DISCLAIMER: See the other chapters.
Lorelai took a breath, then pushed 'call'. After an excruciating three rings, it picked up.
"Mom?" Rory's voice came through.
Lorelai hesitated. "Hi."
"…Why are you calling me?" Rory asked.
Not what Lorelai wanted to hear. "I just…there's been a lot of stuff happening here, important stuff; and I don't know, it's just made me realize how stupid we are."
Lorelai sighed, exasperated. "Well, really; we're not talking because you want to take a year off. What's wrong with us? You let some jerk make you question how insanely talented you are, and I freak out because your not following our college plan? Since when do we plan things?" She ranted.
Rory sat silently on the other end, waiting for her to finish. "Do you mean you want to stop fighting?"
"Of course I want to stop fighting! There had been so much going on here, and every time something new pops up, I just want to call and tell you about it, and I'm tired of not getting to. I don't want you to live with my parents; I want you to come home! I want you to be able to be a total slacker here instead of waking up at seven in the morning like I know you're having to do there. I need you here, kid; lets face it, we're hopeless apart. The only people who understand our wonderful specialness are us, and I look stupid if I dress up on Crazy Hat Day by myself. I miss you!" She exclaimed, practically throwing herself off the couch where she had been sitting.
"Mom, I miss you too! Can I please come home? I haven't slept past eight in two months, and Grandma keeps tabs on everything I do, and the maid took my cloths, and I want my mommy!" Rory wailed.
By now, Lorelai was crying.through "Okay hon, I'll come get you stuff. Man, I have to warn you though, when I say it's been crazy here, I really really mean it; there's been some major changes."
"Like what?" Rory asked.
Lorelai settled back onto the couch. She started off with the older news first.. "Well, you know that Dave came back from college, right?"
"Well, Zach broke up with Lane and quit the band when he found the two of them doing a 'welcome back' make-out thing in her room."
Rory gasped. "Oh no! Lane? God, she's groupie and drummer. Poor Zach!"
"I know! And Luke's sister Joyce died and made him guardian of his niece."
Rory sat on her bed, the phone pressed to her ear. "Really? How's that? I didn't know Luke had another sister."
Lorelai nodded even though Rory couldn't see her. "Me neither. Dawn's a sweet kid though. I net her yesterday. I can't believe the stuff that she's been through though. See, Luke wasn't first in line to get her, her sister was."
"Who's her sister?"
"Her name's Buffy."
"Buffy?" Rory laughed.
"Yeah, we'll get back to the weirdness of that in a sec. Anyways, Buffy died a few months after her mom did, so Dawn had to leave California and come live here with Luke."
"Oh, my god!"
Again, Lorelai nodded. "I know! It almost makes my problems with Miss Congeniality 2 seem petty and stupid. "
"Almost. How's Luke handling this?"
"Well, he's coping. He agrees that the plot was working, but the writing just fell on its face."
Rory rolled her eyes. "About his niece and sister."
"Right. He's taking it surprisingly well. He's holding it together for Dawn. Oh! And it gets better."
"Well, it can't get more depressing."
"True. Well, there's this guy Spike, who's Dawn's unofficial bodyguard or something. He was like, her sister's boyfriend and when Dawn came here, he got an apartment in town and now follows her everywhere. Taylor had him arrested once already for stalking, but Dawn made Luke get him out." Lorelai told her, the happy little gossipmonger
Rory grimaced. "That's creepy!"
"It's actually kinda sweet if you've talked to him. He promised Buffy that he would never let anything happen to Dawn, and he's taking it pretty seriously."
"Like 'the Professional' seriously?"
"Oh, he makes the Professional look like a bum."
"Wow." Rory sat up a little straighter, remembering something. "Hey, speaking of creepy bums, I got some news too."
"Yeah. Um, you remember Tristian from Chilton?"
"The one who made your life hell?"
"The same. Anyways, he and Logan went to military school together, and he's back in town."
Lorelai scrunched up her face. "What? That's just weird."
"What's weirder is that he's actually really nice. Seriously, he doesn't call me Mary, and he's quiet, and he's got rally short hair, and he's a photographer. He's nothing like he as in school, now he's actually cool to hang out with." Rory told her.
"Honey, once you start having sleepovers with boys, you move on to being a whole different kind of Mary; the kind your mommy used to be called."
"Huh. You know, I actually never understood why the Puffs were called Marys too, but now that makes sense."
"I'm such a terrible mother; my daughter didn't know the name of the most famous hooker in the Bible. I should have taken you to church on Easter or something, sometimes there's pot lucks."
"I like free food." Rory offered.
"And we eat our weight in it every day. So back to Tristian, that's just strange; I guess Army school did the boy good."
