowing damned well what's out here, traipsing around with a bunch of people who just scream 'Here I am, I'm dumb and good to eat'--do you even have a stake on you?"
"Kind of hard to explain why I'm carrying a hunk of wood around in my pocket, duh."
"Lovely, you're completely unprotected."
"I've got two vials of holy water in my jacket."
Spike stopped ranting and studied her from under his eyelashes. "Good girl. Knew you had a few brains."
"Why were you losing it so bad, huh? You practically accused Tony of--of--of having dishonorable intentions towards me."
He paused and studied the bootlace in his fingers. "You're right, I did over-react. Sorry."
Dawn nearly fell in the pool in shock. "Could you repeat that when I have a tape recorder?"
"Don't push it."
"Seriously, what wigged you so bad?" She looked nervous. "He's not a demon, is he?"
"Nope, just an average hormonal teenaged boy whose brain has been put into cold storage for the duration of his adolescence."
"You say that like it's a bad thing." She stopped grinning when she saw how he'd gone still, how all the tension was back in his shoulders. "Uh, Spike, what's with the angsty subplot already? He was just being a guy."
He finished tying his boots and got up. "How old is he?"
"Old enough to know he should keep his hands off children."
"I'm not a child!"
"You're not a woman either! The little tosser shouldn't be playing those kinds of games with someone as young as you."
Dawn felt a little queasy. "Is this some kind of fallout from something icky in your childhood that I really don't want to know about?"
Spike looked startled. "What? Oh. No, nothing like that, thank god. But you don't have to see too many little girls on the street offering themselves for a few shillings before you get the idea that something's not right."
He didn't sound the way he usually did, more BBC, less punk rock. Dawn wished again she'd stayed in with Janice and painted each others nails and gossiped. "Spike, this is a little different from a Children of the Night documentary."
Spike glared out into the night. "Rotten little bastards bragging about how they tumbled the girls who worked in their houses, maids who didn't dare say no to the son of the house if they wanted to keep their places. There are things you just don't do to children."
"You had little sisters, didn't you, and you worried about them." She caught her breath at the unfriendly look he gave her, and she knew she'd stepped over one of the lines. He'd tell her about murdering entire families, but he wasn't going to give her any specifics on what he was like before becoming the Big Bad. With a deep breath, she went to stand next to him. "Spike, this is the twenty-first century, not the nineteenth. I may only be fifteen, but not I'm not helpless. If a boy comes on too strong, I've got no problem with kicking him in the nuts or hitting him in the head or something. There's no reason for you to get all overprotective and unreasonable and Victorian if a guy wants to put his arm around me." She leaned up to kiss him on the cheek. "But I think it's sweet."
He looked like he might smile, but he resisted. "Kick 'im in the nuts, eh? Make many plans, do you, for being with a boy you'll have to fight off?"
She grimaced. "I'm never going to date, am I."
"Nope, gonna pack you off to a convent school, let you out at twenty-one to get married."
"I'm not going to get married if I never go out with anybody."
"Slayer and I'll find you somebody nice."
"Try it and I'll tell her I saw you naked. That was supposed to be a joke," she added quickly.
He didn't say anything, just collected his duster and escorted her out through the fence. "So what's that boy's name, anyway?"
"His name's Tony, he's nearly a senior, he's on the wrestling team, and he's really smart, too. And he's cute."
Spike rolled his eyes.
Dawn stopped walking, her eyes big. "He yelled at you. He yelled at you for me. You were being all mean and threatening, and he stood up to you."
He finally did smile and put an arm around her. "That he did, niblet. Regular knight in shining armor."
"So, maybe, if I wanted to go out with him or something, you wouldn't rip his stomach out through his throat and tie it around his head?"
"Why does that sound familiar?"
"Cause you told me that's how you--"
"Never mind. You're a ghoul, pet."
"Does that mean I can go out with him?"
"Nope, sorry, you're going to convent school. Switzerland's where they sent girls from my time. How's your French?"
"Just doing my job."