"It did. Actually, he's doing a collection of photos of small town right now for some magazine, and I told him to check out Stars Hollow. And now that I'm coming back home, maybe I'll have him drop in this weekend."
"Yeah, cause Logan will love having his girlfriend bring a man home with her for the weekend." Jibed Lorelai.
"Hey, quiet you. He'll be fine with it."
"Whatever. Hey, I'm leaving right now to come get you. Get ready."
"Okay, I'll go pack my stuff. I can't wait to see you!" Rory exclaimed, a smile on her face.
"Me too. Be there in thirty."
Half and hour later, Emily opened the door to a smiling Lorelai, only to be moved out of the way by Rory, who went flying into her mom's waiting arms.
Dawn felt like she was in an alternate dimension. At school, everyone had been friendly, trying to make her feel welcome, and the worst thing that happened was being behind in a few subjects. No monsters. No evil invisible people. No demon possessions. Even the cheerleaders had been nice.
The only thing in this whole town that kept her from thinking she was in a really crappy hell dimension was Spike. Having him here helped remind her that this town wasn't all she had left.
Instead of going to Luke's, she headed towards Spike's. Opening the door with her key, she entered the darkened apartment and went into the bedroom.
Spike was asleep, thankfully wearing sweats this time. Dawn crawled onto the other side of the bed and lay down.
"What'cha doing here, pet?" he mumbled, still half-asleep.
Dawn stared at the ceiling. "I'm going crazy here."
"mm. How was school?"
"I'm behind in English and math. Everything else is good. Nobody died today."
"I know. At lunch, all the girls were whining about how scary Saw II was." She told him, rolling her eyes.
"I started laughing. They think I'm a freak, which I am. Most of the guys think I'm cool though. I think they were impressed that I collect knives and don't freak out at scary movies."
Spike's eyes opened and he lifted his head, his hair up everywhere. "No boys. You don't want t'kill every boy in this town cause they look at you, got it? That'll land me in a nice sunny cell. And Saw II was ridicules; the whole thing was like a page outta Angelus' diary. If you're gonna torture somebody, y'got to get your hands dirty, not wait for them t'do it themselves. Takes the joy outta it, it does." He looked at Dawn quizzically as she just smiled at him, bemused. "What?"
"We're strange people, you know that? I mean, most people would tell a sixteen year old girl that movies like that are too violent for them; with us though, you're more worried about making sure I know how to torture right, and I watch those kind of movies and spend most of the time wondering how the make-up team did such a good job. We are seriously disturbed." She sighed, rolling onto her back.
"We're not disturbed, pet. We've just seen too much…done too much to function like everyone else. We've seen to much bad to be disgusted by the talkies." He spoke quietly, gazing at some far away place.
Dawn faced him and raised her eyebrows. "Careful Spike, you're starting to sound all soul-having or something."
"What? No, I'm evil through and through, platelet. If it wasn't for this bloody chip, I'd take a bite outta you right now." he scoffed.
Dawn just laughed at his overused denial. "I know Spike; you're the big Bad, wouldn't hesitated a second before ripping me open and bathing in my blood." She muttered, closing her eyes.
"You'd better believe it." Spike turned to his side, and within moments, they had both drifted off to sleep.
Dawn woke slowly, and then scrambled out of bed with a gasp as she realized were she was.
"Oh shit!" she exclaimed, waking Spike. He jerked up, ready for action only to
see Dawn grabbing her bag.
It's almost seven! Luke's gonna freak out that I'm not back. Oh shit, shit, shit!"
Spike grabbed some clothes and ran into the bathroom, changing quickly.
"Come on, pet." He called for her, grabbing his coat. "We'll take the bike an' be there in no time."
When they got to the diner, there was a crowd of people inside, all talking. Furiously. Walking in, they caught snippets of the conversations.
"I bet that bleached- haired, motorcycle boy kidnapped her-"
'She probably ran away. Those Califo-"
"-maybe it's drugs. If you get in with the wrong crowd-"
"She's probably at a friend's house, forgot to tell-"
"Luke!" Dawn cried over the din.
Luke looked up, relief, quickly followed by anger crossing his face. "Were the hell have you been? I called the school, checked the book store, at Miss Patty's, at Lorelai's, I checked everywhere!"
"I-I went to see Spike! Then I fell asleep and just woke up, I'm sorry!" she apologized.
" I knew that ruffian was trouble!" Called out Taylor. "Always following her around, and dressing like one of those 'gothic' kids; he's probably on drugs!"
Spike just smirked. "Sorry mate, just a bottle of Jack to put me t'sleep at night."
Taylor's eyes widened at that. "Swell, he's an alcoholic!"
"Okay, everybody out! Thanks for your help, now leave, people! Let's go!" Luke announced, herding the townspeople out the door. Soon only Luke, Dawn, Spike, Lorelai, and a young brunette woman were left.
Luke turned to Spike. "Look, I don't know how it worked in California, but here, if she's not coming straight her from school, she calls, got it?"
"I was asleep, y'ponce! How was I to know if she had bloody called or not! And even it I was awake, I wouldn't have woken her to ask! That was th'first time she's slept even a few hours through in weeks. There's no way in hell I'd wake her from that." Was Spike's angry reply.
Luke stood silent, arms crossed. "Lorelai? Why don'tcha take Rory and Dawn upstairs and get 'em introduced?"
"What? Oh, you want us to clear out; got'cha." She stood and led the girls up.
Spike stood, hands on his hips facing Luke.
"Dawn is under my care her Spike, and if you can't follow the rules I have, then you need to leave town." Luke told him quietly.
"Bloody hell; I don't get your problem. Th'only time I'm not ten paces behind her is when she's here or at school. She can't get hurt!" Spike argued.
"You being behind her all the time is what I'm worried about."
Spike just stared at him. "Well, like it or not Grizzly Adams, she needs me. I'm th'closest thing to home she's got."
"This is her home." Luke pointed out.
"No, this is where she lives. Her home is with me and Buffy and her mum, and the Whelp and Anya, and Red and Glenda. We are her home." Spike sighed. "Sit down mate; there's some stuff y'need to understand if you're gonna take care of her."
"I've raised a kid before." Luke told him.
"Not like Dawn. Sit." Spike said. Luke sat, and the two men faced off at a table.
Spike took out his flask and began to explain. "Sunnydale was hell. There wasn't a single night that someone wasn't raped or murdered or just disappeared or a gang would come tearin' through town, bent on causin' damage. Bad things love that town, an' the few good folks who're left and don't just ignore it all, fight to protect it."
"Vigilantes?" Luke asked.
Spike shrugged. "Close enough. Anyways, Buffy an'them were fighters, vigilantes like you say. Every night, they'd go out and hunt down evil, doin' what they could to protect the innocents. Buffy…she was amazin'. I've never seen a person fight like her; it was a like a dance." He smiled slightly, lost in memories. "She could look as graceful as a ballerina doing 'Swan Lake'. She was poetry." Spike came back, the smile gone.
"Dawn learned to fight early on, and she learned no to trust anyone even earlier. In Sunnyhell, there were a few she knew to count on, and we all stayed together. We were like the Osbornes, Mansons, and the Addams family all in one, plus a big ol' weapons chest. A lot of th' time we hated each other, but we always trusted each other.
Dawn knows t'trust me." Spike told him, passing Luke the flask "She doesn't know to trust you, and she doesn't know to trust this town. The very idea of not havin' to worry about who might be hidin' around the next corner is enough to throw her. That's why she needs me. As long as I'm here, she knows she's okay. Th'chit still can't sleep through the night, but if she knows I'm there, at least she can walk down th'street without jumping at her own shadow."
Luke sat and absorbed it all. He looked up at Spike, only one question on his mind; "Did Joyce really die of an aneurysm?" He asked.
Pain filled Spike's face, only to be matched by Luke's own. "Yeah, mate; she did. Those Summers women, they're a tough lot. Joyce fought that bloody thing for months, and in the end the bastard only got her by sneakin' outta nowhere. Joyce was a strong lady; she'd clean us up when we were bloody and bruised, she'd have hot chocolate ready an' waiting when y'needed a good talk, she's stay up half th'night watching' for Buffy and still be up th'next morning, cheerful as ever an' cookin' breakfast" Spike took a big swig before continuing. "If it had been anything but an aneurysm, I coulda stopped it. If somebody was after her or somethin', I coulda stopped them. But I couldn't fight a tumor. I couldn't save 'er from herself. I couldn't save either of them from themselves." He whispered quietly.
Luke lifted his head. "You mean Buffy?"
Spike nodded. "Somethin' was after Dawn; someone who wanted to hurt her. Had her on this tower. We went after her, and I got up there. Th' guy who had Dawn got the best of me, and I couldn't get to her. Buffy finished fightin' the lady that was with him, and she got up the tower and ran off it, takin' the big bad with her. Killed herself to save her sister." Spike sniffed and looked sharply at Luke. "There's not a Summers woman I haven't' loved; I couldn't save th'other two, but it's gonna take a lot more than you kickin' me outta town to stop me from protectin' Dawn."
"Well then I guess I'd better let you do your job. And I better buy her a cell phone or something, to make sure she can call me." Luke told him. They two men looked at each other, an understanding passing between them.
They sat quietly, passing the flask back and forth, trying to drown their pain. They remembered who they had lost; the other's suffering a comfort. The two found a
moment's peace before life kicked back in, and they masked their sorrow and carried on.